“I hope you do like the scenery at least.” Toba said. He was looking at her and hadn’t taken his eyes off her even for a second. He was acting as though he had never seen her in his entire life. He had told her for the third time that evening that she was beautiful. Yes she knew that she was beautiful but a bit of her felt he was exaggerating. Or maybe not.
They were having drinks at the outdoor section of the Lagos Motor Boat Club on Awolowo road. His father was a member of the board of trustees. She reached for her silk scarf and covered her arms with it. It felt chilly with the evening breeze. She nodded. Yes the scenery was beautiful but she had other concerns on her mind.
She landed at the airport very early that morning and headed straight to the office. She wanted to ask for the day off to clear her head but she was only just returning from an all-expense paid two day vacation bequeathed to her by her boss. She had some files to work on as expected. In the course of the day, more work was added. It did not help that the Youth Corper Sharon still knew next to nothing about property law. All she was good at was checking blogs and gisting about the latest celebrity marriage or break up.
Tony tried hard to distract her mind with work. She didn’t even know where to begin. She had opened different documents on her computer but she found her self stuck on simple clauses and terms. The only person logically and rationally responsible for her fear was Jimi whom she had ended things with already. She hadn’t been intimate with him in about three to four weeks but she had been with him so many times before the fight that she did not even know how to calculate when conception could have occurred.
She asked Sharon to cover for her as she needed to attend to a family emergency. Hurriedly, she packed her stuff into her purse and walked out of the office ignoring Yvonne who wanted to know where she was headed. She sat in her car downstairs and sighed, wiping off the beads of sweat that were starting to gather on her forehead, nose and her philtrum. She held the key of the car but somehow did not recall how to start the engine. She did not know where to drive to. Home? Jimi’s? The hospital? Her mother’s?
She reached for her phone and unlocked it. There was a message from Dan asking if she was back in town. There was another from Toba who had already called when she landed. He wanted to know if she was okay as she hadn’t sounded too cheerful when they spoke. She ignored both and scrolled through her contacts to find the one person she could talk to.
“Where are you? Stop panicking babe.” Feyisetan said.
“Don’t tell me to stop panicking! How can I stop panicking? I am doomed! Where do I start from?” Tony burst into tears.
She noticed one of the security men looking at her. He started to walk towards her. She couldn't let anyone see her like that. She immediately started the car and stepped on the accelerator, not minding if she committed a hit and run. She continued to drive along Ozumba Mbadiwe. She did not know where to turn. She headed on to the Lekki Epe express way and somehow all found herself driving down Remi Olowude street at Oniru. She found somewhere solitary and parked the car. She locked the doors and started crying uncontrollably.
Feyisetan called back. Tony ignored it the first two times but answered it when Feyisetan sent a text that she would tell her parents if Tony did not pick up.
“Where are you?”
“I don’t know. Somewhere in Oniru.”
“Are you alright? I hope you aren’t trying to commit suicide or do something silly to yourself because of this situation.”
“I don’t know Feyi. I don’t.”
“Where exactly are you?”
“Towards Lagos Court of Arbitration.”
Feyisetan was a makeup artist and not a lawyer or a client in need of arbitration.
“The old Elevation Church road. Straight down.”
“Okay. I will be with you soon. And if you find somewhere to buy water start drinking now. I’m coming with a kit.”
Jimi looked at his wrist watch. It was still morning. He turned behind and his colleague Nnenna had dozed off already with her glossy lips parted and her nostrils moving in rhythm with her soft snore and her big eye balls equally partly shut. The false eye lashes looked like an assembly of decayed house flies. She was a rather large lady with equally large features; large bosoms, large hips, and her rather large and tinted Afro Diana Ross hair style did not do her much justice. Ejike, his other colleague was busy chatting on Facebook as usual, looking for the next possible way to scam someone by selling fake slimming products and bleaching creams.
The company was a four staffed one. The boss rarely showed up except there was something serious. It was two days after pay day so it was certain that the boss was not coming. He always avoided coming to work when he hadn't paid salaries. Perhaps it was his guilty conscience. The front desk girl was also the cleaner and the admin staff and sometimes Human Resources. She was also the office caterer. She made fruit salad and small chops from home and sold it to the staff and other offices that shared the duplex with them. She had graduated from small chops and fruit salad and added jollof rice and white rice to the menu. The boss had complained many times but he stopped complaining when no one was listening. Jimi had just finished a pack of her jollof rice and it didn’t help that there was no cold water. The office fridge was not working properly so whatever bottles or sachets of water that went in there were sure to come out in the same lukewarm temperature, if not warmer.
