“Awesome! Just awesome! You need to put this content out there, Ada. Grammy levels not just locally. Your songs were amazing and you even moved me. I literally had goose pimples on my skin when you sang that one…em…I can’t remember the title but it’s something about Empty my spirit and soul and refuel my heart and make me whole!” Lolade said, with so much thrill and excitement.
Ada smiled, hugging her.
“Thank you so much. I really appreciate your being here, dear.” She said.
Lolade said something else but Ada wasn’t listening. She was stretching her neck to call someone’s attention. When she finally did, she dragged Lolade’s hand and walked towards another direction.
“Where are you going to?” Lolade asked.
“I want you to meet the person who wrote some of my songs for me.” Ada said and before Lolade could respond, they were standing in front of a young man dressed in a dashiki and jeans. He wore a hat and nerdy glasses. Lolade recognized him immediately. He was the guy who had claimed she had taken his seat during the concert.
“Marvelous performance as always, dear. You scored it perfectly.” Dashiki man said, hugging Ada.
Ada hugged him back.
“Thank you. I owe it to you.” She smiled.
“By the way, this is my friend, Lolade. She was just telling me how much she loved the song Empty my Spirit.” Ada said. She turned to Lolade.
“This is my writer of life! His name is…”
“Reuben.” Dashiki man said, stretching out his hand to shake Lolade. “I believe we have met before.” He said.
Lolade looked a little uncomfortable, then she nodded, looking at Ada.
“Yeah…I’m sorry for the way I responded, Mr. Reuben Abati.” She said.
“I wish my father had been that influential when he was alive.” Reuben said. “It’s Reuben Chibueze.”
She nodded again, feeling embarrassed at her flopped joke attempt.
“Are you still waiting behind for anything?” Reuben asked Ada.
“Em…well, I want to see the pastor and discuss a few things before I leave. Why?” Ada responded.
“I wanted to drop you home.”
Ada shook her head, laughing.
“It’s fine. I’ll definitely get someone to drop me off. Speaking of which, Lolade might be stranded…” Ada said.
“No, I’m not…I’ll…” Lolade started but Reuben cut her short.
“I’ll drop you home then.” Reuben smiled at Lolade.
“What did you say?” Lolade said. She had heard him clearly but she wanted to hear him again.
“I said I hope you love me because I love you.” Reuben repeated, smiling and not shifting his gaze away from her face.
They were in his apartment. It was a Saturday, exactly five months after the first time they had met at Ada’s concert at the church.
Their story had begun from that night when he dropped her off at home. Ada had confessed that she felt he was a really good guy and she wanted Lolade to be in a healthy relationship that could possibly lead to marriage. That night, he had spoken so much about how he wrote songs as a hobby and didn’t really take it serious enough to commercialize it. He told her that he wrote songs for Ada as a gift because he believed so much in her voice. He confessed that he had liked Ada at first but then she didn’t like him back and after a few weeks the feelings faded away. They had nothing in common and if they ever got together, things would go berserk. Lolade wondered why he was informing her that there was nothing between him and Ada. He had told her he was a pharmacist and worked with a hospital in Victoria Island. He wanted to open his own mobile drug store to take drugs to very sick people in the rural areas. She asked how he would make profit. He said the Lord would teach him to make profit. She said he wasn’t realistic and then he said he hoped to get funding from government bodies and sponsors. Lolade had laughed at his dream. She understood the Nigerian system much more than anyone else and she confidently told him not to bank on government support except it was from a politician who wanted recognition and the public vote in return. She told him he needed to have a business plan and a strategy. He asked if she had been in business before. She said yes, but that she was now a lawyer (jobless). He asked why her business strategy did not work for her and she kept quiet.
Lolade liked him a lot. He was a very smart and confident person and had the healthiest self-esteem she had ever seen in her entire life. He wasn’t rich…he lived in a one bedroom apartment and had an old Honda Accord, but he had a lot of ideas and potential.
Lolade had never done potential before. She preferred to see the actual money and not wait for an uncertain future. She didn’t want to suffer with a man who would hit it big someday and abandon her. But Reuben seemed different. Very different.
“I said I love you.” He repeated.
“I…I don’t know what to say…” She said.
“You can say how you feel.”
“I don’t know how I feel. But I always want to be with you and listen to you. I don’t feel that way with anyone else.”
“Hmmm…that might just be a crush.” He said.
“Reuben I don’t know. I don’t even really think you love me.” She said. “You could just be passing through a phase like when you thought you loved Ada.”
“Where is that thought coming from?” He asked.
She sighed and hesitated a bit. Reuben held her hand and told her to speak.
“You don’t buy me expensive things. I don’t want you to think I am materialistic but…you buy me things like flat slippers, recharge cards…those were things I got from admirers in University. You’re a man…I’m not used to this.”
“My rent is almost due I don’t even know how to get the balance. I’m so worried and I can’t even come to you for help.”
Reuben was silent for a while.
“Is that all?” He said, softly.
She looked at him.
“It’s been about five months since we met. I haven’t gotten a job. You know how frustrated I am. Yes I appreciate the Ten thousand you give me every month but …” She raised her hands in the air.
“Is that all or there’s more?” Reuben asked again.
“Reuben you don’t love me. Just face the fact. You have never even touched me for one day. You haven’t made love to me yet you say you love me. That’s just ridiculous.”
“Is there more? Or can I speak now?” He said
“Ehn…you can talk.” She said, looking away.
“Okay. Thank you.” He said. He moved closer and turned her face towards him so she was looking in his eyes.
“I think it’s time we talked about our past relationships. It might help define our expectations from each other. But first, please understand that I cannot live above my means. I try in my very best way to make you happy and provide for you, within my means. You know me and you know my finances. I am not there yet neither am I a rich man’s kid. I hope you can understand and accept that.
About our relationships, I have told you before that my ex-girlfriend died from breast cancer two years ago. I am only just beginning to find myself again and put myself out. I like you a lot…I love you. I want to get married to you, if you will have me, and you motivate me to really make a breakthrough in my career. I have not yet attained, but things will work out well in our favour. I just need you to believe, have some hope, and love me. Faith, hope and love. That’s the recipeee.”
“As for sex…or love making like you call it. If I have sex with you right now, Lolade I swear to you it’s not from a place of love. Love making will happen when we are married and I want to express the entirety of my love and commitment to you by giving you my very essence as a man. You think I don’t find you attractive? You have no idea how much I restrain myself when I see you. You are a stunning woman and I can’t wait to marry you. I respect you enough to make you my wife before I take you.” He said.
Lolade blinked. She didn’t shift her gaze from him.
“Do you understand everything I have said?” Reuben asked.
“I want to hug you.” She whispered.
“Come here, Sweetheart.” He said, pulling her into his arms. She laid her head on his chest and she didn’t understand why tears were falling from her face and ruining her mascara. She had stained his shirt. He rocked her and stroked her hair. She loved the breath from his nostrils and how it felt against her ear lobes. She loved the way he held her and memories began to flood her mind. Memories of the things she did with Lanre Akingbile. She looked up to face Reuben and kissed the nape of his neck. She knew that had been a target spot for Lanre. Anytime she wanted him to do something for her, she kissed him right there and he became a different person.
Reuben’s neck became stiff and she felt him hold his breath. Then he pulled away.
“What do you say? Let’s go out to have lunch. There’s this joint near my office that is incredibly good.” He said, catching his breath.
“It’s okay Reubzi. I won’t molest ya.”
“I’ll be back, let me go change into something okay.” He said and hurriedly went into his bedroom.
Lolade looked round his small living room. He had good taste and he was a collector of books. She saw a lot of T.D Jakes, Jentezen Franklin, Godman Akinlabi, Bishop Oyedepo books on his shelf. His birthday was coming up and she had been thinking of what to get him. Now she had an idea. A book. His birthday was coming in November.
That was the same month her rent would be due and she knew she didn’t have the money. She knew moving in with Reuben was not an option. He would never agree to it. Ada was her only option but she didn’t want to impose herself.
She hadn’t told Reuben about her past. She always dodged it whenever he asked. She didn’t know what to say. How would she explain that her past was the reason she didn’t have a job anymore, or the reason for why her business had failed, or the reason for her disconnect with her mother. The past was the past. She didn’t think it was necessary to tell him. He was a good man and she wanted to start a new life. A good life.
Nike adjusted her hair and looked around. They were sitting at a restaurant located at the pent house of a high rise. She was not scared of heights. She remembered going on trips with her mom when she was younger to the Empire state building and London Eye. It was her date that was scared of heights and she wondered why he had suggested they came to that particular restaurant. It was her birthday and Tosan had insisted that he wanted to take her out. She had been a little embarrassed when they entered the elevator. It could take six people on the average but when she and Tosan had gotten in, only four were able to go through and the other two people had to wait till the elevator came back to the ground floor. Why did he even need to take the elevator? He looked like he needed the stairs…literally.
“Are you enjoying your meal?” Tosan asked for the third time.
“Yes. I am. Thanks.” Nike replied, looking uninterested. They were having the first course. Bread and spread for her and varieties of small chops for him. She wondered if he would be able to eat the main course.
“I think this place would be a good spot for a pre-wedding shoot although not for me. I need to confess that I am acrophobic.” He said, laughing. She saw his dimple. It looked cute. She wondered why he was talking about pre-wedding shoots.
“So why did you ask us to come to a pent house restaurant if you are scared of heights?” She said.
“Um…Nike, I think I need to come out straight with you. By now, you ought to know that I really do like you. A lot.” He said.
The waiter came with their orders.
“The special in-house Chicken and fish salad for you Madam,” The waiter placed a wide salad bowl in front of Nike. “And the chicken burger and fries and milk shake for you, Sir.” He placed the other in front of Tosan.
They both smiled and the waiter left.
“Tosan.” Nike said.
He looked up at her, reaching for the glass of milk shake.
“Yes, Nike?” He replied.
“I don’t think you should be eating that stuff. It’s not healthy for you.” She said.
“Naah. Trust me I am good. My weight is just hereditary.” He said.
“It’s not about your weight, although you need to work on that. It’s just not healthy. Even me wouldn’t eat all that junk in your plate.” She said.
Tosan laughed again.
“Are you starting to care about me, Miss Nike?”
Nike rolled her eyes.
“I’m serious here.” She said.
“Just this once, okay. I promise to stop if you agree to one more date with me.”
Nike laughed. He was exactly like his cousin Toju.
“Well, I would consider it a cause. It’s my own way of saving your life.” She said.
The Company Secretary, Mr. Jidenna distributed the documents among the parties in the board room. Lanre placed his folded hands over his nose, his elbows resting on the marble board room table. On his right was his business partner, James and on the left was the officer of the new company that was taking over the remaining shares in the company. They were a huge investor and Jidenna had convinced him that it was the right decision because Mybridge needed capital injection desperately and HomePairs Limited was willing to invest largely in the business.
“On behalf of HomePairs, I am pleased to inform you that our company is absolutely committed to working closely with the board of directors of Mybridge Limited.” The officer, Mrs. Ronke Phillips said.
James smiled and gave a short speech as Lanre looked through the Particulars of Directors of HomePairs Ltd a third time. There were three directors; Ronke Phillips, one Musa Ahmed and a Yemi Johnson. Jidenna had done the necessary background checks and had advised that it was a good deal.
After they had signed the necessary documents, Jidenna collected them and began to set them in place for filing.
“One more thing gentlemen,” Ronke Phillips said. “I am a nominee for a member of the board of HomePairs and would be tendering my resignation as a director for someone else to take over."
“Oh…okay. Who might that be and when would this take effect?” Jidenna asked.
“Olanike Ajayi-Cresley. Her appointment takes effect immediately as we have filed the change in directorship at the CAC.” Ronke Phillips replied with a smile.
Lanre looked up, bereft of words.
*Episode 8 Before Our Eyes
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*N.B All characters and representations are entirely a work of the imagination of Olufisayo Talabi.