We stared at each other for a while, neither of us knowing whether to acknowledge the other’s presence or ignore each other like we’d been doing for over a year. And just when I decided it was best to continue doing the latter, he started walking towards us.
“Hi Isio.” he said, smiling. “Hi Voke.”
“Perestico!” Voke exclaimed, hugging him. “Na wa oh. See as you just fade like duster! Longest time!”
He laughed. “It’s good to see you. How have you been? How is Obiora? Is he here? I always ask after you when I see him. I hope he tells you.”
Voke smiled. “No, he isn’t here. And yes, he always does. It’s nice to see you too. Even though we dey vex for you sha!”
Pere cast a glance my way, and I immediately looked away.
“You look good, Pere. You’ve finally been able to add some small flesh. It suits you.” Voke teased. “Let me leave you two to catch up. We’ll talk later, Pere.”
I stared at my sister in anguish as she walked away. Why on earth was she leaving me alone with him????
“You don’t have to look so frightened, Isio. I don’t bite.” Pere said, his own smile equally nervous. “You look really beautiful. And I never got the chance to congratulate you on your engagement….so, congratulations.”
I smiled stiffly. “Thank you. We actually had our introduction a couple of weeks ago.” I added for no reason.
Pere nodded. “Congratulations.” he said, his voice betraying nothing. “The same guy from…?”
I nodded. “Yeah. His name is Ejiro.” I answered. “So…how is Daisy?”
He shrugged. “Daisy is fine, I suppose.”
I looked at him incredulously. “You suppose?!”
“Isio, I was only with Daisy to get back at you after what you did to me.” he said, his gaze holding mine. “I broke up with her even before leaving for Warri for my IT.”
“Oh Pere, please!” I retorted. “You and Daisy were already sleeping together before I caught her in your room, so don’t tell me that!”
“Isio, I was just as shocked as you were to find Daisy lying on my bed when we returned to my room. Apparently, she had let herself in when Kayode came back briefly. There was nothing going on between us at the time!”
“She just used to bring you food to eat, abi? No strings attached!” I said sarcastically.
“Hard to believe, but it’s the truth!” he exclaimed. “You’re engaged, so I have no reason to lie about it. I’m telling you that nothing happened with Daisy before that day!”
“But you just had to sleep with her that very night!” I said, reliving the memories of that awful day. “I heard she didn’t leave your room till the next morning.”
“I was hurt and I was angry, Isio. You humiliated me in front of everyone. I did it, and I regretted it immediately!” he said.
Our eyes held, and deep down, I knew he was saying the truth.
He reached for my hand. “Don’t marry him, Isio. I’m still in love with you…and I know you’re still in love with me.”
I withdrew my hand from his and forced myself to laugh. “Don’t be silly, Pere. I’m already committed to Ejiro. If I wasn’t travelling for school, we probably would have been married by now. What you and I had was beautiful, but it’s over!”
He looked at me, and for the first time, I saw the pain he felt. But then he smiled, trying to shrug it off.
“I understand, Isio. And I’m happy for you. I truly am.” he said, hugging me. “So…your dad finally changed his mind about you traveling for your Masters?”
For the longest time, my father had always stated that Voke and I would return to his own alma matter of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife for our post-graduate Engineering degrees. As far he was concerned, the LASU and Unilag Voke and I had gone to, respectively, held nothing in comparison to what he touted ‘the best University West Africa’. That, and the fact that the old man couldn’t afford to send us abroad anyway.
“Ejiro is actually the one paying for it.” I answered. “Coventry University. Civil & Structural Engineering.”
Pere laughed sardonically. “The guy is a real bros oh! Ejiro for President! Nice one.” then he nodded in approval. “That’s very generous of him. I’m happy for you, Isio.”
“And our wedding will be as soon as I’m done with school.” I added, unable to stop talking.
Pere smiled. “That’s great. I hope I’ll get an invitation.”
I smiled uncomfortably, and we stood in silence for a few minutes. “So…how was Warri?” I finally asked, breaking the silence.
Pere went on to regal with me stories of his colourful time in Warri, what he called ‘my home town’, even though I was actually from Sapele. We were soon laughing like old pals, and it was like the good old days all over again.
“I’ve really missed you, Isio.” Pere said, when it was time for Voke and I to leave. “I don’t want to lose your friendship. Can I email you when you’re away? Do you still use the same email address?”
I was about to nod, but remembered that Ejiro had the password for my primary account. I decided then and there to create a new one, just so Pere and I could stay in touch.
“I’ll email you from my new one.” I said, hugging him goodbye.
As Voke drove me to Ejiro’s house, I could hardly wipe the smile off my face.
“You and Pere looked very cosy.” she remarked, stealing a look at me. “Any old sparks beginning to fly?”
I shook my head and smiled. “He’ll always be my first love. But we’ve decided to be just friends.”
