ELEVEN YEARS AGO
Mofe had not fully been himself for a while. It had been two days since the fight with Ezinne and he had been beating himself over and over for not letting her know about his travel plans.
He had to make it right somehow but wasn’t sure how.
His aunt had noticed the change in him and had asked if there was a problem but he’d declined telling her anything.
His cousin had known it had something to do with Ezinne and had reproved him seriously for letting himself be brought down by a girl. He had gone on and on about how he was only wasting his time with someone like her and their relationship was going no where.
Eric didn’t know the Ezinne he knew and he also didn’t understand it wasn’t easy for him to switch off what he felt for her. If he could, he would have done so a long time since.
He was just so tired of this fight and just wanted it over but wasn’t sure what he had to do.
He had just returned from his aunt’s place, she seemed to be doing better but he knew her to sometimes pretend so he wouldn’t be worried. He hoped she was indeed getting better, the stubborn woman refused to go to the hospital for a proper check up and he couldn’t force her.
He knew she didn’t want him spending money he didn’t have as he was saving up for his travel but Mofe would dump his travel plans and defer for a year, if he had to spend his savings to help her get better.
Unlocking the door to his apartment, he stepped in, tired out. All he wanted to do was crash and sleep till the next day, forgetting everything bugging him for a while but as he got into the room, he heard voices coming from Ezinne’s compound. One of which was Ezinne’s.
She must be having one of her round table discussions and with her friends, he thought with a smile. It had been a while since she’d done that. He was probably to thank for that, he always kept her engaged that she had no time for her friends anymore.
Mofe lay down on his bed deciding to listen in to their discussion. Even though both compounds were separated by a fence, he could hear quite clearly what they were talking about.
He wasn’t proud to eavesdrop but he was interested in knowing what she was thinking plus the sound of her voice. Since he couldn’t be with her at the moment, just the sound of her voice would keep him going.
He heard her speaking, “I really do like him Dara or I swear I wouldn’t even be bothered. I’ve got it quite bad for him.” Ezinne said with a sigh and Mofe smiled, proud about how he made her feel.
“Maybe if you gave yourself more time, you might get over him?” A friend of hers supplied and his smile turned into a frown, no way that was happening.
“I really don’t know, Osas, I just miss him so much.” she returned and the smile returned, that was good. She missed him just as he also missed her.
“ What exactly do you miss about him?” One of them asked.
“Abeg which kind question be that?” Another female voice asked sounded quite irritated. “haven’t you seen the guy? He is a confirmed hunk, how won’t she miss him?”
Mofe chuckled quietly, he wondered which of her friends that was, he liked her.
“Ehn Uduak we know you na! Your own no pass physical attraction, as far as the guy is fine or has money, he is Mr. Perfect for you.”
“Abeg free me, what else again aside from money and looks?”
Hmm, Mofe thought, not too sure he liked that friend anymore.
“Guys, guys, please.” Ezinne spoke up. “Uduak it’s more than his looks for me. I sincerely like him, he’s just wonderful… he listens to me, makes me feel safe, he is so smart and intelligent, humble but not a fool and of course he is smoking hot. I just can’t get enough of him… I just don’t know why he had to lie to me.”
“He didn’t lie technically.” one of them pointed which he agreed to. He’d never lied to her.
“He lied by omission, Uduak” Ezinne replied and he rolled his eyes.
She continued “even though he said he wasn’t sure how to tell me, I can’t help but feel like he just wanted to keep me in the dark about it, until he travelled. I have doubts that he took our relationship seriously.”
Doubts? What was she talking about? He wore his heart on his sleeve where she was concerned. Why would she doubt what he felt for her?
“Well…. It’s possible he didn’t tell you because he was afraid of what would happen. You might decide you don’t want a long distance relationship and probably end the relationship.“
Exactly, Mofe thought, that had been part of his fears.
“Still, he should have told me…”
“And then what? Would you be okay living away from him?”
“I…I really don’t know UD but still, he shouldn’t have kept it from me. That’s what I don’t like…I can’t trust him anymore.”
Mofe frowned, what did she mean by that? That didn’t sound good. She couldn’t be with him if she didn’t trust him. He couldn’t allow destructive thoughts like that going through her head. He had to do something.
He got up from the bed, and pulled a shirt over the jeans he wore, he had to get to her place quickly before she made up her mind about him.
Ezinne was shocked to see Mofe, pulling the mower behind him. Shirtless, his body looked so enticing. All eyes turned to him as they forgot what they’d been discussing which had been him also.
“What’s he doing here?” Dara asked no one on particular.
“Gosh… why can’t I stop staring?” Uduak also asked no one in particular. “I swear this guy has the body of a god.”
