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The Christmas holiday proved better than I envisaged. Schooling in Benin took me away from family. Jathniel tried his best to come around the house as often as he could. I didn’t mind staying alone with the girls though. I grew up with two females in my life constantly and a dad who was rarely home.
Christmas day came and passed so soon. New year’s day was also fun. It was Aunt Liz’s birthday. What was supposed to be a small gathering ended up being a big party. Our dad came on that day and spent some time with us. He seemed to be getting back to himself. He had a brighter look on. Jamillle had been telling me he was OK because she saw him in church whenever he was in town. We worked so much that day which made us sleep before nine pm.
Aunt Liz was so shocked , she teased us with it for the whole week.
My school resumed a week after new year’s day along with Kara’s school.
Jamille’s school would resume a week after ours.
My going back proved difficult for Jamille. She cried the night before I left and slept in my arms.
“Jamille,why are you crying this much? Aunt is taking good care of you here and we can talk everyday when I’m gone.” I told her. I had talked enough that night till my tongue got dry.
The only thing she said that night was “I love you Jay, I really do.”
“I love you too sis.” I replied.
She accompanied Philip and Uncle Liam to drop me off at the AKTC park.
I half expected her to cry again but she didn’t. She just gave me the tightest hug I’ve ever gotten from her before she whispered a quick ‘bye’. She turned around immediately and headed to the car. Uncle Liam came to me and gave me a pat on the shoulder.
“Don’t worry about her. She’ll come out of it. I’ll make sure of that,OK?”
“Take good care of you son.” He smiled at me.
“I will uncle. Thank you.” I said as I boarded the bus.
I got in the car “Philip let’s go.”
“OK sir.” He zoomed off.
“Mille,come close baby.” I said to her.
She shifted close and I positioned her head on my shoulder.
“Aren’t you happy staying with us?” I asked her even though I already knew what she would say.
“I’m perfectly happy dad. I’m being honest. It’s just that I’ll really miss him and Kara and Rachel are gone too.” She replied
“You’ve got Gloria too,even Jathniel,me and your mum.”
“You’re right. I guess I have a lot of growing up to do then.” She smiled weakly.
“You’ve grown up dear. The Jamille I knew would still be crying and blaming herself for making her brother leave. The process still goes on and I want you to know one thing.” I paused.
She carried her head up to face me,then we said in unison “Daddy’s going to be with you every step of the way.”
“That’s my girl.” She smiled at me and laid her head back on my shoulder. We remained that way throughout the ride home. As expected,she ran into the arms of my wife once we got home. She apparently came back from dropping the other two at her friend’s place who would take them to Calabar together with her own son.
Gloria had gone home too. Jathniel picked her up in the morning.
Aunt Liz and Uncle Liam were the best parents I could ever ask for. They made sure I spent the remaining part of my holiday with them. We mostly stayed indoors keeping each other company. Mum fed me as if she was paid to do it. I had to complain that I was gaining unnecessary weight. She would hear none of it.
When school resumed, I missed the times we spent together. Kara,Rachel and Jason called me everyday. We spent long hours talking. I realised that I had a wonderful family. I didn’t really see much of Niel since the holiday ended.
His company was expanding so he was busy all the time. He still spoke with me each time he called Gloria.
Gloria had become a bit troublesome lately with Niel. She wanted to leave her house to stay in school. Jathniel would have none of that. She complained and they quarreled. She was tired of being treated like a baby.
Niel and his mum would send a driver to drop and pick her from school. She found it babyish but her mum insisted she wouldn’t let her baby stay in the hostel.
I decided to come in a bit into the drama. I offered to let Gloria stay in my apartment instead of in the hostel. That way,we would be together and the problem of distance would be solved as my place was barely 10 minutes walk from school.
I informed daddy Liam and mum, they agreed to it and so did Aunty Charis (Gloria’s mum).
Gloria was overjoyed. She started staying with me at the middle of the second semester. Every weekend,we would either go to my house or Gloria’s house. Aunty Charis was getting really fond of me and I of her. Jason,Gloria and I turned 17 on the 17th of March. We were all too busy with school so we didn’t celebrate. We agreed to celebrate it when we would turn 18.
Dad came to my apartment that weekend. I guess aunt gave him the address. He picked me up and took me to the house. He said he was on two weeks leave.
He asked Jason to come over but he couldn’t. He had some important things to do in school so he couldn’t make it.
I knew Jay was lying. He wanted me and dad to have some time alone. It was getting to a year since we lost mum. The house brought back plenty memories,both good and bad. Dad and I just had simple conversation until Saturday night when he finally indulged me in a real talk which ended sour.
“You’ve grown fatter than you were.” He said after studying me for what seemed like eternity.
“Yeah, I’m watching it though. All thanks to mum.”
“Mum?” He questioned.
“Yeah, I call aunt Liz my mum. She loves it that way and I do too.” I replied.
“I see.” He went silent.
“You seem surprised to hear that.”
“I am actually. With the way you cried and locked yourself up. I thought you’d never recover. But now, you’re actually living your life as if it has been up to 30 years she left us.” He answered.
“I don’t get what you’re driving at dad.”
“Never mind. I just want to let you know one thing Mille.” He paused.
“And that is?” I urged him on.
“Sincerity pays dear. It really does.” With that, he got up from the sofa he was sitting on.
I tried to grasp why he said that to me but I couldn’t. It pissed me a bit but I restrained myself knowing I was dealing with my father.
“I’m leaving tomorrow from church.” I said to him as he headed up the stairs.
“To school directly?” He asked.
“No. I have to go see…”
“Your mum.” He completed.
“It’s fine by me. Thanks for agreeing to spend the weekend here.” He turned to look at me one last time before he headed to his room.
“What was that all about?” I asked myself out loud when I was sure he was out of earshot.
I decided to let it go and continue my life. I left the next day with mum immediately after service.
My first year continued to go on smoothly. My family was very supportive and I was getting back to my normal life. I still thought about mum from time to time but the pain was going away gradually. We held a small first memorial for her during my first year. My mum was an orphan so she had no family. My dad’s family was the only family she knew till her demise.
I thought I had a perfect life till strong waves descended on my ship.
To Be Continued