Book two of the Adventures of Love, a romantic fiction series by Oyinkansola A. (The Grace Ola)
“I felt like I did in my younger days. Even my husband knew that I wasn’t talking to anyone until I put the book down.”
“For me, it was an awakening. It felt like you were with me while writing the story. Are you sure this is fiction? It is so real.”
California, USA | April 2019 |
‘I can’t do this anymore, Lord. Help me.’ He muttered under his breath. Running his two hands across his face, he let out a low groan. Frank had never been a man to act on impulse. He was very proper; organized, goal-driven and composed.
That was until he lost his wife in a brutal plane crash. Now…well now, he was a broken man. A very very broken man.
He watched his daughter Nora as she played around in her little bride’s dress and the ghost of a smile played on his lips. She looked like a little angel and the sight took his breath away.
It broke his heart that Laura wasn’t here to see her, and she wouldn’t be here for every major milestone in their daughter’s life either. The fact that she had died with their son still in her made him all the more depressed.
A sob caught in his throat as his eyes once again landed on the couple on the other side of the reception hall. The stars of the day, Taiwo and Karen, looked so happy and he was torn between sharing in their joy and wallowing in his own sorrow.
He missed her, so much that it hurt. Even after more than two years, he still closed his eyes sometimes and imagined her soft hands trailing his beards and then his lips before she dropped a kiss that made him lose all reason.
He imagined her bustling around in their house back home in Nigeria, fussing him to eat healthier and bossing Nora around. Laura, his sweet Laura, was gone and as usual, the thought made him weak in the knees.
Swallowing hard, he did a quick turn and walked pointedly towards the drinks stand and farther away from the dancing area.
Mixing a fairly strong cup of vodka and soda, he grabbed a window seat and took a sip. He was oblivious to the noise around him as he reminisced about the good old days with his wife and momentarily forgot that he was supposed to be watching Nora.
A loud shriek from behind him caught his attention and he looked back to somewhat of a scene in a corner of the hall. People were gathered around someone or something that seemed to fascinate them and the noise was obviously from there. He hurried over and weaved his way through the crowd to find out what the problem was. They all seemed to be murmuring about something.
‘Get back you little brat!’ It was the same voice he’d heard shrieking and it shocked him that it was coming from the beautiful lady he had seen walk in earlier with her little son. She held the boy close to her feet now and all her anger was directed at…Nora.
Nora’s lower lips were trembling and she held her tiny bouquet of flowers so tightly he thought she’d squeeze it to nothingness.
‘What’s the problem?’ He asked loud enough for everyone to turn towards him and stare. Nora ran to him the instant her eyes found his and she hid her face in his shirt when he scooped her into his arms. She was trembling so badly it almost brought tears to his eyes.
‘The problem is…your little brat there was harassing my son!’ She shouted again and gasps filled the air at the way she referred to Nora. She was obviously drunk.
‘I’d appreciate it if you didn’t use such words on my daughter. And she’s only a child for heaven’s sake. What could she have possibly said to…’
‘Don’t tell me what or what not to say man. Oh…I see what’s going on here, you’re trying to…’ The rest of the words trailed off as a hiccup shook her off balance. Two more hiccups and she had thrown up all over the floor.
Gasps once again filled the air and the crowd shuffled backwards, keeping their distance.
It seemed someone had alerted the woman’s family though because he saw a man and older lady hurry towards her and shuffle her away with her son. The older woman looked faintly familiar and he knew he must have met her once or twice before. As they passed in front of him, the man turned to Frank for a second and mumbled an apology.
‘Shit.’ He cussed under his breath and immediately regretted it. Nora was right there and she jerked her head up to look at him with big, innocent eyes.
‘Language.’ Her little eyes seemed to chastise him and she pouted her lips disapprovingly even as he struggled to keep his cool.
‘Sorry baby. I didn’t mean to say that.’
‘Hm.’ She murmured, put her head back on his chest and wrapped her tiny arms around his neck. He clenched his teeth in barely contained anger and pushed through the crowd, ignoring their probing stares and side comments.
All he wanted was to get his baby out of there. And fast. This was no setting for a child. If anything, he was glad the ruckus hadn’t drawn Taiwo or Karen’s attention from the far side of the room. They’d find out later anyway.
‘I didn’t do it daddy. I was jus’ dancing and then I hit him. But…it was a mistake. And then his drink spill’d. And and…he started to cry…and then…’ her bottom lip quivered and she burst into tears then.
‘I know baby. It’s not your fault.’ He patted her back and rocked back and forth as he made his way to their car.
‘I wasn’t trying t-t-to hurt an-a-anybody daddy. I promise.’ She cried some more and he held her tighter, placing a kiss on her forehead.
‘I know baby. I know. I got you now. I’m sorry I left you alone. I’m so so sorry.’ He swallowed the lump in his own throat and sat with her in the back till she fell asleep on him, sucking her thumb.
Everything in him wanted to go back in there and cause a scene of his own, questioning them all, why they had let that crazy woman pick on his daughter, why no one had stopped her and more importantly, why the woman had gotten so drunk at a wedding.
Even as the thought occurred to him, he mentally chided himself. Hadn’t he also been well on his way to getting drunk before the whole drama ensued? It really made him think. He’d been saying he’d stop drinking for ages now and this felt like the final straw. It could have been him in that lady’s position. Alcohol did that to a person and he was done being a slave to it.
He wondered about the strange sadness that he’d seen in her eyes since the moment she walked in. He had felt pain, he still struggled with it and he knew a wounded soul when he saw one. This one needed healing, probably as much as he did. Or maybe even more.
Shaking off the dreary feeling around him, he dropped Nora in the back seat and prepared for the ride back to the hotel. He thought of how lonely it would be, going back to his apartment in Canada after the wedding. Yes, he had initially relocated there from Nigeria to help him heal and it had helped- in a way- but now, he just felt restless and dissatisfied.
Now that he thought about it again, he didn’t really feel like returning to Canada. The apartment always felt so cold and empty and he hadn’t done much to grow his business since he moved over two years ago.
Bringing himself to do it had not been easy but he flew from Canada to America just to attend Taiwo’s wedding. And he knew it wasn’t only because he was Laura’s brother. No. Taiwo had been through a lot himself yet he had always been a constant pillar of support for Frank through his pain. Taiwo was like a brother to him.
He sometimes felt guilty that he was depriving Nora of growing up around family and living a normal life and in all honesty, he missed home too.
Then go back. The still small voice in his head whispered.
He knew it was God leading him because he felt at peace with the thought. Like a bright light shone on his path, his next move became very clear and simple to him; he was going back home to Nigeria. And something told him that this time, things would be better. It felt right and he was completely peaceful about the decision. All he could do now was hope and pray.
To any random onlooker, he had become quite impulsive and in truth, maybe he had. Grief had weird effects on people and his move to Canada had been quite impulsive. But moving back to Nigeria? This was God. And he felt it in the very fiber of his being. Impulsive or not.
Maryland, Lagos, Nigeria | June 2019 |
Frank walked into the bookstore with a deep frown etched on his face. He was just coming from dropping his daughter off at her dance rehearsals and to say the Lagos traffic hadn’t dealt with him would be the greatest lie of the century.
He had considered cancelling her class for the day but he knew Nora, she would never let him hear the end of it. She was a tiny, adorable 7-year old terrorist. As he walked towards the counter, he was grateful for the cool gust of breeze that hit him from the air conditioner in the corner of the room.
‘Hello’ he muttered to the lady at the counter whose head was buried in a book.
‘Uh!’ She jumped with a start and looked up in embarrassment, rushing to adjust her glasses and smoothen her hair.
The first thing that hit him when she looked up were her eyes. They looked vaguely familiar and…
‘You said?’ She interrupted his train of thought.
‘Hello sir. How may I help you please?’ She watched him through her red rimmed glasses wondering why he was still standing there instead of getting what he needed. ‘Looking for any book in particular?’ She asked again.
‘Um, no.’ He stood up straighter, slightly embarrassed that she had caught him staring. ‘I am actually here to see Christian. I called him already.’
‘Christian?’ She looked confused and for a split second, Frank wondered if he was in the right place. Had two years away faded his memory? He didn’t think so.
‘Yes, Christian. Christian Olumuyiwa.’
‘Ooooh, you mean Mr. Olumuyiwa?’ She facepalmed and looked up sheepishly. ‘I’m sorry. He’s my boss so I don’t really call him that. I forget it’s his name sometimes. You know how these things are. You know it one second, the next minute it’s gone. You know what I mean?’
‘Right.’ He nodded, an amused smile playing on his lips.
‘I’m blabbing.’ She bit her lips and ran her hand through her braids. ‘Sorry sir. Um, he actually stepped out for lunch, he should be back any moment now. Please, take a seat.’
‘Thank you.’ He flashed her a smile and sat down on a cozy sofa in the small make-shift reception. Most of the store’s space was taken up by bookshelves and quirky art pieces. Running his eyes across the room briefly, he struggled to find a blank spot on the walls. Just like Christian to cover every available wall space with art.
The store looked the same as he remembered it from three years ago; except that the shelves had a fresh coat of paint and of course, Christian had apparently hired a new attendant. All well and good, the other lady had been a bit too cold anyway and not nearly as beautiful as this one. Speaking of beautiful, she was walking towards him right now and for some reason, his palms got a little sweaty.
‘Would you like anything to drink? Water, ice tea, juice?’ She asked him casually.
‘Water would be great right now.’
‘Alright then. I’ll be right back. And so should Mr. Olumuyiwa.’ She left him and disappeared into a back room. Just as she walked back in with a cold bottle of water, the door opened and Christian walked in.
‘Speak of the…’ A smile split Frank’s face and he stood up to meet him.
‘Don’t say devil.’ Christian said cheekily and they both burst out laughing before hugging each other. It was a brief man-hug with shoulder patting and a handshake after. Typical.
‘How have you been, man?’
‘Good, good. We’re pushing.’ They hugged again.
‘So, you didn’t want to come and visit me right? Haven’t you been back for months?’ Christian accused him playfully.
‘Mehn, I’ve been trying to settle down egbon. This Lagos traffic and heat is a problem on it’s own. E ma binu.’
Christian laughed and nudged him. ‘Hm, shut up there. Because you travelled for a minute now we won’t hear word again. Where’s Nora jare?’
‘I just dropped her off at dance practice. I’ll visit with her one of these days, don’t worry.’
Christian nodded and turned towards the attendant. She had been standing there awkwardly with a bottle of water in her hands throughout the whole exchange. He gave Christian a pointed look that said introduce-me-already and he got the hint.
‘Seun, I see you’ve met my brother. But, let me do the proper introductions.’
She almost balked at the word brother. At that point she wanted to enter the ground. She had made her boss’ brother wait in the reception. Why on earth didn’t he mention it? And why did they suddenly look so alike? She hadn’t noticed that before.
‘Frank, this is Seun, my PA and store attendant. Seun, this is Frank, my only sibling in the whole world.’ Christian continued, placing emphasis on the ‘whole’.
‘You’re so dramatic bro.’ Frank shook his head and flashed Seun a smile. They looked alike for sure but Frank was obviously younger and way more handsome.
‘Hi Seun, nice to meet you.’
‘Nice to meet you too sir. I’ve heard a lot about you.’ She smiled back and stretched her hand out for a shake. Frank ignored it and moved in for a light kiss on her cheeks.
She blinked and stole a glance at Christian. He had a funny look on his face. Maybe he found it inappropriate, it was sort of unexpected.
‘All good things I hope?’ Frank asked, not really expecting an answer. She smiled and nodded. ‘Let’s catch up later okay.’ He winked over his shoulder at her and followed Christian into his office.
‘Frank.’ Christian turned to him the moment the door was closed and they had both sat down.
‘What na?’ He looked up from his phone at his brother and scrunched his nose.
‘What was that all about?’
‘What was what all about?’ He feigned ignorance.
‘Oh don’t play dumb with me. We’re too old for that.’
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ The ghost of a smile played on his lips and he unconsciously scratched his beards.
‘What with the kissing and flirting? And I saw you looking at her before I walked in. Have anything to share little bro?’
‘Don’t call me little, you know I hate that. And kissing? Really Christian? I think you’re exaggerating. It was more of…a light peck. And I was just being friendly.’ Frank defended himself and rolled his eyes.
‘Yes. Friendly.’ He put his phone down and picked up a book that caught his attention: Tomorrow is Another Day. The title was intriguing and he made a mental note to borrow it before he left.
‘Okay bro. Whatever you say.’ Christian held his hands up and reclined in his chair. ‘Now are we going to catch up or what?’
Frank rolled his eyes again and shot his brother a sheepish smile. ‘Sure, let’s do that.’
Unlike when he had come in, there were now 3 ladies at the counter, chattering on about God-knows-what and giggling like school girls as Seun packaged their purchases. Frank was happy for the quiet when they left. He didn’t exactly know why but he walked towards the counter and leaned on it, pretending to be checking out a bracelet on display.
‘How much is this?’ He blurted.
She looked up at him for the second time that day and then shifted her gaze to the bracelet. For the split second her eyes caught his, a flash of recognition crossed his mind but he just couldn’t place it. He felt like he had met her before.
‘It’s 2000 naira sir.’ She raised an eyebrow and turned to her computer. The price was written on the bracelet, why was he asking her and staring like a weirdo?
‘Are you getting it?’ She asked.
