As I drove down to airport road, flashes of the past flooded my memory, filling me with the pain I thought I had left behind. I was once madly in love with Zion. He was madly in love with me too. Even when we were miles apart, we did everything together. Thanks to video calls. We bathed together, ate together, prayed together, watched movies together, cooked together. I always shared my day's experiences with him and he shared his with me. We talked about the future, we talked about marriage, we talked about kids and how many we could handle. We talked about earning extra income and buying our own houses. We were almost always on the phone, talking. I got so used to him. I couldn't imagine a day without him. Heck! I couldn't imagine even half a day without him.
Things were so good between us. Too good in fact. But then, problem reared it's ugly head. His family that once supported our relationship suddenly didn't like the idea of both of us being together. What was the problem? Why the sudden change of mind? I later learnt his family thought I was of their tribe, Isoko. But when they discovered I wasn't, his mother found him an Isoko lady to marry. If he didn't do what they wanted, he stood the risk of forfeiting his inheritance and a position in his father's multi million naira company. Worse, he would loose every form of support from every member of his family.
Zion resisted them. There was just no way they were going to pull us apart all for the sake of tribalism. He talked, pleaded, raked, shouted and still, the family didn't bulge.
We kept seeing each other, secretly. We kept sharing our lives with each other, secretly. I never went to his family home again, for fear of being yelled at or thrown out. But I visited his own home. I spent weekends with him and we usually had mind blowing sex.
"To hell with my parent's decision", he would say. "We will go ahead and get married with or without their consent".
I didn't like that we were without his parent's support, but I was happy we were sticking to each other, no matter what. I was glad he wasn't allowing their threat get to him. But then, things happened. I started to notice the changes. It started with reduced phone and video calls. It worried me because I was already so used to him. Whenever I asked what the problem was, he would say his work load had increased at the office. So much so, he had to take home some of the documents and work on them overnight.
At first I bought the excuse. But when the calls reduced from a few hours per day to no calls in two or three days, I knew all was not well. I did most of the calling and I knew I was suddenly the only one still giving to our relationship.
Weekends, when I visited, he didn't turn me away. He let me in, we bathed together and even made love. But he never gave me any of those special treatments I used to get from him. Something was off. I just couldn't place a finger on it. I kept asking what was wrong. He kept telling me nothing. All was well. Then one day, he called me up.
"I need to confess." He said
"Ok. I'm listening". I had long been expecting a confession as it was very obvious, our relationship had taken a nose dive.
"We can't be together anymore." He said, reluctantly.
"Why?" I asked, my voice shaky. I had expected anything but a break up. "Why Zion? What have I done?"
He mumbled some words. And when I asked for a repeat, he couldn't say anything. I spent the rest of the day locked up in my private office. I cried. I tried calling him back to understand what was wrong. Maybe we could fix the problem together. But he wouldn't pick my calls.
It didn't stop me though, from visiting his home at weekend. He didn't turn me away, neither did we discuss the issue of our breakup. I tried to make him talk, but he insisted he didn't want to talk about it. We just knew, deep in our hearts, that the relationship was over and all we were doing afterwards was being sex buddies.
I remember the last time I was at his place. He prepared eba and ogbono soup for me - not my favorite. After eating, we watched TV and had the best mind blowing sex afterwards. Two rounds at night and one in the morning.
That morning, about 6:15am, my panting had subsided considerably as I lay face up on the wide bed, the sheets being my only covering. Zion came out of the bathroom after having his bath, in his natural glory. He toweled himself as he stared down at me. I knew what that look was. He enjoyed the sex, but it was time for me to go. He was running late for work and he didn't want me around when he was leaving.
I looked back at him. Handsome, chocolate brown. A hunk, just the way I love my men. But then, was he really mine? Would he ever be mine? Why did I find myself coming back to him every weekend? Why couldn't I just forget about him and go on with my life? How could we spend 6 years being very good friends and only 4 months... heck! less than 4 months being deeply in love? It was the kind of perfect relationship one only had the opportunity to watch in Disney movies or cartoons. The Telemundo kind of love didn't even match up to what we had. We were so happy with each other, so in love. I couldn't stop asking myself why I was about to lose a guy like him? Why was he letting his family issues with tribe stand in our way? What will happen to all our plans for the future? Our talks of marriage and children? Our talks about what we wanted to accomplish together and individually.
The whole problem with family started with the issue of the other woman. His brother's wife. She had done things Zion's brother and family couldn't forgive and they had sent her packing. This was years ago. His brother, Tony, had moved on and married another woman. But the family still hadn't forgotten. They wanted nothing to do with Igbo again.
I discussed the issue with my family and Ruth, as I was so confused. Of course, everyone had something to say.
"Don't let him think you're cheap. Just walk out of the relationship since he is bending to his parent's wishes".
"Your family has your best interest at heart, that is why we will give conditions if he eventually comes around to marry you. He must prove, with actions, that he is a man of his own and deserves you. If not, then I won't give you out to him".
"Just leave the dude alone. What if you get married now and tomorrow he starts picking quarrels with you over little issues. What if he starts saying things like 'it is because of you my family abandoned me?' You wouldn't like it o?"
Confusion set in. I could not ignore the signs and warnings. But I knew her. Tony's wife. Back then, I was only casual friends with Zion when their issues started. I would beg on her behalf, asking that she be forgiven for whatever crime committed. But after one plea, she always went on to do something worse. And when Tony finally decided to move on, no one could change his mind. He needed a woman to build and share his life with, not one who would destroy it. And because of that, the family made up their mind about us, Igbos.
6 years had gone by since we became best friends, and three months plus since we started dating. My heart ached badly as I thought about our lives. Why did I have to love a man who once loved me too but couldn't be with me? Of course, except for our secret sex adventures? He never called to say hi or hello, except I did first. And whenever I came to spend the weekend, he never turned me away until afterwards.
I had tried, countless times, to move on. But I couldn't. I couldn't even imagine saying the words, I love you, to another, let alone being touched by another. At nights when I was alone, I cried, soaking my pillow with fountain of tears.
"The earlier you leave, the better". Zion jolted me out of my thoughts. He sounded cold. Very unusual. It was kind of his way of saying, I don't give a damn about how you feel.
"How did your love for me become so cold?" I asked, evidently sad. "How did we get to this point? You no longer care".
"You know how it is. You know I care. But if we keep doing this, how do we move on? My family won't let us be. You have to find someone else. I have to do same. If we keep seeing each other, we would never move on. I need for you to move on".
"I've tried. I can't". I cried
"I'm having someone over by the weekend. You can't come here again".
My heart sank and the tears I had been holding back finally erupted. It was finally the end of us.
That was five months ago. Now here I was, driving to the hospital to see an ex who couldn't withstand family pressures for the love and understanding we shared. Daniel wouldn't be happy if he knew I was standing him up. And then what? I'll lose another good man?
Ruth had every right to be pissed with me. But I needed to know Zion was ok. I needed closure and I needed to find the strength to move on without thinking of him. Daniel deserved better. He sure did.
At Faith Mediplex, I parked at the parking lot and went in. At the reception, a woman, about my age, sat with her back against the wall. She looked exhausted and dried tears lined her cheeks. Maybe she lost someone. I thought. I walked up to the receptionist and asked for the Iboris. But they insisted that it wasn't visiting hours yet. I could only go in if the family invited me in.
I took out my phone and called back the last number that called me - being Tony's number. I told him what the receptionist said. He asked me to hold on. He was coming to get me. Within 10 minutes, he was with me. I was even more surprised when he hugged me.
"Thank you so much for coming. I know we have no right to make demands of you".
"How is Zion?" that was all I asked. I didn't care one bit if the family appreciated or did not appreciate my presence. "I want to see him".
"Is this the woman Zion has been asking after?" the lady sitting against the wall asked.
Tony pretended not to hear her. "Come. I will take you to him". He took my hands and started to lead me away. But the obviously grieving woman jumped at us and hit his hands away from mine.
"I won't let you see him", she spat at me. "He is my man, my husband. I should be the one in there".
"He was never your husband", Tony countered, "And you will never be allowed to go near him again".
"Who is she?" I asked
"She's not important".
"Just like I wasn't important when your family decided that I was not good enough for your brother".
"Yes, we wronged you. But don't take it out on Zion. Everything he did, he did for you".
"I don't understand".
"Come. Let me take you to him. He will explain".
"I won't let you. I won't let you", the woman jumped on us again, pulling at my clothes.
Tony warded her off with the help of the receptionist and a security guard. He then took my hand and led me to the accident ward. Room 102. Zion was laid back on the bed. One giant equipment was attached to him. But he was awake.
"Zion", his name came out in a whisper.
"Kel", he whispered back. A bandage wrapped his neck, keeping it in place. His checks had bruises on it and his hands and right leg were bandaged too.
I turned to Tony. "What happened?"
"He will tell you. He wants to explain things to you himself. I'll give you time alone", he made for the door and was soon out of the room.
I moved to the bed and sat by Zion. His eyes never left me. And when my hand held his, he sighed.
"Thank you for seeing me", he whispered.
"I had to come", I replied. "How did this happen?"
"The woman my parents arranged for me". He grimaced. "She didn't like that I always mentioned your name. She didn't like that I always made it clear, I still love you".
I swallowed at that. Still love me? "But you know we women are jealous. You shouldn't have told her that".
"She should have left since she didn't like it. Her absence would have made things easier between you and I. But she chose to send thugs after me".
"hmmm" I sighed.
"I will try not to take your time. I know you should be with Daniel right now and I. .."
"Have you been spying on me?" I frowned, taken aback by his words.
"I don't want to lie to you again. So the answer is yes."
"Why? I never spied on you. I let you be".
"I know. But I had to make sure you were happy. I had to make sure he wasn't treating you poorly. I had to make sure I didn't make a mistake choosing him for you".
"What are you talking about?" I stood up from his bed and backed away
"Please don't leave. Promise me you won't run out until I'm done explaining everything to you".
"I'll try", I stopped moving. But no. I didn't sit on his bed again. "Tell me. What exac6tly are you talking about?"
To be continued...
©Karo Oforofuo. February 2017
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