Aisha stared at her wristwatch as another hour had passed since she sent Craig a message to meet her at the restaurant. She dialled his number for the third time. “Where could this guy be?” she thought aloud. “Or is he bailing on me?” she thought. It’s a good thing she had decided to wait in the VIP room, waiting that long seemed really embarrassing and with Val’s day lurking, the press wouldn’t mind smearing her name by saying things like: ‘Desperate Spinster, Aisha Bello, looks for attention in Lagos Restaurant.’ She wasn’t willing to take that chance so she decided to wait in the VIP room. She only hoped Craig won’t keep her any longer.
Craig stared at his phone as it rang again. He took a deep breath and ignored the call. Alhaji’s visit had left him confused. How could he love a woman that didn’t need love? How could he fool a father that needed help? Thoughts raced through his mind as he tried to find answers to the questions lingering in his heart. Aisha had sent him a message asking him to meet her but he just couldn’t bring himself to go and see her after what had happened with her father. Everything seemed really confusing at the moment.
A man in black approached Alhaji Ibrahim. His heart raced fast as he was about to find out the import of his action. If going over to Craig to do what a real father would have done was a mistake, he’d figure out soon.
“Everything is in here, Alhaji.” The man said as he placed an envelope before Alhaji Ibrahim.
Alhaji swallowed. “Is he worth it?”
The man blinked. “I’d rather you see for yourself.”
“I can take it, it is bad enough that I am having a man investigated without a just cause. Just let me know if I am right about my suspicions?”
The man took his seat opposite Alhaji. “From our investigations on Craig, he is really clean.”
Alhaji smiled. “Thank you, Kola. Thank you.”
Kola nodded with a smile.
Aisha’s phone beeped and a message popped up.
“It’s done. You owe me big time – Kola.”
She took a deep breath as she wondered why Craig had not shown up yet. This was beginning to worry her. She stared at her wristwatch and then finished her drink.
Craig approached her. “Aisha, I am sorry.”
“Is this one of your many talents? Standing me up?” she queered as she folded her arms.
He took his seat. “You may not believe it but I am really sorry about it. I promise you, this won’t happen again.”
“It better not, Craig.” She replied as she took a deep breath. “Look, Craig, I think we have to be really careful, my father would want to see a great deal of seriousness in this relationship and I am in no mood to be the loser here, so I think we have to-“”
“-Move in with me.” Craig cut in.
Aisha stared at him and relaxed in her seat. “Move in with you?” she asked with an eyebrow raised. She smiled. “You have some nerve, don’t you?”
He wiped his forehead. “I know it sounds crazy and not like what we would want. In fact, I doubt if the both of us can coexist under the same roof, but I just feel that for this thing that we want to do to be real and be done quickly, we have to take desperate measures.”
“You are right. Moving in with you is really desperate.” She replied.
He nodded. “Look, the house would be clean if that is what you are scared of.” He said staring at her. Aisha remained silent. “That is what you are scared of, right?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “Oh come on, Aisha. I am not going to force you to go to bed with me.” He said through clenched teeth. “That would be your choice to make in the end.”
“Just shut up, Craig.” Aisha replied. She ran her finger through her hair. “I think I should sleep over it. Even though this is a necessity, we still have to ensure that we are making the right decision.” She replied.
Craig nodded. “Okay, take your time. Should I send a cab over to pick you?” he asked with a smile.
“Don’t start assuming roles that are not yours, Craig.” She replied as she clutched her bag to her waist. “I’ll call you in the morning.”
He smiled faintly. “I’ll have the house set up properly for you.”
She scoffed and walked out.
“Cheers to my destruction.” Craig said as he raised his glass.
Daniel stared at Bolu. “Is he actually expecting us to reply?”
Bolu shrugged. “Look, Craig, it’s not over for you…at least not yet.”
Craig smiled. “Exactly. I am scared of Alhaji to be honest.”
“You don’t have to be scared of him, Craig.” Daniel replied. “You are the master when it comes to games like this. You shouldn’t get emotionally roped in. Remember, this is business.”
Craig stared at Daniel. “You didn’t see the man’s eyes when he came over to my place. He is a father who wants the best for his child. It is unfortunate that she is that type of woman.”
