Sacrilege by Nissi Adeola. Episode 20

Tags

, , , ,

Episode 20

Laura hugged herself tighter. Tears blinded her eyes, pain clouded her heart. She paced, unable to remain still as she waited for somebody… anybody… to tell her something. Where were the doctors? All the nurses and even doctors that came around either had no info or just didn’t care. Would someone just tell her something? God! She hated LUTH. There was just too much pain. She looked round. What was taking Gloria so long? Gloria shouldn’t have to deal with so much on the day she just found her daughter but it had been one thing after another. Gloria had to rush over to the hospital admitting Margaret, since Margaret wouldn’t stay still, screaming ‘discharge’ ever since she heard of her father’s accident. Jane had gone out with Tess to get her something to eat, hopefully, that would stop the child’s incessant tears. And Laura? Laura was left to stand alone in the crowded waiting room, waiting. A thought came to her and she shook her head in an attempt to shake off the thought. No! She wouldn’t think of the worst. She couldn’t afford to. God knows she might die if anything happened to Mark or Frank. She tried hard not to remember the previous night. She tried hard not to remember the anguish in Mark’s eyes as he opened up a part of himself she had never seen. She tried hard not to remember the harsh hurtful words she had said to him and the pain in his eyes as she had told him that she hated him. By God, she did not want to assume those words would be the last words Mark would hear from her lips. Because despite it all, she did love him. Despite everything she heard and the terrible hurt feelings she had, she loved Mark dearly. Even when she had thought he was just her uncle, he had been everything to her. She couldn’t imagine what life would have been like for her after her mother died if Mark hadn’t been there to hold her strong. Or Frank? She had just found out what happened to him. She needed the chance to seek his forgiveness for all the wrongs she unknowingly committed against him. She needed the chance to show him the love that was snatched from him because of a silly mistake. But now…

Her lips shook and she took her hand to her mouth, biting hard on her fingernail as tears clouded her eyes. Darn it! She didn’t want to think these thoughts! She had been trying not to think. Trying her darnest to remain sane. To remove all thoughts from her brain and be the positive one, the optimistic one… but those thoughts just kept sneaking behind her defenses, clouding her mind until all she felt was liquid dread flowing through her veins. She had seen the car; it was a complete wreck. Being identical twins, no one could identify which was Mark or which was Frank but the person with the slimmest chance of survival was the person driving. The oncoming bus which developed brake failure had left its lane and rammed it on the car, the major impact on the driver’s side. And Laura had identified the car; it was wrecked version of Frank’s car. The only logical conclusion would be that Frank was the person driving. All her life, she had disliked him, even though she hated him, but now, she couldn’t bear the thought of anything happening to him. Frank totally deserved a measure of happiness in his life. Every second that went by without news shattered her, increased her panic level until she felt she might come down with heart attack.

Laura wished Tito didn’t have to go. If only Tito’s past wasn’t so related to the present, she would be here. They could cry together, hold each other, and be scared together… anything, just anything that didn’t have her waiting all alone in the midst of unfamiliar people. She needed someone to hold her.

Laura looked towards the entrance of the hospital, hoping Jane would come back in with Tess. She could hold them both and whisper to them that everything would be alright, maybe with that, she would come to believe it. Maybe by taking care of others, her brain would be more focused on their feelings instead of thoughts of eventuality. But she suspected Jane was also staying longer than necessary purposely because she was also scared. The fear of losing someone wasn’t something even Jane’s witty self could handle. She felt for her sister. She was still too young to experience the pain of losing a parent. Acting as a substitute mother, Laura made sure Jane never felt the absence of her mother since Jane was only weeks old when their mother died. But Laura still remembered the pain she had felt when her mother had died and she couldn’t stand to lose two of her fathers at once. She might just die.

She blinked, sending her tears running down her cheeks and before she could lift her hand to dash them away, a warm hand came up her cheek. She blinked and then, he was there. Laura looked up at the deep concern in the face of the one person her heart had been craving for. While her mind had calculatedly expected to see Gloria, Jane, Tess or even Margaret, her heart had subtly craved to see the one person that could whisper words that she’d find herself believing. Her heart craved for those strong hands that could hold her secure and hold all her fears at bay. “Deolu” Laura gasped.

Adeolu’s thumbs wiped at her tears as he cradled her face between his large palms. Then Laura broke down… she couldn’t tell if it was the deep worry etched on Deolu’s face, the accumulated fear that she held in check, or the bone-deep relief she felt at seeing Deolu… she just couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. “Oh Ad” she managed to gasp as Deolu pulled her into his arms, holding her shivering form tight against him as he cradled her head against his chest. “I’m scared Ad, I’m so scared” her voice shook as she spoke amidst her tears.

