By Tomi Adesina
Fola turned off his engine and exhaled as he read Sarah’s message for the umpteenth time. Every player had his kryptonite; he had often heard. But how could Sarah be his kryptonite? She didn’t deserve a role in his life. No woman was worthy enough to be his Achilles’ heel. Maybe he just paid too much attention to the cliché throttle and to her and that must have given her the balls to think she owned him. He was Fola King! No one owned him. How could she just leave for the weekend because she was not comfortable with the new lady? That was stupid. Sarah was stupid and maybe he was even more stupid to pay her any attention. He hissed as he shut his thoughts out and deleted her message from his phone before stepping out of the car.
He stopped at the door as it was half open and looked into the distance to be sure that no one was lurking. He stepped in quickly and shut the door after him. He scoffed as he watched Obi snore away on the sofa. “Obi!”
Obi woke up in fright.
“How can you sleep on my sofa?” he asked as he walked into the living room.
Obi held his head as he sat up. “I was watching football and I fell asleep.”
“You are the only man I know who doesn’t watch football…you probably should have come as a lady.” Fola replied, gathering the plates on the table. “You should have returned these to the kitchen, man.”
Obi sighed. “I fell asleep…and not watching football doesn’t make me a lady.”
Fola hissed. “Why was my front door open?” Fola asked as he took a seat. “Was it Sarah?”
Obi shook his head. “Nah…I shut the door after Sarah.”
Fola looked in the direction of the stairs. “The girl?”
“She…She is asleep.” Obi replied, yawning. “Dude, you just upset my sleep.”
Fola rose to his feet. “I’ll go check.” He said, exiting the living room.
Obi crashed into the sofa. “I need to sleep!”
Obi groaned. “Fola nau! I wan sleep.” He replied in Pidgin English.
“Where is the girl?” Fola yelled.
Obi blinked. “The girl?”
Fola rushed into the living room. “Dude, she is gone. How did you let her go?” he shouted.
“I…I-” Obi stuttered. “She was just upstairs.”
Fola shook his head. “We better find her.” He said and walked out of the house. Fola knew there were a few places he could look if she had not gone far and he was hoping that she wouldn’t due to her injury.
Obi joined him. “Fola, maybe we should look towards the other side of the estate, it’s usually lonely there and it has a linking road out front through which she could try to get a bus or something. If we take the car, we could maybe have a shot at finding her.” He said.
Aaima stopped walking to catch her breath. In all honesty, she had nowhere to go except her sister’s house and probably where she was running from. She had not made any new friends in the city yet and she didn’t have her documents on her to facilitate her travelling back. Worse still, she was in a shirt and saggy pants. It would take a miracle for the embassy not to treat her as a junkie with no history trying to run away. However, she’d try. She had not been lucky yet. She was too scared to flag down cars as she was sure that her late sister’s husband, Umar and his men would be on the lookout for her. The truth was, one option was better than the other and it would be to return to where she was coming from before she got herself into more trouble than she had bargained for. The fact that she was alive after her ordeals proved that maybe Allah wanted her to live for a reason, she wasn’t going to ruin the chances of survival she had by facing her uncertainty…at least not alone and not in a man’s clothes.
A car pulled up beside her. She blinked as her heart thumped hard in fear. The door opened and Obi stared at her. “Why did you run away?” he asked, joining her. “You had us worried.” He said looking in Fola’s direction. Fola didn’t seem worried as he sat in the driver’s seat texting on his phone. “Or…maybe you had me worried.” Obi corrected.
Aaima sighed. “I wasn’t going to tell the police you kidnapped me.” She replied. “I…I just wanted to get away.”
“Why? I…Did I do something? Was….was it about what I said about your…your legs? I-I was erm…I just wanted to-” Obi stuttered as he struggled to find the words to say to her.
She smiled faintly. “It’s not about you.”
“So….who? Sarah? Did she say something to you?” he asked.
Aaima shrugged. “I really don’t want to get into any trouble with anyone.”
“No, it’s nothing. If you don’t feel comfortable, you can always talk to me or Fola about it.”
Fola pushed the car horn and beckoned to them before turning to his phone.
