Accusations and Machinations
Connor knew Taiwo had made it back from Paris and chalked up her absence as a time for rest, but one day had turned to three and he had a nagging feeling something wasn’t right. Before he could pick up the phone to call Taiwo, Amanda barged her way into his office with an employee trailing hot on her heels.
“I’m sorry sir, she escaped my sight for just a moment.”
“Well, it’s quite homey in here. I suppose the extra office is for Taiwo. Where is she by the way?” He hated the way Amanda’s blood stained, paper thin lips stretched across her face, curling into a devious smile.
“What do you want Amanda?” Slithering around his desk, she stood behind him trailing a finger down the back of his neck causing him to cringe inwardly.
“What do you care?”
“There must be a reason she hasn’t come into work.” she teased.
“I don’t have time for your games, say what you came to say and leave.”
“There’s no need to be so rude. You think Taiwo is a saint, but she’s far from it.”
“She’s a good woman.”
“Oh, really? Did you know that she was pregnant or that she aborted your child?”
“What are you talking about? Your lies will catch up to you one day.”
“If you don’t believe me, check with the hospital she was recently admitted to.”
“Do you really expect me to believe you?”
“Believe what you want, but your baby is dead. You took her from me and it’s only fitting that you lose something in the process.”
“Get out of my office!” Connor watched as she exited through the door. He couldn’t stand the sight of her, nor did he believe a word she said, but he couldn’t deny something had changed in Taiwo. First, it was her change in dress, then her behavior, now she wasn’t reporting for work. Just as she rose from his chair, his cell phone rang.
“Linda, how are you?”
“Good. The Paris show went as expected and Taiwo was lit up like a Christmas tree.”
“I’m happy to hear it. Have you heard from her since your return?”
“I haven’t. Isn’t she with you?”
“How long has it been since you heard from her?”
“The last time I spoke to her was when I assigned her to Paris. It’s been three days since you two have been back and I haven’t heard one word from her.”
“This is not good.”
“What do you mean?”
“She asked me not to tell you anything.”
“We don’t keep secrets from each other, remember?”
“I know, I know. But right now, you need to check on her.”
“Tell me what’s going on.”
“There’s no time to explain, just get to her house.”
“And don’t leave her side. She’s extremely fragile right now.” Linda ended the call leaving Connor anticipating the worst. His heart rate beat faster as he strode from his office to the ascending elevator. He tapped his foot impatiently until he boarded the steel box, descending to the lobby and out the building to his car. He dialed Taiwo’s cell but she didn’t answer, so he left a message letting her know he was on his way to see her. Connor passed by cars and buildings not really absorbing the scenery around him. Before he knew it, he was parked in Taiwo’s driveway with the engine still running. Inhaling, he closed his eyes and blew out a long strained sigh. Cutting the engine, he emerged from his car, walking step by pensive step up to her front door.
Knocking, the door squeaked open allowing him a slice of the contents that were scattered on the floor. Pushing through, he saw the living room was ripped apart as if someone was looking for something precious to steal. Scattered papers, photos, pillow cushions, and broken glass rested on the hardwood floor as he stepped on pieces of shards crunching against his shoe. Connor called out for Taiwo, but silence was the only return he got. He sprinted towards the kitchen and looked in seeing the refrigerator door thrown wide open. Dishes were dashed to pieces and the only partially surviving china was a ceramic mug that was missing its handle.
Backing out of the kitchen he quickly marched to the rear of the house and saw Taiwo lying still in bed. As he entered her room, his vision lowered to the floor, white pills were scattered beside its empty bottle. Rushing over, he shook her body trying to coax her awake but only heard her labored breathing and saw the sheen of sweat misting her neck that trailed down the valley of her breasts.
Fear ran as cold as ice throughout his veins and heart lurched from his chest. As much as he tried to stay his thoughts from her attempt at suicide, his mind almost exploded with anger, first with himself for not heading this off after clearly seeing something had been awry with her behavior. Second, he was angry with Taiwo for making this decision all alone, as if she couldn’t have come to him to work out whatever had been eating at her. She hadn’t taken into consideration how her death would have affected him in the long run.
