We had all been afraid Voke would break down completely, following the end of her 13-year relationship with Obiora…but she proved all of us wrong. It almost seemed like a heavy weight had been taken off her chest, and she threw herself into life headlong. She got herself more engaged and productive at work, and became open to more social opportunities that would accord her the opportunity of meeting new people.
And it all paid off. With the onset of 2011, not only did she get promoted at work, she also had an armful of new suitors. Life was already looking good after Obiora. Shortly after her 30th birthday in April, and as she could now afford it, she rented a small 2-bedroom apartment in Argungi, and upgraded herself from her old Honda to a more recent Toyota Camry.
I too benefited from the largess, as I was able to move with her to her new flat (who else would have been her room mate?!), and also got her old car.
Being on the island helped Voke’s social life even more, and almost every weekend, my sister was out and about, having a good time. I, on the other hand, after the Abdul fiasco, had lost interest in all things social. My career was also not really going anywhere as, despite all my hard work, I was still stagnated on the very same level and very same meagre salary. So instead of socialising like Voke, I threw myself into trying to find myself a better job.
As 2011 drew to a close, Voke had gotten herself a boyfriend. To be honest, considering the kind of choices she had, I was surprised about her selection, as he had been the least eligible of the lot. A 39-year-old guy called Nnamdi, though very good looking and very wealthy, he had the mannerisms, finesse, and eloquence of an Alaba spare parts trader. I couldn’t understand it…and neither could our father. Not even our typically materialistic mother could understand her choice.
“Nnamdi is a very sweet guy. You need to look beneath the exterior.” was Voke’s constant defence.
Ah, okay oh!
Because of my own love for my sister, I had to smile through grit teeth and make an effort to accept his loud and boisterous presence. My sister seemed happy with him, so I had no choice but to be as well. And I later found out that, even though he didn’t look it, he was actually a University graduate, so wasn’t quite the illiterate trader I thought he was. Anyway, who was I to talk, when I didn’t have a man of my own?! Besides, he was incredibly generous, and I soon found myself also enjoying the windfall of cash and gifts Voke got. It didn’t take very long for me to quickly get with the program and join the Nnamdi fan club, much to our father’s dismay.
With the onset of 2012, I was hit with my own realization that I was only a year closer to 30! After my year-long hiatus off men, I decided to try dating again, and at the very first party I attended with Voke and Nnamdi, I ran into Collins, one of my toasters from Shell.
“Isio, na your face be this?!” he exclaimed, as we embraced. He had been one of my most persistent suitors, and was heartbroken when I started dating Ejiro.
I was so happy to see him again, and spent the entire time at the party chatting with him, as we reminisced about the good old days at Shell.
“You’re just like fine wine, Isio!” he remarked. “I thought you were beautiful then, but you are downright gorgeous now…even more so than before.”
That was exactly the balm my battered and bruised self esteem needed, and add that to the fact that we had always gotten along like a house on fire, he suddenly seemed very appealing and eligible to me.
We exchanged numbers, and in a matter of weeks, we were dating. He still worked with Shell, and understood why I couldn’t visit him at work, for fear of running into Ejiro. Even though it had been 5 years since the incident, the thought of seeing him again still sent shivers down my spine. He had been sympathetic when I gave him the details of what went down with Ejiro, and I found myself literally pleading with him not to confront the guy. What was the point anyway? The Ejiro was now happily married with kids. What was the point in confronting him about something that happened so long ago?
In order not to get my parents’ hopes up, I didn’t introduce him to them. I didn’t want them to get attached, only to be disappointed as they’d been with both Ejiro and Abdul. Nah, with Collins, I wanted to do things right.
And it was just as well, because only a few short months after dating, his behavior suddenly changed. His calls reduced dramatically, and he always had one excuse or the other about why he couldn’t come to see me. I immediately smelt a rat, so one evening, I laid ambush for him at the beer parlour he frequented in Onikan. As expected, he was there, drinking his preferred ale, eating asun and laughing boisterously. When he sighted me, his eyes reflected neither excitement nor surprise.
“I thought you said you had to work late today.” I said, when we were standing by his car. He had reluctantly agreed to follow me outside for a private conversation.
“What more do you want me to say, Isio?” he said, with a casual shrug. “You’re an adult. I didn’t think you’d need me to spell it out for you.”
I looked at him, not having even the faintest clue what he was talking about.
“What we had was fun and all, but I’ve had my fill…and so should you by now. Or did you think I was going to marry you?” he said, laughing over the last sentence.
My mouth hung open. I was filled with disbelief over what I was actually hearing. “Are you dumping me?!” was all I could manage to ask.
“You think I would take you seriously, after what you did to Ejiro?!” he said, his eyes flashing a hatred for me I never knew he had. “You think I don’t know how you blackmailed him with your manufactured pictures? How you demanded millions from him, so you would keep quiet? How you almost cost him his job? And you think me, Collins, will open my eyes to marry a schemer like yourself?!”
I gasped and my hands went to my mouth. I didn’t even have the words to counter what he was saying.
