“Good morning, beautiful.” Tobi said, as he pulled the curtains back, allowing the rays of sunlight to bounce off Sharon’s face perfectly. “You slept quite long.” He continued, as he took his seat. “It’s been a while since I had anyone use this room.” He added. “My mom uses this room whenever she comes around.”
She stared at him. “Is there a time you don’t talk too much? I mean, I understand it comes with the job and you get to talk a lot when you are on the job arguing football and whatnot but is there really a time at all in your life when you don’t talk?”
Tobi smiled as he ran his eyes over her body. “I am sorry I disturbed you, but I hardly have anyone around here to talk to and so I am just excited to have a new friend.”
Sharon caught his gaze all over her. “Friend? Dude, don’t sweat it. I am not your friend.” She replied, crouching up on the bed, using the blanket to cover her legs.
He nodded. “Yet you are lying in my bed and you ate my food last night. That automatically makes us friends.” He replied.
“What do you want?” Sharon asked, starting to dismiss him. “Isn’t Dapo back yet?”
Tobi shook his head. “He is still pretty much hung up on Jadesola and maybe he wouldn’t be returning with the laptop as soon as we thought.” He replied. “So, I suggest you get back to your sleep or you go with me to church.”
Sharon chuckled. “So that the blogs could bare stories of how I went from the side chic to the girlfriend of a celebrity sports analyst in less than twenty four hours, right? Thank you, I decline.” She replied.
Tobi’s phone buzzed. He smiled as he saw Dapo’s name on the Caller ID. “It seems our friend, Dapo, might have had a change of mind after all.” He said and then tapped the answer button. “Hey man, what’s up?”
“Tell your overzealous security man to let me in.” Dapo said and then hung up.
Tobi stared at Sharon with a smile. “He is here and the security man won’t let him in because I have a habit of not entertaining guests on Sundays.” He said, dialling on his phone. “Please, let the gentleman in.” He said as he put a call through.
“Why don’t you allow guests in on Sundays?” Sharon asked, getting off the bed.
He smiled. “It’s a day I dedicate for my rest.”
She hissed. She had hoped to hear something more intriguing but as usual Tobi would not disappoint her with his excessive desire to create an impression of himself which was clearly not impressive to her.
“Let’s go and welcome our friend.” Tobi said, leading the way out of the room. Sharon followed closely. They arrived in the living room to meet Dapo who was setting the laptop on a table. “Good morning, Dapo. We didn’t think we would be seeing you.”
“We? You both are now an item?” Dapo asked, staring at them. “Trust me, it won’t last. I thought mine would.”
Tobi chuckled. “Don’t be so negative, man.”
“We are not even an item.” Sharon protested. “What is wrong with you, Tobi?”
Dapo stared at them. “Make up your minds. Sharon, can we get to work, please? Tomorrow is Monday.”
She nodded. “Of course.”
Jane was tossing and turning in her bed. She didn’t have a good sleep. She was worrying about Sharon and maybe it was her fault for trying to be supermom and have everything all knit together. She hoped she wasn’t getting more paranoid with her recent decision taking. She got out of her bed and made for the living room. She was sure her Mom would be in church by now, giving her room to have a moment alone. As she arrived in the living room, she gaped upon seeing her mother and husband standing by the door. “Chike?” she said, shocked.
He took a deep breath and walked over to her. “I have missed you, Jane.”
“What are you doing here, Chike?” Jane asked.
He ignored her, hugging her tightly as he absorbed the smell of her hair. “Lavender?”
“I haven’t even showered yet.” Jane replied, pulling away from her husband. Chike was quite the tease. “You didn’t tell me that you were returning home.” She said, staring at her mother who tried to avoid their glare.
Chike nodded. “I didn’t think I needed to be home too but Mama thought otherwise and I think she is right.”
“Chike? Mama called you and you came home?” Jane asked.
He led Jane to the sofa. “I have been meaning to come home for a while but you know how it is, right?”
“I know how it is and that is why I am surprised that you found some time out of your schedule to see us. What could be so important that you left your busy schedule to be here?” she asked.
“Jane, you know why I am here.” He replied.
She shook her head. “No. I don’t know! I am not paranoid and I am doing very well. I don’t know what my mother might have told you but I am not going to allow you commit me to an institution.”
“Don’t accuse me wrongly. I have not said anything that you did not do.” Mama said. “Maybe you need to get back to seeing your Doctor.”
“Chike, I do not need a doctor. I agree I have been tensed up of late and maybe my Mom thinks I am having a lapse in judgement but that is because she is overwhelmed by Sharon leaving.” Jane argued.
“Why did you have our daughter robbed?”Chike asked.
Jane took a deep breath. “Chike.”
“Why did you tell Mama that I was in on it when I had no idea about this?” he continued. “Do you know what how much danger Sharon could be in?”
“I have it all covered.” Jane replied.
He sighed. “You have it covered?”
“Yes, I have some men on ground.” She replied. “She has no idea what life is out there. The robbery is just to teach her a lesson and make her come back home.” She argued. Her husband looked displeased while her mother kept staring at her blankly. “Chike, none of us wanted her to leave. This is a chance to have her back. She would focus on her job like we always wanted.”
He shook his head. “I am forced to agree with Mama. You might be taking things out of hand and maybe you need to calm down.” He replied. “You can’t be in control of everything. You can’t control her life.”
“I am not trying to.” Jane protested. “All I ever want is to be sure I don’t make the same mistake my mother did.”
Mama sighed. “Jane, I am not responsible for the bad choices you are making.”
“I am not making bad choices.” She replied and turned to her husband. “Sharon would be back tomorrow.”
He stepped back. “No. She would stay in Lagos as long as she wants and you are no longer going to have a say in this. If this is how you want to help your daughter, I suggest you stay away from her and if you are not going to do that willingly, I am going to help you.”
“Chike, you are hardly around. Do you think you can make the rules now?” Jane asked. “All I am trying to do is get our daughter back home.”
“Don’t you get it? She wants to take this time off from us and from everything around here. We owe her that. Stop getting in the way. Tell your men to get off her back and I would be decent enough not to tell her what you have done.” He replied and made for the stairs. He stopped and turned to her. “One question, do you think Sharon is going to love you if she knew what you did to her?”
Jane nodded. “It’s for her good.”
“Then you are more deluded than I thought. Tell your men to stand down or you are not going to like the outcome of this.” Chike replied. “Tomorrow, she is going to pick up her life and we all are going to keep this between us. That’s the only way you get to keep your reputation as her mother.” He concluded and turned away.
“It’s a little too late.” Jane said as she watched her husband walk away.
Chike turned as soon as he heard those words. “What did you do?”
“Jane? What have you done this time?” Mama asked, shaking her daughter’s arm vigorously.
Jane yanked out of her grip. “I froze all her bank accounts.”
“So, what have you been up to since I left for church?” Tobi asked, taking his seat opposite Dapo.
Dapo looked up from his phone and stared at him. “Just working with Sharon. She is doing something for me.”
“Who is she to you? Your employee?” Tobi asked.
Dapo shook his head. “No. She is erm… she is a friend helping out with a job. I have a deadline for tomorrow to submit it.”
“Why are you not doing it yourself?” he asked.
Dapo smiled. “She is doing me a favour.”
“Hmmm… A favour that one way or the other saw you end things with Jade?” Tobi continued. “Don’t you think you guys should sit and maybe work things out?”
“Jadesola was fooling me. I don’t want to talk about her. She is engaged. I was the fool. I have moved on and I would appreciate it if we don’t dwell on this topic.” He replied.
Tobi nodded. “So, if she is doing your work for you up there… is she defending it for you as well?” he asked with a cynical smile. “Dapo, your parents might have paid your way through the University but we both know that you are not made for Architecture. You don’t know anything about it. You bought your grades. Men like me who worked hard didn’t even get a chance at good grades.”
Dapo shook his head. “I am not responsible for your problems.”
“No, you are not but why are you making Sharon do your work just because your parents have the money?” Tobi asked.
“Tobi, can you stop nosing in my business?” Dapo said, returning to his phone.
Tobi laughed. “It’s my business! You are in my house and sitting on my couch.”
“Seriously?” Dapo said, stunned by Tobi.
