My eyes opened, and for the first few moments, I had no idea where I was. My head was pounding, and it was so bright that, for a split second, I thought maybe I’d died and was in heaven. But as my orientation returned, I realised I wasn’t in heaven, but instead was lying on a narrow hospital bed. There was an IV line on my hand, and from the way it was throbbing in pain, it was obvious that it had been there a while.
And then I saw him.
Asleep on the other bed in the room was Tobenna. I looked at the sleeping form for a long while, convinced I was dreaming. Because how else would he be there in my hospital room? No, it was either a dream…or I’d truly died and gone to heaven.
“Hey Gee!” came Chika’s voice from beside me. “You’re awake!”
I turned and saw my sister-in-law seated by my side. “Am I in hospital?” I asked her the obvious question.
She nodded. “You gave us quite the fright. In fact, when Tobenna called George and I, we didn’t even know what to think! Fainted and fell down the stairs kwa! I was extremely worried!”
“He brought me here?” I asked, looking in my husband’s direction.
“Your assistant at work called him when you collapsed. He and Arinze were just on their way back from the airport when he got the call. He brought Arinze to our house, and rushed here to the hospital.” she answered.
That was when the memory of me blacking out and taking a tumble down the stairs at work came to me. As if on cue, a searing pain in my ribs made me wince.
“Ndo o! I’ll go get the Doctor now.” she said patting my head, and rising to her feet.
I held on to her hand. “How long have I been here?”
“This is the third night.” she answered, and smiled in Tobenna’s direction. “And he hasn’t been home at all. He’s still wearing what he wore from the airport.”
She left the room, and my heart wanted to burst as I looked at my husband, who had dropped everything to be with me…his prodigal wife. A part of me wanted to call his name, but a bigger part of me was scared that he would wake up and we would return to how we had been before the incident.
By the time Chika returned with the Doctor, I had drifted off again, and didn’t awake until the next morning. This time, Tobenna was seated where Chika had been the night before, while she had assumed his position on the bed.
“Tobenna…” was the first thing that came out of my mouth, as I reached out for him.
“Finally! I was beginning to think Chika was telling tales when she said you woke up last night.” he said with a kind smile.
“You’re here.” I said, my eyes pooling with tears.
“Your office called…” he stuttered, also clearly struggling with his own words. “Idayat said you fainted and fell down the stairs. I thought she was exaggerating until I got here…and saw you…” he shook his head. “Gina, your blood pressure was through the roof. Why haven’t you been taking care of yourself?”
“I just miss you so much!” I said, crying. “My life has been in shambles since we separated. Tobenna, I can’t live without you.”
I saw his eyes cloud over, and knew he was also battling his own internal demons. “We’ll talk about that later. For now, let’s just focus on getting you better.”
I had to be satisfied with that.
The prognosis when the doctor came was just as dire as Tobenna had said. My blood pressure on arrival had been 180/110, and I’d been lucky not to have had a more catastrophic episode, like a stroke. Add to that the fact that I had broken 2 ribs in my fall, and it was clear that I had a long road to recovery ahead. I was mandated to rest, keep visitors to the barest minimum, and not to agitate myself. But with my husband finally by my side, agitation was the farthest emotion I felt.
“Were you scared?” I asked Tobenna, when it was just the two of us left in the room. “Were you scared I was going to die?”
He didn’t answer, but instead shrugged and picked up a newspaper from the stool. I found myself beginning to panic. I was losing him again.
I put my hand on his, half expecting him to flinch and withdraw…but he didn’t. He didn’t make to hold it, but at least he didn’t withdraw from my touch. And I knew I was making progress.
“So…50!” I said, my eyes twinkling. “You’re a confirmed old man now, Tobenna!”
This prompted a smile from him. “You’re not that far behind, Georgina.”
“Says who?! I still have 6 years before I become ancient, like you!” I giggled.
“Errr, you turn 45 this year. That’s 5.”
“I turn 45 in November. It’s only January now. That’s almost a year away, forget the Gregorian calendar!” I said, enjoying our banter.
The laughter subsided, and when he was about to return his attention to his newspaper, I knew I had to keep him engaged.
“So…what did you do that day? Kele says you guys went for dinner?”
He grunted. “If you can call sitting at a table with 3 sulking boys dinner.” he muttered. “I always told you the boys are biased towards you. The way they were acting, one would think…”
He didn’t have to finish, as I knew exactly what he meant to say. One would think he was the one who’d cheated on me.
“I’m sorry. Kele promised me he and his brothers would be at their best behaviour.” I said contritely.
Tobenna shrugged. “Well, considering the way things were when we first got to London, them sitting quietly and sulking was definitely a step better.”
“How is Arinze?” I asked.
“Home? I didn’t want to scare him by allowing him here to see you like this.”
“Isn’t he wondering how come you haven’t come home?” I asked, knowing my almost 12 year old son was much smarter than that.
“He’s fine.” was all Tobenna offered, finally returning his attention to his newspaper.
Rather than push, I decided to allow him be.
About an hour later, George walked into the room, a cooler of food in hand. His face registered no emotion upon seeing me.
“You’ve finally woken up.” he muttered, before beaming at Tobenna. “Tobe, won’t you go home to shower and change? She’s awake, so no more need for night vigil!”
I sat up frantically, afraid that if Tobenna left, he wouldn’t return.
“You’re right.” Tobenna nodded, to my dismay. “I might as well go home to freshen up, check on Arinze, and respond to a few business calls.”
“Take your time. I’m here…and Chika will take over in an hour.” George assured him. With all their children away in the U.S., they clearly had more than enough time to dedicate to me.
“Are you going to come back?” I called out, but Tobenna had already left the room.
George chuckled and took the newspaper Tobenna had been reading. “That man is a better man than me!” he remarked. “For me to lie on an uncomfortable hospital bed for days, stressing myself over a woman who cheated on me?! Nah, I could never do that!”
I glared at George. Never could I have imagined I would one day grow to despise my only brother. We had been so close all our lives, until Mudi-gate. Now, we could barely stand the sight of each other.
“Do you want me to dish you some food?” he asked.
I shook my head and lay back in my pillow, squeezing my eyes shut, afraid that just when I’d started getting through to Tobenna, I’d lost him again.
George and I proceeded to make small talk, making sure to avoid any discussion about Tobenna or my marital issues, as that was obviously a sore point for the two of us. As I was already recovering, we agreed there would be no need to let our parents or older sister know what had happened. With my father undergoing another round of chemotherapy, burdening them with that information just didn’t seem necessary.
And just like a breath of fresh air, less than three hours after he left, Tobenna returned, looking all fresh and handsome, and with the muffins and doughnuts he knew I liked. I beamed like a child on Christmas Day, my heart full to overflowing. George left to give us some privacy, and later in the day, I spoke with Arinze on Tobenna’s phone.
“I just had a little fall, baby. Nothing serious.” I assured him. “I’ll see you very, very soon.”
“Are you going to come home from the hospital?” he asked innocently.
I looked at his father, who was channel flicking, and I sighed longingly. “I hope so.”
“How’s work? They were able to manage without you for a few days.” I said to Tobenna later on, trying to make small talk.
Tobenna shrugged. “More than a few days. I didn’t work at all when we were away.”
I stared at him, shocked. “You, Tobenna? You were able to shut down work for almost a month?!”
“I needed to clear my head. A lot to think of. A lot to process.” he answered.
I didn’t have to be a genie to know he was talking of our marriage, and I found myself wishing I could look into his heart to see what he had decided about us…
We sat in congenial silence for a while, and then the video of UB40’s Kingston Town came on the music channel.
I smiled at Tobenna. “Remember this song? You had it on repeat all the time back in the day!”
A small smile formed on his lips. “You remember.”
“I used to wonder what kind of old man was this, listening to the UB40 my mom listened to in the 80s!” I laughed.
“I wasn’t a UB40 fan per say. I just liked the song.”
I nodded. “It’s a beautiful song. I think I fell in love with it, just as I was falling in love with you.”
“Remember that first time you came to my office, and brought with you an entire gift shop because you didn’t know what to get me?” I laughed.
Tobenna laughed and shook his head. “All I wanted to do was impress you!”
“If only you knew that I was falling for you already…even without that gesture.” I said, placing my hand over his.
And in what could only have been pure magic, he placed his other hand over mine, lifting it up to his lips and grazing it with a feather light kiss. I was so happy, it felt like I would levitate right off my bed.
“We have a lot to talk about, Gina.” he said. “But only when you get better.”
I nodded, happy tears streaming down my face. I could live with that.
As I was still heavily sedated, I soon fell asleep, but even as I drifted off, all I could think of was how happy I was…how grateful I was…how blessed I was…
The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes were at least a dozen baskets of flowers. I smiled, wondering when Tobenna had the time to get me flowers. It wasn’t like him to make such grand gestures, but if this was his way to show we were on the mend, then I couldn’t complain.
Looking around the room, he wasn’t there. The only person there was Chika.
“Where is Tobenna?” I asked.
“He’s gone.” she answered, and I couldn’t miss the edge in her voice.
Just then, the door opened and Mudi walked in. “Oh thank God! You’re awake. You’ve been asleep for ages!”
I sat up with a start, almost knocking down my IV line.
“Gina, take it easy!” Chika scolded.
“What are you doing here?! Who told you I was here?!” I screamed.
“Your CFO mentioned it to one of the boys in my team.” he answered, looking clearly distraught. “I knew I just had to see you.”
“Did Tobenna see him here? Is that why he left?” I asked Chika, my voice shrill.
Before Chika could answer, the doctor walked in, not at all amused by my condition. “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
Mudi looked at me sadly. “Now is clearly not a good time time. I’ll leave you now, Gina. I’ll see you when you’re out of here.”
“Don’t see me! You better not come back!” I screamed after him, my body vibrating as the realization that he had probably, once again, cost me my marriage. “Did Tobenna see him?!” I asked Chika again.
She nodded. “We were both here when the flowers arrived first of all. As soon as Tobenna saw the flowers, he just started smiling. By the time Mudi arrived, Tobenna just got up and said he was ‘making room for the real owner of the property’.”
Upon hearing this, I just deflated. I lay back in my pillow, feeling like I’d just been ploughed by a fast moving train.
“How long ago was this?” I asked my sister-in-law.
“Two hours at least.” she answered.
“Call him! Call Tobenna on your phone.” I screamed.
Without any argument, sermon or reminder that the doctor had prohibited me from using the phone, Chika dialled his number. She glanced at me, as it rang off. She dialled the number again, and then again. But there was no answer.
“Why didn’t you tell him to stay? Why didn’t you tell him I didn’t ask Mudi to come?!” I moaned.
“What could I have said, Gina? With all the flowers and everything, what could I have said to Tobenna to convince him otherwise?!” she asked haplessly.
And I knew I couldn’t blame her. It wasn’t her fault that Mudi had simply chosen not to go away.
Later that evening, George returned, his face like thunder. “So you have finally destroyed your marriage with your own hands!”
“I didn’t ask Mudi to come here!”
“But he is still hovering around you, and you are still entertaining his company!” my brother exclaimed, furious. “Georgina, I have officially washed my hands off this case. You are a grown woman. If you want to continue fooling yourself with Mudiaga, be my guest. Your husband has even been too patient already. You can only play the poor guy for a fool so many times!”
I cried, I screamed and I wailed until I had to be restrained by the doctors. For the days that followed, I was under heavier sedation, as the moment I opened my eyes, and realization of what had happened hit me, it would send me spiraling all over again. Thankfully, even though George never returned, his dear wife stayed by my side, and comforted me in those awful lucid moments.
When I was discharged, she gave me a ride to my hotel.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come and stay with us?” she asked. “I don’t feel comfortable leaving you here by yourself.”
I shook my head. If there was anything worse than the way I already felt, it would be having my situation rubbed in my face by my brother. Besides, I had no intention to roll over and accept things the way they were. Now that I was out of hospital, I was going to fight with everything I had to keep my marriage. I wasn’t going to lose Tobenna without a fight.
After settling me in for the night, Chika left, and I fell asleep almost immediately. When she returned the next morning, the look on her face when she opened the door made me know all wasn’t well.
“What is it?” I asked her, my heart racing.
“I met this when I got home last night. Apparently, Tobenna’s lawyer dropped it earlier in the day.” she said, handing me an envelope. “It’s addressed to you.”
With shaking hands, I ripped it open, and my heart sank as I read its contents.
It was a divorce petition.
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
- Where is the Love? 17: Everything for you
- Where is the Love? 18: The Husband…The Lover
- Where is the Love? 19: Love Story Distractions
Catch up on our other series here: