Hidden Currents

Hidden Currents KindleDear Readers,

I want to thank everybody who took the time to read Hidden Currents. I want to thank you for your comments, your advice and your time. It was an enjoyable journey and I look forward to doing it again with a new story and new characters.

Hidden Currents is now available for sale on Amazon at this link.

You can read it on your Kindles or Kindle Apps for other devices i.e PC, Laptop, ipad etc.

I have included a preview of the first three chapters here. Enjoy.

Hidden Currents – Preview. 

Chapter One

At that time of the day, late afternoon, Tafawa Balewa Square was not yet as busy as it would be later in the evening, when the labor force from Victoria Island would arrive to queue for hours for the Bus Rapid Transit buses that would take them over the bridges, to the mainland. Now there was a long queue of big, empty blue and red buses, with only a few passengers seated. The drivers waited impatiently for the passengers to arrive so that they could be on their way. Hawkers, selling cold drinks, fruits, boiled groundnuts, and other typical Lagos traffic snacks, sat impatiently on the curbs, disgruntled with the slow afternoon sales as they eagerly awaited the thirsty, hungry crowd that would arrive in only a few hours.

On the other side of the road, walking on the sidewalk in front of the old tennis club and holding hands, were two schoolchildren in uniforms. The bigger one, a girl about eight years old wore a red pinafore, a pink check shirt, black rubber shoes and a pair of white socks that reached up to her knees. The boy, much smaller, wore the same except that instead of the pinafore he was wearing red shorts.

Ada Arinze watched from behind them as they moved along the sidewalk. A slim, caramel skinned, medium height figure, casually dressed in blue jeans, black sneakers and a purple T-shirt. A wide purple headband narrowly prevented her thick cloud of tightly curled, springy hair from becoming a sky-high afro. She wore a camera around her neck, and as she watched the children walk ahead of her, her hands reached for it automatically, sensing a good picture.

The little boy was kicking his feet idly, with the girl holding one of his hands to keep him from skipping away. Siblings, Ada thought, on their way from school. She took a couple of pictures. She captured the little boy as he jumped too far ahead of his sister and her subsequent warning for him to stay in line, one hand on her waist and one finger pointing towards his upturned nose.

After she had taken a couple of pictures, she noticed that the children had stopped walking and were now facing the road. They were obviously waiting for the traffic to clear so that they could cross. As another car sped by, Ada walked up to them.

“You want to cross?” She asked with a friendly smile.

The little girl looked up at her and nodded uncertainly. The boy only stuck his thumb in his mouth and smiled widely.

Ada took both their hands and waited until the road had cleared again. It was a one-way street, but since they were in Lagos, she made sure to look both right and left before attempting to cross to the other side.

“Thank you Auntie.” The little girl said shyly before running off with her brother across the concrete pavement to a small wooden kiosk where a woman was selling fresh fruits. Their mother, Ada decided. Probably they would stay with her in the kiosk until evening, when she was ready to go home. Ada smiled nostalgically, remembering herself as a schoolchild, spending the days after school in the much larger shop where her granny used to sell provisions.

She shook off the memories and removed the zoom lens from the camera, placing it carefully in her backpack. There was no point in dwelling on those happy days now that Granny had returned to Owerri to live in peaceful retirement. Even though she now felt more alone than she had ever felt in her life, she knew it was the best choice for Granny, Lagos life being what it was.

However, it had raised all sorts of complications in her life. Both she and her brother Zubi had lived with Granny since when their mother died. It had been their only option after their father had shown his reluctance to take them in to live with him and his new wife. Now that Granny no longer lived in Lagos, her father had refused to continue payment of the rent for the Lagos house. He had advised Ada to go and live with Zubi, who was married and had a young family, until she got “a real job and could afford a house of her own, or some man to marry her and give her a home.”

Ada grimaced at the memory of the conversation with her father. He usually either ignored her or said the worst things to her. Not surprisingly, she preferred it when he ignored her. She switched her thoughts to the new apartment she had found in Surulere instead. She would have to tell Zubi about it, she reminded herself, even though he was still mad at her for not being eager to ditch photography and take the job he had found for her in real estate.

Frowning, she started to look around for a commercial bike, or an Okada as they are called in Lagos. She had to wait for a while. When you didn’t want one they were all over the place, she thought dryly, but as soon as you actually needed them, they became impossible to find. After some time, she saw one of them speeding towards her, the rider as dark as coal and looking as if he had bathed in dirt and grime, with his clothes on. Ada sighed and waved him over. In a few moments, they were speeding toward the offices of Living Lagos magazine.

The office wasn’t very far from the square. It was located in one of the less busy streets of Lagos Island. So before long, she had paid the Okada rider and was running up the stairs of the six storey building that housed Living Lagos. By the time she got to the fourth floor, she was out of breath and could feel her thigh muscles protesting, but she didn’t mind. She never took a lift for anything less than six floors.

As she entered the fourth floor lobby, the security man, Mr. Festus, looked up from the issue of Complete Sports he was reading intently, and called out a greeting to her. He was a middle-aged man whose round face was perpetually wreathed in smiles. “Aunty Ada!” He exclaimed, breaking into his characteristic smile. “Why you did not take the lift?” He asked, in his own version of good English, “Is working fine.”

He always asked her that. Ada sighed. “I’ll take it next time, Mr. Festus.” She replied, unwilling to explain for the hundredth time that she preferred to climb the stairs.

As she walked towards the double glass doors of Living Lagos, she was already mentally planning the rest of her day. Which was why, she had already started to push the doors open before she realized that the man standing over the front desk talking to Fadeke the receptionist was Eddie Bakare.

She stopped, reluctant to continue the journey inside, and trying, without much success, to control the erratic rhythm her heart had begun. If only she had seen him before she started opening the doors, she thought desperately, then she could have gone back downstairs, gone to lunch, gone shopping, anything rather than walk straight into him as he flirted with Fadeke.

It wasn’t that she had anything against Eddie, after all, he was partly responsible for the success of Living Lagos. He was the one who had made the initial financial investment in the magazine when the publisher/Editor–in–chief, Sophie Aliu conceived the idea for a weekly publication that presented the interesting aspects of living in Lagos in a humorous and entertaining way. In fact, Ada conceded, there was nothing wrong with him. He was a pleasant enough person, with wonderful manners and well, an incredibly, handsome face. He was okay, except for the fact that she never felt right when she was around him.

She wasn’t attracted to him, or anything like that, Ada reasoned. He wasn’t her type. She wasn’t crazy about tall guys with perfectly handsome faces and male model bodies. If she had to choose, she told herself, she would go for a pleasant face over a handsome one any day.

She just didn’t particularly like him. There was something about that lazy confidence, that instant friendliness, playfulness, and amiability that put her off. Everything came too easily to guys like Eddie, and somehow, she didn’t think her good regard and friendship should be one of those things.

He was saying something to Fadeke, probably something flirty, judging from the way she was giggling like a maniac. Ada snorted silently. Of course, to a girl like Fadeke, Eddie was something like a demigod. He was rich, handsome, and extremely well mannered, just the way the romance novels had told her that her Mr. Right would be.

As if somehow, he had heard Ada’s thoughts, Eddie looked up and noticed her standing at the door. His face broke into a handsome smile, as if, Ada thought cynically, she was just the person he had been waiting to see.

“Hello Ada.” He greeted, his deep voice was warm and friendly. He left Fadeke’s desk to help Ada with the door, and she quickly stepped inside the office, not too pleased with the thought of him holding the door open for her like some olden days suitor.

“Hello Eddie.” She gave him a small polite smile, and quickly looked away from his face, resisting the urge to gawk at how handsomely his cheeks dimpled. “Hello Fadeke.” The smile she gave Fadeke was friendlier and lasted far longer. She walked past the both of them to her own desk, farther inside the open office, carefully laying down her backpack and starting her computer.

They both watched her in silence, their conversation on hold. Surely, Ada thought, they didn’t expect her to join in whatever they had been discussing.

“How’ve you been?” Eddie asked finally. “It’s been a while.”

Internally Ada rolled her eyes. This was so like Eddie, instead of accepting that she had just ignored him and that her behavior had even been on the verge of rudeness, he would still try to talk to her, he would still try to be nice. That was just him, too well mannered, and too polite. Maybe it wasn’t such a dreadful thing to be like that, Ada thought, but it was just too much for her in particular.

She exhaled, realizing that she had been holding her breath, waiting for him to either talk to her or leave her alone. She looked up at him and smiled halfheartedly, hoping that the look on her face would tell him that she was too busy to talk to him. “Work has been fine, thank you Eddie.” She turned to Fadeke, who was gawking at Eddie as if she had never seen a man before. “Fadeke, does Sophie know that Eddie is here?”

“I… yes… I…um…” Fadeke started to stutter.

“She knows.” Eddie interrupted smoothly. “She’s been on a long phone call for a while, probably with Michael.” He smiled, his eyes teasing. Sophie had recently gotten married to Michael Ade-Cole, the man she had been in love with for as long as Ada had known her.

Ada shrugged and turned her attention back to her computer, hoping that he would go back to flirting with Fadeke and not talk to her until Sophie finished with her phone call.

As if Sophie had somehow heard her thoughts, the door to her office opened just then, and she appeared, her face all aglow, showing that she had indeed been talking with her husband. Ada smiled. It was a testament to the strength of Sophie and Eddie’s friendship that she could keep him waiting while she took a personal call, despite the fact that he owned a large stake in her business. Eddie would never mind though, Ada thought, sometimes he and Sophie seemed more like brother and sister, than business partners and friends. Then again, Eddie had introduced Sophie and Michael all those years ago.

“What’s up?” Sophie said, addressing all of them at the same time. Dressed in one of those stylish chiffon blouses, a pencil skirt and fashionable high heels, she looked totally on point, Ada thought. She looked down at her own jeans and T-Shirt and sighed. Oh well, she thought, not everybody had to wear chiffon.

“Young man!” Sophie exclaimed playfully, wagging a finger at Eddie. “Stop flirting with Fadeke I beg you! Before you turn her head upside down, I cannot explain anything to her mother!”

“Hey.” Eddie protested as Fadeke dissolved into a pool of embarrassed giggles. “I’m only having an innocent conversation with her.”

“Ada, when did you get back?” Sophie continued, looking over at Ada who was quietly working at her computer. “You weren’t here when I came out a moment ago.” She paused, leaving Ada wondering if she actually wanted an answer, then she went right on talking to Eddie. “I’m sorry I kept you waiting.” She told him, a mischievous look on her face. “You can come inside now.” She turned back to Ada. “You too, Ada”

Ada watched with a small frown as they both disappeared into Sophie’s office, she wondered how long she could stall, now that she was rid of Eddie she wasn’t terribly eager to be back in his company, especially in Sophie’s tiny office.

Fadeke was still staring after Eddie with an enraptured expression. “Close your mouth before you eat a mosquito.” Ada said to her.

Fadeke gave her a self-conscious smile, and then because she couldn’t help it, as all girls with crushes love to gush about the object of their desires, she whispered. “But he is so hot!”

‘Of course’ Ada thought sarcastically. ‘Let’s talk about Eddie Bakare’s body temperature by all means.’

“He asked me if I had done something new with my hair.” Fadeke continued, oblivious to Ada’s lack of interest, “He said that I looked prettier than usual.”

Ada rolled her eyes. Seriously! Of course, that was exactly the sort of thing Eddie would say! Guys like him tossed compliments around and just waited while girls dropped on their laps, or beds, like ripe fruit.

“He’s so handsome!” Fadeke continued dreamily, her eyes wide in her pretty, little, pixie face. How old was she again? Ada wondered, getting rather annoyed. Didn’t the fact that she was old enough to have a job also mean that she was too old to indulge in silly fantasies about men she didn’t know?

