Hi everyone, Welcome to the penultimate episode of Without a Home. So far, I have had fun writing, and I have also reflected on the lessons of this story. Don’t just read, please share your thoughts. Your candid comment may be the answer to another readers questions. Enjoy. Read. Share. Learn.
Three weeks had passed since Tade passed on, and the entire Kuti household was grim with sadness. Charles had particularly been very quiet, and had resorted to barking out orders at his wife. It was his way of letting out the frustration. He tried hard to follow Pastor Poju’s advice to spend solitude moments speaking with God, but he spent the whole time thinking of his son. He sat at the dining table early one Monday morning waiting to see if Lara was actually going to work against his orders that she resign from her employment, and bring Roju, Tade’s brother back home from the boarding school he attended as a Primary Six pupil. He had always felt they needed more time with the kids, and his feelings were further validated by the manner in which Tade died. He had often considered a divorce from his marriage to his wife of ten years, and in the last one week after several arguments as to the way home-front was going to be run, he seemed to be convinced that something drastic had to be done either to save their marriage or destroy it all together. He stared at Lara, as she walked out of the room spotting a black suit with a black camisole, and black shoes and a black bag to match.
“I cannot force you to resign your employment…”
“No, you cansnot. We have gone over this several times.” Lara stared back at Charles hoping he would let her off the hook. She suffered enough mental torture staying at home mourning her son in the last week. She had decided to be strong. It hurt her that her son died, but life must go on. She stood arms akimbo waiting for a response from her husband, who was staring at the Tade’s portrait on the wall behind her.
“Look Charles, it’s not my fault that we lost Tade. Why do you want me to resign my job? Is that punishment for tragedy that was not within my control?” She asked with a stern look on her face. Charles was disgusted by his wife’s attitude. He actually did not mean for her to resign, he only wanted her to get to the point of realizing that there was a husband who needed her love, and at least a child that needed to be nurtured mildly like a baby in the cradle.
“How about opting out of this marriage? I am sick and tired of your attitude to the home front. I want out.” He looked into her eyes, hoping she would look beyond the rage on his face and hear the tears in his heart. Bitterness dissipated the words to describe the pain he felt; he did not want a divorce, he only needed his wife to stop in her tracks and reprioritize her life, and imbibe values that will make their family a better one. Deep down in his heart, he struggled to tell her that he believed if she had responded to the first distress call Tade would not have died.
“That’s blackmail Charles, and I hope for God’s sake you will stop this blame game. I did not kill our son; I did not create him with asthma. Cut me some slack. Will you? Let’s move on with our lives.”
Charles looked away from his wife, who had taken up a violent position as she was wont. Unperturbed by her rancid response, he walked out of the living room. Sisi Lara hissed after her husband, picked up her bag from the floor and walked out the front door into her official Honda Pilot.
Roju ran four blocks to the housemaster’s house. He was excited to hear that his father wanted to speak with him on the phone. He had been forlorn since the news of his brother’s death was broken to him, and it was quite a relief hearing that his father was going to call at 10am. It was just 9am, and instead of going for the end of the year school play rehearsals he decided to wait in front of Mr Oladele’s house to receive the phone call. He prayed silently as he climbed the hill that led to the teacher’s residential area, that they would come and pick him from school. Despite the exciting activities that marked the last week in school he was home-sick; he wanted to go home.
Mr Oladele was surprised to find the short, 10 year old Primary Five pupil knocking at his door an hour before schedule. Peeping through the keyhole, he could see the anxiety written all over the boy’s face; it was obvious he needed to go home. Since the announcement of his brother’s death he had suggested to the Principal to let the boy go home and share grief with his family. Surprisingly the Principal said his mother preferred to have the boy taken care of in school. He was about to release the boy to go home with his father, who was already on his way to Sagamu from Lagos. He was prepared to defend his position before the Principal; the children may be in the boarding house, but they must be afforded the opportunity of normal family lives, and disruptions to the strict regimen of school. It was why he studied child psychology as an undergraduate.
“Hello my boy”, he opened the door as Roju bent his head almost falling through the door space.
“Good Morning sir. I hear my father wants to speak with me”. The boy looked at his teacher’s face; trying to be sure his friend had played a trick on him by lying that the housemaster sent for him because his father had called.
“Yes, yes…and you will be going home today”, Mr Oladele prompted. Roju was full of gratitude for the opportunity he had to leave school earlier than scheduled.
“Thank you sir. Can I pack my things now?” He did not wait to listen for a response from his teacher before he turned back to the road, and ran down the hill joyfully like one who won a jackpot.
Mr Oladele smiled as the boy disappeared round the horizon in less than a minute. He wondered why the school denied the little children such moments of joy, by not allowing them the liberty to go home when they wished or when their parents requested. At any rate Roju had passed all his exams in flying colours and he also needed to be home to face the reality of losing a brother he always spoke about in school.
“We have to slow down, Sisi Lara.” The MD of Bevista looked across his ornately furnished desk at one of his most cherished and loyal management staff. “I could have told you this last week, but for the period of grief that you were in.”
“You mean we could not consummate the transaction?” She looked surprised and disgusted, thinking they must have left the whole deal loose at some ends.
“IFC is currently being rocked with a scandal that involves billions of dollars of investors’ funds. If you have been listening to the news you would be aware, but I understand, you were mourning. I just got a mail from the President’s office informing us that all plans to invest funds in Bevista will be on hold till further notice. It looks bleak, given the mounting evidence against the Directors of the company.”
Sisi Lara was dumbfounded; staring at the MD she wondered if there was any sense in the last statement he made. Her mind raced to the sleepless nights, and countless meetings with members of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, and the image of her son flashed momentarily before her.
“Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. Let us hope that this time we have not lost.” The MD broke the silence in the room.
“I lost sir. I lost. I lost my son because I wanted to take this company to the next level. I was in a meeting presenting what I thought was the future of my career, and my son was dying.”
Wole Williams had seen this scene many times. As a consummate investor and Managing Director of many years, he had seen many women break down under the weight of emotional disturbances, loss, and grief. He loved Sisi Lara, because he thought she was of a different breed; A breed of women who always took the bull by the horns and dared to tread only where angels and demons of the market place wrestled. He was shocked to see her in uncontrollable tears in his office. He quickly brought out his handkerchief but before he could get across the hundred-inch wide mahogany table, she stood up and excused herself.
“You can go home. You need some rest.” Wole called after her, knowing he could not add to his tedious and demanding job the task of consoling another man’s wife. In similar instances, other women’s performance on the job dropped to a record low after going through such a traumatic experience, and most of them did not stay long on the job.
With tears in her eyes, Sisi lara descended down the floors of the office through the back door. She was broken by the thought of efforts wasted, and suddenly realized what the death of her seven year old meant to her. She hated the decisions she took on that fateful Monday morning, when Tope made the distress call to her. She could have handed over the presentation and gone to give her son the attention he needed.
“Maybe. Just maybe you wouldn’t have died Tade.” In the walls of the lift was an apparition of her son staring at her. She knew it was a game in her mind, but she deserved much more. The boy could have lived. He could have done well with the prayers of a loving mother. Now it was late, she only had a grave, a wreath, and pictures of her son smiling ever so innocently. She slumped into the backseat of the car looking at the window of her office on the third floor as her driver drove her home.
The house seemed unusually empty to Sisi Lara, even though everything seemed to be in place. Inside the bedroom, she found a letter written by her husband on the mattress.
Welcome back! I hope to say this to you again someday, and if the opportunity does not present itself again, please accept this as the last.
We met fifteen years ago, and I have watched you metamorphose from the timid young undergraduate daughter of a preacher to a fierce board-room wife of a business man.
I have also watched with dismay, how you have abdicated your responsibilities as a mother to our two children over the years, one of whom we cannot have back as I write with tears. Infact, remember they could have been three, except for your argument that three would be a crowd since you had a career ahead of you. I have always believed in you, my dear Omolara, and so I made it a point of duty to give you the liberty of climbing the ladder of your professional career with few inhibitions. Recently, I realized that while I must love you, I must also love our children, and respect the sanctity of marriage.
You would recall that some time ago your father was in our house to settle a quarrel, when I revolted after you surreptitiously enrolled Roju in a boarding school without my acquiescence because, according to you, your work was becoming more demanding. I have suffered the fate of many men who have taken to the streets in search of objects of affection because their wives dissipated needed sexual energy on a daily grind in their work place, but I have chosen to be faithful. I hustle hard enough everyday to earn a decent income, and provide the basic needs a family must afford; and sometimes I wonder if you go to work because of an income or just to be personally fulfilled.
While the little time I have left cannot afford me an epistle, I would like to let you know that I have chosen to be separated from you starting from today, and If within the next couple of weeks our differences remain irreconcilable, you will hear from my lawyer.
PS: Roju and I will be leaving for London by 5pm this evening. I do not know when we will be back in the country. You can always call my line if you desire to speak with me.
Lara looked quickly at the wall clock. It was 3.15pm already. She flew out of the room, and asked the driver to open the gate and give her the car keys. At desperate moments like this she needed to drive herself at unimaginable speeds. She had to get to the airport before Charles and Roju boarded the flight. It was the first and only thing she could think of at that moment.