Dede smiled and looked towards the door, there was no way she was helping the woman staring at her with pleading eyes, eyes that made her want to shift her stance regarding the favor she just asked her.
“Madam, your husband said you were dead” she said as she grabbed her bag, headed towards the door, abandoning the reason she had come to the club that Saturday. She was done saving people from their demons, she really couldn’t do it anymore, not even when her heart was breaking from the fact that she was abandoning the only thing she had always cared about – helping abused girls.
Helen was not letting her, she followed her immediately, trying to catch up with Dede who had somehow almost made it to the door.
She had made it to the door when Helen yanked her by the hand.
“With all due respect Mrs Bifarin, I have somewhere to be and you are already becoming a nuisance.” Dede said in anger but the other woman was not moved. Dede stared her down but that didn’t change anything, she tried to move past her but the woman stayed in her way, “Mrs Bifarin, you are supposed to be dead and I am supposed to be done performing stupid savior work. Abeg let it stay that way”
She was pleading with the woman to stay away and not drag her back into saving people but she realized it was more than that; it was an inner battle, a battle with herself, a battle where she was actually begging a part of her to let go of saving people.
Helen was not backing off, “Dede, I need you. My daughter and I need you”. The frantic tone in her voice made Dede feel more guilty.
“You abandoned your daughter, why?”
“You will never understand”
Dede scoffed, “I don’t even want to know madam. I just want to stay on my own away from you and your daughter and the other people’s daughters.” She eyed Helen, “excuse me”.
She shoved Helen aside gently and headed out of the building. Part of her wanted to stay and listen to Helen’s story, part of her wanted to learn about what happened to her, why she felt the need to flee and abandon her daughter with her sick husband and why the husband felt his wife was dead.
Part of her wanted to help.
But she couldn’t. She had chosen not to. Helping was a good thing, it was a great cause but it was also too huge a sacrifice for her. It always got her into more trouble.
“Dede please listen to me, we need you. Please”
She could hear Helen walking up to her and trying to catch up with her, Dede increased her steps. She was going to make it to her car and drive off before the woman had the time to stop her again and before the part of her that wanted her to remain a savior won the battle over the part that just wanted to stay out of trouble.
Helen caught up with her and stayed in her way, making it impossible for her to move.
The shots that rang out caused Dede to scramble in shock and duck near her car. She heard noises accompanying the shots, someone swearing and a car driving off.
The car wasn’t doing much to shield her from anything, she realized that, the instant she looked up and found that the only cover she had seconds before was Helen Bifarin and the woman now laid on the floor, in a pool of her own blood, her dress torn from the bullet that had pierced through it and into her heart.
Dede’s knees became weak as she stared at her, the woman was dead. Very dead.
SHE HAD BEEN DOING THE SAME THING EVERY DAY FOR ONE WEEK. SHE WOULD RETURN FROM WORK, KICK OFF HER SHOES, GRAB A BOTTLE OF VODKA, DRINK TILL SHE GOT DRUNK and passed out on the couch.
Then the next day, she would stand up, ignore the nagging headache, wash up and go to work after which she would repeat the same cycle from the day before.
Helen’s death haunted her. It haunted her at work, it haunted her while she drove and it haunted her while she breathed. The only time it did not haunt her was when she was drunk and that was why she drank every second after work till she became useless to herself.
The woman’s last words to her had been Dede please. She had wanted her to help set her daughter free and continue being a savior but Dede had told her no, refused to help and stormed out in anger, thereby causing her death.
If only she had listened to her for a second, maybe that wouldn’t have happened.
Why did her life always become so complicated? Why was her life never easy and simple like the others? Why did she always have to be haunted by something or someone?
She rose from her couch and staggered into the bathroom, the spirit was not in agreement with her body tonight, she reached for the sink and vomited the little she had swallowed some minutes before.
Somehow, Dede knew the gunshot that buried themselves in Helen’s body were not meant for her, they were meant for Dede and she strongly suspected it had something to do with Kunle Bifarin.
She rinsed her mouth, flushed the toilet and dragged herself back to the sitting room. She had just relaxed on her chaise lounge when she heard the doorbell. She did not move, she did not want to move and she really did not want to see whoever it was at her door.
She heard his voice and sprang up from the lounge, a sudden boost of energy had ignited her and she sprinted to the door, opened it and collapsed in his arms.
He stood there as if he knew what had happened and why she was a mess, one strong hand held her while she took her place in his arms and the other gently stroked her back. He placed a kiss on her forehead and after minutes had passed looked at her.
“Have you been drinking?”
She nodded, disengaged from the embrace, swayed and almost fell. He grabbed her and slowly guided her to the couch.
“You look terrible Dede. Why have you been drinking? And have you even eaten anything in a long time? You look pale!”
He relaxed her head on the couch and examined her, her eyes were hollow and she had lost weight. Her hair looked a mess and even though her makeup free face was still a beautiful sight she looked very sad and worried.
“What is going on with you Dede?”
“Toni, do you think I can still leave the country?” she asked him.
“You can leave the country if you want Dede but you need to tell me what is going on with you. Are you sick?”
She shook her head and then let out a cynical laugh almost immediately, “Of course I am sick. I am sick and tired of all this bullshit.”
His voice was calm and gentle and even soothing to her raging emotions, “what bullshit?”
“Can you imagine what she said? She wants me to save her daughter! What was she doing all the while? Cant she save her daughter herself? What makes her think I am some sort of savior or a dumping ground where they can all dump their stupid requests?”
Toni was not sure what emotion it was she was revealing but he knew she was messed up and she needed help. It irked him for a second that she had not thought of putting a call across to him immediately the need arose for him to be there but he let it go.
She was sometimes heady and she sometimes believed she did not need the help it was obvious she needed.
“I am going to make you dinner but before then, you will remove your clothes and soak yourself in the tub and wash away this stench.” She was reeking of alcohol and he doubted she cared. “Then you will take plenty water…”
She stared at him blankly as if she did not speak English or understand a word of it.
He continued anyway, “Do you have headache?”
She did not say anything.
“Dede do you have headache?”
Again, she just stared at him and kept silent.
“Okay, let us have you take a bath and have dinner then.”
He slowly helped her off the couch and led her to the bathroom. Normally he would have left her to wash herself but he did not this time, he stripped her of her clothes, starting from the yellow bodycon dress that stuck to her body like second skin to the leopard skin Anne Summers bra and pant and he gently helped her into the tub where he scrubbed her clean with her shower gel and sponge.
“You are wasting your time taking care of me” she muttered when he was done and was toweling her dry.
“Let me worry about my time wastage, after all it is my time” he responded, reaching for her drawer where he pulled out a lacy underwear and panties.
“I am better off sitting in the dark and smelling of alcohol”
He wore her lingerie and panties for her, “You are sounding pathetic Dede, stop it” he said to her and took her hand. “Come, let us go and make dinner for you”.
She followed him out of the bedroom, “Why did you come?” she asked him as she sat in her sitting room.
“You needed me”
“How did you know?”
“I always know. I have always known and you know that.”
He was right, he always seemed to know somehow whenever she was in trouble and he always, always reached out for her anywhere and wherever she was.
He entered into her kitchen, “I will make you plantain and fried eggs. Are you up for that?”
She smiled, it was the first time she was smiling in days and it was refreshing and it gave her some sort of liberty. “Yes” she said and broke into a sob.
Her emotions were killing her and she couldn’t even explain what it was that was wrong exactly.
SHE HAD ALWAYS HATED HOSPITALS AND TRIED HER VERY BEST TO STAY AWAY FROM IT SINCE SHE WAS YOUNG. A LOT OF TIMES SHE HAD INDULGED IN SELF MEDICATION JUST TO AVOID HOSPITALS.
But with Toni, there was little or nothing she could do to fight the hospital visit he was very convinced she needed that night.
“I don’t know why we are going to the hospital o, I said I am fine. What is your own sef?” she had grumbled during the thirty minute drive.
“Unfortunately, we are inside the car and I have locked it and you cannot jump out so grumble all you want but you are going to the hospital whether you like it or not.” He had responded calmly and then overtaken a slow driver in front of him while he drove towards the hospital.
“You know this is Funlola’s father’s hospital and she does not like me and you are still taking me there. If they kill me it will kuku be on you” she pouted and folded her arms across her chest.
Toni had smiled, a smile that brightened up his face and made the streetlights useless for a single second.
“I will follow you to heaven and we can at least be free from all the troubles” he had said to her, she eyed him in response and he winked. “Besides, you have shares there, it is your hospital too”
“I don’t even know what that man was thinking sef making me a shareholder in a hospital. Do you think he did it on purpose? That maybe he is trying to spite somebody in his family? Or maybe he just wants Funlola to find me and kill me”
Toni drove into the hospital’s vast parking area, “I don’t know what the man was thinking but I agree with you that he must have done it for a purpose. But we both know Funlola loves you.”
She scoffed, “yes she loves me so much she would kill me when she eventually finds a way.”
“Beneath all your present animosity towards each other, you both really love yourselves.” He said as he undid his seatbelt and hers.
“No we don’t.” she said.
“Yes you do. Now shall we please go inside and get you tested?”
“I am fine Toni.”
“No you are not. And don’t make me ask again or I will drag you out of the car, carry you and take you all the way to the Doctor’s office.”
“You used to come here with Funlola when you were both married. People will be looking at us with one kain eyes joo”
“Say whatever you want Dede but you are getting out of this car this minute or I will carry you, I am serious.”
She eyed him, realizing he was serious and said stubbornly, “fine!”
He smiled at her as she got out of the car.
DEDE PUT HER TONGUE OUT AND WIDENED HER EYES AT TONI AS THE DOCTOR LOOKED ON IN AMUSEMENT, TONI SIMPLY LAUGHED.
“see, it is just PMS and little stress. I am not mad or sick or anything.” She said to him.
“I needed to be sure you weren’t” he said and stood up, “thank you Doctor” he added with a slight nod to the doctor.
“You are welcome. A lot of rest is what she needs basically” the doctor said.
Toni gently pulled Dede up and walked out of the Doctor’s office. “You need to stop playing daddy to me Toni, I am fine and I am the older one here.”
“You are the older one but I am the man and the stronger one” he said calmly, his arm taking its place across her shoulder as he guided her through the hospital.
“What an egoistic thing to say, are you trying to say men are automatically stronger than women no matter their age?”
He nodded, “exactly what I am trying to say Miss Okosun” he laughed, he was laughing at her and enjoying their banter. He had missed her and he was glad she was close again after such a long time.
“You are a chauvinist” she said and hit him playfully. She was enjoying the moment too.
“But you like me like that.” He said and stopped. She faced him and they ignored their surroundings while they locked their lips and took a moment to kiss each other, each of them losing themselves into the kiss they had missed and longed for every second they had spent apart.
“I forgot you are such a terrible kisser” he said smiling, when they were done.
“But you like me like that” she said and he laughed.
It did not matter to them where they were and the night could give way to morning without them caring who watched or what happened around them. They were simply in love and that was all that mattered.
The sudden chaos and noise around them interrupted their magical moment. They both turned towards where the noise was coming from and Dede watched as Kunle Bifarin ran into the hospital, a lifeless and bloodied body in his hands.
“Help me right now!” He yelled and help found him in seconds as a stretcher appeared and four nurses relieved him of the body. Dede stepped closer and saw Kunle Bifarin’s daughter being placed into the stretcher and carried away.
For the second time that night, she swayed but this time because Toni had not been prepared for it and had not seen it coming. She fell to the floor by his feet, becoming unconscious in an instant.
Thanks for reading! And do hang around a little… For the bonus episode this evening!