Even though it was Kachi who left my house that Tuesday evening, it was Apache who came to pick me up for work on Wednesday morning. To a third party, there would have been no material difference. He was just as friendly as he’d always been, and there was no trace of animosity over what had transpired the previous day. But I knew better. Something was different. Something had died.
All through the ride to my office, and even on the ride home, he was full of jokes and laughter as always. But I could see that there was now a detachment. And just like he’d said the previous day, upon getting to my house, he’d cheerfully bade me goodnight and left, leaving me to eat alone for the first time in a long while.
And I hated it.
On the one hand, I was tempted to ask him not to pick me up to and from work the following day, as the abrupt change in our dynamic was hurting me more than I thought it would. But on the other hand, I decided that half a loaf of bread was better than none. Missing his company completely would be even harder to bear than his ever so subtle detachment.
As for Pere, his phone calls resumed and he checked on me daily, just as he’d done before Ogechi had banished him from spending too much time with me. Even though he had said nothing to confirm it, I knew that his very drastically reduced presence in my life was definitely thanks to his lady-love, Madam Ogechi. She’d obviously made good on her threat, and if this was a foretaste of what to expect when they were married, I would have to ensure that neither myself nor our sons got too dependent on him; his time or his money. Speaking of money, I started thinking long and hard about what Kachi had told me about making the effort to get a better paying job, and it dawned on me that I owed it to my children to at least try to make a decent living, as we sure as heck couldn’t afford to be solely dependent on Perelayefa Lawson!
The rest of the week thankfully went by quickly, and on Saturday morning, I finally got a call from Voke. I was so happy to hear her voice, I actually burst into tears. She’d gone totally incommunicado when she got to Ghana, only sending a one-liner e-mail to let me know she was okay, and that she would be ‘going quiet for a little while’. Well, ‘a little while’ had become almost three weeks!
“Ahn ahn! Is it the pregnancy or what that’s bringing on the waterworks?” she teased.
“I can’t believe you didn’t even bother to check on me for three weeks! What if something had happened to me?” I wailed.
“Isio, I really needed to shut down…and you know it. I needed that time alone, and I don’t regret it one bit.” she answered. “So…any gist for me?”
I contemplated telling her about Kachi, and how close we’d been for the first 2 weeks after her departure…but as we’d reverted back to status quo, and as he wasn’t one of her favourite people in the world anymore, I figured there was no point.
“No. No gist.” was my answer.
“What about Pere? Have you two stopped playing your games?” she asked, a smile in her voice.
“I’ve seen Pere all of two times since you left; the day he came to jack me up about picking a hospital, and the next day when we chose our apartment. His madam has tightened the leash around his neck.” I answered, with a sardonic smile.
“Really?!” Voke exclaimed. “These men sha! You just can never figure them out! I got an email from him this morning, giving me details about the apartment and whom I’m to collect the keys from…and I thought you guys had probably found your grove. I don’t know if I read it right, but his mail seemed to imply that he would be there as well.”
I frowned in my confusion, as we had made no such plans. “What would make you think that?”
“Because he was insistent on making sure I got the keys for the 3-bed and not the 2-bed. I think he even said something like ‘when I come over’.”
I shrugged. “He probably has plans to be there for the birth.”
“And you say he’s not still into you!” Voke teased.
I scoffed and shook my head. She’d never understand.
“I can’t wait to see you, Voks.” I said to my sister affectionately. “When do you leave Ghana?”
“My flight out of here is on Monday afternoon…and I get to Miami on Tuesday evening.” she answered. “I’ve missed you too, little sis! I can’t wait to catch up!”
Getting off the phone, I felt even more alone than ever. With Kachi’s comforting presence, i hadn’t really felt Voke’s absence as keenly. But now that we’d been reduced to just car-pool buddies, I was so lonely I could scream. Yes, I had wonderful friends in our neighbours, but at a point, everyone had to retreat and carry on with their lives, sending me right back to square one!
By the time Tuesday rolled along, Pere showed up in my house early enough to get us to the hospital in good time for my 30th week appointment. Prior to that, we had spoken extensively with a doctor at the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Dr. Mateo, and he had even spoken with our doctor in Nigeria. As far as I was concerned, by identifying a good doctor, there was nothing to be worried about anymore.
But I was wrong.
