The afternoon sun was just sinking when I dropped off an okada -motorcycle onto a tarred road in the highbrow area of Ikoyi, Lagos. The street, Johnsons’ avenue was in a close, with well spaced trees set on either side of the paved street, creating a cosy, welcoming feel. I glanced at the lovely houses, mostly very exotic looking duplexes on either side of the street with their solid looking gates and high tech security gadgets – one in particular had a device mounted on it that swept its lights in an audacious sweep whenever a car zoomed by; I suspected that a siren would blare somewhere inside the residence and possibly a hidden camera had flashed a quick indignant shot of whatever intruder had dared to agitate the peace of the mechanical sentinel.
I was glancing at the numbers on the gates and glancing back at my little address book – no 8, 9 10……13.
Yes. 13, Johnson’s avenue. I looked in awe at my destination – the last street at the end of the close – it was in the centre, not on the side, like the others. As if her father owned the street. Well, the house certainly looked even better than all the others on that street – incredible. The gates were a little higher and broader, and it was obvious that the compound was much bigger – I could see the green ivy that ran all along the walls and trees that sprang up inside.The other compounds didn’t have trees springing up within their walls.
Obviously, there was a well kept lawn inside – that would take even more money to maintain. No doubt, this girl’s family was very rich.
Surely, there’d be less temptation for me in a house that was sure to be populated with various family and servants?
I swallowed timidly, walked up to the gate and pressed the on switch for the electronic bell on the wall.
The gates swung open almost immediately, startling me because I didn’t see anyone. There must have been a hidden camera monitoring me.
‘Come in, sir,’ a voice boomed from the speakers. ‘You are expected!
‘Please turn to the right,sir.’Thank you!’
I glanced around and saw that the compound was even better organized and beautiful than I had anticipated. Looking like some UK home in Argos magazine!
There was a short drive on another paved road, leading up to the large sprawling duplex, about 20metres ahead. Near a very beautiful hedge –I couldn’t identify what type, but it was obviously not native to Africa- the road branched off into slanting curve, about 15m long and culminated in a lovely garden with a variety of exotic flowers and a very beautiful cottage.
I stood staring.
It looked like the entrance to a little heaven.
‘Femi!’ Tomilola came out smiling dazzlingly and embraced me, then spun off ahead of me, cat walking as I stood there ,hesitating.
She laughed and called back over her shoulder, looking dangerously irresistible in a pink gear that looked like an aerobics workout outfit, so confident in her felinity and social status. She didn’t even bother to look back, sure that I could not but be entranced by her – and her lovely home.
Was I under a spell? I was hesitant, but still couldn’t muster the strength of will to turn back.
To be honest, I felt overpowered.
I prayed I was not walking into a honey coated version of hell.
‘This is my lovely chalet! The whole place is my uncle’s home – Fortunately, at the moment, everybody’s outside Nigeria- except little old me – and the servants of cause. They keep things running.’
Musa’s my favorite – very smart. He’s the one who let you in through the gate. My loyal servant -he keeps all my little secrets. Though, of course, I get to settle him a lot for his – ‘loyal services.’
I wanted what exactly she meant by ‘settle him’. She had been leering again when she said that. I began to squirm uncomfortably, wondering nervously if I shouldn’t start thinking of leaving.
I looked around the beautiful white sofas and round transparent glass centre table with lovely flowers on them. It certainly was an attractive place to be.
But the unease inside me increased, and I took a deep breath, standing shakily to my feet as I prepared to walk out of there.
She handed me a slip – I froze as I stared at it- a check for eighty thousand naira. What!
‘Just for starters, dearie.’
I opened my mouth soundlessly, and she waved imperiously, smiling as she walked across the room to where a CD player was lying.
‘Relax! You and I have a long way to go – we’ll undergo some lovely symbiosis together.’ She smiled wolfishly as she said that.
At that moment, Tomilola plugged a CD into her player – an old song of Madonna’s – La Isla Bonita.
That threw me off balance.
The song brought back some serious nostalgia – memories of a dreamy childhood. I hesitated, and she pranced towards me, eyes rolling with laughter. Before I could gather my wits together, she was pulling me across the smooth tiled floor and I was spinning without thinking, in my element, dancing energetically. As we locked hands, turning slowly in a half circle, she suddenly pressed heavily on me, leaning forwards with her mouth angling towards my lips.
The tumultuous brew of steamy feelings were overpowering to my brain.
I felt intoxicated.
Then I was beginning to feel my body respond, when a scripture, like a warning signal, flashed across my mind- ‘Flee from every appearance of evil’.
I drew back suddenly, as If jolted with a shock of electricity, and she fell backwards onto the ground.
Her eyes blazed with fury, and she sprang up angrily to her feet.
‘How dare you…………….! ’ She let out her breath with a hiss.
‘I’m sorry….but I have to go. I don’t do….I’m a man who believes in being chaste till I marry.’
She looked at me like I was a Neanderthal.
Her eyes were full of rage – and the sting of a rejected woman. A proud woman scorned. I was treading on dangerous waters now.
I stood my ground -then dropped the check on the transparent glass table.
‘Thank you for the gesture. But I really can’t go on with this. Thank you for inviting me- your home is really lovely.’
I started walking towards the door, and she stood there watching; for a moment her eyes were soft, pleading, voice tremulous.
‘I had great plans for both of us. I was willing to drop all the others for you. Even get you in on some of Dad’s business deals. And Uncle’s. They both dote over me you know. I can easily persuade them to do things for me. We could travel together. Don’t spoil it. Stop being so- so prudish!’
I hesitated, thinking of all the advantages of being Tomilola’s lover. For a moment, I stood, indecisive, and then took a deep breath, looked at her and said, with finality.
‘No. My values are different from yours. I can’t drop them for all the money in the world. They’re worth much more than money.’
I paused, then spoke again.
‘And my heart belongs to another. It just won’t work. Integrity matters to me.’
‘You……bastard.’ She said it in a whisper. That kind of scared me, since I knew Tomilola to be the shouting type, but I didn’t look back.
‘Don’t ever think you can run to me if you have financial problems! And…I’ll make you regret this!
Get out of my house!’
But I wasn’t really listening. Tomi’s voice seemed to echo into my ears from far away; I was already rushing out, thinking of what I would say to my girlfriend, Rachel. No, more than that – my fiancée, my wife to be. My heaven sent oasis of sweet calmness and substance.
In a sudden flash of insight, I realized what a rare ruby Rachel was in a world widespread with glittering gaudy gold!
It was already 6pm. On her birthday; she’d be wondering where I was, since I’d switched off my phone. We had agreed to rendezvous at that TFC outlet…yet I knew she would wait. For me.
I decided I would be totally open to her. Let her know the whole truth and nothing but the truth –
That I had been tempted,
That I’d almost fallen from the faith,
That I’d been struggling with lust for a sensuous woman and inordinate desires for the finer things of life,
That I still loved her.
That I still had the courage to make hard choices.
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