” What’s wrong? Mark! I need you to talk to me. ” Yinka urged him with a hand placed over his shoulder. Tears flowed down Mark’s eyes as he cradled his head with his hands,and bent his head to the ground. Beads of perspiration covered his face and arms;he couldn’t believe the mystery girl was Tera.
” Talk to me, Mark . Where’s Tera? ” He enquired once more.
” Tera is… ” He trailed off once more and nodded his head emphatically.
” Is what? Were you involved in an accident? Why do you have bruises? ”
” Nope. I fell. ”
” So? What about Tera? ”
” She’s the mystery girl. I can’t believe I took advantage of her,Yinka. Nick played the video at the Awards Ceremony; he called her a harlot,I’ve tarnished her image. I’m such a mess… ” He responded without raising his head.
” Are you serious? ”
” I’ve got to go now. I need to question Nick. ”
” But,you’re a mess…you need to treat your wounds first. ” He smiled faintly as his friend dashed out of the lounge without even giving a listening ear to his objection.
He walked into Banana Haven with a frown spread across his ashen face. He was tired and frustrated to say the very least; his legs hurt,and his entire body ached. The parlour was filled with a cacophony of irresponsible looking individuals. He trudged lazily towards Nick’s table and dropped his frail figure right in front of the renowned blogger who was seated with Emerald and several bottles of beer. He dismissed her rudely and loosened his tie before looking at him.
” Why? How could you have done that to Tera? Why do you hate her so much? ”
” You think I’ve got beef with Tera? How stupid are you? ” He enquired with a vilipend expression after emptying the contents of the wine glass down his throat.
” If its not Tera? Then..? Griselda? Seriously? ”
” Of course,its Griselda. I loved her,you know? But you stole her from me. How heartless are you? So,you expect me to fold my arms in admiration and watch you live happily ever after despite the fact that you chased my love away from me? ”
” I did no such thing. We courted but…that wasn’t really any of my doing. She led me on and…” He felt uneasy and confused at the same time,his fingers were cold and stiff due to the chill that was spreading through his veins.
” You think I’m stupid? Aren’t you the reason why she fled to Ireland? ”
” So,what if I’m responsible? Can you stop hurting Tera? I promise to get you hooked up with Griselda if only you’ll agree to let my Tera be. Please.. ” He pleaded and went down on his knees with his head bowed down. Rapid tears dropped down his eyes; he couldn’t remember the last time he had gone down on his knees,but this was a sacrifice he was willing to make for his best friend.
” Fool….na only woman you sabi. ” He added with a wicked expression on his face as he rose to his feet and pushed Mark aside.
” Where am I? What’s going on? My head hurts. ” Tera enquired after she had regained consciousness in the hospital. She stared at Debbie with a look of solemnity in her eyes; images of all that had transpired at the Tutorship Awards had jolted her memory,and tears dropped down her eyes once more. She turned sideways on the hospital bed,and dropped her head on Debbie’s bosom for comfort.
” I messed up, Debs. Everyone now knows. Where is mummy? Does she know? ”
” Not really,the doctor informed her that you had a nervous breakdown,but he didn’t explain to her in full details. She went to get you a change of clothes from home,she should soon get back. ”
” Okay,that’s a relief. And my Mark? Have you heard from him? Has he called or?? ”
” No,he hasn’t. I’m guessing he’s still trying to come to terms with what happened. Let’s keep our arms folded; if he doesn’t call by this time tomorrow,then I suggest you apologise to him formally and try to move on. ”
Tera stared into space and tried not to listen to Debbie’s advice. She checked her phone for the umpteenth time; there were tons of missed calls and instant messaging notifications,but none of them was from him. She heaved a sigh of relief and feigned a smile at Debbie before shutting her eyes once more in an attempt to forget all that had happened in the last four hours.
It was three days after the incident at the Awards Ceremony. Tera was seated at the dining table with a bowl of fresh fruits before her. She had lost her appetite and child-like playfulness for reasons she couldn’t quite explain,and had instructed Sisi and Debbie to inform her few friends that she had travelled to Ibadan; she couldn’t stand pity parties right now,and her friends were experts in that field. She raised her head up after picking a finger of yellow banana and sighted her mother staring at her from the living room with her arms akimbo.
