Later that night, Esther Badejo couldn’t sleep. Her mind kept replaying the events of the day. She decided it was a good day, after all. And it was also necessary; they had all needed it, even if they had been unaware of that need.
It had been a while since they had family time. They use to have it in form of an outing most weekends when the children were growing up and they still had from time to time in recent years.
However since the children moved away, family time had sort of withered away.
She smiled as she recalled how Pamilerin and his father had badgered each other, just as they use to.
It was a good day, she thought again.
She only wished it had been complete.
There was never a time they were together that she did not wonder what it would be like if everybody was there. Hardly did any day pass that she did not imagine how her lost child was faring.
Her beautiful daughter, who had her eyes and her father’s smile. She hadn’t forgotten and it was more like she couldn’t forget. If her baby had died, it would have been easier to – not forget – but at least let go.
But her baby hadn’t died; she had been snatched from her, kidnapped coldly from her stroller at a supermarket.
At first, they had assumed it was the usual kidnap for money. Kidnapping wasn’t such uncommon business among the rich and almost always, the captives were sent back after a ransom had been paid.
Everybody around had told them to relax, they were bound to get Irewamiri back. The kidnappers would demand a ransom, they had been told.
So they had been certain the kidnappers would place a call.
And that, she thought now, had been their mistake. They had completely relaxed because even the police had been so sure they would get a call.
By the time they had realized that they had more than hungry kidnappers on their hands, it had been too late to achieve much. The culprits had had more than enough time to cover their tracks.
Sometimes Esther still wondered who she was angrier at, the nanny for her carelessness, the people that calmed her down, her husband for putting on a tough front and taking the matter with not enough seriousness, as far as she was concerned, the police for taking the issue with levity or herself for listening to them all?
It was frustrating because she didn’t blame anybody but herself, it had been easier to forgive every other person but she hadn’t succeeded in extending forgiveness to herself. She wondered when she would finally get over the guilt she felt.
She and her husband had had bouts of argument about her hours at work but she hadn’t listened, she hadn’t been able to understand why he could spend all hours at work and she couldn’t. She had been so sure her children were in safe hands.
It had taken losing her child to understand what Adeyemi was insisting on all those years. Although she had made amends, even taken it to the extreme and stopped working at that period till her children were a lot older, but she still couldn’t assuage her guilt.
She wished she had somehow been psychic and stopped work a week or even a day before the incidence. Maybe this, she reasoned, would have been averted.
There were no guarantees in life, she knew but she really believed she would have been more careful with her child than a nanny ever would. After all, no matter how you treated a help, she wasn’t blood.
She remembered how Adeyemi had been strongly against sacking the nanny with the argument that nobody was above mistake but she had been too emotional to listen. She had even practically bitten his head off when he mentioned it.
In hindsight, she admitted that he had also been as grieved as she was but she had been too wound up to see it at that time.
She had only seen her own misery, dwelling on all the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if only’. Although knowing all the “if onlys” in the world wouldn’t solve a thing, she hadn’t been able to stop herself from wishing things had been different, she still couldn’t help wishing she had done things differently.
And just now, instead of sleeping, she was doing it again. If only she hadn’t insisted on working, if only she had been home with her kids, if only she had given the police enough grief, if only, her daughter would have been sleeping in one of the empty rooms now.
Which is why she wasn’t giving up even after 26 years, she was still looking for her daughter, she needed to keep looking, and she needed that hope that she would meet her baby girl someday. She just wished it was soon enough.
Adeyemi Badejo could hear his wife thinking beside him. It was the craziest thing. After about thirty five years of marriage, he still couldn’t explain it. Every time she was in deep thoughts beside him, he could hardly sleep and could almost hear her thought process.
He knew she thought he had lost touch with her but he couldn’t be more in tune with her.
The only thing was he was a man, and even though he had left behind some of the archaic machismo he grew up with, old habits die hard, especially when it had to do with emotions.
Knowing he wouldn’t be getting any sleep, he resigned to fate.
With his eyes still closed – even though he could bet what was going through her mind – he asked, “what are you thinking about?”
He felt her look at him before almost whispering, “Irewamiri.” Adeyemi sighed. Just as he predicted, he thought as he sat up.
“You’ve to let it go, mami.” He usually called her ‘mami,’ – a word he had picked up when he schooled in Barcelona – when he was relaxed, trying to sweeten her up or just being plain naughty.
“It’s easy for you to say, you were not the one that carried her for nine months,” she remarked.
“I just don’t understand why women think they’re the only ones that go through the nine months,” he thought aloud.
“It’s not the same thing.”
“Maybe not but that doesn’t make it less severe. Only irresponsible men don’t go through the experience with their women. I literally hurt when you hurt and it’s worse in that case because I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I also handled and adapted to your raging hormones.” He paused and continued with a chuckle, “And need I remind you how I ran around the streets of Lagos after putting in miserable hours at the hospital to satisfy your utterly ridiculous cravings. Remember when you felt like eating ofada rice in the middle of the night and I had to go get it?”
Esther recalled the memory with a hearty laugh despite herself.
He was relieved when he heard her laughter; many years together hadn’t dimmed what the sound did to him.
Esther sighed, “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
“No need,” he brushed it away. “It’s a general female flaw.”
“Hmm …. Do you think we should tell them their sister isn’t dead?”
This was a familiar argument. Esther felt the children deserved the truth but Adeyemi just didn’t see the need. She knew it was his usual way of avoiding messy situations. Sometimes she wondered how he survived as a doctor with that character.
“We are not sure she isn’t. And even if she’s still alive, I just don’t see the need now.”
“You don’t think they would hate it that we didn’t tell them the truth?”
“We were trying to protect them, they would have been too young to understand, not to mention handle that kind of trauma.”
“And now that they are old enough to understand?” she queried.
“It doesn’t matter any longer,” he answered simply.
As far as he was concerned, Esther’s insistence had less to do with being honest with the children and more to do with her refusal to let go.
He wasn’t inhumane or unfeeling, but they had tried everything. He had visited and disturbed the police every day for more than five years, had even hired a private investigator – although the man had been honest enough to tell him it was a lost cause, they weren’t looking for someone recognizable but a baby who most probably had changed with the years – but he had wanted to leave no stone unturned.
He strongly believed he had tried his best and would really just like to let it go.
“I really hope you are right … I guess I better tell you I’m still searching for her. I actually just hired a new investigator last year.”
“What do you mean you know?”
“I know you, mami. And contrary to popular belief, I’m not so busy I’ve lost touch with my family. I just didn’t mention it because I figured you needed it. I just hope you’re prepared he can’t do much. Not only would she have probably changed physically, but they would have changed her name, assuming she is still alive. I need you to prepare for that,” he answered at length.
“I know. But I need to keep trying, Yemi.”
He drew her down again to lie down and snuggled close, “Yeah, I know, mami, I know. I wish I could find her for you.”
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