“So asides spending Church money what else do you do?”

“Point of correction Timi…”

“Timilehin. Only my friends call me Timi.”

“Okay Timilehin. Point of correction, I don’t spend Church money.”

“So you embezzle it.”

“I don’t embezzle. Listen, I am not a thief and the EFCC certainly has not had reasons to check into my family’s finances unlike some people.”

“Are you insulting my late father?”

“No. I am just pointing out to you that EFCC has had no course to give the public reasons to doubt our finances.”

Tamilore knew she should stop them but she chose not to. Instead, she leaned against the wall and watched them go at each other like kids.

Most women loved when men fought for their attention, they liked when they were the Olivia Pope in a room and would do anything to gleefully watch their Jake and Fitz go off at each other like rivals.

But she was not one of those who liked that.

The reason she had stayed away was because for the first time, she saw Jide stand up for something, she saw him fight back and she saw him fight for her.

He was not drawing out a sword, ready to duel with Timilehin but he was sitting in the living room, refusing to allow Timilehin intimidate him.

“I should just go.” He said now, getting up. She felt disappointed that the show was over.

It had started when Timilehin handed her a glass of water and scrutinized Jide, then she had gone into the bathroom to clean her eyes and by the time she returned she had watched what became the best thing she had witnessed in a very long time.

The two men were antagonizing each other because of her.

“Tamtam, how are you?” Timilehin asked as he crossed the spaces between them and gathered her in his arms, “Do you need something to drink asides water? I want you to get your energy back.”

“I’m fine, Timi. Besides, you already ordered food so I’ll wait for that and eat.” she responded.

Jide watched painfully as Timi kissed her forehead tenderly. She did not stay away from him, did not push him away, did not fight to be left alone.

And as she laughed softly when he whispered into her ears, and her eyes widened when he said something outrageous, he knew he had lost her and to win her back, he had to fight hard.

But could he? Was he strong enough to fight for her? She needed someone strong, she did not need a coward like him.

He could not even face his fears and fight for his much needed independence, how could he fight for a woman like Tamilore.

But the jealousy that rose inside of him when Timilehin guided her to a seat and tended to her made him realize he was not going to let her go. He was weak, he was scared and a coward but he was not going to let her go.

So he strode towards the door, muttered a goodnight and stepped outside the house, refusing to tell her to back off like his mother had ordered him to.

Tamilore watched him leave, disappointed.

————

She tossed and turned and eventually rolled over. She got out of bed, her feet hitting the floor and waddled into the bathroom.

Her fingers found the switch, turned it on and then held on to the basin.

She looked at her reflection in the mirror. She did not recognize herself. She was not a happy woman and she was not whose body she carried and whose face she bore.

“You’re really going to leave me”

The words hit her hard like a stone, causing her to hurt deeply the way she always did whenever she remembered them.

And taking her back to New York the way it usually did.

Tonight like every other night, she was back in her lover’s apartment in New York, facing her and watching as she broke from the news of their impending separation.

“Alero you’re really going to leave me?” she looked vulnerable and the words came out like it was the last thing she’d be able to say before she collapsed.

Alero nodded, thinking of her packed bags, which were waiting for her in her own apartment.

“Why are you doing this to me? I’m in love with you, Alero. You cannot do this.” a sob escaped her throat and she sank into a chair.

“Sam my mom wants me to return home and …”

“And marry a man and have kids.” she said disgusted at the arrangement her girlfriend had settled for. “Why can’t you tell her you’re not interested in living her life?”

Alero didn’t say anything to that, instead she told her the other things her mother wanted her to do, “She wants me to get fuller lips and get Botox so I can look more feminine…”

“And less you” Sam finished for her, causing Alero to pause midsentence. “Have you paused for a second to realize your mother is trying to change you into someone else?”

“That’s preposterous Samantha.”

“What, you’re mad at me now?”

Alero avoided her eyes and marched to the kitchen where she poured herself a glass of wine. She only called her Samantha when she was mad. She was mad right now, livid, enraged even. But she knew deep down that she was mad at the wrong person.

She turned, Sam was standing by the door, “Please don’t leave me, Alero. Please.” she pleaded, fresh tears gathering in her eyes. “I couldn’t live an extra day without you”

“You’re going to have to. Sorry.” Alero said, abandoned the remaining wine in the glass and left the kitchen.

She never looked back, never bothered to go check on her before she left America and never called for a long time.

She didn’t because she couldn’t bring herself to not because she did not care.

And while she was changing who she was, getting bigger boobs and looking different, she had tried hard to push that part of her away.

But it never went away. She only supressed it. Every night she woke up at a point, stared at her reflection in the mirror and went through that day again.

Tonight tears rolled down her eyes uncontrollably, she held the sink tighter as her legs went weak and threatened to betray her. She wanted the real her back but she did not even know where to begin, how to start, what step to take.

———–

Tamilore never thought she’d have to make funeral arrangements for one sister while looking for another but life dealt her a blow and she had to deal with it.

Her mother was too weak to make arrangements and so she had to do everything. She stood by Yetunde’s kitchen and finished the call to the funeral home making the coffin.

Timilehin joined her there; he kissed her on her forehead and asked, “How are you feeling?”

“Horrible, devastated, broken, destroyed…” her voice began to break, “Someone has got to be angry at my family up in Heaven.”

“I’m sure nobody is angry at you in Heaven.”

“Then why are these terrible things happening to me?”

He did not have an answer and so he desperately searched for one but he still didn’t find. He hated that he couldn’t tell her something that would make her feel better.

“Has the Police said anything about Yetunde?” she asked

“No.” He had been calling every day to ask but they had not found anything.

“I hope she’s still alive.,” she muttered

“Come on, Yetunde will outlive us all. She cannot die, she will want to stay here and taunt us all and stuff. She’s too self conceited to let someone else continue to bully us.” he joked and she laughed.

“True. She would rather do it than have her ghost do it.” Then they laughed together.

He liked that he was making her laugh.

“Thank you” she said, “Thank you for being there every time I need you. Thank you so much”

He kissed her lips lightly. “I’m glad to be here for you.”

She smiled, the kiss was good and she wanted to fill the emptiness in her soul so she said, “Kiss me again”

And because he desperately wanted to anyway, he kissed her deeply, demanding from her and taking her further when she opened up more.

“This is what you people have been doing in my absence? I’m sure you wish I was dead.”

They turned simultaneously and there they were, Jide and Yetunde, both staring at them with pure disgust and anger.

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