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Craig didn’t expect Alhaji to accept him with open arms when he walked in. Alhaji Ibrahim thumped his table. “Young man, you have no right to be here.”
“I know that, Sir. But all I am requesting for is ten minutes.”
“Ten minutes? I can’t even stand your sight for another minute.” Alhaji retorted, receiving the receiver.
“Don’t call the security on me, Sir. At least, not yet. I just want to say all I have to say to you.” He replied.
Alhaji punched two digits. “If I touch the next, I will have a host of men here. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t hit the button.”
“Because you came to my office and I listened to you. I think you should please listen to me too.” Craig replied.
Alhaji smiled as he replaced the receiver. “I have always known you as a man with guts. Nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds.”
Craig took a deep breath as he stepped forward. “I know I have disappointed you and hurt Aisha and I am deeply sorry about it.”
“That is all, right?”
“No, Sir.” Craig said as he blinked. “When you came to me and told me to love your daughter forever, a lot of things changed for me. Even though I might not have worked towards it directly, I started to care about Aisha. It is not because you asked me, it is because I wanted to. Everything about me cared for her.”
“Interesting, Craig. Interesting.” Alhaji replied as he rose to his feet. “Tell me, why exactly are you here? You fooled me, possibly fooled Aisha to an extent too. The game is over, there is nothing left for you here.”
“I am afraid there is.”
Alhaji leaned against his table as he faced Craig deeply. “What did you leave behind?”
“Aisha. It’s more like ‘who did I leave behind?’ ” Craig replied.
Moira watched as Aisha ate her meal silently. “Aisha, please eat up.”
“I am trying the best I can.” Aisha replied as she drank some water. “Where are the guys on searching for Craig? Have they searched Europe yet? I think they should check there first”
Moira dropped her fork. “Aisha, I think it is pointless.”
“Why is it pointless? I just want to know where he is.”
Moira took a deep breath. “Aisha, there is no need to torture yourself any more. Craig is gone and gone for good. Get over him.”
“I can’t. Is it so hard for you to understand?”
Moira nodded. “Yes, it is. See, Hakeem is returning to town soon. I think you can divert your attention towards him.”
“Hello…is this Moira? Do you understand what you are saying to me? Divert to Hakeem?” Aisha asked as she hissed.
Moira sighed. “It’s just that I don’t know what else to say to you. Just look at you, since Craig has been gone, you have not been the same.”
“How am I supposed to be the same woman? A lot of things have changed for me, Moira. You of all people should know that.”
Moira picked her glass and sipped. “Look, Aisha, I understand how much effect this game has had on you but I think it is time for us to move on from it.”
“Us? Moira, it is just me. I am the one who had to date Craig! I am the one who thought a proposal was real. I am the one who was ready to build my life with a stranger. I was the one who fell in love…and lost. Please don’t talk to me about us!” Aisha said as she grabbed her purse and walked out.
Moira finished her drink and hurried after her friend.
“Love? Craig…I am no fool” Alhaji started. “I know the opportunity to father the heir to a dynasty as huge as this is enticing, but I am not going to give you the privilege. No, Craig.”
Craig wiped his brow. “Sir, I care about Aisha. I love her. She has changed a lot of things for me and yes, I agree there was an initial plan but it all changed for me and right now all I want is Aisha. I want to love her-”
“-Don’t!” Alhaji yelled. “Don’t try to fool me again, young man. I was beaten once, not again.”
“Sir, I assure you that I am not trying to fool you. All I want is to love your daughter.”
Alhaji smiled. “Well, you are assuring me, right? Guess what, that is not very assuring. Look, Craig, I was willing to overlook the religious difference between us at the expense of being mocked by my friends. But how did you repay me? Act out a farce with Aisha?”
“Sir, would you have still accepted me if I had told you that day that this was a game between Aisha and I?”
