Ben leaned against the door as he stared at David. “Good morning, fighter!”
David smiled. “I clearly don’t regret that punch.” He replied.
I cleared my throat. “Why are you here, Ben?”
He mumbled over a few inaudible words. “Erm…I came to take you to work.”
“Clearly…” David replied.
I pursed my lips. “I would be going with my fiancé.” I said, looking at David.
Ben nodded and stepped back. “Okay.”
David cut in. “No…you can take her.” He said. I stared at him. “Of course, I mean…there’s no problem.”
“But David…” I stressed.
He shrugged with a smile and handed the laptop bag to Ben who didn’t hesitate to collect it. “Its okay, Kim. We’ll see some other time.” He replied.
“David?” I called. I couldn’t understand the reason for his action and it scared me. David was acting too easy.
He came closer to me showing the dashing height difference between us. He tilted his head forward and kissed my forehead. “Take care, Kimberly.” He said and walked off to his car.
I was mute, speechless, and confused. For a minute I was blank. I kept on staring at him and eventually at the direction in which his car went. At that moment, I wished Ben didn’t show up. I felt different. Something was different with me.
Ben cleared his throat. “Can we go?”
I nodded and followed like a stooge into his Car. Memories of David kissing my forehead flowed through my mind as Ben drove. I pushed my weight against the arm rest as my thought and heart strayed. ‘Could David be in love with me?’ I thought. A rueful smile rocked my lip as the thought of being in love was almost evident. I had never had anyone kiss my forehead except my Mom, and David just did. I felt another person apart from my Mom genuinely loved me.
“Ouch!” I screamed as my head hit the mirror. I shot a glance at Ben.
“I am sorry. There was a pot hole.” He replied.
I nodded. “Yeah right! The kind of pothole that a man engineers himself to gain attention!” I replied angrily.
He cleared his throat. “I didn’t do that on purpose even though I had been calling your name for the last five minutes and you didn’t respond.”
I felt embarrassed. “I am sorry.”
“You must love David.” He said. I stared at him. He blinked his eyes and continued. “Clearly he doesn’t love you.”
I felt irritated. “What do you know?”
“A man who loves you would never release you to another man.”
I scoffed. “That’s a lame theory.” I replied. ‘Why was I acting all defensive? It’s not as if David and I were in love. It was just a kiss, just a kiss! Simple!’ I reprimanded myself in my heart and snapped out of my fantasies.
Ben pulled up at the office. “Kimberly, I am sorry about not telling Mr. Adeoye about you.” he started. I rolled my eyes. “I get it, I was stupid, angry and disappointed.”
“So, you decided to get back at me?” I asked. “Look Ben, I really like you, you are a good guy, but you lying to your boss because you want to hurt me just shows how low you are.” I replied. “It’s just unbelievable that a man like you, with so much character would do such.”
He nodded. “I get it! But what was I to do? I am in love with you, Kimberly! Right from the day you stepped at Millaroca, you left an effect on me and you are everything I want, I couldn’t come to terms with it that you are engaged.”
“Ben, a man who loves a woman can leave her with another man because he trusts her, but a man who loves a woman, even if she doesn’t love him would NEVER hurt her.” I stressed. “You hurt me, Ben. That’s not love.” I replied and stepped out of the car.
Wole raised his head as soon as Tola stepped into his office. “Good morning.” He said.
“Morning, Wole.” She replied and walked over to the coffee pot and poured herself some coffee. “Aren’t you overdoing it for wanting to be around me?”
He took off his glasses. “Overdoing what?”
She scoffed. “You…working all hard, trying to impress…I mean, you got this job because of me. You don’t need it.”
He smiled. “Tola, I am not a foolish man. I agree to have come here because of you, but I am also willing to learn new things every day. We may not always get what we want but it doesn’t mean we throw everything we can get away.” He replied. “And stop feeling too important, I am not working hard because of you, I am working hard for my future, either with you or someone else.”
Tola swallowed hard. His last word hurt her deeply. “Erm…we’ll have to be on the mainland soon…Chief Ajose wants a house.” She said.
Wole nodded. “Of course ma’am.” He replied.
She dropped the cup and walked out. As she approached the office, she met Tolu. “Why are you here, Tolu?”
“Tola, I want you to move back to the house. It’s not the same without you.” he said.
Tola stared around. “What are you saying? It’s not like I ‘live’ there.”
He nodded. “I know. But I want to make it our home.”
“Our home?” she asked.
He nodded and got down on one knee bringing out a ring from his jacket. “Please marry me, Tola.”
She smiled and then laughed. “A joke, right?”
“No. I want you in my life. I can’t go on without you.”
Wole approached without the notice of Tola or Tolu. He saw Tolu on one knee with a ring stretched out and he stepped back behind the nearest door. He stared at them as a hot tear rolled down his left eye. He immediately wiped it and watched on as Tola stretched her hand and collected the ring. He immediately disappeared into the toilet.
Tola smiled. “This is expensive. How much did you get it?”
“What does it matter, my love?” Tolu asked, with a smile. “You are worth every treasure.”
She nodded with a smile. “Tolu, do you know what’s more hurting than you hitting me?”
“I don’t understand.” He replied.
She took a deep breath. “The fact that you think I am foolish sucks a lot!”
“What are you saying? I love you, Tola.”
She nodded. “You love my Bank account!” she replied. “So, you wanna marry me so I can legally start paying for everything as your wife, playing your role?”
“What are you saying???” he replied, standing up.
She hissed. “You bought this ring with my money! What have you got on your own? All you want is me, my money and that’s all. Before you marry, get a job and get a life!” she replied hurling the ring at him.
“Tola! This is unfair! Why are you doing this? Are you breaking up with me? We only just made up.” He replied, panting heavily.
She scoffed. “Why are you tensed? You are afraid your money bag is all gone, right. Just chill, chill till I take everything I got you and burn it right in your face then you can die.” She replied and walked away.
He dragged her hand back. “You can’t do this to me.” he said.
“You do realize this is a top firm and you are manhandling a top executive here, I might have you locked up.”
He held her face. “What is all this??? WHERE IS THIS COMING FROM???” he yelled.
“I just realized a real man loves me and you are always in my face, just leave me alone, and let me be with this man! Get away from my life!” she said, and forced herself away from his grip. “Now get out!” she shouted.
Marcus sipped his malt gently. “So, where do we go from here?” he asked.
Ini took a deep breath. “I don’t know, Marcus. 60% to Shola Jones from next week’s job is crazy.”
He nodded. “That’s a whooping 1.2 million Naira.”
“And we’ll just be left with 800,000. We should kill that girl.” She replied laughing. Marcus face was stone. Ini laughed. “Just kidding, baby. I already regret what we did.”
He sighed. “We’ll be broke soon.”
“Don’t worry; I won’t hurt your manager fee. You’ll get ten percent of that balance.” She said, laughing.
He frowned. “That’s 80,000…too small. My fee used to be 20%”
“Hello sweetheart, you see wetin dey happen or not?” she asked in pidgin. “Abeg o…babe don broke too.”
He nodded. “Of course. Make it 100,000. I have bills to pay, Ini.”
“Fine.” She replied. “You better find a way to get us out of this mess, else, we’ll be cash strapped with that b*tch around.”
He sighed. “I don’t know what we’ll do.”
“Helloooooo…………..” Shola said, joining them in the cafeteria. “So, I hear there’s a job next week. When were you going to tell me?” she asked, taking a seat.
Ini hissed. “What don’t you know? Sooner or later, you would have found out after all, you sleep with everyone here.”
“Ini Obong, I don’t like people playing smart with me, keep to your end of the deal. Naija prison no dey smile o…” she replied. “Here’s my account number. I expect my 1.2 million as soon as the money lands.” She said, passing the paper to Marcus. “Cheer up, Marcus, you would be broke forever.”
Marcus smiled. “Don’t be so sure, Shola Jones. This will stop sooner than you think.” He replied.
“Talking tough, Marcus? You don chop lion heart o…anyway, we’ll see about that.” She replied and walked away.
He frowned. “Ini, you didn’t say anything when she attacked me.”
Ini smiled. “You were the one who went tearing at her.”
“Really?! I am doing this for us, we need to destabilize her.”
She nodded. “I have a plan.”
I pressed the doorbell of Victoria’s Homes firmly. There was no response, so I pressed the bell a second time.
The door opened up and a young ‘sister’ opened it. ‘No offence, but is she allowed to fall in love, or feel at least a little of what I felt this morning when David kissed my forehead?’ I thought as soon as I saw her. “Peace be unto you.” she said, with a smile.
“Good afternoon, I want to see Mother Francesca.” I said, with a smile.
She smiled. “Kimberly Bankole, right?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
She led the way into Victoria’s Home. It was my first time in her vicinity. The facility was really large and ‘mothers’ and ‘sisters’ flocked the compound helping elderly people in scrubs to the garden for relaxation. I smiled as I saw a few of the parents gather together.
She stopped in front of Mother Francesca’s office and let me in. I stepped in and stood before Mother Francesca. “Good afternoon Mother.”
“Kimberly…you are true to your words, I love that. Welcome, please take a seat.”
I took my seat. “Thank you, ma. How’s Mrs. Elizabeth?”
She smiled. “She’s okay. Just a little sad, she’s been asking about you all day.”
“I had to go to work.”
Mother Francesca nodded. “I understand. Before I let you run off to her, I have to talk to you about something.”
I nodded. “I am all ears.”
“Elizabeth was brought here under special circumstances, and as you might have noticed, she’s not in the same age range as the other women or people here.” She started. “She is a special patient and she’s never been visited in the past 12 years. She was literally dumped here and receives allowance every month which we have saved up for her.” She continued. “She is a woman who needs love and I don’t want you coming into her life if you are going to run away soon. I don’t want her to be hurt.”
I nodded. “I’d never hurt her. I want to help her.” I replied.
Mother Francesca smiled. “Okay then, please drop your details in this book.” She said, passing a register to me. “I am signing you in as her only family.” She announced. “Prepare to meet her soon. You can visit as you wish, you will have a visit card made for you before you leave.”
I filled the register quickly and with so much joy. I proceeded to have my picture taken for my visitor’s card and then we left for Elizabeth’s room. “Hello Elizabeth.” Mother Francesca said as she opened the door.
“Kim!!!” she said, excitedly and rushed towards to me. She then stopped. “Can I hug you? I haven’t had a wash from my last exercise.”
I smiled and hugged her with so much gusto. “I love you already.” I said, as we took a seat.
“Liz, don’t forget your drugs by 4…” Mother Francesca started.
“…and don’t forget to sleep…” Elizabeth completed with enthusiasm. “Don’t worry Mother, I know the routine, I have been hearing this for 12 years.” She replied.
Mother Francesca smiled. “Before I leave you both, what relationship status do you want me to fill in your booklet?”
Elizabeth stared at me and smiled. “Daughter.” She said. I felt a sharp sting in my heart and I wiped the tear that rolled from her eyes. Mother Francesca nodded and left. “How are you, dear?” she asked.
“I am doing fine, and you?”
She shrugged. “I am okay.” She said, with a smile. “I have always been okay.”
I reached for my bag. “I got you something.” I said, as I handed her a branch of sunflower.
She smiled as she collected it. “Thank you, Kimberly.” She said, and kissed my forehead. “I love you.”
My smile didn’t fade and I blushed carelessly thinking that David had kissed my forehead. Today had to be my best day!
She kept the sunflower in a vase. “I’ll keep it forever…at least, till I die.”
“Do you have any child?” Her face fell. Oops! I must have upset her!. “I am sorry, Mom.”
Her face lit up. “You are a charmer. I would have loved you to marry my son, but he died 12 years ago. My son, my baby died 12 years ago.”
“I am so sorry.” I said, as I hugged her. “I would be here for you.”
She nodded. “So, tell me what do you do?”
“I am a writer.” I replied.
She smiled. “Wow! That’s beautiful. I used to paint, so I am in natural awe of creative people.”
“Why did you stop?”
She sighed. “I have been through a lot, one question at a time, dear.” She replied. “My spirit was broken so I lost the talent.”
I smiled. “Okay, let’s do the positive thoughts now!!!” I said, excitedly. “Do they let you go out at all?”
“No. but others are allowed to visit places with their loved ones, but to me, I don’t think they love them at all. I mean the so called ‘loved ones’. If you love your parents at all, why lock them up here?” she started. “This place is depressing. If you love your parents, even if they are old, rugged and smelly, you should hug them.” She said, with a smile. “Before my son died, my husband never let him hug me when I hadn’t showered. My baby used to cry so much until he got used to not hugging me when I hadn’t showered. He even used to yell at me.” she said, with a tear.
I felt my heart break. How could a child not love his mother? This kind of a mother? I thought. “Do you want to dance?” I asked, as tears rolled down my eyes.
“What are we dancing to?” she asked, standing up.
I fetched my phone and scrolled to ‘Dance the pain away by John Legend’. “Dance the pain away by John Legend.” I replied. “You just have to dance, roll your head and laugh. I do that a lot when I am sad.” I replied, playing the music.
We danced and laughed as the song played. We nodded our heads in excitement and danced to the music. Elizabeth smiled a lot as she danced and she eventually started to cry and then we cried and laughed and danced again and laughed again and on and on we went until she had to take her drugs and sleep and I left.
David picked out a gown. “Do you think she’ll like this?” he asked, Oyinkan.
“Kimberly is too simple, she’ll appreciate it, but will never wear it after the fund raiser.”
He scoffed and picked out another. “What about this?” he asked.
“I think it’s too bright.” She replied. “Anyway, why are you so interested in her now?”
He smiled. “You told me to try, and I am doing just that, she’s smart and I think I should make her happy. Every time I remember how mom’s life was, I just don’t want to hurt another woman.”
“So, you don’t love her?”
He scoffed. “Love? What are you saying? I can’t love anyone. I am a beast; I should at least make her happy.”
“David, you have to forgive yourself about your Mom.”
He shook his head. “I never will, I am a wicked man.”
“You were a boy.”
He scoffed. “If I was like that as a boy, it means I never had a heart, if I try to love Kim, I might hurt her and she doesn’t need it.”
` Oyinkan rubbed his head. “It’s okay, it’s a gradual process, you would learn to love again.” She said and took a deep breath. “I think I like that dress over there.” She said, and they walked over to the second section.
David bumped into Henry. “Hey…watch it.”
Henry laughed. “Fly guy! How are you, man?” he asked, stretching out his hand. David stared at the hand. Henry forcefully shook him. “Try to make new friends, son!”
“Whoa! That’s some nerve!” Oyinkan said, with a smile.
Henry stared at her. “You are rolling with some really fine girls.”
“Beat it, Kid!” David replied, harshly. “Learn some refined terms.”
Henry nodded. “Aye Aye!!! Hi Madam.” He said, stretching out his hand at Oyinkan. She took it graciously.
“Hi…I am Oyinkan, are you friends with David?” she asked.
David cut in. “Of course, not!”
“But, we’ll soon be…” Henry added.
David sighed. “Let’s go, Oyinkan.”
Henry sighed. “Won’t you introduce me?”
Oyinkan smiled. “I am Oyinkan, and this is my cousin, David.” She said, excitedly.
“Oyinkan, can we go??? You are already familiarizing with this lad.”
Henry smiled. “You guys would give me a ride, right?”
“OMG!!! I LOVE THIS BOY!” Oyinkan exclaimed.
David rolled his eyes. “Let’s get the gown now.”
“That gown is cool, Kimberly would love it.”
David paused and snarled. “Henry, are you really like this??? You won’t get a wife being this troublesome.”
“Love doctor…teach me. What’s your relationship with MY Kimberly?” Henry asked.
David stared at him. “Her fiancé.”
Wole Briggs walked downstairs. “Sir, as you’ve seen, there’s a state of the art living room, the master bedroom is exquisite and there’s also a conference room, you can bring your meetings home.” He started.
“What’s your name, son?” Chief Ajose asked. “Tola, you are about to be shaved out of business.” He said, smiling at Tola who just stood by the door and watched Wole have his show.
Wole smiled. “Wole Briggs.”
He nodded his head. “Good boy.” He then paused. “Are you related to Niran Briggs?”
Wole tried to hide his face. “He is my father.”
“Wow! Nice to meet you boy! I have always asked Niran about you, but that sly man won’t tell me that his boy is doing well in the business world for himself. I will have the house.” He said and stared at Tola. “Don’t be scared, Tola. You are good at what you do, but this man is pretty convincing too…” he said, and opened his briefcase. “I’ll tie up this deal tomorrow over lunch, please see me, you both, in my hotel.” He said, handing his business card to Wole.
Wole collected it. “Thank you, sir.”
“Very much welcome.” He replied, and they all shook hands, Tola inclusive.
Wole closed the door after him. “So how did I cope?” he asked.
“Is that a question?” Tola replied, indifferently.
Wole smiled. “I think they’ll love me in this business.”
She scoffed. “They’ll love your surname. I brought you here as an understudy and I guess you are a pro already.” She said, walking around.
“I am my own man, Tola.”
She nodded. “I know.”
He smiled. “Congratulations on your engagement.”
“What are you saying?” she asked.
He shrugged. “It’s okay if you play dumb, but I saw you getting engaged today.”
She smiled and then laughed sarcastically. “For the first time ever I am happy to get you in the wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
She stopped laughing. “Tolu came to engage me, but I couldn’t.”
Wole stared at her and came closer, he lifted her hand for confirmation. “And why didn’t you??” he asked.
She rolled her eyes. “Apart from the fact that I think Tolu is a loser…” she said, clenching her teeth. “I didn’t know if I would be…” she paused and stared at his eyes. “if I could be without you…”