By Adeola Nissi
“Egotistic!” Maxwell grunted angrily as he sat behind his desk in his office, glaring at his system without actually paying attention to the details on the screen. It has been two days, yet, Amara’s insult continued to replay in his senses. “Handsome freak uhn?” he barked at the system again. “Well, at least she included handsome” he said drily. Being insulted isn’t something he was used to, on the contrary, he was used to people falling over themselves to please him. But why couldn’t Amara do the same. He knew from his private investigation of her private life that she has no one in her life. He saw no trace of past relationships and this showed vividly that she would be a very hard woman to get. But then, he felt drawn to her somehow. She intrigued him in ways he could not begin to explain. She is different from every other woman, he thought as he leaned fully against the backrest of the chair. Women were falling on top of themselves to get him to smile at them but the one woman that he wanted had snubbed him and called him names. She hadn’t been enticed by all he had to offer. As annoying and demeaning as her comments had been, they somehow made Max like her more because it showed more vividly that she wasn’t like the other women he had come across.
Egotistic! The word danced around in his brain, annoying him beyond words. Someone knocked the door and he barked ‘come in’. The door opened and his driver came in smartly.
“You called me sir” Bolaji said.
“Close the door and come here” Bolaji did as told and walked up to the table, facing his boss. He hadn’t seen his boss being as angry as he had been the past few days and he knew it had something to do with the last date he drove him to. Bolaji kept his face passive as Maxwell faced him with a glare. Maxwell swallowed as his driver faced him, unsure if he should be doing this. After some seconds, he took in a deep breath. “I want to ask you a… question” he said stonily. “Make sure you answer with all honesty”
Bolaji nodded firmly, feeling uneasy. It is very unlike his boss to ask him anything apart from evaluation on how handsome he looked; however, looking at Max, he knew instinctively that that is not the question he would ask.
“Am I… erm… I mean…” Maxwell cursed himself silently for doing this. He had been thinking about what Amara said for a long time and stupidly, he was starting to believe she actually spoke the truth. “Am I egotistic?” he suddenly dropped.
Bolaji gaped, not believing what he had just been asked. And how on earth should he answer that? His honesty can get him fired, he thought in agitation. “Sir… erm…”
“I asked for honesty Bolaji” Maxwell said firmly.
Bolaji swallowed and shifted. “errrr… Yes… you… You are sir”
“What?” Maxwell roared and Bolaji squirmed.
“You asked for honesty sir, please forgive me. I don’t want to lose my job, i have responsibilities” he ranted hastily, hoping his sack letter isn’t part of the documents on the table.
Max swallowed as he gripped the edge of the table, glaring at his driver. He couldn’t believe another person agrees with Amara’s insults. He shuddered just thinking of the fact that everyone probably thought of him this way. “Why didn’t you say something?”
Bolaji’s eyes widened like Max had just said something ridiculous. “How could I sir? I was scared. My job could be on the line” he said, looking at the table instead of the face of his boss.
But Amara is not scared, he thought. It surprised him how things like these could intrigue him so much. Amara remained the only person who did not cower at his presence or hold back her tongue because she was scared of annoying him. He exhaled and dismissed Bolaji, who gratefully vanished from sight. Max raked his fingers through his hair. I have to get Amara, and if I would need to change myself to get her, then so be it.
Kelvin watched as Amara turned pale before his very eyes. He hadn’t expected this sort of reaction from her. First she ran away from him like he was some sort of serial killer and now, she stared at him like she had just seen a ghost. He was unsure why he should evoke such reactions from her but he would be damned if he allowed her to get away from him this time; he had waited a lifetime to see her again. If only he had guessed that she might be in Lagos, he might have found her long before now. He stood, unmoving with his hands firmly planted in his pockets as Amara grasped the edge of her secretary’s table for support. He fought the overwhelming urge to pull her into his arms, because unlike that awkward moment at the Plaza, right now, she was standing just a few steps away. He saw the shivering state of her finger and tried with great discomfort to ignore it.
Tega rotated her gaze from her pale boss to the man who was standing almost like an unmovable rock just steps away. When he had arrived, she had tried hard not to gap at him because… jeez, the man had to be one of the most handsome men she had on her radar. She could easily point to one who is more handsome though, thinking of the hot man behind Bracket, but this man had an edge. He had this rugged look which made him seem different from the pampered child that Mr. Babs looked like. Tega saw the strength which was still clearly evident despite his loose shirt and firm trouser. He reeked of wealth without even trying, making him seem as though he barely knew his own appeal, though Tega doubted that was possible. Although, as she watched her boss cower before him, Kelvin’s overwhelming look was not what she thought about. This had to be the first time Tega would see her boss shiver. It almost looked like Ara would crumble to the ground any minute now and this both alarmed and amused Tega. Mr. Kelvin who is clearly responsible for this reaction, stood firmly with penetrating, yet unreadable eyes. Tega swallowed and touched the hand Amara anchored on the table to stable herself. Amara stiffened and Tega felt sorry for her, she needed no one to tell her that there had to be a history between the two people. Even the other people seated there staring up at the duo could see it. This is probably why Ara is always so guarded around men, she thought.
Amara couldn’t see anything or anyone beyond Kelvin. How could she? He had the most overpowering presence and his penetrating gaze seemed to see right into her soul. She was finding it hard to breathe or even keep her damned betraying legs straight. Immediately she felt someone touch her hand, she stiffened and blinked, breaking the spell that Kelvin had obviously woven to distract her and all of a sudden, she saw everyone gazing at her and Kelvin in confusion. Tega gave her a questioning look which instantly brought her back to her senses. She swallowed and forced her legs to stand without the support of Tega’s table. Her heart was running a hundred meter race as she returned her gaze to Kelvin. He had that half-smile that she remembered so well, playing on his face and she tried hard to breathe properly. “Kelvin” she said, trying to sound formal but the name came out breathlessly, making it seem like a caress. She saw the flare in Kelvin’s eyes and quickly averted her gaze, making the mistake of looking at Tega, who was openly smiling, enjoying the episode before her. Amara glared at her and turned her angry eyes at Kelvin. “Why don’t we discuss in my office…” she said. She quickly apologized to the other people and marched into her office, passing by Kelvin.
Kelvin slowly turned and followed Amara. He sternly stopped his eyes from ravaging her body, but he could not prevent the few times his eyes disobeyed that command. Amara opened the door, waited for him to enter before closing it firmly behind him. She took a deep breath before turning with the sole aim of going to her chair, but as she turned, Kelvin’s gaze got her hypnotized, freezing her to the spot. Kelvin’s eyes slowly travelled down her body and back up, and Goosebumps broke up on her skin. His eyes returned to hers. “You still look as beautiful as before sweetheart” he said softly.
Amara swallowed, lowering her eyes. “Thanks” she said, vaguely remembering that she had to get to her seat in order to put the large table between them. She started walking but Kelvin grabbed her hand immediately he perceived what she wanted to do.
“I certainly don’t know what I have done to make you so defensive and edgy around me Ara” he breathed, looking at her face in confusion. Amara did not meet his eyes. “It has been six years” he said. “I have missed you so much” he breathed, swallowing the lump in his throat. He wanted to move close to her but something told him that it wasn’t a good idea.
Amara met his eyes then, “Don’t” she said and snatched her hand, quickly moving to her chair.
Kelvin smiled bitterly. “It is rather late for that advice, don’t you think?” he dropped as he watched her sit on her chair. “I expected you to be happy to see me, as overjoyed as I was when I saw you two days ago. I did not expect you to run from me like I was after your life”
Amara saw the hurt look in Kelvin’s eyes and looked away. “I am not ready Kelvin. You are my past and-”
“Not ready?” kelvin asked incredulously. “It has been six years Ara, when are you going to accept your past and move on?” he seemed angry now.
“I have moved on; can’t you see that” she returned angrily.
“No! I can’t see that. You have not moved on Ara, you have only locked away your past. When are you going to stop running?”
“When my past stops pursuing” she barked. “I had successfully gotten over my past, until Tina showed up, bringing back those bitter memories, now you…” she laughed bitterly. “I won’t be surprised if Alex shows up at my doorstep tomorrow. Why can’t you all just leave me to be happy for once in my life. Why?” she wailed.
Kelvin stared at her, seeing the hurt she had locked up bouncing to the surface. When she had walked away six years ago, he had prayed that she would achieve all she wanted, maybe it would help to heal the wound that life had created in her; but now, he could see vividly, that the wound hadn’t healed completely. The scar was still burning bright red. He circled the table, moving towards her and he saw her shivering fingers as he advanced. “Please don’t” she pleaded as he moved closer to her seat but he ignored her. He perched on the table, directly in front of her. Amara was the same woman he knew years back, but still, she was different. Many things had changed about her and he feared he might not see the old Amara again. He brought up his hand to brush back the stray hair which had stubbornly left the tight confines of the bond she used to hold her hair behind her head. Her breath caught in her throat and she did not meet his eyes until he put his hand on her chin, carefully forcing her head up.
“You haven’t been happy Ara” he whispered. “I see it in your eyes. You have carried a shield around you all these years. You can’t fully bury the past honey, you have to face it and accept it in order to be truly happy” he bent until his head was level with hers. “You promised me years back, remember? All I ever wanted was for you to be truly happy and you promised me you would be”
Amara averted her gaze as pain flitted through her. “I don’t know if I can keep that promise Kel” she said, not even noticing what she had just said.
Kelvin could hardly contain his satisfaction when he heard her call him ‘Kel’. She was practically the only one who called him that. It was the same satisfaction he had felt when he saw the name of her company, knowing that he had given her that name. “I would see to it that you are happy honey; very happy. I promise you. I will help you live again” he said firmly.
She looked at him. Kelvin had been there for her, helping her through it all, but then, she knew that he was fighting a lost cause if he thought he could make her happy. She had tried to be happy but hadn’t been able to achieve that until she accepted the cold and hard life she had now. She had become comfortable in it and she would not risk getting her hopes dashed again by believing she could have something better. She took a deep breath. “Some people are waiting to see me Kelvin” she said dismissing him.
Kelvin smiled softly. He had seen the exact second she closed herself up, putting an invisible distance between them. He knew nothing he said would make sense now. How strange! He had imagined the time he would meet Amara again, more than a million times, but he had never imagined it would be like this. He straightened. He was sorely tempted to bend and kiss her, if not on the lips like he badly desired, but on her forehead, but he decided against it. he would not have her assuming that he was only doing this because of his feelings for her. As much as possible, he would make her see again that one could do things without asking for anything in return. If he would have to put aside his feelings for her to get her to trust again, then, he would. But even as he thought about it, he knew he was not worthy to teach her about trust. Sighing shakily, he said. “I won’t leave you like I did years back Amara, no matter how hard you try. I would be back”. With that, he turned and left without looking back.
Alex carried his suitcase down the stairs, tuning out Lisa’s voice as she ranted on. When he got to the foot of the stairs, his driver collected the bag and carried it to the car.
“It seems you think I am joking Alex” Lisa yelled. “What business do you have in Lagos? When did you start having business in Lagos ehn?”
Alex tapped his foot on the tiled floor, praying for patience. “Woman, what I do and where I go is none of your concern, would you stop barking like a dog? You have my daughter to take care of till I return” he bellowed.
“You lie” she screamed. “Everything you do is my business; that is why I am your wife. I am not a nanny, you hear me?. Ohhhh… you want to go and meet one of your whores right? Shameless man”
Alex hissed and made for the door, ignoring her high-pitched ranting.
“You don’t know me Alex, don’t try me o” she yelled, following him as he went out of the house. he rushed into the car and slammed the door firmly, ordering the driver to lock the car instantly. Lisa laughed sarcastically. “So you think you can be free of me so easily; you know nothing” she watched the car speed off, knowing he was going to the airport. She glared at the departing car with her hands on her hips. “So you expect me to sit here while you roll around with your whores in Lagos, right?” she hissed and turned around, marching into the house. “If you think I would do that, then I have a surprise for you, dear husband”
…to be continued