Story: Broken or Not


    EPISODE 1

    The front door flung open as I pulled Tiwa with me, out of the Lagos City Hall. Tiwa struggled helplessly with me, but I didn’t loosen my firm grip on her hand. “Would you behave yourself?” I charged as I pushed Tiwa forward.
    “I want my father!” she retorted angrily.
    I eyed her coldly. “Look here, you heard the Judge.” I shouted as I pressed the remote control to my latest acquisition, a black Toyota Camry 2014.
    Tiwa scoffed. “I don’t like you, and you better not forget that.” She said as she kicked the car’s tyre furiously.
    I raised my hand to slap her but I restrained myself knowing that we were standing right in front of the Lagos City Hall and it could instantly jeopardize my chances of having her.
    “Oh…you scared?” she asked, with a subtle but evil grin. I could see the hatred burning in her eyes. My own daughter despised me.
    “Ijeoma…Ij!”
    I turned around to see Omololu as he ran in our direction panting heavily. “You don’t have to do this, Ijeoma.” He said as he bit his lower lip lightly. That was the first thing that attracted me to Omololu, his lips! And whenever he bit the lower one, I always felt excited all the way to my toes.
    “You don’t have to do this.” He replied with a squint. “I know what the Judge said and all, but you don’t have to do this to us.” He continued, raising his voice slightly.
    Omololu was tall with tanned brown skin colour, his mom had fallen in love with a Canadian expatriate, who had left for his country in the event of a pregnancy. Lolu was the product of their little fling. Lolu had thick eyebrows, and a baby dimple that danced around his mouth every time he smiled. He wasn’t smiling now. He was my textbook definition of first love, good looking, athletic and muscular. He simply looked like something right out of a magazine, and I was his perfect fit. I had the right features in the right places. But our love wasn’t just about the looks, it was way stronger than that.
    We were poor, young and in love.
    Omololu stared at me as he stood quite a distance from me. It had to be at least 10metres between us, at least till the judge said otherwise. “Please, Ijeoma.” He begged softly. I could read his lips.
    I held Tiwa’s hand tightly. “Forget it, Omololu.”
    I swallowed as he said ‘us’ . Yes, there was an ‘us’ , an ‘ us’ stronger than the current of deep waters. Before we got married, every time I attended wedding ceremonies in our local church and heard the cliché ‘…for richer or poorer, till death do us part…’, I would laugh inwardly at the impossibility of me ever saying and meaning those words. However, with Omololu, I felt happy and fulfilled saying them as they came from the deepest recesses of my heart.
    He swallowed and blinked. “Alright you can leave! But please, don’t take Tiwa with you. You know she’ll never be as happy with you.” he shouted.
    I blinked hard and hissed at the bitter truth. “Into the car, now!” I shouted at Tiwa as I opened the car door. I turned in front of the car and stared at Omololu as I made for the driver’s seat. He had in his hand in his pants pockets, his demeanor calm as ever. I hated him for that. I stepped into my car and sped off.
    *
    I watched her sleek car drive off and walked down the steps. She was mine. I blinked as the dusts went up and settled in my face. Ijeoma had changed. She used to be tender, soft and easy-to-talk-to, before it all went wrong.
    “Omololu!”
    I took a deep breath and turned. Only my mom and Ijeoma called me ‘Omololu’, I preferred it to the ‘Lolu’ everyone else called me, it held more meaning that way. Well, it could only be my mom calling since Ijeoma only just drove off.
    “It’s okay, son.” She said as she placed her hand on my shoulder.
    “She took Tiwa from me.” I replied.
    She nodded “I know, but in truth, Tiwa is hers too.”
    “Mom!” I yelled. “Don’t say that!” I shouted and walked away from her. Mom always supported Ijeoma. Sometimes I wondered if she really was my mother or Ijeoma’s.
    I had taken Ijeoma home when we were just thirteen and my mother had taken an instant liking to her.
    ****
    I threw a stone at our kitchen window and waited for ten seconds. I didn’t hear my mom shout the usual ‘ Omololu, break it o’ , so I could bet she wasn’t home. I held Ijeoma’s hand and took her into the house.
    “What if your mom is inside?”
    I shook my head. “Never! She would have shouted when that stone hit the window.” I replied as I winked at her. “That’s my trick.”
    “Omololu, I actually don’t want your mom to hate me. I’ll come back tomorrow, its Saturday after all.”
    I hissed. “Ij, why are you scared? My mom isn’t in. All we have to do is clean the house before she gets back, and you promised to help me.” I replied as I sulked.
    “I know…” she stressed.
    “Now I know you want my mom to beat me up when she returns, she said if I didn’t wash the plates before she gets back, she would beat me up.” I replied as I stared at her. “Please…stay.”
    She took a deep breath. “Then we have to be very fast.”
    “WONDERFUL! Omololu! So this is what you do when I am not at home?” Mom asked as she came out of hiding. I gasped in shock and surprise while Ijeoma dashed behind me holding my shirt in fear.
    Mom grinned and took her seat. “My dear…” she called. She couldn’t have been referring to me, I couldn’t be dear to her at this moment. Ijeoma peeped gently behind me and then came forward slowly with her head fully bowed expecting the worst. “What is your name, sweetheart?” she asked.
    “Ij!” I replied protectively. It was time to show Ijeoma I could stand up to anybody, even my mother for her sake. Mom eyed me coldly from head to toe and I kept quiet. She then smiled in Ijeoma’s direction.
    With Ijeoma’s best smile, she replied in a shaky voice, “Ij…Ijeoma, ma.” That was the beginning of her friendship with my mother.
    ****
    I pulled up on the order of the traffic light and stole a glance at my daughter who had her ears firmly plugged in with music from her iPod. “Tiwa.” I called. No answer! She kept looking outside through the car window. This attitude was so unlike her, she was always a bubbly chatterbox while growing up. At least, she was a lively baby. But now? She was so cold towards me. “Tiwa!” I shouted and yanked the ear phones from her ear.
    “What?!” she shouted and eyed me in a repulsive manner.
    I slammed the steering. “I am your mother! Stop this nonsense!”
    “Mother?” she laughed sarcastically. “I don’t have a mother. Oh well…there is actually a woman, but guess what, she is not you! I don’t know you!”
    I took a deep breath and cleared my throat. “Who is she?” I asked softly.
    “Wow! You really do have a soft tone. How surprising!” She replied sarcastically.
    Sudden heat flushed across my face. My heart raced fast. Tiwa didn’t seem like my baby anymore. Of course, I know growing up is necessary, but not like this? I wiped some perspiration off my forehead. Yes, I felt hot in my fully air-conditioned car.
    *****
    Everything was beautiful…back then. Ijeoma was my life, and even though circumstances are a lot different now, she still seems like my life. Mom hummed softly to ‘It is well’ as I drove. What could be well? Nothing was well for me. I had just lost custody of my sixteen year old daughter to Ijeoma.
    “I’m going to take Tiwa back!”
    Mom smiled faintly as she stared at me. “I will miss Tiwa, but Ijeoma is her mother too, and she deserves to be with her.”
    “Deserves?” I shouted as I honked heavily scaring off the cyclist in my way. “Ijeoma deserves nothing! She is a cold-hearted woman! A brutal soul!” I chanted.
    She shook her head. “She’s nothing of the sort and you know it.”
    “Really? What sort of a woman would do what she did? For goodness’ sake, she had a daughter!”
    “She loved you, Son.”
    I hissed. “Love? I was a fool back then to have believed that. She never loved me. She only used me.”
    “Used? Don’t be an ingrate, son.” She replied. “Ijeoma loved you truly.”
    Mom would defend Ijeoma with her life! Mom had rushed into the hospital the day Ijeoma’s parents had been involved in a car crash which eventually claimed both their lives.
    ***
    I was too scared to go near her. She yelled like a rabid dog (The term might be harsh; but I had never seen anyone yell so violently). We had just finished writing our Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB) examinations in preparation for University when Ijeoma got a call to come over to the University College Hospital, Ibadan from her Uncle. I accompanied her there and we walked into the ever busy lounge.
    Her Uncle approached us quickly. “How was your exam?” he asked, staring at her. He then stared at me. “Who is he?”
    “My name is Omololu.” I said, stretching out my hand.
    He ignored it and held her hand. “Ijeoma, my dear…life is hard, but you are harder.”
    “Uncle, what’s all this? What are you talking about?” she asked, getting unsettled but still managing to maintain her usual composure.
    He took a deep breath. “Walk with me.” he said and she followed.
    I walked slowly behind them. My heart skipped as I watched Ijeoma punch her Uncle hard and then throw herself on the floor. I ran after them. “Ijeoma!” I shouted as I held her hand. “What is it?”
    “See how she…she is shouting.” Her Uncle stuttered. “Is she the first to lose both parents?”
    I stared at him and didn’t even know when my fists pummeled his face. How could anyone be so harsh! By the time we were separated, Ijeoma was out of sight. I ran through the hospital wards searching for her. “Ij! Ijeoma!” I yelled.
    “Be quiet! This is a hospital.” A nurse shouted back.
    “You shut up!” I replied and ran across the wards. “Ijeoma!!!”, I screamed.
    I stopped as I saw her seating peacefully and drinking a glass of water. I walked to her and sat beside her. “Ijeoma, I am so sorry.” I said.
    She smiled and then laughed. “Why? Aren’t you happy? I won’t be going to Lagos anymore. I will stay here with you.”
    “Ijeoma, stop.” I said and tried to hug her. She leapt from my grip sending me crashing into the floor. She pushed tables, grabbed chairs and hurled them around. She approached me and kicked me so hard that I cried. I wasn’t hurting from the pain, I was hurting because she was hurting. I picked myself up and ran out. I immediately dialed my mother. I knew Mom would come.
    Mom rushed in. “Where is she?” she shouted.
    “The doctors took her away.”
    Mom made for the ward, but just as she was going in, Ijeoma rushed out and ran into my mother’s hand and cried. I watched them from a distance nursing my wounds.
    *****
    I pulled up in front of my office. “This is my office, let’s go in.”
    “I am not interested.” She replied.
    I took a deep breath. “Tiwa, I just need to pick up a few things from the office, let’s go in.”
    “I don’t wanna go in! You go ahead.”
    I rubbed my forehead. “I will be right back.” I said, and stepped out of the car.
    I smiled as I saw Austin approach me. Austin is my colleague and friend, yeah, friend. “Hi…”
    “Heyy…you look so tired.” He said.
    I nodded. “Dude, Tiwa is such a handful.”
    “Wow…seems your bundle of joy comes with extra packages.” He said as he punched the elevator’s button. “I didn’t think you would return to work today, shouldn’t you be showing Tiwa your house? That’s her name, right? Like Tiwa Savage?”
    I nodded as the door closed. “Yep! She’s Tiwa…like Tiwa Savage.” I grinned.“Good thing it’s almost August, I’ll try to catch up with her before I getfull custody.”
    He held my hand. “Are you sure you are ready to do this?”
    “I want my daughter back.”
    He blinked. “And Lolu?”
    I took a deep breath. “Omololu…” I called softly. “I don’t know.” I said as I wiped off the tear drop that rolled down my cheeks. Austin kissed my forehead and hugged me. “Come on, Ijeoma.” He said and walked me to my office. “What are you here to pick up?”
    “Just my laptop. I think I’ll be working from home tomorrow.” I said as I drew my handkerchief from my jacket.
    He grabbed my laptop and placed it carefully in the bag. “Come on, let’s go. I will walk you to your car.”
    “I don’t know. Tiwa doesn’t like me, I am not so excited to go there.”
    He took a deep breath. “What did you expect, babe? Look Ij, you gonna have to win her heart. Love comes slowly…just give it some time okay?”
    I nodded and I sniffled. “But why won’t she just understand?”
    “Understand?…” he took a deep breath. “Ijeoma, stop it. Let’s go downstairs.” He said and walked out carrying my laptop bag with him.
    *
    I sank into the sofa as I threw my car keys on the table.
    “What would you like to have for lunch?” Mom asked, as she dropped her handbag.
    “I am not hungry.”
    She hissed. “Omololu, not now!” she said. “What are you eating?” she shouted.
    I scoffed. “Anything you cook.”
    “Better.” She said and left for the kitchen.
    I brought out my wallet and stared at Ijeoma’s passport photographs. I chuckled as I stared at the one she had taken while still in high school. She had always been beautiful. She had taken over my room since her parents’ death and my mom took her in and I would stare through the window as I watched her sleep. Even in her sleep, she was beautiful, and she was mine.
    “What are you doing there?” Mom shouted as she caught me staring at Ijeoma.
    I smiled faintly. “Isn’t she beautiful?” I asked.
    Mom nodded. “She is…” I grinned. “Now get back to studying else you won’t make that scholarship.”
    I grumbled and walked away from her.
    Our lives had changed when Ijeoma came to live with us after her parents’ death. We became poorer but happier, she brought joy to our home, especially my life. Shame everything had to change. I took a deep breath and replaced the passport in the wallet.
    *
    “I’m going to miss you tomorrow.” Austin said as we stepped into the elevator.
    “Yeah right” I wore a wry smile as I rolled my eyes at him
    He nodded. “But really, I will.” He replied.
    The elevator doors opened on the ground floor and Imustered up the brightest smile I could. The subordinates and junior employees could not see my pale eyes, even though it was pretty hard to hide. I would gladly put on the tough woman exterior. I wasn’t weak anymore, Omololu used to be my strength, but not anymore. I was an independent woman with no reason to feel vulnerable. I was my own strength.
    I hugged Austin and collected the laptop bag from him as we approached the gate. “I wouldn’t want her to see us together.”
    “Why?” he asked. “I want to say hi to her.”
    I took a deep breath. “You know I don’t want her to hate me more than she already does.”
    He scoffed. “Then why lie to her, let her know about everything that’s been going on in your life.”
    “Austin…” I said.
    He hissed and walked on to the car. I had no choice but to follow him. He walked over to the passenger’s seat with a smile and pulled the door open. I blinked as he wore a worrying look.
    “She ’ s gone!” he said.

    EPISODE 2

    *IJEOMA*
    I watched as Austin crossed from the other side of the road to meet me. “I can’t find her anywhere. Maybe we should take the car.” He said, breathing fast.
    I held my head. “I am finished.” I ran my fingers across my hair in fear. “Austin, my daughter is gone. What am I going to do?”
    “You are gonna calm down.” He replied and pulled me to the passenger’s seat.“Get in.” He ordered.
    I obeyed immediately and took my seat as Austin started the car. “Where could she have gone to?” I asked.
    He took a glance at me and focused on his driving. “Ijeoma, how do you expect me to know that? We are gonna drive slowly; you keep your eyes to the right. I’ll focus on the left.” He replied as he gazed through the window.
    “I am a failure; I should have left Tiwa with her father. I should have, I have really failed.” I started. “She is new to Lagos, this is her first visit and she came because of this trial. I am ruined. I have killed my daughter.”
    Austin shook his head pitifully as he turned in the next fuel station. “Ijeoma, this is not your fault. She decided to take off.”
    “It’s my fault! I should have forced her to come upstairs with me. Where do I go from here?” I retorted angrily.
    He took off his seat belt and stepped out of the car. I watched him as he discussed with fuel attendants. They shook their head in the negative. What was I thinking? Did Austin know Tiwa? He had only seen pictures of her.
    I jumped out of the car and rushed over to the fuel attendant. “She is pretty, was wearing t-shirt and blue jeans, I err… I think she had all-star sneakers on.” I struggled to say as I rushed the words.
    The attendant stared at me and shook his head again. “I no see her.” He replied me in Pidgin English and returned to his duty post.
    I grabbed my head as my eyes poured down tears. Austin held me and took me back to the car.
    *OMOLOLU*
    “Omololu!” Mom called.
    I stopped in my track as I held the door knob.
    “Where do you think you are going to?” she asked as she approached me.
    “I just want to see my daughter.” I replied as I stared at her. “Is that too much to ask?”
    She nodded in the affirmative. “Omololu, you heard what the judge said clearly, why are you being stubborn? Tiwa is fine with Ijeoma, let them be. Give them some time to blend.”
    “Tiwa would be frustrated with Ijeoma. Ij won’t make her happy, Mom.”
    Mom stared at me for a while and then took her seat. I swallowed as she kept looking at me. “Where did Ijeoma go wrong?”
    “Mom! How can you ask me that? What she did is unforgivable!”
    She nodded. “Really? I know she hurt you, but…but, you can’t take her daughter away from her. It is not right. It is cruel.”
    “Mom, Ijeoma is clueless about Tiwa and you know it, she has no moral right to call Tiwa her daughter.”
    Mom hissed. “She carried her for nine months, she took care of her like any mother would, she is her mother.”
    I took a deep breath. “I don’t care about all those feminine crap, she wasn’t there, and that’s all that matters. I’ll go and see my daughter even if it is from ten metres.” I said and forced the door open.
    Olivia stood before me as the door opened. “Hi, Lolu.” She said with a smile. I smiled back.
    *IJEOMA*
    “I think we should call her father.” Austin said as we walked out of the next eatery we stopped at. “This is the fifth eatery.”
    I shook my head stubbornly. “We can’t call Omololu, he would kill me.”
    He scoffed. “We can’t call Lolu, we can’t go to the police station, what are we gonna do, Ijeoma? Your daughter is missing!” he yelled.
    “Don’t shout at me!” I yelled back as I wiped the tears in my eyes. “I know she is missing.” I continued as my voice broke.
    He sighed and pulled me close for a hug. “I am sorry, babe. I am so sorry.” He kissed my forehead. “I am here for you, okay?”
    I nodded dumbly. “I just want to die.”
    “Let’s go home.” He said as he took my hand.
    I yanked out of his grip “Home? I can’t go home! I had not even gotten her phone number, I can’t call her.” I shouted. “If I call Omololu, he would know something is wrong, then the Judge will know, and then I won’t have her custody anymore.”
    “Isn’t it better that you lose her custody and give her security?”
    I shook my head stubbornly. “She is my daughter, I will make things work.”
    He nodded. “I know how you feel, Ijeoma. But, you are being unrealistic here, it is very possible that she has called her Dad and gone to meet up with him, and if that is the case, we better find out.”
    “What if she was kidnapped?” I asked as the thought struck my brain. “No…No…No!!! This can’t be happening to me.”
    Austin shook his head in disagreement. “If she was kidnapped, we should be contacted by the kidnappers, and we should have seen a sign of her struggle with them, your daughter won’t give in so easily, if she is your daughter.” He concluded with a faint smile. “In any case, I think we should go to the Police, Ijeoma. We shouldn’t take risks with a young girl’s life.”
    *OMOLOLU*
    I watched as Mom eyeballed Olivia from her seat, it was as if Olivia’s drink should spillfrom her mouth. I still couldn’t understand why Mom hated Olivia so much. I would ignore this.
    “Omololu, I am sorry that you lost Tiwa.” Olivia started.
    I smiled faintly as I took her hand. “It’s temporary, and I am sure that Tiwa misses you too.”
    She nodded with a smile so genuine. Olivia is a rare gem. She saved my life, gave me a reason to live after Ijeoma gave me reasons to die. I had met Olivia during my first visit to Lagos. I was full of life and enthusiasm; I had come to search for my love, my life.Mom had persuaded me to forgive Ijeoma for leaving us and go look for her. I made up my mind that I would. I would find her.
    “You have been standing here for so long, are you lost?” A voice said behind me.
    I turned and saw Olivia. I smiled. “It…It’s just that I don’t know where to go. It’s my first visit.” I replied. She smiled as I continued. “I am not lost, do I look lost?”
    “It is not unusual.” She replied. “Do you have an address?” she asked.
    I nodded. “Yes. Somewhere in Ikoyi.”
    She smiled faintly. “You are not going to get to Ikoyi by standing in the bus park for so long, come on, this way.” She said and started to walk. I followed her briskly. “And mind you, you can be lost in thoughts.” She stopped in front of a car and opened the door. “Get in.”
    “Eh…not so fast, I am not naïve, why would you just want to pick me up?”
    She took a deep breath. “Man, I was at the shop opposite the garage and I watched you stand there for thirty minutes looking up to the sky, is that normal for anyone?”
    “I just wanted to breath, you know, enjoy the air.” I replied, smiling. “I came to see my wife.”
    She smiled. “My name is Olivia Dominic, I am a psychologist.” She said stretching out her hand.
    “Omololu Martins.” I replied, taking the hand comfortably.
    “Can you trust me now? I live in Ikoyi, I’ll take you there.” She offered.
    I smiled.
    *IJEOMA*
    “Look, I am not trying to say that it’s not a possibility that she might have been kidnapped, but it’s barely three hours that she has gone missing. What if she is with her boyfriend? These days we have young girls running off to be with their boyfriends.” The senior officer started.
    “NO! She is new in town. This is her first visit. What boyfriend?” I yelled back.
    Austin placed his hand on my shoulder indicating that I kept my cool. “Sir, is there any way you can help us?”
    “Not until the next 48 hours when it really seems like someone is missing.”
    I fumbled with my purse and removed the picture I had of her in it. “Is there a scanner here?”
    “What would you need a scanner for?” The officer asked.
    I blinked. “I need to print my daughter’s photos and hang them around for a reward.”
    “Do you know anyone whom she might have contacted?” The Officer asked.
    I shook my head in defiance. “No one.” Austin stared at me and I shut him down immediately with my cold eyes.
    “That would be all, Officer. We would be back.” Austin said as he dragged me out of the office.
    I yanked out of his grip as soon as we stepped out of the Police Station. “It hurts.”
    “Do you not want to find your daughter? I am under the impression that you want her missing.”
    I gasped. “Austin, are you crazy? I want my daughter, but I can’t call Omololu.”
    “Are we going to keep tormenting ourselves looking for your daughter when we don’t know where she might be? My instincts say she is home with her father, and I want to go home.”
    I clenched my teeth as I blinked. “Omololu will hate me.” I said as my voice cracked.
    He wiped some sweat off his forehead and hugged me. “If we want to find Tiwa, we have to tell the Police something, or tell Lolu something, we have to find her first, and then we can face the next obstacle of getting into trouble with the law.”
    *OMOLOLU*
    Mom shut the door as Olivia walked out. “How did she get this address?”
    “Why were you so cold to her, Mom?”
    She scoffed. “I asked a question, Omololu Martins. How did that lady get the address to this place?”
    I blinked. “I…I gave it to her.”
    “Have you no shame, Omololu?”
    I scoffed as I turned away from her. “Mom, what is Olivia’s offence? She is a decent woman who has done you no harm. Why do you hate her?”
    “She has done us lots of harm, Omololu.” She shouted. “What is the reason why you and Ijeoma are going through this chaos?”
    I scoffed. “Mom! Ijeoma is responsible for everything. Who left? She did! I stayed.”
    “Omololu.” Her voice was calmer now as she took my hand and drew me to a seat. “I have told you to forgive and forget. Look, it was all in our interest and you know it.”
    I shook my head stubbornly as I stood up. “Mom, please stop defending her. She hurt me, and you know it.” I blinked as I raised my head to avoid the tears welling in my eye. “I won’t forget that night, I…I can never forget.” I added and left for my room.
    I slammed the door hard as I kicked against the door furiously. I wiped the tears in my eyes angrily. It had never seemed manly to me to cry, but, everything changed. I didn’t have much time to let out my tears as I reached for my ringing phone.
    “Olivia? What is it?” I asked as I cleaned my eyes.
    “Omololu, when are you going to tell your mom about us? She seems to hate me really much.” She replied.
    “Liv, she doesn’t hate you. She is just confused, she is only looking out for Tiwa.”
    “But Tiwa likes me.”
    I nodded as I took a deep breath. “I know. We should have dinner together. I’ll cook.”
    “Yummy, I love it when you cook.” She replied.
    “I love it when you smile.”
    “How did you know I smiled?”
    I guess I know you well.” I replied with a faint smile. “I’ll call you back. Bye.” I said and dropped the call.
    I walked over to my bed and raised my pillow as I fetched my picture with Ijeoma and Tiwa. We had taken the picture when Tiwa was a baby; we all had gone to the zoo.
    “If wild lives here aren’t properly conserved, this zoo would be empty when Tiwa is fifteen.” She had said as she adjusted her sun hat.
    I looked away as I sipped my Heineken beer. She poked me and yanked the can from me. “Ijeoma, what is it?” I asked angrily. I was like a baby who had been deniedsome b----t milk.
    “You know I hate it when you drink.” She said as she hurled the can into the nearby thrash. “Especially near the baby.”
    I scoffed. “I thought it was smoking that was a big deal near babies.” I replied angrily. “My life is already hard, don’t make it worse.” I shouted as I walked away.
    She let me walk away and then came to meet me under the shed. “I am sorry.” She said as she wrapped her hands around me. “It’s just that we can still make it out of this situation and you know it.”
    “Really? Enlighten me! I can’t provide for you, my baby has rotated twodresses in the last two months.” I shouted as I swallowed hard. “This zoo is the only place we can come to because it is free and we don’t want to stay locked up swallowing air in our hunger. Are we ever gonna make it? Are we?” I shouted.
    She covered my mouth with her lips and with that I simply swallowed my fears.“Omololu, we would make it.” She whispered into my ear.
    *IJEOMA*
    “Officer, I was not honest with you when I said that I didn’t know where my daughter could have gone.” I said.
    The Police officer folded his arms as he stared at us. “I am listening.”
    “It is most likely that Tiwa has gone to her Father,”
    He nodded. “Okay, how can we contact this father of hers?” he said, staring at Austin.
    I stared at Austin and fetched my phone. “Do you want me to call him?”
    “No, I will call him using the office’s phone, we would have it on loudspeaker.” He said as he collected my phone and dialed Omololu’s number on his land phone.
    I had my heart in my mouth as the phone rang out to all our hearing. Austin took my hand.
    “Hello…” Omololu’s deep masculine voice came on.
    The Police man cleared his throat. “Yes, I am Officer Saliu from the main district.”
    “What happened to Ijeoma? Where’s Ijeoma?” he asked frantically.
    I stared at Austin. The Officer cleared his throat and continued. “Ijeoma is fine, abi isn’t that your name, madam?”
    I nodded.
    “Put me on to her.” Lolu ordered.
    “Omololu…” I said.
    “Ijeoma, are you alright?”
    “Yes I am.” I replied nodding as though he could see me.
    The Officer hissed and continued. “Erm…Mr. Martins, is Tiwa Martins by any chance with you?” he asked.
    “Tiwa? … Tiwa? No! Ijeoma, where is Tiwa?” Lolu shouted.
    I held my head and tears rolled down my eyes. “Oh God…” I muttered underneath my breath.
    “Don’t cry, we would find her.” Austin consoled.
    “Ijeoma, where is my daughter?” Lolu shouted.
    “I … I don’t know…” I replied with my head bowed.
    “What do you mean by you don’t know? I left her with you, d--n it!” he yelled.
    “Calm down, Man. You don’t have to yell at her.” Austin interrupted.
    “Who is that, Ijeoma?” Lolu shouted.
    The police man slammed his table. “Would you all be quiet? We are taking about a missing girl here. Err…Mr. Martins, I am going to need you to call your daughter and send us her number now.”
    “Okay.” Lolu replied and the line went dead.
    I wrapped my hand around Austin. “Now I am ruined, right?”
    “Not yet.” He replied with a smile.
    *OMOLOLU*
    “Is it still switched off?” Mom asked as she hurried into the living room.
    I nodded. “Tiwa’s line is switched off, I can’t get in touch with my daughter.” I shouted. “Mom, what am I gonna do?”
    She took a deep breath. “We are going to wait. Tiwa is a smart kid, she would find a way.”
    “All this is Ijeoma’s fault! That woman is not a mother. How could her daughter get missing in few hours? What sort of a woman is she? What sort of a woman does that?” I shouted as I kicked the table.
    Mom took a deep breath and relaxed into the chair. “Omololu, please don’t start this now.”
    “Stop defending her for God sake. My daughter is missing! She obviously has no idea of how to take care of a child. I regret the day I met her.”
    “SHUT IT, LOLU.” Mom yelled.
    ***********************************
    “Please I need to make a phone call urgently.” Tiwa said as she approached a call center.
    The shop owner accessed her from head to toe as she filed her nails. “Money?”
    Tiwa blinked. “The thing is…I don’t have any money. I was just wandering around when I got lost, and before I could get here, some guys stole my phone, please.”
    “Look here lady, there is a sign post out there.”
    Tiwa stepped back and read the sign post. “NO CREDIT TODAY…
    COMETOMORROW.” She bit her lip as she finished reading and returned to the woman. “I understand, but my Dad would pay you handsomely as soon as he gets here, just let me call him.”
    “Is your last name Dangote? Adenuga? Otedola?”
    Tiwa shook her head in disagreement. “No ma, but, he would be kind to you.”
    She stared at her companion who had not said a word since. The partner leaned to her and whispered. “ You remember that person wey thief phone for Okoro’s shop when she sayshe wan call, e be like say na the new scope be that. And na girl sef, you better no give am the phone.”
    The shop owner stared at Tiwa. “ If I count one to ten and u no comot for here, I go pour this water for your face .” She hurled in pidgin and Tiwa stepped out of the shop immediately. “ All these bad bad young girls, Ahan !”
    *IJEOMA*
    I watched as Omololu spoke with the Police officer inside the room. Austin nudged me in the waist as he joined me. “Have you guys spoken?”
    “No. He just walked right in without saying a word to me, although I stood far away, the ten meter rule.” I concluded.
    Austin nodded. “He didn’t come alone.”
    I took a deep breath as I stared at Austin. “You got a good view of her?” I asked. He nodded. “Is she pretty?” I asked.
    He nodded with a smile. “Very pretty.”
    I swallowed and looked away. “I have lost everything.”
    “She is right behind you.” he whispered into my ear. “I suggest you turn carefully so it won’t be too obvious that you are staring at her.”
    I turned my head over my shoulder to check out my competition. She had always been the competition, the only competitor I willingly had. I smiled as I ran into Mrs. Martins waiting arms. “Mom, I am sorry.” I said as I cried.
    “It is okay, my girl.” She said as she hugged me tightly. “You look so beautiful, you always been beautiful.” She said as she wiped my tears.
    I laughed in spite of myself. “I look like a wreck. I lost my daughter, I don’t even know what I was thinking when I let her stay alone in the car.”
    “We would find her. Tiwa is a smart girl, she would call.”
    I cleaned my eyes. “Omololu would hate me more and more.”
    “It is not entirely your fault, everything would be fine.” She replied.
    Austin cleared his throat as he stood beside me. I smiled “Mom, I want you to meet Austin, he is a very good friend. Austin, meet my mother in law.” I introduced.
    “Soon to be ex-
    mother in law.”
    I turned as I stared at Omololu behind us. I swallowed. “Omololu, I am sorry, I…”
    “Save it. I hope you are happy now? Tiwa is missing and you are clueless about it because you have always been clueless about anything that concerned our daughter.”
    “Omololu…” his mom interrupted.
    He shot at her angrily. “Stop it, Mom.” He ran his eyes all over me and walked over to Austin. “You are the new man, right?”
    Austin swallowed. “Look man, I understand you are angry, but, you don’t have to start flying at everyone.”
    “Are you crazy?” Omololu asked as he grabbed Austin by the collar. Austin pushed him back and the police immediately rushed to separate them.
    “What is going on here? Does this look like a ring for fighting?” The senior officer asked as he stepped out to meet us.
    Omololu’s eyes burned with fury as he stared at me. I tried to avoid his stare as I turned my face away with my head bowed.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I watched from a distance as Ijeoma walked away in the hand of another man. He had his jacket around her as he led her to the car. We had been driving round town in the police car, night had finally fallen and we still didn’t have any news on Tiwa. Mom pressed my hand indicating that we left for our car.
    “Let’s go, Omololu. Don’t torture yourself anymore.” She said.
    I shook my head sadly. “She is not worth it.”
    “Omololu, you still care about her, don’t fight it.” She said.
    “Mom, there’s nothing worth fighting for anymore.” I replied. “And, Mom, brace yourself, I am gonna marry Olivia.” I said and walked away.
    **************************
    Tiwa knew her back would hurt but she didn’t have any choice. There was nowhere else for her to go. Was Lagos really this cruel? Or did she just meet the wrong people? She stretched out her legs as she lay on the bench. “I should have never left the car.” She said as she shut her eyes.
    She was not to sleep for long as she felt movements around her and some darkness over her. She knew better than to open her eyes.

