[STORY] Coffee Shop (episode 1-18)


It is a rainy Monday morning .Ekanem grabs her purple purse as she comes out of her car.She runs into her favourite place in Lagos;Ryan’s coffee shop .

Ever since Ekanem discovered this shop ,not a single day has passed by without her going in to give herself a treat.
They served a wide variety of coffee drinks, hot chocolate and tea.

She also looked forward to the hot muffins and club sandwiches.

Ekanem sits at her usual spot. She figures that since her first lecture is by 10am she can quickly have a cup of cappuccino and a chocolate muffin.

She notices an unfamiliar face at the coffee machine and wonders in her heart about the fate of her coffee.

Ekanem leaves her seat and walks up to the cashier.
“Please where is the guy that normally makes the coffee?. I think his name is Paul, if I am not mistaken,”she says to the cashier.

“I am sorry Ma but he isn’t available today “the female cashier replied.

Ekanem frowns her face and says “why did I bother coming here today?

“The person available is just as good as Paul” , she replies . At that point, a tall dark guy walks towards her from the coffee machine.

“Please ma , I can take your order if you are ready “he says to Ekanem.

“Where’s Paul? , No offence but he knows exactly how I like my coffee” she replies with a straight face.

“Madam I can assure you that you will love it “, he said to her with a smile on his face.

Ekanem reluctantly walks back to her seat after placing her order.

She reads through the latest news updates on her phone as she waits to be served.

In about 5 minutes, a waiter places her muffin and cappuccino in front of her.

She takes a sip , smiles and drinks it all up to the last drop accompanied by a muffin.

Ekanem picks up her purse and walks towards the door. She glances at the person who made her coffee and smiles at him.

“I hope you liked it ma “, he says to her.

“It was better than I expected”, she replied with a smile and leaves the coffee shop.

Ekanem enters her car and straps her sit belt.She tries so hard to fight the tears running down her cheeks . “I thought that drinking this coffee would make me happy for at least one hour”, she says to herself .

She remembers the call her mum’s younger sister made to her early that morning.

“What gave aunt Joyce the right to call me and preach to me about being too selective in marriage when she got married at 40 years, she said to herself.

“Why can’t she believe my side of the story? , she believes only mum’s side of the story”, she said with anger.

Ekanem tried her best to drive to work in one piece. At 35yrs, she had already acquired a PhD and worked as a lecturer much to the displeasure of her mum.

“Don’t you think that being too educated would drive away eligible bachelors”, her mum said to her just before she travelled to the UK for her post graduate studies.

Ekanem always gave her a reply” any man who is intimidated by my educational qualifications,isn’t worth being my husband”.

Ekanem finally arrives at the school’s car park .She brings out her phone from her bag and sees 10 missed calls from Philip.

She sighs and switches off her phone.
“This is the guy they want me to marry. A big baby who never fails to broadcast our issues with my parents and all who care to know”.She puts her cell phone back in the her purse and goes to the lecture room to give her lecture.

Ekanem finishes giving her lecture and heads home.

She opens the door to her flat and goes into her room.

She gets a call from her flat mate Chichi, “Babe this your guy has been calling me since. What happened this time around? . He has been waiting for you in front of the house since morning. I had to tell him that you have seminars that will bring you back late”, she said to Ekanem .

“Chichi , I am tired !what kind of love is this. I have no breathing space. He always monitors my movement as if I am a child. When we are together, all he does is pick faults.I expressed my displeasure to him last night and virtually all my family members have called to preach to me about my attitude ” , she said to her .

“Relax my girl! but how are you going to handle him?.This guy dey persistent oh!I dey on my way home ” Chichi replies.

“I will figure something out. Come home soon abeg “, Ekanem replies.

Ekanem takes her bath and fixes her self a chicken salad. As she eats her meal,she hears the door bell ring.

Ekanem goes to see who is at the door. She peeps through the glass peep hole and sees the image of Philip. She sighs and reluctantly opens the door for him.

“Baby I have been trying to reach you for hours” he said to her.

“Why are you looking for me? ,haven’t you insulted me enough “she says to him while walking back to where she kept her food.

She eats her salad without taking notice of him.

“Won’t you even invite me to eat?” he asks with a mischievous smile on his face .

“Please allow me eat this salad in peace. You are the same person who threw my cake in the bin yesterday and said that I should watch my weight .Ehmm, I am taking your advice. Let me eat this delicious salad okay! “She replied with a straight face.

“Okay if that’s what you want. Meanwhile I want you to accompany me to an event this Saturday “Philip says to her.

“This weekend isn’t free for me. Besides why do you want to take me along with you when I am not good enough for you? She says to him .

“I bought a beautiful black dress for you which would suit your figure” he replies.

“Exactly my point! .Philip you didn’t even check if I was free or not .You went ahead to buy the dress you felt would hide my curves.Anyone listening to you would think that I am up to a size 16 .Any lady who is more than a size 10 is fat according to your standard. Please leave me alone. You can look for a barbie doll girlfriend who will accompany you” Ekanem says to him with a frown on her face.

“What wrong did I do now? Is it a crime to buy an expensive dress for my girl? .Do you know how much the dress cost me? ” he asks angrily.

“It always has to be about money and control with you Philip” she replies.

As they argue , Chichi comes back home. Philip pretends that all is well between him and Ekanem.He spends some minutes having general discussions with the two ladies before calling it a night.

Ekanem locks the door when he leaves and goes to meet Chichi in her room.

“Chichi how was your day?” , she asked.

“It was cool dear. Did you sort things out with Philip?” , she replied.

“He wants me to accompany him to an event.He bought the dress without checking if I would be free to go with him”,Ekanem said to Chichi.

“Then go with him. There’s no big deal in buying a dress ahead of time for your babe. I am sure that it’s an expensive dress” Chichi replies her with excitement .

“You sound just like him” Ekanem replies with a frown.

“I know that Philip acts funny and possessive a times but I believe he loves you” Chichi says to her.

“Well he has a really funny way of showing it.Is it because his dad is a senator and he has a successful business empire,. Does he feel that he can buy my emotions with money?” She asks her room mate .

“You guys have been dating for about 3 months. It’s possible that he is still trying to understand you in his own way”,Chichi says to her .

“You see why I hate this match making business?. See what aunt Joyce has caused?” Ekanem says to her.

“Is it aunt Joyce’s fault that he is acting this way?. I believe that she wants you to be happy “Chichi replies.

“Well I don’t know how long I can cope with his attitude and the next time he makes reference to my weight ,he will be truly sorry ” Ekanem replies with sadness in her voice.

“Na wah oh what did he say about you.Babe you look great !does he want you to turn to a stock fish?” ,Chi asks with sarcasm in her voice .

“Infact I think you literally have to ask him that question because I am tired. I know that I am not getting any younger but am I supposed to remain with a jerk just because he claims to love me?”She replies Chi.

“My dear,receive supernatural wisdom to handle him, she says jokingly with a mischievous smile on her face.

The days pass by so fast .Ekanem decides to attend the charity ball with Philip after much persuasion from Chichi.

When the fund raising aspect of the event comes to an end. They both have dinner. Both local and international cuisines are served to the guests and Ekanem enjoys her meal thoroughly.

Philip excuses himself from the table and goes to discuss with his friends.
Ekanem sits on her chair reading some news from gossip blogs.

After about 45 minutes, She observes that he still has not returned to the table.

“What kind of guy leaves his date this long at the table?” , Ekanem says to herself. She looks around the hall and sees other guests either discussing in smaller groups or eating. She doesn’t see Philip in the crowd.

After 5 minutes Ekanem gets up to look for him . She looks around very well to see if she would see him . Philip is still no where to be found. Ekanem begins to get worried.

She strolls out to the front of the hall .She sees Philip engrossed in a conversation with a guy and a lady.

Ekanem steps back a bit and hides where she would be out of sight of Philip. She watches as he discusses with them.His mannerisms looked strange to her.

“Hmmm, I have never seen Philip this excited before. See how he laughs at every given opportunity. He has probably forgotten about me” , Ekanem wonders in her heart.

She walks back quietly to her seat and calms her temper with a glass of cold Chapman.

After 15minutes, Philip comes back to the table .”Sweetie I hope you are okay?” he says to her in a fidgety manner .

“Why wouldn’t I be okay ” ,Ekanem replies with sarcasm and looks away from him.

“Sorry oh! , I met my friends and we were talking about something very important”, Philip says to her.

“Oh! really!”,Ekanem replies.

“Do you want more drinks babe?” Philip asks her.

“No thank you, can you just take me home? “,she says to him.

“So soon, we haven’t even come to the fun part of the party. Won’t we dance first? “, he asked with a smile.

“You can stay here and dance ,I need to go home and rest “,Ekanem replies.

Philip reluctantly picks his phones from the table and says to her ; “Okay , cool let’s go!”.

They both walk to the car park without saying a word to each other and enter the car.

Philip drives off. He puts on the car radio to lighten the mood .Ekanem continues to ignore him and keeps her eyes glued to her phone.

They must driven for about 40 minutes
when Ekanem blurts out in anger, “please don’t abandon me like that next time we go out”.

“How did I abandon you? You have started complaining again ” he yells at her .

“Did you say complain? “She says to him.

“You are so difficult Ekanem. I don’t know how to please you”,he replies.

“Wow! thank you for finally saying how you feel about me.Please pull over,I will find my way home”,she says with a frown on her face.

“Fine, if that’s what you want.I don’t know why you are over reacting “,he replies.

Ekanem gets down from his car and
Walks away. Philip calls her to come back to the car by shouting her name through front passenger window which was wound down. He follows her for a few minutes with his car driving slowly beside her and speeds off angrily.

She walks on the lonely road for some minutes . Ekanem brings out her phone from her bag to order a cab online only for the battery to run down completely when she opens the taxi’s app online.

“What a night! , why did I even wear these high heeled shoes?”, she asks herself with a sigh .

She continues to walk down the street, this time more briskly. She realises that street she is currently walking on is close to her favourite shop,she smiles to herself and says” hopefully, I will be able to charge my phone and wait for a cab to pick me up from there”.

As Ekanem approaches the coffee shop, she sees a man trying to lock the door from inside . She quickly runs to the door and knocks on the glass door.

“Madam we are closed for the day “she hears the male voice say to her.

“Please I beg you, I need your help” Ekanem pleads further to allow her go inside.

The door is finally opened and is locked immediately she enters inside the shop.

“Thank you very much. I just want to charge my phone for a few minutes please”,Ekanem says to him.

“Okay , but you have to do that quickly” he replies and continues cleaning the surface of the work table .

She hurriedly removes her shoes and plugs her phone into the nearest socket to charge.

Ekanem watched with the corner of her eyes as he neatly arranged the washed teacups into the cabinet.

“I wonder if this guy would throw a spoon at me if I ask for a cup of coffee while I wait for my phone to charge” , she says to herself .

She steals another glance at him. This time around, she observes as he meticulously he arranges the teaspoons, forks and knives in the lime coloured cabinet.

“Hmmm, will this guy listen to me after all this stress he is going through to clean up the shop?, besides it appears the other workers have gone home”,she wonders in her heart.

Ekanem decides to give it a try. She walks up to the counter with a smile on her face and says to him. “Please I know that it’s late and I have disrupted your plans of going home but can you make me a cup of coffee?”.

He looks at her with a straight face and replies with sarcasm ” Peter is not available to make your coffee as special as you like it”.

“I am sorry for being difficult the last time I was here.Please just make me any type of coffee that won’t take your time, I will pay for it” ,she says to him.

He looks at her for some seconds without uttering a word and eventually says “okay, give me a few minutes. There are no snacks available though”.

“Thanks, I don’t mind drinking it like that” ,she replies.

Ekanem sits on one of the high chairs which is behind the counter and watches as he makes her the coffee.
She is intrigued by the way he brews the coffee and the attention he pays to details while adding other items to the coffee.

He serves her the hot cup of coffee with a smile.

“Thanks”, she replies and offers him money for the drink.

“Nah! It’s on the house”,he says with a smile.

“Hmmmm, thank you once again. Your boss is lucky to have a kind hearted employee like you” ,she replies .

She takes a sip and says with excitement “what’s the name of this type of coffee .It tastes so nice.”

“I am glad you like it. It’s called caramel macchiato” ,he replies with a smile.

While she drinks her coffee, he goes out through one of the doors at the back of the counter and returns after some minutes without his work tshirt. He put on a mustard colored tshirt on a black pair of jeans .

Ekanem enjoys her coffee to the last drop and goes to where her phone is charging to unplug it.She switches it on and quickly requests for a cab online.

She walks back to the counter and says to him my cab will be here in a few minutes please ,can you wait for about 5 minutes.

“Okay” he replies as he keeps her washed cup away.

“I really appreciate. What’s your name?”, she asks with a smile.

“My name is Tochukwu, Toks for short”,he replies.

“Okay “she replies and quickly picks up her phone which was ringing.

“Madam I am in front of Ryan’s shop. Can you please come outside”,the cab driver says to her.

Ekanem quickly picks up all her personal belongings, says thank you to Toks and leaves the coffee shop.

She gets home in no distant time and enters her room. She quickly takes a shower , slips under her cosy duvet and goes to bed.

Ekanem wakes up the following morning to prepare for church. Since Chichi and Ekanem attend the same church, Ekanem decides to join her room mate in her car.

“Babe, I didn’t even know when you got home last night. I hope you guys had fun last night?”, Chichi says to her as she drives.

“Fun?did I hear you say fun?.Please my friend, let’s just go to church peacefully. I don’t feel like talking about what happened last night”, Ekanem replies.

“Hmmmm, was it that bad Chichi asks with curiosity in her eyes.

“Let’s just say that he allowed me to walk home late last night “she replies.

“What!!!!how can Philip do that to you?” , she says to Ekanem in anger.
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Episode 2

“Chichi let’s just go to church, forget Philip’s gist for now “she replies her.

Ekanem and Chichi return home together after attending church service. As they approach the gate of their apartment, they sight Philip’s car which is parked beside the gate.

“What’s he doing here?” ,Ekanem says to herself .

“Ahhh see your guy ” ,Chichi says to Ekanem with a smile.

” I have seen him my dear , I wonder what he is doing here? ” , she replies Chichi.

Ekanem gets down from the car and opens the gate to allow Chichi drive in.

As she closes the gate,she hears the familiar voice of Philip calling her name.

He comes close to her to assist her in closing the gate and Ekanem leaves him at the gate and hurriedly walks into her house.

Philip goes into his car and brings the snacks , pizza and drinks he bought goes back to Ekanem’s house.

