Episode 19

Lara’s eyes were the size of large Mr. Biggs doughnuts. Couldn’t the ground just open and swallow her whole? Lara wondered as she stared wide-eyed at her father’s erupting state. Her father looked like he would be bursting into flames in a matter of seconds, and her mother? Lara chanced a look in Sewa’s direction; she looked like someone who was about to be lowered alive into a six-feet deep pit. Lara should not feel any sympathy towards her because, c’mon, her mother hadn’t been sympathetic when she got her kidnapped but as Lara watched her mother grow as white as a dog’s teeth, she panicked. Why on earth had she spilled the beans, and in such reckless manner? She released the breath she had unknowingly been holding. The deed had been done; words once uttered cannot be gathered back. The only thing that could be done now was to find a way to rectify the situation, but that seemed like an impossible task because one look in her father’s direction told her that he was about to invoke the hosts of hell.

She swallowed hard as her father left the back of his desk, approaching slowly. “She got you kidnapped!” he stated with firm certainty as his face glowed with recently attained knowledge. He looked on with an incredulous look on his face and Sewa squirmed shakily, Lara had never seen her mother so jittery.

Lara quickly jumped to the rescue, coming between her father and her mother before they got close. “Of course not dad” she said shakily. “It was just a slip” she rushed on. “I mean… how can… mum get me kidnapped, c’mon” she laughed in a funny way, dismissing the idea as ridiculous.

Tunji Banks spared her a threatening glance. “Get out of my way” he boomed, his voice bouncing off the walls.

Lara had never been the obedient type, so she stood firmly in front of her father, placing her arms akimbo. That was probably a very terrible mistake, and in future, she would be sure to steer clear when there was an erupting volcano. Mr. Banks’ hand flashed out, pushing Lara out of the way forcefully, causing her to stumble ungracefully. Sewa shrieked as Tunji reached her in a flash and grabbed her upper arm fiercely. “You got her kidnapped? You were behind the kidnap?” he roared, his eyes blazing.

Sewa was like a lifeless vegetable leaf, shivering in his arms. “Answer me” he roared, shaking her like a ragged doll.

“Stop it dad” Lara yelled. Oh no! She had truly made a terrible mistake. Which father would hear that his wife was actually the culprit that kidnapped his child and keep calm? She should have done the better job of keeping her mouth shut. “Let her go dad, please” she pleaded, trying to dislodge her father’s grip on her mother’s arm. Why wasn’t she saying anything? Her mother looked like someone who had her tongue glued to the roof of her mouth.

“So, you were the in-house traitor!” his voice rang of disbelief as he glared at her mother, then his eyes caught fire, making him look as frightening as the devil would be if he appeared in person. “Where is my money? My 300 million Naira! Where is it?”

Lara didn’t know what went through her brain at that moment. Clearly, she couldn’t blame her father for asking for his money, because 300 million naira was far too much money to let go of but Lara was disappointed. His primary concern was not for the fact that he had been betrayed by his own wife, or that his wife had put his daughter in danger, but his primary concern seemed to be the cash that was forcefully extracted from him.

“Where the hell is my money woman?” he roared.

“It is gone” Sewa squeaked finally.

Deadly calm descended and Tunji seemed to stare at his wife, trying to make meaning of what she just said. “Gone! Gone to where?” he seemed to be growing pale too.

Sewa looked like she needed a potion which could make her vanish forever. She was shivering like a jelly fish. Lara swallowed as compassion filled her soul. This was her mother! No matter what she had done, she still remained her mother and if what Lara was thinking was even sensible enough, she would bet that Sewa had a good enough reason for what she did.

“I… I sent it to my… parents; for my father’s operation”

Tunji Banks grew pale as sheet as his grip slowly loosened and he let Sewa’s arm go. Okay, Lara stared at both her parents in confusion. What on earth is going on? What are they talking about? What parents? Her mother had mentioned a thing like this that night but it had sounded so ridiculous to her ears, and rightly so because what her mother said did not apply to sense. Maybe it was a good thing that she made the slip, probably she would have an answer to the puzzle roaming her head. “Okay… I am in the dark here; can someone explain what is going on before I lose my mind?”

The governor’s hand flashed out with lightning speed and struck her mother firmly across the face.

“Daaaad” Lara’s scream mingled with her mother’s painful yell as she rushed forward to protect her mother. This was the first time Lara would see her father raising his hand against her mother and it was scaring the hell out of her. It reminded her sharply of that time with the kidnapper where he had struck her for the first time. Would a time come when she would forget that encounter? As lackadaisical as she had proved that time, only bravado had seen her through the experience.

Before Lara could get close enough to protect her mother, Tunji’s hand snaked out and this time, gripped Sewa’s neck fiercely. “What did you just say” he roared like a wounded lion as he choked Sewa.

“Nooo…” Lara yelled. “Leave her alone… stop” she ran over to the table and grabbed her father’s phone with shaky fingers. “Leave her before I call the police dad”

“Shut up” her father returned. “I control the police and I would definitely make sure your mother ruts in jail for what she did, so maybe it is a good idea to call the police”

Lara swallowed. “There is no evidence to prove that I was kidnapped dad but your finger prints are on mum’s skin. This is domestic violence dad and it is punishable under the law. Let her go now dad… now” she yelled.

Mr. Banks laughed. “You forget who I am Lara. I am the governor of this bloody state and I have immunity. What did you learn with all your years in school? Surely you wasted the money I spent on you, filling your head with all sorts of tailoring gadgets

“I am immune to any accusation levied against me until I am out of this office, and I won’t be for some years because I would run for another term; but your mother here… she would be having the full taste of my wrath” he let go of Sewa’s neck and she staggered to the back, coughing slightly as she held her throat. He faced her with eyes burning with rage. “I don’t care how you do it, I want my money back and I want it this instant”

“It is gone, I don’t have it” Sewa threw back at him, showing a bit of the steel will that Lara knew in her.

