Forty and Counting… The Finale

SIX WEEKS LATER

Imade felt familiar emotions churn up in her as she boarded an airport taxi from the Benin airport. She couldn’t believe how much she had missed Benin since she left six weeks ago. She couldn’t believe the decision she was about to make – she trembled with excitement and nervousness at the thought of it. She looked out the window, her eyes drifting across the expanse of road, the trees and the old buildings folded into them.

She hadn’t spoken to Dapo in those six weeks, save for a short and cryptic SMS that said she needed time and space. And she really did need those things, because whatever decision she arrived at, she intended it to be clear and devoid of distractions and pressure. Even though her heart leaned towards Dapo, she needed a focused mind. She had learned long ago that she couldn’t always trust and follow her heart, she could only trust Jesus.

She took out her phone from her bag, turned it on and fired a quick Whatsapp message to Yvonne.

I’m here! Pray for me.

Have I told you how proud I am of you? Saying it again! You’re doing something amazing. Yvonne’s response popped up almost immediately.

Imade felt her skin glow at the words. Since she had told her friend what she felt she was being led to do, it had become more real to her. Her life was changing!

Yesterday, she had seen Lamide upload his pre-wedding photos on Whatsapp and for a few minutes, she had felt the sting. Did she feel betrayed? Jealous? Regret? 

Happy for you! Congratulations! She sent, even though she did not feel happy. She felt some type of way that she wasn’t willing to really examine just yet. What she did know was that Lamide deserved happiness too, even if not with her. His bride was young, probably ten years younger than he was but she had enough makeup on to fool one into thinking she was older. She clung to Lamide’s arm as though someone was contending with her for him, her smile so bright it almost seemed fake.

Lamide’s response had been a red heart emoji that Imade didn’t bother to decode. He was a closed chapter and she had made the right decision.

The car rolled to a stop in front of the hotel – her hotel – as she had come to think of it. The place that had been home to her for a month. She paid the driver – a bald man with narrow, expressive eyes – and dragged her small box into the hotel premises.

****

It was Mrs. Osakwe that told him. She mentioned it in passing, casually dropping that nugget of information in the conversation – information that made his heart skip several beats. Imade was coming to town? What for? He wanted to know yet he couldn’t bring himself to ask. There were a lot of things Dapo wanted to do, things he did in his head, things that he never did in real life. Sometimes, he felt an overwhelming sensation swoop in that caused him to not do anything. Like when Imade had sent him the cold one-line message saying she needed time and space; he had wanted to reply, to tell her that she needed to hear him out. He had wanted so badly, to get on a flight to Abuja and pour his heart out to her, like they do in romantic comedies. He had not. Instead, he had wallowed in self-pity, wearing a poker-face like his heart did not feel like it had been passed through a shredder.

And now, she was coming to town again. He wondered what she was coming for. If she wanted to see him, she would have let him know so maybe she didn’t want to meet him.

His phone pinged at that moment – an SMS.

Hi. Long time. I’m in town, can we talk?

It was Imade. And just like that, Dapo thought he could see the spark of light at the end of the tunnel.

He replied her:

That’s great to hear. Give me a time and a place.

 For the first time in six weeks, his heart did a small shimmy.

“Why are you smiling?” his colleague asked.

That was when he remembered he was in a meeting at work.

****
“Hey,” she said when he arrived at her table. She looked up at him and noted the slight loss of weight in his cheeks. Apart from that, he still looked exactly like he was last time she saw him. In that moment, watching him stand nervously, his kind eyes resting on her, she felt that familiar jolt of attraction and the acute sense of missing him.

She reached out to shake his hands, even though she wanted to hug him.

“Hey,” he said back, taking her hands in his, then releasing it as he sat down opposite her. “You’re in town.”

“Yes, I am. I have something important I came to do. How are you?”

“I’m great, thanks,” he shook his head. “Actually, scratch that…I’m not great. I’m…just okay. It’s been…um…yeah, just not as great as when you were around.”

“I know,” she said quietly. “And I owe you an apology. I shouldn’t have…”

“No, no. You’re not the one who should apologise. That should be me. I kept something that big away from you.”

“I know I didn’t understand then why you did it. But…I think I want to understand it now. I’m ready. I just…I want to know everything.”

“Everything. Hmm. I’m not proud of everything.”

“I know, but it’s part of your past and therefore part of you. And I want to know you. I feel like you were hiding who you were and I didn’t get to really know Dapo.”

“I think I was afraid of whether you would like the real Dapo,” he said.

“Try me,” she said.

“First of all, I haven’t been married before. I had Sophia a few years after NYSC. As soon as I left University, the plan was to go for service in another state and plot my exit from Benin that way. I was tired of this place and was excited to explore other cities – Lagos, Port Harcourt, even Abuja. But…life had other plans. My mum fell sick. Lung cancer. My life took an about turn and I watched my plans crumble. My siblings voted I remain in Benin to care for her. They worked my service to Benin and thus I began to care for my mother.”

Dapo paused, taking a deep breath.

“I was a Christian then, but a struggling one. I was still trying to understand what being Christian meant – I had loads of habits and things I was dealing with. My mother’s health consumed my time. I was her caretaker, nurse, chef, I took her to the hospital and back, my life revolved around her. So, here was I, a young boy – twenty-three years old, being forced into these roles. It took a toll on me and without knowing I began to slip into depression. The thing about taking care of someone sick is that everybody asks about how that sick person is, but forgets to look out for the caretaker. Everyone fussed around my mother, but nobody cared that I constantly mopped up her vomit, or that I had no life outside her, except when I went to my primary place of assignment. It was in my fifth month of NYSC I met Sophia’s mum. She was a new corps member, exciting in a way my life was not. She was able to convince me to sneak out some nights to attend one corps party or the other. With her, my usually dreary days began to light up. I began to have more to look forward to in my days. I handled my caretaker duties in a bubble of anticipation, never letting anything get me down because I knew I was going to meet her later in the day. We…became intimate about six months after we became friends. I won’t lie, being with her was intoxicating, looking back now, I know it is because of the role she played in my life in those dark times. She was light where my mother was darkness, she was freedom where my mother was bondage, she was everything I wasn’t at the time.”

“Did you love her?” Imade could not resist asking.

“I loved who I was with her. I loved what she represented,” he replied.

“Hmmm, keep going.”

“She got pregnant eight months after we started sleeping together. By then, my mum seemed to be responding to treatment and I was daydreaming about when I could leave town. But again…life had other plans. She was hysterical when she found out. We were both done with NYSC by that time and she was planning to leave the country for her Masters. The pregnancy was an unexpected surprise. She was Catholic and terrified of abortion. I, on the other hand, told my mum, who was unexpectedly pleased about the development. Cassie, Cassandra, that’s Sophia’s mum’s name. Cassie was adamant about not wanting the baby but she was equally adamant about having an abortion. I couldn’t seem to make up my mind either. It was like my heart had a failsafe that immediately kicked in at the time, years of Sunday School teaching and Bible study – I knew that abortion was out of the question. Without thinking it through, I told her to have the baby and I would take care of it. She was a lawyer and wanted to be sure what I meant by ‘take care of it’ so she drew up an agreement that said I was the sole parent and solely responsible for the child. And the rest is history. I kept waiting for her to change her mind, kept thinking that if she saw the baby, she would fall in love and decide to keep her. Haha. It never happened. Three months after she had Sophia, she was on her way to America.”

“My God,” Imade gushed quietly. “How on earth did you cope?”

“My mother, for a while. But then she died when Sophia was turned one and I was once again on my own. My older siblings thought I was a fool for keeping the baby. At that point, I began to feel like one too…but there was no going back. Sophia was here and I was absolutely in love with her. When my mother died, I found my way back to Jesus. And I realized that the years of caring for my mother had prepared me for being a single father. That’s all. Now you know everything.”

Imade couldn’t think of the words to say.  His story was moving and she found her respect for him deepening.

“I know it’s a lot, Imade. And I understand if you never want to see me again. I’m just glad we got to reconnect, even if for a short while.” Dapo said, shuffling his feet and preparing to leave.

“Dapo, wait,” she placed a hand on his. “You asked before if I would like the real Dapo…and, I just want you to know…I like the real Dapo.”

He stopped; his eyes boring into hers. “What?”

“I needed space this past six weeks because I needed to pray. I was confused about how I felt and needed to step out of my feelings for a bit.”

Dapo kept his eyes on hers.

“I received the answer last week. Galatians 3:28 was the scripture that lit in my heart, and I know it’s weird.”

“What does it say?” Dapo asked.

“Ahn ahn, a whole Pastor, you don’t know?” she teased.

“The key word is Pastor, not Bible-pedia. Please ma, tell us.”

“It says there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for we are all one in Christ Jesus. That scripture exposed the true state of my heart – I had judged you and thought you unworthy. I had forgotten that you are a son of God just like I am His. And that is what I’m sorry about. I felt peace in my heart after that and then I knew what I had to do.”

“So, you came all the way to Benin to see me?” Dapo smiled.

“You wish. No jor. I…well, I’m finalizing on a major decision here.”

“Care to share?”

“I’m adopting Lara.”

Dapo felt his face burst into a big smile. “Really?”

Imade nodded. “I felt it so strongly in my heart and I knew God wanted me to do it. So, I guess I’m going to be a mum!”

“Such a brave thing, Imade. I know what Lara has been through and there’s no better suited to mother her. God, I love you.”

Imade sat up as if stung. “What did you say?”

Dapo laughed; “I said I love God.”

“Really? Eh eh…two can play that game. I’m going home then.” Imade pretended to stand.

“You’re so beautiful, you know. You will be a beautiful mum too.”

“Someone is on a roll today. But that won’t distract me…you said something before. I want to hear it again.”

“Why?”

“Because I like the sound of that. Do you know how I always wondered what and how you felt about me? You were always so closed up.”

“Okay, Imade. I love you; I love you, I love you! Shall I sing it to the rooftop?”

Imade smiled, “I love you too, Dapo. Now let’s go meet the amazing Sophia.”

“Wait,” he took her hand in his. “I just want to say thank you. Thank you for giving me a second chance. I know we have a long way to go from here and we have a lot of things to figure out – kids, location, career, life…but most importantly, I want you to know that I want to be with you. I want it more than anything I’ve wanted in the past few years.”

Imade smiled, “I want to be with you too, Dapo. Thank you for opening your heart to me.”

“Now that that’s out of the way, let’ go meet Sophia. I’ll tell you about her in the car. You’ll love her.”

THE END

Discussion questions.

  1. What was your favourite part of the series?
  2. What lessons did you learn from Imade’s life?
  3. Sometimes people say life is not black and white, do you think that’s true especially in light of Dapo’s secret?
  4. What would you like to read about next on the blog?
  5. Any comments for the writer?

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