Christmas was always a season that brought him feelings of melancholy instead of joy. It was the season she’d broken up with him twelve years ago. Two weeks and three days before Christmas.

He wouldn’t have come back here if the girls hadn’t insisted they wanted to spend Christmas here with their Aunty Mariah and her kids since they couldn’t come down to9t come back, if he wasn’t here now, if he hadn’t seen her in that store…

A lot of ifs.

If she hadn’t seen Bethany kissing him that day. If she had listened to him and not jump to the wrong conclusion. If she hadn’t said all of those things. If she hadn’t kept quiet and married another man when she was carrying his child.

If she hadn’t kept his child from him for eleven years.

Oh God, he had a son. He had a son.

Joshua breathed into the hands he had pressed against his face. He had a son.

Asher.

He tried to think about the boy who’d burst out of the changing room dressed in a linen Senator-styled attire and asking his mother what she thought of it.

He looked like her.

He looked like Lena. Facially, he looked like her.ke Lena. Facially, he looked like her. He had her small round mouth and her long browed deep-set eyes. He had her slightly pointy nose that Lena had gotten from her half Spanish, half Hausa mother. He had a long oval face.

He was a good looking boy. And he was his son.

He’d looked at him. Joshua recalled the curious eyes that had momentarily rested on him. He’d probably wondered who he was.

Did he know?

He supposed not. He hadn’t remembered to ask Lena. But he doubted she’d told the boy that… that he was his father.

He needed to know.

The boy needed to know. And oh God, so did his girls.

Joshua rubbed his eyes with his fingers and dropped his hands. He has to tell them. He never hid anything from them. That was how he and Evelyn had brought them up. Whatever was going on in their family, they found a way to tell them. A way to make them understand, no matter how hard it was.

He would have to tell them this. He would have to tell them now.

Joshua pushed off the couch in the guestroom his sister had assigned to him and aimed for the door.

He found them outside with his sister and her own two daughters.

Joshua looked at Mariah with her quite big stomach. It was going to be a boy. So the scan said. Mariah was ecstatic. It was what she wanted. What she and Jon had prayed for.

He would have to tell her too, and Jon, and their girls.

So much telling to do, because he would have to tell the rest of the family, and definitely Evelyn’s family too.

Oh God!

“Faith? Hope?”

He offered a smile when they all turned to look at him.

“I have something I want to tell you two. Well, I have something to tell everyone, but I will start with you two because you are my favourite girls.” He winked and held out a hand. Hope took it. “Give us a few minutes.” He said to his sister.

“Nothing is wrong, is it?” Mariah asked.

Joshua gave his head a shake. “No, nothing is wrong. I will talk to you about it later. I just need to speak to the girls first.”

“All right. We’ll be here when you guys are done.”

Joshua nodded and held out his other hand to Faith. “Come on, kiddo.”

Inside his room, he sat with them on the couch.

“Did we do something bad today, daddy?”

Joshua looked at Faith. She was just eight but she was as sharp as a lark and as sensitive as they come. “Did you do something bad, Faith?”

“No. I don’t think we did. But maybe we did something that you think is bad but we don’t.” She tilted her head to the side. It was a gesture her mother always made. “Are you angry with us, daddy?”

“No, I’m not angry with you, Faith. I’m not angry with either of you. And you didn’t do anything bad. Not as far as I know.” He winked and smiled when they giggled. “But I have something very important to tell you.”

“Is it about work, daddy?”

“Why would you think it’s about work, Hope?”

His six year old daughter shrugged her small shoulders. “Because you were saying to Aunty Mari that you have to do something about a new job the other day.”

“Have you been eavesdropping, Hope?”

“No, daddy.” She emphatically shook her head. “I was passing by the living room when I heard you telling her. I wasn’t listening to you two talk. I just heard it.”

“All right. No problem. But this is not about work. It is something entirely different and much more important, I think.” Joshua paused, inhaled, and then took each of their hands in his. “Do you remember the lady we met at the store the day before yesterday?”

“The one you called Lena? Sorry… Aunty Lena.” Faith quickly amended.

“Yes, the one I called Lena.” Joshua affirmed with a nod.

“I remember her. You gave her your card.” Hope said.

“Yes, I did.” Joshua tweaked her chin. “She is, um, an old friend of mine, and she wanted to tell me something important. I guess your big ears must have heard her say that?”

They both giggled as they nodded.

