She did not stop walking. I noticed she doubled her steps when she heard me call her name. I was scared for her safety and so, I ran after her. Just before I would grab her hand, a tall, angry-looking man appeared from nowhere and swept me off the ground.
She did not turn when she heard me screaming and asking for help. She kept walking until I could no longer see her shadow. It was already past midnight and everywhere was quiet. The man had taken me into a bush and tied me to a pole. He smoked a cigarette while I shivered in the cold.
He seemed to be waiting for a call. A very important call. A call that would determine my fate. I might be executed like a serial killer or tortured to death like a thief. I had committed an abomination. I wanted that which was my master’s. The price to pay for my sin was death.
Time passed by slowly. Insects were crawling on my skin and grasses tore my bare feet. She had been an ally. A cheerful co-worker. All I wanted to be was her groom. Maybe her Knight in shining armor, if she let me.
She had told me that her father died from cancer and her mother was a night school teacher. She wanted a good life. A life different from the one she was born into. She would do anything to have the good life. I told her that I knew someone who would help her. We agreed to visit him the next day.
We lied to our boss that we were sick and took the day off. She came over and we had breakfast at my place and boarded a taxi. On the way, our taxi was attacked and she was taken away. The taxi driver and I were warned not to involve the police or risk getting her killed. They requested a ransom of ten million to them or sell us to the media as her kidnappers. They had taken our ID cards and knew exactly what to say to the media.
It was a tough call. We had lied to our employer and needed to get back to the city as fast as possible, at least before daybreak. I reached out to a few of my close friends and was able to seamlessly raise half the money. But the kidnappers insisted we paid in full.
The taxi driver was as scared as a fish taken out of water. He had given up and was ready to die. He prayed his rosary and shivered in fear as the minutes ticked by. I didn’t give up just yet. I wanted to marry her before my 30th birthday but she had been taken by them and there was no way I would get married to her if she was dead. Those scarcely dressed, bony creatures who barely spoke except for the few times they signaled that I had few hours left before they killed my ‘girlfriend’.
‘My co-worker,’ I corrected each time as if that would help but they didn’t care. All that mattered to them was the money. When push came to shove and I sensed the seriousness on their faces, I took out my life savings and completed the money. It would cost them nothing to waste us in that secluded hut.
They prayed for our pockets to be replenished and let us go. We arrived at the city a little before 4:00 a.m. She slept in my house. She took the bed while the taxi driver and I slept in the sitting room. I was surprised that they were both able to sleep while I couldn’t. The taxi driver kept talking in his sleep and I had to drag his lousy body to the verandah where he slept for most part of the morning.
I resigned from my job and decided to go after those who had taken my money. My friends begged me to let it go but I couldn’t. How would I pay back the money I borrowed from them? I made her a promise that I would find those who hurt us and make them suffer for the emotional torture they had caused us.
She didn’t say a word. After all, it was all my fault. I dragged her into that mess. All she asked for was a good life and not a kidnap. Although we stopped talking to each other, I still fancied her. A lot. We, however, viewed each other’s WhatsApp statuses and kept a safe distance. Sometimes, I read through our old texts and hope that things would go back to how they used to be.
Two nights to my birthday and I get a call. It was her call. She wanted to know what I would like for a birthday gift. I thought it was rather weird but I didn’t want to ruin my only chance to get back with her. ‘You,’ I said. I heard her chuckle and say, ‘okay.’
‘Okay?’ I asked. I wanted to be double sure. She reaffirmed her response and dropped the call. I jumped in excitement. I was finally going to propose to the woman of my dreams. The love of my life. My woman crush. I rushed to the refrigerator and popped a bottle of Ciroc. I returned to my bedroom and gazed at the ceiling.
Another call came in when it clicked midnight. It was my former boss calling. I didn’t pick. Why would he wait until 3 weeks had passed to call me? Didn’t her hear of my near-death experience? Bosses and being insensitive. Why would he be calling by 12am? I could sue him for invading my privacy.
I blocked his number and turned off the lights to finally sleep when I heard the wailing of a siren. I jumped from my bed and ran to my window. Three police vans were packed in front of my gate. I was sure they had the wrong house address. I lived alone and I was not a criminal. I wore my slippers and went to check the gate. I would redirect them to the house of the Yahoo boy who owned a fleet of cars and hopefully, I would be paid commission.
What I saw next was baffling. It was her. My woman crush. She was with my boss and a dozen policemen. I was puzzled. What was she doing out here in the dead of the night? The dozen policemen had their guns pointed at me and my boss did not look at me even when I knelt to greet him. She waved at them to leave and they drove away. I was still on my knees when she called me, ‘Dayo.’
‘Yes?’ I lacked the right words to say. ‘Did you think you would get away with that?’ Her voice was soft and steady. ‘Get away with what?’ ‘You orchestrated my kidnap and made it look like you didn’t have a hand in it.’ She sounded so convinced that I was the figure behind her kidnap (and mine and the taxi driver). Why was she personalizing our pain?
I was even more shocked. Who has she been talking to? Could it be that my boss was also interested in her and wanted to eliminate me by all means? I pleaded with her to give me a chance to explain myself but she insisted on pinning her (our) kidnap on me. Nobody else knew about our journey.
‘If that’s how you want to see it, that’s okay,’ I finally said. She shook her head and started walking away from me. I was an honest forex trader and accountant. How do I tell her that working a 9-5 wasn’t the only way to get rich? I wanted to grab her hands and apologize. But there was nothing to be sorry for. I was ashamed. Ashamed that I thought she was my friend. My best friend and future wife. She didn’t even trust me enough to hear what I had to say.
I sat in the cold waiting for my death. Two nights before my thirtieth birthday, I would breathe my last.