He stands in front of the door and waits for the door to be opened after ringing the door bell.

“Ekanem won’t you open the door for your boyfriend? “,Chichi asks as she drinks and cold glass of water.

“Chichi please open the door for him. My ears are ready for another lecture about my bad attitude ” she says with a frown on her face.

“You’re welcome Philip”, Chichi says to him as she opens the door.

“Hi dear “he replies with a smile as he sees Ekanem removing her sandals in the dining area.

“I bought these for you darling! “Philip says to Ekanem and places them on the dining table.

“Thank you “she replies with a straight face.

“Can we talk? “, he says Ekanem.

“Talk about what Philip ? “, she replies.

He holds her hand and looks at her ,”let us discuss in your room .We shall have more privacy there “he says to her.

Ekanem takes him into her room and they both sit down on her bed.

“I am sorry for what happened Eky love. I know that you have every reason to be angry with me “he says to her with a soft voice.

“You just left me there to wonder on a lonely road.What if I was attacked by robbers?” She replies.

“Ekanem, were you attacked?” , he asks with a mischievous smile on his face.

“No ! I wasn’t but what if I was “she replies in anger.

“You are just making a mountain out of a mole Hill. Let us talk about other things. Better still can we start eating the pizza” , he says to her in a nonchalant manner.

Ekanem looks at him with shock in her eyes and wonders if she is actually over reacting. “Am I the person with the problem here she says to herself and goes back to the living room with Philip reluctantly.

They sit on the sofa and after a few minutes Chichi comes out of the room to join them.

“My girl! .It’s time for the much anticipated match between my football club and another big club”, she says to Ekanem with excitement.

“I didn’t know that you are a soccer fan” , he says to Chichi with a broad smile.

“Ahhh, yes oh!” She replies and sits opposite them.

Chichi and Philip become so engrossed in the football match since they both support the same club and the soccer match is against their arch rivals.

Ekanem tries her best to appear excited as she watches the game .After a while, she starts eating the pizza and reading her mails.

Ekanem makes intermittent comments about the game , which is either replied hurriedly or ignored by both Philip and Chichi.
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Episode 3

[]Feeling so out of place, Ekanem decides to return to her room to have a well deserved Sunday siesta.

She wakes up after some hours to finish up with her lecture notes .

She remembers that Philip was in the house earlier and goes to the living room to check if he is still in her house.

Ekanem sees Chichi reading a novel on the sofa and says hi to her.

“Where is Philip?” , she asks Chichi with curiosity .

“He left after watching the game .He didn’t want to wake you up ” she replies .

“Hmmm, okay”,Ekanem replies. She eats her dinner while watching her favourite TV series and goes back to her room to prepare for the busy week ahead.

Ekanem wakes up early the next day and drives off to work to teach her students.

There’s an indescribable feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment which she gets whenever she teaches . A surge of inner happiness is the closest description .It makes it more worthwhile whenever she gets positive feedbacks from students and senior colleagues.

Ekanem has always regarded herself as a hardworking , loving and down to earth lady despite the fact that her parents are wealthy.

Her mother Mrs Akpan, gave birth to her 3 years after marriage and her only brother, Michael 12 years after. Her dad, Dr Akpan runs a successful medical practice at Abuja.

Ekanem has never really been in a serious relationship until now.She ran miles away from any guy who came too close to dating her. All she wanted while she was schooling in England was to focus on her academics and graduate with the best grades.

It however seemed like no eligible bachelors with admirable husband qualities took interest in her when she started her PhD programme.

They were either after her body or her family’s financial status. She had to return to Nigeria and accept being match made to Philip after years of being taunted by her mum for being supposedly too selective of men .

Ekanem walks towards her car after teaching. She sees her colleague Richard approaching her with a smile on his face.

“Hi Eky” he says to her with excitement.

“Hi Richie! “, she replies with a smile.

“How have you been? .I am going to have lunch. Have you had any?” , he asks with a soft voice.

“I am actually very hungry, why not!.Which restaurant do you have in mind? ” , she replies.

“Ekanem, I know that you love mama Bisi’s party jollof rice .We could go to her bukka on campus”,he says to her.

“Hmmm, how do you always manage to know what my taste buds crave” , she replies like an excited toddler.

She drives behind him to the local food joint and they enjoy a hearty meal of firewood cooked jollof rice garnished with peppered assorted meat.

After the meal ,he sits beside her in her car as they discuss virtually everything that concerns her.

Richard kola Daniels had become not just a colleague but a friend and brother she could count on these past few years.

They became close friends a couple of months after she started working in the University. They know virtually everything about each other.

She regards him as a brother from another mother.With Richard there’s no pretence whatsoever. She is completely herself with him.

His sense of humour is second to none. He always knows the right words to say that would put a smile on her beautiful face.

“I have to leave now.I still need to make a stop at the coffee shop to buy some snacks”, Ekanem says to Richard .

“Okay dear see you later .You’re now their loyal customer. I haven’t been there in a while” , he replies .

They hug each other and say their good byes. Richard returns to his car and drives off.

Ekanem attempts starting her car .She however experiences a temporary resistance in starting her engine.
She is relieved when the car begins to move.

She hears her phone ring as she drives but decides to return the call when she arrives her destination.

Ekanem finally gets to Ryan’s coffee shop. She enters the shop and places her order.

“Can I have 3 blue berry muffins and a slice of carrot cake” she says to the cashier.

As her order is being packaged , she sees Toks as he carries some boxes from the front door to the back of the counter.

“Good evening madam! I hope you got home safely that night? “he asks with a smile.

“Yes I did. Thanks again”,she replies with a smile .

She collects her order and enters her car. Ekanem picks up her phone to redial Philip’s line which was busy some minutes earlier.

She tries calling his line one last time before driving off but it indicates that he is on another call.

She starts her vehicle and once again, it refuses to start. All her attempts to get the car to restart prove abortive.

“What’s wrong with this car?”she says to herself .Having no clue of how to make the car work, she decides to call Philip again for some assistance.

He picks up her call as soon as it starts ringing.

“Hi Philip “she says to him.

“Hi Ekanem. Why don’t you like picking up your calls?”, he asks .

“I tried calling you back.My car has refused to start .Can you meet me at Ryan’s coffee shop if you are free” ,she replies .

“Okay ! ,wait for me inside the shop “, he replies and cuts the line immediately .
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Episode 4

[]Ekanem locks the door and goes back into the shop.She waits anxiously for her boyfriend to arrive. Luckily for her, he arrives faster than expected.

Philip walks into the shop ,he sees Ekanem fiddling with her phone and joins her at the table.

“Thank you for coming dear” she says with a smile.

Philip looks at her with coldness in his eyes. “Why did you refuse to pick my calls when I called you earlier on” ,he says to her with a frown.

“Won’t you even say hi to me first before attacking me” ,she replies .

“You are so proud Ekanem. Is it so hard for you to say sorry? “, he says to her with a loud voice .

“You are creating a scene please. Can you please assist me with repairing the car. That’s the main reason why I called you “she replies with a straight face.

“Oh!so now I am creating a scene. You only call me when you need my assistance .Is this how we are going to make our marriage work ?”he says to her.

“Which marriage? “Ekanem replies .

Philip looks at her without saying a word.

“I am praying to God to help me survive this relationship and you are here speaking to me about marriage. Are you going to take a look at the car or do you prefer that we continue to quarell before strangers?” ,she asks him.

“By the way where exactly were you when I tried reaching you?” , he replies.

“Philip Bassey, you are not my bodyguard. Quit treating me like a child and give me some respect. You are practically shouting” she says to him with embarrassment in her eyes.

“I will talk to you as I please”, he yells at her and attempts raising his hand on her face .

As she stands up hurriedly to defend herself, Toks walks up to their table.
“Is everything okay madam? Are you in any form of danger ?” ,he asks her .

“No ! he is on his way out “she replies as she looks sternly at Philip with anger and disgust.

Philip storms out of the shop angrily .Ekanem watches him as he exits the building. She sits down on the chair to calm her temper .

“Madame please are you okay? , do you need anything? “Toks asks with a warm voice.

“I just need a mechanic for my vehicle.My car has refused to start “she says to him.

“Okay ma, let me get someone to replace me at the counter to while I try to diagnose your car’s problem” ,he says to her with a smile .

Ekanem bows her head as she sits on the chair. She tries her best to hold back the tears.

“I don’t blame this guy for insulting me in public. Ahhh! It’s your fault Ekanem . On a normal day , what would you be doing with a narcissistic man like him”,she says to herself .

Toks collects Ekanem’s car keys and leaves the shop .She observes him as he tries putting the ignition on.When it fails, he opens the bonnet to find out the cause of the problem.

After a while, he returns to the where Ekanem is sitted and says to her; “I think your car may have an engine problem because the level of oil is very low”.

“Wow!what am I going to do? “, Ekanem replies .

“You could park your car here and get a professional to look at it tomorrow”,he says with a reassuring look on his face .

“Thank you very much Toks. I hope it’s going to be safe here though? “,she replies.

“Don’t be worried, we have efficient security men and surveillance cameras”,he says to her .

“Okay. Thanks once again. I will just pick up my personal belongings from the car and call a cab to take me home “she says with a smile.

“If you do not live so far away , I could drop you off at your house with the official car .I will be going to the other branch to drop off some items in about 20 minutes”, he replies.

” Okay , my house is 20 minutes from here .I don’t mind the lift because I am really tired”she says to him .

Ekanem finally enters the car with Toks. There’s an awkward silence in the car. She isn’t bothered by the silence because her mind is occupied by all that happened earlier.

“I hope you dont mind me asking what your name is madame ?” ,he asks with a straight face.

“My name is Ekanem ” she replies and starts going through her social media messages .

He finally gets to her house. Ekanem turns to face him in the car and says “thank you very much for coming to my rescue one more time”.

“You are most welcome. Anything for a loyal customer. Can I have your number so that if I am able to get a car mechanic for you , I would be able to contact you” ,he says to her.

Ekanem gives him her phone number and leaves the car.She enters her house, keeps her items in the room and has a bath to freshen up.

She lies down on her bed almost immediately but her sleep is interrupted by Chichi who comes into her room after knocking.

“How was your day dear?” ,she asks Ekanem.

“Horrible” she replies with a frown on her face.

“My car broke down at Ryan’s coffee shop and Philip almost beat me in public” she says to Chichi .

“What is wrong with that Philip. Does he really know who you are and the family you come from? What happened ?” ,she replies.

Ekanem narrates what happened to Chichi.

“Hmmm , my sister relax okay! .So what do you want to do about Philip?” She says to Ekanem .

“It’s over between us.Do you want me to die prematurely? “, she replies her .

“Don’t you think that you should think about your decision first? “Chichi says to her.

“Chichi my decision is final. I am preparùed to stay single if he is the only man available for me to marry”, Ekanem replies .

“Talk to your mum first since he is her friend’s son” Chichi says .

As Ekanem discusses with Chichi, her phone rings. She picks it up to see who the caller is.

“It’s my mum calling”, she says to her friend.

Chichi smiles and replies, “make sure you tell her about Philip”. She leaves Ekanem and goes back to her room.

“Good evening mum”,Ekanem says.

“How are you doing Eky ?”, she replies .

“I have had better days “,Ekanem says to her mother.

“Tell me about it dear “, her mum replies with a warm voice.

She narrates her ordeal with Philip to her. Past and present experiences were dished out to her , including the attempted slap in the coffee shop.

“So you mean that boy made you pass through all that?” ,she asks Ekanem .

“Yes mum” she replies.

“”I am sorry my daughter! .I thought Philip was as responsible as his parents. His mum , my close friend, is such a kind hearted woman”, she says to Ekanem.

“Philip can be kind when he wants to. Let’s just say that his bad side overshadows his good side” ,Ekanem replies.

“My daughter, God will bless you with a man that you are compatible with. Try and sleep now, you have had a very stressful day”, she says to her daughter.

“Thanks mum.I love you”. Eky replies.

“I love you too dear”she says to her daughter.
[nextpage title=”episode 5″]

Episode 5

Ekanem eats the slice of carrot cake she bought earlier with a glass of cold almond milk as she goes through her lecture notes for the following day.

She ignores the missed calls from Philip and goes to bed.

It’s a beautiful morning for Ekanem .She gets prepared for work and eats her breakfast .As she picks her phone from the dining table to book a cab ,her phone rings.

“I just hope this isn’t Philip”, she says to herself. Ekanem picks up the call and says “hello , good morning “.

“Good morning madam, I hope you slept well?”, the male voice says to her.

“Yes I did , thank you. Please may I know who is on the line ? “, she replies .

“Oh! ” the voice says .”Sorry for not introducing myself earlier, this is Tochukwu. I just called to inform you about your car.The car mechanic I called for you just arrived. Will you be able to come to the shop now? “he says to her.

“That’s great! .Thanks alot for your help. I am on my way”, she replies.

Ekanem eventually gets a cab to take her to the coffee shop. She goes into the shop when she arrives to meet Toks and the mechanic.

“Madam you are welcome” they both say to her with smiles on their faces.

They all go outside to where her car is packed. The car mechanic whose name is Victor, goes into the car to diagnose the car’s problem.

After about 15minutes of standing outside and watching as Victor tries to make the car working again, Toks draws closer to Ekanem and says to her; “please ma, you can actually have a seat inside. I will be here with him , since there’s someone inside attending to customers”.

“Okay thanks. Will have a cup of coffee while I wait”, she replies.

Ekanem goes into the shop and sits at her favourite spot. She drinks her well brewed coffee as she watches the news channel.

After some minutes, the two men return to where she is seated. Victor diagnoses the car’s problem and mentions the part of the car that needs replacement.

She pulls Toks aside and says to him;” I hope you know this guy very well?” .

“Yes madam, don’t be afraid. He is trustworthy and equally an expert in car repairs”, he replies with a reassuring look on his face.

“Okay! She says to him and gives him the money Victor requested for the faulty car part.

Toks gives Victor the money and returns to meet Ekanem .”You can leave the car here and go to work “he says to her .

“I don’t have a morning lecture today .It’s just my personal project work which wanted to use the library for this morning”, she replies with a smile.

“Okay ma”, he says to her.

“Can you stop calling me Ma. Your making me feel old.My name is Ekanem ” she says to him.

“Okay! ” , he replies with a smile.

Ekanem looks at him from the corner of her eyes. His fitted mustard coloured branded tshirt and the black denim trousers did justice to his well built physique.

“Would you like to try something from today’s specials?” , he asks .

” I have had breakfast ,thanks anyway” ;she replies.

“You will enjoy Ryan’s special kidney pie” he says to her.

“Sounds mouth-watering but I will just have water” , she replies.

After some minutes,Toks approaches her table with a glass of water.He looks at her as he places the glass of water containing ice cubes and a thin slice of lemon in front of her. Ekanem quickly avoids his gaze .She thanks him for the water and takes a sip.

In less than an hour, the mechanic finishes fixing Ekanem’s car and returns her car keys.

She thanks Toks for all his help and leaves the shop. Ekanem drives to work and continues to ignore Philip whose calls were becoming annoyingly regular.

When she finishes giving her lectures, she drives home and relaxes in the living room after a hot shower.

As she scrolls through her phone ,she gets a text alert from Toks on her phone.

“I hope the car is still functioning optimally”, the text read .

She smiles to herself and replies “Yes, thank you. I hope work is going well? ”

“You’re most welcome, Ekanem. Work is great. Have a good night”, he replies.

Ekanem wondered in her heart why a coffee sales man /coffee maker would be bothered about her or her car.

As she pondered on the appropriateness of the text,Chichi walks in with her child hood friend Chioma.

“Who am I seeing with my eyes?” Ekanem screams in excitement .

“It’s me girl!” ,Chioma replies as walks hurriedly towards her .They hug each other sit down on the sofa.

“Ekanem, have I become invisible?” Chichi asks.

“Chichi don’t be angry, welcome dear. Where did you meet Chioma?” .

“She came to my office from the airport. I guess she wanted to surprise us” she says with a smile .

“Chioma how is life in Newyork? .I hope your parents ,siblings and of course your fiance are fine? “, Ekanem says to her.

“Everyone is doing great dear.I came to see my parents and Kamsy’s parents want to meet my parents officially” she replies .

“Wow that’s awesome, atleast one of us is getting married soon.I am so happy for you “Ekanem replies.

“Yes oh !” Chichi replies in excitement.

“How is Philip? When are you guys inviting us for the wedding” Chioma asks with a mischievous smile.

“Hmmm , not anytime soon dear, we have broken up .Please let’s focus on you for now! .Forget about my boring love life”, she says to Chioma .

They continue to catch up on old times till they drift off to sleep.

The rest of the week was very busy for Ekanem because of exams which were around the corner and her project work.

It is a beautiful Saturday morning. As Ekanem cleans her room,she hears her phone ring.

“Hi Eky”, Richie says to her .

“Hey dear, how are you doing? “She replies.

“I am doing great. I hope you will be at home this afternoon?” , he says to her.

“Are you bringing goodies for me ?”she replies with excitement .

“It’s been a long time since I visited you at your house “,he says to her.

“You know that you’re always welcome. I will cook something nice for you. I will tell Chichi that you are coming” she replies.

They discuss for a while and eventually end the phone conversation. Ekanem quickly finishes tidying up her room. She informs Chichi about Richie’s intended visit and goes into the kitchen to prepare something for everyone to eat for lunch.

At exactly 3pm, Richard arrives at Ekanem’s house. He is welcomed by Ekanem who offers him a seat and some drinks afterwards.

“It’s good to see you dear”, Richard says to her.

“Same here .I thought you would come around 1 pm , my friends have been waiting to see you” ,she replies.

“Who else apart from Chichi are you living with currently?”, he says to her with curiosity in his eyes.

“Chichi’s friend , Chioma who lives in the US is spending some days with us before going to see her parents who live at Awka” ,she replies.

“Okay, that’s nice “,he says to her.

They discuss as they watch the television for some minutes before Ekanem serves him a hot plate of Edikaikong soup and semolina.

As he eats the delicious meal, she hears the door bell ring.

“Why is Chichi ringing the bell, did she forget to take her keys along with her?”she says to Richard as she walks towards the door.

“She unlocks the door and opens it. What are you doing here , Philip ?” She says to him with a frown on her face.
[nextpage title=”episode 6″]

Episode 6

“Hi Ekanem”, Philip says to her with a smile.

“You have not answered my question Philip”, she replies.

“Won’t you allow me come inside first before interrogating me” ,he says to her.

“Well you are not invited” she replies with a frown on her face.

As they argued, Chichi returns from the salon with her friend Chioma. They Ekanem a surprise look when they see him at the front door.

Philip forcefully enters the house as Chichi and her friend go inside.

Philip sits on one of the sofas. He watches in silence as Richard washes his hands after eating his meal.

“Thanks for the delicious meal” Richard says to Ekanem.

“You are welcome dear”, she replies.

“Can I see you privately ?”Philip says to Ekanem with a straight face.

Inorder not to embarass him in front of her friends, she obliges him and takes him to her room to discuss.

“Ekanem so it is because of that guy in the parlour that you have been acting funny? “he says to Ekanem.

“If there is anyone who has issues, it’s you Philip. It is over between us.I am not kidding”, she replies.

“It’s not over until I say it is. Can’t you see that I love you deeply ” he says to her with a mischievous smile.

“You must really think I am desperate. I don’t need your kind of love. It’s too toxic”, she replies.

“Really! Okay let’s see how it goes”, he yells.

“I believe we are done talking, please see yourself out. Thank you! “,she replies .

Philip storms out of the room. He leaves the house without saying a word to anyone.

Ekanem goes to the living room and sits beside Richard.

” I hope you are okay?” Richard asks with a soft voice.

“It’s nothing. I will be fine”, she replies.

They all watch television for a while until Richard announces his intention to go home.

“I will see you off to your car” Ekanem says to him.

As they approach his car ,he takes takes hold of one of her hands and turns to face her.

“Eky !you know that you can talk to me about anything”,he says to her.

” I know Richie! and I am thankful that I have you as a friend”,she replies with a smile .

“What are you still doing with that guy? It breaks my heart when you complain about the way he treats you” ,he says to her with a soft voice while looking into her eyes.

“Don’t worry about me, it’s over between Philip and I “she replies .

He says goodnight to her after giving her a warm embrace.

Ekanem lies down on her bed after taking a bath.

She remembers the words of Richie to her that evening.

“I have never seen him act this emotional towards me” ,she says to herself. For some strange reason, her thoughts go to the coffee seller. She quickly redirects her thoughts back to reality and sleeps off.

The following week is as hectic as Ekanem anticipates. She looks foward to her annual leave which starts in a couple of weeks.

Chioma travels to Awka to visit her parents as well as prepare for her traditional engagement ceremony which is to take place that weekend.

Ekanem squeezes out time from her busy schedule to visit her favourite café. She requests for a cup of café latte with two chocolate chip cookies.

Ekanem takes her seat. She observes that Toks is not available but she is happy to see Peter who serves her the coffee.

She takes her time to drink it ,not just because it tastes so nice but because she hopes that delaying her exit from the shop would make her bump into Toks.

After having her snacks, she picks her personal belongings and goes home.She is glad to be alone at home .Chichi hadn’t returned from work. She relaxes on the sofa and puts on her favourite show.

After about 5 minutes, She begins to wonder in her heart why Toks didn’t show up at work.

“I hope he is well? ” she says to herself.

“Maybe I should check on him, after all he helped me in the past”, she rationalises.

After battling with her will for some minutes, She eventually gives in.

Ekanem dials his number and just as it begins to ring ,she quickly cuts the line.

“What am I doing? “She says to herself.

In less than a minute, her phone starts to ring.

She picks it hurriedly and says” hello Toks “.

“Hi Ekanem !.How are you doing?” ,he replies.

” I am fine,I was at your shop today “, she says to him.

“Oh ! Really. I wish I were there to see you. Who attended to you?, he asks with a soft voice .

“Peter attended to me,thanks”she replies.

There was silence for about 15 seconds.

“I will be back tomorrow”, he says to her.

“Okay , see you later”, she replies .

Ekanem keeps her phone on the sofa and goes into her room to freshen up.

A week after Chioma’s engagement ceremony ,she returns to Lagos to prepare for her trip back to Newyork.

Chioma visits Chichi and Ekanem at their apartment.

“Babe congrats oh!.You are almost married. I hope everything went well?” , Chichi says to Chioma.

“Yes dear, thank you” ,Chioma replies .

“Have you guys fixed a date for the wedding? ” , Ekanem asks with a smile .

“No definite date yet but we are looking at 6 months from now”,Chioma replies.

“That’s cool, Gives you and hubby to be enough time to plan”, Ekanem replies.

“Speaking of weddings, Eky I need you to accompany me to an event” Chioma says to Ekanem with a mischievous smile.

“Why are you inviting only me “,Ekanem replies.

“Babe relax! .There’s this really cool guy I want you to meet “she says to Ekanem

“Chioma thanks but I don’t want another Philip situation,you can take Chichi along with you”, Ekanem replies.

“Chichi has a guy already”, Chioma replies .

“Hmmmm but she isn’t married yet “, Ekanem replies with a mischievous smile.

They all laugh and Chichi replies “Don’t worry very soon , you will get a wedding invite”.

The ladies chat for a while and Ekanem retires to her room. She goes through her phone and sees a missed call from Richard . She calls him back and they talk for long time before calling it a night.

Ekanem is glad when she finally starts her annual leave. She goes to the spa that beautiful Monday morning .She took advantage of the beauty treatments services which were offered as well as the professional body massage.

“This is just what I need .Something relaxing to make me forget all my worries” she says to herself .

She decides to go to one of her favourite places in Lagos .Ryan’s coffee shop would be the icing on the cake , she says to herself as she drives .

Ekanem arrives at the coffee shop and goes right in to locate her favourite seat .

She gets a call from her dad and while she is talking to him, she looks around the shop to see if she would see her regular coffee makers.

As she looks towards the counter, she sees Toks as he comes out from one of the back doors. He sees her and smiles. Ekanem smiles back as she continues talking to her dad.

Toks continues to sustain the eye contact between him and Ekanem as he stands at the work area.

After some minutes, a waiter brings a bowl of roast chicken salad to her table with a note. She takes the note from the waiter and quickly ends her call.

The reads the note; “Don’t say no a second time.It’s on the house”.

She looks up to see Toks staring at her from a distance. She smiles in a shy manner and perforates the cling film covering the salad.

She pours the salad dressing on it after uncovering the bowl. Ekanem takes a bite of the chicken with some vegetables dipped in the dressing.

“Hmmmm, this salad is hitting a spot in my brain”, she says to herself.

She wishes in her heart that she was eating the salad at home so that she could do justice to it.

As she takes the last serving,Toks walks up to her.

“I hope you liked it”, he says to her.

“Like is an understatement, I loved it”, she replies with a smile .

“I am glad “he says to her .

As he walks back to the counter to work on other client’s orders,Ekanem gets a call from Richard.

“Hi Eky! How are you enjoying your leave? ” , he says to her.

“I am chilling at Ryan’s coffee shop at the moment” ,she replies.

“ Okay! I am coming over” he says to her and ends the call before she is able to reply.

Richard arrives not long after. He places an order before sitting down so as not to waste Ekanem’s time.

He sits opposite Ekanem and they both discuss work and other non specific topics.

When Richard’s order is ready, Toks decides to serve him.He carries his cup of cocoa drink and club sandwiches on a tray and walks towards the table pointed at by the waiter.

As he approaches the table, he sees Ekanem engrossed in a conversation with Richard.
[nextpage title=”episode 7″]
Episode 7

When he gets to the table, he serves Richard with a smile on his face. He avoids looking at Ekanem.

“Enjoy your meal sir!” , Toks says to Richard .

“Thanks “Richard replies.

Toks returns to the back of the counter to continue working.Occasionally , he steals another cold glance at Ekanem .She also steals glances at him when Richard drinks his cup of hot cocoa.

Richard’s phone rings suddenly. He speaks to the person at the other end of the line with anxiety in his voice and eventually ends the call.

“Eky ! I have to leave now.The manager of my factory was involved in an accident. I need to go and see him in the hospital “,he says to her .

“I hope he is not so badly injured? .I will give you a call later” , she replies as he gets up to leave.

Ekanem’s admiration for Richard stems from his caring and hardworking nature.He is still able to give world class lectures despite the fact that he owns a flask producing factory and a well known furniture shop.

After some minutes Toks comes to clear Ekanem’s table. Ekanem assists him in putting plates together and places them on the tray.As she gives him one of teacups, the tip of his fingers touch her palms. She looks up and sees him looking into her eyes.

“Why are you clearing the table?. Don’t you have a waiter? “she asks as she quickly moves her gaze away from him .

“They are busy”, he replies with a small frown on his face.

“Okay “she replies .

She wonders in her heart why he sounded a bit hostile to her. Ekanem picks her small purse, says thank you to Toks at the counter and leaves the coffee shop.

Ekanem goes home and changes into an orange top and white shorts. She lies on her bed reading gossip blog posts on the Internet.

At about 7pm,she hears her door bell ring.Chichi is yet to return from work so Ekanem quickly walks to the front door to see who is there.

She sees someone who looks like Toks from the glass peep hole and opens the door.

Ekanem sees Toks wearing a black leather jacket on a pair of faded black jean trousers. She looks at the pair of black boots he put on plus the rust coloured helmet which he holds with his left hand.

“Hi Ekanem!” he says with a smile .

“Hi, what are you doing here? and why are you dressed like this?” ,she replies.

I delivered some snacks to a customer that lives close to you .I also came to apologise for sounding a bit harsh to you earlier, he says to her.

“Hmmm, I didn’t know you guys deliver as well” she replies .

“We started delivery to offices and homes last week. I still have one more order to drop off. Do you want to join me, He asks with a smile.

Ekanem hesitates for some minutes. She figures that since she doesn’t really have anything much to do at the moment, she might as well enjoy the adventure.

“Oh well, I will join you provided you have a helmet for me to wear” she replies .

She goes inside to put on a proper footwear and a jacket.

Toks takes her to where he packed the bike .She looks at the dark orange power bike with admiration and says to him;

” Hmmmm, see the kind of sophisticated motorbike your boss gave to you guys to do deliveries.You must be making a lot of profit in this bad economy” ,she says to him.

“The owner of the shop is a perfectionist and a stickler for efficiency. Power bikes are very efficient”, he replies .

He gives Ekanem the helmet to put on while he wore his on his head .When he sees her struggling to secure the helmet on her head,he takes it from her.

Toks gently places the helmet on her head and fastens the chin straps so that they fit snugly on her face. He uses his fingers to ensure that the side straps are flat on her face, all the while looking into Ekanem’s beautiful brown eyes.

He then enters the bike and leans to his left side to enable her get on the power bike easily.

He puts the key in the ignition and starts the bike .”Are you ready ? “, he says to her .

“Yes !” ,she yells with excitement

“I can’t believe I am about to do this “, she says to herself .

