I declined returning to the hotel with Chuka, under the pretext that I wanted to spend more time with Anuli, when the truth was I wanted to find some time to speak with James alone. Anuli had remained adamant in her refusal to give me Duke’s contact information, and I couldn’t help but kick myself for not getting all those details when we were together. For spending all that time together, without getting something that important.
Later that Wednesday evening when Anuli had fallen asleep, James came by the house to drop a few things off, in anticipation of their wedding a few days away, and to have a discussion with Ikedi, his future brother-in-law. I was grateful for the chance to talk to him without Anuli’s interference,
“Hi James. Do you have a minute?” I asked, sitting beside him on the dining table, as he ate a quick meal.
“Sure!” he said, a wide smile on his face. “It’s so great to have you back, Golibe! Never mind how snarky she might be, but I know Anuli is happy you’ll be at the wedding on Saturday.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.” I said, truly meaning it.
He looked at me keenly. “So…what do you want to talk about?”
“Duke.” I answered frankly. “I hear he’s back in London now. I really want to see him when I get back, so…I was wondering if you could give me his phone number…or something…”
James dropped his cutlery and was pensive for a few minutes. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Golibe.” he finally answered.
By this time, I was proper exasperated.
“Why are you guys doing this? Why are you and Anuli trying to keep me from reaching out to him?” I exclaimed.
“Because we love him. Because we care for him. Because we saw everything he went through when you left him high and dry last year!” James snapped, his eyes flaring in his anger.
I shook my head. “After I stuck my head out for you with Anuli, this is what I get in return?”
“Golibe, trust me, if I’d hurt Anuli before, you would never have let me near her!” he answered. “Look, you’re like a younger sister to my wife, and I love you like one…but I also love Duke. He has been the closest thing I have had to a brother for over 30 years. I would die protecting him.”
My eyes pooled with tears. “But why do you feel the need to protect him from me? I love him.”
“But you broke him, Golibe! I wasn’t around when he had his first breakdown, and only heard of what he went through. But when you left him, I saw him fold. I had a front row seat to the devastation losing you wrecked on him. Forget the fact that he’s a 6 feet 4, 100kg mass of a man, underneath all that, he’s as fragile as a butterfly’s wing. I was there when he would call and email you almost round the clock, with not a single response from you. I saw how all the hopes and dreams he had built with you evaporated from him in a poof of smoke. I saw how he gradually started losing the will to live…and it was all because of you!”
By this time, I was sobbing hysterically as the tears streamed down my face. James took a look at me, and shook his head. “I feel for you, Golibe. I really do. But Duke has finally gotten to a point where he’s picked up the pieces of his life and moved on. Giving you his number would be taking him back 6 months. And I couldn’t do that. I just couldn’t.”
“Who made the decision for him to leave?” I asked. Even though I’d heard it had been his mother, somehow that didn’t quite seem like something Duke would have allowed to happen.
“He was actually the one who decided to go.” James answered, confirming my suspicions. “It was the 1st day of December, and I think he just decided that it was best for him to pick up the pieces of his life. He got in touch with his friend, Kene, and I worked with both of them to tidy up the logistics. He left about a fortnight after.”
“And his mother? Was she in support of the idea?”
“Extremely! She didn’t really know what happened between the two of you…he made the decision to spare her those details. But she could see that he was beginning to slip away, and that all the progress he’d made in 3 years was about to go down the drain. So, when he told her he was leaving, she was all for it!”
I nodded, listening to him, my heart breaking anew, regretful of my rash actions all over again.
That night, I sent Duke a long e-mail, pouring out my heart and pleading with him to give me another chance. But by the time I arose the next morning, the only response I got was from a delivery failure Mailer Daemon message, indicating that the e-mail account no longer existed.
That was when I realised my love had slowly slipped out of my reach.
When Awele and her husband arrived later that day, I could barely muster the enthusiasm to be excited. Yes, I was pleased to see the cute small bump she was already sporting, but the reality of my loss weighed on my heart too heavily for me to be anything but melancholy. As her husband, Pastor Ize, showered encomiums after encomiums on Chuka, their benefactor, who’d arrived from his hotel early that morning, all I could think of was Duke.
