New Listing, New Author: The 93′ Conspiracy by Tijani Ridvan now on African Stories

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African Stories is most delighted to announce the addition of African Author – Tijani Ridvan

Tijani Ridvan grew up in Nigeria. His work has appeared in various publications including the Reader times and Mystery eye magazine. He is the author of the novel ‘THE 93 CONSPIRACY’ which won the annual Book critic award and was the Legion house Best thriller of the year. A student in the US, he divides his time between the United states and Nigeria.  He is @RidwanTijani4 on twitter.

Tijani Ridwan

Tijani Ridwan

The 93′ Conspiracy tells the story of James Bola, 35 is an ex-navy seal who accidentally shot a boy in the heat of Iraq. His superiors tell him the ‘kill’ was justified as the boy was holding a weapon but he still feels guilty and leaves the army. He decides to go back to his home country Nigeria, a country in the state of political corruption because the time for elections is drawing near, politicians become backstabbers and dirty deals are made. James Bola begins to show symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. On independence day, a bomb goes off in the biggest market in the region, killing scores of people including James’s mother. The CIA contacts James, he begins to investigate and he discovers an unbelievable conspiracy.

The 93′ Conspiracy, in E-book format, is now available for sale for just N1,000 (One Thousand Naira) only.

Send “Buy” to mailafricanstories@gmail.com today and get reading.

Book Review coming up!

Ciao!

😀

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Beautiful Stranger. Episode 13

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EPISODE 13
Jerry pushed the door open as he walked into the bar. He had not set his feet there in a long time. He didn’t know if he would be in the right frame of mind to help her live the desperate days and he was sure that he needed an encouragement. What better friend than alcohol at this moment? He had said to himself as he stepped into the bar.
“Jerry!” Tunji called as he saw. “Where have you been?”
Jerry smiled faintly. “I have been everywhere but here.”
“That’s good. Working on your addiction, right? That’s good.” Tunji remarked as he cleaned a glass. “How’s that pretty girl?”
Jerry sighed. Toni was dying. How best could he respond to Tunji? Traditionally, it was almost ‘Nigerian’ to say ‘fine’ or ‘I am fine’ regardless of your situation. Maybe it was optimism, maybe hope, maybe faith…our words oozed more positives than our actions.
“Are you so struck by her?” Tunji asked, noticing Jerry’s silence. “Say something, this place opens in about an hour.”
“Yeah…words are not enough. Toni-is-is the complete package.” Jerry said as his voice broke.
Tunji stared at him. “What is it, man? What happened?”
“I am just scared.”
“About what? Did Toni break up with you?”
Jerry sighed. “Honestly, I am not here to talk. I just want a drink. Can you at least do that for me?”
Tunji took a deep breath. “No.”
“Really? There are a thousand and one competitors and you refuse me a drink?” Jerry asked.
Tunji nodded as he took a seat beside Jerry. “The other guys, yes, they want to sell liquor to you. I want to sell too, make no mistake, but not when you can do the right thing…if you are running away from something and you think this place is going to shelter you, bro, you are wrong. You have got to face it.”
Jerry clenched his fist. “I am not running, Tunji. I just the need the courage to face it.”
“Trust me, courage isn’t in the bottle. It’s in you.” Tunji replied and returned to his desk. He poured a glass and placed it before Jerry. “Have some courage.” He said and continued cleaning the glasses.
Jerry stared hard at the glass. He swallowed painfully as he fought his inner desire to just drink his pains away. He abandoned the drink and rose to his feet.
“Good choice.” Tunji said.
Jerry stared at him. “Toni is not doing fine. We are going away for a while.”
“What is it?” Jerry asked.
Jerry blinked. “Cancer.”
Tunji cringed. “I am sorry, man.”
“Yeah…I know.” Jerry replied.
Tunji sighed. “You know I would be here for you, right?”
“Yeah. Thanks.” Jerry replied. “I’ve got to get going.”
Tunji stretched out his hand to him. “Jerry?”
Jerry stared at him. “Yeah?”
“Make it count.” Tunji said.
Jerry took his hand firmly. “We will.”
***
Toni pushed Nora out of the way as they walked into the suite. “No way!!! Seriously, Nora?” Toni said as she surveyed the room in one glance. “This is a presidential suite.”
“Only the best for you my darling, only the best.” Jerry said as he pushed the boxes into the room with Emeka. “Why are you complaining? You want a vacation and we are here to give it to you.” He added immediately.
Toni stared at him. “And that includes bringing us here? We can save a lot of money with some other regular suite. How much is this place per night?” she asked.
Jerry and Nora started to whistle.
Toni gaped. “Seriously guys!”
“Oh Toni, you whine too much! The money is nothing, if you have got it, you spend it.” Nora replied.
“Or you invest it!” Toni retorted.
“Would it make you happy if I told you that Jerry is paying for all these?” Nora asked.
Toni widened her eyeballs as she stared at Jerry. “What?!”
“Are you going to spank me for spending my own money?” he asked with a smirk.
Emeka nodded. “Ladies take these things too personal. I mean, it’s a brother’s money.” He replied with a smile.
“He should learn to invest in his future.” She retorted at Emeka.
“I am spending some of my dividends too…don’t be worried.” Jerry replied with a smile.
Toni sighed. “You should save that…argh…men! Anyway, where is James anyway?”
James walked into the room carrying a box of pizza and a pack of juice. “Food is here!” he announced with a grin.
“Food?! But we ate on the plane.” Toni protested.
Jerry stared at Emeka. “She is going mummy on us all. Duck!” he said and they hurried out.
Toni turned to James. “Why do we have to eat Pizza now? We had something to eat about thirty minutes ago.”
“Err…I thought we could make do with in-between meals.” He replied with a smile.
Toni turned to Nora. “In-between meals? Since when did we start in-between meals?” she asked.
“You don’t remember? We absolutely love to eat as many times as possible.” Nora replied as she picked up her purse. “James, we should go and see the landscape.”
Toni stared at them. “And what about me?” she asked.
Nora stuttered. “Erm…you can stay here and have some pizza and juice while James and I make a quick look of the environment.”
“Why do I get the feeling that you all are trying to push me away?” she asked.
James gaped. “No…Not at all. We just want you to get some rest, you know. Jet lagged.”
“And you all aren’t jet lagged from Lagos to Calabar? I won’t get any rest if you all keeping flipping on me. First, Jerry and Emeka and now, you and Nora. Am I such a bad habit?”
“When you start whining like this, you could be a real pain.” Nora replied as she took James hand. “For once, Toni, enjoy your money.”
“Well, this is Jerry’s money and I am allergic to spending his money.” Toni replied as she sprawled on the bed. “But damn…this is the real life.”
“See…it didn’t take long to bring out the hidden you which is the real you. We’ll be right back. Take care, love.” Nora replied and walked out with James.
Toni took a deep breath and pulled the Pizza close. “The only reason why I am having you is to prevent wastage, I am not a fan of people wasting money or resources, so here we go…” she said and took a bite.
***
“Good thing you guys were able to escape from her.” Jerry said as Nora and James joined them in the restaurant. “So, what’s the next plan?” he asked.
Nora pulled out her journal. “I was thinking we could do a road trip round the town, we would camp wherever night falls.”
“I have the sketch books for the photos and other important documentation.” James said. “There is also a map just in case we get lost.”
“I was thinking we should rent a space bus.” Emeka said. “Big enough for all of us.” He added.
“I was thinking a convertible. I mean, it is so much fun when you go on road trips with convertibles. That way we can get to spread our hands and head into the sun.” Nora replied.
“That’s the effect of seeing too many movies. Hollywood.” James cut in.
“Are you kidding me, James? It would be fun!” she echoed.
“We are five in number. It won’t be very comfortable.” Jerry replied. “Maybe the space bus isn’t such a bad idea after all.”
Nora frowned. “It is a terrible idea. Who goes on road trips in a space bus?” she stressed as she sulked.
James kissed her forehead. “Get used to this one, babe.”
“I think I agree with Nora.” Emeka said cutting in. “We could actually use the convertible.”
Jerry turned at him as he widened his eyes. “Dude!”
Nora smiled. “See…even Emeka agrees with me.”
Jerry stared at his friend. “We are taking a space bus whether you like it or not.”
“What have I done wrong? I only think it is right that we make the lady happy.” Emeka added.
James nodded. “True, we could get an Audi or BMW, there might be some space at the back.”
Nora smiled at James. “Now you are talking.”
“Or we could just take the Space bus.” Emeka said, staring at Nora and James.
Nora frowned. “Why are you teasing me?”
Jerry smiled. “That’s who Emeka is…very funny guy. A tease.”
Emeka nodded. “Yeah…my friends say I am Kevin Hart.” He said laughing. Jerry frowned and so did James and Nora. Emeka stopped laughing. “I know…I know.”
Jerry rose to his feet. “I am going to the bar, please come with me, Emeka.”
Emeka stared at him. “Oh really?”
“Yes!” Jerry said pulling him along.
“I thought you quit alcohol.” Emeka said as they got to the bar. “It didn’t take long for you to backslide.” Emeka chuckled.
Jerry nodded. “Sure I did quit booze, but I couldn’t help but notice how you were hitting on Nora there.”
“Me? No o…I…I was just making a conversation.” Emeka replied defensively.
Jerry hissed. “I don’t even believe you! Emeka, you have a fiancée, respect yourself so James doesn’t beat you up. He is fit, you know?”
“But you are also fit. Won’t you defend your man?” he asked.
Jerry nodded. “If you were right, fine. But you are scoping another guy’s babe, my hand no dey there o.”
“I…I just like her. That’s all.” Emeka replied. “Just like.”
Jerry nodded. “Put a leash on it, else, I am calling your babe.”
“Guy, you can’t do a brother like that na.” Emeka protested.
Jerry scoffed. “Watch me.” He replied and returned to the others.
***
TONI
“I am racing against time. Officially, the Doctors think I would be here for about five more days, but I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon. I mean…that soon. My book would be done before I leave this place, that, I am sure of. My whole life has been one huge fairy tale. Finding love in the strangest places and wishes for more than I could get. To be fair, I have done my part here, so, I don’t feel nervous about going away…it’s just that I am allowed to be human sometimes and let fear creep in as I think of my loved ones.
Nora is the best sister in the world, she is my father, my mother, my sister and my brother. I couldn’t have wished for a better sister. She had fewer nights than myself as she would sit and watch me sleep, keeping silent and lonely vigils while I enjoyed my sleep. Honestly, I had fun putting Nora through all that. Family is everything and even though my own family was Nora, there were no boundaries for us. With Family, you have no idea how much you can do.
I have come across tonnes of guys in my journey in life, but I had never really given anyone a second thought until I met Doctor Jerry. Jerry was the first person to make me dread my situation. Every battle I fought from the day I met him was all about survival. The thought of seeing him, talking to him made the difference. I always thought I was the only one with that special effect on people, but then, Jerry held me spell-bound. I might not have been smitten outwardly, but thanks to him, I knew what it was to be more beautiful on the inside.”
**********
I shut my laptop as I took a deep breath and took another bite from the Pizza. It had kept me company since the last hour. I didn’t want to bother them with my calls, so I just turned on the Television and fed my eyes. What could a girl do?
The door opened and Jerry walked in with a smile. “Hey, stranger.”
“Hi, stranger.” I replied with the warmest smile I could produce. “I love that name, you know?”
Jerry nodded as he joined me on the bed. “What are you watching?”
“Documentary channel. Amazing how these Giraffes neck.” I said.
He nodded. “It is lovely.” He replied. “It’s a sign of strength.”
“They are necking to prove strength, most of us depict it as love…who knows what else we misinterpret about animals?” I asked with a smile.
Jerry shrugged. “I am sure that we are not mistaken about the peacock’s pride.”
I chuckled. “Jerry…what are you guys planning?”
“Planning? What do you mean?” he asked.
I smiled. “I am not stupid. You all disappearing in groups can only mean there is a plan in the offing. Come on, tell me.”
Jerry shook his head. “There is nothing other than the ordinary.”
“Go on…you can tell me everything. I promise not to tell Nora.” I said as I blinked my eyes playfully.
Jerry tripped. “Fine. We are doing a road trip.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed.
“B…But you can’t tell the others I told you, else, they’ll just think I am fickle.” He replied.
I nodded. “But then you are fickle. It didn’t take you a minute to tell me the truth.”
He scoffed. “Seriously? Is that what I get?”
“For betraying your team, that is what you get.” I replied.
Jerry sprawled on the bed. “So, are you now teaching me life lessons?” he asked.
I smiled. “Not exactly, but, teams should come first. I might even rat you out to them.”
“No, you won’t.” he replied. “I should come first.”
I grinned. “The truth comes first for me.”
“You are such a kill joy, Toni.”
I nodded. “I know.”
“How is the novel coming?” he asked as he tried to pick my laptop. I immediately shielded it from him. “Are you not going to let me see it?” he asked. “I should read it before everyone else.”
“That’s after my editor has read it and the publishers have it ready for sale.” I replied. “Trust me, it would be soon, besides, I am not yet done with the novel.” I concluded.
Jerry nodded. “Fine. Mrs. Aiyenugba called while I was on my way up here.”
“How is she doing?” I asked.
He smiled. “She has made very important friends. She told me to lay emphasis on ‘important’, that you’ll understand.”
I nodded. “Of course, I understand.”
“So…what did she mean by important friends?” he asked.
I sighed and pecked his forehead. “You really don’t get it, do you? I don’t tell on friends.” I said and grabbed my towel. “I am off to the bathroom…be gone before I am back…and don’t think about touching my laptop, it is password protected.” I concluded and shut the door to the bathroom.
****
“What do you want to talk about?” James asked as he strolled with Nora.
Nora sighed. “Nothing. When is the car coming so we can get on with the road trip?”
“In about an hour or so. Jerry and Emeka went to get it.” He replied.
She nodded. “That’s good. I should go to Toni.”
“She wants to be left alone, I checked on her earlier.” He replied. “Now, about Emeka.”
Nora stared at him. “What about him?”
“I think he likes you.” James said.
“Is it wrong?” She replied.
James smiled. “Nice touch with the humour there, but, I think you know what I mean.”
“I do?” Nora asked. “Are you getting touchy here, James?”
James stopped walking. “I am not getting touchy. I just think that he is showing too much interest in you…and you are taken.”
Nora stared at her finger. “I am not engaged.”
“But we have something, right?” he asked.
Nora grinned. “My sarcasm has definitely improved.”
James sighed. “For once, I thought you were for real.”
“James, if another guy hits on your girl, you should be happy.” She started. “It can only mean that she is really attractive.”
James scoffed. “How attractive is that? That is scary. What if you fall in love with him?”
“Then something is actually boring about you.” She replied with a smirk.
“Is that a joke too?” He asked.
She raised an eyebrow. “Does it sound like one?”
“I am not joking, Nora.” James said.
She nodded. “I know.”
“So?” James asked.
Nora smiled. “You are making a big deal out of it. The fact that he likes me in the direction you feel doesn’t mean I am on the same lane as he is.”
“That’s very comforting.” James replied.
Nora smiled. “Now let’s go find the others.”
***
TONI
“I knew it, we should have taken the convertible!” Nora groaned as we all got off the space bus for the third time. “This bus isn’t in its right frame of mind.” She added.
I fetched my camera and started making a video coverage of everyone as they reacted to the event.
Nora wasn’t going to stop grumbling. Ever since the space bus arrived at the hotel, she thought it was a bad idea. She was dreaming of cruising in a convertible as we travelled across the beautiful town and its landscape. “This is a terrible idea. I knew it. We are so not going to pay them in full.”
James chuckled at her last statement.
Nora flipped at him. “What’s funny?”
“Apart from the fact that you are acting like Toni was when we initially got here, you pay in full to rental services and even an increase for guarantee.”
Nora cringed. “No!!! They have robbed us of our money.”
For Jerry and Emeka, it was more of who has got the cleaner abs contest. There was a clear winner though. Jerry. Tada!!! But seriously, did they need to take off their shirts to check the car’s radiator and some other things I don’t know that a car has? I can make a case for Jerry. He is putting on a white t-shirt, so it is understandable that he wants to take it off and also, if you have got it…you are permitted to show the world. Besides, he is my Jerry. Now, about Emeka, I don’t know why anyone who is still in the process of denial regarding differentiating between fat and crops would take off his shirt? That has me confused and slightly sorry too.
Can I blame him for efforts? No. Nora and I have countless numbers of push-up bras and many ladies too. I am not making an excuse for the female gender, but we have got to look ‘it’.
Back to the matter….the car is now fixed and we are ready to go…and guess who takes over the wheels? Yours truly.
***
Jerry took his seat beside Toni in front as she fixed the keys into the ignition. “Are you sure about this?” he asked.
Toni smiled. “I am not redundant, babe. I can drive a car.”
He nodded and focused on her as though she was the road. “Toni…” he muttered. “Let me drive.”
“No!” she replied sharply and stepped on the pedal. “Here we go people! Hold your breath, ladies and gentlemen…it is Toni time.” She echoed and wheeled off.
Jerry watched her every turn and every step on any of the pedals.
“You are starting to freak me out.” Toni said.
He sighed. “I can’t help it.”
“Well, I am not going to kill all of us, so you can relax.” She said with a smile. “We are here everybody!” she announced as she pulled up.
Jerry looked into the car. “It’s camp fire time.”
They all carried their bags as they walked into the woods. Finding a spot for their camp fire wasn’t hard, they were all well-equipped.
***
Jerry wrapped his arms around me as we passed cards. Emeka was the only without anyone to cuddle. I felt guilty having Jerry around me, after all, Emeka was here for us too. He didn’t need to feel alone, besides, Jerry says he has a fiancée, I am wondering why Emeka didn’t ask her to tag alone, but then, I couldn’t feel sorry for Emeka…Jerry was going to miss me. That would be more devastating than this.
“So, you all know the rules, as we pass the cards, we fulfil the command of the game. If the card stops with you, you answer whatever question it presents you.” He said. “Are we clear? As the moderator, you all know I am not allowed to participate in this game, so, I would just watch from the side lines. After the first turn, we change the cards.” He said and passed the first card.
As soon as the card got to Nora, Emeka called. “What says your card?”
Nora flipped it open and stared at it and then at James before reading. “Do you really love the person you are with?”
James clenched his teeth. “What is this?”
“Hey bro…it’s just a question. It could have fallen on anyone, no offense intended.” Emeka said.
Jerry stared at Emeka and then at James. “Yeah, man, it’s just a question for the lady.”
“I think Emeka is hitting on Nora.” James said. “I don’t like it.”
I chuckled. This seemed to be more interesting than I had envisaged. Emeka was really causing a rift. “Guys, I think we should chill. I don’t think it is a big deal. It is just a question and I think that dragging it longer than necessary is actually going to mean something else.” I said, cutting in.
Jerry nodded. “Toni is right. Let Nora answer the question and we all could just move on from here.”
All eyes were now on Nora. “Nora?” I called. “Answer your question.”
Nora smiled as she read through the card again. “Yes, I do love James.”
James smiled victoriously.
Emeka scoffed. “Pass the next card.”
“What’s in your card?” Emeka asked as I held the passing card for too long on the second time of passing.
I stared at it. “What would you love to do before you die?” I read with a smile.
Jerry’s face went stone as he stared at Emeka. I took Jerry’s hand before he could make any statement.
“What I want to do before I die?” I said. “I have accomplished a lot of things I want to do before my dying day. I have lived, I have laughed, I have loved.” I said and stared at Jerry. “I am glad to have met you, Jerry. You are everything and much more than I wanted and you may think that life hasn’t given us enough time, but I think it is just perfect, every step of the way with you has been worth it. Jerry, I wish you love, peace, happiness and most importantly that you find yourself in God and be true to who you are. Jerry, I would always love you and I am happy for every love you have for me.”
Jerry looked away.
“I hope not to break your heart in the end, I hope to leave a stronger man with a braver heart behind, should I have to…and trust me, you deserve to read my novel first, and you would.” I said as I drew his face closer. “I love you, Jerry.”
“I love you too.” He replied.
Emeka, Nora and James stared at us quietly.
“And to what I want to do before I die? I damn right want to kiss you, Jerry.” I said and we kissed.

