Warning. This Chapter has mature content.
Hearing her say that enrages me, and I stand forcefully in her path. The woman must be plain out of her mind!
“You don’t have any children here, Madam!” I sneer at her, my eyes spitting fire. Even I am surprised by how territorial I feel. Nobody is taking my girls anywhere…not even if I have to die fighting.
My reaction seems to amuse her and she throws her head back in laughter. “See this one o! Mother India! So you have deceived yourself into thinking my daughters are yours? You are even a sorrier excuse of a woman than I thought you were!”
“Lady, I don’t know who you are…but I would suggest you turn around and leave my compound, before I call the Police!” I answer, the volume of my voice rising by several decibels.
“You want to call the Police? Please be my guest! You can start with the Officers that accompanied me here. They’re right outside.” she says, a sly smile on her face. “You must think me a fool if you’d assume I wouldn’t have come prepared. I’m ready for you and your husband!”
I cast a questioning look at my Security Guard, who in turn nods in affirmation. She has, indeed, come with back-up.
“This…” she continues, flashing a piece of paper in my face, “Is an injunction from Family Court, ordering the immediate release of my children. So unless you and your husband want to get arrested for kidnapping my girls, you better release them to me…and fast!”
I grab the piece of paper from her and scan it desperately, not wanting to believe what my ears are hearing. Surely this can’t be.
“Eniye!” comes Marshall’s shocked voice.
I turn around, surprised he heard the commotion, but also scanning his face for a reaction to seeing the woman he had once been intimate with…the mother of his daughters.
A slow seductive smile forms on Eniye’s face. “Marshall Ogbebor! What a long time it’s been! You look as sexy as ever. Your wife might not know how to take care of herself, but she sure has done a damned good job taking care of you. You look good enough to eat!”
“What do you want here? Aren’t you supposed to be in jail?!” he bellows, visibly enraged.
“Good for you, but that has nothing to do with me or my family.” Marshall says, trying to keep his voice level. “I don’t know why they let you into my compound, but I am ordering you to leave…and never come back!”
The smile on her face disappears. “Please show your husband the injunction!” she says to me, even though her eyes remain on Marshall. “You have been ordered to release my children to me…with immediate effect!”
Marshall takes the paper from my hands and scans through. The throbbing vein in his temple is the only indication of his agitation. After reading through, he squeezes it into a ball and throws it to the floor. “This is pure nonsense! I have no time to argue over a baseless, and probably forged, piece of paper with you. Please leave my house immediately!”
“Baseless? You think? Would the court have given me Policemen to accompany here for enforcement, if it was baseless?” Eniye counters, squaring up before her former lover.
As if on cue, we notice 2 Policemen now hovering at the entrance of our gate.
“You have no basis for this, Eniye. On what basis were you able to get this injunction? I’m their biological father!” Marshall protests.
“Whose name is not even on their birth certificates? Who disappeared from our lives for 15 years, leaving us alone, hungry and uncared for?” Eniye counters.
“Alone, hungry….” Marshall repeats, stunned. “Eniye, I gave you Ten Million Naira!”
“You gave who? Who did you give? Not me oh!” she denies fervently. “Where is your evidence? You have no proof. As far as the world knows, you disappeared and left us with nothing! You’ve been an absentee father all their lives. You can’t wake up and suddenly want to act the hero!” she looks at her watch. “Look, time is going. Get my children for me, or I’ll go inside and get them myself!”
I look at my husband, whose face is a mirror of his shock and disbelief. I am tempted to ask him if he can’t possible retrieve his bank statement from 16 years prior, but I realise this might be futile…especially if the money was given to Eniye in cash. As much as I hate to admit it, there is nothing to prove that Marshall tried to at least provide financially for the children, even if he wasn’t there.
When she sees neither myself nor Marshall is making any moves to get the girls, she hisses and starts to yell their names herself. “Leah! Phoebe! Leah!! Phoebe!!”
Leah’s bedroom is on the side of the house facing the courtyard, and I see her curtains rustle. Eniye notices the direction of my gaze, and charges in the direction of the window. “Leah! Phoebe! Get down here immediately!”
Attracted by the noise, the Policemen finally enter the compound. They greet Marshall and I politely. “Good evening, Mr. & Mrs. Ogbebor. We have orders to retrieve the children in your possession.”
Retrieve?! My heart squeezes with pain over their choice of words. These are not animals or pieces of property they can ‘retrieve’! These are my daughters!
I see two shadows standing by Leah’s window, and can tell that Phoebe has joined her sister. But neither of them is making any moves to change position. Eniye notices and is understandably enraged. She turns to the Police Officers, pointing at the room. “They are up there!”
One of the Policemen looks at Marshall pleadingly. “Sir, we do not want to have to use force…”
And then I realise that we will not win…not this way. Resisting Eniye and the Policemen will only further aggravate the situation and won’t be in the better interest of the girls.
I tap Marshall lightly on his arm, and nod when he looks at me. “I’ll go get them.” I say, turning to the Policeman who spoke.
Marshall glares at me, but I tug his arm. This is not the way to win this battle. This is not how we will keep the girls. I am determined more than ever to fight for them with every ounce of strength I have…but we also have to fight intelligently…and factually.
I am already halfway up the stairs when I realize Eniye is bounding up behind me. I am angered that between Marshall, Odion and the rest of the staff, nobody could have prevented her from gaining entry into the house. Before I know what is happening, she is already shouting their names.
“Leah! Phoebe! You better come out before I drag you by the hair from wherever you are hiding!”
Before I can open my mouth to tell her off for daring to yell and, even worse, insult the girls in my house, I see Phoebe charge out of Leah’s room.
“What do you want here? Why are you here?!” the teenager screams.
Eniye is momentarily taken aback, and makes to strike her when I grab her hand. “Don’t you even try it!”
She looks from myself to Phoebe, and then to Leah, who has emerged behind her sister.
“I see the two of you have grown wings!” she says, laughing sardonically. “Even that one now has the liver to cross her arms and look me in the eye!”
I look up to see she is referring to Leah who looks more enraged than I have ever seen her.
“Because you’ve seen fine house and are now looking fresh, you want to forget where you’ve come from? You want to forget you have a real mother?” Eniye says, glaring from one daughter to the other. “Well, that’s too bad, because you are both leaving with me tonight!”
“You’re a joker! We’re going nowhere with you!” Leah retorts, shocking me.
Eniye says nothing to them, and instead turns to look at me. “I’ll be downstairs. You better get them to follow suit, before the Policemen come to drag them down.”
She turns around to leave and Phoebe lets out a long hiss. “Jailbird! She’s a dreamer if she thinks we’re leaving this house.”
I sigh sadly. “I’m afraid you have to. She’s gotten a court injunction and if we violate it, it will hurt any plans we have to gain permanent custody.”
“What?” Leah exclaims, her voice rife with hurt. “You want us to go with her?”
“Only for tonight.” comes Marshall’s voice as he ascends the stairs. “Trust me, we’ll have you back home tomorrow. I’ve already called my lawyer, and he’s assured me that we can fix all of this.”
“Did she really come with Policemen?” Phoebe asks.
I nod. “Two of them. And if we try to resist, it could get ugly. But your father is right. It’s just for tonight. We’ll make sure we get you guys home in no time.”
The girls realise that none of us has any choice in the matter, at least not for that evening, and they sadly make their way to their respective rooms to pack. I am happy to see that they only take very few items with them, and when we walk them to the Police Patrol Car that brought Eniye, I find myself overwhelmed with tears. The girls hug their father and I tearfully, even though we know the separation will only be temporary.
“Awww, what an emotional scene!” Eniye says sarcastically. “I turn my back for a few minutes, and you’re already here playing happy families. I hope you’ve looked at their faces long enough, because this is the last time you’ll ever set eyes on them again.”
I squeeze Marshall’s hand to prevent him from saying something he might regret. He clenches his jaw, but I can tell he is still as livid as hell. And frankly, so am I.
“Can we have a number to reach you on?” I ask, trying to keep my voice calm.
“Never mind about my number. What is it they say in Hollywood? ‘Don’t call us…we’ll call you’.” then with a sly wink, she adds. “Ciao!”
Marshall and I remain standing on the street long after the car has driven off. With the girls gone, the world suddenly feels an empty place. Eventually, we make our way back into the house, and notice the same look of despair on the faces of all our staff. The house feels hollow and lonely, almost like it has lost its soul.
“We have to get them back, Marshall!” I say, the panic I feel evident in my voice.
“Don’t you worry about a thing. They’ll be home.” he answers, and I find myself getting consoled by the confidence in his voice. Of course they will be home soon. Which Judge in his right mind would award custody to her, a jail bird for that matter?!
But we are in for a surprise.
The next day, neither Marshall nor I go to work, and instead invite Deremi, Marshall’s longtime friend and a renown lawyer on the verge of being conferred the prestigious SAN title, over instead. He listens intently as Marshall and I tell the story from the very beginning. We tell him about the affair that had brought the girls into the world, how Marshall had given their mother his entire fortune to take care of them, how she had instead squandered it on herself and made the girls grow up in poverty and danger, how her irresponsible lifestyle had landed her in prison, how the girls were thrust in our care and how we’d worked hard to restore them not just materially, but academically, mentally and emotionally.
“There’s no way any Judge would let her have them.” Marshall says confidently.
Deremi sighs deeply. “With everything you’ve just said, we have a lot of problems. First of all, you can forget that notion of her losing custody on account of her prison stint. According to the law, she has made restitution for her crime. She has served her time and will not be penalised further by having her kids withdrawn from her.” he says, shattering all our hopes. “Secondly, if you were absent from their lives for 15 years, that makes this a very tough sell indeed. You say you gave her a lump sum of money…but there is apparently no evidence to back any of it up. According to what any court of law can see, you were an absentee father who left both mother and children out to dry.”
“But you know that’s not true!” Marshall bellows at his friend.
“I know that…but only because your word is enough for me.” Deremi answers firmly. “Your word will not be enough for any court. Trust me.”
“But what about all what she put those girls through? All the abuse, trauma and everything?” Marshall exclaims in his rising agitation.
Deremi shakes his head. “Any statements to that effect from the girls could easily be deemed a result of coercion. As minors, there is a limit to how much evidence they can provide in court. But if we have to get statements from their neighbours and key witnesses, that would mean us going to trial, and besides the fact that I know people who live in communities like that will almost surely refuse to be part of a court case and would change their testimonies at the drop of a hat if they need to, would you really want to put your daughters through that? You and I know that by the time the media gets wind of this, it’s going to become a circus.”
“So what can we do?” I wail, heartbroken.
“All we can do is try to get her on our side. The best we can hope for is joint custody. Finding a way to enter an arrangement with her is our best option.” he answers.
My heart crashes to the ground. I am devastated not only about the prospect of having to share custody of the girls…but even more so about having Eniye in our lives in any shape or form. I suddenly find myself suffering something of a panic attack. What if she is able to lure Marshall back into her bed? Can I trust my husband not to repeat the same mistake again?
Marshall appears equally shaken by the verdict, and we drift around like ghosts long after Deremi has gone. I don’t have the courage to break the boys’ hearts with news of their sisters’ departure, so I choose not to call them. Instead, I find myself falling into a bottomless pit of despair.
By evening, I am now worried about the girls, who are probably waiting for us to redeem our promise to get them back home today. I decide to call them to give them whatever little reassurance I can, but when I dial, first Leah’s number and then Phoebe’s, my desolation multiplies when I realise that both their phones are switched off.
We hadn’t given Eniye enough credit.