Deolu kissed the top of her head, holding her even tighter. He breathed in the scent of her hair, letting it wash over him. The tension he felt running through her body gnawed at him. He hated seeing her in pain, hated seeing her in tears, but it seems like that was all she was getting lately. “Shshshsh” he whispered into her hair. “It would be fine. They would be fine”

Laura had repeated those words to herself over and over. She had said them internally, she had said them aloud. But only now, hearing them from Deolu’s lips could she bring herself to believe them. Though they still had unsettled issues, he was definitely what she needed now. Relaxing fully into his embrace, she allowed his heat and distinctive scent wash over her fears.

***** Chris parked outside Mark Johnson’s house and Tito was out of the car even before he had killed the engine. He hastened up to catch up with her but she was at the gate before him and she gave it a not-so-gentle bang. Chris saw the sense of urgency that ruled her now. No doubt, she was worried that something had cropped up in the hospital. She was so tense. It annoyed and frustrated him that he could do next to nothing to ease her pain. Helplessness was not a state he handled well.

Tito knocked again, barely seconds after the first. The voice of the gateman came out pissed as he yanked the door open. His facial expression changed as he saw who was at the gate. “Ah… Aunty Tito, welcome” he glanced at Chris with interest. “Oga” he inclined his head at Chris in greeting and Chris gave him a small smile. “Oga no dey house o”

“Of course, he isn’t” Tito snapped. She pushed into the compound before Lukman could finish his speech. “Where were you when he left the house? And how come he did not take his car?” she still could not understand how her dad ended up in Frank’s car.

Lukman frowned at her. “Na Oga second come here o. after they don shout shout for inside finish, them come outside. Oga collect car key for the second hand, talk say na hin wan drive”

Tito blanched. For a full minute, she stared at the gateman as his words replayed in his head. “Who drove?” she managed to gasp as her heart thundered.

“Na oga”

Tito shook her head. “No” she gasped. She wished she hadn’t gone online on her way to the hospital. She wished she hadn’t seen the level of damage done to the driver’s side. Her head banged as she hit Lukman. “Why did you let him drive? Why did you?” she yelled as she hit the gateman with her hands.

“Tito” Chris grabbed her, trying to calm her but she kept wiggling. Lukman staggered back, totally confused. “Tito please, calm down”

Tito whirled round. “He’s going to die” her voice shook.

“Die?” Lukman echoed in confusion.

Chris shook Tito firmly. “No, don’t say that”

There were tears in her eyes now and she made no attempt to stop them as they tumbled down. She stared intently at Chris, not seeing him but seeing Frank’s wrecked car. “He’s going to die, Chris” She had thought Frank was the one driving, since it was his car. But while she didn’t want Frank to die, she had been a bit hopeful since the damage was not as much on the passenger’s side. If only she knew. Tito grabbed her head. This could not be happening again. She might go crazy… heck, she was already going crazy.

Chris pulled her against him, holding her against his chest but she couldn’t stay still. She babbled on and on, couldn’t seem to stop. Unable to stand it anymore, Chris bent to do the only thing he knew could silence her. Covering her mouth with his, he kissed her.

***** Teju knocked softly on the door to the doctor’s office and heard a gentle ‘come in’. She opened and went in. The young doctor smiled at her, his eyes showing concern and affection. “Teju” he said in greeting. “I wasn’t expecting you today”

Teju smiled as she sat. “You look happy to see me, Hassan”

Doctor Hassan’s smile became cocky. “You are a pleasure to behold”

“Doctor flirt”

Hassan winked at her but his eyes remained on her, studying her. “Something’s wrong” he stated.

Teju nodded and swallowed, looking away from his all-knowing gaze. “I… I had to take my drugs twice today” she said, staring back at him. “I just want to be sure it won’t affect anything”

Doctor Hassan was silent for a few minutes. “What happened?”

Teju swallowed. “I used it in the morning and then…” she remembered the episode that took place not so long ago and swallowed. “…something happened and the pain came back, I had to take another”

Doctor Hassan leaned forward, rubbing the fingers of one hand lightly on his temple as he stared at Teju. “This isn’t good, Teju”

Teju released a shaky breath. “I know! I know it isn’t good, I just want to know if it won’t affect my baby”

“No, you don’t know” doctor Hassan’s voice came out harder. “This is dangerous, Teju. Every day you keep up with this makes it more dangerous for you and you know it”

Teju swallowed. She knew he wasn’t talking about the drugs. “Please don’t go over this again”

Hassan pushed out of his chair, went around the table and perched on it, before her, staring down at her. “I understand why you want to do this” Teju shook her head at his words. “But please, you have to think about yourself, Teju. The longer you postpone chemo, the harder it becomes”

“So what? You want me to kill my child with chemotherapy?” she surged out of the chair. “I knew I was down with Leukemia before I got pregnant. I chose this. Stop trying to talk me out of it” she blinked back tears. “Even with chemotherapy, I am still going to die anyways”

