Finally! The revelation is out. Nimi opens up. Catch Laye’s reaction and many more. It’s sizzling hot. (Yessir, it is.) Happy Reading, Guys.
Nimi strode behind Laye as they went down the stairs to the cafeteria. Laye chatted all the way. She went from Karibo’s new attitude towards her to her team’s progress in their new project. Nimi punctuated her strings of sentences with an ‘okay’ here and there, but when the discussions went to Ken, she kept her mouth firmly shut. She felt the onset of a panic attack as her chest started rising and falling in quick successions. Her hand went to her forehead to wipe off the moist that had appeared there.
She drew in breaths and released them severally as they stepped into the cafeteria. She heard her names from colleagues around and she waved at them. She plastered a smile on her face for them. Laye also greeted friends. Karibo rose from his seat in the midst of some of his friends from various work teams and pushed his way to them. Laye batted her eyes as he moved closer, obviously enjoying it. Nimi didn’t like it at all. It would put a hitch in her plans.
She looked for the nearest free table and pulled Laye into it. That didn’t stop Karibo. He came after all. Laye rewarded him with a large smile.
“Hi, ladies,” he greeted pleasantly, placing his hand on the chair beside Laye.
Nimi put a restraining hand on it and smiled up at him when he lifted questioning eyes to her. “We have something important to discuss. Could you please excuse us?” She raised soulful eyes to him, looking like a puppy pleading for a snack or a rub behind its ear.
Karibo hesitated, but then he gave a shrug. “I’ll see you later, Laye,” he said, eyes on Laye. “Have a good discussion,” he told Nimi, then included before turning around to leave. “Talk about me, Nimi. Let Laye know that I’m a good guy, please.”
Laughter erupted from Laye. She threw her head back and held the plastic chair she sat on to keep from falling.
Nimi watched her as she laughed. She noticed the twinkle in her eyes when her head came back down and she wiped her happy tears from her eyes. Something felt at ease when she saw how Laye responded to Karibo. While she was no expert in relationships, she could see attraction when she saw one. It was clear to her that Laye wasn’t merely intrigued by Karibo’s attention. She was getting attracted, but she wouldn’t know because her head was filled with Ken who didn’t even know she had such feelings in the first place.
A conspiratorial smile tugged at Nimi’s lips. She could use Karibo as a distraction and just push him forth for Laye instead of Ken. That way Laye would not hate her for loving Ken and saying yes to him. She almost rubbed her palms together at the solution she had proffered to what had been a mountainous task.
She waited for Laye as she went to make her order for food. She turned the plans in her head. The more she thought she had it all figured out, the more her heart became burdened.
Why couldn’t she use Karibo as a cover-up? Why must she tell Laye everything the way it was without any camouflage? These questions plagued her mind. And while she warred within her, the truth stood out –she couldn’t exploit Karibo’s feelings for Laye, real or not, to score cheap points. Let Laye see everything as it was.
Nimi released a subdued sigh. ‘Dear Lord, help me.” She sent a quick prayer to heaven as Laye made her way back to the table.
Laye dropped a plate of jollof rice and fried plantain on the table. She took her seat. “I thought you’d come and get your own food.” She said, picking up her spoon. She dipped it into the plate and spooned rice into her mouth. She chewed and swallowed audibly.
“I’m not really hungry.” Nimi replied, watching her take another spoon of rice.
Laye gave a nod and started talking about Karibo coming to pay for her food. Nimi allowed her talk so she could eat well before she told her secret to her. When the food finally finished, and Laye pushed the plate aside, gulping down water from a sachet, Nimi cleared her throat.
“Laye,” She started.
“Hmm…” Laye answered, swallowing the water in the mouth. She squeezed the sachet and dropped it on the plate, then she rubbed her palms together and leaned forward. “What is it?” She asked.
Nimi shifted in her seat, casting an uncomfortable look around. Most of the tables were still occupied. She had wanted a private place for this discussion but none had turned up. She couldn’t keep Laye standing while she told her friend what would shatter her heart even if it was the right thing to do. Nimi cleared her throat and straightened from her slump. “Huh… it’s about Ken.”
A flash of excitement came into Laye’s eyes. She smiled broadly. “What about him? It’s really been a while you talked about him with me. You always allow me to do all the talking. Now, I’m eager to hear what you have to say.” She piped.
“Laye, Ken is not into you.”
Laye lifted her chin and stared straight at Nimi, her expression dulled a little. “Do you have to keep saying that? Are you trying to discourage me? I’ve told you times unnumbered that I’ll have the last laugh with Ken, and I’m sure I will. Just help me out a little.”
Nimi hated Laye’s proprietorial tone. Her chest tightened in the first rise of anger. What would make her lay claim on what is not hers with all confidence? Time to lay it all bear. “Laye, Ken asked me out and I said yes to him. We’ve been going steady for a while now.”
Different emotions chased after each other on Laye’s face at Nimi’s admittance. She went from utter confusion to shock to disbelief, then to suspicion to betrayal to hatred and finally anger. Panic spread across Nimi’s chest like a drop of wine on a white dress. She didn’t know what scared her the most: Laye’s speechlessness or the words that would pour from her lips in anger.
She waited. Laye kept fuming but had no words yet. Her chest rose in quick successions. Nimi got scared by the minute. She cast a quick glance around and noticed the cafeteria was thinning out. People were leaving. Potential saviours, Nimi thought miserably. She had couldn’t run away so she had to face it. The best was to defend herself before Laye became composed enough to attack her either with words or her fists.
“Listen, Laye, I didn’t plan this. It just happened.” She rushed on to explain. “Ken and I… well, we thought it was for the best. God has…”
Laye’s raised hand cut her short, causing her to swallow suddenly. She coughed in fists. Laye wasn’t moved. She leaned towards her with fierce eyes.
“I should have known you were not to be trusted.” She bit out the words in a clipped tone. “I should have known to avoid ladies like you. Ladies who think the world revolves around them because of their beauty and intelligence. Ladies who think they have it all and still want what another lady has. You could have gotten any man with your beauty, intelligence, and class, but it has to be Ken. Ken!” She said in a loud whisper, anger marking her words. “It has to be Ken because Laye, who you think is no-good and has no class, wants him.” Tears welled up in her eyes, but she wiped it off with the back of her hand. “You will pay for this betrayal, Nimi. I assure you, you will pay for it. I will watch your heart get smashed and broken into pieces. I will watch Ken deceive you and I will watch people laugh at your foolishness. You know why” She got up and stood over Nimi regarding her with a cynical smile. “I know what you don’t know. I have a weapon you can never have. And when your trouble comes, I’ll laugh and laugh.” With that, she sent the chair clattering on the floor and turned.
Nimi got up, dislodging her own chair. “Laye,” She called.
Laye neither answered nor stopped. She walked away with a sway of her hips.
Nimi ran after her, not minding the stares of those still in the cafeteria. She knew this would be hot on the gossips’ tray but she didn’t mind. Let them talk to their full. What she cared about was her ruined friendship.
She moved down the hallway and didn’t see Laye. She stood in the middle of the hall and wondered where she could have gone. She made a dash for the restroom and threw the door open. The ladies in front of the mirror jumped in fright. She mouthed a ‘sorry’ to them and moved on to Laye’s work area. When she didn’t see her there also she contemplated telling Ken about it but thought better of it. She would just confide in Ela and have her pray witAt this time when Laye sounded like a wounded bear, she needed all the prayers she could get.
A flood of icy rage spread through Laye’s chest as she took the stairs away from the one who had betrayed herWhat right did Nimi have to say yes to Ken? What right did she have to date Ken? She would have willingly given any man in the office up if it meant keeping Ken for herself. Why would Nimi go for the one that suited her perfectly? The one she had told her mother about and bragged about his prospects. How would she go back and tell her mother that he was off the market? Something must be done to correct it. She wouldn’t leave things like that. She meant what she said about Nimi paying for it.
She crossed the hallway in long strides. She heard her name from behind but didn’t turn. She would not stand to share a word with a betrayal like Nimi. She would rather deal with everything by herself from now on. And that meant confronting Ken.
Yes, she would confront the one who made a fool of her by asking Nimi out. She would confront him with all the signs she had sent and he had not responded to. Ken couldn’t date Nimi since they were friends and both had feelings for him. He would have to let go and hurt Nimi and that would please her. If he wouldn’t listen to her and break things off with Nimi so both of them couldn’t have him, then she would initiate the breakup. She had the key to their breakup and she would use it. She was hurt and she didn’t mind hurting Nimi too. After all, the one who should have been her friend had not thought it twice before betraying her.
She was almost at the end of the hallway, just before turning the corner that led to Ken’s office area. The door to the conference room was ajar and voices flittered through the open door. Laye slowed down and moved closer to the door, all the while wondering those who would be in the conference room whispering. The room was open for briefings and executive meetings.
She tiptoed away from easy sight and perched close to the wall, her ears pressed to the frame of the door. She recognized feminine voices. She listened now to make sense of the office gossip that would have caused them to open the conference room to discuss.
“My dear, that lady is hot. The kind we refer to as ‘baby La hot’.” A tiny feminine voice said.
“I never see that kind woman for this office before o, and truly we don see many.” Another replied in a stronger voice. She continued, “wetin surprise me na the way oga face change and im psuh her quick quick towards that staircase near him office. If no be say, person dey sweep that place ehn, we for miss this kin drama for this office.” Her words burst with glee.
Laye straightened. A lady came looking for Ken. A lady that the helpers termed ‘hot’. Who could she be? While she engaged in her mental investigation, she missed the next round of statements and didn’t even know when the door opened wider and the helpers tiptoed out. They bumped into each other and jumped back in surprise.
“Good afternoon, ma.” They greeted, casting their expressions down and hands on the back of their neck.
Laye took advantage of their obvious discomfort at being caught gossiping and fixed stern eyes on them. “So this is what you do right when you are supposed to be working or at your station.” She confronted them in a harsh tone.
The one who had become the favourite in the office quickly knelt down. “We’re sorry, ma. We were just surprised.” She explained.
“By what?” Laye enquired.
She pulled herself up to her feet and exchanged glances with the other helper. They seemed to hesitate.
“Ok, let me go and see Mr. Ken and ask him then.” She threatened and moved away from them. One, two, three steps they called her. She smiled to herself, but when she faced them it was with a straight face.
“Yes, I’m listening.” She feigned disinterest.
“Er… a lady came to look for oga. She was not like the regular customers that come around.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, she was dressed like a night worker. Oga didn’t like her coming to the office because we saw him pushing her down the stairs beside his office and telling her to stay away from him.”
Hmm… interesting, Laye thought with utmost pleasure. This was getting way more interesting than she envisaged. It must be the same lady she saw with Ken at Bliss Taste and Bite. She had enough now to break Ken and Nimi up.
“How long ago was this?” She asked.
“A few minutes ago.” They said in unison.
“Now get back to your station and stop gossiping.” She chided.
Both of them scampered off, leaving her to start a new mission.
She cast a glance behind her, straightened, adjusted her shirt and took off down the stairs beside Ken’s office after the ‘hot’ lady.
Leaving the air-conditioned office, Laye moved into the heat of the afternoon. The sun was high up in the sky. Lunch break was over and so the traffic on the otherwise busy street was minimal. Workers must have returned back to their offices to continue their work until the close of the day. The same thing she was supposed to be doing, but here she was chasing Ken’s lady.
She was certain the lady wouldn’t have gone far. She would have to trek down a little before getting a tricycle, and if the description the helpers gave her was accurate, coupled with what she had seen the last time, then she wouldn’t just get any tricycle. This knowledge propelled her. She half ran and half walked. Sweat broke from her forehead. Her carefully styled hair came tumbling down her back in reckless abandon. She didn’t mind. It was nothing compared to the mission she had embarked on.
Just before she got to the electricity transformer that served as a major bus stop on the street, she saw the lady standing after the transformer, fanning herself with her fingers. The roasted plantain seller opposite the transformer and her customers fixed their eyes on her. The labourers who were building shops in front of a residential apartment stopped work to gawk at her. Laye could tell why even from afar.
The lady wore a dangerously short red gown that stopped on her upper thigh. She wore killer red heels like what she had on the first time Laye saw her. The sunlight caused the flashy gown to glow like Christmas light. She clutched a red purse in a hand lined with bracelets of different sizes and shapes.
When Laye got close enough, she heard the whistling from the men and the jibes from the few women around, mostly the street vendors. Laye doubled her steps. She got to her just when she was about flagging down a tricycle.
“Hi,” she said breathlessly.
The lady regarded with a look that made her feel like a troublesome insect. She flung her load of golden hair over her shoulder.
“Hi,” She finally replied in a dismissive tone.
Laye was undeterred. She smiled. “I think we’ve met.” She told her.
The lady looked back at her. She stared for a while and shook her head. “I can’t remember.” She replied, still in that indifferent tone.
