Monday, 1 July 2019

Her Last Breath (Episode Two)



Taofeek
“I’m telling you that your children…I mean your children need diapers and you’re telling me you don’t have money. Sh’owa okay bayi?” Funmilayo was yelling over the phone. My hands shivered as the sound of her loud voice thundered in my ears.

I tried to control my moistened eyes from dripping tears as I replied, “But I sent ten thousand just last week.”

Ehen? So what? I used that shinkilimoney to buy their food or won’t your children eat? Abi you want them to die? Oh! This is your secret plan abi? That your children die of hunger? I can understand because you don’t want them.” She was saying in a sneering tone, a tone that usually got my blood boiling.

I could picture her face, her fair-bleached face which had the colour of pink and yellow, her lower lips pouting and her eyes widening in shape whenever she nagged. Funmilayo, the thin and tall lady who had borne me twins, was the last girlfriend I had…before I decided to change for good and stop living the life I was accustomed to.

I tried to suppress my anger as I form words in my head. It would be a long day ahead- I was going to meet Khayrah, a lady I think I would build a future with, and I didn’t want to start off my day in ruins.

“I wouldn’t want to kill my children, Funmi. The month has barely gotten to the mid and I’ve sent close to twenty thousand Naira to you. How much do you think I earn in a month? I still have to take care of myself, my family and my other child. Please, you’ve got to understand…”

“Understand what exactly? Did you think of all these before now? Do you know exactly how it feels to take care of twins? Shebi it’s just money you’re sending. You don’t know what it means to wash poo-poo off their bum, pet them to sleep and wake up in the middle of the night to feed them,” she replied in an angry tone.

She was wrong! I knew exactly how it felt to do all these. After Jasmine- my second girlfriend- dropped our first child with me and travelled out of the country, I had been saddled with the responsibility of taking care of Aliyah.

“Okay, I’ll send five thousand Naira to your account before the end of today. Please don’t disturb me till the end of the month.”

“Ha-ha, Oo funny Taofeek! Do you think five thousand Naira will take care of Hassan and Hassanah before the end of the month? I’ll call you next week. Oodabo!” She yelled and hung up the call.

I slumped to the bed, looking dispirited and frustrated. Yes, I was angry with myself! Angry for living a bad life. They say the past is in the past but it isn’t! The past keeps hunting you everywhere you go and it leaves a mark that can never be removed. Maybe this is my punishment for living a life of waywardness, fornicating and leading women to destruction.

“Three children, Taofeek! You have three children outside wedlock. Is this life?” I muttered, placing my hands over my head and remembering how I had deceived woman…countless of them by sleeping with them and running away afterwards.

When Jasmine arrived one morning at the doorstep with a baby girl, I was so shocked that for minutes, words couldn’t come out of my mouth. At that moment, I felt that I had gone dumb.

“This is your child. I’m leaving for Canada. Do you think this our child will tie me down? No way! I carried her in my womb for nine months, went through the painful labour and gave birth to her without your assistance. Now, take her and take care of her!” She has said, dropping the baby in my arms and walking out of the compound without turning back. I was too shocked! I stood there for over twenty minutes with the baby in my arms, wondering what to do with the baby.

But did I change afterwards? No, I didn’t. I met Funmilayo and started a relationship with her. I didn’t realize the implication of what I was doing until she informed me that she was pregnant…and she gave birth to twins!

“Daddy! Breakfast is ready. Aren’t you going to eat?” Aliyah asked, entering the room without my notice.

Dark in complexion with wide eyes and big, red lips, Aliyah was the carbon copy of her mother. I briskly cleaned my wet eyes and smiled at her. “I have an appointment to meet up with so I won’t be having breakfast.”

“Okay, dad. Please buy me ice cream and meat pie when you’re returning.”

“I will.”
***
I spent less than forty-five minutes on the road to Ikeja, courtesy of the free road because it was Sunday. Alighting from the danfo that reeked of bad perspiration, mixed with the smell of dust and fart, I walked down the road to board a keke marwa to Toyin Street. I straightened the rough edges of my T-shirt with the tip of my palm as I stared at the road, wondering how the date would turn out.

