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Aisha and Moira walked into Hakeem’s villa. Clearly they looked different from the others in their saris which Aisha had chosen for ‘her reasons’. The others wore hip dresses. Even Hakeem wore a polo shirt. Moira had been stunned by Aisha’s decision back home and she didn’t hide her feelings.
“Aisha, why do we have to wear Saris? This is the only one you have; shouldn’t you be saving it up for more important events?”
Aisha ignored her as she applied her eyeliner.
“Aisha, I don’t like this.” Moira continued.
Aisha nodded in agreement. “Me neither, but, have you stopped to think that Hakeem invited us to embarrass us? I gave what you said about me trusting Hakeem so easily a second thought and I feel we should be well prepared.”
“But Aisha, does a Sari solve that?” Moira asked looking angry.
“Yes, it does, Moira. We would look like the traditional ladies that they never thought we could be. Besides, Hakeem would be wearing a Kaftan as usual and I am sure that his friends won’t be any better.” She concluded.
Sadly, Hakeem wasn’t wearing a Kaftan. The only traditionally dressed ones were Aisha and Moira. Moira giggled softly. “Aisha, you should see your face right now.”
The others started to take pictures of Aisha and Moira as they came to greet them. “I love your dress, Aisha. You look stunning.”
“Yeah right! Stunning my a#s!” Aisha replied in her mind as she smiled towards the lady who had complimented her. “How are you?” she asked.
The lady nodded. “I am fine, do you remember me? We used to seat in the same row during the prayers when we were little.”
If there was anything Aisha couldn’t remember, it had to involve prayers. She stopped going to the mosque before her teens. She smiled at the lady as she tried using her memory. “Fatima?”
Fatima jumped on Aisha in excitement. “We were like sisters.”
Moira cleared her throat and held Aisha’s hand. “Don’t get too ahead of yourself, Fatima.”
Fatima nodded in smiles. “Honestly, I am really a fan of you ladies and your achievement and a lot of us look up to you.”
“Obviously.” Aisha replied.
Hakeem joined them. “Hello Ladies.”
“Hi, Hakeem.” Moira said.
He bowed as he took her hand. He then turned in Aisha’s direction. “You are beautiful, Aisha.”
Aisha nodded. “I know that, Hakeem.”
He smiled. “Come with me, let me show you around.”
“Easy man, I am not here for any introduction. I only came to fulfil my own side of the deal.”
He nodded. “I know, but, since you are here, why not have fun? Moira is already having fun with Fatima, you all used to be close.”
Aisha stared in Moira and Fatima’s direction and the pair looked to be chatting away in excitement. “What do you say?”
“Should I get you a drink?” Hakeem asked.
She shook her head in disagreement. “I don’t take alcohol.”
They all took their seats round a large table as food was served. “Before we start to eat, I want to tell us the real reason why I thought we should come together.”
Moira stared at Aisha. “Here it comes.”
“I wanted us to catch up on old times and what others have missed about us. We’ll take turns to talk about families, vacations and all.”
Aisha murmured underneath her breath. “Let’s go now, Moira.”
“Don’t be such a killjoy, we are just about to be let in on juicy gossip.” She whispered.
“You are so dumb, Moira.” She said through clenched teeth. “We are about to be embarrassed here.”
Moira grinned. “Not me, baby. It’s you. I have a lover.”
A coin dropped beside Fatima. Aisha jolted as Fatima sat close to Moira. Hakeem smiled. “Fatima, you are up. You will toss the bottle and the next will speak.”
Moira stared at Aisha. “Get ready.” She said with a grin.
Daniel approached Vicky as soon as she walked out of the coffee shop.
“We are closed for the day.”
He smiled as he walked along. “I know, but I thought I could walk you home.”
She stopped and stared at him. “Daniel, I am going to try to be as explicit as possible. I don’t love you.”
He nodded. “I know.”
“And I will never love you.” She added.
He swallowed. “You don’t know about that.” He replied.
“Why?” she asked.
He folded his arms. “Let’s just say because you don’t choose who you love.”
She rolled her eyes. “I may not be able to choose who I love and you are right, I didn’t choose to love Craig. Now leave me alone.” She said and walked off into the night.
