Read His Little Black Book #5HERE
Linda Akpan just sat there smiling. Perfect! Things were going as planned. Her fight with her sister would make the latter not come begging when she saw they needed her help. She would see how they’d survive without her. She believed they would regret their actions but pride wouldn’t bring them begging. After all, she had been their sustenance all these years.
She shook her head in disappointment. Oleng was still a fool. She was still gullible to men. Instead of avoiding hurt by being like her; swearing off men after what that half-caste did to her. She shook her head in disappointment. She however smiled. If Oleng thought this was the end of her controlling her life, she was dreaming.
Oleng wept anew when her aunt told her that her mother had thrown her out also. When she finished weeping she resolved never to waste a tear on the woman again. She completely wiped her out of her mind and life. She started life afresh without her.
Life was now quite difficult without finances from her m thoughother though. The school Aunt Vien taught in hadn’t paid her in months because the proprietress was bankrupt. She had no reserved money because she had used it in paying the house rentbaby’s upkeep. well that if he found out they were having money trouble he would want to help, after all he was well paid. Oleng felt like a burden to her aunt. She wanted to look for a place to move in to but that would require money also. Her results were not yet out so she couldn’t get a good paying job. She however got a job as a receptionist in a small firm. The pay wasn’t much which was twenty thousand naira a month but at least it helped put food on the table. Her aunt was very grateful for her contribution. Oleng tried very hard not to regret wiping her mum off her life because of their present sition.
When she had enough money, she sold off all the jewelries and clothes her mum had bought her. She sold off everything that reminded her of Mrs. Akpan as she now called the woman who used to be her mother. The money she realized from the sale was huge and she wondered what she would do with it. She wanted to give Aunt Vien but she refused. She wanted to give it to her for Emem’s child but her aunt refused again. She was bent on not using the money because it was Mrs. Akpan’s. WhAn she was tirher auntof thinking of what to do with the money, she went to the bank and opened an account with it. She saved the money there and forgot about it not minding the fact that she was cutting her nose to spite her face. She eventually gave it to charity
Life continued even though it wasn’t as rosy as before. She now wore second hand clothes otherwise known as bend down select or okrika which she got from Watt market. She stayed months before making her hair. Her beauty was what made her not to look plain in her new mode of dressing.
When it was time to go for service, she was posted to Cross River; her own state. She wondered at the luck she had. After orientation camp and everything, she was posted to a bank in Calabar. Her aunt was very happy that Oleng wasn’t leaving after all and fortunately for them, the bank was not too far from the house in MCC road. Oleng waa more than overjoyed. She wondered at the stroke of luck but thanked God nevertheless for the unmerited favor. She started working in the bank with great zeal and before long she was a favorite there what with her beauty, her industrious nature and all.
She and Dave were still the best of friends and after a while both Zinny and Marvy came for a visit. They stayed a whole week and had great fun with Oleng and Dave. They wished they would be posted there because Calabar was indeed a beauty to behold. They visited the famous Obudu cattle ranch and marveled at the beauty and serenity of the place. They took a lot of pictures. They also went to Tinapa. Dave gave them suya treats at Bogobiri corner and took them to Freddies and Chinese restaurant.
Before they left, they told her they were positive that Dave was madly in love with her. She denied it saying he had never given her the impression before. They argued about it and told her to tell them the minute he proposes to her. She had shoved them to the door laughing and saying they were dreaming as she followed them to the park to take ABC transport back to Port Harcourt.
Nevertheless, she began watching Dave closely yet he treated her like his sister. She was however amazed when she introduced him to Jenny and ebbie as her ‘big brother’ and he gave her a sharp look. They had teased her that he was probably ‘the one’ but she had vehemently denied it, laughing. He had been very quiet throughout the encounter and even on their way home. She had asked him what the problem was but he had said nothing. She had shrugged it off nonchalantly but continued to watch him closely.
They went out one weekend to Freddies restaurant and as they were eating, Collins her former course mate approached their table.
“Hi Oleng.” he heartily called.
“Hi Collins. My God! It’s been a while.” She was beaming.
“Yes, it’s been a while. You still look as beautiful as ever.”
She laughed. “You’re not looking bad yourself.”
“Is this your boyfriend?” he asked looking at Dave who was watching both of them.
She laughed again and without thinking said, “Of course not. He’s just a friend”
Dave gave her a stunned look as his jaw dropped. Oleng fell silent. She knew she had made a slip.
“Hi. I’m Collins.” Collins quickly said to cover the silence, stretching out his hand.
“Dave.” Dave replied, shaking his hand.
“Well, Oleng, I don’t mean to disturb but please can I have your number? I really would like us to get together some time; at least for old time’s sake.”
“Sure.” she quickly said and rattled off the numbers which he saved in his phone.
He flashed her with his and she saved it in her phone too.
“I’ll see you around. Take care” he said and left.
There was a deafening silence when he left. Oleng didn’t know what to say. She knew she had hurt Dave’s feelings. She heard him chuckle and looked up.
“We’ve known each other since when I was in SS1 and you, JSS3. How many years is that? Over eight years and I’m still just a friend to you.” he bitterly told her.
Oleng was lost for words. “Dave, please I’m sorry. I don’t know how those words came out but I didn’t mean them.” she rapidly told him.
“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.” he calmly told her.
“That’s not true…I mean… I didn’t mean it. It was a slip. Of course you’re more than just a friend to me.” she told him in desperation.
“Really?…and oh! Before I forget, you also said, ‘Of course not’ when he asked if I was your boyfriend. Is the thought so appalling? Is the thought of being your boyfriend so horrifying to you?” he threw at her in fury.
She couldn’t utter a single word. She knew she had badly hurt him. She looked down at her plate.
When he couldn’t bear the silence any longer he stood up. “I’ve lost my appetite. I’m going home.” He paid the bill and left.
Oleng sat there thinking. She tried imagining what Dave was thinking. After all he had done for her, it had really been unfair of her to vehemently deny being his girlfriend and at the same time say he was just a friend. She slowly got up from the table and went home.
She knew Dave was really angry with her when he didn’t call her for a whole week. When Saturday came and he still hadn’t called and wouldn’t pick her calls, she decided to go to his place. She hoped he would be around because he sometimes went offshore. He would have told her if he was going there as he usually did but then again, he was upset with her. She hadn’t been to his place before in Grace Edet Crescent but located it easily. He had pleaded with her a number of times to come to his place but she had always given him one flimsy excuse or the other. She wondered why she had done that now. Dave wasn’t bad looking. He was a very nice and caring guy. He was going to be rich considering the job he had now but she just didn’t feel anything for him.
She remembered what Zinny and Marvy told her. Was it true? Was he really crazy about her? She promised herself to find out during her visit. Oleng knocked on the door quietly. She knocked a second time before he came to open the door. He was shocked to see her. She was equally shocked to see him only on boxer shorts. This was the first time she had seen him bare chested. He had little chest hair.
“Oleng! What are you doing here?” he asked when he got over his shock.
“Isn’t it obvious? I came to see you.” she informed him, smiling.
“Really? Please come in.” he said joyfully and made way for her to come in.
Oleng marveled at the beauty of the sitting room at the three bedrooms flat.
“Please take a seat. What can I offer you?” he said lowering the volume of his home theatre sound system.
She slowly shook her head. “Nothing, I’m okay.”
“Oleng! This is the first time you’re here after much persuasion. So you must take something.”
“Okay then. I’ll take any soft drink.”
“Soft drink coming up.” he said like a waiter.
She softly laughed and he went inside to get it. When he had gone, she quickly took his phone that was on the table and scrolled through the call log for her number. She was shocked to see that he had saved her name as ‘My only luv’. So what Zinny and Marvy said was true. Dave did have deep feelings for her.
When she heard his footsteps, she returned the phone to its original position and sat back. She was relieved to see that he had adorned a t-shirt and trousers.
He placed a chilled canned drink before her and sat down beside her.
“Thank you.” she was all smiles.
“Dave, I actually came to apologize for what happened last week. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
“It’s okay, Oleng. I’ve already forgotten about it.” he shrugged nonchalantly.
“You haven’t. You haven’t called or sent me a message or even flashed me since that day.”
“I‘ve been very busy, I went to the field this week.”
“You’ve never been too busy to send me a message or tell me you were going out of town in the past.” she accused softly.
He was silent at that. After a while, he said, “I wanted you to miss me. I wanted you to know my worth. I wanted to see if I was really just a friend to you. It took you a whole week to want to reconcile with me, Oleng.”
“But you know the nature of my job, Dave. You know it’s very demanding. I tried calling you but it was either switched off or you wouldn’t answer it.”
“I was still angry with you.”
“Are you still angry now?”
He smiled. “No. Seeing you here finally made my anger dissipate.”
“Thank God. I really am sorry.”
“It’s alright. How was your week?”
She blew into the air. “Hectic as usual, I opened accounts on the system till my fingers ached. And those customers can be pretty annoying when you don’t answer them on time. That our head of operations is a real slave driver.”
He laughed “He must be related to mine. I can understand yours. I mean because of your beauty he’d always want you around him, but me? I don’t know why my boss wants me dead.”
Oleng laughed. “He understands you have great potentials and wants you to get to the top like him.”
“Super story.” he joked and they both laughed.
There was silence again and Oleng sipped from her drink.
“Oleng,” he called softly, casting his gaze at his television.
“Yes,” her curiosity was piqued. Was he about to tell her what she had just found out? Her heart beat faster.
