All the judges remarked on how difficult it was to pick this finalists. All the entries were that good. However, we now have our top 5 Write Right Two Finalists. I’d like to thank everyone that entered. From Ukraine to Canada to Benin Republic and all over Nigeria, the response has been superb. Do not stop writing and I look forward to hearing greater things even more than from the 1st Write Right.
I’d also like to thank the judges. It was hard, difficult work reading all the many entries and you all came through. You are good people.
We are finally moving to the next phase of the competition, the phase where they will need your votes. Over the next 4 Weeks, they will battle for the N250,000 prize. I foresee an exciting competition ahead. We will contact the finalists via email and communicate the procedure for submission of their 4 part series shortly. As a reminder of the competition format, read the announcement HERE
So in no particular order, here are the entries that made the cut. I have deliberately left them unedited or improved for presentation sake. I enjoin the entrants to pay closer attention to editing, spelling and presentation going forward. Here is a list of the top 5
- Ifeoluwa Watson from Ibadan, Nigeria
- Akinwale Agbaje from Lagos, Nigeria
- Jeremiah Nzere from Ibadan, Nigeria
- Miracle Adebayo from Abuja, Nigeria
- Opeoluwa Olubode from Ibadan, Nigeria
The first episode of the finalists’ series will be posted here on tlsplace next Tuesday, and voting on each episode will last for a week. Remember that the entrant with the cummulative highest votes from both readers and judges wins the prize. Congratulations to the finalists.
A SILHOUETTE OF LIGHT by IFEOLUWA WATSON from IBADAN, NIGERIA
Sitting in the conference room, Agatha was perplexed. Rasheed who had gone to the doctor’s office entered with an attaché case. Bintu stretched her neck, as if to peep into the case even through its sealed seams. Rasheed seemed to be taking his time. He whipped out his rarely used spectacles from his pocket and spent some minutes wiping each of the lenses while the women waited with bated breaths. He opened the case and retrieved a brown envelope which contained the will.
Rasheed cleared his throat and began to read. “My dear friend, Rasheed, I hope you’re the one reading this will and you have outlived me. I also hope you followed my instructions and have Agatha in attendance.” At the mention of her name, Agatha’s eyebrows rose higher forming half-arcs on her forehead. Bintu dragged her feet, dismayed that she had not heard her name.
Rasheed continued, “It’s said that a pact made between two people ends at the grave and in this case your husband, Adeoye, had crossed to the other side before me and by the time of this will’s reading, I would have joined my ancestors too. Agatha, I know you will remember your visits to my hospital for the first three years of your marriage and the three operations we performed to remove your fibroids.”
Agatha was listening in rapt attention and Bintu now drummed her fingers on the table, her pulse rate having quickened within those few minutes.
“Agatha, this is the truth – You had no fibroids. You were in perfect health and could conceive. Adeoye could not. He had mumps as a boy which left him sterile. During those staged operations, in your induced sleep state I had intercourse with you. Adeoye had begged me to keep his shame…” Rasheed paused, too dumbfounded by the contents of the will. It wasn’t the will he’d prepared.
Bintu gnashed her teeth as she cursed the memory of Ajanaku. Agatha’s reaction was more temperate but the shock in her eyes showed the depth of her pain.
“Adeoye… Adeoye… How could you do this to me?”she muttered as if talking to her dead husband in the room. She stood up in slow motion, suddenly weary and feeling all of her years in her joints. She exited the room, deaf to Rasheed’s pleas to wait and hear it all.
Awazi had been pacing the living room for over an hour since her return from Samir’s place.
“How will I ever be able to face Derin now? I am now as guilty as he was – maybe even more,” she mumbled to herself. Overcome with shame and guilt, she clasped her hands on her head and wept.
When Derin returned home that night, Awazi pretended to be asleep. It dawned on her as she listened to his loud snores that she would have to live with her guilt, just as she’d lived with the pain of his unfaithfulness. She comforted herself with the thought that every marriage had its own share of secrets and drifted into a fitful slumber.
She felt Derin’s eyes on her before she opened her eyes. She panicked as she thought he had somehow found her out, but calmed as she looked into his pleading red-rimmed eyes.
“Derin, yesterday, I thought you had gone back to Ope and I was so angry. But now that I know the truth we can…”She prattled on before Derin laid a finger on her lips. He pulled her up to a sitting position and held both of her hands in his palms. “Awazi, I made a mess of everything and I’m so sorry.”
“Derin, I…”she tried to interrupt but he stopped her again.
“Please let me speak first. Yesterday, I tried to drown my sorrows in drinking but it didn’t stop the realisation that I had failed you again. When we reconciled, I promised to always support you but when you needed me the most, I neglected you.”
Awazi’s heart skipped a beat. She felt her shame anew.
