CHINEDUM 
Hearing Uju’s voice after some hours made me feel better. I hadn’t spent up to one day in Lagos and I felt already out of place. I was at the Security Company now, waiting for my meeting with the manager.
“This way sir,” a tall woman led me to an inner office where I would wait for the manager. I was impressed with Nonso. He’d set me up for this meeting, which was really important. He deserved a tip for all the hard work.
Just before she left the office, she grinned at me and pulled out her phone. I smirked; I guess I could never escape from being a celebrity.
“I know who you are. When my boss told us you were coming, we all thought he was joking.” She advanced towards me with the phone.

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The woman appreciated me for my efforts towards charity.
“You are really setting the pace for other celebrities. My son watches football because of you. You are an amazing person Mr. Ike. Keep doing what you do best.”
I couldn’t believe my works had such great impact on people, even kids. I accepted her compliments with a smile, ad decided to take a picture with her. I just wondered what Uju still thought about me.
Had I been able to prove myself to her? Did she believe I was changed, and was ready to work harder on myself?
After a few seconds, the manager walked into the office, rendering a thousand apologies for keeping me waiting. In the past, I could get upset if someone wasted my time like this; considering that I had other things doing. But being around Uju had changed me for good. People deserved to be tolerated, and loved. It wasn’t nice to look down on anyone.
“That’s fine, good morning,” I greeted the man. He seemed shocked that I wasn’t upset with him.
“I am sorry Sir, I don’t usually come for meetings late. I was stuck in traffic. You know how it gets.” He continued, but stopped as I raised a finger up.
“It’s fine, let’s just hurry with it.”
The man’s name was Keshi Eleme. And his Security agents were the most preferred by many famous people. With the paparazzi on my heels, I needed a body guard to cover me.
“Can you bring the list Idongesit?” He called to the woman I had just taken a picture with.
It wasn’t long before she returned with a black file, containing the profiles of all the eligible security officials in the company. She handed over the file to her boss and left.
“I received your application some days back. We are short on men now, but I gathered a list of the best available men. Here is a file. You can go through and pick the one you like. We’ll discuss the rates later.”
I shrugged and grabbed the file for him. I was about opening it when the woman returned with a tray of hot chocolate and some biscuits.
“Royal reatment,” I thought. I wondered if they treated everyone this way, or they made exceptions to celebrities.
There were five profiles available. There were three men and one woman. These people had experience. From what I read about them, and the places they’d worked, I was impressed.
“I don’t know who to pick…” I tapped the profiles one after the other.
The man laughed, “Unfortunately, we aren’t allowed to make such a decision for our clients. We can send you an online copy of this file and call us back when you are decided.”
I loved this. I would show it to my Personal assistant, he was a good decision maker.
“Thank you for the hospitality, but I am in a hurry.” I stretched out my hand for a shake. I had to see Aunt Nkiruka before returning to Ijerra. I couldn’t get stuck in traffic. I was eager to see my baby.
The manager wasn’t pleased that I hadn’t taken anything.
“Well, at least you can take a picture with me.” He winked, and I laughed.
Together we posed for a picture which was snapped by his secretary, Idongesit. I shook hands with him and strolled out of the company. I would talk to Nonso about my discussion with the manager. I needed a body guard, two days tops.
I felt relieved that one of my goals had been attained. I couldn’t wait to set eyes on Uju again. I wouldn’t spend too much time with my aunt. All I wanted was Uju. I was entrapped by this woman. I wondered what my life would be without her.
I sent Nonso a quick text before starting the car. I couldn’t wait for his feedback.
After thirty minutes, I was in my mansion; where my aunt lived. As I drove through the enormous golden gate, I noticed she was busy. She was reading a newspaper. And from the way her eyes were glued it, she obviously enjoyed what she as reading.
She dropped the paper and rose to her feet as she spotted my car. She rushed towards me with a bright smile on her face. I missed this woman. I felt sad that I was living her to stay in the mansion all by herself, but I couldn’t deny myself happiness. Uju was my happiness. I had to pursue her.
“My husband!” She laughed and opened her arms wide.
I scoffed; she always called me that.
“I miss you,” I pulled her closer to me and hugged her.
She was the only family I had and we were close. She had raised me with tough love and perseverance. I had been a very difficult kid at first. But when she understood where all my anger and hate came from, she never left me alone. She encouraged me to let go of the past and move on with my life.
My aunt advised me to forget my dad’s failures and my mom’s weakness.
“You are no longer a victim Nedum. This is a new page, you start afresh.” Those were her words to me, the first time I had opened up about my parents’ unhappy marriage.
She encouraged me to channel my anger into sports, and I chose to play..
“How could you leave without telling me? Why did you move back to that small place?” She pulled away from me and searched my eyes. I was pinned to her scrutiny. I couldn’t look away, else she would know I was hiding something from her.
I swallowed and did a mental check for the perfect excuse.
“Um, I grew up there. I missed the place.”
“Of course I know you grew up there…” she raised a brow in cynicism.
And that’s how the old lady got me. I could tell she perceived my lies.
“You are in love…” she shifted like I had something contagious.
I coughed, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I tried to dodge her, by walking swiftly towards the house. But she wouldn’t let it go, she rushed towards me.
“You went to Ijerra because of a woman. Tell me about her, and don’t lie. Don’t get me upset.”
I couldn’t tell her about UjuIgwe, the girl I have always loved.
“I don’t have anything to tell.” I lied.
“I saw this calmness in your eyes. Your face looks relaxed and you seem very happy. Are you on drugs?” Her brows furrowed as she questioned.
I threw my hands in the air, “hell no, you know I can do better. You’re right, I am in love with someone. But she may not like me as much.” I blurted out. Aunt Nkiruka was smart. She could smell a lie from afar, and she would never stop bugging me till I told her the truth.
“Why would any woman not love Chinedum Ike?” She crossed her arms against her chest.
“She isn’t like all women. She doesn’t even care about my money or fame. She is interested in my character and the way I treat ordinary people.”
I noticed how happy my aunt looked, when I said this.
“You have finally found the right one then.” She stroked my face with her bare palm.
“Are you sure? What if she never loves me? I don’t want to lose her.” I replied.
“I am proud of the man you have become, my son. If you don’t want to lose her, then you have to let her in. I know your greatest fear…” she trailed off.
Of course she did. My greatest fear was ending up like an abusive man. I didn’t want my anger to take the better part of me. I didn’t want to treat people like shit. I wanted to be kind, patient and tolerant. Just the way Uju wanted me.
“What if I become my father? If she knows about my rage…” I wanted to say more when Aunt Nkiruka cut in.
“You can only overcome that fear by becoming vulnerable. If you are sure you love her and you want to be serious, you will have to open up the darkest part of you. This is the only way she will understand, and help you work through your flaws.”
I pondered on my aunt’s words carefully. Uju knew about the death of my parents, but I had never told her the reason we left Ijerra without any trace I never told her why they never stayed at a town for too long. Uju never noticed my pain as a child. Would she understand it now?
“If you don’t tell her, you would never be free.” Aunt Nkiruka continued.
“What if I scare her with what I have to say?” I asked.
“Then your confession becomes a test of her love. If she really cares about you and is interested in giving you a second chance, she would listen. She would stay and help you through. And together, you both would sour the sky.”
I inhaled deeply and thanked her for the advice. One thing was clear, I had feelings for Uju; I had accepted this. She would be the first woman I will open up to. I hope she wouldn’t push me away.
I would drive straight to her house once I was done spending time with my aunt. Being around Uju made me happy and comfortable. It was just a matter to time before I touched Ijerra again. I would take her on a surprise date to another amazing place.

To be continued…

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