The next day, while Gabriel was at work, he received a text from a strange number. That was the third time he was receiving that text and it was from the same number. It read thus:
“How long do you think you can run from me?”
The first time he got the text, he thought perhaps the sender made a mistake and sent it to a wrong number. He got it a second time and began to wonder what the person was referring to. Now it came a third time, he was beginning to get worried.
‘Who is this?’ He wondered. He tried using the app, Truecaller, to search for the number but he came up with nothing. He tried calling the number but got no response. He tried again, still nothing. He dropped his phone on the table and tried to continue the work he was doing on his laptop.
After about 15 minutes he got another text, this time around with a different content. It read thus:
“I’m sure by now, you must be wondering who I am. Let me joggle your memory a little. You took something from me ten years ago and now I have something that belongs to you.”
Gabriel read the text over and over. ‘Ten years ago?’ He wondered what this was all about. Ten years ago he was in the university. To the best of his knowledge, he had no issues with anyone. He tried so hard to remember if there was any time he took anything from anyone and didn’t return it. He couldn’t come up with anything. He called the number again but still got no response.
‘What is all this rubbish?’ He asked. He could no longer focus on his work. He decided to send a text in response:
“If you really have something you want to talk about, why don’t you come out straight?”
He waited for a reply but got none. He put his phone down and tried to focus on his work. After about twenty minutes, his phone rang. He looked at the caller ID, it was a strange number but not the same one that had been sending the text.
‘Could the person be calling back?’ He wondered. He slowly reached for his phone and picked the call.
He cleared his throat before saying, ‘Hello.’
‘Gabriel,’ the voice was familiar.
‘Yes? Who is this?’ He asked.
‘So you don’t have my MTN number?’ The feminine voice said.
‘No I don’t.’ Gabriel wondered whose voice it was; it sounded familiar but he couldn’t place it.
‘Anyway, it’s a new line. This is Favour. How are you doing?’ She asked.
‘Hey Favour, how are you?’ He sighed. ‘How is my friend?’
‘He is very fine thank you. How is Sharon too?’
‘She is good.’
‘That’s great. You’ve been on my mind in recent times so I decided to check on you.’ She told him.
‘Oh, that is so thoughtful of you. I really appreciate it.’
‘It’s the least I could do. Do take care of yourself. My warmest regards to your wife.’
‘Thank you. I’ll convey your greetings. Extend my regards to Emma too.’
Gabriel ended the call. He checked his phone; still, there was no response from the number. It was definitely not Favour that was sending the text. He knew the timing of her call was just a coincidence. He tried not to be bothered by the text and continued with his work.
At the close of work, he packed his bag and decided to check on Mr Collins before he left. He knocked on his door and opened it.
‘Collins, how far? When are you leaving?’ He asked.
‘I still have a few things to tidy up before leaving. I don’t want any issues with this new director. The man doesn’t seem like he’ll listen to any story if the work is not done.’ Mr Collins replied.
‘Very true o, I had to make sure I submit the proposal he asked for before leaving. Anyhow, we go see tomorrow.’
‘Alright now, no problem.’
‘Take care.’ Gabriel left his office and headed for his car.
As he exited the building and walked to his car which was at the parking lot, he heard someone call his name. He turned around and saw a lady approaching. She was of average height, wore a black pant, a red blouse, and dark sunglasses. Gabriel wondered who it was that called his name with so much authority and walked to him slowly like he had all the time in the world.
‘How long do you think you could run from me?’ She asked. That was the same question he repeatedly got as a text message.
He tried to take a closer look to see if he recognised the person. The glasses she wore concealed her face comfortably. ‘Who are you and what are you talking about?’ He asked.
‘Have you forgotten me so fast? It was just ten years ago.’ She said as she removed the glasses and moved closer.
Gabriel got a better look at her. He immediately recognised her. ‘Cynthia?’ He said to confirm her identity.
‘Interesting, he remembers my name.’ She said sarcastically.
‘Cynthia, what do you want from me?’ He asked.
‘What do I want from you? Is that meant to be a joke? After what you did, you stand here asking me what I want from you?’ She raised her voice in annoyance.
‘What happened back then was a mistake and we both know it.’ Gabriel said.
‘You call what led to a son a mistake?’
