MAGICAL MONDAYS WITH KREATE

Episode 3: Suddenly

Ashley

‘Apapa!’ The conductor’s cry for passengers rang out like a seasoned professional Agbeero. ‘Ojuelegba!’ Although he looked tattered and had a cliché busted lip and not so subtle scar on his neck, the determined glint in his eyes showed that he took his job seriously. Ashley was impressed.

Soon all the rows were discomfortingly occupied and the clanky, jiggling, coughing melody of the Danfo bus came to life as the journey began. Lodged between a guy that smelt freshly inebriated and acute, corporately dressed person, Ashley shifted and wriggled and apologized for the discomfort she was causing others.

A few of her Mugus with benefits had offered to get her a car but she had declined the offers politely. She would get a car as soon as she could afford one. In a matter of months, her savings should amount to enough cash to secure a comfy, cost-effective ride.  Ashley shifted and wriggled some more. ‘I’ll be at work, soon enough,’ she thought.

Located in the heart of Apapa, The Lodge was a one-storey, shipping and logistics firm that dealt mainly with the importation and distribution of cheap cocoa products from unpopular brands. Ashley was greeted by Joseph, the night security officer as she sauntered through the pedestrian entrance of the navy gate. As usual, Dotun’s car was parked in the small parking lot; he was always the first staff to arrive. He took being the boss very seriously. As was her routine, she ascended the stairs to the second floor and took the right turn that led directly to the boss’ office. The door was ajar slightly so she let herself in without announcement.

He was seated behind his plain desk. ‘I called you yesterday, Ashley,’ Dotun asked behind a probing pair of glasses. He was immaculate in a freshly laundered navy suit; the purple patterned black tie sat confidently on the white shirt. He was in his late thirties, married with a kid, and was doing well for himself financially. He also had an uncanny knack to be troubled by little personal things. Ashley was the only staff that saw this part of him.

‘I was in a meeting, Dotun.’ She took a seat. ‘I apologize for not returning the call though. It’s a nasty habit and I do need to work on it.’

‘I hope we do not lose a contract on account of this idiosyncrasy of yours.’

‘Don’t worry, we won’t.’ She gazed at the portrait of a heavily mustached man that hung on the right side of his office. She was always amused by the innuendo lurking behind the serious look. ‘So what’s troubling you this time, boss?’

Dotun was accustomed to her casual remarks. She was his best so no wahala. ‘I think my wife’s unhappy about something.’

Ashley wasn’t surprised. ‘Have you spoken to her about it?’

‘Of course. But she says she’s fine. She isn’t.’

‘Do you trust her?’

‘Yes. But I don’t see your point here.’

‘So trust her to do what’s right. If it’s something that she can’t figure out on her own, she’ll tell you. Just trust her to do what’s right. Sometimes, we like to figure out things on our own and not stress others unnecessarily.’

‘Hmmm…’ He played with his chin ‘…I see your point. I knew I could count on you for wise words.’

‘So is there an actual work-related issue that requires attention? I have a few papers works to sort out.’

‘Actually, there is. A potential investor is in town and would like a meeting to discuss his options.’

‘Time and place?’

‘2 pm today at Victoria Island. Lagos Suites and Holdings.’

He picked up his phone, punched some virtual buttons and Ashley received an alert. She looked at the virtual contact card she had just received.

‘Oluwatayo Aderanti.’ It was like a key had just unlocked a trunk of painful memories. But it couldn’t be him. It couldn’t be Tayo, she told herself.

‘Ashley? You alright?’

She snapped out of it and gave a reassuring smile. ‘I will be there.’

Chinwe

She enjoyed the company of Thomas and the resemblance he shared with her late cousin was a plus. There were pain-pleasure moments when she still called out Tolu’s name during sex. They had been together for 2 years now and he had adapted quite nicely to those episodes. What they shared wasn’t love for sure; it was compatibility born out of peculiar pasts, a sustainable present, and the indifference about what tomorrow held. They never asked each other about what they did for a leaving; one of the boundaries set from the beginning. His lean, muscular figure covered only by a pair of trunks and a piece of the wet towel around his shoulders was a magnificent silhouette against the blinding morning sun emanating from the lone window in the hotel room.

‘Delight,’ he said, turning to her sprawled figure on the bed, under the duvet. He knew her name but preferred the pet name. She didn’t mind. In truth, she liked it. ‘All play and no work makes Jack a broke man.’

‘Not holding you back, am I?’

‘Perhaps you should,’ he winked and then noticed her busted lips from last weekend’s episode. He frowned a bit, opened his mouth to say something, but stopped. He retrieved his suit from the wardrobe, got into it in a matter of minutes.

‘Looking dapper,’ Chinwe complimented.

‘Always,’ He said, picked up his bag. ‘Stay in touch, Delight.’

‘You’ll hear from me soon,’ She said in her most professional voice. He laughed before shutting the door behind him.

Chinwe had always been observant so not noticing the brief frown on Thomas’s visage was impossible. She sighed and chose to ignore it. Humans all have temporary flashes of vulnerability. Four more hours before checkout. She remembered how they met, the beginning of a smile taking over her face. 

‘Slap me like a man,’ She demanded, with the same familiar manic look.

His face instantly morphed from pain to disgust. The visage of disgust was not unusual for Chinwe; she sighed. He sustained the look for half a minute, then took a step backward, picked up his jacket from the one-seater sofa. ‘Were ma le leyi o. You are fine, I’ll give you that. But this is insane. I wasn’t brought up to be a monster. See a shrink.’ With that he left. 

‘Yeah, I hear you,’ She said to herself. She picked up her stuff and left the room.

Just as she shut the door behind her, the door to the room opposite hers swung open.

A sobbing, attractive lady beneath a floral top and a pair of jeans was holding the door knob. ‘Why can’t you just love me back? I can’t do this anymore.’ Her focus was on someone inside, not on Chinwe who thought she was being silly.

The response was a clear baritone of indifference. ‘I understand.’

It was then that the lady noticed Chinwe. Her eyes took on a shade of embarrassment. ‘Take care.’ And she scurried off.

And then he appeared from the right. A pair of grey boxers and a lean, muscled physique. He looked almost 6-feet tall. His eyes lingered on Chinwe for a bit, sizing her up. There was a minuscule spark of desire in his eyes.

Chinwe should have just walked away, minding her business as any sane person would. ‘Poor lady. You really are a gentleman, aren’t you?’ The sarcasm was unmistakable.

‘And it’s rude to poke one’s nose in other people’s business.’

It was that day of the month and the urge was at its peak. He looked daring with a hint of danger; she could almost taste it. ‘And what are you going to do about it?’

He raised an eyebrow. ‘Is this what I think it is?’

Chinwe studied his eyes for a second. They were calm but he looked like he was up for a challenge. ‘Invite me over and find out.’

He arched an eyebrow that made Chinwe thinks she had taken the wrong bet then laughed suddenly. ‘You are definitely something. By all means, please come in.’

The rest, as popular culture says, is history.

She smiled again and hoped Thomas’s episodes of vulnerability would not morph into a wraith beyond her control. And then she remembered there was something that had to be done, something that couldn’t wait for another month. She was way behind schedule on this one.

‘Laptop, laptop,’ she mumbled, checking the shelf beside the bed, pulling open its two drawers, ‘where are you?’ And then her right hand struck something. ‘There you are,’ she smiled before pulling out the computer. She unlocked her profile with her password, hit on the search engine profile, and typed in www.letshare.com. Her rent expired in exactly one month and her landlord had notified her about the 20% increase. There was no way she was paying that sum for a place that was old and looked like it hadn’t seen decent maintenance in decades. Yaba was old and ridiculously pricy, Lekki was impossible, and Ajah was traffic defiled. Her area of choice was Gbagada. She filtered the search before hitting the find button. Only one entry seemed accommodating, perfect in fact: both rooms were ensuite, the tenant was a female professional who worked regular 8-5 office hours, and basic amenities were provided. Her profile photo was blank but her phone number was provided. Chinwe found her phone and dialed the number.

Rang once. Rang twice. Rang thrice. Voicemail.

‘Hi, name is Chinwe. Saw your ad on letshare.com and I would like to have a chat. Please call me back as soon as you can.’

Ashley

The trip to Lagos Suites and Holdings were hitch-free and she arrived there in good time, 10 minutes before the scheduled time. Throughout the trip, her mind intermittently hit the repeat button on that name. Oluwatayo Aderanti. Could he be the one? It was her practice to confirm the meeting with a call, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. It was silly really, she knew. The meeting was inevitable, after all. Now, she had to call.

Rang once. Rang twice.

‘Oluwatayo Aderanti speaking. May I know who this is?’

The voice was mature, refined, and exuded confidence. Familiar and yet different. Her heartbeat had increased its pace without notice. ‘I am from the Lodge. Dotun sent me over.’

‘Oh, lovely. I have been expecting you. Speak to the receptionist. She’ll point you in the right direction.’

The secretary was friendly and professional. The meeting room was on the second floor. The lift chimed and the doors drew apart. She stepped into a corridor decorated with African paintings. She took the right turn as directed by the receptionist and halted in front of a brown door with the sign meet screwed into it. She knocked.

‘Please come in.’

It was him.

KREATE
Kreate is a budding Nigerian writer with a flair for fiction. Writing for him began sometime in secondary school where he dabbled in poetry and plays. He has authored two self-published short novels. He is a banker and lives in Surulere. Read more interesting pieces at KREATEATALE