The air around him suddenly went still and he felt his body go stiff. She was here. He just knew it and it wasn’t even because of the text message Mama Rose had sent him about thirty minutes ago. No, it was more than that. For some reason he’d never been able to explain, he always knew whenever she was within the vicinity. It was almost as though an alarm sounded inside him each time she was close by. He hadn’t felt that way in five long years and he didn’t know what to make of it.
“Daddy please can I go and greet Mama Rose?”
Lucas looked down at his daughter and seeing her earnest eyes gazing up at him, he smiled. He brushed her hair lightly, he had finally learnt how to part them into eight sections and hold each one with colourful ribbons. He felt really proud of his handiwork.
“I want to give Mama Rose a hug.”
He usually let her say a quick hello to the old lady before Church, but not today. He was not ready to see Simi just yet. So he shook his head, “Not today pumpkin,” he said. He felt his heart stab at the look of disappointment in her face, but he didn’t fall for that so easily anymore. Thanks to mama Rose, he now knew that as tough as it was, he needed to say NO and be firm about it. He bit back a smile and winked at her before leading her inside the building.
Lucas usually enjoyed Sunday service. It hadn’t always been that way, but losing Simi and becoming a father almost simultaneously had turned his life upside down. He had found solace by seeking God. And the words he heard each Sunday from the pulpit were like a salve to his wounded heart. Today however, he could not seem to concentrate on anything that was going on. He knew exactly where Simi was seated; first aisle, third row from the front. It was where Mama Rose sat every Sunday, and he found his eyes straying to that spot throughout the service.
Even though he could only catch the side view of Simi, she seemed even more beautiful than before. He didn’t think that was possible. She was not the most beautiful woman he’d even seen, but she’d had an essence that was so beautiful and very hard to capture.
And he really had no business staring at her the way he was. It had taken him several years, but he had finally gotten over Simi and he had absolutely no intention of ever going through the hell he went through after she left. He was a father so he could not afford to give in to sentiments, which was all Simi was ever going to be. A sentiment.
Lucas carried that conviction all through till the church service came to an end. It was strong within him even after he picked up Lara from the children’s section and made their way to where the car was parked. It was slow going as they had to stop and greet several people.
“Lucas, Lara…how are you two?”
Lucas turned to see Ijeoma Okafor. They used to be classmates in secondary school, but she was now Mrs. Hart. “Ijeoma baby, where is that husband of yours?” He said giving her a warm hug.
“Don’t worry Lucas, I’m sharpening my machete. Just keep holding my wife like that.” Tobe, Ijeoma’s husband said with a frown. Then he spotted Lara and broke into a wide grin. “How is my princess doing?”
“I’m fine, Uncle Tobe,” Lara said looking really solemn, “But I’m not going to be a princess anymore.”
“Really? That’s so sad. What are you going to be now?”
“I want to be a word possessor.”
Tobe turned a blank glance to Lucas who chuckled. “Word processor…that’s what they’re learning in school now.”
“Seriously? How old is she again, four years old? Can’t they wait till she’s at least ten before they start with word processors?” Tobe looked disgusted, which made Ijeoma and Lucas laugh.
“Honey I told you, these schools are competing with Japan,” Ijeoma said dropping a peck on his cheek. She turned to Lucas and the laughter faded from her face, “You know she’s back right?”
Lucas stiffened, but kept his face expressionless. “I know.”
“Are you okay?” She placed a hand on his arm.
Lucas opened his mouth to respond, but felt a tug on his trouser leg. Closing his mouth, he bent down so his daughter could whisper in his ears.
“My tummy is paining me,” she whispered.
Looking suitably concerned, he touched the tummy, “Would a hug from Mama Rose make your tummy feel better?”
She nodded vigorously.
Hiding a smile, he straightened up and pointed to where Mama Rose was standing a few feet away and watched as the little girl ran all the way to the old lady. The joy on Mama Rose’s face as she hugged his daughter made him grateful that they had her in their lives.
Turning to his friends he smiled briefly, “I’m happy Simi is back. Mama Rose missed her.”
Ijeoma’s eyebrows shot up and she was about to say something, but Lucas watched in amusement as her husband pinched her lightly.
“Aww!” she rubbed the spot and looked at him from the side of her eye, “You could have just told me to keep quiet. Maybe you don’t know that your hand is like stone.”
Tobe ignored her and winked at Lucas, “Well bro, we’ll see later. This woman needs to cook for me.”
The woman in question eyed her husband, “After pinching me, will you have the courage to eat what I cook?” And without waiting for a reply, she turned briefly to Lucas, “Lucas, we’ll talk. Seems you have company. Take care.”
Wondering what she meant, he turned around and came face to face with Simi. He felt like he’d been given a punch in his stomach. She looked the same, yet there was something different about her. For one thing, she really was more beautiful than he remembered. Secondly, she had acquired an air of sophistication that she hadn’t had before, when she was younger.
“Simi,” he said with a brief nod.
“Lucas, how are you doing?”
“I expected you to avoid me,” he wasn’t one to beat about the bush. Never had been.
“They’re all watching us,” she said gesturing at the crowd of people pretending not to watch them, “It would have sent out the wrong message if I’d done that.”
He tried to read her expression, but there was nothing to see, which in itself was strange. Simi Japheth used to have the most expressive eyes he had ever seen. One glance and he could always tell what was up with her.
“What message would that be?” He finally asked.
She gave him a speculative look and asked instead, “How is your wife?”
He gave a smile that wasn’t really a smile as he felt the old anger and hurt come back, “I don’t have a wife, I’ve never been married. If you’re asking about Lara’s mother, she died giving birth to her.”
For the first time since their encounter, he saw a bit of emotion flare in Simi’s eyes. It was a pain so intense, it shook him. And then it was gone so quickly that he was left wondering if he’d imagined it.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” She said in that emotionless voice he was coming to hate with a passion. “Well, it was…interesting seeing you again. Your daughter is cute.” And with that, she spun on her heels and walked away.
“Owkay…what was that about?” He asked under his breath. And was she really as cold and without emotions as she sounded? Against his better judgment, Lucas was intrigued. It seemed he and Miss Japheth had some unfinished business. What was it the oyinbo people called it again? Yeah, closure. He was totally over the woman, but he fully intended to see that they both got closure while she was around.
Stop by next week for the next part. Can’t wait till next week? Get Simi’s Return on Amazon.com