All through the ride home, I didn’t utter a word. So deep in thought was I. Had I indeed not moved a step further since that evening in Pere’s Unilag BQ? Had my choices left me stagnated? Had several wrong turns led me to the state of limbo I currently found myself in?
Getting home, I quickly distracted myself with getting Tubo settled after a few nights away in hospital. Even though he was still a bit weak and lethargic, and was now considerably leaner than his twin brother, from the way his eyes lit up the very minute we walked into the house, it was clear that he was very happy to be home. And frankly, so was I!
Pere also didn’t say much, but instead loomed around as the Nannies and I got the boys back into their normal routine.
“That Daisy is a case, isn’t she?!” Pere chuckled, trying to make conversation as I busied myself in the kitchen, getting dinner ready. “She hasn’t changed one bit. Still as blunt as ever.”
My flared nostrils were the only indication I’d even heard him, as I remained mute, chopping away at the carrots in silence. The very last thing I needed was a trip down memory lane, not especially when I was as confused as I was.
“To think all this would never have happened if I hadn’t listened to Kayode and had instead turned down all the food she kept bringing to us.” Pere mused.
“How is Kayode anyway? Are you guys still in touch?” I asked, eager to change the topic.
“He’s fine….lives in South Africa with his family. He recently sent me pictures from his daughter’s 10th birthday party.” Pere answered.
“10th birthday. Wow! He must have married straight out of school.” I remarked.
“Yeah, he and Jumoke got married about a year after Youth Service.” he answered. “Gosh, Isio. If we both hadn’t been so foolish, our first born would probably have been the same age!”
Considering I was still battling demons of my own, I chose not to say anything in response. Thankfully, he got the message and let me be in the kitchen. Later that evening, I walked into Voke’s room just as she was getting undressed after work.
“Hey babe. Another rough day?” I asked.
Voke exhaled and rolled her eyes. “Somebody should take me back to Miami or the Cayman Islands right now! I don tire for this banking stress!” she smiled at me. “But on a positive note, Tubo actually looks so much better. I bet you’re glad to be home finally!”
“You can say that again.”
My sister being my sister, she picked up on something in my voice. “What’s up? Are you okay?”
“Do you think I made a mistake by leaving Pere for Ejiro?” I asked.
“Errr…if memory serves me correct, Pere made that decision for you. Didn’t he sleep with the…what’s her name…Daisy, before you agreed to date Ejiro?” she asked.
I shrugged. “Yeah, but if I hadn’t rubbed Ejiro in his face, maybe he wouldn’t have felt the need to.”
She looked at me funny. “What’s with this sudden blast from the past, Isio? Do you really wish things had been different between you and Pere? Do you really wish you two had ended up together back then? Is that what you want now?”
As she asked those questions, the truth was suddenly crystal clear to me. When I didn’t know better, the answer to all those questions would have been a resounding YES. Yes, I would have wanted things to have been different. Yes, I would have loved it if we’d ended up together.
But I knew better now. I’d experienced a love far greater than anything Pere and I had ever shared. Even if I were return to him…even if we were to get back together…it would never be the same.
Not when Kachi had stolen my entire heart.
So I smiled and shook my head. “No, it’s not what I want at all. I guess I just got thrown when he told me his room-mate’s daughter just turned 10.”
Voke hissed. “Is it that one? How about me that my bestie in Secondary School now has a daughter in University! Granted, she married very young, but still…” she shrugged. “But it no longer bothers me. We all have our different paths in life. Just because my own kids will come later than hers doesn’t make her life any more fulfilled than mine is.”
Back in my room, I allowed my mind drift to Kachi. It had been over a month since the incident…almost two in fact, with November almost upon us. But I still thought about him every day. I was still just as infuriated by what he’d done, and I still didn’t see any rationale in it. But as angry as I felt, I missed him something awful. I missed the sound of his voice and his wise words of wisdom. I missed the way seeing him made my insides flutter. I missed sitting in his arms, and feeling the warmth of his presence as it enveloped me…and the beat of his heart.
I missed him.
So many times, I was tempted to call…but every time I made to dial his number, or even drive to his house, I had to stop myself. Nothing good could come out of forcing him to do what he didn’t want to. Getting involved with me…and my two children…couldn’t be done with any form of reluctance or hesitation. He was either in or out. And from the look of things, he was clearly out.
By the next morning, and as I always did after spending most of the night pining for him, I made a conscious effort to shake off memories of Kachi and proceed to get on with my life. Having been away from work for a few days, there was already a lot to catch up on.
