At 8am, I was busy at Mbano enjoying the roasted yam my mother served me when I got an unexpected call from my boss. I nervously answered the call without
wasting time, equally wondering why he was calling by that hour; ‘’Agent Val, where are you?’’ my boss asked in his usual gruff voice. ‘’I’m at home sir,’’ I stammered, standing up nervously as if the man was right there before me. ‘’report to my office immediately; It’s very urgent. You have five minutes,’’ he ordered. ‘’yes sir.’’ I breathed sharply even though deep down I was extremely unhappy. I planned spending the weekend with mum after staying away from home for so long and I just couldn’t imagine how disappointed she would be, seeing me leave just an hour after I got home. . . Anyway, that’s exactly the life of an agent. My life and everything belonged to the government
and I had no reason to protest because I clearly knew what I was getting into when I applied to join the department of state services.

I slowly made my way to the kitchen to tell my dear mother that I was leaving again. Luckily to me, I had no much explanations to give. A look at my face told her everything. She simply shrugged and bit her lips as I made my way towards her: ‘’I guess the call was from your office?, when am I seeing you again?’’ she asked. ‘’maybe today, maybe tomorrow. Once I’m free, I will be back here,’’ I answered with a forced smile as I hugged her.

(one hour later at DSS Quarters, Owerri)

As I drove into my work place, I couldn’t help but wondered why my boss needed me so urgently. I wasn’t really holding any sensitive material or position at the moment. The general election of the previous year and every post election security matters had already been dealt with. I really had hoped on having a wonderful weekend with mum only to be ordered back to the office. Yes I was really far from happiness but I hid my feelings as I appeared before my boss who was in his office with a senior colleague who was in
charge of the governor’s security. ‘’Agent Val; I gave you five minutes to report here but you took an hour?’’ my boss asked with a frown while I quickly apologized. ‘’I’m reassigning you. From now you are part of the state governor’s security. Any problem with that?’’ he asked. ‘’No sir’’ I answered, wondering the reason I was chosen for such a job since I clearly knew that we lost none of the agents working with the state governor. I instantly felt there was more to it. ‘’Agent mike will brief you more on your new assignment’’ my boss added, nodding at the
senior agent who smiled at me while I nervously stared back at him as he opened a file he was
holding. ‘’According to your file, you are currently 26years old. A law graduate, did remarkably well in law school, been out of the country twice, still single and from a royal family’’ agent Mike calmly summarized my life as I stood still. ‘’Have you ever been in real combat before?’’ he
asked. ‘’No sir?’’ I answered, wondering why he asked such a question, since he was with my file which clearly stated that I had been in the department for just a year and few months and only worked at the vetting department. ‘’Good, the governor needs a well educated and exposed agent of your age to watch over his rebellious daughter who will be arriving the state this evening. She is 24years old. A Harvard graduate and it’s her first time of coming home since her dad became the state governor, so listen carefully to what I have to tell you. Before accepting to come home, the girl made her father to promise not to cage her, nor suffocate her life with security and bodyguards. She wants to live a free life and mingle with people like she used to do in the past. But you know we can’t let that happen. Her father needs someone within her age range to be with her all the time as a friend without her really knowing that the person is an agent and that’s where you fit in.Do you get me?’’ he asked. ‘’Yes sir, I understand. I think I have seen a similar movie sometime back’’ I answered freely. ‘’Shut up! This is real life. Don’t mess this up or you will see yourself out of this department. The governor is very close to the president and he can ruin your life if you play with his daughter’s safety,’’ he threatened seriously while I instantly hid my smile as my heart frozened. ‘’I need not to tell you that the governor has a lot of enemies and you are being assigned a very tasking job,’’ he added while I looked down with slight tension as the burden of my new assignment played before me. . . It would really be my first major tasking assignment outside office work and I couldn’t imagine protecting a very rebellious governor’s daughter all on my own without any backup. Yes I was a good shooter but I really was yet to face any combat and with the way I saw my new assignment, I felt a day would come when my shooting skills would be needed. I hated being with rich kids, talk more of protecting a rebellious one who could spend all her time putting herself in harm’s way. ‘’Lord help me’’ I breathed.

(An hour later)

Agent mike and I arrived at the governor’s lodge. I was super excited and nervous at the same time. I knew my new assignment had lots of benefits and risks as well. I really didn’t know what the future had for me but yes I was so ready for my new assignment.
‘’please don’t screw this up. It’s my job and yours that are on the line here. This assignment is a very difficult one I know but make sure you are focused and make use of the training you got. Be focused and never lose guard.’’ Agent mike advised as we got out of his car while I nodded quickly like a new student.
I was led straight to the governor’s sitting room where the governor’s wife was anxiously waiting for us. The smile on her face clearly showed how happy she was to see me. We barely had settled down before the governor joined us.
We all stood up to greet the governor who surprisingly offered his hand for a handshake.
‘’Here is agent Val sir. He is the best agent for the job,’’ agent Mike addressed the governor who left his eyes on me for few seconds.
‘’You look very familiar young man. Have we met before?’’ he asked curiously. I nervously nodded.
‘’Yes sir, before the governorship election, I was among the agents that cleared you when you showed up at our office’’ I answered.
‘’Ah! No wonder, I guess you have been briefed on the nature of your new assignment? My daughter Clara isn’t an easy person to deal with. You need to be enduring and very smart to deal with her. She may not want you by her side but always find a way to be at her side. I can’t allow her to move around on her own like she does in U.S. Please protect her for me,’’ he pleaded. He smiled and left us without another word while his wife who had been silent all along cleared her throat.
‘’You will have everything you need provided but just make sure you keep my daughter safe. You will pick her up at the airport by 4pm,’’ she said softly as young beautiful girl walked in on us, smiling pleasantly.
‘’Yes meet Vivian. She’s the daughter of my husband’s brother and she’s equally very close to my daughter, Clara. She will assist you in getting close to my daughter. She knows everything about your assignment. She will also go with you to the airport this evening. Consider her your partner’’ she calmly introduced the young lady who quietly sat beside her.

