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“Mine, I’m sorry I left you here all by yourself. I just wanted to finish up a discussion I was having with the guys. This country is really in trouble. If care isn’t taken, it’ll only be a little while before the economy totally crumbles.
I’m thinking we should try to stage another occupy Nigeria protest…”
Khalid was just behind her and he put both hands on her shoulders. Aisha took a deep breath, pulled her wits together, and turned around slowly. By the time she was facing Khalid, her face was totally blank.
“The economy has always been in trouble Khalid. It’ll always be like that.”
“No. Don’t say that. Things can change. In fact, they have to change. Look at countries like China and Singapore. Even India! They have left Nigeria far behind. We keep paying attention to the wrong things. How can the government not know to diversify the economy by now? They should leave oil alone and explore agriculture; especially given the high level of corruption involved in the oil sector. Look how much money disappeared under the subsidy scam. Oh it’s really convenient for them. Chop money to the detriment of the economy. They are selling the future generation into slavery! Talking about the future generation; look at the education sector! This government pays little or no attention to education! How can a governor give out iPads to school kids and feel like he has contributed immensely to the education sector?”
Khalid waved both hands in the air as he spoke and Aisha blanked out. Listening to Khalid rant about the economic state of the country was exhausting and she was not even in the mood. She took the belt from the loops, neatly folded the trouser and managed to slip the condom back where it had come from without his notice. She kept the trouser on the bed and when she bent down to retrieve the next item from the bag, Khalid stopped her. He had noticed she wasn’t paying him any attention.
“What are you doing?”
Khalid folded his arms and raised his eyebrows.
“Babe, are we okay?”
“I’m confused Khalid. What could possibly be wrong with us? Malaria?”
Khalid sighed and began massaging his temples.
“Your sarcasm tonight is rather high. Why would you say you’re dancing alingo?”
“Because, clearly, I’m helping you unpack and you can see that, yet you ask what I’m doing.”
Aisha was spoiling for a fight. That much was evident.
“Okay. Would it have killed you to just say that? Besides, I don’t need you to help me unpack. I’ll take care of it later.”
“Why darling? Is there something in there you don’t want me to see?”
Khalid looked really confused. Her tone was pretty suggestive.
“Aisha, are you sure we’re okay? Because right now I get the feeling there’s something you’re not saying. What could I possibly have to hide from you?
I’ve been really stressed the last few days, the last thing I need right now is a fight. I wanted to invite you to the living room so you could say goodbye to the guys. They’re just about leaving.”
Aisha was not sure how to respond to that. How could he pretend he had nothing to hide when she had just found a condom in his pocket? There was absolutely no reason whatsoever for it to be there. She and Khalid weren’t having sex so they had no need for it. Her friends had teased her about going celibate but she had her reasons. Now this. There was only one answer. Khalid was cheating on her.
Focus girl, focus. We’ll deal with this later.
“Fine. I’ll come say goodbye to them. I’m right behind you.”
Khalid stood staring at her for a few seconds. He looked like he would leave without her. Then he reached out to her.
“I’m not going back there without you. I told them I was coming to get you to bid them farewell and I’ve been in here long enough. Let’s go.”
She still had a defiant look on her face so he added “Please.”
She placed her right hand in his and let him lead her out of the room.
Within a few minutes, the guys were all gone and they were left alone. Alone, with the tension still between them.
“So how was Port Harcourt? You spent two weeks there. I’m sure you have a lot of gist for me.”
Khalid looked at her but did not respond. Something was definitely wrong with Aisha. Her tone was accusing, like she knew something he did not. All the sarcasm tonight. She mostly went into full sarcasm mode when she was angry with him and expected him to figure out the reason himself. Could it be because he hadn’t come home that weekend two weeks ago? He thought she understood. His schedule was pretty tight and he needed to get rest whenever he could find the time to. There was so much to tell her about the trip; several random incidents and small events that he had noted at the back of his mind to share with her and laugh over; but no, not tonight. The atmosphere wasn’t right.
“Port Harcourt was ok. The meetings went well. Just normal boring econ stuff.”
“So nothing special happened there?”
“Uh… I met with the governor and a few of his cabinet members, we discussed what they were seemingly doing wrong and how we could get things right… Babe, there was nothing special, really. Just regular econ stuff and lots of politics too. I don’t want to bore you with details”
Aisha wasn’t convinced.
They sat in awkward silence for a while.
“Do you still want to go for dinner?”
Innocent question. Or so Khalid thought.
“Oh? You don’t want to take me again ko? I’m suddenly too thick to engage in a conversation over dinner?”
Khalid’s patience snapped.
“Aisha, what exactly is wrong with you? I told you. I had a very hectic time over the last two weeks. It was from one meeting to the other. I spent hours doing research over the internet, spent more time writing reports and proposals. I certainly did not come back home for any of your theatrics. If there is something on your mind, you had better say it now and quit being annoying and sarcastic!”
The look on Aisha’s face was hardly describable. Khalid was turning on her? He was losing his temper when she was simply giving him an opportunity to confess? Like she’d had a swell time here in his absence. Her supervisor at the office was a crazy control freak that constantly kept her under pressure. Each time she needed to talk to Khalid about how her day was going, he was never there. They barely chatted over bbm in the three weeks that he was away. Lagos to Port Harcourt. He was the one who had cheated and now he was here losing his temper. He must be a joker.
“Actually Khalid, there’s a lot on my mind but I’m certainly not saying anything tonight. I’m going home.”
She went into his room, picked her handbag and walked out. Khalid was standing in the doorway.
“Babe, what I have I always told you about communication?”
“Don’t use that tone on me Khalid. I am neither your daughter nor your little sister. And I don’t care what you have told me about communication. I don’t want to talk. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got somewhere I need to be.”
Khalid’s eyes softened as he looked at the beautiful petite lady before him. Aisha was a lot to handle. Quite a package actually, considering her small stature. You could not help but love her, especially when she got mad. That was a sight to behold. Pursed lips, fiery eyes, hands on her waist and a set look on her face. Just the way she was now. He wanted to lift her off the ground and spin her in his arms. He wanted to kiss her deeply and tell her how much he had missed her. He wanted to tell her that every day in Port Harcourt had been frustrating without being able to effectively communicate with her. He wanted to tell her about the governor’s daughter who had flirted with him and who he had to outrightly tell that he was engaged. He wanted to do all that. But he did not. Rather, he stepped aside and let her walk through.
He followed her to the car and watched her get in. She shut the door, placed her left hand on the steering wheel and then turned the key in the ignition with her right. When the car came to life, she took her glass down and turned to look at him, her left hand still on the wheel. She opened her mouth to speak but before she could utter a word, Khalid spoke.
“You’re not wearing your engagement ring…”
Aisha did not know what to say. She felt guilty but the anger was still there. She certainly needed to leave and get her feelings sorted out. She turned her eyes back to the steering and fixed her gaze on them. A few minutes of silence and then
“Nothing to say to me I see. Okay then. Good night.”
Khalid walked back into the house without looking back.
Aisha was spent. This was not how she had planned for the evening to go. Khalid should have been surprised and happy to see her. They should have cuddled up and talked endlessly about how much they missed each other. They should have updated each other on their activities over the last few weeks. They should have had dinner at Dunes. He should have teased her about being a bush lady because of how she would have dealt with the chicken. The evening should have gone completely differently, but it didn’t. And now she wasn’t sure how she felt or what she should do.
She drove out of the compound and parked a hundred metres from the house. She shouldn’t do what she was about to do. It was silly, it was probably wrong, but she convinced herself that she needed a distraction. Khalid had cheated after all and she needed to forget that temporarily.
How are you sure he cheated?
Why else would he have a condom in his pocket? And why would he try to stop her from unpacking? With all the hints she was dropping, why did he not come out clean and explain himself?
She pulled out her phone and scrolled through the contacts on her phone. When she found the name she was looking for, she dialled the number and waited for a response.
“Hey hey. What’s up?”
“I’m okay. How are you feeling?”
“Much better actually. I’m watching a movie now.”
“Okay. I was thinking maybe we could meet somewhere. Maybe hang out for an hour or so.”
“Well well, look whose schedule just opened up. I thought you had plans for tonight. What happened? Prince charming stood you up?”
Aisha was not sure she wanted to be teased at this point.
“Would you quit being a monkey and meet me at Area 11? There’s a nice place on Gimbiya street before Roses. It’s a hotel but it’s got a really nice hangout spot. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
“Or better yet, you could come over to my place.”
Aisha was getting irritable.
“No, I’m feeling claustrophobic at the moment. I don’t want to be in anyone’s house. I need fresh air. And just so you know, I’m in a foul mood tonight and the only reason I called you is because I’m hoping you’ll be able to talk me out of it. So you better stop teasing, put on a shirt and head over to Area 11 now!”
Bode quickly sobered up.
“Okay. I’m sorry. You sound really upset. I’ll be over there in twenty minutes or less.”
“Thank you. See you soon then.”
She hung up without waiting for his response. Her heart was racing and she trembled slightly. She knew in her heart that she should go back to talk to Khalid; ask him about the condom and apologize for not wearing her ring. But it was too late for that now. She had already asked Bode to meet her.
Truthfully, the only reason she was not wearing her ring was because of Bode. They had been out together a number of times and she never wanted him to see it. And given that she and Khalid had been somewhat distant over the last few weeks, wearing the ring held no particular appeal. She meant to put it on when leaving the house this morning but somehow she had forgotten. She had hoped he would not notice and even had a story ready for him in case he did but with the way things had gone tonight, her story was pretty far from her lips when he asked.
She sighed, turned the key in the ignition and drove off.
Khalid shut the door for the night and went into his bedroom. He was certain he would not leave the house tonight and he was not expecting anyone. Well, except if Aisha decided to come back.
Why wasn’t she wearing her ring? Since he proposed two months ago, she had always worn the ring. She loved it and she was proud to be his fiancée. Well, that’s what she always said. But today she did not have it on and when he asked, she had no response. Was that how bad things had gotten between them? Had she met someone else?
Whoa! Slow down Khalid. Aisha would never cheat on you!
Then why was she spoiling for a fight tonight? The last few weeks had been tough on them. Could she have met someone else in so short a time? He wanted to call her and talk things over. Maybe he should go over to her place and try to reason with her. She said she was going home right?
He noticed the trouser she had neatly folded on the bed and he smiled. Aisha was always taking care of him, cleaning his place, cooking his meals. She had a good heart. He just could not understand what was going on with them. He figured they needed to spend more time together and in that instant, he made up his mind. There would be no more trips for another month. He needed to be by his woman.
He reached over to pick the trouser and his phone rang. He left it and brought the phone out of his pocket instead. The name in the caller ID made him slightly uncomfortable. There were two “Ellas” on his contact list. But the surname behind this Ella was the reason for his discomfort. It was the governor’s daughter.
“Hello, good evening.”
Sounding formal was an absolute necessity.
“Hi Kay. How was your trip back?”
“It was okay, thank you.”
“I didn’t hear from you again. I thought you were supposed to text me when you got in?”
“I’m sorry, I must have forgotten.”
“Okay. I was checking you to be sure your plane didn’t get lost in the Bermuda triangle.”
She laughed as she said that but Khalid remained uptight.
“No it did not. I got in safely.”
“That was supposed to be funny. I was under the impression you had a good sense of humour. What’s eating you?”
“Nothing miss. I’m just tired and need to rest. So except you have a really important reason for speaking to me right now, I’m afraid I’ll have to hang up.”
Ella seemed taken aback because for a few seconds, she did not say anything. Then she got herself together.
“There’s an economic summit coming up next week in Accra. My father wants you there. He said you made quite an impression and he wants to sponsor you to be a part of it. I’ll email you the details so you can get your registration done.”
Khalid found his head spinning.
“How long is it supposed to last?”
“Four days I guess. I’m not sure but be prepared to be away for a week at most.”
“Uh, can I get back to you on this?”
“Get back to me in what sense?”
“Let me think about it and make up my mind on whether or not I want to be a part of it.”
Ella was certain she had not heard him right. He wanted to think about it?
“Excuse me? My father, a governor, wants to sponsor you to attend a summit and you want to think about it?”
Khalid instantly went over his words. No. That didn’t come out right.
“Sorry. That didn’t come out right. Please can we talk about this tomorrow? I’m really tired and my brain is shutting down. I’ll text you my email address and you can send the details like you said. But we’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Okay then. Good night.”
Khalid hung up and sat staring into space. His head was spinning. He needed a cold shower. That usually helped him think straight. Getting up to take the shower was another issue.
Bode got to the hotel in less than twenty minutes. He easily spotted Aisha’s car where it was parked and he parked beside her. The music was so loud, there was no point calling her
I’m here. Where are you?
-Where did you park?
-Right beside your car.
-Hold on. I’ll be with you in a bit.
He came down and leaned beside the car.
Aisha walked up to him and hugged him, holding on much longer than he deemed necessary.
“Okay… What’s wrong?”
With her face still buried in his shoulder, she replied
“Nothing I feel like talking about.”
She loved the cologne he wore tonight. Very masculine.
He did not push, didn’t ask any further questions. He just held her and stroked her back.
A little while later and she pulled back.
“I ordered catfish pepper soup. I hope you don’t mind”
“It sounds good, thanks”
She walked him to a table and a few minutes later, their order arrived.
And then the drinks. She’d ordered Smirnoff ice for herself and Harp for Bode.
Without thinking, she took down four bottles within the hour.
Bode kept watching her. She did not say what was wrong, he did not ask again, but he was certain he had an idea.
After the fourth bottle, he noticed she seemed somewhat tipsy.
“Come on Aisha. It’s time to get you home.”
“Why? The night is still young. I want to have fun!”
She giggled and threw her right fist in the air. Bode shook his head.
“Come on, I’ll take you home.”
“You must think I’m drunk right? I swear I’m not. I might be slightly tipsy, but I’m not drunk.”
He got up and took her hand but she pushed him away.
“Comot for road jare. I can walk by myself.”
She walked back to the car swaying slightly. Bode shook his head. He wasn’t going to let her drive.
“Let me have your keys.”
“If you drive me home, what’s going to happen to your car?”
“Nothing. I’ll ask a security guy to help me watch it. I’ll drive you home then take a cab back here.”
Her smile disappeared and she instantly looked serious.
“Bode, I’m not drunk, really, you shouldn’t.”
“I insist. You look really tired.”
Aisha did not argue further. She handed him the keys and got in the passenger seat in front. Bode spoke to the security man like he said he would. He paid him some money and walked back to the car. He got into the driver’s seat, turned on the ignition and then the Air Conditioner. The engine was running but he did not move the car. Rather he turned in his seat to face her.
“Should I be worried about you?”
Aisha leaned close to him and smiled.
“Do you want to be?”
Her words were slurred ever so slightly.
Bode reached out and stroked her face with his right hand.
“Yes. Actually I feel like I ought to. Something is eating you up but you’re not saying what it is. I mean, the way you sounded over the phone when you called and then you came here and went on a drinking spree. I have a feeling you’d have taken more if I hadn’t stopped you. So yes, I feel like I should be worried…”
Aisha was not sure what Bode was saying. She could not really hear him and it had nothing to do with the loud music playing outside. In that moment she could only see his beautiful eyes, his lovely dimples, his neatly shaven face, his lips… Bode was really attractive.
Without thinking and before she could stop herself, she leaned in and kissed him…