Tobi exhaled. “Look man, I understand the pressure to make your folks happy but if you are not good at it, it’s fine, you don’t have to be a fraud and have someone do your work all the time.” He replied.
Dapo clenched his teeth. “Are you done?”
“I just think you should find your niche and stop keeping up appearances even when you don’t fit. There’s going to be a day when you won’t have a Sharon to do your job for you and you are going to be standing out there embarrassed.” Tobi said. “I don’t want to be you that day, brother.”
Dapo rose to his feet. “I’ll just be on my way.”
“The truth is bitter.” Tobi said.
Dapo laughed. “Have you ever wondered why no one watches your lame show? You don’t say anything with sense.”
Tobi smiled. “Pardon me if you are mad that I didn’t find a more sensible way to call you a cheat.”
Sharon joined them downstairs. “Dapo, your work is done.” She said, holding the laptop out before him.
“I didn’t mean for her to hear that.” Tobi said. “She must have been eavesdropping.” He added quickly.
Dapo stared at him. “Thanks for the hospitality.” He said and then turned to Sharon, taking the laptop from her. “Thank you very much.”
“You can still get out, you know?” she said. “Tobi is right; you could do something else instead of hoping you are always going to have someone do your work.”
Dapo swallowed. “I will send your clothes from the hotel down here. I wish you all the best in Lagos. You’ll need it.” He said. “You’ll never see me again and I am sorry I made you do this.” He said and walked out of the house.
“Can I sleep here tonight?” Sharon asked.
Tobi smiled. “But of course, you already slept one night. I am sure I can accommodate you for an extra night.”
“Thank you.” She replied. “By tomorrow morning, I’ll be good to go.”
He shrugged. “I don’t care if you want to stay here much longer. I can use the company. I am here all alone anyway.”
“I appreciate your help.” She replied.
He blinked as she turned to leave. “Sharon, do you… do you want to see my art studio? I… I have a studio upstairs where I do my painting. I… I noticed you showed some interest in my work. I hope you don’t mind checking out where the process takes place.” He said, stuttering.
“Okay.” She replied with a smile.
Chike and Mama watched Jane as she spoke on the phone. They had ensured that she called the family’s accountant to reverse the block on Sharon’s accounts latest first thing in the morning and now they were listening to her speak to the men she put on Sharon’s tail. “Tell that idiot not to follow my daughter anywhere!” Chike said, impatiently. “I will have them locked up.” He continued.
Jane hung up and turned to her husband. “May I remind that they won’t be the only ones going to jail if you report them? I would be sent to prison as well.” She said.
“Is it done?” Chike asked, ignoring her.
Jane nodded. “Yes.”
“That’s the end of it, I believe.” He said, rising to his feet. “Mama, thank you so much for calling me into this. I appreciate it.”
Mama nodded. “Ifesinachi is my girl.”
“Which of us?” Jane asked. “I remember being called that name too.”
Mama smiled. “Jane, you know I love you.”
“But you love my daughter more and wish she was yours, but, it’s a shame because she’s not your daughter.” Jane said, rising to her feet.
Chike stared at his wife. “Don’t speak to your mother in that tone.”
“She never had time for me and now she doesn’t want me to be there for my own daughter. She wants it all-squared. I won’t be her. I am going to be a better mother.” She said, heading upstairs.
Chike turned to his mother-in-law. “It might be time to call in her Doctor.”
Mama took a deep breath as she reflected on Jane’s paranoia which was largely becoming evident. “What are we going to tell him?”
“We tell him what we can see. She is being paranoid and we don’t want it to escalate, so it might be time to take her in for a while.” Chike replied.
“What would we tell Ifesinachi when she calls to ask of her mother?” Mama asked.
Chike had not figured that part out but he was going to come up with something when the situation presented itself. He was not going to risk his wife losing her sanity over a trauma from her childhood.
“Is that woman confused? First, she asked us to rob the lady, she then told us to keep an eye on her, then she calls us to let her be and now she wants us to be kidnappers. Does she really know what she wants?”
“I tire o! The thing just dey vex me. I go dey follow person up and down every time like person wey no get work. It’s not easy na.”