As Fadeke started to say something else, Ada decided that she had heard enough. “You know he can hear you across the partition.” She said bluntly.

Fadeke squealed and clapped a hand over her mouth. “Oh my God!” She exclaimed. “Do you think he heard? Oh my God!” When Ada didn’t bother to reply, she deflated into a self-conscious silence.

A few minutes of quiet followed for which Ada was immensely grateful. Fadeke could be such a chatterbox sometimes. She turned back to her computer and continued stalling, checking a photo spread she had done the night before. Hopefully, Sophie would forget that she had asked her into her office and only remember after Eddie left.”

Her hope proved futile as Sophie soon poked her head out of her office, “Ada.” She said with a slight frown, “I meant this year, not next year. Come on.”

Ada got up reluctantly, wondering why Eddie was not at his own office. He worked in an oil-marketing firm that belonged to his father, and from what she’d heard, he had proved to be a shrewd oil marketer in the past two years, earning his place in the top management. He hardly ever bothered with Living Lagos anymore, Sophie was the boss now, and anyway, he had other investments. Ada supposed he still came around occasionally when he found himself in the area because he was such good friends with Sophie.

He was sitting on one of the chairs opposite Sophie’s tiny desk, with his body stretched out and relaxed as if he had no care in the world. He would look relaxed even if he were stuck in a market place under the hot sun, surrounded by thousands of sweaty people, Ada thought enviously. That was just the way he was. She took the seat beside him, placing her hands demurely on her lap. He turned and gave her a conspiratorial wink and a smile as if to say – let’s hear what Sophie has to say this time – Ada turned away and gave all her attention Sophie.

“I wasn’t expecting you today Eddie.” Sophie said, as she gestured with one hand, the one with the rings, creating a light diamond and platinum sparkle. “But it’s good that you stopped by. I have wonderful news.”

Eddie raised a perfect brow. “Better than, I’m getting married!” He teased, affecting a high pseudo feminine voice, which sounded nothing like Sophie’s own.

Sophie gave him a warning look, and then her face softened into a smile. “No, actually, nothing’s better than that.” She paused, the light of excitement dancing in her eyes. “The good news is…We’ve been nominated for the TRANSCEND awards for Entertainment in Print…”

“Well done!” Eddie looked very pleased. “Congratulations.”

“I’m not done yet.” Sophie continued, “We’ve also been nominated for Best use of new media, for our website.” She smiled sweetly as she took in their reactions. “And that’s not the best part at all.” She added. “Yours truly, Moi, Sophie Aliu Ade-Cole was nominated for the Young Person of the Year award.” Her announcement ended in an excited squeal.

“Oh wow!” Ada exclaimed, rushing up from her chair to give Sophie a hug. “Congratulations!”

Eddie got up and hugged Sophie too. “This is a big deal.” He said. “We should celebrate!”

“We will.” Sophie nodded in agreement, her eyes shining with pleasure. “We can all go out for a celebratory dinner, I think.” She paused, thinking. “I’ll arrange it”

“And when we win.” Eddie continued with a smile. “We’ll have a bigger party.”

“You bet.” Sophie said, grinning happily.

“This will be great for sales and advertising.” Eddie said to Sophie, the businessman in him seeing the opportunity.

“I know.” Sophie agreed. “We may have to increase the number of features as well as the number of pages to accommodate all the new the advertising we’ll be getting from now on.”

Ada sighed inwardly. This was her cue to leave. When these two started discussing business, there was nothing for the creative in her to do but to leave them alone to it. She stood up.

“Hey! Where are you going?” Sophie asked.

“I have to finish editing the fashion spread for next week.” Ada replied. It was true, anyway.

Sophie chuckled. “Ada is allergic to discussions about money and business.” She told Eddie. She turned back to Ada. “How far about the apartment you were looking for?” She asked. “Have you paid for that one you liked?”

“Yes, I have.” Ada could barely keep the exasperation out of her voice. Couldn’t Sophie tell that the last thing she wanted was to discuss her personal issues in Eddie’s presence?

“You were looking for an apartment?” Eddie asked. He was back in his seat, but now he swiveled towards Ada. “Why wasn’t I told?” He asked. “I could have gotten you something nice.”

“Like your spare bedroom?” Sophie quipped playfully.

He looked hurt, “No, no! I know many agents, the best actually, not these dubious ones all over the place. The ones I know can get you anything from a one-bedroom flat to a duplex in Victoria Island.”

It was true. Ada knew that for a while, after his graduation, Eddie had a sort of career as a facilitator of housing deals. According to Sophie, he had made a lot of money connecting people to the properties they wanted to own. It was intimidating in a way, how easily he seemed to find and take advantage of opportunities to make money, even though he already had more than he could ever spend.

“I would never ask you to move into my spare bedroom.” He said earnestly. “Except if you really wanted to.” He gave her that dimpled smile again.

Sophie was trying not to laugh. “Eddie! Stop flirting with Ada, she’s not interested.”

One of his eyebrows went up, in what, to Ada, looked like cocksure disbelief. His eyes did not leave her face.

Ada met his stare. He probably believed there was no girl in the world who wasn’t interested in him, well she wasn’t. “I don’t believe your spare bedroom is big enough for me.” She said dismissively, even though the look on his face was doing things to her equilibrium.

“You haven’t seen it.” He informed her.

“I don’t need to.” Ada replied with a small smile.

He shrugged, apparently deciding to let it rest. “So where’s your new apartment?” He asked.

Why did he want to know? Reluctantly, she told him.

“Really!” His face lit up. “That’s very close to my house,” he said. “We’re neighbors!”

“You don’t live on the island?” Ada blurted before she could stop herself.

He gave her a slight frown. “No, must I?”

She kept quiet, feeling slightly taken aback. She had assumed that someone with his money and connections would surely live on the Island, free from the relentless Lagos traffic, bridges, and all the other headaches that came with living on the mainland.”

“He took a house on the mainland to escape all those girls who don’t do bridges.” Sophie said, laughing.

Eddie nodded seriously. “I had to find a way to trim the numbers.”

Ada rolled her eyes.

“Anyway now that we’re neighbors,” He continued, turning his one million megawatt smile on her again, “maybe we should hang out more, I could show you all the local joints.”

Ada gave him her sweet smile again “Maybe.” She said noncommittally before turning back to Sophie. “I’m going to finish that photo spread now. Bye Eddie.” She said without looking at him.

“Did I say something?” She heard Eddie say as she closed the door behind her.

“I don’t know what you mean.” She heard Sophie’s response through the partition as she went back to her seat. She tried to concentrate on her photo spread, but it wasn’t until about fifteen minutes later, when Eddie finally left that she was able to breathe easier. 

Chapter Two

“I still don’t know why you couldn’t come to live with us.”

Ada looked up from the kitchen counters she was busy cleaning at her brother, Zubi. He was her only sibling, if you didn’t include her father’s children with his second wife, whom she didn’t know at all. He was sitting on the tiny kitchen counter, swinging his legs like a small boy, with a slight frown on his face. Ada shook her head.

“Seriously?” She asked, getting up and moving to the gas cooker, to wipe the oven clean with a rag. She had moved in two days before, and since it was Saturday, Zubi had finally been able to come over to see what the place looked like. “You think the best thing is for me to move in with you and crowd your three bedroom apartment that already contains a wife, two children and a maid?”

“Why not?” He challenged with a frown that was so like hers. They looked so alike that it would have been safe to call him the taller, more masculine, version of her. “Some families of seven in this same city of Lagos live in just one room.” He continued. “Go to Ajegunle if you don’t believe me.”

Ada snorted in disbelief. “You’re just talking.” She said. “Have you ever been to Ajegunle?”

He ignored her. “I still don’t see why not though. Ify loves you, and the children adore you.”

“I am twenty four years old!” Ada told him. “I’m not too young to live alone. Anyway it’s too late because I’ve already paid for this place.” She was glad she had. She loved her new apartment. For a Lagos mini–flat, it was surprisingly large and spacious, the ceilings were high, the bedroom was large, and the fittings in the kitchen and the bathroom were still new and shiny. Even the fenced compound was great, there were just four flats, two large ones and two mini-flats including hers. There was a lot of space, enough for her to park a car if she finally bought one. She could see herself living here for years.

“Waste of money,” Zubi said, his eyes travelling over the white kitchen tiles, “Especially when you’re not even making that much.” He shook his head. “I’ve just decided to ignore your stubbornness because I don’t want to quarrel. I still don’t understand how I would go out of my way to get my younger sister a job in one of the best real estate firms in Lagos and have her reject it because of a hobby like photography.” He frowned almost petulantly. “You studied real estate management for Christ’s sake!”

“Photography is not just a hobby.” Ada protested tiredly, they had already had this argument a million times, just because he found fulfillment in his nine to five job he assumed that she would be also be happy in a job like that, and richer. He never stopped emphasizing the fact that she could get a good salary working in real estate.

He shrugged and jumped off the counter. “Stop all this cleaning I beg you. This place is spick and span already.” He laughed. “You’re just like mummy, aren’t you? You can’t rest until you’ve chased every speck of dust into oblivion.”

Ada smiled, and for a moment, they grinned at each other, remembering their mum, who had always seemed to be dusting, wiping or cooking something. Then they sobered, thoughts of their mum always sobered them up, she had been dead for more than ten years, but the sense of loss never went away.

“Your father called me last week.” Zubi said. He always said, ‘Your father’ when he talked to her about their Dad. His voice was tinged with the slightly bitter tone it always had whenever their father came into the conversation, “He was asking if you had found a job yet.”

“Tell your father that I have a job!” Ada replied wryly.

“Try telling him that yourself.” Zubi said. “He made it sound as if you were unemployed and hopeless.”

“I’m not unemployed and hopeless,” Ada said. “I have a good job, and I make extra money from extra projects, I paid for this house myself, for God’s sake!”

“I know.” Zubi’s voice was quiet.

Ada went quiet too. She understood how Zubi felt, ever since their father had left, and their mother had died, he had been determined to prove, to himself and most especially to their father that he could be the kind of man that people would look up to. He had done it, but even after he graduated with a 4.4 GPA in Mechanical Engineering, got a scholarship to the Institute of Petroleum Studies, and got a job in one of the biggest oil companies in the country, their father still acted as if he were ashamed of them. Now he had nothing negative to say about Zubi, he used Ada’s reluctance (or as he saw it, inability) to get a ‘real’ job as a weapon to make Zubi feel bad. He didn’t even bother with Ada. Since when he left them, he had treated her as if she didn’t even exist.

She patted Zubi’s arm. “It doesn’t matter what he says.”

“I know.” He frowned. “I have to go home. Ify is planning to get her hair fixed today, one of those expensive Brazilian things, and she won’t let me rest if I don’t get home on time to stay with the kids before she leaves.”

Ada chuckled. “Please go o! Don’t let her punish you because of me.”

He surveyed the kitchen for a moment. “You need to buy stuff to stock your fridge and these empty cupboards.” He paused. “Let me take you to Shoprite on my way, hmm. So you can buy provisions.”

Ada started to protest, but he silenced her with the stern look he had cultivated when she had been a stubborn preteen and he her big teenage brother. “Don’t worry.” He said. “I’m paying.”

Ada rolled her eyes as he walked out of the kitchen and towards the front door, then she shrugged and followed him.

There is something infinitely uplifting about shopping with someone else’s money, Ada thought as she pushed a massive trolley through the aisles of the supermarket, rapidly filling it up with provisions and whatnot. Zubi had apologized that he couldn’t stay to drive her back home with her shopping and then handed her a huge wad of cash, with instructions to take a taxi when she was done. Ada smiled. He was probably feeling guilty that he hadn’t helped to pay for the flat, but then she hadn’t asked him to, She sighed, happy to have an older brother.

She dumped fresh fruits, packs of cereal, fresh milk and some coffee into the trolley. Then she went hunting for fruit juice, and stopped with annoyance as she saw that, as usual, the queue for the fresh baked bread was so long that there was no way to get to the fruit juice stands. She paused, hesitating to leave her trolley unattended so she could squeeze in between the people on the queue and get what she wanted. She wondered, exasperated, what it was about the bread that people couldn’t get enough of it.

“Hey.”

Ada jumped in surprise. The voice had only been slightly higher than a whisper, but he had leant so close to her ear from behind her that she had felt his warm breath on her ear and neck. She turned around, but she already knew who it was, so the sight of Eddie’s dimpled smile and laughing eyes didn’t surprise her at all, just annoyed her a whole lot.

However, in spite of her annoyance, her heart had already started to beat faster. She felt her skin flush. She almost stamped her feet with vexation when she noticed that her hands were trembling, and her neck and ears were beginning to feel hot. “Hi Eddie.” She said, giving him a look that would have made a wiser man issue an apology immediately. It didn’t even lessen his smile.

Out of every single person she could have run into, she thought with irritation, why did it have to be him? And why was she suddenly feeling so self-conscious that she was trying to remember if she had brushed her hair before leaving the apartment, or if she had looked in a mirror, and if her jeans and T-shirt looked okay? She looked away from his smiling face and found her eyes level with his broad and well-muscled chest, clad in a white T-shirt. Trying to escape that view she looked further down and found herself staring at his long legs, the upper part of which were encased in a pair of knee length camo shorts, she looked back up into his smiling face.

“What’s up?” He asked, still smiling. He looked into her trolley and laughed. “Are you shopping for the end of the world?”

For a few moments, Ada wondered what to say? She couldn’t think of a smart reply. He always did that to her, he always somehow screwed up her mental wiring and made her slightly stupid.

“No,” She replied finally, “Just stocking up on provisions for a new apartment.” She noticed that he was holding only a set of screwdrivers, and she rolled her eyes mentally. When he had driven all the way here just to buy screwdrivers, why wouldn’t he make fun of her shopping? He probably didn’t have to shop for himself. He probably had girlfriends who were falling over themselves eager to help with his shopping.

He leaned towards her until he was so close, that his face was only inches from hers. Her eyes widened as she waited, wondering what he was about to do. Her heart was now beating so loud she was sure he could hear it. He smiled, and then reached behind her and took a packet of chocolate digestives from the shelf at her back. “My weakness.” He explained as he moved away seemingly unaware that he had almost given her a heart attack.

“What are you doing just standing here?” He asked with a curious frown, then his eyes went to the line of bread seekers, and he grinned with realization… “Ah yes don’t tell me, they’re blocking the juice.” He gave her a speculative look. “Why not mow them down with your trolley?” He suggested, chuckling as she recovered herself enough to glare at him. “I’m just kidding.” He said. “Okay tell me what you want,” He offered, “and I’ll get it for you.”

He crossed over the queue of people and picked out the items she wanted, constantly looking back to her for confirmation, she watched as people made way and strangers smiled at him. What was it, about him, that drew people like bees to honey? She waited until his arms were loaded with a variety of packs before she signaled that she was done.

He walked back towards her looking slightly comical with his arms full. Comical but still attractive, Ada noted as she saw a couple of women giving him admiring glances. He waited as she unloaded the packs from his arms one by one. “You’re really shopping for the end of the world.” He said, sighing with relief when his arms were finally free. “Are you done?”

“No, I still have to…” She started saying, then watched in horror as he took hold of the handles of the trolley and started to wheel it. “Just tell me where to go.” He told her.

Away! Ada thought desperately, wishing that he would leave her be, with a combination of aggravation, annoyance and embarrassment she allowed him to wheel the trolley while she picked items from the shelves, daring him with her best frown to show even the slightest change in expression as she threw in some feminine items. Thankfully, he kept a straight face, even though she was sure that she could see a glint of amusement in his eyes.

As they moved toward the counter, she wondered if he would attempt to pay for her things, it wasn’t part of her plan for the day to accept his generosity. He was her boss, not her benefactor. She wasn’t like all the other girls he probably took shopping all the time, and she didn’t want to be. However, for a moment, she allowed herself to wonder what it would feel like, to be the girl on Eddie Bakare’s arm. It wouldn’t be a place like Shoprite, of course. He would take her shopping through the exclusive boutiques of Lagos, buying her anything her heart desired. Well she didn’t want that, she said to herself, snapping out of her thoughts. As they reached the counter, she took hold of the handles of the trolley, “I can manage from here.” She told him, her eyes challenging him to object.

He gave her a thoughtful look, and a half-smile that seemed to say ‘I know exactly what you’re doing’. Then went ahead to pay for his screwdrivers and biscuits, smiling charmingly at the sales clerk as he did so.

Ada watched as the girl simpered and smiled back at him, ‘Don’t waste your time,’ She thought, almost pitying the girl, he already has women lined up from here to Timbuktu.

After getting his change, he helped her load her things on the counter, and waited while she paid, watching idly as a uniformed sales boys bagged the items and loaded them back on the trolley.

She could only follow him reluctantly as he wheeled the trolley out of the supermarket, whistling tunelessly. She tried not to admire the way he walked, or to look at the breadth of his shoulders, or the light dusting of black hairs on his legs. He had nice feet too, smaller than you’d expect, slim and remarkably neat. Her eyes skipped to his toes, and she looked away quickly, embarrassed, remembering what people said about mens toes. Why am I even looking at Eddie Bakare’s feet? She chided herself, groaning inwardly.

“Where are you going?” She asked, lost in her semi-lustful thoughts, she had only just noticed that he was wheeling the trolley towards the car park.

“To my car?” He stopped and turned to her. “Sorry, did you bring a car?”

