I don’t like sequels, because I feel like they are never as good as the original story, but I love my readers. I am happy when you are happy, so here you go! -Keni
N.B: Just in case you have not read Part 1, here you go. It will make a lot more sense if you read it before coming to this.
If you met me through Kobby, you will probably call me Clara. You probably know half the story already, but I will just start at the beginning.
I have always been the wild one. In school, my name was crazy Okailey. I came up with all the daring pranks. My name was always on the list of talkatives. In fact it was through one of my escapades that I met Bryce, my husband. He was protocol prefect and I was in trouble for leading my class in a karaoke session during prep. Don’t ask me what I was thinking. At the time, it felt like a great idea. Anyway, Bryce was in the middle of scolding the class prefect and I, when he noticed that I had an insolent smirk on my face. The poor guy was besides himself. He punished me to scrub the entire dining hall myself before lunch time the next day. I had obviously bruised his ego.
I wasn’t going to let him win this one. I woke up at 3 am and marched over to the dining hall, bucket and scrubbing brush in hand. I was bent on finishing before 6am because I didn’t want to miss my Literature class- it was the one class in which my mind did not wander. I was so engrossed in finishing as quickly as possible that I didn’t hear him enter the hall. ‘Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?’ He startled me and I nearly knocked over the bucket of soapy water. I turned to face him, all 5′ 8” of him. His eyes were slightly red, probably from cramming the contents of the tattered GAST Biology textbook he was carrying into his head. I ignored him and went back to scrubbing the discoloured floor.
‘What? You are going to keep ignoring me? Unbelievable!’
‘What are you going to do next? Punish me to scrub the whole school?’
‘You are something else, aren’t you? Let’s start afresh. I am Bryce’
‘Okailey the troublemaker. Friends?’, he asked with a smile.
‘Shouldn’t we shake on it?’, he teased.
‘If you don’t mind the medley of powdered soap and fermented food particles, why not?’, I replied with a smile.
‘Victory! She smiles! See you around, Okailey’
That was it. No fireworks, nothing spectacular. We lost touch when he finished school and I didn’t see him again until we met at a school reunion.
‘Protocol Prefect. You look nice.’
He did. He had lost the stern Protocol Prefect look, and was wearing glasses now. Something about that nerd look did it for me. We talked the whole time and afterwards, we exchanged numbers. My stubbornness amused him, probably because he had been prim and proper all his life. Bryce asked me to marry him a year after that. I didn’t say yes immediately. I had always thought I would end up with a man who was just as crazy as me, so that we could have equally crazy children. Bryce was Mr Practical, Mr Nothing out of place. After thinking through it, I decided that it won’t be too bad to have some stability in my life.
We got married in March the next year. It was a small private ceremony- Bryce’s choice. I wanted a party with lots of dancing, but Bryce was not good at dancing and he didn’t want to make a fool of himself. I didn’t want to dance alone either so I went along with the private ceremony idea. I didn’t take his last name- there was no reason why, at least not a conscious one. I know what you are thinking, and you are probably right. After a year, I felt stifled. Ten months after we got married, I discovered that Bryce didn’t mind having a crazy girlfriend, but he definitely didn’t want a crazy wife. We were going out and I was running late. When I came out of the room, he took one look at me and said, ‘Where on earth are you going, dressed like that?’
Bewildered, I looked down at my outfit and looked up again. I was wearing high waisted jeans, a crop top and suede ankle boots. My hair was held up in a bun. I honestly didn’t know what had warranted the ‘omg, you just resurrected from the dead’ look.
‘You can’t continue to dress like a university girl. You are a married woman now, more importantly my wife! Go and change or we are not going at all. I have stomached this ‘carefree girl’ act for too long. No self-respecting wife will walk around exhibiting her belly button for the world to see.’ I was stunned.
‘Then maybe you married the wrong woman. Some men will give anything to have their wives dressed in anything other than kaba and slit’, I said quietly. He looked at me for what felt like a millennium, picked up his car keys and walked out. Things pretty much spiraled out of control after that. We barely said two words to each other everyday. One day, I asked for a divorce. He looked up from the book he was reading, like I had asked for the most bizarre thing in the world.
‘A divorce? Okailey, now you have outdone yourself. Why on earth would you want a divorce?’
‘Bryce, do you live on another planet? We don’t say anything to each other, save ‘Excuse me’ when we pump into each other in the bathroom each morning, and you don’t think that warrants a divorce? Even my least favourite roommates and I got along better than this!’
‘If you are tired of the marriage, you can leave, Okailey. You have always made it seem like I was stealing your joy anyways, but I am not giving you a divorce. I won’t become the man with a failed marriage. I won’t become a statistic.’
‘Unbelievable! Your marriage is on the rocks barely a year after it began, and you are more concerned with what people will think. Because you just have to be Mr Perfect, don’t you? Mr Everything in place, Mr I have got it all under control. Well, I am sorry to ruin your perfect life. This is as out of control as it can get.’
‘Enough, Okailey! I said you can leave if you want to.’
‘I will. Don’t expect me back home’
I moved back in with my parents that afternoon. He called several times, I never picked up and after a while, he stopped calling altogether. One day, he sent a text message: ‘Funny how often I think about you now that I don’t live with you. I miss you, Okailey. I am leaving for the UK tonight. Finally going to get that Master’s degree. I would love to say goodbye to you. Flight leaves at 7.’ I prevented myself from thinking about the possibility of going to say goodbye the entire day and yet by 5pm, my car was heading in the direction of the airport.
I sat in the parking lot and watched him drag his suitcase to the departure hall, flanked by his parents and his elder sister. I watched him say his farewells to his family. He looked at his watch every now and then, and looked around, presumably searching for me. After a while, he headed inside, his shoulders stiff the way they were anytime he was sad or disappointed. When the doors closed behind him, tears rolled down my cheeks, uninvited. I sat there for a long time, just thinking and wiping my silent tears. Then I drove home. I cut my hair the next day. I was ready for a new beginning.
When I met Kobby, I had no intentions of falling in love. I was just having fun at Akwele’s engagement. I must admit, I took a second look and perhaps a third. He was SO tall! At a point, I wasn’t sure if he was also checking me out or just catching me in the act of checking him out. I decided to find out and I made my way to him. He was pleasant but shy. I was flattered- most men would try to impress me, he didn’t.
I was happy when he called me that night. I thought my forward nature might have spooked him. At first, I didn’t think it would be anything more than a few dates and phone calls. That’s what happened most of the time- the men usually got bored, or I did. Not with Kobby. He was every woman’s dream- romantic, patient, thoughtful. He made me feel like he could stop the earth’s orbit if that was what I wanted. I didn’t plan to fall in love with him but I did. Maybe that was when I should have told him about Bryce, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it. The timing was never right. I was so afraid that it would change things.
That night when Kobby said he loved me, I panicked. I knew then that I had to tell him. He deserved that much. My heart wasn’t ready for how crushed he looked. I wanted to put his head in my lap and stroke his back. He pushed back when I touched him, almost like he had been scalded. I cried myself to sleep. I had never been this terrified in my life, not even when I had sickle cell crises.
Every morning when I woke up, the first thing I did was to check to see if he had texted me. I would drift off in meetings, wondering if he had eaten, or if he was ok. I missed him terribly- the way he mentioned my name, the way I had to tiptoe to be able to hug him well, the way he folded the sleeves of his shirt after work, the way his nose twitched when he was shy. There was this ache in my heart that worsened everytime I realized that there was no message from him.
The day I had the crisis, I was lucky to be close to the hospital. I parked my car and got into a taxi. The doctors fussed over me and tried to alleviate my pain. Even in that excruciating pain, all I could think of was Kobby. When they asked for an emergency contact, I gave them his number. If I was going to die at any point, it was his face I wanted to see. I tried to fall asleep. When that didn’t work, I started thinking about him- the look on his face just before he stole my last piece of chicken, the glee in his voice anytime he called me Clara, the day he cooked yam and corned beef stew for me, the day our car broke down on our way back from an adventure. The memories were endless and somehow they seemed to soothe the pain.
When I opened my eyes, he was sitting in the chair beside me. I had never been this happy to see anyone in my life. He was clearly distraught-probably blaming himself for my crisis.
‘How long have you been sitting here?’
‘Long enough to know that you are masking the pain so that I won’t worry’
The nurse came to replace the IV bag. We sat in silence for a while and then I spoke again.
‘I meant what I said, Kobby. The last few days have been pure torture. I know I don’t deserve a second chance, but I want this. I want you.’
‘What about Bryce? We can’t pretend he doesn’t exist. I don’t want to be a homewrecker.’
‘That home was wrecked a long time ago, long before I met you. He came back just like I said he would. It didn’t work out. We will both be happier apart, trust me!’
‘Is it because of me? I know you can do anything you put your mind to, Clara. I would hate to think that you lost your second shot at happiness because of me’
‘Kobby, nobody makes me as happy as you do. I can’t possibly imagine-‘
The pain ripped through my back unexpectedly and I whimpered. Kobby yelled for the nurse and asked me to stop talking.
‘Clara, please relax. We will talk about this later. For now, just focus on getting better. I will be here for as long as you need me to.’
He came everyday, sometimes in the morning, sometimes after work. On some days, he even came twice. I looked forward to his visits because there was always a story to tell and he always snuck in a bar of chocolate for me. We never went back to our discussion- it was the elephant in the room. The night before I was discharged, I brought it up.
‘So is this it? Will I see you again when I leave the hospital?’
‘Clara, I honestly don’t know. I want to marry you, but I can’t. Not until Bryce gives you a divorce. This is really difficult for me. I guess this is how Moses must have felt when he saw Canaan, knowing that he would never get there.’
I expected that. An honest answer.
I stepped into his embrace, avoiding his eyes so that he won’t see that I was holding back the tears. I didn’t want to make this any harder for him than it already was. He kissed my forehead and whispered, ‘I am going to miss you so much, Clara.’ I could not speak. I knew my voice would betray me. I decided to just savour the moment.
Three weeks passed. I didn’t hear from him. I didn’t want to call and make it even more difficult for him. Then one evening he called.
‘Hi!’ It was hesitant.
That was it. We talked about everything and anything- just like old times. It was like riding a bike- you never forget. Initially, it was a little awkward but by the third minute, we were on a roll. At the end of the conversation, he said, ‘I miss you Clara. I have tried to keep my distance, trust me, I have! Why does it have to be so complicated?’
‘Kobby, we will take it one day at a time. It will only get as complicated as we allow it to. I am really glad you called.’
He calls every other night. When he doesn’t, I do. We don’t have a solution, maybe we don’t even need one. It’s as simple as that…
Author’s note: The beautiful lady you see in the picture is a friend of mine who looks a lot like fictional Clara/Naa Okailey. I wanted to give you an impression of what Clara looked like to help you picture her in your mind’s eye. This story bears no relation to my friend’s life, by the way. It is all imagination😊
Many thanks to Steve Ababio for graciously allowing me to use the image.