Love Quest Ep 14

Hey, friends! So sorry I stayed away for so long. It wasn’t intentional. I got caught up in a lot of things. I hope you missed me. I’m back on my journey with Ken, Nimi, Laye and Tenisha. Hey, fire up your interest again. Yours truly, peace!

Episode Fourteen

Laye chose a table at the private lounge in Bliss Taste and Bite. She ordered a glass of orange juice while she waited for Tenisha. The dimly-lit room suited her mood. She was scheming for her victory, and her plans had just taken off. Tenisha’s call was the beginning. She had expected her to call and she had not been disappointed. All she needed to do was to hear Tenisha out and plan accordingly.

Her drink arrived. She awarded the waiter a smile as she took the glass off the tray.

“Would that be all, ma’am?” The waiter asked.

“Yes, for now.” She replied.

He gave a little bow and walked briskly away to attend to other customers. If she hadn’t been so hung on Ken she would have liked someone like the tall and muscular waiter. His dressing – a crisp white shirt on a pair of blue trousers and a blue bowtie –accentuated his handsomeness. He could really pass for a fine fiancé. But that was not what she wanted. She wanted Ken, and she would do all within her power to destroy all obstacles blocking her way to him. That was the reason why she was seated in a private lounge and sipping a drink that cost about three times the price in a general lounge. She couldn’t risk anyone seeing her there and she had to send the right message to Tenisha about her class and status.

She took a sip of her drink and checked the time on her phone. It was twenty full minutes since she received Tenisha’s call. She frowned a little. What was taking so long? If she had changed her mind, then she could have told her instead of keeping her waiting? She couldn’t sit in the private lounge sipping a glass of juice for long. The waiters would start giving her weird looks. She would have to make another order or leave. Another order would eat deep into the money she had come with. She might just end up trekking home. She would not think of the amount of time it would take her to get home.

Just as she was about to empty her glass, her phone chirped. She quickly picked it up when she saw Tenisha’s name flashed across the screen.

“Where are you?” She asked, trying hard to keep her desperation off her voice. It would do her no good to show Tenisha how her long wait had kept her on the edge. She would leave the desperation to Tenisha so that she could capitalize on it and launch a successful attack.

“I’m inside Bliss.” She replied.

Laye let out a sigh of relief. “Come to the private lounge.” She told her.

The phone clicked off. Tenisha swept into the room in a cloud of some elegant scent. Laye had to give it to her. The girl knew had to make a grand entrance.

Heads turned towards her as she cat-walked in a red pantsuit with a wide black belt that emphasized her trim waistline. The music playing in the background didn’t block out the click sound of her high heel against the exquisite tiles. Laye was glad she had taken time to appear in one of her best looks too. She had ditched her suit for an evening gown –a straight blue gown pleated at the hem that accentuated the figure she was proud of. Her neck was adorned in a single strand of choker neck bead. She smiled up at Tenisha when she approached the table. Tenisha forced a smile through her tight lips, settling into the seat opposite her.

“You kept me waiting,” Laye said in an accusatory tone.

“Sorry,” Tenisha answered. She didn’t look up at Laye neither did she offer an explanation. She just arranged her purse on the table as if her life depended on it.

The waiter that had attended to Laye earlier came to the table again. He asked what they wanted.

Tenisha looked up at him and her eyes widened but she immediately hid it. She ordered a bottle of sprite and two plates of fried snails. Laye smiled her thanks, glad that Tenisha was not immune to the waiter’s looks too. They were like kindred spirits and so would definitely do well together. Laye ordered another glass of orange juice.

“So, why did you call?” Laye asked when the snails on her plate were all gone. It didn’t matter that Tenisha had only eaten one out of the seven big snails that she was served. She had to get on with the matter on the ground.

Tenisha wiped her fingers on the serviette that had come with their food. She took a long swig of her drink before speaking. “I don’t want to share Ken with anyone else.” She said bluntly, her eyes intense like burning coals.

Laye gave a nod of understanding. “I understand you.” She said leaning back in her chair. She had taken time to study Tenisha while they ate. Despite the heavy make-up that covered all spots and wrinkles, Laye had seen the troubled look in her eyes and the bags below them.

Something was wrong. Something had pushed Tenisha to call her. Something was pushing her still and she would do anything to get what she wanted. Laye wanted to exploit that ‘something’ and use it to her own advantage.

“What do you want me to do?” She asked coolly.

Tenisha sat up straighter. “Please, help me. I need Ken now more than ever.”

Was that tears Laye heard in her voice? She couldn’t tell. She was only certain of Tenisha’s desperation. She wanted Ken at all cost now. It was unfortunate she couldn’t have him. She gave a pitiful shake of her head.

“Tell me about you and Ken.” Laye urged.

And Tenisha did.

She told Laye everything, withholding nothing. She didn’t even spare the tiniest detail. Laye listened with intrigue and jealousy. She was intrigued because of the kind of affair Ken had with Tenisha, and jealous because Tenisha had all of him. She loathed Tenisha. But then, she smiled, Tenisha had just given her one of her strongest weapons against Ken and she would use it well.

While she assured Tenisha of all she would do to help her out, hope filled her heart like rainwater in a ditch. The meeting had given her a solid beginning. She would win. She was sure of it.

 

*******************

Sinivie was waiting outside their apartment when Tenisha arrived that night. The light on the porch rested on her where she sat with her back against the wall and her hand moving through her phone. Tenisha drew a deep breath and pushed open the small gate in front of the veranda causing Sinivie to look up. She straightened and waited for her to come in.

“How did it go?” She asked in a small voice when Tenisha had locked the gate behind her.

Tenisha gave a shrug. “Let’s go inside.” She replied in a withdrawn tone.

Sinivie got up and followed her into the apartment. Tenisha leaned against the wall and slowly dropped down to the floor. Her eyes brimmed with tears. Sinivie looked over her with deep concern.

“How did it go, Tenisha?” She asked again.

“I had to beg… I had to beg Laye like she held the key to my life.” She shut her eyes tightly to fight the tears that had pooled in her eyes.

Sinivie came to sit beside her on the floor. “You don’t have to, Tenisha. You have a lot going for you. You can do very well without Ken.” She advised.

Tenisha shook her head lightly. “I want Ken, Sini. I want him. You know he’s not like the others.”

“But what you are doing now could land you in trouble later on. What would you do then? Would you be able to stand Ken’s hatred because of your lies? Just let it go.” Sinivie placed a comforting hand around her shoulders.

Tenisha shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t want to. Ken is the one I want.” She insisted, her voice hardening a little. The tears from earlier seemed to be drying up.

“Don’t do this to yourself, Tenisha.” Sinivie pleaded. “You’re more than this.”

Tenisha pushed away from her and looked into her eyes. “No, I’m not more than this, Sinivie. I’m not you who has it all together. I am not any of my siblings either. I am Tenisha who has to fight for every little thing I have. Now, I see my lone struggle coming to an end with Ken in my life; I won’t give him up.”

Sinivie sighed. “It doesn’t have to be like this you know. You can quit now and make something out of your life.”

“It’s too late.” Tenisha leaned back against the wall, eyes closed. Her posture told Sinivie she didn’t want to discuss the issue anymore but Sinivie would not give up.

“You know there is a way.” She said in a near whisper.

Tenisha’s eyes fluttered open. “A way? Really?”

Sinivie kept her eyes straight. “Some time ago, one of my salesgirls dropped a Christian tract with me.” She explained silently. “I didn’t see the need to read it, but something pushed me to pick it. Since then I’ve been giving Jesus a lot of thought. I’ll tell you honestly that I knew nothing about having a relationship with Him, but from the day I read the tract, my feelings changed. Now I yearn to know him and my salesgirl has been helping me.”

Tenisha stared at her with wide eyes. “Are you for real?” She quizzed, a bewildered look on her face.

Slowly Sinivie turned to her and smiled. She gave a nod. “Jesus is the only way I can think of.”

Tenisha kept quiet for a few heartbeats. She kept regarding Sinivie with a weird look. When Sinivie said nothing, she jumped up to her feet. “Tell me something better, Sinivie. If you know you’re tired of being around me just let me know. Don’t give me some religious bullshit ‘I’m-born-again-praise-the-Lord’ story. You can do better than that.” She hissed loudly and stalked out of the room. What she needed was fresh air and not Sinivie’s righteousness.

********************

Laye found her way to the Ladies when Tenisha left. She brought out her make-up purse and hummed as she refreshed her makeup. She wore a happy smile and felt truly beautiful as she looked at her reflection in the large mirror in front of her. She could perceive her victory; it was so real she felt if she stretched her hand she could hold it. She lifted her head in confidence. She had finally gotten the power she needed. Nimi? Nah, Ken won’t look at her twice when she got her plans rolling.

And that was what she was about doing. Ken would receive a surprise visitor; one he didn’t know knew his house or his love life. He would receive the visitor that would be his wife in the nearest future.

Laye threw her head back in a confident laugh. She picked out a comb and dragged it through the part of her weave-on that had become tangled. Next, she brought out a small bottle of perfume and applied it generously all over her. She sniffed the air and gave a satisfactory smile, then she adjusted her dress. When she was satisfied with everything, she walked out of the Ladies with a graceful sway, twisting from one side to the other.

She heard a low whistle as she walked through the private lounge out the door. She laughed again, power whizzing through her. She had it now. What Nimi had, she had, and even more than that. It felt good.

She stood by the roadside and took a drop. The taxi dropped her right in front of Ken’s house. She stood outside the black gate and breathed in and out.

This is it, she said to herself. I’m finally walking towards my dreams –a handsome and well to do husband, a beautiful home, and a bright future. Let’s get this started.

She rang the bell on the wall beside the gate.

“Who be dat?” A gruff tone called from the other side. A small compartment on the gate came up, revealing the face of the security man who had answered her. The dim security light made it impossible to see the man’s face clearly, but Laye knew he could see her clearly from where he stood. She placed a hand on her neck and fingered the bead on it.

“I’m here to see Mr. Ken,” she answered.

“From where?” He queried.

“Tell him it’s Tenisha. He’ll understand.” She winked at him.

He nodded, closed the compartment and disappeared behind the closed gate. A few minutes later, a bewildered Ken rushed out and threw the gate open casting wild eyes about. When his eyes fell on Laye, he drew back in shock as if he was hit.

He said nothing and just kept looking at her. Laye’s mouth turned up in a wry smile.

“Hi, Ken. Expecting someone?” She commented, breaking the silence.

Taut lines drew across Ken’s face. “What are you doing here?” His mouth was set in a hard line.

Laye would have been deceived if not that he kept looking over her head, expecting someone –maybe Nimi, to jump out at him. His constant wary glance betrayed his show of anger. He was as nervous as a rat trapped in between a cat and a wall with no way of escape. That was to her own advantage.

She drew close to him and placed a hand on his chest. He stepped back immediately as if she had a transferable virus. She let out a sardonic laugh. “Oh, Ken, we have a very long way to go. I don’t want us to start out here. How about inviting me in?”

He crossed his arms across his chest. “Tell me right here what brought you to my house at this late hour.”

“You wouldn’t like it, Ken, believe me; you wouldn’t like people to know the real you.” She said in a voice dripping with honey. “Just imagine the security man getting the information I have and seeing Nimi tomorrow. I can just imagine him sharing all the juicy parts of your past with her. Oh, there he is.” She cast a look around him.

He turned swiftly and the security man jumped out of sight. Ken pulled the gate closed and drew closer to her, then in an almost whisper said, “What exactly are you talking about?” He clenched and unclenched his jaw.

“Oh, Ken, you know what I’m talking about.” She let out a giggle.

“I don’t know,” Ken said feelingly.

“Let’s go in and talk.” She suggested again.

After what seemed like an eternity with Ken rubbing his head with his palm, he finally asked her in. The moment they stepped into Ken’s living room, Laye hugged him from behind. Ken tried to free himself from her grasp but she held on tight.

“What are you doing, Laye?”

“Ken, I know about Tenisha.” She let out the bombshell.

