THE LAST SMILE
Luciana was startled at the pet name “sugar”. Ironically, the pet name which she had once thought was absolutely ridiculous sounded so perfect, coming from his voice. He had this foreign voice, which still sounded completely masculine; more masculine than the voices of the other men she had come across. That single fact made her angry. “I am engaged sir” she replied, staring levelly at him.
Raymond was stunned and offended by the reply. Although, he hadn’t been expecting that reply, he was saddened by the realization of her status. He was although not surprised. Such a dazzling woman cannot remain single, not even when she is fifty.
“I did not ask if you were engaged, I simply asked you how your night was. The fact that I called you ‘sugar’ should not be misjudged; I always have a pet name for everyone” he looked insulted.
“I am sorry” she replied, playing at looking at her fingers.
The day had just turned sour, Raymond thought as he sought a way to bring them back on track. He cleared his throat. “I am not sure you had a good night, because if you did, you would not be up this early. You have already made toast bread and coffee; in fact, the scent of the coffee was what woke me up. Was the bed comfortable enough for you?” he looked worried, like a charming host.
“The bed was perfect, thanks. I am just used to waking up very early. I don’t sleep much” she said, smiling.
“Ok… But why did you prepare the coffee? I thought it was my treat, being my specialty”
Luciana laughed. “Look at you… I am sure your coffee is as worse as your attempt to prepare the poundo yam yesterday”
“When you taste my coffee, you would know that you still have a lot to learn”.
“Nah… I disagree. We need to embark on a coffee competition”
“And who would be the judge?” she raised her eye brows.
“Who else? He raised his shoulders.
“Not you. We need a third party”.
“Right. But for now, I can’t wait to taste that coffee”.
She laughed out. “With or without sugar?” she asked.
He smiled widely. “Yes! You see? I picked the perfect pet name for you”. Luciana glared at him but that only made Raymond’s smile grow wider. “Sugar” he called. “I would definitely have my coffee with sugar”.
Lucy turned away from Raymond quickly, in order to hide the smile that crept to her face. ‘Raymond is a flirt’, she thought.
Fred sat in a bar with countless number of empty bottles on the table before him. He had finished all the bottles of alcoholic wine at home and decided to drink more at the bar near his house. The money he had in his account was fast fading and he feared he would run out of cash within the next few days.
“Another bottle” he yelled and the eager barman hurriedly supplied another bottle of big stout. The fat barman was happy. It the day starts like this, it is sure that market would boom.
Fred, despite the amount of beer in his system, he still had his senses working. Forget his sorrows seemed not to be working. The Chris who would have been in the best position to help him would not do so because of the way he had treated him. He had thrown him out like a stranger. He wondered if his friend would forgive him for what he did and help him get a solution.
Deolu sat in the DPO’s office, feeling very impatient. He was there last night but did not get any reasonable response from the hooligans he saw at the station. He had left in frustration to try again the following day. He had been waiting in the office for more than ten minutes and the so called DPO was nowhere to be found.
This is what he hated about Nigerian police; they are too sluggish. When you look for them, you don’t see then; when they finally turn up, you discover they are all selfish thieves. ‘What a miserable country’ he thought. All the same, he still had to wait because taking the law into his hands would land him behind bars. He looked at the police officer who stood like a statue and shook his head.
The door opened and the DPO walked in with a bright smile which annoyed Deolu. “Oh… I am soo sorry for keeping you waiting Mr. Adeolu; I had to attend to some urgent matters”.
“The matter that brought me here is definitely more important and urgent” Deolu replied angrily.
The DPO would have flared up if he didn’t know the status of the person before him. “I am sorry sir. Please, how may I be of service?”
Deolu relaxed. “A murderer and kidnapper is on the loose, here in Abuja”
“Yes. I am sure he is responsible for the disappearance of my fiancée, but we have not seen him, or the girl for that matter. This mishap occurred in Lagos but the criminal disappeared along with the girl. After due and thorough investigations, we discovered that he is here in Abuja”
The DPO looked unconvinced. “How sure are you? They probably ran off together; this happens all the time”
“No” he stamped his foot. “My Luciana would NEVER run off with a man, especially not a murderer. He was her friend, the only male friend she had apart from me. He asked her out but she refused. She does not get involved with guys, in fact, she disappeared a day after she said ‘Yes’ to me. That guy, that Fred, was the last person to see her. Her neighbor is a witness”.
