Esther made her way home grudgingly, she had to drop off one of her co-nurses by bode thomas before driving through terrible traffic to get to her place at Aguda, surulere. as soon as she drove in as expected the light in her son's bedroom went off and she heard his door bang. she sighed quietly wondering how she was going to survive another night in this house. she opened the door to see her little 9 year old daughter seated on the floor in the sitting room almost entering the television screen munching biscuit , "grace what did i tell you about going so near  the TV, you will hurt your eyes." "welcome home mama "her daughter greeted nonchalantly her eyes not wavering from the TV, this was the time her husband should have scolded her daughter for being disrespectful but he was gone, this time around she had not heard from him in two months and she was too tired to play daddy and mummy, she was tired of everything. "have you and your brother eaten?" "yes we ate indomie with fish" Esther shook her head and walked into her bedroom, the house as usual was in disarray, dirty socks and clothes littered the passage, without even dropping her handbag she began to pick up clothes, pencils, socks she heard the music blasting from her sons room turned up loud as if he were in a party, she knew that if she knocked on his door to tell him to reduce the volume , he would ignore her or even worse scream at her and probably lash out , she opened her bedroom door, dropped her stuff and slumped on her empty bed crying , the tears rolled fast and continuous she hugged her pillow and said the same prayer she prayed every night "Father in heaven have mercy on me and let this cross pass over me , for it is too heavy "

Ndidi changed for the umpteenth time, she could not believe she was making an effort to dress up , she always threw on her tailored shirts and jeans but today she brushed out the hem of the blue Michael Kors halter dress she had on, her light skin glistened in contrast to the dark eye make up she had on, she had brushed her brown hair backwards smoothing the sides with a comb so that the tinted blonde hair slanted visibly by the sides .she tried to tell herself that she was taking the extra effort to look this hot because she needed to impress her brother's crowd but she knew she was lying to herself, she was making an effort to impress Fredrick, she had not seen him in two weeks and it was partly her fault,she had not returned his numerous calls and had not bothered to send him an acknowledgement that she had received the vase of flowers he had sent first to her house and then another to her office eventually he had sent her a  text last week friday, the text read "thinking about you is driving me crazy but i will stop hounding you ,my wounded pride cannot take this anymore" she had been in a meeting with Abbas and his cohorts briefing them on the information she needed about Esther Ekong when the text came in and for a minute she had lost her train of thought, it wasn't as if she did not want to call him but every time she picked up the phone to dial his number her body shivered, she was a novice at this kind of relationships and she just didn't know what to say, eventually after the meeting she had called one of her girlfriends and gone out drinking to dull the pain, she was damaged goods anyway Fredrick would be better off without her.

Jumoke sat at the meeting bored with her staff, the recession had hit her father's companies hard as demand for their products had reduced drastically, her dad had put her in charge of the strategy session to brainstorm on other avenues to make income or they would be left with no choice but to lay off 40% of the staff, the feedback she had been getting from the committee was pathetic to say the least, she looked at the time it was almost 8p.m and still no headway she had hoped to stop by the hospital to check up on Lillian today but with this clowns throwing childish ideas back and forth that was out of the question, she felt a sense of happiness when she thought of herself as the only visitor that came to see her neighbor Lillian, she felt as if when Lilian came out of the coma she would be grateful of that and would be forever indebted her, she hid a smile as she remembered how she would brush her her hands through Lilian's hair when she was sure that idiotic nurse wasn't coming back to the room anytime soon and talk to her for hours , she had read somewhere that there was a theory that patients in a coma were still aware of familiar voices and smells whilst in a comatose state , she always made sure she brought a christian dior poison perfume and put on her wrist before she left every day because she had noticed that Lillian loved that perfume, hopefully she would be out of the coma soon presently she tried to feign interest as she listened to the head of marketing educate the group on some crazy idea of bringing a painting workshop for children to the market she adjusted her legs and tried not to scream.

