‘So why did you decide to kill Nkechi in the end?’ The journalist asked Tolu that mid morning.
‘I didn’t decide to kill her,’ he replied. ‘She just had to die, it just-‘
‘So you’re saying that when you were writing this story, you didn’t know it was going to be a tragedy?’
‘Well I wouldn’t say that,’ he adjusted his sitting position and continued, actually I thought it was going to be a tragi-comedy. That was it for me when I started writing it, then it became a comedy along the line. And finally it just ended up a tragedy.’
‘Wow,’ she put it down in her notepad. They were in Tolu Philips’ office, seated in across each other on the sofa while she reeled out her questions and he tried to answer as best as he could. Tolu, an accomplished writer and public speaker in his early forties had just returned into the country from a book tour to promote his latest book which had turned out a huge success just within months of its publication. The journalist, who was Jaiyeoba actually, was a close friend and great fan of Tolu. She’d not only read and personally reviewed the book but had made her clique of five friends do likewise and went on to feature them on her personal blog. Being that the school was on a semester break, she’d recently taken to blogging as a new hobby and had cajoled, no, blackmailed Tolu into granting her an interview on the book for her blog. She’d seized the opportunity of a one week break in between his book tours to conduct the interview.
The duo had first met at a public lecture in the State University where the then twenty year old Jaiyeoba was in her third year studying law. He’d been the guest speaker. She’d asked a question after the session which had raised some dust being that he’d asked her to repeat her question about three times before he eventually got it and consequently answered it. Nobody seemed to know why he’d acted so, perhaps, for Tolu, it had been attraction at first sight. For Jaiye however, it had been undue embarrassment and she’d let him know exactly how she felt when he’d consequently invited her to lunch with him and the departmental student executives. Jaiye had insisted on bringing her friends along and that was how he’d become friends with her and the whole gang.
Although he was friends with them all, it was different with Jaiye. She was cheerful and sincere with a highly contagious joie de vivre. She had a way of making him smile anytime and all the time; always giving useful insights into his speeches and writing. She was the type of person who would go out of her way to see others achieve their goals in life. Every now and then when he was in town, he’d call her up and they’d hang out, attend book readings and art shows, go to the movies or just simply loaf around his office gisting about anything and everything. He would sometimes even visit her at school and hand out with her clique. He was the classic description of old but young at heart.
‘That’s interesting,’ Jaiye quipped and continued, ‘When you write, do you just allow the story to go haywire every which way it wants to or are there measures you put in place to control its navigation and ensure it ends the way you want it to? She scribbled away as she spoke.
She looked up when she was done and ran straight into his passionate gaze.
‘Why are you staring at me like that?’
She tore off a blank page from her notepad, balled it up and hurled it at him. He dodged.
‘I’ll get a drink.’ He rose.
‘Whatever!’ She returned to her notepad. He went to the fridge and returned with two bottles, set one down before her and opened his.
‘Thanks,’ she looked up now. ‘If I may ask, she resumed a journalistic air, ‘how much of your personal life went into this story?’
He flashed her a sheepish smile.
‘What? Why are you so reluctant to grant this interview anyway? Because I’m only an up and coming journalist with a free blog?’
‘Are you even a journalist?’ He snided and took some more drink.
‘Oh yeah? Am I even a journalist?’
‘Why are we even doing this interview anyway?’
‘Because I need content for my blog and I’ve got no better use of my time,’ she spat.
‘I didn’t mean it that way.’
She folded her hands and faced him square.
‘I mean you’ve reviewed the book, so have your friends and-
‘You don’t want to do the interview do you?’
‘Of course I want to do the interview, it’s such a great honour to be featured on your blog’
‘Seriously, it’s just that, sometimes I think myself so lucky to have met you and to be friends with you and all…
She grabbed her drink in defiance, twitching her nostrils mockingly.
‘And at other times, I wonder if this is all a dream I’m going to wake up from someday.’
‘Okay, you’re rambling now,’ She attempted to stop him.
‘You’re the best thing that happened to the last one year,’ he paused for breath and continued, folding his palms in playful diffidence.
‘You’ve been a great friend and confidante- I can call you that. Rooting for me, supporting me, making me want more out of my life, making me give more to life, each time you’re around me I just feel this positive energy, this, this…’
She was looking at him now, watching every movement of his lips, more shocked than confused, not knowing what to make of his ramble.
‘If I haven’t been able to show you how thankful I am for you or how much this friendship means to me, it’s not because I don’t care… Perhaps it’s because I’m afraid, afraid something might just go wrong and everything will come crumbling down, I’m afraid this may all be a dream after all, afraid the age difference might come between us, afraid you might want something different, someone different, afraid you may not understand or be on the same page with me if I told you-‘ he looked up now, ‘that I am in love with you.’
His stare fell squarely on hers. She missed him by an hair’s breadth. A sudden weakness swept over Jaiye as she stared on into space, non plussed. As if encapsulating her state of mind, the bottle in her hand slipped unto the floor and broke.