The second separation from Pere proved harder than the first. Perhaps it was because I was not only fuelled by rage the first time, I also had Ejiro waiting in the wings…so it didn’t hurt quite as much, despite the fact that Pere also moved on fairly quickly as well. This time, even though there were no third (or fourth parties) involved, and it had been a more amicable parting, it hurt so much more. So, so much more.
I took a week off work, and went to stay with my Aunt in Sapele. I desperately needed a change of environment…anything to help me get my head together. I also deliberately chose that particular Aunt, whom we all fondly called Big Mummy, because she was one of the very few relatives who didn’t mount pressure on me about my single state. I won’t even talk about those who still hurled colourful insults at me for ending my engagement with Ejiro. Big Mummy was kind and nonjudgmental, and even though she didn’t pry about what had brought me to Sapele, every evening as we sat in her large courtyard, she would always say to me.
“Isio, the only things you gain from crying and worrying are wrinkles on your face. Don’t worry. Your time will come!”
“Big Mummy, I’m almost 31!” I had whimpered on one of those occasions. “I should have been married 10 years ago! When is this time coming?!”
“Isio!!! Don’t be impatient. You young people of these days are just too impatient!” she would always laugh. “Allow God do His work. No time is better than His own time.”
If only she had spread that gospel to her younger sister, my mother.
When my week in Sapele was over, I returned to Lagos rejuvenated and threw myself into my job with all gusto. I wasn’t even interested in socialising, talk less of dating. Men had lost all appeal to me, so even though on the one hand I was eager to get married and settle down, I was in no hurry to hop into a relationship with yet another joker. I also made sure I kept far away from any reminders of Pere, social media inclusive, as I knew that was the only way for me to get him out of my system.
“Na wa oh! This na real single to stupour!” Voke laughed, as we sat in our living room, drinking wine on Christmas Day 2014. With 2015 looming, she was almost 34, and I was almost 32…but neither of us was any closer to the alter. 2014 had been another uneventful year, and we had started resigning ourselves to the fact that maybe it would be just the two of us forever. The good thing is that, even though her personal life had faltered, Voke was excelling at work and had recently been promoted to a Manager at her bank. This meant a nice official car for her, so I was finally able to sell off my old rickety Honda and inherit Voke’s nicer Toyota Camry. For two single girls, life wasn’t too bad, and we were hopeful that, even if 2015 didn’t come with romance for either of us, at least it would come with more career growth for us.
If only I knew I should have just been speaking for myself!
Just a few weeks into the New Year, I returned home from the gym on a Saturday morning, only to find a nice Mercedes G-Class parked in our compound. Thinking it was a guest for one of our neighbours who had erroneously parked in our slot, I walked upstairs irritated and made a mental note to complain at the next tenant’s meeting. But as I approached our flat, I heard laughter and it dawned on me that it was probably our guest after all.
“Obiora!” I exclaimed, upon seeing my sister’s ex-boyfriend.
With a broad smile, he rose to his feet and enveloped me in a bear hug. I couldn’t help but marvel over how different he was. It was obvious that he had started touching good money, and not just his mother’s money.
“Na wa oh! Long time! You look really good.” I said, marvelling.
“You too, Isio. You and Voks are really living the high life here oh. Very nice apartment you’ve got here!” he remarked.
“Thanks.” I said, stealing a look at my sister, who was beaming from ear to ear. “So…what brings you here?”
“I wanted to see you two beautiful ladies!” he said, with his usual good-natured wink. “I called Voks to wish her a Happy New Year a few weeks ago, and we’ve been talking ever since. So…I decided to surprise her today.”
I looked at my sister, astonished. So, she and her ex-boyfriend had been talking for weeks, and she had never mentioned it once?!
“I see that look, Isio!” Obiora teased. “I’m still very angry with you oh. I will never forget how you snubbed me that time I saw you at the mall!”
I hissed and laughed. “Ah, before nko?! Where you expecting me to hug you, after what you did to my sister?!”
It had been a few months after his split from Voke…or maybe even a full year, I forget. I’d seen him at the mall, and it had reignited all my anger and disappointment over the way he had broken my sister’s heart. So, as he smiled and made his way to me to say hello, I kept my face straight and blanked him like I had never seen him before. Not even when he called my name did I acknowledge his presence. To any passer-by, he must have looked crazy, and that had been my exact intention.
“Isio! Drinking Panadol even more than the person who had the headache. Meanwhile, I would see Voke outside and she would be friendly oh!” Obiora laughed.
I looked at my sister again, stunned. She had a whole lot of explaining to do.
Obiora spent the better part of the day with us, and despite my initial misgivings, we were soon chatting and laughing like old times. I hadn’t realised just how much I’d missed him, and if I felt that way, I could only imagine how my sister felt. But as the day wore on, despite all the fun and laughter, reality soon set in for me, and I knew I had to step on the breaks to avoid my sister slipping back into any familiar dark hole.
“So…” I said, as we ate a hearty meal of Voke’s renown rice and Ofada sauce. “How is your girlfriend? We heard you’re dating one fine small girl, the daughter of a Senator or something like that…abi Voke?”
Voke threw me a lethal stare, but it wasn’t her reaction I cared about. It was the Obiora’s! But to my surprise, he wasn’t phased by my question. Instead he smiled.
“I’ve been waiting for that. Even Voke hasn’t mentioned that since we started talking again.” he said. “Her name is Belinda…and her dad was a Minister, not a Senator. But we aren’t together again.”
“So is that why you’re here? Because your rich girlfriend has dumped you?”
“Isio!” Voke exclaimed.
“As a matter of fact, I was the one who ended the relationship.” Obiora said, looking me in the eye, all jokes gone. “I knew I had to be true to myself. I have only ever loved one woman in my life…and it wasn’t her. I was a fool to let the real love of my life go. And if I’m lucky to win her back, I won’t make that mistake again.”
That shut me right up.
After he left, Voke attacked me.
“Isio, what the hell was all that about?!”
“Oh, so you wanted me to roll the red carpet for Obiora after what he did to you?!” I shouted back. “And what’s this one about the two of you talking since New Year? Or about you seeing him and being friendly? Since when did you become this secretive?! Why didn’t you tell me?!”
“Because I knew you would overreact the exact way you’re doing now!” she exclaimed. “I knew you would make a big deal out of it. There’s no big deal. He only just called to say hello, and we gisted…that’s all!”
“That’s all, abi? Even though you just heard him talk about winning you back, you’re saying ‘that’s all’!” I retorted.
Voke sighed deeply. “Would that be such a bad thing, Isio? It has been four years since our breakup, and I haven’t gotten over him. And neither has he. He isn’t the same immature Obiora from before. Will it be such a bad thing if we decide to give things another go?!”
“I just don’t want you to get hurt, Voks.” I said, in resignation. “You saw what happened when Pere and I tried to get back together.”
“We’re not you and Pere, Isio. Obiora and I don’t have the kind of baggage you both do.” Voke replied.
After that, I decided to just step back and allow the two of them be. True to his words, Obiora was hell-bent on winning Voke back. Not only was he was in our house almost every day, he showered her with so much gifts and affection that even I started yielding on her behalf! He truly appeared to have changed. Gone was the lay-about and lazy mommy’s boy of before. Instead, in his place was a driven man who had finally come into his own. He had finally put in the requisite hard work into his real estate ‘hustle’, and it had paid off tremendously. He no longer lived with his mother, and was finally ready to settle down.
Voke was thrilled beyond words. This was everything she had dreamt of, and more. Yes, there had been the brief episode with Nnamdi, but it was clear that her heart had never left Obiora…and apparently vice versa. They’d been the loves of each other’s lives since they were kids, and no rich Minister’s kid or commitment-phobia could get in the way.
Obiora’s mother was surprisingly happy about the reunion, but even more surprising was the fact that our own mother was on board. I’m not sure if it was because Voke was about to turn 34, or the fact that Obiora now had a lot of money, but our mother was deliriously happy about their reunion. Almost from the very first time Obiora paid them a courtesy visit in Ogudu, she started badgering Voke about when the rest of his family was coming for the formal introduction.
“Mommy, please take it easy! We only just got back together.” Voke consistently lamented.
“Take what easy? There is no time to waste oh! Dey there dey feel like young fowl. You don dey old o, Voke. We go just package you for them, sharp sharp!”
The funny thing is that Obiora was the one more keen about getting married, as he dropped hints consistently. But my sister was determined to take it slow.
“We have been apart for 4 years, Isio. We need time to unlearn and relearn things…good and bad. There’s no need to rush.” she’d said to me, as we sat in our living room one evening. “Besides, I don’t want it to be like that’s the only reason we got back together. Let things unfold organically.”
And unfold organically things did, as day by day, Obiora and Voke’s bond grew stronger and stronger.
And I was jealous out of my mind!
By now 2015 was coming to an end, and I was staring 33 in the face. I was happy for my sister, but resentful that she had found happiness and I hadn’t. I regretted not making things work with Pere the last time we attempted to date. From the grapevine, I heard work had moved him to Port Harcourt, and that the Naomi I thought he was dating had even married someone else. I was so regretful of not putting in enough effort to make things work, and wondered where we would be by now if our insecurities hadn’t gotten the better of us. I was so jealous of how wonderfully things were going for Voke!
But alas, as it is with all good things, they have to come to an end.
It began with the repeated references to Belinda by Obiora’s friends. On one too many occasions, Voke was mistakingly called his recently ex-girlfriend’s name, by his friends who not only should have known better, but had known Voke longer than whatever brief time they knew the said Belinda. When I heard about the 4th such time this thing happened, I almost lost my mind, and confronted Obiora’s best friend, Apache.
“Apache, what’s this rubbish I hear about you guys always calling Voke ‘Belinda’? Abi are you guys crazy? Or is this some kind of game?!”
He had been genuinely apologetic. “It’s not like that, Isio. We would never do anything to hurt Voks. It’s just that we used to see Belinda every single day! She was practically one of the guys.”
“And Voke that has known all of you since the time you used to sag your jeans is a stranger, abi?” I had raged, incensed. How dare they!
Luckily, Obiora had been even more angered by these goofs, and spared no effort in making it up to Voke each time. That would have been all fine and good if that was the only problem.
It turns out that Madam Belinda had refused to leave the picture, as she was constantly calling and even visiting him. Voke even ran into her a couple of times.
To her chagrin, Obiora appeared unbothered about the whole thing.
“Voks, she knows I’m with you, so you have nothing to worry about.” or “I can’t just tell her to go away. It’s bad enough I broke her heart, I can’t now tell her not to see me again.”
But in the end, the truth had eventually come out. Obiora didn’t want to upset Belinda as it was her father who had been instrumental to him winning most of the contracts that had given him his new wealth. So, apparently, he had to tread carefully, as he didn’t want to rock the boat from where his daily bread came. We also found out his friends had also benefited from the largess, hence their obsession with the so-called Belinda.
But just as both Voke and I were getting worried about the whole thing, on New Year’s day, at our family dinner, Obiora got down on one knee and proposed to my sister…and she happily accepted.
It was everyone’s dream come true. And even though I was so jealous…not to mention worried about how I would cope on my own…I was extremely happy for my sister.
All I could do was wish for the best for 2016…
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
- Iya Beji 11: Hiatus
- Iya Beji 12: Never Stopped
Catch up on our other series here: