Momma is the best in the world, you’ve always thought.
Throughout your childhood, and now you’re eighteen, she has always been there for you. She has always supported you, groomed you and trained you to be the best person you can be. Remember the time Emeka broke your heart? You had run to her and she had enveloped you in her arms, kissing your cheeks, wiping the tears off your eyes and she reiterated over and over again that men were not worth your cries?
Do you remember the time you wanted to go into dancing? How your teachers and friends were asking you what was wrong with you? You were a perfect science student, why waste your life dancing?
But Momma understood. She had held your hands that night and had told you to chase your dreams to the ends of the earth; she had made you promise her that nothing would deter you from expressing yourself through dance. Do you remember how you cried with relief that the only person that mattered to you was in support of you?
Simply put, Momma was your best friend, your paddy, your gist mate. But even friends hide things from each other, right? Because you know how many times you’ve asked her about your father and each time, she had averted her eyes, while telling you that he left you guys for another woman. You had felt that something wasn’t right, yet you believed her. And in turn you hated the invisible man that was your father. In her mind, the day you set your eyes on him, he would pay for putting you and your mother through the pains of those years.
But these things were not the main thing that were bothering you as you walked the length of the hallway to Professor Mark’s office this hot afternoon. You’ve always been in awe of him. Why shouldn’t you be, when he was the only professor of of dance in Africa? At forty! You’ve always wanted him to notice you, to take you under his wing as he had with many students, but it was as if he never noticed you for once. Despite the little attention he gave you, you have admitted (although only to yourself) that you have a crush on him.
As you knocked on his door, you prayed that he has finally noticed your talent and wanted to bring you under his special tutelage.
“Come in,” he said in that his sexy baritone that makes your knees go weak if you dwelt on it for long.
You twisted the door knob, went in, and he waved you to a seat. For about thirty seconds, he fixed you with the most intense of stares that make you start imagining doing all sorts of things with him right there in his office. He licked his lips and that sent a frenzy of dirty thoughts coursing through your brain.
Then he finally spoke, “Why have you been slacking, Janet?”
It took great effort for you to bring yourself back to reality. “Excuse me?” You had no idea what he said.
“You haven’t been serious since you came here, why?” he began, “I make sure that I check the academic records of every student who takes my class. And yours were brilliant before you came here. What happened?”
You let out a sigh. So he noticed, you thought. You knew what he was talking about, and you knew the cause—you’ve been worried lately about your mother and how she would cope with loneliness now that she was the only person at home. There was another thing, though. Your father.
“Is it problems at home?” he prodded.
You let out another sigh and nodded. “Yes, sir. But I promise to improve.”
“I want to see your parents in a week’s time here in my office. You may go.”
The way he said it, the note of finality in his voice got you scared. In all your years of schooling, there has never been a time when you were asked to call your parents. Until now.
With trepidation you left, hoping that your mother would understand this time around.
One week later and you were back in his office with Momma. Immediately Momma saw him, she froze, and his eyes widened. Why were they acting strange? you thought. After the both of you had sat down, you made the introductions, while your mother tried so hard to look anywhere else but at him.
“Welcome, Nneka,” Professor Mark said, “it’s been what now—eighteen years?”
Momma was quiet, she was breathing heavily and beads of sweat filled her forehead. The tension in the air was heavier than a block of lead.
You faced your mother. “Momma, what’s happening? do you know him?”
In response, Professor Mark stood, extended his hand for a handshake and said, “Hello, I’m Mark, your father.”
How do you now make him pay?