Aisha stared at Craig. This was one of the most difficult moments in her life. ‘In business, the main focus is on the player, not the consignment to be purchased’. She didn’t know where she had picked up that line from but it seemed like way back in business school. Her Professor had a knack for it. He’d say, ‘Number one rule of football, never take your eyes off the ball. Likewise in business, never take your eyes off the player’. This might not have seemed like business to the regular girl. This is a man on one knee with a diamond ring stretched at a girl. She should not be even having a sniff of business in her head. She ought to jump at the ring and scream. But for a split second, she had reminded herself of what this was – a game. It didn’t seem like a game though; this is a piano – her love and life. Craig had warmed into the deepest part of her heart. Why would this be a game? There were no pressmen around, this was just Craig and his ring… and maybe his heart lifted out to her. What was she waiting for? A smile warmed across her lips as she stared at him.
Craig was worried. Aisha was smiling. She still had to reach out for the ring for him to be convinced that she would marry him. For a woman like Aisha, you can’t trust a smile. A smile could either be in appreciation or in mockery. Right now, his poor soul couldn’t be mocked. Not after all he had done to get her to this stage. Mockery would open the door to a whole new world that neither of them could tolerate. He smiled faintly as he hoped that she would say something and spare them the ridicule that might loom if she said ‘No’. He smiled again as she seemed to be searching for answers in his eyes. The answers were not there, he knew.
Aisha nodded her head slowly with a smile. “I’ll marry you, Craig.”
He smiled as he slipped the ring onto her finger and drew her close for a kiss. He prayed that she wouldn’t hesitate. Any wrong move now on her part and it would all be a mess. Aisha was unsuspecting. She really wanted to kiss him. He saw it in her eyes. ‘Could she be in love with me?’ Craig thought within a second as he kissed her passionately. Her heart raced fast against his. She was like a child who yearned for love. She kissed back. He knew she felt something for him.
Flashes in their eyes and microphones dangling from covers, Aisha drew away from Craig. Her smile faded. It was all part of the game. For a second, she thought it was real. That it was just the both of them. The Press took pictures of them and she wore a smile for the camera, the cameo type that she always had on. Craig spoke briefly to the press on their behalf.
Aisha withdrew to the Piano as she watched Craig discuss with the pressmen. She ran her finger across her lips. She cursed herself for being vulnerable and kissing him back, but what could she have done. She was in love. She thought it was real. She didn’t think of the press, all she thought of was Craig. She actually did think of Craig. She could have sworn that he felt something for her too, after all, she felt his heart beat against hers. He was like a randy boy in love when he kissed her. But now, she knew better. He was the master of this game; he had put on an excellent show for the press. She knew she couldn’t wallow in self-pity forever; she shook off her pain and thanked her eyes for standing still and not getting all wet from regret and the pain she felt.
Craig joined her. “Smooth, right?”
She nodded in agreement. “I must say that almost caught me by surprise, but that was good. Great show for the media.”
“So, I think we should go over to your father tomorrow and give him the good news.” Craig said.
Aisha stared at him. “You think?”
He nodded in agreement. “Yes. Right now, we are looking great. We shouldn’t waste any more time.” He replied as he poured her glass.
“Why did you bring a piano?” she asked.
Craig shrugged as he handed her the glass.
“You know more than I think you do, right?” she asked as she placed the glass beside her. “Craig, you could have chosen something else. Why the piano?”
He took a deep breath. “I know you play the Piano. And very well too. Now that I think of it, we should have played a note for the press. I guess we would do that on the wedding day, right?”
“You do? How much of it do you know?” she asked. He raised an eyebrow. “I mean the assassination of my mother and my life afterwards?” she continued. “What did my Dad tell you?”
Craig stared at her. “What are you driving at, Aisha? Women.”
“Craig, I know this is a game, but, I love my mother. I love my piano. You could have chosen another instrument.”
He nodded. “I know all that, Aisha. I put up all this to make the proposal as perfect as it can be, you should be thanking me. This is going to be the talk of the town for years to come. Do you know how many folks will be talking about it before we are married, when we are married and even after the divorce? I am a genius, babe. I deserve lots of thanks for this. This video will hit YouTube and other networks, we would look so perfect. Just like you have always wanted it.” He replied as he sipped his drink.
