There is a mixture of disbelief and outrage in the boardroom, and I lower my head to the note pad on my legs, pretending to read the barely decipherable gibberish I have been writing for the past twenty minutes. I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that my nicely concluded plans were about to be frustrated. Libel suit?
"Are these jokers serious?" Doctor Ignatius says, his eyes bulging out of their sockets. "They are suing us for what?"
I look up just as Mr. Awwal begins to shake his head, an amused smile on his oblong face.
"For libel," he says, stopping his head shaking to look at the rest of the room. "Imagine!"
"They want to throw us off balance," Mr. Sunday says, pulling out a brown handkerchief from the breast pocket of his white native attire to wipe the sweat on his face. His action makes me remember how hot the room has suddenly become. I pick up my note pan and begin to fan myself vigorously.
The riffling of papers as they provide the much needed air draws undue attention to me and my hands slow down until the notepad returns to my lap. I release a grateful smile when the men return to their discussion.
"We have to do something about this."
Doctor Ignatius turns to the speaker, a tall heavy set man with a nasal voice.
"And what do you suggest we do?"
The editor appears to think, a frown on his face and then shakes his head.
"I don't know."
Mr. Sunday sighs, leans back in his chair and crosses his arms.
"To think I was mentioned specifically,” he says with a bemused smile.
“Oh...they always need a scapegoat,” Doctor Ignatius says, still looking angry.
“They are just doing this to save face.”
“I agree,” Mr. Sunday says, a grave expression on his face now.
The meeting soon comes to an end and the men trudge out one after the other, speaking in hushed tones. I follow Mr. Sunday back to his office. Standing nervously beside the visitor’s chair, I watch as he sits down in his chair, a weary sigh escaping his parted lips.
“Is there anything else you want me to do for you sir?”
Mr. Sunday shakes his head and looks behind him. Standing up from his chair, he walks to the window behind his desk where his hands snake past the bars of the bulgary proof and lands flat on the window to push it further than it already is.
“The heat in this town is oppressive. If only it could rain tonight.”
I remind Mr. Sunday about the announcement by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency that riverine states would experience floods.
“So I guess this means the rains would be coming soon.”
Mr. Sunday nods, and then shrugs at the same time as he returns back to his chair.
The office becomes quiet and Mr. Sunday fiddles with his phone, a downcast look on his face.
“Why did the suit mention you sir?”
A bitter smile appears on Mr. Sunday’s face.
“I got that honour from being the arrowhead of the investigation.”
“But you had the backing of the paper.”
“They don’t care about that.”
“Maybe Doctor Ignatius will do something.”
Mr. Sunday shrugs again. “Who knows?”
I shift my weight to my right leg, and place a hand on the top of the visitor’s chair.
“I am sorry sir.”
Mr. Sunday gives me a wan smile. “Thank you dear.”
Heaving my bag to my shoulder, I tell Mr. Sunday that I am leaving for the day. He nods his goodbye and tells me not to bother coming to the Compatriot tomorrow. I want to ask why but he is back to fiddling with his phone.
I nod, and turn on my heel to walk to the door. “Okay sir.”
Downstairs there is very little activity going on as a lone customer stands beside one of the stalls, head thrown back as he empties the contents of a 50cl bottle of coke. The sun is blistering hot and I immediately regret my black long sleeved shirt with white cuffs. I am lucky to find a taxi after two minutes of standing under the sun.
We agree on a price and I quickly jump into the back of the taxi in relief. I call Lydia to find out if she is already on her way to the apartment, but she whispers that she is still at the construction company where she has gone to look for a job as a Personal Assistant to the Managing Director.
“Don’t worry. I will call you when I get there.”
I dictate the address to her again just to make sure she has it right. Tucking my phone into my bag, I sit back and think about the situation at the Compatriot. I had been hoping for an end to the mint case, but instead things had gone from bad to worse. I do not know much about the libel suit, but I remember Doctor Ignatius mention Ladi’s uncle at the beginning of the meeting.
“Does Ladi know about this case?” I wonder aloud. The curious eyes of the taxi driver narrow at me from the rear view mirror, and I look away in embarrassment. I will ask him.
After only ten minutes of driving, we run into traffic on the road beside the Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua Center. The taxi begins to feel stuffy as we slow down into a crawl behind other vehicles. I grab the horse shoe shaped window handle on the door closest to me and roll down the glass before repeating the action with the other window.
There is little improvement as scorching heat finds its way into the taxi. I search my bag for anything I can convert to a hand fan, and come off with a piece of paper that has fallen off my note pad. I shake the paper before my face, trying to get as much air as I can. Soon we begin to move again and I breathe a sigh of relief, but we haven't gone far when I begin to feel nauseous. I put my face against the wall of breeze forming against the open window and take huge gulps of air as the taxi speeds along now. The feeling gradually subsides.
The taxi finally pulls in front the gate of the apartment. I pay the driver and hurry inside, almost bumping into one of the security guards who mutters a quiet sorry as he side steps to let me pass. I nod at him and make my way into the building.
In the apartment, I turn on the air conditioner in the living room, stand behind Ladi's sofa, and try to overcome the second wave of nausea as it hits me, but my stomach revolts and I dash to the guest room.
After minutes of kneeling beside the toilet bowl, I stand up on weak legs, flush down the floating remnants of the cereal I had for breakfast this morning and walk to the bathroom sink. Twisting the cold water faucet open, I cup my hands together under sparkling cool water and splash my face with it.
Seconds later, I am done with the splashing, and stand peering into the mirror at the clear whites of my eyes, checking for anomalies. When I see nothing there to explain my sudden illness, I leave the bathroom and head for the bedroom. I unzip the bag I had flung carelessly in my haste to the bathroom minutes before and bring out my blackberry which I place on the bed. Struggling with the numerous small buttons on my shirt, I walk to the wardrobe and pull it open.
"I need new clothes," I whisper to myself as I stand looking at the clothes hanging from the polished wooden rail and the neatly folded tops, skirts and shorts sitting on the shelf beneath it. Still standing before the wardrobe, I shrug out of my shirt before unbuttoning my jeans to step out of them.
I run my fingers over the soft fabric of the folded tops until they settle on one of my favorites, a pale pink chemise with a heart shaped lace neckline that plunged to show my cleavage every time I wore it. Picking a short black miniskirt to go with it, I walk back to the bathroom for a quick shower. It has been ten minutes since I got back to the apartment. Lydia will soon be here.
My uncle is not quite finished with the story of his meeting with the Vice President. I listen with exaggerated interest and pray that Barrister Ogida delayed his call for some minutes. I don’t want my uncle asking questions.
“You know they are completely fixated on 2015, with the merger of the other parties and all.”
I nod slowly. “I hear ACP has been having meetings.”
“Oh...they can hold conferences all week for all we care,” my uncle says with a dismissive wave. “We have the structures in place to defeat them.”
I am surprised uncle Hassan’s use of the word ‘we’. This is the first time he is admitting to be part of the ruling party. The businessman had been replaced by the politician. I begin to wonder how much of this man I know.
“So PCP has nothing to fear?”
“Nothing at all,” my uncle says, a note of conviction in his voice. “It is all the same thing Ladi. Two faces of the same coin. Everybody just wants their turn.”
I forget about my lawyer for a minute and this time, my interest in genuine.
“You sound so confident uncle,” I say with a laugh. “The news suggests that ACP is growing stronger by the minute.”
“Propaganda,” Uncle Hassan says, giving me another dismissive wave. “It is all to convince the masses that they are gaining ground when in fact nothing is happening.”
“We know these things Ladi. We know these people.”
“Politics is also a game of the mind. It is a bit like chess," my uncle says, adjusting the folds of his navy blue Babanriga. “Anyway, the Vice President asked of you. He seems to like you.”
I smile at my uncle while my mind revisits the meeting with the Vice President to find what I could have done to earn the man’s admiration. Seconds later, my mind gives me an answer. Nothing.
“He has been helpful so far. I am glad his relationship with the president has gotten better.”
“What happened between them in the first place?”
“Oh...it’s all politics. You know the same thing that happened to the former president when some people begged his Vice to contest against him.”
“But now there is peace in spite the small issues here and there. Things are actually better than what the media reports,” my uncle says, a glint in his eyes as he taps his temple with his finger. “game of the mind.”
I decide to make my surprise known to my uncle.
“I never thought PCP was your party.”
“Well it is,” my uncle says with a smile, unaffected by my surprise.
Looking at the square face of his gold wristwatch, my uncle expresses surprise at how fast the time has gone.
“I better return to my office to prepare for my meeting at the villa,” he says, placing both hands on the side of the chair and pulling to his feet. “The president has some things to sort out with governor Aminu.”
My uncle pauses as he rises to his feet and gathers the long arm of his Babanriga over his shoulder. “Some of us...” he says, a look of annoyance on his face as he shakes his head and turns to the door.
I watch him wrap his right hand around the door handle, but just before he pushes it down, he turns to look at me again.
“I was going to ask you a question a few minutes ago, but the discussion about the Vice President distracted me. My lawyer claims to have received a call from me some days back.”
Keeping my face blank, I try to come up with a believable story. Knowing my uncle, the dots have been connected and the only way to survive his quick mind is to tailor the truth to fit with what he already knows.
“I made the call in error. That was the day you asked me to drop the keys in your office.”
“Hmmm,” my uncle says with a smile. “Okay...”
The inflection in his voice means I have not convinced him yet.
“I took the liberty to call a friend while I was there.”
At my uncle’s nod, I take another gamble.
“I was going to dial his number but I hit the redial button by mistake.”
My uncle nods. "I had spoken to the man that evening. When he told me, I knew it had to be a mistake.”
Uncle Hassan steps through the open door and into the passage where I spy my secretary sitting straighter and pushing her face into her computer monitor.
“Anyway, have a good day,” he says with a nod. “I will see you when I get back.”
I release a sigh of relief and lean back in my chair when the door closes.
“That was close,” I tell the ceiling, reaching to release the top button of my shirt. “I need to step back from this whole thing.”
Uncle Hassan had pretty much admitted to be in business with the government. There was no need playing detective. The knowledge that I had come close to being discovered made me uncomfortable. I pick my phone beside the black keyboard of my computer and dial Barrister Ogida’s number.
“I was just about to call you...”
“I spoke with a lawyer working with your uncle’s lawyer...were you about to say something?”
Now in the firm grasp of curiousity, I shake my head.
“No, please go on.”
“Well, it turns out they have served the papers to the Compatriot this morning. I managed to get a copy of the papers. Great, right?”
“Yes,” I say in a dry tone, losing interest again.
“And you know the best part?”
“I managed to cajole one of my guys at CAC to help with copies of the Billami particulars.”
“You should pay me for all this hard work,” my lawyer says, releasing a loud cackle.
“I pay you enough.”
“Yes, but you know how hard the country can be, Mr. Ladi.”
I massage the back of my neck, feeling my migraine return.
“You drive an Audi,” I remind my lawyer with a sigh. “Your life is not hard.”
My lawyer releases another laugh. I hold my phone away to save my ears, but I hear him promise to bring the papers to my office in a few hours.
“Great, thank you Barrister.”
Leaning back in my chair, I shut out the day’s events and hold on to a picture of Arisha's smiling face in my mind until my migraine finally subsides.
Lydia looks around the apartment in awe, opening doors and staring into the kitchen and guest room. I manage to keep her out of Ladi’s room.
“He has taste,” she says, returning to the sofa and accepting the can of Coke I hand to her.
I return to the kitchen to check the rice boiling on one of the gas burners. I find a small amount of water sitting on the rice, and return back to the living room and take Ladi’s favourite sofa.
“So how did the interview go?”
“It went well,” Lydia says with a shrug as she drinks from the can in her hand. “The company is a small one, so I guess there won’t be too much to do.”
“Stop running from work,” I chide with a laugh. “Lazy girl.”
Lydia makes a face. “I hate stress jor.”
“So, where is he?”
“He is at work.”
“Hmmm,” Lydia says with a smile. “I swear you sound like a happily married house wife.”
“Yeah right,” I say with a laugh.
“So how did your day go?”
“The Compatriot got served with papers.”
“Papers?” Lydia asks, a look of confusion on her face. “What papers?”
“Who is suing them?”
“I didn’t see the papers, but I think it was the people involved in the mint case.”
“Wahala,” Lydia says with a sigh. “Can’t they just ask for an apology? There is no money at the Compatriot.”
I shrug and sigh. “I feel bad for Mr. Sunday.”
“Why? Is he the owner of the Compatriot?” Lydia says, a sarcastic smile playing on her lips.
“He was actually mentioned. I think they joined the Compatriot as a co-defendant.”
“Ewo!” Lydia exclaims, eyes wide open. “Why him?”
“He was the one who got most of the information about the case.”
“The people suing the Compatriot...how were they able to know about his involvement?”
“Maybe there is an informant at the Compatriot,” Lydia says, shaking her head. “You can’t trust anyone these days.”
I nod in agreement. “True.”
“Anyway, let us leave depressing stories for now. So what’s up? You said you wanted to talk about something.”
I pause for some seconds as I remember my early morning examination of my body in the bathroom.
“I feel weird.”
Lydia raises one eyebrow at me. “Weird? Why?”
I wave a hand across my chest. “They are sort of urm...bigger.”
“Ha,” Lydia says, nodding slowly. “I see. Are you pregnant?”
I bite my nails nervously. “I don't know.”
“Okay, let’s see,” Lydia says, inclining her head thoughtfully. “When was the last time the scarlet lady paid you a visit?”
Throwing one hand across the top of the sofa, Lydia watches me.
“Do your feel sore there?” Lydia asks, motioning towards my chest.
I raise my hand reluctantly and pinch my nipples through my lightly padded bra and chemise. I make a face at the dull pain that follows.
“I see,” Lydia says with a nod. “Throwing up?”
“Yesterday and today.”
“Sounds like you have more than a stomach bug. We are going to the hospital first thing tomorrow for a pregnancy test.”
I stare at Lydia with growing trepidation as she confirms my worst fears.
“Most definitely,” Lydia says with a smile. “But hey, you are old enough to have a baby.”
“But this wasn’t planned for.”
“Did he use protection often?”
“Did you use the pills I gave you.”
“No,” I say, a rueful expression on my face.
“So why are you complaining now?”
“I am not complaining. It is just...” I run out of words and shake my head. “I don’t know.”
“Don’t worry. It might just be your body going through hormonal changes, who knows? We will just have to find out tomorrow.”
“Can’t I just buy a pregnancy test kit?”
“I don’t think those things are reliable enough.”
I sit through the uncomfortable realization that I could be pregnant for some minutes before excusing myself to the kitchen. The rice is well cooked now. I turn off the burner and fetch a plate from the cabinet above me. I serve a healthy portion of rice topped with chicken stew and take it to the living room.
I sit at the dinning table making small talk with Lydia as she eats.
"Your mum...how is she?"
"She is fine. It was just yesterday that she was asking after you."
"She likes you."
I grin some more. Lydia laughs, and pours herself a glass of water.
"So if you find out that you are pregnant, will you marry him?"
I drop my smile and sigh.
"I have not even thought about it."
"You should," Lydia tells me, pushing a forkful of rice into her mouth.
"You know...he is a Muslim."
Lydia shrugs, swallows and gives me a puzzled frown.
"What about it?"
I struggle to find an answer but come up with nothing.
"When you were in bed with him, did his religion matter?"
I shake my head slowly, a smile on my face.
"So why should it matter now?"
"Marriage is different ball game."
Lydia snorts and rolls her eyes. "Please!"
I place my elbows on the table and cup my chin in my hand.
"Did I tell you that my dad met my boyfriend two weeks ago?" Lydia asks.
"Well, they met and later that evening he wanted to know where my boyfriend was from. I told him and next thing you know, he is telling me to be careful because my boyfriend's tribe is a dangerous one."
Lydia tells me that her mother who had been cooking in the kitchen came flying out in rage.
"She was so upset."
"You see, when she wanted to marry my father, her parents refused because he was from a place they considered inferior. They referred to him as wawa."
"Yes," Lydia says with a nod. "He is from Enugu state. It is a derisive name people from my mum’s place call his people."
"Is your mum not Igbo?"
"She is but from a different state."
"So my mum tells my father that she will not have him teach me how to look down on people or judge them just because they are different from us, especially not when she had to fight her parents to be with him."
Lydia picks up her fork and resumes eating again, leaving me to entertain thoughts of forever with Ladi. Will it happen?
"You know," Lydia begins again, "one thing I have learned from my mum is being open to new things. When it comes to relationships, I don't place too much emphasis on things like tribe or religion. If a man makes me happy, cares about me, supports and loves me, every other thing takes second place. We are all part of the human race Arisha. That is our tribe."
The truth in Lydia’s words keep me preoccupied with my thoughts until she finishes her meal. Suddenly being with Ladi forever becomes possible. I clear Lydia’s plates away but she insists on taking care of it. In the kitchen, she washes the plate and admires everything in sight. Again.
I look through the file Barrister Ogida hands over to me. There are countless papers stapled together. I find the particulars of Billami, shake my head at the fictitious names of the director, skim through the libel suit and thank my lawyer.
“I will be in touch,” I promise him, getting behind my steering wheel and reversing out of the parking lot of the building housing my uncle’s company. I have one hour until my meeting with Mr. Uchendu.
I join the traffic and speed back to the apartment. It is not long before Mr. Michael, the security guard is opening the gate for me with a smart salute. I make a mental note to give him some money later. I leave the car with the file in my hand.
As soon as I reach the door of the apartment, laughter reaches me from behind the door and I know Arisha is not alone. I push my key into the key hole, but I meet resistance from Arisha's spare key sitting in the keyhole. I knock and wait for her to open the door.
“Hi,” she greets, surprise on her face. “You are back so early.”
I nod and step past her into the living room. There is a young dark complexioned woman is sitting on one of the sofas. She raises her bracelet filled hand in a wave and smiles at me.
I return her smile, pausing briefly in my steps as Arisha catches up with me.
“Lydia,” Arisha says, introducing her guest.
I nod in acknowledgement. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Lydia meet Ladi.”
“Pleased to meet you too.”
I excuse myself and walk to my room. I dump the file on the top of the bedstand and begin to unbutton my shirt. Just then the door opens and Arisha walks in.
“Hey,” she says, meeting me and wrapping her arms around my middle. “Hope you don’t mind that I invited my friend over.”
Giving her a bemused smile, I shake my head and drop a kiss on her lips. “No. You are free to receive guests here.”
Arisha smiles and steps back. “Even men?”
I pretend to think. “Male relatives...maybe.”
Arisha giggles and asks if I am leaving the house again.
“Yes,” I tell her with a nod. “I have a short meeting with Mr. Uchendu.”
She wishes me luck, kisses me one more time and leaves to meet her friend.
Ladi’s room door opens and he steps out, looking dashing in a funnel neck jumper with Cashmere and Chinos pants. He exchanges a few words of pleasantries with Lydia again before leaving the apartment and she is full of praises for him afterwards.
“Oh my God! He is so cute...and such a gentle man too. You are so lucky. No wonder you fell in love so quick. If I were you, I would buy myself an engagement ring and propose to myself on his behalf.”
I laugh, and soon after Lydia is discussing the company she hopes to work with. As she talks, I place my hand over my stomach and wonder if I am really pregnant. What if I am? How will Ladi react to the news?
It takes me some minutes to spot Mr. Uchendu sitting in the darkened bar. A bartender stands mixing drinks for the couple sitting on high chairs with steel legs beside the semi-circular bar. Tables are scattered all over the room, cushioned chairs framing them. At the opposite end of the room is a raised platform where a few men stand in Ankara sewn shirt and trousers, polishing their musical instruments. The sound of glasses clinking, and voices raised in discussion increases with every step I take towards Mr. Uchendu.
“Hey Ladi,” he says, standing up when I reach him.
I give him a cordial smile and take the hand he offers me before pulling back the chair opposite him. A waiter soon appears beside me.
“What should I get you sir?”
I shake my head at him. “Nothing.”
Mr. Uchendu tries to convince me to place an order but I am firm in my refusal. I sit back and wait for him to state his reason for arranging our meeting.
“You said something about a favour last time.”
“It was just something I did for your uncle earlier this year when he was bidding for the contract.”
“What was it?”
Mr. Uchendu fidgets with the stem of his wine glass and gives me an uncomfortable smile.
“I helped him get the bid.”
I nod and wait for him to continue but he gives me a glazed look.
“Look Ladi, forget the favour. I actually want something from you.”
Mr. Uchendu leans forward and I move backwards slightly in my seat to avoid being too close to him.
“I think I like you Ladi.”
I am not unprepared for Mr. Uchendu’s announcement but it still manages to throw me off balance. I stare at him in silence.
“You are a smart young man, and I like to be close to you...like a special friend.”
“Special friend?” I ask, finding my voice minutes later.
“Yes. Intimate friendship.”
Growing tired with his hide and seek approach to the conversation, I decide to be direct.
“Let me ask you something. Are you gay?”
Mr. Uchendu's eyes widen and he looks around to check if anyone is listening to our conversation. I keep my eyes on him, watching him coolly.
“Is it a bad thing?” He asks, giving me an embarassed laugh.
“No, it is not. I am just straight.”
Mr. Uchendu links his hands together and nods. “Okay.”
“And in a relationship too.”
“I have plenty of married straight friends who stray to the other side sometimes.”
“I am not like that.”
Left with nothing to say, I shift my attention to one of the band members testing the microphone while Mr. Uchendu plays with his glass.
“Too bad we couldn’t take things to another level.”
I look back to Mr. Uchendu and shrug. “I am not that kind of person.”
“Okay,” Mr. Uchendu says, suddenly businesslike as he looks at his silver wrist watch. “Forget about the favour your uncle owes me. It is nothing.”
I nod and look at my own wristwatch. “I should be on my way now.”
I exchange a quick handshake with Mr. Uchendu and leave the table. I feel his eyes on me as I walk to the door, and I can only wonder what he is cooking up.
The foyer of Nicon Luxury Hotel is brimming with guests. I walk towards the exit glass doors with brisk steps. Just as the doors slide open, my eyes meet with those of a tall lanky man in black button down shirt and pants as he makes his way into the hotel. Musa.
I end the call with Lydia and hold my phone in my hand, feeling moody at the knowledge that the man who had taught me the ropes in investigative journalism had found himself in the middle of a libel suit instituted by faceless powerful men. Lydia had called to share her discussion with one of the editors at the Compatriot.
So they say there are stories that he may be left on his own.
You know how people are. Poor man.
I sigh and drop my phone beside me. If only I could help Mr. Sunday.
The sound of the gate opening breaks through my thoughts. I stand up from my chair and walk to the window. The sight of Ladi driving into his parking space makes me smile. I stand watching at the window, until he alights from the car, spends some minutes talking to the old security guard before disappearing from view. His knock comes through minutes later.
“How was your meeting?” I ask when I open the door.
"Let me tell you about it," he says, taking my hand and leading me to his favourite sofa. He sits down and urges me on his lap. I listen to him talk about the meeting, and his almost encounter with the man he suspects is Mr. Uchendu's boyfriend.
I shake my head. "Messy."
"I agree," Ladi says, hands travelling from my waist to my breasts. I squirm in discomfort when his forefinger and thumb apply light pressure on my nipples. His eyebrows draw together in a worried frown.
"Did I hurt you?"
"I feel a little sore there."
His hands are at my back and creep up inside my top before I can stop him.
"Let me see."
I protest, squirming some more but the clasp of my bra comes undone in his hands.
He stills my squirming with his left hand on my waist.
"You are making things worse," he says with a smile. "I just want to see where exactly is making you uncomfortable."
Reluctantly I let my hands fall to the side and Ladi examines my chest, eyes narrowing as he takes in the sight before him. Slowly, his eyes meet my own and he gives me a mysterious smile. I lower my head and kiss him. It is a short kiss but every part of my body is singing with sensations when we break apart. Still leaning into Ladi, I drop a kiss on his chin.
"I love you."
My words shock me and I stop breathing for a second. Ladi stares at me, eyes searching my own as if to verify the authenticity of my claim. After what seems like forever, he picks my left hand and links it with his own.
"I love you too."
We sit staring at each other with stupid grins on our faces. Ladi is the first to come out of the love zone.
"I need to get dinner."
I stand up from his lap and he helps with the clasp of my bra. I offer to bring his dinner for him and he gives me a grateful smile. In the kitchen, I set to the task of defrosting the vegetable soup I prepared the previous evening. I walk around the kitchen, my heart bursting at the seams with joy. He loves me.
Ladi closes the bathroom door and I begin to smoothen out the bed when my eyes fall on a file on the bedstand. I walk to it and open it. There are several papers, all copies of original documents and they catch my attention immediately. I go through them as quickly as I can manage, one eye on the bathroom door. The papers on Billami Trust are bear the stamp of CAC. I stare closely at the names and become confused after some minutes. At the back of the file, I find the papers bearing the libel case against the Compatriot. I scan through the bulky documents and open my mouth at the damages requested. Thirty six million naira? Mr. Sunday’s face props up in my mind’s eye, and I feel sorry for him.
“If only he can prove his case against these people, whoever they are,” I say to myself, closing the file and returning it back to its former position. It suddenly occurs to me that the answer is in the Billami Trust papers. All Mr. Sunday has to do is unravel the identities of the people behind the company in order to be free of the libel case.
From the bathroom, I hear the shower door slide open, and I rush back to my side of the bed. I will look at that file again. I have to help Mr. Sunday somehow.
Arisha is sitting up in bed when I return back to the room. I change into one of my pajamas pants and a gray T-shirt and climb into bed with her. There isn’t much to discuss. We cuddle and listen to the sounds that occassionally come from the street. I refrain from touching her too intimately. I have been thinking about her reaction when I touched her breasts earlier this evening. I have seen those signs before. It was just before Raina and I broke up. Just before she had the abortion. I study Arisha’s side profile as she lay sleeping beside me, head resting on my arm. Is she pregnant?