CHAPTER 14 (May 26, 2016 post)
The rest of the day was fun all the way. Church was canceled as Ronke couldn’t bring herself to break Modele away from more than fifty children making her day. Ronke remembered the sweet chin-chin and jollof rice meal they would have had, and looked across at her daughter, enjoying the kind of celebration she really deserved. Modele had never had a birthday party in her life because Ronke had never been able to afford one.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Kola murmured, staring doggedly at her.
She sighed “Nothing.” And walked off to join the party.
They played all the party games, dancing chairs and competitions, and Modele made new friends. Ronke was also introduced to most of the mothers who’d come with their children. These were high-class, professional, and sophisticated women, and Ronke couldn’t help but feel a little intimidated and naïve.
They took pictures, shared party-packs, and after over two hours of tremendous fun, rounded off the party. After all the guests had gone, the ‘family’ stayed back and chatted over the events of the party.
Kola stared endlessly at Ronke, and she wondered what was on his mind. She knew she couldn’t keep a smile off her face, and she had never seen her daughter laugh so much in all her young life. She couldn’t remember when she also had a good laugh last. The past seven and a half years of her life had been laced with so much grief and pain she often wondered what it was like to be problem-free.
Ronke however, still felt uncomfortable with the way things were going. She had a strange feeling Kola had come back to take his daughter, and he was going to use an irresistible method to do it. He was going to win her through pampering.
By the time they got back to Ronke’s house, Modele was asleep. Kola carried her in and tucked her into bed while Kade and Ronke carried her gifts in.
“Thanks for giving us a very wonderful time,” he said, outside at the car, as she saw him off.
“I should thank you. Modele has never had so much fun in her life.” She blurt out before she could stop herself.
“I’m sorry about that. I’m sure some things can be done to erase such a bad record,” he said lightly. “Hope we didn’t mess up your plans too much, knowing you had wanted to go somewhere?”
“Not at all.” She refused to disclose all they had wanted to do was go to church for the weekly prayer meeting.
“Ronke, I want to see you again.”
“You know that cannot work between us.”
“Anything can work. Look at us, we are a perfect family. Modele and Kade have hit it off so well, and you and I—” He took her hand in his, and stroked it gently. Ronke tugged at it.
“I’ve really missed you… all that time.” He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her palm.
She pulled her hand away from his and changed the subject. “How far with your lawsuit? I hear the case has been adjourned again.”
“That case is going on well. The first suit has ended. In fact, this is almost a new suit altogether,” he said, and arched an eyebrow. “I didn’t know you were following the case.”
“Don’t mind me.” She snickered. “I have been following it up rather unconsciously, though.” She shrugged to cover up her lie. “I didn’t know it had been wrapped up.”
“Legal stuff. I don’t involve myself in them. My lawyers handle all the details. I have a business to build.”
“So, you won, right?”
“There are no winners and losers. It’s not that simple, really. All I can tell you is that what I planned has been achieved and I am getting away with most of the grievous offenses. See, I weigh this thing in naira and kobo and I am not losing a dime out of this.”
“I have to go in, it’s late,” she said.
“Sure.” He leaned forward and caught her mouth in a fast, calculated kiss.
Before she knew what was happening, he was getting into his car, where Kade had sat patiently waiting for him.
“I’ll see you soon,” he mumbled, and while she stood there, confused, he drove off.
Ronke knew he had come back, but she also knew she wouldn’t, couldn’t, take him. She shivered at the very thought of what he could be up to. Her trembling hand went involuntarily to her lips, and she shuddered. Her war had only just begun.
Kola did not waste time. He was at her door the following evening. She wasn’t too surprised.
“I’ve wasted and lost so much time that I can’t imagine being away much longer,” he said.
Immediately he settled down, he got occupied with Modele. He looked at her school books and spent most of the evening familiarizing with her. Ronke went about her own business, preparing for church the following day. Once in a while, she stopped and watched them, put in a word or two, or simply passed by. After dinner, he told her some stories, and then tucked her into bed, before joining Ronke, where she washed the dinner plates.
“She keeps calling me ‘uncle.’ I can’t bear it. We have to tell her the truth,” he said quietly.
“She’s too young. She’ll just get confused,” Ronke said.
“She’s intelligent. She knows what it is to have parents. And she knows all her friends have fathers and mothers.” His voice hardened. “Don’t play games with me, Ronke.”
“I know my daughter better than anyone. She’s not ready for this truth.” She packed up the plates and started arranging them neatly into the cupboard she kept outside for that purpose.
“When will she be ready?” he asked, his voice clipped.
“I don’t know.” She walked back into the sitting room. Kola followed her.
“Will it be better for everyone if we get married? She’ll just naturally adapt,” he said.
“I can’t marry you. I said that before.” She stood in the centre of the room and faced him.
“You’re not born-again, and you’re…” she faltered. “I don’t want to marry anyone.”
“Not even for the sake of your daughter? I am her father.”
“A proud one. You seem to have forgotten the circumstances.”
He faced her squarely. “Please. Will we forever be talking about the circumstances? Can’t we move on with our lives?”
“We don’t have ‘lives’ we are moving on with. I can’t marry you. I’m sorry.”
“Ronke, you don’t want me to take you up on this.” He came to stand a few inches away from her.
She looked up at him and shivered. He towered above her. She told herself that if he tried to kiss her again, she would slap him, God help her.
“Are you threatening me?”
He stared for a moment and pulled her into his arms. Ronke struggled.
She panicked. “Let go of me!”
“I don’t threaten people, Ronke,” he whispered dangerously into her hair. “And people don’t dare me!” He let go of her.
She ran to the door, to put as much distance as she could between them. Her voice quavered. “Please leave my house now! And don’t ever come here again.”
“Don’t call this place a house.” He headed for the door. “It’s a shack, a rat-hole, and God knows I can’t wait to get you and my daughter out of here. No kitchen for goodness’ sake!”
She fought tears. “Thank you. I’m poor. It’s alright.”
“It’s not alright.” He flung around, his jaw twitched. “Ronke, marry me.” He softened. “Please.”
“I just can’t understand why you are so insistent about this. I must not want what you want.”
“Is it all about this born-again thing?”
“I worship God, I go to church, I pay…”
“You also get drunk, and attempt suicide.” She cut him off.
His face darkened and he looked down briefly, somewhat defeated.
“Think about my proposal.” He glanced at her, and left the house.
Ronke held her breath, and only relaxed after she heard his car zoom off. She sank to her knees and burst into tears. She hated him! She hated all men!