The next time Apham called, it was to apologize for how their first date had gone. Ijeoma had been speechless all through the duration of the call, as he went on and on about how he didn’t expect to have a terrible reaction to roasted corn. When he was done apologizing and Ijeoma remained quiet, he thought she was not interested in what he was saying and rushed to hang up the call, muttering that he had dialed the wrong number. Ijeoma redialed the number almost immediately. She had waited so long for his call, she could not understand why he was apologizing profusely.

When he picked her call and made to continue apologizing, Ijeoma halted him before he could say the first word. “Stop apologizing already. It wasn’t your fault.”

He was quiet for a while.

Ijeoma continued. “But you are at fault for not calling me after our date. It was not nice of you.”

“I’m so-” He started again.

“No, I don’t want to hear it again. I want a redo of the whole thing. If after this time, you still don’t call me, then…” Her voice trailed off.

She had been surprised at how direct she had sounded. She liked Apham, it was a fact that she could hardly deny. At that time, she didn’t care if she came off as too forward. Though, in the days to come, she appreciated that move.

They went on another date and took care to avoid buying anything from the roadside. It was a lovely date, and even though Ijeoma went home a little tipsy from the wine she drank, she was also filled with excitement. That day, Apham pecked her at the front of her house. It was the beginning of a relationship between them. One that resulted in them signing papers at the court six months later.

At first, Gabriel was not happy with the relationship, till now he wasn’t. He had always held out some form of hope that he and Ijeoma could still get back together. It was more shocking that she had moved on so quickly, announcing Apham as her boyfriend a month after they broke up. It didn’t help that Apham was a playful fellow and he always gave out unserious and unreliable vibes. More than how fast she had moved from him, he was more worried that Apham was just playing with her, and would leave her broken when he was done. Even up to the eve of their wedding, he kept on warning her.

After their wedding, he had backed down, albeit reluctantly from opposing their relationship, returning back only two times and those times she had been lying unconscious on a hospital bed.

Gabriel. She felt a tingly sensation in her nose as she thought of him. In the past, she had been asked if she ever regretted not getting married to him, she’d even asked herself the same question. She’d regretted it once or twice, especially when another problem arose with her in-laws. But right now, as she laid on the bed, she thought of the tall, dark man that had become part of her in every way possible and couldn’t bring herself to have such thoughts. They were traitorous and Apham did not deserve them. She loved Gabriel as a friend and a brother, but he couldn’t play the role Apham did in her life.

The vibration of her phone pulled her away from her thoughts. She picked up her phone and looked at the caller. Her expression changed. She watched as the phone rang, the green circle became a blur in her eyes. When the call ended, she remained that way and the phone rang again as she’d expected it to. The phone rang for a while. Lilian watched from the side, being pulled away from what she was doing by the sound of the ringing phone. In her head she kept on chanting ‘Pick, don’t pick’. She gave a quiet squeal of delight when Ijeoma picked the call as she had muttered ‘Pick’. She pretended to go back to what she was doing, though her ear seemed pricked in the direction of the bed.

Ijeoma’s voice was low as she said. “Good afternoon ma.”

A scoff from the other side of the phone. “How are you recuperating, you’ve lost another baby.” It was not a question.

“I’m fine ma.” Ijeoma lips curved in a bitter smile. “I hope you and Daddy are okay?”

 “I warned you the other time, stop referring to my husband as daddy. He is not your daddy. With all our grandchildren that you are losing up and down, you still have the effrontery to call him daddy.”

Ijeoma sighed deeply. “Were you the one this time around?”

Silence on the other side of the phone. “You would never know, would you?” The voice sent chills down Ijeoma’s spine.

“Do you love him that much? To go to the extent of killing all his children in this wicked way?” Ijeoma cried out. Lilian’s eyes widened in surprise. What was she hearing?

“He is my son,” the woman said. “I am supposed to love him, and I just want the best for him.”

“You are not his mother.” The words filled the room. Even Lilian could feel the helplessness in those words. “You’re just his step-mother, another whore that wants to sleep with him. You are a sick e-.”

“Don’t finish that sentence.” The voice on the other side had taken a menacing tone. Even Ijeoma could barely handle the threat in the words.

“You should recuperate well. My husband said he wants the both of you to come to Abuja. We wouldn’t want anymore bad blood between us, would we?” Ijeoma could see the smile on the face of the other woman, and it was not friendly at all.

“Yes ma,” she muttered.

The other line clicked off without warning. Ijeoma’s hand dropped to the bed, the phone fell off her hand to the floor. Lilian rushed to pick it and hand it to her.

“What should I do?” Ijeoma turned to look at Lilian with tear-filled eyes. Lilian’s hand paused in the air.