“I am not an angel,” I asserted; “and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself.” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre.
Reginald swung into the slowly swarming Ahmadu Bello way, his lips compressed in a grim line.
Tough-skinned career-focused-straight-to-the-top-of-the-ladder workaholic women like Ms Alexandra rattled his teeth.
They were like armadillo lizards – hard, thorny and doggedly defensive. They traipsed the business world in a fierce spirit of competitiveness, contending with their male counterparts with tenacious determination to outdo him instead of being at home making a home and a hearth for him.
He sighed in self-derision at the being at home part. He didn’t really care for the sit-at-home-homemaker kind of woman. If anything, he preferred a woman with a little ambition and a career.
Problem was women like Alexandra Iguodaro had way-too-much ambition. Their go-getting, single-minded drive was such that they lose their femininity and end up remorselessly calculating like the men they compete and work with.
To be fair, Alexandra had been pushed into the competitive world of advertising by an over-indulging father, who believed that it was time for his only child to take over the hems of affair of a first-rate advertising firm.
And again to be fair, since she’d taken over three years ago, Raven Heights has risen to become one of the two paramount advertising firms in Nigeria. Of course the other was his company, Silver Lining. Which undeniably made them rivals.
He didn’t mind the rivalry, or even the fact that his arch-rival was a woman. Truth be told, he found Alexandra Iguodaro an admirable business rival. She was after all quite pretty with her well-packaged, nicely-toned build; had a brilliant mind and was in fact a dedicated advertising guru.
It was just that he was a traditional male. Not a cave man… just traditional. He believed a woman should be female – soft, harmonious, tender and accessible. Have a career, yet be content and happy in her femininity.
He preferred his women to be like… Ama.
His grim lips curved into a smile as he glided down the Third Mainland bridge. Now Ama was a real woman. She was his epitome of true femininity, of real womanliness.
He’d known her the better part of his life. Their fathers ran in the same business circle and their mothers related well enough. He’d even schooled with her eldest brother at the Stanford School of Business. Of course then, she’d just been a gangly looking cute girl and he hadn’t really paid attention.
But his attention had been caught some six years ago when he’d driven his lady-love at that time, to a dressmaker’s shop. The dressmaker had turned out to be Ama. And he’d been shocked to find that she had turned into this curvy length of amazing loveliness.
He’d wanted her from the very instant he’d set his eyes on her then. And of course he’d gone after her. But he was soon to realise that she was one of those no-sex-until-marriage kind of girls, and she was the real deal – all untouched and chaste.
Much as he’d wanted to make her solely his, he hadn’t been prepared to trade in his freedom then and since he still had blood flowing in his veins, he’d had to let her go and they’d become friends instead.
That was until two years ago when unable to bear the thought of another man having her, he’d asked that they try again as a couple. But that hadn’t worked out either. Much as he’d tried his damndest to be an attentive, faithful partner… the temptations out there had been greater.
So after failing again and again and realising that she deserved better than a workaholic never-has-enough-time unfaithful partner, he’d broken off with her again and once again they’d reverted to the just-friends mode. And they’d been in that zone for the last eight months.
But all that would be changing tonight, he thought with a smile as he made his way straight down towards his Magodo Estate home. He was ready now. He’s done sowing his royal oaths and he was prepared to wear the eternal noose, by walking down the aisle with Ama.
He thought of the silver box in the breast-pocket of his dark gray blazer and smiled. He’d carefully planned their dinner tonight at the Southern Sun knowing it was going to be a special night. Tonight he’ll make both their dreams come true.
He honked the horn of his car and waited patiently as the gates was drawn open by his gate man. Seeing Ama’s N-Box minivan in the driveway had his smile going wider – so she couldn’t wait for him to come pick her up.
He parked the car quickly, got down and practically jogged to the front door of his three-bedroom fully-detached house.
The door slid open even as he reached it.
“Welcome sir.” His man-of-all-work housekeeper, Kwame greeted taking his black briefcase. “Aunty Ama is here.” He added allowing to him step in before he pushed close the door.
“I know, Kwame. I saw her car outside.” He brushed past him into the living room.
Amarachi Ekwenem rose to her feet, a contrast glowing fairness in the light-gray painted room with its dark chocolate-brown sofas.
The violet floral print dress she had on was nicely filled out by a breathtaking curvaceous, flawless body. Her dark-brown innocent wide eyes smiled now at Reginald as he strolled into the room.
“Good evening, Regie.” She greeted shimmering light-pink lips curved in a smile.
“Hey you, couldn’t you wait for me to come pick you up?” Reginald asked with a teasing smile, drawing her into his arms in a hug.
The seductive scent of her perfume whiffed past his nose as he pushed back to give her a peck on the cheek. Much as he’d like to do more, he knew Ama went all defensive whenever he became… passionate.
“Not that you are not looking gorgeous… as usual.” He continued taking in her simple yet beautiful look in the print dress he knew she’d designed. “But I was hoping to see something a little more glamorous for our dinner date.”
