Story: Simply Complicated


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    EPISODE 1

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    “… and you are my special one and only sweetheart. The one that must not kiss me otherwise we’re both in trouble o!”

    They both laughed. Deep and hard. Aisha began to wonder what he meant by that. It was the second time he was saying it. The first time it had been funny too. But now she really had to think about what he meant. She cast her mind back to about a month ago…

    Bode was an old colleague from the University. They had not known each other while in school but had met at a training in Nigeria a couple of years later. She was surprised and also excited to see someone who had attended her school.

    They talked a lot, sharing memories and experiences and they exchanged numbers. She had not seen him since that training, hadn’t kept in touch either and then a month ago, they ran into each other at Shoprite. She was window-shopping with her friends that day. Amazing what boredom could do. Bode on the other hand was trying to get a nice birthday present for his mother. They greeted like old friends and he asked her to stay and help so they could also catch up but she was about leaving with her friends and didn’t want to waste their time. He pleaded with her making some funny faces that she thought were pretty silly but cute all the same. Fati nudged her and asked her to stay.

    “He’s really cute” she’d whispered. She didn’t think about it again. She just gave in. Bode offered to take her back to Silverbird to meet up with them when they were done.

    They looked through most of the shops but still couldn’t decide. Bode’s mum wasn’t really a fashion crazy woman. She was pretty random. Eventually, they walked into one of the accessories’ stores. There was so much to look at, Aisha almost went crazy! She walked towards one of the stands and picked up a beautiful pair of gold earrings with a pendant and matching gold chain.

    “This is really nice. I think your mum will love it”

    Bode walked over and collected the items. He held them carefully and studied them. Dropping earrings, not too long. Heart shaped but not flat. Almost like a locket but they could not be opened. Tiny strings were attached to the bottom. Yes. His mum would really like something like this. Only she didn’t go out much. So she would probably only wear it to church.

    He asked the lady at the front desk for the price and he gulped when she told him. Aisha laughed. He looked at her and he laughed too. He strung the pendant on the chain and asked her to turn around.
    “uh, not such a good idea. It’s for your mum. Should I be trying it out?”
    “I just want to see what it looks like on someone. What? It’s not a ring that could get stuck in your finger. Or do you have a sticky neck?”
    They both laughed.
    He put both hands around her neck and she raised the 20 inch brazillian weave that stood in the way.
    “This hair you girls will be carrying up and down that won’t let us see road sef”
    Aisha laughed again. She felt his arms, cool against her skin and she shivered slightly. Bode seemed not to notice. Rather he fastened the chain and asked her to turn around. Without realizing it, they chorused a “wow” together, softly, under their breaths.
    Aisha seemed to get back to earth faster than Bode did. She took off the chain, they paid for the items and both walked out of the store.
    “Maybe we should get something to eat” Bode suggested.
    Aisha giggled.
    “Naah. You’re forgetting my friends are waiting for me at SB”
    “We don’t have to eat here, we could just buy a chicken and chips and eat in the car. We really haven’t spoken much. I’d like to know what you’ve been up to”
    Aisha giggled yet again and just as she was about to reply, he cut her short.
    “You keep laughing at everything I say. I’m not funny o.”
    Aisha burst into spasms of laughter.
    “Sorry, you’re just saying pretty funny things. Anyway, there’s not really much I’ve been up to since the last time we saw. Just work and hanging out with my girls.”
    They went to get their meal and Bode made fun of almost everything they saw on their way there. From the girl whose weave-on length reached her waist to the little kid yelling at the top of his lungs for ice-cream. Aisha found herself laughing up until they got to his car.
    “Really, I can’t imagine how we were in the same school and I never met you…” Bode said with a smile on his face.
    “Oh well, it was a pretty huge school and like I told you, I never went out much. It was mostly classes, the library and parties like once a month for me”
    “well, hopefully I’ll be seeing you around more?”
    Aisha smiled.
    “Yeah, sure. And this time, make use of my number!”
    “Ahan! So it’s now my fault abi? Why didn’t you call?”
    “Are you not the guy? You took my number but you didn’t use it.”
    Bode got into the car and shut the door. As he turned the key in the ignition, the car easily came to life.
    “Are you kidding?! We exchanged numbers jor. I took yours and you took mine! “ Bode’s tone was light and teasing.
    “Ok, fine. We exchanged numbers, but you’re the guy, it’s in your place to call…”
    The argument continued almost all the way to Silverbird. Eventually, Aisha conceded.

    “fine. We were both at fault. I enjoyed chatting with you that day and I expected that if you did too, you would call but then you didn’t, so I was not sure. So, this time, I’ll probably text you later. Will that do?”
    Bode grinned.
    “Well, I’m not sure why I didn’t call. I guess I got too busy. But I’ll definitely call you sometime soon.”
    She got out of the car and thanked him for the ride. And as he drove off, she smiled to herself and walked up the stairs into the building. Her phone buzzed at that moment. She slid her thumb across the screen and read the message.
    “My flight has been delayed. Not sure what time I’ll get in. Can’t wait to see you. Yours”
    Khalid always signed his texts that way. She sighed.
    In real time, Aisha sighed again. Thinking about Bode usually made her smile, but whenever Khalid got mixed up in the thoughts, it was not so much fun. There was a lot she wanted to remember. Especially the gradual build up to her intense attachment to Bode but that would have to wait.
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    EPISODE 2

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    “I enjoyed hanging out with you today. We should do this more often”
    Aisha smiled easily. Warning bells went off in her head but she ignored them.
    “Yeah sure. I really had fun too! I guess we can”
    Bode held her hand as they walked out of the garden. This particular meeting had not been difficult to set up. He called her on Monday morning, two days after he last saw her at Shoprite and asked to hangout at some garden at the close of work. She did not raise any objection and they both met up at the garden in Garki.

    Aisha had never had the all too popular “isi-ewu” (goat head) delicacy and Bode encouraged her to try it out. She did and totally enjoyed it. The music at the garden was pretty loud, a number of people were dancing but they remained in their seats, eating, drinking and chatting away. Of course they had to raise their voices in order to hear each other over the music but that did not stop their conversation from flowing.

    They talked about a lot of things. Work, hobbies, family… but the one thing that nagged at the back of Aisha’s mind. She wanted to ask if he was seeing someone but then she wasn’t certain she wanted to know. He did not ask her either.
    And when the outing came to an end, Bode walked her to her car. They stood awkwardly for a while and then Bode made the comment about having enjoyed himself. Even with the warning bells, she still went on to say they could hang out at other times.
    “Alright then. I’ll be on my way. You have yourself a lovely night.” Bode stepped back as he spoke.
    Aisha was surprised.
    “Just like that?”
    Bode laughed
    “Wetin remain na?”
    “Na wa for you o. No hug?”
    Bode looked at her and laughed. He said sorry as he walked back to give her a warm hug.
    “A hug is fine but don’t kiss me o, otherwise I’ll be in trouble”
    Aisha laughed, hugged him lightly and pushed him away. Then in a bid to redeem herself and quell any thoughts he might be having, she said
    “Off with you silly! I can’t even kiss you. I’ll also be in trouble if I do”
    Bode laughed heartily
    “I guess we’re good then. Good night dear.”
    She got into her car and drove off.
    And unbidden guilt quickly rose to the fore, taking centre stage in her mind.

    Why should you have such a great time with some other guy who isn’t your fiancé?

    Why didn’t you tell him about Khalid? She shook her mind off the thoughts.
    Well, why isn’t Khalid here like he ought to? He had said his flight was delayed that Saturday evening and then when it was moved to the following day, rather than come home on Sunday and fly out again on Monday, he decided he would just fly straight to Port Harcourt instead for another meeting scheduled for Monday.

    She was angry with him but she would not let him know. Even when he apologized and expressly told her how much he missed her, she pretended she was okay with the way things were when in reality she wasn’t.

    Oh well, she was going to keep hanging out with Bode. He clearly did not seem to have anything more than a friendly interest in her and right now she felt she really needed that. A friend who would not expect her to fulfil any emotional obligation. Doing that with Khalid was tough enough.

    Bode hung up his phone and smiled. He always enjoyed talking to Aisha. She was a really sweet person. He loved how he was getting to her. He knew that for certain.
    “… and you are my special one and only sweetheart. The one that must not kiss me otherwise we’re both in trouble o!”

    He chuckled to himself as he repeated his own words. Aisha was going to be an easy prey. Way easier than he anticipated. If only she knew that absolutely nothing that had happened so far was a coincidence…
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    EPISODE 3

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    Revenge is sweet. Always is. But what Bode found even sweeter was the build up to revenge. Amazing how step by step, bit by bit, everything seemed to be falling into place. Aisha would never see it coming. He smiled to himself and walked to the bar in the living room. His father had not re-stocked drinks in a while; the place was pretty empty. He poured himself a shot of whisky and walked to his room. Calling in sick today had been unprecedented but he woke up this morning not in the mood to work.
    -Hey, didn’t go to work today. Not feeling too well. Hope your day is going alright.
    He hit the “send” button on his phone and watched it expectantly.Seconds later, the red light began blinking on his phone.
    -Wow. Sorry. What’s wrong?
    -it’s complicated.
    The smile was playing on his lips even though she could not see it.
    -Okay? Are you pregnant?
    Bode actually laughed out loud! Aisha had an unusual sense of humour.
    -Looooool. Why would you think that?
    -You said it was complicated. Couldn’t immediately think of anything else.
    -Ok. I miss you…
    -Lol. Indeed! You miss me and so you did not go to work. That makes perfect sense.
    -Hehe. I told you it was complicated. Let me not disturb you further. Didn’t go to work because I needed to rest. But I actually miss you. Would you come check me after work?
    -Sorry. Wish I could but I’ve got plans. Maybe we could see some other time. Gtg. Supervisor isn’t a fan of my phone. I think she’s hating because I’m using the Z10. Later!
    Bode laughed yet again.
    -Hehe. Ok then. Cheers

    He pinged me to say he missed me. Why do I have a feeling Bode is up to some mischief?
    Aisha was a tad bit unsettled. She could figure people out by her second or third meeting with them but Bode was different. Sometimes it felt like he was flirting. At other times, she was certain he wanted nothing more than plain friendship. She could have told him she was engaged but telling him that would make things weird between them. He would withdraw and she did not want that. Their budding friendship was important to her and she enjoyed their regular hang outs.
    4:00pm came quickly enough and Aisha packed her bags together and walked off to her car. Khalid was back in town and she was going to see him. He had said he would come and have dinner at her place at about 7:00pm but she honestly could not wait to see him. As much as they had their on-going frictions, she still missed him and the two weeks apart had worn her out.

    She drove into the compound and saw his car parked in its usual spot. But there were also a couple more cars. Irritation began to build but she told herself to be calm. He was not expecting her, it was his house and he was at liberty to entertain visitors.

    She could hear voices and laughter from the living room as she knocked on the door. No one seemed to hear her so she knocked again, a little louder this time. The laughter continued but she could hear footsteps approaching the door. She had her best smile on when the door opened.
    “Hey stranger”
    Khalid looked surprised but he took her in his arms and hugged her warmly.
    “I thought I was to pick you up at 7:00pm for dinner.”
    “Yeah, nice to see you too. And yes, I missed you too”
    Khalid smiled.
    “I’m sorry. It’s really great to see you.”
    “Mhmmmmn”
    He held her hand and walked into the living room.
    The faces were all familiar. Khalid’s circle. A bunch of guys who lived and breathed economics.

    She said hi to each of them and found her way to his bedroom. She expected that he would follow her in there and talk to her at least briefly but he didn’t.
    “Khalid has got serious issues” she muttered. The bed lost its appeal after a few minutes so she got up and walked around a bit. She noticed his half unpacked bag sitting by the closet with a pair of trousers sticking out of it.
    I might as well fix up the room.
    She picked the trouser from the bag and something fell from the pocket. The trouser had a belt in the loops, an indication that it had been worn recently. Probably on his return trip.
    She bent down and picked the fallen item. Surprise, hurt and anger getting mixed up in her heart. What in the world was Khalid doing with a condom?

    And Khalid chose that minute to walk into the room…
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    EPISODE 4

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    “Mine, I’m sorry I left you here all by yourself. I just wanted to finish up a discussion I was having with the guys. This country is really in trouble. If care isn’t taken, it’ll only be a little while before the economy totally crumbles.

    I’m thinking we should try to stage another occupy Nigeria protest…”
    Khalid was just behind her and he put both hands on her shoulders. Aisha took a deep breath, pulled her wits together, and turned around slowly. By the time she was facing Khalid, her face was totally blank.
    “The economy has always been in trouble Khalid. It’ll always be like that.”
    “No. Don’t say that. Things can change. In fact, they have to change. Look at countries like China and Singapore. Even India! They have left Nigeria far behind. We keep paying attention to the wrong things. How can the government not know to diversify the economy by now? They should leave oil alone and explore agriculture; especially given the high level of corruption involved in the oil sector.

    Look how much money disappeared under the subsidy scam. Oh it’s really convenient for them. Chop money to the detriment of the economy. They are selling the future generation into slavery! Talking about the future generation; look at the education sector! This government pays little or no attention to education! How can a governor give out iPads to school kids and feel like he has contributed immensely to the education sector?”

    Khalid waved both hands in the air as he spoke and while he did that, Aisha blanked out. Listening to Khalid rant about the economic state of the country was exhausting and she was not even in the mood. She took the belt from the loops, neatly folded the trouser and managed to slip the condom back where it had come from without his notice. She kept the trouser on the bed and when she bent down to retrieve the next item from the bag, Khalid stopped her. He had noticed she wasn’t paying him any attention.
    “What are you doing?”
    “Dancing alingo.”
    “Okay?”
    Khalid folded his arms and raised his eyebrows.
    “Babe, are we okay?”
    “I’m confused Khalid. What could possibly be wrong with us? Malaria?”
    Khalid sighed and began massaging his temples.
    “Your sarcasm tonight has been rather high. Why would you say you’re dancing alingo?”
    “Because, clearly, I’m helping you unpack and you can see that, yet you ask what I’m doing.”
    Aisha was spoiling for a fight. That much was evident.
    “Okay. Would it have killed you to just say that? Besides, I don’t need you to help me unpack. I’ll take care of it later.”
    “Why darling? Is there something in there you don’t want me to see?”
    Khalid looked really confused. Her tone was pretty suggestive.
    “Aisha, are you sure we’re okay? Because right now I get the feeling there’s something you’re not saying. What could I possibly have to hide from you?

    I’ve been really stressed the last few days, the last thing I need right now is a fight. I wanted to invite you to the living room so you could say goodbye to the guys. They’re just about leaving.”

    Aisha was not sure how to respond to that. How could he pretend he had nothing to hide when she had just found a condom in his pocket? There was absolutely no reason whatsoever for it to be there. She and Khalid weren’t having sex so they had no need for it. Her friends had teased her about going celibate but she had her reasons. Now this. There was only one answer. Khalid was cheating on her.
    Focus girl, focus. We’ll deal with this later.

    “Fine. I’ll come say goodbye to them. I’m right behind you.”
    Khalid stood staring at her for a few seconds. He looked like he would leave without her. Then he reached out to her.
    “I’m not going back there without you. I told them I was coming to get you to bid them farewell and I’ve been in here long enough. Let’s go.”
    She still had a defiant look on her face so he added “Please.”
    She placed her right hand in his and let him lead her out of the room.
    Within a few minutes, the guys were all gone and they were left alone. Alone, with the tension still between them.
    “So how was Port Harcourt? You spent two weeks there. I’m sure you have a lot of gist for me.”
    Khalid looked at her but did not respond. Something was definitely wrong with Aisha. Her tone was accusing, like she knew something he did not.All the sarcasm tonight. She mostly went into full sarcasm mode when she was angry with him and expected him to figure out the reason himself. Could it be because he hadn’t come home that weekend two weeks ago?

    He thought she understood. His schedule was pretty tight and he needed to get rest whenever he could find the time to. There was so much to tell her about the trip; several random incidents and small events that he had noted at the back of his mind to share with her and laugh over; but no, not tonight. The atmosphere wasn’t right.

    “Port Harcourt was ok. The meetings went well. Just normal boring econ stuff.”
    “So nothing special happened there?”
    “Uh… I met with the governor and a few of his cabinet members, we discussed what they were seemingly doing wrong and how we could get things right… Babe, there was nothing special, really. Just regular econ stuff and lots of politics too. I don’t want to bore you with details”
    Aisha wasn’t convinced.
    “Okay o.”
    They sat in awkward silence for a while.
    “Do you still want to go for dinner?”
    Innocent question. Or so Khalid thought.
    “Oh? You don’t want to take me again ko? I’m suddenly too thick to engage in a conversation over dinner?”
    Khalid’s patience snapped.
    “Aisha,what exactly is wrong with you? I told you. I had a very hectic time over the last two weeks. It was from one meeting to the other. I spent hours doing research over the internet,spent more time writing reports and proposals. I certainly did not come back home for any of your theatrics. If there is something on your mind, you had better say it now and quit being annoying and sarcastic!”
    The look on Aisha’s face was hardly describable. Khalid was turning on her? He was losing his temper when she was simply giving him an opportunity to confess? Like she’d had a swell time here in his absence.

    Her supervisor at the office was a crazy control freak that constantly kept her under pressure. Each time she needed to talk to Khalid about how her day was going, he was never there. They barely chatted over bbm in the three weeks that he was away. Lagos to Port Harcourt. He was the one who had cheated and now he was here losing his temper. He must be a joker.
    “Actually Khalid, there’s a lot on my mind but I’m certainly not saying anything tonight. I’m going home.”
    She went into his room, picked her handbag and walked out. Khalid was standing in the doorway.
    “Aisha, what have I always told you about communication?”
    “Don’t use that tone on me Khalid. I am neither your daughter nor your little sister. And I don’t care what you have told me about communication. I don’t want to talk. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got somewhere I need to be.”
    Khalid’s eyes softened as he looked at the beautiful petite lady before him. Aisha was a lot to handle. Quite a package actually, considering her small stature. You could not help but love her, especially when she got mad. That was a sight to behold. Pursed lips, fiery eyes, hands on her waist and a set look on her face. Just the way she was now. He wanted to lift her off the ground and spin her in his arms. He wanted to kiss her deeply and tell her how much he had missed her. He wanted to tell her that every day in Port Harcourt had been frustrating without being able to effectively communicate with her. He wanted to tell her about the governor’s daughter who had flirted with him and who he had to outrightly tell that he was engaged. He wanted to do all that. But he did not. Rather, he stepped aside and let her walk through.

    He followed her to the car and watched her get in. She shut the door, placed her left hand on the steering wheel and then turned the key in the ignition with her right. When the car came to life, she took her glass down and turned to look at him, her left hand still on the wheel. She opened her mouth to speak but before she could utter a word, Khalid spoke.

    “You’re not wearing your engagement ring…”
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    EPISODE 5

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    Aisha did not know what to say. She felt guilty but the anger was still there. She certainly needed to leave and get her feelings sorted out. She turned her eyes back to the steering and fixed her gaze on them. A few minutes of silence and then
    “Nothing to say to me I see. Okay then. Good night.”
    Khalid walked back into the house without looking back.
    Aisha was totally spent. This was certainly not how she had planned for the evening to go. Khalid should have been surprised and happy to see her. They should have cuddled up and talked endlessly about how much they missed each other. They should have updated each other on their activities over the last few weeks. They should have had dinner at Dunes. He should have teased her about being a bush lady because of how she would have dealt with the chicken. The evening should have gone completely differently, but it didn’t. And now she wasn’t sure how she felt or what she should do.

