Building Bridges Online Series – Episode one
Finally Zinny stirred herself to a sitting position; she had been awake for the last couple of hours but didn’t have the strength to stand up just yet. Her pounding head was a reminder and reward to her for allowing her mind to deny her sleep yetagain. But there was little she could do to control her treacherous mind if it was hell bent on reminding her how much she missed her daughter, and how desperately she needed to fill the emptiness it left in her heart.
All the fame, wealth and glamorous lifestyle she presently basked in didn’t cut it. When the pain came, when the chasm deepened, it always swallowed all of her and there was no damn thing she could about it. Her pricey therapist and long hours of expensive yoga class proved futile too.
Her eyes travelled to the picture frame of her smiling child who took everything that was the essence of her – her beauty, complexion, smile, temperament, pride and ego. Cherry was simply a spitting image and had perfectly taken everything and more from her DNA. It was also a flaw that made her ex-husband fight strongly for her custody after their divorce.
His reason simply was that he didn’t want Princess growing under her influence; didn’t want his beautiful daughter growing up to become as self-centered and egotistical as her mother who wasn’t firm enough to raise her properly. Zinny scoffed; did a lion beget a goat? She wondered with disdain.
How she had coped with the judgmental and overly controlling tendencies of her former manager cum ex-husband for five years, she couldn’t say. She was therefore glad that the sham of a marriage ended last year even though it took her beloved daughter with it.
She reached for Princess’ picture and smiled at it a while, then put it down to open one of the drawers to her exquisite and gold rimmed dressing table. She brought out an aspiring to calm her still pounding head along with a packet of cigarette. She had promised Rose, her best friend and Edith, her personal trainer that she would quit smoking soon enough, but what did they know about her pain and emptiness? She could smoke anytime she felt the crave, it was her money after all.
Zinny lighted up a stick after she had taken the drug and satisfactorily puffed on it, she dispersed the thick white smoke it formed with her hand and knocked out the ash on a spot on her table. Too bad her whiskey bottle wasn’t in her room; it would have complemented her smoke. She thought wistfully as she enjoyed the calming effect the nicotine had on her system.
She was halfway through the stick when her door suddenly burst open and her ten year old son came running towards her bed in his briefs only. Suddenly taken by surprise, she quickly killed the cigarette and pushed everything into her drawer (the cigarette ash inclusive) but the smell still hung deep in the air.
She turned to face her son who was seated at the far corner of the bed staring at her in disbelief; Zinny masked her shamed and flustered face in a fake smile:
“Why did you enter my room like that” She asked rather apprehensively.
“Mummy, you smoke?” The boy said more a statement than a question; he still looked incredulously at her
“Caleb, what are you doing in my room? How many times have we talked about knocking first? And why are you not preparing for school” She asked
“Miss Oyin doesn’t want me to bath with cold waters” Caleb replied in all seriousness, his mother’s sin momentarily forgotten.
“Isn’t the weather too cold for that” Zinny asked
“All the boys in my class bath cold water even in harmattan periods but she insists on making me bath the warm water she mixed”
“I bet It’s only for you good Cal, do you want to fall sick before your birthday next week?” she implored.
“I won’t fall sick. All the big boys in my class do it and I want to do so also!” he emphasized crossing his hands across his chest, an indication that his mind was made up. Zinny knew better than to enforce a command on him when he came up with that expression and so she resignedly said:
“Okay… Okay…. Tell her to allow you bath whatever water you want”
“Yes!” Caleb said victoriously and started jumping happily on her bed.
Zinny smiled and looked at her son with deep affection, even though she missed her daughter dearly, seeing her first son was enough to fill some of the ache that left her. Oh how deeply she loved him, he was one of the best thing to have happened to her. Who would have thought that she had wanted to terminate his pregnancy when it had happened over 10 years ago, but now his smile – even though it reminded her so much of his father – always gave her hope that something great happened in this mundane existence she lived.
He looked so much like his father, taking on his Fulani face; complexion and curly hair that sometimes made people think he was of mixed birth. But Caleb was very much Nigerian like his parents with all the characteristics of a privileged Nigerian child- self-assertive, bold, fearless and intelligent. He was the best thing those dark ages of her life had produced, she smiled again.
“Now Caleb, stop jumping on my bed and go get ready for school unless you’ll miss the bus”
“That’s true mum” he replied and jumped down, went to hug his mother and bounced out of the room only to return seconds later. “Mum, please promise me you won’t smoke again” he said soberly.
Zinny stared speechlessly at her son, how wrong of her to think that he had suddenly let that slide. She shook her head slowly at him with a contrite look.
“Okay. I love you mummy” Caleb continued
“I love you too son” She said and he bounced off again.
Zinny sighed and stood up. Smoking was her coping mechanism and didn’t think she would be stopping the habit anytime soon. She would endeavor to be more careful around him and that was all.
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Rose gulped down another glass of water as her eyes trailed back to the clock. It was a few minutes past six and she should still be sleeping since she had till 10am to be at the office. But she couldn’t sleep, she had tried so much to push every depressing thought and just let sleep envelop her but that had been futile and so here she was typing away at her laptop; finishing the draft to her court case holding on tomorrow.
Celebrities were full of shit she mused in exhilaration. Ever since she had taken celebrity representation as her supplement legal field, she had had to swallow more bullshit than she could chew. These celebrities think that their celebrity status accorded them the power to do whatever they liked, renege on contracts and slander fellow colleague just because they had the wealth and status to pull out of it.
Well one day she was going to damn it all and tell them to sort out their lives themselves! Wait, not only them, but her life in general – her single, lonely to stupor life at 36. Just what had she gotten with all the wasted years concentrating on her career, unfulfillment that’s what! All the men and chance at happiness she had pushed away because deep in her heart she always believed she deserved more, while she subconsciously held unto a crush for a man who had been totally off limits for her.
Maybe her mother had been right after all when she’d said she was under some spiritual influence. If that wasn’t what you called her tendency to lose more men than she could keep one, then what was? Or maybe it was her brother who had been the more right with his insistence that Zinny had been the undoing of her, he had never approved their relationship right from their band days.
He had always insisted that she had wasted her life waiting upon her and her children, playing aunt and mother to them while she kept her own life on hold. But Rose knew he was totally wrong, Zinny and she shared a bond that formed even before the extras came into their lives. Zinny would do anything for her as would she the same for her. They had shared everything since they met 15years ago, and they weren’t about stopping now just because he disapproved.
She had encouraged her to pursue this career further after they had both failed law school; after which she had linked her up with all her celebrity friends. It was this connection and her own hard work that had set and established her in this field. It was the same career that put food upon all their tables, so they had no right judging her, the only thing she needed from them was their support, just that! Wasn’t it enough with the societal pressure and backlash on her singleness?! Rose sighed and peeled out her reading glass.
Her eyes travelled to a picture of her and Zinny’s children, Cal and Princess. She smiled then; they were wonderful children and well loved by their mother who protected them with a motherly fierceness. Zinny easily fooled everyone with her conceited and snotty attitude, but she knew that deep within that self-assured exterior was a woman fighting demons of her own… just like her.
Aren’t we all? She asked herself and sighed again. Putting back her glass, she continued with her laptop but closed the Microsoft window she had been typing on and opened a browser where she searched for ‘Party planners in Lekki’.
She intended for an exquisite birthday for Cal’s tenth birthday. Since Zinny had automatically handed the responsibility of organizing her children’s birthday to her for the last 5years, she had always beat expectation and wowed all attendees. She smiled fondly; this was an activity she totally loved.
If there was no family, husband or children in the stars ever for her, she could easily console herself with experiencing that of her best friend’s
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Oluchi walked steadily on the road flooded with workers from the various companies situated in Ikeja Industrial Estate while she hummed to the tune playing on her headset. This was something she enjoyed doing, to drown off her environment and idle chatter of her colleagues, ease away the stress of the day while she walked to the Bus terminal close by.
She didn’t like going with the staff bus, there was always someone to ask her daily about the next big thing her sister was up to and she was tired of telling them that they both lead different lives. She loved her sister dearly, but it seemed people forget the fact that they were both different personalities with different interest in life.
Taking the Bus relaxed her; it made her reflective that there was a life beyond the one she grew up knowing, beyond high society and its obsession for vanity, stardom and recognition. She loved to see Lagos in all its different glory, the good, the bad and ugly. And most of all, she enjoyed that none of the passengers were interested in her background nor knew that she was a sibling to popular Nigerian Artiste.
Her father had tried so many times from dissuading her from taking such risks with the bus. He had called her earlier to take a cab at least when he’d discovered that her car was still parked in the garage at home. Well she would be seeing about that, if she couldn’t stand the rush-hour queue at the terminal then she would have to contact Uber.
A persistent car honk from behind brought her to a stop making her shift further away from the road even though she knew she had been very careful to tread on the pedestrian lane. The car came up front and slowed down beside her, its glass rolled down and the driver stuck his head out.
“Hello beautiful” The driver said
“Mark” She hesitated before saying, her face showing surprised discontentment. “… Are you going to keep doing this? What are you even doing around here?”
“Well I was in the neighbourhood and decided to wait up and be the personal chauffeur of her majesty”
“Oh please, you know I don’t care for any of that” She said with feigned annoyance.
“Still I couldn’t resist. Jump in, lets hit the road” He said imploring her.
“You know I like taking the bus”
“I know, but not today baby, Hop in!” he insisted
“Okay, okay… God Mark! I’ve told you to stop trying to woo me” She said and went round to the passenger seat “… I am not going to fall for your charms no matter how hard you try” She continued as she buckled her seat belt. “…so just take me home” she completed with all seriousness, though within she was flattered by this man who was making it hard for her to dislike him. After they had met on one of her bus trips, he had then shown up unannounced at her office during lunch hour for a lunch date. And for the past two weeks now he had not stopped in his quest to “make her his woman” like he had always put it.”
Mark chuckled “It’s a Friday, do you think any of your colleagues are headed home? Catch up with the trend, will you” He said and started the car “… allow me to swoon you this evening, her royal majesty” he bowed in faux adulation making Oluchi give a throaty laugh.
“Only because there’s no work tomorrow mister…” She pointed playfully at him “…and” she emphasized: “Home wasn’t really on my mind…” She completed
“Not even because you like me?” Mark said, feigning a pouty-sad face”
“Not even a tiny bit!” she said gesturing the amount with her fingers “Now look at the road will you?” She said, but rather playfully.
“As her highness wishes” Mark said and once again bowed in faux obeisance.
Kamal stopped and breathed deeply the boisterous air pervasive in the arrivals section of Muritala Mohammed Airport. Home sweet home, he thought to himself fondly before he continued his steady walk outside, the Uber driver he contacted was already 10 minutes away.
Clearance and customs had been easy. He had travelled light and had all his papers in order, the day was looking so positive already. In fact, every part of his life was. Today would mark the end of his loneliness and emptiness for his son Caleb would fill him completely.
All through the flight, He had fought the urge to go straight to Zinny’s house at Lekki and demand that she gave back his son she had fled The UAE with eight years ago. But, that would be too rash, not like he operated at all. He would take it easy, get to know more about their live before he made his grand appearance at Caleb’s tenth birthday. The pictures he received monthly or the piece of information he garnered of her from the internet was definitely not all there was to that selfish being his heart had tried so much to forget in vain.
God! How he would hurt her in the very place it mattered the most – full custody of their son. Kamal took another deep breath as he tried to unsettle all that bile that thinking about the mother of his son had welled up. Then he redirected his mind to locating his driver just as the app had prompted him of his presence.
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