“You were there playing hard to get, back then in Shell…and I was happy to finally be able to get a taste of you.” he added, licking his lips making me want to slap his teeth out of his face. “And you weren’t bad at all. In fact, I won’t mind one last ride before we go our separate ways. What do you say? Should we go to my place, and…you know?”
My hands connected with his face before my brain could even send the instruction. Before I even knew what was happening, I had slapped him resoundingly on both sides of his face. How dare he?!
Adding to my chagrin, he laughed mockingly. “Slapping me won’t change the fact that you’re nothing but a slut! My wife will never be one who has had as many sexual partners as you’ve had. With all your twisting and winding on the bed, all I could ever wonder was just how many men you’ve done that with! No way! My wife is a virgin somewhere, so you can sling your gold-digging hook another direction, because this fat fish isn’t biting!”
I cried myself all the way, less for losing Collins than for the bitter truth that had just been handed to me on a platter. Even though Pere, Ejiro and Abdul were the only 3 men I’d been with sexually before Collins, it was apparently 3 men too many. I wept myself hoarse over having been used and dumped by Collins, and even when I got home, I was inconsolable, no matter how Voke tried.
“It’s enough, Isio!” she chided, when I was still in tears by Sunday, three days after. “Do you want to make yourself sick?! The Collins is a bastard. I should have listened to my intuition about the idiot, and warned you off the guy. But what’s done is done. There’s no point crying over spilt milk. Let’s just learn our lesson, and move on. Next time, you’ll do things different.”
I most surely would. For one thing, then and there, I swore off sex with anyone I would date again. My future husband was just going to do without sex while we courted, as I sure as heck was not going to add to my body count! Not after the insult from Collins.
Alas, I wasn’t the only one to swallow some bitter truths that week. Only a few days after the incident with Collins, we found out that Obiora was seriously dating a young girl, called Belinda.
“Uju told me her dad is a former Minister.” Voke said bitterly. Uju was Obiora’s cousin whom she still kept in close contact with, for whatever reason. “She says she’s a very pretty and very rich girl, and that they’re very serious. She even says they might be getting married soon. Can you imagine?!”
I was filled with anger on Voke’s behalf. I could only imagine how badly it stung for her to hear that her commitmentphobe long-term boyfriend was considering marriage with someone he’d been with only a short time.
It was now my turn to console my sister. “Forget about Obiora and what he’s up to. Look how you’ve gotten your life back on track. You’re so much better off without him, Voks. Let the poor Belnda, or whatever her name is, deal with his mess!”
But alas, my words did nothing to make her feel better, and she just started sinking into a deep depression. Not even Nnamdi’s attention and lavish gifts could make her happy anymore. On the contrary, they even made her feel worse. To everyone’s surprise, about two weeks after hearing about Obiora, she broke up with Nnamdi.
“Why on earth would you do something like that, Voks?!” I exclaimed. “You think being single at this time is best?”
“Who are we kidding, Isio? You know I was only using Nnamdi to while away time and make myself feel better. I wanted to know what it was like to be pampered for a change.” had been her answer. “But after hearing about Obiora, being with Nnamdi has only made me feel worse about the whole thing. I shouldn’t be with someone I’m just managing, but someone I love uncontrollably. You think if I was with someone I loved, hearing about Obiora would have hurt? It probably wouldn’t. Instead, I’m right back to where I was when we broke up. It’s like I only put a bandage on the wound, and now it’s bleeding and seeping right through the bandage!”
And that’s how the Clarke sisters rang in 2013 as single girls.
Our mother turned her lamentation into a constant song, constantly crying about ‘World people’ and how they had turned her daughters into men…and how we were hell bent on causing her disgrace. Even our father seemed worried about us…his spinster daughters. But by this time, Voke and I had accepted our reality for what it was. We had both been burnt from impulse dating, and were not about to accept any more jokers into our lives.
After one-too many updates about Obiora and Belinda, Voke finally took my advise and cut Uju off. No good could come from hearing about how happy Obiora was with his new girlfriend. Besides, I didn’t think the Uju had my sister’s best interest at heart, as she wouldn’t have delighted in hurting her with her updates if she did.
My birthday came around, and Voke and I decided to celebrate hard. The 30 I had been so scared of for so years had finally come, and heck, it deserved to be welcomed with some gusto! Thankfully, my efforts in getting another job had paid off somewhat, and I had recently moved to a small oil service company. The salary was still very short of what would have made me happy, but it was at least a lot better than my last job.
As I dressed up on the night of my birthday, headed nowhere in particular, my phone rang. Thinking it was one of my many well-wishers, I reached for it happily.
“Hello, Isio. Happy birthday.”
The smile froze on my face, as recognition assaulted me like a slap in the face. I would know that voice even if I was unconscious.
It was Pere.
Catch up on Isio’s story here:
- Iya Beji 1: A Series of Unfortunate Events
- Iya Beji 2: Destiny Blocker
- Iya Beji 3: Daisy
- Iya Beji 4: Upgrade
- Iya Beji 5: Bleeding Love
- Iya Beji 6: The Beast
- Iya Beji 7: The Standby Guy
- Iya Beji 8: The Boss
- Iya Beji 9: The Deal Breaker
- Iya Beji 10: The Convert
Catch up on our other series here: