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My mom, the religious nut she is, will always tell me, “Nothing is ever hidden under the sun. One day God will expose you.” It makes me always wonder what type of mother she is. Normal mothers support and protect their kids but my mom will gladly throw me under the bus to please Jesus. And today, she has reared up her ugly head to remind me that nemesis is at my door.
“Mommy, I have heard you,” I say to her on the phone. I don’t even know why I answered her call. I am in the middle of something here.
“Ojonoka, pray o! Pray well-well! Devil wants to use you.”
Devil is already using me. He’s six foot tall, rugged, the exact opposite of my husband and he is presently screwing his fine tool into my lady parts. So, nothing new, mommy. I am potty in the hands of the devil because you refused to help me cover my sins.
“Can I go now?” I tell her gruffly, biting down my lower lip to contain the pleasure the father of my illegitimate son is giving me. I can’t tell you his name, so let’s call him B.
I dump my phone on the floor and clasp my arms around B as he digs in deeper in a manner that would make you think he wants to drill a hole all the way to my mouth. But it’s pleasure to me. It comes with pain that I’m used to. Pain that I like. This is a lot better than waiting and begging to be loved by Ibro. Forget that I shed tears before Celia just the other day. It’s tears of regret, not of guilt. I regret that I didn’t listen to my mom when she told me to be straight with Ibro on the issue of my first son. The money was all I saw and I was going to have it even if it meant denying my own blood. That was what I did, and now, I am paying for it. B has refused to stay in the shadows but it’s all good. This is a blessing in disguise. He gives me the attention Ibro denies me. Yes, I have to pay for it but body no be firewood. This is me loving myself. So, please don’t judge. You have no idea what it means to be neglected and to spend many nights alone until you have walked in my shoes. I started collecting B’s tool a long time ago but for people like Celia and Bimpe who like to poke their noses into people’s affairs, I had to play the victim card.
The two annoying creatures caught me leaving a hotel with B a year ago. It was after dark and we had the shadows to our advantage but that hawk-eyed Bimpe sighted us from afar as B was shoving his tongue down my throat while begging me to go back with him to the hotel for another round.
“Is that not Noks?” I heard her say. I froze and spun around. Guilt filled my face but I played a quick one, when I turned around, slapped B and hurried towards my friends.
“Noka, what is going on here?” Celia asked. I began to cry. She faced B. “Excuse me, what were you just doing to my friend?”
B laughed. “Ask her.”
And then he walked away. I held Bimpe tightly and bawled my eyes out. When they were finally able to get me to stop, I opened up to them and revealed everything. The only part I doctored was the part about how I enjoyed my moments with B.
“Please, don’t tell anybody,” I cried. “If Ibro hears it, he will divorce me. What will now be left of me and the boys?”
Celia who was also in tears with me, promised that she would keep her mouth shut. Bimpe also gave her word. All has been good so far. My mom’s prophecies can hit a brick wall and shatter to nothingness for all I care. The universe is on my side. Ibro does not love me. B is my recompense.
“Is he as good as this?” B asks me, his hand grasping my hair as he grinds me senseless.
“No,” I reply breathlessly.
“You’re the best,” I moan.
“You’re the best!”
He is not the best, though. Ibro is. My husband can make love like humanity depends on his dick for survival. But dick that can form for Africa, is that one dick?
I hold on to B, clutching his hairy butt for more of what he’s giving but I know dude is spent. So I brace myself for the end of my short-lived pleasure and start making plans for dinner. My boys are spoilt; they won’t eat yesterday’s leftovers or the nanny’s meals. I have to go home and prepare something fresh.
“Please, don’t cum,” I beg B. If only he listens and lasts as long as Ibro does.
“I’m sorry, baby but…”
He cums. Hard and noisily. I wish I have another fifteen or more minutes to spare to get the full measure of the type of pleasure I want.
B withdraws from me. I pull my legs up. He can see that I’m not happy but he doesn’t care. Shey he has taken all my money and gotten his satisfaction.
“Same time, next week?” he asks. “Or rather, come earlier. These days you just want to pop in and dash out. What’s up with that?”
I shrug. These days I’m being careful. Celia is insisting I tell Ibro the truth and my mother keeps preaching to me. Somehow it’s all getting to me.
“Nothing. I’m just busy.”
“Don’t be too busy for me.” He taps my ass, and when I try to walk away, he pulls me back. “Watch this.”
He shows me a video on his phone. It’s the latest recording of our son. Tears fill my eyes as I watch the boy playing football with a friend. B might be greedy and lacking of morals but he’s a good dad. He actually uses some of the money I send to him on our son. I am grateful for that.
“I’m tired of him asking for his mother.” B stops the video midway. “When are we going to tell him the truth?”
My tummy knots. “B…” I sigh. “You want me to lose my marriage? Where will the money come from if I do?”
“Your son thinks you’re his aunt and that we’re brother and sister. How does that sound right in your ears?”
“As right as you eating my monthly income!” I yell. “I don’t hear you complaining about that! But if you want it to stop coming, go ahead and tell him who I am! In fact, go and tell the whole world! Or better still, invest the money so that when my husband eventually kicks me out of his life, we’ll have something to fall back on!”
I hiss and pick my clothes off the floor. He watches me without saying a word as I dress up.
“See you next week.”
I pick my handbag and phone and head out. The moment I shut the door, I bump into Eno.
I gasp. Loudly. She gasps as well. She is also leaving a hotel room, and I can hear the voice of a man. Well, well… This should be interesting.
“Noka.” She recovers faster than I do. “What are you doing here?”
I am about to throw the same question at her when the door behind me opens and B sticks out his brainless head.
“Baby, you forgot your watch.”
I grab it from him and he retreats, totally oblivious of what he has just done. I turn around to find Eno’s arms crossed and a malicious look on her face.
“Noka, what did I just use my two eyes to see?”
“I should also ask you the same question,” I throw back at her as the man she is with steps out of the hotel room. Unfortunately for me, even before she says a word, I can see a clear resemblance between her and the guy. They possess the same complexion, same eyes, same lips and same color of brown hair.
“You mean, this guy?” She laughs. “This is my baby brother who just completed his NYSC and is here for some seminar being organized by this hotel. Should I assume that the guy that just handed you your wristwatch is your brother too?”
“Erm…yes. I’m his sister.”
“So brothers call sisters ‘baby’?”
I laugh drily. “That’s what everyone calls me at home.”
“I see. So, Ibro knows him?”
“I… No. Ibro hasn’t met him yet. He doesn’t live in Nigeria. He just came in from…Kuwait. He’s a…basket baller. See how tall he is? Hehehe.” I scratch my neck uneasily. I’m a rusty liar.
“I see. Why don’t you take him home? Why is he here?”
She walks past me and knocks on the door. Stupid B opens it.
“Hey, Noka’s tall brother.”
B frowns at her and then turns his eyes on me.
“I’m Eno, Noka’s mate.”
“We’re married to the same man.”
“Yeah, nice to meet you. I was just scolding her about letting you stay here when she has this really fancy house.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m…”
“Nonsense. You should come to hers. My husband would be glad to meet you. Seems you guys haven’t met before, which is quite strange. He knows every member of my family. I don’t see why he shouldn’t know Noka’s.”
Right now, I am praying for a bomb to drop or rapture to happen so that I can escape this mess. How do I get out of this one?
“Really, I’m fine here.”
“Okay. If you say so but Ibrahim won’t like it. Welcome to Nigeria.”
B looks at me. I smile.
He goes back into the room. Eno turns to her brother.
“Get your things, let’s go home.”
I see a complaint on his face but the frown she flashes him makes him disappear back into his room. The moment he leaves, she faces me.
“You smell of sex, you know that? Your hair is a mess, your lipstick is gone and there is guilt all over your face.”
“Sex? What are you talking about?”
“I have nothing more to say to you. Ibro will hear about this…”
“Eno, no.” I grab her hand. She looks at me and I withdraw. “Let me explain…”
She opens the door to her brother’s hotel room. “Explain it to your husband.”
And that is how my mom’s has used her mouth to jinx my good fortune. I clutch my fearful heart and handbag and leave the hotel to my car where I mull over what awaits me. It doesn’t matter what I would cook up to tell Ibro, Eno will paint a terrible picture and that would be the end of me. The only person that can save me is my mom but she would rather be burnt at a stake for Jesus than lie to save her daughter’s ass.
I am done for. Nobody can tell me anything. My own is finished. I better call the girls and start finding a way to twist this tale my way.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
I haven’t seen Naomi since the incident. I had taken her to the hospital that night, following what her husband did to her, and stayed until the morning when she begged me to leave. She expressly told me I was never to visit her again. I knew it was the abused woman in her talking and so I ignored her pleas, went home and checked in on her later that day. I wasn’t allowed in to see her, however. I left and made plans to visit the following day. When I returned, I was told that she had been transferred to another hospital. According to the nurse at the front desk, the doctor who had handled a few other similar cases from Naomi was tired of her shielding her husband and lying about her injuries. She had claimed the latest one was from a car crash and he wasn’t buying it. Hence, he asked her to leave, stating that he was scared of being implicated if she eventually ended up dead. No one knew what hospital she was taken to. I called her number several times but she ignored my calls. I am scared for her.
It’s a Tuesday, a tiring one, but not too tiring for me to respond to a call from a friend. I don’t do it alone. I take Peace and Honey along to see Mary. I don’t really suggest the visit. I just drive up to see Peace, pick her up and then do the same to a whining Honey.
“I’m tired,” she complains. “This is 3pm. We’ll jam traffic on the way. Can’t we do this during the weekend?”
“No. Lasting friendships do not run on convenience. Mary needs us…”
“No, she needs you. She called you alone.”
“Honey, stop being such an annoying person this afternoon.”
“I’m tired!” she almost cries.
“Enter the car, jare.”
“You’re lucky I used a cab today. I wouldn’t have followed you,” she says, taking the backseat. Once she gets in, she sets to nurse Jiney. “I hate you, Celia.”
I get in behind the wheel.
“What’s with Mary, though?”
“I don’t know. She called me, says she needs to talk.”
“Then it’s serious. Mary’s the one we all go to when we need to vent. Now she needs to talk to someone. That’s new. I hope Kene’s not being an ass.”
“I hope so too.”
I put the car in gear and we drive away. For the first part of the journey, we are quiet. Well, Honey and I are. Peace is on a phone call with one of the girls manning her boutique. After trying her hands at different businesses and small-time jobs, Peace decides to settle for running a boutique. Reno finances the project single-handedly and now her stylish shop stands in one of the lavish spots at the Lekki mall, the one owned by the BSD Group.
“I didn’t want to go expensive,” she explains to us after the phone call, “but Reno insisted. And now, the shop is draining me.”
I rub her thigh. “Things will be fine.”
“But I think the whole thing is Reno’s way of letting you guys know that, despite the fact that everyone’s giving him the silent treatment, he has not crawled up into one hole and died. He is doing very well.”
“He’s a rapist,” I remind her even though I know it would hurt her.
“Ex-rapist,” she corrects.
“Celia, be nice,” Honey scolds.
“But he’s your current friend with benefits?” I look at Peace.
“Cee, don’t start.”
“Swear that you’re not having sex with him.”
She stares away from me.
“Once in a blue moon.”
“That’s why you dumped the German guy? Eyha.” I make a weepy face. “And I was hoping for cute kids.”
“Oyibos are overrated if you ask me,” Honey states. “Besides, he couldn’t fit into our circle.”
“Hon, he got circumcised for her and she didn’t even let him taste the goods.”
“I was not in love with him, Celia,” Peace responds. “Apart from that, at my age, I shouldn’t be looking for love. I shouldn’t even be looking for a man. I can do well by myself.”
“That’s the spirit.” I give her a high five. She doesn’t slap it.
“Awww, you’re hanging my hand. What’s wrong, darling?”
She seems annoyed. I really have to stop bringing up these discussions. They always leave her uncomfortable. It’s not an easy decision when you choose to walk on the path of solitude. The new Peace is done with giving her heart to men and to getting involved in any kind of relationship.
“There’s something empowering about being alone but it can also get lonely,” she whispers. “That’s why I still spend some nights with Reno.”
“We’re not judging you, P,” Honey responds. “Ignore the rapist statement Celia made.”
Peace smiles. I smile too. Peace is all grownup. Just the other day she was crying over how much she needed Reno. Today, she is doing fine by herself. Even her sense of fashion has improved. She has evolved into her own style. She’s doing the whole Naturalista thing; replete with the Ankara head-wraps, earthy sandals, African inspired jewelry and long Boho skirts. In fact, this is the precise description of what she is wearing now. A batik tee gives her appearance a modern edge that leaves her looking younger than her current age.
“I hope Mary has food.” Honey takes a long yawn that pushes me into yawning as well. “This child is killing me with all her sucking.”
“I’ve not even had lunch.”
“Mary always has food.”
We all go silent as I navigate a busy street. My thoughts are on Naomi, and on the threatening text I received from her husband last night. It came in one short line: leave my wife alone, Celia.
I have read it so many times that I now feel I wrote it myself. I didn’t show the text to Shady and my reason is simply that I want to handle the situation alone. I need to get Naomi out of the abusive situation she is in right now. As for her husband who thinks he can send me texts, he doesn’t know what his problem is yet. Dude is soon going to suck on his own balls for making that mistake with me.
“I’ve not seen Noks in a while,” Peace murmurs. She is rummaging through her handbag as she says this. I wonder what she’s looking for.
“I haven’t seen her too. Have you called her?”
“No.” Peace stops her rummaging. “Have you?”
“Honey, have you?”
“I don’t care. Meanwhile, I have found out her dirty, little secret…”
Peace makes a sharp turn. “What secret?”
I look at Honey through the rearview mirror, trying to see if she’s kidding.
“I’m not telling anyone, Peace. But Noka should never insult me or any of you or I swear, I’ll expose her.”
“What’s the secret nau?”
Honey shakes her head.
“No. Face your front.”
“Whatever it is,” I say, “if it will ruin her marriage, Honey, please don’t expose her. I know she’s been mean to you but it’s not enough reason to share whatever you saw with anyone.”
Honey holds my eyes in the mirror. I look away.
“You know the secret, Celia.”
Chai. This Honey sef. Why is she always this smart? And how on earth did she find out about Noka?
“I don’t know anything,” I reply.
“So two of you know this secret and you’re not telling me?” Peace whines. “Tell me how that is fair.”
We both ignore her and she goes on and on until we arrive at Mary’s.
“We’re all not good friends, Cee,” she concludes. “We’re losing our little circle. I blame Bimpe. She was the glue that kept us together.”
“We’re fine, madam,” Honey snaps. “Nobody is losing anything.”
My car stops outside Mary’s compound. I honk and seconds later a guard comes out. When he sees us, he smiles and returns to the compound. Soon, the gate slides to let us in. I drive through. Mary is waiting at the front door, dressed in white leggings and a matching top. She blends with the whiteness of the house, except for the pitch blackness of her new hairdo.
We walk up to her. She has hugs waiting. We haven’t seen each other in a few days but it isn’t us she’s really interested in. The moment she sights Jiney, she gets all mushy. She takes her off Honey’s arms.
She leads us into her beautiful home that still manages to take my breath away even after my many visits. The décor makes no attempt at being modest. Our dear Ekene is ostentatious; the house reflects his person. Mary, on the other hand, is the opposite. As long as she is comfortable and the house is clean, she can live in any condition. It’s interesting how both of them find a balance.
“First of all, food!” Honey cries. Mary laughs.
“Help yourselves. Jiney and I will be right back.”
“You kukuma have big breasts. Give her some while you’re at it.”
Mary disappears while three of us help ourselves with meals of our choice. There’s so much to pick from and we knock ourselves out. We settle in the living room. Mary joins us shortly with Jiney, now dressed in a complete Versace baby ensemble.
“Whoa!” Honey exclaims. “What have you done to my baby?”
“The same thing she did to Dara and Sammy,” Peace answers.
“I got some things from my last visit to Paris with Kene.”
“Awww, this is so sweet. Jide will fawn over her.” Honey coos at Jiney and gets out her phone to take a photo. “Jiji, did you say thank you to Aunty Mary?”
Jiney lets out a grin and Honey takes a photo. I also take a few shots.
“Mary?” I call, after we go back to our meals. “Are you fighting with Kene? Is that why you called me over?”
Mary smiles sadly.
“You cook a lot when you’re upset. You know that? What’s going on?”
“Yeah… Kene and I are fighting.”
Peace passes her a glass of orange juice. She declines. A minute later we are listening to her talk to us about her desperate need to have a child and how it has become a problem between her and Ekene.
“Now, he’s avoiding sex, and even when we do it, he uses condoms. All he wants is for us to keep going out on dates, traveling to exotic places, doing romantic stuff and all that.”
“Isn’t that a good thing, May?” Honey asks.
“Hon, we have all the time in the world to do that but my uterus can’t wait another year. It’s not him whose biological clock is ticking.”
“May,” I put my hand on hers, “do you love this man?”
She withdraws her hand in quick anger. “What type of nonsense question is that?”
“Exactly,” Peace mutters.
“I’m sorry. Let me rephrase. Do you love him as much as he loves you?”
Mary’s angry bearing disappears. “I love Kene but you know me…I can’t express it the way he does. Apart from that, I’m still growing into loving him.”
“No, you’re guarding your heart, May. And you have to stop it. Your days of spinsterhood where men hurt you are over. You don’t own your emotions alone now. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I’ll advise that you give Kene the key to your heart, please.”
“That’s scary. And I don’t think it’s okay for me to do that just because I’m married to him. He will hurt me. I have seen it happen to all of you. P, look what Reno did to you. And you too, Celia. Men do these things. They hurt us. I have to stay guarded.”
“Kene and I had an agreement. We are to play our roles as husband and wife. But he’s turning the script by demanding too much from me. I just can’t let down my guard like that.”
Honey and I sigh at the same time without meaning to. Mary has always been this tough with men. Jide was the only man she loved wholeheartedly and then he went and broke her heart. In addition, what Reno did to her left her with deep trust issues. Our dear Ekene has his work cut out for him. But I think we can lessen his load a little.
We advise her on ways she can let her guard down and allow Ekene in. We teach her how to express her love through numerous means without losing herself.
“You’re sure it’ll work?”
Honey raises a finger. “And please, make love, not babies. Then watch the babies drop in unannounced. That’s how more than half of the world gets pregnant, my dear. So, get with the script. If you do it right, Kene won’t have time for condoms. Imagine you hearing his car driving in at night and you rush out to meet him and take him right there, while the engine is still running. Will he have time for a condom?”
“Abi o!” I exclaim.
“Hmmm…” Mary gives our words some thought as she rests her chin on her cupped palm.
“And remember this…” Peace takes the last sip of her juice. “You don’t have a great marriage. You make a great marriage. You fight the odds to make it work.”
I nod in hundred percent agreement. Told you my darling Peace is all grown.
“Well, I feel better now,” Mary comments. “Tonight, I’ll swing into action.”
Loud laughter takes all of us. I stand up to have a second serving of my meal. When I return, Peace asks about Naomi. I set my meal on my lap quietly. I don’t want to talk about it but when I’m with the girls, there’s really nothing I can keep a secret. So, I take my seat and let out everything.
“What sort of monster is he?” Honey is most appalled. “So because she won’t get pregnant for him he decides to destroy her womb?”
“How did they even meet in the first place?” Mary asks. “Most times, the foundation of a relationship can tell you a lot about why that relationship is the way it is.”
“Well, they’re both from rich families but Charles’ family is richer and Naomi’s family basically sold her to him. He is almost nine years older than she is.”
“Thought as much,” Mary comments.
“They never loved each other but Nay wanted it to work in the beginning. Charles wasn’t just there. He would go away for long periods and when he returns he looks for reasons to abuse her.”
“Would you believe it if I told you that they have been married for six years and have had sex only twelve times.”
“What?!” Honey yells. “Twice every year or what?”
“I don’t know but that’s what she told me. And twelve times, it was terrible. He would give her everything – his money, cars, access to his bank accounts but not himself.”
Mary frowns. “Is he gay?”
“No. He has a mistress.”
“So why can’t he love his wife?”
“Naomi is beautiful, educated and from a wealthy family. She also runs his business well. She is the perfect wife and he can’t do without her. She knows this, and that is why she has refused to get pregnant for him.”
“And why she chose to be a lesbian?”
“She said she found love in the arms of her aerobics instructor four years ago and hasn’t looked at any man after that. Asides that, the abuse makes her hate men.”
“I’m happy for her,” Honey says snidely. “She should just carry her lips away from yours. And I think it’s time you too should leave her and her marital problems alone as her husband warned.”
“Honey, he has involved me and I will give him what he’s looking for.”
“Meaning, I want to know what he means by that his threat. The fool must be mad to send me that type of text. And that nonsense he did to Nay, he will pay for it.”
My friends are shocked at my stance on the issue.
