Tara had both legs lying on the centre table in their large living room – her uncle’s. Her head was rested backwards on the settee; days ago jogging through her memory. She couldn’t settle on what to think.
Her pained smile was rooted into her face as she handed Sule her letter. He was shocked and hurt. His face bared it all. Not a single emotion hid.
“You’re not joking.”
He had lifted his head from skimming the short letter.
“I’ll still be your friend.” She had attempted cheesy. “I’m traveling to do that master’s I’ve dreamt so much about. I couldn’t miss the opportunity.”
She wouldn’t lie. Yet she wouldn’t say the whole truth. At least not now.
“I still don’t understand.”
Those were his last words before Tahil called and he rushed off. He hadn’t called back. She can’t call yet. She smiled and puffed. Who dictates how to break your own heart? She laughed shortly at her thoughts and closed her eyes. That night when she prayed and cried, she’s never felt any freer. She intends to hold on to it – to jealously guard that freedom.
The glass door slanted and she heard her father walk in. She needn’t open her eyes. His shuffle and short paused coughs were enough to tell her who.
“Only destroys every good thing that happens to you.” He started off with his usual rants. “The car, your job, the TV… What can you hold down?” He sneered, like usual, and kept at it. “I’m ashamed she’s my daughter.” He raised his voice like one would for a theatre audience.
Tara hissed under her breath. John’s laugh rose up into the air. Tara opened her eyes and watched him. He had walked slowly and grabbed on to the settee. Then like one who has caught a joke last, he burst into another bout of laughter.
“I could never be.”
He held on to the settee, his steps slow and calculated and sat down in a heap.
“I’d have birthed someone better.”
He looked at her and rested backwards, taking up half of the three-in-one settee. His body parts seemed independent of each other with his legs unable to stay without an unusual shake.
Tara sat up. First faintly but becoming clearer and clearer, she could see herself sitting, cramped up, by her mum, both parents were fuming; their words flying at each other around the room. It was about changing her surname from Serwaa to Tafuah; right around her first national exam, her BECE. And that’s the first time she heard bastard.
“Where’s he then? Did you lure my mum to divorce him and live with you in this misery?”
Her mum walked in on them.
She asked Tara, looking at John. She shook her head and returned her attention to her daughter.
“My father? Your husband here is clear on the fact that I’m not his.”
Selina made for the kitchen. Tara followed.
“And we’re used to him being drunk and still making perfect sense.” She held on to her mum’s face with honest eyes. “Tell me.”
“He’s your father.”
“Then why would he say he’s not? Many times Maa. And why did he say bastard during your argument about whether or not I take Tafuah?”
“What do you want?”
“Who is my father?”
“He’s seated right in that hall.”
“He isn’t. You know that. I’ve always wondered why he’s exceptionally mean to me. He jabs me constantly with his words. I never understood it. Am I why he’s a drunk? Did you cheat?”
“He’s always been a drunk. And he’s also always been your father.”
Selina gave her stew some more stir and turned to leave.
“Why this lowlife? He’s a drunk, barely making any money…why did you marry him?”
“Because of you.” She faced her daughter. “Okay, there, I said it. He isn’t your father. I only married him because of you.”
“Who is my father?”
“I don’t know.” Mother and daughter had their hands folded across their chest. “I wasn’t even sure of who I was when I got pregnant with you.” She dropped her hands. “I left school and became a prostitute and I got pregnant with one of the men.” She stopped. The quiet silence met her. She wiped the corners of her eyes. “My parents didn’t know so I left home, joined a friend at Botwe and when he, John, gave the offer I took it. I couldn’t abort you. And I had no skill or the money to raise you by myself.”
“What about Uncle Bob?”
“He’s your real uncle. My brother. He found me five years ago. He had been searching and found a profile I opened once and left alone on Facebook. I put my number there. It was for the work.”
“Why haven’t you left Maa?”
“I can’t leave the man who took us in.”
