“When is my mummy coming back? I want my mummy.” Bobby looked at the little girl tugging his trousers and he was weak. Two days since Ese’s kidnap and not even a lead. The police men kept saying they were on top of the situation but he was willing to bet his life that they were just as clueless as he was.
“Mummy will be back soon.”
He patted her on the head but she wouldn’t let go.
“Bad people took her away. Will they bring her back?”
“Yes dear. Oya, go and lie down” he said, urging her towards the bed.
“But I don’t want to lie down.”
Bobby’s phone rang and he was grateful for the distraction.
He picked up the phone and placed his forefinger on his lips indicating that she should be quiet and the little girl obeyed.
He listened to the man on the other end of the line rap out a few words and he gratefully sank into the bed. The nightmare appeared to be over.
“Alright. That’s wonderful. Thank you. I’ll be at the station in a few minutes.”
He hung up and smiled at the little girls who looked expectantly at him.
“Your mummy is coming back this afternoon.”
The one who had been tugging his trousers earlier on jumped up and down excitedly but the other one remained on the bed and plugged her thumb into her mouth. The action made Bobby nervous. He wasn’t good with children.
Ese’s mother walked into the room. She had been discharged that morning and she looked much older.
“I just got a call from the DPO ma. They have found the house where she’s being kept and they’re going to get her out.”
“Ah! Praise God! Thank you Jesus! My Father that never fails. You’re a faithful God!”
The elderly woman went on her knees lifting her hands above her head and Bobby just rolled his eyes. Her theatrics were getting under his skin. Finally, she turned to Bobby and said
“So what do we do now? Do we go to the station?”
“Actually, I think you should stay here with your grandchildren. I’ll go and meet them up at the station and we’ll bring her back.”
The elderly lady looked like she was about to complain then changed her mind at the last minute.
“Okay. Till you come back.”
Bobby picked his wallet from the center table and walked out. He desperately hoped that Ese would not be harmed in the extraction process. He was greatly impressed by the phone call. It showed that the police had indeed been on top of the situation like they had told him.
Teni sat in front of her desktop looking but not really seeing. It had been a pretty nasty morning for her and she was fuming. She hated her job. Absolutely hated it. And the only reason she was still stuck there was because she needed the money. Her phone rang and she looked at it, ready to lash out at whoever was calling. It was Deola.
“Sis! I just got home. Should have called when I landed, sorry.”
“You sound tense. Are you alright?”
“No, I’m not! Some idiot pissed me off this morning, I got into the office late after dropping you off and my annoying Director decided to query me. I’m having a shitty day alright.”
“It’s not your fault jor. The mumu man was in a mood this morning and decided to take it out on everyone. He came in before 8:00am. Obviously his wife didn’t give him some last night. And then he dished out queries to everyone who turned up after him. It was just annoying. Then this idiotic lady that has face like a mouse didn’t send me an email alerting me of the meeting with the auditors this morning so I waltzed into the conference room and found them all waiting for me. Omo, I’m tired jor. I really need to quit this job. It’s driving me crazy.”
“Sorry sis. Just calm down and drink some water. It’ll pass soon enough.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Teni said dryly. “I’ve got to run jor. Let’s talk later. My regards to your husband.”
She hung up and turned to face her computer.
Mouse-face poked her head through her door and said
“We’re supposed to go to the bank together to cash some cheques. Are you ready?”
Teni more or less growled out her response “No.”
Mouse-face pretended not to notice her tone and kept on.
“But we really have to go now. I have other things to do.”
“Go and hang yourself!” Teni snapped.
“Oh? I’ll just tell the director you said so.”
Teni wanted to slap the girl but she calmed herself and ignored her. Benjamin’s phone started ringing at that moment and she picked it up.
“I think it’s rude to leave a gentleman hanging after earlier accepting to be his dinner companion.”
Teni rolled her eyes. Benjamin was about to get a full blast of the whirlwind that was her anger.
“I think it’s really annoying to call me during my work hours to yap rubbish. Haven’t you got anything to do?”
She expected him to say something rude in return so she could blow up fully in his face but his reply shocked her.
“Are you having a rough day? We could talk later in the evening.”
His tone was even.
“Uhh, yeah, sorta. Sorry. We should talk later.”
“Alright then. Take a drink of cool water, walk around a little bit then find some jokes to read. It’ll help ease your stress and reduce your tension.”
She was truly touched.
“Err, alright. I guess I could do that. Thank you.”
He hung up without another word and Teni sighed. Maybe, just maybe Ben wasn’t a douche bag after all. She walked to the water dispenser and filled a glass. As she put it to her lips, mouse-faced poked her head again. The girl always made her irritable. She was as plastic as they came- forced accent, heavy make-up, fake eye lashes, coloured contact lenses and a very annoying disposition.
“The director wants you in his office now.”
She ignored her, drank her water and retrieved her iPhone from her desk before walking out. Mouse-face led the way to the director’s office and walked in with a smile on her face. A grouchy man in his fifties looked up as they walked in.
“Teni, is there a reason why you’re being particularly slothful and disrespectful today?”
Teni put on the best smile she could manage and said.
“I’m sorry sir. Not particularly sure what you’re referring to.”
The man took his glasses off and narrowed his eyes. Teni wanted to laugh but she didn’t.
“You refused to go to the bank on my instruction. Care to explain why?”
“Oh no, I didn’t sir. I was trying to tidy up the query you served me this morning but Kate seemed to be in too much of a hurry.”
The man shook his head and dismissed both of them.
“I need that money before the banks close. Both of you go and work out your issues.”
Teni smiled and walked out. Mouse-face would get a dose of her fist one of these days.
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Ese walked into the hotel room and straight into the bathtub. She let the hot water soak her skin and sting her bruises. Gratitude filled her heart. The evening had left her with a deep sense of respect for the Nigerian police force. Well, the ones who had carried out the rescue mission actually. She was thankful to the young man next door who reported suspicious movements around the house and was even more grateful that the police did not bungle the entire operation. She spent almost an hour in the tub and when she got out, she changed into a casual bou bou dress and sat down on the couch. She dialed Bobby’s number and he was in her room within seconds.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Yes, but not yet. I want to see my girls.”
Bobby looked at her for a few seconds then walked out again. When he returned, he had her mother and her daughters in tow. The girls rushed excitedly to hug her.
“Mummy, why did they take you away?” Anne, the more precocious one asked.
Ese wasn’t sure how to answer. Eventually, she said
“It doesn’t matter my darling. I’m back now.”
She smiled at Bobby and he took it as his cue to leave. He said he was going to book their flights back to Abuja. She was grateful for his presence. The weekend would have been a complete disaster if he had not come.
“Mummy, don’t go away again. Please.”
Ese looked at little Anita and the tears formed in her eyes. She hugged her daughters close and said
“Never sweetie, never.”
She called the snacks bar and requested for some snacks and they came up in a few minutes. She gave them to the girls and she watched them eat happily with smiles on their faces before she turned to her mum.
“Mummy, they’ll come home with me when we get to Abuja abi?”
Her mother nodded.
“Yes. I’ll move in with you sef. At least for now.”
Ese nodded. Her mother didn’t take her eyes off.
“Stop staring mum, I’m fine.”
“I didn’t say you’re not fine o. I’m just wondering about this Bobby man that has been hanging around since.”
“Seriously? There’s nothing to wonder. He was Gabe’s colleague and he’s been really helpful but he’s a young man. I think I’m older. Nothing is going on and nothing will ever happen.”
The older woman shook her head.
“No. Don’t say that. I’ve seen how he looks at you. He was really worried when you were kidnapped.”
Ese laughed. Her mother was a little old fashioned.
“Mum, I just lost my husband. I’m sure Bobby knows better. Please don’t raise this again.”
She picked up her phone and sent him a text.
“You can come back now please.”
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Benjamin picked his phone and called Teni again. It was 7:00pm. She ought to have been done with work. He smiled when he thought of her. She had impressed him by not turning up for the date. His interpretation of that action was she was a difficult woman. Now he was sure he would enjoy the chase.
“Hi, you’re doing much better this evening I see.”
“How can you tell?”
“You politely said ‘hello’ and not a rude ‘yes?’”
She laughed again.
“My bad. Sorry. I was having a shitty day.”
“Did my therapy work?”
“Therapy ke? I just told myself ‘suck it up and be a man’ and I went on with my day.”
“Hmmn. You’re a man?”
“Have you no sense of humor? That was supposed to make you laugh.”
“And the tigress is back.”
He laughed good-naturedly and Teni found herself laughing too.
“Sorry about dinner the other day. I couldn’t make it.”
“I’ll pretend you really couldn’t make it and we’ll move on from there. But just so you know, I’m aware you deliberately chose not to show up.”
Teni shrugged. His business.
“If you say so.”
“I’ve spoken to you twice on the phone now and I don’t even know your name.”
“You never asked.”
“I see. How about you tell me your name and more about your person over lunch tomorrow?”
“Naah. Sorry, lunch tomorrow won’t work.”
Benjamin’s irritation began to build slightly. He just wanted to see her one more time. What was the issue?
“Because I never have lunch outside of the office. I’m really that busy. But dinner tomorrow should work fine.”
She was teasing him. He laughed.
“Alright. Where would you like to eat?”
Her laughter floated through the lines again. It was a beautiful sound.
He was confused.
“I get the feeling you’re trying to impress me but testing me at the same time. You want to know if I’m worth the chase, if I’m the kinda woman that’ll chop your money and you want to decipher that based on my choice of a restaurant. Then you also want to show off that you’ve got taste, class and money but you’re not looking for some lady who’ll use you as her maga.”
Benjamin laughed. She was a little far from the truth but he was both surprised and impressed.
“You’re right on one thing. I am trying to impress you but I’m certainly not testing you. I’d like to get to know you better and all I want is a chance to engage you in a decent conversation and have you decide whether you want to be in my company again or not. So what can I do to impress you?”
“Hmmn. I see. Well, don’t ask me, think and try to impress.”
“I can’t do that. I don’t even know you so I don’t know what appeals to you. Imagine, I don’t even know your name.”
Teni laughed. She was enjoying herself.
“Alright, my name is Teniola Owoyemi. Your money will not impress me. That’s the only clue I’ll give you.”
“Can I cook for you then?”
Teni’s heart did a double take.
“What did you say?”
“I asked if I could cook for you. We could have dinner at my place and I promise you, I’m not a serial killer.”
Benjamin smiled. He knew he’d scored a point.
“Yes, I do. Am I impressing you already?”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself. Now I’m curious to know what you’ll prepare. And as for being a serial killer, don’t worry, I carry my pepper spray everywhere. One wrong move and you’ll be temporarily blind.”
“Alright then. I stay at Utako, Dove Court estate. Do we say 7:00pm tomorrow?”
“No. 5:30pm. I want to watch you cook, before you buy take-away and tell me you cooked it.”
Teni smiled and hung up. She thought of standing him up a second time but she discarded the idea as rapidly as it came. She would just relax and enjoy good food. Hopefully the food would be good and he wouldn’t go on and on about himself and irritate her.
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To be continued