WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE
The shrill tone that came with the question almost made Wura jump. It was her sister speaking; she wanted Wura to repeat the breaking news she had just heard.
Her sister clapped her hands together slowly whilst shaking her head in shock. Her brother who was also there was quiet but his arms were crossed together; legs pulsating really fast as he stared at Wura with fiery eyes. His wife, seated beside him, was the only who spoke.
“How could you do such a thing, my dear? I thought you were a strong Christian. How did this happen?”
Those were questions even Wura herself couldn’t answer.
“No wonder you kept giving us excuses why you won’t visit.” Her sister had recovered from the shock but it was still displayed on her face.
“At some point sef you were avoiding my calls and that was when I knew something was off and then I called Kate.”
Wura looked at her sister and regretted the day she introduced Sister Kate to her. The mean woman, on Sunday, had acted all nice for no seemingly apparent reason.
“It was she who told me you were living with that same Muslim boy we told you not to associate with. I thought it was the worst news to hit my ears, only for me to come all the way from Akure and hear this? Wuraola! Wuraola! God! You’ve killed me.” Her sister touched her chest and moisture pooled up in her eyes. “You’re telling me that everything Tunji and I did to see that you didn’t follow after your mother’s footsteps were to waste? That the money we spent on your education, the feeding, the care we gave you was a waste of our time? All those years we trained you up in the fear of God? Ah, Wuraola! You’ve killed me!”
Wura didn’t hesitate to leave her seat to her sister’s where she knelt before her in tears.
“Shut your mouth there, you rotten child!” Her brother, Tunji rebuked. “You are a disgrace! A waste of resources and space! I regret picking you up as mine! I regret it!”
Wura’s face was buried in her hands. She couldn’t look at any of them. Indeed, they had been kind and generous to her. Having all come from a father whose job it was to populate the earth with children from the prostitutes that worked in his brothel, their lives, it seemed were destined for failure. But Tunji and his only surviving sibling by his mother, Nike, broke away from the family and went after a better existence. Years of struggling and hustling finally paid off and both of them became wealthy, selling building materials all over Ondo state. Out of all their siblings, they picked Wura, the second child of a mother who wouldn’t give up her life of prostitution. They put her in school and trained her in the fear of God. They were strict with her, even when she got to the university, but none of them were aware that away from them, Wura was a different person.
In school she was part of the wrong crowd, hung with bad boys and was the life of every party. At home, she was a saint and a church girl. This was easy for her to pull off because she had been studying far from Akure; she was in Port Harcourt where her elder brother, from the same mother, was residing.
The year she graduated, she left Akure and moved in with him. He didn’t care much for what she did with her life as long as it didn’t get in his way. The deal between them was simple: all he provided for her was shelter; her feeding and anything else was on her head. She had some issues with her results in school and her NYSC posting was pushed to the following year. A friend got a job for her to work as a cook for an expatriate. The pay was good and her boss a generous man. He was generous in other ways too and before long, Wura became his live-in lover and trusted companion. He spoiled her with money and promised to make her his wife. He was old but she didn’t mind; all she cared about was the wealth and the dreams of traveling the world with him. But that never happened. The man died in his sleep one night and she got arrested, just a week before she was supposed to go for her NYSC. Her brother had disappeared without a trace as he was known to do and she was left on her own. She suffered in the police hands and ran out of cash before she finally called for Tunji’s help. He paid a huge sum to have her freed and offered to get her a job back at home but she declined. She felt he and Nike had done enough to shoulder her burdens and it was time she faced the world on her own.
After months of combing the streets searching for a decent job and actually doing a few odd jobs here and there, she eventually came across an old friend who introduced her to the striptease business. She was told it was more honorable than prostitution and could offer close to a hundred thousand a week if she worked hard.
“No be to shake nyash and commot pant?” the girl had said. “Nothing dey dia. Some clients go wan enter VIP room for private lap dance. If you enter dia, if you like give BJ or allow am to touch you o, na you sabi. But just VIP alone for five minutes, na 5k. If you lucky to enter Champagne room, you fit get close to 100k for one hour. At the end of the day, you go pay club fee, carry your own money, waka go home.”
