Tari looked around as he stepped into the house. Dan had returned, the place was not the same way he’d left it. He stepped into Dan’s room, hearing the shower running, he called out. A female voice answered – “He’s on the balcony”. Tari considered saying “Thank you.” or something curt, but decided against it and left the room. The moment he drew the sliding door aside, the smell hit him. “’Sup?” Dan said. “I dey” he replied. “You look stressed.” Dan said, blowing rings into the night air. “I am.” Tari said sliding the glass door shut behind him. “Take the load off your feet, man,” Dan said, patting the cane chair beside his. Tari sat down with a sigh as Dan offered him a stick. It had been a stressful week and an eventful weekend, he could not refuse. He accepted the blunt, took a deep drag and blew a cloud of smoke.
“Feel better?” Dan asked after a while, he was rolling up a fresh stick, an art Tari had never mastered despite the fact they both had been at this vice for over a decade. Tari nodded. “So, what’s eating you up?” Dan pressed. “I dunno, man. I don’t think I have desired any babe like i do June, but I just can’t seem to get in the zone with her. She suggested coming back with me tonight, but I side-stepped it. Don’t get me wrong, I am very tempted to commit and be intimate and all that, but….” Tari left off with a shrug. “You worry about what comes after.” Dan finished. “You know this!” Tari affirmed. Tari knew Dan was the worst person to talk to about women, the dude was simply at war with them. All he wanted were conquests. But Tari needed to talk to someone. “She’s pretty and smart and comfortable. But I’m not just gingered.” Tari said perplexed.
Dan laughed a little, then said “You are being dramatic. No one is asking you to wife the girl. 98% of these things are temporal, anyway. June is a big girl, if you cant carry on much longer after you go in, I’m sure she’ll write it off as one of those things. And so should you.” He lit up the freshly rolled marijuana stick.
“Jesus!” June exclaimed with a horrid look on her face. “He proposed?” she asked a teary-eyed Becky, who nodded her ascent. “At a buffet?” June asked, unsure if she had the right sequence of events. “Yes” Becky managed. Becky who had promptly fallen asleep after she hit the bed earlier had been woken up by June a few minutes ago. Of course, June wanted to and had to hear what had happened with Alfred. “OMG! So what did you do?” June asked, “I don’t recall. I must have said some hurtful things. The look in his eyes…. It will be a while before I forget it. I just got up and rushed out before he could say or do any other thing.” Becky replied. “Wow! I’m sorry, hon.” June said, holding Becky’s trembling hands. She could not help but wonder how Becky must have felt back at the scene, if she was this dishevelled so many hours after.
Her own night had been bitter-sweet. She and Tari had had fun. She’d had him take her to the same place KC had taken her to, but this time, she was not hurried. She’d drunk and danced while he looked on. She had seen the fire in his eyes – like never before, it made her feel good because it meant she was on the right track to unlocking his passion for her. If he had only agreed to have them go back to his place, as she had subtly suggested, she would have ensured that fire went wild and out of his reins. He was, after all, a man with needs like any other. She was sure the had the combination keys; she would present him with intelligent and interesting company in all her feminine glory while she maintained a steady flow of alcohol into his system. The final enabling item was an empty house. Some how, she had to put all these together. She was sure it would get her the results she so badly needed.
“June?” she heard her name as Becky swam back into focus. “Are you okay?” June asked, “I should ask you that. You looked lost in thought.” Becky responded. “Its Tari. He’s playing games.” June said with an evil smile. “Games?” Becky asked, concerned. She didn’t know why, but she suddenly felt uneasy. “Don’t worry. I have never met a man I could not handle.” June declared, then asked “So, what happens next with Alfred?” “I hope I never see him again.” Becky said.
She was applying her facial cleanser when her phone beeped. She put the ball of cotton on the dresser and picked up the phone. It was an SMS from Tari.
“Can you keep a secret?”
She didn’t know what to make of it. She could hear June in the bath, just beyond the door. What was Tari on about at this hour of the night? What had June hinted at? Games? She needed to know. Quickly she hit the keys and sent her reply.
She replaced the cap on the cleanser, picked up the ball of cotton and went to the kitchen. She was going to turn on the lights when her phone beeped again. Standing in the dark, she unlocked the screen.
“The little boy was me.”