“I also agree that it was wrong to bring Ope into the case given our history and I won’t lie to you that it didn’t come without some consequences.” His eyes shifted from her face to the red roses patterned on the bed sheet. Awazi removed her hands from his and tipped up his chin. “I’m listening Derin,” she said, biting on her lower lip as she anticipated what was coming.
“I did not sleep with Ope. I couldn’t do it,”he said, looking into her eyes trying to gauge her reaction.
“So, nothing happened?”she asked.
“Well, the main thing didn’t…”
Awazi’s guilt weighed heavily in her chest like a sledge hammer and she found breathing difficult. Derin almost mistook her discomfort for anger. “Babe, I know this is hard for you but please we can…” It was Awazi’s turn to silence him in a frantic kiss, pushing her tongue deep into his mouth as if her sustenance depended on it. When they both came up for breath, they giggled like two heady teenagers.
At that moment, they heard loud persistent knocks on the door and they both grumbled at the person’s bad timing. “Who could that be this early in the morning?”Awazi asked.
When Derin opened the door and saw his mother standing in the early morning mist, his heart jolted in his chest. “Maami, what are you doing here at this time?”
Awazi wrapped her robe around her as she came out of the room to see her mother-in-law walk in wearily and sit down.
“Dr Ajanaku is dead,”Agatha said, her voice flat.
Derin ran his fingers through his crewcut and then rubbed his eyes. “I guess things can’t get any worse. Now I would be accused of pushing the son to suicide and also killing his father. Oh my goodness!”
“Aderinsola, please sit down. There is more.” Derin didn’t need a second invitation because he knew anytime she used his full name, she meant serious business.
“Dr Ajanaku was…was…your father,” she stuttered.
“Whaaat!”The duo of Derin and Awazi screamed in unison. As Agatha explained the details of the situation to them, their eyes kept widening until they appeared like 100 watts bulbs.
Bintu was fuming. She’d grabbed the will from Rasheed’s hands when he’d pronounced the reading would be postponed until Agatha was present. She’d quickly scanned the aspect of the shared properties. “The ungrateful old fool! All these years I stood by him and all I get is the miserable bungalow at Molete and he gave the whole hospital to Derin, who has no knowledge of medicine. Yet he had the guts to say, I should stay at the hospital functioning as the administrative head and reporting to Derin. Iyen emi na? Is that what I deserve?
She sat for a moment in contemplation before she decided and began to dial a number on her phone.
It was evening and they all sat in the sitting room. Derin flipped absentmindedly through the channels on TV. Agatha was in the room but her mind was in a faraway place. Rasheed had called in the afternoon to inform her of the rest of the will she hadn’t waited to hear. Derin had flared up when she related the details to him. “I want nothing from that conniving old man! Who told him I want his hospital? What will I do with it? Am I a doctor?” He’d ranted.
Derin’s cry startled Agatha and Awazi out of their seats.
“What is it my son?”
“Are you okay?”Awazi asked.
Derin pointed wordlessly at the screen. The television showed a building warped in flames and some people pouring sand, and others, water into the raging fire. The reporter shouted above the din in the background. “The building ablaze behind me is the Omega hospital whose owner, Dr Haruna Ajanaku died only yesterday after a stroke, an aftermath of his only son’s suicide. In recent developments, the police have captured two hoodlums who claim the chief matron of the hospital, Mrs. Bintu had instructed them to destroy the hospital…”
“Ah! This Haruna must be suffering for all his evil. He experienced bad luck alive and it has persisted even after his death,” Agatha snapped her fingers and shrugged her shoulders.
Awazi’s tight face relaxed into a grin as the screen changed, showing Bintu in handcuffs being hassled into the police station as news reporters and their camera men ran after them. “Now let her come and ruin us from the prison she will rot in,” Awazi scoffed.
“Yeye woman, ashewo like her. If you had seen the way she’d called and given threats to my son’s life. Now she has gotten what she truly deserves. Mscheew,” she hissed.
“Yes o! Mama,” Awazi agreed and they slapped each other’s hands in a high five.
Derin watched the pair in amazement. Who would have thought the broken shards would mend so quickly and love would dimly reflect in the mirror?
NO GREATER ACCOMPLISHMENT by AKINWALE AGBAJE from LAGOS, NIGERIA
OMEGA HOSPITAL – CONFERENCE ROOM
“Dear Derin, I hope you are happy. I hear you are doing well with Omega Hospital now. The attachment should interest you. All the best in life.”
Reading the email had become a matter of routine since receiving it three days ago. Pointless now, though, as even without opening it, the words came at him anyway in a relentless rush, a permanent tattoo in his heart.
And the picture … Derin traced a finger on the screen of his blackberry. The boy was everything he ever wanted, and more.
Derin wrenched his gaze from the phone. Professor Charles Acha, his legal representative, stared at him questioningly.
