Uche called him and he agreed to come over to her house. But that agreement had only been on the condition that she wasn’t present while they talked.
Now, she was eavesdropping by the door.
“Did you know about this?”
It took Uche a few seconds before she answered his question. “She told me only a few weeks ago.”
“That means she’s been lying to you too.”
“No, she didn’t lie to me. I’m her sister, so whether or not she told me means nothing. You are the one she owed that truth.”
There was a short silence, then he said. “That is right. It was me she owed the truth; me she lied to.”
“I am sorry. I don’t know what else to say. I can only imagine how hurt and disappointed you are.”
“I am not only hurt and disappointed, Uche. I am angry. I am shocked. I am confused as to how she could do something like that, hide it from me for seven years and then decide to sneak out of the house without telling me. I am confused because I don’t know how I deserved this.”
You didn’t deserve it, Isioma silently replied, her heart twisting at the pain in his voice.
“You don’t deserve this, Chiedu. No one deserves to be chested on.” Uche said. “She knew you didn’t deserve that sort of betrayal that’s why she wanted to run in your absence. I’m not making any excuses for her.” She quickly added. “There is absolutely no excuse for what Isioma did and for wanting to leave without facing you with the truth. But I want you to know that none of this happened because she wanted to hurt you in any way.”
“Then why did it happen? Why would she cheat on me, and two days before our wedding?”
“I can’t answer that except to say that my sister did something very stupid. It wasn’t a premeditated act. She didn’t plan for it to happen.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Am I sure that Isioma didn’t plan to sleep with Awele that day? Yes, I am definite. And you know why I’m so certain?” Uche asked, and waited possibly for some kind of response from him before she went on. “I know her. I know who she is; which is why I was shocked that she could do something like that.”
“If she could shock you in that one way, what makes you believe she won’t shock you in another?”
The faint cynicism in his voice stabbed at Isioma. He didn’t trust her anymore. Maybe he never again would.
“She may have lacked the good sense to stop what happened between them, but she wasn’t the kind of woman, the kind of person, to think of doing something like that. Isioma isn’t a cheat.”
“But she cheated and she hid that truth; lived the lie of pretending like nothing happened. She’s your sister, Uche, and I get that you have to defend her but don’t make it sound like this was something she didn’t have the ability to stop. It was sex, not rape, and she could have stopped it. She could have said no to him. She chose not to.”
Oh, how right he was. She could have said no. Why didn’t she?
“Yes, she could and should have said no, but she didn’t. I don’t know why she didn’t. I don’t know why she let something like that happen. But I know she didn’t plan it and after that unfortunate evening, she never let it happen again.”
“You say that because she told you so.”
“Yes, she told me, and I know she was telling me the truth. What she told us, finally told us, is what her offenses are. We don’t have to suspect her of more. Her biggest mistake was hiding her mistake from you. But who could be guilty of such a betrayal and have the courage to confess it?”
“The one who lacks the courage to stop such a betrayal from happening.”
“Oh Chiedu, don’t be so harsh. I know she has hurt you; wounded you deeply. But she’s human, susceptible to mistakes and this was a mistake. I promise you she didn’t mean for it to happen.”
“But it happened. My wife-to-be slept with another man, married me two days later, suspected she was pregnant for that other man and kept the truth from me until that man came back to make demands about his child. Uche,” Chiedu’s voice was quiet and firm. “She may not have planned for it to happen but it happened and the consequence is that my daughter has a man somewhere claiming to be her father.”
“I am sorry.” It seemed to be all Uche could think to say.
“We are all sorry, Uche. I trusted her. Never once did I doubt her. But she did this. She let this happen and I’m not allowing anyone make excuses for her.” There was a pause where he noisily inhaled. “I am also not allowing that man take my daughter. No way, no one will take her from me.”
“I don’t care what any DNA test says. No one comes out of nowhere to take my child from me.”
“He… I’m sorry, but he says he wants to meet her.”
“He will never come near my daughter.”
“He’s her biological father. He can make trouble; he can go to court.”
“I said he’s not coming near my daughter. You tell Isioma to tell her ex-boyfriend that. And no, I’m not allowing anyone drag my daughter through court cases. She’s not going to be exposed to any form of pain and confusion, and simply because I’m not letting it. You two tell that man to back off and to keep off. He has no claims where my daughter is.”
