Total eclipse of the heart

September 13th |Frames

Once upon a time he was falling in love, now his world was falling apart.

Twice within two weeks, his heart had taken a hit. Only a natural disaster or a health scare would have wreaked the equivalent damage.

Still slowly recoiling from the impact of Esohe’s bombshell and its attendant attitudes, the feelings it evoked were almost akin to a decade-old, personal pain – Isi’s sudden exit along with his unborn child. Was this repeat heartache a sign of something? Had he gone wrong somewhere? Or were the Fates trying to tell him something?

For Isi, it had been way beyond his control; an act of God. For Esohe, now that was difficult to swallow or explain her willingness to keep him firmly in the dark. There was no rationale, perhaps except one, for cutting him off abruptly and leaving him hanging.

Short of badgering her out of her damning decision with his constant, unanswered communications and every-other-day scented accomplices, he was sorely tempted to follow them up with face-to-face encounters – at her mum’s? at her house? in the office? But he killed the idea before it took root; the last one at La Feminine had produced the unexpected.

Fortunately, he’d run into her twice afterwards. Both episodes had been awkward, filled with silence mostly on her part, no matter how much he’d cajoled her to open up to him. He was aware already of Osayu and the attempted abduction but he wanted her to tell him, confide in him, have them tackle the menace that was Folarin together. Not sideline him like she had the first time he’d met her ex. Especially after he’d told her not to.

The first was at SPAR on Awolowo Road, one evening on his way home. He needed to stock up on personal grooming items and wasn’t prepared to wait until he got into Lekki to do so. The light traffic condition on the road, at that time of day, also played a role in his decision. His intention to dash in and out of the super mart disappeared when he thought he spotted a familiar figure at the frozen foods section. He made a detour for a closer look.

In a navy–blue frock skimming her knees and outlining her slim blessings, he didn’t need to see her face. Her every curve was etched in his memory. It was Esohe all right; his Esohe leaning over and picking up a pack of some frozen stuff.

“Hey.” He spoke quietly, hoping not to startle her.

He saw her stiffen ever so lightly before swinging slowly around to acknowledge him, chicken thighs wrapped in Styrofoam and cling film held a little too tightly between her fingers.

“Hi.” She responded in low tones, meeting his gaze briefly before looking away.

If she was going through any of the emotional turmoil he’d experienced in the last week or more, she hid it well. At least outwardly. Still rivetingly pretty with every hair in place, even after a whole day at work. But one look into those sad, lovely eyes of hers, and he knew they were both in the same miserable location.

“You look good.” He uttered softly before he could stop himself, moving a step forward, shortening the space between them.

It was torture being so close to her without being able to touch her or take her in his arms, shield her from the pain even if he was hurting too. He shoved his hands into his pockets instead; his navy -blue suit matching her outfit as though mental telepathy was at play between them that day. “How is work? Osayu?” His eyes never leaving her face.

She nodded. “Well. Thanks. And you?” She took a step back recreating the distance, his signature scent a nostalgia she’d rather not inhale at the moment.

“I miss you, Esohe.” He took another step forward. “I miss us.” On impulse one of his hands reached for her.

She stepped back again before it could make contact. “I’m sorry, Eddie.” She said quietly. “I’m sorry you feel…”

“Are you really?” He asked suddenly. “Don’t I deserve an explanation for this unhappiness you’ve plunged both of us in?”

She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Eddie.” She repeated. “Excuse me.” And turning on silver-covered heels, she walked away.

He didn’t try to go after her.

The second time their paths crossed again was at a swanky bar and grill off Admiralty Way in Lekki Phase One. Straight from a long meeting with a client in the company of Dipo, both men dug into a late, late lunch at 4.30pm and finished it off with drinks afterwards.

Just before 6pm while Dipo was holed up in the gents leaving Eddie nursing his second glass of brandy, an entourage made their entrance. Through his raised glass, he idly counted three men and two ladies; all formally dressed. He was averting his gaze when he recognized Mrs. Osula as one of the women. It didn’t take long to identify the other lady striding beside her as the group drew nearer. In an ash-grey dress suit which set off her dark skin tone nicely, it was Esohe. His Esohe.

None of the women saw him tucked away in a corner of the lounge but he watched as they were all met by a host and guided to an obviously reserved table for the party. His drink temporarily abandoned, he observed as one of the men in suit sidled close to Esohe, fawning over her, pulling a chair out for her, settling himself right beside her and immediately striking up a conversation with her.

A feeling he was unable to clearly define ripped through him. Anger? Pain? Jealousy?

He picked up his glass and drained its contents in one gulp.

Dipo appeared.

“Are you done? Can we go?” He tore his gaze away from the table and looked up at his friend, who was adjusting his jacket.

Dipo shook his head. “Not just yet.” He answered. “Let me settle the bill, then…”

“I’ve done that already.” Eddie rose.