All around, the same odd look, trained at him. For a moment, he pondered where he was and what was going on.
‘He’s not even listening!’ Korede worked his jaw, seething.
Derin’s brow furrowed. Korede Adams, the current bane of his life.
Korede was flanked by two savage looking lawyers in tacky suits, at the opposite end of the table. They took down notes and whispered dark secrets to their client. What were they saying now? Well, whatever it was, Korede liked it – he nodded eagerly to their every word.
Derin straightened, curled his lip. A watery smile.
‘I’m with you, Mr Adams,’ he said, yet his voice lacked that essential conviction.
‘You know what your problem is, Banwo?’ Korede leaned forward, exuding confidence, and why not? After all, he had Derin by the balls. ‘You think you can get away with everything. You do as you please and it doesn’t matter who gets hurt in the process.’
Derin’s smile faltered. Korede wasn’t far off the mark. He had done as he pleased in his marriage and it had cost him.
‘Well,’ Korede leaned into the armchair like he owned the place, ‘today is Judgment Day.’
Dr Shem – young, ashen faced, eyes down – groaned as though constipated. This whole ugly dance was the upshot of his careless actions. Constipation was nowhere near sufficient a penance.
Derin interlocked his fingers, eyes zeroing in on his blackberry.
His past, senseless transgressions had nagged at him ever since Awazi left him, and yet somehow he had found a way to push it aside, burying himself deep into his work – a convenient distraction. Now, with the fate of the hospital dangling from a precipice, the guilt was ever present, a constant heartache.
His face fell.
Korede raised his eyebrows, surprised and glad at the supposed effect he was having on Derin.
Derin shut his eyes briefly and heaved a sigh. The time had come to confront his demons. He snatched his blackberry and composed a text message, thumbs flying swiftly across the keypad.
After sending the text, he focused on Korede.
‘I’m sorry about your wife.’
‘That’s not enough.’
‘No, it’s not.’ Derin slipped the phone into his breast pocket. He placed his hands flat on the table and rose to his feet. ‘Life’s too short, Mr Adams. We all make mistakes, and we must all learn to live with them.’
Korede turned to the lawyer at his right for interpretation. The balding man shrugged, as if to say, “Don’t look at me. I’ve got no idea what he’s on about.”
‘It’s yours,’ Derin said.
‘What’s mine?’ Korede said.
‘The hospital. Everything.’
Dr Shem looked up from his hands, stupefied. Professor Charles Acha did a double take.
‘Mr Banwo, let’s not be too hasty here,’ Charles said, desperate.
‘Sir, please-’ Dr Shem began.
‘No,’ Derin said.
‘Are you … mad?’ Korede said. His lawyers were just as stumped as he was.
‘No. Actually, for the first time in a long time, I understand what I need to do. I’ll have the necessary documents signed and delivered to you. Excuse me.’
‘Mr Banwo… Derin!’ Charles stretched forth to grab Derin’s arm, but Derin had moved beyond his reach.
‘I don’t want your hospital!’ Korede called after him.
Derin breezed out of the conference room.
A long, awkward silence descended upon the rest.
INSIDE KAMAL’S CAR
Kamal waited patiently behind the wheel, fingers tapping. On occasion, he glanced here and there.
The passenger door opened. Kamal turned. Derin got in and shut the door.
‘Are you OK?’ Kamal said.
Derin kept his eyes on the dashboard.
‘Do you have it?’ he asked.
Kamal showed him a folded piece of paper, held between two fingers.
‘It’s all here.’ He frowned, worried. ‘Man, are you sure you want to do this? I mean, what if it goes wrong?’
Derin looked at him, eyes haunted, weary.
‘Whatever happens, it can’t be worse than this, can it?’
Kamal nodded and patted Derin’s shoulder. He started the engine and they were off to Lagos.
PRIVATE KIDS PLAYGROUND, LEKKI, LAGOS
Shrill, excited cries carried across the air. Little feet pattered about.
Adults assisted with the swing-sets.
Seesaws swung, up-down, up-down.
Sandboxes were ceremoniously occupied by little geniuses who felt it was within their civil rights to build wonders out of sand. Results varied from crap-but-cute to not-nearly-crap-but-still-crap-and-cute.
The kids who went down the slides couldn’t wait to get right back up.
Awazi sat on a bench, Little Jacob in her arms, and together they watched the animated activity. She grinned from ear to ear. Little Jacob squirmed. He didn’t understand what was happening on the playground, but he wanted to be a part of it.
‘That’s you in a few years,’ Awazi said to him.
Little Jacob was having none of that. Him in a few years? How about him now! He kicked in protest. Awazi chuckled. She returned her attention to the playground.
And that’s when she saw him. Derin.
At first, she thought it was her mind playing tricks on her (this wasn’t the first time she had allegedly seen him). But unlike those times, he didn’t disappear when she blinked. He really was here, in the flesh, staring right back at her … a lost soul.
Awazi put Little Jacob against her chest and stood. Her heart galloped. Breathing became an arduous task. A million thoughts raced through her mind. How long had she yearned for this day?
Their eyes stayed locked as Awazi trod off on unsteady feet, away from the heart of the gathering. Whatever they had to discuss wasn’t for public consumption.
They met at the edge of the playground.
‘Hi,’ Derin stammered.
‘Hi,’ Awazi said. She assessed him. He looked thinner than she remembered. ‘You’re not eating well.’
‘I can’t cook.’ He shrugged.
‘I thought … you’d have got someone-’
‘No,’ he said quickly. ‘There’s no one. Not since you.’
Derin stared at Little Jacob nestled against Awazi. Something sharp twisted in his chest.
‘Yeah. Sure.’ Awazi carefully handed Little Jacob to him.
He held the boy … his son … gazed in wonder at the small, round face and big brown eyes, and it was almost like looking in a mirror.
Little Jacob gurgled and waved at Derin.
‘Thank you.’ Derin gave Little Jacob back to Awazi.
‘Derin…’ Awazi dampened her lips. She had so much to tell him. Where to start?
Before she could utter her next words, Derin dropped to his knees.
‘Derin?’ Awazi said, baffled.
Derin’s shoulders trembled. He grabbed her waist and pressed his face on her stomach.
He was crying.
Awazi was stunned. She glanced about. They were starting to attract onlookers.
‘Derin…’ Awazi smoothed his head. Her throat was tight.
‘It was so dark. So, so dark…’ Derin sobbed. ‘And then you came into my life … and there was a bright light. And I was happy. But I … I took you for granted-’
‘Derin, it’s OK-’
‘I was a fool. I was wrong. Please … forgive me. I love you. I’ve always loved you. Please-’
Spectators be damned. Awazi lowered herself to her knees and kissed him.
‘I love you too. I’ve missed you so much.’
Among the observers were Kamal – all smiles, the owner of the playground, Mrs Oyin Omotosho-Clegg, and her husband, Femi.
‘Awww, love! I love, love,’ Oyin said, squeezing her husband’s hand affectionately.
‘Yep. Someone’s definitely getting some tonight.’ Femi grinned. He gave an oblivious Derin a thumbs-up.
‘Seriously?’ Oyin elbowed Femi in the ribs, lightly. He chuckled.
Awazi shed tears of her own and laughed, delirious. She kissed Little Jacob and told him, ‘Look, it’s your daddy.’
Mummy, that’s great, and I’m happy for you, but can I play now? Little Jacob only had eyes for the playground.
‘Let’s go home,’ Derin said. He had got his family back. There was no greater accomplishment in life.
WHOLE PIECES by JEREMIAH NZERE from IBADAN, NIGERIA
Derin sat staring at his sixth Heineken bottle. Even though it was early, alcohol seemed to make him think rationally when his mind was in turmoil. How had he allowed things to degenerate to this extent? He had never hit Awazi before. The look of hurt on her face had cut him to his marrow. He had to make things right, starting with his wife. He reached into his pocket for his phone, and found it empty. He paid for his drinks and walked unsteadily to his car. The phone wasn’t there either. He must have left it at home. He switched on the ignition and headed home.
************************************************************** Samir whistled happily. Finally, Awazi was going to be his. He had been shocked when she had appeared on his doorstep. Then, desire had overtaken reason as she surprised him. Now, it was his turn to surprise her. She had looked so beautiful after the act that he had unobtrusively taken a picture of her as she lay in bed. He had wanted to preserve the moment. Now as he sent the picture to her BBM, he was waiting to hear her squeal of surprise when she saw it.
“Saaamiiirr!” he heard her scream his name. He smiled. So she had seen the picture. He walked into the sitting room. The smile disappeared as soon as he saw her.
She was dressed and standing by the door.
“Where are you going to?” He asked. “Is it because of the picture you’re doing like this? Don’t you like it?”
”Which picture?” Awazi asked, frowning slightly.
“Check your phone. I just sent it on BBM” Samir replied.
”I don’t understand. My phone is not here. I left it at home”
Samir told her what he had done. It had seemed a good idea at the time, but now he wasn’t so sure.
Awazi put her hands on her head, mouth open in disbelief. “Haba! Samir! What did you do? How could you be so foolish? Iskanchi! You want to destroy my marriage ko?”
Samir couldn’t let things end this way. He covered the distance between them, and brought her hands down, cradling them in his.
“Come with me Awazi. We’ll go anywhere you desire, get married, and start again. Or is this what you call a marriage?” he asked, pointing to the slight bruise on her face where Derin had struck her earlier that day.
She drew away sharply “I was a fool to come here. I should have known when you picked my husband’s call and kept it away from me. Now, you’re taking nude pictures of me. Ah! You’re a devil Samir.”
She spat at him, as she left the house. She ran to her car mumbling, “I’m just a fool”. She drove furiously fast, tears running down her face and clouding her vision. There was only one thought on her mind. She had to get to her phone before Derin did thinking it was his, or her already fragile marriage would be broken beyond repair.
Agatha sat at one end of the table, keeping the farthest distance from Bintu, who had a faraway look in her eyes. A grim-faced Rasheed Sanda placed the safe deposit box on the conference table, as he entered the combination to unlock it. There were two documents in the box. He looked at each. There was the will, and a letter addressed to Mr. Aderinsola Banwo. What was in the letter? Ajanaku had not told him about this. The confusion must have shown on his face as Bintu asked him,
”Is anything wrong?”
“No” he replied. Could any of them have known about the letter? He couldn’t read it as it was sealed. He opened the will, and cleared his throat.
”This is the last testament of Haruna Ajanaku.”
Derin arrived home. Awazi’s car was not in the drive-way. Where had she gone? He hurried inside and found the phone on the bed in their bedroom. He had purchased the same Blackberry Bold 4 for himself and Awazi last Christmas when one of the network service providers had sold Bold 4 pairs for couples at a discounted price. The message light was blinking. Perhaps Awazi had sent a message to him. As he opened the BBM, he realized it wasn’t his phone. This was for Awazi, but he had already touched the message icon. He saw the first message.
Agatha stood in the corridor outside the conference centre. She dialed Derin’s number for the sixth time. She wanted to intimate him of the surprising content of the will and inform him of the letter Haruna Ajanaku had written him. This time someone picked it.
“Aderinsola, where did you keep your phone?” she asked, slightly miffed.
A strange voice replied.
”Madam, the caller ID says you’re the mother of this person. The owner of this phone just had a ghastly accident o. Please come now to General Hospital, Ikeja”
“Madam, did you hear me? Hellooo, madam are you there?”
She spent the first five hours as the new owner of Omega Hospital as a patient.
Derin’s shocked anger at Awazi turned first to impatience, and then gradually gave way to even greater anger. So she was still at that Fulani boy’s house. He had seen the picture: a very naked Awazi lay on a bed in a strange room, a satisfied smile playing on her lips. Obviously, the Fulani boy had shared the picture on BBM. He had recognized the name: Samir. His mind was made up. He was going to divorce her. Pictures like this could go viral. He was not going to be the husband of a woman whose nude pictures were over the internet. Infidelity was a no-no. He would have left the house to a bar if he didn’t want to see the look her in the eyes as he told her to leave his life. After that, he never wanted to see her again.
The phone rang. The number was unknown number. He picked it.
“Am I speaking with Awazi Banwo?” the caller asked politely in a tired voice that Derin recognized. It was Rasheed Sanda. Did Awazi betray him to Rasheed too?
“No. this is Derin.” He replied curtly.
“That cannot be. I’ve just spoken with someone who said you were wheeled into a hospital theatre three hours ago. In fact, your mum fainted while receiving that call” A bewildered Rasheed replied.
Their conversation was short, both men still bearing wounds from their recent battle. Rasheed informed him of the ownership of Omega hospital by his mother, and the letter written by Dr. Ajanaku.
Derin smiled. If Awazi was in an accident, then karma was on time today. He felt no pity for her. But he couldn’t let his mother spend a night in that cursed hospital, and he had to see the contents of the letter Rasheed left for him. He had his mother and wife, scratch that, ex-wife; he corrected himself, on two hospital beds in two cities. He could spend the night with only one of them. He would have completely ignored Awazi, but he had to retrieve his phone. He made his decision. Two hours later, he was on his way to Ibadan.
It was almost impossible to believe that merely four hours ago, he had been contemplating going on his knees to apologize to Awazi.
**************************************************************Aunt Jamila sat at the bedside, holding the hand of a sleeping Awazi. She had arrived Lagos as promised two days ago, and had spent two hours making calls before she had finally traced Awazi. She had immediately had her transferred to Wellington Hospital on the Island. That Derin was an irresponsible idiot. Who else abandoned his wife like this without any explanation? He had refused to pick her calls and had merely sent her a text message. Awazi stirred and her eyes fluttered open.
“Where am I?” she whispered weakly. Jamila rose, and quickly offered a prayer. This was the first time Awazi was opening her eyes since the accident.
Her eyes focused on Jamila. She looked at her without recognition.
“Who are you?” she asked
Jamila Shehu called for the doctor.
Awazi was discovered to have amnesia. She cannot remember anything from her past. Aunt Jamila took her to Abuja, and nursed her to health. She was delivered of a baby boy nine months later, but she doesn’t know the father.
Agatha Banwo renamed Omega Hospital as Isaac Banwo Memorial Hospital. That was the only condition Derin gave. He never opened the letter Dr. Ajanaku wrote him. He had stared at the letter that was supposed to explain everything. Could it explain why his wife had cheated on him? Could it explain why his son had died? He had put it in the paper-shredder. After he divorced Awazi, he never remarried; his faith in women was completely shaken. If Awazi as righteous as she was, could betray him, who couldn’t?
TRUTH by MIRACLE ADEBAYO from ABUJA, NIGERIA
Agatha felt her throat constrict as Rasheed read the last of the will. She knew her day of reckoning had come.
She tried to ignore the sudden attack of sweat on her armpits. It was her nervousness kicking in.
“He left the hospital to that boy? For God’s sake!” She heard Bintu exclaim.
Agatha couldn’t move. She stood, frozen to the spot. She hadn’t known that this moment of truth would ever come; she had thought her secret will remain with her till she died.
“There’s also a letter addressed to you, Mrs Banwo.” Rasheed, handed her a folded sheet of paper.
“A personal letter to her? What is going on here?” Bintu asked, incredulously. “Her son killed my Haruna!”
Agatha didn’t wait to hear anymore. It was like the letter was burning in her hands. She mustered all the dignity she could and spoke:
“I have to go now. I will inform my son of the latest development.” She turned to Bintu. “And once again Madam, e joo I am sorry for your loss.”
“My chambers will inform your son formally of this…er…inheritance. Have a good day.” Rasheed was shaken. He couldn’t understand what was happening. He could understand Haruna’s rationale behind leaving the hospital to that boy, but what about that letter to the boy’s mother?
He had a few ideas, but he didn’t want any to linger in his head.
As soon as she could, Agatha hurried away to find a private place to read Otunba’s letter. It was only when she was in a stall in the women’s toilet did she realise that her hands were shaking.
Won’t it be better if she destroyed the letter without reading it? She asked herself. What exactly did Haruna want to tell her?
Her curiosity won though, she unfolded the letter. It read:
You’re now Mrs Banwo and a very happy one at that, although I know your husband is late. If you’re reading this, then I’m dead. Did you ever think I would forget you, just like that?
It might have been just one night but it held a lot of meaning for me. I know it was wrong timing, since you were already dating someone but I don’t regret it one bit.
I’m glad you’re doing fine and I have purposely stayed out of your life so you can have peace. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know that Derin Banwo is actually mine.
The resemblance, although very little, is there. And you remember one time he was sick as a child and you brought him to the hospital for treatment? I did a DNA test on him and the result confirmed my suspicions.
I decided not to interfere, but it hasn’t been an easy decision for me. When this hospital saga started, I so much wanted to put an end to it by telling him the truth.
But somehow I knew it was the wrong time and that he’d end up resenting me than loving me. I don’t know why I’m writing this to you now, maybe it’s because of this sense of foreboding I can’t seem to shake off.
If anything happens to me, please at least tell him the truth. I beg you. Don’t let him go on without knowing his roots.
Thank you Agatha, for that time many years ago, and for raising a fine albeit hard-headed gentleman.
Yours, Haruna Ajanaku.
Suddenly the tears came in torrents. Why she was crying, she didn’t know. Perhaps because the illusion she’d built for herself for years had just been shattered. And how was she going to tell Derin that the owner of the hospital he wanted to destroy was his real father?
He needed air. He wanted to clear his head. He didn’t want to think about how his wife had just betrayed him with that man.
He’d only been sitting in the veranda for a few minutes when a cab pulled up and his mother alighted from it.
“Derin. I need to talk to you.” She didn’t mince words.
“Mama please, can this wait? I’m not in the mood for your chit-chat now.”
“No. It can’t wait. It is very important. It has to do with the will of Doctor Ajanaku.”
“Okay ma. What is it?”
She fidgeted. “Let’s sit down and talk. I’m about to tell you something very sensitive.”
Maybe it was the grave kook on her face that caused him not to ask any more questions.
“Today was the will reading of Doctor Haruna.” She started. “He left you his hospital.”
It didn’t register at first. “What did you say?”
“He willed the hospital to you.”
“What? Why would he do that?”
“Calm down my son. I think the main reason is that he wanted you to learn a lesson. The same hospital you want to destroy is now yours.”
“But I don’t want it! That place is cursed! I can reject it, abi?”
Agatha buried her face in her hand, willing God to give her the strength to do what she ought to do.
“There’s another reason I think he did this. But I have to tell you a story first.”
“Mama, what is it this time?”
“Years ago before I married your father; I had a one day relationship with someone. I had already started seeing your father by then but I wasn’t serious about him. I met this stranger one day, a strange attraction brewed within us and one thing led to another and…we…er…had relations.”
Derin blinked. He wasn’t sure he wanted to listen to stories of his mother’s sexcapades.
“Where is this going, Mama?” he asked.
“Just listen to me. I won’t be telling you if it isn’t important.” There was a pleading look in her eyes. “After that day I was so ashamed of myself, that I left the house of the stranger and never turned back. It was something mindless and youthful. It was a mistake I told no one about. A month later, I became sick. It didn’t take long for me to discover that I was pregnant…”
Her voice took on a quiver.
Somehow, Derin couldn’t speak. It was as though he knew that what was coming next would change his life forever.
“I told your father the truth. I couldn’t hide it. He was such a kind man. He offered to marry me and be a father to my child. I agreed, after all I had no choice. So we married, agreeing to keep the baby as ours…Derin, you are that child. I’m sorry I…”
“And who is the stranger? Why are you telling me now! You could’ve kept your secret till you died!” His voice was shaking with rage.
“Derin please don’t hate me. I…”
Oh. My. God.” He stood. “It is the dear Doctor Haruna abi? That’s why he left me the hospital! Answer me Mama!”
Agatha was weeping openly.
“Yes.” She whispered.
“All the women in my life…have betrayed me and lied to me. I don’t want to see you right now!”
He didn’t wait to hear more. Before she could protest, he was racing to his car like a maniac.
He drove away, muttering to himself as the tears flooded his eyes. He’d been indirectly responsible for his biological father’s death!
He felt a clenching in his chest and suddenly he couldn’t breathe. The road before him blurred and he lost control of the steering wheel.
The first thing he saw when he woke up was a lady in white.
“He’s awake, ma.” She said.
And suddenly his wife’s face loomed over his. “Thank God!” She gushed.
He opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. His throat was parched. He began coughing…
“Water please!” Awazi barked to the nurse.
When his coughing spell was over, he found his voice.
“What happened?” He asked.
“You had an accident. The doctor said your chances were slim. But God brought you back to us.”
“And my mother?” He asked, as the memories came rushing back.
“She’s waiting outside. She’s been sleeping in the hospital for two weeks now. We’re both here to ask you to forgive us, Derin.” Awazi pleaded. “She told me everything.”
Derin weighed what he was about to say before he spoke. His accident had been like an eye—opener. Life was too short to hold grudges. And he realised that he still loved these two women the most in his life.
He held out his bandaged hand to his wife. “I forgive you. Please call my mother.”
Mrs Agatha Banwo was more than pleased to wrap her hands around her son.
“And now will be a perfect time to make my announcement.” Awazi beamed.
“I’m pregnant. For you.” Tears of joy clouded her eyes.
“Come here lovely Mrs Banwo.” He encircled her waist with one hand. “I love you.”
THUNDERBOLT by OPEOLUWA OLUBODE from IBADAN, NIGERIA
Rasheed came out of the doctor’s office with a small fireproof safe. The weight of the item made him sweat despite the chill of the corridor’s air conditioning. He entered the conference room as the two women stared intently at him.
He carefully placed the safe on the table and dialled the combination which he retrieved from a piece of paper in his pocket. The safe opened with a click and Rasheed removed a large brown envelope from it.
He opened the envelope and extracted the document from the it. The look on his face said a million different things; none of them positive.
“This is not the will I prepared!” Rasheed shouted.
The force of the statement drew a shriek from Agatha who couldn’t quite comprehend the various expressions fleeting across his face.
“So is it genuine?” Bintu asked.
“Yes, it is. The combination of this safe was known only to Haruna. It was by following specific instructions that I retrieved it. The will is dated last week Thursday. He changed his will without even telling me! ”
“I heard you scream, what’s the matter?” Samir asked.
“Samir, there’s fire on the mountain. I need to head home. I am going to my husband. I need to…to…” Awazi mumbled.
“Which husband? That impotent fool? The same husband who didn’t listen to you on a matter that concerns your only child whom you lost while paying a silly visit to his parents? The same husband who appointed his mistress as his lawyer?” Samir interrupted her.
“Don Allah, you will not talk about my husband in that manner! For your information, it wasn’t that my Derin couldn’t get me pregnant. I was the one constantly having miscarriages. I must have missed that part out when I opened up to you. It is not your fault. It is my stupidity that has made you talk to me like that. In any case, please excuse me because I have a husband to go home to.”
“Young lady, you are not going anywhere! This is the first time I’m having sex and enjoying it in over ten years! Anytime I have sex with a woman, I imagine myself being with you. I’ve gotten married on more than three occasions thinking marriage will take away my feelings for you but it didn’t. After I left you, I messed up every single relationship I found myself in. Awazi…I’m obsessed with you. ”
“Menene? See you oo! It is not your fault, it’s my fault. So because I took excuse from you to leave your house, your brain has started sparking abi? It was just a courteous act. I am leaving now!”
