As 2010 rolled along, Jimi and I settled into a much more cordial coparenting system than what we’d had prior to his visit home, the Christmas before. For one thing, whereas in the past, our only exchange over the phone would be a curt “Hello”, before handing over to Rire, now we chatted for at least 10 – 15 minutes…sometimes even longer. Slowly, my ex-husband, and baby daddy, was becoming my friend all over again.
And it gladdened my heart.
What also gladdened my heart was the fact that his relationship with Rosaline had been brief…nothing like the long-term one he’d had with Ava. After Rosaline had been a long line of other short-term girlfriends, all of them Caucasian or Hispanic. At first, I wondered about Jimi’s new taste in women, but I later found myself thinking that maybe, just maybe, Mama Jay might have been right about there not being any substance to any of these relationships. Maybe he was just being adventurous. Maybe….maybe there was still a chance for us?
I found myself unconsciously holding on to this hope, and rejoicing every time I heard of yet another break up, or any time Mama Jay returned from visiting him, with horror stories about his women.
“Very disrespectful, I have never seen!” she had lamented about the one immediately after Rosaline, Lacey. “Greeting me while lying on the couch, as if we are age mates!”
Or her complaints about the soft spoken Emily, the one immediately after. “Ah, Folabomi! Thank God I went when I did! That girl wanted to poison my son with gbo gbo rubbish! Raw meat that still had blood oozing, was what she served me! Ah, Oluron maje! God forbid bad thing! Before I left LA, I cooked enough meat for Jimi to last him three months! I won’t allow anybody kill my son for me…”
And it just went on and on…and I LOVED it!
By the summer of 2011, there was talk of Jimi moving back to Nigeria soon, and I found myself getting excited. Until Rire returned from his holiday with his father…and told me about the new girlfriend on the scene…an African American woman called Clairice.
“She’s really nice, Mom. Different from the others.” my 11 year old son had told me, and I immediately got a sinking feeling in my stomach. Rire had never endorsed any of Jimi’s girlfriends before. “She’s wonderful…and I think Dad really likes her.”
Under the pretext of looking for gist, I had stylishly asked Mama Jay what she thought of her.
“She’s okay.” Mama Jay had conceded, with a reluctant shrug. “At least, we can eat her food. Just that she insists on people calling her by her full name. Which one is Clairice again? Why she can’t manage Clara or Claire just beats me.”
If her only crime was how she wanted people to call her name, then I knew that, truly, she was near perfect.
“So…I hear you’re dating someone nice.” I prodded, the next time Jimi called to speak to Rire.
He had laughed nervously. “I sure am! After kissing a few frogs, I finally found my princess!”
I found myself getting slowly irritated. “You don’t get a Princess after frogs. You get a Prince! Get your fairy tale references correct.”
“You know what I mean!” he’d laughed, not even noticing the edge in my voice. Instead, he went on to tell me how he’d met Clairice through a mutual friend, how it felt like he’d known her forever, how she was his soul mate, and other bla bla bla I couldn’t be bothered to listen to.
And as the months passed, their love seemed to wax stronger and stronger. So much so that when, in November, shortly after Thanksgiving, Jimi called to let me know he had proposed to her, and she had accepted, I was kind of expecting it. But regardless, it still hurt…it really, truly hurt.
“I don’t want you to have to hear it from anyone else…which is why I’ve called at this hour.” he’d gone on to say.
Even though he had woken me up at about 2am, the news had wiped away any sleep from my eyes. “It’s okay. Thanks for taking the time to tell me yourself. And Jimi…” I paused and shut my eyes, as the news slowly sunk in. Wow! So the unimaginable had finally happened. The only man I had ever loved was actually getting married to someone else.
I shook my head, smiled and exhaled. “Congratulations. I’m happy for you.”
It was his own turn to hesitate. “Thank you, Fola. It means a lot.”
Getting to my in-laws’ place the next day, you would have thought someone had died, with the somber way Mama Jay was moping around the house.
“How can he decide to marry an Akata? Even if he were to marry someone else…an Akata?” she had lamented over and over again.
Even Rire hadn’t been as overjoyed by the news as I’d thought.
“But I thought you liked her!” I prodded, surprised by his lackluster reaction.
“I do…” he answered, “It’s just that…I just never imagined him actually getting married again. The idea of a step mom is so strange…” and he glared at me. “And a step dad is even stranger, so I hope you’re not getting any ideas, Mom!!!”
I smiled and hugged him to reassure him, but it was while hugging him that it dawned on me that it was about time I moved on with my friggin life! This was the seventh year of our separation and fifth year since our divorce. It was more than high time for me to move on.
That weekend, I got a new haircut, and went shopping for new clothes and makeup. It was time to revive myself and get out there to meet people. In recent years, my previously active and vibrant social life wasn’t quite as…well…active. I had slowly tired of hitting the bars with my girlfriends. It didn’t help that my single friends, Lilian and Demi, were now married, like Bimbo, so couldn’t hang out quite as often anymore. After a while, even I started preferring the company of my Grey’s Anatomy box sets, to driving out on a Friday evening.
But with Jimi being engaged, I knew I had to launch myself into the dating world. And launch it with a rocket cannon!
The following weekend, Bimbo’s husband, Tuoyo, was celebrating his 35th birthday, and I decided to use that as my official debut! I dressed myself up to the nines, and by the time I arrived their house, I knew I was looking the business.
“You look amazing!!!” Bimbo squealed. “Gosh, I hate you for being this slim! I look like your Aunty!”
I laughed, happy that my look was getting the desired reaction. I scanned the room, looking around at who was there, but was mildly disappointed when I saw it was mainly the usual suspects, the same guys who were always there. But as I’d known Tuoyo almost as long as Bimbo, I knew it was only inevitable that I’d know all his friends.
Mildly disappointed, I found my way to my other friends, and decided to just enjoy the party. There was always time to meet a new guy, was what I consoled myself with.
But just as soon as I took my seat next to my friends, I spotted a guy seated almost at the opposite end of the room…and for the first time in my life, I found myself drawn to someone else but Jimi.
The guy couldn’t have been more different from Jimi. Taller and bulkier, there was no correlation to Jimi at all. But I couldn’t take my eyes off him.
“Who’s that guy?” I asked Demi, still looking at him. “I haven’t seen him here before.”
“You mean Andrew?” she answered, catching my gaze. “He’s Tuoyo’s childhood friend, but…”
I didn’t wait for her to finish. Instead, I rose to my feet and walked over to him. The new Fola was bold and brave, and not afraid to grab anything by the horns…pun intended. As I approached him, our eyes met, and he smiled.
“The way you’ve been bobbing your head to the music, I can’t help but wonder if your feet move just as good.” I said, a broad smile on my face, hoping that my first attempt at flirtation wasn’t going to fall flat on its face.
He laughed. “Sorry to disappoint you, Fola, but I’ve got two left feet!”
I was pleasantly surprised. “You know my name?”
“Of course I know your name. I had the biggest crush on you for years!” he said, and it almost made me levitate from the ground. I couldn’t believe my luck! The first man I was interested in was actually interested in me too.
I smiled coyly, taking the seat next him. “You don’t say! And why am I just hearing about this now?”
He looked a little uneasy, and I wondered why.
“Chatting up married women just isn’t my style. I just accepted the fact that I was late, and that some other guy had got to you first.” he answered.
“Married?! I’ve been separated since 2004, and divorced almost as long!” I exclaimed.
Andrew looked shocked. “2004?! You mean all this time, you’ve been…available? Then why on earth are you still wearing that?” he asked, looking at my wedding band.
Ah yes, my wedding band. It had become an appendage, something I even often forgot was there. And the few times I did remember, I used it as a crutch…a weapon…my perfect tool to get unwanted guys to stay away from me.
But this was no unwanted guy.
I shrugged and smiled. “I just never took it off, I guess.” then interlocking my hand with his. “But hey, better late than never, right?”
That was when I noticed his own wedding band.
“I’m afraid I can’t. I’m married. I got married last year.” he answered, his eyes full of regret.
And just like that, my mojo was deflated like a punctured balloon.
“This is so painful! I can’t believe you were actually available!” he said, and I could hear the things he wasn’t saying; that things could have been different…a whole lot different…if he’d known I wasn’t married.
“I was about to tell you he was married, before you dashed off like a bat out of hell!” Demi retorted, before proceeding to let me know that, even though I was surprisingly only just noticing him, Andrew had been at every one of Bimbo and Tuoyo’s house functions for years.
“But why didn’t he tell you he liked me?!” I lamented to Bimbo, later that evening.
“And why are you still wearing that ring?!” Bimbo had retorted right back. “You see what this ring has caused? How many times have I told you about taking it off? How many?!”
I had no answer to that, because the truth was, if there was someone who made her displeasure over the fact I still wore my ring clear, it was my bestie, Bimbo.
“Now, see the kind of guy you’ve lost. Of all Tuoyo’s friends, Andrew is one of the best! Kind, charming…and rich!!! He married one small girl last year…and that’s the one that will be enjoying a beta man, instead of you!”
That was like a penny drop moment for me. It wasn’t like I was so devastated about having lost out with Andrew. Yes, he was cute, but not enough to make me lose sleepless nights over the missed opportunity. I just realized that taking off my wedding band was long, long overdue. So, by the following week, not only had I taken it off, I began the legal process of changing my surname back to my maiden one of Ige.
Daddy and Mama Jay had been upset about the latter, but my family and friends had been ecstatic.
“But you know it just doesn’t stop there!” Bimbo kept on insisting. “You need to cut yourself free. Leave that fancy house you’re staying in, and stop hanging around your former in-laws 24-7!”
“You know I can’t afford to rent anywhere nice, on my small Trainee salary…and Jimi’s family are not just my in-laws, but my family as well!” I always answered, defiantly.
“Okay o!” was always her response.
As far as I was concerned, I’d done the most important things. I’d removed my ring and reverted to my maiden name. Future hubby, whoever he was, was just going to accept the other things like that!
As we rang in 2012, and as I started gearing up for a wonderful, fun, and hopefully romantic year for me, Jimi confirmed that he was moving home finally, in a couple of weeks, way earlier than his earlier proposed summer date.
And even though I’d known it was coming, I found myself beginning to panic, wondering what would life be like with Jimi’s return!
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
- Sister, Sister 15: Fall From Grace
- Sister, Sister 16: Reset Button