I’m so grateful for Kike, because I probably would have gone back to Ejiro, if it were just left to me. I probably would have found a way to excuse his assault, the same way I’d done when he hit me in Nigeria, shortly before I travelled. Because somewhere deep down inside, I probably would have preferred to keep up appearances with Ejiro, than to face the humiliation of a broken engagement.
But Kike wasn’t going to have any of that. She waited for me to be discharged from hospital, before showing me pictures she’d taken of me just before the ambulance arrived our flat that fateful night. I had already passed out. Seeing my bloodied and battered face brought fresh and painful tears to my eyes. How could Ejiro have attacked me like that? Someone who claimed to love me? What really was my crime anyway? A few harmless emails? So what if they were with my ex?!
With Kike’s encouragement, I e-mailed the pictures to my family. And just as expected, they were outraged. My father had called me on the phone, in tears.
“That boy did that to you?! I am going to have him arrested!!!” he shouted, and I could feel the intensity of his rage all the way from Nigeria. Even my mother had been scandalised, cursing and wailing in the background.
“Daddy, don’t worry! I have everything under control. Just leave it to me!” Kike assured them.
“You won’t really get much from reporting him to the Police, Isio.” she told me later on. “Yes, he’ll lose his job and yes, you’ll get some satisfaction from that. But na satisfaction we go chop? You need to hit him where it hurts! In his pocket!”
I looked at her, clueless, and she smiled ruefully at me. That was when I realised that her street sense pass my own by faaaaar!
As expected, Ejiro made several attempts to reach me, but Kike immediately shut it down by emailing him the same bloodied pictures she’d sent my family in Nigeria. Predictably, he immediately flew back to the U.K. to see me, but Kike and Sola made sure he had no access to me. Instead, Kike insisted on speaking with him herself, and she was able to get him to promise never to contact me again, in addition to a £20,000 pay off, as compensation for my ‘trauma’. He was also not to make any attempt to retrieve my engagement ring, the car he’d gifted me, or any of the other expensive things he’d gifted my family. In addition, he was to give my father a N2 million compensation for the grievous bodily harm he had wreaked on his daughter. I was flabbergasted by the demands she made, but to my utmost shock, Ejiro agreed to all the terms with no argument, paying the money within hours, and disappearing from my life forever.
When I offered Kike some of the money I’d received, she declined. “Babes, I didn’t do it so I would get a cut. You of all people know I don’t need it. But you do. You need it to to get your life back on track.”
And she was right.
Whilst I wanted for nothing for the rest of my stay in Coventry, as Kike and Sola made sure I was as comfortable as I possibly could have been, by the end of my program, I had to make a decision quickly. The original plan was to return home to Nigeria, but I just couldn’t face my friends and extended family. I was supposed to have been returning triumphantly, to a lavish Easter wedding to a hot shot Shell guy. But there I was, with nothing to my name but my certificate. Yes, I still had all that money Ejiro had given me, in addition to what I’d realised from pawning my 4 carat diamond engagement ring, but it wasn’t enough to convince me that I wasn’t returning home a failure. If only I’d been sensible enough to realise that not only was I only 24 years old, I had finished my Masters degree with a Distinction, which on its own was enough of an achievement. But I wasn’t that sensible, and soon found myself wallowing in self pity, and sometimes even wishing I hadn’t allowed Kike interfere.
So, I moved to London instead of returning home to Nigeria. I got myself a studio apartment, and half heartedly tried to look for work. Because I had enough money to tide me over, I was extremely complacent about earning a livelihood or doing anything sensible with myself. Instead, I would sit in my flat from morning to night, watching TV. The few times I ventured out was to shop to my heart’s desire. I was living a life of leisure. Except I was as miserable as hell.
One person that was always on my mind…was Pere.
After that fateful night, I never even bothered logging into the secret email account. I just couldn’t bring myself to. I imagined it would be full of messages from him, but I just couldn’t muster the courage to view them. I was too ashamed. After having flaunted Ejiro and his riches in his face, how was I to face him now that I had lost it all?! So I chose to blank him out of my life as well.
