The tour was wonderful and mind-blowing. Luciana was so pleased with the beauty of the house. The flowers at the back of the house really thrilled Luciana, and she walked about, touching them with smiles on her face. Raymond deduced that she must love flowers a lot.
“I love sunflower; I never get tired of looking at it” Luciana gazed lovingly at the yellow flower heads which stood tall and spread all over. She touched them with her fingers, loving its feel.
Raymond smiled. That flower was actually his mum’s favourite flower and she had done all she could to have a sizeable amount for their compound. He had watered it for a long time because he also developed a love for flowers. Who would not when you have a mother that can spend her last penny on flowers? He had his mum purchase the flowers for him in order to beautify his house. Tinuke had also played her part in getting some flowers. He remembered his mum and the plane crash flashed back. He froze and turned instantly, but not before Lucy saw the pained expression on his face.
“I am sorry sir, did I say something wrong?” she was worried and a bit scared.
“Uhn? No… No. come on, let me show you the other parts of the house” Raymond said hastily, trying to destroy the image which had become the wallpaper of his mind. Lucy strolled behind like a gentle puppy, not uttering a word. She knew without a doubt that there was something haunting Raymond. That expression was similar to the one she had seen on their way from the hospital, but more intense.
They went round the house with Raymond doing all the talking. It seemed like he was trying to talk his way out of the pain he was hiding and Luciana just kept murmuring ‘hmmms’ and nodding at intervals. She was trying to see if there was a little opening which she could use to probe him, but she got none; Ray successfully filled every silence.
There were two very small buildings at the far end of the spacious compound, behind the main building which looked like boys’ quarters. Ray did not say anything about them and she was curious. She wondered what the buildings were for or who lived there; although she doubted if anyone lived there.
“I love the house; you have great taste” she said with a smile on her face.
“I love your dimples” Ray said without thinking. She smiled shyly, looking at her feet. Raymond was astonished that she was so shy when she clearly was exceedingly blessed with beauty. She behaved as if she had no idea of the effects she had on men. If it had been tinuke, she would have been flirting endlessly now.
“Erm… why don’t we go and get something to eat? Maybe in a nearby eatery?” he asked with raised eyebrows. He really wished he already got a maid.
She looked hesitant. “Or, I could prepare something?” she asked back, trying not to seem too forward. She hadn’t even spent 24 hours in the house yet.
“No. you are my guest and I should not put you through the stress, besides, you need your strength. You just came back from the hospital and the first thing you need is rest”
“Oh, c’mon now. I cant rest forever. I have been lying on that hospital bed for God only knows how long, I need some form of exercise. It is not right for you to waste money at the eatery when a woman is in the house” she looked straight at him until Raymond started wondering if she was actually shy or she had been pretending. She looked so bold.
He shook his head. “I am sorry. It is not always like this. Bose just left and due to my lack of interest when it comes to kitchen matters, I was not able to learn any cooking skills” he actually looked ashamed of himself.
“Thought you said your fiancee’s name is Tinuke” Luciana questioned slightly, feeling as if she was going beyond her boundaries.
“Oh… erm… Bose is my maid… I mean… was” he stammered.
“Oh…” was all she could say. She thought for some time then nodded slightly. “well, how about we make the dinner a little bit fun. I would cook and also tutor you along the way. Do you at least know how to boil water?” Lucy asked with a feigned worry expression on her face.
He laughed. “C’mon, I am not that pathetic. I can prepare the best tea and coffee; you need to taste it. I can also fry eggs; as long as the salt does not go overboard” he had a puppy face and Lucy laughed her heart out. She remembered Deolu who could prepare any meal. Sometimes, Lucy felt like an amateur whenever Deolu talked about his kitchen skills.
Raymond was torn between allowing Lucy to cook and insisting she does not. He had missed home-made foods so much. Ever since Bose left and Tinuke stepped into the house, he had stopped eating at home and had become a regular customer at the eatery. Having a good meal would really be welcome but he was worried about her health.
“I still insist that you are not strong enough”.
“Nah… cooking can never bother Luciana Jones. If you think you can escape a thorough lesson in cooking by persuading me out of this, then you have failed. You would become a certified Mr Chef in no time”. Her wide smile revealed the most perfect set of teeth he had ever seen as she placed her hands on her hips like a primary school teacher.
He laughed heartily as he raised his hands in surrender. Luciana had a cool sense of humour and he was happy about it. His life had been full of sadness that he had practically lost his sense of humour and ability to laugh in the process. Maybe Luciana was the cure to that ailment.
Everything had gone so well. Luciana had never had that much fun in her life. She always enjoyed cooking but not that much. They did not behave as if they had just met but did lot of things together. She made fun of him a lot when he asked a totally unbelievable question about ingredients and they both laughed it off. It was so much fun that she did not know when the food was ready.
They had talked and laughed throughout the meal, not even observing table manners. Raymond had praised her endlessly about how good she was and how delicious the meal was. Raymond was sure that he would enjoy his sleep after eating such a delicious meal of Poundo yam and egusi soup with enough stock fish and meat. Raymond pleaded with Lucy to go and have some rest while he took care of the plates but she refused. Lucy washed the plates while he dried them and arranged them in the rack.
Lucy retired to the guests’ room some minutes later. Her strength had drained and she felt sleepy. She was surprised that she had actually enjoyed herself that much. If kitchen work could always be that interesting, she would love to sleep and wake there. She remembered her family and friends and all the happiness she had felt a while ago evaporated. She had successfully pushed that thought to the back of her mind throughout but now that she was alone, she could not hide her grief. She was there, laughing, while her loved ones are running from pillar to post, looking for her. Tears of despair rolled down her cheeks as she closed her eyes. She had no right to smile when her loved ones were obviously going through hell. All the same, she could not put them in danger by showing up there because she would not be able to bear it if anything happened to anyone. She needed a way out. Probably, one call might not be too risky? She wondered. Could she take the risk?
Raymond came out of the bathroom after a cold bath and jumped on the bed. He raked his wet hair with his fingers as he became lost in thoughts. Being in the kitchen with Lucy was an experience he surely would live to remember. The kitchen had been filled with so much laughter and merriment. He tried to remember the last time his house had been filled with so much life but could not recall any.
He felt deep gratitude towards her. She had managed to put a smile on his face after a very long time of continuous sadness and he really wanted to make her smile genuinely. He knew that she must be going through a lot, even if she tried to cover it. He had promised not to interfere but he really wanted to help her sort out this mess she was in. ‘My numerous contacts should be good for something’, he thought.
Deolu returned from the meeting very exhausted. The meeting had been longer than he anticipated, but what could he do? Nigerian government always wastes too much time talking and debating simple irrelevant issues. He dropped his suit on the bed and started struggling with his tie until he successfully removed it.
He lay on the bed, gazing at the roof until he became tired of looking at it. He stood up and poured himself a glass of juice and walked to the window to look outside. Even though the deal was successful, he wished he was in Lagos, looking for his love. What on earth was he doing in Abuja when his heart was clearly in another state. He had wanted to stop over at the police station to order a search warrant of that miserable Fred but thought it foolish. He felt the guy was hiding somewhere in Lagos, and being a very big place, Lagos is a perfect hiding place. He heard his phone ring and he took it out of his pocket. He smiled when he saw the caller.
“Hello Teju, it is really good to hear from you” he said immediately he received the call.
“Hello Dee” Teju’s voice chiped sweetly but hastily.
Deolu noticed the urgency in her voice. “Is everything Ok over there Teju? Is there any development?” he was at alert.
“Yes. I made some investigations and it seems your going to Abuja is a blessing in disguise”
“What are you saying?”
“Dee, the culprit is in Abuja; Fred is in Abuja”.
…To be continued