Alhaji blinked as he took a seat. A silence followed between Craig and Alhaji Ibrahim. Craig knew he had asked Alhaji the right question and the Old man might need some time to allow all he had said sink in. Craig needed his forgiveness before he would show his face before Aisha. He knew that irrespective of the outcome between himself and Alhaji, he would still look for Aisha. But maybe the moment wasn’t right.
Alhaji knew that he would have stopped the game if Craig had told him that day. He also knew that he would not forgive and accept Craig. The young man was right, but yet, he was wrong. He had played him and disrespected him. That couldn’t be forgiven. Hakeem was returning to town and maybe he could get another shot with Aisha now.
“Sir, I am asking for another chance. A genuine chance, I might not be perfect, but I love Aisha and I know that she loves me. That is all we need.”
Alhaji took a deep breath. “Sometimes, love is never enough. I want you to leave my office now and never return. Do not show your face anywhere near me or my daughter again. It is your last warning.”
Craig took a deep breath and fetched the credit cards from his pocket. “Could you please give these to Aisha for me?” he asked.
Alhaji nodded. “Drop them. I can do that. It is my daughter’s money after all.”
Craig placed the cards on the table. “Sir, now I am the man I used to be – broke, and simple, but with love for Aisha. I won’t let her go.” He said and approached the door.
“Craig!” Alhaji called.
Craig stopped as he held on to the knob.
“You asked me if I would have accepted you if you had told me that it is was a game between you and Aisha then. No, I wouldn’t have…but, you would have earned my respect.” He concluded and took his seat.
“So, what’s the plan, Aisha? Let’s say we want to look for Craig, where are we going to start from?” Moira said as she caught up with Aisha in the park.
Aisha shrugged. “I don’t know but all I know is that I want to see Craig and even if it is for the last time, I need to know if he did feel anything for me. I need to know if I pushed him away by my actions or something. I…I don’t just want to let go, Moira.”
“Aisha, this is serious, babe.” Moira said as she opened the car door. “What do we do?”
“Let’s find him. I just need to talk to him.”
Moira shrugged. “I think we should see your Dad and tell him that we would be absent for a while. We’ll take that time to try finding him.”
“What if he is gone for real? Moira, what if I would never see him again?” Aisha asked feeling pensive.
Moira knew that was a possibility. A man with so much money at his disposal would have moved to another continent by now and taken good cover. She didn’t expect them to find him easily, but she knew that if there was something that money could do for you, it would do what seemed too hard for the man without money to spend.
“Aisha, we would pull every string that we can but I just think that you shouldn’t get your hopes high. No man will have that much money and sit put, he must be in Antarctica by now.” Moira started. Aisha’s face didn’t liven up and Moira didn’t expect joy on her face with that sort of news. “Look, Aisha, I know this is new for you, I mean…falling in love, but, I want to promise you that it is never always like this. It gets easier. If Craig is not the guy for you, someone else will.”
“Please don’t say Hakeem.” Aisha said cutting in.
Moira smiled as her friend seemed to be coming alive. “It would be alright, Aisha. I’ll call our guys at the airport and see if there is any news on him.”
“Maybe you should check through seaports too.”
Moira nodded. “But Aisha, if Craig has really absconded with your money, do you still want to love such a man? I mean, he is not worth it.”
“You don’t choose who you love, right?” Aisha replied as she started the car. “Right now, I don’t care if I would never be with him, I just want to be see him again. Maybe we can depart on clearer terms now and I could be sure that we had nothing.” Aisha concluded.
Moira knew better. It was not about being sure that they had nothing, Aisha wanted to fight for something. It was clear to her now. She watched as Aisha drove the car without any real enthusiasm, she started to worry about allowing her drive. Aisha took occasional looks through the window and focused on the road again. For mischievous reasons, this seemed to delight Moira. The Amazon’s ‘Mumu-button’ had been activated. Moira grinned at the thought of this. Aisha’s phone vibrated and Moira pulled it close before Aisha could reach it. “Speed up.”