“And that you are who you are.” Bolu chipped in.
Craig stared at him. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Man, you don’t have to bother about what the old man says. He is only looking for his daughter’s interest, but she doesn’t need it. All you need to do is stay focused and ensure that in the end you are the one who comes out tops.” Daniel replied.
Craig stared at him carefully. “I don’t get it. Some hours without our company and you are already so cold, Daniel? Bolu and I should take the credit for keeping you in check all this while.”
Daniel smiled. “I guess I was just being realistic. No man should let any lady play him.”
“Aisha is not playing me. We have a goal.” Craig replied with a smile.
Bolu cleared his throat. “Guy, what about the plan to clear her cash?” He asked laughing.
Daniel gasped as he laughed. “Bad guy! You are one step ahead.”
Craig shot at Bolu. “Must you talk?”
“Guy, how far nau? We are cool, right?” Daniel asked. “I no be busy body nau”
Craig nodded. “I haven’t said that is who you are, but, I didn’t expect him to be so loquacious.”
“Na so! All join! So, today na our last day for here, abi?” Daniel asked as he finished his drink. “So, do we a need a schedule to visit you now that Aisha would be moving in?”
Craig stared at Bolu. “Why is this guy being unnecessarily annoying? I thought you said that he wanted to make amends.”
Daniel relaxed in his seat. “I am just trying to be funny here.”
“Well, you have so much work to do on your sense of humour.” Craig replied and walked away.
“Do you have to pack everything away from here?” Moira asked as she watched Aisha pack her boxes.
Aisha stared at her. “You don’t want me coming back here every time I need my underwear, do you?”
Moira nodded. “Oh well…you are right, but, I think you are packing as though you were moving out of here finally so as to be his wife. Anyway, since you guys will still have to be married for a while, you can use some tutorials on how to tolerate one another.”
“Moira, there is only one thing that bothers me. Why did Craig ask me to move in with him?” Aisha asked as she dropped took a seat.
Moira smiled as she focused on her phone. “I wonder why we are visiting a topic that we should have started with. You came home all excited moving out that you have not even stopped to wonder why he wants you to move in with him. Isn’t it strange?”
Aisha stared at her. “Why should it be strange? I was going to ask him the same.”
“But he asked you first. And that, my friend, is what should bother you.” Moira replied with more seriousness.
Aisha swallowed. “Are you saying he has ulterior motives?”
Moira nodded in agreement. “Exactly! He must have a hidden reason why he wants you to move in.”
“What if he asked because he knows that it is one of the logical things and I might feel embarrassed to ask him about it?” Aisha asked.
Moira nodded in agreement. “You might be right about that, but what if I am right too?”
Aisha relaxed in her seat. “Moira, we can’t be thinking about all the bad things now. There is a lot to be done and we have to be really optimistic.”
“Optimism is good, but caution is also very important.” Moira replied.
“Well, I am going there tomorrow. Also, I have to prepare for this weekend’s tennis game.”
Moira smiled. “Good thing it falls on Val’s day.”
“What makes it a good thing?”
Moira grinned. “That would be your own Val’s day special and it would really seem nice.”
“What if Craig has a girlfriend?” Aisha asked.
Moira nods. “True…what if he has a girlfriend? He’ll be spending all your money on her.”
Aisha stared at Moira. “I don’t care. As long as he keeps his sheets tidy and out of the public view, we are good.”
“Craig, it is good to see you.” Alhaji Ibrahim said as Craig approached with Aisha. He exchanged handshakes with Craig and then hugged his daughter. “Little one.”
Aisha stared at her father with a smile. “Come on, Dad. I am not a little girl anymore.”
“You are still my little girl.” He replied. “Happy Valentine’s day, Aisha.” He said as he handed her a small tiffany box.
Aisha stared at the box. “You still give me gifts every year, Dad. Thank you.” She said and kept his gift in her bag. “I got you something too, Dad.” She said as she handed him a gift pack. “I know you’ll love it.”
He smiled. “Thank you.” He said. Alhaji stared at Craig who seemed a bit lost and was looking at the members of the club. “Hey Craig, you should go and mingle. I’ll show you around.”
