Luciana jumped out of Ray’s hands. She could not believe her effrontery. The kiss only lasted for a second and immediately she attempted it, she remembered Deolu. She had no right to kiss a stranger, even if he was in pain. Deolu was also in pains at home trying to look for her and here she was, kissing a total stranger who seemed to have more ghosts in his life than real beings. But even as the thought flashed through her head, she stared at Ray with concern. He was no longer shivering, he just stood, staring at her. It did not look as if tears had dropped from his eyes; his face just looked blank with the hint of confusion. The tears didn’t really qualify to be called tears because it was just a few drops, but tears they were nonetheless. She guessed he was too arrogant to admittedly cry, especially not in front of a girl.
“Oh my!” Ray exclaimed. “I am sorry”
Lucy blinked. “You did not do anything wrong; I am at fault” she quickly countered. “Don’t give more meaning to it. I was just trying to calm you down since I was the one who got you upset. Let’s call it a calling kiss. Guess it worked” she smiled faintly
“First of all, you did not upset me. I should have gotten over this incident but it seems stuck in my brain. Secondly, you can’t call that kiss a calming technique; I have been known to be a good kisser, you know. I can give you a proper kiss” he humoured but it only made her frown and shift uncomfortably.
“Of course, I know that you have a erm… guy but I was just trying to make you smile, dimples” he said and she did smile. He had added dimples to her pet name when her dimples kept calling to him. He also noticed that whenever he called her that, it brought a smile to her face.
“Thanks” he said, jamming his hands into his pocket before he did something stupid.
Lucy frowned. “For what?”
“For calming me with a kiss”. He laughed when he saw her embarrassed blush. He moved forward and before she could think, he dropped a kiss on her cheek and left the gym.
Teju tried to push her own heartache aside in order to help her friend out. The more she tried, the harder it became for her to understand. She had been with that ingrate for more than two years and when it was a few months to their wedding, he chickened out because of a cheap ass? She could not believe that a man could be so callous. In fact, all men are callous and wicked, she thought.
She gathered her thoughts and concentrated on the issue at hand. She knew that Luciana was Ok but still had no links to her. Not a day passed without her uttering a word of prayer for everyone involved in the struggle – Lucy, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Deolu and all friends and family members involved.
‘That Fred is in Abuja and Inspector Chris has not given us any feedback’ she thought. It has been over two weeks now and there was still no response at all from the station. She wondered why police men were so useless; the only time they are useful is where bribery is involved. Could she blame them? The present government did not care whether the people ate or starved and the people have taken it upon themselves to do whatever they could for money.
When she had gone to the police station where Deolu was initially kept unlawfully weeks back, she had known that she would get vital information. She had interrogated the officers who carried out the job and found out the truth after much threat. She had given them the option of either winding up in jail or being her informants. Apparently, the latter option was chosen and she was glad that she had been wise enough. They were the ones who told her that Fred was in Abuja and now, after due research, it has already been discovered that the police in Abuja were doing next to nothing. No wanted banners or anything that can put Fred on the run. She smelled a rat and she was going to get to the root of it.
Tinuke sat on a stool in the kitchen as she waited for her food to cook. She shook her head as she remembered the humiliation that Teju had given her. She could not imagine why she had been so quiet. Even though she had the strong urge to slap Teju’s face, she hadn’t been able to dare it. Somehow, she feared Teju. Before she even met Teju, she had seen her pictures on Tunde’s phone and discovered that she was a barrister. She always feared people with the long graduants’ gown and a wig on their heads.
She had called herself Oyin when she met Tunde. She met him at the boutique, where she had gone to shop, in order to forget her sorrows. Tunde was a fine guy and she needed a distraction so she introduced herself as Oyin and the fun began. She hadn’t seen a guy who could resist her body and Tunde was not an exemption. Virtually everything she told Tunde about herself were lies and the fool believed every word that came out of her lips. She had enjoyed everything until she became bored. Tunde did not have enough cash to fit into Tinuke’s type of man. Raymond was everything. Ray had the killer looks that would intimidate any guy, he had the cash, he had the fame and also had the romantic instincts. She needed her man back. She was done playing ‘Oyin’ with Tunde. She wanted her man back. Teju was right; she needed to redefine herself.
Raymond swallowed as he entered his room. Too many things had happened too fast and he was entirely at fault. He could have simply told Lucy that he could not open that room for her but he had put up the brave front and had made it worse by entering the room. He sighed as he thought about his loss of composure. He felt so ashamed of himself. He had lost control in front of her and now she must be thinking that he was a weakling. He hadn’t been able to control himself until Lucy kissed him. That kiss was all he needed to come back to his senses.
She had been staying in his house for almost three weeks and everyday, his desire to kiss her and hold her against him increased. He had ensured that he kept his distance from her because he did not want to be seen as taking advantage of her because he helped her. It had been extremely difficult, judging by the way she constantly clouded his senses. He thought of her every time, even when he was busy at work. He would never have tried anything with her but something already happened – a kiss.
When he was in the gym, he barely noticed her presence because all he could see were the events that gave him constant nightmares. He had been certain that he was no longer sane because all his efforts to shut out the mental pictures had failed, but when Lucy had kissed him, he knew it was her. Within that second, all his fears and ghosts vanished and he could feel her. Lucy had made the act look like something irrelevant but he knew that it was not just a ‘calming kiss’ like she had called it. It might be for her but it was far much more than that to him. He could smell her, he could taste her, he could…
“Oh no” he groaned. “What am I doing?” he removed all his clothes in a flash and rushed to the bathroom. When he drove Tinuke away, he had promised himself that he would stay away from the opposite sex. His permanent break-up with Tinuke was not even a month old and he was already daydreaming about another girl. It made him wonder if he had actually loved Tinuke. Not that he loved Luciana but…
He jumped out of the shower and decided he needed fresh air. He wore something light and left the house, zooming off like someone was on his tail.
