THE LAST SMILE Episode 13 by NISSI ADEOLA
“Answer me right now Raymond S. James; what is that pale thing doing here?” Tinuke yelled.
Raymond jumped to his feet as he forcefully restrained himself from hitting her. He had never hit a woman in his life but he had the feeling that Tinuke would make him change that record. “Woman” he growled, “this is my house, and whoever I desire to bring into my house should be none of your concern”.
She hissed. “This is my house too, Ray, and you should at least respect me by leaving your whores outside instead of bringing them here”.
“You are pushing me Tinuke”. He pointed his finger at her in a warning signal.
She laughed. “And what are you going to do? Ehn? You can do nothing. You hear me? Nooothing” she yelled.
“Leave my house Tinuke” he said quietly in a tone that spoke volume.
“Me! Leave this house? You must be stupid to think I would leave this house. This is my husband’s house and I am here to stay” she yelled, loud enough to wake the dead.
“I am not married to you and never will. I would rather die than marry someone who would make my life totally unbearable” he spat between clenched teeth.
“You wouldn’t dare, you hear me? You dare not. You see this ring?” she displayed her fingers. “It is not leaving my fingers, not even in the next 50 years, and very soon, it would be accompanied by a wedding ring; our wedding ring”.
Raymond smiled. “Sure. I can’t expect you to release such a prized jewel. I was not asking you to give it to me, you can keep it. As for the wedding ring, you would only get it in your dreams because this engagement is over. We are done”.
She shook her head. “You lie… you lie, do you hear me? You lie” she yelled. “That whore has bewitched you. You are not in your right senses. I swear, I will get her for this. She is the one toying with your head, right? I will make her pay” she screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Oh… is that what you were trying to do when you went to that hospital. Of everything you could do, I never knew murder would add up to the endless list”.
Tinuke took in a sharp breath as she heard what he said.
“Oh… You never knew I would find out? Why not? They have the whole episode recorded, you know? I could get you arrested; charge you for attempted homicide.”
“of course not. I did not do anything, they misjudged me.” she lamented, shaking slightly.
“I don’t know and honestly don’t care. Leave this house this very minute. I am sick and tired of your crap. I need some peace in my life and that would never happen with you infecting the whole place with your unbearable attitude.”
Raymond sat down forcefully but Tinuke did not leave where she was. “I told you before; I am not leaving. You would have to throw me out if you want me out”. She spat.
“You have five minutes to pack your things and leave. If you refuse to comply, the police would have to help you out”.
“Calm down sweetie. Just look at yourself; you are a shadow of yourself” Ken admonished his wife who was busy thinking about the misfortune which had befallen her. She had become lean, and even though Ken looked sapped and under serious pressure, he still wanted his wife to take it easy and be a little optimistic for both of them. He really needed her to encourage him and realize that they were both in it together, but she had been behaving as if he was not there.
“Just leave me alone Ken, it is my daughter that is missing here” she almost yelled.
Ken became furious. “Isn’t she my daughter too? What is the matter with you? Do you think this is not affecting me?”
“Don’t you yell at me Kenneth. I told you. I told you not to allow her take that job and apartment. You could have insisted she stayed here, searched for another job which is close by, but what did you do? She talked you into it and you agreed. A girl should not stay away from her parents” she yelled.
Ken was horrified. “So this is what the problem is. You are holding me responsible for what is happening? She has been living conveniently in that house for six years and now you bring up this issue?”
“I am not saying you are responsible, I am just…” she trailed off, then looked sad and confused. She looked at her husband and wondered what had possessed her to talk that way, he was equally affected and she had hardly consoled him or tried to make him feel better ever since their daughter went missing. Yet, that did not stop him from petting and standing by her. “I am sorry honey, I don’t know what is wrong with me” she moved towards him apologetically.
He blocked her advance with his hand. “No, I think you know. You are right though, I am a horrible father” he turned and stormed out in anger.
“No, Ken. I am sorry… Ken…” she followed him but he was out of the gate before she could stop him. She went back to the house, slamming the door forcefully. The tears soon started falling as she sat on the floor but she didn’t know the cause of the tears: her missing daughter or her hurt husband.
Raymond felt this unexplainable peace immediately Tinuke wheeled her boxes out of the house. He wondered why she had brought so many bags in the first place. Was she given quit notice? He wondered. He wondered why he never noticed such an unbearable behavior in her before. He had always known her to be sweet and gentle but not like this. Women are just pretenders, waiting for the ring before producing their true characters. He thought. Tinuke was just the exact replica of a roaring fire, always ready to rid you of your cool and peace.
He took the television remote and switched on the television. Ever since he started his leave, he hadn’t switched on the television, not to mention, watch it. There had been too many dramas to last a lifetime and he didn’t need to hear any extra bad news on the television, since that was the only thing that the television stations carried. He could not remember the last time he heard a good news on TV; but he just had to keep up with the happenings around him, especially Nigerian news.
The first thing he saw on Channels TV almost made him regret putting on the TV. Boko Haram had just bombed a bus station in Bornu State, leading to the death of about a hundred people and leaving many people injured. He grimaced as he listened to the reporter. What a cruel world. The news came to a close some minutes after and he picked up his remote to change the channel but stopped when he saw a familiar face on the Television screen. His eyes widened as he stared at the name beneath the picture
Brenda closed her eyes and opened it but it did not drive away the guilt she was feeling. She had woken up some time ago to the loud voices of heated argument going on between Raymond and his fiancée. She had felt this heavy guilt then. She should not have come here, she should have insisted on going her way. If she had, Raymond’s fiancée would still be with him.
After hearing what was being said for some time, she covered her head and ears with the pillow in order to prevent herself from hearing more, although, it was nigh impossible. Then, they started speaking in a hushed manner and she was grateful. The next thing that happened was what made her guilt multiply: she heard the sound of bags, being dragged. She had pushed her weak body out of bed and went to the window to confirm her fears. Tinuke was dragging her bags out in tears. The gateman offered to help her but he was sent back with a dirty slap from Tinuke which made Brenda wince.
Brenda shook her head, stood up from the bed and made for the bathroom. She needed to leave that place. Much to her surprise, she found everything she needed in the bathroom: a new toothbrush, sponge, soap, and towel. She wondered how Raymond had managed to put all those things in her bathroom since he had been busy fighting his fiancée. She brushed, took her bath and left the bathroom. She mopped her hair until it became just a little bit moist and quickly wore the same dress she had removed. She loved the gown and had been wondering how Raymond was able to buy her something that fit so perfectly. Just as she was combing her hair, she heard a knock and instantly became frightened. They were all alone in the house, save the gateman. Nothing and no one could stand in his way of he decided to do something stupid. She remembered how good he had been and threw away the filthy thought.
“Yes? Please come in” she said, dropping the comb.
Raymond entered, looking all masculine. She noticed he had changed the loose T shirt he had on before into a figure hugging top that highlighted his muscles. She wondered if he was a regular face at the gym.
Raymond was carried away by the beauty of his guest for some seconds, that he forgot what he came for. Her hair was loose and looked wet. God really created this woman when he was relaxing, he thought. If she was this beautiful in such flimsy material, he wondered what she would look like in real quality clothes. Remembering why he came, he stared at her without talking, like he was trying to confirm something.
“Miss Luciana Jones?” he called and watched her face drain, leaving her whiter than she already was. Confirmed. “Come with me; we need to have a long chat”. With that he turned and walked out of the room while she followed like a puppet with her head downcast.
Tinuke had cried and cried but the tears still did not stop coming. She didn’t know what to do. She was already back in her apartment. She entered the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of alcoholic wine and found it empty. She angrily threw it against the wall. And the sound of its shattering was deafening. She swallowed as she settled to drinking a bottle of cold water. After drinking for some time, it soon became bitter in her mouth and she returned the cup.
She moved to the sitting room and collapsed on the chair. She mopped her eyes for the umpteenth time. She dialed Tosin’s number but she did not pick up. After several attempts, she dialed Bola’s number and got the same result. She became very angry and furious. “Stupid girls” she yelled.
Bola and Tosin were her best friends. They had been inseperable since their secondary school days and now that they were older, that hadn’t changed. The only time she had been away from them had been when they had gone to school. They both got their admissions late, unlike her, but they both finished their NYSC about a year ago and the trio friendship continued. Now that she needed them, they are nowhere to be found. She sighed. After thinking for some time, she felt she would feel better if she goes for shopping. Shopping had a way of making her happy. She didn’t have the money, so, she picked up her phone to call her favorite step brother. It had been a long time since she called him.
After ringing for some seconds, she heard a voice and she smiled. “Hello Deolu”
THE LAST SMILE Episode 14 by NISSI ADEOLA
Tosin brushed her long weave-on as she stood opposite the standing mirror. Bola was busy reading a novel and was laughing at intervals. Tosin looked at her, shook her head and hissed.
“With the way you are behaving, you can easily be counted as a lunatic.”
“You dey craze” Bola countered still laughing.
“What is so funny about a horror novel?” Tosin looked horrified.
“You won’t know until you read it”.
Tosin hissed again and faced the mirror to continue her work. She heard Bola’s phone ring and heard her hiss. She turned stunned eyes at her as Bola put the phone on vibration and continued reading her novel. When the phone started vibrating for the fourth time, she picked it up to check the caller and smiled when she saw it. When Tosin’s phone started ringing, Bola stared at her and they both bursted into laughter. They laughed until their sides ached.
“Yeye girl. Why you dey laugh now?” Bola faked a smug face and they both laughed again, holding their sides. After sometime, they both suppressed their chagrin.
“Don’t mind that useless thing. She thinks she can become successful and start making yanga with us? She is not serious” Tosin said.
It was Bola who hissed this time. “What is her own sef ehn? We finished school, her result was better than our own; she entered school, we still dey house; and finally, she is engaged to Raymond James; Tosin; Raymond James!! Chai… Does she have two heads?”
“I tire ooo” Tosin yelled.
“I would give anything to be in her shoes” she smiled smugly.
“Excuse me? I want that man. He is the finest thing that ever walked this earth”.
“You can’t have him, he is mine. I have succeeded in separating those two, so I must reap the harvest of my hard labour” Bola yelled, ready for a fight.
Tosin glared. “We did it together. Both of us talked her into being a pain in the butt, right?”
“But I suggested it”
Tosin looked at Bola for sometime before she started laughing. Bola became angry. She really hated being laughed at.
“You better close your dirty teeth before I close it for you” Bola said, hands on hips.
“Ok…” Tosin tried to compose herself. “You know, it is so funny that we are fighting over a man that can never be ours”
“Says who?” Bola frowned, checking herself in the standing mirror. “I am hot. Hotter than fire, so why not?”
Tosin shook her head, wondering why she was accepting the reality all of a sudden. “We are hot ooo but we are not as hot as Tinuke”
“You dey craze”
“It is true Bola, and you know it. She too fine jare, I never see the girl wey go beat am. Even, she came out with a whooping second class upper and we are in the demeaning third class level.” She shook her head at the remembrance of the day she had seen her statement of result.
Bola shook her head and picked up her novel again, still not accepting that Tinuke was better than her.
“Hey Tinuke” Deolu yelled. He was unpacking his things and could not afford to waste time on phone, so he put the phone on speaker in order to do two things at once. “So, after about two months, you decided to call me today? Today is blessed”
Even though Tinuke’s mother did not really like Deolu because Deolu’s father refused to marry her, Tinuke was always close to Deolu. He knew that part of her likeness was due to his financial status but that did not stop him from being protective of his only sister, even if they did not share the same mother or the same surname. When Deolu’s father made the mistake of committing adultery when Deolu was four years old, he confessed what he did and had done all he could do on earth to make his wife forgive him. After much pleadings, she finally gave in but all that shattered when Tinuke’s mother came with a big belly. Deolu’s father had refused to marry her but promised to cater for the child. He had accused her of luring him into her bed. He could not leave his wife, who had suffered and been with him when he was nobody. Because of this, Tinuke’s mother gave her child her own father’s name instead of bearing Aremu.
“Oh, come on D boy, it has not been easy at all. I have been having too many problems lately” Tinuke’s voice flooded the room.
“You can say that again” he said with vigor.
She did not pursue that statement because she could not imagine him having serious problems. “Erm D boy, I actually would appreciate some cash. I am really downcast not. Ray wants to call off the engagement and-”
“Wait, what? He wants to do what?” Deolu yelled, stopping what he was doing to stare at the phone like he was seeing Tinuke.