“Thank you.” She replied and walked away.
Craig swallowed as he watched her walk away.
“Good thing you came.” Moira said shutting the door after Aisha. “Alhaji was here.”
Aisha took her seat. “Why? Do we have a deal to seal?”
“No. It is spooky, weird and I am a freaked out! What I have to tell you is big!”
Aisha raised a finger to halt her. “Be right back.” She said and disappeared into the kitchen. She returned with a glass of water. “Now speak”, she said as she sipped some water.
“Aisha, your father is nullifying your contract.”
“My contract? At work?”
Moira shook her head in disagreement. “No. Alhaji wants to cancel the deal that he had with you about getting married before you get the inheritance.”
“What? Why?” Aisha asked looking ruffled.
Moira shrugged. “According to him, he wants to show his support for you and Craig by removing the contract.”
“I don’t get.”
“Well, Alhaji thinks that the contract is unnecessary pressure and that he should stop putting pressure on you.”
Aisha finished the water and placed the glass by the table. “And you bought that crap?”
“Of course not, but what was I supposed to tell Alhaji? You paid Kola well, right?” Moira asked.
Aisha nodded. “Kola won’t bail on me. Even though he’s been Dad’s security guy for years, he still knows how to be loyal to me.”
“I think Alhaji knows about this game.”
Aisha laughed. “Never!”
“Then why would he bring up this news at this time?”
“Maybe his conscience bugged him too much.” Aisha replied as she picked up the remote.
Moira shook her head. “I don’t quite agree with you. If it was about his conscience, he could have waited till daybreak, he came here this midnight, Aisha, something is wrong. Even though Alhaji managed to wave it off, he did call Craig a ‘phoney’ when we started discussing.”
The remote dropped from Aisha’s hand. “Phoney?”
Moira nodded in agreement. “Yeah. Something is not right, Aisha.”
“God!” Aisha said as she dug her hand into her hair. “He must know something. Alhaji is very selective on his terms.”
Moira took a deep breath. “What are we gonna do?”
“I don’t know. But I am going to kill Kola if he betrayed me.”
Moira massaged her forehead. “I don’t know why Kola would snitch on us. I just think we should find a way to kill this whole thing before Alhaji confronts you.”
“Us! Confronts us, Moira!” Aisha corrected as she clasped her hands on her face.
“What???” Moira screamed.
Aisha jolted in fear. “What is it?”
“He proposed?” Moira said, staring at the ring.
Aisha took a deep breath. “Yes. That’s why I am more worried. By now, the press would be preparing to slam the news on their front covers. What would I do to stop the news?”
“Oh my…I thought we were to choose the date for the proposal.”
“He took me by surprise and he had the press as a backup. At first, I felt he was genuine and I had said yes to that.”
Moira stared at her. “Excuse me?”
Aisha nodded as teardrops rolled down her eyes. “Yes, Moira. I…I just thought something was there.”
“Oh no! This is not good.” She said as she joined Aisha in her seat and pulled her close for a hug.
“At first, there was no press. It was just us. I…I thought I actually did mean something to him.”
Moira rolled her eyes as she consoled a weak Aisha. One she had not seen before. She stroked Aisha’s hair tenderly as she heard her friend sob quietly. “Aisha?”
“Yeah?…” Aisha replied in a low tone.
“Are you in love with him?” Moira asked.
Aisha did not reply.
“You don’t have to be ashamed with me. You don’t have to be afraid to say how you feel. Love is not a weakness, Aisha. It’s strength.” Moira said as she swallowed painfully.
Aisha stared at Moira and chuckled. “Do you know what you sound like?”
“No way. You are nothing close to her.” Aisha replied as she wiped her eyes.
Moira smiled. “Stop being evasive, Aisha. Do you love him?”
Craig downed his next glass and tapped on the table to alert the barman. He felt as though he had fallen off a train. The evening had gone according to his plan B, and it hurt him so much to have to sway to the second side. He tapped on his phone to check the time. They were late into the night. He hoped Bolu got his message. He knew he couldn’t go home looking so torn. Aisha should not see him drunk.
Bolu joined him. “Hey Bro!”
“Mission accomplished!” Craig said as he raised another glass, smiling.
Bolu smiled. “You are the greatest player of all time.”
“When are you getting married?”
“We are seeing her father tomorrow. We would set the date then.”
Bolu shook his hand. “I am proud of you.”
Craig nodded. “I am not proud of who I am.”
“Why? You have officially signed into the richest Nigerian family, one of the richest families in the world and you say you are not proud? Man, I would kill to be in your shoes right now.” Bolu replied beckoning to the barman. “We need more drinks.”
“I can’t take anything.”
“Why man? You should be in cloud nine by now. Omo, you dey dull o! Wetin do you na?”
Craig didn’t feel okay. “I really wanted to propose to her.”
“Guy, I thought you said you did.” Bolu retorted looking confused.
Craig nodded. “I did, but, not the way a man should. I think she cares about me.”
Bolu laughed. “Dude, the fact that a duck plays with swans doesn’t make it a swan. You are not in Aisha’s class, this is the best you get from her. Money. Not feelings.”
“Now I am a duck, right?” Craig asked.
Bolu smiled faintly. “I don’t mean it that way, but, I am just saying that you shouldn’t dream bigger than this. This is where it all comes down, take the money and run far away from here. She can’t love you. People like Aisha don’t love anyone except themselves and their money. She went as far as buying you to achieve her goal, that’s as hot as it gets for them in the upper class. Forget it, man. There is no love there. They just have houses, there is no home there. Believe me, you have won yourself something big, take it and run.”
Craig swallowed and finished his drink.
Bolu watched Daniel as he spoke to the Manager at work. Daniel handed the Manager an envelope and collected another. Bolu rushed after him as he saw him head for the exit. “Daniel!” he shouted as he pulled him back at the garage. “Where are you going? I have been to your house and it is so empty!”
Daniel adjusted the rumpled part of his shirt. “I am leaving. I can’t stand all of you.”
“Daniel, I don’t know why I keep coming back. I can’t just let go off our friendship.”
Daniel smiled. “Poor you. The person responsible for all the pain and hurt I feel doesn’t care, why is Craig not here? Why is he not trying to make amends?”
“Daniel, Craig hasn’t wronged you. You have always envied him. That’s the problem.”
Daniel hissed. “Envy? Look, I don’t envy him. I hate him. Right from when he lost his parents and his uncle beat him, we always took care of him. My family. How does he repay me? Once I like any girl, all he does is smile like a peacock and the girls are off to his side. Why? Why is he so wicked? Why does he get all the girls? Why did he have to get Aisha? It was my stand.”
“Bro, you were bored. Craig only took over for you and it just shows that it is merely coincidence. Craig didn’t mean to approach Aisha. You know what happened.”
Daniel shrugged. “He is a greedy dirty bastard.”
“And you are a jealous b*tch! Why are you so conceited? You are full of hate for someone who doesn’t hate you.”
“Well, that’s his problem. I hate him. And I will always hate him. I am going far away and I hope that he doesn’t come close to me before he snatches my wife from me in the nearest future. He is bad luck to me and he would soon be to you. Just wait and watch him ruin you.”
Bolu took a deep breath. “This time it really is goodbye. I wish we didn’t have to part ways like this.”
“How else would you like it? A party? Celebration for my tears?”
“You are pitiful.” Bolu replied. “Have a nice life.”
Daniel nodded with a smile. “I will. I know you won’t.” Bolu turned to walk away. “Oh, wait!”
Bolu stopped and stared at him. “What do you want?”
“Since you are Craig’s dog, you might as well tell your master that Alhaji Ibrahim is aware of this scam.”
Bolu gasped. “What?”
“Yeah! I hate that bastard so much. I have made his playboy task a little harder.”
Bolu held his head in fear.
Daniel laughed. “Perfect! That’s exactly how I wished to see Craig, it’s a shame you have taken up the look for him.”
“No, Daniel. Why?” Bolu asked.
Daniel shrugged with a smile. “I lost Vicky. He is not getting Aisha. Have a nice life.” He replied and walked away.
Bolu searched for his phone in his pocket but it wasn’t there. He dashed into the mall.
