Weeks passed with agonizing slowness, during which Gabrielle and her children flew to the US to recuperate through therapy and a change of environment. Ifeoma seemed resentful, Ekene was confused, and Gabrielle was exhausted. Ifeoma resented Gabrielle for how quickly she ran into the arms of another man days after her husband’s death. The therapist insisted that Gabrielle should not sacrifice her happiness with Ike because her children would have a difficult adjustment to make; the purpose of the therapy was to help them make the adjustment over time. Gabrielle and Ike did not contact each other through out their stay in the US. She needed time to focus on her kids and bring them back to a state of normalcy, and he wanted her to decide if she still wanted to be with him after her problems had been solved.
She missed him in her mind, she missed him in her bed, she missed him in her world. She missed him so terribly that his absence felt like a physical pain. By the time she was ready to accept that her therapist was right and maybe she could have both–the man she wanted and stable children–she was almost wild with longing for him.
They flew back to Nigeria after six weeks in the US. She could take the separation no longer. She waited until her kids were busy with their daily activities, then took the Toyota Camry and drove into town. She double-parked her car and ran up to Ike’s office. Steve was at his desk writing on a sheet.
He looked up at her, a look of stunned amazement on his face.
“Where’s he?” Gabrielle asked.
“Uh, I, uh…what?” Steve said then swallowed.
“Ike. Where has he gone? I know you know where he is.”
Steve glanced around the room in mock-search. He didn’t answer.
“Tell me, Steve.” She yelled.
“You’re tracking him down, aren’t you?” Steve said, “Why is that?”
“Because he’s running away from me. He has some idea that I don’t need him anymore now I’m free. I had some doubts too but now I’ve cast them to the wind. I’m not going to have a chance like this again, and I’m not going to throw this away.
“He thinks a lot,” Steve said, nodding. “You’ve got to know that about him.”
Gabrielle closed her eyes. “Is he trying to let me down gently by telling me that it’s because he concerned about me? Is he trying to get rid of me?”
Steve stared at her and put down his pen. “Gabrielle that is the last thing he is trying to do. Trust me. He’s completely crazy about you.”
“Then where is he?”
Steve shook his head. “He would kill me.”
“I doubt it. He hasn’t killed you yet.”
Steve rolled his eyes in resignation. “He’s at my brother-in-law’s house over in GRA. I’ll give you the direction.”
Gabrielle ran back to her car after she got the address from Steve.
Nothing was going to keep her from Ike this day.
Steve’s directions were easy to follow. She got to the destination and walked right through the gate. Gabrielle checked the environment but there was no sign of him. She had taken a bold step walking through the open gate but she wasn’t sure she had the guts to walk into the weirdly built house. She decided to go around the back.
She stopped short when she saw him standing by the rear entrance.
“I wasn’t expecting company.” He said.
“I hope I’m a pleasant surprise.” She said lightly.
“How did you find me?”
“Steve told me were you were.”
Ike nodded wearily. “Figured,” He turned walked into the house, and Gabrielle followed. He was wearing jeans with a Reds T-shirt and flat slippers.
He looked delicious from behind. She fought herself not to grab his butt. Her guilty pleasure.
“So,” he said, facing her as they got to the sitting room. He looked apprehensive, as if he wasn’t sure what she was going to say.
Gabrielle picked offense in the tone of his voice. “So?” She retorted.
“Ikechukwu, if you want out of this, just say so. I will understand. You don’t have to be a jerk about it. A relationship has to be mutual. But if you don’t love me, say it to me. I believe I am strong enough to handle that too. You gave me time to think, I used it well. I have made my decision. I love you. But you don’t have to love me back. I have had to take care of children on my own, this child would be fine whether you’re in the picture or not.” Her right hand was placed on her slightly bulged belly, eyes boring deep into his.
“Child?” He asked, trying to wrap his head around her words.
The tears were welling in her eyes, and she blinked and looked away. “It’s fine. You don’t have to be around if you don’t want to. I’ve done this before without George, I can do it now.”
“Gabby, what are you saying? I won’t want you to do this alone. That’s our child in there.” He walked over to her and cupped her face in his hands. “I love you too, Gabrielle.”
She embraced him, and inhaled deeply, feeling surrounded by his masculine scent and muscular protection.
“I know we never talked about having children and all… so I wonder, are you okay with this?”
“Are you kidding? I’m thrilled. I can’t wait to be a father, I have to make up for lost times.”
She looked up to his face. It was then she saw it, the happiness in his eyes. She was giving him what he deeply wanted, and for this she felt fulfilled.
Her phone rang in her bag, and she untangled herself from his grip and fished it out. It was Nelo.
“Nelo, is there a problem?” She asked as she brought the phone to her ear.
“No, not at all. I was just wondering. Have you told him?”
“No, I was just about to.”
“Don’t,” Nelo said firmly. “I have been thinking about it all. The detective is a good man, and what he doesn’t know wouldn’t kill him.”
“What are you driving at?” She smiled at Ike who was beginning to watch her intently.
“I don’t think you should tell him that you knew about your sister and George long before his death.”
The words sent chills down Gabrielle spines. They had both known this and never said anything thing about it since George was killed. Hearing the words out loud now made her stomach churn.
“Ma’am, your secret is safe with me, so don’t destroy what you have now for what you never had.”
Gabrielle closed her eyes and inhaled. “Thank you, Nelo.” She was trying to keep her words brief so Ike couldn’t read meaning to their conversation.
“You’ve always been like a daughter to me. I don’t care if you did it or not. I don’t want to know. But you have an expectant father over there, and you’d be a fool to give that up.”
“Thank you so much, Nelo.” Gabrielle said, wiped the tears rolling down her cheeks and clicked the phone off.
“Are you alright?” Ike asked her.
She turned to face him. “I’m fine. She just wanted me to fight for what I have with you. She wanted me to put my happiness first.”
Ike pulled her close and she rested her head on his shoulder. “I’m going nowhere. Not now, not ever.”
She held him tight, wondering if he would feel the same if he knew what she had done.
“I love you.” She said, clinging unto him like her redemption depended on it.
“I should hope so.” He smiled widely.
He peeled her blouse off her shoulder and kissed her collarbone. “So I guess we can still, uh… I mean, it will be some time before the baby comes.”
“We can,” Gabrielle smiled.
“Do we have to be careful?”
“Not really. Not yet.”
He was gently, anyway, treating her as if she were a priceless piece of art, holding her to him as if she might break. When they fell to the floor together there were tears in her eyes.
“Why are you crying?” he asked, catching a welling tear on his finger tips.
“I’m so happy, so lucky. I have everything I ever wanted. It scares me. I’m so afraid of losing you.”
He pulled her back into his arms. “You aren’t going to lose me.”
Deep down, she honestly hoped so.
They held each other for a long time. She felt his breathing even against her neck and she knew he was sleeping.
She slowly eased out of his grip, picked up her phone and headed for the bathroom.
She ran the shower to drown her voice and then called her grandmother.