“That’s not true”

A sorrowful smile touched Teju’s face. “You know, it is. You know” she swallowed. “I can’t. I’d rather not go through that pain. This is the only way I get to be happy, Hassan… even if it is just for a short while”

Hassan stared at her for a while before looking away. His pain was obvious. Teju blinked back tears. She had found out she had Leukemia some months back. The news had darn near killed her. She had tried to tell Deolu on several occasions but she hadn’t been able to. She couldn’t stand him being in pain on her behalf, or worse, having to endure the pity people would definitely throw at her. Then, Mrs. Aderigbe had come with the proposal of bearing a child for Deolu. It had seemed like a terrible idea at first until she thought of it. She wanted a baby. She wanted an extension of herself to still draw breath even if she had to die in the process. And she knew. She knew Deolu and Laura would take care of her child. They would love and cherish him or her. Then she had agreed. And though she had known that she would have to endure their hate, it was still better… a whole lot better than pity.

“Okay” Hassan finally breathed, standing straighter. “Come here. Let me hold you for a minute”

Teju gave a weak smile as she went into Hassan’s arms. He had been a loyal friend for a while and since she discovered her ailment, she had come to confide and rely on him for many things. Female instinct told her that he had feelings for her. But she wouldn’t hurt him. He didn’t deserve to be with someone who was one foot in the grave. She held him tighter, feeling her lips tremble. It felt good to be held. It’s been so long she’d been sincerely hugged by someone who cared. It felt so good, she wanted to cry.

Neither of them heard the knock on the door above the thoughts rampaging their minds, but as the door creaked open, they broke apart when Teju heard a vaguely familiar voice.

“Doctor Hassan” Gloria’s voice called as she peaked into the office. She frowned as the woman with Doctor Hassan pulled back and she saw her face. Her Atinuke. “Teju?”

Sacrilege.

Advertisements

Sacrilege by Nissi Adeola. Episode 19

Tags

, , , ,

Episode 19

Teju’s strained breathing could be heard audibly in the room. It was the only sound in the room as Deolu stared hard at her, an incredulous look in his eyes. It felt like he had just fallen off a cliff and hit his head hard. “Who the hell are you?” he finally gave voice to the question ravaging his head because he could not seem to put together the woman he had loved so dearly as his closest female friend and the woman standing before him. They had to be two different people.

“Deolu…” her breathing came out labored. “Please… please let me explain”

“Oh, you’ll explain” Deolu boomed. “Tell me what I ever did to make you play me for a fool” Teju cringed at Deolu’s words. “You connived with my mother to… to destroy my marriage? Are you serious?” Deolu bellowed as he stared, still unable to believe what he had heard. Tears sipped out of Teju’s eyes as she bit her shivering lips. Once upon a time, those very tears would have brought him to his knees but not now… certainly not now. All he could see was this blind rage that clouded his eyes and senses. “So, you were having fun, right? Surely, you were laughing yourself to sleep thinking of how ‘stupid Deolu’ fell into your trap”

“No… no never” Teju sobbed.

“Oh, stop the tears of pretense! This was the same way you cried that night, remember?” Deolu’s eyes turned black with fury. “The same way you cried all over my shirt that night, telling me of how a man broke your heart and how you felt like less of a woman” his hands fisted beside him. “So, it was all lies? It was all a game plan to get me into bed with you and get my mother her trophy grandchild?” his voice tipped to quiet wonder. “and to think I beat myself up every day thinking I took advantage of you and destroyed your life, not knowing I was just a dice being tossed around” the analysis was like acid in his blood. He had never felt so pathetic in his entire life. It was one thing to know he had made a silly mistake, another thing to know that he had been manipulated into it.

Teju sobbed. The chair she gripped tipped dangerously to the side as she edged her weight on it.

“I always wondered what my mother would have done to convince you to thrash our wedding anniversary and impose yourself in my house. But she didn’t need to convince you, did she? My God, I’m so stupid.” “What did she promise you, uhn? What did you gain from destroying the friendship I thought we had and destroying my marriage?

“You are scaring her, son”

“You stay out of this” Deolu shot at his mother, giving her a look rife with disgust. “God, you’re good. You’re so good. I think I have seen the worst you have to offer and then boom, you surprise me again and again; you really have no limits”

Mrs. Aderigbe squared her shoulder, giving her son a steady look. “Believe it or not, I did it all for you. Someday, you would thank me for it”

“Well, I might as well thank you now. You did a good job of destroying my life; over and over again, you should be proud. You deserve some accolades.” Deolu mouthed. “It is no wonder you always wanted me to marry Teju, she is just like you. It’s a wonder I never noticed it.”

His mother swallowed. “You can put the entire blame on me; I forced Teju to do it”

“Or you didn’t force her at all” Deolu’s gaze penetrated Teju’s as something dawned on him. “Maybe your ambition have just led you into accepting someone else’s grandchild”

Teju gasped.

