At the market square where Jebolisa had her cosmetics and underwear store, Callista paid very little attention to the bustle of the market. She had come straight from Mario’s store to Jebolisa’s because her entire system ran riot with way too many confused thoughts, and hurts.
“He’s not lying, is he, because Mario isn’t the sort to lie. Chukwudi must have told him, in whatever way he’d chosen to say it, that he wanted nothing more than sex from me. He would say it, because that’s all he ever wanted from me.” It hurt more her pride now than her heart to admit it. “I was nothing more than a body he could use when it pleased him. I knew it then, Jebo. I can be honest enough to admit it to you, I knew he didn’t really care for me. And only used my body because I made it available to him.”
“He took advantage of your feelings for him, Cally, that’s what he did.” Jebolisa would not have her dear friend so debase herself. “I don’t understand how you came to have those feelings for him, but you did and knowing of them, Chukwudi preyed on you. He preyed on your innocence.”
“Not innocence, foolishness. I was foolish, Jebo. You, Mario, and maybe others wonder what I saw in him. I will tell you–his good looks. That was the first thing I saw.”
“It is the only thing worth seeing.”
Callista laughed at the caustic retort. “Maybe you’re right, maybe you’re wrong, I don’t know, but it was the first thing I noticed and it sent my very much untapped passion into a constant state of confusion. I tell you, Jebo, one look at the man used to make me quiver with so much lust, I was barely able to stop myself from tossing myself at him each time we saw.”
“A sight for sore eyes, no better,” Jebo muttered.
“A constant pull of temptation,” Callista said, smiling. “And he pulled at me; pulled me to him. But it wasn’t just passion, desire, lust. I was hungry for a man’s attention; I was desperate for it, and Chukwudi gave it. Not him first, but the first who did, didn’t last longer than mere weeks and he wasn’t even that attentive. But Chukwudi, he was attentive. Oh yes, he was, in the way he would walk up to me when everyone was looking and pretending they were not. He made it clear I was with him.”
Callista paused, and after a thought, remedied the last bit. “No, what he did was make it clear I was his. He liked things to belong exclusively to him, and I did. He had no competition and he knew he never was going to. I knew it too. Knowing it, that he was the only choice I had, the only man who chose to call me his girlfriend…”
“While he had many others,” Jebo grunted.
“Yes, he did, but I was one. Let us say this as it really was, at least this once,” Callista said, wanting it out of her, the whole ugly truth. Hoping to be rid of its power that way. “I was a girlfriend, Jebo, that was what kept me with Chukwudi–he provided me the chance to have what my age mates had, a man in their life. For three years, or close to it, I was no longer Callista who didn’t have any man who spared her a mere glance. Someone was looking at me, even when he made me grateful for each spared look.
“I was no longer alone, and lonely. I no longer felt undesirable, unwanted. I was no more a mould that attracted no attention. I taught myself–yes, I did, Jebo. I taught myself to believe he truly desired me, wanted me, cared for me. I taught myself the lesson that he alone noticed me because I was meant to be his alone. And I believed that lesson. It was easier to believe it. It made it easier to ignore the truth that I had to leave Chukwudi because he was no good.”
“I am sorry for I failed you as a friend,” Jebolisa said, feeling sad that she hadn’t been much help to a friend. “I knew of your disappointment with your physical nature, but always dismissed the feeling because I thought you were unnecessarily bothering yourself about something not that important. But what I should have done was find a way to make you feel better about yourself. I should have paid you more compliments.”
“I didn’t want compliments from a fellow woman. And you gave them, Jebo, more than others did. More than my own mother did.”
“I didn’t give enough. I didn’t tell you you had a beautiful, smooth skin. Or that you had nicely bowed legs. Or even that I envied constantly your naturally long hair.”
“You said that one” Callista said, laughed. “You said nice things, Jebo. You tried to tell me not to pay attention to my body, because a person is more than their body.”
“But we are women and our bodies are important to us, are they not?” That’s what she should have realised, Jebolisa thought. “We tend towards vanity and that’s as natural to us as breathing is to life. You may not have needed compliments from a fellow woman, but regularly hearing them would have boosted your confidence. It would have made you less susceptible to the likes of Chukwudi Udolisa.”
“Maybe it would have done so, I don’t know. But you did as much as you were capable of at the time, Jebo, and I have always been grateful for your honest friendship. I didn’t always listen when you talked to me, but I was happy you were there to talk, and listen, all the same.”
“I too am grateful and happy, have always been,” Jebolisa said, gave her an affectionate rub. “Anyway, tell me what you intend to do about Chukwudi’s fresh lies.”
“That’s what indeed they are, fresh lies.” This too she could now, and wanted to, admit. “I let him into my life and bed out of misplaced feelings of lust and gratitude, let him last longer in both places for same reason. When he came with his lie, I started to convince myself again to believe it, because I wanted to succumb to those old, misplaced feelings. I want marriage, a family of my own, and he was flashing in my face another thing I was desperate for. Even now, seated here and telling you and myself the truth, a part of my weak mind wants to believe there’s a possibility he might not be lying.”
“If he were not Chukwudi Udolisa, it would be possible, as anyone can realise the errors of their ways and change.”
“But he is Chukwudi, and I know now that even if he’s changed, it is not reason enough for us to reconcile. Lust and gratitude, and gratitude I shouldn’t have been feeling at that too, are not reason enough for a relationship. Definitely not reason enough for marriage.”
There it was, she had finally told herself the truth, and to the hearing of another. “I don’t have the feelings a relationship as deep as marriage require, Jebo. And he doesn’t have them for me. Also, if more truths are to be told, a man like Chukwudi is not the type I want to marry. I would feel constantly out of my depth, and there would be days I would be thinking more of killing him than loving him.”
“Nothing special there. You will feel that way about any other man, believe me,” Jebolisa said with a snort. “Just this morning, I was sorely tempted to hit my pestle over David’s head while we had an argument.”
Callista chuckled. “Well, maybe that part doesn’t count, but others do. I don’t want Chukwudi. I might still lust after him, and still afraid of being alone and lonely, but I’m not letting myself hold on to what is not real again. It was foolish to begin this farce with Mario just to taunt and evade him, and I’m going to bring an end to it. And when next Chukwudi shows his face, I will shove the truth at it.”
“Shove it hard and brutally,” Jebolisa recommended. “The man deserves no less.”
“It’s likely I will as that will give me pleasure,” Callista agreed, and felt herself tremble at the anticipation of that pleasure.