When the news of Barrister Bishop Ekanem’s arrest reached the Itah mansion, there was shared relief and jubilation.
Edikan was back home, discharged early from the hospital on her mother’s insistence. Mrs Clementine Itah was determined to have all her children under her roof on such a fateful day, and when Kate returned to the house, the woman happily extended the affection towards her.
“From what I heard of the Barrister’s confession, this issue is something that has festered in his heart for long.” Mrs Clementine Itah told Kate. They were standing together, just outside Edikan’s bedroom, watching as the teenager laughed and chatted with her brother and sister, who both sat on chars drawn to the side of her bed. Kate leaned against the door jamb and watched them with an ache in her heart. The scene made her wish for her own family in Lagos. Mrs Itah’s voice roused her from her sad thoughts. “I always knew Bishop had a bit of a wandering eye and used to have a crush on me at one time, but I never knew it had graduated to murderous intent.”
The woman shuddered, a spark of anger in her eyes. “After Bassey’s death, Bishop became so attentive and concerned about me, perhaps a bit too much. I thought I was just imagining things and ignored his occasional flirting, but I never knew I was still smiling with my husband’s murderer. I’m glad the police have him and I’ll make sure he rots in jail if it’s the last thing is do.” She smiled and bit the corner of her lower lip. “I have influence of my own, and I’ll pull every string to see him pay for what he did to this family, and what he tried to do to you.”
Kate nodded in understanding. “I understand your anger, madam. But please, don’t let hate be all you focus on. That’s what made him the monster that he is. You have a beautiful family. You need to take care of them. Barrister Ekanem will definitely get what’s coming to him now that he’s being arrested.”
She turned to Kate and her expression softened. “You’re a smart girl, but terribly naïve in the ways of how things run among certain circles, especially political ones. I’ve already had to make two calls to powerful men to ensure that Bishop remains in prison. If I turn away my attention from him for one moment, his powerful allies will bail him out. But that won’t happen. I have more strings to pull that he does. He’ll definitely pay for all his crimes.”
Kate nodded, shaken. “I guess I have a lot to learn.”
“And learn, you will.” Mrs Itah smiled, gently rubbing Kate’s shoulder. “You’re an Itah now, and that name carries weight and responsibility. You have your father’s brilliance and diplomacy, plus a good head for business as I noticed from your entrepreneurship. Trust me, you’ll learn quick. And I’ll be there to help you.”
Kate inhaled deeply and smiled at the woman, grateful for the offer of mentorship. She was definitely out of her depth in this new world that had opened to her, and would need all the help she could get.
“I didn’t know about you till Bassey died, you know.” Mrs Itah said absently as she watched her children in the bedroom. “At first I was upset and angry, but I knew my husband had a good heart, and I loved him. Besides I wasn’t perfect myself; I had my own secrets. And when I saw you, I knew you were his daughter in every sense of the word. How could I hate you when you reminded me of him so much?”
Kate was overcome with emotion. She wished she could say something, but was unable to find words to express her surprise and joy. She had imagined that Mrs Itah would never warm up to her, but was discovering she had judged the woman too quickly. Under the intimidating gloss and glamour was a kind woman, human and approachable.
The woman seemed to read her mind. “There’s no need to say anything, dear Kate. Just know I’m here for you. But for now, you need to rest. The past few days have been tough, especially for you.”
Kate shuddered as she remembered all her near brushes with death. She was still shaken to realize how death had been dogging her footsteps right from the moment her late father had revealed her existence.
“You’re right madam. My life has certainly been eventful recently.” Kate sighed a she looked back into Edikan’s room where Mimi and Imoh laughed loudly at a shared joke. “Is being an Itah always this eventful?”
Mrs Itah laughed, a genuine, infectious sound that tugged at the edges of Kate’s lips. “Yeah, pretty much, my dear. Get used to it.”
When Kate walked away from Edikan’s room, she was still smiling. She had two families now, because she had just been welcomed with opened arms into this new one. But in her heart she knew she would never fit in as part of Clementine Itah’s household. She was different and would always be.
She walked slowly through the house, her eyes taking in everything in a new light. It now looked like a home, rather than just a house. But it was not her home. When she turned a corner and bumped into a hard male chest with a thump, she was not surprised to look up and discover the familiar face smiling down at her.
“Hi, Kate. We need to stop bumping into each other like this.” Chris said as he hugged her. “I’ve been looking for you.”
Kate stepped out of his embrace, her heart racing for all the wrong reasons. “Oh. You have?”
Chris nodded. He hesitated for a moment as he seemed to pick his words carefully. “Look, we have unfinished personal stuff going on. I don’t think we can deny the chemistry between us.”
Kate shook her head, a rueful smile on her lips. “No, we can’t deny it.”
Chris shuffled his feet uncomfortably. “So I think we need to talk about it. I want to give this thing a chance, Kate. I think we would be great together.”
Tears threatened to blur Kate’s vision and she blinked them away, then smiled. “Yes, you’re right. We would.”
Unperturbed by Kate’s monotonous responses, Chris smiled and held out a hand to her. “So, ready to give us a shot?”
Kate took the offered hand slowly, and squeezed it. Then she stretched up on her toes and gave Chris a quick peck on the cheek.
“I’m sorry Chris. There can’t be an ‘us’. I’m going back to Lagos tomorrow.”
And Kate walked away, leaving Chris stunned and speechless, his hand still outstretched.
Check back on Tuesday for more episodes.