Scooping her up from sweat-damp sheets, he rushed them from the room through the hallway and out the door. Feeling something solid knock against his thigh, he checked the back of Taiwo’s pant pocket and freed her cell phone. A green light was blinking but he didn’t make time to check it, he had to get Taiwo to the hospital as soon as possible.
Heart kicking at its cage, he tried to keep himself calm in between grappling with silence surrounding the space between his ears. He felt helpless every time he called her name and she hadn’t responded. Worry creased his forehead and pulled at his brows, a fine mist of sweat covered the space between the tip of his nose and upper lip. He had never really prayed before, but silently asked God not to take her away from him. They’d figure things out and he’d never let her do something so foolish again, he just needed her to open her eyes and make her understand that suicide was never an option. The car came to a rough halt and he climbed out, pulling Taiwo in his arms, then ate up the parking lot until he reached the hospital doors. He looked around for someone to help as a woman called him from behind.
“I need a doctor right now.”
“Can you tell me what’s wrong?”
“She took too many pills and is not responding.” Seconds later, Taiwo was rolled away to the ICU with the last image of her hand hanging off the side of the gurney. Connor was left standing absent minded, running a hand through his thick hair. He couldn’t stop from fidgeting after he sat restlessly in the lobby’s cushioned chair so he again stood to his feet and walked to a window staring out at nothing in particular until a tap on his shoulder grabbed his attention. “Ah, hello. How’s Taiwo?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know. I was just informed she was brought in, but rest assured, she’s in excellent care.”
“Ms. Yona was here not long ago. How are you holding up?”
“What do you mean?”
“About the baby?”
“I just assumed you were the father of the baby.”
“We are seeing each other and if she is pregnant, I’m definitely the father.”
“I apologize, I’m never so careless with matters like this. I am Ms. Yona’s OB/GYN.”
“So she is pregnant then?”
“No, she had a miscarriage.” Hearing those words was a bitter pill to swallow but it was better than the alternative lie Amanda spun. “I’m sorry you had to find out like this.”
“How far along was she?” He did everything he could to try to keep his tears at bay. Clearing his throat, he sunk back down into the chair hunched over, elbows planted on his knees staring at the floor.
“She wasn’t showing, so maybe two months, if that.”
“I don’t understand why she didn’t tell me right away.”
“She didn’t know until I had her blood work done. Taiwo was stunned to hear the news. She thought I had somehow confused her with another patient.” She placed her hand over his and reassured him that everything will be just fine in time. “If there is anything I can do to help, don’t hesitate to stop by.”
After the doctor left, the wait for an update on Taiwo felt like an eternity. Connor considered himself to be very patient and logical, but logic was beginning to be lost on him. He struggled to keep his thoughts from crossing over to the dark side. What if’s began picking his brain, what if she didn’t make it, what if he had to live the rest of his life alone, what if he never created the family he had desired from an early age? What would happen to him then? They were selfish thoughts, he knew, but couldn’t help himself from following deeper into the first steps of madness.
Vibrations throbbed against his hip and immediately he dug into his pocket pulling out Taiwo’s phone. He stared at it a while noted he’d have to keep it for a memento if she didn’t make out of the ICU alive. Selecting the green button, he brought the phone up to his ear and heard a familiar voice on the other end.
“No, this is Connor.”
“This is Sarina. Where is Tai? I’ve been trying to get ahold of her to let her we’ve flown in to visit her.”
“Taiwo is in the hospital. I’m waiting to hear something from the doctor.”
“It looks like she tried to commit suicide. She nearly ingested a whole bottle of pills.”
“You must be mistaken, my sister would never do such a thing. She’s the strongest person I know, she wouldn’t, she just wouldn’t.” Lawren retrieved the phone from his sister to ask Connor for the address to the hospital. Connor didn’t have to wait long for them to show up. There was a man he hadn’t recognized among the group but assumed he was family as well.
“Connor, what’s Taiwo’s condition?” asked Daren.
“The doctor hasn’t come out yet.”
“But she’s not dead, right?” Sarina.
“Tai was breathing when she was taken to ICU.”
“This can not be happening. I just don’t understand why Taiwo would try to kill herself. This isn’t like her.”
“Don’t panic Sarina.”
“How can I not, dad?”
“Let’s wait and see what the doctor has to say. Okay?” Sarina nodded and sat down in a chair in the lobby silently praying for her sister’s recovery.
“Excuse me, who are you?” the man asked.
“And how do you know my daughter?”
“We are in a relationship.”
“We were in her hometown not long ago. I don’t remember seeing you.”
“I’ve haven’t seen Taiwo since she was a child. I don’t even know if she would want to see me, but I came anyway. She’s my daughter and I feel responsible for the way she grew up. She wouldn’t be this far down if I had stayed with their mother.”
Connor was at a loss for words, he could neither comfort nor scold him because he really didn’t know the circumstance or the dynamics of Taiwo’s family. Suddenly, his pant pocket began to vibrate as he retrieved Taiwo’s cellphone from his pocket. He didn’t recognize the number so he handed it to Sarina.
“Sarina? What are you doing with your sister’s phone?”
“We came to visit but we ended up at the hospital.”
“Taiwo…she…she’s not doing well. Dad’s here-”
“He’s what!? All of a sudden he’s playing the father card now? What hospital are you at? I’m on my way.” After all the years she and her brother’s hadn’t seen their mother, fighting was not how she wanted their reunion to go. The stress of an impending disaster settled harshly on Sarina’s shoulders. Normally Taiwo would be the one who settled family disputes but she was out of commission. Now that she thought about it, it hadn’t fair to let all of the problems land at her sister’s feet. Taiwo had taken care of them when she lived back home and when she and their mother moved to the states, she made sure they all were financially comfortable enough to finish college.
It was their turn to take care of their big sister, to take some of the weight off her shoulders. All these years they hadn’t known if she was having a difficult time living. They just assumed Taiwo could always get by, she was Wonder Woman, or so they had thought. Sarina supposed her sister was bound to crack under the weight their mother, life, and stress Taiwo put on herself to perform at a high level all of the time. She hated to see her siblings suffer so she sacrificed her life so they wouldn’t have to go without. Sarina was grateful yet felt the guilt of her own selfishness pressing down on her shoulders. She just figured Taiwo would always be there when they needed her, to be the strong one. An interruption broke Sarina’s thoughts as she heard a male voice ask if anyone was waiting for a patient named Taiwo.
“We are.” Connor responded.
“I apologize for the wait.”
“It’s okay. How is she?”
“Ms. Yona is doing as well as can be in her condition. We pumped her stomach but some of the medicine did filter into her bloodstream. She should make a full recovery with time and rest. Ms. Yona has been in and out of consciousness, but once she’s stable enough, you can see her.”
“Thank you. Thank you so much for saving our sister.” Daren added. The doctor smiled and nodded and headed to the front desk.
“Thank God.” Sarina praised. She looked at her brother Lawren, his face was streaked with tears and eyes were bloodshot. She hadn’t seen him cry since Taiwo left home. Within meters, she heard their mother’s voice. When she was at her best, she always knew how to make an entrance, to make herself known and this time was no exception. “Mother!”
Anikka stopped and stared at the woman standing a few feet away. She hadn’t recognized her face but her voice was a dead giveaway. “Sarina!” Anikka ran over to her daughter and hugged her then cupped her face. Lawren, Bosah and Daren stayed afar off staring at a woman they hadn’t seen since their boyhood. They were unsure how to feel but what they without a doubt felt was disconnection. Sure, they knew their mother was mere feet away, but she hadn’t really raised them, Taiwo had and their allegiance was rooted in her.
“Don’t you remember me?” Anikka asked standing before her three sons.
“Yes.” Lawren replied as Daren and Bosah nodded.
“Won’t you acknowledge your mother?” Discomfort painted their faces. In no way did they want to respect their mother but neither did she earn the right to be called a mother. Anikka looked back at her sons with disappointment and scanned for their father. He stood a distance away, quietly watching. Stalking over, Anikka knew Adejo had something to do with the coldness her sons chilled her heart with. “Adejo! You’ve turned them against me, haven’t you? This is your handiwork.”
“I’ve done no such thing.”
“Don’t you lie to me. And you’re here playing the father. What do you want?”
“I have the right to see my sons and daughters.”
“Since when? You abandoned them.”
“And what did you do? You left Taiwo to raise her siblings by herself.”
“That isn’t what happened.”
“It is what happened, but at least I’m here to atone for my sins. I don’t know if Taiwo wants to see me, let alone forgive me but I’m here giving it my best shot.”
“You always were an opportunist.”
“Take responsibility for your sins, you’re not innocent.”
“You don’t tell-”
“I’m sorry, but could you two stop fighting? This is not the place for it.” Connor interrupted Anikka.
“And who are you, boy, to tell me anything?”
“My name is Connor and I’m no boy. I’m the man who brought Taiwo here and I expect for her to recover in peace.”
“Connor? You’re the devil she’s been seeing?”
“I am that man, yes.”
“Then you must be the reason she ended up here. What did you do to my daughter?”
“I haven’t done anything.”
“I told her she can never trust whites then she ends up here. I told her to rid herself of you but she didn’t listen. She wouldn’t be in this position had she heeded to her mother’s words.”
“Mother, how can you say such a thing? Connor is a good man. Taiwo introduced us to him back home.”
“You upset Taiwo…now her behavior makes sense.” Connor cut in. “You, you were the reason we lost our baby.”
“Baby? What baby?”
“Taiwo was pregnant. She hadn’t told me, but her OB/GYN broke the news to me before you all showed up. She had a miscarriage.”
“I didn’t know my daughter was pregnant but good riddance, I don’t want a half black grandchild.”
“Anikka!” Adejo protested. Connor recoiled in disgust and anger then walked away.
“Our daughter is laying in a hospital bed, almost committed suicide by pills and you say good riddance to her unborn child? Did you take into consideration how she feels, how she’s dealing with such a blow? You’re selfish and have been so since I met you.”
While they stood arguing, Connor was approached by a nurse, giving him permission to see Taiwo. Not far behind was Sarina, and her brothers. They fell in line with him, searching for the room number the nurse provided. When they located her room, they stood outside the door waiting for Connor to go in. He hadn’t moved, like Buddah from his manmade shrine.
“What’s wrong Connor?”
“You all should go in first. I’ll be in in a little while.”
“Are you sure?”
Daren clasped a hand over Connor’s shoulders to comfort him. “No matter what was said, we support you and Taiwo’s relationship. You can count on us.”
“Thank you. I really appreciate hearing that.” They left Connor standing with his head hung and hands shoved in his pocket. It was quiet, a little too quiet until Taiwo turned over earning a squeak from the metal railings that enclosed her.
“What are you all doing here?” Taiwo squeaked out.
“We’re here to see you, big sis.”
“We were worried when we heard the news from Connor. He brought you to the hospital.” Lawren added.
“But we’re grateful you’re still with us.” Daren lamented.
“You didn’t have to fly all the way here on my behalf.”
“That’s rubbish. We wanted to visit but this happened instead. It’s made me realize I have some personal responsibility in this. You’ve always looked out for us, made sure we had what we needed and I for one never thought to return your kindness.”
“I’m the oldest Sarina. It was my job to look out for you all.”
“No, it wasn’t, it was mother’s job but checked out on us and left all the responsibility to you. That wasn’t fair.”
“Fair or not, I did what had to be done. There’s no point fussing over spilled milk.”
“Still, we will pay you back little by little. You need to take care of yourself from now on, got it?”
“Are you bossing me around Sarina now that I’m on my sick bed?”
“I am. We’re going to have Connor take us to your house to make sure it’s cleaned top to bottom.”
“It’s not and I can clean it up myself.”
“There’s nothing you can do about it, so relax.”
“Besides a clean house is the least of our worries. Mom and dad are outside. They’ve been bickering since she stepped foot inside the hospital.”
“Dads here!? Why? Did you talk him into coming?”
“No. He wanted too. He still feels guilty for leaving and is hoping you’ll forgive him.”
“I can’t let him see me like this.”
“Just stop it, Tai.” Daren bellowed. “You’re not responsible for us anymore and you don’t have to hide how difficult things have been for you. And for the record, you’re not weak. You should let Connor take care of you. He said he’ll be in in a little while. We support the both of you, so get married already.”
“You also ordering me around?”
“Yes, and you need to listen.”
“Looks like you’ve all grown up well without me. I guess I don’t need to protect you anymore.”
“That’s right so stop taking the weight of the world on your shoulders.” Their orders halted when the door opened letting in their parents. Taiwo was not ready to see her father but she had no choice but to bite the bullet.
“Daughter, how are you feeling?” Adejo asked approaching the bed.
“Are you really alright?”
“I have a sore stomach, but I’m fine.”
“I’m sure you’re surprised to see me after all this time.”
“A little. I don’t know what to say to you.”
“I know. I’m also unsure where to go from here but I’m sorry for abandoning you and your siblings. I should have been a father and stuck it out.”
“I understand why you left. I don’t have a problem with your choice.”
Anikka asserted herself between father and daughter and began to chide Taiwo. “What were you thinking trying to kill yourself? What could you have possibly hoped to accomplish, girl? And that baby…how could you have let that white devil get so close to you. It is a disgrace for-”
“Mother!” Lawren shouted. “Leave.”
“I said leave. Taiwo doesn’t need to be scolded. Don’t kick her while she’s down, she has done no wrong.”
“I may not have been able to fully raise you, but you will not speak to me this way.”
“You’re the one who’s being disrespectful. We’re going to stand by Taiwo and her relationship with Connor. If you don’t like it, then so be it, but you will not walk all over our sister.”
“I gave birth to all of you, Taiwo is not your mother.”
“She’s been more of a mother to us than you ever were.” Daren added the nail to the coffin and watched their mother’s eyes tear up. The truth was what it was and he wasn’t going to stand by and let his sister be bullied.
“Fine, I’ll leave. I can see who you love more.” No one tried to stop her or correct her inaccurate statement. Not long after, Connor stepped into the room which signaled for them to give he and Taiwo some private time.
“We’ll wait outside.” Sarina lamented. After the door shut, silence emanated through the room. She was nervous and embarrassed for Connor to see her in a compromised state and him being silent didn’t ease her fears of what he might think of her.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’m not going to lecture you on your choices, but next time consult me when you’re having a hard time dealing with something.”
“I can do that.”
“Good. We are still an item?”
“Depends if you still want me after everything I’ve done.”
“Of course I want you. I need you in my life, Tai. I don’t ever want you to think otherwise. But there is something I want to ask you.”
“What is it?”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant? Why didn’t you tell me you had a miscarriage? This was my child too.”
Tears kissed her eyes and her throat constricted. She planned to tell him, it just was never the right time, especially with her trying to cope with the loss on her own.
“I’m sorry. It’s my fault I lost our baby. I was so angry with my mother…I just lost it and went into a rage.”
“I know your mother told you to sever ties with me. I can understand why you’d be upset given her illogical reasons for the request.”
“I didn’t mean to kill our baby. I know how much you wanted a family.”
“It’s not your fault. I don’t blame you but you can not hide things from me, I made myself clear in the beginning.”
“I know and I’m sorry. I just didn’t want you to get hurt.”
“You can not shield me from something like this Tai. It hurts to even think about but there’s nothing I can do to turn back time. We need a fresh start, do you agree?”
“We are going to spend more time together, away from prying eyes. Let me take care of you, I’m more than capable of doing it. We’re partners, there is no me without you. And could you do me a small favor?”
“Go back to wearing your traditional clothes and coily hair, I miss it.”
A smile stretched across her lips and a tear fell, “I can do that.”
*Final chapter here, By Design (14) FIN