I was physically present in the car ride to the hospital. I was the one who sat in the backseat, with Dolapo’s head cradled in my laps as I applied pressure to the towel her hands had been swaddled in, to prevent the bleeding, and as Jimi careened through the streets of Victoria Island in a mad dash to the hospital. I was there.
But it felt like an out of body experience.
I just could not comprehend what had just happened. That my sister, Dolapo, had attempted suicide whilst standing right there in front of me. That she had actually made good on the threat she had repeatedly made over the years. That, if Jimi hadn’t arrived when he had…my sister might be dead now.
By the time the doctors had stabilized her, and she was settled in a private room, it was well past midnight and I figured it was too late to disturb our parents, or even Adun, with the news.
“That was a close one!” Jimi said, breaking into my reverie. He’d refused to leave, even after we’d been assured she was out of the danger zone. “What on earth happened?”
I shrugged, reluctant to repeat the details of our sordid exchange.
He shook his head. “Dolapo! When are you going to grow up?!” he addressed the woman, lying asleep on the bed.
“You should go home.” I said to him, not even looking up.
“So should you.” he countered, smiling. “You look even worse than I’m sure I do.”
“Well, I’m not the one who looks like an extra from the Rocky Horror Show!” I said, referring to his blood stained clothing.
And then we both started laughing. It was so unexpected and oh so inappropriate, but I found myself finally feeling again like myself with the laughter.
“You’re right. I probably do need to change.” Jimi said, rising to his feet. “You sure you’ll be okay?”
I smiled and nodded in acknowledgment as he left. We’d had no choice but to leave Rire all alone at home, when we’d left for the hospital. It was either that, or he’d witness the gory mess that was Dolly bleeding to near-death! Thankfully, Mama Jay had come to pick him up very shortly after, so he hadn’t been home alone for too long. This meant I was at least rest assured that he was in good hands.
I waited until 7am the next morning before calling my sister, Adun, and another hour before calling our parents, who were away in Dubai. Adun had surprisingly been shaken by the news, and had rushed to the clinic almost immediately. As for our parents…not so much!
“It sounds like she’s stable.” our father had said, after being told that the bleeding had been contained and she was receiving treatment. “There’s no need for us to cut our trip short!”
Mom had been more frustrated than worried. “I think it’s time for me to stop this thing I started. I’m the one responsible for the monster Dolapo has become…and I’m the one who will put an end to it!” she’d remarked solemnly. “As soon as we return, I’m taking her back with us to Ibadan! She is going to spend some time with my Pastor, who will pray out the seventy demons in her body!”
I rolled my eyes, thankful the woman couldn’t see me do so. In recent years, mom had found Christianity, and in her opinion, everyone was a candidate for deliverance!
“Wow!” Adun had said when she arrived, staring at out sleeping sister in shock. “I can’t believe she actually tried to kill herself. What happened?”
“I asked her to leave.” I answered my big sister. “Dolly…” I started, but stopped short. I didn’t want to tell her that Dolly had actually tried to have her way with my boyfriend. I was too ashamed to repeat it. “Dolly is still the same old Dolly. I told her I didn’t want to have anything to do with her, and that she should leave.”
Even as shaken as she was, Adun could still manage an ‘I told you so’ look.
“What if she doesn’t make it, Adun?” I asked, after we’d sat in silence for a few minutes. “What if this is all my fault? I called her names! I told her to join her mates standing on Sanusi Fafunwa…”
“Nothing I’m sure she hasn’t heard before!” Adun retorted. “Fola, this had nothing to do with you, and you know it. Dolapo is obviously sick in the head. She needs help. Maybe Mom’s Pastor is really what she needs, at this point!”
Adun left later that morning, leaving me alone with Dolapo. I’d called work, to ask for compassionate leave, so for the rest of the day, I just sat there with her, the only sound in the room being the beep from the surrounding medical equipment.
At exactly 2.25pm, she opened her eyes.