Minutes later, I returned to my apartment in town to pick up few things and equally prepare myself for the new assignment. I really didn’t have enough time to mentally prepare for the job but deep down I felt it was going to be dangerously fun and a great experience. Vivian looked like a nice and understanding lady and I couldn’t help but wish that the governor’s daughter could be at least half understanding as her.
I nervously prepared, got my stuffs ready and headed back to the governor’s lodge where Vivian was dutifully waiting for me. The smile on her face as our eyes met was enough to put silly ideas into my head but I quickly shut it out of my mind because I knew perfectly well the risks involved in having silly ideas.

By 3:30pm, we headed to the airport. I did the driving while Vivian sat beside me asking lots of curious questions which I answered calmly. There wasn’t any doubt she was a very friendly person and the way she related to me made me very much relaxed.
‘’So is there anything else I need to know about Clara?’’ I kind of asked as we approached the airport.
‘’Hmmmm! Well, she’s a very difficult person to be with but believe me she can equally be very friendly and jovial whenever she feels like. She takes time in choosing her friends and I pray she accepts you, if not her dad won’t have any other choice than to look for your replacement. She also has tons of admirers which doubled since her dad became the state governor. You know she’s a very good catch,’’ she answered freely while I smiled.
‘’So how long have you been an agent?’’ she asked.
‘’just a year and few months,’’ I answered.
‘’I never knew the department has young fine guys like you’’ she complemented while I blushed.

After waiting for almost an hour, at the airport, the plane we were expecting finally landed, bringing our nervous wait to an end. I couldn’t help but make the sign of the cross as we waited for Clara to show up.
‘’Are you nervous?’’ Vivian asked with a smile.
‘’Not really,‘’ I lied. She offered her hand which I took.
‘’just relax’’ she breathed with concern before pointing at the girl we came to pick up.
‘’here she is,’’ she added excitedly.

We soon met up with Clara who hugged Vivian happily before nodding at me as she probably wondered who I was.
‘’I hope he isn’t security?’’ she asked Vivian with a smile.
‘’no, he’s a family friend. Does he look like a security guy?’’ Vivian answered while Clara laughed.
‘’he doesn’t look like security but I haven’t seen him before. Have we met before?’’ she asked me.
‘’Oh! my name is Val, a family friend. The last time we met was years ago when we were still very little. I think we were still in primary school back then’’ I lied like Vivian earlier advised and of course Clara bought it.
‘’Oh val? Hmmmm! Nice name. I Hope you will be as sweet as your name?’’ she joked, making me a bit relaxed with her playful nature as we exchanged glances while Vivian rolled her eyes as she listened.
‘’I hope you are not hitting on him because he is mine?’’ Vivian finally added, while Clara laughed.
‘’of course not my dear, I’m not’’ she playfully answered as I helped her carry her big travel bag.
Deep down I couldn’t help but wonder if Vivian meant her words or was just playing around. Yes as a young guy, silly ideas always tend to get into my head.
Only time will tell.

Clara and Vivian chatted endlessly as we headed back to the governor’s lodge from the airport. I simply focused on my driving while listening to all they discussed. I really was enjoying my job and Clara wasn’t really as troublesome as they painted her to be.
In no time we got to our destination without any issue. Of course I was happy. I passed the first stage of my job very easily.
‘’Hey Clara, please I will like to be with you when ever you are leaving the house to keep your company. All you have to do is just to notify me on time. So let’s exchange phone numbers please’’ I begged as we got out of the car. She silently stared at me for a while before throwing a quick look at Vivian who shrugged. There wasn’t any doubt she was trying to make out the reason for my gesture.
‘’come on, you have done pretty much enough by picking me up at the airport. I’m very much fine by myself. I really don’t need anyone to watch over me. I can give you my phone number but I clearly don’t need your protection or company, whatever you call it. Okay?’’ she answered with a smile while I scoffed.
‘’Come on, I wasn’t talking about protection. I have nothing much doing and I’m always bored. So the best thing you can do for me is to take me with you whenever you are leaving the house so that I can at least have a breath of fresh air,’’ I pushed on. She rolled her eyes and smiled once more.
‘’so you mean you have no job or something?’’ she asked.
‘’Yes. Things are very hard in this country. It’s been two years I left school, yet no good job is forthcoming and that’s really why I’m here. Perhaps your dad could help me out if he sees how close we are’’ I answered faintly. For the first time, Clara looked at me with pity in her eyes. She drew close and held my hand.
‘’it’s very hard to see an honest guy these days. Fine, I will always take you with me wherever I go. Relax, I will force my old man to get something for you’’ she promised, exchanged numbers with me and headed to the mansion with Vivian. I swallowed hard as I watched the two ladies disappear. I really felt very bad lying to her but then I did it to protect her. I was only doing my job.

The rest of the evening was very uneventful as Clara spent the evening with her family while I rested in my room, wondering how the next day would be like. However at exactly 9:05pm, Vivian showed up at my room, surprising me with her presence.
I quickly sat up, thinking that I was in for another assignment but she smiled and sat at the edge of the bed.
‘’Hmmm! relax, I only came to check on you,’’ she breathed, flashing her charming smile on me.

