I can’t really remember how I got home that afternoon…
After the exchange with Jimi…after he dashed any hope I had of us rekindling our love…I suddenly felt the weight and gravity of what had just happened to me. In less than 24 hours, I had lost the two men in my life; my fiancé and the man I truly loved.
I suddenly started hyperventilating. It suddenly felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room, and for a minute, I thought I was going to faint. I’d lain on the couch for a little while, to regain my composure…and I think it’s from there I entered auto pilot mode.
I vaguely recall walking away from the house, and into my car…but that’s where I draw a blank, as the next thing I do remember is that I was in my bedroom…sitting on my bed…and wondering how in the world I’d gotten back to such a dark place, yet again.
My heart ached over losing Jimi…again. It was more painful this time because I knew it was my fault. I’d been too scared to accept his love, choosing instead to go with the ‘safer’ choice…Lekan. A colossal mistake. I’d mortgaged my heart for what I thought would be a less chaotic relationship, but had gotten badly burnt instead. And I couldn’t even blame Lekan for his own actions. He’d been good to me for the entirety of our relationship, and it was clearly my betrayal that had pushed him into the arms of my sister, albeit for the brief time it took for their sexual encounter. I didn’t even blame him for the ugly things he said to me. I deserved it for what I did to him.
The only person I had to blame was myself.
When did I get here?
I looked around my bedroom, and suddenly, Dolly’s words echoed in my ears so clearly, it was almost like she was sitting on the bed, beside me.
“This is payback for feeling like you’re better than everyone else! Living in that fancy house, driving a fancy jeep and wearing designer clothes, living the life I could have had…!”
Fancy house…fancy car…designer clothes…yes, I had it all. I had everything…but I had nothing. Everything, every single thing in my house was paid for by the Fajobis. Everything! All the furniture, right down to the sheets on my bed, were from my benevolent in-laws.
I glanced at my sheets, and I smiled sardonically. They were Sferra sheets…1,500 thread count sheets. The set alone had cost almost $600, more than my entire one-month salary. And sitting in my closet were at least 5 more sets of similar sheets. Sheets I could never afford.
I glanced at my wardrobe, bursting with clothes, many of which I never even wore. I looked at the array of shoes I’d taken the time to arrange by color and type, and my bags that I’d also arranged by color and occasion…and I felt ashamed. I was ashamed of how vulgar I’d become, splurging on expensive treats, living above my means! I had gotten accustomed to a lifestyle that wasn’t mine. A lifestyle I hadn’t earned for myself.
The Fajobis had been good to me, no doubt. Even with Jimi back in the country, and even with him having taken on mine and Rire’s expenses, Mama Jay had still insisted on funding my account every month, leaving me constantly awash with cash. I’d been awash before Jimi’s return, and was even more awash with him taking on board the expenses I would have ordinarily borne myself.
I had become a kept woman! Unable…no, unwilling…to take care of my own self.
My salary was usually spent the day I got it, usually on a single item. The minute I got my bank alert, I would be transferring it all to pay for human hair, or a new shoe or a new bag! So, I had no savings. I had a wardrobe that would make any fashionista proud, and a bag collection that could feel a small country…but I had no savings. Why have savings, when there was always a steady flow of cash? That had been my mantra. I spent money just as quickly as it came, because I knew it would always be replenished…and it always was.
Even the car I drove hadn’t been from my sweat and blood. The BMW X5 I drove had been a gift from my in-laws the previous year, to replace the previous Honda CRV that they had also gifted me.
I was a 35 year old woman, with absolutely nothing to her name! Matter of fact, I had no identity, really.
I was Rire’s mom, Jimi’s ex-wife, Lekan’s (ex)fiancée, Dolly’s sister…and a host of other things to other people…but that was about it. On my own, I was nothing.
I had allowed myself to get stagnant somehow. Even the career change I’d made, with the hope of finally doing something meaningful for myself, had been shot to pieces. I’d allowed myself get comfortable, and had settled for mediocrity under the guise of working my way up the ladder, to pay my dues. And even though I’d been on the same rung of the ladder for years, with people 10 years younger, flying right past me, I’d remained unbothered. The salary was, after all, only used for a human hair or Gucci bag deposit anyway. Why did I need to stress myself about the damned job anyway?
I suddenly found myself seeing things from the same prism probably the whole world saw me through. I saw why Bimbo and even my sister, Adun, had been singing in my ears about regaining my independence. I saw that, somehow, I’d allowed myself to become a permanent leach. A parasite.
I suddenly felt the walls closing in on me, and I knew I had to leave. Right then and there, I knew I had to get out of there!
Shooting to my feet, I opened the wardrobe and pulled out a suitcase set…also gifted to me from the Fajobis. I started throwing in my things, deliberately leaving behind some of the more luxurious items. When I was done, I went into Rire’s room and packed a few of his things as well…even though I knew he wouldn’t be leaving with me immediately. It was smack in the middle of the school term, and I didn’t want to destabilize him in any way. Not until I’d figured things out for myself.
When I was done packing, I called Mama Jay, to ask if Rire could stay with them for a few days.
“Is everything alright, Fola?” she asked, concern in her voice.
“I just need some time away, Mommy.” I answered, not courageous enough to tell her I was leaving for good.
“Your mother told me that the wedding is off.” Mama Jay said. “I wish I could say I’m sorry, but I’m not. And you know why.”
