They were in her kitchen – Yvonne had convinced her to come over so they could try their hands on a new carrot cake recipe she had found online. Imade had agreed largely because she had missed their friendly chats and also because she needed something to distract her from the constant loop that was her mind replaying the scene where she ‘accidentally’ uncovered Dapo’s daughter (?).
In the past few days, her mind had dissected the incident, taking every action, every word apart, mulling over it. What had she missed? Was it possible that she was wrong? That maybe she had read the entire situation wrong? Had she?
“Madam,” Yvonne’s voice sliced into her thoughts, drawing her out.
“Did you hear me?”
“No, sorry. What did you say?”
Yvonne sighed. “Please can you give me four eggs from the fridge? I called you to help me o, not to be mooning around in deep thought.”
“Abeg don’t stress me, I’m going through something here.”
“What? Finding out that your ‘crush’ maybe has a child?” Yvonne raised her hands in an air quote.
“It’s not funny, babe,” Imade said, arranging the eggs in a small ceramic bowl. “I can’t stop thinking about it.” She hadn’t spoken to him since she left Benin three days ago, even though he had tried to reach out at first, calling and sending messages.
“What exactly are you thinking about, because if I get you, you both were just friends. Friends, right?”
“Or you thought you were something more?” Yvonne pushed a glass bowl towards Imade. “Break the eggs in there, please.”
“I’m a grown woman, Yvonne. I should know when someone is into me, abi?”
“But did he say anything or give any indications that you were heading somewhere? You know how we women can be now…reading meanings into simple situations.”
“I don’t know. Now that you put it that way, maybe I was imagining things between us.”
“No, babe. That’s not what I’m saying. I just want us to see things clearly, from both points of view. Now, tell me what is going on in your head, but please whisk the eggs at the same time.”
“Okay, fine. I’m thinking how on earth does he have a child? First of all, he’s a Pastor. Was he married? There are so many questions. Plus we were secondary school mates, right? We reconnected in Benin. You know the stuff that happened now, when I got upset with him about that thing that happened a long time ago. Remember I thought he was married but then it turns out he’s not. Thinking about it now, I realize that he was very vague about why he’s not married. In fact, he was vague about a lot of things, I just feel foolish.”
“I can imagine how you feel Imade, but I’m going to play devil’s advocate and ask you something? How do you think this whole thing is for him?” Yvonne asked.
“Being a single father. How do you think it is for him? You know, there’s stigma surrounding single parents in Nigeria. It’s like they have extra baggage that no one wants to take on, so they get used to protecting their space and the child’s space. So, could it be that Dapo was just being careful about bringing in someone into his daughter’s life, especially when he didn’t know what was happening between both of you?”
Imade rolled her eyes in frustration, “this is why I don’t like having good people as friends. Ugh! I built a whole castle of anger on top this matter and look how you just used your wisdom to scatter it.”
Yvonne laughed, stirring the batter. “Sometimes we rush to judgement quickly rather than extend grace.”
“Abeg it’s okay, Pastor.” Imade pulled a tall stool and sat on it, petulant.
“Seriously o, I’m not justifying what he did. I’m just saying that maybe rather than look at it like he was lying to you and wanted to hurt you, see it was if he was protecting his interests.”
“I hate it when you’re right,” Imade sighed. “But I still feel like I was entitled to know such a…big thing. It’s a whole damn child, Yvonne! A teenager! That’s a big thing to keep from me.”
“Still, I don’t think we should get ahead of ourselves. As long as he hasn’t said anything to you yet about a relationship, I don’t think you should assume yourself into one.”
“You’re right. All these spirikoko brothers that will not be straightforward. I tire.”
“Also, you need to pray about this whole situation. Because it’s one thing for you to like him, it is another for you to like his daughter. As it is, they are a package. Now is the time to stop to think and pray about everything and what it means.”
“Hmmm, you’re actually right. It is a lot to pray about. God, why can’t the good ones just come correct? Because honestly, I don’t know if I have the grace to pray about this. Which one is all this one again?”
“Just remember, babe, God is a good father and he cannot mismanage our lives.” Yvonne raised the square-shaped pan in the air triumphant, “now, it’s time to get you in the oven. Tada.”
Dapo had lied. To himself.
He told himself that what she thought of him didn’t matter, that he didn’t like her that much, that it was a simple crush – so many lies really. Just so he could avoid the truth of what was happening.
It wasn’t until she ran away that day that he realized how wrong he had been. He liked her. A lot.
Sophia had of course demanded an explanation after Imade’s departure.
“Who was she?” she asked, while he frantically dialed and redialed Imade’s number. “Daddy?”
“She’s…she’s an old classmate from secondary school,” he opted for the simple answer, because there was no point telling Sophia more, after today, Imade was probably never going to talk to him again.
“Hmm. I don’t know her.”
“Honey, you don’t know everyone in my life. Can you just…please, I want to be alone now.”
Sophia was taken aback, her father hardly snapped at her, and he definitely never asked that she leave him alone. If there was one thing about her dad, he was a patient man. She stalked away, hurt and bewildered.
Dapo felt bad as Sophia walked out of the living room, but there was nothing he could do about it. He needed to think.
He could only imagine what was going through Imade’s mind. That he had lied to her, kept a secret from her. but really, he had only been preserving himself and Sophia. How many times in the past had he let someone get close enough to Sophia, and then walk out of their lives one day without prior warning?
Teniola had been the last straw. Teniola – petite, beautiful woman with high cheekbones and skin that glowed, she was God-fearing too. He had really thought she was the one, had even introduced her to Sophia and they had hit it off. Ten-year old Sophia craving a woman’s presence had cozied up to Teniola really fast and his heart had swelled with joy whenever he saw them together.
Six months later, because he didn’t believe in wasting time (especially with Sophia in the picture), he had asked her to marry him at a small private dinner.
She had said yes, at first and he had been over the moon. Sophia was more excited than he was, telling everyone she could that she was getting an actual mum.
And then three weeks after their engagement, Teniola had called him, an urgency in her voice.
Could they please meet up, she needed to talk to him about something? He had hurried to meet her, afraid that something terrible had happened to her.
“We can’t,” she cried over and over when he saw her. “We can’t get married.”
He sat, frozen in the chair opposite her.
“Dee, say something,” she urged, clutching the sleeve of his shirt.
“Why not?” the words came out, stilted.
“My parents. They don’t approve.”
“Of what? Of me? or of Sophia?”
She looked away and he knew he was right.
“Teni…fight for me. Fight for us, please.” He pleaded.
“Dee, I’m sorry. I can’t. I’m not strong enough. My father would disown me…and I can’t afford that. We can’t afford it.”
“We? What are you talking about?”
“My father always promised to buy me a house as a wedding gift. If he doesn’t support us, I can’t just…”
Nodding was the only way Dapo could think of to pretend that he was okay. Teni pulled off the ring he had given her and placed in his palm.
“I’m sorry, Dee. I really am.”
And then she had walked out of their lives, leaving not just a broken-hearted Dapo, but a shattered Sophia who he had to finally tell that the wedding was off.
That was four years ago and since then, he had locked up his heart and thrown away the key, no one was going to hurt him or his daughter like that anymore. He had been doing fine, until now.