“What on earth do you mean by that, Pere?!” I exclaimed. “You two only just got engaged!”
“I know!” he answered. “But I just can’t help wondering if I’m doing the right thing. I have twin sons who aren’t even 6 months old yet. And with my moving to Port Harcourt and your refusal to let them travel to see me, God knows how long I’ll be apart from them!”
“You don’t have to worry about that, Pere!” I said, trying to sound reassuring. “Now that the boys are used to your mother, I’m sure we can make arrangements for her to bring them to see you once in a while.”
“But it’s not just that!” he groaned, grasping his head. “Oh my God. This is just so messed up!”
He sighed deeply and looked at me again, and even before he said anything…I knew.
“I can’t stop thinking about you, Isio!” he answered, verbalizing my worst nightmare. “Ogechi is absolutely perfect. She’s the perfect fiancée, and I know she would make the perfect wife…but why then do you still remain the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about at night?”
The more I listened to him, the more infuriated I got. Who the hell did he think he was anyway? After all the things he’d told me in Miami, he was here telling me I was all he thought about?! Did he think I was some kind of yoyo?!
“Pere, you made it crystal clear that we could not work. You have made it crystal clear that Ogechi is the one you want to be with. So why are you standing in front of me, telling me all this nonsense?!” I retorted.
He looked at me imploringly. “Isio, it’s been a very confusing year for me. Do you think I don’t know I shouldn’t be here talking to you? I’ve met Ogechi’s family for crying out loud! We have a wedding date!”
Before I could clap back with one of the very many colourful responses floating in my head, my phone rang. My heart soared when I saw who it was.
“Excuse me, I have to take this.” my good manners made me mutter, before I pressed the Receive button.
“Isio. Thank God! I thought you wouldn’t answer.” came Kachi’s frantic voice.
I smiled in spite of myself. “Why on earth wouldn’t I answer? As a matter of fact, I was just going to call you.”
“You were?” Kachi repeated, and I could actually hear the smile in his voice. “I’m so sorry about yesterday.”
“Me too.” I said, turning away so that I could have some semblance of a private conversation, considering Pere was listening so intently, he might as well have pressed his ear to the phone.
I smiled again and nodded. “I understand.” I wanted to say so much more, but not before the audience I had.
“Are you home? I’m just leaving Church, and I could be with you in about 20 minutes.” he said.
“That sounds great!” I said, mentally calculating how long it would take to get Pere out of the house, and to rush a quick shower. “See you soon.”
“Who was that?” Pere demanded, the minute I got off the phone.
“My boyfriend!” I answered defiantly.
Pere’s face fell and he slowly took a seat on the sofa. “You have a boyfriend?”
He looked genuinely surprised, which was in turn a surprise to me, as I’d thought his dear mother would have been feeding him with information about my activities.
“I actually thought your mother would have told you.” I said.
“She knows?!” he exclaimed, giving me my answer.
“Well, I haven’t told her anything. I just thought she’d have guessed.” I mumbled.
“Who…who are you seeing? Anyone I know?” he asked, which was another surprise to me, as I’d thought Kachi’s name would have been his first guess.
“No.” I lied, opting to take advantage of his inability to accurately guess. The last thing we needed to add to the already awkward situation, was the revelation that my new man was none other than his arch-enemy, ‘Apache’. “Pere, you really have to leave now.”
He rose to his feet, looking like he was in a daze. “Sure. Of course. As a matter of fact, forget about this entire conversation. It’s probably just a case of cold feet.”
I nodded. “Probably.”
“I’d be crazy not to want to marry Ogechi. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me!” he said, almost as if he was trying to convince himself.
I smiled stiffly and nodded. “She sure is.” I said, gently leading him to the door. “Have a safe trip to Port Harcourt…and take care of yourself.”
I shut the door before he could say anything else, and let out a long breath of air I didn’t even know I’d been holding. What on earth was that?! Was he insane?! Showing up in my house telling me he wanted me…and then trying to get me to convince him Ogechi was ‘the best thing that ever happened to him’?! The guy was plain out of his mind, as far as I was concerned.
Thankfully, I was able to manage a bath and quick change into something decent, before Kachi showed up. From the minute I opened the door, we were lost in each other’s embrace, holding on as if we hadn’t seen each other in a year. When we eventually were able to pull apart, we sat entwined in each other’s arms, analyzing our first big fight.
“I’m not saying I’m a saint, Isio. I just got tired of living that way…dating that way.” he said. “After Hajara and I broke up, I did have a few years when I dated and slept with a lot of women. But one day, when yet another nameless girl was leaving my apartment at 7am in the morning, the emptiness I felt inside almost consumed me. I knew I could no longer live like that. There and then, I decided to wait for the one. It happened about 3 years ago, and I’ve been celibate since.”
“So…are you saying I’m not the one?” I asked, half teasing and half curious.
“Isio…I’ve known you were the one since you were 15 years old.” he answered seriously. “But I also want what my parents have. And from the little I know of your parents…what they have as well. My parents have been married almost 50 years…and they are still as in love with each other as when they just started dating. And I know it has less to do with butterflies in their stomach…but everything to do with God.”
I looked at him, surprised. “God?”
“I want us to honour Him in our relationship, Isio…so that He will honour our union.” He said, taking my hands in his. “50, 60, 70 years from now…I want us to still be as crazy about each other as we are today. Does that make sense?”
And I finally understood.
As we kissed, all I could do was be thankful for finding such a wonderful man, a rarity in this day and age. We could have been in each other’s arms forever, if Voke, Pere’s mother and the children hadn’t returned from Church.
“I better go.” Kachi whispered in my ear, before a hurried kiss and a quick exit.
“Are we the ones that chased away your friend?” Pere’s mother remarked, with a smile on her face that I knew had less of humour and more of acid. “You should have asked him to stay!”
Voke gave us an amused glance, before walking off to her bedroom. Who could blame her from not wanting to be a part of our drama.
“He had to get somewhere.” I muttered, busying myself with the boys.
“You missed a great service!” the older woman said. “The message was so powerful! You really should have been there!”
I grunted in response, still appearing busier than I was as I fussed over an imaginary stain on Tubo’s shirt, hopefl the distraction would succeed in getting Mama Pere out of the living room.
“Pere just called me. He said he came here to discuss with you.” she said, taking a seat. “But he said you told him you’re not interested.”
I gave the woman an incredulous look, not believing we were actually having this conversation. “Interested in what?”
“In being a family, the way you should be!” she answered. “He has finally started coming to his senses and has seen that other girl is not the one for him. He has started realizing that his place is with you…the mother of his kids!” she shrugged. “I have told him nothing about your late nights and suspect movement, because all I want is for you both to stop being foolish and reconcile finally!”
At that point, at that very point, I’d just about had enough!
“Mommy, you’ve really tried for us. Our original agreement was March, but here we are, days from May and you’re still here. We’ve actually kept you for almost 5 months.” I said as sweetly as I could manage.
She chuckled. “It’s no inconvenience, my daughter. I could stay here forever, if you’d let me.”
“Thank you, Mommy. But 5 months is more than long enough.” I answered, unsmiling. “I think it’s time for you to leave…to return to your own life. Blessing and Dorcas have learnt enough, and I’m sure we can all manage from this point.”
I felt saddened by the look of pure heartbeak on her face, and I probably would have pleaded with her to disregard what I’d said and then proceed to apologise profusely, if the situation was any different. But now that she had verbalized what side of the fence she was on, the side of the fence that still thought Pere and I were a good idea…she most surely had to go!
“About time too!” Voke said, when I told her what happened. “E don do abeg! And as for that Pere of a boy, he must be a big fool! Not after all those things he said to you in Miami. You don’t know how I had to restrain myself from stabbing him with a knife that day. Isio, I wanted to kill him with my bare hands, but I just had to control myself for your sake. He’s lucky he didn’t even meet me here. I swear, I for wound am!”
I chuckled, grateful to Voke for making me feel better about the situation.
“Babes, forget about that confused man, and focus on Apache! Trust me…he’s way better for you!” she continued. “I’m even more impressed now that he’s off premarital sex and more focused on God! My dear, you don’t find his type everyday!”
And Voke would know, considering she’d found herself one of the type herself. We’d always known Victor to be very religious, so it was no surprise to us that he too was an advocate for celibacy before marriage. And it hadn’t even his attendance of daily Mass or strict observance of Lent that had shown us what a heart for God he had…but the way he lived his life. He was one to give away the clothes off his back, if it meant helping anyone in need. And from the very many families that flocked in and out of his apartment for food and other monetary assistance, it was clear that he had a generous heart. Yes, he earned well as a Senior Manager with one of the big banks, but if the number of his beneficiaries was anything to go by, he was spending almost all he earned on random acts of kindness.
But better still, he was crazy about my sister. And to me, that was the most important thing.
The very next day, Pere’s mother was all packed to leave. I’d actually thought she’d stay a few days before leaving, but from the look on her face, she was mad as hell about having been evicted long before her desire, and she clearly wasn’t prepared to spend another minute hanging around.
“Thanks so much, Mommy.” I said, embracing her. “We’ll come and see you at home.”
She’d managed barely a grunt and didn’t even return my hug. Instead, she tearfully embraced her grandsons, before making her way downstairs. As soon as she was gone, it was my own time to leave for work. A part of me was nervous about leaving the boys with their nanny, but I knew I had nothing to fear. The truth is, in the last few weeks, if not months, she’d been doing most of the work anyway.
That evening, for the first time since we started dating officially, Kachi was able to come upstairs after dropping me at home. Even though he was extremely nervous about facing my sister for the first time since we began our relationship and even though Voke had teased him about ‘finally getting the girl’, the visit went very well. The boys took to him like fish to water, even though it had been a while since they’d spent time together, and we spent a long time just enjoying each other’s company. The next evening, Victor came around, and all four of us had a nice time eating Voke’s phenomenal home cooking, and just talking about life. I couldn’t help but marvel over the marked difference between this foursome, and the foursome that had involved Pere and Obiora…glorified man-children. Comparing Kachi and Victor, with Pere and Obiora, was like comparing chalk and cheese. There was no basis. The difference between both sets of men was mindblowing. And the difference between how happy, peaceful and secure Voke and I now were, versus how agitated and frustrated we’d been in the past, was night and day.
As the weeks progressed, the bond between Kachi and I deepened. And it was solidified when his family came to town, for his older sister’s parents-in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary. I’d been mortified when he asked me to be his date and had even almost declined, but upon further consideration, I decided to just grab the bull by the horns once and for all. Yes, there was the possibility that they wouldn’t approve of me, a single mother of two, but I owed it to him to at least try.
And try I did. Selecting my wardrobe very carefully, I’d accompanied him for the party at the celebrants’ Banana Island home, and I was stunned by how warmly his family received me. His parents had embraced me like some long-lost daughter, and his sisters had been full of compliments and kind words; complimenting how I looked and even offering words of advice for how best to handle a relationship with their ‘spoilt baby brother’.
I was confused.
I almost thought that maybe they had no idea I was a single mother, until his mother actually asked a pointed question about the twins and how old they were, following which one of his sisters asked to see a picture, and then they all proceeded to ogle over the numerous pictures I had on my phone. This was followed by their insistence on us taking selfies after selfies. I had never seen a more happy-go-lucky, friendly and cheerful group of women.
I didn’t know if it was because his parents were so European (in the gathering, where most people were clad in regal traditional outfits, Kachi’s father wore a dapper suit and his mother was in formal dress, complete with hat!), or maybe because they were deeply religious as I’d already gleaned from Kachi, or maybe because they were just nice people…Whatever the case, it felt wonderful to feel so accepted.
It gave me the courage to start planning to introduce Kachi formally to my own parents.
“What about next weekend?” I suggested as he dropped me home that night, my excitement brimming over. “We could drive down to Ogudu for lunch or something?”
“I don’t think we should shove this down their throats, Isio.” Kachi countered. “Me showing up in their home, without them having heard anything officially from you, might be a bit much for them to swallow.”
His wise words brought me back to reality. Who was I kidding? My parents were not Kachi’s parents, not in any shape or form. It would take months to get them to accept the new man in my life. So reluctantly, I agreed with his suggestion to take it slow.
Getting into our apartment, I wanted to tell Voke all about the wonderful time I’d had with Kachi’s family, but was disappointed to find that she’d gone to bed. Even the boys were asleep, so I couldn’t share with them the story either.
I had just slipped out of my shoes, when my phone rang again.
“Hey babe!” I said, not even bothering to check the phone screen. After all, who else would have been calling me at almost midnight.
“Isio. I’m so relieved you sound happy to hear from me.” came the voice I wasn’t expecting.
“Pere!” I exclaimed.
“Oh…you thought it was someone else?” he asked, sounding disappointed.
“What do you want?” I demanded, “And why are you calling me at this time?”
“I ended it with her. I left her.” he said. “I can’t marry her…when I’m in love with you.”
“Pere, please stop this nonsense!” I shrieked. “You can’t be in love with me! We are over. I’m with someone else now…”
“You can’t love him the way you love me, Isio!” he countered. “You’ve been in love with me for almost 20 years. Who is this new joker you suddenly think you’d rather be with.”
“It’s Kachi. I’m in love with Kachi. We’ve been together since April, and I’m really happy.” I answered.
“Kachi? You’re in love with Apache?!” Pere laughed. “Is this some sort of joke, Isio. You forget I know you can barely stand the guy.”
“Things have changed, Pere. I love him very much, and…”
“I’m actually relieved hearing it’s Apache. There I was, thinking I had real competition on my hands!” Pere said, and even though I couldn’t see him, I wanted nothing more than to wipe whatever smug look he’d have on his face.
“Look, Pere…if it’s not about the boys, don’t call me again! You and I can never, EVER, be together again. That ship has not only sailed, it has sunk to the very bottom of the sea! Do you hear me?!” I said, the tone of my voice rising.
“I’ll give you a little more time.” he said, ignoring everything I’d said. “We’ll talk later.”
As the line disconnected, I tossed the phone to the far end of my bed. The nerve of him! The absolute nerve of him, thinking we could just pick up wherever we left off. He was going to marvel that it would never happen again.
I proceeded to forget about the phone call, especially as Kachi called a few minutes later. And then, b the next morning, after sharing the story of the warm reception from Kachi’s family with a very elated Voke, Pere was pushed even further to the back of my mind.
Until the next evening.
Kachi and I were right in the middle of dinner, when my phone rang. My heart flew into my mouth when I saw his name, and I immediately put the phone on silent, making up some story about a persistent colleague badgering me for information. Thankfully, Kachi bought my story. By the time I got home and checked my phone, there were 26 missed calls from Pere.
And that was how Pere became a glorified stalker, hounding me with calls I never answered and turning me into a liar I couldn’t recognize. It just felt easier to lie to Kachi, than to tell him the truth…that Pere was trying to stage a comeback. But I should have known he would soon take things up a notch.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and Kachi and I were reclined in my living room watching an old Bruce Willis movie on the TCM chanel, after having just put the boys to sleep…when the doorbell rang. Opening it and seeing a delivery man with a bouquet of roses and a wide smile broke on my face as I marveled over how romantic Victor was.
But alas, the flowers weren’t from Victor…neither were they for Voke.
“These are for Miss Isio?” the man said, handing me his receipt register to sign.
But alas, Kachi had heard the guy.
“Flowers for you? Who from? Secret admirer?” he teased.
I smilled stiffly. “Nobody important.” I answered, trying to walk away to the kitchen where I could throw the entire bouquet in the bin.
But Kachi was already on his feet. “Won’t you even check the card?” he asked, reaching for it before I could stop him. “Aren’t you even curious?”
I watched as the smile on his face disappeared and his face fell, as he beheld the message on the card.
To Isio…the love of my life. Pere.
He looked at me questioningly. “Pere?”
“Baby, it’s not what you think…” I protested.
And just then, my phone rang from the side table where it lay. Both our eyes went to the device…I guess both of us having a fair idea who the caller would be. Kachi walked over to the phone and took it in his hands. Sure enough, it was him. It was Pere calling.
He stared at the ringing device, his light skinned face turning beet red. When the phone stopped ringing, he checked my call history and saw the very many calls there had already been…from the same person.
“No wonder your phone is always on silent.” Kachi said quietly. “How long have you two been back together?”
“We’re not back together! He’s been calling, but I haven’t been answering. You can see from my call register that all his calls have gone unanswered!” I answered, getting frantic.
“So why didn’t you tell me anything?” he asked.
“I just…I didn’t want you to take it the wrong way…” I said, trying to pick my words, but not sure if the words I’d chosen were the right ones.
“God, I’m such an idiot!” Kachi exclaimed. “Deep in my heart, I’ve always known you’d go back to him. But yet I let myself fall in love with you, like an idiot!”
He stood silently for a while, deep in thought.
“I have to go.” he said, his voice but a hoarse whisper. Before I could even protest, he was already out the door.
Leaving me standing alone in the living room, bouquet of roses forgotten on the table…and my phone ringing again. Looking at the caller ID, the rage inside me almost made me hurl the phone right out the window.
Pere had just cost me my first ever shot at having true, beautiful 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
- Iya Beji 36: Just Friends
- Iya Beji 37: Taking it slowly