I sat motionless for a long while, replaying the conversation, if you could call it that, that Pere and I had just had…and I felt numb. So badly dashed were my hopes and dreams that I was rendered devoid of any emotions. I felt neither angry nor sad. I just felt completely dead inside.
“Are you okay?” Voke asked, from the doorway of her room.
Looking at the concern on my sister’s face made me realize she had heard everything.
“I’m fine, Voks.” I answered. “I’ll be fine.”
Just then, one of the babies started crying and I rose to my feet. “Mommy duties! The real reason I’m here.”
I proceeded to attend to the boys, with Voke by my side. Neither of us spoke about the incident again, and that suited me just fine. The less of a reminder I needed about the fact that, yet again, I’d made a fool of myself by seeing things that weren’t and feeling things that weren’t, the better.
Thankfully, Pere also stayed out of our way that day, peering in only briefly to see the boys. The next morning, he knocked on my door as he prepared to leave for the airport.
“I’m off, Isio.” he said.
I smiled at him. “Have a safe trip.”
He hesitated by the door for a while. “About yesterday…”
“It’s okay, Pere.” I answered, smiling. “Let’s just forget it happened, okay? Have fun in New York, and we’ll see you in Nigeria.”
He stared at me for a while before nodding. “I should be back in Nigeria by next week. Is there anything you want me to do for you before you return? Set up a nursery in your place or something?”
I shook my head. “Voke and I have decided to move when she returns in January. The place is too small for us and the boys.”
He hesitated some more, and I found myself getting a bit impatient, eager for him to just leave already.
“I’ll pay in some more money to Voke’s account later today…”
“We already have more than enough, Pere!” I answered.
“You can never be too sure.” he answered. “I can also come back to travel home with you and the boys. You might not be able to cope with the two of them by yourself, especially as Voke doesn’t intend to leave with you.”
“There’ll be no need for that. I’m already making arrangements for someone to accompany us.” I answered. “You better leave before you miss your flight.”
He looked at his watch and nodded. “You’re right. I’m skating on thin ice as it is.” he made as if to come into the room but thankfully thought better of it. “Take care of yourself, Isio. And please don’t forget to send me pictures every day.”
“You got it.” I answered, returning my attention to the boys. It wasn’t until the door shut that I finally looked up and exhaled. There was no denying the hold he still had over me, but I was very relieved that I would no longer have to see him everyday. Before his arrival in Miami, I’d already been well on the way to burying our relationship in the archives of history, where it belonged…but the birth of the boys and all the mixed signals from him had propelled me into the realm of wishful thinking and make believe. With him gone, I owed it to myself to pick up the pieces, dust myself off and move on with my life.
For the next three weeks, I concentrated fully on getting used to life as a mother of twins. I poured everything I had into those boys…all my heart, soul and emotions…everything went into my beloved Gogo and Tubo. God being so good, they were in the most perfect of health. Nobody would have ever believed that only weeks before, they had been fighting for their lives. Boisterous and gregarious, they won the hearts of anyone who saw them, be it visitors to the house or strangers when we went to the hospital, mall or Church. I was so proud to be their mother, and I realised that, even if I never found romance, I had all the love I needed in my two young men.
Voke was phenomenal, helping me out with the boys and even ensuring I had some ‘me’-time, once in a while. And when we had to endure the 10-hour drive to Atlanta, to get Nigerian travel visas for the children, she was my rock…driving us there without complaining and holding it down when I almost lost my cool with the annoying Consulate officials. Luckily, we never for once spoke about Pere or what had transpired between us, and I was very happy with that. As for the Pere, he called once in a while, but they were always brief conversations to check on the boys and how they were. I also kept my promise and sent him pictures as often as I could. I had come to a place of acceptance where I realised that just because we were no longer together didn’t mean he couldn’t be a father to his sons. He loved those boys and wanted to be there for them, and I wasn’t going to stop him.
By the time we left on November 23rd, the day before Thanksgiving, Voke found an elderly lady from Church, who also had plans to travel to Nigeria. She was meant to travel closer to Christmas, but we’d paid her to bring her trip forward and also for any other inconveniences, just so that she could be a travel companion for the boys and I. And what a travel companion she was. She was so hands-on and efficient, and the boys took to her like fish to water, such that by the time we arrived Nigeria, we almost didn’t want to say goodbye to her.
But say goodbye we had to, especially when we sighted the entourage that had come to welcome us from the airport. It was a tearful reunion with my parents, who were accompanied by my Aunty Felicia, and there had been free flowing tears when the old people met their grandsons for the first time. Pere was away on a work trip, but had sent his car and driver to ensure we got home safely. However, as I was not in any hurry to start my solo-living, I opted to return to Ogudu with my parents, if only for a few weeks.
Getting to the family house, I was overwhelmed by the sight of the relatives who hadn’t been able to make it to the airport but had patiently waited at home for the arrival of the newest members of our family. From the moment we walked into the house, the boys were whisked away by some relatives, while my mother ensured I had a hot bath and a delicious serving of my favourite meal of starch and banga soup. This was followed by the deepest and most restful sleep I’d had since giving birth to the boys. I didn’t wake up till about 11am the next morning, and was happy to see the boys already bathed and fed. I sure could get used to this!
But I should have known the peace would only last for so long.
“So what happened with Pere?” my mother asked, as I ate breakfast of boiled yam and egg sauce. “The way you were talking when you people were still in the hospital, I thought the next thing would be for us to start planning a wedding.”
I had to struggle not to roll my eyes. “I never told you anything like that, Mom!”
“No, but you two were practically tied at the hip! Every time we spoke on the phone, if he wasn’t right by your side, his name was on your lips. ‘Pere said this.’ ‘Pere thinks that.’”
“Well, you were mistaken, Mom. Pere and I are not together. Nothing has changed from before I left to have the babies. Or have you forgotten he has a girlfriend?!”
“About that…” my Mom said, in a voice that made me know the conversation was about to take a turn I wasn’t sure I was prepared for. Her having this conversation with me in pristine English was enough of an indicator that what she had to say was indeed very serious. “Pere’s mother called us from London after the babies were born. Very nice woman! So friendly and down to earth!”
“Get to the point, Mom.” I said, not at all in the mood for any merry-go-round conversation.
“She doesn’t understand what Pere is doing with that other girl, especially now that you have given him two boys!” Mom continued. “Even her sisters were full of complaints about how they met you when they visited you in America. Nobody in his family is happy with this foolish behaviour of his!”
“So what do they want to do? Force him to marry me?” I asked the woman sardonically. “Tie his hands and feet, and drag him to the Church, abi?”
“This is not a laughing matter, Isio. I’m being serious here!” Mom retorted.
“Who even told you people I want to marry the Pere?!” I snapped. “What makes you think I’m keen on marrying someone who doesn’t want to be with me?!”
“Isio, leave that one to us. By the time his mother is done with him, he’ll be the one begging you…” Mom continued, but was silenced when I lifted my hand.
“If you don’t want me and my sons to leave your house this very minute, this should be the very last time you bring this up!” I said sternly, prepared to grab the boys and our luggage that very second, if it meant never having to listen to this kind of talk. I’d only just been able to put Pere and his mess behind me. The very last thing I needed was to be dragged back into the quicksand of daydreams and longing that I’d only just extricated myself from.
“You’re still tired and jet-lagged. We will talk later.” Mom had said, before changing the topic to something else. But later that day, after I complained to Voke on the phone, by the time my older sister gave the woman a tongue lashing, I was happy and relieved that the subject didn’t come up again.
As we entered the month of December, and as Christmas festivities kicked into full gear, I was only too happy to be in the comfort and security of my parents’ house, without a single care in the world. From our meals, to our grooming, to our general welfare, everything was taken care of. It was truly the life of luxury…even in my parents’ modest abode. Pere was due to return from his trip the week before Christmas, and I was later told his mother would be returning about that time as well. But rather than dwell on it, I chose instead to enjoy my last weeks of pampering before returning to our apartment. With work resuming for me in January, staying on in Ogudu indefinitely was not an option…but it sure was a temptation!
Voke, who had been enjoying her time away to the fullest, was scheduled to be back in Nigeria by the end of January. After we’d left Miami, she’d spent an extra week there, before going off with some new friends of hers to the Cayman Islands, where she was going to spend Christmas, after which she would spend her last month in Europe, visiting friends and ‘shopping for work’, as she put it. I’d already started looking for a house within our budget, and was hopeful of finding a few that we could check out upon her return. Even though neither of us had expected to still be living together in our mid-30s, we’d both adapted to the situation and were looking forward to life with our new roommates, Gogo and Tubo!
I thought of Kachi occasionally, and often contemplated calling him, just to say hello. But each time I thought to, I lost the nerve. What was I expected to say to him? How would I answer any question he had about Pere and I…and the relationship that never was? I just had no idea what I would say to him.
But one lovely Tuesday morning, in our 3rd week back in Nigeria, he finally called.
“Wow, Isio! I can’t believe you returned to Nigeria and haven’t even bothered to call all this time!” he said, sounding pained and making me feel guilty anew.
“I’m so sorry, Kachi. We came straight to my parents’ house and it’s been crazy. I’ve barely had any breathing room!” I lied.
“I’m coming over this evening. Not to see you, but to see the boys.” he said.
I smiled. “The boys and I will be very happy!”
True to his words, he came. From the minute I heard the gate bell, at exactly 5:50pm, I knew he’d made it. Walking out to meet him, my heart soared at the sight of him. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed him.
“Isio! If I wasn’t so happy to see you, I would be giving you a real tongue lashing now!” he said, as we embraced. “It’s bad enough that we were barely spoke while you were away and that you didn’t send me the pictures of the boys as you promised. I’m so hurt that you’ve been home almost a month and haven’t even called.!”
“It’s not up to a month, Kachi!”
“Three weeks…same difference!” he answered. “Look, I get it, Isio. I know you’re not interested in me that way. Heck, you even told me a lie about being back with Pere just to get me off your back.”
I flinched at the accusation and pondered if it was necessary to tell him that I hadn’t been lying when I told him and had, in fact, thought Pere and I were back together. But instead, I chose the easy way out. “I’m sorry, Kachi.”
“Isio, I have accepted that friendship is all we will ever have. I’m fine with that now. Just don’t push me away. I really, really want us to be friends.” he said imploringly.
“Says the person who started withdrawing even before I left the country.” I countered. “Remember how dramatically you changed after you found out Pere and I were still friendly?”
“I’ll admit that.” he conceded. “I was hurt and I guess I just needed some time to heal after getting all my hopes and expectations up. But I’ve had enough time to get used to the fact that friends is all we can ever be.”
A part of me was saddened to hear him say this, but a bigger part of me was relieved. Jumping into a relationship was the very last thing I needed at that point. But what I did need was a friend, and I was only too happy to take Kachi up on that offer.
When he met the boys, it was love at first sight, both ways. Even though he’d always said he was good with children, I was able to see it first hand. It wasn’t until the boys were taken away for their evening bath that he agreed to be parted from them. After they were gone, we chatted until late as we caught each other up on gist and gossip. He told me all about what the rest of their crew had been up to, and I told him how much progress Voke had made in her healing process. Before we knew it, it was past 10pm.
“I really enjoyed this visit, Kachi!” I said, as we walked to his car, hand in hand.
“Oh? Where are you going?” I asked, trying to hide the disappointment in my voice.
“Abuja for work, from Thursday…after which I head straight to Okigwe on the 22nd, to spend Christmas with my family.” He answered.
“We’ll very likely be back in our apartment by then, the boys and I.” I said.
“We can house hunt together when I’m back.” he offered, as I’d mentioned the plans Voke and I had to move.
“I’d like that.” I answered, smiling.
“Take care of yourself, Isio. And Merry Christmas!” he said.
“Christmas is still 3 weeks away!” I laughed.
“Let’s just say I wanted to be the first to say it to you.” he smiled back, giving me a parting embrace.
I still had a wide smile on my face when I returned the house. But my mother was anything but amused.
“No be dat Obiora friend?” she asked.
I nodded. “Ka…Apache. Yes, it is.”
“I hope the two of you no dey…” she began, but I promptly shook my head, not wanting her imagination to run any wilder than it already was.
“Anyway, I was just talking to your Mother-in-law this evening.” Mom said, changing the subject. “She wants to stay in your house when she arrives Nigeria?”
“Which house? And which mother-in-law? As far as I know, I’m not married, so I don’t have a ‘mother-in-law’!” I retorted.
Mom glared at me. “No do me open eye, Isio! You know say na Pere mama I dey talk!”
“And you’ve invited her to stay here?!” I exclaimed.
“Not here!” my mother answered. “Your own house…for Lekki!”
My mouth literally hit the floor, as I stared at my mother in complete shock.
“She says she wants to take care of her grandchildren, so two of us agreed that it would be better if she…” Mom continued.
“She will do no such thing!” I retorted. “Stay in my house for what? Are the two of you for real?!”
“Isio, she has every right to want to be with her grandchildren. They are also her first…and boys for that matter!” Mom retorted right back.
“Mom, she’s not staying in my house and that’s final!” I answered. “If she wants to see them every day, she is free to. Her son has a driver and Ikoyi isn’t too far from Lekki. Let her stay with him. That makes more sense!”
“Na you wey no get sense!” Mom suddenly snapped. “Your brain don block like suckaway wey dem never clear! You no know say this na sure banker way for Pere to marry you? You no know say if you don get im mama, you don get am be dat?!”
I hissed long and hard, irritated that we were still on the matter. “Good night, Mom!”
“And even apart from Pere, you don see person wey wan help you with the children, you dey form guy! I no dey follow you to your house oh!” Mom continued ranting.
“Don’t follow me if you don’t want to, Mom. That one isn’t a problem!” I answered. “But I’d rather cough out money for a nanny than open my doors for Pere’s mother to come and stay. Apart from the fact that I don’t even have the space, I do not want to be a party to whatever nonsense both of you are planning. I’m not interested, please! Count me out!”
As I walked upstairs, I could still hear her raving and ranting about how stubborn I was. But she was yet to see even a fraction of how stubborn I could really be!
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
- Iya Beji 33: Winning the War