“The guy is hot though, those abs, that body is to die for.” Osas said in observation.
While her friends admired his body, Ezinne still didn’t understand why he was there mowing her lawn when she knew he didn’t do these menial jobs as he had enough project work to work on for students from school. He was too busy to do these small pay jobs, so what was he doing there?
She got up from the seat intending to find out what he was really up to.
“Mofe.” She called approaching him, arms across her chest. “What are you doing?”
“What does it look like? I’m mowing your lawn… And for free too.” He replied, looking up at her.
She shook her head, knowing all this was a ploy at getting her attention. He knew she couldn’t think straight when he was shirtless. Was he trying to remind her what she was missing?
“What do you want, MJ?”
“I want you.” He said, his gaze holding hers.
She hissed still very pissed with him, she turned back and was about walking away when he grabbed her arm pulling her back to him.
“I swear with all that is in me, I am very sorry, Ezinne. I am sorry for keeping you out of the loop like I did but I didn’t know how to tell you….. I was afraid you would break it off with me since there would be no need for you hanging on to a long distance relationship….. I also didn’t want to foist it on you, asking you to wait indefinitely for me, it’s not fair.
I applied and took those exams before we were together. In all my wildest dreams come true, I never would have believed you would be with me or I swear I would never have applied… I just couldn’t handle you breaking what we have before it’s even begun, that’s why I held off telling you. It’s stupid, I know because you would have known eventually but I just couldn’t tell you for fear of losing you.”
She was processing everything he was saying and didn’t believe he’d have given up the wonderful opportunity he had now because of her.
“Seriously? You would give up such a chance because of me, stop lying Mofe.”
“I swear, Ezinne, I’m saying the honest truth. For a smart guy I sound pretty stupid right now but it’s what you do to me. I would make pretty foolish decisions for you, Ezinne. Can you please forgive me? I’m so sorry.”
He was getting to her, she wanted nothing more than to pull him close, run her hands over him and kiss him all over but could she trust him?
“I need some time Mofe, please.” She said pulling away from him instead, seeing the disappointment on his face. It hurt her to know she was causing him so much pain but she had to be sure about this, she had to look past her emotions and feelings for him. She had to think.
“Mofe please don’t look at me that way….. You owe me this at least…. You owe me time to decide if I want us to be together despite the distance or if it would best we ended it right now.”
He sighed letting go of her hand, “you’re right. I owe you that and I won’t pressure you but please don’t keep me waiting too long for an answer. It’s killing me as it is, not having you with me. Knowing you’ve lost your trust in me and I caused it…. I won’t keep anything from you, ever again, I promise.”
She nodded, believing him. “I will try not to take too long with my decision…..Can you return the mower now?”
He smirked. “I thought you were enjoying the view, your friends seem to be.”
Ezinne turned back to see the three ladies staring unashamedly. “So… You purposefully came here without a shirt on knowing you would affect my friends?”
He shrugged. “I came hoping to affect you…but I don’t mind the extra attention though.” He waved at her friends and they giggled to each other girlishly.
She shook her head at him. “Tease.”
He turned to her, suddenly serious now. “Are you set for your project defence tomorrow?”
“Yeah, I’m very ready for it and thanks to your kickass application, I’m definitely going to ace it.” She told him.
He smiled and looking at him really closely, she noticed he looked tired. It showed in his eyes. “You need to take better care of yourself Mofe, you look tired.”
“I will be fine, don’t worry.” he said quickly,brushing her concern aside.
“And your aunt, is she getting better?”
He shrugged. “She says she is but…I don’t know… I’ve got an eye on her anyway, she’ll be fine.”
“Alright. I really have to get back now.” She said and he nodded turning away from her, pulling the mower along.
She watched him walk away, missing him so bad but when she thought that he had kept something so huge from her, she wanted to remain mad at him.
For lying to her, what she wanted to do was close her heart to him like she had done easily to Ekene but recalling the sadness in his eyes, she couldn’t. Not because he was sad but because she recognised that look, it was how she would feel if she left him.
Damn him, she thought, he had wound himself deeply into her heart and he wouldn’t be easy to shake off.
Still, she had to try, she wouldn’t give in so easily to the feelings she felt for him.
She turned, making her way back to the girls who had huge knowing smiles on their faces she rolled her eyes knowing they had enjoyed every second of the telemundo drama they had been watching starring Mofe and herself.
She had barely reached them when they all began asking, “So what did he say?”
“That he’s sorry….” She replied resuming her former seat.
“He does look sorry….. And hot.” Uduak mused.
“Can you get over his hotness already, Uduak? “ Dara said before turning to Ezinne. “ So what will you decide?”
