He returned to the house and found Bina wide awake, seated on the bed and crying. He hurried to her side and pulled her close in a warm embrace.
“Bina darling, it is going to be all right.”
Lolly walked into the room and joined them on the bed. She felt sad that the girl was crying again. “I have asked the cook to prepare something for her to eat.”
Tjay released Bina and faced the elderly woman, “Okay.”
“Granny is something wrong with me?” Bina met her pale gaze.
“Heavens no!” Lolly took her by the hand.
“I think I am cursed or something,” tears streamed down her sad face.
Lolly shook her head, “No… no child.”
“Then what is wrong with me? Why do I keep hurting people? Why do I keep losing the people that I love? Why am I like this?” she looked around her, “Take my bedroom for example, why do I live like a pig?”
Tjay sighed heavily, he felt tongue-tied.
A tear rolled down the face of the aging woman. Her lips trembled in anxiety.
“Why can’t I keep a job for more than six months? Why do I get angry easily? Why do I behave like a street tout at times? Why?!” her voice echoed through the walls.
“Ibinabo,” he tried to caution her. He didn’t like the way she was talking to her grandmother.
“Stay out of this!” she pointed a warning finger at him.
Tjay pressed his lips together, in an attempt to seal the words threatening to spill out of him.
Lolly began to weep.
“Granny… what have you been hiding from me?” Bina confronted her.
Their gazes locked. Bina wasn’t moved by her tears. She had a nagging feeling that her predicament was more than the eyes could see.
Lolly glanced at Tjay, then back at her.
“You can speak in front of him. He is …” Bina looked at him, “He means more to me than…” she directed her gaze back to her grandmother,
“He is closer to me than my own blood.”
Lolly nodded with understanding. She wiped her wet face with the back of her hand, “Your parents…” she breathed out long and loud.
Bina and Tjay stared at her with concentrated attention.
“Your parents dropped you off at my place when you were just five years old and chased after money, power and fame.”
Bina swallowed hard and prepared herself mentally for the truth. She unconsciously reached out for Tjay’s hand and held it tight. He threw a quick glance at her.
“As you grew up, I begged them to take you back. They gave one excuse or the other. They were always travelling and they complained that they couldn’t drag you along. They just… they sent money regularly for your upkeep…” she stared at nothing in particular.
Bina’s brows knitted in a frown. Did her parents love her at all? Why did they abandon her? She remembered how she used to long for their visits, but, they never came. They just sent her regular gifts and toys and nothing more. She used to envy children who were living with their parents. Her grandma’s love and care helped to lessen the pain and it faded away over the years.
“They hurt a lot of people on their road to success, the richer they got, the worse they became. When you completed your Secondary School education, I convinced them to take you along, wherever they go, you go. After all, you are their only child,” Lolly took a deep breath.
Tjay placed a hand around her shoulder. He couldn’t imagine living without his parents.
“They had a plane crash en route Nigeria from Europe.”
She nodded with understanding. She could still remember the day her grandmother told her that she would be living with her parents after she completed her WAEC examination. She had been so happy. She told all her friends, neighbours and whoever cared to listen, but, the next news she heard was that her parents’ corpses were been flown into the country. She had been devastated and her grandmother had been inconsolable.
“The people your parents hurt while chasing money wanted their pound of flesh. Some of them traced this house and they… they said a lot of hateful things.”
Her hand flew to her mouth, “I am cursed,” Bina whispered, “I knew it I knew it! I knew I wasn’t normal,” she began to cry again.
“Hey… come on,” Tjay tried to comfort her.
“You are not cursed,” Lolly tried to assure her, “God said in his word that the curse causeless shall not stand.”
“God,” she eyed the elderly woman and shook her head. She wasn’t really been close to God, although she had been brought up in the way of the Lord. She rarely went to church and had stopped reading the bible a long time ago. Will God listen to her now that she was in trouble?
Tjay squeezed her hand, “She is right. Regardless of what your parents might have done, as long as you are under the shadow of the Almighty God, no weapon fashioned against you shall prosper.”
