Somehow, I found my way to a chair before my knees could give way. It felt like I was having an out of body experience, like I was somehow drifting, and watching the events from a faraway place.
Chuka? My father?
I felt Duke put his arm around me. I could hear Anuli reeling off questions to Dr. Achareke and Sister Petra. But it felt like I was looking at everyone, including myself, from the outside…like a voyeur. From a distance, I heard Sister Petra talk about how a distressed Agbomma, my adoptive mother, had confided in her about her husband’s betrayal of still being in contact with his illegitimate son, even though he had promised her otherwise.
“But when she told me about the baby, and her confusion about whether to accept it or not, I told her ‘Aunty. You have been praying to God for a child. He has given you one. This is His gift to you!'” she smiled, obviously recalling the memory. “She was able to see things that way, and by the time she saw Golibe, by the time she set eyes on her, there was no question.” she looked at Duke. “It was when Aunty Agbomma and I went to see your mother after her own unfortunate incident, that she told her everything as well.”
So that explained the Ginika angle.
“She chose to rename you Chidinma…to start life anew with you.” she continued.
Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming anger engulf my body. As I watched Sister Petra talk, I despised her for knowing all along, but saying nothing. I despised my adoptive parents…especially my adoptive father…my grandfather…for keeping such a secret from me.
“I’m so glad you’re finally here!” Dr. Achareke said, reaching for my hand. “I hope we can build a relationship. It would mean the world to me!”
I withdrew my hand from his. Most of all, I despised him and his wife for discarding me like a dirty rag.
“You’ve had 25 years to find me. You knew where I was. You knew who I was with. You probably even knew I was in Nigeria, looking for my mother.” I said, looking him straight in the eye.
He fidgeted nervously. “We couldn’t just barge into your life, Golibe. We didn’t know what you had been told…or not told. God knows I have thought about you every single day and regretted the decision we made.”
“Did you know I was in Nigeria? Yes or no.” I demanded, my voice rising.
He exchanged a nervous look with Sister Petra, who chose to answer for him. “I told him to wait. He wanted to find a way to make contact with you, but I wanted to get a clear idea of the situation before such a drastic move.”
I smiled sardonically. “Of course. Blocking my number was the easiest way to ‘get a clear idea of the situation’.” I rose to my feet and looked at the rest of the party. “I would like to leave now.”
Without waiting for an answer, I spun around and stormed out of the living room, walking down the connecting corridor and out of the main door. Getting outside, as it wasn’t the way we’d entered the house, it took me a few moments to get my bearing, but I soon located the main exit and walked out of the gate, and into the awaiting car.
To the front passenger’s seat.
The last thing I needed was to be pitied, coddled or cajoled by Anuli or Duke. Especially Duke. I just wanted to be left alone.
From the corner of my eye, I could see their confused glances when they got to the car, but I kept my face straight, not sparing them a look. Anuli had to sit between Sister Petra and Duke on the return drive to Ogwashi, which was in total and complete silence. Not even when Sister Petra disembarked at the church did I spare her a glance.
When we got to our house, I got out of the car and without so much as a backward glance, walked in. When I got to our bedroom, I locked the door and sat on the bed. I replayed everything Dr. Achareke had said…I couldn’t bear to even think of him as my Grandfather. I envisioned the two teenagers, Chuka and Ngozi, in a passionate affair. I envisioned Ngozi happily naming me, even before I was born. I envisioned her death. I envisioned her parents giving me away. I envisioned my own family looking me in the eye for so many years, without having the courage to even say the truth.
Ngozi. I couldn’t get the vision of her out of my mind. How could anyone not have known? How could Chuka not have known, when I was a spitting image of her?!
I sat in the room as day slowly turned to night, not moving from my position. I ignored the concerned knocks on the door from Duke, Anuli, Awele and even Aunty Ekwi. All I wanted was to be alone.
Rising to me feet, I leaned on the wall facing the window. How could I have started my day with so much excitement…but be ending it with deep sadness?