“I’ll be traveling home next weekend.”
“Really? What for? Don’t tell me you are missing your mum’s cooking?” she teased.
He laughed. “No. I just want to tidy up a few things there.”
“Like what?” she innocently asked but was surprised when he looked at her uneasily.
“Actually my dad was the one who sent for me.”
“Dave, you and I both know you don’t know how to lie. You’re not accustomed to it. Are you planning on going out of town with your girlfriend? It’s okay by me if you’re too shy to say so.”
He was astonished. “But you know I don’t have a girlfriend. So what are you talking about?”
“Then why are you lying to me?” she accused.
He was silent again. “I didn’t mean to lie to you. I wanted to spare your feelings.”
“Spare my feelings? In what way?” she was bewildered.
“Zinny called me during the week. Eric is coming to Nigeria next week. She, Marvy and Eddy wants us all to get together.” he finally said.
She was dumbfounded. “I called her. She didn’t tell me anything.”
“When I asked her if she had told you, she said you made them promise never to mention his name near you again. That was why she didn’t tell you.”
“I see.” was all she said. She was too hurt to speak.
“Oleng, please come with me. Let’s go together so it would be like old times.”
“I can’t.” she said shortly.
“Please. You can sort out your differences with Eric there. This feud between you two has gone on long enough. We’ll help both of you sort things out.” he said with exasperation.
“What if I don’t want to sort out my differences with him? What if I want this feud between us to go on forever? I don’t want him to just apologize and that would be the end of it. Will sorry take away all the pain I went through? We can never be together again. Moreover he lied to Eddy that I was the one who broke up with him just to save face.” she rushed out in anger.
“What did he do to you?” Dave asked with fury.
Oleng just shrugged. “Forget it, Dave. I’m not going with you.”
“Why won’t you tell me what he did to you? I’ve always believed Eric to be a gentleman but now I don’t know what to believe anymore.” he was obviously confused.
“Appearances can be deceptive. Anyway, don’t bother about me. Just go there and enjoy yourself.” she smiled falsely.
“But it won’t be the same without you.”
“Well, that’s the price I have to pay for falling in love with the wrong person.” she said sadly. Dave shook his head continuously.
Oleng smiled brightly all of a sudden. “Go get dressed. We’re going out; my treat.”
“Yeah. Really. I’m not busy today and neither are you, so let’s make the most of it since you won’t be here next weekend.”
“Alright. Give me five minutes.”
“Alrighty!” She jovially said and took the remote to increase the volume of the sound system.
Oleng was very jittery the following week. She couldn’t stop thinking of the fact that all her friends would be together by the weekend. She kept remembering the good old days; how they would gather at the canteen eating, drinking and having fun. She had to admit that she was curious to see Eric. She believed he would be more handsome now. She wondered if he was married or planning to. People like Eric didn’t stay single for long because every girl would want to call him her own. She daydreamed if they had still been together. She was positive that they would have been engaged or even married by now. Tears rolled down her eyes at the thought of it.
Eric had been so sweet. Why had he been so callous all of a sudden? It galled her to think of the fact that he had probably been pretending then just to get her defenses down in order to sleep with her. Well, he had succeeded but just that once because she wouldn’t be a fool for him again.
She couldn’t help the feeling of betrayal she felt towards all of them for having fun without her. She shook it off though. It wasn’t their fault that things hadn’t worked out between her and Eric. She held herself from calling Zinny, Marvy and Dave over the weekend.
Collins called and they hung out. He was his usual charming self but she was so distracted by what she felt was going on in Port Harcourt without her that she was poor company. He was very disappointed but there was nothing she could about it. They rescheduled the date for another day.
She was surprised when Dave didn’t return on Sunday evening but came back on Monday morning. She couldn’t talk to him because he had to go to work. Oleng couldn’t stop herself from going over to his place that evening though it was late. She couldn’t dispute the fact that she wanted to hear all the details however gory it might be to her.
When she got to his place, she was ushered in by a smiling Dave. She refused his offer for a drink. After a minute silence, she asked,
“Well, how was it?”
“It was cool. I had a wonderful time.” He simply said.
She waited but when he didn’t say anything, she said, “Well, aren’t you going to give me the details?”
He was surprised. “You really want to know?”
“Duh! I wouldn’t have asked na.”
“Alright.” he said smiling. “It was great. It was wonderful. We had a lot of fun. We went to Genesis and spent the whole night talking and fooling around. The following day, we went to Eric’s house and spent the whole day there. It was awesome. You need to see Eric now. If you thought Eric was handsome before then you are mistaken now because he is drop dead gorgeous, no homo. He’s taller; his skin is glowing more than ever. His slight accent of those days is now more pronounced.
