She tried to act calm but she was trying so hard and it was not working.
She paced the small but expensively furnished private sitting room, a bottle of water in her hands. It was not easy thinking about what might be going on.
Timilehin looked up from the Macbook on his laps, she seemed worried. She would not tell him what it was but it was something serious and it made him really concerned about her.
“Tamtam, a problem shared is a problem half solved.” he said calmly, hoping she would tell him what it was that made her pace his sitting room like that.
She stopped and faced him, “I don’t want a half solved problem, I want a totally solved problem.” she said and he could not help the smile that formed on his face because of her response.
“Just tell me what it is, I don’t want you to create a hole in my floor.”
She walked closer to him and collapsed in the vintage velvet sofa he was sitting on.
“I wish I could tell you, Timi. But I really can’t. I really can’t.” she muttered and that worried him more. The fact that the problem was so serious she could not say what it was made him more uncomfortable.
Jide and his fiancee had not talked much since his mother forced her on him. He did not know what laid beneath the smooth, unruffled exterior that she effortlessly carried, he did not know and did not honestly want to find out.
She did not intrigue him, did not make him want her, did not carry the type of air Tamilore carried.
She did not interest him.
He watched her as his mother spoke with him after another long boring counseling session. He wondered if he would ever be strong enough to oppose his mother.
She loved him, he knew. She wanted the best for him but sometimes what she wanted was not what he wanted and he did not want to live his life for her. He wanted to live his life for him.
His thoughts wandered off to Tamilore, again. He had been thinking of her during the counseling session, it was a welcomed way to physically remain in the room but mentally abscond from it.
He picked his phone and sent her a message. He did not want to call her now, because if he did, his mother could hear him, might ask who it was he was speaking with and he would not want to lie to her.
She always saw through his lies whenever he did anyway. And he was a born again Christian, someone who had been washed by the blood of the lamb and who should not let little sins beset him.
Alero walked up to him just as he clicked sent, a bright smile on her face. The smile made her look funny, because it widened her full lips but did nothing to the cheekbones. He wondered idly if she had ever undergone cosmetic procedure and had botox filled in.
“We have never gone out on a proper date.” she said to him and he was tempted to say that was because they were not a proper couple but he smiled back instead, saying something he knew his mother would be proud of.
“Maybe we should go to An Evening Of Praise? It is happening by 6pm at Eko hotel” he suggested and he could almost see the struggle to keep the smile in place.
“Okay” she shrugged after a few minutes, as if she would rather not go there.
He watched as she battled to keep the smile in place, she did not want to go. He wondered what she had in mind when she said date then.
I hope you’re okay? I would never forgive myself if anything happened to you. Please be okay. Reply to this if you are. I care – Jide.
She was reading the message for the third time when the call from her sister came in.
“Where are you, Tamilore?” she asked
“At home.” Tamilore hurriedly lied; the only thing that will make Yetunde more uncomfortable than her not being in the house would be her discovering she was in Timilehin’s house.
“Which home?” Yetunde asked her and it occurred to her that Yetunde must be in the house.
“Are you back?” Tamilore asked, wanting to know if she was because that would mean everything was fine.
“Of course I am back and I am wondering which home you are talking about. I just hope it is not Timilehin’s house because if it is, it would mean you should be ready to kuku move in with him. I don’t know when you became such a bitch, jumping into bed with your elder sister’s boyfriend and making yourself look like a fool. If he fucks you it won’t make him pick you over me, it would only make you cheap.” Yetunde sounded angry and jealous, the date must have been disastrous but Tamilore was glad it was over and she was home safe.
“I’m not with Timilehin, I’m with someone I knew in the UK. Calm your tits.” she said and hung up. Then she faced Timilehin who had arched a brow, waiting for an explanation from her.
“Yetunde?” he asked and she nodded. He smiled and stood up. “She’s angry you are here?”
“I am not here. At least that’s what I will be telling her.” She replied as he moved closer to her.
“Tell her not to worry, you will not date me even if I wanted.”
The efficient AC must have stopped working at that very moment because the room suddenly became too small and too hot. He stopped a few spaces from her as if coming closer was potential danger.
She looked away from him and moved her legs, which had suddenly become heavy and grounded to the persian rug, towards the door.
Timilehin watched as she made for the door to the private sitting room he’d never even brought Yetunde into because he knew she’d not appreciate it. The words had not been planned; they had tumbled out of his mouth before he could think twice.
They had been on his mind of course, since the last time they spent together but he had never planned to say them.
“Timi, I am too broke to take a cab, come and take me home.” she said to him from the door, which he assumed she must have stepped out of and then returned through when she did not see him following her.
He nodded, he simply nodded. That was all he could do.
They had attended the Evening Of Praise together, hand in hand, while posing for several pictures on the red carpet.
He had also caught up with several ministers of God and several gospel artistes; all excited to take pictures with him and talk to him about events they needed his presence at.
He noticed how easily Alero blended with the crowd, smiling that misplaced smile and saying the exact things they all wanted to hear.
It was supposed to make him feel good, that this person would blend into the world his parents had carefully built and the world he was expected to lead when they stepped down but instead, it left a deep hole inside of him.
When the night was over, he dropped her over at hers and went to his house.
His mother was waiting at the dining table, his dinner spread out for him.
“How was it? I heard Reverend Shirley Effiong and Bishop Oyeleke were in attendance? The glory of the Lord must have reigned supreme in that hall. I am just so glad that they each have children that will step into their shoes when they go to be with the Lord.” she said as she watched him settle in to eat dinner. “Cameron Effiong is a great teacher and he never fails to bring the spirit into the house whenever he ministers, you should talk to him one of these days, Olajide. You can learn a lot from him.”
He had not learnt a lot from Cameron yet, but he had learnt a lot about him. Cameron Effiong was a twenty six year old sunday school teacher and motivational speaker, the first child of the Effiongs who were popular Reverends and a dashing young man who looked too pretty to be straight. So when the news started making the rounds when he was in the states that Cameron was gay and had a steady relationship with one of his flat mates, Jide had not been surprised.
Cameron never commented on the story, not even when he was confronted by it in the states by one of his close friends who felt wronged by him.
“Alero’s parents are coming here next week Saturday to have lunch with us. Please plan for that. Both of you will be useful to God in your generation” she continued to say.
His phone beeped, it was a text from Tamilore. He smiled when he saw it. He had not read it yet, but hearing from her was always welcome.
If you care, you would act more like it. You would not dump me when I need you and hurry off to do mommy’s bidding. I can’t stand men who choose not to stand by people they claim to care about, just saying. PS: I will be okay if you told me what the heck to do about the creep following me around Lagos and hanging around my sister! PPS: Very good to know you’re getting married!
He wondered if she was jealous that he was getting married and he found himself hoping she was. He also wished he had an idea what to do to stop the guy following her but he did not. Whatever the guy wanted, he did not have it and he could not give what he did not have.
“What are you doing on the phone? Who are you talking to when I am talking to you?” he looked up at his mother, the sheer horror on her face to know that he dared to make her take second place was indescribable.
“Sorry mom.” he apologized but she was not taking it. She hissed and left the room.
He knew she expected him to follow but he hurriedly sent a reply to Tamilore.
I’m glad you’re fine, Tamilore. I promise to protect you in every way that I can. Meanwhile, try and convince your sister to stay away from that murderer. Can I see you tomorrow night? PS: Is that jealousy I sense about my upcoming wedding?
He hit send before he reconsidered what he had just asked for. He was asking to see her tomorrow night. He did not know why and he was not going to ask himself why.
He stood up and went to look for his mother, to tender the apology he knew she would be earnestly waiting for.
Tamilore had just finished reading the message when Timilehin’s call came through.
He wanted them to see tomorrow night; he just wanted to talk, nothing more. He felt they had left things in an awkward place and she wouldn’t even let him drop her close to the house when he took her home.
“That is because I don’t want Yetunde seeing us together” she replied and then went on to add, “I can’t see you tomorrow, Timi. I have to be somewhere.”
Then when the call ended, she typed a reply to Jide’s message:
Yes you can see me tomorrow night, mommy’s boy. And I don’t mean mommy’s boy in a cute way. You need to get a life outside mommy’s shadow. PS: I don’t care if you get married or not. Dont mistake irritation for jealousy.
Then she hit send.
Tamilore should have known better than to trust her elder sister to sensibly handle situations.
The next morning while Yetunde prepared to leave for work, Tamilore woke up earlier than usual and stepped out into the sitting room.
And that was when she saw it was not just two of them that had passed the night in the condo as usual. They were three and the third person was the killer who was on her trail.