“What? Something did happen between you and Tito’s father didn’t it? Maybe it’s what resulted into the child you are carrying. That’s probably why you went along with my mother’s wonderful plan, right? I wouldn’t put anything past you now” Teju looked so pale now.

“Of course not, she wouldn’t” Mrs. Aderigbe gasped out.

Two pairs of eyes peered at Teju. Deolu’s eyes carried something dangerously close to hatred and his mother’s eyes held worried speculation. Teju’s hands shook feverishly and she looked around in desperation. “You should leave” she managed to gasp. The chair she leaned on tipped and she stumbled as she tried to remain upright. Pain shot through her and she blinked rapidly. She vaguely noticed how Deolu’s hand stuck out to steady her before he held it back.

“Explain what he is talking about, Teju” Mrs. Aderigbe demanded.

Teju shook her head. Restless, she shifted. “Please, leave… leave me alone” her voice shook.

“We are not leaving until you explain what is going on. Who is the father of the child you are carrying, Teju?” Deolu’s mother demanded furiously.

“Nobody. The child is mine, okay… Mine” Teju yelled shakily. “I already told you the child is for Deolu, what you choose to believe is not my business anymore.” She rubbed at her tears as she gripped the chair, crouching as pain covered her face. “Leave my house now, both of you” she managed. “Leave” she yelled.

Deolu looked murderous as he turned, storming out of this room. He needed to walk off his frustration, or jug it off, or find a gym with a punching bag. He gritted his teeth. Why on earth was Teju even furious? She had no right to be furious, blast it. His phone rang out as he walked out of the compound to his car. Swallowing his anger, he dipped his fisted hand into his pocket and grabbed his phone. He glared at the screen for a few seconds before picking up. “What” he barked.

“That’s not the kind of reception I expected from someone who hasn’t heard my voice for weeks” Chris’ voice came out softly with a bit of strained edge.

“One doesn’t jump for joy at the call of betrayers”

“Oh! There’s definitely been a change of status” there was a smile in his voice now.

Deolu was in no mood for this. “What do you want?”

There was a brief silence. “It is more of what Laura wants” Chris said. “She needs you now”

Deolu stilled. There was that stiff note in Chris’ voice that was always there when something was very wrong. Laura had left so early in the morning and he hadn’t been able to reach her since then. Could something have happened to her? Teju and his mother were all but forgotten as beads of sweat formed on his brow. “What’s wrong with her” his voiced.

*****

Teju had to push Deolu’s mother out of the room after Deolu left, since the woman refused to leave. As she slammed the door, she leaned heavily against it and slid down the door as her knees unbuckled beneath her. Pain engulfed her, causing her breath to come out in gasps.

Crawling, she moved herself away from the door and the sides of her bed until she got to the bedside drawer and yanked it open. Her shaky fingers searched the content of the drawer until she found a little container.

Opening it shakily, she eased her pill unto the palm of her hand, threw it into her mouth and swallowed. Leaning her back against the bed, she closed her eyes against the tears, waiting for the blinding pain to subside.

***** Chris dropped the phone and gripped the steering harder, eyes clued to the road ahead. Tito sat as still as a log of wood on the seat beside him. She stared out the window. His large oversized jacket around her shoulders, coupled with the stray strands of her hair dancing around her face, made her look no more than a child. She looked so vulnerable. And though she hadn’t uttered a word since they left the hospital or moved an inch since she settled into the chair in his car, Chris was awfully aware of her presence.

He seemed to know every time she blinked. And every time she did more than blink; when her eyes closed for few seconds, her long lashes becoming more pronounced as they fanned her upper cheeks. He knew every time her breath came out a lot shakier than normal. The heavy silence which hung around the car was uncomfortable to say the least, but what was more uncomfortable was knowing that she was going through so much pain and not know what to do about it. It made him restless for an unknown reason.

He suspected the pain wasn’t just from hearing about the accident. He had seen that look in her eyes. That look that told him that she had experienced something similar before. ‘That’s what they said the last time’ the words Tito spoke in the hospital came back to him. What had happened to her?

“Turn off the air conditioner” Tito’s voice suddenly said into the heavy silence as her hand stuck out, rolling down her glass with the automatic button. Chris swallowed, turned off the air conditioner and also wound down his glass. The wind blew Tito’s unkempt hair into disarray. The bond holding back the long thresses was certainly no match for the will of the stubborn mane. Tito’s nerves seemed to relax and Chris saw her close her eyes for a brief moment.

He gripped the wheels, staring back at the road. “Feel better?”

Tito remained silent for a while. “Yes.” She answered finally. “You should go to her”

Chris turned his eyes off the road to give her a questioning look but she still had her eyes out of the window. “Huh?”