Ken’s hands went limb beside him. Laye released him and came to stand in front of him. The colour drained out of his face as he stared at Laye with a look of horror. “How… wha… what…” Ken stuttered.

Laye placed a hand on his chest. He flinched but made no move to shake it off. She hid a satisfactory smile. Now the victory, she said within excitedly. “I know everything, Ken, and I don’t judge you. You’re a man after all, and you were in love. I totally understand. I also know it’s over now. Let me heal your broken heart; let me be the one for you. I would love you like no one ever has or ever could.” She said in a pleading tone. She held him in a hug.

Ken pushed her off. “Stop this right now, Laye. You know nothing, especially about Tenisha and me. Move away.” He charged at her in a thunderous voice.

Laye didn’t as much as flinch as anger poured into his face. She had the upper hand. “I wanted to be a lady for you, Ken, but you just proved to me that you don’t want a lady.” She balled her fist and faced him. “What you don’t want gently, you will get by force. Just wait until I let your precious Nimi know all about your colourful past. Oh, how she would love you.” She told him in a sarcastic tone.

“You have just two weeks to think about my proposal. Two weeks, or…” She left the threat hanging as she eyeballed him, then with head held high and shoulders squared, she walked out of his apartment.

Minutes after she had gone, her words kept playing in Ken’s head. How did things get so bad? He wondered, hands folded across his chest as he paced his living room floor. Yes, the secret would come out someday but he didn’t expect it to come out this way. He wanted to take a special time to tell Nimi, but if Laye told her everything, her trust would be destroyed and their relationship would end. Why didn’t he just tell her that day long ago? He rubbed his forehead as he felt the beginning of a headache.

“Oh, Lord, help me.” He cried. “Two weeks? No, something must be done before then.”

What would be done was his next line of action: he either told Nimi or handle it his own way.

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Love Quest Ep 12/13

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.

Episode 12B

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.

Episode Thirteen

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.

Love Quest 12A

 Hello, guys! Welcome again. This is the first part of Nimi’s confession to Laye. I hope to post the second part some time this week. Until then, enjoy this. P.S: I wonder how Laye will react when she finds out about Nimi and Ken.

Episode 12A

Raymond slid a key into the side door and turned it open. He let himself out into the balcony and released a deep breath. He held the rails and looked down on the mixed coloured roofs around. His eyes rested on an open compound just beyond the trees at the front of his own compound. Two women stood close to each other in what seemed to be a deep conversation. Children played in front of the compound. Raymond allowed his eyes roam the houses on the street, both fenced and unfenced. Each told its own tale. Each had secrets in them and nightmarish challenges.

Just as his own apartment was becoming a nightmare.

He sighed, then he turned around and went in to get his notepad and laptop. The apartment held no appeal whatsoever to him anymore. He pulled a handkerchief over his nose as he moved from the hallway to the bedroom. He left the door ajar when he went in. In quick strides, he found himself beside the nightstand. He picked what he needed and left quickly, closing the door with a slight thud behind him.

“Honey, is that you?” A feminine voice called from somewhere in the house.

Ray paused in his steps and stood on his toes. He made no reply to the question but instead, he tiptoed through the hallway and out to the balcony.

“Whew!” he released a sigh of relief. “That was a close call.”

He pulled a white plastic chair close to him with his leg and dropped his laptop and notepad, then he arranged the table in front of the white chair and positioned his laptop and notepad on it. He took his seat then pulling close to the table.  He powered on his system. He turned his neck from one side to the other as he waited for the system to come on. He picked his notepad and went through all he had to do before the balcony became too dark for him to continue working and mosquitoes invaded his privacy. He was grateful that he had done most of his work at the office, and he had little to do now. He would never have been able to meet up with his deadline if not for the extra time he put in at work. He knew he could hardly get a lot done at home and it was all because of one person –Nene.

Ever since she moved in with him months ago the balcony had become his favourite place in the house. He had abandoned the store he converted to an office, the living room and even the master’s bedroom. The balcony was his hideout where Nene had not yet invaded with her spiritualism. That made the balcony the only place free from the obnoxious smell of the incense she burnt regularly to chase away evil spirits lurking around and fighting against their union. He had ensured the safety of his hideout by keeping the key to the balcony to himself. He didn’t want to get back from work one day and find lit candles burning around. He wondered what his neighbours thought of him now. The smell must be getting to them too.

He sighed deeply and scrolled through his system. Her presence bothered him a lot but he couldn’t do anything about it. His mother loved Nene and couldn’t even wait for them to pick a wedding date. It still baffled him that the prophet had seen no harm in two unmarried people moving in together; in fact, he had even supported it, assuring him that Nene’s presence would make it impossible for any girl with a strange spirit to come close to him. Nene had a strong spiritual relationship with God and that would guide him always. His mother had not thought it twice before agreeing on his behalf.

He knew now what they meant by strong spiritual relationship because Nene ensured no day broke without her burning incense and no night passed without the same ritual. She was always in the spirit even when she was in the kitchen. Her tailoring business forgotten, she spent all her time at home “taking care” of his spiritual needs.

She is nothing but a monitoring spirit, Ray muttered under his breath, anger crossed his face. What made him accept her still confused him greatly. Was it his mother’s continuous plea? Or her strong belief in her? He had again fallen in line with what his mother wanted. The same way he broke up with Nimi just for her sake. Now he was stuck with Nene, the spiritualist, still because of his mother.

He ran a hand over his shaved head. How would he ever free himself from this mess without hurting his mother? He had no feelings whatsoever for Nene. She didn’t appeal to him and yet he must stay with her and even marry her. He pounded the table causing his laptop to jump.

What do I do? He wondered, staring at the bright screen of his PC. Just then he heard a slight rap on the glass window behind him. He turned around and found Nene, in a red and white cap, smiling at him. He grimaced, pushed his chair back and went to the front of the window.

“What?” he asked in the coldest tone he could muster, crossing his arms over his chest.

“It’s time to end our fast for today.” She chirped happily.

He looked as confused as he felt. Questions filled his eyes. “What do you mean ‘fast’?” He quizzed. “Are we fasting?”

“You see why I keep telling Mom that you are not taking this relationship seriously. How could you not remember that this week is the consecration week before we choose our wedding date?” She pouted, arms crossing her chest.

Ray opened and closed his mouth. No words came out. He just kept glaring at Nene on the other side of the window.

At his lack of immediate response, Nene continued chiding him. “This attitude of yours is so discouraging. Is this how you want us to start our own family? You don’t even pay attention to simple spiritual injunctions that will help us. I’m standing here talking to you across the window because you locked me in. That’s how poorly you think of me.” Her words were punctuated with tears. She coughed a little. “I’ve made sacrifices for you, Brother Raymond. You should do the same for me.” She turned around and walked to the dining area in a huff.

Who calls her fiancée brother? Raymond wondered. What kind of trouble had he gotten himself into? He felt the onset of a headache as he went back to his seat.

“Week of consecration for a wedding date? Hiya! What nonsense!” He muttered angrily, using the pads of his index and middle fingers to massage his temple.

Headaches would continue if he didn’t find a solution to his so-called relationship with Nene. His answer was with one person. His freedom also depended on that person. Time to take a bold step and damn the consequences. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and punched in her number. His prayer was that she would answer.

 

*****************

Nimi’s body was shaking all over and she couldn’t stop it. She turned the key on the Ladies door and locked herself in. No one must come in and see her in her current state or hear the secrets of her heart as she poured it out to her reflection in the mirror.

She paced the floor length, fists clenched together. A couple of minutes passed and she felt no relief. She heard a knock on the door. She paused and waited for the person to leave. The knock continued for a few more seconds, then she heard it no more.

The person must have gotten tired, she mused. She resumed her pacing. After a while, she stopped and faced the mirror.

“Laye,” she started. “I hope you’ll understand and forgive me. What I’m about to tell you could break your heart but you just have to see things the right way.” She paused and covered her face with her palms. “This is not flowing. Oh, how do I tell her?”

The same question had been on her lips since she started going steady with Ken. That was over a week ago. Each moment she spent with Laye had been laden with guilt. Each time she heard Laye talk about her love for Ken, her heart had skipped beats. She had to do something to stop her friend’s obsession. How to do it was what she didn’t know.

She slumped forward with her head bowed and arms on the sink. “Lord, help me.” The simple prayer left her lips. Praying was becoming a part of her daily routine since the time she had with Ela. She liked the feeling it gave. It was like a place to pour her heart and still feel safe that no one would find out. No one would pity her, and her heart would be at peace. It was quite refreshing.

“Lord, help me.” She prayed again. She closed her eyes and meditated on the scripture Ken had shared with her the previous night. ‘God is a present help in times of trouble.’ It sent warmth through her. She felt strengthened. The trembling had stopped. She moved away from the sink and looked at her reflection again. Just as she opened her mouth to speak, Nathaniel Bassey’s Olowogbogboro –her new ringtone– started playing. Startled, she jumped a little. Her hand went to her suit pocket where she had kept her phone while hurrying into the ladies after briefing. She pulled it out and looked at the screen. The number flashed across caused her to release a long hiss. She turned the ringer off and dropped it back in her pocket.

“What is Raymond’s problem? Why wouldn’t he stop calling me?” She asked, anger glazing her eyes. “I don’t need his drama now. I’ve got plenty of my own. He sho…” She paused when she heard voices outside the door.

“I tell you someone is inside. Someone locked it.” Someone said.

“Are you sure? Maybe the cleaner locked it after cleaning and forgot to return the key.” Another suggested.

“Hmm… maybe. Let’s look for the cleaner then.” The first speaker replied.

Nimi heard the shuffling of feet outside the door. She straightened and walked to the door. She turned it gently. The door clicked and came opened. She peeked down the hallway and hurried away leaving the door ajar. She kept throwing glances back at the two who went to look for the cleaner praying they wouldn’t see her hurrying away. Just as she turned around the corner towards the general work area, she bumped into someone.

“Oh, sor…” She started to apologize then she realized she had bumped into Ela. She placed a hand on her chest. “Thank God it’s you, Ela.” She said, releasing an audible sigh of relief.

“Thank God,” Ela replied. “What’s happening? I noticed you left the conference room in such a hurry. What’s going on?” She quizzed.

Nimi placed a hand on Ela’s shoulder and looked from the right to the left. “Let’s talk somewhere safe.” She whispered.

Ela gave a nod in understanding. She took her hand and pulled her towards the gents. They stopped beside the door.

“Office gossips hardly come here.” Ela winked at Nimi.

Nimi looked doubtful, her eyes scanning the area. “Are you sure?” She asked.

“Trust me,” Ela answered, touching her chest.

Nimi drew in a deep breath and released it slowly. “I want to tell Laye about Ken and me.” She told her.

Ela gave a small smile. “That’s the right thing to do, Nimi.”

Nimi nodded severally, drawing her lower lip in between her teeth. “But why is my heart beating so fast? It’s as if it’s going to burst out of my chest.”

Ela threw a comforting hand around her shoulder. “It’s normal to feel that way, Nimi. Doing the right thing is not always easy but it must be done.” She encouraged.

After a few heartbeats, Nimi gave a single nod. “You’re right, Ela. I’ll do it.” She resolved.

“Does Ken know about this?” Ela asked.

“No,” Nimi answered, shaking her head. “I don’t want to tell him. It will only put Laye down before him and I don’t want that.”

“That’s thoughtful of you, Nimi. God will help you.”

“Amen.” Nimi responded.

Ela held her hands and they prayed together. Nimi echoed loud ‘amens’ to the prayer made by Ela. She needed God to hear and give her a quick answer because she was meeting with Laye during lunch break.

Love Quest Ep 11

We’re back! Let’s continue with the our love triangle. Happy Reading!

