Story: The Final Smile


    The road was wet and muddy as the rain teared down in full velocity. Water leveled the road and no one would have seen a pot-hole on the totally destroyed road. The road was without deep gutter so the road was filled with rain water flood and mud. The environment was chilling to the bones and even the trees shivered from the cold atmosphere. Raymond had his glass wound up as he drove home in the rain from the club. He had always bragged that cold weather can never have an effect on him but tonight’s weather had gone way over the edge. His car heater was on and his shivering body gradually calmed down. Thinking about it, he became happy that he was able to sneak out of the club without his reckless friends’ acknowledgement for they would have laughed him to scorn. Careful of pot-holes, he mulled over the events of the last few hours, driving moderately. He had arrived home from work and had met Tinuke unexpectedly at home. Tinuke was his fiancé of about two months and lover for more that three years. After proposing to her two months ago, his immediate line of action had been to formally see her parents for the traditional rites but he held back. Ever since the engagement band had been slipped into Tinuke’s finger, she had changed drastically, doing things she had never done before. She transformed from a sweet little dove to a nagging peasant who complained about everything that meets the eye ranging from his style of dressing, his choice colour, the friends he kept, and on and on. She started suspecting every move he made and the house was always on fire with her in it but he just could not send her away. He had deflowered her three years ago when they met and he had been so surprised to meet her a virgin at 23. He had vowed in his heart never to let her go because he saw her as a rare gem as he had never met with a virgin before sexually. His friends had advised him to let her go when she started this new tactic but he just could not bring himself to doing it. This night, Tinuke had so much worked on his bad side that he ended up asking his friends to take him to the best club they could find; something he hadn’t done in years; but instead of finding happiness, the place just gave him more headache. Raymond bumped into a pothole and cursed his stray thoughts. Putting the car back on its balance, he raked his fingers through his tiny bits of hair. His eyes caught something by the road side and he suddenly hit the brakes. It was a rather large sack, the true colour could not be determined considering the sheer darkness; but what caught his eye particularly was the mass of hair protruding out of the sack. His heartbeat accelerated and he sat there in his car at the middle of the road transfixed not knowing whether or not to get involved in whatever this may be. He was never practically scared of anything but he couldn’t understand why this fear was paralyzing him. After seconds which seemed like forever, he decided to check out what was in the bag. Raymond hadn’t taken five steps when the sack suddenly moved. He froze instantly and his skipping heart started running a hundred meter race. He tried to bring down his fear by blaming the wind for the occurrence but the sack moved again, very softly, and he knew that whatever is inside that sack is responsible for the movements. He discarded his fear and moved towards the sack. He looked around in utmost fear hoping that some of the scenes in Hollywood movies would not manifest; where police men would round up good Samaritans assuming them to be murderers. The environment was utterly dark and he could not see anything asides bushes. He reached down and pulled down the loose top of the sack and what manifested before him was the face of a human being. His heart almost stopped from fear as his prediction had become reality. Raymond’s breathing was not coordinated at all and he had gone pale. The face was slightly covered with mud but the entire hair was immersed in it. From the hair, he knew it had to be a girl so he pulled the sack down to the waist line of the body with his shivering hands. He looked up and nearly died of fright when he met the eyes of the girl slightly open and in his direction. He started wondering if she was a spirit or a witch sent to kill him but then he saw how pale she looked and warded off his vague thought. He glimpsed a thick mass of blood on her stomach and winced internally. She started moving uncomfortably and seemed to be doing that unconsciously. He hurriedly pulled out the sack and threw it into the bush. Without even considering the risk of picking her up, he whisked her into his arms and made for his car. Ever since he saw the helpless girl, he had forgotten all about the rain which did not stop and now, he was soaked to his pants but he could not care less. His eyes riveted from the car to the mud covered girl in his arms and he prayed silently that nothing bad happens to her. He dropped her at the back seat and ran behind the wheels. Another thought occurred to him and he was out of the car in an instant. He searched the bush frantically until he got the sack and he ran with it to the driver’s side. Dropping the sack carelessly, he hit the road, driving at a deadly rate, not minding the pot-holes. His eyes riveted from the road to the girl. Her already waned strength was at the verge of going out completely and her eyes started closing. Ray’s heart started doing a summersault, “Please hold on, please. You have to help me to help you. You can’t die on me, please. Hold on…” he said over and over. He saw her struggling to keep her eyes open and he praised her strength. He faced the road squarely again and fired home at top speed. He searched for hospitals by the side of the road but did not see any; not that he had ever noticed any ever since he plied the road, but he checked anyways. Looking back at the girl, he wondered what hospital would accommodate a mud covered person. He picked up his phone and dialed a number with shaky hands. He checked the time and noticed that it was already past 1am. The phone rang off without answer the first time and he dialed again. He heard a sleepy “hello” and he sighed out. “Oh… thank God. Doctor T, could you please meet me at home, it is an emergency … yes, please do … thank you so much”, he hung up and dialed his maid’s number. He had totally forgotten about Tinuke, but even if he had remembered, he would not have called her. “Bose, stay close to the gate and open immediately you hear my horn, ok? …” He dropped the phone and his eyes went to the back seat again and seeing the girl’s eyes closed, the alarm sounded in his head. “Hey, wake up”, he yelled. Her eyes opened slightly and he breathed well again. He faced the road, put the swaying car back on track and raced home without looking back. He started talking to himself and the girl in order to remain sane. A check point was ahead and his head ached. It was like a movie was being acted with him as one of the casts. He was not finding this role funny at all. The people at the check point were well known to him as he always had something to give them whenever he cruised by. Bringing down the glass halfway, he peered at the policemen, desperately trying to calm himself. “A really wild night officers”, he said, smiling at the fat one among the three men. Even the smile threatened to crack up his face. “Oga, I no know say na you o”, the man replied, smiling cunningly. “I can see that you have gone to enjoy yourself. Make we no delay you”. Raymond grinned, relieved. He was about to move the car when he heard one of the slim guys talk in plain English. “I can see you have helped yourself to a fresh babe. Is she sleeping?” Raymond’s colour drained. His smile was tight. “She is really drunk. I had to whisk her out of the club. If you would excuse me guys, a man has got to get a quicky once in a while, don’t you think?” The men muttered, moving this way and that, with a fleeting smile on their faces. Ray put his hand in his pocket and brought out what he assumed to be five thousand Naira. His praises rang out and he was on the road within seconds, speeding like someone in a racing competition. He feared the ridiculous delay would tell on the poor girl. He glanced at the girl at the back and saw her eyes closed. Blood drained from his face. He braved it and mentally told himself that she just passed out. He could only imagine what she must be going through now. He wondered why he was this agitated about someone whose face he could not even see, through the mass of mud. He got to Macurly Estate within minutes which was like eternity to him, gave instructions to the security men on guard to let the doctor in before speeding off to number 8. Before he got there, he blared the horn and the gate flew open. He drove inside the compound and moved to the entrance of the main house. ********** ********** Fred poured the ninth cup of alcoholic wine and downed it within seconds. His thumping heart increased in tempo and his vision became blurry. He smashed the glass cup against the wall and took the bottle to his mouth. He could still not believe what he had done because of jealousy, not that he did it intentionally though. He had seen Lucy hugging a guy beside the road and his blood had boiled furiously till it became thick. Lucy, who had been the only woman he ever loved had never loved him back and every time he confessed his love to her, she always told him to get over her because they could only be friends. It had been torture maintaining his ‘friendship’ status with her. Seeing her with another man made him terribly furious that he went over to her house and waited for her. Due to her working arrangements, she lived alone in a one room self contain apartment cos of proximity to her office so he waited by the door for her. He did not call her so he had to wait for about one hour at the entrance with each passing second increasing his anger. She didn’t appear until very late in the night but he stayed there. When Lucy came, she was so surprised to have Fred waiting at her door. She put up a conversation, asking so many questions but he remained mute. He saw the surprise in her face at his mood but did not say anything until she had unlocked the door and they were inside. “What were you doing with that guy on the road?” he asked, immediately the door closed behind them. Looking stupefied, she asked, “Which guy?” “Don’t play dumb with me. I saw you hugging a guy on the road, who is he? I told you I want you, you did not accept and now you are hugging someone else?” he yelled. “Are you crazy? How dare you trail me around? What business of yours is this? I can see whomever I please and do whatever I want to do, do you understand? What is your problem anyways?” she yelled back. Fred paced the length of the room and picked up the knife he saw in a tray filled with oranges in the bedside table. He saw fear creep into her eyes but he was no longer himself, all he wanted was to hit someone really hard. He advanced towards her and she moved back until she tripped over something and fell. All her pleadings fell on deaf ears as he brought the knife down on her. Her ear deafening scream restored his senses and he could not believe what he had done. Even as he drank himself to stupor, he still could not believe he had actually done it. He had killed the love of his life with his bare hands. He finished the bottle, smashed it against the wall and grabbed another bottle. His tears flowed freely and his hands shook terribly but he silently swore to himself that he would find the guy who made him do this, the guy who had the audacity to hug his babe. He would have his revenge, he said silently. “Since I am weeping now, I would make sure he weeps also or my name is not Fred”. ********** ********** Tinuke locked herself up Raymond’s room. She could not fathom the possibility of sleeping in the guests’ room. The house is big in itself, having the total of five rooms apart from the gym and the laundry room. She had always admired Raymond’s taste and ability to choose the best. She had quarreled with Ray again, although it is no longer a new thing. Her friends had schooled her well on how to ensure her man does not escape. It had taken her three years of putting up the innocent and sweet face to get the ring on her finger. Her friends had told her that men need a little strong hand. If they feel their woman is very sweet and accepting, they would feel free to indulge themselves with other women outside. Having another woman take her place is definitely something Tinuke Rogers would never accept. She and Ray had argued extensively on the issue of wedding this evening. Ray had stormed out after close to two hours of heated arguments. She could not see any point in delaying his formal meeting with her parents and he was just procrastinating the issue unnecessarily. She knew he expected her to be out of the house and back to her own apartment but he had a surprise coming. Whatever the time he comes back, they would continue their argument until she comes out victorious. Trust Tinuke to make a house a living hell, she thought, pleased with herself.


    Raymond’s cloth clung to his body as he jumped out of his car, rushing to the back seat. Bose saw his anxiety and went to him, trying to see if he needed her help for anything. She squealed at the sight before her. Never in her life had she seen a human being so dirty. Wait; is she dead? Her eyes popped as she stood frozen behind Raymond. Raymond checked the pulse of the girl and heaved a relieved sigh. He glanced back and saw Bose standing transfixed behind him. “Don’t just stand there gawking, go and open the door”, he spat out, louder than he had intended. She obeyed instantly, vanishing from sight. Ray lifted the girl effortlessly, his gaze fixed on the girl, not even bothering to close the door of the car. “What is this thing you carry, Ray?” he heard. Raymond stared at Tinuke for some seconds, not really knowing what to say instantly. She was standing arms akimbo, looking at him like he had just developed two heads. He tried to boycott her, but she stood. It had completely escaped his mind that she was home. When he told her to leave before he arrived, he had known that she would never do such a thing. “Tinuke, it would be in your best interest to leave my front before I lose my patience”, he said, already losing his cool. “I, Tinuke Rogers, am not leaving this place. You can bring down heaven, I don’t care. Now I asked you a question. What is this piece of trash you are holding?” she sniffed her nose in a sigh of disgust. Ray was beside himself with fury. “Leave my front Tinu” he roared. She stood defiantly. Before she knew what was happening, Raymond used his leg to push her out of the way, making her fall to the ground forcefully. Ray marched inside, his feet pounding on the floor. The girl was unconscious. He could not fathom how she could still be alive after all these drama; he could not even guess how long she had been staying in that sack, out on the cold and muddy road. Bose, who had been watching the drama, ran ahead and opened the door of one of the rooms. Ray placed the girl on the bed very carefully. Having a mind of her own, Bose ran to get a bucket of warm water and a napkin. Ray stared at the girl, feeling pity for her. She was very small, and from her body size, he imagined her to be either seventeen or eighteen years old at most. He wondered what might have happened to her. From the cut at the side of her belly, he knew it had to be a knife cut. He swallowed hard. Bose arrived with a bucket of warm water and a cloth. She knelt down to begin wiping out the mud on the girl’s body but Ray stopped her. He collected the cloth from her, dipped it in the water and squeezed it dry. He wiped the face of the girl, removing part of the caked mud on her face. “Oga, you dey shake” Bose commented. Unlike all the other house helps he had come across, Bose was someone who says and does things without the fear of being sacked. She says whatever she wants to, whether you like it or not; as long as it is the truth. That notwithstanding, she holds Ray in high esteem. Ray had come to see Bose as a friend and a junior sister. “I am fine Bose, go and wait by the gate, Doctor T is coming”. Bose snorted and made no move to leave her position. “I am still your boss, Bose, do as I say” “Oga, if you no go remove your cloth, you go first this girl die”. She lamented. “Leave am, I go take care of am, go commot your cloth, abi madam body don tire you, you wan see another person body?” Ray stared at her for some seconds, feeling exasperated. There were many times he felt tempted to sack Bose but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to doing it. She was always there to talk to when Tinuke started her crazy tantrums. Knowing that an argument with Bose would be futile, he stood up. “be very careful, I think the wound is not too deep but she has lost a lot of blood. She must be really strong to still be alive now. Try to speak English; that is why I sent you to school”. Bose laughed. “I was expecting that” Ray shook his head and left the room. Bose lightened his mood the way even Tinuke couldn’t. Tinuke flashed back to his mind as he rushed back to his room. He still could not imagine that he had tossed her the way he did. It is not in his nature to hurt a lady. He felt bad that he had pushed her, even though she had provoked him. He did not have the courage to talk to her, he was ashamed of his action, even though he did not hit her. He entered the room and shed his clothes within the twinkle of an eye. Downing his night robe, he hurried to the gate to open the gate for the doctor who had been blaring his horn. He passed by Tinuke in the sitting room, who sat foaming in anger but did not even glance at her twice. A life is at stake. Doctor Tunde was not even out of his car when Bose literarily jumped out of the house, stuttering. She was pointing, jumping and screaming at the same time, fear written all over her tears stricken face. Without even hearing anything from her, Raymond raced inside, dragging the doctor along. He grew pale when he saw the girl jerking. Doctor T pressed her chest, trying to stabilize her. He pressed and pressed for some seconds, which looked like forever. He instantly knew that this sight would haunt his dreams for a long time. The girl became still and he closed his eyes. To say he was frightened would be an understatement. Bose held on to him, putting her face on his chest, shivering. He held her, knowing that this must be really terrifying for her too. “Tell me. She is not dead, is she?” he whispered, his eyes closed. He heard nothing apart from the voice of the sobbing girl in his arms. He opened his eyes slowly, his heart racing. “I never knew you to be this fearful. The girl lives, but she is very weak and may not survive. We need to take her to the hospital. The gadgets and machines in the hospital can help to a certain extent if she would survive this. She is stronger than she looks to be alive now. This cut is deep and she has lost so much blood” he said thoughtfully. Carefully removing Bose’s arms, Ray strode forward, his eyes fixed on the girl. She had the whitest skin he had ever seen. He had to admit that the mud and pain she was in is involved but that notwithstanding, she was still exceedingly fair. All these thoughts occurred within split of seconds. He bent to carry her but the doctor stopped him, going over to carry her, applying less force and more care, as expected of a doctor. Bose ran to her room and grabbed one of her gowns. She hadn’t finished cleaning her up, not to mention change her clothes, when the girl started jerking wildly. She hadn’t seen a corpse before and right now, she was feeling like she had just seen one, even though the girl is not dead. Rushing through the sitting room, Doctor Tunde stared unbelievably at Tinuke. How can someone be so heartless as to leave them alone to struggle with a girl’s life without showing the lowest level of care? Minding his business, he hurried past her to the car. Raymond ran to the room, picked his wallet and his ATM card, threw a shirt and a trouser over his body, then he ran out of the room. He had forgotten that Tinuke existed and seeing her in the sitting room, still foaming with anger, made his blood boil. “There are some times I am sad I proposed to you Tinu, but there are other times I am really, really sad that I ever had anything to do with you. How can you be so selfish and senseless as to shut your eyes against the girl in danger?” he asked bewildered. She jerked up. “To start with, you never asked for my help, instead, you asked for the help of your stupid maid. I could have helped, instead, what did you do? You pushed me away like a piece of thrash. You are not leaving this house until you apologise for what you did” she went to block the doorway again. Ray advanced towards her. “If you don’t leave my front now, I would forget my policy about not hitting a woman and hit you so hard that you would need the help of a doctor to recuperate.” The light burned in his eyes and she knew that he would do it without thinking twice. She left the doorway and he rushed out. He asked Bose to come along with them because he could not begin to imagine what Tinuke would do to the poor girl if she stays. Having her open the gate, he regretted not replacing his gateman. ********** ********** The anger in Fred’s eyes was deadly as he picked up the knife and started pursuing Luciana. They ran for some time, with Lucy ahead and Fred behind but as time went on, the gap between them became closer. Fear crept up Lucy’s face and she started increasing her speed even though she was already exhausted. Fred saw this and ran even faster, a devilish grin on his face. In her haste to escape with her life, Lucy ran carelessly, hitting her legs several times. She hit her leg on a big stone and toppled to the ground. She let out a cry of pain, looking around desperately in the darkness, trying to see if someone could help her, but found none. Fred towered over her, brandishing the knife in a frightening manner. Lucy looked at him with pleading eyes but he only smiled evilly, almost like he was possessed. With a shout of victory, he brought down the knife. *** Mrs Jones let out an ear-deafening scream, jerking from her lying position to a sitting position. Mr Jones jumped up in fright, as he heard his wife’s scream. “My baby, my baby…” she said continuously, as her husband wrapped his arms around her. She whimpered and shook with velocity. “What is it dear” “My baby, my Lucy, my baby” she said over and over again. “Calm down. It is just a dream.” He said to her. She left his arms. “it is not just a dream. Someone wants to kill my baby. I can feel it here” she pounded the left side of her chest. “When he was about to stab her with the knife, I woke up. Ken, I told you before we slept that I was feeling somehow, and now this; I know when God is giving me a sign. I am a mother” she almost yelled. Ken understood his wife perfectly. Her dreams are not to be taken likely at all because almost all of them turn out to be a reality, whether good or bad. He swallowed hard as he took his phone from the bedside table and dialed his daughter's number. Bewaji shivered and Ken drew her into his arms. The phone rang out and Ken released the breath he had been holding, but when the phone was not answered, he became worried. He dialed again and again but no answer came. Tears spilled over Bewaji’s face as she looked at her husband. The time was 1:35 am, and they would have assumed that she was too deep in her sleep to answer the call, if they hadn’t known her to be a very light sleeper. A slight movement beside Lucy is enough to rouse her from sleep. Guarding his own worries, Ken faced his wife. “Don’t jump to conclusions now BJ, kneel down and let us pray”. ********** ********** Tinuke roamed the sitting room of her fiancé's house thoughtfully. Ray had never raised his hands against her violently ever since she had known him but he had come very close to doing so today. He hadn’t done it but she knew that if she had pushed him, he would have hit her without thinking twice; and now he is out of the house, and who is with him? That blasted maid. She groaned. She had always wondered what was going on between Ray and Bose, considering their strange closeness. The girl almost has more say in the house than she herself. To assume that Ray would stoop so low as to get involved with a maid, is something she could not fathom. And who is that ragged girl they are all fussing over? She wondered. Whoever she is does not concern her as long as she does not interfere in her relationship with Ray; but she is already doing that now. As for Bose, she would be damned if she sat back and allowed a mere maid take her place in Ray’s heart. She picked her purse and car keys, left the house and headed for the hospital. She already knew where Doctor Tunde’s hospital was. ********** ********** Ray sat at the hospital reception of Hope Hospital, waiting for the doctor to come out. He was worried about the girl being attended to but what was giving him more stress was Tinuke. He wondered how he had gotten himself into such a mess. How was she able to hide this character? He wondered. She had been so cold-hearted that she did not even recognize their struggles in the house. He wondered if she would have showed some emotions if the girl had died. He sighed inwardly. Maybe his friends were right and they needed a break. Bose stared at her boss. He looked older than he should with the lines of worry on his head. She had never known a more handsome man than the one seated in front of her but that fiancée of his is practically making his life miserable. She stood up and went to sit beside him. “It would be alright sir. You would get through this” she whispered. Ray looked at her. She always understood him. Was always there for him. “Thanks Bose” he said and held her to him. He heard the hospital door open and the next person he saw was Tinuke, standing at the hospital entrance.


    Tinuke stared at Ray who still had the maid in his arms. She hadnt expected her assumptions to turn out true. Her anger skyrocketed as she saw her assumptions becoming a reality. Her first instinct was to go there and cause a scene; beat the living daylight out of the miserable girl and make Raymond understand that she is not to be messed with. On second thought, she decided otherwise. Ray gazed at her, not leaving Bose who was oblivious to the current changes. Tinuke advanced towards them, drawing their attention by standing directly in front of them. Bose saw her and the piercing glare she had in her direction and recoiled. She jumped to her feet and stepped out of reach. Tinu faced Ray with a face that Ray thought would not pass for remorse as long as it came from Tinu. “I am sorry Ray” she started. “I don’t know what is coming over me these days; I think it is due to the pressure my parents are mounting on me. Please forgive me. I would like to do what I am supposed to do by staying beside you now. Please” she bowed her head. Ray stared at her for a long minute, not knowing what response to give her. Tinuke does not just beg for forgiveness, she only does that when there was something fishy or something at stake. He stood up to his full height before her and swallowed hard. One thing he knew for sure is that this is not the Tinuke he had wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Tinu stood with her head bowed, expecting Ray’s arms to close around her in any minute. She knew he had a soft spot for her, no matter how bad things degenerated. After he had looked at her to his satisfaction, he stepped out of her reach and marched out of the hospital without uttering a word. Tinuke opened her mouth, not believing what she had just experienced. She stared at his vanishing backside, feeling her pent-up anger return. She saw Bose with the side of her eyes and faced her. Before anyone could do anything, her palm connected with Bose’s cheeks, sending her crashing into a nearby chair. Some of the hospital workers came to intervene but Tinuke stormed out before anyone could do anything. ********** ********** Mr and Mrs Jones arrived at their daughter’s apartment very early in the morning. They hadn’t slept ever since they started praying and their apprehension hadn’t reduced either. Bewaji knocked anxiously on the door but got no response. She banged and banged until her husband took over, shouting ‘Lucy’ as he knocked. No answers came forth and worry lines displayed on his forehead. The compound housed only two tenants, so he went in search of the other tenant, hoping to get something valid from her. Sighting her at the back of the house doing the laundry, he went over to her with his wife hurrying to match his quick strides. “Good morning ma’am” he greeted the young woman who is obviously married. She looked up from her work and greeted back, giving them her attention. “Please ma, we are looking for our daughter Lucy; she is your neighbor but we can’t find her inside”. Today is Saturday for crying out loud. The woman looked at them, seeing their worry. “There is no problem. I saw her yesterday night, she entered late but I saw her enter the house. I am sure one of her friends, a guy, visited her last night because he waited for her to arrive for a long time”. Bewaji’s curiosity arose and she spoke for the first time since they approached the woman. “Who is that guy please?” she asked, hoping it was not what she was thinking. “Oh, it is Fred. He comes here often. He must be really close to her” she said with a slight smile which vanished when the smile was not returned. “Can you please describe him?” the woman started giving descriptions and by the time she was through, Bewaji was as white as snow. Her hands were placed on her head in alarm. “Is everything alright ma” the woman asked. Bewaji ignored her and raced back to her daughter’s door, pounding like a deranged woman. Ken got there and dialed Lucy’s number again. It rang out and listening carefully, he heard the phone ring inside. Bewaji started yelling and Ken did not bother to try stopping her. The neighbor joined them, wondering what the matter was, fearing what the outcome would be. Without much ado, ken kicked the door continuously, till it gave way. They met an empty bed that looked like no one had slept on it. Lucy’s bag was on the floor and her phone rang out from it. Bewaji was beside herself with rage and worry, crying and squealing. Being the man, Ken took out his phone and searched for a number. His face was bloodshot, desperately wanting to punch someone. After speaking for sometime into the mouthpiece of his phone, he hung up, picked his daughter’s phone, copied a number and dialed with his own phone. ********** ********** Raymond hurriedly wiped his body with a dry towel and threw on a shirt and a white trouser. He needed to go to the hospital to check on the girl he picked up yesterday. After he stormed out of the hospital, few hours ago; in the midnight to be precise; he returned about an hour after, very sure he would not meet Tinuke there. His prediction was right but he hadn’t been able to predict meeting Bose with a red cheek and tear-stricken face. He felt so bad that he had put her in danger, not thinking of what Tinuke would do to her. Doctor Tunde had emerged and gave them the news that the girl was in a coma and that they needed to wait and see if she would come out alive. He did not get to see her so he left the hospital with Bose, hoping not to have another encounter with Tinu, because he really needed some sleep. Surprisingly, he did not meet her at home. His relief knew no bounds as he bounced on the bed, dozing off almost immediately he touched the bed. His sleep was short-lived. He had a nightmare where a girl was jerking, on the verge of death. Unable to get anymore sleep that he already got, he surfed the net till dawn. Ray shut his bedroom door behind him. He heard the sound of dishes in the kitchen and perceived a mouth watering aroma that made his stomach groan, and without telling his legs what to do, he was in the kitchen. “Good morning Bose” Bose turned back and smiled. “Good morning sir” she greeted, half kneeling. “I would have said I am in a hurry to arrive the hospital if the aroma hadn’t been so tempting” Bose laughed. “Since I could not get any real sleep, I decided to cook early”. Thank God I am not the only one, Raymond thought. “Good. I would just sit here and eat”. He sat on the chair in the kitchen as Bose served his food. “Serve yours too because we are eating together”. Bose paused for some seconds to look at him, before following his instructions. Ray stuffed his mouth with fried eggs and plantain, savoring its taste as he watched Bose. She was seated opposite him, gazing at her food like it was a specimen for practical experiment. “Is something wrong Bose?” Bose smiled internally. She had been expecting that question; at least it would make things easier for her. She looked up. “I am sorry to say this sir. I think marrying Madam would be a bad idea”. Ray’s hand froze. He looked at Bose who stared back at him. He was not surprised that she was being blunt and risking her job by over-stepping her bounds; he was rather surprised that she was wise enough to voice the obvious. “I know that” he simply said Her eyes snapped. “Then why do you want to marry her?” she could not believe the possibility of someone walking consciously into the lake of fire. “You don’t understand” “Then enlighten me” Raymond smiled, and then laughed. “Enlighten. I never knew you had gone that far in your English classes. Wow” Even though Bose did not want to digress, she smiled. “I am trying” “You have improved tremendously. As for the other issue, it is private and I am working on it. Thanks for the concern. I need to rush off. Don’t let anyone in, I repeat, anyone”. “Sir, you need a gateman” she said. “Noted. I really do” he picked his car keys and headed for the hospital. ********** ********** Deolu roamed his sitting room in tense strides. His phone was held tight in his hand as he roamed the entire office. The not-too-large room was tastefully furnished, depicting the financial status of its bearer. Deolu hadn’t been able to reach Lucy. He had dialed her number endlessly ever since they departed last night but it had rang and rang without any answer. When he dropped her off, he had promised to call immediately he got home but when he called, there was no answer. Last night had been the most perfect day of his life. He had asked her out on a dinner date and she had accepted. It had been so perfect. For over two years that they had been friends, he decided to do what he had been postponing for a very long time, for fear of losing her friendship . The undying love he felt for Lucy kept burning in him, and each passing day he spent, keeping the feeling locked inside made it exceedingly difficult to hide. The jealousy he feels when she is around other guys upsets him because he had never been one to fuss over a girl. It had taken him days to decide if he was actually going to ask her out. She had arrived right on time, looking like a goddess. Her fair, almost white skin, glowed, increasing his desire to touch her. The deep whine top and the white three-quarter trouser accentuated her figure perfectly, making him go speechless. Her dark brown hair bounced as she moved towards him, making it obvious that she had just visited the salon. The dinner had gone perfectly, with laughter on their faces. Then, with his heart in his mouth, he bared his heart to her and surprisingly, she accepted. His joy knew no bounds as he kissed her; something he had been hoping to do for a long time. He dropped her off after spending a long time with her. Ever since then, he hadn’t been able to reach her. He sat down forcefully feeling sweats of perspiration on his forehead, even though the air conditioner was at its peak. He was waiting for dawn in order not to exaggerate the situation; especially if she is fine. Immediately the day became bright, he took his car keys and phone, locking the door behind him. ********** ********** Fred put his clothes in his bag in a rush. He had drunk himself to stupor the previous night and woke up with a splitting headache. Not giving his blurry eyes the chance to slow him down, he washed his face and packed some clothes. He knew that the Lucy’s neighbor saw him yesterday and going to jail would be a reality if he didn’t act fast. Being so close to Lucy, everyone knows him, especially her neighbor and best friend, ‘Tola’. Once she is found missing, he would be a suspect. He packed his luggage, making sure he took all his documents, passports and all. He dismantled his phone, took out his Sim card and broke it. He stepped out and sighted one of his neighbor friends. He lives in a compound with about six tenants, with guys being the majority. “Guy, how far now” he greeted. “I dey o. Where you dey go now?” Chika asked on sighting the traveling bag. “My brother, I wan quick reach Ogun State. E get person wey sick wey I wan see for there” he said in a hurry. Chika looked from the bag to Fred’s face. “Ok o”. Fred rushed out of the compound, took a bike to a popular garage. There were several busses lined up there and conductors were shouting their lives out. He heard someone calling Abuja, and moved there. After putting his bag in the trunk of the bus, he entered the bus and waited for it to be filled up.


    Stepping out of his car, Deolu rushed into a very familiar compound. His anxiety was getting the better part of him and he was no longer finding it funny. The first sight that greeted his eyes gave him an instant alarm. He saw Lucy’s parents. He swallowed hard. He had seen more than enough pictures of them to know that they are Luciana’s parents. Lucy’s mother was crying and her husband was trying to calm her down. Why is she crying? What is going on? He wondered as he moved towards the duo in a trance-like motion. Mr. Jones looked up, staring steely at Deolu. The guy looked like a fine guy, he thought, but if he has a hand in this matter, I am surely going to break him. “Who are you” Kenneth Jones asked, his voice as masculine as any other. His gaze was not pleasant and he did not even want it to be. Deolu noticed the tense atmosphere and fright creeped up his spine. Lucy’s neighbor lurked around, her expression was unreadable. “Lucy. Where is Lucy” he half yelled, talking to everyone at the same time. He moved towards the room instantly but Ken drew him back. “I asked you a question young man. How dare you disregard me, making me look like a fool? Who the hell are you?” he yelled. Deolu stopped. “I am sorry sir. I am Adeolu Aremu, Lucy’s boyfriend” even the title sounded awkward in his own ears. A day old boyfriend; not even up to 24 hours. Ken stared at the bold man in front of him. Lucy having a boyfriend is a stunning news. She had been single ever since he laid his eyes on her tiny frame on the hospital bed, he had pressurized her continuously to get a man but she had insisted on going solo and being independent. Hearing she had a man in her life is a news, only that she is nowhere to be found. “Then where were you when my daughter got kidnapped from her house?” Deolu blanched, looking like he had just seen a ghost. Immediately, he dashed for the apartment, shouting Lucy as he did. After a fruitless time of intense screaming, they all came back to a remorse state. Deolu’s brain started working again, calculating and planning. Policemen arrived some minutes later and Lucy’s father attended to them. Deolu was even too busy with his thoughts to notice anyone around him. Kenneth explained all that occurred to the police, calling the neighbor to give her testimony. Lucy and Fred were the centre of discussion. At the end, he had been able to put Fred in a very good position to be arrested. “But sir, do you know where this suspect lives?” one of the policemen asked. “I think Lucy’s best friend would know” the neighbor replied. “I have her number and address. Since ladies talk and go everywhere together, I think she would be able to know Fred’s address”. Kenneth nodded with a dry smile. The neighbor is definitely God-sent. He wondered what they would have done without her observations. Looking back at the house, he saw Deolu seated at the entrance of Lucy’s apartment. The young man was obviously distraught. He could only imagine what it would be like to find your love kidnapped. He moved towards him, stood before him and stretched his hand. “Get up son, lets go and find your woman” he said in a calm voice, even though he didn’t feel calm. Deolu stared for some seconds then held the hand of the elderly man, who pulled him up with a strength that stunned him. Kenneth patted him on the back and they both joined the others outside. They split into their various cars and moved into action. ********** ********** Ray stepped into Doctor Tunde’s office, praying to have some good news. Doctor Tunde was seated in his usual chair, with his white coat hanging on the chair. A warm smile greeted the doctor’s lips as he shook Raymond’s hand. “I can see you got here early enough. Have your seat” he said after the usual exchange of greetings. Going straight to the point, Ray asked. “So, how is she? Would she make it?” Doctor Tunde smiled. “Fortunately, yes. She seems to be responding to treatment perfectly. She is a lot stronger than I initially imagined, and let me say this; I think she has a guardian angel”. Ray totally agreed with the doctor. The girl possessed more strength than he could boast of. Ray knew that no idol’s power could really sustain a human being so he knew that only God can be behind this girl. She must have people praying for her. “Can I see her?” he asked finally. “She is not stable yet but you can see her. With the signs I am seeing, she would pull through. You have not told me how you came about her. She looked like something from the pig-sty when you brought her here.” Ray had come to see Tunde as a friend and not just a doctor. Bose might have done a good job but her best did not really make much difference. “I would tell you everything later. First things first”. Doctor Tunde sighed, standing. “OK. Follow me” ********** ********** Teju rose up from her kneels around 7am in the morning. She had had a very restless night, with nightmares, centred around her best friend, Lucy. Lucy had become her best friend instantly. She met her over three years ago and Lucy had transformed her life ever since. Lucy was the one who brought her to Christ; making her drop her wayward life. Before she accepted Christ, Lucy had loved her unconditionally. Ever since then, Lucy was always in her prayers and God never failed to show her anything regarding Lucy especially. She had been having an unsettlement in her spirit since midnight and she hadn’t been able to sleep. She could not pinpoint what the problem was until she finally slept around 2am. She woke up like thirty minutes later from a nightmare that featured Lucy lying unconscious in the dark. She had called and called since then but no answer came. Prayers began since then till dawn. She rushed to the bathroom to take a quick shower. After bathing and brushing her teeth, she wore a short gown, pulled out her hair net and let the braids flow down, unhindered. No time for make-up, she told herself. Before she reached the sitting room, she heard a knock; or is that a bang? She raced there like her life depended on it. Without even asking who it was, she swung the door open. Seeing policemen and Lucy’s parents, her face turned pale. “Lucy… Don’t tell me something is wrong with my friend” One of the policemen looked at her. “How do you know our being here has something to do with her?” he had a puzzled look on his face. “Because she is my best friend and we are connected”. “As in Bluetooth?” Lucy’s mother pushed the policeman out of the way. “Please my daughter; do you know where a certain Fred lives? It is an emergency” “Yes ma’am” without even asking any questions, she took her keys and her phone, locked the door and rushed into the Lucy’s parents’ car. She had always known that Fred was up to no good. “What is going on ma?” ********** ********** Raymond sat on a chair, facing an unconscious girl; or lady. His predictions was not correct. He had predicted sixteen or seventeen years of age when he looked at her small profile. Gazing at her small profile and he could not believe he had rescued someone as stunning as this. Her face held a maturity of someone who could be 25, thereabout. He had never seen anyone so fair, so white. He had seen numerous fair women but never had he seen anyone so white except albinos. This lady was clearly not an albino, he would know instantly. The desire to touch her was so overwhelming that he gave in and touched her face tenderly. He became overtaken by unknown emotions. A lump developed in his throat as he gazed at her small face. His gaze slid down to the place he was certain had encountered a knife. Who would dare pierce her with a knife. He wanted to see the person so he could teach him or her a good lesson. Not withstanding the amount of effort and money he had dissipated between yesterday and today, he felt so overjoyed that he helped this lady. Everything is surely a blessing in disguise. If he hadn’t had that battle with Tinu, he would not have gone to the club and would not have seen this girl lying helplessly in the mud. Staring at her innocent look, he knew that he would do anything to protect her. ********** ********** Bose entered the compound. She had been sitting in one spot for the past two hours, receiving lectures from her English teacher. The teachings were not boring at all, in fact, she had enjoyed every bit of it. After two hours, she left her teacher’s house. She locked the gate behind her and made for the main house. She pulled out a bottle of water when she got to the kitchen, poured some water into a cup and drank her fill. As she made for her room, she heard a bang. It is definitely not Raymond because he took the car. She dropped her bag and went to the gate. She didn’t like this gateman job at all. Immediately she saw the person there, she prepared herself. She took the key and put it in her back pocket. With the speed of lightening, she opened the gate, jumped out and jammed the door. Tinuke stared at her. “What is the meaning of this nonsense? Get out of my way, you idiot.” “At your service milady”. Bose moved out of the way and Tinuke was faced with the closed gate. Tinu turned eyes of fury towards Bose. “You think this is a joke, right? If you don’t open this bloody gate now, count yourself out of this house”. “Oooohhhh… I am so terrified now”. Bose shook dramatising. “Look ma’am, by boss’ orders, you are not to enter this house. He employed me so I must obey him.” Tinuke raised her brows. “Oh… I see… Now, listen to me, you s--t, I know what you are after. You want me out so you can take your shameless a-s to my husband’s bed, right? You must be a big fool if you think that I would allow that. You are nothing but a common maid”. “And you are a stupid gold digger who just wants to marry my boss for money”. “How dare you talk back at me” Tinuke’s hand swung to hit Bose’s cheeks but Bose held her hand before the slap landed. “Never you try that again” she threw her hand down forcefully. “Now, please leave madam before I scream and gather a crowd.” “Stupid s--t” “Useless hobo” Bose retorted. “What?” Bose grinned. “Check out the meaning in the dictionary”. Tinuke left the place while Bose entered the house. Tinu foamed in anger as she walked away. She would make that bloody girl pay in full. She knew that Ray wasn’t around because his car wasn’t in the compound when she spied the compound. He must be in the hospital with that damned dirty girl. That girl is beginning to occupy too much of his time and thoughts. I think I need to pay her a visit.


    The confusion and tension on ground was so intense. The police had searched the entire compound for Fred but all their efforts were futile. They had broken into Fred’s apartment which was pointed out by Lucy’s friend. They noticed the chaotic state of the apartment, making it obvious that the occupant was in a hurry to leave. That alone was enough to mark Fred as a prime suspect in the disappearance of the victim. The police noted this with interest. Bewaji Jones already resumed her whaling. Teju was trying hard calm her even though she was feeling the extreme urge to scream. Never had she seen her dreams manifest with such short time interval. Deolu was just looking, lost in his own world and blaming himself for not protecting the woman he loves. Kenneth was busy discussing with the policemen; his veins were so visible. The trauma was beginning to take its toll on him. The entire compound had been searched and no one seemed to be home. As they were about leaving, they saw a guy come into the compound. He was fairly tall, about 5.8, his gaze held curiosity. He looked like a Warri guy. He approached the handful of people skeptically. “Hello… Hope there is no problem?” His gaze was somewhat confident. The police officers shielded out everyone and approached Chika. “Excuse me sir, we are from Ajekoro Police station” he brought out his ID card. “I have a warrant for the arrest of one Mr. Fred Ebuka”. “Chineke” chika squealed. “That guy dey craze ooo… Wetin hin do?” Bewaji jumped there. “He kidnapped my daughter; that is what he did”. “Ewooo…. That b-----d. I saw him this morning when he was rushing out of the house with some luggage. I asked him where he was going and he said he wants to quickly get to Ogun State” Kenneth squeezed his fist in a frightening manner and Bewaji started shouting on top of her voice. The animal responsible for her daughter’s disappearance is nowhere to be found. “Even if we have to search the whole of Nigeria, I would find my daughter and that scoundrel” Ken thundered. One of the policemen looked at Chika who was still gapping in surprise of what was happening. “You would need to follow us to the-” “Ehnehn… oga police. No bring that one at all o. If I don know, I no go answer any question. Wetin concern me and Fred? I no even know hin surname. Abeg ooo… I never enter police station before and I no go enter today” before Chika could be stopped, he rushed into his apartment and locked the gate firmly. Deolu took out his phone and dialed a number. “Hello Akin… Long time… I am not fine ooo… My girl friend is nowhere to be found… yes… I need a favour”. ********** ********** Tinuke adjusted her micro gown, making it fit properly to her perfect body. She is a woman with perfect body curves. Her fair skin is unrivalled; clear, spotless and… perfect. She blew her image a kiss, turning and twirling in front of the mirror. The bright red gown sparkled in the evening light. Her dressing was to intimidate; but who exactly? An unconscious girl? Her wish was to see Raymond there. He had refused to pick her call. She had sent messages but none generated a reply. She did not even go near the house because she was not ready for another episode of embarrassment. She stepped out of the house, later than usual. Her extra-long heels made her look taller than her usual 5:4. Immediately she got out of her compound, she sighted some guys gapping at her, almost salivating. She smiled and flagged down a bike. “Hope Hospital” ********** ********** Raymond got into his car around 5pm in the evening. He wondered what he had been doing till that time of the day in the hospital. Thinking about it, he had spent most of the time with the girl. A wry smile was pasted on his lips which he could not wipe away. He had been so engrossed in this strange girl over the last twenty-four hours that he hadn’t had time for himself. He drove into the estate, still having that smile on his face. It feels so good to care for someone. He saw Bose entering the compound. She was holding a black polybag in one hand and her phone and keys in the other. He needed a new gateman. Ever since robbers visited the house and killed his gateman, he refused to employ a new gateman. That day had been a terrible day. He had been inside with his siblings who were visiting when they suddenly heard a gunshot. He has two sisters and a brother. Fear crept into their hearts without any invitation. Without waiting for the robbers to enter, the ladies were already flat on their faces. Only male pride kept the two brothers from glittering. The robbers finally entered and Ray and his brother, William, had to do what their sisters had done effortlessly. When you are at the wrong end of a loaded gun, you cooperate. The robbers took all their money, phones, gold jewelleries' and wristwatches. Bose had been there with them, also sharing in the fright that had governed everyone. The robbers left after all was taken and wailing began, although, in a very low tone. They were glad the robbers did not shoot at them. Raymond left the apartment to go and monitor the locking of the gate himself when he saw his gateman lying on the floor, close to the gate. He raced there, hoping that he was still alive – his heart had stopped beating. A tear dropped from his eye. Yusuf wasn’t just his employee but was also his friend. All his employees were his friends and, most of the time; they are the next set of people in his heart after his family. Yusuf was a very promising lad, who was very brilliant but not fortunate enough when it comes to finances. When his siblings and Bose did not see him return, they crept outside with William leading the way. They saw him where he knelt, beside the cold body and ran there. They mourned together and shared the sad moment together, just as they would have shared a happy time. Since then, he hadn’t been able to employ another gateman and he took to doing it himself until Bose volunteered to do it instead. Now that he is a man and already got used to seeing lifeless people, he was now considering employing a new gateman. The death of his mother and father in a plane crash on the same day, made him rigid and almost emotionless. He and his brother, coupled with some extended family members had gone to the crash spot to identify the bodies of his parents. They had strictly held the girls back because of what they knew they were to expect. That day had consistently haunted his dreams and even his waking eyes. He had walked amidst burnt dead bodies, having the nauseating sight sink in as he desperately searched for his parents. That incident is something he does not like to remember, and since he had just remembered it, he knew that his mood would be sour for the rest of the day. He opened the gate himself and drove in. ********** ********** Tinuke entered the hospital as graceful as possible. Her heels made click clack sounds on the floor with each step she took. She smiled lovingly at the nurse. “Please, I am here to see a patient. She was brought here yesterday by my fiance, Raymond” she said. The nurse remembered Tinuke perfectly. She was the one who almost turned a lady deaf yesterday after she had been humiliated yesterday by her so-called fiancé. She wondered if they had settled their quarrel. “Why do you want to see her?” “I brought some provisions for her. I understand she is still unconscious” she said with a pitiful look. She had branched by the hospital to get some provisions. “Yeah… please follow me” They got to the room and after leaving some instructions, Tinuke was left alone with the girl. She could not believe her eyes. Lying down, unconscious is the fairest person she had ever seen. She is not an Albion but is naturally fair. Fair, clear and spotless; all the things she had going for her, except she is not as pale as the girl laying on the bed. Anger welled up within her. How would Ray not spend more time with this girl if she is this beautiful? She took the pillow on the second bed and held it tight in her hands. Just then, the door opened. “What are you doing madam?”


    Nurse Rola stared openly at Tinuke with her mouth agape. She couldn’t begin to fathom the weight of what had almost happened in her absence. She had noted something spooky in the way Tinuke made an appearance, especially with the scenario she created the previous day but she had thrashed her thoughts with the fact that lovers fight and reconcile. Tinuke also stared wide-eyed at the nurse. Why was she staring at her like she was an abomination? If she didn’t take enough time to see to her dressing, she would have assumed that she was robed in rags with the way the nurse’s eyes bulged out to glare at her. “I said: what are you doing madam?” “Excuse me? I am visiting a patient. Is there anything remotely wrong with that? You let me in, remember?” Tinuke was beside herself with rage as she glared at the rude nurse. The nurse came into the room fully and closed the door. “What are you doing with a pillow? You want to commit murder? I need to call security” she took out her phone. For the first time, Tinuke saw the pillow she clutched in her hands and dropped it like it was on fire. She blanched. “Security? Wait, no. I don’t even know how the pillow got to my hand”. “Explain that to the police when they arrive” the nurse hissed. She already had her phone against her ear. “What? No…” Tinuke tried to pass but the nurse blocked the exit. She had no choice but to push the nurse out of the way, causing nurse Rola’s phone to slip out of her grasp, shattering on the floor. Tinuke fled, with her heels making crazy noise on the tiled floor. The nurse took her time, gathering her precious Samsung S4 phone, giving Tinuke enough time to make an escape. The nurse didn’t even seem keen on pursuing her. When she got to the end of the hall, she paused for some seconds to regain her composure, then she walked fast but calmly in order not to rouse any suspicion. She hoped to God that the nurse would not emerge from behind. She hurried to the reception to sign out in the hospital’s register with a strained smile. She almost raced out of the building, looking behind her constantly to be sure she was not being followed. She stopped the first bike she sighted and jumped on it. ********** ********** Nurse Rola went to the doctor’s office feeling very agitated and frightened and angry. The demented lady had succeeded in shattering the screen of her phone. She could only imagine what she would do if she sighted her now. She would make sure Tinuke pays for what she did. When she was given permission, she entered Doctor Tunde’s office with rage written all over her. At the same time, she didn’t know what would happen when the doctor finds out that she let a murderer get away unscathed. “What may I do for you nurse Rola?” She had been standing there for some minutes without speaking and Doctor Tunde became forced to interrupt her thoughts. “Sir, something just happened some minutes ago.” Doctor Tunde gave her his attention. “Someone came to visit the patient in ward 7; the one brought in by Mr Raymond. Her name is Miss Tinuke. She said she brought some provisions for the patient and I let her in”. The doctor was sort of surprised because he remembered the reception Tinuke gave him days ago when he went there at the middle of the night. Knowing that more info was still coming, he waited. “After dropping the provisions, she said she needed some privacy with the patient, so I excused her. When I got back, I saw her with a pillow clutched in her hands in a fierce manner, suggesting that she wanted to suffocate the patient”. “What?” He exclaimed, jumping out of his seat immediately. “But sir…” She was not allowed to finish her statement when the doctor shoved her out of the way, causing her phone to slip from her hand again but luckily, it fell on the leather chair. She took it and ran in pursuit of the doctor. Doctor Tunde got to ward 7 and checked everything he needed to check to be sure that Tinuke hadn’t done anything stupid. Relieved, he faced the nurse who was already behind him. “Where is she?” He growled. “Sir, I am sorry, as I was calling the security, she pushed me away and ran. I have evidence sir, when she pushed me, my phone fell and the screen cracked. See sir” she raised the phone for doctor Tunde to see. “I see” he said glaring. Instead of saying anything, he left the room. The nurse pursued him. “I am sorry sir” “I am not angry at you Rola, you would get your phone replaced, don’t worry.” She sighed. Doctor Tunde opened the door of his office and called the security with his intercom. ********** ********** Fred sat in his apartment in Abuja, still feeling that unhindered fear. When his father had died and left him with this apartment, being the only property he owned, he had doubted if he would ever step into the house, not to mention, reside there. He had arrived in Abuja, instead of the Ogun state he had told his friend Chika. He knew that it was easy to be tracked down if he had told Chika the truth. That the police would be searching the wrong place should have at least put his mind at rest, but no. he felt even more agitated, shaking and jerking at every sound. If he was ever told that he would murder a human being in his life, he would not have believed it, but here he was, running away like a common criminal. He stood up and paced the sitting room in slow strides. As much as he tried to block out the day everything crumbled, he was not able to shut it out. He held his head as everything came playing back, making him feel crazy. He had murdered the love of his life with his own hands; how unthinkable. He heard something and froze. It sounded like a knock, or was he imagining things? He stood on that spot until he heard the knock again, louder this time. He heart raced. Nobody knew he was in Abuja. He had told no one. Who could be at the door? ********** ********** The sweet smell emanating from the kitchen was enough to renew Raymond’s hunger. Bose’s cooking's were always divine, both in aroma and in taste. Even though he was in his room, the aroma dragged him to his feet. He opened the door and went down stairs. Bose was apparently very occupied with whatever she was doing not to have noticed his approach. He dropped his suit jacket on the couch and made for the kitchen, unable to resist the aroma. What he saw took him by surprise: Bose was standing by the cooker, with her ear-piece jammed in her ears, dancing. She wore an army-green nicker that was halfway down her thigh and a red tank top which clung to her body firmly. He had never seen her dress so… boldly, ever since she came into the house. He swallowed hard, the food forgotten as he stared at the person he had come to take as a friend and a sister. Bose became aware that she was not alone and she turned slowly. She was not surprised to find Raymond there, since they were the only two people in the house. For some seconds, they just stared at each other until Bose looked away in a shy demonstration. Ray just kept on staring at her, trying to think about something that was nagging at his head. She removed the ear-piece slowly. “I… erm…” she coughed slightly. “The food is almost done” she said, barely above a whisper. Instantly, Ray remembered the reason he came down. “Oh… OK” he turned back and retreated. Bose exhaled deeply. She must be out of her mind to assume anything. She rushed back to the cooker to monitor the soup on fire. Wheat and egusi soup landed on the table some minutes later. The soup was adorned with all sorts of fishes and meats. Since eating with ray on the same table has become a regular phenomenon, she also served her food and went up to call him. She stood at the entrance of the room for some time, trying to calm her nerves but, unable to gather much courage to enter, she just knocked and talked to him through the door. “Sir, your food is served”. After receiving a calm reply, she hurried downstairs. Instead of sitting close to Ray’s seat, she sat down far away from his seat on the table for her own sake. She watched his approach to the dinning in calm steady strides. Her pulse quickened as he sat down without even glancing her way. Ray did not waste any second before he dug into his meal. The aroma had kept him salivating and imagining all along, what it would taste like. After the first mussel, he nodded his head appreciatively. “Hmmmm…. This is good. Very good” he murmured and Bose smiled her thanks. She was happy that he had finally broken the silence by saying something. After ray had eaten sufficient amount of food, he looked up, noticing for the first time that Bose was seating at the far end of the table. “Why are you seated there? He looked surprised. “come here” he patted the space beside him. She moved her food to the chair beside him and sat, still with her head low to her food. “I have the distinct feeling that you are not telling me something”. Ray said, putting a cup of water against his lips. Bose swallowed hard. She finally managed to raise her head to look Ray in the eye. “Madam… Your fiancée was here yesterday” she blurted. She had deliberately decided not to tell ray anything about her encounter with Tinuke, and when he had arrived and asked if anyone came in his absence, she had answered in the negative. Ray nodded knowingly. “And?” “she wasn’t happy at all when I blocked her out, in fact, she was so angry that she almost went crazy with rage” Bose said, remembering that episode with a smile. Ray blinked. “Well, as long as she did not carry out any of her displays on you, there is no problem” he swallowed another mussel of wheat but when he got no response, he looked up from the food to gaze at Bose. “Did she hit you?” Bose blanched and rejoiced internally that he was concerned about her. “No… No. I mean, she tried to but I didn’t let her. Then she started saying all sort of things like getting me fired and so on”. Raymond relaxed. “Well she didn’t employ you, did she?” he washed his hands and stood up, gathering the plates. Bose tried to help him but he succeeded in packing them, telling her to pack hers. After dropping the plates, he invited her outside. Sitting at the veranda, he had a clear picture of what was on his mind. He had suspected it for some time now but looking at Bose, he knew it was way beyond a vague thought. “I want to ask you a question Bose, please answer me truthfully” he looked deeply into her eyes, trying to make her feel at ease when all he was doing was the exact opposite. “Are you in love with me?” Bose blanched


    Deolu sat in his office, looking lost. Everything about the last three days was affecting him severely. He had called his friend, Caleb, in Ogun State who was a policeman to comb the entire state for that son of a b---h who is behind Lucy’s disappearance. He was able to persuade Fred’s neighbor; Chika to give him a picture. He had seen Fred with Lucy countless number of times and he, for some time thought the two were dating until Lucy wiped out that doubt. His jealousy never made him like Fred, instead, it made him despise him but never did he know that someone so close to Lucy could hurt her. His forehead showed sweat beads even though the office was chilling, considering the air-conditioner. Never in his life had he known such misery. His head rested on the back-rest of the office chair as he gazed blindly at the ceiling. He was oblivious to the consistent knock on the door until the door opened and his secretary walked in; he was still lost in his thoughts. “Sir”, Fadeke called. He did not hear her until she called louder for the second time. When he came back to his senses, he gazed at her for some seconds like he had forgotten who she was. “Oh… Fadeke. What is it?” he rubbed his forehead. Fadeke’s face held concern as she spoke. “Sir, it is already some minutes past six. I wanted to ask if I could leave since there is nothing left for me to do”. Deolu is the owner of D&C Limited. The firm engages in supplying quality furniture to both private individuals and companies. The company is well known for the quality doors, slates, roofing sheets, cupboards and the likes; that everyone building one thing or the other ends up buying their things from D&C. Deolu sighed as he gazed at the time. Fadeke should have closed since 5 O’clock and now he had kept her for more than one hour extra, doing nothing at all. “You can go” he said, dismissing her. “I am sorry sir but; is everything alright? I have not seen you like this before.” She was genuinely worried. Deolu smiled faintly. “Nothing is alright but don’t worry. It is personal; just go home, ok? Thanks for your concern” he stood also preparing to leave. She wanted to probe but decided otherwise and left. Deolu decided the family house would be better for him. He would have people around who can take his mind off this trauma; he doubted that though. Just about an hour drive and he was in the family house, surrounded by his extended family members. His father and mother were not around when he got there. The general discussion they were having was only making his situation worse so he retired to his room. Deolu lay lost in his own world on the massive bed. He hadn’t been able to stop his brain from thinking about Lucy. He picked up his phone and dialed Caleb again. ********** ********** Fred was glued to the ground as his mind desperately searched for a way out. He never imagined that the police would catch him so soon, and he was a hundred percent sure the police were the ones knocking. His cloth was already soaked in his own sweat as he stood, unable to move a nerve. The knock became persistent and louder, matching with the intensity of his heartbeat. “Fred” someone yelled from the entrance. “Freddy”. Fred exhaled audibly and almost collapsed in relief. He had never been so scared. He knew that voice like the back of his palms. How did that freaking guy know I am in Abuja? He got to the door, peeped to be double sure his guess is not wrong before he opened the door. “Wetin dey do you? You no fit open door since?” Chris was angry and scared. He had been worried that something might have happened to him in there, not allowing him to answer the door. Fred glared at him for some time and hissed. He was still trying to regularize his heartbeat. He had a desperate urge to pee. Chris took a look at his sweating profile and opened his mouth again. “Ol boy, wetin do you? You dey run race for here? Or…” he smiled and winked. “any chick dey room”. Fred hissed for the second time and closed the door. “Who told you I am in Abuja?” he asked through gritted teeth. “You almost sent me to an early grave with fright” Chris widened his eyes and folded his arms across his chest. “I never knew you could be so afraid with a mere knock. Bless the Lord for this surprise visit”. He was definitely enjoying himself. Fred fought the huge urge to deliver a solid punch but calmed himself. “Answer the d--n question” he growled. Chris raised his hands in surrender. “I was passing by this place yesterday night and saw the security lights on. The light could not have come on by itself, so I figured it could only have come on with the help of someone. You are the only one with the key so…” he left Fred to finish the remaining in his imagination. He went over to the seat and collapsed in it since Fred was not ready to offer him a seat. He turned to glare at Fred who was still at the door. “Why did you not tell me that you were coming to Abuja as you usually do? Have I offended you or is there something you are hiding from me?” Fred and Chris had been friends, right from their secondary school days. They came to Lagos from the village together, making them look more like brothers. Chris’ moving to Abuja because of his business had put physical distance between them but they still communicated very frequently and Fred stays in chris’ house whenever he is in Abuja. Fred did not know what to say to the accusation and he said the first thing that came to his mind. “If you call me often, I would have told you”. Chris laughed. “You can’t be serious. I called you last week. Why should I call you every day? I am not your girlfriend and neither am I gay”. Fred laughed for the first time, trying to use his laughter to ward off the awkwardness he was beginning to feel. He also sat down opposite Chris. Chris looked thoughtful for some seconds. “Speaking of girlfriends, now that we are face to face, tell me about this girl you have been crazy about. Did she finally accept you?” Fred blanched and sat still like someone in another world. He could practically see the scene where he picked up the knife from the tray. The fright in her eyes would haunt for the rest of his miserable years. He had killed his love with his own hands. She tripped over something and fell and… “Fred… Fred” Chris yelled already close to the chair. Fred almost jumped out of his skin. He was sweating profusely. “What is the matter Fred? You don dey see spirit? See as you white”. Fred almost had a panic attack at the mention of spirit. “I think you need to leave Chris, I am not in the mood to receive visitors” he rose up. Chris was now worried, very worried. “Do I look like someone who takes orders or advises? Sit. I must hear whatever your problem is before I leave this place.” Fred swallowed and glared. Hr dragged a bewildered Chris and pushed him out of the door. He slammed the door and fell into a heap on the floor. ********** ********** The silence was a piercing and extremely uncomfortable one. Bose had never known this much tension in her twenty three years of existence. Raymond was looking at her in a very disturbing way. His gaze seemed to be penetrating her thoughts and she was certain he could hear her pounding heart. She has always been aware of Raymond’s powerful presence but never had it been this overpowering; it is probably because she is seated very close to him now. Although the sitting arrangement is not one of intimacy, judging by the space between them, she still felt she was seated too close. “You have not answered me Bose” Raymond said after waiting for what seemed like ages and did not get any response. Bose’s eyes were on her fingers as she struggled to keep them from shivering. “I don’t know what you are talking about sir” she managed, surprised that she didn’t stutter. “Yes, you do” he said softly, already knowing the answer he was expecting. Bose shivered visibly. “I… I don’t… I don’t know what to tell you” she stammered. “Tell me the truth” “Yes” she dropped already in tears. Ray was motionless and speechless. He had suspected this but now that it was out on display, he didn’t know how to handle it. After some seconds of ‘no movement’ on his part, he pulled Bose into his arms and held her. She cried in his arms for some minutes while Ray just kept quiet, trying to think. He pulled away from her and held her shoulders. “Bose, please stop crying and listen to me” he hates women in tears. He left her shoulders and held her face with his arms. “Listen…” he was interrupted by the ringing of his phone. He was sorely tempted to ignore the call until he saw the caller. He excused himself and received the call. It was Doctor Tunde. “Hello Doctor… Yes… You don’t mean it? Wooow… I would be there in a jiffy.” He ended the call with a million smiles on his faces. “The girl is conscious now” he exclaimed. Bose rejoiced, putting aside her emotions. Raymond picked up his car keys and jumped into his car. ********** ********** Tinuke lay on her bed with her eyes glued to the rolling fan. There is nothing fascinating about three blades going after each other when it is obvious none of them would succeed in catching the others but still, she had her eyes fastened on the fan. Her mind was elsewhere. Throughout the previous day, she had perambulated anxiously, hoping no one would come for her and luckily, no one did. How can that freaking nurse think I am a murderer? But wait, how did that pillow get to my hands? She wondered. Her mind shifted to Ray. He hadn’t called her and has not picked up one of her nine hundred and ninety nine calls. How can he just ignore her like that? she felt like a piece of used product. ‘He feels he can just use me and dump me like that, well I would not be so sure if I were him’ she said to herself. She finally stood up from the bed with the perfect idea of her next line of action in mind. She is officially Ray’s fiancée and nothing stops her from moving in with him, or so she thought. She packed a small suitcase, filled it with clothes and other necessities. It had been a while she called her friends and they seemed to have forgotten her. She would call when she is fully settled in her future husband’s house. ********** ********** Ken and Bewaji Jones entered the house and sank into the leather couch. Their faces were drawn. It had been a rough day. They had been going to every television station to announce that their daughter is missing and also to publicly declare a search warrant for Fred. One million Naira was promised as reward for anyone who leads them to either the guy or their daughter. It hadn’t been easy at all emotionally. Bewaji cries most of the times and Ken was too preoccupied trying to pet his wife that he didn’t even know how to vent his anger and fear and anguish. Things had gone worse when a possessed lady asked them to check the mortuary. They had both rejected it, saying that their daughter would never be in a mortuary. The maid brought them dinner and Bewaji refused, saying she would eat when she sees her daughter. Ken tried to beg her but she would have none of it. Ken was not hungry but he wanted Bewa to be strong, it is only in her strength that he found his courage and strength. He sighed as Bewaji rested her head on his shoulders, crying. Lucy, my Lucy, where are you? He wondered with pain tearing his heart. ********** ********** Raymond got to the hospital and practically sailed the distance between the parking lot and the doctor’s office. He had become a regular face and no one delayed him. He got to Doctor Tunde’s office and entered with smiles pasted all over his face. He was ecstatic. “A lovely evening it is Doc T.” he said, sitting. “With a lovely news to go with it” doctor Tunde replied with a smile. “When did this happen and how?” Raymond was curious. He wished he had been there when she opened her eyes. Doctor tuned smiled. “Some minutes before I called you. I went to her room to perform some doctorate rituals, in order to be sure everything is going well when she opened her eyes. She made some discomfort sounds which alerted me and I was so happy that she had finally come around. I never expected it to be this quick though. There is no doubt about the fact that she is very strong and God is solidly behind her.” Ray agreed. He could not remember when last he had been this happy about something. “Forget this talk, let me see her” he was already on his feet. “Did I tell you that your fiancée was here?” that surely got his attention and he sat down again. “What do you mean?” Tunde smiled. “Tinuke was here, told the nurse she brought provisions for the patient and was caught with a pillow clawed tight in her hands but she escaped”, he said. Ray stared for some seconds. “Wait, you are not thinking that she tried to… tried to…” he could not complete the sentence. “Kill her?” Tunde asked with a faint smile. Ray was speechless. He rubbed his palms together and swallowed painfully. “Let me see the girl, we would come back to this later” he stood up already furious. Tinuke was constantly making his life hell on earth. They entered the room with the doctor ahead and Raymond behind him. Tunde smiled but the smile was not returned by the girl. Seeing her eyes open for the first time ever was like a miracle. Her eyes was on the doctor. He asked her how she was doing but she said nothing; it didn’t look like she had ever opened her mouth because it seemed glued to each other. For some seconds, he thought she was deaf when she did not respond to anything the doctor said. “Look. This is the man that brought you here” for the first time, her eyes left the doctor and that made it obvious that she could hear what was being said. Ray’s breath was knocked out of him as those dark eyes rested on him. ‘Beautiful’ is a word but it is not weighty enough to describe this lady. He was held spellbound by her stunning beauty but what really gripped his heart was the pain he saw in her eyes. The pain was so evident in her dark eyes. He tried desperately to regain his breath. The only desire he had was to remove that pain. He desperately wanted to drive that pain away and make her laugh. He sat down gently on the chair beside the bed and took her hand slightly. He felt a totally strange emotion and he stared at her hand for some time. He had forgotten about the presence of Tunde. “I am Raymond, please what is your name?” he asked gently so as not to startle her. For the first time since she became conscious, she opened her mouth to the surprise of both men. “Brenda” she whispered.


    Tinuke knocked on the door to her mothers house. She wondered why the door was not being answered. She had packed up her load with the aim of going directly to Raymond’s house but she had decided to get some real advice from someone that loves her unconditionally – her mother. She had been standing there for more than three minutes and the door didn’t portray the fact that it might be opened. Suddenly, the door opened and she stared at the sleepy face of her mother. She had known that her mother would be at home because she passed by her shop and met the sales girl there. “Atinuke mi” her mother called, surprised. “Good evening ma” she knelt halfway, embracing her mum. “You did not tell me you are coming, come inside”. She entered with her mother following behind. “Oh… mummy, I am sooo thirsty” she proceeded to the kitchen and pulled out a pack of juice. She returned with a full glass of juice in one hand and the remaining pack of juice in the other. “What is with the luggage? Where are you going?” She sat on the chair opposite her mum. “I was going to Ray’s house but I decided to stop by your place”. Her mother laughed. “The route to his place is different from mine, so get another excuse”. Tinuke smiled but the smile soon faded out. “Mum, I need your advice. Ray wants to replace me” “What?” her mum exclaimed. “Don’t joke with something so serious” “I am not joking mum. For the past few days, I have been calling him but he has refused to pick my calls. I tried using another number but immediately he heard my voice, he hung up. I am tired mum” Bewildered. “And you did not tell me since” “I am sorry mum. Do you know the most ridiculous part of all these? The other lady is his maid. Can you believe it? A stupid maid” she hissed. Mrs Rogers could not believe her ears. “Don’t just fold your arms while your husband is being taken from you; this is not how I ended up in your father’s house”. She almost yelled. “Then what do I do mum, that is why I came here”. “Ok… here is what you would do….” ********** ********** Sleeping while Luciana is missing was obviously an impossible task for Deolu. He left the room after he had called Caleb. Caleb had told him that the police is out, searching for Fred. The pictures of Fred now graced every corner of the state with the promise of a handsome reward for anyone who leads them to Fred. He hadn’t taken anything since morning and his stomach was beginning to complain but he had no appetite. He sat on the chair in the sitting room with his thoughts scattered. He took out his phone and started going through all the pictures again. His album was filled with pictures of Lucy. You can never get tired of looking at her pictures; the more you look, the more attractive they become. Tears threatened to break free and he quickly blinked them away. “What is this? My son is getting emotional, right here in my sitting room?” Deolu looked up and saw his father. He smiled and prostrated before him. At least, he would have his best friend to talk to, he thought. “Good evening dad.” “Evening my boy. I don’t need to ask how you are doing because it is obvious that you are not yourself. I would bet my fortune that the problem has to do with a woman” he sat beside his son. “she is a beautiful one” his eyes was fixed on the Deolu’s phone which was displaying Luciana’s picture. Deolu had heard it said before that men love their mothers more while women love their fathers more. That logic does not apply to him. The love he has for his father is great and even though he still loves his mum; it is not as much as he loves his dad. Though his dad chastises him at times, he is still his closest friend. No problem brought before him can leave the same way it came. Although, in this case, he seriously doubted that anything would happen to his problem today. “She is a rare gem dad” he responded, dropping the phone on the table. “I can see that” he looked at Deolu with worry lines on his forehead. “Last time I checked, she was just your friend. Has something changed?” The question did not quite sound like a question because the answer was very clear. “That status changes four days ago” it seemed more like an eternity ago. “Hmmmmm” his father grunted, waiting for him to proceed. Deolu stood up and started pacing. “But what is that when she is nowhere to be found?” “What are you saying?” Deolu exhaled slowly. “Lucy is missing dad” “What?” He exclaimed. “Are you sure she didn’t travel or… Or run away with someone”. “No. None of that happened. All her things are in the apartment, including her phone” he exhaled again and proceeded to explain everything to his father: Bewaji’s dream; the empty house; Fred’s disappearance and all the efforts they had put in finding Lucy. Mr Aremu just stayed there, listening without interrupting his son. When Deolu finally landed, silence prevailed for the next couple of minutes. “What if he is not in Ogun state?” Deolu raised his eyes to his father. “Yes. If I killed someone which is impossible, I would flee. If I am running away from the cops, it would be stupid of me to tell someone where I am running off to when information can easily be coerced from that person. The only way I would do that is if the information I am passing is a wrong one.” Deolu stood with his eyes fixed on his dad. There is always an added advantage when you talk to him. His ways of looking at things are always superb. “I never thought of that… I would search the whole planet if I have to. I must see Lucy and that b-----d would pay.” “And if the dreams are true, then your girl is in danger. She must still be in Lagos. We need to start a thorough search for her here. Go to every hospital and mor-“ “Don’t even mention it dad” Deolu cut in, alarmed. “She is not dead.” “OK son.” ********** ********** Bose was perplexed. This is the first time that she would admit her feelings to a man and now, she is feeling like crap. She wondered why she had answered the question. Why hadn’t she lied? It would have been easier for her. She could have easily told him that he was imagining things. Instead of ‘yes’, she could have said ‘no’ and everything would be fine. Why did she make herself look like an opportunist? Ever since Ray drove out, she had dived into work like her life depended on it, hoping that work would distract her from the past hour but no. Instead, her thoughts increased. Ray is obviously not in love with her. She had seen it in the way he looked at her, in the way he held her in his arms. He is just someone that is too friendly and down to earth. Anyone would fall in love with him; she only wished that ‘someone’ was not her. How can you cope, knowing that the love you feel cannot be returned? She contemplated leaving without any goodbyes but had a rethink. She already had more than enough in her savings to sustain herself and start up a small business but how would repay good for evil? Raymond and his family had been good to her; too good actually; and vanishing just like that would be too bad. Who would see to Ray’s meals, chores and other necessities? Even though Ray would not love her like a woman, she was hundred percent sure that she meant more to him than just a mere maid. The heart cannot be controlled so, his not loving her is not his fault. She heart a knock, coming from the gate and tensed up. She went to the gate and opened it. Tinuke bounced in, almost throwing Bose off balance in the process. She had three bags with her, which she dropped in order to stretch her hands. She picked one of them and made for the house. “Bring those bags inside for me” she ordered. She had noticed the absence of Ray’s car and she smiled internally. ‘Perfect’ she thought. Bose was bewildered. Things just got worse. “You can’t enter ma’am” she said, blocking her. “Oh… And why is that? Ray called me this evening, asking me to come over. If I were you, I would choose my words very, very carefully, if I have a job to protect”. With that, she pushed Bose out of the way and marched into the house. Bose was left standing there, momentarily stunned. So Ray had called her. Is it because of my confession? Perhaps he called her to remind me of my place in this house. All these went through her brain as tears rolled down her cheeks. She wiped her face and proceeded to carry out madam’s orders. Tinuke lay fully clothed on Ray’s bed with her eyes closed, feeling so tired. She heard the door open and guessed it must be Bose. She opened her eyes as Bose dropped the bags and saw the sober expression on her face. She smiled. She remembered her expression of shock and surprise some minutes ago. ‘I don’t think she knows who she is dealing with’ she thought. Bose exited the room and Tinuke stood up. She stripped and walked into the bathroom. She allowed the cold water to caress every part of her. After some minutes, she was back in the room. After wiping her body dry, she polished her skin with body lotion. She took out her body spray and applied it on some sensitive spots, keeping it moderate and not too toxic. She had realized over the years that Raymond goes wild with desire whenever he perceives the scent of that spray. She unzipped her box and pulled out a wine coloured gown who stopped just below the butt. She gave a winning smile. God bless experienced mothers!!! ********** ********** Teju alighted from the bus and entered the street by the junction. She does not have the connections required to pull the police force but she has legs to walk the whole of Lagos if possible, in search of her friend. She had been to six hospitals and she so wanted to visit one more before the day runs out. She sighted the hospital she was looking for – Hope Hospital. She entered the reception and greeted the nurses there. “Good evening miss, how can we help you?” One of the nurses asked with a smile. “Please, I am looking for someone named Luciana Jones. I don’t know if she was admitted here. We have been looking for her for days”. The nurse looked thoughtful. “No, I don’t think so.” She pulled out their register and checked through with Teju checking with her but found no one with that name. Teju looked dejected as she exited the hospital. She passed by another nurse on her way out who was wondering why she looked so depressed. Teju did not bother look at her, she was too depressed to pay attention to anyone. Something told her to go back but she didn’t. The nurse entered and asked the other nurses what the lady came for and they explained the issue. “What if it is the lady that was brought here by Mr Raymond?” The nurses looked at each other. She ran out to see if she can catch up with the lady but she was already gone. She exhaled and went back inside.


    Raymond stepped out of the room. He had never been so breathless in his life. He walked silently with Doctor Tunde to his office, and after sitting down, they both stared silently. Ray was too preoccupied with his thoughts. “So, what are you going to do Ray? Are you going to follow her wishes?” ray was lost. Even the question made him feel weirder. He would not incur any damage or problem if he decides to go against Brenda’s wishes but he had been forced to promise. He does not go back on his words. It is the only thing that has not really changed in his life. On the other hand, doing what she wanted might lead him to a lot of problems. Raymond sat where he was, in front of Brenda. When he heard that name, he was stunned. Not by the name which he had heard countless number of times, but by the voice of the bearer. Her voice was like a whisper, cool, feminine and also commanding. He knew she had to be a spectacular person to be able to gather all those attributes to herself. He wanted her to rest but he also wanted to find out who she was so that he could locate her people. He had no doubt that they must be going through a series of horrifying ultimate search, in search of a light-skinned goddess. Personally, if he was somehow related to this lady, he would search the whole earth and proceed to the heavens if he does not find her. “I am so happy that you are alive. You don’t know just how happy I am” he said slowly and quietly. “Where are you from? Who did this to you? We need to contact your people or go to the police” He would gladly take laws into his hands if he sees the b-----d that stabbed her. She became very uneasy and restless and they had to calm her down. He was worried he had said too much. The experience must be a terrifying one. Something flashed to his mind: what if she stabbed herself? No. she couldn’t have. She could not have stabbed herself, put herself in a sack and lay in the rain where she could die. After they had been able to stabilize her, Doctor Tunde said he would sedate her and he fully agreed. She is not well enough to withstand the torture of an interrogation. He stood up and waited for Tunde to perform his duty. He felt for her. If there is something he hates so much in hospitals, it is their ability to make you sleep, whether you want to or not. Ray saw Brenda’s lips moving and he instinctively moved closer. Her voice had become too low, probably due to the effect of the drugs being administered through the drip. She was trying to say something. When he was close enough, she whispered again. “Please, don’t contact anybody, not even the police. Please, promise me”. Raymond was stunned. Why would she not like anyone to know her whereabouts? The vague thought of suicide returned and he shrugged it off. Or could it be someone in her family? Maybe her family wants her dead? Why would they? Wait, does she have a family? All these thought kept bugging him and he could not even make meaning of any of them. He saw her struggling with the administered drug, trying to keep her eyes open. “Promise?” she said, barely audible. He quickly nodded. “Promise”. She relaxed and slept. He wondered if she knew anything about his inability to break promises. He stood up gently and gazed at Tunde who had been standing by them the whole time. He needed no seer to tell him that the Doctor had heard all that was discussed. He wondered how he could hear something so low when he needed to bend to hear her. Maybe his ear needs a check up, he thought mentally. Ray sat opposite Tunde, still tied down by his thoughts. He hadn’t given Tunde the answer to the question he was asked. “Ray… I said, what are you going to do?” Raymond exhaled slowly. “I made a promise Tunde. I don’t break my promises” he said. Tunde sighed knowingly. He shouldn’t have asked because he knew the answer to expect. “You know I am risking a lot. None of her relations know of her presence in my hospital, I know nothing about her except her name; not even her full name; what if something happens to her?” Tunde asked, becoming more aware of the risk involved. Ray stood sluggishly. “Then, you have to make sure nothing happens to her” he said about to leave. “You also have to do the same” Tunde said, referring to Tinuke. Ray paused, gazed at Tunde as his thoughts took in everything he had heard. He nodded and left the office. He entered his car and headed home. How could Tinuke descend so low as to attempt murder? Of everything that he imagined her doing, murder was not one of them. He wondered why he did not feel terribly hurt. He felt rage, enough to take on a battalion of Tinukes if she ever tried something so terrible, but he did not feel that heartfelt pain he usually feels whenever she does something to hurt him. Just months ago, he had been so sure that he would die if Tinuke leaves him, but now, he feels like Tinuke would send him to an early grave if he doesn’t leave her. As he drove on, Bose crossed his mind and his heart skipped a beat. Since Tinuke started her rebellious acts and Bose had stood by him through it all, he had been trying to see her in a different light. He had wanted to love her the way a man loves a woman but the only feelings he had for her were platonic. She is like a sister and a friend. He had seen some signs to show that she had extra feelings for him but he hadn’t thought much of it. Bose is a very beautiful girl, with a very inviting body structure, and that gave Tinuke more reasons to pressurize him into firing her. He however had never felt sexually attracted towards Bose, and he wondered why. He had left her at home without talking about her love confession and he was scared that he would not be able to look her in the eye and tell her he had no feelings for her. His phone rang and he looked at the name on it. He mentally kicked himself as he pressed answer and put the phone on speaker in order to focus on his driving without being caught by the police. “Hey… Duke, what’s up now” he said to no physical being. “You are not serious. You have not called me for the past four days and you are there asking me what’s up. What else would be up?” Duke angrily yelled over the phone. Of all the friends that surrounded Raymond, Duke is the closest to him. “Hey, why are you angry? I am angry too. You did not hear from me and you did not call me. What if I was dead?” “C’mon shut the crap. I know you can’t die, we already said that our children would marry themselves, so tell me: where are you going to when you have not fulfilled your promise?” Duke ranted. They both laughed out. People driving by in the small traffic assumed that Raymond was having a moment of madness and put a little space between their cars. Ray smiled at their stares. “But why did you leave the club without telling us now?” Ray sighed. “Leave that jare, I am glad I did. I was able to save someone from death” “What? Who?” Duke’s voice filled the car. “Long story” Ray replied. “Why not come over to the club tonight, you can narrate the story over there” Ray thought for a second and realized it would be a good idea. Get home, explain everything in his mind to Bose and go to the club to drink away any guilt that he might feel afterwards. “OK” “You are the man” Ray smiled and pressed the red button. ********** ********** Fred was not happy with the way he treated Chris. The guy had wanted to help him with his problems but little did he know that the situation is already beyond remedy. He had forcefully pushed him out two days ago, arousing suspicions. Every time he stepped out of the house to either buy some things or settle things, he walks like someone who is being chased, looking over his shoulder at the slightest sound. His life has transformed to a nightmare just because of a stupid act. He sat on the bed in his room, drinking a bottle of beer. Lucy had been so beautiful that night and the jealousy of the fact that she dressed up for another man had added to his anger. He did not have any right to be angry but the mere fact that she could accept someone else when she did not accept him made him too furious. He opened his HP laptop and powered it. After letting it booth for some minutes, he connected to the internet. If he wants to come out of this mess, someone else would have to be found responsible for the Luciana’s death. Sooner or later, her body would be found and the case would move from a kidnap case to a murder case. He swallowed, opened his bag and took out a small jotter where he wrote the name of his worst enemy. Since someone else needs to be implicated, he knows the best person to implicate. How he would achieve his aim was still unknown to him. He stared at the name. “If God helps me to find a way, I promise you; you would be spending the rest of your miserable life in jail” he said. ********** ********** Raymond arrived home to meet something really shocking. Of all the things that coerced through his mind as he drove home, the movie playing before him was not included. “What is going on Bose? Where are you going with the luggage” he yelled, as he approached her. Bose wiped her tears as she swallowed painfully. “I can’t stay here anymore sir” she choked. Tinuke had made her life a living hell ever since she stormed the house, about two hours ago. Bose knew that Tinuke was there to stay, due to the heavy bags she brought with her and she could not imagine another day with Tinuke in the house. She also would not be able to cope with seeing Ray and Tinuke play the loving duo while she suffered from the love that can never be returned. Raymond stared at Bose with his mouth agape. He could not fathom why she was doing this. “It has not reached this level Bose. Come inside, let us talk about this”. “No sir” Bose said, shaking her head in denial. “I am sorry sir; I never wanted this to happen. Why would I want to leave this house when you have treated me so kindly? Thanks to you and your generous siblings, I am somebody today” she sniffed. “I have enough money to start a small business, I am educated and I also have self confidence. You have been so kind to me. You treated me like your sister. What more can I ask for?” She paused, allowing everything she had said to sink in. “But I fear, I would not be able to stay any longer. I never wanted to confess my feelings today” “And I am sorry I made you do so” Ray cut in “Yes sir, I understand. But I am not leaving because of you; I am doing this for me. I know you don’t love me. If I stay here, I would become bitter. Please let me go sir” she pleaded. Ray was deflated. Going to the club tonight would definitely be a brilliant idea. He never imagined that Bose would cry because of him. He did not want to let her go but, making her stay would be very unfair. She deserves to move on with her life, forsake the lowly life of a servant and be an independent woman. If she would also be able to forget him, she needs space. That very minute, he saw a woman – a very beautiful woman that can sweep the heart of any man; but why can’t he see her that way? “I would miss you” he said softly, from his heart. “Who would prepare those delicious meals? Who would keep me company in this boring house? Who would advise me when I am lost? Tell me?” “Your fiancée would do all that. Bye Sir” she quickly said. She wiped her face and picked up her bags. “But where are you going this night? At least stay till tomorrow morning and let me drop you.” She looked thoughtful for some seconds, glanced at the building and shook her head. “I have called a cab to convey me to my friend’s house. Your food is inside the cooler, in case you are hungry. Bye sir. Thanks for everything” she said as fresh tears rolled down her cheeks. Raymond stood still as Bose stepped out of the house. He could not explain the pain he felt at that moment. Why did he ask her that question? If he hadn’t asked, she would still be in the house now. He walked inside slowly with the intention of changing his clothes and storming the club. The quilt he was feeling could only be relieved in a club where he would drink himself to stupor. He entered his bedroom and met the second horror of the day. What the hell! He swore. “Tinuke… What are you doing here?”

    EPISODE 10

    Tinuke sighed internally as she raised herself from the bed slowly. She had been waiting there for ages and it seemed like Ray would not open the door of the room at all. She had heard him enter the compound and had checked herself in the mirror again to be sure she was perfectly in shape. But after waiting for five full minutes without seeing him she had been afraid that he had gone to the maid’s room to satisfy his lust in her arms. She however discovered that she was wrong when she tip-toe out of the room to see what was going on. Her joy knew no bounds. She raced back to the room to dance a dance of victory. She heard the gate of the house close and she laughed silently, running to the window to be double sure that Bose was really leaving. She was finally rid of her sworn enemy; how ironic that her rival had been a mere maid. A bitter pile rose in her throat and she gritted her teeth till her jaw ached. She lay on the bed, expecting Ray to enter but he did not come in, even minutes after she heard Bose’s departure. She became frustrated and was about standing up to go and meet Mohammed since he refused to come to the mountain when the door opened. “Are you deaf? Can’t you answer the simple question I asked you?” Raymond yelled, his gentleman etiquette was already out of question since Bose left him feeling shattered. Tinuke moved gingerly towards him, swaying her hips and making him feel uncomfortable. She stood close to him; too close for comfort. She placed her palm softly on his chest with her other hand going to circle his neck. “What do you think I am doing here? I am here to claim back my husband” she said huskily. Ray was blown away. His nose had identified the scent of ‘Light Blue’ perfume and his brain was not functioning normally. Tinuke surely has an extremely sexy body and the flimsy dress she had on only hinted the promise of better things to come. He moved away from her, with his hands in his pocket, trying to put his body under subjection. He faced the window so that he would not have to look at her. “I am not your husband Tinuke, this relationship is over” he said quietly. Tinuke was about to flare up at his spoken words but remembered the advice of her mother. She slowly walked to him, caressed his back slowly with her fingers. She then pinned her body to his back, knowing the effects she was having on him. “You don’t mean that. We are meant for each other baby”. Ray felt his resolve shake. Just how much temptation can a man resist? He was angry; very angry. Why did God create women? They are just too powerful. Bose just crumbled his happy day and here was Tinuke, trying to bewitch him. Tinuke finally slotted herself in the slim space between Raymond and the window and Ray’s brain rang a very loud alarm. Ray stepped back but Tinuke held his hand. He groaned and pulled her to himself, devouring her lips; he remembered Bose’s departure and kissed her with vengeance. The last thought that crossed his mind before the heat of passion took over was that God should have used clay to make Eve instead of using Adam’s rib. ********** ********** Deolu strolled out of the bathroom after having a hot bath which had lasted for more than thirty minutes. He had lay in the bathtub, thinking about the tragedies befalling him till he became accustomed to the feel of the water against his body. After laying there for a long time, the water turned cold and no longer seemed inviting. He had a white towel around his waist but did not bother to dry himself with it. He threw himself on the bed, feeling so dejected. He had gone to several hospitals and yet, none had been able to yield any valuable return. He actually felt like dying. Five days and yet, he hadn’t seen beauty or the beast that captured her. He picked up his phone and called Caleb for the umpteenth time. He was starting to believe that Fred was really not in Ogun State. Caleb picked up and said the same thing he had been saying ever since this case started. “What sort of rubbish is this?” he yelled back at Caleb. “Are you telling me that the entire police in Ogun State cannot fish out a filthy criminal? You guys are a bunch of incompetent idiots” he yelled. Caleb yelled back at him and Deolu jumped to his feet. “No… No. don’t tell me that you know how I feel because you don’t. How can my girlfriend be missing and you tell me you know how I feel when you are not doing anything about it” he paused, parading the spacious bedroom. “Your best is not good enough Caleb… Don’t tell me you are sorry, I don’t need your pity, I need your action. I am paying you handsomely Caleb, I need my girl and I need to see that animal who had the guts to lay his filthy hands on my girl” he hung up. He felt bad that he had yelled at the poor man but he could not help it. Nigerian police do not move until they are moved. He heard a knock on the door and quickly threw on some clothes even though he knew that his maid would answer. He was hopeful that some good news would come his way. He got to the sitting room and was surprised to see two policemen. Tomi, his house help, just stood there looking confused. “Hello officers” Deolu greeted “Good day sir. Please are you Mr. Deolu Aremu?” one of the policemen said. “Yes, I am. Any problem?” “Please sir, we would like you to follow us to our station for some questions.” Deolu looked at the two policemen as anger flooded him. “What business do I have with your station?” he half yelled. “Your questions would be answered when you get there sir.” “No. you would answer my questions right here, right now. What sort of nonsense is this?” The devil was definitely bent on making his life impossible. So these filthy idiots think I am responsible for Lucy’s disappearance. “I am sorry sir, you would get your answers at the station. Please move sir” one of them said. Deolu, being a popular person, was feared by the policemen because they knew that his connections can lead to their dismissal; but they had to follow orders given to them by their boss, if not, the same fate awaits them. Deolu closed his mouth, trying to calm down. The events of the week had worked on his nerves. He picked up his phones and stared at his maid who was still bemused. “Call my lawyer” he said and followed the officers. ********** ********** Raymond left the state of unconsciousness and opened his eyes. He had a splitting headache which needed immediate attention. As he was about standing up to relieve himself in the toilet, his hand hit someone and he turned. The unadulterated details of the previous night came flooding back and he fell back on the bed. He shook his head at the remembrance. He had known that he was making a huge mistake yesterday but he still continued. The gentility he usually used with her was nowhere to be found and he just held and treated her the way he would have treated a prostitute. His anger had fuelled him and he had worked on her like he was dishing out a punishment. He wondered why he was so angry. He does not feel anything for Bose, so why was that anger so strong. He was angry because he could not love someone who deserves to be loved. He was angry because he knew that Tinuke had contributed to Bose’s departure. He was angry because Bose was sad. He was angry because Tinuke had crawled into his bed again. But most of all, he was angry because he had made Tinuke a promise. He exhaled and stood up slowly, went to the toilet to empty his bladder and entered the room. He looked at Tinuke’s sleeping frame on the bed and wondered why he did not feel the usual desire to touch her that always comes after their lovemaking. And now, he also wondered why ‘lovemaking’ did not seem like a good term to use for their passionate night. S-x is the closest word that comes to mind when he thinks of their night. “Come back to bed baby” Tinuke said with a coy smile on her face. Raymond turned, saw her smile and shook his head with his back to her. “No. Get up, get dressed and leave my house” “What? Are you crazy? Ray turned to face her again and immediately regretted his action. She was nude from her waist upwards. Surprisingly, he was not really aroused. “Get dressed and get the hell out of my house” he yelled and stormed out of the room. Ray was so furious and disappointed in himself. How could he have slept with her after all that happened; especially when he was thinking of leaving her? He had just made things difficult. He sighed as he picked up a bottle of water from the fridge. Now, Bose is no longer around to grace the house with the fascinating aroma of her cooking. He shook his head and drank some water. He heard the pounding of feet against the tiled floor and knew that he was in for another bout of argument. Tinuke entered the kitchen dressed in the same cloth he saw on her last night. He no longer found it tempting, in fact, it was annoying because he could only imagine a prostitute in such a ridiculous cloth; he secretly wondered if she actually left her house in it. “What is the meaning of what you said in there? Oh… you think you can just use me and dump me like that?” she asked, demonstrating with her hands. “It is not possible, you hear me?” she was vibrating from head to toe. Ray finished the water in his hands, dropped the cup and left Tinuke in the kitchen but she marched after him. “Ray… Ray… are you not the one I am talking to? Don’t you dare ignore me… Ray…” she yelled. Ray left the main building and entered the mini building at the back of the house which he used as a gym. He removed his phone to check his notifications and was alarmed when he saw several missed calls from Duke, Philip and Sam. He swore loudly. That witch had made him forget his outing with his friends. They must be really mad right now. He could not begin to imagine how pissed off they must be. He thought of exercising and calling later but decided against it. He took out his phone and called Duke. “Before you say anything, I am sorry….. You don’t understand….. If you knew what I met at home, you would understand….. No, not a python, something much worse than that” Ray smiled internally, knowing that he was just trying to bring down his friend’s anger. “My house was on fire o…..” he could not hold back his laughter when he heard his friend yelling. “I am sorry, not that kind of fire….. I know…..” Just then, Tinuke stormed the gym. She had gone back inside to put on her slippers when she discovered that Ray was leaving the building. “Eeeeehhhnnn… so you are talking to that witch ehn? You this stupid womanizer. Give me that phone” she yelled. She got to him, within the twinkling of an eye, yanked the phone from his hand and threw it against the wall. The phone shattered. Ray’s fury had reached the limit. He grabbed her hand and dragged her with so much force, her arm almost got dislocated. He opened the door of the gym and continued dragging her out. Her short strides could not match his long ones and she almost fell in the process but he did not even give a d–n. He opened the gate and threw her out. Before he could close the gate, she had already bounced back in. He glared at her, his eyes throwing daggers at her. “Get the hell out of my house this instant” he roared. She started crying. Ray hates this so much and he clenched his fists in anger. “You are a monster, a b—–d, a cheat. You took my virginity and used me for years and now you want to throw me away? I am not going anywhere”. Ray gritted his teeth in anger and guilt. His life was in shambles, he thought. He glared at Tinuke for some time until he was tired of looking at her. He opened the gate wide before going inside to get his car keys. He returned with the keys, entered his car and drove out leaving Tinuke there with the gate wide open.

    EPISODE 11

    Two weeks passed and the turmoil continued. Everyone went from pillar to post looking for Lucy but no one came close to finding her. The tension going on in the houses of her loved ones was so terrible. Teju had gone from one hospital to the other in search of her best friend, all to no avail. The break she had begged for at work had now elapsed and she had to resume back. Remembering that this same job came as a result of Lucy’s influence, she winced. She doubted she would be able to concentrate at work. She picked up her intercom when it rang. “Yes?… oh… let him in” she said and immediately adjusted her face, in order not to show signs of depression. She had become close to Deolu over the past few days. She had never really liked him ever since he became friends with Lucy; she never quite trusted him with her friend’s heart. She had been playing the protective sister, even though they were not siblings. She had suspected Deolu’s real feelings right from the onset but Lucy had been too blinded by work and independence to see the obvious. Even Deolu seemed to fight the feeling for a long time. Deolu entered the office with a smile on his face even though the smile did not reach his heart, due to the pain he was feeling. He never knew Teju was so cool till now. She had always been hostile, looking at him with hostile eyes every time he went to visit Lucy. He guessed she was just looking out for her friend, but when he tried to break the hostile façade and didn’t succeed, he forgot about her. “Hi Teju” he greeted with the smile still playing on his face. “Hey Dee” she said with a smile also. Deolu did not know why he loved that nickname she formulated for him. It brought a smile to his face, a genuine one. “What an honour to have you in my office on a Monday morning. Only a boss like you can leave the office on a Monday morning” she teased, pointing to a seat opposite her. “I have to. I came to tell you something” “I am all ears” she said seriously, suspecting that they were about to talk about her friend. “I am going to Abuja” he declared. “For what? Did you hear anything?” “No… actually, I was giving a contract by one of the top government officials in Abuja some months ago and the job needs to be executed. You know these government officials, they would not listen to any excuse, no matter how tangible, as long as it involves an agreement. I really wish I could stay or send some of my workers but I have been told that I need to deliver it myself so that I would not have the excuse that the fault came from my employees” his eyes pleaded for understanding. Teju smiled faintly. She knew he was being sincere but she did not know why she was disappointed. She almost felt like he was running away from his responsibility to her friend. She sighed. “I also want to use that opportunity to comb that state looking for that filthy peasant. Ogun state is already thoroughly combed but he is not there; Lagos also. Since I am going to Abuja, I would make sure I leave no stone unturned”. Deolu finished. Teju smiled again. She could see the love and pain in his eyes and she felt sorry for him. “It is alright Dee… I understand” she said. He smiled again. “Thanks a lot. I also want to thank you again for what you did for me; getting me out of police custody.” “How many times do you want to thank me? It is almost two weeks now” she was surprised. “What would I have done? I did not know that my lawyer travelled. If you hadn’t been there, I probably would have slept in that cell for many nights and had those thugs beat me up, asking me to confess to something I know nothing about”. Teju laughed. She was always happy whenever she had to flex her power as a lawyer. She felt fulfilled because, she was working for a fast-rising law firm. “You don’t have to thank me” she said. “I have to. Something still baffles me though… who sent those people to arrest me? As far as I know, that police station is not the one we registered this case in” Teju was thoughtful. “Yeah… I have thought of that. Don’t worry though, I am on it” she said with confidence. Deolu laughed. “I think I would have you as my new lawyer” She gave a mock bow. “At your service” “Please don’t relent in your efforts. Life feels useless without Lucy, please” he pleaded. “You know I can’t do that. She is my best friend” she seemed surprised. “Thanks” ********** ********** “Doc T, do you really think she can be discharged now? Is she fit to leave?” Ray was so worried that something might happen to Brenda and that was the last thing he needed. “Well, do you want to test her yourself to be sure?” “I would have loved to if I knew what to do. Is she ready to leave now?” Tunde nodded. He had bought some clothes and given them to the doctor some days back because Brenda had been putting on the hospital gown ever since. Tunde stood up and led the way to Brenda’s room, happy that once again, his hospital had rescued an almost impossible case. The fact that her being alive had almost nothing to do with them was very obvious though; he was sure she would have survived in a poor hospital. She is definitely God’s favourite. Immediately they entered the room, they both couldn’t go beyond the door post as they stared at the person standing beside the nurse. Nurse Rola was beaming from ear to ear. The look on the faces of the two men told her she had done a good job even though she did next to nothing. Attending to beautiful patients always made her like her job as a nurse because she loved to play dress up. Tunde quickly composed himself and went to meet his patient. “I really would like to meet the idiot that almost murdered you because I would love to retaliate. He is however lucky that you are fine now. How are you feeling now?” Brenda smiled a little. “I am fine doctor, thank you so much for everything; you too nurse, you have made my stay here very lively”. Nurse Rola beamed. “Don’t thank us; we were only doing our job. We thank God. The only person that needs to be appreciated is Mr. Raymond. He really tried”. Everyone’s gaze moved to Ray who was still standing at the door. Ray had never seen someone that beautiful in his life. Her brown, almost black hair was combed backwards to her back and he could see that she had a long hair. He had always said that Tinuke was the sexiest lady he had seen and also dated but here, he stared at the most beautiful creature on the planet. He wondered if she was a marine spirit like a mermaid or the queen of the sea. Maybe that is why she does not want me to tell anyone about her. Was she sent to monitor me? Make my life miserable? The vague thoughts roamed his mind until the thought became stupid and senseless to him. He wondered when he started believing in all those fetish things and got his answer: Tinuke had fed him with a lot of stories in that line and he was no longer thinking straight. “Raymond?” Doctor Tunde called and Raymond jerked out of his thoughts to find everyone looking at him. He felt embarrassed and quickly put his palm on his forehead. “Oh… I am sorry. I just feel tired. What were you saying?” his eyes never left Brenda’s who also stared at him. “I want to thank you very much sir for what you did for me. I would have died if you hadn’t helped me. You took that risk for a total stranger; may God bless and reward you” she said, going down on her knees slowly due to some little inconveniences. “Woah…” Ray rushed there to pull her up. He saw her grimace. “Doc, do you really think she should be discharged? She still feels pain.” He looked at her with concern written all over him. “I am fine sir” Brenda said with confidence. “Ray, she can leave today. I would love to keep her here because it is always good to have beautiful faces around but every other thing can be fixed with those drugs I prescribed”. “OK” ********** ********** The drive was quiet but he spared her glances to be sure she was OK, although, all he could see was her beauty. The long gown she wore did nothing to disguise her shape. He focused on driving, looking at the moving vehicles, in order not to look at her. But could he do that when she was still a total stranger? “Where do you live?” he asked. She was quiet. “You don’t need to take me to my house sir, you can drop me off wherever you find comfortable; I can find my way home” she said. “I don’t understand this. Are you a mermaid or a witch?” “A mermaid” “What?” he yelled, almost losing control of the steering. “Please calm down sir, I was only joking” she said and laughed heartily. Ray enjoyed the musical sound of her laughter. “Not a really funny joke. I almost felt dead right now” he knew he had just exaggerated. He wasn’t that scared but he just wanted to draw another laughter from her, and he got that. She kept quiet. “Well, since you would not tell me where you stay, you would have to come with me to my house” “But…” she started. “Don’t worry, I don’t stay alone; though I wish I do” he glanced at her and she blushed slightly. He meant what he just said actually. He wished Tinuke was not in his house. She had made his life a nightmare for the past two weeks. He wished he could just throw her out but he couldn’t. Why had he accepted to deflower her? Why did he promise to never leave her after the deed was done? why? He had employed a new gateman who had been his companion whenever he was at home. He never ate any food prepared by Tinuke and he had searched for a new maid who would cook his food but he had found none that could fill the space that Bose left. Tinuke’s food never invited him one bit. Every night had been spent in the club with his friends in order not to engage in any fight with her because she was always pissed about something. He swallowed at the thought that he would meet her at home. He really wished they hadn’t given him that one month leave at work. He had known no peace ever since he accepted to take the well- deserved break. Brenda looked at him and saw worried lines on his head. He seemed to be thinking. She wondered if he was married. He was not putting on a wedding ring but that was normal with guys these days. “Are you married sir?” “Uhn?” “No… but I have a fiancée who is at home now” he said. Oh… so that was it. “You don’t have to do this sir. Really, I am fine. I can get home by myself. I would hate to be a burden”. He almost laughed. “No. It is not a problem. You would at least recover fully before you leave my house. By the way, My name is Raymond James; you can call me Ray.” Before she could answer, his phone rang and he picked it up with a smile on his face. “Hey puppet…how is my baby doing?…You are coming? That is great. I’ll be expecting you dear….” He said a few words and hung up. “Well, your stay just got better; my kid sister would be arriving tomorrow. Believe me; you would love her” Brenda smiled.

    EPISODE 12

    Raymond put off the engine and unfastened his seat belt. He had decided it best to eat at Tantalizers before heading home. He wanted to rush over to open the door for Brenda but she was already out before he could even rotate. She smiled thankfully and he pressed the lock button on the car key. Brenda swallowed as she walked with him. He was making her feel very uncomfortable with his presence as she could not point out why. She wondered why they could not eat at his house since he said his fiancée was home. She also wondered why they were living together when they were not married but shrugged that off, knowing that such had become a norm in today’s world. She sighed. She assumed they were not in good terms. When they entered, everyone seemed to be staring at them like they were famous artists. She kept on wandering why they were being stared at like that but did not say anything about it. Some way gawking with their mouths open, some were staring wide-eyed and all. Ray asked Brenda to have her seat while he placed the order but she refused and followed him to the canter where he ordered fried rice and chicken for both of them, with a cold pack of Chivita. After standing for about five minutes, they both walked to a table with trays in their hands. Brenda stared at her food as Ray filled her cup with juice. She wondered why the gesture seemed so intimate to her; in fact, eating with him there seemed so intimate. She murmured her thanks and they both attacked their foods with vigor. Ray hadn’t taken breakfast and was very hungry. Brenda had taken tea at the hospital and was not so hungry but immediately she tasted the food, she hungered for more. They silently praised the person who prepared the meal as they busied themselves with satisfying their hunger. They had gone halfway through their meals when Ray decided to broach the inevitable topic. “Brenda” he called She jerked her head up. “yes?” “Tell me what happened. Who stabbed you?” She winced and shifted uncomfortably. “No one. What makes you think I was stabbed?” she faced her food again Ray was stunned. She had to be lying. “No one? Tell me the truth; or did you do that to yourself?” She raised her head up sharply. “Of course not. I can never commit suicide”. “Then how did you get there? The only explanation I can come up with is that you were stabbed by someone who put you out there in the cold, thinking you were dead. If that is not correct and you did not do that to yourself, which is actually illogical, then, maybe you truly are a witch sent to make my life miserable”. She winced and he immediately regretted what he had just said. He actually said it to bring a smile to her face and possibly draw out the truth from her. He had always known he had to improve his sense of humour. “I am not a witch. I would rather die than become a filthy witch. I was stabbed by someone but I would rather not talk about it, if you don’t mind.” At that junction, he really wished she was a witch because, hearing that she was actually stabbed from her own mouth made him so furious; terribly furious. Brenda saw Raymond’s folded fists and grimaced. He looked like he could bring down the walls of Jericho with his bare hands. She wondered what she would do. Being a burden to someone was something she hated so much, and frankly, that was what she felt she was to Raymond. She faced her food again, even though the food no longer seemed inviting. Ray had already started eating again but when she glanced at him, she noticed that he was practically playing with the food. For the first time, she looked at his face; really looked. His head was bent, facing the food, so it was not really easy to scrutinize his face. That he was the most handsome man she had ever seen was not in question. She had noticed it immediately she set her eyes on him in the hospital weeks ago. He looked rugged and athletic. Looking at his muscled shoulders and hands, he would easily pass for an extremely sexy male model which every woman would die for. She could imagine the legendary six packs beneath the blue T shirt he had on. She quickly averted her gaze feeling embarrassed. The gripped her fork harder when it almost slipped off her fingers. She was more angry that she had been drooling over someone who didn’t even notice her intense gaze because he had been too deep in his thoughts to notice. She was however glad he hadn’t noticed or she would have felt extremely bad and embarrassed. When did I develop this stupid habit? she wondered. Probably, the drooling habit comes when you have been stabbed with a knife, she thought again with a grimace. Raymond had been thinking about what he would do to the person that nearly murdered Brenda when he noticed Brenda’s eyes on him. He had faced his food squarely, not wanting to embarrass her by meeting her eyes. Her gaze made him feel extremely uncomfortable, but being a man, he knew how to hide his reactions perfectly. The second she stopped looking at him he had noticed and peered at her with the side of his eyes and saw the embarrassed blush on her cheeks. He quickly faced his food feeling his heartbeat quicken. He had prevented himself from looking at her too much because he feared her image would be imprinted on his mind. Now, looking at her, he knew that one gaze is enough to imprint her image on his mind. He coughed albeit loudly, to drive away part of the tension he was already feeling. Brenda looked up and said she was already satisfied and they both left the place. The drive home was very quiet. Raymond put on the radio to reduce the quietness as he thought about what Tinuke would do when he got home. He realized that this always happened whenever he was close to the house. Tinuke was always an erupting volcano. He knew bringing a woman home would trigger fire in the house but he was prepared to throw her out of the house if it was necessary. He had already grown weary of her presence which was making his life terribly miserable. He had never known peace since she brought herself into his house. Immediately they parked inside the compound, he noticed Brenda’s appreciative eyes. But with the way she looked, he knew she was not a sU-Cker for big buildings and wealth. She was just full of appreciation, looking at the features of the buildings. Her eyes lit up when she saw the flowers and she smiled. He noticed her dimples and his heartbeat skipped. What was it with dimples that always got to him? He wondered. “You have a very beautiful house” she said. “Thanks. It is an honour to have an extremely beautiful person gracing my house” he said with a slight bow and she laughed. He noticed her dimples again and smiled. “I am flattered” “Flattered? Beautiful is definitely an understatement, you would have noticed my speechless state ever since I picked you up today” She blushed and they made for the entrance. They did not have to open the door though because Tinuke opened the door and stood at the entrance. Tinuke noticed the lady she had seen in the hospital and fear registered in her but she hid it perfectly. If Bose hadn’t been her match, she had just found a very strong match. “What is this?” she asked with her hands on her hips glaring. Raymond sighed as anger set in. The drama is just about to begin. ********** ********** Fred entered the house after strolling for about an hour. He felt weary staying at home all by himself and had decided to take a stroll every evening. His life had been wretched ever since he left Lagos. He had abandoned his work, his apartment and everything, just because of stupid jealousy. He wondered what had possessed him. That was not the first time he would do something regretful and senseless. He remembered his failed attempt to tie Lucy’s disappearance on Deolu and became grieved. He wondered how far and how long he was going to run away from the police. He had not seen any police knocking on his door but he knew it was just a matter of time. One thing kept troubling him; Luciana’s corpse hasn’t been found. With the response he got from his police friend, he knew that Luciana is still missing. He didn’t confess his crime to his friend but developed c–k and bull stories of how he had to travel to Bayelsa state for some business dealing and how he heard when he was away that his close friend was missing. He had framed up a lie in order to secure Deolu’s arrest about how he had been told by Lucy, some days before he left that she would be going on a dinner date with Deolu the same day she got missing. That story had been enough to motivate the police to arrest Deolu, but he had made sure his name would not be mentioned. He entered the bedroom still feeling a level of safety. After having a cold shower, he climbed the bed and fell into a dreamless sleep. ********** ********** Brenda lay gently on the bed feeling the last bit of her strength leave her. It had been a struggle getting into the house. She wondered if it was always like that with Raymond and his so called fiancee. Raymond had practically dragged his fiancee out of the way after a terribly heated argument which was filled with insults from her lips. She had been sorely tempted to run out of the house. Raymond seemed to be so cool and collected, and even throughout the argument, he hadn’t disrespected his fiancée in any way but Brenda kept on wandering what he was doing with the viper he called his fiancée. Brenda closed her eyes as sleep sleep set in. She tried not to think about the negative effects of what she was doing. She knew that her people would be worried sick about her but the mere fact that her sudden appearance might put them in more danger made her want to stay away. She would rather die than put her loved ones in danger. She sighed and slept.

    EPISODE 13

    Tosin brushed her long weave-on as she stood opposite the standing mirror. Bola was busy reading a novel and was laughing at intervals. Tosin looked at her, shook her head and hissed. “With the way you are behaving, you can easily be counted as a lunatic.” “You dey craze” Bola countered still laughing. “What is so funny about a horror novel?” Tosin looked horrified. “You won’t know until you read it”. Tosin hissed again and faced the mirror to continue her work. She heard Bola’s phone ring and heard her hiss. She turned stunned eyes at her as Bola put the phone on vibration and continued reading her novel. When the phone started vibrating for the fourth time, she picked it up to check the caller and smiled when she saw it. When Tosin’s phone started ringing, Bola stared at her and they both busted into laughter. They laughed until their sides ached. “Yeye girl. Why you dey laugh now?” Bola faked a smug face and they both laughed again, holding their sides. After sometime, they both suppressed their chagrin. “Don’t mind that useless thing. She thinks she can become successful and start making yanga with us? She is not serious” Tosin said. It was Bola who hissed this time. “What is her own sef ehn? We finished school, her result was better than our own; she entered school, we still dey house; and finally, she is engaged to Raymond James; Tosin; Raymond James!! Chai… Does she have two heads?” “I tire ooo” Tosin yelled. “I would give anything to be in her shoes” she smiled smugly. “Excuse me? I want that man. He is the finest thing that ever walked this earth”. “You can’t have him, he is mine. I have succeeded in separating those two, so I must reap the harvest of my hard labour” Bola yelled, ready for a fight. Tosin glared. “We did it together. Both of us talked her into being a pain in the butt, right?” “But I suggested it” Tosin looked at Bola for sometime before she started laughing. Bola became angry. She really hated being laughed at. “You better close your dirty teeth before I close it for you” Bola said, hands on hips. “Ok…” Tosin tried to compose herself. “You know, it is so funny that we are fighting over a man that can never be ours” “Says who?” Bola frowned, checking herself in the standing mirror. “I am hot. Hotter than fire, so why not?” Tosin shook her head, wondering why she was accepting the reality all of a sudden. “We are hot ooo but we are not as hot as Tinuke” “You dey craze” “It is true Bola, and you know it. She too fine jare, I never see the girl wey go beat am. Even, she came out with a whooping second class upper and we are in the demeaning third class level.” She shook her head at the remembrance of the day she had seen her statement of result. Bola shook her head and picked up her novel again, still not accepting that Tinuke was better than her. ********** ********** “Hey Tinuke” Deolu yelled. He was unpacking his things and could not afford to waste time on phone, so he put the phone on speaker in order to do two things at once. “So, after about two months, you decided to call me today? Today is blessed” Even though Tinuke’s mother did not really like Deolu because Deolu’s father refused to marry her, Tinuke was always close to Deolu. He knew that part of her likeness was due to his financial status but that did not stop him from being protective of his only sister, even if they did not share the same mother or the same surname. When Deolu’s father made the mistake of committing adultery when Deolu was four years old, he confessed what he did and had done all he could do on earth to make his wife forgive him. After much pleadings, she finally gave in but all that shattered when Tinuke’s mother came with a big belly. Deolu’s father had refused to marry her but promised to cater for the child. He had accused her of luring him into her bed. He could not leave his wife, who had suffered and been with him when he was nobody. Because of this, Tinuke’s mother gave her child her own father’s name instead of bearing Aremu. “Oh, come on D boy, it has not been easy at all. I have been having too many problems lately” Tinuke’s voice flooded the room. “You can say that again” he said with vigor. She did not pursue that statement because she could not imagine him having serious problems. “Erm D boy, I actually would appreciate some cash. I am really downcast not. Ray wants to call off the engagement and-” “Wait, what? He wants to do what?” Deolu yelled, stopping what he was doing to stare at the phone like he was seeing Tinuke. “He sent me out of his house Deolu” she cried. Her pain was felt by Deolu and even though he really wanted to pounce on Raymond, he could not stop himself from blaming her. “What were you doing in his house Tinu? How many times did I tell you that a man would always take you for granted when you start living with him before your wedding. I am sure you were sleeping with him too. Why would he want to pay your dowry when he already has what he wants free of charge? Tell me” he lamented, wishing she was physically present so he could talk some sense into her head. “Oh… stop lamenting. Everything was fine until he started bringing in shameless girls. First, it was his maid but now it is a shameless harlot. Please leave that, I don’t want to talk about that b—–d. Would you please send me some cash? She sniffed. [b] “Ok. I would send you something” “Thanks D boy. You are the best. Wait, what of that girl you were after. That Luciana you told me about. Have you wooed her?” Deolu was stunned and thrown off balance. He suddenly became tense. He could not believe that Tinuke could remember Luciana’s name. She had pressurized him about his single life until he confessed his love for Luciana to her. “That is my problem Tinu” “Why? Did she say no?” “She said ‘Yes’” “Yipppeeee…” Tinuke yelled. “But what is the problem then?” “She is missing” he dropped and Tinuke’s scream of surprise and worry filled the room. “How?” “It is a long story. I need to meet someone in about an hour.” He remembered Raymond and frowned. “I need to see that fiancée of yours. He didn’t seem like a womanizer to me, i wonder what happened to him. What is the name of that harlot that snatched him from you?” he was furious. “One ugly thing like that. Think her name is Brenda” she said with disgust. “When I descend on her, she would know she does not have a place with him.” ********** ********** Raymond led Luciana to the balcony, where she sat down with her head down. Despite the tense atmosphere, Raymond went inside and returned with a pack of juice and two glass cups. His throat suddenly felt dry as he stared at Luciana. For someone who had just gone through a painful ordeal, she was looking exceedingly beautiful. He swallowed hard and quickly filled both cups with juice and drank from his cup until it was halfway down. Luciana hadn’t even raised her head, not to mention, touch her drink. “Mind telling me why you lied to me? It is just a name. whether you are Luciana or you are Brenda, it does not change the fact that it is a name. Although, I think Luciana suits you more. Your parents named you well.” She was shining, just like the light. Just like the rays of the sun. Brenda smiled slightly and blushed at the compliment but she was overtaken with embarrassment when she remembered that her cover had been blown. “How did you find out? Did you break your promise?” “No. I saw it on TV. Your parents are really worried” Lucy started breathing fast as she held onto the chair. Ray wanted to just hold and comfort her but held himself. He wanted the truth. “Tell me what is going on; but since the first thing you ever told me was a lie, I wonder if I can believe anything you say”. “Then there is no use telling you” she made to stand up but Raymond quickly held her hand. “Please. Was just joking” he whispered as she sat down. She stared at her hand until Ray had to look at it himself and discovered shockingly that he was still holding her. He quickly extracted his hand and put it inside his pocket as he tried to compose himself. He cleared his throat. “I am all ears.” “I was scared. A guy did this to me” Raymond folded his fists in anger as he listened to her. “After he stabbed me, he said so many things, thinking I was already dead, but I could hear him. The pain I felt was beyond imaginable but I held on to God’s strength when mine faded out. I would not like to tell you the things he said because I am still working on believing them myself but the bottom line is that my people would be in danger if I go back. If he discovers that I am alive, he would want to kill me by all means and that would definitely affect my people. I don’t want anything to happen to them. It is better for them to be in the dark and be safe than to come into danger because of me”. Raymond swallowed hard. He just wanted to lay his hands on the miserable man and teach him a lesson he would live to remember. “Is he your boyfriend?” “What? No” Raymond was surprised at the relief he felt, but he was still furious. “Please don’t tell anyone about me. please. My family, my friends, everyone; they mean a lot to me. please” she pleaded. “I wont do anything” Raymond really doubted he would stay without doing something. “Thanks” she said. “I think I should leave now. You fought your fiancée because of me. I heard everything and I feel extremely bad.” “No. I have wanted to do that for a very long time. You are not going anywhere; I wont let you. My sister would be here tomorrow and you would not wanna leave. Believe me”. He smiled. “I know I am not a very interesting company” She shook her head in denial. His presence alone was making her squirm and she knew that he had a very interesting personality but somehow, he was hiding it. Even though he looked cool, she had enjoyed enjoyed all the times they were together immensely. Besides, she liked cool and calm men. “You have a beautiful house”. Raymond looked at her and smiled, making her heart race. He had noticed her dimples again and was already loving the sight that he would give anything to see them again. “We have a beautiful guest”. Luciana smiled and looked at her fingers. Raymond noticed she was very shy. “C’mon, let me show you around”. She nodded happily, stood and followed him.

    EPISODE 13

    Answer me right now Raymond S. James; what is that pale thing doing here? Tinuke yelled. Raymond jumped to his feet as he forcefully restrained himself from hitting her. He had never hit a woman in his life but he had the feeling that Tinuke would make him change that record. “Woman” he growled, “this is my house, and whoever I desire to bring into my house should be none of your concern”. She hissed. “This is my house too, Ray, and you should at least respect me by leaving your wh0r£s outside instead of bringing them here”. “You are pushing me Tinuke”. He pointed his finger at her in a warning signal. She laughed. “And what are you going to do? Ehn? You can do nothing. You hear me? Nooothing” she yelled. “Leave my house Tinuke” he said quietly in a tone that spoke volume. “Me! Leave this house? You must be stupid to think I would leave this house. This is my husband’s house and I am here to stay” she yelled, loud enough to wake the dead. “I am not married to you and never will. I would rather die than marry someone who would make my life totally unbearable” he spat between clenched teeth. “You wouldn’t dare, you hear me? You dare not. You see this ring?” she displayed her fingers. “It is not leaving my fingers, not even in the next 50 years, and very soon, it would be accompanied by a wedding ring; our wedding ring”. Raymond smiled. “Sure. I can’t expect you to release such a prized jewel. I was not asking you to give it to me, you can keep it. As for the wedding ring, you would only get it in your dreams because this engagement is over. We are done”. She shook her head. “You lie… you lie, do you hear me? You lie” she yelled. “That w—e has bewitched you. You are not in your right senses. I swear, I will get her for this. She is the one toying with your head, right? I will make her pay” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “Oh… is that what you were trying to do when you went to that hospital. Of everything you could do, I never knew murder would add up to the endless list”. Tinuke took in a sharp breath as she heard what he said. “Oh… You never knew I would find out? Why not? They have the whole episode recorded, you know? I could get you arrested; charge you for attempted homicide.” “of course not. I did not do anything, they misjudged me.” she lamented, shaking slightly. “I don’t know and honestly don’t care. Leave this house this very minute. I am sick and tired of your crap. I need some peace in my life and that would never happen with you infecting the whole place with your unbearable attitude.” Raymond sat down forcefully but Tinuke did not leave where she was. “I told you before; I am not leaving. You would have to throw me out if you want me out”. She spat. “You have five minutes to pack your things and leave. If you refuse to comply, the police would have to help you out”. She glared. ********** ********** “Calm down sweetie. Just look at yourself; you are a shadow of yourself” Ken admonished his wife who was busy thinking about the misfortune which had befallen her. She had become lean, and even though Ken looked sapped and under serious pressure, he still wanted his wife to take it easy and be a little optimistic for both of them. He really needed her to encourage him and realize that they were both in it together, but she had been behaving as if he was not there. “Just leave me alone Ken, it is my daughter that is missing here” she almost yelled. Ken became furious. “Isn’t she my daughter too? What is the matter with you? Do you think this is not affecting me?” “Don’t you yell at me Kenneth. I told you. I told you not to allow her take that job and apartment. You could have insisted she stayed here, searched for another job which is close by, but what did you do? She talked you into it and you agreed. A girl should not stay away from her parents” she yelled. Ken was horrified. “So this is what the problem is. You are holding me responsible for what is happening? She has been living conveniently in that house for six years and now you bring up this issue?” “I am not saying you are responsible, I am just…” she trailed off, then looked sad and confused. She looked at her husband and wondered what had possessed her to talk that way, he was equally affected and she had hardly consoled him or tried to make him feel better ever since their daughter went missing. Yet, that did not stop him from petting and standing by her. “I am sorry honey, I don’t know what is wrong with me” she moved towards him apologetically. He blocked her advance with his hand. “No, I think you know. You are right though, I am a horrible father” he turned and stormed out in anger. “No, Ken. I am sorry… Ken…” she followed him but he was out of the gate before she could stop him. She went back to the house, slamming the door forcefully. The tears soon started falling as she sat on the floor but she didn’t know the cause of the tears: her missing daughter or her hurt husband. ********** ********** Raymond felt this unexplainable peace immediately Tinuke wheeled her boxes out of the house. He wondered why she had brought so many bags in the first place. Was she given quit notice? He wondered. He wondered why he never noticed such an unbearable behavior in her before. He had always known her to be sweet and gentle but not like this. Women are just pretenders, waiting for the ring before producing their true characters. He thought. Tinuke was just the exact replica of a roaring fire, always ready to rid you of your cool and peace. He took the television remote and switched on the television. Ever since he started his leave, he hadn’t switched on the television, not to mention, watch it. There had been too many dramas to last a lifetime and he didn’t need to hear any extra bad news on the television, since that was the only thing that the television stations carried. He could not remember the last time he heard a good news on TV; but he just had to keep up with the happenings around him, especially Nigerian news. The first thing he saw on Channels TV almost made him regret putting on the TV. Boko Haram had just bombed a bus station in Bornu State, leading to the death of about a hundred people and leaving many people injured. He grimaced as he listened to the reporter. What a cruel world. The news came to a close some minutes after and he picked up his remote to change the channel but stopped when he saw a familiar face on the Television screen. His eyes widened as he stared at the name beneath the picture ********** ********** Brenda closed her eyes and opened it but it did not drive away the guilt she was feeling. She had woken up some time ago to the loud voices of heated argument going on between Raymond and his fiancée. She had felt this heavy guilt then. She should not have come here, she should have insisted on going her way. If she had, Raymond’s fiancée would still be with him. After hearing what was being said for some time, she covered her head and ears with the pillow in order to prevent herself from hearing more, although, it was nigh impossible. Then, they started speaking in a hushed manner and she was grateful. The next thing that happened was what made her guilt multiply: she heard the sound of bags, being dragged. She had pushed her weak body out of bed and went to the window to confirm her fears. Tinuke was dragging her bags out in tears. The gateman offered to help her but he was sent back with a dirty slap from Tinuke which made Brenda wince. Brenda shook her head, stood up from the bed and made for the bathroom. She needed to leave that place. Much to her surprise, she found everything she needed in the bathroom: a new toothbrush, sponge, soap, and towel. She wondered how Raymond had managed to put all those things in her bathroom since he had been busy fighting his fiancée. She brushed, took her bath and left the bathroom. She mopped her hair until it became just a little bit moist and quickly wore the same dress she had removed. She loved the gown and had been wondering how Raymond was able to buy her something that fit so perfectly. Just as she was combing her hair, she heard a knock and instantly became frightened. They were all alone in the house, save the gateman. Nothing and no one could stand in his way of he decided to do something stupid. She remembered how good he had been and threw away the filthy thought. “Yes? Please come in” she said, dropping the comb. Raymond entered, looking all masculine. She noticed he had changed the loose T shirt he had on before into a figure hugging top that highlighted his muscles. She wondered if he was a regular face at the gym. Raymond was carried away by the beauty of his guest for some seconds, that he forgot what he came for. Her hair was loose and looked wet. God really created this woman when he was relaxing, he thought. If she was this beautiful in such flimsy material, he wondered what she would look like in real quality clothes. Remembering why he came, he stared at her without talking, like he was trying to confirm something. “Miss Luciana Jones?” he called and watched her face drain, leaving her whiter than she already was. Confirmed. “Come with me; we need to have a long chat”. With that he turned and walked out of the room while she followed like a puppet with her head downcast. ********** ********** Tinuke had cried and cried but the tears still did not stop coming. She didn’t know what to do. She was already back in her apartment. She entered the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of alcoholic wine and found it empty. She angrily threw it against the wall. And the sound of its shattering was deafening. She swallowed as she settled to drinking a bottle of cold water. After drinking for some time, it soon became bitter in her mouth and she returned the cup. She moved to the sitting room and collapsed on the chair. She mopped her eyes for the umpteenth time. She dialed Tosin’s number but she did not pick up. After several attempts, she dialed Bola’s number and got the same result. She became very angry and furious. “Stupid girls” she yelled. Bola and Tosin were her best friends. They had been inseparable since their secondary school days and now that they were older, that hadn’t changed. The only time she had been away from them had been when they had gone to school. They both got their admissions late, unlike her, but they both finished their NYSC about a year ago and the trio friendship continued. Now that she needed them, they are nowhere to be found. She sighed. After thinking for some time, she felt she would feel better if she goes for shopping. Shopping had a way of making her happy. She didn’t have the money, so, she picked up her phone to call her favorite step brother. It had been a long time since she called him. After ringing for some seconds, she heard a voice and she smiled. “Hello Deolu” …

    EPISODE 14

    Tosin brushed her long weave-on as she stood opposite the standing mirror. Bola was busy reading a novel and was laughing at intervals. Tosin looked at her, shook her head and hissed. “With the way you are behaving, you can easily be counted as a lunatic.” “You dey craze” Bola countered still laughing. “What is so funny about a horror novel?” Tosin looked horrified. “You won’t know until you read it”. Tosin hissed again and faced the mirror to continue her work. She heard Bola’s phone ring and heard her hiss. She turned stunned eyes at her as Bola put the phone on vibration and continued reading her novel. When the phone started vibrating for the fourth time, she picked it up to check the caller and smiled when she saw it. When Tosin’s phone started ringing, Bola stared at her and they both bursted into laughter. They laughed until their sides ached. “Yeye girl. Why you dey laugh now?” Bola faked a smug face and they both laughed again, holding their sides. After sometime, they both suppressed their chagrin. “Don’t mind that useless thing. She thinks she can become successful and start making yanga with us? She is not serious” Tosin said. It was Bola who hissed this time. “What is her own sef ehn? We finished school, her result was better than our own; she entered school, we still dey house; and finally, she is engaged to Raymond James; Tosin; Raymond James!! Chai… Does she have two heads?” “I tire ooo” Tosin yelled. “I would give anything to be in her shoes” she smiled smugly. “Excuse me? I want that man. He is the finest thing that ever walked this earth”. “You can’t have him, he is mine. I have succeeded in separating those two, so I must reap the harvest of my hard labour” Bola yelled, ready for a fight. Tosin glared. “We did it together. Both of us talked her into being a pain in the butt, right?” “But I suggested it” Tosin looked at Bola for sometime before she started laughing. Bola became angry. She really hated being laughed at. “You better close your dirty teeth before I close it for you” Bola said, hands on hips. “Ok…” Tosin tried to compose herself. “You know, it is so funny that we are fighting over a man that can never be ours” “Says who?” Bola frowned, checking herself in the standing mirror. “I am hot. Hotter than fire, so why not?” Tosin shook her head, wondering why she was accepting the reality all of a sudden. “We are hot ooo but we are not as hot as Tinuke” “You dey craze” “It is true Bola, and you know it. She too fine jare, I never see the girl wey go beat am. Even, she came out with a whooping second class upper and we are in the demeaning third class level.” She shook her head at the remembrance of the day she had seen her statement of result. Bola shook her head and picked up her novel again, still not accepting that Tinuke was better than her. ********** ********** “Hey Tinuke” Deolu yelled. He was unpacking his things and could not afford to waste time on phone, so he put the phone on speaker in order to do two things at once. “So, after about two months, you decided to call me today? Today is blessed” Even though Tinuke’s mother did not really like Deolu because Deolu’s father refused to marry her, Tinuke was always close to Deolu. He knew that part of her likeness was due to his financial status but that did not stop him from being protective of his only sister, even if they did not share the same mother or the same surname. When Deolu’s father made the mistake of committing adultery when Deolu was four years old, he confessed what he did and had done all he could do on earth to make his wife forgive him. After much pleadings, she finally gave in but all that shattered when Tinuke’s mother came with a big belly. Deolu’s father had refused to marry her but promised to cater for the child. He had accused her of luring him into her bed. He could not leave his wife, who had suffered and been with him when he was nobody. Because of this, Tinuke’s mother gave her child her own father’s name instead of bearing Aremu. “Oh, come on D boy, it has not been easy at all. I have been having too many problems lately” Tinuke’s voice flooded the room. “You can say that again” he said with vigor. She did not pursue that statement because she could not imagine him having serious problems. “Erm D boy, I actually would appreciate some cash. I am really downcast not. Ray wants to call off the engagement and-” “Wait, what? He wants to do what?” Deolu yelled, stopping what he was doing to stare at the phone like he was seeing Tinuke. “He sent me out of his house Deolu” she cried. Her pain was felt by Deolu and even though he really wanted to pounce on Raymond, he could not stop himself from blaming her. “What were you doing in his house Tinu? How many times did I tell you that a man would always take you for granted when you start living with him before your wedding. I am sure you were sleeping with him too. Why would he want to pay your dowry when he already has what he wants free of charge? Tell me” he lamented, wishing she was physically present so he could talk some sense into her head. “Oh… stop lamenting. Everything was fine until he started bringing in shameless girls. First, it was his maid but now it is a shameless harlot. Please leave that, I don’t want to talk about that b-----d. Would you please send me some cash? She sniffed. “Ok. I would send you something” “Thanks D boy. You are the best. Wait, what of that girl you were after. That Luciana you told me about. Have you wooed her?” Deolu was stunned and thrown off balance. He suddenly became tense. He could not believe that Tinuke could remember Luciana’s name. She had pressurized him about his single life until he confessed his love for Luciana to her. “That is my problem Tinu” “Why? Did she say no?” “She said ‘Yes’” “Yipppeeee…” Tinuke yelled. “But what is the problem then?” “She is missing” he dropped and Tinuke’s scream of surprise and worry filled the room. “How?” “It is a long story. I need to meet someone in about an hour.” He remembered Raymond and frowned. “I need to see that fiancée of yours. He didn’t seem like a womanizer to me, i wonder what happened to him. What is the name of that harlot that snatched him from you?” he was furious. “One ugly thing like that. Think her name is Brenda” she said with disgust. “When I descend on her, she would know she does not have a place with him.” ********** ********** Raymond led Luciana to the balcony, where she sat down with her head down. Despite the tense atmosphere, Raymond went inside and returned with a pack of juice and two glass cups. His throat suddenly felt dry as he stared at Luciana. For someone who had just gone through a painful ordeal, she was looking exceedingly beautiful. He swallowed hard and quickly filled both cups with juice and drank from his cup until it was halfway down. Luciana hadn’t even raised her head, not to mention, touch her drink. “Mind telling me why you lied to me? It is just a name. whether you are Luciana or you are Brenda, it does not change the fact that it is a name. Although, I think Luciana suits you more. Your parents named you well.” She was shining, just like the light. Just like the rays of the sun. Brenda smiled slightly and blushed at the compliment but she was overtaken with embarrassment when she remembered that her cover had been blown. “How did you find out? Did you break your promise?” “No. I saw it on TV. Your parents are really worried” Lucy started breathing fast as she held onto the chair. Ray wanted to just hold and comfort her but held himself. He wanted the truth. “Tell me what is going on; but since the first thing you ever told me was a lie, I wonder if I can believe anything you say”. “Then there is no use telling you” she made to stand up but Raymond quickly held her hand. “Please. Was just joking” he whispered as she sat down. She stared at her hand until Ray had to look at it himself and discovered shockingly that he was still holding her. He quickly extracted his hand and put it inside his pocket as he tried to compose himself. He cleared his throat. “I am all ears.” “I was scared. A guy did this to me” Raymond folded his fists in anger as he listened to her. “After he stabbed me, he said so many things, thinking I was already dead, but I could hear him. The pain I felt was beyond imaginable but I held on to God’s strength when mine faded out. I would not like to tell you the things he said because I am still working on believing them myself but the bottom line is that my people would be in danger if I go back. If he discovers that I am alive, he would want to kill me by all means and that would definitely affect my people. I don’t want anything to happen to them. It is better for them to be in the dark and be safe than to come into danger because of me”. Raymond swallowed hard. He just wanted to lay his hands on the miserable man and teach him a lesson he would live to remember. “Is he your boyfriend?” “What? No” Raymond was surprised at the relief he felt, but he was still furious. “Please don’t tell anyone about me. please. My family, my friends, everyone; they mean a lot to me. please” she pleaded. “I wont do anything” Raymond really doubted he would stay without doing something. “Thanks” she said. “I think I should leave now. You fought your fiancée because of me. I heard everything and I feel extremely bad.” “No. I have wanted to do that for a very long time. You are not going anywhere; I wont let you. My sister would be here tomorrow and you would not wanna leave. Believe me”. He smiled. “I know I am not a very interesting company” She shook her head in denial. His presence alone was making her squirm and she knew that he had a very interesting personality but somehow, he was hiding it. Even though he looked cool, she had enjoyed enjoyed all the times they were together immensely. Besides, she liked cool and calm men. “You have a beautiful house”. Raymond looked at her and smiled, making her heart race. He had noticed her dimples again and was already loving the sight that he would give anything to see them again. “We have a beautiful guest”. Luciana smiled and looked at her fingers. Raymond noticed she was very shy. “C’mon, let me show you around”. She nodded happily, stood and followed him.

    EPISODE 15

    The tour was wonderful and mind-blowing. Luciana was so pleased with the beauty of the house. The flowers at the back of the house really thrilled Luciana, and she walked about, touching them with smiles on her face. Raymond deduced that she must love flowers a lot. “I love sunflower; I never get tired of looking at it” Luciana gazed lovingly at the yellow flower heads which stood tall and spread all over. She touched them with her fingers, loving its feel. Raymond smiled. That flower was actually his mum’s favourite flower and she had done all she could to have a sizeable amount for their compound. He had watered it for a long time because he also developed a love for flowers. Who would not when you have a mother that can spend her last penny on flowers? He had his mum purchase the flowers for him in order to beautify his house. Tinuke had also played her part in getting some flowers. He remembered his mum and the plane crash flashed back. He froze and turned instantly, but not before Lucy saw the pained expression on his face. “I am sorry sir, did I say something wrong?” she was worried and a bit scared. “Uhn? No… No. come on, let me show you the other parts of the house” Raymond said hastily, trying to destroy the image which had become the wallpaper of his mind. Lucy strolled behind like a gentle puppy, not uttering a word. She knew without a doubt that there was something haunting Raymond. That expression was similar to the one she had seen on their way from the hospital, but more intense. They went round the house with Raymond doing all the talking. It seemed like he was trying to talk his way out of the pain he was hiding and Luciana just kept murmuring ‘hmmms’ and nodding at intervals. She was trying to see if there was a little opening which she could use to probe him, but she got none; Ray successfully filled every silence. There were two very small buildings at the far end of the spacious compound, behind the main building which looked like boys’ quarters. Ray did not say anything about them and she was curious. She wondered what the buildings were for or who lived there; although she doubted if anyone lived there. “I love the house; you have great taste” she said with a smile on her face. “I love your dimples” Ray said without thinking. She smiled shyly, looking at her feet. Raymond was astonished that she was so shy when she clearly was exceedingly blessed with beauty. She behaved as if she had no idea of the effects she had on men. If it had been tinuke, she would have been flirting endlessly now. “Erm… why don’t we go and get something to eat? Maybe in a nearby eatery?” he asked with raised eyebrows. He really wished he already got a maid. She looked hesitant. “Or, I could prepare something?” she asked back, trying not to seem too forward. She hadn’t even spent 24 hours in the house yet. “No. you are my guest and I should not put you through the stress, besides, you need your strength. You just came back from the hospital and the first thing you need is rest” “Oh, c’mon now. I cant rest forever. I have been lying on that hospital bed for God only knows how long, I need some form of exercise. It is not right for you to waste money at the eatery when a woman is in the house” she looked straight at him until Raymond started wondering if she was actually shy or she had been pretending. She looked so bold. He shook his head. “I am sorry. It is not always like this. Bose just left and due to my lack of interest when it comes to kitchen matters, I was not able to learn any cooking skills” he actually looked ashamed of himself. “Thought you said your fiancée's name is Tinuke” Luciana questioned slightly, feeling as if she was going beyond her boundaries. “Oh… erm… Bose is my maid… I mean… was” he stammered. “Oh…” was all she could say. She thought for some time then nodded slightly. “well, how about we make the dinner a little bit fun. I would cook and also tutor you along the way. Do you at least know how to boil water?” Lucy asked with a feigned worry expression on her face. He laughed. “C’mon, I am not that pathetic. I can prepare the best tea and coffee; you need to taste it. I can also fry eggs; as long as the salt does not go overboard” he had a puppy face and Lucy laughed her heart out. She remembered Deolu who could prepare any meal. Sometimes, Lucy felt like an amateur whenever Deolu talked about his kitchen skills. Raymond was torn between allowing Lucy to cook and insisting she does not. He had missed home- made foods so much. Ever since Bose left and Tinuke stepped into the house, he had stopped eating at home and had become a regular customer at the eatery. Having a good meal would really be welcome but he was worried about her health. “I still insist that you are not strong enough”. “Nah… cooking can never bother Luciana Jones. If you think you can escape a thorough lesson in cooking by persuading me out of this, then you have failed. You would become a certified Mr Chef in no time”. Her wide smile revealed the most perfect set of teeth he had ever seen as she placed her hands on her hips like a primary school teacher. He laughed heartily as he raised his hands in surrender. Luciana had a cool sense of humour and he was happy about it. His life had been full of sadness that he had practically lost his sense of humour and ability to laugh in the process. Maybe Luciana was the cure to that ailment. ********** ********** Everything had gone so well. Luciana had never had that much fun in her life. She always enjoyed cooking but not that much. They did not behave as if they had just met but did lot of things together. She made fun of him a lot when he asked a totally unbelievable question about ingredients and they both laughed it off. It was so much fun that she did not know when the food was ready. They had talked and laughed throughout the meal, not even observing table manners. Raymond had praised her endlessly about how good she was and how delicious the meal was. Raymond was sure that he would enjoy his sleep after eating such a delicious meal of Poundo yam and egusi soup with enough stock fish and meat. Raymond pleaded with Lucy to go and have some rest while he took care of the plates but she refused. Lucy washed the plates while he dried them and arranged them in the rack. Lucy retired to the guests’ room some minutes later. Her strength had drained and she felt sleepy. She was surprised that she had actually enjoyed herself that much. If kitchen work could always be that interesting, she would love to sleep and wake there. She remembered her family and friends and all the happiness she had felt a while ago evaporated. She had successfully pushed that thought to the back of her mind throughout but now that she was alone, she could not hide her grief. She was there, laughing, while her loved ones are running from pillar to post, looking for her. Tears of despair rolled down her cheeks as she closed her eyes. She had no right to smile when her loved ones were obviously going through hell. All the same, she could not put them in danger by showing up there because she would not be able to bear it if anything happened to anyone. She needed a way out. Probably, one call might not be too risky? She wondered. Could she take the risk? ********** ********** Raymond came out of the bathroom after a cold bath and jumped on the bed. He raked his wet hair with his fingers as he became lost in thoughts. Being in the kitchen with Lucy was an experience he surely would live to remember. The kitchen had been filled with so much laughter and merriment. He tried to remember the last time his house had been filled with so much life but could not recall any. He felt deep gratitude towards her. She had managed to put a smile on his face after a very long time of continuous sadness and he really wanted to make her smile genuinely. He knew that she must be going through a lot, even if she tried to cover it. He had promised not to interfere but he really wanted to help her sort out this mess she was in. ‘My numerous contacts should be good for something’, he thought. ********** ********** Deolu returned from the meeting very exhausted. The meeting had been longer than he anticipated, but what could he do? Nigerian government always wastes too much time talking and debating simple irrelevant issues. He dropped his suit on the bed and started struggling with his tie until he successfully removed it. He lay on the bed, gazing at the roof until he became tired of looking at it. He stood up and poured himself a glass of juice and walked to the window to look outside. Even though the deal was successful, he wished he was in Lagos, looking for his love. What on earth was he doing in Abuja when his heart was clearly in another state. He had wanted to stop over at the police station to order a search warrant of that miserable Fred but thought it foolish. He felt the guy was hiding somewhere in Lagos, and being a very big place, Lagos is a perfect hiding place. He heard his phone ring and he took it out of his pocket. He smiled when he saw the caller. “Hello Teju, it is really good to hear from you” he said immediately he received the call. “Hello Dee” Teju’s voice chipped sweetly but hastily. Deolu noticed the urgency in her voice. “Is everything Ok over there Teju? Is there any development?” he was at alert. “Yes. I made some investigations and it seems your going to Abuja is a blessing in disguise” “What are you saying?” “Dee, the culprit is in Abuja; Fred is in Abuja”.

    EPISODE 16

    Raymond woke up to the wonderful aroma of hot coffee. At first, he thought his nose was playing tricks on him until he actually woke up fully. The aroma tickled his nostrils and he got up from the bed eagerly. Raymond washed his face and mouth hurriedly; having coffee early in the morning is surely one of the best ways to kick-start a beautiful day. Leaving his room only in shorts and a white singlet, he moved towards the kitchen. There, Luciana stood, still in the gown he had bought for her. He realized she would need more clothes and kept that in mind. Her back was to him and he didn’t really like that. He found himself imagining crazy things which he had to quickly shake off. Luciana turned backwards when she felt watched and was stunned to find Raymond there. “Uhm… Good morning sir” “Raymond” he corrected. “It is a really good morning; the mere fact that I woke up to the delicious scent of piping hot coffee makes today a blessed day”. Luciana smiled happily. “How was your night sugar?” Luciana was startled at the pet name. Ironically, the pet name which she had once thought was absolutely ridiculous sounded so perfect, coming from his voice. He had this foreign voice, which still sounded completely masculine; more masculine than the voices of the other men she had come across. That single fact made her angry. “I am engaged sir” she replied, staring levelly at him. Raymond was stunned and offended by the reply. Although, he hadn’t been expecting that reply, he was saddened by the realization of her status. He was although not surprised. Such a dazzling woman cannot remain single, not even when she is fifty. “I did not ask if you were engaged, I simply asked you how your night was. The fact that I called you ‘sugar’ should not be misjudged; I always have a pet name for everyone” he looked insulted. “I am sorry” she replied, playing at looking at her fingers. The day had just turned sour, Raymond thought as he sought a way to bring them back on track. He cleared his throat. “I am not sure you had a good night, because if you did, you would not be up this early. You have already made toast bread and coffee; in fact, the scent of the coffee was what woke me up. Was the bed comfortable enough for you?” he looked worried, like a charming host. “The bed was perfect, thanks. I am just used to waking up very early. I don’t sleep much” she said, smiling. “Ok… But why did you prepare the coffee? I thought it was my treat, being my specialty” Luciana laughed. “Look at you… I am sure your coffee is as worse as your attempt to prepare the poundo yam yesterday” “Ouch” “When you taste my coffee, you would know that you still have a lot to learn”. “Nah… I disagree. We need to embark on a coffee competition” “And who would be the judge?” she raised her eye brows. “Who else? He raised his shoulders. “Not you. We need a third party”. “Right. But for now, I can’t wait to taste that coffee”. She laughed out. “With or without sugar?” she asked. He smiled widely. “Yes! You see? I picked the perfect pet name for you”. Luciana glared at him but that only made Raymond’s smile grow wider. “Sugar” he called. “I would definitely have my coffee with sugar”. Lucy turned away from Raymond quickly, in order to hide the smile that crept to her face. ‘Raymond is a flirt’, she thought. ********** ********** Fred sat in a bar with countless number of empty bottles on the table before him. He had finished all the bottles of alcoholic wine at home and decided to drink more at the bar near his house. The money he had in his account was fast fading and he feared he would run out of cash within the next few days. “Another bottle” he yelled and the eager barman hurriedly supplied another bottle of big stout. The fat barman was happy. It the day starts like this, it is sure that market would boom. Fred, despite the amount of beer in his system, he still had his senses working. Forget his sorrows seemed not to be working. The Chris who would have been in the best position to help him would not do so because of the way he had treated him. He had thrown him out like a stranger. He wondered if his friend would forgive him for what he did and help him get a solution. “Another bottle” ********** ********** Deolu sat in the DPO’s office, feeling very impatient. He was there last night but did not get any reasonable response from the hooligans he saw at the station. He had left in frustration to try again the following day. He had been waiting in the office for more than ten minutes and the so called DPO was nowhere to be found. This is what he hated about Nigerian police; they are too sluggish. When you look for them, you don’t see then; when they finally turn up, you discover they are all selfish thieves. ‘What a miserable country’ he thought. All the same, he still had to wait because taking the law into his hands would land him behind bars. He looked at the police officer who stood like a statue and shook his head. The door opened and the DPO walked in with a bright smile which annoyed Deolu. “Oh… I am soo sorry for keeping you waiting Mr. Adeolu; I had to attend to some urgent matters”. “The matter that brought me here is definitely more important and urgent” Deolu replied angrily. The DPO would have flared up if he didn’t know the status of the person before him. “I am sorry sir. Please, how may I be of service?” Deolu relaxed. “A murderer and kidnapper is on the loose, here in Abuja” “What?” “Yes. I am sure he is responsible for the disappearance of my fiancée, but we have not seen him, or the girl for that matter. This mishap occurred in Lagos but the criminal disappeared along with the girl. After due and thorough investigations, we discovered that he is here in Abuja” The DPO looked unconvinced. “How sure are you? They probably ran off together; this happens all the time” “No” he stamped his foot. “My Luciana would NEVER run off with a man, especially not a murderer. He was her friend, the only male friend she had apart from me. He asked her out but she refused. She does not get involved with guys, in fact, she disappeared a day after she said ‘Yes’ to me. That guy, that Fred, was the last person to see her. Her neighbor is a witness”. “Hmmmm… Do you have their pictures?” “Yes. Definitely.” He said, pulling out two pictures from his wallet. Immediately the pictures got to the hand of the DPO, his facial expression changed from curiosity to shock. Deolu noticed this. “Is there any problem? Do you know any of them?” “Uhn? Oh… erm… no” he cleared his throat. “Actually, I was just wondering why such a thing would befall such a pretty damsel”. He smiled tightly. Deolu nodded, not exactly pleased that the DPO was checking out his babe, his woman. “I hope you would swing to action immediately” “Yeah yeah. Of course. We are here to serve you. The police are your friends in times of need”. “Noted”. Deolu said and stood up. He stopped at the door and turned back. “By the way, please what is your name?” “Oh… I? I am Chris; Chris Chuks”.

    EPISODE 17

    Evening came without notice. Raymond was fun to be with and they did not even know when evening came. Though Raymond had tried all day not to talk about the obvious problem at hand, Lucy still found herself thinking about her family. She could not leave them to wander in total darkness. She wondered if Fred was still moving freely. That guy should be locked in an isolated room without remembrance. She sat on the chair, looking at the TV but her mind was not there. Raymond who was on another chair was busy looking at her, he noticed her distant state but kept mute. He felt her pain but still could not understand what could possibly happen if she went to her people. The murderer would want to eliminate her since she could implicate him but Luciana was practically not worried about herself but her people. His resolve to take matters into his hands had fallen when he could not break his promise. He wondered why he always found it extremely hard. Luciana suddenly jerked. Ray turned towards the television immediately and understood what was happening with fright. The broadcast he had watched the previous day was being repeated. Her picture was displayed on the screen with her name written beneath it. The bold ‘MISSING’ letters were just above the picture. A very unbelievable amount was promised as a reward for anyone who has any information. Luciana jumped up and ran into the room before any tear could drop from her eyes. “Lucia… Lucia…” Ray called, chasing after her. He relaxed a bit before opening the door of the room. He met her sitting on the bed, but she was not crying. She was struggling with tears. She was trying to be brave. His heart could not bear it. He did not know the one he would have preferred, her brave front or a crying beauty. He sat beside her, not knowing whether or not to touch her. He had rarely touched her ever since they left the hospital and he was actually scared of what would happen or how she would react if he tried to hold her. “It’s OK sugar. It is perfectly OK to cry” he whispered. One tear drop slid down her cheeks and that seemed to send the others an invitation. She broke down in tears and Raymond became totally confused. Women in tears always sent a shiver down his spine because he always would not know what to do. He pulled her into his arms as he tried consoling her. His heartbeat raced as she placed her head on his chest. He bent his head and kissed her forehead and she cried. He felt her pain and her tears brought back painful memories that he did not even want to open. She could not stop her tears and he just held on to her, whispering words of solace. When she would not stop crying, Raymond started wondering what the cause of her tears really was. He had the awkward feeling that she was crying for something much more than the pain her family was going through. What did that murderer say to her? He wondered. “Do you want to talk about it?” he asked quietly, when her tears died down. She reluctantly left his arms when all she wanted was to be held by his strong arms. Ray wished she did not leave his arms. He wanted to hold her in his arms, protect her, comfort her and… he shook his head. He had to get that weird thought out of his mind for his own good. Luciana marched to the window. “I need to make a phone call. I need to call someone”. Ray was confused. “What are you talking about?” “I need to tell someone that I am alive. I would call my best friend, Teju. She is the only one that would be discrete enough; she is a lawyer”. “Are you sure about this?” She nodded. Raymond took out his phone while Lucy called the phone number from memory. After the phone rang for some time, it was picked and Raymond put the phone on speaker. “Hello” Teju said from the other end. “Hello, please am I speaking with Miss Teju” Ray asked, although he already got the confirmation in Lucy’s smile, the brightest smile he had seen ever since he knew her. She was battling with the urge to snatch the phone from his hands. “That depends on who is calling” she replied. Truly a lawyer, Raymond thought. “Well, it take that as a ‘Yes’. Someone here wants to talk to you”. Without wasting much time he passed the phone to Lucy who grabbed it eagerly. “Hello T.J.” she said impatiently with smiles all over her face. “JESUS” Teju screamed. ********** ********** bewaji moved her nude body close to her husband. She was feeling better than she had been in days. Ken smiled and opened his eyes. He felt her braided hair with his fingers as he smile down at her. Bewaji was smiling too and that made him really glad. “It is good to see your smiling face again honey” ken said with a smile. “All thanks to you” she poked him. “You know, I have a good feeling that my baby is alive”. Ken nodded. “My princess can’t be dead; no. we just have to calm down and use our heads collectively.” “I am not sure I would be able to do that” she became sober again. “That is why I am here to help you with that. I would find her or die trying” he bent and kissed her. Bewaji smiled faintly. “you make me feel like a teenager again” Ken looked at her body slowly. “You look like one” he pulled her close and kissed her. ********** ********** Teju was standing at the middle of her office, looking awkwardly with her left hand in the air and the other holding her phone against her ear. If she hadn’t trained herself well on shock reception, the phone would have slipped off her fingers. Her heart raced fast as she assumed that she was not hearing properly. Only one person called her T.J and she would identify that voice anywhere. “Lu… Lucy? Lucy? Is that you?” her voice was shaky, along with her fingers. “Yes T.J, I am the one” Lucy’s voice sounded tear-filled. “I am alive” she yelled. “I can’t believe this! Am I dreaming?” Teju asked, bewildered. Lucy laughed. “Maybe you are; don’t wake up” “Not even in a thousand years” teju replied, knowing that she would never want to wake up until the dream becomes a reality. Luciana laughed again at the other end. “What happened Lucy? Why did you vanish into thin air like that? You almost killed everyone here. Mum and dad have almost gone crazy in their search. I have checked virtually all the hospitals in Lagos; Deolu is almost going crazy, along with all your friends and colleagues at work. what happened and where the hell are you?” There was silence at the other end and Teju knew that she must have confused Lucy with all the stories she laid down. “It is a long story. Please promise me you would not breathe this to any soul.” “What do you mean by that? Everyone is searching endlessly for you. I need to tell them that you contacted me and you need to come home”. “No T.J.I would put everyone and myself in danger if I come now. I was stabbed by Fred and he dumped me somewhere, thinking I was dead. The person I am with is the good Samaritan that helped me. For some reasons, I think it is best if I stay away. Let him assume me dead; it is better. Please T.J help me ensure he is arrested. I would not be able to rest until he is behind bars” Teju was silent for a while. “It would be hard keeping this everyone, but as for that filthy maggot, he is as good as dead. We already suspected that b—–d. Your mum dreamt about him”, she laughed, “your neighbor also said he was at your place late at night. We are searching for him. We feel he is in Abuja and Deolu is there to fish him out”. “Really?” Lucy screamed. “Yes babe. We are holding our end but I still need to know what happened that day” “Maybe later. Please help me calm everyone, especially mum and dad, without disclosing my whereabouts” “Will try; at least I don’t know where you are, so I would not be lying”. “Lawyer…” Lucy laughed slightly at the other end. ********** ********** Raymond had been beaming with smiles all through the conversation. He watched with interest as Lucy conversed with her friend, seeing the bond that was between them. He loved the light he saw in her eyes but also saw the pain when she heard all they were going through because of her. When the call ended, Lucy was so happy that she just jumped into Raymond’s arms. She was so ecstatic. The fact that Fred was on the run made her joy even bigger. She held on to Ray as she laughed and spoke endlessly about how happy she was. Ray shared her joy and was similarly happy for her. Her laughter died down and she had to leave Ray’s arms. She left slowly, feeling reluctant. Silence enveloped them and the tension grew. Ray stepped closer without thinking and brushed the strands of stray hair that fell across her face. Words did not come as he gazed into her eyes. “I erm…” Lucy jumped out of his arms. She tried looking for something to say. Raymond’s phone rang and saved her from the trouble. She exhaled as Raymond swallowed and picked his call.

    EPISODE 18

    Lucy woke up with a start and looked out of the window. It was already getting bright outside so she lifted herself from the bed. She had never missed any Sunday service and she didnt plan on starting now. She left for the bathroom to take her bath. She should be able to get one church around the corner. The previous day had been fun, so much fun. Raymond hadn’t exaggerated his sister’s lively and accommodating spirit. Vicky just finished her masters in the United States and she was back to stay. Lucy wondered why people come back to this frustrating country after schooling abroad when there was obviously nothing in store for them here in Nigeria. She had later shrugged it off, knowing that those who studied abroad had more chances at getting a good job, compared with those who attended our local institutions. She found that ironic because it ought to be the other way. Everything in Nigeria is abnormal. Before Vicky arrived, Ray had taken her shopping for some nice clothes. She had argued and complained about being a burden but Ray would have none of it. He had made sure she got all the clothes that caught her fancy even though she tried minimizing it. After they had purchased everything he had left her at the counter and returned with a very lovely gown. She had wondered how she missed that gown. It was so beautiful. Even without testing it, she knew it would be perfect. As she dressed up, she heard a knock on the door. “Please, come in”. Vicky entered the room with a smile. “Good morning Vic” Lucy greeted. She had imagined that they would be within the same age bracket. “Did you sleep well in Nigeria?” Vicky laughed. “Obviously” she said in her foreign assent. “I don’t need to be told that you woke up well. Are you going somewhere?” “Today is Sunday, I am going to church” Luciana replied, a bit surprised that the question was even asked. “Oh… You are the church type” she said with a smirk. “Well, I stopped going to church years back”. “I see…” Lucy murmured solemnly. The glint she saw in Vic’s eyes showed that she would have little or no luck if she tried convincing her. “Why?” she asked “Several reasons” “Give me one” Lucy challenged. “I am a lesbian” Lucy froze on the spot with her back Vicky. She knew that the best way to deal with people like that is not by accusing them or by making them feel like the world’s biggest sinner. She wondered if Ray knew this then knew that he would know. She had noticed the way he watched the two of them discuss, like he was trying to prevent something. She swallowed. “Is that why you refused to go to church?” Vicky was stunned. “You are not surprised?” Lucy turned with a smile. “Surprised about what? That you said you are a lesbian? I was surprised. Who told you?” “Nobody had to; I knew. Everyone made me feel miserable, like I was the most evil thing that ever walked the planet”. Lucy smiled. She had finished her dressing. She did not have a bible, so she just carried the small bag that Ray bought for her. She moved to Vicky and hugged her. “You’ll be fine. Take your time.” She moved back and smiled at her before she started towards the door. Vicky was stoned. No Christian had ever done that to her. “I would get Ray to follow me to church” Lucy said at the door. Vicky smiled widely. “Good luck with that” Lucy frowned but bid farewell and headed towards Raymond’s room. ********** ********** Fred lay on the couch of his house feeling tired. He had spent too much at that bar and was feeling very miserable and tired. His account was now a skeleton of its former state. He pulled out a cigarette and lit it. He was just learning to smoke; he needed to clear his head and the smoke was doing that for him. He heard a knock on the door and became startled. He jumped up and stood like a stick. Chris stood at the door, expecting the door to be opened from inside but he remembered the last encounter he had and knew that it would not be opened anytime soon if he did not talk. “Fred” he called. “Open up, it is Chris” Fred breathed a free air and opened the door. He was both relieved and scared of Chris’ visit. He did not know if this would be a good or bad visit, considering the way he treated him weeks back. “Chris… I am so happy that you are here. I am sorry for what happened the last time. I know…” he stopped and looked at Chris for the first time. He was glaring at him. Chris needed no other confirmation; the shaky state he was and the previous encounter told him that he had actually committed the crime. He shook his head, making Fred feel cold dread. Chris put his hand inside his pocket and took out a picture. “Do you know her” Fred almost entered the ground as he shrieked. ********** ********** Luciana stood bemused at the entrance of Raymond’s room. She still could not comprehend what she had heard in the room. Vicky? How could Vicky be a lesbian? She shook her and swallowed. She knocked the door gently but heard a sleepy response. She opened the door gently and entered. Immediately she entered, she blamed herself. Raymond was looking so manly and gorgeous as he slept, shirtless on the bed. Her fingers desired to touch him and she felt anger in her spine. How can a man make her swoon? She wondered. Ray noticed the way Lucy looked at him but he hid it, pretending to be sleeping. He swallowed as he took in her appearance. When he took out that gown, he never imagined that she would look so stunning. She had almost no make – up done but she looked more beautiful that all the women he had seen in his life. Lucy shook herself and tried to pull herself together. “Good morning sir” she said loudly, trying to wake Raymond. Raymond smiled softly as he opened his eyes. “You are a wonderful sight to wake up to sugar; you look breathtaking”. Ray traced her body with his appreciative eyes. Luciana breathed carefully as she tried to take out the image of her shirtless chest from her mind. “Why don’t you get in the bathroom, get dressed and let’s go to church” “Church?” he asked, bemused. “Yes, church. You told me you are a Christian, right? Today is Sunday.” “I don’t attend churches” he said and lay on the bed. Lucy opened her mouth. “Why not?” “No reason” he murmured. “Well, I don’t know anywhere in this place. I might as well get lost, you know. Or maybe, I would just go home from there, and if the murderer sees me? well…” “keep Quiet” he yelled softly. “Go and wait for me” he said softly and Lucy chuckled as she left the room. ********** ********** Teju returned from church with a happy mood. She had loved the service immensely, right from the very beginning. She felt that the reason why she was so happy was the fact that she knew where her best friend was. She heard a knock and, knowing the person at the door, she went to open the door. “Welcome darling” she said, stressing the darling. She tried to hug him but he was cold towards her. Tunde moved inside without responding to her greeting. She frowned. “Honey? Baby, what is wrong?” she asked moving close to him as she sat on the chair beside him. “Teju” he called and she knew that everything was wrong. He hardly called her by her name. “Teju, I believe we are mature enough to be able to talk to each other like adults”. He started. “Tunde, we have been talking like adults ever since we met. What is the problem?” she was confused. He shook slightly. “Teju, I don’t think we can continue with this relationship. I have seen another girl that I am in love with. We should maturely go out separate ways”. Teju opened her mouth.

    EPISODE 19

    Why did you do that? Lucy asked as she joined Raymond in the car. Ray started the car. “Do what?” “Stay in the car? You could have followed me inside the church instead of sitting outside here like a bodyguard. What did God do to offend your family”? “Nothing.” Lucy kept quiet after that. She hadn’t even spent three days and she was already overstepping her bounds. The drive home was quiet after that. She missed her people a lot and she wished she was home already. She needed to hear her parents’ voice, to be sure they are ok. She thought about Deolu and her heart pricked. She needed to leave the house. She needed her people and sanity back. Ever since the previous day when she had called Teju in the presence of Raymond, she had felt very uncomfortable with him, especially whenever he stood close. She sighed softly when she thought of her predicament. She was living with total strangers; they both don’t want to have anything to do with God and one of them is a lesbian. She sighed again, thinking about the many things she might find out about this family if she stayed for some time. Raymond watched Lucy, noticing her distant state. He wondered why her mood should bother him. Shrugging off her quietness, he focused on the road as he pondered on the thoughts that had plagued him. Why was he developing strange feelings for this lady who was obviously engaged to someone else? She hadn’t even spent three complete days and he had become so attached to her. He remembered the past evening and his heart skipped a beat, he had to hold the steering tighter. The desire to kiss her had almost overwhelmed him. Ever since then, he had ensured that he did not move close to her. He only needed space in his life now and not any other woman to complicate his life the more. The earlier Lucy left the house, the better. ********** ********** Teju sat frozen as she stared with a confused expression on her face. Tunde did not have the boldness to look into her eyes as he said everything he had rehearsed. “Teju” he called softly but she did not even blink. “I can’t do this anymore. You claim to love me but you don’t want to give me what should rightfully belong to me. I have a right to touch your body; it is part of the benefits I should derive from being your man, but you are not giving me. I have found a lady who is willing to go all the way with me. she does not hide anything from me, least of all her body”. He concluded. Teju looked at the clown she called her fiancé and wanted to strangulate him. She had tried all she could to be the best woman in his life. She could have sworn that she had spent the past two years of their relationship making his life a happy one. She couldn’t have been more wrong because all he could think about was s-x. S-x? How could she have been so stupid? She remembered all those times he had almost forced her into his bed; she should have been wiser then. She swallowed as tears came to her eyes. She blinked away the tears; he does not deserve it. Slowly, she took a deep breath as stood up and went to the door. She opened the door, wide enough to contain two people at once. Only then did she open her mouth. “Leave” she said quietly. Tunde swallowed. “Teju, I am sorry. I just…” “Get out” she mouthed. He stood up slowly and approached her. “Baby, calm-” “GET OUT” she yelled and Tunde vanished in a flash. She slammed the door forcefully and collapsed on the floor as she cried herself out. ********** ********** Chris needed no other confirmation. He got every answer he needed from Fred’s reaction. He could never in a hundred years, imagine that Fred had the capacity to take a life but the reality was staring at him like a horror movie. “Don’t you dare give me that melodrama, you this miserable monster. I don’t even know who you are anymore” he yelled at a shivering Fred. He grabbed Fred by the collar of his shirt and pulled him up like a bloody criminal. “Where the hell is the girl? Where did you keep her?” he yelled. Fred shook like someone who just emerged from a cold room. “She… she’s… she’s dead” he stammered. “JESUS” Chris screamed, leaving Fred immediately. “Oh my God! This can’t be happening. I can’t believe this” Fred held his feet. “Please Chris, you have to help me. please…” Chris kicked him away. “Blood of Jesus! So, you are a bloody murderer?” he pointed his finger with a strange look on his face. Similar Updates – From an admirer “NO” Fred shook his head vigorously. “I did not want to do it. It was accidental. Please believe me brother” “Brother?” he laughed. “No. I am not your brother and can never be. You killed a girl; not just a girl; the fiancée of Mr Adeolu. You could not even pick any other person? Wow” Fred cried as Chris said those things. “Please”. Chris shook his head, pushed Fred out of the way and rushed out of the house like someone who was being pursued, leaving Fred wailing. ********** ********** Lucy walked with Vicky towards the back of the house to check the flowers. She carried the watering can in order to water them. They both discussed their love for flowers as they went about watering the flowers. The beautiful colours of the various flowers pleased Lucy immensely and she said so. She sighted the two buildings at the back of the house and called Vicky’s attention. “What are those buildings for?” she asked casually. “Oh… the first one is the gym and the second one is where Raymond paints” she chipped as she sampled the flowers. “Paints? He paints?” Lucy asked bemused as her eyes widened. Vicky turned to look at Lucy like she had lost her mind. “Don’t tell me you don’t know” Lucy shook her head. “He never mentioned it” “Even at that, he is a very famous artist” Lucy had never really fancied paintings because it never really freaked her but as she thought about it, a name struck her. ‘James Ray’. How had she missed that? Teju never stopped talking about his paintings but she never even took interest. “James Ray?” “That’s him” she smiled. “I am surprised you missed that. Although he has not painted anything for a long time now” she chipped. Lucy frowned. “Why?” Vicky shrugged and walked on, leaving Lucy with her thoughts. “Hey” Lucy turned round to see Ray standing just a few steps from her. “When were you planning on telling me that you are a renowned artist?” she asked, stepping farther away from him. “I never would have told you. I am no longer an artist and I actually loved the fact that I finally met someone who was not drooling over me because of my fame”. he replied walking away. Lucy followed. “I am not drooling over you at all”. Ray laughed. “I noticed” ********** ********** Deolu exited the bathroom and dried himself with a towel. he wore a singlet and boxers and sat on the bed. Staying in a hotel had little or no effect on his account but he wished he was home already. The knowledge that Fred was lurking somewhere in the state made him feel better about leaving Lagos for work but he still felt miserable. He knew that even without being present, he could pull all the strings he needed to pull in order to secure Fred’s arrest. He needed to finish this deal, go back to Lagos and look for his love. He had the distinctive feeling that Lucy was in Lagos and he would find her, even if it was the last thing he did. He had received a call from Lucy’s dad and he had told him about his progress in Abuja. He had been happy but the sadness of his missing daughter was evident in his voice. Deolu dialed Teju’s line and it rang severally but she did not pick up. He was beginning to get worried. He had called her severally but she didn’t pick up. He composed a message asking about her welfare and telling her how far he had gone then he lay on the bed to sleep. Worry did not afford him the luxury of a wonderful sleep. Twenty minutes later, he dialed Teju’s number again and she picked, much to his relief. “Hello Teju, thank God.” he sighed. The response he got from her frightened him. Her voice had never been that low and depressed. “What is the matter T? Are you alright?” “I am fine” she responded still in that sober manner. “You are not fine” Deolu said, sitting up. “What happened to you? Did you hear from Lucy? Did something happen?” “Everything is fine, don’t worry. I got your message and I would work on it and give you feedback.” “Teju, you are scaring me. You know what? Since you would not tell me what the matter is, I would leave this place for Lagos tomorrow morning.” he said as he stood up. “No” she replied sharply. “You need to be there Dee” “No. I should not have come in the first place. I can do everything in Lagos. I am coming over”. Before Teju could respond, he hung up and started packing his things. Teju called severally but he did not pick, knowing she would just try to convince him.

    EPISODE 20

    Lucy washed the rice as she conversed with Vicky who checked the chicken in the oven. She was enjoying the conversation immensely but she could not help missing Raymond. He had resumed work about a week ago and Lucy had missed him with each passing day. Vicky was definitely fun to be with but she had grown so used to Ray that she felt his absence a lot. “But my time in London was a real disaster” Vicky said Lucy turned with a bemused expression. “Why did you say that?” “I was despised because I am a lesbian” she sighed. “I just wanted death. It was harder because no one in my family was in support of me. My parents condemned me totally and I became the black sheep of the family. London made it worse and I hid behind my shell until I was able to leave”. She was sober and sat on the chair. Lucy stared at Vicky, feeling her pain. She was confused as to what to say so she just kept quiet. Vicky took her quietness for condemnation. “I am sure you see me as the worst kind of human being. It is fine; I get that all the time”. Lucy smiled. “That is beautiful?” Vicky frowned. “What is beautiful?” “That hair bond. It is absolutely lovely” Vic smiled. “I got it from London. It is actually the only thing I bought there. Just wanted to have something from London in order to remember my time there, even if it was not so pleasant” “I love it and I love you; in a platonic way though. You are a wonderful person; you just need someone to show you how wonderful love is. Love is a beautiful thing”. Vicky swallowed and shook her head. “I can’t love a man; I have tried in vain”. Luciana smiled and turned to check the food. “I am not asking you to try; in fact, you would not have to try”. “I don’t understand” Vic replied, confused. “Don’t worry. You would be fine. Let’s finish this delicacy.” She said as continued her cooking. ********** ********** Teju sat facing a client at a popular cafeteria not too far from her office. She had preferred an open environment to the confinement of her office because she was beginning to feel choked lately. It had been over a week but that episode with Tunde kept replaying itself in her brain. Everything Mr. Popoola was saying was barely noted by her as she sat frozen on the chair with her eyes glued on her client and her face as blank as a plain sheet. Deolu had arrived Lagos just as he said he would but she could not unburden herself. She felt that he already had enough problems and bothering him with hers would be wicked of her. She had to lie to him that her mood was due to a court case she lost. She wished her parents were not dead. She missed her mother a lot. She needed someone to talk to, someone to comfort her, but she found no one. Even her friends were not able to help her. Lucy would have understood, she knew. As Teju stared at Mr. Popoola’s face, all she could see was Tunde. She wished he was just in front of her so she could show him the stuff she was made of. The door of the cafeteria opened up and Teju could not believe what she was seeing. She had just been wishing to find Tunde and there he was, coming into the cafeteria with a half nude girl on his arm. Seeing the girl’s dressing, Teju knew that he left her because of s-x. Tunde did not see her, considering the size of the place and the sizeable amount of people in it. “Barrister” Mr. Popoola called and she turned her head like a robot. “You are not listening to me” he said, a bit irritated. Teju relayed everything Mr. Popoola had been saying without missing a thing and he was so surprised. He knew that she had been lost in thoughts and found it amazing that she had actually heard all he was saying. Teju smiled at his amusement. “I have heard everything I want to know, if there is any other information I need, I would call you sir. If you don’t mind sir, I need to attend to some people”. He smiled sheepishly, knowing that whatever it was had nothing to do with business. “Go easy on them” he said softly. Teju stood up and her client did the same. She did not bother responding; she knew that he would have seen the way she looked at Tunde when he entered. After several verbal exchanges, Mr. Popoola left. She took a deep breath as she approached the table ahead. Tunde had his back to her, so he did not see her. She got to the table, with a frozen smile on her face. “So, this is the girl that you are in love with?” Tunde looked up and blanched. ********** ********** Ray was becoming much more tense by the minute. He stood up and roamed his office and sat back after pacing aimlessly. He never imagined that he could miss someone so terribly. He missed Luciana so much, it hurt. He missed her smile, he quiet and thoughtful times, her lively kitchen life and every single thing that summed up the fair goddess he was hosting in his house. Ever since he resumed work, he had wished he was managing one of his father’s companies so that he would be able to leave the house whenever he liked. He had made that adamant decision to be independent when he was 23 years old. He had finished his studies with outstanding certificates but his father wanted him to head his companies. He had refused and had gone job hunting, in the quest to build something of his own. His father later came through and gave him his blessings, much to his relief and delight. The prayers of his parents worked wonders for him because he got a job with an oil company not quite long. It was all he ever dreamt of. At first, the salary was just normal, due to his position but as time went on, his salary was reviewed and promotions started rolling in. He made good use of the money coming in, buying shares and making investments. His house came as a result of his labour and his parents became proud of him. Painting, which was his God-given talent, was what he always loved and enjoyed doing. Painting was already out of the window of his life; it had become one of his nightmares. The door of Raymond’s office flung open and Ray had to snap out of his reverie. Duke bounced into the office without any prior notice but that was just like him. Ray was already used to Duke’s impromptu visits and even Ray’s zealous secretary can’t make Duke wait in the reception for a minute. “This is my office Duke, I work here. Are you trying to get me fired?” Ray glared as he closed the door which Duke did not bother closing. Duke paused. “That is the best greeting I have ever heard, also the longest”. He stated but Ray glared instead. “Ok, no one is going to fire your sorry a-s. You are the manager here and that position comes with a lot of benefits, including going for lunch earlier than usual”. “Halt. I am not going anywhere, especially not an 11 o’clock lunch”. Ray made his way to his seat. Duke checked his watch. “This is almost 12” he declared. “Obviously” Ray sighed. “Listen, I think you need that lunch, especially since I found you standing aimlessly at the middle of your office during office hours. That lunch would help ease the stress” he smiled. “Man, I just resumed work after a one month leave”. He stated. “Quit the lecture James Ray, you are coming with me” he stood up, daring Ray not to comply. Ray shook his head in surrender. ********** ********** “Hi, I am Teju” she stretched her hand towards the wide-eyed lady who dumbly took it. “I am Oyin” she replied. “What are you doing here Teju?” Tunde growled. Teju eyed him slowly before pulling a chair. After seating, she faced the lady who was practically confused. “I do not intend to waste your time, just want to have a little chat with you. Do you mind?” “Yes, she minds. Leave” Tunde dropped. “Would you shut your filthy mouth?” Teju yelled, drawing attention. “I am here to speak with this beautiful b —h here, so shut the trash”. “How dare you call me a b—h?” oyin stood up furiously. “What is the meaning of this nonsense Tunde?” “Sit down now” Teju yelled. “You don’t want to know the angry part of Teju, I am telling you. SIT” she smiled tightly. Oyin looked a bit scared but she hid it. She thought about what was going on and decided it best to sit. Teju smiled as she stared at Oyin’s rage-stricken face. “Good. I just want to talk about your friend here – Tunde” she started. “Teju” Tunde groaned. “I would not get mad at you for stealing my fiancé, no I won’t. In fact, you did me a huge favour” Oyin stared at her. “What are you saying?” “Oh… he did not tell you? He was my fiancé until last week. We had our wedding date fixed for December which should be six months from now” Teju laughed. “Funny right? I was busy thinking about our wedding night while he was thinking about another woman’s a-s. I am not here to drag him from you, you can totally have him, but I want to advice you. Don’t think that the only way to get a man is by spreading your legs wide enough to accommodate him” “How dare you?” Oyin yelled as she stood up. Teju dragged her down immediately. “You don’t want to cause a scene.” “Teju-” “If you dare call my name again, you would hate me” Teju half yelled. She faced Oyin “Where were we? Yes, your legs. Do you know why he left me for you? It is because your legs were wide open. He does not love you, he just loves that thing you offer to him free of charge. When did you meet? I am sure it is not even a month ago. Oh, who am I kidding? It can’t even be three weeks ago. “Men are the same. They are never contented with what they have; they are always looking for extra until they lose what they had before. When this miserable being left me last week, my eyes opened and I got a new meaning to the word ‘man’. A man is a miserable adulterous nuisance who goes from skirt to skirt, seeking whom to devour. Thank God I wear trousers; it makes it harder to devour me. I have just one advice for you: redefine your life” “Oh, I see. And where did your redefined life get you uhn?” Oyin asked, glaring. Teju smiled softly, stood up and wore her sunshade. “It saved me from Tunde” she said and walked out, leaving the couple enveloped in serious tension. She got to the door and collided with someone coming into the cafeteria. “Easy beauty” Duke said but she just walked away. “What a pretty babe”. Ray shook his head. “Always a flirt!” Ray declared. “Vicky is back from the states”. Duke swallowed and walked on with a straight face. Ray smiled

    EPISODE 21

    Fred opened the door to Chris office and entered slowly. He had the distinctive feeling that he would get thrown out if he went in all confident. When Chris’ glare welcomed him, he swallowed. “Why not hear me out first before you nail me to the cross” Fred said in a pleading manner. “Jesus was not given that opportunity, why should you be given” Chris responded with a permanent glare. “Jesus was nailed unjustly, would you do the same to me?” Chris looked at him. “You have five minutes to convince me. You better start now because I won’t give you a second more”. Fred sat instantly. “It was an accident Chris. I went to her house to confess my love for her, just as I told you but when I got there and bared my heart to her, she laughed at me. She said that she could never have anything to do with me, that she would never date a loser when Deolu was there. I saw a knife close by and I took it just to scare her since she would not stop talking but she tripped over something on the floor and because I was not far behind, I also tripped and the knife I was holding stabbed her. I swear it was not intentional. Please believe me” Fred shook. Chris looked doubtful. “Are you sure of what you are saying?” “Yes Chris. That is how it happened. When she… when she died, I had to erm… dump her somewhere. I was so scared, please help me” Chris Chuks stared at Fred who just sat, shivering on the chair opposite him. He had a feeling that what Fred had just said was only a shadow of the real truth. Although, seeing the way Fred shivered, he was compelled to believe him. “Well, I have not told anyone anything and have been lying to Mr Adeolu for close to two weeks now. I was not able to implicate your sorry a-s. You need to leave that house. I have a good place where you can hide for the mean time; hiding in that house is very predictable and they would easily find you there” “Thank you brother. I knew I could count on you” Fred said with a lot of appreciation in his voice. Chris swallowed. He was putting his job and neck on the line for Fred. He could be charged for treason. He relaxed and closed his eyes hoping that this issue does not backfire. ********** ********** Lucy sat chatting with Raymond in the sitting room. He had arrived earlier than usual and Lucy was happy because Vicky had gone to spend a few days with her friend. Being in that massive house all alone would have been terrifying, especially since the house was not hers. As they discussed, she thought of how to put down what she had in mind. “Ray” she called. Raymond turned to face her suddenly. “This is the first time you called me by my name; I love the sound of it. You should call me that often.” He grinned. Lucy blushed and looked down. “Erm… I … erm” Ray frowned. “What is it sugar? Is something wrong?” “No… erm… what I want to say… I mean, ask is if you could show me some of your art works” Ray blanched. “I don’t mean to pry but Teju had talked endlessly about your artworks but I was never interested. Your paintings are very popular even though I never took the time to check them out. I would love to have a look, even if it is just a few” she finished. Ray was quiet, too quiet. He swallowed as he stared into space. “If it is a problem, please don’t bother. It is nothing” she quickly added. Ray stood up and went to his bedroom. Lucy felt bad and miserable. She must have done and said everything wrong. The paintings must bring bad memories. Several thoughts went through her head as she sat frozen to her seat. Raymond appeared minutes later with a key in his hand. He marched out and muttered ‘follow me’. She did not want to follow him like this; with him being upset. “If you are not OK with it, it is fine. You don’t have to.” She murmured as she followed him. He did not respond. When they got to the door, he opened it slowly and stood at the entrance. “Go inside. Everything you need is there.” He said and moved out of the way. Lucy stared at him with concern. “If you would not go with me then I won’t go at all. You can’t run away from the past, you just have to accept the past”. Ray swallowed. “I am not going inside” he dropped icily. Lucy winced as she saw the pain in his eyes. “I am not going too. Please lock the door. I was never interested in art in the first place”. Ray looked at her. He wanted to make her believe that art was a wonderful thing but he was scared of going into the room. He opened the door wider and started entering. Lucy breathed and followed. Her eyes widened as she stared at the numerous frames hung on the wall, all around the room and the ones on the floor. She had never seen anything so beautiful and colourful. Everything her eyes met was simply outstanding. She touched some of them, tracing them with her finger. She noticed they were dusty but knew that it was expected if the place had been under lock for some time. She saw a painting of a woman who was seated with her baby on her lap. The look of love in the woman’s eyes was so evident and real, she could feel it. Her eyes watered as she remembered her mother at home. “This is beautiful; everything is beautiful” she murmured as she blinked. Ray smiled but did not say anything. Lucy looked around and every frame called her but one of them struck her and her heart skipped. She walked like a robot to the painting. When she got there, she could not touch it, she just looked. She was dumbstruck as she stared at the most amazing painting she had seen. It was a painting of a man and a woman. The woman had pain in her eyes as she stared at the man. The pain in the eyes of the man was not as intense but there was also love in both eyes. There was someone in the shadow. The face and form of the person was not clear but there was someone there; she knew it. The person stood with his back to them. The painting told a story of two lovers who had gone through a trying time but still loved each other. She imagined that the person in the shadow was against their union. The couple looked vaguely familiar. She turned and looked at Raymond and got her answer. “Are these your parents?” she asked. He swallowed . “Yes” he mouthed. He wanted to run out of the room. That painting was his favorite. His eyes watered as he anticipated the next question she would ask. “Where are they?” she asked as she looked at the painting again. He was quiet. She turned and saw him struggling for composure. She became scared and worried. “They are dead”. He turned and left the room. She stood rooted to the ground. Dead? Was this the nightmare? Was that why he stopped painting? She wondered. She stared ahead and saw something like an uncompleted work. It was as if he started and could not continue. She could not even decipher what the painting looked like. She ran out of the room to go after Ray but saw him match into the gym. She sighed as she closed the door of the room. She wondered if she should go after him or just let him go. She chose the former and headed towards the gym. ********** ********** Deolu had called the police officer but never got good news from him. He became frustrated and remembered another police officer in Abuja. He wondered how he had skipped that. He took out his phone and dialed. ********** ********** When Lucy entered the gym, she saw Raymond on the treadmill, running endlessly. It was like trying to run away from something. Lucy’s heart ached as she saw this. He was in pain but was too arrogant to admit it to anyone. She went to sit somewhere close where he could see her easily but he did not see her. He did not seem to know she was there. It was like he was in another world where all he could see were ghosts of the past. Ray ran and ran and with each step he took, he ran faster. The more he ran, the more those images flashed through his mind. He was going crazy; maybe he was already crazy. He had thought he would be able to handle it. It had been almost four years since the incident occurred and he still could not forget. The images were still as fresh as yesterday. When he entered the room, he had thought that seeing those drawings would not affect him. They hadn’t until Lucy drew his attention to that picture. That was what broke the confidence he had. Everything came rushing back: the departure of their parents and the circumstances that led to it, the news of the crash, their trip to the accident scene, the burnt people, the faces of his dead and burnt parents… Raymond screamed and jumped out of the treadmill. Lucy ran to meet him as he shook uncontrollably. She wondered what demon had possessed her to ask for his paintings. She was scared. Scared for him, scared for herself. “Please take it easy Ray. Please…” she lamented, her eyes already wet with tears. Ray’s shirt was already soaked in his sweat and he did not seem to be able to stop his shivering body. “They died Lucy… They died horribly… The plane crashed… They got burnt… My parents…” he continued to say and a cold shiver went down Lucy’s spine. A plane crash! “I saw them Lucy…” tears dropped from his eyes. “I saw all of them. I saw their burnt bodies… they were roasted Lucy… Oh God… roasted… like animals” he held her head and looked into her eyes, trying to make her understand. “My loving parents died horribly. What did my parents do to deserve that? They served God and ensured that we did too. Why were they in that plane” more tears dropped from his eyes and Lucy just kept on crying. She had never seen that much pain before. She was lost on what to do. Ray could not drive away the images. He wanted to forget. He just wanted to forget. Lucy stood up tip-toes on the first impulse that came to her head and kissed him deeply

    EPISODE 22

    Luciana jumped out of Ray’s hands. She could not believe her effrontery. The kiss only lasted for a second and immediately she attempted it, she remembered Deolu. She had no right to kiss a stranger, even if he was in pain. Deolu was also in pains at home trying to look for her and here she was, kissing a total stranger who seemed to have more ghosts in his life than real beings. But even as the thought flashed through her head, she stared at Ray with concern. He was no longer shivering, he just stood, staring at her. It did not look as if tears had dropped from his eyes; his face just looked blank with the hint of confusion. The tears didn’t really qualify to be called tears because it was just a few drops, but tears they were nonetheless. She guessed he was too arrogant to admittedly cry, especially not in front of a girl. “Oh my!” Ray exclaimed. “I am sorry” Lucy blinked. “You did not do anything wrong; I am at fault” she quickly countered. “Don’t give more meaning to it. I was just trying to calm you down since I was the one who got you upset. Let’s call it a calling kiss. Guess it worked” she smiled faintly “First of all, you did not upset me. I should have gotten over this incident but it seems stuck in my brain. Secondly, you can’t call that kiss a calming technique; I have been known to be a good kisser, you know. I can give you a proper kiss” he humoured but it only made her frown and shift uncomfortably. “Of course, I know that you have a erm… guy but I was just trying to make you smile, dimples” he said and she did smile. He had added dimples to her pet name when her dimples kept calling to him. He also noticed that whenever he called her that, it brought a smile to her face. “Thanks” he said, jamming his hands into his pocket before he did something stupid. Lucy frowned. “For what?” “For calming me with a kiss”. He laughed when he saw her embarrassed blush. He moved forward and before she could think, he dropped a kiss on her cheek and left the gym. ********** ********** Teju tried to push her own heartache aside in order to help her friend out. The more she tried, the harder it became for her to understand. She had been with that ingrate for more than two years and when it was a few months to their wedding, he chickened out because of a cheap a-s? She could not believe that a man could be so callous. In fact, all men are callous and wicked, she thought. She gathered her thoughts and concentrated on the issue at hand. She knew that Luciana was Ok but still had no links to her. Not a day passed without her uttering a word of prayer for everyone involved in the struggle – Lucy, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Deolu and all friends and family members involved. ‘That Fred is in Abuja and Inspector Chris has not given us any feedback’ she thought. It has been over two weeks now and there was still no response at all from the station. She wondered why police men were so useless; the only time they are useful is where bribery is involved. Could she blame them? The present government did not care whether the people ate or starved and the people have taken it upon themselves to do whatever they could for money. When she had gone to the police station where Deolu was initially kept unlawfully weeks back, she had known that she would get vital information. She had interrogated the officers who carried out the job and found out the truth after much threat. She had given them the option of either winding up in jail or being her informants. Apparently, the latter option was chosen and she was glad that she had been wise enough. They were the ones who told her that Fred was in Abuja and now, after due research, it has already been discovered that the police in Abuja were doing next to nothing. No wanted banners or anything that can put Fred on the run. She smelled a rat and she was going to get to the root of it. ********** ********** Tinuke sat on a stool in the kitchen as she waited for her food to cook. She shook her head as she remembered the humiliation that Teju had given her. She could not imagine why she had been so quiet. Even though she had the strong urge to slap Teju’s face, she hadn’t been able to dare it. Somehow, she feared Teju. Before she even met Teju, she had seen her pictures on Tunde’s phone and discovered that she was a barrister. She always feared people with the long graduate gown and a wig on their heads. She had called herself Oyin when she met Tunde. She met him at the boutique, where she had gone to shop, in order to forget her sorrows. Tunde was a fine guy and she needed a distraction so she introduced herself as Oyin and the fun began. She hadn’t seen a guy who could resist her body and Tunde was not an exemption. Virtually everything she told Tunde about herself were lies and the fool believed every word that came out of her lips. She had enjoyed everything until she became bored. Tunde did not have enough cash to fit into Tinuke’s type of man. Raymond was everything. Ray had the killer looks that would intimidate any guy, he had the cash, he had the fame and also had the romantic instincts. She needed her man back. She was done playing ‘Oyin’ with Tunde. She wanted her man back. Teju was right; she needed to redefine herself. ********** ********** Raymond swallowed as he entered his room. Too many things had happened too fast and he was entirely at fault. He could have simply told Lucy that he could not open that room for her but he had put up the brave front and had made it worse by entering the room. He sighed as he thought about his loss of composure. He felt so ashamed of himself. He had lost control in front of her and now she must be thinking that he was a weakling. He hadn’t been able to control himself until Lucy kissed him. That kiss was all he needed to come back to his senses. She had been staying in his house for almost three weeks and everyday, his desire to kiss her and hold her against him increased. He had ensured that he kept his distance from her because he did not want to be seen as taking advantage of her because he helped her. It had been extremely difficult, judging by the way she constantly clouded his senses. He thought of her every time, even when he was busy at work. He would never have tried anything with her but something already happened – a kiss. When he was in the gym, he barely noticed her presence because all he could see were the events that gave him constant nightmares. He had been certain that he was no longer sane because all his efforts to shut out the mental pictures had failed, but when Lucy had kissed him, he knew it was her. Within that second, all his fears and ghosts vanished and he could feel her. Lucy had made the act look like something irrelevant but he knew that it was not just a ‘calming kiss’ like she had called it. It might be for her but it was far much more than that to him. He could smell her, he could taste her, he could… “Oh no” he groaned. “What am I doing?” he removed all his clothes in a flash and rushed to the bathroom. When he drove Tinuke away, he had promised himself that he would stay away from the opposite s-x. His permanent break-up with Tinuke was not even a month old and he was already daydreaming about another girl. It made him wonder if he had actually loved Tinuke. Not that he loved Luciana but… He jumped out of the shower and decided he needed fresh air. He wore something light and left the house, zooming off like someone was on his tail. ********** ********** Deolu sat on the couch in Teju’s sitting room. She emerged with two glass cups and a pack of juice and filled them, taking one. Deolu took his and sipped. “Teju” Deolu looked at her with a touch of concern. “I still feel there is something wrong that you are not telling me about. You look sad and hurt” Teju stared at him. “Why won’t I be sad? Everyone is sad. It is my best friend that is missing here. Anyways, the main reason why I called you here is to find out some things.” She paused to sip her drink before she set it aside. “That DPO you met in Abuja… erm… Chris Chuks, tell me about him”. “I know nothing about the man. When I got there, I expected to see Frank, my friend, but I saw Chris instead. I called Frank two days ago to help with the case and he told me that he had been transferred.” “But he is still in Abuja?” “Yes” he answered. She adjusted thoughtfully. “I don’t trust that Chris.” An idea struck her and she rushed into the room to get her laptop. Deolu just looked at her, wandering why lawyers made a fuss over little things. The DPO was just not competent enough, that’s all. Teju launched the browser on her laptop. “When you talked to him about the case, did you notice any discomfort or tension in him”. “Of course not. He only listened the way any other DPO would.” He answered instantly. Teju stared at him as she waited for the information she sought to fully load. “Are you a hundred percent sure? Lucy is on the line remember? I just have a strong conviction and I need to be sure” The mention of Luciana’s name did the trick. “Yes!” Deolu exclaimed. “It was when I gave him the pictures of Lucy and Fred. He was practically shocked. When I queried him, he gave me a flimsy excuse” Teju nodded distractedly as she opened the data on her laptop. It was Chris Chuks’ biography. When she read a few lines, she nodded. “I knew it” “Knew what?” Deolu sat beside her now, reading from the laptop. “He is from Imo state” “And what has that got to do with this issue?” Teju wished that she had a lawyer beside her who would understand many things without being told. “Apparently, I heard Fred tell Lucy that he has a brother in Abuja whose name is Chris. That could easily pass for a coincidence but it can’t be a coincidence that they are both from the same state, can it?” “Oh my God! That filthy b—–d.” Deolu cursed as he rose to his feet. “I should have known”. Teju relaxed and smiled at the situation and Deolu looked at her with a puzzled expression. She stared at him as if surprised that he could not even decipher what she was thinking. “Fred is in Abuja, meaning, his hideout is more than likely known by Chris. We don’t know where Fred is but we know where Chris is”. “So, if we can get Chris, we would know where Fred is” he finished and Teju smiled. Deolu smiled wholeheartedly for the first time in days. It can be really wonderful having a lawyer as a friend . ********** ********** Raymond got back home when it was already dark. He had driven round and finally branched to greet one of his friends. They had talked and talked till it was dark. As he locked the door of his car, he entered the house with only one thing in mind – sleep. He called Lucy but no answer came. He could not imagine her asleep at that time; it was not 8 o’clock yet. He called and called but did not get any answer. He went to her room and knocked but no answer came. After some time, he opened the door and he met the room empty. Panic was the first thing that arose in him. He checked everywhere in the room but did not see her. He ran out to question his gateman but saw a note on the side table in the sitting room. “Hello Raymond, Words cannot express how grateful I am that people like you exist. You picked me up and took care of me, risking everything. I am alive today because of God and you. Please don’t be sad that I had to leave like this. I figured that if I don’t leave now, I would not want to leave anymore. You made me feel at home in your house. Thank you. I needed to leave because my absence at home would be creating confusion, just as my presence in your house is creating confusion. I need to find a solution to the problem I am in and staying in your place is not making me do anything about it. My people are running around in circles and it is hurting me. Please do me a favour. I need you to accept the past. You are strong and compassionate and that is why the death of your parents affected you this much but you have to let it go. I never loved art but I have never seen anything more beautiful than the paintings I saw today. You don’t have to forget your past, you just have to accept it because your past can make you a better and stronger person. Painting brings you fulfillment and it would hurt to see you give up what you love doing. God loves you. Don’t stay angry at God because he does not make mistakes. He gives, he takes. The same way you have the power to do anything you like with your paintings is the same way God has the power to do what he wants to do with us. It was not your parents that got burnt in that crash but their flesh. When we get to heaven, we would see them without a single scratch. Your parents would be very happy where they are if you keep on holding on to God like they wanted you to. Please greet Vicky and tell her that I would miss her terribly. She is always in my heart and my prayers. Wish she was my sister. I would miss you a lot Ray and the nicknames you call me. With Love Sugar” The paper slipped out of Ray’s fingers as he stared into space. ********** ********** Mr and Mrs Jones sat on the chair. They had just finished parading another set of hospitals but they got no good news as usual. Some people had advised them to check the mortuaries but they rejected it saying it was not their portion to bury their daughter. Bewaji called her maid to bring a glass of water for her. She dropped her head on Ken’s shoulders and he held her. They heard a knock and Bewaji stood up to answer it since the maid was in the kitchen. Immediately she opened the door, she let out a scream that brought Ken to her side in a flash.

    EPISODE 23

    Luciana jumped inside the house and slammed the door before they attracted the neighbors. She removed the shawl she had used in covering her face and dropped it carelessly on the floor. Her heart beat wildly as she stared at her parents. They both looked lean and fagged from excessive worry. Tears slipped Bewaji’s eyes as she stared at her daughter. “Lucy” she whispered. “Lucy, is that you?” Tears streamed down her face uncontrollably. She held Ken’s shirt with her eyes glued to Lucy, “Am I dreaming Ken?” Lucy’s father was as dumbstruck as Lucy who also stood with her eyes glistening with tears. “Mum” she managed to say and rushed into her mother’s arms. “It is me mum” she shook. “It is Luciana”. Bewaji held her daughter as she sobbed. “My baby… my baby is back” she murmured as she clung to Lucy. “Oh my God!” Bewaji pulled back, kissed Luciana’s face and forehead several times and pulled her back into her embrace. She held on to her like a lifeline as she murmured everything that came to her head. “It is OK mum. You are going to make me cry” But she was already crying. Seeing her parents overwhelmed her beyond her expectations. She pulled back and turned to her dad. He stood with a loving smile on his face. His swimming eyes nearly undid her as she ran into his hands. “Oh daddy” she cried. “I have missed you my girl” he said, controlled now but with emotions that shook her. He brushed his fingers through her hair, like he was trying to memorize or recall the texture. “You almost sent us to an early grave with worry pumpkin, don’t ever do this again” His tone was very light. Lucy pulled back slightly. “I won’t dad, I am sorry” she hugged her dad again. She had missed him terribly. “C’mon ken, don’t scold my baby now. She just arrived” Bewaji said, holding both of them. Now, she felt complete . “Ah aunty” Everyone turned and Lucy saw the maid. “Oh Dana, come and give me a hug. I have missed you” Dana rushed into Lucy’s arms and held her like a vise. When they pulled apart, Dana fidgeted slightly. “Aunty, I was very worried about you o. I prayed everyday that you would come back safely” she said, looking at her fingers. Lucy smiled. “And the prayers are answered.” She felt truly blessed to have people who love her around her. “Yes, she was so worried. We all were. I almost died” Bewaji smiled and held her daughter’s hand with the fear that she might vanish again. “Come and sit down pumpkin, you must be really tired” Ken said as they moved to the room. “Tell me everything. I want to hear every detail of what actually happened.” “It is a long story. Dad, can you please call Teju and Deolu. I need to put them out of this trauma, and even though I really would like to make my presence public, I feel it might be risky. Please don’t tell them that I am here dad. They might get over-excited, especially Deolu, and we don’t want that”. “Right away” he said, grabbing his phone. Bewaji was busy inspecting Luciana’s body for marks and the like. She pulled her into her arms and held on to her. ********** ********** Teju packed a few things inside her extra large hand bag. It is not a myth that the handbag of a lady could very well take in everything that she needs for a week. Teju would be travelling to Abuja the following day. She had decided that going to Abuja would be very effective, instead of Deolu because she would be able to use her expertise as a lawyer to attend to matters. She had previously thought of following the DPO secretly in order to get Fred’s whereabouts but later decided that the method would not be effective. The DPO might suspect something and their plans would be blown to the wind. Chris might not even go there at all or early enough. Blackmail seemed the best tool to use in a case like this. She knew just the right words to use in order to get results. Teju heard her phone ring and picked it up from the bed. She was not surprised that it was Lucy’s dad. They communicated frequently, especially since the disappearance of Lucy. She just wished she could tell them that their daughter was alright. “Good afternoon sir” she said immediately she answered the call. “Hello dear, how are you today?” Mr. Jones replied in the receiver. “I am fine sir” She noted certain calmness in his voice with surprise and happiness. “That is good. Can you come over to the house? There is something we would like to show you” “Something?” Teju became very curious. “Yes. It is a bit urgent” He did not sound urgent; Teju mused but shrugged it off. She just hoped it had to do with Lucy’s case. “Yes sir. I would be there in a jiffy”. ********** ********** It had been long since Deolu sat in his office but even as he sat there, his heart and brain was far away. He was terribly worried about Lucy. Just that morning, he had called so many hospitals again, just as he did every day to make enquiries but as usual, it proved abortive. A friend of his had commented that the guy might have thrown her into the lagoon but had rejected it vehemently, nearly beating up his friend in the process. Times spent with Teju had eased his pain. He realized that whenever he was with Teju, he worried less. She seemed to take away his problems and pains with her lawyer attitudes. He still could not pinpoint why he felt she was in pains. Something had changed about her. She was not as lively as before, even though you would barely notice the changes if you were not careful enough. She had always remained positive and optimistic about Lucy’s return, using the stubborn attitude of being a lawyer to her advantage. She was not ready to accept defeat and he liked that about her. That trait was also very visible in Lucy although, gentler. They were truly birds of a feather. Deolu’s phone rang, saving him from his thoughts. He smiled when he saw the caller. “Hello sir” “How are you son?” Mr. Jones responded over the phone. “I am fine sir. Hope you are feeling better sir” “Yes. Glory to God. I wonder if you can come over to my house now; there is something I would like to show you” Deolu was happy that something was taking him out of his office. He hadn’t done any meaningful thing there. “Right away sir…” ********** ********** Ray had never been so helpless in his life. His life felt empty and it scared him. He felt like something had left him. He felt his life was just as empty as his house was. He changed from one channel of the television to the other but nothing came close to appealing to his senses. Just some time ago, he was telling himself that it would be best if she left and now that that thought had come to a reality, he felt miserable. ‘Be careful what you wish for, you just might have it’. That sentence echoed in his brain as he walked helplessly towards the refrigerator for a pack of juice. He cared less if there was food because he had no appetite at all. As he drank Chivita, he stared at the television screen, seeing only the pictures in his head. He wondered where Lucy was, if she was safe, if she was hungry. He stood and paced. He felt miserably helpless and he could not understand why he felt that way. She was just his guest, nothing more. He had helped in saving her life but he did not see himself as a super star that was able to save a damsel in distress, he felt lucky instead that he had been able to do something for her. God had used him for her; He could as well have used someone else. God? He could not believe he had thought of God using him. He swallowed when the content of the letter replayed itself in his head. He dropped his glass and went out of the house to discuss with his gateman. He was very glad then that he had employed a gateman. ********** ********** Lucy tried not to engage the thoughts that were trying to cloud her head. She was very happy to be home but she felt something was wrong. She felt incomplete. It was just a silent feeling which she easily overlooked as she laughed and smiled to everything that was being said. Her parents were fussing over her and she felt like a one year old again. The knock at the door interrupted their reunion and Luciana’s heart skipped wildly. She wondered which one of the two had arrived. Dana was a bit reluctant to leave Lucy’s side but she did anyways. The voice Luciana heard made her smile widely and she was up instantly. Teju moved into the sitting room and it took a while before her brain could take in what she was seeing. She froze for some seconds as she gaped at Lucy who stood grinning. “Lucy… Ahhhhh” she screamed as they both ran into each other’s arms. Lucy’s parents were laughing at the scene. Teju moved slightly away and started inspecting Lucy’s body as if she was checking if her body parts were complete. “Oh Lucy” she hugged her again. “T.J… I have missed your troublesome self o” Lucy said and laughed as she blinked back the tears that came to her eyes. “Yes. You must miss me. I have also missed the coconut rice you always cook for me” they both laughed. Teju was trying to control herself and not cry like a baby. She had missed her best friend. As the two friends fussed over each other, they were so engulfed in their excitement that they did not hear the knock on the door. When the door opened, Lucy turned and froze when she stared at Deolu. Deolu stood at the entrance as his eyes took in the image before him. Even when he came to fully acknowledge the fact that he was not dreaming, he still could not move a muscle. All the times that he had imagined Lucy’s return, he had imagined carrying her, kissing her until his lips ached and so many things but he never imagined that he would just stand at the entrance and stare. Life seemed to have departed his legs and he could not move them. Lucy walked slowly towards him, feeling a quiet panic within her. Raymond flashed through her mind and she pushed away the image. She stood right in front of Deolu and watched him swallow forcefully. “Lucy” he called as if he wanted to be double sure that he was not seeing things. She answered by moving into his arms. “Oh God” he breathed as he wrapped his arms around her. His hands shook as he held on to her like his life depended on it. He breathed in the scent of her hair as he held her. “My love… oh my love” he murmured. “Life has been miserable since you vanished.” “I am sorry for putting you through all these” she said, still in his arms. Deolu pulled her back and kissed her forehead, her cheeks and lips. Ken coughed audibly as he fisted his arms. Deolu held on to Lucy without letting her go and Bewaji put her hand on her husband’s shoulder to calm him. “Why don’t we move this love scene to the sitting room” Bewaji said, moving towards the couple. Several minutes after, everyone was seated in the sitting room. Lucy sat at the middle of Teju and Deolu and he held her to him with her head resting on his shoulders. With everyone being attentive, she narrated everything that happened, although carefully edited. She told them how Fred had stabbed her because of jealousy and had dumped her thinking that she was dead. How she had been rescued by Raymond and admitted in the hospital where she spent over three weeks. How she had spent some days in Raymond’s house in order to fully recuperate. Ken was already pacing when she finished. “That filthy son of the devil” he swore. Bewaji was almost in tears at the thought of what her daughter had gone through and she said that she would like to meet Raymond. “That guy is our saving grace” she said. Deolu was furious, just like Ken. Teju just sat and stared, calculating like the lawyer she was. Lucy’s stomach grumbled and she remembered that she had not eaten anything. She had skipped breakfast at Ray’s place when there was no one to eat with. “Please can I get something to eat? I am starving” she complained. Everyone swung to action like she was the first lady. She wanted to go to the kitchen herself but she was denied. Food was presented in no time and she dug into the food. Everyone watched her as she ate, knowing that her being alive was a miracle. Watching her eat brought pleasure to them all.

    EPISODE 24

    After Luciana had eaten, they had allowed her take a nap in order to rest and relax more. Luciana had fallen into a dreamless sleep and woke up almost two hours later. The first person she saw when she opened her eyes was her mum. Bewaji seemed to derive pleasure from watching her daughter sleep; in fact, she derived pleasure in watching everything Luciana did. Lucy smiled down at her mother with sleepy eyes. “Relax mum, I am not going anywhere”. Bewaji smiled. “It would take a few days to make me believe it baby” Lucy nodded. “I missed you mum, so much” she sat up. “Me too dear. I told you that leaving this house was a bad idea but you never listen. You are just as stubborn as your father” “Don’t go there mum. I left for work, besides, I like it there. I love the work. Mum, I think it is best I talked with everyone about the situation on ground. The guy is still freely roaming the streets” she changed the subject. Luciana got to the sitting room and found everyone waiting there, having a little chatter. Their eyes followed her to her seat, making her feel awkward, with her legs hitting themselves. “Can you guys stop staring? You are making me feel weird” she stated exasperatedly. Teju laughed. “We are still surprised that you are here babe”. “Get used to it” “I am used to it already. Now, let’s get down to business” she transformed to a lawyer within the twinkling of an eye and Lucy smiled. “I have my luggage packed for Abuja tomorrow. I should be able to lay my hands on the murderer.” “Fred is not a murderer, he was just blinded with jealousy-” everyone in the room stared at Lucy like she had lost her mind. “Besides, Teju, you can’t go looking for a ‘murderer’ in Abuja. He is a man and you are a woman; a fragile one at that” “Oh… give me a break Lucy. It was your mummy attitude I missed a lot. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I am a barrister for heaven’s sake” Teju retorted. “Lucy is right” Deolu stated. “It is risky having you there alone. I am coming with you”. “Obviously not. I am not going to be all alone, that policeman Deolu told me about would be helping me out. Besides, you need Deolu here now.” She replied. “No” Luciana said immediately. She softened. “Listen Teju, I would hate myself forever if anything happened to any of you because of me; you especially. Let Deolu go with you. He is a man and he can take care of you and himself” Lucy concluded. “I want to go and see the face of that scoundrel and teach him a lesson he would not forget in a hurry” Ken dropped with finality in his tone. “You would do no such thing” Bewaji said glaring at him. Teju looked at the whole scenario and laughed. “Well, this is cozy. Since my over-protective sister does not want me alone, I would go with Deolu. His numerous connections should come in handy. Dad, I am afraid your presence there would be more harm than good”. Ken growled. Women and their easy ways of twisting themselves around your neck until you had no choice but to succumb to their will. He swallowed. Teju thought of how to drop what had popped into her mind during the course of the argument. She knew it would not be taken well. “There is a little problem though”. When she had all their attention, she continued. “There is no evidence. When we find Fred, which I am sure we will, there would still be no evidence to ensure he gets the punishments for his crimes. If he gets a good lawyer in court, he might even coin his way out without a scratch” “What other evidence is required? My daughter here is enough testimony”. Ken said and Bewaji nodded her head vigorously. “No sir, the law does not work like that. We need proof. If only we could make Fred assume that Lucy is dead…” “What?” Deolu yelled and Ken sat with his eyes wide open. Lucy seemed to have frozen on her seat. “God forbid” Bewaji yelled. “Listen, I am not in for all this ridiculous nonsense you lawyers put yourselves into.” “Please understand me. If Fred is made to believe that Lucy is dead, we can get some evidence from him. After his mind must have settled on the fact that she is dead, Lucy can now appear to him like a ghost and he would spill the beans, while we record secretly; just like what we see in the movies”. Lucy laughed slightly. “I have always imagined myself as an actress. When do we get to act this movie?” Bewaji turned glaring eyes at Lucy and she flinched. “You want me to announce the death of my daughter when she is still alive?” Ken asked, stupefied. “And would remain alive for a long long time” Bewaji added. Teju was speechless; she also could not believe that she was uttering such jargons, even though she knew the stunt would be helpful. “But I understand what you are trying to say” Ken said thoughtfully and Bewaji turned to glare at him. “It does not have to be made public. We can just get someone to print it out in something that would definitely pass for a colorless newspaper. Add other irrelevant stories. It can just be a piece of the newspaper, a fake newspaper at that. You can s–t it in your bag and show them. They would be so concerned about the story in the paper that they would not even think about the authenticity of the story. Besides, that is the news Fred is expecting. He already imagines her dead; we just need to fuel his conviction”. “You think and talk like a lawyer sir” Teju grinned. Ken shrugged. “Well, I always knew I could succeed in that profession but unfortunately, I went for engineering.” “You would beat the experts in the field also” “Ken” Bewaji yelled, with her eyes popping. “Mum, it is ok. As long as this can keep Fred locked up in the cell, I am down with it. I should enjoy the acting”. Teju noticed Lucy’s emphasis on Fred’s being locked up and it struck her as odd. The Lucy she knew would even intercede and plead on the behalf of even a murderer. Even though she would like to believe that the reason for Lucy’s action was because the person that this murderer had attempted killing was her own self, she knew that there was more to it than meets the eye. She had noticed the way Lucy carefully picked her words when she had explained what happened to her earlier on. She looked at Lucy and wondered what Fred had actually done to her. ********** ********** Deolu and Teju walked into a hotel the following evening. They had left Lagos later than they ought to because they needed that newspaper, even though it was only a spreadsheet. Deolu had booked a flight for both of them and they were in Abuja earlier than expected. “We need two rooms, very close to each other.” Deolu smiled at the receptionist. Teju rolled her eyes as she watched the receptionist flirt with Deolu. She almost hissed out of annoyance. That is the way ladies bring themselves low and end up becoming a ‘use and dump’ for guys. She mused. The lady gave Deolu the two keys and he gave her some money with some extra naira notes for herself. She thanked him immensely and her praises followed them as they walked away from the reception. “Do you have to do that?” “Do what?” Deolu returned. “Tip everyone you see. Money should be spent carefully. The fact that you have excess money does not mean that you should spend it lavishly” Deolu smiled. “I don’t tip everyone I see, only those that I feel like. It is good to give people money, especially people who are in need of it. You don’t know who might be of help to you tomorrow”. “I give alms to the needy, I am not saying it is wrong, only that you should be careful to not overdo it”. She replied. “Yes ma” he gave a mock bow. Their rooms were opposite each other, so they both went to their rooms to freshen up and relax. Barely thirty minutes after, Teju knocked on Deolu’s door. He had just finished putting on a casual cloth after taking a shower. He would have relaxed a bit on the bed if Teju hadn’t knocked. When he opened the door, he noticed she was still in the clothes she had on before. “Come inside Teju. Thought I should give you some time to relax before we get dinner” he said as he ushered her in. She laughed slightly. “There is no time to waste. I need to survey my surroundings and get some things to work on tonight, so that I can have a solid ground to work on tomorrow”. Deolu stared at her. “This is past six Teju, it is almost dark. Everything can wait till tomorrow.” “No.” Teju shook her head with a calm smile. Deolu looked at her for some seconds and exhaled. “Sit” he ordered. Teju wanted to argue but the tone of his voice told her that there would be no room for arguments. Seated, she faced Deolu on the chair. “I am seated. What is it?” “Teju, I have known you for some time now and I think I know you to a certain extent. The recent problems have brought us together more and I have been able to see a part of you that I never saw before. You changed recently. You have become quiet and distant. You have also turned to a workaholic. Something is wrong. Can you tell me?” Teju paused and looked on. “What makes you think something is wrong? Lucy-” “Don’t give me that fake story, Teju. I know you are hurting, someone hurt you badly but I don’t know who. Is it your fiancé?” Teju’s head snapped. “No” she stood up immediately but Deolu held her hand back. “Be honest with me T, let it out. What did he do?” he probed, getting up too but keeping his voice calm and soothing. “He dumped me six months and five days to our wedding for a harlot, that’s what he did”. She snatched her hand from his and flew out of the room. ********** ********** Lucy lay on the bed as her mind wandered away. She swallowed as various unwanted thoughts clouded her brain. She wondered if it was possible to sleep without thinking. “Luciana” Bewaji called and she jerked out of her thoughts. She was not aware of the door opening. “Hey mum, you are not asleep yet?” Bewaji smiled. “No. I feel we need to go and thank the Good Samaritan that helped you. You surely know the place. That guy was used by God to save your life.” Lucy’s heart skipped severally. “You know mum that I ought to lay low for now. We don’t want someone to pass information to Fred that he or she saw me. You know, we had been friends for a long time and most of his friends know me”. “That filthy thing” Bewaji swore. “Although, you could write the address of that Raymond so that we can go there without you. I would never be at rest until I appreciate that guy for the great thing he did for me. Your dad and I would go; you would stay here with Dana” she concluded. Lucy swallowed hard. “Ok mum”

    EPISODE 25

    Deolu knocked on Tejus door the next day. He hadnt been able to get her to open the door the previous day and he had called for dinner to be sent to her room. He was already dressed for the day ahead and he wondered if Teju was awake yet. He wanted to confirm what she would take for breakfast so they could eat together and possibly talk about her heartbreak. The door opened and Teju stood before him – fully dressed. “You are awake?” he managed to murmur. “Obviously” she grinned. “Good morning Dee” she looked him over with the same grin on her face. “Lemon looks good on you Teju, so much” Deolu said with an appreciative look in his eyes. “Anything would look good on me” she dropped. “Obviously” Deolu mimicked and Teju smiled. “Why do I feel that you are dressed to seduce?” He raised his eyebrow. Teju feigned a look of innocence. “Can’t say I know what you are talking about” the look he gave her forced her to drop the pretense. “Alright, fine. Looking good and appealing is part of my tactic today. No one refuses a beautiful lady anything, thanks to God, I have a lot of beauty at my disposal”. She landed and Deolu grinned. “Won’t you invite me in?” Teju opened the door wide enough for him to enter. As he entered, she grinned again mischievously and Deolu became nervous. “Spill it” he dropped. Teju laughed. “I never knew that you could dress so erm… so normally.” He blanched. “Normal” he repeated. “Yes. I mean, no suit and tie that makes you look like a pastor or a banker. You look like a guy in this outfit of jeans and T shirt” she said, tongue in cheek. “Wow… I never knew that the suit made me look so cheesy and serious” She laughed. “Not so serious. They all look good on you. You won’t be Luciana’s guy if you were anything less” she grinned. He cleared his throat, sitting down. “Thought she didn’t care about the physical appearance”. “All ladies do. We like to show off our man” she picked up her shoes and started putting them on. He saw the tray on the table. “You have eaten?” “Yeah. Had to do so in order for me to get to business early enough” she was done with her shoes. “Can we talk” Teju glanced at him, and without even looking, she knew what was coming. “Maybe when I come back; time is against me” He frowned. “We are going together” She shook her head. “No Dee. I have to do this on my own. You people did not understand me when I talked then. It won’t work well if they see you there now. They don’t know me, especially the DPO who is our target. It would be easier for me being a lawyer and I don’t want you to ruin everything with your presence. Don’t get me wrong, the DPO might see you afar off and flee. That is what I am against”. She smiled at him. “I can take care of myself, you don’t have to bodyguard me”. “I would love to take you up on that but-” “But I am late. The earlier the better” she concluded. Deolu knew he would get nowhere by arguing with her. He would get her later, but for now, she needed to have her way. He stood up as his tummy grumbled for attention. “Guess I would be eating alone then. Be careful” he murmured when he got to the door. She smiled as she lifted her bag. “No mortal can do anything to Teju except God allows it”. She smiled at her own words, remembering Tunde and the fact that she had not yet accepted that his leaving her was God’s will. ********** ********** “I can’t believe she is gone” Vicky murmured as she sat on the couch facing Raymond. She had just arrived from her friend’s place and after dropping her things, she discovered that Lucy was not in. Raymond broke the news of her departure to her. “The earlier you believe it, the better for you” Ray’s eyes were fixed on the flat screen TV. She sighed. “I must have scared her off; and to think I imagined that she accepted me for who I am… should have known that no one can” she was sober. “What are you talking about” Ray’s attention turned to her instantly. “I told her about my sexuality” “You did what?” Raymond yelled as he jumped to his feet. “What were you thinking? Were you daft or something” “I was perfectly ok. Just did not want someone to like me and later become disappointed when they find out the truth” Ray did not know why he yelled that way but he was furious. He had been the only one in their family to accept Vicky unconditionally even though her acts irritated him terribly. “When did you tell her?” “The day after I arrived” Ray looked at her like she had gone mad but he held his tongue. He wondered why he did not see the trace of hate in Lucy towards Vicky. Not everyone would accept a lesbian that easily except if they believed in them, which he found ridiculous. “Well, she left for her family. She even said in her letter that she wished you guys were sisters”. Vicky was stunned but she did not have the opportunity to probe him further because they heard the gate open and Ray knew who to expect. He opened the door and met Duke who was walking majestically towards him. The guy could be a charmer any time any day without even trying. “Hey man” he greeted Duke with a smile and they gave themselves the usual manly hug. “To what do I owe the honour?” “Is it a crime to visit my best friend?” “Judging by the last time you visited me, I would bet this year’s salary that you are not here specifically for me” “I would be ready to take that bet anytime” he grinned. They entered the sitting room and Vicky who had been watching a movie turned round. Duke’s heart skipped a beat as he stared at the only woman he had ever loved. He had fallen in love with her long ago but when he bore his heart to her, she had in turn told him that she saw him as someone of the same s-x with her and the only people that appealed to her were females. Being in love with a lesbian was the last thing he ever imagined would happen to him. The incident would have affected his relationship with Raymond but he did not allow it. It took a long time for him to forget her even though she was already out of the country. Vicky swallowed and smiled tightly at Duke. If she had known that he would be visiting, she would have stayed back at her friend’s place, besides, she was also a lesbian. “Hello Vic” Duke finally broke the silence. Ray just stood still, watching the drama. “I can see that you are still as sexy as ever” his eyes roamed Vicky and Raymond frowned protectively. “And you are even more of a flirt” Vicky replied with a corny smile. “Amen to that” Duke’s eyes held no smile even though his smile portrayed them. “OK” Ray cut in. “Vicky, could you please get us juice?” Vicky left without a reply and Ray fixed Duke a warning glare. As they sat, Ray faced Duke. “I think I am ready for that bet now” Duke hissed and he laughed. ********** ********** Lucy washed the dishes and her mum kept on pestering her. She wondered why the questions her mum was asking were affecting her comfort; but she knew. She knew why she felt uncomfortable. “Answer me Lucy, I am your mum. You should not be shy to tell me about your love life. Knowing how long you stayed without a single boy in your life, I bet Deolu did what all those guys could not do. Tell me, how did you meet?” Bewaji glued herself to the side of the zinc, grinning like a teenager. Luciana sighed. “Work brought us together mum. We needed a supply of some furniture and I had to meet with Deolu for negotiation.” Bewaji smiled. “At least something good came out of that job. Now I am happy that you took the job because if you did not, you would probably remain single forever. Tell me: was it love at first sight or did it grow on you?” Luciana’s stomach turned so much that she felt she might throw up. She became whiter than she already was but Bewaji mistook her reaction for embarrassment. Luckily for Lucy, Bewaji’s phone rang and she went for it, leaving her to breathe in a free air again. ********** ********** Teju walked stylishly into the police station with a faint and feminine smile on her face. She saw the way the policemen had their eyes on her with every step she took. Deolu had been right. The dress made her feel feminine and in control. She got to the counter. “Good morning, please I am here to see the DPO” she said with an irresistible smile on her face. The three policemen were grinning foolishly and she felt the urge to punch them in the face. “I would give anything to be the reason for your visit” the one facing her said. She half laughed. “You won’t betray your DPO now, would you? Even if you are this handsome” she could not believe her own words. Another policeman pushed the other away. “What? I am more handsome” he grinned. Teju laughed. “Sure. You all are. Now I want to see your DPO, when I am through, I would see you guys”. They all smiled. “You dey lucky say e dey office” the last one said in pidgin and Teju wondered if his earlier silence was because he could not speak proper English. He left for the DPO’s office after asking of her name while Teju continued chatting with the other two. “You fit go inside” Teju thanked him with a smile and walked to the office, knocking slightly before entering. “Hello DPO… Mr. Chuks?” “Yes. Please have your seat.” His eyes lit with appreciation at her beauty and she smiled internally. After she was seated, she placed her small purse on the table. “Please, I don’t know you; how may I help you?” “The question should be: how may ‘I’ help you” she countered. Chris frowned. “I don’t understand lady” Teju smiled menacingly. “Let’s just say I have the power to destroy you” Chris gasped. “The power to break you and shatter all you have ever worked for”. Chris composed himself. “Are you here to threaten me?” Teju’s smile did not leave its place. “I am not here to threaten. I am here to assure you of what I would do”. When she saw that a certain level of fear had been implanted, she slowly picked her purse and opened. “I have something that would interest you” she took out the carefully folded newspaper, opened it and gave it to the DPO. His hands and eyes froze when she stared at the same girl she had seen in the picture given to him by Deolu. The truth was already out, he knew it. “What… what… what is… this? And who the hell are you” he yelled as his palms began to sweat. Teju deliberately took out the smile on her face slowly, leaving her face serious and blank. “That signified that Luciana was murdered and I am Barrister Teju Bello, Deolu’s lawyer” she dropped. Chris’ mouth fell open as he tried to gather what was happening to him. His life was now completely ruined. He would be behind bars, all for helping that Fred. His wife… his two daughters… he could not imagine it. Teju smiled and got up slowly, roaming the office slowly. “When Deolu had told me that no move was taken in Abuja concerning the search of the murderer, I decided to dig. I wondered which DPO would be at peace knowing that a murderer was roaming the FCT of Nigeria. Then I discovered the reason: he knows, or should I say well acquainted with the murderer.” She faced him as his eyes watered. “How would you love to be charged for treason sir? You know, you could as well be his accomplice.” “No ma’am. Please for God’s sake. I did not do anything, please. My children are still very small, please” he begged, getting up. “I know you are a good man, just don’t know why you are protecting this murderer. He murdered that innocent girl in cold blood, what makes you think he can’t do the same with you or your children? Listen, I would give you the chance to right this mistake. Produce Fred and I would not press any charges against you. My client does not know about your betrayal but believe me; he would not hesitate to ruin your life and career if he found out that you are in any way connected with Fred. The guy killed his fiancée!” she exclaimed as fury sliced through her. “You have 24 hours to think about it” she dropped a tiny card on the table and picked up the newspaper which had fallen carelessly out of Chris’ hands. “Give me a call when you have made up your mind and don’t think of doing anything foolish. You don’t want to mess with Teju Bello, believe me” her eyes held meaning as they burned fire. She straightened and smiled mischievously. “Have a nice day” she walked quietly out of the office, leaving Chris shaken.

    EPISODE 26

    Duke and Raymond discussed unhindered in the sitting room. Raymond was trying his possible best to use his best friend as a tool in order to forget his worries and keep his head straight. Never did a minute pass when he did not think about Luciana, worrying if she was alright. Being in the office made it worse; he was being paid to stay focused when he was doing the exact opposite. He could not remember anyone who took over his thoughts the way Luciana had done successfully. They were never intimate throughout their stay except for the kiss that in the gym. Even though he had been barely conscious, he still felt her soft lips on his and it had continuously haunted him until he felt he would run mad from desiring to really kiss her. The gym had become his favorite part of the house because he went there frequently to work of his stress and thoughts; even at that, there was little or no effect. He had no doubt in his mind that the kiss was what propelled Lucy’s speedy departure. He had known that she would leave soon but not as fast as a bullet. “RAY” Duke yelled as he and Vicky stared at Raymond who suddenly bolted out of his reverie. The two pairs of eyes peering at him drew a scowl from him. “What is it? Do you have to yell my name like that when we are two steps away from each other?” Ray asked as the anger that had become his best friend for the past few days began to erupt. “Considering the fact that I have been calling and talking to you for minutes now with your mind being far away, I was sorely tempted to use a megaphone in retrieving your escaping mind” Duke ranted. “What the hell have you been thinking about?” “I am sure a particular fair goddess with an incredibly long brown hair and striking eye balls has created a castle in his head. He was merely exploring it” Vicky said with a glint of humor in her eyes. Duke frowned. “I never knew Raymond was that much into Tinuke. Especially with all her unbearable attitudes. Does she have brown hair?” Vicky snorted. “Tinuke my foot. Even Tinuke cannot stand Lucy’s beauty. Ray has been testy ever since the rare beauty left, I have no doubt he is in love with her” Duke smiled. “You don’t say” he had a devilish grin that Ray already recognized as a sign that he would continuously tease him until he said something. He hissed. Duke and Vicky kept on talking about him, like he was not present while he just looked on. “Raymond is in love!” Duke exclaimed then out of the blues, he asked Vicky. “How did you know?” She smiled. “You only need to see the way he looks at her. He stares at her even when she is not looking and the look on his face is priceless. She was able to pull him to the kitchen, can you believe that? He looks at her like she was the last icing on the cake and he would not wait to grab it for himself” Ray snorted. “If I am correct, you used to think the same of Bose and I” he replied. She smiled. “Yeah, I used to, because I mistook your likeness for her as love. The way you gazed at Lucy can never be compared to the way you looked at Bose. The chemistry between you and Lucy cannot be denied also; I am sure Lucy left because she could not withstand your powerful appeal. I noticed her efforts in ensuring you guys never stood too close to each other” she had this love signs in her eyes as she talked. The analysis struck Duke as odd, coming from the mouth of Vicky. “And how would you know how a man looks at a woman he loves?” Vicky turned to him as the humor in her eyes and voice evaporated. Ray noticed the turning table with both relief and anxiety. “I don’t expect you to know that. The highest you should know is how a woman in love looks at another woman” Duke continued. “Bring it down Duke” Raymond said quietly, knowing how hard it had been for Duke to forget Vicky. “I know exactly what a man in love looks like…” Vicky felt insulted. “Humor me” Duke countered. Raymond stood up with a sigh and turned towards the entrance. He knew that they needed to settle their score so he decided to leave them alone. He had enough things to think about. When he got to the doorway, he faced the duo and smiled. “I guess you don’t need me here. Three is a crowd. Duke” he called. “Be a gentleman”. “How can I be anything less? I would not dream of crossing the line with someone who considers herself a man, even though she dresses otherwise. Would rather be with that fat dwarf in the office”. Ray swallowed and left them alone while Vicky sat down, glaring. She was hurt by that sentence. “So, you consider me unappealing” Vicky mouthed. “It is your appeal that sickens me. I was crazily in love with you but what did you give me? You threw my love in my face, telling yourself the ridiculous story of being a lesbian” “It is not a ridiculous story. I am a lesbian. Men do not appeal to me and it is not my fault that I am like this. I did not create myself” “You were not made like this. The problem is that you have not found the guy to make you squirm” “I am not interested in any search. I have searched and found no one but now I am comfortable with what I am” she glared and stood up as she became very angry. “The earlier you accept it, the better for you. I have not had anything to do with men for over a decade and I never will” she declared. “I would be an exception” Duke grabbed her hand and pulled her to him, so fast that she did not even have enough time to breathe. “What the hell is this?” she asked breathlessly. “When I kiss you, I want you to know that it is Duke and not one of those whores” with that he brought down his lips to hers, kissing her thoroughly with anger. She struggled for some time against his chest but he pinned her to him until she later relaxed, knowing that no harm would come from letting him indulge himself. She was sure that he would have no effect on her. When Duke sensed her total surrender, his anger seemed to evaporate and what was left was the love he had for her. He had been sure the feelings were dead but now they burned with rage, even higher than what he had felt for her five years ago. Even as he kissed her, he knew that he would suffer the consequences. He would have to deal with killing that feeling all over again but even at that, he just kissed her. When she placed her palm on his chest, a cold shiver went down his spine and he jerked away from her. She looked stunned but he just turned around and marched out of the house without looking back. ********** ********* When Raymond left the main house, his intention was to go into the gym as he usually does but he found himself opening another door. Even as he stepped into the room, he could not believe that his legs had brought him there. There was a time when art was his life and he could hardly do without drawing or painting in a day. But he hadn’t lifted a paintbrush or a drawing pencil in years and he wondered if the gift was still there. He swallowed as he traced some of the paintings with his fingertips, drawing dust from them. He remembered with a smile that Lucy also traced them that way. Raymond took calculated steps towards that stunning painting on the wall and took it in his hands. That painting was the last one he had done. He painted it some weeks before his parents’ death. His parents had been having marital problems which took only God’s intervention to manage. They had been on the brink of divorce and it affected everyone terribly. It all started when a guy came into the house, claiming that he was Mr. James’ son. Everyone had assumed that he was mad or on the verge of madness but they had received the shock of their lives when their dad confirmed the news. His wife hadn’t been able to comprehend the fact that she had a step-son, especially one that was almost the same age with her first son, Kelvin. Raymond and his siblings were also very shocked to find out that they had a step brother. He had destroyed the peace in the house, all bent on destroying the happiness and love which was resident in the house. Even after everyone, including his mum had come to accept the boy and forgive the mistake made by their father; the guy was still bent on destroying the family. He framed up their dad until there was no trust again. The day everything was resolved, it was a dream come true for Raymond and his siblings because one of the people who connived with the guy came to confess and everything was resolved. He had begun that painting of his parents, telling a story of the pain they went through during that period but they never got to see the painting. He had anticipated and foreseen the smile on their faces when he handed the picture to them but it never happened. The crash burned in his memory. For the first time since the crash, Raymond really cried. He hadn’t been able to cry. At times, it would be a few drops which he would control but he had never broken down in tears because he had feared that he would cry himself to death. It had taken the strength of Raymond and his two brothers to console their two sisters. He wondered what would have happened if they had taken the girls to the crash venue. He turned and saw the unfinished sketch on the canvas which was still on the easel. His hands balled into fists as he willed himself to walk towards it. He swallowed hard. That was the only thing that came to his mind after the crash. After the incident, he had ran to painting, seeking refuge, hoping that it would make him forget but the opposite was what it gave him. Every time he picked up his pencil to sketch, he found himself sketching the burnt and frozen bodies he had seen. It scared him as hell and after the fifth try; he ran out of the room and never returned. He replaced the canvas with a blank one and took out a pencil. He took a deep breath and prayed silently that his nightmare would not resurface. He had only one image on his head as he started to sketch again. ********** ********** Luciana entered the empty church with her head covered with a shawl, to prevent people from seeing her. She had struggled with her parents until they finally allowed her to go. She walked to the pulpit feeling totally miserable. She had never been this confused, sad and angry in her life. When she got to the altar, she sat at the edge and just stared into space. “What have I done Lord?” she began as her heart ached. “Why do I have to go through this turmoil? Why have you subjected me to this test? I know I was wrong, did not seek your consent before going for Deolu out of pressure but must I go through this pain now?” tears slipped down her cheeks and she furiously wiped them away. She swallowed as she remembered the constant calls of her parents, asking her to bring a man home. Ever since she clocked 21, the tune had changed from ‘don’t let me see you wasting your time with any boy when you need to face your studies’ to ‘you are a grown woman, when would you bring the lucky man home’. It had been tough because her mum believed that any girl that was 21 years was ripe enough for marriage. When she clocked 23 and was not even seen with anyone in the male gender, not to mention being engaged, the pressure had increased. The job away from home had been all that she needed to breathe but still, her parents kept calling and asking. She was never angry because she knew that they loved her and being the only child, their focus was constantly fixed on her. What happened when she was 20 years old and in her third year in school had distanced her from men and she had maintained that distance. Fred was the only male friend she had in school but she saw him as a friend and nothing more even though he tried to change it. Deolu came along and was even closer to her than Fred was. He was everything a lady could want in a man – a Christian who loved God, a handsome guy who could make ladies trip, a successful and independent man, and a guy who loved her so much. It hadn’t come as a surprise when Deolu asked her out and she had accepted even though she did not love him. Of course, Deolu never knew that she did not love him but she knew that the feelings she had for Deolu were too simple and easy to be called love. She liked him and felt that was enough because she had given up on herself, saying that she was incapable of love. But here she was, madly in love with someone she had lived with for two weeks and three days. Madly in love with someone who just broke off his engagement to his fiancée immediately she entered his house. Madly in love with someone who had too many ghosts haunting his dreams. Madly in love with someone who had given up on God. Madly in love with someone whose sister is a lesbian. “Why is this happening to me?” she screamed at the pulpit as more tears left her eyes. “I just want to be happy Lord” she sniffed. “Why am I now faced with these feelings for Raymond when I am obviously with another man?” she lamented. She knew that her heart would never allow her to leave Deolu even though she was clearly in love with Raymond. Deolu had gone through a lot when she was away, it would be suicidal if she told him that she was in love with someone else. Was that not what that useless Tunde did to Teju? Teju had told her everything shortly before she went to Abuja and Lucy had insulted Tunde, calling him all sort of names. Lucy felt she would be in the same category with Tunde if she left Deolu, even though she was not after s-x. Raymond was not perfect in any way but whenever she saw him, she saw perfection. Ever since she got to that house from the hospital and found out that Vicky was a lesbian, along with their religious status, she hadn’t stopped praying for them. Even though Ray’s physical appearance alone was enough to make any lady desire a steaming night, his looks was not the only thing she loved about him. She loved his jovial nature. She loved his ability to understand her silence within the few times they had spent together. She loved his attachment to his parents, even though it was a bit of a setback for him considering his inability to forget their death. She loved his romantic attitude. She loved his inability to cook. She loved his self confidence and independence which was very evident. The fact that he still worked under someone however surprised her. Ray was very famous, probably even more famous than Deolu but she saw and felt his humility and his down-to-earth nature. His compassion was great. She sighed and stood up. Once again, she had been carried away by thoughts centered on Raymond. She wondered if Raymond felt the same way but common sense made her feel that the feelings she had was not reciprocated because she felt that he would love his fiancée, or ex-fiancée. He had slept with his fiancée a lot, he must love her. She swallowed as jealousy threatened to choke her. “Lord, please fix this for me. If you don’t I would end up living with Deolu, while my heart stayed with someone else” she demonstrated, like she was talking to a physical being. “I also want Fred to pay for what he did to me. Father, you know what he did. Please, fight for me” she wiped her face and went out of the church with the shawl carefully covering her face. ********** ********** Teju arrived at the hotel feeling satisfied. She was hundred percent sure that everything would be over in the next two days. She was always happy whenever something was going according to plan. She knocked on the door of Deolu’s room excitedly and was glowing when he opened the door. “Well, I don’t need to ask how things went” he said as a form of greeting. “Hi” Teju responded instead and brushed past him into the room. She looked like a kid whose mother just bought a baby doll. “How did it go?” he asked. “Thought you did not need to ask” she sat on the chair. “I am sure it went well.” She answered and went ahead to narrate everything to Deolu, right from the second she entered the station to the time she left. Deolu smiled through it all but was surprised by the slight annoyance and irritation he felt when she mentioned the stares and filthy comments she received from the policemen. “I was not too happy putting that man through all that” Teju confessed. “He was only trying to help his brother” “He is a conniving beast. If not for your insistence, I would take him to court along with that b—–d” Teju understood. “I was right. He knows where he is and had been protecting him but he loves his family more. He would not want to lose his career, family and everything by protecting a criminal. He risks the penalty of death if he is caught with this act.” “Lawyers” he murmured with admiration and Teju grinned. He hadn’t seen her this lively in days and the great happiness he felt because of her good mood surprised him. “You are here now. I want to hear everything about that guy who deliberately gave up a good thing. He must be a fool, I am not sorry to say that” Teju sighed. She had been contented with keeping her personal life out but Deolu had made it clear that he was not going to back off. She opened her mouth and started narrating everything that happened, exactly the way she had told Lucy. Lucy had insulted the living daylight out of Tunde that she even became happy. There is always this ability and power in a woman’s tongue that could turn any saint into a villain within the twinkling of an eye. As she told Deolu, she felt Goosebumps on her skin as she shivered in remembrance. Unknown to her, tears rolled down her cheeks and it was not until Deolu wiped it away that she noticed them. Wiping them away brought fresh tears and Deolu had to hold her. He was quite used to crying women but seeing the strong and independent Teju crying tore at Deolu’s heart painfully and he also started raining insults on Tunde who was not physically present. Everything became quiet some minutes later but Teju was still in Deolu’s arms. She started to pull away but she looked at him and became very alarmed by how close they were. Their faces were only inches apart and she could not pull back. Deolu bent his head and covered her mouth with his in a firm kiss. It took Teju some seconds to realize what was going on. She was being kissed by her best friend’s fiancé! She flew out of his arms and did not pause before swinging her palm to connect with Deolu’s cheeks. “You b—–d. You are just as evil as Tunde. How dare you kiss your fiancée’s best friend?” she asked herself the same question. Deolu was as stunned as Teju. He did not know what devil had made him act before thinking. He did not know what he was doing until he had done it. Now, the damage had been done and he was too alarmed to utter a word. Teju looked at him like he was a demon incarnate. “I thought you loved Lucy. How dare you?” before Deolu could open his mouth, Teju’s phone rang and she picked it with shaky hands, yelling hello into the mouth piece. She calmed down a bit when she listened to the other person, then she managed a shaky smile. “You’ve made the right decision sir. I would be there tomorrow” she hung up and stared at Deolu. She didn’t know if she was angrier at herself or Deolu. He is a man and she was the woman who should know better than to cry in the arms of a man – her best friend’s hubby. “I don’t need you here. Please leave if you have enough dignity in you to do that. As you can see, I have everything under control and I can take care of myself” she turned towards the door. “It is not like that Teju. I am-” Teju slammed the door hard. And Deolu blinked. “Sorry” he finished silently as he held his head which had developed a splitting headache. ********** ********** Tinuke opened the door of Raymond’s sitting room without knocking. She wanted to see what Raymond had been up to. The first person she saw was Vicky and she frowned. “What are you doing here?” Tinuke asked. Vicky looked at her like she had lost her mind. Firstly, she entered without knocking and to make matters worse, she is asking her, Vicky, what she was doing in her brother’s house. Vicky clapped her head as she laughed. Her encounter with Duke fuelled her anger the more. “Oh my…” she said in her foreign voice. “You are asking me what I am doing in my brother’s house? How hilarious. Now, what the hell are you doing here?” she asked glaring. She had always hated Tinuke for her guts and audacity. “I am here to see my fiancé” Tinuke said boldly. Vicky laughed. “You mean, ex-fiancé” “What are you doing here Tinuke” Raymond growled and Tinuke spun to face Ray who was at the entrance. She composed herself and moved forward to hug him. “Baby……” she drawled as she went towards him with open hands. Ray blocked her advance with his hand, “Answer the d–n question. What the hell are you doing in my house?” he yelled now. “I am here to give you the good news baby” she was all smiles. “No news from you can be good” he declared. “Was about to say the same” Vicky added. “I am sure you would love this Ray” she paused for effect. “I am pregnant”

    EPISODE 27

    All the blood drained from Raymonds system as those three words echoed in his brain. He could no longer hear what was being said and all the blood in his veins seemed to have flowed to his feet, making it impossible for him to move. ‘I am pregnant’ it echoed again. Vicky clapped her hands, eyes flashing with humour and anger. “Tinuke, I have always known you to be the sneaky type but with this sort of plot, you deserve a gold medal. How dare you fake pregnancy because you want to have my brother back?”Vicky was very angry. She glanced at Raymond but he could not hear anything. Tinuke turned furious eyes at Vicky, dangling a piece of paper before her. “That is the doctor’s report”. “I don’t need a useless sheet of paper. You are not pregnant; but if you are, Raymond is most likely not the father” Tinuke looked insulted. She grabbed Raymond’s hand, successfully bringing him back to his senses. “Did you hear her Ray? She is questioning my fidelity! That is why I have always hated this lesbian sister of yours” Vicky’s hand itched to slap her but she controlled the urge. She should love the reality of being a lesbian the same way she had loved and accepted it for a long time but hearing Tinuke call her a lesbian was sounding terribly like an insult. She mentally blamed Duke for this. She hadn’t been able to think straight ever since Duke had kissed her senseless. Ray pushed Tinuke out of his way and swallowed hard. “It looks like I am on the verge of becoming an aunt” Vicky said in a jovial way, trying to bring down the tension he felt but it did not succeed. Tinuke saw his look of doubt and confusion. “Here, have a look at the test result” she put the paper in his hand but he could not even read it. All the letters on the paper vanished before his eyes. The read meaning of being doomed stared at him terrifyingly. He had just come to accept the fact that he was truly in love with Luciana but here he was with absolutely no hope in that direction because as the devil will have it, he would be fathering a child from his demented ex- fiance. It had been during his quiet time while drawing that he realised that he actually did not love Tinuke the way he loved Lucy. Lucy had given him back his artistry, had helped him get past his fears and had secured a very tender spot in his heart in the process. When he had picked up his pencil to sketch, Lucy was the only person that posed as a model in his senses. He remembered how beautiful she looked when she had entered his room the first Sunday she spent in his house. She had gazed at his bare chest with curiosity and longing and uncertainty while she thought he was asleep. He had loved that lovely gown on her, just as he had imagined when he spotted the gown in the boutique but it was absolutely lovelier when she wore it. As he sketched, he had entertained false hopes that they would meet again someday but standing in front Tinuke, he felt all his hopes shattered. Lucy vanished from his mind and he envisioned himself carrying a crying baby which had pooped in his pants and a yelling Tinuke complaining of too much stress. He swallowed and took a deep breath. He took out his phone and dialed a number. “Doc T…. good afternoon Doc…. I am on my way to the hospital now, are you there?…. Good. I need to carry out a pregnancy test and I need the result immediately… Ok then” he ended the call and even though the news had been too shocking to be true, he marched inside the bedroom with confidence, leaving the two ladies to stare at his wake. He returned some minutes later with his car keys and Tinuke swallowed. “Follow me” he muttered as he passed beside Tinuke and she followed like a robot. Vicky tagged along, determined to see the end of it all. ********** ********** Deolu knocked the door for the umpteenth time. “Please open up for me Teju, please.” Just like the past futile fifteen minutes, Teju did not respond. He became weary and agitated. “If you won’t open the door, I would break it down T” Deolu warned, his voice holding the assurance that he would not hesitate in doing what he just said he would. When no response came, he was scared that something might be wrong with Teju. He swallowed and moved several inches away from the door. “Move away from the door Teju” he said in an authoritative voice. Just as he was about to kick the door, Teju opened it and peered at him. “What do you want?” Teju asked steely. Deolu blinked. “I need five minutes of your time, after that you can throw me out. Please” Teju swallowed. “I am counting already” Some people passed by them, obviously going to their hotel rooms. “can I at least come inside?” Teju gave it a thought and opened the door wider. Immediately he entered, she closed the door and relaxed her back against it. Deolu could not bring himself to sit down so he just paced and finally stopped some steps away from Teju. “I am sorry Teju, I am so sorry. i… I should never have done what I did but it just happened. I was not thinking straight.” He swallowed as everything he had rehearsed vanished from memory. “You know me T, I am not a betrayer, I can’t do such a thing against you or against Lucy. Please forgive me. It won’t happen again” he finished and looked straight into her eyes. Teju swallowed. She felt so miserable. Why was she casting all the blames on Deolu when she was the one who went crying in his arms? She had effectively pulled danger to herself with her own hands, knowing how most men were with crying women. “It is not your fault. I was the crying baby, I should have had more sense than to cry shamelessly in front of you” “No… no, you are not at fault at all; I was stupid” he said and Teju looked at him with a slow smile creeping up her face. Deolu did not understand her smile. “It won’t repeat itself again, I promise”. She smiled widely. “your five minutes is up” Teju said. He swallowed and nodded. He made for the door and opened it. “By the way, we should have Fred in our grasp tomorrow” she said as he walked out and he nodded. “At least there is good news”. She smiled. “We would be in Lagos faster than a sniper’s bullet”. Deolu winced. ‘So that is how much she wants to be rid of me’ he thought vaguely, also agreeing that he really wanted to be back in a sane environment. ********** ********** Raymond, Vicky and Tinuke sat in Doctor It’s office as they waited for the lab results. Vicky was trying to diffuse the tension which cracked the air uncomfortably. “Just think about it Ray, it is not so bad to be a baby Dada, I am sure you would have a very beautiful baby as long as the baby is yours; that is if there is a baby” Tinuke faced her with a face wrinkled with anger. “I would have you eat back your words when the results are out” Vicky ignored her and continued her jest. “Imagine what it would be like to wash your baby’s buttocks after he had messed up himself. Trust me Ray, it is always helpful to think about it before it actually happens, that way, you would not be caught off guard. Ray glared at her and she blessed him with a sisterly grin, patting his thigh with her palm, she showed that she was equally as concerned as he was. Doctor Tunde entered the office as calmly as ever even though his face held no hint of a smile. Ray had insisted that he monitored the lab process and ensure that no mistake was made. He produced a paper containing the lab result but just as he had been unable to read anything then, he still was unable to read the lab result. He threw it back on the table. “I don’t have time for this crap Tunde, tell me what the result is” Tunde sighed and tried to bring up a small smile. “She is positive Ray, Tinuke is pregnant…..” Doctor Tunde continued talking but Ray could not hear a single word. He felt terribly alarmed and dumbstruck. He hadn’t felt more terrible in his entire life. The thought of having a baby, his own baby, excited him but he had for long destroyed the thought of having children from someone like Tinuke. The days he stayed away from Tinuke made him realise that the attachment he had for her was because he had deflowered her. The promise he made afterwards also fuelled his closeness to her. But now, he had broken the promise promise to never leave her and now, all he wanted to do was stay far away from her. She posed a hazard to his happiness and peace of mind. Raymond stood up slowly, not even conscious to the discussions between the people. He faced the door and walked out, ignoring Vicky and Tinu who called ceaselessly. Both of them ran after him, Tinuke playing the protective wife to be and Vicky playing the unyielding baby sister. Vicky got to Ray faster and snatched the keys from his hands. He in turn glared at her in a way that Tinuke squirmed in fear but Vicky did not bulge a bit. She was used to Raymond’s fury and could stand him. “You can get angry all you want but I would not sit back and watch you drive us into the mouth of a waiting trailer, speeding up my ascend to heaven. If you want to die, at least wait till we get home so you can die alone.” The humor in her eyes faded when she imagined that he might actually do it. “That is not an advice” When Ray did not leave where he was standing, she bypassed him and sat on the driver’s seat, strapping the seat belt instantly. When Ray did not leave where he was but continued to glare in her direction, she smiled lovingly and annoyingly at him. “You would want to get in the car if you don’t intend on walking home” with that, she slammed the door shut. Tinuke, who had been too scared to touch Ray considering his mood, quickly sat on the backseat of the car knowing that Vicky might speed off, leaving her behind. Ray swore under his breath as he grudgingly went over to the other side and sat down, closing his eyes instantly. “Oh… You finally agreed to imagine wiping your baby’s butt? It could be a really nice image” “Vicky” Ray warned with blazing eyes. She laughed and Raymond noticed that part of the tension had seeped out of him. Back in his office, Doctor Tunde shook his head sadly. He also had hoped to God that the result came out negative but instead, it had turned out positive. He had always felt that Tinuke was not right for Raymond but what right did he have to condemn her when it was none of his business. He had voiced his relief when Raymond had told him of their breakup but now, he had succeeded in tying himself to her for life. He felt sorry for Ray because he could vividly see that Tinu would make his life a living hell. That is why he always advised men to zip up. He sighed even when he knew that women could be terrifyingly tempting. ********** ********** Fred lay on the bed feeling aroused the next morning. Some weeks back, he would have walked confidently to the red zone and pick any girl he wanted for the night but now, even though there was some level of security where he was, he could not afford such publicity. Wanting Lucy had led him to the red zone so many times when he could not have her. He quenched the thought of Lucy instantly and decided to m——–e. Just as he was about to carry out the unholy act, he heard a knock on the door. He groaned as he left the bed grudgingly and made for the door. It would be either Chris or the lady who usually brought him food. If it was the lady, so help him God. He hoped she was the one as he went to the door, even though she was not really attractive. He asked who it was and his hopes shattered. He opened the door for Chris and they greeted even though Fred was not too happy to see him. Immediately they were both seated, Chris portrayed a serious face. “I have something to show you” he took out the folded news paper from his back pocket and gave it to a curious Fred. Immediately Fred saw the major obvious, he shivered and dropped the paper. The picture of Lucy which he had seen was too real. It was as if she were staring at him with accusing eyes. “She… She has been… Found” she stammered. “Yes. I thought of erm… Bringing this to you so you could see with your eyes.” Fred swallowed, his arousal long forgotten. They heard a knocked and Fred looked questioningly at Chris. “Are you expecting someone?” “Yes, I came with one of my boys who rushed off to eat. He must be the one” Fred smiled as he remembered his earlier thought when he heard the first knock. “Come in” he murmured and faced Chris to continue their discussion. He saw Chris’ eyes on the door and he turned and shrieked the at the sight before him. He had paled terribly and was glued to the chair. Teju smiled and entered the room with her usual flair and style. “We meet again Fred” she said with a smile that had the evident glint of anger. Fred shivered uncontrollably.

    EPISODE 28

    Two weeks ago, the tension had been thick in the air, filling everyone with dread and discomfort but thanks to the help of everyone, especially Deolu and Teju, there was a breathing space. They had been able to secure the arrest of Fred who was currently under detention, awaiting trial. Lucy felt the freedom to move freely again and was just too happy about it. She immediately went back to work amidst so many protests and complains from her parents but Lucy did not want to risk losing her employment in one of the fast growing advertising firms in Nigeria. She however could not stay there because her boss gave her leave for one month, wanting her to get everything settled before she finally resumed. Even though she had wanted her job to take her mind off the problems she faced, she was grateful for the break, even though she knew that she would pay for it when she finally resumed because they would wear her out with duties. Lucy remembered the day that her parents had gone to Raymond’s house. They had been so excited when they arrived, talking endlessly about their discussions with Raymond. They had exclaimed, asking why she did not tell them that he was the well-known artist. They had returned with a painting and Lucy noticed that she hadn’t seen that particular painting when she entered that room. Even though the paintings had been much and she could hardly see half of them, she had the distinctive feeling that the painting was new. That was probably the reason why he gave the painting to her parents; to tell her that he had moved on. She felt happy for him if that was the case, although, she had wished that Raymond would send her parents to her, to either tell her something or request something but he hadn’t. it had alarmed her when she noticed just how much she missed and desired to see him. Teju entered the room and jumped on Lucy’s bed. Bewaji and Ken had gone for a wedding function and Lucy had had the house to herself. “Hey beautiful” Teju called. Lucy glanced at the wall clock and stared at Teju. “Are you not supposed to be at work?” “You are not the only one who can be given leave, durr” Teju grinned. She grabbed Lucy’s hand and dragged her. “Get your sorry a-s out of bed, I am hungry” “Holy father” Lucy exclaimed, wanting to beat up Teju for disturbing her brain. “You know that Dana is in the kitchen right?” she murmured as Teju continued to drag her into the kitchen. “Yeah, she is. But since when did she start serving my food? I am in my house babe” “The more reason why you should serve yourself” Lucy responded, although admitted secretly that she was hungry too. “You see? You are also hungry” Lucy glared at her. “You are a witch” She laughed. “And you are a witch’s best friend. And as the saying goes, show me your friend and I would tell you who you are or who you would be” she grinned. Lucy shook her head. “you need deliverance” “I would book appointment for two with the pastor” Dana laughed out at the two friends who could not stop teasing each other. She loved listening and watching them and suddenly wished she also had a best friend. “Tell me we are not the cause of your laughter” Lucy murmured and Dana portrayed an innocent face. The two laughed and left the kitchen for the dinning with their plates of rice in hand. They prayed and delved into the food with vigor, only relaxing when the food was halfway through and the worst part of hunger had been eliminated. “T.J” Lucy called. “Yes ma’am” Teju replied cynically. “I want you to follow me somewhere” “OK maam” “Be serious my friend” Lucy snapped. “I have never been this serious honey” she grinned and Lucy sighed. “I need you to follow me to Raymond James’ house. I need to thank him personally for what he did for me. I don’t want to seem ungrateful” Teju stared at Lucy. “You have been calling him Raymond ever since you arrived but calling him Raymond James makes him sound different. Why does that name sound popular?” she looked thoughtful and Lucy smiled internally. She had successfully hid that fact from Teju knowing fully well that she would squeal when she found out. “Surely it is not James Ray” she waved her hand like she was wiping away the possibility but when Lucy smiled cynically, Teju’s eyes rounded like two lolly pops. “He is not the one right?” Lucy grinned. “Guess I was lucky to see your James Ray before you” “Oh my God!” Teju exclaimed and Lucy laughed. “When were you planning on telling me, naughty” she scolded. “Now, I guess… so are you coming with me?” “Are you kidding? I would get there before you”. They laughed. As they packed their plates to the kitchen, someone knocked and Dana went to open the door. They entered the sitting room and saw Deolu approaching them with a cool smile “Hello ladies” he greeted and they responded albeit similarly. He kissed Luciana’s forehead and stepped back. Lucy noticed that he hadn’t been the same since he returned from Abuja. He had made a habit of kissing her forehead instead of any other place and Lucy was happy about this turn up. She felt guilty for not being able to return his feelings and having him kiss her all the time would make her feel more guilty and awkward. Despite that fact though, she was curious. Apart from Deolu’s strange behaviour’s of late, she had also noticed Teju’s discomfort whenever Deolu was around. She wondered what had happened in Abuja. It seemed Teju was back to her usual aloof nature whenever Deolu was around even though they seemed like the best of friends when Lucy came back from exile. She had shrugged it off, feeling that Teju’s reactions towards Deolu had something to do with Tunde and her general distance from men lately but Lucy decided that there was something more to it. Teju hardly talked or looked at Deolu lately and Deolu did the opposite. He looked at her more and tried to talk to her more even though Teju was always reluctant to answer him. The next line of action was that Teju always looked for a reason to leave whenever Deolu was around. Lucy expected to feel jealous and put-off by this new turn-up but she was not. As they discussed, Lucy noticed this same thing repeating itself. She noticed the look of sadness in Deolu’s face whenever he stared at Teju and Teju paid him no heed and only looked at him when their faces collided coincidentally. Lucy was about to break the ice and speak her mind when Deolu’s phone rang. “Hello dear” he said immediately he picked the call. “No, don’t come to my house… yes, I am not home… where are you now?… ok… I am not far from you, I am in my fiancée's house… Yes, it is about time you met her… I would send the address now” he hung up and smiled. “My step-sister is coming. She has been clamouring to see you”. Lucy smiled. “I should be on my way now” Teju said, standing. “Why not meet my sister first?” Deolu asked. “No. I have some work to do” “Thought you were on leave” Lucy said “It is not official. See you guys” Before anyone could reply, she was out already and Lucy glimpsed a look of pain on Deolu’s face but it went quickly. She swallowed as her mind brought up the most logical explanation for the tension. ********** ********** Raymond sat in his office ruminating over the events in his life. His life hadn’t felt so shattered. He almost could not believe that those things were actually happening to him. He had been sleeping with Tinuke ever since they were together as she never returned pregnant because he always took precautions and watched her take drugs but just when he decided to vent his anger through s- x, it ended up being a terrible mistake. He was going to be a dad! He recalled the visit of Luciana’s parents and sighed audibly. He had needed no introduction to know that they were her parents. Lucy looked exactly like her mum. Her mum had been so stunningly beautiful that he wondered how beautiful she would still look when she clocked ninety. She was dazzling and breathtaking, no wonder Lucy’s father was glowing. His life must feel blessed, being surrounded by two dazzling beauties. He noticed that Lucy had her father’s shape of pointed nose. He swallowed as Luciana’s image popped in his mind. He could remember everything about her, including the colour shade of her hair although he hadn’t been opportune to feel the texture much even though he would love nothing more. Raymond drove all thought of Luciana away from his brain. He knew now without a doubt that there could be nothing between them. Even though Luciana’s parents had given him the good news of the arrest of the miserable b—–d that stabbed Lucy, Raymond still saw the overwhelming barrier between them. Lucy was with a man already and he felt that she should also be in love with the guy. If that was not enough reason, being saddled with a baby was more than enough reason. He dared not visit Lucy even though her parents had dropped their address in case he wanted to visit. After he left the hospital, he had wanted to drink himself to death but Vicky would not hear of it. He drove out of the house to get a drink outside after he had successfully sent Tinuke away with a promise to call her. He had spotted a church – the same church Lucy dragged him to – and instead of going for the drink, he went to the church to vent his anger on God. A pastor had sighted him and prayed with him, relieving him of a lot of stress by talking to him. Despite all that, Raymond’s craving for Lucy did not decrease. He was madly in love with her but could not do anything about it. There are times when you have to put responsibility before love. ********** ********** Vicky opened the door and jumped back, not wanting to be too close to Duke. “Ray is not here. Go to his office” she hurriedly said. “If I wanted to see him, I would not be here” he said confidently, closing the door behind him. Vicky shivered and he smiled. “If I didn’t know better, I would say my presence had some effects on you”. She remained mute, moving backwards slowly as he advanced towards her. “Don’t look frightened, I am not a serial killer” he murmured as he took in her appearance. She was putting on a multicoloured tube top with a pencil jeans trouser. A jeans jacket was lying on the couch. “You look beautiful” he breathed as she collided with the wall and he pinned her to it with his hands on either side. “I always do” she swallowed, angry that her heart raced wild. She remembered Lucy’s words. ‘You would not have to try’. Vicky shook off the words from her head. She cant be falling for Duke. No! Duke brushed away some stray braids from her face as his eyes probed hers. He bent his head and gave her a quick kiss and vanished instantly, leaving her with a sense of loss. She followed him with her eyes as he headed towards the kitchen. He turned and met her eyes. He smiled softly. “Come on, you need something to eat. Your stomach is growling with hunger” Vicky hadn’t noticed how hungry she was until he mentioned it and she wondered how he noticed. She entered the kitchen as Duke broke and whizzed some eggs. “Do you actually know what you are doing” she had a faint smile on her face. He turned with a smile. “Cut the crap, I am not Raymond who can’t boil an egg, I could open up a restaurant if I want to” “Don’t be so sure. Lucy taught him well and now, I let him do the cooking at times and he surprises me with delicious delicacies” He laughed. “I would like to taste that” He took a deep breath and turned back to face what he was doing. He got a pan and placed it on the burner to heat up and Vicky walked to him, standing beside him. She retrieved two cups from the cup stand and started putting beverages into them. Duke breathed uncomfortably. “Could you please put on that jacket I saw on the couch? Your bare shoulders in too much distraction”. She smiled. “I prefer the cool breeze I am getting without the jacket” He groaned internally and knew that keeping his hands away from her would be difficult. They sat to eat some minutes later and resisted the urge to sit beside her and sat opposite. Vicky was disturbed by her attraction towards Duke. The eggs tantalized her taste buds and she became instantly aware of her empty stomach. She murmured praises as she ate and Duke watched her, not knowing that one could derive pleasure from watching someone eat. He managed to shove food down his throat when the only thing he wanted to do was watch Vicky eat. When she finished her eggs, he passed his own to her and she accepted it without hesitating. She must be really hungry, he mussed. “You should try to avoid being too hungry before you eat” he quipped. “You should try to make less delicious eggs, so that people don’t get too hungry” she returned and he grinned. “it is not my fault that I am so talented” “Don’t blow your own” she smiled. He looked into her eyes until she was forced to look away. “I should be leaving now” he said, rising. She packed the plates into the kitchen even though he wanted to do it. She started washing the plates and he grabbed the towel to dry them. “Thought you were leaving” she murmured as he took the plates from her and dried them. “Yes” he said. “And?” “I wanted to steal something from you before I leave” he dried the last plate. She faced him. “What is that” He pulled her into his arms and kissed her deeply, making her head spin. He held her so close to him, with his hands on her shoulders. He broke off breathlessly and kissed her forehead. “Take care of you” he said and walked out. ********** ********** Deolu and Luciana sat on the couch watching a movie. The movie was so emotional and touching. When we heard the knock, Deolu stood up and headed towards the entrance. “That must be Tinu” he said. Immediately he opened the door, Lucy heard a familiar voice and also went to the entrance. “Big brother” Tinu hugged Deolu. “Still as handsome as ever” she said “And you are even more beautiful. You even look fatter” Tinuke smiled, knowing the cause of her weight but not even daring to mention it. Immediately Deolu and Tinuke heard someone approach, they turned and Tinuke froze, along with Lucy. Deolu smiled, not noticing the tension. “Tinu, meet my sweetheart Luciana, Lucy, meet my sister, Tinuke” “Brenda” Tinuke exclaimed. “No. not Brenda, I said Luciana” “No. this is the girl that I said stole my Raymond from me. This is Brenda” Tinuke exclaimed.

    EPISODE 29

    Tinuke was busy glaring at Luciana as anger bubbled up in her. Deolu look from an obviously angry Tinuke to a stunned and frozen Luciana and laughed softly. “This must be a mixup. This is not Brenda, this is Luciana. Luciana Jones to be precise, the woman I told you about”. “Oooohhh… I hate it when you doubt me. Ask her if she does not know me, or has she become deaf and dumb?” Tinuke yelled. Luciana swallowed and faced Deolu. “Is she your sister?” “Who else would I be? Oh… you thought you could take what belongs to be and still have my brother? You have failed. Bro Deolu, you have not seen your bride ooo” she ranted on top of her voice. A confused Deolu faced Lucy. “The Raymond you have been talking about is not James Ray, right?” Lucy breathed. “He is the one. He was the one that found me and took care of me” her voice was low. Deolu swallowed. He remembered when Tinuke had introduced Raymond to him as her fiancé. He had instantly known why Tinuke would fall for him. He was drop-dead gorgeous and could sweep any girl off her feet without even trying. “I am sure you are mistaken Tinu. Raymond saved Lucy after she had been stabbed. I am sure you misjudged whatever you saw”. Tinuke laughed. “Misjudged” she repeated, her face bringing up a look of scorn. “Immediately she was discharged from the hospital, Ray brought her to the house. Immediately she entered, he drove me out. That same day!” she exclaimed. “They were there alone. A man and a woman, alone in that big house Deolu” she laughed slightly. “And you tell me that I misjudged them. Wonderful” “Point of correction miss, we were not alone in that house. Yes, immediately you left, I was alone in the house with him that day but the following day, his sister arrived. Besides, I did not make him drive you out of the house, on the contrary, your bad character drove you out.” Tinuke’s palm swung with speed and connected with Luciana’s cheek. “What the hell!” Deolu exclaimed and grabbed Tinuke’s hand with force. “Apologise to her this minute. Now” he yelled as Lucy stood with fire burning in her eyes. “Apologize my foot” Tinuke dropped. “Let me tell you witch, you can’t take Raymond from me. We are back together and we would remain together forever” she contemplated saying something and decided against it. “So, if you know what is best for you, you would stay away from my man.” Deolu gripped her arm with force but she did not agree to apologize. Lucy advanced towards her slowly, keeping her eyes glued to her. She stood b—-t to b—-t with her as they glared at each other. Deolu could not even do anything anymore because none of them seemed to notice him. “Let me give you some advice: sit yourself down and tell yourself the truth. You don’t love Raymond. You are only after his money and fame” Tinuke laughed but Lucy ignored it. “You also need to tame your tongue, woman. I heard all your arguments with Ray before you left and I wondered how he could cope with you. He is a very wonderful guy and he deserves a woman who loves him wholeheartedly.” Tinuke sneered. “And you are the woman right?” Lucy kept a straight face and walked away from her. “Deolu, it was nice meeting your sister” she walked out of the house. Deolu turned his rage on Tinuke. ********** ********** Deolu met Lucy at the garden some minutes later, staring into space. He touched her shoulder and she jerked slightly. “Lucy” he called softly. “I am so sorry” Lucy smiled faintly as he glanced at her cheeks to see if there was any bruise on it. “I wonder why you are apologizing. You did nothing wrong. I am at fault here”. “No. I have always known Tinu to be saucy and abusive, I should not have invited her over” “It is not your fault she is like that, you invited her because you felt it was right” she responded then turned to face him. “Do you think I cheated on you?” “What? How would you think that? I can’t believe my sister over you; I trust you” he stated fiercely. “I trust you too, and with that trust, I want to ask you something. Before we became erm… we were friends before we moved on to this next stage” she paused, knowing how awkward she just sounded. Deolu noticed it but kept quiet. “I want you to assume us friends again, just friends, and answer this question honestly. What is going on between you and T.J?” Deolu became as white as snow and started stammering. “Lu…Lucy… Lucy what…” “I thought I told you to be honest with me. I know T.J and I know you very well. I know my best friend would never ever do something against me knowingly. The same goes for you. Confide in me like you once did as a friend, please. I am begging” her eyes pleaded. Deolu swallowed hard. “Erm…” he stared at the ground. “While we were in Abuja, we… I…” he inhaled. “I was asking about her fiancé and she got emotional and I…” “You kissed her” Lucy completed. “I am sorry. I did not know what came over me, it was just due to the emotional atmosphere. Teju is not to blame at all, I am totally at fault. It would never repeat itself. Please” he rushed, holding Lucy’s hand. “You love her” Lucy said, surprised that she did not feel bad about the realisation. He shook his head vigorously. “I have seen the way you look at her Deolu, there is this tender look in your eyes whenever you gaze at her, especially since you both returned from Abuja. You never looked at me that way Deolu, accept it” “Don’t talk like that Lucy, it was just one kiss. One kiss when we were not thinking”. “What if I told you that I am not in love with you? What if we were just friends? Would your response still be the same?” Startled, Deolu frowned deeply. “What the hell are you talking about?” Lucy moved towards him. “Deolu, I love Teju so much. She is the sister I never had and I want her to be very very happy. Nothing would make me happier than seeing her smile again. Tunde has wrecked her heart and she is no longer glowing like she once was. I want you to be sure of your feelings. No matter what you decide, you would always be my close friend. If you love Teju, go for her; it would make me very happy. Denying your feelings would not be right”. Lucy took a deep breath and walked away, leaving Deolu stunned and confused. ********** ********** Two days later, Lucy entered Teju’s apartment with a cool smile on her face. “Hey sweetie, I can smell chicken here, where is it?” “Oh… it is knorr chicken” Teju responded and they both laughed. Lucy glanced at the table and saw loads of books there. “Hmmmm… barrister” she hailed. “That’s me” Teju laughed. All she had been doing lately was working. “How is Fred’s case coming?” Lucy sat down. “Well, we have the first hearing in three weeks but we need to get our proof. Remember our little drama?” “Yeah, definitely. He won’t have a prayer when he sees me” Lucy said with hate in her voice. Teju swallowed. “Lucia” she called. “I know you. There is more to this issue and you are hiding it from me. Apart from stabbing you, what else did Fred do to you to make you hate him so much?” “He raped me” Teju gasped. “He raped me Teju” Tears rolled down Lucy’s cheeks. “Oh my God!” “When I was in my third year in UI, Fred was the closest male friend I had. He asked me out several times but I refused. I had just returned to school for my second semester in 300 level when the unexpected happened. My room mate was yet to arrive and I was the only one in the room. A masked man entered and pushed me hard on the bed. Then, I used to sleep with a short loose gown because we rarely had light and I hated the heat. He was stronger than me and I could not do much to help myself. Hitting him was like hitting a rock because it had almost no effect on him” Lucy cried uncontrollably as Teju held her with her eyes burning with anger. “That day, he took my virginity from me and shattered my life. I never knew it was the same person whom I saw as my friend. The night he stabbed me, he said all these, thinking I was dead. He probably said everything out of fright; he also blamed everyone for making him stab me that day. Said he was going to get even with Deolu and everyone that surrounded me” she leaned against Teju. “Do you know just how much I hate him?” she yelled. Teju swore loudly. “That b—–d would pay dearly, I promise you!!!” ********** ********** Raymond drove furiously. He had finished muttering all the curses he knew of and was busy repeating them. He could not believe that his so called step-brother would have the effrontery to call him after all he had done. Because of him, his parents were no more, because of him, their united family had drifted apart. Now, he got himself into a mess and he suddenly thought that he had a family? Ray shook his head. Never in his life would he raise a finger to help a miserable b—–d. He had prayed for a time when he would be able set his eyes on his mistake of a brother to give him a piece of his mind. He parked and entered the police station. “Raymond” He turned like an automatic car at the sound of that voice. “Lucy” he gasped. Sighting her, his heartbeat accelerated. “Oh my God! Lucy” Lucy rushed into his arms as he hugged her tightly. He inhaled deeply as he put his nose in her hair, allowing the scent of her to awaken his senses. His heart pounded wildly as he held her, unable to let her go. Lucy could not believe what was happening. She felt the strange desire to kiss him there in public. “I have missed you a lot sugar” he whispered, finally pulling back. Lucy cleared her throat. “I missed you too” “Never did a day pass without me thinking about you” he said softly, gazing into her eyes. Lucy was so overwhelmed, she did not know what to do or say. “Me too… I mean… erm” Ray brushed his hand, slowly and lightly across her cheek, making her catch her breath. “You are crying?” he looked deeply worried. “Crying?” she also looked puzzled. She rubbed her face vigorously. “Of course not. Perhaps something entered my-” He bent his head and kissed her silent but as his lips touched hers, he could not break away. He pulled her into his hands and kissed her deeply, forgetting that they were in police station. They both forgot everything around them and held on to each other, without letting go. It took a police officer’s tap on Raymond's shoulders to separate them. “Oga abeg, this place na station, no be hotel wey you go dey romance woman” the policeman stated flatly as the other policemen laughed. Lucy righted herself, feeling stupid and terribly breathless. What am I doing? She wondered. “Hey babe, did I …” Teju’s face reddened as her eyes widened. “James Ray” she muttered as she took in the person before her. “Raymond, meet Teju my best friend, T.J, meet Raymond” Lucy introduced still feeling terribly uncomfortable. It took Teju’s barrister instincts to stop her from screaming and fussing like a kid. “It is a pleasure, I heard a lot about you” Ray said, delighted to meet the Teju that Lucy always talked about. She was as beautiful as Lucy said. “I am honoured. I have always prayed for a day like this; I am a huge fan. But more importantly, thank you for what you did for my little baby here, I am eternally grateful” “I did what anyone would have done. Besides, how could I resist saving such a beautiful lady? I have been trained to be a gentleman” he grinned. “You surely are” Teju said, heard her name and smiled. “I would be back” she pinched Lucy and ran off. “Ouch” Lucy said softly and Ray smiled. Lucy felt uncomfortable, being left alone with him, it was as if the policemen at the counter had vanished even though they were still there. She shifted uncomfortably. “What brought you here?” “God” he gazed into her eyes. She looked away, too shy to respond to the taunt and he smiled, knowing that it was that shy attitude that amused him most about her. “Actually, I am here, though unwillingly, to see my mistake of a brother. Step-brother actually. Fred” “Who?” Lucy blanched. “Fred. He called for me and I came to give him a piece of my mind” his anger returned slightly. “Fred? Your brother” “Stepbrother actually. I wish he wasn’t. I know I never told you about him, he is like a prodigal son.” Lucy fumbled with her phone and Ray became worried. “Is it this person?” He stared at the picture on his phone and frowned deeply. “Yes. How do..” “Oh my God” Lucy gasped as she stared at Raymond with tears coming rapidly. “What is it sugar?” she backed away when he tried to touch her. He was instantly alarmed. “No! That is the guy that stabbed me” Raymond froze as he stared at her. “He stabbed me” she exclaimed. “Ray”. They both turned and faced Tinuke who approached with anger in her stride. The day couldn’t have been more worse, Raymond thought. “What the hell are you doing here Tinu? Are you trailing me now?” “No. I came to visit a friend nearby and I saw your car and knew you were here.” She faced Lucy. “Have I not warned you to stay away from my man? You are trying to tie him up with crocodile tears right?” Lucy was too shocked and stunned to pay Tinuke any attention. “Accept defeat my dear. Guess what? I am pregnant. I am carrying Raymond’s baby”. Lucy froze, wondering if she had heard correctly. She shifted her gaze to Raymond but he did not look shocked, he had obviously been informed. She held her head and ran out in tears, not hearing teju who was busy calling her. Teju held back Raymond when he tried to pursue Lucy. Tinuke saw her and gasped. “Raymond, I do not intend to meddle in your private affair but I suggest you find out if that child she is carrying is truly yours. She stole my fiancé from me six weeks ago by offering him her body, don’t get saddled with a b—–d” she fixed Tinuke a cold glare and ran off to catch up with Lucy. ********** ********** Roaring fire would have been the perfect description for Raymond’s mood when he got home. He hadn’t been able to go through with seeing Fred, and not that he cared but Tinuke’s matter seemed more important. “What is wrong Ray?” Vicky asked immediately he marched inside. Ray was in no mood to give answers because he himself wanted answers. Immediately Tinuke entered, Vicky got her answers. “Please Ray, believe me, they are toying with your head. I have never set my eyes on that lady. Neither do I know any Tunde” Ray tried desperately to calm his nerves. “I am not disputing that fact, just give me the results.” “Did I not say she was carrying a b—– d?” Vicky laughed. “Shut it Vic” Raymond yelled, losing his temper, which he rarely did. Tinuke always pushed him to the wall. “Hey, don’t vent your anger on me. It is not my fault that this tramp is a harlot” “I would have you swallowing your words” Tinuke said to Vicky, successfully retrieving the paper from her handbag. Raymond knew that if she was truly pregnant for him, she should be two months and one week gone by now but since the test was carried out two weeks ago, he blanched then he saw one month, three weeks. Tinuke touched him. “I told you that she lied” Ray shook his head, refusing to give up. “Let’s go to the hospital” “No! I am not leaving this place.” “Of course you are” Vicky said, moving towards her. “Move before I move you” Raymond was already in the car and Vicky successfully moved Tinuke to the car. They all alighted from the car in silence and marched into the hospital. “Doc T. Please I need the lab results of the pregnancy test we did two weeks ago” he did not bother greeting. Doctor Tunde opened his drawer. “I knew you would ask for it later.” “How far gone is she?” The doctor looked at the paper. “Well, here, she is one month and about one week gone. Since it was conducted two weeks ago, she should be one month, three weeks pregnant”. Vicky hollered. “I said it!” “There must be a mistake” Tinuke was shaking. “There is no mistake woman, I monitored it myself. Should the timing be longer or shorter?” The doctor asked curiously. “It doesn’t matter doc T. I am forever in your debt. He stood and walked out with a billion dollar smile on his face.”

    EPISODE 30 [Final]

    Teju brushed her hair with a brush before using a comb. She considered the long hair a waste of time because it always gave her trouble when she needed to comb it. For the umpteenth time, she considered cutting it. She took her hair bond and held her hair firmly behind her head. She was worried about Luciana. Lucy had not said much to her ever since she fled from the police station about a week ago. She had become withdrawn and quiet. Teju wished she had heard what transpired between Lucy, Raymond and that Oyin girl who turned out to be Tinuke, Raymond’s fiancée. The only part she had heard was the part where Tinuke declared that she was pregnant. She wondered if her pregnancy was what made Lucy flee. Even though Teju was sure that the child was not for Raymond, she wondered why that information would affect Lucy so much. Except… Teju shook her head. Lucy was not one to date several men at a goal, in fact, she was not into men. That brought her to Lucy’s attitude with Deolu. Deolu was a man that every woman would dream to have – someone who is loving, handsome, faithful, hardworking, established and so on; but she noticed that Lucy still behaved with him the same way she used to when they were friends. Teju did not see the spark of a woman in love in her eyes but she had noticed something when she was with Raymond in the station. It was not the look of a fan to celebrity she saw in Lucy’s eyes, she saw that glow, that discomfort that the presence of a man could bring out of a lady; especially a lady in love. “No” she murmured to herself. She needed to see Lucy and make her talk by all means. She heard a knock and went there to open. Her heartbeat skipped severally when she saw the person at the door. “What are you doing here Deolu?” “I actually love it when you call me Dee” his deep voice vibrated around her and she shifted nervously. She smiled softly. “That does not answer my question” “And I suppose that is the newest mode of greeting. Are you going to invite me in?” he did not wait for her answer as he stepped into the well furnished apartment. Teju bit back a groan as she closed the door slightly, not wanting to take anything for granted. She would not allow what happened in Abuja to repeat itself. “I have missed you Tee, I have not seen you for eight days now, which is ever since you left Lucy’s place, giving the lame excuse of an ‘unofficial’ engagement”. Teju swallowed and breathed slowly, as slowly as she could manage. “Listen Dee” she wondered if she just called him that spontaneously or if she did because he said he liked it. “I know I should have forgotten that little accident in Abuja but I have not because I can’t help the feeling of guilt whenever I am with Lucy. I can’t have you around me Deolu” she took a calming breath. “And do you think you are the only one with feelings? Listen; ever since I kissed you, I have not been able to think straight. I have had-” “Stop it” she yelled. “Don’t make me hate you” “You can hate me all you want but please listen to me” he paced restlessly and Teju could see how he struggled to keep his emotions at check. An instant panic grew within her as her heart raced wildly. Deolu went to stand in front of her and took a calming breathe. “I don’t know when you started growing on me Teju” he began and anger came up within her as she looked at the man who was trying to come between two friends. “Deolu” “Please let me talk Tee” he groaned and walked to the window, staring out. His fists folded and unfolded. “I don’t know if it was when Lucy introduced me to you, you were putting on a flimsy short gown which barely covered your thigh and you had me wondering how you could wear that cloth comfortably” he breathed. Teju was stunned that he could remember what she wore that day. She also remembered that he had been looking too handsome in a grey suit and a white shirt. “Or maybe it was when we had to deal with Lucy’s disappearance together” he turned to face her and she was thrown off-balance by the look of struggle and discomfort she saw. She concentrated on breathing properly. “I found myself thinking about you at very inappropriate times. You occupied my thoughts and I discarded it, thinking that my feelings towards you were platonic. Even though I was terribly worried about Luciana’s safety, I discovered that being with you made me feel great and happy and I always found one excuse or the other to see you”. “Deolu-” He grabbed her hands. “I love you Teju. Ever since we left Abuja, I could think of no one else but you. Hearing what you Ex did to you made me want to live the rest of my life putting smiles on your face. I –” “Jesus, Deolu” she yelled, snatching her hands from his. “Are you crazy? I found out that men were cruel and heartless but I never counted you with them because I thought you were different. Jesus! You are Lucy’s boyfriend!” she exclaimed. “Do you know who Lucy is to me?” she roamed her sitting room in anger. “She is my best friend. Did you hear that? My best friend!” she screamed, throwing her hands up in the air. “You know what? Just leave. I know what to do; I would go and clear my conscience with Lucy. Leave Deolu, please” she yelled. “Teju-” “Leave” Teju screamed and propelled him to the door, slamming the door hard. Tears clung to her eyes and she blinked them away. She had vouched never to cry for a man; she just was not sure why men always tried to toy with her feelings. As must as she tried to prevent the tears, they came rolling down her cheeks and she wiped them away furiously. She had successfully locked away her feelings for Deolu, not willing to allow a man come between she and Luciana. Why must men behave so unfairly with her? She grabbed her purse and left the apartment with a mind to put a stop to this drama. ********** ********** Lucy lay on the bed looking lost. No one had been able to get her out of her moody state. Life was so unfair to her. How could she love the brother of someone who had brought her so much sorrow? How could she be in love with a rapist’s brother? Her head ached terribly as she made her way to the window. Then the second obstacle: he was expecting a baby! Lucy had never felt so miserable in her life. She never fell in love but now that she was, she was in love with the wrong person; in love with the brother of her worst enemy. Lucy wondered what sort of test God was putting her through. She just wanted to be happy, to feel loved for once in her life. Her door flung open and she spun, wiping away the tears in her face. Lucy had never seen Teju so shaky and uncertain. She looked like she had been crying. “Teju, are you alright” Lucy asked, alarmed with concern. Teju prevented Luciana from moving close to her. “Please don’t come closer Lucy, don’t make me feel guiltier than I currently do. Please” “What is the matter T.J?” “I have betrayed our friendship Lucy; I need to tell you something before the guilt kills me. Please promise me that you would forgive me” Luciana breathed. If she were to choose a friend over and over again, she would always choose Teju. She opened her arms and hugged Teju, knowing that they were both going through trying times. “I know what you are about to say” “You do?” Teju was bewildered as she left Luciana’s arms. “Does it have to do with Deolu?” Lucy asked with a faint smile Teju blanched. “I knew it. When you refused to speak with me, I knew that something was wrong. I did not mean to do it. It was a… a mistake. Please forgive me babe, I did not mean to do it” she rushed with pleading eyes. “He told you?” Lucy nodded. “Do you love him?” Startled. “What sort of question is that? He is your man Lucy; I can’t take him from you. What happened was a mistake which would never repeat itself again. Please” “He is not my man” Lucy dropped, sitting down with a sour look. “I am not in love with him” “What are you saying?” “I accepted him not because I loved him the way I ought to but because I thought that I should be able to love him after some time” Teju regained her composure to a certain extent as her earlier suspicion materialized. “Does this have to do with Raymond?” Lucy froze and Teju got her answer. Lucy changed the subject. “Deolu told me how he felt about you T.J” Teju shifted uncomfortably and stood up furiously. “He loves you a lot. I have never seen him so confused. I advised him to tell you how he felt” “He already did” Lucy jumped out of the bed. “He did? What was your response?” “What do you expect? That I would jump into the arms of my best friend’s boyfriend? I can never do that?” Lucy swallowed and pulled Teju back to the bed. “Teju. You know how much you mean to me. You are my friend and sister and I can never deceive you. When Deolu told me of his feelings for you three days ago, I saw the sincerity in his eyes. Even when he had asked me out, I did not see what I saw in his eyes. You deserve to be very happy T.J and I know that Deolu would make you the happiest woman in the world. I have noticed the way you look at him Teju. Answer me honestly; do you love him?” Teju swallowed and looked down. She had never felt more like a complete idiot in her life. Here she was receiving love lectures from the same Lucy whom she always confronted with the idea of getting a man in her life. “I don’t know” she said softly. Lucy smiled. “Think about it. Don’t be unfair to Deolu. The heart goes where it wills; it is not his fault that he is in love with you. Believe me when I say he is the man of every woman’s dreams, it is just a pity that I could not fall in love with him, and instead, I loved the wrong person”. Her heart ached even though she knew that loving Raymond was the best feeling she ever had. “I saw the look in your eyes when you stared at Raymond” Lucy breathed deeply. “He is Fred’s step-brother” “He is not” Teju gasped wide-eyed. “I am in love with the brother of the guy that raped me and almost killed me. Am I not lucky?” tears streamed her face. “Oh Lucy” Teju held her tight, barely taking in what she just heard. She could only imagine what Lucy was feeling. “It is alright honey” she whispered. “No. it is not alright. How am I supposed to deal with that? Upon that, Deolu’s step-sister is pregnant for him” “Wait a freaking minute, Deolu’s what?” “Yes. Tinuke, Raymond’s fiancée is Deolu’s step-sister.” Teju jumped to her feet. “That is the woman that snatched Tunde away from me” Lucy’s eyes widened. “Holy Father” ********** ********** Lucy and Teju happily entered Teju’s apartment with bags in their hands. After their heated discussion a week ago, they had both decided that they needed a break. They left their apartments and went sight-seeing. They both dropped their phones at home, not wanting their problems to interrupt their break. They had gone to the zoo together, went to the museum, to amusement parks and finally went to the beach before deciding to go back home. They had lodged in a hotel for the week and the two friends had made their friendship stronger. They were no longer best friends but they were sisters. Sisters whose ties were stronger than the legendary blood tie. They dumped the bags on the floor and collapsed on different chairs. “Don’t just lie there, go and prepare food. You want me to die of hunger?” Luciana muttered. “We would both die of hunger if you don’t stand up and enter that kitchen” Teju responded, removing her shoes. None of them could stand up due to fatigue and were both startled when they heard a knock. “Can those neighbors not allow me to breathe a bit before bombarding me with questions about where I have been all week?” Teju murmured slightly as she made for the door. When she opened the door, she saw an unfamiliar face. “Please, how may I help you?” “Sorry to disturb…” Lucy jumped up at the sound of that familiar voice. “Vicky” she called and moved towards her with smiles of surprise and happiness. “Well, I was not wrong” Vicky said with smiles and hugged Lucy. “How did you know this place?” “Well, I was driving somewhere when I saw you. I knew I couldn’t be mistaken so I followed you guys until I found you. Why did you run off?” “Do I get an introduction?” Teju asked cynically. Lucy smiled and introduced them. They all sat in the sitting room some minutes later until Teju excused herself in order to take a cold shower. “Raymond is almost going crazy. He has been to your house three times but he could not find you. Your parents told him to be patient that you would be back soon but he had been killing himself with worry. He called your line but it was always off” Lucy sighed, a bit happy that Raymond had been searching for her. “I had to take a break Vic, it had been really rough recently and I needed some fresh air to wipe away my pains.” She swallowed. “I understand but I have never seen my brother that worried. I know you love him, I have always known. It was so evident in the way you looked at him”. Lucy looked away. “It doesn’t matter. He is going to be a father and I also can’t be with him under the circumstances” Vicky breathed. “Ray told me everything Lucy. You can’t let Fred stand between you and the man you love. He caused a lot of havoc in our family too and partially caused the death of our parents, that is why everyone hates him so much” Lucy was shocked. “What are you saying? Your parents died in a plane crash” she murmured. “Yes. Fred arrived all of a sudden, claiming that our father had fathered him which my father confirmed. It brought a lot of rift in the family, especially between mum and dad but even when mum had forgiven dad and had her arms wide open to accept Fred, he was only intent on destroying the love in our family. Dad gave him a house in Abuja but still, Fred was so bitter. He did a lot of things and even set dad up in a hotel with a woman, got pictures and sent them to mum. It almost got them divorced. Thanks to the confession of the photographer, the situation was solved and we the children asked them to go on a vacation in order to forget the incident. That was when they were involved in a crash. It affected Ray a lot because he was the one that suggested that vacation. He was the closest to our parents. He was the one that even got them to accept me after they discovered my little secret, though, it took a long time”. Luciana could not take in all she was hearing. “Wow” he breathed. Suddenly, she understood the painting she had seen. Fred was the shadow! She took a deep breath. “You have gone through a lot” she whispered. “Ray has gone through more. He fought for me, neglecting his own problems. I would be extremely happy if you can make my brother very happy” she said. “He had Tinuke and a baby to do that” Lucy said sadly. “The baby is not his” “What?” “The baby Tinuke is expecting is for someone else” ********** ********** The tension that Ray was feeling was enough to make him turn to alcohol but he did not. Ever since he met Lucy, everything in his life had changed. He had a cause to smile again. Discovering that he was not responsible for Tinuke’s pregnancy had relieved him of some stress but thinking about Lucy had almost drove him crazy. Fred had always been in the shadows of his life, tormenting him over and over again. How could he tell Lucy that he was in love with her? How would she take it? He had damned the consequences and had gone in search of her but did not find her. He dropped the weight he was lifting and started running on the treadmill, this time, he did not see the ghosts that usually haunted him but he saw the angel that saved him from his ghosts. He saw the one woman whom he would love till his last breath. He left the treadmill and picked up a towel, mopping away his sweat. “This room must be your favorite room” Raymond rotated and his eyes met Luciana’s. He had thought about her so much that she had materialized in person. “Lucy” he breathed as his heart contrasted painfully in his chest. Lucy tried to control her reactions as she stared at him but she couldn’t. He was standing bare-chested with sweat making his muscled body look moist and inviting. She altered her gaze and blinked. He looked tired and terribly sexy. He moved towards her and her heart pounded wildly. It took all her willpower to keep her feet rooted to the ground. “You should put on a shirt” she murmured. He grinned as he stood directly in front of her, too close for comfort. “Am I that appealing? I have been told that I am irresistible” She lifted her eyes to his. “And you don’t hesitate in flaunting it” “As long as it makes you notice me” he smiled and pulled her into his arms. “I have been going crazy in search of you, and you are right, this gym is one of my favorite places. This is where you gave me a calming kiss” he bent his head and took her lips urgently. He never knew that kissing a woman could make him feel so much. His heart pounded wildly as he cradled her face in his arms gently. Luciana held on to Ray feeling the uncontrollable joy that was so overwhelming. She felt so complete. “I love you Lucy” Ray said, gazing into her eyes. She gasped. “Yes. I love you so much sugar. How could I not love the woman I found in a sack” he smiled. Luciana was so happy that she jumped on him. “I love you Ray” he pulled her tighter and kissed her deeply. “So, I am the girl in the sack uhn? “The sexiest one I have seen” he kissed her nose and they stayed there and talked endlessly. She told him everything about her past and he was terribly furious when she mentioned what Fred had done to her. EPILOGUE Teju, Lucy and Ray sat in the sitting room of Lucy’s parents’ house. Her parents had travelled for some function and she missed them. She lay with her head on Raymond’s lap as she talked endlessly with him. Dana went to open the door when they heard a knock and Deolu entered. Teju saw him and her heart skipped. Luciana held her hand and squeezed. She had invited Deolu over, wanting Deolu and Teju to be as happy as she was with Ray. Deolu looked at Ray after greeting. “If Tinuke hadn’t been such an idiot, I would have said something nasty to you Ray”. Tinuke had gone to meet Tunde who was the real father of the child but he had denied responsibility and threw her out of his house. “If you hadn’t left my sweetheart, I would have snatched her from you” Ray retorted, giving Lucy a peck. Lucy stood up and walked out of the house with Ray. Teju stared at Deolu. It had been one month and she hadn’t set her eyes on him. He was looking extremely handsome in casual black trousers and a T shirt. “I figured you liked me better in casual wears” “I like you in anything you put on.” She swallowed. She stood opposite him and when he tried to speak, she stopped him. “I owe you an apology Dee; I should not have behaved the way I did” “I expected nothing less than that” he brushed away a stray hair from her face. “Anything is forgiven when you call me Dee” “You might be sorry you said that in the future” she said when he took her in his arms. “As long as you would be spending that future with me” he bent his head and kissed her deeply. He had wanted to do that for a very long time. No other thing felt so right or perfect. They held each other, both realizing that they needed the other as much as they needed their next breath. “Are you planning to seduce me into accepting you?” Teju asked breathlessly. He grinned. “As long as it makes you accept to be my wife”. Teju gasped. Deolu tensed as he put his hand in his pocket and brought out a tiny box and got down on one knee. Teju gasped as all their friends came out of the various rooms and Lucy entered the house back with Raymond. Suddenly, the house was filled with friends and family members. Teju blinked back tears but they came anyways. “Teju, I don’t know any romantic word to say in order to soar your heart but I can promise to make you happy for the rest of your life. To put laughter on your face and to love you and you alone. Please be my wife Teju, please” “Yes… Yes” she screamed and hugged him fiercely, kissing his neck in tears. He slipped the shinning diamond ring into her fingers and kissed her finger with the ring. The cheer in the room was deafening and chants of ‘kiss her, kiss her, kiss her…’ rang out on the large sitting room. Deolu pulled Teju into his arms and kissed her. They both forgot about the crowd and got lost in a world of their own. The kiss ended and they suddenly noticed that the room was dead silent. Teju was not surprised because she had known all along. The sitting room was dark except a spotlight which illuminated a painting. Luciana gasped as she stared at herself. The painting was of her wearing the gown that Raymond had bought for her in the boutique. Everyone was struck by the mastery of the painting including Teju. Ray appeared and a spotlight captured him as he moved towards Luciana. “When I picked up a brush to paint again, only one image popped up in my mind. That Sunday, you had entered my room, wanting to drag me to church. I had pretended to be asleep and you stared at me longingly like you won’t mind joining me on the bed” everyone chuckled. Tears streamed down Luciana’s face. She never imagined someone painting her. “You had been so breathtakingly beautiful that I had taken my time to capture that image of you in my head, hoping that I would be able to paint again.” he got down on one knee. “Lucy, you gave me back my life and made me live again. You drove all my fears away and gave me love. I can’t spend the rest of my life without you; you sweeten my life; that is why I call you ‘sugar’. Please marry me Luciana Jones. I promise to never ever make you know a moment of sadness. I would be with you every time you need me. Please marry me sugar” his heart pounded against his ribs as he stared up at her with a sparkling ring in his hand. Everyone seemed to hold their breath. Luciana knelt down, unable to control her tears. She wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. He quickly pulled her slightly away from him. “Is that a ‘yes’ honey?” “Yes” she screamed. “Yes… yes…” she continued to say until Ray silenced her with a firm kiss. The kiss was so tender and deep and demanding at the same time. They were both oblivious to the resounding cheers as they held on to each other. Vicky wiped off the tears in her eyes as she stared at the ring in her own fingers. She smiled up at Duke who hugged her protectively, when he noticed the eyes of some guys on Vicky. He kissed her head. Bose smiled at the couple. She was very happy for them. She had also found happiness in the arms of another man and her business was booming. Lucy stood up and hugged Teju tightly. People started congratulating the two couples. “I am happy for you Vic” Lucy said to Vicky. “You said I would not have to try, guess what? I did not try a bit. Duke swept me off my feet” Lucy laughed. “You deserve it” “And you and Raymond are made for each other.” Bose hugged Raymond. “I am glad you could make it Bose” Raymond said and she smiled. “I would not miss it for anything in the world” ***** Fred was sentenced to 35 years in prison and the two couples got married two years after on the same day. ***THE END*** 

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