These are some thoughts from the exclusive reading session of “The Bridge”. And now to our feature post of the day; #LMD5 – enjoy!
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Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option ~ Mark Twain
Stella closed her eyes, but the picture on Ebuka’s phone remained splashed on the canvas of her mind.
The breasts, the matching black lace panties and bra, the rose flower tattoo etched some inches above the indented belly button and the cropped out face of the picture refused to be erased from her mind. They stabbed at her heart like a million daggers.
She tried to be strong and deny that she was hurt, but the burning sensation in her chest wouldn’t allow as tears cascaded down the side of her face.
She hated the fact that she was crying. She did not want to cry. Not for Ebuka. But she could not help it, her body was not hers anymore, her system was malfunctioning, refusing to take instructions from her head and her heart was broken.
She had woken up with a splitting headache but was not in a hurry to leave the bed and get some pain relievers as the pain seemed to soothe the hurt from her naivety.
She had always suspected Ebuka was cheating on her but each time she unknowingly acted out her suspicions, he was quick to come up with stories about ladies pestering him and how he always kept them at bay by announcing to them that he had a girlfriend.
His defense seemed simplistic but since she couldn’t prove her suspicions, she had no option but to accept his stories – which made her feel secure, albeit in a bubble. And the bubble burst last night when she read the message from Gold.
She desperately wanted to believe that Gold was one of the phantom ladies in Ebuka’s stories, but as hard as she tried to make herself believe it, the more implausible the theory seemed.
The conversation style did not read like that of someone pestering another. It bore a tone of arrogance, that repulsive type of confidence borne out of familiarity. The most worrisome part of the chats from Gold was however not the arrogance displayed, but the missing chat history.
If Ebuka had nothing to hide, why was his chats with Gold prior to the photo blank?
It was the question probing her mind when she heard the raps on the door, quickly followed by the turning of the door handle as the door swung open.
‘Did someone chicken out of our Saturday challenge?’ Femi Haastrup announced as he stepped into his daughter’s room dressed in track pants and a sweat shirt, with a towel draped around his neck.
He wiped his face with the towel and inched towards the bed, stopping mid-way to take a look at a book, opened and turned upside down on the table close to the closet. For a fifty six year old man, Femi Haastrup looked really fit, with no pot belly to stare at in front of him and an almost permanent smile plastered on his face.
Stella forced a smile, trying to mask her sadness as she stared back at her dad. ‘I woke up very tired dad, just couldn’t make it,’ She answered, rubbing her fingers against her eyes in the motions of someone just waking up as her dad scanned through the book, making sure he had his fingers fixed in between the leaves as a marker for the opened page.
‘And even now, you still sound tired,’ he replied, walking up to the bed, cradling the book in his hands. ‘Are you sure you’re ok?’
‘Yes dad,’ Stella replied, almost choking on the Yes. She desperately wanted to say No but she couldn’t, as it would mean having to explain to her dad what exactly was wrong and she couldn’t picture herself doing that just yet.
How could she explain to the man that she saw a nude picture of a woman in Ebuka’s phone? Ebuka; her anointed husband.
The only person she wanted to talk to about it for now was Desola, and being that they were billed to visit the designer handling her gown by midday, she was sure they would have a lot of time to discuss.
‘Mastery, Robert Greene. I still can’t understand why I haven’t read this book yet,’ Femi Haastrup mused as he flipped through the pages of the book.
‘Maybe it’s because you’re already a Master,’ Stella teased. The words came out forced, as the usual sparkle in her eyes was missing. It felt like a failed attempt at a joke, as it only evoked a quiet smile from her father. A smile that had more to do with his person than with her comic skills.
‘Hello darling,’ Mrs Foluke Haastrup cooed as she waltzed into the room, interrupting the father and daughter moment. ‘How can you leave your sweetheart alone and come here to gist with another woman?’ She asked, frowning at her husband and eye-balling her daughter playfully. She locked her hands around her husband’s waist from behind, resting her head on his back, just at the nape of his neck.
‘I’m sorry my love,’ Femi Haastrup apologised, his voice laced with an exaggerated mush. ‘Yes I was gisting with another woman but I can assure you that it was your face I was seeing and your voice I was hearing,’ He replied, making a face and winking at his daughter, who by this time was smiling and up on her feet.
‘Are you making that face for me?’ Foluke Haastrup asked, tapping her husband’s stomach lightly. ‘Are you mocking me?’
‘I wouldn’t dare!’ Femi replied with a grin. ‘And by the way how did you know I was making a face, you can’t see my face?’
‘That’s why you have to be careful,’ Foluke warned. ‘I’ve got invisible eyes watching you’.
Stella watched on whilst her parents put on a show, her eyes showing her delight as the couple teased themselves in her room. ‘I think it’s time you both leave my room,’ she said, pushing the lovebirds out of the room gently and shutting the door behind them.
Inasmuch as she enjoyed her parents company, she wanted to be alone at this time to clear her head.