Laye pressed on, “well, I remember seeing you with Ken at Bliss Taste and Bite, and in our office a while ago. I wonder why Ken never introduces you.” She threw the subtle insult.
The lady picked up on the underlining meaning immediately. Her eyes sparkled with anger. Smart lady, Laye thought.
“Excuse me,” She spat out. “I don’t know who you are and I’ll really like it if you mind your business. My business with Ken is my business and you should go mind yours. You should be in the office now because Ken told me you guys have a lot of work to do at the office. In fact, I’m going to call him now to tell him one of his employees is harassing me.”
Laye threw her head back and laughed. “I dare you to call him. Call him let’s see if he’ll pick your call.” She crossed her arms over her chest and waited.
Uncertainty filled her heavily made-up face. “Whatever,” she said. “Just get off my face, ok. I know how to settle my issues with Ken.”
“Oh, no, you don’t.” Laye countered. “If you do, you would have known that Ken has a serious date now.” She dropped the bomb and waited for the effect. It came in no time.
The purse dropped from her hand making a loud sound on the tarred ground. “Don’t you dare lie to me; you know nothing about Ken and me.”
Laye gave a shrug. “I know enough. I want to help. You really need my help obviously even if you won’t admit it. Since I know you need my help, I’ll help you.” Laye squatted down and picked up the purse. She unsnapped it and pulled out her phone. She slid her thumb across the screen and it came unlocked. She let out a slight chuckle. “You’re my kinda girl. We have nothing to hide so we don’t lock our phones.” She typed in her number, saved it and returned it to her purse, then she stretched it towards her. “My name is Laye. I saved my number as Laye Saviour. Give me a call when you’re ready to get your man.” She turned around and walked away in confident strides when the lady collected her purse. She only turned when she heard a howl of laughter behind her. The ‘hot’ lady had removed her heels and was walking down the road barefooted.
Laye watched her go and knew she had her where she wanted her. This side of her had never come out. She had been building it ever since she got her heart shattered. This time, her heart was both shattered and betrayed. She wouldn’t take it lying low. She would fight back and watch with great joy when all came crumbling down around all those who had hurt her. In the end, Ken would beg her to date him and she would have him as hers alone.
Laye’s fingers flew over the keyboard as she typed in her design process. She continued like that for some minutes enjoying the click sound that came from the keyboard. She didn’t stop to acknowledge Nimi who had come in during lunch break to ‘apologize’ again. She had been coming to her like that for the past week and Laye had not given her audience. She wanted her to suffer. She wanted her to see the wrong she had done to her. Why would she just let go because Nimi was sorry for falling in love with Ken; her own Ken? She had kept up her anger towards her and refused to accept her apology while she worked out her plans. The lady hadn’t called her but she was sure she would soon. She watched Ken in the last week dragging around like a wet kitten. It was time to launch her attack.
And that was the reason why she would feign forgiveness and embrace Nimi. How else would she carry out her plans if her target was far from her? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. That was her operating motto.
She stopped typing and pinned Nimi with irate eyes, mouth drawn in a hard line. “What do you want?” She asked in an indignant tone.
Nimi clenched and unclenched her fingers. “You really have to hear me out, Laye.” She pleaded.
Laye’s lips turned up in a wry smile. “Hear what? How you warmed your way into Ken’s heart and arms? How you fell hopelessly in love with him? How you totally felt good about yourself at my expense? What exactly do you want me to listen to, Nimi?” She countered lividly.
“You know that’s not how it all happened, Laye. I would never hurt you.” She said forcefully, almost as if she wanted to force Laye to believe her.
Laye said nothing.
Nimi continued, “I’m sorry it all happened like this. I really don’t want us to become enemies over Ken. Please, Laye, let’s keep being friends.”
And yet you went behind my back and chase after what was supposed to be mine, you two-timing bitch! Laye cursed within. She released a resigned sigh. “It’s just sad that I can’t stay mad at you for long.” The lie rolled off her tongue easily. “This past week has been hell for me, and I miss you terribly.” She pushed away from her desk and came to stand before Nimi, leaning on her desk. “I don’t want to fight with you, Nimi. Just as you said, we’ve been friends and I really want us to continue. But I was deeply hurt by your action.” She told her.
Nimi pulled her into a hug. “Forgive me, dear friend.” She apologized. “I never meant to hurt you.”
Laye scrunched her nose behind her back. “Don’t worry we are fine now.”
A song broke into their hug. They pulled apart and looked at the intruding object. It was Nimi’s phone.
She picked it up from where she had dropped it on the desk when she came in earlier. She looked at the caller ID and in the seconds that followed her face went from happy to enrage. She drew the end button across the screen and dropped the phone on the desk, then she folded her arms across her chest.
“Annoying!” She spat out fuming.
“Who?” Laye asked.
Nimi let out a frustrated sigh. “It’s Raymond. Can you imagine.” She threw her hands up.
“I don’t get it. You mean the same Raymond?” She asked.
“Yes.” Nimi affirmed. “He has been calling me nonstop for over a week now. I have blocked his number but all he does is to use another number to call. I even picked it one time and the moment I heard his voice, I just ended the call.”
“You should have allowed him to speak.”
“Speak what? I have no time for that loser, that mama’s boy. Let him leave me alone in peace. One of these days I’ll pick the call and give him a serious warning. I’ll threaten to report him to his mother, maybe then he’ll leave me alone.”
Laye shrugged. “Just be careful.”
A smile broke through Nimi’s tight lips. “Ah, see you showing concern. Thanks, Laye. Now I know you have really forgiven me.” She gave her a brief hug and pulled back. “let me go back to my station and finish what I started earlier. Thank you once again, dear friend.” She made for the door.
“Let’s have tea tomorrow morning,” Laye called after her. Nimi gave a nod and smiled as she hurried out of the door.
When she was out, Laye drummed her fingers on the desk. Raymond is the picture now. What would be his role in this whole drama? She tapped her lower jaw with her index finger. He’d likely be useful along the line. Better to keep him on the side. All things are falling into place for me.
With that final thought, she pulled back her chair and sank into it, a wicked smile twisting her lips.
Tenisha stood at the bathroom entrance afraid to take a look at the pregnancy test strip that laid on the sink in the bathroom. She had carried out the test several minutes ago and the result should be out, but she couldn’t bring herself to look at it. Her hand went to her midsection. The possibility of a baby growing inside her scared her. A lot would go wrong if the test turned out positive.
The sound of a blow-dryer whistled a deafening note from the living room. Her friend Sinivie was bent at the waist drying her hair. Tenisha envied her carefree mood. Sinivie was her long-time friend, and when she had decided to search Ken out, Sinivie had given her all her support. Even though she had advised her against forcing herself on a man who didn’t want her.
When things had become complicated in the last few weeks, she had cried out to Sinivie. Her friend handed over her gifts shop to her able assistant and made the journey to Yenagoa a week ago.
Why couldn’t life be easy for her like Sinivie?
Sinivie had graduated with good grades and met her prince charming a year ago. Her shop was booming and she already had two more opened in strategic locations in Lagos. Her relationship was moving in the right direction.
For Tenisha, things were the opposite. She had flunked out of school when it was clear she couldn’t pass her loads of ‘carry-overs’. She had moved from one man to another looking for love. Or maybe it was the money that kept her with these men. Her mother, being a single parent after her dad died when she was eleven years old, had given up on her long ago. She had told her she wouldn’t waste a kobo on someone who wasn’t ready to make anything good out of her life. She had focused on her younger ones and they had turned out well. At least, her younger brother had served and started working in a big firm in Lagos. Her two younger sisters were out of school. One was through with service and working in a bank, planning her wedding. The other was getting ready to go for service.
Tenisha on the other side had not been so lucky. Ken had seemed like the right one. Even though at the time she was with Ken, she had been two-timing him with Chief Onaga, the owner of the chains of boutiques she worked for. Ken didn’t have the money but he had the heart. That was the reason why she was still here trying to convince him to be with her.
But now the result of the test she had taken could ruin a lot of things.
She braced up and walked back into the bathroom. She closed her eyes and picked up the test strip on the sink. She opened one eye and peered at the result.
Two lines were drawn on it.
Her eyes flew open and she let out a screeching sound. The blow-dryer went off immediately and Sinivie came running to the bathroom, her hair flying wildly on her head.
“What is it, Tenisha?” She quizzed in a panicky tone.
Tenisha stretched the test strip to her. Sinivie’s eyes went to it. She also saw the lines.
“Oh, no.” She cried. “Tenisha.” She placed a hand over her mouth.
Tears pooled in Tenisha’s eyes and flowed down like a water fountain.