As she sat in the cab, running from all that had just unfolded; the truth of her existence, she couldn't help the tears. Crying was the only way she could let it all out. It was too much for her to bear. It was just too much. She couldn't stuff her issues no longer in a bottle. The bottle was filled already with bottled up emotions. If she stored anything else, the bottle would shatter.
But she was shattered already. Finding a long lost mother who had rejected her, and an irresponsible father, both in one day! It was too much to bear or handle. She didn't want to go home. Madam Joyce would keep trying to talk her into hearing her parents out. And no. Shomi couldn't stand them. She couldn't give a listening ear to the woman who had refused to hear her cries as a child. She remembered one time she had been ill with a really bad stomach ache. She had complained and cried about it to Aunty Kemi. Aunty Kemi had been in the bedroom with a man. Shomi had walked in on them, crying and rolling on the floor. Aunty Kemi had been so angry that she kicked her and pushed her out of the room.
She could never forget the look on her (father) driver's face when Kemi told him that Shomi was the product of the experiment done in the Chemistry lab. Kemi had thought there had been chemistry between her and Uncle James back then, quite alright, because of the fluttery butterfly feelings she felt whenever he looked at her.
James had looked at Shomi with surprise and confusion. But what hurt her more was what he said.
"Please my daughter, don't sack me. I need this job. All my children are out of school because I can't afford school fees. Please my daughter."
Shomi had been so irritated and disgusted. The man who was supposed to be her father; whom she now begun to see the striking semblance they shared in skin colour and shape of eyes, her father who had never met her before. The first words she had thought he would say were words of apology, asking for forgiveness. But this?! Asking for his job, and telling her he had other kids to take care of! Even Madam Joyce had raised her voice at the man, in defense of the child she had raised.
Shomi almost forgot to pay the taxi man who was now looking at her like she was weird because she had been crying and lost in thought, all through. She handed him a five hundred naira note and walked away, forgetting to collect her change. After he zoomed away, not mentioning her forgetfulness, she stood at the gate of the house, knocking endlessly.
He opened the gate. And he saw her, drowned in her own tears. He had never seen her that way before. Well, yes, she wasn't exactly the cheerful kind, but he had never seen her so broken.
"Dapo, please..." She started to speak. "I am going insane."
Dapo pulled her closer and led her into his apartment.
He didn't know if it was the weight of all she had said that made him shudder in surprise, or shut his eyes in shame. He had no idea she had been through so so so much. This was too much for one person.
When she told him how she had been raped by two teenage boys, how they had pushed her to the floor and forcefully torn her dress and panties, how she had wept in pain and fought tooth and nail to run away, and how she woke up to find herself in Madam Joyce's house, he couldn't control his emotions any longer. He pulled her into his arms. He didn't know the extent the hug would go but he wished it could shield her from all the hurt that still lurked around.
"I'm so sorry. Baby I'm so sorry! I'm sorry for everything! I take the blame. I..." He held her tight, stroking her hair.
"I don't want to see those people. They're not my parents. They never going to be my parents. He doesn't even care about my feelings! He begged me if he could keep his job!" Shomi cried.
"I know baby." Dapo whisphered.
"Dapo I'm so sorry about what I did. I shouldn't have hit you or walked out on you. You're like the only family I have and Yes, I want to marry you and be with you if you want me to. Please don't leave me, Dapo. Please I can't..." She mumbled. She was scared. She was afraid.
Dapo didn't know what to say. He couldn't look her in the eye without his conscience killing him. And he knew he had to tell her. He needed to get this off his chest. She needed to know that it killed him not hearing from her all this while. It wasn't that he didn't want to call her to beg her. He wanted to, more than anything. He missed her. But he couldn't find the courage and the voice to talk to her.
"Baby, I'm the one who is sorry. I don't want to tell you this now, especially with everything you're going through right now..." He looked at the rug, avoiding her eyes.
Shomi swallowed. What more worse could happen?
"Were you actually cheating on me with your ex?" She asked. Maybe her suspicion was true after all. She looked at him eagerly and hungrily, hungry for his response, hoping what was left of her heart wouldn't be broken further. She hoped he would say no.
"No I wasn't." Dapo said. She sighed.
"But after you accused me and hit me, Shomi I lost it. I swear, I lost it and I had a little alcohol. I didn't know what to do so I went to her house cos it was her birthday. She invited me and told me people would be there. I shouldn't have...I was just angry that you accused me of something I never did. I've been faithful to you since the inception of this relationship and even when you cheated on me, I still loved you."
He put his head in his hands.
"She was the only one at the house. And I don't know... Yes, she seduced me, but it's my fault. Because she didn't put a gun to my head. I should have left, but...oh my God I'm so sorry. I had sex with Biola. I'm so sorry, Shomi. I slept with her and when we finished I hated her so much! I hated her for what I did. I felt so dirty within me."
Shomi sighed again. She didn't know what to say. She nodded then she picked up her purse.
"Please forgive me. Please." Dapo said. He went on his knees. She kicked his off his hands that held her legs, and she walked towards the door.
Dapo had felt so rotten with himself that day. He had hated Biola so much. She had begged him and told him that she wanted to marry him but he had told her to stay away from him and walked out on her.
The next day had been a Sunday. He had to clear his head. He had to sort out his life. He felt so misplaced and he needed to hold on to something to fix him. So he decided to go to church.
The Pastor's sermon hadn't really touched him. Or maybe it was because he had felt so guilty judging himself and giving his conscience the permission to prick him, that he hadn't been able to listen to the sermon.