Her eyes caught the image of her phone lying idly on the bed as she rested her back against the door frame. The device had been quiet all morning not because the world had forgotten she had a phone, but because she had put it off after Ebuka had threatened her sanity with his endless calls, none of which she had picked.
He had called her close to fifteen times last night after she arrived home from the party, following which she had decided to turn the phone off since she was not in the mood to talk to him.
She tapped on the power button as she settled atop her bed, watching the device come alive in her hand as messages streamed into the phone, immediately the network signal turned on.
I’m on my way to the house
Called but you’re not picking
Call me when you see this. Will skin you alive if you’re not home. Have you forgotten our appt with the designer?
Stella smiled as she read the messages from Desola. She always had a way of making every assignment look like a ‘saving the world’ assignment. Desola was almost always in a rush.
Stella scrolled to check other messages on the phone. She wanted to be done checking her notifications before calling Desola, and just as she scrolled to the next message, the door opened as her dad slid in through the entrance, waving the book in his hands.
‘I came back to return this,’ he explained as he made for the table and dropped the book in the same way he had met it, open and turned upside down on the table.
Femi Haastrup stopped in his stride as he made for the door, turning to set his gaze on his daughter, who was clearly distracted by his presence as she held her phone in her left hand, tailing his every step with her eyes. ‘You don’t look happy to me,’ he started, his voice soothing and calm. ‘I don’t know what the issue is but I’d like you to know that your peace and happiness are more important to me than who it is you get married to.’
Stella could feel her heart fall into the pit of her stomach as she listened to her dad speak, she wanted to interrupt him and tell him that she was happy, and that everything was fine with her and Ebuka, but as she opened her mouth to speak, all she could hear herself say was, ‘Thank you dad,’ with her face easing into a smile as her lips curved upwards.
As the door shut behind her dad, the tears that have been welling up in her eyes streamed down her cheeks, like they had been waiting for the man to leave the room.
She wiped her face with the back of her hand as the salty taste of the tear drops seeping into her mouth hit her. The taste brought with it that lonesome feeling of heartbreak and turned her attention back to her phone as she read the message displayed on the screen.
Pls pick up your phone
S. Lemme explaiin
This is not what it looks like
‘This is not what it looks like,’ she chorused as soon as her eyes caught the first word on the fourth line, as she scrolled downwards through the chat. It felt like singing along to a song you don’t like, but one whose lyrics you know just because it has been overplayed on the radio. Ebuka’s lines were painfully familiar and had become pretty predictable.
She skimmed through the rest of the chat before returning to the home screen where there was an unchecked email and three Whatsapp messages waiting for her.
She tapped on the email icon and the message sprawled out on her phone screen with the subject, Episode 1 – 3. It was from Daniel.
Stella fell back on the bed as the email attachments downloaded on her phone. She could not have wished for a better distraction as she positioned a pillow under her head to assume a better reading posture.
She watched keenly as the download count closed in on completion. For the first time since the day began, her mind was not plagued with thoughts of Ebuka, his phone or the naked picture. All she could think about at the moment was the serial that was about to open up on her phone. She couldn’t wait to immerse herself in the world of Daniel’s characters.
Danny bopped his head to Darey’s ‘Pray For Me’ playing from the earphones plugged to his ears. His eyes were shut as he listened intently to the music, noting the inflections in Darey’s voice and muttering the ad-libs along with Darey as the song caressed his mind. It was one of the two songs that he was billed to perform next in the competition, in a week tagged Inspire Weekend. The other song was R Kelly’s ‘I Believe I Can Fly’.
Mo ri pe aiye le
forgive me father, but I got to take a chance
Oh I’m already gone, so just…
Orode watched from behind with a smile on her face as Danny seamlessly modulated from one key to another, still singing Darey’s lines. She was sure he was unaware of her presence as she approached him, lacing the back-up verses with her flawless voice.
She took off the earphones from his ears, smiling at him when he turned back to see who it was.
The duo didn’t stop singing even for a moment as their eyes connected, with Danny showing some excellent breath control as he sustained the last note in the pray for me part of the chorus.
The harmony from their blended voices was perfect, and even though this was just a rehearsal, the beauty of the song could be felt as the singers masterfully delivered their lines.
‘Why did you stop?’ Orode asked, her fluttering eyes showing her surprise. ‘I was waiting to see you do the chants.’
‘Chants?’ Danny asked like he didn’t hear her well, ‘I’m still learning that part. The yoruba in that part is not for people like us. That’s senior yoruba.’
Orode giggled. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself. Five years in Lagos and you’re still talking about senior yoruba?’
‘Yesso! That chant is not for omomos like us, that’s spiritual stuff,’ Danny said, his eyes showing he meant every word coming out of his mouth. ‘Don’t you see the way he went Ori Fashola baba ola o.
‘What!’ Orode exclaimed before bursting into laughter. ‘Fashola kor, Tinubu ni. It’s bori ba dolola ola o,’ she corrected him, singing the lines to him.
‘And why didn’t they give you this song?’ He asked, not expecting an answer.
The question brought a big smile to Orode’s face. ‘Maybe because they want you to learn yoruba,’ she answered.
‘I’ll shock them,’ Danny replied, rising up from the cushioned chair. ‘ I’ll do my chants in bini.’
‘Perfect,’ Orode said, still in a fit of laughter. She knew he was joking, but there was this dead pan expression on his face that would have fooled anyone that he was serious. She had been fooled too many times before with the same expression that she had learnt to look beyond the expression on his face to the mischief in his eyes to correctly judge whether he was serious or not.
As they joined up with the rest of the house for dinner, she imagined what it would sound like having Danny do the chants in bini. She was confident he would do it very well, whether in bini or in yoruba, as he had been one of the most consistent contestants in the house.
It was easy to see him as a threat in the house just like Tunde did, but she didn’t, because she liked him, and if the quickening pace of her heartbeat was a metric to judge likeness by, it could be safely said that she was beginning to like him too much.
Stella could sense Daniel gazing at her, even though her eyes were lowered as she read a new message on her phone. He had been stealing glances at her all evening and she was beginning to get used to it.
‘Is there something you want to tell me or you just like staring at me when I’m not looking?’ She asked, her eyes still lowered on her phone screen.
There was a brief silence.
‘Talking to me?’ Daniel asked, suddenly realizing that Stella was not soliloquizing.
‘Nope, I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to the man sitting on the other end of this table who won’t stop stealing glances at me.’
‘But why is that?’ She asked, her eyebrows arching inquisitively. ‘Why do you talk so freely when we chat on phone and become somewhat shy when we’re alone together?’
Daniel’s eyes bulged for a fraction of a second even as he tried to remain calm, with that very familiar smile still playing around his lips. He dragged his hands on the table past the invisible borderline that he had created, and closed up Stella’s palms in his.
It was their first intentional contact of the evening as he gazed into her eyes.
She returned his stare, her eyes questioning and expectant.
‘When I see you, I run out of words to say,’ Daniel started, his eyes glistening and his smile broadening into a grin.
‘You wouldn’t leave me, cos’ I’m that type of girl to make you stay,’ Stella interrupted, with a delightful glint in her eyes.
It felt like they were reading from a script only both of them could see.
Daniel chuckled, ‘You’re so beautiful,’ he continued in a whisper, squeezing her hands softly in his. ‘You are truly so beautiful.’
‘Argh!’ Stella groaned disappointedly. ‘If you’re going to steal Akon’s Beautiful lines, you should at-least steal it right. You skipped close to four lines and jumped to the chorus,’ she protested, slipping her hand out from his hold.
‘I didn’t skip any lines,’ Daniel stated calmly, his hands recapturing her soft hands with a subtle move. ‘The dazzle of your beauty made me forget them.’
‘Hmmn,’ Stella muttered, her eyes widening in surprise. ‘Impressive lines. It reads like something Danny would tell Teni or will he be going for Orode?’
Daniel refused to take the bait, answering the question with a blank stare.
‘It’s still too early to tell the direction of the story from the number of episodes you have mailed to me, but I’m sure Danny would have sang these lines, not talk them.’
‘I can sing them if you want me to,’ Daniel said, clearing his throat, in pretense preparation to sing.
‘Pulease!‘ Stella chuckled, snatching her hands away from his hold and waving them dismissively at him. ‘Just concentrate on writing,’ she said as they both burst out laughing.
He watched the couple from a veiled position, observing how happy she looked, smiling and laughing at the slightest opportunity. They looked like lovers, especially with their fingers locked like that, her eyes wearing a dreamy look and her head tilted at an angle.
He didn’t know who the guy was but he was hundred percent sure it was not his friend Ebuka. This person looked way slimmer.
‘Women!’ he growled, ‘you just can’t trust them,’ he muttered to himself, his head analyzing the action plans his mind was working up.
‘No, wasn’t talking to you,’ he replied the lady, barely looking in her direction. He had been thinking out loud.
What if he just walked up to them to say hi?
It would be nice to see the look on her face, especially with her fingers tied in a knot with this stranger’s.
‘No,’ he said, shaking his head. The idea seemed petty. Maybe he’ll just ignore the scenes playing out in front of him and hope Ebuka gets to find out some other way.
But what kind of a friend would that make him?
His head was still analyzing these thoughts when his hand fetched his phone out from his left pocket. He searched out Ebuka’s number from the contact list and like a man in trance, punched the dial button.
Gazing at his phone and waiting for the call to connect, he began to doubt his decision to call.
What if she was just chilling with a friend? And since when did holding hands amount to cheating?
He shook his head, ‘this is not just chilling with a friend,’ he murmured, doubting his doubts as the call connected and he waited with bated breath for Ebuka to pick up.
If Stella was cheating, then he owed it to his friend to inform him.
‘Women!’ he growled again as the thudum. thudum… of his heartbeat served as a fitting accompaniment to the dhum-dhum… dhum-dhum sound of the ring-back tone.
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