By Tomi Adesina
Dare pounded on the front door heavily. The expression on my face was tense as I watched Dare drum on the door. I went round the house to see if the back door was open. Dogs barked in the quiet neighbourhood as the noise Dare and I made seemed to gain attentions from the neighbours. Windows flung open and I could hear screams like, “Baby’s sleeping”, “Can we have it quiet here?”
“Any luck?” Dare asked as I approached from the backyard.
“He has all the doors locked”
“Let’s call the police”
“This is a personal matter”
“Suicide might be involved”
I was clueless. “Could Paul be dead?” my thoughts were muddled up. The thought of Paul’s death sent cold shivers down my spine. I raced to the door and drummed desperately on it. Dare and I exchanged a knowing look and then he hit the door with a strong kick. I held on to Dare as we tried to make our way through the dark passage.
A gun corked behind our heads.
“With your hands behind your heads, kneel down!” Paul ordered strictly.
Slowly, Dare and I got on our knees. Then, the lights came on.
“Who is this?” Paul asked pointing his gun at Dare.
I could never have imagined Paul with a gun. He has a very timid heart, or rather, he had. This is Paul with a gun and I really do not know what to make out of it. I got a suicide-threatening message and the case seemed more like an arrest situation.
“Turns out our little chicken learnt to fly”, I murmured underneath my breath.
“Answer the question!” He yelled with fury in his eyes.
This is the first time Paul yelled at me. Guess there is always a first time.
“And what do you care?” I answered in confidence trying to remain calm.
“Hey, who are you?” he yelled at Dare.
“I thought you would never ask”, Dare replied.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Paul retorted angrily.
“You should have directed the question to me, unless, you are scared of me”
Paul’s eyes blinked repeatedly. He did not like Dare’s confidence.
“Do you know what this is?” he asked displaying the gun proudly at Dare.
“Fortunately Yes, but I am shocked that you have no idea of what to do with it”
Paul corked the gun.
“Please Paul” I interfered desperately.
“Is this the man you left me for?”
“Stop being cynical”
“You should be proud, he is a man!”
“Paul, we weren’t working out fine”
“You never put in an effort to love me”
“You can’t force love”
“What is your problem?” Paul yelled.
“I am touched by your story”
“Stay out of this Dare” I interfered.
Paul did not have a good way of dealing with his emotions; Dare’s confrontations seemed to make matters worse.
“You need to get over me”
“Of course you can”, Dare interrupted.
“Shut up!” Paul shouted.
Paul seemed not to have control over this situation as “Shut up” got regular. I looked at my phone as its backlights went off, obviously from a missed call. I was running out of time.
“Where are you going with all this Paul?”
“I want to convince you of my love”
“Putting a bullet through your head will be just fine”, Dare said.
CLANK! The flower vase beside Dare shattered.
“I have had enough! I will not miss next time!
I eye balled Dare coldly.
“How did you ever date this Potato” Dare murmured.
“Paul, you need to get help”
“You are all the help I need, let’s try again”
Paul stared at my phone as the lights came on for the second time.
“She is a good woman”
“Is this the part where we take our seats?” Dare asked.
Dare really started to scare me. “How couldn’t he be startled?” I thought. Before us was a loaded gun which I feel is enough to put anyone off balance, but not Dare, he could not be bothered. “Or was he pretending?”
“You guys would make a cute couple,” Paul said as he wiped a sweat from his forehead.
“Is that coming from you?” Dare asked.
“Please Dare,” I murmured.
“You had a failed relationship, how could you know a cute couple?” he continued, ignoring me.
“You are just the type of guy that suits Darlene”
“I am honoured”
Paul reached for a seat. That was my chance; I raced to him and knelt before him.
“I am sorry for hurting you”
“You can make it right”
“I don’t love you”
I have always been honest with Paul throughout our relationship. I told him that I did not love him from the onset. Dating him was wrong.
“I know” he replied.
Paul rose and cleaned the tears that were slowly gathering in his eyes and placed the gun on the table.
“You guys should leave”
“Not until you agree to see a doctor,” I said.
“Do you want to put me away for loving you?”
“I just want to help you”
“I don’t need it”
Dare stood up and dusted the ceramic dusts from his Jacket.
“Get some help Paul”
“Just go Darlene”
“I will send you a text message in about forty-five minutes,” he said looking at his wristwatch.
