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“I am not interested in you”
Vince’s voice replayed in my head every single time I thought of him – which was every 10 minutes. Was I truly in love with him or I loved the idea of being in love? Perhaps I was interested in the challenge he posed – wanting Debbie instead. Was she even aware? She didn’t act as though they had something and barely listened whenever I brought him up.
I knew Debbie was a hopeless case when it came to men and was pretty sure Vince was wasting his time until she had dropped the bombshell.
“I am getting married” her voice smooth and unsure at the same time.
“You can’t be serious” I said dropping my brush. She was leaning on my studio door with a smoothie in her clasped hands. It looked like she was nervous. This was barely three days after the mysterious date with her mysterious oyinbo but the giant rock on her finger told me she indeed was serious.
“I am” she said in bright smiles as she showed me her ring. I was all over her in an instant with red and black paint.
“Are you kidding me? Oh my God! This is huge” I said as I held the rock under the light. I was ecstatic mostly for her but deep down I knew I had Vince to myself now. Fate couldn’t have played it out any better.
“I am pretty shocked myself” she confessed laughing in little hiccups and holding the cup to her mouth.
“I am calling the girls” I said dashing into my room and starting up a video conference on Skype.
“Who is the lucky man? Or unlucky man?” I asked as Uloma in her pajamas bottom and red bra, a toothbrush in her mouth came online.
“Man? What man?” she asked as Tina and Eva finally joined in. It was 8:38pm.
“Debbie is getting married” I said excitedly and the gasp of breath with stunned looks had Debbie laughing.
“Stop playing with me” it was Eva. With hair so scattered and eyeliner running down her eyes one need not wonder what I had interrupted her from.
“I am your maid of honor o” it was Tina already securing a place for herself as she dug out of her bed at the mention of the ‘M’ word.
“Are you serious?” it was Uloma, looking more stunned than others.
“Yes” Debbie answered.
“Who is he? Where did you two even meet?” Tina asked taking over the chat.
“Kole McGregor” Debbie said as she waited for recognition to hit our brains.
“Oh my God. No way! Really?” I covered my mouth and jumping on my feet unconsciously. Kole McGregor was the hot designer causing such a sensation and the fact that I had not gotten an email from my precious gossip columns meant something. I rushed to my phone immediately ….my mobile data and WiFi were turned off.
“It is a lie!” Tina shouted, jumping out of her bed. She was in love with Kole’s designs and was always after Debbie’s head for dissing him at any chance she got.
“Biko, no na. Cheiiii! It is so unfair. He is my dream man biko, please give him back” it was Uloma rushing to the toilet to pour out the toothpaste in her mouth and throwing her toothbrush away.
“I saw the headline but didn’t know it was you” Tina was already pacing her room.
“I saw it too. You are the mystery lady! Gosh! Where is the ring? Where is the ring?” Eva called and when Debbie flashed it, the three shouted some more. Questions were fired from the three of them and Debbie laughed them off mostly because they answered the questions themselves.
“I am coming to Abuja first thing tomorrow morning!” it was Tina already ditching work.
“You no get work?” I asked her. I knew she was flying out to meet Kole.
“I get but I have a new client I need to pursue to close a deal. That should sound right to Mr. Ibi” she rolled her eyes referring to her loudmouthed boss.
“I ordered some Abuja kilishi and I’d be picking it up myself. Will check you guys when I come in” it was Uloma telling us she was coming in too.
“I am definitely not missing this” Eva added. Debbie and I shook our heads and laughed before signing off.
“This is great news!” I said after the chat.
“I hope it works” she said with a meaning I didn’t quite catch but didn’t pursue. If I knew Debbie, I was sure she had made a deal and it was more of business than romance but for the first time I couldn’t care less. Vince was mine now.
I met the trio at the airport at 5pm on Friday and picked them amid loud noise and argument between Uloma and Tina on who was going to be the maid of honor. Eva simply shook her head and took the passengers’ seat as we walked to the car park.
Debbie joined us after work at 6pm at the Palm Lounge overlooking the beautiful Jabi Lake; looking tired but all smiles.
“Here comes the bride” Tina had shouted as soon as Debbie stepped in, eyes stopping on Debbie. She covered her face and reached the table.
“You may have to stop with the declarations. Kole and I are keeping it quiet” she said taking her seat in quiet tone.
“Awww….did you guys hear that? ‘Kole and I are keeping it quite’. Eiyo.” Uloma ,winking her long fake lashes that enhanced her round eyes.
“Get away jor. Mumu” Debbie shushed.
“Please tell me you didn’t scam us for a visit o. I may be happy that finally somebody go put somtin inside your v.v but I gats be sure” Uloma said after the hugs and butt pinching. Debbie blocked her ears and Eva covered her mouth with her hand.
“I hereby invoke my power of purity. Uloma…keep this table and our atmosphere pure or be fined with buying us shoes for the wedding. All in favor say ‘Aye’ I said raising my hands to the heavens in babalawo fashion.
“Ayyyyyyye” we all shouted, laughing hysterically.
“I really am getting married” she announced after we had laughed and ordered more drinks. Tina aka Warri wolf bellowed again at Debbie’s formal announcement, looks reaching us at our table were not friendly ones.
“Congratulations! At last you proved us wrong” I said holding up the glass all the more happy that Vince was going to be mine now – I couldn’t get over the thought.
“Hear! Hear! Congratulations!!!” the voices of the ladies filled the air in giggles as our plates arrived.
Over the wine and food, we teased, balloted and made plans. Eva picked the maid of honor card and jumped up so high the diners at the other table scrambled to their feet in fear.
“Sorry, sorry. I am my friend’s maid of honor” she said weakly, sitting down amid loud laughter from our table. Soon a bottle of Bordeaux arrived our table courtesy of the lounge and Eva fought to hold it all the while claiming her ‘jump-move’ got us the bottle. Uloma would have none of it and proceeded to jump up too. Loud laughter suddenly reached us from a table of guys who had been looking at fine sisters getting it on.
“So how did you two meet?” it was Tina, after the drama.
“Some request about being a judge in his show. Went on a few dates and he said I was the one” she answered smiling. I knew there was more to the story but I also knew she wasn’t going to share it.
“This is unbelievable” Tina continued, her eyes shining with mischief.
“Believe it! My girl is getting married” and I raised my glass as we proceeded to decimate the chicken, vegetables, funny flour mix on our plates, all having a taste from everyone’s plate. The next train stop was the Red Dragon club in Wuse II despite pleas from Debbie to go home. Thanks to Uloma’s new boy toy – from the men’s table at Palm lounge, we arrived at the hot club before she realized it was probably a stupid decision seeing that he kept sniffing his handkerchief. His white nose convinced us all to go home.
The next day being a Saturday, we slept in late and by afternoon, Tina was requesting a visit to ‘our in-law’. Vince was nowhere to be found, his numbers ringing out without an answer.
“He has gone back to Lagos. I will be meeting him there in two weeks” Debbie replied over her glass of ‘Eva’s Bordeaux. She was still laying claim to it.
“Isho” I flashed my tongue at Tina in jest. That earned me a race round the house as she pursued me before I jumped into the pool in full clothing.
Days that followed were pool night with Uloma manning the barbecue stand.
“Wia your neighbor?” Tina asked in pidgin English as she picked her nose. It was Tuesday and there was no sign of Vince.
“I don’t know. I have not seen him lately….” I said getting worried. His numbers were not reachable and most times I got the busy buzz. He must have blacklisted me. The possibility was hard to entertain and so I pushed it away.
“You mean after the kiss” it was Debbie coming out in her night wear. Eva had gone upstairs to bring her out. The tone of her voice worried me just a little.
“Ooooh! Spill! Spill!!” Eva ran up to me and spill I did. The girls ‘ooooed’ and ‘aaaaaed’ but not Debbie. She maintained a thin smile and that worried me some more.
“So why isn’t the excellent kisser home?” Uloma asked biting the hot sizzling beef in her hand.
“He traveled to London. I heard he won’t be back soon” Debbie supplied and placed a large chunk of excellently roasted beef in her mouth to prevent more answers. I waited.
“When is he coming back?” I asked after she swallowed.
“I don’t know…maybe four weeks, five weeks” she shrugged before diving into the pool. My plans of seducing Vince were put on hold but it was not going to be forever now that Debbie was getting married and Vince was out of the country.
Life couldn’t be better.
The feel of warm velvet against my cheeks as I woke up reminded me of the happenings of past month. It was as if my life was on a roller-coaster and I had no control over it. Barely three months in Abuja and I was already getting married to Kole McGregor for a bargain. Who would have thought? Being president of a conglomerate had been a long life ambition and here I was getting it on a platter of gold – of course with a marriage condition. Was it worth it? Absolutely!
Lunch with Mr. Goge and Kole turned out better than I had hoped. After all preparations to dazzle with figures, it became just what it was – Lunch.
“So I will see you in the office tomorrow?” Goge had asked as the lunch came to an end. Almost too tensed to eat, I had ordered a glass of water spiked with lemon.
“I must say Mr. Goge, you are rather eager to have me move to Lagos” I noted as he stood up.
“Well, I must obey the boss. If he needs you here, I must retire” he said with humor. He was a small man but underneath was a brain witty enough to control Kole’s vast assets in the region. With his white teeth sitting on one another and lips so red, he rattled on about networks, ongoing projects, projections and partnerships…..my head reeling for the first time in years; I had the sudden need to use a pen and paper.
“Please don’t confuse my wife” Kole had defended, thankfully taking my hand.
“I must say I am not quite comfortable with that arrangement” it was Goge to Kole as they shook hands and for the briefest moment noticed a look of disagreement pass between the two.
“The arrangement is to have Debbie at helm of affairs. I have no doubt she’d do just fine” it was Kole taking my hand again. I withdrew my hand politely with a smile.
“If you say so…Boss” and he was gone.
That was 3 days ago.
“Are you decent?” it was Kole at my door. Staying in his house had been his idea. With the media getting desperate by the second, I had agreed to stay in his mini estate. The girls had promised to keep Kole’s identity a secret. The last thing I needed was my face in the news. Thankfully, I was nonexistent in the social world and had no trace on the internet.
“Of course I am” I answered getting up from the bed as he entered my room in white bathrobe with wet hair.
“So I was thinking we go pick your wedding gown today” he said coming to stand before me as he wiped his hair. The wedding was in two weeks.
“I thought the bride did that with her girlfriends?” I said walking to wash my sleep stained face.
“Yeah…for brides who are not getting married to Kole. I have a special gown in mind for my bride” he winked as I came out rubbing at my face.
“Ah! The Kole factor” I teased.
“I suppose. You know, we haven’t really talked on sleeping arrangements and child bearing. I am assuming you are willing to give me an heir?” he was looking serious now, the announcement leaving me breathless.
“I thought you were dying in 6 months” I said then shook my head as the meaning of my utterance dawned on me. It sounded like I had an agenda.
“….I meant….no. I didn’t think…no. I have not considered that” I said, a little sweat sprouting in my armpit. ‘Was he serious?’ I asked myself going to wash my face again.
“Very well then. I suppose you may want to check your mail for the contract after we get your wedding dress. I took the liberty of bringing in some of my latest designs. Sure it will fit” he said before leaving the room.
“Sure” was all I could come up with. I had to look at the contract ASAP.
The choice of wedding gown was swift. He made it for me. ‘To suit the crowd’ he had said as he brought it to my neck in his Ikoyi showroom, his manager and attendants falling over themselves from the minute he entered the large building sitting conspicuously at the beginning of the street. Despite my attempt at making him understanding I wanted a small wedding, he simply maintained he wanted his beautiful. Big or small? I had no idea.
“You want to have that printed?” he winked referring to the contract. He had noticed my eyes as they soaked up the downloaded pdf.
“I may have it done” I said jumping to the paragraph for the need for an heir. Was I getting myself into some pit latrine? God, I hope not. Maybe I should rethink this. Mr. Fatasho had taken the request lightly mostly because he said I was still on ‘probation’. Maybe I should call him and take my job back?
“Read later” and with that he confiscated my device. The fitting took less than an hour as the gown practically hugged my curves in a sinful caress.
“Perfect!” he clapped happily like a child and for a brief moment, I shared his enthusiasm as he took pictures for my friends. The gown was gorgeous. His manager was given a stern warning to keep the visit and most especially his bride out of the papers. He nodded seriously.
“So where are we having the wedding?” he asked. We were having lunch at the house.
“I am sure you have a place in mind” I answered poring over the document
“Don’t be so suspicious darling. I promise I only want one child” he said jokingly.
“I am not sure that is all you want” I eyed him warily. Sending the document to some legal ‘friend’ wasn’t an option. Knowing the wedding was making headline news, I didn’t want the document surfacing as an ‘Open Contract” seeing how Obasanjos’s letter ended up scanned, printed and hawked in traffic.
“Come on! Where is your sense of adventure?” he said taking his plate to the kitchen down the long hall he called a dining room.
“I am pretty sure this is not an adventure. You wouldn’t want me scanning through business documents just by having a ‘sense of adventure’, would you?” I asked sweetly eyeing him as he returned.
“You win!” he said, throwing up his hands like a child.
“Alright, you are bored” I said chewing on the large onions left in my plate. He sure was a good cook!
“Finally!” he tried again and I laughed.
“So what do you have in mind since you have stylishly removed my friends from me?” I accused standing to take my plate to the kitchen. He followed.
“I didn’t! I was just scared of them” he tried to look scared but failed.
“I bet you were. Who is your doctor?” I asked as we reached the kitchen.
“Your doctor” I asked again, opening the tap. He looked lost for a moment.
“Not sure I want that information in the contract” he said and turned abruptly as if hurt.
“Did I cross a line?” I asked him as he walked out.
“No. Just got reminded to take tonight’s colorful pills. Excuse me wife” he called over his shoulders.
Few minutes later, I heard the sound of his car leaving the mini estate.
Going through the contract after lunch, it detailed responsibilities and benefits. Apparently, I had to have an heir or be pregnant with one to have the power of attorney to act in his stead on his demise. Absence of fetus or baby meant I would be just an employee and will be paid as such. I had no legs to stand on. To put matter ontop table as Tina would say, the paragraph meant I had less six months to get pregnant or kiss my new position goodbye. Wondering who would become the administrator of his estate if I refused, I closed my eyes briefly to contemplate my choice for the umpteenth time. What if this was career suicide? Was I being greedy to jump on title wagon? Plus I had few doubts about Kole mostly because didn’t look like someone who was dying. I wasn’t an expert on death looks but to decide whether he would look gorgeous in casket or not brought chills. I was definitely over thinking this. Suddenly in the mood to take a walk around the estate to clear my head, I pulled on a knitted sweater and was out.
The estate, floored with rich green palm trees on thick luscious carpeted grass gave an eerie feeling as I thought about my parents for the first time in years. Were they still alive? Caleb was in Abuja – that much I knew and Mrs. Thomas’s children? Would they still recognize me? Would anyone recognize me? Cool breeze gently sweeping the tarred access roads to buildings I suspected were servant’s quarters and guest chalets. The main house, a bungalow with a penthouse connected to several other smaller buildings occupied most of the land and I made a mental note to check all the rooms when I got back. Kole had mentioned a private cinema, game room and indoor swimming pool.
The pristine streets and excellent trimmed shrubs had me relaxing right before I heard the commotion at the gate. I turned to see what the fuss was about and felt my lungs expand as I took in more air than my lungs needed.
It was Vince.
(Oyinbo – white man)
(Kilishi – spiced sun dried meat)
(babalawo – Herbalist)
(Isho – a sarcastic expression)