For a moment, it felt like time stood still. It felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. It felt like I was in a very, very, very bad dream. Because how else could I have been standing before my husband, in a partial state of undress, with the man who had almost been my lover?! How?!
“Gina!” Tobenna said, his voice laden with pain.
I reached for him. “Tobenna, please…it’s not what it…”
But before I could even complete the sentence, he brushed off my hand and punched Mudi hard on the face, making him stagger back. I gasped and looked at Mudi, who himself looked like his own rage had been ignited. He grabbed Tobenna by the throat and pinned him to the wall, before proceeding to hit him several times in the face.
I screamed, trying to pull him off my husband, but it was like he was driven by a force far greater than the need to defend himself. Tobenna tried to fight back, but Mudi was too strong for him. Before I knew what was happening, the two men were on the ground, scuffling, but with Mudi having the upper hand. In the end, it took several of the hotel staffers to separate the two.
I reached for Tobenna, who by now was bleeding profusely from the nose, but he pushed me away gruffly, as he made his way out of the building.
“Tobenna! Tobenna, please wait!” I screamed, pursuing him.
“Gina!” Mudi called out, also hot on my own tail.
I ignored him. He was the very last person I wanted to see, let alone speak to.
“Tobenna, please!” I screamed.
Tobenna turned around and gave me a look filled with more hatred than I could have ever imagined him to feel for me, before getting into his car, starting the engine and driving out of the compound.
I raced after him, even though I knew it was futile and that I would never catch him. I flagged down a commercial bike, and hopped on it before even telling the rider where I was going. I didn’t even care or remember that I had a lethal fear of those bikes. All I knew was that it wasn’t an option to let Tobenna get away. It just wasn’t.
As fast and nimble as the bike was, we couldn’t keep up with Tobenna’s car, and by the time we got to our house, he had already long driven in. I quickly paid off the rider, and approached our compound with my heart in my mouth, worried that Tobenna would have already left instructions not to let me into the compound.
Luckily, he hadn’t.
“Ah, Madam! Everything dey okay?” my security guard asked, shocked at not only seeing me dismount an Okada, but over my disheveled state.
I didn’t even bother answering him. Instead, I tore into the house and up the stairs, frantically trying to catch my husband before he did anything stupid.
Getting into our bedroom, he was sitting on the bed, with the lights off.
“A few weeks ago, when Darren told me he’d seen someone that looked like my wife at their lounge, I actually laughed it off. What made it even more hilarious was when he said this woman was always in the company of some man, kissing and making out in full view of everyone. Chinedu and I actually joked about how white people think all black people look alike. Because how ludicrous was it that my own wife could be hanging out with some other man!” Tobenna said quietly.
I shut my eyes tight as silent tears streamed down my face. That was when I connected the dots with the middle-aged American man who always seemed to be looking at me intently. A small part of me thought he looked familiar, but I had foolishly convinced myself nobody there could possibly know me. How wrong I’d been!
“Last week, the day after your supposed attack by area boys, he told me he’d seen this lookalike of my wife, but this time, she and her companion appeared to have taken things a notch higher and gotten themselves a room. I told him to let me know the next time this mystery woman came. I tried to convince myself that I was 100% sure it couldn’t have been my wife, but a part of me wondered…especially as it coincided with you getting back home in the wee hours of the morning.”
“Tobenna…” I whimpered.
“Today, I got home and found this on my pillow…” he said, holding up the note I’d left him. “And just as I was trying to process how you’d gone from not even going to work at all to suddenly having to fly to Abuja for a mystery meeting, I got a call from Darren that the woman was there…” he shook his head. “I was in that lobby for over an hour, convinced it was a mistake. I was even beginning to chide myself for going there in the first place. Of course I wasn’t going to find my wife there! My wife was in Abuja! So what if her phone was switched off? Maybe she’d forgotten to charge it, or hadn’t remembered to pack her charger. Do you know I was just about to leave, when that elevator opened?”
