Awele chose a DNA centre at Abuja, he said someone named the clinic as the most reliable in the country. But Chiedu insisted on taking care of the bills. As the test was being treated as urgent, they were going that evening to the clinic.
If they were having the test done together that meant Awele would have his wish to meet Dinma fulfilled, Isioma realised. Except, of course, if Chiedu was going to find a way to prevent it.
“Are you going to let Awele meet Dinma since we are all going to be at the clinic this evening?”
“Is that all you are concerned about, how your ‘ex-boyfriend’ would meet our daughter?”
“Please stop calling him my ex-boyfriend in that sneering tone, Chiedu. He means nothing to me. And I am actually concerned about Dinma and you, not him.”
“If you are concerned about Dinma, then you would know meeting that fellow will do her no good. He’s nothing to her.”
“Chiedu, the DNA result might…”
“It doesn’t matter what the result says, he’s nothing to her and would remain so.”
“If she’s his…”
“Isioma, stop insulting me by speaking about that fellow. Do not take my quietness over this for granted, do you hear me?”
“I am sorry.” The suppressed fury in his voice shook her. “I am not taking you for granted, Chiedu. I swear that I am not. I see how you’re doing everything to protect Dinma and…”
“She’s my daughter, my responsibility, and so I think first of her before myself. That is what a parent does, put the child first. You should know that, Isioma. You should be thinking of your daughter, of your children first.”
“I am. I am thinking of her; thinking what this would do to her if this test proves Awele to be her biological father.”
“You’re so convinced that will be the outcome, why is that?”
“Well, because the first test excluded you as her father. I am sorry.” Shame made her drop her gaze. “I am sorry that we have to talk about things like this, but if you’re not her biological father, Chiedu, then Awele must be. There’s never been anyone else.”
“So you say. In any case, I am not thinking of anyone else. I am Chidinma’s father, of that I am confident.”
“I am going to join the children at the balcony, it’s not safe for them to be alone. Excuse me.”
She stared at him as he strode out of the French doors. He was desperate to believe Dinma was his, but his heart was going to be shattered afresh when the result would be out. Of that, she was certain.
They met Awele at the clinic. He saw Dinma and stared at her.
Isioma was debating how to make the introduction, if to make any, when Chiedu took care of the matter.
“Dinma, Chikanso, say good evening to Mr Kidochukwu. He’s an old friend of Mummy’s.”
“Good evening, sir.” Dinma said first, and Chikanso repeated the same.
“Are you also here to check if everything is all right with your body?” Dinma asked. “Daddy said that’s why we’re here, to do a full body test. He said we have to make sure nothing is wrong inside of us.”
Awele smiled. “He is right. It’s important we have our bodies checked from time to time to make sure we are healthy. And that is why I’m here too. But I’m sure we are all going to be fine. That’s what the doctors will tell us.”
“I know. My daddy said this is only… uh…”
“A routine check.” Chiedu supplied the word Dinma was looking for. “But here’s the nurse beckoning to us, so we’d better go ahead.”
“Okay, Daddy.” Her hand secure in her father’s, Dinma gave a wave to Awele. “Bye-bye, sir.”
“See you again, Dinma.” Awele responded.
Isioma thought the words were a promise, an assurance that they would definitely be meeting again. They would be, won’t they, because what was true could never be changed no matter how much one wished it.
The result came out on the morning of the day Awele was due to fly back to the UK.
In the private room at the clinic where they’d been presented the result, Awele looked shocked, and confused.
“I don’t understand. I was certain she’s mine. She… she looks so much like my younger sister. She’s… how can I not be her biological father?”
“Simply because you are not.” Chiedu said. He looked calm, unperturbed. “You have the result in your hand and it says you can’t possibly be her father.”
“But the test Isioma conducted, it excluded you…”
“The samples must have been tampered with, you heard the explanation of the doctor. This was a carefully conducted test, samples taken by professionals, and the result speaks for itself.” He stood up, took Isioma’s hand and pulled her up. “You have the answer you sought, mister, and now I demand you leave my family alone. Goodbye.”
“But how can she look like my sister?”
“We all have a twin somewhere in the world, so they tell us.” Chiedu opened the door, added before they stepped through it. “I hope we never meet again.”
