These women are every woman: Jasmine, the 30 year old single Pharmacist; Anthonia, the 28 year old unmarried nurse; Moremi, the 31 year old engaged social worker (and occasional tailor); Offiong, the 30 year old wife, mother, and Lawyer; and Ebele, the 31 year old wife, mother, and bank manager. Individually, they’ve got their own issues in their homes, but collectively, they are every woman.
Today, it’s Anthonia’s turn to share.
Strong – that is what my girls would describe me as, but there are some days, like today that I do not want to be strong. Being strong has its advantages of course, but sometimes I am weak. Sometimes, I need someone else to tell me that what I am doing is stupid; sometimes I need someone to hear me out, give me their shoulder to cry on, and wipe my tears for me afterwards. But that luxury doesn’t come with being strong. When you’re strong, everyone comes to you for strength, but no one ever remembers that you may need some yourself.
I don’t really think that I am stronger than the rest of the girls, but I just have a knack for seeing things the way they are. If I must be foolish, I want to do so with both eyes open, which is something that Mo’ is not capable of doing. Or maybe she is, but she just doesn’t want to admit it to us. Ebby on the other hand acts like a worm. She takes every insult and viciousness from Uzo on a platter of gold. Everyday, his malevolence climbs to a higher level, and everyday, Ebby becomes a little more foolish than she was the previous day. But I am not here to talk about Ebby and her boneless back, or Mo’ and her perpetual denial; I am here to talk about myself.
My relationship with Byron is the longest one I have ever had, albeit it has been an off and on relationship. Right now, I do not even know the state of our relationship; I guess we are kind of hanging in limbo. He still calls me his woman, but I have refused to call him my man…even though I let him take me to bed like I am his wife. It is the strange situation of our relationship that makes it hard for me to make a decision about my situation. It baffles me that I did all I could to avoid my current situation, but some how fate would not pass me by. Okay, maybe I did not do everything in my power, but the question is, how do I tell Byron?
Truth is that I am still very much in love with Byron, but I have not been able to get over the hurt of him sleeping with that heifer, Nicole. Yes, we were having problems at the time, but since when did that become a reason to cheat? It was not just that he slept with Nicole, but he was also careless enough to get her pregnant. Now, whenever I see his daughter, Christy, I feel a pang of anger towards her. Granted, she is beautiful, but I hate her momma!
My girls are indifferent about Byron. They do not dislike him, but the fact that he is an African American gives them the heebie jeebies. They just do not trust African American guys; they think they are all players who will get me pregnant and run for the hills. Those heifers seem to have forgotten that I am half Nigerian and half African American. Besides, it was my Nigerian father who cheated on my African American mother, but of course, no one seems to remember that fact.
So why is Byron still in my life? Because I can’t have it any other way. If there is one thing you should know about me by now, it’s the fact that I always call it as it is. I have tried numerous times to let Byron go – hence the off and on relationship we have been having, but it has just been very difficult. You see, Byron and I click. Yes, he cheated on me, but in spite of that, we just click. I am comfortable with him; he compliments me. I am the hot-headed one, and he is the calm one. Byron knows how to calm me down; he knows how to make me feel special, and I love that about him. When I’m angry, he lets me be angry and say all the volatile things that come to my mouth; he knows I will apologize. I know I am a lot of work, and I know that it is not easy dealing with me, but Byron is just so patient with me.
Enough of the mushy details. Byron and I have a date this evening – even though I have refused to call it a date. I told him we were just hanging out as friends. Of course, I know I am only kidding myself, and I know he knows I am only kidding myself. I’m excited about my date with Byron; in fact, I am as giddy as a school girl. Byron has always been a romantic man, and I know he will not disappoint me this time – especially since he is trying to convince me to come back to him. And if I muster up the courage, which I hope I do, I will tell him what is going on.
I was just perfuming myself when Byron called me.
“Hey,” I answered.
“Baby, what are you doing?” He asked.
“Getting ready, Byron. What’s the problem?” I asked.
“Nothing really, but uh, do you mind if we take a little detour before we go on our date?”
“Detour? To where?”
“I need to drop something off at Lee’s house. It’ll only take a minute.”
“Who is Lee?”
He hesitated before he said, “Uhm, this friend of mine.”
I sensed he was keeping something from me. “Byron, what are you hiding?”
“He’s Nicole’s older brother, baby.”
My blood was boiling. I was about to become a volcano. “Nicole?! You’re taking me to Nicole’s brother’s house? Why? So he can mock me?”
“Nia, calm down, baby. He is not even home. I just need to drop off my X-BOX and game pads , and his house is on our way.”
“Is Nicole there?”
“Of course not, Nia. I have the keys to his house. He’s at work right now.”
I wanted to comment on the fact that I did not know they were close enough for him to even have Lee’s keys, but I kept it to myself. I wanted to ask him if Lee was the one that hooked him up with Nicole, but I did not. I wanted to ask if Lee knew he was no longer with Nicole and planning to get back with me, but I did not ask him that either. I did not want to ruin the moment with too many questions. I thought about saying I did not want to go, but then I changed my mind. Who knows, Lee might have connived with his sister and left her at home, so that she and Byron could get back together, and I was not going to let that happen. Nope, not on my watch!
I agreed to go with him to Lee’s house – whoever this Lee was. When he got to my house, he came upstairs to get me. He could have just called me and I will come outside, but he opted to come in. He brought me flowers – peach colored roses. I thought it was a weird color because Byron had never gotten me peach-colored roses before.
“Why peach?” I asked out of curiosity.
“It means desire. That’s what the lady at the flower shop told me. You don’t like them?”
I blushed, and said, “I love them!”
“I love you.” He looked like a lonely, little puppy when he said it. I wanted to say it back, but I did not. I was not going to be gotten that easily. I was not going to be sold at such a cheap price.
“I’ll go put them in the vase.” I told him and sashayed into the kitchen to get the vase.
It was when I started dating Byron that I had to buy several vases because he bought me flowers so many times – sometimes day after day. During the week of our anniversary, he bought me flowers every day for seven days; every day he bought a different bouquet of flowers that signified something different. He was just so romantic. I sat the vase on my dinning table. The roses looked so damn good. When I looked at Byron’s face, he did not look too happy. He looked sad.
“Byron, what’s wrong with you?” I asked.“Nia, I just wish you would forgive me and let us move forward. You know I love you with all that I’ve got. Nicole was a mistake; I should not have gotten involved with her, and I know that now. Unfortunately, she is the mother of my child, so there is nothing I can do about that now. You know I have always dreamt of the day you will be the mother of my children. And it’s not too late, baby. Please.” His mouth may have been begging, but it was his eyes that were really doing the pleading. I knew he was being honest, and I had no doubt in my heart that he truly loved me, but Nicole…
“Byron, can we not talk about this right now, please? Let’s just enjoy the moment, please.”
He looked down at his feet, brought his head back, looked me square in the eye, and said, “Okay.”
We drove to Lee’s house in silence. I wanted to hold Byron’s hands and tell him that I still loved him very much, if not more, but the thought of Nicole would not let me do it. I could deal with the affair, but what I could not deal with was the presence of Christy as a constant reminder of the affair. Not to mention the presence of Christy meant the presence of Nicole, and I knew that heifer still wanted Byron. I knew what getting back with Byron would entail. Even though Nicole was currently living in California, I knew she would move back to Maryland as soon as she heard I got back with Byron. I knew she would do everything to jeopardize my relationship with Byron. She would call late at night and demand that he take them to the hospital. She would demand that he baby-sit in her house. She would ask for more money than he can afford. I might end up paying Christy’s child support a time or two. Was I willing to deal with all this drama?
Finally, we got to Lee’s house. We stepped out of the car, and Byron popped his trunk. I figured he was trying to bring out the game pads, but he had a music system in there.
“I thought you were only bringing your game box and game pads.”
“Yeah, they’re right here, but he also needs this. He’s having a little party tomorrow.” He said.
A party, huh? How come I wasn’t told about this? How come I was not invited? Before you start thinking I am an insecure woman who cannot trust her man, let me tell you that it is nothing like that. I trusted Byron before, which is why I did not know he was screwing around on me until it became a baby. So you can understand why I am a little skeptical about trusting him again.
Byron looked at me and instantly read my mind. “I didn’t tell you because I’m not going. I was hoping we could spend some more time together.” He said.
He was about to say something, but changed his mind and said, “Can you open the door for me while I grab these things?” He handed me the keys to the house.
I walked ahead of Byron to open the door to the house.
“You sure he’s not home?” I don’t know why I asked.
“Yeap. His car isn’t here either. I told you he’s at work.”
I finally got to the door, opened it up and stepped in to hold the door open for Byron when I saw the unthinkable.
“Oh my God!” I screamed and covered my eyes with both my hands, dropping the keys on the floor.
There was a man and a woman on the couch getting dirty. He had her left breast in his mouth and he was fondling the other one. He sprang up from the couch immediately.
“Who the hell are you?!” He screamed.
Byron had already come in, but he was not talking. He just stood there looking. I still had my eyes covered with my eyes.
“Err, Nia, I think you should open your eyes.”
“Byron, what the hell are you doing here?”
“This is so embarrassing.” The lady said.
That was when I opened my eyes, and refused to believe what I saw. Oh, hell no!
“Offy!” I screamed.
She looked up at me, and I could tell she was wishing the ground will open up and swallow her. There my friend stood in front of me with one breast sticking out of her bra and her shirt completely unbuttoned. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. What kind of freaky shit had I walked into?