“No!” Aisha protested as she grabbed Craig’s hand. “We are going over to the tennis court.” She said hastily.
Alhaji Ibrahim nodded. “Okay. Enjoy.” He said and walked away.
“Relax, Aisha. Your father might begin to suspect with your attitude.”
She rolled her eyes. “Do you know what would have happened if my Dad had taken you to meet his friends? You’d have to tell them about your Dubai escapades, your budding company, your short term and long term goals? And I tell you, believe me when I say those men would ask you questions, drill you in and out till there is nothing left in you or in that lying skull of yours and then, you would really wish that I didn’t choose you.”
“I am very convincing, Aisha.” He replied as they started to approach the tennis court.
She nodded. “I know you are, but sometimes, it is never good enough. Your trail will always be found.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Aisha.” Craig said.
She shrugged. “Is there really something to celebrate on this day?” she asked as they approached the change room.
He smiled. “Love? Everyone is doing that.”
“We are not everyone, and remember what we have is business. So, we don’t have to bother what others are caring about.”
Craig grinned as he saw some men with PRESS tags approach them. “Are you so sure?” he asked smiling in Aisha’s direction.
She took a deep breath as they smiled at the Press Officials.
“Happy Valentine’s day to you both.” One of the press men greeted.
Aisha and Craig smiled and echoed a “Thank you” as though they had rehearsed it. Craig smiled at Aisha and then back at the Press.
“Ms. Aisha, We don’t see Ms. Moira today with you. Is this the gentleman in your life that you have been hiding from the world? ” The Press Officer asked.
Aisha stared at Craig and then back at the Pressmen. “Like I have always said, my personal life stays personal. When the need arises, I will make an official announcement.”
Craig smiled and placed his hand behind Aisha. “Please, excuse us.”
“By now, I am sure those rats have a picture of us and are thinking of how best they can come up with a headline for their magazine.” Aisha said as she entered the change room.
Craig folded his arms as he leaned against the wall. “As expected.”
“Why were they allowed in here in the first place? This is not just any place. It’s exquisite.”
Craig nodded. “It is Valentine’s day. This is a good time to get good gist and I am sure they have paid good money for it. Besides, it’s not like you weren’t expecting to see them here.” He said as he took off his shirt.
“Heyyy!!! What are you doing?” Aisha asked.
He stared at her. “Getting a change of clothes into my sportswear.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, this is the female section and just because you aren’t seeing any lady here except me doesn’t mean that the front door doesn’t bear LADIES ONLY.”
He took a deep breath. “Fine! Where is the Male section?”
“Down the hall.” She replied. “Meet me out front in ten minutes.”
He nodded and walked out with his bag. He located the Male section and walked into the room.
Craig stared at who had called him and his face seemed familiar, just that he couldn’t place the face.
The guy approached Craig. “I am Hakeem. We met at Alhaji Bello’s.”
Craig stared at him. “Oh…how are you?”
Hakeem ignored him. “So I am guessing Aisha is here?”
Craig nodded in agreement. “Yes, she is.”
“So, how did you guys meet? I have never known you before.” Hakeem asked sternly.
Craig smiled. “If you want to know about me and Aisha, why not ask her?”
“Because I think you are a man and you should be able to speak for yourself.” Hakeem retorted.
Craig rubbed his chin. “That’s the point. I think you should be a man and not be interested in other people’s affairs.”
“Don’t get me wrong. Aisha and I have been friends since we were kids and we know all the friends in our circles, but we never knew you and your name doesn’t sound like ours.” Hakeem replied.
Craig nodded. “There are a lot of things you don’t know about Aisha then or would you rather I bear Mohammed?”
“I have nothing against your religion. Who is your father?” he asked.
Craig shook his head pitifully and started to change into his clothes. “I am my own man, Hakeem.”
“I am not against who you are, I just want to know about you.”
Craig stared hard at him. “Why are you attacking me?”
“I love Aisha. You just came out of the blues and stole her from me.” Hakeem protested.
Craig grabbed his racket. “She is my woman now. What would you do about it?”
“I can’t do anything about it but I…I just want to love her.” Hakeem said.
Craig swallowed. “Do you realise that you are talking to her man? You can love her silently. Don’t tell me about it.” He replied.
Hakeem nodded as he took a breath. “I am sorry, it was rude of me.” He said, turning away.
“It’s okay. You want to play tennis?”
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Vicky.” Daniel said, holding out a Rose flower.
Vicky took off her earphones and stared at him. “You don’t give up, do you?”
He held the flower out at her. “It’s just Valentine. Please accept it.”
She nodded and collected the flower.
“So, would you go out with me tonight? I got two tickets to see this new movie.” Daniel said as he walked by her side.
She shook her head with a smile. “I just knew you were up to no good with the early morning flower and disturbing my morning exercise.”
“I love to keep fit too. Please…Could you please just go with me to the movies tonight?” he asked.
She shook her in disagreement. “I am sorry, but I have plans. I am hanging out with my girls tonight.”
“Vicky, I just think you should really give me a chance. I really do love you.” Daniel said.
She took a deep breath. “I understand that you love me, but you have to also understand that I don’t love you.”
“And you love Craig? Look, for the record, Craig doesn’t love you. He is spending today with Aisha Bello. That is the woman that he is in a relationship with, that’s the woman he will marry. That’s the woman that he wants.” Daniel said and took a deep breath. “Please Vicky, stop punishing yourself. As we speak, Craig and Aisha are in one of the best facilities in the country, playing together, and you are here, drowning for him. It’s not fair on you.”
Vicky nodded. “Yes, I love him. Yes, I know he doesn’t love me. But, I don’t, I won’t and I can never love you. Are we clear?”
“And why is that? I am the one who is trying to get you out of your misery, I am trying to make you see reasons, why is it so hard?” Daniel asked.
She shrugged. “You are very selfish. You are doing everything for your own good, and for the record, stop spreading lies about Craig and that woman, it’s getting pretty lame.” She replied and started to walk away.
“What if I give you evidence?”
Vicky stopped and stared at him.
Craig held his racket in one hand and used his towel to wipe off the sweat on his face. “Mighty Serves, Hakeem.”
Hakeem smiled. “I am still a learner. Your strokes are massive, bro.”
BRO??? AISHA’S HEAD SPUN. She stared at Craig and Hakeem as they spoke about the game. “Hey!!! I played that game too. Nothing to say about my strokes?”
Hakeem stared at her. “I thought they were amazing.”
“Weak.” Craig replied.
Aisha raised an eyebrow. “Weak? I thought I did well.”
“I see you like being hyped out of talent. Wait till you allow the little thing you think you have in you grow before you think you did close to well.”
Hakeem stared at Craig. “Very funny, bro.”
“No. It wasn’t meant to be.” Craig replied.
Aisha swallowed. “Okay guys, break it up.”
“That’s the problem with you females; does it look like we are having a go at each other?”
Hakeem smiled. “Yeah, we are good.”
Aisha stared at them. “I think we should go and have something to eat.”
“I can’t join you guys.” Hakeem replied.
Craig stared at him. “Why not? It’s just food – Good for the body.”
Hakeem smiled faintly. “I know. It’s just that there are many things to be done.” He replied.
Aisha nodded. “Okay. See you around.”
Hakeem smiled and walked away.
Aisha shot at Craig. “What were you doing?”
“I don’t understand.” Craig replied. “I was just making a conversation.”
She scoffed. “Some conversation that is! You know how Hakeem feels about me, you don’t have to make him feel so horrible.”
Craig smiled. “I am shocked.”
He shrugged. “For the first time in your life, it seems like you actually care about another person’s well-being other than yourself. That’s impeccable. It’s a good day in history.”
“Watch your words, Craig.” She replied and picked up her towel. “We are leaving. Ensure you smile as we walk out.”
He nodded. “So, we are just to keep smiling or are there hidden cameras?”
“You know what I mean.” She replied.
He shrugged. “So, you just packed into my house yesterday and you decided not to sleep over, why?”
“That’s my business, isn’t it?” she retorted.
He nodded in agreement. “I know that it is your call, but, the house looked brand new, didn’t it? I had it well scrubbed just for you.”
“We’ll see about that.” She said and walked away.
“Good evening, Hakeem. What do you want here?” Alhaji Bello asked as Hakeem walked into the living room.