Tito swallowed. “I know that’s where you truly want to be – with Laura. I know you’ve been thinking about it… Laura all alone in that hospital, there’s nothing you wouldn’t give to be there, holding her hand, lying to her that everything would be alright…” her voice trailed off and Chris turned his eyes back to the road, gripping the wheel harder. “It is totally fine. You don’t have to be stuck with me any more than I want to be stuck with you”

Chris held his tongue. He had learnt to hold his tongue to avoid saying something he’d later regret. Of course, she wasn’t so wrong. He had been so worried about Laura being all alone in the hospital that he had to call Deolu. But weirdly, he didn’t wish he was with Laura right now. He knew even if he were there, he would not be able to give Laura the kind of support Deolu could give her.

“You wouldn’t get rid of me that easily.” Chris finally said. Tito fell silent as Chris drove on. “Got a thing with hospitals?” he asked.

Tito took a deep breath. “I don’t want to talk about it”

“You should, if you want to go back there.” Tito slid him a look. “I know we’ve not been the best of friends, maybe not even friends at all; but you can confide in me” he smiled at her. “I’m a good listener”

“That’s news”

“C’mon.” His eyes softened.

Tito’s eyes grew dark as she stared out the window again. The wind blew her hair around. “Let’s just say whoever loves me ends up dead.” Her mouth took on a bitter smile. “They die” her voice shook. “It has happened before. Twice” she swallowed. “And now…”

Chris saw her hand go up to her face to wipe a tear before it fell. His chest squeezed painfully. He had Laura in his car several days back. But even then, he hadn’t felt this much pain. There was this grief that Tito could not hide. One he wondered how she had been able to hide it so perfectly for so long.

“Now, I can see it happening again” Tito continued, her voice came out so lifeless, it tore at him. “My dad loves me so much and now… and now…”

Chris’ hand stuck out, grabbed Tito’s hand and squeezed hard. She looked down at their joined hands briefly before lifting her eyes to his. “He’d be fine” he said forcefully. He wanted her to believe it. He needed her to believe it.

Tito peered at him. Her lips shook. “Lie to me. Please lie to me until I believe you. I want to believe you”

Chris’ hand left hers and went up to her face. His thumb brushed away the tear that coerced down her cheek without her notice. He brushed his knuckles against her cheek lightly, holding her gaze. “He’d be fine”.

And he hoped he was right. For her. For Laura. For all of them.

Sacrilege.

*As a bonus and to help us enjoy the holidays better, I’d be posting another episode on Monday -4pm. Some things are about to be revealed. Don’t miss it. Kisses*

Sacrilege by Nissi Adeola. Episode 18

Tags

, , , ,

Episode 18

Deolu had made a quick stop at his company, partly because it had been a little too early to be visiting Mark – someone he hadn’t seen for few months now, and partly because he had to sort out some business dealings. Boss or not, there are times you just have to make an appearance and out things in their proper shapes – especially when you are the boss. It was the second time he had popped into his company since the entire saga started. But even at that, his mind hadn’t been focused on what he went there to do. What reasonable man would be at rest when his house was ablaze?

Deolu parked on the street, alighted and moved towards the building ahead. A few raps on the gate had the gateman murmuring in response. Deolu listened to the sound of the gateman’s dragging feet, waiting patiently. It had been a long time since he came here and Deolu pushed down a small feeling of unease. Not only was he anxious to know exactly what had transpired between Laura and her uncle, he also knew that Mark would not exactly receive him with open arms. He had been like a father to Laura and if what Laura said was anything to go by, he was her biological father. He had taken him as a son when he got married to Laura, he could imagine how pissed Mark would be.

Unlike the gateman, he pushed open the door without the usual interrogation. “Ah oga Deolu, long time” he pushed the gate wider, allowing Deolu in.

Deolu’s face eased into a friendly smile. “How are you, Lukman?”

Lukman beat his hand together, rubbing his palms in a way Deolu was fond of. “I just dey o, oga mi. as I no dey see you for here again na, hand just dry”

Deolu chuckled. “Is Mr. Johnson in?

Lukman’s shoulders sagged, “No, he just commot. This one wey all of you just dey appear so, you too done come fight my oga?

Disappointment engulfed Deolu even as he frowned. “Fight? What do you mean?”

Lukman adjusted his stance. “No be your wife? Madam, Laura come yesterday, shout shout sotey, she cry commot. Madam Tito too come, she too cry commot. Today, oga twin don come hala for oga too, now you don come. Make una mercy for Oga Mark na, and me I know say my oga no fit do that kind thing wey una talk o”

Deolu frowned, taking a step closer to Lukman. It was odd being fed information by Mark’s gateman but he did know that workers, especially in a residential apartment, were often the walls of the house. Nothing could get past them. “Can’t do what?”

