A friend, a sister

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September 6th | La Feminine

Behind the closed door, Eddie hesitated, his mind wandering wildly. His first instinct was to go back in there and confront Esohe again, demand clear answers from her, discover what exactly had changed in a matter of days.

He didn’t act on the urge.

Unconsciously he listened for any sound emanating from the other side of the door; he heard nothing.

One thing the last few minutes with her had shown was a determination in her stance to keep him at bay from whatever she was going through. Another was the unpalatable fact that he just got dumped at 8.30am!

He shook his head as though trying to clear it of confusing, overlapping thoughts. What had just happened?! One minute they were a happy couple, enjoying each other, getting to know themselves better, spending three days in a row together and then…boom! In 48 hours, Esohe suddenly froze him out, decimating the budding relationship. With no remorse. No emotion. And, from the look of things, no regard for his opinion or objection at her abruptness.

There had to be an explanation, a plausible one, a reasonable one to justify this…this 360 turn in attitude. The woman who spoke to him was not his Esohe. Certainly not. Something untoward was at play here. And it was pushing her buttons like a puppet master. 

He whipped out his cellphone as he began to stride away from the door and towards the reception area. Ifeanyi’s line, once it connected, gave him a busy tone. The other man was on a call at the moment.

Eddie paused just outside the glass entrance of La Feminine and rapidly tapped out a message:

Fy, call me. It’s important.

If anyone could find out exactly what was going on, Ifeanyi was the man for the job. In addition, he had none of Esohe’s friend’s number. At least the two he had met.

Next he scrolled up his contacts’ list and tapped on a name which had the letter F included in it.  He resumed walking to his car as the call went through and a steady ringing sound reached his ears.

He was rounding off his conversation and slipping through the opened door Tony held for him when the dull hum of an incoming call interrupted briefly. By the time he glanced at the screen, the name Mr. H flashed momentarily and disappeared. His brows climbed a little. He hadn’t spoken to his new-found friend since the day of Itsehme’s dedication.

Good times. He thought ruefully. Felt like eons ago!

Tony kicked the car to life and eased it gently along the dirt road.

Eddie ended his current call and was attempting to return the missed one when his ‘phone rang almost immediately, Mr. H’s name appearing again.

“Harry!” He uttered in a falsely bright tone; right now, he’d rather be left alone to deal with his thoughts and the catastrophe that had just occurred with Esohe but…” Good morning! What a surprise!”

“Good morning Mr. Williams.” A woman’s voice stunned him further instead. “This is Jennifer, Esohe’s friend.”

“Good morning ma’am.” He failed to keep the genuine surprise out of his tone. Why was she calling him?! “How is Itsehme?”

“She’s well. Thank you.” Jennifer replied briskly. “I need to tell you something,” She continued. “And will deny this conversation ever took place if Esohe finds out.”

The same alert stillness that Esohe’s words evoked a while ago descended over him again. He sat upright. “You have my word, ma’am.” He told her. “Whatever you say stays between us.”

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Tony was cruising to a stop in front of B & I when Eddie’s ‘phone lit up and started ringing once again. Jennifer’s call had been over and done within a matter of minutes; she had been a woman on a mission. It had been devoid of any frills, but her emotions had got in the way as she recounted the reason behind her surprised call. The woman, who had left him with the impression of a strong, protective mother hen on their first and only meeting, showed a softer side to her façade as she detailed Folarin’s malicious moves on Sunday and Monday, and the corresponding effects on her best friend. She’d ended with “Mr. Williams, can I trust you to do something about this?”

Ifeanyi’s name covered the top-middle of the screen this time.

“My oga, good morning.” The younger man greeted

“Are you free for lunch this afternoon?” Eddie asked at once.

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10am.

“Why didn’t you call me, Esohe?” Ifeanyi demanded over the line. “I just heard!”

On the other end, she sighed. “Who told you?”

“Who else?” He retorted mildly. “Folarin!” He hissed. “He was practically gloating over the ‘phone, telling me he had you in the palm of his hand. You are all going to be one big, happy family soon. Why didn’t you call me, Esohe?” He repeated. “I told you what I was prepared to do if he went down that road.”

“Well, what do you have in mind? And please, don’t tell me you’re going the legal route.” She added hastily. “I will not put myself or Osayu through that ordeal. We’ve been through enough as it is.”

“That’s where I was headed.” Ifeanyi sounded defeated. “I can’t think of any other way. But without your consent…How…how is Osayu?” He asked suddenly.

“He’s fine. I have been able to shield him from the entire mess. He has no inkling as to what his father attempted to do twice!”

“But why didn’t he say anything about the Ibadan trip?! To your mum? Or even to you?” Ifeanyi queried.

“Because Folarin said it was their little secret. Between father and son.” She bit out. “Then piled him with a year’s worth of ice–cream! Can you imagine that?!”

“We have to stop him, Esohe. We have to. If not, this is just the beginning of another stretch of hell for you. And I won’t stand for it. Not again!”

“Whatever you suggest, I am not dragging my son to the courts.”

“But what else can…?”

“Something else, Ifeanyi. We have to think of something else.”

“Okay. Let me see what I can come up with then. I’ll ask Eddie…”

“No! Don’t get him involved.”

Silence for a beat. “But I thought…”

And she was only starting to get a grip of her emotions after her encounter with Eddie earlier on. The mere mention of his name was sufficient enough to put cracks in her already weak resolve. “Well, you thought wrong.” She broke in quietly, successfully stifling a sniff. “Please leave him out of this.”

“If you say so.” Ifeanyi sounded resigned. “I’ll let you know of anything I think about.”

When the gentle click of a severed connection sounded, she reached for a tissue by her side and blew out loudly, the sniffing following closely afterwards.

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3.15pm

At the back of a Chinese restaurant on Adeola Odeku, neither men went past the first few spoonfuls of their respective meals, the illusion of lunch a way of getting together to discuss the issue which understandably occupied both their minds.

“And your friend has worked in only multinationals since the beginning of his career life?” Eddie was saying.

Ifeanyi nodded. “From the Britons to the French and now the Americans.”

“Impressive. And just how important is his job to him?”

“It’s his life. His status symbol. His everything.”

“Fantastic. Perhaps we can stop him in his tracks that way.”

“How do you mean?”

“I think I might have an idea.”

“I’m listening.”

“Since Esohe doesn’t want to see the courts, there might be another way. But we’d need documentation from her – marriage, divorce certificates, that sort of thing.”

“My oga, where are you going with this?”

“You’ll see. Get the documents first. And don’t let her know I know what’s going on.”

“Ah, why not?”

“Because she wouldn’t tell me why she’s suddenly gone cold on me. Because she wouldn’t let me in. I had to hear it from someone else. That’s the way she wants it. I’m upset but I respect her wishes. For some reason, she doesn’t want me involved in her past.”

“Hmm.”

Eddie shrugged. “She’s never to know we met or are working on something together.”

“Which you still haven’t said what is it.”

“In time, Ifeanyi. And see if you can get information on Folarin’s direct report.

“That’s easy. His name’s Craig Taylor. Folarin has mentioned him several times and that’s because my friend’s up for a promotion soon.”

“Splendid. Do you know what their working relationship’s like?”

“Very good from all the talk I’ve gathered. Folarin is excellent at his job.”  

Eddie let out a small, grim smile and said nothing.

“My oga, then what?”

“Then we’ll go in for the…” Eddie stopped talking. “You know what? Do a deeper dive, Ifeanyi. Check out his social media handles. See what you can find.  Former colleagues, supervisors. If there’s anything he’s hiding, something he wouldn’t like the world, especially Esohe, to know about.”

The other man smiled, nodding. “This is getting interesting, my oga. That I can do.”

“You know if we do this and succeed, you’d be putting a wedge in your friendship with Folarin. Have you thought about that?” Eddie held Ifeanyi’s gaze.

Ifeanyi shrugged. “My friendship with him is comes second to Esohe’s sanity and peace of mind.”

Eddie regarded him silently for a while before speaking. “How long has it been?”

The other man’s look became quizzical. “I don’t understand.”

“How long have you had feelings for her?”

Ifeanyi looked away immediately. “I didn’t know I was that transparent.”

“Why do you think I called you? I noticed it on Saturday night.” He paused. “Then came some of your utterances giving you away too.”

“I thought time and marriage would dim it somewhat. Apparently not.” He confided. “My oga, please don’t tell…”

Eddie leaned back on his chair. “Your secret’s safe with me.” He interrupted quietly. “Does your friend know?”

“We met her together and I was drawn to her immediately.” He began. “But I didn’t say anything. Not to her or to Folarin. Before I could, Folarin was on her case – calling, texting, spending time with her. Won her over eventually.” He continued. “But he knew I admired her a lot and thought he was lucky to have her.”

“Do you regret it?”

“Every day. She’s the one who got away. Who knows? She’d probably not be in this mess if I had just said something back then.”

“You don’t know that for sure.” Eddie said, leaning forward and heaving his weight off the chair. “Let’s get to work then.”

Ifeanyi rose along with him. “Any hope…” He began. “Any hope that, after all of this is resolved, you’ll both be getting back together?”

“Baby steps, Ifeanyi. Baby steps.”

“I’m sorry, my oga. but I thought you were going to fight for her? Not give up so easily.”

“And be no different from Folarin?” Eddie shook his head. “Let me fight on her behalf first.”

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