Finally!!! This is the concluding part of Old flame, the story of Tolu and Ebika. happy reading!
Tolu searched through the box of pictures he had carried into his bedroom from the study. He had given up on sleep the previous night when it eluded him and filled him with memories of what the past had been. He had also spent the better part of the night thinking of all that he had discussed with Chris. His friend had listened to him pour out his heart. He admitted the mess he had made of his life and how difficult it would be to fix it. His heart ached badly when he thought of all the hurt he had caused Eladebi and his children. Guilt also wrapped his heart like a fine wrapper around a woman’s waist. The mere thought of what he had done to Ebika, and what he might do made his heart heavy with guilt.
He scratched his day-old beard. Things were so complicated, but must be put in order notwithstanding. It was the same thing Chris had said. He had given him a shoulder to lean on and not the I-told-you-so attitude. His encouragement, and not mockery, had given him more reasons to be engaged in the deep soul searching he started in the night.
He finally found the picture he was looking for. It was one of his favourite of all his wedding pictures. It was the picture that had given hope to his marriage with Eladebi. The picture that reassured him that he had done the right thing by marrying Eladebi. Their posture in the picture told the story of their determination; determination to shame those who thought their coming together doomed.
He smiled as he looked at his wife. Eladebi had given the brightest smile when the picture was taken. She had wrapped her arms around his waist and looked lovingly into his eyes. In that look, he had seen all the love she felt for him, and the hope she had for their marriage. With his arms around her waist and eyes on her too he had given hope to her hope. That brief but special moment during the photo session doused the doubts in his heart and filled it with peace instead. It gave him the confidence to believe in his marriage with Eladebi. True, it wasn’t so rosy at the beginning, but they pulled through and shared laughter, joy, and friendship before he lost it.
Holding the picture, he moved to the bed and laid on his back, then he opened the floodgate of his heart and allowed the memories to flow through.
And they did flow.
The times they shared, both good and bad, came back to him like pictures on motion. Pictures after pictures of shared laughter, smiles, and jokes flashed through his mind. Eladebi’s joy each time she served their food, her superb mothering skills that gave their children the perfect setting for normal growth touched his heart now. She laughed at his jokes that weren’t really funny. He couldn’t remember her criticizing him once; even when he started treating her bad. He blanched when those pictures came next. All the times he had hurt her and brought tears to her eyes came back to him. He had put more tears in her eyes and caused her lips to quiver in sheer pain than smiles. He closed his eyes in shame when he thought of what he had done before sending her packing.
‘Oh, Eladebi.’ He wept. He had taken advantage of her kind-and-loving heart. The thought filled him more and more and made something that had always been lurking in his heart clear to him: he loved Eladebi. He drew himself up as the thought of how much he loved his wife and all she meant to him sank in. This excited his heart and brought a happy smile to his face but it brought more troublesome thought. If the love he felt was his wife had not died, then what did he feel for Ebika? What kept him so attached to her like a chain around a dog’s neck? The more he thought about it, the more he became confused. He ran a hand through his thick head and threw his head backward.
“What a mess you’ve made, Tolu.” He said out loud.
Yes, he had to put things right even if it earned him eternal hatred. He didn’t mind grovelling before both women to convey his apology. He would continue to ask for forgiveness for all the hurt he had caused his wife and his children and Ebika. He picked up his phone, drew a deep breath and dialled Ebika’s number.
Ebika burst into a happy dance when she ended Tolu’s call. Just some minutes ago she had been wallowing in self-pity and cursing herself for leaving Bina who was her bird in hand, and now Tolu wanted them to meet in one of the best hotels in town. That banished every form of regret and thought of Bina. She still felt bad though that Tolu ignored her all through yesterday and caused her sleepless night, his call had put her world back in order. To think that she had even called in sick and so had not gone to work because of how depressed she had been when she heard nothing from Tolu despite numerous calls. Hearing his voice reinvigorated her. She felt strengthened.
She dashed into the bathroom to quickly take her bath, then she dressed up in a lovely peach-coloured straight gown; an off-shoulder gown that would show-off her delicate bone structure. She removed the hair rollers from her weave-on and combed lightly. Curls fell about her neck causing a silky bob. She flipped it, and it gave a gracious bounce and settled around her neck again. She looked at herself in the mirror and smiled back at her reflection. She liked what she saw and was sure Tolu would like it too. He would once again know that she was the only one for him as he was the only one for her. She slipped her feet into her silver-coloured low heel sandal and strapped it lightly around her ankle, then she picked up a silver purse to match. As she swayed out of the house, she felt certain all would be well because she had chosen the right man.
