In case you missed my novella “Hearts and Homes”, please find and download here
Fola sipped his coffee as he watched Sarah gather her bags, every last one of them. He clenched his teeth as he shook his head. He was glad she had gotten mad and decided to ‘break up’ with him. He didn’t even consider what they had a relationship. He dropped the mug on the table and slid his hands into his pockets as he watched her wheel her box to the door and return to the dressing mirror to pull out her facial aid or was it makup kit she called it? He thought it was a facial aid though. Sarah was really mad at him but she would not say why. He could guess. She was tired of seeing Aaima around the house, but he didn’t understand why she was laying claims to what wasn’t hers in the first place. Women! He sighed and took her hand. “Sarah!” he started.
“Don’t touch me.” She replied, yanking her hand out of his grip.
He raised his hands in surrender and stepped back. “I don’t get it. You just wake up and tell me it’s over. That’s really classy, you know?” he said, leaning against the dressing mirror.
Sarah stared at him. “She won’t go.”
Fola exhaled. “Who? Aaima?” he asked and shook his head. “Sarah, you are being paranoid. I already told you that Obi is into her and Obi is my guy. That counts for something.” He replied.
She laughed. “You know, if it was Obi telling me this and the story was the other way round, I might actually believe him. But you? Fola King?” she stopped and laughed. “I am sure you don’t even believe yourself.” She added.
“You are being dramatic.” He replied. “You nagged me out of bed last night and now you wake me up with ‘We are done’. How stupid is that? And all because of Aaima? A lady that had done you no harm? I know ladies could be all shades of jealous and stuff, but this…this is a new level of low.” He replied.
“You don’t get to tell me what is low!” she retorted and hurried over to the wardrobe pulling out a gift bag. “I found this dress. Certainly, it’s not mine. You got it for her, right?” she asked.
Fola nodded. “Yes, I bought her a dress when I went to do some shopping with Obi for her since you would not share your things.”
Sarah scoffed. “Why haven’t you given it to her? Choosing your moment? That’s not typical of you.” She cooed, dropping the dress on the bed. “It’s beautiful.”
Fola scoffed. “Look, I really don’t know where you are getting with all the tantrums and drama, but I am not sticking around for it. If you want to go, be my guest. I am not going to ask you to stay and you are free to think whatever you want to but I think that you should really grow up, Sarah.” He said, pulling his blazer from the hanger.
She rose to meet him. “Grow up? I saw you with her last night. I saw you both playing that stupid thing-”
“The lady can really play. I have told you to try it. Girls smash that pad really hard too, you know?” He replied with a smile.
She groaned. “It’s not about the stupid PlayStation and you know it. I saw you last night, Fola. I have never seen you like that before. I saw the way you looked at her. I saw you watch her laugh. I saw you smile. Dammit! Fola, you smiled because of a woman. And I am not talking about the stupid snide smug face you give to me or other people. I am talking about something deep.”
Fola swallowed as she continued.
“Something much more than what I know you to be, something real…something inside…that’s a different Fola. And I can be great in bed till I die but I can’t compete with that. I can’t compete with Aaima. And if…just if you think I am paranoid and I can’t see what you already feel for her, then I think that you are the one who needs to grow up.” She concluded and walked out, pulling her bags along.
He exhaled as he wiped his forehead.
Fola yawned slightly as he watched his client go back and forth in a tirade with the defendant. They had resulted to a settlement in this case. On a good day, Fola enjoyed settlements out of court because it gave him the room to rip Okay,le of a lot of money in civil cases, but today wasn’t a very good day. He had been thinking a lot about what Sarah had said to him before she left the house. Aaima. Could he really be attracted to Aaima? He thought to himself. Not that he needed Sarah to figure that out for him, but if he was getting close to Aaima…he was in trouble. He was not wired for this. He knew what worked for him. Flirt. Hurt. Bed. Repeat the cycle. He exhaled as he thought of the life he had. He was not particularly proud of it but he wasn’t ashamed either. He could sleep at night and for him, that did count. The day he lost sleep over any matter was the day he knew he’d re-examine his values. Till then…….this case was starting to piss him off. He drummed on the table and stared at the defendant. “Okay, woman, listen to me. This is what you will do. You are going to pay my client the sum of a hundred million naira and this whole scandal goes away.”
“You are kidding right, Fola King?” The Defendant’s lawyer asked. “There is no way we are coughing out a hundred million for this lying client of yours who had consensual sex with his boss, my client.”