(Vivian’s side of the story continues:)

I really wasn’t fond of guys because of the nasty experience I had with them right from high school to college. Returning to Nigeria in 2007, I still kept my resentment and distance from them. Yes my decision to stay away from guys caused me less stress, less worries and less thinking. I loved my independence and surely was enjoying every bit of it. Moreover the power and attention I got from being the governor’s niece was equally enough to bring up my pride and ego. I enjoyed being the center of attraction and gossip.
Of course I had numerous admirers. I had lots of rich suitor’s coming for me but none of them won my heart because all I saw in their eyes was desperation, greed and business. I needed someone who would love everything about me and not what he stood to benefit from me. I needed nothing but pure and simple love. In fact, I needed a simple guy who had ambitions devoid of greed and deception.

From the moment I saw agent Val that fateful Saturday, I instantly was drawn to him without really knowing the reason . . . Maybe because he somehow looked like my immediate elder brother or maybe because of the innocent look he had which I had never seen in any agent. I liked him: I wanted to be his friend and I just couldn’t help myself but the only problem I had was that he looked too serious like someone scared of playing with his job. I had to find a way to make him loosen up with me without making it obvious that I was falling for him.
I had to make my way to his room when I couldn’t control my feelings any longer. But don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t in his room to seduce him but just to keep him company for a while.

(Val’s side of the story continues:)

‘’I hope you are not in need of anything?’’ Vivian asked as we exchanged glances.
‘’oh not at all. Thanks for your care,’’ I breathed politely while she shrugged, leaving her eyes on me. We silently stared at each other for a while without saying anything. I couldn’t think out any topic to discuss with her and she on her own part looked as if she was hoping for me to start a conversation.
‘’Tomorrow we will be moving down to the governor’s family house downtown. Clara will be receiving her friends and guests there. You know it’s against protocol for her friends to be coming here as they wish. So that’s why she decided it was better moving down to the other house to have the space and freedom she needs,’’ Vivian finally informed me after noticing that I wasn’t ready to start up any conversation with her.
‘’very well. I’m ready for anything,’’ I replied with a smile.
‘’good night then. We will be leaving by 12 noon,’’ she added, stood up, smiled at me and left the room while I fell back on my bed and breathed deeply.

On Sunday morning, I was busy checking out the car we were to make use of that day when a female “civil defense” officer walked up to me.
‘’someone wants to see you. He is waiting at the gate’’ she informed. I couldn’t help but stare at her curiously. It was with great effort that I refrained myself from telling her that she was mistaken because I clearly wasn’t expecting anyone.

Curiously, I walked up to the gate to see one of the governor’s aides waiting for me. I was surprised and confused at the same time.
‘’hey! my name is Joe, I’m not really sure if you know me? I’m sorry for disturbing you this early but it’s a matter of urgency,’’ the young man breathed as he led me to a quiet corner while I wondered the reason for all that. Of course I knew him well even though we had never spoken to each other prior to that moment.

He was no other person than the governor’s special assistant on youth matters. A young man of about thirty three years, very friendly and eloquent.

‘’I really need your help brother and I know this may come to you as a surprise but I can’t help it. You see I’m in love with Clara’’ he nervously breathed, shocking me with his words. I couldn’t even figure out how to react or what to say to him.

‘’I heard you guys are very close and that you will be with her at all times. Please I know this sounds weird but I will like you to be my eyes and ears. I simply want you to represent my interest. I really love this girl and you know what I mean’’ he added nervously.

‘’I understand you bro but what you are asking of me is a bit difficult and confusing. Clara is an adult and I don’t have much influence over her. Vivian, her cousin should be the person to meet,’’ I finally said to him.

‘’No you are a man just like me. Just keep it in mind, in due time you will see your role in this,’’ he muttered with a smile while I shrugged.

‘’here take this small change. It’s just ten thousand naira. keep it,’’ he said, fetching out a wad of currency notes from his pocket. I laughed deep inside. His gesture looked a bit desperate and stupid. Moreover I was an agent who was perhaps earning much more than him. But he didn’t know about that though.

‘’you shouldn’t bother about that. I will help you as long as your request isn’t a dangerous one. Just keep your money bro,’’ I breathed politely, smiled and walked away.
I couldn’t help but wonder how many men were desperate to have the governor’s daughter. She was a hot catch quite alright.

Later in the evening in the governor’s family residence at 9:30pm Vivian and I sat on a small field at the back of the big mansion enjoying a very rich alcoholic wine together. It really wasn’t my idea to sit down there at the back of the house drinking and catching fun.
It was all Vivian’s idea and I kind of obliged her since it was already dark and I had no other work to do that evening.

But the more she drank, the more I noticed the drink taking over her senses. She talked very freely while I behaved like a gentleman.

‘’so tell me, do you have a girlfriend?’’ she finally asked while I drew back a bit.
Yea that was a very sensitive question that always pinched me whenever someone asked me about it. I was well employed and good looking but unfortunately I wasn’t successful with women. I had to run away from the few female friends I had when I noticed that they were all interested in ripping me off than giving me the love I needed. I had to resign myself to the fate of being a bachelor with no girlfriend.

Perhaps because of the drink, perhaps because I felt free with her, I opened up. I told her I had no girlfriend not because I didn’t want one but because I was yet to find the person who would give me the love I needed without weighing me down problems and issues.
Vivian silently listened to all I said and when I was done, she said nothing which kind of made me feel that she was asleep or something. I had to lean forward to check out her face only to be held tightly by her as she gave me an unexpected kiss that shocked and left me trembling.

