“Mother, David asked me to marry him.”
Rain called her mother on her way out of the gym. It was the day after the party and she thought she needed to burn off all the calories she had packed on from eating and drinking too much in Chief Edozie’s house. There was also all the oyinbo food she stuffed herself with while in Dubai with Mr. Wakama. The moment she walked into the gym, her boxing coach, Mad Mike, laughed and called her fat. He thought she was slow in the ring and her punches lacked precision. He could tell she was distracted so he worked her twice as hard to help her stay focused. By the end of the gruelling two-hour training, she got clarity. She had held off reaching a decision about D3 long enough, but finally, she was ready to give him an answer. Having taken a stand, she thought it appropriate to talk to someone older and wiser, someone she could trust for counsel about relationships, and her mother was the person she felt most comfortable discussing what the next steps with her boyfriend should be. She could have called her best friend, Annabel, but she knew Annie would never be objective when it came to David. She hated his guts.
“Rain, this is good news! Congratulations, my dear. This is the kind of news we have been praying for in this family. So when are you bringing him home to see us?” Mrs. Tamuno asked from the other end of the video call.
“I haven’t said yes,” Rain’s reply was sombre.
“Why not? I remember you said he’s a cook or something like that and that he’s currently unemployed. Is that why you are dragging your feet about him?”
“My hesitation has nothing to do with him not working at the moment. I know the effort David is making to get another job after he lost the last one, and I know it won’t be long before something good opens up for him.”
“Then why haven’t you given him an answer yet?” Mrs. Tamuno asked her daughter. “Is it that you don’t love him enough?”
“I do, Mother. I love him.”
“Then bring him home. Your father and I would like to meet him. We’d like to see for ourselves what kind of person he is and if he’s good enough for our daughter.”
“That’s the thing, Mother. I don’t think I want to bring David home to a man that isn’t even my father. More importantly, I don’t think I’d want the man that did those horrible things to me forming father-of-the-year in front of the man I marry, that is if I ever get married.”
“Rain, why are you talking like this?”
“Because I’m frightened, mum. What if the man I get married to turns out to be a monster too? What if my own child suffers the same fate as I did?”
“He may have done bad things to you, but the man I married isn’t a monster. Besides, Randall Tamuno isn’t your biological father.”
“I didn’t know that at the time,” Rain was almost in tears as she spoke. “Until the day he raped me, I called him father. That should have meant something to him!”
“We talked about this the last time you visited. Rain, you have to forgive your father…my husband, otherwise you’d be going into marriage with too much baggage and any man you marry would suffer for something he doesn’t know anything about.”
“So you’re blaming me, Mother; you’re saying it’s my fault I got raped by your husband?”
“I am saying forgive and let go. If this boy, David loves you, and you love him too, then say yes.”
“But if I say yes to David’s proposal, which I’ve not, I would have to bring him to Port Harcourt to meet you guys and that’s such a hard thing for me to do right now,” Rain lamented as she manoeuvred her car slowly out of the parking lot of the gym.
“There’s no marriage in Nigeria without the parents; you know this, Rain.”
“So, at some point, his family would have to meet mine for dates and all that, and to collect the list of things they need to buy for the traditional marriage. I’m aware of all that.”
“The way you’re sounding, Rain, it is as if your boyfriend doesn’t even know we exist?”
“Of course, he does. I told him we’re estranged and that we don’t see eye to eye on many issues.”
“I hope you didn’t tell him about – ”
“Mother, I’m not that stupid. Victims of rape are still stigmatised even today, in spite of all the movements on TV and hashtags on social media. David thinks I left home because you and I disagreed on how I chose to live my life. Thankfully, his sisters don’t get along with his mum too, so he hasn’t really probed my lies.”
“You know Rain, he doesn’t need to know the truth. Us women, we take a lot of secrets to the grave.”
“Like the secret of who my real father is?” When her mother didn’t respond, Rain continued. “Mother, maybe it’s time I asked about my real father. I would like to know who he is and why he wasn’t in your life and mine. Did you do something wrong? Was he unhappy I came? Did you even marry him?”
“He died. I thought I mentioned that the last time.” Rain pulled over on the side of the road, just before the Redeemed Christian Church of God headquarters along Swali Road.
“No, you didn’t.”
“Look, Rain, I’ve had a bitter past I cannot go back to. I was young and foolish and I made terrible mistakes. Mistakes I’m not proud of today. In any case, the man I had you with, your biological father, as I said before, he died.”
“He’s really not alive?”
“He died, before you were born.”
“What about his family? Where are his parents, siblings, cousins, uncles and aunties, even friends?”
“I don’t know any of them. You see, my daughter, your father came to spend the holiday with his unmarried uncle who lived on my street when I was a teenager. He was an undergraduate in one of the universities somewhere in the south-west. He was young, handsome and funny. And he spoke very well. Whenever we met by the well we all used to fetch water on our street, he would ask me about school and tell me fascinating stories about life on campus. We became friends, somehow. I only followed him home once when his uncle was still at work, and he forced himself on me.”
“You were raped?”
“I don’t know. He told me that I gave him signals and I followed him home, so it was consensual. When he finished, I couldn’t tell anyone because I was wild and promiscuous back then. I had a reputation with the boys and even older men in the neighbourhood. But until then, no one had threatened to kill me if I didn’t open my legs or did anything to alert the neighbours. I cried for days, but I couldn’t tell anyone why. No one would have believed that I didn’t say yes to having sex with this particular boy because I carried my own two legs and followed him to his house.”
The hair on Rain’s body rose. She shivered even though it was warm in the car. For what seemed like hours, even though it was only a couple of seconds, she sat transfixed. She couldn’t even look at her mother’s face on the screen of her phone.
“Why didn’t you believe me when I came to you with my own story, Mother? I wasn’t even promiscuous and you knew it.”
“I already told you; I was afraid of the consequences for your father’s career and our marriage. Plus, I didn’t want to admit to myself that history was repeating itself right in my own home and that maybe I was somehow being punished for being loose as a young girl.”
“Your own experience should have helped me deal with mine. What if I had become pregnant? I didn’t know what tests to undergo or what kind of help or counselling I needed. The only thing I knew I could do was run as far away as I could from the man that stole my innocence. I needed you Mother, I needed you to believe me and tell me that it wasn’t my fault, but you turned your back on me.”
“I know and I’m sorry, Rain. I too didn’t know what to do when it happened to me. I didn’t even realise I was pregnant until the holiday was over and this boy had gone back to his university. When my parents found out about my condition, I was forced to tell them the whole story. They then confronted his uncle to produce him so he could take responsibility for the child I was carrying and they wouldn’t let me abort. It was then this uncle of his told us that the boy had died. He told us that his nephew died in a car accident along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on his way back to school. He said the boy was an orphan and the only child his parents had. A few days after my parents confronted him with what had befallen me, this man moved out of our street surreptitiously and no one ever saw or heard from him again. Some said he left the country, others said he too died in a car accident along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.”
For some inexplicable reason, Rain found she couldn’t sympathise with her mother in spite of how harrowing her experience must have been at the time.
“So, I am a bastard? I would never know whose blood runs in my vain?”
“You are not a bastard, Rain. You have me.”
“But I was fathered by a man you didn’t even know.”
“I know his name. We called him Don. I think it was short for Donatus or Donald, but I’m not so sure anymore.”
“Don? No last name?” Rain asked, eager for more information about her father.
“I’m also not very sure about this, but his uncle used to be called Mr. Wakama by all the neighbours.”
Rain turned off the engine of the car and within seconds, she went from shivering to sweating.