By Adeola Nissi

Amara paced the entrance of her apartment, feeling agitated. The day had been strange enough as it is with Alex showing up all of a sudden and spilling ridiculous rubbish, insinuating things that she couldn’t even begin to think about. It had been even stranger that his appearance hadn’t impacted so much on her; not even half as much as she had thought it would. She had even gone a date with Mr. gorgeous and had even stunned herself by enjoying it. This weird note just had to crown it up. Entering her own house was scaring her beyond words. What the hell is wrong with me? Now Kelvin would come here and think I am some sort of scared chicken. She heaved a sigh into the cold night as her hands clenched around the railings at the entrance of her apartment.



The gate moved and her head snapped up but she was horribly disappointed when the pedestrian opened instead to let in her neighbor.  Nadia’s mother walked on with her eyes glued to her phone, but as she got nearer, she raised her eyes and paused when she saw Amara.

“Hey Ara” she called.

“Good evening mummy Nadia” Amara said with a quick smile in the young woman’s direction.

“I didn’t see you come in, someone dropped your car” she stated with a smile as she moved closer.

Amara nodded. “Yes, I came in minutes ago”

She frowned. “But why are you outside? Is everything alright?” she asked, looking concerned.

“Oh no… I mean Yes. Everything is great” she said hastily. “I am just errr… waiting for someone” Amara finished with a soft smile.

The woman’s smile slowly eased, then her face lit up dramatically. “Oh my God, I almost forgot; someone came earlier looking for you. A very pretty lady” she said with a slight smile.

Amara’s brows shot up and her ears stretched to their limits, trying to get every detail. ‘IT’S PAYBACK TIME’ loomed around in her head. “Lady? What lady?”

She frowned. “Oh, she hasn’t called you?” she asked. “She told me she would call you; when I asked for her name, she didn’t tell me” Nadia’s mother stated.

Amara’s frown deepened. She was certain that the lady in question must have dropped the note; but who could it be? Which woman had she offended in her life? She had thought she was the offended party her whole life.

“Ara” Nadia’s mum called with a deep frown now. “Is everything alright?”

Amara quickly smiled. “Of course. I was just… wondering who it might have been” she quickly responded. “By the way, how is Nadia?”

The mother smiled. “She is fine, asleep already. She never stops talking about you and the Indomie you made for her” Amara laughed, some of the tension oozing out. This had to be the lengthiest and friendliest conversation she has had with her neighbor and surprisingly, Amara found that she liked the single mother’s company.

“She is a lovely girl” Amara said with a smile.

“Yes, she is” the woman said grinning. “My job has been making things hard for me, making me lose the time I ought to spend with my daughter” she confided. “I am quitting my job to get another one, but I am too scared to do that.” She sighed. “This is Lagos! What if I don’t find another job? I don’t want to regret it yet, my daughter is suffering from this lack of attention”
Amara forgot totally about her problems as she stared at the agitated mother. Initially, she had thought the woman didn’t care enough for her daughter, but now, she saw the woman’s pain. Being a single mother must have been hell. Would I have also had this problem if my child had stayed? Out of nowhere she popped up, causing her to frown deeply. She pushed away the thought as she focused squarely on the woman. “Your child should be your priority” she said softly.

“I know… I really know” she sighed and leaned against the railings. “But then that is why I work; to put food in her stomach, pay her school fees, buy her clothes and everything she needs. I work for her; there is no one to fall back on”

Amara swallowed, then took a deep breath. “This might sound silly and I don’t know if it helps but if you truly quit your job, you could come and work at Ara P” she blurted out suddenly. “We work hard but I can make your work-time a bit flexible”

Unexpectedly, the woman’s eyes watered. “You would do that? Give me a job in your company?”

Amara misunderstood the woman’s emotional swing. “I know it must be awkward saying that; I have no right to think that I can give you a job. I am sorry if that sounded insulting” she hastily said.

“Insulting?” she suddenly laughed. “Oh my God! You have been going about, keeping to yourself for a very long time, I never knew you are so kind-hearted. Wow! I would be extremely happy to work in your company” she declared.

“You would?”

