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Oyetunde noticed when Boma and Promise came into the office. Despite the weeks that had gone by, he had not been able to get over her rejection. He speculated whether something was going on between them.
Boma settled down and turned his head when he sensed that he was being watched. He caught Kemisola and Adaeze staring at him. He waved and looked away. He didn’t like the way they were staring at him. He won’t be surprised if Adaeze also had a crush on him.
“Birds of a feather,” he muttered under his breath.
Why was he upset? He shouldn’t allow such things to annoy him. He had been through worse and he had escaped unscathed. He wished them well and prayed they find husbands to marry them as soon as possible.
Promise arranged her things in her drawer and looked towards the notice board. Each column was covered with heaps of attached documents.
“Lord have mercy,” she groaned.
Boma glanced at her and followed the direction of her gaze.
“Wow! Wow!” He got to his feet and placed a hand on his waist.
Oyetunde pushed himself out of his seat and walked over to the board. It seemed their assignments had tripled. Margaret Thatcher was definitely out to kill them with work that year. Kemisola and Adaeze joined him.
“Play time is over girlfriend.”
“Tell me about it.”
They exchanged glances and pondered on how they were going to juggle their exciting social life with their demanding job.
Vivian Njemanze stepped out of her office and addressed her staff, “Good morning to you all. Happy New Year once again.”
No one responded, they just stared at her like lost puppies.
Promise tried not to watch her parents while they dined. She faced the television, but none of the programs was of any interest to her. She had rushed home from work that evening and changed into a pink sleeveless knee-length dress with white pocket dots. She hoped Boma was taking her to a very good restaurant.
She glanced at the wall clock. It was a few minutes past eight. Where was Boma? Her tummy growled. She was hungry. If he doesn’t show up soon enough, she would join her parents at the dining. Her blackberry phone began to ring. She checked the caller’s ID and smiled. She got up and bid her parents a goodnight.
“Hope you are with one of the gate spare keys,” her father called after her. Neither he or his wife were prepared to leave the comfort of their bed to open the gate that night.
“Yes dad,” she hurried out of the house.
Blessing met her husband’s questioning gaze.
“Boma is taking her out.”
“I see,” he swallowed the food in his mouth, “Have they started dating?”
“I don’t think so. They are just friends.”
He refilled his empty glass cup with water from the jug on the dining.
“I hope history won’t repeat itself,” he could still remember how hurt his daughter felt when Gbenga left her because he couldn’t accept her past.
She sighed, “Let us hope for the best,” she had a good feeling about Boma.
“Where are we heading to?”
“I am not telling you.”
“Don’t I have the right to know?”
“My lips are sealed,” he concentrated on the road.
“Suit yourself,” she looked out of the window. She trusted his judgement when it came to food and restaurants. She relaxed and leaned into the seat.
“I like your dress.”
“Thanks,” she blushed.
“I saw your birthday date on your facebook profile page.”
“I don’t believe in hiding my age.”
“Hmmm… March tenth is also my birthday date.”
She turned to look at him. He met her shocked gaze. He smiled and glanced back at the road.
“I am just five years older than you.”
She hissed, “So what are you feeling like?”
He started to laugh. Thirty minutes later, he stopped in front of a white one storey building at Elegushi Estate, Lekki. He honked and the security guard opened the gate. He drove into the neat compound, parked the car and helped her out. The puzzled look on her face wasn’t lost to him.
“This doesn’t look like a restaurant,” she eyed him. What does he have up his sleeves?
“You have met my new car,” he pointed at the Honda, “I want to introduce to you my new apartment, a three bedroom flat. I live upstairs and my neighbour, also a bachelor, lives downstairs. You will meet him some other time,” he took her by the hand and led her up an external spiral stairway. He unlocked the gate to the flat and led her into the posh apartment.
“Welcome to my humble home,” he bowed.
Promise looked around her, lost for words. It was a beautiful place.
“Dinner is ready, please let’s move over to the dining.”
She followed him to the glass table and sat down on the chair he pulled out for her. He took a seat beside her and held her hand.
“I am a very good cook.”
There was a bowl of vegetable soup on the table, stuffed with different kinds of beef, and a bowl of what looked like wrapped pounded yam beside it.
