“Get me a drink.”
Niyi told Andrew after Clara drove off. He would have darted after her if Andrew hadn’t stopped him.
“That’s not a good idea. Ignore the girl. You don’t want to unleash that demon you become when you drink.”
Niyi didn’t feel like a demon-to-be. He felt like a victim. The one chosen to be the butt of their joke. His head was spinning as if he had already consumed a whole barrel.
“Get me a fucking drink.” Niyi shouted at Andrew with the force of the rage, ripping him apart from the inside.
And as soon as Andrew disappeared back into the pub, he turned his attention to the ash bucket next to the flowerbed and kicked it so hard, its content flew into the road.
He walked back in, feeling the need to curb the rage that had manifested in his balled fists.
Andrew who wore a noticeable frown, was waiting at the bar with a bottle and a glass of wine for himself. Niyi walked over to him –without mouthing a word – picked up the bottle and sipped his first Lager in twelve months. A year sober, flushed down the drain, thanks to his girlfriend and brother.
Still, the familiar taste of beer in his mouth rushed to quench the fire raging within him. The demon within him that only his love for drink could overpower. The only trouble was, drink had saved him in the past and then laid double edged swords in his path. It would start by blunting his misery then turn into a nightmare. A desire stronger than that he’d ever felt for anyone or anything. He stared at the near empty bottle, wondering how something so small could will this much power over him.
“Let’s get a table. I will have two more and call it a night.” He grinned at Andrew, who now looked as pasty as a ghost.
By the time he finished the fifth bottle, he still felt raw. Lager hadn’t worked as much as it had in the past when women let him down. Staggering to the bar, he ordered a few shots and pints, enlisting the two blonde girls at the bar to help him get the drinks to their table.
“Let the games, begin.” One of the girls heckled.
She was standing in front of him when he opened his eyes.
Lights had filtered into the lounge –where he’d spent the last two hours. She looked ravishing in a TM Lewin shirt that revealed more than it covered. The shirt belonged to him. Sade wore it better.
The length of her newly made corn rolls were down, jutting out of each line like single plaits. He wanted to pull her down beside him and own every bit of her. Including her heart.
“Looks like someone partied hard last night. That should sober you up.” She pointed at the cup of coffee on the table.
“I had one or two bottles.” Niyi said, knowing he looked like Death himself would look on a bad day. He didn’t like lying to her. One or two bottles couldn’t be further from the truth.
But he didn’t lie. Not really. Everything else came in small shot glasses and large pints.
She had stopped smiling. In the place of that smile was that look she’d given him in the past. The look she gave him when he confessed to her in London that he attended to patients whilst drunk. She was the one that told him to go for a senior management job with the NHS and try to curb the drinking.
“Don’t worry, your man doesn’t need deliverance or an intervention. I had one or two bottles. I am fine. Okay?”
Niyi wished he meant his last statement because the second, Sade disappeared back into her room, he scrambled to the kitchen. He found what he was looking for in the fridge. The unopened bottle of Baileys.
He emptied half his coffee in the sink and topped it with Baileys. Then he put the bottle back and sought solace on the flat of the kitchen door.
One last drink to cure the hangover.
Taking the cup to his mouth, he savoured the rich creamy taste. The burst of ecstasy made him shut his eyes so that he didn’t see Sade come out of the room. He heard the klap klap of her slippers and his eyes fluttered open to her curvy frame. She had lost a lot of weight recently, blaming it on missing breakfasts and the two suppers she used to have. She claimed she didn’t need the suppers anymore. Breakfast time, they spent in bed.
She mouthed something as she sashayed past him into the kitchen. The headphones of her MP3 player were plugged into her ears. The device hanging like a pendant on the first button of her shirt. He guessed she couldn’t be that angry with him because her long legs were still uncovered.
He drank the rest of his coffee mixture as she set about putting utensils and ingredients on the worktop. Eggs. Oil. Butter. Frying pan.
“Omelette is a good hangover cure.” Sade said.
He nodded, wondering if she learnt that from her pastor because eggs were the last thing he wanted. Perhaps she had gotten the tip from a book on how to stop alcoholics from drinking.
Sade walked over to him. The headphones were in her ears, so he put his mug on the worktop and wrapped his arms around her waist. With him leading, they started to move from side to side – as if they were both listening to the song. She buried her face on his bare chest, a radiant smile beaming on her face as his hands held her tighter.