He reached for his phone to make some calls. There was a new project that his flat mate had introduced him to. It seemed lucrative and it was likely that this one would be different from the previous ones. It didn’t even require as much work. It involved recruiting boys from Aba market for an Indian garment factory that was looking to set up in Lagos. His flat mate had registered a consulting business which would serve as the recruitment agency. All they needed was to get the right staff on board and the company would pay the agents for their services. The Indian guys also requested that the sample pieces made by the boys be shipped to Asia for them to carry out a proper market survey. This was where Jimi was needed. The flat mate owned the company and he wanted Jimi to contribute the capital before he was made an equal share holder.
He saw a call come in the minute he picked up his phone. And almost immediately, it was ended. He thought she would call back but she did not. He wanted to call back but then again he decided against it.
He missed her and he needed her. Tony had been his support both emotionally and financially. He knew he had failed so far in life. He considered himself a failure. All the hopes he had as a child had never materialized and all he had was the apology of a job as a staff with a failing media company. He started to realize just how naked he really was when Tony left him. Well, she had called it space. He hoped for hope, hoping against hope that they would get back together. He loved her and he wanted her back but it still hurt him that he had spent his entire savings, including the money he planned to pay back her loan with, in purchasing the engagement ring. He had tried to impress her but it had come crumbling on his head.
He dialed her number again. It continued to ring. She did not answer it. He knew she was there and could see his call. He knew that she had called him deliberately but ended it abruptly. Maybe she wanted him back but just did not have the courage to face him? Perhaps.
Tony saw Feyisetan alight from a Toyota. She exchanged some words with the driver and then started to walk towards Tony’s car. Tony immediately ended the call. She had dialed Jimi’s number while she had been waiting and thinking of all sorts. If she was carrying his child, she figured that he needed to know.
Feyisetan opened the door after Tony unlocked it and sat beside her best friend.
“Hey.” Feyisetan said. She spread out her arms for a hug and Tony hugged her back.
“I am so scared. I have never been so confused.”
“It’s okay. Besides, you can’t be sure until you do a proper test. Are you still feeling the nausea and all that?”
“Yes this morning. But I got better after some time.”
“Okay. When last did you do it and how come you did not use protection?”
Tony felt like a slut. It wasn’t like she was sleeping with every guy like Feyisetan. She had only been with Jimi her entire adult life.
“It was only Jimi. And we usually used protection but sometimes maybe we got carried away when I wasn’t ovulating.”
Feyisetan hissed and brought out a plastic carrier bag from her tote.
“What’s this?” Tony asked.
“The pregnancy kit.”
Tony stared at her friend.
“You want me to pee inside the car?”
“We can drive down to your house.”
“I can’t drive.”
Feyisetan drove the car while Tony panicked at the passenger seat. She started to shake her legs. She always did that when she was nervous.
She continued to shake her legs as they waited for the result. Feyisetan sat on the couch, watching her and shaking her head.
“Aunty you really need to calm down.” She said.
Tony nodded. She jumped up and started to pace to and fro her living room.
"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth..." Tony chanted. That was the only prayer that came to mind at that moment. She had not prayed in so long. At first, it seemed like she missed a couple of morning prayers. Then it became weeks. And suddenly, she found herself not even knowing what words to say in prayer.
“Are you even listening to me?” Toba asked. He snapped his fingers in Tony’s face.
“I…I’m sorry. What did you say?” She said.
He shook his head.
“Maybe we should leave.” He said. “I’m sorry I dragged you out here. I know you told me already that you were not in the mood and I should have listened to you. I understand that you are tired too. Let’s leave.” He said, smoothening his shirt.
“I am really sorry. I just have so much on my mind.” She said.
“And you can’t tell me?”
She smiled, looking away.
“I guess I am being too forward. I think I just really like you and I feel you aren’t exactly new to me. I am very and highly attracted to you and I believe we are both adults here. But then again I understand if this is all too sudden for you.” He said.
She opened her mouth to say something but her phone beeped. It was a text. It was from Dan. He was starting to get worried not hearing from her. He asked if she was back in town and wanted to take her out for a drink. She replied that she was tired and would speak with him later. By the time she finished sending the text message, Toba had left. She grabbed her purse and hurried after him to catch up. She did not want it to look like there was a problem between them. They were in public.
“Toba!” She said.
He stopped and turned around to face her. He kept a straight face.
“Why did you walk out on me? That’s rude.” She said.
“Rude? You barely said anything to me out there and you even had the nerve to reply texts. You just made me look so stupid. You know what, please get in the car. I will drop you home and I won’t be bothering you anymore.” He said.
She rolled her eyes.
“Why so dramatic?” She said.
“Dramatic.” He laughed.
“I’m sorry now. I just have a lot on my mind right now. I have…work. I have deadlines. And I don’t feel so well too.” She said.
He sighed, leaning against his SUV. He looked at her and shook his head then pulled her into an embrace. Her heart stopped. She was attracted to him and she wrapped her arms around him. She felt some comfort even if she couldn’t tell him what was bothering her.
“I need you to calm down and take it easy. That’s why I brought you here. I figured you still needed some mental rest. Two days is not enough for a vacation anyway.” He said. He cupped her face in his hands and leaned in to kiss her. She kissed him back but pulled away immediately.
“What’s wrong?” He said, searching her eyes.
She shook her head. “Nothing.”
“You don’t want…me kissing you?”
She smiled like a school girl.
“It’s not that. I just…got out of a bad relationship and I’m still taking things slow.”
“Please, I’m in no way like your ex- boyfriends. I really like you and I mean it.” He said.
She smiled and nodded then she let him kiss her gently on the lips. ignoring the urge to correct him that she had only one ex boyfriend.
As he drove her back home, she couldn't stop thinking of everything that had happened in the day.
The next morning, she woke up a little later than usual. She hurried into the bathroom and showered then brushed her teeth and applied a little makeup. She still felt a little sick. She remembered what Toba had told her the night before as he tucked her in bed to sleep before he left. He told her that if she died serving Dealridge Ltd, they would attend her burial ceremony with a new legal officer in her place who would probably request a higher pay for the magnitude of work she was doing. She went back to the bedroom and picked up her phone to call HR. She told them that she was sick and could not come to work.
In a few minutes, Mr. Wright called her. She exhaled and answered the call, changing the pitch of her voice to that of a distressed damsel.
“Tony? What’s the matter?” He asked. He sounded like he did not want to hear any health problems. All he wanted her to say was that she was on her way to the office.
“Good morning sir. I don’t feel so good. I have been feeling weak since Accra. I think I need to go to the hospital today.” She said.
“Wow. Sorry. And today is the meeting with Mrs. Pius’ Abuja clients. The one scheduled for 11a.m. Do you think you will feel better before then?” He said.
“I’m not sure sir. I don’t feel good.” She coughed.
“What do I do now?”
“You can hold the meeting with Sharon. She was working on the file with me. I can also answer calls if you need me to clarify something.”
“Ha, Tony! Anyway please make sure you get well quick. I need you back asap.” He said and ended the call.
She smiled. For once, she would be able to stay in and get some rest. She went to the bathroom and picked up the pregnancy kit stick. She looked at it again. Those minutes had been the most dreaded of her life. It still read negative. For a second she feared it had changed overnight to positive. She smiled as she tossed it back in the bin. Perhaps it was just malaria. She decided to go to a laboratory to do a blood test and treat herself for malaria or typhoid, whatever the outcome was.
Toba had come to check up on her in the afternoon. It was confirmed that she had malaria fever. She got some drugs and Paracetamol over the counter at a nearby pharmacy and started the dose immediately on Dr. Toba’s orders. She liked the way he took care of her. She felt like his baby and his special girl. He had brought some take-out from his restaurant and she had to admit that the food was very tasty. There and then, she told him that she was a girl whose mother had tried so hard to teach her kitchen secrets and bottom pot rudiments but somehow, she had failed to assimilate properly. She didn't want him having any unnecessarily high expectations of her cooking prowess. He laughed and told her it was okay for now…until she became his wife and she wouldn’t have a choice but to make his meals. At first she had laughed it over but then it became clear to her. Toba was looking for a long term, life long relationship with her.
They had been making out for so long that she hadn’t heard her phone ring from the living room where she had been charging it. More so, the noise from the television drowned the ring tone. Mr. Wright had tried to call her several times. By the time she checked her phone, she saw eight consecutive missed calls from him forty minutes back.