At a little after 7pm, my phone rang.
I looked at the phone as it rang, tempted to just ignore it. He was the very last person I wanted to talk to.
But I chose to answer it.
“Emma! Thank goodness!” he exclaimed. “Anuli called me and told me I needed to call you urgently. I couldn’t call immediately because I had a few patients, but I could barely even concentrate because I was so sick with worry! Are you okay? How did everything go? Where did Sister Petra take you?”
“She took us to Enugu.” I answered, the tone of my voice flat.
“Did you get any leads? Did anything good come out of it?” he asked in concern. “I hope you weren’t disappointed. Is that why you’re sounding so low?”
“No, I wasn’t disappointed.” I answered. “She took us to see a doctor called Achareke. Do you know him?”
There was a long pause on the other end of the phone. “Dr. Achareke? Yes, I do.” he finally said. “Why would she take you there? How does she even know him?”
“I’m told you spent the summer of ’89 with him and his family. It must have been a wonderful summer, right?” I continued, ignoring his questions.
“Emma, why are you asking these questions?” Chuka said, his confusion evident. “Yes, I spent my long holiday of 1989 with his family. Dad wanted me to understudy him before getting into school, and I learnt a lot from him.”
“And his daughter, Ngozi. Did you know her?” I asked, feeling the heat of the anger I felt creep up my neck.
“Yes, I knew Ngozi. I heard she passed away the following year…” he said quietly.
“You ‘knew’ Ngozi? You didn’t have a steamy romance with her that summer?!”
There was another lengthy pause. “Ngozi was my first love. I didn’t even know her father knew about us.” Chuka answered. “I wrote her several letters after I left, and even tried to see her a few times, but she pretty much just cut me off. The next thing I heard was that she was dead.”
“Well, I have a newsflash for you, lover boy.” I retorted. “You left her pregnant. And she died having your baby!”
“What?” Chuka said, his voice barely a whisper. “Pregnant?”
“Yes, that’s what happens when two people have sex!” I shouted, my anger in proper fever pitch now. “You’re a doctor! Go figure! And guess who happens to be the baby she had? You guessed it! Yours truly! Your baby sister is actually your baby daughter! Congratulations daddy!”
Chuka let out a strained gasp, and I heard furniture moving as he probably stumbled to find a seat.
“Emma, please don’t joke like this…” he half exclaimed, half pleaded.
“Do I sound like I’m joking, Chuka? Or should I call you Dad now?!” I spat back.
“Oh my God!” he said over and over again, in between gasping for breath. On the other end of the line, I heard a concerned Georgie ask him if he was okay, and I took delight in hearing him ask her to give him privacy. I wanted him to suffer exactly the way I was suffering.
“Emma…I didn’t know!” he said tearfully. “Oh my God! I didn’t know…”
“Don’t fecking tell me that!” I shouted, using profanity that I never used, not even as an acidic teenager. “How can you fecking say you didn’t know. I’m her exact replica! I’ve only seen one picture of her, but it was like looking at a fecking mirror!”
“I knew you reminded me of her…” he bleated, his voice breaking. “But almost everything reminded me of her. I was in love with her for so many years, I saw her in everyone. I smelt her everywhere. It took me years to get over her. I don’t think I ever completely did.” his voice betrayed his tears. “By the time I met you for the first time, it had been 15 years since I last saw her. And even though I still carried her in my heart, memories of her had started going foggy in my mind…”
“So, you’re telling me that all I did was ‘remind you of her’. That you never saw the unmistakable resemblance? That you had started to ‘forget’ her face?!”
“Emma, I swear to you! How could I have ever connected the dots that way? I didn’t even know she’d been pregnant. All I was told was that she’d been ill and had died…”
“You’re a liar!” I exclaimed, tears running down my face now. “You knew! Your dad knew! All of you knew!”
“Emma, please!” Chuka pleaded. “Look, I’ll be on the first flight out of London tomorrow. We can’t have this conversation over the phone!”
“Don’t bother, Chuka!” I retorted, wiping away my tears angrily. “If you come, I won’t be here! I never want to see you ever again! You’re dead to me!”
Terminating the call and switching off my phone, I sank in the bed and gave in to my tears, weeping for everything I had lost, weeping for the 25 years I had been living in deceit, weeping over the betrayal from the people I loved the most.
When I was spent, I sat on the bed and stared into space. There were no knocks on the door, so I figured Duke had gone home, and Anuli and Awele had opted to sleep in another room. Rising to my feet, I pulled down my box from the top of the wardrobe, and started throwing my clothes inside, not caring to even fold them. I located my passport and ticket, as well as the foreign currency I still had in my wallet…£150. Then, not caring how late it was, I sent a text to Olisa.
I need a ride to the airport tomorrow.
Almost immediately after, my phone beeped with a reply.
Sure thing. Just let me know what time, and I’ll be there.
I smiled in spite of myself. Finally, someone I could count on.
The next morning, I was up early to shower. But the very minute I opened my door, I came face to face with a frantic Anuli.
“Golibe, you had us so worried! I know what you heard was a shock…even I am still trying to recover from the news. But keeping to yourself won’t help matters.”
I smiled humourlessly. “And you would know because you’ve been in my shoes before, right?”
She was taken aback, and her eyes spotted my suitcase. “Golibe, what is that? Why is your suitcase on the bed?”
I flinched. “Please, don’t ever call me that name again. My name is Emma!”
Her mouth hung open, and I brushed past her to have a shower. Upon my return to the room, Awele had joined Anuli.
“Golibe, biko chelu!” Awele pleaded. “I know you’re probably still in shock. Just relax and take some more time for yourself if you have to. Don’t do anything rash!”
I shook my head and laughed. “I don’t have anything more to do here. My search is over. Why on earth should I hang around?!”
“Golibe…” Awele continued to entreat.
“My name is Emma!” I retorted, my eyes blazing in anger.
She recoiled, staring at me in shock. Turning my back to the stunned sisters, I continued dressing up.
“What about Duke?” Anuli asked. “You’re going to leave him, just like that?”
I couldn’t even think about him at that point. I couldn’t bear to think about how only months separated the man I loved from the man whom I had come to realise was my father. I just couldn’t bear it.
Without another word, I grabbed my suitcase and dragged it out of the room. Neither Anuli nor Awele followed me, but I didn’t care. I dragged the box all the way downstairs and out of the house. Standing by our gate, I sent Olisa a frantic text. We’d agreed he would pick me for 9am, and it was already a few minutes past. Even though the flight out of Asaba to Lagos wasn’t scheduled till late afternoon, I just wanted to be as far away from everyone as possible.
“Golibe!” came the voice of the very person I didn’t want to see. I turned around and saw Duke, walking towards me, confusion and hurt on his face. “You’re leaving?!”
I looked at him without flinching. “Yes, I am.”
He nodded. “Okay. I can understand you’ll want to speak with Chuka immediately. I’ll try to wrap things up here, so I can leave earlier than…”
“Don’t bother!” I interjected, my eyes cold. “Don’t bother coming after me, Duke. There’s no future for us.”
“Golibe!” he barely whispered, his eyes boring into me in his confusion.
“That’s not my name! Golibe doesn’t exist. My name is Emma!” I sneered at him.
He reached for my hand. “I know it’s the hurt and anger talking. I’ll give you time to…”
I snatched my hand from his. “Don’t you get it, Duke?! We’re over! Chuka is my father, for crying out loud! You’re as good as the same age as he is. There’s no way I can be with you!”
Realising I was serious, he stepped back, deflated.
“Find someone your age, Duke.” I said, just as Olisa’s car pulled up in front of me.
He stood on the same spot as I threw my bag in the back seat, before getting into the car. Even as we drove away, I could see him still standing there, rooted to the spot.
And I felt a sense of loss so deep, it literally broke my heart.
Tears pooled in my eyes and were soon pouring down my face. Olisa looked at me, concerned, but thankfully didn’t say anything. When we got to the airport, after helping me load my box on the trolley, he pulled me into an embrace.
“I’m going to miss you, shorty!” he said. “And thank you for the talk we had the other day. I’ll make you proud, I promise.”
I smiled fondly at him, before walking into the airport. I had already booked a ticket online, so I hung around, waiting for the check-in counter to open. When it was noon, I was surprised to see a very angry Anuli wheeling her own box into the airport. Our eyes met, and hers literally spat back fire.
“What are you doing here?” I demanded.
“Chuka asked me to be your Chaperone during this trip, or have you forgotten?! I’m going to do just that until the minute you get on the plane back to London, where you belong!” she retorted. “I heard about what you did to Duke. Well done! You try!”
“You, of all people, are trying to give me relationship advise? Such a joke, given your history!” I said spitefully.
But Anuli wasn’t one to recoil and be hurt. Instead, she smiled humourlessly and shook her head.
“You know, I actually thought it was possible you were just reacting to the shock of what you heard.” she said. “But now I can see that you are nothing but a wicked, selfish, self-centered, immature little girl! Do you know how many people you’ve hurt already? Chuka has been inconsolable, and I had to even stop him from boarding a plane this morning, assuring him you’re on your way back home. You literally broke Doctor Achareke’s heart, when all the old man wanted to do was give you love, after so many years! And Duke?” she shook her head in amazement. “How could you do that to him? Someone who just came out of his shell? Someone who just opened his whole heart to you?”
I looked away, biting my lip to stop any tears from flowing in front of her.
“You know, they say it’s in tough times you see what people are really made of. And your own true colours have come out, in full Technicolour!” Anuli said. “I’m going to sit all the way over there. Just pretend I’m not here. When we get to Lagos, I’ll ensure you get a ticket and are safely on your way to your father. Because honestly, the girl I loved was Golibe…but she was obviously a figment of everyone’s imagination. This Emma is not someone I ever want to know!”
She stalked away, and kept her word. When the flight was eventually announced, she was behind me as we boarded the plane, and kept an eagle eye on me all the way through the flight. Landing in Lagos, she got us a taxi to the International Airport, not speaking even a word to me. Getting to the airport, she took my ticket and went to the airline’s booking office, to try to get me a seat on the outbound flight that night. Luckily, there had been a cancellation, so I was able to fly.
“Thank you for everything.” I said to her, when it was time for me to go through Immigration.
She grunted in response, and gave a dismissive wave as she walked away, not looking back. My heart hurt. I knew I’d hurt her. I knew I’d hurt Awele. I knew I’d hurt Dr. Achareke. I knew I’d hurt Chuka.
And I knew I’d hurt Duke.
But at that point, all I wanted was to be by myself.
Catch up on Golibe’s story here:
- Golibe 1: The Journey
- Golibe 2: Brave
- Golibe 3: Blood Relative
- Golibe 4: Strangers
- Golibe 5: Fill the Gaps
- Golibe 6: Awele
- Golibe 7: Frolicking
- Golibe 8: The Trunk
- Golibe 9: Retrace my steps
- Golibe 10: The Exchange
- Golibe 11: Quoting Shakespeare
- Golibe 12: Dead End
- Golibe 13: Something in the Water
- Golibe 14: Intoxicated Butterflies
- Golibe 15: The Boyfriend
- Golibe 16: Anuli
- Golibe 17: Masters of their fate
- Golibe 18: Ex-Wife
- Golibe 19: Falling
- Golibe 20: Nervous Breakdown
- Golibe 21: Much ado about nothing
- Golibe 22: Blood Brother
- Golibe 23: Heart Smile
- Golibe 24: Sister Petra
- Golibe 25: Musical Staccato
Catch up on our other series here: