Iyora handed the glass of water to him. Grunting lightly when he muttered, “Thank you”. He had gotten up when she approached him. And waited until she sat down before he took the seat opposite her. Good, Iyora thought.
She finally gave herself the opportunity to properly look at him, this man that had led her on a path that almost ruined her life. She remembered though it was a blurry memory, the first day she met him. She had been comparing two products that looked so similar in a supermarket when he walked up and explained the difference, showing her where the two products differ. It was a short meeting. He left as soon as he finished his explanation and she took his advice on which of the products was better for her. But he had struck a strong cord within her. His scent continued to tickle her nose even after she left the supermarket. The next time she met him was at a program for International students in the school. They introduced themselves to each other, exchanged phone numbers, and even arranged a date. Things had spiraled pretty fast from then. In a few months, she had gone from a serious student to a junkie that missed classes because she had not gotten her daily fix.
“You’re looking good,” Apham said awkwardly.
“You think so.” She gave him a hard look and he looked away. “Because of my sister, I’m just going to give you five minutes to say what you want to say.”
Apham sighed. “You really blame me for everything that happened?”
Iyora knew what he was driving at. She had the same thought sometimes. But she said, “I do. If I hadn’t met you, if I hadn’t dated you, none of that would have happened.”
“You remember how you came to start taking drugs? Was I the first person that gave it to you? I know I’m at fault. When you started, I didn’t do anything to stop. Instead, I even introduced you to some of my suppliers. But Anita, think about it, is it all my fault?”
“It’s Iyora and stop trying to push the blame to me. This was the exact reason I never wanted to talk to you. I admit I was the person adamant at trying it despite everything you warned me about. But what did you do when the whole thing got too excessive, hmm? You fled. You dumped me and disappeared. I was so heartbroken, God. And you disappeared. Blocked my number, told your friends to stop talking to me. You just upturned my life and then you left. Why?”
“I was scared, honestly. I was so scared. I can still remember how you changed. From a vibrant girl to a stranger whose eyes were always blank and all you wanted was a fix. It scared the hell out of me. I knew I was also into drugs, but with you, I saw another level of addiction.”
“And when you could do nothing about it, you just upped and disappeared, huh?” She had a small bittersweet smile.
“That is the reason you are angry with me?” He asked the fierce look of defense that had clouded his eyes when she began speaking suddenly disappeared, guilt settling in its place.
Iyora nodded. “Where did you go?”
“I was still in school. If you remember I was supposed to be graduating the next year. I was trying to settle the courses I had problems with. My father, he also knew about the drug problem, wanted me to get myself together so I could return home in time to start helping him with his business. Things got pretty busy at that time, it was only some months later that I heard from someone that you were… had been deported.”
She picked at her nails. “That was what happened. I wasn’t even halfway through my course and I was bundled in a plane and sent back to my country.” She sniffed. “I was so messed up that I didn’t know what was going on, what happened until a few months later.”
“It must have been pretty bad, right? I wouldn’t say I know what it was like, at that time, I still had a little control over myself. I never got as bad as you did.”
Iyora took a deep breath and a huge smile spread across her face, slapping her hands on the table, she said, “Enough about all that sad stuff, let’s talk about my sister.”
Apham’s eyes widened. Was she being serious?
“Come on,” Iyora continued when Apham’s eyes remained on her face. “Or don’t you want to get married to my sister properly?” Her voice took on a dangerous edge.
“Wait, no, I didn’t mean it that way. Of course, I want to marry Ijeoma the right way.” He lowered his voice. “It’s just… You’ve forgiven me?”
Iyora pinched her nose with an exasperated sigh. “Do you think I have any other option now? Well, you want to hear it, you are forgiven and forgotten.”
He gaped. “Just like that?”
Iyora flashed him a small smile. “You know, if my sister hadn’t insisted on marrying despite our opposition, I don’t think I will ever want to sit down with you. But unfortunately, you are my brother-in-law. Funny how life works.” She sighed. “Sincerely, I don’t have any misgivings about you. While I wouldn’t be too excited about being with you, I don’t hate you as much as Ijeoma thinks.”
“You amaze me,” Apham said.
“So, lets talk about the important thing now. My sister, your wife…hmm?” She raised her eyebrows.
Apham leaned towards her on the table. “I’m sure she told you what the pastor said. We have to head to the village when we are done here. After I settle my family problem there, we will start preparations for the wedding.”
“So we’re hoping for a Christmas wedding, right?”
Apham nodded slowly.
“That’s good. You just go settle your family problem. I will keep in touch with Ijeoma for the wedding plans. It would be different from the usual weddings since you have taken your vows and gone to court. But my sister is not getting anything less than she deserves.”
“Of course, of course,” Apham agreed.
Iyora stood up and rubbed her palms. “That means we are done here.”
Apham stood as well. “I still can’t believe how this went. I was expecting it to be…to be a little-”
“Tough huh?” Iyora winked at him. “Honestly, I wanted to make it really difficult for you. But when I came down and sat here, it just seemed sort of stupid. It’s all in the past, isn’t it? I have recovered, I went to school here and even though I cannot go to the UK anytime soon, I can still go to a lot of places. It doesn’t make sense trying to ruin my sister’s happiness because of something that happened years ago, something that was also my fault.” She sat down again. “We were all surprised that Ijeoma actually made good on her threat to leave the house if we didn’t at least listen to what you wanted to say. We were stubborn. Me, my parents. And one day, she just woke up and said ‘Since you don’t want to listen to him or at least give him a chance, I will go and get married to him’. And she really packed up her bags, without saying much, she kind of disappeared. We talked about it, we waited for her to come back but nothing happened. I was angry. I blocked her on all my social media accounts. And we were all strong-headed. She, me, my parents. Wow!” She counted on her fingers. “Thinking about it now, I don’t know what came over all of us. We basically gave up on ourselves. I don’t blame her so much. She knew what she wanted and she went for it. If she hadn’t come back now, I don’t know how long the silence between us would have lasted.” At this point, Apham also sat down.
“From what I see, you’re taking good care of her. It’s the most all of us can hope for. Someone that can take care of her. If she is fine, then we are all fine. Look at what all our stubbornness has caused. How many accidents and miscarriages. Though personally, I doubt they are because of an estranged relationship. It’s plain unbelievable. It must just be the tip of the whole matter, just a small matter that you both had to get out of the way and focus on the bigger matter.” She gave him a look. “Tell me, what exactly is going on with your family? We need to know what we are dealing with. Have you told Ijeoma?”
Apham looked at her expectant face. Should he tell her? He had always been reluctant to tell Ijeoma the story of his paternal family. In all their years of courtship and marriage, she had only come in contact with his maternal family, and even when she was curious, he kept away from topics of his father’s family. If he told her sister now, she was bound to hear about it.
“No.” Apham shook his head. “I’ve kept that part of the family away from her. I didn’t think she needed to know the dirty details.”
“She needs to know. You were supposed to tell her everything when you planned to get married to her. You must have kept a lot of things from her, as well.”
Apham searched her face. Had Ijeoma told her about Angela? He hoped not. He wouldn’t know how to help his case if it was so. Treading softly, he said, “I told her the things that mattered most.”
“Hmm.” Her tone was unbelieving. “So tell me.”
It was a long story, but he cut it short. By the time he was done, Iyora was gaping at him.
“What the hell! Are you serious?” She couldn’t prevent a gurgle of laughter from escaping her lips. “This sounds like a plot from a Nollywood movie. Oh my God! That happens in real life too?”
Apham was not offended by her making fun of the story. He too had barely believed it when his father had told him the story. He shook his head and told her, “That is the reality of my family. I just have an uncle from that side, but he literally fled the country. He is now in Switzerland and even his relationship with my father is strained.”
The laughter departed from Iyora’s face. “So when are you going to tell her? I’m not going to say anything. You have to tell her yourself.”
He smiled wryly. “It’s kinda inevitable right now, isn’t it? We will be leaving for the village the day after tomorrow. I’ll have to tell her before then.”
Iyora reached across the table and placed a comforting hand on his. “It will go well. I believe so. You have to be careful though. You don’t know what you will be meeting there.”
“I really appreciate your concern especially after-”
Iyora stood up, this time with a tone of finality. “Still on this, are we? You are now married to my sister. It will be best if we all just look forward to the future instead of wallowing in regret and guilt, don’t you think? Besides, I’m getting married soon too.” With a gleeful look, she showed him her left hand.
“Congratulations.” Apham stood up and pulled her into a brotherly hug.
She pulled away wrinkling her nose. “You still use the same perfume after all these years?”
He laughed. They chatted a little while about random topics. They must have spent a long time talking as Ijeoma soon rushed down to join them with a look of worry.