“I think its father.” Aisha said
Moira nodded as she confirmed. “We would talk to him when we get back to the office. For now, you have to drive. So, Speed up!”
Aisha sighed and stepped on the accelerator.
“Where have you been all day man?” Bolu asked as he turned off the TV. “I have been waiting for you.”
Craig helped himself to a seat. “Did you have to fly down here? I told you I would return to meet you.”
“What if Alhaji had arranged to have you locked up? What would I have done? I had to come here to ensure your safety.”
Craig shrugged. “Luckily for us, nothing like that happened. He told me to stay away from Aisha.”
“That’s expected. The man is disappointed in you but I believe he will come around.”
“I hope so, now he has to see me in the light of who I really am. I don’t think people easily come around that. And I believe that he must prefer the other guy to me.”
Bolu shook his head. “When are you going to see Aisha?”
“I…I don’t know. I don’t know if I can face her.”
Bolu smiled. “You can. That is the whole essence of your coming here. You have to face her and let her know how you feel about her. Who knows? She might feel the same and if that is not the case, you tried. At least, you bore your heart out to her.”
“I don’t know what to do.” Craig replied in a low tone.
“Aisha is the woman you love, she is the woman that you really have to talk to.”
Craig raised an eyebrow. “Do I go now?”
“I don’t know. You know how you plan these things. Go ahead and think of something.” Bolu replied. Craig relaxed in the chair as he took a deep breath. Bolu smiled at the thought of his next question. “And the credit cards?
Craig turned his face away from him as he consumed himself in thoughts.
“Dad, you sent for me.” Aisha said as she walked into Alhaji’s office. Moira walked in quickly after her. She couldn’t let any gist slip past her.
Alhaji Ibrahim nodded with a smile. “I have big news for you.” He started.
“What is it?” Aisha asked, helping herself to a seat.
She didn’t look as enthusiastic as her father would have liked. “What is it, Aisha?” he asked.
“She’s got the flu.” Moira immediately said.
Alhaji stared at the girls as he took a seat. “What flu?”
“Sir, you can’t understand.” Moira replied. “Let’s get on with the good news.” She added.
Alhaji smiled. “You have made some extra cash, Aisha.”
“Okay.” Aisha replied flatly.
Alhaji stared at the girls carefully. “What am I missing here?” he asked.
“Dad, you are missing nothing. I don’t just feel okay.” She replied.
“Have you been to the hospital? I’ll ask someone to take you.” Alhaji said as he fetched his phone.
Aisha shook her head as Moira smiled. “Dad, I am not sick.”
“But…But you said you don’t feel well.” He replied as he took his seat beside her. “Tell me princess, what can daddy do for you?”
Moira grinned. Alhaji was acting as though Aisha was his five or seven year old daughter. That was not Aisha’s style and it didn’t take long before Aisha snapped out of her father’s niceness.
“Dad, come on…what’s with the princess talk?” Aisha asked.
Alhaji smiled. “No matter how old you are or how far you go, you will always be daddy’s princess. So, tell me, what is bothering you?”
“I am afraid you can’t help her, Sir.” Moira replied with a grin.
Alhaji stared at Moira. “Why not?”
“These are matters of the heart, Sir. You won’t understand.” Moira replied.
Alhaji stared at Aisha. “What is this about?”
Aisha ignored him.
He picked up her credit cards from the table and placed them in her hand. “You sure know what these are.” He said.
Aisha stared at Moira and then back at her father. “Was Craig here?” she asked.
He nodded and poured himself some wine. “And he is gone forever.”
Alhaji stared at Aisha. “He has returned your money, you should be glad.”
“Dad!!” Aisha groaned.
“Aisha! What is it?” he asked.
Aisha blinked. “What did Craig want?”
“What do you want me to tell you?” Alhaji asked.
“The whole truth, Dad.” She replied. “Dad, I know you have never lied to me, but, right now, I want you to tell me everything that Craig told you and what he came here for, I beg you not to tell me anything otherwise. Even if it hurts me, I’ll take it.” Aisha concluded as she panted.
Moira swallowed. She knew that anything Alhaji said now would go a long way for Aisha. Aisha was in love with Craig and she would do anything to rewrite her wrongs. Moira was worried about Alhaji sending Craig off forever. She stared at Alhaji as he sipped his wine and then back at Aisha whose eyes were already gathering tears.
Alhaji delayed the distance of the wine to his mouth as he sipped. What would he tell Aisha? He wasn’t the man who would lie to his daughter, but at this moment, the truth didn’t seem too palatable for him and his new plans for Aisha. He had seen Aisha for the woman that she was now – weak, fragile and needing love. Was he going to take all that from her? Hakeem was returning and as far as he was concerned, Hakeem was deserving of Aisha’s love too. Why did she have to fall for a con man? He had to tell Aisha something. She had asked for the truth from him. He gulped his wine and took a seat. “Aisha, he told me a lot of things, and I recount them.” He started.
“Dad…” Aisha said as a drop fell from her eyes.
He blinked. “I am not torturing you, Aisha and I don’t want to, but, I really can’t start explaining everything that he said to me to you. And I don’t feel bad about it, all I will do is summarize it for you.”
“Summary? Dad, this is important to me.” Aisha said.
Alhaji hissed. “Look, Love is never hard to find, you just have to be open to the possibility. Hakeem loves you.”
“Dad, what you meant to say is, ‘Company is never hard to find.’ That’s what Hakeem would be.” She replied.
Alhaji stared at Aisha for a while and then continued. “Where is all these coming from?!” Aisha didn’t respond. Alhaji turned in Moira’s direction. “It was all a game, right? When did it get this complicated?”
“Go…on!” Alhaji barked.
Moira took a seat. “Nothing to say.”
“Aisha??? Don’t tell me that you are in love with Craig.” Alhaji said.
Moira smiled. “She is in love with Craig.”
Alhaji’s eyes popped. “What???”
“Well, Sir, you said she shouldn’t tell you that she is in love with Craig, I thought I could help her.” Moira replied with a grin.
Alhaji turned in Aisha’s direction. “Is that true?” he asked. Aisha remained mute. “You have got to tell me something, Aisha dear. You have to. I am your father and mother, I am here for you. You have to tell me these things.” Alhaji pleaded.
“Sir…Sir…” Moira started.
“What is it, Moira?” he asked.
Moira smiled. “I think you are being too hard on her. Maybe you can give her some time and space.”
“No, I won’t!” he replied.
Aisha nodded as she wiped the tears off her face. “Yes, Dad. I am in love with him. How and when it happened, I don’t know. But I am proud of it and even though I know that he might not love me back and that he only wanted me for the money and the game that we had. I am glad I fell in love, I am glad I learnt how to feel special about someone else. I am glad that I know what love is, and I am sorry, Dad, if I disappoint you right now, but, I am happy about how I feel. The only thing that keeps me sad is that fact that I didn’t love the right man-” Aisha said amidst tears.
“-well, you are wrong.” Alhaji muttered in a low tone. Moira gaped as she watched Aisha speak.
Aisha didn’t hear him as she continued. “-And even though it hurts me, I’ll do it all again to love him. He might not have been perfect, Dad, but he was mine. This thing I feel, I am going to nurture it and when I am strong enough, I am going to fight for it and fight for him, and if I lose, fine. But when I win, you’d be proud of the woman I have become.” Aisha concluded as she wiped her tears.
Alhaji and Moira took deep breaths at the same time. Alhaji wiped his forehead as he stared at Aisha. “Are you done talking?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yes, I am. I would be on my way now.”
“Well, you are wrong about Craig.” He said.
Aisha nodded. “I know he wanted the money, thank you.”
“Yes, you are right about that, but, you have one thing missing.”
Aisha stared at Moira and then back at her father.
“Craig loves you.”
…it’s all fun and games until someone falls in love….and then the fun and games become real fun…and real love too.