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Teju brushed her hair with a brush before using a comb. She considered the long hair a waste of time because it always gave her trouble when she needed to comb it. For the umpteenth time, she considered cutting it. She took her hair bond and held her hair firmly behind her head. She was worried about Luciana. Lucy had not said much to her ever since she fled from the police station about a week ago. She had become withdrawn and quiet. Teju wished she had heard what transpired between Lucy, Raymond and that Oyin girl who turned out to be Tinuke, Raymond’s fiancée. The only part she had heard was the part where Tinuke declared that she was pregnant. She wondered if her pregnancy was what made Lucy flee. Even though Teju was sure that the child was not for Raymond, she wondered why that information would affect Lucy so much. Except…
Teju shook her head. Lucy was not one to date several men at a goal, in fact, she was not into men. That brought her to Lucy’s attitude with Deolu. Deolu was a man that every woman would dream to have – someone who is loving, handsome, faithful, hardworking, established and so on; but she noticed that Lucy still behaved with him the same way she used to when they were friends. Teju did not see the spark of a woman in love in her eyes but she had noticed something when she was with Raymond in the station. It was not the look of a fan to celebrity she saw in Lucy’s eyes, she saw that glow, that discomfort that the presence of a man could bring out of a lady; especially a lady in love. “No” she murmured to herself. She needed to see Lucy and make her talk by all means.
She heard a knock and went there to open. Her heartbeat skipped severally when she saw the person at the door. “What are you doing here Deolu?”
“I actually love it when you call me Dee” his deep voice vibrated around her and she shifted nervously.
She smiled softly. “That does not answer my question”
“And I suppose that is the newest mode of greeting. Are you going to invite me in?” he did not wait for her answer as he stepped into the well furnished apartment. Teju bit back a groan as she closed the door slightly, not wanting to take anything for granted. She would not allow what happened in Abuja to repeat itself. “I have missed you Tee, I have not seen you for eight days now, which is ever since you left Lucy’s place, giving the lame excuse of an ‘unofficial’ engagement”.
Teju swallowed and breathed slowly, as slowly as she could manage. “Listen Dee” she wondered if she just called him that spontaneously or if she did because he said he liked it. “I know I should have forgotten that little accident in Abuja but I have not because I can’t help the feeling of guilt whenever I am with Lucy. I can’t have you around me Deolu” she took a calming breath.
“And do you think you are the only one with feelings? Listen; ever since I kissed you, I have not been able to think straight. I have had-”
“Stop it” she yelled. “Don’t make me hate you”
“You can hate me all you want but please listen to me” he paced restlessly and Teju could see how he struggled to keep his emotions at check. An instant panic grew within her as her heart raced wildly. Deolu went to stand in front of her and took a calming breathe. “I don’t know when you started growing on me Teju” he began and anger came up within her as she looked at the man who was trying to come between two friends.
“Please let me talk Tee” he groaned and walked to the window, staring out. His fists folded and unfolded. “I don’t know if it was when Lucy introduced me to you, you were putting on a flimsy short gown which barely covered your thigh and you had me wondering how you could wear that cloth comfortably” he breathed. Teju was stunned that he could remember what she wore that day. She also remembered that he had been looking too handsome in a grey suit and a white shirt. “Or maybe it was when we had to deal with Lucy’s disappearance together” he turned to face her and she was thrown off-balance by the look of struggle and discomfort she saw. She concentrated on breathing properly. “I found myself thinking about you at very inappropriate times. You occupied my thoughts and I discarded it, thinking that my feelings towards you were platonic. Even though I was terribly worried about Luciana’s safety, I discovered that being with you made me feel great and happy and I always found one excuse or the other to see you”.
He grabbed her hands. “I love you Teju. Ever since we left Abuja, I could think of no one else but you. Hearing what you Ex did to you made me want to live the rest of my life putting smiles on your face. I –”
“Jesus, Deolu” she yelled, snatching her hands from his. “Are you crazy? I found out that men were cruel and heartless but I never counted you with them because I thought you were different. Jesus! You are Lucy’s boyfriend!” she exclaimed. “Do you know who Lucy is to me?” she roamed her sitting room in anger. “She is my best friend. Did you hear that? My best friend!” she screamed, throwing her hands up in the air. “You know what? Just leave. I know what to do; I would go and clear my conscience with Lucy. Leave Deolu, please” she yelled.
“Leave” Teju screamed and propelled him to the door, slamming the door hard. Tears clung to her eyes and she blinked them away. She had vouched never to cry for a man; she just was not sure why men always tried to toy with her feelings. As must as she tried to prevent the tears, they came rolling down her cheeks and she wiped them away furiously. She had successfully locked away her feelings for Deolu, not willing to allow a man come between she and Luciana. Why must men behave so unfairly with her? She grabbed her purse and left the apartment with a mind to put a stop to this drama.
Lucy lay on the bed looking lost. No one had been able to get her out of her moody state. Life was so unfair to her. How could she love the brother of someone who had brought her so much sorrow? How could she be in love with a rapist’s brother? Her head ached terribly as she made her way to the window. Then the second obstacle: he was expecting a baby!
Lucy had never felt so miserable in her life. She never fell in love but now that she was, she was in love with the wrong person; in love with the brother of her worst enemy. Lucy wondered what sort of test God was putting her through. She just wanted to be happy, to feel loved for once in her life.
Her door flung open and she spun, wiping away the tears in her face. Lucy had never seen Teju so shaky and uncertain. She looked like she had been crying. “Teju, are you alright” Lucy asked, alarmed with concern.
Teju prevented Luciana from moving close to her. “Please don’t come closer Lucy, don’t make me feel guiltier than I currently do. Please”
“What is the matter T.J?”
“I have betrayed our friendship Lucy; I need to tell you something before the guilt kills me. Please promise me that you would forgive me”
Luciana breathed. If she were to choose a friend over and over again, she would always choose Teju. She opened her arms and hugged Teju, knowing that they were both going through trying times. “I know what you are about to say”
“You do?” Teju was bewildered as she left Luciana’s arms.
“Does it have to do with Deolu?” Lucy asked with a faint smile
Teju blanched. “I knew it. When you refused to speak with me, I knew that something was wrong. I did not mean to do it. It was a… a mistake. Please forgive me babe, I did not mean to do it” she rushed with pleading eyes. “He told you?”
Lucy nodded. “Do you love him?”
Startled. “What sort of question is that? He is your man Lucy; I can’t take him from you. What happened was a mistake which would never repeat itself again. Please”
“He is not my man” Lucy dropped, sitting down with a sour look. “I am not in love with him”
“What are you saying?”
“I accepted him not because I loved him the way I ought to but because I thought that I should be able to love him after some time”
Teju regained her composure to a certain extent as her earlier suspicion materialized. “Does this have to do with Raymond?” Lucy froze and Teju got her answer.
Lucy changed the subject. “Deolu told me how he felt about you T.J” Teju shifted uncomfortably and stood up furiously. “He loves you a lot. I have never seen him so confused. I advised him to tell you how he felt”
“He already did”
Lucy jumped out of the bed. “He did? What was your response?”
“What do you expect? That I would jump into the arms of my best friend’s boyfriend? I can never do that?” Lucy swallowed and pulled Teju back to the bed.
“Teju. You know how much you mean to me. You are my friend and sister and I can never deceive you. When Deolu told me of his feelings for you three days ago, I saw the sincerity in his eyes. Even when he had asked me out, I did not see what I saw in his eyes. You deserve to be very happy T.J and I know that Deolu would make you the happiest woman in the world. I have noticed the way you look at him Teju. Answer me honestly; do you love him?”
Teju swallowed and looked down. She had never felt more like a complete idiot in her life. Here she was receiving love lectures from the same Lucy whom she always confronted with the idea of getting a man in her life. “I don’t know” she said softly.
Lucy smiled. “Think about it. Don’t be unfair to Deolu. The heart goes where it wills; it is not his fault that he is in love with you. Believe me when I say he is the man of every woman’s dreams, it is just a pity that I could not fall in love with him, and instead, I loved the wrong person”. Her heart ached even though she knew that loving Raymond was the best feeling she ever had.
“I saw the look in your eyes when you stared at Raymond”
Lucy breathed deeply. “He is Fred’s step-brother”
“He is not” Teju gasped wide-eyed.
“I am in love with the brother of the guy that raped me and almost killed me. Am I not lucky?” tears streamed her face.
“Oh Lucy” Teju held her tight, barely taking in what she just heard. She could only imagine what Lucy was feeling. “It is alright honey” she whispered.
“No. it is not alright. How am I supposed to deal with that? Upon that, Deolu’s step-sister is pregnant for him”
“Wait a freaking minute, Deolu’s what?”
“Yes. Tinuke, Raymond’s fiancée is Deolu’s step-sister.”
Teju jumped to her feet. “That is the woman that snatched Tunde away from me”
Lucy’s eyes widened. “Holy Father”
Lucy and Teju happily entered Teju’s apartment with bags in their hands. After their heated discussion a week ago, they had both decided that they needed a break. They left their apartments and went sight-seeing. They both dropped their phones at home, not wanting their problems to interrupt their break. They had gone to the zoo together, went to the museum, to amusement parks and finally went to the beach before deciding to go back home. They had lodged in a hotel for the week and the two friends had made their friendship stronger. They were no longer best friends but they were sisters. Sisters whose ties were stronger than the legendary blood tie. They dumped the bags on the floor and collapsed on different chairs.
“Don’t just lie there, go and prepare food. You want me to die of hunger?” Luciana muttered.
“We would both die of hunger if you don’t stand up and enter that kitchen” Teju responded, removing her shoes.
None of them could stand up due to fatigue and were both startled when they heard a knock. “Can those neighbors not allow me to breathe a bit before bombarding me with questions about where I have been all week?” Teju murmured slightly as she made for the door. When she opened the door, she saw an unfamiliar face.
“Please, how may I help you?”
“Sorry to disturb…”
Lucy jumped up at the sound of that familiar voice. “Vicky” she called and moved towards her with smiles of surprise and happiness.
“Well, I was not wrong” Vicky said with smiles and hugged Lucy.
“How did you know this place?”
“Well, I was driving somewhere when I saw you. I knew I couldn’t be mistaken so I followed you guys until I found you. Why did you run off?”
“Do I get an introduction?” Teju asked cynically. Lucy smiled and introduced them. They all sat in the sitting room some minutes later until Teju excused herself in order to take a cold shower.
“Raymond is almost going crazy. He has been to your house three times but he could not find you. Your parents told him to be patient that you would be back soon but he had been killing himself with worry. He called your line but it was always off”
Lucy sighed, a bit happy that Raymond had been searching for her. “I had to take a break Vic, it had been really rough recently and I needed some fresh air to wipe away my pains.” She swallowed.
“I understand but I have never seen my brother that worried. I know you love him, I have always known. It was so evident in the way you looked at him”.
Lucy looked away. “It doesn’t matter. He is going to be a father and I also can’t be with him under the circumstances”
Vicky breathed. “Ray told me everything Lucy. You can’t let Fred stand between you and the man you love. He caused a lot of havoc in our family too and partially caused the death of our parents, that is why everyone hates him so much”
Lucy was shocked. “What are you saying? Your parents died in a plane crash” she murmured.
“Yes. Fred arrived all of a sudden, claiming that our father had fathered him which my father confirmed. It brought a lot of rift in the family, especially between mum and dad but even when mum had forgiven dad and had her arms wide open to accept Fred, he was only intent on destroying the love in our family. Dad gave him a house in Abuja but still, Fred was so bitter. He did a lot of things and even set dad up in a hotel with a woman, got pictures and sent them to mum. It almost got them divorced. Thanks to the confession of the photographer, the situation was solved and we the children asked them to go on a vacation in order to forget the incident. That was when they were involved in a crash. It affected Ray a lot because he was the one that suggested that vacation. He was the closest to our parents. He was the one that even got them to accept me after they discovered my little secret, though, it took a long time”.
Luciana could not take in all she was hearing. “Wow” he breathed. Suddenly, she understood the painting she had seen. Fred was the shadow! She took a deep breath. “You have gone through a lot” she whispered.
“Ray has gone through more. He fought for me, neglecting his own problems. I would be extremely happy if you can make my brother very happy” she said.
“He had Tinuke and a baby to do that” Lucy said sadly.
“The baby is not his”
“The baby Tinuke is expecting is for someone else”
The tension that Ray was feeling was enough to make him turn to alcohol but he did not. Ever since he met Lucy, everything in his life had changed. He had a cause to smile again. Discovering that he was not responsible for Tinuke’s pregnancy had relieved him of some stress but thinking about Lucy had almost drove him crazy. Fred had always been in the shadows of his life, tormenting him over and over again. How could he tell Lucy that he was in love with her? How would she take it?
He had damned the consequences and had gone in search of her but did not find her. He dropped the weight he was lifting and started running on the treadmill, this time, he did not see the ghosts that usually haunted him but he saw the angel that saved him from his ghosts. He saw the one woman whom he would love till his last breath.
He left the treadmill and picked up a towel, mopping away his sweat. “This room must be your favorite room”
Raymond rotated and his eyes met Luciana’s. He had thought about her so much that she had materialized in person. “Lucy” he breathed as his heart contrasted painfully in his chest.
Lucy tried to control her reactions as she stared at him but she couldn’t. He was standing bare-chested with sweat making his muscled body look moist and inviting. She altered her gaze and blinked. He looked tired and terribly sexy. He moved towards her and her heart pounded wildly. It took all her willpower to keep her feet rooted to the ground.
“You should put on a shirt” she murmured.
He grinned as he stood directly in front of her, too close for comfort. “Am I that appealing? I have been told that I am irresistible”
She lifted her eyes to his. “And you don’t hesitate in flaunting it”
“As long as it makes you notice me” he smiled and pulled her into his arms. “I have been going crazy in search of you, and you are right, this gym is one of my favorite places. This is where you gave me a calming kiss” he bent his head and took her lips urgently. He never knew that kissing a woman could make him feel so much. His heart pounded wildly as he cradled her face in his arms gently. Luciana held on to Ray feeling the uncontrollable joy that was so overwhelming. She felt so complete.
“I love you Lucy” Ray said, gazing into her eyes. She gasped. “Yes. I love you so much sugar. How could I not love the woman I found in a sack” he smiled.
Luciana was so happy that she jumped on him. “I love you Ray” he pulled her tighter and kissed her deeply. “So, I am the girl in the sack uhn?
“The sexiest one I have seen” he kissed her nose and they stayed there and talked endlessly. She told him everything about her past and he was terribly furious when she mentioned what Fred had done to her.
Teju, Lucy and Ray sat in the sitting room of Lucy’s parents’ house. Her parents had travelled for some function and she missed them. She lay with her head on Raymond’s lap as she talked endlessly with him. Dana went to open the door when they heard a knock and Deolu entered. Teju saw him and her heart skipped. Luciana held her hand and squeezed. She had invited Deolu over, wanting Deolu and Teju to be as happy as she was with Ray. Deolu looked at Ray after greeting. “If Tinuke hadn’t been such an idiot, I would have said something nasty to you Ray”. Tinuke had gone to meet Tunde who was the real father of the child but he had denied responsibility and threw her out of his house.
“If you hadn’t left my sweetheart, I would have snatched her from you” Ray retorted, giving Lucy a peck. Lucy stood up and walked out of the house with Ray.
Teju stared at Deolu. It had been one month and she hadn’t set her eyes on him. He was looking extremely handsome in casual black trousers and a T shirt. “I figured you liked me better in casual wears”
“I like you in anything you put on.” She swallowed. She stood opposite him and when he tried to speak, she stopped him. “I owe you an apology Dee; I should not have behaved the way I did”
“I expected nothing less than that” he brushed away a stray hair from her face. “Anything is forgiven when you call me Dee”
“You might be sorry you said that in the future” she said when he took her in his arms.
“As long as you would be spending that future with me” he bent his head and kissed her deeply. He had wanted to do that for a very long time. No other thing felt so right or perfect. They held each other, both realizing that they needed the other as much as they needed their next breath.
“Are you planning to seduce me into accepting you?” Teju asked breathlessly.
He grinned. “As long as it makes you accept to be my wife”. Teju gasped. Deolu tensed as he put his hand in his pocket and brought out a tiny box and got down on one knee. Teju gasped as all their friends came out of the various rooms and Lucy entered the house back with Raymond. Suddenly, the house was filled with friends and family members. Teju blinked back tears but they came anyways.
“Teju, I don’t know any romantic word to say in order to soar your heart but I can promise to make you happy for the rest of your life. To put laughter on your face and to love you and you alone. Please be my wife Teju, please”
“Yes… Yes” she screamed and hugged him fiercely, kissing his neck in tears. He slipped the shinning diamond ring into her fingers and kissed her finger with the ring. The cheer in the room was deafening and chants of ‘kiss her, kiss her, kiss her…’ rang out on the large sitting room. Deolu pulled Teju into his arms and kissed her. They both forgot about the crowd and got lost in a world of their own. The kiss ended and they suddenly noticed that the room was dead silent. Teju was not surprised because she had known all along. The sitting room was dark except a spotlight which illuminated a painting.
Luciana gasped as she stared at herself. The painting was of her wearing the gown that Raymond had bought for her in the boutique. Everyone was struck by the mastery of the painting including Teju. Ray appeared and a spotlight captured him as he moved towards Luciana. “When I picked up a brush to paint again, only one image popped up in my mind. That Sunday, you had entered my room, wanting to drag me to church. I had pretended to be asleep and you stared at me longingly like you won’t mind joining me on the bed” everyone chuckled. Tears streamed down Luciana’s face. She never imagined someone painting her. “You had been so breathtakingly beautiful that I had taken my time to capture that image of you in my head, hoping that I would be able to paint again.” he got down on one knee. “Lucy, you gave me back my life and made me live again. You drove all my fears away and gave me love. I can’t spend the rest of my life without you; you sweeten my life; that is why I call you ‘sugar’. Please marry me Luciana Jones. I promise to never ever make you know a moment of sadness. I would be with you every time you need me. Please marry me sugar” his heart pounded against his ribs as he stared up at her with a sparkling ring in his hand. Everyone seemed to hold their breath.
Luciana knelt down, unable to control her tears. She wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. He quickly pulled her slightly away from him. “Is that a ‘yes’ honey?”
“Yes” she screamed. “Yes… yes…” she continued to say until Ray silenced her with a firm kiss. The kiss was so tender and deep and demanding at the same time. They were both oblivious to the resounding cheers as they held on to each other. Vicky wiped off the tears in her eyes as she stared at the ring in her own fingers. She smiled up at Duke who hugged her protectively, when he noticed the eyes of some guys on Vicky. He kissed her head. Bose smiled at the couple. She was very happy for them. She had also found happiness in the arms of another man and her business was booming.
Lucy stood up and hugged Teju tightly. People started congratulating the two couples.
“I am happy for you Vic” Lucy said to Vicky.
“You said I would not have to try, guess what? I did not try a bit. Duke swept me off my feet”
Lucy laughed. “You deserve it”
“And you and Raymond are made for each other.”
Bose hugged Raymond. “I am glad you could make it Bose” Raymond said and she smiled.
“I would not miss it for anything in the world”
Fred was sentenced to 35 years in prison and the two couples got married two years after on the same day.