Finding Sophia: 1-15

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Hey guys! Welcome to the amazing world of Finding Sophia. I am the author: Bello Olabisi and I hope you enjoy this compilation of chapter 1-15. Don’t hesitate to share to friends, family, and those you think would enjoy a good book, especially a Nigerian one.  For returning readers, just scroll until you see “Chapter 15” highlighted in red. Enjoy everyone!

Chapter 1-15

“Guy, why did you drag me down to this rubbish?” said Ayo angrily.

Tomiwa suddenly tightened his face in anger at Ayo’s words.

“Dance is not rubbish in any form. It is an art that only a select group of people have the ability to express, and they have graciously allowed us to behold it.”

“O boy, you smoke shisha today? Wetin be this speech you dey yan ? (What is this speech you are saying?)”

Tomiwa took a deep breath and walked away saying

“I will be back soon. Get us good seats.”

Ayo simply rolled his eyes all the while thinking about why he stuck with his “weirdo” of a friend. He went into the theatre and sat in the extreme back row, focusing on his Whatsapp chat with his best friend.

Ayo: I don tire 4 dis Tomiwa guy o. See the yeye tin wey he drag me 2. One kain dance show.

(I am tired of Tomiwa. Look at the rubbish thing he dragged me to. A type of dance show)

Tiwa: Shey na twerking competition? (Is it a twerking competition?)

Ayo: Lol I wish. Na one kind ballet abi contemporary dance. I no know sef.

Tiwa: Wo na you sabi. Enjoy am. No sha forget to buy me suya on your way back.

Ayo: See her mouth like suya.

Ayo. Gtg. Tomiwa is back & he look like sey he wan kill me.

Tiwa: LOL you don enter one chance.

Ayo kept his phone in his pocket as Tomiwa walked over towards him in anger.

“Why did you choose the seats all the way at the back?” Tomiwa yelled

“I don’t want anyone I know to recognize me here. Although from the looks of it, there are barely twenty people here.”

Tomiwa looked over at the nearly vacant room and replied

“Not many people appreciate the good things of life. Well stay alone at the back. I am going to the front, so I can enjoy the marvelous view.”

Ayo simply yawned as he watched Tomiwa walk over to the front row. He considered leaving the theatre, but that would have been a waste of his dressing and his leaving the house.

Suddenly he was startled by the voice of a female who appeared beside him.

“Hiding out in the back, huh? Ashamed to be here?”

He was about to retort rudely, but he stopped as he saw the beauty beside him. She had her natural hair in a bun on top of her head, and her clear ebony skin shone out slightly against the theatre darkness. She was endowed but not enough to make her look like a Fanta bottle. She was wearing a long brown coat that covered her inner attire but still made her look amazing.

Ayo put on his flirty smile and said

“Wow! Your voice is just as sweet as your body.”

She rolled her eyes and raised her left hand showing the ring on her index finger.

“Married ke? How old are you?”

“It’s not proper to ask a woman about her age.”

“You no fit pass 22. Ah that your husband must be one rich chief o”

She started shaking her head at his stupidity and said

“Do you even know how offensive that is?”

“Wo leave that one. I can be your side chick, you know” he said and then winked.

“You aren’t in my league bruv” she retorted coldly

“Ye! My heart. Babe, you wicked o. Abeg carry your bad belle commot.”

“I didn’t come here to start planning relationship with you. Why aren’t you sitting in the front?”

“Because dance is stupid.”

She lifted her eyebrows in shock and asked

“Then why are you here?”

“Na my G bring me here.”

“You could have refused.”

“Nah, we made arrangement. So he will drive me wherever I want to go this week.”

“Just for you to come to this dance?”

“I no understand am sef.”

“Is his girlfriend one of the dancers?”

“That one ke? Get girlfriend?”

“That’s so mean” she said and punched his arm.

He continued

“He says there’s this particular famous female dancer that is able to captivate the audience with her moves.”

“Oh Patricia.”

“Yes, that’s her name. You know her?”
“In a way.”

“Do you come here frequently?”
She laughed and responded

“Well you could say that… Anyway, just give this dance thing a try. You might like it.”

He winked and said

“Well I can go to the front if you sit beside me.”

“I wouldn’t want to be seen with you.”

“Haba kilode? Shey na fight? Strike two! Strike three and you are out.”

“Is it your pelebe body that you would use to carry me out?”

His eyes opened in shock as he shouted

“Strike three!”
Some other members of the audience looked at him weirdly, but he ignored them as he walked away from her while she kept on laughing.

Ayo walked over to his friend Tomiwa and sat beside him.

“Guy, I meet one yeye (rubbish) babe for the back. She wicked die.”

“Oh now you are ready to sit beside me?” Tomiwa said smugly.

“Abeg leave that one. That babe fine o but she dey yab me anyhow.”

“Where is she?”
“She’s at the back…” he said while turning his head back to where he had been seated, but she was no longer there. He looked around the theatre and found no sign of her.

“Maybe she decided to leave.” Tomiwa said

“Yeah…” Ayo said, feeling surprisingly sad because he didn’t even get her name or number.

“Ah the mighty AY don dey fall o”

“Shut up abeg. Your stupid dance don dey start”

Tomiwa wanted to tease him more, but he loved the dance too much to ignore it.

The first dance was to be a ballet, and the sound track “To Build a Home” by “The Cinematic Orchestra” started playing in the background as the lights revealed the different dancers in their various positions. They all had masks on and had their hairs in buns apart from the lead female whose hair cascaded down her back. Ayo’s eyes brightened slightly as he saw the way they moved ever so gracefully according the rhythm of the song. His heart moved with every turn, every leap, and every bow they made. Everyone was focused on Patricia whose every move evoked a gasp from everyone. Everyone apart from Ayo. His eyes followed the moves of the masked female who was positioned directly behind Patricia in the beginning.  Patricia was obviously the better dancer but she lacked the grace and beauty that the masked female carried through her every step. He was mesmerized by her swiftness and precision, her calmness and flow, her grace and charm. No one else could compete with her in those aspects. Through every subsequent dance they performed (all masked), he was always able to pick her out from the rest. It was as if he knew her, as if her movements were engraved in his mind.

Suddenly his heart skipped a beat as his mind raised this question

“Could it be her? Could it be Sophia?”

He gripped his armrest tighter as he watched her dance.

“It can’t be her.” He thought.

He couldn’t bear this any longer. He stood up from his seat and shouted

“SOPHIA!”

The music stopped and everyone stopped to stare at Ayo. His eyes were focused on the masked female who hadn’t moved from her lowered dance position. He walked over and climbed the stage. He slowly stretched his hand to remove her mask, but she stopped him. She sighed, lifted the mask off her face and let it fall to the ground.

He felt his body go numb as he saw clearly the person he had known for 18 years, the person that had insulted him 3 times earlier today, the person that he hadn’t recognized earlier because of the theatre’s darkness.

“Sophia…”

As rapidly as he had gone numb, he felt his body liven with shock.

“Sophia, is it really you? You came back and didn’t even think to reach out to me. After everything we had been through, you don’t think you owed me that. Explain yourself!”

The masked female simply stared blankly at him through his speech, then her face turned into that of confusion and fear.

“Oh my gosh, who is this man?” Why is he yelling at me! Someone, get him away from me! Help me” she yelled.

“Sophia!” he exclaimed in shock.

“My name isn’t Sophia. I’m Tireni, and you just ruined our dance, you jerk. Now get out!”

“You are lying!” he said in a raised voice

“I said I don’t know you! Stop yelling at me!” she said in a higher voice.

She then covered her face with her palms and started sobbing. Suddenly, the other dancers who had been watching the entire argument started yelling at Ayo. Tomiwa came to the stage and persuaded Ayo to leave the girl alone.

