Everything came crashing down, his life, his future, everything, when the woman on the other end of the line said no. The call ended, cutting off all hope.
No. She fucking said No.
With one hand at his side and the other clenching his Blackberry, Andrew fisted his hands tight, resisting the urge to toss the damn device across the room. Fuck, he couldn’t afford the thing anymore anyway, not without a job; The economy sucked balls and since his last prospect, the one he had been counting on, told him to get lost only seconds ago, he knew he was done for. Rent was due, bills had gone unpaid, and he had very little money left for his upkeep.
The life drained out of him as he stumbled back into his nearly empty apartment. He had tried to delay the inevitable but it had finally caught up with him. With all his choices stripped away, he was knee-deep in despair. He didn’t want to, but he’d have to leave the city he loved. London had been the first place he’d felt normal, like he belonged there. Sadly, moving back to his parent’s place seemed to be the only option. Desperation sucked at his soul as thoughts of going back clawed through his mind like a vicious hell-hound.
With no options left on the table, Andrew picked up his bags, carried them down into the taxi, and carefully stowed them in the trunk. With everything he treasured loaded into the car and nothing left for him in London, Andrew fought back the tears as he took one last look around. The beautiful brown brick and iron stair rail leading up to the front door were home to him. He shouldn’t be so attached to one specific building but his life had happened behind that door. Wrapped in the comfort of that apartment, he had carved out a place to claim as his own. Now it was gone and he’d never sleep in his old room again, he’d never bring home a date and cuddle on the couch, and he’d never experience another first in that apartment. Andrew swiped away the tears and swallowed down his pain. He climbed into the taxi and took off for the airport.
Andrew sat back in the cab’s seat and closed his eyes. His head was spinning ever so slightly, and he prayed that he would keep his breakfast down on the way to the airport. He opened his eyes and watched as London passed by. He hadn’t thought he would miss it when he was buying his plane ticket, at least not at first anyway. Ignorance wasn’t bliss after all.
As the taxi edged closer to Heathrow, he gazed skywards as dozens of aeroplanes flew past; just some of the millions who left and arrived every year, each with their own mixture of hopes and dreams, disappointments and fears. The city he loved had subsequently become one of multifaceted internationality; comprising tiny enclaves of Lithuanian, Polish, Arab and American settlers mingling with African, Brazilian, Indian and countless others. Unlike the tide pool of immigrants rolling in and out of London, his papers were not the problem. Finding another job was.
His phone rang. The realization of who was calling crushed him further into despair.
“What the hell do you want?” Andrew said, grasping his phone tightly. “You said it would be the last time. Look I told you that was it. No more! I don’t care what you do. Do whatever you like. Just fuck off and leave me the hell alone.”
He cut the conversation off and glanced at the driver. Apparently oblivious to what had just happened, his head was fixed straight ahead focusing on the road. Andrew thought of apologising for the bad language, but the cabbie had probably heard worse than that in his career. Instead, he simply turned his phone off completely and stuffed it into his bag. At the moment, he really couldn’t be fucked to bother if what he had just said — and the way he had said it — would prove to be his undoing. Yet another relationship gone seventeen kinds of wrong. He’d suffered long enough.
Knowing he could not leave for Nigeria without telling his best friend, Andrew grudgingly turned the phone back on, dialled the number he knew by heart, and waited for the Jiro to pick up the phone. The minute he heard Jiro laughing on the other end of the phone, he knew Abbey was with him. He quickly told Jiro he would be arriving in Nigeria the next day and kept quiet as Jiro and his girlfriend screamed with excitement that he was finally returning home. He smiled genuinely for the first time since he had bought his plane ticket. Knowing that he had his best friend waiting to pick him up from the airport was more than reassuring. As the cab pulled up at the short stay of Heathrow, Andrew said a quick goodbye to Jiro and Abbey and rushed off his phone.
As he paid the cabbie the fare with the last bit of change he had left and walked into the airport with his bags secured on the trolley, he wondered whether this really was the start of something new — something better.
That was three years ago today…
…and he had his answer.
Six months after arriving from the UK three years ago, Andrew had landed an amazing job at a multinational and had worked his way to the top. Within the next year and a couple of months, he had been made the deputy head of his department. Thinking back on his time in the UK as he walked out of the elevator and onto the 32nd floor, Andrew was glad he had walked away from his old life.
As was his daily routine, he had gotten up early, ran a couple of miles, tossed the clothes he had worn from the previous day into the laundry basket, and headed off to work in his Kia Rio. When he had initially returned from the UK, living at home with his parents had cut his expenses significantly. After a year of starting work however, he had found a cosy three-bedroom apartment of his own and had moved out of his father’s house as fast as he possibly could… and with good reason too! Granted, he knew he didn’t need three rooms but it was better to have a lot than not have enough, he reckoned.
Andrew smiled as he walked smartly through the busy office. Christ, how he loved Mondays! Walking past Lara briskly with a big smile on his face, he winked at his heavily pregnant colleague. She, as always, wagged her finger at him and blew him a kiss from where she sat. He remembered attending her wedding this time last year and he was truly happy for her. Even though marriage wasn’t on his to-do list any time soon, he was always excited for those who found the courage to jump into that whirlpool of ‘crazy’.
Without knocking, Andrew strolled into his best friend’s office like he always did and perched on the end of Jiro’s desk. He crossed his legs at the ankle, and tucked his hands into his pockets.
Nothing new about that, Jiro told himself, and yet he’d become a lot more aware of what his friend did lately, More importantly, he’d become more aware of his reaction to his friend.
“So I know we hung out on Saturday and all but you know better than anyone that I like planning my weekends from Monday.” Andrew said as he smiling pleasantly, “Are you and Abbey doing something this coming weekend, seeing as it is her birthday weekend? Andrew leaned in with an evil glint in his eyes and a smirk the size of a door handle on his face. “Anything interesting?” he winked as he stressed the last word.
“No.” Jiro’s answers were clipped. He didn’t know what to do with his eyes. He wanted desperately to stare at the paperwork needed for his next meeting, but his eyes refused to focus. For some insane reason, they wanted to stray…to Andrew. He surged to his feet, his chair wheels chunking with the awkwardness he felt. He turned his back to his best friend and stared out the window at the street below. “Abbey. She dumped me and called off the engagement.”
“What?” Andrew sat up instantly. “Tell me you are joking! Awww hell,” Andrew responded. “Sorry about that.” He laid a hand on Jiro’s shoulder reassuringly. “That doesn’t sound anything like her. Did she say why? This isn’t about the company slut on the 16th floor is it? What’s her name again …uh… Bukunmi Ayotola….yeah that’s it, the girl with the monster-truck ass… you weren’t dumb enough to take ‘been-around-the-block’ Bukunmi up on her offer from last week, were you? I would think you’d share that bit of juicy information with your best friend if you did.” Andrew raised his hands in mock self-defence and continued “But, hey…you know my motto: As long as you used protection, its all good. ”
Jiro rolled his eyes at Andrew’s teasing. That, and Andrew’s refusal to take himself or life seriously was what kept Jiro from unravelling from the seams at times. He would never have said that to his best friend’s hearing, of course. He had met Andrew during their first year at university and although they had been part of the same clique of friends, he and Andrew had formed an amazingly tight bond. Not even Andrew’s relocation to the United Kingdom several years ago hadn’t severed their relationship. They had kept in touch and up-to-date about the events in both their lives, had shared experiences about relationships, and given each other words of wisdom regarding the numerous girls they had dated. Jiro had been excited when Andrew had told him he was moving back to Nigeria three years ago. Knowing better than anyone how depressed his best friend had been the first couple of weeks after he arrived, Jiro had sent in Andrew’s CV to the company’s HR office; and was over the moon when Andrew had told him two months later that he would be working in the same office with him. He and Andrew never got all mushy with each other, but he was sure Andrew knew how much he appreciated having his best friend close by and always there for him these past nine years. Their friendship was what complicated matters and made Abbey’s assertion all the more unacceptable.
“No, of course not. I wouldn’t cheat on her. Ever!” He however couldn’t being himself to tell Andrew the real reason Abbey had broken up with him yesterday. He had met Abbey through Andrew over five years ago when Andrew had visited briefly from the UK. Jiro had gotten one glimpse of her and he had been smitten. He had dogged her around and had practically stalked her with amorous advances and gifts. He had pulled out all the stops and spared no expense to woo her. She eventually accepted his advances after almost nine months of waiting on his part and they had been dating for four years straight. Andrew had been excited to hear his best friends were dating. From then on, the three of them were practically inseparable!
He’d had all night to think it over, especially since he couldn’t get to sleep. He’d yelled at her and told her she was just making excuses. Their relationship had gone stale over the last year, and he wouldn’t blame her if she just wanted to move on. But to say what she did about Andrew was ridiculous.
If he had any sense, he’d dismiss the thought. I should just tell Andrew what she said. I’m sure we’ll laugh about it over a couple of beers after work and we’d find a way to resolve this whole misunderstanding. I’m sure Abbey would listen to reason if we both talk to her together, right? After all, she claims she has a soft spot for Andrew. That’s what they always did to ease the stress whenever there was an argument between any two of the three of them…the neutral person always settled the matter and all was — as they say — forgiven and forgotten. Most of his routines ran around his three pillars: Work, Abbey, and Andrew. The fact that he tended to stick with what he knew, take very little risks, and ‘play it safe’ was another bone Abbey had picked with him last night. He final words to him had been, “If I don’t do this, you’ll never make a move.” An invisible knot tightened itself around his neck even as he replayed the conversation — if he could even call her screaming accusations and his yelling responses a conversation — and he subconsciously loosened his tie in an effort to breathe better.
Turning, he found Andrew close to him — a little too close in fact. He worked his shoulder to dislodge Andrew’s hand and stepped slightly away from Andrew like he was a plague. Damn it, would you stop crowding me? It’s bad enough that you are the principal cause of this damn problem. “What? did you spend all day yesterday watching reruns of the Real housewives of Atlanta? Quit being all mushy and Opera-ish. Its really not a big deal. She broke up with me. She didn’t break me. I’m not a china set!” Jiro clipped harshly.
Andrew backed off with both hands raised. “Sorry, I guess you’re still hurt and all by her dumping your ass.” His discerning eyes wide, his expression understanding, Andrew playfully stroked the day-old growth of his beard. He was glad Andrew didn’t take offence easily. This dude really needs to grow his beard a little more before he shaves. It looks kinda…what’s the word… regal. Just as fast as the thought had popped into his head, he slammed it back down into the farthest region of his mind. The fact that Jiro was noticing Andrew’s day-old stubble pissed him off even more. He stomped back to his chair.
“I’m not hurt, just surprised.” Jiro murmured. Examining himself, he found that it was true. He wasn’t heartbroken. He cared about Abbey, so it did hurt not to be with her especially after they had dated for such a long time and were engaged. But ‘crushed’ wasn’t what he felt. Confused, annoyed, and angry were closer to the mark. Something else stirred inside, but he rejected taking a closer look. If other feelings were there, he figured Abbey’s stupid assertion was the cause. She had gone and opened her big sexy mouth and made him like this around his best friend who he shared practically everything with.
That’s it! Focus on Abbey’s hot, sexy, troublesome lips. It caused all this… it’ll be the saving grace that will get you out of it, Jiro said over and over in his head.
“Well, how about we give her a couple of days to cool off and get over whatever stupid thing you did? When she’s calmer and the worst of the raging storm — that can be Abbey — has passed, I’ll step in and sweet talk her into forgiving you and taking your lame ass back, okay?” Without waiting for a reply, Andrew continued, “However, since you are not hanging out with her this weekend, I figure I can come over and cheer you up. No point wasting the whole weekend pinning over Abbey. If I know her, she’s just waiting for you to come and beg her. It’ll be fine, don’t worry.”
Jiro stared at Andrew like he had lost his mind. “Why would you say that?” Andrew peered right back, blinking as if Jiro had lost his. Gunning for the dramatic, Andrew touched Jiro’s forehead to check if his friend was going crazy but Jiro ducked to get out of reach. No touching, the voice in Jiro’s head screamed.
“What in holy hell is wrong with you today? You are acting all weird, jumpy, and now you are forgetting stuff? I never thought I’d see the day when you’d fuck up with Abbey to the point that you begin to act like a completely different person. Maybe I should talk to her sooner. In the mean-time, get a damn grip already. I’m going to call her from my office. If I get to understand her train of thought, I might be able to shake you out of this shock you have about this Abbey situation, buddy.” Andrew said.
Jiro waved his hand in dismissal and said “It’s not about the Abbey situation. I mean, it is but it isn’t. I mean it is but –” Jiro took in a deep breath and tried to arrange his words to relay what his thoughts were. “I mean — I meant — damn it, what were you saying about this coming weekend?”
“Oh I said it’s Abbey’s birthday weekend.” Andrew said.
“No not that. What you said afterwards.” Jiro inquired further.
