I was on pins and needles for the rest of the reception, my heart racing as I pondered what my punishment would be…my punishment for talking with your brother. But as we rode in the taxi to our hotel, I was surprised that you were actually in high spirits, gisting away happily. With your hand around my shoulders, a casual onlooker would have thought we were the perfect couple, bonding after a fun day out. If only such an onlooker knew what was lurking beneath the surface.
“So I saw you talking with Atoo,” you had said, as you undressed, once we were back in the hotel room.
I found myself speechless, unsure of whether to lie or say the truth…unsure of just how explosive your reaction would be.
“Did you see his girlfriend?” you had continued, not waiting for me to answer your earlier question.
I nodded. “Kashimana…” I heard myself volunteering, not sure why.
“Ah yes, that’s her name! Such a beautiful woman! A real catch!” you had said, looking me in the eye, before bursting into your deep, throaty laughter.
And that was when I realized what you were doing.
You chose not to assault me with your fists this time. No, instead you let my mind do it for me. Your laughter told me I was not in the same class with Atoo’s new girlfriend. Your laughter told me there was no way he would ever have given me a second look…especially not the way I now looked. Your laughter told me I was worthless.
I actually wish you had beaten me instead.
That night, for the first time in months, you had sex with me. It’s like you were turned on by the despair you’d seen on my face…by the anguish in my soul. You had been aggressive and hurried, and did things that weren’t familiar to me. But I’d held on to you, eager to please, eager to do anything to make you happy, eager to reconnect with my Tersur…if only for one more time.
But you had proceeded with only your own pleasure in mind, and not mine. And when you were spent, you’d rolled over and slept with your back to me. I wept as I remembered those days when you would hold me in your arms all night long. On that cold hotel bed, those days seemed like a lifetime ago.
The next day, Sunday, we had lunch with my parents. I had taken extra care with my makeup that morning, as I didn’t want any more questioning from my mother. But as we chatted with them, from the intense way she looked at me, I knew she wasn’t fooled. Thankfully, she hadn’t made any remark about how I looked, and we’d had a good meal.
As you laughed and gisted with my parents, I watched you and was almost impressed by the act you were putting on. If I had told them, then and there, about all the awful things you were doing to me, they just might not have believed me. You kept up your act their charming son-in-law. So fantastic was your act, that by the time we left their house, I was almost convinced that you were coming back to me…that I was finally getting my Ter back.
But no such luck. Right there in the cab, on the way to the airport, you got on the phone with one of your women. I died a million times as you chatted like I wasn’t even there. My stomach turned as you told her you would see her later that evening. Once, the taxi driver’s eyes met mine in the rearview mirror, and I could tell he was confused. I had averted my eyes, and kept them lowered for the rest of the journey, as I tried to block out your conversation. Except I couldn’t block it out…and I heard every word you said. E.v.e.r.y single word.
Once we were back in our apartment, you’d had a shower and left the house almost immediately…leaving me to my own devices…and vivid imagination. I stood in front of the mirror that night, wondering when and where I had lost myself. Wondering where the attractive Cheta had disappeared to. Wondering who this bloated, unkempt woman was. And I had absolutely no idea. I was lost, even to myself.
You got home at 3:16am. I know, because I hadn’t slept a wink all night. I pretended to be asleep, but surprisingly you had mounted me in an angry, drunken haze and had violent, angry sex with me. It wasn’t like you to touch me after your trysts, so it left me wondering what had happened between you and your mistress. And as you slept, it left me wondering about what kind of sexual diseases I was exposing myself to…opening my legs to a man who was sleeping with numerous women outside.
Somehow, sleep eventually found me and I didn’t even know when you left for work the next morning. I lay in bed for the better part of the morning, not having any plan nor agenda for the rest of the day. With only a few hundreds of Naira in my wallet, there was a limit to what I could do with myself anyway.
Later that afternoon, I strolled down the road to a roadside salon, to get a cheap perm. It’s ironic how, back in my heyday, I wouldn’t even have stepped into such a place, not even to get my nails painted. But I was no longer in my heyday, and that was all I could afford. And when the stylist was done, I looked in the mirror and was happy that my hair at least looked somewhere on the road to decent. Not quite there…but close.
Getting back to our apartment block, I saw people offloading furniture from a big van parked in front of the house. I realized it must be the new tenants of the flat beneath ours. The former tenants had moved to their own house over a year before, and I was beginning to wonder how much longer the place would be vacant.
There were so many people gathered round the van, I couldn’t make out the tenants. I had just said a general greeting and made my way upstairs. Getting to our flat, curiosity got the better of me, and I soon found myself at the balcony, watching the activities of this new family moving in.
As I watched them, it soon became clear who the tenants were. My heart sank as I made out a young couple, holding hands almost the whole time. One or two times, the woman made to lift something out of the van, but her partner was always sure to take it from her, obviously not wanting her to lift a finger. It reminded me of how you and I had once been.
She looked younger than me…probably in her mid-20s. Her husband looked to be about my own age. With the frequent kisses they stole and the laughter they exchanged, I didn’t think I would be wrong to guess they were newlyweds.
And as they walked into the compound, I caught sight of the bulge in her blouse, and my heart sank even further. She was pregnant. Great! Just what I needed!
I rose to my feet and walked back into the house, where I crumbled on the sofa and had a good cry. I didn’t know why, but somehow, God had abandoned me. He had just turned His back on me…and left me to sink deeper into my black hole.
So upset had I been that I hadn’t even paid any attention to the time you got home, or whether or not you spoke with your women on the phone. All I wanted was to be alone in my pain.
But the new tenants apparently didn’t get that memo.
The next day, I was still drifting in and out of sleep at noon, when our doorbell had rang. I had been tempted to ignore it, but after a few persistent rings, I had reluctantly dragged myself to the door, only to come face to face with my pregnant new neighbor, all smiles. She introduced herself as Nengi, and even though my first instinct had been to keep the conversation short and retreat to my shell, I found her enthusiasm so infectious that I was soon caught up in friendly conversation with her, and even inviting her into the house.
We became fast friends, Nengi and I. She was also a housewife, so gone were my lonely days. I was shocked to find out that she wasn’t even in her mid-20s, as I’d guessed, but was actually my age. She and her husband were both 31, and had been married for six years, right after their Youth Service.
“You mean you’re not newlyweds?!” I had exclaimed. “And he’s still all over you like that?” I couldn’t get over the fact that they had been married longer than you and I, but their love still burned stronger. They were nothing like you and I…two islands…
She had looked at me incredulously. “What’s the big deal with the way Tonye treats me?” she’d actually asked, and I couldn’t help but laugh. If only she knew! If only she knew!
But we soon found a whole lot more to bond over. Our quest for a child. While I was struggling to conceive, she was struggling to carry a pregnancy to term. After a lot of early losses, she’d finally been able to carry her last pregnancy to 23 weeks, when she’d been forced to terminate it as her blood pressure had risen sky high.
“That was the most difficult decision we had to make,” she’d said tearfully. “I refused at first, but Tonye and my parents made that decision for me. According to the doctors, I would have died if they hadn’t.”
“But you got your happy ending!” I’d said, smiling at her large bump.
“Yes oh!” she had beamed. “I had to quit my job this time, and I’m on close watch to make sure my blood pressure stays stable. I just passed the 25-week mark, so I’m already further along than the last one.”
In turn, I had told her an abridged version of my story, telling her all about our multiple failed Clomid and IUI cycles, but leaving out the rapid deterioration of my marriage that been the casualty of my infertility.
I was truly lucky to have found a friend in Nengi. As for her husband, Tonye, he was also friendly, albeit a bit quiet. I remember how cold and condescending you’d been to him when he made attempts to befriend you. From the way you looked at him, I could tell you thought he was beneath you. Yes, he had a modest job with an engineering company, and yes, his 1993 Honda Accord had seen better days, but Ter, he was more of a man than you were, Mr. Big Shot Banker! Besides, we all lived in that same old house, so the truth is that we were all on the same level!
We kept up that status quo for a while. By some miracle, you hadn’t raised a hand to me since our return from Tor’s wedding in Abuja. And with the new friendship I had found with Nengi and Tonye, life seemed to be improving for me.
That was until I found out about Torera…
Torera…the special one!
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