Anike woke up the next day and didn’t feel different. She thought that was strange. She had fully expected that millionaires felt differently when they woke up in the morning. Disappointing, she thought to herself and then smiled. She looked at the luminous dials of her little bedside clock. 5:30 a.m.
She had only an hour until opening time at the café. It then occurred to her that she could quit her job if she wanted and she smiled again. She thought about all the suffering in the past; her parents’ death, Aunty Chioma’s maltreatment of her, Grandmother’s amnesia, the utter wickedness of Kunle’s mother.
For someone in her early twenties, she had been through a lot. She then remembered a statement she heard from her Grandma once. ‘When enemies push hard, don’t despair, they just might be pushing you to your success.’
The statement turned her thoughts to her Grandmother. Maybe Mama is still alive, Anike thought. She had to find out. She made up her mind to fly to Nigeria as soon as possible. Even if Mama didn’t remember her, she was still her granddaughter.
She decided she would go to Nigeria before the end of the week. Then Stephan popped into her mind. He had been her friend for over three years now, and her boyfriend for two of those. She knew it would be hard convincing him to let her go.
Now that she could afford to go home, she couldn’t keep staying in Italy and she knew Stephan couldn’t follow her to Nigeria. His whole life and business is here in Italy, she thought. She realized there was simply no way for them to go on once she left for Nigeria. Anike felt bereaved.
Stephan was such a great guy who was in love with her as much as she was with him. He had been there for her all this while and she didn’t know what she would do without him. She wept long and hard for her future loss.
Later that morning, Anike was trying to show a new employee how the cash register worked when Stephan walked in. It was around 8 o’ clock and the place was already filled with students dropping in for coffee on their way to class.
‘You’re a strange kind of millionaire, you know?’ Stephan joked as he walked around the counter to hug Anike. He said hi to the new guy and sat on a stool.
‘I’m serious,’ he insisted. ‘What kind of a millionaire wakes up at 5 and is at work by 6:30?’
‘Well, I’m not your everyday millionaire.’ She replied with a chuckle.
‘You bet you aren’t.’
‘I know.’ Anike replied, slamming the cash register tray into place. ‘You don’t need to keep saying it.’ She turned her back and started to walk out.
Stephan frowned. He didn’t understand why she was angry for a while until it dawned on him.
‘Hey!’ he grabbed her. ‘I didn’t mean that!’
The new recruit was staring at them strangely. Stephan pulled Anike out to the back of the café and stared straight into eyes.
‘Listen, you won a lottery. So what? What makes you different from any other person that worked and scrapped to make their money? We all benefit from a stroke of luck, sooner or later. You deserve this more than anyone I know, Anike and don’t let anybody tell you any different.’
Anike blinked and thought about it. She realised what he was saying was true. She smiled and hugged him fiercely.
‘You know I read it somewhere that over ninety percent of lottery winners eventually end up as poor as they were before?’ Anike said into his ear.
Stephan pulled back from the embrace and held her by the waist.
‘If I’ve discovered anything about you all this while, it is that you’re not like most people,’ he said, looking into her eyes again. ‘You’re too smart to throw your money away.’
Anike smiled again.
‘I love you dear.’ He told her and took her into his arms again. ‘I love you too.’
Anike knew she should tell him about her impending departure but she decided against it. She didn’t want to ruin the moment. Stephan looked at her face again. He seemed to know she was holding something back.
‘You can spill it now.’ He demanded, confirming Anike’s fears.
She decided she might as well tell him now.
‘I’m going to Nigeria, Stephan.’ she whispered against his chest.
‘I still have family back home and more importantly, I have to find out if Mama is still alive.’
Stephan released her from his embrace when he realized she was not joking. He stared at her, trying to comprehend why she would want to go back to a family that had treated her so badly, to a grandmother that had forgotten about her existence.
‘Why?’ he asked simply.
‘Because they are my family, Stephan, and Nigeria is my home.’ Anike hoped to God that he would understand her reasoning.
‘What about me, Anike? What about us?’
Anike’s heart lurched as he called her name. Stephan had learnt how to pronounce her name correctly over the years and it delighted her anytime he called it. But not right now. Her heart ached as never before as she came to the realization that he would never understand her reasons of wanting to go back home.
Stephan waited in vain for an answer to his questions. When none was forthcoming, he turned on his heel and walked back through the café and out to the street. He simply could not believe his ears. He loved Anike in a way he had never loved anyone before and she was going to rip that away.
Just like that. He remembered how often he told her he loved her and how she always replied that she loved him too. Maybe she had been stringing him along all this while. Maybe she had always planned to bail out on him as soon as she had some money.
Maybe she was such an expert at lying that she had made him believe she loved him back. I know all that is not true, he said aloud. He was merely trying to find a sane reason for a decision that sounded insane to him. He had navigated the road from the café to his building on auto pilot and was now at his door.
He pulled out his key from his pocket, put it in the lock and turned it. As soon as he entered, he saw it. The shock of Anike’s words had made him forget about the cake he ordered last night. It was a beautiful little cake with red and white trimmings and a heart shape.
He had placed it on a little stool in the center of his room with a knife sticking out of it. On another stool beside it was a tray that held Anike’s favourite mango juice and two glasses. He had planned to whisk her into his room as soon as she got back from work for a room date. He shook his head as he realized she would never get to see the cute red cake or the ring in it.
To be continued…
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