Ezinne shrugged.” I really don’t know, I’m pissed but I don’t know know if I can end this…I am still so madly attracted to him. I still want him so bad.”
“ I don’t blame you girl, he is a fine specimen.” Uduak interjected and Dara rolled her eyes.
“But wait.,” Ezinne suddenly said frowning, “how did he know we were here?”
The girls looked at one another.
“That’s true….. Could he have heard us talking about him?” Uduak supplied uncertain.
Ezinnes eyes widened, “ his apartment is just there.” She pointed.
Dara clamped her hands over her mouth as she recalled all she had said about him “Alright, I think it’s time we went inside.”
Later that night, Ezinne couldn’t sleep, she told herself it was nerves because of her project defence coming up the next day but somehow she knew it wasn’t true.
She missed Mofe. Her heart told her he was sincerely sorry and she had seen sincere remorses in his eyes that afternoon. He was genuinely sorry. Okay, what if they got back together, could she agree to a distant relationship with him.
He would leave for a few years and she wouldn’t see him as she didn’t have plans to travel out of the country, except her father decided to sponsor her trip. He had the money but she doubted he would entertain her reason for travelling.
What if she decided she wanted to have her post graduate studies in the US? They had never discussed furthering her education but it wasn’t a bad idea at all.
Getting up, she gave up on trying to sleep and decided she needed some hot cocoa. It would help her relax her tense mind.
Shrugging on a night robe, she left her room and went down the stairs, not surprised to see her father in the living room on the phone.
She walked quietly past on to the kitchen, meaning not to disturb his call but she should have known better. The general was always on the alert, he turned and their eyes met just as she walked through the dining area.
She’d never been close to her dad. They didn’t have a terrible relationship but she wasn’t exactly best friends with him. Whenever they talked, it was him asking questions and she replying. Giving him a brief summary of what she might have been up to while he was away, sort of like a debriefing.
She didn’t mind their relationship exactly. He wasn’t a terrible father, just a stoic one who could be quite domineering but she knew he was that was because he wanted only the best for her.
He’d hardly been around all through her growing years and she was quite used to his not being around. He’d hired the best staff to take care of her every need. When she’d been younger, she’d had an aunt who’d been around but Aunty Oge had gotten married just as Ezinne had been done with her secondary school education.
Since then Ezinne had been left to herself. She’d entered the University immediately after, began the relationship with Ekene and things had gone along normally until she had caught Ekene cheating, ended the farce of a relationship and now Mofe was in the picture.
Mofe….. She couldn’t help the small smile that tugged on her lips as she recalled something he’d told her recently. He’d said that he’d had a mad crush on her for years and had liked staring at her when she wasn’t watching. Creep! He could have just approached her all this time.
Why hadn’t she even noticed him all this time? She had seen him numerous times but hadn’t been drawn to him emotionally, probably because she hadn’t known who he really was. Four years in the same department and she was only just knowing him. She knew she would have fallen for him if they had gotten to know each other earlier. He was just so wonderful to be with.
She was still smiling as she poured the hot water from the dispenser into the mug.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Her father’s voice boomed encroaching into her thoughts and she jumped.
“Dad.” She breathed, glancing at him. “You really shouldn’t sneak up on people like that.”
He chuckled, “Why? Only the guilty are afraid…are you guilty of something.”
She rolled her eyes. “Nothing that would get me arrested, don’t worry.”
Taking a quick sip of the drink, she settled her mug on the table in the kitchen, pulled out a kitchen stool and sat down. Her father chose to lean a shoulder against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest.
For a man in his early fifties he looked quite good. Tall and light skinned, he kept fit, ate healthy and didn’t look like the father of a girl nearly in her mid twenties.
“Good. Can’t have the daughter of a senior officer in jail, can we?” He joked and she smiled. “Your project defence is tomorrow, isn’t it?” He asked and she nodded.
“Are you prepared for it?”
She nodded. “I am actually… Everything is set, Mofe helped out with the kinks in my application and redesigned it,. Now It’s awesome and we prepped for everything so yeah, I’m very prepared.”
She saw his eyes narrow a bit as his features became quite serious. “ Mofe is that boy that does stuff around the house, isn’t he? The one Ekene says is the reason you are acting up?”
Ezinne frowned, Mofe wasn’t the cause of anything, she had told her dad that before. Why was he still sticking to Ekene’s lies?
“Dad… Ekene was the cause of my acting up, I told you about his cheating… you said we should work things and I tried dad. I tried but…. I just can’t deal with him anymore. Not only is he a remorseless womaniser but he gets really scary when he doesn’t get his way.”
“Ezinne…” her father’s voice was cajoling as he pushed himself off the wall, walked the short distance to the kitchen table, pulled out a kitchen stool and sat down opposite her.
“No dad, don’t make excuses for him. I’m done with him, this time it’s over for real… let’s talk about better things.”
“Better…. things like?” He asked raising a curious brow,his face unreadable.
She knew he wanted to talk more about Ekene but she wouldn’t let him. It was a perfect time to ask him about the idea she’d had that evening.
“Like, what do you think about a post graduate degree in the United States?”
“For you?” He frowned now, not exactly the expression she expected from him. It wasn’t in the least bit encouraging and she suddenly lost half of her zeal,like a suddenly deflated balloon.
“Does this have anything to do with that boy?” He asked again.
“Dad… this is for me, not anyone else.” She lied but he saw through it.
“You’ve never shown an interest in furthering your education before.”
She shrugged, “well, I guess with school almost finished now, I’m thinking about what’s next.”
He shook his head. “ I… what does Ekene think about this?”
“What does he have to do with this?” She asked in exasperation. “Dad, Ekene and I are totally done.”
Her dad shook his head, “ Ezinne, Ekene might have made mistakes, he’s only human but that boy loves you…. He’s been holding on all these years to get married to you, you know this. The agreement was that when you were done with your first degree, you would…..”
“Agreements can be broken.” She stated quietly not meeting her father’s eyes.
“Don’t!” The general snapped in annoyance and her head jerked up. He was now giving her one of his stern stares, “don’t interrupt when I speak, Ezinne. Is that clear?” He stated and she nodded. “The agreement between their family and ours is that after your school, you two would tie the knot. We need this, you need this…we have business ties, Ezinne. You know this”
“Dad, you really want me to get married to… To someone who has no reservations about beating me up?” She asked, suddenly feeling a welling up of emotions. She recalled Mofe saying her dad was using her for his selfish purposes but she didn’t want to believe it.
He frowned. She had never told him Ekene had hit her before. Surely now that he knew about the assault she’d faced at Ekene’s hand he would understand.
“He beat you up?” he was shocked.
“He once slapped me and might have done worse if I hadn’t locked myself up in his restroom.” she said.
The General’s brows were deeply furrowed in a frown as he sought for excuses to defend her ex. She could see it on his features. His shock had been replaced by a calculating frown. “Ekene loves you, he might have lost his temper but he would never…”
“That does not justify laying a finger on me, dad. How can you even be on his side after what I just told you. You should be outraged instead of making excuses for him.”
“I know him, he will never hurt you if I tell him so.”
“You can tell him all you want, I don’t care…I don’t even have feelings for him, never have and never will. I can’t ever love Ekene.” She Stated
“What do you know about love? So now you think you love the guy that cleans your car?” He scoffed mockingly.
“Dad..” Her voice shook at his mocking tone, doing menial jobs didn’t mean he was stu’pid, doing menial jobs didn’t make him less of a human being to be mocked and laughed at like her father was doing. “Mofe is more than meets the eye, he’s intelligent, he’s a genius and has his whole life ahead of him. He won’t be a car washer all his life. He has plans.”
“And you are part of those plans? The boy is just starting out, he has nothing. Love doesn’t pay the bills. Ekene can take care of you for the rest of your life. If you wed Ekene , I would be assured that you will be fine for the rest of your life.”
“So you’re offloading me like I’m a burden on you? Offloading me on to someone else? Is that it?” She asked angrily.
“Ezinne….” He said painstakingly but Ezinne was too pissed to listen to him anymore. She got up from her seat.
“I’ve heard you dad,I know where you stand but I am not getting married to Ekene and that’s final. I can’t, I just can’t… and you can’t make me.” She said as she realised the tears stinging the back of her eyes, threatening to let loose.
She walked out of the kitchen,leaving her mug on the table, too pissed to care about it.
“Ezinne! Ezinne, come back here.” Her dad yelled but she didn’t look back as she walked past the living room and climbed up the stairs.
Just as she got to her room door, her father was coming up the stairs.
“Ezinne.” He called sharply and she stopped in front of her room door. She didn’t turn to look at him, as the stinging feeling behind her eyes were worse now.
“In a few weeks from now, I am being honoured by the President, you are going to be there, and you will be there with Ekene. You should tell that boy not to hold his breath because whatever you think you have with him is not going anywhere. You will marry Ekene.”
He said with a note of finality before leaving. She heard his footsteps go back down the stairs and she entered into her room, slamming the door behind her and leaning with her back on it.
The tears fell freely now and she wiped at them angrily. She had made her choice, she knew who she was meant to be with and she would be with him no matter what her father or anyone else thought.