“What will you do afterwards?”
“It’s my business”
I cleaned the tears in his eyes and pecked him on his cheek. It meant good-bye. I walked out of his house and life. Dare closed the door slightly as we walked out.
“Are you okay?” Dare asked as he started the engine.
“I’ll be fine” I replied staring at my wristwatch.
The journey back to the office was mute and immediately it was forty-five minutes, Paul’s text read:
“Paul is gone!”
Paul was gone! My eyes raced through his bedroom and I found his Phone, I flung his closet open to find it empty. He really was gone! I do not know if this means good news for me, or otherwise. I walked out of his room to meet Dare speaking with the Estate Police.
“The neighbours alerted us when they heard gunshots,” The Local Chief said.
This boils down to the efficiency of the cops in my dear country, Nigeria. If memory serves me correctly, Paul’s riffle went off almost an hour ago, and with the Police arriving at this time, just shows how “efficient” they are. “It was nothing serious I guess” Dare replied.
“What are you doing in Paul’s apartment?” The Chief asked.
“Checking on a friend,” I said stepping in.
“Miss Darlene, you do know you are trespassing, right?” He asked, bringing out his notepad.
“Come on Chief, I am friends with Paul and I can check on him” I replied, peering at his paper.
“Paul drove out not too long after you left the Estate”, he replied, as he closed the notepad.
“He never told me” I shrugged.
“I will let you go on the grounds that there are no obvious damages in his apartment, but should he report any damage, you will be liable”, he said and beckoned to the other officers.
How did he know that there were no damages in Paul’s apartment, he did not even check in. Thoughts floated through my mind as I tried to think of Paul’s getaway. I know that his father is a shareholder at the famous Calabar Resort, “Obudu Cattle Ranch” so that was my best bet. Paul must have left the city. I pushed myself into the leather seat of Dare’s Car and pulled the seatbelt across my chest. I tried not to think too much about Paul as I shut my eyes. I could not sleep! I would have called Paul if not that I found his Phone on the bed while searching for him. It was a clear indication that he did not want to be found. My mind was so muddled up that I almost forgot to appreciate Dare’s support.
“I am so sorry for putting you through this entire mess,” I said trying to avoid his gaze.
“Its fine” he smiled.
I was not comfortable with the smile. It had the “I got you in the bag” revelation. I sighed.
“Give me your home address,” he said, slipping a disc into the Disc Player.
“You have done more than enough for me; I will be fine at the next stop” I replied. The thought of listening to Neyo in his car made me sick to the stomach.
“The next Bus won’t be arriving until 5pm, let me save you the stress”, he said, adjusting the volume.
“I will be fine, please let me off at the next stop”, I insisted.
“I insist”, he sounded firm.
“No Buts! I will take you home”
Dare pulled up in front of my gate.
“Thanks Dare” I said, releasing the seat belt.
“You are welcome”, he replied, turning off the engine.
“Do you mind coming in for some refreshment?” I said, stepping out.
“Sir Williams house?” he asked with his eyebrow fully raised.
“My Dad is really cool; you should meet him outside the courtroom,” I said, stuttering between the sentences. I didn’t sound convincing.
“I’ll take a pass on that today, maybe some other time”, he replied, and drove off.
I sent an SOS message to Jake as soon as I walked into the house. I tripped as I opened the door; there were bags here and there. What was going on? I thought.
“Hey Darlene” Dad said as he joined me in the hallway.
“Hello” I replied, staring at the bags before me.
“They belong to Dora”, he replied, taking a bag out of my way.
“How much luggage does she have?” I asked, as I pushed one aside.
“They just got here today, I guess she didn’t bring all at first”, he replied, moving the bags aside.
“Already getting comfortable I presume,” I said and climbed the stairs.
“I need you to plan Dora’s coming-out party,” Dad said.
What was Sir Williams thinking? That I would plan a party for his long lost daughter, hell no! I was not ready to be treated like the Prodigal Son’s brother, maybe I will make for the sister version. I returned to the hallway.
“I have work to do Sir” I replied showing off my briefcase.
“I understand the fact that you are busy but you just have to take time out of your schedule” he replied with a smile.
“I recently joined Ade-Cole and I haven’t been the best staff in their records, do you think I will easily get a day or two off?” I asked bemused.
“You can do this if you want to” he replied, leaving me standing in the hallway.
I did not like the “if you want to” position. It felt impulsive. I retired to my bedroom hoping to hear from Jake soon. I was lost in wonderland until I heard my phone buzz me back to reality.
“Hello” I said into the receiver.
I had a brief conversation with Jake. He would not be available; he had to leave for Bahamas urgently. The news saddened me. Who would plan Dora’s party with me? I thought. Maybe I was selfish, but Jake said he wanted to go on a personal retreat. “What a freak!” I almost heard myself say as I dropped the phone. What sort of a retreat would be done in the Bahamas? Jake is such a fun-freak! He would have had no retreat if he were a busy man! I almost screamed in disappointment. What unsettled me was my best friend was going away for some “retreat” and I had a party to plan, loneliness around the corner. I was saved from my sorrow by “sleep”.
“Hi” I heard a soft voice and a light tap.
Why did Dora seem like an angel?
I strained my eyes as I stared at her. “What do you want?” I asked, pushing myself against the pillow.
“Dad sent me to fetch you for dinner” she replied.
It was almost 8pm; I had fallen asleep thinking about Jake. I just realized Dora said “Dad”. My eyes popped. “Tell him I’ll pass”
“But, you must be hungry”, she insisted.
“I’ll be fine, I lost my appetite”, I replied honestly.
The truth is, I have been feeling bad since coming from Paul’s and to cap up a disappointing day, Jake disappeared to Bahamas. How more messed up could my day get? All I wanted was for a new day to come. I sighed as Dora shut the door after her. I slumped back into my bed waiting for tomorrow.
“Morning Toni”, I said as I slid into my chair.
“Morning Hun” she replied as she handed me a cup of coffee.
“Thanks Toni, you are the best,” I said as I sipped.
“Rough day yesterday?” she asked, staring at the wall clock.
“You don’t wanna know.” I arrived at work some minutes to nine this morning, makes me officially late. “Lagos traffic hit me” I replied, carefully placing the coffee cup on my desk.
“Didn’t your chauffeur get you here?” she asked, with a grin.
By chauffeur, she meant Jake. “He left for Bahamas this morning” I replied, turning on my laptop. Not having Jake around didn’t help me, I have not completed my driving lessons, really hadn’t put much effort to it, been busy here and there. I had to join the Lagos City Bus “BRT” this morning, and to make matters worse; I had to stand up for the elderly woman who joined the bus late.
“Bahamas?” she echoed. “He must be a very busy guy,” she said peering through her glasses.
Toni meant to mock Jake by saying he is a “busy guy”. “Have fun mocking” I said, as I smiled.
“Oh! Dare said you should report to his office when you arrived” she said, covering her mouth with her hand. “I’m so sorry for saying it a bit late,” she added.
“Now what am in for?” I asked, looking concerned. I knew better than to expect any response from Toni. Dare had witnessed the entire fiasco with Paul, and I sincerely prayed that it would not affect my professional ratings. I mean, personal life should stay personal. Right?
“Good morning Dare,” I said, as I stepped in.
“Morning Darlene, Please sit,” he said, motioning to a chair.
“I don’t know if you are aware of this yet, but the firm is having its annual meeting with the board and CEO next week Friday”, he started.
Now, I could be relaxed. It did not involve the incident with Paul from yesterday.
“I was wondering if you would mind reading the opening speech at the ceremony,” he suggested.
I did not know if I was up for it, which included meeting all the forces that controlled the Ade-Cole dynasty. It was not as if I had any problem relating with the society’s top guns, because I also came from the city’s elites but I had a feeling that I am been rushed into major duties. “Don’t you think there are more qualifying people to handle such?” I asked.
“Are you questioning my judging skills?” he asked, sounding offended.
“No, but I feel that it’s happening so early, I am just an intern here” I replied.
“Nothing is happening so early here, I make the decisions around here”, he resounded.
“Okay.” Now Dare was acting so firm, and that was something about him that I did not understand, he was able to switch from “normal to annoying” in a split. “Is that all?” I asked, standing up.
“Yes” he replied, staring at his laptop.
I reached for the door.
“Hey! I hope you don’t think I am trying to hit on you,” he asked, staring at me.
I scoffed. “Never” I replied and walked out.
It was obvious that Dare Ade-Cole liked me! As in ‘like-like’, if you know what I mean.
…to be continued