I woke up the next morning, half expecting to see Pere lying on my couch like the last time…but he wasn’t there. And it dawned on me that maybe this time, he had called my bluff and really left me alone. The truth is that even though I was truly tired of the mixed signals he was sending me, I’d gotten so used to the pregnancy journey with him by my side that I didn’t know how on earth I would cope without him.
Shutting my eyes again, I remembered the kiss that had prompted the chain reaction, and I couldn’t help but smile. It might have been a spur of the moment thing for him, brought on by the excitement over our little boys, but for me…for me, it was just all the confirmation I needed that my feelings for Pere hadn’t gone anywhere. They might have been hiding in a corner somewhere, but they were just as strong as, if not stronger than, they’d ever been.
Which is why it was probably better for us to really spend time apart.
“For God’s sake, Voks, be reasonable!” he shouted. “Stop jumping to conclusions!”
“Your ex girlfriend is calling you at 3am in the morning, and you say I’m jumping to conclusions?!” Voke screamed back.
“I don’t have any control over when Belinda chooses to call me! You saw it yourself that I didn’t take the call!”
“But if I wasn’t with you, you would have!” Voke raged. “No woman would be so emboldened to call at that time if she isn’t getting the green light!”
I frowned and crossed my arms. So Belinda was still hovering around like a vulture, it appeared. My eyes met Obiora’s, and my frown deepened. He sighed and shook his head.
“Voke, I swear to you, I am not encouraging her in any way!” he exclaimed. “I don’t know what else to do! She knows I’m getting married in a matter of months. She knows I can’t be with her. Short of changing my phone number, I really don’t know what else I can do to keep her away!”
“Well, maybe you should do that then!” Voke snapped. “Maybe you should change your number, so all this nonsense can end once and for all!”
Obiora sighed again. “Voke! How can I change my number when all my business contacts have this one?”
“Or maybe you could just block the Belinda!” I cut in. “That shouldn’t be too hard, should it?!”
The couple looked at me, and there was a visible frown on Obiora’s face.
“Exactly!” Voke said. “Why all this drama, when you could just block her?!”
Obiora shrugged. “Okay, I’ll block her.”
“Now would be best.” I insisted, my voice firm.
He glared at me, before whipping out his phone and blocking Belinda’s number. When it was done, Voke hissed and stormed into her bedroom to get ready for work, leaving Obiora and I alone in the living room.
“It’s not what you think, Isio. Belinda was just…”
I raised my hand in dismissal as I walked back into the room. He could spare me his lies and drama. He was clearly still up to no good with the Belinda, and I just had to decide what was worse; watching Voke deceived or seeing her heartbroken.
I struggled to get ready for work, and for the first time in weeks, decided to drive myself. Everyone was right. I wasn’t an invalid. I was in extremely good health, and there was absolutely no cause for me to continue acting like a damsel in distress, waiting for Pere to rescue me. Yes, it felt nice being chauffer-driven in his nice cars, but I had to start getting used to life without him as the core part of my life. He would be a core part of the children’s, yes, but if I had any hopes of moving on, I had to ensure he most surely wasn’t the core of mine.
The week went by uneventfully, and by the time the next week rolled long, it was time for another doctor’s appointment. As I prepared to leave for the hospital, I felt hollow. It had been almost two weeks since I’d heard from Pere…the longest we’d been apart since he reappeared in my life. He hadn’t even bothered to send a text to see how I was doing…and I hated him for just sliding away from my life without a fight. I wondered if he even spared me any thought, or if he was too busy being loved up with Ogechi, wherever she was in the world.
Getting to the hospital and sitting in the waiting room, I realised I was the only one there without a partner. There were at least 6 couples there, the women in varying stages of pregnancy, and it was yet another stark reminder that, truly, I was running this race as solo as ever.
To make matters worse, Daisy walked in, this time accompanied by two young children, and an older man. I tried to avert my eyes, but she’d already seen me and was walking in my direction.
“Isio! So nice to see you again!” she exclaimed, hugging me. “Are you here alone? How come I haven’t seen Pere with you?”
“Oh, he usually comes.” I answered, with a fake smile. And it was the truth. Married or not, Pere had been for almost all my appointments. “He’s just busy today.” which I’m sure he was, wherever he was.
“This is my husband, Felix.” she introduced the man with her proudly, and as I shook his hand, I saw that he was at least 10 to 15 years older than she was. From the look on his face, he still looked besotted by her. “Baby, this is Isio. The girl I gisted you about…the one that allowed me snatch her bobo when we were in University!”
They both laughed, and the smile on my own face froze, seeing that I had been the butt of their jokes.
“Thank God she finally found small sense, because they are married now…and pregnant, as you can see.” she continued, clearly enjoying herself.
“Congratulations.” Felix said, before ushering the other kids to take a seat.
“We decided to kill two birds with one stone; my ante-natal appointment and follow-up appointments with my younger children’s Paediatrician.” she said. “My last kid before this one turned 6 in May, so I no know who send me message with this pregnancy!”
I smiled stiffly. I got it! She started early and had kids so grown, she was almost a grandma. I got the picture!
“Please say hello to Pere for me oooh! Tell him I better see him here next time!” she said, before waddling off to join her family.
I gave her a good eyeing as she walked away, and eyed the woman next to me who caught me eyeing her. The nerve of Daisy to make me feel any more inadequate than I already did.
My appointment went well. I didn’t have a scan, but got to hear their heartbeats which, as always, brought tears to my eyes. And I was suddenly consoled by the fact that I wasn’t alone. I had two small humans inside me…two little boys that would be my companions and defenders. So even if I never found love again, I would never be without it. That realization was truly all the consolation I did need.
Walking out of the doctor’s office, I was surprised to walk straight into Pere.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I wanted to be here for the appointment, but got held up in traffic.” he answered. “Is it over?”
I shrugged. “Pretty much. I thought we agreed that you didn’t have to come for these any more.”
“Isio, you don’t have any right to keep me away from these kids. You have no right not to allow me to be a part of their journey into this world!”
“But you agreed! You agreed without any complaints!” I snapped.
“I agreed because I was sick of fighting you, Isio. Why should that be your first reaction to everything? Why is it that anytime we have a fight, the first thing you do is tell me to keep away? Is this some tool you’re going to keep brandishing over me? Are you going to always use the kids as a bargaining tool to get what you want?!” Pere exploded.
“Bargaining tool? Are you serious?!” I shouted right back, before storming out of the place.
“Isio! Isio!” Pere shouted as he rushed to catch up with me.
Instead, I waddled along as fast as my bump could carry me, so incensed with my rage. How dare he try to insinuate that I would use the babies as a bargaining tool?! A bargaining tool for what? His money? His time? His love?
“Isio, please wait!” he said, finally catching up with. When he saw I wasn’t stopping, he held my hand. “Isio, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it the way it came out.”
“But why would you say something like that?!” I exclaimed, bursting into tears. “Don’t you think it’s bad enough that I’m all alone in this whole thing?! Now, you’re trying to imply I’m being manipulative?!”
“First of all, I never said anything about you being manipulative. Nothing could be further from the truth!” he said assuringly. “Second of all, you’re not alone in this, Isio. I’m here. You can’t chase me away. I’m sure you’ve figured that out by now.”
I smiled in spite of myself. “You keep coming back like a bad cold!”
“Well colour me a bad cold that will never, ever go away!” he said, smiling.
And standing there in the car park of the large hospital, our babies moved again. I’d felt them move more distinctly in the last few weeks, but in that instant, there was no mistaking their movement. I took Pere’s hand and placed it on my bump, and in response, one of the babies kicked happily.
His eyes widened in amazement. “Oh my goodness! Was that…”
I smiled and nodded, and just like they knew they were on display, the boys began a proper kick-fest, leaving us totally and completely over the moon.
And just like that, the magic was killed.
“Isio! Pere!” called Daisy, as she drove past us with her family.
“Who was that?” Pere asked, looking at the car in confusion.
“Daisy, your former lover!” was my gruff response. “I have to go now. Late for work.”
He nodded. “Do you want anything? Can Sylvester bring you anything?”
I was tempted to turn down his offer, my emotions still bruised by the reminder of the fact that Ogechi was still in the picture. But on second thought, I decided to make lemonade out of the nasty lemons in my face. So, I proceeded to reel out a long list of things I was craving from all my favourite places; pounded yam and seafood okro from L’Afrique, Chinese fried rice and sauce from Yin Yang, muffins and cookies from Ice Cream factory, gelato from Hans & Rene, pizza from Debonairs…
When I got to shawarma from Shaun’s, Pere looked at me quizzically. “Is this for a party? Or just for you?”
“Very funny! If you didn’t know before, I’m eating for 3!” I smiled with a wink, as I started walking to my car.
“Don’t forget you only have a month after the kids arrive to fit into your dress for Voke’s wedding!” he called out.
I gave him the finger, and started my car. Ah well, if I couldn’t have anything, I guess I’d just have to make do with his friendship…and lots and lots of food!
The next two weeks were nice and congenial, with us resuming our cordial relationship, without any mention of Ogechi or the kiss we’d shared. It was the unspoken agreement that there was nothing to gain from discussing either of them.
At my next appointment, I was exactly 24 weeks pregnant, and we were happy to see the kids again via a scan. They were both measured and we got some awesome pictures of the boys looking so much like proper little babies. One of them even yawned, it was so surreal! The other one had both his hands up! It was so cute. Twin 1 measured around average but Twin 2 measured slightly small, just under average. This got Pere and I worried.
“It’s nothing to worry about, Mr. & Mrs. Lawson.” the Consultant tried to reassure us. “By the time we have our next scan in 3 weeks, I’ll measure again to make sure they’re both growing well.”
But Pere remained anything but convinced, and was all frowns as we left the hospital.
“Oga, cool down now!” I teased. “Twins are always like that. I’m sure the little one will soon catch up.”
He shook his head. “I’m just not comfortable, Isio. What if these guys don’t know what they’re doing?”
“This is pretty much the best hospital in Lagos! Of course they know what they’re doing!” I retorted, getting a bit irritated.
Pere looked at me. “Isio…I’ve been thinking of something for a while now. What would you say about going to America to have the babies?”
I stared at him dumbfounded for a moment, before bursting into hysterical laughter.
“I didn’t know I was telling jokes.” Pere muttered.
“Oh, but you are! In fact, you’re full of jokes today!”
“I’m being serious, Isio! I’m no longer confident you can get the best care in this country.”
I stopped laughing and glared at him. “Pere, I know you want to show that you’re too rich, but you don’t have to bother. I already know you’re rich.”
“Please kill that idea immediately!” I snapped. “And don’t you ever dare mention it again! Only America…why not the moon?!”
We sat in silence for the rest of the ride home, and when he dropped me off, we parted without even saying goodbye.
“But why are you angry that he suggested having the babies in America?” Voke asked, clearly confused. “And no, I don’t think he was trying to boast.”
“How can I have the babies in America? Who do I know there? You want me to die abi? Only me there, with 2 babies?!” I exclaimed. “Please, if you like the idea so much, you can tell him to sponsor you when it’s your own time. As for me, nobody should even dare talk about that to me!”
“Ah, sorry oh!” Voke retorted, walking out of my room.
I lay in bed and wondered why I was so wired up about the suggestion, and I realised it was because I felt it would further confirm Ogechi’s allegation of me being a leach. The very last thing I wanted was to take from Pere any more than I had to. Going to America was definitely not an option.
I drifted off to sleep, and didn’t open my eyes until the next morning, as sunlight started streaming into my room. I thought I heard what sounded like a scream in the far distance, and wondered what my neighbours were getting up to at such an early hour of morning. Even though dawn had broken, I knew it wasn’t 7am yet. As I mentally prepared myself to rise and start getting ready for work, I heard the screaming again. It was louder this time, and I realised with a fright that it wasn’t coming from outside the house…but inside. It was Voke!
Sprinting off my bed, I dashed into the living room, only to be met with the sight of Apache and Hakeem, Obiora’s friends, trying to pacify my sister, who was screaming and wailing hysterically.
“What is it? What is the problem?!” I screamed, rushing to them. “What happened?”
Apache’s eyes met mine, and even before he said the words, my heart had already started crashing.
“Obiora was in an accident in the early hours of this morning.” he answered somberly. “He’s dead.”
As my own screams overtook Voke’s, my legs buckled and I crumpled to the floor.
“What accident?! Where? Where was he coming from?!” I wailed.
“His car ran into a truck around Ibeju-Lekki.” Apache answered, unable to look me in the eye. “He died instantly.”
Ibeju Lekki. In the early hours of a Tuesday morning…
Belinda. Obiora had been on his way back from Belinda’s…
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
- Iya Beji 22: Gender Reveal
Catch up on our other series here: