Can I ever find another like him?

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James A. Garfield once said:  “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”

Izogie starred at her phone with a deep frown. Tunde just ended their conversation without calling her by his pet name for her: D-vine. At the beginning of their relationship he said she was divinely packaged for him because she was everything he wanted in a partner. It had made Izogie laugh then but over time she had got used to the name. As she sat alone in her office, she reflected on events of the past weeks.

Tunde had missed the little party to celebrate her promotion as junior session head at the private school where she taught biology. His reason was that he was laden with too much work at the bank. She had overlooked it. Then when her mother had her thanksgiving service for recovery from an eye surgery, he had been absent too. Now he just cancelled their date for the weekend. The reason was that he had an urgent call from the office for Saturday. For crying out loud, he was on leave and he was in customer care. He could have found a way to squeeze them into his schedule even if it was just twenty minutes.

There was a knock on her door and a head poked into the office. It was Tina, her best friend and colleague. “Hey boss, are you up for lunch?” the woman asked with a smile

The petite mother of three had started calling her “boss” since her promotion. “Sure,” Izogie replied as she got her wallet from her table drawer. At the cafeteria, Izogie paid for both their meals. “My treat,” Izogie said in response to Tina’s confused frown. When they had settled down to their lunch of white rice and beef stew, Tina said: “Start talking. You are giving me a treat today and it is not even my birthday. Let it out – my ears are open.” Izogie chuckled with a shake of head disturbing her braids. “I’m afraid, Tunde is growing cold feet.” Tina’s eyes widened. “Already? But you people are barely four months old.” Izogie raised three fingers. “Three months, a week and two days.” Tina chuckled as she spooned rice into her mouth. “What happened? He does not love you anymore?”

“It’s my instincts,” Izogie replied. Then she went ahead to narrate Tunde’s absenteeism and his manner of relating with her. “Are you not jumping into conclusion?” Tina asked. “No. The Tunde I know is a focused person. If he is doing anything, it is for a reason. He was excited about this relationship even much more than I was. He had this grand picture of our future together. He even said …” Izogie broke off as a lump clogged her throat. She opened the bottled water on the table and took a sip.

Tina starred at her and sighed. “If you feel so strong about it, then talk to him,” she said. Izogie dropped her spoon and looked at her friend with eyes full of conflicting emotions. “I’m scared,” she whispered.

Tina’s hand found hers beneath the table. “It will be fine,” she said softly. “He stays or he leaves. Either way you will know where you stand. You don’t have the time for canopy ministry. People should not think you have someone when he’s not really there. God forbid that for you my dear.”

Izogie smiled despite the ache in her heart. “I… don’t… maybe I should just go with the flow. Does my boyfriend have to be involved in all the events of my life? He has his own things to handle and he…”

“Stop!” Tina snapped beneath her breath “Face it.” Izogie nodded as she stabbed a piece of meat and shoved it into her mouth.

Despite Izogie’s promise to her friend, she did not have the courage to address Tunde until about two months later. It was the day after her thirty-first birthday. Tunde had not called her on her birthday. When she called him later in the day, he said he was so busily engaged in the office that he had forgotten.

That Saturday afternoon, she went to his two room apartment in G.R.A. When he opened the door to her knock, he wore only a singlet and white boxer shorts. He had been sleeping.

Izogie felt warm inside as she eyed the dust of dark hair on his bare arms and legs. “Hey, Izzy. Didn’t know you were coming. Come in,” he croaked out as he rubbed his eyes. “Sorry, I just needed to see you about something,” Izogie replied as she followed him into the living room. He turned on the ceiling fan and sat on the rugged floor leaning on the sofa. Izogie sat on the adjacent sofa.

“So what’s up? Is everything okay?” he asked stretching his limbs and yawning. “Do you want to break up with me?” Izogie asked abruptly. He looked up at her sharply with a cocked brow. He starred at her for some seconds, opened his mouth and shut it. He looked away crossing his arms over his chest. The silence spoke more volumes to Izogie than any words would have. Her heart constricted. “Why?” Izogie asked despite the pain in her heart. He sighed. “I don’t think we are compatible.” “Compa- what?” of all excuses this was the least Izogie expected. “What have we been doing all this while?” Izogie asked “from the day we agreed to start dating, you…we had a connection. We have the same values, we believe in the same things, heck- we even have the same opinions about movies. We are fun. I …I … don’t know which other compatible you are talking about.”

“Izzy, I don’t want to hurt you but I … I cannot take you to my parents,” Tunde said.

Izogie looked up at the ceiling as she bit her inner lips to hold back the sudden tears that welled up in her eyes. She dare not cry. “Are you ashamed of me Tunde?”

“No,” he said not looking at her “I …. I do really like you…. It’s just …. I …”

“What is it?” Izogie asked impatiently.

“I cannot settle with an older woman.”

The room was very silent except for the whirr of the ceiling fan. Izogie rolled her eyes. “You just realized that?”

“I did not know,” Tunde replied as he got up and sat on the sofa. It was then he looked at her. “I saw your age on the CV you gave me to help you submit and … I thought that was your real age. Your brother told me your age when I told him about my plans for your twenty-eight birthday. ”

Izogie started to laugh, shaking her head. “Wow, I see. That’s why when I wanted to tell you my age you said you already knew- that you were okay with it.”

“My family cannot…”

“Your family or you?”

He raised his hands in defeat. “Okay, I cannot handle the three years gap between us. Gosh, you’re the same age with my elder sister who’s got three kids- she’s like a mother to me. I just… it’s …”  “Wow, Tunde, wow,” Izogie murmured, shaking her head.

“I’m sorry for ghosting on you all this while. I did not know how to tell you. I did not want to hurt you either. If only…”

“It’s alright Tunde,” Izogie got up to her feet “Goodbye.” Tunde got up and moved to hug her but she stepped back. “Tunde, a hug? Seriously?” she asked with an incredulous look. “Can’t we be friends? We were friends for two years Izzy. I don’t…” “Hey, stop it Tunde,” Izogie held her hand up “either you are mine or we’re nothing.” She walked out of the room without looking back.

She praised herself for not breaking down as she got into her car and drove away. She drove until she got to a fast food restaurant which they had frequented in the past. She pulled into the parking lot and went into the restroom. She pulled down the toilet cover and sat down. Only then she let the tears fall. Silent sobs racked her slim frame. The mist in her heart was gone but it hurt like hell. Tunde had been a brother, a friend and a lover. She thought she had found the one. She thought the search was over. She would have to start all over again, from the scratch. Would she ever find someone like him? She mourned the death of the blissful love life she had envisioned.

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