Ejiro was pleased, but understandably apprehensive of my decision to finally accept him.
“I hope you’re not on the rebound. How am I sure you won’t return to your school boyfriend when your Internship here is over?” he said to me, as we sat at an upscale restaurant in Victoria Island, the day after I heard that Pere and Daisy were now an official item.
I assured him that I wasn’t on the rebound, and that I’d finally realised he was the better choice for me. While that might have been true on the one hand, another truth was my desperation to hurt Pere the way he’d hurt me. I was still devastated over how, despite everything we’d been through in the six years of our relationship, it had only taken two months of me being away to send him to another woman’s arms.
Ejiro didn’t make me regret my decision. With us being a formal couple, he showered me with even more gifts and treats. My friends were beside themselves with excitement, and my other toasters were saddened that the window of opportunity had been shut. Everyone said we made a beautiful couple…and we sure did. We turned heads everywhere we went, and it didn’t take me long to even forget about anyone called Pere.
And when I finally introduced him to my parents, my mother almost lost her mind…so much was her glee and excitement. Rich and Urhobo, Ejiro was the dream son-in-law she’d been praying to God for. And when he also started showering them with endless gifts, it was like she had died and gone to heaven. But my father wasn’t having any of that.
“Tell that young man to stop bringing all these gifts!” the old man complained, when I presented him with a gift hamper filled with expensive liquor, cigars and perfume. “While we appreciate the gesture, officially we don’t know him. Until he becomes your husband, please advise him to desist from all this!”
Whilst my mother had been scandalised by her husband’s stance, the joy of knowing I was being well taken care of was enough consolation for her…for the time being.
“Thank God you have distracted her from Obiora and I!” Voke, my older sister, teased one night as we sat in the room we shared. “She has been too busy singing and dancing about her darling Ejiro, to remember her other daughter’s ‘poor’ boyfriend!”
We both laughed, but I could see that deep down, Voke was saddened about how blatantly our mother was showing her preference for my own boyfriend. While Obiora was nowhere near poor, at 25, he was two years older than Voke, but the truth is that the guy just wasn’t a go-getter. It had been 3 years since his graduation, but he still hadn’t found a job. It didn’t help matters that his mother was a senior executive with one of the leading banks, giving him more impetus to just sit at home all day long, spending her money. So even though he was from a comfortable family, to our mother, he was a downright failure. And worse was that he couldn’t see himself getting married in the near future. Something that worried his longtime girlfriend, Voke.
But Ejiro couldn’t have been more different. Almost from the start of our relationship, he made it clear that this wasn’t about fun and games.
“Isio, I’m not playing around.” he said to me, that first week. “I want to settle down. So if you know you’re looking for who to play with until school resumes, it’s better we end this now.”
I assured him that I was also in for the long haul, and by the time my Internship was over, four months later, he made good on his word by presenting me with a beautiful engagement ring.
I couldn’t believe it! I was actually engaged!!! Everyone was over the moon about it. Even Voke was happy for me. The only person who’d been apprehensive had been my father.
“But you’re just 21, Isio.” he’d remarked. “You have all the time in the world to get married. Why don’t you two wait a few more years…get to know each other better? I didn’t marry your mother until she was 24, and even then, she was considered rather young.”
“Don’t listen to him oh!” my mother chided, when we were in the privacy of my bedroom. “At 21, almost all my mates don born them pikin finish! You’re not too young for anything! And if you waste time, another woman go come carry Ejiro from your hand, e go do you like electric shock!”
But my father wouldn’t budge and insisted he wouldn’t entertain any visits from Ejiro’s family until I had completed my final year in school. As it was only about 10 months for that to happen (ASUU cooperating), we all had no choice but to accept it.
As the time neared for my return to school, I grew more and more nervous about seeing Pere again. It had been almost five months since the incident with Daisy, and I had warned my friends to desist from giving me his gist, and I also made sure I kept away from anything that would remind me of him. Thank God it was before the days of social media, as God knows how I would have pulled that off in today’s world! Thankfully, we were no longer neighbours in our old neighbourhood in Yaba, as before my own family had moved to our house in Ogudu, he had returned to his own family home in Agbara…both almost on opposite ends of town. And as Ejiro only preferred to hang out in places Pere’s pockets could never stretch to, we didn’t run into each other socially.
