The disappointment he felt when he realized Dede was not at her salon in Zest Ville, was overwhelming. Not like he expected to see her there, she had been looking like something was chasing her the day before, but he was hoping and praying she would be there.
He drove out of the estate, driving at high speed to his appointment with Funlola and her lawyer. He wondered where Dede was and what was happening to her at the moment, he wished he hadn’t been so antagonistic towards her the last time she walked into his office, asking for his services, now he was holding on to hope, praying she would be safe.
FUNLOLA HAD BEEN HOPING TONI WOULD appear and tell her he was ready to work things out, but when he came and told her lawyer he would be representing himself, her heart had sunk. It was for real, he really was setting her free.
She didn’t talk through the whole proceeding, it was going to be fast and easy. He was even ready to give her half of what he owned and he didn’t hold anything back.
As she drove back to her new apartment, she knew it was all over for the two of them and she also realized she did not want anything Toni owned, she just wanted to be alone, mourn the loss of her marriage alone, take her business to heights nobody knew it could reach and get the things she needed out of Dede.
Dede had showered and tended to her wound before Funlola returned the apartment. After she had immersed her whole body and hair in water in the tub, she stepped out, toweled herself dry and slipped into the same bathrobe Funlola had offered her the night before.
Sleep had been far away from her last night, that wasn’t surprising, considering the fact that her palms ached and made it impossible for her to sleep and the other reason she couldn’t sleep a wink was because she was really frightened and worried that her killer would find her.
All her life, she had steered clear of trouble, as a little girl, all she dreamt to be was a beauty queen who had a salon or a beauty palor and who made money that would make her content. She had dreamt simple. She never dreamt too big to cause trouble, she never looked for trouble and she always liked to mind her business.
Despite all that, someone was trying to kill her. The thought made her shudder and she looked around the sitting room, as if double checking to see she was alone.
Makun Bello did a lot of terrible things and had committed murder on many occasions, he didn’t cause another man to lose his life by his bare hands, but many times he had ordered the killing of political opponents, enemies and competitors. The man was a monster and when she found out what he was capable of and that his whips were never ceasing on her back, she had made the first attempt to run. He didn’t let her of course, he wanted to control her forever, he told her she knew too much and might be telling the world that someday.
She knew too much. Those were the same words the killer that appeared at her apartment had said to her. Did she know something she didn’t know she knew? Did Makun tell some of his co killers that she knew about his shady deals and murders and they were coming for their pound of flesh.
Her heart skipped many beats, she was confused and nervous, her problems were supposed to end with her husband’s demise but somehow, his death had birthed more issues for her.
Funlola let herself into the house, she dropped the bag of groceries on the dining table and relieved herself of her bag and car keys.
“I bought breakfast. Pasta and turkey is fine right?” she asked Dede who was lost in the thought of how to get herself away from the mess she had somehow found herself in.
“I also bought you painkillers” Funlola continued when Dede didn’t say a word, “I know those palms would be hurting by now, we didn’t get a chance to buy that yesterday considering the fact that we were trying to get away from whoever was trying to have your head”
A tray containing painkillers, freshly made pasta and a bottle of water was placed in front of her in seconds, Dede eyed the food, she was hungry but she didn’t feel like eating.
“Did you find anything?” She asked, wanting to know if Funlola had any lead whatsoever.
Funlola shook her head and grabbed an apple, she dug her teeth in it, savoring the taste of the juicy fruit in her mouth. “Nothing. I went to take care of my divorce proceedings first”
Silence followed Funlola’s statement. Dede concentrated on her painful palms and muttered a sorry which wasn’t too loud but which Funlola didn’t miss.
“What does it feel like for him to be in love?” Funlola asked and Dede looked at her, wanting to know how Toni felt around her wouldn’t help the situation. She would only hurt more and hate her more, she didn’t see the reason why discussing the type of man he was when he was in love with her would help the situation.
And to be fair, Dede didn’t know what it was like to own Toni, she had never owned him, he had loved her right from his childhood but she had never been with him the way real lovers could be together. She quickly dragged her thoughts away from Toni, she shouldn’t be thinking of him as a lover, not when his ex wife and her best friend had saved her from the jaws of death and not when she was a firm believer in the school of thought that said, love was an illusion.
Funlola had almost finished her apple and was eagerly waiting for an answer, Dede knew better than to gratify her with one.
“I don’t know.” She said and immediately decided downing painkillers wouldn’t be a bad idea, she grabbed the bottle of water in front of her, placed it in between her laps and removed two tablets from the sachet.
Funlola eyed her, “You should eat first. Those painkillers are very strong, they would mess you up if you don’t”
Dede knew better than to ignore her friend, Funlola was a trained and successful pharmacist. Her parents, father especially had wanted her to be a doctor. Funlola had wanted to be anything else but a Doctor, for her that life was simply too hard and too unbearable for someone like her who just wanted a simple life where she would have a good job, marry the man she had always been in love with and raise a family with him.
But her father had pushed her hard, it was either medicine or nothing else. And she studied hard and did everything she could to impress her father, including losing sleep which eventually led to insomnia and a constant headache for days.
She had been offered pharmacy instead and her father had been irritated with her, he didn’t just understand why she couldn’t be a medical doctor like him and take over his popular hospital which had numerous branches in other cities and African countries.
Funlola had once again been disappointed in herself for failing to impress her father.
Dede grabbed the plate of pasta and managed to eat a little, before downing the pills.
“I think you should see a doctor as well, who knows what would have entered that wound”
Dede agreed with her, pieces of broken glass might be inside her palms for all she knew. But first, was she safe? Who was trying to kill her? How long would she have to be at the mercy of Funlola, she didn’t even have any of her things with her, not even her mobile phone.
“I have to get out of here, I don’t have the luxury of time to visit the doctor”
“get out of here to where?”
“Anywhere Funlola, I cannot continue to live off you”
“You aren’t living off me Adesuwa, I am helping you”
“So I can owe my life to you? That doesn’t make you any better than the lunatics that want my life”
“Trust me it does. Being alive is better than being dead, at least the last time I checked, it was.”
Funlola was done eating her apple, she grabbed another one and took a bite. “I am going to the office now, I came back home to bring you food. Do you want to take a trip to the Doctor’s? or do I tell him to come here?”
The pain Dede had been feeling in her palms was slightly reducing, she felt a bit better, but she didn’t give her friend a response.
“I will tell him to come here, meanwhile, stay here. I wouldn’t leave here if I were you”
Funlola left the house, leaving Dede in silence, seriously considering her next line of action.
THE DOCTOR WAS A YOUNG HANDSOME MAN IN his late twenties and who seemed to be utterly taken in by her. That didn’t surprise her much, she had that effect on most men, it had been a big issue for her when she was younger because they offered her money for sex even when she didn’t know what to do with it and she got raped more than once but as she grew into a woman, she used that to get what she wanted and it was very easy, easier than going to school to get an education, easier than getting a life.
“How long have you been doing this?…oh I’m sorry I should be more specific, doing this just sounds somehow, like what is this…”
Dede was amused by the young doctor’s ramblings, he was nervous and smitten and attracted to her and it made him say almost everything in his head at the same time.
But that didn’t stop him from carrying out his job effortlessly.
“You are very beautiful you know?” he said to her when he was done tending to her wound and injecting her with anti tetanus.
Dede rubbed her arms when he was done injecting her, the needle and what it injected into her body was slightly painful, “thank you” she said.
He smiled and then kept looking at her like she was a wonder of the modern world.All her life, she had watched men behave that way when around her, when they loved her, they just couldn’t help but show it.
Toni had been that way too when he was a kid, but somehow as he grew older, he managed to get it under control and she couldn’t see beneath the surface anymore, that had made her intrigued, made her want to know how he suddenly became immune to what the others couldn’t put their defenses up against, made her draw closer to him and eventually made her feel very alien things…things she swore wasn’t love and wasn’t very serious.
“How long have you been so beautiful…sorry, been a model?”
Dede could tell him she didn’t know how long she had been beautiful and she could also tell him, she had been a model since she was seventeen and realized her beauty and body could take her places and since the man who first raped her had offered her the world.
But she wasn’t telling him that, this wasn’t a chit chat, or an interview where she was baring her soul, it wasn’t the Juice with Toolz, neither was it Oprah. She needed the young cute and smitten doctor to help her…help her get out of the house.
“I would tell you all about that, but first I need your help” the words left her lips like an invitation to her innermost chamber and it made her company nod like a puppy, she smiled, she had known the art of seduction since she was a teenager and mastered it perfectly, she had also known how to weave men who obviously wanted her around her fingers and that was what she was going to do with this one.
WHEN THE YOUNG DOCTOR HAD DRIVEN HER TO ZEST VILLE IN HER BORROWED bathrobe, she had directed him to her salon which unsurprisingly he knew and had him drop her there.
He had been so eager to ensure nobody was watching her and helped her get safely into the salon.
Her employees had been asking questions immediately she walked in and she had told them everything was fine and headed up the stairs, straight to her office. She had immediately entered her office and locked herself there while she thought of what to do next and who to call. She needed to get out of the bathrobe and do something quick.
She couldn’t rely on Funlola, she didn’t trust her as much as she wanted to and since she had resolved not to wallow in one corner while she cried about how cruelly life was dealing with her, she had decided to call for help.
But help had to be with someone who truly loved her and who cared about her, someone whom she knew wouldn’t sell her out and who would protect her in this trying period of her life. She really had nobody like that, she really hadn’t been cared for her entire life. That made her very sad and depressed, she wished her life had been different, that she had better people around her, she wished she had friends who truly cared.
She reached for her office phone and scrolled down the phonebook, where she dialed her close friend’s number.
“Hello Helen, I’m fine Helen…yes very fine.” She listened as her friend asked what was going on and why the blogs were speculating she was losing her sanity.
“Helen, I would explain all of these when we see.” She waited for Helen to schedule a meeting for them at one of the biggest bars on the Island which her husband owned.
“Helen, can you send me Toni Akinbami’s number?” she asked, “Thank you my darling”
She ended the call and waited impatiently, counting the seconds, while she anticipated Helen’s text, the one that bore Toni’s number.
The text came in some few minutes later and she hurriedly dialed his number.
TONI WASN’T SURE HOW MANY SECONDS IT TOOK HIM TO RACE TO HIS CAR AND GO IN SEARCH OF DEDE. He had been very happy to know she was alive and didn’t waste time to go find her.
“What in the world happened to you?” He asked breathlessly when he walked in through the office door. “I was really worried”
Dede tried to suppress the emotions that were building up, here was the only person who cared about her and who she knew she could trust. He pulled her into his strong arms and held her close for a long time. Dede could hear his heart beat, he sighed in relief and with one finger pulled up her head.
“Don’t you ever scare me like that again.” He said to her and she nodded, then he added, “Christ, I was so worried”.
Dede had always appealed to him, whether straight out of bed, with make up or without make up. she had always attracted him and she did so now, looking so vulnerable in the bathrobe that clung to her body like a second skin. The woman could make leaves look sexy.
He planted a kiss on her lips, then let himself drown in the overwhelming urge he felt to kiss her. His tongue invaded her mouth, kissing her like there was no tomorrow, like she didn’t walk out on him five years before, like he wasn’t going through a divorce that he needed to settle first.
He knew he had to stop before he took her right there in her office, he couldn’t afford to. So he pulled her away gently and created a distance between them by stepping a few steps back.
Dede watched him move away from her, she had not been expecting the kiss, but she was beginning to warm up to it, she was beginning to get lost in it and she was beginning to remember how good it felt when he suddenly drew away from her. He stuck his hands in his pocket and stared at her blankly.
“what happened to you?” He asked.
“Someone is trying to kill me, I was attacked in my flat yesterday evening.” She replied.
He frowned, “Who do you think this person might be?”
She really didn’t know, but she was hoping both of them could find out together, she was hoping he could help in some way. He was separated from his wife now and he could help her without feeling any guilt. She knew it was a selfish way to think, but she couldn’t help but be selfish with her thoughts.
The suddenly heard noises downstairs, Dede turned sharply towards the door, it was her girls shrieking and it was immediately followed by a gunshot. Dede froze and turned to look at Toni.