“I don’t have it.” Awele had said regretfully, when I tried my luck with her. “And if I try to get it from Anuli now, she’ll know why. Why don’t you give it a few days, and I’ll find a way to get it off her phone and send to you.”
I had to be satisfied with her offer, and remained on auto pilot for the rest of my stay. Saturday was soon upon us, and as we dressed Anuli up, I found myself incredibly emotional at the sight of my beloved cousin in a wedding gown, marrying the man she loved. Starting from the time we’d first met almost a year before, her evolution was the kind of thing Hollywood scripts were made of. But there she was, resplendent in a her beautiful dress, hand-made and hand-crafted by one of the biggest Nigerian designers who was gaining ground as the go-to girl for amazing wedding gowns. The only indication of her pregnancy was in the dewy glow of her skin, besides which she was able to get away with the style of dress, without anyone being the wiser.
The ceremony was also beautiful. The décor was perfect, and the turnout was phenomenal. Between James and Chuka, no costs were spared and it was the wedding any woman would have been proud of. And proud she was, as she beamed happily and danced to her heart’s delight. She was clearly over the moon to be getting married…and as happy as I was for her…I was also incredibly jealous!
“Don’t worry, we’ll find him.” had been Chuka’s nonchalant response, when I told him nobody had agreed to give me Duke’s contact information. “If he’s in London, how hard can it be?”
But the story changed the minute we got to London, the following Tuesday. That evening, as he unpacked in the large room he shared with Georgie, I wandered in to ask him how he thought we could locate him…and his answer had shocked me.
“Golibe, I talked extensively with Anuli…” he said, and I immediately knew I wouldn’t like what I was about to hear. “She explained to me why it is a bad idea for you to contact Nduka now. Besides, I don’t particularly like the idea of you chasing after some man! You told me yourself that even his e-mail account has been deactivated. If he has gone through all these lengths to keep you away, I think you should just respect it.”
Saddened by the realisation that Chuka had bought into the lie that Duke didn’t want to have anything to do with me, I retreated to my room. Deep in my heart, I knew they were all wrong; Anuli…James…my dad. They were wrong about Duke not wanting anything more to do with me. The love we had wasn’t the type to quit, just like that! Yes, we’d had our tough moment, but what we had as a couple was strong enough to withstand even this.
Lying in bed that night, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Yes, I might not have known his phone number(s), I might not have had an idea of where he lived, I might not have known what e-mail identity he had reverted to, but I did know one thing. I knew where he worked, and it was unlikely that he would be anywhere but with the company that had stuck with him, even in his darkest hour.
And I knew exactly how to find my way to Canary Wharf!
The next morning, I was on the underground train, journeying from Elephant & Castle, to London Bridge, and finally getting to Canary Wharf station. After an 8 minute walk, I was soon standing in front of the imposing glass edifice that was the JP Morgan Chase office. That was when the foolhardiness of what I was doing actually hit me. I took a seat on a nearby stone slab, monitoring the human traffic in and out of the building. But after sitting there as one hour became two, and then three, and then pretty much the whole day, I realised it could well be an exercise in futility. There were way too many people traipsing in and out, and I suddenly found myself wondering if there was another exit somewhere.
At about 8pm, after sitting in vain for over 9 hours, I finally gave up and headed back to the train station. As I walked, I contemplated reaching out to Amara…or even Mukoso…for Duke’s number. But as quickly as the thought came to my head, I banished it. If the picture of his birthday was anything to go by, we were clearly not on the same side, and asking them for his contact information would be like leaving a trail of blood in the ocean, for sharks. There was no need to give them the competitive advantage, or the chance to gloat. I would reconnect with him my own way.
Standing on the platform, awaiting the Jubilee line train, I noticed there was a large number of investment bankers from the very many firms in the Canary Wharf area…from Goldman Sachs, to Morgan Stanley, to Citibank, to Barclays, and of course JP Morgan Chase, and it suddenly struck me that this was the best place to find him. For him to leave Canary Wharf, he’d have to come to that station.
The next day, I opted against setting out so early, and instead chose to leave home at about 4pm. I decided that I wouldn’t be wasting any more time in front of the JP Morgan Chase building, but instead by the entrance of the only train station I knew he would ply.
So, I took my position by the Bank Street exit of the station, with my eyes glued to the road, and my heart desperate to reconnect with the other part that made it whole.