Episode Eleven

The week after Ken’s meeting with Tenisha crawled slowly. It was the Friday of the following week and he still couldn’t figure out what to do with Tenisha or his growing feelings for Nimi. He was also concerned about Laye seeing him with Tenisha, but she seemed to be handling it maturely. She hadn’t said a word about it to him and he was sure she hadn’t told Nimi or else she would have said something to him. The only thing that gave him the chills about Laye keeping their chance meeting a secret was the way she looked at him each time their eyes met or they passed each other in the hallway. He had lost count of the times she winked at him and sent flirtatious smiles his way when she thought no one was watching. That made his concentration horrible. Twice during the morning briefing that week, he had forgotten what he was supposed to say and given an assignment to the wrong team. He couldn’t meet Nimi’s eyes when the MD drew his attention to this.

He winced at the thought. This was all Tenisha’s fault and Laye’s, who thought everything was funny. He crumbled the file in his hand and dumped it in the wastebasket close to his desk. His face was drawn in a hard line. The work he had wrongly assigned had been poorly done and it was totally his fault. If he had not given wrong information, the team would have done much better. Everything seemed to be working against him. He held his head in his arms and bit his lips to keep from screaming out his frustration.

Lately, since the return of Tenisha, he had been thinking more about screaming. Tenisha filled his every thought in a bad way. From the moment they met in Bliss Taste and Bite, she seemed to have gotten a certain power and she exerted it over him. Once she mentioned coming over to his house or his place of work he would find himself sweating and shaking. Instead of having her create a scene in his house or the office, he would rather meet up with her. That had led to meeting her thrice in the course of the week after their initial meeting.

Each time they met she was more determined to have him back and she did so with the whole of her might. Her dressing, her facial expressions, and her body language were all geared towards seducing him. The Ken he was before would have been up for it, but that Ken died months ago and he didn’t dare resurrect him. His greatest fear, however, was becoming a double of himself. He couldn’t afford to be carried away by Tenisha’s strong advances. He also couldn’t share this with anyone. His only weapon was prayer.

And he had been praying. He would keep praying, even though guilt kept rising within him. This was one storm he had to overcome. A lot depended on him overcoming. One of such was his growing feelings for Nimi. He had to put an end to what Tenisha represented in his life so he could be free of his horrible past. If he wanted to be with Nimi, then he had to be free and open for her. She didn’t deserve him bringing along a baggage into something new.

He shook his head and smiled. What was he even thinking? He hadn’t even told Nimi anything and he had started analysing what it would be with her.

‘Ah,’ he called out, stretching. He moved back to his desk and placed his hand on his chair. He made to pull it out but stopped when he heard a slight knock on the door and the doorknob turning. He straightened and waited for who was coming in. He expected his secretary but Nimi walked in.

His knees buckled under him when his eyes rested on her. He quickly grabbed the chair before him to steady himself. It wasn’t the first time she was walking into his office without his secretary alerting him since he had instructed her to grant Nimi access to his office whenever she came to see him. However, it was the first time he was caught off-guard. While he was thinking about her and his feelings for her, and lamenting Tenisha’s appearance, she showed up. He felt his heart thumping.

She came closer and flashed the smile that always melted his heart. “Hi, Ken.” She greeted softly. “What’s up?”

Ken took a deep breath and released it to calm his nerves. He replied her smile with a bright one too. Gone was the troubling thoughts of Tenisha. All he could see was beautiful Nimi looking all angelic in a creamy turtleneck gown suit. She had a red scarf around her neck with matching red shoes. Her hair was curled and combed to the right side of her face. He swallowed. The thumping of his heart was no longer out of fear. Excitement took the place of fear.

“Wow! Nimi, you look so beautiful.” He gushed.

Nimi laughed a little. “Thank you, kind sir.” She said curtsying. She stepped forward and took a seat.

Ken did the same. “I must have closed my eyes during briefing this morning.” He joked.

“Nah, you were busy screaming the head off Karibo’s team for their poor work.” She responded, her eyes taking a serious glint.

Ken winced. “It was that bad, right?”

Nimi nodded. “Very.” She said.

Ken rubbed his palms together and looked away. “You blame me too, right.” He said in a small voice.

Nimi sat forward and touched his entwined palms on the table. “I don’t blame you. I just feel something is not right.” Her voice softened reflecting her concern as she spoke. “Maybe you’re stressed and you need to rest. Maybe you are taking things too hard. You’re trying so hard to get it right.”

A line appeared between Ken’s brows. How I wish it was that easy, he thought within. He looked at her. “I’m trying to avoid a disaster.” He simply said.

Nimi leaned back in her chair, releasing his hands. “It wouldn’t be a disaster if you allow others to help with it. The way we did with the Seasoning Company account and now we await the good news.” She countered.

Ken shook his head. “No, some things are better done alone. Alone with God in heaven.”

At that Nimi threw her hands up. “Well, if the matter is with the big guy up there,” she raised a small finger to the ceiling, “then, I have nothing to say. I just want you to be fine.”

His expression dulled at her offhand reference to God. If she felt that way towards God, why was he so drawn to her then? Why was he almost spilling his guts about his feelings and his troubles to her? What kind of relationship would they have? Maybe she would take him more seriously if he just told her how being friends with her was making him feel. He shook his head. A little while, Ken, a little while.

“You should make peace with God.” He told her, eyes fixed on her.

A look he guessed was sorrow marked her face. Her smile from before left her lips and she looked away from him. “I’m at peace with God.” She replied fingering the company’s wristband on her wrist.

“Are you sure? You know you can trust me right, Nimi.” He pressed.

She kept her eyes firmly away from him. “I know.”

“Then why won’t you talk to me? You mean a lot to me, Nimi.” He said in a near whisper.

She turned back to him, questions in her eyes.

He cleared his throat, got up from his chair and came to stand before her. “You’re more than a friend to me I must confess. I really want to share your burden. I really want to be happy with you.” He placed a hand on her shoulder. “What I just said is straight from my heart.”

As the seconds ticked after his bombshell, he remained where he was in front of Nimi watching the different emotions flicker through her face like a child’s painting. He felt her heartbeat on the inside of his palm as a rumbling thunder. Regret gnawed at him then. He should have waited as he had always told himself. What made him spill his guts to her like that, catching her off-guard? He still had Tenisha to worry about and now he was about to lose the friendship that gladdened his heart.

He drew back his hand from her shoulder and placed it on the table behind him. He drew a deep breath and spoke up when she kept mute. “I’m sorry if I scared you. I didn’t mean to. I just couldn’t keep it any longer. Please bear with me.” His explanation was lame and he knew it –especially when Nimi jumped off the chair she was seated. A look of realization outlined her features.

“I’m sorry too.” She said. He stretched his hand to hold her but she moved back and placed a hand over her mouth. With a soft gasp, she fled the office. He took two steps after her but stopped himself. They were still in the office. That wouldn’t change because he loved Nimi.

And his true feeling was out.

*************

Nimi ran down the corridor and didn’t mind the strange looks she got from colleagues and teammates. All she wanted to do was to get away from what she had dreaded for a while; what she had known for a while but had no courage to admit. If she was truthful she would even admit that she had yearned for it. She had wanted it badly, so bad like a child reaching for a cone of ice-cream.

She cornered at the end of the hallway and dived into the Ladies. Two ladies from Account department stood in front of the mirror with powder brushes and smiles that told the tale of gossipping than powdering. Caught in the act, they fell silent the moment she entered and went back to actually powdering their faces.

Nimi didn’t mind them. She had no business with them just as they had none with her. She wasn’t even close to them and so couldn’t be bothered by what they were discussing or her dishevelled state. Her curls were flying all over and her scarf had shifted base to the back of her neck. She met the eyes of one in the mirror and adjusted her scarf first. They soon packed up and left her alone. The moment the door closed behind them, Nimi fell forward, placing her crown on the mirror.

“Oh, Nimi, what have you gotten yourself into?” She lamented. She placed a hand over her heart. “This heart is beating so fast because of your foolishness. How could you allow things get to this extent? Oh, why didn’t you stop it?” She drew herself from the mirror and pressed a finger to her reflection. “You want to be like your sister, right? You want what your friend wants?” She snarled, eyes flashing like a hot coal. The next second she sobered. “But he chose you and your heart responded. There’s no crime here. You are not your sister. You will never be her. Never!” She screamed and broke into sobs. She held the sink and went down gradually still sobbing until her backside connected with the cold tiled floor.

Right there she wept for what she felt for Ken and what would happen to her friendship with Laye when everything came out. She wept for fear of being labelled her sister. She wept for her lack of willpower to open up to Laye about her feelings for Ken too. Feelings she could no longer hide and wanted to explore as much as he wanted to too –now that he had admitted it too.

Hands drew her slouched body up and circled her in a bear hug. Her chin rested on the shoulder and she knew who it was. Ela was at the right place at the right time. Just when she needed to talk and she needed some talking to.

“It’s Okay, Nimi, all will be well,” Ela said in a soothing voice that warmed the coldness in her heart.

Nimi gave a strong nod as if her life depended on it. She had to believe that all would be well. She washed her face at Ela’s instruction and applied a little powder that Ela provided to her face.

“Much as this place seem private for this kind of things, it’s still the toilet and we had better leave. I got held up in here when those two drama queens came and won’t stop talking about the chief accountant’s son.” She smiled. “All the same thank God I was here when you came in Nimi.” She added.

Nimi nodded. She didn’t trust her voice yet to give a response.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Ela asked.

Yet another nod.

“I know just the right place. Let’s go.”

Ela led them to the office of one of the Creative Directors. He was on leave and Ela had the key to his office. They soon sat opposite each other.

Ela waited. Nimi cleared her throat and what her meltdown in the Ladies was all about came tumbling out. She told it right from Raymond. She included her sister.

“That’s all,” she said when she ended the long story of what her life had become.

Ela heaved a deep sigh. “Some secrets are meant to be told and not kept to avert future disaster. Is it not better Laye knows everything now and especially from you than for her to find out later or through the grapevine in this office? I need not tell you what would happen then. Do the right thing, Nimi.” she advised.

Nimi rubbed her forehead, eyes shut tightly. “I fear Laye’s reaction.”

Ela touched her arm. “Talk to God about it. Pray, Nimi.”

Nimi bit her lower lip fighting back another wave of tears. Would God listen? She had fought him for a long time now. Why would He listen to someone like her? She shook her head.

Ela drew closer to her. “Nimi, when we turn back to God we find out He has been looking at us all the while. We are the ones who move away from Him. It’s time to go back home, Nimi.”

A tear fell on her cheek. “But how do I get over the fact that God allowed His so-called children to treat us badly? How come He never for once rebuked them for the way they judged and condemned us? I mean He’s supposed to be a father to us all and not to a few who claim to be so perfect.” She rasped, her sobs cracking her voice.

“You know, Nimi, man’s judgement or condemnation doesn’t mirror God’s heart towards the condemned or judged. I won’t go into who is to blame and who is not to. Neither will I talk about the right or wrong approach of the church, but I’ll state one clear fact: God will not judge us on that last day based on any man’s misdoing towards us; He would judge us for our own misdoing. If it is so then it is better to leave every man to his conscience and to God, the righteous God.

I know it could be difficult sometimes when the people who hurt you are of the household of faith but be strong and courageous. Let God guide your heart and grant you wisdom to deal with them. Remember right on the cross, Jesus prayed for those who crucified him. Just like Jesus, forgive those who hurt in the church for they do not know what they’re doing.”

She held Nimi hands. “Never let any man’s action or reaction cause you your relationship with God. You will be miserable if you allow that happened just like you are now. God loves you, Nimi, and He has no business with how some people in the church see your family. I’m sure not everyone in the church behaved badly towards your family.”

Nimi gave a small nod biting back more tears. The wall she had built around her heart against God and the church was cracking and she liked it. For a long time, she had bottled up her anger and had carried it like a cross on her neck. She had allowed it fuel her hatred towards the church council but Ela’s soothing words cracked that hatred and anger she wore like a shield and she liked it. She liked the freedom she could feel in her heart. She liked the feeling of letting go. While it would take a total crumbling for her to be completely freed she knew Ela had set her on the right path and with a friend like her she was sure all would turn out well.