“Of course! Ara P is a really big company, many times, I feel I am living with a celebrity. I totally love decorating and doing what I love would be a blessing, plus I get to spend more time with my daughter; what more can I ask from God?” she squealed. Amara’s face broke into a smile. Nadia’s mother started towards her in complete happiness and pulled Amara into a hug before she could blink. “Thank you so much; you are God-sent” she squealed, retreating from the hug due to too much excitement before Amara could even wrap her own arms around her. “I am turning in my two weeks’ notice immediately” she declared with a squeal. “Thanks Ara, I would never forget this. Thanks”

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Amara smiled. She had always derived joy in making other people happy. She guessed the woman couldn’t be more than five years older than her but her dedication and efforts at seeing to the happiness of her daughter made Amara respect her so much. The sound of a car at the gate stunned her and sharply, she remembered her current dilemma. She rushed off and pushed the gate open for Kelvin. He drove into the compound instantly and she hurriedly closed the gate. She forgot totally about Nadia’s mother as Kelvin alighted from the car.

Amara moved closer, noticing the way his top clung to his body so firmly, revealing strong muscled arms. She didn’t even take up the temptation of looking at his wall-like chest. She raised her eyes to his and his worried gaze soothed her immensely. When last had she felt that she had someone she could rely on?
“Ara” he breathed as he walked up to her.

“Thanks for coming Kelvin” she whispered as his hand brushed away hair playing at her cheeks. Her hairband still held the upper half of her hair in place.

“Are you ok? Where is the…” Kelvin raised his eyes to see the woman standing just few steps away. Amara also turned towards Nadia’s mother and her eyes narrowed when she saw her checking out Kelvin. She was openly gawking at him, running her eyes over him.

“Wooow.  Where did you find such a breathtaking man Ara? Probably if I go there, I would get lucky” Nadia’s mother said with a wistful look on her face.

Amara swallowed as she watched Kelvin grin at the woman, looking very much like he was flirting with her as he approached. He took her hand slowly and placed a chaste kiss at the back of her fingers. “You definitely are a stunningly beautiful woman” he said, effectively stunning Amara into shocked silence. “I, on the other hand, have a cousin who would give me a run for my money”

The woman sighed. “I don’t think that is possible, it is already a sin to look this good” she said, then leaned in to whisper something Amara couldn’t catch. Nadia’s mother straightened with a grin which was equally matched by Kelvin’s as she started moving towards her apartment. She turned to grin at Amara. “Goodnight Ara” she said gaily.

“Goodnight” Amara responded with a sour note to her tone.

Kelvin smiled down at her Amara gave him a too-bright smile. I am sure he would derive pleasure from seeing me moody. Did he expect me to be jealous? I surely haven’t seen the man who would make me get jealous. Amara told herself sternly as Kelvin walked back to her. Amara instead, walked to her apartment, causing him to change his direction. “I think everything is clear now; I don’t see why I should be scared over a flimsy note delivered by a woman” she said automatically, ignoring him as she bent to pick up her bag.

“A woman delivered it” he said. “I should have known”

“Why? Because you know women so much, you even know that they drop threat notes at the entrance of other women?” she ranted as she unlocked her door.

“No, because only ONE woman would want to pay you back for something” he said seriously.

Amara turned then, mostly from curiosity and also a partial reluctance in entering the apartment. “What woman?” she asked.

Kelvin took her shoulders in his two arms, looking at her upturned face. “There is only one woman who would do this. Lisa” he declared and Amara blanched. She had even forgotten totally about Lisa. “She thinks you stole Alex from her, remember? And you even sent her to jail” he said. Amara’s stunned eyes slowly slipped away from his, staring dazedly at his chest. Kelvin stared at the opened door. “Wait here, let me go in to see if everything is alright” he said, moving her aside.

“No!” she said instantly. “I am going in with you”

“No, just stay-”
“I won’t have you tell me what to do in my apartment” she said sternly. “I would either go in with you or go in alone”

Kelvin stared at her stubbornly set face and sighed in resignation. “Alright, stay behind me. I really don’t think there is anything to worry about though, the door wasn’t tampered with” he tried to dispel her worry.

She nodded and followed him closely as he turned on the light. For some minutes, he seemed detached as he moved carefully around. Amara left him, feeling like a cynical chicken. “It is obvious there is nothing here” she declared. “She must be glad now, knowing I am freaking out” she said angrily as she dropped into a chair. “Is it not enough that Alex showed up today?”

“What?” Kelvin gasped. “What do you mean Alex showed up?” she saw a spark of temper in his eyes as he watched her narrowly.

She sighed. “He suddenly showed up in my office today” she supported her elbows with her knees and placed her head in her open hands. “I have never been so shocked; not only by his appearance but by my response”

“What response are you talking about?” Kelvin asked in a silently dangerous voice.

Is that jealousy? “I felt… nothing” she said. “I had thought I would be filled with undiluted rage but apart from my initial outburst, I felt nothing. It is like I am slowly getting over my past” she sighed again. “But then, he really got me boiling with rage when he insinuated that we are not siblings and that-”

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“Wait, what?” Kelvin boomed suddenly and Amara looked up to see his pale face.

Amara swallowed. “I was equally shocked to think that he would go to the extent of lying. Apparently, he didn’t just come to apologize, he wants to have something to do with me” she laughed. “I wonder if he thinks I am a fool. What I don’t understand though is why his face carried so much pain when he said that he just found out that we aren’t really siblings. It almost seemed true” Amara thought vaguely with a deep frown. “But it was probably part of his act; nothing from him has ever ended up true. He is a bundle of lies”

Kelvin ran his fingers through his hair with a bewildered look on his face. “This can’t be! It is simply impossible.” He said, trying to reassure them both.

“I think so too” she said, still frowning.

Kelvin’s veins were taut, then, trying to change the subject, he said. “You must be hungry”

Amara smiled. “Actually, I am not” she said. “I went on a date with someone and I am practically filled up”

His jaw tightened as he gritted his teeth. “I see” he dropped icily.

Amara would have explained to him that her dinner companion was just a friend, but she was too busy enjoying the spectacle of Kelvin’s jealous face to even consider telling him. Payback is always enjoyable, Amara thought with vague satisfaction. She wondered what her neighbor had whispered into Kelvin’s ear but she would remove her own tongue before she asked Kelvin. “Everything is Ok Kelvin, why don’t you go” Amara said. “It is getting really late”

Kelvin nodded grimly. “Right” he ran his fingers through his hair again as his eyes left hers to roam round the sitting room as if he was searching for something. “Are you sure you can stay here all by yourself?” He asked. “You can come with me to my apartment if you feel uncomfortable”

Amara laughed slightly. “C’mon, I am not a small puppet, I can sleep perfectly well. If it is Lisa, I won’t give her the satisfaction of knowing her scare tactics is working, because it is not” she said bravely. “I would be perfectly fine. Don’t worry about me”

Kelvin nodded. He seemed totally distracted, not paying full attention to her words. “If anything pops up, you are to call me instantly, Ok? Instantly!” he emphasized.
“Yes sir” Amara said automatically, with a grin.

Kelvin sighed. “Ok” he started moving towards the door. “Come and lock up” he commanded and Amara scowled at his retreating back as she stood to do his bidding. He stopped at the entrance and Amara made sure to keep a descent amount of distance between them.

“Thanks a lot for coming to my aid, I really appreciate it” she said.

Kelvin nodded stiffly. “Just be safe. Remember: call me if anything out of the ordinary happens; don’t underestimate Lisa” he said.

“Ok” Amara said with a nod.

Kelvin raised his hand as if to touch her but brought it back down and turned. “Lock up” he said, closing the door. Amara didn’t hear his retreating steps until she had turned the lock. She stood there at the door, listening until the sound of his car faded and vanished, then she went back into her sitting room, looking round in agitation, despite her calm claims.

**********
**********

Amara finally opened her eyes to the bright lights of the day. She didn’t need to check the time to know she woke up late. Her eyes were heavy from lack of sleep. She had woken up twice with nightmares. Amara wondered why a flimsy note containing three words had effectively sent her into a state of constant panic. I should have taken Kelvin’s offer, she thought. If she had slept over at his place, she surely wouldn’t have had nightmares.

Amara brushed her hands against her heavy eyes, trying to keep them open as she stood up from the bed, her joints aching from rolling all night long. She pulled her short nightshirt over her head, dropping it carelessly on the bed as she made for the bathroom. Her phone stopped her in her tracks and she backtracked to check the caller. As expected, it was Tega. “You don’t have to tell me that I am late Tega, I already know that” she murmured to the ringing phone and cut the call, switching off the phone instantly. Her head was already pounding enough, she didn’t need Tega’s ranting voice to add to it.

She dropped the phone and proceeded into the bathroom, turning on the shower instantly. She gratefully welcomed the cold feel of the water against her skin but she didn’t have the luxury of time, so she quickly washed up and got out of the tub, brushed her teeth and entered the room, toweling herself dry as she went. She pulled out a black trouser and a bright yellow top, hoping that the bright colour would brighten up her day. After brushing and pinning down her hair, she grabbed her car keys and her bag and left her bedroom, opting to have Tega order in her breakfast from an eatery.

Amara bounced out of the apartment, trying to feel more enthusiastic about the day, despite her pounding head and aching body. However, as she locked the door to her apartment firmly and turned to her car, whatever enthusiasm she had summoned evaporated instantly. She stared at the deflated tires of her car in complete horror. Her bag hung limply on her arm as she walked stiffly towards her car. She walked round the car, horrified to see that all the four tires were in the same state. Her heart beat and headache increased dramatically as she spotted a note under the windscreen wiper. She dragged it out with angry hands and opened it.

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ENJOY YOUR DAY!!!

Amara crumbled the note in anger, clenching her fist around it. She swallowed and stuffed the crumbled note in her bag. No! I would not let this destroy my day. She told herself sternly. She marched out of the compound, her angry strides making her walk faster. She tried to put a smile on her face but she wouldn’t, she could only look around grimly, searching for a taxi to take her to Ara P. she spotted a taxi and flagged it down. “Ara P” she murmured and jumped in. she didn’t need to give an address since Ara P was known by all. The taxi driver smiled, recognizing her but she didn’t have time for any chatter. She closed her eyes, blocking her mind against this new complication in her life. It seems her past was determined on haunting her continuously. If only Amara knew what she had done wrong to deserve it, she might even consider atoning for her sins.

Amara opened her eyes when the taxi slowed and the driver announced that he had arrived at her destination. She paid the man, not waiting to get her change as she marched towards her company. She noticed a small crowd around the building and frowned deeply. She was even more stunned to see that the crowd was made up of her staff. They were all talking animatedly with frowns on their faces. They noticed her presence and turned to her, looking agitated.

“What is going on?” she asked in agitation as alarm bells went off in her head.

“Everything is in disarray ma’am” someone said.

“Someone broke into the company”…… “It might have been a burglary”…..  “But nothing is missing”………

Amara could not keep up the endless chatter of voices, murmuring different things. She noticed Tega, moving through the other staff members towards her. Amara pulled her aside. “What is going on Tega?” she asked in confusion.

“I tried calling you but your phone was off after the first ring boss” she said with a deep worried look on her usually smiling face. “Everything is upside down. Documents are scattered all over the floor, most, if not all, of our supplies have been destroyed, including the flowers and materials we just purchased two days ago for Bracket’s event. They are all in pieces” she declared. Amara stared open-mouthed at Tega. This cannot be happening! “I think it might be a competitor; we should inform the police; this is so terrible…” she whined as she looked around in agitation. “We might get Insurance to pay for the damages….”

Tega’s voice faded out as Amara stared unseeing. Her headache was threatening to split her head into two and she dropped her bag on the floor, rubbing furiously at her temples. Lisa!

Tega held Amara, trying to pacify her and the remaining members of staff also came around, hoping to offer their support in any way they could. “It would be fine boss” Tega said and her staff members also re-echoed. “Let’s call the police and-”

“No” Amara cut in. she took a shaky breath. Her head suddenly felt too tight and she dragged out the pins holding it down, allowing her hair to go free. “That would be suicidal” she said stiffly. “Our clients might feel unsafe and we might scare them if we suddenly invite a pack of police officers over. It would surely make the news” she swallowed hard as she saw the financial strain this might cause. “The best thing would be to see what we can salvage…”

“Everything is totally destroyed” someone said.

Amara took a deep breath. “Let’s take this as a test for us all; we need to bring out something out of nothing. Who knows, we might come up with something spectacular. Bracket is a big company, we can’t have them withdrawing their contract just a week to the event”

Her staff heaved a sigh and nodded, seeing her point. “I have taken some pictures, I think it would be helpful”

Amara glanced at Azeez. He was always very sensible and proactive. “That is very good” she said trying to put in an encouraging smile to help her staff. “I would just make a few calls and then, we would go in” she said and moved away from the crowd. Her legs shook slightly as she thought of the great impact this would have on the company’s purse. Tega knowingly followed Amara, and stood in front of her boss. Amara scrolled unseeing at the phone, looking for Kelvin’s phone number as her eyes clouded. “We would get through this boss” she said encouragingly. “I am sure we will” she actually looked sure of it.

Amara smiled. Countless times, Amara felt blessed to have Tega, but not like she did now.

…to be continued

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