Ezinne wasn’t sure what in the world had propelled her to accept Mofe’s challenge. She should’ve admitted the truth to him that she couldn’t cook to save her life but she hadn’t wanted to appear like the spoiled rich kid he definitely saw her to be. Not that she was one anyway and she wasn’t sure why it should even matter to her what he thought about her but at that moment, she had felt a need to prove herself to him.
It had been a stupid move on her part, tomorrow he was going to find out the truth and she would even be more ashamed of herself. She should call him and concede an early defeat, she reasoned but she just didn’t want to give him that satisfaction. Satisfaction of being right that she was a spoiled rich kid. It wasn’t her fault that she had never had the need to prepare food for herself, was it?
She wasn’t one to go down without a fight, she would spend all night watching youtube cooking videos for all she cared, if that was what it would take to shove it in his face that she wasn’t spoiled.
The blinking of her phone’s screen indicating a call was coming in caught her attention and she moved to pick it. She had forgotten the device for the past few hours as she had been taking a hurried crash course in the preparation of chicken stirfry. It was Dara calling.
“Chick how far?” She asked straight up meaning to finish with her as quickly as she could and get on back to youtube.
“Yeah…Are you busy?”Dara asked
“Well, that’s the way you reply when ever you are busy with stuff. Anyway I wanted to confirm how it went with that lecturer.”
“Yeah, she finally accepted it o! Praise the Lord, but she had me babysit her kid for a while first.”
“What?” Dara asked not getting the last part.
“Yeah, she had a meeting she had to attend and asked that I should look after her kid till she got back.”
On hearing that, her friend burst into chuckles “Seriously? How in the world did you take care of a baby?”
“Well, according to Mofe, she’s over a year and not much of baby. She actually fell asleep when…..”
“Wait, you went there with that guy?”
“Mofe? Yeah, he pled with her on my behalf and that was why she even listened. She seems to have a soft spot for him, I haven’t seen Dr. Franca that jovial with anyone before. I don’t blame her anyway, he can be quite charming when he isn’t being annoying and he is quite good looking.”
“Hmmmm, so he’s good looking, right?” Dara asked
Ezinne suspected there was a hidden meaning in Dara’s words, the way she had said it.”You don’t think he is?”
“”No… of course he’s quite fine, tall dark and rugged looking, if one is into such. It’s just that you seem to have been hanging around the guy a lot quite recently and now you think he’s good looking? You must see how that looks?”
Ezinne sat up “What do you mean, Dara? How does that look, what are you insinuating?”
“Nothing, it’s nothing,” she said hastily “I also called to talk about Uduak, you guys have been fighting for long enough, isn’t it time you two got back together? She’s sorry and ready to make up.”
“I ‘m not in the mood to make up with her yet.”
“Ah ahn, it’s been weeks and it was even you who turned the fight into something else”
“Turned what? I almost missed a final paper, Dara!”
“Yeah, but then , washing her not so clean linen in public wasn’t the way to go. If you guys can just meet up and talk tomorrow….by the way she has turned a new leaf, she isn’t cheating and doing shady runs anymore. I guess she took your threats seriously.”
“Well, good for her but I can’t see her tomorrow even if I wanted to. I have something planned with Mofe.”
“Oh?” Dara paused “you guys are doing something together?”.
“Yes, he challenged me to prepare a meal at his place.” She smiled as she said it, thinking how silly it must sound to her friend. “Spaghetti and Chicken stir fry and I agreed.”
“But you can’t cook,” Dara pointed.
“Nope but I have to try or he would think he is right, that I’m a spoiled rich Kid.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Dara’s voice was now raised. “By the way when did you guys get so close that you now go to his place and even cook for him?”
“Today was the first day I was at his place and I am not cooking for him. It’s a challenge, he thinks I’m spoiled and I want to prove him wrong.”
“What does it matter what he thinks?”
“Ezinne was about to reply but wasn’t sure what to say. “It matters, Dara,” that was all she could come up with.
“Are you falling for this guy, Ezinne?”
“What? What do you mean falling for him?”
“You like him, don’t you?:”
“What? of course not! We just talk, that’s all.”
“Oh please!” She heard the amusement in her friend’s voice “I know you well, Zinnie, I have seen the way you are around him, how upset you were that day he left suddenly at the lab , now today you are talking about how good looking he is, girl you like him, just confess!”
“Dara, I seriously don’t know what you are saying, so just because I said he’s good looking, I am now in love with him or what…. So that’s how to know when I like someone?” She asked
“Okay o, I know you won’t admit it but it’s there, you like him or you won’t be so worried about what he thinks.”
“I don’t like him Dara, Even if I do, it’s just as friends, nothing else! Now good night before you sum up more of your baseless theories, I have work to do!” Ezinne said hanging up to the sound of her friend seriously chuckling at her end.
She shook her head, why had she even bothered to talk to Dara about this. She should have known she would take it to the next level.
Mofe was a hunk that was no lie, couldn’t she appreciate his good looks innocently? Okay what if she did like to be around him? He was funny, interesting and was good at mocking and teasing her, making her laugh. She enjoyed his company and sometimes when he wasn’t looking, she stared at him, wondering about him. Curious how such an intelligent guy had to engage in so many menial jobs, what about his parents and family?
She was eager to know about him, to know his story and while at his place today, she had wanted to ask him a few questions but had been scared of encroaching into his personal issues without an invitation. Instead they had enjoyed the meal, talked about nothing serious and joked about the challenge to come the next day.
Dara was wrong, he was a great guy, good and even though she had a nagging interest to know him, they were still just friends.
Mofe approached the reception very surprised that renovations hadn’t begun. He’d assumed with the sponsorship from his company, it would have begun in earnest but was surprised to see all was as it was two weeks back since he’d last been there.
He’d come over today with intentions to reveal his true identity as per his aunt’s instructions, and get to the bottom of everything. He had been estranged too long from his daughter’s life, he didn’t have want a fight with Ezinne, he didn’t even want to rehash his past with her. All he wanted to do was move forward, know his daughter and come to an agreement with her on how to make up for what he had missed from her life so far.
He was still royally angry with her but as his aunt had instructed, he needed to shelve that anger aside for a while, so as not to ruin the reunion. It sounded so easy but he wasn’t that naive, Ezinne was sure to freak out when he revealed himself to her. He hoped to God things wouldn’t get as bad as he suspected they could.
On getting closer to the building, he heard raised voices of people definitely in an argument, one of which was Ezinne’s. He quickened his strides wondering what could be going on.
At the reception, Maureen was behind her desk, an uneasy expression on her features, but she managed a surprised smile when he came in.
“Mr. Stevens, Hello, wasn’t expecting you today.”
“Yeah,” he said looking at the closed door of Ezinne’s office, that was where all the ruckus was coming from. “I came to drop off this. ” He dropped the newspaper on her desk asking, “you are on page 36. What in the world is going on in there?”
“Emmmm….it’s .. They are having a slight disagreement.” Maureen managed
It certainly didn’t seem slight to him.”About what?”
“She shrugged uncertainly but Mofe was sure she had an idea what it was about but didn’t plan on snitching.
“Okay, can you let your madam know I’m around and I would like to see her?” He told her. That should quell whatever was going on in there.
Maureen picked up the intercom and dialled Ezinne’s number.
“Umm…Madam, Mr. Stevens is here for you…. Okay.”
She dropped the phone and looked up at him “she’ll be with you in a minute.”
The voices went quiet now and shortly after, the door opened with Rachel was the first one out followed by Ezinne’s business manager lover.
Mofe’s eyes were trained on him, the other man didn’t seem joyous at seeing him either. They regarded each other in silence.
Rachel, whose features on leaving the room had been pissed brightened slightly on seeing him “Mr. Stevens, what a surprise, we’d thought you’d left us for good. It’s been awhile since we saw you, how have you been?”
“I’ve been fine, thank you. I’ve been quite busy with work stuff.” Mofe replied her with a quick glance, before taking his gaze back to Ezinne’s lover who still regarded him silently.
Mofe could sense the man’s displeasure, probably because of the argument they had been having in ezinne’s office. If Mofe had to take a guess off the top of his head, he would say money had something to do with their disagreement.
“What’s your weekend like, Sunday evening, precisely? Can you be free?” Rachel began asking and Mofe had to spare her another glance.
“Errr…. possibly?…” He replied unsure, wondering what this could be about.
“Ezinne and I would love if you could join us for dinner, just a little something to say thanks ?” She asked.
He wasn’t sure about it, he doubted Ezinne would want to have dinner when she knew who really was.
“Err….” He was about to decline when Maureen’s shriek tore through office.
“What the..” Rachel shook
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” She apologised, clamping a hand over her offending mouth but the glee still remained all too evident on her face, the newspaper lay open on her desk and he guessed she’d seen the feature on the centre.
“What’s that?” Ezine flung open the door to her office, demanding.
Mofe turned to her, going over her appearance, she wasn’t in the usual kaftan this time, instead she’d opted for grey pants and a sleeveless multi coloured chiffon blouse that showed off her creamy slender arms. The blouse was cinched at the waist with a belt and he wondered at how slim her waist had remained all this time. Motherhood hadn’t affected her figure in the least.
Shaking himself, he told himself he wasn’t admiring her even though he recalled how it had felt to put his hands on her waist and pull her close to himself. He needed to get a grip, this was Ezinne, she had pushed him away and kept their child secret from him all these years. He should hate her but here he was, appreciating her body when he should know better.
“I’m sorry Ma, it’s the papers, we are in the papers.” Maureen said barely controlling the excitement in her voice.
Rachel was looking at her amusedly “Is that why you are screeching like a banshee?”
“I’m sure it’s more to do with her photograph on the page,” he added dryly trying to get his mind off Ezinne’s body with the joke. Maureen rolled her eyes at him.
“You ran the feature?” Ezinne asked him, surprise and happiness brightening her features.
“Yes,” he replied her steeling himself from appreciating how adorable she looked when happy. There was a time he would have done anything to have such a look on her face.
‘Arent you still?’ His mind’s voice asked and he had to agree. He’d had to call in a big favour with an Editor in a top news agency which did business with his organisation to run the story on the paper.
“Let me take a look,” Rachel moved towards Maureen’s desk while Ezinne beckoned with her hand in his direction , gesturing that he come into her office.
“Mr. Stevens, you have done so much for us already, please step into my office, I’m not sure how exactly to thank you.”
“You could start by forcing him to come to dinner on Sunday evening!” Rachel called out just before Ezinne shut the door.
He couldn’t help the smile that crept up the side of his mouth at Rachel’s resilience. “She sure is pushy,” he muttered noticing the laptop on her desk which was opened. He hadn’t seen it before in her office and he doubted it was hers, probably Rachel’s or her manager lover boyfriend’s.
Ezinne also wore a small smile of her own “You don’t know the half of it… Please have a seat…. How have you been, it’s been a while.” She seemed so genuinely pleased to have him there, if only she knew who he really was, he thought.
“Fine.. although quite surprised that work hadn’t begun on the place especially that building you live in.” He said as he took the seat opposite hers.
“Yeah….” Her face dropped now. “We will begin as soon as we can resolve some issues.”
More frowned, what did she exactly mean by issues?
“What do you mean, madam?” He asked trying to be calm about it all.
“Something to do about clearing the debt we’ve been racking up for a while now, that’s according to the business manager.”
Mofe shook his head “No..No, that money was so you could do something about the present living conditions of you and your daughter…”
“My business manager thinks otherwise.” She replied quietly.
What the …..? Mofe Sat up, How much debt had they amassed that work couldn’t begin on the house. He had asked Jared to write out a sizable check that ran to the tune of six figures and they had a quarterly arrangement, which meant she would keep receiving the donation every three months, all year round.
There was enough money here to pay off whatever loans in instalments and work on her residence simultaneously.
Was that what the shouting had been about?
“I don’t think your ………” Before he could complete his statement, Maureen burst through the door.
“Sorry ma but Madam Rachel and Mr. Emeka are at it again outside.” She said.
Ezine shot up from her chair muttering a hurried “Please excuse me for a moment, Mr. Stevens.” as she hurried out, Maureen closing the door behind her.
Mofe had a niggling feeling that something wasn’t right, he didn’t trust that shady business manager lover of hers.
His eyes fell on the laptop on the desk.
He was quite sure the PC belonged to the man. If it did, it would contain a lot of information. Information on how he managed the finances.
He badly wanted to take a peek. It was wrong to do so but he needed to allay his suspicions, besides he would be doing a lot of good to Ezinne by saving the centre from losing money to a fraud.
He also even had stakes in the place after all he couldn’t be funnelling millions into this place so his daughter could have a decent place to live only for some lover boy to siphon it all into his private accounts. There was no way he was letting that happen on his watch.
Fiddling in his pockets, he found what he was searching for, a flash disk. One terabyte, it contained an assortment of software and applications, most of which he had created himself. Mostly security applications but also a few computer hacking ones. The plan was to access lover boy’s PC and copy his files for review later. He would also install a spyware application that would enable him monitor all his activities on the system remotely also.
It had been a while since he’d done this sort of thing. He had to work fast as there was no telling when Ezinne would get back.