Ama slipped back into the three-seater sofa. “Sorry if I pre-empted our date.” She apologised angling her dark curly head to the left. “But I need to talk with you.”
He lowered his body into the space beside her. “Really? Something we couldn’t discuss over dinner?”
“Something I’d rather discuss with you here.”
He saw the quiet apprehension in her eyes.
“What is it?” His forehead furrowed in a frown. “Is something wrong? Is it about the Mira Daniels wedding contract? Don’t tell me she cancelled on you… God knows that these celebrity types can be a little more than whimsical.”
Ama shook her head. “No, it’s not about Mira… I still have the wedding contract. At least nothing was changed when we spoke this afternoon.”
The frown on his forehead deepened. “So… what’s got you spooked?”
Amarachi looked away from his intense inquisitive stare. She was a woman who lived in horror of confrontations and face-offs. And though this shouldn’t result in one, something told her it wasn’t going to be a pat-on-the-back situation either once she told him. And she had to tell him.
Taking a calming breath, she ventured in her quiet voice. “You do remember Kenneth?”
Kenneth? Reginald mulled over the name. “Oh, the Photographer?”
She stilled the desire to explain that Ken was much more than just a photographer. “I’m glad to know you remembered him.” She said instead smiling teasingly.
He shrugged. “Vaguely really. What about him?”
A thought struck him. Ama had been working with the photographer for design photos for her website and fashion magazine.
“Has he been giving you trouble?” He queried. “Breaking his contract with you?” The knight in shining armour glowered within him. “Just tell me what he’s done and I …”
“No! He hasn’t done anything… wrong.”
“Has he been …”
“Regie,” Ama raised her eyes to his and held them there. “I came here this evening because I wanted to tell you… to let you know in person that I’ve fallen in love with him.”
Reginald stared at her. “With…”
“Kenneth. I am in love with Ken.”
She sighed, here comes the no-pat-on-the-back part.
“Regie, I told you about him… I’ve been telling you about him for some time now.”
“You told me you’d hired him to work on the website photos with you.” He growled his eyes dark with accusation.
“We’ve been going out for the last four months and I did tell you about it.”
“He’s a photographer, so I thought you were busy working with him, not falling in love with him.” He flung at her rising angrily to his feet. “Jesus! Ama, he’s a fucking photographer.”
“He’s not just a photographer. He’s a renowned professional photographer, videographer and runs his very own Event’s centre.” She defended hotly swinging to her feet too.
“Halleluiah! The man has a career, my bad.” He gave a mocking bow. “You’ve known him, what – two months and you think you are in love with him?”
“I’ve known him about five months now… and longevity is not the issue here. It doesn’t matter if I’ve known him, five months or five days… I love him.”
“Love?” Reginald scoffed. “You think love is some heady rush of emotions that hit you unexpectedly and take your breath away?”
Ama looked into the furious dark eyes and her lips curved in a tender smile. “Yes, I do. He looks into my eyes and really… takes my breath away.”
He stared at her in stupefaction. “What about us, Ama? Aren’t we supposed to be in a relationship?”
“Are we, Reginald?” Her dark-brown eyes held his in an unflinching stare. “You broke up our relationship for the second time eight months ago, remember?”
“And that gave you the right to… to… fall in love with the next guy you met?”
“If my memory serves me right, you’ve been with at least three women in those eight months.” Ama said quietly.
“Yes, but …”
Her arched eyebrow cut short that particular argument. So he tried another route.
“Five months is too short to know if you are in love, Ama.”
She sighed. “I’m twenty-nine, not nineteen, Regie.”
“And it is not an age factor either. Thinking they are in love makes the smartest people act stupid.” He argued. “Ama, if you think that I am going to allow some camera-wheedling photographer take advantage of your innocence …”
“He’s not taking advantage of my innocence.”
His eyes narrowed. “Have you… slept with him?”
“Reginald! Of course not!” Her eyes flashed with reproof. “You know my stand on that.”
A flood of relief rushed through his body. At least the bagger hadn’t yet touched what was his.
Striving to be rational, he said took a deep breath in. “Ama, I know I haven’t really been attentive these past few months and I …”
“This isn’t about you, Regie.” Ama cut, her voice a low and gentle. “This is about me. I’m in love, Regie. I’m in love with Kenneth.”
Her dark eyes lightened with a beguiling smile. “And I am really hoping, you’ll come to be happy for me… in time.”
Leaning closer, she gave him a light kiss on his left cheek. Then swinging by the centre-table, she picked up her rose-coloured clutch purse, walked to the door, opened it and stepped out.
Reginald watched, mouth agape as she drew the door shut. Listened to the clicking sounds of her heels resounding on the pavement. Then followed by the low, humming sound of her car receding into the night.
Only then did he drop back into the sofa. His dark eyes wide with disbelief as the events of the evening reeled through his mind.
“Damn you Kenneth fucking whatever!” He cursed throwing the burgundy sofa pillow.
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