The following weekend, just as I was going for my morning run, I got a call from Pere, who’d returned to Port Harcourt a few days before.
“Hi Isio…I just wanted to remind you of my Mom’s 60th birthday party next week Saturday. I already mentioned it before, but knowing you and your busy schedule, I thought it best to give you another heads up, a week before.”
I frowned. Yes, he’d mentioned it, but no, I hadn’t thought it had anything to do with me. I could think of a million things better than journeying all the way to Agbara Estate for my baby daddy’s over zealous Mom’s birthday.
“I don’t think I can come, Pere.” I muttered.
“Isio, please. It would break her heart if her only grandkids aren’t there!” Pere pleaded.
I sighed, knowing there was no way I could refuse, if he put it that way.
“Okay then. We’ll be there.” I muttered, mentally contemplating the long drive.
“I’ll send a car to pick you guys up in the morning.” Pere said, as if hearing my thoughts. “So you don’t have to drive all the way.”
Well, I couldn’t say no to a free ride!
The following Saturday morning, I pleaded endlessly with Voke to accompany us to Agbara Estate, but she blatantly refused.
“Do I look like I don’t have other better things to do than to sacrifice my entire Saturday for Pere’s mother’s birthday party? Frankly, I don’t even see why you have to go.” She retorted.
I shrugged. “It’s just because of the boys. They’re her only grandkids and she wants them there.”
“And you guys have to be there from the crack of dawn? It’s not even 7am, yet you’re all dressed up!”
“Pere’s driver will be here any minute as Church service starts at 9am. I already told you that.”
“After which you’re now going to go back to their house for the party?!”
“A small reception, Voke!” I answered, getting impatient.
“Well, good luck to you. It’s a shame Mom and Dad are not yet back from Sapele. I’m sure they could have kept you company over there.” she teased.
Considering my parents were still a very topic for me, I chose to ignore her and accepted my fate of having to attend the day’s activities with nobody but the boys and their Nanny for company.
A little before 7:30, Pere’s car arrived and a little over an hour later, we were driving into the Church. I was stunned by the number of people I saw there, as I had thought that, with it being a Saturday morning, attendance in Church especially wouldn’t be impressive. But impressive it sure was, and Pere’s mother looked happy and radiant. It was obvious she was very well loved, and I could understand why. Even though we’d had our differences, there was no denying the fact she was one of the most warm-hearted and generous people I knew.
As we approached her, her face lit up even more at the sight of her grandsons, who proceeded to steal the show from her. As we made our way into the Church for the start of the service, I caught sight of Pere and his siblings on the other end of the gallery. Upon sighting us, he made his way to us, taking his seat right next to us. During the course of the service, with Pere and I seated side by side, each of us carrying one of the boys, I knew we probably looked like the perfect family.
When service was over, there was more fawning over the boys by almost everyone in the Church. Their Grandmother had obviously talked so much about them, that everyone wanted to see the famous Gogo and Tubo for themselves. It wasn’t until the boys started fussing that we were allowed to whisk them away to the waiting car. I was surprised to see that this time, it was Pere driving.
“We’re even lucky this isn’t a Sunday morning. The boys would probably have been mobbed!” Pere laughed. “Mom is way too popular for her own good.”
“Where is the driver?” I asked, more interested in why we’d had a change of arrangement.
“He needs to drive some other people home.” he answered. “The party doesn’t start until afternoon, so we have a few hours to kill before then.”
“Party?! I thought you said it was a small reception!”
He looked at me incredulously. “You obviously don’t know my mother.”
I had to restrain myself from hissing and rolling my eyes. There I was thinking we’d only have to spend, tops, another couple of hours before heading back home. If the party wasn’t starting until much later, then it looked like we were there for the entire day. Voke had been correct after all.
Driving into their compound, I was surprised by how vividly I could remember the place. Even though the last time I’d been there had been Christmas of 2003, it felt like I’d only just been there the previous day. Even though it was obvious that Pere and his siblings had done a lot of upgrade work on the place, its essence was still the same. The same pink and white bougainvillea flowers lined the walls, and their father’s rocking chair still sat in the foyer, even though the man was long gone. Walking across the compound, even with all the canopies being set and the many people milling around, it was just the same house I remembered.
