There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.
The above quote was shared on Facebook by my mom when she was struggling with accepting Ndidi into her life. She had told me how she wanted to walk away when the girl surfaced from nowhere.
“But where would I go?” Nne asked me as if I had the answer. “Your father is my home, and that home is in my heart, and I carry it everywhere I go.”
I was overwhelmed by the profundity of her words. I wanted a love as hers, a heart that could forgive and seek peace no matter what. That day, I made a vow to love Honey the way my mom loved my dad.
But there’s an asshole in every man. Nne also said this to me once. This asshole is known to take something good and mess it up at any given chance.
This, sadly, is Bobby’s life story and how he treats his wife.
I’ll begin this by warning you that you will find the road bumpy ahead.
It’s another Saturday… Of course, it’s another Saturday. 3pm. I am at the gym. I find out a short while ago that when I exercise, I sweat out bad emotions. I have been fighting with Honey over some things I will not mention now.
So I have barely begun my stretches when I get a call from Bobby.
“Guy, how far?” I answer.
“Jide…” he breathes heavily. I instantly sense something is wrong. “I’m at Berger. In a hospital. Please, can you hurry here?”
Bobby speaking clear English without tainting it with pidgin is another sign that all is not well.
“What’s going on, man?”
He breathes deeply again. “Jide, Kate is dead. My wife is dead.”
Air escapes my mouth. Goosebumps spread over my skin.
“She was on her way from Ibadan. Accident. She’s gone, man. Katie’s gone.”
“I will text you the address. Please, come. My head cannot process anything right now.”
“Okay. I’ll be there. Where’s Malcolm?”
Malcolm is their son. The boy is never away from Kate.
“Malcolm…” Bobby repeats.
“Is he there with you?”
My friend breaks down. More goosebumps spread over my body. I don’t want to believe what I just heard.
“I’ll be there, man. Just text me the address.”
Bobby hangs up. I sit down in a daze. I did not just listen to Bobby tell me his wife and son are dead.
My phone vibrates. Bobby’s text comes in. I read it but still, nothing sinks in. The phone rings. It’s Shady.
“Did Bobby just call you?”
“Yes.” Shady sounds as shocked as I am. “Where you dey?”
“I dey gym. You nko?”
“I dey with Ibro for office.”
“Make I drive come there and we’ll go to Berger together.”
I leave the gym in the same state Bobby’s call has left me. I continue to refuse that believe Kate is gone. I drive to Ibro’s showroom where he’s waiting with Shady. They get into Ibro’s car and tail me as we head to Berger. When we get to the hospital Bobby has described for us, a nurse keeps us waiting for a couple of minutes before letting us into a room outside the ER where Bobby sits beside a table that Kate is laid on, covered in a green bed sheet. He is staring blankly, fingers fiddling with his car key. He is not aware of our presence.
“Bobby,” I call.
“I killed her. She wouldn’t have died if I…” he whispers. He stops and continues to stare at her.
I walk to the bed Kate has been laid on. I need to be sure it’s her. I slightly lift the sheet.
“She wouldn’t have died,” Bobby repeats.
Kate looks a mess. I let the sheet down. Shady sits beside Bobby and rests a hand on his lap. I leave the room. I need details of what happened. Bobby is not in the frame of mind to speak.
Fortunately, a doctor is present to answer my questions. He is polite when I tell him I am a medical personnel. He explains that a tanker that had disengaged from its head ran into Kate’s vehicle, knocking it off the road and into another parked tanker.
Weak knees push me to sit on a waiting bench.
“They were brought in at exactly 12:07pm,” the doctor continues. “The infant was dead on arrival. His mother had multiple fractures and contusions. We had hopes that she would make it. She was lucid enough to give us her husband’s phone number. But the moment we rushed her into the theater, she went into a seizure and her heart stopped beating. Time of death was 12:32pm.”
“You did all you could?” I looked into his eyes, recalling how my patient bled out in my arms just four days ago.
“We did everything. Our condolences, sir.”
I nod, still numb.
“Our facility does not have a mortuary but we do have an ambulance that can convey the body to the nearest general hospital. It will then return and convey the second body.”
