“This is your bedroom…”
She gasped in sheer shock, her eyes widening in disbelief.
The agent misread her expression and interpreted it to mean she did not like the house she was being shown, “If you don’t like the present arrangement we can…”
“I love it.” She muttered, realizing that her voice had taken leave of her.
The beauty that stood before her in the house was jaw dropping and that was why it had been hard to say much, it had been easier to react and that was the only thing she found herself doing.
The house was in Lekki, a petite but grand house that stood by itself, surrounded by a lush garden and a well tended compound.
When she had entered, she had been spellbound by the state of art furniture and interior design.
And the more she toured the house, the more surprises it opened up to her.
She wished Amanda had been able to come with her, all the things she saw were too much for her to handle.
“It is beautiful” She said when the tour came to an end.
The Agent was visibly relieved, “Because Mr Balogun told me to ensure you were pleased.”
“Oh, I am. In fact, I am too pleased sef.” Ife said and dived into the cushioned sofa in the sitting room when they returned there.
Everything was furnished, everything was ready for her, all she had to do was move in.
And Ayo had informed her to do so as soon as possible, preferrably before the week ran out, so she could begin her life as a recording artist on Gidi Music.
Her phone rang, it was him. “Hello.”
“Do you like your new home?”
She was not sure she could get used to calling the new space her home, it was nothing like she had ever seen before.
All her life, she had never dared to dream of the luxury she stared at now – a plasma screen on the wall, a cable decoder right under it, expensive champagne styled home theatre surrounding it and expensive interior decoration – from the chandelier that hung above her, to the silk curtains that adorned the windows to the Air Conditioner cooling the room.
It was overwhelming and surreal and all of a sudden she wondered what she did to deserve it.
“Ife are you there? If you don’t like it we can change it. Anything you want is what we would do, I need you to realize that…” his speech was brought to an abrupt end by the stifling sound he heard from her. “Are you crying?” he asked gently, his tone softening.
“I’m sorry. Please let me call you back.” She said and hurried off the phone before he could say anything.
She ran past the Agent who stared at her, perplexed and dashed for the bedroom she had just been shown.
Then she bolted the door, curled up near the bed and cried.
The tears cascaded her face, her emotions in a turmoil.
Why exactly was she crying? Was it because everything felt too unreal and she was worried it might all go away suddenly like it came or was it because she felt she did not deserve to be happy?
She heard a knock on the door, the Agent spoke, “Ife is everything okay? Mr Balogun has been calling you.”
Ife said nothing, not because she did not want to but because at the moment, the only thing she could do was let down the water works.
She laid on the floor, her eyes upwards, the tears pooling out.
She thought about her previous life, her mother and her best friend.
She thought about how Ayo Balogun had appeared in her life and everything had changed in a week.
Maybe Lanre was right, something was wrong and only she couldn’t see it.
There was a loud knock, she looked at the door, irritated.
The Agent had to realize she needed to be alone.
“Ife, open the door. It’s Ayo.”
She sat up, startled.
Still dazed at how suddenly he had appeared at the House, she dragged herself to the door and let him in.
He shut the door immediately, watched her quietly before proceeding to ask,
“What happened? I was worried.”
Ife did not know what to say. And that was because, just like the way she had been dazed by the sudden turn of events in her life, she was stupefied at how fast Ayo had appeared at the door to come see what the matter was.
“You’re here” was all she could mutter.
“Yes.” He replied, holding her close to himself.
“You scared me.” He added, guiding her to the bed. “What’s wrong with you?”
They took a seat on the bed, his hand holding hers, stroking it and gently easing comfort into her body.
“It’s all of these.” She began to say, “It is all too fast. I’m scared.”
He smiled at her, assuring her even without saying anything yet that she would be fine.
“I understand how scary it must all look because of how sudden it happened, but you will get used to it.”
She looked at him expectantly, as if trying to be certain that he was sure about the words he spoke to her.
“I’m serious, Ife.”
He guided her head to his chest, holding her for a few minutes during which none of them spoke.
“I know about your mother.” He broke the silence after several minutes, “I have access to the best Doctors in Africa, they would help her win the battle against cancer. She can start treatment as soon as she moves in here, I will pay the bills.”
And that brought fresh tears to her eyes, the tears pooled and poured, dampening his shirt.
“It’s okay, baby girl. You will be fine.” He whispered into her ears and placed a kiss on her forehead.
Then he patted her gently like a baby, not wanting to interrupt whatever emotion she felt the need to purge and at the same time, wondering if his sudden kindness would wash away his guilt.