She stammered. “Errr, Nia…it’s err… it’s not… it’s not what it looks like. I can… I can ex… uhm, oh my God… I don’t know what to say.”
I was furious. “Offiong, you better start talking before I tear another hole into your ass.”
She looked confused, like she could not even remember where she was, or how she got there.
“You two know each other?” The strange guy whom I assumed to be Lee asked.
“Shut the hell up!” I barked at him. “Who the hell are you?!” I was furious. From the way I was sounding, one would think I was Offy’s mother, instead of her friend. Not only was I her friend, but I was even the youngest in the group. Yet, I was the fiercest; go figure.
“Hey, don’t talk to me like that, bitch!” He barked at me.
“Woah! Watch it, man. That’s my woman you’re talking to.”
“This is N—” He tried to ask Byron.
Before he could finish his question, I marched right up to him and gave him a good ol’ slap across his face. He was too shocked to do anything. What was he gonna do? My man – I mean, Byron was right behind me. I was sure he would think twice before calling another woman a bitch.
“Nia!” Offy exclaimed, now fully clothed.
“Don’t you dare Nia me, or else I’ll give you yours!” I spat back at her. She knew I meant every word of it.
“Nia, I can explain.” She said, crying. Sure, now she can cry. A minute ago she had some jackass sucking on her titties.
“Offy, how could you?! You should be ashamed of yourself. This is trifling! What the hell were you thinking?! You’re acting like a freaking slut!” I was angry. I did not care why Offy was doing what she was doing, but I was very disappointed.
With hurt written all over her face, she said, “Nia, how could you—“
“How could I what?! I could do plenty more, stupid heifer! I could call Austin right about now and tell him how his goody two shoes wife is having her tit sucked by a jackass; how about that?!”
She was afraid. She knew I could do it; she knew I could very well be crazy enough to tell Austin all about this stupid thing she just did. I may be crazy, but I am very serious about commitments. How could Offy of all people pull some stunt like this? I could have expected Mo’ and her immature, selfish self to do it, or Ebby out of frustration, but Offy?? What the hell was going on here? Better yet, what would have happened if I had not walked in?
She ran to me and grabbed my right arm. “Nia, please! You cannot tell Austin anything about this. It was a mistake. Please tell me you’re joking.” She cried.
“Am I laughing?”
She shook her head to give me an answer.
“Alright then. So you know I’m not. How could you? Get away from me, don’t touch me! You have a daughter, Offy. Where is Ekanem? Do you even know?”
She just kept on sobbing. I felt no pity for her; instead I was disgusted. This was the last thing I expected from Offy. I mean, she was married for crying out loud. I didn’t know what was going on between Offy and Austin, but I did not care to know either. Whatever it was, it was not a good enough reason to cheat on him. Oh God, I was about to puke! I mean, look at the guy who she was cheating on Austin with. I would not let him touch me if his life depended on it. How eww was this?!
I looked at Lee with pure disgust. I’m pretty sure it was not his fault; I mean he was not the married one…Offy was. Byron was positively confused. He was probably wondering why I was acting like Offy was my wife. Well, I couldn’t help it! I hold my friends to a certain standard, and right now, Offy was way below it.
“Grab your shit; we’re leaving right now.” I ordered her.
It didn’t take her more than a second to put her shoes on and grab her purse.
I turned to Byron and said, “I’m so sorry, but I might have to take a rain check for today.”
“It’s okay. Call me.” He gave me a kiss on my lips. I could see the confused look on Offy’s face.
She was probably wondering if Byron and I were back together again, but of course she could not ask. She was in big trouble.
“So you’re just gonna let her boss you around?” Lee asked.
I could not believe that fool had the nerve to talk. I shot him a you-better-be-quiet-for-your-own-sake look. He deliberately refused to meet my eyes with his.
Byron said, “Lee, drop it, please.”
He obliged and walked into what I hoped would be hell, although I knew it was probably his bedroom.
I decided to drive Offy to my house. I needed to get to the bottom of this. While we drove, the only time I spoke to her was when I asked her if any of the girls knew about her affair. She told me Jazz did. I called Jazz and told her to come to my house as soon as she got off work. I was pissed for several reasons. First and foremost, Offy was a married woman and mother. How could she stoop so low? Secondly, I had finally gotten a day off from work, and I was supposed to be on a romantic date with Byron, but there I was with Offy instead.
Offy kept talking to me. She apologized over and over, but I did not say anything back to her. Why was she apologizing? I was not her husband. Besides, I did not feel like her apology was sincere. I felt like she was only saying it because she did not want me to tell Austin and the girls about her fifteen minutes of shame. The good thing was that she knew I did not care about what she wanted me to do or not do. I was going to do whatever I wanted to do, regardless of how it made her feel.
