He is never this quiet. Not even on days when he goes on a hyper mode and has to medicate himself to calmness. Wura worries about his state of mind. He is seated on the steps that lead out to the backyard from the backdoor of his kitchen, smoking cigarettes. He has had one too many for the day and it bothers her. Watching him as a mother would her newborn, she is just coming to realize that the responsibility of protecting him is now all on her.
His mother passed away on Sunday night and was buried not long after. Mahmud had received the shocking news without showing any form of reaction. He traveled home to Sokoto the next day and returned on Wednesday and since then he hasn’t been the same. Wura has been unable to reach him and she doubts that she can understand his pain. As the lastborn, Mahmud had been his mother’s pet. Wura is not sure she can take the woman’s place.
“Tokunboh, there’s dinner.” Wura moves towards him. “You’re going to eat today, right?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“But you’re going to have a shower, at least?”
“Is the stink that bad?”
“No. It’s just that you haven’t showered in three days.”
He lights a fresh cigarette and turns his head away from her and she immediately knows he is going to be unreachable for the entire night.
“I’ll be in the room if you need me.”
She walks back into the kitchen, picks her dinner and goes to his bedroom. Tomorrow promises to be a busy one for her but for this night she will have a good rest. She takes her dinner at a relaxed pace as she keeps up with her social media accounts which haven’t been attended to in a long while. These days she is a celebrity, thanks to the Love Concert. But she is yet to find a way to respond to the growing popularity as it comes with both the good and bad. There are people who are yet to forgive her for her past, and would, at every occasion remind her of it.
Her eyes cloud over they fall on a photo comment on her Facebook fan page. Someone posted a munched photo from one of her sex videos and added the caption: A leopard cannot change its spots.
Wura deletes the comment and puts her phone away. She forces down a sob but she fails. Her mood plummets and she buries her head in a pillow for a good cry. She has come to accept that her past will always keep up with her but she is yet to find a way to handle it whenever it shows up. Every bad comment from a hater always gets her down in the dumps. Without Mahmud, she would have fallen apart.
Finding a short moment of respite after her tears, Wura goes for a long, cold shower and steps out to find Mahmud in the bedroom, popping a couple of pills. She notices he has switched on the nightlight, bringing in dimness to the room.
“Should I get dinner for you?” she asks.
“I’m not hungry. Thanks.”
He takes off his t-shirt and shorts and tosses them in a corner. He now walks towards her, stops and holds her eyes for a while.
“Thank you for being here with me, mami. I’ve been trying to get my thoughts together, to understand why it all happened. I thought it’d be the old man to go, I was even ready for it but life throws in this curve and I’m yet to understand it.”
“God knows best, Mahmud.”
“Thank you for being here…”
She touches his face. “Please, don’t thank me. Your loss is my loss, Tokunboh.”
He pulls her in for a hug that expresses his distress. Minutes later, following a shower, Wura sets his dinner before him and persuades him to eat. Being his first meal in three days, he takes his time. She sits beside him, distracting his mind with tales of how her week has been.
“How does someone sleep and never wake up?” he asks from nowhere, cutting her off midway. “She was fine. You saw her. Wasn’t she looking okay to you?”
“She was, Mahmud.”
“Then how can she just go to sleep and refuse to wake up?”
Wura doesn’t have an answer for him. She lifts his dinner tray off his laps and takes it to the kitchen. When she returns, she finds a cigarette between his lips and moisture in his eyes. She fears that he is withdrawing from her again, so she picks her handbag and car key and stands before him. She is about to tell him she is set to leave but he takes her hand.
“I’ll come back tomorrow evening, TK. I have to go to bed early…”
“Stay for a bit, please.”
She drops her car key and handbag and sits beside him as before. She watches as tears leave his eyes and disappear in the thick stubble of beard he hasn’t groomed for a while. The long drags of cigarette smoke and the manner in which his fingers keep combing through his this hair in a back and forth manner show his pain. There’s a silent heave, a sniffle and he throws his weight backwards on the bed, his head hitting a pillow.
Wura follows him and finds that the tears are more now, gushing down the sides of his face. In a tender manner, she wipes them; and while doing so, speaks comforting words to him. But he stops her hand, kisses it and turns to face her. She doesn’t object when he moves closer and places his lips on hers. She is also silent when his hand leaves hers to rest on her waist. His mouth tastes salty, smoky and delicious at the same time, and his kiss comes to her with intensity. He leaves her lips to bury his face in her neck. His hot breath and the graze of his stubble give rise to goosebumps on her skin. When his lips trace their way back to her mouth again, leaving wet patches in their path, Wura allows herself feel the familiar tremors of desire. And because she hasn’t been in this place in a long time, the spark is instantaneous. Every nerve in her is awake and she responds to Mahmud’s ministrations, shutting down the cautioning voice in her head.
What follows is a series of lovemaking sessions that last for most of the night, bringing to Wura the kind of pleasure she has fantasized over for months on end. When she finally shuts her eyes in sleep, the morning after is the last thing on her mind. All that has happened feels right, and her emotional state of mind being the neediest, finds gratification in Mahmud’s arms.
But the morning comes faster than she wants it to, and it brings with it censure. She opens her eyes in a slow and lazy manner and shuts them again to feel a quick rush of tears burn them. She then buries her face in shame. After a while, she quietly slips into her clothes, picks her handbag and begins out when Mahmud calls her back for a kiss.
“Let me take you home,” he says, getting off the bed. Her head shakes. She can’t stare at him in the eye.
“Just take care of yourself,” she tells him.
He pulls her in for a hug that ends with another kiss. She tries to leave but his hand resting on the nape of her neck keeps her back as his lips tastes hers once more.
“Mahmud…” she groans. He breaks away but stays so close she can feel his breath on her cheeks.
“I’m sorry yesterday happened,” he whispers. “Knowing you, you’re going to beat yourself over it and I feel terrible… Just…don’t sink under.”
“Please, let’s not have this talk. You lost your mom and you’re still grieving.”
“I don’t want you to feel bad over what happened…”
“I already feel bad, Tokunboh. I feel like shit.” Wura turns around, giving him her back. “I’m not so sure about me, if I’ll be the wife you think I’ll be.”
Mahmud’s full brows come together in a scowl. “Why?”
“See how easy it was for me to have sex with you? I couldn’t hold myself. What if after you marry me and my inner slut comes out and I cheat on you?”
“Inner slut? What manner of rubbish talk is this, Woo?”
Wura gives no answer.
“So because you make love to the man you love, the father of your child, you’re now a slut?”
“Last night was not supposed to happen.”
“You’re right. It was not supposed to happen but I needed you and you were there for me. You took away the pain. Call it pity sex or whatever but I needed you.”
He walks around to face her.
“We were never supposed to happen, Belinda. Not with our different religious backgrounds and our pasts. But we’re here, fighting the odds, and I know we’ll make it work. You just need to believe it and never let anything from outside or within tear us apart.”
“I can’t think straight right now, Tokunboh. I have to go home and get my mind off everything.”
He covers her hands in his.
“Okay, I’m sorry about last night. I should have stopped us but I was as carried away as you were. At the same time, I’m not really sorry because being with you is what I always want to do. Don’t give up on us after what happened. I see you want to. I see it in your eyes. Please, hang on. We’ll get through this.”
Wura puts his hand to her cheek as tears let down.
“I so want to believe you, Mymood,” she says to him. “But can’t you see? There’s always something ready to tear us apart. First it was my past, then your family and now, this… Maybe we should just let go.”
Mahmud drops his hands. “We won’t.”
“It’s going to hurt now but we’ll both get over each other in the end.”
“You’re being ridiculous, Wuraola. It’s just sex!”