"Before I end the service, I'd like to ask...is there anyone here who feels like there is a void in his or her life? Do you feel empty? Let the Holyspirit come and hover and fill you and give your life a meaning. Let Him create the Heavens in your heart. Let Him give you peace and rest of mind. Is there anybody here who wants to enter into God's rest? He forgives! Trust me He does! He wipes away your sins, no matter how bad they are! Red as scarlet as they may be, he makes you as white as snow. Open your heart and take that decision to give your life to Him! Please do it today. No body knows what tomorrow holds..."
Dapo hesitated for a bit. The pastor had asked the congregation to shut their eyes. He knew some wouldn't shut theirs because he was guilty of the same thing. He always opened his eyes in church to see all the sinners whenever pastors made an altar call for people struggling with one addiction or the other. But now, he wanted to see the first person that would stand on his or her feet to be born again. He didn't want to be the first.
He finally decided to take a stand, when no one stood up. He knew he couldn't go back with the heavy feeling he felt.
"God bless you my brother..." The pastor said. "Please wait behind after the service, I want to speak to you and pray with you."
Shomi held the knob of the door, but she shut her eyes. She was still in Dapo's house. She didn't have anything outside there. She didn't have any comfort. If she walked out on Dapo again, she knew she would feel miserable. She turned to face him.
"I don't know what to say..." She said.
"Please forgive me. I need you to!" Dapo said, hurrying towards her.
"How could you do that to me?" She asked.
"I promise you I'll never hurt you. I vow. I will not hurt you! I was stupid. I was angry that..."
"I pushed you to it. I should never have doubted you." She said.
"What? No way, Shomi. I took the action. I am an adult. You didn't push me, and Bio didn't..."
"Biola. Not Bio." Shomi said.
"I don't know what to do. I'm so confused about my life right now." She said, rubbing her temples.
"I know somewhere we can start. Cast your burdens on Jesus. He will give you rest." Dapo said.
"Coming from you? You are the last person who should be preaching to me. You had sex with someone! When did you get all religious?"
Dapo smiled, but then he held her hands and began to pray. She hissed and walked away from him in anger. But then, she joined him... There was no other option.
Shomi took in a breath. She didn't want to remember her childhood. They were now on Ovion street. It was the same street where their house had been. She couldn't forget. She saw the tap where Aunty Kemi had always sent her to fetch water. There were kids there now, playing ten ten while their buckets filled up from the dripping tap. She looked to the opposite side of the road. The Suya stand was no longer there. It was now a mini-park for Okada riders. Dapo snapped her away from her thoughts.
"Babe we are here." He said. He parked the car. Shomi nodded and opened the pigeon hole of the car where she had kept the envelope. She took it and put it in her purse.
Dapo put his hand on the small of her back, as they walked into the wretched looking block of flats. The landlord had still not fixed the rusted brown gate that led to the staircase inside the building.
"I can't do this." Shomi stopped.
Dapo kissed her head. He didn't have to say anything. She knew he meant they should go ahead.
Aunty Kemi opened the door of her apartment. She was surprised to see Shomi. Folorunshomi. There was a handsome young man with her too. She guessed he was her husband. She was lost for words. She didn't know what to do. She didn't know if to let them in. She had been drinking and smoking...she was heartbroken, and she didn't have anything else to turn to. She was scared to let Shomi see the bottle of alcohol and ashes of cigarette in her living room. She would think she was still an irresponsible woman.
"I see you're busy. Is there a man in there?" Shomi said, perceiving the alcohol and smoke.
Dapo cleared his throat.
"May we come in please?" He said.
Kemi nodded and let them in. Then she hurriedly packed up the littered items on her table.
"What can I get you?" Kemi asked, rubbing her palms on her blouse.
"We're fine ma." Dapo said.
Kemi sat on the wobbling chair opposite her child.
"We just came to give you this. It's our wedding Invitation...that's if you're interested." Shomi brought out the envelope and dropped it on the table between them. Kemi smiled and picked it up. Then the first words she read on the card sent her to tears instantly.
We the families of
Madam Joyce Nnamdi...
She stopped there. She couldn't take it. Shomi was being given away in marriage by Madam Joyce. That should have been her name on the wedding invitation. Then it occurred to her that Shomi's surname was obviously Shomi Nnamdi because Kemi had never mentioned a surname to her.
"I'm so...so grateful that you are inviting me." She said in the midst of tears. Then she went on her knees.
"Please forgive me. I am so sorry. I was a bitter young girl and I didn't know what to do. My father sent me away, my mother died, and I never got to see my sisters. I felt...I didn't have anyone else to put the anger on. Folorunshomi please forgive me." She cried.
"I was raped! The night you sent me to buy Suya, I was raped! Two boys raped me and I fainted!" Shomi raised her voice, pointing her fingers at her mother. She started to cry.
"You were not there for me! You never protected me! One of your men who used to come to the house! The man touched me! He didn't rape me but he touched me!"
"Why didn't you tell me?" Kemi cried.
"Because you wouldn't believe me! Because you hated me!" Shomi screamed. She started to shake. Dapo stood up and held her.
"Please forgive me. Please!" Kemi begged.
Shomi cried in her fiance's arms. She was so broken. She sighed, as Dapo cleaned her face.
"Let go and let God. You need to forgive her so you can heal." He whispered in her ears. She nodded. Then she turned to look at her mother.
"I forgive you. It will take time to have a relationship with you. I don't even know if I can be around you. But I forgive you." She said, looking Kemi in the eye.
"I love you. I love you my child. I love you." She said.
Shomi sighed again, heaving heavily. They sounded like cool water to the soul; her words. She had never heard her mother say she loved her.
Photo credit www.timthebartender.com
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