As mad as hell as we were, Obiora stood his ground.
“I’m not sorry for letting Pere’s name slip. Yes, it wasn’t planned, but no, I don’t regret it!” he said defiantly, when Voke and I confronted back in our apartment. “You can’t seriously be planning to keep the man in the dark about his children. I know you’re not that cold hearted, Isio!”
To my shock and chagrin, my sister sighed deeply and shook her head. “That’s the same thing I’ve been telling her!”
I gasped. “Whose side are you on, Voke?!”
“My dear, this isn’t a matter of sides. It’s about wisdom. Besides, if you don’t do it, your mother is going to do it for you. And I know which option I’d go for if I were you.”
And she was correct. With my parents…my mother in particular…now in possession of that vital piece of information, it was in my better interest to take the bull by the horns and do it myself.
All night, I tossed and turned in my bed. Even though my air conditioning was on full blast, I awoke many times, drenched in sweat, petrified over what lay ahead. By morning, I knew there was no need procrastinating. The earlier I did it, the better for me…and for everyone.
At work, I was distracted the whole day. I contemplated sending Pere a text message, asking if he could meet up with me, but in the end opted to call him instead. Dialling his number, my heart was pounding so rapidly and loudly, I was almost certain people around me could hear it. I hadn’t called his number since the morning after our tryst, and it hadn’t been the most pleasant of conversations. But it had been over 3 months before, so maybe…just maybe…he wouldn’t be angry or hostile.
Well, turns out it was wishful thinking.
“Hello.” came his stiff and unfriendly voice, when I finally mustered the courage to dial his number.
“Hi, Pere! How are you? It’s been a long time.” I said, trying to sound chipper and upbeat.
“What can I do for you, Isio?”
I swallowed hard. It wasn’t going at all like I’d hoped it would.
“Can we meet up for drinks later today? I’d like to discuss something important with you.” I asked, my voice uncertain.
There was a long pause, before he finally answered. “We don’t have to meet up, Isio. Whatever you want to tell me, you can tell me over the phone.”
I found my own nervousness and uncertainty beginning to give way to anger and irritation. “Look, Pere. If I could have told you over the phone, I would. Obviously, this is something I need to tell you face to face!”
There was another protracted pause. “Fine. I leave for Port Harcourt tomorrow, so it has to be this evening.”
“Fine then! Meet me at Alfredo’s, 6pm!” I said, terminating the call before he could counter me.
The nerve of that guy!!!!
I deliberately took my time, and didn’t drive into Alfredo’s until 6:30pm. Sighting Pere’s Mercedes, I knew he was already there, and I was comforted by the fact I wouldn’t have to wait for him. I ran nervous hands down the empire dress I’d chosen that day, mainly to disguise my growing bump. I didn’t want the bump to make the announcement before I had a chance to.
I saw him before he saw me, sitting in his favourite corner and nursing a cold glass of beer. My heart skipped a beat at the sight of him, looking even more handsome than I remembered, in a pristine white shirt that perfectly sculpted his impressive arms. The years had done nothing to dull what I felt for him.
But when he looked up and our eyes met, the frown on his face almost made me rethink the whole thing and make a run for my car.
“Hello Pere.” I said, taking my seat next to his. “You look well.”
He smiled stiffly. “You too, Isio. Maybe a little heavier than I remember. What happened? You quit your diet? Or is it middle aged spread?”
I glared at him, shocked at his uncharacteristic behaviour. In all the years I’d known him, rude and spiteful were never words I would have ever used for him…well, that’s if you didn’t count that awful morning at his old Chevron Drive flat…
“I’m 33 years old. How is that middle aged?!”
He shrugged and smiled. “I was just trying to figure out a reason for the sudden change in your appearance.”
“How about being pregnant?! Did you consider that as an option?!” I snapped.
Now that shut him up.
He stared at me, his eyes first as wide as saucers…before narrowing into angry slits.
“Well, congratulations Isio.” he muttered. “I guess I should say I’m happy for you.”
“Happy for us, Pere!” I continued, buoyed by some sudden surge in confidence. “Happy for us.”
