Kachi woke up that Saturday morning feeling off. He got off the couch where he had passed the night and went to sit on the bed. He stared at Isioma who looked so beautiful in her sleep but he was not at peace. Something was wrong. Perhaps it was guilt from hurting Teni last night. He had seen it in her eyes even though she had been mature and civil. In truth, there was nothing between him and Isioma. He just brought her there to make Teni jealous and now that he had achieved that, he did not know what else to do. There was a hollow feeling in his chest and he did not know how to rid himself of it.
He reached over to the head of the bed and picked up his phone. He checked the time. It was already 7:00am. He dialed Teni’s number but it was switched off. He tried again a couple more times but it was still the same thing. He sighed and stretched out on the bed. Isioma stirred and smiled at him.
“Hey you. Good morning.”
He managed a smile back. She was actually one of his few partners that he was a little close to.
“Morning. Sleep well?
She stifled a yawn as she sat up
“Mehh. Just there. I feel bad for Teni.”
Isioma laughed and shook her head.
“No kidding! I told you this was such a sixth grader stunt to pull but you wouldn’t listen.”
Kachi shook his head.
“So we’re tossing blames now huh?”
“Naah. I’m just telling you the truth like I always have.”
Kachi shut his eyes and ignored her.
“So what do you want to do now? Aren’t you gonna see her and talk with her?”
“Her phone is switched off.”
“I said see her silly. Go to her office or something. She should be there.”
“Later. I guess. What are you doing today?”
“Going to see my baby daddy. I think he finally caught feelings. He was saying something about settling down the last time we spoke.”
Kachi’s eyes sprang open and he sat up in bed immediately.
“You have a baby daddy?”
Isioma burst out laughing.
“Sorta kinda. Don’t ask for details. I won’t tell you.”
“Okay. But you have a baby?”
Isioma laughed again, swung her feet off the bed and walked away to the bathroom without answering. Kachi shook his head and lay down again.
Bobby read the text on his phone again and felt slightly irritable. Ese had issues and his patience was running out. He was tired of being tossed about by the waves of her ever changing emotions. One day she was all soft and seemingly into him, the next she was macho and distant. It was most annoying. Her text message read “Hey, how’s it going with you? It would be nice to see you again. Been what? A month? Well, I miss you. And the girls do too.”
She missed him. So what was he to do about it? He didn’t miss her. He had gotten over whatever it was he thought he felt for her. This was the sole reason he never dated. Ladies loved to front and he had no time for all their theatrics. What was hard about admitting to a guy that you had feelings for him? Why go round in circles and play unnecessary endless games?
He tossed the phone on his couch and went to the kitchen. He needed to eat something and settle down to work. It was going to be a busy weekend for him. He had some ideas for the job he was supposed to do with Kate and he needed to put them in order ahead of their meeting on Monday. Strangely, he found himself looking forward to seeing her again. He sighed. He could not even understand what was going on with him. As he beat eggs in a small bowl, he made up his mind to ignore Ese. No point replying her text or going to see her. He had work to do.
Four hours later, Bobby was bent over his laptop and lost to the world. The sound of his ringing phone jerked him back to the present and he scuttled over from his bed to the table where his phone was. When he saw the caller ID, he sighed and dropped it. The phone rang out then started ringing again. It wasn’t until the third time that he picked it up.
There was something about her voice. He was certain that it would calm any raging storm and silence the loudest of thunders. He had forgotten what that soft, leathery voice sounded like; almost musical, absolutely magical. Bobby managed to respond.
“How are you?”
“I’m good. Haven’t heard from you in a long while and you didn’t reply my text. I had to be sure you’re okay.”
Bobby did not like the way his heart pounded steadily in his chest.
“I’m fine. Good. Just had lots of work”
His voice was gruff.
“Okay. Sorry if I’m disturbing. Maybe I should call later so-”
“Oh no, it’s fine. I wasn’t doing anything spectacular. How are you? How are the girls?”
He nearly slapped himself. Why did he sound so eager?
“They’re alright. Anne has asked after you endlessly. Lord! That child! She wears me out.”
Ese laughed and the sound was music to Bobby’s ears.
“Anne is the more outgoing one right?”
“The tornado-causing one you mean?”
Bobby found himself laughing even as Ese continued speaking.
“Her teacher called me in for a meeting yesterday and I was scared for a minute. I kept thinking, what has she done? What trouble has she made?”
Bobby couldn’t help himself. His laughter continued
“The lady kept asking how things were at home, if everything was alright… Bobby, I nearly passed out. When she was done with her interrogation, she finally said the reason she was asking all the questions was because Anne had been exceptional at school, always high on energy and very hyper. So she wanted to know how I was faring knowing my husband had passed on.”
Bobby’s heart melted.
“Oh wow. That was sweet.”
“Tell me about it! I kept thinking, why can’t this child of mine just be calm and not draw attention to herself?”
“Naah. Don’t say that. You need her energy, trust me. She’ll guarantee that you never have a dull moment.”
“I guess so. Anita balances her out anyways. That one cannot make trouble to save her life.”
Bobby laughed again. Ese had the most amusing expressions.
“Oh well, they haven’t stopped asking after you. I promised them that when their exams are over, you’ll visit. Can you help me keep that promise?”
Bobby didn’t even give it a thought.
“I would have asked that you come over sooner but I don’t know what your schedule is like and I’m afraid if you come, they won’t study or get any work done at all.”
“That’s fine. I’m available whenever.”
There was an awkward pause for a moment and Bobby gushed out the next few words that came into his mind without thinking.
“I miss you Ese. So much, it feels really strange.”
Ese was silent for a moment and Bobby wanted to knock himself. Of course she would not reply. It was typical of her to run.
“I miss you too. A lot. And I want to see you. Certainly more than the girls do.”
Bobby smiled and before he could reply, Ese spoke again.
“This might seem like I’m pushing my luck but would you like to have dinner with me? Tonight?”
Bobby withdrew the phone from his ear and stared at the screen. Was it really Ese speaking or had someone taken her phone? He put the phone back to his ear and caught the last words of her statement.
“…really awkward but it’s fine.”
“Sorry, I didn’t get that.”
Ese laughed nervously.
“I said, I know me asking you like this feels really awkward but it’s fine. Like if you don’t want to have dinner with me, it’s cool.”
“Naah. I’d like dinner. Let me take you out. I know a really nice spot in Wuse 2. Can I pick you up at 7?”
“Umm. Sure. I’ll get my mum to watch the girls. We’ll just have dinner and catch up, then you can fill me in on what’s been going on with you instead of me yapping all about myself.”
Bobby laughed. I love listening to you yap. You have an amazing yapping voice. Ese laughed and the sound made Bobby smile.
“Alright then. You take care. See you at seven.”
As soon as Bobby hung up, he wanted to smack himself. What was wrong with him? He had just acted like a complete wuss! Just like that, he had let her back into his life again. No questions asked, no hard time given. He sighed. Love made people act without thinking. And just then, he paused. Could he maybe possibly by any chance be in love with Ese?
Tejiri opened the estate gate and walked briskly inside. Austin followed her closely behind. She made her way to Teni’s apartment and knocked a few times on the door but there was no response.
“Mummy, are you sure she’s around? Her car is not here” Austin said.
Tejiri looked around her. He was right. She silently cursed herself for losing Teni’s number. Her blackberry had crashed and as she had not backed up any of her files, she had lost all her contacts. She sat on the short step and Austin stood a few feet away watching her. He shifted from one foot to the other. The kid was tired.
“Mummy, what are we going to do?”
“I dunno. Wait till she comes from wherever? I don’t have money and I don’t have anybody’s number.”
Austin scratched his head.
“What if you ask the other neighbours?”
Tejiri slapped a mosquito off her leg and rubbed the spot.
“We were not close to anyone here. I can’t start asking people questions.”
Austin heard footsteps approach him and he turned his head to see Teni’s closest neighbour, a young man in his late twenties. He walked up to him and asked.
“Uncle, please we’re looking for the nice aunty that lives here.”
The young man looked at Austin, then looked beyond him at Tejiri. Tejiri stood up and dusted her dress.
“I remember you. Shebi you used to live here.”
“Please, did Teni travel?”
The young man shook his head, looked at Austin a little uncertainly then reverted his eyes back to Tejiri.
“She’s at the hospital. She was in an accident.”
Tejiri’s eyes grew big as she screamed. Austin was mute. She covered her mouth with both hands and watched the young man continue speaking.
“She was rushed there last night I think. We only heard this morning. I don’t know if she’s going to make it. The doctors did not sound positive.”
Tejiri did not attempt to stop the tears that pooled around her eyes. She just let them flow. The man stared at her for a bit then walked into his apartment. Austin remained rooted to the spot and minutes later, when Tejiri managed to gather herself together, she turned to him.
“I’m going to the hospital to try and see aunty Teni. Will you wait here for me?”
Austin shook his head.
Tejiri sighed. The young man opened his door again.
“You’re still here?”
Tejiri wiped her face
“Yes. Please can we keep our things in your house? We’re just coming in from a trip and we’d like to go and see her.”
“No problem. I’ll give you the address to the hospital. Bring your bags inside.”
Tejiri followed the man but Austin still remained where he was.
Kachi heard the vibration of his phone more than he felt it. He had fallen asleep without realizing it. He looked at the phone, saw the unregistered number and turned the phone over. He had been having such a good dream. The phone rang out and the caller stopped. He grumbled when the sleep would not return and eventually sat up. It was 11am! He hurriedly got out of bed, took a quick shower and put on a nice sweatshirt Teni had gotten him almost three years ago. She loved the shirt but he didn’t like it so he only wore it when he wanted to make her happy. She would be at work by now. It was time to finally have that conversation with her. “I like you, you like me, let’s stop playing games with each other.”
He took the elevator down to the reception and tried her number one more time but it was still switched off. That was unlike her. Maybe she was really pissed at him. Pissed off enough to shut the entire world out. He smiled as the elevator doors opened and he walked out into the reception. One glance around and he knew something was wrong. One of the girls was crying at the reception and a guy was consoling her. The entire staff looked upset and moody. Something was definitely wrong. Other than the gloom that pervaded the atmosphere, the hotel appeared quiet.
Kachi quickly walked up to one of the young men standing around and asked what happened. The man said simply.
“Our manager. We lost our manager this morning.”
Kachi was sure he had not heard right. It took him a few seconds to process.
“Your manager? Who is your manager?”
“Ms. Teniola Owoyemi. She was in an accident last night.”
Kachi stood still and his eyes grew wide. In that exact moment, he felt his entire world come crashing down. His life was over.