A date had been fixed for Cynthia and Oruye’s traditional marriage. Cynthia was very worried about her friend Ibitoru who was still missing. Why would someone abduct the only daughter of a prominent citizen without demanding for a ransom? She was sure that Ib’s father had stepped on so many toes in his climb up the political ladder but could this be the work of his political opponent?
He had a son now, Cynthia thought, so Ib was no longer an only child as she’d thought she was. The boy, Damiete Davids, son of one of his mistresses, was pres£ntly out of the country.
Ib wouldn’t like the idea of someone else taking her place as the Davids’ heir. Not that the multimillions were still there! The news of the take-over had surprised Cynthia. She had a feeling that IB had been kept in the dark about the takeover and so she had that to deal with when she returned.
Also her darling Steve was pres£ntly in Nigeria and was seeing another woman as though Ibitoru’s disappearance did not mean anything to him.
Well her friend Ibitoru was selfish enough to do the same if the tables were turned. Nothing short of a national security event would have stopped IB from flirting ridiculously with the guys. She flirted dangerously with guys and it was a miracle that she was still a vir-gininspite of everything.
They had been good friends from their school days, right from Staff School Abuloma. Ibitoru’s major problem was the fact that she knew she was beautiful and took complete advantage of it. She was breathtakingly beautiful and irresistible. She was also brilliant. But her beauty was the downfall of guys and had Cynthia worried especially now she was in the clutches of a man who could be anything ranging from rapist to murderer. Only God knew what her dear friend was going through.
Cynthia felt guilty planning her wedding when her good friend was missing but there wasn’t much she could do about it. There was still no information about Ibitoru and her kidnapper. No information whatsoever. The police was still involved in the matter but they always met a dead end.
It was so easy to get lost in Nigeria, even when you are not a victim of ritualists. No proper surveillance. No proper tracking devices. Kidnaps were so easy unless the kidnapper made a very stupid mistake.
‘Ibitoru, I hope you’re all right wherever you are!’
And Ib was all right although she was fighting an internal battle. As she stood there in the kitchen with Toni stuffing the pastry for the meat pie he was teaching her to prepare, she thought about her attraction she felt for Toni. She had never been so attracted to a member of the opposite se-x like she was to Toni. And he only met two of her requirements!
He was good looking with a physique to die for and so far he had kept his zip up.
She had the feeling that he could stand up to her father. But that was it. He wasn’t wealthy. He poor by her standards. He didn’t love her, let alone completely, totally and unconditionally. He didn’t treat her like a princess. He wasn’t quick to defend her. He wasn’t attentive to her needs. He didn’t have impeccable manners, wwll except in rare occasion when he wasn’t too busy scowling at her and treating her like his servant.
He was educated but she doubted if he had a Masters. He was not blind to her faults. She was not a priority, let alone a number one priority to him. He had a will of his own distinct from hers. And his family? She hadn’t met them.
There hadn’t been a visitor in his home since she was there. Not even one. And she asked him about this.
‘I don’t entertain guests here!’ He told her, taking a sip of his Guinness small stout and then dropping it on the cupboard to stuff chopped liver and beef, carrots, green pepper and other stuff in the flat round pastry. He folded it over and pressed the edges with a fork. Satisfied with this, he made three tiny pierces on the body with the tip of the fork, before handing it over to her.
‘Where do you entertain them? At a beer parlour?’
‘Elsewhere,’ was his evasive reply.
‘By elsewhere, you mean where exactly?’ She persisted
‘You are very curious, aren’t you? By elsewhere I mean exactly that.’
She smiled. ‘You don’t want them running into me and finding out that you are nothing but a kidnapper.’
‘Are you tired of my company?’
‘If I say yes will you let me out of this bloody hole?’
He arched an eyebrow.
‘You may be good looking but not enough for me to want to spend more time with you as my only company. It isn’t healthy. I might be tempted to poison us both.’
