To Love and to Hold – Chapter 1

Fadeke cursed under her breath as the lift reached the fifth floor. It was 8.45pm on Friday, and she had not planned to leave her office late. Her boss had given her a task that had to be completed before she went home or which she had to be at work early on Saturday morning to finish. Fadeke didn’t work on Saturdays because of her daughter, Kike. Weekends were the only times she had to spend with her; so, she worked late to free her schedule and be with her child.

The lift doors opened, and there – waiting to get on, was a man Fadeke knew very well – a man she had not seen in a while, and whom she was not sure she wanted to see again. On sighting the man, Fadeke’s first reaction was surprise, then curiosity, then anger; in quick succession.

The man, clad in a cream-coloured shirt, leaf-green tie and a navy blue suit which he slung over his shoulder, had taken a step towards the lift when he saw Fadeke. He was taken aback and took a moment to master himself.

‘Fadeke!’ He said slowly. ‘My eyes do not deceive me. Wh- what are you doing here?’

Fadeke looked at the man – the expression on her face a mixture of surprise, anger and disgust – and did not speak.

As the lift began to close, the man said – almost desperately, ‘Hold it, please.’

In that moment, as the lift doors slid to a close, Fadeke knew she did not want to be anywhere alone with this man, particularly not in a lift. But she acted against her better judgement and pressed the button to open the lift doors. The man stepped in.

‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘Fadeke, where have you been? I have been looking for you everywhere.’

Fadeke stayed silent; she searched her bag for her car keys.

The lift slid to the ground floor and the doors opened. Fadeke stepped out without a response and headed for her car, parked behind the building.

‘Fadeke. Answer me, please. Say something.’ The man half-ran, trying to keep up. As he fell in line with her, he touched her arm.

‘Don’t!’ She raised a warning finger. ‘Don’t you dare touch me!’ Her voice seemed to be struggling between a whisper and a scream. But it also had an icy quality to it, like the voice of someone who had the capacity for violence.

‘But Fadeke, what have I done? What happened? I have been looking for you these past six years.’

‘And you have found me.’ She said with venom in her voice.

On getting to her car she stopped, looked him full in the face for a brief moment; she got into her car and drove off.

Chinedu stood there, shocked.


‘My mummy has come,’ Kike said, jumping up and grabbing her teddy bear. She tapped her nanny, who was dozing. ‘Ma Win, Ma Win, my mummy has come.’

Ma Win opened her eyes and smiled at the adorable child. ‘Your mum is here? How do you know?’

Just then, Fadeke honked twice – one long piim, and a short one, almost a click. It was her way of announcing her return.

Mrs Winnie – everyone called her Ma Win – was Fadeke’s neighbour of five years. At 57, Ma Win was a widow whose husband had died of a cardiac arrest. She had five adult children who rarely visited because they lived abroad. Ma Win had declined all their offers to relocate her abroad. Though she wanted for nothing, and her children called her every day, she needed to do something to keep agile. So, she opted to care for Kike; she had been doing so for four years.

‘Mummy!’ Kike shouted as Fadeke opened the door; Kike ran into her waiting arms. The teddy bear was temporarily forgotten.

‘How are you, honey?’ Fadeke asked, swinging her daughter round.

‘I’m fine, Mummy. How are you?’

Fadeke raised an eyebrow. ‘What did you learn at school today?’

‘Mummy, you have not answered my question. I said, how are you?’

‘Welcome, Fadeke.’ Mrs. Winnie who had been watching the little drama between mother and daughter interrupted. ‘Kike, your mum needs to rest. She’s tired.’

‘Thank you, Ma Win.’ Fadeke said. ‘We’ll be going home now.’ Home was the flat next door. Only a small wall separated Fadeke and Ma Win’s flat

‘Well done, Fadeke.’ Ma Win patted Kike on the back. ‘Kike, let your mother rest.’

‘Yes, Ma Win,’ Kike said without letting go of Fadeke’s hand.

Fadeke was inwardly grateful to Ma Win. She was so grateful because for Kike, the answer to one question was the cue for another. If Fadeke had responded to her daughter’s question with a ‘fine, my sweetness,’ the next question would have been ‘Are you sure, Mummy?” to which Fadeke would have answered in the affirmative and Kike would have raised another question. Fadeke did not mind playing this game and nurturing her little angel’s mind, but not today. She was too tired.

‘Fadeke, will you have something to eat? It is late and you can’t start cooking now,’ Ma Win said.

‘No, thank you ma. I am not hungry.’

‘Are you sure? Kike and I cooked fried rice. Kike says you’ll like it very much.’

‘Yes, Mummy. We cooked green rice,’ Kike piped.

‘Thank you, sweetheart,’ Fadeke said to Kike and turned to Ma Win. ‘Thank you for the offer ma, but I’m really not hungry.’

‘Okay dear,’ Ma Win said. ‘I will pack it for you.’

‘Thank you. Ma, have you eaten this evening?’

‘Of course, you know I shouldn’t eat late at my age.’

‘I know, but I brought you some fruits. Kike let’s go and get fruits for Ma Win from the car.

‘Yes, Mummy.’ Kike ran out, holding her teddy by the ear.

‘You spoil me, you know.’

‘Do I have a choice? I am the only child you have here,’ Fadeke said, smiling.

‘Thanks, dear.’

That night, after Fadeke had put Kike to sleep and laid down to sleep herself, her mind riveted on her encounter with Chinedu. What was he doing in the building? It had been six years since they last saw each other: six years of pain and heartache; six years of hurt and abandonment. As her thoughts started to reach into the past, sleep took over her body.


Chinedu could not believe what happened. He could not remember, after Fadeke drove off, how he got to his car and drove home. Everything had happened as if in a dream – a dream from which he should not have woken up. What he wanted was for the dream to wind back to Fadeke standing in the lift. He wanted Fadeke to scream and fly into his arms in a passionate hug. He wanted to feel her warmth on his skin. He wanted to be reminded of her favourite Daisy fragrance by Marc Jacobs. He wanted to tease her like he used to and call her round cheeks puff-puff.

But what happened was not a dream. He had met Fadeke and she had ignored him. He had been looking for her for six years; she never once left his mind. Everywhere he turned, he saw her. At a point, he had thought he was going crazy. Now, after six years, he had found her, and she had ignored him. He still found it hard to believe that it wasn’t all a dream.

As he tossed and turned on his bed that night he thought, What did I do wrong, Fadeke? After tossing on the bed for close to two hours, he rose and went to his living room. Since he could not sleep, he decided to watch television. As he turned on the TV, his mind went back to his first meeting with Fadeke.


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