    She drove out of the compound and parked a hundred metres from the house. She shouldn’t do what she was about to do. It was silly, it was probably wrong, but she convinced herself that she needed a distraction. Khalid had cheated after all and she needed to forget that temporarily.
    How are you sure he cheated?

    Why else would he have a condom in his pocket? And why would he try to stop her from unpacking? With all the hints she was dropping, why did he not come out clean and explain himself?

    She pulled out her phone and scrolled through the contacts on her phone. When she found the name she was looking for, she dialled the number and waited for a response.
    “Hey hey. What’s up?”
    “I’m okay. How are you feeling?”
    “Much better actually. I’m watching a movie now.”
    “Okay. I was thinking maybe we could meet somewhere. Maybe hang out for an hour or so.”
    “Well well, look whose schedule just opened up. I thought you had plans for tonight. What happened? Prince charming stood you up?”
    Aisha was not sure she wanted to be teased at this point.
    “Would you quit being a monkey and meet me at Area 11? There’s a nice place on Gimbiyastreet before Roses. It’s a hotel but it’s got a really nice hangout spot. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
    Bode laughed.
    “Or better yet, you could come over to my place.”
    Aisha was getting irritable.
    “No, I’m feeling claustrophobic at the moment. I don’t want to be in anyone’s house. I need fresh air. And just so you know, I’m in a foul mood tonight and the only reason I called you is because I’m hoping you’ll be able to talk me out of it. So you better stop teasing, put on a shirt and head over to Area 11 now!”
    Bode quickly sobered up.
    “Okay. I’m sorry. You sound really upset. I’ll be over there in twenty minutes or less.”
    “Thank you. See you soon then.”
    She hung up without waiting for his response. Her heart was racing and she trembled slightly. She knew in her heart that she should go back to talk to Khalid; ask him about the condom and apologize for not wearing her ring. But it was too late for that now. She had already asked Bode to meet her.

    Truthfully, the only reason she was not wearing her ring was because of Bode. They had been out together a number of times and she never wanted him to see it. And given that she and Khalid had been somewhat distant over the last few weeks, wearing the ring held no particular appeal. She meant to put it on when leaving the house this morning but somehow she had forgotten. She had hoped he would not notice and even had a story ready for him in case he did but with the way things had gone tonight, her story was pretty far from her lips when he asked.
    She sighed, turned the key in the ignition and drove off.

    Khalid shut the door for the night and went into his bedroom. He was certain he would not leave the house tonight and he was not expecting anyone. Well, except if Aisha decided to come back.
    Why wasn’t she wearing her ring? Since he proposed two months ago, she had always worn the ring. She loved it and she was proud to be his fiancée. Well, that’s what she always said. But today she did not have it on and when he asked, she had no response. Was that how bad things had gotten between them? Had she met someone else?
    Whoa! Slow down Khalid. Aisha would never cheat on you!
    Then why was she spoiling for a fight tonight? The last few weeks had been tough on them. Could she have met someone else in so short a time? He wanted to call her and talk things over. Maybe he should go over to her place and try to reason with her. She said she was going home right?
    He noticed the trouser she had neatly folded on the bed and he smiled. Aisha was always taking care of him, cleaning his place, cooking his meals. She had a good heart. He just could not understand what was going on with them. He figured they needed to spend more time together and in that instant, he made up his mind. There would be no more trips for another month. He needed to be by his woman.
    He reached over to pick the trouser and his phone rang. He left it and brought the phone out of his pocket instead. The name in the caller ID made him slightly uncomfortable. There were two “Ellas” on his contact list. But the surname behind this Ella was the reason for his discomfort. It was the governor’s daughter.
    “Hello, good evening.”
    Sounding completely formal was an absolute necessity.
    “Hi Kay. How was your trip back?”
    “It was okay, thank you.”
    “I didn’t hear from you again. I thought you were supposed to text me when you got in?”
    “I’m sorry, I must have forgotten.”
    “Okay. I was checking up on you to be sure your plane didn’t get lost in the Bermuda triangle.”
    She laughed as she said that but Khalid remained uptight.
    “No it did not. I got in safely.”
    “That was supposed to be funny. I was under the impression you had a good sense of humour. What’s eating you?”
    “Nothing miss. I’m just tired and need to rest. So except you have a really important reason for speaking to me right now, I’m afraid I’ll have to hang up.”
    Ella seemed taken aback because for a few seconds, she did not say anything. Then she got herself together.
    “There’s an economic summit coming up next week in Accra. My father wants you there. He said you made quite an impression and he wants to sponsor you to be a part of it. I’ll email you the details so you can get your registration done.”
    Khalid found his head spinning.
    “How long is it supposed to last?”
    “Four days I guess. I’m not sure but be prepared to be away for a week at most.”
    “Uh, can I get back to you on this?”
    “Get back to me in what sense?”
    “Let me think about it and make up my mind on whether or not I want to be a part of it.”
    Ella was certain she had not heard him right. He wanted to think about it?
    “Excuse me? My father, a governor, wants to sponsor you to attend a summit and you want to think about it?”
    Khalid instantly went over his words. No. That didn’t come out right.
    “Sorry. That didn’t come out right. Please can we talk about this tomorrow? I’m really tired and mybrain is shutting down. I’ll text you my email address and you can send the details like you said. But we’ll talk tomorrow.”
    “Okay then. Good night.”
    “Good night.”
    Khalid hung up and sat staring into space. His head was spinning. He needed a cold shower. That usually helped him think straight. Getting up to take the shower was another issue.
    ***
    Bode got to the hotel in less than twenty minutes. He easily spotted Aisha’s car where it was parked and he parked beside her. The music was so loud, there was no point calling her
    -PING!
    I’m here. Where are you?
    -Where did you park?
    -Right beside your car.
    -Hold on. I’ll be with you in a bit.
    He came down and leaned beside the car.
    Aisha walked up to him and hugged him, holding on much longer than he deemed necessary.
    “Okay… What’s wrong?”
    With her face still buried in his shoulder, she replied
    “Nothing I feel like talking about.”
    She loved the cologne he wore tonight. Very masculine.
    He did not push, didn’t ask any further questions. He just held her and stroked her back.
    A little while later and she pulled back.
    “I ordered catfish pepper soup. I hope you don’t mind”
    “It sounds good, thanks”
    She walked him to a table and a few minutes later, their order arrived.
    And then the drinks. She’d ordered Smirnoff ice for herself and Harp for Bode.
    Without thinking, she took down four bottles within the hour.
    Bode kept watching her. She did not say what was wrong, he did not ask again, but he was certain he had an idea.
    After the fourth bottle, he noticed she seemed somewhat tipsy.
    “Come on Aisha. It’s time to get you home.”
    “Why? The night is still young. I want to have fun!”
    She giggled and threw her right fist in the air. Bode shook his head.
    “Come on, I’ll take you home.”
    Aisha laughed.
    “You must think I’m drunk right? I swear I’m not. I might be slightly tipsy, but I’m not drunk.”
    He got up and took her hand but she pushed him away.
    “Comot for road jare. I can walk by myself.”
    She walked easily back to the car but Bode wasn’t going to let her drive.
    “Let me have your keys.”
    “If you drive me home, what’s going to happen to your car?”
    “Nothing. I’ll ask a security guy to help me watch it. I’ll drive you home then take a cab back here.”
    Her smile disappeared and she instantly looked serious.
    “Bode, I’m not drunk, really, you shouldn’t.”
    “I insist. You look really tired.”
    Aisha did not argue further. She handed him the keys and got in the passenger seat in front. Bode spoke to the security man like he said he would. He paid him some money and walked back to the car. He got into the driver’s seat, turned on the ignition and then the Air Conditioner. The engine was running but he did not move the car. Rather he turned in his seat to face her.
    “Should I be worried about you?”
    Aisha leaned close to him and smiled.
    “Do you want to be?”
    Her words were slurred ever so slightly.
    Bode reached out and stroked her face with his right hand.
    “Yes. Actually I feel like I ought to. Something is eating you up but you’re not saying what it is. I mean, the way you sounded over the phone when you called and then you came here and went on a drinking spree. I have a feeling you’d have taken more if I hadn’t stopped you. So yes, I feel like I should be worried…”
    Aisha was not sure what Bode was saying. She could not really hear him and it had nothing to do with the loud music playing outside. In that moment all she could see was his beautiful eyes, his lovely dimples, his neatly shaven face, his lips… Bode was really attractive.
    Without thinking and before she could stop herself, she leaned in and kissed him…
    ====================

    EPISODE 6

    ====================
    Khalid spent a long time in the shower but by the time he was done, he had figured out how to handle the situation. He would attend the summit alright, but he would go with Aisha. He would raise the money for her flight and she would share his room. He would attend the summit during the day and at night, they could explore Accra together. It sounded like a good idea; one he would pitch to her in the morning.
    He decided to just go to sleep.

    Aisha left here really mad for reasons he was uncertain of, but he knew the trip to Accra would make for a good peace offering. Whatever was wrong with them, he hoped the trip would fix it. Again, he noticed the trouser she had folded neatly on the bed. He picked it up, took it to his closet, dropped it but decided he would want to wear it the following day so he unfolded it to pair up with a shirt in the hanger. He felt something in one of the pockets and he reached his hand into the pocket and pulled it out.

    He held the condom in his hand and chuckled at the memory. Tayo was just an idiot. A couple of days before their return, he told Tayo about Ella and how she was hitting on him. Tayo thought it would not be a bad idea to add her to his list of conquests. They talked over the issue, more like joked over it because he could not believe Tayo was serious.

    “Dude, you’re just engaged, not married. Besides, I thought you said Aisha had gone celibate.”

    “Yes, she has, and so have I. We’re engaged to be married and by God, I’m going to stay faithful to her.”

    “You’re dulling o oga. You’re really dulling. Why do you get to be the one with the looks and I the one with the brains? That’s not fair.”
    They had laughed and then Tayo had passed him a condom.
    “Just in case you change your mind.”
    At that moment, Ella walked into the room. Khalid took the condom and stuffed it into his pocket before Ella could sight it. He shook his head while laughing.
    “No man. I ain’t changing my mind. And I’m trashing this the next opportunity I get.”
    Only he never trashed it. He completely forgot about it and it had followed him home. Realization suddenly dawned on him. Aisha must have seen it when she was trying to unpack. Khalid’s heart started racing.
    Of course! That made perfect sense. She must have seen it and assumed he had gotten involved with someone else. Aisha! Why hadn’t she just asked him? No wonder she’d asked if he was trying to hide something, no wonder her tone was suspicious when she asked about his time in Port Harcourt.
    He quickly picked up his phone and dialled her number.
    ***
    Bode was completely taken aback by the kiss but he kissed her back nonetheless. Seconds later, he pulled back gently.
    “Do you feel better?”
    Aisha seemed to recover herself. She blinked severally before stuttering a reply.
    “uh… er… yeah, I think so. I sorta kinda do.”
    Bode smiled and rubbed her arm.
    “Let me take you home.”
    She did not respond. Rather she reclined in her seat and shielded her eyes with her hands.
    There was awkward silence between them for a few minutes then Bode turned on the car stereo as he moved the car. Traffic was pretty heavy tonight.
    “When is your supervisor’s birthday?”
    The question was totally random and Aisha turned to look at him, a confused look on her face.
    “I dunno. Why?”
    “I’m thinking maybe you can get her the Z10 as a gift and then she can stop hating.”
    Aisha smiled dryly.
    “You should ask how much my salary is. There’s no way I’m spending my money on the mean witch. I’m not her husband.”
    Bode laughed.
    “Maybe you could be her fairy godmother then.Bippityboppitty boo! Give her a Z10 and turn her life around forever”
    He waved his hand in the air as he cast the imaginary spell and Aisha laughed. She was thinking of a response to give when her phone rang. She did not need to check the ID, the ringtone told her who the caller was.
    “Please could you turn down the volume of the radio?”
    As Bode turned the knob, she answered.
    “Hello”
    “Hey, love, we need to talk. Are you home? I want to come over to your place now.”
    “I’m not home.”
    “Okay? Where are you? Are you going to be home anytime soon?”
    “I’m not sure. I’m really tired so when I get home I’ll be heading straight to bed.”
    “My love, I know you’re mad at me and I’m really sorry, I’ve got quite a lot to explain to you.”
    Aisha rubbed her head. It was aching slightly.
    “I’m sure whatever it is it can wait till tomorrow. I’ve had a long day and I’m going straight to bed. Let’s discuss in the morning.”
    “Ok babe, if you say so. I’m really sorry we fought tonight. It was not supposed to be like that. We’ve both been under a lot of pressure and I should have been more understanding. I’m sorry I snapped at you love, I really am.”
    Aisha could feel her heart melting. Khalid had called to say he was sorry. He sounded genuine and he said they needed to talk. Perhaps there was an explanation after all. Her tone however did not change. She did not need Khalid to think she had forgiven him just like that and she did not want Bode to be curious about the conversation.
    “Okay then. I’ve heard you. You can give me a call first thing tomorrow morning and we’ll talk about it. I’ve got to hang up now, I’m on transit.”
    “Okay dear. I love you.”
    “Yep.” Was all Aisha said before she hung up.
    Khalid wasted no time in throwing on his brown jalabia and grabbing his car keys. If Aisha thought he was going to let another moment pass before they resolved this particular issue, then she was joking. He had long since learnt that delay was dangerous. And he noted how Aisha had not said she loved him too. He would go to her home and if she wasn’t there yet, he would wait for her but he was certainly not going to let the night go by without explaining himself. In less than five minutes he was on his way to her home…

    Bode kept his eyes on the road while Aisha spoke on the phone. He tried to figure out who it was on the other end of the line but with Aisha’s cryptic responses, it was impossible to tell. When she wrapped up the conversation, he guessed the caller had either been from work or the person who had gotten her upset but he was almost certain it was the former. She did not say anything to him but simply stared outside in silence.
    “Everything okay?”
    He was more curious than concerned but his voice did not betray that fact.
    “Yeah, thanks.”
    “Work?”
    “Mhmmn.”
    She shut her eyes and maintained her reclined position. Bode could sniff the loopholes in his plan already. Aisha might not be so easy after all. She was just showing him a side to her he had never seen before. The quiet resolve to hold her ground and not do more than she was willing; that could be a problem.
    “I’ll need directions from here o.”
    Aisha was a little sobered up and suddenly she could not wait to get out of Bode’s company. She needed time and space to think. She had kissed Bode and it had felt good in that moment and now Khalid had called. This night was going all wrong and she needed time alone to sort herself out.
    “You know what, just stop me here, I can drive the rest of the way home. It’s not far.”
    ====================

    EPISODE 7

    ====================

    Bode looked at her and instantly saw the change. She had retreated into herself and she wasn’t going to let him in.
    “Why? You don’t want me to know where you stay?” He teased
    “It’s not that. I just really want to be alone right now. Please stop the car.”
    Bode did not argue further. He edged off the main road and gradually rolled the car to a stop. He was not certain what Aisha was feeling or what was going through her head but whatever it was, it made him slightly uncomfortable. She got out and crossed over to his side while he contemplated asking whether or not she was okay. She stood by the door for a few seconds and then he opened it and came down.
    “Are you sure you’re okay? That conversation seemed to have upset you a lot.”
    “Yes I’m fine. I’m just extremely tired and I need to be alone.”
    She got into the car, shut the door and moved the gear to drive.
    “Thank you for everything. Good night.”
    “Goodnight dear.” Bode replied stung but not showing it. He watched her ease her car back into the main road and join the flow of traffic. He flagged down a cab in less than a minute and gave the driver directions to the hotel all the while thinking.
    He needed to get his revenge and he would. No one caused him pain and walked away free. He would make sure they felt pain too. He would continue to do this over and over again.

    He calmed himself. Aisha would come running back to him. She may have shut him out tonight but she was already attracted to him. That much was obvious. He only needed to play his cards right and he would be back on track.
    ***
    Aisha wanted to smack herself. This was the most careless and stupid thing she had ever done. In her 13 months of dating Khalid, not once had she ever been unfaithful to him. Khalid was amazing. The moment he indicated discomfort over her numerous male friends, she kept most of them at bay and whenever she met someone new, she never let them past the level of acquaintance. Now this. In that moment she realized the truth; it did not matter whether Khalid had cheated on her or not, she loved him and wanted to be with him forever.

    She had been hanging out with Bode for three weeks now. The three weeks that Khalid had been away. That was the only reason she felt attracted to him. They had become too close. They chatted on BBM every day, they went out most evenings after work… that was simply a recipe for trouble. How could she not have seen that earlier?

    She sighed and focused on the road. She would get home tonight and talk to her mum; her best friend. Her mum would help her feel better. This wasn’t really her fault. Khalid was to blame too but she would not make this mistake again. She would talk to him in the morning, ask about the condom and hope that somehow there would be a reasonable explanation for everything. And then she would apologize to Bode. He seemed like a really decent fellow. He had not taken advantage of her tonight and that greatly impressed her. Maybe when she sorted out things with Khalid they could become good friends but she was definitely telling him she was engaged. No more hide and seek. She thought about his “don’t kiss me otherwise we’ll be in trouble” mantra. She was in trouble alright.

    As she drove into the estate, she absent-mindedly noticed a car following closely behind but she paid no attention to it. She honked in front of her gate and the gateman opened up for her. She drove straight to her parking spot and that was when she noticed the other car drive in after her. She hurriedly parked her car and came out, her heart racing.
    Khalid parked a few metres from the gate and came down. Apparently Aisha had not noticed him following her. He was uncertain how she would react but he walked purposefully towards her car. She got out rather hurriedly and almost knocked him over.
    “Whoa! Mine! Easy!”
    Aisha rushed into his arms and hugged him.
    “Baby, I’m really sorry. Really very sorry. I love you very much and I don’t care if you did anything wrong. I can always forgive you. I just don’t want us to fight. I’ve missed you so much!”
    Aisha was breathless by the time she finished gushing and Khalid was slightly surprised. He was certainly not expecting such a reception.
    “Mine, I love you too. So much. And I missed you too. And no, I did not cheat on you.”
    She looked up at him, surprised. Khalid looked into her eyes and stroked her cheek.
    “I found the condom too and I realized why you had been acting up.”
    Without warning, he lifted her off the ground and placed her easily on the boot of her car. Aisha squealed. She was scared of what Khalid would say next but she listened eagerly.
    “So I happened to meet the governor’s daughter on this trip. Crazy girl with too much energy. She flirted with me a lot and I had to tell her I was engaged.

    I told Tayo about her and he was crazy enough to suggest that I get with her. To him, it would be just another joke, another night of fun. But I could not do that to you. He handed me the condom as Ella walked into the room and I pocketed it, intending to discard it later but I never got to it. I would have told you everything earlier tonight but I did not remember and the timing just did not feel right.

    Mine, I love you. I want to get married to you and I intend to stay faithful to you for as long as I’m alive. There’s no other woman I’d rather be with than you.” Aisha had tears in her eyes and she could not stop them from trickling down.

