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Wednesday, September 25, 2013




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I watched as Austin crossed from the other side of the road to meet me. “I can’t find her anywhere. Maybe we should take the car.” He said, breathing fast.
I held my head. “I am finished.” I ran my fingers across my hair in fear. “Austin, my daughter is gone. What am I going to do?”
“You are gonna calm down.” He replied and pulled me to the passenger’s seat.Get in.” He ordered.
I obeyed immediately and took my seat as Austin started the car. “Where could she have gone to?” I asked.
He took a glance at me and focused on his driving. “Ijeoma, how do you expect me to know that? We are gonna drive slowly; you keep your eyes to the right. I’ll focus on the left.” He replied as he gazed through the window.
“I am a failure; I should have left Tiwa with her father. I should have, I have really failed.” I started. She is new to Lagos, this is her first visit and she came because of this trial. I am ruined. I have killed my daughter.”
Austin shook his head pitifully as he turned in the next fuel station. “Ijeoma, this is not your fault. She decided to take off.”
“It’s my fault! I should have forced her to come upstairs with me. Where do I go from here?” I retorted angrily.
He took off his seat belt and stepped out of the car. I watched him as he discussed with fuel attendants. They shook their head in the negative. What was I thinking? Did Austin know Tiwa? He had only seen pictures of her.
jumped out of the car and rushed over to the fuel attendant. “She is pretty, was wearing t-shirt and blue jeans, I err… I think she had all-star sneakers on.” I struggled to say as I rushed the words.
The attendant stared at me and shook his head again. “I no see her.” He replied me in Pidgin English and returned to his duty post.
I grabbed my head as my eyes poured down tears. Austin held me and took me back to the car.

Omololu!” Mom called.
I stopped in my track as I held the door knob.
“Where do you think you are going to?” she asked as she approached me.
“I just want to see my daughter.” I replied as I stared at her. “Is that too much to ask?”
She nodded in the affirmative. “Omololu, you heard what the judge said clearly, why are you being stubborn? Tiwa is fine with Ijeoma, let them be. Give them some time to blend.”
“Tiwa would be frustrated with Ijeoma. Ij won’t make her happy, Mom.”
Mom stared at me for a while and then took her seat. I swallowed as she kept looking at me. “Where did Ijeoma go wrong?”
“Mom! How can you ask me that? What she did is unforgivable!”
She nodded. Really? I know she hurt you, but…but, you can’t take her daughter away from her. It is not right. It is cruel.”
“Mom, Ijeoma is clueless about Tiwa and you know it, she has no moral right to call Tiwa her daughter.”
Mom hissed. “She carried her for nine months, she took care of her like any mother would, she is her mother.”
I took a deep breath. “I don’t care about all those feminine crap, she wasn’t there, and that’s all that matters. I’ll go and see my daughter even if it is from ten metres.” I said and forced the door open.
Olivia stood before me as the door opened. Hi, Lolu.” She said with a smile. I smiled back.

“I think we should call her father.” Austin said as we walked out of the next eatery we stopped at. “This is the fifth eatery.”
I shook my head stubbornly. “We can’t call Omololu, he would kill me.”
He scoffed. “We can’t call Lolu, we can’t go to the police station, what are we gonna do, Ijeoma? Your daughter is missing!” he yelled.
“Don’t shout at me!” I yelled back as I wiped the tears in my eyes. “I know she is missing.” I continued as my voice broke.
He sighed and pulled me close for a hug. “I am sorry, babe. I am so sorry.” He kissed my forehead. “I am here for you, okay?”
I nodded dumbly. “I just want to die.”
“Let’s go home.” He said as he took my hand.
I yanked out of his grip “Home? I can’t go home! I had not even gotten her phone number, I can’t call her.” I shouted. “If I call Omololu, he would know something is wrong, then the Judge will know, and then I won’t have her custody anymore.”
“Isn’t it better that you lose her custody and give her security?
I shook my head stubbornly. “She is my daughter, I will make things work.”
He nodded. “I know how you feel, Ijeoma. But, you are being unrealistic here, it is very possible that she has called her Dad and gone to meet up with him, and if that is the case, we better find out.”
“What if she was kidnapped?” I asked as the thought struck my brain. “No…No…No!!! This can’t be happening to me.”
Austin shook his head in disagreement. “If she was kidnapped, we should be contacted by the kidnappers, and we should have seen a sign of her struggle with them, your daughter won’t give in so easily, if she is your daughter.” He concluded with a faint smile. “In any case, I think we should go to the Police, Ijeoma. We shouldn’t take risks with a young girl’s life.”

I watched as Mom eyeballed Olivia from her seat, it was as if Olivia’s drink should spillfrom her mouth. I still couldn’t understand why Mom hated Olivia so much. I would ignore this.
“Omololu, I am sorry that you lost Tiwa.” Olivia started.
I smiled faintly as I took her hand. “It’s temporary, and I am sure that Tiwa misses you too.”
She nodded with a smile so genuine. Olivia is a rare gem. She saved my life, gave me a reason to live after Ijeoma gave me reasons to die. I had met Olivia during my first visit to Lagos. I was full of life and enthusiasm; I had come to search for my love, my life.Mom had persuaded me to forgive Ijeoma for leaving us and go look for her. I made up my mind that I would. I would find her.
“You have been standing here for so long, are you lost?” A voice said behind me.
I turned and saw Olivia. I smiled. “It…It’s just that I don’t know where to go. It’s my first visit.” I replied. She smiled as I continued. “I am not lost, do I look lost?”
It is not unusual.” She replied. “Do you have an address?” she asked.
I nodded. “Yes. Somewhere in Ikoyi.”
She smiled faintly. “You are not going to get to Ikoyi by standing in the bus park for so long, come on, this way.” She said and started to walk. I followed her briskly. “And mind you, you can be lost in thoughts.” She stopped in front of a car and opened the door. “Get in.”
“Eh…not so fast, I am not naïve, why would you just want to pick me up?”
She took a deep breath. “Man, I was at the shop opposite the garage and I watched you stand there for thirty minutes looking up to the sky, is that normal for anyone?”
“I just wanted to breath, you know, enjoy the air. I replied, smiling. “I came to see my wife.”
She smiled. “My name is Olivia Dominic, I am a psychologist.” She said stretching out her hand.
“Omololu Martins.” I replied, taking the hand comfortably.
“Can you trust me now? I live in Ikoyi, I’ll take you there.” She offered.
I smiled.

“Look, I am not trying to say that it’s not a possibility that she might have been kidnapped, but it’s barely three hours that she has gone missing. What if she is with her boyfriend? These days we have young girls running off to be with their boyfriends.” The senior officer started.
“NO! She is new in town. This is her first visit. What boyfriend?” I yelled back.
Austin placed his hand on my shoulder indicating that I kept my cool. “Sir, is there any way you can help us?”
“Not until the next 48 hours when it really seems like someone is missing.”
I fumbled with my purse and removed the picture I had of her in it. “Is there a scanner here?”
“What would you need a scanner for?” The officer asked.
I blinked. “I need to print my daughter’s photos and hang them around for reward.”
“Do you know anyone whom she might have contacted?” The Officer asked.
I shook my head in defiance. “No one.” Austin stared at me and I shut him down immediately with my cold eyes.
“That would be all, Officer. We would be back.” Austin said as he dragged me out of the office.
I yanked out of his grip as soon as we stepped out of the Police Station. “It hurts.”
“Do you not want to find your daughter? I am under the impression that you want her missing.”
I gasped. “Austin, are you crazy? I want my daughter, but I can’t call Omololu.”
“Are we going to keep tormenting ourselves looking for your daughter when we don’t know where she might be? My instincts say she is home with her father, and I want to go home.”
I clenched my teeth as I blinked. “Omololu will hate me.” I said as my voice cracked.
He wiped some sweat off his forehead and hugged me. “If we want to find Tiwa, we have to tell the Police something, or tell Lolu something, we have to find her first, and then we can face the next obstacle of getting into trouble with the law.”

Mom shut the door as Olivia walked out. “How did she get this address?”
“Why were you so cold to her, Mom?”
She scoffed. “I asked a question, Omololu Martins. How did that lady get the address to this place?”
I blinked. “I…I gave it to her.”
“Have you no shame, Omololu?”
I scoffed as I turned away from her. “Mom, what is Olivia’s offence? She is a decent woman who has done you no harm. Why do you hate her?
“She has done us lots of harm, Omololu.” She shouted. “What is the reason why you and Ijeoma are going through this chaos?”
I scoffed. “Mom! Ijeoma is responsible for everything. Who left? She did! I stayed.”
Omololu.” Her voice was calmer now as she took my hand and drew me to a seat. “I have told you to forgive and forget. Look, it was all in our interest and you know it.”
I shook my head stubbornly as I stood up. “Mom, please stop defending her. She hurt me, and you know it.” I blinked as I raised my head to avoid the tears welling in my eye. “I won’t forget that night, I…I can never forget.” I added and left for my room.
I slammed the door hard as I kicked against the door furiously. I wiped the tears in my eyes angrily. It had never seemed manly to me to cry, but, everything changed. I didn’t have much time to let out my tears as I reached for my ringing phone.
“Olivia? What is it?” I asked as I cleaned my eyes.
“Omololu, when are you going to tell your mom about us? She seems to hate me really much.” She replied.
Liv, she doesn’t hate you. She is just confused, she is only looking out for Tiwa.”
“But Tiwa likes me.”
I nodded as I took a deep breath. “I know. We should have dinner together. I’ll cook.”
“Yummy, I love it when you cook.” She replied.
“I love it when you smile.”
“How did you know I smiled?”
I guess I know you well.” I replied with a faint smile. “I’ll call you back. Bye.” I said and dropped the call.
walked over to my bed and raised my pillow as I fetched my picture with Ijeoma and Tiwa. We had taken the picture when Tiwa was a baby; we all had gone to the zoo.
“If wild lives here aren’t properly conserved, this zoo would be empty when Tiwa is fifteen.” She had said as she adjusted her sun hat.
I looked away as I sipped my Heineken beer. She poked me and yanked the can from me. “Ijeoma, what is it?” I asked angrily. I was like a baby who had been deniedsome breast milk.
“You know I hate it when you drink.” She said as she hurled the can into the nearby thrash. “Especially near the baby.”
I scoffed. “I thought it was smoking that was a big deal near babies.” I replied angrily. “My life is already hard, don’t make it worse.” I shouted as I walked away.
She let me walk away and then came to meet me under the shed. “I am sorry.” She said as she wrapped her hands around me. “It’s just that we can still make it out of this situation and you know it.”
“Really? Enlighten me! I can’t provide for you, my baby has rotated twodresses in the last two months.” I shouted as I swallowed hard. This zoo is the only place we can come to because it is free and we don’t want to stay locked up swallowing air in our hunger. Are we ever gonna make it? Are we?” I shouted.
She covered my mouth with her lips and with that I simply swallowed my fears.Omololu, we would make it.” She whispered into my ear.

“Officer, I was not honest with you when I said that I didn’t know where my daughter could have gone.” I said.
The Police officer folded his arms as he stared at us. “I am listening.”
“It is most likely that Tiwa has gone to her Father,”
He nodded. “Okay, how can we contact this father of hers?” he said, staring at Austin.
I stared at Austin and fetched my phone. “Do you want me to call him?”
“No, I will call him using the office’s phone, we would have it on loudspeaker.” He said as he collected my phone and dialed Omololu’s number on his land phone.
I had my heart in my mouth as the phone rang out to all our hearing. Austin took my hand.
“Hello…” Omololu’s deep masculine voice came on.
The Police man cleared his throat. “Yes, I am Officer Saliu from the main district.”
“What happened to Ijeoma? Where’s Ijeoma?” he asked frantically.
I stared at Austin. The Officer cleared his throat and continued. “Ijeoma is fine, abi isn’t that your name, madam?”
I nodded.
“Put me on to her.” Lolu ordered.
Omololu…” I said.
“Ijeoma, are you alright?”
“Yes I am.” I replied nodding as though he could see me.
The Officer hissed and continued. “Erm…Mr. Martins, is Tiwa Martins by any chance with you?” he asked.
“Tiwa? … Tiwa? No! Ijeoma, where is Tiwa?” Lolu shouted.
I held my head and tears rolled down my eyes. “Oh God…” I muttered underneath my breath.
“Don’t cry, we would find her.” Austin consoled.
“Ijeoma, where is my daughter?” Lolu shouted.
“I … don’t know…” I replied with my head bowed.
“What do you mean by you don’t know? I left her with you, damn it!” he yelled.
“Calm down, Man. You don’t have to yell at her.” Austin interrupted.
“Who is that, Ijeoma?” Lolu shouted.
The police man slammed his table. “Would you all be quiet? We are taking about a missing girl here. Err…Mr. Martins, I am going to need you to call your daughter and send us her number now.”
“Okay.” Lolu replied and the line went dead.
I wrapped my hand around Austin. “Now I am ruined, right?”
“Not yet.” He replied with a smile.

“Is it still switched off?” Mom asked as she hurried into the living room.
I nodded. “Tiwa’s line is switched off, I can’t get in touch with my daughter.” I shouted. “Mom, what am I gonna do?”
She took a deep breath. “We are going to wait. Tiwa is a smart kid, she would find a way.”
“All this is Ijeoma’s fault! That woman is not a mother. How could her daughter get missing in few hours? What sort of a woman is she? What sort of a woman does that?” I shouted as I kicked the table.
Mom took a deep breath and relaxed into the chair. “Omololu, please don’t start this now.”
“Stop defending her for God sake. My daughter is missing! She obviously has no idea of how to take care of a child. I regret the day I met her.”
“SHUT IT, LOLU.” Mom yelled.
“Please I need to make a phone call urgently.” Tiwa said as she approached a call center.
The shop owner accessed her from head to toe as she filed her nails. “Money?”
Tiwa blinked. “The thing is…I don’t have any money. I was just wandering around when I got lost, and before I could get here, some guys stole my phone, please.”
“Look here lady, there is a sign post out there.”
Tiwa stepped back and read the sign post. “NO CREDIT TODAY…COMETOMORROW.” She bit her lip as she finished reading and returned to the woman. “I understand, but my Dad would pay you handsomely as soon as he gets here, just let me call him.”
“Is your last name Dangote? Adenuga? Otedola?”
Tiwa shook her head in disagreement. “No ma, but, he would be kind to you.
She stared at her companion who had not said a word since. The partner leaned to her and whispered. “You remember that person wey thief phone for Okoro’s shop when she sayshe wan call, e be like say na the new scope be that. And na girl sef, you better no give am the phone.
The shop owner stared at Tiwa. “If I count one to ten and u no comot for here, I go pour this water for your face.” She hurled in pidgin and Tiwa stepped out of the shop immediately. “All these bad bad young girls, Ahan!”

I watched as Omololu spoke with the Police officer inside the room. Austin nudged me in the waist as he joined me. “Have you guys spoken?”
“No. He just walked right in without saying a word to me, although I stood far away, the ten meter rule.” I concluded.
Austin nodded. “He didn’t come alone.”
I took a deep breath as I stared at Austin. “You got a good view of her?” I asked. He nodded. “Is she pretty?” I asked.
He nodded with a smile. “Very pretty.”
I swallowed and looked away. “I have lost everything.”
“She is right behind you.” he whispered into my ear. “I suggest you turn carefully so it won’t be too obvious that you are staring at her.”
I turned my head over my shoulder to check out my competition. She had always been the competition, the only competitor I willingly had. I smiled as I ran into Mrs. Martins waiting arms. “Mom, I am sorry.” I said as I cried.
“It is okay, my girl.” She said as she hugged me tightly. “You look so beautiful, you always been beautiful.” She said as she wiped my tears.
I laughed in spite of myself. “I look like a wreck. I lost my daughter, I don’t even know what I was thinking when I let her stay alone in the car.”
“We would find her. Tiwa is a smart girl, she would call.”
I cleaned my eyes. “Omololu would hate me more and more.”
“It is not entirely your fault, everything would be fine.” She replied.
Austin cleared his throat as he stood beside me. I smiled “Mom, I want you to meet Austin, he is very good friend. Austin, meet my mother in law.” I introduced.
Soon to be ex-mother in law.”
I turned as I stared at Omololu behind us. I swallowed. “Omololu, I am sorry, I…”
“Save it. I hope you are happy now? Tiwa is missing and you are clueless about it because you have always been clueless about anything that concerned our daughter.”
Omololu…” his mom interrupted.
He shot at her angrily. “Stop it, Mom.” He ran his eyes all over me and walked over to Austin. “You are the new man, right?”
Austin swallowed. “Look man, I understand you are angry, but, you don’t have to start flying at everyone.”
“Are you crazy?” Omololu asked as he grabbed Austin by the collar. Austin pushed him back and the police immediately rushed to separate them.
“What is going on here? Does this look like a ring for fighting?” The senior officer asked as he stepped out to meet us.
Omololu’s eyes burned with fury as he stared at me. I tried to avoid his stare as I turned my face away with my head bowed.

I watched from a distance as Ijeoma walked away in the hand of another man. He had his jacket around her as he led her to the car. We had been driving round town in the police car, night had finally fallen and we still didn’t have any news on Tiwa. Mom pressed my hand indicating that we left for our car.
“Let’s go, Omololu. Don’t torture yourself anymore.” She said.
I shook my head sadly. “She is not worth it.”
Omololu, you still care about her, don’t fight it.” She said.
“Mom, there’s nothing worth fighting for anymore.” I replied. “And, Mom, brace yourself, I am gonna marry Olivia.” I said and walked away.

Tiwa knew her back would hurt but she didn’t have any choice. There was nowhere else for her to go. Was Lagos really this cruel? Or did she just meet the wrong people? She stretched out her legs as she lay on the bench. “I should have never left the car.” She said as she shut her eyes.
She was not to sleep for long as she felt movements around her and some darkness over her. She knew better than to open her eyes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013







The front door flung open as I pulled Tiwa with me, out of the Lagos City Hall. Tiwa struggled helplessly with me, but I didn’t loosen my firm grip on her hand. “Would you behave yourself?” I charged as I pushed Tiwa forward.
            “I want my father!” she retorted angrily.
I eyed her coldly. “Look here, you heard the Judge.” I shouted as I pressed the remote control to my latest acquisition, a black Toyota Camry 2014.
Tiwa scoffed. “I don’t like you, and you better not forget that.” She said as she kicked the car’s tyre furiously.
I raised my hand to slap her but I restrained myself knowing that we were standing right in front of the Lagos City Hall and it could instantly jeopardize my chances of having her.
            “Oh…you scared?” she asked, with a subtle but evil grin. I could see the hatred burning in her eyes. My own daughter despised me.
I turned around to see Omololu as he ran in our direction panting heavily. “You don’t have to do this, Ijeoma.” He said as he bit his lower lip lightly. That was the first thing that attracted me to Omololu, his lips! And whenever he bit the lower one, I always felt excited all the way to my toes.
“You don’t have to do this.” He replied with a squint. “I know what the Judge said and all, but you don’t have to do this to us.” He continued, raising his voice slightly.
Omololu was tall with tanned brown skin colour, his mom had fallen in love with a Canadian expatriate, who had left for his country in the event of a pregnancy. Lolu was the product of their little fling. Lolu had thick eyebrows, and a baby dimple that danced around his mouth every time he smiled. He wasn’t smiling now. He was my textbook definition of first love, good looking, athletic and muscular. He simply looked like something right out of a magazine, and I was his perfect fit. I had the right features in the right places. But our love wasn’t just about the looks, it was way stronger than that.
We were poor, young and in love.
Omololu stared at me as he stood quite a distance from me. It had to be at least 10metres between us, at least till the judge said otherwise. “Please, Ijeoma.” He begged softly. I could read his lips.
I held Tiwa’s hand tightly. “Forget it, Omololu.”
            I swallowed as he said ‘us’. Yes, there was an‘us’, an ‘us’ stronger than the current of deep waters. Before we got married, every time I attended wedding ceremonies in our local church and heard the cliché ‘…for richer or poorer, till death do us part…’, I would laugh inwardly at the impossibility of me ever saying and meaning those words. However, with Omololu, I felt happy and fulfilled saying them as they came from the deepest recesses of my heart.
He swallowed and blinked. “Alright you can leave! But please, don’t take Tiwa with you. You know she’ll never be as happy with you.” he shouted.
I blinked hard and hissed at the bitter truth. “Into the car, now!” I shouted at Tiwa as I opened the car door. I turned in front of the car and stared at Omololu as I made for the driver’s seat. He had in his hand in his pants pockets, his demeanor calm as ever. I hated him for that. I stepped into my car and sped off.

I watched her sleek car drive off and walked down the steps. She was mine. I blinked as the dusts went up and settled in my face. Ijeoma had changed. She used to be tender, soft and easy-to-talk-to, before it all went wrong.
I took a deep breath and turned. Only my mom and Ijeoma called me ‘Omololu’, I preferred it to the ‘Lolu’ everyone else called me, it held more meaning that way. Well, it could only be my mom calling since Ijeoma only just drove off.
            “It’s okay, son.” She said as she placed her hand on my shoulder.
            “She took Tiwa from me.” I replied.
She nodded “I know, but in truth, Tiwa is hers too.”
            “Mom!” I yelled. “Don’t say that!” I shouted and walked away from her. Mom always supported Ijeoma. Sometimes I wondered if she really was my mother or Ijeoma’s.
I had taken Ijeoma home when we were just thirteen and my mother had taken an instant liking to her.
I threw a stone at our kitchen window and waited for ten seconds. I didn’t hear my mom shout the usual ‘Omololu, break it o’, so I could bet she wasn’t home. I held Ijeoma’s hand and took her into the house.
            “What if your mom is inside?”
I shook my head. “Never! She would have shouted when that stone hit the window.” I replied as I winked at her. “That’s my trick.”
            “Omololu, I actually don’t want your mom to hate me. I’ll come back tomorrow, its Saturday after all.”
I hissed. “Ij, why are you scared? My mom isn’t in. All we have to do is clean the house before she gets back, and you promised to help me.” I replied as I sulked.
            “I know…” she stressed.
            “Now I know you want my mom to beat me up when she returns, she said if I didn’t wash the plates before she gets back, she would beat me up.” I replied as I stared at her. “Please…stay.”
She took a deep breath. “Then we have to be very fast.”
            “WONDERFUL! Omololu! So this is what you do when I am not at home?” Mom asked as she came out of hiding. I gasped in shock and surprise while Ijeoma dashed behind me holding my shirt in fear.
Mom grinned and took her seat. “My dear…” she called. She couldn’t have been referring to me, I couldn’t be dear to her at this moment. Ijeoma peeped gently behind me and then came forward slowly with her head fully bowed expecting the worst. “What is your name, sweetheart?” she asked.
            “Ij!” I replied protectively. It was time to show Ijeoma I could stand up to anybody, even my mother for her sake. Mom eyed me coldly from head to toe and I kept quiet. She then smiled in Ijeoma’s direction.
With Ijeoma’s best smile, she replied in a shaky voice, “Ij…Ijeoma, ma.” That was the beginning of her friendship with my mother.
I pulled up on the order of the traffic light and stole a glance at my daughter who had her ears firmly plugged in with music from her iPod. “Tiwa.” I called. No answer! She kept looking outside through the car window. This attitude was so unlike her, she was always a bubbly chatterbox while growing up. At least, she was a lively baby. But now? She was so cold towards me. “Tiwa!” I shouted and yanked the ear phones from her ear.
            “What?!” she shouted and eyed me in a repulsive manner.
I slammed the steering. “I am your mother! Stop this nonsense!”
            “Mother?” she laughed sarcastically. “I don’t have a mother. Oh well…there is actually a woman, but guess what, she is not you! I don’t know you!”
I took a deep breath and cleared my throat. “Who is she?” I asked softly.
            “Wow! You really do have a soft tone. How surprising!” She replied sarcastically.
Sudden heat flushed across my face. My heart raced fast. Tiwa didn’t seem like my baby anymore. Of course, I know growing up is necessary, but not like this? I wiped some perspiration off my forehead. Yes, I felt hot in my fully air-conditioned car.
Everything was beautiful…back then. Ijeoma was my life, and even though circumstances are a lot different now, she still seems like my life. Mom hummed softly to ‘It is well’ as I drove. What could be well? Nothing was well for me. I had just lost custody of my sixteen year old daughter to Ijeoma.
            “I’m going to take Tiwa back!”
Mom smiled faintly as she stared at me. “I will miss Tiwa, but Ijeoma is her mother too, and she deserves to be with her.”
            “Deserves?” I shouted as I honked heavily scaring off the cyclist in my way. “Ijeoma deserves nothing! She is a cold-hearted woman! A brutal soul!” I chanted.
She shook her head. “She’s nothing of the sort and you know it.”
            “Really? What sort of a woman would do what she did? For goodness’ sake, she had a daughter!”
            “She loved you, Son.”
I hissed. “Love? I was a fool back then to have believed that. She never loved me. She only used me.”
            “Used? Don’t be an ingrate, son.” She replied. “Ijeoma loved you truly.”
Mom would defend Ijeoma with her life! Mom had rushed into the hospital the day Ijeoma’s parents had been involved in a car crash which eventually claimed both their lives.
I was too scared to go near her. She yelled like a rabid dog (The term might be harsh; but I had never seen anyone yell so violently). We had just finished writing our Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB) examinations in preparation for University when Ijeoma got a call to come over to the University College Hospital, Ibadan from her Uncle. I accompanied her there and we walked into the ever busy lounge.
Her Uncle approached us quickly. “How was your exam?” he asked, staring at her. He then stared at me. “Who is he?”
            “My name is Omololu.” I said, stretching out my hand.
He ignored it and held her hand. “Ijeoma, my dear…life is hard, but you are harder.”
            “Uncle, what’s all this? What are you talking about?” she asked, getting unsettled but still managing to maintain her usual composure.
He took a deep breath. “Walk with me.” he said and she followed.
I walked slowly behind them. My heart skipped as I watched Ijeoma punch her Uncle hard and then throw herself on the floor. I ran after them. “Ijeoma!” I shouted as I held her hand. “What is it?”
            “See how she…she is shouting.” Her Uncle stuttered. “Is she the first to lose both parents?”
I stared at him and didn’t even know when my fists pummeled his face. How could anyone be so harsh! By the time we were separated, Ijeoma was out of sight. I ran through the hospital wards searching for her. “Ij! Ijeoma!” I yelled.
            “Be quiet! This is a hospital.” A nurse shouted back.
            “You shut up!” I replied and ran across the wards. “Ijeoma!!!”, I screamed.
I stopped as I saw her seating peacefully and drinking a glass of water. I walked to her and sat beside her. “Ijeoma, I am so sorry.” I said.
She smiled and then laughed. “Why? Aren’t you happy? I won’t be going to Lagos anymore. I will stay here with you.”
            “Ijeoma, stop.” I said and tried to hug her. She leapt from my grip sending me crashing into the floor. She pushed tables, grabbed chairs and hurled them around. She approached me and kicked me so hard that I cried. I wasn’t hurting from the pain, I was hurting because she was hurting. I picked myself up and ran out. I immediately dialed my mother. I knew Mom would come.
Mom rushed in. “Where is she?” she shouted.
            “The doctors took her away.”
Mom made for the ward, but just as she was going in, Ijeoma rushed out and ran into my mother’s hand and cried. I watched them from a distance nursing my wounds.
I pulled up in front of my office. “This is my office, let’s go in.”
            “I am not interested.” She replied.
I took a deep breath. “Tiwa, I just need to pick up a few things from the office, let’s go in.”
            “I don’t wanna go in! You go ahead.”
I rubbed my forehead. “I will be right back.” I said, and stepped out of the car.
I smiled as I saw Austin approach me. Austin is my colleague and friend, yeah, friend. “Hi…”
            “Heyy…you look so tired.” He said.
I nodded. “Dude, Tiwa is such a handful.”
            “Wow…seems your bundle of joy comes with extra packages.” He said as he punched the elevator’s button. “I didn’t think you would return to work today, shouldn’t you be showing Tiwa your house? That’s her name, right? Like Tiwa Savage?”
I nodded as the door closed. “Yep! She’s Tiwa…like Tiwa Savage.” I grinned.“Good thing it’s almost August, I’ll try to catch up with her before I getfull custody.”
He held my hand. “Are you sure you are ready to do this?”
            “I want my daughter back.”
He blinked. “And Lolu?”
I took a deep breath. “Omololu…” I called softly. “I don’t know.” I said as I wiped off the tear drop that rolled down my cheeks. Austin kissed my forehead and hugged me. “Come on, Ijeoma.” He said and walked me to my office. “What are you here to pick up?”
            “Just my laptop. I think I’ll be working from home tomorrow.” I said as I drew my handkerchief from my jacket.
He grabbed my laptop and placed it carefully in the bag. “Come on, let’s go. I will walk you to your car.”
            “I don’t know. Tiwa doesn’t like me, I am not so excited to go there.”
He took a deep breath. “What did you expect, babe? Look Ij, you gonna have to win her heart. Love comes slowly…just give it some time okay?”
I nodded and I sniffled. “But why won’t she just understand?”
            “Understand?…” he took a deep breath. “Ijeoma, stop it. Let’s go downstairs.” He said and walked out carrying my laptop bag with him.
I sank into the sofa as I threw my car keys on the table.
            “What would you like to have for lunch?” Mom asked, as she dropped her handbag.
            “I am not hungry.”
She hissed. “Omololu, not now!” she said. “What are you eating?” she shouted.
I scoffed. “Anything you cook.”
            “Better.” She said and left for the kitchen.
I brought out my wallet and stared at Ijeoma’s passport photographs. I chuckled as I stared at the one she had taken while still in high school. She had always been beautiful. She had taken over my room since her parents’ death and my mom took her in and I would stare through the window as I watched her sleep. Even in her sleep, she was beautiful, and she was mine.
            “What are you doing there?” Mom shouted as she caught me staring at Ijeoma.
I smiled faintly. “Isn’t she beautiful?” I asked.
Mom nodded. “She is…” I grinned. “Now get back to studying else you won’t make that scholarship.”
I grumbled and walked away from her.
Our lives had changed when Ijeoma came to live with us after her parents’ death. We became poorer but happier, she brought joy to our home, especially my life. Shame everything had to change. I took a deep breath and replaced the passport in the wallet.
            “I’m going to miss you tomorrow.” Austin said as we stepped into the elevator.
 “Yeah right” I wore a wry smile as I rolled my eyes at him
He nodded. “But really, I will.” He replied.
The elevator doors opened on the ground floor and Imustered up the brightest smile I could. The subordinates and junior employees could not see my pale eyes, even though it was pretty hard to hide. I would gladly put on the tough woman exterior. I wasn’t weak anymore, Omololu used to be my strength, but not anymore. I was an independent woman with no reason to feel vulnerable. I was my own strength.
I hugged Austin and collected the laptop bag from him as we approached the gate. “I wouldn’t want her to see us together.”
            “Why?” he asked. “I want to say hi to her.”
I took a deep breath. “You know I don’t want her to hate me more than she already does.”
He scoffed. “Then why lie to her, let her know about everything that’s been going on in your life.”
            “Austin…” I said.
He hissed and walked on to the car. I had no choice but to follow him. He walked over to the passenger’s seat with a smile and pulled the door open. I blinked as he wore a worrying look.
            “Shes gone!” he said.