Beautiful Stranger is written by @tomi_adesina; Author of Dear Future Husband available for Free on African Stories. Follow @tomi_adesina on twitter for more thrilling stories. Her new book “All Fun and Games” also available for FREE on African Stories

Beautiful Stranger. Episode 12

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Hi everybody, TGIF!

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EPISODE 12

Nora shut the door after the lawyer and turned in Toni’s direction. Toni smiled faintly at her and slipped into the bed.
“How do you feel?” Nora asked as she took her seat beside her sister.
Toni sighed. “Tired, but I am optimistic. What about you?”
“I am okay. I just think that calling the lawyer today speaks a lot about your optimism, Toni. How optimistic is drawing up a will?” Nora asked, feeling sad.
Toni shrugged. “I am being realistic here, Nora. We have gone over this before…I don’t think we need to do it again.”
Nora nodded. “Sure.”
“I haven’t seen Emeka or Jerry around here today. Have you?” Toni asked.
Nora shook her head. “Neither have I.”
“That’s strange.” Toni said. “Anyway, let’s talk about my book and the big plans I have for it.” She said.
Nora stared at her. “Can we go on holidays first? We would discuss the massive book launch during the holiday.” She replied.
“You are still offended because of the will, right?”
Nora shrugged. “Why would I be offended?”
“Why won’t you be offended? You think I am throwing everything away by drafting that will, right? You think I don’t have the zeal to live and all I want to do is disappoint everyone?” Toni asked.
Nora sighed. “I don’t think you aren’t fighting hard enough.”
“What do you see when you look at me, Nora?” Toni asked.
Nora took a deep breath. “Don’t start asking questions like this, Toni. I love you and that’s all that counts.”
“Nora, what do you see when you look at me?” Toni asked as she swallowed.
Nora stared at her. “A beautiful, strong woman.”
“Then give me some credit. I am making efforts to live, and I am fighting with everything in me to make sure that you don’t come in here and realise that I am gone. I am afraid to die, I am not feeling better, but yet, I want to be here for you…and I will keep fighting. So, Nora, don’t you dare give up on me…because, I am not giving up on myself.” Toni blurted and then wiped her eyes.
Nora took a deep breath. “I am sorry.”
“You don’t have to be.” Toni replied.
Nora exhaled. “It’s been tense for me. You…you don’t understand how it feels to be in my shoes.”
Toni chuckled. “Trust me, Nora. It feels better to be you.”
Nora smiled faintly. Her sister had made a joke out of it and it made her feel better.
“Life is precious, Nora. You have to enjoy it while you have it. There are a lot of people who would rather have these days, don’t waste it.” Toni said.
Nora blinked as she took Toni’s hand. “Save the pep talk for later.” She said with a smile.
Toni laughed. “You have a crooked sense of humour, you have got to work on it.”
“Was I trying to be funny?” Nora asked.
Toni nodded with a grin. “And you suck at it.”
Nora exhaled with a smile. “Stay with me, Toni.”
“Have you booked our flight tickets? I’ll soon be out of here, you know? That vacation has to rock.” Toni replied as she smiled.
Nora nodded. “It’s going to be a perfect holiday.”
“Yeah…I know it will be.” Toni replied. “Now, where is Jerry?”
Nora smiled. “You are missing him already, aren’t you?”
Toni nodded. “I don’t know, it’s unlike him or Emeka not to have at least dropped in by now. That has me worried.”
“I suggest you get your mind off it. I will go and ask the Nurses if they have seen any of them this morning.” Nora replied.
Toni shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. Maybe, they are busy with surgery or something. I don’t want you bothering yourself about it. I am just paranoid.”
“Paranoid? You miss the guy you love and you call it being paranoid? That’s not paranoid, lady. I will go out and find anything I can regarding his whereabouts.” Nora replied.
Toni smiled. “Thank you.”
***
Emeka and Mrs Aiyenugba rose to receive Jerry as he walked out of the Police station.
“Thank you.” Jerry said to Mrs Aiyenugba.
She smiled. “It’s okay, dear. I am sorry for everything I put you through. I didn’t know Shola would do this.”
“It’s okay. It’s nothing serious.”
Emeka grinned. “How was it?”
“Did I go there to eat food?” Jerry replied harshly.
Mrs Aiyenugba smiled. “It’s okay, boys. I have to go now, my son is waiting.” She said staring in the direction of her son.
Jerry nodded and walked over to meet Mrs Aiyenugba’s son. “Hey!”
“You do know who you are talking to, right?” Mr Aiyenugba replied.
Jerry nodded. “A stupid and ungrateful man.”
Mr Aiyenugba stared at him. “Are you sane?” he asked.
“Yes. But to me, you are quite insane.” Jerry replied.
Emeka and Mrs Aiyenugba rushed over to them. “Jerry, stop this.” Emeka said.
“No.” Jerry replied. “Let me teach this man how to respect his mother.”
Mrs Aiyenugba took Jerry’s hand. “It’s okay. You don’t have to tell him anything.”
“Kini gbogbo radarada yi? (What is all these rubbish?)” Mr Aiyenugba voiced in Yoruba (A Nigerian Local dialect.)
“You have suddenly lost your ability to speak English?” Jerry asked. “You don’t care enough about your own mother and when another man cares about her, you want to punish me for it?” Jerry asked angrily as he drew closer to him.
Emeka pulled his friend back to avoid another detention. “Dude! Think about Toni. Do you want them to lock you up again?”
“On what grounds?! Have I even assaulted him yet?” Jerry shouted.
“You won’t dare to touch me.” Shola retorted. “I will have them lock you and your family up for good.”
“Shut up!” Mrs Aiyenugba yelled at her son. “Who are you? What power do you have to lock up anyone and his family? I am under the impression that you have completely lost it.”
Mr Aiyenugba took a deep breath and stared at his Mother. “Mum, let’s go.”
“I am not going with you, Shola…at least, not yet. If I am going to be put away in that facility permanently, I want to make a quick stop at the Hospital to see someone.” She replied.
Mr Aiyenugba nodded. “Fine, I’ll drive you down there.”
***
“I heard what happened to you.” The Director said as Jerry walked into his office. “I told you to give up that woman, but you wouldn’t.”
Jerry sighed. “It was worth it.”
The Director nodded. “Toni had her session an hour ago. She is resting at the moment.”
“I know. I saw her sister outside.” He replied as he took a seat.
“We would have to stop the treatment.” The Director said.
Jerry stared at him. “Why? What is going on?”
“I have been consulting with the specialist here all day and he thinks she has to go home now.”
“What do you mean?” Jerry said as he jumped at the Director.
The Director sighed. “The cancer is competing with her brain mass.”
“Let me cut it!” Jerry shouted.
“This is not about cutting anymore, you can’t even get in if you tried to cut, but, we can only hope that the effect of the radiation melts it away. If we put her under more radiation, you know the adverse of that.” The Director replied as he placed his hand on Jerry’s shoulder. “Son, I am sorry, but this time, you have done so much.”
“I have not done anything and I am going to come back with something on this case. I am not pulling away.” Jerry replied.
“Listen to me, Jerry. I know how you feel-”
“-You don’t! You don’t know what it is like to love someone and not be able to help her. I won’t let her down, I swear I won’t.”
The Director sighed. “Jerry, you might need some time off from here to go and take care of her, she has medications which she needs to take every time. These drugs will be very useful to her and from time to time, she has to come here for other treatments.”
Jerry buried his head in his hands. “This can’t be happening to me.”
“Listen to me, Jerry. There is a slight chance.”
Jerry stared at him. “I understand. I…this, this is just not right.”
“All that is left for us is to pray. We would discharge her tomorrow.” The Director said and returned to his seat. “You should go and be with her.”
Jerry nodded. “Does she know about this?”
“Not yet, we would talk to her in the evening.”
Jerry exhaled. “Let me do it.”
“Jerry? Are you sure about this?” The Director asked.
Jerry nodded. “I am, Sir. I can handle this one.” He replied.
“But you do know that you can’t lie to the patient, Jerry? You have to tell her everything, we have reached the stage where we prepare her mind.” He said.
Jerry nodded. “I’ll do just that.” He replied and approached the door.
“And about the leave…take two weeks off from here, please.” The Director said. “I need you in good condition.”
Jerry sighed and walked out.
***
“What’s up, man?” Emeka asked as Jerry walked into the office.
Jerry stared at him. “It’s time to prepare Toni.”
“I am sorry. I also spoke to the Oncologist and he didn’t sound too positive about her chances.” Emeka replied.
Jerry took a seat. “How do I start? Where do I go from here? This is too much for me, Emeka.”
“Jerry, I know this is hard for you and I wish I could say something or do something to make it all go away-”
Jerry stared at him. “-but you can’t. There is nothing you can do or say to me right now, it’s just sour.”
“Do you want me to be there when you break the news to her?” Emeka asked.
Jerry shrugged. “I don’t know. I think I want to do this alone.”
“I don’t think you should let Nora know about it yet. Toni seems more prepared than she is.” Emeka replied. “Maybe Nora can learn about this later, after she is discharged? Just not to bring it to her as it is, this would hurt her more.” Emeka said.
Jerry nodded. “You have a point, but we can’t exactly keep it away from her. Maybe, she should know about it first, before we talk to Toni. We owe it to her as Toni’s relation.” Jerry replied.
“True. Nora was talking to me about taking Toni on a vacation, you think I can come with you guys?”
Jerry stared at him. “You want to come?”
Emeka nodded. “I have grown attached to her in these last days and I think you are going to need me there.”
Jerry sighed. “Thanks a lot for the help, man.”
“It’s nothing, bro.” Emeka replied as they hugged. Jerry’s grip was firm and his chest pounded hard. Emeka knew he was scared. “It’ll be fine, Jerry. God’s got this.”
Jerry stared at him. “I am losing her.”
“Trust me, man. You’ll be fine, pull it together.” Emeka said. “You want something to eat?”
Jerry shook his head sadly. “I can’t eat anything, man. I don’t know what to do without her. I just need to breathe right now. ”
“Take it easy, okay? Please, man.” Emeka said.
Jerry nodded. “I would do everything I can. Anyway, where’s Mrs Aiyenugba? I haven’t checked on her since she came down here with us. Has her son taken her away?”
“No. She is waiting to see Toni, but since Toni is asleep, she is somewhere at the reception.” Emeka replied.
Jerry nodded. “I’ll go and see her now. If the Director asks for me, just page me, okay?”
“Okay.” Emeka replied and watched his friend leave the room a downcast man. He swallowed painfully as he took a seat. He had not known Toni for a very long time, but he couldn’t imagine losing her.
***
“How are you, Jerry?” Mrs Aiyenugba asked as he approached her.
“I am not doing fine.” He confessed. “It’s time to prepare Toni.”
Mrs Aiyenugba swallowed as she held her chest. “Oh God.”
“I don’t know why this has to happen to her. If I could at least find some answers… why would I have her for such a short time and it seems like I have known her all my life? She came and made everything that didn’t make sense to me, make sense. How can I come to terms with losing such a woman? I can’t.”
She nodded. “Jerry, in this life, we are always going to meet people like that. Maybe for a short moment, or maybe for a lifetime, but the truth is, we have to learn to cherish every moment we have with them, don’t ever forget to tell them that you love them and in the end, you won’t have to regret anything.” She said.
Jerry sighed. “She’ll be glad to meet you too.”
Mrs Aiyenugba nodded. “Of course.” She replied. “Jerry, make every moment count.”
“I will.” He replied.
“Have you called your mother? Else, you would have been throwing the wrong stones at Shola.”
Jerry sighed and pulled out his phone. “I am calling her now.”
“Good boy. Love your parents now that you can.” She replied.
Jerry dialled. “Hello, Mom…”
***
James handed Nora a paper. “Receipts from the bookings. Flight leaves tomorrow evening.”
Nora nodded as she stared at it. “I hope Toni enjoys this vacation.”
“I bet she will. We all will make it the best for her.” He replied and took Nora’s hand. “How are you doing?”
“I am not fine, but I guess I have to look the part of the sister that is doing fine.” Nora replied. “The Doctor says they are discharging her tomorrow morning.”
James nodded. “That’s a good thing, right?”
“Seems more like a bad thing to me. Toni doesn’t look like she is doing better, yet, they want to discharge her. It can only mean one thing.”
James waved it off. “No, babe, don’t see it that way. It could also be a better avenue for her to go home and complete the recovery. You know, sometimes, the doctors think it is better to have the patient go home for a better atmosphere.”
Nora chuckled. “Do I look like I am five? Even five-year-olds don’t believe that crap.”
James sighed. “I don’t know what else to say to you.”
“Say nothing, James. Let’s just sit and watch it all pass by.” She replied.
He nodded. “Fine. I can do that with you.” He replied as he sipped his drink. “Is Toni awake?”
“Yes. She has a guest. Jerry’s friend is with her.” She replied.
James smiled. “She can make do with all the family necessary right now.”
“I know…she needs us now more than ever…and, I need her too.” Nora said as tears rolled down her eyes.
James went over to her and hugged her.
***
“You are as amazing as Jerry says you are.” Mrs Aiyenugba said as she laughed.
Toni smiled. “I think I can be a little more amazing than I am right now.” She replied.
“Yes, I think you are.” Mrs Aiyenugba said with a smile. “I hear you are going home tomorrow.”
Toni nodded. “I am happy about it. I get to finally finish my book and go on a vacation. I am quite excited.”
Mrs Aiyenugba smiled. “You should be. You need to have fun.”
“I always do have fun…in on own little way. Jerry told me about Victoria’s Home, are you ready for it?” Toni asked.
Mrs Aiyenugba rose on her feet. “I am not ready for it. But, I don’t have any choice, besides, I don’t think it would be so bad in there. Who knows, I might pick up a new profession from there?”
“New profession?” Toni asked with a smile.
Mrs Aiyenugba nodded with a smile. “I bet there would be lots of bitter women there, I could get close to them.”
“Oh! And touch their lives? That’s noble.” Toni said with a smile.
Mrs Aiyenugba scoffed. “Not that. I would find out who they are and who their children are and why they were put in there, then, I would pass scoops to journalists and help get mud on those that have important children.”
Toni gaped as she laughed. “Seriously?”
Mrs Aiyenugba nodded. “Why not? It would act as a stress reliever for me and also earn me a few bucks.”
Toni smiled. “This is interesting…and good too.”
“See…good thing you understand.” Mrs Aiyenugba replied as she returned to her seat. “Are you planning towards a book launch?”
“I will ask Nora to help me with it.” She replied as she relaxed in her bed. “I am glad I met you.”
Mrs Aiyenugba took her hand. “Same here. I have to go now, my son is waiting to take me to the facility.”
Toni nodded as she hugged Mrs Aiyenugba. “Do take care.”
“Be strong, Toni.” She replied and walked out.
Jerry walked in almost immediately. “Hey there.” He said as he pecked her forehead. “How are you?”
Toni stared at him. “Prepared.”
“Prepared?” he asked.
She nodded. “I am getting discharged tomorrow and I still feel like this, don’t I know what it means?” she asked.
Jerry swallowed. “Toni, I…I want you to know that I am doing everything I can to-”
Toni sighed. “-Babe, let it be already. What did the Doctor say?”
He blinked. “You want me to tell you?”
She nodded. “Why not? I would like to know.”
“Erm…”
“You have to tell me the truth, you know?” she said.
He nodded. “Toni, this is hard for me, but, I won’t want anyone else to let you know this, we have tried so hard and I swear I want to try harder, I am going to do everything I can and I promise you, I am not giving up on you yet, I-”
“-Stop it. Just talk.”
He blinked as he took her hand. “They have to stop the radiotherapy because the cancer is well spread into the brain and now, we actually can’t cut it, also, further therapy is quite dangerous as we have implemented the regular dose required for this treatment and we can’t go overboard with it.” He said as he squeezed her hands. “Toni, I want you to know that there is a slight chance that the medications that you are going to be placed on from tomorrow are going to help melt the tumours and you can survive.”
She nodded. “Okay, how long do I have? Medically?”
Jerry swallowed and closed his eyes. “One week.”
“Wow!” Toni said. “Wow! Wow!” she reiterated as her eyes were wet. “One week, Jerry. Man, this is so fast.” Toni said as she looked away. Her heart raced fast. It was like a ticking bomb was tied around her waist. “Oh my God.”
Jerry took her hand. “Look at me, babe. Don’t care about what they say, okay? Babe, look here.”
Toni swallowed and stared at him. “I thought I’d have more time. I thought we’d be able to have a nice vacation and stuff, I really thought we’d enjoy the holidays.”
“Toni, it is okay to be vulnerable. Don’t hold it all in, just let it go.” Jerry said as he lifted her face to his. “You have held it in for me, for Nora, for your foundation, for everyone. Just let it go now.” He said.
Toni couldn’t hold back her tears. “I don’t want to die, Jerry. Please.” She said as she cried and wrapped her hands around him. “I am so scared, I don’t want to go.”
Jerry closed his eyes tight. This couldn’t be happening to him. He had asked Toni to let it all out and her tears frightened him. He was scared as it loomed that he was going to let her down. “I am sorry.” He said.
“Jerry, please.” She cried.
He stroked her hair. “It’s okay, Toni. It’s going to be alright. Don’t do this, please.”
She stared at him with tears. “This will pass, right?”
He nodded. “Yes, it will. It is just a phase, everything will pass.” He replied as he wiped her tears. “Don’t cry anymore, please.”
“Jerry…” she called.
“Yeah?!” he asked.
She blinked. “One week is too close, but I am going to buy me more time…because I am not going to give up easily on us, we might not have a month left, but we are going to make it memorable and special.”
Jerry stared at her looking confused.
Toni smiled. “This is it, Jerry. Nora has the tickets we need for our flight, we are going to leave tomorrow evening.”
“Are you serious?” he asked, still feeling off the place. A moment ago, she was in tears and now, she had worn another personality. “Are you okay, Toni?”
Toni nodded with a faint smile. “Right now, I just want to live the rest of these desperate days in the best way, and that’s what we are going to do. So, would you come with me?”
Jerry stared at her and nodded. “Let’s make it count.”