    Guilt washed over her and she felt so ashamed. Why hadn’t she just asked earlier?
    “Awwww, my cute baby. Please don’t cry.” Khalid wiped the tears from her eyes but they would not stop flowing.
    “Miji na, my heart, my love, I’m so very sorry. I really…”
    Khalid hushed her up with a kiss. A kiss that took her breath away. A kiss that made her wish the hour before Khalid followed her home had not happened. A kiss that set off fireworks in her brain. Khalid pulled back and looked into her eyes.
    “Staying faithful to you might not be the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s definitely one difficult task I have taken on with all pleasure. What am I saying? It was tough when we first started dating but now it just comes easily to me.
    Besides, we’ve been apart for too long. I need to be around you more often.”
    Guilt tugged desperately at Aisha’s heart. She thought of telling him about Bode and the kiss but she buried it as quickly as it came up. No point ruining a perfect night. She smiled at him. A beautiful smile straight from her heart
    “You’re just bursting my head tonight. Now I remember why I fell in love with you. You might be an economist with your wallet but certainly not with your heart.”
    Khalid laughed.
    “Haba darling. Da gaske? You really think I’m selfish?”
    “Well, I didn’t get my dinner at Dunes tonight…”
    Aisha pouted. Khalid tickled her and she laughed.
    “Okay. We’ll have lunch at Dunes tomorrow and dinner too.”
    “Ok love. By the way, I don’t think you’re selfish o.”
    Khalid laughed good-naturedly. “Ehhhnn. Don’t worry. We both know I’m an economist where my wallet is concerned so let’s leave it at that.”
    Aisha laughed but it was stifled by a yawn.
    “Gaskiya na ge ji. I’m so tired.”
    “Yeah, you look it. You should go to bed. Where did you even go when you left my place?”
    “Oh, I went with a friend to get some drinks.”
    “Okay o. So, before I forget. I want you to accompany me to Accra next week. That’s to make up for being away for so long. I want to spend more time with you.”
    Aisha’s half asleep brain suddenly jerked back to life.
    “You said?”
    “Come with me to Accra next week. Please. There’s a summit there and it’ll last for a week. I don’t want to be there without you. Your passport is still valid right?”
    Aisha squealed in excitement. Tonight could not possibly get any better. They spent the next few minutes discussing the trip and Aisha kept yawning intermittently till Khalid decided to send her off to bed. It was almost 10:00pm when Khalid left her premises. He was totally satisfied and at peace with himself. Maybe while they were on the trip they could decide on a date for the wedding.

    Flashback
    “Seye, what’s up with you? You’ve been acting weird since we got back”
    Seye rolled over on the bed and wrapped herself in her blanket giggling. Her elder brother looked at her and shook his head.
    “Seye, talk to me jor. What’s happying you?”
    He heard her giggle loudly underneath the covers and he dragged the bundle close to himself tickling her at different angles. Seye laughed loudly and struggled to free herself from his grip.
    “Tell me what’s up na ahan.”
    Seye laughed again and managed to raise her head above the covers.
    “Fine. I like one boy like that.”
    He looked at his ten year old sister and love filled his eyes. He smiled. A new point to tease her on.
    “Does he have a name?”
    She grinned widely and nodded in the affirmative.
    “Are you going to tell me?”
    Her face took on a serious shade
    “Promise you won’t get mad”
    He raised an eyebrow. It was amazing how she managed to shuttle between baby and adult whenever she felt like.
    “I promise. Who is he?”
    “His name is Kay. He’s in your class”
    Her brother laughed. The laughter held no mirth.
    “No Seye, you can’t like Kay. He’s a really bad boy.”
    Seye’s eyes lost their sparkle in an instant.
    “But I really like him. And I already made a move on him”
    He laughed heartily this time. She was too cute for words
    “Made a move on him huh?”
    She nodded with a fire in her eyes
    “Yes. I told him I liked him and I wanted to be his girlfriend and he said okay. He even told me I was cute.”
    He looked at her in utter shock. He was certain he would pass out.

    PRESENT DAY
    Bode scrolled through his updates on BBM and found Aisha’s. The update was made 5 minutes ago. Her Personal message read
    “Many waters cannot quench our love neither can floods drown it. the fire burns too strongly…” with a lovestruck smiley.
    Her display picture was one of she and Khalid locked in a loving embrace.
    Bode smiled. Floods could not drown it eh? Well there was quite a flood coming alright and he was willing to bet anything that the love would not burn so strongly afterwards.
    ====================

    EPISODE 8

    ====================

    PING
    Hey dear, how’s your day going? Someone seems to have forgotten a certain someone so the certain someone who was forgotten decided to bring himself into remembrance
    Aisha read Bode’s ping and smiled.
    -LOL. I’m sorry. I’ve just been a little busy lately. How are ya?
    -Hehe. Interesting that you suddenly became “a little busy” after we kissed two days ago. Told you we’d both be in trouble
    Aisha almost dropped her phone. Embarrassment crawled up her cheeks and stung. She had ignored Bode for two days straight and it was easy because Khalid was in town. They had dinner together on Tuesday after work like he had promised and on Wednesday, they had gone to see a movie. She wanted to explain things to Bode but she felt it would be best to avoid him for a bit so there were no pings, calls or texts from her. She wondered why he did not try to reach out to her and she had to admit to herself she was grateful when his ping came in.
    -LOL. About that. We need to talk.
    -Haha. Ya think? Nah, I’m cool with you burying it under the carpet. Ignore the chemistry we share, I’ll do same.
    Whoa! Chemistry?! La ila! I’m in trouble. I’m really in trouble.
    She dropped her phone on the table, covered her face with both palms and gently rubbed her fingers over her eyes.
    Chemistry? What sorta chemistry? She was tipsy!
    She let out a deep sigh and picked up the phone again. How was she to tell Bode about Khalid without making things awkward between them?
    -Uh, Chemistry? How about we discuss the Further maths?
    -Loooool. You’re something else. Further maths ke? No o. I love just the chemistry. Further maths is a pain.
    Aisha was getting nervous.
    -Uh, ok. It’s just… You know how you said we would both be in trouble yeah?
    -Lool. Relax babe. I’m messing with you. Chemistry nothing. You were high that night. I told ya.
    Aisha felt relief wash over her. Thank God. So he was teasing after all. All would be well
    -Lol. Mumu boy. You’re just a monkey. I wasn’t high, I was only tipsy.
    -Mhmmmmn. What’s the difference? Oh well. That’s by the way. I miss you o. When are we seeing?
    Aisha swallowed. An instant knot formed in her tummy. Did she miss him? Not really. Khalid had taken up all her spare time. But thinking about it now, maybe she did. And they needed to talk.
    -I miss you too. What are you doing after work today? I actually want us to talk. I’m travelling on Sunday.
    -Really? Where to?
    -Accra. I’m attending a summit there. I’ll tell you all about it this evening.
    -Ok. Sounds interesting. Sure we could meet up after work. But I’m not taking you to any garden. Before you drink again and get us into further trouble. LOL.:P
    Aisha winced. He would probably not let this rest for a long time.
    -Ouch. Nice going. Let’s meet at Drumstix in Wuse 2 at 5:30
    The place had no romantic ambience, it was quiet and they could talk.
    -Ok. Sounds good. I’ll free you now. Take care.
    -Thanks, you too.

    Khalid spent the whole of Thursday doing research. He had gotten a call the previous evening inviting him to speak at some meeting of undergraduate students of economics. The meeting was going to take place three weeks after his return from Accra but he decided to start preparing. His life was a busy one; something was always happening. Meetings, summits, speaking engagements… he was his own person and he loved the freedom his independence brought him.

    At about 4:00pm he got up to stretch and exercise his legs. It had been a long day. He walked to his kitchen hoping for a snack but found nothing. And then he remembered Aisha.
    Uh-oh. Not even a text all day.
    He walked tiredly back to the dining table where his laptop was set up alongside a host of papers and journals.

    His phone was buried somewhere underneath the pile and it took him a few minutes to find it. He was not surprised to find 15 missed calls, 3 text messages, 6 unread pings and 3 whatsapp messages. The phone had been silenced all day. He scratched his head and absent mindedly scrolled through the calls. A few from his mum, others from random people and the last two from a friend he was helping with a proposal. Khalid sighed. He had completely forgotten about the proposal and it was due today. He decided to get to it immediately.

    He read the texts. One from MTN; he hissed and deleted without even reading, the other from his mum; asking about his welfare and the third from the guy with the proposal. He checked the pings next. He ignored the other 5 but opened Aisha’s to read.
    -Baby, ya ka ke?
    That came in at noon and another had followed an hour later
    -Busy much? I was just checking you up. I miss you
    He looked at the screen where he was not even half done with the paper he was to present and decided to take a few minutes and call her. He would not see her tonight. He could not. He needed to finish the proposal and do other things. So much to take care of before their trip. He massaged his temples and then scratched his head while he waited for her to pick up.
    “Hi love”
    “Hi darling, I’m so sorry, I’m just seeing your pings. I’ve been lost in my laptop all day. Too much to do-“
    “It’s okay, I understand. Are you done now?”
    “No love. Not even halfway. I won’t even be able to see you tonight. I really want to get done as much work as I can before we travel. I’m sorry”
    “Okay love. Just do your thing, it’s fine. I’ve got a few things to take care of myself.”
    “Thanks babe. I love you. I’ll call you much later tonight and you can tell me all about your day yeah?”
    “Okay boo. I love you too.”
    Aisha hung up and smiled. She really loved Khalid. Then a certain thought darkened the smile. Why didn’t she say she was seeing Bode?
    Because he doesn’t know Bode and it’ll be too much of a long explanation to give in detail now. It has to be when we see.
    She sighed and promised herself that she would sort things out with Bode and then tell Khalid about him later. And the kiss? Well, that might remain her own little secret forever.
    ====================

    EPISODE 9

    ====================

    JULY 2007
    Seye walked away from the hall with the dazzling disco lights and loud music. She could not bring herself to enjoy the party. And she had tried. She really had. But it was impossible. It was dark and a little chilly outside but she wasn’t scared. She just needed a bit of fresh air. There were several cars parked 200 metres away and so she walked; slowly but purposefully towards one of them.

    She checked the time on her wristwatch and it read 8:30pm. They would have to leave soon. Her father had insisted they return home before 10:00pm.

    She looked up and saw the stars. Only a few of them; and they did not shine brightly enough. She looked at the hall in the distance wishing silently that he would notice her absence and come seeking her outside; then like an answered prayer, the door opened and a young man walked out through it. He was far away, it was dark and she could not make out his face but she knew that silhouette all too well. It was him. The floodlights shone graciously on the field and it did not take him long to notice her and walk up to her.
    “Why are you out here by yourself?”
    Concern. That was all that was in his voice. Not even a gentle rebuke for being out alone in the cold dressed in a sleeveless pink dress.
    “I couldn’t stand being in there, watching everyone have so much fun when my heart is being broken into a thousand pieces.”
    She shivered slightly and he hugged her and held her close.
    “Seye, don’t do this please, not tonight.”
    She looked into his eyes and saw the plea for understanding but ignored it.
    “I’m tired Kay. I’m tired of being strong. I really can’t do this anymore.”
    She trembled a little and the tears came down like light raindrops, they rolled down her cheeks and they would not stop.

    His eyes grew misty too but he would not let them display their weakness. Certainly not in front of his lady. He held her and let her cry for a little bit and when he felt the tears subside, he braved another look into her eyes.

    “Remember how we started dating?”
    Seye laughed. Of course! How could she forget?
    “Yes, I do…”
    “And everyone thought we were crazy. Even I thought I was crazy. A J.S 1 girl coming to ask me, an SS 1 guy out? That was hilarious.”
    Seye lowered her gaze and dropped her chin but he raised it up.
    “But we made it through to this point. We will be fine”
    Seye laughed again but it wasn’t as rich this time.
    “Kay, it’s different now. You’re going away to study in Malaysia in 2 months. You’ll be gone for 3 years. We don’t stand a chance.”
    He looked at her and was awed by her candidness. Seye was just 14. In fact she had only turned 14 two weeks ago but she was smarter and way more matured than most girls he knew. His “official age” was 18, which made him only 4 years older, but in reality, he was 20 and only Seye knew that.

    She had a purity and innocence about her that was utterly refreshing. His friends could not understand it but he did and he was not willing to trade in for anything else.

    “But I’m willing to try…”
    Seye shook her head.
    “Don’t do that please. We should just break up already.”
    He was sure he hadn’t heard right.
    “What did you say?”
    “Better sooner than later.”
    “So you’re going to ruin my graduation party for me?”
    “Please, it’s not like that…”
    She was crazy but that craze would have to stay in its lane tonight. He wasn’t going to face the impending hurt tonight. No way.
    “We have two months left. Let’s make the best of it yeah?”
    She looked at him but he was determined not to back down. And then the baby in her returned.
    “Okay, two months. Let’s make it count.”
    They hugged tightly for a few minutes and then he escorted her back into the hall.

    PRESENT DAY
    Bode was angry. But that anger was only hurt converted. The meeting with Aisha had been a little awkward but he had gone out of his way to ease the tension and make things easy for her. She explained that she was engaged to this really amazing guy and went on and on to list all of Khalid’s Knightly qualities. He didn’t want to hear them. He did not need to hear them but he played the role of nice and understanding friend and let her yap all the way.

    So she was sorry about the kiss, she was going to Accra with “his royal awesomeness”; he was sure she blushed when he said that. In other words, all was fine and dandy in Lovetown so he was being relegated to the background. Oh well. That would not be for long. It was time to carry out his ultimate plan. He would just wait for them to return from Accra. Besides, his office was looking to transfer him to Kaduna and there was a 50% chance it would come through. Time was running out
    ====================

    EPISODE 10

    ====================

    Aisha was having the time of her life in Accra. Things had never been better. For this trip to be possible, her grandmother who died four years ago had to die a sudden death again. That was the only reason her complicated supervisor permitted her to travel. But the lie did not bother her. She had been here for three nights and she was definitely enjoying herself.

    Khalid left in the mornings, chatted with her over lunch break and took her out in the evenings. The trip was somewhat spontaneous so they did not have much cash at their disposal but she was enjoying herself nonetheless.

    They went window shopping twice and despite the fact that Khalid had grumbled about going to stores and not buying much, she had enjoyed herself.

    Last night while they took a walk, they decided on a date for the wedding. She had called her mum and they agreed they would meet and finalize upon their return. But as it stood, in six months, she would be a Mrs. The thought made her giddy with excitement and she hugged her pillow.

    She thought about Bode. They had not chatted much since she came. She checked his profile on BBM and as usual, there was no picture of him. It suddenly struck her as odd. She had no picture of Bode. He never updated his DP with a personal picture. She shrugged and decided he was just weird like that. She dropped her phone, sat up on the bed and began browsing various sites, checking out wedding gowns and other accessories. A few minutes later, she wrote down a list of girls that would be her maids of honour, making a mental note to ask Khalid about the guys so she could begin pairing them up. In no time she was lost to the world, thinking, planning, writing and browsing. This wedding would be awesome!
    ***
    “Why do I get the feeling you’re avoiding me?”

    Khalid did not slow his pace one bit. He kept walking down the hall and responded without looking at her.

    “Because I am. Everything about you spells trouble.” Ella laughed and grabbed his arm, forcing him to a halt.
    “Khalid would you calm down for a second and loosen up? I just want to be friends. Why are you being so difficult?”
    Khalid thought for a few seconds, whether to indulger her in this conversation or be downright rude and walk away. He chose the former option.
    “Ella, you’re attracted to me and each time I look at you, I don’t see that the attraction is gone. Trying to be just friends with me is a risky business.”
    Ella smiled. The frankness of his words surprised her. It was as though he could see right through her but she would not back down.
    “Don’t get too cocky. I’ll admit, I was attracted to you but I’m mature enough to know and back down when a guy doesn’t want me. Forget that I hit on you in PH. Let’s try and be friends. We have a common ground in Econ. I’m sure we can add a lot of value to each other.”
    Khalid looked at her and sighed.
    “You don’t get it do you? I’m really not interested. And I’m sorry if I’m coming off as cold and unfeeling. But that’s just the way I am. The time spent around you in PH raised a red flag for me and I have learned to never ignore my instincts”
    He knew his words cut deep because she released her hold on his arm, tucked an imaginary stray strand of hair behind her ears and said:
    “Okay then. Enjoy the rest of your stay here.” She turned back and walked towards the conference room where the summit was taking place and he continued his walk to his room.

    Aisha was sound asleep when he got in. He walked about carefully so as not to disturb her. He noticed the laptop and notepad lying on the edge of the bed and he picked them up. Several tabs were opened, all containing pictures of wedding stuff; gowns, cakes, shoes, rings, even suits. He smiled. Aisha would make a very beautiful bride. He checked the note pad and read through all her scribbles. He always teased her about her writing. It wasn’t all that bad but he liked to describe it as what happened when chickens scratched about for food. He smiled thinking about how she must have spent the entire day planning the wedding, if her scribbles were anything to go by.

    Aisha turned in her sleep but did not wake up. Khalid laid the laptop and notepad carefully on the table and then he sat down on the bed to think. They had a potential date for the wedding and that made things seem even more real to him. Was he really ready to settle down? Was he good enough? Aisha loved him, she respected him and she trusted him. She saw him as the perfect guy, the man of her dreams, but what if he wasn’t?

    He bowed his head and buried his face in his hands. In seconds, images from his past came rushing at him. The thoughts flooded his mind and threatened to drown him. He had made mistakes and he was certain that soon his past would find him and Aisha would see that he was not the saint she thought him to be.

    He shook his head and forced the thoughts back. It was all in the past. Everyone had history right? He had changed. He was a better man and he deserved Aisha.
    Really? You do? Where in this world is it recorded that evil men deserve good, loving women?

    Khalid got up and walked into the bathroom. He would ignore the voices in his head. He had seen a therapist years ago. Everything was supposed to be over. But now the thought of getting married and settling down seemed to frighten him and that fright brought the voices back. The voices! They preyed on his fear and taunted him mercilessly.
    “I deserve her. I have worked hard to make myself worthy of her love. I have earned my place in her life.”

    He spoke into the mirror and kept repeating the words to himself. He turned the faucet and cupped water in his palms, splashing it on his face and willing himself to calm down. He walked back to the room a few minutes later and dug in his bag for some panadol. He had not had a panic attack in over a year, now this. He needed to call his therapist.

    Ella did not take rejection well at all. She was not the kind of girl that felt privileged and entitled to anything she wanted but with Khalid, it was different. She could not believe he had turned down her offer of a simple friendship. What kind of guy was he? It was just not normal. His rejection made her even more determined to get to him. There had to be a way. He was just the kind of guy she needed. Smart, dedicated, and loyal.

    All the guys she had ever been with had some question marks around them. They were always lacking something. But Khalid looked like he had everything.

    She brought out her iPad and composed an email to send to her dad. He was really busy, they hardly had time to bond, but he would never deny her a request.
    Hi dad, the summit is going really great. It’s really awesome having so many economic giants in one room. I’ve had some time to interact with Khalid. You were right about him. He seems really smart, like someone who knows what he’s doing. I think you should consider offering him a job. Maybe make him your special assistant on economic matters or something. He might be able to help you improve the economy of our state. I’m sure that will place you in good standing with the president and set you right on track for a second term. I could work with him; put my brains to use like you’ve always suggested. Matter of fact, I’ve got a few projects I’m thinking of and I’m sure he and I will be able to make it work. Please think about it and reply me when you get a chance. I love you!

    She read the message twice over and hit the send button. If her father offered Khalid a job, she doubted that he would refuse it. And once he took the job, getting rid of her would be impossible.
    ***
    SEPTEMBER 2007
    Seye stayed in her room all evening and the wept. The tears would not stop flowing and she did not attempt to stop them. At some point, she began to wail loudly and her elder brother rushed into the room worried.
    “Seye, what’s wrong with you?”
    She ignored him and continued wailing. He was afraid. Someone might have died for all he knew. He gripped her by her arm and shook her.
    “Seye talk to me jor. What happened to you? Why are you crying like this? Did someone die?”
    Seye shook her head but she still couldn’t speak. Her brother was confused for a little while and then a thought occurred to him.
    “Kay has gone to Malaysia hasn’t he?”
    Seye nodded in the affirmative and burst into fresh spasms of tears.
    He wasn’t sure whether to scold her for crying so much or to ignore her and let her get over the hurt of his departure and so he sat there for a while just staring at her. She would not stop crying though. And it seemed to him like someone had actually died. Unable to stand her tears anymore, he patted her on the back before getting up to leave the room.
    “Get over him. Life goes on. It’s why I don’t believe in love. You only end up hurt.”
    He knew his words were cruel but he felt his sister did not need kid gloves. She needed the cold hard truth. She would get through this and she would be fine.
    Seye looked at him with puffy red eyes and a running nose.
    “You have no idea…”
    He hugged her briefly and walked away. He could not bear to watch her cry, but as he got to the door, she called out to him. He turned and walked back to her.
    “Yes?”
    She hiccupped twice before speaking in a low tone; so low that he could barely make out her words
    “Kay raped me…”
    ***
    PRESENT DAY
    Aisha woke up with a start. She’d had a terrible dream. She looked around the room and noticed Khalid lying on the center rug, staring into space.
    “My love?”
    He raised his head and looked at her.
    “Sleeping Beauty’s finally awake” he said with a smile
    “I just had a terrible dream.”
    Concern masked Khalid’s face as he got up and walked towards her.
    “What happened darling?”
    She let him sit beside her and wrap his arms around her.
    “So I dreamt that we were getting married and they asked if anyone had any objections and Bode raised his hand and then you pulled a gun out of nowhere and shot him and then everyone started running and you pointed the gun at me too and threatened to kill me and kill yourself and then I woke up…”
    Aisha gushed everything out in a single breath, her eyes still wide with fear. It had just been a dream but it seemed so real. She looked at Khalid and noticed the mild amusement on his face.
    “Mine, I don’t even own a gun” he said, chuckling softly. “And who is Bode anyways?”
    Aisha gulped.
    “He’s a friend of mine. A new friend.”
    “I never heard of any new friend by the name of Bode. Since when did he appear?”
    “Uh, months ago. Apparently, we were in school together in Lancaster but I never knew him. Then we met at a training and we exchanged numbers. I see him once in a while.”
    Khalid said “Hmmmn” and then was silent for a few minutes.
    “Why are you quiet love?”
    “Why I’m quiet? I’m just wondering about your new friend that you never told me about who suddenly appears in your dream but happens to be ruining our wedding.”
    Khalid’s tone was neither warm nor light and Aisha knew trouble was brewing. She had to handle this right. She thought about telling him the whole truth, including the kiss but she figured that doing so would get her into serious trouble so she chose to play safe.
    “Mine, I’m just a little stressed that’s all. Bode isn’t someone you should worry about. I think it was just a really random dream and that’s why I was so scared. I mean, Bode is a nice guy and he even knows I’m engaged to you. He hasn’t shown any interest in me so there’s no reason for him to want to disrupt our wedding. And then you say you do not have a gun. I think it was all too random.”
    Khalid looked at her as though he could tell that there was more than she was letting on. He strongly felt that way. This “new friend” unnerved him but he was not going to doubt her. If she said it was nothing then it really was nothing. He sighed and said “Okay, if you say so.”
    Aisha hugged him tight and whispered into his ears.
    “There’s no one I could ever love more than you baby. Absolutely no one.”
    He smiled and returned the hug…
    ***
    I’ll be stopping here guys. Sorry if this episode seems short. I had a really hectic week and had to push myself to make sure this episode was available today. I’d really love to get your feedback on what you think of the story so far. And do you think Aisha should have told the whole truth about Bode or was it better she kept it a secret? I look forward to hearing from you.
    ====================

    EPISODE 11

    ====================

    Bode walked into his boss’ office that Wednesday morning feeling slightly uncomfortable. His line manager usually gave the instructions so if the overall boss summoned him, it had to be something huge.
    “Sit down.” The man waved him into a chair. Bode did as he was told, a very calm expression on his face. His boss wasted no time in getting down to business.

    “We have three jobs to handle in Dubai and I need strong, competent hands to accompany me so I want you to join the team…”
    Bode could not hide the surprise on his face. This was good news. He smiled as his boss continued
    “We will be gone for two weeks max. Hopefully, we should be able to complete all three jobs.”
    Bode composed himself and the smile disappeared from his face.
    “Ok sir. When do we leave?”
    “Next week, Monday afternoon. I don’t know why all three jobs had to come in at the same time with this level of urgency but we’ll go and sort them out.”
    “Ok then. Thank you sir.”
    He got up to leave.
    “Oh, one more thing. That IT firm we worked for in Utako, their data centre requires a complete overhaul. Do you think you can go and check it out later today and be done by tomorrow?”
    Bode’s eyes grew big and round. He wanted to say no but he didn’t dare. Because he knew it was not a request. It was an instruction.
    “Sure sir. I can do that.”
    Bode walked out of the office and back to his own. Days like this, he hated being a Systems Engineer. Mr Fix it. He sighed.

    The job in Utako would definitely run into Friday. It’s how these things worked. He sat at his desk and thought about the Dubai trip and realization hit him. He would likely not see Aisha before then. Irritation crawled up his spine. And what if upon his return from Dubai, they decided to transfer him to Kaduna? Oh boy… He shut down his laptop, packed it into his backpack and got up to leave. The sooner he got to Utako, the better for him.
    ***
    DECEMBER 2007
    Kay sat outside the big brown door, shoulders slumped, eyes reddened. Gone was the confident, self-assured young man who walked with shoulders high and rich loud laughter. Right there, he looked like a frightened mouse that had been cornered. He waited, somewhat impatiently, uncertain of what would happen next but utterly terrified.
    He had been acting strange for two weeks; skipping classes, skipping meals, avoiding friends… everyone was worried about him. His aunt insisted that he move home from the campus and when he remained a recluse, they brought him to see a doctor. She was a psychologist actually but Kay could not be bothered by the difference. He looked up at the door again. “ DR OLIVIA UMARI” was printed boldly at the top of it. He shivered slightly and continued his wait. He was not sure he wanted to talk to anyone.
    10 minutes later, the door opened and his aunt walked out.
    “You can go in.”
    She looked tired and he could only imagine how much stress he was putting her through.
    “I’m sorry aunty.” He muttered
    She gave him a tired smile and patted him on the back.
    “Just let her help you. Please talk to her”
    He nodded and walked in.
    Dr Olivia was a pretty lady. Not the regular doctor who wore glasses and had a clustered table. Her desk was neat with few stacks of files. She got up and smiled at him as he walked in.
    “Hello! Please sit on the couch.”
    He did as he was told and seconds later she was sitting beside him.
    “My name is Olivia”
    “I’m Kay.” He felt stiff and awkward beside her
    “Alright. Is that your full name?”
    “No. My full name is Khalid Sani.”
    The pretty lady smiled. She did not have a notepad or any writing material but somehow, Khalid felt she would remember everything he said here.
    “I’ll stick with Kay then. Everyone calls you that yeah?”
    He relaxed somewhat. There was something about her.
    “Yes ma’am. Everyone calls me Kay.”
    She smiled; a very disarming smile and he relaxed some more.
    “Alright Kay. Your aunt is pretty worried about you. Says you’ve been withdrawn. What’s up?”
    Kay wringed both hands together and kept silent.
    “Kay?”
    He looked up at her and shook his head slowly, panic gradually working its way into him.
    “I um, er, I think I’m just really stressed. Tired. Lots of work at school.”
    “Lots of work at school yeah? What are you studying?”
    Kay knew he was lying but he wasn’t ready to open up to this pretty lady and share his darkest secret. He answered her all the same and the conversation went on. She asked which of his classes he enjoyed best, what his hobbies were, where he loved to hang out… the questions kept coming and he supplied answers easily enough. She was easy to talk to.
    Bit by bit, she worked her way into his head and then she asked if he was seeing anyone.
    “Uhh, no. I was. But not anymore.”
    Her eyes held kindness when she asked why.
    “I left her back in Nigeria when I had to resume here.”
    She smiled. A smile that told him she understood all about young love.
    “Is she the reason you have been so sad Kay? Do you miss her very much?”
    Kay’s eyes clouded and before he could stop himself, the words came rushing from his mouth, tumbling over each other, barely making any sense.
    “She’s dead. I killed her. I got an email two weeks ago telling me she was dead. She died and it was all my fault.”
    He expected her to recoil and call the cops to come arrest him but she drew closer to him instead, wrapping her arms around him in a warm embrace and rubbing his back. When his tears subsided, she asked
    “How could you have killed her if you’re over here in Malaysia and she’s all the way in Nigeria?”
    Khalid looked into her eyes and all he saw was kindness and understanding. She wasn’t judging him.
    “I did something very stupid.
    We dated for a while and I really loved her. Very much. She was beautiful and really sweet and unassuming. She had this innocence about her. She was just pure. And I loved her but we weren’t getting together you know- ”
    “You weren’t having sex?”
    Khalid looked a little embarrassed and he nodded. She smiled and said “Go on.”
    “So I knew I would leave her behind and I wanted to make things work somehow. I did not want her to forget me and I did not know how to go about it. She was ready to end things with me. So I spoke to some friends and they said if I slept with her, it was guaranteed she would never forget me. I mean, ladies never forget their first right?”
    Dr. Olivia nodded in understanding, kind smile still in place.
    Shame washed over Khalid afresh and suddenly, he could not bring himself to continue speaking. As though she could read his mind, Dr. Olivia hugged him and said
    “You don’t have to keep talking if you don’t want to. You can save the rest for later.” He felt greatly relieved and nodded gratefully.

    She got up, went to a fridge tucked in a corner of the office and returned a few minutes later with a glass of orange juice and cookies in a saucer.
    “Here. Have some of these. I baked the cookies myself. I hope you like them.”
    And when Khalid began to munch on the cookies, she continued.
    “We don’t have to get through everything in one day. We’ll go one step at a time. I’m here to help you. I want to be your friend. So feel free to come in here at any time to talk.”
    Khalid nodded.
    ====================

    EPISODE 12

    ====================

    “Are you gonna come back and finish the story tomorrow or at least tell me some more?”
    Khalid nodded. She gave him some pills to take. Anti-depressants she called them, and some multivitamins to help his appetite. Half an hour later, Khalid was gone. But he made good his word and returned the following day and several other days after that. He told her the whole truth, keeping nothing back. He had lured Seye to his home a day before his departure from Nigeria, he had gotten a little drunk and he had raped her, in spite of her struggles and pleas. He regretted his actions terribly the following day but he was never able to talk to her and beg her forgiveness.

    His actions haunted him but he always dealt with them determined to make amends some day in the future until that mail came in that ruined him. A classmate from Secondary school said Seye was dead. She had gotten pregnant, tried to abort and then died in the process.

    It was all too much for him to bear, a lot too difficult to deal with and he was gradually sinking into clinical depression. Dr. Olivia did her best to get him out of it. When the nightmares came, he ran to her. When the panic attacks began he would run to her still. He never got a chance to make things right with Seye’s family. Not even her brother Olu B, who had always been so protective of her. They had been classmates but not friends.

    His mother moved from Port Harcourt to Abuja and during his time at Malaysia, he hardly returned to Nigeria. Dr. Olivia understood everything. She listened patiently each time he spoke and she encouraged him to forgive himself. Everyone made mistakes. Sometimes they were amendable, at others time they weren’t; but regardless, it was important to move on and work towards becoming a better person.

    And so Khalid moved on with his life, forgiving himself, letting the pain go away and striving so hard to become a better person…

    PRESENT DAY
    Thursday night, Aisha was super excited. A gala nite had been organized to wrap up the summit and Khalid was taking her to it. She dressed up really quickly; a lovely mono-strapped purple dress that flowed all the way down to her feet with silver sequins adorning the waist. She clutched a pink purse and wore flat pink shoes. Khalid teased her about the shoes before they left their room.
    “You look short somehow. How can you wear such a lovely dress and then wear flats? Don’t you feel weird?”
    She laughed and replied
    “Because I decided to pity you abi? You know I would dwarf you in any of my heels.”
    “Mhmmmmn! You so wish! See this short girl o. If you wore the heels I would still be taller.”
    “Yeah yeah. Whatever” Aisha rolled her eyes and waved her hand in the air dismissively and then he laughed and pulled her close.
    “You only do this your ‘yeah yeah’ when you know I’m right. Don’t worry, in shortness and in height, I’ll always love you.” He tapped her nose with his fore finger and Aisha laughed really hard.

    They walked out of the room and Khalid shut the door behind them. As they proceeded to the hall, an astonishingly beautiful lady walked past them. She had on a short dress; leopard skin print that clung to every part of her body and totally flattered her perfect figure. Actually, everything about her seemed perfect. Makeup was flawless, legs were straight, hair perfectly done, but her breasts heaved up and down as she walked. Clearly, the dress could not adequately accommodate them. She found herself gaping as the lady walked past and flashed a smile at Khalid. She caught a whiff of what had to be very expensive perfume and it filled her nostrils. Khalid looked at her like she was acting silly.

    “Why were you staring like that?” She giggled and said

    “I’m sorry love. But that babe was just too fine. Kai. Life is not fair o. Have you noticed how all these really rich babes are so fine? It’s annoying.”
    She expected him to laugh and pass some funny comment but he didn’t. Instead he answered rather coolly.
    “No I don’t notice. I’m too busy minding my own business.”
    Aisha dropped her hand from his side where she had hitherto been holding him.
    “Ouch. Baby, that actually stung.”
    Khalid looked at her and sighed. He took her by the arm and walked off to somewhere on the side
    “Mine, that was the governor’s daughter, Ella. I told you about her. She’s been getting under my skin and I really can’t stand her. It would help if you didn’t ogle at her like that. You’re not even a guy.”
    Aisha came up with a smartass reply and it was just on the tip of her lips but she thought better of it and swallowed instead. Khalid seemed to notice.
    “You were going to strike back now, weren’t you?”
    “Oh no baby. We don’t get to fight tonight. Actually, we get to have a lot of fun and throw it in Ella’s face.” She smiled. Khalid hugged her.
    “You’re pretty silly sometimes yeah, but for the most part, I’m just crazy about you.”
    She smiled mischievously.
    “I’m silly abi? Don’t push it o. Let’s just go”
    Khalid laughed, linked his arm with hers and walked into the venue of the gala.
    ====================

    EPISODE 13

    ====================

    “Dearest, sorry I did not get to reply your mail earlier. I had series of meetings in Abuja with the president and it’s been really hectic. Unfortunately, I will not be able to offer Khalid a job as you requested. You know how politics gets complicated sometimes. The best I can do is welcome him to carry out whatever projects you have in mind on contract basis. I’ll be in South Africa by Sunday night. I should return in two weeks. Make arrangements for us to have a special dinner somewhere nice with your mum and whichever of your siblings is in town when I return. Love always, Dad.”

    Ella read the mail twice. She was on her way to the airport that Friday afternoon when it came in. She had been so certain he would oblige her. What did he mean by complicated sef? Mtscheeew.

    Suddenly she did not feel interested in pursuing Khalid anymore. The venture was looking more stressful than it would be rewarding and just like that, she changed her mind. She pinged a friend instead. What she really needed was a distraction. The summit had been enlightening but it had been no fun. And Khalid! The clown had to flaunt his fiancé in her face at the gala nite. She hissed again.
    – PING
    Babe. I’m on my way back to Naija. Where you dey?
    -Hey princess, I’m in Lagos o. Trying to get my groove although I think I’ll go to Dubai on Sunday
    -Really? Sounds good. This week has been crazy. I need to chill.
    -Haha.
    Things didn’t work out with Le Prince Charming?
    -Naah. I’ve given up on him. Need another distraction.
    -LOL.
    Want to come along then? We could spend the week together and catch all the fun we want. Shop, swim, laze around all day…
    -LOL. That’s exactly what I need right now. Help me book the flight, I’ll sort you out when I come in. I’m flying to Abuja. I’ll take the last flight out to Lagos tonight.
    ok babes. Travel safe and keep me updated.
    She replied that she would and slipped her phone back into her bag. Cynthia was one of the few close friends she had; the one who checked her excesses most times and the one person she could always be honest with. Cynthia had been against her decision to pressure her father into sponsoring Khalid for the summit but she did not listen. Stubborn lady that she was, she hardly ever listened. Oh well, that phase was over. Unto the next.

    ***
    “Hi Dr. Olivia, I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch. I trust all is well with you. Please I need to speak with you as soon as possible. I’m getting married in a few months and the panic attacks seem to be returning. My fiancé is amazing and I feel like I do not deserve her. I did not tell her about the incident from many years ago because I’m certain she will not be able to handle it. I’ve tried your number severally but can’t get through. Please send me a number I can reach you on. Cheers. Khalid”

    Khalid hit the send button and relaxed in the car. The cab driver had dropped Aisha home first before heading to his place in Maitama. He’d had yet another attack at the airport when they ran into one of Aisha’s friends. Aisha had introduced him as her fiancé, stressing that they were getting married in a few months. The way the guy looked him over made him nervous and the voices came flooding in. He excused himself and rushed off to get a bottle of water. Aisha thought his behaviour weird, but she said nothing about it.

    He sighed. She was so proud of him, so excited to show him off, he did not know how to handle it. All she could talk about on the flight back was how to go about preparations for their wedding; creating a page on Facebook for the event, renting a hall, the dresses, cake, music, everything. With each plan she brought up, he could feel the world caving in on him, suffocating him and making it difficult for him to breathe. He requested for water several times and she finally gave it a rest when she noticed he did not quite share in her excitement. He promised to come see her mother on Saturday after he had rested so they could discuss, agree on a date and commence planning.

    Khalid’s father had been a Muslim before he died and his mother, a Christian, had not bothered re-marrying. Every time he spoke with his mum about her marriage to his father, it was always with mixed feelings. His father had been a wonderful man and he regretted that they had not spent so much time together.

    Life was not fair at all. A director in Ministry of Finance, he had died when Khalid was just six years old. His mum would always insist that their seven years as a married couple were the best of her life. It had been a difficult union to happen. His father was Muslim, his mother Christian, but it had happened all the same. Both families ostracized them and after his father’s death, the amount of persecution that followed his mum was most unbearable.

    He grew up without any ties to his extended families because his mother ensured that none of them came close to him; especially her family. They had tried to re-connect with them after his father’s death but his mother refused. They relocated from Kano to Port Harcourt and life went on okay.
    Khalid and his mother bonded pretty well. He was an only child but she did not raise him to be overly dependent on her so he turned out alright. By the time he finished his NYSC and launched out as a young economist trying to right the wrongs in Nigeria, she could not have been any prouder. She shuttled between countries in Africa, running shelters for abused women and catering to the needs of homeless children. He made sure he called her every week and once a month, she came into Nigeria to spend a weekend with him and catch up.

    She met Aisha on one of such visits and they got along well. His mum was excited by the fact that she was from Southern Kaduna like herself and she asked after her often. He needed to call her and talk to her about the wedding. She had not been able to come last month but was due back in two weeks. He looked forward to seeing her.

    His mum did not know about Seye’s death until she came to attend his graduation and met Dr. Olivia. She did not judge him but she certainly did not exonerate him either. He got series of lectures on the importance of making the right decisions for a long time after that but he did not mind. It felt a little price to pay for Seye’s death.

