And just like Marshall’s PR team predicted, the confession in Church did the magic. Videos from the confession found their way to social media, and inadvertently the Press, and it cemented Marshall’s image of being the victim and Eniye…the vixen and predator. But just like all hot topics, by the end of the following week, there was another scandal to fixate on, and Marshall’s story soon became old gist.
Just like that, the worst was over.
As for our sons, there was also some light at the end of the tunnel…somewhat. That Sunday of their father’s confession, I called Henry and he was surprisingly happy it was all out in the open.
“It’s better this way, Mom. At least Dad has given his own side of the story. There’ll be very little for the bloggers to write about now.” he said. “But how are you though? Are you coping okay?”
I smiled, so touched he would be thinking more of my own feelings at a time like this. “I’m fine, my love. It went better than I expected in Church. I truly feel the worst is over.”
After speaking with Henry, I called Nathan perfunctorily, half expecting him not to answer as he hadn’t taken any of my calls since the incident in London. But surprisingly, that Sunday evening, he actually answered.
“Nathan?!” I exclaim, after hearing him say hello, unable to believe I was actually speaking with my baby. “How are you? We’ve been so worried.”
“I’ve been okay, Mom. Just been preoccupied with my exams.” he answered, his voice flat.
“It’s going.” was all he offered. “I hear you guys confessed in Church today.”
I momentarily felt the wind knocked out of my sails, unhappy to have been robbed of the opportunity to break the news to him myself. “We had to. You know the Press got wind of the story. We really didn’t want to do it before we’d resolved things with you…but it was sort of out of our hands.”
“It’s fine. It doesn’t matter to me anyway.” he answered.
Even though I had not particularly counted on his indifference, it’s still better than the blazing fury he’d had in London…or at least I think it is.
“How’s fellowship?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I haven’t been in a while.” he answered.
“But I thought you were appointed Head of the Youth Fellowship!” I exclaimed in my shock.
“I quit it, okay! I no longer believe in that anymore.” he retorted.
My heart broke as I realised the extent of his disillusionment and disappointment in his father. But at that point, I decided to pick my battles and instead hold on to the positive. He is now at least speaking to one of us, and that is much better than we were only days ago. In time, things will get better. I know they will.
At home, things are improving. Leah has returned to being her happy and cheerful self, and it is further bolstered not only by the new friends she has made in Church, but with her old friends from her former Church stopping by to visit once in a while. As for Phoebe, there are good days when she isn’t quite as grouchy as sullen and even participates in small talk once in a while. But there are other days when she is so withdrawn, you can’t get a word out of her.
“Is this how she normally is?” I have to ask Leah one day.
Leah shakes her head. “She has always had her moods, but I’ve never seen her this reclusive for so long. I’ve tried to speak with her about it, but she won’t even talk to me. Our relationship has never been this strained.”
“Could she be angry that you’ve integrated yourself into the household and she hasn’t yet, or that you and I are as close as we are?” I ask.
“I don’t think so.” Leah answers with a puzzled shrug. “I know she’s still angry with dad. But as far as I know, she’s starting to like you…and I do know she’s enjoying living comfortably for the first time in her life. I just can’t figure out what her problem is.”
And that is how Phoebe has remained a mystery to us.
Three weeks later, and before I return to work after the forced extension of my holiday, Marshall and I decide to take the girls to scout for a new school. With the month of June fast coming to an end, summer holidays are looming and we want to get everything sorted well before then. Our first inclination had been to take the girls to the boys’ old school, but we thought the better of it. Even though the scandal has blown over, there is no way of telling what being in the same environment with the boys’ old friends and teachers will be like for the girls. So we opt for a prestigious all-girls’ school instead.
Driving into the impressive grounds, Leah is clearly awestruck by the place. Even though I don’t know exactly what her old school was like, something tells me it was nowhere as nice as this one. But Phoebe is less than impressed.
“It’s just girls?” she exclaims, as we observe the rows of well groomed girls, immaculately dressed in white blouses and navy blue skirts.
“Yes, it is!” Marshall answers her firmly, daring her to complain any further.
I sigh inwardly as I recognize the same overbearing attitude he has with Henry. I would have thought he’d make more of an effort with Phoebe in particular, especially after the false accusation. But rather than show any remourse, he has opted for the high-handed approach instead, which hasn’t done their relationship any favours. Thankfully, he and Leah appear to be getting along better, even though their relationship is nowhere near as tight-knit as it should be.
But I guess time is all we need.
Thankfully, Phoebe says nothing more, and as the Principal interviews them, I am pleased to see her respond intelligently to all the questions asked, confirming that she will have no problems academically. The Principal appears impressed also.
“I do have a question though.” She asks. “Why are you both so over-aged for your respective classes? At 16 and 15, you are both about 2 years older than the average age of S.S1 and J.S3 students. And by the time you resume in September, we could be looking at 3 years. Why is that?” I realize the question is actually directed more at us, Marshall and I, as their ‘parents’. I realize, I horror, that I have no idea why this is.
“This isn’t the first school year we’ve had to sit out.” Leah answers, her eyes averted.
“School fees issues.” Phoebe interjects, casting a hateful look at her father.
I rub both my temples in frustration, frustrated that we have found ourselves right back here.
“They…they were with their biological mother before…” Marshall stutters to the Principal. “I guess she clearly had a few challenges…”
Thankfully, the Principal sees beyond our family drama and schedules the girls for their respective entrance examinations in a fortnight, giving them time to prepare.
“But why do we have to write an exam? Can’t our old school records confirm our eligibility for the classes?” Phoebe demands, on our way home.
“I’m not sure those records would be recognized here.” Leah answers.
Marshall and I exchange a troubled glance. Yep, we sure have a long way to go.
Ah yes…Marshall and I. Somehow, his confession in Church also helped heal our own relationship. I was moved by the sincerity of his contrition and have decided to accept that he made the mistake…or series of mistakes…as a fallen man. I have accepted the blame for whatever role I unconsciously played in pushing him into the arms of another woman, and we are now working on moving past it all. Our conversations are no longer strained, and we are on the path to returning to the inseparable couple we’d been before this whole mess.
So yes, overall, I’m happy.
By the time I return to work, there are less curious glances and sympathetic stares. My gist is now stale, and I couldn’t be happier about that. The greetings are more sincere, and I find myself better able to settle into the routine of work.
At about noon, I am surprised when Mofe peeks his head into my office. “Hi, Molly. Welcome back.”
I look at him, not knowing whether to smile politely or order him out. His taunting on the day I returned to work remains fresh in my head, and I find myself still incredibly angry with him.
He appears to pick up on my anger, and walks into my office regardless. “Molly, I’m really sorry about the way I behaved last time I saw you. I was a jerk, and I apologise.” he shrugs. “I was just so happy to finally be able to say something bad about that perfect husband of yours.”
“Well, I’m glad you got your chance.” I say sarcastically. “Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
“You have every reason to be mad. You were hurting then and really didn’t need to hear my crap.” he says apologetically. “But you know how I feel about you, Molly.”
It takes everything in me to keep from rolling my eyes at him. What will it take for him to get it through his thick skull that I am a happily married woman?! There might have been a question mark over the ‘happy’ a few weeks ago, but that is in absolutely no question now. But I have to admit that, even though his persistence annoys me…I am still very flattered by it.
This time, he catches my attention.
“And for her it was worse, because she couldn’t get any closure.” he continues. “We didn’t find out about my father’s secret families…and yes, that’s plural…till his funeral. We were there oblivious in London, not knowing he was knocking women up all over Nigeria.”
“Your mother had no idea?” I ask.
He shakes his head. “Not a clue. Yes, he used to come to Nigeria a lot, but we just thought it was because of his business. My Mom is West Indian, so that kind of thing never crossed her mind.” he chuckles sardonically. “It wasn’t until he died we found out he had kids not only the same age as we were, but also even little toddlers. It completely broke my Mom.”
I shiver inwardly, wondering how my own scandal would have been if I hadn’t had the luxury of having Marshall there to own up to his mistakes.
“How is she now?” I ask with concern.
“Better now…much better now.” he answers. “It’s been 10 years since he passed, so time has done her a lot of good. That and the fact she also recently started dating a lovely widower.” he adds, with a sly wink.
I nod, in part happy that all ended well with her and in part to dismiss him. Thankfully, he takes the hint.
“I’ll let you settle in. I’m sure you have a lot to catch up on.” he says, rising to his feet. “If you ever need to talk, you have my number.”
I smile politely. Yeah right. Like he would be the one I would run to if I need to talk.
The rest of the day proceeds well, as does the rest of the week and even subsequent weeks. I am relieved that the storm is over. Marshall and I are fine, work has returned back to normal, and all is well on the home front. I help the girls study for their entrance exams, which they both pass very well, thankfully. I am relieved that all is sorted with their academics, and that come September, they will be back in school were they belong.
And to add the cherry to my cake, in early July, I am over the moon when Henry surprises us by showing up in Nigeria. I will never forget the feeling of him seeing him walk through the door that evening, as his father and I have our supper.
“My goodness, what are you doing here?!” I squeal in delight, as I embrace my older son.
“I finished my exams and handed in my dissertation.” he answers, his eyes dancing. “So I figured it would be nice to spend some time at home before starting work in September.”
“I thought you said you wanted to travel with your friends across South America!” I exclaim, still not believing my eyes.
“I figured coming home would be better.” he answers, before looking at his father, who hasn’t even gotten up from his seat. “Hi, Dad.”
“Aren’t you meant to be in London, talking to potential employers?” Marshall retorts, making me feel like slapping him across the face.
Henry smiles at his father, as if he expected that reaction. “I’ve already accepted an offer from Citibank. Like I said earlier, I start work in September.”
I squeal again, hopping up and down like a kid in a candy store. Not even Marshall can find fault in hearing that our son has been engaged by one of the top employers in the UK…or as a matter of fact, the world!
“Congratulations.” Marshall grunts.
Henry joins us for dinner, and regales us with stories of his finals and how he ended up selecting Citibank out of the very many other companies that have been courting him. He avoids any mention of Nathan, and I am glad about that. There is more than enough time for us to figure out what to do about his younger brother.
“So…where are they?” Henry asks, after all the small talk. “Leah and Phoebe?”
Even though I am almost overcome by nerves and apprehension, I ask Odion to bring the girls down. They almost always have their dinner and retire upstairs long before we do, so it is no surprise they aren’t dining with us. I steal a look at Marshall, who has suddenly gone pale, clearly over the realization of the fact that his oldest child is about to meet his illegitimate daughters.
The girls soon walk into the room. From the minute they see Henry, I can see the curiosity and open adoration in both their eyes, the idea of having an older brother obviously quite novel to them.
“This is Henry…our first born.” I introduce. “And your older brother.”
To my happiness, my son rises to his feet and strides across the dining room to embrace both girls. I have to dab a few tears from my eyes, watching the siblings meet for the first time. I glance at Marshall, but the expression on his face is unreadable.
Henry and the girls, Leah mostly, are soon wrapped up in introductory conversation and they make their way out of the dining room. When they have gone, I look at my husband quizzically.
“You don’t seem too excited about this turn of events.” I state.
He shrugs. “I just hope he doesn’t rub off his hatred for me on the girls.”
I purse my lips in my rising irritation, tempted to tell him that he is doing a fine job on his own of making his daughters dislike him. He doesn’t need any help for that.
“We both know Henry would never do a thing like that.” I retort. “We also know he doesn’t hate you.”
“You’ve always been so blind about anything that concerns that boy.” He answers. “Just look at how he’s succeeded in pushing Nathan away from me. God knows what he told the boy when he ran out after him at your parents’ house that night!”
I stare at him, my mouth agape. “Are you really serious? You know as well as I do how hard Henry has been trying to fix this issue with Nathan. Take some responsibility, Marshall. Nathan is reacting this way because of his disappointment in the things you did! Stop blaming everyone else for what you’ve caused!”
He says nothing in response, and that puts paid to any further conversation between us that night.
The next morning as I leave for work, I am pleased to see Henry already awake and dining with the girls for breakfast. I am also pleasantly surprised to see Phoebe actually chatting animatedly. Most mornings, Leah dines alone as Phoebe has taken to having her breakfast in her bedroom, the only meal Odion will allow her do so. So to see her, not only downstairs, but extremely happy and chatty, is really mind-blowing. Not wanting to interrupt them, I blow them a kiss from the glass partition.
“Thank You, Jesus!” I mutter, as I walk out of the house, so grateful that everything seems to be falling perfectly into place.
Alarm bells start to ring a few days later. I return from work to see Phoebe clad in tight bum shorts, a cleavage-baring top, and the same full face of makeup I haven’t seen on her since the ugly incident between us. She also seems to have completely monopolized Henry’s attention, leaving no room for Leah to even make any conversation.
The next morning as I leave for work, I see that she is already made up to the nines, and is wearing an equally provocative outfit. I look at Leah, who seems to be desperately trying to get into their conversation but is unsuccessful as Phoebe continues to monopolise the discussion. I look at my son and I am relieved to see him paying Phoebe no undue attention, and is instead trying to pull Leah into the conversation. I realise, then, that I have absolutely nothing to fear. I trust my son. Regardless of his past reputation, I trust the man he has grown to be.
In the evening, I am surprised to find the house uncharacteristically quiet. Usually, Henry and his sisters would be either chatting on the front porch or in the garden, or watching TV indoors. But today, there is no sign of anyone.
“Where are the kids?” I ask Odion.
“Leah has gone for fellowship, and Phoebe is upstairs.” She answers.
“He said he was going for a walk.”
Relieved, I make my way to my bedroom. I am in the middle of selecting my outfit for the next day, when there is a knock on my door. I am surprised to see Henry walk in, looking frazzled.
“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” I ask, sitting up.
“You have a lot of work to do with Phoebe, Mom.” He answers. “That girl is really messed up.”
I look at him, realising that my worries have not been mere paranoia.
“Can you believe she tried to seduce me today?” he says, almost in disbelief herself. “She showed up in my bedroom and took her clothes off!”
“What?!” I exclaim, even though I am not shocked.
“I made her put her clothes back on immediately. I was so mad, I yelled at her, asking her how she could even conceive the thought of seducing me, her own brother!” he shakes his head. “And then she just burst into tears…and she started talking. Mom, what she told me, I don’t think you’re ready to hear!”
My heart sinks to my stomach, the realization that my fear has been confirmed. The fear of Phoebe being a severely abused child.
Catch up on Molly’s story here:
- You, Me…Them! 1: My Beloved Husband
- You, Me…Them! 2: Struck
- You, Me…Them! 3: Hanging in the balance
- You, Me…Them! 4: Heavy Cross
- You, Me…Them! 5: Back where they belong
- You, Me…Them! 6: Vivid Imagination
- You, Me…Them! 7: No Excuse
- You, Me…Them! 8: The Confession
- You, Me…Them! 9: The Assailant
- You, Me…Them! 10: A Mother’s Love
- You, Me…Them! 11: Pain & Rejection
- You, Me…Them! 12: The Getaway
- You, Me…Them! 13: Battle
- You, Me…Them! 14: Joy…and Pain
- You, Me…Them! 15: Blackmail
- You, Me…Them! 16: Rushing Things
- You, Me…Them! 17: Damage Control
- You, Me…Them! 18: Fallen Hero