“He sent me out of his house Deolu” she cried. Her pain was felt by Deolu and even though he really wanted to pounce on Raymond, he could not stop himself from blaming her.
“What were you doing in his house Tinu? How many times did I tell you that a man would always take you for granted when you start living with him before your wedding. I am sure you were sleeping with him too. Why would he want to pay your dowry when he already has what he wants free of charge? Tell me” he lamented, wishing she was physically present so he could talk some sense into her head.
“Oh… stop lamenting. Everything was fine until he started bringing in shameless girls. First, it was his maid but now it is a shameless harlot. Please leave that, I don’t want to talk about that bastard. Would you please send me some cash? She sniffed.
“Ok. I would send you something”
“Thanks D boy. You are the best. Wait, what of that girl you were after. That Luciana you told me about. Have you wooed her?”
Deolu was stunned and thrown off balance. He suddenly became tense. He could not believe that Tinuke could remember Luciana’s name. She had pressurized him about his single life until he confessed his love for Luciana to her.
“That is my problem Tinu”
“Why? Did she say no?”
“She said ‘Yes’”
“Yipppeeee…” Tinuke yelled. “But what is the problem then?”
“She is missing” he dropped and Tinuke’s scream of surprise and worry filled the room.
“It is a long story. I need to meet someone in about an hour.” He remembered Raymond and frowned. “I need to see that fiancée of yours. He didn’t seem like a womanizer to me, i wonder what happened to him. What is the name of that harlot that snatched him from you?” he was furious.
“One ugly thing like that. Think her name is Brenda” she said with disgust.
“When I descend on her, she would know she does not have a place with him.”
Raymond led Luciana to the balcony, where she sat down with her head down. Despite the tense atmosphere, Raymond went inside and returned with a pack of juice and two glass cups. His throat suddenly felt dry as he stared at Luciana. For someone who had just gone through a painful ordeal, she was looking exceedingly beautiful. He swallowed hard and quickly filled both cups with juice and drank from his cup until it was halfway down. Luciana hadn’t even raised her head, not to mention, touch her drink.
“Mind telling me why you lied to me? It is just a name. whether you are Luciana or you are Brenda, it does not change the fact that it is a name. Although, I think Luciana suits you more. Your parents named you well.” She was shining, just like the light. Just like the rays of the sun.
Brenda smiled slightly and blushed at the compliment but she was overtaken with embarrassment when she remembered that her cover had been blown. “How did you find out? Did you break your promise?”
“No. I saw it on TV. Your parents are really worried” Lucy started breathing fast as she held onto the chair. Ray wanted to just hold and comfort her but held himself. He wanted the truth. “Tell me what is going on; but since the first thing you ever told me was a lie, I wonder if I can believe anything you say”.
“Then there is no use telling you” she made to stand up but Raymond quickly held her hand.
“Please. Was just joking” he whispered as she sat down. She stared at her hand until Ray had to look at it himself and discovered shockingly that he was still holding her. He quickly extracted his hand and put it inside his pocket as he tried to compose himself. He cleared his throat. “I am all ears.”
“I was scared. A guy did this to me” Raymond folded his fists in anger as he listened to her. “After he stabbed me, he said so many things, thinking I was already dead, but I could hear him. The pain I felt was beyond imaginable but I held on to God’s strength when mine faded out. I would not like to tell you the things he said because I am still working on believing them myself but the bottom line is that my people would be in danger if I go back. If he discovers that I am alive, he would want to kill me by all means and that would definitely affect my people. I don’t want anything to happen to them. It is better for them to be in the dark and be safe than to come into danger because of me”.
Raymond swallowed hard. He just wanted to lay his hands on the miserable man and teach him a lesson he would live to remember. “Is he your boyfriend?”
“What? No” Raymond was surprised at the relief he felt, but he was still furious.
“Please don’t tell anyone about me. please. My family, my friends, everyone; they mean a lot to me. please” she pleaded.
“I wont do anything” Raymond really doubted he would stay without doing something.
“Thanks” she said. “I think I should leave now. You fought your fiancée because of me. I heard everything and I feel extremely bad.”