I had another scan, after which the consultant said he wanted to give me steroid injections in my leg. One that day, and another the following day, to help prepare the babies’ lungs for delivery. The reason was because he still thought there was a high chance of the boys coming early, because of their slowed growth and an apparent decrease in blood supply. He also advised me to stop working immediately, and was appeased when I told him I had 3 days until the start of my maternity leave.
After the gloomy appointment, when Pere suggested my leaving on Saturday, four days before our initially agreed exit on Tuesday, I happily jumped at it. The sooner I was able to see the doctor who would deliver the babies, the better.
My office wasn’t pleased about my cutting my time short by a day, and neither were the few friends I had, led by our dear neighbours Kunbi and Ifeoma, who had apparently planned a grand baby shower for the following Sunday. Not to be outdone, they had a surprise baby shower for me on Thursday evening, right after I’d returned home from the small one my colleagues threw for me at work. I should have actually smelt a rat when Kachi actually got out of his car to walk me into my apartment, something he hadn’t done in over a week. But I was very glad for his company.
Even though they’d had to pretty much pull out a bunny from a hat by having the party days earlier than it should have, they somehow managed to pull it off, and pretty much most of the small handful of people I called my friends were there. Even my parents had come all the way from Ogudu. The only person that hadn’t been there…was the baby daddy himself.
“Did you guys invite him?” I asked Kunbi, later on.
She’d looked uncomfortable. “We did. But he said something about having a lot of work to do…”
I nodded, letting the fact that he couldnt even have been bothered to spare his time on the day of his baby-momma’s baby shower, sink in. If I needed any confirmation that he had picked a side…and it wasn’t mine…this was it.
“Great party! Your friends are a very determined bunch of girls, I have to tell you!” Kachi laughed, as I walked him to his car.
“How badly did they hound you about attending?” I asked, a teasing smile on my face.
“Enough to make me almost change my number or, better still, block them!” he laughed. “But seriously though, I didn’t need much convincing. I wouldn’t miss your baby shower for anything!”
I looked at him and saw, ever so fleetingly, the look in his eyes…the one that showed just how much he loved me…the one that had been missing for over a week.
“I’m going to miss riding with you to work.” he said, smiling at me.
“I’m going to miss you, period.” I said, meaning it.
“Thank God for FaceTime and Skype!” he said, smiling.
“Yeah, thank God for FaceTime and Skype!” I smiled back. “And I hope it’s not just mouth, and you won’t fashi me like you have this past week!”
He laughed heartily. “I could never fashi you even if I tried, Isio!” his expression suddenly went serious. “And God knows I’ve tried!”
There was silence for a few moments, as we both understood what he was…and wasn’t…saying.
“It’s just too much of a messed up, complicated situation, you know?” I eventually said.
“You don’t have to explain, Isio. I totally understand.” he said, smiling at me reassuringly, making me glad that he’d truly accepted the fact that all I could offer him was my friendship.
“Just get ready for your Godfather duties!” I smiled at him.
A broad smile broke on his face. “Really? You don’t think Pere will mind? Or Voke?”
“I’m one half of the decision-making committee, and it’s what I want.” I answered, smiling.
“Well, I’d love that very much.” Kachi answered, and I could tell from his eyes that he really meant it. “I have something for you.”
My eyes widened in glee. “You got me a gift?!”
“You didn’t think I’d come for your baby shower empty handed, did you?” he said, with a sly wink. “My sisters taught me better than that!”
He reached into his car and brought out a beautiful gift bag in white and blue. Peering inside, I squealed in delight at the sight of the two baby mobiles, adorned with varying sizes of small planes.
Suddenly overwhelmed, I burst into tears. So caught up had I been with all my drama, I hadn’t even given any thought to decorating a nursery for the boys…which would actually just be a small part of my bedroom, considering we didn’t have a spare. This was the very first item for their whatever and wherever that nursery would be.
“If you don’t like the planes, I could get one with clouds and butterflies?” Kachi said, watching me helplessly.
I smiled through my tears. “I love it!” and then I hugged him. “Thank you! This is the best gift ever!”
We remained in an embrace for a few seconds, and it was almost as if neither of us wanted to pull away. In his arms, I felt safe…secure…peaceful. And I was happy to just remain there.
“I have something else for you.” he said, pulling away and reaching into his pocket. “This is for just you, okay. Not the babies. You.”
I looked inside the envelope he’d placed in my arms, and was shocked to see it was money…$2,000!
“Kachi! This is too much!” I exclaimed.
“It really isn’t.” he answered modestly. “I wish I could give you more, but alas, not all of us have the kind of cash your baby daddy has.”
“Thank you.” I said, meaning it from the bottom of my heart.
“If you ever need anything, you make sure you call me…okay?” he said. “No matter what it is, no matter what time it might be, call me.”
I smiled and gave a mock salute. “Yes, Sir!”
He kissed me on the forehead. “Take care of yourself, Isio. And bring my boys safely back home!”
The feel of his kiss on my head lingered with me late into the night. I could even still smell his perfume from our brief embrace, despite the fact that I’d already showered. I could feel his presence so strongly, and knew I was most definitely going to miss him.
Friday came along, and I spent the day packing, with my parents there for company. I wished my mother had been able to organise travel documents to accompany me, but alas, she hadn’t, and I’d just have to make do with Voke. Our cousins in Tampa were even younger than Voke and I, and would not be of any use in helping out with a baby…let alone two…meaning we would have to find a way to cope on our own. It was going to be a very hard few months!
Saturday soon dawned, and with it the realisation that I was hours away from leaving for where I would call home for at least three months. Just as I was trying to decide whether or not to take along a third suitcase, there was a tap on my door.
“Hi Isio. Your mother let me in!” he said, smiling. “Wow! You’re all packed! You do know it’s not a permanent move, right?”
I glared at him. “And you do know that I’m travelling as 3, and not 1!”
He sat on the bed, and watched me as I struggled to close a suitcase. “I’d leave behind some of those clothes, if i were you.”
I didn’t even bother responding. What did he even know?!
“So, I’ll be there in a few weeks.” Pere said, when he saw that I wasn’t responding. “I’ll be there in time for their birth.”
“Is that why you asked Voke to get the 3-bed, when we both chose the 2-bed?” I retorted.
“I just figured a 3-bed would be better for us, especially as it’s always been the plan for me to join you there!” he answered.
“Well, I didn’t know it’s always been the plan!” I answered. “It’s wrong of you to just assume! And besides, I’m not sure your babe would like that!”
“Enough with the ‘babe’ referencing. I wish we could just go through an hour without your mentioning her name, like you’re obsessed with her or something!” Pere retorted.
“Obsessed with her?! Me?!” I exclaimed. “Don’t pleasure yourself, Pere. I only ask after her because I know she doesn’t approve of pretty much anything that has to do with me. I also know she’s the reason behind your disappearance recently!”
A part of me was half hoping he’d deny it, but instead, he’d looked away, unable to look me in the eye. That was when I got my confirmation that, indeed, Ogechi was calling the shots.
“Why are we even doing this, Pere? Why are you with another woman, when the one you’ve loved the longest is carrying your babies? Your twin boys! Why are you putting us all through this unnecessary heartache, when all we both want is to be together?! Why are you choosing her?” I said, finally done with us pussyfooting around each other, eager for us to just get things out in the open, once and for all.
He didn’t respond at first, choosing to remain silent and pensive.
“I’m choosing her…because she has never chosen any one else over me.” he eventually answered, finally looking me in the eye.
I stared back at him, stunned. “Is this still about Ejiro?”
“Ejiro. Abdul. And every other joker you have entertained over the years.” he answered. “Every time I see you, all I can remember is that guy stepping out of that black Land Rover, and you following him. All I can see is me begging you to not to marry him, and you practically laughing in my face!”
“For God’s sake, Pere!” I exclaimed. “That was years ago!”
“The way I feel, it could have happened just yesterday!” he muttered.
I nodded sadly, stomped that a mistake i’d made years ago was still being used against me. It was the mistake that just kept on giving.
“Do you love her? Do you love Ogechi?” I asked, not knowing why.
“If I didn’t love her, I wouldn’t be with her. I wouldn’t be planning on asking her to marry me right after the babies are born, if I didn’t.” he answered defensively.
At this point, I’d truly heard enough.
He rose to his feet and walked over to hug me from behind. “Have a safe trip, Isio! I’m looking forward to being there with you through this magical experience.”
I shrugged him off me. “I’d really rather you got your own apartment. That would be best…even if you’re the one paying for ours.”
He laughed, not realising I hadn’t been joking. “We’ll have fun…you, Voke, myself…takng care of the boys.”
I smiled noncommittally. “Thanks for everything, Pere. See you in a few weeks.”
“See you.” he said, blowing me a kiss before exiting the room.
When he was gone, I sat on the bed feeling sad…drained…disappointed…humiliated…and empty.
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
- Iya Beji 29: Something Beautiful