Her head was aching and her heart was racing faster than a speed boat, the shattered pieces of glass, scattered all over the tiled floor was beginning to cause her to bleed as it pierced through her delicate fingers. Blood stained the floor, her vision blurred as tears joined it.
She heard him say the words, Oya o, I get another job.
That revealed to her that he was a professional, a professional assassin. She didn’t know what she had done to deserve a professional killer in her new home but she knew she didn’t want to die. All her life, she had allowed people toss the worst things at her and most times she made the best out of whatever happened to her but that was over the moment she spat on Makun’s coffin and said the truth about him some hours earlier.
Her life was going to change, her husband’s death was the beginning of new life for her. She resolved to live, not to die. And that started right now, that very moment.
“You tink say I dey joke”
He was getting impatient. That was good, very good. Her fingers circled around a broken piece of glass which cut deeper into her flesh and which would have made her wince under normal circumstances, but she dared not waste time betraying emotions, there was certainly nothing normal about this circumstance.
“Okay na, if na for floor you wan do am”
He marched closer and her grip on the sharp, pointed broken glass tightened as he approached her crouched frame, when he was close enough, she looked up at him and pleaded with teary eyes.
“Sorry. You sabi too much and you no say anybody wey sabi too much for dis our country no dey live”
Sabi too much? What did that mean? Did someone believe she had information that could ruin their lives and decided to eliminate her because of it? What was the information and who was the person? She was never the one who made other people’s business her business so what was this all about? Whatever information they assumed she had, she didn’t.
She inhaled deeply, the air she took in was mixed with the stench of alcohol coming from her assailant’s own breath.
“Please” she muttered and watched as his cold eyes stare hard at her, unflinching. She wasn’t expecting him to be moved, to be honest, she was just buying time and trying to make him see her as harmless so she could go for the kill.
“Madam, na because you be woman I gentle o. I no dey waste time like dis o.”
She nodded and muttered “okay” which was barely audible for even her to hear, because her heart beat had somehow managed to be louder than her voice. She managed a smile, the killer had just told her he was being gentle with her because she was a woman, as if that was expected to make her feel better about her impending death.
She weighed her options where she crouched, if she stood, he was likely going to have the advantage because he was taller, well built and probably very well trained for this sick job of his. If he however stooped to her level, she was likely going to be at an advantage and shock him with a jab of the broken glass in time for her to make it out of the house. She glanced at the door and counted the seconds she would need to distract her predator and make it out of the house.
She prayed for him to crouch before hurting her.
Her prayer was answered, he crouched in front of her, his face a few spaces away as he breathed right into her nose…and mouth, considering the fact that she was breathing with both her nose and mouth because she was frightened beyond words.
Placing one hand on his knees, he slowly placed the other, which also held the sharp knife he was wielding at her earlier behind her neck, then he smiled, it wasn’t a kind smile, it was a cold smile, one that showed he enjoyed the evil job that he did.
Dede shivered as she felt the coldness of the knife that was meant to end her life on her skin, she knew if she decided to die, it would be a slow painful death and she wondered if the man intended to cut her to shreds too. He probably wouldn’t have the time, she found herself thinking, he said he had another person to kill. Dede wondered who the person was and if he or she was as innocent as she was.
Her assailant withdrew his hand and pointed the knife at her, he raised it up in a swift motion, Dede’s hands flew to his neck and jabbed the broken glass into his vein, he hadn’t been expecting it and so he groaned in painful surprise, swayed and lost balance because he was crouching and had not been expecting his victim to attack him.
Dede used the opportunity to race for the door, she opened it and ran out of the house and the compound. As she raced out, into the street, she ignored the stares and the honks of the cars that found her a nuisance as she tried to maneuver the street and reach the main road.
Sharp stones tore into her soft feet and her legs hurt but she wasn’t going to wait now to see the bruises, she had to run away from the area, fast.
When she reached the road, she paused for air and looked around, people were staring and she knew it was a matter of time before the whole world started talking about it, she wanted to break down and cry.
Right from the time she was a little girl, she had never had anybody looking out for her, her parents had been dead before she could talk and extended family members saw her as more of a burden than family. She had never had love and even though she grew up telling herself she really didn’t need it, she knew deep down that it was what she had always been searching for.
