TEN MONTHS AFTER
He had an early morning meeting at Ikeja and he had to leave the house earlier than habitual. The alarm went off at 4.30 a.m. It was a Monday and he had to get out of the house no later than 5.15 a.m. Muna was still asleep when he got out of bed. She was curled up at the other end, under the purple velvet duvet. She snored faintly. He knew she was deep in sleep. He brushed a strand of her hair from her face and tucked it behind her earlobe. She still didn’t move.
He had asked her to quit her job after she had the babies. Yes. She took in very quickly. Ayo was eager to know the sex of the baby but Muna seemed very uninterested. In fact, her entire pregnancy had been a really difficult time for them as a couple. She had been tremendously moody and volatile and ready to launch an attack each time he initiated or asked for sex. She never seemed excited about the pregnancy. The times when his family came by the house, she did her best to cover her true behavior and always gushed about how delighted she was to be having the babies that quick.
For a myriad of months, she had denied him access to her body and it was starting to get to him. He loved her very deeply and vowed never to cheat on her but everything was fast becoming tough for him. He had talked with his close friend who was a therapist and he had been counseled that it was normal for some women’s drive to take a nose dive during pregnancy.
On his birthday, he had literally pleaded with her for intimacy and she obliged but deep within him, he knew there was no connection between them sexually. He had been worried and his suspicions started to gain ground. He didn’t believe her cock and bull about the tampon. He had heard that line one too many a time. It hurt him to conclude that Muna was definitely not the girl he thought she was…and what miffed him more was that he felt he was not enough for her. Even on their wedding night, it had seemed as though he had forced her to consummate the marriage. Maybe she was used to hunkier and hotter guys…maybe he wasn’t good enough for her.
She finally agreed to do the ultrasound to find out the sex of their baby when his mother pleaded with her. His mother was anxious to become a grandmother and she wanted to be sure of what color and kinds of things to buy for the baby. Muna loved his mother and never wanted to disappoint her so she agreed to do it. But she did not let him go to the hospital with her. She always insisted on going alone or going with Ugochi.
That Thursday when he had received her text that they were having twins, he had jumped from his chair at the board meeting where he was. He had lost control over his emotions and gone on his knees right there and then, thanking his God for the two-in-one blessing. They were having a boy and a girl. If he had any reason to hold a grudge whatsoever against his wife, the reason became baseless. He had excused himself from the meeting and rushed home to her, lifting her in the air as heavy as she was, and promising her heaven and earth. In that light moment, she had smiled and let him touch her again. He had touched her stomach and named the children Keith and Kayla. Muna had laughed and told him to be patient till the babies came out first. Ayo had broken the news almost immediately to his family and Muna’s.
She left for Atlanta three months before the babies were to come. Ayo was to join her a week to her due date. He didn’t want her to be alone so he had paid for Muna’s mother’s ticket; first class for both mother and daughter.
A month before she was to have the babies, he received a call from Mama that his wife had been rushed to the Northside hospital. The babies had decided to come early. He had immediately called his brother who lived in Cherokee to go stay with her while he hopped on the next Delta flight with his mother and sister to Atlanta. The exact second he set his eyes on the twins, he was overcome with all the love he had never felt in his entire life before. They both had Muna’s oyinbo-like pointed nose and big round eyes. Ayo didn’t mind that every one said Muna’s genes were stronger. To him, they were the most beautiful babies he had ever set eyes on and he was proud of himself. He had scored!
He had asked her to quit her job. She had refused at first and claimed that she needed to build her career but Ayo wouldn’t have her going back to work when the babies were still feeble at three months old. Plus her boss had started to give her a really hard time at work. She had eventually quit. Mrs Ohu had corporately pleaded and promised that she would speak to Management to increase her salary. But Ayo wouldn't have it. He promised she could go full time with her accessories and beauty products business and even his father promised to get her a store on the Island and handle all stock logistics. She had been blown away beyond expectation and she promised that she would pay him back even if she knew he would never collect the money from her.
He got dressed and kissed her fore head before he stepped out. He opened the door of the nursery where the toddlers were sleeping. Kayla opened her eyes as he bent over her cradle and she started to cry. She was probably hungry. He laughed. This one was the obvious food-junkie of the duo. Their nanny, Miss Rita resumed for 9 a.m every day. Ugochi was out of the house. She had started her somewhat modeling career and she had to be in Calabar with some other models for a photo shoot.
“Sshhhh…Kayla shhh….” He whispered but his daughter continued to cry out loud. He lifted her and held her in his arms.
“Hmm…you pooped on yourself, Kayla.” He laughed. He switched on the lights and placed her on the changing table in their room. He hurriedly took off his blazer and put it on the rocking chair. He started to undress the baby to take off the soiled diaper.
“What’s going on here?”
Ayo turned around. Muna was standing by the door, frowning. She looked upset.
“Hey honey. You’re up. I didn’t want to wake you. I told you I have a meeting very early this morning…” Ayo started.
“What are you doing?” Muna said, not paying attention to what he was saying.
“Err…Kayla pooped. And she was crying.”
“Don’t change her diapers!” Muna said sternly and took over from him.
“Babe, are you okay? What’s going on here?” He asked, puzzled.
“Just…just don’t touch her like that.”
“What? I can’t change my daughter’s diapers?”
“Change Keith’s. Why do you have to change Kayla’s? Why are you so quick to hold her and kiss her and want to bathe her?”
Ayo opened his mouth in shock.
“What are you insinuating, Munachi? Are you out of your mind?”
She shrugged, wiping Kayla.
“You know what, I’m sick and tired of your attitude. I don’t know what the hell has come over you. I have been tolerating it for a while but you are stressing me out!”
“Oh I am stressing you out, really?” Muna laughed.
“I guess your hormones are acting up again. I can’t do this. I have to go.” Ayo grabbed his blazer.
Keith woke up and started to cry. Kayla joined in and started to cry too.
“You see what you have done? Good. Grab your blazer and run away and go! Coward.” Muna yelled.
Ayo shook his head and left.
Muna burst into tears as he slammed the door.
“What is happening to me?” She cried, placing her hands over her head.
Her husband was a good man. He was an exceptional man and she couldn’t be more grateful to have him in her life. She loved him. She trusted him. But a part of her was being unnecessarily vicious. Maybe over protective was the word. She had fallen in love with her babies the moment she saw them and through the pains from her C-section, the only thing she wanted to do was to always protect them and be the best mother she could. She was exceptionally protective of the girl twin. She was beautiful and she knew just like her, she would attract men. Men who had no control over their libido. Just like the one who had taken advantage of her. She would do all she could to make sure no one laid a finger on Kayla. She would protect her and fight for her at all cost. Ayo was not that kind of man. He was the most self-controlled young man she knew. But he was a man. And she just couldn’t help her reaction whenever he touched Kayla beyond normal. He was supposed to be her father….but she knew the truth.
She knew she hadn’t done right by him. Since they had gotten married, they had only had sex four times. Yes. Four. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to open herself up to him. She wanted him. She was attracted to him. But she couldn’t explain what it was that overcame her and irritated her. She always panicked. And she always saw the man who had raped her. She didn’t want to anymore. It was eating her up. It was as though he had raped her body and her soul with it.
One on of those afternoons when the babies were sleeping and the nanny was washing their clothes, Muna had decided to snack on some junk and watch television. There had been a movie about a man who seemed too good to be true to his wife. Eventually, the movie ended with him having an affair the entire time with another woman who had three children already for him. Muna didn’t really believe in fiction movies, especially Nigerian movies, but she had to admit that she felt a shiver down her spine. She trusted Ayo so much but she knew she wasn’t giving it to him. And if she wasn’t…was it likely he was getting it elsewhere? Her suspicion sky rocketed by a 100% and she started to sneak-check his phones and emails. She found no evidence to incriminate him but her mind was still not at rest.
“Aunty Muna,” Rita called. Muna had dozed off in the children’s room. She woke up. The time was 1.30 in the afternoon already. She checked her phone. There was no missed call from Ayo. She wanted to apologize but she didn’t want to give in that easily.
“Rita, how far.” Muna responded, looking up at the nanny.
“Somebody is at the door. He says I should tell you his name is Reverend Eze.”
Muna stood up immediately. That was her father. She checked her phone again. She had no idea he was even in Lagos.
“Please open the door.” Muna said immediately.
Rita opened the door and took the older man’s bag from his hand, stooping a little to greet him.
“Peace be unto this house.” Papa said as he walked in. He looked at Muna who was standing by the door of the kitchen which was adjacent to the living room.
There was a little silence for a while.
“Daddy. Good afternoon. I had no idea you were coming. You didn’t inform me. I had no idea you were even in town.” She said. The last time she had seen him was at the church dedication of the babies and he had returned to Enugu the same day.
She was uneasy.
“Is it a crime to pay my own daughter a visit?” Papa said. He smiled, showing the wrinkles and lines by the side of his eyes.
He moved closer to her and placed his hand on her shoulders. Muna looked down. He tilted her chin upwards so she could face him.
“Breathe out.” He said.
Muna obeyed her father’s words to the letter. She heaved a sigh and immediately, tears followed suit. She didn’t know why she was crying or being suddenly emotional.
“Daddy…” She spoke.
“I am sorry my darling.” He pulled her into his arms and kissed her forehead.
She was rigid. He was a man. He was her father.
“Munachi, please breathe out. Exhale. I can feel all the weight you have on you right now.” He said.
“Rita, you should go to the market now. The list and the money are on the dining table.” Muna said to the nanny.
“Okay Ma. Kayla is sleeping again and Keith is awake. Should I bring him?” Rita said.
Rita served Papa some of the heated fried rice from Sunday afternoon together with cold water and cold orange juice. After she left, Papa took the boy from Muna and cradled him in his arms.
“They are growing so fast.” He said.
“Daddy you haven’t told me what it is exactly you came to do in Lagos.” Muna said. Her voice was colder than Papa's drink.
“I had a conference last night. But I decided it is high time we had a talk. We cannot continue this way.” He said.
“What is there to talk about? I am not good enough anymore already so there is nothing to talk about.” Muna said.
“Who ever told you that lie?”
“You did. And it is not a lie. You avoided me for months. Daddy you didn’t even comfort me. You didn’t…you weren’t there for me. They raped me violently and you were right there, daddy.” Muna started to raise her voice.
Papa’s eyes became glassy and Muna could see it through his spectacles.
“I would have killed that man, not minding the consequences, Munachi. But if I stood and ran after him, his partner would kill me, and maybe also your mother and siblings, and even you. I had to choose the lesser of the two evils even if it was the most difficult choice I have had to make in my life.” He said. His voice croaked. "If he killed me or your mother I can't afford for you children to become orphans."
Muna wiped the tears that were dropping from her eyes.
“He hurt me, daddy. It was never meant to happen. Why did God let it happen?” She said.
“I wish I had an answer to that question. I don’t know why it happened and I won’t tell you it was the will of God. But I do know that God is not unaware.” He said.
Muna looked away.
Keith started to chuckle and Papa handed him over to his mother.
“How is your husband.” Papa said.
“He is okay.” She said.
“Is everything okay between you two?”
“And have you told him that he is not the biological father of these two blessings?”
Muna turned to him immediately. She opened her mouth in shock. Goose pimples took control of her epidermis. She tried to speak but she was not saying anything.
Papa smiled weakly.
“Don’t you think we have deceived this boy for too long?”
“Daddy…I…I don’t know what you mean.” Muna stammered.
“Don’t you forget that I arrived this world before you did. I am your father. I know the things I don’t say or the things you and your mother don't tell me.” He said.
Muna shivered, literally.
“I can’t.” She said inaudibly.
“I just can’t…it’s too late. I should have told him earlier, maybe but I couldn’t really bear it. I couldn’t think of how he would feel about it. It’s a shame what happened to me and I can’t tell it to anyone. I can’t.”
Papa adjusted on his seat.
“Let me tell you a secret. A family secret. I think it has become pertinent that you know this.”
Muna shook her head, confused.
“What if I told you that your mother was also raped about some twenty five years ago? I was not there for her. And then you were raped also and I didn’t know how to handle it again. What was I supposed to do? I was bitter and I questioned God. I didn’t know how to encourage you, Munachi because I didn’t know how to encourage myself.” Papa said, taking one word after the other.
“Wh—What?!” Muna said, again inaudibly audible.
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