“Can’t the child go along with the mother?” I ask.
“Not the child, sir. A second female was brought in a few minutes after the first one. Both of them had been in the car together.”
I rise up. “A second adult?”
“Yes, sir. But just like the child, she was dead on arrival.”
“Where is she please?”
My heart begins to pound. I don’t know who this female is. I suspect it’s Kate’s younger sister who lives in Ibadan with their parents but loves to visit Kate and Bobby from time to time. I am hoping she is not the one. Kate’s parents can’t afford to lose their two daughters and a grandson on the same day.
“This way, sir.”
The doctor leads me to another room quite like the one Bobby’s in. He steps aside at the door and I stride in. Like Kate, the person lying on the table before me is covered. But there is less blood.
I shiver as I move towards the table. My hand shakes when it stretches out to lift the sheet off the face of the deceased. When I do so and have a glimpse of who is lying dead on the table, my hand drops and I step back in a gasp.
I find myself heaving wildly. I can neither breathe well nor move. It takes the doctor a smack on my shoulder to get me back to earth.
“Is she related to you, sir?”
I don’t answer. I move towards the table again and with the same shaky hand, I peel the sheet off Peace’s face.
And there she lies…peaceful in death. Just as she had been in life. She possibly can’t be gone. This must be a joke. Something tells me she is sleeping.
So, I reach forward and feel for a pulse, and for the first few seconds I think I pick out a beat or two. But it turns out that it is my own pulse, pounding through every vein in my body.
But I spoke to her just this morning. I had called to tell her I couldn’t keep to the appointment we had because I had a homebirth case to handle.
“Shey you are forming for me,” she had said to me with her chirpy laugh that had hints of a cold.
How did she end up here?
I remember the first phone call I got from her yesterday.
She wants to see me, she says; but I tell her I am too busy to squeeze in time.
“Is it something we can do over the phone?” I ask.
She hesitates for a while and then giggles nervously. “Jide, I can trust you with a little secret, right?”
She breathes out. “I’m pregnant, Jide. The girls don’t know. Well, Mary does, but no one else does. Please, I don’t want them to know.”
“Your secret is safe. But seriously? You’re pregnant?”
“So can I ask who the father is?”
“I can’t tell you that,” Peace replies. “But I love him. And he loves me. That’s all that matters. I didn’t think I loved him at first. I didn’t even want to be with any man after Reno but it just happened. ”
“I understand, P, but you seriously don’t want to tell me who he is?”
“Jide, I can’t talk about it because I lied to the girls that I’m done with men…”
“And you’re not.”
“I seriously was done with men…”
“In short, let’s forget all that. I actually called to know if I can come in for antenatal today.”
“How many weeks?”
“I’m almost four months.”
“Hian. And you just want to come in for antenatal now?”
“Actually, I have been going elsewhere because I’ve been hiding but I’m not comfortable with the care there. After all the reviews about you, and the fact that you’re my person, I am deciding to come to you.”
“That’s flattering, P…But can we talk about this tomorrow when we meet?”
“Tomorrow I’m going to visit my aunt in Ibadan and I won’t be back until the 24th. Please, let me just come in, so you can check me. I have this weird feeling that something may be wrong with the baby.”
I think about my present case with the hospital over losing two patients. I don’t want Peace’s unborn baby to be another casualty in my hands.
“Are you bleeding or do you feel any pain?”
“No. I’m fine.”
“Then tomorrow is better, P.”
“Okay, I’ll be there and leave for Ibadan on Sunday instead.”
She then sends her love to Honey and Jiney and hangs up. I don’t hear from her until early this morning when I call to tell her I’m cancelling because I have an emergency homebirth to handle. She is not happy with the change of plans. I apologize.
“I’ll come when I get back then. I’ll be back on the 24th.”
“Okay, P. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s no problem.”
Why didn’t I hand over my patient to Hauwa and keep my appointment with her? If I did, she’d still be alive. I can’t believe I’m staring at her corpse now.
My phone rings. It’s Shady. I don’t answer. I lower and kiss Peace on her forehead, hoping against all reasonability that she wakes up at my touch.
But she doesn’t. I squeeze her hand. She doesn’t squeeze back.
“Peace, don’t do this. Please, wake up…”
“I think the ambulance is ready, sir.”
I want to scream at the doctor but I know he’s only doing what he’s supposed to. Yet, I hold Peace’s hand for much longer.
When I let go and cover her, I hope I wake up from my nightmare soon.
I am traumatized for the next three hours. Shady and Ibro are much better and are coherent enough to have everything handled, including calling Kate’s parents to give them the bad news. Bobby is taken home where his family is already waiting to take better care of him.
Shady and I then drive to see Reno. We find him outside, playing with Sammy. Under the evening sky, he is hurling the little boy up into the air and catching him in his hands as he comes dropping down. They are oblivious of the sorrow that awaits them. Sammy’s innocent screams of excitement leave a lump in my throat. When Reno lets him down and lifts him by a hand and a leg, he shrieks out in fear and screams “mommy!” before he lets out laughter. Reno swirls him around until I become dizzy just watching them.
The swirling stops and they both fall to the ground like drunks just thrown out of a pub. The laughter dies down when Reno sees Shady and I approaching.
He stands up. Sammy clutches his legs and rises up too. I look at the boy. He is Peace’s spitting image. I never noticed it until now.
“What’s up,” Shady greets. He extends a hand that Reno shakes cautiously. His appalling act to Mary has been long forgiven but not even time can heal the chasm in our friendship.
“Jido.” He slaps my palm and pulls me in for a man hug. I’ve always been the one he’s tried hard to appease, asides Mary. Now, I feel bad for the way I have treated him.
“Hope all is well?” His eyes shift from mine to Shady’s.
We both nod like robots.
He invites us into his house. I immediately distract myself with the view. I don’t want to think of anything else. Shady has agreed to speak because he is the stronger one. And so I observe the manly space I’m in. Sparse furniture, a myriad of gadgets and electronics, Sammy’s toys littered on the floor and a photo frame of Peace and Sammy hanging off the wall.
“Sorry about the mess,” Reno apologizes, picking up what seems like a Lego roof off the floor. He also picks a stuffed animal that squeaks.
“Reno, abeg sit down.”
Shady can be as cold as a night in winter. I wish I could borrow his heart for a moment. I don’t know if he will be this tough when he has to tell Celia that her friend is gone.
Reno nervously rests his bum on a single chair, facing the three-sitter Shady and I are seated on.
“Okay, I’m scared here. Did I do anything wrong? What’s going on, guys?”
Shady sighs. He moves to the edge of the seat and rests his elbows on the cleft of his knees. He sighs again and picks a toy train from the floor beneath him.
“Talk nau,” Reno prompts, trying to stop Sammy from climbing the chair on which he rests.
“Reno, there is no easy way to say this… Peace was in a terrible car accident.”
Reno straightens up. He takes in the news and then asks, “What happened? How is she? Where is she?”
Shady follows up directly with, “I’m so sorry, but she was killed.”
Reno freezes. Shady explains further, the details of the accident.
“She was not supposed to come back today,” Reno mumbles, when Shady is done, the color from his face gone. “She just left today. How…?”
He freezes again. But for longer, this time. He leaves an eerie stare on the floor in front of him. None of us take notice of Sammy who has now climbed over the backrest of the chair. In a matter of seconds, he topples over and lands hard on the floor.
I jump to my feet but Reno is faster. He picks the screaming infant and clutches him to his chest tightly. As the boy screams, tears fill his own eyes.
“Take me to her,” he tells Shady.
“Let me drive you there,” I offer. “She was taken to LASUTH.”
“I’ll take Sammy home, then,” Shady volunteers. When he reaches out to carry Sammy, the boy screams louder, calling out for his mom.
Reno nearly breaks down but he puts on a brave face and ushers us out of the house after Shady picks a few of Sammy’s things.
Reno and I drive to the hospital. Outside the mortuary, he confesses to me that he is not strong enough to see her alone. I follow him in. And in the discourteous way government hospitals are known to cater for corpses, we find Peace lying on the floor amongst other deceased women in a cold room. Kate is also amongst the dead.
Reno gives in to his pain and I am forced to drag him out. He sheds silent tears in my car for a long time, exhausting the tissue box I have.
“So Sammy will grow up without a mother?” he asks. “What type of life is this, Jido? She was with me this morning. She slept over last night. She was supposed to leave for IB tomorrow. Not today. Why didn’t I stop her from traveling?”
I am exactly in that murky place he’s in, dancing with the ‘should haves’. I should have canceled with my patient. I should have been there for a friend who needed me. But I can’t dwell on the ‘what ifs’ for the sake of Reno.
“It’s not your fault, man,” I tell him.
“Her shop is doing so well. She has plans. We have plans for Sammy. Where do I start from without her?”
I don’t know what to tell him. I remain silent until he is through. Only then do I pull words together.
“I feel your pain, Reno. Remember when I got the news about Ezinne’s death? Remember what you said to me?”
Reno doesn’t answer. He blows into a tissue.
“You’re not alone,” I tell him.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
There are things you would never know unless you are told. For instance, we had no idea that Peace’s family was aware of what Reno did to Mary. Somehow, word had gotten to them about the incident and they had held it against Reno. In fact, they were instrumental to ensuring that Peace divorced him. Hence when she passed away, all the blame was heaped on him. And then they categorically banned him and anyone else that was not related to her by blood from coming to the funeral.
Yes, none of us were there to lay our dear Peace to rest. If there was anything more painful than her passing, it was that. We didn’t get closure. And you would guess right if you guessed that Reno bore all the blame.
Same as Bobby. He never got the chance to make peace with Kate.
The story was that Kate had left him for her parents’ after a fight in which he threatened that he would get a second wife if she kept denying him his conjugal rights. Knowing Bobby, he didn’t mean a word of it. But Kate was tired of his narrow-minded ways. She had called the girls and cried to them, opening up for the first time, and telling them she was tired of the marriage. They had begged her not to leave but she had been stubborn. She packed her things and left for Ibadan.
Peace was particularly worried about how badly things had gone between the couple and sought all means to reunite them but neither of them would budge. However, on that Saturday morning when she got to Ibadan, she visited Kate at her family home and convinced her to return to Lagos. Bobby would not pick her calls or Kate’s; therefore, she got into the car with Kate to make the trip back to Lagos, with plans to reconcile them.
Bobby is not only bearing the burden of Kate and Malcolm’s death but hers as well. I visit him this evening to deliver a trunkful of clothes from the wives. He is now half his size, having lost weight due to his grief.
He takes the collection of designer wears with a little smile and gratitude half-muttered. I help him carry the rest into the house. A neat space welcomes me. Nothing has changed since Kate’s passing. One might assume that she isn’t dead and is on a trip out of town.
“This is thoughtful,” Bobby says as he stares down at a pair of Chukka boots, specifically picked by Honey. He is a shoe freak. Honey had hoped he would appreciate the gift.
“You want anything to drink?” he asks, walking to the kitchen.
“I have to go home.”
He soon returns with two cans of beer. We don’t sit. Standing, we down our beers like we are actually supposed to be engaging in some other activity and the beering is a preliminary event.
“I can’t believe it’s been a month already,” he mentions. I follow his eyes and I see them resting on a frame of a wedding picture in which he’s kissing Kate’s cheek. I recall clearly when that picture was taken. The memories are in yellow and grey. It had been the first day I had laid my eyes on Kate. The naivety in her eyes. The shyness in her smile. The way she constantly looked at Bobby adoringly.
“It never gets easy,” Bobby says. “I’m not used to quiet nights. Mal always woke us up at night and Katie would go to him. These days I stay awake, unable to sleep…”
I sense he needs to talk, so I sit. He sits as well, his oversized t-shirt falling to his sides and slightly resting on the chair. He tells me about his regrets and how he wants to undo the things he did to Kate. It isn’t the first time I’m hearing him speak about these things but I don’t mind. His grief is my grief. This is what we do for friends.
Six cans of beer later and light conversation over an entirely different topic, I leave Bobby and head home. Honey is just getting in from work as I drive in. She waits for me outside the front door. I give her a kiss on her cheek. Jiney stretches her arms to me and I carry her.
“I bought dinner,” I say. Honey nods. She is exhausted.
“How is Bobby?” she asks, unlocking the front door.
“He’s pulling through. He sends his gratitude.”
“He liked the clothes?”
She opens the door and lets us in. The house is messy. One look, and Honey’s shoulders slouch.
“You think maybe it’s time you let Nne get you that maid she’s been talking about?”
Honey kicks the door shut and rests her back on it.
“You can’t do this alone, baby. And Ndidi is mostly at the Ditorusins these days.”
“After you made things uncomfortable for her,” Honey accuses.
“I am not in support of whatever is happening between her and Oba.”
“Nothing is going on. She told you and yet you gave her hell over it.”
“Sugams, let’s not get into that talk this night.” I kiss her nose. “Go and shower. I’ll change Fumi and set dinner.”
“Thank you. By the way, Bright and Bimpe just flew in.”
“They’ll be staying at Bobby’s.”
Honey’s eyes go sad. I don’t want them to but there’s nothing I can do about it. She’s been as miserable as everyone else. All of us have had to move on with life, forcing ourselves to accept that our loss cannot be undone. The shock of losing Peace and Kate is yet to wear out. For Honey, it pushes her back to the place of depression but daily she fights it by throwing herself into work and spending time with the Onuora wives or Genesis. Even though she doesn’t tell me, I know she feels guilty somehow. Just for the fact that Peace and Kate were her friends.
Thus, she denies herself the pleasures she used to indulge in. Sex, especially. We almost made love the other night, having not touched each other since Peace and Kate died. But Honey couldn’t go through with it.
She told me it just didn’t feel right.
And nothing else feels right around her these days either. If I don’t cook or buy food, she would starve herself. Jiney is now fully on formula, something I don’t particularly approve of. But I don’t worry over these things. I have suffered loss too, and I lost myself. More than anyone, I understand what is going on with my wife.
“Dinner in bed or the dining table?” I ask Honey after I am done putting Jiney to sleep and cleaning the living room.
“Anyone,” she answers, slipping into a short kimono. A gift from Peace. She wears it every night.
I set dinner in the living room. We sit on one of the couches and eat slowly until the food turns cold and loses its taste. Honey puts hers away, pecks my cheek and makes to stand up but I pull her back. She doesn’t object. We snuggle in. It feels good to hold her again after all this time.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
My husband’s new car smells of leather that irritates me. He says the car is mine but I’m not willing to start driving yet. I don’t think I’ll ever be. And the idea of having someone chauffeur me around doesn’t appeal to me. But I guess it’s no different from using an Uber.
“I’m cold.” I rub over the gooseflesh on my arms. Kene turns off the air conditioner and lets down the windows. He’s bumping his head to music from the speakers. Some hip-hop tune I have no care for.
I fix my eyes outside to see buildings and people fly past as we drive home. The sun is setting. The dullness that usually comes with January sips into the car and worsens my mood. Kene says life has resumed in Lagos but I see no sign of it. Just greyness. The Harmattan, having played a hide a seek game for so long, has decided to settle for just the dust, taking the cool weather away. These days, the sun burns outside in the afternoons. But what do I care? I have been indoors since my dearest Peace left this world. Nothing much matters to me.
“Hey, sexy mommy.” Kene rubs my tummy. I try to smile but my lips don’t move.
“Come on, Tomiwa. We can’t do this right now. Haba. This is a good day nau.”
I don’t respond to him. He shrugs and goes back to his music. I refocus my stare outside. Kene and I are returning home from the hospital, having just confirmed that we are expecting a baby. The signs have been there for a while but I’ve not been in the frame of mind to run a test. Tired of my attitude towards the whole thing, he dragged me away from my friends an hour ago and forced me into the car for a trip to the hospital.
Seven weeks pregnant, the doctor told me. If I go by my menstrual cycle, the timing would coincide with the moment Peace showed up at my doorstep and let me in on the big secret she was carrying – a four-month pregnancy. I had done everything to get her to tell who the baby daddy was but she kept her lips sealed.
“Reno did not miraculously become fertile sha?”
“Why would you think Reno is responsible?” she asked, confused, and then burst out in a pitchy laugh. “No, Ray and I are not doing anything. We were helping each other earlier this year but we’re just good friends.”
“But you told us…”
“That I was done with men, yes. But May, this guy just happened from nowhere. Two months ago, he was just a friend.”
“And now, you’re pregnant for him… And lying to everyone that you’re celibate.”
“Are you judging me?”
“We had sex only two nights in a row.”
“And you didn’t take pills because…?”
Her quiet eyes looked upwards and when she lowered them, she said to me, “I want this baby, May. Even if it never works out between me and this guy. I’m ready for a life with no man but one with kids. I’m thirty-seven. I don’t want to get old, waiting for someone to make my dreams come true. It’s best that I start preparing for my future now.”
“You remember we spoke about this last year? That if we never find men, we’ll have kids?”
“You found a good man, May. I think that maybe I have too – I’m not sure – but I won’t dwell on that. This baby makes me very happy.”
“Just tell me who this guy is.”
“No.” She moved back.
“Do I know him?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“That means I know him. Oya describe him small.”
She flashed white teeth. “Buff, quiet, and he has a baritone.”
“Okay, I’m officially lost. I give up.”
“Don’t go running your mouth to anybody. Especially Celia. That one will just give me grief over it.”
I gave her my word that I’ll keep her secret. “But you know your tummy will one day show and everyone will know.”
She laughed again, asking me why I was rhyming. I had shaken my head to her statement.
She placed a hand on my tummy. “This night, make love to your husband and you’ll take in.”
I hit her hand off, hissing. “Ose, madam prophetess.”
“You don’t want to receive anointing abi?”
“The one that Celia passed on to me never do?”
“You don’t want twins?”
I shook my head. You people should carry your anointings and be going jor.
“Just sha sow seed for it to take effect sharp-sharp.”
I smiled at her and felt genuinely happy that she was in love and pregnant. I understood her reasons for using Reno as a cover and giving everyone the impression that she was done with men. She simply wanted to be safe in case things with her new beau never worked out. But I had been hopeful they would, seeing that she was full of jokes, happier, freer. She never looked like time was running out for her…
“Tomiwa, we’re home.”
Ekene’s hand is on mine. I am suddenly aware of my surroundings. Cars are parked in the wide berth we call our compound. This evening we hold a wake for my darling Peace. Everyone will be in attendance. In fact, the girls have been here all afternoon, putting together small chops and ensuring all that is needed is made available. It’s going to be a heartbreaking affair but hopefully, everyone will find closure.
For me, Kene says reality will dawn on me, finally. This is because I am yet to accept that my best friend is gone. Yet to shed a tear. I don’t know how to explain it. I know she is dead but I can’t accept it. I fear that the moment I cry, it would mean that she is really not coming back. And I want to keep her alive because she still breathes and lives in me. I don’t want to let go.
Kene has been worried; everyone else has been. But I tell them I’m fine. When Jide visited me last week to have a talk with me over my inability to express my grief, he asked if I knew that Peace was gone forever. I replied that I did but the truth was I didn’t understand a word of anything he said.
People do not just go like that. Peace will come back. It’s okay to cry for her but they will soon see that she will be back.
“You don’t want to go in?” Kene breaks into my thoughts again. “Abi you wan make I carry you like egg because I give you belle ?” he teases, drawing out the first smile from me in a month.
“Aww, she smiled.”
He leans over and kisses me. We step down from the car. He put his arm around me protectively as we walk to the house.
“I never thought I’d be happy about having a baby but I am,” he whispers. “I’d be dancing and shouting now but it would be inappropriate.”
I reply nothing.
“Thank you for adding that one last piece that completes me as a man.”
We enter the house and the first sight that meets our eyes is a huge framed photo of Peace. I swallow down a lump. I’m falling apart inside. This is becoming all too real for me.
“Let me go to the kitchen,” I tell Kene, pulling away. I hurry to the kitchen where Celia, Honey and Noka are adding finishing touches to the work they have been doing all afternoon.
“I’m back,” I announce.
“Where did you go?” Noka asks.
“Kene wanted me to escort him to pick some things,” I reply as I go for a drink of water from the fridge.
“All is set,” Celia informs me. She turns her back to Honey. “Abeg, help me check if this girl is sleeping.”
Dara is strapped on her back, having gotten into a fuss earlier for not being given a second serving of a chocolate cake I made. She then became clingy and Celia had no option than to fasten her to her back.
“You should stop backing her,” Noka advises. “You’re pregnant. You’ll put a strain on your abdominal walls. I don’t even understand how you can’t see that you’re flattening your breasts with all this backing.”
“Is it your backing?” Celia retorts. Noka goes silent. She is quiet these days. And it’s not just the fact that she’s mourning Peace. It’s mostly due to her marital situation. Ibro has forgiven her but has made it clear that she is in his life only as the mother of his kids. She is back in her house. Her first son from her ex now lives with her; Ibro has welcomed him into their lives. But that is all Noka is getting. On the outside she retains her snobbish, rich wife behavior but inside, she’s crumbling.
Honey helps Celia with Dara, taking her to one of the guestrooms downstairs. When she returns, she joins us in silence. None of us want to talk about Peace for fear of breaking down. And thus, we sit and listen to someone playing a piano somewhere in the house.
I make a comment about it.
“That’s Wura,” Honey reveals.
“Really?” I ask.
“I gave her a call just two days ago and told her about P and that we were doing something for her today. I asked if she would be kind enough to come over and sing. She readily agreed.”
“That’s so sweet.”
“She met P on the night of the love concert. Backstage. P was famzing.”
We hear a sound and Bimpe makes an appearance. There are hugs and broken smiles and greetings. We haven’t seen her in a year. She looks every bit the wife of a petrochemical engineer that she now is. I pull a chair for her to sit.
“So my P is really gone?”
Her eyes are red. One can tell she has been crying.
“I told Bright that I was done with the tears but when I saw Bobby and how much weight he had lost, I broke down. And now, I’m here with all of you. It makes it all real.” Tears course down her cheeks. “My baby is gone. She’s not coming back. What type of world is this?”
Honey takes her hand. “Bim, please be strong.”
“She called me on that day. She told me she was on her way to Ibadan and saw someone that looked like me on the road. She was asking if I’m sure I’m not the one. I said it’s not me jare. She was now pestering me to come back home for Christmas, that if not, she will put my nude photos on the web.” Bimpe smiled sadly. “And now, she’s no more.”
“God knows best,” Celia mutters.
Bimpe pulls her hand away from Honey’s and takes out her phone. “On my birthday, she sent me this voice message.”
My tummy tosses. I am not prepared to hear Peace’s voice. None of us are. I think we all have voice messages from her. It’s something she does on our birthdays. She will sing, drop a goodwill message and a prayer. I have not had the heart to listen to the one she sent to me.
“Bims, please don’t…” Celia begs, already in tears. Apart from me, she is the most hit by Peace’s passing.
Bimpe goes ahead and plays the recording. Unable to contain it, I leave the kitchen to the living room where I find Wura playing a tune on the piano she had obviously come along with. There is a couple I don’t recognize already seated on Kene’s favorite sofa. I guess they are Peace’s friends from church. Reno had made sure to invite a handful of them. He had also painstakingly decorated the place himself with flowers and wreaths, and also used candles as lighting.
I don’t recognize the song Wura is playing but it carries me away, filling me with precious memories of moments I shared with Peace.
Honey comes to where I am seated. She lowers herself on the armrest of the sofa beside me.
“Congratulations.” She smiles. “Kene told me about the baby.”
I rest my head on her laps and we both get lost in the lulling music. When the living room begins to fill, I don’t notice. But I become alert when Honey drags me to the sofa and places me between herself and Kene.
Music plays on, everyone gets the chance to speak about Peace. With every second that passes, reality sneaks in. And it is only when Reno gives his heart-wrenching eulogy that I start to come to terms with the fact that I will never see Peace again.
I look up from staring blankly at my laps.
“It’s your turn.”
Clearly, they have saved me for last. Concerned eyes are all on me. I have not prepared for this. I have nothing written. But speak, I must, even though I can’t hold myself anymore. I feel a storm coming on.
“Peace…” I begin and lose steam straightaway. They all wait for me to continue but I can’t. Words fail me. I feel Kene’s hand on my lap, gently stroking.
The silence continues until it seems like I would not say anything at all. Only then do I find my voice. It comes out in a song. I am no Wura when I sing but I don’t care; I just let it all out.
My best friend I love you
I’m asking through the tears
That God will grant me wisdom
Way beyond my years
Because your life is precious
And the best for you is in store
I pulled upon my heartstrings
Until they finally tore
At this point, I feel like my heart is a ton of lead. It sinks within me and out of it springs tears that have been seeking for release. I break off and Wura takes over.
And I prayed, and I cried
And because I love you so, I’m letting go
To trust the one, I know for sure
I’ll place you in the father’s hands
The only one who’ll ever love you more
Kene holds me as I cry. The pain is so deep that the same voice I just found is lost again. Nobody utters a word to console me. My husband’s arms are my only comfort but even his soothing love is not enough to hold my heart.
And the hardest part of living
Is giving back what we’ve been given
Each gift of God is only yours and mine
For a time
And we laughed, and we cried
And how it hurts us so to let you go
So much life for you in store
We place you in the father’s hands
The only one who’ll ever love you more
I’m so broken that I just want to find somewhere I can lock myself in and cry for days. But they don’t let me. Kene holds me. Honey wipes my tears, and together we watch a video Reno has made of all the photo moments Peace shared with us. While my friends find succor in the footage, my pain digs deeper.
Kene finally frees me when I tell him I have to pee. I hurry out to the guest bathroom where I fall on the floor and weep. I don’t count the minutes but it seems I have stayed there too long. I hear Celia, asking me if I’m okay. I tell her I’m good. She leaves. I wash my face and step out.
I notice that the gathering is over and people are leaving. I don’t return to the living room. Rather, I go to the kitchen for another drink of water. I find the backdoor open. When I go to close it, I spot Joey sitting outside. I had seen him earlier, seated with Celia but paid no attention to him.
He turns around.
I expect to see his characteristic half smile but what I find is a passive face.
“Nice of you to come. I didn’t know you were in town.”
“I’ve been around for almost five months now. Didn’t Cee tell you?”
I shake my head. Celia stopped giving me updates on Joey the moment Kene proposed to me.
“Sorry for your loss,” he tells me. I nod. “It’s everyone’s loss, really. Peace was an amazing woman.”
I nod again.
“One day, we’ll heal from this.”
He gives his half smile.
“There’s small chops inside, in case you’re interested.”
“No, I’m fine. Thank you.”
I go back into the kitchen, pick a jug of juice from the fridge and begin back to the living room when something hits me. I put the pedal on my movement so hard that the jug almost slips from my hand.
Buff, quiet, and he has a baritone. I recall Peace’s words. I swirl around. Joey is still in my view but again he has gone back to staring into the void. I look at his face properly and notice that the passiveness I picked out is actually a sad expression. I know Joey so well to know that he never expresses his emotions.
Peace was an amazing woman…
Don’t go running your mouth to anybody. Especially Celia…
One day, we’ll heal from this…
Now, everything starts to make sense. On my wedding day, they had danced together. On her birthday, he had shown up briefly and gifted her a bottle of champagne.
I keep staring at him. Should I tell him that I know? Would it help if he knew that Peace was carrying his baby?
Am I even sure it’s him?
“Tomiwa!” someone calls. Joey looks at me. I grin, clutch the jug and turn back to the living room.
Some things are better left unsaid, best buried with the dead.
The song featured was Heartstrings by Lisa Bevill and Erin O’Donnell. Lyrics were modified