Miles away from where Ngozi sat despondent in her car, Shade was lying down on the bed in the visitor’s bedroom of her family house. The receptionist at the hotel had sent for help when she called, but she refused to go to a hospital. She promised him $200 if he arranged for someone to drive her to her family house. That was all the persuasion needed. He quickly arranged a hotel taxi for her. Her mom was waiting for her when she arrived.
“Mom, I am so sorry. I should have listened to you when you told me to spend more time with my family. You warned me that my job was pushing me away from my husband and daughter but I wouldn’t listen. You told me the danger of pursuing career and money to the detriment of my family, but I was blinded by greed.”
“Sshh.” Her mom used a wet cloth to wipe her brow. She used a gauze to staunch the bleeding on her forehead. “You need to see a doctor to make sure you didn’t suffer any concoction.”
Shade deflected the conversation.”You told me to be careful about the friends I keep, but I wouldn’t listen.”
“You should rest. Let’s talk about this when you feel better.”
Shade raised herself up on her right elbow. “Mom, while I rest here, this woman will destroy my life.”
“Don’t be so dramatic. Ngozi is not a bad person. All you have is circumstantial evidence that she tried to poison you. Did you see her drop poison in your coffee? And she has absolutely no reason to do that.”
“Mom, I asked her for help but she did nothing but laugh at me as she watched me fall to the ground.”
“You are exaggerating everything because of your state of mind. Now tell me everything that happened from the beginning.”
Shade thought for a moment. If her mom knew what was going on, if she knew how she had compromised her faith by having an affair with Roberto, she would castigate her and be on Gbenga’s side. She wasn’t going to let that happen. She told her mom as little as possible, making sure to put all the blame on Ngozi and the maid.
“Shade, there you go again being paranoid. Ngozi is your best friend. You have been friends for as long as I can remember and the maid is harmless. Is it not that young woman who takes care of me when I visit your home? She can’t harm anyone.”
“Mom, you don’t understand. That girl is evil personified. She seduced my husband and got pregnant for him,” Shade lamented.
“Gbenga is the one who allowed himself to be seduced by the maid. Where was he when the seduction was taking place? Was he not watching the maid with his eyes wide open? He should be held responsible for this situation and not the innocent maid. You should rest. I will be back.” Her mom left the room.
As soon as her mom left the room, Shade got up from the bed but she was hit by vertigo. She held on tightly to the door of the wardrobe until the room stopped spinning like a merry-go-round. As she changed her clothes, she thought about her situation. Her mom didn’t understand what was going on. If she remained in this house, her marriage could be lost. She had made so many mistakes but she could still rescue her marriage if she tried. Why did she leave her home because the maid got pregnant? The maid accused her husband but Gbenga strongly denied it. She should have been patient to find out what was really going on, and even then she should never have left her husband in the hands of the maid,that could make things worse. If Gbenga told his mom about this, things could really get out of hand. That woman didn’t like her or wish her well. She will do almost nothing to send her packing from her matrimonial home.
She changed into a pair of jeans, t-shirt and snickers. She looked at her herself in the mirror, then tied a scarf around her head to cover the wound.
Her mom may be right about Ngozi. There was nothing to prove that she spiked her coffee. She could have been overwhelmed by stress and fell down due to emotional and physical exhaustion. She carried her bag, entered the kitchen and exited the house quietly from the back door.
Five minutes later her mom called from the living room. “Shade, will you like to have some food prepared for you?” She was answered by silence. “Shade, are you okay?” She entered the visitor’s bedroom where Shade had been lying down, but the bed was empty.
Shade was gone.
Kalu sat with his friend Pascal in the lounge of Le Meridien hotel. He had a bottle of beer and a glass full of the golden brew before him. He felt awful about what had happened this morning at Yemi’s place and tried to drown his shame and pain with alcohol. The maid had dismissed him as if he didn’t matter. She had told him to leave, that she would call him later. He saw the way Mr Adeniyi looked at his woman shamelessly, examining her body with lust, like a woman who wants to buy some meat in the market. He was sure that the man wanted Yemi for himself.
“Is Yemi really your woman?” Pascal broke into his thoughts. “She does what she likes, treats you badly and hardly listens to you.”
Kalu took a sip of the brew. “Pascal, what kind of talk is this? Of course she is my woman. If she is no longer interested in the relationship she will let me know.”
“Are you sure about that?” Pascal asked his friend. “Women are complex creatures . They don’t always tell you what’s on their mind, and even when they do it is done in coded language that only the very patient among men can successfully decipher. But sometimes if you are lucky you can read her intention from her actions.”
“What do you mean by that?” Kalu asked.
“This morning, you said Yemi and Mr Adeniyi were together in a room and you were told to leave. Do you know what happened when your back was turned? Yemi preferred to have a complete stranger by her side, instead of you, her supposed boyfriend. That says a lot.”
“I know she loves me,” Kalu insisted in the face of evidence that his girlfriend had dumped him for an older man. “If I had more money this wouldn’t be happening to me.”
“So you think she is acting like this because you don’t have money? You think if you had more money she will love you more?”
Kalu nodded in the affirmative and drank some more beer. “Yes of course.”
“My friend, a woman who likes you because of your money will one day hate you because you don’t have money. True love is not based on material things. If a woman likes you, she will continue to like you no matter the state of your bank account.”
“You are very wrong,” Kalu shook a finger at his friend. The brew was beginning to take effect on him. “A woman like Yemi likes me, but I still have to bring money to the table so that she can enjoy the finer things of life.”
Pascal looked at his friend with compassion. “Kalu, forget this girl and find someone who will like you for who you are.”
“I will never let her go,” Kalu raised his voice. “She is the song of my soul,” the tipsy spare parts dealer from Alaba market waxed poetic. “She is my sunshine, drives the dark clouds away and makes me…”
“Hey!” Pascal tapped his friend with urgency, interrupting his poetic flow.
“What?” Kalu asked angrily. “I know you don’t believe in my love for Yemi, but leave me to express my heart.”
Pascal was staring at the entrance of the hotel. “Look!”
“What…what do you mean?” Kalu followed the trajectory of his friend’s gaze and his mouth fell open in shock like dead tilapia fish floating in the oil polluted rivers of Ogoni land.
Yemi and Segun walked through the lounge of the hotel, holding hands and smiling at each other like newly weds. They disappeared around a corner that led to the elevators.
Pascal turned to Kalu. “What was that you said again about your sunshine?” he asked mocking his friend.
Kalu was silent for a moment, then he downed the remaining brew in the glass and rose up from his chair slowly.
“What are you doing?” Pascal asked.
“What I should have done this morning the moment I laid eyes on that deceiver,” the Igbo trader had a dangerous look in his eyes.
“Don’t do this,” Pascal held his hand but he snatched it away angrily.
“No man touches my woman,” Kalu said and moved towards the elevators.
Pascal looked around frantically for hotel security but there was none nearby. He stood up and hurried after his friend.
“Argh!” Ngozi swore and hit the dashboard of the car twice with her phone. Her plan was falling apart. Everything was going wrong. Sadique refused to terminate the maid and cut off the call on her.
“You will pay for this,” Ngozi muttered and made another call.
“Chuks, I’ve got a job for you.”
“I am with my woman. Today is Sunday, can’t I get some rest?” Chuks asked on the other end of the line.
“No you can’t get some rest. Life is not about rest. It is about work. When you die you will have more than enough time to rest,” Ngozi spoke like a motivational speaker.
“That is really deep. Sounds like you attend church,” Chuks said.
Ngozi ignored his comment. “Get Razak. You both are going to help me find a woman.”
“Is that all?” Chuks asked.
“You may also need to pick up her daughter for me. But right now I need you to start moving.”
‘What’s the woman’s name?” Chuks asked.
“Her name is Shade Philips. I will send you a picture after this call.”
“And where do we start searching for her?”
Ngozi paused for a moment. Shade was very predictable. “Start from her family house in Gbagada estate. If she’s not there, she could be on her way to her church on the island to see her pastor. I will send you the addresses. Make sure you bring her to me.”
“You know this will cost you,” Chuks said.
“I am making a transfer to your account as we speak. That should get the job done.”
Chuks was silent for a few seconds. “I have received the money.” His voice suddenly turned vicious.”How do you want us to finish her off when we find her?” Chuks asked.
Ngozi paused. “Chuks, I like your enthusiasm but you will do no such thing. Listen very carefully. Find her and bring her to me. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand.”
“One more thing.”
“If you lay your hands on her, for whatever reason, you will wish you were never born.”
To be continued.