The Darker Berry #5
Good evening, or as some people around here will say, Happy Sunday.
Tomi has been under the weather. My poor baby is ill. Please be kind enough to send a prayer up. Other than that, it’s all good here.
Have a lovely week ahead!
He didn’t seem like himself. Something felt off about him. Tired, somewhat red eyes admired her in a lazy manner when she walked into the restaurant for their breakfast date. Even when he stood to meet her, it seemed like he was beat. But a million-dollar smile spread across his lips, followed by a warm hug.
Too warm maybe. His neck burned hers a little when they hugged.
“Wow. You came. I thought you’d stand me up, after all the forming.”
“Don’t be silly, Femi,” she replied, lowering herself to sit in the chair he pulled out for her.
“Eighteen days of forming.”
“Eighteen days of you bugging my ass with text messages.”
“I told you I was going to be a nuisance until you agree to go on a date with me.”
He reclaimed his chair and leaned forward. “You are absolutely stunning, by the way, Umi. I didn’t know you had such long legs. And the heels…” He shook his head for emphasis.
Umi smiled demurely. She had struggled with picking what to wear. The date was a little different from other dates she had done in her past. One hardly got asked out for breakfast, and hence she had run out of ideas when picking out the right outfit. Finally, with the help of the internet she chose a pair of jean shorts, a white t-shirt, an equally white jacket and sandaled heels. The end result was charming. Even little Zainab admitted that she looked fly.
“Where are you going?” she had asked Umi after the compliment. Umi’s eyes darted at Quincy who was combing Zainab’s hair. It was clear by her stare that she also wanted to know where Umi was headed.
“To see a friend, darling.”
“This friend doesn’t have a name?” Quincy asked.
“Nope,” Umi replied as she headed out.
“Don’t stay too long,” Zainab added with a wave of her hand. Umi waved back. The child was finally opening up to her. The bond between them grew by the minute. Zainab was a spoiled child and sometimes it was hard parenting her but with baby steps Umi was making progress. She was also falling for her. And this threatened Umi’s sense of individuality. She didn’t want to be responsible for anyone or make choices for them. She just wanted back the life she had before Amra turned up at her door. This, in part, was one of the reasons why she chose to go out on a date with Femi after much pestering. It made her feel like she was in control of her existence. Asides that, curiosity had the best of her. She wanted to know Femi behind the walls of his house, to see if he had depth, to know if there was something beyond what happened between them that night.
“So, how have you been, Umi?” he inquired.
“Bushed. Busy. Jetlagged. Working long hours without sleep. I traveled out, returned two days ago, went straight to work… I haven’t slept in four days.”
“That’s not good.”
“I know but forget all that. Let’s have breakfast.” He pushed the menu to her and had a drink of water from a glass before him. She thought she saw his hand shake but she wasn’t sure. Her eyes picked out that his beard was fuller than the last time they were together.
“Stop staring without complimenting, Umi. Just tell me I’m smashing.”
Umi kept a blank stare on him.
“You really like me, don’t you?”
“You’re a joker.”
Umi lowered her eyes on the menu. There was so much to choose from but she went for triple stack pancakes that came with bacon and fried eggs.
“I’ll have what she’s having,” Femi said to the waiter standing by their table. The man bowed his head slightly and walked off. Umi’s phone rang out with a shrill sound, drawing a bit of attention from guests in the restaurant. She took it out of her purse, a little embarrassed. Zainab had been playing games on the phone and had clearly tampered with her sound settings.
“Excuse me, please,” she muttered to Femi. “I need to take this.”
“By all means.”
Umi left the table, attending to a call she had been expecting all week. She had sent a proposal to a new hotel which had the potential to be big soon. She proposed a long-term contract which would involve having a branch of her business in their hotel. They called for a meeting but it didn’t turn out well. Nonetheless, they promised to contact her once they made a decision. As she listened to the man on the other end speak, she prayed he had good news. Her feet hurried out of the restaurant. She picked a spot near the entrance and with a racing heart, pinned her ears to his words. Soon enough, he dished her the best news she had received in the year.
“We look forward to working with you,” the man concluded.
“Same here.” Umi maintained a calm tone.
“We’ll meet on Monday.”
