Have I told You I Love You?

Have I told you?
How much you mean to me?
Your presence is the tonic for my well being,
Your smile is the sun that chases my clouds away,
Your voice is the balm that turns my night to day,
You, rhythm in my pulse,
You, spring in my step,
You, smile that dances on my lips at night,
You, the safe place my dreams are kept.

This Just Can’t Work

I watch her sashay past and rap on the door. She looks good in her ankle length gown, golden gele and bracelets that jingle like bells.

Oga opens the door and they share a kiss before he whisks her inside. Later that evening, they stroll out, whispering in each others ears. Oga tickles her, she laughs, a lilting soothing sound and I can’t remember hating anyone so much.

Soon they are back. Oga carries all the bags. They’ve bought rice, stew, salad and ice-cream. She is talking and twirling her hands in the air to make a point. That’s when I realise that something has to be done. If she goes on this way, she’ll be Mrs Ukwak by Saturday.

My options are limited. I am not bad as far as Mercedes Benz 190’s go but I am sure you can already see my difficulty. I can’t talk, at least not without giving Oga a heart attack and I can only influence things when they are close to me. But this is no time for excuses, it is a time for results, so deliver I must.

You must be wondering how my boss’ love interest is any of my business. What does a car stand to lose from a wedding? What loyal being wouldn’t want his owner happy, settled and fruitful? Definitely not me.

I want all that for my boss and more, only, not with Amara.

I know Amara from way back, I noticed her one day at the car wash when she came to see some guy called Carl. I was waiting my turn at the sponge and I couldn’t help over hearing the telephone conversation she was having.

“Oh Dani!”Amara squealed into the phone. “Of course I missed you. The thing is, I am not in town, I travelled to Kaduna for a retreat.”
“Sure, of course, I will. I love you too. You did? Thank you, the fifty thousand will go a long way. Thank you. Bye”

Her phone rang again.

“Wow! Emeka! Yeah, long time. I have missed you too. Aww, I couldn’t make it to Lagos anymore, but I’ll try to make it up to you. I promise. The money you sent is still in my account and once I get a break, you’ll be my first stop.” She was smiling at the phone and twirling her weave.

“Oh my goodness, you are in town? You should have told me baby, I am out in Jos on business. I told you I don’t do surprises. Anyone trying to surprise me only ends up surprising themselves.”

No kidding.

Before Carl came to pick her two other callers had been given three other stories, one of them was a even a woman. At some point, I had to read the sign boards around again to myself, I had to remind myself I was in Port Harcourt, not Jos, Kaduna, Dubai or Yenegoa.

Now here she was with Oga, playing the saint, I was having none of it.

I get my chance soon. The next morning they tumble in to rush her to work. She jumps out screaming. In the process, I rip her yellow silk blouse and smudge it with some grease.

“Ouch! Oh no, Jerry! That seat just burnt me! And look, my blouse is gone!”

Oga darts out and runs to her side. “What seat, Amara? Calm down. Let me see, it isn’t so bad. We can get a new one–”

“That seat,” she says, pointing at the front passenger seat. “That seat nearly peeled off my skin. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, it wrecked my best silk blouse too.” By now her voice has risen a few octaves and she looks like she is about to cry. I feel like pinching her to hurry things on but I am busy.

I am working over time to cool the seat heater. I make it just in time for Oga’s probing fingers.

He runs his palms over the black leather seat with a frown on his face. “It is normal,Amy, a little warm but definitely not bum-burning.”

“But it just burnt my bum. I sat on it and it was like sitting on a hot plate.”

“Come on, Amara, don’t be dramatic. Let’s go before I get late.”

“Oh. So I am being dramatic now?” She replies with a flip of her braids. “Your useless, archaic, malfunctioning car burns me and I am being dramatic? Well, you better get going then because I am not going anywhere with you. Sorry broke ass.”

She grabs her bag and storms away before Oga can say a word. When he recovers enough to ask her to wait, she is gone.

I smile inside. I am savouring this little victory. Oga ll probably go begging to bring her back and maybe he’ll succeed. But I have a plan for that.

For now, let’s enjoy the peace.

Mirage Mercy

He watched her wriggle into her gown, while questions flooded his mind. She smiled showing him her dainty gap tooth and even white teeth.

“I have to go,” she said. “It is getting late and I don’t want to miss my flight.”

“Of course.” Goddard said, as he rose to help her into her jacket. “When will I see you again?”

“Soon. You know how these things are. I never know when I’ll get a break from that crazy boss of mine. Let’s see maybe next month….”

Goddard knew she was lying. He wouldn’t see her for the next three months.

She would disappear.

Her phone would be switched off, his Whatsapp messages would pile up unanswered, texts would return undelivered, mini-calls would hover forever.

She would be nowhere in sight, as if she found the edge of the world and walked off it.

Just like she had last time. And the time before that.

When they met eleven months ago, he hadn’t really minded. He was travelling to Abuja from Okirika for an interview. His brother sent him money for a flight but the recent plane crashes were still too fresh in his mind. He decided to go by bus instead. Besides it was easier than travelling 100 kilometres to Port Harcourt International located at the fringes of the city. Road travel in Nigeria wasn’t hazard free but he preferred taking his chances with solid land beneath him.

He overslept on the day of the trip. His phone battery ran out and he lived alone. He barely got into the bus before it left the park.

“It looks like someone had a busy night.”

He turned to meet slate grey eyes looking into his and a full friendly smile that made him smile back instantly.

“I wasn’t that lucky. My battery died. I am Goddard.”

“Mercy”

And that was how it all began. The ride to Abuja was the shortest ever.

They exchanged phone numbers.

They talked about politics, music, the scar on his arm, her contact lens, the vice-president’s invisibility. When the journey was over and she was leaving, a part of him was leaving with her.

He didn’t get the job, there were five slots and 419 applicants. Some with recommendation letters from the Presidency.

He went back to Okirika, to the little apartment he shared with Max, his pet cat, a dozen wall geckos and his four year old TV.

He tried calling the number she gave him the next day but it was switched off. It stayed switched off for a week. He was about to delete it one evening when she called him.

“Hi Sailor,” Mercy said “Are you in Okirika?”

Yes he was. Of course he was. He gave her directions and soon she was alighting from a motorbike in front of him.

That weekend was perfect, it was like living in a dream.

She cooked, gorgeous dishes that melted in his mouth and had him wanting more.

She took, driving him to heights he never knew existed, places he had never explored.

She was a light in his drab world and he was a moth floating to her.

On her third visit she brought him a recommendation letter for a Federal job in Yenogoa. It was signed by senator Inimo Wodi.

“Where did you get this?” He asked.

“Oh Goddy, you are so serious. He is a family friend of ours. I just mentioned your case and he got interested. Make sure you go along with it though, the interview is next month.” Mercy said kneading his shoulder muscles.

He got the job. When he called to tell her the good news. Her number was “unavailable at the moment”.

He googled her. But none of the ,nine Mercy Odilis on screen were her’s.

He tried to talk her into getting on one of the Social Media Networks, Facebook at least.

“Oh Goddy! That’s so public. Eww, I could never do that. ” She replied.

So he let it go.

It wasn’t everyday one found a woman that was intelligent, sexy, caring and undemanding.

Undemanding. That was what really worried him. At the beginning he was ashamed when she would come to see him and he couldn’t pay her fare or take her out to any of the new eateries in town. Mercy never complained instead she came with foodstuff and made him gourmet meals, complete with dessert. In bed she was adventurous and fun. He was getting hooked.

But soon it was Sunday morning again and she was leaving. As he kissed her goodbye, he felt a rock settling inside him.

Soon it was a pattern. Great weekends followed by weeks sometimes months of silence. When ever he asked she laughed it off, but he wanted to know. Needed to know.

And this time he had a plan.

He had discovered a distant relative of his that worked at the Abuja airport. ‘Worked’ was an euphemism for acting as a human mule, he loitered around carried heavy luggage for small tips. His name was Dumebi.

It hadn’t taken much for him to convince Dumebi to wait for Mercy at the Airport and follow her home.

Soon he would know where she lived, from there, hopefully, who she was.

She was expected to arrive Abuja by 4pm, so he expected Dumebi’s call by 6pm latest.

Dumebi called by 8 to say he missed her. The taxi he’d hired for the chase ran out of fuel mid-way. He was sorry. Could brother please give him another chance.

Goddard threw the phone across the room. The Nokia obliged by splitting neatly into three pieces.

Fuming, he went to the kitchen and dished himself some of the Jollof rice Mercy had made that morning and a cold can of Star. He stood in front of the TV and began to flip channels when he saw her.

Mercy was on TV.

Only she wasn’t Mercy Odili. She was Mrs Mercy Wodi, the stunningly beautiful wife of Senator Inimo Wodi.

They were commissioning a new orphanage in Port Harcourt and she was smiling her open gapped, even toothed smile while her obese hubby mouthed some platitudes about giving.

The rice, remote and beer fell out of his hands.

He couldn’t breathe. The ceiling was spinning. Then all that was left was the sound of him moaning,”no,no,no o o o o.”

Unfinished Business

He sat at the back of the church. Wedding guests were filing in, the women dressed in elegant wrappers and dazzling dresses, the men looking serious in suits and caftans. He lowered his head, but he didn’t have to. No one recognised him here. No one except her.

When their eyes met, she gasped and gripped her escorts hand. A reflexive act that worried the man and the photographer.

“Dupe, are you alright?” The elderly man at her side asked.

“Yes, uncle. I am fine.” The bride answered. But she wasn’t, she was trembling like a cobweb.

Lucky savoured the moment. It was good to know she still remembered. Very good.

He remembered too.

Six years ago, they had been man and wife. He had planned it all to get himself an easy UK visa but she had thought it was love. Once they got to Glasgow where she worked, the rose coloured glasses had shattered and she had seen him as he was.

By then he had found other friends and contacts he could use. When she caught him with Sheena, a sultry Jamaican traffic warden, she filed for a divorce.

Then he disappeared.

Until now.

Until here, in this crowded Surulere church.

Soon the minister would ask if there was anyone who had any reason why the couple should not be joined.

He would watch her suffer through that eternal minute.

Then he would leave.

But not a minute before.

Raw Deal

For Lily

She lets Prince kiss her. Moving to his rhythm, making the right sounds at the right places, she is the perfect partner tonight. Her thoughts pirouette through the window, soar above the twin duplex and outdoor pools, flit across the bridge, to the semi-slums, to the crammed self-contained room without air conditioning or TV where she and Taiye used to live.

She sees, no, feels Taiye smiling at her, lifting her in his muscular arms twirling her in the yard while the kids watch and giggle. She breathes the scent of his freshly washed clothes, and subtle musk as it caresses her skin.

He calls her by name but it sounds different when he does, like a treasure– something he never wants to lose. Then they are sharing a drink on the 6-spring mattress on the floor, or playing ludo, or cuddling while he tells her his dreams.

Prince is done, he rolls over like a boulder and begins to snore.

She is still awake and she can’t forget the TV-less room, or the man with muscular arms. She wonders why she still wants more. Wasn’t money what she gave it all up for?

And in that lonely room, tears falls, and she knows she is poorer now, than when she was in the arms of the man that made her feel on top of the world.

My Fair Lady 2

As the Day of Hearts drew near, Ugo grew thin with fear. He couldn’t eat or drink. He couldn’t sing or think. His modest mansion was awash in a dim grey glow.

What could he do to win Hildebrand? What could he give? He wasn’t as wealthy as Henry who had ordered an entire Island designed for Hildebrand. Once she said yes, it would be named the Isle of Hilda.

He didn’t have Blondie’s quick wits. Sometimes it took him days to find the perfect rejionder for Blondie’s jabs; by then, they were stale and bland.

He wasn’t an ugly man, but by Macle, his modest good looks might as well be Shrek’s. The more Ugo thought about his chances, the more he wanted to give up.

But Love doesn’t fail, and it never gives up. So Ugo sent for Panku and LaPap, his closest friends and allies. If he was to have any chance at all, he had to do something amazing, magnificent and wondrous. And that with modest means, looks and wit.

Panku and LaPap came by evening. The trio sat in Ugo’s parlour drinking grape juice and hibiscus nectar as they pondered Ugo’s plight.

“Give up my friend.” LaPap said, downing the contents of his glass before refilling. “You have no chance against these men. Were it one or the other, you would probably have a hair’s breath, as it is, you are finished.”

LaPap’s words rang in Ugo’s soul like a Death Knell.

“Nonsense!” Panku exclaimed. “Does Love move with the wind? Is it scared of charlatans and contenders? Or is it steadfast and sure? Have no fear, Ugo. You will win Hildebrand. All we need is a plan.” And with a swish of her long green skirt, she fetched a drawing board and a pen.

Hours later, a plan had been formed. It wasn’t the best of plans but it was better than any Ugo had thought of (if he had been able to think at all). And for this, Ugo was grateful.

He would have been less pleased if he knew that LaPap had sold his plans to Henry for a 40 percent share in his oil and gas company. His ignorance was bliss that would soon turn to an intense and shocking agony.

*

* *

The lots were drawn and Ugo would be the last to see Hildebrand. A terrible turn of events, akin to being asked to sing after Whitney Huston or to speak after Barack Obama or Nelson Mandela.

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