Gabriel was stunned. He couldn’t believe his ears. ‘Did you just say “a son”?’ He asked. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘You heard me rightly, Gabriel. You have a nine-year-old son. His name is Austin.’ She told him.
‘Why did you wait till now to tell me?’ Gabriel still couldn’t believe it.
‘Didn’t you block me out of your life? You changed your number and moved out of your BQ. How did you think I was going to find you? I stopped searching after a while.’ She explained.
Gabriel knew she was telling the truth. He was a 22-year-old final year student while Cynthia was 16 years and had just graduated from secondary school. She didn’t do well in jamb and so had to sit for the exam again. She attended tutorial classes not too far from where he stayed in a boys’ quarters outside the university campus. She usually stopped by after her jamb classes. They would watch movies and talk. Gabriel wasn’t ready for a serious relationship or any form of commitment but he made sure he showered the innocent, gullible teenager with gifts and attention. At that time, he had some friends who knew about the relationship and kept pressurizing him to have sex with her.
On one occasion, while hanging out with his friends, they brought up the issue.
‘Oh boy no talk am again. How you go have babe and you two never do the thing after two months? Wetin you dey wait for?’ One of them, Bayo asked him.
‘That one no be relationship;, na brethrenship una dey do.’ Another, Chucks, said and they laughed at him.
‘But you know say I never do am with anybody before.’ Gabriel said shyly.
‘Ehn na no be one day you go start? You wan marry before you learn how to do am. Abeg o no be like dat o, you gas become pro first so that your wife sef go respect you.’ Bayo and Chuks gave each other a “hi-five” and laughed.
Gabriel began to ruminate on what his friends had said. One evening Cynthia came to his place as was her usual custom. Gabriel wore a singlet and boxers. Cynthia told him to put on proper clothes but he told her he was feeling hot. After a while, they lay down on the bed to watch a movie. Half way into the movie, Gabriel started rubbing Cynthia’s arm. She removed his hand and told him she didn’t like it. He initially stopped but after a while, he resumed. He soon moved from her arms to her body and before she knew it he pulled her clothes off and pulled down his boxers. She kept begging him to stop but he was too carried away, he couldn’t stop. It was after he was done that he realized the terrible thing he had done. He felt really bad and asked Cynthia to forgive him and she did but things didn’t stop there. She kept coming to his house and they repeatedly found themselves doing the same thing again and again. Until one day, Gabriel graduated from school and moved out of the boy’s quarters. He was tired of the relationship and decided to cut off from Cynthia. He didn’t want to tell her to her face so he changed his number, became unreachable and disappeared into thin air.
Unknown to him, the young girl was pregnant and had tried so hard to reach him but all to no avail. Now he stood before her amazed at how the secret sin of ten years ago, done behind closed doors, had come back hunting him.
Gabriel sighed, ‘Cynthia, I’m sorry for what happened. I had no idea you were pregnant.’
‘Sorry won’t do it. It’s time for you to wake up to your responsibilities as a father. For starters, he wants to meet you. Secondly, he needs a source of financial support and stability.’ She told him.
Gabriel knew that with the news he had just heard, his life was never going to remain the same. He had a pending divorce to deal with at home and now he has a son he never knew about.
‘I hope you don’t plan to keep this a secret from your wife? Because if you do, too bad for you. I won’t be sidetracked again. Never!’ She said firmly.
‘What my wife knows or doesn’t know is none of your business, Cynthia. Leave my wife out of this.’ He instructed her.
‘Or else what?’ She cuts in. ‘What will you do? FYI I have her number and your home address, if in two weeks you haven’t told her then I’ll help you.’
‘You dare not.’ He warned her.
‘You don’t tell me what I can or cannot do. Consider this my pay back.’
‘Are you blackmailing me?’ Gabriel asked.
‘Call it whatever you want.’ She turned to leave. ‘I’ll send you my account details.’ She said as she walked away.
‘Gabriel stood there, glued to a spot. ‘How did I get myself into this mess?’ He asked himself.
He entered his car, started it and drove out of the premises. On the way home, he ruminated on what had just happened. He didn’t feel accountable to Sharon anymore. He saw no reason to tell her. He, however, thought about how shattered she’d be if she gets to know from Cynthia herself. ‘Maybe, I’ll tell her much later when things are sorted out.’ He thought.
When he got home, he didn’t have appetite so he went straight up to his room. He changed into a T-shirt and a pair of shorts, and then went back to the living room.
‘How was your day?’ Sharon who was seated on the sofa asked.
‘It was okay.’ He replied her. ‘What of mummy?’ He asked.
‘She went out to see a friend.’ Sharon replied.
He remained silent while he watched TV.
Sharon also quietly sat there and watched TV with him. It had been weeks since they had sat together to do anything, maybe except eating, thanks to Gabriel’s mum. Even though she would have loved them to continue talking and that didn’t seem like it was going to happen, she was grateful they could sit together to watch TV.
Gabriel’s phone rang, it was that same number that sent the texts. He put his phone on silence and ignored the call.
‘Why aren’t you picking the call?’ Sharon asked.
Deep down within him, Gabriel wanted to say, ‘And how is it your business?’ But he cautioned himself and said, ‘It’s not important.’
The call came in again but he still didn’t pick.
‘If you want me to excuse you, I could leave.’ Sharon said nicely.
‘I said it is not important.’ Gabriel snapped. He was beginning to get upset with her excessively nice attitude. It really got at him. He didn’t want her to be nice because he wasn’t ready to be nice to her.
Sharon didn’t say anything.
A text came in from the number. He opened it; it was Cynthia’s bank account details. Gabriel hissed and flung the phone on the settee.
Sharon noticed he was upset but decided not to say anything. She didn’t know what he’d say next. No doubt, she cared a great deal for her husband but she knew she needed to apply wisdom more so, she was being careful not to get her feelings hurt.
Hours turned to days and then weeks. Gabriel didn’t mention anything about Cynthia or Austin to Sharon despite the persistent threats and calls from Cynthia. Gabriel’s mum had gone back and so it was only Sharon and him at home. Sharon went back for the test result and was told she did not have any sexually transmitted disease. She kept it to herself and waited for the perfect time to tell Gabriel the good news.
Exactly two weeks after Cynthia had told Gabriel about Austin, she called him while he was at work.
‘What do you want this time around? I sent you 50K for the boy just last week; can I at least have some peace, please?’ Gabriel shouted at her.
‘I won’t raise my voice if I were you,’ she said in a calm tone on the other end of the line.
‘Why won’t you stop calling?’ He asked in a frustrated tone.
‘I thought we had a deal. It’s two weeks. Time is up. You are forcing me to do this Gabriel.’ She said in a manipulative way.
The sound of his own name, being mentioned by her irritated him. ‘Why can’t you remain in your space and leave my family out of this?’ He asked with his voice raised again.
‘You don’t think I want a family of my own, do you?’ She asked. ‘You have until the end of today before I’m forced to do it.’ She threatened.
Gabriel hung up and flung the phone on his desk angrily. ‘This woman is useless, I swear.’ He said aloud.
He heard a knock on the door. He wasn’t in the mood to entertain anyone but before he could decide if he wanted to allow the person in or not, the door was opened. It was Mr Collins.
‘How na?’ Collins asked.
‘I dey o,’ Gabriel tried to put a smile on his face.
‘You look disturbed.’ Mr Collins furrowed his eye brow as he tried to interpret Gabriel’s countenance.
‘It’s this report I’m working on; the thing is giving me a hard time.’ Gabriel lied.
‘You for talk na, the thing no too hard like that. I can put you through.’ Mr Collins said with so much concern. He had always been a good friend, someone Gabriel could trust for a helping hand.
‘Thanks man.’ Gabriel appreciated him.
‘Anyway, before I forget, on Monday, a guy came looking for you.’ Mr Collins informed him. ‘Remember you left work earlier that day?’ He reminded him
‘Yeah I remember…What guy?’ Gabriel wasn’t expecting anyone.
‘He said his name was Chucks. I didn’t get his last name.’
‘Chucks?’ Gabriel repeated as he wondered which Chucks could come to his office to look for him. The only Chucks he could remember was his friend in the university, one of the guys that advised him to sleep with Cynthia. ‘What exactly is going on? Has Cynthia told the whole world? If she wants to blackmail me, she can as well go ahead’ He told himself.
‘Okay, thank you.’ Gabriel told him.
‘Anytime man. I’ll be in my office; you can come with your laptop. I’ll show you how to go about the report.’ Mr Collins offered to help.
‘Alright,’ Gabriel said but knew deep within him that he wasn’t going anywhere. The report was about the easiest thing to do; he didn’t need any help.
When he got home that evening, he decided to open up to Sharon about his past. He did it not because he felt she deserved to know but because he was tired of being threatened by Cynthia. He told Sharon everything and listened to what she had to say.
‘Gabriel, I appreciate your opening up to me,’ she started, ‘No one is perfect. We all have pasts that we are not proud of.’
‘That’s it? That’s all you are going to say; you are not mad?’ Gabriel asked with surprise.
‘Well, I should be, I know but what good will that do? The deed has already been done. We can’t change the past but we determine the future.’ She explained. ‘The most important thing is what we do now. I know it will be so much sacrifice taking care of the boy but we don’t have a choice.’ She said calmly.
‘We?’ He echoed to himself. ‘This should have been my headache but she is willing to carry the burden too.’ He was amazed. It was obvious to Gabriel that something huge had happened to Sharon. She had become a totally different person. He was amazed at the new Sharon.
‘Have you forgotten the mistake I made with Ben? What’s most important is seeking God’s forgiveness.’ She said.
Gabriel had not thought about that. ‘There we go again with the God talk.’ He said.
‘Of course Gabriel, He is the only one that can fix all this.’ She told him.
‘I’ve heard you.’ He didn’t agree with her but had to let sleeping dog lie.
‘So what are we going to do now?’ She asked.
‘I wish I knew.’ Gabriel reclined on the sofa and placed his hands behind his head.
‘God will make a way.’ Sharon said with so much confidence.
Gabriel didn’t know about that; all that mattered to him was that Cynthia could no longer threaten to blackmail him.
After a lull in their conversation, Sharon spoke. ‘If this is any consolation, I went to the clinic two days ago to get the test results,’ she paused to see how Gabriel would react.
‘Okay?’ Gabriel said with expectation.
‘I tested negative to all the screening.’ She said beaming all over.
‘Congratulations, I’m happy for you.’ Gabriel said with a little smile.
‘For me?’ The smile on Sharon’s face disappeared.
‘Did I say something wrong?’ Gabriel asked, confused.
‘For us.’ Sharon corrected him.
‘Oh, I hear you.’ He said, with little interest. He picked the TV remote control and began scanning for a new station to watch.
Sharon remained hopeful; she believed God had started something in her husband and was determined to remain prayerful. She had faith that their marriage would work.
Later that night, while they were having dinner, Gabriel’s phone rang. Meanwhile, it was left charging in the living room. He stood up and went to pick the call. It was an unfamiliar number but this time around, Truecaller was helpful enough to reveal the caller’s identity. It was a Chukuemeka Ozulu.
‘How did he get my number?’ Gabriel wondered as he picked the call. ‘Hello,’ he said.
‘Hello Gabriel, how far? It’s Chucks,’ the caller said.
‘Chucks, how na? Long time,’ Gabriel greeted him.
‘Guy, I know dey like wetin you dey do o’ Chucks opened up plainly without beating around the bush. He sounded really displeased.
‘What are you talking about?’ Gabriel was clueless as to what was going on.
‘We all know that you are the father of Cynthia’s son; why would you deny it and cause her to accuse me as the father?’ He asked with a raised tone.
‘I never denied it. What are you talking about? Who said you are the father? How possible is that when you did not … oh my god, oh my god!’ It suddenly hit Gabriel. ‘Did you and Cynthia…?’ He was shocked.
‘Forget that side, guy. When you were dulling, nko? I always use protection but she said there were times you didn’t use.’ Chucks told him.
Gabriel could not believe his ears; Cynthia, apparently, had also gone to accuse Chucks of being the father of Austin. She was playing smart so she could get both attention and money from the two parties but unfortunately for her, it boomeranged. It dawned on Gabriel that there was a possibility he was not the father of the boy after all. ‘There is only one way to settle this,’ Gabriel told Chucks. ‘We have to do a paternity test.’
‘I’m not doing. That boy is not my son.’ Chucks insisted.
‘That’s not yours to decide.’ Gabriel said firmly and ended the call.
Sharon had left the dining table and was standing right beside him. ‘Who was that?’ She asked.
‘Chucks, one of my friends back when I was in school.’
To be Continued…
What do you think happens next?
Watch Out For Behind Closed Doors Part 7 next week Sunday. Don’t miss it.
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