****
Beautiful Stranger is written by @tomi_adesina; Author of Dear Future Husband available for Free on African Stories. Follow @tomi_adesina on twitter for more thrilling stories. Her new book “All Fun and Games” also available for FREE on African Stories

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Beautiful Stranger. Episode 11

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EPISODE 11

“It’s two am. Your shift has been over since the last three hours.” Emeka said as he dropped a coffee cup on the table. “You might want to have some of that if you are going to be stuck in here all night.”
Jerry stared at him. “Man, I just need one more hour.”
“You said that an hour ago and I am sure you would say it when I return. Look, man, you have been having a success streak in the theatres in the past one week and I think it is great that you are this enthusiastic about work and reading and applying more, but don’t push your luck.” He replied.
Jerry closed his book and stared at him. “What are you trying to say?”
“Late nights. Tiring surgeries. Reading into the dead of the night. Where is your medical sense? You need to rest.”
Jerry nodded cynically. “Yeah. I have been successful in the past week and I am thankful to God for that. But there is one person I am still here for and until I find a solution for Toni, there is no way I am leaving this place.”
Emeka sighed as he leaned on the table. “I get it. You love her. She loves you but she is in a radiotherapy session and getting a lot of attention from a team of able doctors. But who is taking care of you? Look at you.”
Jerry smiled. “You are beginning to sound like a woman, man.” He said with a soft chuckle. He was expecting a smile from Emeka but none came. “Look, Emeka, I understand that you are concerned for me, but nothing is going to make sense to me until that woman I love is on her feet.”
“Food too?” Emeka asked.
Jerry sighed. “What do you want me to do?”
“You have to take care of yourself. Eat. Sleep. Then you can come back to work.” He replied.
Jerry looked away. “Emeka, she is not doing well with radiotherapy. You have seen the way the tumour multiplied…I don’t understand anything happening in that room anymore.”
“I spoke to the Director and we are thinking of merging Chemo because of the-”
“-Just stop there. I thought the whole idea of this radiation thing was to shrink the tumours formed from the cancer cells that had spread in the brain. Why are you thinking of Chemo now?” he asked, angrily.
“Jerry, you know the possibility of complications can’t be undermined in any treatment.” Emeka replied.
“You should have thought of that when you pushed for it.” Jerry replied.
Emeka sighed.
“I am sorry, man.” Jerry said. “I…I just feel so helpless right now.” Jerry replied. “I am sorry for coming at you like that.”
Emeka smiled faintly. “Well, maybe I can give you a light tilt of your new faith, Trust God.”
Jerry nodded. “I know. Thank you.”
Emeka took a seat. “Jerry, what we know is we are doing everything we can and Toni is fighting hard too… Don’t worry about it, man. It’ll all be alright.” He replied.
Jerry nodded. “I am fighting too… And if this is my way of fighting, please allow me fight for her.” He replied and focused on his book.
“I won’t you let you fall apart, bro.” Emeka said as he hugged Jerry.
Jerry couldn’t hold back his tears and he let them flow freely.
***
“Good morning, Toni.” Emeka greeted as he drew the curtains back.
Toni turned her face away from the light. “I don’t want the light.” She muttered.
Emeka nodded and drew them back. “How are you feeling today?”
“Not too good. I am getting closer, right?” she asked.
Emeka took a deep breath. “I have to keep you optimistic. That has been going well for you for a long time now and you can’t give up.”
Toni sighed. “Optimism is tiring.” She said with a soft chuckle.
“It means you should still hang on.” He replied. “I saw Nora on my way here. She is down the hallway.”
Toni smiled faintly. “This would be hard on her…but then, she has got James.”
“…what about Jerry?” Emeka asked.
Toni struggled to breath. “I don’t know. He has been doing well with surgeries, I am happy for him.”
“Who is going to take care of him?” he asked.
Toni smiled. “Are you also terminally ill?” she asked as she managed a smile. “Daily doses are killing me. When would this treatment be over?” she asked with leery eyes.
“I need you to put more effort into this, Toni. Don’t go giving up now.” He replied.
She nodded. “I am fighting for as long as I can, but when my time is up, Emeka, my time is up.” She replied as she gripped his hand.
He took a deep breath. “How is the book coming?”
She reached for a journal which fell carelessly from her hand. “I am sorry.”
Emeka picked it up. “It’s okay. You’ll be fine, I know it.”
“I am almost done with the novel.” She replied. “Coming slowly but surely, but eventually, I’ll be done.”
“It’s an autobiography of you.” He said as he opened the book.
Toni winked. “I thought I’d hype myself a little. I mean, if I don’t do that…who will?”
“Jerry.”
Toni smiled. “I love that man.”
“He loves you too.”
The door opened and Nora walked in with James. “Hello everyone.” She greeted as she walked over to give Toni a kiss. “How are you, darling?”
“I am fine.” Toni replied.
Emeka rose to his feet. “I’ll leave you all alone. And guys, you have just fifteen minutes with her. I need her to rest.” He said and walked out.
Nora took her seat beside Toni. “You look tired.”
“I am tired.” Toni replied.
James sighed. “This should be the last week of the dosage right?”
“Yeah. I can’t wait for it to be over.” She replied.
Nora took her hand with a smile. “I’m thinking we should travel when you leave this place. We could go to some resort. Enjoy a new air, you know?”
Toni smiled faintly. “You know what I want to do when I get out of here?”
“What?” Nora asked.
“Be with Jerry.”
James and Nora cooed with a smile. “Now, I am jealous.” Nora said.
Toni smiled. “You don’t have to be…James is here with you.”
“Yeah, babe…smile.” James said as he kissed Nora’s cheek.
Toni cleared her throat. “You haven’t asked about my book.”
“Oh, come on, Toni…I was going to. Nora replied as she picked the journal. “How’s it coming?”
Toni smiled. “Almost over. “I don’t have the strength to write with much gusto as before, but I still try.”
“You can leave the book for now while you concentrate on your treatment.” Nora replied.
Toni smiled. “The book is doing a lot for me.”
Nora stared at it and then at Toni. “I spoke to the lawyer.”
Toni cleared her throat. “What did he say?”
“He is coming in tomorrow.”
Toni nodded with a faint smile. “That’s sounds nice.”
James stared at Toni. “Toni?”
“Yeah…” she replied tiredly.
“Can I have a moment with you in private?” he asked.
Nora looked at him with some concern. “Uh?”
Toni nodded. “Please, excuse us.”
Nora stepped out.
“How is she?” Toni asked.
James shook his head. “Bad. She doesn’t sleep at night and she is always crying.”
“I thought you said you would move in with her?” Toni asked, with some concern.
He nodded. “I already did. Not helping matters. All she does is talk about how God already has your parents and that He doesn’t need to take you too.”
Toni smiled. “Oh well…I see she has started saying the same things to you too… Honestly, Nora is the best sister in the world. She is strong. She is a fighter and a lover. She is a woman I look up to a lot and she might not know it now, but, she is phenomenal and I tell you, you are getting a goldmine for a woman. Don’t mess it up.”
James exhaled as he took her hand. “Are… Are you not scared?”
She chuckled. “Of what? What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Come here.” James said as he hugged her tight.
***
“Good job, Doctor Jerry.” A Nurse said as they came out of the theatre.
He nodded as he dismissed her. Emeka approached him. “How was the surgery?”
“Fine. The Nurses are taking care of the rest.” He replied as they started to walk. “How is Toni? Has she had her dose for today?”
Emeka nodded. “Yes. I was wondering why you haven’t been to see her in days.”
“Did she talk about it?” Jerry asked.
Emeka shook his head. “No. But, it is a little disturbing, don’t you think?”
“I want to show up when I have good news for her. All you guys have done is give her a reason to know it is over, I want to go there when there is some hope.” Jerry replied.
Emeka sighed. “Jerry, don’t be silly. You have to go and see her today.”
“I just want to have good news for her. Is that too much to ask?” Jerry asked.
Emeka blinked. “Do you know Toni at all?”
Jerry looked away.
“Man, this is not the time to play the hero. Go and meet her.” Emeka replied and walked away.
Nora approached Jerry. “Hey!”
“Hi. How are you?” Jerry asked with a smile.
Nora shrugged. “I don’t know. How are you?”
He smiled faintly. “I don’t know too.”
“I guess you have been really swamped.” She said.
He nodded. “I am trying to find some answers somewhere.”
“Toni is not doing better. I can feel it. Her spirit is down.” Nora started as she took a seat. Jerry sat beside her. “She is giving up, Jerry…and there are tonnes of things we haven’t done together, you know?”
Jerry blinked.
Nora sniffled as she continued. “Our weddings. Baby showers. Vacations. I mean, real vacations without any worries or fears. Mountain climbing. Bungee jumping. Sky diving. Surfing. We haven’t done these things, Jerry. We may never do them,”
“You don’t look like an adventurous person to me.” Jerry said with a smile.
Nora nudged him in the waist. “You sounded like Toni just now.”
Jerry chuckled. “She does have that effect on us all, right?”
“Yeah…I love her so much. She is my strength.” She replied as she wiped her eyes.
Jerry exhaled. “I think we should do something lovely for her.”
“Such as?” Nora asked.
He stared at her. “Throw a party?”
“Oh please! Toni would call it a farewell party.” Nora said smiling. “And trust me, she is going to ruin that party.” She added.
Jerry nodded slowly. “Or, we could actually go on a vacation. South Africa?” he suggested.
“Nah. We’ve combed that country…well, not on vacation.” She replied.
He shrugged. “Or we could go to Calabar. Obudu.”
“Now, that’s an option.” She replied with a smile. “We should tell Toni about it. She would love it.” Nora said as she rose to her feet.
He nodded. “I’ll join you there.” He said
“Okay.” Nora replied and walked away.
***
“He still won’t come?” Toni asked as Nora read through a magazine.
Nora closed it. “I think he is really busy.”
“You guys need to pull Jerry together.” Toni replied.
Nora sighed. “I think he is fine. He is just occupied with a lot of work. Besides, what did you discuss with James?”
Toni smiled. “Personal.”
“Really?” Nora asked. “You know we are sisters.”
Toni nodded. “It’s not working for me. Sorry.”
Nora sighed. “So…what do you think about a vacation after the last session?”
Toni shrugged. “Like I told you earlier, I really don’t care about it.”
“Yeah…yeah…because you want to be with Jerry…but, what if Jerry would go with us on the vacation?” Nora asked.
Toni smiled. “You would do that for me?”
“It’s his idea.” Nora replied.
Toni folded her arms. “Jerry’s idea? Really? He did say something about vacation?”
“Why are you finding it so hard to believe?” Nora asked.
Toni giggled. “I didn’t think you all were that exciting.”
“We could make it a vacation for the four of us. You, me, Jerry and James. We would spend a lot of money and have a lot of fun too.”
Toni nodded with a smiles. “That works for me.”
“Great! We have a date then. I would start scheduling everything for the trip.” She said with excitement. “Where would you love to go to?”
Toni stared at Nora. “I don’t know really.”
The door opened and Jerry walked in with a smile. “Hi.”
“Hey!” Toni replied. “Come and give me a hug!” she ordered. “Who is ‘Hi’?” she said with a grin.
Jerry smiled as he hugged her.
“You can let go now.” Toni said with a chuckle.
Jerry stared at her. “I am guessing Nora has told you about the vacation…”
Toni nodded with a smile. “Really? Are we going to have the vacation?”
“Yes, where do you want to go?” he asked.
Toni stared at them. “Guys, we have to do everything fun on that vacation. From Bungee jumping to sky diving. It has to rock!”
Nora stared at her. “Err…I guess you are forgetting something.”
“And what could that be?” Toni asked.
Nora pointed to the bed. “We can’t have you jumping up and down.”
Jerry nodded. “She is right.”
“But we still go on the vacation, right?” Toni asked.
“Sure!” Jerry and Nora replied at once and then laughed.
There was a light tap on the door and the Director walked in. “Everyone is all smiles here. That’s impressive.”
Toni smiled. “We could all be happy.”
The Director nodded. “Exactly.” He then turned towards Jerry. “Could I please steal Doctor Jerry for a couple of minutes?”
Jerry rose to his feet as he smiled at Toni. “I’ll be right back.”
“Have him for as long as you want.” Toni replied.
Jerry pecked her on the forehead and walked out with the Director.
“Now what trouble has he gotten himself into?” Toni asked.
Nora folded her arm. “Come on, he is a Doctor and that is his Director and this is their hospital… It has to be work related.”
“My instincts tell me that he is in trouble.” Toni replied.
Nora sighed. “Oh come on… No one ever admits that their instincts could be wrong.”
“Well, mine isn’t.” Toni replied.
Nora sighed as she took a seat

“So what do you think, sir?” Jerry asked with a smile.
The Director greeted his smile with a stern frown. “What do you think you are doing, Jerry?”
Jerry looked in the direction of Toni’s room. “I remember staying off her case. What have I done?”
“I am not talking about her. I am talking about Mrs Aiyenugba. What do you think you are doing?” he asked.
Jerry took a deep breath. “Mrs Aiyenugba is my friend.”
“She is someone’s daughter and grandmother and our patient before being your friend.” He shouted.
Jerry exhaled. “What is the matter?”
“The matter is Mrs Aiyenugba’s SAN of a son is threatening to sue my hospital if you don’t produce his mother.” The Director replied.
Jerry sighed. “That…that is not my decision to make.”
“Excuse me?” The Director probed.
Jerry nodded in defiance. “Mrs Aiyenugba happens to enjoy where she is living at the moment. It is of no use to send her to a family that don’t want her.”
“That would be for her and her family to decide. We have done our part and that is treating her so you are going to let her family do the rest which, again I say, is not our duty.” The Director replied.
Jerry nodded. “Okay.”
“I want you to take care of this matter today.” He said and walked away.
Jerry sighed and returned into Toni’s room.
“So, what did you do?” Toni asked as he walked in.
Nora hissed. “Leave the man alone, Toni. Do we all have to do wrong?” she asked.
“It’s about my housemate.” He replied.
Toni grinned at Nora. “Told you.”
“The hospital wants me to get her out of my house, but her family don’t want her, so it seems pointless.” He replied.
“You have a housemate?” Toni asked.
He nodded. “Mrs Aiyenugba. She is an elderly woman.”
Toni sighed. “Thank God.”
Jerry chuckled as he took his seat. “I should tell you all about her.”
“Yes, you should.” Toni replied.
Nora picked up her purse. “I want to take a walk. I’ll be right back guys.”
Toni blinked. “I’ll be here.”
Nora nodded and walked out.
“She wants to go and cry.” Toni said.
Jerry stared at her. “No. It’s a walk.”
“No. she is going to shed some tears.” She replied.
Jerry raised an eyebrow. “How can you be so sure?”
“I am sure.” She replied.
Jerry rose to his feet. “In that case, I think I should go and check on her.”
“No. She will be fine.” Toni replied. “And let’s look on the brighter side, shedding tears actually washes microorganisms from the eyes.” She said with a smile.
Jerry nodded with a smile. “I love you, Toni.”
She smiled back. “And I love you, Jerry.”
***
Nora wanted the vacation more than anyone. She wanted a new air…some respite for her soul. As she sat in the garden, she watched as Nurses or family members wheeled patients around for some air. She wanted someone to wheel her around. She didn’t want to think about Toni for a minute. She just wanted to be happy…she didn’t want to expect the worst. She wanted to live in denial for a day…maybe a day was pushing her luck. She thought. An hour seemed just fine. If she could just live the next hour without thinking about Toni, maybe she would be fine.
She knew she wasn’t going to be fine. These things don’t just go away. She raised her head to the sky as she fought back tears, the more she tried, the more her throat hurt. She felt pain. Maybe no one really knew how she felt. She cried.
***
“It is pointless, guys, I am not having this conversation.” Jerry said as he knotted his neck tie.
Emeka stared at Mrs Aiyenugba. “I have told you he won’t listen.”
“Jerry, I understand you don’t want to see me go, but if they are threatening to sue the Hospital, you should understand. It could also cost you your job.”
“I’ll get another.” Jerry replied.
Emeka sighed. “Bull-headed cock!”
Jerry laughed. “Bull? Cock? Dude?”
Emeka blinked as he looked away. He was so angry that he didn’t know that he had not put the words out rightly. However tacky Jerry thought it sounded, he had made his point clear. Jerry was being adamant.
“Jerry, I know how much you care about me, but my son can be a real pain. I know that first hand.” Mrs Aiyenugba said. “You don’t want him throwing his Legal weights around.”
Jerry shrugged. “I can’t be bothered. No one will take you to that facility against your will.”
“But I hear it is a fine place. Just that I would be surrounded by old people… And I am old too.” She said with a smile. “Let me go.”
Emeka swallowed. “Come on, man. The Director expects you to have sorted this out yesterday. We shouldn’t go to work today with a negative answer for him.”
“At least, let her meet Toni before she leaves. We would take her in the evening.” Jerry said with a frown.
Mrs Aiyenugba smiled. “Thank you. I can’t wait to meet her.”
“It’s okay.” Jerry said as he took a deep breath. “I would be back to pick you at lunch time.”
The doorbell chimed. Emeka opened it. He was forced back by Police officers.
“Doctor Jerry?”
Jerry stepped forward. “What is it?”
“You are under arrest.” The officer said flashing a warrant before him.

****
Beautiful Stranger is written by @tomi_adesina; Author of Dear Future Husband available for Free on African Stories. Follow @tomi_adesina on twitter for more thrilling stories. Her new book “All Fun and Games” also available for FREE on African Stories

Other Posts on African Stories
Love on the 25th by Uneñ Ameji
Beautiful Stranger by Tomi Adesina
All Fun and Games by Tomi Adesina
Life of a Barack Boy by Ojay Aito

Love on the 25th – Season Finale

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Hey guys!
So sorry for weeks of absence…lot of work and script writing….yes, yes… got a scripting gig and it’s been great – just out of lies stories..but will keep you posted…when dem act am….hehehe.

So today is final episode of Love on the 25th… after months of writing about Debbie Black and Vince Fatasho, we rest their bitter-sweet story. Do comment…let’s know what think, your own ending version and share ….

Enjoy!

Episode 17. Season Finale
Timothy Benjamin Dickson was a vengeful man. No one crossed him and remained within close radius – if life was precious. Victoria Motosho knew better than to have let him live after she pulled a handgun on him and his ugly mistress demanding for her daughter 16 years ago. But it happened that Ben who wasn’t a cat still found a way to survive bullets sprayed in his midsection; a miracle that left Victoria fleetingly in mortal fear of a strike back and an unhealthy appetite for cold revenge after she found out that he was alive and had killed her best friend. The strike back never happened.

The look of shock and loud scream from the ugly woman Ben had left her for fueled her confidence and hatred as she held them at gun point on that dark fateful night. The ugly woman who had been cocky and annoyingly displaying a self-satisfied smug prompted a heartbroken Victoria to whip out the shiny weapon she had obtained from her father’s old box. Ben’s thick lips that Victoria loved had tightened when she waved it at the ugly woman who suffered from acute color blindness; bidding her to let her tongue wag one more time.
“Put the gun away” he had commanded firmly as his bleached mistress stood like Lot’s wife – a pillar of poisonous salt. Victoria had raised it with the intention of shooting her thighs but then Ben made an unplanned move to collect the gun from her trembling hands. An involuntary press of the trigger as they struggled and a bullet was logged in the ugly woman’s chest. She slumped on the black settee, almost in slow motion, lifeless body devoid of sound sprawling obscenely as blood soaked through her flowery shirt and yellow pants.
Ben ran to her, knelt beside her, jerking her dangling head and getting soaked with her abnormally red blood that gushed from her left breast as he called her name with tears stinging his eyes, his voice for the first time cracking and catching in his throat. He loved her – Victoria had come to realize as she stood afraid of what she had done.
He buried his head in her neck as he cried and pleaded for her to come back. Victoria should have left but she couldn’t bring herself to move. Victoria didn’t know how long she stood there until Ben came charging towards her in rage and she knew there was only one option. She raised the gun, closed her eyes and released strays of bullet into his wide chest and thick legs as he approached, tears falling from her eyes. She should have listened to her father.
“He is no good” he had told her on his death bed. But she didn’t listen.
His heavy body fell to the ground with a loud thump and Victoria stood in the cold room with the gun hanging from her hand as she looked at the dead bodies. Just as she made to leave, the stillness was interrupted by a teenage boy who opened the front door and stepped into the room albeit gingerly. He stared at the bodies and a look of recognition registered in his eyes as they stared at themselves.
“Alama’s mother” he said out loud. She buried a bullet in his head. She couldn’t afford loose ends. She had come to get her daughter but a murderer she had become. She stood, the bodies littered around her as their warm blood leaked out of the remaining of what was once alive. Weak and afraid of what she had done, she hurried out of the house, the bloody scene and smell of warm blood threatening to overcome her sanity, the need to retch overpowering her being. She rushed out.
The old gateman who tried to get a glimpse of the night visitor was given away by creak of the rusty door of his gatehouse. A bullet had entered the old gateman’s head as he begged, stopping his words forever.
She remembered everything.
The look of fear in her tiny ugly eyes, the angry look on Ben’s face as he charged towards her, the arrogant stare from the teenage boy and the last words from the dark lips of the old gateman
“Madam, please….I get children”
Time of murder – 10:55pm.

****
She opened her weary eyes as she always did when she couldn’t sleep. After 16 years, she still regretted the killings but knew she would not hesitate to put a bullet in his head if she ever set her eyes on him again. A cheat and a rogue, Ben had taken her for a fool, leaving her penniless and without a daughter. The days she had begged for contracts and favors on goodwill, selling her body to her so-called father’s friends for funds to execute government contracts but it had paid off in the end; an end that did not justify the means. She had come to understand that there were no endings – just series of unfortunate events with transient happy moments interlaced with unending days of regrets, fear and pogoing hope. Life as it were was nothing but just time and moments – there were no justifications.

The killings were never unraveled but she had been contacted after the bodies were found twelve hours after the shooting. An overbearing inspector with his timid partner had found her in her Lagos home 48 hours after the murder. She had driven back to Lagos from Benin the night of the murder and had gone straight to Kaita’s house. Dumping the gun in a small pool of water across a mini bridge as she drove on the lonely road at midnight, she wept for her missing baby, the lives she had taken and the children of the old guard. She wept because she had lost everything and he had chosen the worthless ugly woman in the end. Kaita, her best friend had taken one look at her and dragged her in without questions.

The ill-mannered policeman with beady accusatory fowl eyes reiterated that her daughter was still missing; her husband and his new ‘wife’, a teenage boy and an old security man had been murdered in cold blood at his Benin residence and she was the prime suspect. She knew he was buffing and like a shark circling, he smelled blood but couldn’t prove it. A play out of emotions of one who was suffering the anguish of a missing child, hatred her husband but still human enough to tear at the news was appropriate and Victoria played the part to perfection. There was no way she was going down for the crime when her daughter was still out there.

Kaita, a renowned lawyer stepped in when the crass inspector asked for Victoria to remain silent and cuffed her to the station with mere suspicions and few witnesses’ account of seeing Victoria two days before murder asking for her daughter in the street with flyers of a child. With a lawyer as an alibi and legal representative, it wasn’t long before the case fizzled out after series of appearances in court. In the cause of investigation and thanks to Kaita’s digging skills, it was discovered that Ben had embezzled millions of Naira of a very dangerous man in the creeks that couldn’t be named. It was also established that Ben had swindled Victoria of her inheritance along with other persons who were faceless. Soon the case quickly turned to one with more suspects than admissible – ‘above-the-law’ kind of suspects. Ben became the fraudulent dead man who killed his family and guard because of his recklessness and unmatched greed. Ben’s stash however was never found and the inconsequential amount in his accounts was frozen by the court. The case was dismissed.
“Give it time to breathe and we can check back” a determined Kaita to unravel where Ben hid his stash had told Victoria as she drove her to the Murtala Mohammed Airport after she was acquitted and was on her way to her home country – Ghana.

All was quiet until Kaita stumbled on a keg of gun powder 5 years later and was murdered few days to exposing the rot that was buried deep in the Nigerian Stock Exchange and big stalwarts in Government.

Ben was not dead.

A silent investor using a new name, Ben controlled companies worth billions Naira with subs that did whatever they were told. Not one to stay in a place long enough to reveal identity, Ben was steadily on the move and rise to acquire businesses across Africa with pseudo names. Kaita had found out the stunning discovery when one of her clients complained of shares bought in a company that had been declared non-performing by the Nigerian Stock Exchange and wanted to sue the company along with other investors who bought. His investments to the tune of five million Naira had gone down the economic drain and he wanted it back at or to be compensated. The story was that FAT Communications had issued IPOs – Initial Public Offers for the company clearly with the intention of not reporting to the NSE quarterly as stipulated. After 6 years, the company alongside others was declared non-performing, investors didn’t get a single kobo on shares bought because “they were supposed to share in the risk” and worst off, they couldn’t recover their investments. Their lives savings, borrowed funds and seed money was gone and they wanted Kaita to represent them.

Kaita, the notorious digger had dug deep into the company and discovered monumental dirt in the modus operandi of the perpetrators. These companies had the Director-General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange in their pockets and as such could default without any slap on the wrist. More also, not only was FAT Communications a cover up company, four other companies on the list of the non-performing companies had the same chairman – A Tim Bent.

Kaita, dogged, continued to track down the evasive man until an old copy of his passport stared at her from the laptop of the clerk she had seduced with her fine legs and a promised bed rump after work.
Tim Bent was no other person than Timothy Benjamin Dickson.
Victoria was the first to know and together they had worked on how to expose the system that sold shares to unsuspecting public for the purpose of raising millions for personal gain and Victoria – with the sole aim of destroying Ben.

But sadly, few days after Kaita had an incriminating document she wouldn’t show Victoria, she was taken off the 3rd Mainland Bridge by a truck – one belonging to one of the companies under investigation. An autopsy after refusal of company to pay huge compensation demanded by Kaita’s firm revealed enormous dose of cocaine in her system. The case had not only destroyed her reputation as the best female lawyer in the country, it had also left Victoria mad with grief and ambition to take Ben down at all cost, even if it were the last thing on earth she’d do. Now, Victoria decided was a good time to contest ownership of the company – Zenith Group and expose him for what he truly is – evil in human form.

Tim Bent owned 70% of Zenith Group with a miserly 30% shared between unknown fronters including Abel Fatasho, her father’s P.A before her father died and she had married Ben. It took Hanna Towel, Victoria’s new forensic accountant 2 years to dig out and trail Ben’s investments across Africa and in the UK but Ben remained ‘dead’.

There was simply no trace of his existence.

Whether he was alive or his ghost existed, Victoria was going to make him pay for his crimes. She might have pulled the trigger that ended lives but he had gone long enough wrecking more havoc and needed nemesis badly. If she was a hypocrite, then so be it. Victoria was ready to bare the economic rot he had long cultivated and take her pound of flesh. If he thought he had powers at the top, she had garnered alliances from top officials and international bodies….this time; Victoria was ready to see the nail go down his coffin – firmly.
It was her life ambition. It was time.

The long talk with Alama now Debbie Black revealed she had worked with the Group and had a fling with Abel’s second son. Victoria had smiled at the new name her little princess had given herself and admired her strategy for survival – she was really her father’s daughter. Alama had no idea of the power at play and the recount of her life had Victoria pasting a wide white smile as Alama continued to jab away on her friends, work and achievements. Did Abel know Alama – now Debbie was Ben’s daughter? Was Ben aware she was alive and working in his company? If so, what was his plan? He always had a plan and Victoria was sure Alama was going to be caught in between them once again.

She lied when she told Alama her father was dead because she wanted her daughter to smile, to stop the tears that flowed but mostly because she desperately wanted him to be. She hoped for both of them that Ben was indeed dead and that someone was acting on his behalf or impersonating him. Despite the task at hand, Victoria was thankful for the wedding interview – she had found her daughter. And now, she waited for tomorrow – Alama’s wedding day before flying to Abuja to go see Abel to make her demands. God help them. God keep her.
A smile at the thought of witnessing her baby girl walk down the aisle as she dropped her legs on the cold tiles tugged the corners of her mouth. Her phone rang. It was Alama. She smiled and picked it.
“Hey baby”
“Mum, Mum!” Alama called in panic. Her voice is shrill like she has seen a ghost. Victoria was sitting up as fast as she could.
“Yes Alama, what is it?”
“He is alive, He is alive” she said in quick breath.
“Where? Baby, where?” Victoria asked, panicking as she thought of the worst that Ben could do to her baby just to spite her.
“With my boss, with his son, I don’t know..I can’t be here. I am sorry the wedding is off” her voice barely in whispers.
“Calm down baby” she calmed her.
“I will find you” she said as she swallowed a sob and ended the call.
“Hello? Alama! Alama?” she called, staring at the dead phone in her hand.
Victoria Motosho knew Alama had slipped past her fingers once more and as always Ben was the denominator.
It was time to face Ben and face him squarely.

****
Vince

Her eyes closed, long lashes fanning her flushed cheeks and tempting swollen pink lips. Head on white soft pillow and hand placed delicately along her curved hips, she slept peacefully and I resisted the urge to wake her up for another romp. Watching her even breathing, I couldn’t resist anymore and planted a kiss on her warm soft lips as her eyes fluttered open. She woke up with a sad smile.
“Hi” I smiled as she looked sleepy and blinked to focus on me. I placed light kisses on the tip of her nose and she purred, smiling.
The sound of light rain caused her to turn, the movement revealing her pebble-like nipples on healthy sturdy breasts. I could see the receding love bite from my sucking and I smiled recalling her eagerness, hot dirty talk as she rode me and her twenty seconds blackout. She had screamed into my mouth as we came together and I felt the flimsy material between us rip as I filled her with my essence.
“Hey beautiful” I said, dipping my head to give her a full kiss. The room was dark and cold, the Air Conditioner humming in distance as we moaned, sucking and kissing. I could kiss her all day.
“I have to go” she choked after the passionate kiss, looking at me with unfathomable eyes. I didn’t know what she was thinking and the fact that she showed no emotion made me flinch.
“No, you don’t” I murmured as I tried to drag her soft warm body under me but she twisted free, standing up and going to the bathroom. I followed her.
“Really Vince, you don’t need a bath” she said as I joined her in the shower. Silence followed as we took turns washing each other and she smiled, shaking her head as I pressed her up against the glass wall.
“Someone is determined to get me pregnant” she said as she felt me slip my fingers in her tight love hole before going down on her. She had insisted on condoms right from the start and I had obliged her. It wasn’t my fault it ripped. I simply wasn’t built for condoms. After a thrashing orgasm from my mouth, I was determined to leave a piece of me in her and I plunged in, deeper, without a single thought of retracting until the deed was done.
“You are mine, only mine” I said as I pushed into her womb, standing and bracing her legs up. Her squeal and tightening of her legs round my waist, flexing of her vaginal muscles became too much for me as we went at it slow, raw lust building up as I fed her; and then she had shattered in my arms; crying and clinging to me. I came unexpectedly as we stilled; each afraid of moving, holding on to the moment. I was spent, sedated but surprisingly hard again in few seconds. This was too much.
“You have to get that sorted and don’t you dare come close” she laughed as she came down from her climax and felt me growing hard in her canal. Unhooking her legs, she moved away for a thorough bath. Words were not exchange afterwards as we washed; looking at each other and smiling.
“Marry me” I asked as I relished the feeling of teasing her pebbles on firm flesh.
“I am not going to leave you” I said with profound determination as her silence washed over me. Pressing into her and trailing kisses under her earlobe, she remained stiff but gradually got excited again as I sunk my index finger in her. I couldn’t resist – I had her again.
“What time is it?” she asked as we finished ‘bathing’ for the umpteenth time, getting into her jeans and looking around for her bra.
“Let me help you with that” I said going behind her and slowly putting it on but holding it lose as my hands covered her firm round breasts that were defying my persistent attention to cause them to fall.
“Vince, stop it. It is not a toy” she said trying to push my hands away
“Are you sure? Coz I am pretty sure I could play with them all days” I said tweaking the already hardening nubs.
“I can’t do this right now” she snapped as she walked over to where her shirt lay on the sofa.
“I am sorry….I just can’t get enough of you” I said as emotion caught in my throat. Never did a woman get under my skin this deep and the thought that she was walking down the aisle in less than twenty-four hours caused me great discomfort. It also made me feel less of a blockhead for what I was about to do. A desperate man really could be a foolish man. I had no idea of what I intended to achieve but doing nothing to stop the wedding would be waiting to be spoon-fed.
“Do you love me?” I couldn’t believe the words had come out of my mouth as I watched her adjust her shirt in the mirror. She froze, not turning to look at me. Few seconds passed as she found her bag and walked around the room almost too afraid to acknowledge I had spoken as she picked her phone.
“I asked you a question Alama” I pushed and she turned to face me; her eyes begging to be let off the question.
“I need to know” I pressed as I noticed her lips clamping together.
“Debbie?” I called, reaching out to her.
“Vince, I can’t”
“Do you feel anything for me? Some kind of connection, likeness, love maybe?” I asked standing in her front, almost begging her to let me know what she was thinking. It seemed like she only wanted me for sex and then couldn’t get away fast enough once it was over. It was unfair to have these feelings and not have them reciprocated.
“Even if I did, what would be the point?” she said looking straight at me, then dropping her eyes.
“Marry me Debbie” I asked again, tilting her chin to look at me. Her eyes watered and her lips tightened; I could feel her heartbeat and noticed the uneasiness in her breathing. I could see the conflict of emotions in her eyes, fear, desire and loyalty.
“I am getting married to Kole in less than 24 hours” she finally answered, looking at the door. She had decided. I watched her as she walked out of the room but not before long heard her gasp.
“Caleb”
I closed my eyes.
“You are such an a**hole” I muttered underneath my breath as I followed her out, grabbing a shirt on my way.
Perhaps a meeting of ex-husband and soon-to-be husband might just stop wedding.
I could only hope.

****
Debbie

For the umpteenth time, I wondered what was wrong with me as I rode him hard, twisting and gyrating for all I was worth. I couldn’t get him out of my system and the fact that I transform into some devious sexual being whenever I was with him confounded my confusion. Why Vince? Why did I have to get mushy and brainless the moment I’m left in the room with him? To say he is the best I ever had would be an understatement. He was firm, long, big, curved and his measured strokes took my breath away. He knew his way around my body and I didn’t care if he had 10,000 hours practice with 10,000 women to get it right every single time. I lost it when his lips found mine and all I could think about was having him.
“You have to stop this wanton behavior. This isn’t you” my inner Being said, frowning in disapproval as I voiced phrases that would put the highest porn star to shame. Using the last ounce of self-control, I stopped and made to climb off him but he was quick to anticipate my move. He switched and I was on my back before I could blink. Thoughts flew out of my head as he drove in with one purpose. Domination. I blanked out as I came and I felt him rip the protection I was counting on.

His lips taking mine hours later woke me up and I felt my treacherous body respond in a way I knew would cause me to misbehave again. His hands, his hard-soft body and lips tempted me as we showered until he asked if I loved him and repeated I marry him. His continuous chant of the two-word sentence was beginning to get personal and serious. I freaked out. Hurrying out to the sitting room to escape the tensed atmosphere, and there he was. Sitting with his back to me, I knew even before he turned. I felt my lungs collapse and my throat clamp up as I watched him turn.
“Caleb?” I called. I couldn’t believe he was sitting here after so many years. My legs needed support at this point and I found myself leaning on to the sofa in the large live-in space.
“Alama?” he called, his eyes meeting mine. A smile? A confused look?
“Caleb. Why are you here?” was all I could come up with. The questions were whispered and my heart beating so fast I had to consciously tell myself to calm down.
“I thought you were dead” he said standing up and advancing slowly. I raised my hand to stop him.
“You left me.” I said in a strange high pitched voice. Like the frightened 16 years old who was left in the fire.
“I..” he couldn’t find the words.
“I am sorry” he whispered as I waited for him to explain why he deserted me. Why he wasn’t with me in the burning hut. Why he let me suffer knowing I was carrying his child, our child.
“What are you doing here?” I repeated, my eyes filling with salted water. Vince had told me Caleb was with him in his message but seeing him here was overwhelming. What was his plan? To reconcile us? To get a confession from me? From Caleb? Surely it was just a ploy to get me in bed and it worked. I wasn’t angry, I felt cornered.
“Mr. Vincent” he said looking anxious and uncertain as he lifted his eyes to the approaching figure. I knew without looking back that Vince was standing behind me. When did he let Caleb in? Most probably when I was sleeping. And for how long was he here? Did he hear me scream? I shifted on the sofa as I gathered my thoughts.

Vince went straight to the bar across the room and got a glass of spiked vodka for himself eyeing both of us, and just as he screwed the lid back, a knock sounded on the door.
“Right about time” he said without looking at me, questions on who he was expecting and what he wanted to achieve with the ambush trapped in my throat. He walked over to the door and opened it. I saw his body tense before I heard a familiar voice. A voice that would change the course of events.
“We need to talk right now” it was an angry Mr. Fatasho. What was Mr. Fatasho doing here? I tried to process the connection between my wedding Kole, Caleb and Mr. Fatasho and came out blank.
“Tobi can host the government official father” Vince sounded pissed and I wondered what was going on. Caleb sat looking at me quietly and I stood up, uncomfortable at his silent direct stares. I approached the door and decided to find out what was the cause of the raucous exchange.
“Good evening sir” I greeted sweetly and a flick of alarm registered on his face. He looked like ashen; like a blow had been delivered in his midsection; and as he glanced beside him, my eyes followed his to the subject of his agitation. A mass of living body occupying gold plated wheelchair stared back at me.

My heart literally lurched; fear, anger and an emotion I knew as hatred flushed down my body all in one second.
A look of shock etched on his lined face and dimpled nose, I saw the proud man I knew as my father seated in a wheelchair with a pregnant young woman; his hair white, lips drawn to the side imitating a sardonic smile and a little glint in his eyes. If I wasn’t any wiser, I would have concluded he was happy to see me but I knew better. This was the man who was responsible for a terrible childhood, this was the man I wanted dead, this was the man who was dead yesterday but today lives. This was the man who changed my life before and who had the power to change it yet again.

What was the connection here? What did Vince and his father have to do with my father? And how did they all get here? Caleb, my father and just as I lifted my eyes….I saw Kole at the landing of the stairs few meters from the door.
It was official. There was no way I was going ahead with the wedding.
Just in a second, what took me sixteen years to forget was staring at me in the face and this time it wasn’t any different. I did what I knew how to do.
I ran.

****
Kole

I knew without being told that she was with Vince the moment her line rang off repeatedly. The text from Vince after the fourth ring confirmed it. Although it barely stated why he was inviting me to his apartment, the vague message from Vince was all I was hoping to avoid few hours to my first wedding. It was obvious that Debbie had tuned out since the Alex episode and whatever I said afterwards evoked passive of smiles, the signed agreement serving to divide us further. The little spark that existed between us was long gone and we were going ahead with the wedding because it was too late to stop and I, hoping for a fresh start and giving my sexual orientation a break.
How did Vince get my number though? That wasn’t an issue with Debbie’s phone on her person. I was furious and as I got ready, I vowed he wasn’t getting away this time without a disjointed jaw. Taking two hours off the guys to “go sort out some issues”, I drove roughly to the address. Alex had gone MIA and wasn’t returning my calls. I had to make sure he wasn’t going to try some crazy stunt at my wedding tomorrow. Perhaps he was why Vince had invited me to his apartment – I hoped not.

The drive to Ikoyi took the last shred of patience and as soon as I found a suitable parking spot, I was out fuming and eager to put the little boy in his place.
My phone buzzed. An email from Alex.
I knew the content of the mail before opening, call it premonition and you’d be right. Taking a deep breath, I opened it nonetheless.
Get married and I will release our love video” an email
Staring at me as attachments were sex videos. Alex, a weirdo had recorded one of our session because ‘it kept him warm’ and wanted to get kicks from editing the footage. But from the attachments, he probably must have recorded more sessions. I felt heat climb up my neck and took a moment to take in air. I sent a reply instantly.
I will be there in 1 hour. Don’t do anything rash” I replied.
I cursed my addiction to the fine specimen…Alex was going to be my downfall, I knew it and yet I couldn’t wait to get to his apartment – mostly to ‘reassure’ him of my love the only way I knew how.
‘There goes my bachelor’s eve’ I muttered as I looked up the apartment number from Vince’s message.
‘Get her and leave’ I muttered again all the way to the 1st floor chastising myself for thinking she was with him and using the stairs to work up anger.
And then I saw her.
Her face red, like she faced a furnace, as she ran down the stairs as fast as her legs could carry her. A look at the little group at the door of the apartment told me they were responsible for the tensed atmosphere and they stared back at me as Vince dashed past me in hot pursuit.
“Debbie! Debbie!!” he called as he ran after her.
I briefly considered asking what Mr. Fatasho what was going on but decided against it and I followed suit.
“Debbie!” I called as I ran down the stairs but she was already out of the mini estate and had waved down a taxi.
“Debbie! Listen, I had nothing to do with whatever that was back there” it was Vince shouting as Debbie got into the car. Her hair askew, eyes red and nose running, she was on a call.
“He is alive, He is alive” she was saying into the phone in panic as I came within hearing distance.
“Debbie” I called and she looked at me.
“I am sorry Kole. I can’t” and she was gone. I knew even without her saying it – the wedding was off.
My phone rang. It was Alex.
“I can’t talk now Alex” I said into the phone as I watched the car speed off.
“Then you leave me with no choice Kole” he threatened.
“The wedding is off” I barked into the phone, exasperated at his timing.
“I need you here with me, please” he tried the pitiful tone he knew got me every time.
“Give me few minutes” I said grudgingly into the phone and I cut him off.
“The wedding is off” I said looking at Vince with a straight face. Vince stared after the long departed car, rubbing his nose violently and cursing in muted tones.
“I hope you are happy” I said to a distraught Vince who finally looked at me with heated eyes.
“Yea, I guess so” he said maliciously and he matched back into the estate with anger oozing from his pores.
I had less than 25 minutes to get to Alex. It wasn’t a good time to find out what the little gathering was all about and moreover the wedding was off…..I sent the three worded sentence to my ever efficient P.A and switched off my phone.
She knew what to do.

****
Caleb

I knew even before I boarded the plane that Alama’s rumored wedding would not hold. Against Umar’s advice, I had taken the plane ticket from Mr. Vincent and had left for Lagos – hopeful, excited and ashamed at various times as I prepared for the trip. Mr. Vincent didn’t know this but Umar was a friend of a friend I briefly housed when he came into Abuja for his job interview years back. It was a huge relief when he had stepped into the house weeks ago.
“I really don’t know what you did or didn’t do. I think it will be wise to stay off for now” he had advised as we left Mr. Vincent’s house. Two days later, Mr. Vincent strolled into the lounge and handed me a Lagos-bound ticket. I took the decision to end the suspense. Yes, I was a murderer or almost a murderer and yes, I wasn’t going to confess, I wanted to see the woman she had become – the woman who had the attention of millions. I simply wanted to see her just one more time.

And I had seen her – more radiant and confident….until she had seen her father and fled, Vince in pursuit. I knew I wasn’t going to see her again; maybe in another decade. I could only hope.
Vince returned alone with eyes so bright with anger and chest heaving with words unspoken.
“Who is he? What are you doing here?” he shouted the moment he walked in, slamming the door as he pointed a look at the mean looking man in wheel chair. The atmosphere had been quiet but tensed in the airy room as the old men and young pregnant woman made entrance few minutes earlier; my eyes refusing to meet the man I knew was Alama’s father. I didn’t introduce myself and frankly I didn’t know what I was still doing there.
“I am Tim Bent – Alama’s birth father” he said without missing a beat.
“We need to talk” it was a man who looked like Mr. Vincent in his mannerism and thick brows knotted in determination to maintain aloofness. Mr. Vincent simply ignored him and went into his bedroom but exited shortly after.
“Book yourself a flight” it was Mr. Vincent handing me two bundles of one thousand Naira notes. The look in his eyes told me I was free to go.
“I am sorry” I said for the first time meaning it. He didn’t know what I was sorry for but he nodded.
I was sorry for keeping Alama when her mother was looking for her.
I was sorry for taking advantage of a 16 year old
I was sorry for killing an innocent baby.
I was sorry for deserting her
I was sorry for the chance lost to apologize to her.
I was sorry.
“I am too” he answered and showed me to the door.
One last look at three domineering men and I gave a sad bow.
I got what I came here for – I got to see her one last time.
But I was not going back to Abuja.
A new life in Lagos beckons – Another fresh start and I welcomed it.

****
Vince

The two old men sat staring at each other and I was tempted to scream the roof off.
“I see you are her father” I started after the silence followed Caleb’s exit.
“You knew she was alive and you didn’t tell me!” the old man in the wheel chair snapped at my father.
“I didn’t know” father said in low tone looking out of the window.
“I see” he replied and turned to face me.
“Where is my daughter now?” The intimidating man in wheels turned to ask me and I blanked out for few seconds.
“That is irrelevant” my father voiced coming to stand in the middle of the room.
“What do you mean it is irrelevant? If you have nothing to say, it would do you good to keep quiet” he barked again; I could see him with legs looming over the room.
“She ran away again and I want her back” he continued without a breaking, looking at me.
“I am out in the open. I am not supposed to be seen out and if you were thorough and smart as I thought, you’d have known my daughter was right under your nose all these months” he seethed with malice; his words coming out in hisses.
“I suggest you take a vacation then” father voiced bitterly.
“I want to see her” he said almost to himself than to the occupants of the room.
“I don’t see that happening” father stood his ground with the hot tempered man. “Can you get in touch with her? I see you two may have some kind of relationship” he waved.
“I suppose?” I answered meeting his eyes.
“Look for her” he instructed.
“She knows how to remain elusive. I looked for her for years” my father answered.
“She was right under your nose. Don’t speak anymore” he commanded and I was surprised to see father bite his tongue for the first time in my life.
“I told you to receive a visitor in Abuja, if only you had. We’d have devised a way to keep her where we can always find her” father growled at me.
“What has that got to do with the fact that Debbie is out there and unreachable?” I said, exasperated at my father as I called her number. It was switched off.
“You were supposed to receive me. I guess you should have told your boy to keep her an eye on her since you knew there was a probably of finding them together” he was saying to no one in particular and the young woman sat, her eyes trailing one mouth to the other.
“You, my boy refused to receive me. I demanded this meeting to tell you to help me keep my daughter safe and well, guard until I could tell her …” he stopped and looked out of the window.
“Dad, is that my sister?” the young pregnant girl asked as stillness came over the room and the operator’s voice telling me Alama’s number was switched off came to an end after the 6th dial.
“Such a fool….who will inherit my empire” he rubbed his eyes and I felt pity for the pregnant young woman.
“I will leave the country in few days” the old man said tried as he wheeled himself out. The young woman clambered after him.
“Right. We will find out where she has gone this time” father reassured.
“Don’t bother. It will be another decade before I see her again. She is my daughter afterall” he said with shiny eyes and a smile on his lips.
“If she contacts you, tell her I love her and need just five minutes of her time” he said as he reached the door.
“Will do” I nodded.
Soon the crowd of three piled out and I poured myself a full cup of whisky and dialing her number.
You must know that I have no knowledge of what happened earlier. Please don’t let this come in between us. Call me
An email sent. A text sent.
But somewhere deep down, I feared I had lost her. Forever.
I poured the hot drink down and felt tears running down my eyes involuntarily
“Debbie….please” I choked as my heart broke for the first time.
It was love on the 25th.

****
The bright sun was significant on Monday morning as Victoria walked into the reception of Zenith Group HQ. A look at Victoria and a card made the stoned faced receptionist skip like ram as she called Abel’s office. Victoria having spent 48 hours waiting for Alama to contact her was exhausted but saturated with anger.
“Please come with me Ma” she said as she led Victoria and Hannah to Abel’s office at the penthouse; heels clicking with the sparkling marble tiles.

Abel was already on his feet as she walked into the rich space that oozed authority. She faced the green snake who was christened Abel after 20 years and with him, his son – Vincent sitting heavily with blood shot eyes. The receptionist bowed out.
“I suppose you have more than enough time to chat with an old friend today” she said sweetly as she swayed into the room.
“Of course! Victoria! So nice to see you” he said coming around for a hug.
“Been a long time my faithful friend” she said with sarcasm.
“Ah! There she is….the acid tongue” Abel laughed; the chuckle not reaching his eyes.
“You chose sides…I wasn’t happy with you for a long time” Victoria said with a small smile of her own.
“Oh! You don’t blame me…he was a very dangerous man” he laughed off the comment.
“I suppose”
“My son, Vincent. Vincent…this is Victoria Motosho, Alama’s mother” he introduced and passed a look to his son, who looked temporarily lost.
“Debbie Black, just in case you were wondering” Victoria sitting down and extending her hand to Hannah who produced a bulky report.
“It is my pleasure Ma’am” the young man said in a small uninterested voice. He looked sick and worst off; he looked like he would rather be at home sleeping than at sitting here.
“Heard from her, have you?” Victoria asked noting he was probably love sick.
“No” he said, sitting up.
“Me neither” Victoria said looking at Abel.
“So to what do I owe this visit?” Abel asked wriggling his hands.
“We both know Ben is alive and probably out of the country…it took me a while I confess but I think he will be interested in this little compilation. I have had the pleasure of making this compilation and I am sure you’d find it quite expository” she said as she dropped the bulky report mid-way between her and Abel who had long taken his seat.

His face tightened as he pulled the thick volume close and opened it gingerly, each page a revelation. Like a well-researched project, each page revealed names of companies under the Group and supporting documents that showed the amount raised through fake IPOs, companies delisted, taxes evaded and monies transferred to offshore accounts, fictitious transactions and bogus fraudulent figures that could bury the Group and all directors. The report really was the end of Zenith Group should it reach the wrong hands. This amount of information could only have made its way out of Ben’s den and he knew how. Akin had died because he had been careless with the documents.
Now, here it was after 11 years.
“From your look, I bet you know what those are” she sneered.
“What do you want?” he asked closing the report and meeting her eyes.
“Well, since you asked…I want Ben”
“You do realize that is impossible”
“Not as impossible as publishing this page by page. I wonder what your business partners and international friends will do”
“You are not going to bring all of us down because of your vendetta with your ex-husband who you killed” he snapped.
“I am aware of a court judgment that says otherwise. Can’t say the same for you Abel. You are a fraud, accessory to murder of Kaita Lawal and more importantly a betrayer. I wonder what Ben would say if he knew you were the one that gave Akin the documents to bring him down? What were your plans? Take over the Group?” she asked taunting him.
“I was in love with Kaita goddammit! He killed her and he will pay for it” Abel said, looking at his son that watched without an expression – almost bored to death by the banter.
“I don’t see it that way. I remember you were the C.E.O of Gabs Transport at the time. Your truck pushed her off the bridge” she said wickedly
“My hands were tied but I have not forgotten”
“I wish I believed that”
“Victoria, I can assure you that going this way will not lead to a satisfactory conclusion” Abel said palming the report.
“What will you have me do? Keep this well written report all to myself?”
“You can’t win”
“I can’t?” she asked as she stretched out her hand to Hannah. A piece of paper was given to her from a file.
“Just a copy of a court action” Victoria said as Abel reluctantly collected it and skimmed it.
“You are suing the company for its ownership? On what grounds?” he asked, sweating.
“Well, his last will had me as his next of kin. And he is dead. It is only logically I take over the Group as stipulated”
“But you can’t prove the Group is his”
“I can’t?”
“How do you propose you will do this?” Abel asked, alarmed now.
“I presume the report will fill in the missing blanks in court. It boils down to who will be held responsible for fraud and countless forgery – Ben is dead but his name and signature keeps appearing on incriminating documents. It could mean one of two things – Abel Fatasho is an impersonator or an accessory to murders and fraudulent diversion of funds, tax evasion…..need I say more? Either ways, you will be spending a long time with Jamie Ibory – I remember he was a friend of yours” Victoria said taking back the court action.
Abel didn’t know this but Victoria was bluffing. The court action had been doctored but Abel couldn’t tell the difference seeing that she flashed it and retrieved it just in time. She could see him fall under the pressure. No one wanted to take the fall for Ben – it was too big a fall for one man.

Abel feared Victoria and knew she would do as threatened. He couldn’t take the fall for Ben especially since he wasn’t even going to show up if the court action were instigated against the Group. He would lose everything. All he had worked tirelessly for –sweat and blood. Moreover, it was time Ben paid for taking Kaita from him.
“I believe we can work something out” Abel said after long minutes.
“I am willing to consider your options. I will be waiting for your call” Victoria said with a smile. She knew that look.
Abel was back on her side.

****
Abel Fatasho thought hard for days, his grey hair turning white in less than a week and experienced what his doctor told him were the early signs of a heart attack. He had given all to serve the man called Timothy Benjamin Dickson. He was not going to give his life too.
He was ready to relegate the control of company to Victoria but surprisingly, Ben had named his daughter Alama Dickson as his next of kin as he found out from his friend Tunde – Ben’s lawyer. Tunde was one who didn’t know the definition of the word “confidential” after a few too many bottles. A discreet visit to some of the directors revealed their absolute readiness to save their necks when faced with public humiliation. Some mentioned the need to eliminate Ben to save their necks if push turned to shove. There was no one ready to take the fall.

Abel made the call.

Ben was excited to receive news of Alama’s return and readiness to meet her. A meeting in his home in Nairobi had been fixed and he was exhilarated. He wanted to tell Alama he was sorry, he wanted her to know he loved her and all he did was for her. He wanted her to have all he had worked for, to take over his legacy. He couldn’t wait.
And while he sat sipping his favorite drink of freshly blended ginger and cinnamon, he knew he had been poisoned as soon as Victoria walked in.
In white apparel, she let her hair fall as she approached him under the palm trees where he relaxed. Abel, who had met him hours earlier, told him Vince was bringing Alama and so they waited; sipping drinks and sharing laughs.
“We meet again” was all she said as he felt his eye lids begin to fall. Trying hard to keep his eyes open, he turned to look at a straight faced Abel who had dropped an enormous amount of abrin into his drink when he brought his glass from the house.
“You filthy betrayer” he choked as he held his chest, piercing Abel with a heated look. His eyes closing and mouth trying hard to reveal the last secret, Abel was fast to block his view from Victoria as the words escaped his dried lips in gasps.
“He killed your father for me” he voiced but Victoria didn’t hear it.
“It was a pleasure to have worked for you” Abel returned as he stepped aside and they watched him choke; trying to reach for his phone. Abel shifted it from him and both watched as his heart gave out, taking his last breath, pointing a long accusatory finger at Abel.
“Kaita would be happy” Abel said as he looked beyond Ben; seeing nothing.
“Yes, she will be” Victoria said and unexpected allowed pent up tears flowed down her cheeks, for the first time grieving for Kaita.
Abel stood up and walked into the mansion to alert his young daughter and his body guard.
“Call an ambulance, He is having seizures” he said to the hefty guard who called the hospital immediately.
“Is he dead?” Abel heard the timid voice of the girl as he turned to return to Victoria and nodded solemnly.
“Thank God” she whispered as tears fell out of her eyes.
She was finally free from his hateful words. She had sinned because she wasn’t Alama. Mary had been in school when her mother had been murdered and soon after, Ben discovered that Josephine, the woman he had left Victoria and Alama for, had lied about Mary.
Mary wasn’t his and she had paid dearly for her mother’s deceit. But still, she called him father and regarded Alama, her sister.
Where will she go? Who would she tell? Who would believe she was carrying her his child?
She sunk to the floor and wept; until the woman in white apparel had reached for her and helped her up.
“I am sorry” she chanted continuously as she cried in Victoria’s arms.
Victoria had found the shaken girl on the floor and she knew God had given her a second chance to redeem herself. She was going to be a mother. She would take care of her.
The next day, the death of a Kenyan business man Jela Chane hit the local news. He had died in his home from a heart attack. Ben was laid to rest in an unmarked grave at the public cemetery with Victoria, Mary, Abel and his body guard paying their last ‘respect’.
An orphan, Timothy Benjamin Dickson had died the way he fought all his life against – To be unknown.
Tunde who read his will in presence of Victoria, Abel and Mary revealed what Abel already knew – he had given everything to his real daughter – Alama Dickson. But in absence of her, Victoria would take over affairs till Alama returned.

That was the end of Timothy Benjamin Dickson.

The resolution of Group directors was unanimous too – until the return of his next of kin – Alama Dickson, her mother and ex-wife of Timothy Benjamin Dickson would be the new President of Zenith Group.
Victoria Motosho on her first day of work collected names of all shareholders and through the legal department returned monies to them. There were no profits but surely a refund was a most welcomed idea. In an unexpected move, shares of the company soared in six months – if there was goodwill and assurance to get a refund, most investors trooped in.
Never one to shy away from the camera, she granted interviews in hopes to reach Alama. She knew she was watching.
Victoria knew one day Alama would return and she waited.

****
Sandra

I remember like yesterday the move to Abuja with Debbie, the shameless absolute need to have Vince, the wedding of the decade and Debbie’s disappearance. Kole wouldn’t tell. Vince wouldn’t see me or the girls. He worked all the time and he looked like he had an acci
dent with life the weeks that followed. Months and five years, Vince became the eligible bachelor that had vowed off women. He looked hurt all the time and the last time I saw him, he drank whisky all day barely meeting my eyes.
“Have you heard from her?” was all he asked.
“No” I answered and he had let out a fake laugh.
“Will you let me know?” he asked in a murmur.
“Yes” I reassured and he had nodded. That was the last time I saw him.
I remember her text.
“The wedding is off. I am on my way to Abuja. See you soon”
At first I thought it was a joke and had called her line. Her phone was switched off. Panicking, I told the girls and we had gone into overdrive calling her.
“The number you have dialed is switched off” it was the electronic voice of the female operator.
“Call Kole” Tina suggested.
“The number you have dialed is switched off” it was another operator.
“His number is switched off” I said panicking further.
It was midnight before we saw him drive in. Kole looked flushed and sad.
“What is happening?” I fired still trying Debbie’s line.
“Where did you keep your phone?” It was Uloma.
“Have you spoken with Debbie? Have you seen her?” It was Eva
“Debbie said the wedding was off” Tina continued and at that point, he looked like he wanted to throw us out.
He looked tired, his shirt showing a rip and his hair totally spiking at all angles.
“The wedding is off” he said as he walked past us.

Undoubtedly the news of the broken engagement made pages of papers and front covers of soft sells in coming weeks. Debbie’s twitter account was deleted and all that was left of her were personal pictures, mentions of her in write-ups and the legendary interview uploaded on different blogs and websites.
Debbie had disappeared from our lives. Her line was switched off and at some point, the operator simply didn’t reply when the line was dialed. Emails went unanswered.
That was 5 years ago.
I am married and pregnant.
Uloma relocated to the UK with an Igbo man who still drank palm wine as tea and called everyone ‘Nne.’
Eva was in series of relationship – it was Frank, then Moses, Ebi was the last after Nathan…I had lost count.
Tina was having the time of her live in Paris with her new catch – Alhaji Bello Fatagi.
Kole is the father of my baby and I am his trophy wife. It happened in Dubai during a fashion show we both attended. I had no issues with his sexuality and it was fun to have the freedom to desire another man should I ever get tired.
I don’t regret the one night stand or the outcome.
Yes, I know……..I am a good friend and should not be with Kole. But I am. Sometimes life is more than rules, more than expectations, more than girl-code. Most times, life is just what it is – series of interesting unfortunate events.
I keep waiting to see her again.
Will I?
I don’t know.

****
5 years, 9months later

Dinan, Bretagne – France
Catherine Ejor held the hand of her little baby girl. Eyes deep as her father’s, she sang nonstop as they headed to the local market to get her favorite lunch of baked potatoes and greens. Long limbs springing into a run, Catherine called after her.
“Alama” she called as she bumped into the solid frame of a black man who turned to look at her with the same set of deep set eyes that tormented her at nights. He looked so much like him. No two people should look this good…
“Hello” his voice reverberates.
“Hi” she is breathless. He smiles as he released his hold on her arm.
“Lanre” he offered
“Catherine” she called still looking at him.
“Mummy” it was Alama coming back to drag her.
“You live around?” he asked as she smiled and made to follow her excited daughter.
Catherine nods.
“Yes” she answered as she walked away.
“See you around” he said as he stepped into the art shop.

Jaja Fatasho didn’t like his name mainly because he didn’t like the sacrificial tone. Almost gone for 8 years and constantly been hammered to come home, he made a hasty decision; picked an ugly vessel and without second thoughts went in search of the beautiful woman he had seen in the small market minutes earlier.
She wasn’t married, that he was sure because her dainty fingers revealed no rings and her eyes said more about her need. Perhaps he could return home with her as his wife and the pretty girl his daughter – the thought soothing his return plans.
That will shock his father and his little brother…and step mother.
With a smile as he found the beautiful females taking a seat at the sidewalk restaurant.
“Catherine” he called.
“Lanre” she waved.
“You call it well” he sounded surprise.
“Yes, I lived in Nigeria for a while” she replied.
“I think we might just have a lot to talk about then…Lunch sweety?” he asked the shy pretty girl hiding behind her mother’s skirt. She nodded and looked up at her mother with missing front tooth.
“I am hungry” she said and Catherine laughed.
“I know what you will like” Lanre offered as he held out a seat for the little girl.
“Green” she called as she pointed at the plate on the waiters hand going to another table.
“My! You are really hungry” he teased and she hid her face behind her small hands.
Catherine laughed; her heart filling with joy at his easiness.
“God please, let this man not complicate our lives” Debbie Black prayed as she watched him feed a happy Alama who was ecstatic at having a new friend and vegetables in her toothless mouth.

****
If only God didn’t have a wicked sense of humor. There was more than enough humor in the days ahead.
‘Let the pilot begin’ He says.

THE END

****
Love on the 25th is written by Uneñ Ameji; Author of Memoirs of a Justified Gold Digger. Get a copy. She is @UnenAmeji on twitter

Download “Love on the 25th” on the okadabooks apps for Android users.

Beautiful Stranger. Episode 10

Featured

Good wet morning Guys! It’s August, so…lets enjoy the downpour yes? Remember to get free eBooks on African Stories Here and if you are a writer or authored a book, Kindly mail us your articles, books and series to post here. It is free service but works must be edited….although we will go through it, it seems only fair that you make our job easier….you are afterall a writer, are you not? hehehe….#ThursayJokes…send it to mailafricanstories@gmail.com and we will take it from there.

Now, your episode for today
Beautiful Stranger. Episode Ten

Read All Previous Episodes of Beautiful Stranger Here

“Come on, man. Think like a Surgeon. Let’s cut!” Jerry said as he dropped an envelope on the table. He bent over and flipped a Surgical Textbook open.
Emeka took a deep breath. He had never seen Jerry so enthusiastic about something and maybe that was a good sign but at the same time, someone had to be reasonable here. Jerry had just stepped out of Toni’s room with the ‘get me on my feet’ rule and he didn’t seem to be thinking straight here. All he wanted was to get her on her feet in its literary context, but that was not going to give a lasting solution. He sighed as he watched Jerry look through a book. “Bro, I think we should talk about this” Emeka said.
Jerry was engrossed in the textbook he was looking through. “Not now.”
“Jerry, I know you feel you can go all Ben Carson on her right now, but we have to be logical here. She has had epileptic seizures from her history and I don’t think we should take that chance again.” Emeka started.
Jerry closed the book. “You are not getting the point. We can cut through and remove the mass of the tumour, do you know what that will do for her?”
“That will buy her more time and in the end, you will still lose her.” Emeka replied. “I think she should start the treatment as soon as possible. Besides, it is the patient and her sister’s wish that she does Chemo and since we know it is the brain we are focusing on, we can switch to Radiotherapy for effectiveness. Don’t start putting your emotions into this thing.”
“You and I know how Radiotherapy works…I can’t watch her go through it. It is so much pain.” Jerry retorted.
“You don’t have to watch. You just have to be there for her, man. I think we shouldn’t waste any more time with these decisions. It is obvious the tumour is escalating to other parts of the system and if we keep dilly dallying about it, we would get nothing done.” Emeka replied.
Jerry shook his head. “The Director asked me what I think we should do and I think surgery is fine, I would go over to him and tell him about my decision and I would try to make Toni and Nora see reason. Besides, AEDs can be given for the seizures.”
“Jerry, you and I know that cytoreduction of the tumour is the best we would get out of this. You have seen the neoplasm, it is better to let her do radiotherapy. Besides, I think we are going to have problems gaining access to the tumour because of the size and location. It is at the skull base, man. Think. There are many possible outcomes of the surgery, we could tamper with her brain tissues, she could suffer memory loss or something worse, are you willing to take that chance?” Emeka asked.
Jerry took a deep breath and leaned against the table. Emeka was right, but he still believed he could remove as many tumour cells as possible, but he had a very slim chance because of the size and location of the tumour. He fumed as he sank into a chair. His eyes were soon wet. “I am out of ideas, bro.”
“Look, Jerry, radiation therapy will kill the tumours but won’t harm her brain tissues. Let’s take a chance on this.” Emeka replied as he took a seat beside him. “Toni is trusting you to get her back on her feet, but not for a month or two. She wants it to be forever.”
Jerry nodded. “This isn’t going to be easy for her.”
“Well, we both know it is not going to be, but she is a fighter. Let’s believe.” Emeka replied.
The door opened and the Director walked in. “What would it be?” he asked as he picked up a copy of the scan that was lying on the table. “Hmm…this is big.” He said and replaced the scan on the table. “Jerry, do you think we can cut?”
Jerry blinked. “Err…Sir, I…I was thinking-”
“-We are thinking radiotherapy would work.” Emeka said, staring at Jerry. “We can’t cut this.” He said through clenched teeth.
The Director nodded as he stared at Jerry. “I hope you know that you would be off most of her treatment.”
“No way!” Jerry objected.
Emeka took Jerry’s hand. “Man.”
Jerry blinked. “Sir, I can’t afford to be kicked off her case. You know what she means to me.”
“And it is exactly for that reason that you have to sit out of this one. I would get you tonnes of cases-”
“-I don’t want anything. I just want her.” Jerry replied, cutting in.
Emeka cleared his throat. “Sir, I think Jerry can be on the team for the Radiotherapy since we won’t be doing surgery.”
“No. I won’t bend the rule even a bit. There is a surgery in about an hour. He is the lead surgeon.”
Jerry fumed. “Sir! Don’t do this.”
“I can’t have you mixing emotions with this.” The Director replied.
Jerry clasped his hands together. “Sir, I have put my emotions aside. I am just a surgeon and her Doctor.”
“It is not so easy, Son. Sit out of this one, we’ve got it.” The Director replied and stared at Emeka. “Come with me, we need to go and prep the patient.” He said and walked out.
Jerry pulled Emeka back. “He can’t do this to me. Please beg him. Toni wants me to do this.”
Emeka blinked. “Jerry, you know how it is. You can’t. You need a right frame of mind.”
“Don’t give me that crap! You can convince him. It is not surgery.” Jerry replied angrily.
“This is why he won’t let you in on it. Cool off, man.” Emeka said and walked out.
Jerry fumed as he kicked the door.
***
Toni brushed Nora’s hair. “So, I want to draw up my will.”
Nora flipped her head over her shoulder. “What is that?”
“A will. Legal statement showing who I give my share of our family’s fortune to.” Toni replied with a smug smile.
Nora frowned. “I know what a will is, I just don’t know what you need it for right now.”
“Oh come on, Nora. You and I know that it is only necessary I do this now, besides, amendments can be carried out in the nearest future should events change.” Toni replied.
Nora took a seat opposite her. “Are we being less optimistic now? Jerry is doing everything he can and you are here throwing it all away with wanting to draw up a will.”
Toni sighed. “Nora, why are you talking like this? I want to live, but in case I don’t, I want to leaveve something behind for my foundation and stuff.”
“Are you saying I am going to collapse your foundation in the event of your death? Give me some credit, Toni.” Nora said, standing up.
Toni sighed. “I didn’t mean it that way, sis.”
“I don’t care how you meant it, but it hurts.” Nora replied.
Toni nodded. “I am sorry.”
“Yeah. I have got to take a walk.” Nora replied.
Toni sighed. “Are you for real? I said I am sorry.”
“I know you are. I just didn’t expect you to have that sort of opinion of me.” Nora replied.
Toni smiled. “Are you trying to pick up a fight with me? I promise I will be dead before you are back from your walk and you are going to carry the feeling that you fought with your sister before her death to your grave.” She concluded with a wide grin.
Nora rolled her eyes. “Don’t start guilt tripping me.”
“Oh yeah…it worked. I am sorry.” Toni said with a smile.
Nora sighed and took her seat. “Don’t start scaring me, Toni. You have to be in the right frame of mind for any treatment to be effective on you.”
“Trust me, I am motivated to live.” Toni replied.
Nora smiled. “James would be here to see you in the evening. He left early this morning.”
Toni nodded. “Hmm…that’s cool. I need to have a talk with him anyway.”
“What talk could that be?” Nora asked.
Toni shrugged. “It’s personal.”
Nora folded her arms. “Personal?”
Toni nodded. “It is important I talk to him, that’s all. Don’t be scared.”
The door opened and the Director walked in with Emeka. “Good morning, ladies.”
“Good morning, Director.” Nora greeted.
Toni stared at the door expecting it to open but it didn’t. She stared at Emeka looking for an answer.
Emeka cleared his throat. “Jerry is not coming.”
The Director stared at her. “As you understand, Doctor Jerry can’t be let in on this due to his emotional attachment to the patient.”
Nora nodded and took Toni’s hand. “Okay, so, what’s going to happen now?”
“We are going to start the radiotherapy by tomorrow. We can’t have any more surgeries as the tumour is in a delicate position of the brain. So, are you ready?” The Director asked.
Nora stared at Toni. “You ready?”
Toni nodded. “Yes. I have always been.”
Emeka smiled. “Okay. So, we would move you into a new room tonight and we can start off from there.”
“Can I see Jerry?” Toni asked.
Emeka nodded. “I’ll tell him to come.”
“No. I want to go to him.” Toni said.
The Director shrugged. “We’ll get a chair for you.” He said and walked out.
“I’ll go with him.” Nora said and walked out.
Emeka took a deep breath as he sat beside her. “I have heard a lot about you and I…I am honoured to finally meet you.”
Toni smiled. “Trust me, I am more beautiful than this. I am just allergic to Hospitals.” She said with a smile.
“Of course, you are.” Emeka said with a soft chuckle.
Toni stared at him. “Jerry is a good guy.”
Emeka nodded. “I know. He is one of the best men around. I am glad he found you.”
“Me too…”
Emeka took her hand. “Would you please not leave him?” he asked as a teardrop rolled down his eyes.
Toni gasped. “Oh…I think you are also emotional. You can’t be on this case too.” She said as she laughed.
Emeka laughed as he wiped his eyes. “You have a good laugh.”
“I know. I can’t help being a diva.” She replied.
He nodded. “You stay alive, okay?”
“I am alive.” She replied.
Nora returned with a wheelchair. “Let’s go, baby.”
Toni smiled as she got on the wheelchair.
***
Jerry sipped his cup of coffee as he stared at his wristwatch. He had a surgery in about thirty minutes. “Make this count, Jerry.”
The door opened and Toni wheeled in.
“Toni?” he gaped as he went over to her. “How did you…?”
Toni smiled. “Never mind…not like you don’t know how I got here.”
“Emeka.” He replied.
She nodded. “So…you won’t be my Doctor?”
He nodded. “Yes. I…I am sorry. I wanted to be there, but the Director won’t let me.”
“Neither would I.” she replied.
He knelt before her. “The session starts tomorrow. I will be by your side every step of the way. I promise to hold your hand throughout.”
Toni rolled her eyes. “Don’t get all mushy okay. Besides, it means you would hold one hand while Nora holds the other. How am I going to cope with two of you professing love?” she asked with a smile.
“I love you.” Jerry said.
She shrugged. “The question is, who doesn’t love me?”
“Are you going to class me with the majority?” Jerry asked with a smile.
She shook her head. “No. You make up the vast minority.”
“Vast? Minority?” Jerry asked.
She grinned. “You are everything…and much more than I wanted.”
“Oh my…I am honoured.” Jerry said as he kissed her hand.
She nodded. “You should be.”
“I have a patient who is due for surgery now.” He said, staring at his wristwatch.
She smiled. “Oh really?”
He nodded.
“Come here.” She said as she kissed his forehead. “Go save a life.”
Jerry smiled. “You got it.” He said and walked out with a smile.
Tears rolled down Toni’s eyes as the door closed after him. “God please…allow me love this man.”
***
JERRY
Who knew surgery could be fun? Tearing…sewing…tearing…sewing…fixing…smiling. I didn’t understand that it could bring me so much joy…until today. Being a surgeon is everything I have always wanted and I forgot what it was to have that dream until today. They say love can do a lot for you…much more than a lot for you. It gives life. It gives light. It gives hope. It gives much more than you have ever expected.
As I walked into the theatre with optimism, my team lit up. I had never seen them smile. It was as though I was ready to lead an army into battle and they were willing to fight with me…for the first time. Toni. It all came from her. Maybe Magic…maybe a fairy tale, but Toni is pure and true. I couldn’t ask for anything more, the gift of Toni to my life was something I couldn’t question.
And yes, my patient lived.
***
“Hey…”
Toni rolled over to see Jerry. “Hi. How was it?” she asked.
He smiled as he took his seat beside her on the bed. “Patient is fine. I am fine.”
“That’s good to know.” She replied. “I am nervous about radiotherapy. At first, I thought it was going to be chemo…but now it has a different name.” she said with a soft chuckle.
Jerry nodded. “Yeah. Radiotherapy is more effective and it is a better option.”
“So I heard.” Toni replied. “I pray I survive this.”
“You will survive it. I know that you are strong and you can go through this. I am here for you…every step of the way.”
Toni stared at him. “Would you?”
He nodded. “I am not going anywhere…you just have to promise me that you will stay.”
“That is not in my power, is it?” she asked.
He looked away.
“Do you love God, Jerry?”
Jerry shrugged. “He created us, right?”
“That’s not the question. Do you love God?” she asked.
He turned in her direction. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” she asked.
He nodded. “He doesn’t have much love for me either.”
“Why would you say so?” Toni asked as she sat up.
He stared at her. “Frankly, I have never had the best things of life except for good grades.”
“Good grades are something.” She said, cutting in.
“They didn’t save my first patient.” He replied.
She smiled. “You lose some, you win some.”
“Not your first. It is unforgivable.” He replied.
“By who?” she asked.
He stared at her. “I don’t understand.”
“By whose standard is losing your first patient unforgivable?” she asked.
He was silent.
“I know the pain hurts so much, but, we tend to take ourselves too serious and important that we forget the essence of being human.” She started. “Would saving your first patient have mattered if you went on a failure streak afterwards?”
He stared at her. “You don’t understand.”
“Make me.” She said with a smile. “Look, Jerry, we are allowed to lose, but the only thing you are not allowed to do is give up. You saved a life today because God was with you.”
“Why didn’t he save my first patient? Why did he let you have Cancer? Isn’t he God?” Jerry asked. “You talk so much about him, and it is obvious you love him…why did he let that happen to you? Why?”
Toni sniffled. “I am writing a novel. I don’t know if I would have all the time in the world to tell you who Toni was before I got Cancer…but I want you to know that there isn’t so much of a difference. I am still happy. I am still alive. I just have Cancer…and oh, I quit drinking.”
“You used to drink?” he asked.
Toni smiled. “Heavy boozer!”
He smiled faintly. “Toni, I want to understand God the way you have come to understand him, but he has to keep you alive for me to like him.” He said.
“Giving God conditions, are we?” she asked with a smile.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Let him keep you alive, then, we have a deal.”
“Ever heard of Job in the Bible?” she asked.
He nodded. “Sort of.”
“Try to read the Book of Job in the Bible. I am in no way comparing this situation to his, but that is a man that never stopped loving God. I am living proof that God cares about you and I. Talk to him. He listens, Jerry.”
Jerry blinked. “I don’t know about that…what am I going say to him?”
“First, you ask him to forgive you of your sins and give him your life. Let him be in charge of it all.” She said.
He smiled. “I think you should rest, Toni.” He said as he rose to his feet. “I have to go home to get a change of clothes and then I would be back for the night. Nora is outside. I would tell her to come in.”
Toni smiled. “You can run, but you can’t hide.”
He blew her a kiss and walked out.
***
“So, you ran away because she was telling you about God?” Mrs Aiyenugba asked as they ate.
Jerry shrugged. “Not exactly. But, I don’t understand why she is so passionate about him when clearly he isn’t about her.”
Mrs Aiyenugba dropped her spoon. “Jerry???”
“Yes! You don’t let Cancer come near someone you love…I know he is God and he can do everything. Why can’t he take it away?” he shouted.
She sat back as she watched Jerry rant.
“All I want is for her to be fine…he should know that.” He shouted as tears rolled down his face. “He doesn’t have to take her away from me. I thank him for bringing her my way, but I want to have her.” He shouted as he broke down in tears.
Mrs Aiyenugba nodded and walked over to him. “When I lost my husband, I felt God was unfair too…he knew I loved him, but God loves him more and I had to understand that.”
“Just like that? No disrespect, but you have had the best days with your husband, but God isn’t even giving me a chance with her…” He protested.
She smiled. “The best days are yet to come. As long as you live, you make the most of each day and every moment and who told you that Toni has not had the best of her days with you already?”
“Don’t try to patronize me.” He replied.
She nodded. “Not my plan to do that, but I feel you should give yourself some credit already. Every man has his purpose and duty to fulfil, and when we are done, we are done.”
“Toni can’t be done.” He replied.
She stared at him. “Jerry, talk to God. He listens.” She said and dug her spoon into the food.
***
“So James, what are your plans for Nora?” Toni asked.
James stared at her. “I like her a lot. I know we can make it work.”
“Really?” she asked.
He nodded with a smile. “Am I on the hot seat here?”
She nodded. “Yes. I love my sister and I want to be sure that I am leaving her in the right hands.”
“You are not suggesting that you are going to die, are you?” he asked.
She shrugged. “We would all die someday…or face rapture.”
“Look Toni, I know it seems I hit on you the first day we met, but-”
She raised a finger. “I don’t care about that. I want to know your intents.”
“I want to be there for Nora. I want to love her, protect her, and take care of her. I know I can do it and I want you to trust me to be able to.” He said.
“James, I have nothing against you…Nora would do this to Jerry if she were in my shoes. I wish you guys the best.” She said.
“Are you saying goodbye already?” he asked.
She sighed. “I don’t know…but for as long as I am here, I am here.”
***
“God, I know I am not a good guy. I have not been to church in a long time. I have been drinking too much and maybe a little more than too much. But, I have found a good girl and I can’t let you take her away from me. The Director already said I won’t be treating her, but I don’t believe we even treat anyone, I think you do. Please, God, can you treat Toni for me? God, I…I won’t be able to go on without her…If you knew that you won’t keep her alive, why did you bring her my way? Were you trying to tease me? God, please…I can’t do this on my own…Teach me your ways, help me to understand you and everything that happens around me. Let me love you and help me to be a better man.” Jerry said as he knelt down in his room.
“God, forgive me for all the wrong things I have said to you, but I am hurting so much and I want you to fix me. I want you to take care of Toni. I can’t do this on my own…God, please.” He cried as he slid into the floor.

****
Beautiful Stranger is written by @tomi_adesina; Author of Dear Future Husband available for Free on African Stories. Follow @tomi_adesina on twitter for more thrilling stories. Her new book “All Fun and Games” also available for FREE on African Stories

Love on the 25th. Episode 16

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Love on the 25th. Episode 16
Read Previous Episodes of Love on the 25th by Uneñ Ameji Here

****
Debbie
It was a dark. It was raining. It was midnight. The quaint white bungalow sitting heavily like an obese woman in our large compound was quiet as usual and as I lay my head on my soft feathery pillow, I waited for their voices to create the ruckus I knew would start very soon…that was the norm. They waited for the world to sleep before they woke them up with shouts so loud, the echoes stayed within the walls throughout the day until they made new ones the very next day. I counted in confusion as I stared at my ceiling; I didn’t need to wait long.
“I am the man of the house and you and your dead father cannot tell me what to do” it was his voice, loud and authoritative as ever.
“Nobody is contesting that you are a man and so cannot keep his pants up! I want you out of my house and out of the company. It was my father’s and I won’t stand by and watch you cheat with your indigenous breed and work in an honest man’s office. God knew my father warned me! You silly goat” it was mother in her usual abusive fashion. I didn’t understand the word indigenous and breed at the time and I made the mental note to check the big Oxford dictionary in the library when they had both gone to work. I was learning new words these days and they weren’t good words. Perhaps I was too smart, perhaps too pampered but as an only child, I had all I wanted – until the day mother discovered daddy was a “lying bastard frolicking with a whore who he spent all her father’s money on”.
“I have worked in that company for ten years! Ten good years and you think you can command me to leave my life’s work just because it was your father’s? I am the managing director for a good reason, and nothing is going to stop me from sitting on that chair till I say otherwise. Get that? And you better get used to having an indigenous breed as your mate. I won’t give her up. Never!” and the door to their bedroom was slammed shut; the vibrations reaching the earth core.
It was not over yet. I waited for mother to follow and follow she did.
“Ben! Ben! Come back here. You won’t have the last word and for your information, the board is ready to vote me back in. You will lose everything and you will go back to the dishonest hole you vermin crawled out from. I swear Ben, I will destroy you and take my daughter from you” she said as she followed him past the hallway and down to the guest room where he always slept after their nightly ritual. But that night, something happened that changed our lives forever.
A loud slap, a high-pitched shout and the sound of crashing glasses, I was out of my bed and was running out of my room in complete shock and fear. The sight before me had me rooted in the hallway, afraid to move. The shelf with glass decor and plates had fallen and there were shattered glass particles all over the floor. Then I saw him, holding her up against the wall in strong grip as he snuffed the life out of her, her toes barely touching the floor and her hands reaching to unclasp his hands from her neck, struggling.
There was a little tear at her mouth and a spill of blood running down her mouth. I inched closer and felt a piece of glass sink into my right foot. I saw finger marks across her cheeks, light-skinned, mother bore the evidence of his slap and her eyes red with blood clot. He was determined to shut up her, I could see that.
“Daddy!” I shouted as I stood, too scared to move, afraid of him, afraid for her. This was the first time I had witnessed anything like this and I knew our lives had changed forever. He looked at me intensely for few seconds before relaxing his hold on her neck. She coughed loudly as his hands left her neck that bore more red welts from his grip. She slumped, rapidly feeding her starved lungs with fresh oxygen as she stretched out her hands for me.
“You will not take my life from me. You won’t take Alama from me” he said quietly as he dragged me back to my room despite the shout of mother to let me be.
“Daddy, please leave mummy alone’’ I said as he lifted me up with one hand.
“Shut up your mouth and don’t ever leave your room when adults are fighting. Like mother, like daughter” he said as he yanked my door and flung me inside. I landed on the bed with my hand hitting my wooden bedside locker.
That was my first fracture. That was the beginning of my hatred for the man whose DNA runs in my blood. That was the end of my family.
The clicks, flashes and steadily increasing looks from the crowded hotel lobby as they pointed and confirmed their suspicion about who I was brought me back to the present. The tears ran up my tear duct and I pasted a wide happy smile as I hugged my long-lost mother some more. She seemed to take the cue knowing we were in a delicate position. She smiled and gave me a princess perk on the forehead as we took our hands and tried walking away from the crowd that was beginning to irritate me. Thanks to the security at the hotel, we were ushered to the closest elevator but a persistent busybody followed in determined pursuit.
“Is this your mother? Why are you both crying? When is the wedding? Is the public invited or just Invites only?” all these questions spilling from the lips of the thin girl who I was sure was uploading the pictures to some sorry gossip site or her instagram. A word was not said as we walked into the elevator holding our hands, not letting go.
“My God! You are so beautiful” mother whispered as we got off the elevator with the security man and a manager escorting us to her room.
“Thank you” I said to the duo who looked like they wanted to wait around. I waited for the door to close before flying into my mother’s arms in relief and tears.
“I thought you were dead, I thought you left me….”I cried, as I hiccuped, trying to keep it all in but I couldn’t. The last time I had seen her was at Christmas. I had just turned 7 and several months after the night father broke my hand and nearly suffocated mum. I was little but I remembered the commotion that followed afterward; the fights were rough and deadly from then on. I heard of schemes and abuses. Mother took over the company and father nearly had her head for it – until Inspector Sunday, a friend of father’s had mother detained for few hours to “maintain the peace”. That was all father needed to put his plan into action.
He ran away with me and from what I heard years later, I wasn’t the only thing he took from mother. He had already sold properties left to mother by her father and taken a huge chunk from the joint account after he forged her signature.
Mother came just as the truck loaded with some boxes pulled out of the driveway. I remember her chasing the truck as I struggled with my hands and head out of the window….tears flowing down our faces as he sped on, her distraught image was reduced to nothingness after few meters but I could never forget as she collapsed on the tarred road right before I lost her.
I cried for weeks refusing to say a word, barely leaving the room I occupied alone in where I came to know as Benin – Nigeria and in few years, I became an object of abuse. Dad was never around, his wife slapped me around any chance she got, John the old guard found a way to sexually abuse me on the pretext of consoling me and the little devil of a bastard, Oman raped me repeatedly much to the amusement of my father’s wife….she knew, Dad knew but I was all alone. I was without a mother. He had his ultimate revenge against ‘the woman’, his sole enemy, who he repeatedly said was responsible for his downfall. I hated him and waited patiently for my mother to come rescue me. She was in Ghana and I hoped for the day she’d find out we were now in Nigeria but the day couldn’t come fast enough and that was when I decided I was going to look for her. I was 16 years.
“Your mother is dead” he had said without looking up from his Sunday newspaper after I announced boldly I was leaving to go find my mother. Oman had forced his little snake into me the night before and when I had beaten off a huge chunk of flesh from his shoulders, his wife had flogged me and called me a witch like my mother. I was ready to leave and I was not going back on the decision.
“I know you are lying. You are lying. When? When?” I shouted as tears formed in my eyes. He continued reading without as much as a look in my direction.
“She died five years ago on her way to America, you were too young and I decided to spare you the grief” he announced without lifting his eyes from the newspaper he was reading. When I demanded to know how, he stood up and left the sitting room. I felt myself go weak, the hope of rescue turning into smoke and heated pain traveled up my chest.
“See this fly” it was the devilish woman laughing at my predicament.
I ran away that night without a thought to where I was going. That night I met Caleb. My first husband. My heart lurched at the name; the last conversation with Vince and follow-up picture made me hold her more, sniffing in her scent.
“I am here….I am so sorry” she said as we sat on the bed as I cried and she did too. We stayed there for hours. Looking up to her and we’d stare, a sad smile and we’d cry again.
“We have to stop crying baby” she said, patting my hair as I blew my nose.
“I can’t ….” I struggled to speak, sniffing thick gobs of mucus in. I was a mess and I didn’t care. I just wanted to curl inside her arms and never get up. I remembered the smell, the pecks and little gifts she gave me every day.
“I know…I know” she said planting a thick kiss on my head.
“I thought you were dead, he told me you were dead and I believed him, I stopped searching, I was lost mum, I was lost……” I cried some more and she joined.
“I killed him” she said in strange voice and I turned to look at her.
“When?” was all I could say.
“I finally found you, him in Benin and when I asked of you, he said you ran away. I searched everywhere, the street boys helped with your poster. The police wasn’t any good. I got so mad I emptied bullets on him and his wretched wife and I left Nigeria. I was heartbroken and I had failed you. If only I had searched hard enough…” she was saying ashamed of what she had done. I knew the guilt she was feeling. It was the guilt of taking a life, of keeping secrets buried and the wish that things were different.
“Did you kill the guard and the boy?” I asked in hope, relishing in the knowledge that I had been avenged. I took her hands as she tried to get up. I was dried eyed now and she looked at me strangely.
“I must have…..I didn’t leave a witness” she said with an evil grin and we smiled for the first time since we hugged at the reception.
“Thank you” I said and hugged her as I contemplated telling her that I had also murdered a man in cold blood. That was my secret I decided and until it absolutely had to come out, I wasn’t going to ruin the evening any more than necessary.
“My baby is getting married” she gushed as she planted a loud kiss at the center of my head and I giggled, forgetting the schemes and lies involved. The thought of having her at my wedding made the lie inconsequential. I was going ahead with the wedding – even if it was for just three months.
“I missed you” she said and hugged me.
“Let me show you my pictures” I said for a lack of a better thing to say. I switched on my phone just in time to have flood of messages and calls fighting over themselves to reach me. A call came in.
It was Kole.
“Where are you?” he sounded miffed.
“Ikeja” I answered.
“You didn’t take my driver” he accused. I knew what he was thinking – that I was with Vince.
“I didn’t”
“You do realize that we are getting married in two weeks” he sounded terse.
“I know”
“Goddamit Debbie! I can’t have your affairs making headlines before the wedding. You know what is at stake here” he sounded desperate and for a moment I wanted to believe he liked women and wanted me. A happy part of me wanted the lies to be real but then Vince ….
“I am not with him”
“Are you sure?” he said releasing his pent up lungs.
“Yes”
“Please Debbie, just come back home let’s talk about all these” he said with a touch of a British accent and I could see imagine him running his hand through his head.
“I am with my mother Kole, can we do this tomorrow?” I said as I noticed her eyes now smiling.
“Your mother? You have a mother?” he asked, shock lacing his doubtful voice. I handed over the phone to mother.
“He doubts you exist” I said as I gave her the phone and went to get myself a bottle of water. The knowledge that she had killed the people who tormented me brought me strength and joy. I felt vindicated but I wondered how she must be handling the guilt knowing she murdered them in cold blood. What else was she capable of? I didn’t dwell on it.
“I take you think me non-existent” she started and I watched her with awe. My mother as I remembered her…smiling and nodding her head to whatever Kole was saying.
“Yes, I know. She just told me about it and I flew in last night.” She answered the questions that followed.
“Yes, we have a lot to catch up on, she is staying the night. But of course. I need to meet my son-in-law soon” she said as she looked at me and I smiled. She gave back the phone after few lines.
“So I hear mummy loud and clear. I will see you tomorrow. We should talk Deb…and I am sorry about Alex. I do want you. You should know that” and he dragged the last line and was gone.
“Trouble before the vows not a good sign baby. I am sure you know that” was all she said and I nodded. She already knew.
“We are working out few details” I braved.
“He doesn’t trust you before marriage, he won’t trust you after either and from what I think, it seems there is another young man in the picture… huhmm?” she said coming to take my hands and I laughed, shy and shaking my head in the affirmative. If only she knew there were two young men in the picture.
“Come tell me all about him, we have all night” she said as we headed out to the balcony but not before I rang for a plate of fruit salad.
I had 25 years to make up for.
****
Vince
I waited for her. I knew she was going to come. There was no alternative. The apartment was on a short lease, felt empty and impersonal. Two weeks after I had sent her Caleb’s picture and she was yet to get back to me. My calls were rejected, text messages went ignored. I was out of my wit and tomorrow was the wedding. I had to stop it. I had to.
I took the first flight to Lagos on Friday morning against father’s directive to host a government official. Over the weeks past, I had barely functioned at work and planned tirelessly on how to stop the wedding without making it headline news. There was only one way and I was going to need Caleb.
At 9:15am I was in Lagos, at 11:15 am, I had showered and shaved, brushed twice and changed my shirt thrice. I was excited because it was more than four weeks since the last time I saw her and was in her bed. In that time, I thought about her constantly, wished she would just stop the madness and call off the wedding. I had dreamt about her with my baby, I had thrown cups at my wall and was constantly moody and snappy. She had to call it off or I was going to disrupt the wedding publicly I had threatened in a message – that too had gone unanswered. With the arrival of her mother on scene, the wedding fever had gone higher and it was the constant rave everywhere. It was time to put my plan in motion.
‘I have your husband with me.
Doesn’t look good.
Tomorrow could be your big day, ….or not
We need to see.
C21, Block F, Boston Apartments, Alvan Ikoku, V.I’

I sent the message. Barely two minutes later, she replied.
‘See you in one hour’
Now I waited. Half expectant and half-tensed. What if she was truly married to him, what was their history? Who was she? Debbie or Alama?…..I heard a small knock on the door and knew instinctively she was the one. A deep breath, I went to open the door.
She stood there, a little frazzled, a little bold, her eyes already darting past my shoulders and licking her lips as she held her dark glasses.
“Where is he?” she asked as I stood aside to let her pass.
“He couldn’t make it today” I answered as she turned to face me.
“You said…”
“I know what I said”
“Why did you bring me here?” she asked, getting angry.
“Because I wanted to meet Alama” I said piercing her with a heated look.
“You don’t need to know her. I am getting married in less than 24 hours Vince. I can’t afford this kind of meetings” she said almost in a plea. I frowned.
“You can’t get married when you are already married to another” I said almost in a thought.
“Vince, I was married but we are no longer together”
“But not divorced” I pressed.
“It was a long time ago, I was under aged. I was 16 years. That is contestable”
“That is not what he said. I am pretty sure he said you were 20” I said looking at her mouth, tracing it to her chest and back to her face. All I could see was her naked underneath me and I found her avoiding my gaze as she swallowed self-consciously.
“He lied, we lied in court” she said suddenly looking at her hands and finding a seat. I walked over to her.
“I had a feeling he wasn’t telling the real story but he will, soon enough” I said taking the opposite sofa.
“What did he tell you?” she asked looking at me, tensed.
“You were supposedly in a fire and he thought you were dead”
“That is true”
“Why didn’t you find him after the fire?”
“I didn’t want to be married to him anymore. I had enough of men”
“But you are getting married to Kole”
“Yes. I am. It has been a long time”
“Why?” I pressed.
“Because it is the right thing to do. Career-wise, and we are compatible”
“Do you love him?” I asked jealous, unable to remain objective and unattached. Here she was and the only thing I could think of was making love to her till her wedding day was over.
“I am comfortable with him” she answered licking her lips.
“What happens to us?”
“There was no Us” she corrected.
“I don’t think so”
“Vince, don’t make this about you…” she shook her head.
“You could be with my child. Are you?” I asked, serious.
“Vince! I am not with a child”
“It has been over a month. Have you seen….”
“My God Vince! I can’t believe you called me here to talk of a nonexistent baby” she said standing up and pacing the space.
“What if you were with my baby, would you still marry Kole?”
“Well, I am not with your child” she defended, her hands going over her stomach in a possessive stance.
“That doesn’t answer my question”
“What question?”
“Will you go ahead with the wedding?”
“Vince…”
“Will you?” I shouted as I stood facing her.
“No!”
“Good” I said firmly as we stared at ourselves.
“You have a lot to answer for” I said, my head and all the questions I wanted answers too forgotten.
“I know”
“God! How I have missed you” I said tracing her lips with my fingers
“Vince….” She didn’t move.
“I want you, I don’t care if you are Alama or Debbie, I don’t care if you were married…to Caleb, to Kole, I really don’t care what your past is Debbie. I am not letting you go, I’m in love with you” I said as I placed strands of hair behind the back of her ear.
“Vince, we can’t” she said, her breath fanning my hand, she was aroused. I could tell.
“I know” and with that I hooked my hand to her waist, pulling her close. All thoughts of finding out who she was, why she changed her name and what led to marrying a misfit like Caleb was lost as I found her lips. She gasped as I teased her open.
“Vince…” she called, trying to resist.
“Don’t fight it love” and I pressed. She responded slowly as I found her willing tongue and sucked on it. She moaned, her hands finding their way to my neck. Pressing closer, I found her aching nipples underneath the silk blouse she was wearing. She arched her back and without second thoughts swept her up her feet and was soon carrying her to the bedroom without a protest. If she wasn’t pregnant before, I was going to make sure she left with me inside her, the thought tightening my already stiffened groin and my heart leaping with joy.
I couldn’t wait for tomorrow.
There was no way I was letting her get married.
Not on my watch.
****
Love on the 25th is written by Uneñ Ameji; Author of Memoirs of a Justified Gold Digger. Get a copy. She is @UnenAmeji