The anger in Awazi’s voice prevented Samir from replying her or blocking the doorway. He just stood where he was and let her go. Awazi got to her car in next to no time and drove away with a screech of tires.
“Ogbeni, you may like to keep calm. Awazi probably went out to get foodstuffs for dinner or something. I personally don’t believe anything has happened to her. Just keep calm na,” Kamal said to Derin.
After Derin left Ope’s place, he had gone to fetch Kamal. He wanted Kamal to plead with Awazi on his behalf on account of the way he had pushed her earlier. The knock on the door jarred him. He hoped it was Awazi but he knew she wasn’t the one because she would have opened the burglary proof herself. Kamal was at that moment in the kitchen making coffee for both of them; Derin had to get the door himself. He was very sure he had never seen that face before so he asked the stranger for his name.
“I’m Samir and I’m looking for one Mr Aderinsola Banwo.”
As soon as the reading of the will ended, Agatha tried Derin’s number several times but was unable to get through. Crazy network, she thought. She knew she had to reach Derin fast. She headed for the door. It was time for a drive to Lagos.
There’s that light-bulb moment in Tom and Jerry when the despicable Tom is ardously meditating on how to catch Jerry and suddenly gets an idea? Well, I think we can say that Samir had one of those moments; it led him to his car barely five minutes after Awazi left his home and then led him to where he had dropped her off a few nights before. Being a man who knew the town, he didn’t have trouble getting there well ahead of her. He got out of the car and strolled to the gate. A quick rap brought the gateman out. ‘Na who dey dere,’ the gateman asked. Samir ignored the man’s question and instead, asked one of his own. Armed with directions to Derin’s house, Samir headed away. Okay, so now you know how Samir got there.
“What are you doing in my house?” Derin bellowed.
“I came to find out if Awazi came here after leaving my house.”
“In your mind, you’re talking sense abi? What would Awazi come to do in your house in the first place?”
“Ha!!! She came and I gave her the ‘boom boom boom‘ that will get her pregnant; seeing as you have failed to do so.”
“Ogbeni, leave my house! You can’t just come here and be telling me bullshit about my wife. Leave my house!”
“Fine, I will leave. But ask your wife where she went to when she returns.”
Ope lay on her bed surprised. Why on earth would Derin give his wife his phone to call her? Why would Derin’s wife end the call so abruptly? So after he had come to her house for the second time in a row, that stupid dick of his had still refused to stand despite that she had been standing there in all her naked glory. What point was his wife trying to prove? That her husband belonged to her? They must both be mad. She needed to see Derin and she needed to see him fast! He had a few questions to answer.
She got up from the bed and changed into something proper, picked her car keys from the centre table and headed for Derin’s house.
Kamal was heading out of the kitchen with two cups of coffee when he sighted Samir. Had he been a woman, the cups would have dropped from his now shock-frozen hands.
“What is this son of a bitch doing here? Kamal asked Derin.
“So you know Samir? He was Awazi’s boyfriend when she was in 300 level oo.”
“Who is Samir? That dude standing before you is called Ahmed. That’s the man who married my sister, Tammy in the US and abandoned her when she was six months pregnant.”
Derin was still trying to process it all when Ope barged in.
“Derin, what rubbish did your wife display this morning ehn? She called me with your phone and then hung up on me. What was that about?” Ope said immediately after she opened the door.
“Babe, are you sure? I’ve been looking for my phone since morning, I don’t know where it is. It was Awazi’s phone I found in my bedroom. She probably took mine out.”
Just then, she spotted Samir.
“Musa, we meet again! Derin, you remember when I went abroad for my masters program? This bastard and I courted for almost a year during that period. He ditched me on our wedding day. I stood at the altar like a fool.”
“Ahhahn you people need to chill. Wetin be this na? Dude, wetin be your real name?”
The commotion reached its peak as Awazi walked in. I’m sure you’re all are wondering where Awazi went to. Well, she got stuck in traffic. Now, you know.
“Derin, what is this? What are Samir and Ope doing here?”
“Woman, you better hold it. You still have a sex case with Samir to settle.”
“Derin, I’m sorry. I thought you had gone to seek solace in Ope’s arms, that was why I wanted to pay you back in your own coin. Little did I know that it was your phone that was with me.” Awazi said as she went down on her knees.
But Derin replied; “So it had to be Samir right?” dodging the section where Ope was mentioned.
One would have thought a family meeting had been called when Agatha herself walked in.
“Derin, Doctor Ajanaku has left his hospital to you.”
“What? Doctor Ajanaku is dead?” Samir asked.
“How does this ‘famzer‘ know Doctor Ajanaku?” Awazi asked spitefully.
“My real names are Usman Adedotun Ajanaku. My mother’s maiden name is Mogaji.”