    He sighed again as the driver pulled up in front of the house on Uruguay street. He looked again at the big house that would sometime be home to himself and Aisha. His mum had bought it two years ago through a friend who worked with one of the government parastatals. Being here alone sometimes felt really lonely. Suddenly the idea of getting married to Aisha did not seem so scary anymore.

    He paid the cab driver and walked into the house. He was quick to notice the pair of brown casual slip-ons left carelessly by the welcome mat. He shook his head. Tayo was in the house. Sure enough, as soon as he shut the door behind him, Tayo came down the stairs and into the living room.
    “Maza! Ya ne?”
    He laughed tiredly and hugged him.
    “Ogbeni I dey alright o. When did you get in?”
    “Last night. I’ve got an interview with this Travel Agency on Monday so I thought I’d come in here and chill till then.”
    ====================

    EPISODE 14

    ====================

    Khalid smiled. It was nice to have Tayo around. His madness was soothing sometimes.
    “That’s good. You finally want to get a proper job.”
    “If I hear! You know me now. Na mumcee. Popcee is even better. He’s pushing for a bank job but not so hard. Mumcee is sha pushing for a job even if it’s as Dangote’s driver. That woman will drive me nuts someday.”
    Khalid laughed and shook his head.
    “Naah. You’ll probably beat her to it”
    He proceeded to walk up the stairs with his bag and Tayo trailed behind.
    “Ha! I no gree o. I’m the best of all her kids. She knows sef.”
    “Or you have managed to convince yourself that seeing you’re the most non-compliant”
    “Whose side are you on sef?”
    Khalid laughed some more. Tayo was just a clown.
    “Side? Dude, there are no sides o. I’m just saying”
    They walked into his room and he dropped his bag. Evidence of Tayo’s presence was visible all over. From the unmade bed to the clothes scattered and empty SFC disposable packs. A half-empty bottle of coke was somewhere in the mess
    “Ogbeni, you know say I no get housegirl abi?”
    It was Tayo’s turn to laugh.
    “Wetin you wan carry housegirl do?”
    “Mumu! Who wan clean this place?”
    “Oh! Na you na”
    Tayo grinned and patted Khalid on the back. He collected the bag from Khalid, put it on the bed, opened it and proceeded to help him unpack. Khalid just shook his head.
    “You came in last night and look at the level of damage you’ve done”
    “Whatever jor. You should be grateful I’m here.”
    “Oh I’m grateful alright. Your madness is soothing sometimes.”
    Khalid laughed and walked towards the bathroom. I need to take a shower.
    “Ahan. What’s all this wedding notes I’m seeing here? Bestman, Tayo? Who dey marry?”

    He held up the notepad and waited for an answer. Khalid walked out of the bathroom and sat on the bed.
    “Aisha and I are getting married in six months.”
    “Wow! Are you serious?”
    Tayo’s face lost all trace of humour for the first time since Khalid walked into the house.
    “Yeah. We agreed on a date in Ghana. I’m going to see her mum tomorrow so we can talk about it.”
    “Okay. Congrats.”
    “Thanks, I guess.”
    They were silent for a few minutes then Tayo spoke.
    “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”
    “I think so. I mean, I’ve got all these speaking engagements that fetch me money. I’ve got these organizations I consult for. I think I’m ready financially.”
    “And emotionally?”
    Khalid sighed. Tayo knew him too well. They had been friends for a very long time
    “I had a panic attack in Ghana. I had another on our way back. I sent Dr. Olivia an email today. I’m hoping to hear from her soon. I really want to be with Aisha but sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve her.”
    Tayo sat down.
    “Have you thought about telling her about Seye?”
    “You know I can’t do that-“
    “Khalid, what happened, happened. That was six years ago. Maybe if you tell her, you won’t have all these attacks.”
    Khalid shook his head.
    “No way. I can’t do that. You seem to have forgotten Maryam. I tried to start the relationship with her on an honest note; laid all the cards on the table, yet she walked away. Maryam and I were great together but the relationship did not last more than six months and you and I know it’s because I told her the truth.”
    Tayo sighed.
    “Khalid-“
    “Tayo, don’t bother. For the first time in six years, my life seems to have meaning. I need you to help me keep it that way. I love that I find peace with Aisha. Don’t make me lose that, I beg you.”
    Tayo sighed again.
    “Alright. I won’t raise this again. Let’s chill till Dr. Olivia gets in touch with you and we’ll see what she says.
    “Thanks man.”
    Tayo got up and continued unpacking. He brought out a pair of shorts and the huge grin returned to his face.
    “God bless the day we became friends.”
    He folded the shorts neatly and stuffed them into his own bag.
    Khalid flew from where he was seated and grabbed the bag.
    “You dey mad o! Drop my shorts jare! Wetin sef? Na only me get friend?”
    They both laughed.
    “Oluwa o! Such violence! Kai! Na only shorts o! Ahan! If na Aisha I wan move nko? Wetin go come happen?”
    Khalid laughed and hugged the shorts.
    “Try am first na. Na thunder go fire you be that!”
    Tayo laughed and shook his head as he continued unpacking

    -Hey you, you didn’t go on your honeymoon yet you managed to forget me. Well done o.
    Bode waited for a while but got no reply. Her recent update read “Hello Abuja!” but it was about thirty minutes ago. He dropped the phone eventually and went on to other business.
    Three hours later, he finally got a reply.
    -Hi dear. So sorry. Came back really exhausted. Been sleeping.
    -Ha. Guessed as much. It’s okay. How are you now?
    -I’m alright. What’s up?
    -Nothing much. How was your trip?
    -It was great o. I really enjoyed myself. It was really nice to finally get a break off work. I did dream about my supervisor once. She was chasing me back to work with a cutlass.
    Bode laughed out loud. Aisha was so silly.
    -HAHA. LOL! For real?
    -Nah. Just kidding! How are ya?
    -I’m great. Missed you while you were away. I had to ask myself if I was sure I hadn’t grown feelings for you.
    Bode read his message and surprise washed over him. Did he really just send that? He had just let his fingers type, did not let his brain process the thought before he typed it out and hit the send button.
    ***
    let’s have your feedback. Ladies, if you were Aisha, would you honestly want to know that Le boo had been responsible for someone’s death? Even if it was indirectly and had taken place years ago? Plus how would you react to such news?

    Guys, if you were in Khalid’s shoes, what would you do? I’ll be waiting expectantly to hear from you people.
    ====================

    EPISODE 15

    ====================

    “Dear Khalid, I’m sorry you have been unable to reach me. Good news is I’m currently in Nigeria speaking at a Seminar in Port Harcourt. I have a conference to attend in South Africa on Monday so I’ll leave Nigeria Sunday night. If you can come over to Port Harcourt tomorrow, we can discuss this properly. Best wishes, Olivia Umari.”
    Khalid read the mail a second time. She was in Nigeria! Great news! He had just gotten out of the shower when he saw the email notification.
    “T-y, abeg book me a flight to PH tomorrow.”
    Tayo looked up from the centre rug where he was curled beside his laptop.
    “Ajala! Everything dey alright so?”
    “Yeah. Dr. Olivia is there. She just sent me a mail. Said if I can make it there, we can talk. She’s leaving on Sunday.”
    Tayo nodded and went ahead to book the flight. While he worked on the laptop, Khalid’s phone rang.
    “Hello?… Guy how far?… Okay?… In two weeks then?… Alright. Sounds good. I can do that… No, it’s fine. No mind them. If person no hold money, them go dey do am anyhow. Alright man. Later”
    He hung up the phone and scratched his head.
    “I need to sleep. The students’ seminar I was to be speaking has been brought forward by a week. The guy said the venue they had booked earlier suddenly told them the date was no longer available. If it weren’t for this strike sef, shebi it would have held on campus. Omo this country tire me jor.”
    Tayo grunted without looking up. Khalid changed into his pyjamas and lay on the bed. Within a few minutes, he was lost to the world.
    ***
    Aisha felt a slightly uncomfortable sensation in her tummy. Was Bode really attracted to her? Nonetheless, she smiled and replied
    -LOL. You know that would be dangerous ground to tread. My boyfriend isn’t particular about plant rights o. He’ll uproot you and your feelings and cast you someplace far.
    She hoped she sounded cheerful enough.
    -Riiight. Just checking you up sha. Hope you’re good.
    Her heart sank. He’d taken her poor attempt at a joke far too seriously.
    -*sigh* I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound curt. I was trying to be funny.
    -Ha. You’d definitely not be awarded comedian of the year. I was kidding too. I missed you, yes, but nothing about that should worry you.
    -LOL. I need to rediscover my talent then. I always thought I’d beat Basketmouth hands down if we ever had to face off.
    Bode laughed hard when he read her message.
    -HAHA. Someone must have been really washing you with Omo, Dettol, Harpic and the likes. Come here let me rinse you clean let your senses come back.
    -Loool. See tackle o. Only me?
    -Hehe. How about I rinse you over lunch tomorrow? Then you can give me all the gist about le romantic trip to Accra with le boo.
    Aisha relaxed completely.
    -Awww. That would have been awesome but we’ll have to postpone it. Got some family stuff to take care of tomorrow.
    She did not want to tell him Khalid was coming over to talk wedding plans with her mother. There was no need to further rub Khalid in his face. He was being a good sport after all.
    -Hmmn. Let’s see sha. Although I’m going to Dubai on Monday. My office is sending me there. I’ll be gone for two weeks.
    Aisha’s heart dropped.
    -Haba! Two weeks? Is this pay back for being away for a few days?
    -LOL. Not at all. That would be more than pay back na. Two whole weeks as opposed to a few days? It’s really just work. If I had my way, I would not go sef. You sure you can’t make even dinner work?
    She thought about it for a few minutes.
    -Okay. I’ll do my best. No promises though. I’ll let you know if it’s feasible.
    Bode smiled when he read her message. It was time to make his move. He was already going soft on her and that would ruin everything.
    ***
    Khalid woke up to find that he’d overslept. It was almost 11pm. He looked around the room but couldn’t find Tayo. His phone lay on the table, the red light blinking. He got up slowly and walked to pick it up, his body very uncooperative. Missed calls from Aisha and a few messages too. One from Tayo saying he’d gone clubbing. He’d gotten him a morning flight to Port Harcourt and would be back in time to drive him to the airport. He stretched and fell back into the bed.

    He felt the rumble in his stomach but could not begin to imagine what he would find to eat at that time. He was really exhausted. He shut his eyes for a few minutes intending to take a short nap but did not wake up again till 2am. This time, the hunger woke him up and he dragged himself out of the bed and into the kitchen. He was pleasantly surprised to find a pack of fried rice and chicken in the fridge. Apparently, Tayo had left it there. He yawned and put it in the microwave, setting the timer to 2 minutes.

    He thought about Dr. Olivia and the talk they would have later in the day. She really knew how to handle him. But this time, he was afraid that just like Tayo, she would suggest he tell Aisha the truth and he knew he could not agree to that. They rarely had fights and when they did, her tantrums were scary. There was no way she would look past this one.

    He remembered a conversation they had long ago about a friend of hers who had been raped. People had blamed the girl for walking a dark alley at night, scantily dressed but Aisha was in total disagreement. There was no excuse for rape she had argued, stressing that it was unforgivable. To think that the girl would have to live with that memory for the rest of her life was something Aisha found upsetting.

    He had agreed with her back then and dealt with the pangs of guilt that plagued him for weeks after that conversation. How could he now tell her now that at some point in his life he had been a brute and raped a girl he had been madly in love with?

    He sighed and took out his food as the timer went off. He would talk to Dr. Olivia but he would not consent to sharing that information with Aisha. There had to be another way to handle things.
    ***
    Aisha woke up to the sound of her ringing phone. She reached for it by her bedside stool and answered, her voice still laden with sleep.
    “Hi boo”
    “Morning sleepy head! You still in bed? It’s past 8”
    Aisha yawned
    “Why are you up so early?”
    “Uhh, I’m on my way to the airport.”
    “On your way to where?”
    “The airport. I’ve got to be in Port Harcourt today.”
    Aisha felt the sleep vanish instantly from her eyes. Port Harcourt? Just like that? Was he feeling alright?
    “Uhh, I’m confused. What’s happening in PH? And how come you did not mention it to me yesterday?”
    “I’m sorry love. Something urgent came up. There’s a lady I knew back in Malaysia. We have business to do and I’ve been trying to track her down for a while now. She just told me yesterday that she’s in PH and I need to go see her.”
    Anger seeped into Aisha’s pores faster than the speed of light. Nothing Khalid said was making sense. All she heard was: “Some lady. Port Harcourt. Urgent trip.” Was Ella pregnant for him? Did he have an affair and lie about it? Was she trying to blackmail him? Was there actually another lady from Malaysia? Who was she? And why had she summoned Khalid to Port Harcourt all of a sudden? She sat up in bed not even attempting to keep the anger out of her voice.
    “Khalid, you’re not making any sense at all. Who is this lady? How come you never mentioned her? And did you forget that you were supposed to come see mum today concerning the wedding?”

    Khalid noted her tone and he was very confused. Why was she so angry? It was a quick trip. He was going to take the first flight out of Port Harcourt on Sunday.
    “Baby, I’m really sorry. Calm down. This trip is really important.”
    Aisha could not believe what she heard. Calm down? Was he serious?
    “Important? I’m sure it is!” her voice was laced heavily with sarcasm.
    “This just came out of nowhere! We came in from Ghana yesterday, you said nothing about a trip to Port Harcourt. I called last night, you did not pick up and didn’t reply my pings either. Now you wake me up this morning and tell me you’re on your way to PH for some important business.

    Run that over in your head Khalid, how does it sound? If the tables were turned and I was mysteriously running off to meet some unknown man in PH on the day I was to meet with your parents, would you honestly be calm?”

    She heard him sigh and she tried to breathe normally. Why did he always do this? Why did he constantly give her reasons to be suspicious? His voice interrupted her thoughts.

    “Babe, I think you’re overreacting and making this unnecessarily dramatic. The lady I’m going to see is a doctor. Her name is Dr. Olivia Umari. She’s a very good friend from Malaysia. I do not tell you everything about my work because sometimes I forget but I have been trying to reach her for a while now. I’m not even sure what you’re insinuating but this is really important. If it wasn’t, I would not be going. She sent me a mail after we got back to say she was in Nigeria for a seminar and I could come see her to discuss. She’ll be travelling on Sunday and I don’t know when next I’ll be able to meet with her again.

    The reason I did not pick up last night was because I was asleep. I came home to meet Tayo in the house. We chatted for a bit and I slept off. When I woke up, it was about 11pm. That was certainly not the time to return your calls. I could have sent a text but I did not think it would be responsible of me to text and say I was travelling this morning. I’ll be back with the first flight tomorrow and I’ll come see you and your mum as soon as you get back from church.”

    “Don’t you dare tell me I’m overreacting Khalid! Don’t you dare! You’re being mysterious and sneaky, going off to see some lady in PH, I try to make you reason with me and you call me dramatic? Are you alright?”

    Khalid took a full minute to reply and Aisha almost hung up.

    “I’m sorry. This conversation is not going like I thought it would. I really have to go now. We’re clearly not making sense to each other. I’ll call you when I’m settled later in the day.”

    Aisha shook her head as though he could see it.

    “Don’t bother.”
    She hung up. Khalid had gone mad. What did he think she was? Some naïve 13 year old? This whole thing was very fishy. He had not seemed too enthusiastic about the wedding while she went on and on about her plans. He had mostly seemed distracted. Now he was running off to PH? She was not sure what to think. She knew Ella was likely in Port Harcourt already. Was Khalid going to see her? And who was this mysterious Dr Olivia?

    She quickly swung her feet off the bed and reached for her laptop in the bag beside her bed. It was time to do a little bit of investigation.
    Thankful that the wi-fi was working in the house, she opened the google home page and quickly typed in “Dr. Olivia Malaysia, Nigerian seminar 2013”. She found her heart beating rather fast as she waited for the page to load and display search results.
    Aisha held her breath as she scrolled through. Sure enough, there were links. One pointed to an article on a seminar where a famous Malaysian Psychologist was speaking at in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. It was supposed to end Saturday morning. A few other links showed articles she had written and awards she had won.

    Aisha was confused. To crown it all, Dr. Olivia was an extremely beautiful woman and google said she was single. She almost passed out. Single? Aisha had never felt so insecure all her life. The woman was supposed to be in her late thirties but she looked like she was 27.

    She got up and walked about the room. Was she really overreacting? Or was there a genuine cause for concern in all this? She noticed the red light blinking on her phone and picked it up to check it. It was a ping from Bode.
    -Morning ma’am! Just wanted to remind you to place me in your schedule today if it opens up at all.
    She dropped the phone and resumed pacing. She and Khalid had dated for a while now. She had been sure she was ready to marry him at the time of his proposal but in the last few months, she had found herself questioning her decision. Was she really ready? Sometimes, it felt like he was holding back. Like he was not giving 100% into their relationship. At other times, she felt so happy, content and peaceful being with him. She had spoken to her mum but her mum said it was normal. They were both probably having cold feet because the idea of marriage was scary but this? She could not understand this? What exactly was Khalid trying to hide?
    She picked her phone once again and replied Bode’s ping.
    -Lol. Lucky you, I think something just opened up. Let’s meet at KFC for lunch by 1. But I can’t stay longer than an hour. Gtg now. Cheers.
    If she stayed holed up in the house, she would go crazy just thinking. But she would not take alcohol with Bode again. Certainly not in this state. The last time had been disastrous.

    Tayo watched Khalid’s grim face as they approached the gates of the airport. He had been silent since he hung up the phone. He had heard Khalid’s end of the conversation and knew for certain that it did not go well. He knew Khalid’s silence was because he expected Tayo to say “I told you so.”
    Tayo’s suggestion when he got back that morning had been that they stop by Aisha’s place and Khalid explain that he needed to see the doctor for some research purpose. That would have partly been a lie but talking to Aisha in person rather than over the phone seemed a better idea to him. Khalid had refused. Now he was carrying his face as though someone else were to blame for his woes.
    “You know you shouldn’t have told her she was overreacting right?”
    “She was. I’m going to see a doctor and her tone is accusing like I’m flying to PH for a quickie. T-y, I’m stressed. You know this. The last thing I need from my girlfriend now is doubt and accusations.”
    Tayo sighed.
    “She’s not in the full picture Khalid. I don’t blame her for being suspicious.”
    Khalid lifted his hand and waved it the air
    “Don’t do that abeg. Just don’t. Being in the know will just make it worse. Let me talk to Dr. Olivia first.”
    Tayo had a resigned look on his face. Khalid was so stubborn!
    “Alright, I won’t. But I’ll sha warn you. Never ever tell a woman she’s overreacting, even if she is. She’ll open the floodgates of fury on your head and make it rain.”
    ***
    Bode smiled when he read Aisha’s ping. Lunch would work right? Great! He could not afford to waste any more time. He had been going soft but now he had found his feet again. Khalid had raped his little sister Seye. That singular event had damaged their lives. It was time to get his revenge. Aisha might be an innocent, but Seye had been too. Khalid needed to feel the same pain he had felt six years ago. He went into his bathroom again and slipped 4 tablets of Valium into his pocket. This would go smoothly. He had spent months planning it. Everything had to go right.
    ====================

    EPISODE 16

    ====================

    Aisha woke up Sunday morning feeling unusually tired. She tried to lift herself from the bed but couldn’t. Her mind was foggy and she felt drained. She groped around her bed for her phone but could not find it. She tried to remember where she might have kept it last night but she could not immediately remember.
    A gentle knock sounded on her door. She could barely raise her voice to answer. Her mother walked in and looked at her.
    “It’s 7:30, aren’t you coming to church?”
    She shook her head. It hurt and she instinctively reached out and held it.
    “No mum. I feel like crap.”
    “I’ve always told you not to go out drinking on Saturday nights. You can’t continue skipping church like this.”
    “Mummy, I have a headache, please don’t make it worse. I didn’t intend to go drinking last night. Khalid caused it. I don’t even feel well.”
    Her mother ignored her, walked towards the bedroom window and pulled the drapes apart. The sunlight came pouring in and Aisha shrunk underneath her sheets.
    “You better grow up. This is not how women behave. You’re about to be married. If you and Khalid have a fight, you sit down and talk about it like mature adults, not go on a drinking spree.”
    Her mother sat on the edge of the bed. A solid woman with a set face that had the ability to make Aisha shrink in fear or glower with pride. She gently lifted the sheets and checked Aisha’s temperature.
    “Your temperature seems normal to me. But make sure you eat something and take some panadol afterwards.
    I’ll be coming home late. The Women’s Guild and Mothers Union are going to an orphanage after service today.”
    Aisha did not reply. She just raised her right thumb in the air and dropped it again. Even that took too much of an effort. What exactly had she done last night?

