June was woken by the hotel phone by her bed. She’d always been a light sleeper and this morning she was much more so. She had hardly slept all night but had finally drifted off into a fitful sleep about 3 hours before the sound of the phone jarred her out of it.
“Good morning, ma. Reception.” a female voice said
“Yes?” she asked half expecting to hear Cliff was here to see her
“Ma, we need you to, please, re-park your car.” the lady said
“Why?” she asked
“A church service usually holds at that hall and your car is blocking the service entrance. The people need to move in their equipment to set up.” the receptionist explained.
June considered this for a minute, said “Ok” and hung up.
Dressed in cut-off jean shorts and a tank top, she got the key to the Honda from the bin and went downstairs to move the car. She found another spot hidden from view and parked the car there, then returned to her room where she made herself a strong cup of black coffee. She looked through her bag and thankfully found a sachet of paracetamol tablets. She popped 3 and swallowed with coffee. It was the morning after and it was time to face the storm. She picked up her phone, switched it on, placed it on the table then got up and turned on the water heater. She heard it buzz before she returned to it.
“June. ur # is switched off. I need to gt bak 2 gidi. Tell me whr u r so I come gt my car & camera.”
“Still switched off. I don’t want 2 hurt u, June, Don’t mk me.”
Both from Cliff.
She sighed. It was not time to contact him yet. She instead typed a message to Becky
“Hi, babe. I’ll be bk 2day. Gave a nice guy ur digits. His name’s Korede. If he calz, tell him u r on a bus 2 Abuja alredi. Miss u!”
Then to Tari:
“Hi, dear. Missed ur calz, was busy. Network is horrible here, been tryin 2 call w/out success. I’ll call u d moment I arrive”
She looked at the camcorder again. Out of curiosity she read the writings on the manufacturer label, her phone buzzed and she was about swapping the phone for the camera when her eyes fell upon the words that made her heart freeze
“16GB Internal Memory”
“What the devil?!” she swore, ignoring her phone right away. Quickly she flipped open the screen then hit “Play”. She almost passed out. There she was at the beginning again, giving Cliff a strip tease. She didn’t have the stomach to see the video to the end this time; she stopped it. She took deep breaths and steadied her nerves. No, she was not going to cry. She had cried enough. It was time to summon all of her strength and smarts.
She pulled out her iPad and cable. First she transferred the file to her iPad. Because of the format it was recorded in, it would not play on the iPad, it would have to be converted and this suited her just fine. She could as well have it in her arsenal for the war to come. Then she got online where easily, she found the camcorder and the “user manual” tab on the product page. She clicked the download icon and in a few minutes she had a copy. She scanned through it and found out how to erase the internal memory of the device. Without missing a breath, she followed the instructions. A popup appeared asking if she was sure and how all data would be lost, she hit “Ok”.
The progress had just begun when her phone began to ring. She looked at it, it was Cliff calling. She ignored it and observed the deletion process complete.
Becky sat on the bed as she dried off with a towel. Things had completely spiralled out of control. She was supposed to keep Tari out of her life and focus on her business here. How had she let him into her life, her bed and her head? How had she managed to wrong June so badly? What if June found out? She sighed, knowing the possibility of that happening was next to zero if it were left to Tari. He would never mention it to June, even in the face of death. She thought about June and how much she wanted Tari, yet Tari had never taken her in that way, only for him to have one shot with her and he had taken it and she had let him. Now it was too late to put her plans in motion. Tari had noticed how she felt, seen an opening and he had taken it. Foolishly, she had let him. It was a mess. She picked up her phone and found a message from June. Under normal circumstances, she would have laughed at the contents, but this morning she had just stared blankly.
“Ok, dear. Safe trip. Miss u 2.”
She managed to type and send to June. She then composed another message for Tari:
“I’m sorry, I won’t be able to continue with the coaching.”
She read it once more then hit the “send’ button. Almost instantly, she got a reply:
It read. She could not hold back from crying. That was it. She had been used and dumped, classic! “How did I get here?” she sobbed.
Tari had been looking at his phone since he sent his reply to Becky’s SMS. He knew he had to manage her carefully. He didn’t want anything blowing up in his face. Whatever she wanted, he would grant her. However she wanted to play it, he would let her. Her engagement with his company was coming to an end today. 7pm, to be exact. Her engagement as his tutor too had ended on her terms. All of that was fine by him. He was either going to secretly find another tutor or keep learning on his own. He didn’t want June asking any questions, he’d just pretend he’d become proficient enough. He thought about June for a bit, her SMS had said she was still coming back today and would call when she did. He had not bothered with a response. After all she had left his calls unacknowledged for over 12 hours. He was no one’s play thing.
He picked up the phone and called Dan. It rang out the first time, but Dan picked up immediately on his second try.