    EPISODE 3

    Tiwa kept her eyes shut as she felt a dark movement over her face. She blinked involuntarily giving herself away in the process. “She is alive.” A female voice said. Tiwa’s eyes flew open as she jumped up from the bench and looked at the crowd that surrounded her. Left or right? She contemplated within herself, unsure of what direction to take. It didn’t matter that there was a man with a Bible in his hand and the women with scarves covering their hair. . No one could be trusted!
    “Grab her, don’t let her run.” The man with the Bible ordered.
    Tiwa tried to leap across the bench but crashed onto the floor hard. She let out a loud cry and they all rushed to help her up. “Take her into the church.” The man ordered and Tiwa was carried into the church by two men as she cried softly.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I watched as Mom drank her water slowly and took deep breaths. I wished I could do more for her, but I had caused her more pain by saying I would marry Olivia. She had never liked Olivia.
    *****
    “Mom, meet Olivia. She is my friend from Lagos.” I had said when Olivia came to Ibadan to visit us.
    Mom took in her appearance in a glance and I could tell she wasn’t impressed. “Hi Olivia”, she mumbled.
    “Olivia was the one who helped me when that…that thing happened with Ijeoma.”
    Mom swallowed. “Thanks for helping my son.”
    Olivia smiled. “Lolu would still have to finish his sessions, he’ll be completely fine very soon.”
    “Mom, Olivia says that if I am very true to my sessions with her, I won’t have those nightmares anymore.”
    Mom nodded and took my hand. “Can I see you in private?” I followed her into the kitchen already aware of what she would say. “What is it, Mom?, I already told you that Olivia would be coming, why were you so cold?” I asked, feigning ignorance.
    “Look son, this psychotherapist or whatever you call her, what is she doing with you?”
    I snapped. “What do you mean, Mom? Ijeoma ruined my life, I roamed the streets of Lagos looking like a madman that night and the only person that was there for me was Olivia. She was there for me, Mom.”
    She nodded. “I know she helped you, I understand, but, I still think you are rushing things. Olivia coming here to visit you this shortly since the Ijeoma episode, isn’t it a little too fast?”
    “She is my doctor, and she cares about my health and well-being.” I retorted.
    ***********
    Now, my health was no longer the issue but since I started dating Olivia, my mom’s has been. She didn’t like Olivia and I still didn’t understand why. “Mom, you have been drinking water since we returned, what’s the matter? Talk to me.”
    “Omololu, I am your mother, I love you, and I will support you all the way but what I won’t do is watch you make the biggest mistake of your life by choosing a wrong life partner. I don’t like Olivia.”
    I snapped. “Olivia is a good woman, mother. Remember she took me home that night, when Ijeoma reduced me to a vegetable that night. She really is” My voice broke as I struggled to continue.
    “Omololu stop this.”
    “I am not gonna stop. I told you that night, Ijeoma looked me in the eye that night and…and.” I stopped and swallowed as the tears I had been trying to hold back rolled freely down my face.
    Mom hugged me tight. “I am sorry, Omololu. I know how you fe…”
    “No you don’t, mom, you don’t!” I cut in quickly.
    She nodded slowly “You may be right, but what an elderly person sees while sitting down, a young man won’t see, even while standing on a stool. My son, don’t do this to yourself. You know deep within you that you are still in love with Ijeoma, you still think about Ijeoma every day and night. Why then would you want a divorce? Why is it so hard for you to forgive her?”
    *
    “What’s your name?” The Pastor asked as he watched Tiwa eat her food in a hurry. “It’s okay if you don’t want to talk, but the least you can do is to tell me your name, you are eating my bread.” He said as he laughed.
    “Tiwa Martins.” She replied as she took a large gulp from the bottle of water provided for her. “I want to call my Dad.”
    He nodded. “Of course.” He replied as he handed her his phone. “Take your time.”
    Tiwa took a deep breath as she stared at the phone and typed her Dad’s number. “What would the Judge say?” she thought to herself. She took a deep breath and dialed the number.
    *IJEOMA*
    Austin pulled the sheets over me. “Ijeoma, I want you to sleep. You are gonna get sick and it won’t help anyone. We would try again tomorrow, okay?”
    I nodded as I tried to close my eyes. “Austin, what if Tiwa has been kidnapped? What if she has been killed? Would I ever
    be able to face Omololu again?”
    He smiled and kissed my forehead. “No matter what happens, I’ll be here for you.”
    “Au…Austin.” I called. He turned back. “I was wrong that night, and I would never forgive myself for it.”
    He nodded. “I know you were wrong, and I was wrong too. I should have done the right thing irrespective of what you felt, but, I am sorry I wasn’t a very good friend to you.” he concluded and walked out.
    I rolled from side to side in an effort to get some sleep but I still couldn’t sleep. I took a deep breath and decided to sleep on the floor. Maybe if I was sleeping on my tiled floor, I would feel a little bit of what my daughter might be feeling. I turned on my side as I felt the coldness of the tiles against my back.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I smiled as I grabbed my keys. “I am going to get my daughter.”
    “Thank God Tiwa has been found.” Mom replied. “I’ll be waiting for you both. Be careful” She called out.
    I smiled. “I am bringing her home and Ijeoma is never laying a finger on her again.”
    Mom’s face fell. “Remember what the Judge’s ruling was.”
    “Let’s see what the Judge has to say when he realizes that Tiwa is gone, when he only just a few hours ago, granted Ijeoma temporary custody.” I replied as I walked out in excitement.
    I drove out with a huge smile on my face as to bring my daughter home. Tiwa had been everything from me. After Ijeoma left us in search of greener pastures, I had Tiwa and my Mom, every time I looked at Tiwa, all I would see was Ijeoma, she had Ijeoma’s exact pretty face and beauty as a teenager, but she wasn’t as gentle as Ijeoma was, as a little girl. Tiwa had grown up without knowing her mother, I couldn’t blame her for being so difficult.
    I drove into the Church premises and thanked God again for the umpteenth time as I stepped into the Church. I walked into the church slowly and looked around expecting Tiwa to run out at me, but there was no one in the church. Did I miss my way? I thought.
    I blinked as a man approached me. “Mr. Martins?” he asked with his hand stretched out.
    “Where is my daughter?” I asked, taking the hand.
    He smiled. “My name is Pastor Tim and I found Tiwa here. She was sleeping outside the church.”
    “Where is she now?” I asked.
    The Pastor smiled. “She is resting inside. It’s been a long, hard day for her.”
    “I’ll take her home now. Take me to her, please.” I asked.
    He took a deep breath. “Can we talk for five minutes?”
    I was impatient, but at this moment, I would take anything. “Look, I am not religious, and I am not the man who is gonna come to Church every Sunday because you found my daughter, but I am really grateful and right now, I just want to go home with her.”
    He nodded with a smile. “I understand. Please take a seat.”
    I took my seat. “Okay, I am listening.”
    “Tiwa doesn’t want to go with you.”
    I gasped. “Look man, I don’t wanna disrespect you because you are a pastor, but can I see my daughter now?”
    He nodded. “Of course, sir.” He replied and walked in while I waited.
    *IJEOMA*
    I pulled my duvet and walked to the living room. I threw the thick cloth on the sofa and walked over to my mini bar. Even in the dark, I could locate the bar. I had become too used to the bar. I opened my vodka bottle and drank from the bottle. The lights came on. “Turn it off.” I ordered. The lights didn’t go off. “I said turn the lights off!” I shouted as I turned.
    “Are you ever going to stop drinking?” Austin asked.
    I took a deep breath. “Why are you still here?”
    “I couldn’t leave you, Ijeoma.” He said as he approached me. “Ijeoma, you drink so bad, it is not right for you as a woman and a mother, and it’s unhealthy too.”
    I nodded. “I know, but could you tell me one thing I have left to live for? Tiwa is gone. Omololu is never coming back to me. What else? What???”
    “You have me.” he replied calmly.
    I took a deep breath. “You special man, don’t waste your time with me, I don’t have anything to offer you. I am no longer beautiful.”
    “Look Ijeoma, it is not about what you have to offer me. I want to be there for you, I know I am a loser with you, but I have seen you as a beautiful woman since the first time I set my eyes on you and nothing has changed since then, believe me. I know you are going through a really rough time and it’s telling on you, but I want to help you find that beauty in you again. It’s the least I can do.”
    I chuckled softly. Austin was my first friend when I got to Lagos, I had fought a war with Lolu about leaving Ibadan for Lagos, when I finally won that battle with the help of my mother-in-law, I took up the recruitment job I had been offered at Shell.
    *****
    I walked into my new office as a rookie filled with great gusto. I met Austin at the reception.
    “Hi, my name is Austin. What’s yours?” he asked with his hand stretched out towards me for a handshake.
    He looked really smart in his Italian suit and I admired him. I quickly remembered Lolu’s mom’s wise words, she had advised me to address everyone as “sir” or “ma” as I didn’t really know who was just yet. “Mrs. Ijeoma Martins, sir.” I replied, taking the hand.
    “I bet you are one of the new recruits, right?” he asked.
    I nodded. The other people on the line had started laughing, I didn’t know why until someone cooed. “He is a recruit too.”
    I smiled and helped myself to one of the vacant seats. Austin followed right after me and took his seat beside me. “Austin.” He introduced as he stretched his hand out.
    “Ijeoma.”
    He nodded. “So you said you were Mrs. Ijeoma, or did you intend to say Miss? I know people make a lot of mistakes when they are new to a job.”
    I smiled faintly as I showed off my wedding ring proudly. “Mrs. Martins.” I repeated and smiled.
    He swallowed. “Wow! Nice to meet you, Mrs. Martins.”
    I smiled again but this time, more to myself.
    ******
    Austin handed me a glass of water. “I’ll be cleaning out your bar tomorrow.”
    I nodded with sarcasm. “Just like you did last month, abi?”
    “This isn’t funny anymore, Ijeoma. I can’t even believe who you are now, you have changed.” he ranted on as he accessed the bar.
    “I like the Smirn off and vodka, you can clear out the rest. It’s a big enough spirit to see me through till I get new bottles.”
    He shook his head and poured himself a glass of water. “There is a tennis game going on, want to watch?”
    “Is Ijeoma watching Nadal versus Djokovic right now? I retorted quietly.
    *OMOLOLU*
    “Tiwa” I said excitedly as she ran into my arms. “Did they hurt you? Anyone hurt you?” I asked. I stared at her leg and the small bandage around it. “What happened?”
    She wriggled from my grip and walked away slowly to a bench. “Relax, Dad. I am fine.”
    “I am going to make sure that Ijeoma spends the rest of her life behind bars. She had no right to allow you go through all these sufferings.” I started. “She must be in the comfort of her house sleeping while you are out in the streets, cold and hungry.”
    “They gave me bread.” She replied with a tone of sarcasm.
    I pulled her closer. “Let’s go home, we would be at the Judge’s tomorrow and then I would file or permanent custody, everything would be back to normal. You, me, Grandma…and…and Olivia.” I said with an eyebrow raised.
    “I am not going with you, Dad.” She replied.
    My ears sprung as she said those words. “Wh…Why not?” I stuttered.
    “She was not responsible for what happened to me. It was I who left the car, and I really didn’t have the intention of running away, I just wanted to walk around while she went into her office to pick some things.”
    I scoffed. “Tiwa, that is nonsense, she shouldn’t have left you in the car, I am taking you back.”
    “I don’t like her, Dad, but I am not getting her into trouble with the law too.”
    I scratched my hair. “Look, I understand, but Grandma misses you and Olivia too.”
    “Dad…” she stressed. “I am not going.”
    I took my seat and watched her act exactly like Ijeoma some years ago.
    ******
    “Ijeoma, I know your uncle has been crazy, but, we can’t get married without any of your family members.” I said.
    She turned her head over her shoulder and hissed. “Omololu, I don’t know why you are being so sympathetic and unnecessarily considerate towards my uncle. The man doesn’t even like you, and moreover he has played no part in raising me. Why should he attend the wedding?”
    “He is family, Ijeoma. There is nothing like family.”
    She nodded and returned to me. “I would like to warn you in advance. You don’t drive a Benz, so, you are already my uncle’s enemy.”
    I smiled. “I’ll still like to do what is right.”
    ******
    *IJEOMA*
    “The best thing about Djokovic is that he can be so unpredictable, I mean, man was down by two sets.” Austin started. I rolled my eyes as he continued. “You know I used to be pissed when Djokovic first came into the business and swept everyone aside, but later, I got to understand and love the dude. He is my favorite.”
    “And cut…” I said as I flashed my teeth at him. “Enough, I don’t even know what you are saying.”
    He groaned. “Come on, Tennis is very interesting. It is the second best sport on earth after Football.”
    I nodded as I whistled. “I was going to ask where your passion for those losers, Arsenal went.”
    “One, we have only lost one game so far in the campaign, and ever since we signed Ozil, we are like immortals, if I were you, I’d be worried.”
    I scoffed. “I don’t worry, especially not with Jose being in charge of Chelsea, I can’t worry.” I picked up the remote control and turned off the Television. “We should go to bed now, our search continues tomorrow.”
    “Would you be able to sleep?” he asked.
    “I…I won’t, but, morning has to come, I have to find Tiwa. This is too hard for me.”
    He nodded. “I’ll try to watch some more TV.”
    I swallowed as I watched him pick up the remote. Austin has been everything for me, but I have never had the time to be there for him or help out with his problems. I returned to him and took my seat beside him.
    “Have you spoken to Sharon yet?”
    He shook his head sadly. “Not in a year.” He said as he changed the stations. He chuckled. “But not a day goes without me stalking her on twitter.”
    “Do you still tweet at her?”
    He nodded. “You know, I created a new twitter account just to stalk her.” He completed with a smile.
    “You shouldn’t have let her go.”
    He swallowed. “She shouldn’t have told me to make a choice.”
    I cleaned my eyes. “I feel guilty for everything, Austin.”
    “I had to choose between you and her, do you know what that meant for me? You are my friend, my friend. I don’t leave my friends. I am loyal.”
    I smiled and then started to laugh and then we bought laughed.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I closed the door gently and took Mom back to the living room. “Tiwa would be fast asleep by now.”
    “Omololu, I want us to talk about the next step from here.”
    I took my seat. “Mom, I have a job here.”
    “A job that Olivia got you!”
    I snapped. “Yes! Yes! She got me a job, so? I don’t even know why you hate her so much? That woman has been nothing but kind to us, and she has loved me, something that I never thought I was worthy of. She was there for me, and even when, even when, I…I attempted suicide, she was the one who saved my life. Mom, you should be grateful to her.”
    Mom nodded and blinked. I knew what was next so I rushed to her and hugged her, “I am sorry, Mom. I…I just want you to give Olivia a chance, I know you love Ijeoma and all because she is like your own daughter, but, I want to start again, allow me.”
    “When I see that you are really able to move on, I will be the first to welcome Olivia and till then, don’t yell at me anymore.” She said and walked away.
    I blinked as I watched her leave for her room.
    ******
    “Please sit here.” Olivia said as I walked into her office.
    She took a seat opposite me and smiled. She crossed her leg in a classy manner and I swallowed as I ran my eyes through her light skinned laps. I turned my face away as I chastised myself.
    “Have you been using your medications, correctly?”
    I swallowed as I answered her. “Ye…Yeah.”
    “Are you okay?” she asked with a smile. I shook my head in the negative. “Should I turn on the AC?” she asked.
    “STOP! Why did you call me here? I am not comfortable.”
    She adjusted in her seat. “You attempted suicide and you need to talk to someone through this and that is why you are here.”
    I wiped my forehead. “Can we be quick?”
    She nodded. “Tell me what happened.”
    I took a deep breath and panted. I shut my eyes and opened it. “I can’t.”
    “Why?”
    “I can’t…I just can’t!” I replied and walked out.
    ******
    *IJEOMA*
    I slipped into my footwear as I joined Austin in the living room. “Have you had breakfast?”
    “Not yet. I just called the Police man, he said he’ll be here in an hour.” He replied as he placed the land phone on the table.
    I dropped my phone on the dining table. “Has the maid fixed anything?”
    “I guess so, she was busy in the kitchen when I came out.”
    “I will go and check it out.” I replied and left for the kitchen. I walked over to the refrigerator and poured myself a glass of milk.
    “Good morning ma.” The maid greeted as soon as in walked in.
    I nodded and dropped the cup in the sink. “What’s for breakfast?”
    “Irish potatoes and scrambled eggs.” She replied briskly.
    I smiled. “I like that. Serve the gentleman some; I won’t be having any breakfast yet.”
    She bowed and immediately got to work. I returned to the living room to meet Austin. “Irish potatoes and scrambled eggs, you good?” I asked, taking my seat.
    “Fantastic. My appetite is healthy this morning.”
    The door bell chimed. “The police seem to be more efficient than ever.” I said as I tried standing up.
    “I got it.” Austin said and walked over to the door. I followed him. He turned the door knob open.
    I gasped as I stared at Omololu with Tiwa.