Alhaji stared at Craig and Aisha with a smile. He had practiced the smile for hours in his bathroom when he woke up and now he got it. “Congratulations.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Craig replied.
Alhaji smiled. “Errr…where are you taking her for the honeymoon?”
“We haven’t thought of it yet, Dad.” Aisha replied, cutting in.
Alhaji smiled. “Aisha, why are you so apprehensive? Why don’t you let your future husband speak?”
Craig smiled at her. “It’s okay, babe. We are family, now.” He said to her. He then turned in Alhaji’s direction. “Sir, we are yet to make a decision, but we would soon enough.”
“That’s great.” Alhaji replied. “There is something important that I have to share with you both. I would have had a private discussion with Aisha, but, seeing how far you guys have gone, it is better for you to know about it now.”
Aisha’s heart skipped a bit as Alhaji smiled in her direction. She smiled back and with a lot of confidence.
Craig’s phone rang. He stared at the caller ID. “BOLU”
Alhaji smiled at him. “This is a very important discussion.”
“Of course, Sir.” Craig replied and turned off his phone.
Alhaji nodded. “Thank you.”
“We are ready, Dad.” Aisha said.
Alhaji sat up. “I don’t think Aisha told you this, but I made an agreement with her that I would be releasing her inheritance to her when she got married.” Aisha swallowed hard. Craig took a deep breath and Alhaji smiled. “Well, you know how difficult it is for a man to have a daughter who has made herself her own man and has decided to go against everything that marriage stands for. I was desperate and so I decided that I would release her buck to her when she finally got married.” He blinked and continued. “I know it sounds really selfish and greedy of me but I hope you understand why I made that decision, I couldn’t have my daughter continue in that line. Do you understand me, Craig?”
Craig nodded. “Yes, Sir. I totally understand your reason.”
“Thank you. At least, we have cleared that part. But, I have decided to nullify those terms.” Alhaji said.
Craig stared at Aisha. Aisha’s face was stoned. She wasn’t surprised as Moira had given her the preamble. “Dad…”
“Hang on…Hang on….” Alhaji said, cutting in. “Actually, I believe that what you and Craig have is special and it shouldn’t be ruined. I mean, you are even getting married. This is beautiful, I am not going to ruin it with my stupid pressures on you both. Do you understand what I am saying, Craig?”
Craig nodded. “Yes, sir. It is good that you give us a huge room to love and all without pressure.”
“Exactly! That’s what I thought when I made that decision. Also, I feel that you both should be allowed to blossom in the best way ever and have a perfect life together without influences from Alhaji Ibrahim Bello.” Alhaji added smiling.
“Dad, what else?” Aisha asked.
Alhaji smiled. “Why do you think there is something else? You are very suspicious of people, Aisha. That is not good.”
“I know you well enough, Alhaji. There is something else.”
He nodded with a smile. “There is. I have decided to cut you out of my will, after all, it is my money.”
Aisha folded her arms. “Can we discuss this in private?”
“No. We shouldn’t be keeping things from your future husband. I am not done yet.” He replied. He then turned in Craig’s direction. “I am sorry, young man. Aisha and I fight a lot.” He said with a smile. “Anyway, in addition, I feel Craig is a wealthy and capable man and he should be able to take care of you in line with the money that you have, you can’t suffer. You don’t need the money.” He said. Turning to Craig, “Or what do you think, Son? You should be able to take care of your wife, right?”
Craig nodded slowly. “Of course, Sir. Aisha is my responsibility and I will take care of her.”
Alhaji clapped and sipped his drink. “Great. I love a real man. You have made a smart decision, Craig. Take the mantle. Lead the home. Be the father, husband and provider.”
Aisha stared at her father. “Thank you, Dad.”
Alhaji smiled. “That’s not all. I have amended my will and I willed everything in equal proportion to my grandchild or grandchildren.”
“Grandchild or Grandchildren?” Aisha asked.
Alhaji nodded with a smile. “Yes, I am expecting them to fill this house and run around and I am sure that you both will provide me with lovely grandchildren. That’s what couples in love do. Isn’t that right, Craig?”
Craig nodded with a smile. “Of course, sir.”
‘it’s All Fun And Games… until Alhaji gets involved’