‘’Val,’’ she breathed.
‘’Noooo’’ I cautiously stammered, softly pushing her away. I was scared of hurting her but I just couldn’t help it.
‘’’what?’’ Vivian asked as I gently pushed her face away from mine. Somehow I felt a bit confused and embarrassed at the same time. It really was the first time a girl was making the first move on me, but then she was drunk. She was far from being in control of her mind.
‘’you are drunk. I think it’s time to go to bed,’’ I breathed and helped her up.
‘’come on Val, stop treating me like a baby. I’m not drunk’’ she insisted but I refused listening to her, instead I softly dragged her to her room.
There wasn’t any doubt the drink she had was telling on her and so the right thing to do was what I did by taking her to her room to rest. But on my way out of her room, I ran into Clara who was heading to her own room from the sitting room. She gave me one kind of suspicious look and smile that left me very nervous and defensive.
‘’Hmmmmm! I can see you guys are hitting it off pretty well?’’ she asked.
‘’Nooooo we were just drinking outside and she had too much drink. I had to help her to her room. That’s it,’’ I answered innocently while she shrugged.
‘’we have a lot to talk during breakfast tomorrow. I guess you won’t shy away from eating with me?’’ she asked with a smile and walked past me before I could say anything.

I was restless all night long as I wondered what could be going on in Clara’s mind. I equally couldn’t help but wonder what Vivian’s game plan was all about. I was scared of losing my job for nothing and I knew I had to be extremely cautious when dealing with the two ladies because no matter how mature they looked, they still had a very fragile mind.

(8am, the next day)

As I headed to the dining room for breakfast, I ran into Vivian who smiled as soon as her eyes fell on me.
‘’I know I embarrassed myself yesterday. I’m so sorry,’’ she apologized.
‘’oh it’s nothing,’’ I answered politely, feeling relaxed.
‘’so we are cool with each other then?’’ she asked while I nodded. Together we headed to the dining room where Clara was waiting. To be candid, I was very nervous and a bit uncomfortable having dinner with the two ladies but I had my cover to protect and had to act cool.
‘’you know I still find it difficult remembering you or your family?’’ Clara kind of asked as we faced the meal before us. Vivian quickly came to my rescue.
‘’don’t tell me you are really yet to figure out Val’s identity?. How come you allowed him to come here with us then?’’ she asked Clara who rolled her eyes.
‘’I’m sorry; it’s just that I need help in getting it together. He looks like the son of our family friend way back in Lagos but it’s a long time ago now. I guess 1993 period or so. I just want to be very sure’’ she insisted.
‘’but we have already discussed this issue in your room. Come on, where are your manners?. Don’t you know you are embarrassing him?’’ Vivian pushed on.
‘’I’m so sorry Val. It’s just that I already forgot most of my childhood memories but concerning the job thing, I promise to talk to my dad about it. He will definitely get something for you before the week runs out. I promise you that,’’ she assured me while I silently smiled. Of course there was nothing there to say. Vivian on her own part gave me a knowing look filled with unspoken words which I clearly understood. We were surely using Clara’s head without her knowing it. But it was all for her own good. My only problem and fear was Vivian who could eventually turn back to use all the secrets and lies against me.
‘’aw! I have to go get more sauce,’’ Vivian suddenly breathed, standing up with a small plate.
‘’I will be back in a jiffy,’’ she added and headed to the kitchen while Clara and I exchanged glances.
‘’she’s so much in love with you. Tell me the truth, you guys are dating right?’’ she asked curiously.
‘’no we are not’’ I truthfully answered, but instead of facing her food, she left her eyes on me waiting for me to explain further. And I had to come up with a pretty good defense.
‘’you see, in my condition I can’t afford to be in any relationship. I have nothing to offer anyone and I can’t just take advantage of a beautiful and nice girl like Vivian because of my selfishness or maybe what I stood to gain from her. Secondly I have no special feelings for her. I value her friendship and care but that’s it. I can’t deceive her and pretend to love her only for us to end up hating each other tomorrow. She’s way better off without me. She deserves the best guy. My priority now is to make out something for myself,’’ I softly explained while she dropped her eyes as if my words found a place in her heart. It was just as if she was so touched.

Vivian showed up from the kitchen that very moment and stared at us with suspicion. It was just as if she perceived something, she noticed something that made her uncomfortable.
Yes I really had no strong feelings for Vivian but supposing we met in a different circumstance or position, perhaps I would have gladly tried her out but in this situation I couldn’t risk it. What I felt for her wasn’t just enough to risk my job and career for.

(Tuesday 11am in a week later)

I was busy checking out some news sites with my computer when I heard loud shouts coming out from the sitting room. I quickly grabbed my jacket, tucked in my small pistol and rushed to the sitting room. With great speed I ran into the sitting room as if I was being pursed only to see Clara facing a huge guy who was holding her by the shoulder.
I kind of felt embarrassed, freezing with shock as they stared at me with surprise.
‘’Oh I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I heard noises and I thought you were in danger’’ I nervously explained while the huge guy scoffed. It was very obvious he was very angry but what I didn’t know was if it was my interruption that made him angry or something else.
‘’like seriously you barged in on us just because you heard noises? Who the hell are you? He fired at me.
‘’calm down Charles what is wrong with you?’’ Clara shouted at him.
‘’oh I see you are now defending what he did?’’ he asked Clara who shook her head in anger.
‘’you know what, you can leave now. I’m tired of talking to you, we will see on Thursday’’ she said to him angrily while he stared at her with disbelief. I simply watched the drama with a little smile on my face. I couldn’t help but wonder who the huge guy was. Of course he looked very wealthy and saucy. And with the way he was acting I figured he was very close to Clara.
‘’I said you can leave now’’ she shouted at him again before leaving the sitting room for him. The young man scornfully stared at me for some seconds, breathed deeply and walked away without another word. I calmly returned to my room to continue with what I was doing before the noise got my attention and had barely settled down when Clara walked in .
She hesitantly stood at the door post, smiling faintly as she probably tried to act cool.
‘’I’m sorry for the embarrassment. The guy is just a nut-head but unfortunately he is a very close friend and we have known each other for long. His name is Charles’’ she softly explained while I smiled as I tried hard to come up with something good to say.
‘’his birthday is on Thursday and I will be heading to Abuja for it. I will leave tomorrow. Do you wish to accompany me?’’ she offered.
‘’yes of course, I will gladly do that’’ I answered quickly.
‘’you will do the driving. I love road trips’’ she added, smiled and left the room while my heart sank as I thought of the long distance and stress. Moreover it was going to be my first time of driving all the way to the federal capital city.