She held his assuring stare.
“If you seek God and draw close to him, he will draw close to you and turn your life around,” his words encouraged her.
She dropped her gaze. It was possible that God could save, deliver and turn her into a new leaf. She was tired of the way things kept spiraling downwards in her life. It was time she surrendered every area of her life to her maker and watch him settle all that concerned her.
“Please pray with me,” Bina sniffled and looked from one to the other.
They nodded in agreement, held hands, bowed their heads and said a word of prayer in faith.
He got down from the car and headed into the two storey building. He heard someone calling his name and he turned around. His brows creased in a frown when he saw her walking towards him. They have not spoken since the incident in his parent’s place. What does she want now?
“What are you doing here?” Eru looked her up and down.
“Please… please we need to talk,” her pleading stare remained on his emotionless face.
He snorted, “I have got nothing to say to you,” he started to walk away.
She hurried after him, “Please…”
He glanced at her, “Go home Bina. It is over between us,” he snapped.
“I can fix everything, just give me a chance,” she begged him.
He halted and faced her, “Fix what?”
“Us?” he stared back at her like she had lost her mind.
“We… we… we can start over. I am working on myself. I am changing,” she assured him.
He chuckled, “Good luck with that,” he unlocked the door to his flat, “You cannot fix this,” he shook his head, “This… we…” he pointed at her, then himself, “We are beyond fixing,” he walked in and slammed the door in her face.
Her eyes became blurred with hot stinging tears. She tried to swallow spittle, but, felt a hard lump in her throat. It was hard to believe that it was completely over between them. She thought he might be willing to give her a second chance. Now, she knew better. She had lost him forever.
Tjay returned from work and met Adiza and her sister moving big bags into the boot of a taxi. Were they travelling? Was that why he didn’t see her at work that day? She had been avoiding him for the past two weeks, both at home and at work. He didn’t blame her. He had made a mess of things. He summed up the courage and walked up to her.
“Good evening,” he greeted both of them.
Adiza and her sister hissed and ignored him.
“Can I speak with you for a moment?” he approached Adiza.
“I am busy,” she eyed him and returned her attention to the bag she was trying to zip up.
“Why don’t you leave me alone?!” she screamed at him. Her outburst caught him unawares.
“I am so sorry… I… I…” he stammered, the fury in her eyes made him speechless.
Adiza and her sister lifted a bag and pushed it into the pile in the boot. The driver closed it and got into the car. She hugged her sister and got into the back seat of the car.
“Where is she going?” he turned to her sister.
Adiza’s sister hissed and returned to her flat. Tjay watched the taxi leave and felt numbed all of a sudden. It dawned on him that his ex-girlfriend had just moved out.
Bina lay Unclad in her room and wept. She cried out to God, her maker, her savior and her first love. She asked him to cleanse her from every curse and deliver her from her parents’ enemies. She asked God to turn her life around, help her change her attitude and relate with everyone in love, regardless of what they say or do to her. She re-dedicated her life to Jesus, prayed all through the night and fell asleep at mid-night.
He got a call from Bina’s grandmother that morning. The woman was scared for her grandchild who had locked herself up in her room since the other night and had refused to open the door. He showered, got dressed and hurried to their place. He met Lolly standing outside Bina’s room.
“I got worried when she didn’t take her dinner last night. It is almost noon, I have knocked and knocked. No response. I just hope that… that she hasn’t done anything crazy,” the scared look in her eyes alarmed him.
“Bina!” he started to knock at the door, “Bina, are you in there?” his heart thundered against his chest.
“I have been looking for the spare key to her room since last night. I can’t remember specifically where I kept it.”
“Keep looking for it, I will keep knocking and hopefully get her attention.”
She nodded and hurried away.
“Bina, Bina!” he prayed within, hoping that she was all right.
She opened her eyes and found herself on the cold floor. She must have fallen asleep while praying. She lifted herself up and staggered a bit. She heard the knocks on the door and wondered who it was. She looked around for something to cover her body. Her eyes settled on a wrapper lying on the bed. She picked it up and tied it around her curvaceous frame. She dragged her feet towards the door and unlocked it. She opened it and met her grandmother and childhood friend at the doorway.
“What?” her puzzled gaze observed them. They looked like frightened kittens.
Lolly pushed her way into the room and looked around her. The usual mess greeted her. Nothing seemed amiss. She sighed with relief.
Tjay followed. His eyes darted left, right, here and there. Nothing seemed unusual. He let out a loud breath.
“What is it?” her sleepy eyes scanned them. Why were they looking around her room as if they were searching for something?
“Why did you lock yourself up since last night?” her grandmother accused her.
It dawned on her that her grandma might have been worried about her, “I was… I needed to sort out some things with God,” she walked towards the bed and sat down at the edge.
“Why didn’t you respond when you heard me knocking last night?” Lolly eyed her.
“I am sorry. I didn’t hear you,” Bina met her worried stare.
She breathed out in relief, “I will tell Ekaette to bring you something to eat,” she turned around and strode out of the room. She thanked God
that her grandchild was okay.
Bina looked up at him, “Isn’t it too early to be paying visits?”
“Your grandma called me,” he eyed her.
“Your girlfriend will soon start to query you,” she looked him up and down. She didn’t want to be accused of monopolizing anyone’s man.
He sat beside her, “We broke up.”
“Waoh!” she stared back at him in shock, “Eru left me, Adiza left you. Now we are so single again.”
He got up immediately, “I have to go. I will check up on you later.”
“Why are you leaving? Are you doing anything at home?” she wished he would stay with her.
He shook his head. She pulled him by the hand and made him to sit back on the bed.
“Don’t go,” she cooed and wrapped her arms around him, “Please stay with me,” she needed her friend now more than ever.
The heat of her closeness penetrated into every cell in his body, making him tremble with emotion, “Let go…” his husky voice got her attention.
She released him and met his intense stare. It dawned on her that she had probably turned him on. Was he attracted to her? She knew he cared a lot about her and no matter what she said or did; he stood by her like a pillar of strength and encouragement. Was there any chance that he had grown in love with her over the years? She had grown fond of him and had nursed a crush on him when they first met fifteen years ago. She thought he felt the same way, but, he never asked her out. She concluded that he saw her like a sister and nothing more. What if he had fallen in love with her? Her heart missed a beat. If he had, why did he remain silent? Why didn’t he ask her out? What was she even thinking? She wasn’t even sure if he had feelings for her? She tried to clear her thoughts and looked away.
The housekeeper walked in carrying a tray of food. Ekaette greeted them and set the tray on the bed.
Tjay got up and headed out in a hurry, “I will see you later.”
She watched him leave and wondered if her line of thoughts were accurate.
Tjay sat in his office chatting with his colleagues, a group of four men and two ladies. They argued and discussed the recent events in the country. Each one of them had his or her own idea and solution for solving the national problem. No one noticed when Bina walked in. She watched them with interest and listened to their arguments. It was her first visit to his working place. She had been trying to see him for the past three days, but, she always met his absence at home. Whenever he picked her calls or replied her text messages, he promised to visit, but, he never showed up. She concluded that he was avoiding her. She had made up her mind to fish him out from whatsoever hole he was hiding. Here he was at work; he wouldn’t be able to elude her this time around.
The moment he saw her, he stopped talking. All eyes followed his gaze and focused on her. She greeted them and approached him. His colleagues returned to their separate desks and carried on with their discussion. His surprised dark gaze ran over her. He liked what he saw. The cream v-neck cap sleeve blouse made her dark chocolate skin to glow. The blue jeans outlined her curvaceous frame and made her very desirable. He swallowed hard and dropped his gaze.
“Hi yourself,” she sat on one of the empty seats beside his desk.
“Why didn’t you tell me that you were coming?” he looked at her.
