Tope stared at Michael as he rolled over in his bed. It was 6.30 am on saturday the 23rd of March, and she could see through the curtains that the clouds were pregnant with rain. She wished the rain would come to wash her pains away, and give her fresh hope. She had hoped that Michael would have introduced her to his parents by then and if that was too much to ask, he could have asked to meet her siblings. The only thing he ever did was have sex with her almost every night. She wondered if he knew how much her heart ached for him, and how she wanted their nights to last long after the midnight spasms were gone. She watched him turn in the blanket she bought for him from her aunty’s shop in isale eko. The blanket could only keep their bodies warm through the cold nights; it could not keep her heart warm.
Michael opened his eyes and noticed Tope staring at him from the edge of the bed. He propped his head with the pillow and greeted her.
“We need to talk”, she said.
“I’m all ears”. He replied, wondering at the urgency of the matter.
“I have been wondering about us”, she sat beside him and reminded him that they had been seeing each other since January, and two months after he had not made a proposal of any sort to her.
“I don’t understand Tope. What do you expect from me?”
This was the moment Michael dreaded. He had always avoided defining his relationship with Tope for many reasons. The first reason was that he was only physically attracted to her; and his heart was still with Ifeoma. Secondly, he was in the relationship only because he felt trapped by guilt for his sins, and a compelling lust for her body. He lacked the spunk to look Tope in the face, and tell her he was going back to God, and she could not be a part of his life anymore. Recently, he had tactically avoided discussions that elicited passionate emotions from her. The relationship was limited only to the exchange of fluids.
“What do you mean by that question? I’ll tell you what I want. I want you to start introducing me to people as your fiancé. I want us to discuss things like the next level in this relationship”.
Michael thought of the best way to wriggle free from her nagging without touching her, or creating any innuendoes that will climax with two naked bodies on the floor.
“I am in a relationship. And you know it!”
“I feed you in this house. I lay your bed for you everyday. I even wash your clothes, and you look me in the eye to tell me you are in a relationship? Would you choose Ifeoma ahead of me, Michael? Besides when was the last time she called you.”
“Have mercy upon me Lord. Deliver me from this mess I have put myself into!”, Michael prayed silently.
Blood rushed to Tope’s face, and her eyes became bloodshot. Michael was not sure of the consequence of an affirmative response from him so he grabbed her by the waist and held her head close to his chest. Tope’s tears trickled down his chest, and she sobbed uncontrollably.
“We have just been friends with benefits.” She muttered.
“I never said that!” He retorted wiping the tears from her eyes.
“Then what are we? What? I want to know”, she hit at his chest.
Michael knew the only way to shut her up, at least that morning, was to work her body. She hesitated for a while, and after thirty minutes of raunchy activity Michael realized he was in a trap and desperately needed help.
Ifeoma had little to pack into her medium sized Louis Vuitton hand bag. It was big enough to contain her basic toiletries, two tee shirts and a pair of jeans. She was going to be in lagos for only one night. Her itinerary was pretty straight forward; after arriving at MMA at 9pm, she would be driven to Michael’s flat, where she planned to show Michael she was a true descendant of Ikemba the great warrior of Igbo land. She would wrestle him through the night, and spend the whole of Sunday morning packing anything that belonged to her in his house, and by 9pm on Sunday evening she will be back in her flat in London. She had it all planned, and she was sure she would catch him pants down. As she locked up her flat, she heard a loud voice from the hallway say “Don’t Go!” She looked to both sides of the hallway wondering if she heard right. Realizing the familiarity of the voice, she quickly slipped the keys into her pocket, clutched her bag tightly and took long strides towards the main door of the terrace building.
“I’m not changing my mind. Leave me alone for once”. She often had this kind of conversation in her head. It was a conversation with God. This time, she made up her mind she was not giving in to her spirit. Money was involved, and so were her emotions.
“I won’t sit in London, and watch one idiot tell me lies from lagos, and later send me his wedding IV.I am going to Lagos to teach him a lesson.”
She burst into the street to hail a taxi, and even though there were so many cars on the street in addition to the Saturday evening revelers moving up and down, everywhere felt quiet. She flagged down a black cab, and only after throwing herself hopelessly into the back seat did she remember to tell the cab man to drive her to Heathrow. She cried through the twenty-minute trip to the airport, wondering what she would do without Michael in her life. She knew he must be with another woman. Flipping through her phone, she recalled last time she heard from him was two weeks before then, and he sent an empty text message from the phone he claimed had gone missing. She called the line back severally after that and he never returned her call.
The man that sat beside Ifeoma at the airport lounge looked like T.D Jakes, but his voice was annoyingly soft. He cooed ears on and on into her ears about how it was essential to have a listening ear for God, and how much God knew the end of a matter from the beginning. He was a fellow traveler, but east bound to Lebanon. He got her into the conversation with the voice she heard at the corridor before she left the house.
“I need to be in Lagos. I need closure. It hurts thinking that only six hours away from me, my fiancé is cheating on me”
“Travelling to lagos will not solve your problem”. The voice was affirmative.
“I just want to clear my head.”
“Go home? I have paid for my ticket already”
“Just go home!”
It was 2.30pm, and the voice on the airport’s public address system announcing that British Airways Flight BA443Y was due for take off in thirty minutes was drowned by the last sentence Ifeoma heard in her head. She grabbed her bag and walked mindlessly in search of her exit.
“Just this last time, Lord. I commit my relationship with Michael to you. Just this last time. Fix it!”
She felt an unusual peace inside as she walked out of the airport. It was like a clog in her heart was melting. Something inside told her she would gain much more than the penalty charges she would have to bear when she requested for a refund from British Airways.
Looking across the hall, Tope watched Michael explaining some elements of the company’s latest projects to the Engineers. He cast a few expressionless glances at her, and she wondered what he had up his sleeve. Michael suddenly changed after their last discussion at his house two weeks earlier; He stopped picking up her calls, and he was nowhere to be found during lunch breaks, and even on the nights she slept over at his place he locked himself in his room. She had grown to love Michael, and watching him avoid her everyday made her sore. She had tried to show him he was everything she ever desired in a man all the three months of their relationship. “Relationship?” The last time they spoke about their relationship Michael made her understand they were only bed mates. Those words hurt her deeply, and he made things worse by telling her he needed to recover and move on. The word recover echoed in her head every day, and she wondered who needed to recover.
Overwhelmed by uncontrollable emotions, she gripped her toes in her shoes, in anticipation of the worst outcome of her next action. She did not care that she was in the office, she was sure Michael would not deny her if she accosted him publicly. She walked past three rows of busy colleagues to Michael’s desk and knelt down in front of him.
“What can I do to make you love me?” she grabbed his feet.
A shocked Micheal looked down at her, speechless, wondering if she expected a verbal response or a rein of blows to her face for embarrassing him in the office.
“I’m dying Michael. I’m sorry if I’ve done anything to hurt you. Just forgive me. I have never loved anyone this much”
Michael wished he had foreknowledge of her actions. He would have been better prepared with the right words to diffuse the tension she was creating in the office. Their other colleagues in the office sat still in their seats watching curiously for the next scene in the drama that was unfolding. He tried to free his legs from her grip but she held on tight.
“I just want to be happy. I just want to be with you”. She could not control the sudden burst of emotions that came upon her in a spate of hysteria. She sobbed uncontrollably until Jennifer, the floor manager, came to help her up. She escorted her to the floor manager’s office amidst naked stares from everyone on the floor, who looked like they had just seen a horror movie.
“Is it me? Do I have a problem?” Tope whimpered through her tears as Jennifer consoled her.
“Why do I always end up getting used and dumped?”
“This is the seventh guy I will be getting involved with. At my age, shouldn’t I have a steady relationship?” Jennifer stood staring at Tope searching for the right words to say.
Michael packed his laptop, after getting approval from his team lead to spend the rest of the day away from the office, and took his leave. He walked briskly through the traffic on Adeola Odeku Street until he got to the car park. Oblivious of his surrounding, he stood by the car beside the driver’s door and prayed “Help me find my way back to you Lord.” Tope’s wails echoed in his head as he roared his engine to life. He knew he had hurt her badly, but he was also hurt and he wondered if he will ever recover. He listened to Ross Parsley’s “Breathe” on the car stereo, hoping he will pick up his life from where it had fallen. Dateline: 5th of April, 2012.