The streets had decongested as the day drew to a close and became more of a joy to drive through. It was a typical balmy night in Ibadan, but Eniola didn’t feel any of it as the air conditioning in the car licked over her skin. The air outside was undoubtedly warmer, and right now she was glad it was out there- beyond the cocoon she currently inhabited which smelled of fairly new rich leather and a combination of car deodorizers. The odor was a bit too overwhelming in delivery, she mused, but to each his own. The present company wasn’t much, either, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. At least the evening would soon come to an end. And she wouldn’t be too sorry, either.
When the Benz drew to a stop for no apparent reason, Eniola was surprised but not unduly alarmed. Giving Uncle Edwin an inquisitive look, she asked what the matter was. She hadn’t heard any strange noises and they were still a considerable distance from her house. Maybe he wanted to answer the call of nature- a call men seemed to answer wherever and whenever.
He had half-turned in his seat to face her, his square face relaxed in a smile. “Nothing. I just thought we could talk a bit.”
She tucked a strand of braided hair behind one ear. “We’ve been talking for a major part of the evening,” she said slowly.
“Yes, but there are one or two issues we’re yet to touch.”
Eniola’s heart sank. Did Nigerian men have to be so predictable?
“Come on, Eniola. You’re not a child. You should know that I like you… I like you very much.”
Actually, she’d been hoping the interest she’d witnessed in his gaze on occasion had been a trick of the light. “So…what exactly are you saying?”
“Ah-ah.” Uncle Edwin looked hard at her as if disappointed at her insistence that he spell it out. “I want to be close to you. I want us to be intimate friends, Eniola…very intimate.” His large hands moved expressively as he spoke.
She just stared at him for a second or two, willing herself to be calm. She could handle this. “The last I heard, you were married with children.”
“Just one of those things. The children are grown and my wife and I have been separated for years.”
Yeah, right. “It’s not ‘just one of those things’. What would Geraldine think of you if she heard the proposition you’re making to me now?”
“Geraldine? Well…just between you and me, she isn’t really my niece, if you catch my meaning.” He winked slyly, flashing a wide smile.
Eniola felt sick to her stomach. She’d come to think of Geraldine as a friend as well as a co-worker at the insurance company, and had met “Uncle’ Edwin through her. Obviously, the other girl had lied about her relationship to him, but thinking of Geraldine’s innocent appearance, it was difficult to accept that she’d been…intimate with this man, as he was insinuating.
She took in a breath and let it out carefully. “Anyway, regardless of the situation, I have to say I’m not interested.”
“Why?” he demanded. “Are you engaged?”
“Then what is it?” Edwin leaned toward her with a predatory gleam in his eye that made her shrink back against the passenger door. “Look, Eniola, let’s not mince words here. I really like you. I’m a wealthy man and I can take care of you in the highest and classiest way possible. There’s nothing you need that you won’t get.”
“No, thank you.”
“Why?” He seemed genuinely baffled.
“Because I don’t do affairs or flings or whatever it is they’re called now. I’m not that kind of girl.”
He laughed, his hot gaze moving over her incredulously. “D’you want to tell me that at your age, you’ve never been-”
Eniola didn’t let him finish. “I don’t want to tell you anything. I want to go home.” She flicked a glance at her watch. “It’s almost ten and my family will be expecting me.” Her brother, who she lived with, had traveled with his wife for the weekend, but ‘Uncle’ Edwin didn’t know that.
He made to touch her and when she avoided his outstretched hand, he let it drop to his lap. “What’s your problem?”
She didn’t think pointing out that she wasn’t the one with the problem would be a wise thing to say and said gently instead, “I don’t have one, really. I just need to get home.” She suddenly longed for her cool, welcoming sheets.
“If you’d rather not drop me off, I can walk home.”
When he didn’t reply, she turned to fumble for the door handle. As the area was a G.R.A., it would take a miracle to get a bike at this time of night. Walking the largely deserted streets alone would be a little unsettling, but she would do it; home, after all, wasn’t too far away. It took only moments for her to realize the door had been locked from the central mechanism, and she turned back to face him, eyes narrowed. He had made no move to stop her.
“I want to go home, Uncle Edwin.”
“Relax, Eniola, I’ll take you home.”
Relax? Her heart rate had doubled and despite the air-conditioning, she was beginning to sweat. Relax?!
“I need to go now.”
“There’s no hurry. You know, I’m surprised you’re behaving like this. You’re not a child; you’re a woman- a beautiful one at that. You don’t have to…” As he spoke, he was moving towards her, his hand going to her waist.
Eniola shoved him back. “Leave me alone.”
It was obvious from the way Edwin’s eyes kindled with annoyance that he was unaccustomed to being turned down. “Why are you being stubborn?”
“I’m not being stubborn. I’m-”
Before she could finish, he had hauled her across the space between the two seats with his brute strength so that she was half-sitting on his lap, her hip pressed uncomfortably against the gear shaft. Feeling his wet mouth against her cheek and his hand on her chest, she panicked, struggling fiercely to free herself. Pushing against his face with one hand, she finally got loose, the force of the movement causing her to bump her elbow hard on the passenger window as she crashed against the door. She ignored the agony that spread through her arm like wildfire as she did the tears of pain that sprang to her eyes and warned, “Don’t touch me!” Was the man mad?
“You’re a wildcat, aren’t you.” This time he came to her, pressing her against the door with his broad midriff. She twisted her head this way and that to avoid his hot breath, her blows having little effect. Grateful that she was wearing trousers, she was working on kneeing him in the groin when an insistent sound got their attention.
As they both stilled, Eniola seized the opportunity to push Edwin away as her eyes simultaneously sought the source of the welcome sound. She nearly sagged with relief as she saw that it was someone knocking on Edwin’s window. Was it a policeman? She began her plan to escape once Edwin began speaking with him. The person stepped away from the car and Eniola almost wept in disappointment until she realized he was coming to her window. He knocked on it and mouthed something to her. He seemed angry, and as recognition dawned, so did mortification: what must he be thinking of her?
“A friend of yours?” Edwin queried, his frustration evident.
“Yes! Open the door!” she said desperately, wanting to be long gone from this hell. His eyes slid over her in something akin to regret before he released the central lock and, grabbing her bag, Eniola all but tumbled into the younger man’s arms.
“What are you doing here? Did he force you into his car?”
“Yes…no…” She shook her head, struggling to settle her muddled thoughts. “He was supposed to take me home, and then he pulled over…”
His eyes flashing fire, he began to set her aside. “I’ve a good mind to-”
She flattened her palms against his broad chest to stop him. “Leave it. Just let him go.”
As if on cue, the car engine roared to life and Edwin drove off with a squeal of tires. Releasing a shaky breath, she looked up at the good-looking man before her, his face illuminated by the streetlight nearby. His eyes studying her intently, he said, “You shouldn’t be running into that lecher for a long time.”
“I should hope never.”
“Didn’t your mother teach you not to accept lifts from strange men?” he asked mildly.
“Well…he wasn’t exactly a stranger.”
She launched into an explanation of how Edwin- who she’d met a couple of times before tonight- had taken her and Geraldine, his supposed niece, out to dinner. After receiving a phone call, Geraldine had said there was an emergency and she had to leave, assuring her that Uncle Edwin would drop her off.
“Sounds like a set-up to me.” As Eniola looked at him sharply, he shrugged. “Don’t you think? You should be more careful about the company you keep…and don’t be so trusting.”
On some other occasion, she might have replied with a sharp retort, but now she could only shake her head. Besides, he was right. She began to tremble as her mind relived the incident.
“Are you all right?”
Her eyes seemed huge in the semi-darkness. If he hadn’t come by, what might have happened? Her knees went weak at the thought.
Seeming to read her mind, he pulled her gently into a comforting embrace and, shutting her eyes, she held on to him tightly until she had calmed. Even then, she was reluctant to leave the warmth of his arms and the subtle but enticing hint of some musky aftershave, but pulled back slowly. His concerned gaze caught hers and held it as his fingers came up to brush her cheek.
She nodded, staring back as if mesmerized, the world around them seeming to recede. Her heart began to thump again, but not from panic. From a delicious, elusive emotion that made her breath short. Then they both spoke at the same time.
“What’s your name?”
And both smiled.
Eniola nodded. They lived on the same street but beyond the odd greeting, hadn’t spoken to each other before now. “Tony, thanks for coming to my rescue. What were you doing around?”
“Taking a walk… I do that a lot.”
He’d noticed some movement in the car that had been partly lit by the glow of the streetlights, and had averted his gaze after a moment. He’d been irritated: yes, the street was solitary, but if they really had to do it- which he doubted- couldn’t they go somewhere more private? Then a thud had made him look back and on witnessing the struggle, he had acted on impulse. It had been a risk, he realized now; he could very well have been told to mind his own business. But the fear on her face had said it all, and he’d been doubly enraged when he discovered it was her…the young woman he caught a glimpse of every now and then but who he hadn’t been fortunate to meet- until now. He noticed her rubbing her elbow with a faint grimace on her face and asked what was wrong.
“I hit my elbow during the, um…struggle.”
“That must be what I heard,” he said after a while. As she gave him a smile that was both wry and grateful, Tony caught his breath, struck afresh by her beauty. He realized he was in danger of just standing there and gawking like a schoolboy. “Come on, I’ll walk you home.”
She shot him another grateful look. “Thanks.”
They talked along the way but fell silent as they neared her house. He was ruminating over recent events; that middle-aged baboon could have raped her if he’d put his mind to it! Tony was filled with an impotent rage. He should have broken his neck.
Eniola’s gaze searched his face nervously as they stood at her gate. There was a dangerous glint in his eye. “You’re angry.”
“No,” he denied smoothly. “I’m livid.”
Her eyes fell from his and she twisted the leather strap of her bag nervously. “I was pretty stupid, wasn’t I?”
He wouldn’t argue that, but his gaze gentled. “I’m not angry with you, Eniola.”
Looking relieved, she managed a small smile. “Well, I’ll definitely be less gullible in the future.”
He nodded, his eyes drinking in her features. “Could I check up on you tomorrow evening…if you don’t mind?”
Their gazes clung for a moment. “I don’t mind at all.”
Eniola let herself into the darkened house and shut the door behind her, locking it soundly. Leaning against it with a huge sigh, she groped for the light switch and when the room was illuminated, ran her eyes over the room suddenly made more dear by its familiarity. The dark brown and cream of the furniture, burgundy carpeting, gold and red curtains. The vase of silk flowers on the low centre table which had been her sister-in-law’s wedding bouquet.
What a night. She winged a prayer of thanksgiving upward and contained a shudder. And not one she wanted to repeat. Ever. Although…if it would guarantee her meeting Tony, the man she’d been all but drooling over from a distance for quite some time, she just might- might!- endure all that again. Her eyes drifted closed for a moment, her lips curving in a contented smile.
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Thank you, and do have a romantic weekend :)