“I think we should get into the car. It’s dangerous out here.” Obi said, leading her to the car.
“Thank you.” She said.
He nodded. “It’s fine. Come on.”
Fola stared at her through the side mirror before she settled into the back seat. “Are those my pants?” he asked, staring at the grey pants.
“Come on, man. Let her be.” Obi said, closing the door. “Let’s go.”
Fola chuckled. “Why are you being sensitive, Obi? I think she rocks the pants well.” He said, staring at her with a smile through the rear mirror. “She is looking good.” He said, chuckling.
“Guy na…why you dey do like this?” Obi asked.
Fola smiled as he started the engine. “I think she looks good.” He said with a laugh. “Grey is a nice colour, lady. I would have loved the black one on you more.” He added, casting a grin at her.
Aaima avoided his gaze as she looked out through the mirror.
“You can still have my bed while I fix up the guest room for you over the weekend.” Fola started as he pulled his pyjamas out of the wardrobe. “Don’t get too comfortable in that bed. It’s specially designed for my back.” He said as he stared at Aaima. “Are you comfortable sleeping in that shirt?”
“I know it is a corporate shirt and very expensive and important to-”
Fola cut her off with a laugh. “Far be it from me that I value a shirt over a human’s warmth. You can sleep in them…only for tonight.” He added and approached the door. “Goodnight…”
She stared at him.
“You do have a name, right?” he asked. “Like you haven’t told me your name yet and you have been in my house for more than a day.” He said.
She nodded. “Aaima.”
“Aaima. Hmmm….unusual name.” he said. “It’s a lovely name.” he added and walked out.
Aaima took a deep sigh of relief as she slid into the bed.
Fola frowned as he looked through his files. “Sarah, what did you do?” he groaned as he picked up his phone and dialled Sarah. “Hey!”
“I thought you were never going to call.” She cooed from the other end of the line. “Isn’t your British babe good enough?”
Fola hissed as he sank into the chair. “Just stop right there, Sarah. Why did you steal my files?”
“I didn’t steal them. I took them.” She replied.
“Stole? Took? Hijacked? Kidnapped? I don’t care! I want those files back and I want them now.” He said.
“I’ll return them on Monday.” She replied.
He scoffed. “Listen to me, lady, those are confidential files and you have no right to be snooping through my stuff.”
“Really? I don’t? Don’t get me started tonight, Fola. I’ll return them on Monday. Good night.” She replied and hung up.
Fola gaped as he stared at his phone. “She did not just hang up on me. She did not.”
Sarah looked through the files. “There is a lot in this case that I think Fola missed.”
“Curb your enthusiasm, babe. Fola King doesn’t miss anything…except of course this thing going on between us.” Her companion replied with a nasty laugh.
She turned to Greg. “Is that supposed to be funny?”
“No.” he replied. “Look, babe, I take this as an achievement as this is the closest I have to come to Fola King in any respect.” He said and sipped his drink. “We shag the same lady.” He said with a smile.
Sarah hissed. “I thought you had potential.”
“I have potential. But, I am just telling you that Fola King never misses anything and if this case is already closed up, it is what it is.” He replied.
She flipped through the pages. “I didn’t join the firm to be second fiddle to Fola King. I am going to make my own name. You’ll see.”
Greg laughed. “Let me correct you. One, you are second fiddle to everyone at the firm. You are a corps member. Two, you are no match for Fola King. I reckon that very soon he’ll get tired of the pet project he has with you which has provided him extra benefits and you’ll be nobody at the firm. That, my dear, is if your NYSC term doesn’t expire at the firm.”
“Greg, you are petty. You have no ambition and you’ll eventually play second fiddle to me because all do is kiss Fola King’s behind. I don’t think you have any goals of your own and that, my darling, is disgusting.” She replied and walked in with the file.
Greg gaped as he sank into his seat. “Seriously?”
Aaima cringed from the noise as she stepped into the kitchen. Fola turned off the blender as soon as she walked in. “Don’t you sleep?” he asked.
“If that thing wasn’t making so much noise, I probably would still be sleeping.” She replied, taking her seat. “What are you doing?”
“Making breakfast. Food. Basic necessity for growth and development.” He replied as he turned down the heat from the cooker.
“You cook?” she asked and then managed a smirk. “That’s interesting.”
He stared at her. “What is interesting about it?”
“That you cook is interesting. You don’t particularly strike me as the guy that cooks.” She replied.
He smiled. “You’d be surprised. Good, of course.”
“So what are you cooking?” she asked.
He stepped away from the cooker. “Basmati Rice. Fish stew, I am using Tuna. Grilling some chicken and I’ll make pepper soup too.”
“Wait! Are you a chef? Obi called you a Lawyer.” she asked, staring at the ingredients arranged on his board. “I mean, this is a lot of cooking if you ask me.”
Fola smiled. “I like to cook.”
“You are kidding me?”
He shrugged. “Nope. It is one way I get women into my bed, so I do it well.”
Aaima smiled. “Class A Pervert.”
He bowed. “Proudly.”
“So, let me guess, you collect food recipes off the internet and do what? Try them? Foodie?” she asked.
He smiled. “Yes, I research new and foreign dishes as I am proudly an expert in most traditional dishes which I promise to make for you if you stick around a little longer, but yes, I have also made a lot of friends down at the best restaurants in Lagos. Most of them are Chefs. So, we usually have a showoff once in a while, I get to test my skills and learn from them. Italian dudes, French, Lebanese, amazing guys…skilful in the kitchen. So when I am not in the court tearing someone down, I am tearing some dish down.”
“Wow! I am impressed.”
He smiled as he placed a wooden spoon before her with some broth in it. “That’s the chicken pepper soup, have a taste.”
She sipped from the spoon. “Wow!”
“You are impressed.” He said and turned towards the gas. “Mind you, I don’t do this every time. Work is a quite a lot so I get really busy.” He said.
She smiled. “If you did this every time, I’d suggest you change your profession.”
“So, tell me Aaima, what were you doing out that night?” he asked as he turned to her.
The doorbell went. She blinked. “Unh?!”
“Please, excuse me.” He said and walked out of the kitchen.
Aaima took a deep breath. She felt she was safe here and didn’t need to tell her story to him. It would just complicate matters and she would be back where she did not want – running from Umar. This place looked safe enough for her. She wasn’t going to jinx the momentary happiness she had just found. She rubbed her palms together and thought of what to tell him once he returned.
“Look who I found.” Fola said as he walked into the kitchen with Obi. “This brother is a busy Nurse but all of a sudden, he can comfortably frequent my house more than his loo. Obi, how have you suddenly become less busy?” he asked with a smile.
Obi smiled. “Hi, Aaima.”
“Hi, Obi.” She replied with a smile.
Obi looked around. “I see Fola has hooked you up on his cooking. This is the guy who cooks amazingly well.”
Fola grinned. “He is my son. I taught him all he knows.”
Aaima laughed. “That’s really cute.”
“I know.” He replied and returned to his cooking.
Obi stared at Aaima. “So err…how was your night?”
“Slept well, thank you.”
Fola turned to them. “Bro, she slept in my bed. She sure slept well.”
Obi smiled. “I…I just came over to see if you needed anything.” He said.
“No, she is in good hands.” Fola replied.
Aaima chuckled. “Can you let him hit on me in peace?”
Fola gaped. “Dude!!! She just helped you!” he shouted. “Obi, you are a loser!”
Obi smiled as he looked away.
“You guys could go and chat in the living room. I work faster without distractions anyway.” Fola said with a smile.
Obi pointed to the Kitchen’s exit as he led Aaima out.
“Thanks for coming around, Obi.” She said as they took their seats.
She smiled. “Thank you.”
Obi leaned towards her. “What’s your story? I…You were in a bad shape and I still might have to pull you into the hospital for a couple of check-ups but I would like to know what happened to you that night.”
She blinked. “I…I was running from…from my husband.”
Obi gaped. “You…you are married?”
“Yeah, but…not to a good man and I…I can almost say I was married.”
He cleared his throat. “Did he put a bullet in your leg? What kind of a man does that?”
He shook his head. “That is unacceptable.”
“Right now I want to be as far away from him as possible.” She replied. “I am happy here but I know I can’t stay here forever, so I have to think of what I need to do and where I could go and start all over…maybe Abuja.”
Obi relaxed in his seat. “You can come and stay at mine. It’s not like this place, I mean like Fola’s wonderful place but it is really decent and you are going to feel safe there too. I am going to protect you. You’d have nothing to worry about. I promise you.” He offered.
She smiled faintly. “I really appreciate it, but I think I want to go somewhere far…not stay around here. I just want to limit every possible opportunity of running into him.”
“Maybe you could go back to Britain?” he suggested.
She sighed. “I would need my passport and I can’t get it.”
“I could go with you to your house. He would not dare touch you.” Obi replied.
Aaima laughed. “That is a very amateurish plan, my dear.”
“I need to talk to Fola about this case.” Sarah started.
Greg groaned as he turned in the bed. “Are we still on this obsession of yours? The case is gone. Once discharged and acquitted, it’s over. Plus, it was a victory for Fola. Why talk to him?”
“This is my angle. Umar was accused of killing his wife for infidelity. The motive was there-”
Greg groaned. “But he was found innocent, lady. What is your point?”
“Umar is not necessarily Nigeria’s favourite man. Very controversial personality. Always affiliated with the negative happenings in this country-”
He hissed. “Separate the man from the crime, Sarah. This is no way to be a lawyer.”
“Yemi did not have enough evidence. I strongly believe something or someone is the missing link. There has to be someone I can talk to. Maybe a maid in the house or someone who can give me something on this case.” She started.
Greg exhaled. “May I remind you what firm you work for? Us? We won this case…you have no need or reason to go around snooping on what is probably not even there. If you were this interested, you should have worked with Fola during the case.”
“Greg, I don’t study Fola’s cases until after they are tied up. This case is particularly important as it sort of ended on an ambiguous note even though Umar walked and I think it is because Yemi didn’t get enough evidence and I’ll find it for her.”
“So what are you? Defender of the defenceless? Oh wait…I have an original one. Are you the Justice bearer?” he asked.
She smiled. “I am just someone who is smarter than you at the firm and who is coming for your office once I complete my Service programme.”
Greg clenched his teeth. “Inasmuch as I find your attitude very sexy, I think you should tone it down a little. You are starting to piss me off.”
“Owww….is that your ego taking a hurt? I am surprised you have some left.” She said with a grin.
Greg slipped into his trousers. “I need to get to the mall. Want anything?”
“No. I’ll be going to see Yemi at the Department of Public Prosecution, might be back late. I am going to get something solid on this case. You’ll see.” She replied.
“It’s Saturday.” He replied. “Check her house. But, I don’t see where you are going with a closed case. You are going to get on Mr. Peterside’s nerve not to talk of Fola King’s bad side if you associate the firm to any subsequent suit that might arise from this.” He said.
She smiled. “Let me worry about Fola.”
Greg shook his head as he watched her walk out.
Fola stared at Obi. “Her husband did that to her?”
“Yes! The Dirt bag!” Obi replied, angrily. “I could put my fist into his jaw and scatter everything in his dentition if he let me.”
Fola picked out a shirt. “I don’t believe her.”
“Why not?” Obi asked.
He shrugged. “Husband put a bullet in his wife’s leg, roughs her up like that. Aaima looks like a good girl. Why would any guy want to do that to her?”
Obi scoffed. “Dude, why do you date several ladies?”
“These are completely different scenarios.” Fola replied, showing Obi a shirt. “She’d like this.” He said, dumping it in the trolley. “I can’t believe we are shopping for her.”
Obi blinked. “Fola, she can’t go back to him.”
“That’s if she is running from him.” He replied. “Obi, I know you are a little excited by a pretty lady but trust me, I’ll get to the root of it and I can promise you…Aaima is not married.”
Obi eyed him. “How are you so sure?”
Fola shrugged. “I just know it.”
“Let’s get going.” Obi said.
Fola nodded. “I’ll meet you at the counter.” He said, returning into the store.