It Must Have Been Love
Shit has hit the fan at last. We have been called to a family meeting by my parents on this humid Monday morning to settle issues between Emeka and Tola. As told to me by my mom, Tola had threatened to kill Emeka with a knife last night, literally holding his penis hostage for nine hours until the sun came up and Kalu drove over to rescue him. They say she is still in bad shape but Nne has been able to calm her down. Now, she wants to have a word with everyone.
I really don’t know why I have to be there. I wish they would just cut me off from anything that has Emeka’s name on it. I have my own issues to deal with, the biggest being how I am going to convince the woman I love that I am not a colossal ass.
God will not easily forgive me for what I did to Honey. I think yesterday I got to the lowest point of my life with my words to her. I didn’t sleep through the night. I spent the entire time whipping myself psychologically and emotionally. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was trying to get through to her line but was unable to.
“I don’t know what to tell her, boo,” I say to Mary over the phone.
“Just apologize, Jide. And assure her that you didn’t mean those words.”
“I didn’t but truth is I freaked out.”
“You are a grown ass man, Jide.”
“Boo, I needed time to think it through and let it all sink in. A baby is not a new gadget or a new car you just acquire. A baby is a life, an entire human being. If I don’t welcome him or her mentally and emotionally, then accepting them physically would be a farce. I had to prepare myself!”
“Well, see what your preparation has caused you.”
“She was inconsolable. My God! She cried like she was losing her dad all over again. I felt so terrible and I still do.”
“Abeg, don’t waste time. Go and tell her sorry before I take it personal.” Mary hisses. “Na dis kind story dey vex me. You just fall my hand big time, Olajideofor.”
“Don’t tell me sorry! Go and tell her. And get an engagement ring while you’re at it for heaven’s sake!”
Mary hangs up. I look outside the window of the cab I’m in. There’s Monday rush traffic building up ahead of us. I brace myself for wasted time and use the opportunity to cancel appointments with my patients, reassigning them to junior midwives. I intend to take the entire day off to be with Honey. She needs to know how much I love her and that I do not plan to bail on her or the baby, even though I am yet be excited that she is pregnant.
I arrive at the family house really late, hoping they had carried on their meeting without me. Unfortunately, I meet them in good time. The old man is about to speak when I enter the sitting room.
“Sorry I’m late,” I apologize. “Traffic.”
“Sit down.” My mom points to an empty space on a sofa beside Oba. When I get myself comfortable, I take in my environment.
Tola is seated in-between my parents on one of the three-sitters. Emeka and Kalu are put together while Yazmin occupies a single couch. My mom appears more exhausted than saddened. She holds Tola’s hand in both of hers. Yazmin seems uneasy and she draws no comfort when her eyes briefly catch mine.
“I was about sharing a true story before you walked in Jideofor,” my dad speaks. “You remember your late Uncle, Festus, my eldest brother?”
“He fell into a similar situation with Chukwuemeka when he recently got married to your aunty. Festus played away match with one small girl in a neighboring village and she gave birth to twin girls for him. Meanwhile your aunty had a son for him already. So, it was that he wanted to secretly settle the mother of his twins and send her on her way but our father said, ‘No. We do not do such in our place. The woman has given birth to your child and by doing that, you have completely killed her market. Who do you now want to leave her and the twins for? What man will even take secondhand cargo?’
“So, your grandfather refused. And thus, Festus and all the males in the family went over to the girl’s village and paid her dowry and brought her home. She was given her own room in the compound and they all lived in peace with your aunty even after your uncle’s death. What is the essence of my long story?”
“I wonder,” Oba murmurs. My mom eyes him.
“My daughter, Omotola,” my dad continues, “we cannot drive the mother of one of our sons away, especially since he is a first son. It is not in our culture to do so. It is better that the mother on her own accord, chooses to leave. We will bless her and send her on her way in peace but she will not take our son along. I have already told this to Yazmin. She says she has no desire to leave. You were here when she said it. Your husband who is also her husband wants her to stay. We too, we want her to stay. Omotola, I know it is painful but my daughter, what has happened cannot be reversed. And that is why, as a family, we plead with you in God’s name to forgive two of them and accept Yazmin as your sister.”
Tola looks away from him.
“Forgive your husband for his foolishness.”
“But daddy, if the table was turned and I did what Emeka did, won’t you be throwing me out of the house now?”
“Good question,” Oba comments.
“My dear, I am not a hypocrite. I will not throw you out of my son’s house if you did what he did. It is his right to do as he wishes, not mine. I may suggest it to him but I’ll leave him with his decision. The same way I am letting you know right now that it is your choice to stay with him or to go. But we are hoping you stay because you are now part of us and you’re carrying an Onuora. It will hurt us immensely if you go away but we will understand. Nevertheless, we beg you to forgive, to accept Yazmin as your sister and to manage this misbehaving Igbo family as part of yours.
“As for Chukwuemeka, your chapter is not closed in my book. There will be consequence for this grave wickedness you have displayed. May God deal with me severely if I see your face in this house after today. From now on you are banned from coming here.”
Emeka gulps. “What?”
My dad raises his hand and stops my mom. “I’ve said what I’ve said.”
“You’re disowning me?”
“I have no right to. You’re still my son and that’s never going to change but you are not welcome here any longer.”
“Daddy, please.” Tola pleads.
I stare at my mom, expecting her to speak on her son’s behalf but she doesn’t. Her eyes hold tears that may take twenty years to spill. Her mercy has reached its limit and so has everyone else’s except Tola’s.
“Daddy, please forgive him.”
My father’s face is set in stone as he looks at Emeka who has gone on his knees. He dare not approach him.
“I’m sorry, dad. I screwed up big time. I’ll fix it–”
“How?” My dad probes. “You mess yourself up and the women who love you and you say you will fix it? How? What legacy do you want to leave your children with? When Tobe grows up to be a man tomorrow, what would he have learned from you? Or do you think women are rags you use to mop the very floor you walk on? When did you become this useless person? Where did we go wrong?”
The weight of my father’s pain falls on me and I am reminded of my own responsibility waiting. How do I present my case to them without them concluding they have failed as parents? I don’t feel any different from Emeka. We are both fuckboys. Our dicks have spoken for us and chosen the paths of our destinies. While Emeka seeks to ‘fix’ his issues, I intend to make things right with my woman.
I watch as Tola leaves her seat and plants her knees on the floor before my parents.
“Get up,” my mom commands. “Don’t kneel on his behalf.”
“Please mom, I want to speak. This is the reason why I called everyone together.”
“I am fine. Please Nne, let me speak.”
“Daddy, mommy, you’re the only parents I have. You have been kind and loving to me even with my flaws and mistakes. I owe you more than I can ever repay you. Right now, all I have to give back is my love and respect and this child I am carrying and that is why I have no intention of leaving Emeka. I have vowed for better or for worse and if this is the worse I’ll have to live with, then I’m ready for it. Oyibo woman no fit enter my domot come kolombi my husband. All of us go die on the line.”
Oba sniggers and I smile.
“Mommy, daddy, I just want to say thank you for stepping into this messy situation.”
Nice one, Tola. You just scored high on the scale of best daughter-in-law. Yazmin, your storytelling skills won’t cut it in this round.
Tola dabs her eyes with the back of her hand and returns to her seat.
“Emeka,” she confronts her husband. “I don’t know if love you the way I used to. It will take God’s grace to get us back to that place of love. Last night when I held your… When I held you, I had a lot of time to think things through. And I have come to the following conclusion if we want this marriage triangle to work. One: this baby I’m carrying, whether boy or girl will be considered your first child. Two: Yazmin is not entitled to anything you own. You will take care of Tobe and her but if anything happens to you or she decides to leave, she goes with nothing. Three: Yazmin must live in this same town with me. Not far away from me. I don’t trust her; I want my eyes on her. Four: I am the official Mrs. Chukwuemeka Onuora, the one you take for public functions. Five: If you do not accept my terms, you are free to leave but I will make sure I drain you of every last kobo you have. These are my terms.”
There is a hush that allows everyone present mull over her words.
“Thank you, darling,” Nne says. “Chukwuemeka? Yazmin? What have you both to say to all that Tola has just laid down?”
Emeka nods and looks at Yazmin.
“I’m fine with it,” she replies.
“It’s not just to say you are fine with it,” my dad drops in. “You are to say, ‘thank you,’ because no woman of this generation is this generous to share her husband with another woman, so don’t sit there and act like it’s your right to take what rightfully belongs to her.”
“I’m not trying to…”
“In short, you have no mouth or claim over Emeka as long as Tola exists in his life. She has become your madam. You’ll call her aunty. You will respect her the same way you respect us. If Emeka does anything to hurt you, you will not come to us but go straight to her to report him. She is your mommy as well. I will not hear that you were rude to her or you try to rub shoulders with her. Do you hear me?”
“That is our culture here. In the olden days in some parts of Igboland, the first wife was responsible for searching for and initiating marriage procedures to bring in a new wife for her husband. And once that wife has been brought in, she must accord the older wife all the respect she deserves. That is how it is done. If you cannot cope with the terms, Yazmin, feel free to find your way back to your father’s house but you must drop our son for us. Do you understand?”
“I do, dad,” a tearful Yazmin answers. She seems harassed by the old man who before now has been a cool dad to her.
“Oya, say thank you to Omotola.”
Yazmin faces Tola. “Thanks.”
“Which one be thanks? No, my dear. Do things properly. Yorubas love respect. You saw how she went on her knees before us? Do the same.”
“Dad?” Emeka protests.
“Shut your mouth,” my mom fires back.
With tears streaming down her face, Yazmin lowers to her knees before Tola. “Thank you, Tola.”
“Get up, abeg. After you’ll go and give him head behind my back.”
I try hard not to laugh but I can’t help it. I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of drama between both women. Yazmin looks like she has some trouble in her as well.
“Dad,” Emeka speaks up, “please take back your words about me not showing up here again. I’m really sorry for everything. I would do anything…”
“You have done enough.” The old man stands up. “You need to start undoing now. Until I see a man in you, a true husband and a responsible father, you are not welcome here. Have a nice day, everyone else. I have things to do.”
As he walks up the stairs, I see our perfect family falling apart. I wonder if things will go back to the way they used to be.
I hang around a bit to add some comfort to my mom’s life but she assures me that she is fine.
“I’ll spend the rest of the year praying, Jidenna. Everything is so confusing right now and I don’t know which way to turn but I know God will heal this family and set things right. The devil will not succeed.”
“Amen,” I say sincerely. Holding her frail form in a hug, I tell her I love her. She pats my cheek and I step into the kitchen for a drink of water. I see Yazmin sitting before the kitchen table, her phone is placed before her and she is on a video call to a woman I’m guessing is her mother. I don’t understand Spanish but I gather that the woman is mad at her for some reason, going by the way she is screaming. I feel somewhat sorry for Yazmin. Honey has told me she is also having a hard time on her own.
I take my drink of water and rinse the glass cup.
Yazmin looks at me briefly. She is on her way to a smile but I step out of the house through the backdoor.
I turn to see Emeka trudging after me.
“I was thinking…” He walks up to me. “I’m trying to get Yaz her own place because I don’t think she’ll be comfortable here again. So I was thinking that since she’s in good terms with Honey, she could bunk up with her until…”
“You didn’t even let me finish.”
“My girlfriend’s house will not be a hotel where you drop by to shag your wife whenever you’re horny. Besides, Honey is going through a lot right now. She doesn’t need stress.”
“Okay. No wahala.”
I start to walk away but he stops me again.
“I don’t want this thing to tear us apart, JD.”
“It won’t. I just have my own ish to deal with. As for Yazmin, I’ll come round. Just give me time.”
My answer seems to please him. He goes back to the house while I head out the gate. There are usually no cabs cruising by at this time of the day, so I decide to take a walk and while I do, I try Honey’s number. It rings, much to my nervousness. I have not prepared a speech for her yet.
Hearing her voice takes the edge away.
“Hello?” I repeat. I can’t work up the words to express how sorry I am.
“Um…are you home?”
“Can I come over?”
She sniffles. “Alright.”
“Honey, are you okay…?”
She disconnects the line and I’m left staring at my phone. I hear the horn of a car, cock my head to see a cab and I flag it down.
The driver takes me to Honey’s house. Saratu lets me in and I head straight to Honey’s bedroom. I find her crouched on the floor and her head on the bed. Her face is to the wall, she is not crying.
At the sound of my voice, she blinks but says nothing. I pull her up from the floor and try to look into her eyes but she wouldn’t let me. She dives into the bed and burrows her head in a sea of pillows.
“Honey, talk to me.”
I turn to the door where Saratu is standing.
“She’s been like that since last night.”
Saratu’s expression shows that my question is ridiculous.
I do not want to speak with her but it seems she has something to tell me. I follow her to the sitting room and take a seat. She sits facing me.
“She had an abortion,” Saratu reveals and my chest constricts.
“Yesterday when you left, she went to some pharmacy in God-knows-where and bought a pill. In the evening she was tossing and crying in pain and bleeding as well. So I took her to the hospital where it was discovered that the pregnancy was threatened. A D&C had to be carried out immediately. We came back home around ten and she has since been like this.”
“Has she eaten?”
I stand up and turn towards Honey’s bedroom.
“I think maybe you should go,” Saratu says to me, arms crossed. “You have done enough damage already.”
“My friend loves you to death. The pregnancy was a mistake. She didn’t plan to trap you or whatever rubbish you told her yesterday. She nearly killed herself with that pill. All because of you! So you don’t deserve her. She has a full life ahead of her and she doesn’t need you in it.”
“Erm…Saratu, I understand your concern for your friend but it does not give you the right to be rude to me.”
I walk back into Honey’s bedroom.
“Close the door,” she says.
I do not only close the door, I turn the key in the lock and face Honey. She is now seated with her back to the wall, a pillow on her laps.
“I killed our baby, Jide. And I’m scarred.”
I walk to the bed in a slow pace.
“I wasn’t thinking when I drove out to buy the pill. I was just so mad at you and I wanted to get even. If I had just waited until the morning…”
“My dad used to tell me to wait until the morning whenever I’m angry because daylight makes a person see better. I should have waited. Now, she’s gone.”
“Our baby. She’s gone.”
I sit beside Honey and take her hand.
“I slept briefly this morning and had a dream about her. She had very weird hair like an albino. And then she had this really cute pink dress with tiny butterflies on it. She was on a swing chair and I was pushing her gently but she wanted me to push harder and higher and she was saying, ‘mommy, up! Up!’ And so I pushed harder and harder until she disappeared and the chair came back empty. And then I woke up.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Guilty. Depressed. Angry.”
“Physically, how are you doing?”
She laughs drily. “Fine. And that’s what’s weird. I take a life and I feel fine. My womb should be killing me right now or something.”
“It doesn’t work like that, Honey.”
“God will punish me. I know that. This is the second time, so God is on my case. Maybe when I eventually get married I won’t be able to have babies again.”
“Don’t talk like that.”
“I shouldn’t? Jide, I committed murder! I killed an innocent life!”
“You’re not angry at me? You’re not mad that I killed your baby?”
I scratch my head. I don’t want to answer her question. Of course, I am upset that she did what she did but what right do I have to scold her? It was me who told her that I wanted nothing to do with the baby. I stood and watched her cry her heart out and still accused her of wanting to trap me. In my opinion, I am equally culpable, if not worse. It’s like the case of Adam and Eve and I will not make that mortal mistake of putting the blame on her.
“I am not mad at you, sugar lips. Rather I am mad that I made you do such a terrible thing.”
“I am sorry, Jide.”
“Me too. For what I said and how I acted yesterday. Can you forgive me?”
She runs her hand over my beard. Her smile is broken. I want to take her in my arms and heal her but I feel this rift between us. It’s in the way her eyes look at me. There’s something missing in her stare. But maybe it’s just the psychological trauma that she’s passing through. It’s not something new to us in the medical field. Whether through careless mistakes, deliberate attempts or medical conditions, we get mothers like Honey, who after losing their pregnancies or babies, temporarily lose their mind to guilt. Abortion can be devastating and I have heard of cases where women immediately regretted their actions after the deed is done and plunge into deep psychological trauma. Oftentimes, they do not want to be consoled as they feel the guilt is the best punishment for what they have done.
“I shouldn’t have,” Honey whispers. I squeeze her hand. She pulls it away from me.
“We need to talk,” she says.
“I think we should break up.”
I crease my brows. “What’s the meaning of that?”
She looks at me. “I’m not in a good place right now. I can’t be the person I used to be. I need to go through this alone.”
“No, we’ll go through it together, Honey. Your pain is my pain. Your loss, my loss. We will weather this storm together.”
She shakes her head. “No.”
“I’m not listening to you.”
“Jide, we are not good for each other. We are not ready to love. It was all about the sex and good times but when we both faced reality, both of us thought only about our selfish interests and in the process, lost a life. Do we need a prophet to tell us that we are not meant to be?”
“Honey, we will heal and learn and grow from our mistakes; not run from them.”
“I’m sorry I just can’t continue. All I felt before, the warm emotions, the feelings of desire, the sheer joy of just being around you, they’re all gone. I don’t see you the same, Jide.”
“You’ve fallen out of love?”
“What is love, Jideofor? Butterflies in the tummy? Passionate sex? Dinner date and trips to the cinema? Breakfast in bed? What is it exactly?”
“It’s when two people care for each other the way we do.”
“It’s a lot more than that, Jide, and sadly, we don’t have it. We’re just two selfish people infatuated with each other and it’s time we went our separate ways.”
The look in her eyes I saw earlier is now full bloom. The Honey I used to know is no longer there. Dear Lord, what have I done to a good woman?
“Honey, you’re just going through a phase right now and you’ll overcome it. I am here to hold your hand through it. That is what true love does…”
“No,” she emphasizes and rises up from the bed. I watch her in dazed silence as she walks to the door and holds it open. It is not until I spot tears in her eyes that I realize I am actually being dumped.
“You’re not thinking clearly, sugar lips.”
She says nothing. And I think she’s sparing me the indignity of a nasty breakup. I stand up and take slow steps to her in the hopes that she’ll change her mind but she looks at me with a blank stare that is alien to her features.
“Honey, I love you.”
“Me too. But I need to understand what that all means.”
“Do I give you time?”
“Don’t wait for me, Jide. I don’t know what is happening to me right now and I don’t want to keep you waiting. If you find someone else, please move on.”
“I will not move on. I’ll wait for as long as you keep me waiting, Hon. You are my wife and what happened yesterday only solidifies what we have. We have just experienced our first and probably only loss…”
“Just stop, please. And go. I need to be alone.”
“I respect that.”
She avoids my eyes but I pull her close and hide my face in her neck. I breathe in her smell and my hand feels the smoothness of her skin as my arm goes round her waist. I can’t believe she wants to take all of this away from me. What do I do with myself in her absence? How do I cope without her sugar lips?
I plant soft pecks on her neck and chin until I find her soft lips. Just one taste of her and my mind takes me back to that first kiss at Celia’s home party.
“We’ve come such a long way, sugams. Why do you want to throw everything away?”
I kiss her some more and her body naturally settles into mine.
“Go.” Her voice is weak and so are the hands that try to push me away. I know I can easily take advantage of her but I choose not to. I step back and catch a glimpse of how much she loves me through eyes veiled with tears.
“Keep the car, keep your key to my house,” I tell her. “Like I said, I’ll be waiting.”
I kiss her forehead and walk out. It’s the longest trip I have taken from her bedroom to the front door and each step is agonizing. She is not the only one who will go through the pangs of guilt. Mine awaits me in the dark places of my heart.
I step out to the sun and for some reason it burns hotter than normal. A lizard scurries past me as I step on the trimmed lawn beneath me. I look down and the grass doesn’t seem so green, the same way little blooming flowers in a flowerbed nearby have lost their color.
Must be my eyes or the blinding sun or maybe this is what heartbreak really feels like.
Na dis kind story dey vex me – It’s this type of story that gets me angry
Oyibo woman no fit my domot come colombi my husband – a white woman cannot just show up in my territory and snatch my husband
No wahala – no problem