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Charles woke up in a bed that sure was not his. It took a minute for him to orient himself. Okay, he was in Chioma’s bed, the house she shared with Halimat in Maitama, Abuja. His head was severely banging. On the side stool was the culprit, a half done bottle of Vodka. “Lord, this is not good.” he murmured. He picked up the Vodka, walked to the bathroom, took one last swig and poured the rest down the sink.
Chioma had left him a note: #1. He needed to put his drinking in check. #2. She was off to her office (where she pretended to run a modeling consultancy but was really a hangout for her and her friends). #3. There was plantain in the store, he could fry some if he was hungry. #4. The key to Osita’s car (an LR3 belonging to Chioma’s kid brother who was away in Ukraine) was on the dresser, if he needed to go out. Only this last point interested him. #1. He had his drinking in check, thank you. #2. He knew where she had gone to (it was a given) and he had no inclination to go listen to girl talk and, #3. He had gone past hoping she’d actually cook anything and have it ready before he woke up. No, he didn’t want plantain.
It was always like this. He thought back on all his visits: the first day, or maximum two days, were cool. They talked and laughed and had loads of fun. The other days, they were like parallel lines, each one doing his/her own thing, both returning to the same bed. As far as he was concerned, her job was a joke – a front for her to act busy and involved in something. Each time he had tried talking about it with her: cash flow, profit and loss, business model, strategy, etc they ended up arguing or in bed. He drove to Aunty Ajobi and ordered brunch. He switched on his phone for the first time since before he boarded in Lagos and the beeps came pouring out. Endless messages from Yewande, a few from other folks and one from Ambrose: “Call me as soon as you get this, bro.”
He deleted and blocked Yewande then called Ambrose. Yewande had gotten across to him and told all. Ambrose and Yewande had been to his (Charles’) crib this morning, the security guard had told them he had not returned last night. Charles told Ambrose he was fine and in Abuja. No, he didn’t want to talk to or see Yewande ever again. He had made his mind up on the flight here, such a girl was dangerous to have around. If she could go to such lengths for money and then keep it a secret, he was never going to feel safe around her. He could never trust her again. Thankfully Ambrose didn’t bother to mention how he had warned him, just a few days ago, not to give Chioma up for Yewande.
Charles spent the rest of his Saturday at the movies. Halfway into the second one, which he didn’t particularly like, Chioma called. He didn’t bother to answer, he simply got up and exited the hall then called her back. She was home, he got into the car and drove back to her place. “What is the matter, Charles?” were the first words out of Chioma’s mouth the moment he walked in. “The matter with?” he replied, heading for the bedroom. “You don’t seem happy to be here, you’ve been grumpy and all. Even Halimat noticed” she said following him. “What’s my own with Halimat?” Charles responded and immediately knew, too late, that he had launched a grenade. Chioma exploded in her trademark anger. He sat on the bed watching her scream and yell at him, but heard nothing, his mind was on overdrive. He knew his response came out wrong, he was willing to apologize, but this…. he looked away. Now he wished he still had the Vodka.
Chioma had stormed out and gone to Halimat’s room after her tirade. She had not responded when he called after her. It was past 11pm and he was still sitting on the edge of the bed where he had taken Chioma’s verbal attack that started sometime past 9pm. “God, please, help me. Where did I go wrong? Is Chioma getting worse or am I getting worse? Or is it better? Lord, I’m confused. I need Your help….” he rambled on for a bit longer. said an “Amen”, undressed and took a shower. He didn’t know why all this was happening, but the morning he’d had that terrible dream, he knew something was going to go crazy. And this was it.
He booked a 1:15pm flight back to Lagos. It was the earliest he could get.
Chioma refused to come out in the morning. The lone taxi ride and his long wait at the airport afforded him plenty of time to think. He was no stranger to Chioma’s tantrums, yet he had not gotten used to it. Finally his boarding call was made and he got on the craft. The flight was further delayed for a few passengers who were running late. The very last one on board took the seat next to him in business class.
Charles could not say exactly how it started but they had chatted all through the flight. Her name was Tinuola, she was into Events Managements and also ran an Interior Design & Decor institute. From the looks of things, she was doing pretty well for herself. He didn’t have his business cards on him, but he made certain to get her’s. He left her at arrivals, she had luggage to wait for, he didn’t. He got his car and drove home. Later that evening he called her up and asked her out for drinks sometime. “No, Sir. I will not come out for drinks with you.” she replied, “And that would be because?” he asked, “Because you are not being completely honest and I am not completely naive” she replied. He laughed and let it go at that.
Three weeks went by and neither he nor Chioma called the other. They chatted once a while on BBM, but it most times was kind of awkward. He finally took a few of Yewande’s incessant calls and let her know they were irreversibly done and no, he was not interested in a meet. His project had gotten the nod from HQ and he had been asked to spear-head a unit dedicated to carry out more R&D on it. He started putting in longer hours and hung out with Ambrose and his girlfriend, Amaechi, with whatever free time he got. He got himself a new ride: a Ford Explorer SUV ’12. Again, he called Tinuola to come celebrate with him, this time she was “very busy”.
Six more calls later to her, two of which she took, stayed a while on the line, but still refused to go on a date with him, he gave up. The very next weekend, Charles was getting stuff at the mall when he heard his number plates announced. He was not really certain he heard right initially until the lady on the PAS mentioned “…black Ford Explorer…”. He left his cart in the isle and headed for the exit. The scene before him was a no-brainer, someone had run into his ride while trying to get out of the lot, “What the hell!” he yelled. “Is this your car, Sir?” the security man asked as all gazes shifted to Charles. At that exact moment his eyes found her’s and he could not help laughing out loud.
“Tinuola! You drove into my ride?” Charles said, still laughing. She just stood looking super embarrassed, keys in hand, an ‘L’ plate hanging on her bumper. “I’m sorry, Charles….” she started, “It’s okay, guys. We are good here.” he dismissed the security guys and onlookers. “How about we talk about this over a few drinks?” Charles said to her, with a wink, the moment they were alone. She could not hold back her laughter.