She stood outside His Majesties Kitchen, a Chinese restaurant, on Town Planning Way, Ilupeju. It had been raining heavily and most of the buses plying the route refused to stop. If only she could get a bus to the next junction, she would be able to board a bike or another bus home. She lived at Mafolukun, Oshodi; she was a bit far from home. If it wasn’t raining, she would have been able to trek to the bridge and board a bus to Mafolukun. She wished she had extra money; she would have chartered a taxi. She had spent her weekly allowance and it wasn’t even weekend yet. How was she going to survive? Her Grandma had warned her concerning how she spent money. If only she had listened. Now, she was drenched, cold and stranded. She wished she had stayed home that day. How was she to know that it would rain? She wasn’t a soothsayer or a witch.
She told her Grandma that she needed a car. The woman could afford it. Yet, she declined her request. She complained that the last car she bought for her didn’t last a year. She doesn’t allow her to drive her green Honda Element. The pathetic old woman wished her all sort of suffering. If her parents were still alive, she believed that they wouldn’t deny her whatever she wanted, no matter how many times she asked. She was already thirty, yet, the old witch refused to give her details of her inheritance. What was she waiting for anywhere, until she was dead and buried?
“Hello,” a black Prado Jeep stopped beside her. The side window was a bit lowered.
She narrowed her eyes and stared back at the driver, but, she didn’t recognize him.
“Can I give you a ride?”
She nodded her head. God truly loved her. He sent her an angel in disguise at the nick of time. She had thought of calling her Grandma’s driver, Martins. If he wasn’t running any errand, he might have been able to pick her up. She pulled at the side-door, it was not locked. She climbed into the vehicle and shut the door.
“Where are you heading to?” he addressed her.
She glanced at his brown square shaped face, “I am going to Mafolukun.”
“Not my direction, but, I don’t mind dropping you off,” he swerved the car back to the road.
“Thank you,” she smiled at him. He appeared to be cool, calm and collected. His blue Hacket short-sleeve tee-shirt attested his well muscled
body. She wasn’t a fan of skinny or fat men. She liked them tall, handsome with muscles and all.
He sensed her perusal and directed his gaze at her, “You are welcome. You are dripping wet.”
“Hmm…” she sighed and thought that he must be worried about his car seat.
“I live in Ilupeju. You can change into something dry at my place, and then I will take you home later.”
She thought to herself. She doesn’t think it would be a good idea to go home with someone she didn’t know.
“I am a Medical Doctor, I am concerned about your health,” he returned his attention to the road.
“Oh… I see,” If she followed him home and he tried anything funny, she would show him that no one messes with her and goes scot free,
“Okay, let’s get me warmed up.”
He chuckled and turned the car into a street. He stopped outside a two storey building and honked thrice. A security guard in red and white uniform with blue stripes opened the white gate. He drove into the compound and parked in-between two other cars. They climbed out of the vehicle and walked into the building. He led her into one of the flats on the second floor and unlocked the door. She noticed that he was about five feet eight inches, exactly two inches taller than she was.
“Welcome to my humble home,” he bowed comically.
She giggled and walked around the large sitting room. It looked homely. The curtains, rug and furniture were in shades of cream and brown. The electronics were sophisticated and everything she laid her eyes on spoke wealth.
“Let’s get you warmed up.”
She turned towards him and noticed that he was easy on the eyes. She could swear on her parents’ grave that he had a lot of female admirers.
“Put your wet clothes in the washing machine, when it is dry, you can iron it.”
“Okay,” she followed him into one of the bedrooms, “Can I dry my shoes too?”
“Yes. There is a big tee-shirt in the wardrobe. She can wear that until you clothes are dry.”
“I will make us tea,” he backed out of the room and close the door behind him.
She looked around her. The bed was well made and the room looked spick and span. She made a mental note to organize her room when she got home. She went into the bathroom and got out of the wet clothes and shoes. She found the tee-shirt in the wardrobe and put it on. She looked ridiculous. It was three times her size. At least her hair was in weaves, in an all-back style. It wouldn’t come undone. She packed her wet clothes and shoes and joined him in the kitchen. He put her clothes into the washing machine and turned on the dryer knob. He filled two big mugs with hot water, dropped in bags of Lipton tea and added milk and sugar. They returned to the sitting room and settled on a long chair. The hot tea made her feel warm. She relaxed and thanked God that the stranger stopped to give her a ride.
“My name is Erhumu Ogheneochuko, my friends call me Eru.”
She met his friendly gaze, “I am Ibinabo Udeme, and you can call me Bina.”
He sipped at the hot liquid, “What brought you to this area?”
She sighed, “A job interview.”
He raised an eyebrow, “What’s your discipline?”
She stared back at him, “Business Administration.”
He nodded and took a long drink.
“Where do you work?”
“Grace Springs Hospital, right here in Ilupeju.”
“Lucky you,” she placed the empty mug on the wooden stool beside the chair.
He chuckled and looked at her. Their gazes locked.
“Will I be a little forward if I tell you that I like you?”
“Yes,” she looked away.
He started to laugh. She smiled and rested her back on the seat.
“I like you.”
She turned her head and looked into his dark penetrating eyes. She lowered her gaze and whispered, “I like you too.”
He smiled at her, “Are you in a relationship?”
She shook her head.
“Neither am I.”
She raised her head and tried not to look at him.
“Will you… Can you… Can we…” he cleared his throat, “I will like to go out with you.”
She pressed her lips together. Her last relationship ended badly. Eru seemed like a nice person. If she agreed to date him, she could always
back out if things turned sour.
“I… I will like to date you.”
She directed her gaze at him, “Okay.”
Her response warmed his heart. He placed the half-empty mug on the stool beside him, “So, does that mean that you will go out with me?”
His dark eyes brightened, “Fantastic.”
She let out a quite laughter. His excitement was contagious.
“Okay, let me get your clothes ironed, then, I will take you home,” he got up.
She nodded, “Thanks.”
He picked his mug and hers and strode out of the room. She sighed and folded her arms across her chest. She had just accepted to date a really nice man, a doctor for that matter. He seemed to be quite loaded and comfortable. She had hit a jackpot! Just when she thought the rain had ruined her day, God sent her a knight in shining armour.
Tjay looked out of the window. The rain had stopped. He had decided to visit Bina that evening. He would have waited for her to come back to her senses and apologize for her behavior, but, he needed to see her. He wanted to let her know how he truly felt about her. He had finally decided to confess his love for her and ask her out. He should have told her ages ago, but, he never got around it. He changed into a brown tee-shirt and a pair of blue jeans. He put on one of his brown leather slippers, picked up his car keys and phones on the table and headed out of the self-contain apartment. He met Adiza at the gate of the house. She was one of his neighbours and also a colleague at work. They both worked at the PHCN, Mafolukun branch. She moved in with her elder sister a week after she gained employment in his place of work. She was a pretty girl, fair skinned, an inch taller than he was, intelligent, homely and with a great personality. He would have loved to get to know her better, but, his heart was engulfed with someone else. He tried as much as possible not to get too close to her. He knew she liked him, but, he didn’t want to lead her on. He didn’t want to hurt her. He knew how unrequited love felt like.
“Hi… are you on your way out?” she smiled at him.
“Yes,” he walked up to his blue coloured Toyota Corolla parked at a corner.
“When will you be back?” her hazel eyes followed him.
“I don’t know,” he unlocked the door and got into the car. He started the engine and backed the vehicle into the muddy street. Bina’s place
was two streets away from his. His parent’s home was on the same street with hers. He might visit them after he had spoken with her. He drove to her place in less than ten minutes. The security guard opened the gate and he drove into the compound. He noticed her grandmother’s green Honda Element which was parked beside a black Prado Jeep. He didn’t recognize the car. They probably had a visitor. He parked his car, got out and locked it.
The house-keeper, Mrs. Ekaette, allowed him in. He met Bina in the sitting room chatting amicably with her grandmother and a brown skin man seated close to her, too close for his liking.
“Good evening ma.”
“Hey… Tjay, how are you doing? It’s been a while,” Lolly smiled at him.
“I am fine ma,” he smiled back at her and sat on the chair beside her, “Evening,” he nodded at the brown skin man.
“Evening,” Eru seized him up.
He directed his dark gaze at his friend.
She eyed him and hissed, “I hope you are not here to see me.”
“Ibinabo!” Lolly glared at her.
“Granny, please, stay out of this. Let me deal with Tjay as I deem fit.”
“I am Erhumu Ogheneochuko,” he stretched out his right hand.
“Tijani Kamson,” they shook hands.
“I guess you are a friend of the family,” Eru rested against on the chair.
“He is the only friend she has,” Lolly interjected.
“Really?” he looked from Tjay to his girlfriend.
“She is exaggerating,” Bina assured him and squeezed him by the hand.
“No, she isn’t,” Tjay eyed her.
“Are you here to make peace or start another war?” Bina attacked him.
Tjay swallowed a response and turned his attention to the flat screen television.
Lolly shook her head at her grand-daughter.
“I will like you to meet my boyfriend,” she leaned closer to Eru.
His shocked gaze flew to his friend and the strange man. He watched her give him a peck on the cheek and giggled. She seemed happy. It had been a while since he had seen her that happy. She must really like the guy. He sighed heavily. He was too late, again. There was no use confessing his feelings for her. She had already begun a relationship with someone else. He wished he had opened up to her sooner.
“Forgive her manners, what can I offer you?” Lolly smiled at him and noticed his pale face.
“Leave him alone. He knows his way around the house. He will get himself something to eat or drink when he is ready,” Bina snapped.
Lolly and Eru stared at her.
“What?” she looked from one to the other.
Tjay got up.
“Are you leaving?” Lolly felt sad. She didn’t like the way her grand-daughter had spoken to him.
“Yes ma. I will visit another day,” Tjay feigned a smile.
“This is your fault,” Lolly pointed a finger at her.
“No, it isn’t. Is he a child? He has the right to come and go as he desires,” she eyed her grandmother.
“Have a goodnight ma,” he smiled at her and turned to Eru, “It was nice meeting you.”
“Same here. Hope we can hang out some other time,” Eru shook hands with him.
“Sure,” he glanced at his friend.
Bina hissed and avoided his gaze.
Tjay squared his shoulders and headed out.
“I didn’t know that you can be this naughty,” Eru turned to his girlfriend.
She folded her hands across her bosom.
“Come, let me tell you her history,” her grandmother offered.
“Granny please! Leave my boyfriend alone,” Bina shot her an irritated look, then hissed.
Tjay got into his car and started the engine. It was probably high time he let go of his feelings for Ibinabo. It wasn’t doing him any good. He had not been able to get into a serious relationship because of his love for her. His neighbor, Adiza, seemed like a good catch. If he drew close to her, he might develop strong feelings for her and forget all about Ibinabo. He needed to move on. It was about time anyway. He made a mental note to visit his parents on his way home. He had not seen them in the past three months. Although he tried to call them once in a while, they would definitely appreciate a one on one visit.
He got home about past eight that night and met Adiza seated outside her apartment. They exchanged greetings.
“Do you have a cold drink in your fridge? I will replace it when I buy from the Mallam tomorrow.”
Her jaw dropped in surprise. He had never spoken to her for more than ten minutes at any given time, whether at home or at work. It was hard to believe that he was asking her for a drink.
“Em…” she got to her feet, “I think we have coke, I am not sure we have malt.”
“I will drink whatever you have. I need something chilled,” he gave her a smile.
“Okay…” she brightened and opened the front door, then turned to look at him, “Will you like to come in?”
“Yes, sure, thanks,” the ecstatic look in her eyes made him to relax.
She beamed, “Okay, good,” she walked into the apartment and pulled the door wide open so that he could come in.
…To be continued