“Love, the greatest commandment has brought these two to be joined in Holy Matrimony….” The priest’s words seem to fade away as my mind wandered to how it all began. How I came to marry the same man who turned my world upside down in the most amazing way ever and left me a story to tell. I turned and looked into his eyes as the priest told us to; and found them as brown as ever and as he bore into my eyes, I remembered how it all started.
“The best student in the third grade goes to Susan Abayomi”. The principal announced into the microphone. I sat transfixed as I watched Daniel, the best student from the second grade go embrace his father. I looked around and then of course, my father was nowhere in sight.
Beside me, were men I had never seen their eyes, wearing shades and never smiling. I was about bursting into tears when it dawned on me that my father didn’t love me because every parent had come with their children for the award ceremony while I came with body guards because my dad is working. Then, I heard the principal call my name again slowly like she understood what was going on in my mind. I stood on jelly legs and counted my steps till I got to her and collected my award.
When it was time for dance, parents were having fun with their children and I was alone; seeing I couldn’t bear it anymore, I had to leave. Upon entering the vehicle, I felt a tug on my dress. I turned to see Rachael looking at me with pleading eyes.
“What do you want?” I asked as rudely as ever, always scaring people away. Usually, the tone I use always sent people away but this time, Rachael however gathered guts and asked me come and dance with her family. ‘NO’ I replied and got into the car but she was quick to hold the door before I slammed it in her face. Looking into my eyes, she said “please”. That did it. All the pent up tears flowed as my walls came down. With courage that I never knew she had, she climbed onto the car and tried to comfort me. Gently, she walked me to where her parents stayed.
“Why are you crying?” I heard an angelic voice and struggled to see through my blurry vision. A pretty woman was squatting in front of me and giving me the best smile ever. I quickly wiped my tears and put on a brave face with a smile that did not reach my eyes.
“Your mother is beautiful”, I told Rachael
“And yours too”, she said
“I don’t have a mother”, I replied.
Then I caught the pretty lady staring at me and I kept mute, hoping she didn’t hear me. Father warned me never to say that to anyone.
“What about your daddy?”
It seemed Rachael was a talker.
As bright as I could, I told her he went to the office so he could get some money and buy me a new pair of shoes and he had some appointment with some big men. The forced cheerfulness didn’t seem to convince Rachael as she seem to be contemplating the next question.
While I was not looking, Rachael’s mother had moved closer to where we were dancing and overheard our conversation and her heart went out to the tough girl in Barbie’s clothing.
“Where’s daddy?” I asked Nanny Mary immediately she brought my food to the table. She ignored my question and kept clattering dishes in a bid to serve me my food. I knew she didn’t want to answer; it was my birthday and as usual, father had forgotten. I didn’t see him in his bedroom, nor was he in his study, neither joining me for breakfast.
Wondering where the old man had gone to, I went back to my breakfast in silence while Nanny watched, making sure I ate all my vegetables as usual.
Special Agent Patrick drove to the outskirts of town and parked his car behind some bushes waiting for the man to show up. For months, he has been working for this guy and he doesn’t know what he looks like. While he was thinking, he heard the sharp horn of the Rolls Royce. After few seconds he came out and quickly surveyed the environment before spotting the car. He quickly walked to the car and into the passenger seat. When he removed the glasses, he couldn’t believe who it was.
“Here is a picture of my son when he was a year old”, said the man. Agent Partrick took the picture and truly, blood is thicker than water; for the uncanny resemblance was easy to spot. Still briefing the agent, he explained that only the body of the mother was found after the plane crash and he has reasons to believe the boy is still alive.
Patrick had heard this sort of story before and not wanting to be the bad guy telling the child that Santa Claus does not exist, he just decided to go for the ride since these money bags always have enough cash to throw away. He knew the result would be the same, having analyzed the casualties of the plane crash.
Susan opened her locker in the school corridor and so many roses came pouring out. Her favourite chocolates were wrapped and kept on her pile of books. Many students who passed by stole glances at her, thinking she had gotten another admirer. Susan frowned as she picked the card that was glued to the door of her locker. She hated surprises and was tired of the numerous admirers she had in school because some of the guys probably thought she was challenged to boost their ego. By the time she had finished reading, she was smiling because it was a Birthday card and not a love card. She looked up to find Rachael singing her favourite song with a cake in her hand. Susan was overwhelmed as she ran to Rachael with tears streaming down her face and gave her a big hug.
Ever since then, Rachael and Susan had become close friends like sisters. Rae, as Susan fondly called her had found a way to melt down the barriers and make her heart warmed up.
“Ring…..Ring…Ring” His phone kept vibrating in his pocket. He was in a crucial meeting with some top investors from Hawaii and he didn’t have room for even a bathroom break. “Whoever was calling would have to wait” he thought. Minutes later, he was shaking hands with Mr. Krishna and the rest of the associates, sealing the deal worth millions of dollars. As soon as he saw them out of the office, his secretary barged in apologizing and explaining that his daughters’ nanny had been calling and said he should call back ASAP. Chief Abayomi brought out his phone and truly Nanny was the one calling his cell, opening his message inbox, her message read “Call me immediately”.
