The weeks leading to Dolly’s return were the most stressful I had ever experienced…mentally. We hadn’t spoken since our caustic exchange just before I married Jimi. Not even when I gave birth to Rire had we spoken. But our sister, Adun, kept me abreast of her plans and scheduled return date. I guess she didn’t want me to be taken by surprise…which is what I’m sure both Dolly and our mother wanted.
As the dreaded July 2001 date drew nearer, I found myself breaking into sporadic sweats, at the thought of Dolly returning to Nigeria, and possibly reclaiming what was rightfully hers…Jimi…my husband. I prayed for a change of heart from our father, and tried to convince him it would be best to just allow Dolly finish her degree in America, as she desired. But he was adamant on her returning to face the music in Nigeria.
“There is absolutely no way I’m going to pay one single cent for Dolapo to school in the U.S! She thought she could just drop everything and run away to America, just like that? Let her go back and face the shame of an extra year in Unilag. That will teach her, and that wayward mother of yours a lesson!”
I had flinched at the uncharacteristic outburst from our father. The man was obviously done sugar coating things when it came to our mother, his estranged wife.
So I had no choice but to accept Dolly’s inevitable return.
She arrived on a Saturday night, and the next day, Sunday, she and our mother were at our house for lunch.
Before then, I had replayed a million scenarios of my head. I had envisioned a haughty, and extremely angry, Dolly storming into our home and reigning insults everywhere. In another scenario, I had envisioned her sashaying into the house, looking as sexy as ever, and Jimi lusting after her like a dog in heat. I had envisioned a lot of things…all except what actually did play out.
As I opened the door, I had been disarmed by the mega watt smile from my sister, standing beside our mother.
“Fola!” she had squealed, enveloping me in a bear hug. “Gosh, I’ve missed you!”
“I…I’ve missed you too…” I managed to stutter, returning her embrace.
Walking into the house, I marveled at what I was seeing. Dressed in a loose kaftan, this was hardly the style I remembered her for. The Dolly I remembered would not have worn anything that didn’t show ample skin or hug ample flesh. But even through that kaftan, I could see that my sister had become voluptuous. She was bigger than I remembered, but in the kind of way that only made her look sexier…more womanly. I suddenly found myself feeling scrawny and thin in comparison. Ironic, because I had actually lost weight to look more like her.
“You look so good, Fola! Look how much weight you’ve lost! Nobody would believe you just had a kid!” Dolly said, with no shade of sarcasm in her voice.
Again, I could only smile nervously, unsure of how to act around this new Dolly.
I watched my husband, my heart in my mouth, afraid of how he would react at the sight of Dolly.
But he had smiled genuinely, and hugged her. “It’s great to see you again, Dolly!”
“Same here, Jimi! Look how my sister has made a man out of you!” Dolly had smiled back, before taking Rire from him, “And who is this adorable young man? Come to your Aunty Dolly!”
Watching how effortlessly Dolly was with Rire made me almost want to rip off the mask from this intruder’s face, and demand to know what she had done with my sister. This sweet and homely person was definitely not my shallow and materialistic sister.
“Fola…Jimi…I owe you an apology for the way I behaved, when I heard about the two of you,” she had said later, after we’d had lunch. “I guess I didn’t expect…you know…you two to end up together. But I’m happy you did. You both look so happy…and I’m super happy for you.”
I looked at my husband, but he hadn’t looked surprised at all. Instead, he smiled at her, and actually thanked her. It felt like I was in some kind of twilight zone. Something just wasn’t right. I cast a look at our mother, who had been uncharacteristically quiet herself, hoping to see something that would prove something fishy was going on. But no, instead she just sat there, smiling along with everyone else.
I couldn’t believe it.
As we saw them off, I kept stealing glances at Jimi, looking to see any signs of longing…or regret…or both…on his face. But there was no such thing.
“Dolly seems really different…” I remarked later that evening.
Jimi nodded. “Yeah…and in a good way too. She’s really grown up…which is good for her.”
Gbam! And he fell into my trap.
“I guess that makes her even more attractive than she was before, huh?” I baited further, giving him a dirty look.
He had looked at me incredulously, obviously short of any words for me, before walking out of the room.
Sitting alone in the living room, I realized that even though the reunion with Dolly had been nothing like any of the scenarios I had envisioned, it had been just as jarring…and in a totally different, and possibly more lethal, way.
As the weeks and then months unfolded, Dolly remained at her best behavior. She got herself registered in school for her extra year, and she was actually a model student, attending her lectures religiously and keeping a low profile. I knew it was hard for her, as there were many students in Unilag who remembered her sordid past, but she kept her head up through it all. And what was even more surprising for me was that there were no more aristo moves for her. No rich boyfriends, no sugar daddy toasters, nothing. The babe had actually turned a new leaf.
And the better part was that she actually kept a comfortable distance from Jimi and I. She only came by the house on occasion, and never alone. And she remained cheerful and sweet, so much so that a stranger would never have believed that the three of us had the kind of back story that we did. It was almost like Jimi himself had forgotten the said back story, with the way he would be gisting with Dolly like nothing had ever happened between them in the past.
“How can you guys be acting so…so normal?!” I had asked, half perplexed and half frustrated, after one of her visits. “You two were in a long term relationship, for crying out loud!”
“Fola, this is really beginning to get old!” Jimi had exclaimed with exasperation. “Would you rather I didn’t chat with her at all? Knowing you, that would create something else for you to complain about!”
“I just don’t understand how everyone else but me has forgotten about what happened! Why am I the only one that still sees the giant elephant in the room?!” I had exclaimed right back.
“Probably because everyone else has chosen to move on, Fola!” Jimi had retorted. “I suggest you do the same!”
