FRIDAY, MARCH 14th, 2014.
Omole Phase 1, Lagos.
Ese’s eye lids hurt from a lack of sleep. She had worked late the night before and had a court appearance by midday. She had planned to take a nap immediately she returned from dropping Osas, her four year old boy in school, but having done that and slipping back to bed to hug her pillows, all she could do was toss and turn on the bed.
The scenes at the police station played up in her mind as she lay on her bed trying to wish herself to sleep. She saw the confusion in Funmi’s eyes as Bode advanced towards them, the name Julia ringing out on his lips. How stupid could she get? That she had not requested for the full names of the accused from Funmi was an embarrassment. It was the most basic thing to do but the thought that someone would brazenly steal another person’s dignity because the society allowed it angered her so much that it beclouded her sense of reason. She had taken this case way too personal even before the new complications of knowing that the accused was Bode, a man who’s forgiveness she had been seeking for the past six years and more desperately so, for the past three years. His teary eyes on the fourteenth day of February, 2008 was one image that still gnawed at her heart, each time her mind drifted to him.
As she put a final touch to her looks, she heard the knock on the door. The last person she expected to be at the other side of the door was Bode as he was supposed to be far away in Kachia local government area of Kaduna State on his national youth service. Infact she had spoken to him early that morning when both of them had joked about him spending his valentine with the numerous yarinyas in the school where he taught, while she was left to play the role of a lonely wife.
She heard the words tarraaaah! and she stiffened in the room, dropping her powder, funny how the Bode effect made her drop things and when Efe ran inside to confirm her fears with the words ‘Julia its Bode!’ She was as good as finished as her frame trembled uncontrollably with fear. ‘What do I do? What do I say?’ She asked no one in particular.
‘Tell him he’s your ex,’ Efe had said without thinking. She was equally in shock and it would be much later that Efe would get a chance to explain to her that she actually meant that she should tell Bode that Frank was an ex and not the other way round.
She easily would have chosen Bode if she had the time to think but at that moment, the lines were blurred. Frank was a great guy who was her late elder brother’s best-friend. She had lost him and her dad in an accident, a week after he passed out from his youth service. Losing both of them in one swoop will forever be the lowest point in her life but it was worse for her mum who immediately became a house wife with three children to cater for, herself and her immediate younger brother already in the university, while the youngest was just about to write her university entrance examination. She didn’t expect to drop out from school but was surprised at the standard of life she could still afford even though she knew her mum had started some business with her dad’s savings. She actually went from living well in school to living average, when infact she had expected to be living on scraps – it was a miracle, and she later got to find out that Frank who had gotten a job in a multinational company was a big part of that miracle.
How could she choose between two good men, one whom she loved dearly and the other who was her benefactor, someone she liked very much and whom her family adored? She was sure she would finally end up with Bode but dreaded the moment she would have to face up to Frank to tell the truth and then in that one second of stage fright she switched the scripts, ‘Meet my fiancé, Frank. And Frankie, this is my ex Bode.’ She had never called him Frankie before and she saw the excited look in his eyes as he slipped his arms around her waist and led her to the car. Bode’s face flushed with shock as he batted his eyelids to fight the tears that were in his eyes. That picture of his face over the years remained etched upon her heart and came to the fore of her thoughts more often as Frank started abusing her when she became his wife just a year later while she was still in Law school.
The crux of the matter came when Frank pummelled her into a state of unconsciousness while Osas their little boy whom they had named after her late elder brother and Frank’s best friend watched on. That experience left her with scars both physically and emotionally. She could mask the physical scars which over time had sufficiently disappeared with make-up but the scars of her heart was like a yawning gap which simply refused to close up.
As she poured her heart to Funmi in a bid to explain her relationship with Bode, the confusion in the face in front of her turned slowly to worry. She could sense both fear and distrust in the place where there was once trust and confidence. ‘I’ll understand if you don’t want me on this case anymore, because of my history with Bode.’ She had said, trying to look into the eyes staring at her.
‘If I keep you on the case, can I trust you?’ Funmi had asked, her worrying eyes burrowing into her mind with her fierce stare.
‘Yes,’ she replied limply, not sure if she even believed herself. Funmi clearly wasn’t convinced by the response as her expression didn’t change. ‘I’ll call you to let you in on my decision.’
She had narrated the incidence to Mrs George immediately she got back to the center after dropping Funmi off. If Mrs George was shocked, she didn’t let it show as she spoke to her in her usual calm, soothing manner. ‘I don’t think the important thing is Funmi’s call, I think the important thing is to find out what you really would like to do if she calls and asks you to continue.’
Those words were striking and held a lot of wisdom but that was two days and Funmi was yet to call. As she settled on the thought of Funmi calling, her phone rang.
She hoped within herself that it would be a good narrative to propagate the gospel of mind power, where she had used her mind to bring a phone call to reality. As she reached out for her phone, she knocked her table clock off its perch on the stool and lazily she rolled to the edge of the bed and picked it up, while the ring tone of her phone serenaded the room. As she placed the clock back on the stool, she noticed that the time was just twenty seven minutes past the hour of eight, even with all the time she had tossed and turned on the bed. She picked up the phone from the stool and checked the incoming call, a set of digits stared back at her, the number was not registered on her phone book but it was registered in her heart. Everybody has that particular phone number they can’t forget, even in their afterlife – this was hers.
FRIDAY, MARCH 14th, 2014.
Bode turned the key in the lock to open the door to his office. As he stepped into the room, he felt alive. There was the connection he felt with this space he called his office and he couldn’t believe that being absent for just one day would make him miss it so much.
Everything looked the same way like he had left it on Wednesday, except perhaps for the green file-bag that was conspicuously missing from his desk. It was the same bag needed for the meeting that he had missed because of his arrest and he wasn’t surprised as it was the reason Emeka had collected the office keys from him. On hindsight, it was a good thing he did, as he would have been forced to drive back to the office to submit the keys as it was against office rules to take office keys home for the night, even though he had mistakenly done it a couple of times. On those occasions it was his relationship with the security that saved him from the usual lengthy write ups that office bureaucracy demanded for such a slip.
As he took a spin on his swivelling chair, his mind coursed through the events of the past two days where his world had been literarily taking a spin. His mum had been the one he had seen first as he raised his head up from where he sat. He had called her severally to demand Barrister Ndukwe’s number but she wasn’t picking the call anymore and so he had reached out to a friend to help him get a lawyer. The thought of spending time in a cell was dreadful but he just had to be calm and wait for the response of those he had reached out to.
She was talking to an officer, with a countenance that suggested deep sadness. He rose up from where he sat and as he approached her, his eyes caught sight of Dunni’s mum – it was a complete act.
‘Tell me you didn’t do it?’ his mum asked, half an hour later as they walked out of the police station.
It was a question he expected and so had an already made up answer for it. ‘No ma, I didn’t. I didn’t do anything,’ he said, repeating his words to emphasize his innocence.
His mum had turned her head to take a good look at him, her brows arching as her eyes asked a million questions. ‘You didn’t do anything?’ She asked with a tinge of sarcasm, ‘How come she’s pregnant?’
Bode missed his step. Pregnant?
The words still rang aloud in his head as he swivelled in his chair. That she was pregnant messed up all his calculations. How could he deny knowledge of the pregnancy when he had reported in his statement that she was his girlfriend and was just bitter about a break-up hence she had framed the rape story. If his statement was to remain true, it would also pick him out as the culprit for the pregnancy.
Bode hung his head on the chair, his eyes closed and his mind wandering.
There was a rap on the door that brought his wandering mind back to the realities of his office. He swivelled his chair back so he could face the door. It was just ten minutes past eight and it certainly couldn’t have been work so early. Ifeoma waltzed into his office in an Adele grey tonic suit looking every inch an executive. ‘Ify baby,’ he called out to her with a smile on his face, ‘So my wife missed me so much yesterday, she has come to pay homage to her husband so early?’
She flashed him a quick smile, her sparkling white teeth parting her red lips. ‘Na so,’ Ifeoma replied, the remnant of her smile still playing on her lips. ‘Fake husband that didn’t tell his wife that he won’t be around yesterday.’
‘Oh that,’ Bode said dismissively. ‘No mind me jare, there was something I had to do yesterday.’ He continued, taking little notice of the envelope in her left hand.
‘Madam is angry o,’ Ifeoma started.
‘Which madam?’ Bode questioned, his eyes now on the envelope that was in her hand.
‘MD of course,’ Ifeoma continued. ‘How many madams do you have in the office?’ She asked rhetorically. ‘She asked us to issue you a query.’
‘Query?’ Bode asked, visibly puzzled. ‘For just one day absence?’
‘I’m sure there was something she wanted you to handle and got angry when you didn’t show up and didn’t call in to inform Admin or HR,’ Ifeoma said as she gave him the envelope while also placing the acknowledgement copy in front of him.
He hesitated in signing the acknowledgement copy but eventually did sign it, sensing there was nothing he could do about it. ‘So no work for me today now, you have given me twenty four hours to answer the query, I’ll spend my day thinking up a very good answer.’ Bode said in a failed attempt at sharing a joke. His anger was obvious.
‘Take it easy, I’m sure it won’t amount to anything. I guess she was just angry’ Ifeoma said, knowing she was lying in her teeth as the MD was not known to be reactionary. ‘Let me get back to the office jare,’ she said, letting her hand stroke his hand that clutched the envelope in a soothing manner. It was obvious she was not comfortable in the environment.
As Ifeoma stepped out of the office, shutting the door behind her, his mind drifted back to his predicament.
Julia as lawyer to Funmi was something he could never have conceived, even in his dreams. Who could have thought of such a plot? Reality really can be stranger than fiction and this case proved it.
He was sure she would be at the meeting holding at Funmi’s house tomorrow as suggested by the DPO to both families so that they could try to settle their differences amicably. He would like to know what to expect.
His face contorted into a devious grin as he thought of the plan he was hatching. Julia’s resurrection as Funmi’s lawyer had definitely unsettled him but he was sure he could hatch out something that would make her an asset rather than a liability in this case. He still had her manual in his head or was it her program files in his system? He smiled, whatever it was, he was determined to make good use of it.
It was eight twenty six on his wall clock as he picked up his phone, the number he was about to call was not stored in his phone, but his fingers worked magically as he tapped on the keys on his phone. It was a number he had vowed never to dial again in his life but desperate times demanded desperate measures. He placed the phone against his ears as soon as he pressed the send button, and listened to the beeping sound that indicated that his call had connected. He waited patiently for the call to become active like a predator stalking a prey. The stakes in this game for him went through the roof the moment Funmi reported to the police. One of them was going down and it definitely wasn’t him. At that moment he heard her voice on the other end, hello she said.
‘Julia, it’s me Bode,’ he replied softly.
‘I know,’ she said.
Bode grinned knowingly. An ex would always be an ex – free lunch.