The idea appealed to Wura.
“Na just to commot shame from your eyes and to shake that your waist well-well.”
She could work her waist more than the average female and was known to dance until she was out of breath. She was one of those girls that would leave the party after everyone else because she was on the dancefloor doing her thing, with or without a partner.
“You go do?”
The job was too good to throw away. She nodded at the offer and that was how her life as a stripper began. In three weeks she got a posh apartment and furnished it. She worked her ass to the bone, literally, dancing at the club and even at private parties. She was a favorite at bachelor eves and on a couple of occasions, wives had hired her to spice up their dying marriages with her waist-grinding skills. On weeks when business was not booming, she would sleep with selected clients she knew would pay well. Whenever she was on her period, she survived on BJs.
Rumors of what she was doing got to the ears of Tunji and Nike but each time they confronted her, she denied the stories. Nike would speak to her like a mother would, admonishing her to stick to her faith and sometimes the words spoken would touch something in her. She would cry over what her life had turned into but by the time her eyes met dusk and she stepped into the club, everything would change and she would be back to her old self. She struggled with her sins daily but she had no power to stop herself. She had plans to further her education or gather enough money to open a small restaurant since she had excellent cooking skills but she never got round to accomplishing those dreams. The money just seemed to disappear the same way it came. As someone had rightly told her, “ashawo money be like man wey dey cum fast. E no dey last.”
The business trapped her inside its walls and she wouldn’t have been able to free herself had her mysterious lover that plagued her nightmares not come her way. In some sense, she was grateful to him. He led her to God and God gave her a new start but somehow she had messed things up again.
“You have made your bed, Wuraola and you will lie on it,” Tunji finally said after his wife and Nike delivered long speeches about the bad she had done. She remained on her knees the entire two hours they spoke, freezing, because the sitting room was cold, thanks to Ehizogie’s habit of switching on all the split air conditioners at the same time.
“You will bring the boy that put you in this condition home so that we will see him.”
Wura nodded. Tunji’s tone had become softer but his eyes kept his anger. Wura dared not stare into his face any more than she did; her head was bowed low. Warm thoughts of Mahmud kept her going. She knew that whatever happened in that sitting room, whatever verdict was reached, however her fate was determined, he was one constant in her life. Just one look from him always eased her mind. She couldn’t wait to meet and tell him all that transpired. As much as she had cried like her world would end before her siblings, she was yet to let out the real tears weighing her heart. She was keeping them for Mahmud.
“And you will marry him,” Tunji gave his final judgment.
Wura’s eyes shot out. “But Uncle Tunji… he’s a Muslim–”
“You didn’t know that before you opened your legs for him?!” Tunji roared. “Shut your dirty mouth before I slap it out of your face! You want to bring a child into this world without its father?! You must be mad! I will beat the generational demon that is dancing in your head right now!”
Tunji dipped his hand into his pocket and took out his car key as he stood.
“I’ve said all there is to say.” He turned to his wife. “Onitemi, let’s go.”
The two of them left the house and Wura was alone with Nike who wanted to know how she had been faring with the pregnancy. She gave her a few tips on how to care for herself and put some money in her hands. After that, she left. Wura stood by the door and watched their car driving out of the compound. As much as she felt relieved that they finally knew what she had been hiding, she felt pain for disappointing them.
Wura turned to Ehi who was standing in the middle of the sitting room.
“Mehn, I felt for you o. I couldn’t hear all the Yoruba you guys were speaking but what’s the verdict?”
“I’m to get married to Mahmud.”
“Yayy!” Ehi clapped small hands together and ran to hug her. “So happy for you!”
She stepped back when she saw that Wura didn’t share her excitement.
“Nothing. So how did it go at home with your parents? Did the guy show?”
“Guy? Woo, you’re talking about an old man here, a relic, not a guy. That’s what I’m marrying. His last born is older than me. So you should be happy that your case is good. You have a guy who is young, educated and loves you. Muslim? Yes. But young still. Me, I’m stuck with an old Christian man. I don’t see how that is good.”
