They first met in his office. Victor ran a diagnostics outfit in one of the plushest areas of the Nigerian capital – a clinic you went to if you wanted people who knew what they were doing. She had come seeking a second opinion with regard to a blood test she had taken somewhere else. From the second he laid eyes on Patricia Ezekwe, Victor Cobham thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He knew her by reputation; Trisha was the industrious young woman behind a lifestyle brand whose products were sweeping through the African continent like wildfire. Stories of her intelligence preceded her. She looked as good as she sounded; her voice was like music to his ears and the stories of her intelligence preceded her. From what he had heard, brands paid her to mention them on social media. He didn’t even understand how that worked, but it seemed to work well for her. She was one of the richest, most eligible spinsters in Abuja. Her honesty was refreshing; if she didn’t think something was a good fit for her brand, she would refuse to touch it. She expected the same of the staff employed across the businesses that made up Trisha’s Emporium – there was a website through which she sold clothes and other fashion items, sourced from upcoming African designers; a luxury concierge shopping service for the super-wealthy looking into specific pieces of real estate all over the world; and a healthy eating mini-empire, which was responsible for the creation and marketing of cakes, smoothies, fruit drinks, cereals and alkaline water. That was how Trisha managed to have women of different classes, ages and financial standing falling over her – she had at least one product or service aimed at them.
It turned out she had been right to seek a second opinion on her blood test; the previous laboratory results had been flawed due to what turned out to be a clerical error. Victor felt an immense rush of relief, when he told her what she needed to know. Asking her out, hadn’t been as easy. There were so many reasons for her not to want him. His last girlfriend had said as much, which was part of the reason that she had become an ex. He didn’t even like remembering her. So sour was the taste she had left in his mouth. Yet, there were a lot of things about Trisha that made him feel inadequate.
Victor was one of the most eligible bachelors in the city, but he didn’t see himself that way. He was consumed with work and didn’t really have time to date. It didn’t help that there weren’t very many prospects for him to date. The ones who were actually available seemed incapable of holding a conversation. Oh, they were physically beautiful, but they tended to fall short in the brains department; there appeared to be some sort of competition among women to see who could be the least intelligent. It was like it was a badge of honour or something. But it was obvious that Trisha had not received that memo. What was all the more frustrating was that there was no way she would be interested in him.
Trisha found it frustrating, too. She thought she felt vibes that told her that this guy liked her. Yet, he confused her. He wouldn’t get too close to her, always acted like he was afraid of touching her. In the end, she was the one who asked him out.
It was something he savoured, jut as much as their kisses. He also enjoyed talking to her and being with her. She was very energetic, and she had a heart of gold. When he told her that he had liaised with some ophthalmologists to quietly give out cataract operations to people who could not afford them, Trisha was dumbfounded. She just did not understand why he was so quiet about it. True, he was telling her but there was no media coverage whatsoever. It took Trisha the next three months to learn a lot of things about him – that he was intelligent and dedicated, kind and thoughtful. She also discovered that she was in love with him.
He told her he loved her. So, the next turn of events shocked her. One day they were talking about the future, the next, she received an email from him saying that he didn’t think it wasn’t a good idea for them to continue their relationship! When she tried to call him, he ignored her calls. As he did all the text messages she sent. He didn’t explain. That was when she got really angry and shot back with a truly scathing email. How dare he do this to her? To them? But his reply had been a curt “Leave me alone.” That really burned. There was no way she was going to his house or office. If he didn’t want to be with her, fine!
She tried to move on with her life. The only way she knew how was to immerse herself in work. She took on more projects than she was physically capable of completing. She just wanted to ensure that she didn’t even have time to think. She lost weight. She snapped at erring staff and fired one person. She walked into two deals that turned out to be scams and lost money. Nothing could stop thoughts of him from flitting across her mind just before she dropped off to sleep after she had worked herself to exhaustion every night. Nothing could stop the hot tears she involuntarily shed as she showered every morning. And nothing could stem the terror she felt that they would run into each other.
There were times when Trisha planned what she would say to him should they meet. For over six months, she made sketchy plans. She went over them, again and again in her mind. The more she thought, the less sense everything made. She knew she wasn’t making excuses for him, but she knew something wasn’t adding up. So, she went digging. She searched for a secret wife, children, a gay partner even. Yet, all her searches came up empty. She began to dig deeper. She knew that many people said it was impossible for young people to be really wealthy and successful, particularly in Abuja, without dabbling in the occult. Some of that had even been said about her. She laughed when she heard it. The only god that Trisha believed in, was Science. She counted herself her only demon. She worked hard and smart, trusted her instincts, tried not to beat herself up over her mistakes, and treated life as a learning curve with exciting stops. That was the real secret behind her success. Yet, that was not to say that others didn’t believe and do differently.
She had heard of rituals in which people were compelled to sacrifice those they loved in exchange for stupendous wealth. Had Victor dabbled in something similar? She nearly drove herself crazy wondering. Yet, the more she thought about it, the more convinced she was that that wasn’t the case. Her driver felt sorry for her and begged her to leave it alone. Sometimes, men led women on and got tired of them. Yet, Trisha knew that the man she had dated, wasn’t like that. True, many women said the same thing as they tried to overlook, excuse and justify the loutish behaviour of the unsuitable men they had chosen. Trisha would have been satisfied if she knew this was her case, but she knew it wasn’t. Nothing could have prepared her for the news she received a year after Victor broke up with her.
A mutual acquaintance told her Victor had actually been fighting cancer. He had received a terrible prognosis and had been three months to live the day before he sent her the awful email that had made her heart stop.
A feeling of déjà-vu swept over Trisha as her heart faltered again. This time, her tears were tinged with relief, not just because her conviction that he hadn’t been playing her had proven true but also because Victor had beaten the prognosis and was now officially cancer-free. There was more. Their mutual acquaintance said that Victor had admitted to her, that he still loved Trisha – desperately so – but that she would never want him. He hadn’t just been trying to save her from widowhood, he had also been trying to save himself from rejection.
Two words in the email that made his world stop, yet gave Victor hope.
This is an excerpt from “Because Home Is …” – the new book by Chioma Nnani, released by The Fearless Storyteller House Emporium Ltd. Click HERE to find out more about “Because Home Is”, order your own copy of “Because Home Is …” or reach Chioma Nnani