Night was falling fast as Ike hefted his briefcase and dumped it in the back seat of his 2009 model Range Rover.
Looking up, he saw her cross the road on her usual walk down the street to the bus stop.
“Mr. Rueben, take, enter bus. Make you give me the key,” he said to his driver who looked suddenly crestfallen even though Ike was offering him a one thousand naira note.
“Oga I hope say I no make you vex o,” the old man asked but Ike had forced a laugh.
“No. I wan go see someone and I no go finish on time,” he explained, hand outstretched, waiting for the car keys, his eyes taking in the fast disappearing figure. But the old man was not about to let go.
“Oga Ike, I no mind o. Wetin I wan go do for house, eh? If I do you bad, make you tell me.”
Ike looked down the street then back to his driver; an uncle’s friend whom he had known since he was a kid and whom his uncle had begged to give a job when the tide of fortune began to turn in Ike’s favour.
Because of the tangled web of their relationship, Ike was always careful with the way he treated the old man but watching the figure disappear, Ike knew he had to dispense with the niceties.
Willing some steel into his voice, Ike told him to hand over the keys. Snatching them from him, he pulled open the driver’s door and without adjusting the seat to suit his height sped off down the road.
A bus had pulled up and she was waiting for others to disembark when Ike pulled up beside her and depressed the power window button.
“Hey, can I buy you a drink, please.”
Her smile was sunshine as she waved at someone Ike did not see, but that smile was not bright enough to chase away the cloud of misfortune that would descend upon his life, a cloud so heavy, Ike would wish his driver had stalled some more, and that the bus that had pulled up beside her had been empty and had taken off before he got to the bus stop.
“I thought you always went home straight?” she asked by way of conversation to break the silence that had descended upon them as Ike drove but Ike had shrugged and smiled and said “Please strap on your seatbelt.”
The traffic leading out the island was light and he drove at a sedate speed, wondering where to take her, somewhere private and discreet where he was not likely to run into anyone from church or work or someone who knew him and his wife.
For a minute, he was shocked at how, now that he had her in his car, he realised that while he had planned what to say, how to discharge Mr Rueben and pick her up on the way to the bus stop, he had never given a thought to where they might go and what he would say to her once she was in his car. This was all new to him.
“Where do you live?” he asked and she had turned to him with eyes widening into orbs.
“I thought we were going to have a drink?” and that was when Ike relaxed, finally sure that his suspicions about her were right. She had been interested in him all along. He knew now that the concern she showed, the enquiries about his wife and kids, the morning coffee she always brought him, even though as one of the secretaries in the pool she didn’t really have to, the almost garish Christmas card and cheap bottle of red wine she sent him, all were signs he had ignored until he had spoken to his cousin, who laughed and called him a “slacker.”
“Efficient secretary ke, the babe wants to give you some, can’t you see it? I am sure there is already gossip in the office that you people are doing it.” Ebuka, his cousin said but Ike was not convinced.
Ebuka was a predictable fellow and his discussions followed a particular trajectory. Make money, get women, have sex with them.
“Maybe the girl is just being caring,” Ike tried to rationalise.
“Caring? Is she Mother Theresa? See, ask her out and if she says no, I will give you 10k.”
“But you know she can’t say no. I am her oga,” Ike argued
“Which proves my point,” Ebuka said and picked up his glass of beer. “Ask her out for a drink, nothing serious. If it doesn’t flow, you thank her for a nice evening. If it flows, you take her upstairs and hammer her like a real oga is supposed to.”
“And how is that?” Ike asked but Ebuka had snorted.
“Must I tell you everything? Do you put food in your nose. Come, I will take you to Sunshine Lodge. It’s the best place to take a girl when you are not sure. Even if a babe isn’t interested, you take her there she starts having ideas. I bet you.”
And so it was to Sunshine Lodge, with its partitioned cubicles, that Ike took her that night. They ordered pepper soup and chilled white wine and while they waited, Ike reached out and took her hand, like Ebuka had told him.
“You have soft palms,” he recited even though it was true she really had soft palms.
“Thanks,” she said making no move to pull away. Emboldened Ike sidled closer to her and took her face in his palms and kissed her tasting tom-tom. She kissed him back and pulled him to her until her ample bosom was pressed against his chest.
She was smiling when they both came up for air.
“That was nice,” Ike said a little unnecessarily but she had nodded. “Where did you learn to kiss so good?”
“In school,” she said lowering her gaze.
“Ah, you took a course in kissing?” he said as a joke and she laughed hitting him playfully.
Ike took her hand again and entwined his fingers with hers, blessing Ebuka in his heart, because without his advice he would never have summoned up enough courage to ask her out, the fear of rejection and the shame thereafter was a deterrent.
They ate, making small talk. She lived somewhere in Surulere, between the stadium and Ojuelegba, with an aunt and her five children in a two-room apartment.
“It’s very tight o.” She told him when he asked. “Once I get my housing allowance, I will rent a place and move out.”
“Have you found a place?” he asked and she nodded.
“A BQ in Oniru. The owner is a friend’s brother. He is keeping it for me.”
Ike asked how much it would cost and when she told him it was a quarter of a million, Ike told her to come pick up the cheque on Monday.
“Are you serious?” she asked and he nodded.
“God will bless you,” she said hugging and kissing him.
Ike kissed her back this time, hungrily, passionately, as if he had earned the full rights to. He pulled her close, stroked her breasts, then checking that their door was shuttered, undid the first two buttons. She had on a brown frilly bra and he reached behind and unclasped them. He took one dark nipple in his mouth and her moan was music to his ears.
Her nipple in his mouth, he reached under the table and stroked her thighs but as he inched towards her crotch she held his hand.
Continues next week
By Toni Kan