“I can’t believe this” he whispered and then got off the stage.

 

After some awkward moments of silence in the car with Ayo silently murmuring to himself while staring out the window, Tomiwa finally spoke up

“Dude, what was that? See how you embarrassed yourself and that girl.”

Ayo didn’t reply him.

“Ayo?”

Ayo was jolted from his train of thought and asked

“What?”

“What was that all about?”
“Nothing”

“Oh nothing? You acted like a węrę (mad person), shouting and jumping. You made that girl cry!”

“That was obviously a pretense. Sophia wouldn’t cry just like that.”

“Who’s Sophia? That girl is Tireni. I have known her for some months, and no one has ever referred to her as Sophia.”

“I can never mistake that face.”

“Where do you know Sophia from?”

“We grew up together.” He said, clearly hiding something.

“Eh maybe the Sophia you are thinking about has a similar face to this Tireni.”

“Wo guy you are just saying rubbish. Leave me alone.”

“Ah okay o. Keep on behaving crazy.”

The rest of the ride continued in silence. Even when they got home, Ayo just went to his room and locked the door.

“That had to be Sophia,” he thought. “I can’t mistake those eyes, that face, and that dance.”

He felt his eyes well up with tears at the thought of just everything. He had imagined and prayed for this day for months. The day that Sophia would come back and see him again. After a year, he had to let that dream go. Never in a million years did he think that Sophia would deny him and pretend not to even know him.

“How could she!” he shouted under his breath.

He played the incident over and over again.

“Am I really crazy? Could that really not be Sophia?”

He sat on his bed for minutes contemplating this.

Suddenly, as if a light bulb came on in his head, he remembered something that made him sure that Tireni was actually Sophia. And if it was really her, he wouldn’t let her go or run away as she always did.

He ran downstairs and found Tomiwa in the kitchen.

“Tomiwa, you said that you know “Tireni” right?” he said while lacing up his sneakers.

“Yes?” Tomiwa replied slowly

“Do you know where she stays?”

Tomiwa lifted his eyebrow in suspicion.

“Are you now a stalker?”

“Dude, this is important. Just tell me.”

Tomiwa stood there thinking for some seconds and then replied

“The dance team is currently lodged at Elegance hotel. Tireni is staying in Patricia’s room.”

“Thank you guy” Ayo said as he grabbed the car keys.

“Dude, are you sure about this? I’m telling you that’s Tireni.”

“No no no. She sighed bruh!”

“Huh?”

“When I climbed the stage and was about to take off her mask, she sighed as if she knew what the entire matter was about.”

“So you are running around based on a sigh? You are taking a huge risk with all this. Are you sure about all this?

“I have never been surer about anything else in my life. That was Sophia Oloruntobi…” He paused, deciding if he should say the next part, then said

“… my ex-fiancée”

“Your what?” was the last thing Ayo heard as he closed the front door and drove off in the Toyota car parked outside their apartment. Elegance Hotel was just 15 minutes away, but there was a minor traffic jam on the way, so he arrived there in 30 minutes.

He walked to the receptionist and said

“I want to speak to Miss Tireni. I am a fan of hers, and I would really like to see her.”

“I’m sorry, sir. We can’t direct you to her room without her permission. Would you like me to call her downstairs?”

“Umm… sure. Tell her it’s Tomiwa Gbemileke.”

“Alright, sir.”

The receptionist made a call to her room while he sat down in the lounge.

“She will be right down” the receptionist said.

“Thanks”

A few minutes later, Tireni stepped out from the stairwell which was beside the lounge. She stopped in her tracks as she saw Ayo sitting down, waiting patiently.

“You again?”

“Sophia, sorry to…”

“Stop calling me Sophia. My name is Tireni, you creep. I can’t believe you lied to the receptionist about your identity.”

At that, the receptionist lifted her eyes from her desk towards them.

“Could you at least sit down, so we can talk peacefully?”

She eyed him for some seconds and then stomped to the chair opposite him.

“Do you promise to leave me alone if I talk to you now?”

He ignored her question and said

“Why did you sigh when I wanted to take off your mask?”

Her eyes widened slightly in shock but she quickly controlled herself and said

“I didn’t sigh”

“Now, who’s the liar?” he said accusingly

“Even if I did sigh, which I didn’t, it was probably because I was sad at the fact that someone had ruined our dance number.”

“Oh look there goes another lie.”

She squeezed her face in annoyance and made a move to leave

“Wait, wait, I’m sorry.”

She reluctantly sat back down.

“What exactly do you want?”

“I’m sorry if I seem like a creep, but you just look so much like this girl I knew”

She didn’t reply. Ayo lifted his eyes and looked her straight in the eyes.

“You see, I loved this girl with all my heart. So much that I placed a ring on her finger, right where that ring of yours is.”

He averted his eyes to the ring on her finger and noted how it looked really similar to the one he gave Sophia.

“Well it is called the ring finger for a reason. I told you that I am married” she replied.

“Yes yes I know”

He raised his eyes back to hers and continued

“I loved her so much, but things happened and I lost her forever. So forgive me for being crazy and acting stupid. But I have to reach for any chance I have of finding her. She always seems to run away from me. Sometimes it’s like she doesn’t even exist anymore…”

He saw how Tireni was trying to conceal the sadness she felt at hearing his story

“Oh, don’t feel sorry for me. Something tells me that I will see her again very soon.”

He got up and started walking towards the door.

“I’m sorry for wasting your time, Tireni. I really hope we can be friends.”

He laughed briefly and said

“You know you are just like Sophia. No matter how angry she was at me, she would always listen to whatever I had to say. You had the choice to not talk to me, but you did. Thanks for that, Soph… sorry I mean Tireni.”

He smiled innocently and walked to the car parked outside. He didn’t see the tear slide down Tireni’s cheek neither did he see the cracks in her heart as she went back upstairs.

 

Ayo drove off in the car, completely sure that Tireni was, in fact, Sophia.

Meanwhile, in Elegance Hotel,

As Tireni stepped back into the room,

“What did Tomiwa want all of a sudden?” asked Patricia

“It wasn’t Tomiwa. It was the guy from that show.”

“The ode that shouted “Sophia” during the show.”

“He’s not an ode” Tireni replied sharply.

“Ah sorry sorry o.”

Patricia drew closer to where Tireni was and whispered

“Abi, are you falling in love?”

Tireni laughed

“That’s not possible b. He’s not my type.”

“Ah so you have type? Upon all your “no boy is good enough for me”.”

“Because no boy is!”

“Yeah sure sure… But wait, do you know this Sophia he is talking about?”

Tireni didn’t reply.

“Tireni! Are you living double life ni?”

“I’m not. It’s a long story. But yes I know, or rather, knew Sophia.”

“Who is she?”

“Wo drop it. I’m going to bed. We have a performance tomorrow.

“Okay sorry sorry. I’m just curious.”

Patricia continued chatting on her phone with Tomiwa while Tireni stared for a long time at the ring on her hand, thinking about the look of pain in Ayo’s eyes.

Patricia glanced over at her and whispered

“You still haven’t told me why you wear that ring if you don’t have a husband.”

Tireni simply sighed and said

“Good night, Patricia”

She went to her side of the bed, pushing all the events of the day to the back of the day. She never thought the day would come when she had to deal with all of this. Seeing Ayo brought back ugly memories, the kinds she couldn’t deal with. She had trouble sleeping that night and woke up around 5am screaming from her usual nightmares. Patricia consoled her as usual and went back to sleep while Tireni just kept on crying.

“I can’t deal with Ayo being around…”

She looked at Patricia sadly

“It means I have to leave again…after I had started to love this dance team. But for the sake of Sophia and Alexander, I need to leave. I have to.”

The next morning, Patricia woke up and turned over to see an empty bed beside her with all of Tireni’s luggage gone.

 

Tomiwa was awakened by the sound of incessant knocks on the front door. He groggily got up and was shocked to see Patricia standing in her pajamas with tears running down her cheeks.

“Patricia, what’s wrong?”

She brushed past him and yelled

“Is that rubbish friend of yours here, Ayo or whatever you called him?”

“What’s the matter Pattie? What did he do?” Tomiwa asked with his anxiety rising by the second.

“Oh I will tell you what he did. He came to our hotel in the middle of night and made Tireni all depressed. Waking up this morning, I found out that she has left.”

“Are you sure she didn’t just go to the cafeteria or something?”
Patricia looked angrily at Tomiwa

“Her luggage is gone! The hotel staff said they saw her get into a taxi with all of her luggage! Where’s Ayo!” she screamed

Ayo stormed out of his room. He had been listening from upstairs with his hands trembling. He brushed past Patricia, but she dragged him back by the arm.

“And where do you think you are going? How rude!”

Ayo ignored her and turned to Tomiwa

“Tell her to let go of my arm before I push her off me.”

Before Tomiwa could respond, Patricia tightened her grip on his arm and said

“Listen dude. I don’t care about your tough guy act.” She tightened her grip further “Now, you will tell me what you said to Tireni that made her leave or your arm would be the least of your worries.”

Tomiwa stood helplessly between them, confused about the entire situation.

Ayo tried to brush off her hand from his arm but she simply held on tighter. He could feel his anger rising at this girl stopping him from looking for Sophia.

“Let go!” he yelled

“No!”

“Are you honestly this stupid? I am trying to go and look for your friend, but you are here acting like a stupid bit…”

Tomiwa interjected there and yelled

“Hey! Mind the way you talk to her.”

Ayo simply shook his head and dragged his arm from her, this time successfully.

“Listen and listen well Patricia. Now I need your help finding her. You can choose to stay here and be stubborn or you can choose to help me. Your decision?”

Patricia was boiling with anger, but she stuffed it down for the sake of her friend.

“Let’s go” she whispered

“Thank you.”

Ayo grabbed the keys and went with Patricia to Tomiwa’s car.

“I really hope we find her.”

“So do I. I can’t lose her this time.” he said.

Tireni rolled the ring on her finger absentmindedly as she waited for her flight number to be called on the speakers. She didn’t try to interact with other people waiting for their flight. She had tossed her phone out the taxi cab on her way here. The incessant calls were bothering her, and she didn’t want to be tracked.

She just waited for her flight with her eyes focused on reading the book she held. It was the diary she always carried around. It was the only form of reassurance for her to continue living her life the way she did. Once in a while, she would look around her to make sure that no one was watching her. She couldn’t shake off the nervous feeling she was getting in the pit of her stomach. She attributed it to hunger, so she went to get some snacks at a booth not far from where she was.

After eating and easing herself in a restroom, she returned to her seat only to find a letter dropped there with a familiar red insignia. She felt her breath stop at the back of her throat and her heartrate skyrocketed. She looked left and right about her, but everyone seemed to be minding their own business dealing with crying babies, overweight luggage, and lengthy queues. With shaky hands, she lifted the paper from her seat and stared at the paper for minutes. Clearly and boldly written were the words

“Tireni, it would be at your own risk if you leave where we assigned you to. Do not leave that state.

M.K.”

Holding back tears, she quickly grabbed her hand luggage and abandoned the one that had already been taken by the airport officials. She dashed out of the airport as quickly as she had entered. As soon as she sat in the back of a taxi cab, she started weeping uncontrollably repeating “Why me?” The taxi driver simply ignored and assumed she had gotten her heart broken. He was used to picking various types of people from the airport.

Meanwhile, Patricia and Ayo were still searching everywhere for her.

“Where else could she have gone to?” Patricia asked frustrated at the situation.

“I don’t even know again. We have checked common hangouts around the area, her favorite places according to you, and the popular malls.” Said Ayo disappointedly

“Her phone isn’t even going anymore. Maybe we should try again tomorrow. It’s already 8pm, and we have been searching for hours.”

Ayo took a deep breath, contemplating it, and then said

“Let me drop you at your hotel, and I will search for her a bit longer.”

“Thank you.”

The atmosphere turned awkward again because of their fight in the morning.

“Look…Patricia…I’m sorry that I acted the way I did this morning. I was just upset and confused.”

“I don’t hold it against you… I was also acting irrational. It’s just that Tireni and I have bonded so much these past months that I see her as a sister. I just can’t believe she left without as much as a goodbye.”

Patricia wiped away some tears that had slid down her cheeks. Ayo just simply stared ahead, not sure about how to handle the situation.

“Patricia?”

“Yeah?”

“How come you didn’t call her husband about this? He probably knows where to find her.”

“Technically, she doesn’t have any husband yet. I got her to confess that she’s just engaged and not married. I have no other information about the man. She always avoids questions about him. Maybe the guy ran away, and she never got over it.”

Ayo gripped the steering wheel tighter and whispered

“Maybe it’s the other way around.”

Patricia simply raised her brow at him but didn’t say anything. When they were almost near the hotel, she said

“Thank you for helping me look for her. I know you didn’t have to, but I guess you have some connection to Tireni. I don’t want to investigate too much, so I won’t ask you about it. Just thank you.”

“You are welcome. It was my pleasure. We will find her though. I know we will.”

She simply nodded.

Ayo dropped her off at the hotel and drove off when he saw she had gotten in safely. Patricia went to her room with a burden on her heart—she was going to sleep alone tonight.

She opened her room door to see an all too familiar person sitting on the room chair with a novel in hand.

“Hi Patricia.”

“Father?”

Patricia’s father, Andrew Klington, was a 45 year old man that emanated confidence everywhere he went. He was 6 feet tall with broad square shoulders and he was dressed in his Armani suit. He was a business tycoon that barely had time for Patricia when she was growing up. Since she grew up without a mother or sibling, she spent most of her childhood in sadness. She always felt like her father didn’t really love her because her mother had died due to the stress she had gone through during labor. As soon as she established her dancing career at the age of 18, she left their empty home, and she hasn’t been back since then. She calls her father around the holidays and even that was always strained. So imagine her surprise to find him in her room, waiting patiently for her with a smile on his face.

“What are you doing here father?” she said with a distant voice closing the door behind her.

“Do I need permission to come and see my own daughter?”

She took a deep breath and turned to face him.

“What do you want exactly?”

His face tightened in annoyance, but he quickly covered it up with a smile.

“I came to spend some time with you. I took some time off work to see my little dancer.”

Patricia can’t stop the laugh that bubbles out of her. She uses a full minute to laugh before she responds.

“You? Take time off work? To spend time with me? How stupid do you think I am? I am no longer that little girl that craved for your attention and did anything to get it. So whatever your mission is for coming, I’m sorry, but my answer is no.”

Andrew took his time trying to calm himself. He knew he couldn’t start yelling at her like he used to.

“Listen Pattie…”

“It’s Patricia.”

He looked angrily at her, but she kept her cool and gave him the same angry look. She really didn’t want him here. His very presence irritated every fiber in her being, and it re-opened barely healed scars.

“Patricia, I am still your father, so why are you making this into a big deal? Aren’t you tired of acting like a spoiled little brat?”

This really struck a nerve, so she clenched her fists in anger and said with clenched teeth staring angrily at the ground.

“I agree that you are still my biological father but you are not my father in any other manner.”

She then raised her eyes to his and he noticed how much hate she carried in her eyes. She continued

“I have never for once acted like a spoiled brat, so don’t call me that!”

She bit her lip to prevent herself from saying so much more that she wanted to get out because she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction that he had affected her. As horrible as it sounds, he always seemed to thrive off her pain and suffering.

