LIFE IS GREY

Episode 3: Suddenity

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 a
cute, 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 obviously doing well for himself
financially. He also had an uncanny knack to be troubled by little personal
things. Ashley was his 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 idiosyncracy 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?’
‘Ofcourse. But she says she’s fine.
She obviously 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 paper 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?’
‘2pm 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 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 obviously 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 like any sane person would. ‘Poor lady. You really are a
gentleman, aren’t you?’ The sacarsm 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 think 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’
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’s time 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 was 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
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.

Oluwole Olusanya
Oluwole Olusanya is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of one of the fastest-growing lifestyle and entertainment website in the country. He is a banker, writer, blogger, public affairs analyst and a tax consultant. He anchors Trending Topics on SHEFFA where he shares his thoughts and opinions on trending issues. He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of South Wales, Wales, United Kingdom. He has diplomas in Banking and Finance, Investigative Journalism, Creative Writing, and Linguistics from Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.