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Bode walked into his boss’ office that Wednesday morning feeling slightly uncomfortable. His line manager usually gave the instructions so if the overall boss summoned him, it had to be something huge.
“Sit down.” The man waved him into a chair.
Bode did as he was told, a very calm expression on his face. His boss wasted no time in getting down to business.
“We have three jobs to handle in Dubai and I need strong, competent hands to accompany me so I want you to join the team…”
Bode could not hide the surprise on his face. This was good news. He smiled as his boss continued
“We will be gone for two weeks max. Hopefully, we should be able to complete all three jobs.”
Bode composed himself and the smile disappeared from his face.
“Ok sir. When do we leave?”
“Next week, Monday afternoon. I don’t know why all three jobs had to come in at the same time with this level of urgency but we’ll go and sort them out.”
“Ok then. Thank you sir.”
He got up to leave.
“Oh, one more thing. That IT firm we worked for in Utako, their data centre requires a complete overhaul. Do you think you can go and check it out later today and be done by tomorrow?”
Bode’s eyes grew big and round. He wanted to say no but he didn’t dare. Because he knew it was not a request. It was an instruction.
“Sure sir. I can do that.”
Bode walked out of the office and back to his own. Days like this, he hated being a Systems Engineer. Mr Fix it. He sighed. The job in Utako would definitely run into Friday. It’s how these things worked. He sat at his desk and thought about the Dubai trip and realization hit him. He would likely not see Aisha before then. Irritation crawled up his spine. And what if upon his return from Dubai, they decided to transfer him to Kaduna? Oh boy… He shut down his laptop, packed it into his backpack and got up to leave. The sooner he got to Utako, the better for him.
Kay sat outside the big brown door, shoulders slumped, eyes reddened. Gone was the confident, self-assured young man who walked with shoulders high and rich loud laughter. Right there, he looked like a frightened mouse that had been cornered. He waited, somewhat impatiently, uncertain of what would happen next but utterly terrified.
He had been acting strange for two weeks; skipping classes, skipping meals, avoiding friends… everyone was worried about him. His aunt insisted that he move home from the campus and when he remained a recluse, they brought him to see a doctor. She was a psychologist actually but Kay could not be bothered by the difference. He looked up at the door again. “ DR OLIVIA UMARI” was printed boldly at the top of it. He shivered slightly and continued his wait. He was not sure he wanted to talk to anyone.
10 minutes later, the door opened and his aunt walked out.
“You can go in.”
She looked tired and he could only imagine how much stress he was putting her through.
“I’m sorry aunty.” He muttered
She gave him a tired smile and patted him on the back.
“Just let her help you. Please talk to her”
He nodded and walked in.
Dr Olivia was a pretty lady. Not the regular doctor who wore glasses and had a clustered table. Her desk was neat with few stacks of files. She got up and smiled at him as he walked in.
“Hello! Please sit on the couch.”
He did as he was told and seconds later she was sitting beside him.
“My name is Olivia”
“I’m Kay.” He felt stiff and awkward beside her
“Alright. Is that your full name?”
“No. My full name is Khalid Sani.”
The pretty lady smiled. She did not have a notepad or any writing material but somehow, Khalid felt she would remember everything he said here.
“I’ll stick with Kay then. Everyone calls you that yeah?”
He relaxed somewhat. There was something about her.
“Yes ma’am. Everyone calls me Kay.”
She smiled; a very disarming smile and he relaxed some more.
“Alright Kay. Your aunt is pretty worried about you. Says you’ve been withdrawn. What’s up?”
Kay wringed both hands together and kept silent.
He looked up at her and shook his head slowly, panic gradually working its way into him.
“I um, er, I think I’m just really stressed. Tired. Lots of work at school.”
“Lots of work at school yeah? What are you studying?”
Kay knew he was lying but he wasn’t ready to open up to this pretty lady and share his darkest secret. He answered her all the same and the conversation went on. She asked which of his classes he enjoyed best, what his hobbies were, where he loved to hang out… the questions kept coming and he supplied answers easily enough. She was easy to talk to.
Bit by bit, she worked her way into his head and then she asked if he was seeing anyone.
“Uhh, no. I was. But not anymore.”
Her eyes held kindness when she asked why.
“I left her back in Nigeria when I had to resume here.”
She smiled. A smile that told him she understood all about young love.
“Is she the reason you have been so sad Kay? Do you miss her very much?”
Kay’s eyes clouded and before he could stop himself, the words came rushing from his mouth, tumbling over each other, barely making any sense.
“She’s dead. I killed her. I got an email two weeks ago telling me she was dead. She died and it was all my fault.”
He expected her to recoil and call the cops to come arrest him but she drew closer to him instead, wrapping her arms around him in a warm embrace and rubbing his back. When his tears subsided, she asked
“How could you have killed her if you’re over here in Malaysia and she’s all the way in Nigeria?”
Khalid looked into her eyes and all he saw was kindness and understanding. She wasn’t judging him.
“I did something very stupid.
We dated for a while and I really loved her. Very much. She was beautiful and really sweet and unassuming. She had this innocence about her. She was just pure. And I loved her but we weren’t getting together you know- ”
“You weren’t having sex?”
Khalid looked a little embarrassed and he nodded. She smiled and said “Go on.”
