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//Road To Neverland//
Do you know what happens when you give a procrastinator a good idea? Nothing! ~ Donald Gardner
Stella Haastrup mouthed a goodnight as she stepped out of the car, closing the door behind her and strolling up the short staircase that led to the main door of the house.
The night had been far from what she had expected, and she had not hidden her disappointment as she asked Ebuka to take her home.
‘Home?’ He asked, his arched eyebrows showing his surprise. ‘But we only just got here… besides its eight ‘o’ clock, it’s a Friday and the night is still so young,’ He added with a shrug, picking up his cutlery.
‘Maybe you just got here, cos’ you’ve been on that phone all night,’ she replied, her voice displaying her irritation, and her eyes, cold as steel. ‘I’ve been here since seven pm and that’s almost an hour ago.’
‘I’m sorry babe, they are business calls. I just had to pick them,’ Ebuka apologized, closing up her hands in his.
The apology was supposed to pave the way to a more enjoyable evening; instead it only kept them on the table for another ten minutes before they called it a night.
Ebuka’s eyes just wouldn’t stop straying to his ever buzzing phone. And even though he was not picking the calls with his fingers physically, his mind was.
Stella exhaled. She had been counting down to this evening as far back as forty eight hours ago and had barely stayed focused in the office for the whole of the day. She was excited, and she had a right to be, her boyfriend who had been on a two weeks training program in the UK was returning in the early hours of the day and dinner would be the first time they would be together on a proper date in three weeks, as they had not seen each other since the week prior to his trip. And like Ebuka was wont to do, he found a way to make a mess of what was supposed to be a perfect date.
Who receives unending calls on a date night with a girlfriend you have supposedly missed for three weeks?
‘Who does that?’ Stella hissed, her face creased in a frown as she stretched out on her bed still dressed in her date clothes, complete with low block sandals, and with her bag tossed to a corner of the bed.
She could not accept his lame excuses of the calls being business calls because, even though he had just been made the Business Development Manager of his father’s oil servicing company, and was a very busy person, it was not impossible to get two hours of uninterrupted bonding on a dinner date after being three weeks apart. After-all, being the Assistant Manager -New Business- in the country’s biggest telecoms company, which coincidentally was her father’s company, qualified her to wear the toga of ‘very busy person’, but she was yet to bring office files to dinner tables.
She reached for her bag and retrieved her phone from within and just like she had expected, she had some notifications. She scanned through each one, but none was of any real importance and Ebuka’s missed call which she had hoped would be amongst the notifications, wasn’t.
She typed on her phone to call him but changed her mind in the middle of the process as she typed out d-a-n-i-e-l on the contacts search section of the phone. The options popped out, and she pressed her finger on the second option which she had saved as daniel writer.
She tapped on the loudspeaker option on her phone and listened to the beeping sound that showed the call had connected. Deep in her heart, she knew she should be calling Ebuka instead, but something she couldn’t place a finger on, preferred a call to Daniel.
Ebuka was her boyfriend of two years, but he was someone whom she had known practically all her life, as his parents, the Obis, were close family friends.
The joke had always been shared amongst both families about how she was Ebuka’s wife, and Ebuka, her husband. Arthur, her twin brother had always taunted her with this joke anytime they had an argument. It was the joker he usually pulled out when it was getting obvious that she was beginning to have an upper hand in the argument.
‘Wife of Ebuka, the fat kid,’ he would tease, spreading his hands out by his sides to mimic Ebuka’s size. ‘Both of you will give birth to fatty bobos as children.
That would immediately tip the scales as watching her brother’s hands forming a circle around him as he prophesied that she would marry Ebuka, the chubby kid, and give birth to fatty bobos would usually reduce her to tears and get her crying to her mum for help.
Her visits to her mum always ended in a predictable manner. Her mum would console her and plead with her to stop crying and then turn to ask Arthur the same question every time, ‘where did you get that from? Who’s been teaching you about fatty bobos?
Those questions from her mum didn’t stop Arthur from repeating the jokes on her anytime an argument wasn’t going in his favour, until she took her salvation in her own hands, and came up with a very ingenious idea.
She smiled as she remembered that Saturday afternoon a very long time ago, she could have been six or seven at the time. She had lured Ebuka into the toys room from where he was watching Tom & Jerry, and right in front of Arthur who was busy building toy castles, set her plan into motion.
‘You know I’m your wife,’ she proceeded, her arms akimbo as she watched the delightful look on her brother’s face as Ebuka’s chubby cheeks turned pink.
Arthur couldn’t believe the scene as he stopped his castle building.
Ebuka on the other hand stared on, dazed.
‘Am I not your wife?’ She forced, as Ebuka nodded in approval, like a groom with a gun to his head.
‘Good,’ she said, her face easing into a smile as she proceeded on the next part of her plan. ‘My brother Arthur keeps making fun of you and our children, he calls you fatty bobos,’ she reported, her smile turning mischievous as she eyeballed Arthur whose smile seemed to vanish in an instant.
He made for the door but Ebuka read his intentions clearly as he blocked his path and pinned him to the wall with his big frame.
Arthur looked scared. His eyes wearing the look of a mouse in the midst of a clowder of cats. He was certainly no match for Ebuka, who was three years older, and much bigger than him.
The scenes usually blurred out at this point in her mind as to what happened next, but one thing she could never forget was that her brother never called her the wife of Ebuka the fat kid after that incident ever again.
The scenes in her mind skipped to when she arrived back in Nigeria four years ago, after a five year stint abroad for her university education in America.
Her eyes roved around the arrival hall of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos as she searched for her pick-up. She had expected either her mum or her dad to come with a driver to the airport only to be told by her mum that Ebuka was around the airport axis and thus would pick her up.
She dialed the number that her mum had sent to her again, getting frustrated by the minute. ‘Please where are you?’ She asked, trying very hard to be polite seeing that she had been waiting at the airport for close to thirty minutes.
‘I’m wearing a white shirt, with a red tie and I’m waving my hands,’ the baritone voice that sounded like it carried the excess fat of its owner rang in her ears.
That would be easy, she had thought to herself as she scanned the hall for a fat figure wearing a white shirt and waving his hands.
‘Hello…’ A man with finely chiseled features and a frame sculptured to perfection called to her as he waved his hands in front of her face.
She would have been annoyed by the intrusion if not that the stranger was not just wearing a white shirt with a red knotted tie, but he was clearly one of the most handsome men she had ever seen. He was a black Greek god.
‘I know you from your pictures and yes I’m not that chubby kid you use to know,’ he said smiling as he watched the surprise in her eyes.
Hello… Hello… Hello…
She snapped out of her reverie as she heard Daniel’s voice ring out from the speaker. She had completely forgotten that she had dialed his number.
Are you there?
‘Yes I am,’ she answered as she settled into the bed, plugging the phone to her ears as she removed it from the speaker option. ‘I’m sorry… was a bit distracted,’ she apologized, propping the pillow under her head for a better balance. All of a sudden, calling Daniel didn’t seem like a good idea anymore, with her head filled with thoughts of Ebuka and the nights’ bungled dinner, but the one question she was still itching to get an answer from Daniel for, was if he had finally submitted an entry for the Pen2Screen Africa writing competition?
Ebuka smiled knowingly as he smacked his lips to produce a kissing sound into the mouthpiece of his phone. ‘I love you babe,’ he cooed sensuously, aware of the blistering stare from his friend who was sitting in front of him, across the table.
Raheem waited for his friend to end the call before firing his first shot at him. ‘So you mean after your dinner went south on Friday, this is the first time you guys are talking? You mean you couldn’t go to her house during the weekend when she refused picking your calls?’
‘But I just told you I was with Gold all through Saturday, the babe refused to let me out of her sight from that Friday night to Sun-day mor-ning,’ Ebuka answered, staggering his last words and winking at his friend in obvious glee. ‘That babe is a killer.’
‘I don’t get it,’ Raheem said, his eyes wearing a questioning look. ‘I thought you were with Stella on Friday night.’
‘Na so your matter dey be,’ Ebuka said, exasperated from trying to explain to his friend what happened on Friday night. ‘I was with Stella at the start of the night, but Gold wouldn’t let me rest as she called all through dinner until Stella got angry and had to end it prematurely.’
‘Did Stella know it was another lady calling you?’
Ebuka frowned. He couldn’t believe the type of questions his friend was asking him. ‘Wait… how did we even become friends? Can you remember? Cos’ I can’t.’
‘Why?’ Raheem asked, a confused look on his face, he didn’t know how that line of questioning connected to their present discussion.
Ebuka smiled mischievously. ‘I don’t know… my friends are usually not so dull, so I’m just wondering where I picked you up from,’ he said bursting into laughter.
‘You’re a big fool,’ Raheem countered as his face eased into a smile. He had known Ebuka all the way back to their secondary school years before they had both travelled to the UK for their university education.
‘See,’ Ebuka started after he was through with his fit of laughter, his countenance becoming more serious. ‘Stella is beautiful, intelligent and most of all, she’s from the establishment. She fits the profile of my wife and that’s what I intend to make her. Gold on the other hand…’
‘Is beautiful and not intelligent,’ Raheem cut in, his voice heavy with a mocking tone. ‘I know that, tell me what I don’t.’
‘You just had to say that, right?’ Ebuka asked with a smile. ‘She may not be a business executive like Stella but that girl is intelligent, very industrious, and she sure does know how to please a man. Besides, she gives me the freedom I seek.’
Raheem’s expression was blank. It was his way of telling his friend that Gold’s credentials didn’t impress him.
Ebuka sighed. ‘A rich handsome man, faithful to his girlfriend,’ he echoed philosophically. ‘Does that statement sound right to you?’ He asked his friend but continued talking even before he could get a response. ‘Every man is a cheat, it’s the way we’re wired, it’s just that rich and handsome men like me, get the pick of the crop.’
‘I don’t cheat,’ Raheem protested, not welcoming the stereotype as the wedding band on his ring finger became the most obvious object in the room.
‘Of course you don’t cheat,’ Ebuka concurred. ‘But I actually said every man is a cheat and that definitely doesn’t include you, Caitlyn.’
Raheem rose up from his chair and straightened his jacket. ‘This insult is becoming too much for a Monday afternoon,’ he said with a smile scribbled on his face, as he watched his friend chortling. ‘Let me go back to my business, you know, not everyone collects their father’s money as salary, some of us actually have to work for our money.’
‘Na you sabi,’ Ebuka replied, rising up from his chair to see his friend off. He ducked quickly as Raheem threw a paper ball in his direction, laughing as he slipped his phone into his pocket.
Both men shook hands like long lost friends, chatting heartily as they strolled out of the office. Their bond was a result of thirteen years of friendship.
‘Hello, please where can I find Daniel?’ Stella asked as she turned into the Copywriter’s office.
‘Erm… He just left,’ Emmanuel answered, his eyes still fixed on the laptop screen in front of him as his fingers typed furiously on the keyboard. He was one of the three occupiers of the office, with Bankole and Daniel being the other two. ‘He said he was going to the bank for his BVN.’
‘Oh!’ Stella sighed, obviously disappointed. Her fingers drummed on Daniel’s table and connected with the mouse lying idle on its pad. The laptop in front of her came alive from its sleep mode and on the screen was Daniel’s open mail box. ‘You don’t mind if I wait for him, do you?’ She asked, slipping into Daniel’s chair even before she could get a response.
‘Feel free,’ Emmanuel answered. He raised up his head this time for barely three seconds before lowering his eyes back to the screen in front of him. The tapping sound from his fingers striking the key-pads of the laptop, filling the office like some kind of rock music.
Stella’s fingers gripped around the mouse as she directed the cursor to the Sent items area of his mail, and then clicked it open. She scrolled up the messages, her eyes focused and searching, as every message slipped past. She stopped as soon as the date counted past her calculated three day time span, scrolling in the reverse direction to be doubly sure that the message she was searching for was not in the Sent items area.
He had sent the story which he titled ‘The Bridge’ to her on Tuesday, asking her if she felt it was good enough to be put in for the competition.
She had enjoyed every bit of it and had rated it an honest nine over ten, after which he had promised to submit it on Wednesday, after ‘cleaning it up a little’, those were his exact words.
The submission deadline was stated as Friday, September 11th by 3pm and that was barely an hour away.
She raised her head up from the screen to steal a glance at Emmanuel who was still too engrossed in his work to pay any attention to her and then set out on the plan she had just conceived.
She opened the Compose section of the email and typed out an email address on the recipient row as she copied out from her phone. It was obviously for the competition.
She typed ‘The Bridge’ on the search pane of the laptop and dragged it into the body of the email, her eyes roving from the screen of the laptop to her phone as she read the instructions necessary for submission.
‘Do you need some help?’
Her fingers froze on the body of the mouse as Daniel’s voice rang into her ears from behind her. She had been caught red-handed. Flustered and tongue-tied, she immediately felt a strong urge to pee.
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