As is common in stories of this nature, little secrets never remain little for long. So it was with Remi and Olisa.
From the very first day they met, each felt an indisputable and inexplicable attraction to the other, and neither fought off that attraction. Olisa told Remi on that first day at Café Isabella, that he had a girlfriend back home in Nigeria. So, for all intents and purposes, they knew each other’s status relationship-wise. One was engaged to be married, and the other was in a long-term relationship headed for marriage. But neither of these factors deterred them from seeing each other.
Remi and Olisa saw each other almost every day for the rest of Olisa’s one-month vacation in Berlin. His plan to visit friends and relatives in other European countries was put on hold, and he decided instead to spend his entire holiday in Germany. The reason for that was of course, obvious: so he could he close to Remi.
After class each day, Olisa would take Remi out to lunch at different restaurants. From French to Dutch to Thai cuisine, Remi got to sample Berlin’s culinary delights at Olisa’s expense. After lunch, he would take her to see the sights and sounds of Berlin. Since he knew the city like the back of his hand, he was the perfect tour guide.
They visited art galleries, museums, historical buildings, parks, zoos and other attractions, including the Pergamon Museum, which Remi had begged Kayode to take her to see, and which he was always making excuses for not visiting. The excuses ranged from physical fatigue from working so hard at the office, to unfavorable weather since this was June, right in the middle of summer.
Since Olisa was taking her out to all these places, Remi stopped asking Kayode. He just assumed that she had finally realized he was not an outdoors type of guy. He had no idea that Remi had long since concluded that he was irredeemably anti-social and had given up any hopes of molding him into the man she wanted him to be. As far as Remi could see, that dream was dead, and she did not particularly care to revive it, since her own social life was in full bloom.
But as we know, Fate is a master meddler, never leaving things alone as they are. Change is Fate’s weapon, the uninvited guest that no man can keep away. If Remi had not been so wrapped up in this whirlwind romance with Olisa, she might have noticed that the man she was living with was changing. And nothing had spurred Kayode’s change in behavior, other than Remi’s aloofness.
She no longer cared if there was any food waiting for him after work, did not show any particular interest in his work life or career, and did not bother him with her usual requests. Kayode assumed that this withdrawal of affection and interest, was a direct result of her newfound freedom, that is, her language class and everything that came with it. He had no idea how close he was to the truth, and yet how far off the mark he was. Remi’s indifference caused a pronounced difference in Kayode.
Kayode began to open up his life to Remi, who he had kept at arm’s length since her arrival. He began to introduce her to the people in his social and professional circle. First of all, he introduced her to his closest friends, who by themselves were a curious bunch, as they came from other parts of Europe, and some of their names were difficult to pronounce. She got around that challenge, by giving them her own nicknames, a trick she had learnt from Olisa.
Kayode’s friends did not seem to mind their new names, either, and often joked that they would have to officially adopt these names sooner or later. Later on, she met some of his colleagues at work, including his supervisor, Mr. Bergdorf.
It was Mr. Bergdorf who first asked a very important question in a remarkable way: if they were engaged and they loved each other, when did they plan to get married? Their parents had asked this question, minus the “love factor,” in varying degrees of persistence over the last few weeks, but they had conveniently brushed it aside. However, there was something commanding, and urgent in Mr. Bergdorf’s voice that neither of them could ignore.
Following his advice, they picked a date that was exactly two months from that day: August 16th. Now that they had a definite date, they began to plan their wedding in earnest.
The first person Remi told about the wedding date was Olisa. He knew from day one that she was engaged, but hearing the actual wedding date from her lips threw him into a state of frenzy. She broke the news to him while they were both relaxing at Freibad Plötzensee, one of Berlin’s urban beaches. As soon as she made her announcement, he jumped off the blanket they were both lying on, stretched as it was on the sand. Then, he did something that puzzled Remi: he got down on both knees and begged her to cancel the wedding.
“Remi, please hear me out,” he pleaded in response to her protests.
Although she knew that whatever he was going to say would make her decision more difficult, she decided to And she granted him an audience.
“Happiness and duty are not the same thing. The luckiest people alive are the ones who find them both in a single person. A special person. Remi, if you’ll be the honest person I know you to be, you’ll admit that your happiness does not lie with Kayode. If you married him right now, it would only be out of a sense of duty because you came all the way to Berlin for his sake. You don’t love him. Your heart belongs to someone else–”
“And another woman’s heart belongs to you, Olisa!” Remi interrupted, eyes blazing. “Don’t try to force my hand when your hands are not clean. Do I need to remind you of Amaka?”
“I’m just dating her. It’s not like we’re engaged or anything,” Olisa said, sulking.
“I bet you that’s not what she’s thinking. Besides, should it matter? Should the absence of an engagement ring on her finger, somehow lessen the depth of your commitment to her?”
“You don’t know Amaka. She’s lazy and can’t cook–” he started.
“But you knew all this before you started dating her. What changed?”
Olisa offered no response. Remi paused, took a deep breath and continued.
“See, this won’t work with me. If you’re already bad-mouthing a woman who has known you longer than I have, then what do I have to look forward to? It’s only a matter of time before you start bad-mouthing me too. Besides … ” Remi said, tearing her eyes away from Olisa’s crestfallen face, “emotional decisions are the worst kind. I mean, look at us …”
“So, you think this was a mistake, don’t you? What we have means nothing to you,” Olisa said bitterly.
“No, that’s not what I … Well yes … You know what I mean–” Remi said.
“Look, Olisa, I feel bad … For Amaka’s sake. She doesn’t deserve what I … what we’ve done to her. Neither does Kayode,” Remi said with a sigh.
“I honestly don’t care about Kayode,” Olisa said, a cold look in his eyes.
“And you don’t care about Amaka too, from your account. So who do you care about, apart from yourself?” Remi replied angrily.
“I thought that the answer would be obvious to you by now,” Olisa said quietly, looking at her intently. Remi felt like someone had poured ice cold water on her. Just a few weeks back, she had felt hurt by Kayode’s lack of attention and general coldness to her. That hurtful feeling was still fresh in her heart, and she could never have dreamt that she would be the one hurting someone else. Or other people.
They left the beach soon afterwards. Olisa would be leaving for Nigeria within three days. Before they parted that afternoon, he reminded her that she had a decision to make: she had to choose between staying in Berlin to marry Kayode or eventually relocating back to Nigeria to pursue a relationship with Olisa. Olisa had made it clear that he would not be satisfied with a mere relationship with Remi. Marriage was his ultimate goal. And she had to let him know what her choice was before he left. She agreed.
With the weight of this decision on her shoulders, Remi returned to the apartment she shared with Kayode. That very evening she fell ill, and she knew that this illness could not be cured by any medicine. It was in vain that Kayode tried to convince her to go to the hospital to see a doctor. It was just a slight fever, which would soon pass, was her reply.
And in a sense, she was right.
It was a fever, the kind that is caused by extensive mental deliberation, aggravated by fear and anxiety. She did not go for her language class on those days, but spent hours holed up in her room, consumed with the fear that she would make the wrong decision.
Kayode, in these hours, called frequently to check up on her during the day, and was her faithful nurse when he arrived from work. He was attentive to her every need and saw to it that she was as comfortable as was possible.
However, on the second day of her strange malady, which she had told Kayode was a side effect of her monthly visits from Mother Nature, she was alone at home. Kayode had gone to work that morning. About two hours after he left, she woke up to find that the over-the-counter medication that she had been using was not on her nightstand as usual. She got up from her bed and began to look for it. It wasn’t in her room, or the kitchen or any of the common areas where it was likely to be.
Then, a thought occurred to her: Kayode had probably taken it to his room and forgot it there.
Convinced that this theory was the most plausible one, she lumbered to Kayode’s room, which was right next to hers. As a general rule, she never went to his room in his absence, out of respect for his privacy. But today was different. She genuinely needed something that was possibly in that room.
Kayode’s room was a lot neater than Remi’s own, owing to the fact that he was more finicky about putting items in specific places. He hated people moving things from where he was accustomed to leaving them. So, he had books – mostly hard backed books – organized by color and size on a tall book shelf facing his queen-sized bed. The in-built closet was closed, but Remi felt sure that if she opened it, she would find the clothes hanging neatly from the hangers.
His shoes were neatly packed into sectioned squares in a cube-shaped, shoe organizer made from a durable linen fabric. The entire room looked like a four-star hotel room before guests unpacked their luggage and made the room theirs. One could not help being impressed with the level of organization, especially since this room belonged to a man.
As Remi stepped in Kayode’s rather organized world, her first thoughts were to search in the side-table beside his bed, which doubled as his nightstand. The little table, made of cherry wood, had just one drawer. As soon as she pulled it out, she took one look at the interior and immediately saw that what she was looking for was not there. The drawer contained a single item: a leather-bound blue journal.
Ordinarily, Remi would have closed the drawer and continued her search in another part of the room, except for one thing: there was a single word handwritten in whimsical flourishes on the cover of the book. It was her name: Remi.
– to be continued –