“Sup, bro?” Dan said
“I’m ok. You?” Tari asked
Dan sighed. “Man, it’s not funny right now.” he added
“What’s up?” Tari asked.
“She won’t agree to a fix.”
“She won’t have a D&C?”
“She no gree, bro”
“Ok. So what does she want?”
“She says she doesn’t know, but is sure she is not having an abortion.”
“Wow! That’s serious. So, what you gonna do, bro?”
“I’m at my wit’s end, Tari. We were up all night talking. I’m out of ideas and out of strength.”
“Sorry, bro. She’ll come around, with time.”
“I don’t have time. The baby’s gonna keep growing the longer we wait.”
“Just try and talk to her. Maybe in a few days when it all dawns on her, she might reconsider.”
“Can’t stay here any longer. Just got a call for a shoot. Something I have been waiting weeks for. It just came through. Have to be in the studio at the crack of dawn on Tuesday.”
“Booked a flight?”
“No. I’m driving down.” Dan said, then “We are driving down” after a slight pause.
“You and her?” Tari asked, genuinely surprised
“Yes, bro. She insists on going with me. Says she can’t stay alone at her place. And this job won’t let me stay here.” Dan replied.
Tari had a million questions he wanted to ask, but decided to hold back till he was face to face with his friend.
“Alright, bro. When do you leave?”
“Tomorrow morning. She has a few things to tidy up.”
“Has she told anyone? About the pregnancy.”
“Her twin sister in jand.”
“I assume she’ll keep sealed lips.”
“Make sure, bro. We’ll talk later. I have another call coming in.” Tari said and switched over to take his boss’ incoming call.
June looked up in time to see Cliff enter the shop. Less than 20 minutes after she sent him a message.
She had checked out of the hotel at a few minutes before noon, gotten the car and driven as fast as she could to the airport. Then she had claimed her boarding pass and found somewhere to eat. She had ordered a sandwich, chicken and a diet coke then found a seat at table for two, from which she could see anyone who came in. Then she had sent an SMS to Cliff who had been calling and texting her all morning. None of which she had responded to. Her message to him read.
“@ d airport. Wanna grab a bite b4 my flight. U’ll find me in 1 of d shops.”
He had not replied and she had not bothered. If he didn’t show up, like if he had found an alternate way to make his trip to Lagos without his car and camcorder, she planned to leave the camcorder in the car, take the keys with her and then mail him the keys when she arrived Abuja.
He spotted her and walked to her table. She was not afraid. They were in public and she still had his stuff. He pulled out the chair opposite her and sat down, looked around then said “My key, please.” His tone was not pleading in anyway. More like “don’t make me hurt you in public”. She was not shaken.
“Why was there a camera in the room, Cliff?” She asked firmly
“Give me my damn key, June!” he spat
“You will answer me.” She replied calmly.
He looked around again, then said “You knew it was there and you know why it was there.”
“Who the hell does that, Cliff?”
“Oh! Quit acting all sanctimonious right now. You are just as slutty as the average bitch out there.” he said pointing a finger in her face.
June shook her head, then said “When will you grow up? You are still the spoilt kid I knew years ago. Mostly senseless.”
“Fuck you, June. Just give me my stuff and let me be out of here. I have business to handle.”
June laughed, then said “That’s very funny. I mean, it’s laughable that people actually trust you with their work. Of all the talent in the industry, they pick a jerk-off like you.”
“You are a fool.” he whispered as the public address system announced June’s flight.
“Well, as much as I am enjoying this, I have to go. That’s my flight.” She said while she reached in her bag, took out the camcorder and placed it on the table.
Quickly he grabbed it. June emptied the rest of her diet coke in her glass while he inspected the camcorder.
“Where is the card?” he asked
“Oh, that! I destroyed it. You should be glad the camcorder is fine. Well, its fine, but empty.” she replied with a smile.
His eyes were bulging as he asked “All my stuff is gone? My card destroyed?”
June stood up. She had purposely checked in her carry-on. All she had was her handbag. “Sorry, dear. But I do have our video. I think it might come in handy.” she said
“Bitch, are you mad? You deleted all of my work?!” he said, trying not raise his voice as he rose from his seat.
“If you call me that again, I’ll make 1 phone call right now, have the video edited to blur my face and have it released.”
“You wouldn’t dare.” he said in a shaky voice. June could not tell if that was due to anger or fear.
“I have mailed it to someone already. Here are your keys.” she said, dropped the keys in the glass of diet coke and walked briskly away leaving Cliff to scramble for them. She knew there was no way his hand would get into the glass and if he didn’t get it out in time, the key, being an electronic device would almost surely go bad.
As she got to the security screening point, she looked back to see him mopping the keys with a napkin. She was glad he had chosen to save the key rather than come after her.
As the plane sped down the runway for a take-off, she didn’t know why, but June began to cry again.
Becky was having lunch with Zenaide in her suite. Being with the Mozambican was fun and had helped her brighten up. She had found out Zenaide was a single mum, with a 4 year old son for a Dutch business man. She was the daughter of the founder of the consultancy firm she worked for. Her father was an ex-minister of petroleum. Zenaide was explaining to her, in English, how it felt being a single mum when she got a call. It was June. Her heart sank. June was back, it was time to face reality.
“Hey, babe!” Becky managed to sound excited after being excused by Zenaide
“Becky. I just arrived. Are you still at the hotel?” June said in a cracked voice.
“Yes, I am. Are you okay, June?” Becky asked, hearing her friend sniff repeatedly.
“I’ll get a cab and come straight.”
“Okay. Call when you get here. I’m not in my room, but I’ll come once you arrive.”
“Thanks. Let me get my bag. Bye.” June said and was gone.
Becky got in the backseat of the car with Niyi holding the door open for her. She moved over as Tari got in behind her. She didn’t pay him any mind throughout the trip from the Airport back to the hotel. Her mind was on June.
June had shown up at her door with bloodshot eyes and had headed straight to bed after a long hug. All of Becky’s attempts to find out what had happened to her friend had been futile. June had just lain in bed with her head on Becky’s laps and cried herself to sleep. When it was time for her to leave, Becky had carefully put a pillow under June’s head and left. Now she was really anxious to get back. One thing was sure, though, June could not have known what happened last night.
At the hotel, she said “Good night, Niyi.” and got out before he could get her door, leaving Tari in the car. He had also ignored her completely on the ride back. “Take me home.” he said to Niyi as Becky shut the door.
Becky slid her card into the lock and pushed the door open. June was still in bed but had changed into a nightwear. Becky took her heels off as she shut the door quietly. If she could help it, she didn’t want to wake June.
“When does your stay here end?” June asked without turning around.
“Noon tomorrow.” Becky replied with a sigh of relief
“I’ll miss this bed.” June said, making Becky laugh.
She sat on the bed and looked at June’s form. The guilt was getting worse. “Are you ok?” she managed.
“I guess.” June replied, turning around and sitting up in bed.
“What happened in Asaba?” Becky ventured.
June told her everything. From her arrival to her departure, through a flood of tears. By the time she was done, Becky was still trying to recover from the shock and had tears rolling down her cheeks too.
“This must not come out. I’ll lose my career, my reputation, my man. I can’t afford that.” June said
“But you kept a copy. Why?” Beck asked
“I need leverage on him. It’s even more damaging to him than it is to me. He is already in the public eye as a producer engaged to a model. I’m just starting out as an OAP, but still…” she left off.
Becky enveloped her friend in a hug. One phrase kept ringing in her head – “my man.”
Becky could not believe how well her day had gone so far. She was actually glad to be back teaching kids, giving assignments and grading quizzes.
She had also taken June’s cue and gotten back to a semblance of normalcy. June’s strength had shone through the fog and inspired her as well. June had completely bounced back, or at least she appeared to have, going about her usual self. Becky had all but been infected by it.
She was sitting in the staff room preparing for her next class when an SMS came in. She checked, it was a bank alert. She barely managed to contain her joy, but she had to. After all she was in the staff room. The total amount for her work had been paid. Next was an email from the company thanking her and saying they looked forward to working with her again.
She called Tari, to thank him, but it rang out twice. She decided on an SMS:
“Hi, Tari. Thank you very much for the opportunity. I have just been paid. I am very grateful. God Bless you richly.”
She had given up on getting a reply when it came in:
“I’d have expected you’d rather thank me in person.”
Becky let out a loud sigh, attracting stares from around the staff room.
June took a deep breath at the door. She needed her nerves to steady out.
She had called Tari on Monday and not the moment she arrived, like she’d promised. They had talked a while but she felt something was off. She wrote it off to her complete neglect of him during her trip to Asaba. Of course he had mentioned her failure to call as promised and said he had decided to wait till she remembered him. She knew she had to play it cool and massage his ego and so had apologised earnestly. She had called him again after her morning shift at the station and he’d said he was just about calling her. Then they had set up this evening meet. She had suggested his place on the grounds she didn’t want to go out and would rather they chill indoors. But really, her plan was to pull out the stops and make him a very sumptuous meal. It was one of those things she never did for guys. Her “never do” list also included cleaning and laundry. But she knew bending her rule a bit would go a long way to make him happy with her.
Grocery bag in hand, nice dinner planned, she knocked as she murmured “Get your shit together, June”.
A moment later, the door swung open bringing June face to face with Thelma. The shock June received was nowhere near what Thelma felt starring into the face of her fiancé’s ex-girlfriend on the doorsteps of her lover.