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Shout Out to one of my padis, Chima Onyewuchi (@Chiwuzy) who helped me with Igbo lessons for this episode. I love you Todi.

“…and I’ll always put you first, maybe you don’t wanna let me cos you’ve been hurt, but I love you, I need you just like the air I breathe, so don’t leave me” Banky W, Don’t Break My Heart.

He called her. And she refused to pick.

He called her every single day for two weeks and she ignored his calls. Then he texted, he texted her after every call to tell her he was just checking in.

Nene did not need to be checked on, she was hurt, beyond hurt and heartbroken. Even though they worked in the same building, she evaded him; made sure his car had left the premises before she left home and made sure she came in very early, so as not to run into him.

She did not sleep anymore these days anyway, so it was easy to get up at 4am, get dressed for work and resume before 6am.

Jide jnr had noticed this and he had asked her if she was okay, he did not have a problem with an employee resuming early to work and working overtime, but he sensed something was wrong.

“I’m okay Mr Fowler” was her response and he had shrugged and given her an assignment. He decided he would ask his younger brother, Jaiye who he knew had some sort of relationship with her.

Nene dedicated more and more time into work and her mother who was yet to return to the village was getting worried, “You no tink say dis work dey too much? Biko no kill yourself o. na one million you dey collect for dere?”

She wasn’t earning a million naira, but she was earning a good sum, way better than what her former employer was paying and she enjoyed the job more, because it was fun, it was more dignifying and because it was the only thing she had these days.

As her mother continued to speak to her, Nene felt a surge of nausea coupled with dizziness, she swayed and her mother frowned. She wasn’t letting that which just happened, miss her eye.

“Wetin do you?”

Nene did not have the answer to the question, so she just shook her head and grabbed her bag.

“you dey shake head? Something dey do you dis girl and I sure say na dat job” her mother chided, “take am easy o! I no born plenty! No make dem kill you” she added and Mercy chuckled.

Their mother had six of them, yet she constantly said she did not give birth to “plenty”. They had always teased her and asked how many she would consider “plenty” if six wasn’t plenty.

“Mummy, I am fine” Nene said and headed towards the door, but she did not make it there before she felt the surge of nausea again, this time the wave was stronger than before and she knew she had better be close to somewhere she would empty her stomach or she would do it on the floor of her room.

Mercy ran to her and offered her the closest bowl she could lay her hands on, then she watched her sister crouch and throw up into the bowl. Mercy moved close and helped her hold her hair back while she threw up.

“you no dey go dat office today, make dem do anytin dem want” Nene heard her mother say.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jaiye always stood by his office window to see Nene come in every morning while they were together, but recently he had noticed he did not see her come into the building. At first, he was scared she had turned in her resignation letter because of his misdemeanor, but he was soon to find out that she now resumed very early to work and left very late.

Then he had made sure a trusted colleague of hers gave him reports on her well being especially since she wasn’t speaking to him or picking any of his calls.

It was the only way he could keep the woman he was crazy about close to him without seeing her.

Today however, he had gotten a report from his spy at Avant Garde Magazine that Nene was not turning up at work the second day in a row, he had asked the guy who kept tabs if Nene submitted any resignation letter and the answer he had received was a No.

Then Jaiye had resumed at his window, abandoning his work and staring out of it hoping he would see her walk in through the gate.

But that didn’t happen, not on the second day or on the third day. And that was when he started to get worried.

He hated the fact that he did not know what was going on with her and he hated the fact that she still wasn’t picking his calls and replying his texts.

Ese knocked and walked into his office, “Sir” she called and he nodded but he did not turn to look at her. “Sir, I came to remind you of the Bridget Carson Charity Event you are supposed to attend tonight”.

That was when he turned to look at her, Aunty Bridget as she was called by him and his siblings was their late mother’s best friend and one of the few close family friends that the Fowlers had.

Her charity was supported by his mother and he knew how dedicated the late Adele Fowler was to that particular charity.

“How many days does it run for again?” he asked Ese.

“Two days sir”

“What happens on the second day?” he was forgetting things easily these days, Nene occupied his mind and every other thing seemed secondary.

“Sir?”

“what happens on the second day Ese?”

“erm…I don’t know, I can’t remember…”

“Then refresh your memory!” he snapped. As long as he was worried about Nene and he knew nothing about her whereabouts, he was permanently in a bad mood.

Ese quickly refreshed her memory and proceeded to refresh her boss’. “A dinner event today at the Fowler Hotels on the Island and a get together for a few people which includes you and your brothers, tomorrow morning on her yacht”

Jaiye nodded, “Get ready for both, we are going together”.