Toni laughed at this and shook his head. He tweaked her nose like she was a child, his simple and not-exactly-intimate touch affecting her in many ways. ‘You are stuck with me, darling.’
‘Don’t remind me. Tell me, do you really have a family?’
‘No. I am one of the fallen angels,’ he replied.
‘Be serious.’ IB snapped.
‘Obviously someone gave birth to me.’
‘And she’s caucasian.’
‘And you inherited your blue eyes from her?’
‘Obviously. It runs in my maternal family.’
‘Her genes must be very strong. Are you an only child or do you have siblings?’
‘I have siblings. And no, I won’t tell you their names.’
‘No problem. You are fortunate to have siblings. You should never take that for granted.’
‘But you prefer being an only child.’ He observed as he placed ta flat steel over the grill rack, neatly arranged the pastries on it and then put it over the pot he had filled half way with sand over.the stove.
He had informed her that the fire would heat the sand and make it hot enough to heat the pastries in place of the grill section of an oven. And no, the meatpie wouldn’t taste like sand.
‘Being an only child has its advantages. At least you don’t have to fight for attention. But it can be lonely. You sit at home when not in the mood to go anywhere and wish you had a sibling to bug you or gist with. You are lucky to have siblings.’
Toni wondered if this was the right time to tell her about Damiete and figured that it wasn’t his place to tell her. Let her father deal with that.
‘Are you saying that if your mother gave birth to another child you wouldn’t mind?’
She pretended to give it a thought.
‘Not unless it is a boy. I wouldn’t want to be disinherited,’ she added with a laugh. ‘A little sister, I wouldn’t mind. The age gap would mean that we can’t gossip together but she would pose no threat. Our society treats the female child like she does not exist for anything other than being part of a procreation process and ultimately taking care of children. Parents receive the girls’ dowries and its good riddance. It’s so terrible that sometimes, women who are victims of domestic abuse are not permitted to return to their parents’ home. I worked [email protected] to get to where I am, to be top of my [email protected] I didn’t earn a place in daddy’s company simply because I was his daughter, I worked [email protected] for it. I don’t mind having a brother but losing my place is something I don’t want to deal with.’
‘In order words, you would welcome siblings just as long as they do not pose a threat to your inheritance.’
‘I know I must come off as being selfish beyond belief,’ she started, loading the sink with the cutting board, rolling pin, bowls and plate so she could wash them later, ‘but you cannot begin to understand what it is like to be a female in a society like ours. I guess i don’t have to worry about that as mum wouldn’t be contemplating having another child at her age.’
Toni said nothing.
‘What do you do besides kidnapping innocent ladies and forcing them to cook and clean up after you?’ she suddenly asked him, changing the topic.
‘This and that,’ was his response.
‘Don’t tell me you run a drug cartel.’
‘Do you really think that a drug lord would live in a place like this?’ he arched an eybrow.
‘I was just joking. So seriously, what do you do for a living? Where do you go to every morning?’
‘Somewhere,’ he responded leaving the kitchen.
She followed him out of the kitchen and into the sitting room. There was no light but the windows were opened to let fresh air into the room.
‘You are not going to tell me, are you?’
‘I know you must have a job. That is how you must be able to afford three meals a day..
She thru-st her f!ng£rs into the pocket of the jean he had let her borrow. It was big on her and he stitched it at the waist so it wouldn’t fall to her knees. He didn’t trust her with a belt. He had also given her a shirt. It had rained heavily earlier and so the weather was quite cool. The rain had reduced to a trickle.
‘Will you tell me if i promise to keep it a secret?’
‘You are persistent, aren’t you?’
‘Come on Toni. I can keep a secret even more than a priest.’
‘You won’t tell daddy?’
He raised an eyebrow.
‘I don’t tell daddy everything.’
‘I don’t,’ she insisted, ‘besides, what’s so secretive about your job? It’s not like I asked you the name and address?’
‘All right. Come closer and I will tell you.’
Common s£nse told her to remain where she was but she found herself moving forward, drawn by an invisible force. He leaned into her, his breath warm against her ear as he whispered. ‘I play professional draught.’
She hit his arm. ‘You are not serious.’
‘All right, I move around campuses and talk girls into seeing my rich customers. And 20% of the money from both sides comes to me.’
She tilted her head to look at him. ‘You’re not serious.’
‘You don’t believe I do that?’
‘No, I don’t.’
‘Such faith in a man you know nothing about.’
‘You just don’t strike me as a man who would waste his precious time doing such dirty work for big men who have no respect for themselves.’
He didn’t bother telling her that her father was one of those ‘big men with no respect for themselves’ who paid others to go into campuses and ‘arrange’ young girls for him. Damiete’s mother had been a first year student when she came in contact with Chief Davids. He liked his girls young and below 21. The age bracket clearly had improved after the act that he had been able to get away with because of the immunity he had enjoyed as a Governor.
‘And what kind of man do I strike you as?’ he asked Ib, curious.
‘A man who wouldn’t do another man’s dirty business even for money.’
‘Because I live in a house like this?’
‘Partly. There is something off about you.’
‘You don’t say.’
‘I mean, why abduct a young woman and keep her in your home for several weeks without asking for a ransom money? It isn’t normal. And then you spend more time trying to domesticate me because you feel I am ‘useless’.
‘You’ve improved greatly.’
‘That’s what I am talking about. Who does that? Whether or not I know my way around the kitchen or clean up after myself shouldn’t be your problem. You should be more interested in the money. And yet you didn’t take the offer I made. You left my purse complete with the money inside it when you could easily have justified using it to ‘feed me’. I know you have a problem with my father, although I have no idea what he could have done to warrant abducting me. Also you look too polished for a man with little means.’
‘And what do people with little means look like?’
‘Certainly not like you. Your clothes may not be designer clothes but they also do not reek of ‘okrika’ clothes.’
He choked on a laugh.
She checked on the meatpie taking out the first batch and replacing them. She joined him in the living room. He frowned when she sat next to him on the sofa.
‘There are other chairs in here.’
‘This has a better view of the television,’ she said.
His scowl deepened.
‘Does my being close to you tickle you in private places?’
He didn’t bother answering her.
‘If my clos£ness makes it impossible for you to breathe, feel free to move to another seat.’
‘Besides, I can’t be blamed for my effect on you and men in general.’
‘You have an over inflated ego, my dear,’ he told her.
‘Can you in all sincerity say that you are not attracted to me?’ she asked him, a knowing smile on her face. ‘I see the way you look at my bust and backside when you think I am not watching.’
She threw back her head and laughed, batting her long dark lashes. She was beautiful, he had to give her that. He was probably the only man besides her father who had seen her without her full make-up on since she became an adult. Her make-bag was in her car and so she had no access even to a l!p gloss but Ibitoru Elizabeth Davids was one beautiful woman!
‘You’re not the first man to be attracted to me and you won’t be the last, so don’t beat yourself over it.’ she told him.
‘Go try your charms on another man. This man is not interested in your wares or you would have been in my bed from day one. I am not one of your male dolls.’
She had the guts to look affronted.
‘I don’t see men as dolls.’
‘Of course, that’s why you discard them at will after seducing the hell out of them.’ he countered. ‘You flirt with men and when they try to be intimate with you, you act like they are pesky insects you’d like to squash with a bat.’
She scowled at him, hating the fact that he felt that way about her. What he’d said was the truth but she didn’t like hearing it from him. She must really have changed. The old IB wouldn’t find anything attractive about a handsome man with no money.
‘Insult me if you want, but that won’t change the fact that you are dying to get me in your bed.’
‘Quit bothering me, IB.’ he warned her.
In reaction, she moved closer to him.