Obviously, he thought something must be wrong at home, so he called back and the conversation wasn’t funny. Nanny Mary, who happened to be old enough to be his mother and ultimately Susan’s grandmother didn’t value her job that much. She talked however she pleased when Susan’s welfare was concerned:
“How can a man who claims to be a father forgets his daughter’s birthday? That child has been gloomy all through breakfast. You better call her and think of how to make it up to her or I’ll come over to your office and beat you silly with this spatula I used to mix flour for pancakes this morning. You’ve got no right to hurt that girl in this manner”.
The line went dead. Immediately, he put a call across to his secretary explaining the predicament he was in. “Just do whatever girls of her age like and mail the cost to my personal account”. Anne, who was a shopaholic logged onto her favourite online shopping webpage to begin her shopping spree, knowing Susan’s size. She shopped to her heart’s content and mailed the amount to her boss account.
“Peter, before going to pick Chief’s daughter pick up some items from the office for her, make it a surprise”, Anne said into the mouthpiece of the phone.
Relaxing in her seat, she twirled and smiled.
“I am a genius”, she chuckled.
“Did you do what I asked?” Chief’s voice jolted her upright.
Before she could answer,
“You were supposed to go shopping”.
“Yes Sir…… I went online shopping…… it is faster and….” she tried to explain as he walked into his office. He was obviously not interested as long as the job was done; his secretary was beginning to sound like a cartoon character.
This is at first Susan’s thought as she opened the Prado Jeep and saw the gift items. She smiled as she read the card; it simply read:
“Happy birthday girlfriend”
‘Oops, Secretary Anne’s mistake’. She obviously knew it was her father’s money but not his time that got her the presents. ‘At least, he didn’t forget’, she thought.
Principal Priscilla speaking, “Susan Abayomi should please see me in my office now”. Susan immediately took permission from the Financial Accounting teacher and headed for the principal’s office. She developed cold feet on reaching the office as the principal asked her in.
Mrs. Pricilla, being a tough woman was seated on her chair with her eye glasses well balanced on her nose and peered at Susan. However, I was able to settle in when I discovered her reason for calling me over was to discuss my Junior School Examination results in which I had performed excellently in the Science section and to inquire the reason behind my being in the accounting department. Simple I thought, “My father is a businessman and he needs an accountant for a daughter to build his image”. Although, what I told her was a different story explaining how I so much loved accounting and would want to build a career as a Chartered Accountant. Considering the facts that my grades are still great, she did not pressure me. During times like this, I appreciate that I’m a genius as all I need do is put in little effort and I will excel.
I remember father telling me, more like ordering me, to put in for accounting department in Senior School. To him, I would be taking care of his business when he retires and also for the sake of his image. That meant a goodbye to Chemistry and Physics and welcome to Book-Keeping and Accounting. I had to do this in order to please my father, knowing well enough that he was not going to acknowledge me.
As early as 2:00a.m, Chief Abayomi was awake. He was sweating profusely and shaking. It was like the room temperature rose to 1000; he touched his forehead and dropped his hand immediately because his body temperature was high. What could have woken him up at this ungodly hour? He barely remembered the dream he had, if he had any. Then, it started, the voices in his head, looking fearfully around he wondered who was talking to him and discovered there was no one. When he sat straight, thinking, the images of his wife and son crossed his mind; he had to tell Susan because he wasn’t being fair to her. He stood on jelly legs and was able to make it to his study. Fumbling with his keys, the voices kept coming louder and faster. He was finally able to open the door and the room began spinning, the voices screamed louder at him until he lost it.
“Thud!” he collapsed in front of his safe.
Susan was standing with her father’s PR, his lawyer and Secretary Anne. They all seemed talking at once; she had been introduced to hundreds of people and could not even remember one person. Everything seem to be happening so fast. Her father was dead, the funeral had already been conducted; she barely had time to come to terms with the situation on ground when she was being told that she was to take over the mantle of leadership as the new CEO of The Abayomi Enterprises.
At the gala night where she was being pronounced CEO of The Abayomi Enterprises, she saw him. He was wearing a tuxedo that highlighted his brown eyes, standing at the far end of the grand hall. He seemed to be watching her and that made her uneasy. Some unknown force began propelling her and she found herself moving towards the stranger.
“Hello mademoiselle….comment ca va?” The bald guy with the French accent blocked her. Before she could respond, Secretary Anne came to the rescue by doing the necessary introductions identifying him as Mr. Rousseau.
After excusing herself from the discussion, she looked up to see that her stranger was no longer in that same spot. Unknown to her, he was at the balcony watching as she turned and was greeting other guests.
“Beautiful”, he thought.
“Suzy, you need to go out. Working 24/7 everyday of the week is not lady-like. You should be thinking of getting married and having kids”.
