“I really don’t understand what he is playing at, Rachel.” Ezinne complained to her friend. It was all she had been doing for the past forty minutes in Rachel’s room as her friend prepared for a trip.
She sat on the bed, walking stick in hand and just kept ranting. Rachel was trying to be patient with her as she understood that Mofe had disrupted Ezinne’s simple routines and she wasn’t used to feeling out of control.
She was presently packing for a brief trip and was trying not to feel guilty leaving her alone in the new house.
“He moves us into this crazily large mansion, too much space than we need, gets more partners for the centre….Have you seen all the new equipment and technical gadgets that came in for the students for free? Helps me hire new staff and takes over the accounts management of the centre. It’s like the place is practically running itself, I might as well not even show up there any more and the place will still keep going smoothly…..He’s done so much and I don’t even know what to think.”
She heard Rachel pause what she was doing briefly and kept quiet for a bit knowing her friend meant to say something. “How about starting by telling him a simple thank you first?”
Huh?” Ezinne said perplexed.
“Yes… a simple thank you for a start. Ezinne, it wouldn’t hurt to show a little appreciation.”
Ezinne shifted her position on the bed to turn to Rachel’s direction. “Rachel, you don’t get it, Mofe is not my friend, all this doesn’t mean he isn’t up to something… he’s probably trying to distract me from his true intentions. “
Rachel rolled her eyes at her friend’s paranoia, “Ezinne, you need to relax like seriously. You will worry yourself sick with all these suspicions. If he is up to something you will find out sooner or later but for now, just calm down and go with the flow.” She advised.
Approaching Ezinne, Rachel placed her hands on her shoulders reassuringly. “It’s okay to accept his help Ezinne, it’s very okay… look at this place, it must have cost a fortune, you really should thank him for all he’s done.”
Ezinne sighed nodding and knowing Rachel was right.Even if she didn’t like it, she had to show some form of courtesy to him. “I wish you were not leaving this evening…. We have barely been a week in this new place, how am I going to cope without you?”
Rachel smiled sitting down beside her, “You will do very fine, you adapt quite easily and I will be back tomorrow evening.”
Ezinne nodded.” Don’t mind me,I’m just being silly.”
Rachel smiled. “If you need help, you have staff everywhere, just a buzz on the intercom, will get someone over to assist you.”
Ezinne wasn’t pacified. “Rachel you know me,I am hardly comfortable around strangers. It would be different if I could see them. How would I know if the person supposed to help me hates my guts and isn’t making faces at me?”
Rachel laughed. “Very funny, they don’t know you so well yet, why would they hate your guts?”
Ezinne smiled with shrug. “They might just hate me for living in such a huge house.”
Rachel chuckled, shaking her head. “You’ll be fine, I’m sure of that. I have met the staff, they are fine and hand picked by Johnson himself.”
“Yeah, like everything else in this ginormous place. I worry Azora is going to get too used to this….this is temporary, she might not want to leave when our place is ready.”
“ Yeah…. I wouldn’t mind getting used to it either,” Rachel mused.
“Well thanks for being reassuring.” Ezinne said sarcastically and Rachel laughed.
“ I’m just being truthful girl, one could get used to this sort of luxury… if only you could see the furnishing, the finishing, the walls, ceiling… Ezinne, the place is beautiful. The living room opens into the pool for crying out loud.”
“Yeah…” Ezinne sneered, “and one of these days I’m going to fall into it.”
Rachel chuckled. “No, you’re not. The sliding doors are kept closed for your safety. The pool is more like a view from the living room…. It’s all so spacey …. the ceiling to floor windows make it all so urban, it’s a wonderful place in short. The guy has definitely got taste.”
“Well don’t get used to it, cos we are only here temporarily. Should I be worried about you too?” Ezinne asked with a frown.
Rachel laughed, “I’m just appreciating beauty when I see it, relax okay?As for Azora, I trust you to keep her grounded, but you need to talk to him about overindulging when it comes to her. He’s gotten her so much so soon…. Like that their gaming room, the place is something else, and it might get her fixated on video games instead of chores and other things that really matter.”
Ezinne nodded. “Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Too many games in that room, she might get distracted. She is even reluctant to leave the place, she is either on the laptop he got her browsing the internet or playing some game or the other.”