“No.” She replied. “I haven’t got one.”

“Yet.” He corrected. “You haven’t got one yet.” He nodded towards the trolley. “I don’t think you can fit all this stuff on a bike.” He said teasingly. “Do you?”

“I was going to take a cab!” Ada corrected.

He shrugged and started to move again. “No need.” He said, giving her another one of his dimpled smiles “I can take you home.”

The last thing she wanted was for Eddie Bakare to know where she lived. She started to protest but realized how silly and childish it would seem. She followed him silently into the car park, inwardly seething and wishing she hadn’t run into him at all.

The journey to her apartment was short. He drove one of those Mercedes Coupes that purred like a cat and moved like a dream. He drove silently too, nodding his head to the music playing on the radio and listening as she gave directions. In no time, they were at her place.

She hadn’t planned to let him in, but she saw now that it would be impossible not to. He was carrying the bags, and she couldn’t see any reasonable way to get him to leave them by the door and disappear. He wouldn’t even accept that. Reluctantly she found herself opening up her new home to the last person she had ever expected, or planned to see it.

“Nice place!” He said as they walked through the living room to the kitchen. She knew it was true, but as it came from him, it seemed condescending. Why would a mini-flat seem ‘nice’ to him, when he had access to most of the best mansions in the country? She looked at him, he expected her to say something. “Thank you.” She managed finally, feeling unreasonably resentful.

“I’ll get the other bags.” He said, turning to return to the car, his eyes took in the bare walls and windows and furniture piled in one corner of the living room. “How long has it been since you moved in?” He asked.

“Two days” Ada replied.

“So you haven’t unpacked.” He commented, stating the obvious. “I live close by, “He added, “I could help if you need someone who’s handy with a hammer.”

As if she would let him! “Thanks but don’t bother.” Ada said quickly, “I already have a carpenter coming soon to help with all that.”

He soon left, after bringing in all her shopping. Relieved, Ada went to work, unpacking, hanging up her clothes, arranging her toiletries in the bathroom, her plates and pots in the kitchen. The carpenter came and hung up the curtains. There was also a gasman, who came to fill her gas cylinder, and an electrician to install the lights.

It wasn’t until early evening that she finally completed all her tasks. Exhausted and hungry, she was cleaning the last of the debris and dust from the carpentry work when the doorbell rang. She ignored it, it was a mistake, maybe someone was ringing at the next flat, or a child was playing. Nobody knew where she lived yet, apart from her brother and…”

The thought that it could be Eddie made her momentarily confused, but why would he come back to her flat? She went to the kitchen to dump the duster and walked slowly back to the living room. It was probably a friendly neighbor, or the landlord, or maybe Zubi had come back.

She went towards the door and looked through the peephole.

It was him! He was standing there, just waiting as if he had every reason to be sure that he was a welcome visitor. What in heaven’s name did he want?

Ada paused at the door. She could pretend that she wasn’t at home. There was no reason on earth why she couldn’t leave him standing outside, well apart from the fact that he was technically her boss, a little voice reminded her. With a sigh, she unlocked the door and pulled it open.

He looked fresh. He had changed his clothes and was now dressed in jeans and one of those short sleeve shirts that always looked stylish. In a moment of self-indulgence, she allowed her eyes to roam over his body. She had always thought that she didn’t particularly like typically handsome men. It was hard to remember that now as she looked at him.

He smiled, letting loose a dimple. “I hope I’m not disturbing you.” He said.

She folded her arms, suddenly and uncomfortably aware that while he looked clean and fresh, she was wearing the clothes with which she’d been cleaning and dusting the apartment since morning. “No, you’re not disturbing me.” She replied, sure that the expression her face totally implied the opposite.

He nodded and then reached over. Before she could react, he had pulled something from her hair. It was a wood shaving. He handed it to her.

She breathed, frowning slightly as she tried to ignore the fact that while her heart had practically stopped beating a moment ago, it was now hammering wildly. She took the shaving from him. What had she expected, that he was going to stroke her face or her hair?

“Your flat looks good.” He stated, his eyes moving past her to the living room, she turned to follow his gaze. The rug had been laid, and the curtains hung, she hadn’t put up her pictures yet, but it did look good.

“Thank you.” She replied.

“I’m on my way to the Island.” He told her. “One of my sister’s demands my presence at her house.” He chuckled. “She probably needs someone to help her watch the kids.”

Ada listened, a little confused. Why had he told her that? Why was he being so friendly with her? Did he think she was Sophie, or another one of his close friends? She wasn’t. They weren’t friends, and they had never been friends. He had no reason to think he could tell her things like that.

“Anyway.” He continued, not at all looking as if he minded watching his sister’s kids, “I was thinking that, with all the things you had to do today, you might not be able to rustle up something to eat. So…” He handed her a package, and she took it on reflex.

“It’s just dinner for one.” He smiled.

Feeling slightly guilty, she thought about inviting him in, instead of leaving him standing outside like an incredibly well dressed deliveryman, but she didn’t want to, she didn’t want to be friends with Eddie Bakare. What did they have in common after all? How could he ever understand the kind of person she was, and the things that were important to her?

“Alright.” He drew out the word, when she didn’t say anything. “I should get going.”

He started to turn around.

“Wait.” Ada said. “Wait.” She paused. “Thanks for the today.” She said softly, “Thanks for everything.”

He smiled, more brightly than she had ever seen. Ada felt her stomach clench as the full brilliance of the glorious dimpled smile turned on her.

This is why I don’t like handsome men, Ada said to herself, her fingers trembling as she watched him run down the stairs, taking them two at a time, and fast. This has to be why. 

Chapter Three

It was a society wedding. The type where there were a lot of high profile people, no celebrities or sports people, just a lot of old money, a few politicians with old names, and their highly indulged offspring.

It was noisy, but it was a refined sort of noise, well-modulated voices of society matrons in conversation, their exclamations as they met the children of their friends – potential spouses for their children, the deep laughter of men, not too loud, just self-possessed, the way rich men laughed, not the loud, self-conscious cackling often attributed to the obsequious poor. Above the din, the live band played, alternating between old classics and modern sounds.

They were beautiful, Ada thought, these people. The women, with their expensive laces, sweet smelling perfumes and beautiful jewelry, – not the loud, heavy jewels of the classless rich, but subdued pieces of gold, pearls and precious stones that didn’t need to scream to get your attention. The men, with their distinguished airs, deep voices and impeccable manners, and their children, young, beautiful and stylish with musical voices adorned with the best of British and American private school accents.

Ada had a camera hanging down her neck, but apart from that, she had dressed to fit in. Her hair had been flat ironed to fit into a loose chignon, her peach dress was stylish and elegant, as were her simple jewelry, and she had worn heels, short heels, very comfortable heels, but still heels. The bride’s mother had been emphatic about not wanting a young girl in jeans and a t-shirt, spoiling the aesthetics of the wedding.

Well, they were paying a lot. Ada thought as she took pictures of the bride feeding her new husband some of the wedding cake. Her hair would go back to its natural state, and her feet would stop hurting once she took off the shoes. With the money they were paying her, she would have worn a plastic bucket if they had insisted.

She took some more pictures, the bridesmaids, all of them on one table, looking exotic in rose colored gowns, the bride’s mother and her friends all wearing the Aso-Ebi, the official wedding cloth for family and friends, the groomsmen toasting the groom, wine glasses raised, and also people just sitting at their tables. The M.C was saying something, Ada wasn’t really listening, any moment now the bride would toss the bouquet, that was one of the important moments, and her camera was ready.

She neared another table occupied by young people, the guys in tuxedos and the girls in different colors of gorgeous dresses. Two guys were flirting with a striking girl in a red gown. There were three other people at the table, a guy and two girls. As Ada raised the camera to take a picture, she realized with a feeling of indescribable panic and dismay that the guy was Eddie Bakare.

He was listening with a small smile on his face as one of the girls whispered something in his ear, Ada watched, a tight knot in her stomach, was she his current girlfriend? She wondered. She tried to imagine what it would be like if it were she sitting there, whispering something to him, would he be so attentive? Would he look at her with so much interest? She frowned and shook the thought away. What was her business whom Eddie Bakare flirted with? She raised the camera and took a picture just as he looked up, right at her.

And smiled.

That perfect smile! With the dimples, Ada took a deep breath, trying and failing to keep her knees from going weak. There is no reason on earth why Eddie Bakare should be able to make you feel this way, she lectured herself sternly, you don’t even like him!

“Hi Ada.” He said warmly, standing up to greet her, his eyes travelled from her hair to her toes, taking in her state of dress with undisguised surprise and appreciation. She realized he had probably never seen her all dressed up before. “You look beautiful.” He stated with admiration.

You don’t have to sound so surprised, Ada thought silently. “Thanks.” She said out loud. “It’s just my work attire.” She added wryly, eager to get away. One of the other girls at the table had turned to look at her, probably wondering who on earth she was, and why Eddie Bakare had stood up to greet her.

The girl who had been whispering in Eddie’s ear was looking up and smiling at Ada, “Hi.” She said, in a voice that was both light and sweet and spoke of years in a British boarding school.

“This is my cousin, Lola.” Eddie said. “Lola this is Ada, she is the star photographer at Living Lagos.”

“Only photographer.” Ada corrected, smiling at the girl, she was very young, Ada saw now, too young to be his date as she had assumed. “Nice to meet you, Lola.”

“I like Living Lagos.” Lola said. “I read every issue when I wasn’t living here. It made me feel close to home.”

Ada smiled, there was something likable about the soft-spoken girl, but she was eager to get back to work, the girl in the red dress was now looking daggers at her, probably because one of her beaux was giving Ada a speculative look.

Eddie was too well brought up not to introduce her to his friends, so even as Ada was thinking of a getaway, he was already doing the introductions. “This lot,” He waved in the general direction of the table, “Are some of my unsavory friends.” He smiled at her. “I have a lot of those.”

There was a chorus of halfhearted waves and hellos from the rest of the table. Ada echoed them with the same level of feeling. “I have to get back to work.” She told Eddie, “See you around.” She added, with a smile at Lola.

Eddie nodded. “I’m sure we’ll see each other before you leave.” He said. “You look really lovely.” He added, even though he had said so before. Ada smiled uncomfortably and made her escape.

Later, after she had followed the bride and groom as they stopped by almost every table, to greet and thank people, and took pictures of them with all their friends and relatives, she found a place to sit and rest her legs. There was still music playing, and people were dancing, but there would be no need to get up again until the new couple was ready to leave.

She felt, rather than saw Eddie walking towards her, his bow tie was now undone, too much dancing? She had seen him on the floor with his friends earlier. She hadn’t known he could dance like that! Watching him dance she had found herself trying hard to remember why she didn’t like him and being unable to come up with any reasons, and now, with his tux so casually undone, she couldn’t imagine any girl not liking him. She shook her head at her wayward thoughts. If she had drank anything at all she would have been able to excuse them on grounds of tipsiness, but it was all him.

He was holding two wineglasses, and a bottle of wine, he handed her one of the glasses as he sat on a chair beside her.

“You must be tired,” He observed as he poured her some wine. It was clear and sparkly, and she took it without argument, it was about time she had a drink anyway.

She nodded in agreement. “I am.”

He studied her face. “Have you eaten?” He looked concerned.

Ada shook her head, she had been too busy to eat, but now that he had mentioned it, she felt the dull pangs of hunger in her stomach.

Eddie was already signaling one of the waiters, this one was carrying small dishes of peppered snails. “I’m sure you’ll like these.” He said, picking up one of the dishes. “Funmi Savage, one of the girls at my table, ate enough of these to feed an army of elephants.” He laughed. “She swore they were too good not to eat.”

And that means I’ll like them? Ada wanted to ask. But she dug into the snails with relish, too hungry to argue. They were fantastic of course. She found herself silently thanking Funmi Savage, whoever she was, for eating so many snails and yet leaving some for her.

“Do you do weddings often?” He asked suddenly, his eyes going to the camera still hanging around her neck.

She nodded. “I get about one a month.”

“It looks like really strenuous work.” He said with a small frown. “With all that walking around for hours,” He studied her face for a moment. “Do you like it?”

“I like photography.” She replied.

He nodded. “But not necessarily wedding photography.” He stated.

She shook her head. “I like scenery, nature and people.” She told him. “That’s what I’d really like to do all the time.”

“So why do you do this?” He asked.

This was the sort of artlessness that his type eventually displayed, Ada thought drily. They didn’t understand that people would work for money because they had never had to. Why else would she do it, when she didn’t particularly like it, if not for the money? All her resentment for people of his kind suddenly rose to the surface. They didn’t have to do anything they didn’t like, they just coasted through life in luxury, with the assurance that nothing and nobody would ever take it away from them, they could have anything they wanted, do anything they wanted. It was annoying.

She glanced at Eddie, was he different? His father was reputed to be an exceptionally hardworking man, as was he, but the money that had established the family fortunes had come from corruption, from a grandfather who had profited from mismanaging public funds in the seventies. He didn’t have to work. He only did because he enjoyed his work. What had he ever done to deserve that option? Nothing at all, except having the good fortune of being born into a wealthy home, that good fortune that he seemed to think gave him the right to condescend to her and ask her why she did work that she didn’t like.

She remembered just a week ago, when they had all gone out for drinks to celebrate the ‘Living Lagos’ nomination for the TRANSCEND awards, he had come alone, but one of the girls at the exclusive bar had soon picked up his scent. She was one of his type, young, beautiful, with the all-important foreign accent, she had hung on to him all night, being polite only to Sophie and practically ignoring Ada, Oliver and Fadeke. Those were his people, ultra-privileged, ultra-entitled and ultra-selfish.

“Somebody has to do it.” She finally replied his question with a small smile.

He nodded slowly. As if he understood, Ada thought, still resentful.

“Are you done yet?” He asked. “Or almost done, I could wait and take you home.”

She gave him a level look. “You don’t have to.”

He raised a brow. “I know I don’t have to.” He laughed. “I want to.”

“Why?” She asked. “I’m not one of your… friends.” She glanced over to where his companions were still sitting at their table, laughing and having a good time. She shrugged. “Don’t worry I can manage on my own.” She spared a glance at his face. If her unfriendliness puzzled him, he didn’t show it. “Thanks for the wine,” She continued, “and the snails, but I really have to get back to work now.”

He studied her for a long moment, his face retained the expression of easy amiability, but his eyes looked as if they were trying to bore into her mind, to read something there, her thoughts perhaps. Ada looked away, maybe it was the wine, but sitting so close to him while he looked at her like that was doing things to her head.

“You don’t like me very much,” He stated finally. “Do you?”

It must have been the wine, because, in her right senses, she would never have said what she said, but she had drained her glass, and courage was unlimited. She kept her chin up. “No, I don’t.” She replied flatly.

“I wonder why,” He said, more to himself than to her. He shrugged and got up. “Alright then.” He said pleasantly. “Enjoy your work.”

She watched him go with a small, petulant frown. She ought to have felt satisfied that she had put him in his place, but all she felt was childish and ashamed.

It was dark when Ada finally got home, she had gone along as the new bride was taken to her husband’s family house, and her feet washed before she entered, to show she was no longer a member of her old family, but coming to her new one without the dust of the old one clinging to her feet. She took pictures, and more pictures, until she could hardly stand, then finally it was over and she called a taxi to take her home.

She was tired, and all she wanted to do was rest, and yet somehow Eddie’s face kept creeping up in her mind, as if some roguish voice was whispering his name in her ear, causing her to keep thinking about him.

Why did I tell him that I didn’t like him? She wondered as she let herself into her apartment. She could have just laughed off the question, or said something flimsy and flirty, like most girls would do. She sighed. He shouldn’t have asked her such a question in the first place, and she knew that he wouldn’t have asked if he didn’t already know the answer.

That thought made her frown as she kicked off her shoes and turned on the lights. Had her behavior towards him been so bad, so abhorrent, that the only conclusion he could draw was that she didn’t like him? How did that make him feel?

Suddenly she felt horrible. He hadn’t done anything apart from being courteous to her and she had probably succeeded in alienating him. She wondered how it would affect her in the long run. Would he just avoid her now? To be frank, she wouldn’t mind that, recently being around him had been affecting her in ways she didn’t want to think about, so if he left her alone…”

The sound of the doorbell shattered the silence in her apartment, interrupting her thoughts and causing her to yelp in shock. It was almost eight in the evening. There was absolutely nobody, nobody who would be ringing her doorbell.

Except him! The feeling of dé jàvu caused her to shiver as the idea that it could be him hovered in her mind. She discarded it almost immediately. It was only in romance novels that men would keep throwing themselves at walls a woman built around herself, until either they or the walls broke, and this was no romance novel, it wasn’t even a romance.

The doorbell rang again, more insistently. She hesitated. If it was him, what did he want? What would she say? She stole a quick glance around the living room, the shoes she had kicked to a corner, the camera bag dumped on an armchair. It’s not him, she told herself, it’s not him, but somehow, as she walked to the door to look in the peephole, she knew what she would find.

He rang the bell again. Ada took a deep breath and unlocked the door.

He had taken off the jacket, but he was still wearing the shirt, though some of the buttons had been undone. When he saw her, the glowering frown on his face relaxed a little. She could see that he wasn’t drunk or tipsy, but there was no smile this time, no dimples, he just looked very, very determined.

“I think you should tell me why?” He said firmly.

“Why what?” Ada asked uncomprehendingly. He gave her a challenging look. “I think you should tell me why you dislike me so much.”

 

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