This is a continuation of the Heartbreaker Series. Read part four 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 solely at your own discretion!
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 her in this tedious cycle.
Okiki did not flinch when Gboyega covered her hands with his.
He said, “I’m sorry” and she nodded. She let him brush the tears off her cheeks and accepted his handkerchief offering.
When Gboyega tilted her chin so that she was staring directly into the brownness of his eyes, Okiki didn’t wilt. Her decided poise in the face of vulnerability tickled Gboyega’s fancy. It was the dare in the arch of her brows, the imperious tilt to her neck when she sought to make a point. In his eyes, she was the most remarkable woman yet.
Rule No. 6: Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do so.
Okiki was slightly disconcerted as she settled down to fill her log book for the day. She felt shame inflaming her cheeks to escalating degrees. There was no damage control for how she’d reacted in Gboyega’s presence. No telling how to forge ahead now since she had transgressed the second rule of revenge: showing weakness in the presence of the enemy! How dare she?
While this display of vulnerability had not completely dislodged the walls of tension between them, it did leave a gaping hole in the walls Okiki had previously put up. Space enough for Gboyega to squeeze through and reach her where she didn’t want to be reached.
When he called that evening, she was sitting in aunt Iyabo’s kitchen, blending egusi seeds with crayfish and onions. Okiki didn’t say anything at first. She sneaked a glance at her aunt who was bleaching palm oil for the soup, fanning away thick smoke with an old newspaper.
“Hello?”, Gboyega sounded a tad anxious. Would she have dinner with him? Just as friends, of course.
“Tell him you have food to eat in your house.” Aunt Iyabo smacked her lips in mock exasperation. Okiki stifled a giggle.
In the end, it was Okiki’s aunt that snatched the phone to answer ‘yes’. She also answered the door when Gboyega arrived 7:00pm on the dot to pick Okiki. After that dinner, both sides reached an unspoken agreement to cease fire and civility was temporarily restored. However, Okiki had lived and breathed for one mission for quite a while. It was only logical that she remained undefiled by the King’s meat.
As the weeks of her externship rolled by in a blur, their friendship was rekindled but it was curious that the old rules applied: Okiki still despised male chivalry like moss growing in the gutter and Gboyega loved being a gentleman. He opened the door when he dropped her off after work and bought thoughtful, little gifts out of the blues.
At work, he remained the all-knowing supervisor to Okiki the impressive extern. Bambo butted in from time to time but Gboyega was determined to keep him out of the picture. Everyone knew that Gboyega deliberately busied Okiki after work hours in a bid to secure his monopoly. Matter-of-factly, Okiki was reputed the one extern with the most hands-on experience that year in O & E.
Everything was happening so fast and Okiki sometimes forgot herself. She no longer watched how she laughed around him, she didn’t bat an eyelid if he put his jacket around her when they went to the movies. Because this is the mystery about first love, falling into it a second time is as easy as slipping into familiar garments.
Yet in this love, there are often middle grounds. We often assume that the opposite of love is hate, that you either completely love somebody or utterly despise them. This isn’t correct. Indifference is love’s polar: If you did not still care, you wouldn’t hurt. You wouldn’t even feel. And Okiki felt.
Each time Gboyega began to form words in his mouth to jog her memory and squeeze in an apology, she’d shake her head and look away distractedly. Gboyega could not fathom her reason for resisting every bridge between the past and the present. If he took a step forward on this bridge, she was sure to take two giant ones backwards. So the big argument remained off limits.
Exactly five weeks into Okiki’s stay at O & E, on one of the rare occasions Gboyega had to personally represent a high-profile client outside the Lagos state jurisdiction and Okiki was to come along. There was also an arrangement to meet with this client after the court hearing. Apparently, just before their appointment by 4:00pm the Minister of Trade had arrived from Abuja to see the Senator so that they had to wait interminably in his waiting room.
At first Gboyega was impatient, glancing with mounting irritation at his wristwatch. He only calmed after one of the man’s aides handed him a note from Senator Igeh himself. Then he turned to Okiki with a look of resignation, “We must wait an hour or two more before we can see him.”
Okiki nodded in understanding. At this rate, they were bound to stay the night in Ibadan.
It was just as she’d surmised. By the time the Minister departed and Gboyega eventually went in to see his client, it was terribly late. She spent her time alone flipping through the newspapers someone had graciously left on the table in the reception. She started to her feet when Gboyega reappeared with Senator Igeh some minutes later.
The latter was a portly, middle-aged man in a stylish kaftan. A velvety brown Awolowo cap and an even browner pair of shoes completed his ensemble. Okiki thought he looked familiar. She’d seen him on tv several times, on the newspaper she was reading earlier.
The two men were engaged in a lighthearted conversation and Gboyega had said something that put the man in a boisterous fit of laughter. When they paused in front of her, Okiki bent her knees slightly to acknowledge them. “Good evening sir!”
Senator Igeh flashed an avuncular smile, “Yes, yes, hello. And who are you to be?”
Okiki was relieved when Gboyega stepped in. “Okiki is on Law school externship at our firm. First-class brains, I tell you sir!”
“And such a well-brought up girl too”, the man said, giving Gboyega a meaningful look although he had intended the compliment for Okiki.
Gboyega coughed. She glanced at him and it suddenly got a hundred centigrades hotter in the room despite the air conditioning. Senator Igeh clearly didn’t notice the change. He apologized for keeping them waiting. “The Honourable Minister is an old classmate and he came all the way from Aso Rock to discuss urgent State matters. I could not send him back. You know how these things are?”
He was pleased when his audience nodded and he made promises to compensate them for their trouble. Did they have somewhere to stay? He had a five-star hotel at Ashi, if they didn’t mind. Gboyega politely declined the offer, reminding the Senator that his family owned an estate here in Ibadan. But he’d drop the lady off at her father’s house first.
A/N: They say it’s better late than never so yaaassss, I’m back ‘pon my honor!
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