Joshua smiled before he drew in a short breath. “Well, she called me yesterday and I went to meet her. She told me something very important. Something that I did not know about until she told me yesterday.”

“What did she tell you, daddy?” Faith asked.

“She told me that the boy with her at the store—remember him?”

“Yes, we remember him. He asked his mummy what she thought of his new dress and she told him if he liked it then it must be the one, that he should go and take it off, so they will go and pay for it.” Hope piped out.

“Ah, yes. Thank you, miss photographic memory.” Joshua chuckled.

“Why do you ask if we remember him, daddy?”

Faith had grown up enough to focus on what was the subject of any matter.

Joshua looked at her avidly attentive face and then at her sister’s openly curious one. “Lena told me that he is my son.”

They both gasped and their eyes widened.

“Asher—that’s his name—is my son. His mother, Lena, and I were, um, very close before I met your mummy and um, it seems she was pregnant with Asher before we parted ways. But she did not tell me and so, I did not know.” He paused to swallow past the prick of pain in his chest. “I did not know until yesterday.”

Neither of them said anything for at least two minutes. They just stared at him with their widely shocked eyes.

Then Hope asked in a whisper. “We have a brother?”

Something, like a burden he hadn’t been aware of, fell off Joshua. “Yes.” He blinked and nodded. “Yes, you have a brother. Asher is your brother.”

“He’s our brother even though it’s not our mummy who… who…”

“Yes, Faith, he’s your brother even though it’s not your mummy who gave birth to him. He’s your brother because I am his father just like I am yours.”

“Oh.” Faith breathed.

Another two minutes of awed silence passed.

“Why did she not tell you, daddy?” Faith spoke again.

That he still could not understand. “I don’t know, Faith. We had a fight… we quarrelled about something and she was angry with me… then I went away and she could not tell me.”

“Were you angry with her too, daddy?”

“Yes, I was, Hope.” Joshua caressed her soft cheek. “We were both angry with each other.”

“Are you angry with her now because she did not tell you about your… our… about Asher?”

He shifted his gaze to Faith. “I think I am. She did not tell me, so I did not know your brother for eleven years now. That makes me angry.”

“But you will have to forgive her, daddy. You always tell us that we have to forgive those who make us angry and hurt us. It’s what Jesus wants us to do.”

“Oh, Faith.” Joshua pulled her in for a quick hug. “You are right. Jesus wants us to forgive those who hurt us. But I think the important thing now is I have to meet Asher.”

“Not just you, daddy. Us too.” Hope chimed in. “He is our brother and we’d like to meet him. Won’t we, Faith?”

“Yes, daddy. We’d like to meet Asher too.”

“You too will definitely meet him. That is a promise. But first, I think I should see him and talk with him first.”

“When, daddy? When are you going to see him?”

“I think maybe tomorrow evening. There’s no need to delay anything. We’ve all wasted enough time as it is.” He quickly thought about it and decided on it. “I will call Lena right away and make the arrangements.”

“Call her now, daddy. We want to hear what she says.” Faith urged.

“Okay, curious cat, I will do that.”

Joshua slipped out his phone from his trousers’ pocket and dialled Lena’s number he’d saved yesterday.

“Hello, Lena.” He said when she picked the call. “This is Joshua.”

“I know.” Her voice came in a breathy tone. “Good day.”

“Good day. I, um, called to tell you that I would like to meet Asher. I can meet him, can’t I?”

“But of course you can, Josh. I want you to. I… I am glad you want to.”

“Uh, okay, good. Um, will tomorrow evening be all right? That is after you get back from work? You are going to work tomorrow, are you not?”

“I am. And tomorrow evening is just fine.”

“Good. I would have suggested during the day but I think it’s best we meet when you are there to make the introductions.”

“Yes, that is best. Thank you for being considerate, Josh.”

“See you tomorrow evening then.”

He disconnected without waiting for her farewell greeting.

“It’s agreed then, I will meet Asher tomorrow.” He said to the girls.

“Yay!” They both cried and clapped in delight.

“This is going to be the best Christmas ever. Jesus has given us a brother as a present.” Hope declared and beamed at him.

“Yes, he has.” Joshua agreed.

A big surprise present.

But why wasn’t he yet as excited as his daughters?

*-*

 

Asher sat up on his bed and looked out the window that was a few feet away.

The man from the store was his dad. He was his real dad, not daddy who’d died and gone to heaven.

Asher still could not understand it all. He, the man from the store, the man mum called Joshua, had been mum’s boyfriend before she had married dad… dad who had died and gone to heaven.

She had done stuff with him… Asher knew grown-ups did stuff together and sometimes a baby was made. They’ve been taught sex in school and he and mum had talked about it too.

So, he knew mum must have done the sex stuff with the man, Joshua, who was now his real dad, and that was how he’d been made.

Only she hadn’t told the man then. She has now. She had gone out yesterday to meet… his new dad and to tell him. Mum said he needed time to take it all in.

Asher didn’t quite understand that.

Wasn’t he been happy to hear he has a son?

Probably not.

Maybe he didn’t want a son, just daughters. After all, mum said that the little girls with him at the store were his children. So, maybe he wanted only girls and not a boy.

That worried him. It really worried him because he so wanted a dad that would be alive and here with him, but he didn’t want a dad that wouldn’t want him.

Or maybe he was angry with mum. He would be, wouldn’t he, since mum lied to him too?

Or maybe he hadn’t believed mum when she told him he was his son. Some people don’t believe the girls when they say they are having a baby and they run away. It happened to Laura in school. Everyone knows it’s just she and her mum because her dad had run away.

Oh God, please don’t let that happen to him. He didn’t want to be the boy his dad ran away from.

Asher opened the eyes he’d tightly shut in prayer and exhaled deeply. He should go ask mum what exactly the man… his new dad had said.

He left his room and walked to his mother’s, knocked on the door and waited for her ‘come in’ before he opened the door and entered.

She was at her desk where sometimes she worked when at home. But she wasn’t working now. Her laptop was off and she wasn’t working on any file.

She gave him a smile as he approached her, but Asher could see it did not reach her eyes.

“Are you all right, mum?” He stood in front of her desk.

“Yes, I’m all right.”

Asher did not believe her. Her eyes looked reddish like she’d been crying and she had her handkerchief in her hand.

“Are you sad, mum?”

“Sad? No. No, I’m not sad. Not really.”

She got up from her desk chair, walked to her bed, sat on it and beckoned on him to join her.

 “Okay.” Asher nodded as he sat down beside her. He didn’t like to think she must have been crying. It made him want to cry too. “Mum, are you worried that he… that my real dad might not want to meet me?”

“What? No, I’m not worried about that. Not at all.” She shook her head. “As a matter of fact, he just called before you came in.”

“He called you?”

“Yes, he did. He wants to come over here and meet you. Tomorrow evening when I’m back from work.”

“Oh.” Asher felt his heart flutter in his chest. “He’s coming tomorrow evening. That is nice. But… uh… mum, do you think he will like me? That he will want me to be his son?”

“Oh, Asher.” She took his hand and Asher saw tears fill up her eyes. “You are his son. You already are and nothing can change that.”

“But he can say it’s not true. He might be coming here to look at me and see if I look anything like him… and I don’t.”

“Actually, you do look like him. Not physically. There, you look totally like me.” She gave him a quick wink. “But you are really intelligent like he is and you like tennis game and cartoons like he does.”

“He likes cartoons?”

“He does. And he is also thoughtful and kind just like you are.” She let go off his hand and touched his cheek. “And he likes you, Asher. He will love you because you are his son. You don’t have to worry about that, okay?”

“Okay, mum.”

He was coming tomorrow evening. He wants to meet him and he was not going to run away.

“Will he love you too, mum?”

To Asher’s horror, tears slipped out her eyes. But she quickly wiped them off.

“I am not important. You are. You are what is important here. He is your daddy and it is your relationship with him that only matters. Okay?”

Asher blinked and nodded. “Okay, mum. But I don’t want him to hate you.”

“He doesn’t. He wouldn’t. Stop worrying about this, Asher. Everything will be all right like I promised you.”

“Okay, mum.”

He was coming tomorrow. When… if he did, he would ask him not to hate mum.

“Mum, is he bringing his daughters?”

“Not tomorrow. But you can meet them later, I’m sure.”

“They are my sisters, right, mum?”

“Yes, they are.” She smiled. “You are their big brother.”

Big brother. Imagine that. He was a big brother now and he had two little sisters.

Asher felt the flutter in his chest again and he let out a deep breath. A new dad and two sisters, what a Christmas surprise.

*** ~~~ ***

story will return on a later date

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Read Previous Episodes: HERE

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Also remember that Esther has released her two new eBooks. Get your copies by reaching her on ugbajaesther@gmail.com. Price is just ₦500.