She sniffled a little then wipe her face with the back of her hand. “You know my mom remained in that church and she has friends. The times I care to listen to her talk about the church she would always let me know we were always asked after in church. She would tell me about those who send their greetings, but my response to all these had always been suspicious. I read meanings into their greetings and what I now see as innocent questions about our welfare. Ela, this thing has been eaten me up for a long time, I hope you will help me. I really want to let go. I really want to see my dad happy again and I really want our family to come back to the way we were before.”

Ela flashed a bright smile. “I’m so happy you made this decision. God will help you and see you through. However, it’s important for you to forgive your sister. She made a mistake. What she did was wrong and it hurt your family but please, forgive her. Soften your heart towards her and allow her to come back home. See her as the prodigal daughter and welcome her as the father of the prodigal son did.”

Doubt crossed Nimi’s face. “But what about my father?” She asked.

Ela patted her shoulder. “Just do your part first and let God take care of the rest. Let us pray.”

As Ela’s sonorous voice lifted to the heavens with words of prayers, fresh tears spilled down Nimi’s cheeks but this time, they weren’t tears of pain, anger, hurt, hatred and fear; they were tears of sweet relief. God was mending her broken spirit.

*****************

When Ken didn’t hear anything from Nimi for the rest of that day at work, he prepared himself for the worst. He prepared his heart towards losing a friend who was special to him. He blamed himself for it. He should have waited. He should have sorted out Tenisha’s issue first before making a move with Nimi but something had pushed him from within. Looking at her that morning with all the concern she felt for him showing, he had seen a worthy partner and so he had taken the leap.

His heart bled when he knew he had lost her and that had given him the courage to snap at Tenisha and prayed like he hadn’t since Tenisha’s arrival. So he was totally shocked when she sent him a text some minutes after seven and suggested they meet. His mind went to restaurants around but fear of running into Tenisha made him suggest his house, and she agreed.

Now they sat together at his dining, a bottle of malt and a glass cup before her, pouring out their hearts. In truth, Nimi was the only one doing the pouring as she told him everything about her family, relationship with God and Raymond. While she talked about the encounter she had with God that day through Ela, he felt stirred in the spirit to also open up to her about Tenisha. He waited for an opening but got none. Nimi kept talking and the burden increased within him. When she finally paused to take a sip of her drink, he quickly spoke up.

“I have something to say.” He said.

Nimi dropped the glass on the table. “Let me just conclude, Ken.” She replied. “When you confessed your feelings this morning, I was not ready. A lot went through my mind at that moment and I left. I have told you about it all now. I feel fresh but I know there would be challenges and all, but if you’re by my side and God on our sides, a lot will be worth it. So I…” She paused for effect, the corner of her lips lifted in a smile.

Ken stretched his neck and waited for the conclusion.

“So I confess my feelings for you also, and I accept you with the whole of my heart.”

Before she ended her statement, Ken was out of his chair, his arms wrapped around her. Her last words were muffled into his chest. He didn’t mind he had gotten his answer. He whispered promises to her and assured her of a great time together. They spent the rest of the time reminiscing about their meeting and how it all started.

Nimi left a little past nine leaving Ken excited beyond words. It was when he knelt down to say his night prayers that he remembered that he had not told Nimi about Tenisha.

Love Quest 10

Guess who showed up?? TENISHA!!! Wah!!! Find out how Ken handles her sudden appearance. Happy Reading!

Episode Ten

Nimi leaned against the kitchen cabinet at home lost in thought while she waited for the water she placed on the cooker to boil.

The rest of her workday had been filled with disturbing thoughts of Laye and mixed feelings for Ken. She had been corrected thrice by the Creative Director for mistakes that she would not have made ordinarily all because she was thinking about Laye’s warning. The third time, she had been sent back to her booth to clear her head.

Nimi sighed. She hadn’t cleared her head and had eventually left the work for tomorrow. It would be disastrous to keep working when her feelings warred within her. Concern for Laye and their friendship filled her like a sumptuous meal on an empty stomach while her growing affection for Ken warred with it.

A sizzling sound came from the cooker drawing her attention to the water on the cooker. She moved away from the cabinet and took down the kettle with a hand towel. She dropped the steaming kettle on the cabinet and placed the pot of melon soup she had made earlier on the cooker. She poured cassava flour into the steaming water and started stirring. Her stomach grumbled in response to the boiling soup on the cooker. She remembered she hadn’t taken anything else after the meal Ken shared with her because of Laye’s warning.

A smile spread across her lips at the thought of Ken. Ken, her boss; Ken, her friend and Ken, a friend of God. How would she relate to the different shades of him? She enjoyed being his friend; in fact, she liked it a lot. She related with him well as her boss because he seemed to have drawn a line between them when they were relating on official grounds. But what got her was relating to the singing-praying-and-Bible-reading Ken. He had spoken with so much conviction when he talked about the hymn and how it ministered to him each time he sang it. How could she relate with that? Three Sundays had gone by in the month and she had not visited any church for service. She had long stopped classifying spiritual things as important. Her father had made it easy for them all.

He couldn’t care less about fellowship of the brethren or oneness in Christ; he was only living for the moment and for himself. He didn’t need any pastor, priest and so-called men of God telling him how to live his life and condemning the way he lived. Or questioning his salvation.

Nimi understood the depth of her father’s feelings and had naturally accepted his decision and trod the same path with him. If he had given his all to the church and the church that should love him had turned on him the last minute and condemned him, then what was the essence of claiming to be one in Christ?

Her face hardened now as flashes from the past filled her mind eyes. Scene after scene she saw the faces that had judged and condemned them, she saw the tongues that had lashed at them and called her father irresponsible. She saw the body language of the church days after her father’s suspension. She saw the people who had treated them as outcasts. It hurt much more than the gossips and stigmatization of the ones who didn’t term themselves “righteous”. She bore their gossips and stigmatization of the public with anger and hatred towards the one who had caused it, but she directed her anger and hatred towards the righteous in the church who had rejected them.

Nimi shut her eyes tightly and fought the anger that still dwelt within her. She finished stirring the cassava flour and wrapped them in white nylon according to their number in the house. She turned off the cooker and served the soup into ceramics bowls. She lined them accordingly on the cabinet. She served her mother and father’s meals separately. Her heart ached within her when she set their meals on the tray.

She thought back to a time when they had always had their meal together as one big, happy family. Their home had been filled with laughter and joy. Their father had been a father indeed. He loved his wife and his children, he was committed to God. He gave his all without reservations. He was a role model to a lot of young people in the church. His family was the model family.

But then, her sister had fallen in love. It was the beginning of the end.

All had come shattering down soon after her wedding. Laughter had ended and bitterness had filled the once happy atmosphere. Tears pooled in her eyes as these unwanted memories assaulted her. She wiped it off in anger. Her sister didn’t deserve a single teardrop. She had caused her family’s fall. She had done the worst by leaving behind her son. Whose son is still a question they sincerely couldn’t answer? The husband had fought initially for the boy, but since her sister had been absent and her parents stood their ground, the boy was left with them. Her sister had been incommunicado since then.

Nimi gave a pitiful shake of the head and placed her parents’ meal on the tray. She moved to the dining and set the tray down on the table. She also took three wraps of cassava flour and dropped them in a flask, then she dropped it on the dining table. She went back to the kitchen to put it in order. She placed the bowl she had used to make the cassava flour under the tap in the sink and washed vigorously. She set it on the top of the sink after that for the water to drain. She dried her hands on the napkin and picked up her plate of soup. She was almost at the door when her mother came in.

“Good evening, mama.” She greeted.

“Good evening, dear.” She replied, her eyes roaming the kitchen. “You’re through.” She noticed.

Nimi gave a nod. She dropped her plate of soup and cassava flour on the cabinet, then she leaned against the door frame. “How was church?” She asked, her lips thinned in disapproval.

Her mother smiled at her. “Church was fine. You should also attend some time.” She encouraged.

Nimi looked away from her, giving a vehement shake of her head. “Maybe, I don’t know.” She answered, her eyes counted the ceiling.

Her mother moved closer and touched her arm. “When will you let it all go, Nimi? When will you leave your bitterness behind?” She asked in a soft voice.

Nimi felt her heart stir within her at her mother’s tone. She felt the tears piercing at her eyes. She shut her eyes to keep the tears at bay. She took a deep breath and released it slowly. She fixed her mother with a bland expression. “I refuse to be influenced by those ‘hypocrites’. I refuse to give them the right to tell me what to do.”

Her mother sighed. “It’s not about them, Nimi. I keep telling you and your father. It’s about God.”

“Then I don’t have to associate with them since they have no connection with God. I’d rather remain on my own and search God the way I want to.” She said in a decisive tone.

Pain filled her mother’s eyes, causing her to look older than her fifty-five years. “Please, forgive your sister, Nimi. She made a terrible mistake indeed, and she’s paying for it. It’s the reason why she can’t come back home. Forgive her I beg you.” She pleaded.

Disbelief flashed in Nimi’s eyes. “Mama, you’re telling me to forgive her?” She asked in an incredulous tone, eyes widened. She stood up straight, arms akimbo and fixed her mother with a strange look. “That girl ruined this family. She took away our laughter because of her selfishness. She humiliated Papa all because of her stupid emotions. My relationship with Raymond ended because of her and now you want me to forgive her? Oh no.”

Her mother held her hands in a desperate plea, her eyes filling up fast. “She wants to come back home, Nimi. Please, forgive her so that we can start all over.”

“Let her stay away. She has done that for years now.”

“Nimi, she called me. She finally reached out after all this time.” Her mother said in a whispery tone, her eyes on the floor.

A shocked gasp escaped Nimi’s lips, drawing her mother’s eyes back to her.

“She wants to come home. I can’t tell your father until I am certain we can be of one voice.”

The tears she had held at bay all the while spilled down her cheeks now with reckless abandon. “I will not speak with one voice on this matter, Mama.  I will not be happy if you welcome her back to this house. I will have nothing to do with it.” She turned and picked up her plate of soup, staring at it with tears streaming down her cheeks.

Her mother came closer and touched her shoulders. “I’ll keep praying for you, Nimi.” With this, she turned away and left the kitchen.

Appetite gone, Nimi remained in the same position, her plate of soup forgotten, crying for the things that were.

*****************

Ken’s eyes fixed on the television. An international friendly match was on and he was watching, but his mind seemed to be drifting from the footballers on the screen. His mind was completely taken by thoughts of Nimi. Yes, he had taken a step with Nimi and he liked it. He felt right with what he had done. It gave him great pleasure also that she had accepted his friendship. What would happen next?

He wondered if he could move forward. He shook his head. No, he said to himself, I won’t rush. Lord, take charge. I could talk to her.

He dropped his legs from the centre table top where he had placed them and wore his flip-flop, then he went to the electric extension close to the TV and unplugged his phone. Just as he was about to unlock the screen, light flashed on the screen and the phone started vibrating. A call was coming in. Immediately he saw the caller ID, the phone dropped from his fingers to the rugged floor.

He moved back in his chair and placed a hand over his beating heart. His nightmare had called again.

The phone rang for some time and went off. He picked it up then and stared at the screen. Tenisha, you can’t defeat me, he cried out and waited for her call. The phone started ringing again. He took a deep breath and answered the phone.

“He… he… hello,” he said in a shaky tone. He cleared his throat and spoke again. “Hello.” This time he had more control over his voice.

“Ken?” the voice rose in disbelief.

“Ye… yes.” He went back to stuttering when he heard Tenisha’s voice.

“Oh, Ken.” She called softly.

He heard a sniff. He held his peace and waited.

“Why? Why are you treating me like this? I have been calling for a long time now.” She said. “You left without a word and refused to pick my call. What exactly did I do wrong?” She asked in between gulps of air.

“Tenisha,” Ken started slowly, “we were finished before I left.” He explained. “I’m sorry it was not clear to you.”

“Oh, Ken, finished you say? It wasn’t clear to me and we are not finished.” Her voice became firm.

“Tenisha…” he tried to reason with her.

