Surprisingly, Tonye cooperated fully with the matchmaking efforts of Habiba and I, which went into overdrive the second we agreed to it. He happily browsed all the options we paraded in front of him, which were mainly friends, sisters of friends, family members or associates of Habiba’s, as I painfully realized I had no eligible single possible contenders of my own, who could qualify for his love.
The first lady he agreed to meet was Habiba’s young cousin, Tabitha. At 24, I wondered if she wasn’t too young for 36 year old Tonye. I expressed this concern to Habiba, who was very quick to wave it off, with the usual “She’s mature for her age!”
Tonye had been taken by her when they first met. She was very pretty, after all. But it hadn’t taken too long for the age difference to stick out like a sore thumb. I remember smiling to myself the Saturday after their first date, when she trooped into our estate with about 5 of her friends. You could hear their noise and raucous from miles off. Peeping from my kitchen window, I saw them all squeeze into Tonye’s car, and I laughed, pitying my friend’s pocket that evening. Needless to say, he wasn’t impressed about having to entertain 6 ladies, when all he’d wanted was to get to know Tabitha a bit better. That was the last time they hung out.
The next lady was Habiba’s friend from University, Leena. At 34, she was more age appropriate, and comported herself with a bit more finesse. But from the minute Tonye was introduced to her, I could tell he wasn’t feeling her at all. We’d all gone for drinks that first day, and even though she was incredibly funny and charming, At 6 feet 5 inches (in her heels though), braces on her teeth and rather untamable natural hair, I knew she would be an acquired taste.
“Don’t be so shallow!” I’d teased him, when we got home. “She’s a fantastic girl! So smart! So funny! And Habiba says she’s a great cook too!”
“Then let Habiba date her!” Tonye had retorted.
When the 3rd lady Habiba had in mind walked into our office, I was both intimidated and surprised by the choice. Her name was Nana, and she was an older sister of Habiba’s best friend. I was intimidated because everything about her exuded class; her weave alone was probably the same amount as my entire wardrobe, while her handbag could have bought my car, with change still leftover. Her expensive perfume permeated every nook and cranny of our office, and her skin, her perfect caramel skin, was clearly a result of not only good genes, but an expensive care regimen. No, Nana was classy with a capital C. However! I was surprised because, even though she was supposed to be the same age as Tonye and I, she could easily pass for 40, or older. Yes, she was pretty and all that, but there was still something about her that made you know she had been around a while.
This one na Aunty o! I texted Habiba, just before Tonye arrived, and she had glared at me in response.
When Tonye got to our office, I saw the fleeting look of surprise on his face when he saw the lady, before he quickly recomposed himself. And when we all went for dinner, halfway through the meal, I realized that all 3 of us, Tonye, Habiba and I, were on our best behavior and almost all deferring to her. You would have thought we were 3 teenagers on a lunch date with our Mom or something. I shook my head, thinking there was no way this was going to work.
But Nana no gree oh! She was besotted with Tonye from the word go, so much so that she almost immediately assumed the role of girlfriend, showing up at his house with elaborately cooked meals and showering him with expensive gifts. But what was more shocking was the fact that Tonye was responding to it. Like joke, like joke, they soon became a pair.
I just couldn’t understand the attraction. I couldn’t understand why Tonye would enjoy the company of a woman who delighted in mothering him. Even though she actually was 36 like us, she had the mannerisms and soul of someone approaching 60. She didn’t use slangs, she never joked, no hair of hers was ever out of place. I couldn’t help but wonder what my friend was doing!
“It’s been long since a woman took care of me!” was his response, when I broached the subject, making me wonder how exactly men’s brains worked. “I have a home cooked meal every single day of the week! Who would say no to that?!”
Watching her BMW drive out of our estate at 6.30am one morning clearly showed it wasn’t just her food he wasn’t refusing. Men!
“But why are you complaining? Are you not the one that said we should hook him up?” Habiba exclaimed, when I complained yet again.
“Not hook him up with a stiff Aunty like Nana! She’s turning my bestie into a bore like her!”
Habiba had laughed in response, living me feeling even more chaffed. But underneath my reservations, I was happy that Tonye was happy…and that we hadn’t had a repeat of the discussion we’d had before Christmas.
I had been very worried about losing my friend. When he said he had feelings for me, it had frightened me to my bones. A relationship with Tonye wasn’t in the cards at all. I could only imagine seeing Nengi lurking over us, if we ever attempted to graduate from our perfectly platonic relationship. Nah, it was much better for us this way…to remain friends.
Thankfully, our friendship had remained rock solid, and he had been the support I’d needed over Christmas…when I got the delayed reaction from Atto’s betrayal. After the anger wore off, the pain set in…and gosh, it hurt! It hurt like hell, and I cried every single day. I cried for my dashed dreams, my dreams of ending up with my teenage love, my dreams of a lifetime with the love of my life.
Atoo had called persistently while still in Lagos, and even after he returned to London, but all his calls had gone unanswered. There was nothing he had to say that was of interest to me. In the 3rd week of January 2011, he had e-mailed me copies of the divorce papers he just filed, and with a long hiss, I deleted the e-mail. His impending divorce meant nothing to me. What truly mattered was his deceit. If only he had told me about his situation when we’d spent practically the whole day together at the airport, things would have been different.
By early February, Tonye had started dating Nana, and I was getting ready for a quiet Valentine’s Day, spent solo…as usual.
The Saturday before Valentine’s day, I was at one of our corporate sites, putting finishing touches to their window treatment. We were installing delicate blinds, and I couldn’t trust any artisan to do the job. That day, for convenience, I’d gone to the site clad in a tank top and denim shorts. I was mounted on a table, adjusting the settings of one of the blinds, when I felt eyes on me. Looking down, I saw a handsome man literally eating me up with his eyes. The rush I got was unbelievable. There I was, with not a drop of makeup on my face and my hair pulled back in a simple bun, but I was still sexy enough to attract men. Only a few short years before, a man like that would never have looked at me and my fat self twice.
When our eyes met, the man smiled at me, and I smiled back before returning my attention to the blinds I was fixing.
“So you are the partner Habiba has been keeping away from me!” he said, his voice silky smooth. “You guys have done a great job here!” he stretched up his hand. “I’m Eyitemi.”
I almost fell off the table, when I heard his name. Eyitemi was the Managing Director of the oil service company we were styling. Shaking his hand, I was amazed at how young and attractive he looked. I’d read enough about him to know he was not anywhere younger than 45.
“It’s good to meet you, Sir.” I said, smiling.
“I said Eyitemi…I didn’t say Sir.” he said with a sly smile, his eyes still roaming my body.
As we shook hands, I felt a surge of electricity run through my body, reminding me that it had been four years since I’d been intimate with a man.
He’d asked me to lunch, and when I declined because of how I was dressed, he returned to the office with Chinese food takeaway. We had lunch in their new lunch room, and the flirting was on another level. His attraction for me gave me an incredible rush, and I found myself playing more to it, leaning in more than I should and giggling even when it wasn’t necessary.
He offered me a ride home, and when I answered that I’d come with my car, he had his driver take my car from me, so that we could ride together. The ride home in his brand new Mercedes E-class was everything. The wealth and opulence was almost intoxicating, and I found myself wanting more. When he dropped me at home, and asked if he could pick me up later that night for dinner, I heard myself accepting. I didn’t care that I was skating on thin ice.
From everything I’d read about Eyitemi, he wasn’t single.
But I didn’t care. For the first time in my life, I didn’t care. I wasn’t looking for love or marriage. For the first time in my life, all I wanted was a bit of fun, fun with a man who would spoil me a little. What was so wrong in that?!
By the time Eyitemi returned to pick me up that night, I relished the way his eyes almost popped out of their sockets when he saw me. With my makeup and hair in place, not to mention the figure hugging dress I’d opted for, I knew I looked smashing. All through dinner, he hadn’t been able to take his eyes off me, and when he dropped me at home, I’d been just as shocked to hear myself invite him in.
For the first time in my life, I slept with a man with no strings attached. The sex had been great, maybe because it had been a long while for me…but for Eyitemi, it was almost like I was a drug to him…and it gave me even more of a rush. Later that night, as he slept, I heard his phone vibrate, and I smiled thinking about his wife probably looking for him. So this was what it felt like to be on the other side! For some reason, I got a lot of satisfaction from that.
