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Here is Chapter two to whet you appetite! I can’t wait for you to read!
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The Aftermath of “I don’t”
Throughout the journey back to my apartment, tears are flowing freely down my eyes. I can’t stop crying.
How could I have been so blind? So stupid. How did I miss this?
“Please, stop crying,” Iriah says.
She is in the taxi’s backseat beside me, sliding her palm up and down my back gently in reassurance. “The man is a liar. God saved you, Anuli.”
“B-but married … How? How did I not know?” I burst into tears again, my body shaking from my violent sobs.
“My dear, don’t beat yourself up. He lived in Dubai before relocating to Nigeria,” Iriah says, then sucks her teeth. “There’s no way you would have known he left a wife there.”
I shake my head. “It’s all my fault. I was too needy. Too desperate. I should have done more digging, asked more questions.”
My mother, who is in the front seat of the vehicle, expresses disapproval with a sound. “No good will come from blaming yourself, my dear. People determined to deceive anyone will achieve it. It doesn’t matter how many questions you ask or how deep you dig.”
I want to accept this, to remove myself from the equation, but I know deep down it isn’t true. During our relationship, I avoided asking certain questions because I feared the answers not being what I wanted to hear.
When I met Jidenna, it had been an instant aha moment for me. He fit the perfect description of the man I’d dreamed of marrying. His clean-cut physical appearance, his steady job, and the way he carried himself with confidence. I wanted that kind of man. So, I was too eager to please, unwilling to rock the boat, do anything that would destroy the destination of our relationship—marriage.
The months we dated; things had always been on his terms. The first time I met his family, the first time he granted me access to his apartment in Maitama, the first time we travelled together… everything. Until I gave him an ultimatum. Marry me or I walk away.
He was also so secretive, very stingy with information about his past. Sometimes, getting to know him felt like shovelling through a thick pile of snow. Why had I ignored all of that? Did I do this to myself? Did my desperation to become his wife supersede my self-preservation, cause me to miss signs that Jidenna was already hitched?
“I feel so stupid… so embarrassed…” I mutter, covering my face with both palms.
Above being heartbroken, the major emotion that overwhelms me now is shame. A tremendous sense of failure.
This was not in the plan I had for myself. The neat path I had mapped out for myself. Marriage was the next logical step after finding a steady boyfriend, the goal for me, an achievement I strove for. Just like I did with my education and career, I would accomplish it.
Marrying Jidenna could have been a step in the right direction, a movement towards that destination. Seeing that dream shattered, I don’t know what to think, how to deal with the embarrassment.
It never occurred to me that this could happen. I’d done everything I believed was right for our relationship, treated him and his family with respect. Surely, I don’t deserve this. Do I?
I squeeze my eyes shut and shake my head. “I’m so stupid.”
“No, you’re not,” Iriah says, draping her arm around me and pulling me to her chest. “It’s not you that lied, not you that deceived anyone. He is the one that’s stupid. Not you.”
“Yes, Anuli. You didn’t do anything wrong,” my mother chimes in. “You’re the victim in this case.”
I know they are right. Technically, I did nothing wrong. However, I allowed myself to be in this position. By keeping my eyes on the goal, instead of taking time to look around me, to read between the lines, to dig beneath the surface.
Were there signs that Jidenna was married?
Not glaring. However, there were times I doubted his feelings for me because he would prioritise work over me and wouldn’t contact me for long periods of time. He was also secretive about his phone.
I grit my teeth and let out a wail. His phone was like gold to him. He never left it unattended in my presence, even to the point of taking it with him to the toilet. Wasn’t that enough of a sign?
Sure, there were seeds of doubt that cropped up every now and then. But did I delve into them, try to get answers? No.
I pushed them under the carpet. Why? Jidenna showed up in other ways for me. He took my car to the mechanic, introduced me to his friends and family as his girlfriend, gave just the right amount of attention to erase my doubts.
He did such a good job of hiding his double life that there was no way I could have ever suspected that he was married and had a whole other family in Dubai.
Seeing how happy my parents are in their relationship, even with my father suffering from Alzheimer’s and my mother steadfastly by his side, I longed for that kind of love. A husband to be by my side through thick and thin. For me, it was always about securing the ring, the man. Really never about how I felt.
Even now, my failure to achieve the marriage overshadows the pain of being betrayed by a man I’d fallen in love with.
“Listen, my dear,” my mum says, her tone matter of fact, as if about to point out the obvious. “If someone is determined to keep something from you, they’ll succeed. Count yourself lucky to have discovered the truth before it’s too late.”
“I agree with your mum, Anuli. It could have been years before you found out. You could have had children for him by then.”
Iriah’s comment causes another spasm of pain in my chest. Children. One of the main reasons I want to get married so badly. I’d always hoped that I’d have one or two children by the age of thirty. A part of my well-laid plans for my future.
Now, at thirty-two, way past that deadline, the first man I’d ever pictured as a father to my children is nothing but a liar and a cheat. I’d missed the mark on that one. Terribly.
I sniffle, wiping tears from my cheeks. Had I really known the true Jidenna, or had I simply fallen for the idea of him? A husband and a father to my future kids?
The vehicle comes to a stop, and the engine powered off. I look up to see that I’m back in the compound of my apartment’s building. A place I had planned to give up once I moved in with Jidenna.
Now, here I am minus the wedding ring and husband, sliding back to square one.
My throat tightens as I gaze at the apartment complex, and suddenly, I want to be somewhere else.
“Please get me out of here,” I cry out, shaking my head vehemently. “Get me out of here. Now, please!”
“Okay, okay,” Iriah says, holding me tightly against her chest. “Driver, please take her to my house.”
“What address?” he asks.
Sobbing, I bury my face in my friend’s ample bosom, barely listening as Iriah rattles off her address to the man at the wheel.
Frankly, I don’t care where this car takes me. It doesn’t matter if I’m driven to a desert and left there to die. As long as I’m far away from this apartment, a reminder that instead of moving forward with the grand plan of my life, I’ve been catapulted back to my worst nightmare. Single life in my 30s.