“Did you pound?” She looked up at him.
She started to laugh.
“I can pound. Seriously, I can.”
She stopped laughing and cocked her head side ways.
“But, tonight I used the Yam Pounder machine. I am not a fan of pondo yam powder.”
“I hope you are a good cook. I left my mother’s food because of you.”
He stuck out his tongue at her. She noticed that he was still holding her hand. Should she pull away? Should she leave it be? What should she do? She swallowed hard. As if he was reading her thoughts, he let go of her hand and began to dish their meal.
“Fork and knife or a bowl of water to wash your hands?”
“I like using my hands when it comes to African dishes.”
“My kind of girl,” he passed her a plate of food.
She washed her hands and tasted the food. Her eyes widened.
She lifted her dark eyes, “Where did you learn how to cook?”
“My mother taught me well.”
“I am impressed.”
“I am glad,” he winked at her.
She smiled and went on eating. She hoped to marry a man who could cook. He would be able to help her out in the kitchen whenever she got pregnant or when something unavoidable came up.
“The company I worked for that went bankrupt… ”
“Hmmm… ” She continued eating.
“They called me.”
She met his excited gaze. Was he leaving TL Communications?
“I was one of the staff members they choose to compensate.”
“They apologised for the way they threw everyone out and compensated me with a very fat cheque.”
“Oh Lord have mercy!” She fanned herself with her hands.
“I have been praying to God for a while concerning a new car, a new apartment and my own personal business.”
“He heard your prayers and answered.”
“Exactly, I am so grateful,” he beamed.
“And I am so happy for you.”
“Thanks dearie. I am going to resign from TL Communications at the end of the year. My business plans will have taken effect by then.”
She held his hand, “I am so happy for you.”
“Thanks,” he looked at her hand, “Hope you are not rubbing soup on my hand.”
She hissed and pointed a finger at him, “I will spank you now.”
“With what? That slim delicate hand of yours? You want your father to arrest me after it has broken into two.”
She threw a fork at him and he dodged it.
“I can see that you are full.”
“You know you have a very big mouth,” she eyed him.
“Yes. The next time I visit, I will come along with a cane.”
He clapped his hands together and laughed.
“You want to beat a grown man like me, seriously?”
She threw another fork at him.
“Promise those things are sharp,” he tried to feign anger but he ended up grinning like a school boy.
“So is your mouth.”
“Did you come to my house to harass me?”
She downed her chilled drink and washed her hands.
“I will bring a cane the next time I visit.”
“We will wait and see,” he began to clear the table. She joined him and followed him into the kitchen.
“Whoever you marry is so lucky. Your house is set and ready,” she looked around her.
He smiled and remained quiet. If only she knew that his mind was already made up concerning that area of his life. She was the one he desired to spend the rest of his life with. He was still getting to know her, but he was certain that she was his missing rib.
She glanced at her wrist-watch, “I think you need to take me home. It is late and you know we have to get to work early tomorrow.”
“All right your majesty, lead the way,” he felt sad that she was leaving.
“First and foremost, I want takeaway.”
“What? What? Take what? Look at this young woman.”
She hissed and started to search the cupboards for the vegetable soup.
“What do you think you are doing? This isn’t your mother’s kitchen.”
“Where is soup?”
“What soup? Did I cook the whole pot for you?”
She continued her search. He went after her and attempted to carry her out of the kitchen. She grabbed at the table nailed into the wall.
“Come and go to your house.”
“Not without the soup.”
He pulled her away from the table and they both fell on the tiled floor. They bursted out in laughter and sat on the floor for a while.
“You know you are a case.”
“So are you.”
Their eyes locked. He liked it whenever she braided her hair, especially when she used coloured hair extensions that contrasted with her coffee brown complexion. He felt the urge to crush her in his arms and kiss her.
“I wish you didn’t have to go.”
“Me too. There is no dull moment with you,” she punched him on the shoulder.
“I wish you could stay here forever.”
She blinked and turned her face away. Forever? Did he just mention forever? What was he trying to say? Was he trying to tell her that he wanted more than friendship? Her heart beat accelerated.
