Lanre stood still staring at Jumoke. He hadn’t set eyes on her since that afternoon at the hotel twelve years ago. The pretty fair-skinned teenager had become a stunningly beautiful woman. He stared at her luscious pink lips and glorious body, she had greatly transformed.
“Hello Jumoke.” He said.
All Jumoke could see was his eyes, those twinkling eyes that drew her in years ago. Lanre was still handsome, not as handsome as she had thought he would be, but handsome still. When he said her name, she gasped and realized that she had been holding her breath the entire time. Suddenly she came to her senses and all the painful memories flooded her mind, she became angry.
“Hello Lanre,” she answered coolly, and observed him just as he had done to her. “Hmm.” She said when she was done.
“You look good.” He said falteringly, feeling the need to break the uncomfortable silence between them. “How have you been?”
As soon as he asked the question, he knew that it was the wrong one. It was the trigger that Jumoke needed, and he saw her eyes grow dark.
“Nice of you to ask me that after twelve years.”
Lanre inhaled deeply. “I never stopped thinking about you.” He said imploringly.
“Really?” she replied sarcastically.
“Yes… how could I forget about you?”
Jumoke laughed in spite of herself. “Get out of my face Lanre.”
Lanre made to take a step back then hesitated. “We need to talk Jumoke…”
“Do you have a hearing problem?” she asked pointing one of her dainty fingers in his face.
“You know we need to talk…” he said aggravated.
“After I show up in your office twelve years later?” she laughed coldly. “I’m no longer sixteen, and if you think that I’m going to stand here and gladden you with my presence you must be seriously deluded. Now, for the last time, get out of my way!”
She was much shorter than he was but Lanre felt intimidated, she was furious. He let her pass but changed his mind.
“Look let’s just talk…” he said pulling her back by her arm.
Jumoke recoiled in astonishment and before she could process the idea, struck him hard on the cheeks with all the anger she had buried for twelve years. But it was as if she had slapped herself, because her action made her even more furious and opened a floodgates of tears.
“Don’t you ever, ever, touch me again!” she said as Lanre staggered back from the force of the assault.
She walked away, wiping her tears carefully and forcing herself to regain her composure before she turned the corner to meet Funmi who was waiting anxiously.
“What happened to your face?” Remi asked in shock when she got into Lanre’s office after being summoned by him.
Lanre could only smile nervously.
“Oh dear, Jumoke did that didn’t she?”
Lanre smiled in response.
Remi’s mouth was agape. “What exactly happened? She just saw you and slapped you?”
“No… it’s… I was just trying to get her to listen to me!” he gesticulated with his hands. “I just held her arms…”
“You did what?” Remi asked angrily.
“I didn’t hurt her or anything like that, I was just trying to get her to listen to me you know? The way you would say, “Wait, don’t go!” I don’t even think it lasted for more than five seconds! But before I knew it, she hit me.”
She said putting her hands on her waist and shaking her head slowly. “Now let me get this straight, you abandoned her twelve years ago, pregnant! And your first inclination, after all these years is to touch her? Good thinking Lanre!” she clapped her hands. “Good thinking!”
“Did you hear what I said?” he asked angrily. “I didn’t even mean to touch her!”
“Still, it was a wrong move. Anyway, what did she say?”
“Nothing.” He looked at his laptop and began tapping the keyboard noncommittally.
“So you don’t know if…”
“Are you deaf? I said she said nothing.”
Remi pursed her lips and decided to let the jab pass. “So what are you going to do now?”
“What can I do?”
Remi sat in the chair opposite him and sighed.
“Korede I can’t do this!” Jumoke cried later that day. They were in Korede’s car, she had blurted her experience at Wilpac to him as soon as she got into it.
He held her in his arms, and wondered what he could say to comfort her. This was the day that they had both secretly dreaded, when their peace could be shattered by Lanre Williams.
“It’s okay Jummy.” He said but she continued to sob pitifully. “Pull yourself together Jummy, you don’t want Hope to wonder why your eyes are swollen do you?”
She gasped. “’What if he wants to take Hope? Korede, what do I do?”
“Calm down, calm down! Okay, so first of all he won’t know about Hope because you’re not going to tell him right?”
She nodded. “Right.”
“Now wipe your eyes. Look at me… look at me Jummy!” he said. When she was facing him, he held her hand. “You are strong! Stronger than I could ever have imagined, and I know you can do this. Focus on protecting Hope and yourself. Stay away from him as much as you can…”
“I didn’t go looking for him! He was standing outside the bathroom door!”
“Okay, I’m sorry I shouldn’t have put it like that but you know what I’m trying to say right? Remain focused, you’ve been strong, don’t get weak after twelve years!”
She nodded and then laughed nervously. “I might have lost my focus…”
“What? What did you do?” he asked worriedly, staring at her worriedly.
“I might have slapped him…”
“What? Why would you do that?!”
She told him what had happened and he sighed.
“Jummy you really, really need to control your temper. You can’t be slapping your boss!”
“He’s not my boss….”
“Doesn’t he own the company you’re consulting for? You can’t forget that…”
“And I can’t forget how he abandoned…” she looked away from him. “I couldn’t stand him touching me after… everything. I was… I was furious! I just wanted to beat him…”
“I can understand that…”
“No Korede, you can’t.” she faced him. “Your life didn’t stop. You didn’t have to live through the shame of what I went through, you didn’t have to be saddled with a child at such a young age. Your mother didn’t hate you…”
Korede sighed again, he had to admit that he couldn’t exactly understand what it meant to be in her shoes. “I hear you Jummy, but you know you have to be careful.”
“I know.” she exhaled and stared through the windshield as did Korede.
“Tell me you made it count though…”
“Oh I did! He couldn’t stand straight.”
“Good.” He replied, raising his hand for a high five. She slapped it.
“You have to tell Hope about him!” Gloria said to Jumoke later that night.
“No. It’s not time…”
“When will it ever be time Jummy? You’ve seen her father after… God knows how long! Don’t you think it’s a matter of time before he find out about her?”
“No.” Jumoke said again, even as she realized that her friend was right. “I think I may have made a mistake talking to you about this.” Jumoke said, grabbing her phone from the glass stool by her knee and rising.
“Jumoke don’t be like this! Jumoke? Okay, okay! Let’s change the subject! I won’t talk about him anymore.”
Jumoke sat down reluctantly, she was too shaken by the cogency of her friend’s advice to pretend as if it didn’t matter.
Gbemi was in the sitting room with Toyin who was twirling her hair around her finger and slowly nodding off.
“Why don’t you go to bed?” Gbemi said to her.
“I don’t want to believe that I can’t watch a full length movie without sleeping off!”
Gbemi laughed. “You’ve had a long day at work!”
“And so have you!”
“You better go to sleep and stop punishing yourself!”
Lanre came into the siting room and was about to sit down when Toyin started to snore gently.
“Madam,” he tapped her knee gently. “Go to bed.”
“Not without you…” she replied sleepily.
Lanre sighed, he wasn’t in the mood for this. “Okay. Let’s go.”
In the room, Toyin held on to him and refused to let go. “Stay with me…”
“Why, are you a baby?”
“Yes, I’m your baby…” she replied groggily.
“No you’re not. I know my…”
The sleep cleared from her eyes. “What was that?” she asked bewildered.
“Nothing. Look just go to bed okay, I had a really long day and it looks like you did too.”
“No, no, no you were about to say something just now.”
“This is why I didn’t want to come with you to the room. I’m too tired to argue with you…”
“We’re not arguing Lanre. You’re about to tell me what you mean by knowing who your baby is!”
“Yes you did. Don’t you even try to make me doubt myself! I was very much awake and I heard you. Explain yourself please.” She demanded, placing her hands on her waist.
“TY…” Lanre began, wondering how he would explain away his slip-up.
“Are you cheating on me Lanre?” She asked worriedly.
“What? No! Not at all….”
“Don’t lie to me Lanre…”
“So why would you say that you know your baby?”
“I simply meant that I will know my own child… Look, I had a bad day at work and I’m irritable. Please don’t think I’m cheating on you. I was just talking.”
Toyin looked at him desperate to believe him. “Don’t cheat on me Lanre. I can’t stand being dumped by you.”
“I’m not dumping you, we shouldn’t ever even talk about that.” He said, holding her by the waist and looking earnestly into her eyes.
“What are you saying?!” She asked excitedly.
Lanre suddenly became tense. “No Toyin don’t put words in my mouth. I’m just saying that I have no plans to hurt you like that.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes Toyin,” he replied wearily. “Now can you go to bed, I have to talk business with my sisters.”
“Stay with me until I fall asleep.” She said, taking in his fragrance.
“Okay.” He replied grudgingly.
Lanre fell asleep shortly after and dreamt of a stunning fair complexioned lady, staring hardly at him.
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