She placed her black hand-bag on the table, “You would have given me one excuse or the other as usual.”
He grinned and laughed quietly.
“Why are you avoiding me?” she directed her concerned gaze at him.
He rested his back on the chair and stared back at her, “What can I offer you?” he tried to change the subject.
“We need to talk,” she searched his face.
“Do we?” he tilted his head.
“Yes, let’s go to my place,” she suggested.
He began to shake his head.
“What about your place?” she added quickly.
He continued to shake his head.
“Fine. We will talk here,” she leaned against the wooden chair.
He folded his arms across his chest.
“When I was fifteen, you were eighteen then… I had a crush on you.”
The new information picked his interest. He remembered that he almost asked her out back then, but, he wasn’t sure she felt the same way.
“I liked you back then, I still do,” she pressed her lips together.
His dark gaze pierced through her coffee brown ones. It was hard to believe that she actually liked him back then and now.
“I grew fond of you over the years and my feelings for you multiplied. You… you didn’t ask me out or show any form of interest, so I… I thought you saw me as a sister and I blocked my feelings for you.”
His eyes widened in shock. He didn’t realize that she felt strongly about him. He thought she didn’t have any feelings for him. He thought she just saw him as a friend and nothing more. How he wished he had conquered his fears and asked her out all those years. Maybe, just maybe things would have been different between them.
“But, recently, I noticed that… times without number, I sensed that… that… is there a possibility that… that you have feelings for me?” she held her breath. Her heart beat raced.
He shook his head, “I don’t have feelings for you.”
She paled. She had thought wrong. Or was he denying it? She eyed him.
“I am in love with you,” he confessed, “I have always loved you,” his dark eyes bored into hers.
She blinked and swallowed hard. Did he just say that he loved her?
“Countless times, I almost told you,” he chimed in let out a loud breath.
She shook her head in surprise, “Why didn’t you?” she whispered.
He shrugged, “Maybe I was scared of rejection.”
“I have been waiting for you to ask me out for the past fifteen years,” she placed a hand on her forehead.
“I almost did,” he grinned.
“When?” she eyed him.
“The day I met Eru at your place.”
“Oh!” she remembered how she treated him and felt a jolt of sadness.
“I gave up and asked Adiza out instead.”
She placed a hand over her mouth.
“While dating her, I couldn’t get you out of my head,” he turned his head and stared at the window.
“We… we have wasted so much time dating other people, whilst our hearts were somewhere else.”
He drummed his fingers on the table and nodded.
“Well, I am single again, and so are you,” she kept looking at him.
A smile crossed his lips.
“What are you waiting for?”
“Marry me,” he turned to look at her.
“Hmm…” she blinked. What did he just say?
“Let’s get married this weekend,” he sounded serious.
“Do you love me?” his eyes twinkled with delight.
She nodded her head.
“I have loved you for a decade and half. I don’t want to waste anymore time,” he reached out for her hand across the table.
“Ah… but, Granny… your parents…” she stuttered.
“It doesn’t matter what anyone says or thinks, all that matters is that we are happy.”
She smiled and reasoned with him. He was right.
“Is that a yes?” he smiled back at her.
“Yes, yes I will marry you this Saturday.”
“Fantastic!” he jumped to his feet, “Let’s go, we need to intimate your grandma and my parents. They have just three days to kick off the
She staggered to her feet, “Is it possible?” she felt scared.
“Our families do not need introductions,” he held her hand and pulled her towards the door.
“I have heard of couples who had both their traditional and church wedding on the same day,” she said slowly.
“Now you are thinking straight,” he winked at her.
She chuckled, “This is crazy.”
They both walked out of the office.
“Do you love me?” he glanced at her.
“I love you too. That is all that matters.”
She sighed heavily. Out of the blues, he pulled her into a bear-hug and crushed her lips with his. He released her after a moment.
“I have wanted to do that for the past fifteen years,” he grinned sheepishly.
She started to laugh. She had also been waiting. Now, her wait was definitely over. They held hands and walked out of the building.
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