♡ ♡ ♡
“He’s tripping for you”
Ife scoffed, gently pushed Amanda aside as she made it into what used to be her home and which would cease to be that day after she moved with her mother and Amanda into her new Lekki aparment.
“Seriously, why would a man like that just be there for you anyhow. Do you know how hot and fine he is? And do you know his exes? They are supermodels, actresses and socialites! I even heard Genevieve was seriously tripping for him one time. So if a man like that is just coming to wipe your tears every time, he’s tripping. Question is would you screw him?”
Ife eyed her best friend, she was beginning to irritate her with her ridiculous statements, “Stop it, Mandy. You’re being stupid.”
“I’m serious here. For instance, why would he rush over when you were crying on the phone if all he wanted to be to you was your boss?”
Ife tried to find an answer but she couldn’t, so she shrugged and replied, “Still doesn’t mean he wants to sleep with me.”
“Okay now. Is that not how you said his friend, Abbey started? Be acting like you don’t know there.”
The mention of Abiola’s name made her shudder, bad memories threatened to resurface but she shoved them out of her mind’s eye and scanned the room for her mother.
“She is not here, strange.” she said to Amanda who nodded in response.
“Did she say she was going anywhere?” Amanda asked.
“Let me check the bathroom.”
Amanda disappeared through the door and made for the backyard where there was a makeshift background.
Her sudden screams caused Ife to dash out of the room, “What is it?” Ife asked, nervous.
“I saw one slippers at the bathroom and her wrapper on the floor near it.”
Amanda raised the blue wrapper Ife knew well with her mother because she always used it in the bathroom.
She froze as she spotted blood on it, “Jesus!” She shrieked in horror.
♡ ♡ ♡
“Ife, I know you are nervous but you have to say something. The Police can only help when you say something.”
His words met no response, she sat there in his office, her arms tightly folded across her chest, her lips trembling and her eyes darting around the room.
She was scared shitless, he could see that and it tore him to pieces.
Since he met her a week before, he had been quick to hold her in his arms whenever she was going through a bad moment and he had always had the right words to fix her.
But right now, as she sat across him and two officers from the Police station, he knew he could not fix her, at least not immediately.
And that hurt him in ways he could not explain.
Since when did he feel the need to take care of someone so bad?
He felt like her Guardian and that made him question his sanity.
He was no protector, he was no guardian angel and he had never had to take that role in his life.
So how could he explain the sudden urge he felt around this woman?
He found himself crossing over to where she was and holding her, “Please say something so they can begin a search.”
But still, no words came.
“Maybe we should come back when she is stronger.” One of the officers suggested and as much as that irritated Ayo, because he could sense the urgency to leave in the officer’s voice, he agreed with him.
If Ife was too much in shock to utter anything then there was no need for them to sit in the Office asking questions.
“Okay, tomorrow morning. It is too late anyway.” He said, shook hands with the Officers and watched them leave.
“I will take you to mine, I cannot leave you this way” He muttered minutes later when she still wouldn’t say a word.
♡ ♡ ♡
He kept her and Amanda in the guest room because it was the only room in his house that didn’t directly reflect his personality – his strong obsession with the color black, philisophical quotes and artworks from old Greek artists.
There, she could feel safe and comfortable until dawn broke and they could find a way out of the trouble.
When she had called him on the phone earlier, he had been in a meeting so he had not picked it.
The moment he called her back and heard her screaming on the phone, he had sent his driver to go pick her up and started an investigation.
But he knew better than to wait for the Police to do anything.
This was a case of kidnap and the longer they waited, the more danger her mother was in.
He scrolled through his phone and dialed Abiola, that one always knew who to call in a time like this.
“Abbey how far?”
“Wassup?” Abiola’s voice was groggy, he had probably retired to bed early.
“I need your help.”
“what’s going on?” He sounded more alert then.
“Ife’s mother was kidnapped earlier today and I don’t want to wait for the Police, I need you to get me someone who can fix this outside the force.”
There was a long pause after which Abiola said, “Balo wetin concern me for this matter na? This girl is a hood rat, I am sure it is one of the people jealous about her in her stupid area that planned for her. Leave hood rats to settle their shit abeg.”
Ayo could have interrupted him but he waited for him to finish and then said, “Abbey, I will be expecting your contact. And please send me the best man.” then he hung up.
♡ ♡ ♡
She tossed and turned in bed and then eventually when she could not sleep, she got out of bed and strolled out of the room, shutting the door quietly so she would not wake Amanda.
The sound of Piano was the first thing she heard when her feet hit the floor in the dark sitting room.
She was not familiar with her surroundings so she did not know where the light switch was.
So she stood there, rooted to a spot while she listened to the melody from the Piano.
The player knew his keys well, because he skilfully created a good tune that she was not familiar with but which she had unconsciously begun to compose a song to.
After a while, it stopped and she waited for it to start again, then it did.
Curious, she traced the beautiful sound of music, allowing it to lead her while she tried to deduce where it was emerging from.
She found the room after a short search, it was by the stairs, hidden behind a Pillar.
Then she knocked and entered.
Ayo was wearing a black shirt and black slacks and he was sitting behind a white grand piano, lost in the music his fingers deftly created with the keys.
He had not heard her knock because his eyes were shut, his mood soulful as he continued what seemed like a strong affair with the piano.
It felt like a sin to call him and notify him of her presence, so she sat on the bare floor and watched him make music, allowing her mind to roam free of the troubles and then, letting the music take control and heal her for that moment.
She did not know the song he played but she soon began to sing something to it, something about pain and not knowing how to deal with it.
She was careful not to raise her voice so she would not disturb him but he heard her and even though he was aware of her presence, he kept his eyes shut and continued to play.
Then he suddenly stopped, opened his eyes and looked at her.
“Come.” He patted the space near him in front of the piano.
She joined him there.
“Can you play?”
She shook her head so fast he laughed.
“Do you want to learn? I can teach you.”
“Yes, I would like to learn.”
“We would first have to teach you how to position your hands.” He held her hands, then placed them on the keyboard the way it should be – fingers strongly on the keys, wrists hunched.
“Then we can start with the basic Do Re Mi”
He positioned his hands, his fingers pressing the white keys and then, he nudged her to do the same.
“Did you take music lessons in School?”
“My school did not have that type of luxury.”
And he almost bit himself for being so quick to forget where she had come from.
He had to constantly remember that she had not been so lucky with life and she did not have the things people like him had.
“It’s okay. Don’t be. It is not your fault now.”
Her hands were positioned, ready to hit the first notes.
She was eager to learn and she was ready for opportunities. That further endeared her to him.
“Okay. Let’s do, Do Re MI Fa So La Ti Do.” He hit the keys with one hand and watched her do same.
Then he encouraged her to play with the chords, her two hands working on the piano at the concurrently – one pressing two or more keys at the same time, the other pressing a key at a time.
It was challenging for her to use both hands at the same time at first but in less than an hour, they had conquered that one.
“Would you like to sing anything?” He asked her after they had finished with learning how to play the chords.
“What song comes to mind?”
It was the one song that had been playing in her mind since her mother’s sudden disappearance.
Ayo began to play the Piano and she slowly joined him, starting the song on a slightly low pitch at first and then transcending as she sang it.
When she got to the last verse, he joined her and they finished the song together.
She smiled shyly when it ended, avoiding his gaze.
“You have an amazing voice, Ife.” He said to her and she muttered her gratitude, her eyes on the keyboard.
“Why are you always avoiding my eyes?”
The question had shocked him as much as it had shocked her.
He had not meant to voice it even though it had been on his mind for a while.
“I don’t know.”
Again, the innocence and honesty with which the answer came was surprising.
“Look at me” He said to her and she slowly dragged her eyes to meet his. “I don’t bite”
She chuckled, “I know”
“So why are you always looking away.”
She did not respond, she simply continued to look at him, nervous, unsure of the reason she suddenly felt the room was super charged.
Ayo was not sure what it was about her, she unnerved him and suddenly opened the door to an endless feeling of raw wanting.
Like now, he suddenly wanted to kiss her.
It did not make sense that his eyes fell on her lips, or that he wanted to undress her and do unspeakable things to her on his Piano.
He dragged his mind away from the journey it was already taking. He could not indulge in lustful desires with her.
It was wrong, it was unethical.
“You should go to bed.” He stood up, dragged her gently and walked her to the door.
“You need the sleep now that you can get it trust me because tomorrow would be hectic and so would be the next months.”
She nodded, was going to turn to tell him Thank you when he shut the door behind her.
Ayo leaned on the door when she had left, he exhaled sharply.
His senses must be taking leave of him if somehow, he had begun to feel lustful desires for a girl he was nine years older than and who was supposed to unknowingly help him shed his guilt.
He returned to the Piano and once again, began to play Beyonce’s Halo.
-Tomilola Coco Adeyemo