Craig smiled as Aisha and Moira yelled at each other. He stared at his wrist watch and then back at the ladies who didn’t seem to be giving each other any breathing space. Their screams now went from venting their frustrations and disappointment to who had the loudest voice while yelling. Craig smiled again, this time, not at the reason for the arguments but for the fact that even the highest pitch of their yelling couldn’t be compared to the tone of one of the girls in the hood he grew up. He concluded that ‘yelling’ had different categories – That of the Rich and the Poor. He rolled his eyes as they seemed as though they wouldn’t give up. They were quacking in his ears.
“Master Planner, I am so waiting for your next move.” A livid Aisha said.
Moira laughed. “I like the title you have attached to it, but you don’t have to be cynical about it. For all I know, I didn’t spill anything to Alhaji.”
“So, how did he know?” Aisha continued.
Moira shrugged. “I don’t know. But I am surprised that you would ever look in my direction.” She replied as she sipped her drink. “Typical of you, Aisha. Someone must always be on the receiving end of your aggression.”
“What are you trying to say?” Aisha shouted at the top of her voice.
“You don’t want me to go there and I don’t intend to.” Moira replied. “Let it go, Aisha. I am innocent.”
Aisha sank into her chair furiously. “All I know is that I want my money.”
“Is that all that matters to you?” A voice cooed from a corner of the room.
Aisha and Moira stared at Craig in an instant. It was as though they didn’t know he had been with them in the room. Of course, he had been, but their constant yelling had isolated him to a corner as they lashed at themselves. Aisha flipped her hair over her shoulder as she prepared to respond to him. “Aren’t you here for the money?”
He nodded as he approached them.
“Yes, I am. This is business, remember? But…But I just think that for once we should admit that we lost this one. A…Aisha, what if this could be real? I mean…it…it doesn’t have to be a game anymore. I…I think…” Craig paused as he swallowed. He had been struggling with the right words to say all he had in mind for Aisha, but he felt like a coward, maybe Moira’s presence contributed to it, but he could find the courage to say the right words and he hoped that his eyes could say it, but Aisha wasn’t even looking. She was drawn into another spat with Moira. He knew there was no need to say how he actually felt.
“Aisha, give up. We lost.” He blurted angrily.
Moira chuckled as Aisha pounced on Craig with her next response. “I have not lost anything.”
“It is in her blood to win.” Moira added.
Craig nodded. “Apparently you learnt from the best. Alhaji did well to zero us out there.” He replied. He took a deep breath and focused on Aisha. “You knew that Alhaji suspected something about this, right?”
Aisha ignored him.
“Why didn’t you tell me? Clearly you weren’t surprised when he started with us.” Craig probed.
She smiled as she stared at him. “I wasn’t about to have you go and try to cover up your tracks there with some weak story about how you grew up in the Deserts of Dubai and made it to the top when some Arabian riders took you in.”
“What? Have I ever said that?” Craig retorted.
Moira smiled. “What she means is she wasn’t going to let you make a fool of her.”
“Well, you ended up making a fool of me. If I had known, I would have been ready. We are in this together. Partners.”
Aisha shook her head with a cynical smile. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, we are not partners. I hired you for something and you have gone ahead and fluffed your lines.”
“Me? Alhaji certainly didn’t find out from me, you are the one who didn’t have your bases covered as well as they should.” He replied as he pulled out his phone from his pocket and turned it on. “I think my work is done here, we can cancel this wedding now.”
“I will blow the final whistle.” Aisha replied.
Craig shook his head. “You have been playing this game alone for a long time.”
“What the heck did you think you were doing when you proposed to me without my notice and invited the press to it?” Aisha yelled.
Craig ignored her as he stared at his phone. His face went stoned as he read Bolu’s ping. “DANIEL TOLD ALHAJI. BEWARE!!!” Craig clenched his fist in anger as he turned in Aisha’s direction. “I am sorry. I messed up. But we are done here, Good bye.” He said. He grabbed his jacket and stormed out of the house.
Aisha stared at Moira confusingly. “What was that about?”
“I should be asking you.” Moira replied. “I wasn’t the one he apologised to.” She added taking a seat. “What if it was Craig’s friend that leaked it to your Dad? Seeing how he left here”
Aisha nodded her head slowly. “You may be right. Oh boy! I am so going to kill someone.”
“And that someone should be your piano?” Moira asked. “I like how you vent all your anger on it, shame Craig chose to fool you with it.”
Aisha rolled her eyes. “Please, don’t remind me.”
“Aisha, you are in love with Craig. When are you going to tell him?” Moira asked.
Aisha stared at her. “Are you drunk? How am I supposed to tell a man that I employed to play a game with me that I am in love with him? For all we know, this might even be a whim and not love. I have no real idea of what love is and I am not willing to have that idiot play on the little emotions I have.”
“Let’s analyse the situation, how do you feel when you are around him?” Moira asked.
Aisha hissed. “This is not gonna work.”
“What are you afraid of? That you will realise that you love this guy? Come to think of it, he is not so much of a bad guy.” Moira replied.
“But he is the type of guy that might just smear my love in my face and run too. I am not taking that chance.” Aisha replied.
Moira folded her arms. “Have you thought of the slight possibility that he might actually like you?”
“I know he doesn’t. He…He is a player and a very good one. He pulled a Piano stunt to get to my heart and made me say a genuine ‘yes’ to him and all I saw was the press in my face. What do you call that?”
“Aisha, what if that dinner was actually private until you mentioned the press?”
“All I asked him at first was why he had organised a private dinner. You might have scared him off.” Moira continued. “Aisha, I believe that he might have actually organised that dinner for the both of you until you brought in the press issue and he just tapped them up to satisfy you. Maybe you actually chased this one away.”
“I…I don’t know. But, I said a real ‘Yes’ to him and he was messing with me. That’s what hurts.”
Moira nodded. “What am I saying is I think that you made him call the press, I believe that he was genuine up until when you introduced the press idea.”
“What if he wasn’t true at first?”
“What if he was?”
Aisha swallowed. “Why are we even flogging this issue? He is not an issue. There is no love there and that is that. Maybe it’s just one of those girly things, a crush or something.”
“Really?” Moira asked with an eyebrow raised.
Aisha took a deep breath. “He said ‘goodbye’ too. Remember? Let it go, Moira.” Aisha said and left for her bedroom.
“Take it easy, man.” Bolu said holding Craig’s hand as they approached Daniel’s house.
Craig pushed him away. “He’s ruined everything. Is that how much he hates me?”
“I am going to teach him not to hate too much.” Craig said, banging on the front door.
“I don’t think he is here. I think he’s left town already.”
Craig fumed. “Coward! Where did he go?”
“I am not a coward. I have been waiting for this day.” Daniel said as he approached them. “The day when I would stand face to face with you because I have defeated you in your own game.” He added with a smile. “The day has come. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I can travel in peace now.”
Craig grabbed Daniel by his throat and crashed him into the floor. He pummelled his face with constant hits from left to right until Daniel’s blood had smeared his face. Bolu couldn’t get a hold of Craig and he was glad when Daniel’s blood hit Craig’s face and he had to stop pounding him.
“I have been waiting for the day that I would have to beat you without mercy and I am glad the day has come.” Craig replied as he kicked Daniel aside. “Have a safe trip.” He added and walked away with Bolu chasing after him.
Bolu grabbed him by the hand. “Craig, he is a mess.”
“Good. I was a mess before Alhaji too.”
Bolu nodded. “I know, but, we…we can’t leave him like that.”
“I can.” Craig replied and walked on.
Bolu caught up with him. “He is our friend.”
“Dude, he is not my friend…not anymore.” Craig replied as he stared at Daniel sprawled out on the floor.
“Okay, let’s be good Samaritans.”
Craig laughed. “So I am acting as the thief and good Samaritan at the same time?”
“Please man, I don’t want him to die. He is a chicken.”
“He should have thought about that before he went ranting to Alhaji about matters that didn’t concern him.”
Bolu nodded. “I know, let’s just take him to the hospital.”
Craig sighed. “We are dropping him at the corner.”
“Do you think the Doctors will attend to him there?” Bolu asked as Craig drove.
Craig shot at him angrily. “Look, I have tried, okay? You can go back there and take care of him if you want.”
“You are still a good guy inside.” Bolu said with a smile. “Anyway, what are you going to do now that Alhaji is aware?”
Craig shrugged. “I am not bothered about him.”
“So, what bothers you?”
“I…I think I like Aisha.”
Bolu chuckled. “A leopard never changes bro. You don’t like Aisha, you just like the money.”
“You don’t know how I feel about her!” Craig shouted. “I want to take care of her, I want to hold her close and feel her heart beat against mine and I want to protect her, I…I want to watch her when she sleeps, I want to be there for her every time and every day and even if this is how crappy our relationship, this joke is, I never want to leave her side.”
“Bro!” Bolu said as he stared at Craig. “You are beginning to sound like a girl.”
Craig stared at him. “Am I?”
Bolu nodded. “Yeah and that terrifies me. You are a man, hard core. No time for love. Love is all fairy tale and for the movies. When did you get this weak?” Bolu asked as he hissed.
“Bolu, I think I want Aisha in my life.”
“What are you saying? This is just a game. This is what it is for her and that is what it should be for you. Right now, everything is over and you should move into the final phase of your plan before Alhaji sets his dogs on your trail. You don’t want to be caught napping.”
“If I do it, I will hurt Aisha.”
