Jaiye had witnessed intense family drama twice as a little kid; the first time was when his maternal aunt and her husband had a huge fight and almost burnt their house down and the second was when a close family friend of the Fowlers had a fight with his cousin which left both of them inviting the family doctor over. But none of them could top the one which he now watched with horror.
Godwin had pulled out a knife and was now waving it closely at Umoru; he looked very angry and unconcerned about the shouts and pleas his sisters and mom were rendering.
“Godwin, Godwin biko take am easy.” His mother continued to say.
“No mama, make I teach dis Idiot lesson. How pesin go beat my sister and go tink say im fit come here fit come take am?” Godwin was livid, his eyes were burning and his voice was cold, he looked like he would commit murder anytime.
“Beat who? I have never touched her!” Umoru spat, “But if you think you can do strong man for me, I will tell you that Umoru isn’t an idiot.”
“So she is lying?” Nene asked, “I saw the marks”
“He didn’t beat me Sister.” Mercy said gently, Nene froze and turned to look at her sister.
“But you showed me the marks Mercy.” Nene muttered, a look of disbelief on her face.
“It wasn’t him Sister, it wasn’t him. Umoru never beats me. I just wanted to leave him”
The room went dead silent. Everybody was staring at Mercy now, with utter disbelief.
“You lied to your family Mercy, what did I ever do to deserve that? I loved you Mercy, I loved you and gave you all I had” Umoru was hurt, Jaiye could see the pain in his eyes. It was too evident to ignore, it was there, staring at everyone hard in the face.
Nene could see that Umoru was saying the truth and her sister was the liar, she could see a man in so much pain and confusion staring at his wife in shock.
“Mercy…” he called again, after he didn’t get a response the first time.
Mercy lowered her head and began to stare hard at her feet, she wasn’t speaking.
“Mercy…” Umoru called again, this time, his voice barely a whisper. “I loved you Mercy”
Mercy’s head shot up, “But I did not love you” she responded, her voice was shaking. “I was too young and it was not supposed to be serious and I got pregnant and Mummy insisted we should marry…” she was beginning to cry now. “I just wanted to be important and big, I wanted to be like Sister Nene”
Nene sighed; the things her little sister did just to be like her were plain ridiculous.
Mercy fell at her husband’s feet and began to cry, “I’m sorry Umoru, I am so sorry.”
Umoru didn’t move, he just stood there as his wife washed his feet with her tears. His heart was breaking and the things he just learnt about were going to haunt him for a very long time to come.
“Your brothers locked me up and had the police beat me up Mercy.” He pushed her away and pulled her up with force. “I want my daughter. I don’t care what you do with your life. Just give me my child! I will be back for her!” He said and stormed out of the room.
The silence that fell on the room stayed there for a long time that night.
“I don’t want that to be me, never. I could see Umoru’s heart breaking, he really loved her” Nene was still in shock about what happened earlier. Her head was relaxed on Jaiye’s car seat, the music still playing at a low volume; it was a Rihanna song playing now.
“That would never be us” Jaiye replied, gently, reaching for her hand. Nene yanked it away from him.
“But you walked away the first chance you got” she replied.
“Jaiye you don’t have to stay because of the baby. I can manage without you.” She said indignantly.
“Like hell you can” Jaiye said and Nene eyed him.
“You think I cannot?” Nene was angry; the man had uttered the statement with so much certainty.
“No you cannot Nene, you do not have the resources. And if you think I will allow you to raise my child, a Fowler in this type of condition, have another thing coming” He added and Nene couldn’t contain her anger anymore.
“You cannot force yourself on me, you cannot just walk in and out of my life when you please” She spat.
She was angry, he could see. But why in God’s name would she think he would stay out of her life and his baby’s life? He was not irresponsible and he certainly was not going to go away.
He loved the woman and she was going to be his.
“I am here to stay Nene, stop being stubborn and deal with it.” He said and she gaped at him, too shocked to speak.
Nene was angry. There had to be a way she could show Jaiye Fowler that he could not have things his way all the time.
