Olamide plunked on the couch and exhaled. “Chai! It’s been so long since I came here o. How is your life now?”
Deborah blew air on her freshly painted nails before she responded. “Ola, my life is like good moin-moin: sweet but messy”
“What? How did you even come up with that?”
“It’s what we smart people do. We come up with smart stuff”
“Nonsense. You are going to be a year older tomorrow, please drop this dirty pride in this year. Anyway, what’s making your life messy and sweet?”
“I’m in love….”
“Wow! This is gre…”
“…With two guys”
“You say wetin?”
“It’s complicated. One is Andrew, my work mate, tech savvy, geek, sweet. The other is Odogwu, fellow media department member at church. Eye candy, calm like evening breeze and spiritual. And there’s love in this heart for the both of them” Deborah said and shrugged.
“Come oh, has any of them flashed green light?”
“The both of them”
“Have you answered any?”
Deborah shrugged and turned her neck this way and that. Olamide gaped, inching forward in her seat.
“No way! You said yes to the both of them?!”
“You can’t blame me now. It’s love.”
“Debby what shade of crazy are you, really? You’re joking right?” Olamide looked at her and knew at once that she wasn’t.
“Can you just stop being dramatic? It’s called having a backup plan. If one falls through, I fall back on the other. It’s wisdom” Deborah fired back.
“You can’t be doing this Debo. You are a child of God!”
“Refresh my memory please, when Bro. Osaetin did this to me wasn’t he a ‘child of God?’” She dropped finger quotes around child of God. “Or have you soon forgotten what that bastard did to me? We were together for a whole year, planning a future together only for me to realize that he had been engaged all the while with marriage in sight. When I confronted him his words were ‘Deb, I love you, I really do. If things had not worked out between my fiancée and I, I would have married you’”
“I definitely remember. I was there through the whole horror of it.”
“I was second choice. I was deeply wounded. But not anymore. It’s all water under the bridge now. All it takes to become a player is to be played once. And Deborah Akinyele is a certified player in this game of love”
“What Osas did was wrong. But hurting others the way you were hurt won’t justify you, neither will it take your hurt away. You really need to snap out of this revenge fantasy”
Deborah chuckled. “Revenge fantasy? People say that when someone is bent on maybe sharing AIDS cos someone infected them. I’m just trying to love here. What’s my crime? Odogwu is head over heels in love with me, Andrew always gets me stuff, we are all happy. We all are in love. That’s all that matters”
“What if one of them finds out about the other? Tomorrow is your birthday, what if they both show up for the party?”
“I’m skilled. I will never get caught. Take for instance tomorrow. I work with Andrew and I know he’s flying to Abuja today for a conference. That makes it all too easy for me. So you see. And well, if they find out, so be it”
“You will end up hurting them deliberately. That doesn’t exactly sound to me like love”
“Look, it’s about time men get served a pill of their own medicine. Something makes them feel it’s okay for them to break hearts and walk away free. Maybe this once for a change, let them get heartbroken”
“Are you even listening to yourself? Can you sincerely call this love?” Olamide asked with a frown creasing her forehead.
Deborah shrugged. “This is what love has become in this day and age, darling”
“Love doesn’t change with age or time. Love is still kind and patient and…”
“Miss me with that 1 Corinthians 13 sermon abeg. Somethings are only meant to exist in the pages of books. Where do you think you are Ola? Wake up and smell the coffee. Don’t make the mistake I made. I fell too hard, I loved with my whole heart. It ended in spicy tears” She let out a self-depreciating laugh. “Please, just leave me and my moin-moin love life abeg”
“God is the true definition of love, Deborah. I’m sure you’ve heard this over and again but until you let his love fill and heal you, you won’t be able to perceive, receive, or give love”
Deborah clapped, laughing. “Bravo! You should start your podcast show, you know. I could donate a mic, my Andy boo knows where to get the best” She winked. “Abeg, enough about me. How are you and how is being a teacher? I still don’t understand why you dumped a legal practice to be pursuing taataa (babies) up and down anyway.”