Hakeem bowed. “Good evening, Alhaji. It’s about Aisha.”
“What about her?” Alhaji asked.
Hakeem took a deep breath. “I don’t trust that guy that she is with. I want to have him investigated.”
Hakeem nodded. “Yes sir. I just want your support so that I won’t be offending you.”
“Well, you have offended me already.”
Hakeem sighed. “Alhaji, it’s…it’s just that I don’t like him.”
Alhaji nodded. “I understand how you feel, Hakeem. But Aisha chose him and we have to respect her wishes. He is the man that she wants to be with, we can’t do anything about it. I want my daughter to be happy.”
“I don’t think he’ll make her happy. He was really rude to her today at the tennis court. It got me upset and what worried me more was Aisha’s silence. She didn’t react as she would do normally.”
Alhaji stared at him. “Rude? What do you mean by rude?”
“I thought his tenses and words were not appropriate for Aisha.” Hakeem replied.
Alhaji relaxed in his seat. “Maybe Aisha is learning the art of submission. People become submissive when they are in love.”
Hakeem blinked. “Sir…”
“Hakeem, I know how you feel about Aisha, but, I can’t allow you get in the way of my daughter’s happiness.”
Hakeem swallowed. “I love her.”
“She loves someone else and he loves her too. Let them be, please.”
Hakeem buried his head in his hand.
“I am going to advise you against investigating Craig. I won’t take it easy with you if you defy me.”
Aisha focused on her laptop as she worked. Her phone rang and she smiled at seeing ‘MOIRA’ on the Caller ID. “Hey babe.”
“Aisha…when are you coming home?” Moira sulked on the other end of the line.
Aisha smiled. “Missing me so soon?”
“Just come home. This place is really boring without you.”
Aisha smiled. “I thought I was boring.”
“Oh well. Not exactly. You are boring in a good way.”
Aisha nodded. “Good to hear you speaking highly of me in my absence. A prophet is never respected in his hometown.”
Moira laughed hard. “Have you been reading the Bible? Because I know you don’t even know what the Quran looks like.”
“Cut me some slack. I try with these things. Anyway, it is almost midnight, why are you calling? You should be asleep by now.” Aisha asked.
“I am bored. I think I miss you. If you don’t come for me, I am coming over there right now.”
Aisha stared at Craig as he dropped a mug beside her. “Moira, I am gonna have to call you back.” She said and hung up. “What is this?” she asked looking at the mug.
He smiled. “Black Coffee. Low fat. I know you’ll like that.”
She fetched her coffee cup from behind her laptop. “I got my bases covered. Thank you.” She replied as she sipped some of the coffee.
“It’s late. You should go to bed.” Craig advised.
She shrugged. “I have to make money. That’s the only way we can sustain this façade of a relationship. You are broke, remember?”
He nodded and handed her a friendship bracelet from his pocket. “Here, Happy Valentine’s day.”
Aisha laughed. “What is this? You could have just gotten me good jewellery if you wanted to play Mr. Perfect so bad. After all, it is my money.”
“No. It is not your money.” He replied. “I got you this from my first earned salary.”
Aisha swallowed as she stared at him. “Do you have a girlfriend? Or someone you kick it with?”
Craig smiled. “Of course not. I am single.”
He stared at her. “Why is it good?”
“I don’t enjoy surprises. I won’t want any tiger tearing at me when I go to make my hair or something.” She replied as she focused on the laptop.
“Is that all?” Craig asked, staring at the bracelet.
She nodded, “Of course, do you think I care if you love someone. You just have to play the part I hired you for and that doesn’t include buying me gifts from your first salary to impress me. I am not impressed.”
He nodded and placed the bracelet beside her. “I think you should have it anyway. I am going to bed.”
“You don’t have to tell me. I don’t care.” She replied as she continued to type.
Craig took a deep breath and returned inside the house.
Aisha stared at him as he walked away and focused on her system. The doorbell chimed shortly. “Damn! Moira came!” Aisha thought aloud as she sprang to her feet. “That girl is such a pain.” She added as she dragged herself to the door.
Aisha stared at her visitor as she opened the door.
“So it is true?”
Aisha blinked. “Excuse me? Who are you?”
“My name is Vicky. Where is Craig?”