The lie was not deliberate. It started with her name and just developed a life of its own. A life she resented but lacked the strength or resolve to destroy. Initially, she found it amusing, then just shrugged it off whenever there was reference to it. Her coworkers took her nonchalance attitude as humility.
When she was first interviewed as an administrative assistant in Ascension, a multi million dollar publicity corporation with shoots springing up all over the globe, Adetutu’s name caught the attention of the HR manager. After she had been employed and started the mandatory one month long orientation exercise, the manager, an African American, middle aged man Horatio Clitard did his best to acquaint her with her schedule.
He was closer to retirement than most of the management staff. He had spent almost forty years in Ascension and knew all the upper echelon staff and referred to them by their first names. It was hard to guess his age. A tall, dark skinned man with beautiful pearly teeth and a rumbustious laughter. The Clit, as he was called behind his back had become something of a legend in the corporation. It was he, who decided who was shortlisted for any top position in management, who went on course to Yale, who was chosen to strengthen the companies ties to Asia. He may have seen unlikely as the voice the CEO listened to but those who had served long enough in the corridors of power knew he was the one who decided which square peg was best suited for any square hole. And so, when Horatio peppered her with questions of her heritage, all within earshot paid close attention.
He had read about the Yoruba tribe of Africa and so inferred from the root of her name “Ade”she was royalty. “Adetutu Adebimpe”. He said her name with the right notations…which was unusual for Tutu. She had gone through school hearing her name called different things but what it really was. Only at home was it called properly by her family and so she knew, Horatio had taken the time to practice saying it long before he said it out loud. Tutu shot to her feet. We have a real princess in our midst people. Horatio addressed the whole class, all one hundred new intakes with his eyes firmly on Adetutu. He lectured them on the root of her name, or atleast what he thought was the root of her name. He said her genealogy could be traced back to the Ooni of Ife, who was to the Yoruba Kingdom what David was to the Israelites. She was a true African princess, the real McCoy.
Tutu failed to correct him,her great grandfather had migrated from Benin Republic to Nigeria in the early 1800s. He had started a small but prosperous village along with his brothers and their respective families. Back in those days, polygamy guaranteed a man a slew of women and plenty of children to help cultivate a vast farmland.Her great grandfather being the oldest had been named the Ba’ale,something of a mayor and not a king. Her grandfather had fled from Benin Republic in his teens to escape the family pressures and sporadic violence that had broken out in the village due to the claims to the property acquired by the brothers.
Her grandfather had kept his father’s first name has his surname,a ploy he hoped would keep him hidden in plain sight. It worked. the name was a throwback to the past…when her ancestor was the Ba’ale of his village.
She didn’t correct Horatio.She reasoned, it didn’t matter what they thought. What mattered was her job and her need to stand apart from the rest. She did not do well at her job however,she excelled at it. And so, the African princess became Admin Officer and by the time a decade had rolled by, several promotions and courses at Ascensions’ expense later,she had risen to the upper management position she had coveted from day one: Executive Vice President, North America,Ascension. Horatio Clitard had retired. She had given the toast at his retirement party and never neglected to send him two presents each year: one for his birthday, another for Christmas. The lie seemed to have been retired too, it seemed until the Ooni of Ife passed on to be with his ancestors, and all hell let loose.
Her phone rang incessantly from colleageus all over the world. All wanting to offer their condolences on the death of her “uncle”. Ascension colleagues across the globe reached out to her, her office was awash with flowers, and cards. Some sent her expensive chocolates.She was a princess,afterall, they remembered and should be treated as such.She was stunned. Adetutu kept her eyes downcast whenever someone approached her to offer their condolences. She didn’t even know where Ife was, not to talk of the king. She felt like a fraud everytime someone asked her when her “uncle”was to be buried.
She stayed in her office and avoided contact with coworkers, when she declined the routine TGIF night outing, her friends at work made excuses on her behalf: she’s still grieving. She knew the night would be riddled with questions on the burial rites of her uncle. Every time she took a bite from her stash of chocolates and felt the molten wonder of caramel melt on her tongue she asked God’s forgiveness.With her annual leave looming in the horizon, she diligently planned a trip home, to her parents, home to Chicago and not Ife, Nigeria like her friends assumed.