September 3rd |Cable Connections
“I have a mountain of meetings, starting today.” Smoky tones informed her the next morning as she sauntered into her office, swinging the door shut behind her. “And I want us to do lunch this afternoon or something else in the evening. Anything as long as I get to see you.” He continued. “I’m racking my head as to how I’m going to manage it all.”
She deposited her bags on the table and perched at the corner of it. “But we just spent the weekend together. Every day of it.” She reminded him. “Don’t you need a breather?”
“I doubt that you’ll ever be too much for me, Esohe.” He told her quietly. “Because I can’t seem to get enough of you.”
“I had a wonderful time too.” She smiled into the ‘phone.
“So let’s keep that momentum going this week, shall we?” He encouraged in a bright tone. “But how? Now that’s the issue. Let me work something out, okay? Then get back to you. Las’ las’, we’ll keep talking.”
She chuckled. “Okay.”
“Oh, by the way, I gave your number to Seyi. Told him to send photos of the gala to you. I hear they’ll arrive today.”
“Really? I can’t wait!”
“Until we speak again, have a good one, my darling.”
“You too, sweetheart.”
It was going to be a lovely day.
Her weekly, Monday departmental meeting wrapped up early. She rose as her team began to disperse and was reaching for her laptop when the signature tone of incoming messages on WhatsApp sounded once, then moments later in rapid succession, signaling multiple messages at the same time.
The number which flashed along with them was unfamiliar. But when she realized that photos were the messages, she figured it was Seyi doing as he had been instructed by his boss. She’d settle down and view them properly later, she promised herself, reaching for her cellphone lying on the table.
One last beep from the device, and she stopped to stare at the screen. Another unknown number, different from the previous one, had sent a video.
Who was this? What was the video about?
Out of sheer curiosity, she tapped on the watch option. It was a less-than-a-minute clip and the first person to appear on the screen was Osayu in a red, t-shirt and a pair of black jeans shorts.
Yesterday’s clothes! She thought suddenly. She’d been with him and her mum before setting out for Lekki.
His surrounding was vaguely familiar, but she was hard pressed to recognize it. All she could tell was that he was in a house. Probably in a sitting room, leaning on an armchair and staring straight ahead at something she couldn’t see. A TV set perhaps?
When her in-laws, grinning from ear to ear, joined him on the screen, Esohe’s heart skipped a beat. She hadn’t seen them in years yet here was her son in their house, in neighbouring Oyo state. Now she knew why the room looked somewhat familiar. It was Folarin’s parents’ house. And there was only one explanation.
Moments later, her ex’s smug-looking visage made its appearance, making four faces on the screen. “Hello wifey.” He spoke directly to her.
The clip ended.
Immediately, she began to call her mum, slammed her laptop shut and raced out of the conference room, her heart thudding loudly.
It took every ounce of strength in her to keep it together as she rushed out of the office and headed for Games Village.
Please Lord, let there be no traffic. She prayed silently, fervently as she swung into Awolowo Road.
Three times she’d called her mum. Three times no luck. Why wasn’t she answering? Where was she? Esohe’s mind raced wildly.
Folarin had taken Osayu to Ibadan yesterday! Just like that! How? What had he told her mum? And where had she, his mum, been? Frolicking with Eddie! Oh gosh! This was not happening!
Slow traffic movement at Apongbon, and she tried her mum’s number again; it rang off the hook.
Her worry levels escalated. The jam cleared up and she tore through Eko bridge.
A serene scene met her screeching arrival at Games Village. Her mum’s two employees under the awning, shielded from the blast of the sun, waiting for customers, the door to the ante room wide open.
“Ah, Esohe.” Mrs. Eweka’s face lit up with surprise as her daughter hurried in.
“Iye, obavan.” Good afternoon mum. She greeted. “Where is Osayu?”
“Folarin…” Her mum began.
“Folarin?!” Esohe cried out in alarm. “Folarin took Osayu to Ibadan yesterday!”
Mrs. Eweka was shaking her head as she rose from her chair. “E-e oh, e-e oh.” No. No. She said. “Ice cream. He said they were going for ice cream.”
“No mummy. I have the video. Folarin’s parents are in it.” Esohe lamented. “Where did he say they were going today?”
“Buy toys, and more ice cream.”
“It’s a lie!” Her daughter wailed. “Folarin has taken my him!”
Eddie had been right.
Ifeanyi had been right, and she had listened to neither of them.
She had been so sure Folarin wouldn’t stoop this low, using Osayu as bait, to get her back. She’d underestimated the weasel and was paying for it now.
Her face, crumpled with worry and this close to tears, she dialled the number attached to the video.
“Hello wifey.” Folarin greeted brightly. “You are in luck. You just caught us. We were about to board.”
Board? They were at the airport?! “Folarin, where are you? Where is Osayu?” Straining hard to keep her voice steady.
“Who is the pathetic joker now, eh Esohe?” He taunted. “You thought I wasn’t serious when I said I wanted you back, eh?”
“Please don’t take my child away from me!” Her tone a desperate plea.
“He’s my child too!” He retorted.
“And you left us. You left us, Folarin, remember?” She reminded him, her voice acquiring a slight edge. “What father does that to his young son?”
“Do you think you’re in a position to query that past decision of mine?” He wanted to know. “While I have all the leverage?”
“But it’s the truth! You deserted us!” She emphasized.
“Newsflash. I’m back and want to take my rightful place as the head of my family. With you and our son, Esohe.” He told her. “Unless of course, you don’t want to see him again. Which is fine. He’d grow up and forget completely who you are. No memory of you. His mother. Imagine that!”
“Folarin, don’t do this!” Her eyes began to water; her tone back to groveling.
“Oh, by the way, how was your weekend, wifey?” He deviated suddenly. “The party? And the screwing afterwards with Eddie?”
How did he know about her weekend whereabouts? Was he having following her?! “Please bring Osayu ba..”
“Oh, I will and can. It all depends on you right now. What are you ready to do in order to see him again?” Her ex’s tone grated over the line.
“Anything, Folarin. Anything.”
“Excellent. Let’s start with that barrister boyfriend of yours…”
After the fifth attempt, Eddie stopped calling, stopped trying to speak to Esohe on the ‘phone. How odd was it that she wasn’t picking up his calls or returning them either? How slightly worrying.
Between 4.00pm and 6.45pm, he’d called her 10 times. After the initial three unanswered calls, he’d called the reception at La Feminine and was informed she’d left the office before 4.00pm.
He tried her line again an hour later. Each time it rang off. She didn’t pick up or call back. Or send a message either. He hoped she was all right.
He was still stuck in the office in one meeting or the other. He couldn’t leave just yet though he yearned to do so.
Before he entered his last for the day at about 7.00pm, he sent off a WhatsApp message:
Have been trying to reach you for a while now.
Is everything all right? Please call when you can.
Heading into my last meet for today.
Curled on the bed beside Osayu, her arms wrapped tightly around his sleeping form, her eyes swollen from crying, Esohe read Eddie’s message, and, mechanically, replied to it:
Sorry. Something came up. Talk tomorrow.
“No! No! No! No! No! No! No!” Jennifer screamed down the ‘phone line, her tone a mixture of anger and disgust. “No, Esohe. You are not going down this road again. No! Never!’ She spat out. “We have to do something!”
Her friend sighed. It was a little after 11pm. Esohe was alone in the ante room of her mum’s flat, having bade the older woman good night half an hour ago. “Like what?” She asked in a dull monotone. “Get a restraining order? Take him to court and get full custody of Osayu? How long will that take? Who has the time or resources? What guarantee do I have that I’d win and if I do, he’d stick to the ruling?”
“Babes, you can’t be talking like this!” Jennifer exclaimed. “You have to try something, anything to put this man in check permanently!” She continued. “So you’re just going to let him ruin your life again?!”
“And I ask again, what can I do?” Esohe repeated. “He took Osayu twice. Twice, Jennifer, and nobody stopped him. Nobody knew. What if he hadn’t sent the video? Or I hadn’t clicked it when I did? They’d be long gone before anyone noticed.” She said sadly. “He is after all the boy’s father.”
“Who abandoned him for how many years now. Won’t that mean something in the courts of law?” Jennifer persisted.
“I don’t know. Patriarchy is pretty strong here.“ Esohe supplied dryly.
“And I won’t stand by and watch you squirm under the whims of one of the losers of patriarchy, Esohe! Not again!”
“Do you know he had me followed?” She informed her friend. “To the office. To the house. To my mum’s. To Eddie’s.” She continued. “Those two weeks he was silent, he thought nothing was going on between Eddie and I, so he chilled. Then got incensed over the weekend and decided to hit me where it hurt most. With my son, Jeje. With Osayu.“
“And this is the same devil you want to go back to?!”
Esohe shook her head from side to side as though her friend could witness her action. “I haven’t said I am yet. Just gave him the impression that I would so that he’d bring Osayu back safely.”
“Can’t we use all of these information somehow against him?” Jennifer reverted to their earlier topic. “Use it to our advantage? To get an upper hand and rid you of him totally?”
“I don’t know. Could we?”
“Ask Eddie, he’d know what…” Her friend began to suggest when Esohe cut in.
“No, no, no. Eddie can’t know about this.”
“Why not?!” Jennifer shouted. “He’s the lawyer!”
“It was one of the conditions to getting Osayu back.”
“That I have nothing to do with Eddie anymore.”
“And you agreed?!”
Esohe sighed heavily. “At the time, all I could think about was Osayu. I just wanted him back, Jeje! He comes first before anyone else.”
“God! I’ve never hated Folarin so much!”