    EPISODE 4

    *OMOLOLU*
    Ijeoma stared at me as she stood behind her ‘lover’ and stuttered over some inaudible words.
    “Err…Tiwa! Ah…” She struggled with words as she approached Tiwa. Tiwa dashed behind me and Ijeoma stepped back. “I…I…I…am really…err…”
    I saved her the drama. “Is my daughter safe here, Ijeoma?” I asked, staring at her ‘lover’.
    She nodded as she blinked. “Au…Austin is…is”
    “Spare me the story.” I replied as I placed a phone in Tiwa’s hand. “You can always call me.” I said and pecked her forehead.
    Tiwa smiled faintly. “When would you come back for me?” she asked.
    “Soon. I’ll end all these soon.” I promised as we hugged. “Take care of my daughter, she is still your daughter if you still remember.” I said sternly and turned to walk away.
    “Omololu.”
    I froze in my track as Ijeoma called my name like the first time. I could feel my heart beat racing fast as her footsteps drew closer. I blinked not knowing if I should turn in her direction. My heart still did beat for her. I closed my eyes as I felt her hand run through my chest.
    “Omololu, please.” She said quietly.
    I blinked and took her hands away carefully and turned towards her. Her eyes were weary and tired. They were sadder than mine, much sadder than mine on the night everything changed between us. I folded her hand and dropped it slowly. “Never, Ijeoma. Never.”
    She tried to talk and her voice broke. I walked away quickly as I couldn’t watch her cry.
    *IJEOMA*
    I watched Omololu drive off as tears streamed down my cheeks. His eyes were cold and brutal as he said ‘ Never, Ijeoma. Never’ I had never seen them like that.
    “Let’s go inside.” Austin said as he took my hand. “Tiwa is inside.” I nodded and followed him into the house. Austin closed the door after me as I walked into the living room.
    Tiwa stared at the both of us and Austin cleared his throat.
    “Hi, I am Austin.” He said, stretching out his hand.
    She stared at the hand and then at Austin and then took the hand. “Tiwa.”
    I heaved a sigh of relief as this happened. I had never expected her to take his hand.“Tiwa, I am so sorry about everything that happened. I…I really didn’t…err…I” I started.
    Austin placed his hand on my shoulder. “We would show you to your room.”
    I nodded. “Yes…yes, your room. Let’s go.”
    Austin pulled her bag and led the way. Tiwa followed him and I walked slowly behind them.
    “This is your room, I hope you like it.” He announced as we walked into the room I had set up for Tiwa.
    She walked round the room. “I hate pink.” She said coldly.
    “What?! Pink is a cool colour.” Austin replied as I watched from the doorway.
    She folded her arms. “I hate Barbie…and I am girl.” She added as she folded her arms.
    Austin shot a glance at me and then smiled at her. “What color do you like?”
    She didn’t reply.
    Austin nodded. “Okay, I’ll excuse you. Your breakfast should be ready in five minutes.”
    “I have had breakfast.” She replied as started to unpack her bag.
    Austin nodded. “Alright then, excuse me.” he said and joined me in the doorway. “What are you doing, Ijeoma?” he asked.
    “I…I don’t understand.” I replied, dumbly.
    He pulled my hand and dragged me downstairs. “That is your daughter in there.” He said throwing my hand carelessly. “You have to make an effort.”
    “Austin, she doesn’t even like me. Did you see her eyes? It was as if she should kill me.”
    He scoffed. “Forget about the eyes. She didn’t smile at me either, but we have to at least help her settle down here and you are going to do just that.”
    I clasped my face in my palm. “I am scared.”
    “I’ll have the maid fix her breakfast, you are going to go in there and talk to her.” He said. “When you are back, I’ll be gone. I’ll call to know when to come around again.” He said and left for the kitchen.
    I rubbed my head and left for Tiwa’s room.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I turned off the car engine as I contemplated my decision to go into Olivia’s house. I stared at her Black BMW jeep so I knew she hadn’t gone to work. I won the battle in my heart and knocked on the front door.
    “Lolu!” she said excitedly as she opened the door but her smile faded as soon as she saw my countenance. “What happened to Tiwa?”
    “Tiwa is fine. She is with her mother.” I said as I walked into the house.
    Olivia followed me with her toothbrush in her hand. “I’ll be in bathroom. I need to rinse off.”
    I nodded as I took my seat. “Do you have any food?”
    “Yeah, help yourself.” She replied and left for her room.
    I strolled into the kitchen and poured myself a drink. I couldn’t take my mind off Ijeoma. For the brief moment I was with her I wished everything that had happened oddly between us could go away. I wished I could just say ‘I forgive you, do you forgive me?’ but I couldn’t bring myself to forgiving her. I would heal completely and be fine, Olivia had assured me of that.
    ****
    Olivia took her seat beside me outside her office. “How are you?”
    I stared at her. “Look, I know you are doing everything for me to be fine, but, I don’t think I can continue these therapies.”
    “And why is that?”
    I swallowed. “I was uncomfortable in there. I…I don’t know if it’s right to say this, but were you trying to seduce me?”
    She laughed subtly. “Lolu, you are going through a trauma, I am Doctor, I know my work, and it’s good to see this sort of reaction from you.”
    “Are you saying seducing me is part of the plan?”
    She smiled. “It is not, but if you were feeling attracted to me in there, it is of your own volition, you probably need to ease into it.”
    “I can’t cheat on my wife.”
    She nodded. “I never requested you to, but, you need to speak with your wife.” She replied and rose to her feet. “You will have an active session starting tomorrow. You should go home and rest.”
    “I have to return to Ibadan.”
    “And why is that?” she asked taking her seat.
    I cleared my throat. “My rent at the motel expires tomorrow, and my mom is worried about me.”
    “Haven’t you told her that you are seeing a doctor?”
    I nodded. “I did, and she is thrilled, but I can’t be here, I don’t have any money and I lost what I came for, I still have my little daughter back home with my mom.”
    “What if I provide you with accommodation?”
    I shook my head in disagreement. “You have done too much for mealready; I’ll need to take care of my child.”
    “What did you study in the university?”
    I swallowed. “I didn’t go.”
    “Why?”
    “Ijeoma had to go. It was too expensive for both of us.”
    She nodded. “This is not the right time for you to return to Ibadan, and you know why? You are already defeated but you can’t afford to have your back against the wall. Let’s strike a deal, I don’t want you to be indebted to me, so, I am going to refer you to some friends, see if you can do any job for them, might be menial, but I want you to make some money before you go back home.”
    I smiled. “That’s very considerate of you, but, I’ll pass.”
    She scribbled on a paper and handed it to me. “If you change your mind before tomorrow, go to him. I’ll call him anyways.” She said and returned to her office.
    ****
    *IJEOMA*
    I flipped the pages of my magazine as I sipped my drink. Tiwa had been in her room since Omololu dropped her. I was clueless on what to say to her and how to say it. I heard footsteps approaching. I turned my head over my shoulder as Tiwa jogged downstairs.
    “Do you want something? Juice? Snacks?”
    She shook her head in disagreement. “I want to walk, am I allowed to?”
    I swallowed. “This is not a prison, why would you ask me that?”
    “Good!” she replied and scribbled into a paper and stuck it on the table. “That’s my phone number if you want to call.”
    I blinked. “Why don’t we go together?” I asked.
    “Together? Why?” she asked as she adjusted her bag.
    I cleared my throat. “Tiwa, you are new here and I want to show you around. I care about you and I want to protect you, you are my daughter.”
    “Thank you, but if you think am not safe, I’ll stay in.”
    I took a deep breath. “Tiwa, don’t make it look as if I am keeping you in, I am trying tobe here for you.”
    “I have my father. You may have given birth to me but you weren’t there, so don’t start doing what you should have done now, I don’t need it.” She replied.
    I nodded and took my seat.
    “I’ll be in my room.” She said and returned upstairs.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I pulled up after Olivia in front of her office. “Welcome, Mr. Martins.” The attendant said as he collected my car key and drove the car into the garage. “I still don’t know why I have to come here with you, Liv.” I said as I joined her.
    “I thought we were going to see the guy from the Real Estate after work today.”
    I nodded. “I could just join you there.”
    “Lolu, it is not as if you are really doing anything at the apartment. Tiwa is with her mother, you would be bored, and why don’t you just hang around and meet people here. You’ll love it, I promise.”
    I stared at her. “My Mom is home alone, she’ll be bored.”
    “Your mom would be worse if you go home sulking.” She replied as she pressed the elevator button. “Why don’t you request for a transfer from your branch at Ibadan?”
    I swallowed. “I don’t intend to live in Lagos.” She stared at me. “I know you don’t like Ibadan either, but, you know…let’s talk about this later.”
    “Your daughter is staying Lagos with her mother.”
    “On temporary custody.” I replied. “I’ll get Tiwa back.”
    She nodded. “I know you would.” She replied and we stepped out of the elevator into the top floor. “Lolu, do you want to be a joint partner in the sessions today?”
    “How does that operate?” I asked.
    “I will be doing CBT for a group from an office, so you may just have to sit and observe.”
    I shrugged. “How long would it take?”
    “Barely an hour and then the Questions and Answer sessions, it would be therapeutic for you too.”
    I nodded. “Okay.”
    *IJEOMA*
    I tapped on Tiwa’s door lightly. I blinked as I banged on the door. I stepped back as the door opened and she stood before me. “I…I want to take you out.”
    “Where to?”
    I took a deep breath. “I…We could just drive round town, then maybe eat out or something, please.”
    She ran her fingers through her hair. “I…I don’t know.”
    “Please, Tiwa. I just want to try to build something for us, I know I haven’t been there so I am not going to ask you for much, but, I just want your company.”
    She nodded. “It’s not as if I have anything doing here, I’ll get changed.”
    “Thank you.” I replied.
    I flung my wardrobe open in delight as I picked out a dress for my first outing with my daughter. My phone vibrated on the table. Austin’s name beamed on the Caller ID.
    “Hello Austin, guess what? I am taking Tiwa out.”
    “Ij, I don’t know…” he replied. “The Director came in and he has been asking of you.”
    “Just tell him I can’t make it.”
    “Ijeoma, this is important. The guys from Syria are around.”
    I scoffed. “Why couldn’t they pick another day? I want to take my daughter out today, this might be my chance with her.”
    “I know how important it is for you, but you know you do the deals for us and right now, we need you to close it for us.”
    I shook my head sadly. “Tiwa would be sad. And even if she doesn’t show it, it’s unreasonable.” I replied as I took my seat. “Tell the director that I have family matters to attend to.”
    “Ijeoma?”
    I dropped the call and picked my dress from the bed. A message popped on my phone from Austin. “Your commission is 5 million from this deal. Commission, Ijeoma”
    I stared hard at the message and grabbed my suit from my jacket and started to change.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I watched as the session dragged on. Olivia’s patients were all smiles around her, she knew how to work her magic around patients. It didn’t take long for me to adjust with her when I resumed my treatment.
    ******
    She smiled as I walked in. “I thought you were back in Ibadan. Why are you still here?” She asked.
    “I can’t sleep. I think about Ijeoma every night, I want to get her out of my mind.” I said as I took my seat.
    She nodded with a smile. “Do you want to talk about what happened that night when you called me to pick you?”
    I shook my head in disagreement. “No. I can only have that discussion with Ijeoma.”
    “She must have hurt you really bad.” She said as she passed me a glass of water.
    I nodded. “She did.”
    She took her seat opposite me. “I can have my secretary draw up schedules for you.”
    “When do I start?”
    She smiled. “You do know that you would have to tell me everything when you start your sessions?”
    “Are there no exceptions to the rule?” I asked.
    “Not in this case.” She replied. “I want you to get over this and to get over everything, you have to let it out and you will let it out.”
    I smiled. “Can you help me get everything out of my system?”
    “If you tell me.” she replied.
    I nodded. “Can we talk about you?”
    She chuckled. “I won’t do that during sessions, if you want to talk, you can ask me out.”
    “Ask you out?” I asked. “Like on a date?”
    She shrugged. “Your call.”
    I smiled faintly. “Okay, tonight?”
    She smiled. “Tonight is good.”
    *****
    I watched as the last patient hugged her and walked out of the hall. Olivia approached me with a smile. “How did I do?” she asked as she kissed me.
    “Brilliant! Your patients are in for speedy recovery.” I said.
    “Like how yours went?”
    “Should I be worried? I don’t want someone else taking you from me.” I said as I released her from my grip.
    She placed her hand around my neck. “I got an email from the Real estate guy, he is waiting for us.”
    “I got the mail too.”
    She smiled. “So, when do we go and buy the house?”
    “Could we check it with Tiwa?”
    She nodded. “Of course, we could get Tiwa and then go together.”
    *IJEOMA*
    Tiwa was waiting downstairs. She had a puzzled look and quite rightly so as she saw me dressed officially. “You can’t wear this to a casual outing.”
    “Yeah…I know, but the thing is I…I…I really have to………God, I don’t know how to say it.”
    She smiled faintly. “You got a call from work and you have to go.”
    I nodded. “Yeah, but…we can do something else. I can take you with me to work, and then, we could have dinner together after the meeting. What do you say?”
    She scoffed. “No, go do your work. It’s more important to you.” she said and returned upstairs.
    I grabbed my car keys and hurried out.
    *OMOLOLU*
    Olivia stepped out of her bedroom in a red gown. “Do you like this gown?” she asked.
    “Tiwa loves you in whatever.”
    She rolled her eyes. “It’s not about Tiwa.”
    I swallowed as the thought of Ijeoma flashed through my mind. Ijeoma had the sort of beauty one could refer to as intimidating. Olivia had not met with her but she had seen a picture I had of Ijeoma which I later got rid of.
    “Olivia, you are in my life now. You don’t have to compete with Ijeoma.” I assured.
    She nodded. “I am not competing with her. I just want to look good.”
    “The gown looks good on you.” I replied.
    She smiled as she returned into the room. I immediately dialed Ijeoma. “Ijeoma, I want to pick my daughter.”
    “There is a restraining order, what are you saying?” she replied.
    I cleared my throat. “You can come with us, I want to pick a house here and I want Tiwa to see it.”
    “I am sorry that won’t be possible, you can’t just show up and have Tiwa, I own custody.”
    I sighed. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, Ijeoma. It’s temporary.” I replied and the line went dead. Olivia walked out of the room and joined me. “Shall we?”
    “Ijeoma doesn’t want Tiwa to go with us.”
    She shrugged. “That’s fine, we would just go together, when we win custody, she would have no choice but to let Tiwa go.”
    *IJEOMA*
    I stopped the car as the Red light from the traffic sign came up. Austin’s name came up on my phone. I tapped the speaker to avoid putting the phone in my ear. “What is it, Austin? I am on my way.”
    “They are getting impatient.”
    I stared at the traffic light. “I can’t just skip traffic signs, Can I? I’ll be there in roughly twenty minutes.” I replied.
    “Okay.” He replied and the line went dead.
    I watched the traffic lights and then stared out of my window as I saw a mother yelling at her daughter. I didn’t even have that luxury when Tiwa was a baby. Things were too hard and I knew that we had to save the situation.
    ***
    “Ijeoma you can’t go. Who is gonna play with the baby?” Omololu asked as I drew the zippers of my box.
    I stared at him. “If I don’t take this job, Tiwa won’t have anything. Please Omololu, understand.”
    “But they have promised to give me extra money at the construction site.”
    I nodded. “I know, but we are not getting anywhere with this. Omololu, I have a chance to save us, let me go.”
    “Omololu, please, let her go.” His mother said as she walked in. I walked over to my mother-in-law and hugged her. “Take care of my babies for me, the big one and the small one.” I said.
    “Ijeoma, when would you come back?” he asked.
    I smiled as I held his face. “As soon as I can.”
    He nodded and took his neck chain off. “Have it.”
    “Oh, it’s yours. You love it.”
    He smiled. “I know it is crude and made of rope, but I love it and I love you and I want you to have it, for me and for us.” He said as he tied it around my neck.
    ****
    I ran my hand across my chest and I started the car and drove off. I wasn’t wearing Omololu’s neck chain anymore, I had stopped wearing it. I drove slowly and then turnedback abruptly to my right incurring the wrath of other road users.
    “You no fit drive!” A man hurled at me.
    I heard him but I had no response, right now I was on my way to make things right.

    EPISODE 5

    *OMOLOLU*
    “The view from the front porch is amazing. We are lucky that Collins saved this place for us. What do you think?” Olivia asked as she pulled me towards the Porch.
    I nodded. “I think it’s good.”
    “You can have this place for only 60 million naira. The best you can get.” Collins added as we joined him outside.
    If anyone had told me that I would have up to a million naira before my death, I’d argue it with ‘references’
    ****
    “My name is Omololu Martins.” I introduced.
    Mr. Philips stared at me. “Olivia told me you would be coming.”
    “I just want you to know that I can do a lot at once.”
    He nodded. “Multi tasking. That’s interesting.”
    I smiled.
    “I have a ship that comes in next week throughApapa, I have some men that help offload the ship. It is long and hard, it takes a minimum of four hours to offload it. You can join them in offloading it. I’ll provide you with accommodation there and feeding too during the time for it.”
    I nodded. “Okay, that’s fine.”
    “You’ll also get paid, You’ll be paid ten thousand naira.”
    My face fell, but it was a start. “Thank you, sir.”
    After a tiring first day of offloading a ship, Mr. Philips called me into his car. “Great job!” He said as I took my seat.
    “Thank you, sir.” I replied with my head bowed.
    He nodded. “I am quite impressed with your work rate here and honestly you won’t get a ten thousand naira daily job. My ship comes in seasons.”
    “Are you saying that my work is done here?”
    He nodded in agreement. “It is, but, I would love to know what other skills you have, something to put on your CV.”
    “I didn’t go to the University.” I replied.
    “Have you thought of going?”
    I shook my head stubbornly. “I can’t.”
    “You can’t or you don’t?” he asked.
    I threw my face away. “It’s not worth it.”
    “Can I be your friend?”
    “My Friend? You?”
    He nodded. “I’ll register you at the Nigerian Open University or if you don’t mind a regular school, I can talk to some friends for you.”
    “Why are you being so nice to me?”
    “I am Olivia’s brother and her friends are my friends.”
    ****
    I squeezed Olivia’s hand in mine. “Can we show Tiwa this place before we commit?”
    She nodded with a smile. “Of course, my love.” She replied.
    *IJEOMA*
    I dropped my bag on the chair as I walked into the house. My phone buzzed again and Austin beamed on the Caller ID. “What is it, Austin?” I asked as I climbed up the stairs.
    “Mrs. Martins, where are you?”
    My leg froze as I heard the Chairman’s voice. “I am at home.”
    “We need you here now, we are about to lose our clients.” He said.
    I looked up and saw Tiwa standing before me. My Chairman was screaming into my ears. I shut my eyes as I screamed into the phone. “I want to be with my daughter.” I yelled and hung up.
    Tiwa stared at me, “What did you do that for? Your Job?”
    “You are my daughter, Tiwa. I am sorry. I came back for you.” I said.
    She shook her head sadly. “It was a waste, I am not interested in going out anymore.”
    My eyes went red and my blood boiled. The grip on my phone become firmer as Tiwa’s words stung my heart.
    “You should go to work, there’s more to do there.” She said as she attempted to return to her room but I pulled her back. “Let go!” she screamed.
    I wasn’t going to let go. I held her hand tighter. “I just lost 5 million naira and I am not about to go to my room and sleep filled with regrets.” I said as I pulled her downstairs and dragged her into the car amidst her screaming.
    “You are holding me against my wish.” She said as I started the engine.
    I nodded. “Yes Tiwa, I’ll hold you against your wish and you know why? I am frustrated, I am pissed off! And I am tired of you not understanding me.”
    “Me? What have you said to me?” she shouted back.
    “I made a mistake. I left! But I am sorry, is it so hard to understand?” I shouted as I blasted the horn.
    She stared at me. “Can you slow down? I think we are going too fast.”
    “Oh really…we are on 140, that’s nothing, watch me do a 200.” I replied as I pressed on the accelerator.
    *OMOLOLU*
    Mom was mute as we ate lunch. “You can say anything to me, but don’t keep quiet.” I said.
    “I have nothing to say.” She replied.
    I nodded. “Olivia and I went to check out the house, this place is really small and it makes no sense paying rents when I can buy my house.”
    She sipped her water carefully. “When are we returning to Ibadan?” she asked.
    I swallowed. “Mom, I am thinking of asking a transfer from Mr. Philips down here, Tiwa is here, Olivia is here and it’s better for us to be here.”
    “Ibadan is my home. You can decide where your home is.” She said and left for the kitchen.
    I slammed the table. “Stop it, Mom! Is that how much you hate Olivia? She has been nothing but good to me.”
    “Don’t drag me into your problems.” She replied and returned into the living room. “Can I at least go and see my granddaughter? I need Ijeoma’s address.”
    I took a deep breath and fetched my wallet. “Mom, Olivia is a good woman.” I said as I wrote down the address.
    “You would know that. In time, I may realize that, and if I don’t do that at all, too bad.” She replied and collected the paper from me. “Thank you, I’ll be on my way.”
    I blinked. “Let me call a cab for you.” I urged.
    “I’ll get dressed.” She replied and left for her room.
    *IJEOMA*
    “She is my mother.”
    I didn’t know if I was imagining things but I could hear Tiwa’s voice. I tried to move but I couldn’t. My eyes were heavy and weary as I tried opening them. “Where am I?” I asked. “Where is my daughter?”
    “I am here.” The reply came.
    “Ijeoma, can you hear me?”
    I stared the man above me. “I…I can hear you.”
    “You are in the hospital. Be calm.”
    I gasped. “Where’s Tiwa? I blacked out.”
    “I am here.” Tiwa replied as she stared at me.
    Tears rolled down my eyes. “I am sorry.” I said.
    “It’s alright.” She replied and stepped back.
    My eyes were weak and I closed them.
    ***
    “We are gonna prepare her for surgery now.”
    Tiwa swallowed hard. “Is it so serious?”
    “She can’t move.” The Doctor replied. “Can we call your Dad?”
    She nodded and dialed on her phone.
    *OMOLOLU*
    “MOM!!!” I shouted.
    She rushed out with her earrings. “Omololu, what is it?”
    “Ijeoma has been in an accident.” I said as my voice broke.
    She stared at me. “How? Where?”
    “I…I don’t know. Let’s go.” She said.
    “Give me the keys, I’ll drive.”
    I shook my head in disagreement. “We won’t get there in time.”
    “Or we could be carried in by an ambulance if you drive. Keys!” she ordered.
    ***
    Austin walked into the hall and Tiwa rushed to him. “My Dad is taking too long, we need to sign for the surgery, they won’t let me do it.”
    He nodded. “Are you okay?”
    “Yes, she told me to leave the car and then she drove into a tree.”
    He shook his head sadly. The Doctor walked out. “Are you her husband?”
    “No, but I can sign anything for her.” He replied hastily.
    Tiwa nodded. “Yes sir, he can sign it.”
    The Doctor stretched the document to him.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I rushed into the hospital with Mom running behind struggling to keep up. Tiwa ran out to meet me with her hand widespread. I took her in my grip. “Where is she?” I asked.
    “She is in the theatre.” She replied.
    “Surgery? Ijeoma can’t go under the knife. She hates it.” I replied.
    Tiwa gasped. “B…but the Doctor said she needed it.”
    “Tiwa.”
    We turned as I saw Ijeoma’s ‘lover’ approached us calling Tiwa’s name. “Did you authorize my wife’s surgery?” I asked as I approached him.
    He nodded. “Ijeoma’s condition is delicate. I had – ”
    I sent him crashing into the nearby chair before he could complete his statement and I groaned in pain from hitting him.
    “Omololu, what is wrong with you?” Mom shouted as she helped him to his feet.
    He wiped some blood from his nose and walked away with Mom to the nearby tap.
    Tiwa stared at me with some surprise and she took her seat. I was embarrassed as I tried avoiding her glance. My hand was hurting too, but that was the least of my worries. Ijeoma was in my head.
    I watched as Ijeoma’s ‘lover’ walked away with my Mom and I got more irritated. “D--n it!” I said kicking the chair.
    “Dad?”
    I stared at Tiwa and she motioned to me to have a seat. I took my seat beside her. “I…I am sorry. It’s just that Ijeoma hates surgeries. She always said that she would never go under the knife.”
    Tiwa stared at me motionless.
    I was embarrassed as she stared at me. “Tiwa, I shouldn’t have hit him, I know and I am sorry, but…I am just saying that-”
    “You still love her.” She cut in.
    ***
    “How serious is it?” Margaret Martins asked as she handed Austin a glass of water
    Austin drank some water. “Ijeoma hurt her leg in the accident. An immediate surgery is necessary to get her in shape.”
    “Would she walk again?” she asked.
    He took a deep breath. “She is in surgery now, I…I don’t know.”
    “Let’s meet my son.”
    He scoffed. “I can’t.”
    “Omololu is a nice man.”
    Austin hissed. “He hit me without even knowing me, what does that speak of him?”
    “He is a jealous man. He loves Ijeoma.”
    Austin stared at her. “Love? He loves Ijeoma?”
    *OMOLOLU*
    “Tiwa, I am only concerned about her.” I said as I rubbed my palm on my trouser.
    She nodded. “That’s a great deal of concern.”
    “What did you expect me to say? We have been together for a very long time, even before we got married. I just care, that’s all. I stopped loving her.”
    She nodded. “Okay.”
    I threw my face away and adjusted in the chair. “I actually wanted to hit him. Right from the first day I saw him with her, I wanted to beat him up.”
    “Dad…” she stressed as she chuckled. “You are jealous, aren’t you?”
    I scoffed. “Jealous? Tiwa, I am over her and you know it, there is no need to go back to that issue.”
    She smiled. “Why don’t we talk about it?” she asked smiling.
    “You know I don’t want to talk about it. Don’t make me.”
    She nodded with a smile and then tickled me. “Tell me.”
    “Stop!”
    She winked playfully. “Tell me about that day you took her to Grandma.”
    “Stop it.” I replied with a smile.
    She grinned as she wrapped her hand around me. My memory started to play tricks on me, Tiwa acted exactly like Ijeoma used to. She had Ijeoma’s teenage warm and fuzzy behaviour.
    I watched as Mom approached with Ijeoma’s lover. I looked in Ijeoma’s direction. “His name is Mr. Austin.” She said as though she had read my mind. I nodded as I walked up to him.
    “I am sorry, Austin. I…I overreacted.”
    He nodded. “You sure did.”
    I swallowed. “Since when has she been in surgery?”
    “The past twenty minutes or so.” He replied.
    A Doctor approached us and we all rushed to meet him. “How is she?” I asked.
    The Doctor stared at Austin. “He is her husband.” Austin said to the Doctor.
    The Doctor walked up to me. “Ijeoma is out of surgery.”
    I smiled as I took a deep breath. “Great news, right?”
    He nodded. “But, she is unable to move her legs.”
    “What?” I shouted as I grabbed the Doctor’s collar
    Austin freed the doctor from my grip. “Take it easy.”
    “I won’t!” I yelled back
    “Sir, we are going to call a physiotherapist and I can assure you that in no time, she will be fine, it is nothing serious.” The Doctor replied.
    Austin nodded. “Can we see her now?”
    “No you can’t, she is resting, but you may when she wakes up.” He replied and walked away.
    I took my seat and watched as my mom discussed with Austin and Tiwa.
    The next thing I saw was Austin rushing out of the hospital. I hurried over to my mom. “What’s going on?”
    “He had to attend to urgent matters.” She replied.
    I scoffed. “I’ll go and see Ijeoma.” I said and walked away.
    *IJEOMA*
    My eyes popped open. I had been sleeping for too long. I knew I had to get up, but why couldn’t I? Legs are used for movement or was it my hand? Why couldn’t I feel my leg? I screamed out in fear.
    The door flew open and Omololu rushed in. “It’s okay….shhh…
    It’sokay.” He said as he rubbed my forehead
    “I can’t feel my legs, Omololu, I can’t feel my legs.” I screamed.
    He kissed my forehead. “It’s okay…it’s okay, you are fine.” He said.
    For a moment, I forgot about my leg and I enjoyed being close to Omololu again. “Omololu…”
    “I am here for you, you will be fine.” He said.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I didn’t know when the worlds spilled out of my mouth. Here for her?What was I thinking? I placed her gently into the Bed.
    The door opened and the doctor walked in with some nurses. “I told you not to disturb her.”
    “She screamed.”
    Ijeoma stared at the doctor with fear in her eyes. “I can’t feel my legs.”
    “It’s fine.” The Doctor replied. “You’ll feel it soon. You just have to work on it.”
    She gasped. “What do you mean?” She asked as she gripped the Doctor’s shirt. “No!” She screamed as she tried to throw herself from bed. I held on to her tightly as I feared I was about to see the Ijeoma I saw on the day she lost her parents.
    “Ijeoma…shhh….it’s okay.”
    She struggled with me, but I was stronger. She tried to push but her strength failed her and she was eventually sedated to sleep.
    I returned to my Mom and Tiwa outside. “She is resting now. Let’s go home.”
    “Lolu!”
    I turned as I saw Olivia. “Hey…”
    “What are you doing here?” she asked with a smile. “Don’t tell me you followed me here?” she asked smiling. She then smiled in Tiwa’s direction. “Hi darling.”
    Tiwa smiled as Olivia hugged her. “How are you?”
    My Mom maintained a distance and I watched her walk away. Olivia stared at me. “Does she hate me that much?”
    “She doesn’t hate you.” I replied. “What are you doing here?” I asked as I tried to take her mind of thoughts of my mom.
    “I was called in here to check a patient when I thought I saw you and I followed you down here.” She said. I nodded. “Well turns out, I was right. And you? What are you doing here?”
    I cleared my throat. “I…Ijeoma is here.”
    She stared at me and smiled. “What happened to her?”
    “She…she was in an accident.”
    Olivia gasped. “Sorry about that. Is…Is she better?”
    “She is asleep. She would be better.”
    She took my hand. “Are you okay?”
    “Of course, I am fine.” I replied almost immediately.
    She nodded. “I’ll be on my way home, say hi to your mom for me.” She said and walked away.
    *IJEOMA*
    The Doctor set me on the wheel chair. “This would work for the main time.” He said as he adjusted the wheelchair. “Your daughter is waiting for you in the lobby.”
    I pressed the controller and wheeled out of the room into the lobby. Tiwa walked up to me as soon as she saw me approaching. “How are you?” she asked.
    “I am okay.” I replied and wheeled out of the hospital. I had requested for a special wheelchair with automatic features to make my movement easy.
    Tiwa and I joined the driver in the car and he drove us home. I had a personal driver but I rarely used him as I preferred to move around myself, but now, I couldn’t do that by myself and I was stuck with been driven around.
    I noticed renovations in my house as soon as I wheeled in. One of the staircases had been renovated to accommodate a wheel chair. “Who did this?” I shouted as soon I approached it.
    “Mr. Austin thought that – ”
    I yelled. “Austin has no right! This is my house! I am not finished.”
    The door opened and Austin came in. “Heyy…” he said with a smile.
    “Why did you touch my staircase?” I shouted.
    He smiled. “It is going to be hard for you to move around here with the stairs, so I just thought that it would be nice to change things around here.”
    “Thought? You didn’t think, you decided and you changed it without my consent.”
    He nodded. “Okay, I get that, but, it is for your good. You need to be able to do things by yourself.”
    “And that is why you shouldn’t have touched anything! What else did you change? Do I now sleep on the floor?” I yelled.
    He stared at me. “Ijeoma, you are yelling at me.”
    “And what do I care? I am the one in the d--n wheel chair, not you! I am the one who can’t move, not you! I am the one who is stuck, not you! So don’t tell me that I am yelling at you.” I screamed.
    “Please calm down.” Tiwa said as she stood before me.
    I scoffed. “Do I look upset? Do I look crazy to you? I can’t walk.” I shouted as I broke down in tears.
    Austin walked over to me. “Ijeoma, I need you to fight back.”
    “That’s what I am doing. I want to get up from this d--n thing.” I shouted as I pushed myself up and crashed into the floor.
    *OMOLOLU*
    “Should I bring her here?”
    Mom shook her head in disagreement. “It’s better to just stay there with her, it will save us the stress of bringing her luggage and it would prevent any problem with Olivia.”
    I paused. “Olivia?” I then smiled. “You actually care about Olivia’s feelings?”
    “I am a woman too.” she replied as she dumped a shirt in my bag. “You should hurry up. If Tiwa called you, it is quite urgent.”
    I zipped the bag. “Mom, with what is going on right now with Ijeoma, I…I think I may have to be in Lagos more, can’t you stay too?”
    She smiled. “Now you want to use Ijeoma as an excuse so that I won’t return home?”
    “I am not making any excuse. I just want to be in Lagos.”
    She nodded. “Hurry up; I’ll come over in the evening after I have made her something to eat.”
    “Alright, Mom. I rather get going.”
    I opened the door and saw Olivia standing before me. “Hi, Olivia.”
    She smiled faintly and stared at my bag. “Where are you going to?”
    I took a deep breath. “I am going to Ijeoma’s place.”
    *IJEOMA*
    I sipped my water gently as I watched Austin pace round the room. “I have already told you that I am fine. You may leave.”
    “Ijeoma, you just threw yourself off the chair because you were pissed off. How am I going to leave you alone?”
    I scoffed as I replaced the glass beside the table. “You are going to walk over to the door, you are going to open I and walk out, start your engine and drive off to your house. That is how you are going to do it.”
    “I have to move in here with you.” he replied.
    I hissed. “It is bad enough that you think I am useless, but I won’t have you come here and baby me. I am not a woman who would give up so easily.” I shouted. “Any news from the office? We haven’t spoken about the office since the accident.”
    Tiwa joined us downstairs. “Do I get you anything to eat?”
    “I am not hungry.” I replied and turned in Austin’s direction. “What are you not telling me about the office?”
    He walked away from me and took his seat. “Do we have to talk about the office now? We would talk later.”
    “I want to know. Did we seal that deal?” I asked. He was silent. “Get me my grey suit, we would meet those men.”
    He sighed. “It’s not possible.”
    “Nothing is Impossible. I’ll seal that deal.” I replied.
    He swallowed. “You have been suspended.”

    EPISODE 6

    *IJEOMA*
    I tried to digest what Austin had just said to me. “Suspended?” I asked.
    He nodded and then took his seat. “Ijeoma, it came as a surprise to me too and I had to rush down to the office from the hospital when I got the call, but we lost the deal and the Chairman was so angry that he ordered that you be suspended.” He replied as he passed his phone to me. “I have the message from the Chairman there. Your letter is in the office.” He added.
    I scoffed. “I made the Chairman and I’ll take him down in an instant.” Austin stared at Tiwa and then back at me. I rolled my eyes as I got his message. “Fine, but this won’t be the end of it.” I replied and pressed the button on my wheelchair. “I’ll be upstairs.” I added and drove off.
    ***
    Tiwa stared at Austin. “Mind telling me what that was about?”
    He smiled faintly. “You don’t need to know about it, they are just complex office matters.” He replied as he fetched the T.V’s controller and switched the station to ‘Fashion TV’ . “This should interest you.” he said as he tried making a call on his phone.
    “Am sorry, do I look to you as though I am still having baby food?” Tiwa asked to Austin’s surprise. “In fact, babies are not so slow.” She added.
    He stared at her with a smile. “I don’t understand.” He stopped his call and stared at her.
    “I rather you put it on Cartoon Network if you want to make a complete fool out of me.” she continued. “I am not a child. Why was she suspended?”
    He took a deep breath. “Tiwa,…it’s just a complex office issue. Your Mom is very instrumental to us in sealing mega deals, she’s the adroit negotiator.”
    “And because she decided not to show up, she gets suspended? Not even taking into consideration that she had an accident?” She asked looking puzzled.
    Austin smiled. “Tiwa, it is not in my place to explain these things to you, maybe if you talk to your Mom, it would be clearer.”
    “I don’t have anything to discuss with her, all I am saying is that they give her her job back, you should talk to them. It was my fault.” She replied.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I helped Olivia to a seat and took mine opposite her. “You haven’t said anything to me, you just told your Mom to excuse us.” She said as she brought out her phone.
    “Olivia, Ijeoma is in a pretty bad condition and I was just thinking that I need to be with her.” I started.
    She smiled. “You are always thinking of others. That’s so sweet.” She replied. I smiled. Olivia made it all so easy, she never made my life hard. “But, have you forgotten the judges’ order of ten metres, I mean, it still stands doesn’t it?” she asked.
    My smile faded as I remembered the Judges’ order. “But, I was in the hospital and I didn’t get any warning from them, why would this be a problem?”
    “Why exactly do you want to go there?” she asked.
    I frowned. “Liv, it’s an obvious answer. I need to help her.”
    “In the bathroom? In the Kitchen? Or in the Bedroom?”
    I stared at her as for the first time I saw Olivia look angry. “Liv, it’s not what you think.” I started.
    “I get it, Ijeoma is still your wife, and I…I am the side chick, right? Or isn’t that what they call it?” she asked. “I have read about Ijeoma Martins in the papers, she is extremely wealthy, she can have maids cook for her willingly and possibly help her in the bathroom too, why does it have to be you?”
    I was silent. “I am sorry.”
    “You are sorry? Why?” she asked.
    I shook my head sadly. “Tiwa called me, and I…I just felt that if Tiwa saw it necessary that I go there, it had to be serious.”
    “I don’t know what to say, I am sad. I am disappointed, I am going to be all alone and you would be moving in with her. How do I reconcile that?”
    I took her hand. “Olivia, I am always here for you.”
    She yanked her hand from my grip. “Omololu, I want you to be with me, I don’t want you going away, I’ll be alone.”
    I swallowed hard. “Olivia, what if you come with me?”
    She stood up looking angry. “Why do you want to humiliate me? How do you want me to stay in the same house with you and your wife? Isn’t that too much? You want her to call me your mistress?”
    I scoffed. “You are not my mistress! I am going to marry you as soon as I divorce Ijeoma.”
    “And when would you file for the divorce?” she asked.
    “I…I don’t know.” I replied.
    She nodded and picked up her bag. “Fine, when you know, call me.” she said as she motioned towards the door.
    I ran after her holding her back. “Olivia, please.”
    She smiled and pecked me. “It’s fine.”
    “Are you sure?”
    She squeezed my hand and walked out.
    “Are you still going?”
    I turned to Mom who had now come into the living room. I took my seat beside her. “I am breaking Olivia’s heart, right?”
    “You have to be careful, Son.” She replied. “It’s your decision to make in the end.”
    “I am staying with Olivia.” I replied.
    ***
    Austin passed his phone to Tiwa. “What is this?” she asked.
    “Just check it out.” he replied as he turned the Television. “I’ll watch football while you engage yourself with that.”
    She shrugged and passed the phone to him. “I might as well watch soccer too instead of reading anonymous stuffs.”
    He smiled and tossed the phone back at her. “You must read it.”
    She rolled her eyes. “Who is Lord Tanner?” she asked staring into the phone.
    “That’s why you are with the phone.” he replied grinning. “Read it.”
    Tiwa smiled back. “So what am I to do with it?”
    “My…My ex works there. It is a theatre group. They perform stage plays and go on tours from city to city within Nigeria publicizing their dramas.” He started. Tiwa sat up and listened with rapt attention. “I am subscribed to their mailing list so I know they have a stage play this weekend, if you don’t mind, we could go and see it together.”
    She shrugged. “I…I don’t know.”
    “If you are worried about Ijeoma, it’s not a problem. She’ll let me take you there.”
    She nodded as she stared into the phone. “What if I don’t find it interesting?”
    Austin paused and then smiled. “Then I’ll buy you dinner.”
    “You are buying me dinner either ways, so just place a better bet.” She replied.
    He raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure that you haven’t lived with Ijeoma at one time in your life before now?”
    She shrugged. “If when I was a baby and unaware of existence doesn’t count, then no.” He smiled and then started to laugh. “What’s so funny?”
    “You sound just like Ijeoma. When she newly arrived in Lagos, I was her first friend and housemate.”
    Tiwa stared at him. “Housemate?”
    He nodded with a smile. “Yeah, she and I lived in the same house, we had to save our first salaries so it made sense to live together.”
    Tiwa laughed scornfully. “Didn’t she find any female friends?”
    “Oh? … I helped her out with the kitchen duties.”
    Tiwa frowned. “Don’t play with me, how would a grown man and a grown woman live in the same house together?”
    “Why not? Ijeoma would not stop whining about Omololu, and I am a really decent man.”
    She nodded with sarcasm. “They all say so.”
    Austin smiled. “So, would you go with me to the Lord Tanner show?”
    “Why are you so interested in going?” she asked.
    He shrugged. “I just want to take you there.”
    “Or you want to see your ex?”
    He smiled faintly. “Ex?”
    “You mentioned it to me earlier that your ex works there.”
    “Yes, that’s true. But, we are done.” He replied as sprawled out on the seat.
    She nodded. “Do you miss her?”
    He shook his head in disagreement. “No.”
    “You are lying.”
    He scoffed. “I don’t have to, and I don’t have to talk about my private life with a kid.”
    “Kid? You have to be kidding me.”
    *OMOLOLU*
    Mom strolled into the living room for the umpteenth time and returned to the kitchen and then her room. She’d walk back and forth, stamp her foot, mumble over inaudible words and then return inside.
    “Mom, this can’t continue.” I said as she walked into the living room again.
    She stared at me as though she was clueless about it. “I am…I am just relieving myself.”
    I nodded. “Mom, I don’t know what to do, you have to help me.”
    “Omololu, I know you care a lot about Olivia and I know you are grateful to her…”
    I sprang up from the chair cutting her short. “I am not grateful to her, I love her. I am not with Olivia out of appreciation.”
    She smiled faintly. “Have it your way, Son. Although your defensiveness shows that I am right.”
    “Stop it, Mom. Olivia is important to me.” I argued.
    She nodded. “I haven’t said otherwise. I am only saying that I know where you heart lies.”
    “Sop exaggerating it, Mom. I can never be with Ijeoma and you know it.”
    She sighed. “Is it so hard to forget? I…I know how you felt, but, Omololu…please.”
    I scoffed and pulled my bag. “I am going to Ijeoma’s.”
    Mom smiled. “Have you thought of what Olivia would say?”
    I took a deep breath. “Olivia is right about one thing, Ijeoma is still my wife and I’ll do what any honorable man would do.” I said heading for the door.
    “Did you mean what any man in love would do?” Mom asked with a smile.
    I smiled back and walked out.
    *IJEOMA*
    I drove the wheelchair back and forth as I sipped my drink. Tiwa and Austin were engaged in a discussion I didn’t understand and I didn’t know if interrupting them would make any sense. She seemed to have found a friend in Austin, at least if I couldn’t be a good mother or friend, Austin could help me out. He had always helped me out.
    Flashback
    “I am a married woman.” I said as I dropped my bag in my room.
    He smiled. “And I am a single man.” He replied.
    I eyeballed him coldly.
    “Don’t worry, I have no interest in you, you are not my type.” He replied as he hurled a blanket at me. “We could manage this place pending the time I get a bigger one, because, I am so sure that I would be promoted in no time and you my dear, you can have this place.” He cooed.
    “Show off.” I replied as I started to lay the bed.
    He smiled. “So tell me about your family except Omololu.”
    “Omololu is my life.” I said with a wide grin.
    He scoffed. “You don’t stop, do you?” he asked. He stared at me for a while. “I like your neck chain.” He said.
    “It’s Omololu’s.” I replied.
    He sighed and took his seat. “I like someone too, but I don’t know how strong it is. We are complicated. We break up all the time and come back and break up and all.”
    I stared at him. “You need to stop breaking up…learn how to have a fight.” I replied.
    “I’ll try, but I certainly don’t promise you a thing.”
    I shrugged with slight defiance. “I really don’t care. You are the one with a girlfriend. I am the one with the husband.” I replied with a grin.
    The door bell chimed. Austin and Tiwa turned. “Don’t worry, I’ll get it. I am crippled, but not useless.” I said as I drove to the door. I turned the door knob and stared at Omololu.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I didn’t know what it was, but my heart leapt fast on seeing Ijeoma. It had to be pity. She was on a wheel chair even though it is a choice type, but she was on it. She just stared at me and tried to smile. She successfully did. “How are you, Omololu?” she asked.
    I swallowed as I stepped forward. “Are you okay?” I asked.
    She stared at me and then smiled. She then laughed. “I am not dead. Don’t cry for me. Why are you here?” she asked as she drove into the house. I closed the door and followed her.
    “Daddy!” Tiwa said as she came over to me in smile. “Nice to see you here.” She said.
    I hugged her and watched as Austin bent over to talk to Ijeoma. It made me angry. I had no right to be, but I was angry. He then pecked her and approached me. “Hello, Man.” He said stretching out his hand.
    I took the hand firmly and then released him. “How are you, Austin?” I asked.
    He smiled. “I doing great.” He replied and turned in Tiwa’s direction. “Going to Lord Tanners’ this weekend?”
    She nodded with a smile. “That would be nice.” She replied. “I’ll walk you out.”
    I watched them leave the house and I walked up to Ijeoma. “I am not comfortable with that man hanging around my daughter.” I said.
    “And I am not comfortable with you being within ten metres. Besides, I lived with Austin for almost two years, I know him.”
    I scoffed. “You can never know anyone; you can only know some things about them.”
    She nodded sarcastically. “Why are you here, Omololu?”
    “I am here to help you out with anything you might need.”
    She smiled and then laughed mockingly. “Ten staffs are at my beck and call, they cook, wash, clean the house, drive and do whatever I ask.”
    “I see.”
    She folded her arm. “What about your…your girlfriend? I won’t be comfortable having my man come over to help another woman.”
    “Another woman? Is that who you think you are to me?”
    She stared at me and then smiled. “Wow…I am impressed. You actually still love me.”
    I paused. “Love? Don’t flatter yourself, Ijeoma. You are the mother of my daughter and if your condition is of no good to my daughter, I have to help her.”
    She nodded sarcastically. “That’s nice to hear.”
    “Where is the guest room?” I asked.
    “Guest room? I am sorry, if you want to help me, you would have to sleep in my room. I won’t be ringing a bell to gain your attention.”
    I felt my heart skip a beat. The thought of being close to Ijeoma again sent my blood hot. She drove closer to me. “Don’t worry, I can’t touch you.” she said staring at her legs and drove upstairs.
    I followed her.
    ***
    Margaret Martins flipped through her Magazine as she sipped her juice. The door bell chimed and Margaret walked over to the door. She took a peek to the door hole and opened it.
    “Good evening ma.”
    Margaret stepped out of the way and allowed Olivia in. “Hello Olivia. Omololu is not in. And I doubt if he’ll be back anytime soon.”
    “I know. I didn’t see his car.” She replied as she motioned to a chair. “May I?”
    Margaret nodded. “Please do.” Olivia took her seat and Margaret took hers opposite her. “I know you are not here for any camaraderie, so can we cut to the chase?”
    Olivia smiled. “Why do you think the worst of me?”
    “I don’t think the worst of you. I know you are up to no good.”
    Olivia relaxed in her seat. “I don’t understand. When did loving your son become a crime?”
    “How about manipulating my son? How about taking advantage of a vulnerable man? How about using your psychological talents to hypnotize him and make him do what you want?”
    Olivia shook her head sadly. “I am…I am speechless. All I ever wanted and did was love Lolu.”
    “And yes, you did it in your way. What is the game plan? Why are you here? You want to win my support and love. No.”
    Olivia wiped her forehead. “I can’t understand your unreasonable hatred for me.” she started. “I loved your son when that woman kicked him away, I showered with all my love and life, I have been nothing but loyal and loving to him, and I can’t understand why you want to see evil in every of my kindness. What sort of a mother does that?”
    “A mother that loves her son.”
    Olivia scoffed. “Love? I can only see unnecessary solidarity to Ijeoma Martins here, and I understand that Ijeoma is currently in the list of the ‘Most Influential women in Lagos’, but-”
    “Hold it right there! What are you insinuating?” Margaret shouted.
    Olivia took a deep breath. “I know it’s hard to admit but I leave you to your conscience, I might not be able to offer all the wealth that Ijeoma can, but, I can give love and that is something that you won’t deny Omololu and I of.” She concluded as she picked up her bag. “I know I might have sounded wrong and all, but, I will fight for Omololu’s love, and I will win it.” She replied as she approached the door. She paused and stared at Margaret. “What if I was your daughter? Why don’t you be more patient with me and allow me win your heart like I won Omololu’s?”
    “Won? You don’t have Omololu.” Margaret replied. “If you did, he won’t be with Ijeoma right now.”
    Olivia smiled. “Lolu is doing what a good man would do, he is helping her.”
    Margaret nodded. “I leave you to your fantasy and foolishness. Close the door on your way out.”
    *IJEOMA*
    I watched Omololu as he took off his shirt. I swallowed and turned my chair away. It had been years since I felt like this around any man. Actually, Omololu had been the only man and ever since I left Ibadan I had been alone. I never felt that way except for tonight. “You could actually do this in the bathroom.” I said as I picked up my magazine from the edge of the bed and drove my wheelchair closer to the closet.
    “You are the reason why I am here so you might as well deal with it if I have to take off my clothes here.” He replied as adjusted his towel. “Have you had your night shower?” he asked.
    I ignored him.
    “Ijeoma!” he called.
    I shook my head. “I don’t have night showers anymore.”
    “Since when?” he asked.
    “Since my accident.” I replied and flipped the page of the magazine. He walked up to and picked me up from the chair. “What are you doing?” I protested.
    He ignored and pushed the door to the bathroom open. “Good thing there is a Jacuzzi here. I’ll run the tub. Hot?” he asked as he reached for my top.
    I slapped his hand away. “What are you doing?”
    “You are going to have a bath and I need to take off the clothes.” He replied as he removed the clothes. This time I didn’t resist, I just let him undress me.
    I watched as he ran his eyes through my naked body and I rubbed the soap slowly. “Omololu stop.” I said.
    “I don’t understand.” He replied and he continued rubbing the soap down by body.
    I took his hand. “Just take me out of here, please…”
    He took a deep breath. “I’ll soon be through, then I’ll take to your bed.” He replied and ran some water through my hair as he washed it.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I wrapped a towel around Ijeoma and carried her into the bedroom. She looked fragile as she stared at me. “You can stop staring at me, Ijeoma.” I said with a smile.
    “What were you trying to do in there?” she asked staring at me.
    I fetched the moisturizer and sat beside her. “I was helping you in the bathroom. It seems you were the one having ideas.” I replied as I rubbed the cream on her body.
    “I don’t use moisturizers at night.” she replied. “I’ll sweat all night.”
    I stared at the A.C “It works well; I’ll turn it off and on at your request.”
    “Are you saying you won’t sleep?” she asked.
    I scoffed. “Why not? You seem to forget that I am a light sleeper.” I said with a smile.
    She laughed. “And you would wake me every time that Tiwa cried at night.”
    “Yeah…I mean, you could sleep on a log in water, Tiwa suffered a lot at nights.” I continued as I rubbed the cream on her body.
    She smiled. “And you would sing to her at night. She loved listening to your voice…” she said and started to laugh.
    “Quit the sarcasm.” I replied as I stared at her as she laughed. Ijeoma laughed freely, I was always wowed by her free laughter. I kept my eyes on her and I drew closer to her.
    She stopped laughing as soon as I came too close. My heart raced fast as I ran my eyes through her face and then our lips met. I forgot everything I felt, every hurt and every fear as I drew myself on top of her and made love to my wife like the first time.