“No. I have wanted to do that for a very long time. You are not going anywhere; I wont let you. My sister would be here tomorrow and you would not wanna leave. Believe me”. He smiled. “I know I am not a very interesting company”
She shook her head in denial. His presence alone was making her squirm and she knew that he had a very interesting personality but somehow, he was hiding it. Even though he looked cool, she had enjoyed enjoyed all the times they were together immensely. Besides, she liked cool and calm men.
“You have a beautiful house”.
Raymond looked at her and smiled, making her heart race. He had noticed her dimples again and was already loving the sight that he would give anything to see them again. “We have a beautiful guest”.
Luciana smiled and looked at her fingers. Raymond noticed she was very shy. “C’mon, let me show you around”.
She nodded happily, stood and followed him.
THE LAST SMILE Episode 15 by NISSI ADEOLA
The tour was wonderful and mind-blowing. Luciana was so pleased with the beauty of the house. The flowers at the back of the house really thrilled Luciana, and she walked about, touching them with smiles on her face. Raymond deduced that she must love flowers a lot.
“I love sunflower; I never get tired of looking at it” Luciana gazed lovingly at the yellow flower heads which stood tall and spread all over. She touched them with her fingers, loving its feel.
Raymond smiled. That flower was actually his mum’s favourite flower and she had done all she could to have a sizeable amount for their compound. He had watered it for a long time because he also developed a love for flowers. Who would not when you have a mother that can spend her last penny on flowers? He had his mum purchase the flowers for him in order to beautify his house. Tinuke had also played her part in getting some flowers. He remembered his mum and the plane crash flashed back. He froze and turned instantly, but not before Lucy saw the pained expression on his face.
“I am sorry sir, did I say something wrong?” she was worried and a bit scared.
“Uhn? No… No. come on, let me show you the other parts of the house” Raymond said hastily, trying to destroy the image which had become the wallpaper of his mind. Lucy strolled behind like a gentle puppy, not uttering a word. She knew without a doubt that there was something haunting Raymond. That expression was similar to the one she had seen on their way from the hospital, but more intense.
They went round the house with Raymond doing all the talking. It seemed like he was trying to talk his way out of the pain he was hiding and Luciana just kept murmuring ‘hmmms’ and nodding at intervals. She was trying to see if there was a little opening which she could use to probe him, but she got none; Ray successfully filled every silence.
There were two very small buildings at the far end of the spacious compound, behind the main building which looked like boys’ quarters. Ray did not say anything about them and she was curious. She wondered what the buildings were for or who lived there; although she doubted if anyone lived there.
“I love the house; you have great taste” she said with a smile on her face.
“I love your dimples” Ray said without thinking. She smiled shyly, looking at her feet. Raymond was astonished that she was so shy when she clearly was exceedingly blessed with beauty. She behaved as if she had no idea of the effects she had on men. If it had been tinuke, she would have been flirting endlessly now.
“Erm… why don’t we go and get something to eat? Maybe in a nearby eatery?” he asked with raised eyebrows. He really wished he already got a maid.
She looked hesitant. “Or, I could prepare something?” she asked back, trying not to seem too forward. She hadn’t even spent 24 hours in the house yet.
“No. you are my guest and I should not put you through the stress, besides, you need your strength. You just came back from the hospital and the first thing you need is rest”
“Oh, c’mon now. I cant rest forever. I have been lying on that hospital bed for God only knows how long, I need some form of exercise. It is not right for you to waste money at the eatery when a woman is in the house” she looked straight at him until Raymond started wondering if she was actually shy or she had been pretending. She looked so bold.
He shook his head. “I am sorry. It is not always like this. Bose just left and due to my lack of interest when it comes to kitchen matters, I was not able to learn any cooking skills” he actually looked ashamed of himself.
“Thought you said your fiancee’s name is Tinuke” Luciana questioned slightly, feeling as if she was going beyond her boundaries.
“Oh… erm… Bose is my maid… I mean… was” he stammered.
“Oh…” was all she could say. She thought for some time then nodded slightly. “well, how about we make the dinner a little bit fun. I would cook and also tutor you along the way. Do you at least know how to boil water?” Lucy asked with a feigned worry expression on her face.
He laughed. “C’mon, I am not that pathetic. I can prepare the best tea and coffee; you need to taste it. I can also fry eggs; as long as the salt does not go overboard” he had a puppy face and Lucy laughed her heart out. She remembered Deolu who could prepare any meal. Sometimes, Lucy felt like an amateur whenever Deolu talked about his kitchen skills.
