Somehow, I was able to keep my lips sealed, and got through listening to the rest of Voke’s wedding planning updates without letting anything slip. Even if I wanted to, I just couldn’t find it in my heart to hurt her with that piece of information. My sister was too far-gone for it not to be catastrophic for her to find out about Obiora and Belinda. I just had to trust that he would do as he promised, and end things with her.
The next few days were uneventful. Pere sent his driver back to me, even though he was incommunicado, as Ogechi was still in town. I found a way not to allow it get to me, and instead focused on work and counting down to our next doctor’s appointment, when we would find out what flavor(s) of buns we had in the oven. Interpretation….what sex, or sexes, of babies we were expecting.
But I should have known things couldn’t stay uneventful for too long.
Pere’s call woke me the following Saturday morning. “Hey sleepy head! It’s 10am, you know? A little too late to still be in bed.”
“First of all, it’s a Saturday. Second of all, and most important, I’m pregnant…and I can be in bed the whole day if I want to!” I snapped.
“Hey, I’m not here for World War 3. Ogechi leaves town tomorrow, and we both think it would be a good idea for all of us to have dinner tonight.”
Now that was enough to make me sit up.
“Say what?!” I laughed. “You’re having a laugh, right? Why would I want to have dinner with your psycho babe?”
“Because Ogechi isn’t going anywhere. She’s a part of my life and so we all need to get along!” he answered firmly.
“Is that your way of confirming that you’re going to marry her?!” I demanded.
“It’s just dinner, Isio! Is that really too much to ask?” he exclaimed in exasperation.
I shrugged, knowing that he did have a point. We couldn’t dance around the issue for much longer. If Ogechi would one day be my children’s step mother, I guess I owed it to them to at least make an effort.
“Where do you have in mind?” I asked reluctantly. “I hope not your house oh! I need to be on familiar turf abeg!”
“We’ll go to a restaurant, if that makes you feel better.” Pere answered.
“And I can’t come alone!” I mumbled. “I don’t want to feel ambushed or overwhelmed by you two.”
“Not a problem, Voke can come along.”
“And Obiora too!” I insisted.
“Whatever makes you happy, Isio!” Pere conceded.
We proceeded to make plans to meet up at 7pm, and that was when I decided to share the news with Voke.
“I hope you don’t have plans for tonight.” I said to her, as she made breakfast. “Pere and his babe just invited us to dinner. I know it’s short notice, and…”
“Nothing like short notice, Isio. I’m there already!” Voke answered. “I’ve been patiently waiting for when I will see the silly girl that had the liver to actually pick up her phone to call you.”
I nodded. Despite my initial protests, I too was curious about the famous Ogechi. I too wanted to match the beautiful, cool and calm girl in the pictures online to the raving banshee I’d spoken with on the phone. Because the two personas couldn’t be any more different if they tried.
Getting ready that evening, I decided not to make too much of an effort with my outfit. I kept my makeup simple and opted for a silk kaftan a colleague had bought me from Dubai. Yes, there was a part of me that wanted to pull out all the stops to show her that her boyfriend’s baby momma was a hot and sexy momma…but the better part of me couldn’t be bothered. I could look as beautiful as Beyoncé, and it wouldn’t change the fact that she had Pere…and I didn’t.
“Hey, Isio. I’m sorry about the other day. I acted wrongly by not at least offering you a ride home.” he said, sitting in our living room as we waited for Voke to get dressed.
“That one isn’t even relevant. I hope you’re not still hanging around Belinda. I haven’t asked my colleague anything, but if I should and he should confirm that you’re still with her…” I threatened.
“Isio, I have heard you loud and clear!” he suddenly snapped. “I got the message very well, and I have ended things with her! So you and that your Pere guy need to get off my back about it!”
My brows rose. “Pere spoke with you?”
“More like threatened me…warning me about not hurting Voke. Who is he that he’s warning me about Voke? Someone that only just resurfaced?! What right does he have to just appear and start feeling like he’s been around for years?!” Obiora said angrily, whilst still keeping his voice down. “You better tell him not to try that nonsense again. I’ll only be civil with him tonight out of courtesy to you!”
“Ehn ehn, not only courtesy. Please, feel free not to be courteous with him today. Feel free to tell him your mind, and then explain to your fiancée why exactly you are doing that!” I retorted sarcastically.
“Explain to me what?” Voke asked, coming out of the room.
“You look amazing, Voks!” Obiora said, quickly killing the subject, and rising to his feet to kiss Voke on the cheek. “I have to take you out after this dinner of a thing. No need to waste a beautiful outfit on Pere and his babe!”
