The drive to Funlola’s apartment should be approximately thirty minutes, even on a day with very heavy traffic but as Dede sat beside Toni in the passenger’s seat that afternoon while he drove them to Funlola’s apartment, she realized that it felt like hours.
When they eventually reached their destination, she hurriedly left the car, grateful that they wouldn’t have to sit in awkward silence and her overwhelming guilt wouldn’t choke her to death. She couldn’t even express a thing, she didn’t know how to or if she had the right to.
Toni locked the car and she walked two steps behind him as they headed for Funlola’s apartment. It was the other half of a twin duplex and Dede had wondered why she chose to have neighbours. Funlola could afford to live in Banana Island if she chose and she could afford to live alone. She was the heiress to a million dollar empire, she had the money. Why she had chosen somewhere in VI was still beyond her. But again, the woman had chosen a duplex too, she was alone and she had chosen a duplex. So maybe she had a reason for the choices that were not so bad albeit unlike her.
Toni rang the doorbell and Dede could swear they waited up to twenty minutes before the door opened, Funlola eyed them and let them in.
“I told you to give me time” she said to Toni, shut the door behind them and led them into the sitting room.
A little had changed since Dede was last in the room, the smell of fresh paint was no more and the room seemed to have more life and more Funlola, thanks to the ugly paintings rich people bought when they realized they were too rich and old highlife music playing in the background.
Dede remembered the music, it was one of Funlola’s all time favourites, a Victor Olaiya classic titled, Omo Pupa. Funlola knew the song from beginning to the end and could hum every single tune and instruments used in it, she’d done that a lot when they were kids.
“I will pay Victor Olaiya a million dollars to play at every party I throw when I am old” she used to say to Dede.
“He would have been too old by then” Dede would say and Funlola would have insisted he would still play for her.
“Why not Sunny Ade?” Dede would have asked and Funlola would have frowned, she didn’t like the music because her mother loved it and Funlola had disliked anything her mother liked. The reason was simple, as much as she loved the woman and strived for her attention, Mrs Williams had barely paid attention to her little daughter. It was like she wished Funlola didn’t exist.
Funlola loved her but resented everything she stood for; the strict diet and the Sunny Ade music and 80s fashion.
“Dede told me what she did” Toni said and Dede sensed a hint of disappointment and disdain in his words. He confirmed it when he added, “Appalling if you ask me”
“I’m glad you agree with me” Funlola said with a blank expression, she certainly wasn’t glad, neither was she anything else because the expression on her face revealed nothing. Her gaze shifted to Dede however, staring hard at her as if trying to bore a hole through her.
“She is sorry Funmi, you need to help her. See after all these is over, you can do whatever you want to her” Toni said, everything about him was pleading with Funlola, they were clearly at her mercy. Dede remembered it was what Funlola had wanted.
Dede folded her arms and looked away from the duo, she stared at her feet that was held in a neon green strappy sandals and hoped the moment would pass away quick.
Funlola knew her the most but even Funlola didn’t know the whole of her. Nobody did and nobody cared. She was a woman with bigger problems than the world knew, she was more troubled than what they thought and everyday she carried a burden she wished she could unload.
Chief Williams had taken advantage of her and she had allowed him, she had exchanged her body for everything he gave her. Everything. And she had been temporarily happy with herself when it all started but the happiness had vanished when she realized life was more than what she was getting from the millionaire, life was more than wealth and the twisted love she knew, life was about happiness and love and people who truly cared about her, life was about Family.
And family used to be Funlola.
“How are we so sure these guys won’t make sure she doesn’t leave the country? It is the state governor we are talking about here, the man knows and controls everything in this state o” Funlola said.
“You know people Funmi, those people would keep it hush hush and help us get Dede out before the governor has any idea what is going on.”
Funlola nodded, Toni was right. “Okay so what do we do now?”
“Call your guys at immigration, the embassy or wherever and tell them this is of utmost importance.”
Funlola nodded and to Dede’s utter surprise, put a call to one of “her guys”.
“Hey Mr Yakub. Good morning o, yes o. I need a favour Mr Yakub”
Life wasn’t exactly easy, nobody had actually told her it was but nobody had also told her it might be extremely harsh, unfair and unsympathetic to her most of the time.
Dede could not remember the one time she had someone who truly cared about her near her, Toni and Funlola once did and now even that wasn’t the case anymore.
She remembered she had mouthed “thank you” to Funlola back at her apartment and the latter had acted like she didn’t see her. She had been in a hurry to get her and Toni out of the apartment after the call and after she had informed them of Mr Yakub’s response
“Tomorrow night guys. Dede leaves tomorrow night, stay out of trouble until then husband snatcher”
Dede had mouthed “Thank you” to that but Funlola had ignored her and hugged Toni who opened his arms to her and kissed her on the forehead.
She had followed Toni out of the house as he stormed out without saying a word to her.
He was disappointed in her but had never given her a chance to tell him she didn’t do it because she loved it, he didn’t give her a listening ear after what she said, he just judged her without mercy. Yet, he had promised some hours earlier not to hate her.
She couldn’t believe him, she couldn’t believe he was acting like one without sin or without blemish…what separated him from the people who judged the biblical adulterous woman? Did he think because he had it so good he was better than people like her who had to strive to get the best they got out of life?
She dragged her hands to her head and released her hair from the ribbon that held it, it fell down her shoulders and she drew her hands through it, scattering the hair and allowing more air into it to dry it.
She loathed weaves at the moment because it gave her bad memories, it was what her late husband used to pull her with whenever he was angry and whenever he beat and raped her. Getting rid of it made her feel emancipated.
She turned to Toni’s dining table and sighted a bottle of scotch, she helped herself to two glasses and curled her fingers around it.
Her mind went to that morning when she had made love to Toni and her fingers had been free to roam his body, she doubted he would let her do that at the moment, she was no more the Dede he loved, she was now Dede the sinner he wouldn’t touch with a Nepa pole.
Angrily, she realized she was done being judged, she wasn’t going to prove anything to him, not that night not any other time.
Alcohol had been a part of her while she grew up and she had turned to it so often when she was depressed that somehow, she had become an alcoholic. It hurt Toni to see her become that and it scared Funlola and somehow they had tried to get her to stop. It didn’t work not until the two of them had pulled their resources and sent her to a shrink. That had drastically reduced and helped a lot and she had gradually stopped. Until now that she realized she had no one else in the world, except maybe that bottle of Scotch.
She poured herself another glass.
SHE BARELY SLEPT THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT, but that didn’t bother her, not at all. What actually did bother her was the fact that the only time she could sleep, she had a nightmare.
In that dream, the faceless men chasing her with guns had found her beautiful secrets and killed them all.
Immediately she woke up, Dede rushed into the bathroom and had a quick wash, she didn’t feel good about the dream.
It wasn’t the first scary dream or nightmare she was having in her life, when she had married Makun, she had screamed from her sleep many nights because the beast had somehow followed her from real life into her dreams that was supposed to be safe and until then, the only place where she met Toni. However, the dream she had the night before was scarier because of one thing, it was very vivid.
She was convinced something had happened to her girls and she wasn’t sitting in some beautifully and expensively furnished house, being kept safe by an annoying Prince Charming, she was running to Iseyin to save them.
Money had been the first thing she was worried about, but after she had been dressed in a midi figure hugging dress and ballerina flats, she had rummaged Toni’s room hoping to find some money lying somewhere and she had been surprisingly very lucky, she found his ATM card and a cash of five thousand naira lying on his neatly laid bed.
She had raced to the nearest ATM and tried what she remembered to be his PIN, it was the last two digits of her year of birth and his mother’s year of birth, it had worked and she withdrew a cash of twenty thousand, hoping that would be sufficient for her.
He had made the digits his PIN years before and had told her why, it was because Dede and his mother were the most important people in his life. He had been so open about his feelings for her and he kept numerous paintings of her in the house, she mourned the demise of that Toni. That one cared about her, was open about his feelings and didn’t judge her. This one was just different.
She looked around and found a cab that would take her outside Lagos to the little town of Iseyin in Oyo state.
TONI HAD GONE FOR A SHORT RUN immediately he woke up from a sleep he really didn’t have, immediately Dede had told him of the things that happened to her as a child the day before, he had judged her.
His perfect picture of her as an innocent woman who was the victim of the Williams and other brutal people had been ripped apart, replaced with that of her as a heavily flawed woman who actually made mistakes and had a dirty past.
What had he been expecting? The woman had risen from nothing to become a media darling, to be one of the most photographed women in Nigeria’s history and to become a successful Independent woman. He should have known she must have done some things she probably wasn’t proud of to attain that height.
It wasn’t her fault she had been abused by the silly Chief Williams, it wasn’t even her fault she was raped by her stupid cousin, it was all she had been exposed to and as a little girl had no choice but to accept it.
She must have been making many jars of lemonades while life tossed her lemons.
He ran back towards the house, he had been too hard on her but it was not his fault, he had no way he could deal with what she had told him. he had been disappointed, been shocked and presently he was hurt because of the hurt he knew she was going through and very angry at Chief Williams and her sick older cousin.
She didn’t have anybody, he was all she had and somehow he had treated her like he didn’t care.
As he got closer to his house, he hoped she would listen to him and understand he was just a man whose perfect picture had been ripped to shreds and handed back to him.
She was supposed to leave the country that night and he seriously considered going with her, he walked in through his gate when his gateman let him in but was stopped in his tracks when the middle aged Hausa man called his attention.
“Oga, dat e madam wey dey, don go. She don ofen gate, carry bag, don go”
At first, what his Hausa gateman said in heavy Hausa accent made no sense to him but as the gateman tried to explain himself further to Toni by demonstrating how Dede left the house, it slowly dawned on him that the woman he kept in the house, the woman he was running home to meet and who was expected to leave the country that night had left his house for someplace he didn’t know.
“When did this happen?” he asked his gate man.
“Na laik pipteen minutes, no, e nepa reash dat one, na laik sepen minutes…she run comot, ofen gate” he responded. Toni dashed into the building, grabbed his car keys, didn’t pick anything else and raced to his car.
“Open the gate Danjuma.”
Danjuma opened the gate for his boss, who sped out of the street, hoping to find Dede somewhere and somehow.