Rachel spoke up, “the other day, I caught her hurriedly doing her school assignments in the morning because she had played games all through the afternoon till evening and slept late.”
“Seriously? You didn’t tell me!” Ezinne exclaimed.
“It was just a one time thing, she now does her school work when she gets back, before going to the gaming room but you still have to monitor her.”
“She has also not been doing chores anymore thanks to all the staff.” Ezinne sighed. “Anyway, this is all temporary, just for a while.”
“Is it really?” Rachel asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Her father is a multi billionaire, Ezinne. Her life has changed and you will have your work cut out for you now more than ever. You grew up with wealth and affluence, you know what that can do to a kid and to worsen matters, Mofe is a man who has been deprived his daughter for ten long years. He is going to overcompensate for all the time lost, he might not even realise he’s spoiling her. I am not saying he will be a bad father but you have to monitor the both of them.” Rachel advised.
Ezinne nodded, “that was why I asked him to run things by me first but it seems he used this new place as an excuse to stock up the whole place. He even got her a whole closet full of clothes and shoes… I might not be able to see but I can bet it’s all really expensive.”
“Ezinne you are going to have to talk to him about this.” Rachel said matter of factly agreeing that Mofe needed to be checked quickly. “You can do that this evening after dinner, I have to leave before dinner but I asked him to stay over for the night.”
“What?” Ezinne asked, this was news to her. “Why did you do that?”
“Because I need someone here to keep an eye on you….. You’ve not been sleeping well… you’re still apprehensive about something and it’s disturbing you at nights.” Rachel told her. “Your nightmares are still occurring and if no one wakes you up, you just thrash all night and wake up in the morning feeling tired. I will feel better knowing someone is here to check on you.”
“Gosh Rachel, you should have told me before you asked him to stay behind… I might have asked Maureen to sleep over.”
“No, I wanted him specifically.”She said getting up from the bed.
“What? Why?” Ezinne asked surprised again.
“Because I want you two to work at mending fences. You two are going to be in this for a long time, so the earlier you two can learn to work together, the better for your daughter.”
“Rachel,” Ezinne called her uncertainly, reducing her voice as if someone could be listening, “ I have a niggling suspicion Mofe wants Azora for himself and isn’t interested in keeping me around.”
“Hmm,” Rachel sighed taking Ezinne’s hand reassuringly in hers. “Well…..I have also been observing him and I haven’t seen anything he’s planning. The only thing I see is that he is still quite attracted to you and you also definitely feel something for him.”
“What?” Ezinne frowned removing her hands from Rachel’s. “You are definitely seeing things Rachel. I don’t feel anything but suspicion for him.”
“Yeah…sure, indeed, and you are in here hiding from him instead of out there with your daughter. It’s been your modus operandi since we got here. Whenever Mofe is around, you run to my room like it’s a fortress.”
“Don’t be absurd, Rachel. I don’t do that.”
“Oh, you do too! And he does feel something for you also even if he chooses to ignore it but it’s there. Sometimes when he forgets to keep it guarded, I see the longing in his eyes, the way he stares at you… and I can’t help but wonder how it must have been when you two were younger. It must have been sizzling…. You two must have been crazy about each other.”
Ezinne couldn’t let herself remember, instead she said quietly, “what we had is dead and buried Rachel.”
“Sure, if you say so…” Rachel got up now. “I need to finish up with this packing….. Don’t want to miss my flight because of two stubborn people.” She said.
For a while now, Ezinne had been suspecting Rachel’s sudden admission into the Culinary school. She feared it could be a ploy of Mofe’s to get Rachel out of the way while he carried out whatever his true agenda was.
The timing had just been too perfect and coincidental and Ezinne didn’t really believe in coincidence.
Now, to compound matters, Rachel had given him free rein into her house, well it was technically his house but she lived in it.
He was always around in the evenings after work, hanging with Azora before leaving for wherever he stayed. Now, Rachel had invited him to spend the night whenever he felt like and she was sure he’d gleefully accepted as it would help his plans.
What she would give to know if he was really after Azora for himself.
“You know…if you aren’t hiding from him then you should have no problem going over to the gaming room where he and Azora are holed up.” Rachel told her.
“What would I be doing there, playing a video game?” Ezinne asked sarcastic. She was tired of Rachel accusing her of being scared of Mofe. She wasn’t scared, she just chose to keep her distance from him because they were likely to argue or fight.
And also because being in close proximity with him unsettled her nerves. There was that strong, familiar pull of energy that threatened to draw her to him. Making her want to touch him, feel him. Run her hands all over him in a curious bid to reacquaint herself with his body.
She shook herself off the stupid thought that had crept into her mind from nowhere. Even if she was still mildly attracted to him, she surely did not harbour any feelings for him. Why would she? After all that had transpired between them in the past?
Rachel spoke up again. “Just try to include yourself in their bonding process before she starts getting distant from you and begins to prefer hanging out with him… especially with all this spoiling he has been doing recently.”
Ezinne sighed, “It’s now like a competition between me and him…She is supposed to be my daughter for crying out loud, she won’t pick a stranger over me… i won’t give in to competing with him for my daughter’s affections.”
“Ezinne, you get me wrong, she isn’t picking him over you… all I’m saying is spend sometime with them. Mofe is here every afternoon when she gets back from school and on weekends and you leave them to themselves…. That’s not right.”
“I wonder when you even became a child counsellor, Rachel,” Ezinne said “Azora is fine, I have had ten years with her, just a few weeks in his company will not turn my own daughter against me,don’t worry. “ Ezinne said.
“Okay, okay.” She heard Rachel’s sigh. “You are taking this the wrong way so I won’t say anything about it anymore. Lemme just get my stuff together in time before I lose my flight.”
Ezinne nodded getting up from the bed, done with all the ranting, “and lemme go and get busy with something myself.”
She had ended up mildly insulting her friend and even though Rachel had been patient and hadn’t taken offence, Ezinne knew she’d been wrong.
She knew that she was projecting her annoyance at someone else but she couldn’t accuse Mofe yet of something she wasn’t sure of. She just had to keep watching him until she had something to confront him with.
Dinner was almost over and Ezinne was even more unsettled than before. She could now see some sense in what Rachel had been saying earlier that evening.
Azora was beginning to develop an attitude and it got Ezinne quite uncomfortable. She had to clamp down on it now before she became any worse.
Earlier when dinner had been served, Ezinne had taken it upon herself to personally summon Mofe and Azora. They had been in the gaming room, playing some video game as usual and it had taken the fifth call before they had heard her, as the volume from the game had been turned really high.
They’d said they would come over immediately, promising to round up but had left Ezinne sitting alone for fifteen minutes at the table. She’d had to send one of the staff again and still they hadn’t come. Losing her temper, she had made her way back to the room and raised her voice at the both of them before they had taken her seriously.
Mofe had murmured an apology while her daughter had the gall to say “Chill Mom, I’m not even that hungry. I’ve had chocolates and stuff already.”
Ezinne had been stunned, she had been struck temporarily dumb while Mofe had playfully chided her telling her she had to eat dinner.
Now as Ezinne kept silent, listening to the two of them talk in their now familiar manner about the thrilling game they had been so engrossed in, acting like she wasn’t on the table, she knew she had to nip this in the bud right now.
“Mofe,” She called. “What’s the time please?”
“Ummm…eight…thirty five.” He replied.
She nodded. “Azora, if you are done with your meal, you should go prepare for bed. Brush your teeth and run your bath.”
“Awww mom, can I just please have one more game with Uncle Mofe?”
“No.” Ezinne said flatly before adding,“ You know it’s nearly your bedtime.”
“Just a few more minutes, mom, please.” She begged.
“Yeah Ezinne… Just a few minutes shouldn’t hurt.” Mofe said acting as intercessor.
“Please stay out of this Mofe.” She snapped, saying in a calm tone to her daughter, “Zora, no more video games tonight. I hope your homework is done?”
She heard her sigh and mutter a sulky. “Yeah.” Before pushing her chair back.
“We’ll pick up from where we left off tomorrow, Zee…. Your mom is just being a spoil sport.” He said drily, trying to be funny but Ezinne didn’t see any humour in the situation and when had Azora’s name become ‘Zee’?
“Goodnight Uncle MJ.”
She said leaving without a word to Ezinne. Guess her daughter didn’t think she deserved a good night.
“Ezinne, a few more minutes wouldn’t have hurt….” Mofe started saying when Zora had left and Ezinne lost it with him.
“Just stop it right there Mofe… you might be a genius or whatever but you have no inkling how to raising a kid. You don’t indulge her every whim for goodness sake, she has to be taught boundaries but you are ready to give into everything she asks of you.”
“Of course I know she needs to know boundaries but just a few more minutes of gaming wouldn’t hurt anyone.”
“Oh? Just a few minutes, like when I took it upon myself to call you two for dinner and a few more minutes ended up extending our dinner by forty minutes?”
“You should have just gone ahead without us and left us to have dinner when we were ready?”
Ezinne kept quiet for a few seconds, assimilating his last statement.
She asked carefully, “that’s your plan, isn’t it? To alienate me from my daughter, bribe her with everything money can buy so she likes you over me? Buy your way into her feelings, Mofe…is that your plan?”
Mofe was quiet for a few seconds and she guessed he was stunned. “You’re being absurd! I only advised that you didn’t have to wait for us if you …”
“Dinner time is dinner time…and it’s not just about eating! For years, I have always had dinner on the same table with my daughter and now you come in and suddenly want to change things.
Just because I’m blind doesn’t mean make me stupid. Don’t think I haven’t noticed what you have been doing. You used this house move as an excuse to change her whole wardrobe without even asking me about it…. The games, toys, gadgets.. You got her a freaking laptop and a tablet when all we agreed was a tablet…. The other day I overheard you promising her a phone and if I hadn’t stepped in and stopped you, you would have gone on ahead and given her a phone.”
“Ezinne, let me explain….”
“No Mofe, let me finish…I have single handedly brought my daughter up in the best way I can and she is a wonderful child but recently, she has been acting up. Behaving differently from the girl I brought up. I see her changing right before my eyes and it’s all because of you!
We had an agreement and if you can’t keep to it, this won’t work. I won’t allow you to cause a rift between me and my own daughter.”
He was quiet again but she swore she could feel the smouldering gaze he was giving her. He hated when she threatened his visits but he was giving her no choice here.
“So what are you saying? That you will refuse my visits? That you will keep her from me forcefully if needed?” He asked with a misleading calmness that told Ezinne he was quite pissed.
“I am just advising that you stop what you are doing….” She started but he cut her off.
“Stop what I’m doing or what?..Or what, Ezinne? You keep her from me for another ten years? Is that it?” he raised his voice now and Ezinne was not sure they should be having that conversation there as the staff were about and Azora might hear them if she was close by.
“Mofe.. Can you reduce your voice or can we have this discussion in the study?”
“No, you brought it up here and we will discuss it here. How dare you accuse me of intentionally spoiling my own child? After you kept her from me all this time… you should count yourself lucky I’m not already dragging you through the courts… she is my daughter and I will care for her as I please!” He thundered.
“Is that so?” Ezinne asked quietly realising he didn’t plan to keep to his part of their agreement.
“Yes, it is so and if you have issues of insecurity, then deal with them and leave me out of it or you might not like the methods I might resort to.”
She shook her head, as she caught the obvious threat in his last statement. She got up from her seat and found her cane. “It’s always threats with you, isn’t it? Always trying to Instill fear in me.” Raising her chin up defiantly, she said to him, “ I have lived with enough fear in my short lifetime and your threats don’t get to me. You will stick to our agreement or you will go running to Aunt Moni to come beg me again before you see your daughter…. In the meantime I will be locking up that gaming room, it’s a distraction for my daughter.”
Mofe said nothing else as she found her way out of the dining room but she could feel his anger.
Her heart was beating hard but she tried to give off a calm exterior, not sure where she’d gotten the bravado to threaten him the way she had. He had all the means to take her daughter from her but she wouldn’t cower in fear anymore, not over her own daughter.
She knew he was annoyed, probably thinking of ways to make her suffer or threaten her into submission but She didn’t care, she wouldn’t sit back and let him turn her daughter against her. She would fight him with all she had before she let it happen.