    “Don’t worry, we’ll talk when I get back from church. I need to know what exactly is going on with you and Khalid.”

    Aisha wanted to respond but even the thought of opening her mouth made her even more lethargic so she kept silent. Her mother eventually got up and left. She cast her mind back to Saturday and tried to remember what exactly had happened.
    ***
    After consenting to lunch with Bode at 1:00pm, she proceeded to clean up her room. Her mum was attending the wedding of a colleague’s daughter and would likely be out the whole day. Convenient that Khalid wasn’t coming over. She sighed. If he was coming, her mum would have come home earlier. Her mum really liked him. She was still angry and very resentful. Khalid was being sneaky and it made her utterly uncomfortable.

    She remembered when they first started dating and she was getting vibes that he might be cheating on her, she called him and told him point blank.

    “You cheat on me, we’re through. I will do any and everything you want in this relationship, I will cut my excesses, I will be humble, loving and attentive, I will do my best to not give you a reason to look outside but if you ever cheat on me, we’re done. And don’t say you will hide it from me because I have a way of finding these things out. Don’t give me cause to suspect you.”

    Khalid had felt slighted by what she said, they had fought over the issue and a week later, they made up. He had gotten her point. She was not the kind of girl that believed men would always cheat and she would not tolerate it. They had a pretty smooth sailing after that with the occasional issues that couples had but trust had never been an issue between them. So why this? And why now?

    At noon, she was about to shower and get set for her lunch with Bode when her phone rang. It was her Supervisor.
    “I’m sending you an e-mail right away. There’s a report I need you to edit and mail back to me right away. I can’t reach Elizabeth. This is urgent.”
    Aisha opened her laptop and downloaded the document attached to the mail as soon as it came in. She almost screamed when she opened the word document. It was 80 pages. What kind of report was 80 pages long? She went back to the mail and noticed a second attachment. Aisha groaned. She opened the second attachment. It was a power point presentation with 20 slides. Her phone rang again.
    “Have you seen it?”
    “Yes ma, I have. The report is 80 pages. I’m not sure I can finish it today.”
    “You can and please hurry up. That report is to be presented at a Civil Society Organization’s meeting on Monday alongside the power point presentation. Go over the slides, you’re making the presentation. I’ll be waiting for your feedback.”
    Aisha heard the phone click and she was angry. She let out a frustrated scream and set her phone down. Why had she taken the call the first time? Why had she not simply ignored it? This was payback for being away from the office, she was certain. Had the woman no heart? She was supposed to be mourning the death of her grandmother! Why was she now being saddled with work? And during the weekend for that matter! If she had not come in, wouldn’t someone else have done the presentation? Wouldn’t someone else have edited the report?

    She picked up her phone and quickly scrolled through her contacts. In seconds she was dialling a number.
    “My one and only sweetheart, how you dey?”
    She laughed and responded
    “Stop clowning jor. I’m really really mad right now”
    “Ahh, what happened? Who’s vexing my princess? I hope it’s not oga o.”
    She paused. Bode was being flirtatious but the endearments were soothing to her ears.
    “Omo, it’s that my mumu Supervisor o. The woman has just worked my last nerves, I want to quit! Imagine her slamming me with an 80 paged report to edit and send back to her today. What am i? A miracle worker? I can’t finish that thing that fast and she added a presentation I’m supposed to make on Monday…”
    “Calm down dear, take it easy. Just breathe”
    Aisha found herself doing as she was told. She breathed in and out and gradually became calm.
    “Bode, I’ll be honest. I’m not in the best of moods. I’m stressing out over a lot of things right now and I wanted to just come, do lunch and come home and crash, but thanks to the witch, I’m not sure I’ll be seeing you today.”
    “What’s the report about?”
    “It’s a report covering all the activities of my office from the beginning of the year till now. All the departments submitted theirs and it’s been compiled into one. It’s just ridiculous.”
    “So what exactly do you mean by edit?”
    “I’m supposed to check the grammar, make sure it’s coherent I guess”
    “Email it to me. We’ll split it in two, you handle the first part, I’ll handle the second. We’ll get it done before you know it and then we could go out. I’ll take you round some nice spots, you tell me what else is stressing you, you enjoy lots of fresh air, then I take you back home. How’s that as a reward for all your hardwork?”
    She laughed and before she could reply, he quickly added
    “Hoping oga doesn’t mind o.”
    She gave Khalid a brief thought and shrugged. She was not going to bother about him. If he was off on some mysterious trip to Port Harcourt to visit some strange woman, she would as well stay here and enjoy the attention Bode was willing to shower her with.
    “Naah. It would not be a problem at all. And I really appreciate your offering to help. I’ll split the document and send yours to you right away.”
    “Alright dear, I’ll be expecting it. Don’t mind your supervisor. She go know say God pass devil today.”
    Aisha laughed again and something tugged at her heart. Bode was really sweet.
    By 3:00pm, they were done with the report and he encouraged her to go over the slides. She did and kept complaining to him about how badly they were done.
    “I don’t know who prepared these slides but that person is such a donkey. Too much information is crammed into each slide and so if someone is looking at the projector, they’ll keep squinting to make out what is written.”
    Bode laughed.
    “Just highlight the major points and share the details during your presentation.” He said.
    “Ha. Of course. That’s how I always do my presentations. I wonder who did this thing sef. It’s just a whole loada crap.”
    Bode laughed again.
    Eventually, she was done. Bode suggested he come pick her up so she did not have to bother driving back and she agreed. She gave him directions to her house in Wuse 2. He got there just before 6:00pm. She was taken aback by how great he looked. In the past week that they hadn’t seen, she had forgotten what he looked like, how really attractive he was.
    She smiled as she held open the door to her home.
    “Great to see you.”
    Bode smiled back as he walked in. She shut the door behind him and for a few seconds, they stood staring at each other.
    “No vex o, but is it because I’m not oga that you will not hug me?”
    She laughed and opened her arms.
    “Come here jor, mumu!”
    He laughed and walked towards her and they hugged. She felt the heat in her cheeks instantly and the churn in her tummy. Being in his arms felt too comfortable, she had to remind herself she was Khalid’s fiancée. She pulled back and watched him. Something wasn’t right in his eyes.
    “Are you okay?”
    Even his laughter seemed nervous
    “Yeah, I’m fine. Why?”
    “I dunno, I thought I saw something in your eyes.”
    He laughed again and this time it was genuine
    “Shrink of life! I’m fine jor. My day was a little busy but I’m fine. I just want to be here for you. As an assistant boyfriend that I am”
    She heard the tease in his voice and laughed.
    “Right! Do me a favour, let’s talk everything but relationships tonight. Can we handle that?”
    “Sure thing ma’am. You look lovely by the way.” She had on a floral sleeveless, knee-length dress. Pretty simple but very pretty, She smiled and let herself get lost in his compliment.
    “Thanks.”
    They walked out of the house together. Thoughts of Khalid gnawed at her insides but she ignored them. He had only sent a text upon his arrival at Port Harcourt and she had not heard from him again. She was not going to stay home and brood. She would go out and have fun. Whenever he came back, he would explain to her who Dr. Olivia was and if she wasn’t satisfied, they were going to have major issues.

    Bode had music on all through the drive. It didn’t take too long to arrive at KFC. They bought the bucket chicken with some icecream and walked out within a few minutes. In the car, they sat and talked, Bode supplying several funny stories that left her laughing and laughing. She had turned off all alerts on her phone and tossed the phone into some corner in her bag. After almost an hour, Bode suggested they go to Beer Barn. She shook her head.
    “Naah. Don’t like the sound of the place.” He looked at her and laughed.
    “Wait, what? You’ve never been there?” She giggled and shook her head.

    “Nope. Never liked the sound of it. It sounds like a place where a bunch of guys gather to drink beer and I hate beer.” Bode burst into deep laughter.
    “You’re a clown o. Shut that door. I’m taking to you to Beer barn. They don’t serve just beer there. Actually, they’ve got good drinks you might like. They mix stuff up pretty nice.”
    “Okay o. But if I don’t like it, I’ll have your head” She shut the door and he started the car. Davido’s “Skelewu” came through the speakers seconds later and Aisha rolled her eyes.
    “I watched that video twice and I didn’t see the dance that everyone was going gaga about o.”
    Bode laughed.
    “How would you see it? Do you have eyes? Besides do you even know how to dance?” Aisha punched him and he laughed.
    “You no sabi dance jor. Just admit it”
    “I can dance silly. Don’t try me o.”
    “Right! You’ll have to prove it to me.”
    “Give me good music and you’ll see me in action.”
    “I hear you. Don’t worry, let’s go to Beer Barn, you get a little something to drink and I’ll take you some place where you can dance.

    Aisha remembered taking a drink at Beer Barn. The crowded bar smelled of cigarettes and alcohol. She remembered feeling inexplicably happy afterwards. Bode laughed and told her she just had a buzz. She laughed too but she wasn’t sure why. He asked if she’d like another drink and she nodded. She excused herself to visit the ladies’ before the drink came and upon her return, the glass sat there waiting for her. She finished the drink in quick gulps that left Bode laughing. They left at about 9:00 and he was driving to City Park when she told him she felt sleepy. He looked at her and smiled.
    “Alright featherweight, I’ll take you home.”

    She couldn’t remember much afterwards. She had slept off. She couldn’t even remember getting home and into her own room. She looked around her and sighed. Something did not feel right. Her body felt really weird. Moments later, she was drifting off to sleep.

    Tayo was worried. Really worried. It was unlike Khalid to go that long without getting in touch with him. He had not called to say he’d gotten to PH or that he had seen Dr. Olivia. It was Sunday morning and there was still no word from him. He tried his number yet again but it was switched off. If only he had Dr. Olivia’s number or her email address. He sighed. This was truly worrisome.

    He was still wondering what to do two hours later when he noticed the red light blinking on his phone. He picked it up and read Khalid’s message.
    -Guy, how far? Was in an accident. How you dey?
    -What?!! How? What happened?
    -Trailer ran into my cab on my way back from the airport. Driver died on the spot. My injuries are minor though.
    -Wow! Man! That’s some scary shii. Really scary.
    -Lol. Tell me about it. I’m okay sha. I was taken to the hospital yesterday. Treated for shock and minor bruises. Then I’ve got this mad persistent headache. Other than that, I’m fine.
    -Omo. Sorry o. I was worried. Tried to call you severally yesterday, your number wasn’t going through, then it was switched off. Pings no gree deliver. I bin dey wonder whether dem kidnap you.
    -Lol. Mumu. I be Jonathan brother?
    -Lol. E no follow. How did Aisha react? Is she alright?
    -That’s the weird part. I haven’t been able to reach her. I texted her when I landed and she didn’t reply. At the hospital last night, I got someone to help call her but she didn’t pick up. I’ve called twice with my phone this morning and she’s still not picking up.
    -Ahan. That’s not cool. Is she still angry?
    -I’m not sure what to think. But if that’s the case then I’ll be really disappointed.
    -Wow. Have you seen Dr. Olivia?
    -Not yet. She’s coming to the hotel in a few minutes. I just wanted to let you know what happened. Please help me find Aisha and get her to call me.
    Khalid looked at his watch. The time was 10:00am
    -Alright man. No wahala. I’ll do that.
    -You dey go church?
    -Since when I begin go church for Abuja?
    -You be mumu. Sha find Aisha. Call her or check her up at home but help me find her. I doubt that I’ll return today.
    -Okay o. Take care. I’ll let you know as soon as I find something.
    -Thanks.

    Khalid dropped the phone on the bed and made himself more comfortable. The accident had frightened him terribly, seeing the trailer coming at them at that speed, he was sure he was going to die. His last thoughts before he passed out were of Aisha. He felt really bad that things were not smooth with them and guilt weighed heavy over him.

    Now he began to wonder. What exactly was going on with her? Why had she not gotten in touch with him yet?
    ====================

    EPISODE 17

    ====================

    Aisha woke up to the persistent ringing of her phone. She sat up in bed and tried to trace the direction of the sound. It stopped. Soon it started again. She swung her feet lazily off the bed and retrieved the phone from her handbag on the floor.
    “TAYO”
    “Hello, Tee, what’s up?”
    “Madam, you’ve been M-I-A, what happened to you?”
    “Sorry dear. Nothing o. Went out for some drinks last night, came back really stoned.”
    She felt him hesitate and she rolled her eyes. He should not even dare judge her. Where was his friend?
    “Hmmn. Are you home? I want to come over.”
    Aisha pondered for a few seconds. Why was Tayo coming over? Was Khalid sending him to clear the airways ahead of his arrival? That would be unlike him.
    “Err, sure. Why? Is everything alright?”
    “Yeah. We’ll talk when I see. I’ll be there in 10 minutes. You sound like you’re just waking up. Maybe you should wash your face.”
    She laughed in spite of the unease creeping up her spine.
    “Alright. See you soon.”
    She hung up and tried to gather her wits. She felt better than she had when she woke up the first time but she still felt a little tired. Perhaps another hour of sleep would fix that. She yawned and looked at her phone. There were several missed calls from Khalid. So he was ready to talk to her now abi? She sighed and dropped the phone on the bed. It was best to hurry and prepare for Tayo’s arrival. She would call Khalid when Tayo had left.
    Nothing prepared Aisha for what Tayo had to say.
    “Whaat?! What do you mean accident?”
    She trembled all over, shock waves crashed mercilessly into her.
    Tayo held her and assisted her to the couch. She listened to him replay his earlier conversation with Khalid, reassuring her that he was fine and had not sustained any major injury. This was unbelievable! So while she was out having a good time with Bode and being mad at Khalid for not calling, he had actually been in an accident?
    She picked her phone and dialled his number. The call simply would not connect and so she pinged him instead. Surprisingly, it delivered within seconds
    -Kay! Baby! Tayo just told me what happened. Are you okay?
    – Lol. Hi babe, I’m getting around to it. Other than some terrible headaches, I’m fine. You went off my radar luv. Were you so mad at me?
    -I’m so sorry mine, really sorry. I kinda was but I was waiting to hear from you all day. Your calls came in after I’d slept off last night and I woke up really late. Not the point. How are you?
    -Lol. Again, I’m fine babe. A bit shaken, but I’ll be alright. Trailer ran into my cab, I was seated at the back. Driver died on the spot, I passed out.
    -Wow! I coulda lost you today baby! I’m so sorry.
    -Relax love. I felt bad too. My last thought was of you and the fight we had. We really have a lot to talk about when I return.
    -Sigh. Okay hun. When are you coming back? Today? Where are you actually? Hospital?
    -Lol. Calm down babe. No, I can’t make it back today, I’m not in the hospital, I’m at my hotel. I was discharged late last night. It was really tough but I insisted I wasn’t gonna pass the night at the hospital. I’ve got a few bruises, but other than that and the headaches, I’m fine. Besides, I told Dr. Olivia about the accident, she said she’ll have a proper look at me when she gets here so relax, I’ll be fine.
    Aisha rolled her eyes. This same Dr. Olivia
    -Uhhh, okay…
    -Is it my headache or do I sense something unsaid in your undertone?
    -Mine, I’m sorry but this woman makes me awfully uncomfortable. If it weren’t for her, you’d have been home safe with me today. Besides, I thought she was a psychologist? What would she know about ordinary medicine?
    -Lol. Wait, what? I never said anything about her being a psychologist, how did you know that?
    -I googled her up after you left yesterday. Silly, but I just had to know. Kay, what exactly is it with this woman? Why is she so important?
    -Okayyy. Actually, it’s not she that’s important, it’s what’s between us.
    Aisha felt something heavy sink in the pit of her stomach. She read that twice but before she could compose a reply, another message came in.
    -Oops. Not sure that came out right. What I meant to put across is that she became a friend and confidant after we met over there, it’s strictly professional.
    -Sigh. I worry for us Khalid. I really do. I don’t get this mystery that suddenly shrouds you. What exactly is going on?
    -My love, I promise you, we’ll talk upon my return. I need you to just be a little more patient with me. I’ll take the first flight back tomorrow, we’ll have dinner at my place and we will talk.
    -Hmmn. Okay o…
    -Dr. Olivia just came in. Gotta run. Know this, you have my heart and there’s no one I love as much as you.
    -Same here boo.
    She looked up from the phone and sighed. Tayo was seated beside her fiddling with his own phone the whole time.
    “So, you guys cool now?”
    “Tayo, your friend has me really worried.”
    Tayo smiled a knowing smile.
    “He has me worried too, trust me.”
    “Why is he acting all strange? What’s really going on?”
    “What did he tell you?”
    “Nothing actually. Just the accident and that we have to talk when he returns.”
    “Tor, we’ll wait for him to return na. There’s not much else to be done.”
    “You’ve started this your mumu brotherhood thing that you guys do ba? You won’t tell me anything.”
    Tayo laughed.
    “That’s because there’s nothing to tell. Truth is Khalid really loves you. For a smart fellow, he does some very ‘un-smart’ stuff occasionally. But you can’t doubt his feelings for you. They are deep and true.”
    “Abegi! Don’t go all poetic on me.”
    Tayo laughed again.
    “Well, I’ve got to go. He asked me to find you, I did, I need to go home and sleep some more.”
    Aisha smiled. Tayo the nice guy.
    “Alright then-
    She covered her mouth as she yawned
    I’ll see you some other time. Thank you”
    “This one you’re yawning like this by this time, what happened na?”
    “I’m just tired o. I was so mad at Khalid yesterday, I went out drinking with a friend. I didn’t even intend to actually. It just happened. And I honestly cannot remember how I got home. I must have been pretty wasted.”
    “Hmmmn. Okay o. Take care of yourself.”
    She walked behind him and shut the door after he was gone. She thought of calling Bode to thank him for ensuring she got home safely last night but decided to put it off till later.

    “You can’t hope to build a future on lies Khalid. In marriage, I always advice the couple to lay all their cards on the table. Let the other person know what exactly they’re up against. And if they want to stay, let it be on their own terms. You can’t choose for her Kay.”
    “It’s difficult to just open up to her and tell her something so dark.”
    “Kay, I don’t expect it to be easy. But if you love her then you will give her the choice.”
    Khalid sighed. Dr. Olivia looked at him and smiled.
    “Tell me about her.”
    “Her name is Aisha. She’s a great girlfriend actually. She’s funny, smart. Not as smart as I am-“
    Dr. Olivia laughed.
    “Not as smart as you? Right! Go on.”
    “She talks, a lot! But I love listening to her because she’s funny. Her sarcasm is unmatched! She’s just a piece of work. And she’s got this funny laugh too. She’s hardworking. She’s got a slave driver for a supervisor at work but she works with little or no complains. Then she’s nice. If Aisha likes you, she’ll go out of her way to make you happy. She’s a really great lady.”
    “I like her already. How did you two meet?”
    “The most unusual thing, I’ll tell you that. I was driving along the express and I saw a lady changing a flat tyre. I was totally blown away. Beautiful lady who could handle herself? I was smitten. Didn’t stand a chance. I offered to help. She laughed my offer away. I stayed there and watched her fix it all by herself. We talked for a bit when she was done. I asked her to dinner, she declined. Asked her to lunch the following day, she declined still. It was a bit of a shock for me. Ladies never turn me down.”
    Dr. Olivia laughed long and hard.
    “I really do like this lady. Self-assured, confident…”
    “You snatched the words right out of my mouth. And she can be so stubborn! That just gets pretty annoying sometimes. She’s also highly opinionated. Even if she’s wrong, she’ll stick to her guns. It’s crazy.
    Anyways, I followed her on twitter, she followed back. I think she was amazed to discover I was some sorta twitter celeb. We interacted a lot, I finally got my lunch date and the rest as they say is history.”
    “Hmmn. What has been the most recurrent issue between you both?”
    Khalid thought for a while
    I’ll say it’s the distance. I travel a lot and sometimes we do not get to see for three weeks straight. It makes us edgy. But that’s about it. She does try to be considerate.”
    “You’re afraid that telling her about Seye will change how she sees you?”
    “I know it will. She’s always been proud of me. She shows me off to her friends and talks about me all the time like I’m some flawless hero. She won’t be able to reconcile the two people.”
    “That is up to her Kay. If you tell her, you satisfy your conscience, you find peace. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. You’re so certain she’ll be disappointed but what’s to say she won’t forgive you? We never know unless we try. Truth is, if you guys don’t get past it then you were probably not meant to be.”
    Khalid massaged his temples for a while.
    “I guess you’re right…”
    “Of course I’m right. Talk to her. The sooner the better. Don’t let her feel like you tried to con her into marrying you. Be transparent, lay all the cards on your table.”
    They moved on to other issues and talked for another hour before Dr. Olivia finally got up to leave.
    “If you want to travel tonight, I guess you can. You got really lucky. For an accident that claimed the life of another man, you sure came out without a scratch.”
    Khalid smiled and thanked her. He got up and walked her to the door.
    “I don’t know when I’ll see you again. But if all goes well and we fix a date for the wedding, I’ll be sure to let you know.”
    “I’ll be expectant. You take good care of yourself now Kay. And don’t be a stranger.”
    She gave him a quick hug and was gone. He packed his backpack. He was not going to hesitate for a second. He looked at his watch, “2:30pm” If he was lucky, he would find a flight back to Abuja tonight.
    ***
    Aisha slipped into the maxi gown easily. She brushed her hair and applied light make up in a rush Khalid had just called to say he had gotten in and wanted to have a talk with her. He was coming to her house.
    Her mother walked in and smiled as she watched her.
    “You two amuse me. I thought you were fighting this morning?”
    “Mummy leave that matter jor. Shey you’re supposed to be going out?”
    “Imagine. You’re chasing me out of my own house because you want to talk to your fiancé. Why don’t you people just go out sef?”
    Aisha laughed and playfully pushed her mother out of the room. The elderly woman laughed
    “You better do and marry o and stop harassing me in my house.”
    By the time Khalid showed up, she was gone.
    Aisha welcomed him, warm hug, deep kiss and a big smile. She served him a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs and when he was done eating, (Khalid barely picked at his food) they moved to the living room.
    Without wasting any time, Aisha went straight to business.
    “So what’s this big story you have for me?”
    Khalid looked a little uncomfortable. His discomfort set her on edge.
    “I know it’s cliché and stupid for guys to start a confession with ‘you know I love you’ but somehow I feel like I really should.”
    “Okay? You’re getting me nervous.”
    “Before I start, I’d like to read something I wrote for you.”
    He dug out his phone from his pocket, fiddled with it for a few minutes and began to read
    “There’s something sticky about you. Regardless of how much I try, I just can’t get out of your grip
    And I’m not even trying. I remember the first time we met. I knew in that moment that you were the sorta woman that would complete me. And then we fell in love and over time, you proved me right

    You love me beyond measure. You are my greatest treasure. Being your partner gives me the greatest pleasure and loving you is not something I do for leisure

    My sun rises and sets with you and no matter what I do, I’m constantly thinking of you, I’ve given up thinking of why I love you so much. The list is just endless. I only hope and pray that I’ll be that man deserving of your love that you’ll always be proud of. I love you babe, always and forever.”
    Aisha felt a warm bubbly feeling course through her. She was all smiles when Khalid dropped his phone and took both her hands in his.
    “I love you too baby. And that was really very sweet. Only I’m worried. It’s the first time you’d write something for me…”
    Khalid laughed, a little uneasy. He cleared his throat and began to speak.
    “Six years ago, I did something utterly stupid. Something I deeply regret and something I’m still paying for.
    I was young and immature and I allowed myself to be overcome by peer pressure. I was in love with a girl and I was about going off to school in Malaysia. My friends suggested to me that if I slept with her, she would not forget me and we could always pick up from where we left off upon my return. I was young and stupid and I didn’t know any better so I took their advice.” He noticed how she subtly removed her hands from his but he continued all the same.
    “Seye was a virgin, pretty young girl. She was definitely not going to agree to premarital sex so doing what my friends suggested was going to be difficult…”
    He paused and tried to come up with the appropriate words, to phrase them correctly. Aisha looked at him, understanding dawning on her but still she refused to believe it. Khalid couldn’t possibly have!
    “You raped a young girl Khalid?”
    The horror on Aisha’s face ripped his heart.
    “It was a mistake. I got drunk and I did it and the following day, I left for Malaysia…”
    Aisha had a look of total disbelief on her face. She covered her mouth with her hand, eyes wide open.
    “Khalid, you rape a little girl, then you abandon her and run off to Malaysia?”
    Khalid swallowed. He tried to respond but his tongue was glued to the roof of his mouth. No words came out. He nodded instead.
    “Unbelievable! So what happened to her? She got pregnant and had a baby for you?”
    Khalid shook his head again. This was it. The climax of it all. The most difficult part of his confession. He felt the room cave in on him. But he was determined to get this over with.
    “She died. She got pregnant, tried to abort and died in the process.”
    Aisha blinked severally. She retreated further into the couch. Khalid tried to reach out to her but she winced and drew back.
    “Babe, please.”
    “And why did you wait this long to tell me?”
    “Because I wasn’t sure how you’d react. I was scared.”
    “So why did you tell me now?”
    “Dr. Olivia, she was my therapist when it happened. It’s why I needed to see her and talk to her. I was having all these panic attacks. She suggested I tell you the truth.”
    Khalid was finding it really difficult expressing himself. There was so much he wanted to say but he just could not find the words.
    “Wow. So if she had not said so, you would not have told me? Khalid, a young girl died because of you. You asked me to marry you without telling me that. I think that’s just cold and selfish.

    We’ve been together for over a year, I was sure I knew everything about you. I was sure I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you but not anymore. You know what? I think you should leave.”
    “Babe?”
    “Khalid, please leave. I can’t believe you raped a girl and she died afterwards. Like that wasn’t cold enough, you wanted to keep it from me. Just go. We’re done talking.”
    She felt the tears gather in her eyes but she fought them. She watched him get up and walk to the door shoulders slumped. He was leaving without a fight. She was hurt, she was angry and she was broken. Her fiancé was a rapist.

    She shut the door behind him, sank into the couch and just let herself go. The tears came down in torrents and she did nothing to hold them back. She felt the tears would not stop and the hurt of Kay’s betrayal would not go away. There was no way out of this. They were over.
    ====================

    EPISODE 18

    ====================

    “You’re speaking to a bunch of students today, aren’t you?”
    Khalid turned and looked at his mother. It had been two weeks since he told Aisha the truth and he had still not heard from her.
    “I’m supposed to. But my insides are a little distorted.”
    “Distorted? What’s wrong? Don’t you feel well?”
    “I feel alright mum. It’s just since the split with Aisha, I’ve not really been motivated to do anything.”
    His mum sat on the edge of the bed.
    “If you’re not going to actively try and win her back, don’t sit here and brood.”
    “Mum how can you say that? She doesn’t want to see me, she won’t take my calls. She’s deleted me on bbm and blocked me on whatsapp and unfollowed me on twitter. How do I try and win her back when she’s totally cut me off?”
    “My friend, don’t sound indignant. She is justified in being mad at you so don’t even sound like she’s overreacting-”
    Khalid cut her off
    “For this long? Mum, she didn’t give me a chance to explain myself-”
    “You had over a year son! Over a year! You were together that long. How did you not think to tell her about that before proposing marriage to her?”
    Khalid sighed and massaged his temple.
    “I don’t even know whose side you’re on.” His mother shook her head.

    “I’m not taking sides. I’m telling you the truth. I’m your mother and I love you, but I will not treat you like a baby because you aren’t. I will constantly push you to become as strong and responsible man as your father was.

    It’s 8:30am and that program is for 10.00am. I’m going to be at Chelsea hotel in time for your presentation. I better see you put up a good performance. Get your act together.” She got up and walked to the door. As she put her hand on it, Khalid called out to her
    “Mum?” She turned and he said with a smile
    “I love you. Thank you.”
    “I love you too. Might be tough love, but I really do love you.”
    She opened the door and walked out.
    Khalid sighed again and cast his mind back to that day again.
    ***
    Khalid walked into the room shoulders slumped and Tayo immediately sat up on the bed.
    “How far? You’ve told her abi?”
    He nodded and sank into the only couch in the room.
    “What did she say?”
    “It’s not what she said as much as what she didn’t say. She left nothing unsaid.”
    “Err, that doesn’t tell me anything, you know right?”
    “She told me I am cold and selfish and she’s not sure she wants to be with me anymore.”
    “Wow. That’s plenty enough. But did you explain everything to her? Did you tell her how much you regretted it and how it haunted you for so long? Did you tell her you had to see a therapist for about a year?”
    Khalid shook his head.
    “Not quite. I didn’t get a chance to say that.”
    “I’m confused o. What did you get a chance to say then?”
    “Tayo, I’m tired abeg. I don’t want to talk about this.”
    “That’s the issue with you, guy. You never want to talk about anything. I like Aisha and I know you love her. You gave up all those other random babes to be with her and now you want to just throw it all away?”
    “Tayo, I’m confused okay? And I’m really tired. I wished I never raped Seye, I wish I hadn’t gone off to Malaysia! I wish she hadn’t died. I’d have likely come back for her. But all that didn’t happen and I regret it but there is absolutely nothing I can do to change it. I’ve tried to make the past disappear but evidently, it simply won’t!

    Look at me! Thousands of people out there respect me. I’m the smart economist that consults for people in top government positions. I write papers all the time and make presentations too. I tried to be a great boyfriend, tried to be everything any woman would want. I don’t drink, I don’t do wild parties, I don’t smoke, but somehow all these mean nothing because of one mistake?
    I cannot undo what I did. If I could, I would but I just can’t. I love Aisha very much and when I tried to talk to her today, I didn’t know how to. The words simply refused to form in my head and the few that formed got stuck in my throat. Her words stung tonight, but even more than her words, the disappointment in her eyes broke my heart.
    Now I realize I sounded like a fool saying ‘my friends encouraged me to do it, I was drunk…’ I didn’t mean for it to come out like that. I really didn’t…”
    Tayo scratched his head.
    “I wish I coulda recorded that outburst. I’d have gone to play it for Aisha to listen.”
    Khalid shook his head.
    “You’re just a goat.”
    “Don’t worry man, you’ll be fine. Just give a little time and then try again.”
    But Khalid had tried two days later and nothing changed. Aisha was furious at him. He could not think of a time when he had ever seen her so angry. She didn’t take his calls and then at a point, her phone was constantly switched off. He tried to find her a couple of times at her house but always the gateman said she wasn’t home, even when he was sure that she was. He was totally broken.

    Tayo offered to help talk to her but Khalid would have none of it. And then he simply stopped trying. He just stayed home and brooded every single day doing little or no work at all until his mother showed up. She came in the night before his speaking engagement and he told her everything. She hadn’t said much and then she was back again in his room this morning.

    He smiled. His mother, his rock. Annoyingly headstrong but he totally loved her. Her little rant this morning had given him the required ginger to try again. He brought out his laptop and quickly rushed over his slides. He would take a shower and go back to Aisha’s house this morning.
    ***
    Aisha sat up in bed Saturday morning and stretched. She reached for her phone and checked the time “7.30am”
    Khalid was speaking at Chelsea hotel this morning. She was originally supposed to be there but after the split she wasn’t sure she would go. She was still hurting. Not as much as the first day but there was still some hurt. She knew in time she would forgive him but she wasn’t certain they could continue with their relationship or even get married. Maybe if he had put the blame on himself. Maybe if he had tried to reach out to her more frantically, maybe they could have worked things out. But after a week of trying, he just gave up. So he wasn’t truly sorry? Or their relationship wasn’t all too important to him. She sighed. She really loved Khalid but this revelation had given her several reasons to begin to doubt.

    She picked up her phone and typed his number from memory. She was going to press the call button but she changed her mind. What was she going to say? She had not spoken to Bode since that night. She wondered why he hadn’t tried to reach out to her but she was too distressed to really worry about that. He had gone off to Dubai anyways. Her mum was out of town for the weekend so with no concrete plans for her Saturday, she went into the kitchen, fixed herself breakfast and sat down in the living room to watch repeat series of NCIS LA.

    “Oga, them no dey house o.”
    Khalid looked at his watch. “9:20am”
    “Let me park inside and wait for them to come back.”
    The gateman scratched his head.
    “Madam travelled. Aunty Aisha no dey. I don’t know when she will come.”
    “It doesn’t matter. I’ll wait inside.”
    “Uncle Kay, no vex abeg but you no fit wait inside.”
    Khalid smiled.
    “Oga Abdul, you know Aisha is inside. Let me just see her, please.”
    The gateman looked a little nervous.
    “But wetin you do aunty na? She dey vex well well o.”
    “I know. Na wetin make me dey beg you, make I go see am. Abeg. I do one very bad thing but I wan beg am true true. Na mistake wey I do.”
    The gateman looked at him suspiciously.
    “You give another woman belle?”
    Khalid shook his head.
    “You carry another woman?”
    Khalid shook his head still.
    “So you no get another gehfriend wey carry belle for you. Why aunty kon dey vex na?”
    Khalid sighed.
    “It’s complicated. Abeg just open gate for me. I go follow am talk, she no go vex for you.”
    The gateman shrugged.
    “Okay o. Beht na becos of say I like you o.”
    Khalid smiled
    “Thank you.”
    He squeezed a one thousand naira note into the gateman’s hands and drove into the compound.
    He came down, walked to the door and knocked.
    Aisha opened in a few seconds. They stared at each other awkwardly for a minute without saying a word. Abdul found a vantage point by the wall and leaned on it to watch them.
    Khalid fully clad in a black suit, white shirt and carton coloured pants went down on his knees. He brought out a folded sheet of paper, opened it and began to read.
    “I hurt you, I betrayed you, I broke your trust and I don’t deserve to have it back. I doubted you and I did not believe in you or our relationship as much as I should have and for that, I am sorry.”
    He took a breath and was going to continue but Aisha stopped him.
    “Err, maybe we should take this inside?”
    “No. Please allow me.”
    He went back to the paper in his hand.
    “I am sorry that I did not tell you about Seye when we first started dating. I am sorry that I did not trust you enough to make the choice on whether to be with me or not after I told you about her. I am sorry that I tried to blackmail you into marrying me. The only reason I did that was because I love you in a very selfish manner.

    What happened with Seye was a mistake but it was totally my fault. I wanted to sleep with her but I could not bring myself to just do it. It’s why I got under the influence of alcohol. I hated myself afterwards. I could not forget how much she cried that night. I felt disgusted with myself. In truth, I have not touched alcohol since that day. You always asked why or how it’s possible that I never drink alcohol. Well, this is the reason.

    When I heard she passed away, I thought I would run mad. I suffered clinical depression and everyone was worried about me. I saw Dr. Olivia, my therapist, for a year before I was able to get through it. I tried to reach out to her only brother but he totally blanked me out. Being that I was in Malaysia then, it was very difficult to do more. My mum moved to Abuja and I could not re-connect with the family again. I heard that they relocated too but I’m not even sure where to.

    The last girl I dated left me when she found out about Seye. It hurt, but I got over it. I thought not to tell you because I was scared of losing you. It sounds lame but I love you more than I can explain. With you, I have always felt like I can be greater and better than I am now. With you beside me, I feel like I can take on the world. My fans make me feel good about myself but you make me feel great.

    If you choose to forgive me, we can try to move on from here and build a solid future, no lies or secrets between us. If you choose not to, I will understand. I will hurt, I’ll probably go about for a zombie like a long time but I’ll put it all back together. But I’ll be grateful for the time spent with you. I grew to love you after interacting with you for a while, I loved you yesteryear, I loved you yester month, I loved you yesterday, I love you today and I know for sure that I’ll love you in every tomorrow that is to come.”
    He folded the paper and looked up at her. She had tears in her eyes. Her voice was broken when she spoke.
    “Please baby, get up.”
    They locked each other in an embrace.
    “I love you too. And I forgive you.”
    He made a sound that was somewhere between a laugh and a cry and Aisha laughed with the tears still in her eyes.
    “I really doubt that I could stay mad at you forever you know, I love you too much.”
    Khalid laughed again. She pulled herself away
    “Wait, aren’t you supposed to be speaking at that students’ stuff today?”
    He grinned and nodded.
    “Yep, I am!”
    “Then why are you here?”
    “Because you’re more important to me than money is.”
    She shook her head.
    “It’s not about the money Kay. It’s about impact.”
    He smiled.
    “I know babe. I just wanted to come here and do this because somehow I was sure you would forgive me. I wanted to have my spirits lifted before I climb up that podium.”
    Aisha laughed.
    “You’re funny. So… Do you want me to accompany you?”
    “Of course! But you’ll have to hurry. I’m running late.”
    ***
    “I’m sorry I won’t be able to take any more questions at the moment. It has been really great speaking to you and I hope that we can all do the right things and maintain a positive attitude so we can re-build Nigeria. Thank you for listening, have a nice day.”
    The applause that followed the end of Khalid’s delivery was thunderous. He smiled as he walked off the stage and took his seat next to Aisha in the front row.
    He took her hand, inclined his head towards her and whispered
    “How did I do?”
    “You were brilliant. As always. I’m proud of you.”
    The meeting was over within a few minutes. Several of the students milled around Khalid asking for autographs and generally famzzing. He had on his charmer smile as he signed note books and answered questions. One girl asked
    “Is this your girlfriend?”
    He smiled, took Aisha’s hand in his and replied
    “No. She’s my fiancée”
    Aisha smiled and waved at the girl whose face dropped. A few of the students laughed. Khalid had Aisha’s hand in his and was still laughing when he felt someone tap his shoulder. He turned around and when he saw the face, he froze. He dropped Aisha’s hands and his eyes grew wide. The person behind him smiled. He opened his mouth to speak but it came out as a whisper.
    “Seye?”
    Her smile grew even wider
    “Hello Kay…”
    ====================

    EPISODE 19

    ====================

    Khalid swallowed. His throat was dry. He was numb with shock. They stared at each other for a while and Aisha spoke eventually.
    “I think we should find somewhere to sit and talk.”
    Seye’s smile disappeared and her face was an unreadable mask
    “It’s been such a long time Kay, you and I should actually find a place to talk. I’ll be waiting outside”
    She threw Aisha a casual glance that told her she was excluded from the conversation and walked out.
    Bystanders looked about in surprise but none of them said anything. Khalid still had not recovered from the shock. Aisha took his hand and led him to a seat. His mum mysteriously appeared beside them.
    “What’s wrong with you? You look pale.”
    “I just saw Seye.” He managed to speak but the words felt weird in his mouth. Like he didn’t own them. Like he didn’t even own his voice.
    “What do you mean you saw Seye? Which Seye?”
    His mum had on a look that made him feel as though he was crazy. Aisha still held his hand.
    “She’s alive. She was here. She’s waiting outside.”
    His mother shook her head.
    “So what happened? She died and resurrected? Why didn’t we know that?”
    Khalid didn’t respond. He got up and walked towards the exit. His mother watched him leave and shook her head.
    “That son of mine has been through so much.”
    Aisha looked at her, unsure what to say. The woman was a tad bit intimidating. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, arms still folded across her chest but didn’t say anything.
    “Sit down my dear. Let’s wait and see what this girl is up to.”
    ***
    “You’ve done pretty well for yourself. That’s great.”Khalid looked at her and shook his head. She was too calm and relaxed like they were regular friends who ran into each other once in a while. It felt surreal being so close to her, leaning on the railing in the corridor of the hallway.
    “What exactly happened to you Seye? I was told you died.”
    “Yeah, I died but I resurrected, call me Jesus.” Her tone was careless, flippant. Her words were casual, indifferent. He was unnerved. This was not the Seye he knew.
    “What do you mean by that? I was broken by the news of your death. I was depressed. I spent a year in therapy all because I thought you were dead. So can you please explain to me, what the hell happened to you?!”
    Seye laughed.
    “See this one. You’re a twitter overlord, famous public speaker, bright economist, so the whole world should come crumbling at your feet? Why are you raising your voice?”
    Her smile mocked him. Her eyes dared him to give a smart remark, to make a comment that would sting but he knew he couldn’t do that. Instead he willed himself to calm down and he lowered his voice.
    “What happened to you?”
    “What happened to me? Do you really care? You were so eager to accept my death story Kay. So much for the purported love we shared. You raped me, got me pregnant and left me for dead. My death was convenient for you now wasn’t it?”
    Khalid was not about to be blackmailed emotionally. He willed himself to think straight and focus. He cast his mind back to six years ago. He had felt terrible guilt. The news of her death had done nothing to make him feel relief. How could she have thought that?
    “Seye, I made a mistake. A grave one. And I regretted it till this moment. I always thought about reaching out to you while I was in Malaysia but I could never bring myself to do it. And before I knew it, news reaching me said you were dead. I was broken. I was going crazy. I tried to reach out to your brother but he shut me out. I sank into depression. I wanted to die myself. You have no idea what I went through at that point.-“
    “Shut it Kay! Just shut it! I have no idea what you went through? Are you kidding me? What exactly did you go through Kay? Tell me! Were you raped? Were you betrayed by the first person you loved? Were you abandoned by that same person and left to face the consequences of their action alone?”
    Her eyes glazed but she didn’t look like she was going to be overcome by tears. There was no break in her rant. She just continued
    “I was lost! I could not understand how a guy who claimed he loved me would rape me. I trusted you. I was just a kid Kay. A child! A mere 14 year old! I was young and innocent and I trusted you! The fact that you were leaving me for Malaysia was heartbreak enough and then you had to rape me?

    How on earth can you live with yourself? How did that make sense to you? How did it add up in your head? ‘oh I love her, so let me rape her as proof of my love for her’ really? Was that it?! And you stand here and talk to me about pain. I should have placed a curse on you then maybe, just maybe you would know what pain is.

    So don’t you dare stand there and tell me about pain Kay because you have absolutely no idea what pain is! And don’t you dare talk to me about going through anything because compared to the hell you put me through, you’ve had an easy sailing in life!”

    Her breathing was heavy and her eyes were red, but still there were no tears on her cheeks. Khalid was subdued.
    “I’m sorry-“
    She laughed. Her laughter was scary because it held no mirth.
    “Look at this one. You’re sorry? For what?”
    Khalid sighed. This was going to be difficult.
    “I’m sorry I tried to justify myself now. I’m sorry I took advantage of you six years ago. I took some really bad advice which I could have ignored and I got drunk and I had sex with you-“
    “You raped me Kay, there was nothing consensual about it.”
    “Okay. I raped you. And I regretted it immediately it happened. I went to Malaysia and I couldn’t get you out of my head. And then I heard about your death and I was broken because I felt I would never get the chance to beg for your forgiveness. I honestly tried to reach out to Bode but he blanked me out. I don’t think he ever forgave me. I finally visited Nigeria two years later and my mum had moved to Abuja. I went to PH in search of your family but was told they had moved. Some said to Ibadan, others said to Lagos but no one seemed certain so although I wanted to look to for them, I did not know how to go about it.
    I’m not justifying what I did. Not in any way and I’m not compelling you to forgive me. You don’t owe me anything. But I’m really sorry. This thing has stayed with me for so long and I can’t seem to be able to rid myself of it. I’m sorry. I really am and I pray you can forgive me.”
    Her eyes softened a little and her breathing returned to normal
    “You went back to PH to look for us? Nobody told us that.”
    “Honestly, I did. I went to your old house and the people there said you moved. I tried school mates and those ones were really not helpful. They blamed me for your death and didn’t want to offer any help at all.”
    She took in a deep breath and proceeded to bite her nails.
    Khalid smiled nervously
    “You haven’t stopped doing that?”
    She eyed him
    “We’re not old friends playing catch up Kay, don’t try to get chummy with me.”
    His smile disappeared and his sober look returned.
    “I’m really sorry Seye. I messed up big time and I doubt I’ll ever be able to fix it.”
    She smiled a sad smile and when she spoke, her voice seemed to come from a very far place. The look on her face told him she was no longer with him. She had travelled back in time.
    “You can’t fix it. I almost died doing the procedure. Of course it was a quack doctor. It was horrible and scary. I got home and started bleeding. It was the most frightening experience ever. Bode came into the room and saw me in a really bad state. He went out to get my mum and by the time they returned, I had passed out. They rushed me to the hospital and I was admitted for a week.
    My dad wanted to disown me. Everyone was both sad and mad at the same time. My dad was the one who started the death story. I’m not even sure how. But at the end of my stay in the hospital, I was sent to my grandmother’s place at Ogbomosho. It was Bode who told me that everyone heard that I was dead. It didn’t make sense to me but it was the least of my worries. I actually felt dead, like my life was really over.

    Bode got admission at Ife and soon after that, my family moved to Ibadan. Things were tough for me but you don’t need to know all the details. Bottom line, I somehow managed to make it through. I’m in my final year at University of Abuja. I’m studying French. We moved to Abuja again early this year so that pretty much sums it up.”
    They looked at each other in silence for a while and he was unsure what to say. He was however surprised when she spoke up.
    “You look good though. You’ve really done quite well for yourself.”
    Her honest compliment made him uneasy,
    “Thanks, I guess.”
    She smiled.
    “Relax Kay, I just needed to vent. You seemed like you wanted to go all self-righteous so I had to check that. I forgave you a long time ago. I’d be hurting myself if I didn’t.”
    “I’m really sorry Seye.”
    “If you say I’m sorry one more time, I’ll throw you over the railing.”
    They both laughed. She stretched out her arms and he walked into them and hugged her warmly.
    “You have no idea what you’ve done for me.”
    She smiled as she released him.
    “You’re lucky. If you had met me in the first three years when I was still struggling to put my life together, I would have killed you. I went through some serious counselling, I just had to let go of all the hurt, anger and bitterness but it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park.”
    “I can’t begin to imagine. But if you’re studying French, why are you here? This event was solely for Economics students.”
    She laughed again.
    “I’ve actually not been in Abuja for months now because of the strike but I came back two days ago and I saw someone tweet about the event so I decided to come check it out.”
    “Wow. Do you follow me on twitter?”
    “Nope! I check out your TL once in a while but that’s it. I don’t even use twitter that much.”
    “So how did you know the term “overlord?”
    She laughed.
    “What do you take my for? An ignoramus? Please shift.”
    They both laughed and in a minute, he was serious.
    “So, what’s up with you? Other than school, are you seeing someone?”
    Seye laughed and shook her head
    “Is that your business?”
    He smiled.
    “Sorry. Just curious.”
    “You’re engaged. My relationship status would mean nothing to you. But in case you’re worrying, no, I don’t hate guys. I’ve met a few nice ones after you.”
    Her comment stung but he did nothing to counter it. She was right. He had not been nice.
    “Well, I’m glad I met you. I’ve got to run. Be safe.”
    She began to walk rapidly away but he went after her.
    “Can I get your number?”
    “Don’t push your luck Kay. My chapter in your life is closed. If we ever run into each other again, it’ll be nice but other than that, forget it. We run different circles now. Adios!”
    She waved her fingers and was gone in seconds.

    Aisha cuddled up with Khalid on the couch in her living room. Her heartbeat increased as she thought of all that had happened that day. Khalid had come clean now. There were no secrets on his part but she had not told him about Bode. Bode had called her four times today and she had not taken the call each time. She had not replied his pings either. He seemed really desperate to see her but she was not going to be able to especially seeing how things had turned out.
    She felt Khalid stroke her hair absent-mindedly as they watched Tinsel but her mind was hardly on the show. She heard a knock on the door and got up to go answer it.
    “Hi.”
    She was completely taken aback. Her voice was a nervous whisper when she spoke
    “Bode, what are you doing here?”
    “You and I need to talk.”
    “Errm, now’s not such a good time. Why didn’t you say you were coming over?”
    “You weren’t taking my calls or replying my messages. Let me come in.”
    “Now is really not a good time. My fiancé is around.”
    “On the contrary, I think it’s a perfect time.”
    He edged his way in through the door before Aisha could stop him and he walked right to the couch where Khalid was sitting and stood in front of him.
    “Hello old friend…”
    ====================

    EPISODE 20 (final)

    ====================

    For the second time that day, Khalid felt like he was in a very bad dream. What was with the Oguntubos and reappearing from oblivion? First Seye, now Bode. He tried to sit up and say hi but before he could complete the movement, Bode swung a fist into his face. Aisha gasped and rushed to his side. The pain he felt was blinding but he said nothing. It was Aisha who spoke instead
    “Bode! What the hell?! What did you do that for?!”
    Bode rubbed his clenched fist in his left hand. His face was blank, totally unreadable
    “I’ve wanted to do that for a long time now.”
    Aisha looked scared and confused, totally unsure what to do. Khalid rubbed his nose and felt the blood.
    “I’m sorry Bode. I have been looking for you for six years now-“
    “Bloody liar!”
    Horror filled Aisha’s face
    “You two know each other?”
    They ignored her. It was as though she wasn’t even in the room
    “Bode, everyone told me she was dead.”
    “It was convenient for you wasn’t it?”
    “Bode, stop this. I messed up, I’m sorry. Seye has forgiven me, why are you still holding on?”
    Bode shook his head.
    “I’m not Seye.”
    “I know that. But you’re her brother. I did not hurt just her. I hurt you too and I am deeply sorry-“
    “Don’t patronize me man. I don’t need it. Save that patronizing for your followers and all those other people that gather to listen to you blab. I came here for one reason only and that is to let you know that sometimes the ones we love end up paying for the evil we do.”
    Khalid looked at Aisha sharply and back at Bode
    “What do you mean by that?”
    Bode smiled.
    “Aisha was going to pay for what you did…”
    “What are you talking about?! What do you mean I was going to pay for what he did?!”
    “Ask your fiancé. He raped my little sister six years ago.”
    Aisha suddenly felt dizzy.
    “Wait. What are you saying? You’re Seye’s brother?”
    Aisha felt the blood drain from her face. This was a nightmare.
    Bode smiled calmly.
    “I think both of you should sit down.
    Aisha did not need to be told. She sat down on the couch close to Khalid who put his arm around her.
    “Did you ever tell Khalid about our kiss?”
    Aisha wished the ground would open up and swallow her. She couldn’t even look at either of them. She felt Khalid’s grip loosen around her arm.
    “Yes, she told me about the kiss. So?”
    She wasn’t sure she heard right. She turned to look at Khalid but his eyes were fixed on Bode. Bode looked a little disappointed but he continued.
    “Aisha, nothing about our meeting was an accident. When I discovered you were involved with Khalid, I decided to take my revenge. I’d been nursing it for a long time, waiting for the perfect time to execute it. I never schooled in Lancaster…”
    Aisha’s mouth dropped open.
    “But.. but…”
    “I studied Computer Science and not Public Relations. We met at that training only because I was stalking you…”
    Aisha was in utter shock. She could not believe it. Khalid simply looked on. He looked like he was impatiently waiting for Bode to get to the end of his story but he didn’t say anything.
    “I wanted Khalid to know what it felt for someone you care about to be violated by someone they trusted. So I was bidding time. I followed you and gradually eased into your life. Two weeks ago when we went to Beer Barn, I drugged your drink. I was going to do to you as Khalid had done to Seye but you got really lucky.
    Unlike your fiancé here, I’m not a cold ruthless beast. I just couldn’t do it. I find you attractive, yes. I became attached to you and found myself caring for you more than I meant to. I guess that also helped. I eventually felt guilty for trying to hurt you for something you had no role in and that’s why I’ve been trying to reach you since; to say I’m sorry.”
    Aisha had tears in her eyes. Her emotions were a mess, all mixed up; anger, hurt, shame, disappointment. So Bode was on a mission after all? She should have told Khalid about the kiss! She really should have!
    Khalid’s voice broke into her thoughts
    “If that’s all you have to say, you can leave now.”
    “I wasn’t speaking to you.”
    “Me, her, same thing. You can leave now.”
    Aisha found her voice.
    “I think you’re cold, wicked and very selfish. I can’t imagine I called you my friend. Please leave my house.”
    Bode looked at her and shrugged
    “Okay!”
    There was an arrogant air of indifference about him. He walked out of the house and shut the door behind him.
    “I can’t believe you kissed him and didn’t tell me about it.” Khalid shot at her
    “I can’t believe I was going to get raped because of something stupid you did!” She fired back
    “So this is somewhat balanced in your head? How on earth did you wind up kissing him and why did I never get to hear about it?”
    Aisha sighed. She was tired.
    “It was a mistake. It happened the night you and I had a fight after your return from PH. I was really mad ‘cause I thought you had cheated. We went out for a drink, I got drunk, I kissed him. It was nothing major. I’m sorry.”
    Khalid rubbed his eyes. It had been a long day. A long month in fact but thankfully, it looked like it was all coming to an end.
    “So why didn’t you tell me about it? I thought you said we had no secrets between us?”
    “Says the guy who raped a girl and kept it a secret all this while.”
    “That was different. Besides I opened up before Seye showed up.”
    “I still can’t believe I could have gotten raped on your account.”
    Khalid reached out to her. He was tired and he wasn’t going to push this any further.
    “Come here babe”
    Aisha got up and walked to him and he hugged her tight.
    “We both made mistakes. Mine was graver and had more terrible consequences than yours and I’m sorry. I could have done some real damage to you without even meaning to and for that I am deeply sorry. Can you forgive me?”
    There was no smile on her face but there was no frown either.
    “I guess so. Maybe in time we’ll be alright. But for now I think we need some time apart.” She detached herself from his embrace and looked away from him.
    “Time apart? What do you mean?”
    “It’s been a really rocky ride Kay. The past month has been tough with all the issues we’ve faced. Maybe we should just take some time out, do some personal appraisal and decide what we really want.”
    Khalid looked confused.
    “Are you breaking up with me?
    Aisha didn’t respond.
    “I’m talking to you. Say something.”
    “Kay, I’m not sure. I’m just saying we need the time apart. Someone found me, stalked me and built a web of lies around me just to get at you. We went out together a number of times and I never suspected a thing. I’m not sure how I feel right now. It was all too convincing. I just need some time to get my thoughts together.”

    Khalid looked at her and he felt utterly defeated. He picked his keys and walked out of the house. He had never had so much trouble and drama in his life while he was single. This was just too much.

    “Sometimes love is not enough and that’s exactly what I discovered with Kay.”
    “Relationships are hard work dear daughter. If anyone ever told you it was all fun, they lied to you-”
    Aisha looked at her mum and shook her head
    “You’re not getting me. I’m not saying it’s all fun. I’m just saying I love him but that’s it. I have nothing else on the table. No trust. It’s all gone. I feel like I’ll always be looking over my shoulder. What if Seye decides she doesn’t want to forgive him again and she comes to baptize me with acid?”
    “You’re being paranoid.”
    “I’m not mum. If her brother who was not directly affected would want to rape me to get even with him then anything can happen. Mum, Bode came close, really close…”
    “You were careless.”
    “Really? So I should have asked for an ID or what?”
    “Aisha. I’m not trying to make you change your mind. You asked for my opinion, I gave it. You’re not obligated to do what I say, You say you love him but love is not enough. Okay. Although I don’t know what you children call love nowadays. In my days, it wasn’t just a feeling. It was a choice to be with someone when they had shown you all there was to them. You’ve come to know Khalid in his entirety. You’ve seen him at his strongest and at his weakest. So what next? You can’t deal with his past? So you want to up and leave? You can’t deal with the fact that he made a costly mistake? Fine. You want to call off the engagement? Go ahead.”
    Aisha watched her mother get up and leave the room. She really wasn’t ready. This was too much to deal with.
    ***
    “How about we go back to Kenya together?” Khalid watched his mother pack her things into her small bag. She always travelled light.
    “I’ll just leave my life behind? Just like that?”
    Mrs Sani smiled.
    “We can work together. I’ll pay you good money.”
    She winked and Khalid laughed.
    “You know money isn’t the problem. I find fulfilment being here.”
    “I know. Your father would have been proud.”
    They were silent for a few minutes.
    “I miss her mum. Very much.”
    His mum smiled, a knowing smile.
    “I know you do. Just give her time. Let her decide what she wants. If she doesn’t choose you, it’s her loss and not yours. I raised a solid man and I’m proud of you.”
    They shared a hug
    “Thanks mum. I love you.”

    “I love you too son.”
    ***
    Khalid was driving his mother to the airport when the text came in. he saw the light blinking but ignored it till they were parked at the international wing of the airport.
    “Call me often…” his mum was saying. But he was not with her. His eyes were on his phone.
    “I love you, past, present and future. Mistakes, achievements, failures. I love you and all that is you. I’ll come over tonight so we can talk and maybe start over. Clean slate, new beginning, no secrets…”
    “Khalid?”
    The twinkle was back in his eyes.
    “Mum?”
    “I know that’s Aisha. Focus, I’ve got a plane to catch.”
    “Right!”
    “I’ll call you the moment we touch down. You guys keep me updated alright?”
    “Alright mum. I love you. And thank you, for everything.”
    She smiled and spared him a quick hug. He watched her walk briskly into the airport and the moment she was out of sight, he was hurriedly typing a reply.
    “Clean slate. I’m all in. Went to drop mum at the airport. I’ll be home in 45mins or less. See you!”
    ***
    And that good people, is the end of Simply Complicated. I hope you had as much fun reading as I had writing.

    *THE END*

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