“As your wife enter yesterday wey I hear say she dey shout, na hin I waka go window, hear wetin dey happen. She talk say oga…” Lukman’s voice dropped in conspiracy. “… say oga rape person” Deolu’s frown deepened several degrees. “How he go take do that kain thing?”

Rape! That was definitely something he could not imagine Mark doing. The man was the sweetest man Deolu had ever come across. He always felt the man couldn’t hurt a fly, so… “what do you mean, rape?… raped who?” for an unknown reason, Deolu was scared. Some of the incoherent words Laura mumbled in her sleep rolled in his head.

“How I go take know? I no hear everything wey dem talk” he started, looking guilty. “But… she mention one name. I no remember. Erm… The name wan be like oga pikin name”

“Tito?”

“No. the name just be like her own, na…”

Similar too… “Teju” Deolu whispered to himself, a frown taking over his entire face.

“Yes. Na the name wey I hear be that”

Deolu’s head shot up. “What?” blood drained from his face as his head began to throb. “you can’t be serious”

Lukman frowned at Deolu. “Me I just dey tell you wetin I hear o, I no know anything o”

No! he certainly couldn’t be implying that… that… Deolu’s face paled. The night he slept with Teju flashed in his mind, making his brain freeze for a moment. What if… “God no…” Deolu gasped as he turned, his strides quickening with each step.

“You dey go?” Lukman asked but Deolu barely responded as he marched out of the compound. He got into his car and zoomed off.

*****

Chris scrolled through the contact list on his phone until he stopped on Deolu’s name. his finger hovered over the name for brief seconds until he gave up and dropped the phone on his office table. He exhaled and raked his hand over his hair. He missed his best friend, much more than he wished to admit to himself. And now, with his parents giving him the heat about getting married, he needed something that would take him mind off it all. He could claim to have a mind of his own, but when African parents decide to have their way, there is little a man can do.

He really needed Deolu now. He missed their friendly chatter, well aimed innocent insults, he missed that bond he shared with Deolu that he didn’t share with any other male friend he had. Ever since Wale had advised him to pursue Laura, he had distanced himself from him. Wale might have been right about Chris’ feelings for Laura but his advice had told him clearly that Wale wasn’t the type of friend to have around. A part of him could not but wish things hadn’t gone sour with Deolu’s marriage. Miserable as he had been, watching the woman he loved dearly with his best friend, he had had a bit of satisfaction in knowing she was with someone who loved her enough to make her happy – someone who deserved her love. Seeing her happy had made him happy, and oddly, he was glad she was with Deolu and not any other man.

Now, he was still mad at Deolu for hurting Laura but no matter how much he wished otherwise, his principles would not allow him pursue the wife of his best friend. Because that was what Deolu remained – his best friend. And he needed him now. He needed him to tell him what to do. or maybe they could go out and have fun, forget all that was plaguing them just like old times. Even if it was just for a while. He had to admit that he hadn’t really been himself since the entire incident with Laura and Deolu started. He was just as affected as they were.

Chris surged forward, grabbed the remote of the small flat screen on his office wall and switched on the TV. He changed the channel until he got to a news channel and his eyes caught something. His eyes stuck to the TV screen as he read through the headline. “Oh my God!” he gasped out and surged out of his chair, grabbed his phone and his car keys and rushed out of his office. He made a quick stop at his colleague’s office and asked him to cover for him. With that, he dashed out of the company.

*****

Teju was as pale as sheet as she watched Deolu’s mother. Her eyes were as large as saucers. “No! there must be a mistake somewhere. I can’t believe this, I just can’t” she muttered, jumped out of her chair and started pacing.

Mrs. Aderigbe looked at Teju, her faced laced with worry. “You need to calm down, you shouldn’t stress yourself”

“Don’t tell me what I need” Teju snapped. “You don’t care about me; all you care about is the child in my tummy”

Mrs. Aderigbe shifted. “Don’t say that”

“Why? The truth is too bitter for you?” Teju’s eyes flashed. “Well, it doesn’t seem bitter enough since you and my mother couldn’t see it fit to tell me the truth all these years…” she chuckled slightly, bitterly. “Oh, that’s right, she isn’t even my mother”

Mrs. Aderigbe approached carefully. “How was she to tell you? You were her gift. Her husband left her because she could not give birth to a child, when she found you; you were her only source of happiness and comfort. Many times, she wanted to tell you but I stopped her because I knew what it would be for her if she lost you”

“Of course, you stopped her” Teju yelled, her eyes watering up. “typical you. You just have to be the reason for every bad thing, right? I deserved to know. My mother should have told me the truth but she didn’t. how am I supposed to deal with so much in my life?”

A loud knock vibrated the room and Teju stalked towards the door, pulling it open without even asking to know who it was. As the open door revealed the person behind it, she paled. “Deolu” she gasped.

