By the time Nathan made it through the door of their four-bedroom Abuja home, it was already way past midday.
He slogged through the dimly lit living room, too exhausted to bother drawing aside the floral brocade curtains or turn on the lights. He didn’t need the light, what he needed was to sink his dog-tired body into his bed and block out everything for the next couple of hours.
His feet dragged across the hardwood floor as he made for his bedroom. The sunlight brimming in from the open slide windows burned into his stinging eyes. He swore loudly as he staggered to the window, drawing close the dark cream faux-silk curtains.
His sore eyes shot to the grey and mustard stripped bed, and he almost gave in to the sheer need of blanking out… the smoothly laid bed was so inviting.
But he badly needed a bath, he felt sticky all over and needed the rush of cold water over his exhausted body to get his mind into relaxation mode.
He kicked off his shoes. Then dragging off the dark grey blazer, he mechanically walked to the mahogany wardrobe to get a hanger, the thick rug massaged his aching feet as he traipsed along.
He stopped midway, remembering his clothes must be stinking with sweat and heat. He trudged to the mosaic tiled bathroom, and tossed the blazer into the dirty laundry basket. His cream T-shirt, grey trousers, white singlet and blue stripped boxers followed quickly.
He stepped into the squarish marble floor bathe and turned on the shower.
The blast of cold water hit him.
His quick shudder was one of pleasure not shock. The cascading cool water soothed his wearied, mangled body. He allowed the water to flow over him for two minutes before picking up the bathe gel on the silver counter. He could feel his mind coming alive again as he lathered up his wet body.
The concert had lasted way into the early hours of the morning. The entire crew had been beat. They’d all wanted to head home immediately and get a well-deserved rest. But unfortunately his indefatigable manager cum producer, Deji, had had other ideas. He’d called for a few minutes meeting.
His few minutes meeting, which had lasted the better part of the morning, had been focused on the opening ceremony of the All Jamz Nite concert kicking off Monday night at the International Conference Centre. Nathan had been invited to perform.
He’d instantly refused it of course. They – he and the entire band – were unprepared for such a short-notice concert. But sweet-tongued Deji had yapped endlessly about what such a gig could do for them. There were top Public Personalities expected there and blah blah blah.
His arguments hadn’t convinced Nathan but the wide-eyed look of anticipation in the eyes of his band mates at being able to perform in such high-tech concert had swayed him.
So instead of heading home after the all-night concert, Nathan, the entire crew and the dogged Deji had spent the entire morning discussing schedule of appearance, choice of songs, costume and all other stuff amid doughnuts, glasses of juice and tea mugs.
Nathan turned off the shower, stretching his hand to grab the fluffy white towel from the brass towel bar. He rapidly dried his body, hung back the towel and strolled back into the bedroom.
Drawing on a new pair of boxers, he made straight for the bed.
The bed groaned lightly as he sank his refreshed but still weary body into it.
He picked the remote from the bedside table and turned on the air conditioner. God bless Willis H. Carrier for inventing the air conditioner, he thought with an appreciative smile drawing the coverlet over his body, as the cool air circulated the room. He shut his eyes to all else.
But his mind, with a will of his own, drifted to Valerie.
God, he hadn’t talked to her since nine forty-something yesterday morning. They’d spoken for about ten minutes before he’d had to go on stage for his first show of the day.
He shifted to lie on his left side, surprised at how much he missed her. He missed her cool, smooth voice and throaty husky laugh. He missed the quiet hmm sound she made when she listened to him talk. He missed her quick snazzy rejoinders whenever he made some mischievous remark.
He should call her now, he decided. Twisting around and pulling back the coverlet as he stretched his right hand to take his phone.
The deep vibration sound from the table startled him, causing him to withdraw his hand with a jerk.
A groan escaped his lips, followed quickly by a muffled curse.
Why the hell hadn’t he switched off phone, he wondered. He would do so now, he decided grabbing the phone from the table, but a quick look at the readout had him groaning again.
He laid his weary head against the dark oak bedpost, clicked the answer button and placed the phone over his left ear. “Good afternoon mum.” His voice was a little hoarse.
Mrs Anthonia Abayomi-Phillips’ cheerful voice flowed through the line. “Hello darling. Did I interrupt something? You took a bit of time before you picked the call, you are not in a meeting, are you?”
He sighed. “No you didn’t mum.” Rubbing his tired eyes with the heel of his hand.
“Baby you do sound tired, are you okay?” His mother asked her cheerful tone now quiet and concerned.
“Late night show and early morning meeting.”
“But of course.” Tonia laughed. “It quite slipped my mind that you had a show last night. How great was it?” She asked in an eager enthusiastic voice.
Nathan smiled, feeling not so tired all of a sudden. “The concert had gone way better than we all had envisaged. The BMO arena overflowed with people.”
His mother’s quick laugh was one of pleasure. “I’ll just bet. There’s no woman alive who doesn’t want to hear the sexy baritone voice of Nate Phillips.”
“Mum!” He exclaimed laughing. “I said overflowed with people not women.”
Tonia chuckled. “And I can guarantee you that sixty-five percent of this overflowing crowd were ladies.” At her son’s groan she simply laughed. “Anyways I’m real glad you had a great show.”
“So what was the meeting about? You did say something about an early morning meeting.”
He ran his hand through his low-cut hair. “Meeting was with Deji. He’s booked an opening ceremony show for Monday at the ICC.”
“Really? You got invited to the All Jamz Nite concert at the ICC?”
“You know about the concert?” Nathan asked, surprised.
She snorted. “Of course I know about the concert. It’s all over the news, over here at Accra. Wait till Nana hears you are part of the opening ceremony, she’ll hit the roof.”
Nathan laughed believing her. Nana loved stuff like that. She took so much pride in her boys’ success.
“But I thought it was more of a secular kind of music thing.” His mother mused. “How come you got invited?”
“Some member of the organising team loves gospel music, maybe?” He ventured.
“Or maybe they just love you.” Tonia countered lightly. “Either way, it’s a good call for you and the band.”
He made a sound of agreement.
“In that case I shouldn’t further burden you.” She continued in a sympathetic voice. “I guess I should get off the line and allow you get your well-deserved rest.”
“It’s okay mum.” Nathan shook his head. “You can tell me whatever it was you that made you call. I’m not that tired anymore.” He stifled a yawn with the back of his hand.
“Are you sure?”
“Talk mum, your boy listeneth.”
She chuckled. “Oh well, it’s just that the Dorothy Perkins orders I placed arrived the shop about forty-five minutes ago.”
“Really? And Lola did not try to reach me?” Nathan queried in a sharp voice.
“She said something about your don’t-try-to-call-unless-it’s-an-emergency strict instructions on Thursday.” His mother responded in a quiet measured tone.
He sighed. “Sorry mum.” Apologising for his sharp tone. “So the dresses came in this morning?”
“So Lola tells me.” Tonia replied. “I placed a specific orders for plus size dresses and …”
“And I’m off to the shop now to inspect the goods.” Nathan interrupted already tossing aside the coverlet and getting to his feet.
“Nathan, you don’t have to go in, Lola can handle this.” Tonia protested.
He was already drawing out jeans trousers from his wardrobe. “Mum, you know we both love to personally inspect new arrivals and so does Lola, which is why she called you knowing you’ll get in touch with me right away.”
He turned the phone to speaker as he laid it on the bed. “And which is why you called me.” He swiftly dragged on the jeans.
He grabbed a black polo shirt and quickly pulled it over his head. “Don’t worry about me mum. I’ll get some rest when I get back.”
Tonia merely snorted. They both knew that inspecting new arrivals was not a hurry-over job. “Okay dearie.” She agreed, knowing she’d feel more at ease with Nathan there to oversee the inspection. “But don’t you have rehearsals this evening?”
“By six p.m.” He answered slipping on his loafers. “Not to worry, mum, I’m okay. Besides I have to call Manuel to confirm the orders arriving Lagos next week.”
He heard his mother’s quick intake of breath. “Nathan, I’m still a little sceptical about these orders from China.”
Nathan laughed. “Don’t be such a made-in-china snob, mum.” He chided lightly. “You do realize that more than half of what we purchase from Europe and America are outsourced to China for manufacturing?”
He picked up his other phone and his car keys.
“I do. But what about last year’s mix-up?” Tonia argued. “We don’t want people losing trust in us, do we?”
“Simply what you just called it – a mix-up. And these are top quality stuff, mum. Besides they are only in casuals.
He stepped through the door, remembering he hadn’t turned off the air conditioner, went back in and turned it off. “Trust me on this mum. I’ll call you after the inspection. Love you.”
“Okay.” Tonia responded in an acquiescent tone. “You are the man. Waiting to hear from you. Love you too.”
Dropping the phone into his side pocket, he went through the front door. His mind already swarming with shimmering images of beautiful dresses of all shapes and sizes.
As he made his way towards the Central business district where Elegance was situated, he put the call through to Manuel, using his hands free.
To be continued…