“Cee, this is just a harmless question o,” Peace utters quietly. “Don’t be annoyed that I’m asking but are you in love with Naomi?”
“So I have to be in love with her before I help her out of an abusive situation abi? You girls think that if it happened to any of you I would just walk away?”
“No. I was merely asking…”
“Naomi is my friend. I have grown to like her and I will not sit down and let anyone touch her again.”
“But Celia,” Honey faces me, “what if you know only half of the story? What if there’s more to this?”
“Honey, I will not sit and let a friend get hurt.”
“But when did you even meet her that you now call her your friend? It’s not the same type of friendship we have.”
“You and Genesis nko? If her husband abuses her, will you sit down and watch it happen?”
“You’re not getting me, Cee. The basis of this your friendship is not on leveled grounds. Your feelings are genuine but Naomi wants to have something deeper…”
“She is an abused woman! She only fell in love with me because she was looking for an escape!”
“Please, let’s leave this talk. I’m getting annoyed here.”
I see Mary pass Honey a look.
“Fine. I’ll let it be,” Honey tells me in a resigned tone. “Just be careful.”
No one says a word for a while. I feel somehow about the way I just spoke to Honey. To lighten the mood, I leave my seat and hug her, kissing her cheek.
“Seems like your Naomi has infected you with a kissing bug, Cee. Step away. I like dick too much.”
I don’t step away. I hug her again. I can’t help it. She smells like a baby. I think I might be having baby blues.
Just then my phone rings. I’m surprised to see that it’s Naomi calling. I leave the girls to take the call.
I smile. I am genuinely happy to hear her voice.
“Nay, how are you?”
“I’m good. You?”
“Gosh! I miss you, sweetie,” the lesbian in her says. I ignore the emotions I hear in her tone as I walk into Mary’s all-marble kitchen. I find a chair and lower myself on it.
“How are you feeling, Nay?”
“A lot better. I am so sorry about the way things went these past days. Whenever Charles gets into his monster mode, my world turns upside-down.”
“Charles did not get into his monster mode, Nay. Charles is a monster, and you have to get out of that marriage before he kills you.”
“He’s not going to kill me, Cece…”
“He almost killed you. Where is he right now?”
“He went to his girlfriend’s place. I don’t think he’s coming back until tomorrow. He forgot to take my phone along. He confiscated it and that’s why I haven’t been able to call you.”
“Did you know that he texted me last night?”
“I was with him when he did it. He questioned me about you. Apparently, he found out about our trip to Fiji. He’s convinced something is going on between us. I told him that we were just friends and that I offered you the job to be my PA and personal consultant but he doesn’t believe me. He doesn’t want me to see you again.”
“He has no right to tell you who you shouldn’t see. You’re a person of your own, Nay. You don’t have to take shit from him.”
“He’ll calm down, Cece. He’s just angry because he found out that I had been lying to him about not being able to get pregnant. All he wants is a baby. Once I get pregnant, he’ll get off my ass.”
I am speechless. My friend really needs help. She has no idea how oppressed she sounds right now.
“Nay, the worst thing you can do to yourself is to get pregnant for that man. Don’t even think about it. All that should be on your mind at this moment is how you will divorce him.”
“But I can’t.”
“Why not?” I almost cry.
“My money is tied to his. Both of us built our company from scratch but he put in more money than me. If I walk away, I’ll lose a lot.”
“But your life will be safe. You’ll be free. Don’t you want to be your own woman, date whoever you want to date, do whatever you want to do?”
“Celia, you don’t understand.”
I stare at a clock on the wall facing me. It’s just a few minutes past six. “Nay, I’m coming over so we can talk better.”
I hang up and hurry back to the living room.
“I want to dash somewhere and come back real quick.”
“Where are you going?” Mary questions.
“It’s not far from here.”
Honey stares at her watch. “Let me kuku follow you and find my way to the family house. We have a meeting.”
Peace shakes her head. “The Onuoras and their meetings.”
Honey stands and takes Jiney in her arms.
“She’s so adorable,” Mary comments, kissing the child’s forehead.
“Don’t worry, you’ll soon have yours,” Honey tells her. “Thanks for the sweet rice.”
I impatiently wait for Honey by the door as she hugs Mary and Peace.
“Cee, you can go home from there,” Peace says to me.
“Yeah. I’ll find my way. Don’t worry about me.”
I rush back and hug my friends and dash out with Honey.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
I park outside Naomi’s compound and walk to the gate. The gateman lets me in after informing me that Naomi is expecting me. I take a long walk to the main house and I am let in by the maid. I see Naomi walking towards me just as I step in.
“You can leave,” she tells the maid as she spreads out her arms to hug me. I notice, just before our bodies touch, that she has lost so much weight.
She hugs me and clings to me like I am a long lost lover.
“You have no idea how I’ve missed you, Cece.”
I want to tell her I’ve missed her too but I don’t want to give her the wrong impression.
“How are you?” She breaks the hug but caresses my cheek. If she is Shady and we are in this position, we would be kissing now. The awkwardness makes me pull away. She takes my hand.
“Come this way.”
She leads me to her main living room. This is quite different from the one I was taken to the first time I was here. It is more spacious and carries that look that marks living rooms of people who collect expensive art and décor items from all over the world. Everything in it is either gold-plated or nearly so. If one sells the room and the items in it, the money made would be enough to rent another house for years. It’s a shame that Naomi has all of this and can go anywhere she wants to in the world at a whim and yet she has no freedom.
“Let me get you something to drink.” She walks through another door, leaving it slightly open, and I see that it’s the room I was led to the first time I was here. The place is cozier and has a modern feel to it.
Naomi soon returns with two glasses of God-knows-what. It’s amazing how her skin heals. I had expected to see her still marked by bruises but nothing on her shows that she has faced any type of violence, except for a fresh scar on her chin.
“It’ll go,” she tells me as she notices me staring at it. “I heal nicely.”
I take what she offers, smell it and decide I don’t want it.
“You don’t like it?”
I shake my head. She downs it at a go, clutches her glass and sits beside me.
“I really missed you.”
“Cut it, Naomi. That’s not why I’m here.”
“I know.” She lifts a leg up on the sofa and leans towards me.
“Nay, you have to get out of this marriage fast. And while you’re planning to do so, don’t make the mistake of getting pregnant.”
“Cece, I understand why you want me to do this. I really do but it’s not so easy to get up and just leave…”
“Are you waiting till you’re six feet under?”
“God has nothing to do with it, Naomi. He will not force you out of here. Only you can do it.”
“Charles is…” She clasps her fingers around her glass of liquor. “He’s not always like this. It comes and goes. Sometimes he hits me just twice a year and it’s always my fault. Maybe I was disrespectful to him at work or he gives me instructions and I ignore them or I am rude to his mom… He’s generally nice. You understand it, don’t you? It’s like what happened to you with your husband. He’s a nice man but you pushed him to the wall and he reacted. We women are like that and men, they don’t know how to hold themselves.”
I rub my eyes in utter frustration. I can’t believe this side of Naomi. I’ve always seen her as a strong, independent, successful woman. Who is this person with me?
I am about to respond to her when she suddenly springs up, runs to the nearest window and peeps out.
“Shit! He’s back!”
“Who is back?”
“Charles! He’s back! He’s not supposed to come back this night. Cece, you have to go. Get up.” She stretches her arm to me as she returns to the sofa.
“I’m not going anywhere…”
“Celia, please! He’ll kill me if he sees you here. Please!”
I stand up. “I’ll stay right here. I’m not going to run out like a rat hiding from a cat. I’m not afraid of him. And I think it’s time someone faced him. I want to see if he’s man enough when his shit is thrown back at his face.”
“Celia, please.” She clutches her dress, eyes darting to the entrance. “Please, don’t do this to me.”
Unfortunately, my ears are blocked. I am enraged and have gone into that mode that Shady says only God and peppered chicken can get me out of.
Too late. The door opens and soon we hear Charles’ footsteps. I brace myself for what is to come, and it comes at us as I expect it would. Tall, huge and quite ugly. A beast in human skin. It looks at its wife and back at me with four o’clock eyes. Even I will abort any offspring it deposits in me. Charles Ogbeiwi is an appalling man.
“Hi darling,” Naomi greets as she sweeps towards him. I note that he doesn’t respond.
“You have a visitor,” he says after she hugs him. He gives me the look that demands that I acknowledge his presence. I don’t.
“Yes, this is my friend…”
“Celia,” I say defiantly.
“Celia,” he repeats. And then laughs. I smile, lifting just one corner of my lips to spell out a smirk. I wait for him to say something about the text he sent to me but he doesn’t. Rather he speaks into Naomi’s ear and they both walk to the other room.
Things are silent for a while and even when I pick out their voices, they’re very low. Something tells me to leave but I don’t listen, not with the way my heart is pounding. I want to see how this ends. The problem with us barrack kids is that we love trouble. I remember Joey taking me around Kaduna town in his small Volkswagen beetle in those days, just looking for who would cross our path. We both enjoyed the thrill of seeing stupid bastards get beat. It is the same way I feel right now.
I hear a sound and I pay close attention to the door leading to the next room. It is left open but I can see only Naomi. She is speaking, shaking her head, gesticulating in a defensive manner. As I try to make out what is happening, I see her head fling to the side as if she has just been slapped. It happens so fast that I am not sure I witnessed it. I hold my breath to see what will happen next. Several seconds go by and when I begin to conclude that I imagined what I saw, it happens again. And this time, I actually see the hand that hits her. I can’t believe my eyes.
But he does it yet again and she moves backwards, begging, whimpering.
“Didn’t I say I didn’t want to see her near you?!” The monster emerges in a bawl as his hand strikes one more time. It’s more forceful than the rest and it sends Naomi to her knees. I am in utter shock that he would do this in my presence. My feet itch to move and the boiling rage in me longs to rush towards her but curiosity keeps me back. I want to witness this. I want to know what my friend goes through. I need a story, a reason to react.
I watch as she lifts her hands to shield her face when he towers over her. She is crying and begging but he doesn’t listen. He throws yet another fist and she falls flat to the floor. My feet move fast and I rush into the room.
“What type of devil are you?!” I scream as I jump in-between them. He advances towards me. I face him squarely. “You’ll hit me too?! Please, go ahead and make my evening!”
He looks down on me in condescension but at the same time I can see that he is taken aback by my brazenness. It fuels my trouble.
“Hit me, coward! Or I’ll give you reason to.”
“Celia, no.” Naomi stands and puts her arms around me from behind.
“You’re a small man!”
The veins on his neck bulge out as his breathing reaches a crescendo. I expect him to burst anytime soon but he remains there, a man whose ego has been deflated by a woman. I wait, still, for him to do his worst. Instead he points at the door.
“Get out of my house!” Spittle hits my face as he growls.
“Let’s go, Nay.” I can feel her holding tightly to me.
“Naomi, if you step out of this room, never come back here! I’ll divorce you and leave you with nothing!”
“Fuck you and your threats! She’ll see you in court–!”
“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”
I make to move towards the door with Naomi but he grabs my shoulder with his paw, grabs Naomi’s hand with the other and tears us apart. When he lets go of me, the force of his strength flings me to a bookshelf. A vase resting on it shaken by the impact, leaves its position and crashes down on my head.
Perfect! This is what I have been aiming for. All I need is just a scratch and Joey will have his boys burn this house down.
Naomi tries to come for me but Charles stops her by pushing her behind him. He then comes for me, hooks those ugly hands on my upper arms and drags me out of the house. I know I should stay calm but I struggle and make it difficult for him. I want his fingers to leave marks on my body. I want to stir my brother’s bloodlust. Charles must pay for everything he has done to Naomi through the years. He must bleed for every drop of blood of hers that stained my clothes that night when she passed out in my arms.
As he takes me towards the gate of the house, I hear Naomi calling and crying. The sound of her voice breaks my heart. I fear for what he would do to her when I’m gone. I pray she stays strong. I hope I have not made things worse for her.
She comes to him in the morning. He is barely opening his eyes from a three-hour sleep when he hears a knock on the door. As he drags his feet to the living room, he imagines it is Chichi knocking. It’s something that has played out in his head several times—Chichi standing before him, begging to be let back into his life and him slamming the door in her face. Or it could be Kira coming back to pick a thing or two she left in the house. Last night he dumped her after she admitted, without flinching, that she couldn’t care for Trinity.
“I didn’t ask you to fuck her mother without a condom. She’s your problem, not mine. Isolate her from our relationship.”
That last line had been the cause for the fight that pushed Kasiobi to isolate Kira from his life entirely. She had cried a little but took the breakup rather maturely. He is hoping she is not the one returning to say she is sorry.
A surprise, however, awaits him as he opens the door to find Lexus standing outside with a tear-stained face and hair that looks like she has just tumbled out of a washing machine.
“Lex, what’s wrong?” he asks.
Lexus shakes her head and throws her arms around him. Her sobs are intense, shaking both of them with each heave. Kasiobi manages to shut the door but that’s all he can do. She doesn’t let go of his body. So, he stands there, rubbing her back, rocking her gently and assuring her that things would be fine even though he has no idea why she is crying.
Eventually, she comes to calm and explains to him that Dominic collapsed some hours earlier and is presently on a surgeon’s table having a procedure done to keep his heart in better shape.
“They said his coronary artery was blocked by a blood clot and they need to place something they call a stent in to keep it open.” She wipes her nose. Kasiobi is weak from what he has just heard.
“He’s been suffering from coronary artery disease.”
“How come no one ever knew?”
“It’s not something we talk about. He manages it with drugs, diet and exercise but he’s been getting easily tired lately.”
Kasiobi guides her to a couch and sits beside her. “He’s going to be fine, Lex.”
“That’s what the doctors said but I just couldn’t wait there. I just couldn’t. Kas, I’m so scared. What if I lose him like I lost Eva?”
Kasiobi’s words don’t hold water. She begins to sob again. He holds her. The familiar scent of pineapples coming from her hair, blending with her perfume puts him in a place of memories. He recalls nights when they snuggled together on the only couch they had in their apartment in New York, covered by a blanket to keep warm, watching something boring on TV. Sometimes they ended up making love. Other nights, she would sleep off while he stayed awake, playing a computer game.
“Genesis is strong,” she murmurs. “I don’t know how she sits in that waiting room without losing her mind. I just can’t.”
“Your dad is going to be fine, Tonbra. Just believe that.”
Lexus nods but bites fingernails that peek out from the sleeve of an oversized sweater. Kasiobi drowns down the urge to kiss her hair, to bury his fingers in, push back her head and take her lips. These are thoughts that always occupy his mind in idle moments when all the things they had done and been comes rushing back to him. Just the other day when she came over to pick Trinity, he had longed to hold her hand when he handed over a feeding bottle to her. He could have told her then how much he missed her right before kissing her.
But his pride didn’t let him. Not even when he saw that she wanted it. Her eyes had taken on that look he knew so well that revealed how much she wanted to be kissed. That look always made her vulnerable, like a little girl, open to the wiles of a grown man.
“I’m sorry for bugging you like this, Kas.”
“It’s fine,” he replies. “You’re fam.”
Lexus pulls away. She sets herself in a comfortable position to face him. They stare at each other without words for a long stretch until her eyes moisten up again. He doesn’t touch her this time. He simply watches as the tears slowly course down her cheeks. He thinks it’s a beautiful sight, sad as it is.
“I was pregnant for you in New York,” she confesses.
For a second or two, he doesn’t understand her words.
“And I didn’t want the baby. But I couldn’t tell you because you were serious about us at that time. You wanted us to get married and have a family and it wasn’t what I wanted. I always tried to tell you but you just assumed we were on the same page. That was why I had mood swings and shut you out so many times. And then I went and got pregnant. I felt stupid and irresponsible. I hated myself…”
“What happened to the baby?”
“I had an abortion.”
Kasiobi shows no reaction, and this is not because he can’t. He keeps it in because he doesn’t want to upset her more than she already is.
“That was why we broke up. It wasn’t that I stopped loving you. No, Kas. I was…and I’m still crazy about you.”
At this, Kasiobi rises up. “Thanks for explaining everything but let’s not bring this topic up again.”
“Kas, I’m sorry. I just couldn’t face you after what I did.”
“You had an abortion, Woyintonbra,” Kasiobi responds with much calm. He is neither angry nor bitter but he feels the need to express himself.
“You aborted my child. You made that stupid, senseless decision all on your own without telling me and now you’re saying you still love me? What am I supposed to do with that? Dance? Let you back in?”
The sincerity in her tone makes it hard to keep a grudge; that and the fact that he is tired of the distance between them. She has been a mother to Trinity, helping him out without asking anything in return. This more than makes up for everything she did to hurt him. He wants her back but is scared to take the leap again. A friends with benefits arrangement would be better. That way, he eats his cake and keeps it.
Trinity wakes up with a scream.
“This talk is not over,” Kasiobi makes clear. “We won’t do this today. After your dad gets better, we’ll talk about it.”
As Lexus makes towards Trinity’s bedroom, Kasiobi pulls her back and enacts his fantasy of kissing her.
It’s a long and deep one, the type that is gentle and fierce all at once. He has longed for this, dreamed that it would come in a finer setting and with a romantic ambience, but this is just as good and he would leave it hanging right here.
He marches away from her. She follows him to Trinity’s bedroom. The first sight of the little girl puts a smile on her face.
“Can I carry her?”
Lexus walks to Trinity’s crib and lifts her out of it. The screams die down immediately.
“She’s hungry. Make food for her. I’ll heat up her bath water.”
Less than an hour later, the three of them are in Kasiobi’s SUV, on the way to the hospital. Genesis had called to let Lexus know that Dominic was out of surgery and asking to see her.
“Why do you think he’s asking after me?” Lexus had looked into Kasiobi’s face after Genesis hung up. “You think he wants to say goodbye? Give me some sort of last words?”
If Lexus hadn’t been dead serious with moisture dancing in her eyes, Kasiobi would have laughed. And even now as he parks in some empty spot in the car park of the most expensive hospital in Lagos, he sees that her apprehension hasn’t let down as she keeps chewing her nails.
They walk into the hospital, to the ward Dominic is recuperating, but they don’t let them in. Genesis comes out a while later.
“He’s sleeping,” she informs them. “Sedated.”
“Did it go well?” Lexus asks.
“Yeah, it went well. Your dad is fine, Tonbra.”
“He’s not going to die?”
Emotionally drained, Genesis can only shake her head. “Come here.”
Lexus steps forward and into a waiting hug. “Your dad is not going to die, Tonbra. Far from it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Very sure. Just believe that, darling. I’ll take good care of him. I promised you this on the day we got married, didn’t I? He’s not dying on my watch.”
Yet, Lexus is inconsolable. Genesis doesn’t let go of her until she pulls herself together. Only then does she step away.
“I’m such a cry baby.”
“It’s okay. I don’t think you can handle any more loss. Me neither.”
They both smile.
“That being said, you’re a mess, Tonbra. Let’s go and have our nails and hair done and we’ll be back here when he’s awake.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Lexus sniffles.
Genesis links arms with her. “Kasbi, thank you for bringing her. She literally bolted out of here earlier.”
Lexus turns to talk to Kasiobi but he nods her away. “Go and glam up, B. We’ll see later.”
She gives Trinity a kiss and leaves with Genesis.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
Today, I had to say goodbye to Saratu. Her ex-husband is back in her life and she answers to his call without a second thought. She is off again to the UK to wastefully give her body to the man, not caring how it affects business. Dele’s wife thinks we don’t need her anyway. This is painfully said over a table where we are all seated. We’re in a noisy restaurant that has families with loud kids, all of whom have come to have their Sunday lunches. Eating out is quite a big deal in Lagos these days. I stare at some of the families and wonder if Jide, Jiney and I are going to be them someday.
“I’ll come back, baby.” Saratu takes Dele’s wife’s hand.
“Please, don’t. Just remain there even after he breaks your heart again and treats you like trash.”
“Oh, he will misbehave but before then, I’ll suck his account dry.”
Dele’s wife withdraws her hand. My eyes fall on Yazmin who is awfully quiet.
She doesn’t hear me. Her concentration is on her phone.
Saratu snatches the phone off her hands. “They’re calling you.”
Yaz looks up and her eyes dash to her phone.
“You’re consulting your ovulation app?” Saratu asks nosily. “Na wa o. Tobe is just over a year and you want another one?”
Yazmin mutters some insult in Spanish. Dele’s wife and I burst out laughing. Saratu frowns and hands Yazmin back her phone.
“One person I will not miss is you sha,” Saratu says to Yazmin. “I hate your racist ass.”
“Cabrona,” Yazmin cusses.
“Screw you right back, baby.”
“Yaz, be nice,” I scold.
“She started it.”
I am ready to roll my eyes right now. This is a typical day at work. I have no desire to see them play it out over this farewell dinner which is already going moodily.
“Can you two just get along? Just once?”
I know I’m speaking to the wind. How they have managed to work with each other for almost a year beats me. I love them both, though, and I tell them this. Saratu hugs me and we both tear up. I am going to miss her. She is the one friend I love and hate in equal measure.
Somehow we all manage through lunch and after we’re done, we walk out to the parking lot. Saratu hurries to one of the security guards and takes her pet dog from him. After shoving little pieces of chicken through the dog’s willing mouth, she brings it to me. I don’t cringe or move back. The animal has become a friend over the past month and has taught me to face my fears. These days I can stomach the sounds of barking and howling dogs.
“It’s for Jide.” Saratu hands me the leash. “All the times he stopped over at the office he came with something for him. I think they’ll bond well.”
“Jide will be glad,” I tell her. “Thank you, Sara.”
The dog, Barry, sits beside me and looks up at Saratu, expecting more chicken but she stares at her phone and announces that she is set to leave. An Uber is already waiting to take her to the airport.
She embraces Dele’s wife first and comes to me next. I leave a few words of love with her and give her a parting gift. Finally, she stands before Yazmin.
“Don’t come back,” Yazmin says. We laugh. They hug and we afterwards, we watch Saratu leave. When the Uber has driven out of sight, I say goodbye to Yazmin and Dele’s wife and get into my car. Barry obediently sits in the backseat. I drive home.
When I get in, I catch Jide having an afternoon nap. For a moment I am distracted by the man’s half-dressed sexiness which lies invitingly on the couch. I want to do things to him while he sleeps but Barry whines and I behave myself. I quietly lead Barry to him. The dog sits beside the couch and on his own puts his nose to Jide’s sides and sniffs. Jide scratches the spot but Barry repeats his actions that get him a smack right before Jide springs up.
He glares at the dog for a few seconds and then at me.
“Sugams, what’s going on?”
Barry yelps. Jide stares at him again and then recognizes him.
I don’t know if dogs can smile but I think Barry just did.
“How are you, boy?” Jide ruffles his fur. Barry responds by wagging his tail in excitement.
“He’s all yours. A parting gift from Saratu.”
I watch his face light up. He is a dog person but he has kept the house free of them because of me. I am happy to see him this way. Momentarily, he forgets I am there as he bonds with Barry.
“I just hope Fumi doesn’t get allergic to him.”
“He’s hypoallergenic. Have no worries.”
Fumi is the short version of Fumnanya, Jiney’s Igbo name. Jide is the one who starts calling her that and it’s beginning to stick.
“So, we’re going to have a visitor anytime soon,” he informs me.
“Visitor? From where?”
My face changes.
“She is stopping by to say hello and formally ask your forgiveness over the Facebook pictures stuff.”
“I’ve forgiven her. She doesn’t have to come here.”
And at the instant, we hear a knock on the door.
“That should be her.” Jide stands up and goes to the front door. I take the seat he was sitting on, putting on an unwelcoming expression on my face. Soon, I hear her voice and seconds later she is in my house.
“Hi, Honey.” She stands by the door, waving at me with a smile. As usual, I find her distractingly beautiful. She is wearing a fitted gown and heels that are to die for. Gold bangs fall to one side of her face and join a fluff of alluring curly hair that bounces each time she moves.
Jide offers her a seat and walks to the kitchen to get her a drink. When he is gone, she pulls up to the edge of the seat. I know an apology is about to come, yet I act oblivious.
She starts out slowly, picking choice words she feels will get to my psyche. But bit by bit, she breaks through my tough exterior and locates a soft spot in my heart. It’s a very small spot, though.
“It’s alright, Hauwa,” I find myself saying. “As long as you’re not stealing my man, we’re good.”
“I will never hit on someone I consider my brother.”
“That’s good to know.”
Jide returns with something alcoholic for her and a glass of orange juice for me. After she is served her drink, we all sit and converse. Before long, Hauwa and I are laughing like old friends. All the resistance I put up against her falls away as she charms me with her openness. It doesn’t take long for her to express how desperately she is to get married.
“Why desperate, though?”
“I’m thirty-eight, Honey. Everyone I know is married, even my younger ones. My mom cries all the time because she believes she has done something wrong in her past and that’s why I’m in this situation. My dad and I now have this strained relationship. Home is no longer home. I’m the one everyone looks at with pity and when I’m not there, I become their gossip topic.”
“I just need to take the shame away. At this point, I’ll marry whoever is ready to settle down…”
“But the problem is that I am still too picky. Am I not supposed to have sense and do away with some of my deal breakers?”
“You shouldn’t,” Jide replies. “I’ve told you over and over again, Hauwa, you will find a good man. Just hang in there.”
“You know I have offers to be a second wife. Many of them, in fact. Some of the men are my dad’s friends, but I just can’t. I want what two of you have or at least, something close to it. Even if I don’t find love, let me find a man who respects and treats me like a princess. Am I asking too much?”
Jide and I shake our heads in the same manner without meaning to. Hauwa finds it funny.
“You guys are sooo cute together.”
“We know,” Jide says.
“What if I fix a few blind dates for you?” I ask.
“I’m game. I never stop believing, though, and that’s why I moved to Lagos. The land of dreams.”
“And heartbreakers,” Jide adds. “Be warned.”
“This heart has been broken so many times that it is now numb to whatever.”
We talk for longer, keeping to the topic of marriage and all things relationship. When she announces that she is going home, I have a good mind to ask her to stay a little longer but I don’t. We walk her to the door and the moment she is gone, Jide turns to me.
“So, what do you think of her?”
“I like her. She’s nice.”
“And I feel for her. I’d be desperate too at her age. Frustrated even. There are just very few women in Nigeria these days who are comfortable being single after they clock thirty.”
“I respect such women.”
“You respect every woman,” I tell him with a certain look in my eye. He catches it.
“Can I respect you now?” he asks, taking me by the waist. I fall into his arms as my body presses into the muscles of his chest and the tightness of his abdomen. Jide, to me, is like some Greek god twenty-something hours of each day. It’s not about sexiness; he’s just incredibly male, and that always turns me on. Now that I have had Jiney and done away with that weird phase of sex-hating, I am always on heat. Jide can so get it any day, at any time.
Forgetting that Barry is present, we start to make out – first, standing, and then we fall onto the nearest couch. We are so into it that we don’t hear Didi’s door open and close until we hear a sound and we turn to see her standing near the front door with some guy I do not recognize.
Neither Jide nor I move. Thankfully, no private parts are out in the open.
“I’m sorry,” she apologizes. “We had wanted to sneak out quietly.”
“Go ahead then,” Jide tells her.
The guy with her wants to say something but she takes his hand and drags him out. I sit up.
“Who is that boy?”
Jide shrugs. “Some guy she said was her friend.”
“Hotstuff, that’s the second guy she’s bringing here. I am uncomfortable with it.”
“She’s allowed to have visitors.”
“No. Not anyhow. What if she brings an armed robber or pedophile?”
Jide screws up his face in thought. “You’re making a point…”
“Talk to her or I will. The only guy permitted to enter this house is her boyfriend. If she doesn’t have one, she should entertain her men outside.”
“I’ll talk to her. Now, can we continue?”
Like I said, I’m on heat. He scarcely finishes speaking when I grab him again and we fall back on the couch. Barry barks. We both turn and catch him staring.
“Let’s take it to the room.”
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
I watch the sunset from the kitchen window as I wait for the pasta I put over the stove to cook. I ate less than three hours ago and here I am, hungry again. My pregnancy cravings will soon do me in.
Emeka is in the living room watching a football match on TV. It’s a chill evening, the weather is fine, the baby is not kicking much, all is good. What can possibly go wrong?
The doorbell dings. I pay it no mind. The sunset still has my attention. However, Emeka soon walks in and announces to me that Yazmin is around and wants to have a word with both of us. I frown. Yazmin and I are still not cool, although we are never at each other’s throats. She will always be the other woman that snatched my husband from me, an act I have not forgiven Emeka for, either.
I follow him out to the living room to find her waiting.
“Good evening, Tola,” she greets. I like when she greets me. Nne has instructed that she pays me respect always. So far, she is acting like the nice, little iyawo she is.
Emeka picks a sofa that is away from both of us. He rests his feet on the center table and glances at her.
We wait for her mouth to open but instead of words we hear a whimper as she covers her face. Emeka and I both stare at each other in puzzlement.
“Yaz?” he calls. “What’s wrong, bae?”
She shakes her head and sobs. We keep our eyes on her for a while until Emeka, loving husband that he is, goes to her and holds her. I won’t lie to you, I feel jealous. I don’t think I can ever get over the fact that he holds me the same way he holds her and that she gets the same type of loving I do.
“You don’t love me anymore, papi,” she cries. “You spend your whole time with her and hardly even pick my calls. And then when you’re with me, you’re always on the phone with her. Don’t you love me anymore?”
“Hian!” Emeka exclaims. “Yaz, is that why you came here?”
“But why would you think I don’t love you anymore, mi vida?”
“It’s the truth. You spend all your time with her.”
“And so?” I bite back. “He’s my husband.”
“You know she’s pregnant, baby,” Emeka explains. I roll my eyes. Is it something someone needs to tell her? She cannot endure until I give birth? See me see wahala.
“She needs all my attention,” Emeka continues with his unnecessary explanation. Me, I just feel like walking over to her and slapping her so that that pretty, white face will turn red. But all I can do is sit still and take in the scene. Emeka is speaking to her in Igbo, a language I’m finding difficult to learn. Yazmin already knows how to speak bits of it but understands it well. Honey, too; and even Mary. I am the only woman married to an Igbo man that is carrying last.
Emeka manages to calm Yazmin down. I don’t say a word about what I feel about her right now. We are both not allowed to insult each other or she wouldn’t have heard the last of it. This is the same babe that is playing games with Emeka, using that Omoh human being just to get him all jealous. Two nights ago, he disgraced himself by going to Omoh’s house to pick a fight but the security guards wouldn’t even let him in. He is treated like trash, all because of her. Tell me why I should like her?
“Are you better now?” he inquires.
“There’s more,” she answers. My frown deepens. I cross my arms.
“I’m listening, mi vida.”
My crossed arms unfold. Emeka gives her a nasty up and down glare.
“What did you just say?”
“I’m pregnant, papi.”
“Don’t ‘papi’ me! Which one is that you’re pregnant? Pregnant for who, biko?!”
“Yazmin Ivan, you are on the fucking pill!”
“You know I hate pills, so I stopped taking them. They were getting me fat.”
Emeka cannot believe what he has just heard. I can feel the coldness that has just settled on him.
“You did not take your pills at all.”
“No,” she answers in her usual I-don’t-give-two manner. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for yourself and your whole family back in Mexico! They didn’t give you proper home training at all!” He charges up. “And fuck you!”
She starts to cry. I hiss and give her a piece of my mind.
“Your crocodile tears are useless, Yazmin. What you did is wrong. You intentionally got pregnant just for attention. What type of nonsense is that? Do you think marriage is some game you play with your husband and that babies are things you use for your own selfish ends? Tobe is not even up to eighteen months and you’re carrying another one. Why, Yazmin?”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“Same way you didn’t mean to take my husband and have a son for him abi? Same way you didn’t mean to come between us! Why can’t three of us just stay in peace without you cropping up something from somewhere. The other time it was chlamydia and now, this!”
“I seriously didn’t mean to.”
“Abeg, keep quiet!” I yell back as I stand up. “I don’t sha blame you. I blame Mex and his community penis.”
My anger is now directed at Emeka.
“If you kept it in your pants, we won’t be here. This is your mess, handle it, and leave me out of it!”
I march to the kitchen. I warn myself against crying. I will not shed a tear because of those two. I must not. My baby needs me to be happy at all times and that’s the way I will remain.
I take down the spaghetti from the stove, serve it into a dish for one, add peppered stew that has lots of meat and head to my room to enjoy my meal.
Emeka comes in. I pretend I don’t see him.
“Doc, I am so sorry.”
I don’t reply. He sits beside me. “If you want me to divorce her, just give the word.”
“So that a Mexican warlord abi drug lord will come and kill all of us here? Abeg o! Take responsibility for all your actions. It’s your fault. You went to marry an omo daddy. Now, see where you have landed yourself.”
“I won’t lie to you, Tols, I’m regretting everything.”
“That one concern you. All I know is that once I finish this food, I’ll need you on this bed with me, to cuddle me while I sleep, right after you give me head. Only head. That your dick must not touch me.”
“I’m very sorry.”
“Meanwhile, are you sure she’s even pregnant?”
“She may be trying to play a fast one.” I drop my fork. “Where is she sef?”
Before Emeka replies, I leave my room. Fortunately, Yazmin is still in the house. I call her over. She gives me attitude.
“Come jor. Abi you think I’m Emeka that you’ll be doing anyhow ni?”
She walks to me. I point her in the direction of my bedroom.
“Why?” she asks, pouting those her red lips that make my husband lose his mind.
“Don’t question me, onyibo. Just be going.”
She walks ahead of me. When we enter the room, I tell her to take off her panty and lie on the bed.
“S’onsiere ni? You think we’ll believe anything you say? I need to check if you’re really pregnant. My friend, off your pant and lie on that bed! I don’t have time for shit!”
Emeka tells her something in Spanish and she obeys while I get some gloves from my First Aid box. When I return and part her legs, I am shocked to see my husband’s name tattooed on her cleanly-shaved pubis. I eye him.
“Relax, Yazmin,” I instruct, although I’d rather shove my fingers in there and injure her.
“Don’t kill my baby.”
“That’s if there’s anything inside.”
“I’m not you.”
I push my fingers in and press down on her lower tummy without further warning. It doesn’t take me long to find out that she’s truly pregnant. I shake my head with a sigh as I pull out my fingers.
“Satisfied?” She gets off the bed. I remove the gloves, wash my hands and continue eating. I ignore them until she goes away. I can’t kill myself because of them – so I say to myself. But after my meal is completed and I’m cuddling the life size teddy on my bed, I put a call through to Mary and tell her what is happening. I say this while crying like a little baby. I tell her that I think it’s time to give Emeka an ultimatum. He either divorces Yazmin or I leave. I can’t take this again. But until then, I want to move into Mary’s. Does she have a spare room?
“Yes, Tola. Come over.”
Cabrona – fuck you
Iyawo – wife
S’onsiere ni – are you crazy?
omo daddy – daddy’s baby
Just wanted to surprise you with this episode this evening but before you read, here’s a short announcement
Please tune in this Friday. I’ll be here to remind you again on Friday and to bring you a new series from @Ibukunwrites
Have a cool evening.
This episode is dedicated to Seye who recently walked down the aisle with his sweetheart. I wish you a happy married life, Seye.
He looks into his bag. He has packed light. Nothing more than the basics. A few shirts, a few pants, a pair of shoes, underwear and toiletries. He knows he is missing important items but his head cannot just figure out what needs to be added. Genesis usually does his packing for him. She would include all he needs and extra things that never cross his mind. Sometimes she tosses in little surprises like handwritten notes, her thong or one of the children’s stuffed animals. He always looks forward to discovering what new item she leaves in his bags.
Today, however, she’s in a mood. She blames it on the housekeeper’s illness which has left her handling the bulk of the house chores. But Dominic knows she’s upset because of his trip. She tries to be a big girl about it, having just told him a few days ago that she is done getting upset over his trips.
“Fly to Jupiter, I don’t care. I don’t need you to make me happy.”
Since then her moods have fluctuated a great deal. He hates that she hurts over his absences. He lives for the moments when he makes her happy but she has always been an outrageously-difficult woman to please. Gifts and elaborate romantic gestures have no effects on her. She simply wants the little things – love, family, and waking up beside him every morning.
“Just a little longer,” he would tell her, but her response would be a brushing away of his words. She stopped believing him when he had started to sound like a chant. He however, means to keep his promise. Soon she wouldn’t have to worry about him being away. Business is good, despite the recession. Four years ago, the BSD Group invested in foreign currency, partnering with European financiers to spread the BSD chain of malls across Africa and in some parts of Asia. The returns have been unprecedented, pushing all partners involved into unimaginable wealth. It has been four years of sleepless nights and dedication. Soon, he would go on the much needed break and give Genesis all she desires.
Dominic takes another peep into his bag and decides he would abandon the idea of packing and have breakfast with Genesis instead. She had slipped out of bed as early as 5am and is yet to return to their bedroom.
He grabs his phone and a t-shirt on his way out. The sound of the twins playing draws him to their bedroom where he finds them in the company of Iya Idaya who is seated, watching them. Just recovering from a brief illness, she looks worse for wear but upon sighting Dominic, she manages a smile and a greeting.
“How are you feeling?” he enquires. She tells him that she is doing better. He wants to know if she is taking her drugs. She replies that she is.
He stops for some playtime with the twins but they barely acknowledge his presence. They are already so attached to each other that they do fine entertaining themselves. After a few minutes of being ignored, Dominic rises up and asks Iya Idaya if she knows where Genesis is. The old woman shakes her head.
He exits the room and makes his way out of the house to the next building. The apartment upstairs, once belonging to Genesis, is still very much hers. When she wants to get away from the stress of work or if they get into one of their intense fights, she would leave the main house and hide out there. The fact that Eva passed away on her bed does little to bother her.
Dominic comes to the building and takes a door that leads to stairs going up to the second floor. But just as the top of the first flight of stairs he spots Genesis engaged in her fitness routine, which to him is a collection of sexual poses that turn him on. She doesn’t have a regular schedule for them but does them quite often to keep in shape. Dominic’s best pose is when she splits, either with her legs up in the air or flat on the floor. It always amazes him how someone who is plus size can have so much control of her body and make it do impossible things. He is most impressed by her discipline and dedication to her fitness goals. It is this same manner of mind she employs in Novocaine Knights that has kept them at the top.
Dominic stops for a moment to watch her. She has her entire weight on her hands alone and her feet up on the wall.
She turns her head in his direction and turns it back. He is ignored for the next couple of minutes in which he sits and waits. She eventually lets down her legs and straightens up.
“Packed yet?” she asks, wiping perspiration off her forehead.
“More or less.”
“I’ve always told you never to bother doing it. I’ll come help.”
She picks a towel hanging off the bannister, slings it around her neck and comes down the stairs to meet him. When he rises up, his hand takes her waist and pulls her close for a kiss but she pushes him away.
“You know we don’t do this, Nick.”
“I’m sorry,” he apologizes, grabbing her again. “But I need you. I feel so drained and I’m not looking forward to this trip at all. You’ll give me the strength I need.”
“Domi, no. You’ll make love to me and leave me in an emotional mess for days. Don’t ask for what I can’t give. Just do your usual disappearing so that I can adjust to being single for two months.”
“Two months? Who says I’ll be gone two months?”
Dominic laughs. “You shouldn’t be listening to him.”
“Aren’t you guys traveling together?”
“We are but I’m not staying two months.”
She looks at him with something of an expectant expression. “So when will you be back then?”
“I don’t know.”
The expression vanishes. She starts out. He goes after her and forces his arms around her. In that manner they walk into the main house through the backdoor and end up in their favorite sitting room where she had left her phone charging.
“You want coffee?” he asks as she stretches out. The day has just begun for her. Her phone starts to buzz and she lazily stretches to the extension cord it is plugged in to take the call. An angry voice meets her ear and for a minute or so she has to endure whatever it is the person on the line is saying, throwing in apologies every now and then. Someone in the décor department has just messed up a bridezilla’s wedding decoration, substituting a shade of red for a deeper one.
“Maroon! Not burgundy!” The bride screams on. “Now my wedding is ruined!”
Genesis rubs an eye with the heel of her palm, feeling sore in the ear from all the shouting. Somehow she manages to bring the bride to calm and assures her that she’ll fix the situation in good time.
“Email a photo sample of the original color you asked for and a picture of what was done. I’ll look at it and if your complaints are legit, I’ll have it fixed in record time.”
“Isn’t your reception six hours away? Have no worries. I’ll make you happy. All I want is for you to relax and smile. It’s your day. Don’t let anything spoil it for you. Your husband and the cameras need that beautiful smile.”
Genesis knows nothing about her, if she has a beautiful smile or not. Like many of the weddings and events that are handled by her staff, she is hardly aware. She takes on the big jobs for the big names and leaves the minor ones for her capable staff to attend to. She hates to be called in to repair someone else’s screw-ups.
Genesis rambles out her email to the woman and dumps the phone just as Dominic walks in with a pair of mugs containing coffee. She hadn’t known for how long she had been on the phone.
“Angry bride,” she explains, taking an offered mug. “I don’t even know how she got my number.”
“I hope you didn’t tell her you’ll fix whatever she’s calling you to fix.”
Genesis stretches out her legs on Dominic’s laps after he sits. “I did.”
“Remind me again why you hired people?”
“If they’re not doing their jobs, fire them.”
“That’s why people call you heartless.”
Dominic slips his hand underneath her top and leaves it resting on her tummy.
“But I’m sure it’s nothing. Just a normal bridezilla fit. I’ll handle it.”
They sip their coffees in silence until her phone rings again. Dominic passes it to her. It’s the same bride calling. She wants to know if Genesis got her email.
“Ah. I sent it almost ten minutes ago.”
“I’ll check my spam folder to see if it’s there. Please don’t call again as I’m busy right now and will not take your calls. I’ll call you if I need you to resend the email. Besides that, relax. I’ll fix everything that needs fixing.”
“Thank you, ma.”
The woman hangs up and Genesis consults her phone to get the said email but discovers she is out of internet service.
“Can I use your phone, Nick?”
Dominic dips his hand into his pocket, pulls out his phone and hands it to her. She types in the password. The screen brightens up as a text message pops into view.
“You have a text,” she informs him.
“Read it. I’m expecting some money.”
“You’re always expecting some money.”
“Abeg read it.”
Genesis taps on the SMS icon and it opens up to a short message from an unknown number which she reads out loud.
I’ve done all you asked for. I hope you’re happy. I’m on my way out of the country now. I’ll be expecting the rest of the money in 24 hours.
“Shit,” Dominic mutters. “Let me have that.”
Genesis passes the phone over to him and he returns it to her shortly.
“Something you care to share with me?” she asks.
“It’s not nothing, obviously, and I don’t want to pester but I’m curious and a little worried. My guts feel uncomfortable with that text.”
“Gen, let it go. Just do whatever it is you want to do with the phone.”
Genesis taps on the message icon and discovers that the message is no longer there.
“You deleted it.”
“Genesis Raymond, can you please let that text go?”
“No, Nick. You tell me everything. Why are you hiding this one?”
Dominic throws his head back and rests it on the couch. “Fine…” He sighs. “I paid Chichi off to leave Kasiobi and disappear for good.”
“I don’t understand, Nick.”
“I’m giving her ten million bucks to get the hell out of Kasiobi’s life so he can go back to Tonbra. She left the baby behind.”
“Nick?” Genesis sits up. “Why would you do that?”
He straightens his posture. “Because Tonbra deserves to have the man she loves but with Chichi in the picture there’s no way in hell that’s going to happen.”
Genesis gives a dazed wobble of her head. “You scare me all the time, Dominic.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m simply nudging the lovebirds towards each other.”
“They are eventually going to end up together. Nothing can tear love apart.”
Dominic laughs. “Sometimes you’re so naïve. Nothing can tear love apart?”
“If they’re meant to be…”
“Genesis, please. You’re sounding like a cheesy romance novel. Love has never been enough to keep two people together. You have to give it a little nudge sometimes and that’s exactly what I did. I don’t want my daughter spending her youth being lonely and seeking for love in the wrong places. Soon, she’ll get over Kasiobi and start settling for less. As a father, I can’t watch that happen. She will not become Eva and end up being murdered by some man who can’t control her. So I’m doing everything to see her happy, and no one will give me the third degree over it. I’ll do it for Zach and Zoe if they fall into the same situation. This is who I am, Gen. I have the money and I’ll use it to fulfill selfish needs. Get used to it.”
Genesis lays a hand on his lap. “I understand, Nick. Relax.”
“I made Chichi sign a non-disclosure. If she ever comes back for her child, I’ll expose the documents to Kasiobi so he’ll know she gave up her child for money.”
“But what if Kasiobi has his sights on someone else?” Genesis asks, recalling the couple of times she had watched him flirt with Didi at the office.
“As long as the girl is not carrying his child, there’s no reason to worry. Chichi was the biggest threat.”
“I pray she never returns.”
Dominic pushes his hand into Genesis’ top once more as the mood mellows. “I pray you let me touch you before I go.”
Genesis ignores him as she signs into her email account and handles her client’s issues. The case takes her over fifteen minutes to sort out, during which Dominic graduates from just touching her to fondling her breasts. After she is through, he takes the phone off her hand, pins her down on the couch and starts to kiss her. She feels weak to stop him. His stunt with Chichi is a huge turn on. She has always had a weakness for his darker side.
“I’ll miss you,” he says into her ear, tickling it with his breath, and at the same time, pushing his hand into her pants to find the lushness of her bum.
She encloses her arms around him. “I never get used to you being away, Nick. It always hurts. Please, don’t stay too long.”
Her last word is caught in his lips. He kisses her lavishly but stops to look into her eyes.
“Just a little longer, Ms. Raymond.”
∞∞∞ ∞∞∞ ∞∞∞
So I’m lying on this blue couch, doing my décor thing in my head and trying to take a selfie at the same time when my roomie steps into my sunlight and goes, “Is my ass big in this dress?”
Annoyed for losing a perfect shot that captures my eyes, I retort, “What ass?”
A pair of bespectacled eyes lands me an unpleasant stare. I return a smile. The person who has just spoken to me is a cute, petite Edo girl we call Ehizogie or Ehi for short. She is my housemate and also my colleague. We don’t particularly like each other but somehow we manage. Work and accommodation lumps us together. It’s only wise that we get along. Good thing I get to spend only weekends with her; during the week, I stay with my elder brother and his wife.
“If you want to see what they call ass, check this out.”
I get up, turn around and give Ehi a good view of my heavily-endowed behind. It is African in every sense, the type that gets fellow females jealous and males drooling.
“You’re just fat,” she claps back. “Nothing sexy about it. Go and lose weight.”
To infuriate her further, I lower myself and give a twerk. There’s music coming from my bedroom, something that sounds like what Patoranking will sing. And I don’t only twerk to the beats, I give my booty a slow grind as though I am doing it for the viewing pleasure of a dude. And well, what do you know! A dude walks in unannounced, catching me in my moment.
He stops and focuses on me with a frown. I don’t stop. I’m not specifically doing it for him but if he chooses to be entertained, then he should by all means knock himself out.
By the way, while he watches, let me introduce myself. My name is Ndidi but people call me Didi or Chubby Di. I don’t mind, though. I’m fat, curvy, thick, voluptuous, plus sized and full of myself. You’ll never find me feeling sorry over how I look. Naa. I love my body and I am comfortable in my skin. There’s a huge market for my type, especially on this side of Nigeria. God bless the day I packed my belongings and moved from the east to the land flowing with men that appreciate booty. I have a long list of thirsters and blessers, already and I’m not even a ho. Just wild, sexy and more entertaining than your average girlfriend.
“Hello Kasi.” I stop tormenting my male spectator with my behind and face him.
Gosh! Kasiobi’s voice is to die for! It’s deep but not in a baritone way. Just deep and smooth like he should be whispering sweet nothings in your ear all night. And don’t even start me on his looks. He’s fine, with Will Smith kind of ears and pink, kissable lips. He is tall and (the best part) thin. Just the way I love my men. I can’t be plus size and go after fatsos like me. How do we enjoy sex? By bumping into each other’s cellulites? No, thank you. Skinny boys are best. They know how to love a big woman.
So, I’m thinking Kasi has a thing for me but he hides it well. Same way I hide mine. Dude’s got me feeling some kind of way but he’s never going to know I’m crushing on him. We’ve met on four different occasions but it has all been work-related. I’ve heard gist of his pathetic love life with the boss lady’s stepdaughter, Lexus, and how she dumped him. It’s not clear if he has recovered from the heartbreak but he’s yet to replace her. I’d have offered myself as a rebound girlfriend but not yet. I am watching the tides. I am barely three weeks old in these environs. It’s best to keep my head in what brought me here – and that is to work as an events planner at Novocaine Knights and to build a relationship with the family I never had.
I am an only child of a mother who was branded an ogbanje and rejected by her people. My grandmother died giving birth to her after losing four babies. My grandfather alone was left with the burden of caring for her but he remarried and had children by his new wife who maltreated my mom endlessly. Eventually, she ran away from the village and moved to Aba where she survived by selling food during the day and attending school at night.
According to her, one day, this rich man in his luxurious car drove up to her food stall to buy lunch and she fell in love with him. He was a married man with three sons but she didn’t care. A short affair culminated and I came to be. Sadly, the only thing mommy knew about my dad was his name – Lawrence Onuora. It took her five years before she bumped into him again. At that time, her hard work had paid off and she was able to secure an admission into University of Lagos, her dream school. And while I was left in the care of my maternal great-grandmother, mommy got herself educated, paying her fees with money she got from selling food in a canteen on campus.
She met daddy again at the school gates and they resumed their affair, meeting in hotels, until one unfortunate incident when his second son ran into them. The affair ended and left mommy heartbroken. She had told daddy about me but he made it clear that I was to remain in the shadows for the sake of his family. This didn’t stop him from being responsible for me. I was taken away from the village to Onitsha for a better life. Mommy eventually graduated but dropped all prospects of getting a decent job and returned to the east. She opened a beer parlor, faced her life and forgot all about my dad. Each time I asked, I was told he was dead. I only discovered he was alive when she was on her deathbed. She told me the entire story of how I came to be and gave me his phone number. Right in her presence, I called him. They spoke in Yoruba, a language I didn’t understand. When they were done, she asked me to put the phone on speaker. Her last words to us were, “Lawrence, your daughter, Ndidiamaka. Take care of her as your own. Ndi, your father. Go and be with him. God bless two of you.”
And then she breathed her last. It is barely three months since she passed. Daddy gave her a grand burial in the same village where she was treated as an outcaste. He took her shame away. He gave her a royal farewell and left tongues wagging for a long time. After my mourning period, he put me on a flight to Lagos. I was introduced to his wife, my brothers and their wives on a quiet night. Not all of them welcomed me with open arms. Nne, especially, doesn’t like me but I don’t take it personally. She lost her only daughter a short while after her birth. I understand her angst.
Wait, did I just deviate to talk about my family and forget about Kasi who is still standing in front of me in all his male hotness?
“Please, Ehi, I need your help desperately,” he says to Ehi.
“Anything, Kas,” she replies with a smile I never saw on her before.
I watch two of them leave the house and return shortly with a baby that looks every inch like Kasiobi. I take two, slump back into my seat and gape at the scene. He has a child?! How on earth did I not know this whole time?! And who the hell is her mother?!
“I’ll just change into something real quick and we’ll be out of here,” Ehi says and disappears into her room, leaving Kasiobi and I. And of course the baby whose cheek is enjoying the touch of his lips.
“Is she yours?” I ask.
“Yeah. Her name is Trinity.”
“Cool. So you’re married?”
He laughs. “No. Single dad.”
“Where’s her mom?”
“Oh, she’s out of town for a bit.”
“And left her all alone with you?”
“I’m capable.” He looks at his daughter. “Am I not, Trini? Is daddy not capable?”
Awww, how cute. But why would a mother leave a baby so little and travel? And why on earth did Kasiobi go and get a girl pregnant? Well, the whole thing now has K-leg. Who wants to be loving up a guy that has a baby under his care? I can’t be doing nanny abeg.
Ehi returns. “Let’s go.”
“Bye, Didi,” Kasiobi tells me. “See you later this evening at the concert.”
They walk to the door and then Ehi turns back. “I forgot my phone.”
She runs to her bedroom while Kasiobi makes his exit. I become moody over the latest development as I sit staring after him. Ehi comes back again but stops and blocks my sunlight once more.
“Stop wasting your time fantasizing about him, Ndi,” the silly thing speaks without permission. “His soul is tied to Lexus.”
“Plizz! Fantasizing is for teenagers like you,” I snap. “Speak for yourself.”
I flip my braids backwards, barge into my bedroom and begin fixing my scattered bed. My phone rings while I’m in the middle of it. The boss lady is calling. I pick the call in excitement. It’s not always she needs me for something outside office hours. I’m still a rookie in the business and apart from doing my job, I always aim to please her. Today of all days is a good opportunity to prove myself with the love concert. I had been assigned to do only a few things but I want more responsibility.
I don’t get an answer.
“Hello? Good morning.”
I meet more silence.
I bring the phone to my face and put it back on my ear.
I hear some sounds but not a word. I conclude that the network is bad and go offline. My thumb is about to tap on a button to return the call but a better idea pops into mind. I hurry out of my bedroom and find my way out of the apartment. There’s a small fence separating the bosses’ house from ours. In-between both houses stands a tree and beneath it a swing bench I enjoy spending spare time on.
I follow a small gate and come out to the massive mansion that is probably the most beautiful house I have seen in Lagos so far. At my entrance, guard dogs begin to bark fiercely. I ignore them because I know they have been caged. I follow a path that takes me straight to the kitchen via a backdoor. Upon entry I expect to see Iya Idaya, the housekeeper but I find no one present.
I leave the kitchen, finally having my opportunity to take a good look at the house. I have only been here once and it was on a brief visit. Now, I get the chance to absorb the elegance and beauty all at once, which blows me away at second glance.
Now, mind you, I’m standing in what seems like an anteroom which opens up to a stairway that leads up. If I guess correctly, the sitting room is to my left. It is where I plan to end up after I call the boss lady and tell her I am waiting for her. Before then, I decide to take a small tour.
Facing me, some feet away, is a door. My curiosity tells me to find out what is behind it. Since the door is ajar, it won’t be bad to take a peep.
I walk towards it and when I get there, I push the door open and come upon a beautiful sight of the boss and boss lady making out. The room is a mini-parlor with diffuse lighting and bright colors. It is not meant for any type of entertainment but somehow this beautiful couple has found it worthy enough to make out in.
The boss, lying between his wife’s legs which are spread apart, kisses her like he is born to kiss women. He stops and lowers his head to kiss her breast which is in full glare of my eyes. He does this as his hand goes between her legs. When he touches her ‘there’. She moans.
And I think I moan alongside her or something, because they stop abruptly and turn in my direction. My chest tightens, I step back, and find to my relief that they had not seen me. They have been startled by the stupid family cat that has just slipped past my leg and into the room. I had been too engrossed to feel its fur over my skin.
I withdraw and end up in the living room, trying not to keep the image of what I had just witnessed. It doesn’t help me. Who will quench the fires when I’m all alone? My bae-lessness, which has carried on for a long time is becoming something of a headache. I have dated just two boys in my life and both relationships didn’t have happy endings. Every other guy I met after them just wanted to be there for the nacks, something I wasn’t giving. It’s not like I’m looking for love, either. I simply want a reasonable guy that I can grow into loving, someone who is not all about sex. I might ooze it and talk so much about it but the fact is that I’m a novice. Literally, a virgin. Never known a man before, although, I have known men enough to understand the workings of their third legs. When people see me they automatically assume I have a PhD in men and sex. But I’m just a neophyte. A wild one, though.
Ehi has this theory that I’m wild because I’ve not been popped.
“When you have your first, you’ll calm down. I was like you – wild and wanting – and then I got disvirgined and became sane.”
I had rolled my eyes and almost snored to her unsolicited speech.
“In my opinion, the penis is overrated, and I’ll advice that you keep your body for marriage and use sex just for babies. That is what God would want of you.”
I had smiled. She wasn’t aware that I knew about her failed marriage to an old man her father’s age, which barely lasted four months after the man caught her engaged in lesbian sex with an unnamed chick. Now, she was using the religious angle on me. Bitch, please.
I pick my phone and plug in my earphones to listen to music. Boss Lady is moaning very quietly but I can pick out the sound. Well, they need it as a couple, with the boss always out of the country and his wife swamped with work– as I’ve heard.
I wait much longer than I thought I would and finally, I hear words and not moans. I also hear a door close. Only then do I choose to make my presence known. When I step out, the boss lady shows some surprise.
“You’ve been in there?” she asks.
“Yes, ma. Good morning, ma.”
“What happened to you calling me Genesis? How many times will I correct you?”
“I’m sorry Ms. Genesis.”
She smiles. A dimple shows on her cheek.
“Hello.” Her husband steps out of the mini-parlor. He shows no signs of what had just occurred between them, unlike her whose hair is in disarray.
“Good morning, sir,” I reply to his greeting.
He grabs his wife by the bum for a kiss and whispers into her ear. I look elsewhere.
“Oh, please, go away,” she tells him as he walks off. She turns to me. “So, Didi, why are you here?”
“You called me, actually. I answered the call and you weren’t saying anything, so I thought you needed me. Here I am.”
She gives me a guarded look. “How long have you been here?”
“I just got in.”
She suddenly becomes conscious of her hair. She shakes the expensive locks and they fall back into place. I wonder how much they cost.
“I think my phone dialed you on its own. It has a mind these days.”
I giggle. Not like what she said was funny but because she’s Genesis, the most beautiful woman I have ever come across that has a huge heart, and is an inspiration not to plus size women alone but to all women. I think I can fittingly call her a goddess. Let me digress a little and tell you how I almost ran mad on the day my elder brother’s wife, Honey, brought me to this house to meet her for the first time.
My dream had always been to work for Novocaine Knights. They were and still are that much of a big deal. Apart from the fact that they organized the best parties, weddings and events, they were rumored to pay their staff well. So on that Saturday when Aunty Honey brought me to the house and the door opened and I saw Ms. Genesis standing before me, I went blank for some seconds. I told myself she wasn’t the one. I said, ‘Didi, you have only seen her pictures online and videos of her. This can’t be her. Naa! This is a prank.’
But Aunty Honey hugged and greeted her, calling her name, and that was when I knew that it was her for real.
I fainted. Not literally. Just fainted out of my old life and into my new one with Genesis Ditorusin. So now you understand why I giggle when she says certain things even though there is nothing to giggle about. She is quite used to me doing that, though.
“Anyways, it’s good you’re here. Iya Idaya is not feeling so well, so I’d be glad if you step in and help me babysit the twins today. I have another event I’ve been planning which I have to attend briefly.”
She touches my arm. “I know this is last minute and I hate to do this to you but I need them out of my hair today. Can you handle them?”
This is not what I have planned. I want to be part of the décor team putting things together for the concert. I have dreamed about this. Why is Ms. Genesis doing this to me?
“Iya Idaya will put you through. Can you help out?”
“Sure,” I answer. I feel sad but anything for Ms. Genesis.
“Thank you, Didi. I owe you one.”
It better be an Hermes Birkin. You have four of them you aren’t using or so they say.
“But does that mean I’ll miss the love concert?” I ask.
“No, dear. You’ll be there with them. I’m sure by then your colleagues would have some free time on their hands to help you out.”
Great. I’ll be the fat one carrying babies around while my mates are fishing for men. I see Ehi laughing at me right now.
“You’re such an angel.”
Ms. Genesis pats my cheek and leaves me standing alone.
Permit me to swear…..
∞∞∞ ∞∞∞ ∞∞∞
“That’s the last of her friends I know. If she’s not here, she can’t be anywhere else.”
Kasiobi fixes his eyes on the glass door of a beauty salon that has designs of beauty and fashion accessories etched on it. Ehi has just emerged from the place, having gone to ask a onetime mutual friend of Chichi if she has any knowledge of her whereabouts.
“None of them have seen her since she left for South Africa last year.” Ehi pushes her glasses upwards to scratch her nose. “They didn’t even know she came into town.”
“Ehi, we’ve been to four different places. Definitely somebody is lying. One of them must know where Chichi is.”
Ehi shrugs. Kasibi rubs his eyes in frustration. “Three hours of nothing.”
Ehi throws her head back to stare at Trinity who is fast asleep in her seat. “At least, someone’s not stressed out or stressing you right now.”
“Are you hungry?” Kasiobi enquires.
“Let’s stop at the mall to eat and buy some baby formula.” He starts the car. “I swear, I’m so frustrated right now.”
“Everything’ll be fine.”
He puts the SUV into gear and connects with a busy street.
“I could offer my services for free.” Ehi faces him, playing with her braids. “I’ll gladly take care of Trini and in return you get to be my boyfriend.”
Kasiobi laughs despite his exhaustion. “Who spoilt you like this for me, Ehi? You used to be such a good girl.”
“Life showed me pepper jare.”
“I so badly wanted you at some point but your forming put me off and then you went and allowed Chisom to disvirgin you.”
“Can we not talk about that phase of my life right now?”
“The lesbian phase?”
“Chichi is bad influence and that’s why I don’t understand why you want her back. Trinity doesn’t need a mother like her.”
“And who’ll be the best mother?”
“I’m not crazy about you like that, Kas. Besides, I’m smart not to come between you and Lex.”
“We’re not together. I have a babe.”
“Shakira is a ho. Everyone knows that.”
“So you’re not getting back with Lex?”
Kasibi’s hand stiffens around the steering. “No.”
“But Kasi, I’m very sure you guys are meant to be together and no matter how hard you try to fight it, you’ll end up with her.”
“You’re making it sound like there’s some power out there that controls these things.”
“He doesn’t have time for our love lives.”
“Are you serious?”
“I believe in love, and I think you guys have it but if it never works out, I’m right here waiting.” She waves her hand. Kasiobi takes it and kisses it.
“You’re such a lowkey flirt, Kas.”
“I’m just trying to be nice in case I’ll ever need you to babysit Trini. But on a good side, though, that baby behind is going to score me enough booty. Watch what happens at the mall, but then you’ll have to give me some distance so that they don’t think we’re together.”
“You’re not well.”
Kasibio tries to smile but a yawn stops him. The drive to the mall is an uphill task and when they get there, he leaves Ehi with the chore of sourcing for food while he embarks on finding the best formula for Trinity. As he browses the stacks of different brands of baby foods in the kids section the last thing on his mind is the attention he is getting from female shoppers.
“Don’t go for that one,” a familiar voice stops him as his hand stretches to pick a can of milk amongst many off the shelf.
He turns around and Lexus’ smiling face meets his.
“Hi Kas. Hey, Trini.”
The naturally-unsmiling tot gives Lexus a grin.
“Weird,” Kasi mutters.
“We have a thing. Can I…?” She stretches her hands out and Trinity inclines towards her.
“She remembers you?”
“Not really. She fell in love with me from the first day. I think I have something she loves. Must be my piercings.” She kisses Trinity’s forehead. “How are you, bae? Did you miss me?”
Kasiobi watches both of them bond with Trinity trying to go for one of Lexus’ earrings. He notices other things too – like Lexus’ body con top tucked into a ripped jean that shows off her petite butt. He picks out faint signs of makeup on her face but the best part of her look is the pair of ankle strap heels she has on. He had never imagined she could comfortably go about in any footwear other than sneakers. He had hated Russell for a long time but at the moment, he is grateful he came into Lexus’ life and changed her style.
“So where’s Chichi?”
“Um…she’s out of town for a couple of days,” Kasiobi replies. “She’ll be back on Monday.”
“Okay.” Lexus faces the shelf. “Pick the SMA. That’s what she takes.”
Kasiobi glares at his daughter. “She takes formula?”
“But Chichi told me she has been exclusively breastfed from day one.”
“No offence but Chichi is a liar.” Lexus looks at Kasiobi. “And you too.”
“I’m a liar?”
“You’re lying about where Chichi is.”
“Still lying. It’s in your eyes. Something’s wrong. You look fucked, rings around your eyes, you smell of sweat and metallic stuff and you’re here buying baby food. Where the hell is Chichi? You guys fight or something?”
Kasibio shuts his eyes. “I hate you.”
“Or you caught her with your girlfriend on your couch?”
“Then where the fuck is she? Why is Trini having soiled diapers?”
“Yes, she is, daddy. And she’s about to start crying over it.”
Kasiobi rolls his eyes in exasperation. “Chichi left, okay? I came home this morning and saw a note. Says she’s tired of the arrangement and she’s not coming back… She left.”
“Awww, poor Trini.”
“She took all her stuff…and…left. I’m still traumatized.”
“I don’t particularly give a fuck about you. I’m worried about this angel here. Has she eaten?”
“What did you give her?”
“Refrigerated breast milk and then custard twice.”
Lexus frowns at him. “Grab a ready to eat formula, a bottle, and a bib while I get diapers and go and change her.”
“I’m not doing it for you.”
She begins to walk away from him.
“I’ll be at the food court,” he announces. “Jollof and peppered chicken?”
“Yeah. Always with ice-cream.”
She disappears to the next isle while Kasiobi remains standing until someone passing by nudges him. He begins to toss baby food into his shopping cart, going back to Ehi’s words about a force out there that wants him and Lexus back together. Thirty minutes ago, he would have fought against it but here he is, already coming up with a million ways on how to play nice with Lexus. Getting back with her doesn’t seem like a bad idea right now.
Anything for Trinity, he tells himself.
For those who asked for a bonus…
Jide says he has a gift for me. He has just passed me this black box that has the brand name ‘Self Pleasures’ written on it.
“Open it,” he says, hiding a smile.
I take the lid off the box and pull out a string of heavy Ben Wa balls.
“Really?” I look at him. He winks.
“Recommended for pelvic exercises,” he explains, adjusting Jiney’s cap that has shifted off her forehead.
“So I’m supposed to shove this in where?”
He points at my crotch. “You were complaining of feeling loose…”
“Jideofor, my normal pelvic exercises and the hot water Nne has been making me sit in are working, thank you. I don’t need these funny looking things to tighten my walls which by the way, are still tight.”
“Stop. You’re turning me on.”
I smack him.
“I’ll teach you how to use them,” he offers.
“I know how to, thank you.”
I put the Ben Wa balls away. I don’t tell him that I have used all sorts of them in the past, from the ones without strings to the vibrating ones. It’s good to maintain the mystery. Genesis has taught me to hide certain aspects of my femininity from him.
“Men like to be oblivious, so keep him wondering.”
For me, I’m all too happy that I’ve married a bad boy and he’s beginning to show me his naughty side…and I like it. He is doing this countdown to the day we have sex. He wakes up every morning and goes, ‘Day so and so.’ But this doesn’t stop him from being naughty. There’s a lot of kissing and petting. I never knew one could feel pleasure on certain odd places in the body. Jide showed me all my erogenous zones. Now I am left with the challenge of finding his. I plan to ask Genesis for pointers.
Speaking of which, I have to pay her a visit this morning, on my way to pick a few things from the mall. Nne is not going to be happy about me leaving the house. Jide is cool with it. He even thinks I need a bit of the outside air.
“Don’t just starve my daughter.”
He is particular about Jiney being exclusively breastfed until she is six months. I don’t even have a say in the matter. It’s his baby and his breasts.
I rise up from bed and go for a shower. A short while later I’m out. Jide and Jiney are not in the room. I can hear his voice coming from the kitchen. He is with Nne. I take my time, dressing into a pair of jeans and a tee. When I step out, Nne straightaway asks me where I’m headed.
“She’s going out,” my husband answers. Nne is about to say something but he stops her. I smile at both of them and walk to the room where Ndidi is lodged.
I knock. She opens the door. A bright smile hits her face and she hugs me.
“Hi Didi. How are you?”
She lets go. “Wow! You don’t look like you just had a baby.”
“How did you lose all the fat?”
“I didn’t have much of it, to begin with.”
She pouts cutely. “I wish I was like you. I’m here struggling with my weight. I’m so fat.”
“No, you’re not. You’re chubby.”
She shrugs. She doesn’t believe me.
“So, I want to hit the town for a little shopping. Care to join me?”
She throws her fists up into the air.
“You may want to change into something decent, though.”
She runs back in and the door bangs in my face. I turn. I’m not sure I can handle her energy. I wait for her in the living room while trying to keep up with the latest events online. Actually, I’m more interested in what’s happening on Jide’s instagram. A photo of me breastfeeding Jiney, which he shared, attracted some trolls who felt they had a say over my body. Some blog even took the photo and did a piece about mothers sharing their breastfeeding pictures online. It was a terrible article aimed at body-shaming mothers. But neither Jide nor I bother about these things. We just live our lives.
“I’m ready.” Didi steps out in a short dress and pair of flats. She looks charming. She has no idea she is about to meet Genesis. I can’t wait to see how she will freak out.
Minutes later, we’re on the road. I quickly take control of the conversation. Didi is talkative. I learned about this the hard way over the course of last week when she and I literally spoke every day on the phone, she doing most of the calling.
“So, Didi, are you ready for the Lagos life?”
“You’re sure? It can be quite draining.”
“I am ready. I’m sooo excited.”
“Okay. Wish you the best with your hustle. So, I’ve been meaning to ask you. Do you have a boyfriend?”
“I don’t know. I don’t have time for boys.”
“I had a boyfriend before coming here. I broke things off with him because I can’t do the long distance relationship thing.”
“I don’t trust him. He’s so particular about sex and I’m very sure he was cheating on me while we were dating.”
“You never caught him?”
“No. I didn’t bother, really. We weren’t having sex so I expected him to cheat.”
She is silent for a few seconds and even I have run out of what to ask her but she comes back on again.
“You didn’t ask me why we were not having sex.”
“No, I didn’t. Why?”
“I’m a virgin.”
Okay, I didn’t need to know that but seriously? I look at her. Outwardly, she’s wild, but I’ve come to know that appearances can be deceiving and that also, some virgins have this manner of overdoing things.
“So what type of virgin are you?”
“I don’t understand.”
“There are virgins who have never done anything sexual before. They are called pure virgins. And then there are those that virginity for them is just about the hymen. So they would do every other things except penetrative sex. So which are you?”
She laughs. “I’m In-between.”
“Well, whichever it is, I’m proud of you that you kept it this long. Are you going to keep it until you get married?”
“No. I’m just looking for the right guy. I’m so scared to give it to an asshole.”
“Then you better be wary of the boys in this town. I must warn. Your average Onitsha guy has his life planned. It’s basically make money, find wife and get married. But here, it’s different. It’s more like make money, find girls to spend it on, sleep with them, break their hearts and repeat the vicious cycle again.”
“And don’t be carried away by the one who tells you he is willing to wait until marriage either. He may just be one of those ones who wants a good girl whose cherry he can pop so that he can control her while he sleeps around outside. Choose your men wisely. Your friends as well. Don’t party or club every weekend. Make yourself scarce. Avoid alcohol and drugs at all cost. Stay away from boys’ houses as much as you can. Focus on your career. Work hard. Make daddy and your late mother proud.”
“Thank you, Aunty Honey.”
“Just call me Honey.”
I realize she is subdued by the counsel I have just given her. I hope I haven’t scared her.
“Can I buy coconut chips, please?”
We’re in traffic and hawkers are busy with their wares, running in-between cars and flashing them at windows.
I let Didi’s window down. She calls some guy selling coconut chips and picks two. “You want?” she asks me.
“No, thank you.”
“It’s sweet o.”
I know it’s sweet. In fact, I used to like it but I’m not feeling it right now. Didi pays for the chips and begins to munch on them. She talks as she eats, telling me about Onitsha and her second cousins whom she is not friendly with. She talks all the way to the Ditorusin home, finishing the entire two packs of coconut chips. Now she’s complaining about not having bought water.
“You’ll drink some when we get in,” I say to her as we wait for security at the gate to confirm our access in.
“Whose house is this?”
“They seem rich.”
“But you haven’t seen the house yet.”
“From the outside I can tell.”
I hear a beep and the gate slides open.
“Wooooow!” Didi exclaims, eyes popping out. I smile as I drive in. “Is this house for real?”
I laugh. I totally feel her. The house is grand and sturdy with architecture that is different from most. But it is not the structure that arrests attention. It’s the greenery. It takes you from modern day Lagos to a dream of colorful flowers, hanging bougainvillea, awning Jacaranda trees with purple leaves and a stone path that leads to the front door.
We are standing at the door now, waiting to be invited in.
“This house is really fine,” Didi says for the third time since we drove in.
The door opens and we’re blessed with Genesis’ smiling face.
We hug and when we break apart, she gazes at Didi.
Didi is struck. She can’t move. Her eyes are fixed on Genesis in utter disbelief. I laugh.
“She’s a fan.”
“And she’s the one I told you about.”
“Oh. Your sister-in-law, Ndidiamaka, right?”
“Yeah. Didi, stop staring and say hi.”
Didi tries to speak but a stammer comes out. Genesis and I laugh.
“Come in, ladies.”
She invites us in, leading us to the main living room. By the time we make ourselves comfortable, Didi has returned to her old self. She now falls into this long speech about how she is so crazy about Genesis and how she follows her online like fly to shit.
Yes, she actually uses those exact words.
She is excited to meet her and can’t wait to start working for her.
“Great then.” Genesis chuckles. “We’ll have fun. But hope you aren’t lazy?”
“Good. Work begins on Monday.”
Did claps her hands silently.
“So what can I get for you guys?”
“Nothing. We’ve had breakfast.”
I see a protest in Didi’s eyes. I’m beginning to think she likes food too much.
“I’d like some water, please,” she requests.
“Follow me, then. If you’re going to be working for Novo Knights, you must know your way around this house.”
Didi excitedly hops on her feet and tails Genesis. I take out my phone and go back online. I am in the middle of reading about a holiday bonanza Qatar Airways is offering when someone walks into the room. I look up and see that it is DJ Kasbi. He and I met only once, a couple of days before my wedding. It was a brief meeting in which Mary and I told him the type of songs we would love him to play at our reception.
I look at him now. I don’t think he remembers me.
“Mrs. Onuora?” he calls, unsure.
“Yeah. You remember.”
“I can never forget.”
His words are with meaning. I can pick out the discreet way in which his eyes take in my features.
“How are you?” I ask.
I notice that he is taller than I remember. He seems quiet too. His sense of style fits his age. Hanging on his neck is a pair of headphones. I have a feeling it’s his signature look.
He doesn’t sit, he moseys around a little. I suspect he is familiar with the house, maybe even more than I am.
Genesis walks in and coming right behind her is Didi.
“Kasiobi, you’re here,” Genesis utters.
“Morning, ma,” he greets. Didi looks at him, he looks at her, and their eyes lock for some seconds.
“Hi,” he says to her.
“Hi,” she responds and walks over to where she was seated before. DJ Kasbi throws a quick glance at her backside.
“Boss Lady,” he calls Genesis, “I’ll be waiting in the other parlor.”
Didi’s eyes follow him as he leaves.
“You know DJ Kasbi?” Genesis asks. Didi shakes her head. “He’s a celeb in Lagos alone, I guess.”
“So, Gen…” I face her. “About the souvenirs…”
“Yes. They are ready. Unfortunately, I don’t have them here. They’re all in the gift shop. Do you want them delivered as we planned or you want to pick them yourself?”
“Please, let them be delivered. I want to go to the mall to buy some things.”
“Fine. I’ll call them and tell them to take it to yours immediately. So, is there any other thing I can do for you today?”
“No,” I reply, getting up. “Just show up with your beautiful self and your equally beautiful family tomorrow.”
She puts her arm around my waist as we leave. DJ Kasbi is standing outside the door to a smaller sitting room. He nods a farewell in our direction. Didi pretends not to see him.
We step outside.
∞∞∞ ∞∞∞ ∞∞∞
It has begun to drizzle a little. There are no dark clouds to show that the weather will get worse. But one can’t predict the elements these days. They seem to have a mind of their own.
Genesis hurries into her house, away from the drizzle, and shuts the front door. Kasiobi is still waiting outside the sitting room. She ushers him in and closes the door.
“I know I’m in trouble, Ms. Genesis,” he states as he takes a seat.
“Oh, you so are.”
She sits beside him and places her elbow on the back rest as she faces him fully.
“Start talking, young man.”
Kasiobi gives a quiet chuckle.
“Is it a laughing matter?”
“Kasi, Chichi being in your house is a bad idea. You know that, don’t you?”
“She has changed, ma. She really has.”
“Don’t be so naïve, Kasi. She is digging her fangs deep into you and by the time you realize it, it may be too late.”
Kasiobi scratches his head. “There’s nothing I can do about it. If I ask her to leave, I’ll have to rent a house for her and start paying child support. But this present arrangement is cheaper for me.”
“Cheaper but not better. Chichi will enjoy milking you dry. And let’s not forget that you’re going to be constantly seeing her – all of her – and you’ll fall into old habits again. Are you sure it’s what you want for yourself?”
“I won’t sleep with her, if that’s what you mean. I’m still seeing Shakira.”
Genesis sighs. “Even worse. But what did she say about the whole Chichi thing?”
“She doesn’t know. She’s out of town, presently.”
“Well, good luck with your impending drama. You caused it for yourself.”
Kasiobi smiles. “You’re really mad at me.”
“I am, Kas. You have Lexus who will do anything for you and you go and choose two useless girls who are only after their own selfish gains.”
“Lexus dumped me.”
“She had her reasons, Kasiobi.”
“She always has reasons to be selfish. Always.” His voice comes with a rough tone. “We were doing well as a couple and then from nowhere, she leaves. Then she comes back a year later, after I have moved on, to say she wants me back? No, I’m not playing such silly games with her. I’m too old for that.”
“Kasi, calm down. Please, listen to me. Do me a favor and talk to Tonbra. Ask her why she really left you.”
“She already told me.”
“Not everything. Ask her to be honest with you. Talk to her. And please, just please, give her another chance.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t. And with all due respect, Ms. Genesis, you’re coddling her and it’s bad. Lexus needs to hear the truth from you that she’s full of shit. She needs to get up and become something for herself. I think when she works hard at something for a while, she will understand and appreciate human relationships. For now, she’s just a fourteen-year-old trapped in a woman’s body. She needs to grow up.”
He is angry. Genesis understands. Lexus is quite the expert at pushing people to the wall. But Genesis also recognizes that Kasiobi’s anger is from a place of passion. His feelings for Lexus are so strong that he is mad at himself that she has that much power over him.
“Just try, you hear? Try and talk to her.”
“Can I see the twins?”
“Sure. They’re upstairs. How is fatherhood coming on?”
Kasiobi grins. Light brightens his eyes. “The best thing ever.”
He continues to smile. “When Chichi came with her to the house today and I went towards her, she smiled at me. It was classic. Chichi says she hardly smiles, but she smiled at me today. I think it’s a good sign.”
Genesis shakes her head with a laugh, telling him he would soon learn that babies are not always so adorable.
“But you understand that I’m doing this strictly for Trinity, right? Not for Chichi. Not even for my mom.”
“I’m sorry you’re disappointed.”
“I’ll get over it. All I want is for you to do what’s right.”
“I will,” he promises as they both head out. “Erm…about that girl that left here just now…”
Genesis frowns at him. “You don’t have enough woman trouble already?”
Kasiobi pushes his hands into his pocket and forces away laughter.
“Behave yourself, boy. You have three girls on your case already.”
“I didn’t say anything nau, Boss Lady. I just dey ask ni. Babe is cute. Chubby cute. I haven’t seen her type in a while, that’s why I asked. And the nose ring…”
“You and girls with piercings and tattoos.”
“They are freaks. I love freaks.”
“Then go back to the number one freak in your life.”
Kasiobi’s hearty expression vanishes. Genesis withdraws from the topic entirely. She walks him to the door and bids him a lovely day.
∞∞∞ ∞∞∞ ∞∞∞
Tomorrow is Jiney’s christening and baptism. My baby will be two weeks old but I feel I have known her my whole life. I can’t count how many times I stare fixedly at her in the course of a day, even though she doesn’t notice. All she does is sleep. And then she feeds. A lot. Everyone marvels at how much she can take in during a feeding session. She’s so chubby and so big that people say she looks two months old. I’m at the stage where my nipples hurt like hell. Nne has this ointment she gave me to rub on them to ease the soreness but it still doesn’t help. No one warned me of this part, of the pain that comes with it. Or of my feet getting bigger and my tummy looking like a tired old lady, or of leaking breasts and skin discolorations.
But it is not all complaints. The pains can’t dumb away the joy. I live for little, simple moments as these, when I can be alone with my baby even when I’m surrounded by a crowd. It’s priceless.
Right now I am with my friends who have come to help with the catering aspect of Jiney’s christening party. As always, we are discussing a myriad of things, but I particularly notice that Celia is quiet. She seems worn out as well, like she hasn’t slept well in a while. And the brown top she’s wearing over black jeans does not flatter her one bit. Neither does her frazzled hair.
“Cee?” I call. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
She replies that she is, and the reply itself is an indication that all is not well. The normal Celia would have given a sarcastic answer to my question.
“No, you’re not alright, Cee,” Mary comments.
I’m glad someone else notices.
“I’m fine,” Mary mimics. “That’s not how you talk. Something is wrong with you. Oya, start telling.”
“I said I’m fine nau. Please, leave me.”
“No, I’m not leaving you. Talk.”
“I don’t want to talk!” she snaps. “Leave me alone!”
She throws back the plastic chair she’s sitting on as she makes for the door. Mary goes after her and stops her. She spins her around to face us. We see that she is crying.
“This is the person that is saying she’s fine. Abeg, Kate, bring that chair.”
Quiet Kate, madam of Bobby’s life (as he calls her), mother of his son, drags Celia’s chair to her and Mary pushes her into it.
“Oya, aunty, talk.”
“Please, get me my bag.”
Noka passes over Celia’s handbag to me and I fling it towards Mary. She catches it. Celia drops the bag on her laps and pulls out a white envelope from it.
“What I’m about to tell you girls must not leave this kitchen. Please don’t tell your husbands because I don’t want Shady to hear about it.”
We all promise her that we’ll keep her secret.
“What would you do if you’re dead broke – dead, dead broke – that you don’t even have money for your next salon appointment, and then someone comes into your life and offers you three thousand dollars just like that?”
All of us are silent. We don’t know what she means. And so, she starts to speak, taking us smack into the middle of this distressing tale of financial crisis, a marriage facing hard times and a temptation too sweet to turn away from.
She has just laid bare the envelope in her hands and we see three thousand dollars of crisp notes. The sight makes Noka’s greedy eyes bulge out.
“Wonders shall never end!” Peace exclaims.
“I don’t get it,” Mary says, abandoning the carrots she is grating. “You mean a fellow woman gave this to you? To sleep with her?”
“Yes,” Celia answers.
“Na wa o! This world is going to burn for all its evil.”
“Oh, please,” Noka murmurs.
“Let me understand this well. She promised to give you more money just so that you and her can be sleeping with each other?”
“Why are you making her repeat herself?” I step in. “Can’t you see how uncomfortable she is? Do you know what it took for her to let this out?”
“I can’t do it.” A rush of tears fills Celia’s eyes. “I can’t but I desperately need this money.”
“Well, me I see no big deal in it,” Noka states. We all fix our eyes on her. “They’re both women…”
“So it makes it alright?” I ask. Noka shrugs. “It’s called cheating, Noka.”
“And lesbianism,” Peace adds. I look at Noka who is ready to fire back. I predict a spicy argument coming on.
“And being a lesbian is so wrong?”
“It’s a sin. A very disgusting one. How can you put your mouth on another woman’s whatever?”
“And putting it on a dick is less disgusting?”
“It is the way God wants us to do it.”
Noka laughs. “Please what chapter and verse?”
“Don’t misquote me.”
“I’m not misquoting you. You said putting your mouth on a dick is the way God wants us to do it. That means, according to you, God encourages oral sex. So, madam, book, chapter and verse.”
I raise my hand. “Let’s not get distracted, please. Celia needs our help. What do you advise?”
“Abeg, give her back her money,” Peace answers.
“Sharply,” Mary adds.
“Keep the money, Cee,” Noka advises as we expect she would. “She has already told you that it is for your family, so go ahead and use it jare. The fact that you kept it with you for almost two weeks shows that you don’t have any plans to return it.”
“Yes, I just told you I’m tempted, Noks,” Celia replies. “I desperately need it.”
“The person that is pissing me off here is Shady,” I say, “let me just be honest. You don’t have to be in this position, Cee. Shady is doing this to you.”
The other ladies concur with nods.
“I still feel sad that you allowed him convince you to hide what is going on from us. Where did you think it was going to end?”
Celia rubs her eyes.
“Now look at the predicament you’re in.”
Celia begins to sob. Peace deserts her bowl of green beans and walks to her to put her arms around her. I watch in sadness. Celia has lost a lot of weight and her skin holds signs of stress. How were we so consumed with ourselves that we missed the part where our friend needed us?
I pass Jiney to Kate and hold Celia as well. With soothing words, Peace and I both placate her until she stops crying.
“Everything will be fine, Cee,” I assure her. “And that’s because we’re going to help. This money has to be returned.”
Celia nods, dabbing her eyes with her apron.
“Ladies, I suggest that we all contribute to have Celia’s rent covered and also put some extra money in her pocket.”
“And this one just goes like that?” Noka points at the dollars.
“Ah! O ga oo!”
I ignore her. “Any objections?” I question. None of them oppose my proposal, except Noka, of course.
“First of all,” she chips in “donating to help her is not going to change the fact that her lazy husband is sitting about doing nothing.”
“Don’t call my husband lazy.”
“But he is lazy. His show was cancelled and he couldn’t get up and do something for himself? Even if it’s bricklayer job?”
Celia breaks down again.
“You see what your sharp mouth has caused?!” I yell at Noka. “What is wrong with you?!”
“Noka, take it easy nau,” Kate pleads.
“I’m sorry you’re hurting, Cee. Forgive my brutal honesty. But let me be even more honest here. I don’t have money to spare,” she discloses. The response she gets is four different types of nasty stares. “I am investing my monthly upkeep in something important that I can’t talk about. So, the best I’ll do is to speak to Ibro on your behalf, Cece, and he’ll give you guys a brand new car. This ultimately means I’ll be breaking my promise to you not to tell my husband. But in the end, it’s for your own good.”
I am pissed. I face her. “Noka, first of all, we know Ibro gives you nothing less than five hundred thousand monthly. Are you saying you can’t spare something out of it or even the whole thing for your friend?”
“I didn’t say that. I said my money is tied up somewhere.”
“Celia needs your help, Ojonoka.”
“I know and that is why I said I’ll speak to Ibro. Then they can sell their present car and get some cash from it. That is the most I can do, please.”
I’m about to give a biting response but Mary shakes her head to stop me.
“We’ll do without you, Noks,” she tells her.
I am so angry I want to ask Noka to leave my house. I don’t think I can stand her anymore. The chick is insufferable.
“Thank you.” Celia passes a grateful stare around that almost looks like a smile. I notice a worry line forming at the side of her nose. It drives me further into sadness. For a while none of us speaks. We are all occupied by our individual chores until evening comes. Celia, Noka and Kate leave, and it’s just Peace and Mary left. Both of them are sleeping over. We discuss on how much each person is to contribute to help Celia. Peace suggests that anyone can give any sum they wish to but it shouldn’t be less than a certain stipulated number.
“We just have to make sure it covers the rent and changes her wardrobe,” I emphasize. They agree with me. We are still in the middle of discussion when Ekene walks in from the backdoor. Just like Mary, he is no stranger to our home. He can come in and leave at any time, having developed this chummy relationship with Jide. It had taken quite some time for him to bond with the other guys, owing to his pride and reclusive nature but he eventually came to. Sometimes the bond he has with Jide worries me. Two men who have both had the privilege of knowing me intimately. It rings somehow. I now understand why keeping one’s body until marriage is not such a bad thing. Your ex and your husband might just become close friends. I know they don’t swap stories about me but sometimes I wonder if they do.
“Mama Jiney,” he greets. “And the only Peaceful Peace. How una dey?”
We respond to him. He turns to his wife. She smiles – in a shy kind of way like they are just meeting for the first time.
“I brought your overnight things. Mind escorting me to the car?”
I give them the eye. He is probably going to kiss her silly until she begs him to stop. That is Ekene’s life. He can kiss from sunup to sundown. But wetin concern me? Tomiwa is not complaining.
The backdoor bangs shut when they leave and Peace comes close.
“I think she’s pregnant.”
“She’s not. They’re waiting two whole years.”
“Two? What for?”
“Honeymoon sturvs,” I answer.
“Ekene is a strange Igbo man.”
“You can say that again.”
Sammy, Peace’s little boy appears at the door. He has just woken up from a long nap. He rubs his eyes, yawning at the same time.
The boy looks nothing like Peace. She says he takes after his father, a man who gives all of us reason to worry. He moved into town after his family relocated abroad. Just the other day, he asked to see Sammy but Peace turned down his request. Her refusal had nothing to do with him breaking the confidentiality agreement they signed but with the fact that she still has feelings for him. Because of this, she has started considering seeing Reno again. Reno, by the way, has cleaned up his act, even though he is yet to be welcomed back into the circle of friends.
“Oriaku!” Nne calls. That’s the name she has given me. It roughly means the one who eats her husband’s wealth. I like the name. But Jide prefers to call me Odoziaku which means the one who takes care of the wealth. I’m fine with both because I literally have the lock and key to Jide’s bank accounts.
“Oriaku o! Come and give my baby breast!”
Wtf! Didn’t that girl just suck? My nipples go sore at the thought and I consider begging Jide to let me start giving her formula.
∞∞∞ ∞∞∞ ∞∞∞
Drained and upset at Noka, I arrive home at about a quarter past eight. Dara has had dinner and is already asleep. I slip on a diaper for her and place her in her bed. Noka’s behavior towards me has left me shaken and given me perspective on who is important in life. You think you know people until they betray you. I alone, alongside Bimpe, know Noka’s terrible secret. If Ibro ever finds out, she will be done for. But I have said nothing to no one. I have protected whom I thought was a friend and the reward I get is cold-heartedness.
As we say, God dey.
Tomorrow, first thing, I’ll call Naomi and ask her to send her driver over. When he comes, I’ll give the envelope to him and end my short chapter with her.
I hear a sound and I turn. Shady is standing behind me – really close. His chin rests on my shoulder and he kisses my neck.
“I can’t imagine losing you, Cee. I just can’t.”
An arm wraps around my waist and he turns me to face him.
“I’ve been an ass these past months. Can you forgive me?”
I nod. He encloses me in a hug, my head resting on his heart, listening to the strong, steady rhythm. I’m thinking about how we take for granted simple things like a beating heart, ignoring that we have no power to keep it going when it stops.
I’m thinking of Noka’s betrayal and everything else. And then the tears come. Shady places his hand on my head and holds it steady as I cry. I hold tightly to his waist, arms clasped around him. I don’t want to let go. I have missed being in this position. The holding, it used to mean so much to me. Just losing myself in his clutch. I hope this lasts longer than today.
“Let’s go to the room,” he tells me as he lets go. We enter our bedroom and in the dark, with just moonlight streaming in from the windows, Shady continues to hold me. But his lips are between mine now. In a flash, things heat up. The hunger is real. This has not been us for months.
We kiss like we’re doing something abominable and would soon be caught. The wildness of the kiss soon spreads through us like a contagion and we’re knocking things about as we move from the door to the bed. We make love savagely with our clothes on, throwing ourselves into gloomy pleasure with abandon. All the emotion and stress are converted into raw energy and we spend it on each other until Shady climaxes.
I want more but for now this fills that deep hole he has left in me. For now, I’m fine. He holds me still, not wanting to let go but I tell him I have to pee. I wriggle away and turn on the lights on my way to the bathroom. After I pee, I take extra time cleaning myself and washing makeup off my face. When I return to the bedroom, I find Shady seated, and in his hands, the stack of dollars.
“What’s this?” he demands.
“You went through my bag?”
He doesn’t answer. I spot my handbag on the floor. The flap has been thrown open and a few items are sticking out. It is clear that the handbag was one of the things we knocked down during our amazon session.
“Celia, where did you get this type of money from?”
I can’t speak. How do I begin to tell my story? Will he even believe that a woman gave this to me?
“Somebody gave me.”
“Somebody gave you three thousand dollars. For what?”
“Shadrach, calm down.”
“Answer my question.”
“Calm down first.”
“There is no calming down! A man gave you three thousand dollars for what?! What did you give him in return?!”
“Stop shouting, Shady. Just stop and listen to me.”
“So this is what you’re doing in the name of work?!”
“Shady, don’t go there. Please calm–”
He flings the notes at me. “I’m down on my luck for a short time, Celia, a short time, and you start sleeping around?!”
He charges up.
“You’re disgusting! Oh my God! I can’t even look at you! Take your dirty money and leave my house!”
He aims for the door but I rush towards it and block his path. I am mad and he is about to have a taste of the bull crap I have had to put up with.
“I’m not going anywhere, Shadrach! Nowhere! That money was given to me by someone who wants my body. And you know what? I was considering the offer because you have abandoned your duties as a man! I have been the one feeding your lazy ass, stroking that stupid ego you carry around, lying to everyone about our condition and working my ass off to the bone! So what is so wrong if someone out there wants to take the load off my shoulders and give me a better life?! With that money I can pay the rent and take care of myself and feel like a woman again! Because, Shady, you have stripped away my womanhood! You have robbed me of happiness! Look at me well! See how I’m aging! Just because of you! And don’t deceive yourself that one night of jungle sex can whip me back to shape! I’m still the one who will get up on Monday morning and go to work while you sit your lazy ass here and do NOTHING!”
The slap that meets my face hits me so hard that I fall to the floor.
Silence drops but my ear rings from the assault of my husband’s hand. I literally see stars that blind me for a moment. But it’s neither the stars nor my ringing ear that keeps me on the floor. It’s the shock. The absolute stupefaction. I don’t want to believe this is me. I have probably been switched along the way home to inhabit the body of a lesser version of me. I am not the woman whose husband hits her. Not the woman who is silenced by domestic violence. It is not Celia. It is not even my nightmare.
But I touch my face and it becomes real. I feel the sting my touch brings.
“Shady, you slapped me,” is all I can say but I don’t even say it because the only thing my mouth wants to do is weep.
I clasp my palm over it to stop it from acting foolishly but it wants to let out and so I let it.
Good evening, my people!
I promised to give you info about Boys With Toys. It’s not so good news. So here it goes…
The book is not ready for publishing. I know I promised but I have done everything to keep the promise and yet that little part of me that says not yet has been saying not yet quite a lot. It’s finished but I just feel something is missing. It’s there, edited by my good friend, Uche but I can’t exactly say what’s missing. And I’m not about to put out something that I’m not 100% comfortable with. Usually with such stories, I leave it to rest for a while and review it with fresh eyes later, so hopefully I’ll find that missing thing.
Again, I apologize for raising your hopes. I am as disappointed as you, having planned for something and it doesn’t come out the way I want. But you know me; I will always make up for it.
I won’t sha announce next time until I am very sure. The book will just be published and then I can tell you later.
Secondly for those having issues downloading the Fish Brain Series…
- If you have a Blackberry, I’m sorry, it may not work but Aminat (a follower here) suggested using mobogenie app to download okadabooks app. Thanks Amina.
- You probably have it already in your book list if you have clicked on ‘Buy’. Check the book list and you may see it.
- If none of these work, I’m sorry I won’t be able to help you. You’ll have to contact okadabooks admin or contact me to send you a PDF copy which costs N500.00. For the free copy, I’ll send it straight to your email box, no charges.
And here’s Another Saturday…
It is Oba who brings her to my house late at night because my parents won’t take her in. They have had just about enough with Emeka and his women issues.
“Jide, if you talk to your brotehr, tell him to be a man, for God’s sake,” my mom pleads on the phone as I open the door to let Oba and Yazmin in. “We can’t keep taking on his responsibilities.”
According to the story, Emeka took Tobe from Yazmin and abandoned her for five days. Presently, she is ill. Oba brings her in, literally helping her walk. For the zillionth time, I want to punch Emeka really hard in his face. Whatever she has done to him, this is no way to treat a woman. It is totally irresponsible and I’m fed up with his nonsense.
“Yazmin, tell me how you feel?”
“I mean, literally. You feel feverish, any pain, headache…”
“Really, I’m heartbroken.” She shivers. “This is not the first time it’s happening. When Mex dumped me and went back to Tola, I got like this. When he married her, it was the same thing. So don’t worry about me. Just get him here, could you? When I see him, I’ll feel a lot better. And I miss Tobe too.”
I refuse to listen to her. She looks messed up. I walk into my room and return with a stethoscope and thermometer. I take her vitals and discover that her pulse is erratic and her temperature way above normal.
“Any tummy ache?”
“Yeah. Burning eyes.”
“Have you started seeing your periods again?”
“And the last was…?”
“Two weeks ago, I think.”
I read her pulse for the second time. I don’t think she’s pregnant but I can’t be too sure.
“Can I go pee?” she requests. Oba offers to help her up. The moment he takes hold of her hand, she vomits some greenish substance over my floor. Oba jumps back but I take a good look at the puke.
“It’s malaria,” Honey says from where she stands by the door.
“Yeah. I think so too. Yazmin, we need to get you to the hospital to run some tests and probably have you admitted.”
“I hate needles!” she cries.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
The last time I had a fight with Emeka was in secondary school and I gave him a beating he never forgot. Right now, we’re too old for any type of fist fight but I think a good tongue-lashing is in order.
I see his car driving into the hospital premises. I wait beside my car as he parks and approaches me. There is a heavy-set frown on his face that doesn’t move me.
“Two days, Mex. She’s been on admission for two days and you’re just getting here! What type of demon is worrying you?”
“The type that lives down the lane of mind-your-business.”
He makes to walk past me but I put a hand to stop him. He stares down at the hand and slowly lifts his eyes to look into my face. When I stare back into his eyes, I see beyond his façade. He is falling apart.
“Get your shit together, Mex. Treat your wives right. You chose this path. No one forced you into it. So get your shit together.”
“And you suddenly become the elder brother who gives good advice that I need to follow.”
“Don’t be an idiot.”
“Don’t tell me what to do! When I needed your help, you sat on your high horse and refused to be involved! The Yazmin you’re forming Voltron for is the same woman you wanted out of my life! Just because she showed up at your door and told you a sob story, she is suddenly an angel and now I have demons! Well, why don’t you go ahead and fuck her since you’re on a spree of fucking my wives?!”
I ball my fist but by some divine intervention, I keep my hand down.
“Oh, you wanted to hit me.” He laughs. “You for try yourself. This is not secondary school, Jide.”
I have never felt this humiliated in my life. I keep my head lowered as he marches off. He doesn’t go far when I hear what I suspect to be the sound of a palm coming in contact with a face.
I turn and see Tola about to deliver him a second slap but Honey who is behind her, steps in by grabbing her hand. He tries to push past Tola only to be assaulted by her again. This time she jabs his chest, sending him backwards.
“Is that how you speak to your elder brother and how you treat a woman who is lying sick in bed?! Then what happens when you get tired of me, Chukwuemeka?! You kick me out?! Mm? Yazmin is in there, she is not getting better because of you! You are obligated to take care of her no matter what! You put her in this mess! She is thousands of miles away from her family and you are all she’s got and you abandon her?! Your dear, old mother who ought to be resting has been the one by her side! And you waltz in like a boss and disrespect your elder brother! What about your son?! You separated him from his mother! Are you thinking at all, Chukwuemeka?!”
Emeka’s anger immediately bubbles down. “But I’m here to see her nau, doc.”
“You’re scaring me, Chukwuemeka! I don’t know who you are again!”
Tola shoves him aside and marches to her car. I stand and watch his eyes follow her. When he sees me looking, he turns and makes his way into the hospital. Honey and I walk to Tola’s car. She is seated behind the wheels, crying. Honey slips into the passenger’s side.
“I think my pregnancy is making me soft. Or else explain why I was fighting my own husband for not taking care of the chick that’s destroying our marriage? Would any woman in her right senses do what I just did? Honey, would you?”
Honey doesn’t respond.
“I can’t do this anymore, Dede. I just can’t. I think I’ll annul this marriage.”
Honey stares up at me sadly, urging me with her eyes to say something. I have a lot to say but not as much as Tola. She has to unburden and understand her pain.
“I love him. As in, mad crazy love that makes me stick with him because I know he’s going through some stuff and he needs someone. The type of love that makes me forget myself and my needs because I want to see him get better. You know that type of love?”
She doesn’t really need an answer from us.
“And then there’s Yazmin who loves him too and she has her own issues to deal with and he doesn’t just want to abandon her, so he takes her baggage and I take his. I carry all of it and I’m falling, Honey! I’m falling!”
Honey lends her a shoulder to cry on but Tola stays there only for a few seconds.
“I am much more than this. Stronger, focused, driven. I don’t take shit from men; everyone knows that. But look at me now. My friends are probably laughing behind my back, Honey. I am in a polygamous relationship. My husband has a second wife!” She laughs. “H-h-how did I get here? Was I sleeping when Emeka got me into this? Why couldn’t I just walk away when I had the strength? Why did I allow him screw me up this badly that I’m beginning to defend the other woman?”
“Because you’re only human, Tola,” Honey replies, holding her hand.
“I don’t want to be! I want to be selfish! To love me alone! To think about my own happiness! Only me! I don’t want to share my husband with another woman! I want what two of you have! Why can’t I get that?”
Honey offers her shoulder again and it was put into good use this time. I wait to drop in my own piece of advice when she calms.
“If you’re not happy with the arrangement, Tola, it’s okay to leave. You have tried abeg. You acted civilly and maturely. It’s now Emeka’s turn to put things straight. And let’s not forget the child you’re carrying. Whether now or tomorrow, he or she doesn’t need all this drama. If Emeka and Yazmin are not willing to be adults, then it’s your responsibility to stand and take firm decisions.”
Honey agrees with a nod.
“I don’t want to lose him, dede but if I don’t walk out now, I may be stuck.”
“You know what to do, Tola. We’ll support you all the way. Just stay strong.”
I touch Honey’s cheek. “Sugar lips, see you tomorrow.”
I walk back into the hospital. I have a long night ahead of me
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
Lord, I am tired! I need a warm bed, a nice cup of aromatic tea and a full body massage from strong hands.
The first two can be arranged but the last, which is what I need direly, is just wishful thinking. For the first time in a long while I am beginning to nurse ideas of wanting a man. But it’s just fleeting. It comes and goes. That’s what happens when you hang around a loving couple like Jide and Honey. They are contagious—the way he kisses random spots on her body when he thinks no one is looking or how they take showers together or the way they lie in the dark at night listening to music and not saying anything to each other. Simply adorable!
A few days ago, Tola and I stayed up late at night, unintentionally listening to them make love. They were hush about it because the power was out and there was pitch silence in the house but every now and then, we heard Honey moan.
“They’re having sex, right?” I had asked.
“Like duh! And I hate them.”
Laughter escaped my lips.
“Do you miss having a man, Mary?”
“Well, me I miss my husband.”
Honey moaned again.
“Is it going to last all night?” Tola questioned.
“Are you asking me?”
“Jide should come out and put on the gen for us jare. I’ll go and knock at their door.”
“The weather is hot!”
“Go and have a shower then.”
Tola turned and faced me, a pillow wedged between us.
“You know you have to let men back into your life at some point, right?”
“The way you talk about them is disturbing.”
“Well, considering what you went through, it’s allowed.”
But my therapist thinks I have to move past that stage now. She had told me not to put my abuse in the same room with my love life. Those had been her words exactly.
“To you, Reno is a rapist. And Reno is a man. Therefore, all men are rapists.”
She went on to tell me that we were going to work at making sure every important area in my life does not get affected by what Reno did to me.
“It’s going to be tough, Mary but we will pull through.”
And here I am, pulling through, albeit slowly.
I look up. I’m still not used to being called that.
“One of the guests is asking to see you,” the waiter that had just called me says. “The man is not in the banquet hall. He’s waiting in the reception.”
I rise from my chair beside the massive oven I’ve been watching and wipe my hands on my apron. Once a guest requests to see you privately, it’s a good sign. It means they want to request your services for their own event.
I pick a hot towel from a steamer nearby and wipe off the oil on my face. The scent of eucalyptus fills my nose as I inhale. On my way out, I pump my lips to revive my gloss. It’s just a few steps to the reception and when I get there, I see a few people around. I wish I had asked the waiter what the person looks like.
No one acknowledges my presence, so I assume it’s the guy who is backing me and speaking with the receptionist. I am about to walk to him when a familiar voice calls my name.
I turn and there is Ekene, looking all spruce in a striped blue suit and matching shoes. He had been sitting beside me the entire time and I missed him because he wasn’t wearing his customary shorts and t-shirt.
As I take his strange, new appearance in, my eyes deceive me by telling me he looks gorgeous.
“Hi,” he says. “What a coincidence. I ask for the chef and it turns out that she is you.”
I regain my sight and realize it is the same Ekene that irritates me.
“You’re a big madam o! Catering to international events and shii.”
“How may I help you, Ekene?”
“Can we go somewhere private so we can talk?”
“No. Dessert is to be served in…” I check my watch, “thirteen minutes. I don’t have time.”
“But you came out here to see me.”
I sigh. “Ekene…”
“Fine. I’ll be here till you’re done?”
I don’t wait one second. I begin back to the kitchen. The soufflés’ I put in the oven are okay by now. Time to get busy.
The kitchen soon fills with waiters and waitresses and a beehive of activity begins. The head waiter and I work together as we have done all day, ensuring service goes smoothly. A tiring hour later, I’m slumped over a table, sipping juice from a party cup.
A waitress dumps a complimentary card before me that holds Ekene’s details. Simply put, he is an oil marketer. Why am I not surprised? When Honey had pointed at his house as we were driving out of the estate last week, I had asked if he was an armed robber. She had laughed.
I turn the card over.
Meet me at the bar, he had scrawled over his social media details. P.S: you look scrumptious in apron.
I hiss. He’s so silly. I drop the card and continue with my drink. I’ll take my time, abeg.
I pour myself more juice and sip slowly, watching the kitchen assistants do the dishes. One of them is singing a Yemi Alade; I tap my feet in rhythm. I don’t leave until she goes into her third song.
I take off my apron, touch up on my makeup lightly and pick my handbag.
They all wave as I leave. I take a short walk to the bar. Ekene is waiting. He pulls a chair for me when I stroll up to his table. I notice he is not wearing his suit. He is left in his shirt with folded sleeves that expose arms marked by veins.
Why is he disturbingly yellow?
I look away and sit.
“What would you like to drink?”
He calls over a waiter and orders a drink on my behalf as I watch him in silence.
“It’s just red wine,” he tells me.
“I already told you I’m not drinking. Can we go straight to business, please? What do you want?”
“Yeah, business… So, my fuel stations will be opening in exactly ten days from now. I didn’t want to throw a party initially but friends will feel offended if I don’t. It’s not going to be something big but it has to be loud enough to make a statement. The food must be exceptional like the one you did here today. Have I said you are an amazing cook?”
I can’t hide my smile.
“You are. And that is why I need your culinary services. Payment will be split in two. Before and after. Does that work for you?”
“Yeah. What type of guests are you expecting?”
He goes into details and I take notes on my phone. For a moment, he is not Ekene, Honey’s annoying ex that drops by at hers, unannounced with his dog and ogles me like he has no home training. He has even lost his slight Igbo accent and is beginning to sound like some foreign national. I find myself being carried away by him until the waiter returns with a bottle of wine on ice.
I slip back into my commonsense.
“I have to go, Ekene,” I say, standing up.
“Why?” he holds my hand. “We’re ending up in the same destination. Sit, let’s drink. Stop forming abeg.”
I pull my hand away. “I’ll text you my account details so you can make the first installment for me to begin preparations. I like to work ahead of time.”
“I like you, Mary.”
I try hard not to hiss.
I start to walk away.
“Will you come to my place tomorrow evening and prepare a romantic dinner for me and my fiancée?”
I stop and turn. “You have a fiancée?”
“Not yet. I’ll be proposing to her tomorrow.”
I look into his face to see if he’s teasing but I find him serious.
“And you’ve been all over me?” My voice comes off annoyed.
He laughs. “It’s a man thing. Harmless flirting.”
“So, will you prepare dinner for two tomorrow? I’ll pay you well.”
The suppressed hiss escapes my lips as I spin around and stride off. On my way home to Honey’s, I work myself up to annoyance that my logical mind begins to question my reason for my emotional state.
He’s an ass! He’s had a girlfriend all this time and he’s been putting moves on me! Why are men so useless?
But he never really toasted you.
Hello! He doesn’t have to come out straight to toast me for me to know he wanted to get into my pants.
But he never said anything about sleeping with you.
That’s all he wants! That’s all they ever want!
My logical mind lets me be. I sulk the entire way home. I plan to pack my things back to my house first thing tomorrow morning. I know Honey has asked me to extend my stay and even offered the option of being housemates but I’m going to have to graciously tell her I can’t. The thought of having Ekene as a neighbor just plain aggravates me.
I walk into Honey’s sitting room. I find her there with Tola.
“Hey girls!” I greet, taking off my shoes by the door. They hail back.
“Honey, so Ekene has a girlfriend?” I blurt. I can’t hold it in.
“Girlfriend? From where nau?”
“He told me to come and cook dinner for him and his girlfriend tomorrow evening, that he’ll be proposing to her then.”
Honey looks around in confusion. “What are you saying?”
“It’s what he told me. And the whole time he has been making moves on me.”
“Abeg, ignore Kene. He’s just pulling your legs. That’s how he does.”
“Please, just help me tell him to stay away from me because I don’t want somebody to come and disgrace me because of him.”
“He doesn’t have a girlfriend.”
“Well, the only way to find out is to make the dinner for them.”
“Why do I want to find out? What’s my business with his love life?”
“Ah. Babe you’re vexing o.”
“My period is around the corner. I hate people annoying me at this time.”
I exit the sitting room. My period may be around the corner but it is not the reason for my bad mood. Ekene is. And I don’t know why any man would make me feel this way.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
I have a calm patient today that goes through labor as though it’s a walk in the park. And she gives all kudos to me.
“You make things easy,” she says to me.
This uplifts my spirit. I promise to check on how she’s progressing in the next thirty minutes as I entrust her into the care of a maternity nurse.
I head to another wing of the hospital where Yazmin is. Earlier my dad visited and left with Nne because I had offered to look after Yazmin for the night. Emeka still refuses to stay with her. I wonder what grave sin she has committed.
“Can I come in?” I poke my head into her room.
“Hi Jide,” she says, pronouncing my name as Jidi. I have never bothered to correct her and I won’t do so now.
“How are you?”
“Better.” She smiles. She does look better. I sit beside her.
“The doctor says that maybe I’ll go home the day after tomorrow.”
“Yeah. I’ve missed Tobe.”
“Why is Emeka so mad at you?”
She looks elsewhere.
“You can talk to me, Yazmin. Anything you say is held in confidence.”
“You’re not going to tell Tola?”
She exhales. “I cheated on Emeka a short while before I came to Nigeria. And I didn’t use protection and Tola got chlamydia.”
“I told Emeka what I did, he got mad and made me do STD tests. Everything came out negative but he still can’t forgive me. I think he wants us to split.”
“Do you love Emeka, Yazmin?”
“Yeah. The guy I slept with…it was just a onetime thing. It was stupid. I was drunk, he was drunk. The day it happened was on my cousin’s birthday but it was also the two-year anniversary of my late boyfriend’s death, so I was pretty messed up that night.”
“Tell me about your late boyfriend? How did he die? Was he ill?”
“No. My dad murdered him.”
I sit straight and stare into eyes that hold pain from her past.
“Has Emeka told you what my dad does? Who he is?”
“So Marcelo, my late boyfriend, his dad used to work for my dad. He was his second in command but something happened and they split and he started his own drug cartel. To my dad, that was a slap in his face. He ordered me to stop seeing Marcelo but I refused. We loved each other and had plans to elope if things got heated. But that never happened. Marcelo got missing and a couple of days later, parts of his body were sent to his family and a few close friends. I got his left arm where he had my name tattooed.”
I shiver at her story.
“I disowned my dad and permanently moved to New York. That was where I met Mex. He came to me when I needed someone. He helped me get through. We were friends at first and then we shared our first kiss on one snowy night.”
“It felt right. It was beautiful, Jidi. I love Emeka.”
“But he loves Tola,” I tell her plainly.
“Yazmin, I’m sorry for all you went through. I know it was hell but can’t you see that the only reason Emeka is with you is because he feels you still need him? You have dumped your fragile heart in his hands but Tola has already taken up all that space, so he’ll keep letting you down because there’s so much he can take as a man.”
“But a man can have a wife and still keep a mistress. African men can have as many wives as they want.”
“Not this man, Yazmin. He was raised differently. And right now, He is falling apart. If you truly love him, you’ll let him be where his heart wants to be.”
“What are you saying?” Her eyes sheen with tears.
“Let him go. You deserve more than he’s giving you. And he can never be the real Emeka with you or with any of us. We’re all losing him.”
She bends her head. “Please, can you go away? Right now?”
I stand up. Tears slip from her eyes as I take my leave.
Outside the ward, I feel like an evil person even though I am sure I have done the right thing that everyone else is afraid to do. I hope this doesn’t bite me in the back.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
“Mary, this is good,” Tola says with a mouthful. Mary has just whipped some goat meat peppersoup in less than thirty minutes. How she does it, I don’t know. And it tastes so good!
“Your husband will enjoy,” I comment.
“Ekene ba?” Tola teases. Mary chokes and starts coughing.
I dash into the kitchen for some water.
“I know you like him, Mary,” Tola says.
“I don’t.” Mary takes the glass of water I offer. “Thank you.”
“Why are you forming? Every time the guy drops by, you spend at least fifteen minutes moaning about how rude he is or how noisy his dog is.”
“The dog wakes me up from sleep every morning, barking at the window.”
“Awww, it comes to wake its master’s beloved up. How sweet.”
Mary frowns. Tola bats her eyes at her.
“You won’t face what is bugging you, Tola. The tears on your face have not yet dried and you’re entering my own matter.”
“My dear, I’ve decided not to cry for Emeka again.”
“You said that yesterday.”
“And I’ll keep saying it until I mean it. But let’s go back to you, shall we?”
Mary frowns again and diverts her eyes to me. “No, let’s talk about Honey and Jide.”
“Why?” I ask.
“Do you guys have sex every day?”
I flush with embarrassment. I am about to give an answer when a knock comes to the door.
“Who is it?” Tola calls out loud.
“Nicole?” a voice answers and we stare at each other.
“Who is Nicole?” Mary asks.
“She knows herself!” the voice responds.
It is then I recognize who it is and notice that Tola has buried her face in her hands.
“Tell him to go away,” she whispers as I go to the door.
I open it a little. Emeka is standing out there with unsteady legs.
He tries to stand straight but sways a little. He rests a hand on the wall. “Tell my wife I need to see her.”
“She doesn’t want to see you.”
“I know but tell her I’m sorry.”
He peeps into the house.
“I’m sorry, doc! I’m very sorry! I miss you! I miss us!”
“Mex, go away abeg!”
“Please, come back home!”
Tola vacates her seat to the door and slams it hard in his face. I step away. She remains by the door, her back to it.
“You slapped me, doc. Right on my cheek, you slapped me.”
“And I’ll do it again if you don’t go away.”
“I love you!” he hits the door.
“I can get us back to the way we were! I just need time, baby! Trust me!”
“You’re drunk, Mex. You say a lot of shit you don’t mean when you’re drunk or having sex and I don’t need that right now. Go to your wife. She needs you.”
“You’re my wife,” his voice mellows to an emotional tone. “My wife…”
And then he goes silent for a while.
“He’s gone?” I ask. Tola shakes her head.
“Thinking of the next stupid thing to say.”
And as if he hears her, Emeka resumes.
“You make a grown ass man do stupid things, Nicole. You know that?”
“Your name is really Nicole?” Mary probes.
“No. Just a name he calls me whenever he’s drunk.”
“And I’m about to do one stupid thing now. You remember the time I stripped and sang outside your window under the rain?”
“Don’t you dare, Chukwuemeka!”
“Then come out and stop me before I start.”
Tola covers her eyes. “He’s going to do it. He’s so going to do it.”
“Then go and stop him,” Mary tells her.
“I’d have gone to watch if he wasn’t my boyfriend’s younger brother,” I say.
“You’re a bad girl, Hon,” Mary mumbles.
“No but seriously, Tola, he’s doing it?”
“Wow. He really loves you.”
“No, he’s really drunk.”
“Yo, Nicole! I can’t remember all the lyrics to this song but I’ll try.”
“Emeka…” Tola murmurs with a sigh.
I’m never shy but this is different
I can’t explain the way I’m feeling tonight
I’m losing control of my heart
Tell me what can I do to make you happy
Nothing I ever say seems to come out right
I’m losing control of my heart
I wish that I could be
Another better part of me
Can’t hear what you’re thinking
Nicole if I just let go
You’ll open up your heart
Mary and I listen in silence. It’s a song I vaguely know but I am very sure the tempo is upbeat and not as slow as Emeka is going about it.
“Daniel Bedingfield,” Mary says.
“Thank you. Was trying to remember who sang it.”
I watch Tola whose ear is pinned to the door. It’s either I’m seeing things or her eyes have gone misty.
I can’t read you
I wish I knew what’s going through your mind
Can’t touch you
Your heart’s protecting I get left behind
“Aww, so cute,” I coo. Mary eyes me as Emeka continues.
Bla-bla-bla-bla I’m acting stupid
I can’t play the game I’m all intense and alive
I’m losing control of my heart
Bla-bla-bla something-something nervous
I should play my hand all cool and calm
I can’t breathe!
I’m losing control of my heart
I wish that you could see
The other better parts of me
Feel this fire I’m feeling
Then you’d see me in control
Baby then you’ll know
But I can’t read you
I wish I knew what’s going through your mind
“And he can sing…” Tola whispers, the tears I saw earlier now unmistakable.
Emeka stops as if interrupted.
“He’s done,” Tola tells us, biting her lip.
“Tola, go and meet him nau,” I plead.
“The last time he did this, the police arrested him and I went to get him out of jail and I forgave him,” she sobs. “I’m tired of fixing him, Honey. I’ve tried.”
“But he’s really sorry nau. Just hear him out.”
Tola steps away from the door as if she’s about to consider my request but she turns to the left and enters the guestroom. The silence that supervenes touches both Mary and I deeply for a long moment. I lose my appetite for the peppersoup in my dish.
“This is why I’m never falling in love,” Mary sighs.
I look at her and see Ekene’s complimentary card on the chair beside her.
Does she know she is the ‘girlfriend’ she’ll be cooking dinner for tomorrow? Clearly, she has no idea that she has gotten into an ‘Ekene trap’ and the only way out is to play the game the way he likes it.
Well, me I go just dey watch her like film because chicken wey run from Borno go Ibadan go still end up inside pot of soup
Chicken wey run from Borno go Ibadan go still end up inside pot of soup – You can’t run away from your destiny
Image source: usa.hermes.com, Getty images
I am exhausted. Three births and one more to go. I can hardly move a muscle. I know I prayed to God before I resumed work in this hospital, that I wanted favor and success but I had no idea he had taken my prayer seriously. I have become so popular that expectant mothers are ditching their gynecologists from different hospitals and seeking my services. I miss my former workplace when I had enough time on my hands. Nowadays, I just go home and crash into my bed and drift off while listening to Honey tell me about how her day went.
We have not had quality time together in the past week. While I have been consumed with work, she has been preoccupied with moving to her own apartment. I am not totally excited about the development but I understand that a woman needs her space. If we’re going to be spending happily ever after with each other, then it’s fine to live apart now. The only problem I’m having with the whole arrangement is that her ex lives in the same neighborhood with her. It had come to her as a shock too.
I was helping her pack in some boxes of electronics when I saw her freeze in her spot as her eyes fixed on some fair-complexioned guy who was walking his dog and smiling in our direction. Honey dashed into the house and remained there even when the guy approached and introduced himself as an old friend of hers. When I called out to her to come speak with him, she ignored me. The guy turned away, promising to give her a call at a later time.
“He is not a friend,” she told me directly. “He is my ex. And I’m calling the agent that got me this house to ask for my money back because Kene and I cannot stay in the same space.”
Her statement made me uncomfortable. Why should her ex have such an effect on her?
“There’s nothing to explain, hotstuff. Kene is an ex and I feel exes should remain in one’s past. Not present.”
“I’m calling the agent right away,” she stated, reaching for her phone.
I took it from her. “There’s no need, sugams.”
“No, seriously. I wouldn’t even have picked this estate. It’s so bourgeois. But it was Saratu that got it for me. It belongs to her ex-husband’s brother. I’m sure she also helped Kene. I wish she had just told me he was here.”
“Is he going to be an issue?”
“No. I can handle him. Like I said, exes should remain in the past. He was the last person I expected to see here.”
I saw that she was serious about her decision to call the agent. She can get impulsive at times.
“Honey, I don’t want you to move out. If Kene is not going to be an issue, then stay.”
“You’re comfortable with him living in the same space as me?”
“You’re not in the same space.”
“He’s walking his dog in front of my house. If that’s not too close for comfort, I don’t know what is.”
“I trust that you’ll handle him.”
And that had ended the conversation about Kene. But the ghost of his presence still lingers on my mind. What is it about him that makes her so uncomfortable?
I rise from the examination table I have been stretched out on for the past two hours. I feel fairly refreshed, although I am still exhausted. I need to check on my last patient for the day to see how her labor is progressing.
I gently slap my cheeks awake and pick my phone. On my way out, I bump into Mary. There’s an awkward moment between us. Usually, I would hug her but since the rape affair, I have avoided physical contact with her.
She smiles. A real smile; one I haven’t seen in a while. I am glad she listened to Honey’s urging to see a psychologist. Her frequent sessions with the woman appear to be doing some good.
“Hi. I was actually coming to see you.”
I open my office door and point her in.
I close the door. She settles into a chair while I perch on my desk, facing her.
“It’s about today’s meeting at Peace’s house. I know I was not invited because the last time with her didn’t end well. But I am still her friend, despite all that happened. I feel I have to be there.”
I purse my lips in thought.
Let me get you up to speed on the rape saga. Celia had exposed to all of us what Peace had divulged about Reno being guilty of Mary’s accusations. Following that, we called a meeting of the affected parties but Reno did not show up. Peace was there, however, and she confirmed what Reno had done and begged for Mary’s forgiveness but Mary swore never to forgive her or Reno and walked out on all of us.
That was just two weeks ago. In that space of time, Reno had disappeared for three days and showed up early one morning at his doorstep, battered and unconscious. Presently, he is still in a hospital undergoing treatment. No one knows what happened to him, although we strongly suspect Celia (who has denied) to be responsible, owing that she has an elder brother that is a soldier, rumored to be crazy about Mary.
At the moment, the wives have come up with this intervention plan to send Peace to a rehab center to treat her addiction. The intervention is happening at hers this evening and the men have not been invited. Mary has also been left out.
“I was the only one who knew about her alcohol addiction,” Mary reveals to me. “And I used to speak to her about it. She’ll always tell me she’ll change and beg me not to tell anybody. I kept her secret as a good friend but I don’t think I helped her by doing so, and that’s why I want to be there today. Do you think it’s wise?”
“Yeah. In fact, I think you’ll be just what she needs to convince her to go to rehab. She keeps telling everyone to beg you to forgive her, so your presence will be a deciding factor. Call Celia and let her know you will be going.”
Mary rises and straightens out her long skirt. She is back to wearing conservative clothes. Honey doesn’t approve and she’s taking it upon herself to be her stylist. I have asked her to go easy on her. Mary has a quiet demeanor but a cheerful personality within. I don’t think Reno was strong enough a force to knock that person down. She will come back in full vigor. She just needs time to heal.
“Can I hug you?” I request. “I have been dying to hug you.”
“Why?” she laughs a little.
“You need it.”
I give her a bear hug. I don’t intend to linger but when I try to pull away, she holds me back. I realize she is crying. I break contact.
“I’m sorry,” she apologizes. “I said I’ll stop crying and be strong but…”
She covers her face with her hands and I hold her again.