“It’s a shame about all what happened between you two. You both look so good together.” she remarked.
I smiled wistfully. Yes, we did. But back to reality, Pere and Ejiro were as different as night as day. Only God knew when Pere would be ready to settle down, especially as he was still yet to even graduate from University. Yes, I did still have feelings for him, but knew that Ejiro was so obviously the wiser choice for me.
Getting to Ejiro’s apartment, I let myself in, and met him sitting in the living room, nursing a glass of what looked to be whisky.
“Hey babe.” I said, taking off my shoes and walking into the kitchen. “Have you had anything to eat?”
“Yes. Francis fixed me something.” he answered, his voice indicating he was coming to the kitchen.
Francis was his cook.
“Oh? Did he leave anything for me? I’m starving!”
“I thought you went to a party. You didn’t eat there?” Ejiro asked.
I realised that I had been too engrossed in catching up with Pere to even remember there was anything called food.
“How was your party anyway?” Ejiro asked, holding my gaze.
I shrugged noncommittally. “Nothing special. It was even a little boring.”
“A litte boring ehn?” Ejiro echoed.
I shrugged again. “It was no big deal.”
The punch came from nowhere. In a flash, Ejiro’s fist connected with my face, sending me sprawling to the floor.
“You liar! You were there canoodling with your ex! I heard you were both all over each other! Yet you have the nerve to lie to me to my face?!” Ejiro shouted, his fists clenched.
The pain pulsating in my head wasn’t even allowing me think straight. Clutching my face, I staggered to my feet. “You hit me?! Ejiro, you hit me?!”
“Were you or were you not with Pere at the party?!” he bellowed, his anger turning his light skin bright crimson.
“Pere was there, yes. But…”
Another blow connected with the other side of my face, sending me back to the ground again. I touched my nose and realised I was bleeding.
“I heard that from the minute you got there, you were with him all through! Yet you have the nerve to look me in the eye and tell me the party was boring! What the hell do you take me for?!”
I just sat on the floor, holding my bleeding nose, while my other cheek still throbbed in pain. I could see Ejiro’s mouth still moving, but had blanked out his words. Holding on to the sink, I pulled myself up to my feet and opened the faucet to wash my face. He was still talking.
I glared at him, and the look on my face silenced him. He knew he had gone too far.
He reached for me as I charged out of the kitchen, and I yanked my arm out of his grip with so much force that he staggered back.
“Isio. Isio, please wai!”
I grabbed my shoes in my hand, and headed for the door, not caring that I was barefoot, that it was almost midnight or that my car was at home in Ogudu. All I knew was I wanted to get the heck out of that place…and far from him.
He stood in front of the door, blocking the exit. “Isio, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
“You better get out of my way, Ejiro! Get out, or I’ll scream!” I said, my whole body vibrating in my anger.
“Baby, please. Please.” he said, enveloping himself around me, pulling me into a tight embrace. “I don’t know what came over me. I just snapped when I heard you were with Pere. Please forgive me. You know how hard it is for me to think of you two together.”
I tried to struggle out of his embrace, but his sobbing made me stop. I had never seen him so broken before. Reluctantly, I held him and comforted him as he cried. Shortly after, it was his turn to fuss over me. He carried me to the bathroom, and gently tended to my wounds, all the while declaring his love for me. He insisted on making me my favourite meal of fried plantain and eggs, and fed it to me in bed. His contrition was obvious.
But that night as he lay asleep, my eyes were wide open and the events of that evening replayed in my head over and over and over again. I relived the first, and then the second punch repeatedly and couldn’t believe Ejiro had actually hit me. But as the night progressed, I found a way to convince myself that he had good reason to be angry. I had spent all that time with Pere at the party, after all. And even thinking of that made me wonder who had given Ejiro the information. I hadn’t gone with my driver, and there was no way on earth Voke could have told him. As far as I knew, he didn’t know anyone who could have been there. As I finally drifted off to sleep, my last thoughts were the cold realisation that he had found a way to keep track of my every move, and had planted his spies everywhere I would ever have any business to be.
Ejiro spent the rest of my time in Nigeria making it up to me, spoiling me silly. Thanks to creative make-up, nobody noticed the bruising on my face. Instead, what my friends and family saw was that my man was going to all extremes to make me happy. And when it was time for me to leave the country, he decided, at the very last minute, to accompany me.
On the one hand, I was glad about it, as it meant an automatic upgrade for me to fly business class. But on the other hand, I knew that whilst it was masquerading as a demonstration of his love for me, it was actually an opportunity for him to assert himself in my new surroundings, and to put in place whatever he needed to, to ensure I stayed on the straight and narrow, and didn’t fall into any hanky panky while in the U.K.
Whether I liked it or not, I was now his property.
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
Catch up on our other series here: