Getting ready for work the next morning, my phone rang, and I smiled when I saw that it was Apache. Or rather, Kachi.
“It’s your personal chauffer, reporting for duty Ma’am!” he said, prompting me to giggle.
“Don’t tell me you’re downstairs!” I exclaimed.
“I sure am.”
“Don’t you have to get to work?” I asked.
“I do. And I’ll go right after I drop you off.”
“And how am I supposed to get home afterwards?” I asked.
“I said I’m your personal chauffer, lady. Even if you want to go for lunch during the day, all you have to do is holler and I’ll be right there!”
I smiled so broadly, my cheeks hurt. I’d forgotten what it felt like to be made to feel so special. Getting downstairs, standing by his car, he gave a small salute as I approached.
“At your service, m’lady!” he said.
“You’re just a clown!” I giggled, as I happily got into the car, happy I wouldn’t have to maneuver myself through the morning rush-hour traffic.
But it wasn’t just not having to drive in the traffic that made it pretty much the best ride ever. Kachi’s stories and jokes made me laugh so hard, I almost cried. I had no idea that he shared the same dry, sarcastic sense of humour I had, and I was almost sad to get to work.
“Same time this evening?” he asked, as I disembarked.
I grinned from ear to ear. “You bet!”
All through the work day, I could barely keep the smile off my face, giggling constantly as I remembered something Kachi had said on the ride to work. And when he arrived right on the dot of 6, I was more than happy to be in his company again.
Getting back to my apartment, he stayed for dinner, and we talked some more. This time, there were fewer jokes as we talked about more serious things…like why I was still stuck in my poorly paying job for one thing.
“I don’t understand it, Isio. You finished a few points short of a first class in University, and you have a Masters degree from a good school. Why have you decided to settle for less working in that small one-man shop?” Kachi inquired.
I shrugged, not quite knowing how to answer the question. The truth is I’d lost my confidence after a few failed attempts to get a job with any of the multinational oil companies, and had stopped actively trying.
“As soon as you have these babies, we need to get you right back out there. We’re going to clean up your CV and get you the kind of job you really deserve!” he’d said.
“Yes, Sir!” I giggled, but even though I chose to act like he was joking, inside I was incredibly moved. Nobody, not any of my exes, not even Pere, had taken the time to talk to me about my career ambitions. And it only endeared Kachi to me even more.
We talked into the night about our respective career dreams. While I told him all about my dreams to one day establish my own EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) company, he told me about his plans to pursue a career in the academia in the future.
“Really? You want to be a lecturer?” I teased.
“I love to teach. At work, and even in my personal life, everyone tells me how much of a good teacher I am. So it’s definitely something I’m thinking about.” he answered.
“You must be a really patient person.” I remarked.
“I am. But you already know that by now.” he answered, his face serious.
I inhaled deeply. As much as I was loving his company, I was in no frame of mind to entertain any romantic ideas.
“Listen, Kachi…” I said carefully. “I don’t want to lead you on or anything…”
“Say no more, Isio.” He said, smiling. “I have no expectations about us. Not only are you carrying Pere’s babies, I know you are still in love with him…”
I opened my mouth to protest, but he smiled and shook his head. “Any fool can see that, Isio. It’s a pity that he’s being the bigger fool by continuing with this shoddy arrangement you guys have.” he sighed. “All I want is to be your friend. I know that’s all you can give now, and I’m prepared to be happy with that.”
I nodded, feeling extremely relieved. Knowing the strength of his feelings for me, it felt cruel of me to put him in the position where he would inadvertently get hurt. Even if I was beginning to find him extremely attractive…
And so began our ritual; he would take me to work in the morning, and would pick me up afterwards, following which we’d either come back to my apartment for a home-cooked meal or grab some takeaway. And true to his words, there was no romantic pressure from him. There were no declarations of love, or pleas for me to be his. Instead, what we started to build was a beautiful friendship. I confided in him things I hadn’t even told Voke, and I found out that not only was he a great listener, he gave the most solid, practical, attainable and unpretentious advice. He slowly started becoming my best friend.
And then almost two weeks into our arrangement, as we sat in my living room after work, eating beans and plantain from Ghana High, there was a knock on the door. Opening it, I was surprised to see Pere.
It had been almost three weeks since I’d last seen him, since the night we’d concluded on Voke’s travel arrangements. Apart from sending the hospital brochures through his driver, there had not been a single word from him. Ogechi had obviously put her foot down, and the bobo was clearly trying to stay in line.
His eyes hardened upon sighting Kachi, who, in turn, didn’t looked excited to see him either.
“Hello Pere.” Kachi muttered.
Pere gave a half nod. “Apache.” Then turning to me, he said. “I’d like to speak with you in private.”
Kachi immediately rose to his feet. “No need. I’m leaving now.” He threw me a smile “See you tomorrow morning?”
I groaned and shook my head. “It’s Tuesday. My hospital appointment.”
“Oh, yes of course! I forgot about that.” Kachi answered, casting a wary glance at Pere. “I’ll call you later, Isio. We can talk about if you need company then.”
Pere’s jaw clenched. “You follow her for her hospital appointments now?”
I crossed my arms. Since the last one Pere had been to, he’d missed the two that followed. After the first time when he’d used work as an excuse, he hadn’t even bothered getting in touch when it was time for the second one. For that last one, even though Kachi had offered, I’d opted to go alone, and it had almost broken me. Pere had no justification to be angry. None whatsoever.
“Well, someone’s got to do it!” Kachi exclaimed. “Considering you’ve been M.I.A.”
“I was out of town.” Pere answered, his voice clipped. “Ogechi wanted me to meet her family, so I had to fly to the States to see them.”
I had to stifle a hiss and stop myself from rolling my eyes. Way too much information for me! Way too much!
“Well, I guess I’ll leave you two.” Kachi said. “I’ll see you tomorrow evening, Isio.”
“Good night, Kachi!” I said, shutting the door behind him.
“Kachi?!” Pere repeated incredulously.
“That’s his real name. You didn’t think Apache was the name his parents gave him, did you?!” I retorted. “What is it you want to talk about?”
“I came to remind you about the hospital leaflets I sent you weeks ago. You have barely two weeks to leave, and you haven’t even picked a hospital yet!”
Ah yes! The hospital!
The truth is I hadn’t forgotten. In fact, Kachi and I had spent a full evening thoroughly going through all the brochures, but we’d both agreed that no firm decision could be made until I at least had an idea where I would be staying. There was no point choosing a hospital that would be light years away from my abode.
But I knew I had to pick my words carefully.
“I’ve been looking, but until I know for sure where we are staying, all I can do is postulate.” I answered.
“Isio, if that’s the case, we’ll finalise on this tonight! Voke will be there by next week, and we should have made all the arrangements by now anyway!” Pere said, with a tinge of impatience. “Because this has gone on for way too long!”
“I’ll let you know by tonight.” I answered.
“And I’ll be with you for tomorrow’s appointment.” Pere muttered and not said. “So you better tell Apache not to set foot there! When did you two become so close? I hope you two aren’t…”
“Pere, I need to rest now.” I said. “I guess I’ll see you in the hospital tomorrow.”
“By which time, I would have found a suitable place for you and Voke to stay!” he answered. “And I’m picking up you, F.Y.I!”
“Whatever!” I’d mumbled, shutting the door.
Long after he’d gone, I pondered all that happened that evening; Pere’s unexpected emergence left me feeling confused. Seeing him again had reduced me to mush. I’d thought all our time apart would have exorcised me of my feelings for him, but alas, there I was, thinking of how delicious he looked in his navy blue dress shirt and camel coloured chino trousers.
The next morning, he was actually waiting for me in his car, parked in my compound. I could see he was clearly ready to make amends.
It was a rather uneventful 29-week appointment. My doctor wasn’t pleased we hadn’t found a hospital yet, but seemed appeased by our promise to not only do so before the end of the week, but to give him the contact information of the doctor who would be handling me. He said 34 weeks was still very likely, but he was now hopeful I could go up to a maximum of 36 weeks. When we asked if there was a possibility of the babies having to spend time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), he said there was a high chance, especially if the babies arrived early.
So it was understandable why neither Pere nor myself was jumping for joy after the appointment.
“You might have to leave earlier than planned, Isio.” Pere muttered. “The sooner you’re with the doctor who’ll deliver you, the better for everyone.”
I was filled with a sudden dread at the prospect of leaving earlier. “That won’t be necessary. Why don’t we do what we need to first. You said you’d have information about where Voke and I will be staying, by this morning. Once I have that, I’ll be able to decide which of the hospitals work best. We’ve already come up with a few favourites, so it’ll just be a process of elimination based on distance.”
“We?” Pere repeated. “Who’s we?! Apache?!”
I looked away, but not before Pere grabbed me by the wrist. “You’ve been making important decisions about our babies with Apache?!!”
“Well, I didn’t see you anywhere nearby!” I retorted. “Voke isn’t around, and short of going to Ogudu to speak with my parents, Kachi has been my only choice.”
Pere shook his head and laughed. “Kachi! This is interesting. So you’re dating Apache…sorry, Kachi, now. Is he the reason you don’t want to leave for America earlier?”
“Kachi and I are not dating. He’s just been there for me, in a way you haven’t. He’s become a very good friend.” was my clipped answer.
“It better stay that way, because I’m not going to have you sleeping with another man while you’re carrying my children!” he said, all traces of laughter gone.
“Says the man who disappeared for weeks, globetrotting with his girlfriend!” I snapped. “Look, Pere…I’m done having these conversations that lead us nowhere. I can do whatever I want and with whomever I want. That doesn’t concern you. The only thing that should concern you is the welfare of our kids…which, go figure, is also my own cardinal concern. So instead of threatening me about Kachi, why don’t we stay focus on the issue at hand! Get me an apartment, let’s decide on a hospital, and let’s pray that these boys don’t come too early and end up in the NICU!”
What I said must have hit home, as the anger on his face was replaced by sobriety. He pulled out some printouts from his pockets.
“I found a few nice condos. I was hoping we could look at them together and pick one. I didn’t want to do it without your input.” he said.
And then my heart went out to him. Our own relationship aside, I knew that he was trying his best to be the best he could for our little boys, and I needed to cut him a little slack.
“Sure. Let’s sit down and have a look at them before we leave the hospital.” I conceded.
“I was actually hoping we could look at them over brunch. There’s a nice café that just opened nearby. We could look at the brochures over some coffee and doughnuts?” he offered, a conciliatory smile on his face.
I smiled in return. “Brunch sounds great. Except it would have to be something more substantial that doughnuts. And you know I don’t do coffee anymore.”
“I hear they have a mean English breakfast.” he winked at me.
“Sold!” I laughed. “I also have the hospital brochures, so I could show you the ones we’ve…I’ve chosen.”
“Sounds like a plan!” Pere grinned, taking me by the hand.
We were soon seated in cute and cosy patisserie nearby, and over a wonderful meal of waffles, eggs and sausages, and non-alcoholic wine, it almost felt like old times.
We were able to pick a nice apartment in Downtown Miami, which was located near my first choice of hospital. Immediately we’d done that, Pere sent an inquiry email with the promise to follow it up with a phone call as soon as their workday began. Everything was getting more and more real.
I was in the middle of telling him all about how active the boys had been lately and how I was convinced they were either going to be football players or kickboxers, when my phone rang.
It was Kachi.
“Hey you. How was the appointment? Are you home now?” he asked.
“It went okay. The doctor said I might be able to get to 36 weeks, but we should still prepare for the possibility of 34 weeks…or earlier.” I answered.
“36 weeks is good. Less time for the babies to be in the NICU.” Kachi answered.
I smiled. “How do you know about anything called NICU? Sometimes you talk like you’ve done this before.”
A frown crossed Pere’s face and I could tell he’d guessed whom I was speaking with.
“I have 5 older sisters, Isio!” Kachi laughed. “So I know a lot about these things. Are you home now?”
I glanced at Pere nervously. “Actually, no. Pere and I are having brunch. We’ve been able to find an apartment and we also decided on that hospital you and I liked!”
There was a lengthy pause, before Kachi finally asked. “Jackson Memorial?”
“Yep. Pere just sent them an email, and we’ll call as soon as it’s morning their time.”
“That’s great.” Kachi answered, his voice suddenly sounding strained. “I’ll see you later, Isio.”
Thankfully, Pere didn’t say anything about the call, and after spending another hour there, he drove me home.
“I’ll let you know how the call goes. Maybe I’ll come over this evening, so we can speak to a doctor together? Is that fine?” he asked.
I smiled and nodded. “It’s fine. See you then!”
Walking into my living room, I had mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was excited about the thought of spending time with Pere. It had been so long, and I was looking forward to the chance of bonding again. But I was also sad about not being able to spend time with Kachi, as I ordinarily would have. And I knew it was either one or the other, as both men could not, and would not, agree to be congenial in the same room.
But I didn’t have the courage to cancel on any of them. Who would I tell not to come? Not Kachi. And definitely not Pere.
I was still in my dilemma when Kachi arrived at about 5:30pm, a clear hour earlier than he typically would have.
“Hey you! You closed early?” I teased.
“Actually, no. I just couldn’t keep my head focused on work.” he answered, his voice devoid of its usual humour. “You and Pere had brunch?”
“Come in and sit down nau!” I laughed, pulling him inside the flat. “Is that why you want to stay outside?!”
But he wasn’t laughing…and I caught on to this.
“Kachi, what’s the problem?” I asked. “Why does it bother you that Pere and I had brunch? We had a lot of decisions to make, and that gave us the right opportunity to do just that. Besides, I thought we’d agreed that you and I are just friends.”
“I know that’s what we agreed, and I honestly thought that I could be satisfied being just your friend…” he said. “But hearing that you were with Pere…and worse still, hearing how happy you sounded in his company…it just made me realize that my feelings for you are too deep for me to ever be happy being just your friend. I’m in love with you, Isio.”
I groaned and shut my eyes. “Kachi, please don’t do this!”
“Do you still love him?” he asked, and my heart broke at the sadness in his eyes.
“I don’t know.” was my honest answer.
Kachi nodded and a strained smile formed on his lips. “I understand. It’s my fault for starting to get carried away.”
As he turned around to leave, I was suddenly filled with a sense of panic. “Does this mean you won’t come get me for work tomorrow?”
He smiled at me. “Of course I will, Isio. I made you a promise, and I’ll keep my word. You don’t have to worry about. Absolutely nothing is going to change…” his voice drifted. “Well, except maybe hanging out with you here in your apartment. That might be a little too much for me. I need to start training my heart not to want you so much, and the more time I spend with you, the harder that will be.”
With a broken heart, I realised that was what I’d actually miss the most. “I understand, Kachi.”
“So…see you tomorrow morning?” he asked, making extra effort to sound cheerful.
I nodded and smiled. “See you tomorrow morning.”
I watched him from the window as he walked to his car. He looked like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, and even when he got into his car, he didn’t start the ignition immediately. I knew I’d hurt him. But what I hadn’t expected was the feeling of sadness that had suddenly overwhelmed me…sadness that stayed with me, even when Pere drove into the compound shortly after.
That was when I realised I’d started mourning the loss of something beautiful. Something beautiful I hadn’t even realised was there…
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
- Iya Beji 27: Damsel in Distress
- Iya Beji 28: Inconsequential