Initially ,when the ride begins,she is a bit scared of falling off the bike but after a while , She holds his well toned abdomen with her two hands to feel more secure and comfortable.

It takes him about 25 minutes to get to his destination. He allows her come down first before getting down.

Ekanem waits for him by the corner while he delivers a box of donuts and cheese cake to his client.

He smiles as he walks back towards Ekanem. They both enter the motor bike again and head back to her house.

The ride seems faster this time around . Ekanem feels so free and relaxed as the cold night breeze blows on her face.

When they get to her house, Ekanem sees Chichi’s car parked in front of the house.

Toks and Ekanem get down from the power bike. He helps her remove the helmet.

“I actually had more fun than I expected”, Ekanem says to him with a smile.

“It was nice having someone to ride with” he replies .

There is a brief silence before Ekanem says ” I have to go inside now”.

“Oh!okay, have a good night” Toks replies.

As she turns around to enter her house, Toks says “I have something for you “.
He quickly brings out a rectangular box from his pocket and gives it to her.

“What’s this?”she asks .

“Open it . It’s just a token”, he replies.

Ekanem opens and brings out a black ball point pen with gold Ryan’s coffee shop inscription on it .

“I just want you to think of the café whenever you make use of the pen” ,he says to her with a smile.

“Thank you. You will make a good marketer”, she replies.

She says goodnight again to him and goes inside the room.

She enters her living room and sees Chichi asks she hurriedly sits on the sofa.

“Eheheh, madam welcome oh!” Chichi says to her with a mischievous smile .

“Thanks dear, I see you are back from work”, she replies in a shy manner.

“Yes I am, come and sit down and give me the full gist of this your hot biker boyfriend”, she says to her excitedly.

Chichi please leave me oh. Which one is boyfriend? .He is just a coffee maker at Ryan’s coffee shop, she replies.

“Hmmm, if you say so my dear .Coffee maker versus PhD holder /lecturer .The combo no balance well oh” she says in a playful manner.

“Chichi goodnight,you’re so silly”,Ekanem replies with a smile and goes into her room.

Ekanem takes a hot shower and lies on her bed.

“Why am I even kidding myself? I don’t believe Toks likes me. He is probably just a friendly person. Besides what are the chances of a coffee maker /seller and a lecturer getting married. Mum would probably burst an artery”, she says .
[nextpage title=”episode 8″]

Episode 8

[]Ekanem wakes up the following morning feeling unusually excited.

She remembers that she didn’t get a feedback yesterday from Richard about his employee so she decides to give him a call.

“Hi Richie!” , she says to him.

“Hello Eky.Sorry for not calling you when I returned from the hospital”, he says to her with a soft voice.

“Don’t bother yourself dear , how’s he doing? “she asks Richard.

“He will be fine, no life threatening injuries. Where are you? “, he replies.

“I am at home, enjoying my holiday”,she says to him in a playful manner.

“We could hang out today, I have no lectures today “, he replies.

“Do you have any place in mind ?” She asks him.

“We could grab lunch at this new seafood restaurant down town”, he says to her.

“Okay! 1pm would be perfect”, Ekanem replies.

“See you then”, he says and ends the conversation .

Just as she ends the call, Chichi enters her room after knocking.

“Hmm ! love in Ekocity! , I can see that you and this your biker. …oops dispatch rider guy are on cloud 9 ” , she says excitedly.

“Chichi leave me alone ! .Besides that was Richard”, she replies.

“Really! how is he doing? .When is he going to visit us again?. How’s his girlfriend?. Are they still an item? “, she asks Ekanem in a shy manner.

“Hmmm, Chichi all these questions are beginning to scare me. I thought you were serious about Roland. The last time we spoke about him,you said he is your soul mate. What was the word you used …hmm I think you said he is the one” ,Ekanem says to her .

“Ahhh!can’t I just ask about Richie. I don’t even understand Roland nowadays. He doesn’t call as he used to. Anyway I am still watching the guy in 4D, if he messes up, I will dump his behind like piece of garbage”, she replies Ekanem.

They discuss for a while until Ekanem goes into the bathroom to freshen up for the day.

It is almost time for Ekanem to leave the house to meet Richard. She wears something simple and classy and puts on light make up.As she picks up her phone and purse ,her phone rings.

She sees an unknown number on her phone screen and goes ahead to pick it up.

“Hello good morning”, she says to the unknown caller.

“It’s me baby”, the familiar voice replies .

“How many times will I tell you that I am not interested in dating you Philip? “Ekanem says angrily.

“You have refused to pick my calls. I had to use another person’s phone to call you ” ,he says with a soft voice.

“It’s not going to work between us. We are not compatible. How else do you want me to explain myself to you”, she says to him hastily.

As they argue with each other, the line cuts and just as she is about to put the phone inside her purse, the phone rings again.

She picks up the call with annoyance and says ,” can you just give me some space?”.

“I will do that if that’s what you want”, Toks replies.

“I am sorry, I thought you were someone else ” Ekanem replies in a fidgety manner.

“I am sorry, I thought you were someone else ” Ekanem replies in a fidgety manner.

“Is everything okay?” , he asks with a soft voice.

“Of course !.how are you doing? ,she replies.

“I am doing great. There’s this new movie that is trending .It was produced by a famous comedian. Would you like to watch it …with me when you are less busy ? , he asks.

“Hmm! I am still on leave.I wouldn’t mind. What day do you have in mind?” , she replies.

“Will tomorrow by 6pm be okay?” , he asks .

“Yeah”, she says to him.

They discuss briefly and end the phone call.

Ekanem waits in the living room for Richard who confirms via a text that he is close by.

He arrives in some minutes and they both go to the restaurant for lunch.

After a hearty meal 0f seafood okra soup and eba , they discuss over a bottle of wine and peppered grilled fish.

“I hope that your ex boyfriend has stopped bothering you? “he says to her.

“Not really but I will handle the situation. Don’t worry”, she replies.

” I haven’t heard you speak about kokomma recently,are you guys okay? , she asks.

“We broke up some weeks ago”,he says to her .

“Wow! ,you didn’t tell me.What a coincidence, we both broke up with our partners around the same time” , she says with a straight face.

Richard holds one of her hands across the table and stares at her.

“Maybe we keep making mistakes because we are meant to be together Ekanem” ,he replies.

“Hmmm “Ekanem says as she takes a sip of wine.

He watches her as she drops the wine glass on the table after taking a sip of wine.

“I see you don’t share my opinion? ” , he says to her.

“I am sure you made your earlier statement because you feel lonely without your exgirlfriend”, she replies.

He smiles and says “Ekanem, I cherish our friendship so much. I can confidently say that you are my best friend ” .

“I cherish our friendship as well”, she replies .

“The truth is that I have always loved you Eky. I didn’t want to jeopardise our friendship by dating you initially. When you told me that you were dating Philip,a part of me died. I went into a relationship with kokomma thinking that I would find you in her but I felt empty with her. I know this sounds horrible but truth be told Eky,I kept on wishing that you and Philip would break up so that I would have another opportunity to tell you about my feelings for you,”I am sorry, I thought you were someone else ” Ekanem replies in a fidgety manner.

“Is everything okay?” , he asks with a soft voice.

“Of course !.how are you doing? ,she replies.

“I am doing great. There’s this new movie that is trending .It was produced by a famous comedian. Would you like to watch it …with me when you are less busy ? , he asks.

“Hmm! I am still on leave.I wouldn’t mind. What day do you have in mind?” , she replies.

“Will tomorrow by 6pm be okay?” , he asks .

“Yeah”, she says to him.

They discuss briefly and end the phone call.

Ekanem waits in the living room for Richard who confirms via a text that he is close by.

He arrives in some minutes and they both go to the restaurant for lunch.

After a hearty meal 0f seafood okra soup and eba , they discuss over a bottle of wine and peppered grilled fish.

“I hope that your ex boyfriend has stopped bothering you? “he says to her.

“Not really but I will handle the situation. Don’t worry”, she replies.

” I haven’t heard you speak about kokomma recently,are you guys okay? , she asks.

“We broke up some weeks ago”,he says to her .

“Wow! ,you didn’t tell me.What a coincidence, we both broke up with our partners around the same time” , she says with a straight face.

Richard holds one of her hands across the table and stares at her.

“Maybe we keep making mistakes because we are meant to be together Ekanem” ,he replies.

“Hmmm “Ekanem says as she takes a sip of wine.

He watches her as she drops the wine glass on the table after taking a sip of wine.

“I see you don’t share my opinion? ” , he says to her.

“I am sure you made your earlier statement because you feel lonely without your exgirlfriend”, she replies.

He smiles and says “Ekanem, I cherish our friendship so much. I can confidently say that you are my best friend ” .

“I cherish our friendship as well”, she replies .

“The truth is that I have always loved you Eky. I didn’t want to jeopardise our friendship by dating you initially. When you told me that you were dating Philip,a part of me died. I went into a relationship with kokomma thinking that I would find you in her but I felt empty with her. I know this sounds horrible but truth be told Eky,I kept on wishing that you and Philip would break up so that I would have another opportunity to tell you about my feelings for you”, Richie says to her with a soft voice.

“This is all so sudden, I really appreciate you and I know that it must have taken alot of courage for you to say how you feel. I am going to give it some thought and get back to you. I sincerely do not want to jump into another relationship. I hope you understand”,Ekanem says to her.

“Fair enough, I will give you all the time you want dear “, , Richie says to her with a soft voice.

“This is all so sudden, I really appreciate you and I know that it must have taken alot of courage for you to say how you feel. I am going to give it some thought and get back to you. I sincerely do not want to jump into another relationship. I hope you understand”,Ekanem says to her.

“Fair enough, I will give you all the time you want dear “, he says with a smile .
[nextpage title=”episode 9″]
Episode 9

[]Ekanem and Richard discuss other topics for a while before leaving the restaurant.

Ekanem is pleased that there isn’t any awkwardness between them.

He eventually drops her off at her house. Ekanem relaxes in her room watching a nollywood movie until Chichi returns from work.

“Your welcome dear”, Ekanem says to her.

“Babe , how are you doing? , did you step out of this house today? ” ,she says .

I had lunch with Richie today. The seafood Okro soup was superb! ,she replied excitedly.

Chichi’s countenance fell momentarily.

“That’s nice!.Hmm! are you guys now an item ? The frequency of your hangouts nowadays is kind of on the upward trend”, she says with a straight face.

“You know Richie is my bestie! , nothing serious. Atleast for now anyway”, she replies Chichi with a mischievous smile.

“Okay, if you say so. Let me go and freshen up dear “, Chichi says to Ekanem.

Ekanem wonders in her heart why Chichi acts up any time she talks about Richie but pushes the thoughts away.

The hours pass by so fast. Ekanem finishes her house chores and prepares a delicious pot of Chicken stew.

About an hour to the time Toks is to pick Ekanem up from her house, she freshens up , puts on a pair of dark blue fitted jeans and a fuchsia coloured fitted long sleeved tshirt .

She also packs her hair, applies some make up and puts on a nice pair of navy blue wedge shoes.

At exactly 5 minutes to 6pm, her door bell rings. Ekanem opens the door and sees Toks standing before her.

They smile at each other and he says “you look so beautiful “.

“Thanks. Your not looking bad either”, Ekanem says.

Ekanem knew that her reply didn’t do justice to what her eyes were seeing.

He leads her to a black car with a driver seated in front.

“I hope you don’t mind the fact that we are going to be using the cab I ordered online. I hate driving the official car when there’s a lot of traffic on the road”,he says to her .

” I don’t mind at all after all you are not expected to use an official car for private business except of course your boss doesn’t bother you with the usage of the car” Ekanem replies.

Toks opens the door of the car for her to enter. They both sit down at the passenger’s seat behind and the driver begins to drive to the cinema.

Ekanem likes the choice of music made by the driver and nods her head in a subtle manner.

“Do you also enjoy soft rock music ?” , he asks with a smile.

” do enjoy it but I also love country music. My friends think it’s weird”,she replies.

“Who cares what they think “he replies and they both laugh.

The mood becomes lighter as they discuss about music and movies.

They finally arrive at their destination .Ekanem and Toks go into the cinema room after Toks buys their tickets plus some refreshments.

The movie turns out to be better than expected. They both laugh so hard that their ribs nearly crack all through the movie.

Toks orders another cab when they leave the cinema which arrives shortly afterwards.

“Do you mind if we make a quick stop at the café”, he says to her.

“That’s okay”, Ekanem replies.

The ride back home is very quiet. Ekanem unconsciously leans on his shoulders.

Just as she attempts moving from that position, she feels his left cold hand on her right hand.

Ekanem smiles to herself and steals a quick glance at him. It’s basically a very quiet ride to the café.

When they get to the shop, he leads her through a black door close to the counter into a room.

She sees two round coffee tables in front of an S shaped bugundy coloured sofa by the corner of the room. There were two sets of well crafted chairs and tablessings. The room is indeed exquisitely furnished with beautiful flowers and African art pieces.

“This place is beautiful “Ekanem says as she admires the decor.

“It’s the VIP section for celebrities and dignitaries who do not wish to eat in public “he replies with a smile.

They sit on the sofa and Ekanem says to him.

” I have never seen the owner of this café before. It would be nice to see the person who puts a smile on thousands of Nigerians”, Ekanem says.

“He is a very busy man but I am positive that you will see him one of these days “, he replies.

“Let me get something warm for you to snack on” her says to her and excuses himself.

After some minutes, he returns with a tray containing a glass of cinnamon flavoured almond milk and two chocolate croissants.

“Toks,you won’t succeed in making me fatter “, she says as he offers her the snacks.

“You always look great dear. I doubt if a couple of croissants would make a difference”, he replies.

They discuss for a while till Toks says”I need to go and drop you off at your house, it’s getting late ” .

He drives her home in the official car and opens the door of the for her when they arrive at her house.

He walks her to the door.” I had a great time”,Ekanem says to him with a smile.

“Same here. Can we do this again ? “he says to her while looking into her eyes.

“Sure, you are actually fun to be with”she says in a playful manner.

“You too” he replies and they say goodbye to each other.

She enters her house and sleeps almost immediately after taking a hot shower.

As she slips under her soft quilt, she gets a text alert on her phone from Toks ; “what are you doing? ” ,he asks.

“About to close these tired eyes”, she replies .

” I am glad we were able to hang out today “he says to her.

“I had fun .Where are you?” , she asks .

“Still at work. I wish you were still here with me “, he replies.

“So that you continue staring at me right? ” ,She says to him.

“Good night gorgeous” he replies .

