I chose to live in denial.
Even though it was crystal clear, right from that very first time Jimi lay eyes on Dolly, that he had eyes only for her, I chose to convince myself that I was still the object of his fancy.
But it appeared my sister also had eyes for him…
He made it a point of duty to come see us…me…every night. And every night, Dolly and I were all prepped and ready, waiting for ‘our’ guest. And when he arrived, I made sure I was fully involved in every conversation, and chose to ignore all the doe eyes he was making at Dolly, convincing myself those doe eyes were really for me.
But who the heck was I kidding?!
Our room mates were well entertained by our drama. “Who is he even toasting? You or Dolly?” one of them remarked, after my sister and I returned from seeing Jimi off to his car. I had cast an evil look at Dolly, daring her to say something stupid. She had given me an equally dirty look, and it was clear that the dye was already cast. She wanted him. And whatever Dolly wanted, Dolly got!
My friends were not amused by what was going on. Having been there when the first spark of magic happened between Jimi and I, Bimbo and Lillian were furious that Dolly was trying to intercept him.
“Fola, you can’t just keep acting like an ode! How can you allow Dolly chance you like this? She has no business following you to escort your man to his car. Is this ‘The Many Wives of Patrick’ or what?!” Bimbo had retorted, referring to a British sitcom that was popular when we were younger.
“Or ‘The Many Wives of Jimi’ in this case!” Lilian had retorted, equally disgusted.
But they both knew that confrontation was not in my DNA at all. I had never been, and still am not, one for any form of confrontation, and having to directly confront my sister about this odd arrangement of ours, or even Jimi for that matter, wasn’t going to happen.
So Bimbo decided to do it for me.
Being a year older, she and Dolly were the same age, so she’d had no qualms confronting my sister about this love triangle of ours. And so she had…and Dolly’s answer had given us the shock of our lives!
You see, as much as I knew my sister liked Jimi and had been brazenly flirting with him, I thought that there was something in her that wouldn’t allow her do something so awful to me. I thought she’d simply been enjoying the fact that yet another guy was lusting after her like a lap dog, but that she’d eventually tire of the whole thing and toss him back to me. Yes, I wasn’t happy that my guy was so blatantly lusting after my sister, but it was something I was willing to overlook. Dolly was beautiful after all. How many men could resist that?
But her answer had been far from anything I could have expected.
“What do mean what am I doing with Jimi? What does it look like I’m doing?” she had retorted back at Bimbo.
“Jimi is Fola’s boyfriend! You better respect yourself and…” Bimbo had continued, but had been interrupted by Dolly’s exaggerated laugh.
“Boyfriend? Which boyfriend?” she had laughed, clearly amused, before looking at me. “Sweetie, is that what you think? That he’s your boyfriend? Has he asked you out? Has he told you clearly ‘Fola, I like you.'”
I had stared back at her, tongue tied, realizing for the first time that, truly, there was nothing tying me to Jimi, apart from the amazing chemistry we’d had the night we met, and the near-kiss we’d had at Flavors. As much as I hated to admit it, there was really nothing I could hold on to.
That night, like clockwork, Jimi came visiting, and the three of us sat in our corner, forcing conversation. Bimbo and Lilian had insisted on being in the room as well, so it had been a really odd situation.
And then Jimi had leaned to me, “Fola…can we talk outside?”
My heart had soared, and I had given Dolly a triumphant look. Taking his hand, I walked out of the room with him, giving a thumbs up sign to Bimbo and Lilian, my very own Voltron team. For some reason, Dolly hadn’t looked bothered at all.
I was soon to find out why.
“Listen, Fola…there’s no easy way to say this…” Jimi said, once we were seated in his car. “I’ve been trying to do this for a while, but I feel really bad about it…I didn’t mean for this to happen…”
My heart sank, as the realization of what was to follow dawned on me.
“I like you…I like you a lot, Fola. But…but I think I’m in love with Dolly…I’ve been trying to fight it, as it’s not cool, you know…hanging out with you…and then moving on to your sister, but…”
I put my hand on his, not wanting to hear any more.
“It’s okay, Jimi. I understand.” I said, with a stiff smile.
He looked so relieved, he practically deflated. “Thank you so much, Fola. I didn’t expect you to take it this well. I’m really…”
“Say no more, Jimi. It’s fine…really.” I cut in, still with my stiff smile, not wanting to hear any more. “Can I go now?”
He had looked at me, probably aware that I was barely holding myself together, before nodding. “Sure”.
I scrambled out of the car, and as I made my way back to Moremi, he had called my name, “Fola…”
I turned around, half expecting him to tell me he’d only been joking, and that I was truly the one he wanted, but he had said, “Could you please let Dolly know I’m waiting for her?”
I felt all the blood drain from my body, but had maintained my stiff smile. “Sure.”
Walking into the room, I could see the puzzled looks on my friends’ faces, and even a few of our room mates, who had been paying rapt attention to the events unfolding. Somehow I managed to find my voice.
“Jimi is waiting for you outside…” I’d said, keeping my voice steady.
Dolly smiled, before rolling on her lip gloss. “Don’t wait up!” she’d said, with a sly wink, before walking out of the room.
As soon as she left, I had crumbled like a pack of cards. Thank God Bimbo and Lilian were there, as I don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t been there to catch me…to console me as my world fell apart.
After that night, Jimi and Dolly became an official item. And the whole school went wild! The popular club boy and the finest JAMBITE…they were literally a match made in Unilag heaven!
For the first few weeks, I tried to brave it through. I would force a smile every time Jimi came to visit, before climbing to the top of my bunk, trying not to listen to their giggles and whispers of sweet nothings coming from the bed below. And anytime Dolly followed him out of the room, my mind went crazy, conjuring images of what they could be doing…and the longer she stayed away, the wilder my imagination got.
