Mrs. Edna Silva was painstakingly going over her shop books. One had to keep an eye on the sales girls and the sales transactions closely or else they would steal you dry. She trusted no one and that was why she’d put a system in place where it would be really difficult to steal from her. It was the sole reason her business had expanded widely across the state and she was seriously considering opening a branch in Lagos although she was in no hurry. One had to plan these things well, it was already a lot of work keeping track of what went on in the Five stores across Abuja so she had to be really sure and ready to open one in another state. Tekena had been trying to get her to ‘automate’ her system instead of using ledgers and files but she was still on the fence on that one. She didn’t trust those machines, she preferred recording everything by hand, it was what she was used to and she was the type who was unaccustomed to change. The old system had been working well for her for the past few years so why did she need to change it?
Edna hadn’t always had money, She’d been born into abject poverty and had worked her way to the top vowing to leave that pitiful life behind forever. The last of eight children from a small obscure village in Bayelsa state, she’d been taken from home at the age of ten by an aunt to live in a small town in delta state where she’d ran errands most of the time and assisted her aunt who was a dressmaker. By the age of sixteen, she’d decided to have a more fulfilled life and had moved out and sought her fortune on her own along with her closest friend at the time, Clara who ‘d been her next door neighbour and whose circumstances were similar to hers. They’d done many jobs from house cleaning, baby sitting, sales girls and had managed to see themselves through teachers training college in Port Harcourt where she’d obtained her grade 2 certificate in English along with Clara who had majored in mathematics.
They’d both began teaching in a government primary school and shared an apartment together provided by the government. Just when things had started to turn around, Clara had met her demise.
“Madam, Madam” Susan, one of the sales clerks came running with her phone into the office. Apparently she’d left it out in the store “Your phone is ringing.”
“Thank you Susan.” She collected the phone from her and picked the call without bothering with the caller ID.”Hello?”
“Hello, Ebiere. How are you doing?” The male voice on the other end asked.
She instinctively stiffened, only people who knew her back in the day ever called her that and she’d distanced herself so much from those roots so it was rare she was ever called that.
“Good, who am I speaking with? She asked getting a creepy feeling she wasn’t going to like this.
“Your friend from the past.” He replied.
She frowned, that wasn’t a name. Now she was pissed. “Look, tell me your name quickly before I cut this call.”
“ Ebiere….” The name lingered on his tongue as if he wasn’t sure or had suddenly lost his nerve “It’s Marcus.”
She frowned, her heart racing suddenly. She had to be sure. “Marcus who please?”
“Senator Marcus David-Clarke.” He completed
It was suddenly like a bomb had gone off in her head, she felt faint for a few minutes “Marcus?” She whispered knowing fully well who he was. Where? How had he found her out? She’d taken care to burn those bridges and knowing he was a public figure now, she’d done her best to remain out of the limelight.
“Yes Ebi, its Marcus. I know you must be wondering how I found you.” He said.
“More like why!” She spat determining not to let him get to her. She was in control here. “You and I have absolutely no business together, we went our separate ways a lifetime ago.”
“You’re so eager to put space and distance between us Ebi but it won’t work. You should have known this day would come.” He said quite calmly.
“That’s funny, coming from you, the last time we spoke you were the one who wanted the distance.” She reminded him.
“My family- not me. We have unfinished business and you know it!” He wasn’t so calm anymore.
“ I know no such thing. We had an agreement remember? So why are you calling me now after such a long time?”
“ I’ve been searching for you for years Ebi. You suddenly disappeared after that meeting with my family, I tried to find you but didn’t get far and now to find you in Abuja, right under my nose all these years. The last place I would have ever thought you would be. Lovely article on you in the newspapers by the way. Business woman starting out small and now a big name in Abuja, marrying the billionaire Tycoon Tombra Silva didn’t hurt, did it? You’ve done really good for yourself Ebi and I must say I’m really impressed. You did a good job metamorphosing, didn’t you? School teacher turned business mogul slash widow of a billionaire. That’s something isn’t it?”
“Cut the talk, Marc! What do you want?