Her confidence waned when she got to the room that Tolu had told her he would be. She had expected romantic atmosphere with flowers and all, at least they were meeting in a hotel room, but she had not seen any of that. Tolu had asked her in without coming to answer the door and he had greeted her with a brief smile from his position beside the window with arms across his chest. There had been no hug or sweet words. He just asked her how was she was doing and if she didn’t have difficulty coming down. He sounded more boring than Bina at that moment. He seemed to prefer looking out the window than talking to her.
When ten minutes passed and no meaningful word had passed between them, Ebika spoke up.
“What is going on?” She asked, feeling the first rush of anger. “If you knew you so loved what is beyond that window then you shouldn’t have called me here. You could just stay and enjoy the view on your own. I can’t imagine leaving my house to come and watch you looking out of the window.” She bit her bottom lip to reign in her anger. “You haven’t even apologized for what you did yesterday.” She added.
Tolu moved away from the window and came to sit in front of her. “I’m sorry, Ebika, so sorry.” He told her in a sombre tone.
Ebika? Tolu just called her by her name and not the sweet names she had gotten used to. An alarm went off in her head. She looked closely at him and noticed his uncombed hair and roughed jaw. She became worried when she saw the circles under his eyes. What was happening?
“Ebika, I’m really sorry,” Tolu repeated.
“It’s okay.” She answered, clasping and unclasping her fingers on her laps.
Tolu got up and came to kneel before her. She looked at him, mouth agape. “What is the meaning of this?” She asked. She looked down at her finger and saw the engagement ring he gave her still there. What then was the reason for him kneeling before her?
“Ebika, I’ve kept some…” he coughed a little. “I should have told you this long ago, but I thought it would affect our relationship and I wanted you by my side.”
Ebika waited with bated breath, her heart beating against her chest like a sea against a rock. A sudden feeling of unease crept up her back.
“Forgive me, Ebika. Please forgive me”
“Just tell me and get over it.” She told him in a tension-filled tone.
“I have a…” he hesitated.
Ebika pulled his hand. “Let it out, Tolu.” She urged, trying not to sound desperate.
He let out a breath. “I have a wife and… and two children.” He said quickly looking away from her.
Shock slapped her across her face. She pulled away opening and closing her mouth. She placed a hand over her trembling lips. How could it be? A wife? Two children? Was that the reason why he invited her to a place like this to shatter her heart? Unbidden tears filled her eyes and started rolling down her cheek.
“How could you?” She cried. “How could you do this to me, Tolu?”
“Ebika, I’m sorry. I had to let you know.”
She wiped her tears with the back of her palm. “Where are they?” She asked.
“My wife and our children are with a friend since I… I sent them packing a couple of months back.” He shifted his eyes from her.
Ebika shook her head. What had she gotten herself into? Tolu was married. All the while he was with her he had a wife and children, and yet he had behaved as if she meant the world to him. He had been playing her and had proposed marriage? What would happen to his wife and children if she decides to go on with him? Could she really bear tearing down a home just to get her heart desire? A lump formed in her throat. She pressed a hand to it as if to push down the lump. She waited for Tolu to speak but he didn’t. He just kept staring at the door behind her.
“What do we do now?” Ebika inquired a sober tone.
Tolu looked at her. The look in his eyes didn’t assure her that he had a favourable solution to what had become a very tangled web. Her heart that started beating earlier just before he dropped the bombshell of his wife and his children doubled its beat. Tolu touched her hand.
“I hope you can forgive me, Ebika. I never meant to hurt you. I thought I was doing the right thing.”
Ebika pulled her hand away from his. “You didn’t mean but you hurt me still.” She replied.
“I thought about everything deeply. Ebika,” He called softly taking her hand again in a firm grasp. “Please forgive me.”
She tried to pull free again, but Tolu held on fast. “Let me plead my case.” He pleaded. After a while, Ebika stopped struggling with him. He sighed. “Ebika, what we shared in school was special and what we felt was real. I can’t deny that fact. Meeting you again was like giving an alcoholic drink to a man who has sworn never to take alcohol again. I couldn’t resist the fire you sparked in me when I saw you again. I got drunk with you and I had to explore this feeling. And I did. We both couldn’t deny the fire burning in us and it led us to this point. All I wanted was you…” He let go of her hand and placed his hands on his face.