“Sure. Thank you.”
The man hung up. It took a lot for her not to scream in excitement. She swallowed down her joy and turned around. The first sight that met her as she peered into the restaurant from the glass door killed her high. She dashed in and ran straight to the table she and Femi were sharing. He was lying next to it, his back to the floor, his eyes shut. The scene had everyone’s attention.
“Are you with him?” a woman asked. Umi didn’t answer. She was perplexed. Didn’t she just leave him a couple of minutes ago? How did this happen?
“What happened?” she asked, not to the woman in particular, to anyone that could give her an answer.
“He was about to stand up and then he just fell,” some lady wearing a bright red top with sequins on it answered. Umi lowered herself to Femi and tapped him gently.
“Madam, he’s out,” a guy said. “Was he sick or something?”
Umi ignored the question. “Femi?”
“Just sprinkle water on him.”
And before Umi could respond to the suggestion, someone had taken what was left of Femi’s glass of water and splashed it over his face. He wheezed, gasped and sprang up like something had shot him in the bum. He looked about him in confusion while trying to recover his breath. When he caught Umi’s familiar face, he asked her what was going on.
“You fainted,” she replied.
“I think you should sit like that for a few minutes,” the woman in the bright, red top advised.
“Make sure you go and see a doctor,” the other woman suggested.
One after the other they left the spot and Femi helped himself up. “This is so embarrassing, Umi. I fucked up our date.”
“It’s fine. But you’re not, and I’m taking you straight to a doctor.”
“No, there’s no need…”
Umi picked his phone and her purse and forced her arm through the crook of his.
“You are not. Let’s go.”
He allowed her lead him out of the restaurant.
“Where’s your car?” she asked. He pointed at a sleek BMW that was parked between an SUV and a Hilux truck.
“Your car key?”
He pulled out his key from his pocket and handed it to her. She guided his clearly-unstable frame to the BMW and soon they were in its confines.
“My doctor lives not so far from here. I’m taking you to his house.”
“I am fine, Umi.”
“Do you realize that you’ve gone all red and your breathing is unsteady? You can’t even walk straight. You will not come and die in my hands.”
Femi laughed weakly. Umi reached over to his seat and felt around for the lever that held it upright. When she got it, she released it and the seat lolled backwards.
“You’ll make for a good wife.”
She fired up the car and drove them out of the premises.
“Thank you, Umi.” Those were the last words he said to her before passing out on his bed like a log of wood. She stood, staring at him, wondering if should take off his shoes or not. Would it mean that she cared for him?
She considered it for a few more seconds before lowering to take the shoes off. She looked around. The room was large and the location of the closet seemed lost to her. She aimed for two doors that stood beside each other. The one on the right led to the bathroom while the other opened up to a closet sinfully stocked with clothes and shoes that could be enough for a men’s boutique. Clearly, Femi Agbaje was vain. Umi entered the space and ran her finger over a collection of suits that were compulsively arranged by colors. Some of them had the same hues and Umi wondered why he couldn’t pick one of each and be content with them. Why did he need so much?
She took a tour around and came to the wall that ended the closet where Femi’s shoes were shelved. She placed the pair in her hand in an empty spot. When she turned around, she fell into the glare of an elderly woman who stood by the door, arms crossed hostilely.
“Who are you?” the woman asked.
“Who are you and what are you doing in my son’s closet?”
“I’m Umi,” Umi replied with a clear voice. She was not intimidated by her. She gave her a full glance. Obviously, she was not the parent responsible for Femi’s white blood. But she was beauty personified. Umi concluded that men had worshipped at her feet in her younger days. Like Umi, she possessed a dark skin tone and bore a figure that boasted of ample hips and breasts.
“You didn’t answer the second question, young lady.”
“I just dropped his shoes. And I’ll be leaving. Nice to meet you, ma.”
Umi hurried to the door and walked past her.
“Not so fast.”
Umi turned around.
“What state are you from and what’s your relationship with Femi?”
Umi felt slight annoyance but out of respect, she answered both questions.
“You’re just friends. I see.” Mrs. Agbaje gave Umi and up and down glance. “He’s not slept with you yet?”
Umi released a tolerant smile. “I’d like to take my leave, ma. By the way, he collapsed while we were having a date at a restaurant. I took him to a doctor who gave him some pills. He’ll be out for a while.”
Mrs. Agbaje’s face immediately lost its hostility as she hurried to Femi’s bed. “He collapsed? How? Why?”
“My doctor said he was exhausted and dehydrated…”
“Ah! Femi!” She slumped on the bed and reached over to feel his temperature. “You always do this to yourself. Why must you wear your body out before you rest?”
Umi reviewed the woman’s appearance again. She was wearing something lacy and quite expensive, accompanied by gold jewelry that matched a gele that was tied loosely around her waist. She seemed dressed for an occasion.
She looked at Umi. “Are you on your way home?”
“I hope you’re not leaving because of me?”
Umi wondered where all the unfriendliness went to.
“I have a wedding to attend. My cousin’s daughter is getting married. In fact, this silly boy is supposed to be at the wedding. I came to get him because I knew he would find some excuse or the other not to attend. I didn’t know I’d come to find this…”
She stared at her son in worry.
“And I can’t miss that wedding for anything. It’s family.”
“I understand,” Umi said, knowing where the complaints were heading.
“But my baby is ill…”
Umi fought back a chuckle. There was nothing babyish about the grown ass man lying on the bed.
“I don’t know what to do.”
Umi smiled. “Don’t worry, ma. I’ll take care of him. Go and have fun.”
“You’ll stay here and take care of him?”
Staying was not part of Umi’s plan but she nodded. “Yes. Just go.”
“Thank you… what’s your name again?” Mrs. Agbaje rose up.
“Thank you, Umi. As for Femi, he’s going to refund the money I used in getting his aso ebi and the ridiculous amount I paid the tailor to sew his agbada.” She adjusted a gold ring on her middle finger. “I don’t understand how he can be so social with the whole of Lagos but avoid his relatives like they’re suffering from a family disease.”
“Mmm,” Umi murmured, not knowing what to say.
“Ignore my rant. Thanks for doing this.
“You’re welcome, ma.”
“Please, don’t let him drink anything alcoholic when he wakes up. Give him a lot of water. I came with fruits and food ingredients. Hope you can cook?”
Umi’s brows went up.
The brows shot down quickly. She had not admitted that she could cook but the old woman was not listening to her silence.
“Prepare something nice for him so that he can eat and get his strength back. Will you do it?”
“You’re a darling. Oya, come and see the things I brought.”
Umi followed her downstairs to the kitchen. A marble-top table was laid out with bags of fruits, soup ingredients and assorted meat.
“This yeye driver sha. He couldn’t even arrange the things well,” Ms. Agbaje complained. She then muttered in Yoruba and did a quick reorganizing of the table.
“I will be back to eat your delicious food, Umi.”
Umi smiled again. This time she showed no teeth.
“Take care of my son and no hanky-panky that would make him faint again.”
“Oh, I know you’re lying.” Laughing to herself, Ms. Abgaje hurried away. Umi poked her head out of the kitchen to watch her leave. She was baffled by the woman who had been hostile one minute and chummy the next. But she shrugged it off. Someone once told her that some Yoruba mothers were accomplices to their sons’ philandering ways. Every girlfriend the boy brought home was ‘iyawo’ as long as they benefited from the relationship.
Umi turned back to the kitchen. She knew she could easily step out of the door and head straight home. She didn’t owe Femi or his mother any favors. But she thought about what Femi would do if he was in her shoes. She didn’t know much about him but the little she knew made it hard for her to believe that he would just walk away if she was the one that needed his attention.
Hence she stood and toyed with the idea of cooking until it didn’t seem like an odd thing to do. She took off her jacket, tied on an apron she found folded on the table and began preparing a meal. An hour later, she was done. She left the kitchen and went back upstairs to check on Femi. He was still asleep. She picked her phone and her purse and tiptoed out.
Umi had been itching to see the movie, Doctor Strange, but had never gotten the time to do so. Today felt like a perfect day to entertain herself. She took a cab to the mall, bought a ticket at the cinema and went in for the movie. It turned out better than she expected and it could have been more enjoyable if the guy sitting next to her had not spent half the time trying to hit on her. After the movie, she stopped to have lunch and to pick a dress for Zainab, a bracelet for Quincy and a man scarf for Buzor. She marveled at how easily she could spend thousands of naira when at some point in her life she couldn’t even afford five bucks. It seemed then, that her life struggles were never going to end. She remembered the many times she rose and fell and how she thought she could never make it to this place. She still didn’t consider herself someone of able means but she was content with where she was. Umi Yohan didn’t need to have the kind of wealth Femi Agbaje had to feel successful.
And speaking of Femi… she got a call from him as she made her way out of the store after shopping.
“Hey. You’re up.”
“And you’re gone.”
“I’m on my way home.”
“I woke up, looked for you, went downstairs and saw egusi and amala and fruit salad waiting. I thought it was my mom who arranged the whole thing. I called her and she told me she met you and asked you to cook for me.”
“Yeah, she’s such an interesting woman.”
“Interesting? Hmmm.” Femi laughed. “My mom is usually mean to every chick she sees around me. How on earth did you charm her?”
“You did. And you got me as well. The meal was excellent. You make amala like a Yoruba girl.”
“You already ate?”
“I was starving. And I enjoyed it. Thank you.”
That was a lie. She felt like she had given away a part of herself by cooking for him. She was never one to give wife privileges to a boyfriend, let alone a stranger she shagged only once.
“Come back, Umi.”
“I’m going home…”
“I don’t beg people, Umi. So, this is not me begging. This is me trying to repay you for taking care of me today. Come back and let me make up for a bad date. You can decide not to see me after today.”
“Well, it better be worth my while.”
“Oh, it’ll be.”
Umi left the mall and picked a cab in the parking lot. She arrived at Femi’s house shortly. He was standing outside the front door with his dog, Molly. Gone were the clothes he wore for the date. He was wearing a t-shirt that had the inscription “World’s Sexiest Oyinbo”. Beneath, he had a pair of joggers on. Umi suspected that he wasn’t wearing underwear.
“Where was she when I was here earlier?” Umi asked, referring to Molly, as she walked towards him.
“With my neighbor’s kids. They have an obsession for her.”
“Hi you.” Umi bent to touch Molly and was gifted with some tongue-licking. “Ewww! Bad girl.” She straightened up and cleaned her cheek. “What’s her name?”
“Molly, you’re nasty.”
Femi opened the door and invited Umi in but picked Molly off the floor.
“I’ll be back in a minute.”
He disappeared outside. Umi ventured into the living room and got distracted by at a large painting that made no sense to her. Like poetry, she had never understood art that wasn’t plain to understand. If it didn’t say what it wanted to say in the first two glances she couldn’t be bothered about straining her eyes to decipher it.
She abandoned the painting and directed her gaze on another. This was much easier to read. It was the torso of a nude girl. There was seemingly nothing more to it but somehow Umi was held bound.
Femi returned without Molly. He took up space behind Umi. “You like it?”
“Yeah. Her body is beautiful. The artist is amazing.”
“Is she the only one you see?”
Umi angled her head to the right.
“There’s someone else in the painting?”
Femi reached over and pointed at a spot on the canvas that was covered by darkness. Peering closer, Umi caught the silhouette of a man behind the woman.
“Oh!” She laughed. “I didn’t see that. Are they doing what I think they are doing?”
“The same thing I think we should be doing.”
Umi made a sharp turn and was caught in Femi’s arms. She put her hands on his chest to push him back. “No, Femi. No. That was just once.”
“And who says once can’t be twice?”
Umi, for a reason she could not understand, lost the will to fight him. She had spent eighteen days telling herself she wouldn’t fall for his magnetism again, but he only had to touch her once and she was feeling some kind of way.
Curiosity, she said to herself. You’re curious. You want to know if that one time was a fluke. And hey, you’re a big girl. You can totally have meaningless sex.
“I asked the last time, and I’ll ask again. Can I kiss you, Umi?”
It was hard to say no when his lips were almost between hers. Yet, he didn’t push through. He waited for her consent, and she gave it by taking tufts of his t-shirt in both hands as if readying herself for something phenomenal.