Since he found out she was pregnant, he had refused to let her out of his sight, he had informed her mother and told her he was getting married to her. Nene’s mother had been overjoyed, she wanted them to start planning a wedding as soon as possible. She had called her late husband’s family and asked them to pick a date for Nene’s introduction and traditional wedding ceremony.
The next two days were spent with him, on his arm, while he attended classy events and meetings. He had told his brother she would no longer be working with Avant Garde magazine and had called a celebrity stylist to take her on a shopping spree that must have cost several thousands of naira.
They attended a fashion event together and he told her to look at the models well, “All the best clothes any of those hungry looking girls wear tonight would be yours. If you like anything, just say it, okay?” then without waiting for an answer he quipped, “I have told the designer that we pick first before anybody else.”
Out of curiosity, Nene asked “And he listened to you just like that?”
“Of course, I am a Fowler”
Nene nodded slowly, that was the family she was becoming a part of, that her child would be a part of, the family whose name spoke volumes, whose name opened doors, whose name was power.
But she wanted to hold her own, she did not want to be overwhelmed by all the power, fame and money. She did not want them to look down on her. She was scared they would look down on her and that frightened her more than anything else.
After the show, the designer who Nene recognized as the most popular designer in Lagos, a slender man in his early thirties had hurried to where she was with Jaiye and had greeted her with so much respect, she doubted she had ever been greeted with in her entire life.
“Did you see anything you love?” he asked her and Nene was too overwhelmed with all that had happened in the past few days since Jaiye found out about her pregnancy and refused to let her out of his sight that she did not know what to say.
The designer assumed it meant she didn’t like any of his creations and the look of disappointment on his face was unmistakable, “I’m so sorry we couldn’t give you anything you wanted, I am so sorry, I should…”
Nene hated causing him so much trouble; she hurriedly apologized, “No. I do love them, its just…”
Jaiye faced her, his hand held hers as he constantly did these days, “Do you want them to show you again?”
The designer nodded, Nene wondered how that was possible. And before she could say anything, the designer had all the models she had seen earlier file into the room they were standing in.
“I have a room for this purpose, please come with me”
And Nene watched with astonishment as the models and the designer led the way out of the room into a smaller room. Jaiye pulled her along with him.
They passed a small passage way and were in a smaller, empty room in seconds. Jaiye and Nene were offered the only seats in the room, a cushioned sofa that was at the end of the room, where they could see clearly.
“Please show the Fowlers our wonderful creations again, the lovely Mrs Fowler to be would love for her beautiful memory to be refreshed.”
Nene gaped as the girls redid a runway show for her, if at any point in the past year did anyone inform her of this, she would have laughed so hard, her ribs would have cracked.
This was the life. The life different from hers, the life she had no idea she could ever live.
The models strutted their stuff and some of them couldn’t help but gape at Jaiye, but his hands were on hers as usual and he was holding her close like she would live if he didn’t.
“So which ones do you like?” Jaiye whispered and that was when she realized that the runway show that was staged just for her by this popular Lagos designer was over.
She had not been watching, so she really didn’t know which one to choose, they were all beautiful pieces and she would pick them all but she really couldn’t say that.
“Okay, we”ll take everything Kas.” She heard Jaiye say. “Send me a cheque and have it delivered to my house.”
Then he pulled her up gently, shook hands with Kas and led her out of the room. Nene almost fell, did he just pay what she knew was a huge sum of money for loads of dresses she probably would never be able to wear? She already had two closet full of clothes!
“Jaiye, that was a lot”
“You shouldn’t have”
“Why? Your future husband is rich, you should own whatever you want. Start thinking like a Fowler babe, you are one now”
And after that, Nene couldn’t say anything more. She just simply couldn’t find the words.
Jaiye dropped Nene at hers after the event, he needed to respect his future mother in law, he had not married her daughter yet and he didn’t want her passing the night at his until he proposed officially with a good ring and married her the way a Fowler married a woman he couldn’t go a day without.
“I love you Nene” he said to her when she got home. Nene had been stunned; everything that had shocked her that day wasn’t as serious as this one. He loved her? Hearing him say it to her meant the world.
He walked her to the front door and said it again, “I love you, whatever happens, remember that”
She didn’t know what to make of his words but she nodded and said nothing more.
He greeted her mother and Godwin who was so excited to be having Jaiye as a brother in law and left.
“Dis one na wetin dem dey call husband. Dat yeye man wey Mercy marry na fake product” Godwin said as soon as Jaiye left.
“But na you say make she marry am” Nene replied, looking around the room for Mercy who was nowhere in sight.
“Dat na before I see light. We suppose dey take care of you well well now, because na through you we hammer for dis house. Oya wetin you wan chop?”
Nene shook her head and slumped into the chair in the room.
Jaiye didn’t expect the meeting with his father to be smooth, but whatever it took, he was ready to give it. He was absolutely in love with Nene and it was either her or nobody else and he hoped his father would accept that. he hoped he would respect his wish and realize that was the only way he would be happy.
The older man was reading a copy of the day’s newspaper when he walked into his study. He had changed drastically since their mother died and he hardly attended any event these days.
“Dad” Jaiye called, he stuck his hands in his pockets and prayed silently this would be easy.
“How are you Jaiye?” he said, closed the paper and looked at him. The old man noticed his son was nervous, not because it was written over him, because Jaiye masked that well, but because as his father, he knew when he was nervous about something. Adele had taught him that, she had helped him know each of their children, he ached as he remembered his wife, the love of his life, the woman who he knew he wasn’t going to live so long without.
Jaiye nodded. “I will be bringing the woman I want to marry to dinner tomorrow night” he informed his father and the older man nodded, he smiled at his son.
“If only Jare would realize a woman’s vagina is more sensible than a man’s anus”
Jaiye didn’t say anything, he did not want to discuss Jare, his brother had affected his life and decisions in the recent past so much he just wanted a break from him.
“I would be looking forward to meeting her”
Jaiye wanted to tell his father he wouldn’t be looking forward to meeting Nene but he decided against it, he was just going to tell him who she was and tell him to be civil.
His phone rang and interrupted him, it was Jare. He frowned, that had not happened in a long time. Jare never called him, never called anybody in the family, to him Antonio was his only family and he didn’t care much about the Fowlers anymore.
“Jare” He said, hoping this was a good reason for calling and interrupting one of the most important discussions he was having in a long time.
“Its Antonio! He is missing! My baby is missing!” Jare cried out from the other end.
Jaiye was furious, Jare was calling him to inform him about his boyfriend’s disappearance? Did he think he was a part of the police force?
“Jare, I am not a police officer just in case you think I…”
“I think it was planned Jaiye” Jare sounded terrified. “Maybe by someone who hates us, maybe someone who hates him. He went out this morning to buy groceries at the mall, then he called me while on his way just then I heard noises, I heard his scream and the line went dead. I called back but the line was off and I have not been able to reach my baby all day!” he was crying now. Jaiye sighed, whatever twisted love his brother had for the Antonio person was real.
“Okay, where are you?”
“At the penthouse.”
“The driver would come for you now, I am with Dad, I will inform him”
“But Jaiye what about Antonio, I don’t know what to do, I am so scared”
“Let’s take care of you first Jare. We need to take you out of harm’s way”
“Okay Jaiye, Okay”
Jaiye ended the call and faced his father. “Jare seems to be in a situation”
His father looked worried and Jaiye swore he would not put the man under stressful condition, he would handle it himself.
“Don’t worry, I would take care of this.”
The older Fowler man nodded, Jaiye darted out of the room, he hadn’t walked far when he heard his father call him.
“Make sure your brother is alright” the older Fowler man said. Jaiye nodded and dialed the Commissioner of Police.
The Fowlers never had dinner the way normal people did, it was usually something that looked like a banquet or the Kardashians having one of their over celebrated family gatherings and “everything” was usually served.
Tonight, every member of the family was in attendance, the reasons were not farfetched; Jare had been wailing like a child and was asking for the family to use their connection to look for his “baby” and Jaiye was bringing Nene to dinner.
Nene had picked one of the very expensive clothes Jaiye had bought for her for the evening, he had told her to dress really classy, “like a Fowler” and she had done just that.