There was a shuffle of feet, then he said. “I’m sorry, I have to be on my way now. I need to pick the kids up. You can ask your sister to call them this evening. They need to hear from their mummy who travelled.”
Then he was gone, and with him any hope of reconciliation.
“I don’t want to go to court, Isioma. I just want to meet my child.”
“If you are not looking to go to court or to claim her, then why are you so desperate to meet her?”
“She’s my daughter. I only want to know her. I have that right at least, don’t I?”
She shrugged. “I guess you do, but Chiedu has said a vehement no and he’s not a man you can persuade easily; especially where his children are concerned.”
“That’s admirable. I mean a man willing to fight for a child that’s not his…”
“Chidinma is his daughter.” Isioma corrected. “In every way that counts, he is her father. And he is protecting her like a true father would.”
“Are you insinuating that I am not doing the same, that I am only thinking of myself?”
“And are you not?” Isioma countered. “You’re mounting all this pressure to meet her without caring what the effect would be on her.”
“It is because I care about what this would do to her that I am asking only to meet her and nothing more.” Awele snapped. “She is my biological daughter and I could lay a claim on her, but I’m willing to let that go for now as she’s just a child and you say I’m thinking only of myself?”
The anger and hurt in his eyes made her look away. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound harsh but I am confused and tired and worried and… and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“Let me meet him. Arrange for us, your husband and I, to meet.”
Isioma whipped around. “Are you insane?”
“No, I’m not. It’s the only solution.”
“That is not solution. That is starting fresh trouble. Chiedu will kill you.”
“He will probably want to beat me up, but I doubt he will kill me. He doesn’t sound like a maniac or an unreasonable fellow.” Awele let out a sigh. “Look, I’m not backing off from my wish to meet her and the only way is to appeal to your husband. Let us talk like men.”
“Talk like men.” Isioma gaped st him, wondering if he was mad.
It took a lot of pleas from Uche before Chiedu yielded to a meeting between him and Awele. Surprising enough, he accepted that Isioma should be present.
“I want to begin by saying that I am very sorry for…”
“We are not here to discuss whatever transpired between you and my wife.” Chiedu interrupted. “The only issue we will be discussing is the welfare of my daughter, Chidinma.”
“Very well then.” Awele nodded his agreement. “About Chidinma, I want to know her.”
“Why?” Chiedu asked.
“Because she’s my daughter.”
“How do you know she’s your daughter?”
“Excuse me?” Awele looked taken aback. And frankly, so was Isioma. “The DNA test proves it.”
“You mean the paternity test my wife secretly conducted using my samples and Dinma’s?”
“Well yes, that is the one I mean. Since the result came back ruling you out as her father, I am clearly her father.”
“Again, I ask why you would arrive at that conclusion? A so-called test result saying I’m not her biological father doesn’t automatically make you the father.”
“But it does. If you’re not the father, then I have…” Awele stuttered to a stop. “I’m sorry, are you trying to say you think there is another man involved here other than you and me?”
“Be careful, mister. The fact that I permit you to sit here in front of me without any body harm should not give you the right to say whatever you like about my wife.”
“But what you are saying is kind of supporting that insinuation, Chiedu.” Isioma said. “I know I betrayed you, but I swear to you it was only with him and it happened only once. So, if the test says you’re not Dinma’s biological father, then Awele is.”
“No, he is not. He is not until there is a properly conducted paternity test, with carefully collected samples, proving him to be one.”
“Are you saying you want a paternity test between Chidinma and I done?”
“I am saying I want another test done. This time between us all, her mother included. Only when that is done and the results are out can we decide who truly is the biological father.”
“Fine, I agree. But it has to be ASAP as I’m due to fly back to the UK in three days.”
“Then we must waste no time.” Chiedu said. “But a note of warning to you. Whatever the result says, I’m not releasing my daughter to you. I never will, biological rights be damned.”
“If I am her biological father, I think I will have a say in that admirable, if short-sighted, warning.” Awele said equably.
“We will see.”
Staring at them, Isioma realised the trouble she had unleashed by her unwitting mistake was only beginning.