It should have been happy, shouldn't it? There should have been tears- tears of joy, I mean. Tears that blur your eyes while a beaming smile spreads across your face. Hiccups filled with regret and love all at once should have slipped through lips. And hugs too, I think. Yes, hugs. I remember from the thousands of plots I had read in preparation. Hand holdings should have been there too. So, why had mum and dad been so frigid? Why had there been an emptiness in dad's eyes when he looked at me? Where had the love been? The sparkling light of recognition and desire? What happened? What changed?
I still remember the taxi pulling up at our house. How would I not? That had been my greatest wish since forever. Mum didn't know anything though. It was just an ordinary Saturday to her. She was baking. Or was it washing? I forget. I concede that maybe that was part of the problem. You shouldn't spring surprises on a woman who had a timetable for everything.
Anyhow, I knew. And my excitement was to the extreme. "It would be perfect," I thought. "The perfect romance for the perfect family." Never once did I question why they had been apart so long. Why he even left in the first place.
I was the one who tracked him down. Mum had me take some programming classes from a young age. She was the typical Igbo mum. Study, study, study. Gain as much knowledge as you can. Build your resume. Get a scholarship abroad. More study. Graduate with first class. Get invited by a company like Google or Microsoft or any other big foreign company. It wouldn't matter once the money started coming in. After that, you wouldn't have to worry about a single thing in life. I didn't mind it much, though. She was looking out for me. Plus, I wanted to make her proud. I needed to make my dad proud.
The programming classes got me interested in hacking. I don't remember when the idea popped into my head, but suddenly, it seemed very ingenious to track my dad down and hack into his online accounts. Watching him made me feel like I somehow part of his life. I didn't tell mum though. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but that was the only way I could somehow get to my dad.
At some point, that too wasn't enough. I wanted all of him- his time, attention, smiles, and hugs. So, I decided to bring him home. I started chatting with him. I told him about how wonderfully mum and I were. How having him with us would make us all perfect. "Didn't he miss us?" I said. "Didn't he want us anymore?" Just like I had envisioned, he didn't need much convincing. "He would come," he said. Our family would be reunited, and everything would be perfect, just as I had imagined.
And he came. But everything fell apart.
Mum was a weird mix. She'd come down hard on me about my grades and ensured I was involved in several impressive extracurriculars, but she was very free about my friends visiting. She didn't bother about who came or went. She trusted me.
"Mum! Mum!" I'd called that day, "please could you come see my friend?" I had thought it would be a wonderful surprise like in the movies. She would stare in shock as her brain worked tirelessly to bring her up-to-date. Then, the tears of disbelief would follow. "Louis, Louis," she'd say over and over again, "is that really you?" Dad would hug her and she would melt in his arms. Dazedly, she would call to me. I would join the embrace. Tears and laughter would mingle. We would talk and talk. Food would be forgotten. Night would fall, and the day would end like a dream.
What actually happened was a bit different. Okay, that was a tiny lie. What happened was a lot different. The shock was there though.
After the shock came boiling anger. Mum looked ready to burst open. This was the first sign that something was amiss.
"What are you doing here?" she spat at my dad. "Come to mock me again after fourteen years? Did you think I would die without you? I wouldn't be able to take care of my baby? The- what was it you called me again? Oh, yes! The uneducated slut would be unable to cope on her own, right? How did you even get my address?"
The last question was the first, my dad, who had said nothing throughout, replied. "From my son," he said, "whom I have come to claim."
Narrowing her eyes, my mum said, "Stop playing games Louis, and tell me why you are here or get out. Better still, leave already. I don't want to see you or hear any rubbish you are about to vomit."
"I am not leaving till I meet him."
"Meet my son."
*"Abi you don dey craze? Comot!" mum said, pointing at the door.
She didn't even realize that she had switched to pidgin, something she never did except when speaking to some of her friends back in Nigeria. And this too rarely happened.
"I know exactly what I am talking about. You lied to me that our baby was a girl. You intentionally kept my son away from me. I want my son, and I am not leaving this house till I see him."
"So now you are claiming the baby? If you had gotten the gender correct, you would have still been fourteen years too late. As it is, -"
Dad didn't let her finish. His anger and impatience were building. "I didn't come here for you. I came for my son, and I have endured your rants long enough. You," he said, suddenly turning to me, "call the boy."
That was probably when mum remembered I was still there. Unfortunately, that was also when everything suddenly made sense to her. I saw her mental clogs turning, piecing together the mysterious air that I had carried myself with the past few weeks, the random smiles, my excitement that morning.
Narrowing her eyes at me, "Chika, was it you?" she asked in a deceptively gentle tone. Stupidly, I nodded. The speed of the slap was beyond shocking. It took me a full five seconds to process it. When I finally did, the sting that followed was not funny.
Turning to my dad with an eerie calm, she said, "This is your daughter. You have no son. At least not by me. So kindly take your leave before I do something I will regret."
Maybe it was the slap. I don't know, but my dad didn't argue any further. He just left. I caught a glimpse of the disgust on his face before he stepped out the door, though. Never in my life had I wished the ground to open up and swallow me as I did at that moment.
After my dad left, my mum collapsed into a chair. The seconds that followed felt like a lifetime. "Mum-" I started.
"Shut up. Just shut up. Leave. Go to your room. Go out. I don't care. Just get out."
Up until this point, I had felt a million things but anger. The sudden bitterness the burst from my heart was shocking even to me. It clawed its way up my throat and into my mouth. It was painful and sour and choking.
"I hate him," I burst out. "But I hate you more. You never ask what I want. You tell me what to do all the time. You never ask my opinion when making any decisions- decisions that affect me. It's all your fault. You made me believe he was some sort kind of angel. You told me that what kept him away was no fault of his. I am sure you thought you were protecting me, right? You always say that all you do is for my sake. Is it? Even if it was, I never asked you to do anything for me. I wasn't the one who asked you to make any sacrifices. I lied once, and so what? You have been lying to me my whole life! I should get out, you said? Well, I am leaving!" With this, I barged outside, slamming the door behind me.
I said earlier that there should have been tears that blur your eyes while a smile spreads across your face. There were no smiles, but the tears were there in abundance.
As I ran towards the woods, my head cleared up a bit. I was still angry, but at least, I was more rational. It dawned on me then that there are some memories best left as memories. I had made the mistake of attempting to recreate something that had been but could never be again. Possibly, it had never even been- my parents' love, I mean.
* Abi you don dey craze-> You are running mad, right?