She took in a deep breath as she stretched out her hand to knock the door. She hadn't been here in a long time. It wasn't that she didn't want to visit. She had just been really embarrased. They still had no idea that she was no longer married to Dehinde Roland.
She pushed the door when no one answered. She hoped the door wouldn't fling open as it always did. She hoped her dad had fixed this ancient door. But her expectation was cut short...the door flung wide open and she almost fell. She walked into the small apartment. The standing fan was switched on. So was the orange electricity bulb that hung from the ceiling.
"Daddy...are you there?" She called out.
There was no response.
"Thomas!" She called her brother's name. There was still no response.
She was walking into the kitchen when she heard her father's voice. The old man was making some pap.
"Daddy..." Theresa said, hugging him.
He smiled, holding his daughter.
"Tessy. How are you? You didn't tell me you were coming." He said.
Theresa rolled her eyes.
"Do I need an invitation to visit my own family?" She shook her head.
"It's been so long."
"I know. I'm sorry...it's been work and..."
"Work? When did you start working again?" He asked.
Theresa searched for something to say.
"I can't just be idle Dad. How's Thomas? Where's he? How come you're the one in the kitchen?" She quickly changed the topic.
The old man shook his head and shrugged.
"Your brother quit school. He says he is into business now. I don't know what kind of business it is. He hangs out with some young boys in flashy cars. The last time I saw him was two days ago."
Theresa opened her mouth wide. She couldn't believe this. Thomas was the braniac of the family. How could he quit school?
"Thomas now does yahoo yahoo?!" She exclaimed, grabbing her phone. She dialled his number. It was switched off.
Just then, she heard a car park in the compound. Loud music was playing and there was some noise. She hurried to the window and squinted her eyes to see through the net. Then she sighted her brother. She dashed for the door. Thomas was walking in too so she bumped into him.
"Sisto!" Thomas exclaimed, smiling and hugging her. He stood some feet over her .
Theresa could perceive his strong cologne. She could also perceive the strong smell of weed. His cologne wasn't strong enough to disguise it.
"Tom what is going on?" She said.
"Tom what is going on?" She asked again, looking at her brother as they sat to talk in his bedroom that evening. She hadn't planned sleeping over but she now had to. She couldn't leave her baby brother this way.
"Sisto, I'm not going back to school. It's a long thing. At the end of it all I will still have to look for a job. This country is messed up, men. I even have to pay lecturers and buy their handouts and materials just to pass the course! I'm freaking smart. I know I am smart. But they made me carry over three courses. I'm done with that ish! There's no independent panel to appeal to. And the lecturer's just hating coz I used to date the girl he wants to sleep with! It's crazy, Tessy. I can't waste my time there. I just wanna make enough cash and travel the hell out of this country..."
Theresa watched her brother rant.
"And you think it's easy abroad? You think it's that easy?" She said.
"I know it isn't but at least things are loyal. There's equal opportunity. There's a chance! This country is messed up!"
"So what do you do now? What kind of business do you do?"
He sighed again. He avoided her eyes and she was glad he did because her eyes were roaming his bedroom. There were both empty and new bottles of alcohol all over the place. She saw a pack of cigarettes and a pack of condoms on his table. Then her eyes came back to him.
"Yahoo?" She said, when he didn't reply.
"No!" He yelled. Theresa freaked a little. His yelling almost reminded her of Dehinde.
"I...we get girls for music videos and for celebrities..." He said. "Like an agency for video vixens."
"And I can see you're having your fill of the vixens." She looked at the condoms on the table.
Thomas raised his shoulders.
"Look, I wanted to start a carwash or a sharwarma place. Something like that. Went to meet your husband and he told me off. He said you guys are no longer together and lots of other stuff and he even..."
Theresa didn't hear the rest of what he said. Her mouth went ajar. She was shocked. How could Dehinde have told them? Well, how could he not have? He didn't owe her an oath of secrecy to keep their divorce a secret from her family.
"Does dad know?" Theresa asked.
"About my business?"
"No! About the divorce."
"So I'm not the only one being a bad child here. Of course he does. Dehinde stopped the standing order at the bank to credit dad's account. He also stopped calling and I had to tell him when he complained to me."
She sighed this time.
Thomas took off his shirt. He wanted to go take a bath. Then she saw the cheap tattoo on his arm. His name was inscribed. It was spelt wrongly though.
There was a piece of drawing beside the name. Theresa couldn't decipher if it was a sword or an arrow.
"I hope you got your money back from the tattoo guy." She said sarcastically, walking out of the room.
She hadn't brought up the topic of her divorce with her father but as she was about leaving the next morning, he did.
"Tessy," He started.
"Yes, dad?" She said, grabbing her purse.
"I hope you're moving on and not waiting for your ex-husband to come back. Even if he comes back, let him see that you moved on. Don't make a man disrespect you twice. He will never find it reasonable to respect you. The most he will do is pretend."
Theresa didn't know what to say. She burst into tears as he hugged her.
"He hurt me...he broke my heart." She sobbed.
"He doesn't deserve you. I'm happy you're working now and doing something for yourself."
"I am. I'm done with men. I can't go through what he put me through again."
Her father smiled.
"That's what your mother said when I met her. Till I swept her off her feet."
Theresa smiled as her dad wiped her face.
"Take care of yourself, dad. I'll call you."
FIFTEEEN MONTHS AFTER...
Theresa couldn't believe what she just heard. She stared at her best friend, Tony.
She had spoken with Jennifer some days before and her friend had told her that Tony definitely wanted to be more than friends. A man didn't stick around that long just to be an ever loyal friend.
Theresa knew it too.
He had been everything to her and she knew she had started to care about him but she brushed off the thought when he hadn't approached her or said anything in the romance department.
Tony had been her rock. He had helped her get a new job. He said he didn't like that she worked in a hotel. She now worked in an IT firm although as a front desk staff still; but she was 15,000 Naira better paid than her last job.
He had also worked some magic on Thomas. Theresa didn't know what he said or what he did but Thomas suddenly decided he wanted to go back to school. Tony had promised to fund his tuition provided he topped his grades. He had moved him to another University. Theresa didn't know that he even promised to help him get a job after school if he made a minimum of a second class upper.
"That man is into you." Jennifer had said.
"I don't know...he hasn't said anything about that...he's like my brother."
"Taaaa!" Jennifer had yelled.
"I just don't know, Jennifer. It's sudden."
"It's been about two years..."
Theresa heard Jennifer's baby start to cry. She missed her friend so much and wished she could be there to help out with the baby.
Tony was still looking at her, waiting for a response.
"Tess, I'm serious about this. I really want to make our friendship more serious. I want you." He said.
Theresa sighed, looking away.
"Tony I don't know what to say...You're like my brother and best friend."
Tony shook his head in disapproval.
"Sweets, don't get it twisted. I am not your brother. Thomas is your brother. I am a man who has intentions towards you, and they are not brotherly intentions. " He said.
She saw his smirk and laughed.
"Its just so sudden. I don't want to go through..."
Tony sighed. He knew already that she wanted to compare him with Dehinde. The day she had come all out and told him about her past and how her ex husband had maltreated her and made her have an abortion, he had been mad. Mad at Dehinde, mad at fate, mad at himself for not meeting her first. It was the abortion that hurt him the most and he had felt like laying his hands on the man's neck!
Tony had been single for about eight years. He had been married to the love of his life; the only woman he had ever loved. But when she had gone into labor to birth their daughter, she hadn't survived. And he had lost both wife and child.
His life had never been the same since then. His family thought he had lost it. He kept her clothes and smelled them all the time and he even spoke to her pictures. His sister had been the one to force him into seeing a psychologist. They had even involved a pastor. The pastor had said his wife's spirit was evil and that she was the one tormenting him. Tony had been so angry that he had gone physically violent on the pastor.
When he had met Theresa and she had commented about his dress sense, he had laughed. Not just because it was funny, but because his late wife had always complained about the same thing while they were courting. She had transformed his life and wardrobe and people started to see him as a fashion icon. His fashion consciousness however went down the drain when she died. It was as though she took his life away with her. She took him away.
But Theresa was finding him back.
"I want to finish school and get a proper job first before I even think of remarrying." She continued.
"Theresa, I am nothing like your ex. I love you and I mean that verb. I won't restrict you from your dreams. I won't disrespect you."
"I will give you some time to think about this, okay?" He said as she walked him to his car. His driver was waiting already.
"Your shirt matches your pants today." She teased him, trying to change the topic.
He laughed, then he kissed her forehead before he got into the car.
She was thinking about everything he had said as she went back into the house. But what was chief on her mind was the kiss on her forehead. She felt giddy like a teenage girl. She realized that since her divorce, she hadn't had any tint of intimacy with a man. She walked to her bedroom mirror and stared at herself. She found herself smiling and blushing.
"What do I do now?" She said, smiling.
Her reflection stared her back in the face. She saw a different woman, different from the one she had been while she had been married to Dehinde Roland.
*I had typed this before but somehow everything got wiped off. Second, my network has been bad. So I couln't post. I had to rewrite this. I hope I didn't leave anything out.
*please read, comment, and share this with your circle of influence. 😁