Deolu peered down at Teju, noting her pale state. If he had only looked more closely, he would have noticed the tears in her eyes. His eyes shifted from her and landed on his mother, just inside the room. His eyes clouded with fury and resentment. “I see we have a full house” he mouthed. His eyes rotated from Teju to his mother, not at all pleased to see them together.

“Erm… your mother just stopped by to see me” Teju managed, moving out of the way to let Deolu into her apartment.

“Of course, she did” Deolu muttered, his eyes on his mother as he moved into the apartment. Mrs. Aderigbe held his gaze firmly. “hello mum”

“Wondered when you would finally remember your manners” Mrs. Aderigbe said with a cocky smile. “I should be leaving now, you won’t have to put up with me for too long. I just brought your child’s mother some fruits.”

Deolu nodded without a trace of smile on his face. “Yes, about that…” he turned to Teju. “I think you might need to explain something to us, Teju” he said, frowning at Teju. A lot had changed in Teju that made Deolu wonder if he actually knew much about her. She had been so close to him, the closest female to him asides Laura, but Deolu was tempted to think there was more to her than he actually knew.

One look at Deolu’s face and Teju already knew what was going on. Her heart slammed against her chest. “Explain what?” she managed, her voice came out weakly.

“Who is the father of your child, Teju?” Deolu finally asked.

*****
“It’s fine… Everything is fine. It is just a minor accident. You’d see, when you get there, he would already be up on his feet.” Tito twisted her sweaty palms in her lap, her legs moving restlessly as she chanted the words. It helped to say those words; maybe by saying it over and over again, she would come to believe it. The taxi driver glanced at her using the mirror as she fixed her eyes on the road. She blinked away the tears that stung her eyes and ran her sweaty palms over her face. Nervous, she shifted. “Can you go faster?”

“It is better to arrive late than to be late” he glanced back at Tito. “Calm down girl, you are no use to the person if you also land on a hospital bed. We are almost there”

Tito swallowed, looking away. The last sentence stuck to her head. She wanted to get there as fast as possible, but a part of her was scared. She was scared of what she would meet there. Several years ago, she had chanted these same words. She had told herself that it would be fine, but… her lips shook and she bit them hard, covering her mouth with her knuckles. No, she wouldn’t cry. Tears meant something bad had happened and no, that was one thing she didn’t want to accept.

The taxi screeched to a halt and her eyes snapped up. “We’re here” the taxi driver said in a calm tone. His eyes held a slight hint of compassion. Tito swallowed, paid the taxi driver and alighted. The taxi pulled away behind her but she stood rooted to where she was, staring at the magnificent building ahead of her. Hospitals! It has been so long she went into one. It had been so long she had been inside this particular one. But it did come inside her… plague her dreams until she woke up, sweaty, the stench of blood stung to her nose. Her heart slammed in her chest as she took cautious steps into the hospital. As the familiar door opened for her to enter, the smell of hospital washed over her and she clenched her fists as memories she had tried really hard to put away flooded her mind. The waiting room was swarming with people which swarm as she looked at them through teary eyes. She searched desperately for familiar faces, needing someone to keep her glued to sanity.

“Tito”

She turned at the sound of Laura’s voice and saw her hastening towards her. Her eyes looked swollen from the tears that were still obvious in her eyes. God, no… not tears… “Oh, Tito” Laura moaned immediately she got to Tito and pulled her into her arms.

Tito pulled back, searching Laura’s eyes. “How… how is he? Is he alright?” she looked round the hospital, turning restlessly. “Please, tell me he is alright?”

Laura swallowed. “The doctors are attending to them”

“But he would be alright, right?” Tito’s eyes returned to Laura and Laura froze, realizing what was going on as she noticed Tito’s pale face. She touched her hand and alarm bells went off in her head. How could she have been so stupid? she never should have made Tito come here.

“My God, Tito, you are so cold. You should go”

“No” Tito shook her head. “No, I have to see him” her voice shook as she started in a particular direction. “I need to see my dad”

“Tito… please, calm down” Laura rushed after her, grabbing Tito’s hand, trying to stop her. She had seen this before. How had she not known it was a bad idea to have Tito inside this particular hospital?

“Laura”

Laura turned and saw Chris approaching, his long strides eating up the distance between them. She gripped Tito’s hand tight, not willing to let her go. Chris was by her side in seconds and he gazed at the two ladies, concern written all over him. “Hi. I just heard what happened. Any news?”

Laura shook her head. Her throat felt heavy with fear that she tried hard to hide. She wanted to cry, wail, until she fell into a mindless sleep and woke up to find out that it had all been a terrible nightmare. “No” her voice shook as she shook her head.

“It’s my entire fault…” Tito started, her eyes flooded with tears she magically kept at bay by blinking consistently. “He called me… he called and called but i…” she raised her hand to her mouth. “if anything happens to him…” her voice shook as she shook her head.