“You cannot keep staying there doing nothing, Isio!” Voke admonished, when we spoke on my 25th birthday in 2008. “You finished school over a year ago, and it’s not as if you have any worthwhile job!”
“I have a job, Voke.” I answered defiantly, even though we both knew my Telemarketing job was no job at all. Even though I’d been able to extend my Student Visa by lying I was starting another Postgraduate program, the restrictions on that visa did not allow me get the kind of jobs I would have preferred.
“Selling window glazing? Come on, Isio! You are an Engineer with a Masters degree! Come back home.” she insisted.
But I still couldn’t imagine it. By now, the gist was everywhere that I was no longer getting married, and after running into one too many people I knew, who had way too many questions than I was comfortable with, I proceeded to limit my movement to work only, with all my shopping done online. I didn’t want to see anybody. I didn’t want to speak with anybody. Even Kike and Sola were not spared. Besides my family, I cut every single person off.
Alas, by February 2009, I realised I couldn’t go on living like that. Despite my nomadic lifestyle, the imbalance between my meagre earnings and my love for good food and pretty clothes, soon wiped out the windfall I’d received from Ejiro. And to add insult to injury, the same day I was contemplating how long the £153 I had left in my account would carry me, was the same day I saw pictures of Ejiro’s wedding on Facebook. I had reluctantly joined the social media site the month before, and had reluctantly accepted friend requests from a few people from Unilag and Shell. It was one of my former Shell colleagues who was tagged in a picture, that led me to view the other pictures from the wedding. It was a high society wedding in Lagos, and his bride was a cute girl, who didn’t look a day older than 21. They both looked so happy, and my heart broke into a million tiny pieces. As I looked at how glamorous the whole thing was, i couldn’t help but think how that could have been me! If we had married in 2007, by now, I would have been living a life of luxury, and probably expecting our 2nd child already. But no, there I was, wallowing in a small studio apartment, not sure if my next pay check could even take care of my bills.
That was when I decided it was time to return to Nigeria.
I have to give it to myself though. I might not have been returning with a fiancé or plenty of riches, but I came back with BAFFS! In my 2+ years of exile, I had shopped myself to stupor, so I knew that, even if anyone could accuse me of anything, it would never be about not looking good!
“See my fine daughter oh!” my mother had exclaimed in the airport. “Just see as you fine! All the men for Lagos go worry oh, because you fine die!”
I smiled, but as we navigated our way through the rowdy airport, and into my father’s seen-better-days Toyota Camry, I found myself feeling resentful anew…resentful of the life of luxury I’d lost.
As I sat in the bedroom we shared, I half listened as Voke talked about getting me on the next batch of NYSC. I couldn’t believe I was right back to where I’d started before Ejiro came into my life.
“Voke, how can you still be satisfied with this kind of life?” I asked, interrupting her. “You’ll be 28 this year, and you’re still here, in this same room that I left you in over 4 years ago!”
She looked at me, and I knew I’d touched a sore spot. Even though she had a decent job with one of the New Generation banks, her longtime boyfriend, Obiora, was still hustling and nowhere close to being ready for marriage.
“I’m fine, Isio. Very soon, Obiora and I will be married, and I’ll be out of here.” she answered kindly. “The same with you. You’re a beautiful woman. It won’t take long for a nice, decent guy to sweep you off your feet!”
“How is Pere? Do you guys still hear from him?” I asked.
She shrugged. “Obiora still does. I hear he works with one of the banks, and is doing pretty well.”
I felt a deep sense of loss and longing, hearing that. I immediately wished I hadn’t stopped communicating with him by email. As a matter of fact, I found myself wishing I hadn’t jumped to conclusions about him and Daisy in the first place.
With my BMW having broken down while I was away, and with the realisation that I didn’t have the kind of money I’d need to fix it, I decided to sell it, and proceeded to, at least, live off the proceeds while I decided what to do with my life. May was soon upon us, and with it came NYSC. I was lucky to be posted to Lagos, and after the compulsory 3 weeks of camp, struggled to get myself a job. I knew it would have been easy to return to Shell, but I wasn’t ready for the kind of drama that would come with it, especially with Ejiro still being in the system. And as it proved difficult to get into any of the other international oil companies, I had to make do with a small engineering firm. Thankfully, it was located a few streets away from Voke’s office in Victoria Island, and as she’d been able to buy herself a small Honda Accord, I didn’t have to face the humiliation of flying danfo buses in my commute to work.
I soon settled into our routine, and was beginning to get used to life in Nigeria again. Nothing could faze me anymore. Or so I thought.
One Friday evening, as usual I was third-wheeling with Voke and Obiora. We were at Newscafe at The Palms, when I saw him.
He beamed and walked over to our table, first of all exchanging pleasantries with Voke and Obiora. And then our eyes met…and he smiled.
“Isio!” he exclaimed as we hugged. “I heard you were back in town.”
I smiled, my heart racing. He looked so good. So much better than I remembered, and I could feel the butterflies going crazy in my stomach.
“Yes. I got back in March. I’m doing my Youth Service now.”
“What happened? You just ghosted me. I didn’t hear from you after a while.” he said, looking me deep in the eyes.
Obiora coughed nervously. “Voke, let’s give them space to catch up. We’ll be outside if you need us.” he said, rising to his feet and taking my sister’s hand.
“I’ll bring her home, don’t worry.” Pere said, not looking away from me.
“They’re in my house tonight.” Obiora said. “So it’s even closer for you.”
Obiora’s mother had just built a mansion in Lekki Phase 1, and he had become the Lord of the Manor of the small chalet within it. It all served to make him more comfortable, and less willing to uproot himself from the comfort of his mother’s money.
“You two can run along. She’s safe with me.” Pere said, taking the seat next to me, making me tingle with the excitement of it all.
And we sat there for the next few hours, talking and catching up about everything. I told him all about what had happened with Ejiro, how it was the emails he saw that prompted the vicious attack on me that had ended our engagement. When Pere saw the pictures of my bloodied face, he trembled in anger.
“I’m glad you didn’t tell me about this when it happened!” he snarled. “I would have gone to beat him up for sure!”
On his own end, he told me about succeeding in his quest to finish with a 2:1, and after serving with one of the top 3 Nigerian banks, was retained afterwards, and not only that, was promoted within a year.
“I’m really happy for you, Pere.” I said, smiling at him. “Very proud of you too!”
Taking me by the hand, he led me to his car and I knew Obiora’s house wouldn’t be our destination. He drove to a small flat off Chevron drive instead.
“Home sweet home!” he pronounced, smiling at me as soon as we walked into the apartment.
I smiled and nodded in appreciation. “Very nice.”
It didn’t look like tour average bachelor pad, as Pere had not only always had an eye for a detail, but had always been impeccably neat as well. I remember how, in our relationship, I had always been the slob with him always having to tidy up after me. The apartment well reflected this, and looked very nice indeed. As he took me on a tour of the place, I couldn’t help but be even more impressed. For a man who lived alone, he was keeping his house very well indeed. His kitchen was neat and tidy, as were all the bathrooms in the house. I found myself beginning to imagine myself there.
Getting to his bedroom, his familiar scent enveloped me, and I felt heady from the memories of us lying on his bed, not only in his Unilag quarters, but his parents’ house in Agbara, and even where he stayed in Yaba, the first time we met. And it felt like a homecoming. So when he pulled me into his arms, I gladly succumbed. And as we made love through the night, my whole body sang as it welcomed him back. No matter what Ejiro and I’d had, it had never been able to compete with what I had with Pere. And by the time we drifted off to sleep, it felt like I was in heaven.
Waking up the next morning, I saw that Pere had already awoken, and smiled dreamily at the realisation I had been reunited with my love. I buried my face in his pillow, taking in the very scent of him. He was probably in the kitchen making me breakfast, and I smiled at the memory of him making me noodles and corned beef, or some other random concoction he usually did back in the day. Eager to see him again, I threw on his shirt and walked out of the room. I was surprised that there was no activity whatsoever in the kitchen. In fact, it didn’t even look like a match had been lit.
I found Pere smoking on the balcony.
“Hey handsome!” I said, snuggling up behind him. “What do you make of my outfit? Your shirts still look better on me than you.”
He put out his cigarette and turned to look at me. “Get dressed, so I can take you home.”
“Already?” I giggled. “Relax, Mr. Banker. It’s a Saturday! Or do you have to work today?”
He didn’t even crack a smile. “It’s just time for you to go, Isio.”
Now, I was taken aback. I looked at him, confused. “Pere, what’s going on? Why are you dismissing me?”
He laughed sardonically. “Oh, you think we’re back together? Really? You think I’d take you back after what you did to me?!”
“Ah!” I exclaimed, shocked to my bones. “I thought we’ve gone past all that!”
“Indeed! After you humiliated me like nothing I could have ever imagined!” he retorted. “You already had that Ejiro guy on standby, and you were just waiting for me to mess up, so you would have a good excuse to jump straight into his arms!”
“Pere!” I exclaimed. “Are you being serious?!”
“Right there and then, right there on the spot, you already had the guy on your speed dial! You couldn’t even wait 24 hours!” Pere continued, his voice betraying his pain. “And then you came back to school, all chauffeur driven, wearing flashy clothes and flashing a big diamond ring all over the place!”
“And then foolish me, I was still feeling in love and I asked you…I begged you…not to marry the guy, but you shut me down like a bad habit. Telling me how you’d already done your introduction and how he had paid for your Masters abroad! And even when I still didn’t receive sense and still kept on emailing you, you were only too happy to tell me all about your trips to Paris, Rome, and all over the world!”
“Pere, why are you doing this?”
“But now that the guy has dumped you, Pere is finally good enough. Now that I have a job and I’m doing good for myself and I’m no longer that broke ass student, you’re back to being all lovey dovey again. You must take me for a fool!”
By this time, I was furious. “Don’t you go acting like the victim here. If you hadn’t started messing around with Daisy…”
“Isio, Daisy was just the excuse you needed! You’d already started getting tired of the relationship long before her. Remember how irritable you were all of a sudden, especially when I was telling you about the issues I was having with school?” Pere laughed humourlessly. “You just needed me to screw up, and fortunately for you, you got your chance.”
“So why did you bring me here? If you hate me so much, why did you bring me here last night?!” I demanded.
“Because I wanted to have you right here in this position, naked and vulnerable and humiliated I wanted to give you a small sense of how you made me feel..” he sneered. “So, you better get dressed and let me take you home.”
I squared my shoulders and stormed out of the balcony and back to the bedroom, where I threw on my clothes in annoyance. Grabbing my handbag, I walked to the front door and started struggling with the lock.
“You better be sensible and allow me drop you at home.” came his voice behind me. “Cabs aren’t that easy to find here.”
The door finally opened, and I threw a deadly look his way. “If it means walking all the way to Ogudu, I’d rather do that than allow you anywhere near me. Bastard!”
“Well, it takes one to know one!” came his voice, as I charged down the stairs.
As I walked down his street and down Chevron drive, I realised he hadn’t been lying at all. There were absolutely no cabs on the street. Just when I was about to give up and call Voke to pick me up, I finally sighted one. Never had I been so happy to see the yellow and black striped vehicle as I was that Saturday morning. Not even when the driver called a price that was treble what I would have been prepared to pay for a ride back home to Ogudu.
All I wanted was to be as far away from Pere as I possibly could!
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
Catch up on our other series here: