I rushed back to Abuja immediately. My vacation was suspended automatically. I went back to Abuja with mixed feelings; first I was elated that Flores had called off the wedding but I was worried that she had gone MIA. Where on earth could she be?
Femi downloaded the whole gist for me. Three days before the wedding, Fred had called Femi asking if he’d seen Flores.
“He said she’d left a note for him saying she was sorry but she couldn’t marry him.” Femi explained as we drove to Flores’ house.
“Just like that…no explanations?” I asked.
“So he said. She also said that marrying him would be a big mistake and she didn’t want him to be unhappy for the rest of his life.” Femi shook his head. “I don’t know what she was thinking.”
“Where’s Fred now?” I asked. I felt bad for the guy, but hey…his loss was my win.
“I don’t know. When he hung up he was so distraught. He kept asking where he went wrong and he told me to let him know if Flores showed up at my place.”
“I just hope she’s okay.” I said.
Femi glanced at me. “You know she called the wedding off because of you, right?”
I shrugged. “She never told me she felt the same way about me, so I don’t even want to jump to conclusions about why she called off the wedding.”
“This is a mess. How did you go and fall in love with our best friend? Why not some random girl?” Femi shook his head. He had not told me his feelings on this matter before and I had been too preoccupied to ask.
“Do we choose who to fall in love with?” I asked. “It just happened, Femi.”
“We’ve known her for…eight years and you just discovered your feelings now??” He tapped the steering wheel. “Even I had the hots for her when we first knew her; but she made her feelings clear on the matter and I eventually had to accept the fact that we were not meant to be.”
“She’s different from other girls, Femi. I don’t know how to explain it but there’s something about her…”
“I get it. I get it. I have a degree in Womenology, remember? I know the wife materials and I know the ‘tumble-in-the-hay’ types. But you do remember that she’s carrying another man’s baby?”
“Femi, can we just focus on finding her and leave this talk for later?”
He shrugged. Within five minutes we had arrived at Flores’ house. It was the apartment she had been living in since she got her job. Femi and Oscar had already been to the house when Flores’ disappearance had been discovered but we figured that she might have returned. Maybe, just maybe.
The front door was locked and Femi produced a key. Just as we started unlocking the door, we heard a voice behind us.
“Can I help you?”
We spun around to face a young girl peering up at us curiously.
“Hi, Nike.” Femi smiled smoothly. “It’s me again.”
She returned the smile. “Oh…I didn’t know. Hi, Femi.”
“We came to check if she showed up within these past few days. You look beautiful, by the way.”
The girl actually blushed. Femi and his sweet mouth .I personally didn’t see anything spectacular about the girl; but hey, that’s just me.
“Don’t start joor.” She glanced at me. “Has your friend lost his tongue?”
She was teasing but I was in no mood for that. I was silent.
“Oh…He’s just going through some tough time. Forgive his manners.” Femi gave me a slight punch. “We’ll catch up later, okay?”
The girl nodded, looked at me one last time then took her leave.
I waited for Femi to scold me when she left but he didn’t. He seemed to understand what I was going through.
Needless to say; our visit that day was futile. We carried on the search but Flores seemed to have dropped off the surface of the earth. I kept expecting a call or text from her asking me to pick her up from wherever she was…Neither came.
Flores wanted to stay hidden. Even her family members had no idea about her whereabouts. At first I was concerned, then I became worried. Where could she be? Was she alright?
Three months after her disappearance her face was still fresh in my memory. I was still so much in love with her. It drove me crazy not knowing her whereabouts. How could she do that to me? I became a regular church-goer because of her. I took out time to pray for her wherever she was.
At the same time I did everything I could to forget her. Maybe we weren’t meant to be together after all. I drowned myself in my work, apart from our weekend hangouts I rarely had time to socialize. Oscar and Abby got married within that period. It was a fun and successful event but it felt empty without Flores.
My friends did all they could to make me laugh. It worked sometimes and at other times their efforts were futile. My mum didn’t relent in trying to hook me up with other girls. I even went on a few dates to make her happy. For each woman, there was no second date.
I became a workaholic, which was the only thing that helped me. Six months after her disappearance I began to lose hope of ever seeing her again. I heard that even Fred her ex-fiancé had been seen around town with another woman. I couldn’t blame him… after all his fiancée had left him without any explanations. I wouldn’t have minded a woman myself but I was doing a make-over on my lifestyle. I had begun taking God more serious; I attended church regularly and was making an attempt to trace my roots back to Christ.
I wasn’t the only one making changes in my life. Femi had finally gotten into a real relationship with a girl who I could tell was ‘wife material’. Femi had personally told me that their relationship didn’t involve sex. Her choice not his; but he was actually enjoying it although it took some getting used to.
My life became monotonous.
Then something happened. It was exactly eight months after her disappearance. It was Saturday and I was relaxing, reading a novel when my phone rang.
It was Femi and he sounded both grim and excited.
“Where are you?” He asked.
“Home. What’s up?”
“Get dressed I’m coming to pick you up.”
“Why? Is something wrong?”
“I just got a call from a doctor, he says he’s Flores’ doctor.”
I sat up immediately. “Flores?”
“Get dressed. We’re going to the hospital.”
I got dressed under five minutes and was standing on my porch when Femi came to pick me.
“Tell me what he said.” I demanded.
“He said Flores listed me as next-of-kin in case anything happened.”
That wasn’t news because Flores’ family resided in Lagos and its usually difficult getting across to them.
“He said he’s her gynaecologist. We’ll know more when we get there.” Femi said.
And just like that I saw a ray of sunshine in my already dark tunnel. The moment I’d awaited for eight months was finally here.
But why hadn’t she listed me as her next-of-kin? I wondered. It didn’t matter anyway…all that mattered was that I was going to see her again. The woman of my dreams, the love of my life, my Miss Right.
The hospital, though busy, was of poor quality.
The nurses helped us locate the doctor, a young nervous man.
“Who are you here to see?” He asked when he saw us.
“Florence.” Femi said. “You called me concerning a patient named Florence. I’m Femi.”
“Oh…yes.” He glanced at us both. “Are you her husband?
“We’re family.” Femi replied.
“Well…I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
My heart literally jumped out of my mouth.
“Yes?” Femi prompted.
“I’m sorry…we lost her while she was having her baby.”
“What?!” Femi and I exclaimed.
“She’s dead. We need someone to claim her body. I’m sorry gentlemen. We tried to save her.” He said it in such a cold way, I felt like punching him.
I stood frozen.
Flores couldn’t be dead. No! No! I couldn’t accept it!