Hi, your girl here. As you know, Love, Music & Dreams returns next Saturday. ‘Playing The Love Game’ will go on the Thursday slot. But I have to plead with you to kindly wait until Thursday the 31st of March for the next episode. Exhausted, busy, the list goes on. I will be working on the next part of the series whilst I rest (when I’m not working, training or cooking for the family, sha).
Enjoy this episode. Thanks for understanding.
I leave you in the capable hands of Oga Dan for the Saturdays. Don’t be gentle with him.
** *** ***
//Anu, Don’t Go//
Idriss paced around Emeka’s living room whilst Emeka explained to her how Idriss went to Bradley’s house to confront him and found him lying face-down in his hallway. He had scampered out through the entrance at the rear of Bradley’s cottage when he heard someone trying to get in.
“It was his cousin,” Idriss stopped pacing and sighed. “I saw his head at the window. The cop dude… The one he came to the wedding with.”
“Why did you go to his house?” Uche did not feel as composed as Emeka looked. She did not feel either that she knew the right thing to do or say. Anu and his daughters were all she could think of.
He was now leaning on the wall frame close to the door. His mouth opened as if he was about to say something. He sighed instead.
“What were you thinking? How do you expect Anu and your daughters to cope if you end up in prison?”
“He wanted to warn him off.” Emeka shifted uneasily on the sofa. “Bradley has been texting Anu.”
“Did you notice his skin tone? What colour was it?”
Idriss shook his head. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“I’m trying to find out if he is really dead. Maybe he is just unconscious. You didn’t check his pulse or anything like that, did you?”
“Either way I’m screwed. That cousin of his will soon point his cop friends in my direction. And all the evidence will point this way.”
“He sent Brad a threatening message this morning,” Emeka said. He stared at Idriss intently as if to ask for permission before divulging more information. “And he has been receiving pictures of Bradley and Anu together from this mysterious person.”
“He don jam wahala, Uche. They will just conclude that he attacked the guy because he is after his wife. We will say Idriss was here this morning. In the meantime, we need you to find out if the dude has kicked the bucket.”
“How do you expect me to do that?”
“The cousin is your friend, isn’t he?” Emeka pulled his lips in like someone expressing disapproval.
Uche did not feel that he had a right to choose who her friends were, now that they were no longer together. She didn’t tell him she had only spoken to Kam, Bradley’s cousin twice. She didn’t tell him either that at Idriss and Anu’s wedding when Kam asked her for her phone number, she wouldn’t have given it to him if Emeka had showed a hint of jealousy.
“Please, do whatever you can.” Idriss said. “I can’t tell Anu to ring the guy.”
“It would look suspicious if Anu does it.” She understood. Her friend wouldn’t be as understanding about how her husband ended up in this situation though. She didn’t even have to imagine her, lips pursed, brows furrowed.
“I don’t want my wife involved in this.”
“I don’t know if the guy is still using the same number. I will try it, sha. Try not to worry.” She picked up her bag and patted him on the shoulder on her way into the kitchen.
Emeka’s kitchen as usual had been left tidy. Plates and cutleries put away. Sink gleaming. She had loved cooking in it, the extractor fan humming a soft droning noise above the cooker. The oven’s heat below casing her in the kind of warmth that reminded her of home.
Placing her bag on the kitchen table, she reached for her phone and went through her contact list. Her heart wasn’t pounding the way it did when she arrived, when she believed Bradley was dead. She hoped, for her friend’s sake, that he had reached the hospital on time and he would recover soon, and be able to tell the police it wasn’t Idriss that attacked him.
When Bradley introduced his cousin to her at the wedding, she had blurted out half her thoughts before she could stop herself. ‘You don’t lookalike.’ She had said glancing from Bradley’s fair, pale face to his cousin’s, golden tinged, biracial one.
“My mum is from Monrovia,” Kam said reaching out to shake her hand. He had pearly white teeth and a memorable smile. His perfect hairline and eyebrows made her wonder if he was one of those men that liked women gawking at them. “Dad is English.”
That evening at the wedding party he asked her to dance. She turned him down, explained she had a boyfriend and pointed at Emeka who was on the dance-floor with Ikumapayi’s pretty cousin. Unfazed, Kam took the seat next to her and asked her about herself. He was interested in her job. His sister was pregnant and they were all worried. Their brother had died an infant, suffered various complications during spinal bifida surgery.
And she did her best to reassure him, telling him the things he already seemed to know, the benefits of taking folic acid in pregnancy. They talked research. They agreed prognosis of children born with the condition were better.
Soon they were neck-deep in conversation about some of the crass criminals he had dealt with. People who dug themselves in deeper holes trying to lie after getting arrested. Criminals who managed to foil their own plan. His favourite was a robber who managed to trap himself in the master bedroom of the house he went to rob. The door, triggered the security system once shut and he had to wait to be let out, going from the room to a cell.
She didn’t realise Emeka had come back to their table with Anu until Kam asked Emeka for permission to obtain his girlfriend’s number with a confident assurance similar to Idriss’ arrogance.
“For medical purposes only,” he added grinning. “My sister is pregnant. Your girlfriend is a passionate midwife.”
Whilst Anu congratulated him about his sister, saying she didn’t know, Emeka told her to give the man her phone number, grunting when she tried to say something.
They exchange numbers and he called twice. He was polite when he phoned. Witty and chatty. Told her they could be friends. The tone of his voice and how late at night he called discouraged her from continuing to talk to him. She ignored his calls the next time and deleted his Merry Christmas text. Unlike his cousin, he knew how to interpret a woman’s actions, backing off completely.
“Hi, Ooche.” His voice came on the line at the second ring, unusually sombre.
She remembered how he carefully repeated her name, pronouncing the U with effort as if mispronouncing it could decide the fate of their relationship.
“I can’t believe you are actually ringing me. I thought you joined the convent and became a nun or something.”
She heard the amusement in his voice. And for a moment wasn’t sure what to say. Something about a new research had been planned in her head but her thoughts got all muddled when she heard that voice.
There was something so rich and alluring about that voice. Something that made one decide the quality of its owner’s face without seeing them. A powerful, deep voice that oozed of male strength.
“The baby is fine,” he said. “All clear. Although technically he is not a baby anymore. He has started chasing girls. He crawls after them in his nappy so he hasn’t caught one yet.”
“I bet he needs lessons from his uncle,” she giggled.
Idriss appeared in the doorway with a questioning scowl to his face. She realised her hand had started to play with one of her braids and stopped.
Kam was telling her that she caught him at a bad time, that they could talk tomorrow evening and perhaps go for a drink.
“Is everything okay?” She asked with the casualness of someone that didn’t really know what was going on.
“No, it isn’t. Bradley was knocked out this morning.”
“Oh no.” She hoped she sounded believable. “Is he okay?”
“He is fine. Good that you called actually. I couldn’t find his phone and he would like to see Anu so please can you let her know. I don’t have her number and he has been sedated.”
“Yes of course. I’m so happy he is fine.” She said, eyes on Idriss.
Idriss put his hands to his face. He walked to her side, planted a kiss on her forehead and then left the kitchen.
“I have to go.” Kam said. “I’m sorry. I have to ring my aunt. She will be waiting.”
“Yes. She is waiting for me to ring her back. Please, let’s talk soon. Don’t make me wait another year, babe.”
She refused to wipe the smile on her face. It was there when she joined Emeka in the sitting room. Idriss had gone.
Emeka stated the obvious without making eye contact. “He has gone to the agency. He doesn’t want Anu to know Bradley is in the hospital, sha.”
“How am I supposed to keep that from her?”
“We will figure it out together,” Emeka pointed to the sofa. “Let’s chat, please.”
She kept standing.
“I feel really bad for the way I behaved.”
“You mean you feel bad for dumping me and letting me find out through your sister?”
“You have to understand, I didn’t want to end things that way. I didn’t want to hurt you. You were there for me when I had nothing. How can I forget that? How can I forget how you would collect your salary and then help me out with rent back then when I was temping?”
“And now things are okay for you I’m not okay for you anymore? No be so?” She stopped to prevent the emotions wrapping round her gripping her any tighter.
“You are okay. More than okay.”
“You are prefect.”
“Then why Emeka?”
“Don’t do this.”
“It is like I said. You got richer, now you want something better. You want a girl whose parents can give you a house in Lekki. One of those girls from new money homes, abi?”
“I don’t love you,” Emeka shouted. “I stopped feeling that way two years ago.”
Uche straightened, glared at him and without uttering a sound fled from the house.
Kanyin heard her stepmother asking Kate at the reception area if she had seen her, she heard Kate say no one had left the agency but that didn’t make her come out of the kitchen. She had run in after taking the box of cakes from Bayo’s filthy hands.
Dumping them in the bin did not satisfy her though. She kept staring at them, wondering if it was possible to have them incinerated before her eyes. With it too Bayo’s face and the awful memory she carried everywhere with her.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that his face, that evil face, followed her, even in her sleep, now she would see him at the agency too. What would be the point of her quitting university?
How could she possibly say anything to her father? He would never look at her the same way again. If he believed that she wasn’t culpable to an extent. He would ask her why she was at Bayo’s house at that time of the night.
Uche had pointed out that a woman should always cover up. Kanyin remembered leaving for the university in dresses and skirts that didn’t cover her completely. Her father grumbled about this once. If he knew what Bayo did to her, perhaps he would lay the responsibility at her doorstep too. Blame her for failing to protect herself.
Overcome with anger, she came out of the kitchen when she saw Bayo signing out at the reception desk. She followed him to his car.
“Leave me alone Bayo. Stay away from me and my family. Or I will start talking.”
He turned around bearing the type of smile that made her look beyond his arrogant stride and rude behaviour when they first met.
“Shortee, you know I don’t give up. If I wanna see you, I chase you up.” He walked over to her side. “Get in the car. I will take you for a ride. You can act like you don’t want it again, I’m cool with that.”
“You are evil.”
“And you can’t do jack about it. What’s more, you can’t even tell your stupid daddy. Even your sexy stepmum thinks I’m da bomb. It won’t be long before I show her what she is missing.”
“Stay away from her. She is married.”
“You wanna sacrifice your single friends, instead.” He nodded, “See, we think alike. I paid your friend a visit last night,” he sneered and winked. “That girl’s got game.”
“Your friend is badass, shortee.” He got in the car and drove off.
She typed Nkem a Whatsapp message after her phone went straight to voicemail, asking her to contact her.
A message box from Nkem soon appeared.
Where you bin girl? You are missing lectures. Bayo dropped by, some newbie downstairs let him in. Sege was here. He said he knows him. That Bayo naa real criminal. That small guys dem that do internet fraud are even scared of him. Sege said you should stay away from him sweetie. He is bad news.
Stay away from him too, Nkem. Tell your hostel girls not to let him in. Call me when law lecture ends. She typed back, fighting the overwhelming feeling that made her nearly reveal what he did to her. It felt strong today. The need to reveal her pain and seek support. The feeling of wanting to cry on someone’s arms and have them say, I’m here for you.
She missed her mother even more. There were benefits to growing up as Grandma’s child. Disadvantages too. Not having someone to discuss certain things with: changes to her body as a teenage girl, the way boys looked at her. She couldn’t imagine telling Grandma what Bayo did to her. She couldn’t see herself ringing the mother she hadn’t spoken to in six months to tell her something like this either.
When she turned around and saw Anu in front of the agency, she realised that no one else out there could support her the way Anu would.
They met each other halfway. Kanyin let her pouting lips and folded arms speak for her.
“Ignore what he said, princess. He applied for the sales agent trainee job. That’s all.”
“Are you going to give him the job?” She asked.
“Not even if he had bothered to submit the application form on time.”
“Oh? He didn’t?”
“He got here two minutes after twelve. I have no idea why he didn’t email it like the other applicants did. Besides, how can I give him a job here when you two are not together anymore?” She emphasised together, not adding anything like someone waiting for the other person to confirm what she said.
“I think you should give Austin the job.”
“Is that because you like him? Or because you think he will be great at it?”
“Enh en, you have started, abi?”
Come in, let’s do some work. Your father is on his way here but I would like you to come with us to the restaurant for the meeting. I want you to spend some time here, shadowing me.”
“It will be great for you. You can just go back to uni when you are ready.”
“Thanks. I won’t let you down.”
“I know you won’t.” She reached out and folded an arm around her elbow and they walked back together. “Your father and I discussed it. I know you did one year at university in Nigeria and now another year here, I thought it might help you focus. Prepare you for the future.”
“Your father will tell our staff when he joins us. You can sit next to me and do the minutes.”
Anu stopped as Kaz came out of the agency. The latter seemed to already know. She smiled.
“You will make a great manager when your stepmum reaches retirement age in five years.”
Anu sniggered. “Kaz, you are way older than me. You will definitely retire before me.”
“Don’t worry about the minutes, babes.” Kaz said. “Just note everything down. Ignore anything I say when the fit waiters serve us. They look like gods. I warn you now. Those Greek-looking waiters will have an effect on you.”
“Okay, thanks.” She waited with the women whilst they decided who was leaving in the first car. She liked it, perhaps a bit too much, when Anu told Kaz to let Kate know she wouldn’t be needed at the meeting. From the other woman’s face, she could tell Kaz knew why. She couldn’t imagine her stepmother discussing her life with people she worked with but all anyone had to do was look at the pictures on the reception desk. Recent pictures of Kate’s sons, who had started to look more like their father.
Anu woke up to Idriss touching her, his voice soothing and tempting.
“You smell good, hmmn.” she didn’t open her eyes. “Can I get some more sleep? I’m tired.”
“That was what you said last night.”
“You mean after you kept me awake for a whole hour. Some of us need our sleep, hubby.” He kept apologising yesterday after he showed up at the agency and in the evening, he wanted to show her how sorry he was. She didn’t understand. Yes, he did disappear. Yet, he came back to work before they left for the staff meeting at the posh Chinese restaurant they utilised for the meeting last month.
What did he need to apologise for.
He took his hands out of her nightdress and kissed her cheek. “Sleep, baby.”
“Busy morning for me.” She wanted to disappear completely under the duvet. The streaks of daylight rays from outside reminded her that soon she would have to get up. She had a few emails to respond to before commencing her day. Her husband would leave for a business meeting and to check on his London properties in a few hours. She wanted to make him breakfast. “I have to call Aleska to see if she can come look after Jade today. I know it is supposed to be her day off.”
“Why don’t you leave her with Kanyinsola? You have a busy day at work, don’t you?”
“Kanyin wants to come with me. I will take her with me to my early morning viewing appointment. Then we can get brunch together at the cafe she likes.”
“She asked to come with me. I think she wants to talk to, so I will be giving her my full attention today.”
“Okay, Aisha. Shey, you know I love you? And you deserve something sweet for all the good things you do for this family. Something really big. I will be quick, I promise. ” He slipped his hand underneath her nightdress.
“I love you too.” She kissed him and got off the bed. “I will wash myself and join you in a minute.”
Her toothbrush was under water in the bathroom, getting rinsed when she heard her phone beep. Anu left the toothbrush on the sink top and hurried into the bedroom.
Her husband had his back to the bathroom when she got there. He was going through her phone.
“What are you doing?” She took the phone off him and saw that he had clicked a message to delete on the screen.
“Aisha, I was trying to help you. Baby, you are busy.”
She waved a hand to get him to stop talking. The message on the screen, the one he had clicked to delete needed all her attention. It was from Bradley’s mum.
I’m sure you didn’t get all my messages. No matter what has happened between you two, he is still your friend. He is lying injured at the hospital and I can’t believe you chose this time to turn your back.
“What is she talking about, Idriss? What messages did she send me?”
“I don’t know.”
“What’s wrong with Brad?”
“It is none of our business.” He picked up his phone from the side table and started going through it.
“I asked what’s wrong with Brad? Or should I be asking what you did to him?” She was shaking so much, she had to sit on the edge of the bed despite not wanting to sit. He didn’t go after Bradley. He couldn’t have.
“He is in hospital. Someone attacked him. I didn’t tell you because he has nothing to do with us. You promised to stay away from him, remember?”
“And you promised not to touch him.”
He was staring at her. She didn’t feel capable of questioning him. Not when she just found out he had put her friend in hospital. Standing up, she hurried to the travel bag she brought over last night with some of her things in.
The rest were still in her father’s house, something she was now happy about. She took out a pair of jeans and put it on. The nightdress came off and a short top took its place.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to go home, call Kam and then make my way to the hospital. I need to hear what happened from Bradley.” She could have added that it wouldn’t look good if she didn’t go and see him, that Kam as a senior detective might get suspicious. She could tell him that her visiting Bradley would protect him but she was too angry with him to think of protecting his feelings.
“I didn’t touch him. Knowing him, he probably did this to set me up.”
“Really? He beat himself up?”
“He is desperate.”
She picked up her bag and dropped her phone in it.
“You are supposed to believe me, Anu. You are my wife.”
“Shame ‘cos I don’t trust you.”
“I don’t trust you either. And I certainly don’t want you visiting the same man that banged you the last time you visited him. Who knows what will happen again?”
She started to head for the door.
“If you go and see him, don’t come back. Stay with him. I need a wife that’s all mine. Not one that keeps going back to her ex. So, choose wisely. Take one step out of that door and we are done.”
Anu didn’t stop to ponder what he said. Pushed to the limit by his controlling behaviour and struggling to suppress her anger, she couldn’t wait to get out of his house.
The cold air outside thrashed her. But her decision to keep walking did worse to her insides. Perhaps if he hadn’t ordered her to stay, she wouldn’t have left. They could have spoken. Yet her anger wouldn’t let her go back to him.
Jadesola’s new musical film lulled them both to sleep soon after Austin left the house. Her father had left for London early this morning, this was why the sound of a man’s voice saying her name tugged her wide awake. She bolted up, grabbing her sleeping sister when she saw Bayo sitting cross legged on the armchair next to them.
His eyes were a blazing red colour and he staggered as he got to his feet. He retrieved a set of keys from his pocket and dumped them on the table. “I’m here to return your keys. I think I hurt you…” He shrugged. “Know that, I ain’t gonna hurt you again. And I ain’t gonna stop begging until you take me back. I have fallen for you Kanyinsola. You are no castaway chick. You are a queen. My bae.” He slapped his chest. “I won’t rest till I get you back. I will make you love me again.”
Although he left and closed the door behind him, she wouldn’t stop shaking. She didn’t know her sister had woken up, so when she touched her face and muttered “Kanyin,” her resolve disappeared and tears filled her eyes.
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