“Can I have a word, Teddy?”
Terdoo released a relieving sigh. The silence that had hung over her, accompanied by Liam’s severe stare had been too much to bear. To worsen things, Jimi was still lying on her bed, his head buried in a pillow. She was left alone to face the awkwardness.
She followed Liam out, securing her wrapper firmly over her chest.
“I’ll be leaving for Abuja in an hour or so,” Liam said.
She shut the door and leaned her back on it. “Okay.”
“I’d really love it if you came along and saw the work I’ve done with the firm. It’s all completed and we have staff and even clients. We just need a boss.”
“Liam, I don’t know anything about running any business.”
“But I do. And we can work together. I’ll teach you.”
“I dunno… I just can’t leave everything behind and follow you…”
“Is it because of him?”
“Jimi? No. There’s nothing between us. We didn’t do anything.”
“Not that I care. Look, I’m not asking you to leave your life yet. Just come with me today and see the office and tomorrow, I’ll put you and Jeffery on a flight back to Lagos.”
Terdoo shook her head. “I’m sorry. Give me time to think about all this. A week, maybe. And I’ll get back to you.”
Liam nodded. “I understand. I just wanted Jeff to get to know my place and…”
“don’t try to make me feel bad, Liam.”
He smiled but he was crestfallen.
“It’s cool. Let me get ready then.”
He turned towards the staircase and she went back to her bedroom. When she stepped in she bumped into Jimi. She made a step backwards but he caught and squeezed her in a rapacious hug.
“I’m beginning to get used to you, Terdoo. What will we do about it?”
Terdoo pushed him off gently, leaving a little gap between them.
“Why did you do it?” she asked.
She took off his sunglasses and his eyes narrowed to a squint, avoiding her unswerving stare.
“Why did you answer my door?”
“Because I was half-hoping it was Liam.”
“Why? Now he thinks we’re having sex.”
“Good.” Jimi’s eyes held their squint as he drew her closer. “That was what I wanted.”
Terdoo pushed away from him completely, taking his hands off her body. “What did you just say?”
“I don’t like him around you, Terdoo. He’s not good for you. Trust me.”
She crossed her arms. “Explain.”
“Sesan already told me what he did to you in the past. There’s every possibility that he’ll repeat it if you let him. People like that who intentionally hurt other people don’t change.”
“So that’s why you think I shouldn’t be around him?”
“He doesn’t deserve you, Terdoo. You should… You should be with me instead.”
“Because we understand each other. Our stories are similar…”
“Is that all?” Terdoo maintained her pose. Her arms stood as a barrier between them.
“And I meant what I said earlier about you being an amazing person. You’ve always been around for me and have seen me at my worse and yet you stayed. I’d be crazy to want to be around anyone else.”
“How about Nandir?”
“She’s my ex.” Jimi laid his hands on Terdoo’s waist. “Please, don’t say no.”
Terdoo moved away from him and sat before the dresser. He waited for an eternity for her to say something; when she eventually spoke, it was with difficulty.
“I can’t, Jimi. I don’t want to be your rebound girlfriend.”
“It is not about that, Terdoo.” He faced her. “You complete me. You’ve always been the one in my life. Everything I thought Marie was to me, it was you. The only thing is that we never slept in the same bed. But now we have…” His voice faded and came to a whisper. “Last night, as platonic as it was…it was beautiful. I want many more nights like that.”
“Why are you being difficult?” He strode to her. “You feel the chemistry…”
“That is all there is! Nothing more, Jimi! The moment it turns to sex everything you’re feeling now fades away! I don’t want that! I want more!”
“More like what?! Love?!”
“Yes! Or at least, something close to it!”
“That shit is not real, Terdoo! Please, use your head! You love, you get screwed! There is no happily ever after! You should know that by now! I don’t want a woman to love me! I just need someone who can respect me, understand my needs and keep a logical head on her shoulders! That’s a real woman! The type that I’ll wife right away!”
