By Tomi Adesina
Fola thought his mother could see more than his face as she kept a smile across her face all through dinner as she focused on him. He tried avoiding her gaze by asking Aaima meaningless random questions like if the salt was appropriate in the meal. The salt was fine. It was not even about the food. It was about the fact that his mother would not wipe the grin she had on her face off and that worried him. She had ushered them into the house and straight to the dining table without asking any questions. She didn’t even ask him to introduce Aaima. That was worrisome. It was unlike his mother. She could peruse the life out of anyone with questions, but this night, she was just smiling. He stared at Aaima who was more worried about dissecting her turkey than the awkwardness of their current situation. Or could he be the only one who considered the situation awkward? Aaima seemed fine. Most ladies had a time meeting a male friend’s mother. Aaima didn’t. But then, she wasn’t ‘that’ woman in his life that had to be worried about a mother-in-law? Or was she? Fola wasn’t having fun. He dug his fork into the turkey and cut loudly, hoping the noise would irritate either his mother or Aaima and force the awkward silence to end. None of them was fazed. They kept eating calmly. He was the only one who was irked by the noise he had generated. Okay! He had had enough! He slammed the fork and knife into the plate and stared at his mom. “I did not lose a case!”
Mrs King and Aaima started laughing. This further agitated Fola. What was funny to them? He turned angrily to Aaima with a frown such that she quickly grabbed her wine glass and sipped from it.
“Stop scaring the girl, Fola.” Mrs King said.
He turned to her. “What’s funny, Mom?” he asked.
“You are. I never said you lost a case. And I knew from the moment you walked in here that you did not lose a case, at least not one in the court. Maybe you lost a case with someone else and that’s why you are here. And I don’t need a soothsayer to tell me who you lost that case to. So, my son, I am happy to see you. I am elated and it’s a pleasure to meet her.”
“Her?!” Fola gaped as he turned to Aaima. “Tell her.”
Aaima stared at him. “What do you want me to tell her?”
“What you did to get me down here?” he replied.
Mrs King smiled as she stared at Aaima. “Darling, what is your name?”
Mrs King blinked. “Aaima. That’s an unusual, yet, very lovely name.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” Aaima replied, wiping her mouth with a napkin.
Fola stared at Mrs King and then rose to his feet. “Aaima, would you please excuse us?” he asked, leading his mom away from the dining and into the living room.
“She is very beautiful.” Mrs King said as they settled in the living room.
Fola took his seat opposite her. “That’s not why we are here.”
“Would you deny she is the reason you are here?” she asked.
He shook his head. “No, and that is-”
“Hush, Fola! Even I couldn’t get you down here to see me. That lady counts a lot.” She said, with a smile.
Fola blinked as his heart raced in acknowledgement of his mom’s words. He drew closer to her. “Mom, what do I do?”
“Excuse me?” Mrs King asked, stunned by the question.
Fola clenched his teeth. “Mom, you taught me to be strong. I have seen you ride me through storms and you never needed any man to do it. How did you shut them all out? I want to shut her out. I can’t let her break me.”
Mrs King blinked. “Oh my God. Fola?”
“Mom, don’t Fola me. Love makes you weak. You said that to me several times and that’s why that b****** had the guts to leave us.” He replied. “I am not going to let anybody in.”
Mrs King stared in the direction of the dining hall. “Let’s step outside.” She said, leading Fola out of the house.
Obi pulled up outside Fola’s gate and took a deep breath. “Hey, Fola! I know we have been best buds since we were growing up, but this is it. I love that lady living in your house. I want to be with her!” he stopped and shook his head. “That sounds foolish.” He said to himself. “Hi, Aaima, I know I overreacted earlier on, but, I have been having feelings…erm is it catching feelings? Oh boy! I hate this part.” He slammed his head on the steering, triggering the horn. “Oh boy!” he gasped. “I am not yet ready.” He said. He looked ahead of him. Fola’s gate wasn’t opening. He stared into the side mirror and noticed two men approaching from both sides. “Who are these?” he thought as he panicked. He pushed his auto-lock and watched them as they drew close, signalling to each other. He placed his hand on the ignition and started the car in on instant, screeching away from them with all the speed he could garner. He watched as they raced after him through the side mirror, before getting into their car to continue the chase. This didn’t look good. He dialled Fola.
Sarah’s phone buzzed for the fifth time that night. Greg hated the sound of it. He couldn’t sleep. He had tried nudging her up so she could answer her phone, but she would not wake up. She was tired and needed her rest, but he needed his more. He gro-ned as he reached for it at the other end of the bed. Yemi! He knew Sarah would love to take the call. Maybe he could just take it for her…and maybe get her into trouble with Yemi. He smiled at the thought of that as he answered the call. “Hello.”
“Err…who is this?” Yemi asked.
Greg stared at Sarah as she slept in his bed. He sure had some rights. “Her man.”
Sarah jumped up in one instant as though the words resonated in her sleep. “What are you doing, Greg?” she asked, yanking the phone from him. She stared at the Caller ID. Yemi. “Yemi?”
“Get your body out of that bed and meet me at home! Your Aaima Bello is our missing girl.” She replied, hanging up.
Sarah gaped as she pulled the blanket around her body and hurried into the bathroom.
“Babe, it’s already midnight!” Greg shouted as he heard the shower run. He hissed. “Such an ambitious girl!”
Fola stared at his phone and replaced it in his pocket. “Mom, I don’t need you to tell me about love. I just want to know how not to love.”
She shook her head. “Son, it doesn’t work like that. I am not proud of that fact that I never gave you a father figure.”
“You raised a fine man, mom. And you did not need any man to teach you how to. You are everything to me, Mom. You bought me every silly game back then. You even played them with me. I sure didn’t need a father. Mom, I don’t want to be in love with her.”
“You can’t control the heart.” She replied.
He nodded. “I can carry these feeling to my grave but I don’t want to give into her.”
“Why?” she asked.
He shrugged. “It’s not who I am.”
She stared at him. “Who are you, Fola King? Enlighten me, please.”
He looked away.
“Look at me when I am talking to you!” she shouted. “You don’t want to give your heart to anyone? Why? Where is that little boy who would not go to school because his friends Obi and Greg didn’t have their school fees and I’d have to pay for them so my son could go to school? Where is he? Where is that kid who loved everyone? Who made people laugh? Typically, the class clown! I guess he is all bottled up in his suit and tie? Where is he, Fola?”
“He grew up.” He replied.
She took a deep breath. “I never married any man after your father, not because I didn’t meet anyone worth loving, but I had just decided that it was going to be me and you. I was going to channel everything I had left into you. You were all I had left anyway.”
“Then let me do that for you.” He replied.
She laughed. “At the expense of what? Your own happiness? Son, you are going to be bitter one day and you’ll realise that while you were busy shutting everyone out, they found other people to let them in.” she said. “And trust me, that is what will break you.”
His phone buzzed again.
“Take Obi’s call. I don’t know why you are avoiding him.” She said, taking her seat. “I get your monthly credit alerts. Thank you.” She said with a smile.
Fola ignored her and stared at the caller. “I don’t want to answer it.”
He took his seat beside her. “Obi is in love with Aaima.”
Mrs King gaped. “Oh my God.”
Fola nodded. “You see why I don’t want her in. Because if I let her in, I won’t care about Obi or how he feels, I am not letting her go.”
“But that’s the problem.” She said.
He stared at her. “What problem?”
“She’s in.” she replied.
Sarah shook her head as she read through the email on Yemi’s laptop. She exhaled and then faced Yemi. “Aaima came into Fola’s house the night he won the case against you. Apparently, he hit her while she was trying to get away from whosoever. She had a bullet wound too. She has been with Fola ever since then and I am dead sure that he has no idea of who she is.” She said.
Yemi hissed. “Are you making a case for him?”
“No. I am only stating the facts.”
Yemi sipped her whiskey. “Let the court decide that.”
“What do you mean?” Sarah asked. “Don’t tell me you are planning to do something stupid?”
Yemi smiled. “Relax. I won’t hurt your ex-boyfriend. But you are such a b****, Sarah. I can’t believe you are with Greg too.”
“Greg?” Sarah said, feigning ignorance.
Yemi smiled. “I heard you call his name before you spoke to me. You are such a woman.”
Sarah shrugged. “And so? Anyway, what are we going to do?”
“I am going to leak her disappearance back to her office through my contact and we would file a missing persons report and back-date it.”
“What?” Sarah gaped.
Yemi nodded. “Yeah, it’s criminal, but that’s our best shot. Then we would get her to step forward. I’ll figure something out and then the case would get to the Department of Justice and then I’ll find another way to be the Prosecutor on the case. Your ex-boyfriend would be defending his culprits as usual, and I can have my revenge. I’ll definitely sink him this time.”
“And where would I be when all these are happening?” Sarah asked.
Yemi smiled. “Your NYSC is almost over, right? When you are done, I’ll walk you in at the department of public prosecution. You’ll make one hell of a lawyer.”
“And you think I want to be a prosecutor? Where is the fun in that? I want to be at Peterside Chambers and Fola won’t help me, but I know you can. That’s my dream.” She replied.
Yemi scoffed. “How do I help you retain a s₱0t at Peterside?”
Sarah smiled. “That’s easy…and you know it.”
Yemi frowned. “What do you know?”
Sarah chuckled. “I want you to tell your brother-in-law, Mr Peterside to keep me at the firm.”
“How do you even know that?” Yemi asked. “And don’t tell me Fola, because he doesn’t know.” She added.
Yemi smiled. “Like I said, I am the firm’s rat. I know everything.”
“I am not helping you walk your way into his firm so you can maybe challenge him for it one day.”
Sarah chuckled. “Why not? It’s not your firm.”
“Listen to me, Sarah. I am many things but loyalty to family is everything.” Yemi replied. “So you can either take up my offer at the DPP or walk away now.”
Sarah stared at her. “I don’t know…but how do you think your lovely brother-in-law would feel when he finds out that you are trying to take on his firm just for s€× revenge, because, stop me if I am wrong, taking on Fola is akin to taking on Peterside.” She replied. “Yemi, I am not asking for much, don’t let’s get messy.”
Yemi exhaled. “Well, there are a lot of things that come with sleeping with the devil and I am not a novice at these things. What surprises me is that you don’t know how to learn. One would think that as a young lady, you’ll put your head down and work your way to the top with hærd work and diligence, but, you are quite something.”
“Of what good is working my way to the top when I can walk there?” Sarah asked.
Yemi smiled. “Fola can’t be proud of you. He created a monster. One that I think is going to bury him, someday.”
“Let me be the judge of that. Now, do we have a deal or not?” Sarah asked.
Obi turned off his car engine. He was hoping he had lost the men that were chasing him. He had done them no wrong, but they wouldn’t stop coming after him. He was scared. Fola wasn’t answering his phone either. He dialled the phone he had given Aaima. He hoped she would answer it. His car doors were still locked and he was looking into his side mirror occasionally so he would not be caught unawares.
“Hello.” Aaima’s voice came up.
Obi thanked God. “Aaima, is Fola there?”
“Yeah, we are at his Mom’s.” she replied.
“You guys have to stay there. Some guys are over at the house and they seem really dangerous. I just escaped from there but they followed me, I think I have lost them but I can’t go home because I don’t want them tailing me.” He replied.
“Obi, what is going on?” she asked.
He shook his head as he sensed the anxiety in her tone. “Just don’t go back home. It’s not safe. Tell Fola to call me.” He said, and hung up. He started his engine and sped off.
Aaima hurried out to meet Fola and his mother. “I am sorry but Obi just called me, Fola. Something is wrong.”
“What is going on?” he asked.
Aaima exhaled. “He didn’t tell me much but he says some guys were at your house and they chased him but he says we shouldn’t go back to the house and that he is also on the run.”
Fola blinked. “Really?”
Mrs King stared at them. “There is enough room in the house. You can spend the night here.”
“No. I can’t have anyone coming here.” He said, fetching his car keys from his pocket. “Let’s go, Aaima.”
Mrs King rose to her feet. “You are not going anywhere. If Obi is on the run because he went to your house. There is trouble there.”
“And I have to find Obi. I can’t let him get into trouble.” Fola replied.
Mrs King stared at him. “What have you gotten yourself into Fola?”
“I don’t know, Mom. But, there has got to be some explanation. Maybe Obi is being paranoid.” He replied.
“He didn’t sound paranoid, Fola.” Aaima replied.
Fola shrugged. “Well, I can’t stay here. And if I am in danger, I can’t risk them coming to my Mom.” He said, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “I am calling Obi.” He said and turned away from the ladies.
Mrs King stared at Aaima. “It’s going to be alright, okay?”
Aaima nodded. “Yeah.”
“Good. Let’s go in and prepare your room.” She said, leading Aaima into the house.
Fola watched them as they walked in.
He cleared his throat. “Obi, what’s up?”
“Man, I went to your house and I noticed some guys were there, they came after me. I lost them though while driving, but it doesn’t look good.” He replied.
Fola nodded. “I went to see Umar before coming home.”
“Umar Abubakar?” Obi asked.
Fola nodded. “Yeah. I have heard the man is dangerous. Maybe he is pissed I spoke to him in the tone I did.”
“What happened?” Obi asked.
“Long story, bro. Where are you? You need to be safe.” Fola said, looking around him. His nerves were jangling and the thought of Umar Abubakar sending men after him got him worried.
“I am at the hospital.” Obi replied. “I am hoping I am safe here. I am not sure they saw my face so the odds are I am safe here.” He replied.
Fola nodded. “Stay there. I need to call Sarah. I think she knows something about that case I won for Umar and if my instincts are correct, Sarah is also not safe.” He replied. “Take care, man and thank you.”
“Take care of Aaima, okay?” Obi said. “Promise me she’ll be safe.”
Fola clenched his teeth. “I’d never let anything happen to her.” He replied, hanging up. He dialled Sarah’s number. She wasn’t answering her phone. He dialled again. “Come on, Sarah. Pick up!”
He stopped dialling and hurried over to the security post. He kicked the leg of the sleeping security man. “Is this why I pay you?” he yelled.
The man shook his head as he rose to his feet. “I am sorry sir!”
“Get as many cups of coffee as you can. Don’t you dare sleep off on the job!” he ordered and returned into the house.
Yusuf turned to Umar. “It seems your lawyer is on the run.”
Umar stared at him. “What do you mean?”
“My men said they couldn’t get him, they are still after him though.” He replied. “Umar, do you understand what this means?”
Umar ignored him.
Yusuf poured himself a drink. “If Fola King knows about Aaima, we are in trouble.” He said.
“I know.” Umar replied. “This is all your fault. We didn’t need to kidnap her in the first place. We already got what we wanted, her sister’s money. Now, we have a missing lady on the run and maybe with my stupid lawyer.” He replied.
Yusuf took a deep breath. “Aaima witnessed the murder of her sister. That made her a key witness in the investigation. If we had not taken her, you would be behind bars. And it is thanks to your sensitive nature that we didn’t kill her immediately.”
“Whose fault is it that she escaped? Your incompetent boys couldn’t keep her hostage. That, is not on me.” Umar retorted as he yanked Yusuf’s glass and downed the whiskey. “Give me more of that.”
Yusuf obliged him.
Umar swallowed. “Call your boys, tell them to kill Fola King and whoever they find connected to him.”
“Easy, Tiger. You don’t just go about killing people.” Yusuf replied.
Umar turned to him. “Whose side are you on?”
“Clearly yours, but, you are becoming really irrational.” Yusuf replied, “We can’t go about killing people.”
“If Fola knows about Aaima and he came to threaten us, do you know what will happen? He can get me into trouble. Tell your men to take him out. You called me a weakling. Now I am showing you my strength.” Umar replied.
Yusuf nodded. “Fine.”
Mrs King handed Fola a blanket. “I don’t know why you are bent on sleeping out here, but it’s your choice.”
He nodded. “Thanks, Mom.”
“Goodnight, love.” She said and turned away.
Fola watched her walk upstairs. He couldn’t bear the thought of anything happening to her because of him. Sleeping in the living room would keep him closer to the danger, if there was any looming. He relaxed on the sofa and turned on the TV.
“Are you really sleeping out here?”
He turned to Aaima. “What are you doing here? Go to bed.”
She joined him on the sofa. “I might as well keep you company as we guard the house.” She said, chuckling.
He stared at her. “I don’t want anything to happen to you. Go upstairs.”
“You are being paranoid, Fola. I am fine.” She replied.
He shook his head. “You don’t know these guys. I believe Umar Abubakar killed his wife, he’ll kill anyone.”
Aaima was stunned as she stared at him. “Did you just say Umar Abubakar?”
“Yeah…do you know him?” he asked.
She blinked as she looked away.
Fola stared at her. “What is going on?”
“What is your relationsh¡p with Umar?”
He exhaled. “I will just tell you everything. It’s a long story. I was his lawyer, I am no longer his lawyer because I quit yesterday.” He started, checking his wristwatch. “Yeah, yesterday.” He affirmed. “I helped him in a murder trial involving his late wife and erm, I found out that…I found out that he lied to me about something. His wife actually had a sister visiting during the time of her death and now, the sister has gone missing and my guts tell me that Umar killed his wife and maybe the sister too. I went to him, I yelled at him and stuff and maybe he is the one who came after me.” He said as he sighed. “But it’s fine, tomorrow morning, I’ll go to the police and try to sort this out.”
Aaima tried to stop the tears that flowed down her eyes.
Fola stared at her. “Oh my God! What did I do?” he asked, wiping her tears.
Aaima sniffed. “Fola…”
“Yeah…you think I am a bad guy. Right? I helped a criminal? So what? I am a lawyer, it’s what I do.” He retorted.
She couldn’t stop her tears. “I…I am sorry.”
“Sorry? What about?”
She sighed. “Umar is looking for me.”
She gathered herself. “My name is Aaima Bello. I am Fatima Abubakar’s sister. I am the missing sister that witnessed her death.”