Saturday, May 16, 2015

Preview: Twenty-One Days Post #3

CHAPTER TWO: Remember me

Oluomachukwu and Kayode sat at the lounge in Rockview Hotel, having drinks. They had opted for soft drinks, because they felt they had drunk enough alcohol at her hotel room. Oluomachukwu’s head was aching, between her legs was still sensitive and her phone hadn’t stopped ringing all the while that she was with Kayode back in her hotel room. She wasn’t sure how many times Akunna or even Okechukwu had called. She hadn’t saved either of their phone numbers, so she couldn’t tell which number belonged to whom at that instant. She then divided the over forty missed calls between both of them.

Oluomachukwu and Kayode sat down at a table close to the bar, from where they could see the clean swimming pool in Rockview Hotel, but the silence between them was awkward. She and Kayode weren’t saying anything to each other. They had nothing to say, although they had talked a lot before he put out her fire. They now looked like total strangers who had been put on the same table and forced to be friends.

Before the moment could get any weirder than it was already, Oluomachukwu heard her name and immediately turned around. The frame of a tall, caramel-skinned hunk stood behind her, blocking the light so that she couldn’t see his face, only his silhouette. She tilted her head slightly to the side and saw the person’s face.

She gasped, then said, “Nnanna?”

The person nodded. “I wasn’t sure it was you. I saw you heading towards the stairs when I was driving out. I contemplated coming to say hello at first, but I eventually decided to.”

“Oh yeah?” Oluomachukwu tilted her head backwards. “Why?”

“I didn’t think you would remember me,” he replied.

Oluomachukwu rolled her eyes. “Okay, so why did you ignore me and act clueless at the airport today, then?” She wanted to ask if it was because of the girl he had met at the airport, but she knew not to.

“What airport?” Nnanna asked.

“Were you not at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport today?” Oluomachukwu immediately felt like the clueless one.

He shook his head. “No. I guess you saw my look alike. I didn’t know there was anyone as handsome as I am in Abuja.” He laughed. Oluomachukwu also laughed, but he didn’t notice that it was a forced one.

There was something about Nnanna that made her legs weak. She had loved him and even after he broke her heart and put her through a painful path, she secretly wanted to see him again, ask him why he had left her and tell him everything that had happened since then, then give him a second chance, if he asked. She wanted to tell him that she was still mad with him and that nothing could change the past, but there was the present and the future.

Nnanna and Oluomachukwu kept quiet when they were done laughing and didn’t say any other thing until Kayode cleared his throat.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Oluomachukwu said. “Nnanna, this is—”

“Kayode,” Nnanna complemented, then extended his hand to shake Kayode, although it appeared to be forced. “I hope you are good.”

Kayode hesitated before stretching forth his hand, and immediately after he shook Nnanna, he withdrew his hand. “All is well. I didn’t know you knew Oluoma.”

“I didn’t know you did, too,” Nnanna said. “Oluoma and I dated a few years back.”

There was another awkward silence — Oluomachukwu started to wonder why Nnanna had added the part where they dated, and if there was a sort of contest going on between them. She felt a rush of guilt for having made out with Kayode and wished she had just gone back to Lagos after her registration.

She looked at Nnanna and Kayode, they were staring at each other, so focused that they didn’t even notice when she stood up and walked away. She went to the toilet and spent a few too many minutes in there. Her phone was still ringing nonstop. She picked it up and it was Okechukwu.

“Oluoma, my sister is worried sick. Where are you?” he asked. “Is that music I’m hearing in the background?”

“Please, tell her I’m not coming,” Oluomachukwu said. “I’ll just spend the night at a hotel.”

“What?” Okechukwu exclaimed. “With who?”

“Alone.” Oluomachukwu sounded firm. “Who else will I spend the night with? I’ll take the first available flight to Lagos tomorrow after I finalise my registration.”

“Oluoma, are you okay?” Okechukwu asked. “Because you sound strange.”

“I’m okay. I just want to listen to music, think about this one-year I want to give to my country, then fall asleep. That’s all.”

“Okay, no problem. I’ll call Akunna now and tell her not to expect you, then. Good night.”

“Good night...” She wanted to add ‘dear,’ but he had already hung up. She didn’t realise until that moment how much he cared about her.

Although she felt he and Akunna were pestering her, but in reality, they were just looking out for her. It was not going to make her reconsider him, though. She liked the attention and feared that it would no longer be there if she decided to date him.

When she stepped out of the toilet, she bumped into Nnanna. “Nnanna, you scared me,” she said.

“I’m so sorry. I was just about to leave, so I wanted to collect your phone number and give you mine.” He pulled out his phone and waited for her to give it to him.

Oluomachukwu didn’t object. She should have, but she didn’t. She also didn’t know what Okechukwu would say if he found out that she had met Nnanna, had a conversation with him again and even exchanged numbers.

Nnanna thanked her and promised to call her later. But before he left, he told her something that would make her think for a while. “Be careful of Kayode. He is married.”

***

Oluomachukwu got back to her hotel room, pissed off, angry and in a very foul mood, as she recalled how she had gone back to meet Kayode right after Nnanna left. She had asked him about his wife and he remained calm. He didn’t accept the fact and he didn’t deny it either. The only thing he did was to ask her how she got the information about his marital status. He wondered if it was from Nnanna, Okechukwu, or both. Oluomachukwu didn’t even reply to his question, she simply turned around to leave without saying goodbye, shoving his hand away as he tried to stop her.

While in the taxi back to her hotel, Nnanna had called her to make her feel better and laugh a bit. He managed to get a few laughs out of her until he apologised for breaking her heart. He didn’t give a serious reason why he did it. He said he was young and didn’t know what he wanted, but it wasn’t a satisfactory reason for Oluomachukwu. And as the conversation carried on, he managed to invite himself over to her hotel room and she didn’t object to it.

While waiting for him to arrive, she arranged her things in her handbag for her trip back to Lagos. She then ate the rest of the chicken that Kayode had bought, drank a few glasses of wine and ignored more phone calls, which were probably from Akunna to ask why she didn’t want to visit anymore or from Kayode to apologise.

When she was done, she slipped into her nightwear — a spaghetti-strap satin top and matching shorts, both black. The satin top was lined with pink lace that dropped down to reveal her full cleavage.

She slid into bed, as she took another glass of wine, and pulled out her phone to go through her emails, tweets and Facebook updates, but she saw even more missed calls and wondered if Okechukwu hadn’t told Akunna that she was not spending the night at hers anymore. She then used the opportunity to save all the numbers on her phone so that she would know who was calling at all times.

She had saved only Akunna’s number when her phone started ringing. She wasn’t really sure if it was Okechukwu calling and wondered why he would be calling again.

She picked up the call and it was Kayode.

“Why are you calling me?” she asked.

“I’m calling to apologise. I didn’t say anything to you at Rockview because I knew you were upset. I didn’t want to say anything that would upset you the more.”

“I don’t understand,” Oluomachukwu said. She hadn’t even seen a ring on his finger all day. “Why did you make a move on me when you knew you were married?”

“I’m sorry.”

“I don’t know what that means.” She was not satisfied with his reply. “And why did you also ask me to go out for drinks with you afterwards?”

“Your cousin wanted me to take care of you in Abuja.”

“Did he also ask you to take care of my body and its needs?” She didn’t expect an answer to that. “I am sure he only asked you to help me out with my registration, and he doesn’t even know that we hung out all evening.”

“Why don’t you ask him?” Kayode asked. “He is your cousin after all.”

“Okechukwu,” Oluomachukwu spat out. “Okechukwu is his name.”

“What?” Kayode asked.

“Stop referring to him as my cousin all the time. He has a name.” Kayode was surprised. “Are you okay?” he asked. “If I didn’t know the two of you were blood relatives, I would have said that you were in love or something.”

“That’s disgusting,” Oluomachukwu replied. “You just keep saying ‘your cousin.’ I have other cousins and you are overworking my brain. Besides, he is my family friend, and not my cousin.”

“I’m sorry,” Kayode said, then he took her by surprise when he added, “About not telling you I was married.” He figured that was the reason she was annoyed. Whether he called Okechukwu’s name or not wasn’t the issue.

Oluomachukwu didn’t want to hear any of it, and she didn’t even know what she was thinking, having something to do with a man she barely even knew. She wished she could turn back the hands of time and not accept to spend the night in Abuja or even see him earlier that evening.

“So have you forgiven me?”