“You know what I want Ebi!” He simply said
She knew very well. “Never!” She burst out “Do you hear me, Marc? Never! What you never wanted before when I begged and begged you then, you had all the money, the privilege but you…..” She took a deep breath to calm her nerves. “It isn’t going to happen, Marc, you’ve wasted your time calling me because it is never going to happen.”
“That was a long time ago, Things have changed, I have changed, I’ve grown up a lot since then.” He said.
“Save all that for someone that cares, I made a deal with your family and it still stands. You’re getting nothing from me!”
“That so called deal was made behind my back, Ebi, I don’t even know the details till date.”
“Ask your mother then, I bet she’ll tell you.”
“ My mother passed away years ago.”
“Too bad for you then. As for me and you, we have nothing tying us together. Don’t ever call my line anymore, even if you do I wont pick. Good day.” She hung up, resisting the urge to slam the phone into the closest wall but she settled for squeezing the handset instead, channelling all her anger into the action. What rubbish was this today?
Marc? Marcus had the guts to actually call her and tell her he wanted what was his back? How dare he? After what he’d put her through back then? What Clara had gone through before she’d eventually passed on? He was sick in the head! Really sick, she hoped he’d gotten the message or God help her she didn’t know what she would do to him.
“ Abeg Mr Einstein, we fit take small break? This calculus thing wan burst my head abeg, abi na only me dey feel like this?” Segun complained looking at the other guys in the study group to see if anyone would support him.
“Break for wetin na?”Tikki asked “when we start? Segun, you don start again o. This your break, break, abeg abeg I no wan hear am today.”
“I agree o,” Michael chipped in “Abeg break. Wetin you get for kitchen? Man dey H!”
“Oh!” realisation dawned on Tekena as he looked at all four guys seated in his living room “So na why all of una come my house for tutorial be this, abi? For food only people! Una try, well played.”
“Guy abeg shun, forget that thing. You know sey semester wan end and na manage guys dey manage now so na scavengers hunt we dey so, come open fridge abeg.”
“make we scavenge the fridge!” Chidi added from his corner
Tekena couldn’t help but laugh at his friends’ theatrics. ‘Scavenging’, really?
“Ah ahn, Bros Tikky, you know sey you no dey carry last. Your casa na our casa nao” Larry, the youngest of the pack said.
Tekena shook his head giving in, it wasn’t the first time nor would it be the last. They were broke under grads that needed to survive. He played basket ball with them and sometimes organised a tutorial to help them with some math courses. Somehow they looked up to him.
“So what do you want to eat and no alcohol o! Because like it or yes we will still do this tutorial, no come dey think sey una go come chop free food and drinks for my house with no payment. Una talk sey una want tutorial and tutorial you must get after food!”
“Boss, whatever you get abeg bring am, a beggar has a no choice!” Segun said already clearing his books to the side.
Tekena shook his head and picked up the intercom by his side and made a call to the kitchen asking for food for five hungry guys, drinks and whatever snack was available to be brought fast before the guys fainted from hunger. He trusted cook, the guy could whip up anything in seconds.
“But guy, you are living large o. You don’t have to do a thing, just pick up the phone and all your needs will be met. Money good o!” Chidi reflected
Tikky shrugged “God has been gracious. My step dad was very wealthy and very generous too, he set a system that enabled us concentrate on our studies instead of chores and the rest.”
“In order words, spoilt you guys rotten!” Michael chipped in and all the guys burst into laughter.
“Waka!” Tekena playfully cursed at him “your own food has been cancelled for talking to your boss like that.”
“Na so!” Chidi called his bluff.
“See these kids o, no respect for elders again.”
“I get respect o, ah, me I dey give honour to whom honour is due.” Segun joked
“ Where food is concerned you remember honour.” Michael told him and they all laughed.
“Look who’s talking o! me and you? Who like food pass? Abeg Larry, make you judge, me and Chidi, who like food pass abeg?”
Larry obviously didn’t want to go against any one of them. He looked from one to the other, it was all a joke but he couldn’t pick anyone for fear that he might offend on of them. “Abeg una ask bros Tikki.”
Tikky shook his head “All of una, you ,” he pointed at Segun “Michael and Chidi, all of una na d same jare! Everyday na to tax me for something.”
“ That one is normal nao, you be post grad plus you get your own business….you dey make your own money aside from all this,” he gestured at the house. “ While your boys be undergraduates na, just managing, nothing nothing happening in our pockets, that’s why we always tax you.” Michael explained
“Good thing your finals are coming soon, so no more taxing after exams.” Tekena said.
“Hopefully” Segun chipped
“Not hopefully anything o” Tekena started to argue when the door opened and Dare, his closest friend and business partner came in with his sister, Tonye and Angela.
He smiled, as his eyes met Angie’s. He hadn’t known she would be coming and he felt good she was around. She looked good,maybe it was the way her jean shorts and tank top hugged her body, he wasn’t sure but he was really glad she was around. He extended a hand to her directing her to come sit beside him.
“How far now” Dare greeted the guys. They all exchanged greetings.
“Hi babe!” Tikky gave her a kiss on the cheek and pulled her down to sit beside him on the floor where he was. “how’s your day been?”
“Here and there, all over school, project stuff. You?” She asked looking at him and lightly running her hand through his short hair. He liked the feeling.
“Not bad.” He replied “Supposed to be putting these guys through something but apparently they only want me for my food.”
She laughed “I wouldn’t mind food too, I’m farmished!”
“Oh, you too?” He had a mock shocked expression on his face and she laughed harder “When did I start running a free food kitchen?”
“It’s not exactly free, you get to enjoy my lovely company as repayment.” She said
“Yes I do.” He replied nuzzling her neck. “You smell yummy.” He playfully bit her neck lightly.
“Tikky” she shrieked laughing. ” That tickles.”
“Ehem.” Dare gave a slight cough and they both finally looked up an acknowledged the others in the room. The other guys were smiling sheepishly while Tonye looked a bit shocked. Tikky stifled the urge to laugh seeing the expression on her face.
“Yes Dare, can we help you.” Tikky asked.
“ When did you two…..” Dare didn’t get to finish, the aroma of the food filled the air all the guys rushed out to grab their dishes but Dare passed him a look that said they had to talk.
Tekena ignored Tonye’s surprises look and got up instead pulling Angela with him “ shall we all move to the dining, I think the food should be set there, we can dish it ourselves there.” He addressed the maids carrying the meals trying to bring some order to everything. “Segun, just calm down ehn? The food is not running away.” He joked winking at his friend.
He looked around for Dare but he and Tonye had disappeared, to Tonye’s room no doubt, those ones couldn’t be pried apart whenever they were together.
He turned to Angie “What will my girlfriend be eating? There’s fried rice- I know girls dig fried rice or would you go with the boys and take semo with vegetable soup?”
“Fried rice, chicken and moin moin for me please.” She replies.
“So predictable.” He joked.
“Am not!” She punched him playfully on the arm
“Are too” He replied just as Deifa and her cousin Tari were passing through the dining area apparently going to the gardens at the back. Deifa breezed on like there was no one in the room while Tari stopped by to say hello.
“Hey Tekena, how far now?” she grabbed him in a hug “Fancy seeing you at home today, you’re never around whenever I drop by to see Di. Whats been happening?”
He shrugged “Been so busy with work and my PGD course, will soon be done though, exams are coming up soon. Whats going on at the company?”
“Same old stuff!” She replied “just really busy but we should talk sometime, I hardly ever see you, you should tell me all about your business.”
“No problem, by the way meet my girlfriend Angela Martins. She’s a final year student at the University.” He introduced.
“Hi Angela,” Tari extended her hand to her.
“Hi.” Angela replied accepting it.
“ Tari is the daughter of Chief Silva’s elder brother, ” he explained to Angie before turning back to Tari. “Hows your brother Terrence?”
“Good, he’ll even be arriving from the UK in two months time I think, with his wife and baby..”
“Okay, that’s cool, last time I saw him was two years back at the wedding in Sheffield. Hope I’m not keeping you from your cousin?” He asked, knowing Deifa and her issues.
“Yeah, Lemme join her before she takes my head off, nice meeting you Angela. Tekena, please let’s chat soon?”
“Sure.” He replied.
“She seems cool.” Angie said immediately Tari was out of earshot.
“She is.” He replied getting back to dishing the meal for her.
“How come she doesn’t hate your guts like Deifa?”
“I don’t know….uhm, maybe because my mom didn’t marry her dad?” He joked and then added seriously” I guess Deifa wanted her dad to keep her mom’s memory until death, you know how girls are.”
She frowned “ You do know I’m a girl right?”
He took his eyes off selecting a piece of Chicken for a moment and stared at her “hmm? So I see.”
She tried but couldn’t help the smile that escaped her lips “Could you stop playing around Tekena?”
“Okay, okay, no more playing, from now on I’m serious. Do you mind if we eat together from a plate?”
“Wow, didn’t figure you for the romantic eating in one plate type of guy.”
“Babe, there’s a lot you don’t know about me.”
She smiled “and I’ll be happy to find them all out one by one.” She linked her arm through his.
“Abeg love birds, commot for road jare, make I see food take?” Segun came brushing past them.
“Is that second round?” Tekena asked
He shrugged “ You’re the one counting, not me.” He said picking another wrap of semo.
“Remind me never to organise another tutorial in my house.” He whispered to angela as they went back to the living room.
“I hear you o, Tikky. I hear you loud and clear.” Segun called from behind them.
Tikky led her into the living room sitting down in the position they’d vacated earlier and placing the plate between them. “So how’s the project coming along?”
“Very well, Four chapters approved now, will be done soon in time for defence.” She took a spoon of the meal and then exclaimed. “Seriously Tee, I’m tempted to steal your cook, the guy never disappoints.”
“With what he’s paid monthly, he couldn’t afford to. What you doing Saturday evening?”
“Nothing planned yet. Why?”
“Let’s go out.”
“Really?” Her eyes brightened. “Where?”
“Somewhere fun, maybe bowling at the dome? Or do you have somewhere in mind?”
“Nope, bowling sounds wonderful.”
“Okay, then. Bowling it is.”
She looked at him wonderingly “ Who knew you’d be such a wonderful boyfriend? This past week has been really interesting for me, if you keep this up, I might become difficult to keep away.”
“GG, you were never away! Even as friends, you always found an excuse to be around me.” He said
She laughed “And you’re such a nice guy, you never turned me away or took advantage of me. You’re a saint, Tikki.”
He laughed “I don’t think I am o, I liked you around because you were cool, easy to talk with and flowed with the guys. Plus you aren’t bad looking at all, I enjoy checking out those curves.”
“Really?” Her eyes widened. ” Goodness, so you have been ogling my body all this time.”
He shrugged “Guy thing, we like to look at attractive girls.”
She rolled her eyes, “guy thing indeed. ..so….I’ve been meaning to ask but not sure how to put it.”
Tekena sat up seeing she was quite serious. “Yeah?”
“How…” she hesitated, “do you still…What I mean is…”
“Just spit it out, GG.” He told her.
“ Okay..how do you still feel about your Deifa?”
He was taken aback “What do you mean? Have I done anything wrong to make you feel….”
“No, no Tikky. I just want to know if any progress is being made… You know? Maybe your feelings for her are fading?”
Tekena knew he needed to be honest with her here “It’s still too soon, don’t you think? It’s just been a week since we began dating, but I’m with you now and nothing else matters really. I’m committed to you a hundred and one percent.”
She smiled “I know…I guess I was just hoping but you’ve been a wonderful boyfriend so far. Maybe we could add swimming to our to-do list on Saturday?”
“Sure! Absolutely! Never knew you swim.” He said surprised.
“I do and I can kick your ass too at it.” She boasted.
“You wish! I’m an Ijaw man remember? We were born with fins.”
“Oh yeah?” She asked giggling. “Till Saturday then!”
“Yeah, till Saturday.” He promised laughing, but the question about his step sis still niggling at the back of his mind.
Could he really get over whatever it was he felt for Deifa? Was it possible? He didn’t know if he could but what he was sure about was that he had to atleast try.