“It’s not just sex, Mahmud! What we did was wrong!”
“I am not going to lose you over what happened last night! Period!”
He gives the conversation an abrupt end by marching to the door.
“Since you’re irritated, you should go.”
She picks her handbag and walks to the door. Mahmud stops her and delivers one last kiss that sends her back to her emotions. After that, he holds her in a squeeze.
“Please, hang in there.”
He holds on to her a little longer and then lets go. His ringing phone takes him to his bed and while he attends to it, Wura quietly makes her exit. It is still dark outside when she leaves the house. A layer of moisture has settled over her car. She sits in and painful tears fill her eyes. She does not want to be taken by her emotions but the guilt cannot be helped. She remains in the car until the first light of the morning breaks. Only then does she drive home.
She enters a house that is dead quiet save for the hum of the deep freezer. Out of it she picks a bowl of chocolate ice-cream and retires to her bedroom where she consumes the entire thing without break. Afterwards, she hides beneath the blanket as the tears return.
Today is Sunday. She should be getting set for church but not in this state her heart is in. She is convinced God is disgusted at her.
Crying wears her out until her eyes shut. She doesn’t know for how long she sleeps but a long while after, she is awoken by Lexus’ voice in her ear.
“Move jare, let me lie down with you.”
Wura opens her eyes.
She moves a little and allows Lexus in. They both leave their heads peeking out of the blanket.
“I need to talk to you about something,” Lexus says.
“You woke me up from sleep, so you better shoot.”
“It’s about Kasi.” There’s elation in Lexus’ tone. “I think I’m in love with him.”
Wura hisses. “I thought you had something new to tell me. Be going, let me go back to sleep jare.”
“No, no, this is deep, Woo. This is really deep, like massive. Like, I’m all in. Like, head over heels kind of shit!”
In spite of her mood, Wura smiles.
“So we’ve spent the entire week together – with Trini of course. And I think we make the cutest, little family.”
“I can imagine.”
“The arrangement is that we take Trini to daycare and then stay in and fuck all day and bring her back home, feed her, put her to bed and fuck all night.”
“Can you warn me next time before you use the F-word so lavishly?”
“Yes, stop saying it.”
“It’s just a word, Woo-woo.”
“Aunty, just go on with why you’re here.”
“Woo, have you had so much sex you get sore at first? But it’s the good sore that makes you want more; and then you get more until you become unsore and all you can feel is pleasure. Can you relate?”
Wura simply smiles.
“That’s where I am right now. But that asides, I think I really love Kasi.”
“You’ve said that already.”
“No, I mean, I love him enough to want to wear a ring and do the whole forever thing with him.”
Wura gives her a proper stare. “That’s serious, Lexi.”
“I know and it scares me because in New York, he was all about settling down and I freaked out and left him because I wasn’t ready. And now, I think I might’ve scared him off completely. As beautiful as our one week of smashing was, he hasn’t mentioned anything about us getting really exclusive.”
She sits up abruptly. “Woo, how do I propose to him?”
Wura’s brows shoot up.
“Yeah. How do I say ‘Kasiobi, let’s get married?’ Of course, I don’t want to get married immediately because the entire concept still freaks me out but I want to own him exclusively.”
“You’re not joking.”
“Do I look like I’m joking, Woo? Kasi’s ass is mine and no Chichi or Shakira or any of them smelly ass thirsty bitches will touch his dick again.
Wura can’t help but laugh.
“Yes, I want to be his wife. Maybe next year or the year after. No, not the year after. That would be too far. Next year is fine. Trini has to start walking so she can be our perfect, little flower girl.”
“I can’t believe you’re going all girly on me this morning, Lexi. Your father’s prayers are finally being answered.”
“But seriously, how do I pop the question?”
“I hope you’re not planning to go on a knee with a ring.”
“Naa. That’s mainstream.”
“No. Actually, Lexus, that’s masculine.”
“Okay. So, any feminine ideas?”
