Ever since dad remarried, things have gone from bad to worse and now, I can confidently say that they have plummeted to the worst. Ify, his new bride, has been an absolute nightmare to deal with. I know it is not right to hate people but I absolutely deeply dislike her with every fibre of my being. She is everything I’ve always loathed in a woman. She acts like a goody two shoes and most annoying of all, she is trying to fill our mom’s shoes. That that is an absolute impossibility! I didn’t attend their wedding despite the fact that she asked me to be her chief bridesmaid. For what? I’m sure that was just one of her strategies to get me to be on her side. One of her fellow scheming friends must have offered her that piece of advice. Well, she might as well tell them it’s not working on me!

***

Why dad had to remarry is still a mystery to me. He has us his kids. Myself, Lamide and Junior have been all he needs since mom passed on two years ago. The abruptness of his remarriage was mind-numbing not to mention the fact that he married mom’s friend’s younger sister, Ify. Who does that?

The way she schemed and wormed her way into our house and daddy’s life is quite legendary. The woman deserves a prize for her acting because I know she is fake. What happened on the 14th of September proves without reasonable doubt that she is the pretender I have always suspected her to be. I saw through all her holy holy act which dad fell for hook, line and sinker. She would pretend to be born again, screaming about the house in the mornings and robbing us of sleep yet all manners of deception lie in her.

My trusting dad

She plotted her way into being dad’s wife by making food and bringing it to the house in her big warmer. The first time she tried it, I emptied the contents of the container into the nearest bin. Dad was upset but quickly calmed down after a few minutes. I generally had my way with daddy. We were very alike. Both stubborn, yet loving at heart. However, my shrewdness and intuition, I got from mom. Dad fell easily for all the gimmicks that would never have swayed mom. The difference was that once my old man had his mind set on something, that was it.

I explained to dad that Saturday afternoon Ify brought food over that it was not necessary to eat the food because I had cooked all morning for the week and it would go to waste. My reasoning didn’t make much sense in my ears as I voiced them but they worked on dad. I was doubtful of her motives from Day 1. Who goes cooking for a man who has a 21 year old daughter? I could cook like crazy and Ify knew it so what was her point? Mom had instilled the importance of knowing how to cook in us to the extent that even Junior who is just 14 makes amazing beans.

Ify, like the sharp and crafty woman that she is would come to the house when I wasn’t in. She knew my routine and was aware that I would be on campus from Monday till Friday every week and that Lamide, my sister, was too nice to protest like I would. She was a softy like our mom. I was no softy. I took after my dad and that is why it hurt so much to watch him crumble before this woman.

***

All manners of ills have taken place since they got married and she moved into the house. Dad has stopped eating on the dining table with us all as was our tradition. He now questions us when we ask him for money. Even Junior gets questioned too. He no longer cares about the curfew he and mom set up for Lamide and I. He doesn’t care even if we come home or not. He barely notices our presence…or absence. He’s too wrapped up in his new bride.

He reduced our allowance without notice. He gave Ify the keys to mom’s car. The very same car he bought for her 45th birthday and had made mom cry in glee. He allowed all mom’s pictures in the living room to be put away despite my protests. Even Lamide, who is usually quiet, spoke out that day. We all wept bitterly. It was as though he wanted no more reminders of mom, forgetting that she and she alone can ever be our mother. He told me to keep he pictures in my room as it was ‘unfair for Ify to be seeing them day in day out’. Who gives a hoot what she feels?! In addition, he goes on impromptu extended holidays with this woman and asks his sister, Aunty Clara, to come and stay with us. Ify also had the nerve to redocarate the house from the biege, brown and cream theme mom, myself and Lamide had chosen and painstakingly sorted out to her totally off colours.

These and a lot more are the miseries I have had to endure in my own home. So I made up my mind two months ago to move out with my siblings and go to stay with Aunty Clara and Uncle Akin in Okota. It was far from where we lived but that was my intention exactly, to be as far away from them as possible. Lamide had been debating it and did not want to offend dad. Junior was ready to go but recently, seemed to have started warming up to Ify. I drove home from school one Frday evening to find Ify and Junior playing ludo on the balcony!

I badly wanted Ify to be treated like the plague that she is and the message needed to be drummed into dad’s ears. I had spoken to him severally, first clamly, then shouting, then sobbing. Nothing worked. Dad kept on asking me, ‘Tolu, what exactly has she done wrong?’. I gave him  a look that read, ‘what has she NOT done? She is an impostor and she needs to leave!’

Why oh why did mom have to go? Why was her cancer not healed? Why did she even have to get it in the first place and leave us at the mercy of this merciless world? I had been strong for all of us in the months after her funeral. We were all hurting but we were gradually healing. We were doing just fine…until she came.

***

One Monday morning, as I was getting ready to go back to school, I heard a noise down the hall so I left my room to find out what was going on. I discovered the noise was coming from mom and dad’s room. It was then I heard her throwing up violently and dad soothing her and they both laughing at a joke he told. I swallowed  a big lump of something in fear and trepidation. Could she be pregnant? My worst fear has just been realised, I thought as I hurriedly rushed to my room, packed my things, rushed out of the house, got into my car and drove off.

Pregnant!

Ify was so happy

***

I avoided the house after that incident. I got away with it easily because dad was now preoccupied with Ify and everything pertaining to her. A month after, I finally came home as it was going to be dad’s 53rd birthday and my younger ones and I had planned a small get-together for him and had invited his friends, mom’s friends and our relatives. I loved my dad with my whole being and no matter how much I believed he had made the wrong choice, he was still my father. Also, I didn’t want to give Ify the pleasure of playing hostess in my own home so I took charge of the arrangements, calling a caterer and sorting out the cake and drinks. His birthday fell on a Sunday but I decided to go home on Thursday afternoon because I pretty much had a free Friday and had lots of last minute loose ends to tie.

I met Ify decorating the living room. I greeted her in my usual cool manner and walked off not waiting or caring for a response. As I walked up the staircase, I immediately noticed something wrong. Our family portrait was missing! It usually hung on the wall so you could view it as you walked up the stairs. It was so huge and beautiful. It was an oil painting on canvas and we had it done in Italy five years ago. We all looked so happy and it was the most recent picture we had of mom before she was diagnosed with the disease that eventually took her life. I was furious. I was livid. I was mad! I could feel the hairs standing at the back of my neck and my blood began to rise in a boil as I dropped my bag on the staircase and stormed into the living room.

‘Where the hell is the portrait Ify?!’

She looked at me for about four seconds before calmly responding, ‘It’s in the storeroom Tolulope. Your dad and I decided that it would be nice to have it replaced with the more recent one…’

I don’t know which had annoyed me the most, her calm response in the face of my anger, her calling me ‘Tolulope’ or the actual response she gave me.

‘Which is?!’, I screamed.

Unperturbed by my loudness, she answered,

‘Well, your dad, myself, Lammie and Junior went to the studio last week Saturday when you refused to come home’.

‘First, she is Lamide to you’, I interjected sharply, ‘only our mother ever calls her Lammie. Secondly, how dare you take that picture down? How dare you?! I’m putting right back and if you dare lay your fingers on it again!’ I said wagging my index finger at her.

To my utmost surprise, she did what she had never done before. She retorted.

‘That’s it. I’ve had enough of your disobedience and rudeness. I have tried my best to be a wonderful mom to you all but you especially have always thwarted my efforts. You have tried my patience long enough and today, I will put an end to this’, she declared.

‘Ehn ehn, I knew it! I knew you are nothing but a bloody pretender! You try and stop me and I will show you madness!’.

The Fight

‘Rasaki, Rasaki!’ I yelled calling the gateman who promptly responded. I asked him to assist me in carrying  the portrait from the storeroom. As we lifted it together, Ify kept shouting behind us, ‘Rasaki, if you don’t drop that painting, I would have you sacked today!’ Rasaki ignored her like I told him to. He had been with us for almost 11 years so there was no way he was gettnig fired and he knew it.

As Ify followed us up the stairs, she must have lost her footing and tripped over her flowing boubou. My first instinct was to rush over to help her to her feet but I thought she was just pretending since she only tripped and nothing more. So I ensured that the portrait was back in its rightful spot before attending to her. Unfortunately, I was wrong and she was not pretending. She was writhing in pain and to my alarm, I saw three spots of bright red on her pink boubou. We rushed her to the hospital where dad joined us in no time.

***

It has been two weeks and four days since the incident. She had a miscarriage. But most shocking of all is her claim that I pushed her in my anger at her putting down the portrait. God knows I never did any such thing. Rasaki, my only witness has now been sacked. Dad has banished me out of his house and insists that he does not want to speak to or see me. I now stay with Aunty Clara. Everyone has pleaded with dad: Aunty Clara, Uncle Akin, all mom’s relatives and even dad’s relatives too. Even Ify and her sister (mom’s friend) have ‘begged’ too all to no avail.

I feel bad for Ify’s loss but why she had to lie against me is still a mystery to me. What joy could she possibly derive from a father and his daughter in enmity? Why did dad have to react so harshly. He has known me for 21 years. He should know my capabilities. As much as his remarriage brought no thrills to me, I would never hurt Ify, at least not physically. I am his daughter. His first child. To think that he would pick Ify over me is painful. It makes me miss my mom all over again as I question the reason why she had to die. Life is sure harsh but this was a bit extreme. I never imagined things would take this turn. Tears mean nothing to me now, I’ve shed so much of them, they don’t move the people around me anymore. Oh mother, where art thou?!

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