Fola smiled. “You know, I actually hate when people think that I am joking over a matter I consider very serious. You see, your client here, Mrs-I-like-younger-men isn’t going to want this to blow out to the public, and you know why? My client isn’t the first staff that she has had carnal knowledge of. Yes, Carnal knowledge. I know it sounds religious and old school-ish, but there is a way I like to pick my terms. So, you can sit there and cackle about how you won’t write us a cheque of a hundred million or you can save us all the drama of a long trial which I am sure that she would not want considering the fact that she is about to cash in on her late husband’s fortune and won’t want any problems with his family when we take this to court. Please give me that cheque before eight pm tomorrow.” He replied, gathering his documents.
The woman exhaled as she sipped her juice.
Fola smiled as he watched her do this. “Here at Peterside Chambers, we pride ourselves in very good customer service. The juice is hundred percent natural. On a normal day, we don’t give juice…it’s just water. But today is a good day. The juice is on me.”
“I was thinking you could do wine. Fancy suit lawyer.” The woman’s lawyer replied, attempting a swipe at Fola.
Fola smiled as he adjusted his jacket. “I only give wine to my friends. It was nice meeting you all.” He said as he walked out with his client.
As they stepped into the corridor he turned to his client. “Don’t forget to give some money to the other guys, okay? I still think you are a riff-raff because I know you liked sleeping with her.”
The man smiled. “Well, I just made money off it.”
“Once I cut my commission from the deal, I want evidence that you paid the other guys as we agreed else, I am coming for you.”
The man chuckled. “Easy, Fola. I will do that.”
Fola nodded and walked away. He didn’t enjoy saying Peterside Chambers. Peterside and King was more like it. He was going to buy into the partnership. He had his money but he needed to bully his mentor into accepting his cheque. Together, they would be invincible, but Mr Peterside was the greater player of the game…he would not even allow the competition. Fola King would not give up. Today was another day, he would try again.
He pushed the door to Mr Peterside’s office open and walked in. The older man turned to him with a smile. “Royal Blue Suit. You sure cut your trimmings well, Fola.” He said as he shut his laptop. “Please, take a seat.”
Fola undid his blazer’s button as he sat. “Thank you, Sir.”
Mr Peterside smiled at him. “Peterside Chambers. I like the name a lot and I know that you do not come into my office except you’d like to change the name. Am I right?”
“You taught me well, Sir.” Fola replied.
Mr Peterside laughed. “See what you did there? Sir! Ah….so refreshing. I still like to hear that Sir tag…even if it doesn’t come from sheer respect or admiration, so I am sorry…I would have to decline your request and cheque.” He said, handing Fola a cheque leaflet. “You added some more money. Fola, it’s not always about the money…but I can always do with extra cash. Peterside King would not happen.”
Fola rose to his feet and adjusted his buttons. “Thank you for your time.” He said as he clenched his teeth.
Mr Peterside watched him till he got to the door, “Brown Brogues. Fola, you are classic. Be contented with what you have.”
Fola turned to him with a smile. “I know what I want and I’ll get it.” He said with a nod.
“Happy birthday, Fola King. Many more years.” Mr Peterside added. “I got the wine too.”
Fola smiled and walked out. He was disappointed yet again but he could not stop trying. No other firm would do it for him. He could easily walk into any of the competitors firm but what joy would that be? They were below them and that would not make him feel better. This was his personal fight for validation by Mr Peterside and he had to win it.
As he approached his office, he saw Sarah lingering by the door and sighed. He walked up to her and pushed the door open, shoving her inside slightly. “What do you want?” he asked.
She smiled. “Take it easy, tiger.”
“You are confused. Three hours ago, you packed out of my house. Now, you are here and opening all your dentition. Needless to say, I am not swayed. Now, what do you want?”
She took her seat. “A little bird said to me that ‘today is your birthday’.”
Fola smiled as he took his seat. “Twitter doesn’t give birthday notifications. I know you found it on Facebook and I have not used that thing since Law school, so if you dropped me a message there, I am sorry. I would not even dignify your post with a LIKE.” He replied.
She nodded. “I thought to myself that breaking up with you on your birthday wasn’t so cool, so maybe we could make up and I could break up tomorrow. What do you say?”
“I say you should get out of my office.” He replied.
She chuckled. “I see you have been giving thoughts to what I told you about Aaima and it must have gotten to your system. Anyway, since I know you must be feeling slightly unhappy as I did see you go into Mr Peterside’s office and return quickly too, I take it as your partnership hunt didn’t go down well.”
