Don’t Make Me a Liar

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I was by the well, both hands wrapped around the rope tied to the container inside the pool of water below when the sound of Korede Bello’s Godwin started filtering into my ears. Then it grew louder and louder. I recognized the car at once, I have returned home to find it parked in front of our apartment more than a couple of times but I  never saw the owner, I just know he comes for Keji.

People said Keji’s big gal status is thanks to her car owner boyfriend, so I had a picture of him in my mind, one that screams money. I sized him up as he stepped out, he had very dark lips that seem too heavy for him to hold apart long enough for a greeting to escape them, I hissed. If you put together the effect of those bloodshot eyes, multicolored skin and the overly muscular upper body, it’s easier to see him as a hardworking laborer.

The heavens finally hearkened to our cries that day, by wiping the sky free of clouds. So it was with a smile, the fulfilled smile of someone who finally got the laundry out of the way that I approached the clothesline. My smile froze on my face as I neared the line, Keji’s boyfriend was right there packing her clothes from the line and folding them up neatly.

C’mon!” I screamed in my head. “You can’t possibly be that loved up, or is the garri finally getting to my eyes. I’m always right, please, don’t make me a liar!”

I met him by the line and while opening his mouth was a chore still, he did make a greeting gesture with his face. I returned the gesture in kind. I walked back to my room trying to replay that moment he stepped out of his car, could I have missed something? For consolation my mind brought up Dike. Very tall Dike with biceps that are bigger than my thighs and a chest that fills out every shirt he owns. Dike who hates rap music and whose favorite musician in spite of all his machismo is Adele.

Keji’s palaver had slipped to the very back of my mind as I settled down, right hand fingers buried in a plate of eba and okra soup. But then I began to hear her scream from the corridor.
“Give me my phone; you’re not the one that bought it for me. At least you have packed everything; you even went to the line to pack the clothes I washed….”

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JOELLA II

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CLICK HERE TO READ THE FIRST PART OF THIS STORY

Joella read the mail over and over again, moving from the sitting room to the kitchen and finally to the bedroom. So much for being strong! Her weight became too heavy for her legs to carry. No shock absorber can ever withstand this kind of shock. Totally unable to keep up with playing the strong part, she didn’t go to church that Sunday. The last thing she wanted to do was wear a nice dress and that disarming smile necessary for welcoming people to church and showing them to their seats. All she wanted to do really was lie down on her back staring into the empty space, without any makeup to mask the dark circles that have formed under her eyes or headgear to cover the tangled mass on her head.

Before she got that mail from Dele, she was indeed worried. The word count of his mails has dropped significantly in the past few weeks. They have a practice of communicating via email daily and their daily email thread sometimes exceeds 30. The fascinating and engaging accounts given by Dele were a kind of remedy that rights every wrong that there might have been in the day and she once suggested he starts a blog. The last message he sent her before the breakup mail left her disturbed and she probed him further asking series of questions; “How long was the flight?, Who sat beside you?” and many of such questions just to appeal to his narrative side. But she got nothing from him, no reply after that initial straight-faced email that read, “landed safely”.

It was really difficult for Joella to make sense of the situation, when a man slips an engagement ring on that finger, he clears all doubts and the woman starts seeing herself going in and out of the kitchen and then wearing maternity gowns. For some time she still tried to fry this pie herself in her own oil. She told her neighbors, friends and families who cared enough to ask after Bamidele that he is indeed fine and sends his regards to them all. But at a point she realized the folly of her actions. For how long can a pregnancy be kept hidden? It is high time to at least tell the people that are nursing hopes of buying aso ebi and probably saving for a wedding already that there will be no wedding any time soon. Thankfully, she resisted the urge to flaunt her relationship with Bamidele on social media. Her relationship status on Facebook still read single, so there was no need to explain anything on Facebook or edit her profile to accommodate this change. She wanted to call her dad right away but that will translate to automatically informing her mother. The wife can still keep issues away from the husband but her father is a sweet soul really in love. Whatever he knows, his wife knows. Joella was not ready for that. She is the second child but the only daughter, so somehow her mother seems to have decided that she is her best channel for getting a grandchild. She should at least be strong enough to comfort her mum and assure her that she will surely have a baby to cuddle and dote over soon before telling her.

Joella's story

She thought of calling Constance. Constance has a whole lot of wacko ideas crammed in that afro punk-covered head of hers. Her opinionated views can wait. She dialed Segun’s number and he picked just when she already gave up he was not going to. “Hey Jo, what’s up with you?” His baritone boomed from the other end.

“I’m good. How are your wife and the baby?” She could have been the wife and that baby would have been the grandchild that her mother so earnestly desire but she said no. She said no when Segun asked her to be his helpmeet back then during their NYSC days. Segun had plans to answer the call of God into ministry but she was content with being just a Christian. The Pastor (Mrs.) title did not appeal to her. She wanted to experience life in her own way, not as an offshoot of her husband, to own her space, so she said no but they have remained friends ever since.
“They are good. How’s Bamidele?” She felt a sharp pain in her heart at and kept quiet for a few seconds before finally replying. “That’s why i want to see you, we need to talk. Can we see?”

She poured it all out to him, the pain gushed out like a flood and she felt deflated afterwards, the ice in a heart finally thawed and she no longer had to deal with its crushing weight. What Segun had to say really didn’t matter. Having someone who wouldn’t judge you and make you feel worse listen to your story can be really therapeutic. The glaring truth is the breakup was not Joella’s fault and Segun reinforced that. There’s nothing she could have done to save the engagement, Bamidele clearly has unresolved issues with himself and she’s just a victim of circumstances but not anymore. She will no longer remain a victim; she grabbed her phone and sent a message to Constance on BBM. “Sisi Eko! What do you say to some girl time this weekend? One of your projects can wait. Let’s meet at the salon. I need to tell you something about Bamidele. Just say yes…..bear hugs”. The reply came several hours later. “Surest office babe! Wetin Bamidele do you o? Abeg if na marriage make him chill o. At least until he starts looking the part. Anything for you sweetie. See yah.…mwaahh!”

JOELLA I

For two good weeks Joella have been trying to stay normal, to not wear her grief on her sleeves but you don’t need to be a prophet to know all is not well with her. All she did in 14 days was to drive to work, eat and sleep. Of course endless thoughts, work, sobs and tears filled the blank spaces between these activities. Her makeup kit appears to be gathering dust on the dressing table and her hair is in a sorry state by her standard. Since she urgently took out all the hair extensions, swept the wiry mass of hair to the back of her head and woven the ends into a knot, all she did was to brush defiant hair strands that had escaped from the knot backwards with her hands for two weeks. Saturday of two weeks ago was the first time oxygen felt like poison to her lungs and sucking it in became such an arduous task for her nose. She woke up full, leveled but went to bed empty, hollow as if a hole has been dug at the core of the plain field of her soul with all the scooped sand blown away by the wind.

Bamidele has actually visited her apartment several times but when the time for him to really follow her home to prostrate before her parents and ask for their blessings seems closer than before, he failed. He wilted when it mattered most, he’s just like a well that is always filled with water during the raining season but dries up immediately the air becomes dryer and harmattan strolls in. Of what use is such a well? As if he had been blind all along, as if he was under a spell when he went down on his left knee, held up a silver-platted ring and asked with pleading eyes that she should be the mother of his children yet unborn. The engagement was the icing on the cake of her very successful year. He asked her to marry him at her company’s annual banquet, the fact that he walked in the exact time she was going back to her seat after accepting the award for the most promising employee of the year made it all dramatic. It was like Dele to do romantic things like that and go all the way to make her loosen up in ways she never thought she could. As much as she hated mixing romance with work, she couldn’t help herself that night. She kissed tongue-kissed him for about a minute forgetting all the eyes that were on them and throughout the evening, neither her eyes nor her body left him for once. She made sure when she maintained contact with him, when she was not cooing in his ears, she held his hands, stroking the inside of his palm with her fingers. At other times, she rested her body on him or just threw her arms carelessly over his shoulders. It was by far her most memorable night ever. That was until the Saturday of two weeks ago when she got this mail from Bamidele who was supposed to be in Abuja on a business trip.

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My Dear Joella,
I was in Abuja but now in South Africa, I landed in Johannesburg yesterday evening and it appears I will be staying here for quite a while. I’m not ready to be husband yet neither am I ready to be a father. I’m afraid I’m not yet the kind of man i should and will like to be. I don’t think a man who does not have himself figured out needs a helpmeet Joella.
I have decided to embark on a journey of soul searching, i will go alone as any weight or entanglement of any kind can make this journey futile. The best and wisest thing to do is to prevent conception; an abortion can be a complicated mess. You are the smartest woman I’ve ever known but I will be deceiving you, our families and most importantly I will be deceiving myself if I should continue with this relationship. You deserve much better than me and I wish you all the best from the bottom of my heart.
I am so sorry, deeply sorry but i want you to understand that this is not an easy decision for me to make but I have counted it as one of those bitter pills a man must stomach to make things right. I want you to stay strong, I have known you to be a very strong woman and I will surely be drawing from the memory of your strength whenever my thoughts and emotions wants to overwhelm me.
Take care, I really do care.