AUTHOR: OGECHI ALABI
Years had passed since Nkem came to America. She had completed her Master’s degree and then Demian suggested she does a doctorate in Economics so she would be busy. The course was going to take at least four years. She applied for it after consulting with her boss and colleagues about what value further education would add.
Dominic was still the only child they had. Nkem had tried to get pregnant but she was unsuccessful. Her mother-in-law believed it was stress from studies and caring for the family. Nkem was also getting worried but Demian didn’t care. He had a son and he had DNA results to prove he was his. He was ready to wait until Nkem gets pregnant again.
One of the problems the pregnancy wasn’t happening was because they were not having intimacy as often as they should. Both of them were sunk in their work that they had no time for sex most times. They only found the time over the weekends. They both didn’t mind and it worked perfectly for them.
The doctorate was going to take a minimum of four years. Nkem decided to work while she studied. She got a good job at the university. Demian supported her. Work and studies were tasking. They needed help. Nkem’s mother came to stay for six months and she went back. Nkem suggested Uloma comes to help out. She could do her Master’s and then get a job in America or go back to Nigeria whichever one she wanted.
Uloma was excited to relocate. Demian helped with the documentation for her application. Uloma came to join them on a student visa. Nkem couldn’t invite her because she had not formally applied for spousal immigration status. Demian had begged her to do it but she refused. She didn’t want to be sunk into the system. She desired to return to Nigeria, life there was boring to her. It was only Ada and Agnes that kept her company. She hadn’t made other friends and she didn’t need new friends.
Uloma arrived and immediately the difference was felt. She doted on Dominic from the beginning and they bonded nicely. Her university was close to Dominic’s daycare. She dropped him off and picked him up every day. Before they both returned from work, Uloma had made dinner and attended to Dominic. Demian couldn’t believe Uloma would do all this for nothing, but it wasn’t for nothing. Nkem paid her fees. For that, Uloma would have given her kidney if Nkem needed it. This was an opportunity of a lifetime.
Demian’s father had knee surgery. He was recovering and couldn’t travel to Nigeria for the Christmas holiday. The entire family decided to spend the Christmas holiday with Demian’s family. Demian went with Nkem, Dominic and Uloma. Nkem told Uloma to allow Dominic to stay with his grandmother, she enjoyed spending time with him. She had to warn her not to interfere in their relationship so his grandmother doesn’t come for her. Uloma understood perfectly.
On Christmas day, the rest of the extended family members trooped in. It was the same day Iyke, Demian’s brother could get time off work to visit with them. He recognised Uloma when he saw her and they got talking. Uloma felt alone in their midst of the family because they hardly interacted with her and she had a complex. Iyke paid attention to her. He invited her to the club he and his single cousins were going to that night. She didn’t have an outfit to wear for the outing so Nkem asked her to get something from a store nearby. She gave her her card to use.
Iyke took her and even helped her choose an outfit and a pair of shoes and a clutch purse. It was quite expensive. She planned to work and pay Nkem back for the amount. But Iyke paid. Uloma was surprised and she refused the gesture but he ignored her. She thanked him. She was glad she came with him because she would not have chosen those gorgeous outfits.
That night, she got dressed for the outing. Nkem saw the tag for the dress and screamed. Uloma told her Iyke paid for the clothes, three of them, two shoes and a purse. Nkem was relieved but at the same time wondering why he did it. Uloma believed he was being nice. She looked gorgeous. She had perfected her make-up skill while in Nigeria and could fix nails too. She took her time to look beautiful. She wore a wig for the outing. Demian gave her some cash in case she needed to buy anything or catch a cab home.
Iyke came to knock for her. Everyone was ready and waiting outside. The make-up took too long. Demian went downstairs with Iyke so Uloma could quickly round up. Uloma joined them outside. All the guys stared in disbelief. She looked amazing. The ladies were impressed. Iyke insisted she rides with him, he didn’t trust his cousins.
Iyke didn’t allow anyone to hit on Uloma. He told them he was following Demian’s instructions. The guys were not happy. Other guys at the club tried their luck but Iyke was only two metres away all the time. The club was fun but it would have been more fun if she didn’t have Iyke breathing down her neck.
The next outing was for the girls. Iyke wanted to tag along but they refused. They took Uloma with them. Uloma had the time of her life. She took several pictures and videos. Some guys took pictures with them which she posted. Iyke left on the 27th because he had to resume. He would be off on New Year’s afternoon and the following day. He asked Uloma for her number and gave her his. He sent her his social media handles and asked for hers. Uloma didn’t want them to be that close because he acted weird around her. He was very possessive. Since she came to America, this was the best time of her life she had had. She didn’t want anyone to spoil it for her.
Uloma also had a plan. Auntie Funke had told her to be wise when she gets there. She advised her to date only American citizens so she can get married to them and get her green card. “Don’t waste your time with guys that have nothing to offer. You are intelligent and beautiful. If you want to live abroad, I will advise you to do so legitimately. Your sister and her husband are upright people. Once your visa is about to expire, they will send you back to Nigeria. Don’t waste your two years visa. Get involved with someone who can help legalise your stay.” She took this advice seriously. She wasn’t attracted to the guys in university. The guys she met on this trip were good-looking, rich and citizens. She wanted something serious with one of them, but which of them? They were all showing interest but she had to be careful not to present herself as desperate. Nkem warned her about that too.
She went out some more with Iyke’s single cousins. They went for dinners, and parties and were generally enjoying the festive period. She took several pictures and posted them on her social media. Iyke called her and warned her off certain people. He told her once she does anything with them, everyone will hear about it. Some of his cousins were serial daters, they wanted to just hit and move on. He warned her to preserve her reputation. Warned her against drinking any drink she left unattended. She listened. She realised he was right. He warned her against one of his cousins and he was putting so much pressure on her. When she refused, he moved to another lady. It was fascinating to watch. They didn’t have a genuine interest in her.
Iyke came back for the new year. He hung out with his cousins and Uloma but he was no longer all over her as he was before. He gave her space. She found it strange and she also felt left out. She wondered if she offended him in any way. They chatted whenever he was free and it was always a jovial conversation. Why then was he cold towards her?
Demian, Nkem, Dominic and Uloma were flying back to their base on the third day of the new year. Ada and her family, and Agnes left immediately after the new year celebration. The house was decongested and cousins were no longer flowing in and out. Iyke asked Demian if he could take Uloma to see his place. Demian was surprised and asked if there was anything. Iyke wasn’t sure yet but he liked her. He said there was something innocent about her and she listened to advise. Iyke didn’t want his mother to know he was going out with Uloma. So he needed Demian to bring her out for him.
Demian asked Uloma to run an errand for him and put her in a cab. When she got there, Iyke was waiting for her. She was surprised. He wanted to show her his world. She was interested. They went together to the hospital where he worked. He introduced Uloma as a friend, not an in-law. She met some of the patients he was with before he came back on new year’s day. After the hospital visit, he took her to his apartment. It was a bedroom with a sitting room, bathroom and kitchen. It was nice and comfy. They walked to a diner around the corner to eat lunch. Uloma was wondering why Iyke was doing all this. Finally, he drove her to a place close to his father’s home, gave her a gift in a bag and then put her in a cab.
“Why not drop me at home?” she asked him.
“My mother will frustrate you today if she sees us together. I will like you to visit me whenever you can. Just let me know when you want to come.”
“Why? Why do you want me to visit you?”
“I like you. I like your person. You are interesting to be around. You have so much bottled up and I would love to watch it unfold. You are not trying hard to impress anyone and I like that a lot. I wish we could spend more time together but my schedule won’t permit it. If you don’t like me the way I like you, we can just be friends. I will never hold it against you. Think about it.”
It was confusing to Uloma. She kept the gift and didn’t open it until they were back at base. She wasn’t excited because he was Nkem’s brother-in-law and she didn’t want to make a mistake. She desperately didn’t want to cause problems for Nkem and her husband’s family. So she confided in Nkem and showed her the unopened gift. Nkem asked her to open it. Iyke gifted Uloma the latest iPhone that was just released. Uloma nearly fainted.
Nkem smiled. “From this gift, you would know he has more than a liking interest in you. I would have said explore it but I know his family. They would never understand he came for you; they will believe you seduced him. Iyke is a nice guy. Be friends and let him do the pursuing. Let him send the messages first and call you. Don’t be in a hurry to do anything with him including kissing him. Please, don’t disgrace me. I would rather you be with someone else but I like Iyke and I cannot stop you from being friends with him. If it develops into something else, we will take it from there. I am worried though, his mother must have arranged a wife for him. knowing Iyke, it might not work. She will hate you for it.”
Uloma thanked Iyke for the phone. She explained she just opened the gift and it was a surprise. He was happy she liked it. He asked her to activate it so they could facetime. She promised to do it. Iyke sent her messages and facetime her every day. It was as though he was closely marking his territory. Uloma was comfortable interacting with him. This went on for three months and then he requested for Uloma to visit. She declined. She said she was busy and had her hands full caring for Dominic.
“Are you scared of me?” Iyke asked her.
“Why would I be? Are you a monster?”
“Good. Are we good friends or we are still on maybe?”
‘We are good friends.” Uloma replied.
“Ok, I don’t want any awkwardness between us.”
The following week, he came to see Uloma. She was shocked when she opened to door and saw him. He came without notifying her although he told Demian.
“Aren’t you happy to see me?”
“It’s not that, you should have told me you were coming.”
“So you would ask me not to come? It is my day off and I decided to come and see you.”
Uloma was uncomfortable. She knew Nkem would be mad if she saw him at the apartment. She hadn’t done or said anything to encourage Iyke but he was coming strong. This was no longer friendship. She took her phone and sent a message to Nkem. Nkem told her to relax, she was on her way back.
Demian and Nkem returned. Iyke asked if he could take Uloma out and they could catch up. Demian agreed but Nkem told him clearly, “Your mother will not be happy about this. We both know I will suffer for this if she finds out.”
“My mother cannot tell me whom to date or not. She can’t decide for me whom to marry. She doesn’t know anything about me. If she finds out, it is because you told her. I like Uloma and I want to get to know her. I see the game she is playing and I understand your fears. I am for real and I genuinely like her. The only way we can know if we can be together is if we date and visit each other. Stop restricting her, allow her to be free with me. Please.”
He sounded so sincere that Nkem gave up. She asked Uloma to date him if she felt the same way he felt. They went out that evening. He took her to his hotel lobby and they talked for hours. He made his intentions known and was ready for her to feel the same way about him before they could become an item.
Uloma did not understand what he saw in her. She couldn’t speak like him, she could barely understand all he was saying because of his accent. She didn’t want the relationship because Nkem was enjoying peace in her marriage and no fights with her mother-in-law. This will cause an issue especially if they were hiding. And because of the problems envisaged, her heart hadn’t spoken to her about her true feelings. So, she asked that they continue with what they had until her heart was ready.
“It won’t be long,” he said to her.
They continued their friendship and he visited three more times.