Would I meet her specification? Would she be someone that I would like? What would happen when she realizes the truth…that I’m an unmarried man with three children?

“This na Domino Pizza, oga.” The marwa driver said, reviving me from my lost thoughts. I dipped my hands into my pocket and gave him a hundred Naira note.

My heart juddered in my chest as I was scared to move another step…to see Khayrah. I turned towards the building, searching frantically through the transparent glass for any sign of a woman who I could assume to be Khayrah.

“Just do this!” I muttered, walking towards the door. The door was opened in swoosh as I was welcomed by a security man. The atmosphere was cool and the smell of beef and flour greeted my nostrils. I stared around, searching for Khayrah. There was a woman with her two children, munching from a rectangular box of pizza with bottles of Fanta placed in front of them. I could spot two lovers; the thin, tall man placing a slice of pizza into his lover’s mouth…then I spotted Khayrah.
Yes, it was my first time of seeing her but I knew that the slim Muslimah dressed in a pink gown and black veil, sipping from a bottle of cold Pepsi with a straw, wearing a pair of red-framed spectacles and typing hurriedly on her phone was undoubtedly Khayrah.

I marched forward, feeling the ‘thump’ sound my heart was making. I was in front of her, my mouth shivering as I struggled to find words to say.

“Asalamu ‘alaykum. Khayrah?” I asked in an eager tone.

Khayrah whipped her head up and behold, I saw a woman different from all women I had come across. Her face lit into a wide smile, revealing the neatest set of teeth I’d ever seen.

 “Wa’alaykumu salam. Taofeek?” her eyes widened mischievously.

I laughed loudly, noting her beautiful face, pointed nose, chocolate-flawless skin, and long-lovely fingers…SubhanaLlaah. I had promised myself to lower my gaze and not to stare at a woman a second time.

I lowered my eyes as I took a seat in front of her. Khayrah played with the hem of her veil as I cleared my throat. I could tell that she was as nervous as I was. It was our first meeting and it was certain and this would occur.

“Do you want anything? Drink? Pizza? Ice-cream?” she asked hurriedly.

I stared at the way her lips formed when she was talking. It was a lovely sight. “I’m fine for now. Hope you didn’t undergo too much stress to get here?”

“Stress?” she laughed. “My driver drove me here. In fact, he’s in the car waiting for me.” She said, pointing at a black Toyota Corolla parked outside.

I nodded briskly, remembering she had once told me that her father owned RedGate; a well-known company in Lagos. I was completely different from her. While my father owned a chemist on the street to our house, Khayrah’s father was the owner of one of the most prestigious fashion designing companies in Lagos. My father had never owned a car of his own, neither had I. But Khayrah owned a car. My seventy-thousand Naira monthly revenue could hardly suffice for me and my three children…but here was Khayrah!

“Taofeek?” she flashed her hand across my face, noting that I was lost in thought.

“Yes? I’m sorry…what were you saying?”

“Your last relationship…what happened? Why did it end?” she asked, laying scrutinizing eyes on me.

“Oh, she wanted to proceed for her Masters in Italy. She never liked long-distance relationships, so she broke up with me.” I said, noticing as Khayrah stared at me with a concerned look.

“I’m so sorry. Have you gotten past it?”

“Yes, I have. It’s over a year. So tell me about Khayrah. I want to know everything about the beautiful woman I will be spending the rest of my life with.” I placed a hand over my jaw, eager to know more about Khayrah, the woman who had exceeded my expectation…who was everything I’d ever dreamed of in my future wife. Knowing full well that I was a liar… a big one, I couldn’t bear to lose Khayrah. Tell her that I have three children and was once a fornicator? No way!

I watched as Khayrah spoke excitedly about herself, stressing on every word and grinning excitedly. I watched as she described herself in a fascinating way, gesturing with the movement of her lovely hands, admiring the rings she wore on all fingers.

Khayrah was the most beautiful woman I’d ever come across. I was in love with her!

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