FARTHER Chapter 4
“Daddy. Good morning.”
“Have you finished your essay?”
Fade came in last night as soon as Segun gave her the news, to take care of him. She prepared dinner, spent the night and now had prepared an elaborate Saturday breakfast. Segun is seated at the dining table when Tunde walks in greeting. Until now, Tunde had stayed away since Fade arrived.
Tunde looked around at the table. It was just a lot of green vegetables with fruits, fish stew and ginger tea. Everything he hated. Perfect. Now, daddy suddenly cared about his school? Was it the cancer or Fade’s presence? How did he even know about the essay? The only thing Tunde could remember his father ever cared about was teaching him to swim many years back and that was because his mother insisted he teach their son. Segun got to it, but didn’t seem bothered or particularly eager to teach his son until Tunde didn’t improve. Other learners at the pool got better, but Tunde just didn’t get it and it obviously embarrassed his father.
Tunde would hold on to his floater in the pool, eyes screwed shut, head up so far that his neck bent backwards, thrashing himself forwards, his legs kicking up and down, panting and whooping with exertion and panic. Then he would rise, gasping and choking like a new born baby, twisted strings of snot streaming from his nose, chlorine burning his throat and eyes, sure that this time he had covered at least half of the pool.
“One and a half yards.” Segun would almost whisper behind him.
Out of the pool soon after, Tunde would wrap himself in a towel, shivering and gulping with exhaustion. As he and his father watched, another budding swimmer Tunde’s age would silently glide underwater from end to end like a seal. Breaking the surface without a ripple or a gasp, and enjoying his new sport, he would backstroke, side-stroke and butterfly to the other end. Rolling over and over as he swam, the water would seem to encase him in a sort of fine envelope that glistened and pulsed like the birth sac of some gigantic baby animal.
Tunde still doesn’t know how to swim. He doesn’t know how to turn the generator on or fill it with diesel or change a car tyre either because he doesn’t know his father. But here the man was, asking him about his essay on his “family”.
Fade walks in from the kitchen and a big smile spreads across her face on sighting Tunde. She says hi and tops up with something about how good the breakfast she has prepared is good for Segun right now. Tunde isn’t listening, but taking his first good long look at her. She isn’t at all like the types Tunde had seen with his father before or after his mother’s death. Fade seems more conservative. Like those people Nigerians call SU. She seems a little Deeper Life-ish with her wine full-sleeve blouse and long black skirt. Tunde looked at her and then at his father.
“Can’t you greet?” Segun asks, sternly.
“Good morning, ma.”
“Good morning, my dear. Hope you slept well? Go on. Sit down.” Fade gestures at the seat in front of Tunde, but Segun holds up a hand as if to say Tunde must not sit yet.
“I asked you about your essay just now, didn’t I?”
Tunde eyes run across the table and into his father’s tired, defeated eyes. He had stayed up most of the night reading about all types of cancer and couldn’t think of his essay. He knows he shouldn’t and can’t show it, but he is worried about his father. He is scared about the possibility of actually being alone. Terrified of it.
“I haven’t finished it.” Tunde manages.
“Have you even started it? Last time I checked, you had written just one sentence.” Segun leans back on his chair, raising an eyebrow.
What are we talking about?? My essay?? YOU HAVE CANCER! YOU’RE GOING TO DIE AND LEAVE ME HERE, Tunde thinks before turning round abruptly to leave the room. Fade calls after him as he walks off, picking up the pace and holding back tears.
x—— ———– ——x
A few minutes later, Fade knocks on Tunde’s door and walks in when he says. Tunde is lying in bed staring at the ceiling. He only glances at Fade from the corner of his eyes as she walks towards him, then goes back to the ceiling. She has that big smile spread across her face again and is holding a brand new copy of Prayer Rain. She sits on the edge of his bed, looking around the room. It’s only tidy because Tunde had fixed everything thinking about his father’s cancer the previous night, but Fade is impressed.
“Your dad was sure I’d find a mess in your room.” She pauses for a response from Tunde, but continues when she gets none by holding up the copy of Prayer Rain in her hand. “I brought this for you. Got one for your dad as well. You should try reading it every morning. It’s good for you.”
She places it beside her on the bed.
“Thank you, ma.” Tunde replies.
“You’re welcome, my dear.”
Fade pauses again. She forces a smile at him as her eyes dart slightly and nervously to his left and right. She gets up still facing him, and then speaks.
“Your father has been saying some nonsense about not wanting to go through treatment for his cancer so I need you to talk to him, okay?”
Tunde’s eyes fall and stay on Fade now. She continues “He can beat this, but he needs us to be strong for him. Especially you. He needs you now to convince him to start treatment on Monday. Okay?”
After brief thought, Tunde nods briskly. With a nod, Fade leaves the room.
Written by Olutobi Odunubi