I probably stood there for about three hours, watching people go in and out. I soon started to lose my confidence. Was I at the right entrance? Was he using the DLR line back home, instead of the Jubilee? Or could he maybe even have a car, and had driven out of his building…to God knows where…
I was still contemplating these possibilities…when I saw him.
My heart caught in my throat as he approached the station, looking lean and trim in a fitted suit, his messenger bag slung over his shoulder. He was clean shaven, and his hair was neatly cropped…and he was my definition of perfection.
As he approached, his eyes connected with mine…and my world literally stopped. It took everything in me to maintain my balance as I suddenly felt weak in the knees, and my heart literally felt like it would thump itself out of my body. He stopped walking, and we just stood there, two people who had once loved each other with an indescribable intensity, standing before each other, eyes locked.
I tried to read the expression on his face…but couldn’t. It seemed bland. Empty. He neither was happy, surprised, shocked, nor even angry to see me. Realising I ran the risk of losing him all over again, I stepped forward, eager to close the distance between myself and the man I loved with every single beat of my heart.
“Duke…” I said, my voice barely a whisper.
“I felt you yesterday.” he said, finally breaking his silence. “Getting out of my building, I felt your presence so strong, it was almost like you were standing beside me. And I couldn’t help but wonder why, considering that I haven’t thought about you in a long time.”
It felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach.
“Yes, I was here yesterday.” answering the unasked question. “Well, not here exactly, but right in front of your building.”
“Why?” he asked, his voice still flat. “Why come all the way here?”
“I had to see you.” I answered. “And nobody agreed to give me a number for you.”
He said nothing in response, and we just stood there, staring.
“You look well.” I said, breaking the silence again. “So, this is what you look like as an investment banker.” I laughed weakly, in a poor attempt at a joke. He didn’t even crack a smile.
“Happy belated birthday!” I said, scanning my head for what to say. “I saw the picture. You must be overjoyed to have them back in your life…Amara especially.”
That finally got a smile out of him. “It’s the best thing ever…and I owe it all to you. Thank you.”
I smiled back, feeling emboldened. “I’m just happy you’re happy.”
At that, his eyes went flat again, and his mouth settled into a grim line. “Why exactly are you here?”
“Because I miss you.” I answered, my eyes filling with tears. “Because my life has no meaning without you in it.”
There was a flicker in his eyes, and I saw the hardness in his face start to thaw.
“I know I hurt you…and I’m sorry!” I continued, taking a step forward to close the gap between us. “I was stupid and foolish and rash! I regret my actions with my entire being.”
“I’m not angry with you.” Duke said, compassion in his eyes. “I understand what kind of emotions you were going through at the time, and I don’t blame you for what happened.”
I looked at him, confused. “If you’re not angry with me…why am I standing here and you over there? Why don’t you look happy to see me?”
He sighed deeply and shook his head. “Because you were right. We’re not good for each other. You deserve to be with someone closer to your age…”
I stared at him, stunned, and almost blinded by the well of tears overflowing from my eyes down my face. “How can you even say that?” I exclaimed. “Are you with someone else? Are you back with Mukoso?”
He stared at me, flabbergasted. “Mukoso? Why would you ever think that?!”
“Now that the girls are back in your life, I’m sure she is as well!” I cried out. “Maybe you two have decided to give yourselves another go, so it’s bye-bye Golibe!”
“I thought you said your name was Emma now.” he answered sardonically, before shaking his head. “Mukoso and I will never, ever be a couple again. She lied to me for 14 years. She played the ultimate deception on me. Yes, I can forgive her as a friend…but never anything more than that. The girls’ biological father left them high and dry, and they’ve barely been living. With the new baby she has, things are even tougher. I’m only happy to be able to help them now. “ he made eye contact with me. “And no, there is nobody else.”
“Then why are you saying this, when you know how good we are together! How beautiful our love is!” I cried.
“Was. How beautiful our love was.” he countered. “Golibe…what we had was beautiful…but it also showed me that I’m not equipped for a love that strong. I fell to pieces when you left. I was a mess…”
I was now close enough to him to grab his hands. “But I’m never going anywhere again, I swear!” I wailed. “I made a mistake and I regret it with everything in me!”
As he looked at me, the cold veneer disappeared and I finally saw the Duke I loved. In his eyes, I saw that time and chance had done nothing to diminish what he felt…and that in his heart still burned an intense love for me.
And then he pulled me into a deep and beautiful kiss…
As we kissed, it almost felt like I was levitating…like I was floating above water. It felt like, finally, I had gotten my dream ending after all…like I’d gotten him back after all.
“I love you, Golibe.” he said, burying his head in my hair. “I love you with every fibre of my being…And that’s the problem.”
I looked at him, confused.
“You were my cure…but you’re also my curse.” he said, pulling away. “Loving you isn’t good for me.”
“Nduka!” I exclaimed.
“You’re not good for me, Golibe.” and with that, he walked away, disappearing into the tube station.
I stood there, rooted to the spot, too stunned to even cry, too shocked to even chase after him.
His words replayed in my head all the way home, and all through the weekend that followed. He thought I wasn’t good for him? He thought I was his cure…yet his curse? It was so ludicrous to me, it was almost laughable.
That was when I decided not to give up. I was going to fight for him, even if it killed me.
Monday couldn’t come soon enough, and I set off for the Canary Wharf station, CD player in hand, determined to jog his memory enough to realise that a love like ours didn’t come everyday!
Taking position in the very same spot I’d seen him the Friday before, I put on PM Dawn’s I’d Die Without You on repeat. We had fallen in love to this song, and I was darned well not going to let him forget it. I ignored the curious glances of people exiting and entering the tube station, and even ignored the few cheeky people who threw coins at me. I was determined to jumpstart Duke’s memory any way I could…hoping that the lyrics would open his heart…
…Oh, I apologize for all the things I’ve done
But now, I’m underwater and I’m drowning
Is it my turn to be the one to cry?
Isn’t it amazing how some things completely turn around?
So take every little piece of my heart
Yeah, take every little piece of my soul
Yeah, take every little bit of piece of my mind
Cause if you’re gone, inside, I’d die without you
“Golibe.” called an unfamiliar voice.
I turned around and saw a man I didn’t know walking up to me. “Hi. My name is Kene.” he introduced himself. “I saw you talking to Duke on Friday…so I kinda guessed you were the one.”
“Hi.” I said tersely, not sure how to feel about yet another person I was sure thought I wasn’t good for him. “Is he here?”
He cast a curious glance at the CD player, still with the song on repeat. “Is that playing for him?”
I just stared back defiantly, silently daring him to make me do otherwise.
“If it is, then you might want to turn it off. He’s not coming this way today…or anytime soon.” he said, and the kindness in his eyes made my defiance dissolve. “Duke left for Singapore last night. There was an internal vacancy, and he decided to go for it. It was a very competitive one, and he was lucky to get it. It’s a big boost for his career.” he saw the confusion in my face. “He didn’t tell you on Friday?”
I couldn’t even bring myself to shake my head. I just stood there, staring at him, stunned.
It was the final nail to the coffin. Duke had left me for good.
Catch up on Golibe’s story here:
- Golibe 1: The Journey
- Golibe 2: Brave
- Golibe 3: Blood Relative
- Golibe 4: Strangers
- Golibe 5: Fill the Gaps
- Golibe 6: Awele
- Golibe 7: Frolicking
- Golibe 8: The Trunk
- Golibe 9: Retrace my steps
- Golibe 10: The Exchange
- Golibe 11: Quoting Shakespeare
- Golibe 12: Dead End
- Golibe 13: Something in the Water
- Golibe 14: Intoxicated Butterflies
- Golibe 15: The Boyfriend
- Golibe 16: Anuli
- Golibe 17: Masters of their fate
- Golibe 18: Ex-Wife
- Golibe 19: Falling
- Golibe 20: Nervous Breakdown
- Golibe 21: Much ado about nothing
- Golibe 22: Blood Brother
- Golibe 23: Heart Smile
- Golibe 24: Sister Petra
- Golibe 25: Musical Staccato
- Golibe 26: A Girl Called Emma
- Golibe 27: Sparkle in your eyes
- Golibe 28: Unfinished Business
- Golibe 29: Father Dearest
- Golibe 30: Count for something
Catch up on our other series here: