As agreed, Kachi came to pick me up to go house hunting, right on the dot of 9am. It wasn’t until he was knocking on my door that I realised things could get awkward, especially with Pere’s mom having already been in my house for over 2 hours. He’d been taken aback by the middle-aged woman who’d opened the door, and she’d also been taken aback by the strange man knocking at the door.
“Mama, this is my friend, Kachi.” I introduced, trying to douse the uncomfortable situation. “He came to show me a few flats.”
Pere’s mother had smiled, but I’d known her long enough to know it was just cosmetic. “Welcome, my pikin!” she greeted warmly. “Are you a house agent?”
Kachi laughed. “No, Mama. I’m just friends with a few really good ones.”
“So why are you the one showing her the houses…and not your agent friends?” she asked, seemingly innocent, but there was nothing innocent about the woman.
“I believe my being there will be able to get her a better deal.” he answered, properly holding his own.
She grunted and then turned to me. “Don’t forget the other agent is bringing a few people for us to interview today!”
We had engaged the services of a domestic agent to help source us both nannies and housekeepers; a housekeeper to help keep the house clean and…well…keep the house. And a nanny to learn the ropes for when Pere’s Mom would eventually depart.
“I’ll be back by then, Ma!” I answered, before ushering Kachi out of the door.
“Pere’s mom?” he asked, surprised.
I nodded, not wanting to say anymore than I needed to.
“Is she staying with you?” he asked incredulously.
“She comes first thing in the morning, and leaves pretty much when she likes!”
“That’s a great arrangement. You’re a very lucky girl to have her around.” Kachi marvelled. “However, that said, it might not be a wise idea for me to frequent your house anymore. At least, not until your mother-in-law leaves.”
“How many times will I have to tell you, she’s not my mother-in-law!” I stated vehemently, wondering why people always made the same mistake.
“Still. It’s just not respectful.” Kachi insisted. “You can call me anytime you want, Isio. But I’m going to have to limit the times I come here as much as I can.”
At that point, I couldn’t even argue.
True to his words, he drove us to meet an agent, and we proceeded to view a series of lovely apartments. In the end, I even found myself spoilt for choice by about 3 flats. However, as we still had a couple more weeks until Voke’s return home, I was worried that none of the flats would still be available by then.
By the time we got back home at about 3pm, we were both tired and spent. But Kachi was neither too tired nor too spent nor too hungry to risk another run-in with Pere’s mother, so he had taken his leave immediately
“Isio, who is that boy?” Pere’s mom asked.
I tried my most non-commital shrug, trying to look as indifferent as possible. Thankfully, she didn’t ask any more questions, but instead chose to let it slide.
The rest of the week went by in a flash, and so did the weekend. Kachi kept to his words and never returned to the house even once. But what he lacked in physical contact, he more than made up for by calling almost every day. Pere, on the other hand, also made a point of visiting frequently, and the sequence of his visits soon fell into a predictable pattern; he would arrive at about 6:30pm from work, play with the boys for about 30 minutes, answer a few calls, and leave before 7:15pm. Having mastered this sequence, as soon as he arrived the house, after the perfunctory greeting, I always made myself scarce by either retreating to Voke’s room, or being on the phone myself. And when the visit was over, I would slink out of whatever corner I’d hidden myself. The less I saw of my so-called ‘baby daddy, the better for everyone!
And then, all too soon, it was Monday.
It felt nice to be reunited with my colleagues after such a long time. But that was where the warm and fuzzy feelings stopped. Before noon, I could already remember, crystal clear, why I was desperate to leave the place. Congested work stations, and bosses who preferred to shout across the room rather than pick up their desk phones to make the appropriate call. By noon, I felt not only claustrophobic but also incredibly agitated.
“What were you saying about helping me find another job?” I asked Kachi in a hushed tone, when we spoke early afternoon.
“Don’t tell me your first day has been that bad!” Kachi laughed.
“It hasn’t been bad. In fact, I’ve been pretty surprised by how warm everyone has been.” I answered, before sighing again. “It’s just that I have been reminded exactly of how much I hate the work environment…and how much I’m shortchanging myself by remaining in a company like this.”
“Let me have a look at your CV, so we can start making some changes, if required.” Kachi offered.
I’m not sure I’d even terminated the call before immediately pulling up my CV and sending to Kachi. He called me almost immediately.
“First of all, Isio, why on earth is your CV 5 pages long? What on earth are you trying to pass across?” he asked, bewildered. “Isio, you don’t have to include every single detail of every single job. This is where editing comes in. Stripping things down. These days, employers don’t want to read an encyclopaedia, all in the name of searching for a candidate. And why are your educational qualifications all the way in the back? Nobody has time to scan that far. Your qualifications are the best thing you have to offer…better than listing all the thousand ‘project roles’ with your no-name company!”
I marvelled, especially as, in a matter of hours, he was able to not only clean up my CV, he’d compressed it to a standard 2-page format. I smiled and nodded in appreciation, as I read the masterpiece he had come up with. It almost didn’t sound like me!
By the end of my first week back at work, thanks to Kachi, my CV was already in circulation and all I was doing was pretty much waiting to hear good news. On the one hand, I was excited about the prospect of finally getting a better job…but on the hand, I worried about losing the privilege I had of being a nursing mother…able to resume late and close early.
Later that week, I was muling over the events of that week when there was a knock on my door.
It was Pere.
“May I come in?” he asked, smiling tentatively.
I shrugged and he let himself in.
“Are you avoiding me, Isio?” he asked. “Anytime I come here to visit, you disappear to another room. I just don’t understand it.”
“I’m not avoiding you!” I retorted. “I just use this time for my me-time, before your Mom leaves, and I’m left to fend for the boys myself!”
He nodded, but made no attempt to leave the room, despite his interference.
“So…” I began, trying to make conversation. “How is Ogechi? Is she getting along with your Mom now?”
Pere shook his head. “She gets into town this weekend. They’ll have time to properly meet by then.”
I nodded absent-mindedly. “I’m sure they’ll get along fine.”
“And you? Any more unruly behaviour from her?” he asked, with a boyish grin on his face.
“Not at all. She’s been perfect. No issues whatsoever.” she answered, hoping this would end this sudden interrogation.
“I’m glad.” Pere answered. “Hey, Isio…don’t be a stranger, okay?”
I looked at him, wondering how I was expected to answer that! “We’re not strangers, Pere!”
“You know what I mean.” was his response. “It would be wonderful to be able talk with you instead of having you scurry into your room like a mouse.”
I had to restrain myself and instead smiled stiffly at him, as he exited the room.
As the weeks rolled by, I made a conscious effort to be friendlier with Pere anytime he dropped by. And I managed it. It soon got to the point when I didn’t have to depart in a hurry upon his arrival, but would instead stay to chat. In the week that followed, he told me all about Ogechi’s meeting with his mom the previous weekend, and seemed satisfied by how it went.
And then, FINALLY, it was the 29th and the day my sister was to arrive home. It was a Sunday morning, and I found myself inundated with offers to give me a ride to the airport. Kachi was ready to lift his self-imposed ban on my house, and Pere seemed genuinely willing to help out. In the end, I’d accepted our neighbour, Victor’s offer of a ride.
I’d been surprised by how much details he had about Voke’s trip, upon my return to the compound. He had an idea of her itinerary even better than I did, and went as far as correcting me once when I thought she was in Marseille, but in actual fact hadn’t yet left Amsterdam. When I confronted him, he admitted he and Voke had been emailing almost since she left Nigeria, and I marvelled over the fact that my sister hadn’t even bothered to tell me anything.
But all that was forgotten the moment I saw my beloved sister make her way into the Arrivals lounge. She looked so beautiful…so fresh…so well rested, my heart soared at the sight of her.
But as enamoured as I was by her, my eyes and ears were open to catch on to anything between her and Victor…but there was nothing. There was nothing out of the ordinary or strange about how they related. Nothing at all.
With Voke back, the following week, we were able to check out some of the houses Kachi’s agents had found. My personal favourite was unfortunately gone, but Voke fell head over heels in love with the 2nd option on our list; a very spacious 3-bedroom apartment, which appeared to be a new-build. And better still, it was within our budget and would even leave enough for spare cash for us to add to our furnishing fund. So in love was Voke with the place, that in a matter of days, the place was paid for.
On the home front, I’d been able to convince Voke that having Pere’s mother around wasn’t as bad as we’d thought it would be. She’d been full of animosity to the older woman at first, but all it had had taken was a helping of the woman’s Native Soup and semovita, and my sister was hooked.
I was so happy that, finally, everyone was getting along and everything was falling into place the way it should have.
After very minimal civil works, the apartment was ready for our move, which we finally did the weekend of February 25th. Pere travelled for work the weekend we moved, but between Kachi and Victor, we were soon well settled. It felt so wonderful to finally have a room just for Gogo and Tubo, a room I could decorate to my heart’s delight.
“Is that what you are wearing?” Voke asked, obviously surprised by my simple choice of outfit.
Whilst I’d considered being true to myself and dressing up like my life depended on it, I realised I didn’t want it to appear like I was in competition with Ogechi, whom I’d been told was surely attending the ceremony. There was no need dragging for attention with anyone, so I’d opted for a simple attire instead.
Voke and Pere’s younger brother were the appointed Godparents. Kachi had been very understanding of the situation, when I’d told him of my reluctance to broach the subject of him being Godfather to Pere, and he admitted that he too had been having second thoughts.
“There’s no way Pere is going to be fine with the idea.” he had chuckled. “But it’s okay. Yes, I would have loved to see the look of pure rage on his face, but I reckon it’s better for us to let the boys be the star of the show.”
And star of the show they were indeed.
After the dedication, we had a small reception at the house. I had put my foot down and rejected any proposition to have it anywhere else….not Pere’s house and definitely not an expensive venue. I was determined for the ceremony to be a reflection of what the boys’ real lives would be about…and not a mirage, like their father’s
The downer was that our spacious apartment was soon choke-full of people, with a few even spilling over downstairs. But full or not, everyone appeared to be having fun.
Everyone but Ogechi, that is!
As expected, she’d arrived looking like she’d stepped off the cover of Vogue magazine, in her scarlet red designer skirt suit, and with her shoes and bag also from the same high-end designer. She looked and smelled of cash…raw cash. But yet, she had the look of thunder on her face the whole time, despite the fact that Pere hardly ever left her side. I stole a few glances at them, but apart from the frown on her face, they looked perfectly fine to me.
The truth was that I couldn’t care less.
Soon, the last of the guests had left and Kachi and I were tidying up downstairs, while Voke sorted out the leftover meals.
“You’re a lifesaver, Kachi. Just see how all our other friends have all taken off! If you weren’t here, is that how Voke would I have been O.Y.O?!” I giggled, as we stacked plastic chairs together.
“You’re worth the trouble, Isio.” Kachi answered.
Such a simple statement, but something in his voice made me look up. I hadn’t realised how close we were in proximity, and our heads were mere inches apart from each other. I made to step back, but I found myself rooted to the spot by some sort of invisible force, our noses almost touching from how close were together.
“Kachi, what are you doing?” I asked, surprised that I was enjoying having him only mere inches away from me…enjoying the feel of his breath on my face.
“I’m just savouring your company, Isio.” he answered, with a sly smile.
“I thought we agreed to be just friends…” I said, suddenly finding myself unsteady on my feet.
“Who says we aren’t just friends…” he answered, his head moving even closer and closing the gap between us.
“Are you trying to kiss me, Kachi?” I asked, my voice suddenly dry. “Friends don’t kiss each other this way.”
“I’m not trying to kiss you…” he answered, “I’m just grazing my lips over yours…”
His lips touched mine, soft and featherlight. It was a mere touch, but it melted every resolve in my body. And then he pulled away, but our eyes held…and I suddenly found myself captivated by him. Looking in his eyes, I saw the emotions that had been there months before, so strong and so potent. But what was different was that this time, I saw in my eyes a reflection of the very same thing.
“Isio…” he said, his voice caressing my face like a fairy’s touch. “I’m still in love with you…”
And then I did the unthinkable. I pulled him into a full and proper kiss.
As we kissed, all of my senses levitated. It almost felt like we were floating on air. It was the most intoxicating feeling I had ever had in my whole life. It was heady, it was intense, it was beautiful.
It was love.
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
- Iya Beji 35: Epic Easte of Time