    EPISODE 7

    *IJEOMA*
    I wished I could move my leg and go and meet Omololu in the bathroom. He had been in the bathroom for almost an hour and he won’t come out. Did he regret that he made love to me? Or didn’t I meet his desires and he hated me for it? I cursed myself for driving into the tree in an attempt to end my life. If only I could be with Omololu and tell him that I was sorry and I could hold him and tell him how much I wished that ‘night’ had not happened. I couldn’t take back that night, there was nothing I could say, no words could take back bruising my man’s ego. He had to forgive me and that I really did doubt if he could.
    I let my tears flow freely as the sadness consumed my heart. The shower was now running. He must be washing off the fact that he had anything to do with me. Even though he couldn’t change it, he must despise me really much. I cursed my luck. My own husband (well, soon to be ‘ex’) did regret being with me. Who would even want to sleep with a paralyzed woman?
    *OMOLOLU*
    I sat by the tub as the shower ran. I had turned it on so that Ijeoma would think I was in the shower. I didn’t know how to face her. I wanted her more and more but I was disappointed in myself for wanting her. I had Olivia. If only that night had never happened, I would be with Ijeoma right now. I washed my face and prepared to go back to the room. I would sleep on the couch and pretend as if nothing had happened between us. I hesitated as I approached the door and I returned to the bathroom. Maybe sleeping here would be better. I knew Ijeoma couldn’t come to look for me, she would just sleep off and I would leave when she was asleep.
    Inasmuch as I want to hate her, it’s too hard. A look at her eyes and I just melt. Behind the façade of her new tough look, I still see the Ijeoma that was weak, fragile and needed me for everything. Poverty made her tougher. We were broke and there was nothing for us, Mom had to juggle two jobs to help us with Ijeoma’s pregnancy and we finally had Tiwa. Ijeoma almost lost her life due to complications and we couldn’t afford the surgery. We were told that she had a fifty-fifty chance of survival if she tried to have the baby by pushing because of her frail system, but she still went ahead and had Tiwa.
    Ijeoma changed after that experience, she had the academic excellence on her side so she pushed in for every job and when the offer finally came from Lagos, I had to let her go. I had no choice. She was willing to go.
    I drew myself up from the floor and pushed the door open slightly to see if she was still awake, but she looked asleep, so I crept back into the room. I threw myself on the couch and tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I kept staring at her so I decided to go back to the bed.
    “Should we talk about it?”
    I gasped as I heard Ijeoma’s voice. I turned as I stared at her. “I thought you would be asleep.” I said.
    “Should we talk about it? She asked.
    I sat up. “Ijeoma, you should go to bed.”
    “Omololu, can we work it out?”
    I took a deep breath. “I need to sleep. You should too.” I replied, turning away from her.
    “Are you that ashamed of me? Are you disappointed that you slept with a crippled woman? Are you sad about it? Is that why you went to rinse off?”
    I gasped as she went on and on. “Ijeoma stop!” I shouted. She was silent. I stared at her and took a deep breath. “I am not ashamed of anything except for the fact that I slept with you when I have Olivia because I wanted to. Ijeoma, I want you. I still love you and that makes me sad.” I replied and tried to leave but she held my hand. “What?” I asked as I turned sharply at her. Her eyes were wet.
    “Forgive me, Omololu. Please.”
    I swallowed hard. “It’s too hard, Ijeoma. It’s too hard for me.” I replied and left the room.
    *IJEOMA*
    I drove my chair round the garden in a circle. I had to find a way of pacing around, if I couldn’t do it on my feet, I would do it one way or the other. I had nothing left to fight for anymore. Omololu was very clear with me last night; he did not want anything to do with me anymore.
    I fiddled with my phone for a while and then dialed Austin. “Hey Austin, I need your help. Please come to the house.” I said into the voicemail.
    Omololu approached me and stretched out a glass of juice to me. “Hey.” He said as he pulled a chair.
    I ignored the glass and continued driving in a circle. “I don’t need you trying to pacify me, everything was clear last night.” I replied.
    “Drink it.” He ordered.
    I hissed and drove my wheelchair on. He walked quickly after me. “Ijeoma, stop doing this.”
    I halted. “Go back to Olivia. I’ll be fine.”
    “I am not leaving here until you are better.”
    I rolled my eyes. “That will take a while, Omololu.”
    He nodded. “I have called your therapist; you have a session for noon. You’ll be back on your feet in no time, I promise you.” he said and started to walk away.
    I drove after him. “Can we just talk about it?”
    “No.”
    I crossed him. “Are we going to keep running away from it? I messed up and I know it.”
    “Messed?” He screamed. “That’s the least of what you did, Ijeoma. Don’t go mild on it.” He shouted. “I don’t want to talk about it.” He replied.
    “I want to. I want to talk, Omololu. Couples talk.”
    He scoffed. “We may not be that anymore.”
    I felt heat flush across my face as he said those words. “How long would you keep punishing me?”
    “You think this is a punishment? You killed me. We had something special. You threw it all away.”
    I nodded. “I know and I am sorry, Omololu. Look at me, I just want you back.”
    “Olivia doesn’t deserve this.”
    I swallowed. “Do you love her?”
    *OMOLOLU*
    How did she expect me to answer that question? Love? My heart didn’t beat for Olivia, it never had. I loved being around her because she was able to distract me, but Love? Passion?
    “Do you stop loving someone overnight?” I asked. She looked at me then buried her head in her hand. I bent beside her. “I didn’t stop loving you for one minute. I wish I could. It’s been a torture for me.”
    “Then why did you sleep with her?” she asked in tears.
    I scoffed. “You…you don’t understand, do you?”
    “How am I supposed to understand you sleeping with another woman in our matrimonial home? I walked in on you with her.”
    I hissed. “You walked in after how many years, Ijeoma? Fifteen years! What do you know about a matrimonial home?” I shouted. She started to drive away. I hurried after her. “Running away so soon? What? Why don’t we talk about it now? Let’s talk about how you destroyed our marriage.”
    “Omololu, I am tired. I want to go to bed.”
    I held her face. “Now you are tired? I am not tired. I want to talk about it. I want to talk about everything. Let’s start talking.” She started to drive off and I hurried after her. “I want to talk.” I shouted.
    She didn’t stop, she drove faster and returned into the house.
    *IJEOMA*
    I stopped driving as soon as I got to my bar. I was able to find a bottle of vodka and I started to drink it. I cried along as I drank.
    “My Father said you could never drink alcohol.”
    I turned as I stared at Tiwa. “What do you want?”
    “He said he stopped his drinking habits because of you. How is it that you are drinking?”
    I swallowed as I wiped some of the liquor from my mouth. “It’s my business.”
    “Did you have to change that fast? Why did you change so fast?” she asked.
    I drove my wheelchair closer to her. “Listen to me, Tiwa. People change.” I replied as I started to drive off.
    “He said you were a good woman.” She replied.
    I paused as soon as I heard her and turned in her direction. “Good woman? When did he say so?”
    “He has never stopped saying so.” She replied.
    I swallowed. “People change.” I replied.
    “Do you still care about him?” she asked.
    “Tiwa, these things are complicated, you can’t understand.”
    She nodded. “Help me understand.”
    “Don’t you have to go to Lord Tanners’ tonight with Austin?” I asked waving off her curiosity.
    She nodded. “I will, but right now, I want to talk. I want to know what happened, I want to know if you deserve my forgiveness. You abandoned me, I want to try to forgive you, but it is hard for me. Help me to understand.”
    I took a deep breath. “Tiwa, I…I can’t talk to you about these things. It is complicated.”
    She nodded. “Then we can stay complicated too.” she replied and walked out.
    *OMOLOLU*
    “Tiwa! Where are you going?” I shouted as I watched her walk out of the house.
    She ran to me. “You lied, Dad. You lied.” She said in tears.
    “What do you mean? Tiwa, what did your mom say to you?” I asked.
    She cleaned her eyes. “You always told me that she loved me and cared so much and that she had to leave, but now, she is here and she won’t even be friends with me. Why did you make up all that for her?”
    “I did not. Your mother is a great woman and she loves you a lot.”
    She rolled my eyes. “Dad, she doesn’t.”
    I pulled her to me for a hug. “She loves you. I know it.”
    The Gate opened and Austin drove in. He hurried into the house that he didn’t even notice Tiwa and I. “Austin just came in.” I started. “Is tonight the Lord Tanner show?”
    She nodded. “Yes, Dad.” She replied. I took a deep breath. “But that’s not due yet.” She added.
    *IJEOMA*
    “Austin, you have help me out of here.” I said as soon as he walked in.
    “We have bigger problems, Ijeoma. Bigger ones!” he said.
    I stared at him. “What are you saying?”
    “You remember the deal that got you suspended?” he asked. I nodded in agreement. “They just pulled out all their shares from our company. We have not tied up a successful deal since your accident and we are suffering financially.”
    I gasped. “Why didn’t you tell me anything?”
    “I told you about your suspension, didn’t I?” he said as he sank into a seat. “Where is your husband?” he asked.
    I shrugged. “I don’t know. You have to help me now; I am going to the office.”
    “You can’t go in your condition.” He replied standing up.
    I looked down checking myself. “If you able bodied men can’t seal deals, I should be able to do it from here.” I replied and moved my wheelchair forward.
    Austin stood in my way. “I can’t let you go.”
    I raised an eyebrow. “Why then did you come to me?” I asked.
    *OMOLOLU*
    Austin was pacing around the living room when I walked in. “Is there a problem?” I asked.
    He adjusted his jacket. “It’s just erm…just office matters, but the real problem is Ijeoma wants to go to the office now and I don’t think it is good for her.”
    “There is no use worrying about me.” Ijeoma said as she approached us. She was darting a smart suit with her hair let down and pretty accessories. She smiled in Austin’s direction. “Let’s go.”
    “Ijeoma, you can attend to office duties later, I already booked you with the physiotherapist.” I said.
    She smiled. “I don’t think I want to see the physiotherapist anytime soon, what I want to do now is go to work.”
    I bent before her. “Ijeoma, you don’t have to do this. Work will take care of itself.”
    “I know I don’t have to do it, but, I want to do it.” She replied. “Take care of yourself, I’ll see you in the evening if you are still here.” She added and drove her wheelchair out with Austin following her.
    *IJEOMA*
    I took a deep breath as the elevator opened into the top floor. Standing right before me was the Chairman. “Mr. Chairman, good morning.” I greeted.
    He stared at me and then at Austin. “Didn’t you tell her that she has been suspended? And even if you weren’t told by him, didn’t you get the email and letters?”
    “Do you want the company back in shape or not?” I asked.
    “Mrs. Martins, this is not the time for your cheap talk, and right now, I am a wrong buyer of your merchandise.”
    I smiled. “You know I don’t talk cheap, I’ll give you back the lost deal in exchange for my job and a step higher on my ranking here.”
    “What is this? Street shopping?”
    I drove my wheelchair around him. “Sir, you know I can handle it. My promotion is quite due you know?”
    “You are already Senior Partner here, what else could you want? Director?”
    I nodded. “Yes, Director. I don’t enjoy being suspended or threatened. I have done too much to be threatened in that manner. Now, the choice is yours, if you don’t agree, I am going to resign and when I resign, I’ll go private and you know there are one million people that will be willing to join me.”
    He swallowed. “You have six hours.”
    “Too much.” I replied and punched the elevator door open. Austin followed me into the lift.
    He waited until the door closed. “Ijeoma, are you crazy? What did you just do?”
    “I bought some time, we would close up the deal and I’ll get a more secure position here, it’s about time I got that.”
    He nodded as the door opened to the last floor. “And what if we can’t seal it?”
    “Do you actually believe that I won’t handle it?” I asked as I drove on. I noticed that Austin wasn’t following as I reached the door. I had been rattling to thin air. I turned back to see him standing at the elevator door with a smile on his face. “What?” I asked.
    He smiled wider. “You are back!”
    I nodded and drove out.
    *OMOLOLU*
    “I could actually take you to the Lord Tanner show myself.” I said as Tiwa focused on the TV.
    She smiled faintly. “Thank you but I’d rather go with Austin.”
    “Austin?! What do you mean?” I asked.
    She turned off the TV with a smile. “Easy Dad, Austin isn’t dating her.”
    “And does that mean you are going to date him?” I asked angrily.
    She laughed. “Come on Dad. Austin and I are buddies. I want to help him with his girlfriend but he doesn’t know.”
    “You want to help him? He has a girlfriend? What is his relationship with your mother?”
    “They are friends and partners, Dad. I don’t know if he likes her, but, I want to help him with his girlfriend.”
    I shook my head. “Stay out of his personal matters, Tiwa. You have no business with that, I’ll be taking you to the Lord Tanner show if you want to go. I’ll reserve the tickets and we would be watching ‘Magic Time’ together. That’s the name of the show, right?” I asked as I searched for information on my laptop.
    “Why don’t we all go together? We could call Ms. Dominic too.” she replied with a smile.
    I swallowed as she mentioned Olivia’s name. “With Ms. Dominic?” I asked.
    She nodded. “Yes, she is your friend and she can come too.”
    *IJEOMA*
    “Look, we don’t have the time for you, we are not putting our shares back.”
    I drove my wheelchair closer to him. “You know what? We don’t care.”
    Austin’s jaw dropped. The Director stared at me. “Did you hear yourself?”
    I nodded. “Why would I care? You are pulling out your shares and giving room for more share sells, right now we have a positive rise making us the best business to buy in right now, and I don’t think I want you back in our organization, your pulling out has given us room to sell more. Thank you. We’ll be on our way.” I concluded as I turned from his direction.
    “Wait!” he said.
    I smiled faintly at Austin and then turned in his direction. “What do you want?”
    “Suppose I am willing to buy back, how many percent am I entitled to?”
    I shook my head sadly. “Right now, I can only offer you 5% and that is because we are having people rush in demanding higher and paying better. I came here because I felt you should enjoy in this new package.”
    He took a deep breath. “I want 10%.”
    “You know the price.” I replied.
    He nodded. “I’ll have the money wired back to the organization and I want my shares before morning.”
    “I’ll see what I can do, 10% is quite difficult, but I’ll try my best. You are one of our best.”
    He fetched his pen. “I want a contract to this effect.”
    I smiled and stared at Austin. “I’ll have the deeds sent to you by noon.”
    “Ms. Martins, we have a pending deal, you know?”
    I nodded. “I had an accident. We can seal that too now if you don’t mind.”
    He handed the paper to me. “I want you guys to help me. I just want all my consignments in the right place.”
    “We always do.” I replied, signing the paper. “You can call the Chairman and tell him you are all in.” I added as I returned the paper to him. “I’ll be on my way now. I need to see my physio.” I concluded.
    He kissed my hand. “Speedy recovery.”
    Austin smiled and led me to the elevator. “How do you do that?”
    “I talk.”
    ***
    Margaret pressed her weight into the couch and changed the television station. She had not settled into the movie she was watching when the door bell chimed. She cursed as she strolled to the door. She opened the door and smiled as she saw Ijeoma. She threw her arms around Ijeoma. “My child.” Ijeoma drove into the house and Margaret followed after shutting the door. “How is Omololu?” she asked.
    “Omololu is okay. How are you?” Ijeoma asked.
    Margaret smiled. “I am bored.”
    “Why don’t you come over to the house with me? Omololu is there.” Ijeoma replied.
    Margaret stared at her. “What do I offer you?”
    “I am okay ma.”
    Margaret took her seat opposite Ijeoma. “Have you met Olivia?”
    “Apart from when I caught her in bed with Omololu? No.”
    Margaret nodded. “Do you want to fight for your marriage?”
    “I was wrong and you know it.” She replied. “It is pointless fighting for Omololu.” Ijeoma replied.
    She nodded. “We all make mistakes.”
    “If I didn’t make that mistake, Omololu and I won’t be so complicated right now and there won’t be any need for Olivia in our lives.” Ijeoma said.
    Margaret took her hand. “What are you doing to win Omololu back?”
    Ijeoma smiled faintly. “Last night was special.”
    “I want to hear about it.” Margaret replied with a smile.
    Ijeoma chuckled. “Can I talk about this with you?”
    “What haven’t you talked about with me?” Margaret replied.
    They laughed.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I adjusted my jacket as I waited for Tiwa by the car. She hurried out. “I don’t think Austin is coming. Have you called Ms. Dominic?” she asked.
    “No. I actually thought your mom would return quite early so we could all go together.” I replied.
    She smiled faintly. “You wanted to go with her?”
    I nodded in agreement. “Anyway, since she isn’t here, we could go together.”
    The gate opened and Ijeoma’s car came in. Tiwa stared at me. “She is here now. Are you going to ask her?”
    Ijeoma drove up to us. “Going out?”
    “It’s the Lord Tanner show tonight.” Tiwa said.
    Ijeoma stared at me and then at her. “Mind if I join?” she asked.
    I smiled. “Of course not.”
    “I’ll just go and change.” She replied and drove into the house.
    Tiwa stared at me with a smile. “You didn’t even have to ask.”
    “She owes us.” I replied as I stroked Tiwa’s hair.
    She smiled. “Dad, do you think we can become a family again?” she asked. My heart pounded as she started. “I…I know I don’t really know her but I think she is good and maybe sorry for the past even though I really don’t know all about it.”
    “I don’t know if she is sorry.” I replied turning away from her.
    She held my hand. “Is it hard to have our family back? I mean all my friends have their Mom and Dad.”
    “It’s not always the same for everyone.” I replied. “And I thought you liked Ms. Dominic.”
    She nodded with a smile. “Of course I do, she is very nice and she is your friend, I like her. But, S…She is only your friend, right?”
    I swallowed and turned away from her. Ijeoma approached us in her wheelchair. The chair couldn’t hide her beauty. I smiled faintly and walked up to her. “You are beautiful.” I said.
    She smiled. “Thank you.” she replied and drove off to Tiwa.
    The gate opened and we stared at Police officers approach us. “Mr. Martins?”
    I nodded.
    “You are under arrest for breaching court agreement.” The officer said flashing a warrant before me.

    EPISODE 8 n 9

    *IJEOMA*
    “Officer, this has to be a mistake. He is my husband.” I said defensively as the Policemen moved to cuff Omololu who stood speechless before them.
    The Officer passed me a copy of the warrant. “There is an order from the court to restrain him from you and your daughter.”
    “Clearly we look happy and we don’t need the restraining.” I replied.
    The Officer nodded. “We are not ruling out the possibility that reconciliation is bound to happen at one time or the other in life, but there is a due process for everything.”
    “Even forgiveness?” I probed.
    The Officer nodded. “I am not the Judge. He would have to come with us now; you can come down to our station.”
    The Second officer cuffed Omololu and led him to their van. I swallowed as I watched the Van leave. I turned in Tiwa’s direction. “I am sorry.”
    She nodded. “I know.” She replied and walked into the house.
    I followed slowly with my wheelchair.
    *OMOLOLU*
    “I know I shouldn’t have been there, but she needed my help and I couldn’t abandon her.”
    The D.P.O nodded. “You should have relayed this to us through your lawyer.”
    I nodded. “I apologize and I would try to make up for everything, but right now, I have to take my wife and daughter out.”
    The D.P.O shook his head in disagreement. “I understand you, I am not one who loves to see broken families, but we have laws and these laws have to be obeyed.”
    “Who reported this?” I asked.
    He shrugged and leaned back into the chair. “A concerned party.”
    I hissed. “Obviously this person doesn’t want me to help my wife, I just want to know who the person is.”
    “Anonymous.” He replied.
    “Of course, I didn’t expect you to be so cooperative. So, what cell am I sleeping in tonight?” I asked.
    The D.P.O checked through a file. “We won’t be holding you in tonight, you have to report here in the morning with your lawyer.” I nodded as I rose to my feet. “However…” He continued quickly. “You are not allowed near Mrs. Martins.”
    I nodded. “I know.”
    *IJEOMA*
    I watched as Austin spoke to Tiwa from the bar. I drove my wheelchair with a scotch in hand to meet them. “I am sorry for calling you up at short notice.” I said to Austin.
    He nodded with a smile. “It’s fine. You know I don’t mind.”
    “Tiwa, we would go with Austin.”
    Austin smiled at her. “Let’s go.”
    “Why did you report my Dad?” she asked staring at Austin.
    He smiled faintly. “Why would I?”
    “Why won’t you? You have the motive and the opportunity. I know you like her” she said staring at me. I guess she couldn’t bear herself to call me ‘Mom’, she would still use ‘her’ for me.
    Austin folded his arms. “Tiwa, I like Ijeoma and I am not going to deny that, but, I won’t do anything that would hurt her too.”
    “Can we stop this discussion?” I said interfering. “We are running late.”
    Tiwa shook her head sadly. “I have lost interest in the show.”
    “I don’t care if you have lost interest or not, you are going.” I replied as I drove towards the door.
    “Make me!” she replied.
    I turned in her direction. “Tiwa, get into that car now.”
    Austin stared at her. “Please Tiwa, let’s go.”
    She scoffed and walked out. Austin followed her immediately and I closed the door as I followed them.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I collected my ticket from the attendant and made my way into the crowded hall.
    “The stage play titled ‘Magic Time’ by Lord Tanner is about to begin. Please stay in your seats, we are about to blow you away.” The coordinator announced.
    I ran my eyes through the hall as I searched for Ijeoma and Tiwa. The Ijeoma I knew would find a way to still come to the show with Tiwa. I hoped not to be disappointed. The lights went out and the stage lit up.
    I adjusted in my seat as the play started. Murmurings followed from a certain section of the crowd and I turned to the direction in which the noise was coming. I smiled as I saw Ijeoma drive her wheelchair through the crowd. My smile faded as soon as I spotted Austin with them. My eyes went with them till they took their seat and I could no longer maintain my gaze because of the crowd.
    ***
    “Sharon is playing the lead.” Austin whispered to Tiwa.
    Tiwa smiled at him. “She is beautiful.”
    Austin nodded. “I know.”
    “Would you go to her after the show?”
    He shook his head in disagreement. “No. She is happy where she is.”
    “You miss her, don’t you?” she asked.
    “I don’t know if I do.” He replied staring in Ijeoma’s direction.
    Tiwa nudged him in the waist. “Are you in love with her?”
    “Ijeoma?”
    She nodded in agreement. “Yes and keep your voice down, she is engrossed in the play.”
    Austin smiled. “Ijeoma can’t love me.”
    “Are you in love with her?” Tiwa probed.
    He took a deep breath and nodded. “I love Ijeoma.”
    Tiwa sank into her seat. “She doesn’t love you.”
    “How would you know?” He asked.
    “She loves my father.” Tiwa replied sharply causing Ijeoma to stare in their direction.
    Ijeoma stared at them. “Is there a problem?”
    “Not at all. Magic Time is really inspiring.” Tiwa replied with a smile.
    Ijeoma stared at Austin. “Austin?”
    “Nice play.” He replied.
    Ijeoma drove her chair a little farther from them so she could concentrate on the play. Tiwa shot at Austin. “My Father doesn’t love Ms. Dominic, he still talks a lot about her.”
    Austin threw his face away. “What are you suggesting?”
    “That you ignore your feelings for my mother and channel them to Sharon.”
    He smiled. “We would make good actors, won’t we?”
    She chuckled. “I thought I read my script better than you did.” She replied folding the paper in her hand.
    “My facial expression was better…and so were my emotions.” Austin concluded.
    Tiwa stared at him. “You don’t love my mother, do you?”
    He swallowed. “What if I was in love with her?”
    “I thought you guys were just friends.” She replied.
    He nodded. “Friends fall in love.”
    *IJEOMA*
    Austin and Tiwa approached me after the play. “Did you both resolve your dispute?” I asked.
    “We weren’t arguing.” Tiwa jumped in defensively.
    Austin nodded in agreement. “We were having a friendly conversation.” He added.
    I nodded in an unconvincing fashion. “We should have dinner together.” I said as I started to drive ahead. I stopped abruptly as I spotted a man in the crowd who looked like Omololu. “Omololu!” I shouted and started to drive after him. His feet were quicker and I knew that it had to be him.
    “Ijeoma!” Austin called after me.
    I wouldn’t stop. Omololu came and I had to see him, rules or no rules. “Omololu!” I called as I hurried behind him. He moved swiftly through the crowd and exited the building. I stopped when I didn’t see him anymore. I couldn’t fight my tears as they poured freely.
    “Ijeoma…” Austin said as he caught up with me outside.
    I stared at him. “Omololu was here.”
    He knelt beside me and wiped my tears. “I’ll be here for you.” He said and hugged me.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I swallowed as I watched Austin hug and peck Ijeoma’s forehead. My blood boiled as I restrained myself from coming out of my hiding place. My phone buzzed and Tiwa’s name came up on the Caller ID. I watched her as she stepped away from Austin and Ijeoma to make the call, I then picked up. “Hi.”
    “What are you doing, Dad? Where are you?”
    “Hope you enjoyed the play?” I asked.
    “I did, Dad. Where are you?” she asked.
    I took a deep breath. “Turn around.” She did and I waved to her.
    “Why didn’t you wait when she called you?” she asked as she joined me.
    I shrugged. “I don’t even know what I am doing around her. I feel I doing it all wrong.”
    “Are you going to hurt Ms. Dominic by being around her?”
    I nodded in agreement. “I am hurting her already, I have to put an end to all these.”
    “Are you going to hurt yourself by not being with her?”
    I held my head in my hand. “I can’t do this.”
    “Dad, can you tell me what happened between you and her. Tell me everything. I want to know.” She said.
    I shook my head sadly. “I can’t. It’s too painful.”
    “Should I ask her?” she asked. “Someone has to tell me, Grandma says you both were the best in love, why would everything just change. Why are you so complicated?”
    I turned away from her. “You can’t understand.”
    “I want to. I want to know how the woman that you have always loved, the woman who gave birth to me is a stranger right now. I want to have a family.”
    I swallowed hard as her words hit me. “Tiwa, we have talked about this before and I have told you how easy it is for us all if we move on and not talk about the past.”
    “What if moving on hurts us all? I know you are still in love with her and it is obvious she feels the same about you. Whatever happened to forgiveness?”
    “Stop it, Tiwa! Don’t start sounding like her. What do you know about being hurt or betrayed? I can’t have this discussion with you. Just go home with your mother.” I replied and started to walk away.
    “Don’t run away, Dad. If I want a family, I want it with her! I want my own mother!” I stopped in my track and turned at her. “I am not letting go off my mother.” She added and walked away.
    ***
    Tiwa walked into the dress room and stood behind Sharon with a smile. “You are beautiful.”
    Sharon turned in her direction and smiled. “Thank you.”
    “I loved your performance.”
    Sharon nodded. “Thank you.” She then stared at her carefully. “Do I know you, you are the splitting image of someone I know, but I know I must be confused.”
    “Ijeoma Martins?”
    Sharon stared at her carefully. “Yes, Ijeoma Martins.”
    “People say we look alike.” Tiwa continued.
    Sharon nodded with a smile. “That must be it. What may I do for you?”
    “I want to join the Lord Tanner group.”
    Sharon passed a seat to Tiwa. “What’s your name?”
    “Tiwa.” She replied.
    “Tiwa????”
    Tiwa cleared her throat. “Tiwa Johnson.” She lied.
    “Okay, so Tiwa Johnson, what high school do you go?”
    She adjusted in her chair. “I schooled in Ibadan.”
    “Oh, you are not from around here. That’s interesting. Did you come down here to join the Lord Tanner crew?”
    Tiwa nodded in agreement. “I read about it on the internet and I was thrilled.”
    “I am thrilled. I’ll give you a VIP form to apply, we have our auditions on Wednesdays and rehearsals on Tuesday and Thursdays, let’s see how you fare.” Sharon said as she pulled out a form. “All you have to do is fill it and report at the address on Wednesday to be auditioned.” She said with a smile.
    Tiwa collected the form in excitement. “Are you married?”
    “No.” Sharon replied chuckling.
    Tiwa nodded. “That’s good. My Uncle is very cute.” She checked her wristwatch. “I have to on my way before he starts looking for me.” She said rising to her feet.
    “Nice to meet you, Tiwa.” Sharon said as they exchanged handshakes.
    *OMOLOLU*
    Mom dropped a glass of water beside me. “Have you called the Lawyer?”
    I nodded in agreement. “I think I should get a divorce from Ijeoma. Olivia is hurting.”
    She stared at me. “Are you ready for a divorce? Don’t you want to try forgiveness?”
    “It’s too hard to forgive. I can’t forget what she did; it’s too hard for me.”
    She nodded. “Ijeoma caught you with Olivia; doesn’t that call it a draw?”
    “A draw?!”
    She swallowed. “I am sorry, but, I…I just feel this is the time to let it go. There is still passion between you guys.”
    I stared at Mom. “Did Ijeoma tell you?”
    She smiled. “What doesn’t she tell me?”
    “Mom!”
    She hissed dryly. “You still connect, don’t kill what you feel. Olivia doesn’t deserve it and neither do you nor Ijeoma.”
    “I am the only one Olivia has, I can’t hurt her.”
    “Is this about gratitude or love?” she asked. She sat beside me. “Olivia loves you in her own way and I can’t fault it, but I would never agree with her tactics of winning your heart. She pounced when you were vulnerable. A real woman doesn’t do that and likewise a man.”
    I relaxed in my seat. “Mom, I find it hard when I think of what Ijeoma did.”
    “Then talk about it. You have to ask Ijeoma everything you have been meaning to ask her when that night happened.”
    I sighed. “What if I can’t take the answers?”
    “Talk to God about it.”
    “God? God?”
    She nodded. “He knows how to help.”
    “Mom, just stop it.”
    “Look Son, I know it sounds funny, but God is interested in you. He cares about your relationship and marriage.”
    I scoffed. “I know, Mom. But, can we not talk about it?”
    “Why not?” She asked.
    I snapped. “If he did care so much, he won’t have let Tiwa come when we had nothing.” I shouted.
    Mom gasped. “Don’t drag Tiwa into this!”
    “I…I know but Ijeoma and I were so happy until she came and we had to struggle so hard and then Ijeoma had to leave and everything changed. Why didn’t God just make us rich so she wouldn’t have to leave?”
    She took my hand. “That is why he is God.”
    The door bell went. “I’ll get it.” I said as I walked to the door. Olivia stood before me as soon as I opened it. “Liv?”
    She smiled at me. “Hi.”
    “What are you doing here? It’s late.”
    “I came to see your mother.”
    Mom joined us at the door. “Good evening, Olivia.”
    “I came to see you, ma.” She said.
    I stepped back as Mom stared at Olivia. “I’ll excuse you both.”
    “No, you should wait here.” Mom replied.
    I cleared my throat. “Mom, you guys should talk.”
    “If you want Lolu here, it’s fine by me.” Olivia replied with a smile. “I’d love to see you too, Lolu. I didn’t know I’ll find you here though so I thought I should see your Mom.”
    Mom took her seat and Olivia and I joined her. “I am listening.”
    “Although it should be a more personal matter, I won’t mind to share it with you, ma.” Olivia started as she wrapped her hand around mine. “I am pregnant.”
    I jumped out of her grip and Mom stared at us. “Excuse me?”
    “A month gone. I am so excited.”
    I stared at Mom as I panted. “Olivia, can we talk outside?”
    “Why?” she asked.
    Mom excused us immediately without saying another word. Olivia turned in my direction. “Why are you not excited?”
    “Who is responsible for the pregnancy?” I asked dumbly.
    She stared at me blankly. “What are you saying, Lolu? You are the father. We are pregnant.”
    “We?” I asked as I nodded. “How did it happen? We…We used protection, right?”
    She stared at me. “What is going on, Lolu? I am pregnant for you, we are a couple and couples raise a family, don’t they?” she asked.
    I nodded in agreement. “Yeah…they do.”
    “Now I think you should get the divorce from Ijeoma so that we can get married and have our life.” She said.
    I swallowed. “I…I don’t know.”
    “What do you mean by you don’t know? We need to raise our baby in the best conditions, I don’t want my baby born without a father.” She said looking into my eyes.
    I ran my hand through my forehead. “Can we talk about this later? I am not well.”
    She scoffed. “Now I am pregnant and you are not well, what is going on, Lolu?” she asked. Olivia’s eyes were burning and she wasn’t as cool as I knew her now.
    “I am sorry, I know I should be a little excited, but – ”
    She cut in. “A little? You are about to be a father.”
    “I am already a Father.” I replied.
    She hissed. “I am leaving, you know where to find me.” She said standing up. I grabbed her hand immediately. “What?”
    “I am sorry. I…I have had a rough day. Congratulations! … to us.” I said and hugged her.
    *IJEOMA*
    I hurled a bottle of Scotch into the bin. “Three points for my effort.” I said smiling as I pulled another bottle from the rack.
    “Who taught you to drink?”
    The lights came on and I turned round and saw Tiwa staring at me. “What are you doing here? You should be sleeping.”
    “I can’t sleep.” She replied and approached me with a cup. “Can I have some?” she asked.
    I chuckled. “You? Never!”
    She shrugged and dropped the cup on the table. “It’s fine. One day, I’ll be like you and I won’t have to listen to anyone asking me why I take alcohol, I guess depression teaches you these things, right?”
    I felt as though a bucket of shame had been poured on me and I tried to conceal the embarrassment as I dropped my glass carefully. “Tell me about yourself.”
    “You are not a mother material, are you?” she asked with a smile.
    I stared at her. “You are too intelligent, I am not sure I gave birth to you.”
    She laughed. “Poverty turned you into this, right? You went after wealth and now, you don’t even know who you are anymore.”
    I nodded with a smile. “I guess you are right.” I opened the drawer beside me and pulled out Omololu’s neck chain that he had given me when I left Ibadan. “You want it?” I asked.
    “It’s for my father, right?” she asked. I nodded. “Why are you not wearing it anymore?” she probed.
    I folded my arms. “How did you know that I ever wore it? Your father might have dropped it here on his last visit.”
    She took a seat. “He won’t have. One, he doesn’t drink anymore, so he won’t be by the bar and two, he told me that he gave it to you.”
    I hurled it at her and she caught it swiftly. “You can have it. It doesn’t fit me anymore.”
    “Or you think you are not deserving of it?” she asked.
    My jaw dropped. I stopped wearing Omololu’s neck chain the night everything went wrong between us. I sat in my tub naked for hours that night and I took it off swearing that I would never wear it anymore. I had lost the right to his love that night.
    “Am I right?” she asked.
    I pulled out the bottle of alcohol and drank in a haste. Tiwa yanked the bottle from my mouth. “Stop running away. Dad always told me that you knew how to talk, why are you not talking now?”
    “Stop it! I don’t want to hear anymore from you. Just leave me alone.” I shouted in tears.
    She stared at me stubbornly. “I won’t leave you alone.”
    I tried to drive my wheelchair but she stood in my way, she blocked every avenue as I tried to twist or turn away. “Let me go.” I cried.
    “I won’t let you go! I didn’t spend years at construction sites carrying blocks with my Dad to make a living to let you go without any explanation.”
    I gasped. “What???”
    “You heard me right, I went with him to construction sites, I pulled blocks after school until everything changed, you have to tell me why you weren’t there with us? Why you never came back for me? I want to know everything.”
    Tears ran freely from my eyes as her words echoed. “I…I am sorry.”
    “I don’t want you to be sorry. I want to know how things changed between you and my Father; I want to know why he still had the strength to cry at night after hard labour in the day. I want to know what you did to him.”
    I shook my head sadly as she spoke. “Am sorry.”
    “Just tell me everything. I want to know why he can’t forgive you. I want to know why I can’t have my family together.” She cried.
    I tried to hold her hand but she threw them away. “Please Tiwa…” I begged.
    She knelt before me. “Please tell me everything.”
    “It’s too hard.” I replied.
    “Try me.” She insisted.
    I shook my head in disagreement. “You won’t understand.”
    She held my hand in hers. “I will.” She sniffled a bit and stared at me. “Mom, please tell me.”
    My hand and heart froze in an instant. “What did you just say?”
    “MOM, please tell me.” She reaffirmed.
    With that, I smiled.

    EPISODE 10

    PRESENT DAY
    *IJEOMA*
    Tiwa pushed the door open and I drove my wheel chair out of the hospital. “Do you think I did well?” I asked.
    She stared at me blankly. “The therapy, right?”
    I nodded in agreement. “Yes, did I respond well?”
    “Yes, you did. But, Mom, what are you going to do about that night?”
    I took a deep breath. “I don’t know and right now, I need you to go for your rehearsals.”
    “But Mom, the rehearsal isn’t until the next two hours.” She replied.
    “I know, but the driver would drop you there before I return home, it’s good for you to start on a positive note.” I protested as I beckoned to the driver who had taken some comfort under a nearby shade.
    *OMOLOLU*
    Mom slammed the door for the umpteenth time as she walked through the living room to the bedroom without any real purpose; at least, it wasn’t obvious to me. “When are you going to stop pacing, Mom?” I asked as she dropped a magazine and picked up a glass cup.
    “Is there a restriction on how I move around in this house?” she asked.
    “Mom, I know you aren’t exactly thrilled about Olivia’s pregnancy.”
    She scoffed. “Thrilled? That’s a long word for how disappointed I am. What are you going to do about it?”
    “Nothing, Mom. I…I will just talk to Ijeoma and we would start the divorce proceedings. I have already set up an appointment with my lawyer, I’ll talk to him by noon.”
    She relaxed in her seat. “Is this what you or Olivia wants? You don’t want Ijeoma anymore?”
    “Mom, I don’t know. I…I still want to be with Ijeoma, but, I don’t know what to do now, my hands are tied. Olivia is having my baby and I can’t allow my child to be born without a father.”
    She nodded. “Of course not, I won’t want that too. But, are you going to be happy with Olivia? This is a family we are talking about, you need to have love in it.”
    “Ijeoma broke my heart even when I thought she loved me, so, does love really matter, Mom?”
    She took a deep breath and drank some water.
    ***
    Tiwa sat in the hallway nodding her head to some music as she waited for the start of rehearsals. The studio was empty, rehearsal was an hour away but Ijeoma had forced her down earlier. Sharon approached from the hallway and Tiwa immediately rose to greet her. “Sharon!” she called.
    Sharon smiled. “Tiwa Johnson, right?”
    “A…Amazing! How did you remember my name?” Tiwa asked as she joined her.
    Sharon shook her head with a smile. “I memorize lines for drama scripts, your name won’t be a problem.”
    “That’s possible, but, you must have thought about me for a while to remember my name.” she replied.
    Sharon nodded. “You got me on that one, I actually thought about you. You are a charmer.” She continued as she opened the door to a room. “This is the general room where we have our rehearsals and all, I usually come a bit earlier so that I can take the time to dance.”
    Tiwa smiled as she skipped through the room. “You should teach me.”
    “I am not a dance instructor and I don’t dance for the passion, I dance for pain.”
    Tiwa stared at her. “Pain?”
    “To dance the pain away.” Sharon replied as she took off her shoes. “So, tell me about yourself.” Sharon started.
    Tiwa cleared her throat. “There is nothing interesting about me, I just want to act. I really love the Lord Tanner Show and I want to go on trips with them too, you know, take part in roles and start being a functional actress too.”
    “Have you thought about school and what you might have to give up?”
    Tiwa nodded. “I am fully aware of the risks.”
    Sharon laughed. “Sweetheart, you are not. If you are fully aware of the challenges, you won’t want to jump on the next Lord Tanner bus.”
    “Why not?” Tiwa asked.
    Sharon took her hand. “This is not about Lord Tanner. This is about you. Lord Tanner is the best thing that has happened to our age and generation; it has given me and a teeming population of youths like you the opportunity to showcase their talents. Just look at our last show, ‘Magic Time’, it was a complete sell out and I am dead sure that the next show is set to beat this one, but, my concerns are for you. I left my job to be here and I am proud of it and that is because I am an adult.”
    “Can’t I merge it with school? I know I don’t school here but I can talk to my parents and make things work.” She replied hopefully.
    Sharon took a deep breath. “Rehearsals are in the evening after school, if you can juggle both, you are fine.”
    “I will juggle both.” Tiwa replied confidently. Sharon smiled and leaned against the wall as she took her seat on the floor. “You have a very kind heart, any man in love with you is lucky.” Tiwa continued.
    Sharon laughed. “Oh Love! Love is just wrong! I…I have been in love all my life and it has gotten me nowhere.” She said. She paused and then stared at Tiwa. “Is it okay that I talk to you about it?”
    “With all pleasure.” Tiwa replied, beaming with smiles.
    Sharon blinked and then pulled out a picture from her wallet. “That’s the man I love. His name is Austin.”
    Tiwa swallowed. “My Uncle goes by the name Austin.”
    “That’s nice. Anyway, back to my Austin, he really is a sweet guy, but, I…I don’t know, I didn’t know how to accept his best friend, she is a married woman and they were so close and her husband was not near and I didn’t feel comfortable.” She started. She smiled as she pulled out another picture from her wallet. “This is Austin, I and Ijeoma, she is his best friend. She is so pretty, smart and the type of woman any man would fall for, I almost couldn’t blame Austin when he bailed on me for her.” She said.
    Tiwa stared at the picture. “Did they have an affair?”
    “He always said that Ijeoma would never go out with him, she was tied or loyal or in love with her husband, we hung out together on a couple of occasions and she honestly seemed like the type of woman who has values and always stood by them, so I think I believe the fact that they were just friends, but you and I know that it is obviously going to be complicated. People don’t stay just friends like that, I guess.”
    Tiwa stared at her. “Do you want him back?”
    “I do, if he wants me ever again. He made a choice and walked away from me and I doubt if he regrets that, we haven’t spoken in a while now.” She replied. “What hurts is that I have never been able to move on, my life is just all about Austin, I really wish things were different.”
    “Is that why you dance?” Tiwa asked.
    She nodded in agreement. “Exactly.”
    The door opened and a man walked in. “You are always here.”
    “Tiwa, meet Tolu Tanner, he is the Director.” Sharon said. Tiwa rose as they exchanged greetings. “She is Tiwa Johnson, a young enthusiast and I think she’ll do great with our team.”
    Tolu smiled faintly. “Nice to meet you, Tiwa. I’d love to see you during the rehearsals.”
    “I would do my best.” She replied.
    He nodded with a smile. “Great! See you guys soon.” He replied as he walked out.
    *IJEOMA*
    Austin walked into my office. “Your secretary told me you were here, what are you doing here?”
    “I told Tiwa about that night.” I said as he took his seat.
    He blinked. “Everything?”
    “I couldn’t bring myself to tell her the rest. She was already in tears when I told her the part that I walked away from him.” I replied.
    He took a deep breath. “What are you going to do?”
    “I don’t know. I just want to cry about it.”
    He nodded. “Now is not the time to cry, you have got to do something about it. You have to talk to Lolu, try to clear the air.”
    “It would be hard.” I replied. “We have never been able to talk about it.”
    He adjusted his jacket. “Now is the time to talk about it. You love him, it’s clear he still loves you, what is stopping you?”
    “What about you? Are you never going to look for Sharon again?” I asked.
    “Forget about Sharon and I.” he replied and walked out.
    *OMOLOLU*
    “I just got off the phone with my lawyer; he said I can file for divorce and permanent custody of Tiwa on the grounds that Ijeoma is incapacitated.” I said.
    Mom flipped the page of her magazine. “Is that supposed to be music to my ears?”
    “Mom, Olivia and I are having a family, I can’t abandon her.” I replied.
    “Do you love her? Or are you grateful to her?” she asked as she dropped the magazine. “Son, I am not going to influence this decision because a child is involved, but, I don’t want you to be miserable all your life, you have to think about this decision carefully and decide if you are up for it. In the end, it is your call.” She replied.
    I knelt before her. “Mom, I love Ijeoma, but, Olivia has been there for me and I can’t let her down now, especially now that she is carrying my baby.”
    “Are you willing to sacrifice your love for Ijeoma?”
    I took a deep breath. “I don’t know if Ijeoma is still in love with me, there are a lot of things that still leaves doubt in my heart and we…we can’t get past those things.”
    She kissed my forehead. “It’s your life, Son.”
    ***
    Sharon passed Tiwa a can of coke and a pie. “This used to be my ritual with Austin, we would eat Meat pie and have Coke for lunch, he never liked it, but for me, he would have it, and anyway, I think you are an amazing actress.”
    “Thank you so much for the opportunity.” She replied.
    “I am positive that you would be on the next tour with us, you did very well in the rehearsal. You are made for the spotlight.”
    Tiwa blushed faintly. “I feel so honoured.”
    “You should be, you are very dynamic and your style is unique.” Sharon replied sipping her coke. “So, how do we meet your parents to transfer you down here?”
    Tiwa cleared her throat. “My Dad is a very busy man and same with my Mom too, but if you can give me any information, I would be glad to pass it down to them.”
    “There is really nothing from us; I just want you in Lagos when the next session starts so that you could be part of the Lord Tanner Cast.” Sharon replied.
    Tiwa grinned. “I would be transferring here before September; there is nothing to worry about.”
    “That’s cool.” Sharon replied.
    “We never completed our discussion about your Austin and that Ijeoma Martins.” Tiwa started.
    Sharon nodded. “Yeah, Tolu Tanner walked in on us then. Well, you know almost everything, Austin prefers to be with his best friend than be with me. I guess I was impulsive in making him decide.”
    “Have you tried to talk to him?” Tiwa asked. “Because I think the real problem here is that nobody wants to talk!” Tiwa argued.
    Sharon paused as she stared at her. “Excuse me? Where is that coming from?”
    Tiwa gasped. “I am sorry.” She immediately downed the rest of the Coke. “Thank you for the Coke.” She added and hurried away.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I poked my head in with a smile and a flower in hand as I walked into Olivia’s office. “You are not on my patient list” she said with a smile.
    I nodded with a smile. “I know, but, I…I want to make things better between us.”
    “Really?” she asked.
    I nodded as I passed her the flower. “That’s for you.”
    “It’s beautiful, thank you.” She replied, admiring the tulips.
    “That’s not all.” I said as I passed her a bunch of keys.
    She stared at it. “You got me a car?”
    “I won’t get you a car with a bunch of keys, that’s our new home.”
    She screamed and rushed over to me to hug me. “Thank you so much, Lolu. I love you.” She said and leaned over to kiss me. I turned my face for a kiss on the cheek on impulse. “What was that?” she asked looking aghast.
    I swallowed. “I…I am sorry. I…I…”
    “-Just save it, Lolu. You don’t really want to be with me. When was the last time you made love to me? You have been giving so much attention to Ijeoma and neglecting me, how fair is that?”
    I took a deep breath. “I am sorry? I…I…”
    “Just leave.” She said, taking her seat slowly.
    “I am trying; it is not easy for me.” I replied.
    She scoffed. “Really? It was easy for you to be with me before now, ever since you returned here on this custody thing, you have relived everything with her. How am I sure that you haven’t slept with her?” she shouted. “Are you cheating on me with her?”
    Heat flushed across my face. “I have to go, you are out of control.” I said as I rose to my feet.
    “Everyone leaves, you can go.”
    I swallowed. “I have chosen to be with you, accept it.” I said and walked out.
    ***
    “My name is Tiwa Martins.” Tiwa introduced as she got to the security check post.
    The Security man checked through a book. “She is expecting you. Top floor.”
    Tiwa nodded and hurried into the building. Austin approached her from the elevator. “Ms Martins, what are you doing here?” he asked with a smile.
    “I came to get my mom.” She replied.
    He smiled. “Where is your ride?”
    “I took the bus.”
    He nodded. “Of course, your Mom is in a meeting right now, you want to have some lunch with me?”
    “Are you asking me out?” Tiwa asked grinning.
    Austin chuckled. “You are so full of it, Ijeoma would have my head.”
    “You won’t even dare.” She replied. “Where are we going?”
    “It’s a tuck shop just around.” He replied leading the way.
    Austin pushed the door open as they got to the shop. “Meat pie and Coke.” He ordered. “What would you have?”
    “I have had Coke today.” Tiwa replied with a grin.
    Austin stared at her. “Wipe that grin off your face, I don’t like it.”
    “Do you have Coke and Meat pie for lunch every day?” she asked.
    He nodded as he took a bite. “Yeah, it’s my favourite.”
    “Really?” Tiwa asked giggling.
    He nodded. “Yes and why does it sound so funny to you?”
    “Nothing.”
    He sipped his Coke. “I heard you went to the Lord Tanner rehearsal, did you see Sharon there?”
    “No. She wasn’t there.” She lied.
    He swallowed. “I just thought you might have the opportunity to meet her one on one, I think she is a nice lady, if she hasn’t changed.”
    “I see…” Tiwa cooed
    Austin sat up as he stared at her. “Tell me, what do you know?”
    “Nothing. I…I know absolutely nothing” Tiwa replied.
    He nodded in agreement. “So, what do you think about your Mom’s therapies?”
    “She was able to move two steps with crutches today, and she rolled her back on that ball quite well. What’s it called anyway?”
    He shrugged. “No idea.”
    “Do you miss Sharon?” Tiwa asked.
    He paused and smiled. “I miss her. But, she has moved on and so have I.”
    “Have you moved on?” Tiwa asked.
    He nodded in agreement. “I will move on”
    “Much better.” Tiwa replied grinning.
    *IJEOMA*
    I turned my chair as Tiwa and Austin walked into the office. “It’s about time you showed up.” I said to Tiwa.
    “Don’t scold her, I took her to have a pie.” Austin replied.
    I nodded as I grabbed my bag. “Did you get the compulsory invite from the Chairman on the couples’ dinner?” I asked. Austin looked blank and from his reaction I could guess he had no idea. “Anyway, I have to be home early, we are leaving now.” I continued.
    “Are we going to see my Dad?” Tiwa asked.
    I stared at Austin and then back at her. “I don’t know about that, Tiwa. There is a restriction and until we get the court to rescind that decision, I am afraid, nothing can be done.”
    She nodded in agreement. “I know about that, but he once broke the law to be with you.”
    “I am not jeopardizing his freedom for escapades.”
    Tiwa grinned.
    “What?” I asked, put off by her grin.
    She smiled. “Nothing, it is just the use of the word ‘escapade’. It…It sounded not you.”
    I scoffed and drove my wheel chair on and she followed with Austin.
    The Chairman approached us as we stepped out of the elevator. “Is this the famous Ms Martins?” he asked, staring at Tiwa.
    I immediately cut in. “She is my daughter.”
    “When would we ever get to meet your infamous husband here at the firm?” he asked with a grin. “Anyway, I don’t think it will take long. There is a couples’ dinner for the partners here soon, let’s see who you tag along with.” He said with a cocky smile.
    I swallowed hard as the Chairman walked away in smiles.
    “He hates you, Mom.” Tiwa said.
    I nodded. “I know, but he has no choice but to put up with me till I am ready to squash him into bits.” Austin cleared his throat and I smiled in Tiwa’s direction “I meant till I can manage him.”
    “Mom, I am not five.” She replied with a smile.
    I smiled back. “Let’s go home.”
    *OMOLOLU*
    I wiped the tears welling in my eyes as I stared at Ijeoma’s picture from when we were teenagers. We had taken the picture during one of our excursions in high school. We had inscribed our names and a love symbol in a tree in the wood during a field trip.
    Flashback
    “I think we could carve a love shape with a stone.” Ijeoma suggested.
    I stared at the stone in her hand. “It won’t do a good job and we would still be struggling with the edges when the trip is over.” I replied.
    “Do you have a better idea?”
    I fetched a knife from my backpack. “This is a better idea.”
    “What are you doing with a knife?” she asked, perplexed.
    I smiled. “I knew it was a field trip and so I brought it.”
    “Don’t tell me you brought a knife for this purpose?” she asked, smiling.
    I pulled out a drawing from my bag and handed it to her.
    “Omololu, you have envisaged this moment.” She said with a smile.
    I nodded. “I always wanted to do this, so, shall we?”
    “How do we capture this moment?” she asked.
    I smiled wider. “I brought my Mom’s polaroid.”
    She started to carve on the tree and I followed suit. When we were done, I set the Polaroid down and we took a picture together.
    “Omololu, can we be together forever?” she asked as we walked back to join the group.
    I laughed hard as she spoke so seriously. She then started to laugh too. “Ijeoma, I only want to laugh with you in this life, there is no life without you.”
    *IJEOMA*
    I stared at a picture of Omololu and I when we were teenagers, we had carved a love symbol and our names on a tree in the wood during a field trip. The picture was old but I still loved it, it gave me the moments of Omololu and I. I replaced the picture into the shelf and I adjusted my neck chain. I had made up my mind to go and see Omololu; I was prepared to fight for what we once had. I threw it away and I had resolved to get the man I love back.
    I rode my wheelchair out of my room into the living room. Tiwa was in her room, so she had no idea that I was going on the ‘escapade’. The doorbell chimed as I entered the living room. I drove over to the door and opened it.
    “Omololu…” I said with a smile.
    He didn’t smile back. His eyes were red as though he had been crying, he stepped back a little and a man approached from behind him. I stared at the man in a black suit.
    “This is a file for divorce from my client.” The man said as he handed me the envelope

    EPISODE 11

    *IJEOMA*
    I struggled to hold on to the documents that the lawyer handed me and they fell carelessly from my hand. “I…I am sorry.” I said as I tried to lean over and pick the documents, Omololu immediately bent and gathered the documents. He passed the documents to his lawyer and stood behind him.
    “You just have to sign in the necessary places and all is done.” The lawyer said.
    I panted heavily as I stared at a silent Omololu. “I…I…I have to sign?”
    Omololu stepped in. “Please give us a minute alone.” He said to the Lawyer. The lawyer nodded and walked out. Omololu took a deep breath as he knelt before me. “I…I don’t know what to say.”
    “Omololu, you are letting go. You…you told me that you only want to laugh with me in this life, you…you said there was no life without me, do you remember? I…I have that picture we took in the wood? Do you remember?” I said as tears flowed freely down my eyes. “Lolu, I…I don’t want to go on without you, I am sorry.”
    He drew closer to me. “Ijeoma…I…I don’t know how we got here, but, my…I.” He took a deep breath and clasped his hand in his head. “I…I don’t want to do this.”
    “Then why are you doing it? You are driving me crazy, Omololu!” I screamed. “I can’t let go off you, I am no one without you. I was stupid and I regret everything that happened that night. I felt embarrassed when you showed up and I didn’t know what to do and I am sorry. I was foolish, Omololu. Please forgive me.” I cried.
    He took my hand. “Stop it, Ijeoma…just stop it.”
    “Let’s talk about everything. Let’s talk about why I didn’t acknowledge you in my speech, let’s talk about why I never came back. I just wanted more from life, I got so carried away and I am sorry, I want to make amends for everything. Please Lolu, think of everything we’ve shared, think of Tiwa. Think of me, when we were young, hungry, tired and in love, I just want to go back to us.” I cried.
    Omololu swallowed as he tried forcing back tears. “It’s too late.”
    I took his hand. “Omololu, it is never too late. We…we can start over, let’s start over. You, me, Tiwa, let’s start again.”
    “Olivia is pregnant.”
    My head spun like a carousel as Omololu’s words echoed in my head. “I…err…I…”
    “I know it sounds…I…I don’t even know what to say, but, I just don’t know what to do right now. I am sorry, Ijeoma.”
    I took a deep breath and wiped my tears. “Where do I sign, Omololu?”
    *OMOLOLU*
    I swallowed hard as I stared at her. Her face was pale and she was now wiping her tears. “I…I…”
    “You can send the papers over to me in the morning. I am tired, I need to sleep.” She replied as she turned the wheelchair away.
    Tiwa stood before us. “Tiwa…”
    “What is going on, Dad?” she asked.
    Ijeoma smiled faintly. “Your Dad and I were actually talking.”
    “So, who do I get to stay with after the divorce is over?” she asked. “Do I get to live with you on the grounds that my Mom is incapacitated? Is that the agreement? Do I have weekends with her?” she asked, staring at us. I could see the disappointment in her eyes as she stared at us.
    I took a deep breath. “Now is not the time to talk about this, Tiwa. We…we would talk about everything later.”
    “I don’t want to talk, Dad. I just want to sleep.” She replied and left for her room. Ijeoma drove her wheelchair and followed her.
    I crashed into a chair slowly as I watched Tiwa and Ijeoma go upstairs. I couldn’t bear to see Ijeoma sad but I honestly couldn’t do anything. The more I tried to find reasons for her action, memories of that night at the party played in my head.
    The door opened and the lawyer walked in. “Omololu, what’s next?”
    “I don’t know.” I replied and walked out.
    ***
    Tiwa scribbled down in her notepad as she listened to some music. She tried to find some peace in the music and air as she relaxed in the garden. She had watched her parents talk about their divorce and it just started to dawn on her that things might have gotten out of hand after all. She cried so hard at night but there was no one to console her as her Mom too was crying all night. Maybe music would cure the pain, maybe Sharon could teach her to dance the pain away too, but she couldn’t go to Sharon, there was no rehearsal today.
    Tiwa stared at the gate as it opened and Grandma walked in. She raced down to the gate to meet her grandmother.
    “Tiwa!” she said with a huge smile and then pecked her. “How are you?”
    Tiwa’s face gave her the answer. “Grandma, I can’t take it.” She replied as she hugged her tight. “You are God-sent.”
    “Neither can I. Maybe we should just go back to Ibadan.”Margaret suggested with a chuckle. “Let’s go and see your Mom.”
    *IJEOMA*
    I could read the shock on Tiwa and my mother-in-law’s face as they walked in. They kept staring at themselves and then back at me. “What is it?” I asked with one of my best smiles.
    “I…I thought you would still be in bed.” Tiwa said dumbly.
    I stared at my wristwatch and smiled. “This is 9am and even though I have the luxury of working from home, I won’t just sit around here doing nothing.”
    “Mom, are you alright? Is there a problem?” Tiwa asked looking worried.
    I smiled as I downed my coffee. “If by that you mean, did yesterday happen? Yes, it did and I fully remember everything. I’ll sign them today, don’t worry. Your Father would be free of me in a couple of hours.” I replied and drove my wheelchair in my mother-in-law’s direction. “I have missed you.” I said with a smile.
    “Going to the lawyer’s?” she asked.
    I shook my head in disagreement. “Not yet, I have to see my physiotherapist this morning. Now more than ever, I need to get on my feet.”
    “The right attitude to start a new day.” She replied with a smile. “I’ll be glad to go with you.” She offered.
    I smiled faintly. “No, you don’t have to. I want to stop at an old friend’s place.”
    “Friend? Other than Austin?” she quizzed.
    I nodded. “Yes. Take care, Mom. I’ll be back later on.” I smiled in Tiwa’s direction. “Don’t worry, I am fine.”
    The session with the therapist was swift and I enjoyed trying to stand again. I did fall a number of times, but in my heart I knew I’ll still stand again and that day, I honestly couldn’t wait for it. I drove my wheelchair out of the hospital and approached my car.
    “Ijeoma?”
    I turned as Omololu approached me. “What are you doing here?” I asked. “Oh wait, I know, you want me to sign the divorce so bad that you tailed me down here? I’ll sign it, Lolu.”
    He swallowed. “I don’t have it here.”
    I nodded. “Then I want an hour with you.” He blinked. “We are going to talk about everything we never did and after then, I’ll sign your papers.”
    *OMOLOLU*
    I carried Ijeoma in my hands as I took her into my new house. “I just bought this place and the stairs won’t be comfortable for you.” I started as I explained why I carried her from the wheelchair. I set her on the chair. “I haven’t moved in here yet, but Olivia and I would be making decisions on when we would.”
    “Are you sure?” she asked.
    I stared at her. “What do you mean?”
    She wore a cocky smile. “Nothing. Can I have a drink?”
    “This place isn’t set up yet and I can’t get you any drink except water.” I replied as I opened the small fridge that Olivia had put in the house in case of any romantic getaway prior to when we move into the place. I saw a bottle of champagne in the fridge with a red ribbon and I knew it had to be Olivia’s. My conscience judged me as I placed my hand around the bottle, but I didn’t mind, I felt the need to drink with Ijeoma and so I returned to her with the Champagne.
    “Why do I have the feeling that you were trying to get me into this place for a reason?” she asked as I poured her glass. “Do I find it attractive that my soon to be ex is trying to seduce me?”
    I swallowed as she ran her eyes through me. “Ijeoma, this won’t work.”
    “What won’t work? The fact that I am trying to get a drink from my husband, oh, soon to be ex-husband?” she asked with a smile.
    I shook my head and took a seat. “Don’t play dumb with me and you know quite well what I am referring to. You should have done this that night, I’d have melted.”
    “And you know why I never did?” she asked. I raised an eyebrow. “I couldn’t.” My face was stoned. “I know it doesn’t sound right, but, I didn’t know how to face you when I came over to see you that night.” She continued. “I…I was just lost for the right words and you were in that woman’s place-”
    I scoffed. “You said ‘Omololu, I am sorry’ and you walked out.”
    She nodded. “Omololu, I am still sorry and I know I have put a lot of things ahead of you ever since I got that job-”
    “Ijeoma, you don’t understand. I wanted you with us, Tiwa was sick, she had her birthday and she wanted her mommy, you sent money to us.” I replied angrily.
    She nodded sadly. “I am sorry. My boss won’t let me go.”
    “You chose your boss over us, you chose your career over me, you chose the press and the spotlight that night and even when they asked you, what did you say? It was nothing. You called me nothing.” I replied as I walked over to her. “Do you know how I felt as I left that place? Ridiculous! I roamed the streets of Lagos that night asking how you could ever do that to me.” I yelled. She was already in tears and she bowed her head. “I want you to look at me, you want to talk? Now, we are talking, what if I did that to you? I denied you before the world, would you ever forgive me?”
    She was silent.
    “Can you?” I asked.
    She remained silent as she sobbed.
    I nodded. “I didn’t think so, but, I am so crazy about you that I don’t know what I’ll do without you, I am afraid to lose you.”
    “We don’t have to do this.” She replied. “I had lied to my boss that you were away and in good condition, so, so when you showed up-”
    I scoffed. “So you were ashamed when you saw me? Oh…Of course you had to be, I didn’t wear a tux.”
    “I can’t say you are wrong and I don’t know how to defend myself but all I can do is tell you that I am sorry and tell you that I want to be with you all my life.” She replied.
    “Ijeoma-”
    She cut in. “I know I was wrong, I know I have made mistakes along the line and I know that I have hurt you and our daughter but I want to make it right, I want it to be you, me and Tiwa. I want us to back together. I want us to be a family again.” She continued in tears.
    *IJEOMA*
    Omololu clasped his hand in head as he stared at me. “W…What do you want? My life is falling apart and all this is because of you.” He said and turned away from me.
    “I just want you to forgive me.” I replied with my head bowed. “Can you forgive me, Omololu? Can you?”
    He remained silent as he leaned against the wall.
    “Omololu, I…I will never be the same without you and I don’t want to go on without you, I don’t want to laugh without you, I don’t want to live without you, I don’t want you to go away.” I continued as I fought back the tears in my eyes.
    He walked up to me and took his seat beside me. “I am sorry, Ijeoma. I am sorry we are we got to this.”
    “Is there any way back for us?” I asked as I stared into his eyes.
    He blinked and used his fingers to adjust my hair. “I…I….I don’t know.” He said.
    I nodded. “I know I deserve everything coming to me, but you don’t deserve what is coming to you. You don’t deserve to be unhappy with another woman, Omololu, there used to be us, no one could come in between us and I would give anything and everything to take us back to that time when we just had to hold our hands and everything was alright. I want us to be friends again, I want us to fight again, I want us to kiss and make up, I want to laugh together, I want you back.” I said.
    He stared at me with a smile and took my hand in his. “You have me, Ijeoma.”
    I couldn’t take back the smile that formed on my face as Omololu took my hand. “Omololu, are…are we back?”
    He smiled. “Can we try?”
    The door opened and Olivia walked in. “What is going on here?”
    I stared at Olivia as her eyes burned angrily. “Good evening, Dr. Olivia.” I said.
    Omololu rose up to meet her. “Olivia, what are you doing here?” he asked.
    “What am I doing in our house?” she asked.
    I cleared my throat. “Omololu, can you take me out of here?”
    Olivia walked over to me. “We should have a good talk someday, Ijeoma. How about you sign the divorce quickly?”
    I smiled faintly and looked around. “I only use fountain pens, have one?”
    She stared at me. “I won’t go down without a fight.”
    I smiled. “This isn’t a fight, Omololu is mine.” I replied.
    “Lolu?” She asked as she stared at him.
    He took a deep breath. “I’ll just take her to her car.”
    “Clearly she needs help, but she won’t be getting it from you.” She replied.
    He stared at her. “Olivia, I…I don’t want any argument, let me just…I’ll be right back.”
    Omololu lifted me off the chair. “Where is her chair?” She asked.
    “I’ll be back.” He replied and took me to the car outside. “I am sorry about that.” He said as he helped me to my seat in the car.
    I smiled. “It’s fine. I know what I am up for.”
    “Are you sure? Olivia is never pissed; I am not being fair to her.” He replied.
    I took a deep breath. “I’ll see you later; I have my pen whenever you are ready.”
    *OMOLOLU*
    “What was that about, Lolu?” Olivia asked flying at me as soon as I walked in.
    I took my seat. “Ijeoma wanted to talk.”
    “And you brought her to our home? Our home!” she asked.
    “Olivia, I am sorry if I upset you.”
    She scoffed. “If! You did. You might as well have taken her into our bedroom.”
    “Don’t be so dramatic, Olivia. And I don’t like how you spoke to her, she might be in a wheelchair but it doesn’t give you the right to disrespect her.”
    “Did you just say your wife?”
    I nodded. “She hasn’t signed the papers and that means we are still legally married.”
    “And what about me,who am I to you?”
    I blinked as I stared at her. “Olivia, you…”
    “What am I? Your mistress! Your w---e! What am I? Am I just carrying your baby?”
    I walked up to her. “I am sorry; I didn’t mean to hurt you. I am sorry.” I said as I pulled her close for a hug.
    ***
    Tiwa passed her grandmother a glass of water. “All our scheming have got us nowhere today, Grandma and I are super tired.”
    “Your ideas haven’t been so perfect too.” Margaret replied.
    Tiwa smiled. “What if they really get separated? Can I live with you?”
    “This place suits you, I hear you now go to Lord Tanner? I got the video for Magic Time and I loved it.”
    Tiwa smiled. “I love being here; I want to see what my family would be like together.”
    “I hope you can see what your Dad and Mom were once like, you’d be proud of it.” Margaret added.
    “Did you always love my mom? I mean, Dad told me that she lived with you for the greater part of her youth.”
    Margaret nodded. “Ijeoma has always been my daughter too. She used to be so frail and nothing like the perfection you see now, but beneath that perfect lady is still the frail little girl I once knew, but she grew up. She smiled as she continued. “But what she never lost was her love, she could light up anyone’s life with her love and that’s how she crept into our lives and she could never leave.”
    “Can my Dad forgive those days when we had to go through a lot and she wasn’t there?” Tiwa asked.
    Her Grandma was silent.
    “I can forgive it, but I know he cried at night and he was always looking at her pictures until he went back to meet Dr Olivia.” Tiwa continued. “I think Dr Olivia is a good woman but I really want my mom, not her.”
    Margaret relaxed in her seat. “In the end, this decision is your fathers’ to take and I hope you know that.”
    “I do, but, don’t I have a say?” Tiwa asked. “I know he loves her and she loves him, why can’t they just be adults and talk? I mean, adults should talk, right?”
    Margaret laughed as she stared at Tiwa. “I have had enough of you, child. Let’s get something to eat.”
    *IJEOMA*
    My driver pulled up in a neighbourhood I hadn’t been too in almost a year. I had been thinking of my discussion with Omololu and I knew that I had to make some things right too, even though I knew I didn’t have to claim total responsibility for it.
    My driver opened the door and helped me out of the car. “Thank you.” I said. “Wait for me here, I’ll be back and if I am not, well, that’s it.” I said with a smile and drove my wheelchair on.
    My heart pounded as I thought of the words I would say when I arrived at my destination. I stopped at the door and pressed the doorbell. There was no response after the first chime and so I pressed it a second time. I took a deep breath as I heard footsteps approaching the door.
    The door creaked open slightly.
    “Hello Sharon.” I said with a smile.

    EPISODE 12

    *IJEOMA*
    Sharon placed a glass of juice before me and took her seat opposite mine as though she was about to start an interview session. When she met me at the door, she simply stepped back with a smile and let me into the house without a word. Even when I had tried to mumble greetings to her, she remained unmoved by them and continued ushering me into the house. I didn’t like a minute of the silence and to be honest it was getting me worked up, but I had promised myself that I would keep my cool throughout the meeting with her; after all, I chose to visit her.
    “Sorry about your leg.” She said.
    I smiled faintly as the silence had finally been broken and we could now speak. “I am having therapy; I’ll walk again pretty soon.” I replied.
    She nodded. “So, tell me, The great Ijeoma Martins in my house? Is Austin dead?”
    I smiled. “If he were?”
    “It’s understandable that you break the news to me, you are guys are like Bonnie and Clyde, right?” she asked.
    “I see you haven’t lost your touch for subtle insults.” I replied as I sipped the drink slowly.
    She scoffed. “Me? I haven’t had a touch for anything. If I did, I won’t be the loser.”
    “You are not a loser.” I replied, replacing the glass.
    She smiled. “Says the woman with a boyfriend and husband! You know, I actually wonder how you manage to rotate them or should I say conveniently swap them? You are a legend, Ijeoma.”
    I swallowed. “Do I take it as if you are going to vent on me all day?”
    “Am I wrong to do that? I can’t see Austin to tell him how I feel and life has presented me with you on a platter, am I supposed to throw away the maybe only opportunity I’ll ever get?” she asked.
    I took a deep breath. “Well Sharon, I am not to blame for what happened between you and Austin.”
    “Really? Why would a married woman call my boyfriend up in the middle of the night to cry with her after she has done something so wrong?”
    I stared at her. “What are you talking about?”
    “The stuff between you and your husband?”
    I blinked. “He told you?”
    “We used to talk about everything and I thought I was doing just enough to be his girlfriend and there was always you, getting all the attention. ‘Ijeoma needs this…Ijeoma needs that. I have to do this for her, she is my friend.’ I envy your level of friendship, it’s amazing, I wish I had a friend who would love me that much.” She continued.
    I turned my wheelchair to approach the door and then I turned back at her. “You know what? I am going take everything you say, so continue.”
    “Really? Why did you come here, Ijeoma?” she asked with a smile.
    I took a deep breath. “I came to ask your forgiveness.”
    The smile on her face faded slowly. “Forgiveness?”
    I nodded. “I am sorry, I came in between you guys and I apologize for that.”
    “So, you do admit that you were responsible for all the problems I had with Austin?” she asked.
    I shook my head in disagreement. “I am only sorry for the attention that was divided but I won’t claim responsibility for your jealousy and drama. I know how you feel and how mad you are at me and how easy it is for you to blame everything on me, but, you should have never asked him to choose. Austin still loves you and I am going to do my part of slipping out of his life gradually, it is your call to get your man and keep him.”
    “Are you doing me a favour?” she asked. “This is not a favour just in case you think you are helping me.”
    I shrugged. “I have not said anything about that, I am here to amend whatever was broken between us and for what it’s worth, I did enjoy the few times we hung out.”
    The room was silent. Sharon smiled faintly. “Like when we had to go to the cinemas with Austin and he was screaming with us.”
    “That’s because we were screaming and he wasn’t. He felt weird.” I replied chuckling.
    She shrugged. “Why would a guy even scream for any reason?”
    I raised an eyebrow.
    *OMOLOLU*
    I watched Olivia as she paced round the bedroom. “We need to get married soon, Omololu.”
    “Soon?”
    She nodded. “Two weeks max.”
    “Two weeks? I…I haven’t even proposed to you.” I said dumbly.
    She stared at me. “You are so good with words, aren’t you?”
    I wiped some perspiration off my brow. “I am sorry, i…I didn’t mean it that way, but, aren’t we going too fast? If we are going to get married, it should be properly planned.”
    “Why? We can’t get married in the church. We are both divorcees.”
    “I am not yet divorced.” I replied cutting in.
    She folded her arms. “What are you trying to say, Lolu? Can you be a little more explicit with me?” she asked.
    I rubbed my palms together. “I am just saying that we should take it easy. You are pregnant and so we need to take things easy right now.”
    “I am taking everything easy except this, you are developing cold feet about this thing and I am not going to allow us throw everything between us away and if you think I am going to let you make a mistake in your life and come back begging, you are mistaken. And you know why? You are not even making that mistake in the first place.” She replied.
    “Olivia, you are overreacting. Ijeoma is a not a mistake.”
    She scoffed. “Oh really? And what happened that night? A woman who claims that you are life to her does what she did to you? She denied you and then came over to say sorry and that was all. Did she come back? All she cared about was her money, status, fame and everything that she has achieved. Does she care about you or her daughter?”
    “Ijeoma loves me. And she loves Tiwa too and Tiwa does love her too.”
    She laughed mockingly. “Loves? She doesn’t. A woman who loves you won’t look down on you when you were nothing and then embrace you now.”
    “She apologized even then.” I replied.
    “Now you are making excuses for her. Tiwa is a young girl, she is excited to meet her mom and we are talking about a celeb mom, it’s not a problem, the issue is this, the society does not even acknowledge you or your daughter with Ijeoma. Remember what the papers said about you the next morning after that night? ‘Party crasher’. You were called at a party crasher and your own wife whom you claim loves you did nothing. Where does this all fit in?”
    I slammed the chair. “Stop it, Olivia. Where are you going with all these?”
    “I am opening your eyes again and to be honest, I am sick and tired of it.” She replied and stormed out of the room.
    I took a deep breath and slid into a chair.
    *IJEOMA*
    Sharon and I approached the car. “To be honest, it was nice seeing you again.” I said.
    “Nice finally been seen.” Sharon replied. I paused and stared at her. “Sense of humour.” She added quickly.
    I rolled my eyes. “That’s not cool.”
    “Come on, Ijeoma. Don’t tell me that you don’t feel a bit of awkwardness between us?”
    I shrugged.
    “You are super human.” She replied. “I am not holding on to the past anymore to be honest, I just want to make sure that you are really through with Austin before I give myself any false hopes.”
    “The only thing I have with Austin is the friendship that I have always had with him.”
    She took a deep breath. “I don’t want any of that friendship, Ijeoma. I didn’t survive it then and I don’t think I can survive it now, I think I am fine on my own without him.” She replied.
    “Are you? You’ll never be the same after now, and it won’t hurt if you try fighting for what’s yours.”
    She smiled faintly. “Am I getting lessons on fighting for love from you?”
    I nodded. “Some of us have learnt.”
    “I see.” She replied as she opened the car door for me. “Where is your family now?”
    I smiled. “Around, but I am fighting for them and believe me when I tell you that I am sorry because I know how hard it is to fight for something that’s yours.” I replied.
    *OMOLOLU*
    Olivia had locked herself in the bathroom downstairs for over thirty minutes and I didn’t know what to say or how to say it to her. I stared at the door waiting for it open but it didn’t. Funny thoughts started to run through my mind. I even had the feeling that she might have committed suicide but I didn’t think she would try it, she is the psychologist. She knew better about these things.
    I started to tap the door slowly and when I didn’t get any response, I started to drum on the door. “Olivia! Olivia! I am coming in now!” I shouted as I drummed hard. I still didn’t hear anything from her so I started to throw my weight against the door frantically. I pushed the door open and Olivia stood before me naked.
    “What…What?” I asked.
    She walked up to me. “Make love to me.” She said.
    My mouth stayed agape and she planted a kiss in it as she started to unbutton my shirt. I got a grip of her hand. “I can’t.” I said.
    “You can.” She replied as she reached for my shirt. “Come on, Lolu.”
    I took her hand firmly. “I am sorry. I can’t do this.” I said and walked out of the house.
    *IJEOMA*
    I drove my wheelchair into the garden with my iPod in one hand. It was late at night and I knew that I could use a moment alone to reflect on a very long day but one with a lot of fulfilment. I had bridged the gap between Sharon and I in a way or so I think.
    I stared at the skies and started to count the stars. As a girl, I would count the stars at night with Omololu and we would talk about how many kids we would have.
    Flashback
    “I want a boy.” Omololu had said. “And after then, I want our house to be as big as this town, you know? The kids would run around and we would just sit and watch them from the roof top.”
    I smiled. “A girl is more like it.”
    “Do you want a girl because you are a female? Or because you really want a girl?” he asked.
    “I just want a girl.” I replied. “To spite you.” I added quickly with a grin.
    He nodded and cuddled me in his arms. “Then I want a girl too. Because now, I’ll be the one spiting you.” He replied and kissed my forehead.
    ********
    “Memory has a way of haunting us, isn’t it?”
    I swirled my wheelchair in response to my mother-in-law’s voice. “Why are you not asleep?” I asked.
    She set her chair and stretched out her legs. “How easy is it for a mother to sleep when her kids are not okay? Would she even get any sleep?”
    “Mama, Omololu and I would sort it out.” I replied.
    She nodded. “I see? You guys loved staring at the skies when you were younger, are you reliving those days in his absence?”
    “I might have to move on.” I replied.
    She smiled faintly. “I never knew that moving on involved coming back to old spots to dwell in it, that’s really not like moving on.” She replied.
    Mama was right. Moving on would never be easy without Omololu. “I can always try.”
    “Ijeoma, I have not really had the time to know what went wrong with you, but, I can’t say I am totally shocked at how fast you changed. You were the bright girl with prospects and you needed that opportunity which thankfully came your way, but how on earth did you forget where you came from?”
    I swallowed hard. If there was anyone that I would want to avoid on the discussion, it had to be Mama. “I am sorry.”
    “I know. Omololu knows. Tiwa knows. But what I don’t know is how you could do that to Omololu?”
    I blinked. “I…I didn’t make the right choice.”
    “Of course, you didn’t. You could have damned the job right there and gone with the man you love, but you chose to ignore him and that not only bruised his ego, it shattered him. He told me how the press labelled him ‘Party crasher’. Ijeoma, that was your husband they insulted and you kept mute, why? For money?”
    I couldn’t hold back my tears as they flowed freely. “I know I was wrong, but…but I am sorry.”
    “Sometimes, sorry is never enough and that is what you might have to learn. Wounds take time to heal and I think Olivia’s presence in Omololu’s life at his vulnerable moment sold you out, but, the good thing is he loves you and that is where you’ve always had the edge, I just hope and pray to God that he heals all the wounds and Lolu can totally forget that night.” She replied.
    “Olivia is pregnant.” I said. “Omololu slept with her, he is having a child with her, what am I to do?”
    Mama smiled. “Pregnant? That was expected. Anyway, it means I’ll have another grandchild soon.”
    “I…I don’t know if I’ll be able to take it.” I replied.
    She smiled. “Do you have a choice?” she asked.
    I turned my face away.
    “Let’s say she isn’t pregnant.” Mama suggested.
    I turned in her direction in smiles. “How high is that probability?”
    “I can say 20%”
    I took a deep breath. “I want my husband back and I am ready to build my hopes on the 20%.”
    She shrugged. “This is not about how much love you guys have for each other, this would involve mature reasoning as a child is now involved.”
    *OMOLOLU*
    I hurled the empty bottle of water in my hand into the sea. I had gone to the bay to see if I could make any meaning out of my life. The sea breeze did a lot for me. It made me want to sleep. At the moment, sleeping felt appropriate except that I was far from home and I didn’t have the intention of going back to Olivia’s. She was too mad at me for me to show my face anywhere near her. I would just return to the apartment.
    I stepped into my car and started to drive. I stared at the document on the passenger’s seat as I drove on. The divorce papers had not been signed and I didn’t know if I really wanted her to sign it, but, I had to do something for Olivia.
    I stopped as I joined the traffic. It didn’t look hopeful and so I followed the next diversion into streets. I continued in my thoughts as I drove slowly through the bad roads. I didn’t have to concentrate on the driving as my thoughts strayed. It was soon going to cost me as I heard a loud bang on the car. I immediately pulled up and stepped to see a dent on the side of the car.
    “Oga, you no get sense? You dey sleep? I don dey horn for your head since morning and you just dey there no move your moto.” A man rambled in pidgin.
    I stared at the dented portion of the car and then back at the man. “I am the one with the dent in my car, why are you screaming?” I asked.
    “It be like say this one dey craze! Na me you dey speak English for?”
    The man continued.
    Loud horns went off as we had blocked the tiny street. “Just move your crap out of the way.” I said attempting to return to my car but the Man reached for me. I was saved from his hit by a man who shoved him aside.
    Nerves were calmed and I stepped aside with the man who saved me as the other cars moved on. “I am a victim of traffic, else, I wonder what I’ll be doing in these streets.”
    “Do you remember me?” The Man asked.
    I stared at him blankly. “Who are you?” I asked. I then stared around and noticed a familiar territory.
    “I am Pastor Tim. Tiwa was here.”
    I smiled. “Nice to meet you…again.” I said as I approached my car in an attempt to avoid the lengthy sermons.
    “Why don’t you come with me to the Church and we could talk? Traffic would have died down after our discussion.”
    I shook my head in disagreement. “I am sorry, I don’t want to talk.”
    “Why not? I saw you in the car before that man hit your car. You looked lost.” He continued.
    I blinked. “Was it so obvious to see?”
    “I guess so.” He replied. “So?”
    *OMOLOLU*
    “I am getting a divorce.” I said as I stared at Pastor Tim.
    He folded his arm as he stared at me. “Clearly that is not what you want.”
    “I don’t know what to do. My hands are tied.” I replied.
    He nodded in agreement. “What has your hands?”
    “Can we talk as men, not you as a pastor now?” I asked.
    He smiled. “Lolu, my name is Tim.”
    “We might get along well.” I replied with a grin. “Well, Tiwa’s mom is my wife and she is the woman I love.” I said with a smile. “Look at me talking about love like a boy. I am crazy about her and it’s been the same passion since when we were young and even though everything seems so complicated right now, I just want her.”
    Tim sat up as I took him into a world I had with Ijeoma.
    *IJEOMA*
    “So, if Olivia has a boy, Lolu would be glad, right? He always wanted a boy.” I said as I stared at the stars.
    Mama shrugged. “What if you give him a boy?”
    “Me? We are about to get a divorce here in case you haven’t noticed.” I replied.
    She nodded. “I know about the divorce and I think it is going to be really hard on the both of you if it goes through, so I am hoping God does something about it.”
    “Olivia is desperate and I am scared that she’ll win Lolu eventually.” I confessed. “She’s bringing her gloves at me.”
    Mama smiled. “That’s good, she’ll need it because we would be crushing her together.”
    *OMOLOLU*
    “I never got over that night and now Olivia is pregnant, so, it’s all complicated. I…I just wish Ijeoma had never done that to me.”
    Tim was silent.
    “That’s it.” I said as I clasped my hands into my laps.
    He stared at me. “That’s not it. It’s obvious that there is still a lot to fight for and I know that Olivia is pregnant, but have you thought of what would happen to you? To Ijeoma? To Tiwa?”
    “What would you have me do?” I asked.
    He scoffed. “This is not about me, Lolu. This is about you, you are the man who has to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life and how you want to please God doing that.”
    “It’s tough for me. If I am with Olivia, I don’t have to worry, because she has the master plan, but, with Ijeoma, we are like two crazy kids, we just keep going, failing together, winning together, I don’t know what I’ll do without her.” I said as I stared at the documents in my hand. “I need her to forgive me for breaking our vows too. Even she hurt me, I hurt her too.”
    Tim nodded and stared at me. “What are you going to do?”
    “I am going to fight for my family.” I said tearing the divorce papers.

    EPISODE 13

    *IJEOMA*
    “Can you stand?” The Physio asked as I tried to make to take my balance.
    I didn’t have to reply as I crashed into his arms. “Do you think I can do this? Maybe we are rushing things.” I replied.
    “Do you think you can do this?” he asked. “You were the one who came to me and said that you want to speed up your sessions, are you backing out now?”
    “It’s just too difficult, standing up is not easy.” I replied.
    He nodded and passed my wheelchair. “Well, sitting here is more comfortable. While you are at it, should I get you a drink?It’s too hard for you to get your own drink, isn’t it?” he asked.
    I swallowed hard as tears streamed down my cheeks. “I’ll walk again, you jerk.” I shouted as I started to push my weight up.
    “That’s the sort of reaction I hoped to get from you. Now, get up!” he shouted.
    *OMOLOLU*
    “She’ll be with you soon.” Olivia’s secretary said as she walked out.
    I drummed my fingers nervously on my lap. I knew that my meeting with Olivia was going to be hard for us especially after what I did in the morning. She probably must have heard about it by now and I didn’t know if defendingmyself would be worth it in the end.
    The door opened and Olivia walked in with an unusual smile, considering the tension between us in the past days. She darted a red gown and she did look very irresistible as she sat on her desk directly before me like she had done years ago when I was only her patient.
    The room was silent and she maintained a smile that unnerved me. “I…I could go.” I said, as I broke the silence.
    “And why is that? Did you come to see my face or see me? I could have sent a picture of me if you needed something to see badly.” She replied as she folded her arms.
    I cleared my throat. “Has your brother spoken to you?” I asked.
    “Oh, that thing about you going over to him and resigning?” she asked with a smile.
    I nodded. “I…I just feel that I can’t work for him anymore.”
    “And that would be because I got you the job, right? Let me see, do you think I bought you?” she asked.
    I swallowed. “You did not buy me, but, I…I want to make sure that-”
    “-that you severe any possible ties between us so that you can go back to your wife feeling like a saint, well, almost a saint.”
    I took a deep breath. “Olivia…”
    “I understand how you want to do it, you want to play the saint. I can’t believe you even asked not to be paid for the year from my brother, that’s amazing. And I guess you are putting the house back on the market?”She asked with a probing look. She smiled and continued. “I think it’s fine that you do it, but, I have news for you, you can’t get rid of me or our child.” She said with a firm look.
    I nodded. “I didn’t expect it to be easy, but, I am going to try to make you forgive me.”
    “Forgive?! Lolu, what is there to forgive? We have the right to our own decision, if you don’t mind, I should have real patients soon, not those who use people.” She said and walked over to her desk.
    “Olivia, we don’t have to do it this way. I am sorry that you feel bad about how we got here, but, you know that I love Ijeoma.”
    She laughed mockingly. “You sound like a fool saying it. You love Ijeoma? Or she loves you? Look, Lolu, I am notgoing to continue moping things up for you. If you get into this mess, you’ll fix it, but I won’t be there for you.”
    “Stop being dramatic about this Olivia. Ijeoma is not amess, she is my wife and I love her despite everything that we have been through.” I paused as I prepared for my next line that I had rehearsed over and over before coming to her. “It’s over.”
    She laughed mockingly. “Let’s see how strong your love is when you need to have sex.”
    I was stoned and then I smiled and then started to laugh.
    “The thought of that has you troubled that you are even laughing.” She said with a smile. “Think hard before you leap, Lolu.” She said as she approached me with a smile.
    I shook my head in disagreement as I rose to my feet. “You are very wrong there, very wrong. Ijeoma is a hundred times better than you and I mean even in her present state.” I said with a smile. She stared at me with a surprised look.“You are surprised? I can’t resist her.” I replied and tried to leave but she held me back.
    “Please Omololu, you can’t do this to me. To us.” She begged.
    I took a deep breath. “Olivia, I am sorry that it has to be like this, but, I…I don’t want to sacrifice my love for unhappiness, we won’t be happy together.” I said.
    “We would. I swear I would make it work, all we have to do is get Ijeoma out of sight and we would be fine.” She said.
    “Even if she is out of sight, she is not out of mind.” I replied as I tried to walk away.
    She pulled me back. “No! I’ll take you away from here, I’ll make you the happiest man on earth.”
    “You don’t get it, do you? Ijeoma is my life and I am nothing without her.” I replied.
    “I am nothing without you.” She protested. “I have nowhere to go, there is no one for me. I’ll die without you, I’ll kill myself.”
    I shook my head sadly. “How desperate are you?”
    “I am too in love to let it go.” She replied in tears.
    “I…I can’t let you do this me, it’s bad enough that there’s a child but I won’t stay, I will be a responsible father but I am not staying with you.” I replied angrily.
    She screamed out. “There is no f#@king child! I just want you!”
    “W…What?”
    “Omololu, Please stay.” She said as she held me.
    I yanked out of her grip. “Are you telling me that you are not pregnant?”
    “I…I am pregnant.” She replied.
    I nodded in disgust. “You are pathetic, Olivia. You should get help.”
    She pulled me back. “You would never be happy without me. Ijeoma would hurt you again.”
    “I’ll rather die by Ijeoma’s sword than be with you.” I replied and walked out slamming the door hard.
    I sat in my car as I boiled in anger. I had never thought I could say such words to Olivia and in the harshest terms that I could possibly find but she had pushed me too far by speaking badly of Ijeoma and with the lie she had made me believe. I thought about returning to her to render an apology but I knew the effect of such, Olivia would think I was unsure about Ijeoma and I didn’t want to relay that to her.
    *IJEOMA*
    I gulped my drink as I wiped off some perspiration from my face. The Physio returned to me. “We have to get back to work.” He said.
    “Can’t I just get five minutes? I mean, you said I did well with my balance, right?”
    He nodded. “And it exactly for that reason that I need you to take advantage of the situation and get a firm grip.”
    “I understand, but it gets tiring and really stressful.” I replied.
    He nodded. “Alright then, what we are going to do is simple. Maybe you should call someone that would do this session with you, maybe a family member or friend, because, you are going to walk and this time, it is serious.” I took a deep breath as he opened a chart. “From the X-ray, your limbs are getting into shape, all you have to do is believe and try taking those steps.” He continued. “I am going to take your chair and you would have to walk down here if you really need the chair.” He said as he approached me.
    “But I have no friend or family here yet.” I protested.
    He nodded. “Well, you have five minutes to call else, you’ll do it alone.”
    I’d call Austin to help me out. I couldn’t call Omololu yet, we were still complicated not knowing what would be the outcome of our relationship. Maybe the divorce would still happen. Just then the door opened and Omololu walked in. “Hey Doc.” He said in the Physio’s direction.
    The Physio exchanged hands with him. “Right on time.”
    I was smiling sheepishly like a teenager. Omololu had walked in right when I thought I had nothing else for me. I tried to maintain a straight face as he smiled in my direction but my childishness won’t let me and I smiled back.
    “Now it’s time to walk. What you have to do is simple. You are to help her on her feet and then, you take steps together.” The Physio instructed.
    Omololu stared at me. “Are you ready to do this?” he asked. “For us?”
    I felt like jumping up in an instant. Did Omololu just mention ‘Us?’. I needed to be sure. “What about Olivia?”
    “I ended things with her, I ripped the divorce papers, I am sorry for everything I have done wrong, please forgive me.”
    Tears rolled down my cheek. “Omololu…”
    “You don’t have to forgive me yet, you can think about it, but I want back into our family.” He continued.
    I pulled him closer and we kissed passionately.
    “Someone has to get up.” The Physio shouted.
    ***
    “Nice performance today.” Sharon said to Tiwa as they walked out of the room. “I think you are ready for a cast, let’s see what the director thinks about that.” She added.
    Tiwa smiled. “I’ll be glad to get a cast soon. How are you lately?”
    Sharon shrugged. “I am okay, I feel more positive about life now.”
    “And Love?” Tiwa asked, grinning.
    Sharon laughed. “I just knew you were going there. If it’s about my ex, I don’t know yet, but, who knows?” she smiled.
    “Can I take you to have lunch?” Tiwa asked.
    Sharon stared at her. “You?”
    “Yeah, my treat. I mean I have extra change.”
    “And you want to spend it on me?”
    Tiwa nodded. “Yeah, and my Uncle would be there too, so I just want you to meet him. I already told him about you.” She lied.
    “I…I don’t know if I am in the mood to meet people.” Sharon replied.
    Tiwa’s face fell. “But, I am just asking you to meet him, that’s all. It’s nothing serious.”
    Sharon rolled her eyes. “Okay, let me get my bag.” She said and left for her change room.
    Tiwa immediately fetched her phone from her pocket and dialled Austin frantically. “Hey, I need your help, I have an emergency at the tuck shop near your office, Can you meet me there?”
    “Slow down, what’s up?” he asked.
    She checked to be sure that Sharon wasn’t near. “Please meet me in fifteen minutes, thanks.” She replied and hung up as Sharon joined her. “Let’s go.”
    ***
    Olivia pulled her hair out as she stared at herself in the mirror. She had given up her last card cheaply as she ranted wrongly. She slid into the ground in the bathroom as she wept.
    ***
    Sharon and Tiwa walked into the café. Tiwa kept a searching glance as she looked for Austin. He hadn’t shown up, that was good. The door opened and he walked in. ‘Right on time!’ She thought with a grin. Good thing Sharon was backing him, so she called him over.
    “Where is the emergency?” he asked.
    Sharon turned as soon as she heard the voice. Austin stared at her and then at Tiwa. Tiwa cleared her throat. “This is my uncle.” She introduced with a faint smile.
    Austin took a deep breath and looked over his shoulder and then back at Sharon. “Hi.” He said.
    “How are you?” she replied.
    Tiwa picked up her phone. “I…I have to make a call.” She said and walked out.
    “Err…sit down.” Sharon said.
    Austin nodded and took his seat.
    “You guys planned this?” They both said at once and they laughed.
    Austin cleared his throat. “You go first, I am sorry.”
    She smiled back. “Did you plan this?”
    “Tiwa told me there was an emergency here.” He replied. “What did she tell you?”
    “She said her uncle wanted to meet me.” She replied.
    He stared at her. “Well, here we are again.” He took a deep breath. “Sharon…I…I don’t know how we fell apart.”
    She raised a finger to interrupt him. “I know how we did. I made you choose between me and Ijeoma and I apologise for that.”
    “No, it was my choice to stay with Ijeoma. I could have fought for you. I could have tried to make us work, but, I didn’t and that’s because I didn’t want to.”
    She blinked. “Could that be because you thought that Ijeoma would fall in love with you someday?”
    He swallowed. “Yes.”
    She nodded. “So, are you happy now?”
    “No. I have never been happy since you left but it was difficult for me to face it. All I wanted was for her to love me back, but she couldn’t and I realised that I didn’t really have those types of feelings I had for you for her.” He replied.
    She took a deep breath. “Is that supposed to make me happy?”
    “No, but, all I can honestly tell you is that I regret leaving you and if you are here today, it’s because I might just have another chance with you.” He said.
    “What about Ijeoma?” She asked.
    He relaxed in his chair. “She is my friend, and that’s all we can be, but with you, it can be different. I don’t just want to be your friend, I want to father your children.”
    Sharon chuckled. “Sounds like a proposal?”
    “That may be the best line I can churn out in my entire life.” He replied.
    She nodded. “I won’t be surprised.”
    He took her hand. “I am sorry for hurting you, please forgive me.”
    She nodded. “Just one more question for you.”
    “Ask.”
    “Tiwa is Ijeoma’s daughter, right?”
    He nodded in agreement. “Yes, she is.”
    ***
    A MONTH GONE
    ***
    *IJEOMA*
    “The past one month had been an experience for myfamily, we have had to go to the court times without number just to throw out the initial suit that I had filed for permanent custody of my daughter. Anyway, we have the suit dismissed. It’s now, Omololu, Tiwa and I as a family once again.
    Okay, I forgot one part, I am unemployed. I resigned from my job, but I could afford to do that, after all, I was able to part with a very very decent amount due to my status at the firm. I intend to start up my own business soon, but I haven’t decided yet as Omololu and I are yet to make a good decision on that. We rarely make good decisions on anything, but we end up getting it done. In the end, won’t you still call that a good decision?
    Austin is having a good relationship with Sharon, they are picking up their pieces and making it beautiful. Good for them.
    Omololu says that Olivia is now in Bangladesh. Like seriously? What is she doing there? Okay, I feel bad for her, no I don’t. Hasn’t she heard of what God has joined together, let no man put asunder?
    Okay…today is a big day for my family. Our daughter gets her first-
    “IJEOMA!!! We are running late?!” Omololu shouted.
    I know we are late, but let me end my part, Today is Tiwa’s first play with the Lord Tanner group. They are doing a great job with the tour around Nigeria and their plays, glad to see that my daughter is part of such. I am a proud mother and wife.” I concluded.
    ***
    “Do you ever get off this thing?” Omololu asked as he walked in.
    “No. It’s my podcast on marriages, why would I ever leave it?”
    He nodded. “I hope you didn’t forget to tell them that we renewed our vows?”
    I smiled in his direction and then back at the camera. “Okay. I forgot that part. We renewed our vows and I guess it worked for us. And one more thing, my husband is saying that we return to Ibadan. How fair is that? I love Lagos.” I asked.
    “But you love me more, right?” he asked.
    I nodded. “That, I can’t deny.” I replied and pulled him closer for a kiss.
    ***
    END

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