Ese nodded and hesitated, Jaiye looked at her and frowned, “Yes? Anything else?”

Ese shook her head and disappeared from the office. Jaiye picked his phone and dialed Nene’s number again. She didn’t pick.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Nene watched the phone ring out after Jaiye called her, she was aching to talk to him but she couldn’t. The man had dumped her without thinking twice and she hated the fact that he didn’t consider her feelings before he did that.

She had meant nothing to him, all the while he was just having fun and what she felt didn’t matter to her.

We leapt into the relationship phase too early.      

Those words still stung. Maybe they had, maybe they had given it a name when they should have been taking time to know each other more, but the days that followed should have also meant something.

Didn’t he feel the overwhelming chemistry she felt? Didn’t he love every moment they spent together like she did? Didn’t he just want more-okay, maybe she was thinking a bit too much.

She was feeling slightly dizzy again and she was beginning to worry why this was taking so much time.

She had never been the child to fall sick for more than a day and her mother was getting rather worried now that she was having heavy nausea by the third day.

“I no like dis job at all, I no like am. Wetin dey serious like dis eh? Oginni? I choro I gbu o nwegi?” her mother was very angry.

“Mummy, it is not the job.” Nene managed to say.

“Wetin e come be?”

“Maybe she’s pregnant.” Mercy said and Nene paled.

“How do you know that?” Nene asked, while the images of the numerous times they had made love began to flood her memory. The last time had been on his office table, in his office, the one when he had pulled her back and made love to her while he seemed like a different man, the one after which he had acted really weird and watched her storm out of the office in anger without bothering to call her back.

And she had been preoccupied with the thoughts of Mercy’s freedom, her broken heart and burying her head in work that it had not occurred to her to use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy.

She dragged her gaze to meet Mercy’s and avoided her mother’s.

“You don get pregnancy?” Her mother asked, with a look of disbelief on her face.

Nene eyed Mercy and faced her mother, “Where I wan get am? Dem dey dash pesin?”

She looked around the room, threw on a top and jeans and grabbed her bag. “Doctor Mercy” she called with sarcasm, “Come follow me I wan go buy medicine”

Mercy hurriedly dressed and followed her elder sister.

“Nene, talk true o if you don get belle o. make we quickly do wedding, me I no get pikin wey go born child and no go get husband.”

Nene ignored her mother and walked out of the room with her sister, as soon as they stepped out Nene turned to face her and said icily, “What in the world do you think you are doing?”

“I’m sorry”

“Saying it in front of mummy that I am pregnant? You have eyes to spot pregnancy abi? You knew you had that special talent, yet you hopped on a plane and went to sell cocaine in America?” She paused and then continued, saying everything she had meant to say to Mercy since she left detention, but which she had kept inside of her until now. “Do you even know how lucky you are? The NDLEA is not the police, they are not as compromising, do you know how lucky you are that we got help? Do you?”

“I’m sorry Sister Nene” Mercy muttered, tears had gathered in her eyes and was threatening to fall. “I’m sorry for what I did Sister, I was foolish and I am sorry” she knelt and grabbed her sister’s legs, “I wanted to be like you.”

“I don’t sell cocaine idiot, I work hard” Nene said, her heart breaking at the realization that Mercy had done what she did to “be like her”. Was she such a bad influence? Or did Mercy just learn the wrong way?

Mercy held tight to her legs while she began to sob, “Just don’t change, be the Sister Nene of before. Please” she pleaded.

Nene pulled her up and held her in a tight embrace, that was when she realized she needed the hug as much as Mercy, she needed someone to lean on, she needed someone to hold on to. She was lonely even though she was surrounded by people.

She pushed back the tears. “Come follow me go Chemist”. She said to her sister. Mercy was more than ready.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jaiye had sent his spy in Nene’s office to her house when he couldn’t reach her, he was growing restless and pacing the office seemed to be the only thing he did these days.

He was worried sick, it was a different thing to be alienated from the life of the woman he was crazy about, it was another thing to have the feeling that something was awfully wrong.

Immediately he was done with the meeting he had via skype with his business partners in Australlia, he had sent Nene’s colleague and his spy, Olu Agbaje to go see what was wrong. He knew she wouldn’t want to see him and he was not sure he wouldn’t feel stupid seeing her after what he did, so he had asked Olu to go. But deep down, he knew whatever Olu found out, he was going after her.

He hoped she had not dropped a resignation letter to his elder brother because of his foolishness.

