Previously on 1213...

*

“No, I don’t think so,” Baker said as he nursed his drink.

“What is ‘no’? Think about it,” I said insistently. “He broke off his wedding. He asked to meet with me a couple of weeks after. And then he got me to break up with him. What other pointer do you need?”

“Moe, you’re simply a selfish bastard!” Ivan said matter-of-factly.

“What!” I turned an outraged gaze to him.

“You heard me. Stop trying to justify your action. You broke up with him, end of story!”

“Hey,” I protested, swatting his shoulder. “Whose side are you on here?!”

“Do I have to spell it out?”

“You’re my friend, you should be on my side. Bros over hoes, remember?”

“I wasn’t the one that dumped a good man to have sex with his ex some minutes later, hoe.” He dropped a sneer around the last word.

Baker sniggered. I couldn’t believe my friends weren’t on my side.

“Deola, a little help here?” I turned to the other friend.

“So are you back with Aliu now?” he turned from a giggling companion to ask.

He’d been occupied with his date, Feddi, at the far end of the booth. Ivan and I had been hoping these two would make it official already and be in a relationship. Deola had already called Feddi a keeper, which had surprised us; he didn’t exactly have a reputation for making commitments. They met at a party Ivan had dragged us to, to celebrate my new job as an OAP for a radio station.

“No, I’m not,” I said roundly.

“Are you sure?” Deola eyed me.

“Yes! I’m sure. Why would you think otherwise?”

“Uhm… It’s a valid question.”

“Or – oh, here’s another thought. Why don’t you all have some sense and stop this…this…whatever it is you’re doing?!” I was exasperated, something that happened oftentimes when I have something I’m hiding. “Aliu and I are never getting back together. Like ever!”

***

The moment I saw Aliu on the other side of the glass pane, I knew the inevitable would happen. I opened the door to the shower cubicle and let him in. I heard the clink of the spoon – the metal – he’d been holding, followed by the dull thud of the ice cream cup he had in his other hand, as both items fell to the floor. We came together into a fierce kiss. Two years felt like five minutes since the last time we were together.

The rest of it happened in a rush.

Moments later, we were panting and winded. Aliu got up and disposed of the condom. He returned to the bed and snuggled close to me.

“No one was as good at that as you,” he husked.

I knew he meant it as a compliment but I felt this pull in my chest at the words. I sat up abruptly and braced my elbows on my knees, fingers laced at the back of my head. I felt him touch my shoulder.

“Moe, did I hurt you?”

Yes. Not in the way he meant, but yes.

Fuck! I’m such a moron. I knew bringing him home was a terrible idea.

“You think I wanted to hear that?” I asked without looking at him. “I never wanted you to compare me with anyone else. I never thought you’d leave.”

“I’m sorry. It’s not as many guys as you might think. And you have to know I never wanted to leave.”

My laugh was so dry I was surprised it didn’t sap the humidity from the room. “I’m such a fool.”

“Moe –”

“Don’t ‘Moe’ me!” I flashed as I whirled to face him. “You’re so insensitive. You’re a self-centred, egotistical, utterly despicable bastard. My God, when did you become this person?” I moved to get out of the bed. “This person that doesn’t care what his actions do to people.”

“Uhm…Moe, are you okay?”

I turned on him. “Of course, I’m okay. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“For a second there, I thought you were describing yourself and not me.”

What?!

Out loud, I snapped, “What?!”

“Well, you broke up with Demola and now, you’re second guessing yourself.” He got up from the bed as well, walked over to me and put his hands on my shoulders. “You still love me. I know you do. Because…” He paused. “Because I never stopped loving you.”

I wanted to deny it. I wanted to block out everything he was saying. But I couldn’t. My voice was trapped somewhere under my ribcage.

“Then why’d you break up with me?”

He rubbed the back of his neck, his face suddenly tight. “You were right when you said my leash was gone. My son’s incident was the final straw. I hurt you so much, I couldn’t look you in the eye again. And when he died, I just snapped. I was so caught up in my grief that I forgot I had another reason to keep going on. I forgot I had you. Even though we weren’t together again, you kept me whole and sane. I forgot all that and everyone else.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it.”

“When I slapped you again in the kitchen that evening, I knew I had to let you go. I was becoming my father. I was becoming the man he was to my mom and my siblings. Hurting people left, right and centre. I couldn’t do that to you.”

He backed away slowly and sat on the bed.

“But you stayed,” he continued, “at the expense of your relationship with Demola. You were determined to put me back together. But I couldn’t control myself. And then, I hit you again and burnt your wrist with the boiling ring because you said I was following the classic stages of Acute Stress Disorder that may or may not develop to a full blown PTSD, causing me to lose it completely. It wasn’t until after I blamed you for my son’s death that I realised I needed help. Which was why I stayed away for two years. I went to get help.”

I stood there, naked in my bedroom, and I didn’t know what to say.

Aliu inhaled deeply, raggedly. “That night on the bridge when I said I didn’t love you, I died a little when I said it. And I died every time I remembered what I said. I puked that night when I got home. I don’t know what else to say. I genuinely thought I was doing the right thing for both of us.”

“It wasn’t the right thing to let me think you stopped loving me.” I finally found my voice. “That I was some kind of chump for believing in you and what we had.”

“Moe –”

“And that friggin’ tattoo – really?”

“I know. It was a bit over the top.”

“You think?”

“It’s not permanent though. All I wanted was to make a statement when I got back.”

“A fine statement that was, you idiot!”

He chuckled.

“It’s not funny. And two years of staying away? How could you have done that?”

He hesitated before he said, “Can you honestly tell me that if I had told you where I was, you wouldn’t have come looking me?”

The nakedness I felt in that moment wasn’t because I was bare-assed. “I guess we’ll never know now, will we?”

He flushed and looked away. “I’m sorry, Moe. I’ll say it every day if you give me another chance.”

I ignored that. I was curious about what I had missed in his life for the last two years.

“Deola and Ivan knew where I was,” he said, as though speaking from a knowledge of my curiosity.

“What?!”

“I made them swear not to tell you.”

“Unbelievable!”

“Demola knew too.”

“Again – what?! Demola knew? What the fuck is wrong with you people?”

“He needed to know so he’d look out –”

“Why do guys treat me like I’m some fragile being? I’m not a baby that needs protecting!”

“You are our baby. Demola and I have one thing in common: you.”

“Oh, please! Then why the animosity between you two the other day in my living room?”

“You were his. He was protecting his territory.”

Were. I stood there, as the past tense of Aliu’s words found its mark in my heart. I wasn’t Demola’s boyfriend anymore. It felt strange being single… And free?

I reached for my shirt on the chair in the corner of my room. It belonged to Demola, before I made it mine because I’d loved his smell on it. The smell had long since faded away from the shirt. I pulled it on.

“I can’t forgive you,” I said to Aliu. “Not yet.”

“Okay, that’s fair. I should probably be on my way.”

He grabbed his slacks and pulled it on, probably expecting that that was my intention – to send him on his way.

I saw the moisture in his eyes and I tried not to be swayed by it. But his subdued misery hit me in the gut.

“Don’t…don’t go. Just stay.” I swallowed. “Stay and talk to me. Tell me what you’ve done and where you’ve been.”

I could see the tension leave his body.

“Maybe we should clean up that ice cream I dropped first?” he said.

“We? You clean it up. You were the one that dropped it!”

“I wasn’t the one serving hotness in the shower with that body.” He gestured at my half-clad frame.

“You were supposed to be downstairs. In. The. Living room. Not lurking around and ogling me.”

We looked at each other for a second or two before bursting into laughter.

“One would think you’ve grown these last two years. Drama king like you,” Aliu sallied.

Just as I was about to give my reply, my phone rang out.

I moved to the table in the room where I’d left it. It was a private number. I looked at Aliu. As it appeared, he was ruled out as a suspect on the spot. He met my gaze with a slight frown as I raised my phone to show him the screen and the nonexistent caller ID. He walked over to me and snatched the phone from my hand. He swiped the call function and put it on loudspeaker.

“Who is this?” he said in a slight growl.

There was a pause. I could hear the whirl of the fan but there was no answer.

“I said who is –”

“Let’s play a game,” the caller cut in.

I instinctively moved closer to Aliu upon hearing it. I couldn’t place the voice. Was that female? It was disguised but I could tell it was a woman’s voice.

“A game?” Aliu asked.

“Yes, a game. A game of guns and bullets.” Then the line went dead.

I looked at Aliu in confusion.

***

Baker nudged me out of my reverie. “Ogbeni, your phone is ringing.”

I looked at the screen. ‘A’ was calling – ‘A’ for Aliu. I cut the call.

“Why you cut am na? Was that Aliu?” Baker asked, ever nosy.

“Like I ask for details when you’re skyping with Mayokun, yeah? Fimi sile jare!”

I refocused on my phone and shot a quick text to Aliu, letting him know our date was still on.

Let’s meet at Babis in two hours. I’m still with the gang.

I hit send and looked up to find everyone staring at me. Even Feddi.

“What?” I asked, my face hot with guilt, even as I quickly arranged it into a scowl.

“You are meeting up with Aliu,” Ivan, the all-knowing said. He didn’t phrase the words like a question. He simply said them like he knew that for a fact.

I stifled the urge to move uncomfortably in my seat. “No, I’m not. Get over yourselves already.”

“Yes, you are,” Deola said, his eyes narrowed on me.

“I. Am. Not,” I said with as much emphaticness as I could muster.

“You had an Aliu look on your face a few seconds ago while you were on the phone,” Baker said.

What is wrong with these people?

“What the fuck does that mean?” I snapped at him.

“An Aliu look. You had it when you were texting – texting him most likely,” Baker said.

“No, I did not have any Aliu look abeg, whatever that looks like. And I wasn’t texting him.” I took my phone and pressed the side button to lock the screen, before any of them would get the bright idea to investigate.

“You have a Demola look and an Aliu look. And it was an Aliu look you had on some seconds ago. Apparently he fucked your brains stupid the last time.” Ivan smirked as he said this.

“I don’t know what you all are going on about, okay? I’ve got to run.”

The lot of them oohed as I made to get up.

“Look who’s blushing,” Deola teased.

“And running away too. Don’t forget to douche, you wanton slut,” Ivan added.

“Fuck responsibly o,” Baker said, “and don’t use Gold Circle abeg. I forgot my lifesaver and black condoms in your guest room. Use that, shogbo?”

The four of them dissolved into laughter.

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever! See you guys later. Love ya. Take care, Feddi. Insist that Deola make an honets man out of you already.”

With that, I left the bar.

I drove home and got into the shower in preparation for the date with my ex. I still wasn’t sure what it was we were doing. All I knew was that I was going with the flow.

I heard a knock downstairs. Aliu wasn’t to come pick me up, so I wondered who it could be. I got to the front door and opened the door. The lady on the porch had her back to me. Her perfume assaulted my nose immediately I opened the door.

“Uhm… Hello? Can I help you?”

She turned. I recognised the beautiful face immediately, with the sculptured features and full lips.

Mide – Demola’s ex-fiancée.

“Remember me?” she said in her familiar husky voice. “A game or guns and bullets?”

It was then that I saw the gun in her hand.

I didn’t have enough time to react before the gun spat fire from her hand. The bullet hit me on the abdomen and pain exploded instantly as I staggered back. She fired again and the explosion of pain fractured all over my body as I dropped to the ground.

The hate on her beautiful face was the last thing I saw before darkness descended on me.

THE END

Written by Vhar

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