Walking into the house that night, looking dejected and defeated, CD player in hand, Georgie had taken one look at me and figured out what had happened. As she enveloped me in an embrace, I cried like a baby, releasing all the sadness, pain, disappointment, regret, and bitterness I felt. I knew I had nobody but myself to blame for losing Duke. Only six months before, we were planning a future and looking forward to spending a lifetime together. But in a flicker of madness, I had thrown it all away. Just like that.
“It might not seem that way now…but you’ll love again.” Georgie said to me later that evening, as we lay in my bedroom. “When I was 19, back in Swansea, I fell head over heels with this guy I met in University. His name was Elis, and at that time, I thought he was my soulmate. He loved music as well, and he would play me the guitar every night, making up love songs for me. He was my everything.” she smiled wistfully, before shrugging. “But a couple of years later, just after I’d turned 21, my father got a job in London, and the whole family had to move. I had just graduated, and with my family leaving Wales, there was nothing really keeping me back. Elis and I made so many plans. We decided we’d get married 2 years after and, because he couldn’t afford to travel, that I would come back to Wales to visit at least every month. And I did at first. For the first few months, I was always making the stressful trip back to Swansea, just to see him. After a while, I started Post Grad school here, and my schedule became so hectic that I wasn’t able to visit as often as we agreed…but we still spoke on the phone everyday. It wasn’t enough for him though, and one day, he asked me to make a choice…either come back to Wales to him, or stay in London and lose him. I thought he was bluffing and tried to make him see reason. I had only just started my Post Grad program, and had another 9 months of it. I pleaded with him to give me time, but he refused. So, I decided to call his bluff. I thought our love was strong enough for him not to end our relationship, so I decided to stay. We still kept on talking on the phone everyday, but there was a noticeable strain. I thought when I finally made it back home for Christmas, we would fix whatever was broken. I honestly didn’t think there was a problem. That’s why, when I finally was able to go home, I was shocked to find that not only was he engaged, he’d gotten the girl pregnant!”
I gasped, and she nodded. “When I confronted him, all he said to me was that I’d made my choice…and he’d made his.”
“What did you do?”
“I cried. I begged. I threatened. There was nothing I didn’t do. I even refused to come back to London after the holidays. I was ready to give up school and everything, if that’s what it would take to get him back. I didn’t even care that another girl was carrying his child.” she smiled sadly. “But his mind was made up. He said it was too little, too late. Despite the fact that I gave up an entire semester of school, sitting there in Swansea begging him, he went on to marry her. Deryn was her name. I was shattered. I completely broke to pieces. I blamed myself for not coming home as we agreed. I blamed for myself for even leaving Swansea in the first place. Even with him being married, I was still hopeful of him being with me, and I hung around our town, harassing him and his wife daily.” she laughed. “It was my father who had to come back to Swansea to physically haul me back to London, so I could complete my program.” she looked at me and stroked my face. “I thought I would never love anyone like Elis. I thought I’d already found my soulmate, and I would never be able to find anyone like him again. It took me years before I could date again…and even in all that time, I never put enough of my heart into it…thinking I’d already had my one big love. But than changed when I met your dad.” she smiled tenderly. “And what Chuka and I have has eclipsed anything I ever felt for Elis. Our bond is deeper…and our love is so much more beautiful. I wouldn’t change anything for the world. If Elis were offered to me on a platter of gold now, I would walk right past him.”
“But you met Dad seven years ago…at least nine years after you lost your first love. Are you saying I have to wait nine years before I find someone else?” I asked, a lone tear rolling down my face.
“I’m saying that no matter how you feel now, it will always be better tomorrow.” Georgie answered tenderly. “It might be in a month, 6 months, a year, 6 years…However long it takes, I need you to know that you will most surely find love again.”
I held on to those words as I finally drifted off into a fitful sleep. Even though it was hard for me to see how anyone could ever take Duke’s place in my heart, I knew it was time for me to let him go.
In the weeks that followed, Chuka and Georgie finally moved to their new house, and even though I’d initially declined moving with them, I happily accepted their invitation again, as I knew that being alone was the very last thing I needed. And I was glad I did. The house was much larger, and from my bedroom, if I really squinted, I could actually see the River Thames…my old phone’s graveyard.
Settling into my new life, I pondered briefly about getting a job. I hadn’t worked in the five months I’d left Colchester, and even though I lacked for nothing, I knew I couldn’t keep on sitting at home, moping over a man who was continents away. But as Chuka and I talked one evening, towards the end of May, we decided it was best for me to return to school for a Masters degree. Despite it being late in the application year, I sent out some applications, and was luckily accepted to almost all the schools I’d applied to. I accepted a place at the University of Westminster, for an M.Sc. in Business Intelligence & Analytics. Even though school was less than thirty minutes away, and I would most surely be commuting from home, I found myself really looking forward to the start of the new school year in September. Something to at least take the ache away from my heart.
Because the ache was still there. Despite what I did to get him out of my head, Duke was still my waking and sleeping thought. I could finally understand what my dad had meant when he said he saw Ngozi, my mother, in everything and everyone. I lost count of the number of men in suits I would see, especially in the train station, that I would think was him. Everywhere I turned, there was a reminder of Duke.
