He’d always known he would come back to Lagos. It was a city whose vitality and vivacity roared in his blood. It was where he’d been born, where he’d grown into a man, where he’d sown his wild oats, where he’d make his mistakes and repaired some. But he hadn’t known he would come back for her.
He had left the city, not exactly running from her, but he had returned to it, only because of her.
He wanted her back, desperately.
He wanted her his, like she’d never been before. And he intended to have her. That was non-negotiable. She was his, his for the taking and Chima didn’t care if he was chauvinistically arrogant thinking that way. His wasn’t interested in his motives or means, just in attaining his goal.
“Why exactly are you after her?”
He set down the blender right beside the microwave and turned. Uche was slanted against the door jamb and watching him with his hands jammed in his pockets and his expression, half suspicious.
“Because I want her back.” He bent and lifted the electric stove and wondered why he’d bought it. He wasn’t much of the cooking type and there was the one burner gas cooker already. “I want her for my wife.”
“You want her for your wife? Really?” Uche’s tone was mildly incredulous. “You waltz back into town after three years of breaking up with her, and you want her for your wife?”
“Actually, she broke up with me.”
“She found you in bed screwing her colleague from work, of course, dude, she broke up with you!” Uche made a noise, like a choke, in his throat. “What did you expect, a kiss and a declaration of everlasting love?”
“No. Where does this go in?” He waved a cable cord.
Uche muttered an oath, strode forward and snatched the cable off his hand. “You betrayed her in the worst possible way, man. You fucked someone she knew. Someone she introduced to you. That kind of shit is why women think men are monsters.” He pushed the stove back on the counter and turned. “Fixed. Happy? You don’t leave a woman like that with a bleeding heart and then come back wanting her to take you back. That is thoughtless and arrogant, and you should know that it’s impossible.”
“It’s not impossible.” He grabbed the takeaway pack and dug out bottle of wine from the refrigerator. “She was once mine, she would be mine again.”
“Please don’t be so humble.” Uche and his sarcasm followed him into the living room. “And since when did you even start thinking marriage? What happened to getting married only when you’re deep in your forties?”
“I changed my mind.” He handed over a glass of wine and sat back with his own.
“You changed your mind?” Uche eyed him narrowly. “Why? Have a fatal disease I should be hearing about?”
Chima chuckled into his glass. “I just want my life to have a meaning beyond casual sex, big pay checks and the odd weekends at glamorous spots.”
“So, you left Port Harcourt, swaggered back into Lagos and straight to The Big Mall to add meaning to your life?”
“I left Port Harcourt because I was laid off my job. I came back to Lagos because I have a company here that I should, at last, be managing, and I went to The Big Mall because I want her back.” He sipped slow and long, then lowered his hand. “I have feelings for her.”
“You have feelings for her? Right.” Uche bent and grabbed a drumstick off the takeaway pack. “Since when?”
“Don’t let your smugness choke you.” He shot him a glare before grabbing a drumstick himself. “I had feelings for her before I left.”
“That why you screwed her colleague?”
Chima gave him his middle finger. “It was why I panicked. I’ve never felt like that before and I didn’t want to feel like that. It wasn’t part of the plan. It broke codes I’d set up and lived on for years and I was definitely not ready to commit.”
“Now you are.”
“Now I am.” He bit into the meat and chewed.
“But she’s seeing someone. You saw her with a man on Saturday.” Uche reminded.
“She doesn’t have a ring on her fourth finger.” He wasn’t going to allow a man, any man, stand in his way.
“She might be in love with this man, considered that?”
He had. And he’d hated the thought and the possibility. And he wasn’t allowing that stand in his way either. “I want her, Uche. I want Kobi. I will have her.”
“You’ll need her cooperation to have her and somehow, I doubt she’s just going to hand it to you.” Uche drained his glass and held it out. As he refilled, he added thoughtfully. “Have you considered another possibility that pursuing her might chase her further into this other man’s arms?”
Chima frowned. “What do you mean?”
Uche sat back, tucked up his shoulders. “When we are scared off one option, we usually clutch desperately on the other facing us. Human nature. Defence mechanism. You hurt her and I know she had big feelings for you. You’re back, if she’s not completely over you—and I seriously doubt the possibility of that. But if she’s not, she’d be desperate to protect herself. Ergo, clutch on the other man.”
“Ah-hmm.” Chima chewed on his meat, thoughts roaming.
“Why do I feel like I just gave you a new idea instead of dissuading from one?”
He looked at Uche and raised his glass, smiling. “Thank you. You’re a good friend, Uch man.”
“Darn!” Uche sighed. “You should leave her alone, Chima. Get yourself another woman to marry if it’s marriage you’re after.”
“I’m after Kobi and I won’t leave her until she’s mine again.” He set down his glass and rose. “Come on, let’s go see Kent, if you guys are really intent on making a farmer out of me.”
He spent the entire day with Uche and Kent. They wanted him to invest in the cassava farm they were prepping to set up in one of the border towns of Ogun state. They’ve got land, hectares of it, cassava sticks, tons of it, and ready to begin farm workers. All they needed was extra cash. He has extra cash, plenty of it, and he’d liked the plans and projections, so he’d signed in.
Chima flicked an eye at his wristwatch—past eight. They’d grabbed a meal on the go but he was hungry. Not heavily though.
He caught sight of the suya spot ahead and glided off the express lanes into the service lane, parked off the highway and stepped down the car. Then he saw her and aimed for her.
She started and turned swiftly. “Chima.” Despite her obvious shock, her voice was cool.
The jacket of the suit she’d earlier had on had been discarded, her hair had been pulled down and her makeup gone. He wanted her. “The kettle’s working perfectly.”
“So amazingly is the one you brought back. Thank you.” She smiled at the Mai Suya, took her packaged barbecued meat and started towards her car. It was a Nissan Sentra 2008 model.
“Really? Must have been my mistake then.” He cornered her and blocked off the driver’s door. “I want to see you.”
“Unfortunately, you are seeing me and I can’t do nothing about that. Step out of my way, Chima.”
“Let’s have dinner.”
“This,” she gave the paper bag a shake, “is dinner. You’re blocking my car door. I need to get home.”
“I want a home with you.”
She inhaled noisily, then tightened her lips. “I want you to get out of my way.”
He wanted to lean in and kiss those supple, lipstick-off lips. The temptation gnawed and Chima struggled to resist it. “I came back for you. I came back so we can be together.”
“Really?” Her eyebrows slightly arched and a gleam of astonishment sparkled in them. “You actually think that crappy line would work on me? You think any kind of line would work?”
“It’s not a line.” Desire itched. Irritation pinched. “It’s the truth. I got laid off…”
The sympathy was spontaneous. But she quickly shielded the momentary shadow of concern that entered into her eyed. She’d been the thoughtful, kindly, giving type. He’d appreciated that about her, her quick empathy. “I’m not sorry. Got paid big for the inconvenience and I figure it’s time I focus on Dreams Table Water, delve into other things and go from there. It also provided me the chance I needed to come back for you.”
“Well, I’m happy that you’re getting what you want out of your life despite the economic knocks.” Her tone was back to calm and so was her expression. “But you and I are over, over for three years, and that is that.”
“Are you really over me, Kobi? You loved me like you never loved anyone, remember?”
“You conceited jackass!” The calm expression vanished and her face constricted with anger. “You would remind me of that, wouldn’t you? But let me also refresh your memory. I loved a man I thought was worth my love and I was dead wrong. You’re a cheat and a cheap ass one at that. Now, if you are done making a spectacle of both of us, step out of my way.”
The insult hurt, as it was intended to. “I am not done making a spectacle of us. You know, I’m thinking, would you be so aloof if I pulled you into my arms right now and kissed you?”
“Don’t you dare!”
He was tempted to, sorely. But that would be wrong and foolhardy. “Let’s save the test for another day then. But I came back for you, Kobi, and I’m not resting until you are mine again. I want you to know that.”
“And I want you to know that you make me sick.” She stepped forward and for a minute, they locked eyes. Then he stepped aside. “Keep out of my life, Chima. I consider Lagos big enough for both of us to never again cross paths.”
“The entire world isn’t big enough to keep me away from you, Kobi.” He winced slightly at the vicious slam of her car door. “Your heart was once mine, I plan to have it once more as mine.”
“My heart is frozen to the likes of you. Goodbye, Chima.”
He watched as she pulled into the highway and sped down one side of the quadruple express lanes. “I will have to thaw it then.” He turned, carelessly eyed those watching him and strolled to the Mai Suya’s grill table and placed his order.
He got home minutes shy off ten p.m. and settled in front of his television. Was she reacting in self-defence as Uche had suggested its possibility or plain done with him? He wasn’t sure. He wasn’t seeing much trace of the Kobi he’d known and been with for nine months before he panicked and messed things up.
She was different. Stronger, more confident, more in control and cold. She used to be warm and spontaneous and jovial and always smiling… or laughing. She didn’t used to be so collected and sure of herself either.
That confident and in control part was admirable. He liked it on her. Had wanted it on her. Maybe it was the weight loss. She was half the size she’d been when they were together.
It looked good on her too.
Maybe that, plus her new position as store manager at The Big Mall and plain life experiences have toughened her up and boosted her confidence.
It was good. All good.
But he wasn’t taking her no as answer. He came back here for her and by God, he will have her—body, mind and heart.
He rose and strolled into the kitchen to grab a plate for his suya. He’ll do late night movies before turning in.
*** ~~~ *** ~~~ *** ~~~ ***
Um, I haven’t heard anyone sighing: “Aw, I need my own Chima” yet. No one wants him? #runs-away