CHAPTER SEVEN ⃝ FINDING DIDI

ǁǁǁ The bright hot morning sun filtered its way angrily into the room defying the curtain blinds as if forcing its hot vitamin D on me. Opening my eyes, I felt the dried tears stain my face, my left nostrils blocked and my dried throat hurting….crying the entire night can have that effect. Still clutching the letter to my chest, I saw Ali standing cross-legged and sipping what smelt like black coffee. He was topless, in white shorts and blue ankle-length socks. My eyes went to his mid-section before rising to his face…..no blame me, eyes sabi roam too. It was flaccid. No visible member.

“Good Morning” he said studying my face. I was not in the mood for talks so I simply nodded.

I sat up. The only thing on my mind was going to The Mirage and go home. It was a mistake coming here obviously. Ignorance sure was bliss. My world was falling like a pack of cards and I had no control over it. My head aching like a skilled carpenter had his big sized hammer positioned on the left side of brain dedicated to his art; of making sure that the six inches nail got down to touch my medulla oblongata in good tight fix. I shut my eyes momentarily to steady the slowly overwhelming dizziness and pain.

“Breakfast?” he asked as he stood before me.  

“No, I’d like to go back to The Mirage now if you don’t mind” I said licking my nearly cracked lips and swallowing down painfully. My dried throat tasted bitter. Thanks to the burnt chicken.

“Alright. I will take you when you are ready. A change of clothes” he said pointing to the neatly folded pile on the bed with his half empty cup.

I nodded and mouthed a thank you like a grateful soul. I was, wasn’t I?

He dropped his cup and went about his grooming business rather happily in the ante-room coming to the room to pick his phone and making calls oblivious to my existence. Was this the almighty Ali Bricks? It sure didn’t feel like he was that big a deal now. ***Seeing person nakedness dey get that effect all the time.

Getting up, I made a decision. I was not going to regret my actions; moments before I take my last breath.

TIP #9: You have just one life to live. Live it full, make mistakes and learn from them. Regrets are death bed affair……..Just make sure you die quickly if you have lots of them.hehehe

Mentally tired, I dragged myself to the bathroom. Funny how I didn’t tingle at the memories of what happened here last night….the nail down my brain was working. It was 9:09am before we left the house dressed in a slightly larger navy blue jeans and cute white polo shirt.

Undies?

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We drove in silence. There was nothing to be said for now. Of course I had questions but I’d rather have the answers on my own. I still doubted the letter and pictures in my hand. I literally jumped from the car immediately at the parking lot and walked away before He had opened his mouth to talk. I wasn’t ready to have my ears troubled with coordinated alphabets.

Walked past the reception absent minded and came back for my card half way up, got to my room, packed my hand-luggage, checked out and headed to the house.

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The small white old house sat peacefully in the valley like an old woman taking an evening rest under a large kolanut tree. It was an extension of the GRA right before the old Calabar Mountains. I walked slowly to the house, memories rushing in, tears blinding. The simple metal gate suffocated with sprawling vines of long stemmed weeds. The evening walks, laughter and games. Oh! She thought me how to prepare soups in this house…………..the pepper soup was my favourite @longthroat.

The first time here was like redemption. A get-away from the abuse and insistent ‘drama’. It was just me and mum. I was 14 years. Hiding out here for weeks alone-peaceful and happy; and then he apologises; she forgives and crawls back expecting a change. I hated her weakness, her inability to take a decision, her submission, her sense of loyalty and acceptance. Abuse shouldn’t be tolerated, it should be resisted.

“Why do you let Daddy treat you bad?” I had always asked.

“You won’t understand dear” was her standard reply; pulling me in her embrace while her tears wetted my hair.

When I was older; I got her tissue and walked away. I was pissed at her for taking it all in. The last time here; we quarrelled. I had nursed her wounded torso and demanded she divorce him. I was 25years. She told me she would never do that.

“Then this is the last time you will see me” I had made a resolve. I left home that year. 6 months later, Dad called me.

Mum was critically ill. She was bedridden.

I lost it on seeing her and still hearing her preach forgiveness and love. I never understood.

I still did not.

Slow rage built and in months, Dad followed.

I shook my head to clear the sad dark memories as I pushed the old rusty gate. It creaked weakly as if it voice was tired as well. ‘Who is it again’ it seems to say. The grasses over grown, the Almond tree in front of the house had its fruits littered on the floor with bird marks and the mixed sweet smell coming from the overgrown white lilies and roses. I gave a sad smile. It had been six months since I came for a visit. As was usual, I walked round the house noticing no changes. The attached garage housed my favourite car; an old black Peugeot truck. I learnt how to drive in that woman with her long slender stick that resisted my feeble attempt at changing her old gear; changed it the last time I was here though. I was to take her for a spin down the old mountain road before going back. I smiled with the memories of dragging her along the streets without guidance. She was an Igbo woman I nicknamed Agaracha….strong woman. She sabi spoil for road if you shout for her head! But she was the best, she was alive and she had ears.

The tour ended back on the front porch; the thick trees surrounding the house provided shade and squeaking birds free accommodation. I smiled at the yellow and black bird building her nest blissfully; unmindful of my presence as I watched fascinated by her skill and joy in putting up her residence on free property. I took a snap shot.

Bringing out the bunch of keys at the front door, I opened the old mahogany door to the big airy courtyard with corridor leading to the renovated kitchen with modern appliances-thanks to my last visit. I walked down corridor and took in deep breath. The central courtyard was as clean as I had left it. The two adjoining doors to our rooms just before the kitchen locked awaiting my keys. There was no sitting room.

Since her death, I had locked her room and never gone in; I wasn’t ready. I walked to the kitchen exit and powered the house. She came alive immediately. The florescent lights exposed the amount of dust that had gathered on surfaces of the linen used to cover items and some dropping cobwebs. I felt the instant need to make noodles and bush meat just the way she taught me. The hunger pang was unanticipated. I made to open my room.

My room smelt of the huge camphor I strategically placed on window planes. No much dust here. Dropped my bag and made to air the room and clean it. I was tired by the time I finished and had a bath. The headache gone.  

Went to garage and checked Agaracha….she already knew I was around and she seem to be happy to see me as I was to see her. ‘Someday, I will take you to Abuja with me’ I muttered as I stroked her head and opened the ‘bonnet’. Few checks and she powered on like she was ready for a ride. Obviously she heard the Abuja promise and wanted to show her readiness to go with me. I shook my head. Agaracha baby…..

 I went out to get food supplies and see what was new. She was sound and we raced on.

I felt free.

I was home.

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The hot steaming noodles and bush meat disappeared quickly into my small intestines hours later; the large intestines will get theirs later…..hehe. Picking the half cooked onions and carrots that stained the plate with dripping nose-I got carried away with the pepper. I missed Tessy now. She would have been licking iced cubes to help her tongue………funny dog. My phone had being switched off…..low battery syndrome. I didn’t see the need to charge it. I sat at mini wooden dining table for two in the kitchen. Didn’t have the heart to let it go with the rest of the old furniture I disposed of months back. I looked over at her spot and shook my head. Mum or Aunt?

“Why didn’t you tell me” I said to no one in particular. The appetite disappearing……….after I don chop belle full.

The rest of the day went uneventful. Going to my room and pulling out an old novel by Philips Andrews….Love and Affairs….. I slept half way down the first page.

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The cool evening breeze woke me up from the peaceful deep sleep. I stared at the ceiling. No reflection. I should have a mirror fixed. My mind drifted to the reason I was here. How true was the letter? Was I ready to find out? Her room would hold buried secrets, wouldn’t it? I took a deep breath. There was one way to find out. I was going to her room to find details or clues. I rolled over to get the envelope again from my bag. I looked at the pictures and got up. If this was some huge joke, Ali Bricks will pay. If not, then Akhmed will. Either ways, this was going to determine whose team I’d be playing for.

It was 5:44pm and it was dark already.

Her door gave a thick croak as I pushed its stiff joints.  The smell of dust and dampness flooded my nose. Her room smell survived though. She loved the apple drummer boy air freshener and had them hidden. I threw them away when I found them….I didn’t like them.  Tears flooded my eyes as I saw the ‘I love you mama’ stiches on calico material right from my junior secondary school days. It was a home economics project on stitches. We did it together because I hated needles and ended up sticking them in my fingers instead of the cloth. The project was too good to be mine, Mrs Vero had me do it again right in class. I didn’t. I wasn’t scored but I told mum mine was scored the highest. It sure scored the highest with me. We had it framed. She must have hung it after our last tiff.

It was old now, handing on her wall pitifully; waiting for the day it would be saved. I stood at the door unable to enter momentarily. I took the first step in and my heart gave out. A deep breath and I walked to the centre of her room; standing on the Persian rug in front of her large made bed covered with linen that had gathered a thick layer of dust.

The last time I was here was over a decade. It felt like I had her locked in but somehow she had strangely escaped. The room felt empty and totally deserted. I looked around for nothing in particular.

“Time to come down” I said to the framed cloth. It was dusty and dirtied my hands immediately with fine brown powder. Turning it over, it read………….

I wish you were mine’

Love you

Mummy.

What did that mean? I frowned at the words. Dropping the frame on the bed, I walked to her wardrobe and forced it open. Piled up boxes of books and files in cartons mostly were in the topmost shelf; I took another deep breath, dragged her bedside stool, stood on it and pulled the first heavy carton out. The weak bottom gave out on my head as its dusty webby content fell on my head with my eyes receiving blinding particles.

I rushed to wash my eyes in her bathroom. The tap croaked and croaked, then vomited brown smelly water that was almost used to wash the particles out before I ran across to my room for a good safe rinse.

Of course my eyes were bloodshot and I silently cursed the weak box, heavy content and dust for being there in the first place.

The night had come; the crickets using their vocal cords judiciously.

Soaking my eyeballs in the bowl of water and rolling it opened helped get the dirt out; gently wiped it with cotton wool.

I matched back, determined and bold.

If I was going to find out who I was, I would gladly go blind doing it.

Putting on all the lights in the room, I closed my eyes and yanked the linen covering the bed away. Packed the spilled content on the bed and started digging for my identity-my future.

This was it.

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It would take two days to go through all her boxes, separate the wheat from the shaft. Took boxes of ‘wheat’ to my room to be read and digested. Of course I had different emotions playing out……….I’d cry, I’d curse, I’d laugh………going back and forth with pictures and letters.

It was tedious, it was revealing, it was worth it.

 Of course I ate and even tried out a recipe she scribbled out on a yellowish weak paper found in the pile. It was grated cocoyam balls in shredded chevon chili sauce. I made it and playfully asked her if it tasted as it should have while I ate in the now dirty room reading a letter Ali had written to her to reconsider their baby and his marriage proposal.

‘This is the last I’m going to say on this matter’

He had written on the last of his letters that I found.