“Hmmmm… Do you have their pictures?”
“Yes. Definitely.” He said, pulling out two pictures from his wallet.
Immediately the pictures got to the hand of the DPO, his facial expression changed from curiosity to shock. Deolu noticed this.
“Is there any problem? Do you know any of them?”
“Uhn? Oh… erm… no” he cleared his throat. “Actually, I was just wondering why such a thing would befall such a pretty damsel”. He smiled tightly.
Deolu nodded, not exactly pleased that the DPO was checking out his babe, his woman. “I hope you would swing to action immediately”
“Yeah yeah. Of course. We are here to serve you. The police are your friends in times of need”.
“Noted”. Deolu said and stood up. He stopped at the door and turned back. “By the way, please what is your name?”
“Oh… I? I am Chris; Chris Chuks”.
THE LAST SMILE
Evening came without notice. Raymond was fun to be with and they did not even know when evening came. Though Raymond had tried all day not to talk about the obvious problem at hand, Lucy still found herself thinking about her family. She could not leave them to wander in total darkness. She wondered if Fred was still moving freely. That guy should be locked in an isolated room without remembrance.
She sat on the chair, looking at the TV but her mind was not there. Raymond who was on another chair was busy looking at her, he noticed her distant state but kept mute. He felt her pain but still could not understand what could possibly happen if she went to her people. The murderer would want to eliminate her since she could implicate him but Luciana was practically not worried about herself but her people. His resolve to take matters into his hands had fallen when he could not break his promise. He wondered why he always found it extremely hard.
Luciana suddenly jerked. Ray turned towards the television immediately and understood what was happening with fright. The broadcast he had watched the previous day was being repeated. Her picture was displayed on the screen with her name written beneath it. The bold ‘MISSING’ letters were just above the picture. A very unbrlievable amount was promised as a reward for anyone who has any information. Luciana jumped up and ran into the room before any tear could drop from her eyes.
“Lucia… Lucia…” Ray called, chasing after her. He relaxed a bit before opening the door of the room. He met her sitting on the bed, but she was not crying. She was struggling with tears. She was trying to be brave. His heart could not bear it. He did not know the one he would have preferred, her brave front or a crying beauty.
He sat beside her, not knowing whether or not to touch her. He had rarely touched her ever since they left the hospital and he was actually scared of what would happen or how she would react if he tried to hold her.
“It’s OK sugar. It is perfectly OK to cry” he whispered. One tear drop slid down her cheeks and that seemed to send the others an invitation. She broke down in tears and Raymond became totally confused. Women in tears always sent a shiver down his spine because he always would not know what to do. He pulled her into his arms as he tried consoling her. His heartbeat raced as she placed her head on his chest. He bent his head and kissed her forehead and she cried. He felt her pain and her tears brought back painful memories that he did not even want to open. She could not stop her tears and he just held on to her, whispering words of solace. When she would not stop crying, Raymond started wondering what the cause of her tears really was. He had the awkward feeling that she was crying for something much more than the pain her family was going through. What did that murderer say to her? He wondered.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked quietly, when her tears died down. She relunctantly left his arms when all she wanted was to be held by his strong arms. Ray wished she did not leave his arms. He wanted to hold her in his arms, protect her, comfort her and… he shook his head. He had to get that weird thought out of his mind for his own good.
Luciana marched to the window. “I need to make a phone call. I need to call someone”.
Ray was confused. “What are you talking about?”
“I need to tell someone that I am alive. I would call my best friend, Teju. She is the only one that would be discrete enough; she is a lawyer”.
“Are you sure about this?”
Raymond took out his phone while Lucy called the phone number from memory. After the phone rang for some time, it was picked and Raymond put the phone on speaker.
“Hello” Teju said from the other end.
“Hello, please am I speaking with Miss Teju” Ray asked, although he already got the confirmation in Lucy’s smile, the brightest smile he had seen ever since he knew her. She was battling with the urge to snatch the phone from his hands.
“That depends on who is calling” she replied. Truly a lawyer, Raymond thought.
