I didn’t have the strength to stroll to work, so I took another taxi. I noticed that the crowd I had encountered yesterday had drastically reduced. It seemed they were tired of Chinedum’s evasive moves. I laughed. It was only a matter of time for my boyfriend; soon the media would catch up with him. I prayed it wouldn’t be something ugly.
I was bothered we were now together. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be seen in the public with him. It wasn’t easy to be a celebrity. I worked with a magazine; I saw the comments and responses of our followers whenever a celebrity messed up. Your life could never be your own. How do you explain total strangers, judging you like they’ve known you all their lives? I wasn’t innocent.
At the end of the day, we ordinary people saw celebrities as entities. But they were like us in many ways. Their lives weren’t perfect. They cried. They loved. They felt broken. They healed.
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I had a feeling that Chinedum wasn’t being straight with me, he was keeping a part of himself, but I couldn’t point a finger at what exactly.
I managed to force him out of my thoughts the moment the car came to a halt. I was early, so I had nothing to fear. As I moved into the office, I noticed that Fatima had returned. I guess she was okay now.
“Good morning guys,” I waved at some of my colleagues who were gathering around the secretary’s table. I didn’t know what they were looking at. But I guessed it was still about getting news on Chinedum Ike.
“You look different baby girl,” Fatima joined me as we moved towards our respective cubicles.
“Different?” I wondered what she was up to.
“Did you have kiss a man today?” She blurted out.
“Fatima!” I sniggered and moved away from her. No one could know about my relationship with Chinedum just yet.
I thought she would leave me alone, but she came back after dropping some files on her own table.
“Have you heard about the promotion?” She tossed a paper on my desk.
“What promotion?” I wondered.
“Read that, Zara is giving the junior staff an opportunity to earn a promotion. I thought you might be interested.”
I now understood why people had clustered round the secretary’s table. They were getting more information about the promotion. I scanned the paper in my hands briefly, and I understood exactly what Zara Bewaji was looking for.
This promotion was different from others. It wasn’t a given. It was something you have to work for. Honeycomb Magazine had a target for that month, and whoever would break it by bringing the largest number of fans, would earn that raise. I was on it. I had to step up my game. Other benefits came with the promotion.
A new and bigger office would be given to the winner. And he/she would be entitled to two months of leave.
My heart thumped against my chest in excitement, these were the places I adored. How could I miss?
“You look gorgeous today Uju.”
I dropped the paper I held immediately and focused all my attention on Zara
“Um, good morning, thank you.” I stuttered.
“How are you today Uju?” She asked.
“I am good.” I replied.
“Were you able to get anything on Mr. Ike?” She asked.
I nodded, “I have to work on it though.”
“I can’t wait to see what you came up with.” She smiled and moved. I quickly released the breath I held.
Just in time, my phone rang. It was my new boyfriend. There was no way I could answer the phone here, someone could overhear the conversation and that could get us in trouble. I grabbed my bag and hurried out of the office.
“Someone’s got a man.” Fatima winked as I bumped into her.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I stepped out of her way.
“So why are you hiding something in your bag?” She smiled.
“I am not hiding anything!” I rushed out of the office.
I missed Chinedum. I couldn’t stop thinking about the sweet things he had done to me the night before. He was an amazing man. I just wish he wouldn’t be gone for more than two days. Well, he was a busy man and I couldn’t force him against his will.
I took the call at third ring.
“Hello darling…” his deep voice rumbled in my ears. I loved the sound of it.
“Chinedum?” I was delighted to hear his voice.
“Yes dear, I miss you.” He took the words right out of my mouth.
“I miss you too.” I replied.
“That’s a good thing. I hope you have been a good girl.”
I laughed, “I don’t have a streak of naughtiness in me.”
Just as we were speaking, I heard a female voice in the background.
“Where are you?” I quickly asked.
“Um, at the security company, Why do you ask?”
“Nothing…listen, I have to get back to work. Can I call you back?” A funny thought that had crept into my mind at the sound of the female voice. I suddenly became worried about my relationship with him. We hadn’t set basic rules for it yet. What if he was into open relationships like many celebrities were?
Well, I had my fair share of heartbreaks. I couldn’t be with any man who didn’t have respect for me. I wanted to be the only one in his life. I wanted all or nothing.
I felt weak and sad. I was jealous. I liked Chinedum and I didn’t want to share him with anyone. I returned my phone in the bag and left for the office.
After three hours, work came to an end for me. I had no shift that day, so I could close early. My mood was affected by the thoughts I had about Chinedum earlier. He had dated very beautiful and classy women in the past, maybe I was deluding myself that he really cared about me.
I tried to distract myself from worrying by thinking of the opening at work, but I couldn’t. I was stuck with Chinedum and there was no going back.
On arriving home, I noticed Emeka was around. I spotted his black Toyota. I hadn’t gone far when he stepped out of the house and beckoned towards me. I knew he would ask where I was last night. I couldn’t blame him. It was the big brother syndrome.
“Hi,” I said with a frown.
“Are you okay?” He ran his eyes over me.
I nodded, “of course, you’re back early today.” I observed.
“Yea, you too,” Emeka said.
I explained to my brother that I didn’t have any shift, and I had to leave work early because I was tired too.
“I have to get some rest now.” I started towards my floor, but he grabbed my hand gently and pulled me back.
“I am sorry I may have to take your time, but I want to talk.”
I licked my lips and inhaled deeply. What did Emeka want to talk about? I had a feeling it would be something I wouldn’t like. I crossed my arms against my chest and waited…
“You don’t have to be defensive about this conversation Uju. I am your brother and I know what is best for you.” He noticed the way my arms were crossed.
“Just get on with it Emeka.”
“It’s about you and Chinedum. I know you too have got something going on. I guess you were at his place last night.” He started. I remained quiet, I didn’t want to interrupt. I wanted to see where this was going.
“Emeka is my friend but I don’t know him quite well right now. I want you to stop seeing him. I know this sounds difficult and crazy, but I don’t want you to get hurt.”
My brother’s words cut through me like a knife, and I wondered why he wanted me to end my relationship with Chinedum.
“You don’t have any business with my personal life. Why do you want me to end things with him?” He was getting on my nerves.
“He is not good for you. He is a spoilt and rich. He is in the limelight and he would never have time for your feelings. I know his kind. They are more concerned with what happens in the spotlight. They crave for cameras. They are selfish and egoistical. I don’t want you to be a part of that. I don’t want your heart to be broken. And I don’t want my friendship with him to come to an end because of this.”
Again, my brother was being selfish. He was only looking out for himself.
“Don’t you think I considered the perks and discomfort of dating someone like Chinedum? Huh?” I fired at Emeka.
“I don’t think you did, because if you are being truthful, you wouldn’t date him.” Emeka returned and I decided I had enough of his interference.
“You are not concerned about my happiness. You are just scared that if something goes wrong between I and Chinedum, that you would lose his friendship. You always think about yourself without including me. This was how you kept the truth from me all these years.
You made me believe that he didn’t really care; that he had just moved with his parents without telling me. But he told you, and you were supposed to tell me!
I don’t care about your friendship with him. If you cannot stand by me when I am happy, then I don’t know if you are meant to be my brother.”
Emeka’s face paled, and from the look on his face, I knew he would never speak to me about this matter again.
“Uju I didn’t mean to hurt you. I was just looking out for you. Since father died and mother got sick, you are the only one I have. I can’t stand losing you.” He called out to me as I rushed up to my floor.
Tears splashed my cheeks as I ascended the stairs. My brother had only been looking out on him. And I had lashed out like a serpent, on an innocent person. I had to apologize to Emeka. But I also needed him to trust my judgment as an adult. I was a grown woman. I knew what love is. I knew what right was. I knew what wrong was. Chinedum was right for me.
To be continued…