It
was a few minutes after one am but Tara could not sleep. She had never imagined
a day when she would doubt that she was a Dolapo. Yes, sometimes, her step
mother and relations had whispered that her biological mother had given birth
to her only to snag her dad but she didn’t believe it.
“So it is true.” She whispered as she lay on the bed and stared at the dark
ceilings. “I am not a Dolapo.”
She
got out of bed and opening the door of the room, she walked out into the
sitting room. There was power outage and the fuel in the generator had finished
immediately after granny grans was taken to the hospital. Unlocking the door
leading to the outside of granny grans house, Tara stepped out, making sure
that she wore the bathroom slippers outside the door. The night was chilly and
the air was cold, she didn’t know where she was headed, all she knew was, she
couldn’t spend an extra minute in the house. Her footsteps led her to Aunty
Mo’s apartment where her step-mother and siblings resided. The small gate
leading to the balcony was open and the candle inside the house was on. Lifting
up her hands, she deliberated on whether to knock or not. She was about turning
away when her step-mother’s cries floated out to her at the balcony.
“Help
me Lord…to mend my family…they are all I have. My children and my
husband…everyone in this household. I know I treated Tara badly, I was not a
good mother to her. I placed my children’s needs above hers but I promise you
Lord, if you mend my family again, I will stop my former ways and be a good
mother to her…”
Tara
was moved to tears, she knew she had destroyed her family by all standards, it
was she who paved a way for Jumai to walk right in. She had seen the new look
in her father’s eyes and she knew he wasn’t invested in his family anymore, all
that mattered to him was Jumai.
Slowly,
Tara lifted her hand and knocked at the door.
“Who
is it?” Came her step-mother’s raspy voice.
“It’s
me ma, it’s Tara.”
She
heard a quick rush to the door and immediately the door was flung open, she was
dragged into her step-mother’s arms. Her step-mother held her so tight that she
felt she might choke, when she thought all the air in her body had finally left
her, her step-mother released her and gently dragged her into the house.
“Tara
my dear, how are you? What are you doing awake at this time of the night ehn?
Don’t you know it’s not safe to stroll about at night? I am glad you came to see
me, your siblings are asleep. Have you eaten? Do you want a drink? Are you
troubled?” Her step-mother asked in concern.
Tara
didn’t know which of the questions to answer first.
“Well…”
Tara stammered.
“What
is wrong? I have known you to be a deep sleeper, you used to sleep longer than
anyone else in the house. Why are you still awake?”
“I
am troubled, I guess…I mean…a lot of things have happened. This time last year,
I was sleeping contently in my room with Temi. I was looking forward to school
the next morning, we were still a family. A lot has changed.”
“Don’t
let that bother you…remember that God has a reason for everything. Our duty is
to place everything into His hands and He will direct our paths.”
Tara
nodded and after a while, spoke.
“Everyone
is asleep right? I mean…I want to share a secret with you and I will be happy
if you never mention it to anyone. Promise!”
Her
step-mother stared at her in surprise and seeing that Tara meant what she said,
nodded her head, ready to hear what her step-daughter had to say.
****
The
would-be Temi couldn’t sleep either, her mother’s prayers had woken her up and
she felt like walking into the sitting room and telling her to shut it. It’s
been a month since they left their father’s house and she has never stopped
praying. The most annoying aspect of her prayers was her intention of letting
Tara back into her life. She prayed for Tara as though she were her biological child
while she ignored the would-be Temi completely.
 The clock ticked at one am and she hissed, the
prayers where already getting on her nerves, why couldn’t she stop?
 The
would-be Temi remembered her ordeal before coming to the Dolapo’s household.
Life was tougher than nut at her drunken father’s one-roomed house. Since she clocked five, she has never stopped asking her father where and who her mother was and even in his drunken state, he found ways to
elude her questions. Immediately she turned sixteen, she knew she had to find her
mother, she knew she owed that to herself.
 It was when Aunty Ranti had come to pay her a visit, just as she turned sixteen that
she learnt the truth about her birth. That faithful afternoon ten months ago, she had asked her aunt Ranti.
“Who
is my mother? Why hasn’t she come to see me? Why don’t I know her? Is she
alive?”
Her aunt stared at her long and hard, a silently spoke.
“Hmmm…my
dear, I will not lie to you, it is a long story.  You see, my brother almost got himself into
trouble in your mother’s hands. It happened that before you were born, your
father used to work for a very large family called the Dolapos. Those people
are rich, comfortable and very hardworking. That time, your father used to be
the driver to Adebowale Dolapo himself, the father of all the children in that
compound. I used to come around to pay your father a visit in the boys quarters
where he resided. Then, I noticed that there was so much drama going on in that
house, it happened that Adebowale’s first son was in love with one woman,
Jumai and he had a fiancée called Bolanle. Bolanle knew that her fiance wasn’t faithful to her and this made her sad and heart –broken. Your father, however, had a huge crush on Bolanle and somehow, they became friends and
within a short while, lovers. They spent time together, trying so hard to hide
their relationship from the eyes of people. One day, your father came to me and
told me that Bolanle was pregnant and the child was his. He was so sad that he
had no money to take good care of her and since she was so used to the good
life, she wouldn’t accept his hand. As luck would have it, Bolanle told her fiancé
the news of her pregnancy and he had no choice but to marry her, not knowing
that the child wasn’t his. That same time Jumai whom he loved was also
expecting a child for him. His family hated Jumai so much and they
denounced the child she was carrying, claiming that their true blood was the
one that Bolanle carried. It was only my brother, Bolanle and I that knew that
the child was not a Dolapo. Nine months later, when Bolanle was to be delivered
of a baby, she had planned with my brother that once the baby was born, she
would let him take the child and lie to her in-laws that the child was still born.