“Nothing happened, Tobenna. I swear to you.”
He laughed sardonically. “Yet your buttons were undone and he was helping you fix them.” he glared at me. “So it’s been Mudiaga all along, right? The roses, the diamond necklace, the daily gym trips, the constant texting on your phone…it’s been Mudiaga all along.”
I bowed my head, not knowing what to say…not knowing what words I could possibly say that would make things better.
“I’m going to spare you the shame of throwing you out. But I want you out of this house by the morning.” he said, rising to his feet. “I won’t tell the boys what you did. We’ll just find something to explain to them why we are breaking up. For tonight, I’ll sleep in one of the guest rooms, but by tomorrow, I want you out of here.”
“Tobenna!” I screamed…but he was already out of the door.
I collapsed like a heap onto the floor and cried like a wounded animal. Mere hours ago, I’d thought leaving Tobenna was what I wanted. But now, I knew that losing him would break me. It would kill me.
After crying for close to an hour, I reached for my phone. It was a little before 10pm, and not too late to call Lotanna, Tobenna’s older sister whom I was quite close to. Even though only 5 years separated them, she had assumed the role of a mother-figure since they’d lost their mother a few years after we’d married.
“Georgina! Is everything okay?” she asked. “It’s not like you to call at this time.”
“I’m coming to see you, Sis…” I whimpered.
She sighed deeply, obviously realising it wasn’t what we could discuss over the phone. “I’ll be expecting you.”
Without even bothering to wash my face, I grabbed my car keys, which were still thankfully on my nightstand, and proceeded to drive to Lotanna’s house in Lekki Phase 1. As I knew she would, she was waiting for me by her gate.
“Georgina, what is it?” she asked, as soon as I got out of the car. “I didn’t want to ask too much over the phone, but what on earth is the problem?”
The tears came hard and fast again, and she quickly ushered me into her house. Her children were all out of the country, and her husband spent most of his time in Abuja, so she had the house to herself most of the time. Leading me to the living room, she allowed me cry to my heart’s content. And when I had regained some of my composure, I opened my mouth and told her everything. Every single thing. I told her all about the problems Tobenna and I’d been having for years. I told her about the re-emergence of Mudi into my life, and how he’d knocked me off my feet. I told her about the events of that night, and how I’d been mere seconds away from sleeping with another man. And I told her about how Tobenna had caught me, semi-dressed, with the other man’s hands on me.
She listened without expression, and when I was done talking simply shook her head. “I suspected things haven’t been right between you both. With all the time and energy Tobe puts into his business, I have often found myself wondering what time he could possibly have for you his wife. But as you haven’t for once complained, I thought you both had reached some sort of understanding. And almost two years without any intimacy…” she sighed and shook her head. “But Gina, you should have come to me earlier! You shouldn’t have given in and allowed that man mess you up. Now look at where we are now!”
“I wish I could take it all back!” I whimpered, the tears pouring down my face again. “I’d do anything to rewind the hands of time, and keep Mudi far away from me.”
“If only it worked that way.” she rose to her feet and took my hand. “Go and get some rest. We’ll tackle this in the morning. It’s better for you to sleep here. Let’s give Tobe time to cool off.”
I put up little resistance, and even after being settled into her daughter’s old room, which was closest to hers so she could keep an eye on me, I lay with my eyes wide open, unable to find any rest. How could I rest when my whole world hung in the balance? How could I sleep when I was on the verge of losing everything that truly mattered to me…the one person that truly mattered to me?
My phone rang, jolting me, and I reached for it, hopeful that it was Tobenna. Hopeful that the few hours apart had calmed him down and he was wondering where I was. But instead, I saw that it was Mudi.
I felt like strangling him. I felt like stabbing him multiple times. But as much as I wanted to blame him for what happened, deep down in my heart, I knew the only person I could blame was myself. I had willfully engaged in all those secret rendezvouses with him. I had willfully gone there to meet him that evening. And if common sense hadn’t eventually prevailed, I would have willfully had sex with him that night. So, no. He wasn’t the one to blame.
