On getting to Biodun's car Innorie opened her eyes and started crying.
"Oh! My" Biodun said "I can't drive while she cries this way". She tried soothing the kid but Innocenta was adamant.
Fred looked on with friendly smile, "Well, it seems the girl wants you to hold her," he said gently. "If you don't mind, you direct me while I drive you home after, I will come back for my car."
Biodun considered this for a while but her daughter's continued tantrum made the decision for her. At times Innorie could be a full-time job. She came down, moved to the passenger's side and gave the keys to Fred, motioning him to drive.
"Excuse me for a minute please" Fred said. He moved towards the guards and, after discussing with them, he ran back to the car.
"I told those guys I will come back for my car," he explained, pointing to the where the guards were chit-chatting.
As Biodun directed him to her house at Ikoyi, she studied the guy who was her ex-boyfriend's best friend. She remembered how he fought with Lanre because of her. He had always been handsome and the years had been kind to him. He looked breathtaking, his skin spotlessly smooth and the angles of his face well structured. It had been a long time since she had seen his almost perfect features and she admired him with her eyes.
It was as if her admiration had a hand that reached to Fred because he looked towards where she sat, smiled and said, "I Hope am not doing badly, considering it's being long since I traversed these routes?" He gestured towards the road.
Biodun could only nod as the beautiful dimple on his cheek made her tense her tongue. Those sinfully sexy dimples were one of the things Biodun had teased him about while they were in school. She had told him countless times how sinful and tempting it was for him to have such a charming, dimple-glorifying smile.
"You look so beautiful in a masculine way that I am tempted to think you are gay!" she had told him then. In reply he would raise his well-shaped brow questioningly. She would then change tactics and laughingly tell him it was a good thing he was not a lady as he would have broken many guys' hearts.
She was smiling fondly as she remembered this playful batter of words. Suddenly she realized the direction of her thought and quickly admonished herself.
"What came over me?" she asked herself. "He might have sensed my stare. I hope I am not making him uncomfortable when I am admiring him. Well, I need to be very careful. I am too old for this," she cautioned herself.
It came as a surprise to her as it had been years since she last admired any man. Well, maybe it's because he's such a good friend and a good part of my past, she consoled herself.
"Slow down beside the fourth house and turn; the last house down that road is mine," Biodun said, turning her thought to realistic things. Fred only smiled back to her in response.
When they got to the house, a gateman opened the gate and Fred drove in. "Please come in," Biodun invited.
Fred paused before climbing the stairs as he looked at the house well, a four flat with a big compound, and it looked very neat and modern. Biodun's husband must have nice taste, he thought. While admiring the architectural design of the house, a black lady opened the door suddenly as if conjured. She greeted them both and took Innorie, who had fallen asleep on their way home. She took her into the bedroom.
"Sit down Fred," Biodun said as they went inside.
She told her maid to get him anything he wanted but he asked for water and it was brought. He became unsettled, though for what reason he could not fathom. He was not relaxed. He was still standing up when Biodun came out of her bedroom.
"Sorry, for leaving you here by yourself," she said, looking at the content on the tray before him. "I was trying to calm Inno down. She woke up when Yejide laid her on the bed. She has been fussy for a while. I'm so sorry,"
"Aren't you taking anything? Yejide! Yejide!" She called.
"No, no please don't bother her, Abbey. As much as I would have loved spending more time with you, I have to go. I have some kilometres to drive and am not yet used to traversing the Lagos mad traffic at night. Moreover I still have to fetch my car at the park and am sure they don't stay there all night. Thank you so much. It's been a wonderful day and, sincerely, my meeting you is the best thing that has happened since I came back to this country. Maybe we could get together this weekend, that is, if it is OK by you." He was on his feet by then.
Without waiting for an answer he continued. "Lest I forget, let me have your mobile phone number." He brought out his phone and stored Biodun's phone number as she called it for him. He gave her a business card and both of them went downstairs.
"I'm so very grateful to you, Fredo, for driving me home and I'm very happy you're back in the country," she said, smiling at him.
His tensed face relaxed and smiling broadly, he said "Permit me." Before she could reply, he placed a peck on her cheeks and bowed self-consciously to her. He laughed at her startled face.
He went out the door and she followed both chatting quietly as she walked him back to the road to take a taxi before going back to her house.
When she got back inside, she went to look at Inno when she saw the other letter. At first she was reluctant to read it but she summoned courage and opened it. She laughed at herself when she finished the letter. It was from her mother, inviting Innorie to come to where there were kids who would excite her more than that mother of hers (as if the kid would read the letter herself). She smiled and thought, "Well, you're in for a surprise Mum; she has been fussy for a while and not allowed me to get my much-needed rest so tomorrow expect Inno and Yejide for the next whole week."
Thank God the letter sent to her by Dr. Adekola had told her that she was to begin her annual leave which was quite alright by her. Moreover, that would give her a chance to be with Fredo. She was almost palpitating just remembering what a delightful company Fred was though she tried admonishing herself not to appear over excited. As she moved to the dining room for her food, she thought of how her mother's letter might have made her laugh and she would not have gone to that park. "Well, if I had not gone I would not have known that Fred is back," she soliloquized as she sat down to enjoy her meal.
Some days later, Fred called to ask her out - that is, if her husband would not mind. He told her to expect him around 12.00 pm. To prove he was still as reliable as he used to be, he inquired if she would be off duty then. Biodun told him she would expect him and, to amuse herself, told him her husband would not mind.
Early that morning, she woke up and cleaned the house as her daughter and maid had travelled to her mother's house. She cooked herself a light meal, washed all washables and decided to rest herself. "Grrrh, grrh!" the doorbell rang. Oh my! She glanced at the clock. Fifteen minutes to 12.00, well, Fred hadn't changed, she thought, laughing while opening the door.
He stood by the door smiling as Biodun invited him in. He was dressed casually in chinos Jeans and a nice T-shirt. On his feet was a pair of macho looking boots that must be very expensive. Before she could talk, Fredo asked,
"Why were you laughing before opening the door?" He was rying to look serious and straight-faced.
"It is just that some things remain the same despite the years. It's good that you still have that habit of keeping to time," Biodun replied, laughing again.
"Don't blame me; old habits die hard say the wise ones, so, it isn't really my fault. I think I just find it a habit hard to break and I'm sorry madam if I've offended you with my old habit," He said mockingly, also laughing gently.
Biodun opened her fridge, brought out a plate of fruit salad and placed it before him. The fruit salad contained fresh seasoned fruit like orange, pawpaw, pineapple, water-melon, bananas and other items. It was well prepared and - from the way Fred was consuming it - one needed not to ask if he enjoyed it or not.
"Abbey!" Fred said suddenly. "How come the house is so silent. Where are the others?"
"Oh! They've both gone to my mother's house. I mean, Mama has been longing to see the kid. Moreover, it provides the perfect opportunity to have my rest - Inno can be an armful, you know," she answered with laughter in her voice.
"What of your husband. I've not even met him. I can't wait to see the lucky man, you know," Fred jokingly inquired, winking.
"Fred, what gave you the impression that I'm married?" she said, trying to take it lightly. "Well, I'm still single." She was praying desperately that her frustration over his assumption wouldn't show.
"What! Have all Nigerian men gone blind? What have they been doing for the past years? I find this extremely hard to believe!" Fred exclaimed, mockingly displaying exasperation.
"Come off it, perhaps they've been sleeping and - if I may ask - who would want an old maid like me?" she replied, trying for a joke as to keep up the light banter.
"Stop saying rubbish, lady. You're like a morning rose blossoming,. How can they fail to notice you with all the reputation they have abroad; this is unbelievable!" He threw her an 'I don't understand look'.
"Fred, you're taking this too hard. Well, I think I've had enough men to last a lifetime, that's why I'm not making an attempt," she said laughing. "If you must know, I don't think I want another Lanre who will mess with me and leave me with another angel through which, I would have to remember him." Though she said this with humour, Fred could still detect the slight hardening of her voice and those words threw cold water on him.
"Abbey, I don't mean to rub it on you or remind you about Lanre. I'm so sorry. I just thought one lucky chap had managed to put the ring on your finger."
"No offence, seriously. My still remaining a spinster is my choice. I've had other proposals but I want Inno to grow older." She didn't like the look on Fred's face. "Ok mister, away with the mournful look. No one died here. It's my choice as I'm sowing my wild oats. How about that?" Fred laughed.
"You've always had a high sense of humour, Abbey." He picked up his spoon and continued eating. After a while he said,"The last time I was here I wasn't very relaxed. I was wondering why your spouse did not come and bid me welcome, not knowing I was panicking for nothing, but I believe it was respectable that I left when I did. But Abbey! Don't, because of what Lanre did, turn your back on all men, please don't. Mother earth would curse all men if such a beautiful face is wasted away in loneliness. Please Abbey, Gloria and Kunle won't want you doing this to yourself. Consider this. Lanre, wherever he is, is probably enjoying himself without remembering you or the kid. He's keeping himself busy enjoying life at its fullness, so don't be a self-imposed nun. Enjoy life while you…."
"Mr. Preacher, please are we still going out or will your sermon take the whole day? Because I've heard enough sermon as it is," Biodun interrupted jokingly.
"Ok, your highness. The fruit salad is delicious. Thanks, but shall we proceed?" Fred said. Biodun smiled, packed the plate in front of him, picked up her bag and followed him on their date.