As Atoo and I kissed, I melted like butter. I was so light headed, it felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. As the kiss deepened, it felt like the most natural thing in the world, and all my teenage feelings for him were released ten-fold, from Pandora’s box.
But as quickly as I had slipped into that reverie, I slipped out of it.
I pulled away from him, panting and holding my lips with quivering hands. What on earth had I just done?!!
He reached for me, but I stepped back, desperate to be as far away from him as possible.
“Cheta…” he said, moving closer to me.
“No, Atoo. Please…don’t!” I exclaimed, before quickly remembering that Mammi was asleep in that same room and I had to keep my voice down.
“Cheta, I’m in love with you! I have been for years…” he insisted, his voice a desperate whisper.
“Atoo…you don’t even know me! You know nothing about me! Even when we were teenagers, we were as good as strangers, talk less of now that I’m married to your brother…” I said, unable to look him in the eye.
“You know you’re not happy, Cheta! Ter can never love you the way I do…they way I always have! He’s not good for you!” Atoo said, his own voice quivering.
“And Kashimana? What about her?” I asked, looking him in the eye.
“You’re the one I want, Cheta!” Atoo answered, and I knew he meant exactly what he was saying.
“I’ll be back in the morning. Please tell Mammi I went home to…to have a shower.” I mumbled, as I brushed past him out the door.
Luckily, he didn’t chase me. With shaking legs, I managed to find my way outside where I got a taxi to Yaba. As expected, you weren’t home, and it suited me just fine. I desperately needed to clear my head.
Lying in bed that night, I stared at the ceiling almost the entire time, trying to understand the whirlwind of emotions I was feeling. I thought my feelings for Atoo had died with my teens. I thought they were something buried somewhere in the grounds of our old Church in Lagos island. When we got married, I honestly thought I had put all those old feelings to rest. But our kiss that day showed me that those old feelings had only been in hibernation. I had somehow managed to open the door of my heart and allowed him slip right in…and the intensity of my feelings frightened me. Saying a prayer, I asked God to forgive me my indiscretion, and pleaded for the strength to resist Atoo’s charms. Our marriage was bad enough. I didn’t need to add my own infidelity, to your very own brother nonetheless, to our long laundry list of issues.
I managed to get a few hours of sleep, and awoke when you opened the door. Peering at the clock, I shook my head. 6:30am…on a workday. Tersur, na wa for you!
You had barely acknowledged my presence, and had walked straight to the bathroom to shower and prepare for work. I asked you for a ride to the hospital, thinking you would at least stop by on your way to work, but you had said something about having a meeting. In the end, you had left, and I had taken a taxi about an hour later.
Getting to her room, Mammi was up and eating breakfast. Atoo was seated beside her, still in the shirt he’d worn the night before. I had hugged Mammi warmly and given Atoo a curt nod, avoiding any eye contact.
“How do you feel?” I asked the woman who had been a lot like a mother to me, and who was slipping away from our hands.
“Excellent! I feel so great this morning!” she giggled. “I had a wonderful dream last night. I dreamt about the early days, back in Romania, when I fell in love with a young medical student from Nigeria!” she smiled wistfully. “Things were so wonderful…so beautiful! He loved me so, so much! He kept on telling me how he couldn’t believe I had chosen him. He kept on asking ‘Why me? Why me?’. I don’t think he ever felt worthy of me…” her voice trailed off. “And that insecurity followed us back to Nigeria…and I know that’s why he did all the horrible things he did to me. His love for me was so intense that the only way he found power was to hurt me. The women, the beating…all of those gave him the power he needed over me…” she took my hand. “And I know that’s what is happening with Ter. He loves you too much, it scares him!”
Atoo scoffed. “Forgive me, mother…but that is the most ridiculous attempt at rationalization I have ever heard…”
Mammi turned to look Atoo square in the eye. “Tersur loves Cheta very much. He is her husband, and none of us should ever, EVER, forget it!”
In an instant, I knew she knew about the kiss we had shared, and from the wide eyed look on Atoo’s face, so did he. I shrank into my chair, wishing the ground would just open and swallow me, not knowing how on earth I would face her again. But she reached out and squeezed my hand, and I knew it was her way of telling me she understood, that she wasn’t judging me, and that everything was going to be okay.
Luckily, Atoo refrained from making any more advances to me, and we spent the next few days continuing our vigil in her hospital room. By the time the other brothers, Boseda and Ande arrived, we never had any time alone for there to have been a repeat of what had happened before.
The sad part was rarely you decided to grace us with your presence. If we were lucky, you showed up every other day, and never for more than 10 minutes at a time. Yet your younger brothers, who had come all the way from out of the country, were spending almost every waking second in that room. It was extremely sad. Mammi once joked that I was representing you, her first son, but I knew that beneath the jokes and laughter, she was hurting that her first son couldn’t be bothered to keep her company in her last days.
And then what we were dreading happened…the seizures began. With the cancer having spread to her brain, we were warned that these would happen, but even with the warning, none of us was prepared for it. Atoo and his brothers postponed their flights back to London, because it was clear to all that she had only days left.
I think it was the seizures that finally got to you, and you landed in the hospital, all fidgety and nervous about the situation, asking questions that anyone who had spent enough time with her in hospital would know. It was so awkward to have you in that room for longer than a few minutes, that everyone else didn’t quite know what to do with themselves.
You actually spent the rest of that day there, leaving the room only to get food…for just yourself of course. We were all surprised when you returned to the room that night, making us struggle to find room for you. It had been quite awkward with all of us perched on all the available chairs, and even floor space. Nobody wanted to go home. Even Tor and Eva had joined the vigil team. It was almost like we knew time had run short.
By the next morning, everyone was feeling claustrophobic. Even the doctors and nurses seemed a bit irritable as they struggled to meander through the room, to check her vital signs. Soon Tor and Eva decided to go home briefly, with Ande tagging along with them. Boseda said he was going for a walk, leaving just Atoo, you and I with Mammi. But you were fidgeting with your shirt collar so much, I could tell you were extremely uncomfortable.
“Ter, why don’t you go home to rest and freshen up? You look exhausted.” I said, holding your shoulder.
You’d hesitated a bit, before reluctantly agreeing that you needed to get yourself together. When you left, it was just Atoo and I left, seated on opposite sides of the bed. For the first time since our kiss over a week before, our eyes met and held for what seemed like forever. Even though no words were spoken, there was no mistaking our communication. In his eyes, I saw how much he loved me…and in mine, he saw that I was never going to leave you. This led to an incredible, inaudible, painful silence, as we mourned a love that would never be.
I had just closed my eyes to nap, when Mammi had another seizure, that seemed a lot more intense than the others. Tor, Eva and Ande arrived just as we were all ushered out of the room, to allow the doctors administer treatment. Boseda returned to meet the rest of us crowded outside the door of the room…waiting.
When the door opened, the look on the doctor’s face was enough to confirm our worst fears. Our beloved Mammi was gone.
Rushing back into the room, the sight of her looking so peaceful, after only just having been in distress a few minutes before, made me break down and cry. We all hugged and touched her, before being told they had to take her away. For the second time that half hour, we were ushered out of the room again, but this time, led to some chairs along the hospital aisle.
About an hour later, you arrived. The look of confusion, and then realization, as you saw the rest of us seated on the corridor, was enough to break my heart. I rose to my feet and walked to you.
“What’s going on?!” you had asked, your eyes wide in fear and anticipation.
“Ter, I’m so sorry. Mammi is gone…” I had answered, reaching for your hand.
You had glared at me, rage having unseated any fear or anticipation, and without any warning, your hands were suddenly around my neck as you slammed me into the nearby wall.
“You told me it was okay to leave! Because of you, I wasn’t here! I wasn’t here!” you had yelled, as I choked beneath your grip.
Suddenly, a pair of hands grabbed you, and you were sent sprawling to the floor.
“Are you crazy?! Are you out of your mind?!” Atoo had bellowed, furious. “How dare you touch her?!”
You had scrambled to your feet, with the intent of attacking Atoo, when Boseda and Ande restrained you. In anger, you stormed out of the hospital, never to be seen there again that day.
After your departure, Atoo walked over to me, and this time I didn’t push him away. I clung to him like my life depended on it.
“You’re right. He’s not good for me…” I whimpered, as I held on to Atoo.
For the first time in our five years of marriage, I was determined to leave you…
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…