Kelvin put his open palms under the running tap and splashed the cold water all over his face and hair, repeating the motion three more times until he became completely sure that his head wasn’t as hot as it had been barely minutes ago. His brain seemed to be in overdrive, thinking about too many things at a time, all centered on one person. The hot burning sun had made matters worse, increasing the temperature of his brain, giving him a splitting headache to deal with. What he had feared had eventually come to limelight. He had known that the disastrous events in Amara’s life wouldn’t heal so quickly and he had seen it clearly. But how could she heal? Finding yourself married and pregnant for someone who turned out to be your brother cannot be easy to get by, can it?
Kelvin exited the bathroom and entered his bedroom, not caring as the water from his wet face slid down his exposed chest and back. He still couldn’t believe Amara was back in his life again. After six years, he had gradually started giving up the hope of seeing her again. He lived most of his life in Lagos because he had moved his business to Lagos years back, but then, he couldn’t move away from Abuja completely. He had made sure a part of him remained there, just because he had thought Amara was still there. He took out his camera and gazed at those pictures of her he had taken years back when she had been standing with that stunning flower. He smiled to himself. Even then, with her problems, she had been extremely striking, though not in the fashionable way, because she hadn’t been putting on good clothes and all. He shook his head as he stared at another picture of her when she had been pregnant; she had been practically glowing. He had done all he could to put smiles on her face back then and he knew that he would do more now to see Amara happy. The desire to pull her into his arms and kiss her had been so overwhelming when he stood close to her in the office; he had almost done exactly that, but then, the look in her eyes had stopped him. Kelvin knew that until Amara completely forgave everyone, including herself for what happened in the past, she would not be free. He kissed the picture in his camera instead and ran his thumb over the screen. “I would see to it that you are happy again Ara, I promise” he whispered. Even if you are going to hate me at the end, he thought bitterly.
Amara placed her aching head on her desk. Seeing her other clients had been tedious because half her brain was completely stuck with thoughts of Kelvin. The men had noticed her occasional distractions but some had looked understanding, looking at her with something really close to pity and Amara hated that. She shouldn’t have behaved like a fish out of water in the presence of clients. But with Kelvin, she couldn’t help it, just couldn’t. He had a way of reaching her, going past her defenses; something no other person had been able to do. He had showed up and she had found herself behaving like a complete idiot again – shivering before a man, making it obvious to him that he had effects on her. That is completely bad, she thought. She had read that the best way to put oneself at the mercy of a man is to let him know that he had effects on you; he would definitely take advantage of it. She swallowed, remembering the look on Kelvin’s face when he stood to leave. He had been on the verge of kissing her; she saw it in his eyes, the way they settled on her lips, making it obvious to her that her lips were very dry. But instead of kissing her, he had turned and left, but why had she felt so disappointed? Surely she wasn’t already thinking of something between them right? She shook her head vigorously, driving away the insane thought as she heard the door to her office open. She felt Tega enter without looking at her. She could already smell the line of conversation that Tega would choose, and knowing the unbearable girl, she would not stop even when you want her to.
“Are there other people here to see me Tega?” Amara asked, stalling for time.
Tega dropped into the chair, facing Amara with a slow smile. “Definitely not. Even if there were, I am sure none would match the looks of that stunning man you had your eyes fixed on minutes back”
Amara sighed. Her secretary always hits the nail on the head every time. “Sometimes, I wonder if I pay you to scan people’s good looks” Amara said.
“Oh, c’mon Ara, even you agree with me that the man is absolutely breathtaking; that explains why you literarily turned to a statue the minute you saw him”
Amara looked at Tega. She knew she had behaved stupidly, by gawking like an idiot, but should Tega be so mean as to point it out? She averted her gaze, looking at her system instead.
“So, what about him? Any special history? He seemed smitten with you because there was enough heat in his eyes to warm up a stone”
Amara glared at Tega. “What stupid history uhn? Mind your business Tega and get back to your desk, I have no time for your ridiculous observations. You are one huge pain in the neck; I always wonder why I haven’t fired you yet”
“So there is a history” she said, grinning mischievously, ignoring every other thing Amara had said. “My God! I have not seen you so worked up over a man. It is kind of refreshing to know you have red blood in your veins after all”
The door suddenly jerked open and Tina walked in. Amara swallowed and glared at Tega. The day just keeps getting better! “Go back to your post Tega before someone else barges into my office, I would visit your case later” she said as Tina marched into the office. Tega quickly excused herself and Tina glared at Amara.
“What is this?” Tina asked angrily. “I have been calling for the past two days, why on earth couldn’t you pick up?”
Amara took a deep breath. “I have been busy”
“Oh please, don’t give me that ridiculous statement, it sulks” she barked and dropped into a seat. “When are you going to let go and stop running?”
Amara sighed. “I think I have heard that question enough times today” she said, becoming angry.
“Then that is good, it means the whole world knows how bitchy you have been behaving.”
“Bitchy? Listen Tina, I wouldn’t have you come here to insult me okay? I have had enough!” Amara returned stonily.
“Insult you? My friend, you need someone to slap your brain back to reality; what the hell is the matter with you? It has been years Amara, years! When would you forget all that happened and move on? I worked my ass off to get you a date, hoping to bring you back to your senses somehow but then, what did you do? You completely ignored me.” She ranted angrily.
“You know I never asked you to Tina. For goodness’ sake, you just complicated my life the more. Gosh, you don’t have any idea what that stupid date cost me, do you?” she yelled, very angry now. Tina had caused all her recent problems and Amara could not even see why Tina should be angry at her, when she was clearly the victim of this whole mess.