” Tera ! Tera !! What’s the matter with you? Why aren’t you eating? What aren’t you telling me,my sweetheart? ” The woman walked up to her and soothed her daughter’s shoulder whilst she spoke.
” I’m fine,mum. Are you going somewhere? ”
” Yes,I’m off to the market. But..I’ll be back in a jiffy. Are you sure you’re fine? Do we need to talk? ”
” No,Ma. I’m good. Just missing daddy. ”
” Awww…..I just knew it! Well,not to worry. He’ll be back next week. But,I’m afraid we won’t be able to attend the new year’s service as a family. He won’t be back by then.
” Its no problem,a few more days won’t hurt. ” She added and smiled heartily as the woman reached out to give her a warm hug.
Tera’s eyes were jammed shut on her bed when she heard a knock at her door; It was Sisi. The fair skinned lady walked in after receiving a response from her.
” You have a guest. I told him to come back but he’s adamant. ”
” Really? Who could that be? Mark? ” Her eyes lit up with excitement as she awaited a response.
” No, Ma. Its Nick. He’s also with a bouquet of flowers ”
” Hmmm…okay. Tell him to wait. ” She responded and stared at herself in the mirror. She adjusted her hair and glasses before walking downstairs with a look of mixed feelings; of fear,and anger.
The young man who was clad in a pair of blue jeans and white t-shirt rose up with a look of excitement and opened his arms towards her,in a bid to receive a hug from her.
” What? What do you want from me? ” She asked with a look of fear and distaste after rejecting his offer.
” I came to apologise to you,my dear. I’m sorry for hurting you…I shouldn’t have acted so immature. Please,accept my sincerest apologies. ”
” Why should I? After humiliating me in public..after calling me a harlot. ” Tears almost dropped down her eyes once more; but she bit them back.
” Well,I talked to Mark yesterday and,I must confess,now I know better. Please, dearie. My conscience has been bugging me ever since then. ”
” Its no problem. Apology accepted. Thanks for the colourful bouquet. You may leave now. ”
” Wait…one more thing,dearie. Mark…he’s in love with you. I suggest you pay him a visit as soon as you can. He’s feeling love lorned and guilty at the same time. You two are a match made in heaven. ”
Tera knocked at his door for the umpteenth time and muttered a heart-felt prayer under her breath; she hoped the security guard hadn’t divulged bits of false information to her. According to the able bodied Northerner, he was home alone. Tera knocked thrice and heaved a sigh of relief when she heard him twisting the door knob. He assumed that it was one of his maids who had come to drop off dinner and was astounded when he saw Tera standing before him. She looked different; her hair was packed in a loose bun,and her lips twitched incessantly,like she was muttering something under her breath.
” Tera! I’ve missed you so much. I know you must be really disappointed in me right now,where do I start from? ” He enquired with a solemn expression spread across his face.
” Mark,I’m not disappointed in you. I messed up that night and…. ” She chipped in after sitting next to him on the bed.
” No…I messed up. I took advantage of you and..I can’t help but wonder if we can still remain best of friends. You were humiliated because of me.. ”
” No… ” She responded with a look of defiance and wrapped her arms around his neck. Tera shut her eyes after reaching out for his pink lips with hers. Tears dropped down her eyes as his lips touched her cheeks and the nape of her neck. He was about to claim her lips once more when his countenance changed.
” This can’t be, Tera. I’m sorry. ” He apologised as he stood up and turned away from her.
” It has to be. I love you,I’ve always loved you. Maybe we can’t date now..but in the nearest future..I can give you time,if that’s what you need. ” She rose up gently and placed her hands on his shoulder whilst she spoke.
” But..I’m in love with someone else. That night was a mistake and nothing more, Tera. I’m afraid…I just can’t . ”
Bitter water works dropped down Tera’s eyes and clouded her vision. With fury surging through her veins,she raised her hand to his face and slapped him twice.
” Thanks for everything. ” She affirmed loudly and ran out of his room. The mansion experienced a power outage at the time and Mark ran to her rescue. She couldn’t see in the dark,and he had heard the sound of her spectacles hitting the ground.