“Nothing is going to happen to him” Chris said but Tito only shook her head.

“That’s what they all said the last time” her hand shook and this time, a tear drop succeeded in slipping past her lids. The hot liquid slid down her cold cheek and she dashed it away almost instantly.

Laura shifted helplessly. “She can’t stay here” she told Chris.

“You won’t tell me what I can or cannot do, I am not leaving” Tito snapped.

This was a side of Tito that Chris had never seen before. He had never seen her look so scared, so lost. Nothing; absolutely nothing made a man feel more powerless than a strong woman in tears. But watching Tito fight her tears, he thought it was even harder to watch a strong woman fight her tears. His hand automatically moved to her hand. It felt cold beneath his hand, making him want to pull off his suit jacket for her to wear. But he doubted if she would want that. “Why don’t we go home to get him a change of clothes?” Chris murmured the first thing that came to mind.

“No, I’m not leaving”

“It would just be for a few minutes. Your dad would be needing clean clothes by the time the doctors are through.”

“Yes, Tito. Please” Laura seconded.

Tito hesitated. A part of her wanted to run out of this place, run so hard until she could inhale something that was not blood, medicine and fear. She felt sick to the stomach just being here.

Unable to stop himself, Chris shrugged out of his jacket and draped it over Tito’s shoulder. Chris’ cologne instantly seeped into Tito’s nostrils, as heat from the jacket warmed up her chilled body. “C’mon” Chris whispered, putting his hand gently on her back and giving a slight push. He almost sighed in relief when she did not object as her legs started moving. He walked with her, feeling her tense body beneath his hand. As they got to the door, he glanced back and saw Laura hugging herself. She looked so alone. He could see the fear she tried so hard to hide. Swallowing, he opened the door for Tito and walked out of the hospital.

*****

Deolu watched Teju pale before his eyes. Silence stretched in the room. Her eyes were guarded. “The child is yours” she finally said.

“But, of course, the child is his” Mrs. Aderigbe snapped. “What on earth is wrong with you, Deolu?”

“You, stay out of this, mum” Deolu shot at his mum without taking his eyes off Teju. “Really? Is the child really mine? Because, I have reasons to believe otherwise”

Teju swallowed. “I know… I know Tito must have told you what I said… that the child is for her dad, but it’s not… I only…”

“Wait!” Mrs. Aderigbe’s voice rang out. “You told her the child is for her dad? What the heck are you talking about?”

“It was a lie” Teju’s voice shook as she gazed from Deolu’s mother to Deolu, tears in her eyes. “I just told her that to make her stop pestering me”

“Of course. It seems you are so used to lies lately” Deolu stared at Teju like he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. “Is that it? Was that why you called me that night? Made me come to your house and lured me into bed? Was the aim to force another man’s child on me?”

Teju shook her head. “No” tears fell from her eyes.

“But of course not” Mrs. Aderigbe’s voice didn’t seem so certain. “She assured me! I was the one that asked her to…”

“No” Teju gasped, stopping the words before they fell out.

Deolu turned, frowning at his mother. “You told her to do what?” he asked. His mother seemed to have gone slightly pale. “What did you ask her to do?” he boomed again.

“to sleep with you” his mother dropped.

Deolu gazed at her, his ears echoing the words. “To what?”

“Please… please, don’t” Teju pleaded, her breath came out in gasps as tears fell from her eyes.

Mrs. Aderigbe, realizing that there was no use hiding what was already in the open, opened her mouth. “When you wouldn’t give me a grandchild, I begged Teju to sleep with you. That’s why i… I picked came to your house that night and picked a fight because I knew you would storm out of the house the way you always did whenever you need a release from your anger.” Deolu stared at his mother in wide-eyed wonder. “then, when you were out of the house, I called Teju and told her to call you…” her voice trailed off.

Deolu’s eyes stared hard at his mother in stunned disbelief, and then slid over to Teju. “Wow” he gasped. He remembered that night all too well. His mother had raved on and on about the childless state of his home that he had been so angry, he had stormed out of the house. He had thought he would do the usual, drive round Lagos until he was completely exhausted, but then, Teju had called. She had sobbed over the phone, pleading with him to come over to her place. So worried, he had gone over to meet her, and then, when he got there, she had been in nothing more than a flimsy red nightwear. She had cried and cried in his arms, lamenting how she had caught her boyfriend in bed with another woman. God! How was he to know it was all scripted? He wondered, gazing at the two women. But she had known his weakness – tears. When she had kissed him and he tried to pull back, she had clung to him, crying and saying just how much she felt like less of a woman. Unable to stop himself and coupled with the added frustration from home, he had given in that night.

He had blamed himself ever since for not being strong enough. For taking advantage of Teju when she was vulnerable. How was he to know he had just acted his part of a well-scripted movie?

“Wow!”

Sacrilege