Craig closed his box. “Where is that idiot, Daniel?”
Bolu shrugged. “I don’t know, I guess he went out for a stroll.”
“If he doesn’t return in good time, he’ll miss the taxi.” Craig said as he checked his phone. “We have about thirty minutes.”
Bolu took a deep breath. “Do you feel comfortable about this?”
“Who feels comfortable about anything? I got a message from my future wife that I have to get my stuffs and move to a new place; all we have to do is wait for her cab man and go with him.”
“Craig, what if you…I mean we are unable to survive this thing?” Bolu asked.
Craig shook his head. “You are not in this with me, I am in it alone. Coming with me to live in the new house is just to make sure that I am not bored there since I can’t work at the mall anymore.”
The door opened and Daniel staggered in, eyes blood shot. “You are a piece of thrash, Craig. You are a worthless man!”
Craig shook his head. “That’s what excessive drinking does to a man. Be warned.” He said in response to Bolu.
“Vicky doesn’t want me, she only wants you. You don’t deserve her. You don’t.” Daniel shouted as he tried to make it to Craig but he bumped into a seat.
Bolu helped him to a seat. “Take it easy, bro. You have had too many.”
“I have had nothing. Craig has had it all. Get out of here, Craig. Don’t live in my house anymore. Go away!”
Aisha smiled as the bottle top tilted slightly away from her at the next turn. An excited chatterbox took up the mantle and started to talk. “Right now, my husband and I are saving up to get money to buy our own house. We have a little boy and he is so adorable. He wants to go to a new school but we can’t afford to change his school yet but when we afford it, we would take him there.”
“So why are you putting the house ahead of your son?” Aisha asked, cutting in. “Ridiculous.”
Moira stared at Aisha. “Aisha.” She said, through clenched teeth.
“Don’t ‘Aisha’ me. She wants a house for status sake, and her son is unable to go to a good school, isn’t that just dumb?” Aisha said.
The woman took a deep breath. “It is not dumb, Aisha. My son wants a new school and a better one, but he needs a roof over his head first. We have had to patch the roof of our house times without number because water keeps coming into it and you may think that we all seated here are as privileged as you are, but we are not all like that. Not all of us made it. Some of us are still looking up to God for the day we would be better.”
“But until that day, we would continue to do what we can to take care of our families in the best way we can. It’s my apologies that my son wasn’t born in one of the best hospitals in this world or that my son has not been privileged to have a scholarship like I did which brought me into the same environment as kids like yourself back then in our elementary days.” She continued as she stared into Aisha’s eyes. Aisha slowly started to blink and pant. The woman, unfazed continued as the others were silent. “I will get better education for my son, but first, I will get a roof for his head, so that he doesn’t have to read with the rain dropping on his forehead or sleep in a breeding stream of mosquito made from the rain.”
Aisha’s palms were wet and she looked nervous as the woman continued. “Please stop.” Aisha muttered.
“One day my son would be able to afford the good things of life, but until that day, don’t tell me that I have dumb plans for him.”
Aisha grabbed her bag and ran out of the meeting with Moira and Hakeem chasing immediately.
“Aisha wait!” Hakeem said as he caught up with her pulling her hand.
Aisha yanked out of his grip. “Is that why you brought me here?” she screamed as tears streamed down her eyes. “You wanted me to see other people’s sufferings?”
“-Don’t!” Aisha yelled. “Don’t say anything to me.”
Moira swallowed as she saw her friend in tears for the first time in a long time, the last time Aisha had to shed a tear was when her mother passed away. She was only thirteen then and her mother had been killed brutally by armed robbers. Alhaja was returning with the girls from a charity event when they were attacked by robbers who made away with her money and car leaving Aisha and Moira in tears. Moira screamed and cried so much while Aisha had hugged her best friend as she sobbed silently. One would have thought that it was Moira’s mother who passed away, not Aisha’s. Aisha always knew how to keep the emotions in, but not in this case. She was in tears as she yelled at Hakeem.
Aisha yelled. “Just leave me alone, Hakeem. I have honoured my own side, stick to yours.” She said and walked out with Moira following her.
Aisha didn’t drive home. She parked the car at a water front and gave the keys to Moira. “You can go home.” She said and walked away.
Moira followed her like a bee. “I can’t leave you alone.”
Aisha took her seat on the sand. “I really want to be left alone, Moira.”
Moira took her seat beside Aisha and wrapped her hand around her. “It’s been a long time.”
“Since we were together here?”
Moira nodded. “Yeah, and since I have seen you cry.” She chuckled. “I miss Alhaja.”
Aisha took a deep breath. “It’s been a while, right?”
“You know Aisha, you are allowed to really cry about it.” Moira said.
“No, I am not allowed.” Aisha said.
Moira took Aisha’s hand. “We can go and see her.”
“I don’t want to, Moira. It’s too hard for me.” Aisha replied. “I wish I was able to defend her that day.”
Moira smiled faintly. “We couldn’t do anything, Aisha. We were just girls.”
“Yes. Weak, Useless and Feeble.”’
Moira’s face fell. “Please Aisha, we can talk about happier things.”
“Like the woman whose son has a poor sleeping and studying condition? The woman who would let her son grow up with the notion that the society robbed him of everything and maybe someday, he will attack someone else like those bastards did to my mother?”
Moira took a deep breath. “Don’t beat yourself up, Aisha.”
“Are you not afraid that this boy might grow up to be like one of those hoodlums if he continues in those conditions?” Aisha asked.
Moira nodded. “What are you trying to say?” she asked with a smile.
Aisha shrugged. “I am going to have someone investigate her family and I’ll see what I can do about it.”
“Are you trying to say that you want to help her?” Moira asked, grinning.
Aisha took a deep breath. “Do I need to speak Mandarin for you to understand?”
“Wake up man.” Craig said as the pulled the sheets from Bolu.
Bolu groaned as he dragged himself from the comfortable bed. “I have not slept this well in ages.” He said.
Craig looked outside the window. “I’d get ready for work if I were you.”
“And you?” Bolu asked as he started to get into his trousers. “Are you not coming?”
Craig shrugged. “Very much later. I can’t be working at that place with this new job of mine.”
“Oh…I see.” Bolu said as he picked his toothbrush and reached for the paste.
Craig passed it to him. “What about the bathroom?”
“I’ll be late if I take a bath, can’t afford to be fired. I don’t have a cougar yet.”
Craig hissed. “She is not a cougar and you don’t need me to remind you that this is confidential.”
Bolu nodded. “I am not your problem.” He said.
“So, we have located her family and we would be sending anonymous aid to them today.” Moira said as she placed her iPad on the table.
Aisha nodded as she took a view from the large window.
Moira wondered what her friend was up to that drew her mind so far away. “Anything that I should know?”
Aisha turned in her direction. “Moira, I need to take that guy to see my father soon.”
“Eh, why the rush?” Moira asked taking a seat. She poured herself a glass of water as Aisha took her seat. “What is going on?”
Aisha drummed on the table nervously. “I know Alhaji, when he sets a deadline, he is set to make you fail, now, if I don’t let him know I am serious, I might just be in trouble.”
“No, I’ll say we should wait. If you take Craig to him now, he’ll smell it. Let Craig be the one to come to him.”
“What are you suggesting? That I tell Craig to go and see him?” Aisha asked.
The intercom rang and Aisha pushed the loudspeaker button. “Yes?”
“Alhaji is coming up to your office.”
“Thank you.” Aisha said as she ended the call.
The door opened and Alhaji Ibrahim walked in. “Good morning, ladies.”
“Good morning, sir.” Aisha and Moira replied in unison.
He smiled at them as he took a seat. “I hope you know why I am here, Aisha.” He started.
“We cut more deals yesterday?” she asked feigning ignorance.
He smiled. “Funny? Look Aisha, we had a deal, I am already scouting your replacement.”
“Dad, love comes softly.”
He laughed. “Good to hear you say a correct line about love.”
“You’d be surprised about a lot of things that I know.”
Alhaji nodded as he stared at the pulsing intercom. “You have a call, aren’t you going to take it?”
Aisha waved it off. “It must be something work related, we can handle it later.”