His lips went in smoothly. They felt fuller than they looked and tasted like his breath. It wasn’t something she could describe to anyone. He tasted just like him. But weirdly, he was a gentle kisser. A sensitive and more romantic person was hidden in his caustic mouth.
He stopped, looked at her. His eyes glistened with lust. His straining hardness was difficult to ignore. She longed to touch it but she held back. Today, she would be a good girl. She was sober enough to allow him do what he desired.
“I want to take my time with you,” he murmured. “To peel you like an onion, to find the layers you hide beneath the surface.”
When she gave no response, he took her hand and led her upstairs. The destination was not his bedroom but another, almost as big, that had its balcony wide open and just a bed that stood in its middle with white beddings that spilled to the floor. Nothing else was in the room.
Femi laid Umi on the bed and stripped her slowly, kissing every spot on her body his lips could access. Whenever she tried to touch him, he stopped her.
“This is my gig. You’re here for the pleasure. Enjoy.”
And so she lay back and shut her eyes as her body was explored by this man she hardly knew. The feeling was delicious and torturous at the same time. Foreplay never felt so painfully sweet. He left her drenched long before he prodded her knees apart and pushed himself into her, one bit at a time.
Today, she could fully feel and appreciate the trinity of his shaft – its length, its girth and its pulsing hardness. She pulled her knees up to take more of him. He groaned in gratification, pushed deeper and nestled his face in her neck.
“Umi, you’re driving me crazy,” he grunted and brought his lips to hers to kiss her. “Hold tight. This is going to be a wild ride.”
Umi braced herself for what was to come and Femi delivered with every thrust. It was a promise well-fulfilled, coming in different positions. There were moments of imperfection, times when he had to catch his breath, intervals where something awkward made them both laugh and they had to stop to start again. But ultimately, Umi knew pleasure she had never had before.
Afterwards, when Femi entered the bathroom to dispose of the used condom he had on, Umi remained on the bed, reliving the moment. When Femi returned, she managed up and picked her thong.
“Where are you going?” Femi asked.
“You’re cold, you know?”
She sniggered. “It was just sex, Femi. I’ll leave here and you’ll call over some other chick and do the same thing you did to me.”
Femi gave no response to her allegation. He simply stood by and watched her.
“How long before I see you again?”
“I thought you said I could choose not to see you after today.”
“That wasn’t me speaking.”
Umi caught his meaning and pointed her eyes at his crotch. He was shamelessly nursing another erection.
“I shouldn’t be listening to you now, either.”
He looked down. “This…hardly ever happens.”
Umi hissed lightheartedly, slipped on her thong and went for her shorts next.
“Umi, you didn’t answer my question.”
“You sound like your mom, you know?”
He ignored her statement. “So when are we doing this again?”
“I don’t know.”
He shrugged. “Okay.”
She wore her clothes and ambled towards him.
“Thanks for the meal and for taking care of me today, Umi.”
“As I said, it’s nothing.”
She moved closer and fell into his embrace. When they parted, he held her hand. “Let me take you home.”
He didn’t get it. She was difficult to read. The way she switched from passionate during sex to dead cold afterwards left him intrigued. With other women, they became clingy and began to bug him for more. In fact, he had spent most of his sexually-active life getting covetous females off his back than sleeping with them. Very few understand the simple rules of no-strings attached sex. And when he found such ones, he played nice with them. They always came in handy when there was a dry spell of good lay or when he just wanted to feel like having a quasi-relationship.
But Umi… he didn’t know where to place her. She didn’t seem like she could fit into any of the categories of women that graced his bed. She was in a league of her own. His body wanted more of her but his mind told him to move on. There were at two other women he was gunning for at the moment. One was the girlfriend of a friend who had been owing him for three years but moved to another town and wouldn’t pick his calls. He fantasized over how he would expend his anger at said friend into his girlfriend. He would ensure to leave her limping.
The second chick was someone popular he met at a charity ball. A billionaire’s daughter. A pastor’s kid whose wedding was a month away but was irreverently shameless enough to follow him to the men’s room at the charity ball just to tell him how she wanted to suck every last drop of cum from his balls. She then made a call to Intercontinental Hotel and picked one of their most expensive suites for the ‘sucking’ event. He feared that she was all mouth and wouldn’t be able to handle his heat when the moment eventually came. He normally wouldn’t go near a daddy’s girl but this particular lay was for future business purposes.