Soon, I could no longer take the torture…and I moved in with my other friend, Demi, in Madam Tinubu Hall. That way, I was spared from the front row seat I inadvertently had to Dolly and Jimi’s love affair.
Moving to another hall helped. I was able to block them out. With Dolly in Social Sciences, Jimi in Architecture, and me in the Science Faculty on the other side of school, I was able to go through the rest of the semester, with very minimal contact with them.
Alas, second semester holidays began, and Jimi was back in my face again. He made our Alaka Estate house his second home, driving all the way from Victoria Island almost on the daily. By this time, I had learnt how to be civil with him, and would just exchange a basic greeting before finding my way to another part of the house, or out of it, if I could manage it. Niyi, our brother, had been surprised that my childhood crush was now involved with Dolly, but I had made a lot of effort to convince him I was fine with it. I’m not sure he was convinced, but he had been pretty distracted himself, as he was in the process of leaving the country to continue his medical program in America. Our father had gotten fed up with the series of ASUU strikes that had prevailed that year, but had been able to afford tuition abroad for only one of his kids. With Adun having almost completed her degree, Niyi had been the obvious choice. I reckon our father knew that making a choice between Dolly and I would gotten him into deep, deep trouble. So, he had wisely avoided that.
The only person I had opened up to had been Adun. She’d been angry with Dolly for what she’d done, but in her typical matter-of-fact manner, had told me that, as Jimi hadn’t said anything committal to me, technically Dolly hadn’t ‘stolen’ him from me. Yes, what she did hadn’t been cool…but it was best for me to just accept it and move on. There was no point pining for someone who was never interested in me, to begin with.
As for our mother, she’d been happy that Dolly had snagged a ‘rich kid’, using her words. Jimi’s family was clearly well to do, and mom was happy that one of her kids had opted to ‘date with sense’. She was not at all impressed by Wole, Adun’s boyfriend, whom she’d been dating from their very first semester as classmates in Ife, and whose mode of transportation to our home was public transportation.
“How can you be following a boy that jumps bus to come and see you?!” she had exclaimed, on more than one occasion . “Aren’t you ashamed entering danfo with him, to go on a date? Adunola, you are graduating soon. You better be wise! I was younger than you when I got married. Back then, I didn’t have anybody to advise me, or else I would not have gotten into stuck into the kind of rut I did! I have been telling you and your sisters to use your Aunty Titi as inspiration. Marry a man with money! Marry a man that will take care of you! Not a man that will abandon you in Nigeria, and run off to Saudi!”
Ah, yes. Our parents’ contentious marriage! The minute our Dad gave in to Mom’s nagging and took up the Saudi job, he had literally cut off all ties with her. Yes, he made sure she was well taken care of and that all her needs were met, but he blatantly refused to allow her visit, and neither did he visit home himself. In the two years since he’d been away, he made it clear he had no plans of returning to Nigeria any time soon. He flew us, the kids, over to see him frequently, but he refused to do the same for Mom.
“I lived in misery with that woman for over twenty years. Now, I have some peace.” he had said, and there was nobody who didn’t empathize with him. We had all been witnesses to how badly the woman had treated him, and if he felt he needed some space from her, so be it.
Anyways, Adun ignored mom and had carried on with Wole, happily. Dolly, on the other hand, pleased mom with her great choice of a boyfriend, and as for me…well, I guess she had no hope for me.
By the time we resumed for a new session, in January 1997, I decided to make some changes. I was turning 19 that year, and I had tired of the tomboy lifestyle…or at least, that’s what I told myself. I guess, on some deep level, I blamed it for losing Jimi to the gorgeous, beautiful, and lest we forget feminine, Dolly. So even though I didn’t think I would win him back, I was determined not to lose any other thing to my love for shirts and baggy jeans. It was time to make a change!
Getting back to school, I moved back to Moremi Hall, but not the same room as Dolly, for obvious reasons, and pretty much got on with my life. I managed to strike a good balance between my academics and my social life, but made sure I didn’t run in the same social circle as Dolly and Jimi. And when the holidays came, civility was the watchword.
As the years rolled by, Dolly and Jimi solidified themselves as the power couple in school. They were the couple everyone wanted to be. They were the definition of perfection, and the benchmark for what an ideal couple was…
Except they weren’t.
Or let me rephrase that. Jimi was. He was absolutely perfect. It was clear to even a blind man that he loved Dolly with everything, and would have given his life just to make her happy. But as for Dolly…oh dear. Dolly…
A little over a year into their relationship, Dolly started dating other men…discreetly. So discreet that not even her closest of friends knew. It started with some of the men, rich men, in our estate, and further progressed to the kind of guys we had just started referring to as ‘aristos’; town guys, with a lot of money to burn. It had all started with the friend she had made down our street, Chichi; a notoriously loose girl, who delighted in setting up my sister with one money bag after the other. No sooner had Jimi dropped her off, or left our house, would Dolly be up to her nefarious activities.
With Adun having left the country for her postgraduate studies, the only people who knew of Dolly’s activities were myself…and our mother. But she had a cheerleader in our mother, who delighted in the flashy cars that would discreetly drop her off at odd hours of the day. For her, the wealthier the man that Dolly could snag, the better! Even though Jimi’s folks had upgraded him from his Bluebird, to a nice Honda Accord, it was nothing compared to the ostentatiously flashy cars that vied for Dolly’s attention.
As for me, all I could do was feel sorry for Jimi. As much as I still hurt over what he did to me, I knew he didn’t deserve what Dolly was, in turn, doing to him.
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