His number connected. He gave me a busy beep. I stared at the phone, confused. My heart raced out of its cage and started towards my mouth. I dialled the number again. He disconnected it, again! I screamed to the top of my voice, furiously.
“What happened?” Ken terrified voice jolted my senses into its faculty as he rushed into the room. “Why are you screaming?”
“Nothing,” I replied, shocked at his presence in the house. “I didn’t know you are in,” I added, trying to confuse him. “No morning jogs?”
“No,” I answered, firmly. “Now why are screaming?” he asked again.
“Nothing,” I replied again, feigning a smile. “Just some silly news,” I added, smirking.
“What kind of news and from whom?” he queried. “Amanda or Hope?”
I boggled. The smile on my face gradually disappeared. I couldn’t remember discussing any of that with him. How then did he know so much about the two most important girls in my life? Then my heart struck at Frank. I shook my head. “What else did he tell you about me?”
“Nothing more other than you are on a crossroad about these girls,” he added. “So what is really going on?
I stared at him. There was no answer to that question other than lies; lies that I have told enough just to keep my secret. And the more I tried to save it, the more lies I told. “It’s nothing, trust me,” I said and started for the room.
Just as I brushed past him, he pulled me by my left arm and dragged me back. I sneered at him, shocked. The last time I checked, my parents did not assign anybody the responsibility of watching after me. We were just roommates and with the weird and strange acts he and Frank have been putting on of recent, I don’t think I owe him any explanation about why I screamed in the house where I paid rent.
“Dude, do not pull me that way again,” I growled. “Please,” I mildly added when I felt my voice was too harsh.
He quickly let go of my arm. I placed my right hand on ruffled arm, trying to calm the pain it got from his rough and strong palm. I glanced at it and then at him.
“What is going on with you Thony?” he asked, with a voice so calm and welcoming like a father trying to start a sex related conversation with his son.
Ken was eldest of us all, respected and well behaved. But his careless reaction to Eric’s scandal which could have seen Eric expelled from the school cost him that respect, at least from my part. Since that incident, I have tried in every way I could to avoid anything that would involve him. He knew that, but as usual, he cared less.
“You ask that question like you are my father,” I scoffed. “Nothing is going on with me. I am fine,” I added, toying with my phone hoping Eric would call and explain the lay of the land with him.
“You are very good at many things but lying isn’t one of them,” he said. “Ever since that Joy’s unfortunate incident, you have been acting so withdrawn. Then few weeks ago Frank moved out of the room without any good reason and you took in Eric, the guy you were not even close to. What is going on?”
I chuckled. I could not believe that he noticed the drastic change of attitude and emotions in the house and never said anything about it. I chuckled harder.
“You are unbelievable,” I scoffed. “Eric has been my roommate for months now and you are just noticing. That’s very funny,” I added, and started towards the room again.
He stepped out of the way. I strode past him. He turned and stared at me walking down the hallway that connects the rooms.
“Thony,” he called, mellowed and calmed.
I halted, still giving him a show of my back.
“I am sorry,” he started.
The words fell like an ice water on my body.
Ken, despite all his careless attitudes, was the most attentive and loving of all my roommates. The problem was his stinginess of these good qualities. “I know this house has never been the same after Joy’s presence, and maybe I kind of helped in that and for that I am sorry. But please, now that we are alone, can we talk?”
I scoffed; silently. The idea of talking, making peace and having each other’s back as before was nice. But things were not the same anymore. I couldn’t engage him in a conversation, with the impression that we were being sincere while I knew within me that I was lying. I slowly turned at him. “There is nothing to talk about Ken,” I said, stepping closer to him. “Things are just hard for me now but I got them under control,” I smiled. He stared on. “And thank you. At least you asked. People I expected to ask never asked.”
“You mean Frank right?” he asked. “Don’t think he doesn’t care. He does. He just doesn’t know how to approach you. I have been asking him why he moved out of the room but he keeps saying nothing.” He paused, looked at my expressionless face and continued. “Look Thony, this house is occupied by guys and not girls. We should keep up the old profile that got people wondering if we are brothers.”
“Yeah,” I grinned.
“And about Amanda and Hope,” he said. “You should follow your heart. Make a step and don’t give up no matter what,” he added. “Girls are taken by what they hear, so, good luck.”
“Thank you,” I replied.
The advice was useless to me at that point but I had to make him feel like he helped me. I smiled at him while he threw his hand out for a shake. I lifted my hand to thrust in his but a message beep interrupted the movement. I quickly opened the message which was from Eric.
“I was with him, that’s why I didn’t pick. He’s gone for lectures now but he said the discussion is not over yet. What do I tell him?” The message read.
“Sorry,” I smirked at Ken whose hand has dropped. “I need to make a call,” I added and headed straight to my room, locked the door and dialled Eric’s number.
“You are an art student,” I said as soon he picked up. “Be creative and tell him a story.”
“What story?” Eric voice roared through the speaker and snaked into my left ear. “I never told you I was a story teller, please be real.”
“Okay, what do you want to tell him,” I interrupted. “You want to tell him Ahmed was my lover? Or that we both had sex last night?”
“You said no reference to last night?” he cautioned
“I know what I said and I know also that what you need to tell Frank is a good story that will make him to stop asking questions. He must not know who Ahmed is, never,” I sounded with much authority. “I am not your love!” I screamed seconds after. “Are you going to see Ahmed?” I asked, trying to divert his attention from the romantic talk he was about to brew. “You have to see him today. And tell him everything as we discussed,” I said. “Okay, later then,” I replied after his long narrative and strategic talk on how he planned to get Ahmed trapped in our hook.
I hung up, stared at the phone for some time and sighed. I slumped on the bed, disbelieving the person I was becoming. I thought about my parents and the principles they had laid out for me, the family moral that I have uplifted since my 100 leave which was slipping off my fingers at the very last year in my school. I thought about what my parents would think of me if they ever found out about who I was becoming. I sighed. I wanted to be a good and responsible ambassador of my home. Not just because my parents thought me to, but because I have grown and understood the difference between good and evil. Because I have realized that good is good and evil is evil. But this thorn on my flesh proved a very big hindrance to all my effort and with my past constantly popping up to my face every chance it got, I became frustrated and despondent. I might as well enjoy myself, lest I lost from both ends. I inhaled. Stood up and yanked the door open.
Ken was there, gawking at me like a child confused at the various growths on an adult’s naked body.
“What are doing here?” I stuttered, wondering if he has been eavesdropping to my phone conversation.
“Who were you talking to and who is Ahmed?” he quizzed, shocked and confused.
….the story continues….