And it didn’t help that he had become extremely active on social media. The same Duke whose Facebook page hadn’t seen activity since 2009, was now the king of posts and updates. He was loving his life in Singapore, and there were almost daily pictures to show it. If it wasn’t pictures of him goofing around with his colleagues, it was him taking in the sights and sounds of the beautiful country, and sometimes even neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. He was living his life to the fullest, and there never seemed to be a dull moment with him. And I found myself a confirmed cyber stalker.
For every picture he uploaded, I would pore through it like Sherlock Holmes, looking for anything, any indication that he had a new woman in his life. For every person that was with him in any picture, man or woman, I would spend hours checking out their own profiles, trying to find out more about the people the man I loved was spending time with. But apart from waste several hours of my life, I was able to deduce nothing. All I gained was the self-torture that came with wondering if the hand he had slung over a woman was anything more than a harmless gesture, or if there was anyone in the group of women he posed with in a bar picture that was warming his bed. He had become Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky, and just as I was about to wonder if the same woman that appeared in a few consecutive pictures was anything to worry about, there would be another woman to give me more grief, in her place.
By summer, the pictures became those of him with his daughters…and their mother, Mukoso, on holiday to what looked to be a boat cruise around the Caribbean. They looked like a perfect family, posing for pictures on the luxury boat, and in the islands they visited. Despite what he said about never returning to Mukoso, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was any romance lurking behind their wide and happy smiles. Were they sharing a room? A bed? Had he decided it best to revert to his old family life after all?
It was towards the end of their trip that I took the decision to end our social media association. It was a picture of him and Mukoso, smiling for the camera, no kids in sight. It was Mukoso’s picture, in which she’d tagged him, and captioned #ModernFamily. Modern Family indeed! That was the last straw for me, and I made the decision to unfollow him on Facebook. Being tormented by thoughts of what he was, or wasn’t, doing was the very last thing I needed. We were still Facebook friends…but I just had opted out of seeing his daily updates.
I thought I was well rid of Duke and his many pictures, until I saw a comment Anuli made on a picture of his, on my Newsfeed one day.
Looking good! Who’s the lady? (wink, wink).
The hairs on the back of my neck rose, and I found myself bristling in anger. I clicked opened the picture, and there he was, Duke and a woman who looked to be in her mid-30s, in what looked to be an airport. They were both dressed formally and were smiling widely for the camera. I clicked on her page, and saw that she was also Nigerian, and her name was Temisan…a beautiful flawless-skinned woman, with the body of an athlete. Looking through her pictures, my stomach sank at the realisation that she was everything I wasn’t…sophisticated and glamorous. Even in her formal attire, she could pass for a runway model, in her high end, expensive outfits.
Searching for her on LinkedIn only added more to my oppression, as her profile was extremely impressive indeed. Also based in Singapore, she was currently a Director with one of the leading global investment banks, before which she’d worked extensively on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns, and had attended the prestigious Wharton Business School and Columbia University. As if that was enough, the Internet was littered with pictures of her participating, and doing very well, in various marathons and sporting events. Looking at a picture of her at the finish line of the last New York Marathon, her body all toned and beautiful in her active wear, still looking like she belonged in a magazine even with her face and body sweaty, I realised one thing.
I was no match for her.
Going back to Duke’s page for the first time in weeks, I was dismayed to find her in a number of his recent pictures. I winced at a picture of them, hand in hand, in what he’d captioned a John Legend concert, and my heart broke over the thought of him sharing and making new memories with this woman…who was so better suited for him than I was.
And then I decided to block him…so that I would never see another update from him ever again.
For good measure, I decided to un-friend Anuli and James, as simply unfollowing them didn’t seem effective enough. The only reason I didn’t completely block them was because of the love I still had for my cousin, Apart from the fact that I ran the risk of inadvertently seeing Duke’s pictures and updates through them, we hadn’t been in touch since the wedding, and considering they had already picked his side, the only thing I stood to gain from still having them in my social media life…was heartbreak and more heartbreak.
When September came, I was all pumped and ready for my new life in school. I resumed my fitness regime and lost the 10 pounds of what I called my ‘grief weight’. I treated myself to a new wardrobe and generally decided it was time to make myself happy! By the time I resumed school later that month, I was very ready to start life on a clean slate. I immersed myself in my studies and proceeded to make a lot of new friends.
Awele had her babies in early August, two healthy and beautiful baby boys, and it took everything in me not to hop on the first flight back to Nigeria. She had kept in touch very regularly, and often lamented about how sad she was about my deteriorated relationship with Anuli. But when the boys arrived, any pettiness with Anuli seemed like the very least of our worries. Thankfully, Chuka had helped Ize get a better job in one of the private secondary schools in Abuja, but as Awele hadn’t been able to work in her pregnancy, they still struggled for money. But thankfully, through me, Chuka had continued supporting them, so the arrival of the boys didn’t overwhelm them financially.