“Hey, thanks man.” Dipo squeezed his shoulders in gratitude. “Okay, let’s go.”

The other man gestured in the direction of the occupied table. “One moment please, I need to say hello to someone over there.”

Dipo turned to stare in the area he indicated. “Okay. Who is it?” He asked as they began to wend their way towards the right of the lounge. “Isn’t that BB?” He wanted to know a little while later as they drew closer.

“Uh hu.” Eddie replied, his gaze fixed on her; she was deep in conversation with her attentive companion. She didn’t see them approach. “Good afternoon ma.” He directed his greeting at Mrs. Osula and watched as Esohe slowly lifted her eyes at the sound of his voice.

Everyone else seated glanced up as well.

Mrs. Osula broke into a smile as recognition set in.

The three men were almost expressionless, slightly quizzical.

Esohe’s gaze didn’t last long on Eddie before shifting to Dipo to acknowledge him with a nod and a small smile.

“Eddie, my dear.” Mrs. Osula responded warmly. “How are you doing? It has been a while.”

He smiled. “I’m good, ma.” He replied. “And it’s work. It has a way of interrupting with life.”

The older woman laughed along with two of the men. Then she effected introductions.

The names and subsequent titles of all three men barely registered with Eddie as he and Dipo  exchanged swift handshakes with three men; he introduced his friend as well.

“Esohe, you know already.” Mrs. Osula’s next statement compelling the younger woman to meet her ex beau’s burning gaze again.

His smile did falter. “Hello Miss Eweka.”

Hers was a poor imitation of his. “Mr. Williams.”

In the moment their eyes met, her heart flipped over in pain. She looked away quickly. She didn’t want to see him everywhere she turned. He dominated her thoughts enough already as it were. Seeing him in the flesh made it incapable of controlling her own breathing, like now. What had she done to them? What was she still doing?

Her boss and her ex beau were making small talk and she didn’t fail to notice Dipo’s mildly confused expression at her behavior towards Eddie.

A cellphone rang, interrupting; it was Eddie’s. She recognized his ringtone instantly.

From beneath her lashes, she watched as he excused himself and his friend while groping into his jacket for the offending device.

Against her better judgement, she looked back to trail their parting figures. Only Dipo’s still questioning gaze met hers briefly. He must be wondering what was going on, she thought.

“Is there trouble in paradise?” Dipo asked his friend as they strode towards the exit.

The name Adesuwa dominated the top-middle of the ‘phone screen. Eddie turned quickly to Dipo. “It’s complicated.” He answered in a rush. “Excuse me.” And swiped upwards to answer the ‘phone’s summons. “Hey little sis.”

“Eddie, do you still have a valid visa?” A strong, American accent inquired without preamble. “How soon can you get over here? It’s mum.”

Adesuwa’s call heralded the second blow to his already fragile heart and state of mind that week. Their mum, their vibrant mum, was displaying disturbing symptoms. Repeating statements. Forgetting names, places, events. Acting weird.

Eddie’s first thought was: their mum was dead already; Adesuwa wanted to lure him over to see a corpse.  But by the time she was through detailing their mum’s case and possible diagnosis, his thoughts shifted a little. She was luring him all right; to a mother who might have just weeks to remember what her life used to be or who her children were. A living corpse.

His heart sank further. He’d wanted to quiz Adesuwa some more, dwell on the fact that their mother was too young for the kind of symptoms she was displaying. But no, he had to make swift and immediate plans to see her before it became too late.

His heart plummeted when he remembered he’d promised himself that the next time he saw her he’d tell her about Esohe, about the love he’d found after Isi, and just maybe her desire for grand children from him, before he turned 40, didn’t seem like a mirage anymore.

Well, right now, everything was a mirage.

The only oasis in the widening, blazing desert was Ifeanyi who had unearthed some damaging fraud case against his best friend as supplied by a former, disgruntled colleague in a previous organization. It sounded too good to be true but it was, and coupled with the information received from Esohe, they were all sitting in the mailbox of Folarin’s current employer. Ifeanyi had done excellent, speedy work in a matter of days, he thought, tapping out a short message to the other man:

Update me after your meeting. And well done, Fy.

Tony slid the car into the first available opening he found at the bustling Departures area of the international airport, and exited the car.

Eddie followed suit thereafter, checking his pocket one more time for his travel documents. “I’ll take it from here.” He told Tony, wrapping fingers around the handle of a black, medium-sized trolley suitcase. His sole baggage. “Thanks.”

“Safe journey, sir.” The younger man bade him.

Eddie nodded silently in acknowledgement and passed through one of the numerous walled, waist-high entrances leading to the imposing building in front of it. His cell beeped as he joined a small queue.

I will. Have a safe trip, my oga. And I hope all is well with your mum.

Read the response from Ifeanyi.

Eddie hoped so too.

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