Hours later, Vivian walked into my room with her usual charming smile. Yes after that evening she kissed me at the backyard, she became a little more careful with me. She tried to be as friendly as possible while being cautious.
She sat on the bed, crossed her legs and stared at me.
‘’I can’t believe Clara is taking you to Abuja while dropping me. I can’t believe she accepted you into her life so easily. There is more to it you know. A lady can’t accept a guy so easily without having intentions, without having a little romantic feelings for him’’ she muttered, carefully watching my reaction.
‘’so what are you trying to say?’’ I asked.
‘’I think she’s very fond of you’’ she added carefully.
‘’yes and it’s making my job very easy. So far the girl has been nothing but good to me. The only problem I have now is preparing and getting myself ready for the long drive to Abuja. I have never done that before and I’m a bit nervous’’ I confessed with a frown while she laughed out loud.
‘’but on a serious note, Who the hell is Charles?, do you know him?’’ I asked.
‘’yes he is the first son of Senator Adolphus, the man who was very instrumental in helping Clara’s father win the governorship election. Charles and Clara have been friends for long and I believe the young man considers himself her boyfriend. I don’t like him though. He is too rude and arrogant’’ she replied quietly.
‘’Hmmmm! That’s deep,’’ I breathed.
‘’yes and that’s the truth’’ she muttered.
‘’I believe we will be back by Saturday’’ I added, changing the topic while she drew closer to me.
‘’do you like Clara, are you interested in her? Tell me please I’m dying to know?’’ she begged desperately, surprising me with her question. I swallowed hard as I returned her gaze.
‘’Vivian, I’m only here to do my job and romance isn’t part of it. This assignment will soon be over before you know it and no one in this house will remember me again. I have no special romantic feelings for anyone’’ I guardedly answered. She dropped her eyes, saying nothing more.
The last thing I wanted was hurting Vivian with my words but she always had a way of asking the most difficult questions.

Early the next day, Clara and I left the house for Abuja. We covered the first few kilometers in silence until I asked her the question that had been bugging me since the previous day.
‘’are you in love with Charles? I’m sorry for being inquisitive’’ I nervously asked. She smiled and gave me a quick look.
‘’actually we have been friends for so long and it kind of looks as if we are dating even though I’m yet to say yes to him. I like him but he is so unpredictable. He switches mood faster than a chameleon changes color. This minute he will be happy and jovial, the next minute, he becomes so annoying and rude. It’s just as if he takes drugs. I can’t be with such a man’’ she confessed while I drove on silently as I pondered over her words.
I wasn’t really supposed to ask her the question but I never knew how I got the courage to ask. Perhaps I cared for her much more than I thought. Maybe what I was feeling for her deep inside was love.
Yes maybe or maybe not.

We got to Abuja later that evening and in no time made our way to Clara’s family’s residence. A magnificent mansion located in a plush Maitama neighborhood. I just couldn’t say a word for some seconds as I stared at the edifice that stood before me. Clara smiled and placed her hand on my shoulder.
‘’you like the house?’’ she asked softly.
‘’aw! so beautiful,’’ I breathed.
‘’yes dad invested in real estate long before becoming governor. We have a house keeper and two security guys here’’ she added.
‘’I pray to have such an investment someday’’ I added softly.
‘’of course you will, once you are focused. You are still very young now’’ she replied as we walked into the building.

(9pm, same evening)

Clara took me to a quiet restaurant within the neighborhood where we had dinner. I equally used the opportunity to question her about the plans she had for Charles’s birthday.
‘’so concerning your friend’s birthday, is there anything I need to know?’’ I asked softly as soon as we settled down in the restaurant.
‘’nothing really, you have done your part by accompanying me to this city. All you have to do tomorrow is rest while I attend the party. I really don’t know when the party is ending. He told me it’s an all night event, so I guess I will be sleeping over’’ she replied quickly.
‘’the party is holding at his house?’’ I asked.
‘’no in a hotel’’ she answered freely while I thought of how to attend the party with her without raising any suspicion.
‘’but is there anything wrong if I go with you?’’ I chipped in softly. She brought up her eyes to meet my gaze, keeping quiet for a while as she probably pondered over my words.
‘’I really don’t want to be selfish. You have tried a lot by sacrificing your time for me. You can’t continue like this. It’s just as if I’m using you. You are free to come with me if you wish to but I’m not forcing you to accompany me,’’ she finally replied, settling my mind with the answer. Of course my job was to be with her always and I clearly didn’t know what to do if she insisted on attending the party alone. Out of relief I reached out for her right hand which was on the table, drawing out the deepest stare from her.
‘’I always enjoy being with you’’ I breathed while she blushed.
‘’It hurts me that you are still unemployed. You have a kind heart and wonderful spirit. Someone like you deserves a better life,’’ she slowly said, making me very uncomfortable with her words. I had to quickly change the topic.
‘’so why didn’t you take Vivian along?’’ I asked.
‘’she isn’t my servant. She has her own life and I can’t be dragging her to everywhere I go,’’ she answered freely. I smiled, saying nothing.
The rest of the evening was a bit uneventfully. We soon returned to the house and headed to our separate bedrooms.

By 6:55pm the next evening, Clara and I were all dressed up and ready for the evening outing. By 7:45pm we arrived at a hotel in Wuse 2, which was the location of the event (Charles birthday party). Of course I was a bit nervous attending a function I wasn’t invited and at first insisted on staying behind in the car which left Clara extremely surprised. It really took her an effort to convince me to go into the hotel with her and I kind of prayed not to run into Charles, which was really impossible because he was the celebrant and I had this feeling that the evening could end up very badly for me.
We barley had got into the exquisitely decorated hall when two girls hugged Clara.
‘’Finally you are here. Nawa for you oooo, you just left Charles worried,’’ one of the girls said to Clara as they dragged her towards another corner of the hall while I stayed back and kept my eyes on her. But unfortunately for me, I barely had stood there for five minutes when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
‘’what are you doing here?, you think I won’t recognize you or what?’’ I heard a familiar voice ask. I turned to face Charles who looked very angry to see me.
‘’let’s go outside and talk. I need to know what’s going on between you and my girl’’ he added and nodded towards the door way. I shrugged and obeyed after noticing two hefty guys who were standing with him. The last thing I wanted was causing a scene in front of everyone and I equally couldn’t help but wonder the kind of guy Charles really was. He looked very ready to ruin his own birthday party.
Luckily he followed me outside without his two friends, making me a bit relaxed. He dragged me to a slightly dark part of the hotel, where he felt we won’t be interrupted. I also couldn’t help but notice that he was nervous.
‘’I know how this happens; it all starts innocently from friendship. Gradually, you take over my girl, you are already her companion and close pal right?. Slowly I become the enemy and the rude insensitive boyfriend. Then boooooom I lose out like a stupid fool. I’m not stupid, what I can’t just figure out is how you managed to get into her life, live in her family house and be everywhere with her. You guys are virtually everywhere together. Who are you, because you are not a member of her family or in any way related to her? I know everything about Clara’s family but I don’t know you. Who are you?’’ he asked with a slightly raised tone while I stared at him, clueless on what exactly to say.
‘’I have heard stories about how close you guys are since she returned to Nigeria but I don’t want to fight you. I know what guys like you need is money. Where were you when she was just an ordinary girl? where were you when she was struggling with her studies?. Where were you when her father was struggling to become the state governor?. What you need is money, so tell me, how much do you need to back away?’’ he asked seriously, drawing close to me as if he had another thing in mind if I tried giving a negative reply. I kind of felt he was drunk to be questioning me in such manner.
‘’I’m not after Clara’s money neither will you influence me with your money. And please don’t insult me again’’ I said defiantly, shocking the young man with my words. He instantly grabbed me by the collar out of anger but before he could go any further, I heard Clara scream out his name as she appeared with the two ladies she went out with a while ago.
I really didn’t know how much they overheard as Clara angrily slapped him while the two girls tried to hold her back.
”imagine how you are questioning a guy you barely know” Clara shouted at him.

‘’I can’t believe you slapped me because of him?, you slapped me Clara?’’ Charles screamed with disbelief as he took a step backwards.
‘’yes that’s for being disrespectful and insensitive. You had no reason to question Val over anything’’ she shouted at him.
‘’you don’t respect me Clara. You never cared for my feelings. You are always right in everything. You don’t make mistakes. You even came to my own birthday party with your new boyfriend without any atom of respect for me. You are so despicable,’’ he screamed back at her while Clara tried hitting him again but was timely held back by the two ladies with her and of course they were having a hard time holding her back.
‘’I don’t owe you explanation for anything. You are not my boyfriend. Just go to hell’’ she screamed furiously.
‘’you see that. I can’t believe you have the mind to say what you just said. What haven’t I done for you?, Is there any sacrifice I haven’t made for you?. You are very heartless, and you even called me insensitive,’’ Charles fired back with a softer tone. It was just as if he was about to cry.
‘’go to hell Charles. Let’s get out of here Val’’ Clara breathed furiously, broke away from the girls holding her, and headed towards the hotel car park. Yes I won’t lie that I wasn’t surprised over the way Clara reacted. She really took things too far but I wasn’t in any position to interfere. All I did was just to run after her as she headed towards the car park.
‘’come on Clara, aren’t you over reacting?, don’t spoil your mood because of me. I’m very fine. I’m used to taking insults from people’’ I nervously begged as I caught up with her but unfortunately her mind was already made up. It was just as if she got the perfect excuse to leave the party. Yes that could only be the perfect explanation for her action.
‘’just take me home Val, or I will have to trek home on my own,’’ she threatened seriously.
‘’Oh! fine, let’s go,’’ I breathed and quickly headed to the driver’s seat.

