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Today we begin the new fiction series “Clandestine”.
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Alex was asleep, but he knew something wasn’t right. You know those times when you are asleep but you are disturbed because you know you shouldn’t be sleeping but you can’t stop sleeping? That’s how Alex felt. Could it be the thought of the Lagos Monday Morning traffic? Or the fear of his boss? Something bugged Alex in his sleep. He felt the urge to wake up, but the beauty of good sleep couldn’t be undermined. Why he hadn’t jumped up despite the burden in his mind was still insignificant to him as he wandered in dream land.
One touch from the body that lay close to him and he rolled off the bed to the floor, and with that, his romance with the bed was over and a painful groan followed…then hefty spluttering. He had fallen face down on his used condom. He picked himself up feeling very irritated with the recent happening and then the next thing that followed worsened his mood. His companion chuckled. Was it funny? He didn’t think it was, but apparently it was funny to her. He rubbed his eyes and wondered who she was for the next second. “Jennifer?” he asked.
“Tricia, you moron.” She replied angrily. Not that she had expected much from him. Most the guys that had passed the night with her didn’t care to ask her name. They just went on to negotiate. But Alex was different, he had asked for her name…and forgotten it too. How was that different?
Alex picked his steps as he made his way to the bathroom amidst the bottles, cigarettes, underwears and contraceptives that littered the floor. He could hear her snickering at his movement but he couldn’t care less. He wondered how he could have slept with someone so dirty. But damn, the sex was good.
“Don’t you clean this place?” he shouted from the bathroom as he looked through the filthy bathroom.
Tricia lit her cigarette and chuckled. “What do you f*cking care?” she asked. “Take a shower and get out!”
Alex stared at the bathroom and shook his head in disgust. ‘Half bread is better than none’. ‘When you are in Rome, behave like a Roman’. Alex started consoling himself with several throttles as he ran the water over his body from the rusty sprinkle of the shower. He did good not to open his mouth at all.
“Oyinbo!” Tricia cooed as Alex approached from the bathroom with a small towel dangling around his waist. She smiled at this. “I last washed it four months ago.”
“I am not surprised.” Alex replied as he picked his wristwatch from the table and screamed. “Why didn’t you wake me? Oh my God!” he exclaimed as he grabbed his shirt and pants and tugged into them in a hurry.
Tricia yawned and pulled the bed sheets over her. “You didn’t look like you wanted to be disturbed.”
“There goes your money!” He retorted as he grabbed his shoes.
“You won’t dare!” Tricia said as she rattled his car keys.
Alex sighed and fetched some money from his wallet and hurled it at her. She picked the money from the bed and counted properly before tossing the keys at him. “Here you go!”
“You are the devil.” He said as he hurried towards the door.
Tricia stared at him with a smile. “Alex!”
He turned to her. “What do you want?”
She hurled something at him. He didn’t see what it was, but he did well to catch properly. He then opened his palm and stared at his wedding ring.
“Have a nice day.” She said with a wicked grin.
Alex shut the door with fury and hurried downstairs to his car.
2 YEARS AGO.
Lola was buried in her phone as she tweeted in advocacy for the #BringBackOurGirls campaign which had flooded the streets of Nigeria and more importantly, the streets of twitter as the issue spanned. She had not stopped airing her opinion from the first day that the kidnap of school girls from Chibok, a community in Borno state, Nigeria, by the dreaded terror sect, Boko Haram became public knowledge. She did not believe she was a ‘twitter activist’, but her a hundred and fifty thousand followers might have seen her as one. She saw herself as a voice, and if twitter was a means for her to be heard, gladly she would speak.
The “Clandestine Bar” had always been her favourite getaway spot for Thursday evenings. There was something about the bar and it was not in its already ‘shady’ name which gave away the deeds that could be seen there. It was in the Thursday special and that was the sole reason she visited the bar on Thursdays.
