With All My Heart

By Onyinye Ogugua

Dear Ifeyinwa,

I first thought of calling. It seemed more appropriate but I convinced myself that I was afraid you wouldnt pick up; but writing this, I can admit that I was afraid you would pick up and I wouldn’t be perfect anymore. Your voice would shatter my illusions, and as I nervously blubber my way through my apology, I will feel the hate born out of my betrayal; and that’s what terrifies me the most—standing before the reflection of my darkest self and recognize it as me.

I have always been very good at forgiving myself, I justify my excesses and never hold myself accountable for my actions or a spare a thought to how it affects others, I never considered it flawed. It’s a deeply selfish and cowardly way to live. 

Now, I am not trying to make  excuses, but I do want you to understand me, and I know you don’t owe me anything; you might probably not care about what I have to say, but please forgive me. What I did was the most despicable thing; I should have tried harder to apologize and not behave like it didn’t matter. I have told myself a million things, that people have done much worse things, and I remind myself of all your failing to prove you’re perfect; so you shouldn’t expect me to be right?

I have always been profoundly proud and equally jealous of you, all the things you achieve that I could never fathom. It frustrated me because I am the older sister, you should look up to me but most of the time I felt you were the mark I was measured against, and I was always found wanting. I especially hated it when mama called you ‘Ada mmadỄ.’ She never called me that; it always felt like an accusation, I could hear her saying, "Why aren’t good for anything?” 

So when you got engaged before me, it felt like a personal failure. I am more beautiful, marriage was the one thing I should at least win at. It was a devastating blow, I couldn’t find it in me to be happy for you, and I am so sorry because if I had stopped feeling sad for myself for a second, I would I have seen how happy you were and how in love he was with you. It would have saved all of us years worth of hurt, at least that’s what I like to think. 

It doesn’t make much of a difference but I want to clarify that sleeping with your fiancĂ© wasn’t premeditated; saying I wouldn’t do that to you is a little redundant. I came to visit you but you weren’t in, and he invited me to stay for a drink. I think he was trying to win my approval. I wish I could say that I got so drunk I blacked out and woke up in his bed the next morning, but the truth is I was coherent; when he leaned in to kiss me, I remember thinking, "He wants to kiss me! I am better than Ifeyinwa.” 

It was going to be only a kiss, so I could take wicked pleasure from it and feel better about myself. But then it spiraled, and I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe I am inherently terrible and wanted it to happen exactly as it did, but I choose to believe that I love you so much and wouldn’t go out of my way to hurt you; though I did, but I am hoping the thought behind it counts. 

When I found out I was pregnant, I was so ashamed and scared, I planned to pass it off as another man's pregnancy. But I made the mistake of telling mama, I just didn’t want to bear the secret alone. I still do not know why she told him, maybe she was trying to fight for me, and ensure he takes responsibility, or she thought you deserved better. And then I was known as the "slutty sister that stole her sisters' man”. Everything got overwhelming after that, our families were talking marriage, you hated me; I could see on mother's face that she was heartbreakingly disappointed. My supposed ‘husband-to-be’ hated me too, getting married was not fun anymore. 

But worst of all, I saw your face in my nightmares, how you looked at me when mama told you I was pregnant for your man, how you laughed at first because it seemed like a joke, to the way your face morphed when you realized that it wasn’t a joke, and when you turned to face me I could see that I was a monster. I shouldn’t have gotten defensive when I was in the wrong, I just didn’t want to feel like the worst person that ever lived, and I hope you know that all those things I said about you not being good enough, hence the reason he slept with me, are all total lies, you are so much better than I could ever hope to be.

I am sorry it took me this long to apologize; quite frankly, I pushed it so far off my mind, thinking about it made me feel dirty. Losing the baby helped too—I didn’t have a constant reminder staring me in the eye everyday. I promised myself I would be less selfish, and in five years I still fight it every moment. I have come to realize that people never really change; we are consistent in our nature, we try to twist or break our very being but it’s forever going battle, like an addiction you never stop fighting, we are who we are.

Its been very soothing to talk this out, and I am going to call you, I want to, I’m not going to be afraid anymore. We will talk, and one day I will be worthy of the word sister.

With all my heart,


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