“I think I understand.”
Tara dropped her hands to her sides and rubbed her palms together. She wondered why the moment wasn’t like the ones on TV? Why weren’t they talking amidst drowning tears? Why wasn’t she mad and up in her room throwing her most precious possessions into a small bag to leave? Why? She stared at her mum by the wall and she knew why. She walked to her and held her hands. She could see her battling with herself.
She held onto her mother long and firm. Her giving her whole life over for hers is the courage she needed to step forward with, with or without a father with a human face.
The evening’s quiet embraced Dzidzor. She put both hands in her pocket to keep them warm. Living in Aburi in December is hard enough. Then there’s recent drastic unpredictable whether conditions. She watched Sule climb into his car as usual. She was tired from the cramps and jumps plus running on the treadmill she had to do today. But she enjoyed the dancing and the empty thoughts for a change.
Sule grinned at her. She laughed.
His tone deepened and his eyes spoke so much sympathy.
“Sorry about Matey.”
“Thanks.” Dzidzor looked away from Sule. “I’m yet to visit.” She paused and took an exaggerated breath. “After the surgery. The doctors said family only for visiting till he’s stable.” Dzidzor shrugged. “Whatever stable means.” She didn’t want to sound heavy.
“It must be hard.”
“As a friend, it is.” Dzidzor felt sorry for her need to be at the proper side of an almost dying man. But she didn’t want Sule driving away wondering. “Knowing now that he was drinking makes me feel I failed.” She took another gasp of air and pushed her hands further into both pockets. “The signs were right there and I couldn’t see.”
“We all don’t always see what we think we should have.” Sule smiled, mostly to himself. “All these weeks, I never bothered about your need for the washroom. The many times we’ll drive here and you’ll rush right out of the car ahead of me.”
“I guess we don’t always see what’s so obvious.” Dzidzor took few steps back.
Like how you don’t see through my heart.
She let the thoughts stay that way.
“How’s the counseling?”
She checked herself into a counseling session at their church because of the bulimia.
“Fun than I imagined it.”
“I thought so. Trust the man to make everything fun.”
She said and
Sule waved, his face giving away how much he enjoys being a tease. He drove away. Dzidzor watched him go and walked back to the hall. Her mum was devouring another of John Grisham.
“I think you should rather pray.”
Senam didn’t look up from her book. Dzidzor snuggled by her.
“I have. I just feel betrayed.”
“I would have felt the same.” She turned the book down. “Matey is wrong.”
“What if we had gotten engaged?”
That’s the question she’s been asking herself all day. Because if not for that accident, they could have. Matey had called her minutes before he got unto the road and his idea of a date was a perfect set up. The ring his mum found in his pocket said everything. What if?
“It’s hard to think I’d have given my whole life to something that isn’t true…to think I was considering settling with him.”
“Because Sule doesn’t seem like he’s ever going to say anything?”
Dzidzor passed her hand over her face.
“I was getting desperate for love too.” Senam listened patiently. “You know, like settle and move on with life.”
“I understand.” Senam smiled that knowing smile. “There’s the danger of thinking of marriage as just part of the to-dos on a bucket list. But it isn’t. Honey, you don’t have to settle. God isn’t asking that of you.”
“What’s he asking?”
Senam paused to think.
“To love him with all.” She nodded. “Things will be clear when he’s your real heart pursuit.”
“He isn’t mine?”
“I guess not. It’s been different things at different times.” Dzidzor chuckled. “We discussed this verse today for the class too. Sule said God being loved by me should be the end goal of this whole routine; loving Him with all my strength, physical strength.”
Dzidzor hugged Senam’s arm and held on.
“Welcome.” Senam picked up her book with her other free hand. “Your dad and I aren’t in a hurry. Remember that.”
Dzidzor laid her head on her mum’s shoulder. She could still hear Sule’s passionate voice telling her to make God the reason, the goal. She determined to.
© M’afua Awo Twumwaah 2017.