“Not before you drop me at home!” I muttered, angry about, once again, being their third wheel.
But all through the ride to Victoria Island, I couldn’t help but smile over the fact that Pere had actually gone to confront Obiora about Voke. Whilst he and Voke had always had a good relationship, I didn’t think he cared enough to actually try to defend her…and, by extension, me. That thought left a permanent smile on my face.
Walking into the restaurant, we saw Pere seated alone on the reserved table for a party of 6. Voke and Obiora stopped to exchange greetings with a couple they knew, and I walked up to the table to join him.
“Hey you? Is your babe the invisible woman?” I asked, smiling. “Hello Ogechi, wherever you are!”
He smiled back. “Very funny. She’s taking a call outside.”
I realized we’d walked past a slim and tall woman on the phone, fashionably clad in a beautiful silk blouse atop nicely distressed jeans, and I was annoyed with myself for opting not to make the effort that evening. My eyes caught sight of the expensive Christian Dior bag perched on the chair next to Pere’s, and I felt myself being gnawed by the familiar stirrings of an inferiority complex.
“You’re wondering about the 6th chair, right? It’s for the handbag. Handbag also needs to sit!” he laughed, mistaking my reason for staring at the chair.
I smiled stiffly, and gently lowered my no-name handbag to the floor. There was no way it could sit cheek-to-cheek with the Dior bag. No way at all.
“Obiora said you confronted him about Belinda.” I said, smiling at him. “Thank you.”
He shrugged. “No need to thank me, Isio. I care about Voke and also don’t want to see her get hurt.”
“It still means a lot. Thank you!” I said, patting his hand across the table.
Our eyes met, but almost immediately, the silk blouse wearing supermodel lookalike approached our table, effectively ending the moment.
Thankfully at the same time, Voke and Obiora returned to the table. Introductions were made, and we all settled down to order.
Or at least, that was the plan.
“I’m so happy to finally meet you, Isio.” Ogechi said, a sweet smile on her face. “I can’t wait for us to get to know each other better.”
“Well you sure have an interesting way of ‘wanting to know her better’, after you had the nerve to call her to talk crap!” Voke retorted out of the blue. “Pere, I told you to keep everyone in their lane! Why would you allow your girlfriend call my sister to harass her?!”
We all stared at Voke in blindsided shock, and even the waiter who had come with the menus looked stunned. I shut my eyes tight, expecting the mother of all reactions from the fiery Ogechi…but instead got the surprise of my life.
“Oh, Isio. I’m so sorry if you took my call the wrong way. I didn’t mean to upset you at all!” she said so sweetly, my mouth hung open in surprise. “I was just so worried that Pere would lose out on the offer of a lifetime. But I’m actually even glad he didn’t accept the job, because he would have been truly unhappy in that role.”
Pere beamed happily, and I watched, dazed as Ogechi proceeded to act the part of the nice and sweet girlfriend for the rest of the evening; listening attentively, sharing humorous stories, paying everyone compliments, laughing and smiling often, and gazing adoringly at her boyfriend. Unbelievable! The girl was a pro!
“I’m so glad you guys are getting along!” Pere remarked, when Ogechi excused herself to take another call. “You see, she’s not as bad as you thought she was!”
“She’s fantastic!” Obiora chimed, very impressive. “Smart, beautiful, rich…and pleasant and humble too. You’ve hit the jackpot, my man!”
I looked on in confusion, almost beginning to convince myself that our phone conversation had never happened, and that maybe I’d imagined the whole thing. Because that was the only explanation for how that crazy person I spoke with on the phone could be this Nigeria’s sweetheart seated in front of me.
“Mehn, that babe is the highest!” Voke remarked, as we rode back home in Obiora’s car. “After her na Meryl Streep. Academy award winning performance!”
“Thank you ohhhh!” I exclaimed, thankful I wasn’t going out of my mind. “I don start to dey wonder whether na dream I dream am before, or abi I mad!”
“You ladies are just something else!” Obiora chuckled. “There was nothing insincere about that girl I just met.”
“She’s a real expert!” Voke said, ignoring her fiancé. “But there were a few times she slipped. Did you see her face when you were coughing and Pere was fussing over you?”
I shook my head, remembering when food had gone the wrong way and had thrown me into a coughing fit. Pere had come over to rub my back. “I didn’t oh. But wasn’t she the first person to pour me a glass of water?”
“You should have seen her face before she poured the water!” Voke cackled. “It only lasted a split second, but enough time for me to see through her pretense. When Pere walked over to rub your back, in that brief second, she looked like she was about to commit murder!”
“Well, I guess it’s only to be expected. You probably might act the same if your boyfriend was expecting babies with another woman.” Obiora said sagely, effectively ending the giggle-thon.
Voke shrugged and sighed. “You’re right. She’s really the victim in all of this. I don’t know what I would do in her situation.”
I stared at my sister, tempted to tell her that I was the victim…and not Ogechi! I was the one whose body was changing a little more every single moment of every single day…the one going through the most emotional time of a woman’s life but with no partner to share it with…the one who was going to be the single mother…but instead I chose to hold my tongue. And I guess she did have a point. With Obiora fooling around with Belinda, Voke was more like Ogechi than she even realised she was.
Thankfully, Storm Ogechi blew away to the other part of the world the following day, and it was soon time for our doctor’s appointment. Pere insisted on picking me up himself, as this was the big one!
“I’m so glad you and Ogechi are now getting along!” he remarked, for what might have been the billionth time since the dinner date. “She couldn’t stop talking about you till she left yesterday!”
I feigned polite laughter. “Very nice of her.”
If the girl wanted to be passive aggressive, she would find out that I was the queen of passive aggression! The queen!
Getting to the hospital, my vitals were taken and we were soon ushered in to the consulting room.
“Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Lawson! You’re having two boys!” the doctor remarked.
Pere and I both gasped as we stared at the screen, watching as listening as the doctor pointed out their gender features. I hand my hands on my mouth the whole time, feeling like my heart was going to just explode right out of my body.
“You were right, Isio!” Pere exclaimed. “Wow! Boys! We’re having boys!”
Obviously overcome by emotion, we both embraced, laughed, embraced and laughed again. The truth is, we would have probably had the same reaction regardless of their gender. I think it was the excitement of knowing that our babies were becoming less a figment of our imagination and more a reality that got us emotional.
And emotional we sure were.
“You owe me cash, Mr. Lawson!” I said, as he dropped me at home after our appointment.
“You chickened out of the bet, remember?” he teased.
“No, I didn’t! You owe me N300k, so you better pay up!” I teased.
“For what you’ve given me, Isio, I would give you the world if I could.” Pere said, all traces of jokes and laughter gone.
I looked at him, and time suddenly seemed to just stand still. Our eyes held and before I could even process what was happening, his lips had claimed mine in the most magical kiss ever.
As we kissed, I felt all the feelings and emotions I’d tried to suppress for months…years…erupt into a beautiful explosion rainbow coloured hearts and butterflies. I could lie to myself all I wanted to…but it was finally clear that I was still very much in love with him.
And then he pulled away suddenly.
“I’m really sorry, Isio. I…I didn’t mean to do that…” he stuttered, unable to meet my eye. “I must have been caught up in the moment…”
“Yeah, we’re both emotional after seeing the boys…” I said, trying to sound casual. “I completely understand.”
He nodded and smiled. “We should have one of those colourful gender-reveal parties!”
I smiled stiffly. “Yeah. We should.”
We stood in uncomfortable silence for a few seconds.
“So, I better run. I need to get back to work.” he said, smiling apologetically. “I’ll send Sylvester, in case you need him…and I’ll be back to check on you tomorrow.”
I nodded, but just as he turned to walk away, I had a sudden change of heart.
“Actually no. I don’t understand, Pere. I don’t understand what that kiss was about…” I said. “Yes, it’s amazing that we found out the sex of our babies, but even that wasn’t enough to have led to that kiss. What was it about, Pere?”
“It shouldn’t have happened, Isio. And I’m sorry.”
I took a deep breath. “Pere…this isn’t good for me. You being all over me…sending me mixed signals it’s not good for me.” I finally was able to look him in the eye. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to come with me for my appointments anymore. I’ll text you all the updates as they arise and be sure to keep you in the loop. I think it will be best for me…for us…if you gave me some space.”
He nodded sadly. “If that’s what you want, I will respect your wishes.”
As he walked away, I felt like stoning him with my handbag, surprised he hadn’t even put up much of a fight. It was almost like he’d been waiting for me to be the one to release him from some kind of bondage.
I shut my eyes tight, wondering why I did that to myself over and over again…wondering when I would finally learn that Pere was no longer mine, had probably never been, and more than likely never would be.
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
- Iya Beji 17: The Offer
- Iya Beji 18: Co-Parenting
- Iya Beji 19: The Baby Mama
- Iya Beji 20: Carried Away
- Iya Beji 21: The Return of Belinda
Catch up on our other series here: