I always imagined what my father had been like, the things he liked and didn’t like. Whether he was cool or not, was he light-skinned like me or dark as mum?
I daydreamed about what it would have felt like to have him in my life and often wondered what my friends who had their dads meant to them. Hearing them talk about their fathers and seeing them visit on campus always made me jealous. I would smile watching them, but as soon as I was alone, I would cry, wishing my father was still alive.
Even though my mother was such a great parent, I still felt incomplete without my father.
I turned twenty in February. Mum came into my room that morning, singing loudly and performing a caricature of dance for me. I pulled the duvet over my face and chuckled – she was too much.
She jumped into my bed, yanked the duvet off my face, and placed a kiss on my forehead before going on to sing my praises. She told me she was proud of me and that she loved me very much, all of which I had heard repeatedly before.
I grinned gratefully and embraced her tightly, then suddenly, she started to cry. I wiped the tears running down the corners of her eyes, but she wouldn’t stop crying, so I became alarmed, “Mum, are you okay?”
She shook her head, snuffling.
I reached out to the napkin by the bedstead and handed it to her. I watched her dab her tears before taking her hands into mine and staring inquisitively at her sad eyes. That was when she told me – my father was not dead as she had always made me believe. He was alive, and he wanted to meet with me.
“Mum!” I gasped, “How is this possible?”
“I was young Mimi,” she sniffed, “we were both young and in love. And then I got pregnant and he was scared. He wouldn’t have any part of it. He denied me…”
I was gaping at my mother, frozen to my spot.
“I kept you,” she continued amidst tears. “My parents took care of you while I went back to school. I hated him, Mimi, I hated him so much for what he did to me. I couldn’t tell you the truth because I didn’t want to hurt you, and I didn’t see the point—”
“You didn’t see the point?” I stressed, arching my left brow.
“Yes I didn’t, he never wanted you so you knowing he was alive and just didn’t want you would have hurt you even more,” she insisted.
She blew her nose into the napkin. “He found me on Facebook, traced me to the office, and has been insisting on meeting with you. But baby it is up to you,” she quickly added, “If you don’t want to go—”
“No,” I said, and her eyes widened, “I WILL go,” I dragged the words, confused, then almost immediately, anger erupted through me.
I jerked from the bed and started walking toward the bathroom. I stopped when I reached the door to speak over my shoulders, “Set up a place and time, I will meet him,” then barged into the bathroom and locked the door behind me.
He was alive, after all. He just didn’t want me
That hurt more than thinking he was dead.
I turned on the faucet with shaky fingers and climbed into the bathtub. Folding my knees to my chest, I cried until all that was left was dry snot.
He was light-skinned, I observed as he opened the door to my favorite restaurant.
Mum had set up a meeting there and was waiting in her car nearby.
I came early, I could not wait.
I rose as he looked around searchingly. His eyes fell on me, and I smiled hesitantly. He was tall, handsome, and expensively dressed.
He rushed towards me and scooped me in his arms. His perfume-woody and masculine filled my nostrils. I let him embrace me for a while, and then I withdrew from him.
“I’m so sorry, I couldn’t help myself,” he apologized. “You are so tall, and beautiful, just like your mum.”
I smiled acceptingly. I took my seat, and he took the opposite chair, and we stared at each other in silence. My mind was racing with varying thoughts. I didn’t know whether to be happy or angry – I was sitting with my father, the man I had believed to be dead for the past twenty years; it all felt so unreal.
I moved my fingers under the table and pinched myself; I needed to make sure I wasn’t dreaming…
“Mimi,” he broke the silence, “I’m very sorry—”
“Sorry?” I sneered, suddenly finding my voice, “You left mum to raise me on her own. Do you have any idea how hard that was for her? How hard it was for me?—”
“No, father,” my voice raised, all the emotions I had suffered coursing together at once, “I needed you, I needed my father, and you weren’t there.” Tears stung the corners of my eyes, and I let them flow freely, “Twenty years, twenty years, I thought you were dead, and that was bearable. But you were alive, all these while, you were alive, you just didn’t want me, why? Why didn’t you want me? I didn’t choose to be born, so what did I do wrong? And why now?”
“Mimi I was young, I was foolish. I’m sorry.”
“Stop saying that!” I was exasperated, “Sorry won’t make it alright. It doesn’t bring back the years I had without you.”
“Mimi,” he placed his hand on mine, and I slipped mine from under his. “I know I was wrong, and I have spent most of my adult life regretting walking out on your mother. But I am here now, and I am willing to make things right. I will make it up to you, as long as that may take.”
