Luchy, Eunie and Funke Jolaoso please drop ur emails when u comment so I can know how to send ur shirts across.

Guys, you can still win shirts, there are more so keep the response coming.

♥ ♥ ♥

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The loud sound of a motorcycle speeding by caused her to stir.

She rolled to her side, wincing and opening her eyes at the sharp pain she felt when she turned – she had hit her hand on a plank that had nails sticking out of it and now her skin bled.

She sat up, she’d slept in a carpenter’s shed the night before.

After she had walked away from her Aunt’s explanation and the demons that were plaguing her from her past, she had ended up in this shed.

She dusted her skirt and made her way out of planks, wood and sawdust.

Guilt washed over her when she remembered she had left her mother without a word the night before.

Ayobami Balogun had appeared in her world and suddenly, nothing felt the same again.

Suddenly, she dared to hope and dream, suddenly the past she had successfully pushed away had now come to haunt her and suddenly, a huge opportunity to become a success was tossed into her laps.

Any other person would be happy at the opportunity being offered by a big platform like Gidi Music but she was not.

She could not begin to imagine the tragedy that would trail the happiness if she dared feel it.

Abiola Osinowo did not play, she knew scarce nothing about him but that much she was aware of.

And all the harsh words he had hurled at her at the Gidi Music headquarters two days before was no joke.

He meant it.

She dabbed the blood oozing from her hand with the hem of her skirt while she made her way back to her house.

She contemplated seeing her Aunt first but that would take time considering how she left the night before.

So she decided to go home and see her mother first.

It was still early in the morning, she did not have a wristwatch to ascertain what time it was exactly but she knew it was not 7am yet.

But cars had begun to line up in traffic on the expressway and motorists were already honking and yelling at each other.

She climbed the pedestrian bridge and crossed to the other side of the road, then began her journey back home by trekking.

♡ ♡ ♡

“Are you mad?! Don’t you know what you did was dangerous?” Anger was what Amanda felt when her friend walked back to her house some minutes later.

“We looked for you everywhere, we even went to Aunty Teni’s place but she said you were just outside some minutes before. Then we all started looking for you! If only we knew you were sleeping peacefully in a Carpenter’s workshop.” she hissed and directed her anger to a cockrach moving idly on the wall.

She slammed her slippers on it and killed it with one hit.

“I needed air.” Ife explained

“There is plenty of air outside, you should have just sat there and inhaled it.”

“What did he say?” Ife wanted to know what Ayo said when they did not find her, learning of his presence in Apete that late at night to see her made her feel special.

She knew she should question why someone of that calibre was crossing hurdles and going out of his way to find her but she did not, she just felt special.
She wondered what he said and how he felt when they did not find her.

She wondered if he was frustrated and if he felt appalled by her indiscretion.

She tried to imagine him angry but she couldn’t.

“He really wants to see you and talk to you. He wants to understand why you would let such an opportunity pass you by.” Amanda replied, another cockroach had emerged and her eyes were set on it. “Me too, I want to know o.”

“But you already know na.”

Amanda scoffed, killing yet another cockroach, “So because that asshole threatened you, you will never make it in life?”

“I will make it another way.”

“Which way?”

There was no other way, Ife knew.

At least no other opportunity was presenting itself at the moment and there was no guarantee one would in a long time.

“He is coming back this morning, Ife please talk to him and tell him what happened so that you can move on with your career.”

Ife gasped, “Tell him what happened, ke? I should tell him his partner got me pregnant and I aborted it?”

“And that now, he is threatening you.”

“Ha!”

Amanda shrugged, “What?”

“Amanda what are you saying? That does not make sense!”

“Well, in my own book, if you try to kill my hustle, I would kill you. So instead of trying to run away, deal with that bastard.” Amanda always fought back, she always had the strength to but unfortunately, Ife was not like her.

She never fought back, she always took whatever life served her no matter how bad.

“Oya na, go and have your bath so you would be ready when he comes. He promised to send his driver early.”

Ife stood, “About time you bought a phone sef, all that one we were looking for you yesterday we would have found you in no time if you had a phone with you.”

Amanda continued to say as Ife got ready to take a bath.

♡ ♡ ♡

The second ride in the backseat of Ayo’s Range was different.

Her life had not witnessed the huge change his proposal was suggesting but she was prepared to meet the sharks that surrounded him and that worked in the Penthouse that housed Gidi Music.

Ife had tried to convince Amanda to come with her but the latter had insisted on staying back to help with taking care of her mother after she returned from a little errand she had to run.

So Ife leaned on the seat, her mind drifting, thinking of what Abiola would do if he found her at the Pent again.

However, when the driver pulled up in front of the most beautiful house Ife had ever seen in  her life, she realized they were not at the office, they were in someone’s house.

“Where is this?” Ife asked the driver, her eyes captured by the magnificent edifice in front of her.

“Oga Ayo’s house.” The driver replied as he drove into the compound after being let in by security guards.

Ife got down when the car had parked, experiencing each detail and taking in the beauty in front of her.

The mansion was painted white with gold pillars, there was a lush lawn that created an aisle that led up to the main entrance, and a trumpet which water gushed from, splashing into a small fountain.

It looked like a painting, something that could only have been drawn by a gifted artist.

She followed the driver to the door, tempted to touch the ground to be sure it was real.

She did not know why Ayo had asked her to be brought to his house but she was grateful he did, if not how else would she experience the beauty his house offered.

The door to the house opened and a uniformed maid let them in.

“He would join you shortly.” The maid said, then asked, “What do I offer you?” Ife smiled, she had been offered a breathtaking view and in all honesty, it was all she could take in for now.

“Nothing.” She replied and continued her visual tour of the house by looking up at the ceiling.

A chandelier hung from the white ceiling.

The wall was made of marble on one side and brown bricks on the other.

“Please tell Oga she is here.” The driver told the maid who nodded and left.

“I have to go now, Madam. Oga is around so he would see you shortly.”

Ife nodded and did not realize the driver had left until the front door shut.

She was mesmerized by what she saw. She sat on the sofa, one of the three in the sparsely furnished sitting room.

The sitting room was large, vintage art collections on different parts of the room and a framed picture of Diddy somewhere on the far end of the room.

“Hi” She whirled around and came face to face with him.

He was looking handsome in a white shirt, which was rolled up to his elbow, and black trousers, a smile on his face.

“Good to know you’re safe.”

She could not do much, he was as breathtaking as his house so she just smiled back.

“I was hoping we could do a lot of talking today while we spend the whole day together.” He said, fished out his iPhone and dialed a number. “My friend, Anita promised to be here an hour ago. She has your things.”

“My things” Ife frowned, repeating the last part of his statement.

He nodded, “Yeah.” then he waited for Anita to pick, “Miss Aiyudu, I am waiting.” he listened for a few seconds and said, “Okay” then he ended the call.

“How are you?” Ife did not know why that question caused her to look at her injured arm, maybe it was reflex, maybe it was because she still felt slight pain from the nail that cut into it earlier.

His eyes followed her gaze and rested on the injured arm, “Fresh wound?”

She nodded.

“We would have that looked into.” He said simply.

Ife wondered if he just snapped his fingers and everything fell into place for him.

She wondered if he had real problems. Or if he had an idea what it was to have real problems.

She remembered the nights they had slept without food in her family, the days when her parents had nothing to eat and left the food for the kids.

The days when heavy rain blew their roof away and they had to sleep on damp foam, while they shivered and braced themselves for the coming days.

The doorbell rang, the maid emerged and walked towards the entrance.

Anita Aiyudu, a chubby bubbly light skinned twenty something year old breezed into the house.

She had several shopping bags in  her hands and was followed closely by a young guy who had several shopping bags in his own hands too.

“I’m so sorry, Ayo. There was traffic and all.” She apologized as they hugged each other.

She directed her gaze to Ife, “Is this Ife?”

Ayo nodded and for the first time, Ife saw someone around Ayo who actually made an effort to smile warmly at her.

Ife immediately decided that she liked this one.

“You’re good with descriptions, Ayo. All the things here would be her exact size. The shoes might be a problem though, but we would figure something out.”
Anita said then motioned for Ife to come over. “Come darling, your cinderella moment is here.”

“Anita would be your stylist.” Ayo told Ife as Anita dragged her away.

“The guest room is available, yeah?” Anita asked when they were halfway through the hall.

“Yep” Ayo answered.

Ife followed Anita into the guest room, a room with a well laid king sized bed and a duvet with cuddly teddy bears that made her want to jump into it and sleep immediately.

Anita got to work as soon as they shut the door behind them, discarding her male assistant.

She emptied the shopping bags on the bed, revealing different dresses from different labels.

Ife knew those clothes cost a lot of thousands.

Anita scanned the clothes and picked a custard yellow bodycon dress, “I think this will suit you.” she muttered, then she placed the dress on her body, “Suits your skin tone.” she picked a pair of red wedges and dropped it in front of Ife, “Wear this let’s see if it would be your size.”

Ife removed her only pair of sandals and slipped her feet into shoes she knew her savings in two years couldn’t buy.

Anita smiled satisfactorily when the shoes fit her legs perfectly, “I like.” then she added, “Ayo should have told me you needed a complete make over though. I would have brought my make up artist.” she said pointing to her chipped nail polish, “But I guess we would make do with just cleaning it for now.”

That made Ife feel self conscious and she curled her toes to hide the ugly polish on her feet.

Anita noticed her discomfort and smiled, “It is okay, doll. We would clean it off and we can worry about pedicure later.”

Ife had never had a pedicure.

“And your hair? We would need a hair stylist for this.” Anita sighed, “Ayo would have to give us time for this one.”

Ife found herself chuckling, if Anita wanted to transform her from a ugly duckling into a princess, then she better know she had a long way to go.

♡ ♡ ♡

When she emerged from the guest room an hour later, he was on the phone speaking to Abiola and so he had not sighted her until Anita tapped him on the shoulder and pointed at her.

He paused – the result of facial scrub, steaming, hair straightening, make up and fitting into a yellow bodycon dress and a pair of red wedges, stood before him, a nervous smile playing on her lips.

He had no idea her hair was that long because the few times he had seen her it had been hidden in a rough weaving. It was black and shiny and cascaded down her shoulders.

“Nice.” He gestured to be given a few minutes and then he hurriedly finished his phone call.

“Thanks Anita.” His gaze settled on Ife again, this time not stopping on her hair.

She was wearing a dark shade of pink lipstick which complimented her skin tone and drew attention to her lips.

It also made her lips more sensual, kissable.

He almost laughed at himself, the thoughts that sometimes crossed his mind needed to be sent back to the pit of hell they rose from.

Her lashes were more pronounced and lengthened because mascara had been used to draw them out and there was the eyeliner that gave her face the sexy cat eyes look.

The cat eyes threatened to make his mind wander but he cautioned himself, especially when he reminded himself she was innocent and she did not know how feisty the make-up made her look.

Her dress which accentuated every curve in her body, drew attention to the small burgeoning fat on her lower stomach, which even though was not too big it ruined the sexy sillhoutte, needed a little workout to be rid of.

Then the red shoes, they were not too high she could not walk with them and they were not too low she couldn’t have a sexy poise with them.

Anita always knew how to transform people, it was why he couldn’t let go of her many years after he met her.

“You like?” Her eyes had followed his through the little journey he visually took on Ife’s body.

“Perfect.” He looked at Anita now, “I think you might eventually be her personal stylist.”

Anita squealed with excitement, “Good! ‘Cos I have something in mind for her image already.”

Ife was not sure how she felt about being discussed without her own input; her life was somehow not in her hands, it was in their hands.

When they stepped outside some minutes earlier, a sleek black car with cat eyes was parked a few steps away from them.

She’d heard Anita call the car’s name before she got into her own car and left and that was how she knew it was a Maseratti.

Ife did not know anything whatsoever about cars but she knew this one, this one was a big deal and it must cost millions.

When she got into the passenger’s seat near him, he strapped her seat belt on, strapped himself in and sped out of the large compound.

Jhene Aiko’s music played from his iPhone which was connected to his car speakers as he sped out of the small Island he shared with a few of some of Nigeria’s richest.

Ife watched as his hands deftly switched gears and how he felt at home behind the wheels.

She wanted to ask him where they were headed but she found herself tight lipped.

So instead of saying anything, she busied herself with staring at the diamond he wore on his wrist.

It glistened in the early morning sun; a priceless and rare sight for her.

She was not sure she’d seen fake diamonds, talk less of seeing a real one so close.

“I have a TV interview in Ikeja and that is where we are headed now” He began to say as they linked the third mainland bridge, “When we are done, we would do lunch with a business partner and then we would come back to my house together and discuss why you want to throw an opportunity like this one away.”

Ife nodded dutifully, like she was not nervous about the prospect of spending an entire day with Ayobami Balogun and every other person he had mentioned he was seeing.

“I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable, but I really believe in your talent and musical strength which I believe you haven’t discovered yourself and because I couldn’t see you last night and I will be out of town by weekend, I thought today would be a good time to hang out.” He added like she would disagree with whatever he said.

♡ ♡ ♡

He made them give her a seat near his Personal Assistant, Jen, who was already waiting for them when they got to the studio in Ikeja.

Then he sat in front of the lights and camera and wittingly answered the Presenter’s questions.

He was smooth, funny, charming and in charge of everything around him.

He had a firm grip on everything and he did not seem afraid of anything, at least that was what his eyes said and his words spoke.

“Looking to sign anyone anytime soon?”

“We are on that. But I won’t say much about it. All I want you to know is sitting right there… right there is the future of music in this country.”

The cameras were facing her and she did not even realize it, she looked dazed and a frightened.

Lights were suddenly on her and so was everyone’s attention in the room.

He had directed everyone’s attention to her with the words he said.

“So you’re saying that’s the new act on your label?”

“I’m saying she is the future of music in Nigeria.”

“You heard it here first people! The biggest music label in Nigeria is signing a new act and she is right here. She’s a pretty face, we can’t wait to hear those vocals that caught the great Ayobami Balogun’s attention and made him decide to bring her on board.”

♡ ♡ ♡

“You cannot go behind your partners and go and say something like that now, Balo. This is wrong!” Abiola was standing near the huge Plasma on the wall in the boardroom, he was replaying the video of the Interview Ayo recorded earlier in the day which had now found its way to the Internet with half a million views in less than three hours.

“I did not say anything you should be this mad about, Abbey. The girl decided by herself that she’s the next act we are signing, I didn’t explicitly mention that.” Ayo in his usual manner was unperturbed.

“But you also did not deny.” He uttered the words with a lot of disappointment,

“We can’t sign that girl.” he added with a note of finality that caused Ayo to raise his eyebrows.

“Why?”

Abiola looked like he wanted to say something but he decided against it.

“Abbey, you have to give me a real reason. You cannot just stand there and get pissed for nothing. A short while ago you were open to the idea and now you don’t want the girl on the label, sup with you?”

“Nothing. Just rethink this whole thing, Balo.”

Abiola left the boardroom, leaving Ayo and his thoughts in silence.

He retrieved the newspaper cut he carried almost everywhere with him and smiled ruefully.

His partners didn’t know shit, he was signing this new girl and that was it.

-Tomilola Coco Adeyemo

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