She looked so frail. It was difficult not to reach out and hold her. The color on her face was drained and the shine of her skin now reduced to a desiccated, pallid pigment. And her hair… they had shaved it on one side, right where they drilled a hole into her skull.
She was very protective of that hair. It was one of the few feminine things about her and she nurtured it as much as she played around with it. He remembered her as a little eight year old girl, dedicating a lot of her after-shower moments in front of her mirror, combing the long, radiant tresses and comparing it to her grandmother’s. At that time he had predicted she would turn out coddled and vain like her mother.
How wrong he had been. He had been off about so many other things regarding her too. It would take years off both their lives for him to realize his mistakes. And a little extra time for him to make attempts at covering up the holes he left in their relationship as father and daughter. But everything he did failed and ultimately his efforts pushed her farther away.
There were things he knew he should have done differently, decisions he should have left exclusively to her discretion. Now he was at the point where he wished he could take a whole lot back. All he wanted was another chance but he feared that he might have missed it already, for there she lay like one dead, just as her sister did five years ago.
There were all these tubes connected into her. A bloody, beeping EKG that just wouldn’t shut up. And student doctors that stood by, talking in low tones and taking down notes in their little pocketbooks as the senior surgeon checked on her vitals.
The scene was all too familiar. And he was terrified to death.
“It was just a hematoma,” the surgeon had told him earlier as though he was talking about a scratch on her knee and not a traumatic brain injury. “Epidural hematoma,” he had gone on, digging long fingers into a full afro hair.
“We had to go in and aspirate it immediately or it would have gotten worse. Blows to the temple area are usually fatal. Patients could recover immediately and go around without knowing something is wrong but the bleeding in the brain starts and if not treated promptly, they could die. So thank God for quick response in her case. Have no fears, Mr. Dominic. She’s going to be fine.”
“All is well,” the surgeon was repeating now as he left Lexus’ bedside and left the room. One by one the student doctors also filed out of the comfortable private ward. Dominic followed them out; he was too much in a mess to be left alone by her side. Waiting in the hallway were her housemates. They crowded around him and he assured them she was fine.
“Can we go in and see her?”
Dominic nodded at Wura. She looked like she had been crying. Hands locked with Ehi and Genesis to give her strength, she went in to see Lexus. Dominic approached Kasi who was seated, head bumping to music coming from his headphones. He needed to thank him personally. His prompt decision to have Lexus ferried to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital when the other hospital wasn’t sure on what action to take, was what actually saved her life.
Kasi took out his headphones and stood up.
“I’m not sure how to thank you, Kasiobi because nothing I’ll say will be ever be enough. You’re today’s hero.”
“No need to thank me, sir.” Kasi pushed his hands into his pockets. “She’d do the same for me.”
“I owe you still. Thank you.”
Kasi presented a nod that looked more like a bow and Dominic turned away. Genesis emerged from the hospital room and stood before him.
“She’ll be fine, Mr. Dominic. She’s a strong girl.”
“Thank you.” Dominic tried to smile but the sides of his lips hurt. “So, has anyone been able to reach Eva yet?”
“Her phone is still switched off. Maybe she’s out of town or something.”
“She never stays in one place.” He lifted his left arm and flipped the face of his wristwatch to read the time. “You should be heading to the club now. You’re almost late.” He turned to Kasi. “You too.”
“And you?” Genesis enquired.
“I’ll be here.”
Genesis showed no sign of disappointment. “I’ll handle everything as I promised. You have no worries.”
“Excuse me?” Someone got their attention. “Are you Mr. Ditorusin?”
Dominic lifted his eyes in the direction of a nurse who stood outside Lexus’ room.
“Yes, I am,” Dominic replied her.
“Okay sir. Visiting hours are over. Please, we would like you all to give our patient time to rest. We only need one person with her.”
“I’ll stay,” Dominic answered almost immediately.
