Again – Episode 1
Shola could not wait to go home, she was in pain. The first day was always like this when her cycle came around. “…and if today is your fist time worshipping with us on a Sunday, please, do me a huge favor and rise on your feet…” her pastor was saying. She found herself almost wishing there were no first-timers. The silliness of the thought made her smile. She was head of assimilation, it was their job to welcome first timers and integrate them into the congregation. She got on her feet as the first-timers rose, scanned the hall quickly counting how many ‘Welcome Packs’ she’d have to pick up, at that moment she spotted him. No questions that was Joe!
He was here in her church! Live! On a Sunday! After 9 weeks of silence! She had ‘stalked’ him on Twitter all the while and she knew the places he’d been during that period – Nairobi, Madrid and Abuja (twice). She felt ashamed but, then they followed each other on Twitter, so it was only normal, right? Her knees were to weak too stand, she took her seat quickly. Titi threw her a curious look, Shola simply pointed at her abdomen, Titi smiled and rubbed her shoulder as she took 4 packs from her care and left. Quickly she grabbed her phone and sent a text to Kola ‘Joe is here!’. His reply: ‘Yep. Saw him’ and a wink smiley. How could her brother find this amusing? Now she felt stranded.
“Please, keep them on.” She heard his voice at the same moment he placed his hand on her shoulder, but she’d caught his scent in the air a few seconds before. She was changing out of heels (one of the many he had gotten her) to put on a pair of slippers. “Hello, Joe.” She said. He sat down beside her. “Shola, we need to talk. Could we go out somewhere?” he said. “Like now?” she asked. “Yes.” he replied, but she was already shaking her head in disagreement. “I don’t feel too good. Tommy aches.” she explained. “Are you on?” he asked holding her hand. She nodded. “No issues, let me at least drive you home.” he said getting to his feet and picking up her bag.
“Here we are!” Joe announced pulling up at her gate. Throughout the ride here, they had not discussed anything even remotely close to the reasons behind their break up. Had they even actually been official? Shola didn’t know what to make of it all. She was however very glad he was here now. He had saved her the hassle of public transport in her condition, made sure she was comfortable and all the while chatting genially about stuff. He made her smile and even laugh a bit when he narrated an experience he had at the Madrid-Barajas Airport. Gosh! She had missed him. “You look very nice.” she said, “Thank You, dear. I suited up for you.” he said making her laugh again.
“Resumed work yet?” he asked, “No. Waiting on GSK’s medicals.” she replied. He gave her two business cards. One belonged to someone in the HR department Standard Chartered Bank, the other was his’. She was to go see the guy and say she was from Joe. “Call him today, set up a meet as soon as is convenient for you both, and here…” he handed her an envelope, “…this is for transport.” She thanked him and since he didn’t seem like he was about to reschedule their date, she asked “Will you be in church next Sunday?”
“I’ll try.” he said smiling “Let me know how it goes with Ambrose at the bank.” he added.
“Okay. Thank you so much, Joe.” she nodded, said goodbye and left the car.
Alone in her room, she had to slap her own mouth. “Will you be in church next Sunday?” she mocked. “What were you thinking, Shola? That was sooooo lame! Ha!” she yelled at her reflection in the mirror. She got the envelope out and counted 25pieces of N1000 notes. She shook her head then looked again at Joe’s business card, it carried his name and one of his phone numbers only. She got the other card and called the guy. He sounded nice and sure knew Joe. He asked her to come over to the Head Office on the Island the next day. Yes, she knew where it was. Yes, noon was fine by her too. That done she placed a call to Joe, for the first time since that night, thanked him and told him about the appointment.
Thursday. Shola was in Joe’s car heading home after a lunch date. She had met Ambrose on Monday and he had basically chatted with her over lunch at their cafeteria, taken her CV, promised to be in touch and had spoken very well of Joe. Told her how Joe was crazy about her and all. She had called Joe that evening and he had asked her to this date. “I’m getting out.” Joe said as he paused at a red light, “Getting out?” she pressed, “Yes. I’m going legit.” Shola was very surprised, she had been looking out for an opportunity to discuss his source(s) of income with him, to plead with him to leave those ways behind and get into something honest. For him to be saying it? It was nothing short of a miracle.
“I have put aside enough money to start a business, run it and cover my upkeep for about 6months. I’m going into import of house fixtures and fittings.” He continued, “I have made some contacts and done research. Also found a place to operate from in Abuja and a crib there too. Will keep my Magodo place still, I’ll be in Lagos pretty often.” he said placing his hand on hers. “I love you, Shola. I want you back.” She didn’t know what to say.
Apparently the past 9weeks while she had tried to get over their breakup, he had been working on changing his course in life. Clearly he had done a lot of planning, made investments and commitments to his new life. “I’ll need some time.” she heard herself say.
“You said yourself that he was into all sorts, now you are hanging with him again ‘cos he attended a Sunday service?” Kola asked her that evening, “I’m not back with him yet, Kola.” she defended, “Oh! Yet, abi? Meaning you are going back eventually! I can’t believe this!” he railed.
“Keep your voice down, Kola! He knows he can’t continue that way. He’s working on changing things. Not just talk, he has concrete plans and he has made moves in that direction.” she explained. Kola was not buying any of it.
“See, these guys? They never change. A juicy deal crosses his sights, he won’t resist.” he said as he left her room. That last sentence weighed heavily against the over-an-hour’s worth of promises Joe had given her in the car.
That same night she called Joe. “On two conditions, Joe.” she said after pleasantries. “Yeah? What are they?” he asked catching on quickly to the topic she just raised. He was good at negotiations, this was something he had seen coming and already knew what her conditions would be. “Carry through with this change in business and no sex.” she said. He smiled, he was right again. “You have a deal.” he said. “Promise?” she pressed, “Yeah, baby.” he said.
Shola, after the call went to bed with a calm smile. Joe, on his part, had one more call to make. He dialed a number and waited, the time was 11:38pm. “Hello, Joe.” Dave’s voice came over the line. “I’m in. Just as a favor for Stanley.” Joe said, “Cool. Tickets and instructions in your mail at dawn” Dave replied. “Aii. Later, man!” Joe said and hung up.
As he got in bed, he wondered if Dave ever slept. “And just why, Joe, is your heart pounding?” he murmured.
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