Thursday specials presented the guests at the bar with live music performances from talented musicians. Most of them were raw talents and looking for an opportunity to bud and they got it from their performance at the bar. Lola, a music lover, couldn’t pass on the opportunity to listen to delightful music. And tonight, was just another of those nights.
A cocktail was set before her as the musician mounted the stage. She looked up at the waiter. “I didn’t order anything.” She said.
“Sorry. It’s mine.” Alex said as he took his seat beside her. The waiter disappeared immediately.
Lola stared at him. “Excuse me?”
“Is the seat taken?” he asked as he took off his jacket. “Lord, work was hectic.” He added as he sipped from his drink.
Lola stared at him. “The seat isn’t taken, but I don’t like company.”
He chuckled. “What are you? A Lesbian?” Seeing that his joke fell flat, he cleared his throat. “I am sorry. My name is Alex.”
Lola refocused her gaze on the young lady who sang a melancholic tune in a soft voice. Her voice was powerful, distinct and sublime. How she managed to combine all those in one was magical. Lola loved it.
Alex stared at his sitting partner who had her eyes firmly fixed on the musician. He’d understand her passion if she was focusing on a male singer, but this was a female singer. What could be so enthralling in another female? He thought as he was getting pissed at her refusal to give him some audience. He had sneezed hoping to hear the occasional ‘bless you’ that any normal person would say in response to that, but she didn’t say anything. The music must have been ‘blessing’ her instead.
He was dying to stand up and walk away from her, but he didn’t want to seem like a loser, so he decided to sit through the torture of watching her beautiful face as she listened to a beautiful voice. Finally his ‘competitor’ left the stage and he smiled at Lola. “Lovely voice, right?” he asked.
Lola smiled at him. “Did you even listen?”
“No.” he replied.
She smiled at his honesty. “Then why did you lie?”
“To impress you.”
She scoffed. “Epic fail.”
He smiled. “I guessed as much.”
Lola refocused her gaze on the podium as the owner of the bar had mounted to address his guest on the free drinks that usually came around this time from an anonymous giver.
“Anonymous giver?” Alex whispered to her. “These filthy money bags.”
Lola stared at him. “I always pass on it.”
“You always? Do you always come here?” he asked.
She nodded as she placed her phone into her purse and started to gather her things.
“Why do you always come here?” he asked.
Lola smiled. “Good music.”
“Are you an ardent?” he asked.
She paused. “I would have said the worst kind, which under normal circumstances, sounds like the best way to put it, but I’d rather say, the best kind of ardent.”
Alex chuckled. “Seriously? You just did that merry-go-round to avoid saying the ‘worst kind of ardent’? You must be the optimist.”
She stared at him carefully. “I am an optimist.”
“Are we not all?” he asked. “Alex.” He reiterated as he stretched forth his hand.
Lola smiled. “You already mentioned your name.”
Seeing that she was not in the mood to take his hand, he withdrew it and placed in his pocket. “What’s your name?”
“Goodnight.” She replied and walked out of the bar.
Alex hurried after her into the parking space. “Goodnight?” he echoed after her into the space. “Does anybody bear that?”
Lola smiled as she turned around. “I never said my name was that.” She said as she stopped by her car.
“I am not getting off without a name.” Alex replied.
She folded her arm. “Why do you want my name?”
“I like you.” He replied.
Lola laughed. “You like me?”
He nodded. “You are pretty and you sound very intelligent. I like that.”
“I don’t only sound intelligent. I am intelligent.” She replied.
He smiled. “You are cocky.”
“I thought that was majorly used for the male folks.” She replied.
He nodded. “Yes, and peculiar females.”
She opened her door. “Lola.”
“Lola?” he probed.
She nodded and set the ignition. “Yes, Lola.” She replied and closed the door.
Alex tapped on the glass. “Do I get a number?”
“Don’t push your luck.” She replied and drove off.
Alex stood before his boss with his head bowed. He had driven as though he was racing against time to get to work on a Monday morning when the forces of Lagos Traffic were all against him and maybe his infidelity also compromised him for such punishment, but a sight like his boss this morning seemed even worse.
“I can’t have you reporting late for duty on a Monday morning, especially when you know that we have to pitch ideas to big clients.”
Alex cleared his throat. “I am really sorry, Sir.”
“Sorry isn’t good enough. Lateness is highly prohibited. I am letting you off because you are very important to us and I can’t have you worrying about a query when we have bigger things to worry about.” He replied.
Alex managed a smile. “Thank you, Sir.”
Mr. Idahosa took his seat. “How’s your wife?”
“She is fine, Sir.” He replied.
Mr. Idahosa stared at him carefully. “Is she home?”
Alex swallowed. “Excuse me?”
“I don’t mean to pry, but you look rather too rough.” His boss replied.
Alex stared at his shirt and pants which were quite rumpled. He cursed his luck. Last night was a complete howler. “I had a bit of a situation.”
“I can see. Well, we have a meeting in an hour or so, you can’t be looking like a situation during the meeting.” Mr. Idahosa said as he adjusted his glasses.
Alex nodded and walked out of the office. He bumped into Jude as he stepped out. “Don’t say anything.”
Jude chuckled. “Your wife called me all night, you dirty bastard. Did you end up at that girl’s house?”
Alex sighed. “Good thing is I don’t have to answer to her when I get home, she would be at work by now. I need to get a change of clothes.”
“Guy, you know you have to be sleeker than this if you are going to be jumping in and out of beds like this.” Jude said.
Alex blinked. “Yesterday was a mistake. A big one. I didn’t expect to fall asleep at that place, besides, that girl is so annoying. She let me sleep off so bad and couldn’t wake me.”
“Is she your wife who cares about you?” Jude asked as he laughed. “Hurry up, man. We have big investors coming through.”
Alex nodded and walked out.
2 YEARS AGO
“Are you always on that thing?” Alex asked as he watched Lola type away on her phone.
She turned at him. “Are you now stalking me?”
He nodded with a wry smile. “Every Thursday stalker.”
“You are a joke.” She replied.
“I’ll gladly make you laugh.” He said with a coo.
Lola smiled and continued typing. “You should try to listen to good music. That would make your coming here a real effort.”
“I come here for you.” He said.
She stopped typing and stared at him. “Why did you come here last week?”
“Are you now interested in me?” he asked as he sipped his malt.
She smiled. “You know why I am here, I think it’s only fair I know why you have abandoned your first task to start stalking me.”
He adjusted his jacket. “Fair enough. I came here last week to see some guys. I work in an Investment Bank and we are or rather, we were trying to get them to sign us on a bake-off, but, they didn’t turn up and so, I was tired and about to leave when my eyes caught you randomly in a corner of the room typing away on your phone and I was curious. I decided to take a closer look at you because your side view is damn gorgeous and I needed to satisfy myself with a complete view, so, I decided to say hello and then, you know the rest.”
Lola smiled. “Seriously?”
“Yes. Seriously.” He replied.
“You are a mess.” She said.
Alex squinted. “A mess?”
“Your work interest didn’t show up and you didn’t chase them? You decided to make an acquaintance with a complete stranger. That’s a mess.”
He smiled. “A mess I liked creating.”
“Sadly, you don’t sway me with words.” She replied.
He nodded. “Not that I expected to sway you with words, but I just thought I could get a plus mark.”
“And that would be?”
“Your phone number.” He replied.
She sighed. “That’s a long shot off.”
“Okay. Tell me about yourself.” He said.
“That’s ambitious.” She replied.
Alex took a deep breath. “You are work.”
He dropped his glass on the table. “I don’t take this long to get my women.”
“I am not your woman.” She replied.
He nodded. “Your loss. I am the complete package.”
“Good looks don’t always work for me, I like good brains and clearly you don’t have that.”
He chuckled. “That’s harsh, but I’ll take it as a compliment.”
“Exactly why I said you don’t have the brains.” She said.
“Now you are being rude.” He replied.
She smiled. “Is that your ego taking a hurt?”
“I am trying to make a conversation, but you are being rude about it.” He replied. “Or should I say, defensive. This Olivia Pope character in you ladies makes me sick.”
“She is a glorified side chic.” Lola replied.
He nodded. “But with a lot of sexy defiance and arrogance and you ladies seem to have picked up a touch of it.”
Lola smiled. “This is who I am.”
“I like you.” He replied. “My name is Alex Ojo. I am twenty-six. I am an investment banker.”
Lola stayed silent.
“That’s my name. My Age. My occupation.” Alex said.
Lola sighed. “I observed. Is that you selling yourself?”
“That’s a brief description. I am trying to get to know you.” He replied. “Just tell me something about you.”
Alex stared at her. “Lola David? You mean, @LolaDavid on twitter?”
“This is she.”
Alex gaped. “Oh my God! Are you serious? Like for real?” he asked with a smile. “Damn!”
Lola stared at him. “This is part where you say, I am a huge fan, I am so pleased to meet you. Can I get an autograph?”
Alex chuckled. “I am honoured to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too.”
He adjusted in his seat. “I guess you are still on the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign.”
“I am very much interested in seeing where it all ends. We owe it to those girls.” She replied.
“Is it funny?” she asked.
He shook his head. “I am just amazed. You have never used a picture of you on twitter, so, I had always imagined you as this ‘big’ woman.”
“Big woman?” she asked.
He nodded. “You are petit and cute. Really nice.”
“So, I am guessing we now judge people’s size based on what they tweet?” she asked.
He smiled. “You seemed the big woman.”
“It has never been about the size of the girl.” She replied.
He acknowledged with a nod. “So, I am guessing you have a day job or are you just strictly the writer cum blogger?”
“No. I work in an Advisory firm.” She replied.
Alex chuckled. “You guys are the ones attempting to chalk out us, investment bankers.”
She smiled. “It’s not our plan.”
“We run Advisory too.” He said.
“You are too greedy.” She replied with a smile.
Alex smiled. “How old are you?”
“No way.” He replied. “You can’t be twenty-two. Didn’t you go to the University at all?”
She smiled. “I did the NYSC too and my Master’s degree.”
“Oh my God…what have I been doing with my life?” Alex asked.
“Chasing ladies.” She replied as she sipped her drink.
He bit his lip. “I want to take you out for a drink.”
“Casanova style?” she asked.
He shrugged, “Call it whatever, I like you, and I am going on a date with you.”
“I thought it was just for a drink.” She replied as she resumed typing on her phone.
He smiled. “That’s how it starts.”
“How does it end?” she asked without taking her eyes off the phone.
“You might want to look at me for that.” He replied.
She turned to him. “Am I supposed to find the answers in your face?”
“No. It’s in my eyes.” He replied.
Lola laughed. “That was a good joke.”
“You are welcome.” He replied and focused his gaze on the stage. “Your best part of the night is about to start. I better not interrupt.” He added.
Lola smiled. “Thank you.” She said as she stared at the musician who mounted the stage.
Alex stole occasional glances at her. He knew he might have just scored a little more than the average guys. He was going to be her friend, and that, for ladies like Lola, did matter a lot.
Alex raised the foot mat at the door and retrieved the keys to the house. He was glad to find the keys there, it could only mean that ‘Mrs.’ had left the house and he didn’t have to start giving a sermon whilst he tried hurrying back to work.
He stared at the keys and then took a deep breath. He thought of himself for a moment. He was married yet he lived as though the values pertaining to couples never mattered. Truly, the values didn’t mean so much to him, but when you find a woman that makes your life complete, it was meant to matter.
He opened the door and turned on the lights.
He sighed as he stared at Lola.