Sharon was tired of waiting for Dapo. He had told her that he would drop her at the office for the presentation but he was nowhere to be found. This was eight a.m. and the presentation was thirty minutes away. She had tried using Tobi’s phone to get across to him but he wasn’t answering his phone. “That dude is deep into corruption. He was raised that way. I am sure he has gone to handle it himself.” Tobi said, walking into the living room. “He must want all the money for himself when he didn’t do anything.” He continued. “That dude is so full of it. Coercing a helpless person in exchange for shelter to doing his dirty job is just wrong.”
Sharon wasn’t as antagonistic as Tobi that morning. Dapo already asked for forgiveness. It didn’t make any sense that he would do that to her. “Then why did he come here last night?” Sharon asked. “He asked for my forgiveness and all of a sudden he turns back to sly me?”
Tobi shrugged. “I can’t put it past him.” He said, adjusting his tie. “I have to leave now, so you have to let me know what you want to do. Do you want to come with me to the studio? Or would you rather stay here?” he asked, staring at Sharon who was staring aloof. “Sharon?”
“I don’t know yet.” She replied, turning to him. “I don’t know why Dapo did this and maybe that’s why I am so confused.” She continued. “He put me through all the basics last night. Why would he just bolt?”
Tobi exhaled. “I don’t know and I wish I had answers, but I have to go now. I don’t want to be stuck in traffic.” He said. “Else, my show won’t have a presenter today.”
“I guess I’ll just wait here.” She replied.
He nodded. “Or you could take the time to go to the bank and sort out your account issues?” he suggested. “I could drop you on my way.”
Jane woke up to see her husband, mother and doctor in her room. “What is going on here?” she asked.
“Take it easy, Mrs Amadi. You had quite a long sleep.” The Doctor said, approaching her. “How do you feel?”
“Disgusted. I have you all staring at me and so I feel really disgusted.” She replied and then turned to her husband. “What are you doing?”
Chike took his seat beside her. “They want to examine you for a few days.”
“Mama?” Jane called, turning to her mother.
Mama nodded with a smile. “You’ll be fine. You are a little bit worked up and maybe you need to speak with your doctor.”
“No! What I need is to speak with you! I want you to tell me why you are scared of staring at your reflection.” Jane said, standing up. “Everything you see now is as a result of what you did to me as a child and all I am trying to do is ensure that I don’t make the same mistakes with my daughter.”
Chike stared at the doctor and gave a nod. “Jane, Sharon would be back but I don’t want her to see you like this.”
“You are really putting me away, right? You all are going to see that I am right. When Sharon returns home because she has been frustrated, you are going to come to me and apologize and I would not forgive you.” She said.
Chike sighed. “Sharon’s accounts are all active. I am hoping she gets in touch with us soon enough. We will tell her that you took a trip to Seychelles Island or something.”
Jane smiled. “Whatever suits you.” She said and turned to Mama. “I am your biggest disappointment. There is nothing you can do about that.” She said and walked over to the doctor. “You don’t need to sedate me. I know what the nod implied. I’ll follow you willingly. I am not the crazy one.” She said and stepped out of the room.
The splash of water across Dapo’s face woke him up. He couldn’t move his hands or legs. He was gagged to a chair. He gasped for breath as he struggled to keep his eyes open. The water in his eyes caused him pain.
“Sorry for the inconvenience, Dapo George.”
He stared at the man. “What am I doing here?” he asked. The last thing he remembered was getting out of his car to check his flat tyre on his way from Tobi’s house.
“You are here to continue the work you started.” Mr John said, approaching him. “I must say you are quite the nice guy.”
“What are you talking about?” Dapo asked, coughing.
Mr John smiled. “Sharon Amadi. She is your new assignment.”
“What assignment?” Dapo asked. “I have not done any assignment for you before and I certainly would not.”
Mr John nodded. “I feared you would say this, so we brought something to persuade you.” He said, placing a file before Dapo. “This is a list of all the companies you have scammed as a fake Architect and we are very much inclined to report this.”
Dapo hissed. “Bullshit! It’s business. They are my clients. That doesn’t hold water.”
“Dapo George, you are quite interesting. Well, we understand it is business.” He continued. “Now, to the business of the day, you did a noble thing by taking Sharon in when she was robbed by us.” Mr John said. “Sharon is quite a complicated contract for us and you would be decently rewarded.”