“Let’s get you home,” he got on his knees and helped her up.
Promise could barely sleep that night. She kept on turning and turning on her bed. At a point, she sat up and switched on the bedside table lamp. It was two in the morning and she had not slept a wink. She hoped she wouldn’t doze off at work.
Her dinner date with Boma filled her thoughts. She liked him a lot and knew that he liked her too. The attraction between them had intensified with their growing friendship. It was only a matter of time before he asked her out. His true feelings had been exposed briefly that night.
She would love to date him, but, she was scared. Her past stood like an invisible wall between them. Would he be able to accept it or reject her like Gbenga?
‘God what am I going to do? Lord, what am I suppose to do? I am lost without you,’ she placed both hands on her head.
The building trembled, shaken by the fierce cold wind and the deafening sound of thunder. It began to rain and more people hurried in. Some joined the small group of people waiting for the elevator to descend to the ground floor, while a few impatient others took the stairway.
The elevator opened and the security man standing beside it made sure that it was empty before allowing people to step in.
“I hope we won’t end up trapped in this elevator,” someone voiced and everyone started to laugh.
Promise recognised the voice. It belonged to one of her female colleagues, Adaeze. She moved closer and tapped her on the shoulder.
“Good morning,” she smiled.
“I can’t believe it is raining this morning.”
“Same here. We are in Lagos. It rains unexpectedly at times.”
“You are right. Thank God today is a Friday.”
“That’s a big consolation. I don’t like rushing to work on rainy days. You have a car, you are lucky.”
“Yours is on the way.”
“I pray so. I need it like yesterday. When is your church holding another program?”
“Next week. It’s the church’s tenth year anniversary,” she wondered why she was asking.
The elevator stopped on the third floor. They both walked out with a few other people.
“I will attend.”
She had been inviting Kemisola and Adaeze to some of her church’s programs for several months, all to no avail. She was glad that Adaeze had decided to attend the next program. She prayed that God would touch her heart and turn her away from her destructive lifestyle.
“Yes. Do you have the program flier here with you?”
“No, I have some fliers in the office. I will give it to you once we get there.”
They walked down the hall in silence.
“Is Kemisola coming too?”
Adaeze laughed, “Don’t know, not sure.”
Silence enveloped them again.
“I saw several strange cars at the car park this morning. What’s going on?”
“Our company is holding a meeting with other communications company across the country today.”
“Yes. Our board of directors are meeting with their top people.”
“That reminds me, I need to see the Head of Account department before the meeting starts,” she turned around and headed back to the elevator.
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“Promise Daodu,” someone called out her name.
She frozed and took a deep breath. She recognised the husky voice and knew whose it was. Her worst nightmare had caught up with her.
She heard footsteps behind her. She closed her eyes and tried to calm her turmoil mind.
“Promise… ” A tall fair man stood before her.
She opened her eyes and met his longing gaze.
“My Promise… My beautiful Promise,” he brushed a hand over her face. She jerked backwards and frowned.
“Do not touch me,” the warning in her tone was firm. Why can’t some men just keep their hands to themselves?
He kept both hands in his pockets and fought the urge to wrap his arms around her and melt in her sweet warmness.
“I searched the whole world for you, not knowing where you were almost drove me berserk!”
She folded her arms across her chest and eyed him.
“Why were you looking for me? It has been over between us for several months now. I made a mistake when I had an affair with you… ”
“Mistake?!” Her words sliced through him like a sword to the heart.
“I have learnt my lessons and I have reconciled with God.”
“God! You must be kidding me.”
“I am a different person now.”
He sized her up, “You look different, more beautiful and delicious,” he licked his lips. The desire in his eyes stirred something dead and buried within her.
“It is over between us. Please stay away from me,” she started to walk away. He reached out for her and caught her by the elbow.
“Promise please, don’t you see that fate brought us back together? I got invited to a meeting by the company you work for, we are destined to be lovers.”
She slapped his hand off, “I don’t believe in such nonsense. Leave me alone Keshinro Philips,” she headed straight to her office.
He placed a hand on his chest and felt his racing heart beat. He had searched for her in vain for several months. He would not let her out of his sight this time around, but, how was he going to win back her hardened heart?
Promise sank into her seat and began to shiver. Her encounter with Keshinro had shaken her up.
“Promise where is the flier?” Adaeze walked into the office and approached her.
She opened one of her drawers with a trembling hand and picked out some fliers.
She noticed her pale expression, “Are you okay? Are you feeling cold or something?”
“I am fine,” she met her curious gaze and gave her the fliers.
“If you say so,” she collected the fliers and returned to her desk.
“Are you planning to attend one of her church programs?” Kemisola addressed Adaeze.
She clapped her hands together and laughed out loud, “Wonders shall never end. Why will you waste your time at their silly church program when you can do something useful and much more fun with your time? You surprise me.”
She shrugged, “My choice.”
“Suit yourself,” her colleague could go wherever she wanted. It was none of her business.
Promise closed her drawer and placed a hand on her forehead.
“Are you okay?”
She heard Boma’s concerned voice, “I am fine,” she avoided looking at him.
He continued staring at her. He could discern that she was disturbed about something. What was bothering her? He hoped she would open up to him before the close of work that day.
At a quarter past midnight, the ring tone of her phone woke her up. She sat up and switched on the bedside table lamp. She picked up her phone and checked the caller’s ID. It was an unknown number. Who could it be?
Earlier that day, she had been unable to concentrate on her work at the office. Keshinro’s presence had messed up her day. Boma had been worried about her, but she succeeded in avoiding him. He didn’t know when she left the office and she ignored his calls when she got home that evening.
Was he the one calling? She wasn’t sure she was ready to intimate him on what she was passing through, after it was resolved. She pressed the answer button and placed the phone on her right ear.
“My darling Promise.”
Sleep cleared from her eyes. It wasn’t Boma. It was Keshinro Phillips.
“How did you get my number?” Anger boiled within her.
“Promise, I love you and I want you back. I am still in Lagos because of you. Can we meet somewhere this weekend?”
“Are you out of your mind? Keshinro go home to your wife and leave me alone,” she cut the call. How did he get her number? Why couldn’t he forget about her and leave her alone? What sort of man was he?
The phone started to ring again. It was an unknown number. Why has he decided to disturb her night? She needed to rest so that she could tackle her left over work the next day. She had planned to stay indoors that weekend.
She picked the call, “What is wrong with you?! Stop calling my number and leave me alone!”
“Promise please… please give me a chance to express my love for you and show you how much I still care,” the desperation in his voice irritated her.
“It is your legally wedded wife that needs your love. Stop depriving that poor woman. God is not happy with you. You need to repent and return to God.”
“Promise please… please stop talking nonsense. I know you still love me. We are meant to be together, forever. Promise… ”
She cut the call again and threw the phone on the bed.
‘God please get me out of this nightmare’, she prayed.
The phone began to ring. How do one block an unknown number? She picked up the phone and muted it.
‘God, you really have to help me out here. Get me out of this mess.’
The screams and squeals of children playing football on the street woke her up. She turned on her side and glanced at the wall clock. It was a quarter past twelve. She groaned. It was already mid-day and she had a lot of office projects to analyze before she resumed work on Monday.
She yawned and stretched her body. Hunger pangs took over her system and she groaned again. A sandwich or biscuit with a cup of beverage might hold off hunger for a while. She was sure her mother was already preparing lunch. She crawled off bed and slipped into a pair of bathroom slippers. She sighted her phone on the bedside table and reached out for it.
There were several missed calls and text messages and they were all from the same person, Keshinro. She threw the phone on the bed and strode out of the room. She needed food first.
“Mum good afternoon,” she joined her mother in the kitchen.
“Afternoon,” she continued stirring the vegetable soup in the pot on the gas cooker.
“I am so hungry,” she yawned.
“I am making lunch,” she closed the pot and placed the wooden soup on a flat plate.
“I can’t believe I missed breakfast,” she searched the fridge for something to eat.
“Are you okay?” Her mother faced her.
“You know you can always talk to me.”
She settled on a can of coke and some slices of bread.
“I am fine mum,” she didn’t want to alert her parents. Who knew what they would do if they found out that Keshinro was in town and he was after her?