“Well, it take that as a ‘Yes’. Someone here wants to talk to you”. Without wasting much time he passed the phone to Lucy who grabbed it eagerly.
“Hello T.J.” she said impatiently with smiles all over her face.
“JESUS” Teju screamed.
bewaji moved her nude body close to her husband. She was feeling better than she had been in days. Ken smiled and opened his eyes. He felt her braided hair withnhis fingers as he smile down at her. Bewaji was smiling too and that made him really glad.
“It is good to see your smiling face again honey” ken said with a smile.
“All thanks to you” she poked him. “You know, I have a good feeling that my baby is alive”.
Ken nodded. “My princess can’t be dead; no. we just have to calm down and use our heads collectively.”
“I am not sure I would be able to do that” she became sober again.
“That is why I am here to help you with that. I would find her or die trying” he bent and kissed her.
Bewaji smiled faintly. “you make me feel like a teenager again”
Ken looked at her body slowly. “You look like one” he pulled her close and kissed her.
Teju was standing at the middle of her office, looking awkwardly with her left hand in the air and the other holding her phone against her ear. If she hadn’t trained herself well on shock reception, the phone would have slipped off her fingers. Her heart raced fast as she assumed that she was not hearing properly. Only one person called her T.J and she would identify that voice anywhere.
“Lu… Lucy? Lucy? Is that you?” her voice was shaky, along with her fingers.
“Yes T.J, I am the one” Lucy’s voice sounded tear-filled. “I am alive” she yelled.
“I can’t believe this! Am I dreaming?” Teju asked, bewildered.
Lucy laughed. “Maybe you are; don’t wake up”
“Not even in a thousand years” teju replied, knowing that she would never want to wake up until the dream becomes a reality. Luciana laughed again at the other end.
“What happened Lucy? Why did you vanish into thin air like that? You almost killed everyone here. Mum and dad have almost gone crazy in their search. I have checked virtually all the hospitals in Lagos; Deolu is almost going crazy, along with all your friends and colleagues at work. what happened and where the hell are you?”
There was silence at the other end and Teju knew that she must have confused Lucy with all the stories she laid down. “It is a long story. Please promise me you would not breathe this to any soul.”
“What do you mean by that? Everyone is searching endlessly for you. I need to tell them that you contacted me and you need to come home”.
“No T.J. I would put everyone and myself in danger if I come now. I was stabbed by Fred and he dumped me somewhere, thinking I was dead. The person I am with is the good Samaritan that helped me. For some reasons, I think it is best if I stay away. Let him assume me dead; it is better. Please T.J help me ensure he is arrested. I would not be able to rest until he is behind bars”
Teju was silent for a while. “It would be hard keeping this everyone, but as for that filthy maggot, he is as good as dead. We already suspected that b******. Your mum dreamt about him”, she laughed, “your neighbor also said he was at your place late at night. We are searching for him. We feel he is in Abuja and Deolu is there to fish him out”.
“Really?” Lucy screamed.
“Yes babe. We are holding our end but I still need to know what happened that day”
“Maybe later. Please help me calm everyone, especially mum and dad, without disclosing my whereabouts”
“Will try; at least I don’t know where you are, so I would not be lying”.
“Lawyer…” Lucy laughed slightly at the other end.
Raymond had been beaming with smiles all through the conversation. He watched with interest as Lucy conversed with her friend, seeing the bond that was between them. He loved the light he saw in her eyes but also saw the pain when she heard all they were going through because of her.
When the call ended, Lucy was so happy that she just jumped into Raymond’s arms. She was so estatic. The fact that Fred was on the run made her joy even bigger. She held on to Ray as she laughed and spoke endlessly about how happy she was. Ray shared her joy and was similarly happy for her. Her laughter died down and she had to leave Ray’s arms. She left slowly, feeling reluctant. Silence enveloped them and the tension grew. Ray stepped closer without thinking and brushed the strands of stray hair that fell across her face. Words did not come as he gazed into her eyes.
“I erm…” Lucy jumped out of his arms. She tried looking for something to say. Raymond’s phone rang and saved her from the trouble. She exhaled as Raymond swallowed and picked his call.
WATCH OUT FOR EPISODE 18