.“This is a different street” Zach said feigning surprise as he pulled up at Zaneta’s gate.She giggled then asked, “Sir, I wouldn’t let a random stranger I met at the mall drop me at my house now, would I?”“I guess not” he agreed taking his eyes off the driving mirror and fixing them on her lips.“Hmmm. Oga wants a taste” she thought. Unknown to her, his field of vision included the passenger side mirror in which he could see her security detail pull up some houses down the street.
Zach had watched the guy all evening and had noticed he was quite bored. When they had left the Bar & Grill, he had tailed them all the way here. Every move noticed and often anticipated by Zach.Zach relaxed. “Thanks for coming out with me” he said, his focus now on her eyes.“Thank you. I had a good time” she said, “Not had that much fun in a while, especially watching the dancers” she added.He laughed heartily. “Now, that was something” he said“Ok, I have to go” she said, then thought “what’s it going to be? Kiss or nah?““Ok. Good night. See you next weekend?” he asked.“That‘s fi-” she was saying, then “Oh! That’s Alice’s wedding day. I’ll be busy with that. I’m on the train and stuff”“True. You mentioned it” he replied“You are coming, yeah?” she asked with a mischievous look on her face“Am I?” he asked straight-faced“Ok, I‘m inviting you”“I don’t see any invite” he said looking at her empty hands.“I will get you an invite and you must come!”He laughed. “Get it first”
Zach pulled into his reserved parking spot. He had not been followed. He got out of his car and walked into the lobby.The security guards on duty rose to greet him. He didn’t bother with a response.As he rode the elevator to his apartment, he thought through all that had happened. He’d done well. She had had a great time, with lots of laughs and enough to eat and drink. He had encouraged her to try something called the “Worst Behaviour” and she had. Slowly her was earning her trust. Now she had brought him as far as her gate. That was quite enough. He had no plans on going in with her or to visit her at home.He entered his apartment. On the table by the door was the spare key he had given Seyi. He’d retrieved it before she left the last time. She had been somewhat shocked but had handled it well. She’d asked when next she’d see him and he had simply said “I’ll call you”. Later that day he had transferred a hundred thousand Naira to her account and ignored her calls that had followed.She had sent him an SMS“Thank you for everything. Whatever I did, please in God’s name, forgive me. God bless“He simply deleted it. He’d had to ignore a few more calls from her since then.He took a quick shower, got in bed then replied Zaneta’s WhatsApp message.
Zaneta was in bed, phone in hand, scrolling through her time line when his message came in:“Yes. Sorry, was in the bath” it was a reply to her earlier message asking if he was back home.“No traffic?” she sent“Little” he replied“What are you doing?”“Lying in the dark, chatting with you”“Just me?”He smiled as he typed then sent “Just you, Z”
It was the Sunday after. Alice had to pick up Zaneta after church, they were headed to the venue that had been booked for the wedding in a few days.“When is Jade coming into town?” Zaneta asked about the bridesmaid“Thursday. She will be on the first flight in” Alice responded. She was distracted.Alice had handed over the wheels to Zaneta when she had come to pick her up. Zaneta looked over at her sensing something was bugging her friend.“You ok?” Zaneta asked“Huh? Sure. Just the wedding stuff jare”“Pele, dear” Zaneta said, reaching out to rub her friend’s shoulder.“Thanks. What does he do?”“Who?”“Zach”On the Saturday after their outing, Zaneta had filled Alice in on how it had gone. She had told her about trying what he was drinking, but had omitted the fact that she had thrown up in the morning, because – hard girl.Alice hadn’t asked any questions then. She wondered why Alice was asking now.“He’s a Facility Manager for some places on the Island” Zaneta replied“Have you been to his office yet?”“No. I’m always at mine during working hours” was Zaneta’s sarcastic reply.“You should make out time. Or you are just going to take his word for it?” Alice asked ignoring the sarcasm as she often did.“I see your point. I’ll try”“You should. But if you ask me, though, I like him so far. Underline ‘so far’, ‘cos the moment he messes up, I’ll personally slit his throat” Alice said.“Ghen ghen!” Zaneta said laughing.“Better warn him”“Of which he wants to attend your wedding”“Na wah! The brother be coming on strong like a Rhino in charge”Zaneta laughed hard “Afi Rhino naa. Abeg o!”“Hush! A girl like you needs someone who’s an ‘in-charge’ kinda man, or else you will ride the poor fella”“Very funny. Keep going with the word play, I’m enjoying it”“Give this to him” Alice said, passing one of the wedding invitations from her glove box, “It would be a pleasure to have him there” she added.“Thank you” Zaneta said taking the card, “You really do like this one”“We’ll see” Alice replied.
“Up NEPA” Zach said. Zaneta almost passed out from laughing. It was so loud almost everyone turned to look at them“What’s so funny?” Zach asked with a smile. He had to raise his voice over the sound of the music that had resumed after the sirens signalling the arrival of a lit bottle of Briganc Rose.They were at Bode’s (Alice’s groom) bachelor’s eve. It was a serious gig and Zaneta had asked Zach to come along. He’d picked her up from the office, they’d had something to eat, spent some time gisting before finally showing up at the party a few minutes ago.“You really are asking?” she managed“Yes, I am” Zach said. He hadn’t spotted anyone following them this time, but had not given up the notion that someone would show up soon. Surely, they knew at her home where she would be tonight.“Where did you get that from?” Zaneta asked.“What?” Zach feigned ignorance.“Stop pretending!” she said, jabbing him in the arm with a fist. “The ‘Up NEPA’ thing jooor!”“Oh! That?”“Yes, that!”“A song. ‘Local Rappers’” he said with a shy smile.She wondered how he could smile so shyly, boyishly even. He was 7 years older, but often times, she could look at him and almost believe he was a younger man.“Shaking my head for you” she managed over the noise of the music“You know the song?” he asked, still smiling.“Of course, I do. Just surprised that-““That I listen to Baba Hafusa?” he cut in making her burst into another round of laughter.“No. But that you’d quote it so aptly” she finally answered.“I’ll be right back” he said, picked up his drink and walked away.Zaneta watched him leave, she couldn’t help but smile. “He is so cool,” she thought “but doesn’t totally trust me yet.”She unlocked her phone, there were a few messages from Alice basically giving her the permission to break any babe’s head who pushed on Bode.Zaneta chucked and replied with “Sleep, Iyawo!”, after which she took a few selfies, updated her BBM DP and PM, tweeted and posted on IG.Zach stood beside the DJ, when he had his attention, he handed him a can of an energy drink.The DJ smiled and took it, then said in Zach’s ear “Thanks, boss. I needed that”“Could you play me something, bro?” Zach asked“Sure, if-““Local Rappers” Zach cut in.The DJ nodded with a grin.Both men bumped fists and Zach left.From the corner of his eye, he spotted Zaneta’s security sipping a drink by the bar.Zaneta was shaking her head watching Zach walk over as the speakers boomed. She had suspected he requested the song. Now, the look on his face was all she needed to be sure.“You are something else” she said as he sat beside her.“What? I like the song” he said smiling that smile again.“No words” she said, throwing her hands up in a sign of surrender. Then she started laughing again.“I could kiss you right now for laughing at my love for this song” Zach said, lifting his glass to his lips.Zaneta looked at him, she couldn’t think of an appropriate answer, so she looked away.“Nicely played” Zach thought, placing his glass back down.It was 2:53am when they pulled up at Alice’s place. The party was still going strong when they left on Zaneta’s suggestion, she needed some sleep before the hassle resumed at dawn.“Her light‘s still on” Zaneta said looking up at one of the windows of the house before them.“Probably waiting up for you” Zach said, turning off the lamps but leaving the engine and AC running.“Most likely gisting with Jade, the bridesmaid” she replied, picking up her bag from the foot-well, she retrieved an envelope and handed it to him.“My invite?” he asked taking it.“Your invite” she affirmed.“Thank you” he said.“You are welcome”They sat staring at each other a few heart beats longer, then he made the move and kissed her. She saw it coming but decided not to avoid it. Her plan was to let him do the kissing and not kiss him back.She couldn’t follow through.As he drove off and she made her way into the compound, she blamed the failure of her plan on the glasses of free-flowing champagne she’d had at the party. She giggled as she recalled “Up NEPA”.“Wasn’t a half-bad kiss” she thought.Zach caught himself slightly sucking on his lower lip as he took a look in the rear-view mirror just after he drove past Zaneta’s security personnel in his car. He let the lip go and wondered for a minute why the kiss had had that much of an after-effect on him.He had noticed a momentary hesitation when he had kissed her, but it had given way to a kiss he had to admit now, in the face of overwhelming proof, that was beyond his expectations. Thinking back alone had resumed the stirring in his loins, a surprise that had been sprung in him the moment her tongue touched his.“See her blushing!” Jade said accusingly, “Tell me about him!” she demanded.“Nothing to tell jooor” Zaneta said as she pulled on her hair net.“Don’t mind her. Its one buff, fine dude that’s gotten into her system jare” Alice said.“Couldn’t really see him well, but could make you both out” Jade said.Zaneta put her hands over her face making the others laugh.“Yes, we saw the kiss. We couldn’t help it” Jade said.“I mean, the kiss refused to end” Alice added.“It went on and on and on” Jade added.“Me, I like the bros sha. Looks sharp, smells good and from the look of things, he’s a sharp guy” Alice said tossing a pillow at Zaneta who had lain down and was pretending to snore.“Not bad. Should we reserve the hall for you guys, say six, nine months from now?” Jade asked.“Game reserve nii” Zaneta retorted making them all laugh.“Silly child” Alice said.“You are not talking” Maxwell said.“Good night” Zach said, rising to his feet.They were in the lobby of Zach’s apartment where Zach had met Maxwell waiting for him. The moment Zach had seen him, he had known something was amiss. Seriously enough for Maxwell AKA Max-Tee to leave whatever it was that superstar musicians do on Friday nights and come loiter around his apartment building.Now that he had heard the reason, he didn’t see why he should be involved.“Please, man” Max said rising and blocking Zach’s path. “I really need your help”Zach looked down at him, he was a small guy, young too. probably 22 years. That was the age of his best friend who was Zach’s employers’ last son – Muktar who was in school in the U.A.E pursuing a degree while Max had dropped out of the same school to chase Headies and skirts.And this was another skirt-catalysed problem of his.Zach was about to shove him out of the way when an idea hit him. But first he had to lay down the law“One, never block my path again” he said. Immediately, Max stepped aside.“Two, never show up here again. You have a phone for a reason” he added. Max nodded contrite.“Now let’s assume I could make all of this go away, what’s in it for me?” Zach asked.“Baba, whatever you want. I fit fire your account right away” Max said, pulling out his phone.“What are you doing tomorrow afternoon?” Zach asked, ignoring the offer of money.“I have a studio session. One remix like-” he was saying.“Cancel it” Zach said, “I’ll need you” he added then walked away.“Thanks, boss!” Max shouted as Zach pushed the elevator button.