Through the Eye of Faith (23)
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When he was led into the big restaurant across the street, Dapo felt more perturbed. What was this all about? Another showdown? He studied the elderly man walking in front of him. His bearing showed he was a man of authority, always got what he wanted and would ruthlessly deal with any form of opposition. Dapo swallowed hard. He would not like to dare this man for any reason. He had been bowled over at the manner with which Chief had grabbed the flowers from him, growling and silently taunting him to make a move, but he had simply ignored Chief, a reaction that had surprised him. The old Dapo would have taken up the challenge. This salvation seemed to be working a great deal.
As Chief walked into the restaurant, many thoughts ran through his mind. How would he start the conversation? For the first time in many years, he was at a loss for words. The mighty Okonkwo, the most-feared businessman in the State, didn’t know how to contract this particular ‘business’. Well, it had been a long time he had been in this particular situation. He always had everything handed to him just at the tap of his finger, now he was to ‘beg’ a man he had undermined earlier. He could picture the smirk on the face of the younger man and he didn’t like what he saw. He couldn’t wait to get this over with. He was doing this for his daughter. Only for his daughter. He found an empty spot in a corner and walked straight to it, without checking to see if he was being followed.
“What can I get for you, please?” A tall, young waitress asked even before they settled in.
Chief raised his hand. “Nothing for now, please. I will call you when ready.”
The girl looked a bit miffed, but quickly covered it with a smile. “Okay. Please ask for Emily when you are ready.” She walked away with the menu list tucked under her arm.
“Women! They are difficult to please. You delay them a bit and they get angry.” Chief relaxed on the seat, which looked small for his big frame. “But then we cannot do without them.”
Dapo didn’t know what to say. He simply nodded and waited for the Chief to start a proper conversation. He had an inkling it was about his kind gesture at the hospital. Was his feeling for Patience so obvious?
“Tell me about your family.” Chief’s voice took a more serious note as he rested his hands on the table and stared straight into Dapo’s eyes.
I don’t have a family. “What about them?” Dapo took a defensive pose with arms folded firmly across his chest. What kind of question was that and who did he think he was poking his nose where it wasn’t his business?
“I just want to know about them, that’s all. I guess it’s the curious cat in me. Everyone likes talking about their parents, unless, of course, they have something to hide.”
“That’s funny because the little time I knew your daughter, she never mentioned you.” Dapo retorted sharply. Was this what he came for? To be questioned by this man who he barely knew?
There was an awkward moment of silence as both men sized each other up like lions about to fight over a piece of meat.
“The relationship between my daughter and I is none of your business. I love her and she loves me. But you are trying to get in-between and that is what I am trying to stop because obviously you are not the right man for her.” Chief’s voice grew a notch higher. He was not about to let this young man win this battle. “You are not even proud to talk about your family. How then can you raise one with pride?”
That was it. Dapo could not take it anymore. He stood up. “With all due respect, sir, if you brought me here to insult me or question my manliness, then I must take my leave. I cannot trade words with you.” He turned to leave.
“Wait!” Chief rushed after him. “I mean, please wait. I’m sorry.” Did he just say that? Chief could not believe his ears. “I admit I must have started this conversation wrongly, but have no intention to degrade you in any way. Please just give me another 5 minutes.”
Dapo looked a bit on the fence. Here was the best time to repay this man for all he had done by walking away and leaving him standing. He took the second option. “Okay, your 5 minutes has started.” He went back to his seat.
Chief cleared his throat. “This is it. Earlier today, we had a little fight. I mean I did something I should not have done.” This was very difficult for him, but he fought off the feeling. “My daughter thinks what I did was very wrong and has ordered me to apologize to you.”
When Dapo said nothing, he continued. “I must commend the way you took it and the way you handled my attitude. I know I can be overbearing sometimes, but it was the protective instinct in me. I don’t want my daughter hurt in any way again.”
