Abuja. November 27, 2009. 6.00pm
Kevwe caught up with Efe just as she was about to enter the back seat of a branded Hilton vehicle.
“I want to speak with you.”
“I don’t want to speak to you. Leave me alone, please.” Turning away, she fumbled at the door handle again. Her driver started the engine with a quizzical stare.
“No, I won’t,” Kevwe said in a dangerous tone.
Efe stopped moving but did not look at him. Finally, she stepped away from the car and walked some paces to the back row of the lot where there were fewer cars and no drivers.
Kevwe guessed she didn’t want the driver to see Big Madam in a state, and followed with a grim smile. Well, he wouldn’t take her time. The only thing he wanted to know was what he did to deserve her betrayal. When he first found out Efe ditched him, he hadn’t believed it. But after several weeks of agonizing therapy, when he sent for her many times with no success, he had come to the realization that what his parents said was true.
“Efe, how could you have abandoned me after the accident? Tell me, because I want to know.”
Kevwe’s gaze held hers, and in the depths of his eyes, Efe saw all the emotions she’d wanted to see him suffer. Pain, doubt, and fear, were emotions that had wracked her as she struggled to get over him, and along with sorrow, need, and helplessness, they still plagued her. A mask of anger fell over his face, tightening his lips before he turned away. He threw up his hands, walked two steps towards the hospital building then stopped.
Efe noticed the uneven gait immediately, and her mind whirled. The last weeks she’d spent in Benin before finally leaving the city came to her mind. Nobody had said anything about an accident. But Kevwe’s limp was real, and when she looked closer, she noticed a large scar on the back of his head.
Kevwe turned to Efe, and the reason he was in Abuja. He wouldn’t apologize for surprising her. She owed him an explanation, so he could put closure on their past together. Who would’ve thought her a betrayer, and at the time he needed her most? He recalled their days of love, then the day he finally came to, weeks after the accident. How, if not for Ofure, he might have died.
Efe stood in silent shock. Kevwe had been in an accident? It was shocking to know she could’ve lost him, and not known. Could she be wrong about his rejection, and he only turned her away because of his handicap? And, while she’d cried only for lost love, he’d suffered both physical and as emotional wounds?
“Efe, why did you leave me? Was it truly because of my injuries or the lure of America?” Kevwe searched her face as he asked questions which had kept him awake for long nights in the past, wondering if falling in love with her ten years ago had been a mistake.
“Kevwe, I didn’t leave you!” she said, blinking furiously against welling tears. Close up, her gaze flew over him, and she noted all the changes, big and small.
The wall she’d built around her heart cracked then, and in the next minute, she stood before him. She cupped his chin in her palm, and smoothed a finger along the faint line running from his ear and into his collar. Her other hand traced the scar on his temple, above the thick eyebrow, and then she broke down into loud sobs, crumpling into his chest.
Kevwe didn’t understand her game, but he couldn’t help himself. A part of him wanted to rejoice at her pain, but the sound of her tears brought him no joy. Rather, feeling her against him brought memories of sweet kisses from bygone years. His arms noted how she’d grown and matured, her fuller breasts, and more rounded hips.
Tears almost escaped his eyes as he held her tight, and a damp circle stained the front of his shirt when he finally pushed her away.
“I didn’t even know you had an accident or any injuries…” She didn’t look at him, fumbling in her handbag for something to wipe her face. Being in his arms had felt so poignant, and she wished it was so easy to forget everything and remain there.
“Please, don’t tell me that!” Kevwe grated from between clenched teeth, hardening his heart against the flood of memories. “You surely knew!”
Efe stopped sniveling and lifted her face slowly from the wet hanky in her hands. Kevwe’s voice had been soft, at the same time, there was a hard edge to it. She searched his face and found only angry defensiveness. Her heart felt like a brittle shard of ice that would shatter if he made the accusation one more time.
Kevwe laughed, not because he was amused, but he didn’t want to be trapped into a corner by the tears burning beneath the surface of her eyes. “My father sent several messages to tell you about my accident.”
“I didn’t get them!” Efe shouted, almost falling as dizzy blood rushed in her ears. She wound her arms round her midriff for strength, feeling terrible Kevwe believed she’d abandoned him. She’d loved Kevwe with everything in her, and would’ve stood by him through anything.
“But when you finally came,” he continued as if she hadn’t spoken, “You handed over our ring and said you couldn’t marry me. You didn’t want a crippled man for life. So pardon me for accepting you left, because I didn’t see you by my side when it mattered most.”
His voice became more intense with each word, and the unbounded rage struck at her. It beat her back to their years in UniBen, her final days in Warri, and her first years in the States. She remembered the constant state of loss and pain she’d been left with, and the nightmares that had choked her with the dead remains of their love. She could not deal with it here while he gloated. She stared at him with tear-soaked eyes till he stopped.
She fished in her handbag and then thrust a business card at him, “Contact me when you’re ready to listen to my own version of events. I think we’re done here.”
Kevwe grabbed her arm as she passed by him, twisting her to face him. They stared at each other, breathing hard. He wasn’t sure if it was passion or anger that filled him, and he didn’t know whether to wrap her in a hug, or shake her till her teeth rattled.
She looked up and met his eyes. “Release me, now.”
For someone who seemed plain enraged, he was doing a lot of holding on to her. What did he want? Could he want more than just an explanation from her? Was there any hope for them?
“So you can run off to your American heaven again?” Kevwe snarled, and then turned to stalk into the building.