By Tomi Adesina
Fola was warming the toilet seat for way too long…and in his suit too. This was strange. He sometimes sat on the toilet seat and locked himself in the bathroom to escape Sarah’s rants when things were not going down properly, which was more often than not. Tonight, Sarah was not his problem. It was Aaima. His heart’s palpitation stressed him. His thoughts were fixated on her all day and seeing her this evening just sent his blood rushing. He knew he couldn’t be feeling this way…and this was not because Obi liked her. This was because he was starting to like her. And that, was a big problem. Fola King would not pay any attention to any woman’s emotion…or even to his. That was the rule for him. It was not going to change now. He exhaled as he thought of the brief conversation he had with her. Could he have given her the impression that he liked her? He shook his head and hoped that the action could indeed shake the thought away. If only this wasn’t pulsating from his heart. Sigh. He walked over to the sink and washed his face. “Go out there and be the man.” He said, psyching himself up. He took a look at his suit and scoffed. He just sat on the toilet seat in the suit, doing absolutely nothing but thinking. He didn’t even think to take the pants off. He hissed and thought of what excuse he’d give Aaima for going up in a fit and returning in another cloth. He would come up with something. He had his way with words. In the meantime, it would just make sense for him if he did shower and probably hope that by the time he returned downstairs, she would have gone to bed. He would bank on that. Without another thought, he threw the jacket in the laundry basket.
Yemi stared at Sarah. “I really don’t know why you are laughing.”
“You know, it’s just funny.” Sarah replied, controlling herself slightly.
Yemi relaxed in her seat. “It would help both of us if you just tell me what is amusing so we could both go home.”
Sarah smiled. “You know, I actually know a lady by the name Aaima and I for a second just laughed at the thought of it.”
Yemi scoffed. Sarah’s humour game was really weak to her. “And so? I know several people by the name Yemi or Sarah and it doesn’t amuse me when the name gets called up in court or something, even though they are totally unrelated.” She replied.
Sarah cleared her throat. “Yemi, you should try to loosen up a bit. I just thought it was funny that I knew someone with the name Aaima, which is quite an unusual name.”
Yemi took a deep breath. “Anyway, the maid says Aaima went missing shortly around that time, but she has no idea how that happened.”
“I want to talk to that maid.” Sarah replied. “She might tell me more.”
Yemi scoffed. “No chance.”
“Why not?” Sarah asked. “We are in this together, right? I should be able to ask the maid questions too. Besides, it was my brilliant idea that we grilled her more.”
“And couldn’t my dog have figured it out? It’s not rocket science, Sarah. Look, curb your enthusiasm. I can’t risk that maid being found out.” She replied.
Sarah frowned. “Your dog? Seriously? Did you just compare me to your dog?”
“I think we should focus more on finding Aaima Bello ourselves. I have contacted a friend at the embassy and I am going to run that name by him, hopefully we get a match soon enough.” She replied, ignoring Sarah’s earlier question. She was not up for any of Sarah’s tantrums. She knew Sarah was smart and very intelligent, but she also saw her as a ticking bomb that could explode any moment and most likely over the pettiest issues. Their association might have started out on a good and common ground but she was not going to risk her experience and career for an overzealous junior associate who was just starting out.
“How long do we have before your contact comes back with an identity for our lady?” Sarah asked.
Yemi shrugged. “I’ll be sending the name over tonight and maybe we would have different identities in a couple of days.”
Sarah shook her head. “Who knows how many Aaima Bello have entered into the country in the last month? It would take a lot to find her.” She replied. “I believe your witness is key to this if we want to find this missing sister, so let me talk to her and she might just tell me a lot more than she is telling you.”
“What makes you think she is not telling me enough?” Yemi asked. “Look, Sarah, maybe you should just go home. I think I have had enough for one day.” She added.
Sarah shook her head as she grabbed her bag. “I don’t like this.”
Yemi sighed. “We would talk to the maid tomorrow. I just hope this is worth it. But I am still sending the name to my contact.”
Sarah smiled. “Thank you and good night.”
“Of course, good night.” Yemi replied as she watched Sarah approach the door.
Sarah stopped and turned to her. “There is someone else.”
“Excuse me?” Yemi asked, as she started to gather her things.
Sarah took a deep breath. “There is another woman in…in Fola’s life.”
Yemi shrugged. “How is that any of my business?”
“I…erm, I…just thought that maybe you would want to know.” She replied.
Yemi forced a smile. “Sarah, I liked Fola and that was why I had anything to do with him. There are several women in Fola’s life, in fact, Fola belongs to every woman.”
“Typical of every Yoruba guy, right?” Sarah asked, chuckling.
Yemi wore a grimace. “Are you also that deluded?”
Sarah sighed. “I was joking na. You no even get sense of humor?”
“Tasteless. Besides, I think you are taking this thing you have or had with him too seriously. Let it go…there would always be women in his life.”
Sarah exhaled. “This one is serious.”
Yemi chuckled. “My dear, that, is none of my business and I advise that you keep your marital squat out of our work. It would go a long way.”
“Of course.” Sarah replied, shutting the door after her.
Yemi took her seat with a frown. She didn’t need Sarah mentioning Fola to her. Her mind was doing that unconsciously and irking her every time. She wasn’t in love with Fola, but history with someone was also a very hard thing to deal with. It would just ease away…slowly, but surely.
Fola dropped his phone on the sofa and picked the TV’s controller to set up his evening. It was his house. He would not hide from Aaima because of how he was feeling. No way! He shook off the thoughts that plagued him, changed into a polo shirt and a pair of shorts. He would see a movie without feeling the pangs in his chest once Aaima’s thoughts crossed his mind. He was sure of this. Now, what movie to see? He ran through the stations and stopped to listen to the news. He hoped that would help him get his mind off his rough day. His phone buzzed. Mom. He exhaled before answering his phone. “Hi, Mom.”
“Adefolarin mi.” His mother replied from the other end of the line.
Fola rolled his eyes. Mothers. “Mrs. King.”
“Tani Mrs King? (Who is Mrs. King?) Will you greet your mother properly?!” she retorted, displeased at Fola’s formalities.
Fola managed a smile. “Good evening, Mom.”
“Ehen! How are you?” she asked. “Happy Birthday to you, my love. The Lord will keep you to see many more years.”
He nodded in reverence. “Amen.”
“Fola, when are you bringing her home?”
He frowned. This was one of the reasons he avoided her. She would not spare a moment to remind him that he was not yet married and had not provided her with her grand-daughter just yet. “Mom, can’t we talk about something else?”
“What am I going to discuss with you? Is it how many cases you are yet to lose that you want us to talk about?” She retorted.
Fola smiled. “I don’t lose cases, Mom.”
“Don’t we all know that? And I guess that is why you are yet to come and see me yet! Fola, come and say hi to your mother. I am getting older o!” she continued.
Fola smiled. Aging was not something he would associate his Mom with. Mrs. King, a paragon of beauty. “Mom, we both know you are exaggerating.”
“Come on and be the judge of that.” She replied.
Fola knew where she was getting at. “Mom, we can skype. I can see your pretty face from there.”
“Se ko si fun e?! Who are you asking to skype with you? Fola, come home o! I don’t want to die alone.”
With that, she hung up. Fola laughed. He was sure he was not going home anytime soon. At least, not to be tied down by his Mother. He could have sworn that he’d never leave her side while growing up. They were best of friends as he had no father to raise him. She was his father, mother, sister and brother. She would sit with him, teach him, dare him, push him past his wits, even play his silly games with him even when she didn’t have a clue. Boy! He loved her. But a lot had changed, he still loved her…but her motherly craving for a wife for him had pushed him away. He had other dreams than settling down.
“I baked you a cake.”
Fola turned towards Aaima who was lingering by the door. “How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough to know you don’t want to see your Mom.” She replied, approaching him.
Fola scoffed. “I never said I didn’t want to see my Mom. And that, my friend, is none of your business.”
“I know.” She replied, taking a seat. “You know, Cakes can be a work…and to think that I hooked off a new recipe to bake you that cake.”
Fola smiled. “Is this really about the cake?”
“Yes.” She replied, plainly.
He nodded and rose to his feet. “I’ll get us two slices.” He said and walked away.
Aaima exhaled as she watched him leave. Was this really about the cake or the fact that she was trying to get to him. She ran her fingers through her hair. She wanted to make a conversation…she didn’t need to. It came easily for her, but now, this was not easy. She rose to her feet, she would just go inside before he returned with the cake.
Fola joined her as she turned to leave. “Running away?” he asked, pressing one of the plates against her stomach. “We are eating…and I am bringing wine too. It’s my birthday. Indulge me.” He said with a cocky grin.
She took the plate and sat down.
Fola smiled as he walked away. He was getting his groove back and slowly on top of the situation. He would be faster than her and not give any room for emotional sentiments on his part. He didn’t take long to return with the bottle of wine. “Hi. I hope you like this.” He said, uncorking it. “Vintage. Solid stuff.” He added, taking his seat.
“So, what is the deal with you and your Mom?” she asked, as he poured her glass.
Fola smiled. “You don’t see me asking personal questions, do you?”
“Why are you being rude?” she asked.
He sipped his wine. “Why are you being perky?”
“Perky? I am just asking a question.” She replied.
He nodded. “And I am just not responding to your question.”
“I think you are running.” She replied.
“From what…or who?” he asked, chuckling.
She smiled. “Me.”
Fola frowned. “And why would I?”
“I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out.”
He shrugged. “Good luck with that.” He said, as he took some part of the cake. “Nice. This is…amazing.”
“The word is ‘Thank you’.” She said, sipping her wine.
He smiled. “Thank you.”
“You know, I actually wonder why it took you forever to say ‘thank you’. When someone does something nice for you, you say thank you.” She replied, munching on her cake. “Damn, this is good.”
Fola laughed. “Are you actually doing what I think you are doing?”
“And what is that?” she asked.
He smiled. “You are actually praising your work.”
She nodded. “I mean, if you wouldn’t do that for me…I might as well blow my own trumpet.”
“Narcissist.” He said.
She smiled. “Not really.”
Fola dropped his glass and stared at her. “Aaima, tell me about you.”
“Oh! Look who is getting personal now.” She cooed, sipping her drink.
He stared intensely. “You are living in my house. No one has declared you missing. I want to know who you are.”
She chuckled. “You are sounding really serious and I consider this act just a ploy to get to know me personally.”
“Don’t flatter yourself.” He replied. “What’s your name?”
She smiled. “Aaima.”
“I am Fola King. What is your name?” he asked.
She sighed as she rolled her eyes. “Aaima Bello.”
“Where do you live?” he asked.
“I am waiting.”
She shook her head. “London.”
He relaxed in his seat. “London? What were you doing on that road that night and please do not tell me that some thieves hassled you for money and you got shot.”
She chuckled. “That’s exactly what happened.”
“Guess what? I am not buying it.” He replied.
She smiled. “Do you even trust yourself?”
“Yes, I do.” He replied.
She stared at him. “Why won’t you see your mother?”
“Oh, come on, Aaima. We are talking about you here.” He replied.
She smiled. “Why would I bare my soul out to a stranger if he won’t let me know anything about him?”
“You are in my house.”
She rose to her feet. “You can ask to me leave, but I am not telling you anything about me until we know why you don’t want to talk to your Mom.”
Fola stared at her. “What’s going on here? Reverse psychology?”
She folded her arms. “Who are you, Fola? You are so bottled up, but you have a kind soul in you. Your girlfriend walked out, you would not chase her. What sort of a man are you? You want to skype with your Mom? Heck! Lots of people want to talk to theirs but they have none! It’s your birthday and even though I don’t expect you to be running around the place all stark naked, I don’t see you happy. I don’t even think you know what it is to be happy.” She ranted.
Fola stood up. “Stop it.” He said, almost inaudibly.
“What? I can’t hear you.” She replied.
Fola swallowed. “This has to stop now, Aaima.”
She stared at him. “What exactly do you want me to stop doing?”
He closed his eyes and exhaled. “Why I don’t see my Mom is quite silly and you are not going to understand, so there is no point talking about it.” He said, turning away.
She held his hand back. “Talk.”
He clenched his teeth. He was giving away. His chest pounded. This wasn’t good. He couldn’t help himself around her. No, he was not on top of this situation. His confidence had gone to hide and allowed the boy in him talk. “We had a bet.” He said.
She raised an eyebrow. “I am listening.” She said, guiding him back to the chair.
“I told her I’d visit her the day I lost a case.” He replied. “I know…I know, it’s stupid and ridiculous. But, I can’t go back on my word. She knows me.”
Aaima gaped. “Fola.”
“Don’t judge me. I love my Mom. Who wouldn’t love her? She is everything to me. My friend…father…my brother…my sister. But, I can’t go back on my word. That is who I am. That is the man she raised.” He replied.
Aaima blinked. She wasn’t sure she was comfortable with the vulnerable Fola side she had just seen. She had gotten much more than she bargained for, and now, she wasn’t sure of what to do with it. “Where is your father?” she asked, softly.
“I never knew the idiot. He left my Mom when she was pregnant with me.” He replied.
“I hate him so much. She had to raise me all by herself. All alone.” He continued, “And yes, that’s why I am not with any woman. I am not so sure of this man that I am and I am not going to bring any child into this world and leave him or her alone.”
He turned to her. “What?! That is me. You wanted to see it, right? Deal with it!” he yelled.
Aaima sat back. “Go on.”
“Go on?” he asked.
She nodded. “I am listening.”
He took a deep breath. “I miss my Mom. I want to go home.”
“Then go home.” She replied.
“You’d be surprised what you can find on Facebook.” Sarah said, as she surfed the internet.
Greg yawned. “So, who or what are we looking for? There are tonnes of Aaima Bello here. This is pointless.”
“Narrow down your search to the United Kingdom and maybe America. Let me know what you find.” She replied as she scrolled through a Profile page. “Check their last posts too.”
He hissed. “This is senseless, Sarah. People don’t even use Facebook anymore. There is this thing called Twitter in case you didn’t know.”
She stared at him. “I don’t think you know your stats on the usage of the internet properly. Anyway, I have a twitter tab opened on my browser.” She replied as continued searching.
“Yemi told you she would run information by her sources, why are you so impatient?” he asked. “We should be asleep, not surfing the internet this late.”
Sarah checked her wristwatch. “I didn’t get to where I am by being patient.” She replied.
“I want to sleep o!” he replied.
Sarah stared at him with some disdain. “Fola doesn’t sleep until one am, he gets work done. That’s why he is a winner.”
“No, that’s why he is so cranked up. He needs a vacation.” Greg replied, grumbling as he tapped on his computer. “I have like sixteen here.” He said, passing her his laptop. “London.”
Sarah stared at the names and widened her eyes as she spotted a familiar face. Aaima. “Aaima?”
“What?” Greg asked.
She tapped on Aaima’s profile page. “She only has one picture here…boring lady. But her name is Aaima Bello. That is damn interesting.”
Greg joined her. “Who is she?”
“She is Fola’s new side kick.”
“What is funny?” she asked.
He smiled. “I am surprised you said ‘new’. Were you the old side kick?”
Sarah hissed and focused on the Profile Page. “This lady has not updated anything. How boring can she be?”
“There is also LinkedIn. She looks like a professional to me. She is wearing a suit in her profile picture.” He replied.
Sarah nodded and opened another tab, searching Aaima Bello in an instant. “Boom!” she said as she clicked out Aaima’s profile. “Hmmm…Clinical Psychologist. Who knew?” she said, reading the profile.
“Could she be your girl?” Greg asked.
Sarah blinked. “I don’t know. I have a strong hunch. I need to send her picture to Yemi.” She said, emailing Yemi.
Greg shook his head. “You just did.”
“I know.” She replied with a smile and picked up her phone. “Yemi is going to love me. Proactive.” She said, picking her phone and heading out of the room.
Greg swallowed. He was not half the man Fola was. He badly wanted to be the man. It was not happening for him. Sarah returned to the room, almost immediately intercepting his thought. “I just called Yemi. I am expecting news in the morning.” She replied and jumped into the bed.
“Are you no longer searching for the lady? Or is that your one and only option?” He asked.
Sarah smiled. “You know when you know.” She replied and turned off the light.
Umar hung up and turned to Yusuf angrily. “Those boys didn’t find him at home.”
Yusuf took a deep breath. “You need to be patient. My boys are very thorough. He probably stepped out. He’ll be back. At least, to sleep there.”
“What if he suspects that we are on to him or something?” he asked.
Yusuf hissed. “See, we just need to ask him a couple of questions and how he knew about Aaima. The boys will wait around for him, till he returns…whenever he returns.” He replied, pouring his whiskey.
Obi stopped tossing and turning in his bed. Aaima was in his thoughts. He could not sleep. He wished he had something to do at the hospital, so that he could focus all the energy elsewhere, but it was not happening. He exhaled and grabbed his car keys. Maybe it was time to man up properly about his feelings.
“Are you sure about this?” Fola asked.
Aaima smiled. “Well, I don’t know…” she replied and drummed on the door.
Fola closed his eyes. “Aaima, I am holding you responsible for this.”
The door opened and Mrs King stood before. “Fola King.”