“Your job is not to complain. Your job is to do what you are told to do and be at peace with the money that appeases your bank account at the end of the day.” A certain Mr John said, walking in on his boys. “We can all say that we have enjoyed quite a good sum from her. Let’s finish this job well.” He said.
“So, do we do this tonight?” one of the men asked. “Or tomorrow night? We have had a long weekend.”
Mr John nodded. “Now is a good time.”
Sharon smiled as she pushed her fingers against the last canvas in the room and took a deep breath. “This is breathtaking.”
“Thank you.” Tobi replied.
Sharon folded her arm. “Why don’t you exhibit these works?”
He swallowed. “I am scared.”
“Of what?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Of not being accepted. I paint for the hobby. I am sure there are people way better than me at exhibits.”
“Really? You are scared of putting yourself out there?” she asked. “There would always be people better than you.”
He nodded. “I am already comfortable as an analyst; I don’t want to bash my reputation in case I am not accepted.”
“Then you are the biggest coward ever.” She replied. “You can’t hide behind your relevance. If you have got something that the world should see and you don’t show them; that’s a disservice.”
Tobi stared at her. “Why do I feel like you know better about these words?” he asked. “Dapo is using your design to empower himself. That’s a disservice on your part.”
She chuckled. “I don’t really care about that. It is the least of my worries.” She replied. “What Dapo and I had was a business transaction so I am not sad that I worked for him.”
“So, what is your greatest disservice? He asked.
She smiled. “I used to paint.”
“Used to?” he asked. “How is that even possible? If you were once a painter, you are always a painter.”
She shook her head. “Not in my case. I am quite rusty and I am not sure I would ever get back to where I once was.”
“What happened?” Tobi asked. “You sound like the bigger coward.” He added.
Sharon looked around her. “This is the life I wanted. I wanted to paint. I wanted to go to exhibitions. I wanted to be just Picasso.”
“Then what’s stopping you?” he asked. “Architecture?”
Sharon stared at him. “Maybe Architecture. Maybe the pressure to do something better. My parents never wanted me to paint and so I couldn’t. Maybe that’s why.”
“Maybe Fear?” Tobi asked.
She nodded. “Yes, maybe fear.”
He joined her by the door as they both leaned against it. “So, let’s do something together. I am scared of putting my works out there because I think I’ll fail and you think I should and I also think that you shouldn’t let your parents stand in the way of your light, so, if you would be my teammate, we both could do this… together.”
“I don’t understand.” She said.
He took her by the hand. “We’ll work together, we’ll paint together and we’ll show our works together.” He said.
Sharon’s heart raced fast as she listened to him. She had yearned for this. An opportunity to get back into the world she always wanted.
“What do you say?” he prompted. The door bell went. “It seems like we have a late visitor.” He said as they walked out into the living room.
Dapo was standing in the living room with a bag in his hand.
“Dude, you said you wouldn’t be returning.” Tobi said with a chuckle. “You can’t even keep your word.”
Dapo kept his gaze on Sharon. “Can I please have a minute with Sharon?”
Tobi took a look at Sharon. “Are you sure about this?”
“Dude, I am not going to kidnap her, am I?” Dapo asked.
Tobi smiled and obliged them.
“Sharon, I am sorry.” Dapo started. “I took advantage of you when you needed me the most and I am sorry.”
She shrugged. “Dapo, I don’t consider it as a wrong deed.”
“I consider it as one and maybe I shouldn’t be here faking what I am not but it’s all I have known how to do. I just wanted to get by and make my parents proud and that’s why I have been hiring people to do my work for me. I am a fraud and a cheat and I took advantage of you, I am sorry.” He apologized.
She nodded. “It’s alright. Are you ready for the presentation?”
“That’s the second reason I am here. I would love for you to please do the presentation.” He started.
“You want me to impersonate you?” she asked.
Dapo smiled. “No. I have replaced my name with yours. If you would love to make your first buck in Lagos, the presentation is yours tomorrow.”
Sharon stared at him. “You are skipping on your big day?”
“It’s not my big day. I don’t deserve it. You have the slot, all you need to do is say yes.” He said. “Would you do the presentation?”
She took a deep breath and nodded. “Yes, I will.”