He looked at me, one of his brows raised, before chuckling. “Are you trying to imply that I’m the one responsible?”
“Who else could it be?!”
“Errr, one of your better options. Or have you forgotten you told me you had ‘better options’?” he snapped, his eyes flashing anger. “Because if you’ve forgotten, I haven’t.”
Memories of our last phone conversation came flooding into my head, and I shut my eyes as I remembered the things I’d said to him.
“Look, I didn’t mean any of that. There were no other options. I only said that because I was angry…”
Pere shook his head and chuckled, as he took a sip of his drink. “Yeah right. Try another sucker, Isio.”
“What, you think I’m lying? You think I’m trying to pin this pregnancy on you?!” I exclaimed, not caring we had started getting curious glances from the tables nearby. “Before that night, I hadn’t been with anyone in almost 4 years! Surely, you could have felt that!”
Pere was still laughing. “Who knows what kind of Kegel exercises you women do to keep your muscles down there tight?”
He shrugged again. “I guess all the other guys you’ve already tried to pin it on have turned you away, so it’s my turn now.”
Enraged, I grabbed his glass and emptied its contents all over him. “Fuck you, Pere! You’re an asshole!”
“Go try your luck with the next loser!” he called out, as I stormed out of the place.
“Go to hell!” I yelled right back.
Getting into my car, I sat there for a few minutes to recollect myself. I fought the overwhelming urge to cry, determined not to give him the pleasure of finding me in that condition…crying over him. But it hurt. It really, truly hurt.
“Did you tell him?” Voke asked, when I got back home. “I didn’t expect you to be back this early.”
“Yes, I told him…and no, I don’t want to talk about it.” I muttered, lying on the couch and shutting my eyes.
“That bad?” Voke asked.
“Worse.” I answered. “Let’s just say, we’re back to my original plan of me doing this alone.”
Saddened though she was, thankfully Voke knew better than to say any more. Instead, she served me a hearty meal of fried plantain and eggs, and ran me a hot bath. It was exactly what I needed to recover from the disaster of an evening. But alas, while it went a long away in making me feel physically better, I had to admit that my heart was broken. Even though I knew telling Pere wouldn’t be easy, not even I could have envisioned just how badly it would all go down. Seeing his hatred for me broke me, and I was overwhelmed by the realisation that, truly, I was going to embark on the parenting journey on my own.
“You won’t be the first, and you most surely won’t be the last!” Voke consoled, as we got ready for work the next morning, and I allowed it remain my mantra for the next few days. I most surely wouldn’t be the first single mother in the history of the world, and I knew I just had to find a way to make it work.
By Friday, I was still trying to convince myself that all was not lost, when I got the dreaded phone call from my mother.
“Isio! Na remind I say make I remind you! You know say na next week Saturday me and your papa dey expect those Bayelsa people. I hope say you don tell them because if not, na their house I go face this weekend o!”
And then, something in my head just snapped.
“What is it sef?! What is it?!” I exclaimed, frustrated to my marrow. “The boy say e no do, do you people want to force him??! Do you and daddy want to go to his house to tie his relatives up and force them to come and marry me for their son?!”
For the first time in maybe forever, my mother was stunned silent. “Isio…”
“Look, Mommy…you and Daddy can do what you like! If you want to go to his Uncle’s house, na una sabi! Be my guest and go! But whatever insult you get, na you people know!”
And with that, and probably for the first time in my life, I hung up on my mother. The absolute last thing I needed was adding my parents’ anxiety to what I was already dealing with.
That day, I left the office early and upon getting home, went straight to bed, ignoring incessant calls from my father, who had obviously been briefed about the whole thing. It was better they knew now that there would be no family meeting, no marriage, and no co-parenting. Their dear daughter was going to do this on her very own.
I must have been physically, mentally and emotionally drained as I fell into a deep sleep that saw me oblivious not only of when Voke returned home, but even as day turned to night, and then day again. It was a light tap on my door that awoke me the following day.
“Isio…you have a visitor.” Voke said, peeping into the room.
Sitting up in bed, I was shocked to see it was almost midday. I’d been in bed for almost a 24 hours. Rising to my feet, I couldn’t be bothered to do any more than throw on a housecoat and run my hands through my disheveled hair, not thinking the guest could be anyone other than my mechanic or laundry man.
I was in for a surprise!
Sitting nervously in our living room was none other than my baby daddy himself. Pere.
“What do you want here?!” I retorted. “Why did Voke even allow you in?!”
Pere rose to his feet. “Please, Isio. Just hear me out.”
I hissed and took the seat farthest away from him. I knew I looked a hot mess, and I also noticed how he couldn’t seem to take his eyes off my stomach. My housecoat did little to hide my burgeoning bump, and I knew I cut a more pregnant picture than I did the last time I saw him.
“I want to apologise for the way I behaved on Monday…and also for the things I said.” Pere said. “I didn’t mean to call you names or imply you were…”
“A woman of easy virtue?!” I completed for him.
Pere pursed his lips. “Those weren’t my words, but if that was your interpretation, then I apologise.” he made eye contact with me. “I am ready to accept responsibility for our child.”
“What made you change your mind all of a sudden?” I said, crossing my arms defiantly. “You seemed very confident that I was trying to pin the pregnancy on you.”
“I guess, in my heart, I always knew that you were saying the truth.” he answered. “I haven’t been able to think of anything else since that evening.”
I found myself feeling suddenly light headed and hopeful. Could it be that I wouldn’t have to do it alone after all? Could it mean that we would finally be a couple? A family?
“Just tell me all you need, and I’ll write you a cheque.” Pere answered, to my dismay. “I’ll make any amount you want available, all you need is tell me.”
“What?” I said, my voice barely a whimper.
He sighed deeply. “I met someone, Isio. Shortly after…shortly after our encounter at Anu and Dipo’s wedding…I met someone…and it’s the first person I’ve had any real feelings for since you. This could actually lead to something, and I don’t want to mess it up. You said so yourself about how bad for each other we are.”
“So, you’re here to give me money?!” I exclaimed. “How much money do you even want to give me?!”
He shrugged. “Just say the amount, and you have it. Any time at all you need any money,all you need to do is ask…”
“Get out of my house, Pere.” I said, my blood beginning to boil over.
He stared at me, surprised. “What have I said wrong?”
“You haven’t said anything wrong. I’ve heard you. You have a girlfriend now, no problem. You want to give me all the money I need, very good. I’ve heard. Just leave, please.” I said, trying to keep my voice level.
“Isio, I don’t understand you. I’m here trying to make things right, and you’re there being difficult…”
“I said get out!!!!” I screamed so loudly, it sent Voke and Obiora scampering into the living room. “If you’re still standing there when I open my eyes, it will be hot water I’ll use to decorate your body…and not cold beer.”
“Isio, what the hell is going on here?!” Voke demanded. “Pere what did you say to her?”
Pere looked from me to Voke, as confused as a rabbit lost in the forrest. “I honestly don’t know what I did wrong. I’m here trying to be responsible for my child…”
“It’s children o! I’m having twins!” I declared. “Abi will it make the money double?”
His face blanched, and he sat down in shock. “Twins?”
“What money?” Voke asked.
“Pere came here to tell me that he has a girlfriend, and to tell me he is going to give me any amount of money I need…all I need to do is say a number and it’s mine!” I said sarcastically. “Generous much!”
Voke glared at Pere. “You must be high on cheap drugs! Does she look hungry to you?! Is that the kind of support you think she needs?!”
“Enough! All of you! Enough! Voke, sit down and stop adding fuel to the fire.” Obiora barked. “Isio and Pere, it’s time to stop acting like kids and talk about this like adults! Enough of this foolishness!”
As it was so uncharacteristic of Obiora, we all found ourselves sitting mutely, waiting to hear what he had to say.
Because we all knew he was correct. It was time to do things right.
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
- Iya Beji 13: Jealousy
- Iya Beji 14: Pure Magic
- Iya Beji 15: Congratulations, Mrs. Clarke!
- Iya Beji 16: Blast from the Past
Catch up on our other series here: