This is a continuation of the Heartbreaker Series. Read part three here.
This love story you’re about to read is fictional and a figment of the writer’s imagination (that’s me, by the way). Any resemblance to any person, place or event is purely coincidental.
Photo: Tosin Junaid©
WARNING: This story is very addictive. Read only at your own discretion!
There was this funny feeling Okiki got in that moment she counted one to eight even though she was an avenger. First, it was a warm fuzziness like white Easter bunnies padding softly in the pit of her stomach. Until it became a circus in there and her heart was beating really fast. Pa-dam. Pa-dam. Pa-dam. She felt the blood warm in her veins, in her cheeks, at her temple. Everywhere.
It’s funny because she completely forgot how to breathe in that tiny fraction of time she locked eyes with the other person. Time lulled but it was really just two alien worlds colliding to coalesce. It hit her that this had happened before. She had felt like this before. And this was the person she felt it for.
Each beat of her heart was a reminder of things that once were and countless more that could have been. Her heart grasped for answers but it was already five years too late. Neither her or Gboyega could explain what really happened, why the other person chose to be so insensitive and why they’d had to give up on something so beautiful.
Time had not healed anything and she was still as hurt as she was yesterday. It was this revelation that began the anti-climax. Her heart stopped pounding and the bunnies disappeared. It took her brain mere seconds to register that she was on a revenge mission without the luxury of time to frolic in wonderland.
“I’ll leave first”, Okiki cleared her throat and pushed back in her seat.
“Don’t… Please”, Gboyega caught her hand before she could rise.
She glanced at him sharply, “Excuse me?”
Okiki saw a shadow pass across his eyes before he let go of her hand. As though he had only just realised his mistake, the mistake of intimacy with a familiar stranger.
“Okiki?”, she was startled by how smoothly her name sailed past his lips like five years had not flown by.
But she avoided his eyes. How was it that all of the rules of revenge seemed impractical for the actual moment? It didn’t matter how many times she’d repeated them under her breath, how many times she’d envisaged her revenge. It was almost as though she lacked the confidence to get even with this man.
“Can we…?”, He started, unsure. A lifetime passed before he continued. “What I did was unforgivable but can we…”
Familiarity. Okiki whispered to herself. She knew this trick. The enemy’s ruse. The moment she let Gboyega talk, all of her defences would be broken and she’d be back to zero point. A city without walls. Vulnerable to his charms as she’d been five years ago. She couldn’t let him finish.
His eyes were brown and haunted when she finally looked up. But Okiki could not be distracted. She fixed him a blank stare. “I’m sorry but you’re mistaken, Mr. Oyekanmi. There’s nothing for which to apologize!”
Her legs dragged like two bags of rice when she stood but common sense cheered her on. She grabbed her purse and marched past him, praying that he would not try to stop her. Because once he did, her revenge plan was good as aborted. In her haste, she slightly bustled him but didn’t look back.
Okiki had imagined she would feel triumphant after walking out on Gboyega but all she felt was a pulsating sadness, the kind that threatened her peace of mind and brought tears to her eyes. It was all so confusing. Had she been too hasty? Maybe she should have listened, waited for him to complete his request. Okiki, can we what? She shook her head to drown out his voice as she reached the office.
“Mr. Oyekanmi’s protégé, right?”, the receptionist asked. Before she had a chance to reply, he’d shoved some office files into her hands. “Hand these over to him, please!”
Okiki sighed inwardly, heading for the elevator. Gboyega would return anytime now and she wanted to avoid any further confrontation with him. All of a sudden, six weeks seemed like a long time and Okiki actually began to regret her choice of Oyekanmi & Elliot LLP. Several other reputable firms had been willing to accommodate her, why on God’s earth did she have to end up here?
Before the lift doors swished close, a black shoe appeared between the doors. Okiki promptly brushed an errant tear from her cheeks as the newcomer took his place beside her in the lift. There went her golden chance at privacy!
“Are you alright?”, Of course it was a man’s voice.
Okiki nodded without raising her head. She wasn’t usually this snobbish and this man was probably concerned for her but today was the wrong day and she just wanted to be left alone.
“You are one of the externs, aren’t you?”, He asked.
Okiki nodded her head politely but her eyes were still glued to the files in her hands. Ordinarily, a meddler should have gotten the message and stopped here but this person persisted and it was his insistence that annoyed Okiki.
“And this is your first week?”, He said in a half-question that hung in the air between them. Okiki watched him from the corner of her eyes. His hands were bunched in his pockets and he seemed young, maybe only a couple of years older than herself. With his grey suit and black leather briefcase, he exuded ‘the Lagos air’, the air of the highly successful. She was unaccountably curious.
“You know I can tell that you’re checking me out, right?” He chuckled, eyebrows raised in a cocky smirk.
She gaped at him, amused.
“Wow.” He whispered conspiratorially, leaning into her personal space. “You have really dark eyes, the colour of midnight.”
