It felt like homecoming…but so much more. I was intoxicated.
As Jimi and I reconnected body, mind, heart and soul, it was difficult to tell where one of us began and the other ended. He felt like a part of me, and I a part of him. It was no wonder I hadn’t been able to give myself to any other person. How could I have, when it felt like I had been carved right out of him, in every sense of the word.
Later that night, I listened to the rhythm of his heart beating as he slept. Even after almost 9 years, I could still tell the pattern almost by heart. I closed my eyes as I savored the smell of him, and I was intoxicated afresh. Looking at his face, I was amazed by how I remembered every single detail of it; every pore, every bump, even the motif of his mustache and small goatee, had been entrenched in my memory…and in my heart. Yes, there were a few grey strands where there hadn’t been before, but he was exactly the way I remembered.
And then I knew. I knew that, no matter how much he loved me, it would never be as much I loved him. My love for him had not waned, not even for a second. I still loved him with an intensity that overwhelmed me…and frightened me.
And I knew I could not go back to living like that.
The neon light on his phone was flashing, so I leaned over to have a peek at the screen. Six missed calls from Bidemi, his girlfriend. But of course!
Detaching from him, I lay awake on my bed, eyes wide open, wondering how I had allowed myself fall back in this place. How had I allowed myself get here?! Those were my thoughts all night, and as the sun rose the next morning.
A few minutes before 7am, it was the turn of my own phone to beep.
I feel so guilty about not being there for you. I shouldn’t have allowed the way I feel about your sister keep me from you for two days. I’ll make it up to you, I promise. I’ll see you on my way to work.
I sat up with a start, and shoved Jimi awake.
“You have to go!” I said, getting out of bed myself, and reaching for my robe.
Jimi smiled, and reached for my hand. “Mmmmmm. Good morning, beautiful. Why are you so far away from me?”
I didn’t even crack a smile. “Jimi, you have to go.” I repeated. “Lekan will be here any minute.”
Jimi’s eyes held mine, but he remained silent for a moment.
“I get it. You guys need time to talk.” he finally said, getting out of bed. “I’ll give you guys space to sort things out. But we also have a lot to talk about, you and I. You know that, right?”
I shrugged, and he walked over and enveloped me in a passionate embrace. As I kissed him, I almost felt my resolve melt away. What was it about him that was like a drug to me? Like opium. Like napalm, using John Mayer’s words for Jessica Simpson. Loving Jimi was an addiction, and there would be no cure for me. But even if I would remain a lifelong addict, like a recovering alcoholic, I could choose to walk away. Because no good could come from loving a man this deeply. I had already learned that the hard way.
With all the will power I could muster, I pulled away from his embrace. “You really have to go…” I bleated, not even convincing myself.
Jimi nodded, reaching for his clothes. “I’ll give you guys the morning, and I’ll call you this afternoon.”
“You might need to call Bidemi back.” I said, as he dressed. “She called you.”
“I’ll be having a conversation with her too.” was his response, looking me square in the eye. “I love you, Fola…and I’m not going to lose you again.”
I looked away, not wanting him to crack me. Yes, he loved me…but did he love me enough? Could his love even match mine, by the smallest of fractions? I didn’t think so.
After he left, I lay in bed and inhaled his scent from the pillow on which he’d lain. I nuzzled myself in the imprint he had left on my bed, and I wished I could just give myself in to this love, with reckless abandon. But after what it had done to me the last time I’d loved him without control or limitations, I knew it wasn’t something I could put myself through again.
Somehow, I managed to get dressed, even though all I wanted was to leave the scent of him on my body for as long as I could. But I had to wash him away…I had to put what had happened behind us. Pretend like it had never happened.
Taking breakfast to Dolapo’s room, I found her already up, examining her bandages.
“Awww, thank you, Fola.” she said, her eyes beaming at the sight of her breakfast of toast, eggs and sausages. “You’re the best sister ever!”
I smiled, as I set the tray before her. “I hope you’re not thinking of taking those off.” I said, gesturing at her bandages.
She sighed. “Do you think I’ll have large scars?”
“I don’t know, Dolly. We were too concerned with saving your life to look at how big the wounds were.” was my answer.
She nodded, taking in what I’d said. “I haven’t been able to thank Jimi, though. Please thank him for me. If it wasn’t for him, I’m not sure what would have happened. I don’t think you’d have been able to cope with me that night.”