“You robbed her?” Dapo asked. “And you want me to help you? You are a fool.”
Mr John nodded. “Yes, I know, but you are going to help us with the remaining part of the business.”
“I am not doing anything for you.” Dapo replied.
Mr John laughed. “Did you miss the part where I said you didn’t have a choice?” he asked and then turned to one of his boys. “We didn’t tell him about the special part, right?” he said, chuckling. “Dapo, your parents spend a lot of money treating Daddy’s kidneys, right?”
Dapo groaned. “You bastards.”
“Yes, we know all about you. And we know your mom and dad and your pretty little sister too. It would be a shame if they had to go through pain because you wouldn’t do us a tiny favour. Sharon is just a stranger and we are not asking you to hurt her.” Mr John said with a smile. “So what do you say to our offer?”
Dapo stared at them. The men were scary. He was not going to put his family at risk. He couldn’t hurt Sharon as well. But he had to make a decision and do it quickly.
“You are wasting time, Dapo.” Mr John said. “Would you like me to bring your sister down here? She should be on her way to lectures right now at the University of Lagos.”
Dapo took a deep breath. “What do you need me to do?”
Mr John smiled. “Now you are talking.”
Sharon told her cabman to hang on as she arrived at Woworx Hotels and Suites. She was now liquid and could afford to smile at the receptionists. She stared at them with a haughty smile. “Can I please get a room?”
“Ma’am?” One of the receptionists said for emphasis. They could recall that Sharon had shared a room. It was not like they would give her the card to the room but they just had to put on the part of their Lagos DNA that was gossip-inclined.
“Do you have a problem with giving me a room? I’ll be happy to check out another hotel.” Sharon fronted with a subtle grin.
“Single room?” The receptionist asked.
Sharon thought a while. She had suffered in the last weekend. She owed herself the best. “I want your executive suite and I want to be scheduled for a spa treatment by two p.m.” She said.
“Yes, ma’am.” The receptionist replied and pulled out a key card. “We are ready for you.”
Sharon sighed as another thought flashed across her mind. She was not going to be nice to them and it felt just right. She smiled at them. “You know, I think I’ll just check out another hotel.” She said with a smug smile. “It was to stress you unprofessional ducks a little.”
The receptionists watched her walk out and hissed in unison. “That girl na bastard!” One of them said.
“She no get sense, I swear.” Another continued. “So, she just come here demo for us, abi? Na thunder go fire her!”
Sharon stepped into the cab. “MDB studios.” She said as she settled into the back seat. She fetched her new phone from her purse and dialled Dapo’s number again. She was unable to get across to him. She wondered why she was having so much concern for him. She thought about the possibility of something going wrong but didn’t want to dwell on it. She then dialled her mother’s phone. Out of coverage. “Why is everyone unavailable?” she thought and dialled Mama’s phone. She could bank on her grandmother to always keep her phone close. “Hello, Mama.”
“Ifesinachi. How are you?” Mama asked.
Sharon rolled her eyes. “Very fine, thank you.” She replied.
“Have you finally sorted out your phone issue?” Mama asked.
Sharon nodded. “Yes, Mama. So, you can save my number. Is my Mom there? I tried calling her.”
“No, darling. Your mom decided to take a vacation.”
Sharon chuckled. It wasn’t strange of her mother to do that. “And she left you all by yourself in that house?”
“Oh well, you know how she can be.”
Sharon smiled. “I am going to call you later in the evening. I am off to see a friend.”
“Friend? Really? You now have someone you call a friend? Lagos is definitely good for you after all.”
Sharon nodded. She just realized she had absently called Tobi her friend. She didn’t have friends, she only had acquaintances but with the budding friendship she was sure to build with Tobi, she didn’t mind calling him a friend. “Yes, Mama. A friend. His name is Tobi.” She reiterated.
“He is a Yoruba boy?”
“Yes, Mama. He is Yoruba and that’s the end of our discussion.” Sharon said. “I’ll call you later.” She said, ending the call.
She paid the cabman as they arrived MDB Studios and walked into the building, handing them Tobi’s card as a passage into the studio.
“Hey, Sharon.” Tobi said, welcoming her into his office. “Please, sit.”
She took her seat. “Thank you.”
“What do I offer you?” he asked, reaching for the intercom. “Water? Juice? I would say coffee but it’s a little too hot in the afternoon for coffee.”
“I am fine, thank you.” She replied.
He replaced the intercom. “So, have you gotten your suite in the hotel?”
“No. I searched some apartments online and I spoke to their realtor. I think I want to check that out.” She replied.
He checked his wristwatch. “Now? I don’t get out until six.”
“I… I actually wasn’t requesting your company.” She replied.
He shrugged. “You are having it anyway. It’s my off day tomorrow. We could check them out tomorrow. Just call the realtor to reschedule.”
Sharon found herself thinking about his offer. Maybe she could use his company after all. “So, what am I going to spend the rest of the day doing?” she asked. “I can’t have this much free time.”
“I could take you to see a movie tonight.” He replied. “Then we could go back to the apartment and have a good evening.” He added with a coy grin.
She shook her head. “I am not sure I want to be seen anywhere near a cinema hall.” She said, remembering the experience with Jadesola.
He tapped his forehead. “We could go and get your art materials. But if that’s the case, I need to get off a little earlier.”
“You are a celebrity here. It shouldn’t be so hard.” She replied. “I could see your vain photos on the wall.”
He chuckled. “I actually told them to take those pictures down. They don’t quite reveal my good side.”
Sharon smiled. “Are you not worried about Dapo?” she asked.
“Well, I can’t say I didn’t think about it but the only thing I could come up with was he bolted after making the money.” He replied.
She sat up. “What if something happened to him?”
“What could possibly have happened to him?” Tobi said, rising to his feet. “I don’t know but I really feel you should get your mind off it.” He said, approaching the door. “Hang on, I am going to get us that early dismissal from work.”
Sharon waited after he had shut the door and dialled Dapo’s phone again. Out of coverage.
Dapo searched through all the missed calls on his phone and thought about who to call back first. He had several from his family, the client he was meant to pitch to, Tobi and weirdly, Jadesola. He needed to get some rest after the ordeal from the previous night. He thought about what he had committed himself to by agreeing to the plan Mr John had set before him. He thought about going to the police and turning them in but that would involve him risking his family’s lives; he feared that they were faster than him, which had to be the case, since they knew all about him already. He packed his bag and returned his phone into his pocket. He wasn’t going to return any of the calls. He was going to get to work. The sooner he accomplished the task he was given, the quicker he would be in getting Mr John and his men off his back.
Sharon stared at the materials she had just purchased and wondered if she was doing the right thing. It had been forever since she last did anything related to painting and while Tobi needed the momentum to put his own work out there, she needed more than momentum. She needed to hone her skills all over again and while she might have told herself that once an artiste, always an artiste was real, she had a lot of work to do.
“Do you like them?” Tobi asked, joining Sharon at the cashier’s. “I got us a few more brushes.”
She nodded and turned to him. “This is likely going to be a lot more difficult than I thought.” She started. “What if I can no longer paint right?”
“You can’t quit on me now, we had a deal.” He replied, handing his card to the cashier. “Sharon, I know this is scary but if you really want to do what you love doing, you have got to start from somewhere.”
Tobi’s motivational speech wasn’t working for Sharon but she at least had to put up a front. She didn’t know what she was looking for but if painting was going to give her life, she had to give it a shot. “Let’s go paint.” She said.
Dapo was waiting outside Tobi’s house by the time they arrived. He watched Tobi and Sharon approach him with bags in their hands and smiled. Maybe Sharon had gotten him to do some shopping for her too. He wasn’t surprised. He had found himself in that situation before. But at least, now he knew that Sharon was genuinely robbed.
“Dapo, where have you been?” Sharon asked as they got to him.
He smiled faintly. “Hi, Sharon.”
“That doesn’t answer the question, bro.” Tobi said. “Why did you come here yesterday to try to deceive her into believing that you wanted her to do the presentation?” he asked.
Dapo smiled. “I wanted her to do the presentation.”
“That’s a lie.” Tobi replied.
Dapo chuckled. “Why would I lie? It got cancelled and I was so disappointed that I just shut down the whole day.” He said.
Sharon stared at him. “It’s okay. It doesn’t matter anymore.”
Tobi nodded. “Yep. You can see yourself out.” He said, leading the way.
“Sharon.” Dapo said, taking her hand.
Tobi stared at Dapo’s hand. “Bro, stop it.”
“Shut up, Tobi.” Dapo yelled. “I just want a minute with her.”
Sharon stared at Tobi. “It’s fine. I’ll be upstairs in no time.”
“I am not leaving you alone with this guy.” Tobi replied. “Whatever you want to say to her, you can say it while I am here.”
Dapo took a deep breath. “I don’t really do well with this drama, but I am sorry, Sharon, and I would like to make it up to you if you would let me.”
“And how exactly do you want to make it up to her? Deceiving her that you have another deal again?”Tobi asked. “She is not going to fall for it again. I won’t let her.”
“Tobi! Chill!” Sharon said. “You are not even letting him speak.” She added. Tobi was being unnecessarily protective of her such that it got her nervous.
Tobi nodded. “That’s because I know guys like him.”
Dapo stared at him. “What do you mean about guys like me? Tobi, mind your business. I am talking to Sharon and you should stay out of our conversation. Who are you to her? I have had enough of you.”
“Then get off my property!” Tobi yelled, taking Sharon’s hand. “Let’s go in.”
She yanked out of his grip. “I am not your property.”
Tobi took a deep breath. He was getting agitated. Maybe he was already assuming roles in his head. “I am sorry, Sharon.” He said, stepping back. “I’ll be waiting upstairs.”
Dapo waited until Tobi had disappeared up into the house before turning to Sharon. “I am really sorry about everything.”
“Was the deal really cancelled?” she asked. “Tell me the truth. Please.”
He took a deep breath and nodded. “Yes, it was.” He lied. He could see her eyes yearning for the truth but the truth was going to risk the ones he loved and right now, he had only one mission, he couldn’t afford to screw it up.
“I am sorry about it.” She replied.
He managed a smile. “So, were you able to get to the bank?”
“Yes.” She said. “And I am going to refund your money just like I promised.”
He shook his head. “You don’t need to. I already made you work. So, we are all square now. However, I’ll love a chance to be your friend…again.” He said, stretching out a hand. “Friends?”
Sharon stared at it. “Do you really want to be an Architect?”
“It’s all I have been good at pretending to be.” He replied, taking his hand back. “My parents wanted it and eventually I grew used to lying to be one.”
“Well, it is a skill I have learnt but I have no use for. Tobi is going to help me get back to painting, so if you don’t mind, I could work with you on designing.” She said.
He blinked as cold chills ran down his spine. “You want to teach me?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“I don’t know what to say.” He said.
She smiled. “A thank you is in order.” She said. “I’ll call you. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight.” He replied and watched her walk away. He clenched his teeth in anger. She was making his work a lot more difficult with her kind gestures. It was going to be difficult for him to carry out the task before him…he had to find a way; else his family would be in danger.
Sharon switched through the TV channels. The news channel didn’t have anything good to offer except for sad news which was the routine. She dropped the controller as soon as Tobi joined her in the living room.
She folded her arms. “Hello.”
“Can I please sit?”
She shrugged. “It’s your house.”
He took his seat beside her. “I am sorry about what happened earlier. I guess I lost control for a second.”
“Bi-polar?” she joked with a chuckle.
He shook his head. “God forbid.”
“My mom is bi-polar.”
He rubbed his forehead. “I am sorry.”
“It’s alright.” She replied. “She gets to switch off some times and it could really be worrisome but she is a great person.”
“I bet she is.” He replied.
She stared at him. “I am going to help Dapo with Architecture.” She started. “I think he wants it so he would understand it better.”
“What if he’s doing it just to get closer to you?” Tobi asked.
Sharon chuckled. “Dude, you have so many weird theories.”
Tobi took her hand. “I like you.”
Sharon withdrew her hand from him. “Thank you.”
“No. I like you, very much.” He said and drew closer to her. He could see her eyes cowering as he towered over her slowly. “I want you, Sharon.” He said.
She put her hand in between their chests. “Tobi, stop.”
“I want you.” He muttered as he started to brush his lips against her face.
Sharon was struggling. “Tobi, stop it.” But he would not stop.