“I don’t want you staying on campus.” Ejiro said to me, the weekend before I was to move back to school. “I won’t be able to sleep at night, knowing your ex, and all the other hungry Unilag boys, are hovering around.”
I’d looked at him with a raised brow. “So I should be going from Ogudu to campus everyday? Do I look like someone who wants to die?!”
“Even if I gave you a car?” he countered.
“Who has power to be driving in traffic to and fro? I’ll be drained by the time I get to school!” I exclaimed.
“With a driver?” he countered further.
Hey, I couldn’t argue with that.
So that’s how I returned to school, chauffeur driven in a brand new 2005 BMW X6, sporting a bedazzled engagement ring…and I pretty much shut down campus. Before the end of that very first day, my name was on everyone’s lips. Pere’s Isio was engaged to a rich Shell guy!
Considering he and Daisy had already been philandering around campus from the previous semester, nobody could insult me for getting an upgrade. Not even his friends. Not even his so-called best friend Kayode.
“This is a niiiiiice ride, mehn!” he exclaimed, when we ran into each other at the car park of our mutual Engineering faculty. “And that’s a nice ring too. Congratulations.”
I smiled stiffly. I resented him for being party to the whole mess with Daisy, knowing what Pere was up to the whole time, despite us still being together.
“We miss you Isio! We miss all your gist and jokes! It’s not been the same without you.” he said.
“Gist and jokes?! Oh, so I was your comedian? Why don’t you get Daisy to give you gist and tell jokes?!” I snapped.
“About Daisy. It’s not what you think, Isio. Pere didn’t start dating her until…” he started, but I cut him short with a wave of my hand.
“Please spare me, Kayode! I don’t need the timeline of their relationship. I wish them well, because as you can see, I’m doing well also!”
He put up his arms in surrender, and never brought up Pere’s name again.
By carefully planning my routine, and limiting my movement only to my Faculty and sporadic dashes into Moremi Hall to see friends and course mates, I was able to go for almost the rest of the semester without seeing him. And with Ejiro practically monitoring my every move, there was a limit to how I could move around anyway. He had pretty much memorised my whole timetable, and knew how long it was supposed to take me to get from Akoka to Ogudu…or Akoka to his house in Ikoyi, both in rush hour time and other wise.
“Why are you always monitoring and timing me? Where do you think I’ll go?” I exclaimed one day.
“Women can be weak. One never knows what kind of stunt that your Pere guy will pull!” had been his own snide response.
I looked at him quizzically. “How do you know his name?” I asked in wonder, because in all our time together, and even though I’d told him all about Pere, I’d never for once called his name. It was always ‘My ex.’ Because he was the only ex I even had!
Ejiro laughed. “You think I won’t have found out everything about the boy who deflowered my wife? Don’t take me for a fool, Isio.”
Somehow, hearing that had given me the creeps.
He continued to monitor me, and was sure to change my driver every other month, to prevent me from ‘getting too attached’. But I think he just wanted to prevent any form of loyalty from developing, which wouldn’t allow the driver feed him with information about my movement, which I knew they all did.
So, even if I’d wanted to…which I didn’t…I didn’t see Pere almost all semester. Daisy I did see, on a few occasions. But by being engaged to someone like Ejiro, I’d leapfrogged so far ahead of her on the social ladder, that instead of gloat over finally having gotten Pere for herself, the admiration on her face every time she saw me, was palpable.
“Wow Isio! You look really beautiful. Congrats on your engagement.” she’d said to me, the first day I saw her in Moremi Hall.
I looked her up and down, and my former inclination would have been to hiss long and hard, and maybe even insult her for having the audacity to talk to me, after what she’d done. But instead, I’d flicked my long wave, giving her a nice close-up view of my stunning engagement ring, and smiled brightly. “Thank you, Daisy. You take care now.”
And as I sashayed away from her, swinging my hips in my True Religion jeans, my Gucci bamboo bag perched on my shoulder, I could feel her eyes on me. It was clear that she was in awe of me…probably even jealous. And when I got into the back seat of my car, I stole a glance at her, and had to stifle a laugh when I saw she was still staring…gaping at me, more like. Served her right for thinking she’d gotten the better of me, with the stunt she’d pulled with Pere.
I thought I was truly over Pere and his betrayal, until the one time I finally did see him…and he was with her. I was in my car, being driven from my faculty, and he and Daisy were walking hand, probably coming from his quarters in Ozolua. My heart caught in my mouth at the sight of them, and I felt myself go both sick in the stomach and pained in the soul. Even through the partially tinted glass, our eyes held, Pere’s and mine, and from the way his jaw clenched, it was obvious how he felt about seeing me, chauffeur driven and looking all glam. Daisy still had the look of awe on her face. To block them out, I pushed on my sunglasses and looked the other way. But even though they were out of my sight, the image of them, walking together like lovebirds, was stamped in my heart. And for the rest of the day…and even week…permanently stamped in my brain were images of Pere and Daisy, happy as they could be as a couple in love. And it hurt.
Thankfully, first semester soon ended, and by second semester, it was Pere’s turn to go for his own Internship.
“Thank God that your Pere has finally gone to Warri for his IT, so we can all rest now.” Ejiro had remarked.
By now, having Ejiro give me such detailed accounts of Pere’s life was no longer new to me. He probably knew more about Pere than the Pere himself.
“What’s he doing in Warri? Where does he work?” I asked, trying to sound casual.
I guess I hadn’t tried had enough, as Ejiro cast me a scathing look, and said nothing more. I was later to find out he was interning in an Uncle’s oil service company…which was something I knew he’d always wanted. But it was just as well, as not having him around made things so much easier, and gave me the freedom to move around campus as I liked, without running the risk of seeing anything that would break my heart.
Thankfully, the semester…and in effect, the session…and in effect, my time in Unilag finally came to an end. Ejiro and I agreed that I would leave for the UK for my Masters immediately, so NYSC wasn’t an option in the near term. As I’d missed September admissions, it was agreed I would leave in January. That December, we finally had our Introduction ceremony, much to my mother’s delight. It was an elaborate 100 person affair, with our compound gayly decorated, and the attractive colours from the George wrappers almost everyone wore, adding to the jubilant mood of it all. It was a proudly Urhobo affair, and it was clear both families couldn’t have been more delighted.
“Na wa oh! Your family doesn’t play!” Obiora remarked, walking into our bedroom as I changed from my first lace outfit, to a less formal but equally beautiful Ankara dress. “This is even bigger than some people’s traditional wedding! Voks, I hope you’re not expecting ours to be like this!”
I saw a muscle flinch in my sister’s face, and could tell it was clearly a sore topic for her. At 24, she was beginning to get edgy, and it was clear marriage was the farthest thing from the mind of 26 year old Obiora…who still didn’t have a job.
“That your bobo sha…” he continued, oblivious of his girlfriend’s rising irritation. “Something about that guy just dey somehow. Why is he always carrying his shoulders like he’s the only person to work in Shell? How much money does he even have sef?!”
“More than you.” Voke mumbled under her breath.
Obiora smiled. That was the good thing about him…he was good natured to a fault, and was angered by almost nothing. “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.” then looking at me, he gave a small bow. “Congrats, my dear Isio. If you’re happy…I’m happy. Even though you did my friend strong tin shaaaa.”
Voke and I glared at him for daring to reference Pere. With Voke and I being so close, it had been inevitable for Pere and Obiora to form a strong friendship. And even though we knew he and Pere were still friends, it was the unspoken rule that his name was never to mentioned anywhere around me.
“Are you happy?” Voke asked me, as we lay in bed that night.
“Yes.” I answered smiling. Of course I was happy. Who wouldn’t be, with a fiancé who spoiled them rotten the way Ejiro did me? It was agreed that our wedding would be in Easter of 2007, upon the completion of my program in the UK. As I would have turned 24 by then, that made my father much more comfortable.
And everything was in progress. I had a wedding date, and was set to travel on January 5th. Everything was perfect…
Until I went for my friend, Anita’s annual Christmas party…
The minute Voke and I walked into the compound, the first person, the very person I saw…was Pere. And as our eyes connected, and with the way my heart skipped several beats…
I knew I wasn’t over him.
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