I sniffled, shaking my crossed legs, “I don’t know father, I don’t know.”
Silence fell between us again. I could see that he was hurting too. His forehead sat creased in a frown, and he stared at me pleadingly.
After a while, I rose from my chair, straightening my hands down my dress.
He rose too.
“I’m going home,” I said, looking away from him.
“Will I see you again?”
“I don’t know.”
I wore my purse on my shoulder and began to march away from him, and I felt his stare heavy on my back even as I neared the door.
It was a quiet drive home.
Mum kept her eyes on the road, and so did I.
The only sounds between us were the unclear recording of the FM station, the running car engine, and the frequent honking of the horn.
I knew she was holding back on inquiring about my meeting with my father. She must have desired to know but maybe too afraid to hear that I had liked it.
I looked at her from the corners of my eyes, and she had both hands clasped on the steering wheel – a sign of nervousness I could tell because she usually drove with one hand.
I looked away to the window beside me.
What was I going to tell her? That I didn’t enjoy meeting my father? That beneath all that anger that I had demonstrated before him, somewhere deep within, it didn’t feel good to see him, to realize that I had a father after all?
Because it did…
“Do you want ice cream?” mum suddenly spoke up, calling my attention, “we’re approaching Cold Stone.”
Cold Stone Creamery was my favorite Ice cream shop. She made it a duty to bring me here on the weekends, and today was a Saturday, “Yes,” I said, and then muttered a “thank you” before returning my gaze to stare out the window.
This was weird.
I didn’t usually communicate with my mother in this way. One day after meeting my father and it was already awkward between us…
She drove into the parking lot of Cold Stone Creamery and brought the car to a halt.
I started unbuckling my seat belt when I noticed her hand was still on the gear. So I looked at her, “Mum?”
And she began to cry, bringing her hands to bury her face in them.
My lips quivered as I watched her, “Mum.”
“I don’t want to lose you!” she declared amidst tears.
I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around her neck, and we cried together, but I could not promise her that she would not lose me because I knew I wanted to see my father again.
We didn’t talk about him when we got home in the evening of that day. We had eaten our ice cream at Cold Stone red-eyed, each of us caught up in our thoughts.
Now lying in bed, waiting for sleep to steal me away, I thought of him – my father. I remembered how sad his eyes had looked when he told me he was sorry.
…Was I too rash in going off at him the way I did?
All those things I said.
Maybe I should have given him a chance to apologize better.
How many absentee fathers ever returned to their children? Ever tried to find them?
Wasn’t I being ungrateful and rash?
As all of these wonderings filled my head, guilt trapped my heart. I felt bad for the way that I had questioned him, the way I had spoken to him. I even walked out on him!
I snapped up in bed and decided that I owed him an apology. I needed to contact him. With that thought, I picked up my phone from beside my pillow then it hit me. I didn’t have his number; I didn’t even know his name!
Determined to find a way, I climbed down from my bed and walked to my mother’s room. Her door was partly closed, she had been leaving it that way for me since I was a child, and even now, she still felt that I might need to run to her at night.
Slowly, I pushed the door further apart. It creaked, and I stopped. I listened for a sign of consciousness, but mum’s body didn’t even move.
Satisfied, I put one foot through the door and then my entire body. I tiptoed to her bed with hunched shoulders. Afraid my silhouette may alert her, I squatted down on the floor and looked around for her phone.
It wasn’t beside her on her bed. I continued to dart my eyes around the fairly lit room. Instinctively, I looked towards the wall socket, and there it was – charging!
I dropped on all fours, crawled to the socket, unplugged the phone, and slid it open – my mum never locked her phone.
She said he had contacted her on Facebook, so I went straight to her Instant Messenger and began to scroll through impatiently.
Several men were sending my mum messages, but I didn’t blame them; my mother was a beautiful 36-year-old…
Ignoring all of that, I continued to scroll for a sign of my father. I opened each chat and read a bit through while continuously darting my eyes at my mother’s sleeping body – she better not catch me! By God, she better not find me here!
And then bingo! There it was!
His name was Emmanuel, Emmanuel Orji. I smiled at this finding – what a beautiful name for a handsome man.
Hastily closing the app, I dropped her phone, got back on all fours, and crawled out of her room.
Back in my room, I climbed into my bed and grabbed my phone. I opened the Facebook app. I typed his name in the search button, and the search results popped him out.
His profile was not privatized, thank God, not that it would have mattered because I went for his messenger and sent him a direct message.
“Good evening… dad,” I wrote.
Biting my lower lip, wondering if that was a good start, the message marked read.
My heart skipped!
Then it showed him typing, and my heart double-skipped.
“Oh Mimi! How are you?”
“How did you know it was me?” I was excited and giggly.
“Your profile picture. How are you baby? And how did you find me?”
“Through mum’s phone.”
“How is she?”
“She’s fine. She’s asleep.”
“I’m so sorry for the way I spoke to you, I was just so mad, but I… I would like to see you again, too.”
He sent a smiling emoji, then typed, “I should be the one apologizing for ever leaving you – you are such a beautiful girl, I really shouldn’t have missed out on your life.”
I blushed, “Thank you daddy.”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Not anymore, I broke up with him.”
“That’s good. You can’t trust boys.”
I felt excited. All that time that had passed, all the longing for a father consumed me at that moment. I was not going to waste one more minute being angry, I finally had a father, and I was going to enjoy it! “Daddy, can I see you tomorrow?”
“Of course you can baby! What time is convenient for you?”
“11 a.m, mum will be at work and I have only one lecture at school.”
“Nice! You’re a College girl?”
“What course are you studying?”
“Microbiology. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow, I have to go now before mum catches me on my phone.”
“Okay. Here’s my number, 07034888860, call me when you’re ready okay?”
I woke up excited about the day and all it held for my father and me.
I’m sure mum noticed my unwavering smiles as we had breakfast that morning and how my hips swayed around the house.
She ignored saying a word and simply went out to work.
And I didn’t mind. There was no time to feel sorry for my mum. I was too happy to have a father to be feeling sorry I mean, she had to understand! She had kept me away from him all this while, but now, fate had brought us together, and I deserved to enjoy my father.
I took a shower and carefully got dressed.
I had to look good. My father was a handsome, tall, lean man, so I wore a little white dress and borrowed my mother’s perfume. I left the house and took a cab to the restaurant.
He was waiting for me this time around.
As soon as he saw me, he rose to his feet, and I ran into his arms. He wrapped me in a tight hug, “You smell nice.”
“Thank you daddy.”
He pulled out a chair for me, “Does your mother know you’re here?”
“No!” I answered flippantly, sitting down.
He went around the table and pulled out a chair for himself, “You sure that’s okay?” he looked concerned but sat down anyway.
“Yeah,” I shrugged dismissively, “You’re my dad, you’re not just anyone, right?”
He laughed and placed both hands on the table, “Yeah, so how are you?”
I responded by telling him how excited I was that morning about coming to see him. We talked and ate and then talked some more.
That day marked the beginning of my sneaking out to see my father.
I don’t know why I kept it from my mother. When my father didn’t try to reach me through her anymore, I guess she must have assumed that he had stopped caring, but that was not true, even though I noticed how happy she became again.
I didn’t understand how keeping me from my father made her happy. Still, it didn’t matter, and I played along because it was a month of me secretly seeing my dad at least twice a week.
He took me to different places around the town, gave me money, and even helped me with schoolwork when I would bring it to him.
I was happy. I was truly happy.
By the fourth month of knowing my father, I decided I wanted to live with him.
I broke the news to my mother even before I broke it to him.
My mother was standing by the kitchen counter with her hand on the running blender when I walked into the kitchen and, without mincing words, said, “Mummy, I want to go and live with daddy!”
She turned her head in such swiftness that her hand shifted from the blender, and the force of the blending paste sprouted out onto her face. I rushed to her, turned off the blender, and led her to the sink.
She washed her face under the running tap. Then, I handed her a kitchen towel and waited as she dabbed her face. Then slowly, she sat on one of the kitchen chairs.
I took the other empty chair.
She looked at me, and I knew it was time to come completely clean. “I’ve been seeing daddy secretly. He’s a good man mum, he cares about me, he advises me buys me stuff, and I want to live with him…”
I don’t know what shocked her more, the fact that I had been seeing him or the determination of wanting to go live with him, even though I had never been to his house.
“I love him and he loves me too, please don’t say no.”
My mother had always been my friend. She was more of a friend than a scary parent figure, but she never withheld firmness where the need was. Seeing her looking at me with her face completely drained of color and lips parted in shock made me feel sorry for her.
But this was about me. Every girl needed her father.
“Why would you be seeing your father behind my back?” her voice was laced with confusion and disappointment.
“I’m sorry,” I shrugged, “I just wanted to get to know him. You kept him away all these while…”
“For good reason Mimi—”
“Well he is not who you think he is. He loves me and he just wants to be my father.”
She said nothing.
“I am an adult mum, you can’t really stop me from seeing my own biological father. He has said he is sorry for abandoning you, so just let us be.”
I could see the pain in her eyes – the pain I assumed of loving and single-handedly raising me all these years, only to now watch me get consumed by my father. Still, she had to understand; this was my life!
“You can’t live with him, you can only visit and I would prefer supervised visits henceforth.”
“Mummy, I want to live with him!” my voice had finality.
“He is married Mimi.”
“No, he’s not!” Jealousy itched at my heart, and anger fumed.
“How do you know? Have you been to his house?”
“No, but I’m sure it dosen’t matter.”
“Your father has a wife and he didn’t tell you, why do you think that is?”
“I don’t know,” I was getting agitated, “You can’t poison me against my father.”
She looked offended, “I am not trying to poison you against your father, I have never done that and I never will.”
“Then let me go live with him, even if it’s just for the Summer, please!”
“I’ll think about it.” And with that, she rose back to the kitchen counter.
The next time I saw my father, which was the evening of that day, I demanded to know why he didn’t tell me that he was married.
We were seated in the back seat of his car, and I had my hands folded angrily on my chest.
He was laughing; he thought it was funny.
“Okay, I’m sorry,” he finally said, casually dropping an arm across my shoulders. He nudged me back and forth, then added, “Hmm? Can you forgive me?”
My lips stayed shut, my eyes looking out the window into the night. I was furious, but more than that, I felt jealous of this strange woman.
I had thought it would just be him and me.
“Look at me,” he turned my chin to his face, and I gazed into his brown eyes, only inches apart from mine. “I was just waiting for the right time to tell you. I didn’t want to rush you but now that you know, I would take you to meet her if—”
I lurched forward and pressed my mouth to his. He froze. I started to pull away, and he tightened his arm around my shoulder, drew me in, and slipped his tongue into my mouth. We kissed in the coldness of the air conditioner under the quiet night sky.
When he traced his finger over my collarbone down to the tautness of my nipple, I arched forward and cried softly as he pleasured me all the way down to my thighs.
I fell in love!
By the start of Summer, he came to pick me up from my mum’s house with my mum sadly approving.
“It’s just a vacation mum, I’ll be back,” I assured her as I hugged her goodbye.
I got into the car beside father, and we drove to his house.
I had met his wife after that night we shared our first – and sadly only kiss as he had refused to have a repetition of that beautiful moment. His wife was cool, but I hated her because she had his love in a way I couldn’t have. I would shoot her glares at every given opportunity and deliberately disrespect her.
And when she was not home, I would go to father in the skimpiest of clothes, but he always said no until one night when she was out of town for a business trip, and it was just us. He came into my room and, without a word, took my willing lips into his, then traveled down my body to the warmth between my thighs. And then, in a way I had never experienced before, plunged into me and, for unending minutes of unbridled pleasure, brought me to my very first climax!
I was so happy, and my love for him deepened!
By the end of summer, I refused to return to my mother’s house. I insisted on staying, and that marked the continuity of my stolen moments with my very handsome and caring father. Everything felt so perfect, and I grew a desperate desire to have him to myself!
I started to nurture ways to do away with his wife, but before I could hatch a concurrent plan, father called me into the living room one morning and, in the presence of his wife, announced to me that they were expecting a child and as if that wasn’t a strong enough blow, they informed me that they there were relocating out of the country…
“You’re leaving me alone?!” I couldn’t believe my ears, and tears started pooling in the corner of my eyes.
“We’ve been planning this trip for a while,” dad said, and my eyes caught him, lovingly taking hold of the hand of his annoyingly smiling wife.
“You’re leaving me,” I repeated as the realization hit me even deeper, “again.”
He smiled, then glanced at his wife like I didn’t just make a valid point, “We are excited to start our own family.”
“But, I am your family…”
They pinned their foreheads together and chuckled, ignoring my tears, shock, and disappointment.
Just like that.
My legs turned jelly, and my hands refused to stay still by my sides. All I could do was gape as they shared happy kisses and smiles in my presence!
How about all father and I shared? How about all the promises? The love??
I couldn’t believe it!
When I could muster the strength, I bolted away from them and into my room, where I collapsed on my bed and wept bitterly.
He didn’t come to console me, to explain better. Not that day, not the day after. I was so broken that I thought I was going to die. No boy had ever hurt me this way before. Why would my father choose to be the first of everything? My pain, my pleasure!
They insisted that I go to school on the Friday of that week. Little did I know that I would return later in the evening to find their stuff gone with a note from dad that read, “Take care, baby, it was nice knowing you.”