Oluomachukwu heard Kayode’s voice, but she hadn’t been listening to what he was saying to her, if at all he had been saying anything to her. In fact, his voice startled her, and the knock on her hotel room door at that instant also startled her.

“Are you expecting someone?” Kayode asked her. But before she could respond, he added, “Is it Nnanna?”

Oluomachukwu didn’t reply right away. She stood up and went to check who it was through the peephole. It was Nnanna quite all right, looking as handsome as ever. She smiled, then remembered she wasn’t supposed to be happy with him.

“It’s Nnanna, right?” Kayode repeated. “Are you still there?”

There was another knock at the door. Oluomachukwu hung up immediately after saying goodbye, not allowing Kayode reply. She then opened the door and smiled as Nnanna approached and hugged her. He smelled nice and sweet, so sweet that she could eat him, but she controlled herself.

After Oluomachukwu let him in, he went straight for the drinks on the table. Her phone started to ring while she was getting settled down. It was Kayode calling her back. She declined the call, then declined a second and a third time before she switched the phone off completely.

“Hmm, so who is calling you?” Nnanna asked. “Don’t break any hearts, oh.”

Nnanna laughed, but she didn’t. Heartbreak wasn’t a topic she wanted to joke about. Nnanna understood the message a few seconds later. And instead of apologising or changing topics, he pulled her closer and attempted to give her a proper hug. “I’ve missed you,” he said.

She pulled away, and as she looked into his eyes, she saw fire burning in it — the same kind she had had earlier that evening — the one only the touch of a woman could quench. But she wasn’t going to give him the pleasure and satisfaction that he was expecting to receive.

She slapped him twice on the same cheek. “I hate you,” she said, sounding sincere. Nnanna didn’t feel the impact of the slap, but he held his cheek all the same. “What was that for?” he asked, as if he didn’t know.

“You think you can just come back into my life after breaking my heart and even allowing me to...” She stopped when she realised she should have stopped at ‘breaking my heart.’

“Allowing you to what?”

“Nothing...” She paused a bit. “Forget I said anything.”

“Oluoma, you know I won’t forget anything.” Nnanna was starting to sound and look worried.

“Well, too bad, because I am not telling you anything.” She got the glasses for more drinks. “And you and I know that you are not going to win this battle, so don’t bother asking me again.”

She brought out the remaining bottle of drink, as she planned to drink all that was left in the hotel room before going back to Lagos.

***

When Oluomachukwu landed in Lagos, she went to get an airport taxi that would take her to Okechukwu’s place in Ikoyi. She could have called him to come and get her, but she didn’t want to disturb him, especially as she knew that he might already be at work. She also knew that she didn’t want to stay at his place anymore. After her night with Nnanna, she was reconsidering him. And if she was going to date him again, she would need her own place.

As she waited around for a taxi, she realised that her phone hadn’t rang in a while. When she fished out the phone from her handbag that could pass for a travelling bag, she saw that it was switched off. She had forgotten to turn it on after blowing Kayode off the night before.

She managed to bargain a taxi, but she wasn’t sure if they had cheated her. So before getting in, she turned her phone on to call Okechukwu, ignoring the multitude of text messages that came in.

The call didn’t go through, because she didn’t have sufficient airtime. So she walked towards a young girl that hawked recharge cards for various network operators, who stood not too far away from her, and bought one for her phone.

As she was waiting for the girl to scratch the card and reveal the secret pin, she decided to go through her text messages — they were mostly promotional text messages from the network operator, then some from Okechukwu and one from Kayode.

She didn’t open any of the text messages yet. She took the recharge card from the girl and loaded her phone first, then called Okechukwu immediately, as the taxi driver was still waiting for her and getting impatient.

“Oluoma,” Okechukwu said, as soon as he picked up. “Where have you been? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Oluomachukwu replied.

“You guess so?” Okechukwu thought her reply was strange. “Where are you?”

“At the airport.”

“Which airport?”

“Lagos.”

Okechukwu was surprised. He glanced at his phone screen and checked the time. “It’s not even 9:00am yet and you are back already.”

“Yeah.” Oluomachukwu didn’t know exactly where he was going with his comments.

“Didn’t you say you had to finish up your registration today?”

Oluomachukwu could have answered, but didn’t know what to say. So instead she looked at her phone, then hit the End Call button. She wasn’t in the mood to explain, especially as it was going to be a lie. She knew Okechukwu was going to call her back, so she wanted to use the short time to think of something to say. In three seconds, as she expected, her phone rang. She hesitated a bit, then picked up.

“Hello?” she said.

“What happened?” Okechukwu asked. “Did you run out of airtime?”

“Yes,” Oluomachukwu lied, then walked back to the taxi line and found the taxi man she had bargained her trip back to Ikoyi with. “By the way, how much does it cost to come to Ikoyi with a taxi?”

“I would say between 3,500 naira and 4,000 naira, but it depends. Why?”

“Depends on what?” Oluomachukwu asked. “Because I’m about to get into a taxi now.”

“On if you are a Johnny-just-come.” Okechukwu laughed. “They can spot a newbie and hike the price. How much is he asking you for?”

The driver opened the back seat door for her, already grumbling, and she entered. “Anyway, I bargained 4,500 naira, so I’m not that bad.” They both laughed. “Okay, so I just got into the taxi now. Are you still at home?”

“No, but you can come to my office first, I’ll give you the house keys.”

“Okay, thanks.” Oluomachukwu paused briefly when the cabbie fired the engine. It was too noisy, she could hardly hear herself. When the taxi driver started moving, she continued, “Please, can you text your office address to me?”

“I will,” Okechukwu replied. “And please, can you call Akunna?”

“Why?”

“She might be angry with you because you stood her up yesterday.”

“Stood her up?”

“She was worried.”

“Okay, I’ll call her now and apologise for not spending the night over at hers.”

As if the second part of Oluomachukwu’s sentence had just triggered something, Okechukwu remembered he had asked a question that she didn’t reply to. “So why did you spend the night in Abuja, anyway?” he asked. “Because it was obviously not for your registration.”

Oluomachukwu didn’t reply.

“Or was it because of Nnanna?” he continued.

Oluomachukwu felt her heart stop for a second. “What do you mean ‘because of Nnanna?’”

“Well, he said he saw you at the airport, so I assumed he was the reason,” Okechukwu said.

“He said that?”

“Aha!” Okechukwu exclaimed. “I knew it was because of him.”

“I didn’t even see him,” Oluomachukwu replied, angry. Nnanna had lied to her, which meant that he was indeed at the airport and was with a girl.

Okechukwu laughed, but it sounded more like he had sighed. “So why did you stay back? Or didn’t you complete your registration?”

“I did,” Oluomachukwu said. “Kayode called me later and told me that the registration had been successful. They had a problem with my degree certificate, but it had been rectified, so he called to tell me. And the call came in too late to start coming back to Lagos.”

“Hmm,” Okechukwu replied.

“If you have something to say, please, say it.”

“Kayode is married.”

“How does that concern me?” Oluomachukwu replied, even though it concerned her. But it was already too late to feel sad about it. She was already feeling guilty.

“Nnanna is also getting married soon. Did you know that?” Oluomachukwu froze on the seat. She didn’t reply. She didn’t have anything to say. She wished the call would end.

“The funny thing is that the girl he wants to marry used to date Kayode before. Nnanna met her for the first time at one event I organised, then he sort of snatched her from Kayode. In fact, I don’t know who did the snatching.” He laughed, then stopped immediately when he noticed that Oluomachukwu hadn’t said anything. “Are you still there?”

Oluomachukwu wanted to cry, but she held back the tears. She sort of had an idea why Okechukwu was giving her that information. It was payback. Payback for blowing him off to date Nnanna some years back.

There was an awkward silence that was broken by the taxi driver when he turned around to ask Oluomachukwu for the specific address she was going to in Ikoyi.

Oluomachukwu saw it as the perfect opportunity to put an end to the call. “Please, can you text your office address to me so that I can give it to the taxi man?” she asked. “He has been waiting for it.”   “I’ll do that now,” Okechukwu said, then hung up.

Oluomachukwu looked at her phone screen, the battery life was at three percent, but it was enough to do a couple more things on the phone. She received the text message from Okechukwu and gave the address to the taxi driver, then she opened and read Kayode’s text message from the night before, over and over again, “Be careful of Nnanna, he is getting married soon.” She let out the tears.

*****
Copyright © 2015 C. M. Okonkwo