“Good to see you put work aside for family, I am undoubtedly impressed…even if it is for now.” He said.
There was a light tap as the door opened. Craig walked in a black tuxedo. He had the look of one of those ‘Hollywood stars’ and with the dashing smile that he posed, Aisha smiled back. Moira too smiled.
“Good morning everyone.” He cowed in his manly tone.
Aisha immediately rose to make the introduction. “Dad, this is Craig. He is a friend and Craig, this is my Dad, Alhaji Ibrahim Bello.”
Alhaji Ibrahim stared at him as Craig stretched out his hand. “Good day, sir. I am Craig Adegboye.” He introduced.
Alhaji took the hand firmly. “Alhaji Ibrahim Bello.”
“It is an honour to meet you, sir.” Craig said.
Alhaji nodded. “Are you from around here?”
Aisha immediately jumped in. “Oh Dad-”
Craig cut her off. “Easy, babe. Alhaji is not a tiger.” He said and smiled in Alhaji’s direction. “Sir, I am new in town. I have been in Dubai for a while now.”
UBAI???????????? Aisha’s head went into a shock. Of all places to choose??? Her father could be called an aficionado in matters of Dubai and her people. She prayed silently that Alhaji didn’t ask any further questions.
“Good to meet you, son. See you around.” Alhaji said, patting Craig on his shoulder. “Have a nice time. Moira, come with me.” He said as he walked out.
Aisha waited for Moira to shut the door after them before she started her outburst. “I am not paying for you to wear a tux that costs five thousand dollars.”
Craig took a seat. “I didn’t know that there was a price tag on your definition of ‘standard’. ‘Next time you come here, wear a tux’. Remember that?”
Aisha took a deep breath. “I am not funding that credit card once it runs out.”
“I see you put a Range Rover SUV in the house. I am not a fan of that car.”
She scoffed. “I didn’t expect you’d be. It is difficult to buy class, but that is what you are going to ride in.”
“I was thinking I could get a Porsche Panamera, I checked out the details of that car and it is hot. Or maybe a Ferrari?”
She hissed. “Listen to me, I know it is difficult for a man like you to have some pride of his own, but I advise you get some soon. I am not about to allow you ruin my life.”
“You need me and remember you bought me, you need to pet me and take good care of me.”
She nodded. “Where do you want to work?”
“Yes, work. Or what are you going to tell my father next? That you run shipments and I am sure you don’t even know what a wharf looks like.”
He smiled. “I know you have a personal ship, you could give it to me. Or what do you think?”
“You are a fool. That’s what I think. What else can you do with your brain, that is, apart from stealing? I need to complete your profile; my Dad would run a background check on you soon. I can’t be caught napping.”
He took a deep breath. “I studied computer science.”
“Okay then. I can find something for you. You have to head a tech group to make your resume good. Who can I call?” she said, thinking aloud and then dialled from her phone. “Hey man, what’s up? I need a big favour from you man…”
Aisha ushered Craig into her house with Moira following behind. “This tour is for you to be up-to-date with everything here, I don’t want Alhaji surprising any of us.” She said as they walked.
“You live in this place alone?” he asked with a great deal of surprise.
Moira cleared her throat. “I live here too.”
“There must be a pool somewhere here.” He said.
Moira nodded. “Yes. There is one in the backyard where we have the barbecue stand and all.”
“The rooms are upstairs.” Aisha said. Craig motioned to the stairs. “Where do you think you are going?” she asked.
“To see the rooms. This is a tour, please make it complete.”
Aisha shrugged and led him upstairs to the rooms. “Satisfied?” she asked as they left her bedroom.
He nodded. “Beautiful room you have there.” He said as he approached a door.
Aisha stepped ahead of him. “You can’t go in there.”
“Why is that?”
“You just can’t.” Moira echoed.
Aisha pointed to the stairs. “Shall we?”
He nodded and followed them.
Aisha knew what she was getting herself into and what mattered the most to her was her money. She would be ready to do anything to get it and her investment in Craig looked like it might be a wise one after all. She had gotten him a job and a new life but he didn’t need to know her little secret, the only thing she could really call ‘her’.