Even with the realization dawning on me, I still ran around the car park…hoping…praying it was all a big mistake. Hoping I’d just forgotten where he was parked. Praying he’d just driven out to get something quickly and would soon return.
But there was no such luck.
“Isio!” came Voke’s voice, as she chased after me. “Isio, wait!”
“I’m trying to find Kachi!” I said frantically. “He just dropped me here…”
“Isio…you need to listen to me!” Voke insisted, and something in her voice made me stop running.
“I tried to call you as soon as I found out what was happening.” Voke said, walking closer. “It wasn’t until this evening that Dad told me what was going on…”
I looked my sister in the eye. “What do you know, Voke? And how come Kachi was in on whatever sick plan all of you have been concocting?”
“Me ke? Isio!” Voke exclaimed. “How could you think I would be a part of anything trying to get you back with that arrogant goat?! I only found out about this a few minutes before you did.” she paused, the words in her mouth too heavy to release. “From the little I’ve picked up, I think Dad went to see him.”
“Pere?” I asked.
She shook her head. “No. Kachi.”
“Dad went to see Kachi?!” I exclaimed incredulously, not wanting to believe what I was hearing…not wanting to accept that this was one of the worst possible outcomes ever.
Just then, a familiar voice started calling my name afar. A voice I could recognize in my sleep.
Without another word to neither Voke nor Pere, I dashed out of the compound, flagged down a commercial bike rider, hopped on it and was soon making my way to Kachi’s house, a few streets away.
But getting to his apartment, I was devastated to find him not only absent, but to see he had finally changed the hiding spot of his house key. Dejected, I sat on a stair slab, wondering how on earth I would ever get out of this mess.
About a half hour later, he drove into the compound. He didn’t see me at first, and there was a hunch to his shoulders as he made his way out of his car and towards the front door. I rose to my feet, an expectant and hopeful look on my face…trying to mask my agitated and frustrated feelings with a calm persona.
“What are you doing here, Isio?” Kachi asked.
“How could you just leave me, Kachi?” I asked in return. “How could you just dump me there like that?”
He stopped right before me, his eyes never leaving me for a minute. “I had no business being there.”
“Is it true my father came to see you?” I asked.
He lowered his eyes momentarily, before looking up at me. “Yes, Isio. It’s true.”
Incensed and enraged, I stook a step forward. “What did he say to you?”
“He asked me to do the right thing.” Kachi answered.
“The right thing?!” I repeated, feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience.
“Isio, Pere is the father of your babies…and he loves you.” Kachi said, his voice sounding pained. “It’s been wicked of me to think of coming in the way all this while…”
“Kachi!” I exclaimed tearfully, not believing what I was hearing.
“You and I both grew up in a normal family setting, with a father and a mother.” He answered, recomposing himself. “It is not in my place to take that away from Gogo and Tubo.”
“Kachi, how could you have let my dad get into your head?!” I exclaimed.
“Can I ask you a question, Isio? If I weren’t the picture…if we weren’t together, would you have gone back to Pere? With Pere now back in your life, prophesying all the love in the world, would you have gone back to him? And I need you to be honest.”
“Of course not!” I exclaimed vehemently.
“If you and I were not dating…if you and Pere were just co-parenting, and he asked you to marry him, you’d have turned him down?” Kachi asked, his eyes trained on me.
“I most certainly would have!” I retorted. But even as I spoke, there was a part of me that knew the truth. “Maybe…”
He closed the gap and held me in his arms. “I will forever treasure these last few months of having my biggest dream come true!”
“But I have to let you go.” he said, his voice firm. “It might sting now, but trust me when I say you’ll thank me for this later.”
I was finally able to pull myself free, and glared at him, tears streaming down my face. “You have to let me go? Do you and Pere think I’m sort of toy you can pass back and forth?! Is this some sort of sick joke? You’ve had your fill so he can have me back, is that it?!”