But that didn’t stop me from blocking his number, this time for the last time. I had enough to deal with already, and including Mudi on that list wasn’t even an option.
Morning finally dawned, and all I wanted was to head back home immediately. But Lotanna insisted that I tidy myself up first.
“No point going there looking like a mad woman!” she’d said, as she ushered me into her own private bathroom, before handing me a clean boubou to wear. After I was done, she insisted that we eat breakfast before heading to Ikoyi.
“It’s a long day ahead of us, Georgina. We better fuel our bodies for it.”
Eat?! How could she expect me to eat when my whole world was falling apart?! I picked at the meal of toast and eggs, not able to eat more than a few mouthfuls. Thankfully, she didn’t insist, and after she’d given instructions to her staff, we proceeded to leave for my house. We opted to ride in her car, with her driver following us behind in my own car.
Getting to the house, we met things pretty much as normal. Arinze had gone to school, and the domestic staff were going about their normal duties. The only difference was that Tobenna, who would have ordinarily left for the office, was in his study working.
He glanced up when I walked in with his sister, and the hatred on his face from the previous evening appeared to have multiplied a million times. His face was still swollen and bruised from Mudi’s assault, further adding to the guilt I felt.
“I thought I told you to leave this house! Or would you prefer for me to throw you out myself?!” he barked.
“Ahn ahn, Tobe! You can’t even greet me your sister?” Lotanna teased. “And is that the way to talk to your wife?”
“She’s no wife of mine.” He retorted. “No wife of mine would have been banging her ex-boyfriend right under my very nose! She’s hiding under your wrapper, but has she told you all what she did? Has she told you that I caught her red handed, coming out of a hotel with her lover? Has she told you how it wasn’t enough for her lover to have slept with my wife, he wanted to kill me as well?”
“She has told me everything, Tobe!” she answered. “She has told me every single thing! So turn off that your computer for once, and come sit here so we can have a proper conversation!”
Tobenna glared at his sister, and then at me, before reluctantly rising from his desk and walking behind Lotanna, who by now was headed for our living room. I trudged behind him, unsure of my steps, feeling as uncertain as a first-time visitor in my own home.
“Georgina has told me everything that happened.” Lotanna began, when we were all seated in the living room. “And I agree with you that it was an awful thing to have done. She should never have put herself in that kind of position with that man, and she herself realizes that. But she also said she didn’t sleep with him…”
Tobenna started to laugh sardonically. “But yet they were in a hotel room. And yet, she was half dressed when I saw with her my own two eyes.”
“She said she didn’t sleep with him, and I believe her!” Lotanna said firmly, before shaking her head. “While what she did was wrong, Tobenna, you too… kedu ihe ị na-eme?! How can you not have slept with your own wife in 2 good years?! Two years, Tobenna!!!”
This was just the spark needed for Tobenna to explode. “Is that her justification? Is that her way of rationalizing what she’s done?! Well forgive me for not thinking about sex, when all I’ve been able to think about for 2 years is getting our family out financial ruin!”
“Tobenna, you lost money…big deal! That happened over 2 years ago! Is that what you will fixate on for the rest of your life?! Is that enough reason to neglect your wife?! You left your house wide open, how won’t armed robbers try to come in and try to burgle it?!” Lotanna yelled back.
Tobenna looked at me, a pained expression on his face. “Neglect? When all I have done, all I have ever done, is for her?! Does she know that we almost lost everything, including this house, to the banks? Does she know it got to the point that we were staring bankruptcy in the face?! But I chose to work extra hard to protect her from all of that. I chose to work extra hard to make sure she didn’t even worry about a fraction of what I was worrying about. I chose to work extra hard to shield her from all of that, yet this is what I get in return?”
“Tobenna, nobody asked you to play the super hero! I’m sure she would have preferred to have her husband, than to be shielded from financial ruin. Stop trying to prove a point to the whole world. You are not our father!” Lotanna snapped.
And that was the penny drop moment for me.
It all made sense to me, his intense drive to make sure our family lacked for nothing. His late father, though a wonderful and loving man, had been incredibly lazy in his lifetime, having little ambition outside of his modest earnings as a Civil Servant. He had been retrenched in the mid 1980s, and had made no effort to seek an alternative source of income, hence the onus of supporting the family had fallen on his wife, who had toiled tirelessly to ensure there was food on the table, a roof over their heads, and school fees were paid. Tobenna told me what a trying time this had been for his family, and how it had aged his mother overnight. Never had I imagined that he nursed the determination not to allow me face the same fate.
“I did everything for you, Gina. Everything!” Tobenna said, his voice breaking, allowing me see his hurt for the very first time. “And this is what I get?”
I looked back at him, tears pouring down my face, not even knowing what to say. What could I say?
Just then, my older brother, George, walked into the living room, his face set like stone.
“Gina…what is this I’m hearing?” he sneered, his fists clenched. “You were cheating on Tobenna with that God-forsaken Mudiaga? Mudiaga, Gina?!”
“Please, take it easy!” Lotanna snapped. “We have started moving past that. Don’t take us back.”
“Moved past what?!” George yelled at me, ignoring Lotanna. “If it wasn’t for the respect I have for Tobenna, I would have slapped your face. Moved past what?! He caught you in a hotel with Mudi, and you people are saying you’ve moved past it? Does Tobenna look like he has moved past it?!”
I cast a desperate look at Tobenna, whose face had lost the earlier emotions and was now as rigid as before.
“I see Tobenna has told you his own side of the story. But have you heard your sister’s?” Lotanna demanded. “Do you know that she too has been neglected for years? Do you know that her own husband has not touched her in 2 years?!”
George cast a disgusted look at Lotanna. “With all due respect, Ma, I’m very disappointed you will say such a thing!” he sneered. “Are you saying that was enough reason for this…this disgrace…to open her legs wide for another man?! What about women whose husbands are fighting wars and are away from home for years? What about women whose husbands are in jail? What about women whose husbands have been rendered sexually incapacitated by illness? I suppose it’s all fine and good for them to run amok and sleep with any man they can find, because, after all, they too have been ‘neglected’.”
“Tobe, please, take a moment to breathe and listen to your heart!” Lotanna said, turning her attention back to her brother. “We all make mistakes. You know as well as I do that Gina is a wonderful wife and mother…and that she loves you very much. Don’t use your anger to scatter your own home.”
“She scattered our home the minute she let that Mudiaga into it.” was Tobenna’s acrid response.
The room was quiet for a few minutes, before George rose to his feet. “Tobenna, as Gina’s brother, I am compelled to ask you to temper justice with mercy and forgive her.” He looked at me, and even I was surprised by the level of hatred I saw in my own brother’s eyes. “But as a man, Tobenna, I can not stand here and ask you to accept what I personally will not. So, if you need to take position, I am firmly behind you and support any decision you make!”
“George!” Lotanna exclaimed. “Ọ bụ nwanne gị nwaanyị oh! She is your sister!”
“I’ve already made up my mind.” Tobenna said, rising to his feet. “She leaves the house. End of discussion. To save her shame, I will keep the real reason from the rest of the world. Save for the people in this room, Chinedu and Darren are the only other people who know what has happened. I’d prefer to keep it that way.” and then he left the room.
Lotanna glared at George, before turning sympathetic eyes to me. “Don’t worry. I’ll talk to him. Just wait here.”
When she’d left the room, I turned tearful eyes to my brother. “George, how could you do that? Why would you tell Tobenna that kind of thing?”
“The question is how could YOU do that kind of thing?!” he demanded, pointing at me. “After everything Tobenna has done for our family? You choose to repay him this way?!”
“Is that more important than trying to save your sister’s marriage?!” I wailed.
“Oh shut it, Gina! You didn’t remember saving your marriage when you were opening your legs for that bastard, Mudiaga! A boy that was literally picked up the streets by the Onokpasas. How could you choose him after what he did to you? After how he broke you? Your memory might be porous but mine isn’t, and I remember clearly how Chika and I struggled to put you back together after he was finished with you, and married that other girl.”
My heart broke as I remembered how, truly, he and my beloved sister-in-law had done their best to help me forget the crushing heartbreak from being dumped by Mudi.
George sighed deeply and shook his head. “Tobenna was there for me when I lost my job, Gina. He did more than even a blood brother would have done for me. And he footed Dad’s medical bills 100%, especially as neither yourself nor I was making a living at the time. For God’s sake, Gina…he used to spend time with Dad after his chemotherapy sessions! He put everything on hold just so he could be there with him in the U.S. Or have you forgotten?! And yet you could do this to him?!!” he shook his head again. “I can’t in good conscience beg on your behalf. If he chooses to forgive you, that’ll be your luck, but otherwise, I can’t do anything to help you. You made your bed…now lie on it.”
He walked out, and I sat on the couch, overwhelmed. From the corner of my eye, I could see our staff milling around nervously, and I knew they could tell there was trouble. I had no idea how lucky Lotanna would be with her brother, and I was suddenly hit by the realization that I couldn’t just sit there and do nothing.
Rising to my feet, I walked out of the house and got into my car. I knew I had to see Chinedu. He was Tobenna’s best friend, and if he already knew about what had happened, maybe there was a chance he could also put in a good word for me.
It took me minutes to get to Chinedu’s house, a few streets away from ours, and the door was answered by his wife, Ebele.
“Gina. What brings you here?” she asked, a frown on her face.
And I knew she also knew.
“I wanted to see Chinedu. Is he home? Or is he at work?” I asked.
“Work ke? When there is fire on the mountain? No oh. He was with Tobenna for most of the morning and is sleeping now.” she answered.
“Ebele…please…help me talk to him.” I pleaded. “Please beg him to talk to Tobenna for me…”
“But Gina, how could you?!” she exclaimed. “How could you do that to Tobenna, of all people?! When Chinedu told me weeks ago that Darren said he saw someone like you in that their club, we both laughed at him, because it sounded so ludicrous…so impossible. Only to find out that, true true, you have been playing away match! You no try oh, Gina.”
My eyes pooled with tears again. “It’s not the way you think…”
Ebele shook her head and clucked her tongue. “It’s such a pity oh! The best one out of all of them, the only one who doesn’t womanise is now the one cheated on by his wife! Gina, Chinedu doesn’t treat me half as well as Tobenna treats you, but here I am, 100% faithful to him.”
I suddenly felt the need to defend myself.
“Ebele, you don’t understand what I’ve been going through these past few years…”
“Biko keep quiet!” she snapped, her eyes blazing in her anger. “The next thing you will say is that Tobenna has been neglecting you. You are so ungrateful! Yet you’ve been happily enjoying the lifestyle he has been providing. Do you know the kind of changes we had to make in our own household, after they lost all that money?! Do you know that’s the reason our kids had to move back to Nigeria from America? Yet, Tobenna has done everything to make sure you are still comfortable, and even sent your boys abroad for school…yet you have the mouth to say ‘what I’ve been going through’!”
“Biko, biko, come and be going abeg!” she snapped. “I don’t want Chinedu to find you here…before he starts thinking the two of us are the same! For Tobenna’s sake, and not yours, I won’t repeat this to any of the other ladies, but biko, don’t come back here again!”
And with that, she shut the door.
That was when I realised that I was well and truly done for.
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
- Where is the Love? 10: Cool
- Where is the Love? 11: The Girl from Ipanema
- Where is the Love? 12: Lost Without you
- Where is the Love? 13: Roses & Diamonds
- Where is the Love? 14: For Eternity
- Where is the Love? 15: Passion…and Passion
- Where is the Love? 16: Naked
Catch up on our other series here: