Soon, it was time to return to see our doctor. Things hadn’t gotten any better and our 2-month break hadn’t resulted in a miracle pregnancy, so it was back to the drawing board. Even though we knew IVF was the next step after IUI, neither of us had been expecting the doctor to make that recommendation quite so soon. But he had. There weren’t that many clinics doing it at the time, and he offered to personally introduce us to one of the few doctors who had that specialty. When he told us the price, we had stared at him, both our mouths agape.
“There’s no way we can afford that, Cheta,” you had muttered, as we drove home. “One million Naira? Where the heck are we supposed to get that kind of money?”
I had no answer. How could I, when I didn’t even have a job? I knew you wouldn’t hear of me suggesting a loan from my parents or brothers, so there was no point making that suggestion.
“Having a child shouldn’t be this hard!” you said under your breath. Gone was the supportive Ter, who thought we shouldn’t be worrying about our inability to have kids. No…you were no longer that person. Anger and impatience had taken the place of your stoic support and optimism. I soon found myself walking on eggshells around you.
And then, the late nights started.
You started returning home later and later. If you weren’t ‘working’, it was someone’s ‘birthday’. Monday to Friday, you and your colleagues always had cause to ‘celebrate someone’s birthday’ after work, supposedly justifying your returning home at midnight every day.
The one time I dared complain, I had been shocked silent by your response.
“How else am I going to pay for your IVF if I don’t work late?” had been your choice words.
My IVF. It had now become ‘my’ IVF.
That was when I knew that I was alone in this thing…
And you always had makeup on your clothes. If it wasn’t a smear of brown powder, it would be a brush of lipstick. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I had confronted you about it.
“Cheta, more than half of my colleagues are women. I am in close proximity with women the whole day. So I shouldn’t allow any of them come near me, because I have a paranoid woman as a wife?!”
Dissatisfied though I was, I had no choice but to accept your excuse.
And then the late nights started getting later…
You that couldn’t even keep your eyes open beyond midnight in those early days, now made it a point of duty to ‘hang out with your boys’ every Friday night. Who were these new ‘boys’? The few friends you had were not night crawlers…at least not the ones I knew. But who was I to complain? Infertile me. Who was I?
I will never forget that Saturday morning that I opened my eyes to find that you hadn’t returned home since the previous night. From 6am when I awoke, I kept vigil, peeping out the window frantically, worrying myself into a state. What made matters worse was that your phone was switched off. Oh how my mind played tricks on me! By 9am, I was decidedly frantic. By 11am, I couldn’t take it any longer, and decided to look for you myself.
Getting into the old car you left for me when you got your official car the month before, I found myself driving all the way to Victoria Island. I got to your office, and of course the place was deserted. The car park was empty, and there was nobody I could ask about your whereabouts. I just stood outside the gate, looking around like a lost sheep, wondering what on earth I was doing there. Wondering where I would start from to look for you. Wondering what I would tell your mother…your brothers.
But when I returned home, there you were, watching football as if nothing had happened. I confronted you, and you had shrugged and casually answered that you had fallen asleep in your friend’s house. I had been numb with anger. I wanted to scream at you, hit you, hurt you for what you had put me through. But instead, I found myself going to the bedroom, and spending the rest of the day there. By 8pm, you’d gotten dressed and left the house again, without a word to me. You didn’t return until 5am Sunday morning.
Soon…that became a pattern. And I knew better than to ask any questions when you sauntered home in the wee hours of the morning. I knew better.
And then, I got the confirmation to my suspicion.
That morning, I left the house earlier than you, as I had to run a few errands for my mother. But after having driven for a few minutes, I realized I had forgotten at home the fabric samples of the material she wanted me to buy. On getting back home, the kitchen door was open, so I had let myself in through it. You were on the phone, and didn’t hear me come in.
“How can you say that? Of course you know you’re special to me!” you had been chuckling on the phone, your back to me. “Okay, I’ll make it up to you…I promise…You know I can’t sleep over till the weekend…I’ll see you tonight…”
I ducked back into the kitchen, before you had a chance to see me, and I just stood there, quivering from head to foot. There it was. Confirmation of what I’d known all along. You were cheating on me.
But I couldn’t confront you about it. It had eaten me alive not being able to voice my frustration. Seeing you come home late, when I now knew just what you were up to, was slowly eating me alive. I considered reporting you to your mother or siblings, but thought against it, worried they would justify your actions…especially because I hadn’t yet given you any children.
The idea came to me one day as I was mindlessly watching TV, wondering who the woman/women you were sleeping with were, wondering what she/they looked like, wondering what she/they did to you that you no longer thought I could. Unable to take it any longer, I had grabbed my purse and called one of our neighbours, Nonso, a young man about to start his NYSC. Five Thousand Naira had been enough of a bribe for him to trail my husband from work, to see where he went that night. Nonso was able to trail him to a street in Surulere, but hadn’t been able to locate the exact house. But I was satisfied with the street name. I knew I could work with that.
The next day, I drove to the street off Bode Thomas road. Armed with your picture and a wallet full of enough bribe money, I walked from security guard to security guard, showing them your picture to see if anyone recognized you. It’s amazing what N500 can do. It didn’t take long to get them singing like canaries.
The 2nd guard I showed recognized you as that ‘oyinbo wey dey drive black jeep’, and directed me down the street to the house you frequented. The guard in that house recognized you as the ‘oga we dey come see Aunty Philo for upstairs’.
Philo. So that was her name…
Brazen, I walked into the compound and made my way up to the flat I was directed to. I don’t know what I was expecting when I knocked, but it certainly wasn’t the wild looking woman who opened the door; with a full head of cheap looking weave-on and her face plastered with garish makeup. Tersur, she wasn’t even that pretty!
“Are you Philo?” I had asked.
“Who is asking?” she answered confrontationally. Something told me she had been in this position before. A seasoned husband snatcher. Gosh, Ter…you could have done better than this!
“I am Tersur’s wife. I am here to tell you to stay away from my husband.” I had managed to say, my voice quivering.
She had burst into long laughter, before eyeing me squarely, letting out the longest hiss, and slamming the door in my face.
Overcoming the urge to pound on her door again, I turned around and left, satisfied I had at least given her something to think about. Getting home, for the first time in a long while, I was no longer anxious. It felt good to have been able to confront my demons…to confront the woman my husband was cheating on me with.
You hadn’t returned until past 10pm that night. I walked up to help you with your suitcase, as I always did, but I saw that your face was as hard as stone.
“Did you go to Surulere today?” you had asked me, your eyes spitting fire.
“Yes. Yes I did.” I answered, looking you square in the eye. “And I have told your mistress, Philo, that if I should ever…”
Your hand had landed on my face with such force, it sent me sprawling to the ground, along with the rest of my sentence. Before I could even open my mouth, you were on me, reigning blows on me, one after the other, after the other. Soon, you had your hands around my neck, strangling the life out of me. I honestly thought I was going to die that day. As I struggled for breath, I honestly thought that was going to be my end. But you had let go just in the nick of time, storming out of the house, leaving me lying on the ground.
I didn’t move from that position for hours…I just couldn’t. I was bleeding from my nose, my right eye was swollen shut…and my throat was still sore from…from your attempt to take my life.
But even greater than the physical pain was the heart ache. My heart was broken. Worse than you attacking my body…you had attacked my spirit.
And I was broken…
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