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Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Returnee (1)

I read Laura's story which was featured in this column last week and I could not help but sympathise with her. I understand what she is going through because I've experienced the same thing- 'a rejected stone becoming the head of the corner' kind of situation. The only difference is that mine has to do with a child: a baby I had for a man who said he loved me but left me in the lurch when I needed him most. Only for him to reappear years later to sing a different tune.
My name is Erica and this is my story.
It was one of those days when the traffic was so heavy in the city of Lagos, it was more of a 'stand still' than a 'go slow' as it's popularly called. I glanced at my wristwatch, noticing how late it was getting. I had just thirty minutes to get to my daughter, Tessy's summer school at Ikeja to pick her up. She hated me coming late for her like had happened the previous week when I had arrived nearly an hour late. Most of the other kids were gone and she had stood by the school gate, craning her neck and waiting anxiously for me.
I had promised not to be late in picking her again but it seemed I would not be able to fulfil that promise going by the traffic situation that afternoon. I saw a little opening at the next lane and I quickly maneuvered there, ignoring the angry look of the driver on the line. Gradually, the traffic began to inch forward and I relaxed a little. Luckily, I was about twenty minutes late and my daughter was still inside the building when I arrived.  "Mummy, you are late again o!" were the first words she accosted me with as soon as she saw me. I hugged her and patting her on the head stated:
"Sorry, sweetheart, I was caught up in traffic. You know how bad the traffic is by this time of the day. Where's your bag. Let's go!"
On the way home, we stopped by an eatery as Tessy wanted some ice cream. I sat sipping a soft drink and watched as she stuffed the ice cream in her mouth, at the same time, talking excitedly about her day at the summer school. "My Aunty said that next year, the school will be organising a trip to Disneyland in the U.S. Mummy, I'll like to go too. Can I?" she asked.
"Of course dear. Don't worry, Mummy will work out something," I assured her, taking a napkin to wipe her lips covered with ice cream. Money was a bit tight at the moment, what with the sluggish economy and clients who were owing me for work done. Despite that, I vowed silently to raise the money so she could go for the trip when the time comes. I loved my daughter so much and I was ready to make any sacrifice to ensure she was happy and comfortable.
Since I had Tessy eight years ago, I've practically raised her by myself as a single mother. The man I had her for, Kolly has never set eyes on my daughter. He has never shown interest in her wellbeing, whether she was doing well or sick was none of his business. That was however, until three months ago when he suddenly resurfaced in our lives...
Camp meeting I first met Kolly at a church programme- an annual event that usually draw millions of the faithful to the church's expansive camp on the outskirts of the city each year. That year, I planned attending with my good friend Grace. But at the last minute, something came up and she could not make it so I had to attend alone. One afternoon, two days after I arrived at the camp, I went to one of the numerous eateries there for lunch before preparing for the evening programme. I was eating when a man came over to my table.
"Mind if I join you?" he asked before sitting down. As we ate, he made small talk, stating that it was his first time at the programme. "I never knew it was this huge- I've never seen so many people in my life," he said. 
It was my second year at the camp and I can still remember my shock at the number of people who had trooped into the camp for the annual event, drawn from all over the country and beyond.
"You've not seen anything yet. More people are still coming. Wait till Friday when some will come for the weekend programme, then you will see real crowd," I assured him. I remained at the camp for another three days, leaving on Saturday morning to attend a neighbour's wedding. Kolly and I saw regularly for that period and before leaving, we exchanged contacts. He seemed a nice person so when he called about a week later and asked to meet up, I agreed. He shared an apartment with a friend of his named Sam. When I arrived at his place, his flatmate was out and he was alone in the house. Kolly could cook well and he had prepared a delicious meal of jollof rice and chicken for my visit. We were eating when his friend Sam arrived home and Kolly did the introductions.
"Nice meeting you. He has been talking about you, saying you made his stay at the camp less stressful," Sam stated as he shook my hand. I had a nice time at his place that day. We saw regularly after that initial visit. Kolly told me from the beginning that he did not have a girlfriend much less a fianc√©. I believed he was speaking the truth as I had not seen any lady in the house since I started visiting. Soon, a relationship ensued and we became a couple. 
Thinking I was dealing with a sincere person, I relaxed and threw myself into the love affair...

  • Join us for the rest of Erica's story next Saturday
Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.

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