Welcome back, friends! sorry episode 8 is late. happy reading! Don’t forget to share your thoughts after reading.
The atmosphere in Lakeview Restaurant suited Tolu’s mood. He liked the corner he had chosen for them to sit. The room was dimly lit, casting a soft glow on the tables in the room. The low background music caressed them. It made him feel free. It took him back in time with Ebika, before he went off to work as a seaman and before he married Eladebi.
He forced thoughts of his wife down as he stared into Ebika’s twinkling eyes. Her eyes shone with merriment. Strands of hair that had come loose on the drive to the restaurant now rested on one part of her face. She looked lovely. He felt himself lost in her beauty. He watched as she took her glass to her lips, taking a sip of her wine. He smiled when she dropped the glass, her fingers around the stem.
“This reminds me of the night we spent outside my hostel talking through the night till dawn.” He said. Images of that time came to him like it had happened a day before and not more than eight years ago.
Ebika smiled, a dreamy look in her eyes as she also pictured that time. “We were so in love, and we couldn’t stay away from each other.” She laughed a little. “We were supposed to be studying that night, but we started talking and forgot about the books we left in the lecture hall.”
Tolu looked straight into her eyes. “We were inseparable.”
Ebika nodded. “We were.” She agreed. Her tone was sad. She looked away from him and down at the drink in front of her.
Tolu knew what she was thinking. He hadn’t stopped thinking that since he met her again. He unwrapped her fingers from her wine glass and held them in his. “I made a mistake back then.” He said.
Her eyes glistened with tears as she looked at him. “You never came back. Where did you go? Why did you leave?” A tear rolled down her cheek. Tolu caught it with his hand.
“I’m so sorry, Ebika. The job paid well, but it was very stressful. I couldn’t promise you anything. When the opportunity to travel abroad came, I didn’t think twice: I took it. I thought I’ll find you once I got settled. Well, it didn’t happen. I ended up spending two years in London with the business man who facilitated my journey there building what I have today.” He rubbed her palm lightly. “When I got back, I felt ashamed of what I had done, cutting off from you like that. I couldn’t find you anywhere.”
Ebika blinked back more tears. Life had given them reality, taking away their fantasies. What did it matter now that they have found each other? She had Bina, and she was certain someone else had his heart. It wasn’t possible for someone of his status not to have ladies around him. These were her thoughts as she listened to the last part of his story. The part that told her how he was able to build his business empire now.
When he finished, she fixed sad eyes on him. “I guess there is someone now.” She said, easing her hands off his.
He looked away, regret clouding his eyes. “Let’s not spoil tonight with talks like that. Tonight is for us, just us, Ebika. Let’s get connected again.” He said in an intense tone, imploring her with it.
Ebika hesitated. She should tell him about Bina. He should know that she would be tying the knot soon with the one who had rescued her heart when he left it shattered. The more she thought of it, the more she couldn’t bring herself to do it. If she could just have this harmless time with him, what did it matter? She would do nothing to hurt Bina. She prayed so. The feelings Tolu was arousing in her heart scared her, yet she liked it. She liked going back to a time where she had been deeply in love with butterflies in her stomach; when love had been exciting and carefree.
Tolu watched the different emotions moving across her face. He shook off his feeling of guilt. There would be time enough to tell her about Eladebi and his children. For now, he needed to stay connected to her, to keep the special memories they had shared in the past.
“Say something, Ebika. Let’s stay connected. I want us to go back to our time in Creek Haven. Let’s bridge the gap of eight years.” He pleaded with her, taking her hands again.
Ebika sighed. “I’ll really like that too, Tolu.” She said in a small voice.
His lips turned up in a relived smile. “Thank you so much, Ebika. You don’t know how much joy you have put in my heart.” He placed his hand on her cheek.
She leaned towards it. “Thank you too, Tolu. This moment is special.” She replied.
They remained that way for a while, his hand on her cheek and her head slightly turned to it. After a while, he took off his hand and placed it on her palm on the table. He talked about her birthday coming up in a few days. Back then, they had always celebrated her birthday in a big way.
“What would you like?” He asked her.
She shrugged. “Anything filled with love.” She batted her eyes at him.
He gave a hearty laugh. “Keep doing that and you will get more than you bargain for.”
They laughed together. After spending a few hours together, Tolu took her home. They promised to see each other soon. As Tolu drove off, he knew he would be spending his night in his study at home. That was the only way he could talk freely with Ebika, and he planned on spending the night chatting with her. It made him smile as he anticipated their chat later.
Ebika walked into the living room and came face to face with Bina. Her eyes dilated with surprise. He looked up at her from the book he was reading. He closed it and placed it beside him.
I didn’t know you were here.” She said in an accusatory tone, moving away from the door. She flopped down into a couch opposite him. She rested her head on the couch and closed her eyes.
“I thought you would be home since we spoke some hours ago.” He replied. “Where have you been, Ebika? I called Doubara, and she told me you didn’t show up in church.”
Slowly, she sat up and faced him. “I had more work to do.” She lied. It was almost liked she had practiced what to say. When he kept looking at her, unconvinced, she had to look away. “I couldn’t finish the time I told you I would.” She rushed on to add in a shaky voice. Guilt enveloped her like a thick blanket on a cold night. She couldn’t push it aside. How would she tell Bina she had spent the last hours in a restaurant with her ex-boyfriend?
Bina kept looking at her. She shifted under his piercing eyes. She felt naked under his scrutiny, like he could see through her lies. Her eyes kept shifting from his. She couldn’t tell what he had in his mind. She sighed. Better to change the subject before secrets become revealed. She didn’t trust herself to keep on lying to him about her evening. She knew what the Bible said about lying.
“What did you come to do?” She asked. Now this was a safe topic, she said within her.
Bina leaned forward, his hands clasped in front of him. “I came to discuss our introduction.” He told her.
Ebika’s eyes bulged at that. Introduction? She blanched. Oh, she had forgotten about their plans for it all because of Tolu’s sudden appearance. She swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat. “What about it?” She asked.
“Since we have been cleared by the marriage committee, we can have it first Saturday in April.” He said.
“That’s three weeks from now.” She responded. He gave a nod. “Can we afford it?” She quizzed.
Bina shrugged. “We don’t have to make it a big affair. Just few members of our family. We can work with a small budget. You can draft the budget and show it to me when we meet tomorrow.”
She thought about this for a few heartbeats, then she sighed. “Okay. We’ll make it a small affair. I would draft a moderate budget.” She agreed.
Bina released a relieved breath. He had prayed for Ebika’s understanding, and God had answered him. “Thank you, Ebika.” He picked up the book from his side and got up. “We’ll discuss more tomorrow. It’s getting late and I need to head home. I’m on morning shift tomorrow.”
She nodded her understanding, getting up too. They stood looking at each other in silence. Ebika moved towards him. His eyes lifted in curiosity. She opened her arms to him.
“Can I get a good night hug?” She smiled at him, her eyes filled with innocence.
Bina looked around. Nobody was in sight of course. Douye was in her room. He moved slowly to her and placed his right hand around her shoulders, touching her side with his.
“Good night, Ebika.” He said quickly, moving away from her.
Ebika swallowed her disappointment. “Good night, Bina.” She replied.
She waved him off and went back to the living room. She sank into the couch. What did she expect? That Bina would hug her as tightly as Tolu did when he had the opportunity? Or he would make her even yearn a little for the time they would be married?
“All I wanted was just a little chemistry. I mean everything is just so detached.” She mumbled to herself.
“I saw you.” Her cousin’s voice broke into her mind’s activity.
Douye left the side door that led to the bedrooms to sit beside her. Her lip turned up in a mischievous smile. “I saw you.” She repeated again in her high-pitched voice.
Ebika regarded her cousin with irritation. Much as she loved Douye, she was too nosy for her liking. “Saw me where?” She asked in a disinterested tone.
“I saw you in that luxury car with the guy that dropped you.” She told her.
Ebika sat up straight, a slight tremor ran through her body, causing her to tremble. Douye laughed at her reaction.
“Relax, Coz, I have no intention of telling on you. Besides, that guy looks better off than ‘our Brother Bina.” She teased, tickling Ebika.
Ebika’s lips refused to laugh. She picked up her bag from the couch and looked straight into Douye’s eyes. “Let that be my assessment.” She said with all the authority of an elder sister that she could muster.
Douye gave a non-commital shrug. “I just feel that guy is better. I know you were with him all through. You weren’t working in any office.” She threw Ebika a challenging look.
Ebika shook her head in disbelief. Douye had eavesdropped on her conversation with Bina. The girl was annoying. She got up and walked away from Douye. Just as she got close to the side door, Douye spoke again:
“You really should think about it, Coz. Small introduction or all that luxury. Remember, you can’t bear the family burden forever. It will take some years before Ere can assist you, and mama can’t do much now. Think about it.” She got up and moved past Ebika where she stood.
Ebika went to her room completely down. Yes, she needed assistance to attend to all her family issues: Mama’s regular ill health, Ere’s school fees, their house rent and feeding. Losing their father years back had made things difficult for them. Their mother had stopped being a full housewife then and took up petty trading. When they couldn’t meet up their needs, they had left the city for their hometown. Her school fees had been a big problem. Ere had stayed back because their mother couldn’t cope with everything. Her mother’s elder sister had taken Ebika and decided to care for her, when their mother took ill the first time. She was almost out of school then. That was how she moved back to the city, into her aunty’s house with her cousin Douye, her aunty’s only child. Her job with Hibooks Agency immediately after service further eased their burden, but the responsibility now rested solely on her. Her mother’s health was fragile, and Ere was in her second year in higher institution. The occasional support that came from her aunty, who left the country just after her service year and settled with a white man in America, was a lifesaver.
She sighed. How far could Bina assist her? They would both pull their resources together to make things work. Could Bina really bear her family’s burden and still maintain their home? But Tolu was a different case. From all she had seen, and all he had told her, he could give her a secured future if she was with him. She would have to find out what his plans were soon. Her introduction was around the corner, and she could not afford settling for less when she could have the best.