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“You’re speaking to a bunch of students today, aren’t you?”
Khalid turned and looked at his mother. It had been two weeks since he told Aisha the truth and he had still not heard from her.
“I’m supposed to. But my insides are a little distorted.”
“Distorted? What’s wrong? Don’t you feel well?”
“I feel alright mum. It’s just since the split with Aisha, I’ve not really been motivated to do anything.”
His mum sat on the edge of the bed.
“If you’re not going to actively try and win her back, don’t sit here and brood.”
“Mum how can you say that? She doesn’t want to see me, she won’t take my calls. She’s deleted me on bbm, blocked me on whatsapp and unfollowed me on twitter. How do I try and win her back when she’s totally cut me off?”
“My friend, don’t sound indignant. She is justified in being mad at you so don’t even sound like she’s overreacting-”
Khalid cut her off
“For this long? Mum, she didn’t give me a chance to explain myself-”
“You had over a year son! Over a year! You were together that long. How did you not think to tell her about that before proposing marriage to her?”
Khalid sighed and massaged his temple.
“I don’t even know whose side you’re on.”
His mother shook her head.
“I’m not taking sides. I’m telling you the truth. I’m your mother and I love you, but I will not treat you like a baby because you aren’t. I will constantly push you to become as strong and responsible a man as your father was.
It’s 8:30am and that program is for 10.00am. I’m going to be at Chelsea hotel in time for your presentation. I better see you put up a good performance. Get your act together.”
She got up and walked to the door. As she put her hand on it, Khalid called out to her
She turned and he said with a smile
“I love you. Thank you.”
“I love you too. Might be tough love, but I really do love you.”
She opened the door and walked out.
Khalid sighed again and cast his mind back to that day again.
Khalid walked into the room shoulders slumped and Tayo immediately sat up on the bed.
“How far? You’ve told her abi?”
He nodded and sank into the only couch in the room.
“What did she say?”
“It’s not what she said as much as what she didn’t say. She left nothing unsaid.”
“Err, that doesn’t tell me anything, you know right?”
“She told me I am cold and selfish and she’s not sure she wants to be with me anymore.”
“Wow. That’s plenty enough. But did you explain everything to her? Did you tell her how much you regretted it and how it haunted you for so long? Did you tell her you had to see a therapist for about a year?”
Khalid shook his head.
“Not quite. I didn’t get a chance to say that.”
“I’m confused o. What did you get a chance to say then?”
“Tayo, I’m tired abeg. I don’t want to talk about this.”
“That’s the issue with you, guy. You never want to talk about anything. I like Aisha and I know you love her. You gave up all those other random babes to be with her and now you want to just throw it all away?”
“Tayo, I’m confused okay? And I’m really tired. I wish I never raped Seye, I wish I hadn’t gone off to Malaysia! I wish she hadn’t died. I’d have likely come back for her. But all that didn’t happen and I regret it but there is absolutely nothing I can do to change it. I’ve tried to make the past disappear but evidently, it simply won’t!
Look at me! Thousands of people out there respect me. I’m the smart economist that consults for people in top government positions. I write papers all the time and make presentations too. I tried to be a great boyfriend, tried to be everything any woman would want. I don’t drink, I don’t do wild parties, I don’t smoke, but somehow all these mean nothing because of one mistake?
I cannot undo what I did. If I could, I would but I just can’t. I love Aisha very much and when I tried to talk to her today, I didn’t know how to. The words simply refused to form in my head and the few that formed got stuck in my throat. Her words stung tonight, but even more than her words, the disappointment in her eyes broke my heart.
Now I realize I sounded like a fool saying ‘my friends encouraged me to do it, I was drunk…’ I didn’t mean for it to come out like that. I really didn’t…”
Tayo scratched his head.
“I wish I coulda recorded that outburst. I’d have gone to play it for Aisha to listen.”
Khalid shook his head.
“You’re just a goat.”
“Don’t worry man, you’ll be fine. Just give a little time and then try again.”
But Khalid had tried two days later and nothing changed. Aisha was furious at him. He could not think of a time when he had ever seen her so angry. She didn’t take his calls and then at a point, her phone was constantly switched off. He tried to find her a couple of times at her house but always the gateman said she wasn’t home, even when he was sure that she was. He was totally broken.
Tayo offered to help talk to her but Khalid would have none of it. And then he simply stopped trying. He just stayed home and brooded every single day doing little or no work at all until his mother showed up. She came in the night before his speaking engagement and he told her everything. She hadn’t said much and then she was back again in his room this morning.
He smiled. His mother, his rock. Annoyingly headstrong but he totally loved her. Her little rant this morning had given him the required ginger to try again. He brought out his laptop and quickly rushed over his slides. He would take a shower and go back to Aisha’s house this morning.
Aisha sat up in bed Saturday morning and stretched. She reached for her phone and checked the time “7.30am”
Khalid was speaking at Chelsea hotel this morning. She was originally supposed to be there but after the split she wasn’t sure she would go. She was still hurting. Not as much as the first day but there was still some hurt. She knew in time she would forgive him but she wasn’t certain they could continue with their relationship or even get married. Maybe if he had put the blame on himself. Maybe if he had tried to reach out to her more frantically, maybe they could have worked things out. But after a week of trying, he just gave up. So he wasn’t truly sorry? Or their relationship wasn’t all too important to him. She sighed. She really loved Khalid but this revelation had given her several reasons to begin to doubt.
She picked up her phone and typed his number from memory. She was going to press the call button but she changed her mind. What was she going to say? She had not spoken to Bode since that night. She wondered why he hadn’t tried to reach out to her but she was too distressed to really worry about that. He had gone off to Dubai anyways. Her mum was out of town for the weekend so with no concrete plans for her Saturday, she went into the kitchen, fixed herself breakfast and sat down in the living room to watch repeat series of NCIS LA.
“Oga, them no dey house o.”
Khalid looked at his watch. “9:20am”
“Let me park inside and wait for them to come back.”
The gateman scratched his head.
“Madam travelled. Aunty Aisha no dey. I don’t know when she will come.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll wait inside.”
“Uncle Kay, no vex abeg but you no fit wait inside.”
“Oga Abdul, you know Aisha is inside. Let me just see her, please.”
The gateman looked a little nervous.
“But wetin you do aunty na? She dey vex well well o.”
“I know. Na wetin make me dey beg you, make I go see am. Abeg. I do one very bad thing but I wan beg am true true. Na mistake wey I do.”
The gateman eyed him suspiciously.
“You give another woman belle?”
Khalid shook his head.
“You carry another woman?”
Khalid shook his head still.
“So you no get another gehfriend wey carry belle for you. Why aunty kon dey vex na?”
“It’s complicated. Abeg just open gate for me. I go follow am talk, she no go vex for you.”
The gateman shrugged.
“Okay o. Beht na becos of say I like you o.”
He squeezed a one thousand naira note into the gateman’s hands and drove into the compound.
He came down, walked to the door and knocked.
Aisha opened in a few seconds. They stared at each other awkwardly for a minute without saying a word. Abdul found a vantage point by the wall and leaned on it to watch them.
Khalid fully clad in a black suit, white shirt and carton coloured pants went down on his knees. He brought out a folded sheet of paper, opened it and began to read.
“I hurt you, I betrayed you, I broke your trust and I don’t deserve to have it back. I doubted you and I did not believe in you or our relationship as much as I should have and for that, I am sorry.”
He took a breath and was going to continue but Aisha stopped him.
“Err, maybe we should take this inside?”
“No. Please, allow me.”
He went back to the paper in his hand.
“I am sorry that I did not tell you about Seye when we first started dating. I am sorry that I did not trust you enough to make the choice on whether to be with me or not after I told you about her. I am sorry that I tried to blackmail you into marrying me. The only reason I did that was because I love you in a very selfish manner.
What happened with Seye was a mistake but it was totally my fault. I wanted to sleep with her but I could not bring myself to just do it. It’s why I got under the influence of alcohol. I hated myself afterwards. I could not forget how much she cried that night. I felt disgusted with myself. In truth, I have not touched alcohol since that day. You always asked why or how it’s possible that I never drink alcohol. Well, this is the reason.
When I heard she passed away, I thought I would run mad. I suffered clinical depression and everyone was worried about me. I saw Dr. Olivia, my therapist, for a year before I was able to get through it. I tried to reach out to her only brother but he totally blanked me out. Being that I was in Malaysia then, it was very difficult to do more. My mum moved to Abuja and I could not re-connect with the family again. I heard that they relocated too but I’m not even sure where to.
The last girl I dated left me when she found out about Seye. It hurt, but I got over it. I thought not to tell you because I was scared of losing you. It sounds lame but I love you more than I can explain. With you, I have always felt like I can be greater and better than I am now. With you beside me, I feel like I can take on the world. My fans make me feel good about myself but you make me feel great.
If you choose to forgive me, we can try to move on from here and build a solid future, no lies or secrets between us. If you choose not to, I will understand. I will hurt, I’ll probably go about like a zombie for a long time but I’ll put it all back together. But I’ll be grateful for the time spent with you. I grew to love you after interacting with you for a while, I loved you yesteryear, I loved you yester month, I loved you yesterday, I love you today and I know for sure that I’ll love you in every tomorrow that is to come.”
He folded the paper and looked up at her. She had tears in her eyes. Her voice was broken when she spoke.
“Please baby, get up.”
They locked each other in an embrace.
“I love you too. And I forgive you.”
He made a sound that was somewhere between a laugh and a cry and Aisha laughed with the tears still in her eyes.
“I really doubt that I could stay mad at you forever you know, I love you too much.”
Khalid laughed again. She pulled herself away
“Wait, aren’t you supposed to be speaking at that students’ stuff today?”
He grinned and nodded.
“Yep, I am!”
“Then why are you here?”
“Because you’re more important to me than money is.”
She shook her head.
“It’s not about the money Kay. It’s about impact.”
“I know babe. I just wanted to come here and do this because somehow I was sure you would forgive me. I wanted to have my spirits lifted before I climb up that podium.”
“You’re funny. So… Do you want me to accompany you?”
“Of course! But you’ll have to hurry. I’m running late.”
“I’m sorry I won’t be able to take any more questions at the moment. It has been really great speaking to you and I hope that we can all do the right things and maintain a positive attitude so we can re-build Nigeria. Thank you for listening, have a nice day.”
The applause that followed the end of Khalid’s delivery was thunderous. He smiled as he walked off the stage and took his seat next to Aisha in the front row.
He took her hand, inclined his head towards her and whispered
“How did I do?”
“You were brilliant. As always. I’m proud of you.”
The meeting was over within a few minutes.
Several of the students milled around Khalid asking for autographs and generally famzzing. He had on his charmer smile as he signed note books and answered questions. One girl asked
“Is this your girlfriend?”
He smiled, took Aisha’s hand in his and replied
“No. She’s my fiancée”
Aisha smiled and waved at the girl whose face dropped. A few of the students laughed. Khalid had Aisha’s hand in his and was still laughing when he felt someone tap his shoulder. He turned around and when he saw the face, he froze. He dropped Aisha’s hands and his eyes grew wide. The person behind him smiled. He opened his mouth to speak but it came out as a whisper.
Her smile grew even wider