“That would be nice.” June said giving Becky a ‘Please, say Yes’ look. All eyes were now on Becky. She was furious that June was encouraging this Dan guy. She locked gazes with Dan and could almost smell his pride and lust. She knew his kind – good looking, smooth, cocksure, out for the hunt. They got their kicks off the chase. Once the thrill was over, she knew he’d move on to a fresh challenge, a conqueror once again. She held her smile still as she replied “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’ll pass. Thanks for the offer.” Then to the others “Have fun, guys.”. And with that, she turned and left. Dan was caught off-guard, unprepared for the answer he was just handed. He had been certain of a positive response and was planning his next words; something about a suitable outfit.
“Oooookaaaayyyy. Shall we leave, then?” Tari said trying hard to keep an unamused expression on his face. “I guess.” June said. She’d been surprised herself. There was nothing wrong in the choice of words, but there was a way they had come out – cold. Very cold. Dan recovered but Becky had already left the room. There was no point in speaking in hopes she’d hear and respond. He’d only look stupid. “Sure, guys. Let’s roll.” he said leaving the house ahead of the others. He’d been in a few awkward situations with the ladies, but unless he turned this around somehow, this would be very high up the list of slams he’d ever gotten. Tari got the front passenger door for June and shut it after her. He looked over at Dan in the back seat, he knew what he was thinking – Another play.
When she heard the car drive off, Becky walked back to the living room and locked the door. She knew she had disappointed June, but her reasons were solid. She was about settling before the TV when she heard her phone ring. She rushed to it. Her heart sank when she saw it was Sope, Alfred’s eldest sister. A paediatrician who was married to a politician, they had 3 kids and lived in Calabar. There was only 1 reason why she could be calling. “Hello, Ma!” she answered, trying as much as she could to sound cherry. The conversation began as usual; talk about work, family and all, then it veered suddenly to what the actual purpose of the call was when Sope said “Have you heard from Alfred?”. There was no point denying it. Becky knew Sope knew it all.
“He’s been calling me” Becky replied flatly. “So, you guys have spoken?” Sope asked. “Not exactly, Ma.” Becky replied, “How exactly is it, then?” Sope pressed, “I didn’t take his calls, Aunty Sope.” she replied in what she hoped was a firm tone. “Why, dear? Won’t you even hear what he has to say?” Sope asked, “No, Ma. I and Alfred are done. There’s nothing to say.” Becky said. Now her voice was cracking and she hated herself for it. “See, Becky, you are a younger sister to me. I won’t purposely push you into fire. Why don’t you hear him out first, at the very least? And if you still want to go on with the break up, then let him know. The silence is not good. He’s worried out of his mind about you.” Sope said, trying to make Becky see reason. Becky sighed, she felt drained. “Ok, Ma.” She said.
A few more words of encouragement and Sope had rung off. Whatever happened, Becky was determined she was not going back to Alfred. She would take his call and hear him out. But it was a little late for sweet, rational words now. As Becky put the phone down, she saw she had a message. It was June,
“So wah r u doin @ home nw?”
it read, with a ‘straight face’ smiley. Like that was not enough already for one night, the next thing she saw was Tochi’s call coming in. “No way!” Becky yelled, hung up the call and switched her phone off. She knew what Tochi was calling for. He was going to come sob to her about how June had stood him up again. She was almost sorry for him. Becky knew June could have her pick of 10 guys but he would never make the list. Never.
Tari pulled up at June’s place. “Thank you. I had fun tonight.” June said and actually meant it. Since she came to the FCT, she’d been dined and wined by more willing guys than she could remember. There was hardly a weekend she didn’t have a date, unless she was working on something for the Morning Show. Most of the guys were still on her case, but June had perfected the skill of sizing up a man pretty quickly. She also never went on more than 1 date if he didn’t score at least 80%. In her books, Tari was a solid 90%, she’d known that for a while. “I had fun myself. Thanks for coming out with me.” Tari said. An awkward silence descended. June knew what was coming next and welcomed it in her heart. “I’ll walk you to your door.” Tari suddenly said and got out of the car surprising her.
Tari got her door open and helped her out of the car then walked her to the flat in silence. At the door, June remembered the discussion she’d had with Becky earlier and said “Tari, about the language thing, I think Becky can be of help. She teaches French here and also does private coaching on other languages.” “Really? How about Portuguese?” Tari asked. “Yes. I asked her. She also does Portuguese coaching.” June said, “You are in luck, Mr. Whiteriver.” she added, stroking Tari’s tie which hung loosely around his neck. “It seems. So, would she be willing to take me on?” He asked, slowly sinking both hands deeply into his pockets. “I’ll talk to her.” She replied, tugging slightly on the tie. “Please. Its pretty urgent as it is.” Tari said. “Ok.” June replied patting his chest twice with her palm.
“When will I see you again?” June asked. “Let’s plan that later today, eh?” He replied. “Thanks, again, June.” Tari added. “You’re welcome.” June said looking into his eyes. “Maybe now?” she thought. But Tari only said “Good night.”, walked to his car and drove off. June was taken aback. “What is it with this dude?” she said. She had expected he’d at least make a move to kiss her. If he’d come part of the way, she would have met him, well….not halfway, but somewhere just before the halfway mark from her end. ‘Why is he such a drag?’ she thought. She unlocked the door to find Becky watching TV. “Witch! You continued without me, abi?” She said throwing her purse at Becky who ducked it. “We’ll go back to episode 6 together.” Becky said.
“What’s wrong?” June asked sitting beside Becky. “Alfred’s sister called.” Becky said. “What did she say? That you should answer Alfred?” June asked, knowing what the call could only have been about. Becky nodded. “Becky, if you want change, you have to take responsibility for it. You are already making progress, don’t get derailed now.” June said. “Yeah. I know. I’ll talk to him and tell him off for good.” Becky replied. “Ehen! Now, girlfriend, snap out of it!” June said getting up “I’m off to bed.” she added. “Ok.” Becky replied curling up on the sofa. “So, why did you shoot Dan down like that? Not like you had anything else doing.” June asked. “I’ll rather watch TV than go out with Dan.” Becky replied making June laugh. “Whatever. So long as your mind is not on Alfred.”
June lay in bed awake longer than she had expected. It had been a very fun night – lots of designs, models, designers, music and dance. Drinks had been on demand and Tari had her covered. Dan didn’t seat with them, he was all over the place taking shots with his 2 cameras. Sadly, he had no Becky to ‘assist’ him. He’d requested for Becky’s number from her but she had taken his’ instead, promising to send him Becky’s digits if she agreed to it. With Becky’s current mood, she’d skipped asking her. She thought of Tari, “Why was he holding back?” she thought. It was almost as if he didn’t like her. But she knew better. She had seen how he looks at her when he thought she was not aware of it. Like when she had gotten up to dance, though he’d kept his seat, his eyes had never left her. Still….
Becky sat up. The TV and DVD had been turned off and her blanket spread over her. She’d slept off watching her series. Her thighs ached, she knew what was coming. She went into the bathroom. On her way back, she saw her face and hair, she was a mess, sleeping in the couch too had not helped. She found her phone and turned it on, walking out of the room as she dialled her stylist’s number so as not to wake June. The number was switched off. She made a mental note to try later. As she lay back in the sofa, the phone rang. She looked at the screen, “Alfred” she said. Suddenly her heart rate picked up. She answered the call and brought the phone to her ear. “Hello.” came his familiar voice. “Hi.” she replied. “How are you, Becky?” he asked. “I’m fine.” she replied coldly.
Becky sat up slowly, waiting for him to speak. “Hello, are you there?” he asked. “Alfred, I can hear you.” she said. “Ah, Ok. So, how have you been? How’s work and -” he was saying but she cut in: “Alfred. You didn’t call to chit-chat with me. And honestly, its too early in the morning for all of this.” She was getting angry now. “Becky, do you have to be rude?” he asked, “I’m not rude, Alfred. You have been calling me non-stop for days. Can we get to the reason for that? If my work and life were important to you, you would not wait 5 months to ask.” Becky poured. “See, I’m sorry, right? I truly am. And I swear by our unborn kids – ” he was saying, “STOP!” Becky yelled, “Please, don’t say that anymore. I’m sick and tired of hearing that. Unborn kids, Alfred? We killed them all. And we are done!”
Now, Becky was standing. “Becky, please, I am sorry. Just forgive me. I’m a better man now. I have changed. I came to abuja to see you. You just give me a time and place and I’ll be there. If I’m 1 minute late, never speak to me again. If I don’t make any sense when we are done talking, I promise to let you be and never come back.” Alfred begged. Becky paused. She’d never heard these lines before. Alfred promising to be punctual and giving her a way out? Where was the possessive Alpha-male who was always right? “Hello?” he added when she made no response. “What do you want, Alfred?” Becky asked. She needed to think. He had a brand new tact, she needed to respond appropriately. She didn’t believe he had changed as a person, but clearly his methods were new.
Alfred went on for another 11 minutes and the recurring point was that this was his last shot. All she had to do was agree to a meeting and then she was free to make up her mind. “Let me think about it.” Becky replied when he finally asked again. “Just tell me yes, Becky. You and I -” he was saying. She hung up. She slowly lay back in the couch and began to cry quietly. She could feel herself being sucked in again. Although she’d never spoken to him this way before, he had kept his cool and that had rattled her. She dismissed 2 call attempts from him while she lay there crying. He sent an SMS:
“Just let me know whr & when. I’ll b there”
She dropped the phone as a fresh wave of tears burst forth. She wanted to pray, to ask for strength and wisdom, but “Oh my God! Oh my God.” was all she could manage.
Becky filled the visitors’ form and took a seat in the reception. It was comfortable and cool. She had come straight here after school. June had made this happen. Tari had requested she come see him at the office so they could discuss the terms of the language coaching. She was pretty glad for the opportunity and had thanked June severally. Her youngest sibling had called a few days ago in need of money, the burden was not getting any lighter. Hopefully, her immediate younger sister would get a job soon and pitch in with upkeep of the others. When she’d agreed to take the job, June had asked how much she was going to bill Tari. “Double it!” June had said when Becky revealed her figure. Looking around the office now, she understood why – Tari could well afford it.
“He’ll see you now.” the Receptionist said, breaking into Becky’s thoughts. She got up, listened to the Receptionist’s directions and got on the elevator. She could not help wondering how much the lady was paid. “More than I earn, I’m sure.” she mumbled as the elevator began its ascent. On the right floor, she got off the elevator and spoke with another Receptionist who led her to Tari’s door, knocked and opened it to let her in. Tari was standing before a wall covered with maps and other documents stuck on with colourful push pins. “Hello, Becky, please have a seat.” Tari said without taking his eyes off what he was studying. He had his sleeves rolled up, a marker in one hand and pair of compass in the other, a slight scowl on his face.
Becky took a look around, there were lots of books and documents all over, she slipped on her glasses and focused on what he was looking at, it was a map of Mozambique. “Thanks for your patience.” Tari suddenly said after a few minutes, turned around and took his seat across from her. “So, you speak Portuguese?” He asked. “Yes. French and German as well.” Becky replied. “Hmmm. Impressive.” he said, “Would you like something to drink?” he added. “No, I’m fine.” Becky replied automatically. She noticed the mini-fridge in the corner and regretted not asking for a drink. She realised she was curious to see what the contents were. “Ok! In that case, shall we get down to business?” Tari asked. Becky led as they discussed how to go about the training.
Because time was of the essence, Becky had suggested an intensive course. There would be books, tapes, online tests as well as lectures on Saturdays and Sundays. All of which he agreed to. “So, what would all of these cost me?” Tari asked, “I’ll check for the books and tapes and get back to you with the prices.” she said. “And your fee?” he asked. She had rehearsed this moment severally on the way here, still she was unsure if she should ask for so much, it was a record-high for her. The figure rolled off her tongue nicely. She almost repeated herself, thinking he had not heard her but she noticed he had raised his eyebrows slightly; clearly, he’d heard her. He kept quiet for what seemed like a whole minute then uttered a simple “Sounds fair.” She almost sprang out of her chair.