“For starters, don’t buy a ring. Like I said, masculine.”
“You can just talk to him. You could say, ‘remember we used to talk about settling down a lot?’”
“Naa. I don’t think I want to dredge up that past. It’s painful for both of us.”
“Then just leave hints.”
“Hints are going to fucking take forever! Urghh! Can’t I just say, ‘Kasiobi, marry me!’?”
“Because girls don’t propose. The guy has to do it with a ring and on one knee and it has to be a huge surprise.”
“Who makes these rules?!” Lexus cries out in frustration.
“I don’t know. Just don’t propose.”
“Oh, before I forget, awesome surprise party on Friday. I had fun.”
“Thanks. All your dad’s idea. He just wanted to appreciate you and the boss lady.”
“I can’t believe I actually cried when he asked her to dance Unchained Melody with him. All I saw was that scene in Ghost with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. It was so beautiful, and I think it’s what inspired me to want to make this bold move with Kasi.”
“I’m proud of you sha. You’re all grown up now.”
Lexus sticks out her feet and rests them on the footboard. “So can you be a darling and throw in a good word to Kasi for me?”
“Just let him know I’m ready to take the plunge. He can propose any time, from now till the end of the year. I am so ready. Hair, nails and makeup will be on point every day for the perfect moment.”
Wura falls apart in laughter. “Tonbra, you will not kill me o! Come and be going, let me go back to sleep, abeg. I no get your time this afternoon.”
“You’ll talk to him for me? Maybe pick out the ring? It should be a blue or black stone. Nothing feminine.”
“I’ll talk to him.”
“Thank you!” She hugs her. “I love you, Woo-woo.”
“Me too, baby.”
“Meanwhile, I’m hungry. What did you cook?”
“Let me call Genesis to know if she has food.”
“She always has food. Go and raid her kitchen.”
“You want to come along?”
“Nope. I want to sleep. Now, go.”
Lexus stumbles down. She pushes her legs into a pair of crocs.
“Wait, though. You didn’t go to church, Woo?”
“What’s wrong? Your eyes are swollen.”
“Nothing. I’m fine.”
Lexus abandons plans of leaving and takes the bed again.
Wura lowers her eyes. “Mahmud and I had sex yesterday.”
“Ooooh.” Lexus moves closer. “How was it? Give me deets!”
“It was great, Lex,” Wura replies. “But you know it was wrong.”
“Nope. I don’t know that.”
“I was waiting until we got married…”
“But then you got horny and did it. So what? You’re going to kill yourself now?”
“You won’t understand.”
“No, I don’t. I’ve never understood your religiosity. But hey, it’s your life. Keep on killing yourself over something you enjoy doing. But seriously, how was it? I want details.”
“Go home, Lex.”
Lexus springs up. “Stop regretting what you did, Woo. It was just sex.”
“Breathe in and out. And tell yourself ‘I love sex and it’s okay to do it with Mahmud’.”
Wura flings a pillow at her. “Be going.”
Lexus steps out and Wura dives back under the blanket but that only lasts a matter of seconds as she hears Lexus calling out Ralph’s name. Knowing her alone time is over, Wura walks out to the living room where she finds Ralph and Lexus conversing.
“You’re the worst niece ever, Tonbra,” Ralph states. “You don’t even care about your cousins.”
“Uncle, me and your offspring are not age mates. What am I going to be discussing with them? How to wrap weed or have safe sex?”
Pastor Ralph cringes. Wura laughs.
“It’s fine. You don’t have to connect with them.”
“I thought so too.”
“We should have a family dinner or something one of these days…”
“Yeah…before Aunty Maggie disappears with all your money to London. You know I never liked her, right? Just putting it out there.”
Wura’s jaw drops.
“Eva didn’t like her too,” Lexus continues. “Thought she was too stuck-up. But it was weird that Eva thought Wura would have been better for you.”
Ralph looks at Wura who merely frowns at Lexus.
