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“You have a visitor waiting for you in the conference room.” Bode’s secretary said standing at the door to his office.
“Me?” Jumoke replied surprised.
“Yes.” The secretary said.
“Who is it?”
“He said his name is Femi Tijani.”
“Femi Tijani?” She wondered, the name didn’t ring a bell. “All right, I’ll be there soon. Thanks.”
“Your boyfriend is waiting for you?” Bode asked mischievously.
“Boyfriend? Please!” Jumoke replied, studying the slides that they had been looking at.
“You don’t need to get married or anything, but have a boyfriend Jumoke! Why’re you so uptight?”
Jumoke glanced up at him. “Bode, why’re we talking about this?”
“Because I care about you!” Jumoke rolled her eyes. “What happens to you on cold and lonely nights…?”
“I drink a cup of hot delicious cocoa and cover myself up in thick blankets!”
“You can’t tell me that you don’t sometimes feel like holding someone!”
“I hold my pillow…”
“What about sex?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but I think it’s overrated.”
“C’mon! You have this beautiful body and you’re suffering this much! Don’t you feel…?”
“I don’t allow my feelings to overcome my head. I talk myself out of mushy feelings and focus on my daughter and my work. Now this conversation is over. If you really care about me, give me raise.”
Bode sighed. “Okay… but if you feel you need a one-time… you know, comfort…? I’m always willing and able to be of assistance.” He said with mock seriousness.
“You do know that this is sexual harassment right?” She said in mock reprimand, and gathered her things.
“Oh c’mon, you know I love you.”
“Give me a raise then! You’re sitting there talking about feelings when I can take a much needed vacation…” She said and walked away.
“I love you Jummy!” Bode said, watching the sway of her hips.
Jumoke swung the door to the conference room open and saw Lanre pacing the floor.
“What is this? What are you doing here?”
“We need to talk. I couldn’t get your number and you’re not responding to my emails.”
“So you think you can just wish for us to talk and it will happen…?”
“You left me no choice!”
“There’s nothing to talk about!”
“Will you please come in and shut the door?”
“No, and please do not come here looking for me again.”
“Jumoke please. If you walk away I’ll keep coming. I just need to ask you something, and I’ll leave.”
Jumoke debated this for a while, came in and shut the door. Might as well get this over and done with, she thought.
“You have two minutes…”
“C’mon it’s the end of working hours…”
“One minute and about fifty seconds left…”
“Okay, will you at least sit?”
“One minute, forty-five seconds…”
“Seriously? All right, I want to… I want to know what happened with…”
“What happened with what?” She asked impatiently.
“What happened with the pregnancy.”
Jumoke stared at him with intense hatred. “You actually have the nerve to ask me that.”
Lanre looked away from her, feeling ashamed.
“Did you ever even own up to it? How can you stand there and ask me about a pregnancy that you never even acknowledged?”
“I was young…” he tried to explain.
“And so was I!”
Lanre sighed. “I didn’t come here to fight with you Jumoke.”
“It’s too late for that, you drew the battle lines twelve years ago!”
“I’m sorry, I really am.” He said imploringly, moving closer to her.
“I’m going to say this once. There’s no pregnancy to talk about, it is gone.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Answer my question please! Did you abort it?” He asked incredulously.
She could feel tears stinging her eyes.
“You said it yourself.” She replied and left the room.
Jumoke had pulled up in front of the supermarket and leaned her head against the headrest.
How long am I going to put up with this? She wondered.
In spite of her family’s counsel, she saw no way in which she could hide Hope from Lanre. He would eventually find out and probably want to see her but she had no intention of giving him the joy of seeing a child that he had abandoned.
She closed her eyes and wished she could escape the mounting pressure she felt when she heard a knock on the window.
“Mum!” Hope called excitedly, beside her stood Derrick who waved at her.
She rolled down the glass and prepared herself for the unexpected escort.
“Look who I found mum!”
“Good evening. Believe me I’m not stalking you, she saw me first.” Derick explained, misreading the look on Jumoke’s face.
She laughed. “Good evening.”
“It’s a pleasure to see you again,” he said.
“Mum, can we buy plantains? That woman has really big ones.”
“Okay.” Jumoke replied tiredly, and came out of her car.
“Mum, guess what? I forgot to buy the ice cream. I’m so forgetful! So… I’m going to buy it… and, I’ll be back real soon.”
Jumoke watched her daughter walk away, realizing what she had just done. She hadn’t really been interested in the plantains, she’d only wanted her to get down from the car and leave her with Derick.
“Looks like Hope didn’t trick you alone.”
“What do you mean?”
“She told me that it looked like you had a flat tire.”
“Unbelievable!” She shook her head. “I’m sorry about that.”
“It’s okay.” He shrugged, smiling at her.
“Why’re you smiling?”
“Nothing, I’m just amused.”
They stared at each other and Jumoke looked away.
“I’d like to take you out to dinner sometime. What do you say?”
You can’t tell me that you don’t sometimes feel like holding someone!
Bode was right, the truth was that Jumoke did feel like this, she had simply learnt to ignore it. However, it was becoming more difficult to do this with the memories of the past overwhelming her and the pressure of working close with the Williams. Jumoke realized with a sinking feeling that she needed a comfort that her brother, friend and daughter couldn’t provide her with. But she was afraid to trust any man, what would happen if she got disappointed again?
“Jumoke?” Derick called, snapping her out of her reverie.
“What do you say? You can choose the place if you want.”
Hope returned just then and looked from one adult to the other. “Did I come at the wrong time?”
Derick looked at Jumoke and decided not to put her on the spot. “No, you didn’t.”
“Yes.” Jumoke said looking back at him.
“No Hope, you didn’t come at the wrong time.” Derick maintained.
Hope looked at the both of them in confusion, wondering what was going on.
“Yes!” Jumoke said again, nodding emphatically.
Derick stared at her for a moment unbelievingly. “Wait, are you saying yes to…?”
Jumoke rolled her eyes, any moment now and the man would do cartwheels.
“It won’t be at your house…”
“Fine! We can go wherever you want!”
“Mum did you just agree to date him?”
“We’re going on a date.”
“Yes!” Hope shrieked, slapping Derick a high five.
“Err… can I have your number…?”
“I’ll type it in!” Hope said, afraid that her mother might change her mind.
“So I’ll call you…” Derick said with a huge grin.
“Okay.” Jumoke replied, hoping that she had made the right decision.