AUTHOR: OGECHI ALABI
Nkem was back in Nigeria the following week. She resumed work and left Dom with Zainab and her children during the day and picked him up at the close of work. He had such a good time. Nkem was so relieved he had good company. She took him to see her mother in the east. She was still upset with Nkem but she gladly received her grandson.
The house in the village had changed. Chidindu has asked for contributions to rebuild the house so that when they returned they had a befitting home. Nkem had not visited the village for a long time while she was married, and Demian didn’t want to come home. Since she returned, she avoided the village. She went this time because Dom asked to see her mother.
Chidindu had built an edifice. Her mother occupied the downstairs while the other floors were at various stages of completion. Nkem was happy with the work done thus far. She took pictures and sent them to her brothers. She was still on talking terms with them. She stayed for three days and she came back to Abuja to prepare to take Dom back to the US.
She was at work one evening when she received a call from reception that she had a visitor. She wondered who it was. She went to the reception to check who it was because the name didn’t sound familiar. She met Demian with another man. It was the man that requested to meet with her in a guise. Nkem wanted to work away but Demian stopped her.
“I was in Nigeria so I came here to see you and Dom,” Demian explained.
“You should have asked for me.”
“And have you refuse to see me? You blocked my number. I just needed to talk to you. Please, let’s just talk.”
“I am still at work. I will let you know when I close from work and where we will meet.”
“I am not leaving here without you. We’ll wait until you close from work. I think that is fair.”
Nkem wondered what Demian wanted. She called Zainab and told her she would be late picking Dom up because something came up. Zainab agreed to take care of him until she could pick him up. Immediately after she closed from work, she came out of the building. Her driver drove to where she stood to pick her up. Demian and his friend were right behind her vehicle. She didn’t know where to go so she asked Sodik and he recommended a place where they could have grilled fish and drinks and talk away from the crowd.
Her driver drove there and dropped her off. She waited for Demian and his friend to disembark and they walked to a place far away from the crowd.
“Do you remember my friend Martins? He brought some gifts to you when we were dating.”
“I remember. Are you back in Nigeria?” Nkem asked.
“I lost my father and we came back for the burial. Demian said he wanted to see you and I have businesses in Abuja so we came together. It is nice meeting you again, you haven’t changed much physically. You are still very beautiful”
Demian cleared his throat and Martins excused them to place their order for them.
“So, why do you want to see me?” Nkem asked.
“I miss you. I miss you so much. I messed up and I am sorry. Let’s work on this. I can stay in Nigeria for three months.”
“Too late. What happens to Ndidi in your apartment?”
“She will stay with my mum.”
“How does that make sense? When you go back, she will come back home. So what is the difference?”
“You haven’t been a saint either. You have dated other men apart from me so we’re even.”
“Really? Did I sleep with any man while we were married? Did I ever try to deceive you to gain some sort of advantage? Demian, I don’t know what you planned to achieve by this visit but it is dead on arrival.”
“It is just that I miss you. Can’t I miss you and want to see you?”
“Will you leave Dom to live with me and you can have him during the holidays?”
“We can work on that.”
“Put it in writing. When your lawyer prepares the agreement and both of you sign it then give it to my lawyer so I can sign and she signs and submits it to the court. We get the acceptance of the court then we can talk. Until then, there is nothing to talk about.”
“So you don’t trust me?”
“Once bitten, twice shy.”
“I get you. I have messed up in the past. The truth is, I want you back. Please forgive me and rethink. I want you to be a part of my life. Ndidi is asking for marriage or she will leave. My mother wants me to marry her but I don’t want to. She is nice and all that but she is becoming smarter. She wants to study?”
“What is wrong with that?” Nkem asked.
“Mum says if she furthers her education or gets her ‘stay’ she will no longer do my bidding or respect me.”
“And you believe her? I mean your mother.”
“It has happened before.”
“But is it fair to her? Is she to slave for you and have nothing in return? Your mother is a slave driver and you are encouraging her. Ndidi has taken good care of Dom to be is treated badly. Let her go back to school. She should have gotten pregnant by now, what happened?”
“You have forgotten I am a sickler, the quality of my sperm depreciates with age.”
“Then have the baby via IVF. Keep her busy with something. Don’t listen to your mother and spoil a beautiful relationship.”
“I don’t love her, it is you I love.”
“The feeling isn’t mutual. I have to pick up Dom, it is getting late.”
“I never thought there would be a time you would not want me.”
“I never thought there would come a time when you will choose your mother over me. When what your mother says influences our home. When big butt and boobs will make you forget your vows and you will lie to get between my legs. Should I continue?” Demian was quiet and then she concluded, “I didn’t think so.”
“I like your vehicle. It must be expensive. Does it come with the job?”
“It is not mine, it belongs to my friend’s uncle who allows his driver to pick me up and drop me off after work. I can’t afford a car like that when I have to make several trips to the US.”
“I will take Dom back, you can change the dates on your ticket if they are transferable. I honestly do miss you and soon you will know how much I love you. Take care of yourself.”
Nkem got Dom ready for his trip back to the US. She called Martins (she exchanged numbers with him) who sent her the address of where he was residing. It was a nice house at Gwarimpa. She didn’t want to stay. She dropped Dom off and was about to leave when Demian came out. He hugged his son and then faced Nkem.
“Don’t rush off, I got something for you. I always change your phones and other gadgets. I have them here for you. You can have them.”
“Thank you but I can’t take them.”
“No strings attached. I just want to do things for you. You said something that struck me about Ndidi. I will do the needful. Have them.” Martins took the bag from Demian and went outside with Dom so they could be alone, “Please hug me. That’s all I want, a hug. I have missed you so much.” He hugged her tight. She didn’t want this. He kissed her neck and tried to kiss her mouth but she turned away and wriggled out of his embrace. Dom came into the house and Demian had to stop. Nkem quickly exited before they could take Dom away. She hugged Dom outside, thanked Martin and then she left.
Demian sent her several messages with Martin’s phone. “We still have feelings for each other. I miss you so much. I can’t think straight anymore. This is what you do to me. If you come around I will postpone this trip. I have instructed my lawyer to do what you want, I just want you. Once Ndidi is settled, you can come back home to spend time with me. Your contract is over, what are you still doing in Nigeria? Baby, you are not responding.” Nkem blocked the messages. She was so pissed off. She knew he didn’t do any of those things he said. He wanted her back in America. She didn’t have the heart to tell him they had renewed her contract for five years.
Funke received a call from her mother in the middle of the night. She was scared something might have happened to her father. That was not the case. It was uncle Tobi. He was shot by highway robbers and left at the scene. He managed to call Funke’s mother because he spoke with her that evening. He told her where he was. It was a highway and there were no vehicles late that night.
Funke called Nkem. She told Nkem everything. She asked Nkem to call the driver to take her to the scene in the company of an ambulance and policemen. Nkem quickly dressed. The driver arrived ten minutes later. The policemen were at the gate too. They left in a convoy. By the time they got to the scene, the ambulance was there trying to resuscitate him. Nkem was scared. She asked one of the paramedics and he confirmed uncle Tobi was still alive.
She followed the ambulance in her vehicle to the hospital while giving Funke updates. They got to the hospital and uncle Tobi was attended to. He was rushed into the theatre. Nkem couldn’t stay close to him because she was scared. She was visibly shaken. Sleep eluded her. She called her mother, her brother, Esther and Zainab so they will all be in prayers. They prayed non-stop until he came out of the theatre. He was still alive. He was taken to the ICU. They removed five bullets from his body and none of the bullets hit a major organ and did minimal damage. He lost a lot of blood and was weak. It sounded strange. How can someone survive after being shot and having five bullets penetrate his body?
Nkem’s mother packed her bags to come to Abuja. She wanted to stay and take care of uncle Tobi since his wife was not around. The wife wanted Nkem’s number but Funke didn’t give it to her. She was upset the woman wasn’t around to take care of her sick husband. Funke and her mother left on the first flight from Lagos that morning. Nkem stayed by uncle Tobi’s side.
When uncle Tobi woke up, he saw Nkem. He smiled at her. He lifted his hand and touched hers which startled her. She quickly went to get the nurses. They came to check on him. They removed the oxygen mask. He was in pain so they sedated him again. He went back to sleep. Nkem stayed there not sleeping. She was just thankful he didn’t die. The police stationed two officers by his door. Nkem was to approve who could come in.
Later that morning, Funke and her mother arrived. Before noon, Nkem’s mother was there. Nkem excused herself and went home to sleep, take a bath and change. She slept for a few hours and then she made some food for those in the hospital. As she entered, she could see uncle Tobi had woken up. He looked better. He was being transfused with blood. His colour had changed. The way uncle Tobi looked at Nkem was suspicious. Nkem looked away. He tried to catch Nkem’s eyes but she avoided eye contact. Funke was watching them. She knew something was either going on or something happened because when he woke up, he asked for Nkem. They were all surprised. Funke told him she went home to freshen up. Why would he ask for her? They were both hiding something.
Funke, her mother and Nkem’s mother ate the food and Nkem cleared the empty plates and cooler. The hospital insisted that only one person could stay with uncle Tobi at night. Funke asked the older ladies to leave so that she would take turns with Nkem. Her mother was sceptical but Nkem’s mother assured her that Nkem is like a daughter to him. The two women left with Nkem’s driver to uncle Tobi’s house. The driver came back to pick up Nkem.
Funke talked to Nkem in the presence of uncle Tobi, “I don’t know what is going on but I will advise you not to be together when those two women are around. They will pick whatever it is. I will stay for tonight, you will take over tomorrow. I know some of my uncles and aunts will be here tomorrow. Come in the evening.”
Nkem looked at uncle Tobi and asked, “How are you feeling?”
“I feel better. Don’t worry about me, I will be fine,” he replied with a smile on his face.
“Are you sure?” Nkem asked. She had tears in her eyes she had been holding since the incident. They dropped. Funke was mesmerised. They acted as though she wasn’t even there.
“I promise you, I am well. I am not dying. No one can kill me.”
“I told Mr Osuji what happened and he gave me some time off. I can work from anywhere. I can be at the hospital lobby if you need me. Just get better, please.”
Uncle Tobi smiled, “I am fine.”
Nkem left. She was in tears by the time she entered the vehicle. She couldn’t understand why she was crying. It took her a while to see things for herself. Uncle Tobi had always been her pillar. What would she do without him? Regardless of the incident, he had always supported her and her family. He has always been that constant person in her life when the need arises. She would be lost if something happened to him.
Funke didn’t allow uncle Tobi to rest. She wanted to know what was up. He told her there was nothing. Funke didn’t believe him. She wanted to know. She waited until uncle Tobi was asleep then she called Nkem. Nkem started crying again. She said uncle Tobi has been there for her through thick and thin. She was just crying and talking nonsense. Funke gave up at this point. She knew one day whatever it is will be exposed.
Nkem took over the following night. Funke went to sleep in Nkem’s apartment. Nkem made sure uncle Tobi was comfortable. She asked the nurses questions and also the doctor on duty. Uncle Tobi was full of smiles. “What you are doing now is what I always wanted from you,” he said to Nkem.
“And what is that?” Nkem asked him.
“Love and attention. I have your undivided attention. You want to make sure I am well taken care of. I know if my sister and your mother were not here you would have stayed with me all day. I like that”
Read – Fate of love episode 8 – 9
“I will resume work next week but I can still spend the night.”
“Why don’t you show me this side of you when I am ok? Are you scared I will pounce on you? I won’t. I just want to be appreciated by you, that’s all.”
“I always appreciate you.”
“Not the way I want. I want you to be closer. If you were close to me, that incident wouldn’t have happened.” He was referring to Manuel’s incident
“Can we change the subject?” his phone rang and Nkem saw it was his wife. “Your wife is calling, would you like to take it?”
“No. Don’t answer it. Send her a message as though I am sending it. Say I am fine and she shouldn’t worry.”
“Funke told me she is in Canada now with the children. Did you have a falling out?”
“She wanted to move abroad and I allowed her. She took my children, and I didn’t quarrel with her. I take care of them. What more does she want?”
“You know she loves you.”
“You are funny. Do you think she went to Canada just to go to Canada? She went because of someone. She knows I am aware and I have freed her. She wanted freedom, she has it. She wanted citizenship, she is on her way to getting it. What else? If I insisted on keeping the children, how would I cope with the nature of my job? That’s why I said you should leave Dom with his father, the man will take very good care of his only child. Face your career and make money. His family has seen you don’t need them and they are amazed. Don’t mix emotions with business. You didn’t need to divorce Demian, he is a good guy. He played games, and we all played games. He wanted you to stay back with him. I felt your skills and talent were wasting over there and I was right. You were the only one who was renewed for five straight years and I didn’t influence it. You are highly intelligent and work with passion. How many people can do that? You would have wasted that teaching in a university that will never value you.”
“You should have stopped me from divorcing him. You should have said something. I needed you at that point but you were not there.”
“Did you call me? Did you ask for my opinion? Did you seek advice from me? I told you I would not intrude and I kept to my word.”
“You make it sound as though I failed. I was upset with Demian and his mother. Demian wants to reconcile with me. He is adamant about it. He sends me emails. I gave him my conditions but he is unable to implement them.”
“He can’t because the lawyer is from his family. You have to be smart. Leave the relationship as it is and see each other when you come for your son. You can leave your boy there and visit them for a month. Even work from there. Make up with him so you don’t fall prey to unscrupulous elements like Manuel. He also liked you. He had no intention of releasing those pictures and videos. He did them for his viewing pleasure when you were not around. You were the only one he videoed. He must have been admiring his skillset when satisfying you.”
“Stop it! Let us not talk about Manuel. I needed something new and I didn’t want to go back to Demian. I have avoided being alone with Demian because he knows I will give in. I am used to him.”
“Who was better between the two of them?” uncle Tobi asked jokingly.
“You know I won’t answer that. I still have feelings for Demian and he has for me. Maybe we could make it work. Let’s see. I will take your advice and I will come to you more often than I did in the past. Also, I will appreciate you for all you do for me. After God, I have you to thank for what I am today.”
“I am glad to hear that, that is if you don’t run away.”
“I won’t. Just don’t die on me. Please. Because I will have no one. I would rather be the one to die than it be you.”
“Don’t ever say that!” uncle Tobi cautioned her. “I can go at any time but trust me, you will survive. It is in you to survive. I am not a god, I am human like you. We are alike but you allow emotions to override your judgement. When you learn to separate them, you will be just like me.”
“I am willing to learn.”
“Start with Demian. Open communication with him. Once he knows there is hope, he will run back to you.”
“Hmm, I encouraged him to send his girlfriend to school. What will he do with her?”
“The girl left. She left because she caught their game. He hadn’t fallen ill so she was there as a nanny to his son. She insisted on getting paid or leaving. She left. Her documents are with his mother and there have been fights. When was the last time you spoke with her?”
“It has been a while. I will call her.”
The nurse came into the room and cut short the conversation so that uncle Tobi could sleep. Nkem sat on the couch. She worked for some hours before she fell asleep. She woke up to a noise from Funke and her mother. They came by 9 am but Nkem and uncle Tobi were still asleep. Nkem left for her home after the doctor saw uncle Tobi. He said his wounds were healing nicely and he would be discharged soon. This was good news.
Nkem went back home. Funke was there waiting for her. She shared the good news with Funke. That was when Funke had a heart-to-heart conversion with Nkem.
“Uncle Tobi is charming, I know. He makes things happen. He does things for people without asking for anything in return. That’s why I worry about your relationship with him. It feels different. Both of you speak ordinary words but I can feel the depths of those words. Uncle Tobi is still married, he will never divorce his wife. They have children together who he loves. Just tread softly with him.”
“You got it all wrong. Funke, we have no relationship except for the help he rendered to me. I just realised he is my support system. He asked me to make up with Demian, he told me last night. He said I made a mistake divorcing him. Demian still loves me and I love him too. The lawyer was from his parents that was why he couldn’t do otherwise. He looks out for me, if he is gone, who will?”
Funke was quiet. She was still suspicious but more suspicious of uncle Tobi than Nkem. Uncle Tobi was wiser and more streetwise than Nkem who had been shielded all her life. She refused to be exposed. Demian was and still is a haven for her. She didn’t think Nkem should have agreed to the divorce but now it is done, she believes that the ship had sailed. She knew Demian would want everything back to the status quo. He will pressurise Nkem to give up her dreams. They had experienced a more vibrant Nkem since she came back. Her career helped expose her. She visited over ten countries and mingled with people from different countries during those trips. Manuel was a mistake but the guy liked her. There is a man who will still love her with her dreams and help her fulfil them. Demian wasn’t the man. Funke didn’t trust him to stay loyal. She didn’t trust him to love her and her career. And she explained it to Nkem.
“Don’t rush back to him yet, take baby steps. Try and spend some time together and see how it goes. Don’t make any sacrifices so he would know your routine and see if he can fit in. Demian is a mama’s boy. Until he leaves her strings he will not let go.”