“I’d have been calling you ‘Aunty Woo-woo.”
“Lexus, just go nau,” Wura begs with a giggle. “Be going.”
“Yeah, Uncle Ralph, let me split and go and see Zach and Zoe before they start looking at me weirdly like your kids do.”
They hug and Lexus makes her exit. Ralph turns to Wura.
“You look tired.”
“Just sleepy.” She yawns.
“Why weren’t you in church today?”
“I had a little fever,” she lies, “but I’m better now.”
“Well, hopefully the good news I have for you will change your mood.”
Wura sits up and Ralph takes a seat as well, resting his feet on the center table. He is wearing a pair of loafers that match well-ironed grey pants and a black shirt. She notices he has lost some weight.
“Should I get you something to eat?” she asks.
“No, I’m fine. Just brace yourself for this massive gist.”
“I’m all braced up.”
“You remember the record company that contacted you two years ago to have you sign a recording contract?”
Wura nods but with a drop in enthusiasm. The record company in question had come to her for a three-year recording contract with an offer of a few million bucks and a tour around Africa but they had a single clause that put an end to the deal. They wanted her to break up with Mahmud, on the reason that she couldn’t be a renowned gospel artiste and have a relationship with a Muslim. This had happened shortly before her videos became viral and being so invested in her relationship with Mahmud then, she had walked away from the deal.
“But Pastor Ralph, you know I want nothing to do with those people.”
“I know but they have come with something different this time. Something you can’t resist.”
“Fo Yo Soul Recordings is signing three musicians in Africa. One from SA, another from Ghana and then, wait for it… You and I, as a duo. As a team.”
Wura gasps, head pulled back, mind taking in the news. “You’re joking.”
“For real, Pastor Ralph? As in, for real?”
“Oh my God!” Wura springs up and screams as she hops around like a little girl. She stops and asks Pastor Ralph if he’s pulling her legs.
She screams out again and stops once more. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
“Fo Yo Soul?”
“As in Kirk Franklin’s record label?”
“Oh my God! Oh my God! I can’t breathe.” She fans herself.
“You need water?”
“Yes.” She doubles over, hands on her knees. “No, I’m fine,” she says when she sees him rise up. She straightens up too. There are tears of joy dancing in her eyes.
“Finally.” The words come out in a whisper.
“Oh God.” She slumps back into her chair and starts sobbing. Ralph watches her for a bit but when she doesn’t stop, he takes the space beside her and places his hand on her back.
“I never thought this day would come,” she cries. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
“You better believe it.”
“But I’m not worthy, Pastor Ralph. I don’t deserve it.”
“Stop saying that…”
“No.” She sniffles. “You don’t understand. Last night…”
She sniffles again.
“I slept with Mahmud.”
Ralph’s hand leaves her back. She covers her face.
“Slept with him, as in, on the same bed…and nothing happened?”
Ralph shuts his eyes in disappointment.
“I am so sorry. So, so sorry.”
He doesn’t say a word. His silence stretches as her sobs intensify. But somehow he pulls her close for a hug.
“Oh, my darling Wuraola, you’re always a mess.”
“But God loves you like that, you know? In your weakness, he’s strong. Strong for you. Don’t give up on yourself. He’s still molding you.”
“But I keep falling.”
“He will restore you, baby girl. Just hold on, and please, stop crying.”
His words only pull her deeper into her emotions. He is patient with her; he lets her unburden and it takes quite a while. When the last tear is gone, wiped by his hanky, he releases her.
“You want to hear me play something? It’s a new song.”
Wura nods. Somewhere outside the house Bilal is screaming at the top of his lungs in excitement. She guesses he is playing football with her cousin. She is glad he is off her hands today. Her mood wouldn’t have been able to contain him.
Pastor Ralph leads the way to her studio. When they get in, she finds some corner on the floor to sit on while his fingers caress the black and white notes of her piano.