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Online RomanceEpisode 04.

Olanike face flashed through my thoughts that instant, I beheld her smile, the smile that attracted me to her in the first place. Did I really want to forsake my feelings for her? Despite all Tricia had to offer, Ola still had a place in my heart.
‘Are you there?’ Tricia demanded, her voice assuming a teary tone. I was used to that tone; she used it whenever she felt I wasn’t giving her all my time during a call.
‘Yes, I heard you,’ I replied, still unable to erase Olanike’s face from my mind.
‘My dad met us there and gave you the keys to a Sports Utility Vehicle; with that he welcomed you into the family.’
I could feel my head spinning. I, who was yet to learn how to drive, who had informed a friend only the previous day that I would want him to teach me how to drive; was she saying I potentially stood the chance of receiving a car gift? The image of Olanike was no longer as vivid as before, some SUV images were struggling to displace it.
‘Are you there?’ She asked, forcing me back to reality.
‘Yea, that was a nice dream,’ I pronounced slowly. The sleep was beginning to clear off my eyes.
‘You sound like you would reject it if you were offered a car gift?’
‘I won’t,’ I replied sincerely, ‘it will be a pleasure.’
‘Good, that’s why I love you.’

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I hummed a response, remembering Ola. Was I prepared to forgo her forever? Did I really know Tricia so well as to sacrifice my love for Ola on the altar of material and financial inducements? Was I prepared to go the entire haul with the ex-Senator’s daughter? Ivie would be highly disappointed. I had pushed her on many an occasion to make entreaties to Ola on my behalf, how would she feel when she finally discovered that I had forsaken Olanike for Tricia?
But I hadn’t considered these all along, why were those thoughts suddenly coming in.
‘I would like us to meet today; my parents will be attending a wedding in Port Harcourt today. Their flight should take off by 9.00 a.m.’
Just like that? I thought. This was a lady I had requested to meet on many previous occasions. Now that the doubts were beginning to arise in my mind, she wanted us to meet?
‘Are you there?’ She asked again.
‘Yes, I am,’ I managed to say, the thoughts were making speech difficult.
‘I’m not even sure you want to see me?’

The accusation was partially true. I had gradually adapted to the anonymity of our relationship. Meeting her would change that, and the doubts were setting in: What if she didn’t like me at close range? What if she was taller than I was? What if her actions were in defiance of her dad and his informants discovered us and informed him? There were so many unanswered questions in my mind, and there was only one way to get the answers, going out there to meet her.
‘Why won’t I want to see you? Of course, I want to,’ I affirmed.
‘Nice, dear,’ she said. I could perceive her smile from her voice. ‘Let’s meet at Grassland Chops by 9 A.M. Hope you know the place?’
I did, but also knew it was a place for the high and mighty. A friend of mine who was taken there by his overseas based uncle had once told me that the price of a single dish in Grassland Chops could make a meal for his entire family of six. He could be exaggerating, I knew, but the assertion couldn’t be far from the truth. I told her that I knew it.
‘Good, tell any waiter you see that Tricia expects you.’
Was she so popular? So popular that that every waiter at Grassland Chops knew her by name? I would find out. I only hoped not to appear foolish while doing so.

‘That’s okay,’ I told her. ‘Expect me there by nine.’ I was about to end the call when her voice came up.
‘You are wondering how the waiters will know me in the midst of other customers, right?’
How did she know what I was thinking? Was my tone so readable? I admitted to her claim.
‘You don’t know that Grassland Chops belongs to my dad?’
‘Wow!’ I mouthed, checking myself too late.
‘Yea, and there are two other branches in Lagos and Port Harcourt. That’s why I’m studying Hospitality Management, so I could take over their management after graduation.’
I had been blown away a long time already, but she was now capping it off. So Tricia was going to be in charge of such a large fortune?!
‘So, 9 A.M. it is, right?’
‘Yea, 9 A.M.’ I knew my efforts to mask the enthusiasm in my voice had once again failed, but who could blame me?
I didn’t dare end the call this time. In fact, the phone was still on my ears five minutes after she had ended the call. I was just too blown away. It was Eseosa’s sudden barge into my room that brought me back to reality.
‘What is it?’ I demanded, sitting up with a start.
‘Daddy said I should call you.’ She moved out before I could scold her for entering my room without knocking. I had warned her about it several times, but she obviously wasn’t listening.
I went to the sitting room to meet my dad’s scowling face. He stood, hands akimbo.
‘What sort of call was that, that spanned so long?’
I hoped my dad had not eavesdropped on our conversation. He was used to making short, mostly medically related calls, which were straight to the point. Was he expecting everyone else to be like him? My mum, who was setting the table, looked up briefly and continued with her task.
‘Well, I’ll be attending a meeting of the N.M.A today and would want the SUV clean. I want that done as soon as possible.’
‘Yes, sir,’ I said and went to the store room for a bucket and detergent.
My dad’s SUV was used only when he had to attend meetings of the National Medical Association and when we were going to church on Sundays. On other days, it was parked beside the other car, a Peugeot 504, covered in tarpaulin.
I knew he would be out of the house before 8.30 A.M. My mum didn’t go to work in the weekends, but she was rarely an impediment when I had to leave the house. Unlike my dad who would want to know where I was going to, what I was going for and when I would be back, my mum would only tell me to come back soon. She was a bit more inquisitive when Ivie was involved, but that was probably because she was a lady. I wished the strike will soon be called off.

I made for the bathroom immediately I was through with the car; I wanted to be ready as soon as possible. My phone rang as I entered my room, it was Olanike.
‘I am very busy now, please,’ I said before she could utter a word, ‘can you call me back in three hours’ time?’
‘It’s okay,’ she sulked and wanted to add something else when I ended the call. I felt bad, treating her that way, but who wouldn’t, considering what Tricia had to offer?
I dressed up quickly and went to take my breakfast – a meal of boiled yam and eggs sauce. My dad left for the meeting while I was still eating, I had thirty five minutes to spare. Ivie joined me on the table. She had taken her bath too, having entered the bathroom immediately after my exit. She made a joke about my early bath, which was unusual since the strike began, and tried to pry out the reason from me. I was alert to her antics; they weren’t going to work that morning.

My mum was in the bedroom when I took my leave. Eseosa and Ivie were watching a film on television which, though engrossing, didn’t stop Eseosa from inquiring about my destination. I ignored her initially, but had to strongly rebuke her when her enquiry became louder. I hurried out before my mum would come out, I didn’t want to explain myself to anyone at all.
I was at the gates to Grassland Chops twelve minutes later. The security men observed me suspiciously before letting me in. They, probably, weren’t used to guys arriving on foot. The only persons I saw on the tarred road from the gate to the entrance, trekking like me, were ladies. One of them was making a call to her companion who was already inside the restaurant, informing him that she had just arrived. I brought out my phone from my hip pocket and called Tricia too. She received the call at its first ring.
‘Where are you?’ She spoke first.
‘Inside Grassland Chops,’ I replied.
‘It’s okay; just tell any waiter you meet to lead you to Tricia.’
‘Alright,’ I said and ended the call. I didn’t like her haughty tone. She didn’t sound like she was excited by my presence.

Two cars glided past me, one’s number plate had green letterings indicating that it was a government owned car. Their glasses were tinted and up, I was sure they didn’t know how intense the morning sun was.
A huge black man and a short fair lady emerged just as I got to the glass entrance door. She was holding a cup of ice cream, and was playfully trying to feed the man from it, oblivious of being under the glare of the public.
‘Stop, baby, stop,’ said the man with a deep voice, pausing at the doorway.
‘Oh no, you must taste it and now,’ she insisted, lifting the spoon up to his lips again. He opened his mouth briefly, allowing her to slip the spoon between his lips. ‘That’s better, you are a darling.’
He grunted a reply and resumed movement again. She chattered excitedly after him. I went past the door, nodding at the doorman. He regarded me with an air of condescension; was my class so written all over me? A whole me, the son of a doctor! A waitress approached me once I was inside the hall, her smile seemed genuine, not like the condescending ones I had been receiving from the gate. She had a dimple on her right cheek which came on once she smiled. She was beautiful.
‘You are welcome, sir; please, over here,’ she said, leading me to a set of empty tables.
We had almost gotten to the closest one when I found my voice. ‘Please, I’m here to see Tricia.’
‘Oh, you mean the boss herself?’ Her voice was now almost a whisper.
‘I mean Tricia Ogbemudia.’
‘Okay, please hold on a minute.’ She approached another waiter and exchanged whispers with him. He glanced in my direction before meeting a third waiter who smiled and approached me.

To Be Continued… . . . .

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