Deolu sat on the couch in Teju’s sitting room. She emerged with two glass cups and a pack of juice and filled them, taking one. Deolu took his and sipped.
“Teju” Deolu looked at her with a touch of concern. “I still feel there is something wrong that you are not telling me about. You look sad and hurt”
Teju stared at him. “Why won’t I be sad? Everyone is sad. It is my best friend that is missing here. Anyways, the main reason why I called you here is to find out some things.” She paused to sip her drink before she set it aside. “That DPO you met in Abuja… erm… Chris Chuks, tell me about him”.
“I know nothing about the man. When I got there, I expected to see Frank, my friend, but I saw Chris instead. I called Frank two days ago to help with the case and he told me that he had been transferred.”
“But he is still in Abuja?”
“Yes” he answered.
She adjusted thoughtfully. “I don’t trust that Chris.” An idea struck her and she rushed into the room to get her laptop. Deolu just looked at her, wandering why lawyers made a fuss over little things. The DPO was just not competent enough, that’s all.
Teju launched the browser on her laptop. “When you talked to him about the case, did you notice any discomfort or tension in him”.
“Of course not. He only listened the way any other DPO would.” He answered instantly.
Teju stared at him as she waited for the information she sought to fully load. “Are you a hundred percent sure? Lucy is on the line remember? I just have a strong conviction and I need to be sure”
The mention of Luciana’s name did the trick. “Yes!” Deolu exclaimed. “It was when I gave him the pictures of Lucy and Fred. He was practically shocked. When I querried him, he gave me a flimsy excuse”
Teju nodded distractedly as she opened the data on her laptop. It was Chris Chuks’ biography. When she read a few lines, she nodded. “I knew it”
“Knew what?” Deolu sat beside her now, reading from the laptop.
“He is from Imo state”
“And what has that got to do with this issue?”
Teju wished that she had a lawyer beside her who would understand many things without being told. “Apparently, I heard Fred tell Lucy that he has a brother in Abuja whose name is Chris. That could easily pass for a coincidence but it can’t be a coincidence that they are both from the same state, can it?”
“Oh my God! That filthy bastard.” Deolu cursed as he rose to his feet. “I should have known”.
Teju relaxed and smiled at the situation and Deolu looked at her with a puzzled expression. She stared at him as if surprised that he could not even decipher what she was thinking. “Fred is in Abuja, meaning, his hideout is more than likely known by Chris. We don’t know where Fred is but we know where Chris is”.
“So, if we can get Chris, we would know where Fred is” he finished and Teju smiled. Deolu smiled wholeheartedly for the first time in days. It can be really wonderful having a lawyer as a friend.
Raymond got back home when it was already dark. He had driven round and finally branched to greet one of his friends. They had talked and talked till it was dark. As he locked the door of his car, he entered the house with only one thing in mind – sleep. He called Lucy but no answer came. He could not imagine her asleep at that time; it was not 8 o’clock yet. He called and called but did not get any answer. He went to her room and knocked but no answer came. After some time, he opened the door and he met the room empty. Panic was the first thing that arose in him. He checked everywhere in the room but did not see her. He ran out to question his gateman but saw a note on the side table in the sitting room.
Words cannot express how grateful I am that people like you exist. You picked me up and took care of me, risking everything. I am alive today because of God and you. Please don’t be sad that I had to leave like this. I figured that if I don’t leave now, I would not want to leave anymore. You made me feel at home in your house. Thank you. I needed to leave because my absence at home would be creating confusion, just as my presence in your house is creating confusion. I need to find a solution to the problem I am in and staying in your place is not making me do anything about it. My people are running around in circles and it is hurting me.
Please do me a favour. I need you to accept the past. You are strong and compassionate and that is why the death of your parents affected you this much but you have to let it go. I never loved art but I have never seen anything more beautiful than the paintings I saw today. You don’t have to forget your past, you just have to accept it because your past can make you a better and stronger person. Painting brings you fulfillment and it would hurt to see you give up what you love doing. God loves you. Don’t stay angry at God because he does not make mistakes. He gives, he takes. The same way you have the power to do anything you like with your paintings is the same way God has the power to do what he wants to do with us. It was not your parents that got burnt in that crash but their flesh. When we get to heaven, we would see them without a single scratch. Your parents would be very happy where they are if you keep on holding on to God like they wanted you to.
Please greet Vicky and tell her that I would miss her terribly. She is always in my heart and my prayers. Wish she was my sister. I would miss you a lot Ray and the nicknames you call me.
The paper slipped out of Ray’s fingers as he stared into space.
Mr and Mrs Jones sat on the chair. They had just finished parading another set of hospitals but they got no good news as usual. Some people had advised them to check the mortuaries but they rejected it saying it was not their portion to bury their daughter. Bewaji called her maid to bring a glass of water for her. She dropped her head on Ken’s shoulders and he held her. They heard a knock and Bewaji stood up to answer it since the maid was in the kitchen.
Immediately she opened the door, she let out a scream that brought Ken to her side in a flash.
…To be continued