Somehow, making up my mind to let go of Jimi turned out to be what I needed to do just that. Let go.
And it was just as well, because our divorce was finalized before the month of January 2007 ended. Somehow, finding out that we were now fully divorced, proved cathartic for me. It’s like it was what I needed to brush the dust off my feet, kick my heels, and move on. I knew it would be a long, long while before I would be ready to date anyone, but I made up my mind to live my life to the fullest. I decided to apply for a long distance degree program in Branding and Advertising. It was a far stretch from my computer science discipline, but that was my passion and I was determined to follow my dreams going forward.
As the year progressed, Jimi made more of an effort to be in Rire’s life. He called him regularly, when we were at Mama Jay’s place, and they were soon able to repair their fractured relationship. I found out from Daddy and Mama Jay that Jimi was on the verge of completing the Masters in Landscape Architecture program he was undertaking at the University of Southern California. I also found out he and Ava were still waxing strong, which stopped hurting as much as the months rolled on by. Even though we hadn’t reached the stage of speaking with each other directly, somehow, I knew that Jimi and I were finally in a good place. I was happy for him, and hopefully he too would be happy for me and whatever I decided to do with my life.
That summer, when Daddy and Mama Jay travelled to America, they took Rire along with them, and for the first time in 7 years, I was as FREE as a bird! And did I have fun, or what?! I was out on the town practically every other night, having fun with my girlfriends, married and single. My best friend, Bimbo, even though she was the mother of a toddler, was always game. All I had to do was say where, and she would be there. The same went for my other friends, Lilian and Demi, who were still single and extremely ready to mingle. I suspect they were even more enthused, not necessarily because of their taste for the Lagos night life…but because they were happy to see me excited about life again.
And excited I was!
The years had been good to me, and I looked a whole lot better than I did in my early 20s. I was eating clean, and working out daily, and the rewards were evident in my toned and athletic body…a far cry from the pudgy girl I had been before. The result was that I got a lot more attention than I’d ever gotten before, and whilst it was flattering, it was futile, because I wasn’t in that head space at all. Not even for harmless flirtation. I wasn’t interested in men, period! All I was after was to have a good time, in my newfound freedom and self confidence.
By the time Rire and his grandparents returned in September, I was pretty much a brand new woman.
And my brother-in-law, Seyi, seemed to take notice.
2007 had also been good to him. In the first quarter of the year, he’d gotten a job with one of the major financial institutions. His drug addicted days were clearly behind him, and he was grateful for being given a new lease of life. As we’d always had a great relationship, every time I stopped over at my in-laws place, if Seyi was there, we would gist for hours on end. He had his brother’s sense of humor, which was pretty much identical to mine, meaning we laughed hysterically over almost anything.
But in October of 2007, I realized Seyi had started getting things twisted. It started with a lingering hug here, and a flirtatious statement there. When I noticed it, I didn’t want to believe he was actually trying his luck me, until he finally came out with it.
“How come a beautiful girl like you has nothing planned for the night?! Lagos guys must be blind!” he remarked, one Friday that I went to pick up Rire from their house.
“In fact, they need glasses sef!” I had joked, wanting to deflect his statement.
Rather than laugh, he’d leaned closer. “Well…I’m not blind. And I’ll like to take you out tonight.”
If it had been some random guy, I would have laughed in his face at such a cheesy, corny statement. But as it was someone I loved and respected, I decided to go easy on him. “Shayman!” I called him by his nickname. “How can I hang out with my own brother on a Friday night? You wan spoil my market?”
“First of all, I aint your brother.” he answered, straight faced. “Secondly, not only do I want to permanently spoil your market, I want to take you off it completely!”
Ah! This was no longer a laughing matter.
“Seyi, come on now! That would be the height of disgusting and weird! I was married to your brother!” had been my own protest.
“But you’re divorced now, so what’s your point?” he had countered. “I have feelings for you, Fola, and I’ll treat you better than Jimi ever did!”
“I’m sorry…but I don’t feel the same way.” I’d answered truthfully, knowing it was better to let him down than to keep him believing there could ever be anything between us.
The pained look in his eyes showed I’d hurt him, and I felt so guilty about it, so much so that I kept away from their house for a few weeks. I didn’t have the heart to be as blunt as I needed to be with him, so I figured it would be better to just stay away. I considered Seyi my own blood brother, and even the mere insinuation of contemplating anything romantic was enough to make me gag!
In the 3rd week of my abscondment, Mama Jay had shown up at my place, obviously not amused.
“Folabomi, why have we not been seeing you?! What is this I’m hearing about Rire going to an After School Care Centre?!”
I looked at her, and all the excuses I had come up with in my head, all the reasons I’d planned to give when confronted about my my absence from their house, evaporated into thin air. So instead of the well planned excuses, I soon found myself telling her all about how Sey had come on to me, and how uncomfortable it had made me.