He knew she was listening to Bruno Mars’, It Will Rain because of the way her palms grasped his back. But mostly, because that was what woke him up every Saturday at hers. She’d sing the song to him, running her palms all over him – the way she was doing now.
‘Cause there’ll be no sunlight
If I lose you, baby
There will be no clear skies
If I lose you, baby…
She stopped moving against him. He guessed the song had finished and unplugged her headphones.
“That song mirrors what I feel for you, babe. I wonder though if you love me like that…”
The awkward silence after his statement lasted a while. The awkwardness was still there when she gazed into his eyes and whispered something about desiring him above all else.
“But you loved Femi from the beginning.”
Sade withdrew from him, putting inches between them as if something had just stung her.
“I know.” Niyi craned his neck to her. “I know you had a relationship with my brother. Clara told me.”
Sade’s gaze lowered.
“Was it one of those relationships that don’t lead anywhere? Please tell me, you didn’t let him touch you? Talk to me Sade!”
“Once,” she whispered.
He turned away. The word was out and it hurt more than anything had ever done. He shut his eyes and counted from one to five to steady his heart. He couldn’t afford to lose his temper in front of her. Not again.
Sade had started to cry when he finished counting. She was rambling. Having known him since they were kids, she knew he wouldn’t be able to handle this. He would explode and that explosion would drive them apart.
“You were in Lisbon. I started to see Femi like he was the one…”
“Was something going on when I was still with you two in Manchester? When we were living together?”
“No, it started when you left. You left and I needed you. I was angry and Femi supported me. I told you how I felt after my surgery…”
“Shut up. Stop blaming me for your stupid mistake.” He moved closer to her as she stepped away from him.
“You let that swine fuck you because I wasn’t there.”
“Don’t make it sound like that.”
“What was it then?”
“Femi and I…”
“It wasn’t love. My brother only cares about himself. How else do you explain what he did with you knowing how I feel about you?”
“You could have told me yourself. You could have stayed with us.”
“I was in Lisbon working twenty four seven to keep a roof over your heads. Or did Femi not tell you where all the money was coming from? I even told him to look after you for me. I guess… that’s how my little bro looks after the women around him.”
“I didn’t know you were interested in me.”
“What the hell are you talking about? You were young but I dropped enough hints. I did everything to bring you to the UK. Why do you think I did that? You thought I was playing a Good Samaritan?”
The first person I hugged at the airport was you. Not my brother! Do you not remember how we stayed up for ages talking that first night?”
“You didn’t say anything.”
“I didn’t think I had to.” He shouted and slapped the door with the back of his hand. “I didn’t think you were stupid, that I would have to spell it out.”
She wondered if to let him calm down before continuing. His back was turned to her now, shoulders hunched with the bearing of an injured animal.
“I didn’t know for sure that you liked me and when I moved to the UK, you were not even single. You had that Bongi, the South African girl.”
“I finished with her because of you.”
“You didn’t tell me.”
“I didn’t get a chance. You and Femi were always together as if you were joined at the hip. Every time I came back early from work to get you alone that goat would show his face too.”
“But how was I supposed to know you liked me? You used to hug me as if I was your cousin. The women you hung around with were more beautiful, more accomplished. Apart from that time in Portugal when we all came to see you and you made a drunken pass at me, you didn’t do anything else. I’m not a mind reader so I thought I was the one with the silly crush. Femi was more determined. He did all the right things. We drank wine one night and…”
“Wine? Are you saying you were drunk? He took advantage of you then.”
“No. I wanted him. He didn’t do anything I didn’t want him to. He said he loved me.”
Niyi reached for the bottle of olive oil on the worktop and threw it across the room. The bottle smashed against the backdoor and shattered into several pieces.
Sade noticed the tautness of his jawline but it was the dark look in his eyes that made her run out of the room.
The last time she saw that look creep into his eyes was when he pummelled his father, fracturing his wrist and collar bone. It had taken two male neighbours to get him off the screaming man.
Please God, this can’t be happening.
She headed towards the front door. She ran until two strong arms gripped her from behind. The arms held on to her with the strength of steel. Nothing about the way the arms gripped felt like the limbs belonged to him.
As Sade felt herself being lifted off the floor, she let out a chilling scream.