Femi made the turn that led to the street where he lived. It was dark already and it seemed one of those nights when the sky would be stingy with stars. He always enjoyed sitting out in the front yard with his daughter, Teni, and singing to her. He had an awful voice but she didn’t care. Everything he did made her giggle. And just thinking about her as he turned his car towards his gate made him smile. There was an urge to swerve around and drive to the next estate to see her but her mother, Nife, had been mad at him since the studio incident. He was not ready for drama this evening.
Femi waited patiently as his security guard pushed back the heavy black gate that opened up to his house. The man threw out a salute as Femi drove in. Femi nodded and put out a frown when he saw his mother’s car parked behind his convertible.
“Not tonight, maami,” he grumbled. He loved her and all, but sometimes he just couldn’t handle her energy.
Femi dragged himself into the house, hands inside his pockets, pushed out to hide the fact that he wasn’t wearing any underwear. Still, he knew his mother would notice and make a big deal out of it.
He entered the house and found her watching something on BBC World while eating Umi’s amala and egusi. For a few seconds, it seemed she didn’t notice him as she sat glued to the television. He was going to sneak upstairs when she called out his name in a loud voice. He froze and turned around.
“Hey, mom.” He hugged her from behind and kissed her a couple of times on her cheek.
“Turn around, I want to see you.”
He pushed his hands back into his pockets and went around the couch she was seated on. He stood before her. She gave him a thorough look.
“You want to kill yourself for me abi? You want to die before your time so that all my enemies will finally have the last laugh.”
“Just a little exhaustion, mom. Nothing serious.”
“A little exhaustion and you fainted like a little girl.”
He sat beside her and placed a foot on a glass stool. “How was the wedding?”
She threw out a long hiss. “After all I spent on aso ebi and running around as if it was my daughter getting married, your aunty gave me a set of towels as souvenir. A set of towels! Can you imagine?!”
“With all the money her son-in-law is stealing from the police?”
“Exactly what I said. Stingy human beings! I wasted my time there!”
“Shey I’ve been telling you about them.”
“But I can’t be wicked like you and cut them off nau.”
“They come here to beg for money all the fucking time, mom. All the time.”
Mrs. Agbaje hissed again. “Awon alainironu ara Galatia. Ojukokoro won yen na lo ma pa won.”
Femi laughed. He loved his mother. The bond they shared was deep and unbreakable. Gossiping about family members was a favorite pastime for them. She always had the deets on the latest happenings in the lives of their relatives.
“Abeg, forget those people.” She licked soup off her thumb. “Let’s talk about the pretty, young girl I saw here earlier. The one who cooked this delicious meal and took you to see a doctor and tucked you in bed and made sure you were fine…”
Femi gave his mother a lifted brow. “Where is this going?”
“She is well-bred.”
“She is not a dog for you to talk about her like that.”
“I’m just saying she is a beautiful girl with wonderful manners and good home training. She will make a wonderful wife…”
Femi’s face turned icy. He stood up.
“I know I promised we will never talk about marriage again but son, one bad marriage is not enough for you to shut out your heart from an awesome one waiting around the corner…”
“Please, stop it.”
“Fine.” Mrs. Agbaje lifted her hands. “I’ve stopped. But Umi is…”
“You even know her name.”
“She made a good first impression.”
“We are not having this talk. I’m walking to the kitchen to pick a can of beer and I’ll come back and sit beside you and we’ll gossip about family members at the wedding. Is that understood?”
“We can’t talk about her a little? Just small?”
“No,” he almost raised his voice. How was he to make her understand that Umi was just a good lay and nothing more? Her vagina was not special. It was just sex.
“Fine. Go ahead and get your juice.”
“Beer,” he corrected, walking towards the kitchen.
“And also go upstairs and wear something under that your trouser. Or just go naked completely so that I’ll kuku know that I gave birth to an elebolo!”
Femi laughed. “Maami!”
Translation of some of the Yoruba words used
Gele: Head scarf
Awon alainironu ara Galatia. Ojukokoro won yen na lo ma pa won – Senseless bunch. Their greed will be the death of them
Elebolo – Prostitute