Ndidi walked into the conference room at the moorhouse hotel Ikoyi and heard the gasps as soon as she walked in, for a minute she wondered why everybody was staring her way for someone like Ndidi her looks always took a back seat to her achievements in her career, most times she forgot that at 5 ft 11 inches and with her features she could be mistaken for a model, she saw her brother weave his way towards her wearing a nicely tailored suit and smiling from teeth to teeth she could not have been more proud, James was now a doctor. He came and swept her off her feet screaming everyone meet my big sis , the ruckus that followed was crazy , she kept on being pushed from face to face with James doing the introductions they were all young men and women giddy with wine and excited at their achievements or beaming with joy for their relatives , her eyes kept scanning the room and James prodded her "he is not here sis he is on call?" "who ?" Ndidi queried feigning ignorance James winked and laughed at her "you think i don't know about you two " she shrugged and began to walk away, James could be annoying leaving the noise from the party she stepped out into the adjoining room which appeared to be a lounge , she slumped on a couch watching what seemed to be a music video on the TV screen she must have sat staring blankly at the TV screen for about 5 minutes before she nodded off because it was his voice that woke her up she heard his deep rich laughter before she saw him, she quickly began to fret, quickly retouching her makeup and adjusting her dress , her insides began to quiver as she heard his quick determined steps coming her way she quickly got up and began to swirl the drink in her glass pretending to be engrossed with the music video . "Hey beautiful " he said softly standing at the doorway staring at her she turned and had to steel herself from buckling, she had forgotten just how handsome he looked, dressed in a black tailored tuxedo and dark blue bow tie which he had let hang loosely untied on his neck his dark complexion looked even more intoxicating in the brightly lit room ."James said you were on call" she blurted out stupidly. "yes i was but i called someone to relieve me i had to be here for him...and you." Ndidi began to blush the way he paused before adding that last statement made her a little bit giddy she began to think she had drank too much ."so Ndidi are we going to have this conversation?" He continued in that dangerous soft tone of his ,"what conversation?." she responded hurriedly "don't patronize me you owe me that at least" he growled angrily coming closer there was something about the way he looked at her, she could see the anger and hurt in his eyes and something else "i need to understand you what are you afraid of?" "afraid" Ndidi repeated "i,m not afraid it,s just work and erm" " if you,re not afraid then why are you shaking" at this point he was standing not less than 5 inches from her and she actually began to feel herself tremble and she knew it had nothing to do with the cold air wafting from the central air conditioner "i..erm its..erm" she began to stammer, one minute she was staring into his dark eyes the next she felt his lips touch hers ,it was like pouring molten lava into hot coal the effect was electric, his tongue played with her lips until she opened up to him in surrender and then he began to devour her, even the noise of her glass as it slipped from her fingers and shattered to the ground did not break them apart it was James voice as he rushed into the room that pulled them apart Ndidi had to turn away to catch back her breath, James smiled with understanding "you two should try not to destroy this place before this party ends ,my first salary is already going into this party can't afford to pay for more broken items" Fredrick smiled adjusting his tie , james could not resist as he turned to walk away "Big Fred just so you know if you,re going to come into the family come with ear plugs she snores in her sleep" James rushed out before the pen she threw at him hit him. there was an awkward silence between them and she was glad when her phone rang she picked it up gratefully it was Abbas. "boss lady come right now i have explosive news on the case."

Ndidi waited patiently in her car outside Light of the world Mission church, she was told Esther Ekong brought her daughter here every Thursday for choir practice, her head was still reeling from the information Abbas had given her, a part of her told her it was too over the top to be true , she had come in contact with all sorts of characters in her job but Esther Ekong,s skeleton was too explosive for the profile she had placed her in,she sat up as she saw a dark plump middle aged woman emerge with a young girl of about 8 or 9, she looked down at the picture she had asked Dike to scan to her confirming that it was nurse esther , the child had a large nylon of boiled groundnut in her hand munching away happily as they made their way to a dark blue 504 car parked at the corner of the road, Ndidi made her way to them cautiously the woman seemed to be trying to convince the girl to stop loitering the ground with groundnut shells but the little girl ignored her mum running around like a hyperactive energized bunny , Ndidi frowned at that age her father would have given her a large slap at the back of her head if she tried that with her mother. "Nurse Ekong" ndidi called out when she was a few meters from them she felt the woman stiffen "yes can i help you?" " my name is Ndidi Akiwu you night have met my colleague Dike" esther hissed cutting her off, "Grace get into this car this instant" Ndidi smiled "Mrs Ekong i,m not the lady you want to walk away from " "all you blood thirsty reporters you have no respect , hounding me even with my family " Esther opened the car door and was about getting in when Ndidi dropped the name "how is your son doing ..what,s his name favor?? and his best friend Rotimi i,ve been hearing stories about them." Esther froze in shock, she looked up at the tall lady and she seemed to be smiling knowingly. "how did you.." "let,s talk Mrs Ekong you and i..away from prying ears maybe you might want to follow behind my car i was just about to head to Chicken republic just by the corner ,i,m sure your daughter would want some ice cream." Grace started jumping in the car seat "yes yes yes" Ndidi turned without even giving her an option of responding, five years in this business and she knew when she had a target cornered ,the fear in Esther,s eyes had her given away "my car is the grey colored Hyundai" Ndidi called out as she walked to the other side of the road " you will have to keep up with my driving madam i,ve been told i drive like a lunatic" Esther watched in fright as the tall woman walked briskly away her eyes beginning to swell up with tears , her worst nightmare had come to light someone had found out about her secret she hurriedly opened her car door she had no choice but to follow her , she always knew this time would come she had only prayed for more time.

To be continued