Jeff had been so discouraged to find out that Veronica was in a relationship. He did not know what to do. It was his belief that he would never have to compete with another man over a woman but this time, he was giving it a thought. Should he send her flowers every morning? Should he hire a singer to go and sing by her car as she alighted every morning? Should he get her number from his aunt and stalk her with text messages? Should he do a shout out to her on a blog? He needed to do something and time was of the essence.
It was closing time at work. He had spent all day solving problems for the Chocolat staff. Who would take care of him?, he wondered. He suddenly felt very much alone. As he headed to his car, he remembered they had a seminar for which a guest minister had been invited to their church. It was to start in 3 weeks and was titled “Strategies for Overcoming Persecution.” Suddenly, he felt impressed to go to St. Lucas and drop the invite for Veronica.
“No, lord, I’ve embarrassed myself enough. I don’t think I want to go,” he murmured in the car. He found himself driving to the hospital while arguing with himself.
“She will think I’m desperate. Besides, she has a boyfriend. Let someone else invite her. The ad is on twitter…”
He was trying to talk himself out of going as his car sped towards the hospital. It took him an hour because of traffic but he arrived as Veronica was unlocking her car door. He parked beside her and wound down his window. She turned and sighed when she saw he was the one. Jeff noticed her expression and almost balked.
“Mr…er…” “Jeff; my name is Jeff. Hi, doc,” he managed a smile.
She made no attempt to engage in a conversation. Rather, she opened her door and stepped in. He got out of his and walked towards her, extending the invite.
“This is for you. Have a great day, ” he passed it to her through the window as he spoke and turned on his heel.
She accepted it, surprised. As she watched, he got into his car and drove off without another glance at her.
“Toyota landcruiser 2014!” she remarked. “This guy is balling* E be like say hustling dey pay O*! Or maybe he borrowed it. Hian!”
She flung the invite into her bag without looking at it. It had been a stressful day. Matron Ngwanu had flouted her order and discharged a patient she ordered to be kept on admission for an extra day. Now, the man returned worse than he left. She had gone behind her and gotten Dr. Korede to sign off on the discharge because she felt he was fit. Veronica called her into her office to reprimand her but she insisted that Dr. Korede should be blamed because he signed the discharge order.
Dr. Korede was off duty and had turned off his phone. Veronica suspected someone had told him of the situation in the hospital. She was surrounded by disloyal staff.
Jeff drove to a cafe and parked. It had a lovely garden and he loved to sit there with drinks and pasteries and pray. He had taken so many photographs of their garden that he had become a much loved customer. The owner was a kind widow who treated him like a son. He made for his favourite spot, waving greetings at the waiters. They would bring his usual order in 30 minutes, giving him time to soak in the presence of God that he always found in nature. Flowers, trees, birds, even the insects, reminded him of the finger of God. As he sat on the bench, he began to pray for Veronica.
He did not know why he was praying or what he was to pray for but he had formed the habit of praying in the spirit when he had a burden. It would be silly to ask God to make her break up with her boyfriend, so he prayed that her purpose would be fulfilled, that her destiny would be made clear to her, that favor would bless her path, and that she would live a life that would earn her God’s ‘Well done’. After a while, he felt deeply troubled. They had brought his food but he left it untouched. He knelt in the secluded area and prayed, groaning deeply. It was hidden from him what he was praying for but tears were coursing down his cheeks as he prayed that the forces of evil would not prevail.
Almost an hour later, he felt at peace so he sat down to eat. *
Abel and DJ Hinnow were going for a gig in University of Lagos. DJ Hinnow was the official DJ for a party being hosted by a popular alcoholic beverage company. Abel was tagging along, hoping to meet other “party people” so he could have a good time. Perez was on a movie set where he had landed a cameo role. He was hoping it would be the only time he would have to accept such a role. When he became a star, as he planned to, he would have the lead role or nothing. As he had learned, a foreign accent earned one a lot of privileges and he intended to exploit them all.
DJ Hinnow had suggested that Abel should consider becoming a fitness trainer. He was into martial arts and was very athletic. A growing consciousness of weight and lifestyle modification had hit Nigeria in the past few years and Hinnow knew a number of people who were making a living from it. Abel was too proud for hard work. He did not see himself going to people’s homes to beg them to get off their couches and work out.
“No way!” he thought. As he partied, he surveyed the room for potential targets. He had come up with the plan of snagging himself a rich girlfriend. She would fund his lifestyle while he provided her a handsome face to display on social media as her “boo”.
“What better deal could any lady ask for?” he thought.
He had learned to distinguish between the “wanna bes” and the girls who actually had a fat bank account. The secret was in the subtility of the designer clothes and accessories that only a trained eye could pick. He knew the weaves that were fake, the real louboutin shoes, the fragrance that smelled nice but cost little; he knew his onoins.
Soon, he spotted two girls dancing together close to the front. One was trying too hard, the other was his mark. Everything fit the bill. He edged closer and saw that she was very tall and slender.
“Probably a model,” he thought. She was not very pretty but her features were arresting. He bumped into her and waited for her to spin around and shout at him.
“Can’t you see?” she accused as she flashed angry eyes at him.
“I only have eyes for you,” he held her gaze as he spoke, unsmiling.
She made a hissing sound and turned away. He ignored her and tapped her friend on the shoulder. When she turned, he asked her to dance with him. Before she could refuse, he took her hand and gently drew her to him. He didn’t need to look at his mark to know that she was not amused at all. As they danced, he made a point of dancing very suggestively, all the while keeping his eye on his mark. She felt his gaze on her and turned. When he smiled at her, she narrowed her gaze and turned away. He chucked and danced harder.
The crowd was milling, various musicians took the stage to perform, Hinnow was keeping the revelers happy. Abel and his mark kept stealing glances at each other while he danced with her friend.
“What’s your friend’s name?” he asked the girl he was dancing with.
“Why do you ask?” she frowned.
“I just wondered because she seems full of herself,” he replied slyly.
“Of course she is! Her father is the Commissioner for Finance. Why won’t she think she is on top of the world? ” she offered, her voice driping with envy.
“I don’t know why people are like that,” he egged her on.
“Add to that the fact that a lot of people recognize her because she has done a few modelling jobs. I’m surprised you don’t know her. She is the face of Summer cosmetics.”
“You know I just got back. Modelling seems to be quite the thing these days, innit? So what’s her name?”
“Cassandra. I am Jessica by the way. You haven’t told me your name,” she said.
“Thank you.” “Let me find my friend. He seems to be taking a break. Would you give me a minute?” he began to steer her back to her position by her friend.
When they got to Cassandra, she pretended not to have noticed them. Rather, she turned away slightly. Abel patted Jessica and told her goodbye.
Stepping close to Cassandra, he whispered in her ear, “I only have eyes for you, Cassandra. Meet me outside.” He then left without Jessica noticing what transpired. Hinnow was taking a break outside the venue. There was a lobby cordoned off for the use of the artists. He was having a smoke. Abel joined him.
“What’s up?” Hinnow asked.
“I’m waiting for my girlfriend, ” he replied.
“Which one? Do you have money to take care of a girl?” Hinnow threw back his head and laughed.
“She is a model and her father is the Commissioner of finance.”
“Finance? Doherty’s daughter? That would be the day,” Hinnow slapped his thigh as he spoke.
“Just watch the pro, mate. Perez may be the talker but, I get things done without making noise,” he smirked.
At that moment, Cassandra approached. She struck a pose a few feet from him and took out her phone as though she intended to read a message. Abel winked at Hinnow whose mouth was hanging open and sauntered toward her.
“Hi, beautiful,” he greeted.
“Cassandra, I presume?”
“What do you want?” she asked.
“Lunch tomorrow, my place? I grill a mean stuffed turkey, if you catch my drift,” he leaned in, British accent turned on.
“And why would I go out with a man who was rude to me?”
“I apologise for dancing with your friend. She seemed boring so I had to take her off you. One would think I did you a favor,”he said, raising an eyebrow.
Cassandra was obviously flattered. She laughed.
“Boring she certainly is. I only keep her around cause she can be useful.”
“Yeah, like today when she told me your name. So, could I get your number?” he brought out his phone. She gave him her number and took his.
“Abel Ogwu is the name.”
“Call me Cassie.”
“Cassie, do I get a hug?” She nodded, so he held her close.
As he kissed her cheek, he spied Jessica who must have come out to find her. She glared at him, realization that she had been used dawning on her. He winked at her and smiled, sure his secret was safe because Cassie would never believe her friend. Any attempt by her to rubbish his reputation would be dismissed as jealousy because there was already tension betweeen them.
Toyin and Veronica were discussing about love, life and men in general. Edet’s death and the subsequent police case had dominated their conversation for weeks so, they decided to give it a break. The police had gone to court to compel the coroner to release the autopsy report. Barr. Obi kept coming up with ways to stall the inevitable, hoping for a break in the case. Inspector Okon who had attempted to actually investigate the incident had suddenly been transferred out. The new investigate police officer (IPO), didn’t appear to be ready to at the least, question all those who were in the hospital on the day the boy died. It was obvious he was just a stooge.
“Men are funny, the very Veronica. Can you imagine Tokunbo asking me to apologise to his younger sister who was rude to me? That one can never happen!”
“She came visiting and took cake from my fridge without asking. I politely told her that she should have asked first. She flared up, shouting that I should come and take the cake from her mouth.”
“I ignored her and walked away. She reported to Tokunbo and he asked me to apologise because she was our guest and I was inhospitable. I have not spoken to him for 3 days.”
“He was wrong but, TY, do you mean you have been praying for me while keeping malice with Toks? You are very wicked. How will God answer our prayer and deliver me from those people? What is an apology? Call her and apologize, let there be peace,” Veronica scolded.
“Will I have to endure her insults forever?”
“Will you be happy if I lose my licence or go to jail?”
“No vex* I will apologise to her and beg Tokunbo.”
“That’s better. We have to keep our communication with God free from impediment. Let them win if it will please God. There is no way He will not reward you with a peaceful home. I doubt any marriage will survive if one party insists on always winning.”
“The girl her own is too much. I feel like teaching her a lesson.”
“Lesson teacher! Will you destroy your home to teach her a lesson? Let us take her name to our father. He will handle the matter,” Veronica insisted.
“Abi*?” TY was thoughtful.
“Sure. In fact, she will avoid your house like a plague the way we will station angels outside. You know how we do it.”
“I like your style, jare*”
“Yeah, that’s one of the things I love about Buchi. He has only 1 brother, no sister. Women have too much drama.”
“Speaking of Buchi; what are you guys doing? Are you dating, courting, “friending” or what? I am confused,” Toyin asked.
” We are very good friends,” Veronica defended.
“How? I know he has never asked you out formally. You guys just kept hanging out during our housejob. I suspect he is a time waster. Maybe you should move on,” she advised.
“I don’t know if I can…”
“Did you have sex with him?”
“No…I mean…we nearly did but, I stopped him,” Veronica was biting her finger.
“When was this? You didn’t tell me”
“He came to Lagos last week. I went to his hotel. As I was telling him about the court case and all, I started crying. He was telling me sorry…”
“TY, it didn’t happen. That’s all,” Veronica snorted.
“Rewind. You stopped at ‘He was telling me sorry’,” Toyin teased.
Veronica made a hissing sound. “Leave me alone.”
Toyin laughed. “You know what? Ask him whether he sees you as a girlfriend or not. Be direct: this is not 1918 when we women watch things happen to us. Take the bull by the horns. ”
Veronica was thoughtful for a while.
“Still there?” Toyin asked.
“Will you call him?”
“You know what? If you will call your sister-in-law and beg Toks, then I will call Buchi. What say you?”
“Alright, hon. Goodnight. ”
“Goodnight. Love you.”
“Love you too. ”
To be continued.
Cheers Dr. N