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Home Post 10059-chapter-52

10059-chapter-52

*Nwanyieze’s POV*

I should have known that seeing him again would undo me. It had felt like being doused with ice cold water from my head to my toes. The guilt I had tried so hard to suppress had burst like a huge bubble, but had instead produced a million smaller bubbles. It had taken all my strength to remain standing on my shaky legs.

He had been equally shocked, the way his eyes had roamed over me like, ‘Is this really you, Nwanyieze?’

And I had never felt so shameful, watching him watch me and wondering if he knew that Saheed and I… When he had tried to follow me, I had felt like the biggest scam in the world. What was he following me for? What did he want to say to me, after all I had put him through?

He has been doing well. I should know, because I have been following him up after his interview with Agric Digest. I have been on his social media pages, watching his updates. I have read more of his interviews and articles in newspapers and magazines, smiling at how he tells the story of his life and his love for agriculture, and I remain grateful that he has never mentioned me to the public.

“Are you feeling better?”

I swallow and clear my emotions from my face before turning towards the owner of the voice. Saheed is walking towards me with a cup of hot tea, concern on his handsome features. He has insisted on visiting me in my Ikorodu residence to ‘care’ for me because I have been ill for over a week now. Frankly, I have no strength to contend with him by refusing, because Saheed is ready to tear down the gates and terrify the neighbours until he sees me.

“It’s the mosquitoes in this place,” he had said in disgust upon arrival about fifteen minutes ago. “Why you live here, I don’t know. I have offered you a place on Banana Island but you won’t take it.”

I had said nothing, walking back to lie on my bed in the one bedroom apartment.

“Sip gently,” he tells me now.

“Thank you.”

My expression of gratitude surprises him, but he recovers immediately and nods. I turn away from him, and continue to stare out my only window. The view isn’t breathtaking- I am not interested in the lizards moving across the yard, or the two birds perched on the fence, or the few worn out clothes on the public line in the corner of the front yard. My mind is drifting again, calling out towards the one person I know I can never have.

“You’re still thinking of him.”

“Of who, Saheed?”

“Maduka.”

Funny, none of us has ever mentioned his name until now. After our encounter at the hotel, Saheed had come to my place and handed me my phone, saying nothing. I hadn’t said anything, either. We had gazed at each other silently for a few moments and that was all.

“Maduka,” I repeat. His name on my tongue feels pleasantly familiar, like starving and remembering the delicious taste of an unforgettable meal you had eaten long ago.

Saheed sighs and stands up from my bed. He begins to pace from one end of my room to the other, hands in his pockets. I watch him for a few seconds, wondering how I had put myself in this.

What had I been thinking, getting into this with him? After the dramatic split with Maduka, it was like I had gone numb. I knew I would be hurt, but it was beyond what I could handle, and so I had made myself stop feeling, had made deliberate attempts to avoid people in general. I felt unwanted, dirty, useless. I didn’t want to infect anyone with my misery, and that was why I had discarded my phone number for a new one and moved out, away from Mama Uju, Adanna, the city and to Ikorodu.

Saheed had found me. Somehow, he got my number and called one day. He didn’t gloat, he simply stated facts that made sense to me.

“Did Maduka search for you like I did?” he had asked.

“What do you want, after trying so hard?”

“A chance at us. Queen, even you have acknowledged that I have tried so hard. You have nothing to hide from me, I know everything about you and still think you’re worth my attention.”

“I don’t want to h@ťě you, but is this supposed to make me feel better?”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I handled things badly. I shouldn’t have bullied you the way I did. But look at the bright side, Queen. You have no more secrets. Don’t you feel a bit lighter? And if he wanted you, wouldn’t he have chased after you that night?”

No, I do not feel lighter. It’s like I’m still underwater. What difference does it make, if I’m at the bottom of the Lagoon tied to one rock instead of two? Am I not still drowning? And I don’t want to think about him, I had thought.

“Think about it. Take your time, I’ll be waiting patiently.”

It was hell, feeling nothing during the day but lying alone at night, wide awake, and crying silently while watching memories of my past in my mind. The look in his eyes when I revealed my secret had nearly crippled me with shame. It had been disbelief at first, then shock, and then, ultimately, sadness and disappointment.

Just when I had started feeling wanted, needed, it all disappeared in a matter of minutes- and it was my fault, just like it had been my fault when Dad had R@P£D me countless times because I had wanted it, because I was a beautiful girl, as he had complimented me. It was my fault because I had worn shorts the first day, the same shorts that Mum had bought for me on one of her trips to the market.

It’s always my fault, even when I can’t control everything.

My suffering was my fault because it shamed me to think of what Maduka would say, and so I had kept my truth to myself. And now, it’s my fault for choosing Saheed over my misery, for wanting to be wanted instead of feeling lonely. Even with my lack of emotions for him, even with my indifference towards him, something about him gets to me. It’s physical, it’s mental, and it’s complicated, and it might be sick.

He reminds me of Dad, who had told me I was beautiful, that I was lucky because he wanted me, me and no one else.

But you’re not a little girl or a teenager. Don’t you get to make your own choices now?

The thought makes me laugh out loud.

“What’s funny?” Saheed questions.

My gaze focuses on him, standing tall before me, dressed in a dark green silk shirt neatly tucked into brown trousers. His patent brown leather shoes gleam dully in the morning light. You’d think he stepped into the wrong neighbourhood if you saw us now, especially with me dressed in a pair of old denim shorts and an oversized shirt, a shirt that had belonged to Maduka. My hair, free from wigs and other forms of extensions, is in a simple puff on my head.

His light brown eyes hold me in thrall. Yes, something is also wrong with this one, just like something is wrong with me. While I acknowledge my demons, he hides his, and only shows it when he can’t help it- like when he had kissed me forcefully at Quilox because I had said no to him, like when he had held me against my will at Sailors Lounge, like when he had pinned me to the bed while trying to drive a point home…

“What happened to you, Saheed?”

He raises a full brow at my question. “Answering a question with a question?”

“Who hurt you in the past?”

He looks taken aback by my question. “Are you okay, Queen?”

I hide my smile and turn away from him to continue my window-gazing while sipping my tea. His hand grips my shoulder and he makes me face him.

“I should have known.”

“Known what?”

“You’re not over him.”

“I loved him. You must have seen it, but you thought I was faking it.”

His brows come together. “Loved?”

“Do you even know what that is?”

Saheed raises his hands and sighs. “I thought I did.”

“Have you ever thought of a person and felt happy? Ever thought of how good they are to you, and felt whole?”

“If it’s about him, I’m not having this discussion with you.”

“But you started it. You mentioned him.”

“Only because you can’t stop thinking about him these days! You seemed to have wiped him off and suddenly, after seeing him at the hotel, he’s all you think about while you mope around!”

I have upset him now, but something in me doesn’t let me back down. Usually, I get to him with monosyllabic replies but today, I want to talk and let loose. I get to my feet so I can look him in the eye.

“I stopped talking about him because it hurt, Saheed. That is what happens to you when you lose someone you love. It hurts.”

His eyes narrow and I watch his hands become fists. “You said you loved him.”

“Does it matter? Does it end my misery? Loved, love, wh@ťěver tense I use, it doesn’t matter!”

“Of course, it doesn’t matter because he does not want you. If he did, he would have found you by now. And haven’t you seen his photos with that journalist?”

The statement feels like a slap. My backside makes contact with my bed again. Saheed continues pacing round the room, hands clasped behind. He puts on a thoughtful expression, looking up at the ceiling like he’s trying to remember something important.

“What’s that her name again, sef? Agnes? Henrietta? Ah, yes…Agatha. A lovely, proper, old fashioned name. Agatha Okolo, journalist extraordinaire, recognised for her iconic interview with Maduka Obiagu. People say they make a perfect couple, darling.”

“Stop talking.”

“Wait, let me Google them. They have some really lovely photos on the internet.”

“Shut up!” I yell.

But he ignores me and whips out his smart phone. In a flash, I jump up and seize it from him before throwing it onto the bed. The motion causes my tea to spill onto my free hand, but fortunately it is no longer hot enough to scald my skin. I set the cup on the floor and rise to my full height.

“Since we’re being petty, I’m pleased to tell you, that I will never feel anything for you. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever,” I hiss.

For a moment, my remark shakes him but he recovers instantly. To my surprise, Saheed hooks an arm around my waist and pulls me against himself. We are face to face, breathing hard, staring at each other and refusing to back down.

“This is more passion than you’ve ever shown me for the past two months,” he whispers. “All because I mentioned a name.”

I refuse to show him how much this has affected me. He can’t see that I’m so close to breaking down, that I can’t bear the thought of Maduka with another woman, that I have seen the photographs and some pain-loving part of me had made me scroll and scroll through various articles for more pictures. He won’t see me weak anymore. I school my expression into a blank one.

What are you doing with this crazy man, Nwanyieze?

“And she retreats,” he jokes.

“I know you think one day I’ll experience an epiphany about you being my one true love…but Saheed, like poles repel. Didn’t you learn that basic fact in junior secondary school?”

His eyes take on a dangerous glitter, and something in the back of my mind warns me to take care, but I ignore it.

“Make every effort, but deep down, you know the truth. And when I’m tired of you, I’ll be gone. Your money won’t keep me, your exotic gifts and your prowess in bed won’t keep me. You got what you wanted from me and you should be satisfied. After all… that’s how people like me behave.”

“No. You’re not one of them.”

I burst into a fit of giggles. “You weren’t telling me this a few months ago.”

He grips my shoulders and shakes me. “You’re tormenting me. You’re enjoying this.”

I scoff and wrinkle my nose in disdain. “I’m only being truthful. I learned from you to call a spade a spade. Saheed, this will not last.”

He moves away from me like I have burned him. Without another word, Saheed turns and storms out of my small apartment, slamming the wooden door violently behind him. Alone, I exhale and finally let loose, collapsing to the floor in sobs, my hand over my mouth to stifle my screams.
______

*One year later…*

*Maduka’s POV*

“Sir, look this way, please.”

I obey the photographer, turning my head in his direction and giving a small smile. Hearing a series of clicks, my smile falters immediately, but seeing Agatha giving me a thumbs up from behind the man makes me rearrange my face.

“That will be all, right?” Agatha asks him.

“Yes, madam.”

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