Eric is now a big boy. He works in a major construction company over there. He’s planning on coming back to Nigeria to settle down permanently. That guy has girls drooling over him. Everywhere we went, they didn’t bother looking at Eddy and I. He was the center of attention but you know Eric not being a womanizer, didn’t even have their time. He had eyes for us alone. He even…” he rattled on but stopped all of a sudden and looked at her.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go on and on about Eric like that. I forgot that…he trailed off.
With a light shrug she said, “It’s okay.”
“We had fun like we used to do back then but it wasn’t the same without you. We missed you but we all kept it to ourselves.”
She nodded and cleared her throat. …did de…I men did he…” She couldn’t ask the question. She looked down at the floor.
“Did he ask of you?” he guessed.
She nodded her he.
Dave looked away. “No, he didn’t and we didn’t want to ruin everything by mentioning you. Zinny made a slip and mentioned your name once. The silence had been deafening. Eric’s phone had saved the day by ringing then. I tried… I tried to talk to him about you but there was no time for that. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” she said again and smiled a little. So he hadn’t dimmed it fit to ask of his ex-girlfriend. She didn’t blame him though. He probably had a string of girls over there considering the way Dave had described him, so why bother about an old flame?
She imagined if she had been there with them. It would have been wonderful. She was so disoriented that she picked up her phone and started playing with it while Dave stared at her in silence. She mistakenly hit her dialed calls button and began calling Dave ’cause she had called him before coming over. Before she realized what she had done, his phone had already started ringing. She was astonished when the ringing tone was, ‘My first love’ by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross.
Dave looked at her in horror. She looked at his phone which was beside her on the sofa and of course saw, ‘My only love’ which she had seen at her last visit.
Dave quickly took the phone and ended the call. He got up and walked away from her with his hands in fists saying, ‘Shit! Shit! Shit!”
After a while, Dave turned around to look at her and said, “Hmm…You’ve finally found out. Yes, you’re my first and only love. I’ve loved you from the very day I set eyes on you; from that moment Eric introduced you to me but I couldn’t show it. How could I show the love I felt for my close friend’s girl? I had to hide it and have hidden it very well over the years. I won’t lie to you, I’ve had series of girlfriends over the years but you’ve always remained on my mind as my first and only true love.
When I heard you and Eric had broken up, God forgive me, I was secretly joyous but then you disappeared. When I found you here again, I thought it was fate bringing us together and even though I wasn’t particularly happy that you now hated Eric with a passion, I felt it gave me a chance with you but you kept seeing me as a brother, breaking my heart further. That was why I was always very hurt any time you introduced me as your brother or just a friend. I swore that you would never find out. I was prepared to take my secret to the grave but life can be funny. See the way you found out, by mistakenly calling my phone in my presence.” he narrated softly. Oleng was more than dumb founded.
She just sat there staring at him. He walked up to her and sat down beside her. He held both of her hands in his.
“I won’t lie to you, Oleng. I love you. I love you very much. I’ve always fantasized about you being my wife but I’m not going to push you or rush you. I know you probably still have some feelings for Eric despite your hatred but please try to consider me. Think about the love I have for you and try to see if we can have a future together. Please.” he pleaded passionately.
Oleng continued to stare at him in bewilderment. She couldn’t bring herself to say anything. Zinny and Marvy had really been right.
“Please say something.” he said.
She cleared her throat and opened her mouth but nothing came out. She tried again.
“I really don’t know what to say…when Zinny and Marvy told me you had a crush on me back then, I thought they were joking. Nevertheless, I watched you but you never gave any indication that I was more than a friend to you so I thought they were mistaken. When I was here last week, I was surprised to see that you had saved my name as, ‘My only love’ in your phone yet you didn’t say anything until today…and you wouldn’t have if I hadn’t mistakenly dialed your number.” She looked bamboozled.
“Oleng, you know I’m reticent and kind of shy, I couldn’t bring myself to tell you for fear of you rejecting me. You didn’t help matters either by always telling your friends that I’m either a brother, a close friend or just a friend.” he accused.
“That’s because I’ve always seen you like that.” she defended.
“Can you see me as a boyfriend?”
“I don’t know. You just sprung it on me this evening.”
“I understand. I’ll give you time to think about it.”
“Okay…emm…I think I’ll take my leave now.” she informed him, standing up.
“I hope I’ve not chased you away.” He stood up also.
“Of course not.” She gave him a small smile. “It’s getting late and I’m tired.”
“Alright, I hope I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“You bet.” she said and laughed a little but it was forced.
“Lemme take you home.”
“No. Don’t worry. I’ll take a taxi.”
“Really.” she smiled falsely again. She just wanted to get the hell out of there.
When he had seen her off and returned to his house, he used his fist to hit the wall. That had not been the way he had planned on telling her she meant the world to him. He had made a mess of things. He castigated himself. He had the fear that not only had he driven her away but ended their friendship as well.