The following Monday, Valentine’s day, he flooded our office with an assortment of expensive gifts, arriving on the hour, with a bouquet of flowers each time. I was as giggly as a kid in a candy store with each delivery, enjoying all the attention I was getting. Gosh, it felt so good! Now I understood why Tonye was so taken by Nana.
“You know he’s married, right?” Habiba said, as I squealed over one of my gifts, a beautiful Raymond Weil wristwatch.
I had simply shrugged in response, adding a cheeky smile. A smile that said, so what?! After the hand life had dealt me in the men’s department, surely I was entitled to a bit of fun!
At 5pm, Eyitemi whisked me off to an expensive restaurant, with a private dining area, for just the two of us. After this, he took me to a luxury apartment in Ikoyi. I knew it was probably his guest house and not the home he shared with his wife, but I didn’t care. We had another passionate night there…which ended up becoming the whole week. I was quite enjoying this life of pampering and luxury!
As he dropped me at home on Saturday morning, I saw Tonye standing in front of his house, a puzzled look on his face.
“A married man, Cheta? Has it come to that?” he retorted, looking clearly disappointed.
“Oh please! Why is everyone making such a big deal out of it!” I retorted back. “What’s the big deal? It’s not like married men are holy or something!”
Tonye sighed. “Cheta, I know you’re acting out because of what you went through with Tersur…”
“Please!” I said angrily, holding my hand up to silence him. “Don’t play Doctor Phil with me, Tonye! This has nothing to do with Tersur, and everything to do with me enjoying my life! What’s so wrong wanting to be spoiled and pampered? Didn’t Tersur do it to other girls when we were still married?”
“I thought you said this wasn’t about Tersur.” Tonye had said quietly.
Furious, I charged into my house, but he was hot on my tail.
“I’m not done talking to you, Cheta!”
“Well, I’m done talking to you!” I spat back, glaring at him.
“If you won’t respect my opinion as a friend, at least respect the fact that your family entrusted you to my care…and I know they’re not going to like this!” he had insisted.
“Oh please! All of you need to give me a break!” I exclaimed. “Everyone acting all holier than thou and judging me…you and Habiba! None of you understand what life has put me through. Even you that knows my whole story, you can’t understand the gravity of the pain I have suffered not just from one man…but two! I don’t think you have ever been hurt by anyone as deeply as I have been!”
“You’re hurting me right now!” he’d answered. “I don’t think the pain gets any deeper than this!”
We stood there, staring at each other for a few minutes, before I looked away. “Tonye, you have to leave now.”
“Are you going to continue seeing him?” he asked.
“Yes!” I answered firmly, but unable to meet his eyes.
“That’s fine then. I guess nothing anyone can say can stop you.” he answered. “But always remember that I’m here for you, Chets. If you ever need me, I’m right here.”
As he shut the door behind him, I wiped tears from my face. No, there would be no crying here. I was going to continue enjoying myself. If I wasn’t destined for love and marriage, then nobody would keep me away from enjoying the finer things of life.
And I didn’t care who I hurt!
You can catch up on Cheta’s story here:
- You Used To Love Me 1: How Did We Get Here?
- You Used To Love Me 2: You Weren’t My First Choice
- You Used To Love Me 3: The Chosen One
- You Used To Love Me 4: You Were My Rock
- You Used To Love Me 5: Raging Fury
- You Used To Love Me 6: You Could Have Done Better
- You Used To Love Me 7: Protector…Predator
- You Used To Love Me 8: Two Islands
- You Used To Love Me 9: The Special One
- You Used To Love Me 10: She Already Knew
- You Used To Love Me 11: Reconciliation…Divorce
- You Used To Love Me 12: No Time To Waste
- You Used To Love Me 13: Intruder
- You Used To Love Me 14: New Reality
- You Used To Love Me 15: I Should Have Tried…
- You Used To Love Me 16: Pandora’s Box
- You Used To Love Me 17: Big Trouble
- You Used To Love Me 18: Your Brother!
- You Used To Love Me 19: The Rescue
- You Used To Love Me 20: Work Through The Confusion
- You Used To Love Me 21: Reclaiming my life
- You Used To Love Me 22: The Greatest Revenge Ever
- You Used To Love Me 23: Logical Explanation
- You Used To Love Me 24: Love Triangle