Like a pack of cards

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XXX   Like a pack of cards

September 8th|Maryland

They looked happy, she thought. They had been happy. She corrected herself, wiping an errant tear hanging at the corner of her left eye.

In the privacy of her apartment, still in bed on a lazy Saturday morning, wearing a white lingerie, she swiped left slowly, thoughtfully.

The photo illuminating her cell phone screen was one from the gala collection which Seyi had sent. Six turbulent days later was when she could finally give them the time of day. So much for settling down and viewing them properly. Between when she received them and this morning, her life seemed to have spiraled southwards and was still headed firmly in that direction.

This photo of Eddie and her sharing an intimate moment – his hand clasping one of hers and both of them staring into each other’s eyes as though they were the only ones in the world – and her teary reaction to it was proof enough. They had been happy.

She swiped left again and gasped gently. “Oh Eddie!”

The shot of them on the dance floor, moving seamlessly together was breathtaking. Her eyes began to water quickly again.

She didn’t try to wipe them off; instead she traced Eddie’s black, tuxedo-clad figure on the screen as though trying to keep his memory at her fingertips.

There were other stunning photos:

Eddie during his speech

While they were having dinner

The moment when he won the spa bid

Their shots at the foyer – both together and loads of Esohe on her own.

Her favourite, however, was their entrance into the hall. Her hand in the crook of his elbow, looking up at him as he spoke.  Through the photos, she was able to regard both of them from an external angle for the first time. How had he put it then?…realize how much we fit as a couple? Indeed, they did. Complementing each other somewhat in the looks, height and physical departments. She didn’t care for a good-looking couple; she was more interested in a happy one, and that emotion radiated from both of them that night, reflecting in almost all the photos they featured in.

And she had thrown that happiness away. In an instant. In a flash. Without thinking.

By now, her silent tears flowed freely down her face and onto the pillow beneath her head.

Hours after Eddie left that fateful Wednesday morning, a bouquet of snow-white roses appeared with a note attached to it:

Talk to me, my love

Eddie

After an extended internal battle with herself, she called him at the close of day to thank him, and he reiterated the wording on the card, the smoky tones sounding the way she felt:

“My darling, don’t shut me out.” He’d cajoled. “What’s going on with you?”

She shut her eyes to his voice and didn’t go beyond. “Thank you for the flowers, Eddie.” She intoned dully. “Goodbye.”

“Esohe, please, don’t…” He’d begun.

Hearing him speak was akin to being in an audio torture chamber; one she did not wish to prolong, especially over the ‘phone. She hung up quickly.

The bouquet which arrived at the office yesterday was reminiscent of the very first bunch he’d surprised her with – luscious, red wine hue, heavenly scented, too numerous to count, same message.

She didn’t call him to acknowledge them – she couldn’t bear to hear that voice again, reminding her of her present predicament – but held them close, sparingly watering them with her tears. From all indications, she was likely to expect them every other day.

She was letting another good man go; this time around, one whom she genuinely cared about.

How long ago had she been on this same path? But in a different state of mind. Ridding herself of her past, clearing out excess baggage and being bone-dry, clear-eyed about it?

The common factor of both situations was Folarin! Memories of him had prompted the first while this current one deliberately orchestrated by him! How much longer was she going to let him rule her? Dictate her actions? Dominate her love life?

Folarin wasn’t worth any of her tears; but Eddie, oh Eddie…

By now, she was releasing steady streams of unhindered, salty waterworks.

She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, leaving behind tell-tale, reddish signs. Whatever demons were plaguing Folarin were not hers to sort. If their first time together as a married couple, of their own volition, hadn’t curtailed his excesses, then like Ifeanyi stated, this was going to be another stretch of hell for her, marching to his crazed drumbeats. How much longer was she going to allow him hold all the aces in a life she’d only managed to get back on track? Or the love she’d only just found with Eddie? She didn’t deserve that life. Neither did Osayu. She had to stand up to him…somehow. Without involving the courts, of course.

After a week of varied, and sometimes evil, thoughts, she still wasn’t any wiser as to the solution of getting Folarin out of her life for good. However, Ifeanyi hinted he had an idea he was quite reluctant to share just yet. Instead, he asked for certain personal documents of hers that he promised would speed it along and make it successful. She supplied him with all he requested and even threw in the audio recording of the last, troubling conversation she had with her ex on Monday afternoon.

That had been three days ago; she still awaited feedback from him.

Even if everything went according to Ifeanyi’s plan, what were the odds that Eddie would want anything to do with her again? Not after her attitude towards him. She’d shut him out abruptly. Stopped picking up his calls. Stopped responding to his text and WhatsApp messages. She had morphed from loving girlfriend to stone-cold stranger.

And, she remembered suddenly, this was the weekend he’d have met…

“Good morning mummy.” Osayu’s childish tone pierced her ruminations. The six-year old stood at the door of her bedroom dressed in a colourful Mickey Mouse pyjamas. “Are you crying?” He moved towards her curled figure on the bed.

A small smile spread easily across her once sad features. This was the reason for her irrational behavior this week. For tanking a budding, beautiful alliance with Eddie. For acceding to Folarin’s insane demands. But every time she set her eyes on him, she knew he was worth every bit of it. He was her light, her beacon of hope, her everything.

She opened both hands, shaking her head. “No darling. Mummy is fine. “  Engulfing him in a warm embrace once he was near enough.

Schools were slated to resume for a new session on Monday and she still debated her mum’s request to leave Osayu behind in Games Village during school days. After the incidence with Folarin, Esohe was understandably skeptical.  But it remained evident that his school was closer to her mum’s than her own apartment, and the route worked well for the school’s bus as well. In addition, what did she have to fear now that Folarin thought he had her where he wanted? Miserable. Alone. And set to be one big, happy family with him and Osayu once again?

Her son stretched out beside her and snuggled closer. “Then why is the pillow wet?” His tone muffled against her body.

She kissed his smooth forehead. “Because I love you.”

She had to stand up to Folarin…somehow. How? She thought, cradling Osayu closer.   

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