Imagine my shock when, rather than be appalled, Mama Jay was actually happy about it.
“You mean it? Seyi likes you?” she had said, beaming like a Cheshire cat.
I looked at my former MIL like she had grown horns. “Mummy, you’ve got to be kidding right!”
She sighed. “I know it’s not what the world would expect, but just think how wonderful it would be! You are already a part of the family, and it would be so seamless for everyone!”
“Wonderful? Seamless? Really mummy?!” I was bewildered out of my mind. “And I guess Jimi would love the fact that his ex wife is now hooking up with his brother. And what about Rire? What would Seyi be to Rire again? Uncle? Step Daddy? Which one?”
Mama Jay sighed again, as a frown creased her face. She had clearly not thought it through. “It will be messy…you’re right. But can you blame me?! On the one hand, I have a son now in his 30s but still a bachelor…and on the other hand, I have a wonderful, God-sent girl my older son was foolish enough to let go off…” she shrugged. “You can’t blame me for wishing.”
I gave her a hug, understanding her worries. “Mummy, you need to be patient with Seyi. He is only just getting his life back on track. In time, he’ll find someone…”
Mama Jay hissed. “Folabomi, stop saying rubbish! Which one is ‘in time’?! If you don’t want Seyi, bring one of your friends! You have several of them that are still single! Instead of bringing one of them for Seyi, you’re there telling me ‘in time’!”
I smiled mischievously, knowing the surest way to shut down that conversation.
“What about Dolly now? She’s still single. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind the hook up.” I said, feigning innocence, when I knew I’d stirred the hornet’s nest.
You see, next to Lucifer, no other name enraged my dear Mama Jay more than hearing the name of my sister. Her hatred for Dolly had multiplied exponentially over the years, and she blamed her, squarely, for the breakdown of my marriage to Jimi. So she resented her with everything she had.
Just as expected, Mama Jay’s eyes clouded, and she hissed and grabbed her purse. “I don’t blame you, Folabomi! I don’t blame you at all! Just make sure you and Rire are at the house tomorrow. Dolly ko, boli ni!”
I chuckled uncontrollably as Mama Jay stormed off, knowing that was the end of any discussion about Seyi.
Ah, Dolly! Ironic that she had finally proved herself useful in my life!
Thinking about her, I felt a little sad, because whilst 2007 had been a great year for me, it had been downright awful for my sister. With her weight continuing to balloon out of control, her suitors started losing interest in her, one by one, starting with the major one of them all; Princewill. Even though he gifted her the expensive car she drove, and paid her rent in the serviced apartment for a further 5 years, losing Princewill was a great blow for her. For one thing, there were no more fat deposits of money in her bank, and as her status in the bank had been hinged primarily on the solid inflows from her major Client (aka Princewill), with that gone, she had lost her job in a matter of months.
“You mean you weren’t saving?” I had exclaimed, when she’d called to ask me for a N20k loan. “With all that money you were getting from Princewill and co., you weren’t saving?”
“Things are expensive, Fola. Life is expensive!” she had responded feebly.
All I could do was shake my head at the very obvious admission that her lifestyle had robbed her of a chance of saving a good nest egg for herself.
Seeing her, my once sexy and attractive sister, Dolly, now an overweight 30 year old, with the kind of track record that would make any wise thinking man run to the hills, made me sad. I knew it would be so easy to revel in her misfortune, and be happy about the hand that been dealt her, especially after all she had done to me, but as my sister, it hurt me to see her not at her best.
“Fola, you shouldn’t have stayed away because of me!” Seyi had teased, when I finally showed up at the house. “All you had to do was look me in the eye, and tell me to buzz off…and I woulda done that.”
I hugged him, so relieved that the awkwardness had passed and happy to have my friend back again.
“Your mom is really eager to have you married off!” it was my turn to tease, as we sat in their living room, waiting for Rire to be done with his homework.
He rolled his eyes. “I just wish she would stop! Just because I started fancying you doesn’t mean I’m ready for marriage. After the year I had in 2016, getting married is pretty low on my priority list right now.” he gave me a sly look. “And I hear you brought up the name ‘Dolly’!”
I giggled. “But she is an option, isn’t she?!”
“Maybe if she lays off the burgers and pies, she might be somebody’s piece of cake…but definitely not mine! I’m sorry to say, but your sister is the definition of the word ‘bitch’. Even as jacked up as she looks now, she still feels like she’s God’s gift to mankind. Deluded, if you ask me!”
As we laughed, I couldn’t help but marvel at Dolly’s fall from glory.
She was now right back on the ground, with the rest of us!
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
- Sister, Sister 11: Not Working
- Sister, Sister 12: Sham of a Marriage
- Sister, Sister 13: Invisible Strings
- Sister, Sister 14: Rehab