Blessing folded her arms across her chest. She wasn’t satisfied with her daughter’s response. She had noticed her distracted state when she returned home from work the other day. She decided to let her be. When she was good and ready, she would open up.
Promise carried a plate of buttered sliced bread and a can of coke and headed back to her room. She would have eaten in the kitchen, but she doesn’t want to give her mother the opportunity to keep asking her questions.
She walked out of the church auditorium and searched for her car among the long line of cars parked outside the church gate.
The service had been liberating for her. The pastor kept hammering on faith in God and standing firm in the face of adversity. She had bared her soul to God in prayers that morning, believing that He had answered and created a way out of her present predicament. Everything would turn out well and work out for her good, she was sure. All she needed to do was to stand firm and hold on to God’s promises concerning every area of her life. God’s strength was made perfect in her weakness. She would rest in Him and hold her peace.
She found her car, but someone was seated on her boot. A frown creased her brows. She doesn’t like people sitting on the boot of her car. What was wrong with some people? Why do people turn one’s boot into a cushion?
She hastened her steps and marched towards the person.
“Hey! Please… Please get off my boot.”
The person turned and smiled when he saw her.
“My beautiful Promise,” he got down.
She halted and stared at him in astonishment.
‘Oh Lord God have mercy’, she cried out within her.
“What are you doing here? How did you find me?”
“Love can make people do unimaginable things,” he grinned, exposing his white set of teeth.
‘God please give me strength’, she prayed.
“Keshinro, what do you want?”
“I want you,” the desire and plea in his voice tugged at her emotions.
She closed her eyes and opened them. Frustration was written all over her face. The peace she felt that morning began to fade.
“You are a married man.”
He closed the gap between them, “It doesn’t matter. Our love for each other is all that matters.”
She backed away, “You can’t have me.”
“And… And I don’t love you.”
“Don’t say that,” he shook his head.
“I never did. I might have been physically attracted to you in the past, but, that was all it was. Simply put, lust.”
“Promise,” the pain in his hazel eyes gnawed at her.
“Look Keshinro, I should have maintained my stand in the past. I apologize for… for succumbing to… to your advances and… and engaging in an illicit and unholy affair with you.”
“Promise, those were the happiest moments of my life.”
She placed a hand on her forehead. She could feel a headache threatening to assault her.
“Keshinro listen to me. What we did was wrong. I regretted it… ”
“But I didn’t,” he reached out for her.
She stepped away so he couldn’t touch her.
“Look, I have made my peace with God. I advice you do the same. I am not prepared to go back to my vomit.”
He placed his hands on his hips and inhaled. He was at the very brink of tears. He didn’t know how it happened, but, he hadn’t been the same since she varnished from Abuja. Seeing her again in Lagos had resurrected him. He felt alive again. He couldn’t afford to lose her.
He loved his wife and children. He would never leave them, but, he loved Promise too. She had taken possession of parts of his heart that he rarely gave away. He felt incomplete without her. Although somewhere within him, he knew he had walked off the path God had placed before him. He felt he had gone to far to retrace his steps.
Promise wasn’t the only woman he had cheated on his wife with. There had been many others. He doubted if he could ever stop. He doubted if he had the strength to stop. As far as he was concerned, he was condemned for life.
“Promise, I cannot live without you.”
“Yes, you can. Go back to your wife and children. Reconcile with God. It is never too late. His hands are always stretched out, wide opened and waiting. He forgave me. He will forgive you too.”
He wiped his face with a handkerchief. She doesn’t know what she was talking about. It was too late for him and there was no turning back.
“I am not leaving Lagos until you return to me.”
She gapped at him in shock.
‘This man is crazy. Didn’t he understand everything I have just said?’ She thought to herself.
She hissed and unlocked her car. He was free to do whatever he wanted. As far as she was concerned, she had made her stand. It was over between them and she wasn’t going back to him.
“Promise, are you leaving me here?” He watched her as she climbed into the car, closed the door and drove off.
He placed a hand on his chest. His heart was racing widely. He would not give up. Somewhere in her hardened heart, he was sure she still felt something for him. He would stay as long as he had to and awaken her love for him. It was a battle he would win. He was sure.
To Be Continued…