“Really? What did it cost you madam?” Tina drawled cynically.
“Oh yeah, you want to hear? The idiot behind the flimsy ‘blind date’ is none other than a client; Jeez Tina, the first rule in my business is to never get involved with a client. And God knows I would have tolerated it a bit, if the client hadn’t been that pompous, stupid egotistic Maxwell Babs, who can’t spend five seconds without talking about how handsome he is”
Tina blinked. Well that could annoy any human being, Tina thought.
Amara tapped her feet angrily under the table. “And he even had the gut to assume I would date him in order to get more contracts for Ara P. how stupid can a man be.” she hissed brushed away the stray hair that touched her face. “And to crown it all up…” she began, her voice dropping a notch. “I bumped into Kelvin” she said quietly.
Tina gasped. “Which Kelvin?” she breathed as her eyes widened.
Amara looked at her. “Do you know any other Kelvin?” Tina was speechless as Amara stood up and walked to the window, gazing at the busy street beyond, with various people going about their various businesses. She sighed. “I wasn’t prepared for that Tina; that is the last thing I need. I don’t need a complication in my life now” she said softly.
Tina sighed. When she had worked up that date, she had felt that, either way it went, whether good or bad, it would bring her a bit closer to Amara. And she could see that it had worked. The iciness and coldness that Amara had built towards her was no longer very visible. She was confiding in her again, for the first time. But then, if Tina had known that she would meet Kelvin, she wouldn’t have planned the date at all. Amara hadn’t gotten over her past, and having her past appear one after the other could bring back the hurt over and over again. “I am sorry, I… I had no idea”
Amara shook her head. It was obvious Tina only wanted to help even though it had turned sour. “It is fine”
Tina swallowed. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asked softly.
Amara opened her mouth to do just that but decided against it at the last minute. “No, never mind. I can handle it”
Tina felt disappointed. She had glimpsed that desire to talk in Amara’s eyes, but then, she had closed up again. She decided to leave it and give Amara some time. Her chest burned slightly and she started coughing. Amara turned to face Tina when she started coughing. Her frowned in concern. “Are you alright?” she asked, going to the office dispenser to quickly get water. Tina tried to bring the cough under control, covering her mouth with her white handkerchief. The cough subsided before Amara got to her and Tina stuffed her hankie in her bag, collecting the glass of water with a grateful smile. She quickly took few sips and was back to normal in a matter of seconds. “Are you sure you are fine?” Amara asked in concern.
Tina nodded with a too-bright smile. “Yes, I am. Just a few allergies. I am ok” she breathed.
Amara looked at her for some seconds then nodded.
Two days later, Alex propped his legs on the bed, and rested his back with his laptop firmly seated on his laps. He knew exactly where to find Amara, following the address of his company. He was lodged in a hotel in Lagos, waiting for the time he would have the courage to drag himself to Ara P. he had been so enthusiastic when he had flown down, but now, he was scared of facing Amara. The woman he saw on the laptop was nothing like the woman he used to know, and since they parted on a very sour note, he couldn’t even begin to imagine her reaction should he show up. I just want her forgiveness, he told himself, reminding himself that he cannot have anything other than a ‘brother to sister’ feeling towards Amara. His phone rang and he picked it up.
“Hey man” he said instantly.
“Don’t ‘hey man’ me” Toba said over the phone, drawing a sigh from Alex. “This is a bad idea man; I can’t believe you actually went to Lagos, despite all I said”
“I am sure you must have heard it from Lisa; that stupid woman would not just stay off my case” he said angrily.
“She is your wife man; she came to ask me two days ago about the ‘business trip’ you said you were going for in Lagos. I was so stunned because I knew nothing but I quickly looked for a lame excuse to cover up for you. Trust Lisa, she is not a fool; I don’t think she believed me. Besides, I am sure the story you told her would be different from what I cooked up”
Alex rubbed his palm over his face. He should have told Toba beforehand, now, he knew that a boiling wife would be waiting for him, upon his return, but that is nothing unusual, she is always boiling anyways. “Sorry for putting you on the spot man, I should have told you”
“What do you think you are doing? She is your sister Alex” he barked.
“Stop yelling that, I know it better than you. She is my sister, yes! Did I say otherwise? I just need her forgiveness man, despite what you might be thinking, that is all I want”
“If only you could believe yourself” Toba said. “Can’t you just listen to me?”
“I have been listening to you all my life. Leave me alone, it is not your place to tell me what to do” he said, exasperated.
Toba sighed in resignation. “Remember I warned you; I would not be there to straighten up the trash for you when you mess up again o”
“Yes, don’t worry” Alex answered and hung up. He ran his hands over his head and closed his eyes.
Lisa walked out of the airport dragging her travelling bag behind her. She had waited three days before leaving Abuja. She had to keep Pamela with a friend because she definitely could not bring her daughter. She flagged down a taxi. She had booked a hotel for herself to lodge in for the meantime. She still had to figure out where Alex was but she would do that when she was fully rested. She entered the taxi and gave the address of the hotel. The driver drove into the busy roads of Lagos and Lisa looked out through the window, noting the wild liveliness of Lagos. She sighed. If she hadn’t been on the mission to get her husband, she might actually use the time to enjoy Lagos life a bit. But she couldn’t enjoy, not when her husband might be in another woman’s arms. She had had to deal with too many women because of Alex, including the delectable Amara; she thought bitterly. Thinking about it, she wondered if Alex was even worth the fight. But she could not leave him; could not leave the wealth and fame that marriage to him provided. She couldn’t do without those luxuries now, and if any woman thinks she can just take it away from her, she should better think again. No one can take my Alex away from me!
…to be continued