Most of the clothes were at his apartment and she had picked from the few in her house.
It was a blue bodycon dress that hugged her petite frame and accentuated her curves. The dress stopped just below her knees and had short sleeves, it was a V-neck dress but it didn’t reveal too much cleavage. It was beautiful, simple, classy and like she told Jaiye every opportunity she got, “too expensive”.
The look on Jo and Jide Fowler snr when she walked into the room on Jaiye’s arms revealed they weren’t expecting her and she wasn’t welcomed.
It made her stomach turn and it made her feel slightly sick, they still blamed her for Adele’s death, she could see.
When Jaiye pulled out a seat for her and sat beside her, she knew it would be a very long night.
When the fried chicken was brought to the table, she knew she was supposed to lose her appetite because of the icy reception, but she was hungry. She had been eating like a whale since she got pregnant and she wanted the food so bad.
The other Fowler brothers were warm towards her and even though the older Fowler man responded when she greeted him, the look on his face told her she wasn’t welcome.
They ate in silence for a very long time, nobody talked, just the cutlery hitting the plates.
Jare barely touched his food and toyed with it throughout dinner. When dinner was over and dessert was being served, the Fowler patriarch turned to face Nene.
“Young lady what do you do for a living?” he asked.
Because Nene had not been doing anything, thanks to her overprotective boyfriend, she found it difficult to speak.
“You don’t work? Or you don’t speak English?”
The silence at the table was deafening.
“I speak English” Nene said, slightly embarrassed.
“So tell me, what do you do for a living?”
“I used to work with Avant Garde.” Nene replied.
The old man nodded, “So what happened?”
“Why? Because you met Jaiye? How do you support yourself when this is all over?”
“Dad” Jire called, “You need to get some rest”
“I agree” Jide said.
“Me too” Jare said much to everybody’s surprise, “you are bullying the girl Dad. You are bullying your son’s lover. That’s unfair and you do it every time!”
“Jare…”Jaiye called, he knew this was more than a Nene and Jide Fowler situation for Jare, it was a Jare/Antonio and Jide Fowler situation.
“No Jaiye, let me tell him. He needs to stop bullying everybody, let us all be with who we love.” Jare said angrily.
“The people you love who don’t love you in return?” Jide said to his youngest son.
“How would you know?” Jare yelled at his father, “you never even tried to know him. Never. None of you did. And now he is gone! Gone!” he said and began to cry.
Silence ensued for a while and Jaiye knew if he didn’t set things right now, he would never have the chance. His father needed to know he was going to be with the woman who made him so happy regardless of what the family thought they knew.
He dipped his hands into his jacket and produced a little box containing a Lorraine Schwartz fifty carat diamond ring he had ordered for and that had been delivered just minutes before he picked Nene up for dinner tonight.
It was limited edition and only one other person owned a ring like it in the world, it was the richest woman in Europe.
He faced Nene, grabbed her hands and smiled. Then he placed the box on the table, opened it and turned it to her. Nene gasped.
“Marry me Miss Francis, I have chosen not to live a day without you”
Silence returned to the table as everyone waited for Nene’s response.
“No!” Jo shouted. “You certainly can’t be serious Jay”
Nene looked at Jo, the latter was looking at her in anger.
“She killed mom, Jay!”
Nene nodded and stood up. “She is right Jaiye, I can’t marry you but not because I supposedly killed your mother but because I have chosen not to be a part of this family where I would never be appreciated. I’m leaving Jaiye, don’t bother to come after me, we can’t carry on with this pretence anymore. Let’s face it, this only works in the movies” she walked out of the room, fighting the tears threatening to fall. Jaiye followed Nene immediately.
Jire faced his little sister, “Jo, you have done a lot of stupid things in your life, but this tops it all. That was undoubtedly stupid”
Jo looked from Jire to Jide and realized her eldest brother agreed too, she made to speak, “but…but…”
Jare interrupted her, “I agree with him Jo, that was stupid. No matter your reason, you don’t ruin a proposal. You just earned the title nasty little bitch, sis”.