I had to hurry out of there! Pumping my legs as I escaped, not bothering to look over my shoulder and back at the café. My head was a clutter of unpleasant memories now. The laughing voices echoed from the depths of buried pasts, mocking faces loomed mid-air before me, startling me. But I pressed on, focusing on placing each foot before the other and putting as much distance between him and me.
I dared a glance over her shoulder once I had walked a block away, subconsciously hoping he had not followed. I could still see him in the café, head hung and eyes groping all about him, confused. My chest felt lighter. He was not following. The chattering of an incoming Tricycle alerted me.
I waved hysterically, like a robbed woman seeking help, balancing on one foot with the other slightly raised as if I was about to perform ballet. The keke screeched to a stop and the young man sitting behind the wheel eyed me suspiciously.
“I’ll stop by Ben Udo.” I stated as I hopped into the backseat, taking a moment to note it was graciously empty.
Had it not been, I would still have hopped in, vying to getaway from him. I wouldn’t have bated an eye if two fat women oppressed the worn-out seats, I would gladly have opted to be squished like sardine between them, even in my corporate attire. Anything to get away.
I exhaled a breath I had unconsciously been holding as the Keke's engines wheezed to life and chattered as it rolled away.
I almost hadn’t recognized him, sitting there in polo and slacks, looking like the world had taken a dump on him. My skin crawled when my brain managed to place his face, merging the younger version I remembered with the older, broader and hairier face. I had almost cringed visibly.
I shook my head dismissively. That was a long time ago. We had drifted apart and life had dispersed all of us like seeds to the fields. I had hoped I would never see them again; never see him again. He looked rough but he still had his good looks. Those once lean arms had given way for well carved muscles and though his slacks had flapped ludicrously when he walked, they still gave snippets of ripped and toned thighs. His shoulders were much broader now, championing a large expanse of chest. His lips were still cherry red, his nose still crooked and his eyes still dazzled.
I suddenly shuddered. Why had I noted so much detail? Was I still ensnared?
No! I shrugged to myself. I was an artist in my spare time and I had a flair for noting good looks. It was simply that. Nothing attached, I reassured myself.
“Madam, where you go stop?” The man's crude question pulled me from my thoughts. I had almost forgotten I was onboard a Keke.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“No be Ben Udo be this? We don reach na, where you wan stop?” He said crassly and the heat rose to my cheeks.
I paid attention to the structures by the roadside and easily picked my Destination.
“That blue story building there.” I pointed just down the road and no later I was hopping out of the Tricycle.
I settled him before hurrying into the complex.
Futurenet was owned by Mr. Bola Tunji. A stunt round man with small eyes and enormous lips. Despite his failings in looks, he was quite an intelligent man with great prospects for his company, however in as much as he failed in physical appearance, he also failed to keep his organ in his briefs. He had a new girl on his arm every single day Small girls picked from the state’s University.
My job as head of Public affairs was very simple and demanding in the same context. I had to keep the company spotless in limelight, portraying the Mr.Bola in holy white garments at all costs, not just for the good of the company but also because the man had political dreams.
I strolled past the reception area, stopping briefly for morning pleasantries before taking the elevator to the fourth floor. The Public Affairs floor. My floor. After going through a round of greetings and pleasantries with my subordinates, I was finally shut behind my door, and finally had the time to go through the eventfulness of the day.
“Edima” My assistant poked her head into my office and shone a smile at me, instantly lightening my mood.
She was the only subordinate I freely talked to and an old time colleague from University.
“Ada, come in.” I beamed and she did so.
“Edima how are you? Good morning!” She beamed, smiling so wide, I feared she would split her face.
“Morning Ada. You only come to see me when you have messages to deliver. What is it?” I laughed.
“Uncu Belle says all senior staff must attend that party holding at Emerald center. He particularly asked me to deliver this message to you. He will need you to meet some investors at the party and say hi to some dignitaries.” She said, pointing seriously at me.
“I have heard. Thank you.” I sighed, my mind already skipping to which dress I would wear to the event.
“You looked a little off when you came in this morning. Are you alright?” She asked, raising a brow as she approached my semi circle desk.
She was a tall slender beauty, spanning a length of 6’1. An inch taller than me. I paid note to her wavy curls, the weavon had a glossy sheen to it and haloed her oval face. By far one of the most beautiful employees on my floor.
“You wouldn’t believe it if I told you.” I sighed, shutting out Akpan's face again.
Squelching my thoughts at what he would look like in just shorts.
“Abeg, Sister gist me! This office has been boring since money and Uncu belle never show with new side chick.” She chuckled as she flopped down on one of my sofas.
“Uncu belle” was our unspoken name for Mr. Bola.
“I saw someone. Some guy from my past. And now I, I don’t know…I’ve been feeling weird since then. I had a crush on him back in primary and through out secondary school.” I said in almost a whisper, ashamed to admit my foolery.
“Oje! You don’t mean it. Howfar? Where’s his picture? Tell me you got a number!” She clapped her hands excitedly, vibrating like a tuning fork.
“Ada, I hated him. He was a bastard. Me running into him today just spoiled my day.” I grumbled, avoiding her eyes, fearing she would sift out the truth.
“Ahn? What Happened? He cheated on you?” She cocked her head to the side, observing me closely.
