Forever and For Always 5 pt 2

Present Day

He had come prepared for a nasty confrontation and he wasn’t leaving without answers , he purposed getting down from the back of the SUV and walking briskly up to the administrative block which housed the reception. He was dropping the reporter bullshi’t and would demand straightforward answers from her and if the little girl turned out to be his daughter, he would employ every effort he had into taking her from Ezinne forcefully.

Stepping into the reception, the receptionist was not behind her desk but he heard Zinnie’s voice faintly from her office and he decided on going in but as he was about to knock, he heard her say his name.

Dropping his hand which had stopped midway, he shuffled closer to the door and listened, eavesdropping. It seemed she was on the phone.

“I don’t know why I feel it’s him…..there was this inexplicable feeling I felt when I held his hand,.. it brought back memories…. memories of him…and the voice … so like his….I thought I would faint.” she said before pausing for a while, listening to whoever was on the other end. When she spoke next, her voice had turned sour “He left me Uduak, he just left……disappeared without a word, left me and I will forever hate him for it…. ”

Mofe couldn’t believe what he was hearing, that so wasn’t true, and his heart wrenched hearing the bitterness in her voice. He’d left abruptly yeah, but she could have reached him if she’d wanted to…. had she forgotten she had driven him off, told him never to reach her and he had left the country that same night in anger but had been hopeful she would reach him. He had waited and waited to no avail, until Eric had told him she’d moved on with her life and gotten back with her boyfriend, Ekene and they had begun plans for their wedding.

She had no right to talk about hatred here,  if anyone was to hate and be angry? It should be him because she had deceived him, what they had hadn’t mattered, for her to have moved on so easily.

She continued speaking “….. I know if I’d told his Aunt or his cousin, he would have reappeared but I was angry at the time, I just didn’t think he deserved to know… and I didnt want him coming back just to do the right thing, you know?”

His eyebrows shot up ‘didn’t deserve to know what, and what could she have told his aunt? what was the right thing?’ he wondered frustrated,  all he wanted to do was barge in and demand answers but he had a feeling that would be a bad idea. If he barged in,  he knew she wouldn’t tell him a thing, instead they would have the mother of all fights, create a scene, with no headway made.

“I was so foolish…. I thought what…What we had was real…I guess my father got that part right, he warned me but I didn’t listen,” she continued

Mofe’s breath caught on hearing her talk about her demon of a father,  the manipulative son of a ….., who couldn’t speak the truth to save his life! He’d been the catalyst to their break up and Mofe severely regretted the deal he’d made with the devil of a man, maybe if he’d not listened to him, If he’d just held on for a while longer, things would have been different now.

Shaking himself, he cleared his head, he wasn’t the one to be blamed here, he’d accepted the deal because she had left, it was she who had left first.

” …anyway, I dont want to talk about it right now…. It gets me in a really bad mood and it’s all in the past ……Yeah, expecting him today…… I asked Dara to pick her up and babysit for a while just incase of any drama….If it turns out to be him?…. I dont know I will probably put a few things together and run, take my daughter and relocate, I don’t want him ever seeing me like this…..and worse he wouldn’t take it lightly if he found out after all these years.”

Found out what after all these years? he wondered, now knowing that if he dropped his facade, it might probably be the last he’d hear from her,he couldn’t let that happen.

For a moment he wondered about her husband and boyfriend from before, Ekene, she hadn’t mentioned him, were they separated? He didn’t seem to be in the picture anymore.

She was still speaking “No, Rachel is unaware of all this….I’m scared Uduak, I will just have to see how it plays out….. maybe I’m just being crazy and imagining things….. Yeah, a feature will help very much, I’m barely making ends meet and I don’t want to close this place up. We are doing so much good here….Yeah, still very broke, Emeka says we aren’t making money enough to cover running expenses, I’ve had to let some teachers go, I have just two left along with myself and Maureen who almost works for free. Uduak, I need a miracle….. If I close this place, what will the students do? What will I do?”

Mofe heard the disappointment in her voice and knew she really loved what she did here.

“I’m not stressing myself Uduak…. collect money from my father? Are you for real?” she screeched “That man did nothing but to almost ruin my life, he’s one of the many reasons I’m where I am now…. I finally have the courage to do what I should have done years ago. I don’t need his money, I would rather be broke than be his pawn. He controlled my life once before but never again. UD! Please don’t mention him ever as an option for me, I’d rather trust a snake than him,”

Hearing footsteps coming , he straightened up and moved away from the door. It was the receptionist, Maureen. Her features brightened on seeing him.

“Ah, Mr. Stevens, you’re quite early today.” she told him with a tooty grin.

“Yeah,” he said and although he was in no mood to smile, he managed a small one for her benefit “I figured I might have to spend a bit of time knowing what goes on around here.”

She nodded, the big smile still on her face “Great. Let me just see if Mrs. Ezinne is available to receive you.”

Alright,” he replied stepping aside for her to go into the office. His bullshi’t journalist  identity was back, he figured he still needed it for a while yet until he got the answers he needed. She had said it herself, she would run and he wouldn’t find her again if she ever found him out.

*******

He was seated across from her and she was on high alert, how could two people have such similar voices? Was the question that had been running through her mind. He had a slight accent but his voice, it could very well pass as Mofe’s.

There was an aura about him,  unlike the Mofe she’d known, Stevens  seemed refined, polished, she noticed it in the little things he did. Like in his unhurried footsteps, even when he was in a hurry. When he spoke,  it was low and quiet,  like he was always in control.

Mofe hadn’t been overly carefree but he hadnt been this subdued or cold. Mofe never could hide his feelings well,  he always spoke out when hurt or unhappy but this man before her,  she suspected would never divulge or show his true feelings, not even if his life depended on it. He was just too in control.

It was days like this that she regretted having lost her sight, she could be standing next to the devil and would have no idea, it was frustrating.

“So you have run this centre for a few years now?” He was asking in his usual quiet manner.

“four years now precisely,” She replied calmly also,  although feeling very apprehensive within her. If this was Mofe, why would he go through this charade, he used to be more of a direct person not given to fumbling around or wasting time.

“And how has it been handling this place along with the pressures of coping with  family life?”

“It’s been okay,” She replied in a toneless voice, feeling like a machine giving automated replies.

“Okay…., how?” he asked again.

“I manage quite well,” She replied again suspecting there was an angle to his questioning “I have a wonderful and dedicated staff.”

“Okay, and your husband and family are supportive of you running this place?”

The same question again, behind her dark glasses, Ezinne narrowed her eyes, “My family are supportive, yes.” she said purposely failing to correct him.on the assumption that she was married.

“You take some classes yourself?” he asked finally getting off the family question.

“Yes, communicative skills, braille and moon languages.”

“When and how did you lose your eyesight, madam?” He asked and it was the last straw, this so called reporter was coming off as more of a busy body to her than someone who wanted to know about the centre.

“I don’t see how relevant that is to you, Mr. Stevens ….or do I say Mofe Johnson?” She was crazy to ask this but she couldn’t hold it back any longer, it was so frustrating. It had to be him, he sounded so much like him.

“Ma’am, you keep referring to me as this Mofe, why in the world, please enlighten me, is he of some consequence to you?” The reporter asked calmly, his voice deep and low, everything Mofe’s voice was…. just not exactly, something was different, he was different. Could this be him, she was sure, yet not quite.

Yes, he broke my heart, the bastard! She thought and he sounds very much like you.

She was about to accuse him some  more when her door was flung open and Maureen, sounding breathless, rushed in.

“Madam, there’s a fire at your house!”

“What?” Ezinne exclaimed, jumping up from her seat.

“The teachers are trying to put it out,” she quickly added like that was supposed to make her feel better.

“Do you have an extinguisher some where around?” Stevens asked in earnest and from the sound of his voice he was up from his seat also.

Yes we do!” Maureen replied, “I’ll get it,”

Ezinne heard her footsteps run off and got up from her seat meaning to follow behind.

“Where are you going?” He asked her as she got hold of her cane.

“I’m going to see-” but she couldn’t see “I’m going over there.”

“No!” He ordered, “You wait here, I will take care of it.”

“Mr Stevens, if you think I’m going to sit here, twiddling my thumbs, waiting while my house burns to the ground, you are are very wrong.”

He didn’t say anything anymore but in a few moments, his hand was on her arm and she felt it again, that zing of energy between them, but before she could think much about it, he was urging her on.

“what are you doing?” It was her turn to ask.

“If you insist, then I’m going to have to assist you there.”

“I can manage very well on my own, thankyou.” She replied trying to get herself out of his grip.

“I’m sure you can but….” He paused for a second “please allow me assist you. In your hurry, I don’t want you getting hurt.” He said.

Hearing him put it like that, her tense body relaxed and she let him guide her although she knew for herself where she was going.

She was hoping it wasn’t a serious fire, and its origin, Rachel had always complained about those cables sparking but Emeka had said there wasn’t enough funds to do a repair. The buildings needed some necessary touch ups all over but there weren’t any funds, everything they got was used up immediately it came in.

The house was just behind the main office, not too far away. It was a one storeyed building, she didn’t have money for repairs talk more about money to renovate a burnt building.

They were at the building now and it seemed the fire was under control, she could smell the smoke but couldn’t tell the extent of the damage. It was at times like this she missed her eyesight badly.

All reservations about the journalist,  Stevens were suspended for now but she was still very aware of where his hand grasped her arm gently, she asked him   “Does it look really bad?”

“It looks worse, Not the fire but your residential building, it is most certainly a death trap.

********

Mofe shook his head assessing the damage of the fire which had been controlled now. It had been caused by an electrical malfunction but due to the location of the mains supply where the fire had begun, which was outside the house  and also by sheer luck that someone had found the fire in time, there hadn’t been much damage to the building. If the fire had gone into the ceiling, it woul have been a much worse outcome.

The fire might have been put out but the building was not safe for habiting. He new she was blind literally and couldn’t see the repairs the place needed but he was sure she knew it needed urgent repairs.

He recalled Maureen saying they had no funds and sighed, he’d seen enough.

Turning around, he walked down to where Ezinne was talking to some employees, Maureen included. As he walked down,  he wondered about her sudden love for caftans, she was wearing one again and she looked good in the the purple and black piece.

He stared at her now as he approached her,  not afraid of being caught since she couldn’t see. Back in the office he’d had full view of her face, and he’d clearly seen a few scars, along the side of her face, it was healed and faint but it was obvious she’d been in some sort of serious accident some years back. The realisation had angered him at the time, she might not mean much to him anymore but he couldn’t stand the thought of something bad happening to her….or her daughter.

“Excuse me Madam, can I talk to you for a while?” he asked her and she turned to him.

“yes,” She said and he led her out of ear shot from the others, holding her arm lightly, he hoped he wasnt getting used to holding her this way.

“Madam,” he started as they walked “your residential bulding is not safe for habiting. It seems not to have undergone any repair in years and there are quite a lot of repairs to be done, the worst of which is the ceiling inside the house, in the living room. It seems theirs some sort of water leakeage in a pipe upstairs which has compromised the structure of the ceiling downstairs. That ceiling is likely to fall soon and God help whoever would be under it.”

“I know,” she began “I know, my friend who stays with me has told me about it and she is saving up to make the necessary repairs.”

“and how long will that take? another year, maybe two? These repairs are urgent.” he told her and got her mad.

“Have you now become an expert on buildings? I thought you were here to write? Maybe you should just stick to what it is you came to do and quit poking your nose in matters that don’t concern you. ” She said hotly turning to leave but his voice held her back.

“Don’t you get it? This place is not safe.”

“A deathtrap, isn’t that how you put it before?” she asked.

“Exactly,  it isn’t safe,  even if you have no care for yourself, how about your daughter?”

She turned now, approaching him quickly, assisted by her cane till she was quite close, eyes behind dark glasses, she raised a warning  finger at him and said quietly “don’t you ever! I care about my daughter’s well being,  so don’t you dare insinuate otherwise, you don’t know me or the sacrifices I have had to make for this place so you can either just stick to your story you came for or get the hell out! ”

Mofe watched as she walked off, in the direction of her office. He could see she was still as stubborn as she used to be, there was no getting through to her,  he had to do something.

Bringing out his phone, he hit a button, speed dialling the regional manager on his direct line, he got his assistant.

“He…hello sir, Mr Jared is in a meeting at the moment”

He frowned at the unfamiliar male voice ” What meeting?”

“The one with ONSA.”

“Okay, set up a meeting sometime today for whenever Jared will be free and get someone from corporate communications there also.”

“Yes sir!” The assistant replied sharply,  the guy needed to relax a bit,  just cause he was CEO didnt mean he would eat him up.

“Whats your name again?”

“Lekan, Sir.”

“Alright Lekan,  thanks and ….. good job.” He said knowing that would definitely make his day.

“Thankyou, Sir.” He replied in his sharp manner making Mofe wonder if he had at any time been in the armed forces.

He hung up, just as Maureen was approached,  she wasn’t smiling, probably still shaken.

“Are you okay, Maureen? ” He asked

She sighed “that was a close call, we were lucky again this time, I just hope no one gets hurt the next time”

“What? Do you mean this isn’t the first time?” he asked shocked.

“It’s not, as you can see extensive repairs need to be done but there just aren’t any funds. That’s why I’m hopeful this feature will help put us out there. How did the interview go,  did you get everything you need?”

“Not quite but you could show me around, give me a tour. Let me see the place for myself and take some pictures.”

“Sure,” her hundred mega watt smile was back “I was hoping to appear in one of the pictures,  I even made made hair and everything.” She said patting her newly made braids he was only just noticing.

He had to laugh taking a sudden liking to this girl “surely, in that case you’ll have to appear in the pictures or I’m sure I’ll never be forgiven ” he joked.

” You are very perceptive, Mr. Stevens.” She said moving ahead as he followed behind.

*******

Akínjídé Akíntayo(Divepen)

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