“Dear Khalid, I’m sorry you have been unable to reach me. Good news is I’m currently in Nigeria speaking at a Seminar in Port Harcourt. I have a conference to attend in South Africa on Monday so I’ll leave Nigeria Sunday night. If you can come over to Port Harcourt tomorrow, we can discuss this properly. Best wishes, Olivia Umari.”
Khalid read the mail a second time. She was in Nigeria! Great news! He had just gotten out of the shower when he saw the email notification.
“T-y, abeg book me a flight to PH tomorrow.”
Tayo looked up from the centre rug where he was curled beside his laptop.
“Ajala! Everything dey alright so?”
“Yeah. Dr. Olivia is there. She just sent me a mail. Said if I can make it there, we can talk. She’s leaving on Sunday.”
Tayo nodded and went ahead to book the flight. While he worked on the laptop, Khalid’s phone rang.
“Hello?… Guy how far?… Okay?… In two weeks then?… Alright. Sounds good. I can do that… No, it’s fine. No mind them. If person no hold money, them go dey do am anyhow. Alright man. Later”
He hung up the phone and scratched his head.
“I need to sleep. The students’ seminar I was to be speaking at has been brought forward by a week. The guy said the venue they had booked earlier suddenly told them the date was no longer available. If it weren’t for this strike sef, shebi it would have held on campus. Omo this country tire me jor.”
Tayo grunted without looking up. Khalid changed into his pyjamas and lay on the bed. Within a few minutes, he was lost to the world.
Aisha felt a slightly uncomfortable sensation in her tummy. Was Bode really attracted to her? Nonetheless, she smiled and replied
-LOL. You know that would be dangerous ground to tread. My boyfriend isn’t particular about plant rights o. He’ll uproot you and your feelings and cast you someplace far.
She hoped she sounded cheerful enough.
-Riiight. Just checking you up sha. Hope you’re good.
Her heart sank. He’d taken her poor attempt at a joke far too seriously.
-*sigh* I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound curt. I was trying to be funny.
-Ha. You’d definitely not be awarded comedian of the year. I was kidding too. I missed you, yes, but nothing about that should worry you.
-LOL. I need to rediscover my talent then. I always thought I’d beat Basketmouth hands down if we ever had to face off.
Bode laughed really hard when he read her message.
-HAHA. Someone must have been really washing you with Omo, Dettol, Harpic and the likes. Come here let me rinse you clean let your senses come back. 😛
-Loool. See tackle o. Only me? L
-Hehe. How about I rinse your over lunch tomorrow? Then you can give me all the gist about le romantic trip to Accra with le boo.
Aisha relaxed completely.
-Awww. That would have been awesome but we’ll have to postpone it. Got some family stuff to take care of tomorrow.
She did not want to tell him Khalid was coming over to talk wedding plans with her mother. There was no need to further rub Khalid in his face. He was being a good sport after all.
-Hmmn. Let’s see sha. Although I’m going to Dubai on Monday. My office is sending me there. I’ll be gone for two weeks.
Aisha’s heart dropped.
-Haba! Two weeks? Is this pay back for being away for a few days?
-LOL. Not at all. That would be more than pay back na. Two whole weeks as opposed to a few days? It’s really just work. If I had my way, I would not go sef. You sure you can’t make even dinner work?
She thought about it for a few minutes.
-Okay. I’ll do my best. No promises though. I’ll let you know if it’s feasible.
Bode smiled when he read her message. It was time to make his move. He was already going soft on her and that would ruin everything.
Khalid woke up to find that he’d overslept. It was almost 11pm. He looked around the room but couldn’t find Tayo. His phone lay on the table, the red light blinking. He got up slowly and walked to pick it up, his body very uncooperative. Missed calls from Aisha and a few messages too. One from Tayo saying he’d gone clubbing. He’d gotten him a morning flight to Port Harcourt and would be back in time to drive him to the airport. He stretched and fell back into the bed.
He felt the rumble in his stomach but could not begin to imagine what he would find to eat at that time. He was really exhausted. He shut his eyes for a few minutes intending to take a short nap but did not wake up again till 2am. This time, the hunger woke him up and he dragged himself out of the bed and into the kitchen. He was pleasantly surprised to find a pack of fried rice and chicken in the fridge. Apparently, Tayo had left it there. He yawned and put it in the microwave, setting the timer to 2 minutes.
He thought about Dr. Olivia and the talk they would have later in the day. She really knew how to handle him. But this time, he was afraid that just like Tayo, she would suggest he tell Aisha the truth and he knew he could not agree to that. They rarely had fights and when they did, her tantrums were scary. There was no way she would look past this one. He remembered a conversation they had long ago about a friend of hers who had been raped. People had blamed the girl for walking a dark alley at night, scantily dressed but Aisha was in total disagreement. There was no excuse for rape she had argued, stressing that it was unforgivable. To think that the girl would have to live with that memory for the rest of her life was something Aisha found upsetting. He had agreed with her back then and dealt with the pangs of guilt that plagued him for weeks after that conversation. How could he now tell her now that at some point in his life he had been a brute and raped a girl he had been madly in love with?
He sighed and took out his food as the timer went off. He would talk to Dr. Olivia but he would not consent to sharing that information with Aisha. There had to be another way to handle things.
Aisha woke up to the sound of her ringing phone. She reached for it by her bedside stool and answered, her voice still laden with sleep.
“Morning sleepy head! You still in bed? It’s past 8”
“Why are you up so early?”
“Uhh, I’m on my way to the airport.”
“On your way to where?”
“The airport. I’ve got to be in Port Harcourt today.”
Aisha felt the sleep vanish instantly from her eyes. Port Harcourt? Just like that? Was he feeling alright?
“Uhh, I’m confused. What’s happening in PH? And how come you did not mention it to me yesterday?”
“I’m sorry love. Something urgent came up. There’s a lady I knew back in Malaysia. We have business to do and I’ve been trying to track her down for a while now. She just told me yesterday that she’s in PH and I need to go see her.”
Anger seeped into Aisha’s pores faster than the speed of light. Nothing Khalid said was making sense. All she heard was: “Woman. Port Harcourt. Urgent trip.” Was Ella pregnant for him? Did he have an affair and lie about it? Was she trying to blackmail him? Was there actually another lady from Malaysia? Who was she? And why had she summoned Khalid to Port Harcourt all of a sudden? She sat up bed not even attempting to keep the anger out of her voice.
“Khalid, you’re not making any sense at all. Who is this lady? How come you never mentioned her? And did you forget that you were supposed to come see mum today concerning the wedding?”
Khalid noted her tone and he was very confused. Why was she so angry? It was a quick trip. He was going to take the first flight out of Port Harcourt on Sunday.
“Baby, I’m really sorry. Calm down. This trip is really important.”
Aisha could not believe what she heard. Calm down? Was he serious?
“Important? I’m sure it is!” her voice was laced heavily with sarcasm.
“This just came out of nowhere! We came in from Ghana yesterday, you said nothing about a trip to Port Harcourt. I called last night, you did not pick up and didn’t reply my pings either. Now you wake me up this morning and tell me you’re on your way to PH for some important business.
Run that over in your head Khalid, how does it sound? If the tables were turned and I was mysteriously running off to meet some unknown man in PH on the day I was to meet with your parents, would you honestly be calm?”
She heard him sigh and she tried to breathe normally. Why did he always do this? Why did he constantly give her reasons to be suspicious? His voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Babe, I think you’re overreacting and making this unnecessarily dramatic. The lady I’m going to see is a doctor. Her name is Dr. Olivia Umari. She’s a very good friend from Malaysia. I do not tell you everything about my work because sometimes I forget but I have been trying to reach her for a while now. I’m not even sure what you’re insinuating but this is really important. If it wasn’t, I would not be going. She sent me a mail after we got back to say she was in Nigeria for a seminar and I could come see her to discuss. She’ll be travelling on Sunday and I don’t know when next I’ll be able to meet with her again.
The reason I did not pick up last night was because I was asleep. I came home to meet Tayo in the house. We chatted for a bit and I slept off. When I woke up, it was about 11pm. That was certainly not the time to return your calls. I could have sent a text but I did not think it would be responsible of me to text and say I was travelling this morning. I’ll be back with the first flight tomorrow and I’ll come see you and your mum as soon as you get back from church.”
“Don’t you dare tell me I’m overreacting Khalid! Don’t you dare! You’re being mysterious and sneaky, going off to see some lady in PH, I try to make you reason with me and you call me dramatic? Are you alright?”
Khalid took a full minute to reply and Aisha almost hung up.
“I’m sorry. This conversation is not going like I thought it would. I really have to go now. We’re clearly not making sense to each other. I’ll call you when I’m settled later in the day.”
Aisha shook her head as though he could see it.
She hung up. Khalid had gone mad. What did he think she was? Some naïve 13 year old? This whole thing was very fishy. He had not seemed too enthusiastic about the wedding while she went on and on about her plans. He had mostly seemed distracted. Now he was running off to PH? She was not sure what to think. She knew Ella was likely in Port Harcourt already. Was Khalid going to see her? And who was this mysterious Dr Olivia? She quickly swung her feet off the bed and reached for her laptop in the bag beside her bed. It was time to do a little bit of investigation.
Thankful that the wi-fi was working in the house, she opened the google home page and quickly typed in “Dr. Olivia Malaysia, Nigerian seminar 2013”. She found her heart beating rather fast as she waited for the page to load and display search results.
Aisha held her breath as she scrolled through. Sure enough, there were links. One pointed to an article on a seminar where a famous Malaysian Psychologist was speaking at in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. It was supposed to end Saturday morning. A few other links showed articles she had written and awards she had won. Aisha was confused. To crown it all, Dr. Olivia was an extremely beautiful woman and google said she was single. She almost passed out. Single? Aisha had never felt so insecure all her life. The woman was supposed to be in her late thirties but she looked like she was 27.
She got up and walked about the room. Was she really overreacting? Or was there a genuine cause for concern in all this? She noticed the red light blinking on her phone and picked it up to check it. It was a ping from Bode.
-Morning ma’am! 😀 Just wanted to remind you to place me in your schedule today if it opens up at all.
She dropped the phone and resumed pacing. She and Khalid had dated for a while now. She had been sure she was ready to marry him at the time of his proposal but in the last few months, she had found herself questioning her decision. Was she really ready? Sometimes, it felt like he was holding back. Like he was not giving 100% into their relationship. At other times, she felt so happy, content and peaceful being with him. She had spoken to her mum but her mum said it was normal. They were both probably having cold feet because the idea of marriage was scary but this? She could not understand this? What exactly was Khalid trying to hide?
She picked her phone once again and replied Bode’s ping.
-Lol. Lucky you, I think something just opened up. Let’s meet at KFC for lunch by 1. But I can’t stay longer than an hour. Gtg now. Cheers.
If she stayed holed up in the house, she would go crazy just thinking. But she would not take alcohol with Bode again. Certainly not in this state. The last time had been disastrous.
Tayo watched Khalid’s grim face as they approached the gates of the airport. He had been silent since he hung up the phone. He had heard Khalid’s end of the conversation and knew for certain that it did not go well. He knew Khalid’s silence was because he expected Tayo to say “I told you so.”
Tayo’s suggestion when he got back that morning had been that they stop by Aisha’s place and Khalid explain that he needed to see the doctor for some research purpose. That would have partly been a lie but talking to Aisha in person rather than over the phone seemed a better idea to him. Khalid had refused. Now he was carrying his face as though someone else were to blame for his woes.
“You know you shouldn’t have told her she was overreacting right?”
“She was. I’m going to see a doctor and her tone is accusing like I’m flying to PH for a quickie. T-y, I’m stressed. You know this. The last thing I need from my girlfriend now is doubt and accusations.”
“She’s not in the full picture Khalid. I don’t blame her for being suspicious.”
Khalid lifted his hand and waved it the air
“Don’t do that abeg. Just don’t. Being in the know will just make it worse. Let me talk to Dr. Olivia first.”
Tayo had a resigned look on his face. Khalid was so stubborn!
“Alright, I won’t. But I’ll sha warn you. Never ever tell a woman she’s overreacting, even if she is. She’ll open the floodgates of fury on your head and make it rain.”
Bode smiled when he read Aisha’s ping. Lunch would work right? Great! He could not afford to waste any more time. He had been going soft but now he had found his feet again. Khalid had raped his little sister Seye. That singular event had damaged their lives. It was time to get his revenge. Aisha might be an innocent, but Seye had been too. Khalid needed to feel the same pain he had felt six years ago. He went into his bathroom again and slipped 4 tablets of Valium into his pocket. This would go smoothly. He had spent months planning it. Everything had to go right.