And she had looked for it in the wrong places, hoped for it and wished for it where she should never have been looking.
The result of that had been a long string of abusive partners, douche bags and backstabbing friends. Now she had nowhere to go to, nobody to turn to, maybe she should have just stayed back and accepted her fate rather than run away from death to a meaningless life.
The flashy car that slowed down in front of her was an instant distraction, the passenger’s side glass slowly rolled down and she instantly recognized the person behind the wheels.
UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES, SHE WOULD NOT HAVE accepted any form of help from her savior but again, there was nothing normal about her present circumstance.
“You would have to speak eventually”
Dede looked from her savior to her bleeding palms, she was beginning to feel woozy and the stress of the day was taking its toll on her.
“The bathroom is the first door by your left.”
Dede stood and limped towards the bathroom, she let herself in and let the tap run over her bloodied hands while she watched as the running water rinsed the blood away. When she had noticed the person who was behind the steering wheel some thirty minutes ago, she had been shocked and as much as she hated to admit, relieved.
It didn’t take a lot of conviction for her to hop into the passenger’s seat while she quickly pleaded with the driver to drive her away, fast from the area. And the driver had listened, driving as fast as she could especially when she learnt Dede was trying to get away from a killer who was probably still following her.
She was happy she got help, she was happy she was safe from the killer, for now.
Funlola poked her head through the door, “Do you want to come out and let me treat that for you or do you want to spend the entire night gaping at it”
Dede turned off the tap and walked out of the bathroom, following Funlola back into the sitting room.
“Do you know anything about this?” Dede asked as Funlola tended to her wounded palms, she wanted to know the truth behind her attempted murder and she needed to be temporarily distracted from the pain searing through her hands, causing her to hold her breath so she wouldn’t scream.
Funlola smiled as she expertly cleaned the wound with a ball of cotton wool soaked in iodine.
Funlola Williams definitely had scores to settle with Dede but she had no intention to kill her, in fact if she got wind of the fact that she was going to be murdered earlier, she would have tried her best to make sure things didn’t get as messy as they got.
She needed Dede alive to pay for her sins, she didn’t want her six feet deep where she would be beyond her reach.
Dede screamed when Funlola dabbed at a wider cut, “hey easy. Save the strength for the discussion we would be having later.”
Dede eyed Funlola and took a deep breath, she couldn’t wait for the pain to pass. Funlola dabbed at another cut and this time, Dede yanked her hands away from her.
“Enough please” she said. Funlola shrugged and covered the small bottle containing iodine sitting on a stool beside her.
Dede stood, separated herself from Funlola by crossing the room and taking a seat opposite her where she stared at her aching palms and slowly placed her bare and dirty feet on the stool closest to her.
“We need to find out who is trying to kill you” Funlola said, kicked off her ballerina flats and took a walk to the fridge where she grabbed a bottle of cold water and a can of beer.
Dede eyed the fair skinned woman approaching her with a can of beer and a bottle of water, Funlola Williams wasn’t the one who had striking facial features, neither did she attract at first glance but as a little girl, who had been born into so much wealth with parents who forgot she existed, that as she grew, she had found a way to be noticed and loved by the people around her. She was of average height and even though she had breasts that weren’t bigger than an A-cup, her hips and backside, compensated well for that.
Funlola Williams had found a friend in Dede who was four years older than her and had been fascinated by her from the moment she walked into the Williams’ home several years before.
Dede hadn’t been nice to the wide eyed, inquisitive little girl who made her room her second bedroom and months had passed before she finally gave the little girl a chance to be part of her life, watching her parents ignore her needs and dedicating their attention to other less important things had been what eventually drew Dede to her.
It wasn’t like Dede herself was hostile or didn’t want friends, but she didn’t think anybody cared about her enough to constantly check on her like the little girl did. Funlola loved her and sometimes snuck in food for her whenever Mrs Williams decided she didn’t deserve dinner and even brought her drinks and chocolates from her own bedside fridge.
When Funlola started to fall in love with her best friend, Toni Akinbami, Dede was the first to know. The then 9 year old had run to her room, snuggled beside her and confessed her feelings for her best friend with dreamy eyes and a wide smile that would never go away. the smile had been a constant anytime, Toni had visited after then or even when his name was mentioned, he brought sunshine to Funlola’s life.
Dede had teased her that night and they had laughed about it and then talked about what they both wanted to become and the type of men they wanted to marry till they slept off in each other’s arms.
Dede had become Funlola’s other best friend and she hardly did anything without telling her first. Dede loved her friend who was worlds apart from her too and they shared stories, dreams, aspirations, alcohol, make up and eventually Toni Akinbami.
Dede eyed Funlola as the latter threw the can of beer in her laps.
“I don’t drink anymore.”
Funlola eyed her and picked the can, “since when? One of your numerous husbands beat it out of you?”
Dede ignored her jab and threw the can off her laps with her aching hands.
“because I need you alive to pay for your crimes, here” she handed the bottle of water over to Dede, who opened it and emptied the content in her mouth. The cold water was refreshing and it did not only quench a thirst, it relaxed her nerves and made her calm.
Dede watched her company as she placed the now empty bottle on the floor, she wondered why she was staying in a smaller apartment, not that she had ever visited the Akinbamis but she knew this couldn’t be their home, it bore no pictures of them, wasn’t spacious enough for Toni whom she knew liked lots of space and the room smelt of fresh paint.
“What are you doing here by the way? Did your husband eventually dump you?” Dede knew her statement was a bad idea immediately the words left her mouth, Funlola’s face was a proof of that.
She quickly opened the can of beer and helped herself to it, Dede noticed that her childhood friend looked pale and tired, she also seemed to have lost a lot of weight, her grey blazer was stylish, well fitted and buttoned down to the last hole, thereby revealing nothing much of the knee length floral dress underneath, but it did not cover up the fact that her neck was thinner and her cheekbones more evident .
“He left me.” Funlola said after she had finished the beer and hurled the can at the wall. “You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?” she asked, looking at Dede.
“I have been busy accommodating a man’s whips on my back in case you didn’t know and so I have not had time to take a married man from his wife. I’m sorry to disappoint you.”
Funlola didn’t say anything, she had tried very hard to save her marriage from the day she exchanged her vows and nothing she had done had worked, Toni just wasn’t happy to be with her and even though he was kind, he cared about her deeply, respected her more than anyone ever had and bought her heaven and earth, she knew deep down he would never be truly happy with her and never love her the way she wanted him to. She had wanted love all her life, wanted to be loved, wanted to be noticed and genuinely cared for. Her parents had not exactly been bothered about that, they had sent her to the best schools and given her the best anybody could ask for materially and her trust fund had been in millions but that was all they could give-money. Anything else was beyond their reach and they were simply incapable of it.
She had hoped the only man she had seemed to love right from the age of 9 would give her that which her parents couldn’t, but he tried and even he couldn’t give it.
“We are getting a divorce.”
“You aren’t happy”
“My marriage crashed, I can’t be happy”
“Then why are you going through with it?”
Funlola sent a look of disbelief Dede’s way, “He has never loved me, stop pretending like you didn’t notice since forever”.
“I thought he would learn to”
“Maybe he was too busy pining over someone he has always loved?”
Dede felt a pang of guilt, Funlola knew about their first kiss and Toni’s obsession with her and it had hurt her and was the first blow their friendship had been dealt with. The kiss had ruined whatever puppy love Funlola was trying to build with Toni at the time and given Toni hope of being with Dede. It had caused Funlola not to speak to her for two years, till they tried to patch things up again until another blow was dealt their friendship, one that severed it till the present moment.
When Toni and Dede had made love in her backseat, she had pleaded with him not to ever tell Funlola because she couldn’t bear causing another strain in their relationship. Toni had wanted to stay with her, be with her and start a life with her, to him he couldn’t be that hard to be with someone you loved, but Dede hadn’t let him. Love didn’t exist, it was an illusion, she had told him after the love making session was over, dashing his hopes of wanting to be with her.
Toni had tried harder by arriving at her doorstep on the day of his wedding and it had taken Dede’s call to his cousin and best man, Isichei to drag him to the church where his bride and lots of guests were waiting. Dede had done her best to give Funlola what she had always wanted, if it didn’t work, it certainly wasn’t her fault.
“Maybe you didn’t try enough”
Funlola scoffed, she couldn’t believe someone thought she hadn’t tried hard enough to salvage her marriage, she couldn’t believe her childhood friend of all people thought that.
“The man was yours, yet you watched him pine over someone else for five years? What were you doing with your time? Apparently not raising kids seeing as you don’t have any.”
Funlola let the words sting and then drive her out of the room into the closest bedroom to the sitting room, she reappeared minutes later without her blazer and Dede saw more of the woman she had become. Funlola Williams had lost whatever glow and spark she had as a little girl and a younger woman, that luminosity which she always carried with her wherever she went and which lit up wherever she was had been replaced by the sadness, the emptiness and the gloom that this new Funlola bore.
She ordered food for them through her phone after asking what Dede wanted for dinner, Dede had requested for noodles and shredded beef and Funlola had asked for a Vegan meal. Another drastic change, Dede noted. When they were younger, one thing she knew Funlola hated was to have a strict diet like her mother and stay thin. Funlola loved food and she could lay flat on her back and devour bars of chocolate, ice cream and milkshake while she watched Sex and the city.
Dede wondered what happened to that woman and why this new one had emerged.
They didn’t say anything to each other till the food arrived, Dede had managed to take a shower and was wearing the bathrobe her hostess handed over to her when the food arrived.
Dede relished the noodles, garnished with shrimps and vegetables and shredded beef, while she thanked God silently for giving her an opportunity to eat dinner because left to the professional killer in her house and whoever sent him, she would have been dead by now.
“Somehow you think I didn’t try enough to make Toni love me” Funlola’s voice interrupted the silence that had settled on the room since the food got delivered. Dede raised a glass of water to her mouth and looked at her, she wasn’t really eating the food she had ordered, Dede wondered if she ever ate anything anymore. Her heart went out to the woman who had been her only true friend, she was going through something that had changed her.
Dede listened to her as she continued, “I cooked his favourite meals, I made love to him without holding back, I gave him my everything without care, he owned me, he owned my soul, I lived for him. I supported his dreams, I supported that stupid art career of his that his parents never allowed him to pursue. I was there for him you idiot, yet he always had a distant look in his eyes when we were together, he always made love to me without feelings, he stayed with me as a routine! I tried enough silly! Unlike you who never tried and who had his affections just by breathing.”
Dede swallowed the water that had been in her mouth since Funlola continued to talk. The two women stared at each other, silent, the only sound in the room, the ticking of the clock.
“You think I ruined your marriage”
“I hadn’t even seen your husband until last week when I was trying to get a divorce and I needed his services”
Funlola lowered her head and went back to toying with her food. “He bought every magazine that featured you, he checked up on your progress twice every week through the internet and the makeup and hair he bought me are the ones you endorse.”
She finally put her food in her mouth and chewed it, “He never stopped loving you Adesuwa”
Dede dragged her eyes to her empty plate, she couldn’t look at her friend, she couldn’t bear to, not when she was causing her so much pain.
HE DIDN’T KNOW HOW HE MISSED IT, but immediately he saw it, he cussed himself for not sticking to the routine of checking on her twice a week.
He had done it twice every week for five years and the one time, he decides to let himself be overwhelmed by his current troubles, she gets into serious danger. His first instinct was to get out of the office and go look for her and then bring her to safety but he had no idea where she was. He was worried and very afraid of what might happen to her if he didn’t find her early enough.
The picture of her on the internet that had surfaced some twelve hours before, showed her barefoot, scared and scattered.
He decided to go and find her, if she wasn’t dead or severely injured then he needed to see she was alright. He made a decision to go to the one place he felt she might be, her Salon in Zest Ville.
“It is not safe yet, you should stay here for a few days, nobody would find you here and I can use that period to find who is trying to kill you”
It sounded like a great idea, in fact it would have been a great idea if her and Funlola were still good friends and if they didn’t have scores to settle with each other.
“I don’t understand why you are being nice” Dede said, “You want something from me and you hate me for refusing to hand it over, it is the same reason we haven’t spoken in over five years, why exactly are you being nice Funlola?”
Funlola headed towards the door, her bag in one hand and her phone in the other.
“I want to be your only lifeline so you would be at my mercy Adesuwa.”
She flashed a smile, opened the door and stepped out of the house.