Guys, I’m so sorry this is coming now. I had horrible cramps this morning and had to abandon this halfway through to use painkillers which for some reason didn’t work. Couldn’t go out because of it even, had to suspend my plans. Slept, woke up, made quick lunch so I could use another before completing this. Will probably return to bed after I post this sef. Again, I apologize.
“Sometimes, dark clouds are cast upon us. But we must always, find a way to live through it”
They had taken a walk round the Mall twice; window shopping first and then later, grabbing a jar of nutella, bread from Shoprite and a bottle of expensive wine. The latter was for Hakeem, the bread and the Nutella for her. He’d insisted on buying it for her because she refused to eat anything serious earlier and, she’d refused to allow him buy her food no matter how hard he tried.
“Fine. At least bread and Nutella shouldn’t hurt” he’d muttered and she’d laughed, a soft sound that broke his own lips into a smile. “I like when you laugh” he said to her, his hand slipping into hers, holding it tightly.
There had been silence between the duo even though the Mall was abuzz with the chatter produced by people surrounding them.
He liked her in a really weird way, he couldn’t explain why or how he came to just yet but he knew he liked her and somehow, that was enough for him for the moment.
After dropping the goods they bought in the car, he allowed her pick a movie for them to see together. She picked a romantic comedy, to which he told her his friends could never hear about that choice. “They’ll call me a Sissy” he said as they walked into the cinema hall, Ekanem laughing over his comment.
Halfway through the aisle, as other people took their seats, some with popcorn and soda, a few with burgers and bottles of water, Hakeem pulled her to a stop.
She was still laughing when he did, unaware of the sudden urge he felt to pull her into his arms and kiss her.
He wanted to tell her that the next time she laughed, he’d kiss her. He’d kiss her because he liked the soft sound of her laughter, because she made him smile when he made her laugh. Because, she looked so beautiful with that short blonde hair, tiny glittering earrings and in that dress that looked like she’d been born in it.
But he let the moment pass and simply led her to a seat.
“Don’t sit under the vent, before you start shivering again” he said lightly and she chuckled.
“Are you sure? We can still buy that Sweater now” he’d offered to buy her a sweater from Mango earlier, something she’d referred to as pricey. He’d seen the quality and the beauty, she’d seen the price tag.
They took their seats near each other, Ekanem sitting close to the wall and he on her right. The adverts before the movie started and instinctively, both held each other’s hands, as if it was meant to be there.
A character in the Trailer of a movie amused her and she laughed along with some people in the theatre, when she looked at him, he was staring at her, eyes heavy with passion and lips desperate with want.
He leaned closer, gently sucked her lips in and kissed her like she was his lifeline. She didn’t stop him, even if she had, he would have convinced her to let him because there was no way he was letting yet another moment slip without knowing what her lips tasted like.
He pulled away when the movie started and both didn’t speak a word until it ended an hour thirty minutes later. However, their hands were together, as if glued to each other and as if they were meant to be.
They sat in the Car for a few minutes, both silent, neither wishing to speak the first words after what happened in the movie theatre.
“You don’t have to make me your girlfriend or anything…” Ekanem blurted, his eyes found hers and she looked away quickly.
“Ekanem, it was a kiss. A good kiss. If you don’t want it to happen again though, I will understand” he was not sure why he voiced the words, whether it was because he wasn’t certain he wanted it to happen again or not or because he was not sure he could control himself around her.
“I should go home” she replied.
“I’ll get you a Uber”
She unlocked the door and made to leave, “No. I can find my way”
“Ekanem, we’ve had a good date. Don’t ruin it”
She gasped, faced him, “Date? Hakeem you have a girlfriend and I have a boyfriend”
“So?” he whipped out his phone and opened his Uber App. “Please sit here until your Uber arrives” he said and they both sat in silence for the next ten minutes.
She counted the minutes until the Uber he had called for her came through. Her emotions were in turmoil and her whole body was still reacting to that one kiss.
How was it, that one man’s lips against hers could get her feeling this way?
She’d loved Bashir, the Prince that had been her first, back when she was at the Polytechnic. She’d been into him the way she had never been with anyone. However, even the first kiss with Bashir did not leave her feeling this way.
It did not leave her losing her head and threatening to make her lose her mind.
Hakeem had kissed her and it was the only thing she could think of during the entire duration of that movie and the only thing she knew she was going to think of for the rest of the week maybe.
Her Uber arrived, she made to leave. “Thanks” she muttered.
“Ekanem, are things going to be weird between us?” he asked.
“No. Please let’s get back to why we are talking in the first place” she replied
She whirled around, “What?! What do you want from me, Hakeem? I slept with your father, I slept with him a thousand times over so yes, I understand that kiss meant nothing!”
Tears had somehow found its way to her eyes and she wondered why she was about to cry. She was not having PMS or anything was she?
Hakeem was blank faced when she took a last look at him before slamming the door of his car and storming towards the black KIA waiting to drive her down to her house in Yaba.
She ignored the Driver’s overly nice attempts and listened to the songs playing on the Radio instead.
Uber Drivers and their dedication to the stars they were going to receive at the end of the journey. She sometimes felt those things were the only reason they chose to be kind, nothing more. They weren’t kind because kind was good or because it was the right way to treat a fellow human. They were kind because they wanted good rating from their Client at the end of the drive.
Willing to be mad at something else save herself, she snapped at the Driver and told him she was fine “for the last time”.
She was not going to see Hakeem anymore. Thankfully, they’d all said she didn’t have to go to Ghana with them. She would dedicate her time to looking for a Shop somewhere in Yaba to start her own salon once her share of the money came through.
Her ringtone drew her attention to her phone, it was Alhaji.
She frowned, he hadn’t called her in a long time. He’d suddenly forgotten of her existence and if he cared for how she lived, he didn’t show it.
Still mad he could have helped her brother and had chosen not to, she picked the call.
“Yes?” she asked, unwilling to be nice.
“You do not talk to me with that tone” he countered
“Alhaji what is it?” she snapped.
He paused before he said, “I am waiting for you in your House, where are you?”
She panicked, why was he in her house? “I thought I told you not to come unannounced again?”
“I pay the rent here and I will come whenever I choose. Now where are you before I lose my cool?”
She wished there was somewhere else she could hurry to. But they were nearing her house now and would be there any minute.
“Are you deaf?”
“I am not going to be home anytime soon. I think you should go”
“it is not in your place to tell me when to leave. I will be waiting here for you and you can come and explain what you’re doing with my son”
He had purposely stayed out late because of Itunu’s anger earlier. Going over to meet his colleagues, most of them Bus Drivers, he had whiled away time discussing and drinking with them.
He glanced at his watch from time to time, hoping night will come early so he could sneak in barely noticed and sleep without having to discuss their issues.
Itunu did not understand what was going on and he did not want to blow Hakeem’s cover by letting one more person in on their plan.
He loved his wife dearly but he could not reveal to her a plan that could potentially get her in trouble if things went south.
He waved to a few neighbors as he neared his home, the fear of what he could meet in the form of his wife’s anger scaring him.
Opening the door with his own key, he stepped into the darkness and locked the door before making his way to the couch with the torch of his phone.
He couldn’t dare flip the switch, he dared not. He was currently in trouble with his wife and…
He shut his eyes tightly in the darkness, fearing what was coming next.
“Itunu, I did not know you were awake” he responded, she yawned, paused before she continued, “I am” she said.
“I was waiting for you to return before sleeping but the babies won’t sleep because of the light so I left it off”
He nodded as if she could see him in the darkness.
“Good night” she said to him. Minutes later he called her name.
“I am not doing anything bad”
“If you say so”
“Everything I am doing is for you and our children”
A few seconds passed before she said, “When you’re ready to talk about what you’re up to, let me know”
And so he prepared to go to bed that night, knowing his nights on the couch were going to be endlessly long because he was not the man who betrayed his crew. It was the same way he would never betray Itunu’s love, the same way he never betrayed her brother, Mufu.
Shutting his eyes, willing to escape into his dreams no matter how meaningless they might be, he tried to find sleep.
His mother once dreamt of him sitting in front of a class, empty seats lining the rows behind him. She said of the dream, that nobody was allowed close to him. The other students in the dream had only being allowed to sit after three rows of empty seats.
“I think it means greatness” she said while narrating the dream to him. “That nobody will ever be like you and will be able to match you in greatness”
He had been puzzled as to how empty seats separating him from others had been a sign of greatness.
“What if it means I am going to be sick? Like have a virus that nobody else can dare touch?” he had been genuinely perplexed; surely that dream could mean other things aside the one she was certain it meant.
Her eyes had fallen on him, first in shock and then, amusement. “No. you will not be sick, you will be great”
He had gotten the scholarship to his University that same week.
It was her dream, his mother had told his father and him every chance she got. She mentioned how she dreamt about her womb being touched from Heaven, years after she’d married his father and longed for a child.
She was his Seer. She saw his future.
Now, she sat opposite him on his bed in his room. Her head was wrapped with an adire scarf, complimenting the adire gown she wore on her body.
“I dreamt about you being roughly pushed in a Black Maria” she began, her eyes look worried and for the first time in his life, he felt the need to put his hand on her face, stroke her cheeks and tell her it would be fine. But he held back his hand and suppressed the need.
“Don’t move with bad people, Ajayi” she added, it was a plea. A genuine plea. “This dream was very vivid”
AJ’s mind briefly traveled through his plans with the crew. He was neck deep in the whole plan; he couldn’t back out now and tell everyone he was not interested anymore.
At the Hotel the day before, he had found a way to hack into the Bank’s system. Though they hadn’t made any move yet, the moment they landed in Ghana and certain information were produced, they were setting the whole plan into motion.
He loved his mother, but he could not back out now.
“Yes ma” he said simply, grabbed his Laptop and swung it open. “I have to return to Lagos tomorrow sha.”
“How is Oluyede?” his mother asked after his cousin, the one he stayed with somewhere in Obalende when School was on break.
“Fine. He sends his greetings”
“Okay. Be careful when you return to Lagos tomorrow” she said and left his room. She hadn’t gone for long when his phone rang, it was Yede.
“AJ” he called, “There is something I have to tell you” he began, his words seemingly rushed.
“What is it?”
“It is that your friend, the South African one you met at the Hotel that day my Boss sent me to deliver something to her…”
“King. What about her?”
“She’s dead, AJ. Burnt beyond recognition.”
AJ’s phone fell off his hand on to the floor.