“We never dated.”
“So how was he a bastard now? Don’t tell me you asked to be his girlfriend and he rejected you.” She chuckled.
“I wish it had been that direct. It could have been better and not have left me scarred for a long time.” I mumbled unconsciously but she heard me.
“Are you serious? Please gist me!” She clapped her hands again, almost startling me.
“Ada, it’s okay. I’m just shocked at seeing him after all these years. That’s all.” I said, scrutinizing each word and doubting them.
“Okay,” Ada raised her hands in surrender as she rose from her seat. “But make sure you show up to that party!” She scolded waving that finger at me. “Also, remember, wear something sexy. I hear a lot of rich bachelors are attending. It'll be like going fishing.” She cackled, swaying her hips in a slow tortuous way.
“I’m not into that right now.” I sighed, quickly diverting my attention to the stack of folders in front of me, hoping to convey an unspoken message.
“Abegi! You sef! Remember to wear something sexy, men are moved by what they see!” Ada teased, nudging me playfully.
I forced a smile. Talking about men was a tiring subject to me. I had waded through years of failed relationships and heart breaks had toyed with me for the past few years, tossing me about like a buoy at sea. I was done wasting my time. I had goals I had set for myself and relationships only managed to weigh me down.
“Ada wear the one you want to wear okay, Happy fishing!” I snapped and she pouted.
The rest of his day had been a blur. He got back home to an empty apartment. He thanked the good Lord for Ima's disappearance before refreshing for the rest of the day. He was a lawyer now. A successful one at that, handpicked and mentored by one of the greatest lawyers the country had ever known. His colleagues thought he was lucky because money came with the flux of cases he handled, only to have it sucked down an endless hole called Ima.
He shook her from his thoughts. His day was almost over and he was at the office. He had been thinking of her. Not Ima, he cringed. Edima. He could not get those luscious curves out of his head and that face still lingered in the back of his head, shutting out thoughts of Ima and making everything about his day brighter. He was curious. He wondered how he could get in touch!
He logged on to Facebook and pored through a bundle of Edimas. None were as curvy, pretty or reserved as his Edima. He stopped himself. He was already personalizing her. He needed to stop himself but he could not.
She had once been his for the taking. Once. He wondered what happened then. The past was a clutter of dawdled memories. He shook them off. He would focus on the Edima he saw today. How had she grown so beautiful over the years? Like an uninteresting shell, a cocoon that had hatched to give life to true beauty.
He tired after an hour of searching and turned his attention to his contacts. Surely he must be friends with someone that worked at Futurenet. Another hour dragged by and he came to a realization that with all his connections, he had no ties to finding this woman.
His nose itched and he frowned. His hopes had begun to wane, but no matter, he would go to that café everyday for the rest of his life until he found her.
“My man, how you dey?” Jozi's voice cut through his thoughts and he gaped up to find Ima's brother standing there, dressed casually in khaki’s and a polo.
He was a junior lawyer at Akpan’s firm. One who got his degree by swindling means. Like father, like son. Like brother, like sister.
Akpan plastered a smile on his face as the young man bounced gallantly towards him.
“Jozi, I thought I told you. Don’t come to work dressed like this?” Akpan cooed, checking his tone and stressing each word, hoping the dumb proud child of a man would be able to digest his caution this time.
The young man was wiry in build and his small head disproportionate to the rest of his body. Unlike his father and Sister that garnered attractive features, he was unapologetically ugly. His eyes were small and hooded and his nose flat like someone sat on it.
“Dad said it’s alright. I was helping him prepare the emerald event center for the party tonight.” Jozi waved his hand dismissively as he settled into one of the vacant seats in front of Akpan. Akpan bit back an insult and took a deep breath to settle his nerves.
“Jozi. Your father has nothing to do with this. You are my subordinate and I give you the orders around here.”
“What? Guy, chill. You take things too seriously plus Dad said it would be alright. He expects you to understand.” Jozi sighed, paying attention to his nails like a teenage girl.
<em>He expects you to understand.</em>
Akpan knew the implication of that statement too well. He had been subject to that statement for a long time. In other words it meant, “Shut your ass up, we own you.”
Akpan’s emotions acted out on his face. A tirade of anger, depression and self loathe but he managed to keep his beast in its cage.
“Also, Dad wanted me to tell you to be there tonight.” Jozi beamed with a sly smile.
“I have cases to look into.” Akpan said calmly.
“Well, you will have to postpone that, Kpanny boy. Dad wants you to meet Mr. Bola Tunji and his team from Futurenet. He also wants…”
Akpan could hear no more. Nothing else coming from the scoundrel mattered. Only two words echoed repeatedly in his head. Futurenet. Edima.
“…You would also have to speak to…”,
“What time?” Akpan cut him off, now keenly interested.
“By Nine. Now that’s the right attitude. I’m just gonna go home now and take a rest before the party. Better come with your guns tonight. Lots of single but rich fishes will be in the pond tonight.” Jozi flashed a set of evenly cut teeth. Akpan’s fingers itched and he balled them into a fist. Sometimes he daydreamed of pounding that small head into fine pulp but fate would not allow it, not yet. Right now all he wanted was Edima.
“Thank you, Jozi. Give your father my regards.” Akpan concluded.