Terdoo’s face slowly turned icy. “That’s what you want? A woman who’ll sleep with you whenever you ask? Take care of you and your special needs? Take care of your daughter? Bend over backwards to accommodate you?”
“You’re misquoting me. And that’s what I’m talking about. You women are never logical in your thinking. I say one thing; you hear another.”
“Okay. How about this for logical thinking? We pretend last night didn’t happen. We act like there’s no chemistry between us. We tell ourselves that this isn’t going to work. We go our separate ways and forget we ever met each other.”
Jimi’s lips parted in a wounded smile that turned into frown. “Okay then. Fine.”
He picked his glasses and left the room, almost running into Sesan who was coming in with Kiki.
“Hi.” Terdoo smiled at Sesan as she took Kiki from him. When he was gone, she bathed and fed her, wrestling with her emotions. It was agonizing to know that she wasn’t just going away from Jimi but from Kiki as well. The reality of the consequence of her decision jabbed her heart in many places.
After a hot shower, she went downstairs to have one final word with Liam but she didn’t find him. As she walked into the kitchen to make breakfast, Jeffery came running to her, Liam’s phone in his hand.
“Mommy, daddy’s phone is pinging!”
“But I told you to stop taking people’s phones without their permission. Where’s he?”
“I dunno. Take nau! Dah red light is shining.”
Terdoo stretched out her hand but before Jeffery handed the phone to her, the blinking LED light disappeared, indicating he had opened the incoming message. Evidence of this was a lit up screen displaying an SMS. Terdoo eyed him and sent him out of the kitchen. She placed the phone on the counter and was about turning to the fridge when a line from the SMS caught her attention. She picked the phone and fixed her eyes on the entire text. It was from Liam’s mother. It wasn’t in Terdoo’s nature to be nosy but a strong feeling kept her eyes on the screen.
Honeybun, why won’t you pick your calls? Hows it going with her? Has she agreed to let you come along with the boy? Please persist. Your father will croak soon [receiving more text]
Terdoo stomach did a crazy churn as she waited for the text to be completed. She kept her eyes on the door to see if Liam was in sight. She saw nothing but heard his voice outside; it seemed he was coming into the house.
“Come on.” She muttered and waited. His voice drew nearer. She clenched her teeth and stared into the phone one last time. And just when she thought of giving up, the red light went up again and the SMS completed.
He’s adamant on his decision. Without that boy, you have nothing. Get him here or lose all.
Terdoo’s chest constricted. She deleted the SMS and placed the phone back on the kitchen counter. Jimi’s words about Liam returned and stung her. He had not changed one bit. He was the same manipulative person from her past.
She looked up and saw him at the kitchen door. “Hey.” There was a dead smile on her face.
“I just stepped out for a few with the driver,” Liam said. “Are you trying to make breakfast?”
“No, don’t bother. It’s all on me.”
“I thought you’d be leaving by now.”
“Yeah but it doesn’t stop me from making breakfast for my son and his mother.” He smiled, coming towards her. “Go. Relax. I’m happy to do this.”
“Here’s your phone.” She handed the phone to him. “You shouldn’t leave it with Jeff.”
“Thanks. Go now.”
She wrestled to keep her mouth shut about the SMS but it was difficult. Liam watched her fixedly and touched her shoulder. She gave a slight jump.
“Let’s go to Abuja.” The words ran out of her mouth faster that she wanted them to.
“Okay? Why did you change your mind?”
“Let’s just go. I want to see this office and you know, let Jeff see your house that he’s been going on and on about.”
Liam smiled. “Smart decision.”
Terdoo returned the smile and left the kitchen.
* * * * * * * *
“You are bizarrely quiet, Teddy.”
Terdoo adjusted her sitting and yawned. “I am? Maybe I’m just tired.”
“Same answer you’ve been giving me for the past four hours.”
“Same question you’ve been asking since we left Jos.”
“So what’s wrong?”
“You’ve forgotten I used to know you intimately. Whenever those small lips of yours stay in a constant pout it means a million thoughts are running through your brain. Do share.”
“I miss Kiki. I don’t know if Jimi would be able to take care of her.”
“She’s his daughter. He should learn and you should stop taking panadol for someone else’s headache.”
“Kiki’s not a headache.”
“But she’s not yours to worry about. Well, worry no more. We’re here. Traffic and all, we made it in good time.”
Terdoo looked out her window as Liam’s car drove in through huge black gates into a massive compound.
“This is my family home.”
“Family home?” Terdoo asked. She had already prepared her mind for whatever tricks he hid in his sleeves. The idea was to play along. “I thought you lived alone.”
“My house is still in the decorating stage, so I either live here or at the guest inn. My mom is going to be here. Hope you don’t mind?”
“No. It’s okay.”
He reached over Jeffery who was asleep on his laps and touched her hand. She didn’t withdraw.
The driver stopped the car under a huge tree and they got down. The house intimidated Terdoo with its blatant grandness. Not even the Bahaushes with all their wealth had a structure like this to their name. Liam led the way in. At the entrance they were greeted by a butler who seemed too eager to please. Liam continued into the house to a posh sitting room where Terdoo was asked to sit while Jeffery was taken to the kitchen to get something to eat. Liam returned a while later with a glass of juice for her.
“Jeffery’s in my room, playing a computer game. Is that okay?”
“So, let’s get you to the office. It’s not far.”
* * * * * * * *
Liam’s consultancy firm wasn’t a bad sight. It occupied the second floor of a four-storey building. All its offices were furnished, everything set for business. Terdoo felt an instant attraction to the place despite her state of mind. After years of living a life that was far from her dreams, the firm came to her as a refreshing picture of her future. She allowed her mind the fantasy of seeing herself as a successful woman but a loud voice in her head overran her castle in the sky and told her she wasn’t cut out for such success. She plunged into immediate self-doubt that darkened the air around her and put a sag on her shoulders. With weak knees she sank into a chair behind a desk that smelled of fresh wood polish, swiveled round and stared outside through dusty windows.
Liam came behind her and put a cool hand on her back. She breathed out and rested into his calming touch.
“When were you going to tell me that the reason you want Jeff in your life is because of your father’s money?” she asked and Liam’s hand that had begun a gentle stroke on her back stopped moving.
“Who told you that?”
“It doesn’t matter, Liam.”
“Well, whoever gave you that information is not far from the truth.”
Terdoo raised her head and looked into his eyes.
“But the person missed out the part that I want my son to have the best of everything.”
“Liam, I’m not in the mood for your sugarcoated words. Please, just tell me in plain English why you want Jeff in your life.”
Liam took his hand away and leaned on the table behind her. “My dad’s brothers are entitled to all he has the moment he dies. That leaves me, my mom and Jeff out. But all that can be reversed if my dad lays his eyes on Jeff. Everything will go to him… and to the person in whose care he’s in.”
“That means you.”
“No, that means you. Congrats. You’re a millionaire.”
“We’ll go through legal means and I’ll be granted joint custody. Either that or we get married.”
Terdoo laid her elbows on her knees and leaned forward, her chin resting on clasped hands. “And what if I refuse? What if I decide to have all the money?”
“Then I’d be screwed.”
“But why does your dad want Jeff now after all he did?”
“He’s sorry because he’s dying. He thinks your mother’s curse is what’s killing him.”
Terdoo sat up and turned to Liam. “What curse?”
“The day after you had Jeff, your mom came to the house, stood outside the gate and cursed us.”
“Are you serious?”
Fear crept up on Terdoo’s face and she stood up. “What did she say?”
“Liam, my mom is something like a prophetess. She curses people and it comes true. What did she say?”
“For me, she said Briana’s baby will not see the light of day.”
Liam nodded. “For my dad she said he’ll die from an incurable disease.”
Terdoo covered her mouth. “Oh my God. I didn’t know.”
“But strangely, for my mom, she didn’t curse. She merely told her she’d beg your forgiveness.”
“Okay, now I feel sick. I wish I hadn’t even followed you here. Liam, I’m so sorry. My mom does this all the time and when it happens, she starts crying and acting like she’s not responsible, blaming non-existent witches for inflicting pain on the people she’s cursed.”
“Oh well, the old man deserves what he’s gotten. He’s dying of AIDS and has refused to treat himself.” Liam’s eyes clouded over. “And Briana…I killed her. I was speeding that day.”
“I’m sorry.” Terdoo touched his hand lightly.
“It’s okay.” He stared at his wristwatch. “We should go.”
She pushed her chair back into place. As she made to head out, he stopped her.
“I don’t think my dad will make it past this night. I haven’t spoken to him since Briana died. When he calls you and Jeffery to see him, tell him I don’t hate him.”
Terdoo nodded. She asked no questions. The distress on Liam’s face said all she needed to know.
His father died later that night. He was propped up in his favorite chair, wrapped in a blanket, watching television with Jeffery when it happened. For months he had been holed up in his room, visited only by his wife and nurse. During the time they had waited for him to die but he had held on just to see Jeffery. When the boy walked into his room, he was overwhelmed and his presence gave him the little boost he needed to sit and alter his will with his lawyer. He also shared a moment with Terdoo and she passed on Liam’s message. He smiled in response and left a few words with her. Subsequently, he asked to be taken to the family living room where he sat watching Disney Junior with Jeffery. The energy of the boy as he hopped about brought back old memories of Liam as a child. But he felt no pain remembering the lost times because of the calm that filled his soul as his eyes dimmed.
No one heard him whisper the words ‘my boy’ or saw the smile he left this world with. By the time they found him, he was long gone and the smile departed with him. A deathly quiet filled the house after his body was taken to the hospital. Terdoo put Jeffery to bed and unable to sleep, she went down to get something to drink. In the kitchen she found Liam sitting before the table, a mug of tea before him. His head was bent.
He lifted his head and tried on a smile. It didn’t come out good.
“I’m taking the job,” Terdoo said. “Jeff and I are coming to stay in Abuja.”
“Okay. Good. Thanks.” “Your dad left you everything, by the way.”
He registered surprise at her words.
“He told me he knows you can handle all he’s left in your hands. He wants you to protect your mom from your uncles. He is very proud of you.”
Liam dug his fingers into his hair and squeezed a fistful. Terdoo was scared he was going to rip his scalp off. She saw the tears before they came and she hurried to comfort him in an embrace as he mourned his father. It was a long night for them both as they sat talking about their past and future. When the sun came up, Terdoo had little time to say goodbye to Jeffery before she caught the seven o’clock flight to Lagos. After she arrived, she went straight to Nnenna’s but was only able to see her when she awoke two hours later. They sat for breakfast and Terdoo spoke about her plans to move to Abuja. Nnenna tried to dissuade her but she saw that her mind was settled on the matter. However, she convinced her to stay the night. There were certain things she planned to get for Jeffery in town.
By mid afternoon they parted ways. While Nnenna went shopping, Terdoo ended up at Jimi’s to pack her things. It took her a longer time than she thought it would; she was finding it difficult letting go. By the time the packing was done it was a few minutes past four. She ran the zipper of her travelling bag to close it, got off the floor she was sitting on and came to face Jimi who was standing at the door.
“How did you get in?”
“You’re really leaving for Abuja?”
“Yes.” She started dusting the t-shirt she was wearing to distract herself. She hadn’t anticipated him showing up; his presence was unsettling.
“You’re never coming back?”
Jimi seemed like he wanted to say more but he was silent as he pushed his hands into his pockets and stared at her through dark glasses.
“Where’s Kiki?” she enquired.
Terdoo was dusting her jean skirt now and Jimi watched as she proceeded to straighten the length out. But it stopped just above her knees and slinked back a few inches up, pulled by her hips. Jimi was amused at her restlessness.
“Let me be going,” she said after one last pull of the skirt. “Help me with my box, please?”
He stepped into the room like one who had been waiting to be invited. It took only three steps to reach her and when she gave him the pull-handle of her travelling bag, he took her hand instead and drew her to him.
The kiss that followed was not urgent. It was more like a question from him; he wanted to know if he could carry on. Terdoo’s reaction was a kiss of her own as she clung to him. His lips were gentle over hers; she could tell he was hesitant. Hence, she gave him the fire he needed, fueled by an impatient hunger. She hadn’t been so close to a man in six years. And even before things began to heat up, she felt her body giving away secrets held inside for a long time.
Jimi spoke to her between kisses, words that adored every inch of her. From the tone of his voice to the way his hands felt her body, she knew he was an emotionally complex man. Everything Marie ever told her about him was true. The only thing was that she wished she hadn’t known that much detail. If he was a meal, he would have tasted better eaten blindfolded because he was full of unexpected curves. He had her tumbling through different emotions as he made love to her. Ultimately, Terdoo didn’t want it to end but he became spent at some point.
He held her in a cuddle afterwards, her back to him, his legs locked in hers.
“So how do you feel?” he asked.
“How do I feel?”
“Yesterday in Jos, you said what was between us was just chemistry, that nothing would come out of it. So do you hate me now? Are you ashamed?”
“I don’t hate you. But I feel guilty. We shouldn’t be doing this.”
“Alhaja thinks that once you’ve slept with someone, you become one with the person. She’s not in support of premarital sex. When Jude and his wife were still dating, she caught them in bed one morning. That same week Jude went for introduction and a month later they got married.”
Terdoo laughed. “Alhaja can be hardcore sometimes.”
“Imagine if she walked in now.”
“Ah. It will be serious…”
Jimi interrupted her by leaving a light nibble on her shoulder. She cringed away and rolled to face him. Her hand rested over his chest. “Your heart is beating fast.”
“It’s normal. Happens to me when I have to look into the face of a beautiful woman.”
“don’t go, Terdoo. Stay back here.”
Terdoo’s happy face became plain but a smile stayed in her eyes. “I’ve already made up my mind, Jimi.”
“Can I change it?”
A serene moment followed. They both didn’t have any more words to say to each other. Jimi closed his eyes and Terdoo snuggled closer.
“don’t call,” she whispered.
“don’t call. don’t text. don’t visit Abuja. This will never happen again.”
“Oh, Terdoo… He locked her in another covetous cuddle. “You’re a difficult woman.”
“No, I’m not kidding. I’m getting married to Liam.”
Jimi frowned, pushed away from her and searched her eyes.
“What’s bringing that play?”
“Liam is Jeffery’s dad…”
“I want my son to have a stable home.”
“And I can provide that.”
“Jimi, please don’t…”
Jimi sat up. “No, I don’t understand. Yesterday, you wanted a man who loved you. What changed?”
“My mind changed, Jimi. It’s better to be with a man that needs me more than I need him.”
“And where does that leave me? What will you call the thing that just happened now?”
“You were okay with it a few minutes ago. Is it the idea of having competition that’s putting you on edge like this?”
“No, Terdoo! No! You do not come here and sleep with me and go and marry someone else!”
Terdoo sprang up, going on her knees. “Why do you care?! You’re the one who doesn’t want to love me!”
Jimi’s glare was filled with anger through eyes that had tapered to slits. “Screw you, abeg!”
He tugged at the waistband of his boxers, picked his shirt and got off the bed. The door slammed behind him, rattling the windows in the room. Terdoo lay down on the bed again, wondering why on earth she had lied to him about getting married to Liam.
Thanks for reading thus far. don’t miss next week’s post. Marie’s not yet gone. She returns with a secret from her past and Jimi’s.