“Patricia, I didn’t come here to argue with you. I came to fix things between us.”

She wasn’t falling for that trap again.

“Fix things? Really?! That’s what you always say and maybe I would have believed you if I were 10 but not anymore. You claim to want to fix us, but the next thing I know I’m asked to go on a date with the son of one of your business associates!”

Andrew merely sighed. Patricia took another deep breath and said

“Father, I’m really tired. I have been out all day and I would like to get some rest. I’m sure you have some important business contacts to get to, so let me not hold you back.”

“Are you ordering me to leave?”

“No, I am asking you to.”

He looked away and continued using his phone for making calls and checking mails. Patricia turned around ready to storm out of her own room, but she was shocked to see Tireni open the door from the other side. She stood there in shock for some seconds while Tireni simply stared at the ground.

“Babbeeeee!”

Patricia leapt at Tireni, pulling her in for a tight hug.

“I thought you had left forever.”

“You can’t get rid of me that easily”

When Tireni lifted her eyes, she saw Andrew staring at them in a very creepy analytical way.

“Pattie, who’s the dude in our room?” Tireni whispers

“Oh that’s just my father. Let’s not talk about him. I’m just so glad you are back” Patricia said and tightened the hug.

Patricia kept tightening the hug, so Tireni exclaimed while laughing

“Pattie, are you trying to squeeze the life out of me?”

“Next time, don’t try to run away” she replied.

Tireni just kept laughing until she started feeling chest pain. Then she said

“Okay okay I’m sorry geez. I won’t”

Patricia drew back smiling and said

“Good.”

“You really scared me there” Patricia continued with a low voice

Tireni’s eyes reflected sadness as she said

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking clearly.”

Andrew cleared his throat, which drew their attention, and said

“I will be taking my leave now, Patricia… Nice meeting you Tireni.”

Tireni would have smiled if he hadn’t said it in such a creepy way.

“Same same”

He left the room and Patricia locked the door behind him.

“You are a life saver. He refused to leave the room!”

Tireni winked at her and said

“See maybe it was a good thing this whole thing happened”

“Where did you even go to?”

“Long story dear. Just be glad I’m back!”

“Oh please I don’t really care. I was just concerned for Ayo, that’s all.”

Tireni replied while laughing

“Yeah, keep telling yourself that. You loveee me.”

“You wish!”

They kept bickering and laughing through the night with Patricia completely forgetting to tell Ayo that Tireni was back safe and sound.

 

 

Ayo parked the car back in the car, wiping the sleep from his eyes.

“Have I really lost Sophia again?” he thought

He sighed and walked into the house, feeling a heavy burden on his chest. He opened the door to find Tomiwa sprawled on the couch in the living room. He was fast asleep with drool falling from the side of his mouth. Ayo closed the door as quietly as he could and started creeping into his room.

“Yeah you think you can get away that easy?”

Ayo rubbed his face and turned to see Tomiwa sitting up on the couch

“I forgot how lightly you sleep. Can I just go back to my room peacefully?”

“Did you find her?”

“No” he said with a sad tone “I will continue looking tomorrow.”

Tomiwa got up, walked over to Ayo, and said

“I want answers, guy”

“Can’t we do this tomorrow?”

“No, you will just keep avoiding it. Today is Sunday and you have class tomorrow.”

“Exactly! I have class. Let me rest.”

“You will manage. Now can you explain how exactly you were even engaged?”

Ayo let out a deep sigh and walked over to the couch with Tomiwa following him.

“How come we still have light?” Ayo asked

“Wo, NEPA decided to bless us today.”

“Wow! Eh eh how was today’s match?”

“It was as dry as this conversation is. Stop avoiding the question. When did you even get engaged?”

Ayo looked at the ground, deep in thought. He really didn’t want to get into the details of his past, but he had to at least give him something to calm his curiosity.

Still looking at the ground, Ayo started to tell Tomiwa the details of his past, his bright past that shone in comparison to the life he was living now.

“I and Sophia met in high school. It was the typical lovebird story except I never wanted to let her go after graduation. We both went to the University of Ibadan where I studied Accounting and she studied Criminology. It isn’t really a common course, but she said she wanted to work in the security sector. Her parents gave her their support and so did I. I asked her to marry me in my 3rd year and we got married immediately after my graduation.”

“I thought you said she was your ex-fiancée.” Tomiwa interjected.

“That’s because we were engaged longer than we married. It was barely six months into our marriage when she disappeared.”

His face tightened in pain as the memories started coming back to him. He buried his face in his palms and continued

“I searched! How I searched so hard, but I couldn’t find her. I went to look for her family, but they had also moved. I was so confused and disoriented for months. I felt all alone. My parents and Tiwa did their best to console me, but it was pointless. I didn’t even know if she was dead!”

Tears started falling from his eyes to the carpeted floor. He remembered all the pain he had felt when she suddenly left. He had to postpone going for his Masters’ degree to search for her, but he had to eventually let go when it seemed like all hope was lost. And now seeing Sophia again and her denying him, denying everything they had been through, was just too much.

He suddenly lifted his eyes and yelled

“And she’s gone again! I don’t even know what I did wrong! Why is she running away from me?”

As Ayo broke down in tears, Tomiwa got up from the couch he was on and sat beside Ayo, placing his hand on Ayo’s shoulder.

“You have to let go again, Ayo. Tireni isn’t Sophia. I understand how much you want to see her again, but this isn’t your Sophia.”

Ayo stood up in anger, wiping the tears from his face, and faced Tomiwa.

“No! You don’t understand! You don’t understand anything! You don’t understand how much pain I am in right now! This is Sophia! I can’t forget her face. My mind wouldn’t play such cruel tricks on me. Don’t worry, Tiwa would bear me witness.”

“Tiwa is co..ming?” Tomiwa said nervously.

“I’m sorry, but yes she is. I called and told her about Sophia on my way back. I need her support for this.”

“You could have at least warned me.”

“What am I doing now? Wo, get over your issues with her because she’s spending some weeks here.”

“Weeks!”

“Yes, weeks. Now, will you excuse me? I have to rest for tomorrow.”

Tomiwa remained silent as he watched Ayo storm off to his room. Tomiwa had a bad feeling about this whole situation and knew it couldn’t end well. Little did he know how right he was. He quietly went back to his room, completely ignorant of the black silhouette of a person watching him from the window.

 

Ayo was woken up by the sound of footsteps downstairs. At first, he thought he was delusional and tried going back to sleep. But he heard them again and this time, they were louder. He remembered that he had locked the front room, so he was puzzled at how strangers could have gotten in. There was no light in his room, so he put on a lamp and locked his door. Despite the hot weather, he still felt chills run down his body. His heart started to race as he heard that a muffled voice that kept getting louder and nearer. He heard drawers opening and closing as if someone were searching for something in his apartment. He had nothing really worth anything in the apartment, so what was this person looking for? He suddenly remembered Tomiwa, walked quietly to his side of the room, and tapped Tomiwa while trying to calm his shaking hands.

“Tomiwa, wake up!” he whispered in a shaky voice

“What is it now? I am trying to sleep.” Tomiwa replied as he rose while wiping the sleep from his eyes.

Ayo could feel trails of sweat running down his back as a loud noise echoed through the apartment as if something had fallen down. Tomiwa’s eyes widened at hearing that and asked in a very fearful voice

“What was that!”

“I think someone is in the house.”

“What!” he accidentally yelled

“Be quiet!” Ayo said with frustration etched on his anxious face.

They had never been attacked ever since they moved into this apartment, so he had no idea on what to do. He forced his trembling legs to move from Tomiwa’s side. He started looking for any object that could be used as a weapon and picked up his comb which has a sharp handle. He looked over to Tomiwa and found him clutching his Bible and praying.

“A good step but we need other practical measures too” Ayo thought.

Ayo ran to grab his phone from its charging point and started racking his brain for the emergency numbers he was forced to memorize as a child. He was so happy he did. As Ayo was about to call the police while crying out his last prayer in his mind, his door was unlocked by someone from the outside. He felt his heart drop to his chest and he closed his tear filled eyes in fear.

“Still lil’ wimps, I see”

At the sound of her voice, Ayo unclenched his fists and rose from his curled up position. Pure relief was evident on his face as his eyes met hers.

“You always liked pulling mean pranks” he said and wiped the tears from his eyes.

“Duh if I don’t pull them on you, who would?” Tiwa said and then laughed. “You should have seen the look on your face”

Ayo simply rolled his eyes at her and ran to tackle her. Tiwa simply brushed him off with a flick of her arm. This went on for a while as they got into their usual attitude of fighting each other despite their age. Tiwa grew up with Ayo after his parents adopted her when her parents died. They were best of friends and nothing had ever come between them not even Tiwa’s issue with Tomiwa who was just sitting on his bed observing the two of them laugh and fight. He had a small smile on his face because of the obvious closeness between the two of them.

When Tiwa finally got Ayo’s arm behind him in a tight bend, he said while laughing

“Fine, fine. You win, Tiwa. Your stupid combat training always gives you the upper hand.”

Tiwa let go of his arm and said with a smile on her face.

“Not my fault that you were too chicken to train for the police academy.”

“It’s not like you ever went for the academy” he retorted

She flicked her long, black hair and said in a pompous voice

“Not like they were good enough for me.”

“Sure. Keep telling yourself that.”

Ayo then smiled and gave Tiwa a full hug

“It’s really good to have you back.”

“Great to be back, lil’ bro.” She said and rubbed his hair in a childish manner.

He brushed off her hand. “You always know how to ruin the good moments.”

“It’s what I do best.”

Tiwa’s eye noticed Tomiwa staring at them from his side of the room.

“Oh, hey Tomiwa.”

“Hey…”

The air suddenly turned from jovial to awkward.

“Come on you guys. It’s been months! He even has a new love interest!” Ayo said, accidentally letting out the last one.

“He does?” and “Dude!” were the two sentences that came right after.

Tiwa then smiled at Tomiwa and said

“I’m happy for you.”

He avoided her eyes and whispered “Thanks”

“Back to awkward” thought Ayo as he took Tiwa to the spare room.

Once he opened the door, she sarcastically said

“Wow how fancy!”

The room was as plain as could be. The walls were painted blue and the floor was carpeted. There was only a neatly laid bed at the far end, mirror hanging on the wall by a tall closet which was towards their right and vanity table at the left.

“Hey! Be grateful, you jerk” Ayo said to her.

She smiled softly at him, her eyes glistening with a layer of tears above them, and said

“I am. I truly am.” Then she hugged him tightly. “It’s good to be back around family.”
“It’s good to have you back. I really need you now” he said, tightening the hug.

Tomiwa, all the while, was watching their exchange from their room door. He knew that it wouldn’t be so bad having her around, but he was still as worried about her as ever. After all, he did break up with her for a reason.

 

The next morning, Tiwa was already awake by the time the boys came downstairs around 9a.m. She was busy working on some unprecedented issues that had come up from work.

“Mehn, I thought you were on leave.” Ayo said as he came down the stairs, a yawn on his lips.

“I am. Just some stuff that came up.” She quickly replied without turning her head away from the laptop.

“Want some breakfast?” Tomiwa asked as he headed towards the kitchen

“I already made yam and egg when I got up.”

“Oh… Thanks” said Tomiwa as he headed to get a plate from the cupboard.

“This is why people always thought you were my bigger sister. Always thinking ahead.” Ayo chipped in as he went to get a bottle of water from the fridge beside the counter that Tiwa was working on.

“Well not everyone wants to think backward like you.” She said as she closed her system.

“Why do I feel like there is some deeper meaning to that?” he replied as he sat on the counter.

“Because there is.”

Tiwa then turned her chair towards me and looked him square in the face. He also looked at her straight without saying anything. He knew that she didn’t approve of all the looking around he had been doing after Sophia left. But things are different now. He saw her clearly. Meanwhile, Tiwa was wondering how she would approach this topic without hurting his feelings. She knew how much he had loved Sophia and how much he still loves her, no matter his best efforts to move on from her.

Tomiwa walked in happily with his plate of food and saw them staring intently at each other. Reading the tension in the room, he backed away quietly and went to eat his meal in his room.

Ayo was the first to break the ice

“Tiwa, I know you think that I am trying to throw myself back into that endless pit again, but I am really not. This girl, Tireni, is really Sophia. I know it with all my heart. She can try to deny it, but would I really forget my wife? I have to try to at least get an explanation from her, at all costs. That’s why I need your help…Maybe try to talk to her or something. But remember to pretend like you don’t know she’s Sophia. That might make her more comfortable around you”

He took a long a pause and then continued in a lower tone

“Even if she doesn’t love me anymore, I need that closure. I need my heart to stop aching. So please Tiwa” he said dejectedly while looking at the ground

“Okay.” Tiwa said and re-opened her laptop.

Ayo felt like cold water had just been poured down his back and he snapped his head towards her in shock

“Just like that?” he asked in a high-pitched voice

Tiwa sighed and replied.

“If you feel like you need to do this, then I have to support you. I might have my reservations, but I am still your family. Besides, I also miss Sophia, so wouldn’t it be nice to see her again?”

“Awww, my little sisssss” he cooed as he went to hug her.

“Get off me, you sap.”

She brushed off his arms and went to get her car keys.

“I’m guessing you are going to look for her, right?” Tiwa said

“Yup. I really hope we find her today. The longer it takes, the lower our chances.”

“You guys!” Tomiwa yelled from upstairs

“What dude? We really gotta go.” Ayo said as he put on his sneakers

“Patricia just called me. She said that Tireni came back home yesterday and they forgot to tell us. She sends her apologies and told me to tell you not to worry.”

Ayo stared blankly at Tomiwa and could only say “Oh wow”

“Great!” Let’s go see her then.”
That snapped Ayo out of his reverie.

“Yeah, that would be nice. You coming?” Ayo asked Tomiwa

“Nah. I have a class in about 30 minutes.”

“This is why I love afternoon classes.” Ayo said, a smile on his lips as he stepped outside with Tiwa who had carried her laptop from the counter.

 

The drive to the hotel was quiet as Ayo was occupied with his thoughts and the road while Tiwa was focused on her work. When they arrived, Ayo said

“We are here, you workaholic.”

“I think you have forgotten that it’s the same money I make that I used to buy you those sneakers last year.”

Ayo gave her an innocent grin and said

“And did I mention how much I love you for them?”

“Yeah sure you did.” She said in a voice dripping with sarcasm. They came out of the car and headed towards the receptionist. As Ayo was wondering how he would get the receptionist to call Tireni again without her being suspicious, Tiwa pointed towards the cafeteria and said

“Is that her?”

Ayo followed her finger and saw Patricia and Tireni sitting and laughing as they ate at a table at the far end of the room.

“See! Even you recognize her! I told you!”

Tiwa’s eyes conveyed shock as she mumbled “Wow”

They quickly went towards the table they were seating on. The girls didn’t notice them coming towards them. Tiwa was searching for her phone in her handbag as she slowly approached them. Ayo, who had gotten to the table, said

“Hi Tireni! Welcome back!”

Tireni gave him a tight smile. He then continued

“I would like you to meet my sister and best friend, Tiwa.”

Tiwa had finally reached them and she lifted her head when Ayo said that. When her eyes made contact with those of Tireni, the only sound that echoed through the cafeteria was the drop of a spoon on the cold tiled floor.

Tireni was in so much shock as she looked at Tiwa, who had a neutral expression on her face. Ayo and Patricia looked between them for some moments before Patricia said

“Do you know her, Tireni?”

Tireni still didn’t reply. Tiwa then looked at Patricia and said

“I have never met her before.”

Ayo smirked in his mind when Tiwa said that. He was happy that she was sticking to the plan. Tiwa’s words snapped Tireni out of her trance and then she said sorry as she picked her spoon from the ground.

Tiwa stretched out her hand towards Sophia and then said with a cheerful smile playing on her lips.

“Nice to meet you, Tireni,” she paused, “I hope we can be friends.”

With shaky hands, Tireni returned the handshake and then faced her food. Patricia still looked at Tireni suspiciously.

“Is everything alright, Tireni?” Ayo asked

“Yeah yeah” she mumbled as she continued looking at her food.

“Oh you must need a new spoon, Tireni. Why don’t we go get one from the hotel kitchen? Like a quick bonding trip?” Tiwa said and smiled at her.

Before Tireni could reply, Ayo spoke up

“Oh that would be nice. Take all the time you need. I need to quickly speak with Patricia.”

“Me?” Patricia questioned with a raised eyebrow.

“Great. It’s settled.” Tiwa then gently lifted Tireni from her chair and they casually walked towards the kitchen. Once Tiwa was sure that they were out of Ayo and Patricia’s view and there was no one around, she pushed Tireni against the wall and tightly positioned her arm against Tireni’s neck.

“Miss me?” she said with a wicked smirk on her face.

Tireni closed her eyes in fear as tears slowly fell down her face.

“Please… don’t hurt me.” She whimpered

“Shut up before I make you. Now listen and listen well. If I ever, ever! suspect that you tell anyone, and I mean anyone, anything that happened, I promise you Tireni Bankole, you will regret it.” She then lowered her face until it was right beside Tireni and then whispered in her ear “You would finally have new scars to add to your collection.”

Tiwa then further pressed her arm into Tireni’s neck and then suddenly let go. Once she did, Tireni bent over and started coughing and crying. Tiwa simply looked at her in disdain.

“Don’t move” Tiwa said and then went to get a spoon from the kitchen. Once she came back, she forcefully raised Tireni from her bent over position and told her to wipe the tears from her face. After she had obeyed her, Tiwa pulled her to start walking back with her and whispered before they turned the corner to the cafeteria.

“Now place a smile on your face and act natural. If you screw all this up Tireni, your whole family including Alex will suffer for it. I promise you that.

Tireni nodded her head quickly and wiped away the fresh batch of tears that threatened to fall. She hated how messed up and complicated the situation was getting. She wished now more than ever that she had never met Ayo.

Once they were a step away from the cafeteria, Tiwa put on her fake smile and said

“Now smile for the crowd, darling.”

 

Tireni calmed her trembling fingers and put on the perfect face of happiness. They both started laughing as they headed towards the table.

“We are back” said Tiwa when Patricia caught her eye. Patricia looked over at Tiwa to see if she was acting normal. Everything appeared normal to her, but she was still worried.

“Hey Tire, are you better now?”

“Yeah…yeah. I am. I guess I was more tired than I let on. I mean we did talk all night and I did have a long day yesterday.”

Tiwa smiled internally. She remembered how good an actress Tireni could be at times. After all, she had maintained her role through all this time.

“So what were y’all talking about when we left?” Tiwa asked

“Oh nothing much” Ayo replied in an indifferent tone.

He had just lied through his teeth. He and Patricia had talked about the entire experience the day before. Patricia said she had accidentally seen a plane ticket stuffed in Tireni’s purse which meant that she had tried to travel away. She also explained that Tireni had only said that she wanted to pay a quick visit to relative in Anambra state. Ayo didn’t believe that and the same applied for Patricia; however, she didn’t want to question it. While they were arguing about why Patricia let Tireni get away with secrets, that was when Tiwa and Tireni came back, so they played it cool.

Ayo pulled out a seat for Tireni and then settled on the seat beside her. Tiwa punched him in the arm, pulled out her own chair, and said

“Thanks for the help bro”

“My pleasure” he said in a sarcastic, sweet tone.

The air was still as Tireni and Patricia kept on quietly munching on their food and Ayo with Tiwa kept sending each other eye signals. After a long silence, Patricia dropped her spoon in frustration and said

“Okay! Since no one wants to address the elephant in the room, I will. Apparently, this crazy dude thinks that Tireni is apparently a long lost wife called Sophia…” Ayo raised his eyes in surprise “Tomiwa told me. But that is beside the point. So I am guessing you have brought this girl to help prove your point?”

Tiwa raised her right eyebrow in question at the comment “this girl”

“Isn’t that a bit rude, Patricia?” Tireni whispered

“Rude! Oh don’t get me started on rude. Didn’t they just barge in on our breakfast?” she exclaimed

“Ah ah so your blood dey hot like this!” Ayo yelled

“Yes o. Don’t think that because of how I acted before, I am some kind of nice girl. I appreciate your help in helping me look for Tireni, but now that she is back. I see no reason why we are going to try to be friends. I mean I and Tireni definitely don’t know you from Adam and we are already busy enough with our dance schedule. So I’m sorry if I seem rude, but we have to get going. We have rehearsals in an hour”

 

Tireni smiled apologetically at the two of them and got up with their duffel bags. She didn’t really mean the apology to Tiwa, but she did feel sorry for Ayo. I mean he had just officially met the outside Patricia and everyone who did regretted it. Tiwa gave Tireni a nasty eye that sent shivers down her spine as she left with Patricia. She seriously hadn’t been expecting T.K to be Tiwa, the sister, sister! of Ayo. Even just thinking about her made her want to throw up as she absentmindedly grazed the scar on her belly that was hidden by her sweatshirt. She was surprised at herself for maintaining her cool so well, but she knew her losing it would mean losing everything. As Tireni mulled over these thoughts, Patricia was busy thinking about all the controversies coming about Tireni. She had only known her for a short time, but she had started to trust her already.

“Could she really be another person?” she wondered as they got into a ‘maruwa’ with their bags.

Meanwhile, Tiwa and Ayo were engaged in a conversation about Patricia’s attitude. A vein on Ayo’s forehead was pulsating as he thought of how rude she had been to them. He wanted to talk to Sophia more, but now she had dragged her away.

“Ayo, calm down jare. Abi, she was rude to me too!”

“What’s her p gan?”

“I dunno o. Probably personal issues. Just forget about it and let’s go.”

Ayo took a deep breath and then smiled eagerly

“You saw she was Sophia right!”

“Oh definitely her! No mistake there. I just wonder why she’s doing all this” Tiwa lied. She knew the actual truth surrounding Sophia, but there was no way she was going to tell Ayo. She swore she wouldn’t and she still maintained it.

“I have other family that are more important” she thought to herself. She put her fingers into her purse and caressed her signature mini-dagger, engraved with the letters T.K, which she didn’t have to use on Tireni. She was disappointed by that, but then she smiled to herself as she brought out her phone on her way out with Ayo.

“She stayed” she texted to a secure number.

“Another day, my friend” she thought with a smile plastered on her face as she grazed the cold sharp metallic edge of the dagger, licked the blood that had spilled from the cut and continued walking with Ayo as he kept ranting about Sophia.

 

Ayo pulled his car up to the entrance of their apartment and said to Tiwa

“Sorry that I can’t spend more time with you now. I got one horrible class to attend to. So yay!” he ended on a sarcastic note.

“Aww don’t worry. You will soon be done with school anyway” Tiwa replied

“Yeah yeah. I have given you the keys right since Tomiwa might still be in school”

Tiwa jingled the keys in front of him and then he asked

“Are you sure you would be okay alone?”

“Of course, I will.”

“Are you absolutely sure?”

She slapped her palm on her face and said

“Stop treating me like I’m still a child, Ayo. Haba. I will be fine. It’s not like people are looking for us. Stop acting like such a baby! Remember I got training”

“Geez harsh much. I was just trying to show I care, you jerk.” He replied with a downcast expression

She simply sighed and said while alighting from the car

“Yeah don’t try to fool me, bro. I know your fake looks from a mile away.”
“Agh!” Ayo yelled in annoyance and waited for her to enter the gates before driving off.

Tiwa tried to open the door with the keys but found it unlocked. She wasn’t even scared in any way. Even if it wasn’t Tomiwa that was at home, she could certainly deal with any intruder herself. She calmly walked in and went to sit down with her laptop in the living room without bothering to check who was home.

Tomiwa came out from the kitchen and nearly dropped his hot cup of lemon water on the floor out of shock when he saw Tiwa on the couch.

“Geez Tiwa! Trying to give me a heart attack?”

“Ah ah did I touch you ni? Person cannot sit on couch again?” she said in an oblivious tone.

He simply ignored her response and went to sit on another couch and turned on the television, picking a sports channel to watch. Tiwa didn’t know if he were doing this to annoy her, but it was definitely stepping on a lot of nerves.

“Can’t you see I am trying to work!” she shouted

“Can’t you remember you don’t live here?” he said in plain tone without even turning away from the TV.

A nasty scowl appeared on her face and she had to take a few deep breaths to calm herself down. She couldn’t understand why she was getting so upset about all this, but maybe it was all her unresolved issues with Tiwa that were bringing out this side of her. She decided to stuff it all down and focus on her work.

“Your constant typing is really annoying. Trying to watch a match here” Tomiwa said, breaking the few moments of silence.

That statement caused Tiwa to snap and she threw her decision out the window.

“Do you have a problem with me, Tomiwa?” she said in an annoyed tone

“I dunno. Do you have a problem with me?” he retorted

They kept staring at each other with both their hearts filled with anger towards each other. Tiwa was really using all her strength to not let him push her, but it was hard seeing the smug look on his face.

“Look Tommy, I don’t want to fight with you.”

“Then here’s the first step. Don’t call me that”

“What’s the matter with you!” she yelled and stood up in anger

Tomiwa didn’t look up at her and just stared coldly at the table as he said in a solemn tone

“The matter with me is that you refuse to acknowledge that things aren’t fine between us. You refuse to remember that after our disagreement, you went away without any warning. That’s the matter with me.”

Tiwa sighed and sat back down.

“You were becoming a disturbance” she said and stretched her legs on the table

“Oh I’m sorry for worrying about you. I’m sorry for worrying about your abrupt change” he said in a sarcastic voice

“Oh please, don’t get dramatic” she said, waving him off and untying the sneakers she was wearing.

“Dramatic!” he yelled

Now it was his time to get up.

“Tiwalope! You came back with blood, blood! on your clothes that day.”

“And I told you that I had just saved someone that had an accident.”

“Lies! Don’t you dare lie to me!” he screamed with clenched fists.

“Hey…” she said calmly then looked up at him with eyes cold enough to bring snow to Nigeria “Mind the way you talk to me.”

Even Tomiwa hesitated before replying her. He rubbed his hands over his face and sat back down, accidentally toppling over the mug of lemon water on the table he had brought with him. The hot lemon water mainly poured over Tiwa’s hands which were still undoing the laces. She didn’t even flinch from the water. She looked at Tomiwa who was staring wide-eyed at her and the toppled mug.

“I wonder what things your hands have gone through to be so resistant” he murmured

She rolled her eyes at him and leaned back on the couch.

“Why does everyone keep forgetting? I trained for the police academy remember? I have gone through a lot”

“Sure, that’s why” he said in a sarcasm-laden voice

Her frustration rose again and she said

“Look bruh! I don’t know what you think is going on. I am just a normal Nigerian girl, but your brain is clearly playing tricks on you. So fine! Don’t believe any word I say. That’s your business not mine.”

She then continued working on her laptop as Tomiwa looked at her with sadness evident in his eyes. After a while, he got up from the couch and went to his room. Tiwa let out a breath of relief, but she had jumped the gun. He came back less than two minutes after. He dropped something on the table and said as he walked away

“That would have been yours if you had come back early and without blood that day.”

She looked at the diamond ring glistening against the brown table. A series of emotions passed through her eyes in about 5 seconds before she said

“Eiiiiis! Ogbeni! Come and carry this thing. What do you think this is? Some kind of American romantic movie?”
Tomiwa stopped dead in his tracks at her words. She got up, walked past him and was about to leave through the door when he said in a very low voice

“Tiwa, this isn’t you.”

She laughed in a very innocent way and winked

“Of course it is. Just a new version. Like Tiwa 2.0.” she replied with a playful laugh at the end

She then closed the door behind her leaving the sound of her laughter echoing through the walls of the apartment and the mind of Tomiwa.

 

Ayo parked his car under the shade of huge tree beside his departmental building and alighted from the vehicle, grateful to be back to some sense of normalcy. It felt like an entire decade had passed since he had been in school when it had only been an eventful weekend. He casually strutted down the campus, greeting a couple of people on the way. He had about an hour before his class started, so he had no worries. Luckily, unlike his undergraduate days when he had to get to class at least three hours early just to get a good seat, his Masters’ program had less students and more free time for his personal life. After some minutes of chilling around, he finally got to his class and took a seat on a bench at the far right corner. He was determined to put all Sophia drama behind him and focus on this class especially since his teacher was stricter than any teacher he had ever met in his life including his business teacher in his fourth year.

Pulling out a book from his bag, he subconsciously cringes as he perceives a familiar smell of perfume beside him.

“Hey Ayo. How are you?” Lara purred, flashing her brilliant smile at him and taking a seat beside him

“Fine fine. Cool cool.” He murmured, not even bothering to face her.

“Ah ah you can’t even ask how I am doing. It’s not fair o. You have not even seen me since Friday.”

Ayo restrained himself from sighing and turned to face her with a plastered smile on his face.

“I’m sorry jare. My mind no dey here at all. This school dey stress me.”

“You could have called me now. We could have gone to some place to hang out and chill” she replied with a smirk on her place.

Ayo didn’t even want to think about what she was implying. He knows that Lara is one of the hottest babes in his campus and he should be proud of her even talking to him, but even when she approached him in the past, he always felt like he was faking it and trying to force feelings for this girl who now seemed completely unattractive to him after he had seen Sophia again.

“I was very busy this weekend ehn. No time to even check time gan.”

“Hmm are you sure? Or were you with Joyce? Amanda? Tinuke? Or one of your many baes this weekend?” she taunted.

His forehead crinkled as he thought about how he would have to deal with all these girls he had led on. Lara, Joyce, Amanda, Tinuke, Arike, and many others no longer mattered to him anymore. He had never slept or touched any one of them, but he had certainly drawn and maintained their attention with some of his comments and actions. From the corner of his eye, he could see Joyce eyeing him from the other side of the classroom. He could even also see Amanda occasionally glancing back at him and Lara.

“What kind of mess have I gotten myself into?” he wondered

Luckily, just as Joyce was about to get up from her seat and head over to him, the lecturer walked in and Ayo had never been happier to see his face. Lara went back to her seat and peace was restored for the meantime.

Meanwhile, back at the dance studio where the girls were rehearsing, trouble was brewing.

“What is the matter with all of you? Can’t you get one step right?!” Patricia screamed

The other members shivered from her words. They were trying their best to keep up with the steps, but the techniques were much too advanced for them.

“Patricia, we are trying our best” Mary squeaked.

Everyone’s mouth hung open as they stared in shock at Mary. “

She actually had the courage to speak up!” they thought.

Mary’s shoulders hunched in fear when she saw Patricia squint her eyes at her.

“Listen here! I get that you are new to the team and all, so you probably don’t understand what is at risk here. One of the FEW popular dancing competitions in Nigeria is being held in just a couple of weeks, and here you all are SLACKING! This is our chance, my chance! And I’m not going to let you guys mess it up because of your incompetence!”

Some girls clenched their fists in anger while others tried to control the tears that were about to fall. Tireni, who had just been observing the exchange, decided to interject.

“You guys, let’s take a quick five minute break. Pattie, we need to talk.”

Patricia scoffed and headed off to the corner of the room with Tireni following her while everyone dispersed in small gossip groups.

“Patricia, you need to chill!”

“No! You need to tighten up! Come on, you know that we don’t get many opportunities like this especially in this country. We have to make this awesome.”

“Not by degrading everyone.” She noted

“Okay fine. I was a bit too harsh, but they needed it. They have been slacking off recently. I’m sure that our performance that day would have ended badly if not for Ayo crashing it.”

Tireni laughed as she thought about the event.

“What’s funny?”  Patricia murmured

“I can’t believe the dude just legit jumped on stage screaming.”

Patricia rolled her eyes at her.

“Oh come on, don’t be a vibe killer. It was funny, guy. “SOPHIA!”” Tireni giggled, waving her fist in the air like a enraged warrior.

Finally, Patricia cracked a smile at her antics.

“Ha! I knew it! You find it funny.”

“I’m just smiling at your stupidity, dear” Patricia joked

“Either way, you are smiling” Tireni beamed.

After a moment of silence, Patricia sighed and pointed out

“We still don’t know what we will do about this technique.”

“I got an idea!” Tireni quipped and walked over to where the other girls were already assembled

“Okay so you guys, I know you probably hate Patricia right now and hate me too because I’m the only one she isn’t so harsh to. But you have to understand that she just wants the best for all of us. To win!”

“We understand, Tire, but we simply can’t do this technique without breaking our ankles” Layo lamented

“I get that. I really do. Even though I can do it, my ankles are starting to hurt. So how about this? I saw this lit tutorial where they showed a sort of simplified but still cool version of this technique.”

By this time, Patricia had walked over to where they were standing.

“Really?” Opeyemi asked

“Yup. It’s still hard, but at least your ankles will live.”

A couple of laughs came from her comment and the mood was a bit lighter.

“Okay so you go like this and bring your right leg to the back of your left knee. Then….” Tireni went on to explain the technique and after a couple of trials, most of the girls could do it without making any mistakes.

Patricia had just been observing all this while, but when she saw how, after rehearsals, the girls were smiling and even practicing the technique among themselves with the same elegance and grace as she would have carried, she went up to Tireni and gave her a long, tight hug.

“Thank you, Tireni” she whispered in her ear

“At least this time you aren’t trying to kill me.” Tireni joked.

They both ended up laughing with their arms wrapped around each other.

In an office not too far from the studio, Tiwa pushed back one of the bookshelves to reveal a door to an underground gym below. The gym was nothing fancy, just a wide space with a large mat at the centre where she had bled many times and had also caused a lot of people to bleed. Walking down the stairs, she thought about the last time she had been here and how much she had missed the place. Arriving at the final step, she was shocked to see the central lights in the bare gym already lit up and she glanced around the wide arena to see if anyone else was around. One by one, they all came out of the shadows, but her eyes zeroed in on Ejò (snake in Yoruba), the man with the snake tattooed on his face.

With the creepiest smile she had ever seen, he said

“Welcome back, love”

Chapter 15

She grunted at him and leaned on the wall beside the stairs.

“Told you to stop calling me that. Or is English that hard for you?”
Ejo let out a dry laugh and murmured under his breath

“Still a cocky brat, I see.”

She snapped her head towards him, lifting her eyebrow in pride.

“Did you say something?”

“No, nothing at all.”

Walking calmly towards him with her finger on her chin, she questioned

“No no. I could have sworn you called me a brat, but that, of course, is impossible as it would be inappropriate to call your superior a brat,” she placed her palm on his left shoulder, “Or have you forgotten your place?”

Suddenly, she dug her thumb deep into his pressure point and watching him grunt in pain as he fell on the ground. Satisfied with herself, she confidently strutted to the center of the arena and said,

“Now the rest of you wimps, come at me. I need to get back into shape.”

Fear was evident on the faces of many who had experienced the pain from Tiwa’s fists, but the egos of 6 people were too huge, so they charged one by one towards Tiwa.

“Too easy…” she muttered

She grabbed the left arm of the first person she saw and twisted it to an ugly extent behind his back as she tripped the second man who was rushing at her. Letting go of the first person, she kicked him in the stomach, positioning him to fall on top of the second person. From the corner of her eye, she saw a punch a couple of centimeters from her face. She ducked below and rammed her fist deep into his belly before elbowing his left side. Her lips curled into a smile once she heard a crack from his ribcage. Noticing the remaining three were not too far way, she did a couple of backflips to gain some distance.

“Come on, is this all you guys have? I don’t even have to use my knife.”

Their jaws clenched in anger simultaneously and they ran faster towards her.

“Idiots never know their place”

The fastest among them got to her first and aimed a series of punches t her which she all dodged.

“Too slow”

She stopped one of his punches with her palm and squeezed his fist tightly before landing a punch of her own squarely on the side of his face. Using his disorientation to her advantage, she landed her own series of punches all over his body. She did not notice on time that the fifth guy was already behind her. A gasp escaped from her lip as she felt arms wrap around her stomach and slam her into the ground. Pain coursed through every fiber of her being. Before she could get up from the ground, the three guys and the one she had tripped ganged up on her and kept kicking her as she writhed on the ground. As she tasted blood from the side of her mouth, she hated that she didn’t have strength like some of them unless she would have been able to push them all off. She struggled to fight off the pain and grabbed one of the feet that she could see, leaving the owner unbalanced. She raised the foot in the air and he fell to the ground. Using the space created from their huddle, she rolled out from the centre, staggering to her feet.

“I guess I’m more rusty than I thought. It has been a while unless these fools wouldn’t even be able to land a single finger on me” she thought.

She stomped her feet on the curled fingers of the guy on the ground, on his forearm, and kicked his head.

“Stay down” she spat.

The remaining three cracked their knuckles and slowly approached her. She could see Ejo smirking in the corner of the room.

“Arrogant pain in the neck” she murmured.

She was bruised all over, but she still had to face three more people. She had to get serious. She took off her jacket, tossing it towards the direction of Ejo.

“I might not have strength, but I have more speed than most of them here” she analyzed

With that in mind, she dashed towards the left of the three men and stealthily avoided their outstretched arms. Positioned behind them, she pushed her left elbow deep into the back of the man in the middle and her right one into the neck of the man on his left. Before they could retaliate, she ran in front of the man at the extreme left and kicked the side of his left knee.

“Lightning…” Ejo whispered as he watched Tiwa take down the remaining three guys in a matter of minutes. Tiwa was known by their group as “Lightning” for her exceptional speed at executing attacks on her opponents, not even giving them enough time to retaliate. Nevertheless, Ejo noticed that she had slowed quite considerably, at least compared to her former speed, since the last time he had seen her fight. She was slowly reverting back to the docile girl she used to be when M.K. first brought her in.

Tiwa stood over the bodies of the men she had just defeated, breathing heavily. She wiped the blood from the corner of her mouth and turned around to challenge Ejo, despite her state. Her eyes widened in shock and fear as she saw him rushing towards her about three steps away with a dagger in his hand. In that moment, she felt her heart stop.

END…for now.

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