“You’re sure right about that!” I said, as I made to walk out of her room.
“He was here last night.” she said, making me stop in my tracks. “Jimi. He spent the night?”
I looked at her. “Yes, he did.”
“Folabomi…you’ve fallen in love with him again. I can see it in your eyes.” she said, looking at me keenly.
“I never stopped loving him.” I found myself answering her, eager to get the heavy load off my chest. “Jimi has been the love of my life for 17 years. But last night was a mistake. I can’t be with him.”
“Why not? You love him, and he clearly loves you!” Dolly exclaimed.
“I can’t do that to Lekushe.” I answered. “He is a great guy, and he has been so good to me. He loves me in a way that I’m not sure Jimi ever can.”
“But is that enough? Do YOU love him?” she pressed on.
I was silent as I contemplated it. “I like him. I like him a whole lot. And I know that I can grow to love him…” I sighed deeply. “The love I have for Jimi overwhelms me. It doesn’t make me think straight! With Lekan, it will be a love that I can control…not one that will control me.
Dolly shook her head. “It’s your call, Fola. But I think it’s the wrong one.”
“Enjoy your meal, Dolly.” I said, slipping out of her room.
For the rest of the day, I sat in my bedroom, ignoring all phone calls…not even from Lekan or Jimi…especially not from Lekan…or Jimi. At that point, all I wanted was to be left well and truly alone!
The next morning, I awoke to a call from Lekan. I was tempted to ignore it, but thought the better of it. If I was going to get over Jimi, I might as well start the process of deepening my relationship with Lekan…and ignoring his calls was sure not going to help.
“Oh, thank God!” he said, when I answered. “If you hadn’t answered, I was going to come to your house and jump over the fence, if your annoying guard had turned me back like last night!”
I smiled as I realized Sani, my guard, had taken my instructions of not wanting to be disturbed to the very letter. “Oh, you were here last night?”
“Your guard didn’t tell you?” Lekan answered. “He kept saying ‘Madam no well’, and it took all that was in me not to punch him in the face!”
“He wasn’t lying. I was under the weather.”
If you call being love sick under the weather!
“Are you sure? Or were you just avoiding me?” he asked. “Babes, I’m so sorry about the way I reacted. I feel awful that I wasn’t there for you. I acted like a jerk, and you have every right to be angry!”
I shut my eyes tight, trying to banish all thoughts of Jimi from my head. If only he knew!
“It’s fine, Lekan. I understand.” I managed to say.
“Can we do lunch this afternoon? They have a nice Saturday brunch at…”
“Lekan, I’m not up to it!” I groaned, the thought of being in contact with anyone making me feel physically ill.
“Okay, how about tonight? Dinner tonight? Please don’t say no…” he implored.
That moment, my call waiting tone beeped, and I looked to see it was an incoming call from Jimi…and my heart skipped a beat. Again, I reminded myself of what the grand plan was. To forget Jimi. Turning down dates with my boyfriend was definitely not the way to make that happen.
“Dinner sounds great.” I said, with forced enthusiasm.
“Great! I’ll pick you for 7?”
I suddenly remembered I’d promised to take Rire’s suit to him, in time for his performance at Church the next day, Sunday. I’d really missed having my son at home, but I wasn’t prepared to have him anywhere around my sister anytime before she left. Dolly was already scheduled to leave the next day, so Rire would be returning home on Monday.
“Make it 6. I have to drop off something for Rire.” I answered, dreading the thought of having to go to my in-law’s…and running into Jimi.
6pm on the dot, Lekan was at my door, looking all dapper in a crisp white shirt and navy pants. I’d barely gotten myself together in a simple ankara dress, my hair pulled back in a sleek bun. Dressing up was the last thing on my mind that day.
“You look beautiful!” Lekan gushed, making me feel even more guilty. I wondered if I would ever be able to get over the guilt of cheating on him.
The drive to my in-law’s place was shorter than it normally was. All too soon, we were already pulling into their street. I was worried that even Lekan could hear my heart beating loudly out of my chest. I decided I would simply dash into the house as fast as I could, and be out before raising anyone’s attention.
“I’ll be right back.” I said to Lekan. “Keep the car running.”
“You might want to go with the umbrella. It looks like it’s going to rain.” Lekan advised, looking at the dark clouds overhead.
“I’ll be in and out in a flash.” I said, walking away.
As I walked into the compound, all I could do was pray that Jimi wasn’t home. My heart sank at the sight of his car, and I goaded myself to be as quick as I possibly could. Walking into the house, the first person I saw sitting in the living room, was Bidemi. Her eyes were blood shot, and it looked like she’d been crying for days. Upon seeing me, the rage on her face told me all I needed to know. Jimi had told her about us.
Not wanting to cause a scene, I said nothing to her, and quickly dashed into the kitchen, where I handed Rire’s suit to Bassey, the Fajobi’s long serving cook.
“Please make sure Rire gets this when he gets back from football practice, Oga Bassey.” I said, handing him the bag.
Turning around to leave, I heard my name called from the other end of the living room.
“Fola!” came Jimi’s voice, as he descended from the stairs.
I didn’t even look back, and instead hastened out of the door…but he was quick on my heels.
“Fola, what on earth is going on?!” he said, clearly exasperated, grabbing me by the arm. “Why have you been ignoring my calls since yesterday?!”
“Why do you think, Jimi?” I retorted, as the first of many drops of rain started to fall. “We don’t have anything to talk about.”
“What?!” he exclaimed, looking confused. “But we…the…the other night…”
“That night was a mistake!” I shouted. “Look, I have Lekan, and you have Bidemi! That night, neither of us was thinking straight!”
“Oh, I was thinking very straight and very clear!” Jimi said, his eyes flashing with anger…and pain, not even minding the growing intensity of the rain. “I poured out my heart to you…and you did the same! And when we were together that night, not even you can deny the magic…how it felt like the most natural thing in the world!”
I pulled my arm away from his grasp. “It’s raining, Jimi! I have to go! Lekan is waiting for me.”
And with that, I quickly dashed out of the gate. Jimi followed me.
“Fola! Fola!!” he shouted, ignoring the pouring rain.
I scurried into Lekan’s car, my entire body soaked and my hair clinging to my scalp.
“Drive! Drive!” I yelled, willing Lekan to speed away as quickly as he could.
But he wasn’t fast enough.
“Fola! Fola, don’t do this!” Jimi was at my window now, hitting it. Looking at him, I couldn’t tell if it was the rain on his face…or tears.
As Lekan finally drove away, I felt an ache in my soul, the look on Jimi’s face lingering in my heart. I couldn’t afford to feel sad. I couldn’t afford to dwell on the past. I couldn’t afford to fall for him again.
“What was that about?” Lekan asked, taking his eyes off the road, to look at me intensely.
I shrugged, trying to act cavalier, but with my body quivering like a leaf. Yes, I’d been under the rain, but I knew it was the result of the encounter I’d just had…with the man I loved.
“I could tell Jimi is still into you. When we were in Ibadan, it was so damn obvious!” he said, through gritted teeth. “The next time I see him near you, I swear I’ll kill him!” then looking at me again, “I also warned you it was going to rain. Look at you, all drenched. You have to get out of those clothes, or you’ll catch something awful.”
I didn’t argue as Lekan drove me back to my house. Once in my bedroom, as I undressed, I didn’t stop the tears that ran down my face, the finality of what had just happened with Jimi hitting me hard. What had I truly done?!
Not in the mood for dinner anymore, I changed into a pair of track downs and a t-shirt.
“You’re not getting dressed?” Lekan asked, confused at my get-up, when I walked into the living room.
I shook my head. “I’m sorry…but I just need to rest.”
He stared at me for a few minutes. “I didn’t want to do it like this. I’ve been carrying this around, waiting for the right time…but I know now that I can’t afford to wait any longer.”
And with that, he pulled out a small box from his pocket and dropped to one knee.
“Folabomi…you are my world…my life…my everything. You are my missing piece. The one that I have been waiting for. The one who completes me…” he took my hand. “Will you marry me? Will you make me the luckiest man on earth by becoming my wife?”
I stared at him in shock. I was so dizzy, I thought I was going to faint. But in all my confusion, I knew this was the perfect way out. My perfect escape.
“Yes….yes, Lekan.” I replied, my voice quivering. “I’ll marry you!”
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 34: Breathless
- Sister, Sister 35: Consolation Prize