‘Yes yes.’ He passed her his card and shook his head mentally. What was all this school boy nervousness? He hardly even noticed women in the past few years, talkless of flirting with them and getting fidgety. On the bright side, at least the bracelet wouldn’t waste away in the house. He’d give it to Nora. Two thousand naira well spent. Who was he kidding? Nora was more of a necklace person. She still wore the one her mom gave her years ago, afraid to take it off and forget her mum.
‘Thanks.’ He mumbled and collected the nylon from her. After thinking of what to say to prolong their conversation to no avail, he shook his head. He was giving up when she looked at him again and spoke.
‘Why didn’t you tell me you were Mr. Olumuyiwa’s brother?’ Her eyes pierced into his and he blinked. The feeling that he had met her before came over him for the umpteenth time that day.
‘Oh. That. I didn’t think it was necessary. Would it have made any difference?’
‘Would it have made any…’ She shook her head, exasperated and looked at him with mild irritation. ‘This is Nigeria Mr. Frank. It would have made all the difference. What if I had mistakenly said the wrong thing? My job would probably be on the line right now.’
‘What makes you think you didn’t?’
‘Say the wrong thing I mean. What makes you think you didn’t say the wrong thing?’ He smirked and twirled the nylon around his fingers.
‘W-what?’ Her eyes grew larger and she squirmed in her seat.
‘Relax. I’m messing with you.’
‘Haha.’ She laughed nervously and adjusted her glasses. This man was unnerving her and she didn’t like it. All she wanted was to go back to reading her book.
‘See you around.’
‘Okay Mr. Frank.’
‘Call me Frank.’
Okay…Frank.’ He winked and waved lightly before walking out.
Her eyes trailed him as he left and she breathed a long sigh of relief as the door closed behind him. She couldn’t explain it but his presence had made her jumpy. She really couldn’t tell why but somewhere in her mind, she wasn’t sure she wanted to explore the thought.
The man was easy on the eyes, she’d give him that. And yeah, his kiss had felt good but it ended up making her feel embarrassed, leaving her hand hanging and her boss gawking.
It’d probably be best if she banished thoughts about Frank from her mind completely. The man might even be married. Hadn’t Mr Olumuyiwa mentioned a daughter? But if he was married, why hadn’t he asked about a wife? Did he wear a wedding ring? She couldn’t quite remember. Baby mama maybe?
Before she could make any further assumptions, he walked back in, nodded at her briefly and rushed into Mr Olumuyiwa’s office. While she was still trying to process the whole thing, he had rushed back out, book in hand.
He caught her looking at him and raised his hands to show the book well. ‘I forgot something.’ He said and shrugged. When he raised his hands, she noted, as hard as she tried not to, that he wore no ring. Okay, so maybe she hadn’t tried hard enough.
She squinted to see the book’s title through her glasses: Tomorrow is Another Day.
That was her book, the one she wrote. No one knew though; just her mother and her publishers. She loved the freedom and power that writing anonymously gave her, some people judged her awfully, but no one could do it to her face because they didn’t know her.
‘Got it.’ She gave him a thumbs up before he hurried out again. Now that was weird. It occurred to her that she wasn’t very comfortable with him reading her life story but then again, he didn’t know her. And even if he did eventually find out that it was her story, hadn’t she written and published it herself? The plan was obviously to have people read it.
And he’s not going to find out.
She shook off the thought and got back to reading her book. She would be off in a few hours and her son’s nanny would go home. She needed to cash in on all the reading time she could get before her time would be swallowed up by Uzi for the rest of the day.
Besides, she had bigger problems on her mind.
She banished the thought and continued reading. She didn’t want to think about Dozie right now. Or ever again. He reminded her of all her life’s mistakes.
Just as Frank got into his car, it finally dawned on him where he had met her before. That mildly irritated look on her face when he asked if telling her he was Christian’s brother would have made any difference was all it took for the memories to come flying through the windows of his mind. He almost chuckled at the thought; she had been so defensive.
They met at Taiwo’s wedding party months ago. She was piss drunk at the time while he was only slightly buzzed and she had made a scene for something very insignificant. She had that same irritated look on her face but it had been even worse that day.
It was all coming back to him now. No wonder he hadn’t remembered her immediately, booze was in play. Otherwise, he was super good with faces.
He wondered a little at the fact that she didn’t recognize him in any way. Though, he somewhat loved the mystery around it all. Seun had intrigued him from that very first encounter and now that they met again, his interest only grew.
He might not have had the courage to ask for her number today but he’d surely get it, even if it meant bullying Christian for it.
The story continues…
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