“Ken, my darling, you know you are my all in all. We can’t just end things like that. We have to be together.” She switched to a sensuous tone. “How can I leave the man who owns my heart? You promised me the world, Ken. I want that world with you, and that’s why I had to get your new location. I’m presently lodging in Bliss Hotel in Opolo.” She told him.

Ken jumped up when he heard that. She was just some blocks away from him. “What?” he exclaimed in shock.

“Don’t be so surprised.” She laughed. “I have my ways.” She boasted. “I want to see you today, Ken, and I don’t want to be kept waiting. Let’s meet in ten minutes. I don’t want to make more calls just to get your exact location.”

She ended the call. Ken read in between the lines. The message was clear. Tenisha had issued a threat. He pulled up his three-quarter short and hurried to his bedroom, all the while wondering who told her where to find him. He had confided in Peter.

He shook his head as he pulled down his short for a trouser. Peter would not betray him, no not to someone like Tenisha. It must be his ex-boss who had insisted on getting details before accepting his resignation. His lips drew back in a snarl. He buckled his belt, rushed to the sitting room, and grabbed his car keys. He made a dash for his car outside.

***************

Laye sat in front of Karibo in Bliss Taste and Bite. Accepting to go out with Karibo had boosted her bruised ego. After her confrontation with Nimi, she had stormed off to her office to stew until Karibo came to remind her of his invite. She had not thought it twice before accepting. It was better to be in the company of Karibo than to be alone thinking of Nimi, Ken and, of course, Ela.

She took a bite of her sausage roll and tried to focus on Karibo. It was better for the moment. After this time, she could go back and think about Ken and how she had to have him for herself. She would give her best to Karibo and so she flashed a very bright smile at him as he told her of how long it had taken him to ask her out on a date.

“Really, Laye, I took my time. I kept seeing the serious ‘you’ and I concluded I could never break through to you.” He told her.

Laye laughed a little, shaking her head. “It couldn’t have been so bad, Karibo. You’re exaggerating.”

Karibo raised his hands. “I’m telling you the truth. I was scared. I became quite serious because of you. I had to be on the same wavelength as you.”

Laye’s mouth formed an ‘oh’. “I would never have imagined.”

He touched her hand. “This is a major breakthrough for me.” He confessed, staring into her eyes with intense, burning eyes.

She returned his gaze with a long, hard, misty look, as if analysing him, as if seeing him in a new light. Her heart started thumping within her chest. She drew a trembling breath. Was she going to faint? She wondered. Karibo touched her cheek lightly. She released a slow, soft breath that almost sounded like a moan. Her eyes flew to his in embarrassment. She cleared her throat.

“Huh… that’s… that’s quite revealing.” She said unsteadily.

He gave her a beguiling smile. “Don’t use my secret against me.” he replied, feigning fear.

“Oh, I don’t know, I’ll think about that.” She teased, lifting one dark swooping brow at him.

“Oh, come on, Laye, don’t be like that.” He held her right wrist and opened her palm, then he ran his fingers through it.

Laye resisted for a few seconds before bursting out in laughter. She threw her head back and let laughter flow out of her like melodious tune from a piano. Karibo joined in her laughter.

“So is my secret safe?” he asked her when the laughter died down.

“You tricked me.” Laye challenged him, wiping tears from her eyes with her hankie. “You made me laugh so much now I have to use the convenience room.” She pushed away from the table and got up. “I’ll be right back.” She dropped her hankie on the table and made her way to the Ladies.

She walked away from the entertainment area down the stairs that led to the counter and offices. She moved past the counter to the left and pushed open the door that led to the female convenience room. When she was done, she looked at her reflection in the mirror.

“How is it that you’re responding to Karibo this way?” She asked her reflection. She touched her chest. “Oh, why are you beating so much for him? You should beat for Ken; Ken and not Karibo.” She said with so much intensity.

A door opened behind her and a lady stepped out of one of the rooms. Their eyes met in the mirror and Laye noticed the weird look the lady gave her as she went to the sink to wash her hands. Laye forced a smile and rushed out of the Ladies. She laughed as she made her way through the counter and up the stairs. Just at the stairs, she bumped into a couple. Her eyes went up immediately to apologize but the words stuck in her throat when she saw the man.

“Mr Ken?” She called in disbelief. Her eyes went to the lady beside him. Tall and full figured, she wore a short red gown that hung to her body and displayed all her abundant curves, leaving nothing to the imagination. Her almost white skin told the tale of a bleaching cream. Her round face was heavily made up with eyelashes that were long and thick and looked like feathers. Her lips and eyes reminded Laye of a peacock’s array of colours. Laye’s eyes went to the legs then. She stood on dangerous heels that were as tiny as a broomstick. Laye’s mouth dropped open when her eyes concluded their roaming on the lady’s face again.

The lady returned her gaze with a knowing smile. It was almost like she could read Laye’s mind. Laye closed her mouth then. The lady flipped the gold weave on she had on over her shoulders and tucked her arm around his, then she ran her fingers over his arm. Her eyes held Laye’s in an open challenge.

Laye turned away in time to see the uncomfortable look on Ken’s face. He squeezed his eyes shut in obvious frustration. Something was off, Laye thought. She couldn’t imagine Ken with a lady like the one beside him. And if she was his girlfriend, why did he look so uncomfortable and guilty? How would she even compete with such a lady?

“Mr Ken.” She called again.

“Hi, Laye.” He replied, his lips forming a plastic smile. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

Laye smiled. Ken just called her Laye. Something he had never done. Something was really up with him and the sexy doll beside him.

“I came here with a friend to grab a bite. What about you?” She asked.

“I’m… I’m here also to grab a bite. See you tomorrow then.” He said in a rush and pulled the lady forward. The movement was sudden and the lady gasped in shock, losing her footing. Ken grabbed her at the last minute and balanced her. She staggered down the stairs behind Ken.

Laye watched this in bemusement. What was going on? Nimi told her of Ken singleness, so who was the sexy doll ruffling the ever-official Mr Ken? Where was the Christian Mr Ken who spent time in his office singing hymn? Hmm… Laye thought, I’ll get to the bottom of this. I can feel the beginning of a drama.

Adrenaline rushed through her as she went back to Karibo. She would also rush him out of the restaurant. Ken must not see him too. Two can play a game.

 

Love Quest Ep 9

Threats flying, Relationship building, friendship straining, hearts breaking, odds meeting! Catch all the drama on Love Quest episode 9. Get into Nimi and Laye’s world. Don’t forget to share this episode with your friend.

Episode Nine

Nimi sat behind her desk putting finishing touches to the work she wanted to submit to her team’s creative director. Although it was break period, she decided to stay back to work. Her reason for wanting to complete her work while the others left for the cafeteria was just a cover-up. Her main reason was to avoid Laye who had made it a routine to pressure her to go see Ken even when he had not invited her. The pressure was getting to her, and it was causing a strain on their friendship.

Nimi was near snapping at Laye to let her be, but her fear of her growing feelings for Ken would not allow her act. She wasn’t sure if Laye was getting on her nerves because she had a thing for Ken too, or if truly Laye’s obsession was irritating her.

She clicked the send button on her mail and leaned back in her chair. She received a notification in the following seconds that her mail had been sent. She wished what was becoming her life and her friendship with Laye could easily be sorted out. She didn’t want to get in the way of Laye and yet she didn’t want to stay away from Ken. How was it possible that she would handle that? Could she have her cake and still eat it?

Laye seemed not have noticed the ache her continuous enquiry about Ken was causing her. All she wanted was to have Ken, and Nimi must help her. She turned deaf ears to her explanation that Ken had not summoned again to his office on personal grounds –that was even giving her concern. But she would never go to him. She would never yield to Laye’s pressure and go to Ken.

No way! She shook her head vehemently. I am not a desperado. My feelings notwithstanding, I will never seek him out on my own until everything is clear to me. If Laye is so desperate then let her go to him herself. Yes, that’s better. She would tell her that when next she asked her when she was visiting Ken.

Someone touched her shoulder, drawing her out of her inner musing. She looked up into the eyes of Miss Binaebi. Her eyes grew wide in surprise.

A lovely face smiled at her. Nimi forced a smile through her lips too.

“Hi.” She greeted.

“Hi,” Elaebi replied cheerfully. She took the seat beside Nimi.

Nimi watched her every move. Close up, Nimi could see why Laye felt insecure. Elaebi was indeed beautiful. Her face seemed to glow as she looked at her. Her eyes seemed to fill her whole face and her lips wore a natural pout that drew Nimi’s eyes to her like metal to a magnet. Her pencil-thin eyebrows eased down gently to her sweeping eyelashes as she looked at Nimi.

“You had such intense look on your face a while ago and I couldn’t resist coming to ask what put such look on your face.” She said.

Nimi winced. Elaebi laughed a little. “Hope you don’t mind my intrusion.” She said.

“Oh no.” Nimi quickly reassured her. She sat upright and minimized her mail page on the system. She could use that as an excuse. “I just have a lot of work to do.” She told her.

Elaebi nodded her understanding. “My former place of work was the same. The stress was terrible. I was the only art director.” She said.

Nimi lifted her brows in disbelief. “Really?” She asked. “You’ve been in the advertising world?”

“Of course,” Elaebi replied. “For two years actually.”

Nimi gaped at her. This was definitely a case of beauty and brains. Where was Laye, who thought Elaebi was there to seduce her precious Mr. Ken? “That’s good. I have only been here for eight months now,” she said.

“I guess I can welcome you as a senior colleague.” Elaebi teased.

Nimi laughed. Elaebi joined her. “Okay, my senior colleague.” Nimi replied, with a bow.

Elaebi got up. “I just wanted to create a connection between us. Your face gave me my opening.” She winked at Nimi.

Nimi smiled. “Thanks, Miss Binaebi.”

“The name is Elaebi. Call me Ela.” She told her.

Nimi nodded. “Ela then. I’m Nimitein. Everyone calls me Nimi.”

They spent a few more minutes acquainting before Elaebi went back to her desk. Nimi watched her walk away and knew that she had just made another friend.

That knowledge proved to be true in the days that followed as they got closer to each other. She saw little of Laye. No more did they carry out their morning ritual. Nimi took her tea all by herself on her desk. There was no need going to share precious moments with someone who had become obsessed with a man and could care less about her friendship.  Each time they met, Laye nagged her about Ken. The more she nagged, the more Nimi avoided her.

When they gathered for briefing days after Elaebi came to her, Nimi sat away from Laye. She found herself beside Ela while Laye sat with Karibo.  She felt strange that morning and she really wanted to go to Laye, but the moment Laye sighted Ela beside her, she turned away and sat with Karibo who flashed a happy smile at her.

Laye’s eyes kept drifting to the entrance waiting for Ken to appear as usual. Whatsoever Karibo was telling her was going through one ear and out through the other.

When she heard Ken’s voice at the entrance, the first place her eyes went to was to Laye. Just as she thought, Laye was beaming with smiles. She shook her head sadly. Ken didn’t come close as he would have done in the past. He walked straight to the back and took a seat while the MD addressed them that morning. Laye kept stealing peeks at him.

Beside Nimi, Ela kept humming as she took notes of the MD’s address. Nimi marvelled at her. Her face radiated with so much joy as the humming gave way to words. The lyrics of the song she was humming left her lips in sweet melody. Her serenity intrigued Nimi. What was about this beautiful but simple girl, she wondered.  She looked her over. Spending time with her these past days had made her yearn for the kind of personality Ela had. She charmed everyone around with her easy smiles and caring attitude. She seemed not to notice the effect she had on people. There must be something special about her, Nimi concluded within her.

She made a note to ask her about the song and try to learn it too. She couldn’t remember the last time she sang any song on her own, talk less of a gospel song. The gospel songs she knew were from a time long ago when attending church had been part of her family’s activities; when her sister had not made them the laughing stock of the community and the rejected of the church. Each time she heard people sing gospel songs, she had her mind elsewhere. She would prefer to plug in her earphones and keep herself from singing along or learning the song.

But something about the way Ela was singing touched her. She would learn Ela’s song even if she might not believe in the lyrics. And she wouldn’t sing the song at home of course because her father would only get angry with her. He was done singing, church songs, praying and reading God’s word. It was only her mother that still took the side of God after the damages her sister caused. Even her younger ones were indifferent. Who would blame them when the head of the house had sunk under the weight of the rejection and condemnation he received from those who should have understood and encouraged him through God’s words and prayers.

Nimi sighed as the address came to an end and they left the room in groups. She would not think of her sister or her family, for now, she would focus on what she could control –learning Ela’s song.

She pulled her aside before she would go with the others. “You have a beautiful voice, Ela.” Nimi commented.

Ela brimmed with smiles. “Thank you, Nimi.”  She replied.

“I’ll like to learn the song.” She told her.

Ela clapped her hands in excitement. “Oh, great! I’ll teach you during the break, or we could visit the ladies before we get tied up with work and apply ‘powder’ to our voices.” She winked at Nimi.

Nimi threw her head back in laughter. Her laughter stopped abruptly when Ken joined them, causing her to cough.

He smiled at them. “Hello, ladies.” He said.

“Good morning, sir.” They both greeted.

“How are you enjoying DAA, Miss Binaebi?” he asked.

“Fine, sir. I’m adapting to the work schedule here.” Ela replied, twisting a strayed curl that escaped her hairpin.

Ken gave an approving nod. “That’s good. Just do your best.” He encouraged.

“I will, sir.”

Ken turned to Nimi. “It’s been a while, Miss Tombiri. Let’s meet today during lunch break.”

As usual, his invitation made her happy. A big smile spread across her face. “Okay, sir. I’ll be there.”

“Alright then, enjoy your day.” He walked away with purposeful strides.

They watched him go. When Nimi took her eyes off his departing back, she locked glances with Laye. She excused herself from Ela and went to meet her.

Laye’s mouth was drawn in disapproval, arms folded across her chest. “She’s so quick.” She stated, staring daggers at Ela, who was talking to another art director.

“Come off it, Laye. Ela is a very nice person. I like her.” Nimi countered.

Laye shook her head. “Don’t be carried away, Nimi. She’s just pretending.”

Nimi looked at Ela. She was open from what Nimi could see. “I doubt it, Laye.”

“Keep doubting. Don’t be surprised when she’ll be the one going to Ken’s office.” Laye sounded firm. “By the way, I saw Ken talking to you. What’s it about?” her voice was soft, losing the acidic tone form moments ago.

“He invited me to his office,” Nimi told her without the happiness she felt earlier when Ken invited her.

“Oh good!” Laye crowed in delight. “We’re back on track. Now, I feel good again.” She placed her hands on her waist and twisted stylishly.

Nimi said nothing. She would do nothing to increase Laye’s obsession with Ken. She only looked forward to the time in his office.

****************

She met Ken in front of the file cabinet shuffling through some files when she got to his office. He turned when he heard the door open. He smiled at her.

“Welcome, Miss Tombiri.” He said, moving away from the cabinet with a folder.

“Thank you, sir.” She answered, standing at the same spot.

He pointed her to a seat. She took her seat. “How has the day been?” He enquired.

Nimi blew air out of her mouth. “Hectic.” She said simply, placing a hand on her jaw.

He raised his eyebrows. “That bad huh?”

She nodded. “I have been in meetings all morning setting dates for our presentations, and I have a very long document to work on. I think you should consider having four copywriters on my team.” She told him.

Ken laughed. He set the folder on the desk. “Negotiating for your team, right?” he replied, eyes twinkling.

Nimi raised her hands in mock innocence. “I just want the best for the agency.”

He chuckled lightly. “Alright, we’ll look into it.” He drew out some papers from the folder and passed them to her. “I hope you’re done with your work now,” he said. She nodded in return. “And even if you were still busy I would have talked to your Creative director to excuse you.” His eyes held hers in an intense look.

Nimi felt heat move up her neck all the way to her hairline. Her heart did a double take at his words. A tingling sensation started up in the pit of her stomach, spreading up to her heart. A happy feeling settled on her. “That would be nice.” She replied in a calm voice, despite her runaway pulse.

“I hope you won’t mind me having you to myself all through.” He said. Nimi raised alarmed eyes at that. He rubbed the back of his neck, a guilty smile on his face. “That came out wrong. I meant… well… we’ll work together.” He explained with a stutter.

“I don’t mind, sir,” Nimi responded, enjoying his discomfort. She didn’t mind him having her in the other way he thought she had understood his statement, but she couldn’t tell him that.

“Good.”

He gave her the file he had pulled out from the cabinet when she came in and told her to look through the final presentation for the Seasoning Company Account which they had submitted earlier. They looked over it together and finally agreed it was ready for presentation.

“Well, since you’re going to be here for a while, I made arrangement for lunch.” He moved away from the desk. He picked a basket beside the refrigerator. He came back to the desk and dropped two food flasks on it. Nimi looked at him for an explanation. “I wanted to show you I’m not just a snack lover. I love good food too, so I prepared this meal.”

Nimi couldn’t resist the happy laughter that bubbled within her. It came out with all the excitement she felt. “Wow, sir, you actually cooked.” She said in disbelief.

A worried look creased his brow. “Maybe you should taste it first before getting excited.” He pushed one of the flasks to her.

She opened it and was hit by the aroma of curry seasoning. He had prepared white rice and stew. The chicken that garnished the rice was mouth-watering. She felt herself salivating. “This is good, sir.” She commented. “It’s inviting.”

“Then you should eat.” He said. He took two spoons from the basket and passed one to her. “You can get water from the fridge.”

Nimi left the flask on the table and went to the fridge to get sachet water. While she went right to eating, he closed his eyes for a few seconds with his lips uttering words she couldn’t hear. She studied him as she chewed her food.

Who exactly was Ken? She pondered. Laye had finally told her what happened between them when she returned the bottle. She had related the way she met him that day.  Hmm… she thought deeply, there is something about this man. There must be something or else my heart will not be hopelessly falling for him even when I know my friend wanted him so much.

He ended his prayer and started eating. She looked away then. “How is it?” He asked her. His eyes were anxious.

He had done a good job for someone who hardly cooked. It didn’t matter that the curry was too much and the salt was a lit bit much. She wouldn’t tell him that. “Good, sir. I’m quite impressed. If you continue like this, you’ll soon become an expert.” She enthused.

A pleased look filled his eyes. “Thank you. I know you only said that to make me feel good. I can taste the salt now.” his eyes twinkled.

Nimi almost dropped the food flask as her body shook with laughter. He joined in her laughter. “But just like you said, I’ll definitely improve if I continue.” He commented when his laughter subsided.

“Alright, sir.”

After the meal, they got back to talking about work and outlining strategies for the new accounts they just got. Nimi was pleased that he thought to include her in his planning. Her respect for him increased.

While he worked on his system, she read through his ideas for the new accounts, making corrections were necessary and noting relevant points. The rhythmic movement of his fingers on the keyboard broke the silence in the room. Nimi didn’t like it initially but after a while, it became monotonous and she didn’t notice anymore. It was the reason why she didn’t know he had stopped typing and was looking at her. The hair on her neck stood, making her self-conscious. She looked up to see him watching her.

Nimi’s hands flew to her mouth to be sure she had not left some food on her cheek. She rubbed both corners of her mouth. After that, she looked down at her shirt. No stain, she sighed with relief. Then why the serious look, she wondered? He answered the question her lips hadn’t formed but her eyes had asked.

“You were humming a hymn I like so much,” he told her.

Her eyes widened ever so slightly. She didn’t even know that she had been humming. She had gone to the Ladies with Ela and spent the first ten minutes of the day powdering their faces and learning the song. It was then Ela had told her it was a hymn she had sung that morning with her younger sister during their devotion. Nimi had hummed it to herself most part of the morning as she moved through her work. She stopped to concentrate and didn’t know she was doing it unconsciously in front of Ken. His rhythmic fingers must have matched the tone of the hymn and she just flowed with it. “I didn’t know.” She replied.

“That song always touched me each time I sing it. Do you feel that way?” His tone was soft.

Nimi considered it. Had the hymn touched her? When last had she been touched? She recalled the lyrics of the hymn and wondered what would minister to her in it.

My faith had found a resting place,

Not in device nor creed;

I trust the Ever-living One

His wounds for me shall plead.

I need no other argument,

I need no other plea,

It is enough that Jesus died,

And that he died for me.

She pondered on the words from the first stanza and the chorus. Ken interrupted her mind’s activity.

“That hymn has me down on my knees each time.” He said. “It brings to my mind what is written in the book of Psalms. Psalm 112:7 ‘He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting the Lord’”. He quoted in a melodic voice.

Nimi felt a warm glow within her as he quoted the scripture. It was right in her heart where she had never felt such. What was this all about? Why did she feel so good listening to Ken? His eyes seem to glow too. She shook her head. She must have worked too much and it was affecting her.

“You know the Bible?” she quizzed, studying him.

His lips turned up in a smile. “Yes, I do.” He answered with utmost pleasure. “What about you?”

Nimi looked away. Reading the Bible was not part of her daily routine. That was done on the rare occasions she attended Sunday service –and that happens when her mother had nagged her consistently on it. “Not like you.” She answered evasively.

He looked thoughtful. “Why is that?”

Nimi shuffled papers. She didn’t look at him. She took out one and feigned deep concentration. Anything was better than answering his question.

“Nimi,” he called softly, placing a warm hand over hers that had suddenly gone cold, causing it to tingle. Her eyes jerked to him. “Feel free to talk to me.” He urged gently.

She was too shocked to speak. They were moving too fast. Ken was opening places she didn’t want to be opened just yet. Yes, she was deeply attracted to him and wanted to spend time with him, that much she would admit, but still, she couldn’t just open up to him like that. The last time she opened up to someone, he had used it against her. Raymond had shattered her heart with the weapon she gave him. This time, she’d take her time.

He must have sensed her withdrawal because his grip on her hand became firm. “Listen, Nimi, you can talk to me.” Despite his firm grip, his voice remained gentle. He wasn’t going to force her to talk. He would only encourage her as a friend. A friend right? His heart thought her more than a friend already but he could not do anything until he was certain just as he had prayed days back.

Unbidden tears pooled in her eyes to her embarrassment. She raised her head to prevent them from dropping. She inhaled and exhaled for a few seconds, trying to get her emotions under control. When she felt relieved, she spoke up. “Maybe some other time, sir.” She told him.

A sad smile played on his lips. The pain of disappointment sliced through him but he shook it off. His time with Nimi would come. He was certain of it. “I’ll be waiting to listen, Nimi.” He replied, looking straight at her. “Just consider me as your friend and call me Ken.” He added.

Her eyes flew to him. Did he just say ‘friend’? He wanted them to be friends. Not inviting her to his office under work pretence anymore, right? Friend, and to call him Ken? Wow!

“Yes, Nimi. Take me as your friend.” he leaned forward so that their faces were just inches apart. “I want to be your friend. Will you accept me?” He asked.

Her heart screamed yes, yes, yes; but she hesitated. What about Laye? Would she not feel bad about it? What would happen now? Questions flew about in her head, while Ken awaited her answer. She looked into his eyes and he looked back at her with an intense gaze, scanning her face. The walls melted around her heart then. There was no harm in being his friend. She could even tell him about Laye’s feelings for him as a friend. She refused to acknowledge the small voice that told her she was not telling herself the truth.

She gave a small nod. “Yes, sir.” He shook her head at her use of ‘sir’. She cleared her throat and spoke again. “Yes, Ken.” She said in a small voice. She didn’t look at him.

He placed a hand under her chin and turned her face to him. “Thank you, Nimi. You are my friend too.”

Her heart thudded against her ribcage. For what reason, she couldn’t tell. Maybe for fear of what Laye would think and how she would react when she told her, or for the great excitement she felt that Ken asked to be her friend.

Whatever the reason, her heart kept thudding.

******************

Nimi met Laye seated behind her desk when she got back to her booth. She jerked back in shock. She placed a hand over her racing heart and wondered what she would tell Laye.

“Laye.” She called.

Laye looked up from the magazine she was perusing. Her eyes twinkled with anticipation. “You’re back.” She said, dropping the magazine on the desk.

Nimi picked up the magazine and placed it on the stack of magazines on her desk. “What are you doing here?” She asked.

Laye gave a shrug. “Waiting for you of course. I need the gist na so I can plan my next move.” She blew air into her neatly polished nails.

Nimi looked around. A few of their colleagues were in the adjoining booths, working. Discussion flowed in low tones. “Not right here, Laye.” She replied in a whisper.

Laye stood up. “Then let’s go to my work area.” She suggested.

Nimi shook her head. “No, I have something to do now.” She powered her system and click on Microsoft Word. “We’ll talk later,” she said, not looking at her.

“You can do this later,” Laye replied, pressing the power off button. “We can still talk for a few minutes.” She stated, flashing a wry grin.

“Those few minutes are precious, Laye.” She told her through tight lips. “I know you when it comes to this particular matter.” She crossed her arms across her chest.

Laye swirled in her chair. “Then, let me stay here and listen to you while you work.” She insisted, raising expectant eyes to Nimi.

Anger built within Nimi. She glared at Laye. “Laye, please let’s talk later.” She told her coolly, fighting for control over her emotions.

Laye’s knitted eyebrows came up in surprise. Suspicion filled her eyes. Just as she was about to fire back at Nimi, Ela joined them.

“Hello, ladies.” She called pleasantly, flashing a bright smile.

Nimi let out a relieved sigh. She smiled at her in return. “Hi, Ela.”

Laye stood up. She fixed Ela with angry eyes. “You’re interrupting.” She told her bluntly.

Ela moved back. “Oh, I’m so sorry.” she apologized, the smile still on her face.

Nimi touched her arm. “It’s no problem, Ela. We’ll talk later.”

“Okay then.” She walked away from them.

“Laye, you shouldn’t have talked to her like that, Laye.”

“Whatever it is you are doing, Nimi, don’t betray our friendship,” she warned with all venom and walked out of the booth.

Laye’s warning caused her knees to tremble. She placed her hands on her desk to support herself. What would she do? Had she betrayed Laye by accepting Ken’s offer of friendship? Would Laye understand when she explained to her?

She drew her seat close to her and sat on it, then she placed her head on her desk. Her eyes went to a piece of paper on the floor. She bent and picked it up. It was folded into. She opened it. Her eyes widened at the content.

‘Let’s meet this evening at Bliss Taste and Bites after work. I have something to tell you. Karibo.’

Laye and Karibo? Nimi was confused. She had no time to analyse that when she heard her name.

“Nimi.” Someone called her from another booth and pointed to the office behind the booth.

She drew herself up. The creative director’s call put an end to the questions that plagued her, but Laye’s warning kept ringing in her head all through.

So, did Nimi do wrong in accepting Ken’s offer of friendship? If you were Laye, would you get angry when you find out?

Love Quest Ep 8

‘You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars’ -Gary Allan.

Find out why in Episode 8 of Love Quest

Episode Eight

Nimi walked slowly down to Ken’s office, adjusting her suit skirt and pulling her jacket properly around her shoulders. She had come to enjoy being around him, she admitted to herself shyly. A smile touched her lips when she thought of each time she waited for his call to visit his office. Even though it hadn’t been frequent enough to raise eyebrows, it had been enough to be charmed by Ken’s personality.

In the last week he had called out the team for the Seasoning Company Account, she had seen more of him, but on a formal level. They had worked as a team, developing the right advert for one of their biggest clients. There had been no time to explore their new found friendship. The team broke off the previous day to create individual ideas before they resume again in a couple of days. She had waited with bated breath for Ken’s invite. She found herself watching the corridor. Each time a door opened, her eyes strayed to the corridor of their own volition. After what seemed like an eternity to her, his call had come –can we meet? His message had read. It had her heart beating fast against her ribcage. Her blood fired up with excitement. These feelings within her towards Ken were strange to her. She had no explanation whatsoever. She couldn’t be falling for Ken, could she? She stopped in her tracts and clutched her chest at this line of thought. Her eyes widened. No, she couldn’t be falling for Ken. It was still too soon after her breakup.

And if she was falling for Ken, what about Laye, her friend? She couldn’t betray her. Laye already felt like she was dating Ken. She was totally obsessed. Laye had been as enthusiastic as her when she told her Ken had invited her over to his office while they were together. She wanted information about Ken that would support her interest in him. Nimi was to provide that for a friend who had a miserable love life. She had to supply information that was vital to her friend. Top of her friend’s information list was Ken’s marital status. Everything rested on that. Laye was in her office waiting with bated breath for that information and here she was fantasizing about the same man. She gave a shudder. Her feelings or Laye’s? Whatever be the case, she looked forward to this meeting.

At Ken’s office, she informed the secretary of her meeting with him. The secretary called to inform him of her presence. When she dropped the phone, she asked Nimi to go in. Nimi straightened her shoulders as she went in.

He looked up at her away from the laptop before him, flashing a smile. She returned his smile too. “Thanks for coming, Miss Tombiri. Please sit down.” He said.

Nimi looked around the office as she took her seat, noting all the changes Ken had made since he became the ED. Everything was in order and labelled. The shelf that had many files scattered from one corner to the other now had all files in file jacket. His table was also properly arranged. She turned back her eyes to him and found him watching her with questioning eyes. She smiled appreciatively. “I was just admiring your office, sir.” She told him, gesturing at the office.

He did the same thing, chuckling lightly. “Thanks. My effort in arranging this place paid off. My aunt would be so proud.” He said, his cheek in his tongue.

“That doesn’t sound good.” She noted.

Ken shrugged. It wasn’t time to bore her with the story of his “tough” aunt. There would be time enough for that, especially now that he had discovered he always wanted to be around Nimi. With time, it would all become clearer.

He got up from the chair and went to the refrigerator. He brought out two bottles of diet coke and placed them on a tray with a pack of strolls, then he took a nylon bag from the top of the fridge. He walked back to the desk and placed them on the table.

“The last time you were here, you rejected my offer of biscuits.” He said, unwrapping the content of the nylon bag.

Nimi’s eyes raised in defence. “Oh, no, sir. I don’t just like biscuits.” She told him.

He smiled. “You don’t have to explain. I was just setting you up for my offer this afternoon. I hope you won’t reject it.” He raised hopefully eyes to her.

“What is it, sir?” She asked, staring at the bag.

He finally unwrapped the snack in the bag. He placed two pieces of meat-pie and two pieces of doughnuts on the tray. “Viola! This is my offer to you for lunch. Please enjoy it.” He stretched his hand over the tray and bowed his head.

Nimi laughed at that. Ken was not just good with his work, he had a charming side too. The same person that had been all business while they worked on their new account was teasing her. “Thank you.” She replied with a slight bow of her head.

“Bon appetit. Thanks for the work you put in these past days working all day to get the first part of the account ready. This is just my small treat for you to say you have done well.”

She blinked. The feelings she couldn’t explain from earlier tingled her toes and warmed her up at his words. Her lips parted slowly as she basked in the euphoria of his compliment. Laye’s list of questions forgotten; all that rang within her was her heart’s response to Ken. She inched forward in her chair and said her thanks in a sotto voice, and then picked up a piece of doughnut. She took a small bite and chewed slowly. He opened the bottles of coke and dropped strolls in them. Nimi looked at his ring finger more closely this time. Other times she had been satisfied with seeing no ring on his finger, but Laye hadn’t been satisfied. She insisted on knowing if he didn’t like jewellery or if he pulled it out each time he was around women. Her reasoning had seemed real, and so Nimi had promised herself that she would have a closer look at his ring finger.

Now as she chewed she studied his fingers. No ring indeed and no mark at all. It was clear that Ken was as single as the word single went. It made her smile. It made her breathe easier in his company. Although it was Laye’s love request, she felt like she had also been waiting for that clarity. She could now move on to the next request: find out if he had a fiancée or girlfriend.

“You like taking snacks, sir. Don’t you cook?” she asked, sipping her coke.

Ken finished chewing before answering her. “I cook once in a while. I’m not so good in the kitchen.” He told her.

Nimi watched the movement of his throat as he gulped down the drink. She shook herself. What was attractive about a man’s throat movement while drinking? She must be falling hard for him, or totally nuts. Something told her the first reason was why she was irresistibly charmed by her charming boss. She moved her head to one side and then the other in denial. She was here for her friend, not for herself. She went back to her question list again. Oh yes, fiancée or girlfriend.

“You could invite your fiancée or girlfriend over to cook for you.” She suggested, raising an eyebrow.

The deep laughter that erupted from his throat took her by surprise. She found herself noticing the thick lines of his brows and the startling radiance of his brown eyes. She smiled when his laughter subsided and he wiped tears off his eyes. “I don’t have any.” He said.

Oh, this is good, so good, she exclaimed within her. Her eyes danced with excitement. “Wow! Such an attractive and a hardworking man like you should have ladies at his beck and call.” She pushed on, not stopping to think of how her words would sound to him.

Ken’s eyes closed off. The mirth left his eyes. He was suddenly the boss again and not a charming young man enjoying the company of a beautiful young woman. Nimi straightened in her chair. Worried lines marked her forehead. I have definitely crossed the line, she cried silently. What got into me? Why did I say that? oh no, I have spoilt everything even before it started.

“I’m sorry, sir. I got carried away for a while.” She said in a sober tone.

He smiled at her, but without mirth. “It’s okay.” He didn’t say anything else about her statement. He changed the subject of discussion instead and started talking about their project.

Nimi’s stomach dropped in disappointment. Ken had closed the door against her and she didn’t know how to get back in, and she was desperate to get in. She couldn’t leave it all like that. She would allow him to ease off the tension of the moment by talking about their project and then she would try to get back in again.

The next minutes flew by as he spoke about the project. His tone became animated and the air around them became relaxed. They were soon back to personal grounds. He laughed at her made up stories and didn’t question the truth behind them. Her heart felt light when his eyes crinkled in laughter. It gladdened her heart. She didn’t bring up Laye’s request list anymore.

“Thank you for sharing your lunch with me, sir.” She said making to leave.

His eyes fell on the tray. “You didn’t finish your coke and you didn’t touch your meat-pie.” He observed. “Take them with you.” He told her. He wrapped the meat-pie with a serviette and placed it in the nylon, then he corked the bottle of coke. He stretched the items to her.

She collected them. “Thank you, sir.”

He leaned back in his chair and studied her. She felt like a wet kitten. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other.

“Is there anything else, sir?” she asked when she couldn’t take his stare anymore.

He seemed to come back to himself. His eyes refocused. “Never mind. We’ll talk later. Enjoy the rest of your day.” He gave a slight nod and smiled at her.

She stepped out of the office, her heart filled with questions.  What was it he wanted to say? It was the second time he had told her not to mind. Maybe she would mind soon.

********************

Laye munched on the meat-pie with all glee. It was meat-pie from Mr. Ken after all. She gulped down the coke.

“You mean he shared his lunch with you?” She asked amazed. She wiped off crumbs from the corners of her mouth.

“Yes.” Nimi answered, rolling her eyes. It was the third time Laye was asking her since she got back from Ken’s office and placed the items before her.

“Nimi, this guy is cool. I really need to go with you the next time he invites you.” She said, folding the nylon carefully.

Nimi scratched her nose. “What do you want to do with the nylon?” she asked when Laye pulled out a drawer.

Laye’s expression told her she should know. “I am keeping it of course. This is from my everyday crush.” She sniffed the nylon before dropping it in the drawer.

Nimi shook her head. “You’re losing it, Laye. Stop it. Mr. Ken is not like that.” She got up from the stool, away from Laye. “Fine, he doesn’t have a fiancée or a girlfriend, but that does not mean he is available. I mean he totally shut down when I said ladies swoon around men like him. He didn’t say anything about it again.”

Laye took her hand in both palms. Her eyes were dreamy. “You mean he has no fiancée?”

Nimi pulled her hand but Laye’s grasp was firm. “Laye.” She called her gently like she had gone mad.

Laye gave a yelp of delight. “Yes! He is single! He is single!” she danced around the office. Nimi gaped at her. When she was done with her dance, she came to stand in front of Nimi. “He hasn’t noticed me, but I tell you, Nimi, he will. By the time I visit his office with you regularly.” She stated, a faraway look in her eyes.

Nimi regarded her with concern. The pressure from Laye’s mother was starting to affect her. Why else would she mooning over her boss, who might never see her as anything other than his staff? It would also be wrong to take Laye with her each time Mr. Ken invited her. She cherished her time with Ken and didn’t want Laye in hand intruding on their privacy. She wasn’t even sure Ken would like her visiting his office with Laye. But she couldn’t tell these to her friend. If she was deeply concerned about Laye, then she would allow her to have her way with Ken notwithstanding what she felt for him. If she couldn’t take Laye, what would she do then?

If her friend wanted Ken to notice her badly then she would help her out. But how? She rubbed her forehead. Just then her eyes landed on the empty coke bottle on the table. A smile spread across her cheek. She just got her answer.

She touched Laye’s arm. “You could meet Mr. Ken today if you want.” She said.

Laye’s eyes widened at that. “Really?” she asked, then her brows drew together in suspicion. “How?”

Nimi picked up the bottle of coke. “This is your ticket. Just take it to his office. Tell him I sent you to return it because I have a meeting with my team.”

Understanding dawned on Laye and with it came a conspiratorial grin. She rushed forward and hugged Nimi. “You are the best. Thanks.”

“Aww… I’m touched.” She returned the hug.

Laye picked the bottle of coke and gave it a big kiss. “My ticket, my ticket.” She said in a sing-song voice.

Nimi prayed that everything would go well. She couldn’t imagine what would happen if Mr. Ken rejected Laye.

*************

Ken turned away from his desk minutes after Nimi left his office. He faced the wall. He couldn’t concentrate on his work for now. His heart was filled with confusing thoughts. He couldn’t understand why he was so drawn to Nimi. He could not tell if it was the passion in her eyes or her open-mindedness. Something just kept him fixed on Nimi. Although, her statement had put him on guard earlier. For a moment, he had wondered if she was flirting with him. His mind had gone to Tenisha who was still causing him sleepless nights with her phone calls. He had still not had the mind to pick up her call or return them. Fear held him bound and he couldn’t free himself from its torment. He had tried confiding in Peter but still hadn’t. Yet in this midst of this turbulence that was his life, he felt himself getting more and more attracted to Nimi.

Why can’t I get you off my mind, Nimi? He wondered aloud, scratching his head. He closed his eyes and leaned against the headrest of the chair. Oh Lord, what is Nimi’s part in my being here?

He waited for the still small voice that had been his companion since he accepted Jesus as his Lord and saviour. The voice spoke reassurances to his heart and gave directions to his path. The voice that he should have sought after because of Tenisha and hadn’t done it yet. Now he called on the Lord to speak to his heart concerning Nimi.

Words that he had read in his Bible and meditated on started dancing around his head. At the thought of his Bible, he turned around and picked it up from his desk. He also picked his notepad and pen. He flipped the Bible opened to the passage he had read that morning during his quiet time.

Psalm 31: 3: “For You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me.”

He read it again before closing his Bible. He turned the passages of his notepad until he got to the entry he made for that day. His note was the lyrics of a hymn:

Guide me, O thou Great Jehovah!

Pilgrim thro’ this barren land;

I am weak, but Thou art mighty,

Hold me with thy powerful hand:

Bread of heaven!

Feed me now and evermore.

He closed his eyes as his lips moved in prayer. He sang the hymn over and over. He felt a strong release in his spirit and joy filled his heart. He soon lifted his hands. Tears rolled down his cheeks but he didn’t wipe them off. He would rather shed tears of victory in Christ Jesus than to shed tears for his mistakes. Mistakes that had marked his being for too long. Mistakes that Jesus had taken away through His death on the cross. Tenisha would not hold him bound, he would be free from her. And he would know God’s mind for him concerning Nimi.

Another verse of the Bible popped into his head from the same book of Psalm. This time it was from the 86th Psalm, the 11th verse. It read: ‘Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear your name’.

He was so lost in his meditation that he didn’t hear the phone ringing, nor the door opening. He suddenly felt self-conscious. Someone was in his office. Slowly, he turned around to see the intruder. His secretary stood with Miss Iteimo.

“I’m so sorry, sir.” The secretary apologized quickly when she saw his face. “I called but you didn’t pick up the phone, and Miss Iteimo said it was important she talked to you.” She explained.

He waved off her apology. “It’s okay.” He pinned his eyes on Miss Iteimo. “Yes?”

She cast a wary look at his secretary and then back to him. Her message was clear to him. “You can go back to your office now.” He told his secretary. He picked up his face towel from the desk and wiped his face. Miss Iteimo came to sit before him, beaming with smiles as usual.

“Wow, sir, you are a good singer.” She praised him. “Despite just standing here for a few seconds, I was totally enthralled by your voice.”

He acknowledged her compliment with a nod. “You wanted to talk to me? About what?” He quizzed.

She cleared her throat. “Er… you see, sir, I volunteered to return the coke bottle since Nimi had to attend a meeting.” She raised the empty bottle.

A hardness came over him, filling his chest with steely resolve. He would send her out of his office. He fixed angry eyes at her, but something within him stopped him before he could order her out. It would do no good to react anyway; not when she had seen him in the mood he was earlier. He rubbed his forehead. “Drop it with the secretary.” He told her with a calm he was far from feeling. At that stage, the urge to throw her out filled him strong. He waited for her to leave, but she didn’t. She started smiling again.

“I’ll like to learn how to sing, sir. How about you teach me? I could come for my lessons after office hours.” She suggested.

Ken’s expression remained bland. “I have no time, Miss Iteimo.” He replied, emphasizing his point by looking at his wristwatch. The clue was either lost on her or she didn’t just want to leave. He sat back, feeling his patience waning.

“How about weekends, sir?” she asked. “Just tell me where you live and I’ll gladly meet you there for the lessons.” She said with enthusiasm.

Ken drummed on his desk with his fingers. “Miss Iteimo, I have no time. You could join your church choir and learn one or two things.” Each word he spoke was deliberate and controlled.

Her mouth formed an ‘oh’. She pinned a stray curl of hair behind her ear. “Maybe some other time, sir.” A momentary sadness filled her eyes. Ken didn’t know why.

He forced a smile through his tight lips. “Thanks for helping Miss Tombiri. I bet she’ll appreciate it.” He tried to keep the acid from his voice.

She got up. “I did it so you wouldn’t be worried about it,” she told him in a small voice, holding the bottle close to her chest.

He remained motionless. “Thank you once again.” He moved his chair forward and touched the power button on his laptop. Light flashed on the screen. He went back to what he was doing before his time with God. He didn’t look up at her again until he heard the door opened and closed. He released a deep sigh of relief.

***********

The week went by in a blur as Laye moved around with a long face. Ken had embarrassed her. He had done it so that she had no story to tell Nimi when she got back from his office that awful afternoon. She winced at the mere thought of it.

During the week she had found it difficult to keep her head high when he was around. She kept her eyes away from him and ensured they had no direct contact. She had it so badly that Karibo noticed. She denied his suspicions and kept him shut when he kept insisting she was avoiding the boss. But how could she really? Ken didn’t make it easy for her. He made sure she was included in team activities. He picked her out for explanations of designs. In all, he acted like a boss. It should have relieved her but her shame was deep. The only thing that took the edge off her hurt pride was the fact that Ken had not invited Nimi to his office all week. They were even. Nimi had a nice time with him and didn’t get another invite.  She had an embarrassing time with him and didn’t also get another invite.

All hope was not lost. She smiled as her eyes went over Nimi who was seated beside her that morning waiting for the ED’s briefing. She was sure to get Ken. All she had to do was to allow the incident between them die down and pick up from where she stopped.

Yes, it was a good plan and she would see it to the end. Her esteem that had taken a nosedive skyrocketed. She adjusted in her seat when the door opened to reveal Ken. He came in looking as breath-taking as usual, flashing his Oscar-award winning smile. Laye found herself smiling from ear to ear. The smile remained on her face until she saw the young lady beside Ken. Immediately, the smile froze on her face. Her eyes bulged out. Heads turned towards the two as they made their way to the front of the room.

The lady looked like she had been taken out of a beauty magazine. Her ebony black hair flowed over her shoulders. The tip bounced as she moved her twine-thin figure graciously. She had a bubbly outlook. She moved with elegance, her yellow jacket swaying slightly behind her back. A set of dazzling white teeth gleamed as she smiled.

Laye swallowed. She nudged Nimi beside her. She was satisfied to see that Nimi was also taken by the lady’s appearance. She was however sad to note that Nimi was not the only one drawn to the newcomer’s look. Most of the men in the room had their eyes on her, including Karibo. It annoyed her greatly to think that he was admiring the lady. She glared at him with fiery eyes. He met her gaze briefly, raised his eyes and gave a shrug, and turned back to the object of everyone’s attention.

Ken pointed an empty seat to her at the front and she took it, smiling at those around. Laye, who was just behind her, sat stiffly in her chair. She waited for Ken’s address.

He started with the usual: appreciation and encouragement. He told them of the work the administrative teams were putting to tackle the challenges facing each team and department, and the agency as a whole. His eyes rested on the lady. Laye grabbed the arm of the chair she sat on tightly, waiting.

“To deal with the shortage of art directors, we have employed Miss Elaebi Binaebi as an art director, and she will be working on Miss Tombiri’s team. We are still conducting interviews. More hands would be employed to lighten the burden some of us are bearing and make us effective in discharging our duties. For now, we have Miss Binaebi with us.” He informed them.

Those around Miss Binaebi shook hands with her, smiling as if they had just received salary increment. It pissed Laye off greatly. She was among the first to leave the conference room. What would she be doing welcoming Miss Binaebi when she was not on her team? Nimi, however, lingered briefly to welcome her and make the necessary introduction. She followed afterwards.

Just around the corner, she turned to Nimi. “Can you just imagine?” She said. “That one wants to work here. She should be in a fashion school. DAA is not for people like her. Maybe she is here to seduce the male staff. She won’t get Ken. I won’t allow it.” She told Nimi with so much intensity.

Nimi laughed. “I agree that she is very beautiful, Laye, but that does not mean she came here for seduction. If Ken finds her qualified to be employed, then her beauty must go with her brain.” She argued lightly.

Laye pursed her lips, her eyes flashing daggers. “What if Ken falls for her?” She asked.

Nimi shook her head. “I don’t see why that should concern you, Laye. They are both single. They won’t be doing anything wrong if they fall for each other,” she commented.

Someone walked past them, stalling Laye’s response. She waited until he was out of earshot before speaking again. “You seem to forget that I like Ken and want him for myself.” She said in a whispery tone.

Nimi placed her hand over Laye’s mouth, her eyes darting left and right. “Don’t put yourself in trouble, Laye. You haven’t gotten a job with Shell, have you?”

Laye took her hands off her mouth. Her eyes were sad. “I just feel Ken is the one for me. My spirit accepts him, Nimi. Please understand. I’m also counting on you to help me.” She took her friend’s hand. “Don’t forget to get him for me.”

Nimi sighed. It was useless reasoning with Laye. She seemed bent on getting Ken, even when the poor man had not noticed her. “It’s okay, Laye.” She said in a soothing voice. “Whenever I have the opportunity to see him, I’ll get you all the info you need to pursue him.”

Laye gave a quick hug. “That’s why you’re my best friend. Thank you so much. I’m happy we’re together here.”

“We won’t be anymore if we don’t get busy right now.” Nimi joked.

“Oops! Let’s go.”

They hurried down to the corridor to their work areas.