And maybe it was something about his genuine fascination with her irises but she surprised herself when she burst out laughing. “Pfft, Captain Obvious. Of course I have dark eyes.” She only realized her Freudian slip when his brows furrowed in puzzlement.
Okiki gave herself a mental face-palm. Her mouth had betrayed her again. Thinking aloud was a bad habit she often exhibited when she wasn’t thinking straight.
She was muttering her apologies when he chortled in amusement, stretched out his hand and enclapsed hers in a firm handshake. “Forgive my manners. I’m Bambo. Adebambo Elliot.”
Okiki nodded briskly. There was a certain ring to the name. Maybe it was because of the way he said it with a knowing look in his eyes, as though he had expected a certain reaction and was disappointed when it did not come. She knew she had heard that name before. But where?
“Do you have a name?”, Bambo asked and she realized that he was still holding her hand.
“I’m sorry. My name is Okiki. Okiki Jagunmolu”.
“Ah, she talks!”, He exclaimed the same moment they reached the last floor. Okiki had to laugh again. She shifted the files to her left hand as she stepped out of the lift with Bambo at her heels.
“I’m guessing it’s only your first day. Have you had a proper tour?”
She shook her head no. “We should have an official orientation this week though once all the externs arrive.”
He chuckled, “Hmm… so you have not even been assigned to any department or supervisor?”
Okiki was saying something in response when the lift doors clicked open again. The hairs on the back of her neck stood when she turned to see Gboyega walking towards them on the last floor. His brown eyes were steely as they drifted between both Okiki and Bambo.
He walked past them and gave Bambo a fist bump but he said nothing to her. He didn’t ask a single question when she placed the files on his table later. Tuesday passed and then, Wednesday of the O&E Orientation. Friday came and he still didn’t say anything to her.
It was Bambo, the charming tour guide that became her friend and posed the perfect distraction.
Rule No. 4: Avenger’s sole aim must be to get even. No more, no less.
As a child, Gboyega had developed a disturbing penchant for punishing others with a cold, unyielding silence. This thick cloak of silence was the only shield he had been able to muster against his parent’s grandiose expectations. Besides, silence required little effort and presented the escape he needed from the constant pressure to prove himself.
He lapsed into a different kind of silence now as an adult, confronted with a situation that puzzled him. An enigma that he could not unravel. Okiki. What he couldn’t understand was why she’d frustrated his attempt to resurrect the past and shoved his apology up his throat. How was he supposed to make things right when she didn’t even want to hear him out?
Maybe it had been presumptuous of him to ask to mentor her in the first place when he’d only needed to keep his distance. What did he expect anyway? She had promised all those years ago that he’d regret his actions. And knowing Okiki, she meant every word of what she’d said.
So he began to ignore her and tried as much as possible to avoid dealing with her. If at all he needed her help, he left notes for her downstairs at the reception. Okiki too kept a safe distance and anyone that knew their past would have marvelled at how flawlessly they danced on eggshells around each other.
Until he found out that Okiki had been accompanying Bambo to court for the past few days. The news irked him for the simple reason that she chose Bambo. He would have been indifferent had it been anyone of his other colleagues but Bambo was dangerous waters. Gboyega and Bambo were first cousins who had been raised to regard each other as competition.
On Monday, Gboyega broke the ice. He left a message at the reception for Okiki to report to his office immediately she resumed work. But she didn’t come until past two. When she finally showed up, Gboyega made sure she remained standing before him for minutes on end while he typed away at his keyboard.
“Okiki, what is it by your time?” He finally asked, leaning back leisurely in his seat.
Her face was fixed in a good-natured smile, “Um, Two-thirty.” In the same heartbeat, she added, “I am sorry sir. Mr. Elliot and I just returned from the…”
“What is it with you and keeping to instructions?”, Gboyega began in a cold, unfeeling voice that rose with every word. “Do you realize that I am your supervisor? That I could ruin your Portfolio by a simple comment? That I could walk you out of Oyekanmi & Elliot any minute now?”
Gboyega regretted the threat the moment it left his lips but masked his true emotion under a glare that dared her to contradict him. The silence that followed his barrage of questions lengthened as Okiki too remained mute. Until the most extraordinary thing happened. When she started sniffling, it did not make sense. It didn’t immediately click that it was a portent until he looked up to find that there were actually tears in her eyes.
And just like that, history was repeating itself and he was back to being the same person that had hurt her five years ago. They were catapulted back to the moment he’d uttered the words that first changed everything. I want us to end things.
Gboyega bolted from his chair and covered the distance between them in only a few strides. It could not be his destiny to keep chasing Okiki in this tedious cycle.
A/N: Guys, I wrote this chapter in two days because I had had enough of keeping you waiting. It took a lot to start HBR Part 4 even after my exams. I started, stopped, trashed it and started again. That being said, the story continues. I hope you enjoyed reading!
P. S: HBR 4 is dedicated to Mr. Anjola for his unwavering support.