It turns out everyone else thought Voke leaving the country indefinitely was a great idea. You could hear the sigh of relief our parents heaved all the way from Ogudu.
“Abeg, let her go!” Mom said to me, when we spoke after Voke informed them of her intention. “Let her go and get herself! What she has gone through, even people twice her age have not experienced. Losing your fiancé months to the wedding? Ah, let her go and rest abeg!”
So, I had no choice but to put up a happy face, and smiled along with her as she happily planned her trip. Her itinerary was forever changing, as she had lost interest in Malaysia the moment she heard she’d have to go to Abuja to process her visa.
“If you’re planning on travelling around the world, going to Abuja shouldn’t be a big deal.” I’d remarked.
“Nah, too stressful. I just want something straightforward. I can’t deal with embassy drama right now.” had been her response.
And so she spent the next week pouring through magazines and checking out hassle-free travel destinations.
The only person who understood what I was going through was Pere. All credit to him, just as he’d promised, he made it a point of duty to visit every single day after leaving our house. The Monday of Voke’s attempt to return to work, as we pulled into our compound after she’d dropped the bombshell of her plans to travel, we saw Pere standing by his car in the compound, waiting for us. He’d taken one look at my face and known something was wrong. After exchanging pleasantries with Voke, as she walked into the building he pulled me aside.
“What’s the matter, Isio?”
And then I crumbled. I broke down in tears and he held me as I cried like a baby. I told him all about Voke’s plans to travel, and how lost I knew I would be without her. Thankfully, there were no platitudes from him. Instead, he just allowed me cry to my heart’s content. After sitting in his car for about half an hour, he cupped my face in his hands.
“It’s painful, I know, but you have to let her go, Isio…” he said.
And I knew he was right. It was selfish of me to want her to stay, when she clearly needed to heal.
“Do you want to move in with me? I can clear a room for you, if you’re scared of being here by yourself.” he offered.
“So that Ogechi will die finally?!” I managed to laugh. “No, thanks. If it gets that bad, I can always move back home to stay with my parents.”
There was a slight furrow of his brows, indicating he wasn’t too hot on that idea. But he didn’t say anything, and instead led me back into the house. Voke had retired to her room so thankfully I didn’t have to explain why my face was puffy and my eyes bloodshot from crying.
Over the days that followed, she’d informed our parents and her close friends of her plans, and commenced trying to figure out her destination. But by the following weekend, almost a week later, she was no closer to leaving than when she’d made the decision.
“Has Voke decided yet?” Pere asked on Sunday evening. He’d come by our house after Church, and had proceeded to not only have lunch with us, but dinner as well.
I shook my head “If she’d started the Malaysian Visa application process on Tuesday, the visa would almost be ready by now. She’s being so stubborn about not wanting to go anywhere she needs to apply for a visa to.” I answered.
“That limits her to mainly the Continent…and Dubai maybe?”
“Exactly!” I chimed. “But she also has a valid American visa, but doesn’t seem keen about the idea of going there.”
We sat silently for a while, and he appeared deep in thought.
“Isio, what would you say if I paid for her to go to America…got her an apartment and everything…and you went there to join her to have the babies?” he asked.
I looked at him like he’d gone crazy. “That’s probably the worst idea you could ever come up with! Frankly, even the idea of moving in with you sounds more plausible!” I retorted. “Babysitting her pregnant sister is probably the least thing Voke has in mind. The babe wants to get away from everything…not become a glorified nanny!”
“Just a suggestion, Isio. No need to chew off my head.” he said with a shrug, before holding my gaze, a small smile playing on his lips. “So…you’ll move in with me?”
“I didn’t say that, Pere!” I answered coyly. “But this one that you’re shaping your mouth to ask me, have you thought of what your explanation to Ogechi would be?”
“Ogechi understands. There won’t be a problem.” he answered matter-of-factly. “She knows what happened to you and Voke, and I’m sure she won’t have a problem with you moving in if she knows you’ll be all alone in your apartment.”
I smiled and nodded. Na so!
We sat in silence, and I didn’t even realize I’d fallen asleep until I awoke on my bed at about 3am. I laughed to myself, wondering how Pere had been able to lug my heavy weight from the living room to my bed, but the laughter faded as I replayed our conversation. Moving in with him would have been so perfect…such a dream come true. And I found myself wishing there was no Ogechi in the picture. I found myself wishing I hadn’t gone all erratic on him the morning after the magical night we’d spent together…the magical night we’d made our beautiful baby boys. I found myself wishing I hadn’t summoned Ejiro to pick me up from Pere’s BQ so many years before. I found myself wishing things had turned out different.
“Hey. Aren’t you going to work?” came Voke’s voice, as she peered into my bedroom later that morning.
I stretched as I realised I’d overslept way past my 6am wake-up time. “I think I’ll call in sick today.”
“Your hospital appointment is tomorrow, right? You want call in sick two days in a row?” Voke remarked.
“I’m pregnant. I have every excuse to play the truant.”
Voke nodded and sat on the bed beside me, indicating she had something more important to discuss. “Pere and I talked last night. He asked me how I feel about going to America…”
I sat up, my anger slowly building. How dare he approach my sister when I’d categorically told him it wasn’t an option!
“Relax, Isio! I know that look on your face and there’s no need getting angry.” Voke chided. “He just threw it out there as a suggestion.”
I looked at her. “And what did you say?”
She shrugged. “Frankly, it actually sounds like a good idea. I get to eat my cake and have it. He’s offered to pay for an apartment, and take care of my living costs. And I get the icing on the cake of having you with me…and being there when my nephews are born. It sounds like the perfect plan.”
“But what happened to all your talk about wanting to sit on a beach all day long, meditating and contemplating your life?” I just had to ask.
“Who says I can’t get to do both? I can go to one of those nice beach resorts in Ghana…spend like a week or two, before leaving for the U.S.” she answered.
“You seem to have thought this through.” I remarked, surprised she’d opted to go down this route.
“Isio, it’s going to save me a whole lot of money! Money I can spend on the two of us.” she added, with a sly wink.
I barely managed a smile, not daring to admit to myself that the real reason I was upset was because I’d actually started contemplating the option of moving in with Pere. In fact, his going ahead to have the discussion with Voke after he’d offered me the chance to stay with him, felt like a betrayal of sorts.
“I have to think about it, Voke. I’m not sure how I feel about travelling to have these babies.” I answered.
She shrugged. “Think about it, Isio. I think that would actually work best for all of us.”
“You know what? I think I’ll go to work after all.” I said, getting off the bed and eager to change the topic. “It’s 8am now. If I hurry, I might be able to get to work before 9.”
Knowing me as well as she does, Voke simply smiled, rose to her feet and just let me be. I felt guilty about my leaning more towards spending more time with my baby daddy than being there for my sister. Even though she was holding up very well, considering the circumstances, I knew she was still very fragile and probably needed company, even in her solitude. But at that point in time, all I could think of was how to make a move-in with Pere work.
Not feeling strong enough to drive, I summoned an Uber and got to work shortly before 10am. Thankfully, there were no raised eyebrows and I soon settled in as if I’d been there all along. My day was progressing reasonably well, until I was notified I had a visitor. I was puzzled as I made my way to the reception area, wondering who would be visiting me at work. I wasn’t expecting anyone and didn’t have the kind of friends who would just pop by to say hello.
Nothing could have prepared me for the surprise awaiting for me. It was Ogechi.
Our eyes met when I walked in, and I could see that she was anything but amused.
Casting a nervous glance at the other people in the room, I smiled nervously. “Oh, wow. Ogechi. What a surprise!”
But she wasn’t in the mood for small talk. “Can we speak outside?” she asked, getting straight to the point.
I shrugged. “Sure.”
As we made our way out of the building, I had knots in my stomach, wondering what on earth she wanted.
“So I heard your sister lost her fiancée.” she said, when we were standing outside.
I sighed and nodded. “Yes oh. Obiora. You met him that night we had dinner. It was so sudden…”
She raised her hand to silence me. “I’m not here to give you a comforting hug, Isio! Yes, it’s sad that the guy is dead, but it’s your sister who’s bereaved. Not you!”
“It has been two weeks of you acting the part of damsel in distress…two weeks of you doing everything in your power to keep Pere close to you.” she said, her voice measured but her eyes spitting fire. “How low could you possibly go, Isio? Using your sister’s misfortune to your benefit? Pretending that you’re so devastated, so that Pere would feel compelled to be with you?!”
I stared at her with my mouth open, totally stunned. And there Pere was, thinking she was the most gentle and understanding girlfriend ever.
“I’m not going to stand here to defend the sincerity of my distress, or why Pere has done what a good friend would do. If you have a problem with it, why don’t you take it up with him?!” I said, once I’d found my voice.
She guffawed. “A good friend? Really? Do you have all your ‘good friends’ sleep over in your house for days, ‘comforting’ you?!”
“So why have you been pretending to Pere, lying to him that you understand? If you don’t trust your man, surely that’s an issue between the two of you. Why are you here confronting me?”
“You’re not worth my fighting with Pere over.” She retorted with so much disdain, she could as well have spat on me. “He’s a good man, and I can see that you are clearly trying to take advantage of the whole situation. I know his own heart is pure, but it’s your intentions I don’t trust.”
“Has he told you I’ll be moving in with him?” I said, dropping that tidbit on her like a nuclear bomb. “My sister will be travelling out of the country, and as I can’t possibly stay in the house by myself, I’ll be moving in. Has he told you?”
She stared at me for a few seconds, before laughing with even more disdain. “That will only happen in your dreams, Isio. I’d wanted us to be cordial at least, so that we’d have a decent relationship after you’ve had your babies…because whether you want to accept it or not, I’m not going anywhere. Pere and I will be engaged in a matter of months…if not weeks. So you better get that ridiculous notion of you moving in with him out of your thick skull!”
“Well, he asked me, so you better take it up with him!” I said petulantly, crossing my arms.
“Darned straight, I will!” she retorted. “I’ve let this nonsense carry on for way longer than it should have. From now on, I’ll be the one laying the ground rules. Pere doesn’t see or speak with you until I say so! I’ve tried to be nice and understanding, but get ready to see the other side of me!”
“Abeg getaway!” I called out, as she stalked off to a waiting Uber. “See as she be!”
But walking back to my office, I found myself unsteady on my feet, rattled by the encounter. With all the time Pere had been spending with me, it was no wonder that she was angry. I probably would have been also, if I were in her shoes. But what unsettled me the most was her conviction of an impending engagement with Pere. Even though it was something even the Pere himself had alluded to, hearing it from her made it sound even more definite…more final.
Who on earth was I kidding? Why was I there thinking moving in with him would suddenly make him rediscover his love for me, and decide he wanted us to be a family after all? I was there thinking he’d wake up one day and be like, ‘Ogechi who?’
When it was more like ‘Isio who?!’
That pretty much killed my mood for the rest of the day, and I retreated to my bedroom the moment I got home, feigning sleep so I wouldn’t have to speak with Voke…or even Pere when he came later that evening. At 26 weeks pregnant, I had only a little time to wake up and smell the coffee. I wasn’t going to be pregnant forever. The boys would be born, Pere would marry Ogechi, and I’d have to find a way to figure out my life. And it was best for me to start getting used to the idea.
When Pere came to pick me up the following morning for our doctor’s appointment, I was cold and sullen. Nothing he could say could draw me into conversation. When he saw that I was in a foul mood, he decided to let me be and we rode to the clinic in silence.
Following our scan, the doctor was happy with the babies’ progress, and said they had grown well since the last scan, even though one of them was still smaller. Twin 1, the larger twin, was lying breech but the doctor assured us there was still plenty of time for him to turn around. Twin 2 was lying oblique, and even though still on the small side, he had grown well since our last scan. I asked the doctor if he had a preference toward natural or caesarean birth for twin pregnancies, and he said he wasn’t more prone to one over the other, and explained it all really depends on the babies’ final position, size, etc.
Walking out of the room, Pere heaved a sigh of relief. “I’m so happy to hear that the boys are fine. I was quite worried after the last scan. Especially about the smaller guy.”
I looked at him, and instantly, I knew what I had to say. “I think you’re correct. I think it will be better for me to travel.”
He looked at me, puzzled. “Really? I thought you weren’t keen on the idea. And now that it no longer seems like the boys are in danger…”
“I’ve changed my mind now.” was my flat answer. “You already made an offer to Voke, and she seems keen on it. So…”
Pere laughed nervously. “And there I was starting to look forward to having you move in with me.”
I looked at him, suddenly filled with rage and disgust. “Let me guess. Because Ogechi is fine with that idea, right.”
He shrugged. “Why wouldn’t she be?”
“Look, Pere. Whatever is going on between you and your babe…y’all shouldn’t involve me!” I retorted. “Newsflash. Ogechi isn’t fine, happy, okay, or however cheerful way you like to describe how she feels about you and I. She told me so herself when she paid me a visit at work!”
He frowned. “Ogechi came to your office?”
“Yeah! Yeah, she did. And she has made a point to define some boundaries which, let’s be honest, she has every right to!” I continued ranting. “So enough with all this ‘move in with me’ crap! Let me just travel with my sister and leave you two to do your thing. I’m done with this constant mind-screw!”
Pere’s face set and his expression was unreadable. “It’s in the babies better interest for you to travel anyway.”
“Exactly!” I snapped.
“That’s fine. I guess you, Voke and I have to sit down and discuss the details.” he responded, his voice flat.
“I guess we do.” was my own clapback.
And as we drove home in stony silence, I found myself wishing I was leaving that very day. Enough was absolutely enough!
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
- Iya Beji 23: Bargaining Tool
- Iya Beji 24: The Wedding That Would Never Be
- Iya Beji 25: Voke versus Belinda
- Iya Beji 26: Somewhere Far Away