A rose by any other name, p.2
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       A Rose by Any Other Name, p.2

           Nia Eze
 
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Majid looked at her hand and took it with an amused expression on his face. Rather than shake it as she expected, he raised it to his lips and kissed it.

  “You are an outrageous flirt aren’t you?” Keira said with a certainty in her voice that bellied her questioning tone.

  Majid smiled as he let go of her hand and turned to admire the displays.

  “What…how can I assist you? Are you looking for something in particular?” Keira asked as she tidied up her little work space looking at him expectantly.

  “You did really good here.” He said, not answering her question. Keira could not decide whether to be offended or pleased.

  “Thank you.” She finally settled for a polite smile. “Do you want to look around? Are you shopping for a particular item?” she persisted.

  He turned to her abruptly with a small moue on his face. It should have seemed ridiculous but on him, it did not seem so.

  “Do you want me to leave?” he asked in what seemed to be a huff.

  Keira’s consternation grew. This guy was wierding her out. Her mind flashed back to the first time she met him as she responded.

  “Why… Of course not without my sales!” she tried for an airy mien even as her mind juggled to make sense of him, in her shop, the intense inexplicable attraction she felt for him and his strange behavior.

  He turned away and walked off towards a display on the other side of the shop. Keira motioned to one of her sales-girls, who had quietly come up to her as she had interacted with Majid, to accompany him. She needed a break from him already.

  Just then her phone rang out and she picked it up with a feeling of relief that soon turned to unease. It was Jude. She wondered at his call. He usually did not call during business hours and she was surprised and mildly alarmed at the break in norm. If there was something that Jude was, he was a creature of habit. The ringing stopped as she had left it too long to answer.

  “Weren’t you going to pick that?” came the question from across the shop.

  Keira felt the frizzle of irritation go up her spine. This man! She turned in a smile and said, “I’ll just go and return the call now. Funke will help you with anything you need.” She bent her head slightly both to indicate to him who Funke was and to indicate to Funke that she was to watch him closely and swept into her enclosed office space at the back of the main area of the shop.

  She was already clicking the dial button as she shut the door.

  Jude answered on the second ring. “Hello dear.” He said his voice sounding rushed.

  “Sorry. I was with a customer when you called.” She responded uneasily.

  “Oh.” was the brief reply.

  “Is …hope there’s no problem?” she asked as worry began to cloud her features.

  “No! No. No problem. I just wanted to hear your voice is all.”

  Keira’s expression turned bemused. “Just to hear my voice.” She intoned. “Jude, what’s wrong?” she demanded.

  “Ah ah! I can’t call and talk to my wife out of the blues again?” he asked jokingly.

  “You usually don’t.” Keira clamped her mouth shut. She hadn’t intended for the bitterness she knew had coloured those three words to leak through her voice.

  There was a brief silence on the other side of the line. “Keira. You know I’m trying.”

  “I didn’t mean it to sound so harpy.” Keira rushed to make amends.

  Jude sighed loudly. “I called to remind you that it’s the birthday party I spoke of tonight.” When Keira did not immediately respond he explained further. “The customer I told you is turning eighty?”

  “Oh!” Keira exclaimed. “Thank goodness you called o! I had completely forgotten. Ha! Alright, do I meet you at work or will you come home first?”

  “I’ll come home first. The party will probably run a bit late so I’ll rather freshen up first.”

  “Okay then. I’ll see you at home. Should I prepare anything for you?”

  “Nah. It’s a birthday party girl! What do you think?” he said, a smile in his voice and Keira could not resist the answering smile that touched her lips.

  “Okay. Till later.” She smiled into the phone.

  “Alright love.” He responded and hung up the phone.

  Keira held the phone to her ears a moment longer before removing it. She basked in the glow of her husband’s good mood. She realized with a start that she was clutching the phone to her chest like some lovelorn teenager. She straightened her shoulders and walked out of the back room.

  “I picked this up. I think it should make a good gift for an elderly man.” Majid waved at the artwork on her desk. Keira liked this particular one. It was an abstract carving of what seemed to be a person sitting in deep contemplation.

  She picked it up and smiled as she felt its familiar weight. “It’s a good one.” She passed it to Funke to gift wrap it. She processed his payment and packed up his beautifully wrapped gift. As she handed it over to him, he held on to her arm.

  “It’s my father’s birthday today and I wondered if you could attend the small gathering we are having in his honour.”

  “Oh!” Keira said and her heart thudded in her chest. “A birthday party? Eightieth?” she asked.

  “Yes, eightieth! How did you know?”He asked in surprise.

  Keira chuckled. She marveled at life and its serendipity.

  “I will be attending it with my husband I think.” She couldn’t help the ‘there you have it!’ flair with which she made her announcement.

  “Really?” Majid asked, his expression shifting back to vaguely amused. “Hm! So I guess I’ll see you there.” He said as he picked up his bagged gift and walked out of the shop without so much as a backward glance.

  Keira stared after him wishing there was something she could throw at him. The dratted, rude man!

  CHAPTER 4

  ‘It's looking to be a really classy event’, Keira thought as they drove into the event venue. But then, she should have known when her husband mentioned where the birthday would be taking place as they got dressed for it.

  Beside her, Jude whistled beneath his breathe. “They really put out some dough for this one!” he murmured.

  Keira shifted uncomfortably in her seat trying to decide whether or not to tell Jude that she had met the son of the celebrant before. Or that she had…what? Found him attractive? Annoying? Had been a bit overwhelmed by him? Pfft! Perhaps she had best just leave it be and play it by the ear if Majid got up to his antics again. Though she rather suspected that he would not, judging by his exit from her shop earlier in the day. Her hand went to her purse to bring out her compact but she stopped at the last minute and turned instead to Jude.

  “How do I look?” she asked. He gave her a cursory look and took his eyes back to the parking space into which he was trying to navigate their car.

  “You look fine.” He said as he slid the car efficiently into slot. He turned to look at her more fully and nodded his approval. Keira beamed at him and made to get out of the car. An attendant got to the door before she could and held it open for her.

  ‘Wow!’ she thrilled in her mind. It had been a while since someone had held a door open for her. The last time had been while she and Jude had still been dating. She shook off the melancholy that the thought brought and determined to enjoy the evening out with her husband.

  Jude came round the car and waited for her to join him as they made their way to the grand entrance. Colleagues from his office who had just arrived also made their way over to them to say hello. The murmurs of friendly and polite greetings sounded all around her.

  “You’re looking especially lovely tonight.” The deep voice sent an unexpected shiver down her body. She turned on legs that suddenly felt more like jelly than flesh and bones to see him already extending his hands to someone else in the group around her and politely welcoming them to the party. Finally he got back to her and her husband.

  “Hello, we haven’t met before.” he addressed Jude.

 
“No we haven’t.” Jude agreed as they clasped hands in a handshake.

  “I’m Majid, Mr. Rilwan’s son. You are?”

  “Jude Anakwe.” He answered simply.

  “Jude Anakwe. You’re that guy!” Majid enthused. “Wondered when I’d get to meet you.” He turned to include the rest of the group, “Come on in. My dad is getting antsy for the party to begin.”

  They all made their way into the venue, chatting amiably with spurts of laughter punctuating conversations.

  “What was that about?” Keira asked Jude in a whisper. Jude shrugged his shoulders to indicate that he had no idea what it was.

  They were ushered to the area where Mr. Rilwan sat with members of his family and very close friends. It was a rather large group. Introductions were made and smiles and jokes were exchanged. Keira watched it all with a strange detachment. The meeting with Majid had put her off her joie de vivre.

  “So that’s your husband right.” Keira almost jumped out of her skin at the shock of his voice sounding so close to her ear.

  She found herself looking around surreptitiously to place Jude’s location. She shook her head in exasperation and turned on Majid.

  “What?!” she fairly barked.

  Majid drew back in apparently wounded surprise. “I’m sorry if I scared you.” He said with a look of reprimand on his face.

  Keira huffed and turned away from him. She caught Jude looking in her direction and smiled back at him.

  “It seems my husband wants my attention.” She smiled politely at Majid as she made her way over to Jude’s side. When she got to him, he held her hand and introduced her to the person he had been speaking with and then they made their way to a pair of open seats at the table that had been colonized by some of Jude’s colleagues.

  The Master of Ceremonies kicked off the event shortly after and Keira determinedly set out to enjoy herself. She received a lot of compliments on her accessories and she took advantage of the opportunity to promote her business.

  “You’ve become quite the consummate business woman.” Jude smiled beside her.

  She glowed at the compliment and smiled back demurely at him. “A girl has to do what a girl has to do.” she quipped.

  “Indeed!” Jude said as he toasted her with his glass of water.

  She turned back to look around the large hall. “It seems things are winding down. How soon can we leave?” she asked.

  “I thought you were enjoying yourself.” Jude responded.

  “Ehn! But while you have the day in tomorrow, I still have to go to the shop.” Keira retorted mildly.

  “Okay. Let’s give it a few minutes and then we’ll take our leave.”

  Keira nodded and began sipping at her drink to while away the time.

  “I hope you guys enjoyed yourselves.”

  Keira almost spluttered and peed in her pants at the sound of Majid’s voice booming out from behind her chair and the feel of his hands as they rested on the back of her chair. She refused to turn around to face him. Whatever game he was playing with her, she had decided that it had gone on long enough and she was not going to indulge him anymore.

  There was a general murmur of agreement around the table as people conveyed their enjoyment of the party.

  “We’ll have to take our leave though.”Jude said as he stood from his seat and made to pull hers out for her thus dislodging Majid’s hand from their perch at the back of her chair.

  There were murmurs of dissent around the table as his colleagues tried to insist that they stay longer.

  “My wife is an entrepreneur!” Jude boomed. “She needs her sleep. She has to be at work tomorrow.” He pulled her gently to her feet and turned to Majid.

  “I’ll just say my goodbyes to your dad and we’ll be on our way. Thanks, it was a great party.”

  Majid nodded his acceptance, still standing in a spot, as if Jude’s actions had shocked him while Jude turned them on their heels and smartly maneuvered them to the elder Mr. Rilwan’s table. They said their goodbyes with Mr. Rilwan thanking Jude profusely for his attendance and the ‘lovely’ gift his office had sent.

  “Thank you so much Madam for gracing us with your presence.” He smiled widely at Keira. “It was really good to finally put a face to Mrs. Anakwe.” He said suavely

  Keira smiled her response and thought to herself ‘Ah! That’s where all that charm comes from!’ as she thought of the son.

  Finally, they were able to extricate themselves from the party. As they belted into their seats, Jude turned to her and asked.

  “Was Mr. Rilwan’s son coming on to you?”

  Keira felt her spine stiffen in trepidation. This was the first time in a long while that she had felt that ‘something’ she had been missing between them. She really did not want the evening to go sour. She had such plans for both of them.

  “I wouldn’t know. Wasn’t paying him any particular attention.” She said as she settled into her seat. Jude had stuck the key into the ignition but was yet to turn it.

  “Do you think that he was?” she prompted.

  Jude sighed and turned the ignition. The car hummed to life and he navigated it out of the slot and out of the venue.

  “Why do you ask? Did he do something untoward?” she persisted.

  Jude shrugged and kept driving. He turned to look at her briefly at her and said softly, “You looked especially pretty tonight.”

  Keira smiled coyly at him. “You looked very dashing yourself.” She said.

  “I hope you enjoyed yourself.” He probed.

  “I did. It was a fun event, very classy. They seem to have tons of money.” She said.

  “That they do!” Jude replied. He went on to explain what it was they did and the businesses that they controlled.

  “Oh.” Keira said. “That’s a dynasty they are building.” She remarked, the business woman in her admiring the success of their enterprise.

  There was no response from Jude and she turned to find him staring intently at her. He wiggled his eyebrows at her comically and she laughed.

  “So are we working on that dynasty tonight?” he asked.

  Keira found herself blushing even as she nodded at him. He stepped on the accelerator.

  CHAPTER 5

  “Thank you! Call again soon!” Keira greeted her last customer for the day. She collapsed tiredly on the long sofa where she usually sat just as the door opened again. She almost moaned out loud but had to limit her protest to the rolling of her eyes. It had been a good day and business had been brisk but she was exhausted. She turned to see who had just walked in and saw that it was Bimpe.

  “Ha! Ol’ girl where have you been? Nah so we dey do our thing nowadays?” she jokingly scolded.

  Bimpe sashayed over to seat beside her and held out her ring clad hand to her friend. Keira sprang up from her reclining position and grasped her friend’s hand to look more closely at the ring.

  “It’s a lie!!!” she exclaimed.

  “Hmm!! Better believe it! I almost passed out when he asked.”

  “When did this happen?” Keira asked excitedly.

  “Last night over dinner.” Bimpe blushed excitedly. “Oh Keira! I was so blown away! Can you imagine? Dominic asked me?!” she squealed.

  Keira smiled at her friend’s excitement even if she couldn’t help teasing her. “And if it had been up to you, you guys probably wouldn’t even be dating by now. Never have I seen two people who like each other as much as you two do and be such slow molasses about it.”

  “Ehn, thank you o!” she said sarcastically on an eye roll and then squealed another “Thank you!” and wrapped Keira in a tight hug.

  “So? Have you told your parents?” Keira asked. “What did your mum have to say about it?”

  “I haven’t exactly told them.” Bimpe’s voice became more subdued with each word.

  Keira nodded her understanding. “Haven’t even mentioned it at all is more like it.” She concluded.

  “So what if he’s not
a son of Ijebu descended from a lineage of Ijebu predecessors? How does that undermine our relationship? Bimpe ranted.

  “Don’t look at me!” Keira held up her hands in front of her. “I never said I have a problem with it!”

  “One could argue that you’re biased.” Bimpe laughed. “After all, it would be me marrying into your tribe.”

  Keira scoffed. “As if! Someone will soon be up in arms and say that ‘we are not ibos o!’ Please let’s talk of something else. Oh let me look at that ring again!”

  Bimpe dutifully held out her hands and wriggled it excitedly.

  “I hope their parents don’t spoil this for them.” Keira concluded as she narrated her story to Jude when she got in from the shop later that day.

  “Hmm? Ah yes! Let’s hope so.” was Jude’s absent minded response.

  Keira paused in the recounting of the events of her day to look at Jude again.

  “Baby what’s wrong?” she questioned. “You seem a bit distracted. Is…are you okay?” she queried.

  Jude sighed and dropped the newspaper he had been holding in front of his face.

  “It’s nothing really. Just a bunch of things running around in my head.” He responded.

  “Wweelll, I’m your wife.” Keira stated “Tell me about it. A burden shared and all that.”

  Jude sighed again and shook his head.

  “Don’t bother your pretty head about it.” He said.

  “Jude? My pretty head runs a business. I’m sure it can withstand the torment of you unburdening to me.” She chided.

  “It’s just…things. It’s not all work related. There are, you know, issues.” He shrugged.

  “What happened? Did you have a tiff with your mum again?” Keira deduced. When Jude did not immediately answer, she shook her head on a wry chuckle.

  “Why would you not just tell her that we have decided to wait a few years before starting a family? What would she do? Monitor how we have sex or what?”

  “Keira there’s no need for us to tell her that. She needs to know that we are two adults and we can make these decisions for ourselves. She needs to butt out of it.” Jude answered heatedly.

  “Ehn! I haven’t said that we are not adult nna m’. I’m just wondering if we are handling this well enough. It’s causing unnecessary friction don’t you think?”

  “Keira, allow me handle this, please.” Jude said sharply.

  “Okay.” Keira retreated resting her back on the upholstered chair and turning to stare blankly at the television.

 
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