I tried to justify why it made perfect sense for Dolly to come to our house almost every evening.
She was heartbroken after all. She had just lost the love of her life, as a result of her own foolishness, so it made sense why she would be devastated.
In the weeks following her breakup with Joseph, her visits to our house were more about trying to find ways to win him back. I would sit in the living room, watching as Jimi tried relentlessly to plead with Joseph on Dolly’s behalf. There were so many conversations with Joseph, many of which were on speaker phone, and it soon became crystal clear that any chance of reconciliation was a tall dream. I remember being surprised at the intensity with which Jimi tried to facilitate a reconciliation, considering how repulsed he was by what Dolly had done. But somehow, he was able to set aside his reservations, in his bid to help Dolly.
When it became clear that getting Joseph back would never happen, our role now shifted more to counseling. But I use the pronoun ‘I’ loosely. I played little or no part in the pep talks Jimi constantly had with Dolly. They would sit for hours in the living room, with my husband constantly assuring her that all would be well, and advising her about the detriments that came with living the kind of life she did. All pretty straightforward stuff, and nothing for me to worry about…
Which is what I constantly tried to tell myself.
I scolded myself anytime I wondered how Jimi was really feeling, now that Dolly was so vulnerable…but most importantly, available. I wondered if there were any stirrings in his heart for his old love…if somewhere deep inside of him, there was still a flame burning for my sister.
But try as I could, each time Dolly came to the house, each time she sat beside Jimi, listening intently to what he had to say, with tears streaming down her face, I couldn’t help but wonder if she would be the death knell to my marriage…
As troubled as I was by the situation of things, I was careful not to voice my fears…not even to my older sister, Adun…and definitely not to Jimi. My insecurities over Dolly had caused a lot of problems in our marriage before, and I didn’t want things to repeat themselves now…least of all when we were trying to give our son a sibling.
I was hopeful that having a baby would heal the distance that had crept into our marriage. I’m not sure if it started around the time we started fighting a lot over Dolly, or when exactly, but somehow, I had defaulted to seeking my love and affection from the one person who gave it to me unhindered and unadulterated…my son. Somehow, I found myself spending more and more time with Rire in his nursery, and less time on my marital bed. Somehow, my happy place ceased to be in my husband’s arms, but in the chubby embrace of my almost 4 year old son.
But I had recognized this, and was trying desperately to remedy it…But Dolly’s persisted presence was not helping matters at all.
And neither was my paranoia.
There was an evening Dolly arrived my house, straight from work. Even though she was wearing a formal trouser suit, her now voluptuous body made the otherwise formal attire almost as risqué as if she was wearing a pair of bum shorts. The trousers clung to her body like a second skin, and I found myself following Jimi’s eyes, looking to see if his gaze lingered longer than it should have. But there was nothing unusual about the way he conducted himself…or so I thought.
One evening, my mother came to visit. It was a few weeks to Rire’s birthday, and she was uncharacteristically insistent on us having a big party for him.
“We need some cheering up in this family!” had been her excuse, “After that foolish Joseph of a boy decided to break Dolapo’s heart, we need something to liven things up around here!”
How convenient for her to forget the part that involved the affair with the married Princewill, which, even with Dolly’s persistent tears and theatrics, I wasn’t convinced had even ended, considering the lavish lifestyle she still led. Clearly, Jimi’s counseling wasn’t yielding much result.
“Has Dolly come yet?” my mother had asked, also aware of what had become her daughter’s daily routine.
I shook my head. “Not yet.”
My mother had grunted, and looked at me intently. “Folabomi, why are you so intent on destroying your marriage? Haven’t you noticed how your husband looks at your sister?”
I had been stunned to silence, as I stared back at my mother, not even knowing what to say as a comeback.
“I have noticed it with my two eyes!” she continued. “Jimi looks at Dolly like she is a hot meal he can’t wait to consume!”
“Enough!” I had snapped, torn between the shock from her words and despondency over the fact that the woman was pretty much voicing my inner fears…again. “There is absolutely no truth in what you have said. Jimi has no interest in Dolly. I know it. She knows it. And I’m sure deep down, you know it as well!”
“Ah, okay oh!” the woman said, throwing her hands up in mock surrender. “I won’t talk again. If you want to hide your head in the sand and ignore what’s happening around you, na you sabi! As for me, I have said my own!”
Long after she left, her words hung around the room like a stale smell. At that point, I wished my dear mother-in-law, Mama Jay, wasn’t out of the country on yet another intervention organised for Jimi’s younger brother, Seyi, who was neck deep in drug addiction in America. She would have been able to give me the reassurance I craved for. The reassurance that my husband wasn’t lusting after my sister.
It didn’t help that Dolly chose not to come to the house that day, or that Jimi had to work late as well. I found my imagination running wild with images of them meeting up for a secret rendezvous somewhere…and it drove me crazy!
For the rest of the week, she didn’t show up and I found myself beginning to feel some relief. Maybe she no longer needed the companionship and counseling she craved from Jimi and I. Maybe she had decided to move on with her life, and put the Joseph saga behind her. She had just moved to a small apartment in Yaba, so maybe she had decided to start enjoying the single life once again. So many maybes.
On the home front, I started making more of an effort with Jimi. And it seemed like things had returned to how they were before. We started talking again, like we used to in the past…and soon, the passion returned to our bed, so much so that I no longer sought refuge in Tire’s bedroom. All was finally well in my world.
But that’s the thing before a major storm. There is always that calm that precedes it…
I will never forget that date. December 3rd, 2004. It was a Friday, and my mother had asked me to bring her some foodstuff. She was traveling to see Adun in America (who had just had another baby), and had asked me to help her buy the things she was to travel with. But the odd part was that she’d insisted on me bringing the things over to Dolly’s house.
“Why don’t I just send them to Alaka instead?” I’d asked, wondering if it didn’t make more sense to send them to her at home.
“Yaba is closer to you, and besides, I’ll be leaving from here for the airport.” Mom had answered. “And don’t send anyone with those things. You need to bring them yourself!”
Later, I would realise the gravity of those words…those words insisting on my presence at Dolly’s house.
I didn’t get to Dolly’s house until well past 8pm. I’d had to wait until getting off work, and the traffic headed to the mainland had ensured that was the earliest I got there. As I parked in front of her house, my heart stopped when I recognized the car parked on the other side of the road.
With my heart pounding out of my chest, I somehow managed to make it upstairs to her apartment. I was trembling like a leaf, my rage building. Jimi was in my sister’s house?! Was that the reason why she no longer frequented our house, and why he had started ‘working late’ all of a sudden? Had they shifted their rendezvous here?
I didn’t bother knocking, and instead just pushed opened the door, which surprisingly wasn’t locked. The sight of Jimi seated in the living room, alone, was not the state of undress I had expected.
“What are you doing here?!” I had demanded, my voice trembling with rage. “Is this the project you’re working on?!”
He rose to his feet. “Fola, it isn’t what you think?” he’d answered calmly. “There’s a perfect explanation to this.”
Just then, Dolly sauntered into the living room, wearing a neglige, her hair disheveled. She had smiled when she saw me. “Oh, Fola. I wasn’t expecting you!”
In hindsight, I realise Jimi had looked just as surprised by her appearance as I had. But at that very point in time, my eyes only saw blood.
“I’m sorry for interrupting!” I said, my voice still trembling. I dropped the bag I’d brought for our mother who, surprisingly, was nowhere in sight. “These are for mom!”
As I turned to walk away, Jimi grabbed me by the arm. “Fola, I swear, this isn’t what you think. Dolly called, crying that she was depressed and on the verge of swallowing pills. I was so panicked, I drove here right away!” he turned to Dolly. “Please tell her.”
Dolly had laughed, and crossed her leg on the chair, a movement that revealed a lot more of her fleshy thighs than we needed to see. “Why would I ever attempt suicide, Jimi? You’re so funny!”
“Dolapo!” he had exclaimed in shock, but at that point, I’d just about had enough. I stormed out of the apartment, expecting him to be hot on my heels, begging.
But he wasn’t.
When I got back to my car, I sat there for a few minutes, my breathing heavy from the rage I felt. 15 minutes I sat there…15 minutes I hoped Jimi would reappear from Dolly’s flat. But he didn’t.
How I drove home that night, I can’t even say. I was literally blinded by my rage…my fury…my heartbreak…my tears. It was like the thing I had been dreading for so long had finally happened. My biggest fear had finally come treu. Jimi had found his way back to Dolly.
By the time Jimi returned, I’d been home almost an hour…and I was throwing my things into a suitcase.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“What does it look like I’m doing?!” I spat back, grabbing my clothes from the closet with such anger, I was literally ripping off their hangers.
“Just like that?! Without even hearing to anything I have to say?” he had demanded himself, also enraged.
“And what do you have to say, Jimi?” I asked, looking him square in the eye. “After taking your sweet time to leave Dolly’s place, you suddenly have something to say?!”
“First of all, your sister is a liar! A conniving, scheming liar!” he answered angrily. “I stayed back, because I wanted to give her a piece of my mind! She lured me there under false pretenses, and was trying to create a false atmosphere…”
“Oh, I guess her being half naked and disheveled was a ‘false atmosphere’!” I laughed sardonically. “You must think me stupid!”
“So, you really think I’m sleeping with Dolly?” Jimi had asked, “Folabomi, look me in the eyes and tell me you think I’m cheating on you with your sister!”
And then, I was teleported back to 1996, the night Jimi had chosen Dolly over me. I had such vivid flashbacks of watching him with her, night after night, as my heart broke a thousand times over. I remembered the pain on his face as they had argued the night of their break up. And then I remembered all the times, since Dolly’s return to the country, when I had been left with questions upon questions about his feelings for her. I heard my mother’s voice in my head, telling me he was still lusting after her. And I realized the truth.
It had never been me.
“You’ve always wanted her…” I said, my voice barely a whisper. “I’ve just been a mere stand-in. A substitute. She’s always been the one you wanted.”
Jimi and I stood in the room, staring at each other, not saying a word.
“I have spent the last 4 years trying to convince you that you are the one I love. I have done everything in my power to make you see that you are the one I want…that you are the one I chose…” he said finally, his voice, the sound of a broken man.
“Why didn’t you tell me when she asked you to come over today?” I asked. “If you really had nothing to hide, and if truly today was your first time at her place, why didn’t you let me know you were going there? Why did you drive all the way to Yaba, at night, to see her? If I hadn’t shown up, what would have happened between you?”
Jimi looked at me, before shaking his head. “Is this what we have become, Fola? Are you going to read meaning into everything I do? Is this dark cloud going to loom over us forever?” he sighed. “I thought we were getting better. I thought we were getting back to the way to the way we used to be…But I was clearly wrong…”
I looked at him, my heart sinking to my feet like a slow moving elevator. Even though I was the one packing, I could sense the finality in his words…
“Without trust, what are we doing? Without trust, we can never work. This…” Jimi said, his eyes glistening, and I could see he was just hurting as much as I was. “This won’t work…”
“Then I guess we’re not working then!” I answered, trying to sound brave and defiant, when I was dying inside.
He nodded sadly and walked out of the room…and out of the house…and out of my life.
As I heard his car drive out of the compound, I crumpled like a heap to the floor, the rest of my world crashing along with it.
My marriage was over.
You can catch up on Fola’s story here:
- Sister, Sister 1: Calling Me Mrs.
- Sister, Sister 2: The Odd Family
- Sister, Sister 3: Floating On Air
- Sister, Sister 4: The Many Wives of Jimi
- Sister, Sister 5: Russian Roulette
- Sister, Sister 6: So Much In Common
- Sister, Sister 7: An Unlikely Pair
- Sister, Sister 8: Longing For Her
- Sister, Sister 9: The Return
- Sister, Sister 10: The Catastrophe