Nora was humming as she got out of the car, grabbed her saddle-brown handbag from the passenger seat and locked the car. It had been a hectic day and she was so looking forward to a long cool shower, her dinner and her warm bed. Gosh, next to Fridays, Wednesdays were the most demanding at the bank. It was as if the mid-week reminded customers that they had a bank account that required all manner of attention. And today being the last Wednesday of the month, many workers were already receiving alerts from their employers and that intensified that need to attend to their accounts.
She was inserting the key into the lock of her front door when she heard Papa Eloka, their security-guard, call out to her. Nora rolled her eyes in exasperation. He probably had some weird complaint he wanted to her to help solve.
“Papa Eloka, I just got home na. Let me enter house first before we begin authentic-uncle-O gist.” She said even as she turned to face the wiry built in-his-fifties man.
“No, Sister Nora—” everyone was Sister-this or Brother-that for Papa Eloka. “Na sai this man sai im dey look for you.”
“Man kè?” Nora arched her brows in surprise. “Which man be that?”
For an answer, Papa Eloka shifted from the pedestrian gate and pulled it open. “Oya come inside.” He said to whoever was outside of it.
Nora wasn’t sure who she was expecting the man to be. Maybe a church member, maybe a cousin who’d never visited so Papa Eloka didn’t know him, whoever… but it surely wasn’t Tim she expected to walk through the pitch black painted pedestrian gate.
“What the heck are…?” She had the presence of mind to stop the astonished question before she completed it.
Good heavens, what was he doing here? This was the place she lived for Christ’s sake. The place where everyone knew she was engaged to be married soon. Darn it, they all knew Benny. He’d rented the apartment, so he was chummy with her landlord. And Tim dared stalk her home?
“Evening, Nora. Sorry to turn up like this.” His deep voice was calm as were his eyes.
Knowing that Papa Eloka was looking on with avid curiosity, she quickly improvised. “Ahn-ahn, couldn’t it have waited until tomorrow? I know it must be Oga that sent you here to worry me.” She muffled a hiss and then turned her gaze to Papa Eloka. “Papa Eloka, abeg see my bag and key for door, make I attend to my colleague from office.”
“No wahala.” The security guard inclined his head, though he looked put out to be about to miss a good gossip.
Nora waited until they were standing beside his car, parked some distance from her building, before she snarled at him. “How dare you trail me to my house! My God, Tim, what the heck is the matter with you? This is where I live for heaven’s sake! These people know my fiancé! What are you trying to do, ruin me?”
“I am sorry I followed you home like this, but I had no other choice.” Tim knew his actions were ludicrous, even stupidly risky but he couldn’t help it. “I can’t seem to be able to do anything since you stopped communicating with me, Nora. I can’t do a damn thing!”
“What the hell!” Nora gaped at him. And noticed for the first time that he looked somewhat scruffy. He had shadow beards on his chin like he hadn’t shaved in two days or more and there were lines and bags around his eyes and forehead. “Tim, do you realise that we’re both getting married to other people in a couple of months?”
“I do.” He nodded. “Don’t think I find this easy, because I don’t. Nora, I prayed about this.” Tim shook his head. He felt needy, confused… weary. “When you stopped replying my messages, I went on my knees and asked God to deliver me from this temptation. But nothing happened… nothing changed! I can’t get you out of my mind.”
“You are out of your mind!” Nora wished she could hit him right there and then. “You were able to quickly get me out of your mind once, no matter how I begged and how I felt, do so again!”
“I want to but I am unable to.”
Nora stared at him and then swore under her breath. What the heck was this, Satan coming out of hell to mock her? She exhaled and turned away. Why the heck hadn’t she noticed that a light-stone SUV was following her? But what would she have done even if she had noticed? she wondered. This just can’t be happening. It can’t be happening all over again that Timothy Kalio would come into her life and disrupt it. No, she can’t allow herself to start feeling again those feelings that left her half-dead when he abandoned her.
“I can’t do it. No, I can’t go through this again, Tim.” Nora stared at him through confused, teary eyes. “Once was enough, a second time would surely kill me. Besides, I am getting married. I am getting married in less than three months, Tim!”
“I know that you are fighting this too, Nora.” Tim looked into her shimmering eyes and the temptation to sweep her into his arms burned like scorching coal. “But if we have to fight it doesn’t that tell you something?”
“No, it doesn’t tell me anything except that I am about to make a gigantic mistake!” Nora snapped, scared because she was absurdly tempted to throw herself into his arms and beg him to promise her that he wasn’t trifling with her this time. “We can’t do this. It is wrong. You have a fiancée and so do I. Gosh, they deserve better than this.”
“You mean they deserve partners who deep in their hearts still long for other people?” Tim edged closer to her but she backed away, he shoved his hands into his pockets and sighed. “Nora, I know this looks like a bad idea to you…”
“It is a bad idea!” Nora interjected. “It should not even be an idea. We shouldn’t even be considering it. Damn it, what am I even considering here—leaving my fiancé, a man who loves me with all he’s got, to go back to a man who left me without even so much as a thought?” Nora stared with horrified eyes at him.
“I know I don’t deserve any considerations from you, Nora. I messed up big time. But I’m asking you to think about why we are even here talking about this.”
“We are here talking about this because you were demented enough to stalk me home.” Nora hissed.
“That is the surface reason but it isn’t the real reason.” A small smile played about Tim’s mouth. Dang, she fired up the desire in him just by her feisty nature. “You know the true reason we are really here is because we haven’t forgotten each other.”
“I had forgotten you until you walked into the bank I work like a bad memory from the past.”
“Ouch! That hurt.” He slid his hands from his pockets and tentatively raised one to touch her cheek. She didn’t back away this time. “I’m sorry I hurt you, Nora. I really am. Please talk to me again. Don’t be silent, it’s driving me insane.”
Nora felt her body start to quiver at his caressing finger and stepped back. “What is insane is you being here and me, listening to you. I have to go inside. This isn’t right, Tim, and I don’t want to resurrect something that is best left dead.”
“If it doesn’t have a life of its own, Nora, we can’t resurrect it.” Tim said quietly.
Nora didn’t respond but turned and walked back to the house. She told herself she was maintaining her silence but when his message came that night and rippled with even more ardent words, she sent him a reply.
“Ah, this one you’re touching up like this, I thought you said Oga Benny is away on a trip this weekend?” Maureen eyed her curiously as they both got set to leave the bank.
Nora dabbed off the bleeding edges of her lipstick and then tossed the tube back into her makeup purse. “So, a girl can’t look good again without a man being the reason behind it, eh Mrs Mbata? Chai, marriage has turned you into old-school o. Ndo oh.”
Maureen only sniffed and rose to her feet. “Na you sabi. But remember sai bird wey dem don capture no suppose to dey flutter about anyhow o… another hunter fit shoot am down and dat one go cause wahala wey pass Fuji house of commotion o.”
“Only God know where you dey find all this old-mama proverbs sef.” Nora picked her bag and followed her out of the banking hall. “See you Monday, old woman. Greet Oga Joe and the sweet little darlings for me.”
“Have a holy weekend without Oga Benny.” Maureen teased getting into her car.
Nora did the same and as soon as her door was shut she breathed to let out the stifling nerve of a pricking conscience. God, what was she doing? What was she doing primping herself up to go see a man who wasn’t her fiancé in a hotel?
Hearing the honk, she remembered she hadn’t started her car and quickly did so and guided the car out of the compound and into the traffic-teeming expressway.
Since that Wednesday evening when he had followed her home, they had both gone back to their chatting and the more she told herself she should stop, the more the temptation to read his words amplified. It shocked her how quickly her heart had started to remember her past feelings for him. It was even more shocking how quickly those feelings started to take root again— it was almost as if they’ve never gone away. She felt guilty pangs each time Benny called, or when she was with him and a message from Tim came in. But despite her guilt and her desire to not hurt him, she couldn’t stop herself from responding to Tim… and from thrilling at his messages.
She arrived his hotel, Bloomsdale Suites, followed the directives of the parking attendant to park her car, inhaled to give herself courage— if it was courage she was seeking—and then got down from the car. The receptionist directed her to the General Manager’s personal suite. Nora knocked on the door and drew in another breath as she waited for it to open.
Tim opened a moment later. “Thank you for coming, Nora.” He stepped aside for her to enter.
Nora did but instead of examining her environment, she faced Tim and asked the question that has been bugging her mind since old feelings started becoming present ones. “What are we doing, Tim? What is this we are doing here?”
“I don’t know, Nora. But frankly, I don’t give a damn at the moment.”
He reached for her and hauled her into his arms. “All I know is that I need you so.”
And he slammed his mouth against hers and even as he kissed her with unrestrained, frenzied passion, he lifted her off her feet and crushed her against the wall, his hands going around to cup her bum.
A helpless moan escaped Nora as her legs went around him and she felt the bulge of him pressing against the already throbbing wall of her yet-clothed crotch.