Inside the house had been remodelled dramatically, with the décor more luxurious than the modest furnishing I remembered…but the house even smelled the same. I remember how there had always been this faint smell of coffee lingering everywhere. And now, even with the smell of food being cooked both in the kitchen and outside, there was still that coffee smell. The house was just the same.
As the kids, their Nanny and I walked behind Pere, I could immediately tell where he was taking us. His bedroom. The room where I’d lost my virginity. Walking inside, it felt like I’d stepped into a time capsule and ricocheted all the way back to 2001. Unlike the rest of the house where the furnishing had changed, this room was still exactly the same. Right down to the curtains. It was exactly the same.
And I found myself suddenly feeling out of breath.
Turning on the air conditioning, it was clear the old machine hadn’t been used in a while from the way it coughed and sputtered.
“You know what. I think it might be best to take to boys to my Mom’s room. They’ll be more comfortable there.” Pere said. But as I made to walk out with them, he held my arm. “Isio, could you please wait here for me?”
I looked at him, wondering what he was up to as he took Gogo from me, and walked with the Nanny to the other end of the house, where his mother’s bedroom was. I knew I should have insisted on following them, but a part of me was curious about why he’d asked me to wait. Standing there in his room, I couldn’t help but smile at the old posters that still adorned his wall; the 1998-1999 Manchester United squad that won the treble, and another of Eminem. Even though they’d yellowed over time, the nostalgia I felt looking at them was palpable.
“Your room belongs in a museum. You haven’t changed a single thing.” I remarked, when he walked back in.
He shrugged. “I’m hardly ever here, so there really hasn’t been any point doing anything special.”
“So…why did you ask me to wait here?” I asked.
He smiled and tapped on a remote control in his hand, following which Shai’s If I Ever Fall In Love started playing. The expensive sound system it was coming from was a clear new addition to the room, and a replacement to the rickety CD player the same song had come from, 16 years before.
“Remember this song?” he asked.
I shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant, but knowing fully well this had been the soundtrack to the day I’d lost my virginity to him. It was also the soundtrack to the night of magic, when our boys had been conceived.
“Sit down, I have a few things you might like to see.” he said, reaching for a small box in the closet.
And then he proceeded to fish out so many mementos of our early relationship, that I couldn’t help but marvel; pictures, love letters I’d written, cards I’d sent him…they were all there.
“You kept these?” I exclaimed, looking at a Valentines Day card from 1999.
He nodded proudly. “Look at how long my neck was in this picture.” he remarked, laughing. “Gosh, I was painfully skinny.”
I couldn’t help but join in his laughter, looking at the old Pere, the pre-money Pere. We laughed together at one picture of us together, him in a horrible imitation Ralph Lauren shirt with the horse almost as large as the shirt itself, and me with a shaggy, cheap hair weave with lips lined so dark, I could pass for a member of the Addam’s family.
“I had no idea we took so many pictures. I never saw a lot of these!” I marvelled, looking at so many snapshots of Pere and I…just being Pere and I. And even as young as we were, it was evident that we had been hopelessly in love.
But I quickly shook myself out of this nostalgic reverie. “Why are you showing me all this, Pere? Why this sudden blast from the past?”
“Because I wanted to remind you of how much in love we once were…” he answered, looking me in the eye. “And still are.”
I grunted, before placing the pictures I was holding back in the case. “I’m no longer in love with you, Pere.”
“That’s what you say. And you have every justification not to be. God knows with the way I have treated you, I deserve it.” he took my hand. “But our kind of love doesn’t just die like that. It lasts forever.”
I pulled my hand out of his and looked at the clock on the wall. 1pm. We still had a long way to go.
“I better go stay with the boys. Your mom’s room is down the hall, abi?” I said, rising to my feet.
He looked momentarily disappointed, before nodding. “Yes, it is. But this conversation isn’t over, Isio.”
Oh, it sure as heck was!
Finding my way to the Master bedroom, where the boys were asleep on his mother’s plush bed, I also took position on the bed for a nap. I knew the expectation was probably for me to be lending a hand either in the kitchen or in setting up outside, but I honestly couldn’t have been bothered. The less they considered me a member of their family, the better.
The sound of music awoke me, and I realised that with the live band already playing, the party was about to get into full gear. Sitting up, I saw that the boys were already awake, and were playing happily, busying themselves with the several pieces of headgear on their Grandma’s couch.
Very shortly after, one of Pere’s cousins walked into the room. “The party has started. Grandma wants you guys downstairs.”
I sighed deeply. Better to get it over with. After touching up my makeup and adjusting my turban, we all made our way downstairs. Almost immediately we got there, the boys were whisked from my arms, as the proud Celebrant proceeded to show them off to her guests, many of whom hadn’t made it to Church in the morning. I signalled their Nanny to keep close to them, while I went to sit in a corner somewhere…somewhere I hoped I wouldn’t be noticed.
After about an hour of sitting there, I was almost going out of my mind. It was now past 6pm, and I was eager to be on the way back home already! But neither Pere’s mother, nor even my sons for that matter, looked like they were in any hurry to leave. I busied myself with what was probably my 4th plate of small chops and 3rd glass of Chapman, bored out of my mind…when I saw him.
At first, I thought I was dreaming. At first, I thought I was imagining him. I saw someone walking tentatively through the crowd, looking a little lost, and I thought my mind was simply conjuring him up. But it wasn’t. He was actually there.
“Kachi!” I called out, attracting the attention of the people sitting around me.
He looked in the direction of my voice, and from the look in his eyes, I knew I was the reason he was there. I rose to my feet as he walked to me.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, still shocked.
“I was at your house…and Voke told me where to find you. She gave me this.” he answered, holding up the Invitation Card.
“So you now drove all the way to Agbara Estate!” I retorted. “I haven’t seen you in months, but you now wake up one morning and decide to drive two hours to Agbara Estate to see me?!”
“Isio…I have been miserable these last few months. Totally miserable.” he answered. “I just had to see you.”
“See me to tell me what?!” I snapped. “You pretty much told me everything you had to when you threw me out of your compound.”
He reached for my hand, and then without warning, he got down on one knee, eliciting a collective gasp from the people around me, who’d apparently been watching us intently. “You are my heart. You are my soul. You are my life.” he said, my hand in his. “Isio…will you marry me?”
“This guy you get mind oh!” chimed one of the guests around us.
“Na our wife be dat nah!” another chimed.
I looked around and saw we’d attracted the attention of not just the people seated around us…but pretty much the whole party. Everyone was looking in our direction now, including a visibly enraged Pere.
Grabbing Kachi by the arm and pulling him to his feet, I led him out of the compound, to give us some semblance of privacy.
“What on earth is all this?!” I yelled. “How dare you just show up here, causing a scene?”
“What were you thinking would happen, really? That I would fall into your arms? Weren’t you the same person who led me like a lamb to the slaughter? Weren’t you the same person who handed me over to Pere yourself? I’m sure you know he also proposed to me that same night!” I yelled, my pent up anger rising to the fore.
“I made a mistake, Isio. I was torn with guilt after your Dad came to talk to me, and I truly thought I was doing the right thing by letting you go.” he answered, his heart visibly broken.
“So why are you here then? If you thought you did the right thing, why the hell are you here? How do you know Pere and I are not back together? What makes you so sure we aren’t engaged, just like all of you orchestrated?”
“I don’t know anything, Isio. All I know is that losing you has almost killed me. I’m in love with you so much, I can’t breathe. I can’t live without you. You are my heart, and without you, I’m just an empty shell.” he said. “And I’m not prepared to give you up…not anymore. I no longer care what society thinks is right or wrong. I want to be with you…and I want to be a father to the boys…if you’ll let me.”
By this time, tears were streaming my face. “Well, it’s a little too late, Kachi! I’m not a toy that you can drop and pick up when the mood hits you. You made a decision without even having the decency to discuss it with me first. You handed me over to Pere on a platter. You don’t have the right to show up here and ask me to marry you. No, Kachi. You don’t have the right!”
He bowed his head, crestfallen from my words. Then he reached for my hand and kissed it. “I guess I only have myself to blame for losing the best thing I ever had.”
And then he turned and walked away. I stood there, watching as he got into his car and as he drove off…and I could feel my heart breaking into a million tiny pieces.
“You did the right thing.” came Pere’s voice from the gate.
“How long have you been standing there?” I retorted.
“Long enough.” he answered. “That Apache guy sure has some nerve coming to my house and trying to make a move on you. If you hadn’t sent him off, I sure would have.”
Sent him off. My heart bled with the realization that’s what I’d done. Sent him off.
“I’ve been carrying this around since September, but I think now’s a good time to give it to you again…before that Apache guy has any more ideas.” Pere said, reaching into his pocket and bringing out the engagement ring he’d presented me with a few months before. It was a beautiful ring…a Princess cut diamond that looked to be at least 2 carats. “Isio…I made a mistake. Don’t allow us pay for it for the rest of our lives. I love you with everything I have. Let’s get married and be a family, like we’re supposed to.”
