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“There is this Kenny guy that is always on the phone with her.” Charles let out abruptly. It was him and a hurt Ambrose alone in the house. Amaechi had just stepped out to grab some analgesics at the drug store. “Have you asked her what the relationship is?” Ambrose managed through the pain. He had been out playing his regular Sunday League soccer and had taken a brutal knock to his left ankle. An ankle that had proven to be slightly more fragile since childhood. “Yup. Its her ex.” Charles replied. He’d been seeing Tinuola for about 5 weeks and it had all been heaven aside the consistent calls to and from Kenny. “Ex keh?!” Ambrose yelled. “Whose ex?” Amaechi asked, as she entered.
Charles related the whole thing to Amaechi and Ambrose. He was glad he did though, because Amaechi had given him some sound advice form a girl’s perspective. Of course he was not going to take the whole thing but at least there were a lot of useful points. One thing was clear, Kenny was not just any ex. He was “The Ex” as Amaechi put it. From what he knew Tinuola had met him during her NYSC, they’d dated for 3 months, she’d called it off “for some reasons” (personal), but they’ve remained close ever since – over 2 years! “Sure, there is something to investigate here.” Charles said kicking Ambrose’s hurting ankle. He heard a hail of swear words as he ran out of the apartment.
As he drove off to his dinner date with Tinuola he wondered if he and her could become like Ambrose and Amaechi. Always cozy and good together, stable. His thoughts went to Chioma, he’d dated her all through their MSc program, it all seemed to have come to naught. She had called him about a fortnight ago to say she was off to Dubai for a few days. He’d noticed all her DPs and stuff, but beyond the “I have arrived/How was your trip?” chat they’d had, things had been pretty quiet. With Tinuola however, it was all highs, fun and fireworks. Today he was dinning in her home in Lekki. He planned to also raise the Kenny issue. At this stage he deserved some answers.
“There is someone here to see you, Sir.” Stacy, his secretary told Charles as he got off the elevator. He looked at his watch, it was 9;48am. He was just back from a meet with the top dogs upstairs. “Who?” he asked, “Miss. Otisi.” Stacy replied. Charles stopped in his tracks. Chioma was in his office! It was well over 2 months they saw last, she never went anywhere without a lot of fanfare, nor came to see him unannounced. He pulled out his phone and quickly checked her BBM PM – nothing was different from last night. No hint of a trip to Lagos or anywhere else. All the same, the fact stared him in the face, he maned up and stepped into his office.
“Good Morning, Chioma” he said as pleasantly as he could manage as he stood before her. She simply handed him her phone. The picture on the screen was a screenshot of someone else’s BBM DP and PM. He was not familiar with the Username nor had he previously seen any PM that said “Hapi 4 u gal! Hold him tite!”, the DP however was all too familiar. He looked from the image to Chioma’s face which was now before him, she reached for the phone and made a screen gesture to bring up the next picture. This one was a saved copy of the previous DP. It was a picture of him and Tinuola taken less than a week ago at the beach. She was holding tightly to him as he ran from the waves carrying her on his back.
“Listen, Chi..” Charles was saying, she showed him her palm and shook her head slowly. Then he saw the tears. “You did not even have the dignity to give me a clean break up, Charles. Am I such a cheap article in your sight? Almost 4 years of my life, Charles, and this is how you pay me? Toss me aside without a word?….” She went on and on. Charles sat on his desk, he could only hang his head and listen. He felt terrible. Not because of his involvement with Tinuola, but because he had kept procrastinating a formal break up with Chioma. Was it procrastination or he had been waiting to be sure of Tinuola before letting her go? All the same, this was bad. Ambrose had warned him. “Chioma, I am sorry. Really, I am” He managed to say when Chioma stopped with a “Why Charles? Why?”.
According to Chioma, a friend of Halimat’s had seen the picture on another girl’s BBM DP and had investigated before telling Halimat who then told her. Clearly she was hurt but the pain was more from the humiliation than the infidelity. As she turned around to leave, Charles held her to stop her, huge mistake – he realized when he saw the look in her eyes, he quickly let go of her arm. On top of her voice she said “Charles, if you dare touch me again, I’ll make sure you are locked away for longer than you care to know. Fraud!”, then in a whisper: “I should have let Halimat’s cousins come for you, spineless chicken!”
He watched her walk out of his office, though he’d shut the door firmly, folks must have heard a good percentage of the interaction and of course her closer, because an unusually high number of bodies lined the hall outside his office, all eyes on Chioma. He got up and slammed the door shut. At that same moment, he realized this was a different Chioma that just left, she was too precise, too prepared and had executed flawlessly, used the element of surprise maximally too. “She was coached” he murmured, grabbed the intercom and dialed a number “Security, gimme a video feed of the exit gate, NOW!”. He sat at his computer typed a few commands and waited, then he saw her team: Halimat, Joan and two solidly built dudes he’d never met. Chioma knew he had a serious phobia for violence (unless it was on-screen or in a novel) and she had used that against him too.
“Cancel all my appointments for the rest of the day. Reach me on my mobile in the event of an emergency – extremely urgent and very important.” Charles said as he walked briskly past his secretary’s desk and into the elevator. It was high time he got some answers. Tinuola had continuously avoided coming through on the Kenny story and yet the calls had not slowed down. He was already dialing her before he hit the ‘G’ button in the elevator. “Hey, baby!” he heard, “Hi, dear. Where are you?” he asked, “Oh! At the client’s site I told you about in Arepo.” she replied. “Ok. I’m bringing you brunch. Text me descriptions.” he said, “Awwww! How sweet of you, darling.” she replied then hung up. “Nothing sweet here.” Charles murmured as he walked to his car.
Guided by the text he got, he had found the place and was now sitting on a staircase with Tinuola, food packs in hand and she was stonewalling him. “Its something we promised never to tell our ‘nexts’, Charles. I’m sorry, but I cant tell you.” He felt like roaring. “See, Tinuola, you keep telling me its over between you both but you are always on the phone with him. What the hell is going on?” he managed in a level tone. “Baby, all in good time, you’ll…” she was saying, Charles cut her off “Its been over 3 months!”. They’d been on this back-and-forth for half an hour. He rose, dropped his food and made for his car. This was all getting too much for him. Were these girls trying to drive him out of his mind? He heard her on his heels, he turned around, looked her straight in the eyes and said “Tinuola, I love you, but you have to make up your mind. Its either me or him.”, got in his car and drove off leaving her standing there.
Back on the highway, Charles’ heart was heavy, all he wanted to do was head home and sleep. As he planned his fastest route home his phone rang, “Hello” a female voice said “Yes?” he snapped thinking it was Stacy. “Charles, Chioma collapsed! We are taking her to the hospital, please, come! Hurry!”, “Which hospital? Send me the address” he said as he stepped hard on the gas pedal.