“That was the initial plan, wasn’t it?”
Craig blinked as he drove on.
“Aisha, you have hurt your father.” Moira said as she plaited Aisha’s hair.
“What are you going to do about it?”
“I don’t know. I am scared about how he would react when I accept everything.”
Moira nodded. “He is still your father and I am sure that he understands why you did what you did.”
“I don’t know what to say, Moira. I am sure I have lost his trust.”
“You’ll gain it back. Just give it time.”
Aisha nodded. “Craig said ‘goodbye’, you think he meant it?”
“I didn’t think you cared about it.” Moira replied with a grin.
“Well, I do.”
Moira smiled. “There’s only one way to find out. Try calling him.”
“That would crush me and you know it.”
“Good. We stay in limbo.” Moira replied.
Aisha hissed. “I don’t think he is gone… at least, not like that. I’ll check him after I visit my Dad.”
“Smart choice.” Moira replied.
“What if he doesn’t love me?”
“You can send an SOS to me. I’ll come and pick you up.”
Aisha stared at her. “You don’t think I am about to go to Craig to tell him the stupid things that I feel.”
“I thought that was the plan.” Moira replied.
“You thought wrong. I am not about to disgrace myself.” Aisha replied. “By the way, do we have any business deal to handle yet?”
Moira nodded. “We do, but I am handling them. You need to sort yourself out, Aisha.”
“Is it this issue with my Dad or the one with Craig?” she asked.
“Both of them, Aisha. You are going to apologize to your Dad and then you are going to speak to Craig.”
Aisha stared at her. “I am going to my Dad, but Craig? I don’t know.”
“Well, I’ll keep motivating you till you end up in Craig’s place.”
Aisha shrugged. “Maybe…not.”
“Hi Dad.” Aisha said as she stood before her father.
Alhaji Ibrahim dropped his coffee aside and folded his newspaper. “Hi Dad?”
She nodded as she took a seat beside him. “How are you?”
“Twice in one day? Not typical of Aisha to visit like this.”
Aisha nodded. “Dad, I am sorry.”
“Sorry? What for?” he asked.
She swallowed. “Dad, when you said that my inheritance was dependent on getting married, I hired Craig. I know that I might have disappointed you by going so low, but, I just felt that love isn’t for me and that I just needed to get my inheritance from you and then I decided to find a way.”
She paused and stared at Alhaji who buried his head in his hand. “Dad…I…I am sorry, but, I am really to blame in all this and I accept it.”
“All I did was love you, Aisha. To be honest, I thank you for this sport you pulled on me, I can admit that for the first time in your life and even though it was a game, you had fun.”
Aisha took a deep breath. “Dad, I know you are not proud of me and that this is a huge ridicule, but I am willing to do anything to gain your trust back. I’ll wait, I’ll work for it. I’ll earn it.”
Alhaji shrugged. “Aisha, you played me and played me well. I feel terrible about it, but, it is life.”
“Father, I am sorry.”
Alhaji nodded. “I know you are. Where’s your boyfriend now?”
“He is gone.”
Alhaji smiled. “You know I actually thought that man had guts. I would have loved him as a son-in-law. Such a shame.”
“What is my punishment, Dad?”
Alhaji smiled. “That’s the problem with you, Aisha. Everything is not a game. This is not a game for me. I am hurting. My daughter was desperate for her inheritance that she stooped so low as to hire a man to convince me that she was in love. I bought it and you know why, I trusted you. I bet you paid my guard to feed me lies too? What was the plan, Aisha? Get divorced after two months and run off with your money? To do what? I don’t get it.” Alhaji said with his eyes wet. “All I care about is you. You and only you. Someone was going to love and will still love you.”
“Is that someone Hakeem? Dad, you can’t buy love.”
Alhaji hissed. “The irony of life. What was it that you did with Craig?” he asked. “Enlighten me, Aisha!”
She relaxed in the chair. “It’s all over now, Dad. I am not proud of myself and I will take full responsibility for it.”
He nodded. “Yes, you will. Anyway, I think it is time you figured out a lot of things that pertain to your life by yourself. And even though it might hurt me to say this, I think I saw a slightly better woman when you were with that phoney. So, we might take a positive from your games.”
“Dad, I really want you to forgive me.”
“I have. It is just that I can’t help but remember how my own daughter played me.”
She nodded. “I know, but that means you haven’t forgiven me.”
Alhaji smiled. “I have,”
Aisha’s phone vibrated and she tapped it on. Two messages came up and she clicked on them. She gaped as she stared at her Bank Alert and then stared at Alhaji. Her Father looked at his confused daughter. “Is anything the matter?” he asked.
Aisha knew there was a big problem, but she didn’t know how to say it to her father and at least not now. He would have a laugh and she didn’t need that now.
‘…it’s all fun and games until someone gets robbed’