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Mr. Bankole sat beside his wife and put his right hand around her shoulders.
Mrs. Banks was looking fragile and her skin had turned a bit pale. She sighed and stared into her husband’s eyes, the man she had always loved and cherished. She could never forget the day he proposed and professed his undying love for her. On their wedding day was one of the happiest days of her life. Nothing could change. He showered her with love and care and promised never to abandon her.
“Will you ever leave me?” She asked him.
“I didn’t leave you when you said you will never forgive me for making your son runaway. Why should I do it now? I love you very much. You are still the woman I married thirty-four years ago. I still love you.”
She smiled weakly and shut her eyes. Tears flowed when she opened them. He looked at her shocked, removed his arm and held her hands.
“What is the matter?” He asked in a disturbed tone.
More tears gushed out. “I am very sick!”
He wrapped his arms around her body and rubbed her back. “Everything will be fine.”
“No, it will not be fine.” She wiped her face, released herself from his grip and collected the doctor’s report on the sofa. She gave it to her husband to read. He read it and looked at her perplexed.
“Oh my God! Has it gotten up to this?”
“Yes!” Her eyes exploded more tears.
He hugged her tightly. “Nothing bad will happen to you. I can’t understand why this is happening to you. I will have to cancel my preparations to travel.”
“Please go. I can take good care of myself and it’s not as if I will die tomorrow. My illness should not stop you from doing what you want.”
“But you need me.”
“I know and whenever I want you beside me, I will definitely let you know. Don’t cancel your travelling plans. It is important.”
“Are you going to tell Tiwatope about it?”
She shook her head miserably. “No way. Our daughter must not know about it. I want her to concentrate on the case instead of her to run back here, look after me and worry.”
He heaved a sigh. “I will make sure you receive all the necessary treatment. You will be alright by the special grace of God.”
“I am so scared.”
“Don’t be my love. I will always be by your side.” Deep down, he was scared too.
On their way home, Adebiyi notified his driver to take them back to Mrs. Aisha’s house. Tiwa widened her eyes and looked at him shocked.
“That woman won’t be pleased to see you again.” She asked. “By the way, why are we going back there?”
“I want the address of her daughter.” He replied without glancing at her face. “I want to speak with the maid.”
“What does Mariam Yusuf’s maid got to do with this?”
“I want to ask her if her late boss ever told her someone might have been watching her.”
“And you think Mrs. Aisha will be willing to talk you?”
Adebiyi rotated his head to look at her. The way his eyes glittered, made her uncomfortable. She quickly gazed away. She never thought the man she loved to hate would be sitting beside her in his car and spending time together talking and even eating on the same table. What a strange world we live in, she thought.
“I won’t go in and speak with her. You will do that for me.”
Tiwa chose not to say anything to avoid eye contact. She wasn’t interested to hear his voice anymore. She stared at the sky, thinking about her brother. She had missed him so much. Adebiyi told the driver to turn on the radio. Coincidentally it was Temidayo’s song playing. She sniffed her nose, closed her eyes and recalled her memorable childhood with her only sibling.
She always knew he lied about his sexuality because he wanted their father off his back. The night he ran away, Temidayo went to Tiwa’s room after dinner to wish her all the best in her career. He told her he was proud and happy to have a strong and vibrant sister. She didn’t understand why he uttered those kind words and was curious to know the reasons for his sudden behavior. When she asked, he told her, he was going to be all right. The next morning she saw her mother running to meet their father with a piece of paper in her right hand. She was in tears and her body was shaking. Tiwa stared at her parents without feeling gloomy or apprehensive. She knew wherever Temidayo left to he was safe.
“Tiwa…Tiwa….Tiwa!” Adebiyi had to call her name thrice before she answered. She was lost in thought and apologized to him. “I hope you are okay?”
“Ye… yes.” She looked around the surrounding area. “Are we there?”
Tiwa bounced out of the vehicle and walked through the entrance gate.
She saw a young woman holding the hand of a girl about entering the main house. “Excuse me.”
The lady turned her back to face her. “Yes, can I help you?”
She looked closely at her face and noticed her eyes were weary and sad. “Are you Mariam Yusuf’s maid?”
“Yes and who are you?”
She introduced herself and explained she was the agent investigating the death of her late employee.
The maid wanted to smile but she glanced at the little girl and burst into tears. She wiped her face and stared back at Tiwa. “Please catch who killed my madam.”
“I will try my best.” She said and felt pleased to see someone grieving, and she must have really cared about Mariam. She must have taken good care of her employee too before death took her away. Instead of her to take her to Adebiyi for questioning, she decided to question her. “Did Mariam Yusuf ever complain to you that she felt someone was watching her?”
She thought and shook her head. “She never discussed something like that with me but there was a particular day, few days before she disappeared, she was conscious of the doors and windows. She kept asking me if I had locked them and when I told her I did, she still checked them more than four times before we went to bed.”
“Did you ask her what the matter was?”
“I did but she told me not to worry. That everything was fine.”
“Can you tell me what day was it?”
“It was on a Saturday evening. Her daughter and I were at home throughout that day. Miss. Mariam went out and returned in the afternoon.”
“Did she tell you where she went to?”
“No but I knew she went to search for a modeling job. My madam was a good woman. She always talked about how she messed up her life and wanted to change to be a good mother. There was no day she missed picking her daughter from school. She wanted to spend time with her because she knew she would be busy when the modeling job comes her way.”
She touched her lightly on the shoulder. “Thank you for telling me this.”
“You are welcome ma.”
Tiwa rubbed the little girl’s chin and bid her goodbye. She took a walk, thought of Mrs. Aisha Yusuf and hesitated. She gazed at the maid. “Please, take good care of this girl. Her mother would forever be grateful.”
“I know. She is my responsibility now.”
She went away, opened the car door and entered. She narrated the conversation to him.
“What is the matter with you?” He asked.
Her eyebrows lifted upwards. They looked at each other straight in the eyes. “What?”
“I was supposed to ask her the questions. It was my idea and I didn’t order you to do that for me.”
“Order me?” She asked and pointed at herself. “Why didn’t you solve the case without asking for my help?”
“I didn’t ask. I paid you! You sound like a greedy person!”
“Me? A greedy person?”
“I didn’t say you were, but you have just called yourself one.”
Her mouth was widely opened. She couldn’t believe what he was saying to her. If he could utter such in her presence, then he must have said worse things behind her back. “I never wanted to come. My parents had to beg me to come here.”
“Oh please cut the crap! The amount of money I offered made you to say yes! You don’t really care about these women but yourself! You want your name in front of newspapers, magazines… that’s who you are. You are a self-centered woman!”
Her head wanted to explode and she was tempted to give him a blow on his mouth to silence him from speaking further. She wasn’t an aggressive person but he wanted to turn her into one. She penetrated a finger at him. “What do you take me for? You should have investigated the case without calling for my help.”
“I am no longer a detective!”
“It was your choice to leave!”
“Leave the car Kelvin.” Adebiyi said.
“No!” Tiwa shouted. “You have already insulted me in front of your driver. He should remain here.”
“I said leave!”
Kelvin rushed out. He obeyed and wanted to avoid the wrath of his boss.
“I didn’t insult you,” he said. “I simply told you the truth!”
“You don’t know me!”
“You also don’t know me! Do not ever disrespect me again. Do as I say and both of us will live in peace.”
“I never wanted to live with you!”
The tension between them was high. Being there alone in the car with Adebiyi made her body temperature high. She felt as if he was overpowering her mind. Just a day spent with him was too much and she had no idea when the investigation would be over.
His heartbeat ran so fast, he thought he would have a heart attack. This woman beside him was getting into his head. The women he dated would never talk back at him the way she did. He regretted telling the driver to leave. He should have stayed with them. She was close to him yet had a kind of hold on him and alone together made his body warm. He didn’t want her to see him flare in fury. She would hate him more. He quickly unlocked his door, came out and sighed. He felt a bit relaxed away from her.
Tiwa remained silent. She was relieved he left the car for her. What he said penetrated into her thick skull. She wasn’t self-absorbed. She really cared about those women and if he knew she refused the money, he would feel imprudent. She was not here to impress anyone and telling him the truth won’t change the way they felt about each other.
After few minutes of neglecting one another, Tiwa lowered her window glass and said to the driver. “Can you take me home?”
Adebiyi heard and gave Kelvin a nod. “I will take a taxi home.”
Tiwa stayed mute on her way home. When Mimi and Donald saw her at the door leading to the living room, they could see the huge frown on her face. She didn’t respond when they greeted her. Mr. Popoola saw what happened, followed her and stopped Tiwa from entering inside her room.
“What happened to you Miss. Tiwa?”
“I didn’t upset you so I don’t deserve such tone from you.”
She sighed. “I’m sorry.”
“Adebiyi Gold didn’t come home with you. Did both of you fight?”
She looked at him with surprised eyes. “How did you know?”
He smiled. “He is my best friend. I know him.”
“I wonder how you cope with him. I can’t believe I actually said yes to live with such a man.”
“He is a good person.”
“Stop supporting him because he is your friend.”
He smiled again and begged her to follow him back to the living room. She accepted. It was just the two of them. The chef had returned from the market to prepare dinner. The housekeepers left to their rooms.
“Let me tell you something you don’t know about the man you are working with.” Popoola said. “Before telling you, do you know he is an orphan?”
Tiwa thought what it must have felt like if she didn’t have her parents. She would be devastated. She shrugged. “No.”
“They died when he was in his second year in the university. Before they died, his dad was doing financially okay until he lost his job. His mother opened a business with her savings and became successful and that was the beginning of their trouble.”
“His mother treated his father like a slave, like shit. Women are not the only victims in an abusive relationship or marriage; some men also go through domestic violence. She would curse and hit him whenever she liked. She treated him like a piece of trash. Adebiyi would come to school helpless. Money changed his mother.”
“So Adebiyi feels successful women are ill-mannered, hypocrites and untrustworthy.”
“Exactly,” Mr. Popoola said. “He is careful not to get very close to a woman so his heart won’t be broken. He is afraid of commitment. He has that idea that all women on planet earth is like his mother. I have tried to change that misconception but I have been unable to do that.”