As we silently headed home, I couldn’t help but play back the events of the evening over and over in my head. Clara surely over reacted and I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through her head.
She said nothing to me till we got back to the house.
‘’Val you really think I over reacted?’’ she asked as soon as I killed the car engine. I silently stared at her for some seconds, saying nothing.
‘’come on Val answer me?’’ she pushed on.
‘’yes but I believe you were only trying to protect me and I’m very grateful’’ I answered guardedly. She kept quiet for few seconds.
‘’I don’t know if I will be able to sleep tonight. I feel bad. I shouldn’t have slapped him. I stepped out of the line. I feel bad,’’ she confessed while I stared at her, uncertain of what to say.
‘’let’s have few drinks in my room. I think that will calm me’’ she proposed softy, took a deep breath and stepped out of the car. I had no choice than to follow her to the room.
On getting to her bedroom, she asked me to feel comfortable on her bed as she brought over a bottle of alcoholic drink. She sat beside me on the bed, smiling as she tried hard to appear composed. We silently drank for few minutes.
‘’I have never exchanged hurtful words with Charles before. I don’t know what gave me the courage and I ended up over doing it. I know I ruined his birthday but he deserved what he got. Imagine he’s already seeing himself as my boyfriend’’ she softly explained.
‘’Maybe tomorrow you guys should try talk things over’’ I advised.
‘’No, I don’t want to see him again and early tomorrow I will inform the security guy at the gate not to allow him into the house. I know he will be here early tomorrow,’’ she added as she handed over the bottle of alcoholic drink to me, giving the expression that she was done drinking. I took the drink from her and nervously smiled as our eyes met. She drew closer to me, making my heart pound faster as I wondered what she was up to. Softly she lowered her head on my shoulder, closed her eyes and breathed deeply.
I sat motionless as I admired her hair and neck. I had this great urge to caress her but something held me back. After few minutes of silence between us, I noticed she was fast asleep. I heaved a sigh of relief, closed my eyes for some seconds to compose myself before gently lowering her on the bed.
‘’good night dear,’’ I whispered as I covered her with a blanket, admired her one more time, switched off the lights and headed back to my room.

I couldn’t sleep that fateful night. I really was badly falling for Clara something I knew wasn’t supposed to be but I couldn’t help it. All night long, I played back the events of the evening over and over in my head.

At 8am, I woke up with a jolt as loud knocks coming from the gate disturbed the quiet morning.
‘’Clara open the gate please. We need to talk. I beg of you. I’m very sorry for what happened last night. I know you can hear me. Come out, let’s talk,’’ I heard Charles beg from the gate. I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of pity for him. Clara’s actions the previous evening was enough for him to know that she wasn’t in love with him and as a fellow guy, I knew how it hurts.
Have you ever been rejected and abused before? Sorry for the delay.

(Clara’s side of the story:)

There was no denying I liked val. I felt at peace whenever I was with him and he kind of had this innocent smile that always melted my heart anytime we were together. Charles was just the exact opposite of him and I couldn’t help but wish Val was in his position. Perhaps because of his wealthy background Charles had this proud nature I resented. He believed he was better than everyone and I merely tolerated him because of his family. But then seeing him confront Val at his own birthday party really made me snap, I lost all control as I attacked him like a wounded lion.

Yes of course I was equally surprised with myself. I never knew where the courage or spirit came from. Of course in the end I regretted reacting so harshly but then there was nothing I could do to reverse it, moreover it was a good opportunity I used in putting Charles in his place.

Early Friday morning, I was preparing hot tea in the kitchen when I heard Charles’s voice calling me out from the gate. At first I felt like ignoring him but later changed my mind and headed to the gate to meet him. I was a bit nervous as I headed to the gate because I really didn’t know how to face him after what happened the previous evening. Charles on his own part smiled as soon as his eyes fell on me while I kept a straight face.
‘’come on my queen, I never believed you would act the way you did yesterday but I’m sorry for everything. I agree, I’m a jerk and I promise I won’t misbehave again. Please,’’ he apologized quickly, surprising me with his action. Yes he was a guy that hardly apologized over anything and I really was taken aback with his apology. ‘’I’m also sorry for how I acted yesterday. I overdid it. I’m sorry’’ I softly apologized. His eyes lit up with hope, he quickly hugged me. ‘’but we have to set one thing straight,’’ I added, breaking free from him. ‘’what’s it?’’ he asked curiously.‘’I don’t know what gave you the impression that we are dating. We are very close friends and that’s it. Please you are not my boyfriend,’’ I softly said, taking a step backwards as I noticed his mood quickly change. ‘’what do you mean by that? we have gone out many times, we have shared secrets and been together for years now. Oh! or is it because I respected you and never forced myself into getting intimate with you? Damn! I’m now the fool right?’’ he barked, frightening me with the look on his face.
‘’you have to learn how to control your temper or maybe you should take anger management classes. You easily flare up and that’s a big turn off to me. I’m heading back to my state tomorrow. Please don’t disturb me again,’’ I managed to say before heading back into the compound and shutting the gate on him. He banged on the gate for few minutes while I ran to my room to calm down.
Just like I said earlier, supposing he was a little bit calm and quiet like Val, perhaps we could
have been planning our future together. I wouldn’t have hesitated in getting serious with him because it was something that would benefit our families but he looked too strong for me and he was just like the type of guy who would end up killing me in his house. Yes he was a great friend but I was scared of him at the same time. The only difference this time around was that I now had the courage to shout back at him.

As I settled on my bed, I couldn’t help but play back all the words he said to me, more especially the comment he made about holding himself from taking advantage of me. Yes I was lucky I escaped that and it was probably because I wasn’t very much around due to my studies in the states.
‘’Are you okay?’’ I soon heard Val ask as he peeped into my room.
‘’yes, come sit with me,’’ I invited him with a smile.

(Val’s side of the story continues:)

‘’I watched from my room as you went out to talk with Charles’’ I said softly as I sat beside her. She rolled her eyes and laughed. ‘’It didn’t end well right?’’ I asked
curiously. ‘’no it didn’t. I’m tired of that guy seriously’’ she breathed. ‘’you said he isn’t your boyfriend but I’m very curious, have you ever been in any other relationship?’’ I asked. ‘’mmmm yes, I have been in two relationships actually. The first was when I was still a teenager; you know how we get all fired up at that age. It didn’t end well and the second one was even more devastating. I lost my virginity for nothing. Afterwards I decided to forget everything about relationships and ever since then the only male friend I had was Charles because he was more of a family friend,’’ she explained softly.
‘’so tell me, how do you feel about me. I noticed how you always stare at me, you hardly let me out of your sight?’’ she suddenly asked, taking me by surprise with the question.
‘’to be sincere, I have a very big crush on you but I know that’s all I can ever get. We are not of the same level. A gateman can only dream of marrying his master’s daughter. I’m too broke’’ I answered with a smile.
‘’what gave you the impression that relationships only work when wealth is involved?. Money is needed though but it’s just like salt needed to sweeten a relationship. You have to have all the other ingredients ready before the salt’’ she muttered as she drew closer to me. I swallowed hard as I fought back the urge, passion and desire in me. I badly wanted her. I badly wanted to hold her face and make promises but I just couldn’t. I knew I could lose it all in the end. I remembered my poor mother at home, and this time around, a force greater than the fear in my heart pushed me into kissing her.

At first my kiss wasn’t a deep one but Clara responded in a way I never imagined. She held me tightly and kissed back as if she had been expecting my kiss for a long time. Her action of course gave me the courage to kiss her over and over. In no time I found my hand reaching for her left breast while she wriggled and kissed me back.
Deep down I felt I wasn’t doing the right thing, I knew I had to control my urge and stop but I just couldn’t. The heat, the passion and fire between us was just too intense. Finally, Clara softly pushed me away.
‘’your phone is ringing’’ she breathed, sitting up and giving me the chance to recover myself. I nervously fetched my phone from my trouser pocket and took a quick look at the screen. The caller was no other person than Vivian and I just didn’t know whether to feel relieved or angry over the interruption.
‘’Hey what’s up’’ I breathed.
‘’I’m not fine. I can’t believe you couldn’t even call to check up on me ever since you left for Abuja. I thought we are friends?’’ she asked with an angry tone while I swallowed hard as I quickly tried to find a polite way to hang up on her. Of course the last thing I wanted was answering such a phone call in Clara’s presence even though there was nothing wrong in it as we had nothing going on between us. I just didn’t want to talk to her that moment.
‘’I’m so sorry Vivian, I will call you later, I’m very busy at the moment’’ I quickly muttered and hung up while Clara smiled and got up from the bed.
‘’it’s Vivian’’ I informed her. She simply shrugged
‘’we are heading back to Owerri tomorrow. You can go to your room now. Please delete what just happened between us from your mind. You know I haven’t been myself since yesterday?’’ she suddenly said, surprising me with the comment. I couldn’t say anything, even though I strongly felt like asking her what exactly she felt for me. I felt like grabbing her that moment and asking over and over what she felt for me. But I couldn’t because I was a guy on a mission and romance was never part of it. The right thing to do was just to obey her wish without asking any question.
‘’okay no problem’’ I shrugged, got up from the bed and headed out of the room, but as I got to the doorway, I turned to give her a last look and noticed that she was staring at me with a look that somehow showed disappointment. Perhaps it was what I felt in my head or maybe she was actually disappointed over something I did.

(Clara’s side of the story continues:)

Of course I was disappointed with Val. I never really wanted him to leave my room. I just made the comment as a woman who was protecting her dignity. I had expected him to stand his ground, hold me tightly and ask me with strong voice if the kiss we just shared meant nothing to me. I couldn’t believe he left my room without any hesitation and I felt so cheap and stupid. Of course he actually made the first move but I should have pushed him away instead of kissing him back. I felt so stupid. I couldn’t help but lock the door and cry out my heart.

(Vivian’s side of the story continues:)

I woke up that fateful Friday to see five missed calls in my phone. The missed calls were from an unknown number. I called back and was surprised to hear Charles gruff voice. I never knew the dude had my number and with the way he greeted me, I knew something just wasn’t right. However I didn’t have to wait long before he poured out his heart to me, narrating how Clara ruined his party all because of Val. He told me everything, including how he went to see Clara early that Friday morning only to be embarrassed again. The more he narrated his story the more my heart broke. I was never a fan of Charles but then I knew with the way he described Clara’s action that something definitely was going on between her and Val. I knew for her to have the courage to behave so rudely to Charles that something was giving her the morale. I really didn’t know what to say to Charles after his story other than promising to speak with Clara but what he didn’t know was that I was equally feeling the same pain he was feeling.

Instead of calling Clara like I promised, I called Val to hear his voice and at least put my heart at rest. I really had expected him to call me when he got to Abuja days ago but I was so disappointed that he never called and as a woman I painfully killed the urge of hearing from him. But then after all Charles told me, I was forced to call him. The last thing I would do was to sit back and watch Clara take him away from me. I met him first, I knew his secrets and it was because of me that he was able to get along with her in the first place.
Clara on her own part just pretended not to want him while deep down she wanted him. I hated pretence, I hated deceit, I hated backstabbing. Of course I gave my dear Clara all the signs for her to know that Val was mine, the silly girl just pretended and then snatched him from my reach by taking him to Abuja.

I called Val on phone, expecting to have a long talk with him but I was surprised with the way he answered and hung up on me, claiming he was busy. He couldn’t be busy by that time of the day unless he was busy sweating it out with Clara.
Slowly the night we kissed played back in my head. The night he thought I was drunk. Tears softly filled up my eyes as I regretted being too dull.
I knew I had to do something. I had to do something pretty fast.

[To be continued]