That caught Dapo’s attention. “What do you mean ‘again’? What happened before?”
“I should not tell you this. In fact, she must never know I told you, but since it is obvious you are sincerely interested in her, I think you should know.” Chief lowered his voice. ““She lost her womb when she was younger. She was never going to get married because she didn’t want to be barren for any man.”
“WHAT!!!” That revelation dazed Dapo like a heavy blow. That was why she rejected his proposal! It was not because she didn’t love him, but because her love for him was enough to make her sacrifice everything for his happiness. “She never told me.”
“Well, that isn’t something you go about telling people. If I may ask, does that bother you?”
“No, not at all. It even makes me respect and love her more. Many women would prefer to do just the opposite and put their men in misery, but no, she is just… I cannot believe she refused me because of that.” A stunned Dapo replied. “I don’t care if she cannot give me children. I just want to spend the rest of my life with her. God will give us children when it is the right time.”
“Ha!” Chief smiled broadly. “That is just what I need to hear. You need not worry because you can now give me as many grandchildren as I desire.”
“If I didn’t know you, sir, I would think you are giving your consent for me to marry your daughter.”
“Well, so far, you have proven yourself a good man. So I’m sure you will be a good father too.”
“Thank you for your vote of confidence. I believe God will work on her and you shall have your desire soon.”
Chief shook his head. “Can’t you read inbetween the lines? Beyond her recovery, a bigger miracle happened today. The doctor discovered a womb in her.” Chief tried to control the ripples of laughter trying to burst out of him. “Patience now has a womb. She can have now have children. Unbelievable, right?”
Dapo was still with his mouth wide open for several seconds. “Are you for real or you are just kidding with me?”
“Well, if you don’t believe me, you will need to ask her for yourself.”
Dapo could not imagine what he just heard. This must be a fable, right? That explained why Chief had come out of the room full of smiles, the first Dapo had seen since he knew Chief. “Let me go see her then. I can’t wait to hear her side of the story. If this is real, then God must be bigger than the way I thought.” He stood up to leave, but Chief stopped him.
“A minute please.” Chief became serious again. “About our first discussion, I really would like to still meet your parents.”
Dapo dipped his hands into his pocket and brought out a torn piece of newspaper. He pointed at the picture in the middle. “Do you know this family?”
Chief brought out his glasses and quickly put them on. He scrutinized the picture for a second. “Ha! Of course, I do.”
“Really?” An excited Dapo asked.
“Yes, I do. They are the Okunujis. The man is my very good friend and we meet every Saturday at the Golf Club. He brings his wife and kids occasionally. Is there a problem?”
“Not really. I will like to meet the woman. Can you make that happen?”
“Of course! I can do anything, but until you tell me the reason behind your sudden interest in this family, I won’t help you.”
“You asked for my family. I think I just found my mother.”
“What?” Chief was stunned. “That is a joke, right? Mrs. Okunuji is the most self-righteous woman I have ever known. She cannot have a child outside a matrimonial home.”
“This was many years ago. I am 35 now. I need your help with this, please.”
Chief shifted uncomfortably on his seat and shrugged a shoulder. “I can arrange a meeting, but first go and settle my daughter.”
“Thank you.” Dapo never would have thought it would be this easy to locate his mother. He had envisaged a lot more difficulty and now, God was giving this to him on a platter of gold. He rushed out of the restaurant towards the opposite building. Right now, he would give the world for the lady inside.
“Sir, I am here again to take your order.” Emily appeared in front of Chief, looking very professional.
Chief eyed her with weariness. “Water, please.”
“Only water?” The waitress asked in confusion.
Chief gritted his teeth. “Yes, only water.”
The waitress was persistent to sell more. “We also have…”
Chief was fed up. “Never mind.” He stood up and tossed some notes on the table. “Keep the change.”
The waitress watched him leave and wondered what exactly she had done wrong this time. She picked the notes on the table. At least, she got more than she bargained for.