“Why don’t you just run away from home? You’ll survive. You have us. If you tell Uncle Dominic, he could speak to your parents or something or help you start a new life.”
“You don’t understand.”
“You always say that.”
“No, you don’t. And I’d rather not explain, Woo.” Ehi adjusted her glasses. “Right now, I’m looking for who’ll disvirgin me.”
“What!” Wura laughed.
“That man can never be my first. I’d rather die. So if you have a candidate—Kasi is already taken—please point that person my way. I’m ready to have sex and lots of it before I doom my future.”
“Ehizogie!” Chichi called from somewhere in the house.
“I’m coming o!” Ehi answered. “This Chichi can disturb ehn.”
With that she walked off. Wura stared at the money in her hand and thought of Mahmud. She needed to call him.
He had just gotten news from a reliable source in the police. He was soon going to be arrested for attempted murder. They were going to make it a very public case. He had been advised to get the best lawyer in town. Money was already passing through hands to see him guilty.
Dominic knew it was eventually coming to this. It was all Bashorun had on him and not even Genesis with her negotiating skills could stop the bastard.
Dominic planned to put a call to her to break the news but his secretary informed him Lexus was there to see him. He asked that she be let in.
Seconds later, his door opened and Lexus walked in. She still had that sullen look but her flesh was beginning to fill up. Dressed in her usual style of boyish fashion, she walked to his table carrying a backpack.
“Hey Tonbra,” he smiled. “Eaten today yet?”
“What did you eat?”
“Some porridge thingy Genesis made in the morning.”
Dominic drew close a land line phone on his table and picked the receiver. He made an order of a meal for two and replaced the receiver in its cradle.
“You shouldn’t have bothered; I’m not staying,” said Lexus.
“At least, we’ll have a late lunch before you go back home.”
“I’m not…going home,” she revealed. “I’m…going away for a while.”
Dominic took off his reading glasses and pushed his chair back.
“Eva’s death has put a lot of stuff in perspective for me and I just discovered that I have a lot of growing up to do. I need to find myself, dad, or whatever the fuck they call it. I didn’t finish school, I don’t have any artwork out there and I don’t have a boyfriend.”
“You have Kasiobi.”
“I don’t. Yesterday I heard him fucking Chichi – really loudly.”
“Hey, easy on the bad language. But the point is you have Kasiobi. You just have to go get him. Save him from that unnecessary relationship. And about your school, we could put you in the Open University or you could school online at any school of your choice; you don’t have to go away for that. Where are you going, by the way? Ralph’s or your grandmother’s?”
“I’m just going away, dad. I can’t tell you where. No one’s supposed to know. That’s how it’s done.”
“No. It’s not done like that and it won’t happen. Not on my watch.”
“Woyintonbra, you are not going anywhere.”
She opened and closed her mouth.
“Please, don’t do this.”
“Are you a loser?”
“Are you a loser who runs at the slightest challenge? Cos I don’t see why you’re going away except for the reason that you found out that the guy you’re in love with still sleeps with his girlfriend behind your back. And now you want to run. You can’t fight for what you want?”
“It’s not that, dad. I really need to be alone, to sort out my shit.”
“You can’t sort shit out. Shit is shit; there’s nothing good to pick out of it. You either live with it or flush it away. Flush Chichi out of your life. I’m not father to a coward.”
Dominic got up from his chair.
They left the office and went down an elevator to the main mall. They walked from one end to another and took a second elevator up to where the cinemas were located. Dominic stopped before a closed shop that had yellow tapes barring a garage door. He crossed over the tapes and pulled the door up, rolling it until it was wide enough for Lexus to pass through. He followed her and rolled the door down again. The lights went up after he turned on a switch by the wall. The space around them came alive. It smelled of new equipment and furniture and it took a while before Lexus discovered she was standing in a state-of-the-art tattoo parlor. She was knocked for six.
“This is all yours. I was supposed to give you the keys on your birthday and have Chris Brown sing for you as you requested but they say he’s in jail or something. Still, you have this.”
Lexus took a small tour and checked out the equipment, finding everything to her satisfaction.
“Now will you quit your silly idea?”
He was scared for her life. She had no idea Eva was murdered. Within the walls of his house and in the mall he could guarantee her safety but out of his sight, he couldn’t.
“Dad, I love this place, I want it and I’m coming back for it but I need to be alone for now.”
“Why?” He was upset. “You have everything at home. Lock yourself up in your room, I don’t care! Just don’t get out there! It’s unsafe!”
“No. You are not going anywhere and that’s that!”
He turned his back on her, heading towards the door.
“Why are you always this difficult?” she asked. “We’re making progress, me and you. Don’t spoil it.”
He stopped, gave her a side-turn. “Keeping you alive and safe is progress. I will not lose you to ‘finding yourself’.”
He rolled the garage door up and waited until she walked out.
“Prince will drive you home. And I don’t want to talk about this again.”
She got off Dominic’s tint-glass SUV and muttered gratitude to Prince, the driver. Having overheard Dominic on the phone leaving instructions to the guards not to let her out, she knew her chances of leaving the house were slim.
“Prince, are you using this SUV back to the office? I heard daddy saying it was bad.”
“Ehn, the AC no good. I go carry the Honda back to him.”
She strolled up to the house and from her room watched the main gates for a while. She saw when the guards changed shifts and a plan hatched in her mind.
The housekeeper knocked on her door and brought in food which she barely touched. Her shorts and t-shirt seemed to get most of the ogbono soup than her mouth did. She picked out the fish and meat and left the rest of the meal in the tray it came in.
After a quick change of clothes to the closest thing she could lay her hands on which were a miniskirt and a fitted t-shirt, she took her phone. She stopped at the kitchen, picked a key from the keyrack and headed to the guesthouse, making sure the guards saw her.
The guesthouse seemed empty when she got in but she could hear Ehi’s laughter and Chichi’s voice coming from Ehi’s bedroom. Wura’s door was opened but she wasn’t in. Lexus turned to Kasi’s bedroom next and stood before the door.
Her initial plans bordered on not informing him that she was leaving but now she felt she could at least say goodbye and see if she could cause some trouble.
She knocked on his door but got no answer. She walked in. He was lying on his bed, eyes closed, headphones stuck on his head. She approached the bed and stealthily crawled over his body. At the touch of her skin, he turned around and looked at her, a little surprised.
“Hey,” he said. He took off the headphones and placed them somewhere safe. “You’re going to put me in trouble this evening, you know that? Chichi is next door.”
“I know. I locked the door.”
“Why are you here? I thought you were boning for me.”
“I still am.”
And without warning, she slapped him. He touched his cheek and look at his palm as if expecting to see blood.
“The fuck is wrong with you?”
She slapped him a second time and he held her hands. “Chill with the slaps.” He sat up. “I know you’re pissed but you have to understand.”
She struggled out of his clutch and aimed punches at him but they were all harmless as he caught them before they were delivered.
Still she wasn’t satisfied. She picked a pillow on the bed and slammed over his face. Before he recovered she gave him a second and a third. She wanted to speak but the words seemed to want to express themselves through her hands. Even after Kasi had discarded the pillow and held her again, she continued struggling to hit him.
Eventually, he subdued her and let her go after much caution. She got off the bed.
“I’ll come over before I head for work.”
“No, I meant, I’m leaving. I’m going somewhere for a bit.”
“None of your business. Just telling you.”
“Is it because of me and what happened yesterday…?”
“You think life is all about your dick? That because I heard you screwing your psycho chick, I’d get so jealous and go away? Fuck you, Kas! You’re a fucktard!”
She started to walk away but he went after her and grabbed her hand. She responded with yet another slap that didn’t quite hit the target. Instead, it fell in Kasi’s free hand and he drew her back to the bed where he pinned her beneath him.
“Chichi has issues. You know this. I can’t just dump her or she could kill herself. Besides, her family is going through hell, fighting her dad’s brothers over property her dad left when he died. Turned out he had a Nigerian wife here, who also wants to claim everything. So Chichi’s life is shitty right now.”
“What about mine, Kas? What about me? I just lost my mom. Why aren’t you fucking me instead to make me feel better?”
“Because sex is not a cure-all! If it was, it would have cured the world’s issues. Instead it’s screwing things up the more! If you and I hadn’t done it, things wouldn’t be so complicated now, would they?!”
Lexus screwed up her face as tears filled her eyes. “I hate you! Get off me! Get off! Fucking get off me!”
She tried to move away but her efforts betrayed her heart’s true intentions as her body pushed into his.
“You’re so beautiful.”
She didn’t care about flattery. She was dying for his lips. They were always wet and inviting and it was funny how she never used to notice them until their first kiss. In the past few days it seemed they were the only things she missed about him.
She bit her upper lip in anticipation for a kiss but Kasi was satisfied with just staring into her eyes. When she noticed that he wasn’t going to make a move, she went for his lips hungrily. And at that perfect moment, Chichi walked in.
Kasi froze. Chichi’s jaw dropped. Lexus concealed a smile.
“Hell no!” Chichi took a pose, all set for war.
“I thought you locked the door,” Kasi whispered.
“I thought I did.” Lexus replied and pushed him away. She had lied about locking the door. This had been her plan from the start.
“Chi, before you say or do anything, breathe,” Kasi spoke.
“No, hold your breath,” Lexus said. “There’s nothing Kas has to explain. We’ve been balling like forever, right under your nose but you’re not going to do shit because you love vaginas.”
Chichi’s eyes came to slits.
“Kas, Chichi is bisexual. I’m sure she was fingering Ehi in that room.”
“I’m here o!” Ehi replied from the sitting room. “Don’t lie on top of my head!”
Lexus picked up her phone. “You guys will thank me later for breaking up your dysfunctional relationship.”
She walked to the door but Chichi blocked her.
“Seriously Chisom, you don’t want to fuck with me. Move.”
“Chisom, please let her through.”
Chisom hissed. “After what I just saw plus her calling me a lesbian? No o. We’ll rack it out here…”
“How about now?” Lexus sent a fist into her face. She stumbled backwards and eventually fell to the floor.
“Lex, why nau?” she heard Kasi ask but shut her ears to anything more he had to say. Ehi was also speaking but none of that bugged her. She had done her one bitchy act for the year. It was time to move on. She was coming back for Kasi but he had to clear Chichi out of his life first.
Shaking away the pain from her hand after the assault to Chichi’s face, Lexus left the guesthouse through the kitchen exit and took a back route to the car park. Using the darkness as her cover, she got into Dominic’s SUV. A quick scan told her no one had noticed her strange movements. She fired up the engine and drove to the gate. The guards let her through, thinking she was Dominic.
Outside the gate, she let down the windows and drove away.
The wind blew past her hair as she remembered her conversation with Dominic and his fears about her leaving the house. Something didn’t seem right. Had Eva been murdered?
She had no peace with that thought in her mind. But she mulled over her future also. She really didn’t know what to do with herself. The tattoo parlor was nice but was it what she wanted?
Encountering no traffic, she drove to Victoria Garden City and took a roundabout turn that led her back the way she came. She headed to Ikota, to a T-junction called Ilaje. There the SUV made a right turn and drove straight down – to an estate that was yet to be occupied but held expensive homes. She parked outside one of the entrance gates and dialed a number, noting the strange stares she got from people around her. Just about the corner was a slum, the stench of which was filling up her nostrils.
“I’m outside,” she said into the phone and waited.
She thought about Kasi again and the kiss she didn’t get from him. She was missing him already. The journey she was taking to discover herself was first suggested by him. She felt sad that he wasn’t there to share it with her.
She looked up and saw Chris standing before her.
“You took your dad’s car,” he noted. “He’ll kill us.”
“First things first, I need a smoke. Second, I need a tour in this ghetto.”
Chris laughed and took her hand.
“Welcome to my hood.”