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Aisha was having the time of her life in Accra. Things had never been better. For this trip to be possible, her grandmother who died four years ago had to die a sudden death again. That was the only reason her supervisor permitted her to travel. But the lie did not bother her. She had been here for three nights and she was definitely enjoying herself. Khalid left in the mornings, chatted with her over lunch break and took her out in the evenings. The trip was somewhat spontaneous so they did not have much cash at their disposal but she was enjoying herself nonetheless. They went window shopping twice and despite the fact that Khalid had grumbled about going to stores and not buying much, she had enjoyed herself. Last night while they took a walk, they decided on a date for the wedding. She had called her mum and they agreed they would meet and finalize upon their return. But as it stood, in six months, she would be a Mrs. The thought made her giddy with excitement and she hugged her pillow.
She thought about Bode. They had not chatted much since she came. She checked his profile on BBM and as usual, there was no picture of him. It suddenly struck her as odd. She had no picture of Bode. He never updated his DP with a personal picture. She shrugged and decided he was just weird like that. She dropped her phone, sat up on the bed and began browsing various sites, checking out wedding gowns and other accessories. A few minutes later, she wrote down a list of girls that would be her maids of honour, making a mental note to ask Khalid about the guys so she could begin pairing them up. In no time she was lost to the world, thinking, planning, writing and browsing. This wedding would be awesome!
“Why do I get the feeling you’re avoiding me?”
Khalid did not slow his pace one bit. He kept walking down the hall and responded without looking at her.
“Because I am. Everything about you spells trouble.”
Ella laughed and grabbed his arm, forcing him to a halt.
“Khalid would you calm down for a second and loosen up? I just want to be friends. Why are you being so difficult?”
Khalid thought for a few seconds, whether to indulger her in this conversation or be downright rude and walk away. He chose the former option.
“Ella, you’re attracted to me and each time I look at you, I don’t see that the attraction is gone. Trying to be just friends with me is a risky business.”
Ella smiled. The frankness of his words surprised her. It was as though he could see right through her but she would not back down.
“Don’t get too cocky. I’ll admit, I was attracted to you but I’m mature enough to know and back down when a guy doesn’t want me. Forget that I hit on you in PH. Let’s try and be friends. We have a common ground in Econ. I’m sure we can add a lot of value to each other.”
Khalid looked at her and sighed.
“You don’t get it do you? I’m really not interested. And I’m sorry if I’m coming off as cold and unfeeling. But that’s just the way I am. The time spent around you in PH raised a red flag for me and I have learned to never ignore my instincts”
He knew his words cut deeply because she released her hold on his arm, tucked an imaginary stray strand of hair behind her ears and said:
“Okay then. Enjoy the rest of your stay here.” She turned back and walked towards the conference room where the summit was taking place and he continued his walk to his room.
Aisha was sound asleep when he got in. He walked about carefully so as not to disturb her. He noticed the laptop and notepad lying on the edge of the bed and he picked them up. Several tabs were opened, all containing pictures of wedding stuff; gowns, cakes, shoes, rings, even suits. He smiled. Aisha would make a very beautiful bride. He checked the note pad and read through all her scribbles. He always teased her about her writing. It wasn’t all that bad but he liked to describe it as what happened when chickens scratched about for food. He smiled thinking about how she must have spent the entire day planning the wedding, if her scribbles were anything to go by.
Aisha turned in her sleep but did not wake up. Khalid laid the laptop and notepad carefully on the table and then he sat down on the bed to think. They had a potential date for the wedding and that made things seem even more real to him. Was he really ready to settle down? Was he good enough? Aisha loved him, she respected him and she trusted him. She saw him as the perfect guy, the man of her dreams, but what if he wasn’t? He bowed his head and buried his face in his hands. In seconds, images from his past came rushing at him. The thoughts flooded his mind and threatened to drown him. He had made mistakes and he was certain that soon his past would find him and Aisha would see that he was not the saint she thought him to be.
He shook his head and forced the thoughts back. It was all in the past. Everyone had history right? He had changed. He was a better man and he deserved Aisha.
Really? You do? Where in this world is it recorded that evil men deserve good, loving women?
Khalid got up and walked into the bathroom. He would ignore the voices in his head. He had seen a therapist years ago. Everything was supposed to be over. But now the thought of getting married and settling down seemed to frighten him and that fright brought the voices back. The voices! They preyed on his fear and taunted him mercilessly.
“I deserve her. I have worked hard to make myself worthy of her love. I have earned my place in her life.”
He spoke into the mirror and kept repeating the words to himself. He turned the faucet and cupped water in his palms, splashing it on his face and willing himself to calm down. He walked back to the room a few minutes later and dug in his bag for some panadol. He had not had a panic attack in over a year, now this. He needed to call his therapist.
Ella did not take rejection well at all. She was not the kind of girl that felt privileged and entitled to anything she wanted but with Khalid, it was different. She could not believe he had turned down her offer of a simple friendship. What kind of guy was he? It was just not normal. His rejection made her even more determined to get to him. There had to be a way. He was just the kind of guy she needed. Smart, dedicated, and loyal. All the guys she had ever been with had some question marks around them. They were always lacking something. But Khalid looked like he had everything.
She brought out her iPad and composed an email to send to her dad. He was really busy, they hardly had time to bond, but he would never deny her a request.
Hi dad, the summit is going really great. It’s really awesome having so many economic giants in one room. I’ve had some time to interact with Khalid. You were right about him. He seems really smart, like someone who knows what he’s doing. I think you should consider offering him a job. Maybe make him your special assistant on economic matters or something. He might be able to help you improve the economy of our state. I’m sure that will place you in good standing with the president and set you right on track for a second term. I could work with him; put my brains to use like you’ve always suggested. Matter of fact, I’ve got a few projects I’m thinking of and I’m sure he and I will be able to make it work. Please think about it and reply me when you get a chance. I love you!
She read the message twice over and hit the send button. If her father offered Khalid a job, she doubted that he would refuse it. And once he took the job, getting rid of her would be impossible.
Seye stayed in her room all evening and wept. The tears would not stop flowing and she did not attempt to stop them. At some point, she began to wail loudly and her elder brother rushed into the room worried.
“Seye, what’s wrong with you?”
She ignored him and continued wailing. He was afraid. Someone might have died for all he knew. He gripped her by her arm and shook her.
“Seye talk to me jor. What happened to you? Why are you crying like this? Did someone die?”
Seye shook her head but she still couldn’t speak.
Her brother was confused for a little while and then a thought occurred to him.
“Kay has gone to Malaysia hasn’t he?”
Seye nodded in the affirmative and burst into fresh spasms of tears.
He wasn’t sure whether to scold her for crying so much or to ignore her and let her get over the hurt of his departure and so he sat there for a while just staring at her. She would not stop crying though. And it seemed to him like someone had actually died.
Unable to stand her tears anymore, he patted her on the back before getting up to leave the room.
“Get over him. Life goes on. It’s why I don’t believe in love. You only end up hurt.”
He knew his words were cruel but he felt his sister did not need kid gloves. She needed the cold hard truth. She would get through this and she would be fine.
Seye looked at him with puffy red eyes and a running nose.
“You have no idea…”
He hugged her briefly and walked away. He could not bear to watch her cry, but as he got to the door, she called out to him. He turned and walked back to her.
She hiccupped twice before speaking in a low tone; so low, he could barely make out her words
“Kay raped me…”
Aisha woke up with a start. She had just had a terrible dream. She looked around the room and noticed Khalid lying on the centre rug, staring into space.
He raised his head and looked at her.
“Sleeping Beauty’s finally awake” he said with a smile
“I just had a terrible dream.”
Concern masked Khalid’s face as he got up and walked towards her.
“What happened darling?”
She let him sit beside her and wrap his arms around her.
“So I dreamt that we were getting married and they asked if anyone had any objections and Bode raised his hand and then you pulled a gun out of nowhere and shot him and then everyone started running and you pointed the gun at me too and threatened to kill me and kill yourself and then I woke up…”
Aisha gushed everything out in a single breath, her eyes still wide with fear. It had just been a dream but it seemed so real. She looked at Khalid and noticed the mild amusement on his face.
“Mine, I don’t even own a gun” he said, chuckling softly. “And who is Bode anyways?”
“He’s a friend of mine. A new friend.”
“I never heard of any new friend by the name of Bode. Since when did he appear?”
“Uh, months ago. Apparently, we were in school together in Lancaster but I never knew him. Then we met at a training and we exchanged numbers. I see him once in a while.”
Khalid said “Hmmmn” and then was silent for a few minutes.
“Why are you quiet love?”
“Why I’m quiet? I’m just wondering about your new friend that you never told me about who suddenly appears in your dream but happens to be ruining our wedding.”
Khalid’s tone was neither warm nor light and Aisha knew trouble was brewing. She had to handle this right. She thought about telling him the whole truth, including the kiss but she figured that doing so would get her into serious trouble so she chose to play safe.
“Mine, I’m just a little stressed that’s all. Bode isn’t someone you should worry about. I think it was just a really random dream and that’s why I was so scared. I mean, Bode is a nice guy and he even knows I’m engaged to you. He hasn’t shown any interest in me so there’s no reason for him to want to disrupt our wedding. And then you say you do not have a gun. I think it was all too random.”
Khalid looked at her as though he could tell that there was more than she was letting on. He strongly felt that way. This “new friend” unnerved him but he was not going to doubt her. If she said it was nothing then it really was nothing. He sighed and said “Okay, if you say so.”
Aisha hugged him tight and whispered into his ears.
“There’s no one I could ever love more than you baby. Absolutely no one.”
He smiled and returned the hug…