Rae was seating in Susan’s office. She has been visiting her everyday to keep her company but now she was beginning to get worried about her friend’s lack of a social life. Being good at her job, the workload had become too much and demanding of her own personal time.
Susan didn’t seem disturbed by her friend’s complains. She gave the same reply “whoever was looking for or interested in me would have to come find me in my office”.
Rae knew she had to leave the issue but deep down, she was up to something.
He was in his black SUV which was parked at the far end of the road where he could not be seen. Her office lights were still on; every of her colleague had left the office premises, leaving her and the night guard who was probably asleep.
Eating the French fries he had bought from the restaurant, he was deep in his thoughts that he did not see the masked face guy cross over to the Office building. What was his sister thinking when she decided to hook them up? There was no way he could handle Susan. She was a snub and he didn’t like that about her.
He then heard the little screams that echoed down the quiet and lonely road; he looked up to see Susan struggling with a guy that was twice her size. He quickly got out of his car and ran up to them, without even catching a breath, he landed a blow on the guy’s side cheek and immediately the attacker was taken by surprise as he turned to see who interfered. Still in confusion, Michael attacked him again but the attacker was stronger than he was as he engaged in a little combat where Michael was faced on Susan’s car bonnet.
“Get your hands off him”. Susan said calmly, one hand behind her as she approached them. As the attacker turned to look at her, she sprayed hot pepper in his eyes. While the struggle was still on, the Police siren came blaring and within minutes, the attacker was hand-cuffed. It was the security guard who had seen the attack and called the police. Luckily for them all, the police came on time.
“Girls are not supposed to move alone at this time of the night, I believe I should see you home” he told Susan.
Without a word, she got into her car and drove off, clattering enough dust with her Ford Edge from the gravels on the ground of the premises.
He was so angry that he went to his car, asking himself who she thought she was and then, drove in the opposite direction.
Sitting in the office, Susan’s mind wandered back to the times her father was always complaining of having to balance company’s account records. She used that period to help her dad out in order to get acknowledged but that time never came. Now, she was facing that same predicament and she needed the accountant of the company.
Minutes later, Mr. James was seated in front of her. He was the General Accountant of the company and as such, had the files she had earlier requested comprising of the revenues and expenditures during the years.
Upon going through the records, her fear was realized. The differences she always helped her father correct had gotten an arithmetic progression. Mr. James was not only posting ledgers in the wrong places, he was manipulating figures, stealing company’s products and selling them. She had put a trail on James because he opposed to her taking over the business and he was arrogant. The reports she was getting wasn’t satisfactory and coupled with financial records of the company, Mr. James was guilty of theft, fund embezzlement, impersonation and many more even under her father’s supervision.
She then called the police, who arrived and arrested him. He refused to go as he struggled with the police officers, calling Susan different insulting names, saying that Susan did not know the first thing about running a business, even being an accountant.
His drama did not give him a green light; rather, it made him look more pathetic especially when he said he regretted some nice guy and policemen coming to her rescue when he had began plotting her funeral.
Meanwhile, Agent Patrick was making headway with his investigation about Chief’s son. He was led to a village where he was able to gain enough information about the son.
The bell kept ringing nonstop; he slowly got out of bed with his walking stick in a quiet manner in order not to wake his wife. “Who would be there at this time?” He thought. At that same moment, the security guard came to inform him of the presence of an unknown guest.
“Just how strange could this guest be to wake people early in the morning?” He said and instructed Adamu, the security guard to let him in. Mr. Kosoko began reading the morning paper as he was fond of with a cup of black coffee, as he was fond of doing.
“Oko mi (which translates to ‘my husband’), who is at the gate?” Mrs. Kosoko asked as she came out of the bedroom. Just then, Agent Patrick walked in and greeted the couple.
“Yes, young man, what can I do for you this early hour of the day?” Mr. Kosoko asked as he was already weary of the man standing.
Patrick stated his mission and as it included Michael, Mr. Kosoko offered him a seat while his wife brewed coffee for him because the housekeeper had not reported for duty.
He explained that after the plane crash which claimed the life of Michael’s mother, an old woman found him meters away from her farm which was adjacent to the site of the plane crash. She took him to a church.
Two years after the death of Chief Abayomi, it was time to read his will. Susan, the only surviving relative of the decease, Anne (the secretary), Rae, who was present upon Susan’s request and the lawyer, were all in her office for the hearing. Upon hearing what had been read, Susan was bewildered, she was adopted and the man she had believed was her father was not her biological parent? She was in tears.
Right at that moment, he walked in; in the company of Agent Patrick and his foster parents. She could not believe it!!! Michael, the one who she had come to love was Chief’s son? “How further crazy could this day go?” She asked.
She stomped out the office angrily and was headed out of the office when she felt a hand on her shoulders. She turned to see who it was, only to find his brown eyes searching her face for answers she did not know she had. He apologized to her and then explained how he knew Chief Abayomi was his father. Looking into his eyes, one thing was sure…..she loved him. Why could she not forgive him for something he did not know about?
By Winnie Emeh from Nigeria