When the time came for her to give birth, she insisted on travelling to her mother’s
village to have the baby and her in-laws agreed not knowing that she was
looking for the best place to give out her child to its rightful father. As fate would have it, she delivered twin girls, you, who we named Timilehin and your sister, who we learnt was named Temitope. Bolanle’s mother knew the truth and begged that my brother
should take one of the twins and leave the other with them so that they could
present her to the Dolapo family. He agreed, and took you, Timilehin, with him
promising never to contact her or his other daughter again.”
When
Aunty Ranti finished the story, Timilehin (the would-be Temi) had burst into tears.
“How
could they? Even if they wanted to take one child each, why didn’t my mother
take me? Was I too ugly? Did she take the prettier twin?” Timilehin had cried.
“Shhh…no…she
didn’t have a chance to choose. It had to be done quickly besides, you and your
sister are identical twins and there was really no difference.”
“How
do I contact her? I want to see her.” Timilehin had cried.
“No…you
can’t…you would be breaking the contract we signed. You would put your mother
in trouble with her husband’s family.” Her aunt had warned.
“Really?
How convenient for her. A woman who separated her twins at birth just to favour
herself is no mother. I need her address, my father is a pathetic case, he
drinks all day long. He hardly caters for my needs, if you and uncle Jide never
intervened in my life, I wouldn’t even have registered for my Junior WAEC exams.
My mates are in senior secondary school and I’m still battling with passing the
junior WAEC, can you imagine that? I bet my sister would have finished secondary
school by now.” Timilehin had complained to her aunt.
After
begging her aunt to give her the address to her mother’s house in Surulere, her
aunty had succumbed.
Timilehin
remembered her bus ride to Surulere, she remembered rehearsing the words to say
to her mother. She had kept her mother’s address in her pocket but somehow she
misplaced it and after wandering around Surulere for a whole day to no avail, she contemplated
on returning home to Ikeja. But then, a police vehicle pulled up before her,
proclaiming to have found the missing Temi Dolapo. That was how fate had
brought her to her mother, the woman had hugged her so tight the day she was
brought home by the police not knowing that she was holding her forgotten child
in her arms. Timilehin wondered if her mother ever thought of her or if she had
forgotten about her completely. Staying at the Dolapo’s house was a different
experience for her. Children lived happily with their parents and even went to
good schools, had good clothes and ate good meals whereas in her father’s house
she had to steal change from his pocket to buy food to eat.
Timilehin
had hated all her mother’s children on sight especially Tara who was her
step-father’s child. She knew that Tara saw right through her and Tara knew as well that she wasn’t Temi, she had said it several times even to her face. 
The
circumstances that led to Timilehin’s mother’s exit from her husband’s house
was not her doing but she enjoyed it, she really wanted her mother to suffer as
much as she had especially since she had been going through life as one who
didn’t throw one of her children away.
The
knock at the door to the house jolted Timilehin out of her thoughts and she slowly tiptoed
to the door of the room. Easing the door open quietly, she listened to the
voices at the sitting room. It was Tara who had come into the house. Sighing
angrily she wanted to go back to bed but decided to know why Tara had come to
pay them a visit. Timilehin’s ears pricked up when Tara told her step-mother to
promise to keep her secret. Straining her ears to hear, she heard their full
conversation.
****
“You
can tell me anything Tara and be assured that I will never tell your secret to
anyone. Am I not your mother?” Tara’s step-mother was saying.
Timilehin
almost snorted, ‘she hasn’t even claimed her biological child, it’s the one that’s not
hers that she’s striving for’ she thought to herself.
“I…went
to see my dad yesterday and saw my mother instead. She told me horrible things…she
said, that I’m not my dad’s child…she said that my daddy is not my dad…” Tara said
and burst out in tears.
Her
step-mother hugged her quietly and reassured her.
‘That’s
not true…you are your father’s child. Don’t you see the resemblance? Where did
you get your brains from? Your dad is very intelligent and that’s you inherited
your big brains from. Don’t listen to her…she’s lying.”
“No…she’s
not. There’s an adage that says that it’s only your mother that can show you
your true father and she’s my mother…” Tara sobbed.
As
her step-mother allayed her fears, Timilehin quietly left the door and tiptoed
back to her bed. She smiled quietly and almost laughed in delight, whispering
to herself, she said;

“Let’s
see who hears this story first. Tara’s secret would be on everyone’s lips by
morning, I’m going to make sure of that!”

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