The story started in love letters, the dreams and the promises. She sure knew how to compose poems that would melt resolves. Ali too had his heart out for her. It sure was ‘love’ but tribe and family background didn’t let the love be. Ali’s father was a force and Mum decided to let it go. Ali would not. She got pregnant and found another man. There was only one option, terminate it. Ali was not having it.

She was adamant. She wanted it terminated. He refused to let her. A stalemate. She would deliver the baby and give it to him.  

It would seem I had a niece-Ummi; and she was sick. Could it be that Mum thought the abuse was her punishment for abandoning Ummi? The last of her correspondence hinted that. Ali had cut off all ties after Ummi was born. And he had kept her as his solely. Mum had asked repeatedly where Ali had kept her, but either he didn’t reply or I didn’t see the letter. Good thing Mum had a good filing system.

I felt sorry for her. Why didn’t she have another child with the abuser? Aka my ‘Dad’. I  was soon to find out Ummi took her womb with her. Complications at birth. The more reason the abuse was more.

Oh mum! She didn’t disclose her status to my step-father. He was pissed.

But did he know that Ummi was still alive? No records except a little letter she had written to Debbie. I kept wondering who Debbie was.

They were close. The post marks said Lome on Debbie’s occasional replies.

Then they letters stopped.

I was on the third box. There were business letters, old newspaper clips, envelopes, books, nothing in particular.

The Fourth box had pictures. Old photo albums that had almost all its pictures damaged from moist; pictures of Mum and a younger woman. They were identical. No pictures of my old people alias grandparents though. A tall slender man appeared once in the pictures with the beautiful sisters. On the back was this inscription in Mum’s writing.

‘Me, Debbie and Philips.

1961 Christmas.

                                                                      Lome’             

Flipped more, there were other pictures of sisters in crowd of students. It looked like an orphanage establishment but the pictures were cut. It looked like deliberate cuts.

It was not until the last night that I saw a plastic folder containing sensitive documents. In it were credentials, share certificates, letters of appointments and several certificates. I was almost dropping it to continue my search when I saw a birth certificate; a pale blue cardboard paper that had suffered and survived the years waiting for such a day as this.

Registration Number: 4819

Date of Bith: 10 October, 19**

Sex of Child: Female

Full Name of Father: Philips M. Collins

Nationality/Tribe of Father: Nigerian-***

Full Maiden name of mother: Deborah C. Collins

Name of Child: Michelle Didi Collins

Place of Birth: ***

The next document cleared it all. They were adoption papers.

My adoption papers

Ali Bricks was right.

The rest of the boxes showed nothing more than confirmations and investments.

One question that kept coming to my mind was how much Akhmed knew.

I was ready to talk with Ali Bricks and decide whose team I would be playing for ǁǁǁ.

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<<< The light knock on my door brought me out of my absorption. I dropped the diary and stood up to get the door. It was Akhmed standing with a smile. Hands in pocket.

“Sorry to bother you” he said stepping into the room without waiting for an invitation.

“Come in” I said after him.

“What are you reading? Her diaries?” he was suspiciously curious.

“Yes” I said going back to the bed to cover the page. He was already scheming the opened  page.

“You didn’t come down for lunch” he said taking the seat by the window that was left opened.

“I had some cake” I said gesturing with my chin at the empty cake plate beside him on the straw stool.

“No real food?” he asked with teasing eyes. He wanted something.

“I should eat real dinner tonight” I indulged him.

“I was wondering if I could read her diaries too” he finally came out with it.

For a fleeting second, I saw something flash in his eyes. It seemed he was out to get information from her entries.

It wasn’t 48hours yet and I was already in need of “guidance”.

“Sure you can. I will send it to you after I am done. Should be done tonight hopefully. Not too late yea?” I said sweetly. He let out a hidden breath. Perhaps he thought I was going to say no.

“Tonight is good. I want to wait on performing the burial rights” he looked sad then.

Funny how he could change expressions and moods. I didn’t trust him.

“Why?” I asked offhandedly as if it didn’t matter.

“I want to be with her a little more” he said with such devotion that I would have thought sweet but thanks to the entries, every move was now suspicious.

“I understand” I said with emotion.

“So, do you go out?” he asked.

Why was he asking?

“You need me out of the house?” I asked and bit my tongue.

Careful Unen, Careful.

“I wanted going to the city. Take a drive. You want to come?” He said standing up. He didn’t seem to take notice of my tone.

“Na, I should finish and let you have these. I’m sure she would have wanted you to have this. Feels like I’m imposing” I said standing up.

“No, you are not” he said with a grin.

We walked to my door and went for the door at same time. Touching.

“Sorry” he apologised. I nodded.

He smiled brilliantly with a courtesy bow before heading down the hallway.

I went back immediately.

The need to finish more now than ever >>>.

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CHAPTER SIX ⃝ UNFOLDING SECRETS…

ǁǁǁ……….As always, the dark evil force had me running for safety; closing in on me with an evil cackle that rang deep into my ears and my wildly beating heart. As always I keep running, panting with fear while he catches up with me as I try to jump a tall fence with grass wall filled with snakes I am unaware of. I am half way up the grass wall, they coil round my hands and body; I end up screaming out loud as he pulls my legs down to his grave.………..and as always I wake up sweating and breathing hard with blood running down my nose.

The same reoccurring nightmare.

Turning to look at my bedside ‘Barbie’ alarm clock she told me it was 3:30am. I won’t be sleeping back……….as always. Standing up from the bed with head raised up, I found the roll of tissue, wiped the blood off my nose and stuck a roll in to stop the bleeding. I was glad Tessy was with Uche. I made to pack a bag. I pushed in my favourite undies, toiletries, perfume and a shawl. I brought down my head, the bleeding had stopped. Cleared the bin around the house and arranged the displaced items.

4:39am had me going to the bathroom for a quick shave and a bath.

A quick dress up in faded ash jeans, a deep blue shimmering chiffon blouse, generous spray of Publication and a light touch of make-up, I sent a text to Uche as I locked the front door and stepped down the porch.

A quick trip.

Please take care of Tessy,

 Check the fridge for fresh meat packs. The car keys in the usual place.

Oh, that washed Kpomo and periwinkles still dey o.

 Carry am abeg before them transform

Call you when I get down.

Love to Tessy,

More Love to U.

Bye

 

“Madam, good morning, you dey travel ne?” It was Adamu with his Fulani intonation coming to the car. Eyes clear. He looked like he was awake all night just sitting in front of his post. He knew when I was leaving town. Maybe the “scream” gave him that.

“No, I’m not traveling. Take care of the house ok?” the usual reply. Getting into the Range Rover Sports, I saw his card. I picked it fondly and looked at it. It was simply done. His name nicely embossed in the front and his private number behind. No other detail. The events of last night brought smiles to my face. More than ever, I was determined to make him part of my life. If I was going to dig gold, I was going to dig this one. Akhmed? He will come around. I brushed his thoughts aside.

TIP #7: Never fall for sentiments. Be focused. Know what you what.

For me, it was the bigger Mine.

My ringing phone told me it was Uche.

“You no dey sleep?” it was few minutes to 6am.

“Komot jor” she said in a laugh.

“When you wake up sef?” I asked driving out of the gate.

“Dey dia dey ask me when farmer dey go farm. Come pick me for house jare” she said in another laugh.

“You sef” I shook my head as I took Femi Atoyebi’s Street to her house five minutes away. She was standing at the gate already.

“What are you doing up so early?” I asked as she got in already dressed for work.

“I got your text” she replied, her eyes dancing. Closing the door quite forcefully.

“So?” I asked looking at the rear mirror.

“So I go follow you go airport and collect the car cruise for today na” she looked surprised that I was asking. It was the drill. Whenever one of us was traveling, the other would bring the car back home.

“I did not ask you to come to airport with me. What if I took a taxi?” I asked as I drove to the Kubwa expressway; heading to the Nnamdi Azikiwe airport.

“You would have said that in your text” she said correctly.

“True”

“So where to?” she asked.

“Lagos” I was going to Calabar. Why did I lie? Just felt like it. Moreover, I needed to get away for few days. The dream always had me running to my little flat in Calabar.

“Akhmed aware?” she pried.

“Yes” I nodded. Another lie. I wasn’t up for answering questions this early.

“When you coming back?” she questioned.

“Why?” I asked passing the scene of the accident the night before. The memory giving me a thrill.

“So that I can tell Tessy when her mummy will be back” she gave a silly answer. I gave a silly laugh.

“Tell her soon” I replied with a smirk.

“I hear you”. She said with an attitude. I laughed.

“I’m getting married Didi” she blurted out. She couldn’t hold it any longer.

“What?! When did this happen?” I asked totally surprised; beaming with smiles.

“Last night” she said shyly showing me the rock on her index finger. I gave the legendary wedding shout.

“Oh my God! Uche! This is so huge” I said joyfully. Holding out the finger burdened with the ring.

“I thought I was dreaming when he proposed” she said studying the ring. Her face shone.

“It is not a dream o. You are getting locked” I said and she gave me a playful punch.

“You no well, I swear.” She was laughing at my demonstration of ‘locked’

“My dear, I’m so happy for you. When are you taking me to wash it?” I asked.

“Why do you think I was asking when you coming back?” she rolled her eyes.

“I know now o! I’m coming back this weekend” and we both laughed.

The wedding talks overflowed till we got to the airport.

“Alright Mrs Igwe, see you when I get back” I said teasing her.

I gave a hug.

As customary, I walked in to book the next flight to Calabar. Aero was next.

Seated beside the window and bringing out Thisday Arise magazine with a piece on Ali Bricks, my phone buzzed. It was Akhmed. What did he want now? The plan was to get his father interested in me in two weeks. That was before last night. Now I had no idea what this call was for.

The voice of the female flight hostess came on. The funny demonstrations and switching off gadget announcements followed. Sorry Akhmed. Obviously cannot pick now.

I switched off.

We took off minutes later.

It was 8:40am.

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Good thing about hand luggage is going straight to check-out stand. The Margaret Ekpo international airport was busy as usual. An airport taxi and I was headed home. Home sweet home. Thinking of the little flat left to me by my mother in the old layout, I needed to stay incommunicado for the rest of the week.

I remembered the call to Ali.

“Hello, good morning. This is Didi” he picked on first ring.

“I know. I have been waiting for your call” the rich voice filled my ears and I found myself smiling.

“It feels good to know you waited” I said with a shy giggle.

“I waited all night. Where are you?” he asked in an accent.

“I am in Calabar” I said. My phone buzzing. I checked. It was Akhmed.

“Have dinner with me tonight Didi” he said almost in a plea. Abi na me dey hear dat one?

“Only if you are cooking” I said playfully.

“I will if you promise to eat and enjoy the excess salt and burnt meal” he said quite serious. I laughed.

“I will be honored to eat the burnt meal of Dr Bricks” I said in a tease.

“I will pick you up from your residence?” he asked.

“At The Mirage”. I couldn’t let him come to my house just yet. The Mirage was few minutes from my flat.

 “See you soon sweetheart” he was gone in an instant. Akhmed’s call came through next.

“Hello, Akhmed” I said in a sweet voice.

TIP #8: You have got to act like you got it all together. Always

“How are you sweetheart?” he asked in a calm voice too. He must have taken the course in anger management like me.

“I am doing alright” I stated plainly.

“I need to talk to you about last night”

“Yes?”

“I am deeply sorry for the outburst. I had no right” he said calmly.

“I apologise for the outburst too. I think it was over the top” I said modestly.

“Can we have dinner tonight?” he asked

“I will not be available tonight Akhmed”

“Still mad at me?”

“No” I said rolling my eyes.

“Alright. Tomorrow then?” He pressed.

“Sure Babe” I said reassuringly.

“I think I am getting too attached Didi” he said in thick voice filled with emotion and then he went off.

I don enter! Papa and Son.

“Please take me to The Mirage”. The driver nodded and took the next turn 

A detour.

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Dropping me off, I sighed. I for the go house now o. This detour no be am at all. But the hotel experience will be good. I love The Mirage, the chilled cigar smell gives the vibe of ‘The Godfather’ living in the building.

The warm welcome at the reception and checking into Ambassadorial suite room 419 gave me a kick. How cliché. I wanted to reject the room but let it slide….was till dinner anyways.

Next I made a call to the office. It took less than five minutes. Tunde had everything under control. Getting out of my clothes, I headed to bathroom for a long soak.

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The forceful buzz startled me from the deep sleep after the shower. It was raining now. The hot bath left me totally refreshed and drowsy. I slipped beneath the covers in the nude and slept the entire day. It was few minutes to 6pm now.

It was Ali. My mind skipped. I picked hoping he was calling to cancel or say he was on his way. I need to get dressed.

“Hello” I said in sleepy voice.

“Didi? You sleeping my dear?” he said sweetly. This man dey turn my flat stomach o.

“Just woke up. Where are you?” I asked holding my breath.

“I am at the reception. Are you coming down or do I come pick you up?” he said with so much care my heart did a flip.

“Emmm, come up? Room 419” I was confused. Maybe we just order dinner.

“See you in a minute”

I got up and ran to get the white bathrobe. Maybe I should wear my travel clothes. I rushed to the folded bunch for an examination. Ouch, not it.

A knock. No time to make up my mind.

Opening the door, Ali Bricks stood pleasantly in a black polo and deep blue jeans and flats. His glass perched on his nose. He looked airbrushed and I wanted to give him a hug. I stood shyly in my bathrobe with a big smile plastered across my dry lips. I gave it a quick lick.

“Can I come in?” he asked.

“Yes. Please come in” he entered quietly. The air was charged and I was suddenly aware of his sexuality. The feeling was intense. He turned to face me.

“So are you ready to go now? I have dinner ready” he said with a look that I found alluring. “Emmm, I don’t have anything to wear to dinner”

We stood in the middle of the room. Close but not touching.

“Let’s get you something to wear then” he said simply.

“Ok?” I eyed him suspiciously with a smile.

“Have another option?”

“Order in?” I rose playfully on my toes. He smiled at the gesture.

“No. I cooked dinner. We are having dinner at my place” he said holding out to me.

I gave him my hand.

“Let’s get you dressed in a cloth store” he said walking to the door.

I laughed.

“In my robe?” I asked eyes wide as he opened the door. I picked the card.

“Yes please” He smiled in a dare. I laughed. He excited me. I was up to it.

“Sure”

Hand in Hand, we left my room. I giggled all the way to the elevator like a child.

“You are feeling uncomfortable? Shy?” he said with a straight face.

“I’m with you, am I not?” I laughed.

A couple exited a room and looked surprised at my appearance. We entered the elevator.

“So what did you cook” I asked over his shoulder to his ears.

“Hmmm, burnt chicken ribs, carrots and peas. I didn’t cook the ketchup though” I gave a throaty snout.

“Very funny. I don’t think I like your food that much” we walked through the reception to the exit.

All eyes. Somehow I liked the looks. Steps improved. Dr Ali Bricks with a woman in robes hitting the headlines gave me a thrill.

Walking to the car park, I was surprised when he brought out his car keys.

“Where is your driver?” I asked

“I wanted to drive” he said simply as he opened the door for me.

“Thank you” I got in.

“So, we are going to get you a dress for dinner yes?” he asked as he powered the Black BMW. It came to life like a quiet bull that it was.

 “I think I want to eat now. I am hungry” I teased. I had other thoughts clouding my hunger pang.  

“Great. Home it is”

“So you were in Calabar?” I asked starting a conversation as drove out of the lot.

“No, I came in to have dinner with you” he said looking over at me.

“You flew in for dinner? That is sweet” I looked at him with dancing eyes. I was still in the robe and uncombed hair in a bun. Good genes helping me here. The long eye lashes and white eyes helped. Of course the whitened teeth with brilliant smile gave me confidence.

We took a turn and approached a lonely street. Never been to this side of Calabar. 

“My private hideout” he said as if reading my thoughts.

“Rather lonely”

“Yes” we drove on for few more minutes and then down the slope and drove up the gentle hill. There stood the private hideout proudly. It was no hideout, it was imposing.

“This is your definition of a hideout?” I asked in a disbelieving laugh.

“Yes” he said in a wink and we both laughed.

The gate opened electronically and we drove pass the ‘fountain’ to the car park with open coconut trees forming a drive way to the built-in garage that opened immediately he pressed a remote I didn’t notice till he was keeping it back.

I opened the door before he came round to do same.

He slipped his hand into mine again as we approached the quiet residence.

“Where are your staffs?” I asked noticing the quietness and absence of life.

“I sent them away for the night” he didn’t give it a thought.

He opened the door that was unlocked and we stepped into the wide empty space. Well, hall I’d say.

“You live in a hall?” I asked trying humour. He laughed. Simply walked on to another connecting door and turned the knob.

It was the patio overlooking a water body with cool night breeze and brilliant lights in the distant. He stood back while I went closer to take in the view.

“Nice view” I said simply. He came to stand behind me. I tensed with anticipation.

He took a deep breath of my hair and enveloped me in an embrace dropping little airy kisses on my neck. I enjoyed the feel. I welcomed it. I wanted more. Time to take it to the next level I thought with a smile. Akhmed will thank me later. I gave a knowing grin and made to turn.

“I have always wanted to do this” with that he enveloped me quivering lips in a kiss the moment I tilted my head to his face

The deal was sealed ǁǁǁ.

***************************************************************************

<<<<This was not happening. He was her father for Christ sakes. Or was he not? I was upset. Standing up to take a stretch, I peep out of the window to see Akhmed taking a walk on the premises. My heart went out to him. It really was all a mess. The man on the phone hours back reminded me that there was more to this. There was only one way to the unfolding secrets; read on and wait for the next 48 hours.

I took more ice cubes from the desktop fridge for the drinks and went back to reading>>>>>

ǁǁǁ The cool white sheets wrapped around me, I stretched lazily and studied his features. He was 50? I should ask him the secret and sell it I thought amusingly.  

“You okay?” he asked looking at me without his glasses. He looked differently and totally simple. I smiled.

“I am hungry now”

He laughed and jumped out of the bed. I remember how we got to his room; I just don’t want to share it with you.

He pushed a stainless steel trolley with his ‘burnt offering’ into the room and offered a fake bow. I shook my head at his display as he made me a plate.

“Thank you” I said as he joined me on the bed with the plate.

“Where is yours?” I asked collecting it and sitting up.

“That is mine” he said collecting the plate back.

A little drag………. I laughed silly at the playful tussle.

“Okay, wait now……..it is ours” he said for the first time sounding ‘Nigerian’.

I laughed and he joined in like a child.

The food didn’t taste so bad. In fact it was quite good except for the dried chicken, the peas and carrots in ketchup sauce saved it though.

“That wasn’t so bad” I said as I made to drop the plate over his head. Another playful tussle ensued and tickling that led to a quick bath and cuddling under the sheets. I was glad I left my phone in my suite. With head on his chest, I listened to his heartbeat and enjoyed the gentle stroke of his fingers on my hair.

Alas, it was not to last.

“Who are you Didi?” he asked quietly as I closed my eyes to welcome a deep sleep. My eyes popped open. An innocent question? I knew there was a catch. I didn’t give a reply. He stopped stroking my hair and waited for a reply that was never going to come.

“You awake?”  He shook my shoulder. I looked up at him. He had a strange tense look; like he was bursting to say something.

“Yes” I untangled from the warm embrace.

“Who are you?” he repeated the question while picking up his glass and perching them on his nose.

“Who do you think I am” I stared back blankly. He knew who I was.

“I prefer you tell me what your plans with Akhmed are” he said sitting up. I curled up as if I was stung. The reaction had me indicted.

 I should have denied? I couldn’t.

I sat up. I was quiet for a long while. He waited patiently.

“To get married to you” I said as a betrayer would.

I was no longer a gifted gold digger I thought I was and sadly had lost my touch. I should have listened to Akhmed. Could it be that he knew our little game was exposed and was trying to delude me from continuing? I felt bad now.

He picked his phone looking at me and spoke into it.

“You can go. She is clean” he said looking at me funny.

“Did you have your men standing by to have me killed?” I asked with suppressed anger.

“I considered it” he said unkindly. He rolled off the bed swiftly to wear shorts.

I stood up to get my bathrobe. I had all intention of going back to the hotel but without a wallet, in a bathrobe and at 2am in the morning; that wasn’t happening.

“What are you doing?” he asked looking at me roughly putting on my robe.

“Getting my robe back on?”

“Why?”

 “I feel better dressed than naked and vulnerable” I said sharply.

“I thought you wanted leaving” He said approaching me. I moved.

“Why? You have a guard to drive me back or you want to give me your car keys” I spat out.

TIP #7: Never give up without a fight. It is expected that when caught in the act, you should surrender. I DIDI TRAP do not subscribe to that.

“Don’t be feisty lady” he stood, towering above me.

I tied the robe tightly and took another step backward.

“We need to talk” he said calmly. As usual stretching his hands out for mine. I didn’t take it.

“Do you like me enough to marry me?” he asked noticing my countenance.

“Yes” I said boldly surprising myself. I looked down. Where did that come from? Considering marrying a man old enough to be my father? Or na dey bed-magic wey him perform dey cause dis nonsense talk? I shook my head as if to clear the web.

“But I won’t” I added. Walking away from the corner and heading out to the patio where I could think on my feet.

Going to stand in same position as before would be suggestive and was relieved on seeing armed padded straw chairs at the extreme end. I walked towards it. He followed.

We sat down almost at same time. We looked at each other and the stare turned to a smile.

“What do you want from me now?” I asked looking at him through my lashes and pouting lips.

“Why did you agree to his plans?” He asked. Because I wanted to dig your gold? I thought with a sly smile.

