Old Flame: By Ayeni Ifeoluwa

It was a cold Monday morning. I had rushed out of the house to quickly buy some necessities before the rain started. I drove speedily down the familiar third mainland bridge while jamming to Fela’s song; Zombie. I don’t know what it is about this song, but ever since I could remember it had always held a special place in my heart. Finally arriving at the store, I rushed in and briefly greeted the security guard as he hurriedly opened the door to the super market for me. “Thank you” I said with a smile plastered on my face and he responded with a nod. I was rounding up with my shopping and started to head to the check-out point when I remembered I had forgotten to add yogurt to my cart. I headed briskly to the supermarket’s fridge and whilst looking out for my go-to yogurt, I heard his voice. Yes, his voice. I could recognize it from a distance;Deep yet, vibrant. I instantly developed cold feet. Why all of a sudden? I mean I had prepared myself for the day I would meet with him again and how harsh and mean I was going to be to you. But, why was I scared? No, no! This can’t be happening! It can’t! I stood in front of the fridge fighting silent battles in my head on whether or not to turn back. I finally gave in. I looked back and just like my suspicion, I was right. Right in front of me stood Tade. My first ever boyfriend. My first love and the reason I have attended therapy every Wednesday/Thursday for the past 6 years.

I found myself starring at those brown eyes that once kept me captivated. Afterall these years, he still looked the same. I waited patiently for him to look up and when he did, he looked like he had seen a ghost. He whispered my name, slowly yet audibly. ‘’N… go…zi?’’

I looked up at him firmly yet sternly, and responded with ‘’Hello, Tade’’.

I saw you struggle internally as you tried to search your brain for what next to do and I must have been lost in thought for me not to have realized that someone was standing next to him this whole time until the person called me out of my thoughts. ‘’Ngozi, how have you been?”

I was about to respond to the question until I realized who it was. It was Cynthia, your cousin from the village. The one you said had a complicated connection to your family. The one I allowed to live at my father’s BQ because you said she had no place to live. You know, that Cynthia. I smiled in confusion. ‘’Hello, Cynthia. It’s been long. How have you been?’’ And she looked at me smugly and said… ‘fine’ whilst showcasing her ring finger. I figured she wanted me to ask so I said ‘’Congratulations on your wedding’’. ‘’How is your husband and everyone?’’ Her response caught me off guard. Honestly, it did. She said ‘’You can ask him; he is standing right in front of you’’. Tade, every single time I think you couldn’t possibly go lower than you had already gone, but every single time you faze me even when I brace myself for it.

I said my goodbye hurriedly and rushed to the counter to pay. On my way home, I just kept thinking of the scars you’ve left imprinted on my mind, body and soul. How soulless you made me and how right my therapist was…’’That I truly haven’t healed’’. But how could I have? Tade, you destroyed me! You took away any ounce of sanity left in me. 

It all feels like Yesterday, I had just graduated fresh out of university and was ready to take over my father’s company when I met you; Tade Atanda. The absolute love of my life, or so I thought. Tade was everything I wanted in a man and more. He was always there for me when I needed him to be. Then what went wrong? It all started when I lost my parents to a fatal accident.

I had no time to carefully process their passage before the family lawyer informed me that I needed to act fast and close the deals my father wasn’t able to in order for the company not to go bankrupt. I had no one to console me, but Tade. He stood by me and even suggested moving into my father’s mansion with me so he could take proper care of me. 

Tade also suggested that due to my unstable situation, it would be advisable for me to step down for the main time and let him help me carry out my duties as acting CEO. I bless God that I didn’t agree to this agreement. Instead, I told him I would assign my father’s PA to do so. Since he knew the in and out of the company. This is where the problem started. 

All of a sudden, the sweet and gentle man I knew stopped existing and it seemed like he never even existed to begin with. Tade changed. He started to give off commands and when I didn’t followthrough with them, he would make me stand in front a mirror and tell me how lucky I was to have someone like him. Tade would tell me how ugly I was and he would make me stare at my face filled with scars from the iron burns he had consistently designed my body with. And I believed him. Oh! I believed him. Till this very day, I still can’t look at myself in the mirror. And once again, my therapist is right! ‘’You have a long way to go on your healing journey.’’ She said.

Tade scarred me both physically and emotionally yet, I continued to love him. I remember always telling him how much “I loved him” every single time he stood me in front of the mirror and pressed the hot iron that had gotten accustomed to my skin on my back. I would scream it so much hoping he would stop but he never did. I would look at myself in disgust. The scars; the pus waiting to be let out of my skin…As thick as a thief in the night. How painful these scars were yet, Tade would never let me get treated. He would say ‘’Do you want the police to arrest me?” “Just say you don’t love me” And once again, I would profess my love to you and apologize. What an idiot I was. You know what’s funny, Tade? In all our 6 years of being together you never once told me you loved me, yet I would blush and be all giddy when I said I loved you and all you did was give me a peck on my lips. I thought it was your way of saying you loved me too.

