The next morning on my way to work, my phone buzzed almost like clockwork.
Hello, Mrs. C! How are you today?
I stared at my phone, memories of my chat with Mudi from the previous night flooding my head. This telephone friendship was not only meaningless, it was doing me way more harm than good.
So I ignored the message…and proceeded to push him to the back of my mind.
Getting to work, I went about my day as normal, not giving any time to Mudi-daydreaming, as had become my recent pattern. There was nothing to daydream about. He was happily married to his Eli, and whatever we had in the past belonged right there…in the past.
Busy day? came another message from him a little after lunch time.
I delayed answering that message until evening, when I was on my way home.
Yeah. was my own bland response.
They shouldn’t overwork a beautiful lady!
I didn’t even bother replying, but made sure he knew I’d read it. It was time for him to also get the message. I didn’t have to spell it out.
He didn’t send another message until the next day, and I didn’t even dignify that with a late reply like I’d done the day before. Thankfully, he didn’t bother with anymore that day. The next day, there was another message from him, which I replied with only a one-liner. And that soon became our pattern. Sometimes, I would send the briefest of responses, but most times, I ignored his messages altogether.
After a while, he stopped.
I wish I didn’t notice that he’d stopped as keenly as I did…but I did. Every day, I kept looking out for his usual greetings, but when these no longer came, I had to accept that he had gotten the message.
So, I decided to focus on my own life.
I started making an effort with Tobenna. With his business doing better, he was no longer as moody, and we soon resumed some semblance of the relationship we’d had before. He even made good on his promise and we went out for lunch and dinner a few times. We were still far from perfect, but at least both of us were making an effort.
“It’s all the money we’re still repaying the bank for that cargo, Gina.” he said. “I just can’t settle my mind enough to think of sex. Soon babes. Just give me some time.”
So, even though it had been over a year since we’d last had sex, I knew I had to be understanding and wait for him. The truth is, even with all our problems in the past, and as distracted as he sometimes was when we were at it, sex had never been our problem. Even though I had stopped initiating it, anytime we did get around to it, it had always been passionate and explosive. So, I knew that, for Tobenna to have switched off something he actually enjoyed, meant his company’s money issues were more serious than I thought…meaning I had to be the considerate wife, and be patient.
The months flew by. August was soon upon us, and I had to take our two older sons, Kelechi and Obinna, to London for school. It was something I’d put off for a year, as Kelechi actually should have left the year before. But alas, having turned 18 and passed his A-levels, there was no more reason keeping him in Nigeria, and with his brother ready for his own A-levels, we knew it was wisest for both of them to leave. Even though I spent almost a month with them, and even though I’d gone with my youngest son, Arinze, for moral support, the separation still broke my heart, and I cried all the way back home after leaving them in Tobenna’s brother’s house, from where they would go to their respective schools in September.
Returning home, our house felt empty. Arinze was at the age where he was more into his technological gadgets than making conversation, so I found myself missing the chats I used to have with my other boys, especially my older son, Kelechi. Having outgrown the rebellious teenage phase, he was at the point where he no longer felt ashamed of being close to his mother, so there were many nights I would be with him in his room, talking about everything. I knew all about the girls he liked, the ones that liked him, and when he eventually decided to ask one of them out, I was his sounding board…always giving him relationship advice. I truly hadn’t realised how much I would miss it. But I did…and dearly!
Then in September, after almost four months of no communication, Mudi sent me a message.
Hey, Mrs. C! How are you today? Long time no chat.
I stared at my phone, knowing ignoring it was the best thing to do. But I was in a very low place that day. Tobenna had slowly started reverting to his old ways and was spending more and more time at work, and bringing more and more work home with him.
And I was lonely.
Hello Mudi. I responded, trying to keep it light and casual.
How have you been? Mr. C? The boys? Work?
Everything is fine, thanks. Two of the boys left for England last month.
So you have an almost empty nest like me!
Something like that.
What about Mr. C?
He’s very well, thank you. Mrs. O?
Great! I typed, regaining my senses. What was I doing chatting with Mudi anyway? Why was I allowing myself go back to the time I foolishly got carried away by our phone liaison? It was the very last thing I needed at that point.
Nice chatting with you, Mudi. Have a good evening.
There was a pause, before he replied. K. You too.