“Do I look like I care? Go to that wretched gold-digging family of yours and get me my money, or else, you’ll be in for a lifetime in hell”

“I can’t”

He raised his brow as a cynical smile coated his lips. “Oh you can… and you will, you definitely will” he advanced towards her but this time, Lara was fast enough and she put herself between them.

“You won’t dare touch my mother again, dad”

“When I talk to your mother, you stay out of it” Banks yelled at her.

Lara raised her chin. “What you are doing is threatening dad, not talking and I would not allow it”

Tunji took his eyes off Lara to glare at Sewa. “After all I did for you” he spat out. “I took you out of the slums and brought you into my paradise but you always betray me… always.” His mouth twisted. “It is true. A leopard can never wash off its spotty skin. And you know the consequences of betraying me again”

Sewa shrank backwards. Okay… Lara turned back to face her mother. Seriously, her mother’s jittery state was beginning to piss her off. What is it about her father that scared her mother so much? Why wasn’t she saying anything in her defense? Lara had never known her mother to be so weak-willed. She was behaving like a kid who was about to get butt-whipped.

“What is going on mum? Are you not going to say anything?” she demanded as anger set in. “For God’s sake mum, I thought you had no family! What is going on?”

Sewa ran her shaky fingers through her hair. “It is not true… it is all a lie, I have a family.” Her eyes watered. “I am sorry I lied to you Lara, I didn’t have any other choice. Your father made me choose”

Lara swallowed. Well, with all the verbal exchanges, she had gathered that there was a family somewhere, hidden from her for more than 25 years. The pain burned deep within her but as she stared at her mother’s watery eyes, she understood what was going on. “Was there ever a time when you didn’t give precedence to wealth, dad?

He snorted. “I asked her to choose, she made the choice willingly”

“I didn’t have a choice. I was pregnant with you” Sewa countered.

Lara raised her hands. “Halt. You were pregnant out of wedlock? I never knew that” in fact, she never knew virtually everything. She was becoming confused. How could she have been lied to her whole life.

“I am sorry Lara, I really wanted to tell you”

Lara blinked as the reality occurred to her. “It means I am the reason why you were forced to marry dad” she stated. “I am the reason why you deserted your family.”

Sewa rushed to her, staring Lara in the face. “No honey, you are not the cause of anything.” She swallowed. “I should have been wise, wise enough to take responsibility for my actions and not desert my parents who had been there for me all my life, but I wanted a good life, for myself and for you… I was selfish” tears dropped from her eyes and she wiped it off with the back of her hand. “Your father forbade me from having anything to do with my family but he didn’t have to because my family didn’t want anything to do with me because I deserted them and chose money over them. I have tried to make amends but it has been fruitless” she took a deep breath. “I heard recently that… that my father had kidney stone and had to be flown abroad if he would live.” More tears dropped and she didn’t bother about wiping them off. “I knew your father would never lend a helping hand and I went about searching for money, trying to see if I could lend some money from friends but I couldn’t get anything worthwhile without raising suspicions. I couldn’t afford to let Tunji know that I was trying to help my family. It was during the process of trying to raise funds that I met the kidnapper and…”

Lara stared at her mother in disbelief. How could she carry so much guilt in her? She felt for her mother. She had passed through so much all on her own.

“I am sorry I did what I did Lara, I know no excuse is good enough. Please forgive me” Sewa said as she held Lara’s hand. Lara removed her hands from her mothers and walked into them instead, hugging her mother tightly.

“Of course I forgive you mum. I only wish you had confided in me earlier, so you wouldn’t have to deal with it all by yourself.”

“I couldn’t” she said. This was the part that Lara still couldn’t piece together. Why couldn’t she tell her? Wait! Was her father blackmailing her mother with something? She remembered what her father had said earlier and froze. ‘And you know the consequences of betraying me again’. She blinked as she pulled away from her mother and turned to her father who was busy pacing the office.

“Are you blackmailing mum?”

Someone knocked on the door of the office, distracting them. If there was anything like a bad timing, this would be it! Tunji glared at them. “None of this should get out of this room” he commanded with steel in his voice. “I would deal with this later” he said and asked the person at the door to come in.

One of the maids entered with her head bowed. “Sir, Mr Jack Andrews is here to see Miss Banks”

Jack? Lara swallowed. What is he doing here?

“Bring him here” Tunji said instantly, seeming a bit calmer than before. Several thoughts went through Lara’s head as silence descended into the room heavily. The governor seemed to be restraining himself from attacking Sewa who had been able to gain back a bit of her composure.

The door was tapped some minutes later and after a silent response from Mr Banks, the door was opened by the same maid before she stood aside to let Jack in. Jack walked in through the door looking terribly handsome. Lara caught her breath as she glanced at her mother. Only then did she remember that her mother had never seen jack. But as she looked at her mother, she noticed that her mother had gone so pale, she feared she might faint anytime soon.

Sewa gasped. “Pascal?”

Jack went death still. Something very bad was going on but Lara did not know what it could be. She had never feared Jack as much as she did now. The mention of that name seemed to freeze Jack at the entrance. His eyes burned with a fire that Lara had never seen. A glance at her father told her that he was also confused.

Jack’s features shifted slightly and he smiled, rather forcefully. “I am sorry ma’am, this is not Pascal”

Jack stared at the woman he knew to be the wife of the governor. No one had ever called him Pascal because it surely wasn’t his name, but he definitely knew someone who answered that name. The last time he had seen the bearer of that name, he had been punching his mother’s battered body. The only question roaming his head now was, ‘how did Lara’s mother come to know the man who used to be his father?’

Thoughts are Real!
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