“I think I’m in love with him,” replied Stella.

She’d responded to a query by Tickles on whether she liked the new guy who’d moved to stay in their apartment.

“Love? Why are you talking about love? I asked if you liked him because all you’ve done for the past 1 hour is to talk about how he’s been helping the neighbors carry their trash to the bin and so wanted to get closer to him,” Tickles sounded shocked.

“And I answered you la. I think I’m in love with him. Charley, this guy is fione and every time we talk, it’s like lightning runs through me,” Stella sighed in appreciation.

“To me he’s conceited. He has this air around him like he knows he’s attractive so everyone should worship him,” she snorted.

Stella shook her head. “You just don’t know him.”

“As if you do,” Tickles retorted.

The two girls had been friends from class 6 to this present age. Though they came from different tribes, areas, etc, the two girls had bonded so much that they’d been roommates from their first year in university upwards. They were both 32 years and though pursuing their masters, still roomies. That neither of them had gotten married wasn’t much of a mystery looking at the fact that both were virgins who had unfortunately met guys who weren’t just cheats but whose sole aim had been entering into their panties. An impossible feat made even ridiculously difficult by the fact that each of them will set the other’s guy up and he’d consequently fail.

Their first testing was when they were at the uni L200. Tickles whose birth name is Joana Antiwaa Sarpong met a guy on her way to the hostel canteen. He had offered to pay for her breakfast and asked if they could be friends which she’d readily agreed to. He invited her to watch movies and on picking her up that evening, met Stella who had liked him because of his calm demeanor.

Tickles had found him to be a gentleman as he was helpful and quite well informed but never tried to take advantage of the dark cinema hall to try anything funny. He had dutifully seen her to her door when they returned to campus and hadn’t requested for a hug nor kiss. A simple ‘good night’ had ended their date night. Both girls had been impressed and certain he was a good guy but in order to be sure he didn’t turn out to be a sleaze, Stella decided to fish around for information.

What she found out was damning. Ronni as his name was, already had a baby mama on campus and a girl waiting for him back home. His homegirl had even gone to the campus to fight with his baby mama to the point of tearing off her clothes and running away with her shoes and brand new iPhone. Ronni had been pressured by the parents of his baby mama to get his girlfriend to return the items since the father was the one who bought it for her.

He who had initially bragged to people about how rich he was had had to hide from all and sundry when the terrible truth came out that it was rather the baby mama who was rich and had been funding his education and everything about him. She’d told him to desist from his womanizing ways before taking him back. He’d promised not to mess around but had begun to be more discreet with his cheating, opting to date naïve women who would fall so completely in love with him that he could convince them to keep their relationship a secret. The lady who told Stella all these was her coursemate and one of his “secret” girlfriends who had quietly found out about the other four other girls he’d been dating but had decided not to confront him.

Armed with all this info, Stella told Tickles and they both agreed for Stella to call him and pretend to have fallen in love with him but would want them to be discreet to avoid Tickles getting to know. Ronni had fallen for it hook, line and sinker and looked like a fish flung violently out of water when the girls confronted him a week later with the messages and calls. He’d gone to the room to search for Tickles after assuring Stella that he wouldn’t even kiss Tickles but just wanted to chat with her to avoid suspicion. He’d gotten angry and walked out of the room when they both told him they knew what he’d been up to.

Their next victim was the head-teacher in the school Tickles taught in during her National Service. The man who had gotten the position by dint of being the proprietor’s son had immediately taken a shine to her from the very first day she entered his office to hand him her letter. He warmed up to her and would pick her up to and from school. He expressed his interest in dating her and hopefully moving it a step further. Tickles had liked him but for the fact that he was her boss became apprehensive. Stella tried her magic on him by coming to the school, flirting with him and viola, he fell for her, therefore ignoring his “lady love.”

There were 2 other guys over the years which had cemented their resolve not to let any guy into their lives since all of them had nothing good as their intention. But unbeknown to Stella, Tickles had always felt an unease whenever any man approached her and wanted her. That Stella was able to get him to divert his attention away from her had always made her wonder if her friend had a magic wand when it came to men or she, Tickles, rather lacked something that would make them want to leave her for her friend.

She’d always harbored resentment over her friend’s ability to get “her” men and had been looking for a chance to pay her friend back in her own coin so to speak and to also see if she could make a guy who wanted her friend, look her way for a change.

Thinking such thoughts was so unlike her that she quickly pushed it out of mind. Her friend however, had other ideas.

“Tickles, he has asked me out tonight. He hasn’t told me he likes me yet but should he do so, I would like you to find out for me if he really means it or is a sleaze bag like we all know most guys are.”

“Say no more,” Tickles assured her, glad to put her plan into action.

 

THAT EVENING AT exactly 7PM, Thom, their new neighbor knocked on their door and gave Tickles a friendly smile when she opened it.

“Hi, I’m here to pick up Stella. Is she in?” Tickles was mesmerized by his smile

“Yes, she is. Hey Stella, your friend is here.”

Stella stepped into the hall with a figure hugging jump suit and heels which made her already 5”11 frame seem taller than her rather down-to-earth friend who was 5”2.  She waved the two of them off and went to watch a movie on Netflix plotting how to test Thom to see if he was faithful or not.

 

4 HOURS LATER, Thom saw Stella to her door and wished her a good night. Stella entered the apartment and looked over at Tickles. Tickles also looked at her. Both weren’t smiling but someone was getting impatient.

“Well?”

“Well, he took me Kwashin Cinema Hall and bought me popcorn, Coke, nkaticake, ice cream and water. I didn’t like the nkaticake so he ate it but the popcorn was so-o delicious. Do you know that they sell cheese flavored popcorn there?” she grinned when she saw the glare from her friend.

“Okay, okay, so we went for the movies and watched Maleficent II. After that, we went to grab a pizza and he ordered an uber to bring us home. A perfect gentleman.”

“He didn’t make any moves on you?”

“Nope.”

“Okay. That’s a plus in his favor but you’ll never know. What’s the next plan?”

“Well, he did ask me if I would love to join him for his early morning walk. I said yes.”

“You?” Tickles burst out laughing. “Somebody who the earliest she can wake up is 9 if she’s not going to work?”

“I just don’t get why I should wake up so early on a weekend,” she grumbled. “It’s not like I have anywhere to go.”

“Well, this time you do. You have a walking date, if there is such a thing.”

“Look, why don’t you go?”

“Huh?”

“Yeah. You’re always up by 5 so you can join him and get to, you know…wait. I’m coming,” Tickles watched befuddled as Stella sped out.

 

STELLA KNOCKED ON Thom’s door. She could hear Khalid’s “Talk” playing on the Bluetooth speaker. She banged on the door and immediately Thom opened it.

“Hi,” he asked with a puzzled look.

“I was kind of wondering. Is it possible that my friend rather joins you for the walk? I kinda will work online till late and I feel I might disappoint you so would rather you went with her so that you wouldn’t feel like I stood you up or something and don’t worry, I’ve asked her and she’s ok with the idea. She wakes up very early anyway.”

Thom blinked at the deluge of words and said, “well, ok. Sure.”

Stella was delighted. “Thanks so 5:30 it is.” Then she left to her apartment. Thom craned his neck to watch her leave, shrugged and went back into his room.

 

IT WAS 5:25AM and for the umpteenth time, Tickles went to stand at Stella’s door, raised her hand to bang on it, dropped it and went back to the living room. She’d changed her mind and unchanged her mind 77 times within the past 2 hours. She’d been so excited that she hadn’t slept a wink. She didn’t know what was going on and why she was feeling this way. Why she felt excited yet anxious over a mere walk. She sighed. It was just a walk with her neighbor who was talking to her best friend and soon to be her boyfriend if everything went well. She reminded herself that she was on a mission to test this guy to see if he would want to cheat on her friend with her. She had to remind herself over and over that that was the reason why she was doing this.

She exhaled loudly and went to sit on an armchair, trying to calm her nerves down. She heard a discreet knock 3 minutes later and went to open it. Thom looked surprised to see her.

“I really wondered if you were awake or not so didn’t want to knock loudly in case you weren’t.”

“Oh don’t worry. I’m up. I wake up early anyway.”

“Yeah. Your friend told me that.”

He stared at her for a second longer than necessary making her squirm internally. She looked into his eyes but there wasn’t any detectable expression. She gave herself a mental shake.

“Let me grab a bottle of water and join you in front of the house.”

“Sure.” With that, she closed the door and went to the fridge to pick up a bottle. She checked her jogging outfit, smoothened the bun on her head and went out, closing the door with a soft click. Unknown to her, Stella had woken up uncharacteristically early, suddenly scared she might have made the biggest mistake of her life.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

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