The day following the argument with my mother, I woke up ready to take her on. Buoyed my anger over the presumptuousness of it all, and how Pere’s mother could expect to stay in my house just because I’d had given birth to her son’s kids, I was ready to give not only my mother, but the Pere’s mother herself, a generous piece of my mind if anyone as much as breathed that suggestion again. It felt almost like I was taking 5 steps forward and 100 steps back!
Thankfully, save for having her face set like stone, there was no more mention of the subject from my mother. And from the look of things, my father wasn’t in the know of whatever shenanigans she and Pere’s mother were cooking, so my Plan B, if the tongue lashing failed, was to get the old man to put the two meddling women in their place.
But I have to admit that a few times in my quiet moment, I did ponder the idea. Would it be so bad to form an ally in Pere’s mother? Wouldn’t it be for the greater good for our boys to be raised by both their parents, as a loving family unit? But each time those questions popped in my head, I was quickly reminded of the crushing blow from Pere’s rejection. There was no resuscitating whatever love I thought we’d once had. It had been eaten up by too much mistrust, too much angst, too much betrayal. It was obvious that he could never forgive me for hurting him in the past, and frankly I wasn’t sure if I could ever forgive him for the way he’d hurt me in the present. It was in everyone’s better interest to get with the program of the current reality.
As Christmas approached, I got caught up in the excitement of preparing the boys for their very first Yuletide! Kachi and I also spoke every other day, and even though I made sure the calls were brief, they were always the highpoint of my day. It always made me so happy hearing from him, but as I knew it was a slippery slope to start developing feelings for him, I ensured we never spoke for longer than 10 minutes. I couldn’t afford to start catching feelings for anyone, lest of all someone I’d known that long. I’d learned the hard way in the past that rebound love never paid off. Never.
And then, December 22nd was finally upon us.
I hadn’t realised just how much I was dreading Pere’s return until that morning, when I woke up with the realization that he would be back in town that day…and was coming to see the boys that same day. In the 4 weeks since our return to Nigeria, I’d probably spoken with him on the phone all of 3 times, and never for longer than what it took for him to ask about the boys and me to answer in the affirmative. For me, it was deliberate. Instead, I had opted to be proactive and sent him pictures of the boys, and status updates via WhatsApp, daily. I figured if he already had all the information he needed, he wouldn’t have to call me as much, and I’d been correct. But that day, I was actually going to face him again after the infamous incident of almost two months prior…and I was nervous as hell.
As if in rebellion, that day I didn’t even put half the effort I ordinarily would have into my grooming. On a good day, because I had so much time on my hands as the boys were always being attended to by some relative or the other, I would have spent time on some light makeup and hair primping. My excuse had always been that I never knew when anyone would pop by, and I’d been correct about that. Friends, colleagues and relatives made it a habit of dropping by unannounced, and I had to be sure I always looked presentable…as the resulting pictures and selfies often always made their way to social media, and I didn’t want to look anything but my usual glam self.
But the morning of Pere’s return, I had a shower, threw on a casual but extremely unattractive tunic, and didn’t even bother with face powder. There was no need for that. Doing that would be nothing but an epic waste of my time and energy.
My mother had cast a curious glance my way, but was wise enough not to utter a word. Lucky for her, because I was ready with several clap backs if she had. But as she scurried around in the kitchen, it was my own turn to give her curious glances.
“Is it only Pere you’re cooking all of this for?” I asked, taking in the several pots that were boiling on the cooker, and some other relatives cooking a pot of jollof rice on firewood outside.
“He is coming with his mother, and I think his Uncle.” she answered. “This is our first time of meeting our in-laws officially, so I would dress properly if I were you.”
This only fed my rebellion even more.
“I’m fine like this, thanks.” I answered, walking away from the kitchen. If she wanted to cook up a royal storm for Pere and his family, that was her problem. As for me, I wasn’t going to allow anything stress me up any more than I already was. But what I did do was dress up Gogo and Tubo in lovely Kenneth Cole onesies Voke bought them before we left the U.S. I had disposed of Ogechi’s box of expensive clothes even before leaving America. As she’d been vain enough to leave the price tags on them, I’d been wise enough to return them to the Ralph Lauren store and got some cool cash in exchange.
At some point in the morning, I drifted off to sleep and was awoken by a gentle nudge.
“Aunty…their daddy is here.” said Miracle, a distant relative who’d been with us since she was a child.
I rose and looked in the direction of the boys’ bassinettes where they’d also been sleeping, and was alarmed to see them empty.
“Grandma already took them downstairs.” Miracle said.
I sat in my bed, momentarily upset before realizing that, if Pere and his family were already with the boys, they didn’t need me for anything. So I lay back in bed, and proceeded to continue with my nap. When Miracle saw I had no plans of going downstairs, she wisely let herself out.
But about 30 minutes later, I was awoken by another gentle nudge. I opened my eyes, prepared to give Miracle the tongue lashing of her life, but was startled to find myself looking at Pere instead.
“Who let you upstairs?” I asked, sitting up and feeling very self conscious.
He laughed. “Well, hello to you too, Isio. And Merry Christmas!”
“Christmas is still 3 days away.” I muttered, still struggling to understand why he was in my bedroom.
“I can’t get over how big the boys are!” he exclaimed, actually taking a seat on the only chair in my room. “Even though I’ve been seeing their pictures, seeing them in the flesh after so long…” he shook his head. “It’s got me all shades of emotional right now! You’ve done a great job, Isio!”
“It hasn’t only been me. My parents and practically all my relatives have played a huge role.” I answered.
“To me, you deserve all the credit, Isio.” he answered, looking me in the eye and prompting me to look away. “How come you didn’t come downstairs when your cousin came to fetch you?”
I shrugged. “I’m really tired. And as the boys were already with you, I figured you didn’t need me.”
“My mom was really hurt. But I promised her I’d bring you down with me. Thankfully, the boys have wrapped her round their little fingers, so she hasn’t dwelled on it too much.” he said, smiling.
I had to restrain myself from rolling my eyes. Ah yes. His mother. The woman who had tried to be my house guest by force. It’s funny, because when Pere and I were a couple years ago, even though I only met her a few times, we’d gotten along extremely well. It was just unfortunate that the current circumstances had pretty much pitched us against each other. She probably didn’t know we were on opposite sides, but I sure as heck did!
“I heard that she tried to move in with you.” Pere said with an apologetic smile. “I’m really sorry about her putting you on the spot like that.”
“She didn’t put me on the spot. I just told my mother no, and that was the end of that.” I answered, with a straight face.
“Still…I apologise.” Pere said. “When I heard, I scolded her for trying to pull such a stunt.”
“It’s no big deal, Pere. She only wants to spend time with her grandsons, which is understandable. Even though she can’t stay in my house, she can stay at your place and see them everyday.”
He nodded. “That’s what we agreed in the end, because she can’t commute from Agbara Estate to Lekki everyday. It just won’t work.” he looked at me. “But I’m sure you know spending time with her grandsons wasn’t her motivating factor.”
I looked him straight in the eye, choosing to play along and act dumb. “And what was her motivating factor, pray tell?”
“My family has been on my case about this our…our situation. It was even worsened when my Aunts came to see us in Miami. They’re all adamant about…you know…you and I getting back together.” he said nervously.
“But that’s not going to happen, obviously.” I half said, half asked.
“Exactly!” he answered. “Ogechi’s parents are in Nigeria for the holidays, and I even intend to fly to Umuahia before the New Year, to ask for permission to propose to her.” he answered.
If anyone had asked me how I would feel finally hearing those words from his mouth, I might have thought I’d be crushed…devastated…heartbroken…depressed. But sitting before him, I felt absolutely nothing.
“I’m sure they’ll get around to it. Maybe you need to get Ogechi to spend more time with your people, your mom especially.” I heard myself suggesting. “They probably just need to get to know her better.”
“That’s exactly what I’m hoping having my mom at my place will achieve. And we don’t even have a lot of time, because from April, I’ll be spending more time in Port Harcourt. I’ve been made the Head of that region.”
My brow rose in both surprise and…well, surprise. “Congratulations. How long will you be there for?”
“It could be a while…it could even be permanent.” he said, a somber look on his face.
“I’m happy that you got the promotion and that you will finally get your desire of being closer to Ogechi…” I said. “But I hope you don’t expect me to let the boys travel to Port Harcourt to see you?!”
He sat up and his lips set into a grim line. “Obviously, we’ll have to talk about the arrangements we’ll have to make.”
“And I’m just telling you beforehand that I will not allow my children travel cross-country to see you, until they are at least 13 years old!” I snapped, my anger beginning to rise at the mere suggestion of it.
“We have 4 months to make a decision, Isio.” Pere answered, his patience also beginning to thin.
“I’m just saying my own o!” was my own clapback.
Just then, my bedroom door opened and my mother and an older version of the woman I’d last seen over 10 years ago, walked in.
“See my pikin!” Pere’s mother squealed. “Isio! Na your face be this? See as you don fine and fresh! Ah, my son use eye enter market oh!”
From the wide grin on my mother’s face, the woman was just singing her tune. I stole a look at Pere, who looked like he wanted to hurl his mother right out the window.
“Welcome, Ma!” I said, rising to my feet in deference.
“My pikin!” she said, pulling me into an embrace. “You do well! You and your mother have taken good care of my grandsons! You do well!”
I smiled shyly, not quite knowing what to say in response. I found myself unable to even look her in the eye, as I knew she’d heard of my refusal to allow her stay with me.
“Your mother has explained to me that you and your sister have a small place, so I will stay with Pere.” she said, as if hearing my inner thoughts. “But I will be in your house first thing in the morning, and won’t leave until night oh! I don tell you oh. I must make up for the 3 months of these boys’ lives I’ve already missed!”
My mental calculation took that to sometime in March, and I cringed at the thought. Even though it paid me to have one of their grandmothers on hand, especially with my impending return to work, I could only imagine how Voke would take the news. She’d been livid when’d I’d told her of the woman’s earlier request.
“She wants to come and stay where?!” Voke had exclaimed over the phone. “Let her come na. Maybe she wants to sleep on top of Gogo and Tubo in their crib. Nonsense!”
No. Voke wasn’t going to be pleased about it.
“What about the baby dedication?” Pere’s mother asked. “This one that Pere is moving to Port Harcourt in April, we have to do it before then.”
“The boys will be 6 months in March, so its my intention for it to happen then.” I said, matter-of-factly.
I’d stressed the word my on purpose, so they would all get the message that, even though I’d opened my doors and given them access to the children, ultimately, I was the one who would be the primary decision maker. As the older women nodded in agreement, from the look on Pere’s face, it was obvious he’d gotten the message loud and clear.
They left shortly after, and returned again the day after, and then again on Christmas Day. However, when Pere’s mother came on the 27th, she came alone. Pere had obviously gone to Umuahia to see Ogechi’s family. From the look on his mother’s face, and also as she wasn’t in her usual jovial mood, my guess was that he’d told her what he was going to do…and she wasn’t happy about it.
The good thing is that the more time I spent with her, the fonder of her I grew. We were able to talk for hours on end, about everything except Pere. She always had my mother and I, and even sometimes my father, in stitches with her funny stories. But better still, she was a natural with the boys. She was like the baby whisperer. It didn’t matter how harried and upset the boys were, the very minute she took them in her arms, they would quieten down like meek little lambs. She was a real superstar.
January soon came, and by the 4th, after weeks of pampering and spoiling, I had no choice but to move the boys and I back to my apartment. I was scheduled to start work on the 17th, and needed enough time to get us settled, and also start looking earnestly for a bigger place. Voke was to return on the 29th, and we were hopeful of being able to move sometime in February, if we were lucky.
We returned to a hero’s welcome, with our neighbours fawning and fussing over the boys. I was happy to see that my mother had already made arrangements for the place to be cleaned , such that all I was doing was just unpacking our boxes. Thankfully, she spent the next 3 nights helping us settle, after which she left for Ogudu, leaving us pretty much on our own! I’d actually been scared of what would happen when it was finally the boys and I all alone, but I was shocked to find myself coping very well. They’d been able to form a pattern, which saw them falling asleep at the same time…at the same time. This pretty much allowed me plan and gave me the opportunity to do other things.
First thing on Monday morning, the 9th, as early as 6:30am, Pere’s mother arrived.
“Ah, Mommy! I didn’t think you’d come this early!” I remarked, conscious of the old t-shirt and boxer shorts I was wearing.
“This is even late! I have to be earlier than this when you resume work!” she countered.
Taking advantage of the fact that she was there with the boys, and as I still had one more week before returning to work, I decided to go house hunting. Prior to that, I’d engaged a few House Agents, and proceeded to meet them up, one by one, in different vacant apartments in the Lekki area. My mind was blown by how expensive it was to rent in that area. Yes, we saw some very attractive apartments, but the rent was too far out of our budget. But when the agents took me to places ‘within my budget’. The difference was night and day. Poorly built and with flooded roads, those were some of the characterisitics of these ‘more affordable’ houses. And it was depressing.
I was in the middle of arguing with my Agent over if the place he’d asked me to meet him at was in fact Lekki or Epe (so far down the express had we driven), when my phone rang.
“Kachi!” I exclaimed. “Are you back?”
“I sure am! Happy New Year to my favourite twin mommy.” he answered, prompting a smile from me.
“How was Okigwe? How are your folks?” I asked.
“Perfect. All my sisters and their families were around, and it was really nice. I only just got back yesterday.” He answered. “It’s very noisy where you are. House hunting?”
“Yes oh! I came to look at some apartments, but all the flats within our budget are in Lekki Phase 20!”
Kachi laughed heartily and I couldn’t help but smile at the sound. “Just stay exactly where you are. I’ll be with you shortly.”
In less than 30 minutes, Kachi was at the apartment I was viewing, and also proceeded to tell off the Agent for showing it to me in the first place. It actually felt good to have someone else handle the discussion.
“I have a good agent, Isio.” he said, as we walked back to our cars. “I’ll give him a call, so that he can show us a few places tomorrow.”
“That sounds perfect!” I beamed. “You’re not going to work?”
He shook his head. “I don’t resume until Thursday. But I know you want to get this out of the way before you have to return to work next week.”
“More than anything!” I answered. “Thanks so much, Kachi! You’re a real life saver!”
“That’s what friends are for.” was his response. “Do you want me to drive you home? I could come back for my car later.”
“And drive all the way back here? No way. I’m actually enjoying the drive. Before today, it had been so long since I drove, so it doesn’t even feel like work now.” I answered.
Kachi smiled and nodded. “Fair enough.” he said, before adding. “But will it be okay for me to come by the house to see the boys after we’re done house hunting tomorrow?”
“Better still, I’m inviting you over for lunch afterwards! How does that sound?” I said, smiling at the prospect of hanging out with him again.
“Perfect!” he grinned, before walking to his car.
All through the drive home, it was a struggle to keep the sheepish grin off my face. It wasn’t the prospect of romance that was exciting me. It was the prospect of friendship with a man I had grown to care about deeply.
Or at least that’s what I told myself.
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
- Its Beji 34: Quicksand