Our eyes held, and for a minute, I wasn’t sure if she was lucid…if she had any memory of what had happened. And then she reached for my hand and squeezed it.
“I’m so sorry, Fola…” she said, her voice barely a whisper.
A part of me wanted to pull my hand away from her grip, and smother her with one of her pillows. I hated her so much…especially for what she had attempted to do. She had tried to steal another man from me…regardless of the fact that her actions had already cost me a husband!
But another part of me ached for the fragile woman lying on that bed. My heart ached for the kind of anxiety that would push her to actually slash her wrists! It was this part that got the better of me, so I’d squeezed her hand back. No matter what, she was still my sister.
That night, nobody came to visit. Jimi and Rire had called to check on us, and so had our parents and Adun. But I was the only one left with the task of keeping my sister company.
“She’s not a baby, Fola. I’m sure she’ll be fine if you left her and went home to get some rest!” had been Lekushe’s words, when I told him I would be spending another night in hospital. Even after hearing the story in it’s entirety, that Dolly had slashed her wrists following my confrontation with her, he had been far from sympathetic. “Your sister is a certified lunatic. Remi had told me before, but I didn’t believe her…not until Dolly showed up in my house almost stark naked! Only to hear she went home to slash her wrists?! Nah, that girl is a confirmed psycho!”
“So you’re not coming to keep me company then…” I’d asked, trying to guilt trip him, but the verdict had remained the same. He had no business paying Dolly a visit…not even in hospital.
By the next morning, even I had started going stir crazy. Luckily, not only did Dolly sleep through the night, we’d been told she would be released for home, later that morning. Our parents were due back that weekend, and plans had been made to take her to Ibadan on Sunday morning. But in the meantime, I volunteered to have her spend the remaining three nights with me.
“Are you sure, Fola? She can come to my place.” Adun offered.
I shook my head. “You have young, impressionable kids. We can’t have her around them. Jimi has agreed to keep Rire till she leaves, so it will just be me and her. I can handle it.”
And so it was settled. Dolly was coming home with me…again.
Getting back to the house, I’d helped her back to what would soon be her former room. After settling her in bed, and making sure she was comfortable, as I made to leave the room, she called out to me.
“Words will never be able to express my gratitude, Fola…nor my shame over my behavior.” she’d said, her voice quivering.
“Let’s not talk about it, Dolly.” I’d answered. “Just try to get some sleep. Your body needs all the rest it can, to be able to heal and recover properly.”
Leaving her in the room, I found my way back to the living room…so happy to be back home again. I was relieved to find that the blood stains on my chair and carpet had already been cleaned, and I knew that it was surely Mama Jay’s handwork. Mother-in-law extraordinaire! What could I have done without her?! The woman was a lifesaver!
Just as I was settling down to watch TV, the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find Jimi, with a large basket of baked treats from my favorite Patisserie, in his hands.
“Didn’t you get the memo that Dolapo no longer eats carbs?!” I teased. “How else do you think she has been able to lose all that weight…and keep it it off?”
“They are not for her, Madam!” Jimi said, handing me the basket. “Ever heard of caring for the carer?”
I smiled as I accepted the basket, overwhelmed by his thoughtfulness. Peering into it, I was suddenly teleported all the way back to the early 2000’s…when he would bring back an almost identical bag of baked treats; doughnuts, muffins, croissants and swiss rolls. And we knew exactly who got what.
“Doughnuts for you. Cinnamon glazed, just the way you like them.” he said, setting mine on a small plate.
“You remember.” I remarked, smiling as he reached for what I knew would be a blueberry muffin, extra fruity. It was like we had gone back 9, 10 years in time.
“So…” he said, looking at me as he ate. “How have you been holding up?”
“Why do you keep asking about me? Dolly is the one who’s lying in bed, fighting for her life!” I laughed, amused by his concern.
“Don’t be so dramatic, Fola! Dolly knew she wasn’t going to die. If she wanted to kill herself, you think slitting her wrists in front of you was the way to do it?” Jimi remarked. “This is all her usual theatrics. Or don’t you know that by now?”
I sighed deeply. “Frankly, I’m just tired of her drama. Maybe mom’s Pastor is really the solution to her problem.”
Jimi choked on his food as he laughed, and as I brought him up to speed with the grand plans my parents had for her in Ibadan.
“But don’t underestimate your sister.” Jimi chimed. “She’ll soon have Ibadan town in the palm of her hands, before anyone knows it!”
I nodded, and we sat in companionable silence for a while.
“So…what exactly happened with Clairice?” I asked. “You weren’t able to ‘smoothen the roughened feathers’?”
He shook his head. “Funnily enough, she was pretty much back to her usual self the minute we boarded the plane. I guess she was just relieved we were leaving Nigeria. By the time we landed in LA, she was already back in wedding planning mode.”
“Then what happened?”
“I was the one who decided to break it off. I had to end things with her.” Jimi looked me straight in the eye. “I knew it wouldn’t be fair to marry her…when my heart was…is…somewhere else.”
I looked at him, unable to speak.
“You don’t have to look like you’ve seen a ghost, Fola.” he laughed. “There’s no pressure. I know you’re with Lekan now…so it’s cool. It’s not the first time I’ll have to learn how to get over you.”
“When have you ever had to get over me, Jimi? Even when our marriage ended, you had already moved on before the ink on the divorce papers was dry!” I scoffed.
He looked at me keenly. “Do you really think that? Is that what you really think?” he asked. “Fola, I was broken after our divorce. You broke me! You ended our marriage without so much as a second thought!”
“Because you were cavorting with my sister!” I blurted angrily.
“Fola…I know you don’t believe that! Not anymore.” he answered. “I know you know there was absolutely nothing going on between Dolly and I. As a matter of fact, the only reason I was at her apartment that night was because of you! It was my love for you that made me drive all the way across town, trying to save my wife’s sister from a purported suicide attempt.”
I looked at him, no words coming to my lips.
“Fola…you were…are the love of my life! I have never loved anyone the way I love you.”
I clamped my hands over my ears. “Please stop talking, Jimi! Stop talking! If you loved me so much, why did you choose her over me?!”
And it was out, once again. A 17 year old elephant had resurfaced yet again.
“I was just a kid, Fola! I couldn’t understand the difference between infatuation and love! Months into my relationship with Dolly, and I already knew I’d made a mistake. I already knew I shouldn’t have given you up!” he answered, his voice pained. “I was with Dolly, but all I wanted was you!”
I laughed bitterly. “Yeah, right! So how come you spent the next 3 years with her?!”
“I wasn’t brave enough. I thought I’d be the biggest jerk, leaving her for her sister.” Jim answered. “I also didn’t think you’d ever want to speak with me again. So I stuck it out…” he walked closer to me. “Until NYSC camp. I couldn’t believe what kind of good fortune had finally brought you my way…”
Looking at him, my eyes started to tear. “So I wasn’t your consolation prize?”
He took my hands in his. “Folabomi…you were my ONLY prize! You were my world…my life! And even though it happened earlier than we’d planned, getting married to you was the best thing I could have ever asked for!” his own voice soon started to quiver. “What happened to us?”
I looked at him, and I knew the answer.
“The more I loved you…the more you pulled yourself back.” Jimi continued saying. “There was nothing I could do to get through to you. I was fighting a losing battle. It was almost like you were constantly expecting something to happen…”
“I was waiting for the penny to drop!” I answered. “For you to realize you’d made a mistake marrying me. For you to leave me for someone else…”
We stood there, looking at each other, neither of us knowing what to say.
“Some coffee?” I asked, desperately wanting to defuse the tension.
Without waiting for an answer, I made my way to the kitchen, where I leaned on the fridge and let out a long, ragged sigh, chaotic thoughts racing through my head as I pondered what Jimi had said. Had I truly been the love of his life, all this while? Had our marriage been something he’d truly wanted, and not just a mere inconvenience? Had we truly had a beautiful thing…but lost it, no thanks to my insecurities?
Walking out with two cups of steaming coffee in my hand, my footsteps slowed as I approached the living room and heard Kenny Lattimore’s For You, our wedding song, playing from my speakers, to which Jimi had connected his phone.
I set the cups on the table, and sat down beside him on the couch, the familiar song wafting through the room.
For you, I give a lifetime of stablility
Anything you want of me
Nothing is impossible
For you, there are no words
Or ways to show my love
Or all the thoughts I’m thinking of
‘Cause this life is no good alone
Since we’ve become one
I’ve made a change
Everything I do now makes sense
All roads end, all I do is for you…
“Sitting here with you, I feel those words just as strongly as I did 13 years ago…when we danced our first dance.” Jimi said, with a small laugh. “You saw how love struck I looked in that video, didn’t you?”
I laughed, in spite of myself. “And I looked like a deer caught in the headlights.” but I soon lost all traces of humor. “If you loved me so deeply, how come it was so easy for you to move on?”
“I was hurting, Fola. You’ll never know just how much! I dated other women just so that I’d get over you…just so that I’d forget you…forget the way your hair smelled like coconuts and vanilla…forget how it felt to lie in bed with you in my arms…” he answered. “That’s why I was so mad when you showed up in LA. Seeing you there, standing in that hallway, I realized my feelings were still as strong as they’d ever been…even with Ava standing mere feet away from me. And I was angry. Angry with you…and angry with myself! So I kept on dating and dating, trying to forget you. And for a while, I thought I had. For a while, I thought I’d succeeded in closing the door of the past, and that my heart had healed and moved on. Until I moved back home last year…”
I looked at him, and I could feel something inside me melting. The giant iceberg that had been sitting in my heart for years, was finally melting.
“How long did it take for you to…” he asked, his discomfort apparent. “To…you know…be with another man?”
“What do you mean ‘be with another man’?” I asked, even though I knew very well what he meant.
“I know I was your first…” he answered. “It always used to eat me up, thinking of you with another man that way. It still does…”
I smiled and shook my head. “There hasn’t been anyone else, Jimi.”
He looked at me, confused. “But Lekan? The other guys?”
I shook my head, and I saw as the realization sank in. The realization that I had never given myself to anyone but him…
And we both knew there was no more need for words..
You can catch up on Fola’s story here:
- Sister, Sister 1: Calling Me Mrs.
- Sister, Sister 2: The Odd Family
- Sister, Sister 3: Floating On Air
- Sister, Sister 4: The Many Wives of Jimi
- Sister, Sister 5: Russian Roulette
- Sister, Sister 6: So Much In Common
- Sister, Sister 7: An Unlikely Pair
- Sister, Sister 8: Longing For Her
- Sister, Sister 9: The Return
- Sister, Sister 10: The Catastrophe
- Sister, Sister 11: Not Working
- Sister, Sister 12: Sham of a Marriage
- Sister, Sister 13: Invisible Strings
- Sister, Sister 14: Rehab
- Sister, Sister 15: Fall From Grace
- Sister, Sister 16: Reset Button
- Sister, Sister 17: Available…Unavailable
- Sister, Sister 18: Paradigm Shift
- Sister, Sister 19: Living a Lie
- Sister, Sister 20: Not That Kind of Girl
- Sister, Sister 21: Name Dropping
- Sister, Sister 22: The Banker
- Sister, Sister 23: One Chip
- Sister, Sister 24: A Mess
- Sister, Sister 25: The Matchmaker
- Sister, Sister 26: Promise of Fidelity
- Sister, Sister 27: Hole In My Heart
- Sister, Sister 28: Charmed
- Sister, Sister 29: Last Minute Snack
- Sister, Sister 30: Disrespectful
- Sister, Sister 31: Force of Gravity
- Sister, Sister 32: Settle For Less
- Sister, Sister 33: Sweet Talk
- Sister, Sister: Breathless