UNFINISHED BUSINESS [EPISODE 04]

Catch up on  EPISODES 01 – 03 right here.

************************************************

It was worrying the very instance she saw them walk past her desk, out of the building. She took a second look at Gregg; not for the reasons she took second looks, but because he was a different person in that conversation with Keysa. Later, when she described his look to a friend, she said he looked “at peace. He looked natural and real.”

Things got out of hand when Gregg started playfully running ahead of Keysa to hold the elevator while she strode along in high-heeled shoes. ‘Lamide began to lose appetite for food when Gregg and Keysa arrived at the office at the same time every day because, as she learnt, they visited the same gym at 6am every morning.

So Gregg was not what she thought he was.

All he needed was a rich girl from the United States who spoke through her nose. How petty could he get! The camel’s back snapped when Gregg began to greet her warmly. He would reply, not with the usual slight nod but with a “how are you doing ‘Lamide?” He would ask about her weekend and compliment her earrings. But he kept the conversations brief and crisp, and Keysa was always right there. Keysa called her “cute lady at the front desk”.

“I apologize I won’t call you ‘Lamide”, she whispered on her first day at work. “I will call you cute-lady-at-the-front-desk.”

“Oh thanks. I don’t hear that often. These people don’t know how to appreciate a beautiful woman.” They both laughed.

It was easy to see the inner beauty in Keysa. It was hard to not like her. When she spoke, her sincerity was palpable. It was easy to not hate her for being the Chairman’s daughter, for being so well-educated and coming from nowhere to become a big-time at Cyragon.

This confused ‘Lamide at first and she almost began to agree that perhaps Keysa deserved Gregg. She was the kind of person you could give up your best for, not because she would ask for it but because you felt brainwashed into thinking she deserved it. But it was not long before the sense of loss overshadowed everything else and she resolved not to simply give up to the nice, American-educated lady.

She never hated Keysa. She just really had to have Gregg. Keysa already had enough going well for her.

On the morning ‘Lamide settled to write the letter, it was with love and respect for Keysa and a flaming desire to have Gregg as her husband. It was with sincere purpose that she crafted the words, sealed the little envelope and wrote on its side: “Dear Ms. Keysa”.

***********************************************

They had just finished another Hollywood romance movie. It was Keysa’s idea.

“My husband, you never talk about the ladies in your life. Seriously, it has never come up. Is it because of work? I know how committed you are to your work and I know it is a big time of opportunities for you from every corner but still. Tell me, what’s there to know?”

“My wife is asking about my concubines”, Gregg laughed.

“I’m serious Gregg” and she sounded serious.

“This is because of the movie. It has gotten into your head”, Gregg laughed still, while trying to figure out a way to divert the discussion. It sucked that Keysa spoke to him like a brother. He had told his shrink about this and was advised strictly against being romantically involved with her.

“You know it’s unprecedented in your life that you have a lady as your best friend and confidant. You cannot reduce this to romance.”

“Reduce? Romance is not a reduction. It’s an advancement. I can marry her and seal our friendship forever!”

“Your father and mother groomed you into a rapist. You are not ready to marry anyone. You are a rapist.”

Gregg was silent. The shrink had him acknowledge that fact. It did not take more convincing. He told his story and the shrink said, “it is cliché but it is true what they say about a problem known is half solved. Gregg, you have to know and accept the problem. You are a rapist.”

Just like in the movies, the shrink had Gregg say “My name is Gregg and I am a rapist and this makes me dangerous to women.” He recited it ten times. The fourth time he started to cry, soft sobs. By the tenth time he was weeping loudly, his face in his hands.

“Now”, the shrink cleared his throat, “tell the story of the first time; your first time. Tell it to yourself.”

Gregg waited till the crying stopped itself and he began to tell himself the story.

“Stop”, the shrink said softly. “Get up and face the mirror. Tell it to yourself in the mirror. Look into your own eyes and tell yourself the story.”

Gregg stood in front of the life-size mirror and awakened the horrors of gone years.

“I was fifteen years old the first time I raped a woman. No she was a girl then. It was in an unfinished building at some corner of our neighborhood. We usually gathered there to smoke and drink. There were no streetlights and the nights were plain black. It was night.

She was strolling by, perhaps running an errand. My brother Tony saw her and announced “fish”. He had mastered the art of seeing in the dark. Immediately, I was excited as they promised that I would be part of the “fish-eating” that night. Charly and J-boy went to get her. Charly walked up to her as she approached the bend and began talking cheesy words. Typically, she hissed and tried to walk off but he moved behind her and gripped her neck, covering her mouth with a thick towel while J-boy appeared and swept her off her feet. Their combined strength drowned her struggles and her screams sank into the towel. Charly held the towel over her mouth as we took our turns. That is what happened the first time.”

“The second?”, the shrink asked after about a minute of silence as Gregg regained his composure. Excavating the past was a painful, yet necessary phase in the recovery process. He clenched his fists to steady his trembling fingers.

“The second time,” Gregg continued, he was looking squarely at himself in the mirror. The story was less horrifying now that he was not wishing it away. “I met them eating the fish. I heard the sounds as soon as I entered the building. As I approached, the boys were startled. They weren’t expecting me that night. I said the code word ‘confirm’ and they returned to status quo. We knew our way in the dark. We knew the building so well that even during the day, we could walk around it with our eyes closed without brushing a shoulder against a wall.

I unzipped my trousers and waited for my turn.

I felt familiarity the moment I was on top of her.

It was her fragrance.

This was Lade, a girl from my class in school.

I knew that fragrance anywhere. I acted out a shock reflex and blabbed out her name, “Lade”. Unfortunately, she recognized the name and shook her head harder than before. But Charly held her down firmly and I went on with business.

There were disapproving sighs from the boys in the darkness. They would later scold me vehemently for that slip up. We were never to speak while eating fish. 

When I got up, Tony’s figure emerged over her head and his hands were on her neck. He bent over her for a few minutes. Charly still held her down and J-boy pinned down her legs between his knees. In the darkness, I did not immediately realise what Tony was doing to her. When he stood up, he snapped his fingers and the three of them lifted her off the ground and carried her out. I heard the towel fall but she did not scream or shake herself.

That was the last time I saw Lade.

Some of my classmates said they saw newspaper announcements.

They said her mother cried bitterly and cursed for days on end. They said her father was devastated and her younger sister almost died at the hospital due to the shock of her sudden disappearance.

Policemen visited our school and asked to speak with her friends.

No one knew anything and Lade was never found.”

The story continues….

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