My heart missed a beat the moment Ralph mentioned him. What the hell did he want at that time of the night? Why did he have to interrupt our peace? Reluctantly, I took the receiver.
“Hello, Wunmi, are you there?”
“Yes, Dad. Good evening.”
“How are things? It’s been quite some time. Why have you kept away from me for so long?”
“I’ve been pretty busy, Dad,” I lied.
“No matter how busy you are, you should always remember to spare some time for me. You should find time and come here to spend a weekend with me. You should know I’ve always wanted that.”
“It’s not that easy, Dad. You know I work.”
“I’ve told you to quit that lousy job of yours. Let me launch you on to a successful business.”
A brief moment of silence lapsed.
“I’ve only called to tell you that I love you. And remember, you’re still my lovely girl. I’ll expect to see you next week at my official investure as the President of the Lion’s Club of my district.”
“I’ll see you then, Dad,” I said to mollify him, really wishing that he would hung up.
“Alright, how is your Ralph?” He couldn’t even hide it that he never liked Ralph.
“How is your Ralph?” Dad never really approved of my man for me.
I was grateful when eventually he dropped the phone. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Ralph sitting up on the side of the bed watching me expectantly.
“Hope no problem?” Ralph asked.
“No problem. He only wanted to hear my voice.”
“Hear your voice? At this time of the day?” It was 11.30pm. What father would want to get her daughter from underneath her husband at this peak of the night just to hear her voice? It sounded really strange to me. But I knew my father very well. He was a public man but the whole world never knew him the way I did.
Father’s call made my bone tired, and I became uninterested in anything, especially sex.
“Come on, Wunmi”, Ralph called, drawing the sheet over me and holding it open invitingly for me. I obeyed, got in beside him as he put his arms around me. But there was no strength or enthusiasm in me. Ralph was full of compassion. He was obviously a sensitive person with fine instincts, the kind of man who loved with all his mind as well as his body and with a terrible sincerity. He had noticed the apathy that had set in me. Now, he was upset and shocked.
“What’s the matter, darling?
“Nothing.” I replied in a voice riddled with melancholy.
“But you were hot, eager and ready for me a while ago. Just before the call. Now you’ve suddenly turned cold.”
I did not reply. He reached for me and kissed me in tender loving sympathy. My only response was to shiver. When he found I was in no need of his ministrations, he sighed, kissed me as a father might kiss an unhappy daughter, and went to sleep.
As for me, I knew no sleep all night. My father’s call that night had set in me an infectious despondency. It had brought back into focus an irrepressible torment which I had been carrying with me in the past 11 years. It had re-awakened in me bitter memories that had been haunting me and once made me to contemplate suicide. As I stared into the darkness of our bedroom, I began to review my life in the past 11 years, years that bore details of my father’s unspeakable acts and never ending torment. The years began to dissolve. It was a gradual dissolution, like a running film in slow motion before my eyes and every episode was brilliantly captured on the film of my memory.
My trouble started 11 years ago, 2002 to be precise.
Then I was 14 and a form three student of Methodist Girls’ High School, Yaba, Lagos. Two years earlier, I had lost my mother to an unyielding illness that had steadily been squeezing life out of her, an illness no one really discussed except in whispers. It was a terrible loss to the entire family and particularly to me, for my mother was the dearest person to me on earth. As far as I was concerned, she was and always would be the epitome of beauty and feminine grace. Her demise therefore left a vacuum in my life that I considered would be difficult to fill.
That same year that my mother died, my two brothers, Kola and Tunde, finished their secondary education and secured admission into the Universities of Ife and Benin respectively. With their departure to their various campuses, I was left alone with my father at the three-bedroom apartment at Obanikoro, Lagos that served as our home.
My father soon proved that the vacuum that was left in me by my mother’s death was not going to be difficult to fill as he turned his attention to me full blast. I knew all along that my father loved me but I never knew a father could effectively replace a lost maternal affection. My father practically doted on me. He was so caring that sometimes I thought it was getting to the extreme and to the point of pampering.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed every attention poured on me and basked in the glory of his affection. He was doing well as a businessman-an importer and exporter- and so he was never short of money. He was always giving and providing for me and so I was able to afford all the little luxuries that my mates at school from more aristocratic homes were flaunting before other less privileged students.
It was only natural therefore that my father was my closest companion on earth. I loved my two brothers, but the love I had for them paled beside the one I harboured for my father. To me, my father was the most important person on earth, my only genuine companion. He was always taking me out to see his friends and to all the social functions he got invited to. He would hug me, kiss me fully on the lips. I felt no repulsion about that since, as far as I was concerned, it was an expression of fatherly affection, freely given with all his tender and caring heart. I loved my father the more because he had not ventured to marry another woman. Apart from the fact that it showed he cared, loved and respected my mother, marrying another woman would mean dividing his attention and sharing the love he had for me between the woman and I. And so, I guarded very jealously the relationship between my father and I.
…TO BE CONTINUED