You would think Tade couldn’t possibly stoop any lower than this.But, he did. I remember vividly it was on the 20th of October.Tade had come home all sad and I thought the news I had was going to put him in a good mood. I told Tade that I was pregnant. I was soexcited. We were finally starting our own little family. But, Tade…He looked at me with so much anger and hatred and said to me “Why?” “Why, Ngozi?” “Why do you always do things that make me mad at you?!” That Night, Tade drove me to his best friend’s hospital for me to get our pregnancy terminated. He said it was for the best that he had plans for both of us and having this child now would disrupt his plans for our future. And so, I agreed.

It wasn’t after the procedure was done that; I discovered his best friend was just an assistant in the hospital. He had no medical license or anything. In other words, he was a quack. Tade’s best friend had removed my womb alongside the fetus of my child. 

I wailed. I cried. I screamed and I threatened heavens and earth that I was going to report to the police. But as usual, Tade calmed me down. He told me it was for the best. He said God wanted it that way and so I should let it go. And that was exactly what I did. I let it go. But Tade made me a promise that day, he said he was going to marry me. He said we would adopt kids when the time was right and that I should never for once think he would desert me. 

3 weeks later, Tade left. That morning he had sent to the supermarket to get him some groceries. Like a fool, I happily obliged. I came back home to meet no trace of Tade anywhere.

I tried calling his line but it was switched off. I went to the Boys Quarters but even his cousin; Cynthia had also left. I was confused. I went back to the room to call you once more and this time, my eyes saw the letter you left me. Tade, you told me you couldn’t see yourself spending the rest of your life with a barren woman.  Who?!Who is Tade talking about? I proceeded to read the letter over and over again thinking you had left some clues as to who the barren woman was. But, Alas! it was me. I am the barren woman you were talking about. But that couldn’t be. Tade, you said you were going to marry me, right? So, what’s going on? I called and called you. Your line was not reachable. I tried to reach out to your family members but then, I realized that in all our years of being together I never for once laid my eyes on your parents not to talk of your siblings. 

I knew no friends of yours. None of them! None of them, Tade! None! As I sat in my bedroom that day, realization slowly hit me that you never loved me. You only used me and I… I allowed myself to be used. 

It took so much for me to be who I am today. It took so much for me to be able to be well enough to attend therapy. For your information, Tade, I had been in a mental asylum for years after reading that hurtful letter you left me. It shattered me and left me unmendable. Broken. Unfixable. 

God bless my father’s PA for making sure I never gave up. He saw me through it all. He made sure I was sane enough to be let out of that mental asylum. He is one of the reasons I never gave up. And this made me think, Tade. What if I had left my father’s company in your care? Would I have still been able to be the CEO today? Wouldthe company have been as prestigious and world renowned as it is today? I doubt it. The company is what it is today because of me. After I left the mental asylum, realizing the company was all I had, Iworked hard on this company and the result of this hard work is what placed my Company on the global market.

It’s been two years since I saw Tade at the supermarket and like usual I still attend therapy but this time, I am more composed than ever. My therapist says it’s because my mind is slowing coming to the realization that you were a piece of shit.

I had just left my usual therapy session when a call came in. I looked at the caller ID and it’s not anyone I know. I picked it up and I hear ‘’Hello, Ngozi. ‘’It’s Cynthia.’’ I responded with ‘’Yes, how can I help you?’’ She said ‘’Ngozi, Tade is dead. ‘’He died of leukemia and he requested for you to be at his funeral.’’ She said Tade wanted me to be present as a way for him to be at peace that Ihad forgiven him.

I ended the call abruptly. Tade is what?! I sat on the stairs of my therapist’s office and I couldn’t help but feel a cold chilly shiver run down my spine. It wasn’t that of sadness or pain but that of joy and relief. I felt…free. Yes, I will attend his funeral.

I watched as Tade’s lifeless body was laid in front of the congregation and how one by one people came out to say something nice about him. I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically. A few persons made snide remarks about me but you just wait till I get my hands on that microphone.

I was finally given the audience to speak. Apparently, Tade had told Cynthia to allow me speak at his funeral. How lovely of him. As I stood in front of the congregation and stared at the lifeless body of Tade. Tade was dressed in the finest tuxedo one’s eyes have ever seen. I couldn’t help but think that ‘Do animals also get buried in a glamorous style too?’ I stared at the congregation briefly and turned to his lifeless body and said “Tade really had the effrontery to ask for my presence after all he did to me?” “Tade, may God punish you!” May the thunder from the pit of hell be your welcoming celebration to hell.” “May you not know peace” “And may hell be your place of solace”. “I hope the fire burns you slowly and I hope the flames attack your most admirable feature…Your face.” ‘’ I hope you scream in anguish as you confess your sins to the inhabitants of hell for them to see that they really are saints in comparison to you. ‘’Goodbye, old flame.” I watched the congregation scream and exclaim at my every statement. But who cares? If only they knew.

As I walked out of the church, I finally understood what my grandfather felt when Nigeria got released from the shackles of theBritish colonizers. Freedom never felt better.