“The little boy?” she murmured then it suddenly hit her – Tari was the kid from the broken home. The story he had told her earlier was of himself. “My God….” she said. Now she had a million and one questions. There was one that stood aside, ominous in its ramifications: Does June know this? Becky had no way of finding out without putting herself and Tari in tight spots. Asking him might even sound accusatory. Asking June was not an option.
Tari placed his phone on the pillow beside him wondering why he did what he just did. He’d never told anyone about that period of his life. Dan did know, they’d met when Tari moved to Port Harcourt to stay with his Aunt. They’d become inseparable friends and somehow, Tari had shared. His mind went to his younger brother. The last he heard, he was a student at UNN, that was years ago. He picked up his phone again and dialled his Aunt’s number, he knew he would be waking her up, but he could not help it. “Tari?” her voice came over the line “Are you okay?” she asked. He could tell she was more worried more than surprised. “Yes, I’m fine. Good morning, Ma.” he said. He could hear her moving, most likely sitting up, then he heard a light switch. “Its past 1. Are you sure everything is alright?” she pressed. “Yes. Ma. Just that I need something.” he said.
“Money?” she asked, making him smile. She’d spoilt him growing up. She had never married and had no child of her own. All she had, she lavished on him. “No, Ma. I want Simon’s number.” he said. He heard her sigh deeply. “Ok. I’ll text it across.” she said. “Thank you, Ma. Sorry about the late hour.” he replied. “Its Ok. Come see me as soon as you can. I’m around for now.” she said. “Ok. Good night, Ma.” he replied before he hung up. In less than 2 minutes, he had the number. The country code told him Simon was in Canada. Without a thought, he dialled it.
Tari ran all the way from his car, up the stairs and into his office. Meg, his boss’ secretary’s call, placed from the office, had woken him. She was not at her desk when he checked on her, he found her in his office looking through the papers on his desk. His boss was standing before the blown up map of Mozambique’s coastal regions and territorial waters. “Good morning, Sir.” Tari said coming to a halt. “You are late.” his boss replied. “I’m sorry, Sir.” Tari said. “The legend, Sir?” Meg asked him with a nod at the map on the wall. Tari tapped his temple with a finger. His boss noticed and gave him a look. “If you don’t mind, Sir, I’ll walk you through it.” Tari said joining his boss before the map. About an hour and a half later, with the presence of two other staff members requested and a call placed to Qatar, his boss was finally satisfied.
“They’ll be sending in a delegation from TQ next week. Be prepared. They are consultants for ENI.” his boss said. “Ok, Sir.” The others left and his boss was heading for the door as well before he suddenly turned around and asked “How good is your Portuguese?” “It gets by, Sir.” Tari replied. “Do you think we would need a translator?” his boss asked. “I’ll rather we are prepared for the event we might need one, Sir.” Tari replied. “Get hold of someone competent, run them through legal. Everything said and heard is confidential. A breach is….what’s it called?” his boss asked “Corporate espionage?” Tari ventured, “Yes. That and a lot more. Get legal on it, find someone.” he said. “Not a problem, Sir” Tari replied.
It was the first time they were meeting after the events and revelation of the previous week. She had suppressed the urge to contact him in any manner, the truth was if this was not a business relationship with her roomie’s boyfriend, she would have gone to see him at the office during the week. He had not contacted her either, and really she could not blame him. She took the stairs that would bring her to the apartment and hoped it would be a drama-free session. Dan opened the door when she knocked. “Hi, gorgeous.” he said with a bright smile, “Good Afternoon, Daniel.” she said with a fake smile. “Come right in.” he said holding the door open for her. She rolled her eyes as she walked past him. At the same instant Tari had appeared from his room and caught the expression on her face, “Hello, Becky.” he said. She replied in the best formal tone she could muster. “Was that a smile playing on the edges of Tari’s lips just now?” she thought as she took a seat.
The lesson had been uneventful, he had followed with what seemed like wrapped attention, but she could not fail to notice his grades had gradually declined in the tests attached to the last 3 lessons. “Is there a problem, Tari?” she ventured, only because she knew Dan had left the house a few minutes before he took the last test. “Problem?” he asked. “Yeah. Your grades. They are on a decline. Are the lessons becoming too challenging?” she asked, genuinely concerned. “Not really. I guess its the work load and all the stuff I have to juggle.” he explained. “Does June know?” she blurted. She just had to ask. “Know? About my grades?” Tari asked a little amused. “No. About what you told me.” Becky clarified, she could not hold back any longer, her curiosity had gotten the better of her.
Tari shifted uneasily in his seat next to hers. She raised her brows, like she did with her students at the school whenever she was insisting they came up with an answer to her question. “Does June know?” He asked too. The look on his face told her he was not repeating her question, but asking one of his’. “Know about?” she asked before her mind made the leap. “What happened the last time.” he answered, raising his own brows as well. “Let’s keep it that way.” he said when she made no answer. “Gosh! Did he just strong-arm me?” Becky cried in her mind.
There was a knock on the door. June looked herself over once more before she answered “Who is it?” She was satisfied with her outfit. “It’s me.” She heard Becky’s voice on the other side. Of course she was only expecting Becky and Tari. She opened the door to find, as expected, Becky and Tari. They hugged at the door while Becky headed into the house. June raised her lips to his’ and he kissed her. “Shall we?” Tari said after, gesturing towards his car in the saturday sunshine. Dan had warned him to let June go or make his move, because “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” he had said. Since he had side-stepped her subtle request to spend private time together last time, he had to make it right by boldly bringing it up it this time and hope she would not turn him down. So, after they had agreed, over the phone, to hangout today after his classes, he sent her a message with 4 simple words:
“Pack a carry-on.”
She had not replied the message then, but here was his answer, “Would you be a gentleman and help me with my bag?” June said running her hand across his chest as she walked past him to the car. “By all means.” Tari said, then remotely unlocked the car before stepping into the house to pick up a small bag that sat on the table. He never took his eyes off June while getting the bag, he had moved in an awkward manner, sideways like a crab, to pull it off. He was about shutting the door behind him, eyes still locked on June’s figure up ahead, when he had an urge to look back into the house. There, Becky stood looking at him. He stopped, caught in the gaze, slightly embarrassed. He quickly snapped out of it and shut the door, breaking the line of vision.
June sat in the car, shut the door and unlocked her phone. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Tari coming. Her fingers flew over the keys as she typed a message to Becky
“Wz he lookin?”
She watched her message go from a check to ‘D’ and finally ‘R’. Tari was behind the wheel driving off by the time the reply came:
She smiled, finally taking her eyes off the screen, turned to him and said “Let’s stop at a store for drinks.” “Okay.” he replied getting the car on to the main road.
Becky was on a cab to Tari’s when the SMS came in:
“Still at the office. Get keys from potter. I’ll be back soon.”
So, Tari would likely not be home when she arrived; that was not a big deal. Her worry was if Dan would be. She was about putting the phone back in her bag when another came in:
“I may have done you a lot of wrong but I have never and would never deceive you. All the best with the lessons today. I still love you.”
It was another of Alfred’s numerous messages. She was profoundly irritated by the number and consistency of his messages. He’d resorted to this tact after she had told him not to ever call her again when he’d called her on Monday morning. Now, no matter where she was coming from or headed, she took the other exit in and out of the school. This way, she was hoping not to run into him, if truly the last time had been by happenstance like he had claimed. The only place she was sure he knew and also had a good idea when she’d be there was Tari’s. It worried her, though she reassured herself he would not be so desperate as to show up there. Surely he knew it was a private residence.
At the house she got the keys from the potter and let herself in. It was quiet and warm. It didn’t seem like anyone was around. She took off her shoes and turned the AC on. It was a hot day. She saw Tari’s laptop, the one she’d nearly destroyed last time, sitting on the dinning table. She’d seen him enter the password enough to have an idea what it was, she was too curious to pass up an opportunity to see into some of his life and lifestyle. She pulled out one of the dinning chairs, most likely the same one he’d sat on a little while ago, and sat down. She looked at the crack she had caused as she hit the ‘space’ key waking up the locked screen. Slowly she entered the letters N-i-g-h-t-F-u-r-y and hit ‘enter’, the lock-screen melted away bringing her to the desktop.
Her heart began to race as she looked through the browser, the tabs were so many she could not guess at their contents until she opened them. Aside emails and search pages, tab after tab were completely unfamiliar to her, she was not surprised, they looked like work related stuff. The last tab was different – too familiar. She took a closer look and her heart skipped a beat.