As for Chuka and Georgie, they had to postpone their summer wedding, as Georgie’s grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She eventually died in October, and they decided to wait until February 2017 to get married, out of respect to her. To make up for not having her dream summer wedding, the plan was to have a destination wedding in the Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos. So, alongside school I had something else to look forward to.
And all thoughts of Duke were thrown to the back of my mind…or so I thought.
It was late November, when I spotted Mukoso at the Westfield Mall. I was with a group of friends, and as she approached, I saw her squint, trying to be sure it was me. She looked much better than when I’d seen her exactly a year before. She looked less harried…less stressed. Gone was the skinny, haggard looking woman with ill fitting clothes, and in her place was a woman that looked 10 years younger. Her complexion was glowing, she had filled out her clothes nicely. Her curvaceous body hugged every part of the fashionable leather jacket and jersey skirt outfit she wore, and even her gait was different. Duke was obviously taking good care of her.
And I suddenly felt mad as hell.
I found myself wishing I hadn’t bothered reconnecting her with him. If it weren’t for me, she would still be the hopeless, washed up woman driving some dead Vauxhall Vectra. But here she was, going on expensive holidays and prancing around Westfield like a woman of leisure, designer bag in hand. I felt like slapping her in the face.
“Golibe!” she called out.
I just stared back at her, blank, like I had neither heard her nor even seen her before. My friends looked at me puzzled, because it was clear the woman walking past was calling me, but I kept a straight face, whilst still maintaining eye contact with her. In the end, she snorted and walked away, which is just what I wanted anyway.
Riding the train back home, my mood was already shot. I’d given my friends an excuse, and opted to go home early, instead of heading to the West End for drinks, as we’d earlier planned. All I really wanted was my bed. As I let myself into the house, Georgie appeared in front of me, as if out of the blue, and from the guilty look on her face, I knew my day wasn’t about to get any better.
“You have a visitor…” was all she could manage, before I saw the person standing at the door leading to the living room, a large bouquet of red and pink roses in hand.
“Dozie?!” I exclaimed, shocked at the sight of they ex-boyfriend I had neither seen nor heard from in over a year.
“Emma…” he said nervously. “You look beautiful.”
I cast Georgie an angry look, and she just shrugged, indicating her own confusion and helplessness.
“She didn’t know I was coming.” Dozie said in her defence. “I’ve been talking to Chu…your dad. I got in touch with him a few months ago, and he only just agreed to allow me see you.”
“I don’t even know which answer I want the most…why he would have given you permission to come here…or why you would have the nerve to come at all!” I snapped. “You made it clear what you thought of me the last time we spoke, Dozie. You called me an ungrateful bitch, don’t you remember? You said everyone thought I wasn’t good enough for you. So why then are you here to see me?”
He took a step forward. “I was just lashing out. You know I didn’t mean any of it! Emma, I haven’t stopped loving you for one minute. Even when I got back to London, no matter how much I tried to hate you for leaving me for…for someone else, I just couldn’t stop loving you! I know I messed up when you were in Nigeria. I know I didn’t support you like I should have. I know I was the one that pushed you away. And I’m so, so sorry, Emma! I regret my actions with everything in me!”
Looking at him, I recognised myself in his pleading eyes. I saw myself standing in front of Duke, seven months before, asking him…begging him…to take me back into his life. And despite myself, I found myself feeling sorry for him.
“What exactly do you want, Dozie?” I asked, suddenly feeling exhausted, emotionally and physically.
“I don’t want to spend another day of my life without you, Emma.” he said, just as Chuka appeared behind him, from his study. “You are the only one who can make me complete.”
And without warning, he placed the flowers on the side mantelpiece, and dropped on one knee, prompting a collective gasp from Georgie and I.
“I love you, Emma. I’ve loved you for 8 years. And I should have done this a long time ago.” he said, holding out a beautiful diamond ring. “Will you do me the great honour of being my wife? Will you make me the happiest man on earth by agreeing to spend the rest of your life with me?”
I stared at him in shock, before looking from Georgie to my dad. Georgie was staring at Chuka, just as stunned as I was, whilst he returned both our glances, a smirk on his face. He was obviously in on the whole plan.
I looked back at Dozie, and I felt something in me shift. Before leaving for Ogwashi the year before, even though we’d had our rocky patch, I had loved him…and had wanted to marry him. In fact, hadn’t one of the reasons for my trip in the first place been the need to seek validation and approval from his parents? And even though we’d had an ugly breakup, here he was, a very good looking and successful young man, asking me to marry him.
Looking at him, all I could think of was how being with him would be the perfect way to expunge myself of Duke. Being his wife would give me better things to think about than how happy Duke and Temisan probably were, and if he ever thought of me at all.
“What do your parents think?” I heard myself asking, prompting a surprised look from Georgie.
“They give their blessings. They know how much I love you, and they are looking forward to welcoming you into our home.” he said, reaching for my hand. “Say yes, Emma. Please…say yes.”
Barely an hour before, I’d been in a stare-off with the ex-wife of my ex-boyfriend…and now, I was being asked for my hand in marriage.
And it left my head spinning!
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
- Golibe 31: I’d die without you
Catch up on our other series here: