Hello Yarners = Big Announcement – the Finale of Love, Music & Dreams drops next week – that means you can’t afford to wink at all throughout this episode and you can’t miss next week’s episode for anything – trust the Team to serve you the very best of Finales’
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For previous episodes – click here.
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The truth is still blurry but the lies are getting clearer ~ Selena Gomez
Daniel stared lazily at his phone as he waited on Stella to pick the call whilst her ring-back tone played on. He was convinced that she wouldn’t pick up but his fingers kept dialing her number.
‘Hello?’ The voice came through the speaker with a questioning tone.
‘Hi,’ Daniel answered, surprised to hear her voice. ‘How are you?’
‘I’m fine,’ she replied.
There was a discomfiting silence.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, eager to disrupt the silence.
‘Sorry about what?’ Stella asked, her voice showing no trace of malice.
Daniel cleared his throat, not sure how to begin.
‘But how could you? How could you just resign like that without informing me atleast?’ Stella asked, her voice quavering. ‘I thought we were friends?’
‘We are friends,’ Daniel replied, his voice textured to soothe her growing anger, ‘but I had no choice.’
‘What do you mean you had no choice?’
Daniel paused, not sure how much he should say.
‘I’m listening,’ Stella spat impatiently. A growing sense of frustration visible in her tone.
‘I was asked to cut all ties with you if I desired a future in the company,’ Daniel began, his voice calm and steady. ‘And also to submit an unsigned copy of my resignation letter.’
‘Who asked you to do that?’
‘The Manager HR, under the instructions of the MD,’ Daniel replied.
‘My dad?’ Stella blurted disbelievingly. ‘Mr. Subair told you that my dad instructed him to ask you to cut ties with me?’
‘Yea,’ Daniel answered. ‘He actually said ‘instructions from above’ and you and I know that he only reports to the MD since we’re yet to have a new GM ADMIN.‘
Stella stayed silent but the soft gyrations of her breathing could be heard over the phone’s speakers.
‘I just couldn’t stay in that sort of environment where I would constantly feel blackmailed and disrespected, I had to leave… I’m sorry,’ Daniel continued, listening to the sound of her breathing.
‘And you kept all of this from me?’ Stella asked, her voice going emotional.
‘I wanted to tell you…’
‘No… It’s okay,’ she interrupted him.
‘I’m sorry,’ Daniel apologized again.
‘Its fine,’ Stella replied, her tone showing her disappointment. ‘Thank you for calling but I have to go now.’
‘Stella… I’m sor…’ The beeping sound of the disconnected call stopped him mid-sentence.
He exhaled loudly. He knew this was going to happen but telling her the truth was the only way to go, just like resigning was his only hope of having a chance at her friendship and love as staying put in the office would have meant he had agreed to play by Mr. Subair’s rules.
His eyes strayed to the PEN2SCREEN Africa awards invite lying idly on the table. He had received two complimentary copies being a nominee for the awards and had given one to Stella whilst reserving this copy for his younger brother.
He knew it would take only a miracle now for her to accompany him to the awards ceremony on Saturday, especially since that day was also her birthday.
He shut his eyes as he fantasized about winning the competition. The first thing he would say in his acceptance speech after thanking God would be to wish Stella a happy birthday. He only hoped he would not forget. He had to write down his thoughts.
He drew the piece of paper on the table closer to himself and wrapped his fingers around his pen, ready to ink the thoughts running through his mind as he was tired of the frequent mishap of missing his lines anytime Stella was in the mix.
He had things he wanted to say on Saturday night and he wanted to say it right.
Teni had tears in her eyes as Danny struck his last note on the guitar. It was a beautiful experience having him serenade her with her favourite song and she wished he didn’t have to stop.
She sighed in despair.
‘What?’ Danny asked as he approached the bed, the show on TV having ended a few minutes after his performance, with all contestants put on probation. ‘What?’ He repeated as he sat on the edge of the bed, holding her hands in his. ‘Did I do anything wrong?’
‘No…no… you did nothing wrong… The problem is, yo..you’re doing everything right. Ev..erything is just perfect,’ she stuttered, gazing into his eyes.
‘I love you Teni…with all of my heart,’ Danny started. ‘You make my life perfect.’
Teni closed her eyes as she hoped to shut back the tears that were pushing at her eyelids. ‘I can’t love you Danny…I’m sorry,’ she said, scared to look into his eyes.
‘Why?’ Danny asked, his voice brimming with emotion.
Teni stayed quiet.
‘Look me in the eyes Teni and tell me you don’t love me,’ Danny forced, hoping to see the secrets she was hiding behind her closed eyelids. ‘Tell me your heart doesn’t beat for me, in the same rhythm that mine does for you.’
Teni opened her eyes and like the dark tropical skies in April, the tears rolled down her cheeks like rain. ‘Danny, some of us don’t have the privilege of letting our hearts decide who to beat for,’ she sniffled, smacking her lips together as she felt the salty taste of tears in her mouth. ‘To some of us, love is mathematics, not chemistry, prose, not poetry,’ she said, with red tear-rimmed eyes.
‘I don’t get…’
‘We’re not compatible Danny, I’m a sickler,’ she groaned, and for the first time in as long as she could remember, she didn’t feel like that strong girl running an NGO with the message that sicklers were warriors. She felt drained and helpless.
‘But y..y..you don’t look like one, you hardly even fall sick,’ Danny stuttered like a drunk as he held fast to her hands.
‘But I am one and you’re A-S.’
‘I don’t care,’ Danny said shaking his head like someone trying to snap out of a nightmare, ‘I love you.’
Teni smiled sadly. ‘Love is not enough, it’s never been enough…’ she moaned, wiping the tears off her face with a paper towel.
‘That’s easy for you to say cos’ you’re not the one in love. You don’t love me.’
‘I wish I didn’t.’
‘If you do, then let’s fight this together,’ Danny pleaded, his eyes staring straight into Teni’s.
‘It’s not about me, it’s not about us, it’s about the future Danny,’ she said, her voice quavering, ‘No child should live life fighting these battles, not if there’s a different way.’
Danny bit his lower lip as his eyes moistened with tears.
The sound of a ringing phone cut through the sadness in the room.
‘Excuse me,’ the director apologized, clutching the ringing phone in his hands as Danny and Teni’s eyes rested on him. He knew they had not noticed his presence in the room earlier and so could understand the look of surprise in their faces. ‘Good luck guys,’ he echoed as he eased out of the room, shutting the door behind him.
Chika Chukwu watched intently as both men spoke in low tones, his eyes set on the dread-locked director as he conferred with his boss.
‘I don’t know how you’re going to do it but that boy brings the numbers to the table and we cannot allow a technical disqualification or TD as you like to call it derail our plans for a record shattering finale,’ he said impatiently, interrupting their deliberations. ‘I’m sure you know that Mr. Ben.’
‘Yes I do Mr. Chika… but… we also cannot lose the integrity of the show just because of record ratings for one season.’
‘No one is asking anyone to lose the integrity of the show Mr. Ben,’ Chika corrected, slightly irritated, ‘but from available data, it’s clear the boy brings something special to this record breaking season and those numbers are what my bosses are going to judge me with.’
‘I know… I know…’ Mr. Ben concurred. ‘That’s why I made the decision to have his performance beamed live from the hospital…’
‘Then why go through all that trouble just to have him technically disqualified?’ Chika asked, interrupting the Producer again.
‘Because we had to put up a great show for the fans Mr. Chika, that’s why,’ Mr. Ben replied in an assured tone. ‘It’s about crafting a great story for the show Sir and I can assure you that if you can give us a go ahead for this proposal by Friday, there’s nothing stopping us from having the biggest finale in the history of talent shows in Africa.’
‘You mean this proposal that has us partner an almost unknown sickle cell NGO, when there are several big name sickle cell NGOs we can partner with?’ Mr. Chika asked, slapping a bound copy of the proposal softly against the table.
‘It’s about the story we want to project Sir,’ Mr. Ben chimed. ‘The show itself is all about partnering with unknown brands, so this works for us, besides, all that is needed for this is a booth at the venue of the finale for free genotype tests, which is what we can quickly set up, and some flyers carrying important information about the sickle cell disease. Trust me, our numbers will get a bounce from the added buzz.’
Mr. Chika listened with rapt attention as Mr. Ben pitched his proposal confidently, glancing occasionally at the director who was nodding to every word coming out his boss’ mouth. The man was a smooth talker.
He flipped through the pages of the proposal in front of him in an almost disinterested manner. The only part of the idea that made sense to him was the numbers part and that the idea would guarantee a record breaking finale regardless of whether the boy was disqualified or not.
‘Let’s do it,’ he muttered, closing back the proposal.
Teni glanced at her watch, it was fifteen minutes to twelve, about forty five minutes before her appointment with Zmobile’s GM Consumer Marketing, Mr. Chika Chukwu.
She pinched herself again as she settled into the sofa, watching as the receptionist tapped on the dial buttons of the intercom to confirm her appointment.
She ran her eyes through the waiting room, letting it rest on the frame hung on the wall, with the company’s mission statement boldly typed out.
‘Miss Teni Adisa?’
‘Yes,’ she answered, sitting up as the receptionist called out to her after placing the receiver back on the phone box.
‘Your meeting is by twelve thirty,’ the receptionist said with one of those official smiles that they had been specially trained to give. ‘So do feel free to relax here while you wait.’
‘Thank you,’ Teni replied, trying to mask her joy with a straight face. It was not a dream afterall.
She remembered staring dreamy eyed at her phone for several minutes after her discussion with Mr. Chukwu yesterday, wondering if the call that just ended was real.
Why would Zmobile call to seek partnership with an almost unknown NGO?
It was a question she couldn’t answer and neither could Amaka when she had informed her about the call.
‘Did the caller sound genuine?’ Amaka had asked.
‘Of course he did, but fraudsters also sound genuine,’ she had replied.
‘What have we to lose?’
‘Nothing,’ Teni muttered to herself, answering the question roaming around in her head.
She glossed over the pages of a magazine that had been set on the table but the thoughts in her mind were on the possibilities of partnering with Zmobile, and for the first time since Sunday when she broke the news of her condition to Danny, she felt her face ease into a smile.
‘Help me Lord Jesus,’ she prayed under her breath, ‘help us,’ she corrected, as the thought of the Elimination Show on Saturday and Danny being on probation with the rest of the contestants crossed her mind.
She pictured him being crowned The Star at the finale of the show while she was present not just as a guest, but in the capacity of a partnering NGO. It would be the case of two dreams coming true on the same platform.
It would not compensate for the heartbreak of not being able to build a future with someone she loved deeply, but it certainly would be a good place to start from.
Ebuka was impressed with the quality of Enitan’s work as he observed the perfectly positioned lights shining from the suspended ceiling like stars in the night sky. She had also informed him that the lights would change from the present starry theme to a heart shaped theme the moment he began to propose to Stella and he couldn’t wait to hear the ‘awww!’ that would go off in the hall when that happened.
What if she declined his proposal?
‘Nah! Can’t happen,’ he muttered to himself, shaking his head.
He was confident in his game play, sure that with the right conditioning, he could blackmail Stella to say yes to his proposal. This was actually the easiest play in his plan as getting Enitan to create a romantic haven and inviting close friends and family to apply just the right pressure to blackmail Stella to a yes wasn’t half as difficult as getting Mr. Subair to play a part in his script.
A sinister smile played around his lips when he remembered the look in Mr. Subair’s eyes immediately he mentioned the vacant position of the GM ADMIN. The man instantly became malleable.
He could understand why the man believed his proposition, having been employed into his present job through the referral of his father, Dr. Ikenna Obi, some six years ago as an Assistant Manager – Human Resources. Maybe the man thought he was going to pull his father’s strings, or maybe he believed the hype of him being prospective son in-law to Mr. Haastrup. Whatever his reasons were for agreeing to play a part in the plan, it was obvious the position of the GM ADMIN. was the bait.
That play was the game-changer and it showed his genius, incinerating Daniel from the equation, and turning Stella’s attention back to him.
‘Damn!,’ Ebuka muttered, his thoughts screeching to a halt as he sighted Enitan stepping into the hall from the second entrance in a red lace crop top on a white pencil skirt. He ogled in lust as the hour glass shaped goddess waltzed towards the LADIES, swinging her red clutch purse to the rhythm of her hips.
‘You like what you see?’ Enitan asked, gazing into the mirror as she ran the red lipstick on the lines of her lips.
It felt like she was expecting him.
‘Yes,’ Ebuka breathed, shutting the door behind him while his eyes stayed fixed on her breasts.
‘I meant my work, not my breasts,’ Enitan said, eyeballing him as she returned her lipstick to her bag.
Ebuka chuckled. There was something about her demeanour tonight that was unusual. She looked tensed.
‘My Gold,’ he cooed as he swung her around to face him, before planting a kiss on her lips.
Enitan placed her hand on his chest to prevent him from drawing her closer to himself. ‘We have guests in the hall Ebuka, and who knows, your Diamond may have arrived,’ she said, her tone thick with sarcasm.
‘Very funny,’ Ebuka said, releasing her from his hold to stare at her curves, with his eyes lingering on her exposed belly button. He felt a strong urge to kiss it.
‘Oh!’ Zainab exclaimed as she pushed the door open without notice, rooted to her position at the sight of a man in the ladies.
Ebuka turned around at the sound of the door opening, his eyes popping up in shock camouflaged as delight, at the sight of his friend’s wife.
‘What are you doing here?’ Zainab asked, ‘Raheem is searching all over the place for you and he can’t seem to get you on phone.’
‘Had to come make sure the toilets here are squeaky clean,’ Ebuka lied, flashing her a smile. ‘Gold meet Zainab, my friend’s wife and my personal person, Zainab meet Gold, the event planner,’ Ebuka said introducing the pair.
Zainab returned the smile. ‘Gold? That’s a fine name,’ she said complimenting Enitan.
Enitan smiled in appreciation, doing her best to mask her disappointment at Ebuka’s introduction gaffe.
‘I have to leave the ladies for the ladies,’ Ebuka said, hurrying out. ‘Let me go see why your husband wants me,’ he added, opening the door and vanishing into the lobby.
Zainab frowned as her eyes caught a glimpse of Ebuka’s extraordinarily red lips as he hurried past her, not sure if she had seen right or if the lights were playing a trick on her eyes.
Femi held the microphone to his mouth, waiting for the noise from the screaming fans to subside. ‘Thank you, Thank you,’ he said, urging the audience to quieten down, whilst glancing at his colleague Oge who had a big smile on her face.
‘Voting has closed and we have come to the moment of truth for our last five contestants, Tunde, Orode, Ifeanyi, Danny and Stephanie,’ Oge said, taking Femi’s glance as a cue to start off.
‘One of these super talented individuals will not be making it to next week’s final and we’re about to find out who that person is,’ Femi said, his voice like that of a judge about to deliver judgment in a murder case.
The audience roared as the electronic display board came on, driving the hall into another frenzy, and like they would usually do in every elimination show, they screamed every digit from ten as the countdown clock timed down to zero.
The familiar buzz of the clock went off in the hall and the voting bars appeared on the screen like in previous shows, but this time without the name tag of contestants on corresponding vote bars.
The audience after an initial screaming fit settled down when they noticed that name tags were not attached to the vote bars and that there were just four bars displayed on the screen, instead of five.
The Presenters shuffled on the stage seemingly unsure of what to do while the Judges huddled together on the bench, their eyes on the screen.
‘Erm… I think we have a special situation on our hands tonight,’ Oge said turning to Femi.
‘Yes we do,’ Femi replied, ‘and that’s why we’ll need the auditors to help us out from this imbroglio.’
A smartly dressed lady emerged from behind the curtains and walked across the stage to where the presenters were standing with an envelope in hand.
‘Thank you,’ Femi said as he received the envelope from the lady who simply curtsied and vanished through one of the exits.
‘Is that the scroll of truth you’re holding?’ Oge teased.
‘Let’s find out,’ Femi answered as he tore open the envelope, tilting it slightly towards Oge, so she could read the contents out loud.
‘By technical disqualification, the next contestant to be evicted from ‘The Star’ show is…’
Oge and Femi paused, enjoying the fact that they had the attention of the hall and millions of viewers across Africa.
‘Danny!!!’ Femi and Oge chorused.
‘It’s a lie!’ Stella gasped as her eyes ran down the page on her phone. How is it possible to evict Danny from the competition? She thought to herself as the band on stage played another one of their soulful tunes.
Her face creased into a frown as she confirmed from the closing paragraph that Danny had been truly evicted from the show.
She felt like strangling Daniel at the moment, shaking her head sadly and reluctant to scroll the page to episode thirteen. What was the use of reading the last episode if Danny wasn’t going to win the show?
She had not expected this sort of disruption to the story, even though she had read about the technical disqualification thing from the last episode. She had hoped that there would be a plot twist to keep the story on course for the expected happy ending.
If he was not going to win Teni’s love, atleast he should win the competition.
That was her line of reasoning and she had therefore made no provision for a surprise ending – not for the story, ‘and definitely not for tonight,’ she muttered to herself as the pictures of the four nominated writers were splashed on the big screen that served as backdrop for the stage.
Finally, it was time for the big announcement of the evening as the award Host read out the profile of each nominated writer to the audience made up of very distinguished personalities, with Daniel Bamidele and Nnamdi Madu receiving louder cheers from the clearly partisan audience.
Stella smiled and just then noticed the backlight of her phone beeping from the corner of her eyes. It was Ebuka calling as she had placed the device on silent mode. She knew he was calling to ask her whereabouts seeing that she was already twenty minutes late to her birthday party.
She tossed the phone into her bag like it was some thrash, turning her attention to the stage where the Host was getting ready to announce the winner of the PEN2SCREEN Africa writing competition, her heartbeat quickened.
‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ the Host began, holding the envelope that housed the name of the winner in her right hand, ‘we’ve come to the highpoint of today’s ceremony,’ she said, with the faces of the nominated writers on the big screen.
Daniel had his index finger drumming on his lips, stopping to smile when he noticed that his face was up on the screen.
Stella could feel her heartbeat racing as she cracked her knuckles like she would normally do when in a tensed situation.
‘The winner of the PEN2SCREEN Africa writing competition is…’ The Host began, fishing out the card from the envelope as slowly as she could possibly do.
Stella could feel herself shivering on her chair as the drum-roll sent the chills down her spine. ‘Announce it already,’ she moaned, with the suspense threatening to drive her crazy.
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