Dara glanced at her husband, Dapo as he yawned. He was driving them to his hometown, Iwata. The twins were fast asleep in the back seat. She had pulled them out of bed at dawn to get them ready for the trip. They had to start the trip early because it is a long-distance trip from the city to Iwata if they wish to arrive there during the day. Almost 200 kilometers. They beat the usual early morning traffic within the city before the city woke, and burst into the interstate highways. She had packed some sandwiches that morning for the whole family, which they ate earlier, on the trip.
She stretched and yawned as she looked out the car window to enjoy the fleeting, moving, bushy landscape. Finally, she was going to meet Dapo’s family for the first time since their marriage in 2013, nine years ago. While they were courting, he told her he was estranged from his family. And that when he had gotten a full scholarship for university, the money was paid to his parents, but they pissed it away and refused to repay him, forcing him to fund his schooling by taking odd jobs here and there. He convinced her to forget about meeting his family because they were dead to him.
When they had their twin boys in 2015, her sister Bola called her aside and said to her, ‘Dara, you need to get to the root of your husband’s family matter. It makes no sense for you not to know his roots.’ Bola wasn’t wrong, in Yoruba culture, it is unheard of for a child to be estranged from her family. A person’s family is thought to be a person’s proverbial clothing in the world, which protects him from the world’s elements. Dara grew up in a very cohesive and happy family. She could not imagine a world where her parents were not in her life. Not to mention depriving them of their grandkids. She knew she would have forgiven her parents long ago had they done to her what Dapo’s parents had done to him.
She started to convince Dapo to reconcile with his parents, but he refused vehemently. She had tried to find their contacts and address on his phone and in public record. No luck. Over the years, she kept trying to make him see reason, until the day she jokingly told him she was considering putting out ads in the newspaper with his picture to find his parents. Surprisingly, he promised to take her and the kids to visit them in Iwata one day, and to settle the dispute once and for all. Today he fulfills that promise.
She looked at him, “You look tired, should I come take over?”
“No, it’s fine. Relax,”
Dara dozed off. When she came to, they passed a big sign saying ‘WELCOME TO IWATA.’ Dapo looked at her rather sadly, with a grave voice said “We are here.”
“Honey, are you okay?” she asked.
“It’s just… it’s been a while since I’ve been here. The last time I was here, it wasn’t.. pretty. And I vowed never to return.” Dara caressed his shoulder as a tear dropped from Dapo’s face which he wiped off. He drove into a quiet neighborhood with old colonial-looking buildings and parked on the side of the road.
Dara pointed to the house on her right. “This is your house?”
“No. My house is the first house on the next turn on the right.” He pointed. “I need you to drive down there. Take the kids and introduce yourselves as my family, I will be with you shortly in 30 minutes. I need to visit my friend Henry briefly, before I join you. His house is right there.” He points to a gray colored bungalow across the road on his left.
Dara frowned. “Why not let us visit him with you. Or we could wait in the car till you are done. It will be too strange for me to show up at your parent’s door with the kids. I’m a stranger to them.”
“No. I don’t want to expose the kids to Henry’s parents, they are a little weird. I’ll be with you soon I promise.”
“Can’t you see him later?”
“It has to be now. It has to be before I see my parents.”
Dara sighed. “Fine, just don’t take long okay?” she said resignedly. He nodded. He kissed her forehead. He went down to the back of the car and kissed his kids before darting off to the back of the house. Dara was perplexed. Why go through the back of the house? She thought. Then again she was entering his past, which is new territory. She got into the driver’s seat and drove the short distance to the next street. At the spot Dapo described as his family home stood a green two-storeyed building.
Pondering whether to wait in the car for Dapo to return for some minutes since he had promised to be back soon. She looked back at her kids, they were wide awake now. They told her they were hungry, so she fetched two sausage rolls and a 3 liters water bottle from her traveling bag and gave it to them. She waited a few minutes as her kids ate.
It became clear Dapo wasn’t coming back soon as he promised. She called his phone, it rang, and rang. No answer. She gave up and decided to go in. After getting the kids, they climbed up to the front porch of the house.
Dara knocked on the strong wooden door. No reply. She knocked once more, then she heard light footsteps that grew louder as they drew nearer. The door clicked and opened. She was presented with an elderly woman with half gray, half black hair. The woman looked to be in her early sixties.
“Can I help you?” the old lady asked.
“Hello ma, my name is Dara. These are my children. I am your son’s wife.” Dara said.
“Son’s wife? Which son?” the old lady replied dryly.
“I mean your son, Dapo. Dapo Adeyemi.” Dara said.
The old lady looked her up and down for a second, as her face slowly contorted into a distressed look. She fell on her knees and screamed. “Get away from here! You prankster. Idiot. Go away now. Get out!” the lady let out, half screaming, half sobbing.
Abashed, Dara, said “Ma, I know you and Dapo have not been in touch, but he explained everything to me and he is here to reconcile with you.” Dara’s words made her wail louder, as she got on her knees. A man came running to the door looking puzzled, expecting some form of chaos. He had an older wrinkled face, looked at his wife perched on the floor now sobbing, then looking at Dara, expectantly, as if waiting for her to explain herself.
He put his hands under the woman’s armpits, urging her to get up. “Rali, what is the problem, kilode?”
Rali pointed at Dara, and opened her mouth to talk, but her sobbing gasps would not let her, then she burst into even more tears. Dara grew uncomfortable, she glanced at her kids and saw their eyes widened as they grabbed tightly at her skirt..
The man asked “Who are you? What is wrong? What did you say to her?”
Dara fiddled with her hand bag, not wanting to cause another scene, said “I told her, I know Dapo Adeyemi, her son, and–.”
He raised a palm to stop her from continuing. He glanced down at Rali, while still holding her, then he looked back up at Dara “Wait here.” And so he took Rali into the house and shut the door. Dara called her husband’s phone once more but it was still just ringing without an answer. She was starting to get irritated.
Just then, the older man emerged from the house and waved her in. Dara guided her boys into the house. It was a big house, a duplex. There was someone else in the cozy living room, a man who looked to be in his early forties. He looked angry, somewhat. She greeted him, but he gave no response. How rude, she thought. Dara sat her kids, and joined them on a long couch opposite the already seated elder man. The younger man was standing behind the older man.
The older man cleared his throat. “I am Baba Kolade, Dapo’s father, this is my son, Tunde, Dapo’s brother. Please go ahead with what you were saying.”
“I was telling Madam the other time that my name is Dara. I am married to your son, Dapo Adeyemi. These are our children, Taiye, Kehinde.”
Baba Kolade’s eyes widened, while Tunde slowly sat on the arm of the couch near his father. Baba Kolade rubbed his palm over his face. “So you are saying, you– are married to Dapo. Da-Dapo Adeyemi?” he stammered. Dara nodded. “Errm, okay. Where is he now?” he asked.
“We both arrived from Ilu Tuntun together. He said he wanted to see his friend Henry at one gray house with flowers at No. Five, the street before this one. He will be with us soon. He described this house to me and asked me to come introduce myself and the children.” Dara said. Tunde and Baba Kolade exchanged glances.
“You’ve seen my brother?” Tunde asked.
“Yes. I’m married to him.” Dara replied.
Tunde shook his head with such force, and said, almost yelling. “That is not possible. My brother—”. Baba Kolade smacked Tunde’s mouth with a quickness. He shook his head at him and whispered into his ears. Dara’s shock was apparent. Their father-son interaction seemed strange.
Baba Kolade said, “My daughter, please give me proof that you are married to my son. He has left us for a long while now. We just want to be sure.”
Dara nodded. She was so mad at Dapo for making her face his family alone after years of estrangement. Why was he taking so long, she thought. She whipped out her phone and went to the photo gallery. She gave the phone to Baba Kolade. “If you scroll through the photos, you will see our family photos, with Dapo and the kids.”
Baba Kolade and his son spent some minutes on the phone looking through the photos and videos of Dara and Dapo’s young family. He sighed heavily and whispered into Tunde’s ears for what seemed like two minutes while gesticulating. Tunde nodded his head, got on his feet and left the house without a word. Baba Kolade faced Dara and said “And you say, he is coming to join us?”
“Yes sir.” she said.
“How long have you been married to Dapo?”
“I see.” he says while trying to mask his surprise.
Dara could tell something was wrong. They were not acting right. It made her uneasy. She was not exactly expecting a welcome parade from her in-laws due to the estrangement, but she was not expecting such bizarre interactions either. She had warned Dapo about showing up unannounced, but he insisted on not calling his family because he did not want them rejecting him beforehand. She thought about making an excuse to leave for their hotel. This is Dapo’s business to handle, not hers. But she dismissed the idea. This was half her family now. “I hope everything is fine, sir. Especially with Madam.”
Baba Kolade smiled halfheartedly. “Nothing to worry about, everything is fine. My wife is just a very sensitive woman. When Dapo left, it affected her deeply. In fact, let me get her.” he said as he rose. “Can I show her the pictures? That will cheer her up.” Dara nodded enthusiastically, happy to be helpful.
He disappeared into a room. Dara looked around the house for the first time. There were potted plants in every corner. Her eyes darted across the cream walls adorned with family pictures. She saw one portrait arranged next to another side by side. There was a picture of Baba Kolade, Rali, Tunde in graduation attire, a woman, and then a younger Dapo, her husband in graduation attire. Didn’t Dapo say he stopped talking to his parents after they embezzled his scholarship fund? She thought. But here he was in a graduation gown.
“Mummy, where is Daddy?” Taiwo interrupted her thoughts.
Dara looked down at her kid, “He’s coming honey. Anytime now.” Just then Baba Kolade returned with his wife Rali. Rali looked better now, though her face looked tight and red just like someone who had been crying. After settling into the couch next to Baba Kolade, she greeted Dara and apologized for her previous outburst.
The couple spent time asking Dara questions about her marriage, how she met Dapo, the kids, and when she had them. They were more interested in hearing everything they could about their son’s life. They made Dara tell them what Dapo has said about them. This made her spill all she was told about their estrangement. They took it in without judgment.
Dara tried to call Dapo’s phone once again since she was getting worried. Baba Kola asked her not to worry so much about him. Rali asked the children to come play with her, she made them sit in her laps and gave them treats. She got Dara and the kids drinks and promised to make them a big dinner. Rali entertained the kids, asking them as many questions as she could muster.
The living room door opened, in came Tunde and an older man just about the same age as Baba Kolade. The man exchanged greetings with Dapo’s parents and Dara. After taking a long look at Dara and the twin, he asked to see Baba Kolade in private outside the house, Tunde followed after his father.
When they stepped outside, Dara could hear the men’s muffled voices. Her intuition tickled her into suspecting that they were talking about her. Even more so, as Rali’s eyes darted to the window several times. When Rali could not take it anymore, she excused herself to join the men outside.
* * *
Baba Kolade followed his childhood friend, Gbadebo out of the house. Gbadebo grew up in an oracular family. His father, while alive, was an Ifa priest. Gbadebo knew much about culture, myths, tales, legends, and their validity. Baba Kolade paused on the porch. “I’m so happy you answered my call, Gbadebo on such short notice.”
Gbadebo turned back and hurriedly pulled Baba Kolade by the arm to his car parked on the road, behind Dara’s car. Tunde followed after them.
“Don’t you know walls have ears?” Gbadebo reprimanded. “I had to come. Tunde explained what happened.”
Baba Kolade nodded. “Thank you, old friend.”
“Tunde told me that this wife your son sent to you has evidence of Dapo and their whole marriage?”
“Yes. There were so many videos and I copied them to my phone. Have it.” Baba Kolade said as he opened the photo gallery on his phone and handed them to his friend.
Gbadebo collected the phone and scrolled through them. Looking up he said, “You don’t think these photos or videos could have been doctored.”
“No. They look so real. Even if they manage to fake them, did you not see those twin boys? They look so much like my Dapo. I don’t need a soothsayer to tell me that he is their father.”
Tunde nodded, “It’s true sir, they look so much like Dapo,” he said.
“Gbadebo, explain to me, how is it possible that my son, whose corpse I washed, whose body I buried could come back to life and even bear children? Eh?” Baba Kolade’s eyes watered.
Gbadebo placed his palms on Baba Kolade’s shoulders. “Old friend, you have to be strong right now. For your wi—”. Just then, Rali came out the door and walked-run towards them.
“What are we going to do about this matter now, brother Gbadebo,” she said, spreading both her palms.
“Rali, I sympathize with you. I—”
“Who won’t let my son rest in peace? I saw his body. I saw his dead body. There is no way he is alive. Ei.” she started sobbing.
“Rali, Rali, you have to be calm, we can’t draw attention to ourselves. We can’t let the wife know anything until we decide what to do. Okay? Just breathe.” said Gbadebo.
“Okay–okay-okay.” she said between breaths as tears fell down her cheek.
Gbadebo placed a knuckle under his chin, “Are you absolutely sure that there is no way Dapo survived after the accident?” he asked.
Tunde, his mother and father all shook their heads collectively. “There is no doubt about this. His face was smashed beyond recognition in the accident. I felt his cold hard body. There is no way.” Baba Kolade said.
Gbadebo shook his head and jutted it forward to his audience,”There’s no two ways about it, this means your son is an Akudaaya.”
Rali winced and sobbed, while Baba Kolade nodded his head slowly in realization. “I suspected it. That was why I sent for you immediately.”
Tunde squeezed his face and asked “What is that?” Nobody answered him. He looked everyone in the face, as they all seemed to be in deep thought. He faced Gbadebo and shook him hard, “Baba Gbadebo, what is an Akudaaya?”
Gbadebo resigned and said “An Akudaaya, in our culture is what we call a living dead. It is believed that when a person dies too soon, before fulfilling his destiny, sometimes, the gods give such a person a second chance. They come back to life at a place very far from where their former life was, with their former memory intact.” Tunde merely stared at him, trying to absorb what he just heard. Gbadebo faced Rali and Baba Kolade, “Did the wife tell you where Dapo is right now?”
Rali pointed in the direction of the next street . “She said he wanted to see his friend Henry before joining her here. At No Five. Or should we go there and see if he is there?”
“Don’t bother. You can never meet him there.” Gbadebo said.
“That house is Henry’s family house. Henry and Dapo both died in the car accident” Tunde said.
“Ah ah ah ah. I see. That makes sense.” Gbadebo said.
“What do we do about his wife and children now? What are we supposed to do?” Rali lamented.
“We can’t tell her.” Baba Kolade who had his hands folded said, as if he just woke out of a trance.
“Why?” Rali asked, facing him.
Gbadebo said, “If you tell her Dapo is dead, she will never see him again. In the legend of the Akudaaya, once they know, you know they used to be dead, they will never reappear to you again. If you don’t want her to lose him forever, don’t tell her.”
“Ah, that is unfair. How can we not tell her? Do we just sit by and continue to let her be married to a ghost?” Rali lamented. “If she were your own daughter, would you not tell her?” She pointed her finger accusingly at Gbadebo.
Baba Kolade faced her and held her shoulders, “Rali,” he said, in a low voice. “The worst has already happened. She has already married a ghost and produced children for him. You saw her. She is healthy. She didn’t fall sick as a result. She’ll be fine.”
Gbadebo walked closer to the couple, “Rali, think about those children. If you tell the wife her husband used to be dead, those kids lose their father forever. Your best option is to be hostile to them. Send them away and ask that they never return. If you do that, Dapo’s spirit will know that his secret is still unknown to his wife. This is what will allow him go back to his family, till the end of his appointed days.”
Rali left the middle of the two men, taking two steps to Gbadebo’s car and rested her back on its door. She folded her arms and sighed. Quiet for a minute. Then she looked up. “Okay. Let’s send her away.”
Dara held her boys and left Baba Kolade’s house, with hands trembling and feet weak at the knees. Her children could tell something was wrong as they kept looking up at her. She was mostly furious at her husband for putting her in a situation to be embarrassed by his parents. He should have been there. But he took the coward’s way out. Never had she been so insulted in her life. She had never in her entire life met such an unstable family. One minute nice, the other minute hostile. Hot and cold. Such a mess. They had kicked her and the children out. Yelling insults at her and even threatening to call the police if she and Dapo ever came back to their house. No wonder Dapo wants nothing to do with them. She understands now. She will never force him to reconcile with them ever again.
Dara put the kids in the car and got in. She reversed the car to leave the street when her phone lit up with several message boxes popping up from her husband. This was replaced with her phone ringing. It was her husband calling. Relief washed over. He is okay. This little trip has now come to an end. She was going to pick her husband and they were going back home.