She stared at him with a concerned expression. “How did his parents die?”
“He must not know I told you. One day, his father informed his mother he wanted surprise her, to take her out on her birthday. Ade wanted to join them in the vehicle but he refused and said it was between him and his wife. They left, few minutes later, someone called my friend that an accident had occurred and his parents didn’t survive. Adebiyi knew what his father had done. It was not really an accident.”
“Oh my God!!”
“I have seen him cry twice. The first time, he came to school and talked about how his mom was maltreating his father and the second time was at the burial. If you had seen him that day, tears would flow from your eyes. I don’t think I will ever see him in tears again. He is not in a committed relationship or has a close family member to worry about.”
She was tempted to ask how he became wealthy but pitied Adebiyi and wondered how he grieved during the loss of his parents. “The story is tragic.”
They heard the horn of a car, Donald rushed down and went to open the gate.
“I wonder why Adebiyi Gold didn’t employ a gateman.” Tiwa said to Popoola.
He laughed. “I have asked him to employ one but he refused. He does not trust anyone to look after the gate. He said he was capable of doing it by himself.”
The two of them saw Donald carrying a small travelling bag. A light skinned and beautiful woman walked into the sitting room. Popoola recognized her and rose to meet her.
“It’s been a while Esther. How are you?”
“So good to see you,” she said and glimpsed at Tiwa. “I travelled and I came back yesterday.”
“Adebiyi is not around.”
“I know. I called him and he said I should come here and wait for him.”
“You can do that in the other living room.”
She looked at Tiwa again and back at him. “I prefer to stay in his room.”
“He has the key.” He lied. Esther left them.
“Who is she?” Tiwa asked him.
“One of Adebiyi’s girlfriend. I thought they broke up two months ago. She believes she is the only woman in his life.”
“I know he went through a lot but that should not give him the right to play with women's emotions. I can’t believe he invited her when he is supposed to focus on the case.”
“He must have invited her because of you.”
“Because of me?”
“I think he is not over the fight you had with him. He wants you to get angrier and think he is no longer serious about the case anymore. My advice to you, ignore him. In fact, show him how happy you are and try to get close to Esther.”
Tiwa smiled. “I love your advice.”
Two hours later, Adebiyi stepped out from the taxi and paid the driver. He went inside his building, was leaving to his room, when Popoola blocked his way.
“What do you think you are doing?” He asked Adebiyi. “How can you bring a woman during this period? Don’t you have conscience anymore?”
“Whatever I do is none of your business. Stay away from me.”
“We ate dinner without you.”
“Better. I don’t want to see Tiwa tonight. Where is Esther?”
“She’s in your living room.”
“You didn’t open my room for her?”
“Why?” He asked in an annoyed tone.
“I was not in the mood for that. Respect yourself and allow her to sleep in the visitor’s room. And it’s not as if you want to be with her. I thought both of you were no longer lovers.”
“I changed my mind when she called to inform me she was in town.”
Popoola shook his head and gave way for him to pass. “Do whatever pleases you.”
Adebiyi sauntered to meet Esther and what he saw sent shock-wave into his body.
Tiwa and Esther were drinking champagne and laughing like two lost friends.
Esther saw him. “Oh honey you are back.” She stood, went to meet him and moved to kiss him on the lips. He gave her his cheek instead. It surprised her but didn’t say anything and sat down. “Your cousin is so funny. I am really enjoying her company!”
Tiwa gave a side smile and peered at Adebiyi. “Welcome bro. Your girlfriend has been waiting for you.”
“She is not my girlfriend!” He yelled. He was furious to see two of them together.
“What did you just say?” Esther asked in a dazed tone. She was very shocked.
“I will advise you to leave,” he said. “My driver will drive you home or you will spend the night in the visitor’s room. Choose one.”
“My love, did I do anything wrong?”
Tiwa dropped her glass cup on the table, rose on her feet and faced Adebiyi. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Mind your damn business!!”
“Please help me beg your cousin.” Esther said to Tiwa.
Those words infuriated him. “Who told you she is my cousin?”
Tiwa widened her eyes and blinked her eyes repeatedly to stop him from saying the truth.
Esther looked at them dumbfounded. “What is he talking about?” She asked her and looked at Adebiyi again. “Is she not your cousin?”
He moved closer to Esther. “No. She is my new girlfriend.”
“What!! How could you lie to me?”
“That’s a lie!” Tiwa said in a stunned voice. “He is saying this because he wants you to leave.”
“I thought we could be friends. How could you lie to me?”
“I am not his cousin and I am also not his girlfriend.”
“I can’t believe this!” she said, carried her bag and walked out on them.
“Do you still need my driver to take you home?” Adebiyi asked her.
“Go to hell. I can drive by myself!!”They heard the door bang loudly.
“How could you?” Tiwa asked him.
He didn’t say a word, went to take the bottle and gulped the remaining wine. She hissed and hiked to her room. He smiled broadly and whispered. “I won tonight.”
“But you won’t win tomorrow.” Popoola said.
He turned to face him. “Whatever. Tiwa wanted war; I simply gave it to her.”
To be continued.