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Nifemi lay on the couch in the living room reading a book. It had been a lazy Sunday for her. She had spent the whole of Saturday doing laundry and cleaning up the entire house. She also cooked for the new week and stocked up the freezer. Once she woke up on Sunday, she didn’t bother taking a shower. She just brushed, took some food and stayed in bed watching shows. Towards the end of the day, she picked up on her reading and stayed glued to the book while hugging a bottle of wine until nightfall.
It was 8pm when Victoria sauntered into the living room, bright eyed and excited. Nifemi was up from the couch in a flash, crushing her in a bear hug.
“Jeez, woman, you have me for the entire night. Go easy” Victoria said laughing.
Nifemi giggled and pinched her arm
“Because I missed you abi?”
Victoria yelped and tickled her chin in return
“That was painful! Don’t miss me again abeg.”
Both ladies laughed and Victoria subsequently added
“Missed you too luv. I-B was amazing though. When you mix work with fun, the best!”
“There’s no difference between work and fun for you. Sha bring gist.”
Victoria set her small on the floor and together they took to one of the couches.
“One of my director guys called to say there was this filmmakers’ workshop in I-B and some top producers would be there so he wanted me to do like a meet and greet stuff. It worked out pretty perfectly. I got a role in one of the producer’s upcoming series. Then we spent the rest of the weekend partying hard and today, I reckoned I’d had enough.”
Nifemi squealed in excitement.
“That’s amazing babes! I’m so happy for you.”
Victoria smiled with feigned grace and flipped imaginary hair in the air.
“Thank you, thank you very much!”
Nifemi burst into loud laughter and Victoria joined her eventually.
“So tell me, how did your weekend go?
Victoria regarded her suspiciously.
“Wine and a book? You’re avoiding something or waiting on something. Or someone”
Nifemi rolled her eyes and looked away guiltily.
“Oh lord, this woman!”
“Noooo,” Victoria held up a hand and sat up in the couch.
“I know you. I know you too well. Something ain’t right.”
“Or you think you do.” Nifemi said laughing.
“What? A girl cannot enjoy a good book and wine by herself again?”
Victoria’s eyes shone brighter than her smile and she clapped her hands excitedly.
“I know you Femi, start talking.”
Nifemi rolled her eyes.
“Smh. I went out with Uzo on Friday night.”
Victoria’s smile disappeared, replaced almost immediately by a frown.
“Even after what I told you?”
“Calm down Vic. He wasn’t the one.”
“How do you know that? Wait, let me guess, he told you.”
“Yes. And he was really upset that I thought he was a murderer.”
Victoria sighed and rubbed her forehead in exasperation.
“Femi, what did you think? That he would say yes and confess to the crime?”
“No. That he would look guilty or try to cover it up, not look disappointed in me like I had broken his trust.”
Victoria shook her head.
“I’m not buying this Femi. But okay.”
“There’s no winning with you. It’s fine.”
She got off the couch, picked her book and the almost empty bottle of wine then walked out. Victoria called after her but she ignored her. Victoria followed her into the room and stood by the door while Nifemi plopped into the bed with her back to the door.
“I don’t want to talk again please.”
“Femi, really? Come on. It’s nothing to be upset over. I was just saying-”
“You’re always just saying. You never trust me even to deal with my own life. Like, I can’t bring gist to you without you trying to lecture me.”
Victoria felt bad. That was not her intention at all.
“Babes, come on. Okay, I’m sorry. That has never been my intention. I’m just trying to look out for you. I’ll take your word for it. It wasn’t him.”
“You’re just saying that.”
“No, I mean it. I’m being overprotective and I’m likely overthinking this. Please just tell me how the date went.”
Nifemi turned to her and smiled reluctantly.
“It wasn’t a date jor.”
“But you sha went out.”
“Yes. And I had a blast. We saw a movie then went to karaoke. Vicky, that guy can sing and dance for Africa. You should have heard his rendition of Sam Smith’s Stay With Me. It was too beautiful.”
“Osheyyy lover girl!”
Nifemi laughed and shook her head.
“No be only. I told you I’m only hunting him. It’s just a game”
Victoria smiled smugly. She didn’t believe the game was still on. If anything, the game had changed and the hunter had become the hunted. If the light in Nifemi’s eyes were anything to go by. But she didn’t want to argue and risk upsetting her a second time that night.
“Issokay. So when is the next hangout?”
“Funny you should ask. He said we should do this again sometime but I haven’t even heard from him all weekend. He did say he would call yesterday. Still nothing.”
Victoria stifled a laugh.
“I think he’s probably on a mission as well. He’s trying to make you fall for him.”
“Fat chance. I’ll see him at work tomorrow and if he doesn’t say anything about not calling, I won’t even ask. We can both pretend Friday night never happened.”
“Awww. Someone is getting a little sensitive.”
Nifemi smacked her and turned on her side of the bed.
Sharon stood around the arrival lounge, nervously wringing and unwringing her palms as she waited for Otto to go through Immigration checks. She spotted Otto’s tired face first and Otto’s eyes brightened in a smile when she saw her. They shared a warm hug and sat down beside each other.
“It’s really great to see you. I feel like you’re my sister now. The only thing close to a sibling I have.” Otto said.
Sharon swallowed hard as she contemplated Otto’s possible reaction to her betrayal.
“Same here hun. How was your flight?”
“Not bad, I just feel so tired-” she yawned and continued “I didn’t get much sleep last night. I feel like my brain hurts from too much thinking.”
Sharon smiled and stroked Otto’s locks. They were beautiful and had grown over the last few months.
“And you? Are you feeling any better?” Otto asked
Sharon smiled sadly and turned her face away. She didn’t know where to start, if this was the time or place or even how Otto would react.
“Sharon, is everything okay?” Otto’s voice and eyes mirrored her concern and Sharon felt even worse.
“I swear you can tell me anything Sharon, it’s literally just us two.”
“I got drunk and high on the night of the funeral and I slept with Tobe.”
Otto’s eyes widened and she let out a shocked gasp before pulling both hands off Sharon’s laps and covering her mouth.
Sharon shook her head and turned away.
“I know you must be really disappointed and pissed but I’m sorry-”
“Are you okay?”
Sharon turned to face Otto and was shocked to see tears in her eyes.
“Hey, why are you-”
“I can’t imagine how awful you must feel.”
Otto impulsively hugged her and Sharon found herself crying again. It was most annoying. Why were her lacrimal glands hyperactive this weekend? Beyond that, Otto hadn’t even heard the worst of it. Sharon gently eased her back and she wiped her face as Otto stared at her with her own tear-stricken face.
“That’s not it. I’m pregnant.”
“Oh.” Otto’s voice was small this time and she looked away. Sharon burdened by her own guilt looked around as well and suddenly spotted Kunbi walking towards them. She felt a mixture of relief and trepidation. It wasn’t all over yet.
Kunbi was a head taller than Sharon, had the regular build of a guy and a permanent smile on his face. A smile that always made everything better.
He held Sharon in a warm embrace for the longest time and when eventually they pulled apart, he said
“See ehn, if it weren’t for my baby and the fact that I’m a one woman typa guy, I would have asked you to marry me right away. You are much more gorgeous than I remember.”
Sharon found herself laughing. Kunbi had not lost his charm one bit.
“It’s great to see you too hun.”
Kunbi kissed her on the forehead then turned to face Otto who was still seated on the chair, shell-shocked.
“And trust Sharon to have a side-kick who looks every inch as gorgeous and as feisty as herself.” He stretched a hand to Otto.
“Hi, I’m Kunbi.”
Otto ignored his hand and turned to Sharon, eyes suddenly burning with rage
Sharon wished the ground would open and swallow her. She stood rooted to the spot, ignoring the curious glances being cast in their direction and hoping that Otto would keep it together.
“It’s one thing to cheat on my brother, but then you go and get pregnant??”
Sharon turned to Kunbi, eyes pleading for help. She saw shock make a brief appearance on his face then quickly give way to concern but no judgement. This was not how she intended for him to find out. Kunbi clasped both hands together, still facing Otto.
“Can we take this out of here? Please? We’ll go to my house then sit down and try and talk.”
Otto did not say anything. She picked up her bag instead and walked out of the airport. Kunbi took Sharon’s bag and whispered to her, “it’ll be okay.” Then they walked out together.
The ride home was quiet. Kunbi driving with Sharon seated beside him and Otto sulking at the back of the car. When they got to his house, a modest 3 bedroom apartment, he took their bags inside and led them to the living room. Portrait paintings and pencil drawings hung all over the room, extending to the elevated area of the dining and as annoyed as Otto was, she could not resist the urge to go close to them.
“May I?” she asked gruffly.
“Sure.” Kunbi said with a smile.
There was a landscape painting with two figures by the beach watching the sun set. Otto ran her hands over it, her breath catching in her throat.
“That’s my favourite.” Kunbi said from behind her.
“I painted that last year when I went to Zanzibar.”
He smiled. These are all mine. I paint, I draw; I’m a visual artist.
Otto was impressed.
“Wow! That is so cool!”
“What were you doing in Zanzibar though? Honeymoon?”
Kunbi laughed and shook his head.
“Naah. Not married yet. Personal retreat. I like to go away sometimes and just think. Painting or drawing helps. It’s destressing.”
“So you’re an artist on a professional level or you paint just to de-stress?”
“I’m an Energy consultant. Studied in Nigeria, did my Masters here and got a job here. I’ve been here for 4 years now. I paint to de-stress. I have sold a handful but only because people didn’t know anything better to do with their money.” He finished with a small laugh.
Kunbi held her hand and said softly,
“You know, if you say those words a few more times and a little bit faster, you’d sound like a siren and maybe the fire service would get here soon enough to put out the fire that I can sense burning beneath the surface.”
Otto laughed self-consciously. She liked this guy already. She tried to guess his age. Definitely late twenties. And he was cute too. Yeah, she was definitely crushing on him.
“Sorry. I’ve just had a rough time.”
“I can tell. And I’m guessing that’s why Sharon brought you to me. Clearly, she’s also had a rough time.”
Otto rolled her eyes.
“Rough enough for her to cheat on my dead brother with his best friend and end up pregnant.”
“I’m right here you know,” Sharon finally spoke in a small voice. She had remained standing in the centre of the living room the entire time saying nothing.
Kunbi led Otto back to the living room and had her sit on a couch right across from Sharon and himself.
“So I don’t know anything about what’s going on but I’m hoping that you’d both be able to talk to me and somehow we’ll make a way out of the maze we’re currently stuck in. Yeah?”
Sharon nodded meekly and Otto shrugged.
“Can I just take a walk outside for a bit? If you have a garden or something.” Otto said unexpectedly.
“Sure.” Kunbi led her to a back door that opened into a beautiful garden and Otto smiled.
“I love you already.”
“Well that’s certainly not something I get every day. I’m glad you do.”
He walked back into the living room to find Sharon seated exactly as he had left her. He sat next to her on the couch and pulled her close into a hug. Sharon was too tired to cry any more. She was silent for a few minutes but soon she found her voice and she told Kunbi everything, leaving no details out. The best thing about being friends with Kunbi was she could always count on him to speak objectively without judgement and always provide a solution to whatever mess she had landed herself in. It didn’t even matter that they had not spoken in about a year. Kunbi was a permanent part of her life, always lurking in the shadows, ready to come through whenever she needed. And as expected, he did not fall short.
“How far along are you?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t do a hospital test. Just checked myself at home.”
“It’s possible that this child isn’t even Tobe’s. You slept with him 2 weeks ago and you’re pregnant now? But you said Ani made love to you the morning before the accident. And that was 4 weeks ago. Why don’t you go check the actual dates and we’ll take it from there?”
Sharon’s heart thumped with hope. Hope she was afraid to fully latch on to. What if Kunbi was wrong?
“See, Sharon there are consequences for every single one of our actions. Directly and indirectly. You were hurting when what happened with Tobe happened and the direct consequence that followed was the guilt and now probably a baby. But for some reason I cannot place, I am convinced it is not his child. Regardless, you must forgive yourself for the past. Then talk to God to help you accept and deal with Ani’s death.”
Sharon nodded vigorously.
“I feel like God hates me. He must be tired of all my back and forth.”
“I tell you all the time, God’s love for you is not predicated on your love for him or your attempts at righteousness. It is not based on reciprocity. He loves you regardless. Fight Him all you want o, accept Him o, He still loves you all the same.”
“I wish I could have what you have Kay. That unyielding and unwavering confidence in God; that assurance that He always has your back irrespective of whatever happens.”
“Blind trust. It’s hard because it defies logic. But it brings me peace.”
Sharon sighed again.
“I’m worried about Otto. She seems to be losing her faith. It’s also why I brought her along. To lose all one’s siblings that way. I don’t want her to get lost completely Kay.”
“It’s not up to us to fix her Sharon. Sometimes we must lose ourselves in order to find ourselves again. You know my journey and how I came to this point. Let her.”
“But will you talk to her at least? Tell about your past as well?”
“Sure. But I’m just saying, it’s not a guarantee of anything. Let her question, let her be mad at God even. But eventually, it’s up to her to decide. You can encourage, pray and offer support but you cannot convict. That is what the Holy Spirit does.”
Sharon looked at Kunbi with a smile and she exhaled loudly.
“I swear my life would be an absolute shit-show without you in it. You are everything Kunbi. Thank you so much.”
Kunbi held her eyes for a few seconds.
“I’m here for you dear. Anytime.”
Otto walked back into the living room at that moment.
“So, when do we get to talk?”
The Bishop swayed from side to side in his hammock hanging firmly under the sturdy mango tree in his garden. It was a really cool Sunday evening and he was enjoying the breeze. But while his outward appearance portrayed relaxation, his mind processed ideas at a thousand thoughts per minute. It had taken him about 12 hours to obtain Ijeoma’s file the moment he realized Vlad was dead.
He was impressed and that was not something that happened often. He contemplated recruiting her and how much she would cost. Someone like her would come in very handy especially considering the number of elections taking place across Africa and the number of politicians that had contacted him for help. He would not kill her. He would just find a means of purchasing her loyalty. Everyone had a price. He just needed to figure out what hers was.
But before purchasing or commanding her loyalty, he would need to capture her first. He only needed to deploy 4 of his most trusted agents. He didn’t have that many of them these days and he preferred it that way. He strongly believed the more people a person had around them, the more vulnerable they became. So if people didn’t know who he was or the powers he wielded there would never be any hope of catching him. This was his biggest strength. His ability to remain invisible and live and act vicariously through a select few.
His instructions were simple. Find Ijeoma, kill any and every one that served as an obstruction but bring her to him alive. He had given them 48 hours to complete the assignment and he expected that they would come through.
His current residence was on the outskirts of Abuja and his mansion of a house was far from regular habitation. He liked the seclusion. He would keep Ijeoma prisoner there till she bowed to him and gave in to his demands. He got off the hammock and walked into the main house. Her file still lay open at the bar table. He looked at the printed pictures of her and smiled lustfully. Perhaps he would have a go at her as well. That body was too perfect to be admired alone. In his sixty two years of existence, no woman had ever made his blood boil over with desire as much as the woman in the pictures before him. He poured himself a shot of whisky and went to his favourite rocking chair, a dark smile on his face as he thought of all the things he could and would do to her.
by Ogechi Nwobia
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