“Oh that. I said if you are not hanging out with Abbey this weekend, I figure I can come over and cheer you up. We always have guy’s night on weekends remember? Or did you think I was going to let you off the hook just because you messed up with Abbey? If anything, its more reason to hang out. No sulking for you my friend! Guys hangout weekend. Alcohol, food, movies, and video games from Friday after work all the way to Sunday morning. Knowing you, you’d be too tired and I’d be too drunk to shower. An uninterrupted weekend of fun in boxers and without a care in the world. We had one three days ago when you came over to my house, remember? Don’t tell me your brain has turned to mush now that Abbey’s mad at you” Andrew looked at him curiously and continued “or are you trying to get out of hosting the next one and buying the drinks because you’ve used all your money on Abbey’s birthday gift?”
No boxers! Jiro almost shouted. He bit his lip to stop the voice in his head from screaming the words out. That was close, he thought. Of all the things Andrew had said, that was the only part Jiro’s muddled mind had picked up and raised red flags about. He got a grip on himself with supreme effort. He was behaving like an ass, and if he didn’t get control, Andrew would suspect something was up. Jiro couldn’t let that happen. He couldn’t have the two people he cared about the most be mad at him at the same time.
Although he would never say it to Andrew, having issues with Abbey frequently had become rather tiring. If Abbey wants an out, she’s got it, he thought angrily. He really hoped that Andrew could help salvage what was left of his relationship with Abbey. If however that proved unforthcoming, Jiro sincerely hoped that Abbey she would find a man that would be all she wanted. Since Jiro knew he wasn’t bad-looking — he kept himself in shape, and more than one woman in the office had let him know she was available — he had no reason to think he wouldn’t have Abbey replaced, and soon. “Drinks, movies, video games…they all sound great. We’ll do what we always do. no problem.”
He knew he sounded like a blithering idiot, but at least Andrew was appeased. Andrew grinned but didn’t move from the spot he occupied. Every other time he sat there, Jiro didn’t mind. Today however, the entire office felt too small, and the couple of feet between them made Jiro feel very uncomfortable. Jiro grunted, searching his mind for a solution to his problem. Damn that Abbey!
As Jiro sought to change the subject, Andrew’s blackberry rang in his pocket. Saved by the bell Jiro thought.
Andrew smiled at his phone and answered it on the third ring “Hello. Andrew here. Oh, speak of the devil….Hi Abbey. I was actually meaning to call you.” His friend met his curious gaze. “Yeah, he’s here, crying his eyes out.”
Jiro punched him in the gut. Andrew let out an exaggerated ouch and then went back to his conversation with Abbey. When he grew quiet, a sickening feeling came over Jiro. Abbey wouldn’t take her silly ‘assumption’ too far, would she? No, she had better sense than that, surely! Jiro prayed to God that she would just keep her mouth shut and not let her wild thoughts cause more damage than it already had.
Andrew’s widened gaze met Jiro’s again. His face had turned into a mash of horror, but he wasn’t saying anything in response to whatever Abbey said on the phone. Jiro resisted the overwhelming urge to snatch the stupid device from Andrew and crush it under his shoe. He gripped the sides of his chair until his fingers ached. With everything inside of him, he willed someone to walk into the office to disturb them, or for a phone call, an urgent meeting, anything!
Seems like God was firmly on Abbey’s side on this one.
After some time, Andrew ended the call and put his phone back in his pocket. He didn’t talk or look up. Jiro sighed. “I guess guy’s hangout weekend is off, huh?” He had no idea why he would ask that first, and be disappointed about it.
Andrew straightened and walked to the door. He paused with his hand on the knob with his back to Jiro. “No, its still on. I’ll talk to you later.” And he was gone, closing the door quietly behind him.
“Damn it all to hell,” Jiro spat out and angrily swept every file off his table with one hand, sending papers, files, and folders flying in different directions of his office. Knowing he didn’t want his nosy secretary asking him how the mess came about, Jiro decided he had to clean up the mess he had made on the floor by himself. He sunk into his chair and buried his face in his hands. No matter how much he replayed Andrew’s last words, he couldn’t get into his friend’s head. Andrew has been subdued. His usual bouncing-off-the-walls-to-drive-Jiro-insane friend was missing after that conversation with Abbey. Maybe Andrew was waiting until after work to end their friendship. Trepidation brewed within Jiro as he briefly considered the remote possibility. He could replace a woman with ease, but a friend — a best friend… his best friend? — No way!
Abbey has no idea what she was talking about. She is wrong about everything. She has to be. I’d know if she was right and I know for a fact that she is wrong. Right? he asked himself.
Right! He decided within himself. He’d see to it that he saw Andrew later and deny everything Abbey must have said to him on the phone.
He had to….there was no other way!
To Be Continued!!!
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SOUNDTRACK FOR EPISODE I::: Roulette Of The Damned: GENESIS: Cold Shoulder by Adele