She waited until after the children had gone to sleep before she brought up the subject that lied unfinished between them.
“I always prayed you would be her biological father. For the last seven years, I’ve been praying for that to be the case. Now, I feel like this lessens the burden of my guilt.”
Isioma looked at him. “In a way it does because it means I didn’t foist another man’s child on you. I am only guilty of the sin of infidelity and of covering up that sin.”
“Don’t be too quick to expunge yourself of any guilt, Isioma, for nothing has changed.”
“I know. I betrayed you, hurt you, and you can’t forgive me. But I want you to know that it not only relieves me that you’re her father, but it makes me very happy, Chiedu. You’ve always been the best father to our children and I didn’t want to take that away from her.”
“No one will take me away from her or her away from me, I’ve made sure of that.”
It was the way he said it. The look in his eyes when he said it.
“Chiedu,” her heartbeat skipped in alarm. “I don’t understand what you mean. You’ve made sure of it… how? What did you do?”
“But I told you, Isioma, a parent thinks first of the child. She’s my child, mine to take care of and protect.”
It couldn’t be. It wasn’t possible. “Chiedu, what did you do?”
“What do you think I did?”
Isioma stared at him. His eyes, steady on hers, said it all. But she couldn’t believe it. “It’s not possible. How can it be possible? Chiedu…” She grasped his hand. “Please, tell me what you did?”
“I put my daughter’s happiness first before all else.” He stood and moved towards the sofa. “I’m going to sleep. We have to make an early start tomorrow.”
She watched as he stretched out on the sofa and turned his back to her. Oh God, what did he do? Was it possible that he…
Isioma stopped the thought. No, she wasn’t going to consider it. She wasn’t going to let herself think about it.
But she thought about it. She couldn’t stop thinking about it, and it tortured her as she packed her suitcases to go back home.
“Uche, I think Chiedu did something. I don’t know what he must have done or how, but I feel something is not right about the result we were given.”
“Isioma, stop this. Stop this nonsense talk at once.” Uche reproved. “He’s letting you come home. He asked you to return and that can only mean he wants you two to resolve your issues. You should be focussed on making that resolution work instead of trying to start off new trouble.”
“Uche, he said…”
“I don’t care what he said or what he did or did not do. That fact here is that Chiedu is your husband and he is Dinma’s father. He is her father, not Awele. I don’t know why you are desperate to believe the result that says Awele is her father and not your husband. Are you trying to permanently destroy your life?”
“No, Uche. But…”
“But nothing. Let this thing go, Isioma. Awele has gone back to the UK, Chiedu wants you back home and your children’s future are secure once again. Be grateful and stop probing into things that will only bring you trouble.”
Isioma opened her mouth to protest again and then stopped herself. Uche was right, she should be grateful for the chance to make amends. Besides, she may have misunderstood him. He hadn’t categorically confessed to doing anything. And how could he have done something when it was Awele who’d recommended the clinic?
“You’re right, Uche. I don’t know why I’m letting myself worry over this when it’s over. My focus should be on how to mend my relationship with Chiedu. His asking me to come home tells me he wants us to give us another chance.” She gave her sister a hug. “Thank you for everything. I’ll call you when I get home.”
“No problem. We’ll just keep praying. Don’t expect too much at once. Things will take time before they go back to the way they used to be, but with God, it will be all right at the end.”
“I hope so, Uche.”
“I want us to talk. It’s important we understand each other.” He said as he came in after putting the children to bed.
“All right.” She sat down on the bed. “But I’d like to say first that I am so happy you’re giving me a second chance. Frankly, I didn’t expect it and definitely not so soon, but thank you for your kindness.”
“It is not kindness, Isioma. It is doing what needs to be done.”
“I… I don’t understand.”
“You think a woman is the only one who can make sacrifices for her children? You think only a woman can stay in a marriage just for the good of her children?”
“You are saying you’re doing this because of the children?”
“Only because of them, Isioma. You are their mother and they need you. I have no wish to put them through the pains of a broken home. So, you’re back here for them. For them, not for me.”
“I’ll be sleeping in the guest room from now on. Goodnight, Isioma.”
“Chiedu, please don’t do this.”
“I didn’t do this. You did it.” And he walked out.
Isioma pressed a trembling hand against her mouth. Oh God, her nightmare was only beginning.