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Mimi Adebayo

Forty and Counting Episode 19

It was 6am when Imade’s phone rang and Mrs Osakwe cried hysterically that the police had called her to the station. 

“I don’t want to go alone,” she cried. “Please Imade, come with me.” 

“But what did they say? Why do they want you to come?” Imade asked, sleep fogging her eyes.  

“I don’t know. I don’t know! Just come, please.” 

“Okay ma. I’m coming,” Imade said, hanging up. 

She groaned, stretching. She hadn’t been sleeping well since the issue with Lara. First of all, sleep didn’t come easy to her and then when it eventually came, it was fitful with weird dreams that jerked her in and out of her sleeping state. She knew she wasn’t coping well with the situation, having to be Mrs Osakwe’s emotional rock during the day, barely eating and then ending up physically exhausted.  

She hadn’t read her Bible in two days, because she was often up early to head to the orphanage and then back late, physically drained. The night before, she had opened her Youversion app to catch up on her Bile study but had ended up face down, caught in an awkward sleep-posture. 

She found herself missing Abuja. She missed the comfort of her home, the comfort of Yvonne’s physical presence. She missed cooking and eating homemade meals.  She was tired of the hotel food, so it was little wonder that her appetite recently was rubbish. She couldn’t remember eating a good meal in the five days that Lara had been missing. Sometimes, Dapo brought over snacks and drinks which she ate to tide her over and not really because she cared for them. And yet, even as she missed her comfortable life in Abuja, she realized her life had never felt this full and meaningful. 

Stressful, yes. Eventful, yes. But meaningful. More meaningful than the time she spent with corrupt CEOs and CFOs behind the glass walls of the boardroom, making legal moves that only translated in more business for the firm. 

As she scrubbed at her body underneath the rickety shower head, she took the opportunity to pray in tongues. She had learnt in her walk with God, that prayer was more about fellowship than it was about petitions. The most cherished moments of prayers were not where she was asking God for one thing or the other, but when she was enjoying the beauty of his presence even right in her bathroom. It was God’s omnipresence for her.  

She chuckled to herself; she could picture that statement making it to her Whatsapp status. It’s God’s Omnipresence for me alongside a picture of her standing in front of a photoshopped picturesque background. Really, why did humans feel the need to update every single thought on their status? Sometimes she wondered what life had been like before social media? How did people live daily without updating strangers every minute about an event they attended or something amazing they did? 

Granted, she was guilty of it too. There were times she could not resist putting up a photo or two, especially when she was wearing a new outfit or looking particularly good, and then in a vain attempt to mask her vanity, she would attach a ‘deep’ and totally unrelated caption to the photo, thereby subtly saying look at my new clothes but focus on my deep thoughts. 

She slipped into her jeans and checked her time; 6:25am. Okay, she had ten minutes to get to the orphanage and get Mrs Osakwe out of panic mode. Quickly, she typed out a message to Dapo and sent. It was important he was kept abreast of whatever was happening with the police. 

Dapo didn’t see Imade’s message until 7am, after he was done with his quiet time and had prayed with his daughter. Mornings were often busy for him, even though it was easier now that Sophia was a teenager. There was a time when his mornings were spent on school runs; bathing her, getting her dressed, preparing her lunch and then dropping her off at school. 

These days, all he had to do was check the night before that she had everything she needed and then wake her up and pray with her the next morning before letting her go to school. since she entered Senior Secondary school, he had given in to her pleas that he let her go to school with a group of friends rather than drop her off at the school gate, however with this Lara issue, he had found himself going into protective dad mode, insisting on dropping her off at school instead. 

“Daddy, so you don’t trust God can protect me?” she had protested the day before, arms folded across her chest. 

The question had caught him unawares. Of course, God could protect her, but He might need a little bit of help in human form, in Dad form. 

“Besides the little girl went missing during school hours, on school premises. Are you going to stay with me in school too? To protect me?” 

She definitely didn’t get her sarcasm from him, he thought. 

He had shared with her about little Lara’s story, because really, he shared everything with Sophia, and she was sensitive enough to know when something was wrong. 

“I’m just…worried,” he said. “I’m your father, I’m allowed to worry.” 

“And what does the Bible say about worrying? Let me see…does it add a cubit to your height? Or can you add one more second to your life? Mmm, daddy?” 

Dapo shook his head; “I don’t blame you. It’s me that took you to Sunday school.” 

“You know I love you, daddy, but I’m a grown up now, let me act like it,” she reached up and clamped her arms around him. 

“You’re just fifteen, young lady. That’s hardly grown up. But… just be careful, okay? No talking to strangers, no leaving school before school is over, no…” 

“Oh my God, daddy. I. Am. Not. A. Baby.” 

Dapo had raised his hands in surrender and let her go on her own. He was raising a strong-willed human, and the thought sometimes excited and scared him.  

This morning though, he didn’t bring up the conversation again because she was right, he couldn’t protect her as well as God would. So, all he did instead, was lift her up again and again in prayers. 

Lord, she’s my child, but she was yours first and always will be. I trust you to protect her and deliver her out of harm’s way. 

Imade’s Whatsapp message didn’t give much information, just that they had been called to the police station. He couldn’t stop at the police station on his way to the office because the route was different and he didn’t want to be late. The past few days he had taken a lot of liberties, leaving the office to be at the orphanage, showing up late at the office because he had to drop by the orphanage first. He knew that it was only a matter of time before his lapses were addressed and he didn’t intend it to get to that point. 

He made a decision. He texted Imade back: 

Okay, let me know how it goes. Send a message if anything comes up. I’ll drop by after work.  

As he got in his car and drove off to work, he found his thoughts drifting to Imade again, as it had been doing a lot lately. He knew that this was more than a crush. Something more serious was happening here but he wasn’t sure he was ready to face it. Because facing it would mean opening up his life, his past, and his present and he didn’t think he was ready to see Imade’s eyes drop in disappointment when he opened up to her. he loved the way she looked at him; with admiration and respect, like he could do no wrong. 

What would she think when he told her what he had been hiding from her? Would it change how she looked at him? How she saw him? 

As he pulled into the parking lot of his office building, he shifted his thoughts to the pending work on his table. His love life could wait. The work on his table was what he had control over, so he would put all his energy into it. 

And so, it was 4pm, when he shut down his laptop and pulled up Whatsapp to check his messages. 

Hanging right there at the top was a message from Imade that made his heart swell with joy: 

We’ve found her. Lara is home! 

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