This was the part where I thought he’d be aghast at the very suggestion of it. This is the part where he was supposed to tell me I couldn’t have been more wrong, and that he could never, ever, let go of me.
But instead, his face set as he stepped back. “We don’t have anything more to say to each other, Isio.” he said, making his way to the door leading to the other apartments. “It’s late. You have to leave now.”
And to my shock, he actually disappeared behind the door, shutting it behind him.
I stood, staring at the closed door…stunned. Standing there…alone in Kachi’s compound…I finally realised exactly what heartbreak…real heartbreak…felt like.
Words will never be able to properly articulate how I felt. The heartbreak felt almost literal…well, actually no. It was literal. It was so literal that I could feel the pain coursing through every cell in my body. It was so literal I thought blood would soon start seeping out of my skin.
Dejected, I turned around and walked out of the compound, with nary a word to even the friendly Security Guard. Once out of the compound, I walked as if in a trance until I spotted a taxi in the far distance.
But the ride back home reminded me of what exactly I’d lost.
But upon getting home, and seeing the look on Voke’s face when she opened the door for me, I just started to weep inconsolably. I wept like a baby for everything I’d lost. I started the morning expectant of getting engaged to Kachi…only to be dumped hours later!
“I think he was muscled into a corner…” Voke offered, as we sat on my bed later that night. “I think Dad must have come down hard on him…”
“He didn’t even fight for me.” I said, my voice barely a whisper. “He just let me go…”
“Well, at least I was finally forced into telling the parents about Victor!” Voke giggled.
But I didn’t even hear the joke in her voice. All I could hear and feel were Kachi’s rejection. He had opted for the easy way out, rather than to fight for me.
“He didn’t love me enough.” I said, not even realizing the words had been audible.
But to me, that was pure nonsense.
After Voke left for her bedroom, I sat awake in bed for most of the night. Several times, I was tempted to call Kachi on the phone, to harass him into changing his mind. I was even tempted to drive back to his house in the wee hours of the morning, to weep at his feet and plead with him not to destroy us. I was tempted to do anything I had to, just to undo the horrible events of the day just gone by.
But somewhere between the 3 and 4 o’clock hour, I decided that enough was enough. I wasn’t the poster child for dysfunctional relationships. Why did every single relationship I’d ever had in my life have to be rife with drama and complication? Why couldn’t I have what Voke and Victor now had; smooth, happy and stress-free? There was no point forcing Kachi into a situation he clearly didn’t have the capacity to handle. Our situation required us both being committed to make our relationship work, especially with me already coming with so much baggage. But if his first inclination was to jump out of the moving train, then there was nothing to salvage.
When it was 6am, after quickly attending to the boys, I returned to bed, and forced myself to sleep, awaking briefly at 9am to send a text to my new boss, feigning illness. But even after sleeping till afternoon, I awoke still feeling fatigued; physically, mentally and emotionally.
But onwards and forwards.
Retrieving my laptop, I decided to still try to get some work done. I might not have been able to make it to the office, but that didn’t mean I had to let my several deadlines slip. I also needed to put finishing touches to plans for the boys’ birthday the following week, so there was more than enough to keep me busy.
If only I’d known my baby daddy was going to add himself to that list.
At about 6pm, one of my Nannies knocked on my bedroom door tentatively. “Excuse me, Ma. Their daddy dey outside. Make I open door for am?”
I glanced up at her, irritated by the realisation that Pere, ‘their daddy’, hadn’t smelt the coffee to just leave me alone. If leaving him hanging as he proposed to me wasn’t enough to do that, only God knew what was! But there was no point delaying the inevitable.
“Let him in.” I said to her.
Once she was out of the room, I shut my laptop and rose to my feet. It was better to speak with him in the living room, than to have him find his way to my bedroom. When I walked out, I saw he was already in the apartment, standing nervously by the door.
“The boys are in their nursery, if you want to see them.” I said, my tone flat.