“What?” he asked noticing the ‘smile’.

“I wanted to. It sounded like fun. I liked you” I said trying to sugar coat.

“Not because you were getting paid to deceive me?”

I took a moment to answer.

“Plus that” I answered honestly looking into his deep searching eyes.

“I just really like you. I don’t regret my actions” I continued with seriousness.

“What happens next?” he asked.

“Go back home tomorrow. Pretend like it never happened” I looked at him.

“You can’t do that” he said standing up.

“Why not?” I asked sensing I was about to get my blind folds ripped off.

“Because you are being used Didi. And I am afraid you are going to be used some more. There is so much you don’t know about your life and it pains me I’d have to tell you tonight” he said harshly and stood up.

“What do you mean by that?” I panicked a little.

“Why do you think Akhmed picked you? You think it is just coincidence?” he gave a snort looking across the water body into the distance.

“Yes” I answered.

“Well it wasn’t. He saw my will.” He said turning to face me.

“So?” I asked totally clueless.

“He found you out because you were a beneficiary” he completed. I was still clueless.

“Why am I on your will?” I asked dumbfounded.

“Because I knew your Aunt” he said coming back to where I sat; perched on the straw chair.

“My Aunt?” I asked confused. I didn’t have an Aunt. My mother was an only child. What was he talking about?

“A long time ago. Before she married the man you think is your father” he looked sad and bitter at the same time.

“What are you talking about?” I asked looking up at him.

“Didi, the woman you thought was your mother was your aunt” he said authoritatively as one who knew all things. I stood up.

“That is a lie” I said deep under my breath.

“I told her several times to let you in on the truth, she wouldn’t listen to me” He said seriously; and for a minute I was tempted to agree to a possibility of that been the truth.

“I need to get out of here” I said as I matched right past him; going back to the room to check the bedside drawer for his car keys.

“Listen to me. I have what will convince you. I am telling you the truth” he held my upper arm. I looked at him and shook his hands off me. I stood still. My head hurting.

“Where is it?” I asked again with emotion. I wanted to prove him wrong.

“I will give you after you listen to all what I have to say” he said looking into my eyes without flinching. I was curious, I was afraid. My life, all I knew shattering before me.

I was rooted to the spot.

“She married him. Leaving me months to our wedding just because my father wouldn’t give his consent” he spewed continuing with the discussion. I noticed he couldn’t say my father or refer to him without grinding his teeth. He walked back into the room straight to the glass-top centre table turning a glass of liquor from the decanter. I followed him in.

 “You were in love with her” I summed. He was the lost love my mother always talked about whenever we escaped to Calabar from my abusive father. I remember the look in her eyes when the memories came flooding through her lips. I felt ashamed of myself. I stepped back and perched on the edge of the unmade bed that reminded me all that was done in it hours ago. I stood up.

He looked at me through the glass but didn’t answer the question. He didn’t have to. It was written on his face.

Could there be any truth to what he was saying or was he simply ‘using’ me again?

“Why did you bring me here? Why did you allow me disgrace her memories?” my chest heaving, my eyes watering.

“I am sorry Didi. I got carried away. I just couldn’t let the past go” he said as he poured the gulp in his throat. It hit the back of his throat. I prayed it choked him to death. I was vexed.

“You disgust me” I spat out.

“I disgust myself. You look so much like her, I wanted to have you. It was petty and wrong of me to use you but I’m sorry. However I do not regret it” he said obviously satisfied with himself. I fumed the more.

The tears flowed now. I had disgraced her; shaming her memories.

I took a seat and poured a glass for myself too.

There we sat quietly for an hour; the clock ticking while we were in thoughts.

“Why was my name in your will?” I asked after a clear head and readiness to continue.

“To protect Ummi’s interest if anything happens to me” he said.

“Who is Ummi?” I asked

“Your niece. She is autistic” he gave another blow.

“My niece?” I was now confused more than ever.

“Yes. When she left me, she found out she was pregnant” he took another mouthful of the content of his glass.

“Dropped her off when she had her” he took another gulp.

“How is Ummi my niece?” I asked sensing he was withholding information from me.

I wasn’t ready to belief that my mother was my aunt.

“When were you going to contact me?” I continued; asking him questions as they came to me.

“I was going to call you for a meet-up but was advised against it. Especially as it came to my notice that the office of my attorney was vandalised and some documents missing including the new will we prepared just days before. I had to be sure it was not planned. Now I know it was and who was behind it”

I was now the one in the middle, the one taken advantage off. How ironic. I almost laughed at myself for thinking I was smart.  I didn’t.

“Akhmed came after me” I said in a sniff. I was right all along but for the wrong reasons. This was more than just blackmail or greed. I sensed revenge of some sort.

“Didi, I found out months ago that Akhmed, my son for over 30 years is the son of my sworn enemy. I felt betrayed and I had to cut him off. I know it is rash but I will not have my heritage passed down to a man who has the blood of your foster father in his blood” he said waiting for the words to sink. It didn’t.

Alhaji Yerima Dotun is your sworn enemy I know that” I repeated what Akhmed had told me.

“No he is not. He was your father’s best friend. Ubah Francis is Akhmed’s father and he is the man that took your aunt away from me” he finally gave the blow.

My eyes opened, the scales falling to the ground.

“My father is your enemy? Akhmed is my brother?” I asked disbelieving him. It could not be.

“Oh Didi, where do I start from?” he looked at me with pity. It seemed I wasn’t getting the clear picture.

“Start from wherever you think I can understand” I was standing and shouted with frustration.

This was not what I came to Calabar for!

“You are not Akhmed’s sister. You are not your mother’s child. You are her niece”. I wasn’t still convinced.

He stood up abruptly, walked to his wardrope and pulled out an envelope.

“Here, I will see you in the morning” with that he left the room. I had no idea where he went.

Siting back down, my hand shook with the brown envelope wondering what truth or disaster awaited my eyes. I couldn’t bring myself to open it. It was sealed. I licked my dry lips nervously. This felt like a dream and I was living it.

I broke the seal.

Inside were pictures of people I had never seen with my mother with a baby. A man and a woman that looked like my mother holding a baby and smiling at the camera. The resemblance was striking and they looked like sisters. On the back, it was dated 13th May, 1977. The monochrome, almost sepia faded picture was threadbare and worn out on the side. Picking more pictures of the two women in smiles, standing side-by-side in uniforms, roses in their hair with bushy hairdos. The date was washed but one thing was clear. I had an aunt.

Looking into the envelope, I saw a sealed letter in a white envelope. It was scented. I saw my mother’s handwriting. It was addressed to me. My breath caught in my throat; my heart beating faster.

I held on to it. Somehow, I knew Ali was right before I tore it open. Tears falling from my eyes, heart aching and sniffing continuously as I read the sad stories, the regrets and plea for forgiveness. It was 3 page long and by the time I was done I was drained emotionally.

The woman I knew was my aunt. My Mother was dead and I had a niece Ummi. She should have told me. That would have helped. The abuse would have been understandable…..although I didn’t regret his end, I sure would have ended it sooner.

It was 5am before Ali woke me from the couch where I had fallen asleep after the emotions washed through me. He carried me to the bed and I didn’t struggle. I was spent and turned to face the patio and watched the sunrise.

The new day would be the first of many to  come.

I knew who I was, I knew what was mine and I had found a new calling.

Here is a copy of the letter.

If Akhmed wanted a game, I was going to oblige him.

This time my mind was made up.

I was going to win ǁǁǁ.

***************************************************************************

<<<<My eyes watered. It sure was sad. I felt so sorry for her. The history, the confusion, the mistakes…………..I was overwhelmed. Opening the next page, I saw what looked like a note that was ripped off forcefully. More like in a haste. I turned the next page hurriedly.

Where was the copy of the letter?

The next page started from ǁǁǁ now that you have read the letter that reveals all I am, you will understand why I do whatever it takes to protect my interest…….ǁǁǁ

I didn’t see a letter. I quickly flipped through the pages that followed but nothing. Dropped the volume and checked the trolley. It couldn’t have fallen out. Could it?

Then it hit me, someone was here. They must have taken some pages from the books.

This was not just a case of Didi being a gold digger, it was much more.

I should have known >>>>

CHAPTER FIVE ⃝ UNEN AND AKHMED: THE PRESENT

<<<<It was few minutes past 7am before I woke up. The cold wet morning and the joyful sound of chirping birds in the pseudo-coconut trees by my window told me a new day was here. Arise and Shine they seem to be singing and dancing; jumping from tree to tree. Oh happy day indeed for them. Wondering if they ever woke up feeling like they slept on potato sacks all night or if they felt the ‘PMS’ pains.

God! Not today! I prayed the cramps away.

I wasn’t ready to ‘Arise’ or ‘Shine’ just yet. Feeling like a little more sleep, I changed position, lazily curled up as a foetus would and covered myself in the warm soft Arabian duvet. It seemed it showered in the early hours and I had just few hours of sleep, I needed some more.

I dozed off, sweetly sinking into the cocooning dream world.

***************************************************************************

The ringing intercom disrupted my sleep. I opened my eyes slowly. The streaming sunlight forcing its way past my dark heavy blinds and the quietness told me the time was way past midday.

I was wrong.

It was just minutes past 10am. The birds had gone to get food without waiting for me to ‘Arise’ and ‘Shine’. Slowly sitting up, I stretched and picked on the third ring.

“Yes” I said as an unsuspecting yawn increased the circumference of my mouth. The un-brushed mouth odour diffused into the atmosphere and into the phone. Thank God there was no device to transmit smell just yet I thought humorously.

“Good Morning Ma” It was Iya Chef.

“Morning Iya mi” I said with a smile.

“Can I serve breakfast? Your visitor is out on the premises already”

“Oh! Of course. I will be out shortly” I almost forgot that Akhmed was around. We had a burial to plan.

“Yes Ma” she said. I hung up.

Mouthed a silent thank you to God and stood up to look at reflection in my mirror. A habit I guess.

The rumbling sound from my midsection signalled personal grooming was next.

You no na, Mama Ngozi visitation time.

***************************************************************************

“Good morning Akhmed, Iya” I said light-heartedly on entering the large kitchen with the polished wooden dining table right in the centre. Iya chef was fast on the job of making fresh juice of ginger and pineapple for the household. Akhmed sat with a steaming black mug that smelt of strong coffee while reading a newspaper.

“Good morning Unen. I trust you slept well?” he said lifting off his eyes from the paper studying my appearance. It was a cropped pair of black knee-length jeans and a long-sleeved white t-shirt that had a ‘LET THEM SAY’ inscription across my chest. With the rolled up sleeves and tied up hair in a band, I looked more like I was going out to work in the garden.

“Yes I did. Thank you. Is that today’s paper?” I asked taking a seat opposite him.

Taking a sip, Iya brought a plate of what looked like badly burnt toast.

“Yes, it is” he replied putting it away.

“Iya, the toast is burnt?” I asked

“I asked that she burn it” he said before Iya chef could give me a reply.

“Alright. Please Tea” I nodded to Iya that stood by uncertain about what to do.

“Yes ma” I disliked when she made everything so official.

“So what do you want to do today?” he asked looking at his toast as if he was inspecting it before picking it up and crushing it. He chewed nicely.

“Go back to bed?” I said with a ‘snortish’ laugh while I removed my elbows from the table to allow Iya drop my hot cup.

“Don’t we all? It is a fine day to be lazy” he said looking at me briefly.

“Yes. What plans do you have for …, well the burial” I said clearing my throat. Tongue got burnt. Too hot. Iya took to the rooms to monitor the cleaning soon after I cleared my throat.

“We would get a list and send the invite” he said completely in charge.

“Okay. Sounds like a plan” I said taking a careful sip. The taste buds dead.

“I am hoping for a quiet ceremony with close friends and well-wishers” he said with a pained look.

“Alright. Her friends know she is no more?” I asked happy that he was here to help with this.

“I suppose” he said calmly.

“Meaning?” I pressed.

“She was dead to many before now” he didn’t comment further. I let it go.

“I really have not done this before, I do not know where to start. I am relieved to have your help” I said taking another sip of the burning liquid set before me. It wasn’t getting cooler. Stupid tea.

“I will be happy to help”

“Thank you for coming. Shall we go to the library then?” I asked standing up and taking my cup with me.

The walk to the library was noiseless and for a moment considered telling him to lighten up the mood……….but to what avail? I walked in front leading the way. I made small talk.

“You have been here before?” I asked.

“Yes. The workers have been changed though” he observed drily.

“Oh!” was all I said. We got in.

“Please have a seat” I said sitting on a long dark blue velvet cushion. The airy library had been cleaned and scented fresh because of the fresh roses from the garden in the ceramic vase on the table top. It was its season and it blossomed every day.

“So, we start from invites yea?” I asked. He stood around for some time before siting. It looked as if he was taking an appraisal. Wished him gone, I wanted to go finish her journals. But I needed him anyway.

“Yes” he said quietly; obviously in deep thoughts while I made to power my Dictaphone. We sat quietly for a couple of minutes.

“Why did she leave me?” he said out of nowhere. I didn’t get it at first.

“What?” I asked.

“Why couldn’t she love me back?” he asked suddenly coming across from where he had taken a seat close to the bookshelves. He stood in my front with the question hanging over my head.

“I really don’t have an answer to that Akhmed” I said looking at the old wall clock for distraction.

It said 11:49am.

Finally, He sat beside me and faced me squarely.

“She never mentioned me? Us?” he asked doubting.

“She never mentioned anyone….ever” I stressed. He studied my face; trying to determine the truth. He relaxed the stare.

“I loved her. I loved her with the whole of my being” He announced. His chest rising and falling as the feelings escaped him. I wasn’t shocked. Just thought he was probably playing out his emotions. He was allowed.

“Did she know this? Did you tell her?” I asked. It took several more minutes before he answered.

“No” he shook his head in maybe regret? I looked at him. He seemed like he wanted to say more.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I didn’t know how” he looked helpless. I didn’t buy it.

“But you were married!”

“It made it harder” Eyes begging me to believe him. I didn’t.

“Obviously you two had issues but she never told me any of it. She never told me anything at all” I said to his handsome studying face.

He nodded. We were quiet again for a while.

“Shall we get the list started?” I asked taking up my cup of tea, tasted it. It was cold. Finally, I took a mouthful.

“No” he said.

“No?” I raised a brow.

“I am not ready to let her go just yet”. He said standing up and pacing the room……..just like Didi had written.

“So what do you want to do now?” I asked getting ready to go back to my room to continue reading.

“I need to go through her things. Make me feel closer to her?” he shrugged. I wasn’t going to allow that. I patted the seat beside me indicating he should come and sit. He did.

“It is okay to grieve and be sad. God knows I am too. But if you want closure, I suggest you find a way of letting your feelings out” I said trying to help an increasingly confused man. He looked right into my eyes, I had to keep blinking to avoid a stare.

“And how do you suggest I do that?” he asked. Was he really asking me that?

“Write her a letter or you could use a Dictaphone or something” I suggested in a wave.

“And tell her what? Not like she can read it or hear” he looked uncertain. I patted his hands.

“Why don’t you try it first?” I said standing up to go to my room.

“Where are you going?” he asked

“To my room” I replied simply.

“I don’t want to be alone” he stated flatly.

“Well?” I raised another brow.

“I want to talk to you” He patted the seat beside him. I gave a smile. Nice one. I sat back down.

“What about?” I asked

“I don’t know. Maybe you ask me about anything” he gave a weak smile that was meant to be cute but turned to a silly grin.

“And you will tell me?” I asked sceptical.

“Yes” he nodded to confirm. I gave an upturned smile.

“Alright” I said wondering what Didi would have wanted to ask him. I wanted to go browse her pages, maybe I’d see a question. Well, I would ask him the questions that came to my mind I concluded.

“When did you realise you were in love with her? I asked.

“The moment I knew I had lost her forever” he said without missing a beat

“What do you mean lost her forever?” I asked taking a lean back. It was fun to hear his side of the “story”

“I wanted to prove my worth to my father and of course business partners, there was a hitch. Funds. I needed her to do something for me……….well, persuaded her kind of. I was hoping she’d refuse. When she agreed, I ……..” he didn’t complete it. He looked pained and momentarily used his fingers to squeeze his eyes shot.

“Ok? I am not sure I get that” I pretended. I knew what he was talking about of course.

“It is a long story Unen” he shook his head, hanging it and twisting his long slender fingers. He looked at me for a long time. His eyes getting red from the excessive rubbing.

“What?” I asked. He looked like he had a lot going on in his head………….the eye dance Didi had called it. I wasn’t vast in this dance.

“Wondering why she entrusted a lot into your care, thinking if I can trust you like she did” he revealed.

“Oh! We had same interest, well, most. And she was a really a gift and I guess she liked me” I summed with a shrug and a private smile.

“Yes, I bet you two had a lot in common” his tone carried a meaning I did not catch.

“How did you know about me?” I asked.

“She always told me about you and I followed you up” he said simply. I wondered when she met with him that I didn’t know but I was more interested in the follow-up.

“Followed me?” I gave a startling laugh.

“Had you investigated” he looked as if he was ready for a confrontation if I wanted one. I had nothing to hide. He sure knew how to do that, doesn’t he? I thought with malice. Akhmed was not a very likable person. Well, let me speak for myself. I didn’t like the edginess I felt.

I perceived an inner negative energy that was masked with his handsomeness and impressive hair line, black meticulous beautiful beards that reflected careful ‘tendering’ that contrasted his fair skin with pink succulent lips that could draw any light headed female into kissing fantasies and smile that made you feel special. He looked good enough to be desired.

But he was not to be trusted. Underneath the cool exterior, the polished appearance and sophistication, I saw a man that played chess with human pieces. I could be wrong.

“Great. So that means you can trust me then” I smiled after my thought. He smiled back.

“I guess” he said loudly stretching and leaning back too.

“So you persuaded Didi to marry your Dad to have access to funds yea?” if this was going to go any faster, I had to tell him what I knew. He looked shocked at the new info.

“How did you know that?” he asked sitting back up.

“I read her diary last night” I looked without flinching.  He looked back.

“What else do you know?”

“What do you know Unen?” he repeated.

“Well, I know you are not Dr Ali’s son” I said looking at him for a reaction. None.

He nodded.

Then “Yes, sadly I am not” that was too ‘normal’ a reaction……….or so?

“So, the day she agreed to marry your foster father was the day you realized you were in love with her and at same time lost her” I continued. Prodding.

“Yes” he nodded again.

“But she married you, didn’t she? That must have meant she loved you too” I helped.

He didn’t say anything.

“So when did you two get married?” I asked as an interviewer would.

“Winter 2010 at London registry down at Edgware, Middlesex. I still see the look in her eyes, the feel of her warmth that night, the preceding days, I thought she loved me too” he said with a faint smile as the memories washed through him. The dreamy look I wanted to wipe off his face. It didn’t look genuine.

This was recent? I wasn’t invited to the wedding. Didi was more secretive than I thought. That was around the time I was in London for a conference, wasn’t it? Suddenly it dawned on me; Didi was living two lives as at the time I met her. Her journals were written right before me and I never knew. I was hurt but I would deal with the feelings later.

“Why do you think she didn’t?” I continued suppressing the urge to go to my room.

“She left me without a reason” he said sadly.

“She must have thought it best when she found out she was sick” I justified.

He said nothing.

“I think she married me because my foster father asked her to” he said as if he had thought about the possibility.

“I am not too clear as to how your father, I mean foster father would have asked Didi to marry you. Why would he do that when she was meant to marry him?” I was confused now.

“That is because he is her father. Didi couldn’t have married her own father now could she?” he looked strangely calm for the deathblow he had just thrown.

“WHAT?” I sat up.

“Dr Ali, my foster father is Didi’s real father” he reiterated.

“I think there could be a mistake in Didi being Dr Ali’s daughter. Are you sure about this?” I asked truly bothered and astonished.

“And you think I am mistaken because?” he asked with budding sarcasm.

“Because I read her diary” I said with an edge detecting sarcasm in his tone.

“You sure you read everything?” he asked without an expression.

I hesitated. Well, if you were not here right now, I would have…..I thought.

“You haven’t” he rightly concluded.

“I have not had the chance to………….”

“………………because I am here” he completed.

“I thought your foster father was married to Didi or was going to” I sounded unsure. I was unsure. I should have read the whole journal sooner I thought.

“Do you believe when they say it is a small world?” he asked standing up to pace again.

“Can you sit back down?” I asked politely with irritation underlining my tone. My thoughts paced, I didn’t need him walking around the room too. I was getting hot in the cool library.

“It bothers you?” he asked with same tone.

“Yes it does” I stated. He stopped pacing, looked at me with a disbelieving smile at my outspokenness and took another seat by the window. Glad the library was spacy like the rest of the house. He could sit anywhere he wanted. He looked out for few minutes.

“My dad had an affair. When my mum found out, she had an affair of her own too. Didi’s mother was my dad’s mistress. Didi and I are products of affairs” he revealed bitterly still looking out of the window. The twitching jaw as he moved his molars gave the vibe I guess. The ‘white’ woman was Didi’s mother? That accounted for her light flawless skin I thought taking the new twist in. How could this be?

This was bad, really bad.

“So Didi is Dr Ali’s daughter?” I asked still doubtful and thinking back to Didi’s dad being right about his suspicion.

They really made a mess of everything.

“Yes” he sounded so sure.

I took a deep breath only hoping she had found out sooner than later. She couldn’t have had any carnal relationship with Dr Ali, could she? I prayed not.

“Are you sure? DNA?” I asked eyes wide. He nodded again. I took his word for it.

Can DNA be carried out with ashes? I pondered.

“So your dad, I mean her dad asked her to marry you because?” I asked.

“I have no idea. Maybe marriage to merge? After all, I started the marriage proposal to get funds, didn’t I?” he said as a man with regrets would. Standing up from the seat beside the window, he steadily approached me.

Coming to stand beside me, he stretched out his hand.

“Come with me. It is a nice morning” he simply said. I gave him my hand as he held me up.

“Let’s go for a walk”. I took my Dictaphone that had been faithfully recording the conversation so far. God knows I needed the fresh air too.

**************************************************************************

“Always a good weather around here” he commented as we walked into the manicured green field. The grasses mowed and shrubs showing excellent topiary craft. The cold wet morning still left traces of wet leaves and grasses.

The sun hiding behind the emerging dark clouds.

It was going to rain again.

We approached the garden. The apple tree had ripe fruits and I wanted one.

“Yes” I answered his earlier comment on the weather; eyes on the fruit. Taking the fashioned wooden fruit stick, he plucked two ripe apples and we took the concrete seat in the middle of the garden with a shelter. Rubbed the fruits on our clothes, teeth sunk in. It was drizzling again.

“Why didn’t you tell her you loved her?” I asked putting the Dictaphone back on.

“I just couldn’t” he looked back at me taking a big bite. With another huge bite, he would be getting another apple for sure.

“How did she find out that Dr Ali was her father?” I asked the question that was on my mind from the walk from the house.

“Wasn’t hard. He had her investigated. He found out soon enough. I got that from him” He smiled meaning his investigative streak.

“Yes. Of course”

“I thought she chose me because she loved me. Sometimes, I think she did” he smiled while taking the last chunk of the apple. I wanted to tell him there was more, I bit my tongue.

“So what changed? Why do you think she was asked to?” I asked.

“Well, nothing really. We just drifted apart. I never stopped loving her” he said.

“Loving that you didn’t tell her” I added with a sad smile. he smiled back too.

Somehow, I didn’t believe the last part. The whole revelation sounded like half-truth to me.

“Did Dr Ali find out she was persuaded by you to marry him to fund your project at any point in time?” I threw a big question. He slowed down on his chewing. I waited.

Then came Akin running towards us. I was needed in the house.

“Excuse me” I muttered.

“Ma’am, you have a phone call” he said almost breathless.

“From who?” I asked out of ear shots from Akhmed.

“He didn’t say. He just said to get you to the phone discreetly because the message is important” he said in low tone. My hair rose on the back of my neck.

A bad feeling.

“I will be right with you” I said. He ran back.

“What was that?” he asked with interest.

“My Dad says he needs to speak to me urgently. Please I will be right back. You don’t mind, do you” I asked masking the lie. I knew the call was about this man looking at me with such mesmerising eyes.

“Of course not” he said standing up.

“More fruits?” I offered pointing to the tree playfully.

He laughed. I walked fast to the house hoping the strange man was still on hold. I got to the kitchen just in time.

I picked the phone. The click told me I was transferred.

“Hello?”

“Is that Unen?” it was a rich soft masculine voice-the kind that was non-threatening but was filled with quietness that screams danger.

My heart leaped within my chest.

“Yes. This is Unen”

“You will know me soon enough for now please be careful with Akhmed Bricks. If he has contacted you already, I suggest you thread carefully. Do not believe all he says. The situation is more serious than seems. Go to Didi’s room, read through her volumes and I will call again in 48hours, same time. Again, be cautious” the line went dead. I stared at the dead phone in my hand and swallowed a couple of questions that was already at the base of my throat.

What the hell was all this about? I thought long and hard.

I sensed a game and I was right in the middle of it. I needed to finish reading.

Heading back to the garden, Akhmed sure was eating another apple.

“Got it sorted?” he asked with suspicion or was it me?

“Yeah” I said brightly stretching for an apple from him.

“I thought so” he said giving me from his newly plucked collection.

“Thank you”

“Uhuh” He smiled.

“I wanted to bury the urn right here” I said as we sat back. The question about Dr Ali finding out if he was being played was not forgotten, just suspended. I was going to search through the journals. Somehow I knew I couldn’t get the right answer from him.

“Where?” he asked.

“Underneath the apple tree. Tessy rests here as well” I shook my head tears stinging my eyes. This was acting. I needed an excuse to go back to the house and to my room.

“You can” he looked and patted my thighs.

“Yes” I said sounding overwhelmed, blinking the tears away.

“Cannot believe she is gone” I intensified.

“Me too” he said.

“She made peace with her Dad?” it was a question I left floating.

“I only hope” he said sadly. It sounded genuine. I heard the voice on the phone. Caution. I stood up.

“I feel dizzy. Let’s go back to the house please?” I implored.

“I need to be alone” he said simply with a smile.

“Okay, I will be in my room. Please let me know when you need me”

“Sure”

I walked to the house through the kitchen again and saw Iya chef preparing lunch.

“What do you want for lunch Ma’am?” she asked. I really didn’t care.

“Anything you can rustle up. Please serve him lunch when it is ready. I will be in my room” I smiled and went straight to my room, straight to my bed, straight to the journals.

The room had a different feel. An intruder perhaps.

I hated cranks calls. Now I was uneasy.

I walked to the large window and noticed it was unlatched. Did I leave it unlatched?

I felt totally vulnerable.

Iya chef must have supervised the cleaning. I brushed it aside and opened the trolley that contained Didi’s journal. They were not arranged. It looked like it was tampered with.

Alert!

Someone was here.

Surely someone had tampered with the journals. I picked the intercom to call Iya, she picked.

“Iya, can I have a slice of your coconut cake and a bottle of your lovely ginger-pineapple mix?” I asked sweetly. I decided immediately she picked to keep the suspicion to myself for now.

“Yes of course” I could hear the smile in her voice.

Minutes later, with the cake in hand, I settled on my reading couch for a good read.

I should have looked at the window once more; maybe I would have seen the departing culprit then>>>>.

************************************************************************

FROM ME TO YOU

Thanking all my readers for following this story these past weeks………..however, it seems the plot and style of writing is not clearly understood by some of my readers. It is to this little “gap” that I post this.

Please note the following;

<<<<It was few minutes past>>>> indicates that the writer of this memoir writes on present events.

ǁǁǁ My name is Didi Trap and I am a certified gold digger ǁǁǁ indicates that Didi Trap’s entries in her journals are extracted for wholesome reading.

This distinction is necessary as this platform does not allow flexibility in font size.

I will however improvise by using the bold text for Didi Trap’s entries and normal text for the writer’s entry.

I hope this helps.

Would love to give a sneak preview of chapter five, but let’s just wait for it, shall we?hehehe

With Love

Unen Ameji

CHAPTER FOUR ⃝ A TWIST

I love this chapter but the next surprises even me. Have a good read

African Stories

ǁǁǁ The stage was set. I was to meet the ‘groom’. I received the exclusive invitation to the dinner party-Unveiling of “The Edge” newspaper with a monthly magazine featuring Africa’s best across the globe. Don Pedro Anang, a close friend of Ali Kyari Bricks was the owner. Thanks to Akhmed, I had an invite after a week of studying his father’s bulky résumé……and I never finish o. My mind no dey grab him details. Maybe na because him be old man or I dey fear sef.

Anyways, Ali Kyari was going to be there and I was going to meet him.

Dem-Dem magazine as nicknamed by Uche got me laughing as I dressed up in front of my vanity mirror. I had to re-apply my lipstick twice because she no gree me rest with commentary on the phone. She was on speaker. It was a Friday. Tessy lay quietly at…

View original post 5,252 more words

CHAPTER FOUR ⃝ A TWIST

ǁǁǁ The stage was set. I was to meet the ‘groom’. I received the exclusive invitation to the dinner party-Unveiling of “The Edge” newspaper with a monthly magazine featuring Africa’s best across the globe. Don Pedro Anang, a close friend of Ali Kyari Bricks was the owner. Thanks to Akhmed, I had an invite after a week of studying his father’s bulky résumé……and I never finish o. My mind no dey grab him details. Maybe na because him be old man or I dey fear sef.

Anyways, Ali Kyari was going to be there and I was going to meet him.

Dem-Dem magazine as nicknamed by Uche got me laughing as I dressed up in front of my vanity mirror. I had to re-apply my lipstick twice because she no gree me rest with commentary on the phone. She was on speaker. It was a Friday. Tessy lay quietly at the foot of the bed but took to her heels when I took out my Estee Lauder’s Amber Mystique. She so hated perfumes! I loved them.

Presenting my gold embossed invitation card at the entrance, I stepped into the Transcorp Hilton’s banquet hall. The traffic of high powered individuals could cause an orgasm. Speaking of orgasms, when was the last time I had a shattering one? ***deep in thought***. Oh yes! That orgasm!!! Hehehe. Lips sealed.

Scanning around to identify my target, I saw him enthusiastically leading a discussion at the far end of the room. He looked younger than the paper photos and T.V appearances. I looked for resemblance between father and son as I walked closer. A drink in hand, I approached, stopping occasionally to greet familiar faces. I did not have a plan but I knew I had to meet him.

“Didi?” A loud call. I turned to look for the owner of such a boisterous voice. The mini group headed by my ‘target’ turned too. He turned last. I was in luck. It was Mr. Balogun; an old friend of my mother. He was accused of being her lover at a time by my father because he always had land documents that needed to be sold and mother was a land merchant. She taught me all I knew about real estate. Well maybe I polished a little but she was my rock.

“Mr. B!” I called fondly and rushed into his outstretched arms.

“Baby is grown now! Ehen!” he said in another boisterous laugh. Keep it up I thought.

“I couldn’t help it” I replied in a shy laugh.

“Of course, of course” he said as his eyes searched the crowd. He was obviously looking for someone too.

“How’s the family? Your wife?” I asked as we stood, drinks in hand, conversations continuing in other groups.

“Oh! They are fine, they are fine. Come, I need to introduce you to my friend. It is high time you bring me a man” he said as we brushed past Dr. Brick’s group. He seemed concerned that I wasn’t getting the altar calls. If only he knew….

From nowhere a waiter with a tray gave me a push that had me landing on a strong chest with my glass of almost empty red wine pouring on a chest in a splash while he struggled to balance himself. The flowing bluish-green low-cut chiffon gown I wore with black sparkling studs all embossed on the back in V-shape to the junction of my spine got caught in my shoes as I struggled to stand upright too. The heels didn’t help. Mr.B’s grip helped me up. The waiter stood with an apologetic facial expression. I for fire am slap sef! Mumu….mtchew.

Straightening and looking to see the extent of stain on my newly acquired dinner gown, I raised my eyes to meet with a pair of black sharp eyes that pierced. I lowered my eyes for the first time ever. It was him.

Ali Kyari Bricks; Nigeria’s famous diplomat, philanthropist, investor and of course billionaire.  He was well known for his contributions to National development across the continent, former Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Spain and Russia. A renowned diplomat that speaks French, Spanish, Czech, Italian and Mandarin; He has being co-opted into The Elder’s Forum initiated by Richard Branson and recently touring all African countries on issues of HIV/AIDS and economic empowerment. Widely traveled, his investments had paid off under the watchful eye of his right hand man, Dr Lanre Onilenla; another business stalwart that was never in the public eye. I made a mental note to have him on my side.

“I am so sorry. The waiter came in from nowhere” I said to elegant frame standing before me so dignified and intimidating. Raising my eyes to meet with his again, I was out of breath. He was in excellent form but our clothes were ruined. With reading glasses perched on his straight nose and nicely formed lips that opens to reveal a set of irregular white teeth I came to love, he straightened to look at his white outfit. A ‘Jumper’.

I was happy and sad at same time. This could either make me or break me.

“Ahhh! Sorry o! Otunba Mi!” it was Mr. Balogun. Dr. Bricks looked at me while Mr. Balogun kept apologizing on my behalf and piling the fault on the waiter that stood mouthing apologies to no one in particular.

“It is okay” he said calmly still looking at me. I looked back trying to read his eyes but couldn’t. This was another first.

“How do you suppose I get a change of clothes?” he asked me seconds later detaching himself from his group and waving away the waiter. I swallowed nervously with a fake smile plastered on my red lips.

“I could get them from the stores? I only hope they fit and you do me the honors of wearing them” I replied with a shy smile. Then added;

“I am so sorry. I should have emptied my cup sooner” with that he broke into a smile. I relaxed.

“Indeed. How do you do?” he quickly brushed me aside as he shook hands with Mr. B. I stood uncertain on my next move. I felt so vulnerable and shy and totally nervous. I lost my nerve. I wanted out of this place, out of the deal. Akhmed can blackmail me but with what I know, I’d get my fingers on him too. That thought gave me strength. Studying him I noticed his laugh lines, the beautiful shape of ears and a small growth of ‘submissive’ beards that had a day’s old written all over it. It was difficult to agree that the man was fifty years old. His mannerism spoke volumes of a cultured man capable of doing all the things Akhmed said he could. The quietness he exuded was unsettling. I had to leave now.

“Excuse me Mr. B” I said abruptly as I tried to excuse myself from the discussion that had gone from personal relations to stocks and shares. I was not interested. Perhaps I should buy the clothes and have it delivered. Maybe I should not. Go home Didi.

“Yes dear?” it was Mr B.

“I should get going” I made it just above a whisper.

“Ok. But promise to come to the office on Monday for a catch up?” he said with a concerned look. I nodded.

Turning to Dr. Bricks, I bade him a good evening. He simply nodded with a lopsided smile.

“Your clothes?” I asked.

“Never mind” was all he said.

“I owe you one” I said and walked out of the hall.

Felt eyes on me as I walked out but had no idea who was looking. I hoped it was Ali Kyari Bricks. Phew! The man was something.

***************************************************************************

I got home to see Akhmed parked outside my gate obviously waiting for me. I signaled Adamu to let both cars drive in. I was hoping to get a grip before reporting my “progress”. But no, he had to be here……I thought irritated.

“So, how was it?” he asked coming over to meet me as I got down. I adjusted my irritated expression.

“Oh well, I literally fell on him and held his attention for like five seconds” I said biting my tongue from telling him I was no longer interested.

“Five seconds with my Dad is plenty. Trust me” he said in a good mood.

“I should hope so” I said making a face as I walked to my door.

“Coming in?” I asked keying my door.

“No. You have to meet him again soon. Call you tomorrow” with that he strolled happily to his car.

“Yeah……..and push me to marry an old man” I muttered under my breath miserably.

Tessy was wagging as usual. Picking her up, I settled her in for the night.

11pm………..Lights out.

************************************************************************

Last night I had a dream. It was disturbing and I could not remember. Guess Tessy licking my face because I overslept added to the evasiveness of the dream. Bad habit Tessy……..no dey give me pimples wey Mary Kay no fit cover abeg.

I lay there for a long time while Tessy walked to and fro the length of the bed and finally gave up. She sat quietly on my bed slip-on waiting for me to get up. It was a Sunday.

Uche had most of my Saturday. Shopped and took a massage. Caught up on the new man in her life and gave my progress report with Akhmed. I kept it simple. No details but just plans. She loved scheming gist ba…Shei!

Anyways, the thoughts of Friday’s event left me with mixed feelings and no will to get up. Akhmed didn’t call……thankfully.

The cool gentle breeze sneaking into my room gradually turned violent and soon the showers came down in torrents. Blinds down, Tessy climbed back up and we snuggled.

**************************************************************************

The shrieking distant doorbell had me jerking up and then taking slow breath. Tessy too sat up and then ran to the door. Stretching and yawning, it was 12:00 noon. Uche was here for Sunday lunch.

“Madam” her small voice called out as I approached the door. I giggled.

“Madam, I dey come” I replied in another yawn. Tessy was exercising her waist already. Wagging wildly.

“Shakira, move” I said to Tessy while I made to open the door.

The door opened to a traditionally dressed Uche looking gorgeous and “churchy”.

“Sleepy Head” she said in a hug as she came in and closed the door after her.

“Tessy girl, come here you fluffy being…….mwah mwah” she and Tessy having their private play. The rain had stopped and I felt like having cereals in front of the TV. Uche was going to cook or so. I go help jor………no judge me.

“Babe, that massage enter body plus the rain no gree my comot for bed” I said heading to the kitchen.

“I know na. Madam Slumber” she said with a mocking grin. I had to laugh.

“You no well, I swear” I shook my head.

A bowl of flakes and milk, breakfast served.

“So Akhmed?” she asked taking a bowl too.

“He is fine” another spoon made it to my mouth.

“You like him it seems” it was an indirect question.

I was tempted to tell Uche the truth about Akhmed and I.

Not a good idea.

“Yeah. He is okay” another spoon. Tessy looked hungry. She was always hungry. Big belle Tessy. I stood to make her a plate too.

“And I think he really likes you” she was fibbing now.

“Tah!!!” I playfully rebuked. She laughed.

“What do you want to cook for lunch” I switched the topic. My ‘land-line’ beeped.

It was Akhmed.

Can’t get your image from my head.

You should stop looking so damn good.

Dinner by 6pm. Will pick you up.

Akhmed.

I gave a silly smile. Uche cleared her legendary dry throat.

“From Akhmed?” she asked. I raised my eyes to see her studying me. I laughed.

“May Amadi-oha close your throat forever” And we laughed.

She left with Tessy after we decided to eat out through the coming week by 4pm.

No one was in the mood to cook. I was left alone for the remainder of the evening.

I called Akhmed. He picked on first ring.

“Hello, Akhmed?”

“Yes Didi” he replied lazily.

“You good? Got your dinner text. Can’t make it but I will be sending an equally engaging female” I said in a laugh. It was a joke.

“Why can’t you make it?” he didn’t find my humor amusing.

“Oh well, I made plans for a date out during the week” I lied. I just didn’t want him planning another run-in with his father soon.

“Alright then. We need to discuss the next course of action remember?”

“I know. But I have to think of best ways of meeting him. Neutral grounds maybe? That will not be so easy and quick especially since he is very perceptive and intelligent” I informed.

“That’s why you are Didi Trap right? Shall I expect Uche then or you have got someone else” he teased and I smiled.

“Find yourself a date” to which he laughed.

I was off.

The house suddenly felt empty. I would go for a drive, maybe see Tony at the cabana or just have dinner by myself. Good one.

After a quick bath, I dressed in blue jeans, white tank top and multi-coloured scarf. Sprayed a generous amount of Publication and stepped out to have an evening drive in my black Range Rover Sport; Adamu opened the gate while I drove out and headed to nowhere in particular.

The generous air blowing my hair and scarf felt so good as I raced on the newly constructed Villa highway. The evening was dark already and time told me it was past 7pm.

Suddenly, the unsuspecting newly cleared road from Mpape junction produced a black sedan entering the road with speed. I pressed on the brakes, took a clean swipe off the road to avoid a collision; and found myself racing towards the streetlight pole right in the middle of the road. I pressed the brake slowly and steadily to avoid a somersault. My palms sweating and heart beating loudly.

“Jesus! No! no! no! no! no! no!” I kept muttering to myself after the initial scream. The last press of the brake was just in the nick of time as I closed my eyes thinking the car was going to crash into the well-positioned pole. The car bounced, grunted and then stopped. My heart was pounding so hard and fast I could feel it in my ears.

God!!! Who was that?

I just sat there momentarily lost and gripping the wheels so hard my veins stood out against my pale fair skin. I collapsed against the wheel with head down trying to catch my breath.

It was minutes later before I heard a voice. I was frightened and unconsciously checked for the locks. I was locked in. I lifted my eyes to the face as recognition hit me like a slap. I relaxed my grip and breathing had somehow evened out.

“Are you ok?” I simply looked on.

Recognition hit his face too. He looked shocked.

“Are you ok?” he asked again with a concerned look.

I nodded. My voice trapped in my dry throat.

“I’m so sorry, my driver was not looking properly and drove into the road carelessly. He has since been rebuked” he said with an expression on his face that I did not care to decipher. I was sweating and looking at him blankly.

“Are you ok? Can you say something?” he made to touch my cheek in a caress as I nodded again.

“Come” he said as he made to open the door. It was locked. I unlocked it and discovered my hands were still shaking. Opening the door, he slowly held my hands and stood me up. I was unsteady and before I knew it, he took me in a hug.

I was hugging Ali Bricks.

“It is ok. You are fine” he said repeatedly with a hand petting my hair down to the nape of my neck. My breath heaved and I clung to him to support my shaking legs. That was a close one I thought as I took in his strength. His body was warm, firm and smelt really good. I liked his frame holding me steady with care.

After few seconds, the hug turned awkward and I gently separated from him looking down.

I tried a smile. His glass still perched on his nose. He was in a dark green jumper-meticulously hand stitched embroidery.

“I’m so sorry” he said again. The evening was dark now with the streetlight shining on us.

Only few cars stopped at the scene.

“I’m good” I said through a smile. Then I started giggling. He looked taken back.

“I’m sorry, I just ……phew! I was scared and now, I just find it comical. What are the odds? I pour you a glass and your driver runs me off the road” I said finding it suddenly funny.

He looked at me for a while and then broke into a genuine smile.

“You are one twisted young lady” he said through his smile with an accent. Which? I really didn’t care but I liked it.

“You are one caring old man” I replied. My wit coming back to me in an instant. The crowd that was gathering thinned out as they saw me conversing with the man.

“Madam, are you ok?” it was a concerned man coming closer.

“Yes, I am. Thank you. Just a bit shaken but I am ok” I reassured. He took the word back to the parked cars. Soon they drove off.

“Guess we are even now” I said after the departing man. I doubt if the concerned man recognized who was standing with me.

“What do you mean?” he asked still studying me. Maybe he was expecting me to fall any moment.

“I was going to look for you with a change of clothes to clear my debt” I said sweetly to which he laughed.

“No, I think I owe you. Your life over an attire?” he shook his head.

“I anticipated meeting you someday, didn’t know it was going to be this dramatic, so soon. My name is Didi” I kept the Trap as I extended my slender hands for a hand shake which he took; and then made to enter my car. He almost jumped.

“Wait, you can’t drive in this state” he said lightly holding my elbow.

“Yes, I can” I said in the affirmative.

“I don’t think so” he said as he called the hiding driver over.

“Christian” he roared.

“Yes sir” he ran across and came to stand.

“I am sorry Ma. Please forgive me” he said in a thick Tiv accent.

“It is no problem” I said.

“Collect her keys. Follow us back to her house” he said dismissively. He noticed the reluctance on my part to hand the keys to his driver. He collected the keys and gave the driver who stood still unsure as myself.

“I want to get you home safe. I will feel better” he explained as he led me to his black sedan.

Walking me over to my side, he opened and watched me sit comfortably before closing the door and then took his seat with such command I found myself taken in.

I was impressed. And I liked the man I saw.

“So, where do you live?” he asked turning to face me. I smiled.

“You smile a lot too” he noted obviously wondering why I smile so much.

“I am hungry. I was on my way out for dinner?” I said wanting to spend more time with him.

“That means you are my guest for tonight. I was going to dinner myself” he said as we rode off. The steadiness of the car and the quietness was new to me I found myself getting drawn to this man. I wanted to know him for real. Hold the reins lady…….. Just hold it.

“Ok” I said simply following his lead. If he was quiet, I would be too.

“Do you feel headaches, dizziness?” he asked as we approached a tall building in Central Area.

“No. I feel perfect” I said suddenly feeling shy and little. I never ever feel this way.

“Ok” he said as he drove into a private underground car park after the security guard gave a glance and waved us through. Christian followed with my car.

“I will be right out” he said getting down to open the door for me. He was really interesting.

I came out and we walked to an elevator heading to the penthouse.

The elevator opened to an open space that had only two secluded eating space.

“This is my reserved space for dinner anytime I am in Abuja. The other is for Lanre if he has guest” he explained as we walked through the glass that parted to reveal his lounge. It was a beautiful view and had just a waiter standing at the dinner booth at a secluded corner near the bar and far from the live band platform. The deep cold smell was of faint tobacco and lavender.

“Walter, let us have bottles of cold water please?” he asked politely as we sat down. There was no menu.

“Of course sir” he disappeared.

“No menu. You are going to have to rely on my taste” he said proudly at my raised eyebrows. Water? Okay o!

“I hope your taste does not bore me” I said with another smile.

“You have a nice smile. Excellent white teeth and luscious lips” he said as a nerd would.

“Thank you” I held my lips together to avoid breaking into a shy smile and he laughed.

He arrived with the bottles and then he spoke in a language I have never heard of. Walter nodded and disappeared again.

“What was that?” I asked as he made to pour me a glass.

“I said to bring same dinner for you and I” he said as he poured. He toasted and we drank. The water had a faint fresh lemon taste. It also was slightly sweetened. This no be water jor.

“This is definitely not water” I said after the first drink to which he smiled and nodded.

“You don’t like it?” he asked

“It is fine” I replied with another smile. I could stop myself from smiling.

“I am an old man with an old taste. I came up with the recipe for my water and I think I should have it branded too. Just don’t want to be offered my secret recipe in an eatery for instance. Moreover, a beautiful lady has just told me it is just fine” he said making a face and I chuckled shaking my head.

“I didn’t say I did not like it Mr Bricks” I corrected.

“I think it is because you don’t like it that you find it just fine” he replied with a glint.

I laughed.

Walter set the table and disappeared again.

“Looks really good” I said looking at the food that obviously wasn’t the norm. Maybe it was his recipe………make I no run mouth.

“Here” already offering me a piece.

“Oh” I opened my open to take the bite. It was so soft and delicious I made to get my cutlery ready. Well-cooked lobsters with hot spice.

“You like it?” he asked licking his fork after I had just taken the piece. This man dey seduce me or what? Why lick his fork?

“I love it” I studied him.

“Alright then let’s enjoy our dinner” he said in between mouthful after he gave his plate a good lift.

“So, what do you do?” he asked after the first few forks.

“I sell properties. My partner values them. I get to suggest ways of financing developments and how to get the end product to user” I said offhandedly. With Ali Bricks, I didn’t feel the need to go all big to impress him.

“Which ones have you sold?” he asked as in if he was really interested. He chewed excellently.

“The Rock plaza, BBD memorial centre, The Blue Boat. A couple of others” I said in a thought.

“Impressive. Are you working on any project now?” he asked.

“No, just need to dispose of The Sky-Jet. It has some encumbrances though and a buyer just wasn’t interested in taking it up” I said stopping to take a sip.

“Do you think it is a good investment?” he asked as he continued his food.

“Yes. Buying at the offered price with the encumbrance would be worth it. The value would triple in the next 2 years” I said with less seriousness. Surprisingly I did not want to sound smart.

“I want to buy it” he stated as he signaled Walter to come take his plate. He was a fast eater.

“You have not seen the property and you want to buy it?” I asked smiling in disbelief.

“I owe you, don’t I?” he spoke in another language to the waiter.

“What now? The food not good?” I asked suspiciously.

“It is good. I want just vegetables now and of course impress you” he teased

“Of course”

“So when can I see this property?” he asked as Walter magically appeared with a plate steaming with semi-cooked vegetables and little balls that I was dying to taste.

“Here” he gave me a taste of the balls. It was flour but tasted like minced meat.

“You like?” he asked again licking after me. Why did he do that?!

“It’s lovely” I said politely all the while itching to ask him to stop licking his cutlery after me.

“Shall I order a plate for you?” he asked already beckoning Walter.

“No, No. I’m fine” I drank a little.

“You will see it personally?” I asked referring to the sky-jet.

“I will see it. I was just coming from a site. Need some few hectares for a project” he said offhandedly referring to the where Christian had driven out from.

“Great. That would be an honor” I said dropping my cutlery.

“I will be out of Abuja tonight. However, I will be back on Thursday evening. Can I see it Friday?” he asked.

“Yes, Friday is fine”

“Desert?” he asked.

“Thank you” I shook my head. His phone rang. He spoke another language into it and he was off in an instant. Akhmed must have gotten that from him.

“I am sorry but I am running late. I need to be at the airport to meet with a business partner and fly out too” he said immediately he got off his phone.

“It is a shame I can’t take you home” he continued.

“I am fine and totally satisfied. I think I can drive myself home” I replied with smiles.

“Alright. My card. Please call me as soon as you get home” he said handing me a card that shone.

“Will do”. He stood up while I made to get up too. he helped move the seat back.

Walter was at the table in an instant.

“Good night Mr Bricks” he greeted pleasantly.

“Good night Walter. How’s Gina?” he asked passing him an envelope.

“She is doing fine. Thank you” he said beaming with smiles.

“Have a good evening Ma’am” he greeted.

“You too. And thank you for a good meal”

“Anytime Ma’am”

And down we went. Christian was waiting for me with the car in the private car park.

Ali stood while I entered my car with a smile. Helped my close my door and I shook my head, one last look. He waved and I drove off totally happy. I felt so good I played my happy track all the way home.

It was 9:05pm when I got to my house.

Adamu opened the gate and quickly ran to tell me that Akhmed was parked in too.

“Okay. Thank you” I said my mood dampening. What did he want now? Mostly, I can’t work like this. I was going to tell him that and start changing my apartment at random. That’s the beauty of owning a couple of luxurious flats. Or maybe I should go to Lagos for few days while I wait for Ali to come back.

I didn’t finish the thought before his fresh face popped.

“Hey you” I said weakly getting down.

“Had fun with him?” he asked blocking my space as I came down with an intense look that had me perplexed. He was referring to my ‘booked’ dinner date of course. He wasn’t going to believe our luck. Meeting his father that way surely was a pure luck.

Wait till I tell him who my dinner date was I thought happily.

“You bet I had”. I said looking up at him with mischievous smile and dancing eyes.

The next incident will forever be stamped in my memory.

The quick holding of my hips, pushing me to my car for support and abruptly planting a well-thought out smouldering kiss had me shocked for few seconds and sealed all words on my dinner date with his father.

What the hell?

His breathing evened out but he held me there breathing into my ears.

“Kiss me Didi” he said in controlled breath. My heart was beating. I was confused.

“What are you doing?” I asked quietly. Relaxing my tensed hand. My heart beating faster.

“I can’t stop thinking about you. The thought of you having dinner with someone else, smiling with him torments me. I can’t and will not have you with any man” he brushed his lips against my quivering lips. Pressing against me. Was he seducing me? Oh Didi! Of course he was.

Wetin this boy dey talk so? So what of him papa?

“Stop” I made to free his hand and escape from his arms but I was silenced. The gently intensifying kiss got me in dilemma. Should I get into in? I thought as he continued the gradually pleasurable assault.

“Stop thinking Didi” he deepened. That was all it took. I kissed him back, his hands pulling me closer, taking me all in as he massaged the back of my neck. I succumbed and actually got into it.

As I raised my arms to his shoulders, Ali’s face came into focus. I needed to give him the call I promised. I stopped suddenly and dropped my hands. He sensed it and stopped too.

“What’s wrong?” he asked as if he didn’t know that this could complicate matters. I am a gold digger not an official S**T.

I needed to read the by-laws and codes of conduct ASAP. Re-orientate myself.

“I can’t do you and your father Akhmed. I’m sorry but we have got to get this out of the plan” I said escaping my fixed position and heading to my door.

“Why?” he asked roughly following me. His breathing still heavy.

“Because I’m going to marry your father remember? This is not some movie” I said waving my fingers.

“I want you. I don’t want you continuing with the plan. The deal is off” he stated as if he was some kind of god and I was to instantly do as he wanted. I lost it.

“What do you mean the deal is off?” I barked turning back.

“I mean you don’t get married to my father” he barked back. Coming to stand in front of me face to face.

“Who do you think you are Akhmed? Calling the shots like some higher power. It was Didi I want you to marry my father, now it is Didi I want you not to marry my father” I said sarcastically imitating him.

“Well, I have got news for you Mister……I’m not some ‘Barbie’ you can play around with. I am a business woman and by God I will marry your father if I can” I walked up the few steps, opened my door and closed it firmly behind me.

“Can you imagine his guts?” I asked no one in particular. Tessy stopped wagging as she sensed my mood.

Gosh…………..Ali’s card was in my car. Now I can’t call him. I angrily walked into my room to pack a bag. I needed a few days in Lagos ǁǁǁ.

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