The next day, Tunde called Shalewa while she was in the office. She decided to pick up his call this time.
“Hi Shalewa, what’s going on? I was worried sick yesterday when you did not pick up your calls.” Tunde said.
“I’m fine. There’s nothing wrong.” She said then paused. “In actual fact, there is.”
“Oh my! What’s wrong?” Tunde asked with concern.
“We need to talk.”
“Dinner at 7?” Tunde asked.
Shalewa quickly scanned through her calendar. “Fine. Pick me up, I’ll send the driver home.”
“Okay then. See you at 7.” Tunde said.
Shalewa cut the call and took a deep breath. She closed her eyes as she mentally calculated how to break the news to Tunde. She could not continue to live this lie.
At 7.00pm, Tunde drove into the office premises where Shalewa’s office was situated. As he parked his car, he dialed her number from his phone which was attached to a cell phone holder on the dashboard. She picked up on the first ring and responded that she would be with him in five minutes.
About three minutes later, Shalewa walked out of the office complex. She was wearing a grey pant suit and Tunde smiled as he saw her. She is beautiful; he said to no one. He quickly took out a mouth spray from his glove box and freshened his breath.
As Shalewa eased into the car, Tunde planted a kiss on her cheeks. He engaged the gear and drove out of the car park. “So what’s wrong?” He said looking at her.
“Hey, I just got here. Can we talk over dinner?”
Tunde shrugged as he stretched his hand to hold hers. He noticed she was not receptive to his gesture but he refused to comment.
They arrived at their destination in fifteen minutes. They took a seat at a table for two and placed their orders. Tunde tried to make light conversations with Shalewa but she seemed distracted.
Their orders arrived and they began to eat. Tunde was almost done with his meal when he spoke up. “Shalewa, why are you keeping me in suspense? What’s the problem?”
Shalewa dropped her fork and looked at him. “Well, I had no intention of spoiling your dinner; that’s why I decided to hold on till you were done.”
“I’m all ears.” He said; looking at his plate as he tried to cut a piece of chicken.
“I need a break.”
Tunde put the piece of chicken in his mouth as he nodded, looking up at Shalewa. “A break? Why don’t you discuss with your dad. He may give you some time off.”
“That’s not what I mean, Tunde. I wasn’t referring to work. I mean a break from this relationship.”
Tunde’s eyes widened. He dropped his cutlery gently and took a sip of his drink. “A break from me?”
“Well, if you would rather put it that way.”
“Our wedding is in a few weeks.”
“I am aware of that. The more reason why I need a break.” Shalewa said as she looked at him straight-faced.
“But…but Shalewa, what went wrong?”
“I just need to sort out my feelings.”
“I thought we were past this.”
“No, we weren’t. We never were.”
Tunde was confused. “But you agreed to marry me?”
“To satisfy you and my dad. Have you forgotten so soon?”
Tunde pushed his half-eaten plate of chicken aside and held Shalewa’s hands on the table. “Please don’t do this to us. I love you.”
Shalewa pulled her hands from his grip. “Tunde, don’t make this more difficult than it already is. I can’t continue to live a lie.
Tunde took a deep breath.
“I would like to go home now. I can call a cab if you don’t mind.”
“I brought you here; the least I can do is drop you at home.” Tunde said as he stood up and signaled to the waiter to bring the bill. The waiter arrived with the bill and Tunde took out some notes from his wallet and slid it into the bill pouch.
Once the waiter turned away, Shalewa stood up, picked up her handbag and walked ahead while Tunde sauntered behind her.
Five days later, Tunde walked into Shalewa’s office to have a business meeting with her father. As the elevator doors opened, he saw Shalewa and a guy laughing in front of the elevator. He was surprised at the ease with which Shalewa chatted with him and he noticed there was a sparkle in her eyes.
“Hi Shalewa.” He said; trying to catch her attention.
Shalewa looked at him and the smile on her face faded. “Hi Tunde.”
Tunde waited expecting an introduction. When he noticed Shalewa was not going to do the honours, he decided to go ahead. “Hi.” He said as he stretched out his hand. “I’m Tunde, Shalewa’s fiancé.”
“Akin.” He said as he smiled and accepted Tunde’s hand shake. “So I get to meet you Tunde. You are the one who swept my best friend off her feet.”
Shalewa eyed Akin.
“So where are you guys off too?” Tunde asked; ignoring Akin’s comments and looking at Shalewa.
“Lunch.” Shalewa said as she looked at Akin. “Are we still going, Akin?”
“Of course.” Akin replied. “Bye Tunde. It’s a pleasure meeting you.” He continued as he did a mock bow.
Tunde watched as Shalewa and Akin stepped into the elevator. The elevator doors closed and Tunde stood transfixed to the spot. Akin, Shalewa’s best friend? How come I have never heard about him? Was he the reason Shalewa had asked for a break? She looked so happy chatting with him and there was a sparkle in her eyes when she looked at him. I have to find out who this new best friend is.
As Shalewa eased into Akin’s car, she looked at him in anger. “What was that for?”
Akin faked ignorance. “What? I don’t understand.”
“Oh come off it, Akin. You know what I am talking about; the charade with Tunde.”
“Oh that.” Akin said laughing. “Did I say something wrong there?”
“Yes, Shally babe.” Akin said as he leaned forward and planted a kiss on her cheeks. “You are still engaged to him. Don’t forget that and as far as I know” – He said tapping his fingers on his nose – “Your wedding is in a few weeks.”
“Please don’t remind me.”
“So can I drive off now or are we having Tunde for lunch?”
Shalewa gave him a scornful look as Akin burst out laughing.
Later that evening, Mr. Samuel was seated in the living room with his wife watching the evening news. There was a glass of juice on the side stool beside each of them. Shalewa walked in at about 9.30pm. She knelt down to greet her parents and headed straight for her room.
“Shalewa, please sit down.” Her father said.
Shalewa walked back and took a seat opposite her parents.
Bayo retrieved the remote control from the side stool and switched off the TV. He looked at Shalewa; his face grim. “Your mum and I felt it was important we spoke to you this night.”
“You usually don’t come in this late and we have been wondering what has changed. Of recent, you have been coming in later than usual. And I know you have been leaving the office same time as you usually did. Is there something we should know?”
“Nothing dad.” Shalewa answered as she looked straight at her dad.
Mr. Samuel nodded. “Tunde came for a business meeting today and he was asking about Akin. He was wondering how come you suddenly had a best friend he wasn’t aware of. I had to explain the friendship between you and Akin. He also said you asked for a break some days ago. Is that right, Shalewa?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Okay, so I am assuming this break is for a few days, then you can go back to your wedding preparations.”
“No dad. It is not for a few days. I am breaking up with Tunde.” She said; the muscles of her face taut as she refused to break eye contact with her father.
“I want to assume that because you are tired and stressed, you are probably not thinking right. So I would let you go to bed now, then we can talk about this tomorrow.” Bayo said.
“There is nothing to talk about, dad. I am not getting married to Tunde.”
“Will you shut up your mouth there?” Bayo said getting angry.
Funke patted her husband’s hands. “Please darling, not this way.” She pleaded.
“What do you mean? Did you hear what your daughter is spewing out of her mouth?” He said; looking at his wife in irritation.
“Shalewa, you can go to bed. We would talk about this tomorrow when everyone is calmer.” Funke said to her daughter.
“Good night mum, good night dad.”
“Good night Shalewa.” Funke said as Bayo ignored his daughter.
After Shalewa left the living room, Funke looked at her husband. “Darling, I think we need to be careful with the way we handle this matter.”
Bayo looked at his wife, shock clearly written on his face. “You can’t be serious. Are you also in support of her behaviour?
“I am not. I just feel we should tread carefully.”
“What exactly are you saying Funke?” Bayo asked infuriated.
“What I am saying is this. Haven’t you noticed that she seems happier than she was before? Since Akin’s arrival, her behaviour has changed. She has dropped the look of gloom that was always on her face and she is back to how she was before we forced this relationship with Tunde on her.” Funke said; trying to make her husband understand.
“Are you saying she is in love with Akin?” Bayo looked at his wife perplexed.
Funke sighed. “I am saying she never stopped loving him.”
Bayo laughed. “You can’t be serious Funke. What do you mean she never stopped loving him? They were friends as kids and they have both moved on.”
“They were not just friends fifteen years ago, Bayo. They loved each other and they obviously never stopped.”
“What are you saying? They were kids. What did they know about love?”
“Well, they knew enough to keep them in love with each other fifteen years after.”
Bayo was surprised. “But how do you know they loved each other?”
Funke smiled as she placed her hand on her husband’s. “Do you remember when Akin’s parents told us they were moving their son out of the country to continue his education?”
Bayo nodded. “Yes, I do.”
“Your daughter was heartbroken. She cried out to me and asked that I tell Akin’s parents not to send him away. She thought Akin’s parents were intentionally trying to separate them.”
Bayo’s eyes grew big as his jaw dropped.
“Yes darling.” Funke nodded. “That was when I realized all their time together wasn’t for a lack of siblings. It was because they loved each other. I guess her heart had always been with Akin.”
Bayo let out his breath.
“Akin’s arrival has changed her completely. She is happier and you can’t miss the glint in her eyes anytime she sees him.”
Bayo rubbed his temples. “Has he said anything to her? I mean, has he proposed to her?”
“I don’t think so. With another man’s ring on her finger, I doubt it.”
“Will you talk to her then? She should let you know what Akin’s intentions are. Her wedding is supposed to be in a few weeks.” Bayo breathed hard. “I never imagined I would have to do this.” – He looked at his wife as he continued – “Cancelling the wedding of my only daughter.”
“I know you long for her happiness, you don’t have a choice.”
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