Aisha leaned against the door as she folded her arms, creating an imposing figure against the door with her yet petite frame. “Craig!” she called in her best feminine asset. “Craig!”
Vicky stared at her carefully. “I can’t believe this.”
“I know you can’t. Do you want an autograph? Last chance.” Aisha said with a cynical smile.
Vicky swallowed as she watched Craig approach from inside. He was topless and this sent ideas into her head.
Craig took a deep breath as he saw Vicky. “Hey.” He said.
Aisha turned as she stared at him and returned into the house. Craig pulled Vicky outside and shut the door as soon as he watched Aisha leave for the bedroom. “What is this, Vicky? What are you doing here?”
“Craig…I…I love you.”
Craig swallowed. “And I don’t!”
Vicky took a deep breath. “Craig, I know…I know it’s not every day that a lady summons courage to tell a man that she is in love with him and I swear it is not easy for me to bottle my feelings like they don’t exist when they do, but…but I just want you to know that I love you for who you are and would never stop loving you.”
Craig rubbed his forehead. “I…I don’t know what to say. I…I am with someone else.”
Craig nodded. “Yes. Her. Aisha. Her name is Aisha.”
“Do you love her?” Vicky asked. “I mean, where did she spring out from? We only knew Aisha from the TV and spotlight, but, you and Aisha? I mean, was it coded and stuff? When did you guys fall in love?
Craig blinked. “Look, my relationship with Aisha is very important to me and to her too. I can’t discuss our affair with you, but all I can tell you is that we have something.”
“Tell me, Craig. Please.” Vicky said desperately. “Look, Craig, I have loved you ever since we have been friends and yes, I find it hard not to fight for it.”
Craig took a deep breath. “Vicky, I thought we had discussed this before.”
“I own my feelings, Craig.”
He nodded. “Fine. I can’t deprive you of the right to be in love, but, this love won’t be reciprocated.”
“Craig, I just want you to be aware of what I feel for you and I want you to know that I am not going to stop loving you.”
“Vicky, you are a good woman. I am sure that there are men lined up to love you if you let them. You don’t have to tie yourself down to me. I am with someone else.”
Vicky shook her head sadly. “Why did you choose her?”
“I have no control over my heart, do I?” he asked.
She stared at him. “Do you love her?”
He swallowed. “Vicky…”
“Just answer the question, Craig. Be honest with me, for once, please. Do you love her?”
Craig stared at Vicky’s eyes. They were full of hurt and desperation. He didn’t know what else to say to her that would send her away from him. For him, he couldn’t give her love, he knew that. He had never loved anyone like himself. Feelings and emotions were for the weak. He could deal with casual sex but not commitments. Vicky seemed like commitment, Aisha was business. He didn’t need Vicky. Aisha was his pot of gold. He could mess around with that. And even if it meant him lying to a desperate woman, he would. Lying wouldn’t hurt him, after all, he already lied to a desperate father. Why couldn’t he lie to Vicky?
He took a deep breath. “I am in love with Aisha. I have always been and we have had our relationship under wraps for a long time now, just to keep it out of the press’ prowling eyes. I am sorry if I have never told you about it. I really apologise for hurting you, Vicky. I love my girlfriend. I’d do anything for her. She loves me too. I can’t hurt her.”
Vicky wiped a tear drop as it rolled down from her eyes. “Craig, I love you. I am sorry you love someone else.”
She tiptoed and pecked his cheek. “Bye. I would never show up in your life again.” She said as she walked away.
Craig took a deep breath as he watched her walk away. He buried his head in his hand and returned into the house. Now he had to face the bigger venom.
Aisha lay on the chaise lounge in the living room as she watched from the TV. Craig rubbed his palm against his trouser as he stared at her. “I can explain.”
Aisha stared at him with a smile. “What? The TV program is nice, you should watch it. Should I get you some ice-cream?”
“I…I am talking about what just happened.” He replied as he approached her.
She shrugged. “I thought the scene was funny too, but you know how these actors can be, they can be very annoying.” She replied, feigning ignorance as she focused on the TV. “Are you sure you don’t want any Ice-cream?”
“Aisha, I…I don’t love Vicky.” Craig said.
Aisha stared at him. “Who is Vicky?”
“Come on, Aisha. You know who Vicky is. She just left.” He replied as he squatted beside her. “Look, Vicky is…is just a lady who is in love with me, but I assure you I am not in love with her.”
Aisha stared at him. “Craig, I don’t know what you are blabbing about. Here I am, trying to enjoy some TV and take a break from work and you are talking to me about love and Vicky. I don’t understand. I really want to enjoy this program. Would you let me?” she asked with a smile.
“Damn!” Craig shouted and rose to his feet. “I am off to bed.”
She smiled. “Have a nice night.” She said and focused on the TV.
Craig kicked the chair angrily and left for the bedroom.
“So you are telling me that Craig’s girlfriend showed up at your house last night?”
Aisha nodded as she punched the elevator button to the top floor. “Exactly, Moira. That doesn’t worry me as much as I think my plans might be foiled if I keep getting ugly surprises like that. Who is next to visit? Hakeem?”
Moira smiled. “That won’t be cool, my friend.”
“You know I actually think Craig’s bases are not as covered as they should be. Come to think of it, I picked this guy from the slum; people are going to wonder how his profile jumped this high in no time. I should have thought of this more before choosing that scumbag.”
Moira shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. We would just have to come up with something. Like how he enjoyed frolicking with the needy and all. I’ll find something, don’t worry. I think what we need to do is to speed up the wedding plans, so you can get the inheritance, divorce him and get your life back on track. Maybe by then, you’d be in love with Hakeem.” Moira replied, snickering.
“Very funny, Moira. Very funny.” Aisha replied as they stepped out to the main floor.
“How has living with Craig been?”
Aisha stared at her as she pushed her office door open. “How is it supposed to be? We stay out of each other’s way as much as possible.”
“Nothing unites you both?” Moira asked, taking her seat with a smile.
Aisha raised an eyebrow. “Out with it, you idiot. What are you insinuating?”
Moira shrugged. “Nothing that hasn’t been heard before. I am just saying that, how is that you both haven’t found a common ground to co-exist in that house?” She asked, grinning.
“Look, if what you are trying to say is what I think, NO. I have respect for myself, unlike you.”
Moira hissed. “I respect myself too. But I am just saying. You guys can be friends with benefits.”
“Moira, are you alright? What has come over you?” Aisha asked as she turned on her laptop. “Fact check, I am Aisha Bello. I don’t have time for frivolities, so the next time you forget who you are and start imagining foolish things, always remember who I am and keep me out of your silly thoughts.” She replied.
“What? Wipe that smirk off your face.” Aisha ordered.
Moira smiled. “I won’t. And you know why? It means in that holy heart of yours, you have actually given dirty thoughts a chance. Why would you even think that I was thinking that?”
“It’s logic. Common sense, Moira. That’s something I have too.”
Moira nodded. “Okay.”
“Good. Now, we must get back to work. Alhaji won’t be here today and I don’t know why, but he said for a few days, he’ll also be away. But while he is away, we have some deals to shut down and I am talking big money here.” Aisha started.
Moira smiled. “You love making money, don’t you?”
Aisha nodded in agreement. “Yes, I do. It’s all I live for.”
“Do you know why your father won’t be here today?”
Aisha shrugged. “I don’t know and I don’t think I really want to know.”
“That’s because you have decided to ignore this day. It’s been many years, Aisha.”
Aisha stared at her. “I don’t remember what today is and I don’t need you to remind me.”
Moira took a deep breath. “I’ll be going over there by lunch. If you change your mind, we can go together. It won’t hurt so much.”
“Please leave, Moira. I have to work.”
Moira nodded and walked out.
Tears rolled down Aisha’s eyes as she remembered her mother.
“How did Vicky get your address?” Daniel asked.
Craig stared at him. “Don’t give me that, I can swear on anything that you gave it to her.”
“No, bro. I don’t break bro codes.”
“What code? How did she know my house?”
“Aisha’s house, you mean?” Bolu asked, smiling.
Craig shot at him. “Whatever, Man.”
“But seriously, I’d give anything to see Aisha’s expression when she met Vicky.” Bolu said smiling.
Craig stared at him. “Did you give Vicky my address, Bolu?”
Bolu laughed. “You know I can’t do that, brother.”
“What I know is that Vicky didn’t just show up at my house. One of you gave her the address and I don’t think it’s you, Bolu. I know it is you, Daniel.”
Daniel smiled. “What do I have to gain by pushing her closer to you? I love her too, remember?”
“Exactly. Because you love like a dumb man, you think that by sending her my way, she would realise and then start to fall for you. I have news for you, she doesn’t love you, she loves me.”
Daniel swallowed. “Shame. You don’t deserve her love.”
“Neither do you. You are a selfish bastard, Daniel.”
Bolu stepped in. “Easy, boys! Craig, you can’t start accusing Daniel without proof.”
“Oh, let him continue. You’ll come back to apologise, Craig. I know it.” Daniel replied.
“Are you saying he didn’t give her my address? Who did?” Craig shouted.
Bolu took a deep breath. “We both know that Vicky is madly in love with you, a woman in love can do anything for her man. Maybe she tailed you or something, but Daniel has returned to us, he won’t betray you, bro. We are like family, right?”
“I won’t betray you, bro.” Daniel said with a smile. “I am better than that.”
Craig swallowed. “I don’t believe him.”
“I know you don’t trust me too much, Craig. But even though I love her and she doesn’t love me, I won’t use that as an avenue to destroy you.” Daniel replied.
Bolu took a deep breath. “Believe him, Craig. We have been brothers for a very long time, don’t let a woman tear us apart.”
“This is a woman’s love we are talking about. I might not love her, but I appreciate the fact that someone loves me. I can’t love her back, but I respect her and I won’t go about taunting her for it. I advise you respect her, Daniel. Be careful with what you tell her. You don’t have to hurt her.” Craig said and grabbed his car key.
“Where are you going? You just got here.” Bolu said.
Craig shrugged. “I am going back to work. I have to be there, at least.” He replied and walked away.
Bolu stared at Daniel. “Why did you tell Vicky?”
“Why did you defend me if you thought I told her?” Daniel asked.
Bolu took a deep breath. “I…I thought that our friendship meant something to you, bro.”
“It does, Bolu. I didn’t tell her anything. Maybe she tailed him just like you said.”
Bolu smiled. “Do you even believe that?”
“I am innocent. Whatever is happening to Craig is thanks to his greed. He can’t eat his cake and have it. Aisha is going to give him something he has never had. The Spotlight.”
“And she is taking away from him the opportunity to learn to love Vicky back.”
Daniel swallowed. “Learn to Love?”
“I still believe Craig can like Vicky more. Craig is a good guy.”
Daniel clenched his teeth. “She is mine.”
“No. She’s not yours. Get over yourself.” Bolu replied. “I am going back to work.” He added and walked away.
“Mrs. Bello, how are you?” Moira asked as she knelt before Aisha’s mother’s grave. “It’s been years. Aisha still won’t come to visit. I know I haven’t been a right friend by helping Aisha with getting her inheritance by finding a man for her, but Aisha is sad and drunk with power. This is the only thing that is really helping her to interact with someone else, I know I might be wrong with this decision, but, I actually believe that Aisha might find herself in the process. Ma’am, she still plays your favourite tune on the piano but she won’t be playing the piano for a while, she’s moved in with the new guy and she decided not to take it there. She still gives to the orphanages, she hasn’t lost her value. The only thing she hasn’t found is love, so she decided to play games. It might be fun for a while, but I think it might hurt too. I would be here for her no matter what happens. I miss you, you are also my mother. We would close up major deals in the coming days and Aisha would make more money. Aisha enjoys viewing the world from the window like we used to do as little girls when we did visit.” Moira paused to wipe a tear drop. “Aisha is in the office distracting her as usual from thoughts of today, but, I know she would eventually be able to come here one day.”
Moira took a deep breath as rose to her feet. “We miss you, ma.”
“Ma’am, we have been here for five hours and have closed six deals already. Let’s give it a break.” An officer suggested.
Aisha stared at them. “Oh really? We have?”
He nodded. “Ms. Bello, this is nine pm already. I think we should go home.”
“I don’t think so, I think I want to close all deals today. I think we should make all the money we can now. The day is still young, it’s just 9pm.”
Moira stared at them and then back at Aisha. “Aisha, I think we can let them go. We can finish it up.”
“Challenging my authority?” Aisha asked.
Moira stared at her. “Aisha, please.”
Aisha stared at the others. “Get out.”
The others gathered their documents and walked out.
“It’s my money, you know.” Aisha said as she took a seat.
Moira nodded as she approached her. “Let’s go home. You are spent.”
“I am not. I am not leaving here until I tie up all the deals.”
Moira took a deep breath. “Don’t do this today, Aisha.”
Aisha buried her head in her palms. “I just want to get this work done.”
“You don’t have to get it done today. Tomorrow is another day.”
Aisha shook her head. “Tomorrow never comes. My mom didn’t live to see tomorrow.”
Moira swallowed. “I know. God knows best.”
“Bye, Moira.” Aisha said as she picked up her phone.
“Stay with me tonight. You are not doing fine.”
Aisha smiled. “I can handle it.” She replied and walked out.
Moira watched her friend leave the office. Aisha couldn’t handle many things, she only tried to do it. It did work well for her most times, and when her world came crashing down, you almost could not recognise Aisha. Today seemed like one of those days, Moira hoped for her friend’s sake that it would not get worse at night.
“Hey!” Craig said as soon as Aisha walked into the house.
Aisha stared at him. “Hi.” She replied.
“So, I…I was thinking that we could talk about this business today.” Craig started.
She stared at him. “What is there to talk about? Are you broke? I’ll reimburse your credit card tomorrow.” She said, stepping away from him.
“Was it always this easy for you?” Craig asked.
She stopped and stared at him. “Excuse me?”
“Do you actually buy everybody?”
She dropped her handbag on the chair and folded her arms. “I don’t understand.”
“I’ll reimburse your credit card. That’s all. No discussions, no relations. You don’t even care if I hold a party in your house in your absence? You don’t care if I sleep with someone?”
Aisha shrugged. “Why should I care? I just need you to help me get something, that’s all.”
“Where did the good girl go?”
Aisha looked around. “Are you talking to me?”
He nodded. “Yes. I mean, you…you are more than this, Aisha.”
“Shut up!” she replied and picked up her bag.
He swallowed. “I won’t. Why are you bent on making everyone see this monster? You…you don’t have to like me to live with me. But, as long as we are living together, we can tolerate each other.”
“I am tolerating you, right now.” She replied.
He nodded. “Good. I want us to talk. I want us to talk about yesterday.”
“Is this about yesterday? The entire dumb sermon was about yesterday?” she asked.
“Look, Aisha, Vicky is a woman who loves me.”
Aisha smiled. “Good for you. When our deal is over, you can go back to her. Today is not a good day to have an argument with you. Please, let me be.”
“Is there ever a good day with you?” he asked. “Aisha, you can’t go on like this. When you hurt, spit it out. When you are happy, let everyone know. This is not life.”
Aisha stared at him with her mouth agape. “What do you care?”
“I don’t have to care about you, but I do. You are human; we live in the same house. Just look at your face, it is obvious. You have been crying. What is it about? Tell me. Let me help.”
She scoffed. “Now you want to help me? Look, your job here is simple, we step out together, and you smile at the camera. Shutter left…Shutter right…Click. The press has us in the magazine; we go home, case closed. There is nothing else, try not to get too close to me. You are pissing me off.”
“You piss me off too. But, I won’t give up on you. You need saving. I’ll help you.”
Aisha stared at him. “You know someone who needed saving?” she shouted. “My mother!” she screamed. “There was no one that day, I couldn’t save her, and Moira couldn’t. The driver couldn’t. They killed her as though she didn’t matter. That was someone who needed saving. You want to save someone, get me back my mother.” She shouted. “Don’t ever talk to me about saving me, I am fine.” She said as she wiped teardrops from her eyes.
“Aisha…” Craig said as he took a deep breath. “I am sorry.”
She nodded. “It’s normal to be sorry. It is the typical pitiful state of the mind. My father was sorry. The cops were sorry. Moira was sorry. Even my dead Mom would have been sorry. I am sorry too. So, it is okay if you are sorry. Can I go in peace now?”
“Aisha…” Craig said as he stood before her. “It’s okay to cry, you don’t have to fight it.”
“Look, I know it hurts, but, when you should cry, you should cry. Just cry, breathe, let it go. Please…” he said as he stared at her eyes. “You don’t have to go through it alone, just let it go, Aisha.”
Tears began to stream down her face. The more she fought back, the more her weak eyes betrayed her. The tears flowed freely and she crashed into Craig’s arms in tears.