Ekanem smiles as she drops her phone on the side table beside her bed.

For the next two months , Toks and Ekanem communicated so frequently that he was the first voice she heard in the morning and at night.

It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon, A few weeks to Christmas. Chichi and Ekanem have just enjoyed their lunch and are trying to set up their Christmas decorations /tree when Ekanem’s phone rings.

When she sees that the call is from Toks, she smiles like a love struck teenager and answers her call in her room.

After 30 minutes, Ekanem returns to the living room where Chichi is .

“So because of Richie,you left me all alone to set up this big Christmas tree? “She says with a frown on her face.

“Sorry dear! It wasn’t even Richie.Forgive me anyway “, she replies.

“Hmmm, who is this person that is trying to come between you and Richie. I hope you know that Richie loves you? ,Chichi says to Ekanem.

“How do you know that Richie loves me?”Ekanem replies.

“Well, the way he acts around you makes it so obvious. Please answer my question? “, Chichi asks with curiosity in her eyes.

“He’s just a friend. His name is Tochukwu, Toks for short”, she replies .

“Hmmm, is it by any chance that dispatch rider that dropped you off a while ago? “Chichi asks with a straight face.

“What if it’s the same guy ? ” ,She replies.

“How can you throw away Richie who is practically your closest friend over some coffee seller. Is it because he is handsome?” Chichi says to her .

“Babe relax !you are taking this too far”Ekanem replies with a smile.

“Richie and I are still very close. Toks is equally my friend, more like a hang out buddy, there’s nothing official going on between us.Atleast for now because he hasn’t asked me out yet”, she says to Chichi.

“Ekanem so you want to tell me that if he proposes to you ,you would actually consider it “she replies with sarcasm.

“Who knows! “Ekanem replies with a smile .

“Philip must have been so horrible for you to consider someone who can’t even pay your bills. Did this Toks guy even smell the four walls of a university?” , Chichi asks with a warm voice.

Chichi please mind your business, what kind of interrogation is this? Ekanem replies angrily.

“You know that you are like a sister to me. I want a man that would be compatible with you.Look at the Richard you are throwing away. Every normal woman’s dream guy!”Chichi replies.

Ekanem leaves the living room area and goes to her bedroom. After about an hour, she gets a call from Chioma.

“Hi Chioma. How are you doing? ” ,she says excitedly.

” I am fine dear. What’s this I am hearing about you dating an okada rider,she replies Ekanem .

“Who told you that big lie “.This Chichi is so annoying”, she says to her.

“Anyway it’s your life Ekanem. As long as you are happy.Please I need you to go and pick up your bridesmaid’s clothes from the person hubby sent them t from Newyork. The person is going to be available on Wednesday but Chichi would be travelling to Abuja that same day,Chioma says to Ekanem

“Okay dear, I am always available to assist with the wedding “Ekanem replies.

They discuss about other wedding plans and end the conversation.
[nextpage title=”episode 10″]

Episode 10

Ekanem sits on her bed after the phone call and thinks about what her friends tell her.

“Maybe they are right. Richard is a really nice guy and he is doing well for himself. He is also ready to settle down “,she says to herself .

Ekanem goes to the kitchen to drink a glass of water.When she returns to her room, she gets a text message from Toks which reads;” Hi beautiful ! , someone will be dropping a small package for you at your house. Please accept it “.

Ekanem’s excitement is like that of a toddler who is promised candies. She goes to the living room and looks out of the window for any trace of a dispatch rider every 5 minutes.

The rider finally arrives and Ekanem goes outside to meet him. He gives her a white rectangular paper box which she collects and says thank you.

Ekanem goes into her room and opens the box. She sees purple, white and pink daisy flowers tied with a gold ribbon. She also sees two cookies wrapped in a transparent nylon.

Just as she dials his number , she gets a text from Toks ;”I hope you like the flowers, we had excess in the office” .

” I love them”, she replies.

” I am glad ! .I Can’t get you out of my mind. Good night dear”, his next text message reads.

“You make me happy Toks”, she replies

Ekanem smiles as she keeps her phone by her bedside and lies down.

“There’s something special about Toks but I don’t know how serious he is about settling down. Even if he really loves me, how long will he have to save up for a wedding?” she says to herself .

Ekanem goes to bed after working on her lecture notes.

She goes to work early the next day .As she walks to the car park to enter her car , she sees Richard heading in the same direction.

“Hi darling”, he says to her with a smile.

“How are you doing?”, she replies .

He gives her a hug and says “I am doing great dear”.

They discuss about work for some minutes and Ekanem says in a playful manner ;” Richie I need to go home. You know that our conversations last for hours “.

“I know Eky! That’s why I believe we are meant for each other. Have you given any thought to what I asked you earlier?”,he replies .

“I am still thinking and praying about it. We both deserve to be happy even if we don’t end up together, she says to him.

“Hmm! Okay dear. Have you had lunch?” , he replies

“Not yet” , she says to him.

“Let’s go and eat amala and ewedu at the new joint that I discovered”, he replies excitedly.

“I hope they have the necessary accompaniments?” , she says with a smile on her face .

“Of course I know what you mean. Don’t worry there are lots of assorted meat to choose from “he replies in a playful manner.

They drive to the local restaurant together and they enjoy the delicious meal.

After eating, he escorts her to her car and says it’s always a pleasure being with you. I hope the food met your expectation, he says to her.

“Ahhh!didn’t you see how fast I ate my food. It exceeded my expectation dear “she replies.

He looks at her with a smile and says with a soft voice “you seem a bit distracted lately . Are you okay? “.

“I am doing great”, she replies.

He holds her hands and says “I know that you don’t love me as much as I do but I assure you that I will love you every day of my life. I will take care of you and I believe that with time , you will fall in love with me” .

Ekanem is speechless, she finds the appropriate words to use but finds none .She just stares at him and nods her head.

When she gets home ,she gets a sheet of paper and tries to write the good and bad attributes of Toks and Richard.

She realises that she isn’t able to categorise Toks properly because she in unable to answer some questions about him.

“Isn’t it stupidity to leave a guy you know for a guy who hasn’t even declared his intention and whom I barely know? ” ,she says to herself.

As she ponders in her heart ,the question she poses to herself, she gets a call from Toks.

“Hi dear .How was your day? “he says to her.

“Very fine. How was yours?” She replies.

“It was okay, can we meet on Wednesday?I miss you ,”he says to her.

” will be busy that day , except you don’t mind meeting up late?” , she replies.

“Okay let’s meet at the coffee shop by 9pm, I hope you don’t have an early lecture on Thursday?” , he says to her.

“Luckily, my lectures are in the afternoon. See you by 9pm on wednesday”,she replies excitedly.

It’s a beautiful Wednesday. Ekanem goes to work as planned. She finishes her lectures by 4pm and quickly rushes to pick up her package from Chioma’s friend.

She was asked to pick up the parcel from Mr Isreal who works at the company which Chioma had already sent the name and address of.

Ekanem arrives at the office building. She stands in front of the high rise office complex and confirms from the text that she is at the right location.

She enters the through the automatic doors and walks towards the receptionist.

” I am here to see Mr Isreal”, she says to the receptionist with a smile .

“He has been expecting you for about 30 minutes. He just went inside the boardroom for an important but brief meeting. Please wait for him “,she replies.

Ekanem sits on one of the leather chairs in the lounge. As she waits for the meeting to be over, she admires the office decor.

The Christmas decorations together with the shiny marble floors made the office look so beautiful. She looked towards the receptionist and saw the picture of two men beside the picture of the governor of Lagos state on the wall .

Ekanem looks closely at the pictures again and sees an elderly man’s picture and that of a younger man which looked familiar.

She stood up and walked towards the receptionist. As she approached her, the image of the picture became clearer.

“This is Toks! ” she says to herself repeatedly.

“Please madam”, Ekanem says to the receptionist anxiously , “who is that young man in the picture? “.

“That’s Our Managing Director. Mr Isreal whom you are waiting for is his personal assistant”,she replies .
[nextpage title=”episode 11″]

Episode 11

Ekanem does a perfect job of hiding her surprise. She goes back to take a seat.

“What am I waiting here for?” , she asks herself.

As she stands up to tell the receptionist that she will come and pick the parcel later or send someone to pick it,Mr Isreal quickly comes to the reception with a small suitcase. He hands her the box after a brief exchange of pleasantries.

Ekanem enters her car and drives home. She sees Toks missed calls but deliberately ignores them.

When she gets home, she removes her clothes and stands under the shower. The cold water running down her body failed to calm her temper even after 10 minutes.

She comes out the bathroom and slips into her pyjamas.

“Here I was ,thinking that he was different from other guys”, she says to herself with teary eyes.

She picks up her phone to call Chioma.

“Hi dear , I have picked up the clothes “she says to Chioma.

” I hope you like it? “, Chioma replies.

“It’s alright”, Ekanem replies.

“Why are you sounding so cold?. Are you sure that all is well? “, Chioma asks.

“I will be fine, don’t worry about me”, Ekanem replies.

“Don’t tell me that Philip is still harassing you “, Chioma says to Ekanem.

“It’s not Philip, he is history”Ekanem replies .

“Who is it then? .It cannot be the okada rider that is making my friend depressed”, Chioma says to her .

Ekanem is silent for some seconds.

“Ekanem why did you allow yourself to get emotionally attached to a guy who isn’t on the same level with you, by the way what did he do to you ? “, Chioma asks angrily.

“I would rather not discuss this matter, don’t be offended dear”,Ekanem replies.

“Okay, if you say so. Meanwhile I have finally collected the contact number of that hot dude I promised to hook you up with from my fiance:,Chioma says to Ekanem excitedly.

” I am not interested Chioma”, Ekanem replies.

“Ekanem are you sure that you are alright? .You want to pass up the chance of a life time for who….an okada rider”, Chioma replies with sarcasm.

“It’s my life Chioma. I am not ready for any relationship. Thanks”, Ekanem replies.

“Okay oh! When you are done sulking over your puppy love and you are ready to get married, call me” Chioma says to Ekanem and ends the call .

Ekanem lies down on her bed and scrolls through her phone. She sees numerous texts and calls from Toks which annoy her further.

Just as she keeps her phone by her bedside, it rings again.

“What is it Toks?”,She asks angrily.

“Hi dear, I have been waiting for at the café. I hope you are okay?” ,he replies.

“Who are you Tochukwu?” , she asks.

“What type of question is that ?” he replies.

“Hmmm, you’re trying to play smart with me Tochukwu”, she says to him with a loud voice.

“Can you just calm down and talk to me. I don’t understand why you are acting funny” ,he replies.

“Oh!so I am acting funny? .Well it’s better to be a funny person than to be a liar and a fake person”, Ekanem says angrily.

” I am coming over”, he says with a cold voice .

In less than 30 minutes, Ekanem hears her door bell ring.She wishes that Chichi her flat mate is available to drive Toks away for her.

After some minutes, Ekanem reluctantly walks to her front door and sees Toks standing before her.

“What are you doing here? “,she says to him.

“What have I done to deserve all these insults?, he asks with a soft voice .

“Are you the managing director of any company? , are you really a coffee sales man? , who are you?” , she asks with curiosity.

Toks looks at her with surprise in his eyes.

“Who told you that I am the MD of a company? “, he asks .

“Is it a secret?. You know what! I feel like I do not even know you. Please answer this last question”, she says with sadness in her voice. “Who owns the coffee shop? “.

“I will explain everything to you Eky! .Can we go inside please? “,he replies.

“I am sorry but I don’t allow strangers into my house, she says to him.

“So, I am now a stranger to Eky? Okay suit yourself. Goodnight,he replies and walks away.

“Good night mr fake” ,she yells back as she watches him walk towards the official car.

She enters the house and types a text message to Chioma angrily; I am ready. “You can hook me up with the guy .I hope he is as genuine as you say he is”.

She gets a reply in less than 2 minutes.

“Correct girl! I have always known that your brain isn’t just for academics. Will set up the time and place. You will hear from me soon. Cheer up dear”.

Ekanem goes back to her bed and slips under the soft quilt. She tries to sleep but she is unable to. Thoughts of Toks flood her mind. The image of him walking out on her rips her heart in two.

“Maybe I should have listened to what he had to say”, she says to herself.

She picks up her phone, attempts dialling his number but cuts the line even before it begins to ring.

“Hmm!It’s possible that he considers me a gold digger , why would he pretend to me?” ,she asks herself.

She eventually falls asleep after hours of rehearsing what happened between her and Toks for about an hour

Ekanem tries her best to push thoughts of Toks away for the next one week .She focuses on work and the completion of her project.

She gets a call from Chioma who tells her the time and place to meet the mystery guy. She is initially vexed by Chioma’s refusal to give her the name of the guy before meeting her date. Ekanem however has a rethink and decides that it may actually be more exciting going on a blind date.

It’s Sunday evening, Ekanem wears a beautiful off-shoulder navy blue gown which does justice to her elegant figure. She packs her long curly weave hair to her right side and wears her light pink pearl jewelry.

Ekanem parks her car in front of the restaurant and walks inside to meet her date.

She remembers Chioma’s words, “he is going to have a red book in front of him and he will be putting on a black shirt “.

Ekanem is a bit reluctant to look for the guy. She thinks of Toks and the fun times they shared. She wishes secretly that it would be Toks that she meets in the restaurant .However, the thought of being regarded as a gold digger by Toks propels her to search for the mystery guy.

In less than a minute she sees a red book and a man wearing a black shirt. She is initially disappointed that it’s not Toks but his charming smile as she approaches his table makes her feel better.

She sits down in front of him and smiles back at him.

“Hi , I am kola Coker. I hope I wasn’t difficult to spot”, he says with a smile.

“No , it wasn’t. I am Ekanem Akpan”, she replies.

“ I chose this place because I heard they make really delicious meals. It’s actually a very new restaurant and lots of celebrities come here to eat” , he says to her excitedly.

“Oh really! “Ekanem replies as she looks around to see if she would see any celebrity known to her.

As they look through the menu placed in front of them by the waiter, she hears a voice say “you are welcome to our restaurant “.

Ekanem’s heart beats very fast when she hears the familiar voice. She looks up to confirm her suspicion and sees Toks looking at her .

All she sees in his eyes are anger and bitterness. Ekanem moves her gaze away from him .She quickly starts pretending to be reading the menu .

Toks exchanges pleasantries with Kola and leaves them to pick a meal from the menu.

“Who exactly is Toks?”She wonders in her heart .Her heart begins to boil in anger.

“He actually lived a lie and fabricated answers to my questions when we were close. For the past one week, I have not heard from him.A person who claimed to be in love with me” ,she says to herself.

Their meal arrives .Ekanem tries her best to eat her meal without making it obvious that she isn’t herself.

Kola does a great job of keeping her supposedly entertained by his unending stories and list of achievements .

Ekanem and Kola finish their main meal.As she eats her dessert, she sees Toks as he walks across the restaurant to speak with a man who had just finished his meal .

” I need to use the restroom”, she says to Kola.

“Okay, sure.Do need help with the direction to the bathroom?” ,he replies .

“No thanks”,she says to him and stands up.

Ekanem goes to the back of the restaurant and passes through a door pointed out by the waiter as the way to the convenience room.

As she walks on the corridor, she feels a strong arm pulling her.

“Who is this?” she yells and turns around.

She finds herself held tightly in Toks arms .”Let go of me !”, she says to him .

“Why?,so that you will run back to your boyfriend, isn’t it?” ,he replies while looking into her eyes.

“Leave me alone!” , she says to him with a soft voice.

He draws her closer to him and softens his grip on her. He uses his right hand to stroke her right cheek gently and says “I thought that somewhere deep down, you had feelings for me. I guess your like other girls, you jumped right into another relationship “.

As Ekanem opens her mouth to reply him, he places his index finger on her lips and says” save your explanation. I don’t need it”.

Toks walks away and leaves her standing on the corridor. She goes into the bathroom .Ekanem sees an oval shaped mirror .She stands in front of it looking at her reflection .She wonders in her heart what her next line of action should be.
[nextpage title=”episode 12″]
Episode 12

[]Ekanem washes her hands in the sink and walks back to her table to join Kola.

“Are you okay? I was just about to come and look for you” , he says to her with a soft voice.

” I am okay. Sorry I spent more time than expected”, she replies.

They discuss for a while and decide to leave the restaurant. He escorts Ekanem to her car .

“I had a great time. Can I have your number so that I can keep in touch with you?” , he says to her with a smile.

“Thanks for the meal”, she replies. They exchange numbers and say goodbye to each other

Ekanem enters her car. She quickly dials Toks line but it rings without a response.

Ekanem drives to the coffee shop to see Toks. She goes to the cashier to ask of him.

” I am sorry madam but he isn’t coming to work today”, he says to her .

“Okay !thanks” ,she replies .

She goes back into her car and dials Toks number again.

“Hello! It’s me Ekanem “she says to him when he picks.

” I know”, he replies .

There is silence .Ekanem wonders in her heart the right words to say to him.

“Did you call me to waste your call credit or to say something? ,he says to her .

“Can we meet. We need to talk!” , Ekanem replies .

“Talk about what Ekanem?.You have moved on already, so what’s there to talk about?” , he says to her.

“Why did you lie to me about who you are?” , Ekanem asks.

“Maybe if you had given me a few minutes when I came to your house, I would have explained everything to you”, Toks says to her.

As she is about to reply his last statement, Ekanem hears a female voice say to Toks in the background “can we continue from where we stopped” in a joking manner.

Toks laughs and says hurriedly “we shall continue this discussion later Ekanem. I am busy at the moment “.

He ends the call before she is able to reply him.

Ekanem sighs and says to herself ” what can be more important than us sorting out this important issue? .I can’t believe he has a girlfriend already. Why then was he so angry with me at the restaurant? .

As she is about to start the car ,Richard’s call comes in .

“Hi Ekanem! I have been trying to reach you? Are you at home? “,he says to her.

Hi dear, I am not at home at the moment, she replies.

“Really ! When you weren’t picking up my calls, I decided to go and check on you at your house. I am currently in front of your door”, he says to her.

“Okay! Chichi is at home anyway, just ring the door bell and go inside.I need to pick up groceries from the supermarket before going home “, Ekanem replies.

The door bell rings and Chichi looks through the glass peep hole to see who it is. She sees Richard and smiles excitedly.She quickly opens the door and says” hi Richie! “.

“Hi Chichi.How are you doing? . Can I come inside?” , he replies .

” I am doing great. Please come inside” , she says to him.

As she offers him a seat, she says to him”Ekanem isn’t at home at the moment “.

” I am aware of that .She asked me to wait for her in the house ” , he replies.

“Okay, please make yourself comfortable”, Chichi says to him with a smile.

The door bell rings and Chichi looks through the glass peep hole to see who it is. She sees Richard and smiles excitedly.She quickly opens the door and says” hi Richie! “.

“Hi Chichi.How are you doing? . Can I come inside?” , he replies .

” I am doing great. Please come inside” , she says to him.

As she offers him a seat, she says to him”Ekanem isn’t at home at the moment “.

” I am aware of that .She asked me to wait for her in the house ” , he replies.

“Okay, please make yourself comfortable”, Chichi says to him with a smile.

Richard sits on the sofa and watches the television while he waits for Ekanem to arrive.

Chichi sits on one of the dining seats watching the television .She frequently goes into the kitchen to check the meal being prepared by her in the kitchen.

The aroma of the meal fills the sitting room where Richard is.He smiles as he says to Chichi in a joking manner “what are you preparing in the kitchen?.I am salivating already !.

Chichi laughs and replies “don’t worry the food is for all of us .I hope you won’t leave immediately Ekanem arrives? “.

“With what my nostrils have inhaled, I will definitely be patient” he says to her with a smile.

In less than 10 minutes, Chichi places a tray infront of him. Richard smiles as he sees the two bowls in front of him containing white /plain rice and palm nut stew rich in goat meat plus dry fish.

“All these for me?” Richard exclaims in excitement.

Chichi brings her portion from the kitchen in a small plate and eats with him in the living room.

“This is so delicious”, he says to Chichi as he devours his meal.

“Thank you “,she replies with a smile.

They finish their meal and Chichi clears the plates.As they discuss about work, Ekanem arrives.

” I am so sorry for keeping you waiting Richie. I had to pick up some groceries”, she says to Richard.

Welcome Eky! ,Chichi says to her with a smile.

“Babe thanks for keeping him company” Ekanem says to Chichi.

“You are welcome”, she replies as she walks to her room.

Ekanem and Richard spend some time in the living room discussing various subject areas until Ekanem indicates her desire to go to bed.

As Richard gets up to leave Ekanem’s house , he says to her “please tell Chichi that I am leaving”.

Ekanem yells her name and Chichi comes to the living room.

“Madam why are you screaming my name? “, Chichi asks with a straight face.

“Richard is leaving” , Ekanem replies .

“It was nice having you around”, Chichi says with a smile as Richard looks in her direction.

“Thank you Chichi .Goodnight dear ” , Richard replies with a smile.

Ekanem escorts him to his car and they say goodbye to each other.

Ekanem freshens up and lies down on her bed.Her thoughts go to Toks. I wonder what he is doing now, she wonders in her heart .

She dials his number and says hi to him when he picks.

“Hi Ekanem! ” , he replies.

“Can we talk now ?” ,Ekanem asks with a soft voice .

” I am still busy. I will call you when I am ready”, he replies hurriedly .

“I don’t understand you nowadays .You are always too busy to talk to me. Is everything okay between us ?.Are you still upset because of that guy you saw me with earlier?”, she says to Toks.

Toks remains silent.

“Hello! Are you there?” ,Ekanem says to him.

” I am here but it’s really not a good time to discuss and frankly speaking, the last thing I want to do right now is discuss seeing you with another man”, he replies.

“Okay, I guess it’s obvious that you are no longer interested in this relationship or whatever you want to call it.I will never beg to be loved “,she says with a loud voice .

“I will talk to you later Ekanem , there is no need for all this drama”, he replies and ends the conversation.

[]Ekanem is surprised when she realises that the call has ended. She manages to sleep that night despite the emotional turmoil she was in.

Ekanem wakes up the following morning feeling refreshed. As she prepares for work, she gets a call from Chioma.

“Babe how are you doing? “,Chioma says.

” I am fine .How are the preparations for the wedding going?” , Ekanem replies.

“Why didn’t you call me after hanging out with Kola? ” ,Chioma asks.

“I was so busy dear “, Ekanem replies.

“Well since I didn’t hear from you, I had to call after all the good things Kola said about you ” ,Chioma says excitedly.

“What did he say about me? “,Ekanem says to Chioma .

“He is so mesmerised by your beauty and wit. He said that he will definitely keep in touch with you”, Chioma replies.

“Okay!” ,Ekanem says to her.

“Is that all you have to say? , didn’t you like anything about him?.Atleast we all know that he is very handsome”, Chioma says to Ekanem.

“He is indeed an eye turner. Very good looking although he seems a bit loud mouthed “, Ekanem replies.

“What do you mean by loud mouthed Ekanem?. Maybe he speaks the way other young self made multi millionaires speak. Don’t mistake self confidence for pride dear.Anyway expect many more dates”, she says to Ekanem excitedly.

The conversation ends shortly afterwards. She quickly puts on her clothes and goes to work.

Ekanem’s last lecture ends at noon.She decides to go to the coffee shop on her way back from work .

“I hope that I will be able to see Toks and finally get this issue behind me ” ,she says to herself.

Ekanem parks her car in front of the café and enters inside. She goes to the counter to ask the cashier for Toks.

“He will be back shortly madam, do you want something to drink?” , the cashier asks.

“Can I have a cup of cappuccino and a sandwich?” , she replies .

Ekanem finds a seat close to the window. As she waits for her snack to be served, she dials Toks number.

Tok’s line rings several times but he doesn’t pick up his calls. As she starts eating her snacks, she sees Toks coming out from a car.

She also sees a lady coming out from the passenger’s seat. They both enter the café laughing.

Ekanem watches him as he places his phone on the work counter. The lady who accompanied him into the café sits on the high chair opposite him.

“Let me try his number one last time”, she says to herself as she picks up her phone from the table.

Ekanem dials Toks’s number. Ekanem looks at him as he picks up his phone from the counter and places it back on the table after looking at who the caller was.

Ekanem quickly leaves the café in a clandestine manner. As Ekanem enters her car, she gets a text alert from Toks “I am still busy. I will call you later “.

Ekanem sighs and drives off to her house.
[nextpage title=”episode 13″]

Episode 13

[]Ekanem goes straight into her room and avoids any unnecessary conversation with Chichi. She takes a cold bath and puts her favourite music on .

“I will be happy, no matter what. I don’t need any guy to determine my state of mind or control my emotions “, she says to herself as she goes through her lecture notes.

She finishes her with her work in less than an hour and slips under her quilt. Ekanem must have dozed off for about 10 minutes when she heard a voice call her name. She struggles to open her eyes and mumbles” yes! “.

She feels a tap on her lap which makes her open her eyes.

“What are you doing here? . Who brought you into my room ? “,she says to Toks.

“Your flat mate let me in”,he replies with a smile.

Ekanem sighs and looks away.

Toks taps her again and says “Ekanem we need to talk!” .

“So finally you agree that we need to talk. I am so tired of this mind game that I don’t have the strength to talk”, Ekanem replies.

“Ekanem, I need to leave town for sometime” , Toks says to her.

“Okay! , before you leave, can you please tell me who you are. I feel like I am talking to a stranger. The Toks I met at the café has disappeared”, she replies with sadness in her eyes.

“Don’t say that love. I love you deeply and I always will”,Toks says to her .

“Why do you have to travel now ? “She replies.

“My dad is terminally ill. The cancer has spread to his major organs .His doctor says that he doesn’t have much time left.He wants his family to be with him at this time”,Toks says to her .

“I am so sorry to hear about your dad’s health. I agree with your decision to spend some time with him” ,Ekanem replies.

My dad is a very wealthy and influential king. My mum had my elder sister, my twin brother and I. Unfortunately, my brother who was the older twin died few years ago from complications of surgery. My mum and dad currently live in Anambra state. Ifeoma, my elder sister lives with her family in New Jersey. I am the heir to the throne”,Toks says with a straight face.

“Why are you telling me all these now?.Why did you pretend to me all these while? “,Ekanem replies as she looks into his eyes.

” I just wanted to be sure that you loved me first before unleashing all my baggage on you.The other ladies in my past stuck around because of the money and fame. The ones from rich homes wanted more power”he says to Ekanem.

“Who owns Ryan’s coffee shop?”Ekanem asks.

” I started the coffee shop 2years ago when I relocated from the US after completing my PhD. Dad made sure that I went to ivy league schools because he wanted me to get the best education /training required to rule and run the family business. The family business is seperate from the coffee shop and the new restaurant ” ,he says to her.

Ekanem looks at his handsome face as he tells her all about himself. She doesn’t doubt her love for him but the revelation of him being the heir to the throne makes her somewhat disturbed.

“Come with me to see dad”, he says to her excitedly .
“I am sorry for treating you so badly. I am not dealing with dad’s ill health very well. When I saw you with that guy after pleading with you earlier on to explain myself, I felt really hurt and betrayed. I also had to get a new female manager to run the café and restaurant in my absence “, he says to Ekanem.
[]Ekanem holds his hands while looking at him .

“Talk to me” Toks says to her with a smile that melts her heart.

“I have never met a guy as wonderful as you Toks. I don’t know if I ever will. You are my soul mate and I can boldly say that I love you”, Ekanem says to him with a soft voice.

“Aaaaw, that’s so sweet darling!” , Toks replies as he takes her into his arms.

Ekanem releases herself from his grip after some seconds.

“What’s wrong? “, Toks says to her with curiosity in his eyes.

“I don’t know how to say this Toks”, she replies .

“Say what ?” , Toks says to her .

“I don’t think this relationship will work” ,Ekanem replies.

“Are you dating someone else ?” Toks asks .

“No ! “She replies hurriedly .

“I don’t want to date someone at this age if it doesn’t lead to marriage. I have always wanted to live a simple life. I don’t think I want to be the wife of the heir to the throne. What would happen to my teaching? . My life would be in the public eye”,she says to him .

“You are kidding me”, Toks replies.

“I am very serious. I love you so much but I don’t think we shall be happy together”, she says to him.

“Let me be the judge of that” ,Toks replies and walks out on her.

Toks angrily leaves the Ekanem’s house and goes home.

Chichi comes out of her room to meet Ekanem.

“Please who is that handsome dude?” , she asks Ekanem .

“That’s the dispatch rider you told me to stay away from “Ekanem replies with sarcasm.

“He came here in an SUV, his accent, confidence and of course his goodlooks made me open the door for him” ,she says to Ekanem with a smile.

“You better not allow robbers into this house one day”, Ekanem replies .

” I am serious though, who is he? “, Chichi asks .

Ekanem narrates her history with Toks and tells her that he just walked away from her life.

Ekanem permit me to say this “you are so silly! !” , Chichi says to her.

“Hmmm, you just don’t understand me”,Ekanem replies.

“A good catch wants to take you to see his dad who is ill and you refused, do you want to stay single forever? All because you don’t want to become royalty. Are you sure that you don’t have cerebral malaria? “She says to Ekanem.

Ekanem refuses to reply Chichi .She goes into her room and forces herself to go to sleep.

She buries herself in school work. Ekanem tries unsuccessfully to push thoughts of Toks away.

After one week of not hearing from him,she accepts the dinner invitation from Kola.

” I have to move on .I know that he will never be like Toks but at least I could have a normal life with him”, she says to herself.

Ekanem puts on a beautiful emerald coloured long dress with gold accessories. Her beautiful face hardly needed any make up but she applied something light nonetheless.

She sits down beside Chichi as she waits for kola to arrive. Kola rings the bell shortly afterwards and Ekanem opens the door. They both walk towards his car. As she enters inside his car, she sees Richard driving in.

Ekanem waits for him to come out of his vehicle.

“Hi Richie! , I am on my way out with a friend”, she says to him.

“Oh okay! I will just hang out with Chichi, if that’s not a problem “he replies.

“No , it’s not an issue” Ekanem says to him and enters Kola’s car.

Richard rings the door bell .Chichi opens the door and says” oh!you just missed Ekanem. She left a few minutes ago”.

“I came to see you not her” , he replies with a smile.

“Are you sure of what you are saying?” , she says to him.
[nextpage title=”episode 14″]

Episode 14

[]”I am serious dear” , Richard says to Chichi.

They both sit down on the sofa .

“Do you have a preferred TV channel?”, Chichi says him as she picks up the remote control from the stool beside her.

“What’s that on the dining table?”, Richard asks while looking into that direction .

“Oh ! that is my ludo game. Do you remember ludo? Or are you too sophisticated to know the game?” , she says to him jokingly .

“Chichi bring that game here ! , I will show you who the master of the game is”, he replies with a mischievous smile.

After an hour of playing the game, Chichi says to him

“I need to go to the shop close by to pick some toiletries before they close for the day”.

“Don’t tell me it’s because I beat you back to back”, Richard says with a smile.

” I just allowed you to win. After all you are my guest”, she says with a charming smile on her face.

” I could escort you ,if you don’t mind”, Richard replies.

“Okay! ,you are going to carry all the bags. That’s your punishment for winning me in my own house”, she says to him in a playful manner.

“Yes madam Chichi”, he replies jokingly.

Chichi wears a comfortable foot wear and goes with Richard to the shop.

He waits for her to place the toiletries in her room before saying “I have to go home now dear.I had a great time “.

” I had fun too”, Chichi replies.

“Can I have your phone number ? “,he asks.

Chichi gives him her number as sees him off to his car.

They both say goodnight to each other and Chichi walks back into the house whistling like a love struck teenager.

Dinner turns out to be better than Ekanem expects. She enjoys her delicious meal and fine wine served in one of the best restaurants in Lagos.

Kola’s sanguine nature helped to make the outing even more interesting. He always had stories and analogies to make.

They both get into Kola’s car after dinner. As he drives her home, he says to her; “I am so glad that I agreed to the blind date. I hated the idea initially because I actually like to be in charge of things like that. I am happy that Chioma insisted “.

“Hmm ” ,Ekanem replies.

” I am like an open book Ekanem, What you see ,is what you get.I am not here to play. I like you a lot. Can you give me a chance to know you better? , he says to her.

“Okay! I actually admire your honesty, let’s just take our time to get to know each other better”, she replies.

They arrive at her house. Kola walks her to the door .He hugs her and says” I will call you before you go to bed”.

“Okay, thanks for a great evening”, she replies.

Ekanem enters her house and meets Chichi cleaning up the kitchen.

“You are welcome lover girl!” , Chichi says to Ekanem.

” I should be calling you that. For Richard to come to the house without calling me to inform me.Hmmm, is there something that you are not telling me? , Ekanem replies with a straight face.

“There is nothing going on between Richie and I”, she says in a fidgety manner.

“You know that you can always tell me when you are ready ” ,Ekanem replies .

“Forget about me for now.How about Toks? “, have you heard from him? , Chichi asks Ekanem.

“Yes ! ,he sent me a text message apologising for walking out on me. He blamed it on the emotional trauma he is currently facing” ,Ekanem replies.

“So what are you going to do now?.This guy really cares about you Eky”, Chichi says to her.

[]”I care about him Chichi”, Ekanem says to her.” The problem is that I am not sure that I want to live a life that would be under constant scrutiny, it would entail my abandoning everything I have worked so hard for all these years”, Ekanem says to her with sadness .

“Does it really matter? I think the real issue here is fear .You are so scared of giving your heart to a guy.You will both eventually figure out how you will handle your career “; Chichi replies.

“Why should I be scared?Meanwhile I am sure that Toks would be angry with me for not going with him to see his dad who is very ill”, she says to Chichi.

“It’s not too late dear , first of all, you need to stop leading that Chioma’s guy on and make effort to see the guy you really love “,Chichi replies.

” I feel terrible for not going with him. What if he doesn’t take me back?”, Ekanem says to Chichi.

“It won’t hurt to try first “,Chichi says to her.

Ekanem nods her head in agreement and goes into her room to retire for the day.

Just as she lies on the bed after taking a bath, she gets a call from Kola.

“Hi dear”, he says to her.

“Hi kola”, she replies .

” I hope you are resting? .I had a great day, thanks to you”, he says to her .

“Thank you. I was actually about to sleep before your call came in” ,she replies.

“Oh! Okay, let me allow you sleep then.Goodnight dear”, he says to her.

“Good night ” ,she replies.

Ekanem wakes up the following .She is glad that the Christmas holidays start the following day because of her plans to go in search of Toks.

As she walks towards her car after giving her last lecture for the year, she gets a call from Richard.

“Hi Ekanem! , are you free at the moment?” , he says to her .

” I am actually about to go home. I hope you are okay? ” , she replies with a soft voice.

“I will meet you at the parking lot in less than 2 minutes”, he says to her and ends the conversation.

Ekanem enters her car and scrolls through her social media messages. She wonders what Richard wants to say to her in such a hurry.

He finally gets to her car and knocks on the driver’s car window to alert her of his presence.

“Hey Richie! “, she says to him as he opens the front passenger’s seat for him to enter the vehicle.

“Hi gorgeous! .How was your day? “, he replies.

“Not bad at all ” ,she says to him.

“Ekanem what plans do you have for the holiday? “, he asks with a smile.

“I don’t have clear cut plans yet” , she replies.

“If you aren’t travelling to stay with your family, we could visit a resort close to Lagos this holiday”, he says to her.

“That sounds fun but I don’t think it’s such a good idea”, she replies.

“Why not?” , he replies.

“Richard we have been best of friends for some time now.I don’t really understand what kind of game you are playing”, she says to him.

“What game Eky? I do not understand what you are talking about”, he replies.

“You asked me out some months back and you are currently getting close to Chichi, not that it bothers me anyway. I just want to be sure that you know what you want”, she says to him.

“Do I smell jealousy in the air ? “,he replies with a mischievous smile on his face.

“Far from it Richie! “, she says to him.

“Well Ekanem if you must know. I am tired!.I am tired of watching you go out with other men. I am tired of watching you give your heart and attention to someone else when I who has been your best friend is left to scramble for the few minutes we spend together. I love you so much that it hurts.I decided to get close to your house mate to test your love for me.I thought that perhaps you would be jealous of our closeness or better still get angry when you see Chichi talking to me over the phone”, he says to her with a loud voice .

“Wow!” ,Ekanem replies with shock written all over her face.

” I guess that’s all you have to say after watching me make fool of myself”, he says to her with sadness in his eyes.

“Richie! Calm down! “, she replies.

“It’s okay Ekanem. It’s crystal clear that you can never love me” , he says to Ekanem.

” I love you as a”. ..Ekanem replies .

“As a brother, isn’t it? “, he says to her.

“Goodbye! Ekanem”, he says to her as he tries to leave the car.

Ekanem goes after him and holds his hand.

“I need you to keep being my best friend and brother .I can’t bear to loose you Richie!” , she says to him with a soft voice.
[nextpage title=”episode 15″]

Episode 15

“That is going to be difficult considering the fact that I am in love with you. Good bye Ekanem”, he says to her and walks away.

Ekanem goes back into her car and drives off. She decides to make a quick stop at the coffee shop.

She walks up to Peter with a smile on her face.

“Hi Peter, I am glad that you are the person working here today” , she says to him.

“Good evening madam!” , he replies.

“Please is Mr Tochukwu available at the moment? “, she asks.

“No ma, he has been out of town for a while. Is there a problem? “, he replies.

” I need to discuss something important with him.I don’t mind travelling to meet him because I can’t reach his phone lines “, she says to him.

“Madam I don’t have the address of his current location and even if I did, it would be wrong to divulge such a sensitive information . He calls this office once a day though”, he replies.

“Oh really! has he called today? , she asks.

“Yes ma ! He called an hour ago”, he replies.

“Does he have a specific time of calling?” , she asks.

“No ma ! , He can call by 10pm or 7am , anytime he feels like ma”,he replies.

“Peter can you copy the number he uses to call you guys? .When next I come, I’ll pick it up from you if you don’t mind ” , she says to him with a smile.

” Ah, madam I don’t mind doing that for you but the problem is that he calls with an unknown number. It’s like he doesn’t want any one to call him”, he replies Ekanem.

“Okay thanks for your help ” she says to him.

Ekanem leaves the café feeling so disappointed. She drives home and goes straight into her room.

“How am I going to find Toks?”, she says to herself. “No responsible employee would ever dream of revealing the address of their boss without permission”, she wonders in her heart .

She attempts calling Toks’s line but it’s switched off. Ekanem goes to bed after resolving in her heart to trace Toks whereabout , no matter how long it takes.

Ekanem wakes up the next morning .She makes a very brief stop at school and goes to the café afterwards.

Peter sees her as she comes into the café and smiles.

Ekanem sits on the chair and signals Peter to meet her.

“Has he called today? “She asks excitedly .

“You just missed his call ma ! ” ,he says to her.

“Did you tell him that I need to see him? “,she replies with a look of disappointment in her eyes.

“Ehmm! Madam I told him that a lady stopped by to see him but when he asked who it was, I didn’t know what to say .what is your name ma? “,he says to her.

“How could I have forgotten to introduce myself name properly. My name is Dr Ekanem Akpan. Please tell him to call me whenever he calls. I will come again tomorrow”, she replies.

“Okay ma”, he says to her.

Ekanem goes home, she contemplates talking to her mum about the situation but she changes her mind .She figures that it’s better discussed face to face.

“Chioma may not want to help me by contacting Toks’s personal assistant since I am not making all this effort for Kola. What’s the guarantee that he would tell me where Toks or his parents live? “She says to herself.

Ekanem tries her best to distract herself by watching her favourite TV series.

Chichi comes home and finds her lying down on the sofa.

“Babe go inside and sleep, I hope you are okay? ” ,she says to Ekanem.

“I will be fine once I am able to find him”, Ekanem replies.

“Find who ?” ,Chichi says to her.

” I cant reach Toks and I don’t have his house or village address “, Ekanem replies.

“This is serious.Have you asked his workers? “, she says to Ekanem.

“No luck from that angle”, Ekanem replies.

“I don’t know if this is a silly idea but I think you should just ask his workers for the name of his home town or better still check the Internet. Since his dad is a king, tracing his palace won’t be difficult”, she says to Ekanem.

“Chichi you are so smart , I will do that immediately”, she replies excitedly .

Ekanem finds an article about a traditional ruler from Nanka who bares the same surname as Tochukwu.

She hurriedly shows it to Chichi.” I have to go to Anambra state tomorrow. Have you heard of a town called Nanka before? ” ,she says to Chichi.

” I have been to Ekwulobia before and I believe that it’s close to Nanka”, she says to Ekanem.

” I hope you won’t get lost? ” , Chichi says to her .

“I am so confused Chichi. I don’t know if it’s really worth it. I have never allowed myself to be this vulnerable in the past “, Ekanem says to her.

“Follow your heart dear and try to get some sleep”,Chichi replies .

Ekanem goes back to her room .She says to herself “life isn’t meant to be this complicated Ekanem “.

She takes a cold shower and slips under her duvet.

It’s a beautiful morning. The cold harmattan breeze makes Ekanem enjoy her sleep so much that she almost forgets about Toks.

She overcomes the inertia of getting out of bed and goes to the kitchen to take a glass of water.

As she walks towards her room to plan her day, the door bell rings.

Ekanem goes to see who is at the door.

She opens the door to see a box of donuts and a cup of coffee as seen on the label.

Ekanem doesn’t see anyone around except for the snacks which was left on her front porch.

She takes the snacks inside. When she opens the box of donuts, she sees a small note which reads;

“It hurts not having you around me,I miss you everyday.Love Toks “.

Ekanem feels so sad after reading the message .She takes a quick bath and wears a casual long gown.

Just as she contemplates her next line of action, the door bell rings again.

Ekanem walks hurriedly to the door .

She sees Peter through the glass peep hole. Ekanem quickly opens the door and says “what are you doing here?”.

“My boss asked me to give you this parcel ” ,he says to her.

She says thank you to Peter and enters the house.

When she opens the parcel, she sees a note which reads “Please have dinner with me by 6pm.I will be in Lagos by 4pm today.Kindly wait for me at your house, if you can “.

She has mixed feelings about seeing him again because even though she wants to be with him,she is a bit worried about what the future holds for her if they end up together.

Ekanem relaxes in her living room .She is somewhat glad that she doesn’t have to travel all the way to Anambra .

She watches the television as she enjoys the donuts and chocolate drink Toks sent to her earlier.

Ekanem goes to the market afterwards to do some Christmas shopping.

She buys some foodstuffs needed to cook a variety of meals on that day for her friends.

It’s about 5pm. Ekanem freshens up and begins to prepare for her dinner with Toks.

She puts on a long black fitted gown and packs her hair neatly to the back. Her make up compliments her silver accessories.

At exactly 6pm, the door bell rings .Ekanem goes to the door to check whether Toks has arrived.

When she opens the door ,Toks smiles at her and says” you are so beautiful “.

“Thank you”, Ekanem replies.

“Shall we go ?”,he says to her with a smile.

They both get into his car .He puts on the cd player. Ekanem looks at him and gives a nod of approval at his choice of music.

There is silence in the car except for the music playing till they get to their destination. Ekanem knows that they have so much to talk about but decides to enjoy the moment.

Ekanem watches him with the corner of her eyes as he parks in front of a house with a waterfront.

She then moves her gaze away from him to the place he brought her to.

She admires the beautiful house which also has a lovely garden.

“Where are we?” She asks with a soft voice.
[nextpage title=”episode 16″]

Episode 16

“This is my house dear”, he says to her with a smile.

“What a lovely house you’ve got !” ,she replies as she looks at the house with admiration.

They both get down from the car. As they walk towards the front door, Ekanem looks at the beautiful outdoor Christmas decorations. The garden as well as the exterior aspect of the house are lit with white light. The pillars and the front the house are adorned with beautiful Christmas garlands.

As Ekanem approaches Toks’s front door, she notices the pre-lit ornament wreath hanging on the door .

She smiles to herself as she wonders in her heart how much time and effort Toks put into transforming his house into a fairy-tale Christmas castle.

He ushers her into his house. They both sit down on the brown sofa located in the living room.

“I am so glad that you are here .I have longed for a time like this.Welcome to my humble abode” , he says to her as he looks into Ekanem’s beautiful eyes.

” I am equally happy to see you again and please this house is far from being humble”, she replies.

“Thank you dear “, he says to her.

Ekanem smiles at him and says “how is your dad’s health? “.

“Surprisingly, with prayers and this new diet regimen that everyone is talking about recently, dad has improved greatly. He will be going to Germany to see his oncologist in January .We are hoping for the best Eky! “,he says to her with a soft voice.

“You have to keep being positive. His life is in God’s hands” ,she replies and places one hand in his to comfort him.

“It has been a very difficult period for my family .My mum is almost a shadow of herself. It’s not easy watching the love of your life suffer from such a deadly disease ” , he says to her with sadness in his eyes.

As she attempts replying him,a man walks into the living room to announce that dinner is served.

“Please join me at the dining table”, he says to Ekanem .

“Okay”, she replies as she follows him to the dining area.

They seat across each other at the dining table .The light from the beautiful crystal chandelier not only provided the necessary illumination but created a welcoming ambience.

” I asked my chef to prepare local dishes for us.I hope you don’t mind”, he says to her .

“I don’t mind at all”, she replies .

Goat meat pepper soup, local rice with ofada sauce and Ekpang nkukwo are available.

Ekanem smiles when she hears the last food option .They both settle for Ekpang nkukwo after taking a bowl of pepper soup.

They both enjoy their meal thoroughly and decide to have a slice of red velvet cake .

“Thanks for the meal, your chef certainly deserves an award”, Ekanem says to him with a smile.

They return to the living room .Ekanem sits beside him while Toks turns slightly to face her .

He looks into her eyes and smiles.

“Why are you smiling?” , Ekanem asks jokingly .

“You make me happy Ekanem that’s why “,he replies.

“Hmmm”, Ekanem says to him.

“Why did you come to the coffee shop to look for me Ekanem? “, he asks while staring into her beautiful brown eyes.

Ekanem is silent for a moment then replies with a soft voice “I just decided to find out if you had returned from your trip since I couldn’t reach you via your phone.I was worried about your dad’s health “.

Ekanem moves her gaze away from him and begins to fiddle with her phone.

Toks smiles and says “really ! Is that the only reason why you came? “.

“What do you really want from me?”,Ekanem replies as he looks into his eyes .

” I want the truth”, he says to her .

“Will it really make a difference ? “She replies hastily and stands up from the sofa.

Ekanem goes to a corner of the living room .She sees a painting which draws her attention and as she stares at the painting, Toks walks towards her.

He comes up behind her and places his right hand on her shoulder. He then whispers into her ear “Stop doing this to us “.

“Doing what ? “,Ekanem replies with a soft voice .

Toks turns her around to face him and says ” stop delaying what is inevitable Ekanem “.

“I don’t understand what you mean”, she replies .

There’s silence in the room. He looks at her with a straight face and says ” stop lying to yourself,your mouth says things which are contrary to how you feel. Your eyes say it all “.

“Hmm”, Ekanem says with a smile on her face.

“Can we go for a walk? “, Toks asks.

“Okay, I could do with some fresh air”, she replies.

He leads her through the back door towards the garden .Ekanem admires the beautiful waterfront which has a jetty on their way to the garden.

They decide to sit on the wooden garden bench in order to rest their legs.

“What a nice garden you have got here” ,Ekanem says to Toks.

“Thanks dear”, he replies.

She looks into his eyes and says” thank you for a lovely evening”.

“Thank you too. It has been great having you by my side”,he replies.

Ekanem smiles in return and places her head on his well toned arm.Toks takes her right hand in his left hand .

” I love you so much Ekanem”, he says to her with a soft voice.

Ekanem tightens the hand grip and replies “I love you too”.

” I want you to know that I would never take you for granted, I know how far you have gone in your career and how passionate you are about impacting knowledge on others.I love you too much to ask you to give up on what you have worked so hard to achieve all these years.I will never stop you from being the best you can be”, Toks says to her.

Ekanem smiles but wonders in her heart if a but would follow his statement.”Is he trying to give a reason for walking away from me?” ,she says to herself.

He gets up from his chair and stands in front of her .In less than 5 seconds, he brings out a ring from the pocket of his trouser.

“He gets down on one knee and whilst looking into her eyes he says to her ” I may not have it all figured out darling, I may not be the best man out there but one is certain, I don’t want to live without you by my side.
You brought me out of my misery when I heard that a certain lady which fit your description has been looking for me .Will you marry this guy who is crazy in love with you?” , Toks says to her with a soft voice.

Ekanem trying so hard to hold back the tears from her eyes as he spoke to her says to him with a smile on her face ,”No one has ever understood and loved me the way that you do.Yes!!! , I will marry you. I will be by your side as you face all your challenges and achieve your dreams”.

He slips the ring into her finger and takes her into his arms. “You are so beautiful Ekanem” he says to her and kisses her gently on her cold lips.
[nextpage title=”episode 17″]

Episode 17

Ekanem smiles in a shy manner when he releases her from his grip .
They spend a only a few more minutes in the garden because outside is too chilly for Ekanem.

As they walk back to the house, Toks says “I hope you like our house, are there any changes you would like ?.I want you to be comfortable whenever you are in Lagos ” .

“It’s a beautiful house. I doubt if I want to make any changes but you could take me on a brief tour of the house” ,Ekanem replies.

Toks takes her into all the rooms on the ground floor. She admires the interior decor .The neatness of house makes her impressed as well.

Just as they are about to climb the stairs to see the rooms especially the master bedroom and the study Toks spoke to her about, he takes her into his arms again and says ” I pray that someday , God willing ,this house will have kids playing everywhere .After a year of marriage though because I want you all to myself ” ,he says to her with a smile.

Ekanem laughs and says “1 year indeed when you want me all to yourself. Let’s see how it goes darling “.

Toks shows her the other rooms upstairs first before taking her to the study.

Ekanem’s jaw drops when they get to the study.” Wow! this looks like a modern study from a catalogue”, Ekanem says in excitement.

” I know how much you love to read .I got an expert in interior designing to create a a place where you would write your research papers,study and prepare your lecture notes without interruption.I wanted to show you before taking you to meet my parents earlier on” he replies .

“This is too much Toks! . I love it ! “,Ekanem says as she walks across the room.

Toks walks up to where she is and takes her into his arms.

” I am glad that you love it” he says as he looks into her eyes .

” I love you so much Tochukwu. Thank you for believing in me “, she replies with a soft voice.

“I love you more darling. I have not been able to get you out of my mind since the first day I met you at the café” , he says to her as he strokes her hair.

They both go to the master bedroom and like the rest of the house, Ekanem is thrilled by the superb decor and space .

They discuss briefly in the house and Toks takes Ekanem to her house.

There’s no sign of Chichi in the living room when they return. Ekanem goes to Chichi’s bedroom to share the good news with her but she finds her sleeping soundly on her bed.

Ekanem makes a cup of tea for Toks and herself .They sit beside each other on the sofa watching an old movie.

Ekanem rests her head on his right shoulder. They must have dozed off for a while because they are unaware of Chichi’s presence in the living room.

Chichi taps Ekanem gently on her shoulder. Ekanem smiles when she sees the mischievous smile on Chichi’s face.

Ekanem excitedly flashes her engagement ring at Chichi. Toks wakes up coincidentally and sees Chichi smiling like a Cheshire cat.

“Hi “he says to Chichi as he gets up.

“Hi prince charming ! , I hope you are not leaving on my account?”Chichi replies .

“No! I have a meeting by 7 am and it’s already 2 am”,Toks replies with a smile.

He gives Ekanem a hug and says” I will call you later okay, try and have some rest “.

“Okay dear” , she replies .

Toks leaves the house hurriedly and drives off in his car.

When Toks leaves the house, Chichi excitedly sits beside her flat mate and says” tell me everything ! . How did he propose to you? “.

Ekanem narrates everything that happened that evening /night to her friend .

“How do you feel?.How are you going to handle work? , she asks Ekanem.

” I am truly happy. I haven’t been this happy in a long while. As for the job issue, it shouldn’t be so difficult getting a university in Tok’s state to lecture in if we have to relocate eventually. I guess we shall cross the bridge when we get there ” ,she replies Chichi.

“That’s the spirit my dear. I am so excited and happy for you”, Chichi says to her .

The holidays end on a good note. Toks takes Ekanem to meet his parents briefly before going to Abuja to declare his marriage intention to Ekanem’s family. Both sides of the family are happy about the engagement.

They both decide that August would be a perfect time for the wedding in order to allow the two families prepare sufficiently for it.

Ekanem goes to work when school starts. She finishes early and decides to spend some time with Toks in his restaurant before going home .

As she starts the ignition, she hears a knock on her car window. She turns to her left side to see Richard trying to get her attention. Ekanem winds down the window and smiles.

“Happy new year Eky! “He says to her with a smile.

“Hi Richie! Happy new year. Sorry for not calling you back. It was a very hectic holiday “, she replies.

“You look great as usual “he says to her. As he looks at her with admiration ,he sees the engagement on her finger.

“That’s a beautiful ring you are wearing” ,he says with a straight face.

“Thank you. We need to talk Richie.Please come inside the car” ,she replies .

“Talk about what ?” ,he asks .

” I am getting married soon. I wanted to inform you in person that’s why I didn’t tell you earlier over the phone ” ,she says to him.

“Hmm! ” he says to her with sadness in his eyes.

“Yeah”, she replies .

“Congrats, I am sure that you told me because I saw your ring” ,he says to her.

“Don’t say that Richie! .You are my friend” , she replies.

” A friend that you refused to date. It’s okay anyway . I am happy for you”,he says to her.

“Thank you”, she replies.

“He is one lucky guy. I must confess that it’s a heavy blow .Letting go of you will probably be one of the most difficult things for me to do. Watching my best friend get married to another man is definitely heartbreaking .Nevertheless, I want you to be happy. Congratulations Eky! ,he says to her.

” I know that someday, you will meet that special lady that will make you forget me completely. Don’t be a stranger Richie”, she replies.

Ekanem and Richard discuss briefly before saying goodbye to each other.

It’s a few days to Ekanem’s church wedding ceremony .The excitement in the air is almost palpable.The traditional wedding which took place at her father’s house a month earlier was very successful.

Both families hope that the white wedding ceremony which is to take place in the King’s palace would be equally grand despite the recent deterioration of Tochukwu’s father’s health.
[nextpage title=”episode 18 the last”]

Episode 18

:
[]It is Ekanem’s big day. She wakes up feeling so excited because she is finally getting married to the man of her dreams.

She takes a cold bath and reflects on her life’s journey so far.Ekanem smiles to herself when she remembers how she met her husband to be.

She gets out of the bathroom and prepares for the wedding ceremony. Some of her close friends and family members are lodged in the same hotel as her making it easy for some to pop in to check on the bride to be.

Chichi ,her maid of honour, acts as both personal assistant and personal security. She takes it upon herself to screen some unfamiliar guests much to the displeasure of some guests.

Ekanem finally gets dressed in her beautiful wedding dress which accentuates her curves.Her make up is flawless. Her hair is neatly packed in a simple manner and she puts on her lace and pearl embroidered cathedral length veil.

Chichi hands her a bouquet of fresh flowers which was delivered earlier on by Toks’s driver.

Ekanem collects it from Chichi and smiles when she sees the gorgeous flowers. She also notices a small white note tucked in the centre of the bouquet.

Ekanem opens the note and reads it ; “May our love be as fresh and as beautiful as this flowers my darling. See you soon my love” .She closes her eyes and says “Amen ” in her heart.

The ride to the church is fun as Ekanem and her bridesmaids discuss .Chichi’s interesting tales keep them entertained till they get to the church.

They get down from the car hurriedly since they are almost late for mass .Toks is already in the church waiting for his bride to arrive.

Ekanem’s parents approach her just outside the church and give her a warm hug.

“You look so beautiful my baby girl”, Ekanem’s mum says to her.

“Mummy! , I am no longer a baby. I am a married woman”, she replies with a smile .

“You will always be my baby girl. I love you”, Mrs Akpan says to her daughter .

“We love you”, Ekanem’s dad says to Ekanem .

Ekanem’s mum enters the church to join Toks’s parents as well as the other guests.

Ekanem and her dad dance to one of the melodious church choruses as he walks her down the aisle. Tochukwu smiles with admiration as his lovely bride approaches him.

The exchange of vows is so heartwarming as Toks’s self written vows almost move Ekanem to tears .They are finally pronounced husband and wife. Toks takes Ekanem into his arms and kisses her gently but passionately on her lips.

Ekanem smiles in a shy manner when he releases her from his grip .Some of the wedding guests clap for them ,a few approch them at the alter to congratulate them ,while some take pictures of the latest couple in Anambra state.

The wedding reception is at Toks’s family compound.It’s an evening reception ceremony. There’s so much space in the compound that it’s able to take a large movable marquee tent.

Ekanem changes into a glamorous dress and dances with Toks into the guest filled marquee. Lots of important dignitaries and some celebrities are in attendance.

The Master of ceremonies does a superb job of anchoring the wedding reception. He asks the couple to have their first dance.

Toks and Ekanem walks to the dance floor and as the slow but extremely emotional song plays, Toks takes Ekanem into his arms .They both dance to the slow rhythm of the song.

Toks whispers into his wife’s ears”thank you for being friends with me ;the coffee maker .I love you so much babe!”.

” I love you too and I will always be by your side. You bring out the best in me”,she replies.

They ignore the crowd, all they see and all that matters to them at that point is each other until the music fades.

The end…

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