Buki continued the press-ups even after hundred. His muscles screamed and the pain in his left foot escalated. His doctor had warned him not to go more than hundred at a stretch but who cared. He counted days. Fourteen more days to go to his wedding. What could he do about that?
He slumped, and remained still on his face. Muscles rippled and heavy beads of sweat fell. His parents had called that morning and asked when Modele’s parents would invite them over. They were concerned about the continued disregard for tradition and marriage rites by all the concerned parties. He’d sent the invitation cards to them two weeks earlier, two weeks after he returned to Abuja, and then kept them in the dark, again. What could he do about this also? Would they be meeting their in-laws for the first time on the traditional wedding day, they had argued. But what could he say?
“I’ll ask again today,” he had said.
They didn’t even know he was back in Abuja. And he’d been there for a month now. He knew their plans continued. Even his friends continued with the plans. He was sure Modele’s family should have announced the annulment. Ever since, he got back he had avoided junk magazines like a plague. His agent had called about Roxanne a week earlier.
“Confirmed, she’s the one. Should we pick her up?”
“Pick her up.” He had ordered. Let everyone suffer, he thought bitterly.
Ever since he got back, he had laid low. He was sports teacher again. Sports teacher in the multi-million Abuja Fitness Centre and Gymnasium, owned by Buki George. He had always tried to run away from his success. Maybe that was why he continued to be more successful. The typical phlegm, his parents often told him.
He took a deep breath and shuddered.
“They told me I could find you here!”
Buki caught sight of the feet first. Italian leather stood inches away from his face. He had not heard anyone approach. He had been in his private gym all day just exercising. “Working yourself to death,” his sports master had come in to tell him a few hours earlier.
He heaved slowly to his knee and looked up, from the well-polished shoes to designer black jeans that hugged strong legs and thighs. He leaned his hands on his shins and looked up at the intruder, past a crisply laundered white shirt.
He gasped. “Kade.”
“One of your officers said I should hurry before you committed suicide.”
He pulled himself up and limped heavily. He leaned hard on his exercise bike, and caught his breath. “Let’s go to my office,” he said and led the way, his advance hampered by the gruesome pain in his bad leg.
His heart pounded in his chest. Was he dreaming? What did Kade want? Good or bad news? How was Modele? He wouldn’t dare ask.
They walked past several gym classes. Some were occupied with students learning different arts and styles of sports. Few people knew him around. He’d set up his businesses using professionals. He preferred to live under a guise. It was the only way he could survive. That was why he’d fought his feelings for Modele at first. She was too much in the eye of the public.
“You spend your life on that your face?”
Buki looked sideways at him. “What?”
“You do nothing but build your muscles? Press-ups.”
“I try to keep fit…”
“You lost weight.”
There were offices in a long row when they went up the stairs to the next floor. Work sounds filled the air, printers, copiers, and the hush-hush of people making and answering enquiries. All the offices had name tags. Buki stopped in front of one with the tag ‘store’, and opened it with a card key.
Kade sneered. “You’re the store keeper?”
Buki stepped aside and allowed him to step in. “My office is inside.”
The store was an extensive hall with several doors opening to offices at the far end. Kade whistled in appreciation. Several kinds of large fitness and gym equipment lined rows against the wall.
Kade grunted. “How big is this place?”
“A thousand square metres.”
Buki walked to the far end of the hall and used the card to open another door. Cold air escaped like a caged bird. Kade stepped in. “As a whole?”
“The whole facility.”
“A hundred thousand minus classes and shops, offices.”
Kade looked round Buki’s well equipped office. It was state of art. Obviously the office of a sports-freak. He had a small collection of body-building and toning gadgets in the larger part of the office. A small section had a table, swivel chair, and the usual office equipment, and three visitors’ seats.
Buki waved Kade to a seat. “Please.” He drew back curtains to show a beautiful view of the tracks. “Would you like a drink?”
Buki leaned against a computerised treadmill and studied Modele’s brother. “Did you come for your pound of flesh?”
Kade ignore the offer of a seat and walked over to the window showing a view of the stadium, and particularly the tracks. Several athletes trained.
“I’m glad you know you owe me!” He turned to look at Buki. “Joyce won the world title…beauty title.”
Kade arched an eyebrow. “She flies in from Johannesburg this evening. I’m meeting her.”
“That’s why you’re here.”
Both men analysed one another, refusing to give away any emotions.
Kade turned back to the tracks. “And to take my pound!”
“I sent you a message…”
“I got it.” Kade turned away from the glass and walked over to the seat he’d been offered, but he didn’t take it. “You broke your promise to me.”
“That MacJones girl caused it.”
Kade’s eyes flashed with a storm ready to explode. “Playing blame-game?”
Buki clenched his fist. “I had my plans. She messed it up. Everything messed it up.”
Kade turned again and headed for the door. Buki stumbled to catch him and stopped, blocking the door. “I love her…”
“Get out of my face, Buki George!”
“I don’t have a life without her…”
He stepped aside and hid the tears that sprung to his eyes. “You haven’t seen the last of me in your family!”
Kade jerked the door open. “Give me reason to believe so.” He looked at the averted stance of Buki George. “I’m throwing a party for Joyce tomorrow night. At the Waldorf in Lagos.” Buki looked up at him just as the tear drop. “It’s all-night.” He stepped through the door without looking back.
Buki heard the soft ring of his leather shoes all the way out of the store. Or probably it was just mind-tricks. He couldn’t move any part of his body. He felt as though he’d been hit by a passing train.
Crushed. Miserable. Sad.
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