To love again

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I woke up abruptlypanting with some tears on my cheeks. I had been crying in my sleep, again! Relieved it was all a nightmare, I wiped off what was left of the tears. I reached out for my phone and checked the time, it was 3:am. always had this dream at this particular hour. Heaving a sigh of relief, I rolled over to what used to be Segun‘s side of the bed and then back to mine. I felt completely relieved, grateful that it was all a dream and no longer my reality. I spread out my legs like an excited kid laying in a heap of snow, and then my arms too, the bed was all mine now, all mine! And so was the home. I had nothing to be afraid oanymore.

**

Mummy good morning” Lilian’s silvery voicgreeted me as I walked into the kitchen in my pyjamas. “I’m having my cereal” she said.

I scooped low to her chair and scratched her braided hair “ocourse you are”. “Aunty Augusta made that for you?” I asked. She nodded with a mouth full of cookie crisp. I grinned and placed a kiss on her forehead. I rose to my feet and walked towards Augusta who was standing by the sink.

“Sis, good morning” I said.

Good morning She smiled. Slept well?”

I leaned against the kitchen countertop next to her. “I did. Sis, you know you really don’t have to do all these?” I said, referring to all the cleaning and cooking she had been doing around the house for the past two weeks.

“Ah! who said so? I have to o. If Mama was alive, she would have been here but now that she cannot be here, it is in my place to take care of you, and these beautiful children, they are my children too na..”

13 year old Michael walked into the kitchen. “Good morning mum, good morning aunty”

Good morning” Augusta and I chorused..

“Honey, you slept fine?”

“Yes mum, I did” He said pulling out the chair beside his sister’s.

“Your food is almost getting cold” Augusta said to him. “Eat up, the bus will soon be here

“Thank you aunty,” Michael said as he removed the cover off his already served meal.

turned gratefully to Augusta. “Sis, thank you so much, you’ve been wonderful and you’ve stood by me without flinching, mo dupe o 

“Ah Adesua! o jẹ ohunkohun. You are my only sister, I would do anything for you. Besides, my children are away in boarding house, I have time. Just sit down let me serve you, you’ve been through a lot, now it is your time to rest”

smiled understandably. I walked to the table and joined the kidwhile Augusta began to dish my food.

____

The school bus came for the kids thirty minutes later, I stood outside with Augusta as the kids got on the bus. We waved them goodbye and they waved back, Lilian‘s wave was hearty but Michael didn’t let his hand stay in the air for up to two seconds. As the bus drove away, Augusta wrapped her arm around my waist and we walked back into the house. 

Michael is having a hard time” I said, lowering myself into the couch in the sitting room.

Augusta sat on the space adjacent to me. “He was very close to his father, I don’t blame him”. She stretched forward and picked up the remote control that had been laying on the center table.

“I can’t believe it’s been three months already.. you know, last night I had the dream again”

Of him beating you?

I nodded my head. “And choking me, until Michael came to my rescue exactly the way it used to happen. I woke up with tears on my cheeks”

Augusta sighed, “He can’t hurt you anymore Adesua, never again”

I nodded with my eyes fixed on my elder sister. My mind travelled back to early 2003 when I met Segun. I had gone for this interview in food production company where he was the Managing Director of the company. I got the job right off the bat and went home thanking God and feeling extremely lucky because I knew how hard it was getting a job in Nigeria. Many of my friends are still looking tdate and some have abandoned the hunt and drifted off into personal businesses to make ends meet.

I was lucky and I knew it.

I started working at the company and Segun did not waste any time in letting me know that he wanted to marry meI didn’t want to at first because he wasn’t really my type. I liked tall, well built and dark-skinned men, but Segun was not so tall. At 5.6inches, I was many inches taller than he was, and he was more on the lanky side. I didn’t like his appearance, but, he persisted. He was patient and wooed me for a long time. He would gift me with different things, put me through my work, send sweet messages day and night. He was kind, gentle and loving. In fact, he was just the perfect gentleman. But I didn’t care, I was seeing this guy who was an arsehole. He kept cheating and being mean to me. I would cry at the office and Segun would always see me, he would encourage me and give me good words of advice, right after which I would go back to my boyfriend. My colleagues at work called me a fool, even my friends called me foolish for chasing after someone who treated me less than I deserved. And they were right. I didn’t deserve to be with someone whom I wasn’t enough for.

Eventually, I broke up with my boyfriend and decided to give Segun a chance. He was so happy! He treateme so wonderfully. 

We got married four months later, and almost immediately the sweet spontaneous man fell in love with changed. He asked me to quit my job, he said I couldn’t be his wife and his worker which made sense and I resigned. But when he asked me to stop wearing makeup and I asked why, I was awarded with my very first slap when I actually wore some makeup the next Sunday while preparing for church. Aintroduction to manmorto come. I got a slap when talkeback at him or dared go against any of his wishes. Mine was like a para military camp.

could not argue with my husband. His word was final. Then he refused me wearing makeup, trousers – same things he did not object to while we were dating. He said I was married now and needed to be reserved so as not to attract any other men to me. I had a driver who would accompany me everywhere I went, which was mostly the market and hospital visits for when I was pregnantHe took my cellphone and gifted me with a phone that did not allow me to be on social media.

Every time he beat me up, he would apologize afterwards, crying anshowering me with gifts, he would even call my people to beg meTwice, I ran back to my parents but he came and begged and cried, he promised to stop hiting me so I went back yet, the same behavior continued.

I rehearsed every and anything I wished to say to him but even that didn’t spare me the slaps when I got on his wrong sides, and whenever I refused him sex, the beatings were more, so I would just lie there, dry and emotionless as he pounded away. I was disgusted by him. 

I gave up dreaming and praying for the day that he would change and I accepted my faithI lived for my children and countless episodes of Telemundo’s. It was all the joy I knew. Until that Tuesday morning when he left for a business meeting at Abuja and he never came back, a huge vehicle ran into him and he lost his life as good Samaritans rushed him to the hospital.

“Is it weird that I feel relieved?” 

Hmn?” Augusta who‘s focus had been lost in the TV show turned to me.

“I said, is it weird that I feel relieved that Segun is no moreIt’s like, I can finally breath,” I demonstrated with my hands for emphasis.“ac_tually brea_th” I dragged the words.

She shrugged. “I don’t blame you my dear…”

“Does it make me a bad person?

“It makes you human. If my husband did half the terrible things that Segun did to you, I would have been long gone my now, you tried. For thirteen years?” She asked rhetorically, shrugging her shoulders and snapping her fingers to forbid it. “I can’t o”

She shuffled her body in the couch and returned her focus to the TV screen.

****

hadn’t worked in thirteen years, now I needed a job. I didn’t know where to start from or anything to do for that matter but sister Augusta, as well as our brother and father, stood by me. They got me a job in a high class restaurant around Lekki, I was excited! That feeling of waking up everyday and going somewhere was ecstatic to me! I was seeing different faces everyday, meeting different personalities, I loved every bit of it!

The first salary I got, I bought myself a Samsung phone. I downloaded Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter back on my phone, Gawd! I had missed it so much! The next thing I did was to join a gym, all those Years of just sitting at home made me put on some weight, so I started to work out for the fun of it and because I wanted to loose weight.

I was getting my life back, and I was looo-ving every bit of my life again!!!!! I had this big house that Segun had left behind for myself and my kids, a job I loved and a body I liked when I looked in the mirror. 

Life was good again. I didn’t even know I could be this happy.

****

I was at the gym on a Saturday morning running on the treadmill when this tall, dark and well-built man walked past me. I always saw him every Saturday and he never failed to say hello. He took the machine next to mine.

Hello” he said

“Hello good morning” I replied back.

“Already getting your sweat on?” He smiled flashing a really white gap tooth.

“Ah yes!” I answered breathlessly.

He smiled and returned his attention to his machine.

At the end of my session, I went to the locker and began to put my stuff together. He walked up to me with a set of dumbbells hanging loosely over his shoulders and beads of sweasitting on his face. “Leaving?” he asked with his hands akimbo.

“Oh yeah” I smiled politely, trying to ignore the glossy glow the sweat gave his firm arms. I dropped my backpack over my left shoulder, holding it in place with my hand.

“You spend three hours every Saturday which is the only day you come here_” He raised his brow in emphasis.

My forehead bunched in a frown. “How did you know that?__ Have you been watching me?”

“Who wouldn’t?” He flashed his gap tooth again in a smile, then wiped the sweat off his forehead with his finger. You’re doing alright” He said, nodding towards my abdomen.

“Thanks” I said and started to make my way past him.

“Hey, can I have your number?” He asked, stopping me in my tracks.

I whirled around to face him. He was holding out his phone towards me.

“I have kids” I said, feeling uninterested.

“Oh! you’re married?” Disappointmenswept over his handsome face.

“No, but I have kids”

He heaved a sigh of relief. “Oh thank God! I love kids, it’s not a problem” he added with a shrug.

squeezed my brows togethernot sure whether to feel confused or annoyed, then I turned around and walked away, leaving him standing there.

*****

The next Saturday, our gym instructor had us go on a juoutside of the gym. As we jogged on the streets of Admiralty road, the tall dark well toned guy from the gym caught up with me.

“Roy” he said, slowing his pace down to meet mine.

“What?!’ I asked, panting without stopping.

“Roy! My name is Roy”

“Oh!” 

“What is your name?”

If I tell you, will you leave me alone?”

“I already know your name, I just want to hear it from you”

stopped jogging and he stopped too. I bent downwards, resting my hands on my knees, was panting heavily. 

“What do you want?” I asked almost breathlessly

“I want to take you out on a date” He said standing over me, with a stabilized breath.

I caught my breath and stood upright, I looked at the rest of our members as they went on without us. “What if I say no? I asked, returning my focus to him.

“Then I would be in your face every other Saturday. I die here!

“Okay, one date.

Hsmirked. “That’s all I need” he said with a confidence that I found rather annoying.

“Can I jog now without you following me?”

It’s a group jog” He shrugged, stretching out his arms “Anyone can be next to anyon__”

He stopped as he read the stern look on my face. “Okay” He raised his hands up. “I’ll back off. Buyou’re gonna have to give me your number now, for the date of course”

He retrieved his phone from hipocket and I recited my eight digit MTN number to him. 

“Got it!” he said and then picked a race leaving me standing there.“You said I shouldn’t run next to you” he screamed from a distance, holding out his arms helplessly ” So I have to run ahead to avoid the temptation”

really didn’t want to laugh, but, I couldn’t help it, and so I laughed.

****

Roy called me for a date two days after and we went on a picnic in some park I had never been to before. It was beautiful, but I didn’t admit that to him. I acted nonchalantly throughout the date and continued to carry on a nonchalant demeanor towards him after the date. I was done with men, I had been through enough pain to know that I was done. There wanothing a man could give to me now that I didn’t already have and I couldn’t give to myself.

He didn’t stop trying, Roy, but every nice and sweet effort of his reminded me of the nice and sweet things Segun used to do before we got married, I wasn’t going to fall for another pretense, not this time.

***SIX MONTHS LATER***

I stopped by Augusta’s house on my way back from work. I met her in the kitchen stirring something on the stove.

“See as your house quiet without the kids, don’t you feel lonely sometimes?” I asked giving her a hug.

She laughed. “I do but what can I do? How you dey?”

I’m fine” I sat down at her table.

How are the kids?

“They were fine when I left this morningEkaete is really trying. I haven’t had any issues with her since you got her for me”

I told you na. How is Roy”

I hissed. He is there o, he had lunch delivered to me even today, with chocolates and a bottle of red wine

Awwhh, I can’t believe he hasn’t given up yet”

Me either, I’m surprised. really like him, he is everything want in man but I’m afraid. Remember Segun was the same way until I married him

But he is not Segun. You should give him a chance, he even shares the same name as my ex, these Roy’s can be very romantic” she sat down at the tablepushing a plate of spaghetti my way.

I launched right into it.  “I’m hungry, forget all these menI’m guarding my heart this time” I said as I fetched a forkful into my mouth.

“You that is working at a restaurant, plus, didn’t you say Roy sent you food?

“My dear, no matter what I eat, I would always have room left for your food. It’s always so yummy!”

She laughed and I laughed too.

*****

eventually got tired of turning Roy down, I decided to give him a shot but I warned him.

I’m not interested in marriage” I said to him as I had dinner with him one Sunday night. I had thought long and hard about it and decided there was no harm in allowing myself to be loved.

“Okay. But you know I’ve never been married right? I’m 37, I want a family sometime

I shrugged “I don’t know but I don’t think I ever want to get married again. Let’s just enjoy each other and see where it leads”

And so I officially became his girl and he was my man. We did things together as a couple, he was good to me and treated me in a way I didn’t think a man could treat a woman. 

I was ilove, and was happy but I still did not want to get married.

****

On Roy’s 38birthday, when his friend’s and guests had left his apartment and I was cleaning up in the kitchen, he came in, got on one knee and pulled out this tiny box

I love you Adesua, please marry me. I know you had bamarriage but I will love you, I promise you, and I would love your kids as if they were mine, because I love you, I would love anything that is connected to you” 

I was dumbfounded. stared at him speechlessly.

I knew he loved me now, but Segun loved me too until we got married and he changed. What was the guarantee that Roy won’t change as well?

I shook my head at this beautiful man kneeling in front of me. “I can’t, I’m sorry”

“Please” he said with tears forming at the corners of his eyes.

“I can’t Roy” I was choking up with tears“I just can’t take that chance again, I’m so so sorry

I ran out of his kitchen, grabbed my bafrom his bedroom and hurriedly left his house.

cried as I drove out of his compound, I cried because I had hurt him so.

****

week passed by and we didn’t speak to each other, I didn’t know what to say to him. It was so hard, I missed him terriblyAugusta came to my house and I told her about what had happened for the very first time. She was angry that I had turned him down and convinced me to put my fears aside and marry him.

“You know you’ve never even shown me his picture before” she said.

“Really? I haven’t?” 

“No!”

“Ah! it’s here na” I said and began to scroll through my camera photos

“Mummy! come!” Lilian’s voice called out for me.

What is it?” I called back.

Come and see”

“Take, that’s him” I gave the phone to Augusta and climbed upstairs to attend to Lilian.

****

The next day, I decided to call Roy and let him know that I had changed my mind, with how empty felt without him, didn’t think could continue to be without him. dialed both his lines but my calls wouldn’t connect. I tried and tried and even sent him Whatsapp messages but that too did not get delivered to him. I went to his house the same day and was informed by his neighbor that he had just travelled to Abuja for a work assignment.

I felt completely broken.

Five Months passed by and I felt even more horrible without himAnd then that Saturday, he showed up at the gym, I almost jumped into his arms but controlled my self and stooin front of him instead.. He didn’t look happy to see me, he had this blank expression on his face.

“Hi” He said.

“Hi” I smiled cautiously. “I tried to call you, but it won’t connect, not even your WhatsApp. This is weird but I have to ask, did you block me?

“Yeah, I did.”

Roy why?

“Are you serious right now?

“Yes because it’s not fair_”

“What is not fair is you rejecting my proposal when you know that I love you. What is not fair is you ignoring my voice note and shattering my heart for a second time_”

“Roy, I am sorry, honestly am. I was afraid but I’m__, wait, what voice note?

“Oh! you’re gonna act like you didn’t see my voicnot or missed call?”

“No! you didn’t call me, I didn’t even see any voice note”

He frowned at me with disbeliein hieyes then withdrew hiphone from his pocket and showed me the call log and our chat history, the Voice note sat there with a blue double tick. I received the phone from him and played the voice note..

         Adesua, I called but you didn’t pick uso I will just drop this here. I know you said no but I still want to marry you. I’m leaving town for a while and I just want you to say yes to me before I go. But if your answer is still no then just ignore this message and I__I promise I won’t bring it up again.

I looked up from the phone, wain complete in shock. “When did you send this?”

“The day before I left.”

I began to search my mind on how the message could have been tampered with.

Michael!” I said out loud. He has being having hard time since Segun’s death, I’m sure he didn’t want me to move on. Wait, I’coming“. I dashed out of the gym and drove straight home. I was fuming. I walked past Augusta and mounted the stairs to Michael‘s room, he was sitting in his bed playing a game. 

I slapped the pad out of his hands.

“Mum!?” he turned to me confused.

How many times have I told you to stop touching my phone?‘ I scolded him. “And how dare you delete a message that was sent to my phone?’

” Mum! I did not__

“How dare you lie to my face?!

Adesua, it wasn’t him, it was me

whirled around to face Augusta standing bthe door way.

“What?” I could not believe what I was hearing.

“It was me, I deleted the message

My knees grew wobbly instantly. “Why?” I whispered. My eyes itched with tears.

Your Roy is the same Roy I dated in the past. I loved him Adesua but he said he wasn’t ready to get married. He broke my heart, so after you showed me his picture that day and ran upstairs to attend to Lilian, his call came in then the voice note, I listened to it but I couldn’t let him hurt you like he hurt me, so had to do away with it.

“He asked me to marry him I pointed at myself, I was shaking and crying, it was so hard having to confront my elder sister this way.“He was going to marry me, I told you that. You heard the voice note, he was not going to jilt me! How could you do this to me, you were supposed to be my sister!’

“I was just looking out for you

I couldn’t believe she was repeating the same absurd words. “I want you to leave”

“You are asking me to leave your house?

“Leave!!!!!!!” I yelled, muttering strength.

She turned around and watched her back as she climbed down the stairs and walked out of my house.

WRITTEN BY OGBUGOH TERUNDU JOY.

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