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Home Post 10058-chapter-51

10058-chapter-51

*Maduka’s POV*

I am anxious about our outing. I haven’t been to the beach since Nwanyieze.

“You’re smiling but I can sense something else,” Agatha tells me while we walk along the shores of Elegushi beach on Saturday evening.

The sounds of delighted children screaming in the waves are all around us this evening. The orange sun rests on the sea in the horizon, staining the sky with its vibrant colour. Sea gulls call to one another, preparing to retire. The water makes soft lapping sounds as it kisses the shore over and over like an ardent lover.

Thoughtfully, I sip my coconut water from the huge shell to prepare my reply. She stops walking and I do the same.

“I haven’t been here in a long time. I used to come here with…Nwanyieze.”

Even saying her name isn’t easy for me, because it brings up memories of her running towards the water in her red bathing suit, laughing as the water splashed around her.

“I understand,” she says with a sympathetic expression. “You should have told me earlier.”

“It will pass, Agatha,” I reassure her. “I don’t want to ruin this outing.”

“You’re not ruining it. In fact, I’m surprised you even agreed.”

“Why?”

She releases a small laugh and resumes her movement, taking me along. “Don’t you know? You look formidable on the outside.”

“Me? Formidable?”

“You have this air of ‘I’m too busy to just hang out’. I thought you’d turn down my suggestion.”

I shake my head in amusement. “Believe me, I had no idea.”

“Intelligent, tall, handsome, member of the beard gang, self-employed, confident and a bit mysterious, those qualities make you look intimidating. If I hadn’t interviewed you I wouldn’t have known you’re quite easygoing.”

She’s complimenting me!

It baffles me that I don’t know how to react, but I murmur my thanks before saying, “You don’t have to.”

“You deserve that and more.” Agatha turns to face me, her eyes on mine.

I hold her gaze before letting my eyes move over her face. She is a light caramel colour with round, brown eyes that hide nothing at all. Her full lips are curved into a half-smile.

“Agatha, I don’t want to lead you on. You are a good person, and it would be unfair of me to hurt you because I’m still hurting.”

She takes my hand and squeezes it. “Didn’t I say you’re intelligent? You already know my intentions.”

I chuckle and return the squeeze. “You have been honest without saying a word about them. You have been a very good friend.”

“Take your time, Maduka. You will heal. Come, let’s dance to the drums.”

I drive her to her place, around eight o’clock. We have been laughing through the drive home, because of the scenes we witnessed at the beach today. A pick-pocket caught in the act and taught a lesson by almost being thrown into the sea by the friends of his victim; a cheating man caught with his mistress by his wife and other mistress who teamed up against him- the three women didn’t know of the existence of each other and had all been shocked and so furious they had ganged up to beat the man.

“You see Lagos people eh,” Agatha says at her door. “We are all mad inside this Lagos.”

“Can you survive here without a touch of madness? No na.”

My phone beeps, signalling me that I have received an email. After parking my car in front of Agatha’s apartment building at Surulere, I unlock my phone and read my mail.

“What?” Agatha asks when she notices that my silence is prolonged.

“I don’t believe this. I’ve been invited to Aso Rock to have lunch with the President.”

“My chest!” Agatha exclaims.

“I don’t believe this!” I repeat. “This is too good to be true!”

Agatha lets out a series of whoops and hugs me. “You’re going far, look at you!”

Leaning back in my seat, I blink rapidly, in awe of all that has happened so far. Suddenly my throat feels clogged.

Lunch with the President. Me. This is crazy.

“We are celebrating with a bottle of my best red wine, right now.”

“How generous of you.”

In five minutes we are in her apartment. She rushes to where her television and speakers sit and at a few pushes of buttons, has Dr. Sid and D’banj’s Pop Something starts to play.

“Please wait for the wine,” she says before running out through a side door.

We make a toast to greater heights before sipping from elegant crystal cups.

“I know you will wear your best suit for this lunch,” she teases.

“I fit buy new one sef,” I reply, and we both laugh about it.

We have been laughing a lot, a voice in the back of my mind says. Two empty bottles now lie on the ground before us, and we have been talking for over an hour, draining our glasses without giving it much thought.

“Tell me about her, Maduka.”

“Her,” I echo, suddenly overwhelmed by memories flooding my mind.

“If you don’t want-”

“She made me laugh a whole lot. She had this air of…innocence about her, although now I don’t know if it was real or not. And she had been through a lot before we met… She called herself a tainted soul, but all I could see was beauty.”

“You loved her.”

“I did.” And I probably still do.

Saheed’s voice rings in my ear. Hand me my girlfriend’s phone.

“Bastard,” I whisper under my breath, momentarily forgetting that I’m holding a cup with wine still in it. My sudden movement makes some of the wine spill on my denim trousers. I place the cup beside me to survey the mess I have created.

“I’ll get you a towel,” Agatha says, already rising to her feet.

“That won’t be necessary-” I reach out to stop her and my speed unbalances her, making her fall right into my lap. The rest of the wine spills on the floor, but we don’t notice immediately because we are staring at each other.

Agatha, I might hurt you. It won’t be my intention, but it is highly likely to happen.

She leans closer, and touches her lips to mine. I respond, momentarily wanting to forget my misery. She tastes of the wine we have just shared, crisp and sweet. Her arms fly around my neck, flattening her chest against mine. Her weight is comfortable on me, reminding me that I haven’t been with a woman, not since after Nwanyieze had disappeared from my life. Suddenly, I begin to ache.

How many times had I kissed Nwanyieze like this at my place, with soft music playing in the background and snacks lying on the floor beside us?

I withdraw gradually, slowly, so she won’t be upset by my reluctance.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper.

She smiles and touches the tip of my nose. “Don’t be. I started this. I knew the complications, but I dived in anyway. I like you a whole lot, Maduka.”

“I don’t think you should.”

“You can’t control feelings, can you?”

“No one can.” I should know.

“She must have been special.”

“Yes. And I should be on my way home now.”

She flies to her feet, as if she has just realised how intimately close we are. “I’m sorry for keeping you and doing this to you-”

“Agatha, don’t apologise.”

“Should we blame the wine, then?”

That makes me laugh out loud and shake my head. “Agatha, has anyone ever told you that you have this way of diffusing awkwardness?”

She nods. “It’s a talent, trust me.”

There is no discomfort between us, not even when she insists on walking me down to my car, hugging me, and telling me good night.

While driving home, I reflect on the relationship I have with Agatha. I value our friendship, but taking it a step further gives me a sense of uncertainty. I get the feeling that I might do something to hurt her, because I have definitely not healed from my past experience. Agatha is smart, understanding, pretty, and learned.

But do you feel the same way about her? I question myself.

When the answer doesn’t come immediately, I shake my head and laugh, mocking myself.

I thought so.

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