By the time Olu Agbaje reached out to him, he was already at the Bridget Carson charity dinner. He barely said anything to Ese and all he wanted to do was speak to his Aunty Bridget and go in search of the woman who had now made his head and heart her abode.

It was not long before him and his brothers found Bridget Carson, she was dressed in a knee length purple silk gown and looked like a royal, her hair was tied in a bun and she looked as graceful as ever. She threw her hands around the three Fowler brothers and kissed each one on the cheek.

Jaiye remembered how much this woman loved their mother, she had landed in the hospital shortly after she learnt of Adele’s death.

“I am glad you boys could come. Where is Joan?” she asked, looking around the hall.

“She couldn’t make it” Jide jnr said

Bridget nodded, she understood why. “Just tell her she would be fine, we all miss her but we have to take a step at a time. How is Jare?”

She did not get an immediate answer, because nobody knew where Jare was and sincerely, because nobody seemed to care.

“Listen boys, I don’t care what embarrassment or disgrace you think that boy has brought to this family, he remains your brother and you should always look out for him. No matter what happens, look out for your brother!” she said sternly and the Fowler brothers nodded. “Adele told me when the news broke how broken she was, but one thing she also told me was that she wanted him to be fine, she wanted him happy. Make your mother happy wherever she is by holding the family tighter, forget what the bad people are saying”

And that was why they loved Bridget Carson, she was their mother, their aunt and their mentor. Jaiye knew they might have lost their mother, but they had someone else who would gladly look out for them.

She laughed with them for a little while, refused to join her other guests and only left them when she had to. “Jaiye iyawo e nko? Haven’t you found one in this town?”

Jaiye laughed and images of Nene flashed through his mind, he realized right there and then that if he thought marriage, then it was going to be with her and nobody else.

Bridget left them a while later and Jaiye’s phone rang, he excused himself from his brothers and proceeded to take the call.

Oluchi had known the Fowlers for years and so she knew their friends and some of their family members, she had gotten the invite for the Bridget Carson charity event too, she stepped in and looked around for any familiar person. It was not too long before she spotted Ese.

Ese was beautifully dressed in a blue chiffon dress and was wearing light make up, it didn’t take away the appeal she had. As Oluchi drew nearer to her, she noticed her attention was held by someone, it was Jaiye Fowler. Oluchi shook her head, Jaiye Fowler was one of the most eligible bachelors in Nigeria, it was okay for all the ladies to ogle but what was not okay was for the lady to look so enthralled, she was obvious to the people around her.

As Jaiye approached his brothers and muttered a few words to them, Ese’s eyes followed him.

Oluchi sat near Ese and even then, the latter didn’t notice.

“You are wasting your time, you know?” Oluchi said and startled Ese. The latter frowned and muttered “what?”

“I saw you staring at him like an idiot, you are wasting your time.” Oluchi said and grabbed a glass of wine from a waiter nearby.

“I don’t know what you are talking about Oluchi” Ese replied, a bit embarrassed that she had been caught staring like an idiot.

“You did not ask me for this, but the boy is head over heels in love with another woman, even though he might not admit it yet. And as much as I am not a big fan of the girl, I know when a man is off limits. Respect that Ese.” She saw someone she recognized and jumped up. “And thank me later” she added as she strolled away in her red pumps.

Jaiye walked over to Ese, “I am leaving now, something just came up”. He said, she noticed that he looked worried and distracted.

“Okay..” Ese said and got on her feet.

Jaiye noticed that and shook his head, “I am leaving now Ese. Not us. Enjoy the rest of the party.” He said and darted out of the hall.

Ese smiled sadly, the man did not even give her a glance. Oluchi was right, who needed a man who didn’t care?

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Nene and Mercy were sitting outside the building when Jaiye arrived, Nene had found out she was pregnant earlier in the day and she had been too scared to go into the house to tell her mother.

She did not know what to do. The father of the child growing inside of her had told her in plain terms that he did not want her, she did not know what to do just yet.

So she had told her mother that her and Mercy wanted a breath of fresh air outside and they had both sat there, saying nothing, holding each others hands and staring into the sky, until it got dark.

“You go tell am?” Mercy asked.

“I no know.” Nene responded. It was the only words they had exchanged since they found out she was with child.

Olu had told Jaiye that Nene was sick, that was the only piece of information he had been able to gather and Jaiye had dashed to Nene’s house when he heard. Whatever sickness was confining anyone to the bed for three days, was something that had to be serious. He was overwhelmed with worry and every minute he took to get to her house was spent praying. He hoped she would be alright, he prayed she would be alright.

Mercy noticed the car’s full lights first, she did not know who Jaiye was and so she couldn’t have warned Nene about his arrival to the house. Jaiye had walked over to them and had almost missed them when he sighted Nene.

All the worry, all the tension and everything that had made him feel so depressed in the past week vanished when he set his eyes on her. He had not even realized he was that unhappy.

He pulled her and held her close for a very long time, he had longed for this, he had missed this and he realized that he wanted this. He kissed her forehead as Mercy watched with interest and Bridget’s words came back to him, Iyawo e nko?

This was the answer to her question, this was his Iyawo.

He kissed her earlobes and her nose and then her lips, they were chaste kisses at first but Heavens knew there was no holding back for him where this woman was concerned and so he went deeper and deeper and deeper. And she let him, she let him kiss her so passionately and hungrily because she had longed for this for days.

When the kiss was over, he looked into her eyes and murmured, “I have missed you”

She pushed him away, “Or you are horny”

He smiled, “Yes I am horny and your Vee is what I want, because it is the best I have ever tasted, the only one I want to continue tasting.” The humour danced around his eyes.

Nene almost chuckled, in fact it took a lot of effort to hold back the chuckle, he looked so handsome standing there and looking at her with that smile, she was so in love with him, it hurt.

Mercy chuckled and told her sister, “If that is him Sister Nene, tell him”.

Nene was shocked that Mercy was referring to the pregnancy, Mercy knew her sister might be angry but she did not care. The man she saw was in love with her elder sister and while Nene might not have the nerves to do so, Mercy felt she had to, because this man would love Nene and love the child.

Jaiye frowned. “Tell me what?”

Nene was glaring at Mercy, the latter smiled and nodded “Or should I help you sister?”

Nene did not know what to say, her younger sister did not even seem to care! Jaiye looked from Nene to Mercy.

“Hi you must be Mercy. I am your sister’s boyfriend, we were worried sick about you” Jaiye said and shook hands with a very elated Mercy.

Mercy giggled and nodded, “I am very grateful for your help brother.”

“Oh just call me Jaiye.” He said with a wave of the hand. “What does Nene want to tell me?”

Jaiye looked at Mercy and Mercy looked at Nene. Nene looked everywhere but the two of them, she finally dragged her gaze to meet Jaiye’s.

“I’m pregnant” She muttered.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

They were in his car, talking, or better still, he was talking and she was not responding. She folded her arms beneath her full breasts and looked out of his car. There was music playing at a low but audible volume, it was a Banky W classic, Don’t break my heart. Jaiye had not played it purposely, the track had come on when he started the ignition but in a way, the words were speaking to her for him.

You are the only one for me, why can’t you see…

He had dragged her into the car immediately she told him about his child growing inside of her.

She hadn’t said a word since then, he was hoping she would. He wanted to kiss her bad, wanted to get her naked and make love to her. Everything about her drew him to her like a magnetic force, her full lips, her round breasts, her beautiful face.

“Nene I am sorry. I know I was foolish…”

“Yes you were” She said to him and he smiled, much to her surprise.

“At least we agree on something, that is a good start” he chuckled and she looked further away. She did not want to see the smile, she didn’t want it to cloud her judgement.

“Didn’t you miss me?”

Of course she did. She did every single second that he was gone. When she did not say anything, Jaiye continued, “I did that which I did because of my family, Jare had done so much and we…”

Nene interrupted him, “Aturu” her face was still turned away from him.

“Please tell me that means a term of endearment in your language” he said.

“It means Sheep. The Fowlers are like a sheep” She faced him and realized how angry and hurt she was that he left. “One thing happens and it decides your entire lives, all of you allow it to determine your lives, following without asking, without thinking of an alternative route. Acting like godamn sheep!”

There was silence for a while and Jaiye chuckled after a while, he grabbed her hands with one hand and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear with the other.

“Would you at least be my shepherd? Lead me forever?”

Nene couldn’t believe the man, he was acting like she did not just insult his family and their principles. She shook her head and sighed.

“Please don’t give up on me” He said, “this sheep needs you”.

None of them said anything for a few seconds, Jaiye’s mouth twitched and he was kissing her before she knew it, she did not even bother to struggle with him or her emotions, she was undoubtedly and insanely head over heels in love with the man.

They heard a tap on the glass, followed by a knock, Nene looked beside her, it was Mercy. She looked disturbed.

Nene rolled down the glass and looked at her, “Mercy, what is it?”

“Sister, Umoru is here! Brother Godwin and him dey fight, it is getting bloody!” Mercy said breathlessly, Nene got out of the car in minutes, followed closely by Jaiye.

.

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