I smiled. He was obviously offended by my curtness, but abeg, self preservation was most important for me. I couldn’t allow myself get sucked into the hole of false hopes and expectations. And to be honest, I didn’t even understand why I was having any hopes and expectations to begin with. Was I honestly longing for a reunion with Mudi? Me, a woman married almost 20 years, with grown kids? It was laughable to even contemplate.
He didn’t send another message for a few days, and when he did, it was a curt, Hello, Gina. Hope you’re good today. I just wanted to let you know we finally got your company’s account! It took a lot of sweat and hard work, but we got it. And I have nobody but you to thank!
Not at all, Mudi. I haven’t even been involved since facilitating the introduction. Whatever your team got was all your merit.
The introduction was the most important part. You made this happen. Thank you.
I shrugged, even though he couldn’t see me. My pleasure.
There was no more message from him, and I was happy about that. In my current situation, it would be all too easy to slip into a dark, dark place.
In the last week of September, I had to travel to Abuja for some negotiation meetings for my company. As it was a full day of discussions, I had to leave with the 7am flight, meaning I was out of the house as early as 5am. Tobenna was still asleep when I left, and when my plane took off at 7am, it was only Arinze who had called to wish me a safe journey. This rankled me. Landing in Abuja at 8am, there was still no message from Tobenna. After a brief stop at my hotel to check into my room and drop my luggage, I set off for the series of meetings scheduled for that day. It was when I was walking into my hotel at 5pm that day that my husband finally called me.
“Hey babes. How is your trip going?” he asked.
And something in me snapped!
“So it is at 5 o’clock that you are calling to ask me how my trip is going!?” I retorted. “If my plane crashed, or if I’d had an accident with the taxi that brought me from the airport, would you even know?!”
“For God’s sake, Gina! Your flight was very early this morning! You know I was on a conference call till late last night. Did you really want me to wake up at 6am, just to wish you a safe journey?”
“Is that too much to ask? What if my plane crashed and that was the last chance you had to speak with me?!”
“Don’t be over dramatic, Gina!”
“And I guess you have been sleeping till now, abi? What’s your excuse for not calling earlier?”
“Babes, I had a meeting with Chevron today, and you know I like to prepare for those. I had to read through some material, and discuss extensively with the team beforehand.”
“So all that is more important than a 10-second phone call to check on your wife?!”
“Gina, stop acting like a spoilt brat! What is your problem? Cut me a little slack here. You know that on a good day, I would have even been the one to take you to the airport. Don’t be unreasonable.”
“Oh, go to hell, Tobenna! Which good day would you have taken me to the airport?! Not even when the boys and I travelled this past summer did you take us to the airport, so stop fooling yourself.”
“I will call you when you’re in a more reasonable frame of mind, because clearly right now, you aren’t.” Tobenna muttered.
“Please don’t call me. Don’t call me. Shove your call where the sun don’t shine. Go and focus on your business. That’s your one true love after all!”
For the first time in our relationship, Tobenna hung up on me. I stared at my phone, stunned and angered. How dare he?! I was the aggrieved party! How dare he hang up on me?!
Furious, I picked up the phone and ordered a steaming plate of pounded yam and egusi soup, from room service. That wasn’t a day to continue with my fitfam dieting. No…I needed some real comfort food! When the meal came, for the first time in a long time, I proceeded to eat it with my hands…and it was exactly what the doctor ordered! Steaming hot and delicious, I relished every single mouthful and capped it with a cold glass of malt drink.
But hours later, the feel-good effect of the food had worn off, and I was lying on my bed…angry, frustrated and lonely. But mostly angry.
And then my phone buzzed.
Picking it up, I half expected to see an apology text from Tobenna. But instead, it was a message from Mudi.
Hi, Mrs. C. How was your day today?
For some reason, that one proceeded to trigger me anew.
What do you want?
There was a pause. Gina, is that you?
Who else will it be? Mudiaga, what do you want from me?! Why do you keep sending me these senseless messages, pretending you didn’t destroy me 19 years ago?
Gina…where is this coming from?
Look, I am just sick and tired of you acting like we’ve been long lost friends forever. We are not long lost friends, Mudi! We are people who were in a relationship that ended extremely badly. I’m the one who had her heart broken into a million little pieces, all because you didn’t have the balls to stand up to your father!!!
There was a long pause, and I thought I’d finally succeeded in pushing him away.
If I tell you that not a day goes by that I don’t think about what happened with us, would you believe me? What I did haunted me back then…and it still haunts me to this day. I was a weak young man, and I know if I’d tried harder, I would have won my father around eventually. But I was so scared of losing his approval…especially as I was the only one who wasn’t biologically his.
Oh spare me that sob story, Mudi! Your mother and siblings were all rooting for us…but the first opportunity you got, off you ran to your ex-girlfriend!
Gina, from the very bottom of my heart, I am so sorry. I am so sorry I hurt you…
Please eat your sorry! Your sorry means nothing to me! Do you know how broken I was?! Do you know there were times I even wanted to die?! Do you know?!
Nothing I can say can show you just how sorry I truly am. Even when I was getting married to Eli, I was wracked with so much guilt over what I’d done…and for years, that guilt has eaten me alive. All I have wanted is for a chance to apologise to you…and ask you for your forgiveness. When Jide gave me your number, that’s what I truly wanted to do…and I was so surprised and happy when you were so warm and not even the slightest bitter…
Oh, I’m bitter, Mudiaga! I am very, very bitter!
Give me a chance to apologise to you, Gina. A chance to truly apologise. It’s not something I should do over a WhatsApp chat. I want to get down on my knees to apologise to you…to show you that I’m truly, truly sorry about what I did to you.
By this time, I was deflated.
You can keep your apology, Mudi. I don’t need it.
He didn’t respond, and I set my phone on my bedside table and shut my eyes, my mind in turmoil. There I was, mad as hell with my husband, and resurrecting old ghosts with my ex. And I was spent.
Then the darned phone vibrated again.
You don’t know how hard it was for me to let you go, Gina. You will never understand how much it broke me to lose what we had. I was probably more broken than you were.
Oh puleez! Broken indeed. How long did it take you to hop back into your ex’s pants? Don’t give me that sorry line about you being broken.
But I was, Gina. Even Eli knew she was only getting a small part of me…a small part of my heart. For the first few years of our marriage, even when we were having our kids…all I thought about was you. All I wanted was you.
I suddenly started feeling sorry for him. The truth is that, as broken as I was, when I married Tobenna, Mudi had been shoved to the very back of my mind. Tobenna had made me forget him completely. And if it wasn’t because of the problems we were having in our marriage, maybe I might not even have had any desire to reignite the past.
It’s okay, Mudi. I’m sorry for lashing out. I just had to get it off my chest.
But you have to give me the chance to apologise to you properly…and in person.
I shook my head, even though he couldn’t see me. I didn’t trust myself with seeing him again, not especially after the kind of effect he’d had on me the last time I did see him.
No need, Mudi. It’s water under the bridge. Now that I’ve said it, I feel much better. I’ve already forgiven you. We were both so young and didn’t know better. And thank God your wife was there for you when you needed her.
I credit her with helping me heal…because I was in a very dark place for the very longest time.
It sounds like you owe her a lot.
I sure do.
I smiled sardonically. I had come to accept the fact that his wife now held a very special place in his heart, and there was no need to be bitter or jealous about it.
I have only ever loved two women in my life, Gina. And they both couldn’t be more different. You and Eli are so different…
As are you and Tobenna. But thank God, we are both happy now. That’s what counts.
Yeah. That’s what counts.
I yawned. That was enough drama for the day. I have to go now. I have lots of meetings tomorrow, and I fly back to Lagos in the afternoon.
You’re out of town?
Hmmm! Boss Lady! Please leave some money for us in the capital oh!
I laughed. You’re such a joker, Mudi!
Have a safe trip back.
Sweet dreams, Gee.
I smiled at that familiar line of endearment. Sweet dreams, Mudi.
Long after our chat was over, I lay in bed and had a peace I hadn’t felt in a long time. I had finally been able to let go of Mudi. What we’d had was beautiful…but it was time to leave it in the past where it belonged, so that we could happily focus on our partners.
The next morning, as I got dressed for my day, the music channel was playing on my hotel room TV. Soon, Gwen Stefani’s Cool came on, and it caught my attention. I’d always liked the song…but that morning, I was suddenly gripped by how its lyrics rang so true for Mudi and I. It was almost as if the song had been written for us.
It’s good to see you now with someone else
And it’s such a miracle that you and me are still good friends
After all that we’ve been through
I know we’re cool
I know we’re cool
Now you call me by my new last name
Memories seem like so long ago
Time always kills the pain…
If you can be happy for me
Circles and triangles
And now we’re hanging out with your new girlfriend
So far from where we’ve been
I know we’re cool
I know we’re cool
Hey, Mr. O! I typed, as soon as I was in my taxi. I hope I didn’t upset you yesterday. I think I just had to get those things off my chest.
Hey there, Mrs. C! No, I’m actually glad we talked about it. It’s kinda like been the elephant in the room.
I nodded. Yep. It has.
Off to your meetings?
Yeah, but I should be headed for the airport by noon, all things being equal.
Have a safe flight! I’m sure Mr. C. is dying to have you back home.
I sniggered. The Mr. C that I was fighting with. Indeed!
Hey, Mudi. One more thing. I was listening to a song this morning…and its lyrics really reminded me of me and you. You know…how you’re with someone else, and I’m with someone else…but we’re both still cool.
What song is that?
Gwen Stefani’s ‘Cool’. I’ll send it to you now.
What do you mean we’re ‘cool’?
I laughed. Just listen to it, old man! It means we’ve moved on, and we’re happy for each other!
Okay. I’ll listen to it.
I shook my head, still chuckling. As I sent him the song, I truly felt lighter. While it wasn’t true that I was 100% ‘cool’ with him being married to someone else, I knew I was on the path to getting there…and it was the only safe place for either of us to be.
Thankfully, my meetings were over in time for me to catch my early afternoon flight. I kept on looking at my phone for a reply from him, but there was none. I could see he’d listened to the song, and I was waiting for his reaction to it. But there was none.
Instead, as I was about to board my flight, I got a call from Tobenna.
“Gina, why are you this troublesome?!” he said. “So that’s how you allowed us sleep angry at each other yesterday?”
I laughed. Tobenna and reverse psychology! “Was your own hand hurting you?! Why couldn’t you call me? You that couldn’t care less if my plane had crashed and burned!”
“Babes, that’s not true and you know it.” he responded. “But I should have called…and I’m sorry. Anyways…have a safe flight home. I can’t wait to see you.”
I smiled. There was no point being angry with him. His heart was in the right place. It was just his execution that was extremely poor.
Landing in Lagos, I checked my phone for Mudi’s reply, but there was still none…which I found extremely odd. Me sending him that song was confirmation to him that I too had moved on, and was happy to have a cordial relationship with him, so I was surprised he didn’t respond, considering that was obviously what he also wanted.
Getting home, I was welcomed warmly by Tobenna and Arinze. Even though it was only a night away, sometimes it helped to give my family space to appreciate my value in their lives. The way Tobenna was fawning over me, you would have thought I’d been away from home for a year.
“Thanks for being so patient with me.” he said, massaging my feet later that evening. “I know I haven’t been the best husband in the world, but I promise to do better.”
I smiled at him. From the look in his eyes, I knew he wasn’t quite ready for sex, but I realised I was content just to enjoy his company. To enjoy our love.
And then my phone started to ring.
Looking at it, I was shocked. Mudi?! He had never called me before!
“Mr. O? Who’s that?” Tobenna asked.
“Erm…someone from work.” I said, stumbling to my feet. “I have to take this.”
Tobenna shrugged, got out of bed and walked into the bathroom. I stared at my ringing phone again, my heart racing. Why was Mudi calling me?!
“Hello?” I answered, my voice unsteady from my nerves.
“You and I aren’t ‘cool’, Gina. And we will never be cool. I still love you. You’re the only woman I will ever love. And I want to be with you!”
Where is the Love? returns on Monday, March 19, 2018.
Catch up on Gina’s story here:
- Where is the Love? 1: Where is the Love…
- Where is the Love? 2: Love Letters
- Where is the Love 3: A Family Issue
- Where is the Love? 4: Tobenna
- Where is the Love? 5: Loneliness
- Where is the Love? 6: Bad Romance
- Where is the Love? 7: Pandora’s Box
- Where is the Love? 8: Butterflies
- Where is the Love? 9: Roller Coaster
Catch up on our other series here: