Shola felt the wheels of the plane touch the tarmac. Finally they were on land. The weather had been rough and the pilot had had to make several announcements to keep everyone calm and assured. It had crossed her mind once what would be of her if the flight had gone wrong and they had fallen out of the sky, but like she’d been taught in church, she’d overridden such thoughts by proclaiming her safety “going out and coming in”. Throughout the flight, she had thought in a million directions, prayed a thousand little prayers and reminded herself of every promise she could recall that was remotely linkable to her present situation. Still, she was in shambles.
She just wanted to see Joe and get this all over with. She needed the dimensions of what she had gotten herself into, she needed to know if she could cope and where exactly they were headed. But most importantly, there were many missing pieces in his story and she needed them filled in. She turned on her phone as she exited the craft, the messages poured in. 4 from Pastor Keji, *beep!* the 5th rolled in, 2 from Kola, 1 from her Mum, 1 from Joe. She read his’ first – “Waiting at Arrivals.” was all it said. She went through the others as she walked briskly in the drizzle to the Arrival lounge. Kola had acknowledged her SMS then had sent another to ask if she had arrived. Her Mum asked how her trip had been and when she was coming back exactly, her Dad was back.
Pastor Keji had typed like a worried soul. Lengthy texts, plenty of Bible verses and advice. She was on the 3rd one, her eyes picked up the words “deceit”, “dream” and “dangerous”, she backed up to read from its start, her phone rang and Joe’s handsome face filled her screen. “Leave your phone alone.” He said, She smiled looking around for him. “What now? Where are you?” She spotted him leaning against a wall, newspaper in hands. He was using his Bluetooth headset, talking to her while pretending to read the newspaper. “You are a case, Joe!” She said, “Made specially for you.” He said before she hung up. She strode as quickly as she could towards him, he folded the paper up, left the wall and walked towards her. She was so excited.
She noticed his every move, scanned his dressing – on point, as always, then she could smell his perfume, her heart beat faster, and finally, she was in his arms. He kissed her full on the lips, she didn’t resist. She could taste coffee on his tongue. “Hey, dear!” He said with a twinge of surprise when he broke the kiss. Shola was not one for PDAs but she just could not help it. She hugged him. “Ok. Let’s move.” He said, relieving her of her handbag and leading her outside. “Terrible weather for flying, eh?” He said, She only nodded, “I’m sorry I put you through that.” He added, “Its okay, dear.” She responded. He beamed her a 1000Kw grin. She could feel the tension seep out of her head. His firm grip around her waist made the world feel steady beneath her feet again.
“We are here!” Joe said as the car pulled up at the hotel entrance, She’d had her head in his chest, wrapped up in a Jacket he had put over her. She looked up, it was the Tinapa Lakeside Hotel. Now it was pouring heavily and the potters were quickly at their door to keep them from the rain with umbrellas and lead them in. Joe got his keys and quietly led her into the elevator. “We”ll be fine.” He said taking her bag from the potter, “Yes, Mr. Ebele.”. At that instant, two things struck Shola – One: Joe’s british accent was particular strong since the Airport. He seemed to have switched it to max. Two: He was definitely not Ebele in anyway, his names were Joseph Osarumwese Erhabor. No Ebele or any such thing anywhere. Of course he was here under a false identity. Security measures again, Shola guessed.
“Hey, Baby!” Joe said as Shola walked out of the bedroom and into the living area of the suite “What time is it?” She asked rubbing her eyes. He had made her order food and then take a hot bath which he ran for her. By the time she got out of the bath, the food was set in the bedroom and she could hear him watching TV in the living area. She was so hungry, she had eaten wrapped in a bath towel and had suddenly woken up well covered up in a duvet with the towel still around her naked body. “Shola! Why do you let your guard down so bad around this boy?” She’d scolded herself before getting dressed and heading out to find Joe. “Few minutes past 5. You were out for about 3 hours.” Joe said. “I was tired. What have you been doing?” She asked looking at the screen of his Sony PSVita, “Playing Games.” He replied, “Is this a kind of vitamin dispenser?” She mocked, he only shrugged.
“Now that you are well rested, let’s go window shopping. What do you say?” Joe asked, slipped the PSVita in his pant’s pocket and rose to his feet. Shola rose too, pulled aside the curtain and looked out. She could see the lake, the view was a beauty, “It’s stopped raining.” She said as she took a few pictures of the view. She turned around and took two of him too, he obliged her a sweet boyish smile. Then she went to him and took another three of them before they left. He put his jacket around her, it was pretty chilly outside. Shola had one of the best evenings of her life. They shopped, ate, danced, played games in the arcade and took countless pictures. He also stalked her around the mall a bit, pretending to have never met her, giving her pick up lines and making her laugh real hard at the silly ones.
“Your lace.” Shola pointed at his right foot as they were about leaving. Joe stopped, crouching to tie the errant lace. She walked on to look at the wedding gowns on display in a shop. Someone ran into her, she quickly turned around to save the contents of her shopping bag from spilling, but it was too late. It was a young girl and she seemed to be tipsy, another guy quickly approached scolding the girl in some language Shola could not place. “Sorry, Madam.” He said to Shola then, “Tina! Behave yourself naa!” he barked at the girl who was now on her knees trying to help Shola pack up her stuff, “Madam. we are sorry.” the guy said joining the girl in re-packing the bag, “Its OK. I just hope nothing is broken.” Shola said getting the bag from the guy as the girl dropped in the last item. She noticed Joe was watching. “Sorry, ma!” they both chorused and the guy led the girl away.
Joe walked up to her in flash, “That girl is drunk!” Shola said pointing at the couple heading for one of the main exits, “No, she is a thief.” He replied coldly. She was gripped by panic. “Thief?” She asked, “Yes. She took my PSVita. I put it in your bag at the restaurant.” He replied, placed his shopping bag on the floor beside her and added “Wait here.” then went after the couple. She suddenly realized he had switched modes. This was not the Joe who had been playing 101 Pick Up Lines with her a few minutes ago, this was the Joe she’d seen in Lagos when she had told him about the men who had stopped her. “Joe! Come back, please!” She called after him. There was no evidence that he heard her. Quickly she ran into the store and told the security men that she’s been robbed. She was allowed to keep her stuff in the store while she and a security man went after the thief.
As they exited, Shola could hear raised voices amongst which she picked up Joe’s still in his strongly accented English. She ran in that direction followed closely by the guard. The guy and the girl were claiming they had not taken anything, clearly the girl was not drunk Shola could now see from the articulation of her argument. “You took it!” Joe shouted at the girl, “Took what?” the girl screamed back, “Mister Man, – ” the guy was saying, pulling Joe’s shoulder, “Do NOT touch me again, man!” Joe cut him short. “Hey! Hey!!” the guard was shouting trying to take charge of the scene. Joe and the guy were staring hard at each other. Shola noticed the guy was clearly bigger and a little taller. Joe didn’t seem to care. Now Shola was really scared. “Fuck you!” Joe suddenly said, reached for the guy’s glasses and threw it across the lot.
The 15seconds that followed will remain a blur to Shola. The guy had tried to hit Joe and somehow missed while Joe seemed to have struck back a few times and landed his’ because the guy was writhing on the floor with blood oozing from his mouth and nose. At this point, the girl took to her heels, Shola shouted “Thief!” the guard seemed to suddenly wake up from a nap and gave chase. Grunts of “You stupid fool!” got Shola’s attention back to Joe and the guy who was now begging. Joe was kicking the guy’s ribs, back and stomach as he tried to roll out of reach. Shola quickly grabbed her man’s arm, he seemed not to notice as he dragged her along while her kept the kicks and curses going. Shola had to scream on top of her voice to get him to stop. By now, the guard was returning with the girl who had fled. She was pleading, in tears.
Other people had now arrived on the scene. A million questions were being asked. Joe could not be bothered, he simply walked, with Shola still holding on to his arm, to the girl who had now produced the PSVita from her bag. “Give it to me!” Joe said, hand outstretched, “Take, Sir.” she handed it to him quickly, “I’m sorry, Sir. It was the Devil.” she added kneeling. Joe took the console and handed it to Shola, she let go of his arm to take it, the very moment it was safe in her grip, Joe’s hand went back, his body adjusted quickly to ensure the back of his hand landed on the girl’s face. There was a loud smack, she began to howl. The ring on Joe’s pinky had cut her face. Shola saw the gash on the girl’s face before she put her fingers over it. “You know nothing of the Devil.” Joe said coldly. Shola’s head swam, she had never been comfortable with the sight of blood.
It was over 30minutes later and they had just been allowed to leave the security office where they had seen the tape of the theft and all parties questioned. Joe was back to his cool ‘British boy’ self, it was almost impossible to believe he was capable of the barbaric acts of less than an hour ago. He did get a stern warning for taking laws into his own hands. Esosa, his cousin she’d meet in Lagos, had also come to join them at the Security Office, Joe had called him on their way there. The security Chief had listened intently to Joe, asking many times for clarifications, confirming with the guard who had witnessed it all, asked for Shola’s side of the story and given the accused pair an opportunity to speak too. The male of the pair could hardly speak, he had a broken nose and it seemed he had taken a hit to the throat, amongst other things. Shola on her part was striving to come to terms what had transpired.
Esosa dropped them off at the hotel just before 10pm, promising to come see them in the morning. He and Joe had spoken in the Bini tongue all through the journey. This was very fine by Shola. She did not need any fresh information and had nothing to say anyway. She’d checked her phone, Pastor Keji had been trying to reach her during the fracas and again while they were in the Security Office. She had also sent an SMS:
“Call me immediately. Much love. P.Keji.”
Shola had not read all of the others Pastor Keji had sent earlier, the one she’d left off read:
“My dear. I’m not saying he does not love you, but there is deceit somewhere in all of this. I had a dream about you, Shola. This Joe character is dangerous. Promise me you’ll come back safe. May His strong arm of Righteousness keep you safe. Ps. 136:10-12. Much Love. P.Keji.”
Oh, yes! Shola was well aware now that Joe was dangerous. She read the other two messages. All along the same lines.
Up in their suite, Shola sat on the bed while Joe took a shower. She held the PSVita in her hands. She called Kola and then her Mum. Yes, she was fine, will be back Sunday afternoon. Joe had mentioned her flight out to Lagos was 1:25pm. She then sent a text to Kola:
“How much is PSVita?”
She did not want to discuss this over the phone, she did not want Joe to overhear.
“Like 45k. Joe’s got one.”
Came his prompt response.
“Forty-five thousand Naira.” Shola murmured shocked. Joe had gone wild, beat a guy to pulp and hit a female over a 45k game console? It made no sense. She began to cry.
She was still looking at the console in her hands when Joe came out of the bath, wrapped in a night robe. “Babe. What’s the problem?” He asked, “Joe, you almost killed someone over a 45k toy? 45k for God sakes, Joe!” She cried. “Shhhhh! Relax, babe, its not about what they stole, its –” He stopped short when he noticed she was retreating from him. “What?” He said looking into her eyes, then he saw it, he did not need her to say what she said next, he knew it. “Joe, I am afraid of you!” She said sobbing uncontrollably. “I would never hurt you, Shola.” He said keeping his distance. He had seen this before. His ex had cracked like this and fled. He had to handle this right. Shola was stronger than his ex, he just needed to handle this critical moment right. “Be calm, Joe.” he told himself.
“Who really are you, Joe?” Shola asked, “Definitely not the Joe I used to know. That Joe wouldn’t hurt a fly.” She added still crying. He almost smiled but didn’t, “What do you want to know?” He asked. “Everything!” came her prompt reply, “I have told you what you need know.” He said calmly. “And the rest?” She pressed, “Whatever I have kept from you is for your own good, Shola. You gatta trust me on this one.” He said casually leaning against a wall. “For my good? My good abi?” She shot back. He nodded. “Ok!” She said, picked up her hand bag and started getting her very few items into it. “What are you doing?” Joe asked “This is for my good! What is good for me right now is to move out of this room immediately! I can not risk a night with you in the same room.” She replied. “Come on, baby! You are over-reacting.” He said.
Joe watched her pack her stuff and head for the door, he followed, without a word, to the main door and there blocked her path “Joe, let me go, please!” she was shaking. She knew for a fact she was no match for him. “Go where?” He asked “Anywhere. I’m sure they’ll still have rooms available at the front desk.” She replied trying to gather her thoughts. “Ok, baby. I give up. Let’s talk about this.” Joe said throwing his hands up making her finch. “Relax” He pleaded “Tell me all, Joe” She pressed, “I’ll tell you all, Shola.” He replied left the door and took a seat. “Promise?” She asked turning to look at him, “I promise.” Joe said already regretting what he was about to do. Shola approached the sofa slowly, unsure. He was patting a space beside him with the hand that had the ring which had cut the thief’s face. Her phone rang the moment she sat beside him. It was Pastor Keji again.
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