I looked at him and shook my head sadly. “You’re not the reason I turned Kachi down, Pere.”
“So what was your reason?” Pere asked.
And I couldn’t even answer that question to myself.
Brushing past him, I walked into the compound and tried not to meet any of the curious stares. I walked into the house, and found a seat in the living room, where I sat quietly for the remainder of the party, silent tears streaming down my face, wondering why I had turned away the very same person I had been longing for with all my being. From the corner of my eye, I could see Pere watching me, but I was grateful that he chose not to come to me again. Because all I wanted…all I really wanted…was to be alone.
“That boy really likes you.” came a voice next to me. I looked and was surprised to see Pere’s mother take a seat by my side.
I shrugged, thinking she was obviously talking about her son, and not wanting to say anything to lead either her or her son on any further.
“I mean that your friend. The one who used to come visit you in the house.” She said. “He’s a real gentleman.”
I nodded and more tears streamed down my face. He was indeed a gentleman. The most perfect man to have ever loved me.
“I’d like the boys to spend the night here. They’ve tired themselves out, and I don’t want them on the road so late.” Pere’s mother said. “But maybe you should go home to rest. And think.” then patting my hand, she smiled. “You will always be my daughter, Isio. No matter what.”
And then for the first time ever, we embraced.
I found myself eager to return home. I needed to return home to figure things out with Kachi. I knew I couldn’t allow my bruised feelings dictate my future…our future. So, after kissing the boys goodnight, I opted to call for an Uber to take me home, turning down the offer of a free ride home. If I was trying to figure things out with Kachi, being in Pere’s car wouldn’t help matters.
As the cab drove into my street, I was surprised to see the familiar blue Toyota Landcruiser parked opposite my house. As I got out of the car, Kachi also disembarked from his, and we stood before each other in silence.
“Did you come straight here?” I asked the very obvious question.
He nodded. “I’m prepared to fight for you, Isio. I know I’ve left it till late, but I’m not going to let you go. Not ever again.”
“What if I hadn’t come straight home? What if I’d decided to spend the night over there?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Then I would have waited till whenever.”
“What if Pere had been the one to bring me home? Or what if I’d gone with him to his place?” I asked, taunting him.
“Then his teeth would have been on the floor, either on this street or his.” Kachi answered, prompting a smile from me.
“You did a very stupid thing, you know that.” I said to him. “Whatever doubts you were having, we should have discussed them first…as the unit I thought we were.”
“I honestly thought I was doing it for you. After your dad spoke with me, I started to feel selfish and like I was standing in the way of you and Pere being a family.” he answered.
“And what’s changed now?”
“I don’t mind being selfish, Isio. For you, I will be selfish. I know we can give those boys just as stable a home as if they were biologically ours. And if it means I have to win you back from Pere, then so be it. I’m ready.”
“You don’t have to win me back, Kachi.” I answered, smiling. “I’ve always been yours. Always.”
He smiled, and we were soon in each other’s arms. And I knew that was where I would always belong.
We talked all night, and as dawn broke, he proposed to me again…but this time, I said yes.
Of course our engagement was met with a lot of mixed reactions. Whilst Voke and Kachi’s family were over the moon and ecstatic for us, my parents were predictably not excited by the news. But my support had come from the most unlikely of allies…Pere’s mother. She was the one who’d convinced them to let me follow my heart, and on Christmas Day 2017, my parents finally agreed to formally meet Kachi and his family.
Pere had taken the news surprisingly well, saying even though he’d been in denial, sitting beside me in his bedroom had shown him that my love for him had truly departed. Even though he’d been trying to move back to Lagos to restore things with us, with my engagement, he chose instead to remain in Port Harcourt long term.
In January 2018, almost two years after her first engagement, Voke and Victor got engaged, and there were no mixed reactions to this one. Even Obiora’s older brother, Bart, had been excited for my sister. And even though she has no plans for a big wedding, she and Victor are planning a destination wedding in Morocco, later in the year.
But Kachi and I had no plans of waiting that long, and married on Easter Monday, in an intimate ceremony, with only a handful of friends and family. My every dream come true…he truly is my every dream come true. And I am so blessed that, regardless of all the obstacles we found in our way, we still found our way back to each other.
To true love.
© The Fertile Chick
(All rights reserved)
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
- Iya Beji 40: Foolish Love