The last thing I needed was her telling me anything that would remind me of Jimi. I didn’t need to be reminded of the ache in my heart…of the vacuum in my soul, caused by losing him for good. No, I sure as heck didn’t need that!
After getting off the phone, I sent my guard to call me a taxi, which he did. I placed the house keys in their usual hiding place…and set off for Ibadan…the only place I could think of going. The only place I knew would give me the privacy to think and meditate.
Upon getting to my parents’ house, they hadn’t been surprised to see me. In fact, it almost appeared that they’d been expecting me, with the way I was welcomed right from the gate, and also fussed over and pampered. It was either Mama Jay had run the interception and called my mother while I was en route, or they were worried about how I was taking the news of the broken engagement.
“I’m fine, Mom! I’m fine, Dad!” I found myself almost exclaiming every 5 minutes, as my parents continued to fuss.
Eventually, I’d extricated myself to my bedroom, hoping it would give me time to be by myself…to regroup. But no sooner was I in my room did I hear, through the door, my own mother crying, lamenting, cursing (Dolly), and also blaming herself. Eventually, Dad had let himself into my room.
“How are you doing, Folabomi?” he asked, “And don’t give me your usual flat answer. You have been through a huge loss, losing the man you were supposed to marry. You must feel the loss!”
I looked at my father. “Did you listen to the tape?”
He shifted uncomfortably. “The most part. And I was able to catch that there is still something between yourself and Jimi?”
I shook my head. “Not anymore. Even that one is over.”
Expecting more platitudes, I was surprised when he placed his hand over mine gently, and said, “Folabomi, it is not the end of the world. It isn’t one or the other. You do know you can survive with neither of them, don’t you?”
At that point, the tears welled in my eyes, and as my dad put his arms around me, I wept like a baby. As he rocked me like I as a little girl, all I could think of was everything I’d just lost…which at that point was my whole life! Was it too late to return to Lagos? To the comfort and luxury of my home…of my charmed life?
Somehow, I fell into a fitful asleep. Night time soon became morning…which became night as well. I found myself drifting in and out of the days, not sure of what day of the week it was. My mother confiscated my phone, and the servants had been given strict instructions not to disturb me…except for meals.
The only person I spoke to was Rire. He’d been puzzled over why I’d just upped and left town, but had seemed satisfied by my excuse being that I needed to rest…and it wasn’t entirely a lie. I did need the rest. But my parents made it close to impossible to speak with anyone else…not even my siblings, Adun or Niyi. Or even my friends Bimbo and Lilian. But I was grateful for it. It gave me time to think.
“I will never forgive myself for what I did to you…” Mom said contritely, more than once. “I created this beast called Dolly, and I can’t help but assume responsibility for all this…and I don’t just mean what happened with Jimi. My bias to your sister when you were younger, somehow made you feel that you weren’t enough.” she cupped my chin. “Folabomi…you are enough! Never, ever forget that!”
I pondered over her words, long after she’d left my room. It was like an Eureka! moment. I had never felt enough…especially not after marrying Jimi. Which is why I’d been too scared to leave their family, even after the dissolution of my marriage to their son. Which is why I’d never bothered to really chase and pursue my dream, instead of twiddling my fingers away.
I was enough. I was enough!
The day I made that realization was the day the tears dried. The day I was able to shake my funk and grab life with open arms again. The day I decided to do something worthwhile with my life!
Even though I’d been AWOL from work for almost a month, the first thing I did, that November morning, was to write my official resignation letter. The job wasn’t doing anything for me, not in the least bit! And it was time for me to look inwards. It was time to build myself.
As December rolled by, I started making plans to move back to Lagos in the New Year, and started scouting around for an apartment to rent, within my price range. Dad had offered to pay for a place, and I was grateful for it.
A week to Christmas, I’d been jolted by the news that Jimi had also found a place of his own, and had moved from his parents’ place, to a small apartment in Lekki Phase 1. Rire had regaled me with stories of their move, the weekend before, and I had to use every ounce of strength I had to suppress the pain that was threatening to explode. Jimi and I hadn’t spoken once since that fateful October afternoon, and even though I tried not to, I still did think of him often. Whether I cared to admit or not, he remained my waking and resting thought. None of that had changed.
But I had to be strong. I had to move on.
On the 9th of January, 2014, after spending almost 4 months with my parents, I returned to Lagos…and to the apartment my dad rented for me in Ajah. I finally made my way to see my former in-laws, and Mama Jay had been emotional about seeing me go. Rire had been excited to be reunited with me, and we’d both moved to our new home…a stark contrast to the opulent one we’d left behind, but he was a trooper through it all.
At almost 14, he was old enough to understand why there’d been a change. Together, we’d gotten used to our new standard of living, complete with the old-model Toyota Camry I’d gotten from my parents’ house, which we used for the commute to his school daily.
The interface with Jimi was slim to none. The weekends he had to see Rire, he would send a driver to pick him up, and the same driver would ferry him back home afterwards. The driver also helped with school run, on occasion. And I was grateful for not having to endure seeing him again.
It gave me the chance to have a clear head…the clear head I needed to start my business.
The clear head I needed to move on with my life…
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
- Sister, Sister 36: Intoxicated
- Sister, Sister 37: Back To Business
- Sister, Sister 38: There’s a Fire