“No, sir. I’ll stay.” Wura stepped out of the room.
“It’s okay, Wuraola…”
“Please, sir, go home and rest. I’ll be here. I want to stay back and pray for her all night.”
They argued a little about it but the nurse intervened and chose Wura to stay. The others were harried away as an older nurse came round to announce that they were disturbing other patients.
Outside the private wing, Dominic pushed some money into Genesis’s hands and ordered them to take a cab. Afterwards, he got into his car and drove home.
She kept her word. Fingers locked together, head bowed over her hands and lips moving, she sent out a prayer for Lexus. She prayed over other things too, especially her relationship with Mahmud. She wanted God to guide her. If he wanted her with Mahmud, he had to make a way or else separate them.
She paused for a moment when Lexus fingers moved but when she saw no further movement, she continued. So far, she had prayed for over an hour, reading bible passages in-between.
Now she was sleepy. She shut her eyes and kept praying until she drifted off.
A short while later, the door made a tiny creak. Wura sat up straight and found Mahmud poking his head in. She smiled. He went to her and leaned over her for a kiss. She positioned her cheek for a peck.
“Hi,” she murmured.
“Hey, gorgeous. Looking good. This is your friend?” he asked, eyes fixed on Lexus.
“Yes. How did the nurse let you in?”
His picked Lexus’ medical chart at the foot of the bed. “Let’s just say she’s always crushed on me. I schooled here, remember?”
Wura noticed a concentrated look on his face as his full brows pulled together over the chart. He perused it for a while and checked on Lexus. When he was done, he replaced the chart where he found it.
“Will she be fine?”
“Let’s keep praying. So far it all looks good. Come on, get up, let’s take you out of here for a while.”
“But I’m watching her.”
“Don’t worry, the nurses are around and will stop by every now and then. Let’s take a walk.”
Hand in hand they left the building and took a long, refreshing walk around the hospital premises. They went for a snack and finally stopped at one of the numerous parking lots where his car was resting under a huge tree that spread out its massive branches like a gigantic mushroom. Wura said she was feeling a lot better but complained that she was tired, having had a long day. She collapsed into the passenger seat beside Mahmud. He pushed their chairs backwards after tuning the radio to Smooth FM. D’Angelo crooned into the speakers and they listened to him in silence. When the next song began, Mahmud turned to Wura and discovered she was asleep. A few of her feathery braids fell across her face and he watched her, absorbed.
She had a round face with almond-shaped eyes that were responsible for her angelic facial features. He knew that beneath the fair of her face lay a dark chocolate skin but he wasn’t holding it against her. The fact that she was bleaching or had folds in her belly or spoke occasionally in a distinct Yoruba accent didn’t diminish his feelings for her. His affection was deepening each day.
Wura opened her eyes and sat up.
“God! I slept. Lexus…”
“Yeah, we should head back but first…”
He put his hand behind her head and drew her lips into his. She offered no fight and he got in deeper. His hand traveled down her neck, went lower and rested on her waist. It was at that juncture, she pulled back, using her hands as a wedge against him. But he held her and went for her lips again. Like before, she didn’t put up a fight. His canoodling ended with a ticklish nibbling of her lower lip that made her giggle.
“This is not good, Tokunboh.”
“We’re getting too intimate. It’s not good for me. I want to keep my body until I get married.”
Mahmud looked at her through clouded eyes. “I understand. What does it take to get married to you?”
Wura laughed; more so at the seriousness on his face.
“You’d marry me just because you want to sleep with me?”
“If that’s the only way to get into your pants, yes.”
“Mahmud?” She laughed out louder.
“So what does it take?”
“Well, let’s see… You’ll date me for at least six months before popping the question. Then you’ll give me time to pray and think about it and ask my pastor…”
“Shuoo. A nba e soro, o npe pasto, se oko pasto lo fe ma gba nsiyi?”
Wura laughed so hard, she thumped her feet to the floor of the car. Mahmud watched her in amusement.
When she caught her breath, she continued, “then if my pastor agrees with me and it’s a yes from God, I’ll take you to my parents.”
“I haff hear you, madam but you want to know how I’ll get you to become my wife?”
“I’ll knock you up.”
“Good luck trying.”
“Should we make a bet?”
“That I’ll make you fall in love with me, make love to you, get you pregnant and marry you before the six months you talked about expires.”
Wura shook her head at him. “You’re such a joke.”
“There’s nothing that I set my heart to do that I don’t accomplish.”
Wura turned a serious expression. “Am I just a conquest to you, Tokunboh?”
“Haba, baby.” He drew her close. “I really like you and yes, you’ll be my new addiction but you’re not a conquest. So can we enter that bet, that I can make you my wife before six months expire?”
“It’ll never happen but because I want to see how you plan to do it, I’ll do the bet. Hope there’s no money involved?”
“No, just promise me that when the baby comes into the picture you won’t abort it.”
The instant frown that visited Wura’s face made Mahmud slap himself inwardly for his careless words.
“So because I told you I’ve had sex abortions, you’re bringing up my past to judge my future.”
“Haba nau, Wuraola…”
She opened her door and stepped out. He got out as well and ran after her. As he caught up with her in a tight walkway flanked by flowerbeds carrying red and yellow flowers, he knew that he had a lot of work to do on her concerning her sordid past.
The shower wasn’t soothing. He felt it on his skin like a rain of little, sharp pine needles. But he remained underneath it until he heard his phone ringing in his bedroom. He hurried out and disconnected the phone from its charging point. It was Eva calling. She had just heard about Lexus and she was going to leave Ibadan first thing the next morning where she was doing a shoot.
“Is she going to be fine?” Her tone didn’t hide its fear. He wished he could reassure her but all he could convey was what the surgeons told him.
“Are you sure?”
He almost released the sarcastic cackle that begged to be let out of his throat. Here they were – twenty-something years later; after having sex in a dingy bathroom stall at a party somewhere in the States and having a child only to abandon her, they were now beginning to chew the gritty, bitter pill called conscience. They had both screwed up and they knew that if anything happened to Lexus they solely were to blame.
“Good night, Eva.”
He was beginning to hear a sob in her voice and he couldn’t handle it at the moment. He had a party to attend.
Following Eva’s termination of appointment as Novocaine Nightclub manager, Dominic had commenced immediate external work on the club. It was expanded and the main entrance through the mall shut down. A back entrance was reconstructed and a few things in the interior changed. The finishing touches were put just minutes to the reopening as Genesis had intimated him on the phone. Now, it was time for him to see the new changes.
He left his car in his private parking space and followed the line of people he saw, leading all the way to the club entrance. Already, the number and caliber of cars he had seen both in and outside the back entrance of the mall gave him a picture of what was going inside.
Adding a little superiority to his stride he went straight for the door and a bouncer let him through. The crowd he met inside was beyond what he imagined it would be. And they were handpicked as well. His quick eyes noted, from the type of apparel the partiers had on, that they were a refined throng.
How on earth had Genesis gotten this class of people?
He made his way to the VIP lounge. There he found a smaller collection of people, most of whom he knew. It didn’t take long for someone to pick him out. It was one of his business partners; a skinny guy about his age but with grey beards and covetous eyes. He was seated with a woman whose back was to Dominic. From his viewpoint he could see her legs crossed on the armless couch she was stylishly seated on. Her wavy hair was held up loosely to one side in a 1940s manner, revealing a glittering necklace on her neck.
Little things about women turned him on and sometimes he didn’t need to see the full package to want the merchandise. He was already drawn to the lady as he approached his partner. When he got to where they were, she turned to him and he was stunned to see that it was Genesis. However, he showed no surprise on his face. He merely gave her a sweeping gaze. Her red round-neck dress, making a complete statement of her generous breasts was simple, short and brought out all her curves perfectly. Her makeup was not over the top and her jewelry was simply there to compliment. She exuded class and he saw her in a different light.
“Mr. Dominic, you came.” She stood up but he offered her back her seat as he faced his partner.
“The Don!” the skinny man greeted.
They shook hands, shared a man-hug and Seyi whispered into Dominic’s ear. The result was laughter from them both.
“I was just asking this dashing young thing here how she managed to pull this off,” Seyi said, picking his drink from a glass table by his side.
“Yes, do answer, Genesis,” Dominic remarked. “I also want to know.”
Genesis released one of her dimpled smiles. “I happen to know a few people who can make things happen.”
“Oh well, this is magnificent. I’ll make a toast to you, beautiful lady.” Seyi lifted his glass and toasted alone.
“If you guys don’t mind, I’ll take my leave.” Dominic shook hands with Seyi again. “Happy birthday, Genesis.”
He left them both and stopped to greet a few other people in the lounge. As he made light conversation with them, his eyes would every now and then find Genesis and she would stare back. Then he would look away only to be drawn to her again. This went on and on until he could take it no longer. He left the VIP room and found solace in the manager’s office. In there, he poured himself a stiff drink and gulped it down in a go as if it could wash away the pestering image of Genesis in his head.
He was angry at himself over the way she was beginning to get to him. He wanted to dismiss the confident, lascivious look she always gave him. It was as if he could hear her saying, “I’ll get you. You’ll be mine. I know you want me.”
No, he didn’t want her. And he would never touch her. He knew her type. They were leeches, looking for the next successful man to latch on. Then when they got what they wanted, they would begin the process of sucking the man dry. That had been the case with Nimi’s mother. One night of lust had resulted in pregnancy and she marked her territory on him. It had taken more than an arm and foot to extract her. Now here was Genesis in the same manner.
He had to stop her before she dug her claws in. The first way was not to offer her the job. The second was to get married to Eyimofe quickly. He needed her to curb his overindulgence in many matters and he also needed a warm body to hold at night. Two years living as a celibate was enough. It wasn’t his thing anymore.
But before all of that, he needed to visit the church first thing in the morning. There was a lot on his mind that God needed to hear.
She could hardly stand. Her legs were watery beneath her and her head swirled in circles. A burning pain from between her legs forced back onto the bed she had risen up from. Tears pooled up in her eyes as she tried to think of what had been done to her. How many men had there been? Three? Four? More? How long had she been out?
The last thing she recalled was being led from the shores of the ocean into Mother’s private beach house just after they concluded her ritual cleansing and the gory drowning of a live cow that Mother insisted had to be done. That was the part Genesis did not like so much. Mother didn’t keep it real like a true Mami Wata priestess. She had long gone far and beyond what their faith entailed and delved into really dark magic. But none of the other regional priestesses dared question her. The last two priestesses who tried opposing her had both dropped dead while walking on a busy street.
Genesis who was born and grew up as a Mami Wata child knew from the first day she walked into Mother’s house that something was off about the woman. And her suspicions were confirmed when one morning she woke up and found that she had lost her virginity without no recollection of how it all happened. From that day onwards, her life took a different turn. She was tutored in the art of sexuality and seduction, a special training that none of the other girls under Mother’s care got. They were taught the basics of pleasuring men but with Genesis Mother went deeper and poured in her vast, secret knowledge and powers into her. Many of the girls came and went because Mother always set them free after they outlived their usefulness but Genesis was different. She was always kept for mother’s best clients and one could count on their fingers how many men she had slept with. So precious she was to Mother that she was leased out only once in two years. She became a rich, spoilt, sheltered woman that got all she wanted and had traveled the world. She fetched more money for Mother, in one sitting, than all the other girls combined could put together in a year. Basically, they all did the same thing and their job was to make men rich, powerful and happy. It was a business as ancient as time. Only few knew its secrets and had sacrificed a lot to attain such power. Mother was one of them.
She ran her business underground and picked her clients carefully. Of the hundreds of men and women that sought her help each year, she would pick a few. Then she would send her girls to them to play the simple role of mistresses. Before long, the client’s fortune would change as wealth without limit flooded in. No one understood how it worked but people from all over sought her help. In return, she asked for a certain percentage of that wealth and a complete devotion on the part of the client towards the girl she had assigned to them. Any maltreatment of her girls or breach in contract with her led to the utter ruin of such an individual.
Her girls also faced punishment each time any of them went against her rules. They were all sworn to secrecy with their blood; never to keep amorous relationships outside her knowledge, never to get married and never to have feelings for men. On one such occasion where a girl fell in love with her client and moved in with him, Mother arranged a group of men to rape her until she lost consciousness. The girl was never the same after that and not long after committed suicide.
In Genesis’ case with Dominic, Mother felt she had failed her. She usually did not take requests from clients who wanted revenge for some wrong done to them but the Ditorusin name had crossed her table so many times that she decided to just get it over with. She picked Genesis because she wanted a fast, efficient job. Never in her wildest imaginations did she see her falling in love with the man.
But Genesis was certain she had no feelings for him. And she made this known to Mother when she showed up for her cleansing ritual. The look she had seen in the older woman’s eyes terrified her a great deal. Somehow even before the cleansing began, she suspected she was going to get punished. The drowning of the live cow in the sea proved it as Mother entered a different phase of the spiritual to ensure that Genesis was successful in her quest and the soul of Dominic bound to her until she was through with him. After the sacrifice, Mother led her into her lavish beach home and that was the last she could remember.
Now she ached between her legs and reeked of the sweat of strange men.
But mother sat in silence, on a cane chair by the door, smoking from a bong and looking at her through normal eyes. The evil in her, now sated, was gone.
“Some Ehi has been calling your phone. You should be on your way.”
Genesis stared at her and a single tear found its way down her cheek.
“I told you I don’t love him. Why did you do it?”
Mother simply let out a cloud of smoke from her lips and left Genesis’ question unanswered.
“And you had to be a coward about it. Why did you drug me? You should have let me stay awake to see the faces of the bastards who touched me.”
Mother laughed. Genesis was infuriated. She had never spoken to Mother in that manner but everyone knew that her body was sacred to her. Mother had crossed the line.
“That’s the anger and audacity I’m looking for, child. Use it on Ditorusin.”
She stood up and walked to Genesis, picking her clothes off the floor.
“Everything has been aligned in your favor. You have him in your hands now. Be ruthless.”
Genesis threw her face away and stared at the morning sun peeping in shyly from a veiled window. She sobbed quietly as Mother wore her clothes on for her.
“Have a Sitz Bath when you go home,” Mother instructed, pinning together her wavy hair. “Scrub your body gently when you bathe. Then go to sleep. When you wake up, wear a simple dress and use that oil I gave you. Then visit him and ask whatever you want and I promise you he’ll give it to you.”
Genesis moved away from her and picked her purse and phone from a glass table in the corner of the room.
“I was not a coward, Genesis. The herb I gave you was to numb you from the pain of taking in five men.”
Genesis felt herself retch.
“But you will never forget what happened here today. It is buried in your mind. Anytime Ditorusin is inside you, it is the faces of those men you’ll see and you will hate him.”
Genesis walked out.
Shuoo. A nba e soro, o npe pasto, se oko pasto lo fe ma gba nsiyi? (Yoruba) – I’m telling you something and you’re calling your pastor. Is it your pastor that will sleep with you?
Sitz Bath – A sitz bath or hip bath is a bath in which a person sits in water up to the hips. It is used to relieve discomfort and pain in the lower part of the body.
Thanks to Derin for the Yoruba translation.