“Passion. There is a thing called passion, it drives”
“Okoto moewwww moeww kutu skrrr (Hogwash/ nonsense talk)”
Olamide laughed. “Well, I had a nasty experience over the last month on the job”
Deborah stood up and walked into the kitchen, speaking as she did. “Tell me about it”
Olamide followed her friend to the kitchen. Deborah stirred the soup that was frothing over with a sweet aroma. She had always been a great cook, a lovely person and sound believer too, until Osaetin happened. It had been three years since the NCCF president shattered Deborah’s heart, but she still oozed the bitterness, was still driven by the anger and hurt.
Ola reached for her friend’s shoulder and turned her gently, her eyes brimming with concern. “Debo, this is not you. don’t let yesterday’s pain change you dear”
Deborah returned to stirring her soup. “You were saying about your nasty experience in your school”
Ola stared at her for some seconds. She chewed on her lips and sighed before she conceded to Deborah’s request for a subject change. “There was this cute little boy in my class, Ojonugwa. I observed that he was always out of breath, coughing, he was always weak and even when he was breathing he made these wheezing sounds. I informed his mum. I asked her to take him for a medical check-up, she waved it off as just cough. But these symptoms persisted and even worsened. So I raised my concerns with ’Nugwa’s mum again, this time around she went off on me, saying I should stop thinking evil towards her son. Nothing is wrong with him in Jesus name!” Ola stopped, shaking her head.
“He died two weeks ago”
“Jesus!” Deborah whispered, dropping her ladle.
“Autopsy report revealed he had chronic bronchitis. Sincerely, I wish I had taken the boy to the hospital myself”
“No, Ola, don’t beat yourself up. You tried your best. This is on the mother’s negligence. There’s only so much a teacher can do”
Ola sobbed. “I know. He was just so young, he had green years ahead of him. This could have easily been avoided.”
Deborah sighed. “Pele. But you have done well. I am proud”
They shared a smile staring at each other. Ola relished this moment when she caught a hint of the Deborah she used to know.
“Once we are done with dinner, we should sit to plan your little party for tomorrow. After all, that’s why I came all the way from Abeokuta” Deborah said as she rinsed a dish at the sink.
The next morning by 11 while Deborah was still upstairs getting her make-up done and on the phone with one well-wisher after the other, the doorbell rang. Olamide had been in the kitchen making sure the hired caterer did just what she was hired for when she heard the ding-dong. She instinctively went for it, she had already opened the door before she realized she was a guest and wasn’t in the place to open the door.
Before her stood a bespectacled man. She was just about to say, I’m sure you’re Odogwu. When he said, “You must be Deborah. Ola won’t stop talking about you.” He stretched out his hand for a handshake. Olamide took it, smiling.
“I’m Andrew, her boyfriend. I’m sure you’ve heard about me”
“Yeah, sure” Ola uttered, although she was confused. Hadn’t Deborah said the previous day that Andrew was the geek who was in Abuja for a conference? She concluded she had the names mixed up. It must have been Odogwu who was Deborah’s co-worker.
“And where’s the birthday girl?” Andrew asked in a rich baritone voice.
Ola stepped out of the way so Andrew could come in. “Let me go and call her”
Ola hurried upstairs. Deborah was before the mirror applying her mascara.
“Your man is here for you” Olamide announced.
Deborah turned around. “Tell me I got the brows this time”
Olamide smirked. “You should have just allowed me do it. You know no one gets the symmetry of brows better than yours truly”
“Nonsense. That doesn’t answer the question”
“Well, you tried. Now go and meet your moin-moin A man.”
Deborah laughed. “Shut up”
She walked out of the room, Ola followed. As they went down the staircase, they giggled. But Deborah’s giggle withered in her throat when she saw who was standing in the living room waiting for her. It wasn’t Odogwu. But it was Odogwu who had called her a couple of minutes ago to inform her that he’d be coming over. And hang on, how was Andrew even in Lagos? In her house?
“I know, I know, surprise isn’t it?” Andrew was smiling from ear to ear, reveling in the confusion on Deborah’s face.
Deborah forced a chuckle. “How are you even here?”
“Well, I asked that Sandra replace me for the conference. Come on, did you really think I will miss my baby’s birthday for anything? Not a chance.”
A second passed. Then another. Deborah erupted with a bright cover up laugh. “Aren’t you just sweet? Oh, Andrew you didn’t have to”
“Of course I had to. Now, see what we have here for you” Andrew handed her a gift bag.
“Okayyy” Deborah mouthed as she brought out the box in the bag.
“Oh my God! Red bottoms? I love you Andrew!”
Olamide looked between Deborah and Andrew as they hugged. She was still wondering what to make out of the charade she was witnessing when the door burst open and a scream of ‘Surprise!’ came in first before Odogwu with a box of cake in hand and group of animated people behind him.
It was in that moment that Deborah knew that it was all going to fall apart. Right there in her living room, on her birthday, with all the other media department members there to witness. She balled her hands into fists, willing the whole moment to disappear.
Odogwu and his crew started singing a birthday song, Deborah jumped out of Andrew’s arms.
Andrew chuckled. “Who are they?”
Odogwu stepped forward. “Funny how I was going to ask the same question,” He faced Andrew squarely. “Who are you?”
The room fell into silence for a second.
Deborah think. Think.
“I am Deborah’s-” Andrew started saying before Deborah cut him off.
“Andrew meet Odogwu and other members of the media department at my church. And Odogwu, meet Andrew my good friend and co-worker. Now, let’s get the party started. Er, Olamide,” Deborah turned to her friend, “Why don’t we get the small chops already?”
“So, co-worker and friend, yeah?” Odogwu asked Andrew, ignoring Deborah”
“Co-worker and boyfriend”
Deborah froze, her back turned to Odogwu and Andrew.
“Does that bother you? she didn’t tell you about our relationship? Maybe you’re not close enough after all” Andrew said with a shrug and a smug face.
“Yeah,” Odogwu walked towards Deborah until they stood toe-to-toe, “Do you mind explaining?”
Tears welled in Deborah’s eyes.
Odogwu cupped her chin. “Don’t cry now baby, there will be nothing more hackneyed”
Hot tears flowed down Deborah’s face. Everything Olamide had said the previous day came to a head. She was just bitter, and her games brought no satisfaction. She had lost out on all ends.
“What’s going on here exactly?” Andrew asked coming around Odogwu and Deborah. By now the media department brethren were already talking in hushed tones and gasping, some sneaking pictures and videos.
Odogwu looked straight at Deborah, eyes blazing. “I thought it would be different with you. I thought this time I had something real, someone real.” He dropped a mirthless laugh and pulled out a tiffany box from his back pocket. “It’s a shame, I was going to propose.”
“Propose what? Someone talk to me. What’s going on here?”
“She was playing us, dumbo! Don’t you see?” Odogwu snapped at Andrew. Andrew blanched.
Odogwu let go of her chin and made for the door. He reached for the doorknob and turned to her. “And oh, happy birthday” He dropped the cake box on the floor. “It’s red velvet, like you love it”
“Odogwu! I’m sorry”
“I am sorry too for me” He shut the door and left.
“Two good men gone. Your loss. Perfect birthday gift for a bitch like you” Andrew blurted angrily, splashing spittle all over Deborah’s bowed head. “I’m not as cute as your other boy toy. Give me that!” He snatched the gift bag from her.
He jabbed an irate finger at her. “And I will take back every penny I wasted on you, whether or not you like it. Bloody ass bitch!”
When Andrew banged the door, Deborah started.
“You were right. This is not Deborah. That was the ugly person bitterness turned me into. And I hate that person. Oh God! How am I even different from Osaetin?”
Olamide walked over to her and hugged her sobbing friend.
“Next time don’t let bitterness do your make-up. He will turn you into a beast”
Deborah laughed dryly. “I’m so toast. The whole church go hear my gist”
“Why did you say that?”
Another dry laugh. “The media department was here. The media department of church or not is still media. I really won’t be surprised if I open Instagram and see my face on instablog. It’s something Feyisara can do. She’s always hated me for having Odogwu’s heart anyway” Deborah sighed, yanking off her wig. “Such a happy, happy birthday”
There’s an uncanny way people who hurt us deeply impart that hurtful behavior on us, when we cling to the hurt. You just find that you’re mirroring the same toxic traits you loathed in your parent, in an ex, in a close friend. This is why we must allow God heal us properly. Hurts aren’t just metastatic diseases that eat deep into the soul, they are highly communicable.
I pray sincerely for everyone who has been slammed by hurts that God’s healing grace will rest on us and we will draw from the deep rivers of the forgiveness we have received through Christ to forgive them.
Have a wonderful week. And by the way, there’s no such thing as moin-moin love, it’s either love by God’s standard or it’s not love at all.