“But…” Ebika chipped in.
Tolu dropped his hands on his laps. “But we… we can’t be together. Everything had been a fantasy, Ebika. My wife and my children are my reality and I love them dearly. I realized everything we’ve done has been on memories of our past together. I have come to know how much my wife means to me and I hope to win her again. I am truly sorry for everything. I don’t mind grovelling before you both for the rest of my life just to ask for forgiveness. Ebika,” He leaned towards her. “Forgive me.”
Tears filled Ebika’s eyes and ran down her cheeks like a fountain. It was difficult to gather her thoughts. She looked at Tolu but couldn’t even see him right before her because her tears blinded her. Her head started pounding. She placed her arms around her body and rocked it side to side. Mucus flowed out of her nostrils and mixed with her tears spilling down her lips.
“Ebika,” Tolu called her in a panicky tone. He held her by the shoulders and shook her a little. “Ebika.”
“You… you… you are going back to your wife?” She forced the words out in a shaky tone.
Tolu let her go, releasing a heavy sigh. “I’m sorry, Ebika.”
She fell on the floor, her eyes rolling in their sockets. Nothing made sense to her. Her head kept bobbing to an unknown music. Her whole body shook convulsively. Tolu rushed to her in a full panic mood. He placed a hand under her head and called her name. She couldn’t respond as her tongue was heavy with the same heaviness in her heart. When he got no response from her, he carried her and ran out of the room down to the parking lot where his car was parked. Between the room and the parking lot, her senses came back to her. She opened her eyes and stared at Tolu. It was all clear to her: Tolu was leaving her. He was going back to his wife. Anger like a raging fire welled up inside of her. She pushed his chest and he set her on her feet.
“Ebika, I’m sorry. Please for…”
She silenced him with a slap across his cheek. Tolu staggered looking dazed. She straightened her dress and walked away from him with the pride she had no more. He called her severally but she didn’t look back. She had no more business with him. What she felt didn’t end back in school had finally ended, and she had the scars now to show for it. The scars that would last for eternity had been caused by her. If she had not been carried away she wouldn’t be where she was. She cried hard as she as she made her way out of the hotel. She didn’t mind the curious glances or stares of the people she passed on the way. They didn’t know the pain in her heart. They didn’t know what it meant to see a light and still choose to walk into darkness. She had run from the light complaining of his dullness and chased after a bright light that was just a mirage. Just that morning she had thought all was alright. It was just past midday and her world had turned upside down. Who will hear her story and not laugh at her? Who will hear her story and not put the blame on her? Oh, tongues that would wag! Oh, lips that would sing her mockery. Oh, fingers that will point at her as a warning to erring youth. She had paid the drummer and now she must dance to his beats.
The pain in her heart became unbearable. She clutched her chest and leaned against a tree few metres from the hotel. Fresh tears filled her eyes again and came running down like a stone on a sloppy hill. Oh God! Oh, God! She wept. She thought of the days she would walk in the darkness she had created for herself and prayed for a little light to ease her darkness. She thought of Bina and Doubara. Their laughter would hurt her the most. While she wallowed in sorrow, pain, and darkness, they would be joyful and would progress.
Just a little light, oh Lord. Just a little light I pray. She bent down and wept. How long she stayed like that she couldn’t tell until a hand touched her. She looked into the concerned eyes of a man.
“Young woman, what is the matter?” He asked.
She said nothing and just kept staring at him. He smiled at her and stretched a hand to her. “Come, let me help you.”
She stared at his hand for a few heartbeats and then she placed hers in his. As he pulled her up and led her to a car parked across the gutter, she sent a silent prayer to heaven within her. ‘I’m not asking for a lot, oh Lord, for I don’t deserve it. All I ask for is a little light.’ She prayed for a light to walk down the dark tunnel that had become her life. Whether she would get it or not she couldn’t tell.
It’s been a great time writing the story of Tolu and Ebika. I hope you liked it. I trust you also learned one or two things from it. Thank you for your time. God bless you for going on this journey with me. If you have truly enjoyed Old Flame, please don’t just read this episode; drop your reviews. I REALLY need them. My next story is titled LOVE QUEST. It will be on the blog soon. Just keep in touch.
To end this, please answer this question: Who deceived who? Tolu or Ebika?
P.S: Answering the question doesn’t take the place of your review. If you think I’ve done a good work, then let me hear it. Until next time, keep reading.