Raymond was torn between allowing Lucy to cook and insisting she does not. He had missed home-made foods so much. Ever since Bose left and Tinuke stepped into the house, he had stopped eating at home and had become a regular customer at the eatery. Having a good meal would really be welcome but he was worried about her health.
“I still insist that you are not strong enough”.
“Nah… cooking can never bother Luciana Jones. If you think you can escape a thorough lesson in cooking by persuading me out of this, then you have failed. You would become a certified Mr Chef in no time”. Her wide smile revealed the most perfect set of teeth he had ever seen as she placed her hands on her hips like a primary school teacher.
He laughed heartily as he raised his hands in surrender. Luciana had a cool sense of humour and he was happy about it. His life had been full of sadness that he had practically lost his sense of humour and ability to laugh in the process. Maybe Luciana was the cure to that ailment.
Everything had gone so well. Luciana had never had that much fun in her life. She always enjoyed cooking but not that much. They did not behave as if they had just met but did lot of things together. She made fun of him a lot when he asked a totally unbelievable question about ingredients and they both laughed it off. It was so much fun that she did not know when the food was ready.
They had talked and laughed throughout the meal, not even observing table manners. Raymond had praised her endlessly about how good she was and how delicious the meal was. Raymond was sure that he would enjoy his sleep after eating such a delicious meal of Poundo yam and egusi soup with enough stock fish and meat. Raymond pleaded with Lucy to go and have some rest while he took care of the plates but she refused. Lucy washed the plates while he dried them and arranged them in the rack.
Lucy retired to the guests’ room some minutes later. Her strength had drained and she felt sleepy. She was surprised that she had actually enjoyed herself that much. If kitchen work could always be that interesting, she would love to sleep and wake there. She remembered her family and friends and all the happiness she had felt a while ago evaporated. She had successfully pushed that thought to the back of her mind throughout but now that she was alone, she could not hide her grief. She was there, laughing, while her loved ones are running from pillar to post, looking for her. Tears of despair rolled down her cheeks as she closed her eyes. She had no right to smile when her loved ones were obviously going through hell. All the same, she could not put them in danger by showing up there because she would not be able to bear it if anything happened to anyone. She needed a way out. Probably, one call might not be too risky? She wondered. Could she take the risk?
Raymond came out of the bathroom after a cold bath and jumped on the bed. He raked his wet hair with his fingers as he became lost in thoughts. Being in the kitchen with Lucy was an experience he surely would live to remember. The kitchen had been filled with so much laughter and merriment. He tried to remember the last time his house had been filled with so much life but could not recall any.
He felt deep gratitude towards her. She had managed to put a smile on his face after a very long time of continuous sadness and he really wanted to make her smile genuinely. He knew that she must be going through a lot, even if she tried to cover it. He had promised not to interfere but he really wanted to help her sort out this mess she was in. ‘My numerous contacts should be good for something’, he thought.
Deolu returned from the meeting very exhausted. The meeting had been longer than he anticipated, but what could he do? Nigerian government always wastes too much time talking and debating simple irrelevant issues. He dropped his suit on the bed and started struggling with his tie until he successfully removed it.
He lay on the bed, gazing at the roof until he became tired of looking at it. He stood up and poured himself a glass of juice and walked to the window to look outside. Even though the deal was successful, he wished he was in Lagos, looking for his love. What on earth was he doing in Abuja when his heart was clearly in another state. He had wanted to stop over at the police station to order a search warrant of that miserable Fred but thought it foolish. He felt the guy was hiding somewhere in Lagos, and being a very big place, Lagos is a perfect hiding place. He heard his phone ring and he took it out of his pocket. He smiled when he saw the caller.
“Hello Teju, it is really good to hear from you” he said immediately he received the call.
“Hello Dee” Teju’s voice chiped sweetly but hastily.
Deolu noticed the urgency in her voice. “Is everything Ok over there Teju? Is there any development?” he was at alert.
“Yes. I made some investigations and it seems your going to Abuja is a blessing in disguise”
“What are you saying?”
“Dee, the culprit is in Abuja; Fred is in Abuja”.
THE LAST SMILE Episode
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