“So I knew I would leave her behind and I wanted to make things work somehow. I did not want her to forget me and I did not know how to go about it. She was ready to end things with me. So I spoke to some friends and they said if I slept with her, it was guaranteed she would never forget me. I mean, ladies never forget their first right?”
Dr. Olivia nodded in understanding, kind smile still in place.
Shame washed over Khalid afresh and suddenly, he could not bring himself to continue speaking. As though she could read his mind, Dr. Olivia hugged him and said
“You don’t have to keep talking if you don’t want to. You can save the rest for later.”
He felt greatly relieved and nodded gratefully.
She got up, went to a fridge tucked in a corner of the office and returned a few minutes later with a glass of orange juice and cookies in a saucer.
“Here. Have some of these. I baked the cookies myself. I hope you like them.”
And when Khalid began to munch on the cookies, she continued.
“We don’t have to get through everything in one day. We’ll go one step at a time. I’m here to help you. I want to be your friend. So feel free to come in here at any time to talk.”
“Are you gonna come back and finish the story tomorrow or at least tell me some more?”
Khalid nodded. She gave him some pills to take. Anti-depressants she called them, and some multivitamins to help his appetite. Half an hour later, Khalid was gone. But he made good his word and returned the following day and several other days after that. He told her the whole truth, keeping nothing back. He had lured Seye to his home a day before his departure from Nigeria, he had gotten a little drunk and he had raped her, in spite of her struggles and pleas. He regretted his actions terribly the following day but he was never able to talk to her and beg her forgiveness. His actions haunted him but he always dealt with them determined to make amends some day in the future until that mail came in that ruined him. A classmate from Secondary school said Seye was dead. She had gotten pregnant, tried to abort and then died in the process.
It was all too much for him to bear, a lot too difficult to deal with and he was gradually sinking into clinical depression. Dr. Olivia did her best to get him out of it. When the nightmares came, he ran to her. When the panic attacks began he would run to her still. He never got a chance to make things right with Seye’s family. Not even her brother Olu B, who had always been so protective of her. They had been classmates but not friends. His mother moved from Port Harcourt to Abuja and during his time at Malaysia, he hardly returned to Nigeria. Dr. Olivia understood everything. She listened patiently each time he spoke and she encouraged him to forgive himself. Everyone made mistakes. Sometimes they were amendable, at others time they weren’t; but regardless, it was important to move on and work towards becoming a better person. And so Khalid moved on with his life, forgiving himself, letting the pain go away and striving so hard to become a better person…
Thursday night, Aisha was super excited. A gala nite had been organized to wrap up the summit and Khalid was taking her to it. She dressed up really quickly; a lovely mono-strapped purple dress that flowed all the way down to her feet with silver sequins adorning the waist. She clutched a pink purse and wore flat pink shoes. Khalid teased her about the shoes before they left their room.
“You look short somehow. How can you wear such a lovely dress and then wear flats? Don’t you feel weird?”
She laughed and replied
“Because I decided to pity you abi? You know I would dwarf you in any of my heels.”
“Mhmmmmn! You so wish! See this short girl o. If you wore the heels I would still be taller.”
“Yeah yeah. Whatever” Aisha rolled her eyes and waved her hand in the air dismissively and then he laughed and pulled her close.
“You only do this your ‘yeah yeah’ when you know I’m right. Don’t worry, in shortness and in height, I’ll always love you.” He tapped her nose with his fore finger and Aisha laughed really hard.
“When did you become this funny? Oh well, that’s something we could add to our vows.”
They walked out of the room and Khalid shut the door behind them. As they proceeded to the hall, an astonishingly beautiful lady walked past them. She had on a short dress; leopard skin print that clung to every part of her body and totally flattered her perfect figure. Actually, everything about her seemed perfect. Makeup was flawless, legs were straight, hair perfectly done, but her breasts heaved up and down as she walked. Clearly, the dress could not adequately accommodate them. She found herself gaping as the lady walked past and flashed a smile at Khalid. She caught a whiff of what had to be very expensive perfume and it filled her nostrils. Khalid looked at her like she was acting silly.
“Why were you staring like that?”
She giggled and said
“I’m sorry love. But that babe was just too fine. Kai. Life is not fair o. Have you noticed how all these really rich babes are so fine? It’s annoying.”
She expected him to laugh and pass some funny comment but he didn’t. Instead he answered rather coolly.
“No I don’t notice. I’m too busy minding my own business.”
Aisha dropped her hand from his side where she had hitherto been holding him.
“Ouch. Baby, that actually stung.”
Khalid looked at her and sighed. He took her by the arm and walked off to somewhere on the side
“Mine, that was the governor’s daughter, Ella. I told you about her. She’s been getting under my skin and I really can’t stand her. It would help if you didn’t ogle at her like that. You’re not even a guy.”
Aisha came up with a smartass reply and it was just on the tip of her lips but she thought better of it and swallowed instead. Khalid seemed to notice.
“You were going to strike back now, weren’t you?”
“Oh no baby. We don’t get to fight tonight. Actually, we get to have a lot of fun and throw it in Ella’s face.” She smiled. Khalid hugged her.
“You’re pretty silly sometimes yeah, but for the most part, I’m just crazy about you.”
She smiled mischievously.
“I’m silly abi? Don’t push it o. Let’s just go”
Khalid laughed, linked his arm with hers and walked into the venue of the gala.