I shouted from inside my house, “Femi, go away! I don’t ever want to see you again. And if you came back because you are feeling bad and want to apologize, it’s not needed. Just go!”
“Calm down Oyin!” Gloria shouted me down, and for some reason I could not understand, I actually became quiet and dropped my tantrum. By then she was at the door and she unlocked it.
At the doorway was Femi, looking huge but as unsure of himself as a toddler. He looked so vulnerable and something in my heart twitched. But my heart seems to have developed arthritis. These days, it doesn’t do so much gymnastics again.
“Femi, what is it? What do you want?” Toke queried.
I shot her a look that said: ‘This is my matter. Let me handle it’, and she jejelly backed down.
“Oo…o…oo…oyin,” Femi stammered.
I didn’t say a word. I just raised my eyebrows. All his suave smooth articulateness was gone.
“Oyin, I’m sorry, words cannot begin to describe…”
Toke could not hold herself back. “Okay, we get that you are sorry. If that is all, you can like to leave right about now.”
I didn’t bother to shoot her any looks this time because I felt exactly that way.
“Let me rephrase,” he began, sounding surer of himself now, as if he had braced himself for whatever was the worst that could happen. “I have not been able to stop thinking about you since I left Nigeria. And I actually tried not to. But my heart refused to stop going back to you.”
He had become bluntly honest about how he felt and it was slightly disarming. His head told him to let me go, expectedly, but somehow his heart didn’t listen. It sounded very familiar, like me. Something twanged again in my heart, albeit faintly.
Toke wanted to talk again but this time, I gave her ‘the look’ before she could. She got the message and slid back into her seat. Gloria had been the quieter of the two. Now she spoke up.
“Femi, all that is still stories that touch. What do you really want? To settle some more scores? To appease your conscience that you are a good person that apologizes for your wrong unlike the rest of us? Please, what is it you really want and cut the drama. We’ve seen enough drama to last a lifetime.”
Her words must have cut close to his heart, because his eyes seemed to light up with a fierceness that worried me. “No oo,” he said, shaking his head vigorously at Gloria. Then he turned to me, as if to say this was between just the two of us and not the panel that was interviewing him. “Oyin,” (it’s when men want to form mushy-mushy that they will be calling your name over and over again as if it’s going out of fashion, *rme*) “when I said earlier that in all those years in the US, I had still not been able to get over you, I wasn’t lying. It was true. You were the one and still are the only woman I’ve ever loved.”
“Femi, I have heard you,” I said in a calm voice that betrayed none of the storms that were going on in my heart with what he was saying. I gave a dismissive wave and turned as if to tell him the conversation was over and go into the room.
“I am not done yet,” he said. This time, all the uncertainty in his voice was gone and there was steel and sureness in it that now stopped me in my tracks.
I turned around and all three female eyes in the room became fixated on him, watching him intently, as if daring him to say whatever he wanted to say next. At that moment, someone rapped on my door (it seemed to have developed a knack for being knocked on at dramatic times. I’m sure Frank Edoho has nothing on my door with his advert breaks on Who Wants to be a Millionaire). Simultaneously, Toke’s phone rang. It was Lumi. Gloria had become our doorman and she went to get the door. Lumi came in, eyes red, not looking as clean as the Lumi I had met the previous day. He looked Gloria over with venom and then came into the room without a word of greeting to her.
Without taking a care as to what was happening in the room before he came in, he spoke to Toke like we were all not there. “I’m calling the engagement off,” he said, straight off. “I have thought about it from all angles and I have come to the conclusion that it cannot work.”
Toke became hysterical. In that moment, Femi and I took the backstage in the drama unfolding in my sitting room. She shot back, “How can you call it off as if it’s pure logic? You have given it a thought? That’s all it was to you? You thought it would work and now you don’t think so, so it’s over? Did you ever feel anything, Olumide Sanni?”
“I don’t make decisions about who I will marry based on how I feel about them,” he retorted. “If you can slap me over telling you something that took all of my trust in your maturity to tell you, then it means you see me more as your younger brother than as your man. This is the first real difficult issue we’ve had and this is how you handle it. I cannot but think it’s an indication of things to come.”
Now, as I listened, Lumi’s logic made sense to me, but the overtly logical manner he was speaking didn’t just sit well with me. This was the woman he was meant to be so totally crazy about, for crying out loud. How could he be talking like this?
Toke was shouting when she responded, “Lumi, I made a mistake. I was angry, hurt and felt betrayed that you chose to tell me only after proposing to me. And I thought I should rightly be upset. I apologize for what I’ve done, but I believe I deserve an apology too for the deceit.”
Lumi smiled ruefully and addressed an imaginary audience that included those of us in the room, “See what I’m saying? She’s already shouting at me. Why do you talk to me as if I’m your younger brother? The two of us getting married would be a huge mistake.”
Toke simmered down as she said in a considerably quieter tone than she had spoken before, “And what happens to the baby we have made together?”
He responded matter-of-factly, “I’m not irresponsible. I’ll take responsibility for the child and also be financially responsible for the child. I cannot make a second mistake of marriage because I made a first mistake of getting you pregnant.”
The anger within me welled up to an uncontrollable level and it spilled over with all the venom of a volcanic eruption. I had just about had it with this smart imbecile. “What!” I screamed. “Is it my friend that you are calling a mistake?! You are such an insensitive cold immature guy underneath your smoothness.”
I just love my Toke. She didn’t fall our hand. She didn’t cry. She just had this resolute look on her face. I wanted to go on shouting, but she waved her hand and I kept quiet, literarily having to clamp my mouth shut to keep me from going on.
“Olumide Sanni,” she began, calling his full name “I have heard you. I will have this ‘mistake’ and will take care of him or her. We will not be needing your help. I do not ever want to see or hear from you again, and if you try to claim this baby, you’ll be surprised at how ferociously I will fight you.”
Lumi shook his head. “You cannot do that. You forget I’m a lawyer, and I know what the law says on the child’s custody. I’m the father and –”
“Fathers do not call their children mistakes, Mr. Lawyer.” It was Gloria, who spoke for the first time since. “You are not involved…” Lumi began as he turned to her. She interrupted him “Leave. Lumi.”
He didn’t budge and I just lost it. “Leave my house! GET THE F@*K OUT OF HERE!” I screamed. I jumped at him and then Femi intervened and held me back. I don’t subscribe to violence or anything of the sorts, but I saw him for who he was now. He was one of those smug smart types that had the effect of making you want to wring his neck.
Femi calmed me down and then turned to Lumi who looked confused as if wondering why we were so angry and told him, “I think you should leave now.”
Slowly, Lumi turned and went to the door. He shot Toke a glance as if he regretted what was going down (abegi, all that one is Mainframe productions joor). Again Toke didn’t fall hand. Her face was cool steel, she didn’t show any emotions.
As Femi saw Lumi to the door, he paused there for a minute before he turned around. I thought he was going to leave with Lumi (maybe all the men should just leave our space and give us peace). But he came back into the room and continued from where he stopped as if the intrusion by the Lumi/Toke saga hadn’t happened. “Oyinkansola Clegg,” he called my name again, “I came back because I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” He dropped on one knee and produced a beautiful white gold ring.