I toss and turn in bed all night long, unable to sleep. I am haunted by the tears in the girls’ eyes as they left the previous evening, and by the disappointment they probably feel over our inability to bring them back as promised.
At the crack of dawn the next day, Saturday, I am already up and dressed.
“Where are you going?” Marshall asks. From the look on his face, sleep has eluded him as well.
“To find them.” I answer. “Their phones are switched off. Even if they can’t come home with us, let’s at least know where they are.”
“Let’s go then.” Marshall says, getting off the bed.
I am surprised by his willingness to come on my wild goose chase but glad because he knows their area a lot better than I do. We leave home a little after 8 am, and are in Surulere in less than 30 minutes, with Oprey’s old house being our first point of call. But it is fruitless. Not only is Oprey’s apartment already occupied by another tenant, nobody in the compound has seen neither the girls nor their mother. We make it a point to knock on every door, asking everyone possible, but the answer is unanimous. They have not been seen.
We manage to get Eniye’s former address, and make our way there next, but it is the same outcome. They have not been seen since they were evicted two years before. Not wanting to give up, we drive from street to street, searching the entire neighbourhood, hopeful for just a glimpse of the girls and their mother. But it yields absolutely nothing. They are nowhere to be found.
It is afternoon when we make our way all the way to Ojodu Berger, to see their Uncle Alali. I am grateful that I’d had the foresight to ask for his address before, as I don’t want to alert him to the fact that we are coming to see him, just in case they are hiding there. We get to his street at about 5 pm, and luckily meet him at home, with his young wife and three small children. Standing awkwardly in the small apartment, which is even smaller than Oprey’s, I see that even the young family is struggling to fit into the cramped space. There is no way he is hoarding anyone there.
“So Eniye is back?!” Alali exclaims, and I can see he is genuinely surprised. “I didn’t expect her out of jail so soon.”
“We’re just as shocked as you are.” Marshall says. Thankfully, over the last year, he and Alali have repaired their friendship, and he no longer has cause to avoid him when he comes to visit the girls.
“Just go home and rest.” Alali says. “Eniye will contact you when she is ready. My sister is greedy, and I know her well enough to predict how she’s thinking now. She thinks she’s caught a big fish and she’s going to want to take as much advantage of you as she can.”
“My lawyer says we don’t really stand any chance of getting custody of the girls.” Marshall says.
“Eniye is not interested in custody of those girls. She made it obvious they were a burden to her, even before she went away. It’s the money she’s after.” Alali answers. “For the right price, she will happily release them to you.”
“So you think she’ll come back to demand for money?” I ask.
Alali nods. “I know so.”
“And so we’ll keep on giving her money anytime she shows up to demand it?” Marshall exclaims.
A smile forms on Alali’s face. “Not if you are smart about it. If you can get her, on tape, to admit that she not only received a lot of money from you before, but also demanding money from you in the present, I believe that evidence could be admissible in court for you.”
I feel like giving Alali a big hug, as I realise that is indeed the only way we can catch Eniye in her own game. Marshall and I return home hopeful, and even manage to make it to Church the next day. We make an excuse for the girls’ absence and spend a lot of time in prayer, pleading with God for their swift return home.
But alas, Eniye has other plans, and leaves us to stew for weeks. As one day rolls into another, and as one week becomes two, our agitation rises back to fever pitch. The girls’ phones are still unreachable, and several other journeys we make to their neighbourhood in search of them yield nothing.
And then a few days shy of a month later, we finally get the call from her.
“Hello handsome!” she cooes when Marshall answers the phone, oblivious she is on speaker. I steal a look at his face but it is expressionless. I find myself starting to relax as I realise my worries of him falling for her again are unfounded. She is clearly a thing of his past.
“Hello Eniye.” he answers. “I have my wife on the phone with me.”
“Oh.” is her disappointed answer. “Well that’s no fun, is it, Mr. Marsh! I was hoping we could…you know…catch up.”
“We’ve been waiting for your call. You have kept us waiting for weeks.” Marshall rudely interrupts. “The girls are meant to start school in a few days. You already cost us a long-planned summer vacation.”
“Na wa oh! The way you’re acting, one would think you’ve been a part of their lives all this while!” Eniye laughs. “Na just now your own morning start!”
“Eniye, please. We want to see the girls. What will it take for you to send them back home to us?” Marshall asks, exercising more restraint than I know him to have.
“You know if we go to court and I tell my story, no Judge will even allow you set eyes on them again. The most you’ll be able to get will possibly be supervised visits!” Eniye taunts.
“Yes, I’m aware of that. It’s a shame there is no proof of the Ten Million I paid you to take care of them before.”
“Ten Million! I wonder how I could have agreed to such a paltry amount. That money didn’t go anywhere! By the time I bought one or two things, it was all gone!” Eniye laughs. “My eye never open that time, if not I for hammer you ehn!”
“But I guess your eyes are open now.” Marshall says, his voice flat.
“Damned right, Mr. Marsh!” she answers. “If you want those girls, you’re going to have to pay!”
“How much?” I ask.
“That would depend on if you want joint or full custody. Obviously, one has a bigger price tag than the other!” she says. “But obviously, it won’t be Ten Million!”
“It will be higher?” Marshall asks.
“Much, much higher!”
Marshall and I exchange a victorious look. We’ve got her.
“That isn’t a problem at all. Could you come over to our house tonight, so we can finalise all the details?” he asks innocently.
“With all pleasure! And make sure it’s your wife that cooks dinner, and not one of your servants. I want to see if she can cook better than me!” Eniye says, with her characteristically annoying laugh.
I fight off the anger that tries to bubble to the fore. No need losing my temper when she has already fallen into our pot of soup, and yes, one partly cooked by me!
She arrives that night, dressed even more skimpily than she was the last time. She sashays into the house like she owns the place and doesn’t even have the decency to extinguish her cigarette. Marshall and I watch her as she smokes in our living room, inhaling the gales of smoke she blows in our direction. But we are not angered by it. We’ve got her exactly where we want her.
“What are we waiting for? Isn’t dinner ready? Or was Madam too lazy to cook today?” Eniye asks.
Without further ado, Marshall whips out his phone and replays the last conversation we had with her. I keep my eyes on her face, watching for her expression. I am satisfied to see the smile fade from her face when she realises we have pinned her to a corner.
“I have you on tape not only admitting to receiving money from me in the past, but also demanding money in exchange for handing over the girls.” Marshall says triumphantly.
She smiles and starts to slow clap. “Bravo, Marshall! I’m impressed. I never knew you had it in you. This is genius.” she shrugs. “I could say I’ll deny it in court…deny I ever had any conversation with you, but I know you’ll find a way to prove it.”
“You bet I will.” Marshall sneers.
She smiles again. “No wahala, Marshall. I’ll give you the address of where they are.”
“They’re not with you?!” I exclaim.
“Do you think I have time to babysit, when there is hustling to do? I lost a lot by being away for so long. I have to work extra hard to make up for it! Besides, I don’t know what you did to those girls, but those are not the daughters I left behind!” she answers, rising to her feet. “They are with a distant relative in Yaba. I’ll send you their address.”
“But we can give you some money though…a little something to tide you over.” I offer, suddenly feeling sorry for her for losing out on her life as well as her kids.
She raises a brow at me. “Oh? Like how much are we talking?”
“Seven figures.” I answer, before casting a questioning look at Marshall. “We can do that, can’t we?”
Marshall shrugs reluctantly. “If it means we never have to see you again, sure.”
Eniye beams. “That is fantastic! Very generous of you!” she reaches into her handbag for a pen and a sheet of paper. “This is the address in Yaba…this is a number you can reach them on…and this…” she winks at us. “is my account number!”
“You’ll get the money as soon as we get the girls.” I assure her.
She gives me another once over. “You’re actually not a bad person. Thanks indeed!”
She carries her bag and is midway through waltzing across the living room, when she suddenly turns around. “I hope you’ve learnt how to fuck your husband properly now.”
I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut. “What did you say?”
She smiles slyly. “Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s just us three of us in the room. We all know how sex starved and clueless Marshall was.” she winks at him. “Until he met me of course.”
“Get out of our house right now!” Marshall bellows, but I can see that his face has gone all red and his breathing has become agitated.
“Why are all your veins bulging, Marshall?” she laughs. “Or have you forgotten how I opened your eyes to the joys of real sex? Not whatever bullshit you were doing with your wife.” she looks at me, smiling slyly. “In his confession to you, did he tell you he didn’t leave my room for 36 hours, the very first time we fucked!”
I start to feel faint. I cast a desperate look at my husband, who is suddenly unable to look at me. I can vividly remember him saying how he had felt so bad after their first time of having sex, he’d literally dashed out of the room without wearing his shirt. That does not in any way tally with 36 hours. 36 hours?!
“He wanted more and more and more of me. He just couldn’t get enough!” Eniye keeps on goading. “It was like fucking a virgin that first time. I rode him like a cowgirl and sucked him like a lollipop. I blew his mind. That’s why he kept on coming back every time! That’s why he was so addicted to me.”
“You’re a liar!” I say, suddenly finding my voice. “You were just a mistake he made. An irrelevant mistake!”
She looks at Marshall and laughs. “Is that what you told her? Did you also tell her the real reason you left? The real reason you gave me money to stay away?”
I look at Marshall, willing him to say something, anything, to counter all what she’s saying. But my husband suddenly looks like a sheep in the slaughter house. He is sweating profusely even in the cool room, and his pace of breathing has trebled.
“After Phoebe was born, your husband came to ‘see the baby’…” she says, before adding with a wink. “But the truth is that he came to get some good fucking!”
I look at Marshall, shocked. According to his story, the last time he had slept with Eniye was when Phoebe was conceived…not after.
“Of course, I blew his mind as usual. But afterwards, poor guy suddenly developed a conscience. That was when he decided to pay me off…pay me off to ‘stay away’.” she looks at Marshall. “Remember what you told me that night you were leaving? You said I was a drug to you…and that the only way for you to regain your sanity was to keep away…permanently.”
My legs fail me and I sit on the nearest chair, not believing what I am hearing.
“But you couldn’t even stay away for long, could you!” she teases Marshall. “Philo told me you came looking for me a few years later!”
“I came looking for the kids…” he croaks.
Eniye throws her head back in laughter. “You can tell yourself that, Marshall. But we both know what you were really after. You were hungry for me then and, from the look in your eyes, you are hungry for me now. I’m sure you even have a hard-on as we speak!” then turning to wink at me, she adds. “Don’t forget to do that transfer, Ma’am. Tonight preferably.”
She catwalks out of the room, leaving Marshall and I seated there…like two ghosts…two listless ghosts.
“Is what she said true? You paid her off because…because you couldn’t stay away from her otherwise?” I ask.
Marshall says nothing, his head bowed.
“And you had sex with her after Phoebe was born? After?!” I ask again. “And 36 hours? You had sex with her for 36 hours?”
“It wasn’t 36 hours straight. She’s counting the hours we were asleep…” is his lame response to me.
Ah, of course.
I slowly rise to my feet and start walking out of the room. I ignore him calling my name and instead make my way to Nathan’s bedroom, my place of solace. I lock the door behind me as I sink to the ground, realising that everything, every story our reconciliation was built on has been nothing sand…quick sand.
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
- You, Me…Them! 19: Stale News
- You, Me…Them! 20: A sacrifice too big
- You, Me…Them! 21: The Sisters
- You, Me…Them! 22: Failure Father
- You, Me…Them! 23: Breaking Point
- You, Me…Them! 24: Beautiful Beginnings