“Nobody’s rushing you, boo. It takes time.”
She pulls away and sniffles. “Thank you.”
Keeping her head low, she spins in the direction of the door and hurries out. I follow her but branch to a hallway that has consultation offices on the left and an open courtyard on the right. In the evenings, I could be caught sitting out there. I love the cool air and serenity it offers alongside the fragrance of fresh flowers which contrasts with the antiseptic smell that has pervaded the walls.
I turn to a shorter hallway and stop at a ward to check on a patient whose baby is supposed to go in for surgery later in the day. As I step into the room which holds four beds, I spot Tola in a corner, struggling with a wailing baby whose mother looks less than pleased.
For a moment Tola stops what she’s doing and stares at the baby, stern-faced.
“Please, get us the baby’s real doctor,” the mother whines to a nurse who is attending to some other business in the room. Tola snaps back to attention and faces the woman.
“Madam, can you do me a favor and move away from here so I can do my work?”
“But doctor, my baby has been crying for almost thirty minutes! And you’re yet to find a vein. You keep poking him with that needle!”
“Madam, your son is going in for a scan in the next hour. He needs this IV line in. Allow me do my work.”
“No o! I’ll stay here.”
I see Tola mutter something under her breath before she makes another attempt to find a vein in the baby’s arm. The little bugger screams piercingly the moment the needle goes in and she withdraws the catheter.
“Doctor please, leave him.”
Tola snaps at her. “Madam, stay away!”
The woman retreats but Tola doesn’t stop there; she goes ahead and reveals unpleasant truths to her about her son’s condition, scaring her to death with the consequences of her not finding a vein in his body. The ward goes silent listening to her in her permitted five minutes of madness. When she is done and all that is left is her hard breathing, I walk over and lay a gentle hand on her shoulder.
She turns. “Jide? What are you doing here?”
“Can I help?” I ask and she shrugs. I look at the nurse. “Give me gloves and a cannula.” To the baby’s mother, I say, “Madam, please give us space, okay?”
The woman nods. The nurse hands me the requested items while Tola passes her chair to me.
“What’s up with you?” I ask, slipping into a pair of gloves.
“Nothing,” she replies hurriedly. “I’m fine.”
“I haven’t seen you like this since you slapped me.”
“I said I’m good, Dede.”
“Hmm…I’m guessing hormones?”
She presses her lips together in silence.
“Congratulations, though. Mex told me. How long gone are you?”
“Hope this is a real pregnancy?”
“That’s not fair.”
I smile and hit a vein in the baby’s arm, carefully driving in the cannula as his cries lower to whimpers.
“Why are you even here, by the way?” I ask Tola and hand the baby back to his mother.
“Doctor Freeman decided to have a lot of free time with himself today and asked me to fill in for him. He seems to forget I half-own this hospital.”
I discard the gloves. “Maybe you need to assert your position or the senior doctors won’t take you seriously.”
“They don’t see me as qualified enough even after marriage,” she complains, making notes in the patient’s chart. “Maybe when I have this baby and they start calling me Iya, then they’ll respect me.”
I wait for her to finish and then we walk out.
“Thanks for helping out.”
“There’s something else bugging me, Dede.”
I stop. “What?”
“Yazmin is flying in today.”
“Mex didn’t tell you?”
“She’ll be staying at the family house. I know you told me not to let it bother me but she’s staying for a whole month. How do I cope with that?”
“Like an adult, Tola. No drama, please.”
I keep on walking.
“What if everybody falls in love with her? Like, daddy – what if he really likes her and wishes she was Emeka’s wife instead?”
“Are you kidding me?”
“No. Have you seen her? She’s like J.Lo and Sofia Vergara and Salma Hayek put together, only younger!”
“And you are Emeka’s wife. Doesn’t that ring on your finger mean anything to you?”
Tola lifts her hand and stares at her wedding band as if seeing it for the first time. “It does.”
“Good. You earned it. Show Yazmin why. And stop stressing; it’s not good for the baby.”
I head up a flight of stairs, leaving her behind.
“Can I register for your antenatal classes, DOM?” she requests.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
“I think this would fit nicely here. What do you think, Mary?”
I step back and let Mary see my handiwork. We are both facing a wall in my sitting room on which I have nailed the replica of the daffodil painting that hangs above Jide’s bed. Mary angles her head to the left and I follow her movement. She straightens her head again and shakes it.
“It’s better on this side.”
She removes the painting and places it beside another of a dark house at night, illuminated by a yellow moon. Both paintings complement each other and give my sitting room this serenity that moderates the yellow curtains.
“Oh, wow. You really have an eye for this sort of thing.”
“What’s with you and Jide and yellow sef?” she asks. I laugh, and then stretch out with a yawn.
“I’m nervous about this Peace’s intervention, Honey.”
Mary sits on a chair that stands in the middle of the room, after throwing off a couple of extra curtains to a longer chair. All my stuff are still in cartons or bags. The only thing I have put together is the décor. I am yet to rearrange my personal things. At this rate, I might move in at the turn of the next century. Having discovered Kene is living just down the lane, I am not so eager to be all by myself again.
“Honey, do you know that after all that happened I still hold some resentment?”
“For your friends?”
“Yeah. I feel really betrayed, especially by Celia. She and I have known ourselves since secondary school days, although we weren’t friends then. But we could have been close if we wanted because she and I lived in the same neighborhood. And then we became close during my NYSC. I served in Kaduna state and for most part of my service year, I stayed with her and her elder brother, Joey. Then we lost contact until Shady met and fell in love with her. It was even I who facilitated the whole dating process because Joey didn’t like Shady, who was really broke at the time.
“So…yeah, I can say I feel betrayed by her. Noka and Bimpe too, but not so much. I know they have all apologized but it’s hard to let them back in like before.”
“Then maybe you and I and Kate should form our own little faction and not care so much about whether they approve or not.”
“Shey?” Mary laughs.
“I’m serious. Kate doesn’t seem to know where to place herself when she’s with them. And I don’t see why she should even care when she can be hanging out with her age mates.”
“Bobby doesn’t want that and that’s why he knocked her up.”
“But on a serious note Mary, you should tell them Celia how you feel.”
“I should, right?”
“If you can’t, I’ll help you.”
“You know you can be quite confrontational, right?”
I give an innocent expression.
“Like when Celia and Peace showed up at the door that Monday and you didn’t want to let them in?”
I recall the moment and hiss. “I was angry. I was like after all the nonsense they did the night before they had the guts to show up. To be honest, I was happy when you refused to see them.”
“I just didn’t want drama that afternoon.”
My attention is back on the daffodil painting. “Can I ask a question, Mary?”
“Do you still have feelings for Jide?”
I don’t look at her. I have no intention to make her uncomfortable. I just want her to be honest with me.
“Okay. I needed to cross that out if we’re going to be friends.”
“I respect you, Honey. And I’m not a boyfriend snatcher.”
“I never thought you were.” I leave the painting and face her. “One more thing. Who is Tarela? Elsie told me stuff about her and then I met her at your place. So, gist me about her.”
Mary’s eyes shift slightly. “Ask Jide.”
“But I’m asking you.”
“Please, ask him.”
“Mary?” I look into her eyes.
“Okay.” She drops her hands on her laps in a noisy manner. “Tarela is his ex. Did he ever tell you of a girl that slit her throat for him?”
“Elsie did but for real?” I pull a stool to sit. “Abeg, gist me.”
Mary rolls her eyes. “You sef.”
She is about to fill me in on the juicy gist when someone knocks on my door. A woof follows and I don’t need to be told it is Kene outside with his Labrador. I walk to the door, fling it open and see him scolding the dog who is taking the liberty to pee in front of my house.
“Put that beast away,” I order. He shortens the dog’s leash and hides it behind him.
“Hi, Hon,” he repeats.
“Kene, why are you here?”
“Answer my greeting nau.”
“Good evening. So, why are you here?”
“I noticed that your outside light has been on for some days now, so I just stopped by to see if anyone’s in and also to know if you’ll like me to help get you someone to clear the grass. It can bring snakes and other creepy-crawlies.”
“You’re stalking me.”
He laughs as if I have said something ridiculous.
“Ekenedilichukwu, the last time we met in London, you stated confidently that the next time we come across each other, I’ll be wearing your ring. Have you detected your stupidity now?”
Mirth springs from his throat. “I miscalculated. Forgive me.”
“And by the way, don’t you have a ship to be on? What’s this yeye parading you’re doing with your dog and poking your nose into your neighbors’ grasses?”
“I no longer stay offshore. I have a business of my own now.”
“I’m happy for you but here’s what: I am in a serious relationship, Kene. I’m not supposed to be repeating it to you but you suffer from amnesia once in a while. So, this is me putting it out there. Don’t ever step foot here again—you and your ugly dog—if you don’t want trouble.”
The Labrador pokes its head from behind its master and whimpers at me.
“Yes, you too. Don’t come pissing in my domot.”
“Hi there!” Kene peeks into my house and waves at Mary. She stares back without waving. The girl has developed some kind of coldness towards men.
“You won’t introduce me?” he demands.
“No. Bye, Kene.”
I shut the door in his face.
“Who was that?” Mary asks.
“He lives in this same neighborhood?”
“Don’t even ask.”
I stare at my new wall clock. It’s almost 5:30pm.
“I think we start heading to Peace’s house now.”
Mary and I freshen up and then we head out. We take a short walk in the direction of where we are to pick a taxi. As we near the spot, a posh car stops beside us and the passenger window lets down, revealing Kene’s galling face. Wasn’t he just walking his dog some minutes ago?
“Going somewhere, ladies?”
I ignore him and flag down a taxi that’s driving by.
“Mary, let’s go abeg.”
We trudge to the taxi and get in. While Mary gives instructions and negotiates a fare, I reply Celia’s ping, assuring her that we are on way. I feel somewhat bad over the way I’m treating Kene but I know that if I give him even a little window, he’ll feel he has the right to crawl back in. The guy believes that since he destroyed my hymen he has the right to pop into my life any time he feels like and claim my body. I’ll have to put him in his place.
On the way to Peace’s, Mary tells me all about Tarela. The story leaves me in shock. Jazz? Voodoo dolls? Somebody will actually go that length to get back a lost love?
A shiver spreads over me as I think of Kene. I tell myself that I have to be very careful with him. I know he won’t resort to diabolical means but he should not be underestimated.
“Oga, park in front of that black gate.” Mary points and I follow her hand to see a house that is fenced in. We split the taxi fare. In a car parked across the street, I see Bimpe on the phone. Noka is behind the wheel and Celia is with them. When they spot us, they alight and cross over. We share hugs but Mary avoids them.
“Haba, Mary!” Celia forces a hug on her. “We’re sorry, baby.”
“We’ll talk later.” Mary disengages from her. “Let’s go in.”
We file into the compound, allowed in by the gateman.
“Do you guys have your speeches prepared?” Bimpe asks as we near the door.
“What speech?” Celia responds. “We’ll just walk in there, grab Sammy and hurl her ass into Noka’s car.”
“Na by force?”
“You best believe it.”
Celia knocks on the door. We wait in silence. After some seconds, the door flings open and Peace appears. She takes her time to observe us individually.
“Let me guess. Y’all here for an intervention.”
“Yes,” Celia replies. “You’re going to rehab today, madam.”
Peace rubs wrinkly, pale eyelids and takes a long sniff. She looks like someone who hasn’t eaten in days.
“Okay. I’ll go to rehab. But not today. Not now.”
“I can’t explain. Just go.”
She makes to close the door but Noka pushes it in.
“Bimpe, Honey, get her things. Celia, get Sammy. I’ll hold her.”
“No, you don’t understand.” She ducks away as Noka goes for her. “I don’t…”
Her voice lowers as Reno appears from the kitchen. In one hand, he holds their son. In the other is a crutch in which he uses to support a leg that is cast in POP. Bruises scar his face and on one side of his neck is a long cut that is in stitches.
We all stare at him in silence. He can’t look into our faces.
“He’s back,” Peace explains. “He’s sorry, he’s changed and he needs me.”
Reno returns to the kitchen.
She raises her hands and interrupts me.
“But you said you were going to leave him and fix your life up.”
“Yes. But he needs me, Honey. My husband needs me more than I need rehab right now.”
“No. You need a brain,” Celia replies. “And you both need Jesus.”
She hisses and turns away. One by one, the others also leave but I remain behind.
“I love him, Honey. I can’t leave him.”
I try to understand her words but I can’t. With a weighty heart, I follow the rest. It’s best to let sleeping dogs lie.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
I have never screamed like this before. Never been loved like this before. Never had pleasure like this before.
Damn! Jide has gotten a hundred times better with sex. And I cannot believe it is even happening. This is more than a dream come true. This is paradise, incomparable to anything I have ever felt.
I am literally in tears because I can’t find any other way to express myself.
“Tarela, are you okay?”
His breath is hot on my ear, tingly on my skin. Goosebumps spread all over me and I feel myself shaking from the core.
“Please, don’t stop,” I say to him breathlessly and he drives harder into me. Oh yes! Yes! Exactly what I want. No long talk, biko.
He goes on and on and…I lose track of time.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. He reaches his climax and leaves me crying for more. But I’m not uncharitable. I’ll wait for him to build up momentum for me again and we will do this all morning and all night because at last I have my man and no woman can take him away from me.
“Mmm?” I reply lazily. My eyes are shut in bliss.
“Why do you keep calling me Jide?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. You’d rather I call you Tiger like I used to?”
I hear him scratch his beard. “Like you used to?”
“Yes, Tiger.” I snuggle up to him and inhale his scent but he pulls away from me.
“Where are you going?” I murmur, trying to drag him back to bed.
“I’m going home.”
“I have a girlfriend. Remember?”
“For the millionth time, Tarela. I am not Jide or Tiger. My name’s Steve.”
I laugh. “Joker. No, I’ll not call you Steve, whatever that means. You’re my tiger.” I purr.
I feel him lean over me. “Tarela?”
He gently slaps my face and my eyes flutter open. I throw my hands around his neck. He breaks away from my clutch.
“I think you need to see a doctor. A psychiatrist, maybe.”
From nowhere loud blast like a siren sounds off in my ear and gives me an instant headache. I use the heels of my palms over my eyes which are beginning to hurt as well. Images from the night before run through my mind intrusively. None of what I see make sense but I realize that something is appallingly off.
“Are you okay?” he asks and I jolt away from his gruff voice that is clearly not Jide’s. I scamper backwards as the face and body of a total stranger fills my view.
Oh God! What have I done? Who the hell did I do? Who is this guy and why is he not Jide? What’s going on?
“Okay. I think I’m going to leave. You’re really scaring me right now.”
I fling a pillow in his direction without looking at him. I am in shock, I am irritated, I am losing my mind and I so want to strangle that gypsy bitch who has messed up my head this bad! What did I do to her that she’ll do this to me?
I cover myself in my blanket and cry.
So it wasn’t Jide the whole of last night? It wasn’t him that kissed me and said and did all those amazing things?
God just kill me now!
I pull myself up to a sitting position, knees drawn to my chest. It’s hard to breathe or see or even think. I am literally shaking all over.
I reach for my phone and immediately connect with Kiya. She must explain what just happened.
“Hi Tarela.” Her ugly face pops up on my screen.
“Kiya, what did you do to me?!”
“I don’t know. It depends. You have to explain.”
“Is it because I owe you money that you’ll screw with my head like this?! Why, Kiya?!”
“I’m confused here, Tarela. And I must say, you look like hell. What happened?”
I try to reply but I can’t find a perfect sequence to describe the jumble in my head. Rather I stare around. My room is scattered; clothes, bra and panties on the floor, used condoms and cigarette butts, all signs of a night I can hardly recall. And Lord knows I was not drunk.
“I’m waiting,” Kiya says.
“I… Jide… we…”
“Tarela, you ain’t making sense.”
“Shut up let me figure this thing out!”
I get off the bed and amble around.
Okay, so a while ago I decided I had had enough of waiting around for Kiya’s voodoo to work, thus I visited Mary to put in place a plan that has been in the works. I have this friend cum neighbor who used to be a hot sugar baby but lost her status and customer base when she got knocked up by some seedy, broke dude. Due to the fact that she had done many abortions, she felt it was only wise to keep the baby. For months, she stayed in isolation and told everyone who tried to contact her that she was in the UK with some oil-rich billionaire. Now, she is nine months gone and I have somehow convinced her to opt for the services of a qualified midwife who would help her with a homebirth since she doesn’t want to be seen in public. The plan is to deliver the baby quietly and have her mother in the village take over the responsibility so she can resume active life. So far, she bought into my elaborate arrangements and Mary was supposed to help me get access to Jide.
It’s not that I can’t go straight to him but I don’t want to ruin the little window of opportunity I have, knowing how much of a toughie he can be. So, according to plan, Mary was to meet with my friend casually, build this pseudo friendship with her and then suggest Jide’s services to her while I remained in the background, easing myself into his life without him noticing it and without Mary herself even knowing she is a tool.
But stupid Mary was giving me attitude when I went to see her two weeks ago. She almost didn’t even let me in. She kept asking why I was there. And then to worsen matters, the Honey chick appeared from nowhere. Who would have thought they’d end up being friends.
Well, there went my best laid plans. The only other option was to cozy up to Honey but I’d rather have my eyes gorged out than utter a word to that man-snatcher.
So, there! Everything I planned got burnt to ashes! I was mad, I cried, I cussed, cried a little more and decided to back down for a while. I had waited five years. I could wait a little longer if it would give me the expected results.
To ward off depression, I occupied my days with activities. Last night I decided to see a movie, something I had not done in a very long time. And that was when I saw him—the guy whom I thought was Jide—and things went downhill from that point.
“But it was him, Kiya. He had his face, his eyes, spoke with his voice, kissed me with his lips. How could it not have been him?”
Kiya narrows her eyes at me and I see that she knows something.
“Oh, Tarela.” She gave out a sigh. “I warned you of this.”
“Warned me of what?”
“The spell is backfiring.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I told you that if he destroys the dolls, there would be consequences. I warned you.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“Oh God!” I crash into my bed.
“And it’s going to get worse.”
“Basically the spell was there to bring your desires to life by connecting you to him. But it works both ways as well, that was why a voodoo doll of you was needed to make it potent.”
“Wait… I’m confused here…”
“Listen! The spell was to connect your souls together, to make him want you as much as you want him but he destroyed it and freed himself from wanting you. And now, you’re screwed because you haven’t broken free yet. Your mind is distorted, your reality skewed and anytime you meet a man that is even mildly attracted to you, he instantly transforms into your Jide guy.”
I become numb. “Kiya, you can’t be serious.”
“But I warned you.”
I retreat from reality to put my thoughts together. I can hear Kiya speaking but her words make no meaning to me. I shiver as familiar darkness enshrouds me.
I break out of my stupor.
“Were you listening to me?”
My head does a dazed shake.
“I can help you. I can get you out. But apart from it being expensive, it will achieve the exact opposite of what you desire.”
“And that it is?”
“You’ll end up hating Jide passionately.”
I slip back into nothingness again. I try to think but I find a huge, dark cloud blocking my reasoning.
“Tarela, can you stop zoning out and listen to me!”
“Wh-what were you saying?”
She puffs out. “I’m giving you a choice to either continue with the way things are or just choose to hate Jide.”
“Hate Ji-de,” I echo in a low voice as tears find their way down my cheeks. Why can’t I go back to the days when he loved me? That’s what I want. That’s all I want.
“Kiya, I can’t hate Jide.” My voice is cowed, a reflection of my state of mind.
“Well, you do have the choice of loving him in other men, which is not bad because you get to live in your warped fantasy. The downside would be that the more you live that way, the farther Jide will get from you.”
“It means you will never cross paths with him again. Destiny will tear you guys apart, even if you’re just one mile away from each other.”
I laugh in disbelief. “You’re talking crap. Bullshit! I can just go to his house right now and see him.”
“You can but you will never be able to see him, Tarela. He is lost to you for eternity.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Ts and Cs, Tarela. There are always terms and conditions.”
“You never told me!”
“You never asked.”
“You can’t be serious!”
“I am. You will never lay your eyes on him again.”
“AND ON YOU TOO!”
I smash my phone to the floor in anger. Revolting bitch telling me trash!
But like something out of a horror movie, I hear her laughter and look down to see my phone still on, her face still on my screen.
I pick the phone, march to the toilet and toss it into the toilet bowl. Without looking back, I enter my bedroom and fall on the bed. After several minutes of crying, everything around me begins to fade alongside my present reality.
I find myself in the past. Jide is lying on my bed. It’s a dark night. I’m sleepy; he’s holding my hand. He kisses my fingers. A bedside lamp illuminates his calm face as he gazes into my eyes.
“You’re beautiful, Tari.”
I smile hazily.
“And I love you.”
I shut my eyes…
Iya – mother
Yeye – useless, nonsense
Domot – front porch, verandah