That night, I didn’t sleep a wink. I realized that I was doing my marriage more harm than good, with this obsession I had with my sister. I decided, then and there, that if the rest of them could move on, so could I. And I made the very conscious decision not to fixate on Dolly again.
Life went on happily after that. I started relaxing again, and began to enjoy my husband once again. And on Rire’s 1st birthday, in November 2001, Dolly showed up for his party with her new boyfriend, a very good looking guy called Joseph.
All our friends were literally salivating over the guy.
“Dolapo, where did you find this fine, cream guy?!” Bimbo, my bestie, had drooled. “Is he mixed race? Is he even Nigerian?”
Dolly had been very amused by all the attention. It turned out Joseph was indeed Nigerian, with a few traces of Lebanese blood from his mother’s side. At the age of 27, he was also only 3 years older than Dolly, a far cry from the 11-year gap she’d had with Frank. He was a young engineer with a small construction company, and made a very modest living. As he and Dolly drove off in his 1993 Honda Accord that had seen better days, I couldn’t help but marvel over how far my sister had come. Maybe she truly had changed.
After that day, Joseph became a regular face. He and Jimi hit it off and became good friends. By the time 2002 came by, Joseph and Dolly were a serious item, and we were all glad that she’d found someone who had grounded her.
Even our materialistic mother.
Somehow, Joseph had managed to charm the woman enough for her to forget that he wasn’t as wealthy as she would have wanted for Dolly. But the two of them made such a good looking couple, I’m not surprised she decided to let go of that fantasy.
Joseph! Dolly really hit the jackpot with that guy. Apart from the fact that he was easily the best looking man I had ever seen in my life (well, my Jimi exclusive), he was a perfect gentleman. And the best part was that he was a devout Christian. He wasn’t a player or someone just out for a good time. He was a good man, with a good heart…a real catch.
And Dolly knew it!
By the end of 2002, Dolly was finally through with school, Jimi had gotten a job with a bigger architectural firm, and we had moved out of our small Dolphin Estate apartment to a small terrace house, in the same estate. I had also recently gotten a job with a computer hardware company. Though not my dream job, it was better than staying at home playing house wife.
As if life couldn’t get any better, on New Year’s Day 2003, while we were all gathered at our family house for lunch, Joseph asked Dolly to marry him. It was so romantic, it brought tears to almost all eyes in the room. Even our dad, who by now had finally agreed to stay in our house during his trips to Nigeria, instead of the hotels he favoured, was emotional. Dolly had finally found a good man, and we couldn’t have been happier.
Now, I was finally able to relax! With Dolly set to marry a guy as awesome as Joseph, I knew Jimi was off her radar permanently. And from how close Jimi and Joseph had become, I didn’t expect him to be nursing any hidden desire either.
But alas. It didn’t take long for katakata to burst!
Dolly! I should have known it was all too good to be true!
It was June 2003. Dolly and Joseph’s wedding was slated for Christmas time, so that our father, Adun, Niyi, and Joseph’s siblings who were out of the country, could all attend. Though not at fever pitch, we had started preparing for the wedding, and everything was progressing well.
Or so I thought.
I’d been at work, when I was notified that my sister was there to see me. Perplexed, I’d made my way to our reception area, wondering what could have brought Dolly there. I was even more perplexed when I saw her puffy looking face. She’d obviously been crying.
“Dolly!” I exclaimed in concern, taking a seat next to her. “What happened?”
She looked around nervously. “Can we go somewhere private to talk?” she said, in between sobs.
I nodded, and led her to a small conference room. As we walked there, I found myself enraged, wondering what Joseph could have done to upset my sister so.
“Can you imagine?! Can you imagine that he’s marrying someone else?!” she sobbed, once we were seated.
“Whaaaat?!” I yelled, not caring how loud my voice carried. “Marrying someone else? I will kill that Joseph!”
“Not Joseph!” Dolly cut in. “Princewill!”
Princewill! Who on earth was that?! I stared at my sister in shock, not wanting…not daring…to believe what I feared she was about to say.
Alas, I was right. Dolly had returned to her old ways. She had apparently been seeing a young billionaire called Princewill. He was a divorcee and had somehow managed to convince my engaged sister, that he would marry her.
“Dolapo…what are you saying? What about Joseph?” I had said, my voice barely a whisper and my heart heavy.
“Joseph can’t take care of me, and you know that!” Dolly had whimpered. “I was just waiting for the right time to end it with him when…when I found out that Princewill is engaged to another lady. A woman in her 30s, can you imagine?! Can you imagine that he chose an old woman over me?!”
I pursed my lips, to prevent myself from saying something foolish, or reminding her that, at 26, she wasn’t too far from 30 herself.
“You need to pull yourself together.” I said to her, willing myself to be patient. “So this Princewill man is engaged…well, so are you! You’re lucky Joseph hasn’t found out about this. I would advise you to put all this behind you, and focus on making your own relationship work.”
When I saw that her tears were not abating, my patience evaporated completely. “Dolapo, stop all this nonsense!” I exclaimed, hitting the table with so much force, it startled us both. “We’ve already picked your wedding gown, for goodness sake! If you know you don’t want to be with Joseph, let the poor guy know, instead of still wearing his ring and crying because of another man.”
“You’re right,” she had sniffed, wiping her eyes. “This is silly. I have a good man. I shouldn’t care about what Princewill is doing.”
“No…you shouldn’t.” I agreed.
We’d embraced, and she’d left my office. I was happy that she’d eventually seen reason, but was disappointed she’d betrayed Joseph in the first place. However, I trusted that she would do the right thing going forward.
I was wrong.
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