I was covering up for my sister.
Or at least, that’s what I told myself.
I looked the other way, when the flashy cars dropped her off at home. I shut my curtains, so I would be spared the sight of their parting kisses. I bit my tongue, when she waltzed into the house, well into the day after her departure. I walked away when she started regaling our mother with tales of her adventures. It wasn’t my business…or at least that’s what I told myself.
I didn’t speak to anyone about it. I didn’t tell my friends, even though I knew they would have gone crazy over the scandalousness of it all. I didn’t even tell our sister, Adun, when I was lucky to speak with her on the phone. I convinced myself that, by not speaking about it, I was protecting her.
But the truth is, I was ashamed…ashamed of her.
I was ashamed of the fact that she had thrown her morals to the wind, and had chosen instead to cavort with men, some of whom were old enough to be our father. I was ashamed of the fool she was making of our own father, who was working himself to death, just to meet our needs. I was ashamed that she had chosen not to be content in what we had, but had instead chosen to pursue a life of luxury that wasn’t hers.
And so, mainly because of that, I kept tight lipped. In fact, I was just as anxious about her secret being out, as I knew I would also be affected by the scandal.
“Aren’t you afraid someone from school will see you?!” I’d asked her one evening, as we sat in our bedroom, with her applying makeup for another night out.
Dolly had laughed condescendingly. “Nobody from school can roll in the kind of circles I do!” she had said, almost with pride.
“And the likes of Anu and co.?” I’d asked, referring to the notorious group of ‘aristo babes’ in Moremi hall, who made no secret about their penchant to chase after men with enough money to fund their lifestyles.
“Those hood rats?” Dolly had scoffed. “Please give me some credit, Fola!”
“And Jimi? Aren’t you scared he’ll find out?” I asked the very obvious question. For over a year, it had been a game of Russian Roulette, with him leaving or arriving our home just before, or after, Dolly set off on her escapades.
“Don’t worry about Jimi!” she had said, the finality of her voice signaling to me that our conversation was over.
All I could do was sigh. Her point was well taken. Jimi was none of my concern, and nobody from school had enough clout to hang out in the company she did, least of all the ‘hood rats’ Arin and her crew.
Well, it turns out she was wrong.
It was July 1999. We were both in our final year, and back in school for the start of the second semester…our final semester in Unilag. Jimi, as a student of architecture, was also in his final year. By this time, I had fully accepted their relationship, and was even able to be in their company without feeling bad. As for me, somehow, I had managed to go 4 years in Unilag without having dated anyone at all. It wasn’t for want of trying. At any point in time, I always had more than a few toasters; classmates, cool guys and dry guys alike. I even started turning a few heads out of school, when I finally ditched my tomboy ways.
But I just wasn’t interested.
I think the encounter with Jimi had left a bad taste in my mouth. I wasn’t keen on going through the kind of heartbreak I’d suffered when I lost him to Dolly. If I’m to be honest, at the back of my mind, I was afraid that was the inevitable outcome; that I would lose anyone I liked…to my sister.
But I digress.
I will never forget that day…it was a Sunday morning. Typically, I would have been home for the weekend, but for some reason, that Sunday morning, I was in school. I’d been too lazy to go to church, and had been on my bed, listening to the new radio station, Cool FM, when I heard pandemonium coming from D block…the block opposite mine. I hadn’t paid it any attention, as it wasn’t uncharacteristic in Moremi Hall, for there to be such loud bursts of excited chatter. But then the gist had inadvertently found its way to my ears, via my roommate.
It turns out the ‘hood rats’ had been at a pool party the night before…and had seen Dolly…my sister, Dolly…Jimi’s girlfriend, Dolly…one of the most popular girls in school, Dolly…clad in the skimpiest of bikinis and being pawed and caressed by one of her many money bags.
The secret was out…and Moremi went crazy!
By evening, pretty much the whole school had heard the gist, and I had to lock my door, to ward off the gist mongers, coming to verify if the story was true. Seeking reinforcement, I’d had no choice but to confess to my best friends, Bimbo and Lilian, and they had joined me in a united front…to deny the allegations.
“Are you even listening to yourself? Who saw Dolly where? Is it Anu’s gist you are believing?!” Bimbo had retorted to more than a few people.
“This is nothing but beef, and you know it! It doesn’t even make sense. Next time those aristo babes want to make up a story, they need to try to make it sound more realistic!” Lilian had countered to another group.
“I left Dolly at home yesterday, so I don’t know if it was her ghost Anu and her crew saw at that pool party,” had been my own lie.
Anu and her friends, on the other hand, maintained their story, stating categorically what they saw. Thank God it was in the era before camera phones and social media. As it was, it was their word against ours. And unfortunately for them, we had more credibility.
The next day, Monday, Dolly sauntered to campus like a queen, unbothered and unphased by the rumours. She walked in and around Moremi, like her father owned the place. Before long, people were unsure of what exactly to believe, as she wasn’t acting like someone who had been caught in a compromising situation.
But that evening, on my way back from the Faculty of Engineering where I had gone to study, by the side of the Mass Communication department, where Jimi preferred to park his car, I saw them both, Dolly and Jimi, standing by his car, in a heated argument.
