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Episode 10

Jack drove into his compound immediately the gateman opened the gate for him with big smiles on his face. Jack drove into the parking lot and finally pulled the car to a stop. He hadn’t been to this place in months and even when he came around, he usually did not spend more than a few days. Maybe now that he would be staying for more than a few days, he would be able to fully enjoy the building he had spent millions on. It was a classic building with flowers surrounding it; not too big, yet, not small. Till now, he still wondered what had motivated him to buy the house. He wasn’t a ‘flower’ kind of guy, in fact, he was the exact opposite of that kind of guy, yet, he had purchased the building the instant he saw it. Maybe this is what his life would have been like if events hadn’t turned him bitter. Maybe he would have been able to live like every other normal man – happily, peacefully, lovingly. But he wasn’t that kind of man. Life had dealt him a heavy blow when he was too young, too young to withstand it.

Jack opened the boot from inside, picked up his laptop and camera and opened the door of his car. The gateman was there, hopping from foot to foot, smiling widely. “Welcome sir” he hastily said as he stretched forth his hands to collect the laptop from Jack’s hand.

Jack did not bother about answering the greeting as he shook his head. “Go and take out the bags in the boot Hazzan.” He said.

Hazzan jumped at it, bringing out the bags. Two women rushed out of his apartment. One of them looked to be in her late forties, while the other was in her early twenties. Jack smiled slightly at Mrs Balogun and her daughter Bewaji. He had called her earlier to tell her that he was coming.

“What a delight to see you today Jack” she greeting him.

“Good evening sir” Bewaji murmured, lowering her eyes shyly.

The only reason why Jack had employed Mrs Balogun was because she was a single mother and he had employed the daughter too in order for them to remain together. They earned more money for maintaining the house than most people who worked from morning till night in big offices. The only weakness Jack admitted possessing were single and struggling mothers. He could never ignore them. If only someone had done the same when he was small…

“It is good to see you too” he responded. “I can see that you both are faring well” he said as Bewaji moved to help Hazzan with the bags and they all walked inside.

“It could have been better if you were around more often. We really missed you” Mrs Balogun said and he grunted. The woman was fast assuming a motherly role over him. She always went out of her way to make him feel like a boy again; she was the primary reason why Jack avoided coming to the house. not that he disliked her, on the contrary, he was afraid that her affectionate words were beginning to soften him.

“Don’t worry, I know you missed us too” Mrs Balogun said again, smiling.

Jack sighed. “If you keep this up, I might leave earlier than I planned”

Mrs Balogun chuckled. “Come inside, you must be famished. I prepared your favorite meal”

*****
*****

Omolara pulled the robe of her nightgown tighter around her as she opened the door of her bedroom and stepped out. Just as her father had said before leaving that morning, the family doctor had arrived, checked her up and administered some drugs. She ate both breakfast and lunch in bed, thanks to the pampering tendencies of her friends. They all ended up eating dinner at the dinning before her friends left and her mother retired to her bedroom. Her father still hadn’t arrived home, but then, she was used to it.

Lara passed by several guards as she entered the sitting room, but they all looked new. The ones that were there before were nowhere to be found, but she didn’t have the time to dwell on it. She proceeded to the small parlor and opened the door cautiously. She entered and closed the door behind her, turning on the lights.

She looked round the small parlor. Her mother had told her that they all stayed in this parlor and Lara remembered when her captor had told them all to remain in that room. Something was fishy. CCTV cameras were everywhere in the house, even in the kitchen, but it was only she and her parents that knew that the parlor was excluded. Could that secret have leaked to the hands of one of the maids or guards? The possibilities were high. Lara shook her head and traced every nook and cranny with her eyes, trying to find any gadget that looked suspicious. Anything like a camera which the kidnapper would have used to monitor her parents, but after about ten minutes, Lara still hadn’t found anything. There was nothing at all. This leaves the only sensible conclusion – there had to be an insider. She was sure of it, now more than ever, and judging from the new bodyguard faces she saw, she was sure that her father also suspected this.

She swallowed and turned, putting off the lights before exiting the sitting room. She hastily went to the dispenser to get a cup of water and then sipped it gently as she made for her room. As she walked down the passage to her room, she saw a figure hastily dash in the direction of her mother’s room. She froze, turning to stone as fear gripped her. Who could that be? Judging from the attire, it had to be a woman.

Lara dropped her cup of water quietly on the tiled floor and followed the path that figure took. Her heart was in her mouth. Was someone after her mother this time? Oh no! Her mother would definitely be asleep now, giving the attacker an advantage. She couldn’t let anything happen to her mother! She didn’t see the figure again, but she rushed on anyways, going towards her mother’s room. She just had to make sure that her mother was fine. When she got to her mother’s bedroom door, she yanked it open with no second to lose but as her eyes fell on the empty mattress, she nearly expired. She jumped into the room. “Mum?” she called as she hastened to the bathroom. Oh God no! she hasn’t been kidnapped too, has she? “Mum?” she called again, but it was a senseless effort since her mother was obviously not in the room.

Lara’s heart beat fast as she hurried into her dad’s bedroom to check if her mother was there. It was as empty as the first. She rushed to the last room on that wing, swinging the door against the opposite wall as she opened. “Mum” she gasped in surprise as her mother jumped.

Sewa jumped and stared at Lara, her brain running twice faster, trying to come up with an explanation. She hadn’t heard of Lara’s approach! If only these rooms are not so soundproofed, she thought bitterly.

Lara’s heart slowed as she tried to regulate her breathing. Her relief at finding her mother, hale and hearty was so apparent, yet, a frown crossed her face as she pushed her legs into the room. “Mum? What are you doing here?” she asked. “I was so scared when…” she stared at the discarded clothes on the bed. “…when I didn’t see you in your room” she finished, then raised her eyes to her still mute mother. “What is going on mum? What are you doing in this room? I thought you came upstairs to sleep about two hours ago”

Lara watched her mother struggle as though she was hiding something. Since Lara arrived this morning, she had seen her mother do several things like crying on her bed and stammering every now and then. She was becoming really worried. Maybe her kidnap had really affected her mother. Sewa opened her mouth several times but no words came out.

Lara lowered herself gently on the bed as her mother stood. She smiled gently. “You can tell me anything mum, I am not a kid. I saw someone coming in this direction while I was going to my room. This cloth…” she fingered the material on the bed, noting that she had never seen her mother in it before. “… this is probably the cloth I saw on the person.” A thought occurred to her, almost freezing her brain in the process. “Are you… seeing someone?”

Sewa’s eyes widened like large doughnuts. “Lara” she gasped. “How can you say such a ridiculous thing?”

Lara sighed. She didn’t know how she would have reacted if her mother had replied in the affirmative. “Then where were you coming from mum? I know you must have gone out, and through… the secret back door at that”

Sewa sighed and sat on the bed too. “Okay, I would tell you” she began. “Many times, I get tired of being the governor’s wife, you know?” she said matter-of-factly. “I often want to feel normal again, to feel like a common person, so, I… devised the method of going out in disguise” she said. Lara could almost not believe what she was hearing. “I knew that your father wouldn’t approve that is why I decided to go this way, hiding from everyone. I feel freer when no one has to relate with me in a special way because of my status. Please don’t tell your father”

A smile crossed Lara’s face. “Oh mum, you should have involved me in this adventure. Why did I never think of this?” she thought. Maybe men would have been able to love me for me if they didn’t know my background, she thought to herself.

“Don’t think of trying it Omolara” Sewa hastily added.

Lara nodded. She knew in her heart that she would disobey her mother. Besides, she had never been accused of being a good girl. “Okay mum, you should get some sleep, it has been a long day” she stood up and yawned, stretching lazily.

Sewa chuckled. “It looks like you need that advice more. Good night my dear. Are you sure you can sleep in your room alone? You can sleep in my room with me” she offered eagerly.

“Of course not mum, I am not a kid. Good night mum” she said and walked out. She would never tell anyone that her heart skips when she opens her bedroom door. Who knows? Someone might just grab her again.

*****
*****

Lara woke up to the consistent ringing of her phone. She was waking up later than she usually did today but then she deserved it since it had been days since she last enjoyed good sleep. Grumbling to herself, she picked up her phone just as it fell silent and unlocked the phone to see who was calling. Her eyes nearly popped out of its sockets. Derin? She sat up instantly. Six missed calls from Derin! He sure had guts. Lara hissed as she tossed her phone on the bed and pushed out of bed. Going back to sleep did not seem appealing anymore. She put on her bedside slippers and made for the bathroom, where she emptied her bladder, washed her face and brushed her teeth. By the time she was done, her anger had gone down a notch but immediately her phone started ringing again and she saw Derin on the screen, she grabbed it with renewed anger and turned off the phone.

She needed something to do, something to keep her mind off things. She went into the bathroom and took a lengthy bath, by the time she arrived, she felt safe to turn the phone back on. She always had the desire to be a fashion designer and she had learnt the skills while in school without the knowledge of her parents. It was the primary reason why she never saw eye to eye with her dad because, after graduating from the university, she wanted to go into fashion designing and her father would never have it. She had made moved several times only to have it truncated by her father. She had also refused to take any of the employments her father brought. But she couldn’t continue to go in circles with her father. She dialed Teresa’s number.

“Hey girl” she said immediately Teresa picked.

“How are you sweetheart, are you okay now?” Teresa asked hastily.

“Of course babe, I am fine. I want us to search for another shop today, I would call Bola now. Are you available? Please?”

“Well, of course girl but is your dad in support?” Teresa asked cautiously.

“I don’t care. Let him try to stop me again”

*****
*****

Jack got to the government secretariat and was stopped at the gate by the security. He lowered his glass and brought out the card given to him by the governor. Immediately he showed the security men, the blunt expression on their faces turned to that of respect. The gate was opened and he drove inside. It is a wonder what a small card can do. He parked, alighted and walked into the secretariat building. E was scanned to be sure he carried no weapon before allowed passage. So many officers were standing at strategic places but he ignored them, saw the receptionist and walked towards her. “I am here to see the governor” he said, producing the card again.

She smiled widely and respectfully directed him. If he didn’t hate the governor so much, he might even admire the respect he was accorded. But the respect given to him only made Jack angrier. In no time, he was in front of the Governor’s secretary who instantly called the governor. After sitting for about ten minutes, he was allowed in.

“Good evening sir. It is an honour being here” he greeted.

The governor sat intimidatingly behind his desk with a calm but cunning smile on your face. “Jack Andrews” he muttered. “Do have your seat”

Jack sat. “Thank you sir”

“Just as I said days back, I am fully grateful to you for helping my daughter”

“I did what I would have done with any other person sir” Jack answered.

“Did you really? Or is there an ulterior motive?”

Jack blinked, “I don’t think I understand you sir”

“She is the daughter of a governor!” The governor said simply.

“You think no one would help your daughter without ulterior motives?” Jack returned.

“No. I think you have an ulterior motive. I looked you up. You are into shipping. You have enough money on your own, so you are not after money, but my instincts tell me you are after something. I saw the way you looked at my daughter yesterday…”

Jack smiled. “You are right sir” he said, deciding to cut the chase. “I want to marry your daughter”

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