When she walked into the house she had grown up in, tears filled Trisha’s eyes and fell down her cheeks.
“I am back home.” She whispered, as she stared at the painting of her parents she had painted years ago.
This was her home. This was the place she had grown up. This was where her family lived. At least, where her parents still lived.
“It hasn’t changed all that much.” She said to Brenda.
“Yes, except for a few changes, everything is still just as you last saw it.”
“I’ve missed it. I didn’t really notice, but being inside here, I realise that I have missed this house.” She laughed and wiped off her tears. “I didn’t know that I would miss this house.”
“It’s the first place we called home, so it’s natural to miss it. Come on, let’s go see Mum. She must be in her room.”
Brenda held her hand as they walked up the stairs.
“And Daddy, would he be there too?” Trisha asked.
“At this time of the day? No way. Your father is still a very, very busy man. You will be lucky if you see him before nine p.m. today.”
“Still the same old Daddy then.” Trisha shook her head. She would see him later then.
“That’s right.” Brenda knocked on their mother’s bedroom door and opened it. “Good afternoon, Mum. I brought someone to see you.”
Felicia was on her bed, reading a book. She quickly dropped the book and smiled at her daughter. “Who did you bring to see me, dear? Do I have to dress up?”
“No, you don’t have to, Mum. You look fine just as you are.” Brenda stepped away from the door. “It’s Trisha. She’s back home.”
“Oh my God!” Felicia jumped out of the bed and ran towards them. “Trisha! Trisha, you are back home. You are back home at last!”
She embraced her and held her tightly against her body.
“My little girl is back home at last. Oh Jesus, I give you thanks. Thank you, my merciful Lord.”
“Oh Mum, I am so sorry I ran away and kept away from you all.” Seeing her mother crying, Trisha started to cry too. “I shouldn’t have left like that. I should have come back sooner.”
“It’s all right. It’s all right, my little girl. It was not your fault. I was the one who was unbearable. I pushed you out of this house; out of your home.”
“But I should have forgiven you sooner. I should have tried to get in touch.” Trisha bent to her knees. “I am sorry, Mum. Sorry for everything I did wrong.”
“No, don’t kneel. Stand up.” Felicia took her hand and pulled her up. “It is not you who should be begging for forgiveness. It is me. I am the one who offended you.”
“I think we should all sit down and talk. That will be better.” Brenda said gently.
“Yes, my dear, let’s sit down. Come along with me to the bed. Do you want something to drink? Something to eat? I can go downstairs and prepare something for you. Anything you want.”
Trisha shook her head. “We will eat later, Mum. Sit down, relax. Let us talk as Brenda suggested.”
Felicia sat down on the bed between her daughters. “I can’t believe that you are here in my bedroom, Trisha. I can’t believe my little girl is back home. You are so grown up. And so beautiful. Very beautiful.”
Trisha smiled. “Thank you, Mum. You are looking beautiful yourself. Older than I remember, but beautiful.”
“With all these grey hairs?” Felicia laughed. “Oh God in heaven, you are so good. Thank you for this miracle.”
“You sound different, Mum. I don’t remember hearing you talk so much about God before.” Trisha said.
“I talk about him all the time now because he is always so kind to me. He forgave me all my sins and brought all my children back to me. He kept you alive and brought you back home.”
“Yes, God sustained me all through my years in the North. I am really grateful to him for that.”
“You were in the North? Is that where you have been all this time?”
“Yes, Mum. In a small town in Niger state.”
“And how did you survive? How did you manage? You were just a little girl when you left home.”
“I had some money in my bank account, remember? With that, I rented a small apartment and then I got a job as a teacher in a private nursery school. Later, I registered and started school.”
“You sent yourself to school?” Felicia was astonished. “You were not even eighteen when you left home, yet you got a job and sent yourself to school. Oh my darling daughter, I am so proud of you.”
“Thank you, Mum. But maybe you won’t be so proud when I tell you that I studied Fine Art at the polytechnic and I’m now a painter.”
“You are now a painter? Oh my God, that is so wonderful.” Felicia clapped her hands happily. “Brenda, your sister made her dream come true just like you did. She is a painter.”
“Yes, she did, Mum. And she told me she is doing quite well too.” Brenda said with a smile.
“You are doing very well?” Felicia asked Trisha. “You are successful as a painter?”
Trisha laughed. “I am not yet famous and rich, but I am making good money. But Mum, I can’t believe that you are happy that I am a painter. That you are not disappointed I didn’t follow in the path you wanted me to.”
“Of course, I am happy that you are a painter. It is your dream. I now understand that.” Felicia smiled. “I wanted you all to follow my own dreams, but that was not right. After you left, I realised it and also realised that being a painter or owning a restaurant wasn’t at all a bad career choice. I wanted our family to always be in politics. The ones leading this nation. But it is better for a person to do what actually makes them happy. That is the most important thing.”
“You have really changed, Mum.” Overwhelmed, Trisha hugged her. “Thank you for changing, Mum.”
“It is God you should thank. He is the one who changed me.” Felicia said softly.
“Thank you, Jesus!” Trisha cried.
And her mother and sister laughed.
“I want to explain about what you heard that day, Trisha.” Felicia said. “I want you to understand that I wasn’t saying that I didn’t love you like my own biological daughter, because I do. You are my daughter, my little girl, and I love you.”
“You told Daddy that I am not like the others. Like Brenda and Bryan.” Remembering her words still hurt even after all these years.
“I said that and it is true, you are different from them. You are more wilful. You are more determined. But at the time, I saw them as negative traits and I was not happy with them.” Felicia sighed. “I was frustrated that day and was complaining to him that you are different because you are adopted. I was angry and was just letting out that anger like I usually did then. But I did not mean it. I did not mean that I didn’t love you.”
Felicia held her hand. “Trisha, I was the one who begged your Daddy to let us adopt you. When I saw you as a baby at the motherless babies home we were visiting that day, I wanted you to become my child. I told your father that we should adopt you and was very happy when he agreed.”
“You told Daddy that you people should adopt me?”
“Yes, it was I who suggested it. I saw this beautiful baby and you were smiling at me, and I immediately wanted you to be my child.” Felicia touched her face tenderly. “I was just complaining that day. I didn’t mean anything I said. You are my daughter, Trisha. You are my little girl and I am so happy to have you back home.”
“Oh Mum, I am so happy to see you and to be back home.”
“And I am happy to see my baby sister and Mum happy with each other again.” Brenda said.
Laughing, they all hugged each other.
Trisha didn’t want a party but her mother insisted. She said the father celebrated the homecoming of the prodigal son and she was going to do same. So, she arranged a big celebration and invited all their friends.
“I can’t believe that you painted a portrait of all four of us.” Margaret said, looking at the portrait Trisha had presented to them.
Trisha smiled. “You were my best friends before I ran away and I wanted to keep remembering you all.”
“It’s a beautiful portrait.” Alice said. “You are an amazing painter, Trisha.”
“Thank you, Alice. I can’t believe you are no longer the shy girl you used to be.”
Alice laughed. “That’s because I am a big girl now.”
“We are all big girls now.” Laura said. “And I see my brother coming over here. I bet he wants to steal Trisha away.”
“Oh no, I won’t let him do that.” Trisha shook her head. “I am spending all my time with you ladies today.”
“Hello, ladies.” Ryan said as he stopped beside Trisha. “You won’t mind if I borrow your friend for a short while, will you?”
“I told you people.” Laura said and they all started laughing.
“Ryan, go and chat with Bryan. I am busy with my girlfriends now.” Trisha tried to push him away.
Ryan shook his head. “No, I’m not going anywhere without you. This is very important. Come along with me, please.”
“Go with him, let us have peace, please.” Laura said and pushed Trisha towards him.
“Where are you taking me?” Trisha asked, wondering what he was up to.
“Be patient and you will see.” Ryan said and took the microphone. “Good evening, everyone. Sorry to interrupt your joyful mood, but I need your attention for a few minutes.”
“Ryan, what are you doing?” Trisha whispered.
“You will see.” He smiled at her and then knelt on one knee. “Trisha Vivian Ogbonna, I love you and I know that you are the woman for me. So please, will you marry me and make the remaining years of my life happy ones?”
For a minute, Trisha was shocked and speechless. And then she became excited and overjoyed. “Yes, Ryan, I will marry you. I love you too.”
Ryan slipped the ring on her finger and everyone started clapping.
“This calls for even more celebration.” Felicia said, coming to hug her daughter and Ryan.
“Yes, this party just got bigger.” Marilyn said, following Felicia’s footsteps to hug the newly engaged couple.
As everyone embraced and congratulated them, Trisha realised that she has never been so happy in her life. She was back home with her family and she was going to get married to the man she loved.
“I am the luckiest woman in the world.” She whispered to herself and then joined the celebrating crowd.