As I watched them, a part of me was happy that her cover had been blown and that Jimi had finally discovered the truth about her. But a bigger part of me was saddened by the mess she had caused for herself. The curious part of me wanted to keep watching, to see how the argument would unfold, but I had to give in to good sense and make my way to my hostel.
A little before midnight, I decided to check on Dolly, to make sure she was okay after the argument with Jimi. Knocking on the door of her room, which I rarely visited, I was surprised to see her flipping through a magazine, not looking the least bit flustered.
“Are you okay? I saw you and Jimi arguing outside…” I said, not bothering to filter my words.
She gave a flippant wave of the hand. “That one? Abeg, he is history!”
My eyes widened in horror. “You broke up with him?”
“It was long overdue! He is not the kind of guy I need in my life now. A common school boy like him trying to shout on me and tell me what to do! Can you imagine that!” she had exclaimed, laughing sardonically.
I just stared at her like she’d grown a horn on her face.
“I can’t waste my time anymore abeg! I have way better men dying to take care of me. Jimi can go and cavort with JAMBITES. Those are the kind of girls he needs!”
I was soon to find out that Dolly wasn’t joking at all.
If there was anyone in doubt of Anu’s story, the next day, Tuesday, Dolly put paid to any confusion, by inviting one of her men friends to see her, right there in her room in Moremi Hall. His name was Frank, and he was one of the few I’d been seeing around her regularly. In his early 40s, he wasn’t as old as some of the men she hung around, but obviously was way older than her 22 years of age. And from the sleek, silver Mercedes convertible he drove, he had more than enough change to spend.
The sight of his convertible in the car park was enough to cause a stir, and seeing hitherto good girl Dolly, arms entwined with the ‘big boy’ who drove it, pretty much confirmed Anu’s story. Dolly was a good girl gone bad…and she didn’t give a damn about any of it!
As the semester worn on, Dolly and Frank became exclusive. She cut off her other aristos, and decided to be fully committed to Frank. She moved into his house, and only came to school for some of her lectures, either chauffer driven in his other exotic cars, or driving the sleek convertible herself. She was in a totally different league now.
And our mother couldn’t have been more pleased.
“You said he wants to marry you? When are his people coming to see us? Ah, Baba modupe o! And you know Ibo men take care of their wives very, very well! See your Aunty Titi! Can you even compare the wonderful life she has to this sham I call mine?!” Mom had part rejoiced, and part lamented.
I guess it didn’t matter that the Frank was twice divorced and had teenage children. All that was truly important, at least to our mother, was that he was a rich, Ibo, guy…willing to s-p-e-n-d!
I probably felt the shame of Dolly’s metamorphosis from campus sweetheart to aristo babe, more than she did. Even though she felt on top of the world, in her new designer clothes and flashy cars, I knew the general consensus was not favourable. The words that were used to describe her were ugly…and I found myself unable to raise my head most of the time, bowed in shame by the actions of my recalcitrant sister.
The end of the semester couldn’t have come soon enough, and as soon as my exams were over, I left for home immediately, determined to finish up my project from there. I didn’t mind the inconvenience of having to find my way to school every day. That was a whole lot better than having to face the relentless gossip about Dolly.
I did see him a few times after their breakup. Sometimes, I would see his car zoom right past me. Other times, I would see his car parked for hours on end, outside of their architectural studio. It was obvious he was burying himself in school work, maybe to get over the pain…and I actually did feel for him. But not enough to reach out to him though. Nah. I just pitied him from afar, and went along my own merry way.
By November, we were done with school, and it was time to prepare for our sister’s wedding that December. Adun and Wole had already married in the States, were they were both pursuing postgraduate degrees, and just wanted to have a blessing in Nigeria. For the first time in almost 6 years, our father came home, mainly for the wedding, but insisted on staying in a hotel, a clear indicator of the end of his own marriage to my mother. So, the period was bitter sweet for me…bitter, because of the finality of my parents failed marriage, and sweet because my oldest sister was being joined in matrimony with a man she had loved for years.
Shortly after their wedding, and after Christmas, Adun and Wole returned to the United States, and by the New Year, we found out what our final grades had been. While I made a Second Class Upper degree, Dolly, having failed quite a few courses, had garnered for herself at least an extra year in University. The realization almost made our father, especialy, lose his mind. But Dolly wasn’t even slightly bothered.
“Who cares about that foolish piece of paper! Let them eat it!” she had retorted. “By the time we get to America, Frank is going to pay for me to attend the best of schools!”
Frank, apparently, wanted them to travel to the United States, to not only meet his kids but, it seemed, his entire family. From what we gathered, even Momma Frank herself lived in Atlanta, so Dolly was being prepped to meet everyone.
So, for the first time in years, Dolly and I were no longer peers. I was now ahead of her.
In early 2000, the weekend Dolly and Frank set off for America, I set off for NYSC camp in Iyana Ipaja. On that very first day, standing in line to collect my uniforms and shoes, I saw him in the distance, also trying to get himself sorted.
Jimi and I were in the same NYSC camp!
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