Fola was stunned. “How do you even know about that?”
She shrugged. “I am the Firm’s rat, remember? Snooping around your files do a lot for me. I must say you have really big balls, not like I don’t know what your balls look like, but, you sure are something! How could you even think that Mr Peterside would let you rub shoulders with him? I am new here and I already know a lot about the boss.”
Fola relaxed in his chair. “You have made your point. What’s next?”
She smiled. “So, I would be going down to Yemi’s office. Do you want me to tell her anything? She has big news for me regarding that case. It seems we just might have an identity for the missing sister, so we are thinking of angling this case as a kidnap incident and open a new suit against your client. I thought you might need the heads up.”
Fola blinked. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Well, I really did enjoy your company and even though I am yet to know what Yemi has for me, I think this is going to be one hell of a ride. DPP against Fola King with the help of the sneaky little Sarah.” She said, standing up.
“I will make sure of it that you are not retained in this Firm.” Fola said.
Sarah chuckled. “Fola…I have done enough work to deserve a stay here.”
“No, you haven’t. You don’t want to make an enemy of me.” He replied, standing up.
She smiled. “I didn’t work my posting here through your help, you should know I have someone on the inside.” She replied and approached the door. “By the way, I like your suit.” She added with a wink and walked out.
Fola loosened his tie and sank into his chair. His day was just going from bad to worse effortlessly. He was sure that the worst was yet to come. What a birthday! Not like he had ever seen anything special about his birthday except hitting landmarks…that was special. Mr Peterside had however made this one impossible by declining his request to make managing partner. He had reasons to be worried. If there was really a missing sister and Yemi and Sarah had a lead on it, Umar might want to reach out to him to help with it. He would decline them. He didn’t want any extra troubles. He adjusted his tie and grabbed his car keys. He had to go and take care of that possibility.
Aaima opened the door and let Obi in. “You didn’t tell me that you would be coming.”
“I finished my night shift and decided to stop by to know if you needed anything. Like food? Or something.” He said. “I am sure Fola did not leave cooked food before leaving for work. I could just help you whip something up really quick.” He said, dropping his bag on the sofa.
Aaima smiled. “I had cereals for breakfast and he already showed me where the food stuff are, I really am fine, Obi.”
He nodded. “Yeah sure…I…I know. So, you know today is Fola’s birthday, right?”
“Oh really? He didn’t say.” She replied as they walked into the kitchen. “How is work at the hospital?” she asked.
He smiled. “Great. So, I was thinking…would you like to go and see a movie? It must be pretty boring being in this house all day. I know you can watch TV if you want, but it’s still pretty much boring.”
She nodded. “You are right but I don’t particularly want to get my face out there right now.” She replied, leaning against the kitchen board. “Plus, I really need to know what’s next for me…Fola’s girlfriend got angry and moved out this morning. I need to get back to London.”
Obi folded his arm. “Tell me what really happened.”
She exhaled. “I don’t want to talk about it right now.”
“Why? You are running from something or someone and I don’t really think that putting yourself or Fola in danger is the best way to go about it.” He replied.
She nodded. “I know, but the less you know…the better for us all.”
“Really? Is that how you want to play this? Aaima, talk to me…let’s help you.” He started. “You can’t keep hiding in here. Eventually, you’ll be forced to go out…and when that time comes, what are you going to do?” he asked.
She swallowed. “I don’t know.”
“Aaima, talk to me. Please.” He begged.
She shook her head. “It’s too hard to talk about. This is my first visit to Nigeria. And, it has been good to me. I shouldn’t have come here.”
“You can’t talk like that.” He replied. “There are good and bad people everywhere in the world and you know it. Besides, we all go through stuff.” He added.
She scoffed. “You are not me. Let it be, Obi.” She replied.
He shook his head. “Someday you are going to have to talk.”
“Someday…maybe not today.” She replied and walked out of the kitchen into the living room. Obi followed closely.
“Why not today?” he asked as they walked into the living room. “Why are you playing with me?” he asked.
She turned to him. “Bro, you are tripping. Chill.”
“You were going to tell me the other day. Why are you withholding it from me now?” he asked. “Look, I just want you to be alright.”
“I am fine. Thanks, Obi for all your help but I really don’t like being pushed.”
Obi swallowed and picked his bag.
“Come on, Obi…” she started as she watched him.
He exhaled. “You know what? You are a tease! You are playing with me…you know I like you and I care about you but you are playing with me. That’s not fair.”
“I don’t get it.” She replied as she stared at him.
He shook his head. “I am sorry.” He said and walked out.
“Sir, I told him he couldn’t come in.” The secretary shouted as Fola stepped into Umar’s office.
Umar stared at Yusuf before turning to Fola. “Mr King, I didn’t think I’d be seeing you anytime soon.”
“Me neither.” Fola replied.
The secretary walked out of the room.
“What brings you here?” Umar asked. “I sent your money.”
Fola nodded. “Well received. I am just a little curious and I would love you to answer a question for me.”
Yusuf cleared his throat. “Barrister King, you look tense…do you mind to sit?”
“No.” Fola replied and turned to Umar. “Did your late wife have a Sister visiting the country at about the time of her death?”
Umar stared at Yusuf. “Erm…”
“Just answer the question.”
Yusuf rose to his feet. “Fola King, why are you being unnecessarily rude?”
“You told me that Late Hajjia didn’t have any relatives and now I have just been told that a sister who was visiting the country about that same time…Is this true? Because if it is and that sister is somewhere missing or lurking around and a new case comes up from it…you are screwed.” He said and approached the door. He stopped and stared at them. “You don’t lie to your lawyer. Now, you are on your own.” He added and walked out.
Umar swallowed as he stared at Yusuf. “What is happening?”
“My Private Investigator is out searching for her.” He replied.
Umar shook his head aggressively. “You have to give me something better than that. How did he even know about her in the first place? He must know something.”
Yusuf nodded. “Relax. I’ll take care of it.”
“Yusuf, this thing is getting messy.”
Yusuf nodded. “Well, occupational hazard.”
“What are you going to do?” Umar asked.
Yusuf took his seat. “I’ll find out what your lawyer knows and how he knows what he knows then we eliminate the possible threats.”
“Yusuf, we can’t go about killing people.” Umar replied.
Yusuf smiled. “We need that money in her account and if anyone is going to stop us, we would take them out.” He replied. “Where are we on the money by the way?”
“Ran into some complications.” Umar replied, taking his seat. “It seems Fatima put Aaima as her next of kin as when I got to the bank, they told me that changes had been made, but they won’t give me details.” He replied.
Yusuf’s eyes burned. “And you didn’t think that was worth telling?”
Umar sighed. “I was getting to it.”
“That’s just one of the bank accounts right?” Yusuf asked.
Umar nodded. “But it has the biggest bounty.”
Aaima didn’t understand why she was doing what she was doing. She watched the oven keenly as she waited for the cake. She was baking Fola a cake. Now this couldn’t be out of appreciation for what he had done for her or maybe more like idleness. People sleep when they are idle. She liked Fola. She wanted to do something nice for him. It was his birthday and he had been good to her. Maybe this might be her sending off wrong signals but all the ingredients were his. He had them stocked in the house, it was not as though she had bothered to do the extraordinary by going out and getting all the necessities. She was just being nice.
She opened the oven and checked the cake before pulling out the cream and icing to dress it. She thought briefly about Obi and the state in which he had left the house. He was quite upset at her and with good reasons. Maybe she was a tease just like he had said. She was too scared to let anyone know her story but she did need to talk really soon to someone about it. Maybe she would talk to Fola tonight about it.
She stared at the cake and smiled. She enjoyed doing this. It had been a while since she did something that made her happy and took her mind off the gruesome murder of her sister.
As she placed the cake on the dining table, the doorbell went. She walked over to the door and let Fola in.
“Hi…” she said.
Fola smiled. “Good evening. Hope you had a nice day.”
“Yes…I did.” She replied, closing the door after him.
Fola walked into the house. “Sarah would not be coming back here…and do I even care? No. I just need to-” He stopped on seeing the cake. “Did…Did you bake?”
“Err…Happy birthday, Fola.” She said.
Fola stared at her. “How did you know? Obi?”
He swallowed as he watched her smile and point to the cake. This was not going according to his plan…not like he had any plan as regarding Aaima. His chest pounded. Aaima got him worked up. This was new for him. Nervous pangs in his chest on seeing her. Something wasn’t right.
“Say something.” She said.
Fola shook his head. “No.”
He exhaled. “Don’t do this to me.” He said and walked into the house.
Aaima blinked as she stared at the cake.
Yemi smiled as she looked through the documents in her hand. “This is gold.”
Sarah watched her as she flipped through the pages. “Can I at least see what you are celebrating about?”
“The maid talked and gave me really good information. I have a name. The name of the missing sister.”
Sarah smiled. “Really? Who is she?”