Eleven Years Ago
“This damn heat,” Mofe muttered to himself rapping on the large gate in front of him. Where was this Aliyu, the security guard? He wondered. It was quite unlike him not to open the gate immediately, was he at the back of the house? He hoped not, if indeed he was then goodness only knew when Aliyu would hear his knocks and he couldn’t take anymore of the sun’s scorching heat. He was dark enough already, he wasn’t looking get anymore darker and so he knocked louder.
The general’s compound was a large one, and he would have returned later but Sunny, the general’s driver had been clear that his oga needed his uniforms ASAP and he was on an errand and couldn’t pick it up from the dry cleaners. Mofe, who had been washing cars at another house in the estate, had to hurriedly finished with the car, picked up the uniforms from the cleaners offices in the estate, before heading to the general’s house, which was just next door to where he stayed.
He looked at the bell to the main house longingly, in all the time he’d acted as errand boy and general handyman for the general’s house, he’d never had to ring the bell. Aliyu was usually at his duty post beside the gate. The bell was meant to be rung by important house guests while his types were meant to take the back door and not be seen or heard but it might just be his last resort, he thought deciding on knocking the huge brass gates one last time. This time making it so loud, he had to wince at the noise himself, if Aliyu didn’t hear that then it would have to be the bell.
“Hey, who’s that?” he heard a female snap from the other side, probably one of the numerous maids in the house. Those ones carried some pretty heavy chips on their shoulders, they were always nasty, saucy and quite rude. He preferred ignoring them most of the time. They looked down on him as a lowly help, he often wondered what made them believe they were any higher than he was. They probably didn’t know he was a final year student in the university and most likely the over all best graduating student for that year.
” Do you want to bring down the gate?” She continued rudely as he heard her quick footsteps approach the gate.
Mofe, who was feeling quite scorched, having been running around in the sun all afternoon wasn’t in the mood for attitude today so he yelled back in pidgin ” Abeg come open gate jare! I no get una time today. Whether if you open gate since I for dey knock like that.”
There was a sudden pause in her step, and Mofe began to think maybe he wasn’t talking to a maid after all. Could it….. Could it be her?
“Who are you?” She asked, her voice wary, suspicious of him and Mofe knew who it was. He wished he could take back his words but too late. The lady at the gate was the general’s only daughter and his course mate Zinny, as she was popularly called at school.
“It’s Mofe,” he replied not sure if she was familiar with his name. She knew him since she had seen him around countless times but since they had never been introduced, he doubted she knew his name and so he added ” I brought the general’s uniforms.”
He didn’t hear her say anything else, instead she unlocked the gates and pulled it open.
He was greeted by the sight of her and a very beautiful sight she was. Fair creamy complexion, as if almost translucent, tall, slender but curvy stature, her long dark hair was let down and grazed her shoulders, the slight breeze blowing it softly.
Her light brown eyes regarded him in a not too friendly manner, he guessed she was still smarting at how he’d replied her.
Well what was done was done, she’d been quite rude herself so she’d deserved what she’d gotten. He’d known her for four years but had never exchanged words with her even as they saw each other quite often in school as they were in the same department.
They ignored each other at school and it would have been okay with him if not been madly crushing on her for those four long years, crushing so bad he gave her sideways glances in class so as not to be caught staring at her directly. He’d tried getting over it but the feelings had stubbornly refused to leave and had wedged itself deep into his heart. He was such a wimp, like a teenager, infatuated with someone who didn’t even know he existed. Well… she did know but just didn’t care.
Once in a while he listened in on her and her friends when they gathered to gist in the gazebo in the back of her house. He occupied the boys’ quarters in the compound next door, and heard all they talked about quite clearly. His cousin Eric who was aware of his crush had advised him to get over it since it would lead nowhere, she moved in very different circles from his.
Ignoring the sudden racing of his heart beat as they regarded themselves for a few seconds, he said in a measured voice, expertly hiding any trace of feeling.
“These are for the general.” He handed the military uniforms over on the hangers, but she shook her head looking at him like he’d lost his mind.
I’m on my way out.” She replied and as if on cue, a car pulled up to a stop behind him, it’s driver honked twice, Mofe turned to acknowledge the BMW X5 SUV, one of the many automobiles he recognized as her boyfriend’s.
Aliyu is at the back, go give it to him or drop it with one of the maids in the kitchen.” She said walking past him and onto the car, not even bothering with the gate, guess she expected him to lock it behind her, after all he was nothing but one of the paid helps around.
“Sir, are you okay? We’re at the address.”
The driver’s voice brought Mofe Johnson back to the present. She’d been on his mind again as usual, eleven years after and she still plagued him, haunted his thoughts.
“Yeah, I’m good Gabriel, so this is the place?” Mofe asked looking at the large compound that seemed to be a rehabilitation centre for the visually impaired. He read the sign which hung over the gates.
For the life of him, he couldn’t fathom what she’d be doing here, the place wasn’t much and was a bit run down, far from where he expected a society girl like her would ever work.
It had taken quite a lot tracking her down as none of his old friends from the university had her information, she’d just seemed to drop off the earth after her wedding to her on again off again boyfriend ten years back. It had been a huge occasion, he’d been told. He certainly hadn’t missed not being there.
He told himself he didn’t care that she’d finally gotten married the ‘right’ one, the one whom her father had picked out for her.
So what exactly was he doing here if he didn’t care? Why had he been hell bent on finding her since he’d stepped foot back in the country some months back? He told himself he just wanted to gloat in her face, he wanted to show her he’d become everything thing her father had said he wouldn’t. He’d climbed so far up the ladder that he rubbed shoulders with presidents and top members of the society, here in Nigeria and abroad.
He wasn’t that broke guy who had washed clothes and cars and done every available job to see him through school. He was now Mofe Johnson, CEO of Tech-bits group, one of the cutting edge software, securities and technology companies in the world.
He’d not needed to be in the country for the present project his company was working on for the federal government, he had people who could handle it but his longing to see her again had become even more intense the past few months while he’d been in the United States. He wasn’t sure why but it had gotten so bad he’d suddenly packed a bag, lumped the news on his fiancee and hopped on his private jet back to Nigeria. He recalled his promise to himself all those years ago never to return, the country had held heartbreak, loss and sadness for him but here he was and right now he was going to see her again. He was going to see her after eleven long years.
Not that it would matter much anyway, he had a beautiful woman waiting for him back in California. Eve had been perplexed at the suddenness of him leaving to his country; he’d lied at first that he needed to see the project through himself but it hadn’t gone down easily with her. She was so smart; she had put two and two together and had then asked quietly.
” Is this about ‘her’?” she knew about the dreams that kept plaguing him, how he could drift off for a while thinking about ‘her’ and how after two years, he couldn’t fully commit to their relationship by agreeing a wedding date. There wasn’t ever a right time for him and there might never be. Not until he gave himself some sort of closure.
He’d had to come clean, he’d let her know he needed to put an end to thoughts of her. He loved Eve but something was holding him back from committing to her and it wasn’t fair to her. He loved her but thoughts of his past kept coming back to him, thoughts of her. He needed to properly bury the past and then do the right thing by his fiancee. She deserved his full attention and wasn’t to be shared with some other lady who hadn’t thought he’d been good enough for her.
Eve was a senior partner in a top law firm and headed the California branch of their offices. She had moved there for him. Two years ago when their relationship had begun getting serious, she’d made the decision. Mofe knew she still missed New York where the head office of the law firm was based. New York was exciting while LA was quite laid back, but wherever he was, was where she wanted to be, her exact words. He wouldn’t let her down, she was willing to give up a lot for him, when he got back they would fix a date, he promised.
Whatever psychological hold Zinny had on him would be broken that afternoon. He was gonna put their unfinished business to rest, so she could stop haunting his thoughts and dreams, then get the hell out of this country and back to his patiently waiting Evie.
Still, this was the last place he expected to see the general’s daughter, at a rehab centre for blind people. A thoughtful frown creased his eyebrows as he wondered quietly again what she could be doing in a place like this.
Well, the sooner he got out of the car, the sooner he’d get some answers. Opening the back seat door, he stepped out of the black Range Rover SUV, the dusty ground instantly marring his impeccably shined Italian shoes. Ignoring it, he made his way over to the room he assumed was the reception.