The next few weeks were surreal. We lost track of when night turned into day and vice versa…so caught up were we with watching over and praying for our boys. My only inclination that it was daytime was when Voke arrived with food or general supplies, and I knew it was nighttime when she had to leave. Pere made occasional trips back to the apartment, but I didn’t even leave the floor we were on, talk less of leave the hospital the entire time. Every free moment I had was spent shuttling from Gogo’s high dependency room to Tubo’s low dependency room. I stared at them so much, I probably memorised every single hair and wrinkle on their bodies. I watched them as they breathed, and in those rare moments when they opened their eyes, my heart felt like it would melt!
Thankfully, after the second week, Gogo started breathing on his own and he was moved to low dependency. It was so much better having them in the same room, but better still, being able to carry them both. When I was with them, I didn’t even notice the time fly by. My joy was that the worst was finally over, and that they were getting stronger every day.
My other joy was being able to share that experience with their father…the love of my life. After the conversation we’d had the day after they were born, Pere and I didn’t have time to talk about our relationship. But we didn’t need to. No words needed to be said. We still loved each other, and the only natural progression was for us to get married when the boys were stronger, so we could be a family again. Being there with him, sharing the wonderful experience of seeing our boys come out of the danger zone and well on their way to being healthy babies whom we could eventually take home, bonded us tighter than any words ever could have.
As for Ogechi.
Sure, they still talked on the phone. On a number of occasions, especially when he excused himself to answer his phone, I knew it was her on the line most of those times, but even though it rankled me initially, I decided to just allow her enjoy him for the little time she had left. Because as soon as we were out of the hospital, he was going to be all mine…and we both knew it.
It’s a pity Voke didn’t get the memo!
“Make sure you leave some of that lasagna for Pere. He’ll love it!” I said to Voke, as she dished some food on a small plate. Our cousins, who even though hadn’t been able to see the babies and had even only managed to see me once since I’d been in hospital, made it a point of duty to send us the most delicious meals ever. Having only spent very few years of their lives in Nigeria, there was little chance of any local delicacies, but their mastery of continental cuisine was indeed mind-blowing, and we lived for when those lovely coolers arrived.
Voke rose her brow. “What’s with this craze for Pere these days? The man went home to get refreshed. You don’t think he’ll grab a bite on his way back?!”
“He likes Ufuoma’s lasagna! What’s so wrong in wanting to leave him some?” I answered.
Voked sighed deeply, and took her seat, her plate of lasagna forgotten. “Isio, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about this Pere business. I see that lovelorn look in your eyes, and I worry that you’re setting yourself up for heartbreak.”
“What’s this one saying?!” I retorted. “In case you’re too blind to see, Pere and I clearly getting back together, so there’s nothing about being ‘lovelorn’! We’ve resolved our issues and we’re going to be a family as soon as we’re out of the hospital!”
“And he’s told you that?” Voke asked.
I rolled my eyes. “What’s with all these questions, Voke? We haven’t had time to talk about as we’ve been too busy with the boys…duh!”
“I ask questions because I’m confused! If you two are getting back together, then why is Ogechi still very much in the picture? You do know that Pere still talks with her every day, right? And you do know she sent you like 2 suitcases full of very expensive baby clothes, right? That doesn’t sound like a woman about to get dumped to me!”
“What baby clothes?!” I asked, hearing that for the very first time. “She’s clearly deluding herself and still grasping at straws. Pere and I have children now. Anyone can see that the dynamic has changed!”
Voke opened her mouth as if to speak, but promptly changed her mind when Pere walked into the room.
“Ufuoma was here. And she brought some of her famous lasagna!” I announced, so happy to see him.
I saw Voke roll her eyes, but chose to ignore her. There was no way I was going to allow her rain on our parade. Pere was mine again, and nothing was ever going to change that ever again.
“I’ll be back tomorrow.” she said, rising to her feet. “Do you need anything?”
I shook my head, unable to look at her, and she in turn exited the room quietly.
“What’s up with her?” Pere asked, through a mouthful of food.
I shrugged. “Probably one of her mood swings. She still gets them from time to time.” I answered, before swiftly changing the topic. “Why didn’t you tell me Ogechi sent the boys clothes?”
“Oh, yeah. I completely forgot. They arrived over the weekend. Very nice clothes, ranging from 0 to 12 months…almost all of which are Ralph Lauren. Very thoughtful of her, right?” he beamed.
Pere stared at me curiously. “Why not?”
The words got stuck in my mouth, unable to find any exit. Why was I even worrying about someone who was a non-issue to me? I searched Pere’s face for any sign that he was still longing for her and found none. Smiling to myself, I watched him eat. Ogechi was clearly still gathering her arsenal of weapons…but I’d won the war!
Later that evening, after we’d spent over an hour with the boys in the NICU, Pere opted to leave for the apartment so that he could get some work done. He’d already taken over a month off work, and we both knew he could only stretch it longer by another couple of weeks, max. And with how much we’d already incurred in hospital expenses, he couldn’t afford to play with the source of his bread and butter.
All alone in my room, for the first time since the boys were born, I decided to check my social media. It hurt me that I couldn’t shout about the boys’ birth from the rooftops, but Pere and I had agreed that there would be none of that until they were discharged from hospital and safely home. Yes, most of my friends had already heard of my delivery, but the boys hadn’t made their official debut just yet.
Checking through my messages, I saw one from Kachi, which had been sent a few days after the boys were born.
Yay! The boys are here! Huge congratulations to you, Isio. And to Pere. I tried to call you a few times, but your phone has been switched off. I just spoke with Voke and she’s told me that the boys are still delicate. I’m praying for all of you, and I know those boys are fighters just like their mother! Send a picture when you can.
I smiled as I read and re-read his message. I hadn’t realised just how much I’d missed him, as I’d been so caught up with being worried about the boys and my renewed feelings for Pere. I began to type a response, but decided to do one better instead.
He answered his phone on the second ring. “Isio!”
I laughed. “Oga, allow the phone ring na!”
“Oh my goodness, I’m so happy to hear from you. I’ve been so worried! How are the boys? Dagogo and Datubo, right?” he asked, his excitement literally jumping out of the phone and giving me a hug.
“We call them Gogo and Tubo…and they’re fine.” I beamed. “We had a very scary first few weeks, but they’re doing great now. We might even be discharged as early as a week or two from now.”
“I’m really glad, Isio!” he answered. “And you sound well. Very strong. I’m sure you’ve snapped back like a champ, eh?”
I looked at my still-sizeable bump and laughed out loud. Snap back club!
“I wish! I still have a ways to go before any snap back. Right now, I’m just focused on getting all of us out of hospital.”
“Snapped back or not, I’m just so happy to hear you sounding happy.” he said, followed by a lengthy pause after which he asked. “And Pere? Is he still there with you?”
This made me smile even broader. “Yes, he’s here.”
“I hear the smile in your voice. Are you two…?”
I giggled, and he laughed in response. “That good huh? I’m happy for you, Isio. I’m happy you got your heart’s desire in the end.”
“What about his girlfriend? They broke up?” he asked.
I didn’t know if telling him they were on the breakup path was good enough as answering in the affirmative…so I chose to lie instead. “Mmhmm. Something like that.”
“I’m happy for you, Isio.” he said again. “And don’t be a stranger, okay? Now that I know your phone is back on, I’ll surely be calling you from time to time…and you call me, okay? And make sure you send me a picture of my boys. I hope you and your man won’t renege on your promise to make me Godfather!”
“The offer still stands.” I said smiling, even though I had no idea how Pere would react to it.
When he’d gotten off the phone, I lay on my bed deep in thought, unable to interpret how the call had made me feel. I couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt and sadness that I was suddenly awash with. Why on earth was I feeling guilty when the Kachi himself had sounded genuinely happy for me?! And why was I feeling sad when I had the man I really wanted?! Placing my phone on the nightstand, I banished all thoughts of Kachi and began the process of forcing myself to sleep. I also resolved that there would be no more phone calls to Kachi, until further notice. In fact, there would be no phone calls period! Turning on my phone had been a mistake. If anyone had to reach me, they could call Voke. If they didn’t have Voke’s number, then they didn’t need to reach me!
Sleep eventually found me, and by the time Pere and Voke returned the following morning, there was no more talk of Ogechi. Voke, thankfully, also refrained from trying to analyse the burgeoning relationship I now had with Pere. In her eyes, I could tell that she disapproved, but she very wisely chose to keep her mouth shut.
Finally, on November 4th, 2016, after 6 weeks in hospital, we were finally given the all clear to return home. Walking out of the hospital, holding the car seats with our babies strapped in…it felt like I was walking on clouds. I couldn’t believe I was actually finally taking my babies home! Voke had swapped her original rented car for a larger minivan, so we were able to fit in the car seats comfortably. Upon getting home, I was thrilled to see how carefully my sister had prepared the apartment for the boys. Even though we’d originally decided against getting any cribs whilst still in America, I saw that between her and Pere, they’d overridden that rule and instead, there was an adorable crib in my bedroom, which could comfortably fit them both. Of course, being at home on my own without any nurses to summon was something of an eye-opener, but I wouldn’t have returned back to the hospital, not for all the flavoured crushed ice and nurses-on-call in the whole wide world.
But alas, us being home meant that our relatives who hadn’t been able to visit properly before, now could. Starting with our cousins Ufuoma and Okiemute, who arrived first thing the following morning. Yes, they came with lots of delicious food, including their signature lasagna and lots of freshly baked treats, and yes, they brought bags and bags of presents for the boys, but after being up all night, having guests that early in the morning wasn’t what I would have asked for. But I had to smile through it all until they finally left late afternoon, following which Voke’s own friends started trooping in, one by one, until well into the evening. I couldn’t help but marvel over the number of friends, and Nigerians for that matter, Voke had been able to make in such a short space of time. People had always gravitated towards her, so it really wasn’t that much of a surprise. From students at the nearby University (undergrad and grad students alike), to a few working-class people both in our neighbourhood and beyond, and even some older people she’d met in Church, in less than three months, my sister had become a popular jingo. It was all fine and good…but that Saturday, it sure was a heck of an inconvenience!
“Don’t worry, I’ll watch the boys tonight. I know you’re tired.” Voke said, smiling at me after the last of her friends left.
“Are you sure?” I asked, uncertain.
“I’m positive. I’ve been dying to spend time with these young men. You’ve had them for 6 weeks, but I’ve only been with them a few days!” she gushed, and I happily conceded and went to sleep in her room.
As I drifted off to sleep, I could hear Pere’s voice from the other room, and I knew he was on the phone. It was 3am Nigeria time, so it couldn’t be Ogechi on the phone? Or could it? At that point, I couldn’t tell. A part of me wondered why he was still stringing her along and hadn’t told her the bitter truth that they were over. And another part of me wondered why he still hadn’t come out to declare his feelings or intentions for me. But I was a patient person…and after waiting so many years to get back together, I could wait a few more days.
I didn’t wake up till well past 8am the next morning, fully refreshed. Voke, on the other hand, was as frazzled as a wet rag. Obviously, the novelty of the boys had worn off after the 4th straight hour with no sleep.
“Rough night?” I asked, chuckling.
“Girl, I don’t know how you’re going to cope when you return to Nigeria o!” she exclaimed. “It was crazy, and that was with Pere even helping out!”
“Pere helped?” I asked, smiling.
“He had no choice o! Both boys were crying at the same time, and I had three options; call you, call Pere, or just jump over the balcony!”
“Thank God you didn’t go with Option A…or C!” I giggled. “Where is Pere anyway? Sleeping?”
“He said something about going for a run.” She answered. “Abeg, Isio. I dey go sleep! Don’t wake me up until tomorrow!”
Pere returned an hour later, and I couldn’t help but marvel over how beautiful and sexy he was, drenched in sweat in his running shorts and t-shirt. He was just all shades of sexy, and I felt the familiar pangs of desire beginning to rise.
“I hear you and Voke were on night shift!” I teased.
He smiled and shook his head. “Those little men are a complete army! But I enjoyed it though. I’m going to miss not being there for these nightshifts when we’re back in Nigeria.”
The smile on my face dimmed a little. Of course he would be there! We were going to be a family, weren’t we?!
“I hate to do this to you, but my Aunty called while I was out running. She says she’s on their way here.” Pere said regretfully.
Under normal circumstances, I would have been mad as hell. After having entertained all daylong the previous day, I’d been looking forward to a day of peace of quiet. But Pere’s Aunty Boma was someone I’d known almost as long as I’d known him, and I liked her a lot. She’d also lived in Pere’s Uncle’s house in Yaba, and had always a friendly face anytime I went visiting. She’d gotten married a year before Pere and I broke up, and relocated to America with her husband almost immediately. But even after so long, I was really looking forward to seeing her again.
“Isio!!! Na your face be this?!” she exclaimed, pulling me into a bear hug. “See as you still fine! Nobody will believe you just gave birth!”
I hugged her, so happy to see her again. Though a little older, she still looked almost the same. Looking behind her, I saw she was accompanied by an older woman, and I curtsied in greeting.
“Doh o, my daughter!” the woman greeted, smiling at me in approval. “Well done! You do well!”
The older woman was introduced to me as their Aunty Soprinye, Aunty Boma’s older sister. Taking both women to the room where the boys lay, the women gushed happily over them. I didn’t even mind that the boys were awoken by their loud voices, and was happier still that they cooperated enough to be carried.
“Pere, these boys are your carbon copy!” Aunty Boma exclaimed. “Look how handsome they are!”
“This one go black like im Mama!” Aunty Soprinye observed, noting Tubo’s darkened ears. The boys still had Pere’s light colouring, but I could already tell they would end up a blend of both our colours.
“God has really blessed you both!” Aunty Boma said. “I was worried when they were born so early, and I have been on my knees praying for them night and day. To God be the glory, look how strong and handsome they now are! We praise God!”
Pere and I smiled and nodded like the proud parents we were. We, of all people, knew just how lucky we were.
We sat in the bedroom for about an hour, as the women rocked the boys back to sleep. Once we were back in the living room, from their serious countenances, I knew they had a more serious discussion point on their agenda.
“Pere, your mother was telling me that the two of you don’t want to marry.” Aunty Boma remarked. “Please, explain it to me, because I don’t understand.”
I smiled at Pere, expecting him to tell her she was mistaken, and that things had changed, and that we were indeed going to get married. But I was in for a rude surprise.
“There’s nothing to explain, Aunty. Isio got pregnant, and we both decided to be adults about the whole thing. We don’t have to be married for me to be in the children’s lives. I even have someone else I’m dating seriously.”
“So why you come give am belle?!” Aunty Soprinye wanted to know. “If you no wan marry am, why you give am belle?!”
“Pere, what do you mean you have someone else you’re ‘dating seriously’?!” Aunty Boma exclaimed. “Isio that you used to almost kill yourself for back then? Isio that knew you when you didn’t even have money to enter bus, let alone taxi?! Isio that you have known for practically all your life?!”
Pere’s mouth thinned. “Things change, Aunty.”
“We no dey do polygamy for our house oh! We no dey born children for outside!” Aunty Soprinye said, finding it hard to control the anger in her voice.
“Your father was a dedicated and loving family man. He wasn’t a polygamist. What kind of useless behavior are you trying to display, Perelaiyefa?!” Aunty Boma demanded.
“There will be no polygamy, as I don’t intend to marry more than one wife! And it doesn’t have to be Isio!” Pere snapped.
As if on cue, both Aunty Boma and Aunty Soprinye looked at me. “And you’re fine with this arrangement, Isio? You’re okay with him running off to marry another woman and leaving you alone with two children?!”
I smiled sadly. “It’s out of my hands, Aunty.”
Pere had barely locked the door after them, when he glared at me, enraged. “It’s out of your hands?! What the hell was that supposed to mean? Why would you choose to make me look like the bad guy here?!”
By this time, I was proper deflated. “What else should I have said, Pere? Isn’t it out of my hands? Should I have lied that I’m happy that you’re obviously choosing Ogechi over me…again?!”
He looked at me incredulously. “What do you mean by again? Nothing has changed. I never for gave you any reason to think I wasn’t going to be with Ogechi!”
“And what about all the flirting in the hospital? Telling me you always knew I’d be the mother of your kids? That we’d been brought together by fate? What about all that?!” I demanded, getting frustrated myself.
He stared at me, stunned. “Isio, I never flirted with you. Our babies were just born. We were sharing a moment. That’s all! That’s all it ever was!”
And suddenly, I realised I’d been a prize fool. Voke had been right all along. Pere hadn’t been leading me on. I’d been doing that for him instead.
We stood there in silence for a long while, neither of us knowing what to say.
“I can still smell Ejiro’s perfume, Isio. I can still smell the perfume he was wearing when he came to pick you up that day…” Pere said, after a while. “I can still see him in the white Ralph Lauren shirt and navy blue Rock & Republic jeans. I can still see you hopping into his car, his LR3, in your yellow shirt and green trousers. I can still smell the dust in the air from when you both drove away. And as for Abdul, I can still see you both, standing in the car park, ordering me around like a houseboy and enjoying my humiliation…”
“Yet, you expect me to leave the one woman who has loved me flawlessly…for you?!” Pere said, with so much disdain it hurt.
“But you came back to me after all that! You came back to me after Ejiro, after Abdul, after all that!” I said. “If you hated me so much, why did you keep coming back?”
“Isio, you were like a drug to me. And if you hadn’t acted like a crazy person and left my apartment after the night we spent together that last time…I probably might have still been under your clutches.” He answered.
“My clutches?” I repeated, hurt to my core.
“In a way, I’m glad you acted like a lunatic and left my house that day, when all I did was drive out to buy us breakfast. I’m glad the spell you had on me for almost all my life was finally broken. And you know what? I’m even glad you rubbed your men in my face, because guess what. It only made me work harder. That day you left with Ejiro was a turning point for me, and I got serious with school and life in general after that incident. If it hadn’t been for that, I might have had another extra year in school…or maybe even finished with a 3rd class, who knows. But I was driven to work extra hard. I’ve been driven to work extra hard, and today I can beat my hand on my chest and say I’m proud of the man I’ve become.”
“Pere don’t talk like that!” I said, a lone tear rolling down my face.
“And now that I’m wealthy and a catch, you find me suitable. I’m now the kind of man you want to be married to, but when your Abdul was asking me to park your car that day, you never thought I would be.” he said, and for the first time, I saw just how deep his hurt and anger ran.
“I love you, Pere. I’ve always loved you. The only reason I went away with Ejiro was because I thought you were fooling around with Daisy!” I cried.
“Well, almost doesn’t count, Isio!” he muttered. “Look, I was going to tell you this evening that I’ll be leaving for New York next week before I return to Nigeria. Ogechi is in town, and I’d like to spend some time with her before I leave the U.S. But with the way things have become, I think it might be best for me to leave tomorrow.”
I looked at him, broken. “So you’re going to cut short your time with your sons, so you can go spend time with your girlfriend?!”
“I’ve been here with the boys for 6 weeks straight. I haven’t seen Ogechi in almost 2 months. The boys and I have a lifetime to be with each other! I’ll spend more than enough time with them when they’re back in Nigeria.” he answered, before walking away to his bedroom, leaving me standing in the living room like a statue.
I just stared at him as he walked away, my heart breaking into a million tiny little pieces. Of all the times he’d ever hurt me, of all the times he’d ever broken my heart…this was by far the worst.
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
- Iya Beji 30: Yesterday’s Mistake
- Iya Beji 31: Miami Magic
- Iya Beji 32: Special Care