“I’ll see them later. I’d like us to talk first.” he said. “I know you ran out looking for Apache yesterday.”
“Well, you and my father seem to have done a good job in chasing him away! So…congratulations!” I said sarcastically, my latent anger fast on its way to becoming kinetic.
“I had nothing to do with your father going to see him. You know that’s not my style. I would never have stooped low to go beg him for what’s mine!” Pere answered, making me marvel that, even now, he was still as arrogant and conceited as anything.
“Pere, what do you want?!” I asked, already fed up of the conversation.
“I asked you a question, Isio. In the presence of our families, I asked you to be my wife…” Pere said, looking at me desperately.
“If running away wasn’t enough answer for you, then let me spell it out for you, Perelaiyefa Lawson…” I retorted. “NO! I will never marry you. Hell will freeze over first!”
“But I don’t understand why this sudden change of heart, Isio!” he exclaimed. “It was only a year ago…exactly this time last year…that you were so eager for us to be together…”
“And also just about the same time you brushed me off like scum of the earth. Remember all the things you said? Reminding me, in Technicolour, about the day I ran off with Ejiro…conveniently forgetting what it was that led us to that day. Telling me how much better for you Ogechi was? You cheated on me with Daisy…I reacted…and over a decade later, you still chose to punish me for that?! Do you remember how you tricked me into bed, when I just returned to Nigeria, only to shame me the morning after, calling me names and making me feel so wretched and dirty?”
“Isio…you don’t know how deeply you hurt me when you left me for Ejiro!”
“Pere, I only used Ejiro as a ruse that evening. You, on the other hand, slept with Daisy that very same night! Or am I lying?”
“I only did that to get back at you!”
“Well then, here we are!” I snapped. “But it seems I’m the one who’s been paying for both our mistakes!”
He reached for my hand. “Isio, we love each other. We have two beautiful sons together. Can’t we just put all those awful things in the past and start again?!”
I looked at him as he spoke, and realised Kachi was right. If I’d never gotten involved with him, hearing Pere say this would have sent me straight to Heaven and back. A few months ago, it would have been a dream come true to hear my longtime love declare his love for me, and offer me forever. But I’d tasted a love much more beautiful than anything he could ever offer me again.
“My heart has moved on, Pere.” I said gently. “I can never love you like that again.”
And for the very first time, Pere finally heard what I was saying. His shoulders sank, and I saw that the realization of my lost love had finally hit him. He sat on a sofa, obviously pondering what I’d said, and it broke my heart to see him look so hurt and shattered. But rather than hang around consoling him, I decided it was best to allow him get used to the way things now were.
“I have some work to catch up on…” I said, rising to my feet.
He nodded as if in a trance. “I’ll see the boys briefly before I leave.”
I nodded also, before scurrying off to my room without looking back. I felt bad to have passed on the gauntlet of heartbreak, but we all just had to be on the same page about what the reality was.
The weekend passed by uneventfully…well, that’s if you consider ignoring persistent phone calls from your family uneventful. For the first time in forever, I left calls from both my parents unanswered. And even when the not-so-surprising calls from Pere’s mother joined them, I was happy to ignore those as well. Voke tried a few times to make me understand Kachi’s justification for doing what he’d done, but I had already shut my mind to that. I’d suffered rejection one too many times. There would be no more.
By Monday, I was back at work and threw myself into it with a lot of passion and gusto…and it helped me keep my mind off everything. And on Friday, September 22, the boys turned 1! Even though I’d started considering a small house party the following Saturday, with all that had happened, I decided to simply entertain a few of our neighbours kids at home in the evening. Voke and I were able to get off work early, and there in our living room, had given the kids a wonderful time.
By the time Pere arrived at 6pm, the party was over. Thankfully, he didn’t say anything about us being together, and that suited me just fine. But lying in bed that night, I realised my heart was aching over the fact that Kachi hadn’t even called. Even if we were over, the least he could have done was too have called.
And it just made me feel even more bitter towards him.
That weekend, my parents finally made it to Lekki, under the guise of bringing birthday presents for their grandkids, but I knew it was all a ruse to see me. But in even more dramatic fashion than ignoring their phone calls, I’d blanked them as if they were not there. Apart from the perfunctory welcome greeting, when my mother found her way to my bedroom to ‘talk to me’, or when my father tried to corner me into conversation as I dished them a meal, I’d looked so vacant and expressionless, that a passerby wouldn’t have believed I was the one they having a conversation with. And that was just me being polite. God knows the kind of choice words I had for my father for actually going to confront Kachi. But because of the love I had for them, I decided to just let it all be.
By the following week, things had pretty much settled back to normal. I still thought of Kachi round the clock, but I had started getting used to our new routine that didn’t involve him. Pere also seemed to have accepted the fact that co-parents was all we would ever be, and all was fine in my world.
Until Tubo took ill in the wee hours of the morning, towards the end of September. By 4am in the morning, with his temperature sky-high and him unable to keep any food down, Voke and I had rushed him to the hospital. By the time Pere joined us at about 7am, he had already been admitted. He was diagnosed of a bacterial infection, and would have to stay in the hospital for a few days, while being treated. Sitting in that hospital, I found myself emotional, as it brought so many memories of the 6 weeks we’d been hositalised after their birth.. Even though we were assured the infection was nothing to worry about, what if we lost him?!
“He’ll be fine, Isio!” Pere consoled me for the umpteenth time, but I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into a sea of panic and fear.
But after the second day, when I could see my son’s vibrancy and energy returning, I started to relax. And on day 3, we were told that if his test results came out clean, he could be released by the end of that day. Thankfully, they did. Just before our departure from the hospital, Pere and I went to the Hospital Pharmacy to get his prescribed drugs.
“Mrs. Lawson!” the Pharmacist called, to notify us the drugs were ready.
I glared at Pere, before rising to my feet to answer her call. “It’s not Mrs. Lawson! It’s Miss Clarke! We already updated our records with that information!” I snapped at the hapless woman.
“I’m so sorry!” she said, looking flustered. “I just…I only just…”
“It’s okay, Ma.” Pere said to her with a kind smile. “An honest mistake.”
As she scurried off, I noticed a woman standing beside us, staring at us with her mouth agape. I rolled my eyes. Just what we needed.
“You two aren’t married?!” she exclaimed. “But you told me you are!” the second part of the statement was targeted at me.
“Well, I lied!” I snapped. “Pere and I are not married. I’m just his baby mama!”
Pere shook his head in exasperation and walked away, and Daisy looked at me with so much pity, I felt like giving her a slap.
“Isio! So after all these years, you’re still so foolish!” she exclaimed. “You were foolish then, and you are even more foolish now.”
“Excuse me!” I said, advancing towards her, not caring that we were in a public place. “You’re calling me foolish? You, the slut who took my man from me?!”
“You can call me names, but it doesn’t change the fact that I could never have ‘taken him from you’ if you didn’t let me!” Daisy continued. “For God’s sake, it’s been 13 years, and two are still in the very same spot…no movement! And now, even though you have a child together, you’re still there shouting ‘My name is Miss Clarke!’. You’re so foolish, Isio. Don’t you have sisters or friends that can knock any sense into that thick skull of yours?!”
I glared at her, and might have landed her a hot slap, if Pere hadn’t returned to the room with the boys. Daisy took one look at them, and gave me an even more pathetic look.
“Twins, Isio? You guys have twins? And you’re still here, talking nonsense?!” she shook her head, and cast a sympathetic look at Pere. “It was good seeing you, Pere. Your boys are adorable!”
As she walked away, and as I watched Pere pick up the medication whilst also attending to the boys so expertly and lovingly, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps Daisy was right.
Was I being foolish?
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
- Iya Beji 38: The Comeback
- Iya Beji 39: The Lover