Jazz was already at my house when we got there. It never occurred to me to ask her how come she got there so fast. From the look on Offy’s face, Jazz figured out that whatever we were discussing could not be good. But she did not bring up Lee’s name.
When everyone was settled inside my house, I spoke up.
“Jazz, did you know Offy has been having an affair with Lee?”
She looked confused. I thought she was trying to pretend, but she was not. She looked at me, and then at Offy, and back at me again. “Who the hell is Lee?”
Before I could say anything, Offy spoke up. “Lee is Wesley. His friends call him Lee.”
“Oh.” That was all she said.
“Well?” I asked Jazz. I was losing my patience. “Did you know she has been having an affair with him?”
Jazz gave Offy a should-I-tell-her look. Offy must have said yes. Jazz said, “Well, she told me about Wesley yesterday, and she promised to break things off with him today. What’s the problem?”
“Offy, why don’t you go ahead and tell her what the problem is.”
Offy did not want to talk. She must have been too ashamed to talk. But she knew I was not going to let her get away with it, so finally, she spoke up. “Nia walked in on us.”
“You and Wesley? Doing what?” Jazz asked, puzzled.
Offy refused to talk. She was sitting on the couch with her face buried in her hands, sobbing. I’m pretty sure she wished she could become invisible. But that only happens on TV.
“Go on, tell her, Offy.” I encouraged her.
I knew Offy was not going to say anything, and since I was still hoping to salvage some time for my date with Byron, I decided to talk.
“Byron and I walked in on Offy getting her tits sucked by Wesley.”
Jazz’s jaw dropped. She was absolutely mystified. She blinked a few times to make sure she heard me right, and then she turned to Offy, and said, “Please, tell me she’s kidding.”
span>Offy shook her head to confirm Jazz’s worst fear. “Offy! How on earth did this happen? Yesterday, you said you had never even kissed him; were you lying?”
Offy shook her again, crying.
Jazz asked me how I stumbled upon our dear friend and Wesley. I explained to her that Lee was Byron’s friend or acquaintance. I told her how we had gone there to drop a few things off and ended up watching a free foreplay flick. Offy cried and cried some more. Jazz yelled at her, and then went ahead to console her. I was sick of the whole charade, so I went ahead and called Byron. He was very excited that we could still hang out, although it was already late, and we had missed our reservation at the restaurant. He suggested we go some place else, but I told him I just wanted to talk to him in his house. After all the drama with Offy, I decided that I would tell Byron about my situation.
While I waited for Byron, Offy and Jazz were busy crying; yes, Jazz had joined Offy in shedding crocodile tears. I was so sick to my stomach, I refused to pay them any time. Byron got to my house, and came upstairs to get me as usual. There was an awkward silence between him and Offy. I left the crying fools in my house, and told them to lock up whenever they were done crying.
When we got to Byron’s house, we had some ice cream and cake, and then I decided to let the cat out of the bag.
“Byron, there is something I need to tell you, and I don’t know how you will take this news because I am still trying to get a grip of it myself.”
Confused, he said, “It sounds serious. What’s the problem, baby?”
“I have been having mixed feelings about getting back with you, and now—“
I was interrupted by the ringing phone.
Byron picked his phone up from the side stool and looked at it; the called ID read Nicole. There it was – my problem. Being with Byron meant constant interruptions by Nicole. Byron signaled with his hands that he be excused to take his call. I could not hear her, but I listened to Byron.
“No, Nicole! How many times do we have to go through this? You’ll what? You must be out of your damn mind if you think I will do that! Bring my child back, Nicole! You’re sick, you know that? Go to hell!” He hung up. “Shit!”
He looked pissed, stressed, angry, sad, hurt all at once. Nicole was giving him more drama than he cared for. He told me she was demanding that he pay her three thousand dollars a month, or he will never see his daughter.
Of all the things I could say, the only thing I did say was, “How do you know she’s yours?”
He gave me an angry look. “Don’t start that talk again, Nia!”
“I’m just saying—“
“Well, stop saying!”
I did not utter another word. My fears were coming true. He would always pick his child over me, and the mother always comes with the child. If I were his child, I would want him to pick me over his girlfriend too, but now that I was the girlfriend, I was not liking the perks that came with it. Things were a lot more complicated than either of us needed it to be. Why couldn’t he just get a Judge to order a DNA test? When he asked Nicole for one, she threatened to take his child away permanently if he ever brought it up again, and he knew she could win him in court; after all, her father was one of the best attorneys in America. Where did that leave me? Was I supposed to run while I was still ahead? But then again, I was not really ahead, was I? Or was I supposed to stand by Byron and support him through good and bad? I wanted to believe things couldn’t get any worse than they were already, but who was I kidding?
“Byron,” I called his name softly.
“Yeah.” He looked over at me and said, “Sorry I snapped at you.”