He moved slowly around the kitchen, lifting small bowls, pouring pepper into heated oil and setting the just boiled goat meat aside.
He was wearing an apron and he looked like he was made to be in the kitchen as he skilfully prepared lunch for them.
She smiled as she joined him at the cooker where he was stiring the pepper and reaching for a bottle of Jollof rice spices.
She kissed him tenderly on the neck, snuggled close, her arms wrapped tightly around him.
“I love you.” She muttered, kissed him again and thanked God for the day he came round in the Hospital, two weeks before.
It was that day she realized she had been holding her breath for so long and it was when she also found out that as angry as she was at him for four years for refusing to choose her when he should have, she had never fallen out of love with him for a day.
“I love you.”
He replied and then added, “And I want you to stay.”
She withdrew her hands, fished for a baby carrot in one of the plates he had set aside and bit into it with her teeth.
“I want to stay but I have to go.” She replied, choosing to ignore the look of disappointment that flashed through his face.
“Tamilore, I want you here, in Nigeria, with me. I cannot live a day with you and you are aware of that. Why are you leaving me now when I need you the most?” It was him pleading with her, trying to convince her to stay.
“I need to go to School and start a new life now that my family is giving me a chance again by paying my fees.”
“A new life without me.” He muttered, echoing her words.
“I don’t want any life without you, why are you trying to leave? We can plan this together. I want you in my life. I want you as my wife.”
She was done with the carrot now and she was fishing for another.
He looked at her as she searched through the plate, trying to trivialize what was the most serious matter to him.
“Tamilore” He called but she still wouldn’t look at him, so he went ahead and asked what he wanted to anyway, “Tamilore, marry me. Please.”
She continued to bite into the carrot as if he had not just posed a very important question to her.
“Tamilore?” He asked her, waiting and hoping her response would be positive.
“No” She replied. “No, Jide. I cannot marry you.”
He nodded sadly, returned to the food he was making and busied himself with it for minutes.
Then he turned and faced her, her eyes had not left him in the minutes he had turned from her to cook the food on the cooker.
“Would you at least let me feed you?”He asked her and she nodded.
“I think I can do that.”
She replied with a smile.
Yetunde rolled over, tried to fight the surge of nausea she was feeling by sitting up in bed.
She was half naked, her only piece of clothing being her G-string.
The dress and bra she had worn to his apartment the night before were all tossed on the floor, near the bed.
He was still lying in bed next to her, half naked and sound asleep like a little baby.
She reached for him and stroked his back gently, contemplating waking him but she stopped.
It was not yet time, she would let him wake himself before she proceeded to say anything.
He stirred, mumbled something in his sleep and continued to sleep.
She walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower, wondering what he would think when he woke up and she announced the news of her pregnancy to him.
He had loved her once, that should make him love her again.
They could put the past behind them and work on raising a family together.
She removed her pants and stepped into the shower, allowing the water to cascade down her body.
Then as she grabbed his shower gel and squeezed some into her hands, the surge of nausea returned.
She hurriedly stepped out of the shower, ran to the water closet and clutched the sparkling white bowl with her hands.
Then she threw up.
Tamilore had realized very recently, that sometimes, what she wanted might not be what was good for her.
And that was what she had been trying to explain to Jide for the past hour, as they settled to eat the lunch he had come to prepare for her in her mother’s house.
The plate of delicious jollof rice in front of her was almost finished, she clutched in her hands a fleshy bone of fried turkey which she ate as she spoke to him.
He was not eating, he could not eat.
He wanted her to stay with him, he did not want her to leave.
“You wanted me to fight for you, Tamilore. Why are you leaving when suddenly we have all of our issues behind us?” He wanted to know why after they had been through the worst, she suddenly wanted to leave him.
What did he have to do to keep the woman?
To let her know she was the only one for him and his heart was beating because of her?
“You still need to heal…”
He scoffed, “I am healed.”
“I am not talking about physical healing, Jide.” she said slowly, referring to the situation he had with his family and which he had refused to speak of in two weeks.
He had refused to return to Lagos, refused to let his family know where exactly he was and refused to go back to the Church.
A lot was happening with him and as much as she wanted to start a new life with him and be happy, she knew he would only be able to give little because he was not healed yet.
“I can deal with that later.” He said to her.
“No. You can deal with it now.”
He did not want to discuss that conversation, “I want to talk about us – you and I.”
Not my family or how much of a joke we now are to the whole world because of my saintly mother.”
The anger in his voice when he mentioned his mother was not hard to hear.
It was accompanied by a frown that deepened as if she left a bad taste in his mouth.
“I want a man who is healed or who at least is on his way to healing.”
She continued to eat her food in silence when he wouldn’t say a thing.
When she was done, she poured herself a glass of water and drank.
“Tamilore, she controlled me my entire life and made me live a lie. I am going to need more than some years to heal.”
He said gently, hoping she would realize that healing in such a long time did not disturb his feelings for her or the commitment he was willing to take.
“I would be here waiting for you. But I refuse to be dragged into settling for a you that I know will never love me as much the you that is healed and above the troubles.”
He did not say anything, he nodded in agreement because he knew love would wait, Love always waited and he was going to wait for her while she went to the fashion school in Ghana for a year.
She came to him, her arms around him, her body close to him.
Then she smiled, placed his hand on her chest, “I promise you that you’re the only one my heart would still be beating for when I return.”
“Tamilore, this is very hard for me.”
“You’re the only woman who has made me feel this way and it is very hard coping with it while I deal with all of my family issues.”
“I also know that.”
“Promise me the distance will not kill us. Promise me I will still own your heart no matter the time that passes between us and promise me I will be the one to give you my last name when the time is right.”
She smiled, “I promise.”
Alero did not know who was there at the Police station looking for her.
Since she got arrested for trying to defraud her mother, she’d been locked up in a police cell where she did not receive any visitors whatsoever.
Hearing that someone was waiting for her at the counter made her wonder who cared enough to come.
The bars slammed shut, the padlock locked as she stood face to face with Sam.
She did not know what to do or how to react to the woman who stood in front of her with no expression whatsoever.
“Hi Alero.” Sam called.
Alero merely nodded in response.
“I am here to bail you.”
She said simply and Alero gasped.
It was not until three days later before Sam told her why she had come to bail Alero out of the station and when she did, she told her she wanted her to get her revenge on the woman who did not deserve anything but cold revenge.
Alero wished she could tell Sam she did not want to hurt her mother but the many nights in a police cell and the many years she had treated her like scum made the hatred inside of her rise and eventually drown her.
Then she said, “I want that.”
Sam smiled, “I knew you would.”
-Tomilola Coco Adeyemo