Happy New Year Moskedapages readers. May this year bring you all the best and some more.
Sorry about the long wait for this episode. It couldn’t be avoided, I’m so sorry. Anyway, here it is, episode 9. Have a great day.
“I don’t want to.”
“I need you, Kenny.”
“I don’t want to.” Kenny shrieked this time.
She had meant to be gentler. Tried to be. But her refusal came out forceful and disappointment gripped her like a fever as he collapsed on top of her. The annoyance she expected from him did not come. It manifested as weariness. He stayed on her without speaking or zipping up his jeans. His head on her chest. Stiff and content at the same time.
“Can I stay like this at least?” His lips were pressed to her skin.
“If you don’t get ideas.”
Propping himself up, he tilted her head so that she could see his face. “What ideas Kehinde? You still think I would hurt you?”
“You will never trust me.”
“It’s kinda hard when you get in the mood like that.”
“I didn’t take off your knickers. Did you notice that?” His hand moved from her chin to her chest. Lingering around the red button on her top delicately without touching her breasts. “Besides, it aint my fault.”
The faux fur cape had come completely apart as flimsy negligee would and as usual her bra had not stayed intact. He liked this. Her underwear’s powerlessness when it came to her body.
“You do things to me. The things no other woman can do. Yet, I will only do the things you want me to do to you. Men with fully developed minds listen to what their babe’s body is telling them.” One of his hands had crept underneath her top and when she moved her hips, he squeezed tighter. “How is it you don’t feel me like I feel you?” He kissed her whilst positioning himself back in place. “It isn’t fair.”
“I feel you, Anthony.”
“The way I feel you?”
“You have to convince me.”
She wanted to tell him she felt completely comfortable with him. Unlike in the past when the smell of beer on him reminded her of Uncle Kola. But he had pulled her on top of him and started to take off her cape.
“We should get married,” she said. “As soon as possible.”
He didn’t respond. He slid her cape off and dropped it on the floor.
“We can go and see my uncle. You know my mum is keen. She has been desperate for a son-in-law since I turned nineteen.”
His hands stopped what they were doing, holding her limply. His eyes did not hold hers like it did earlier.
“If it’s because of my uncle and my cousins and what happened, you can talk to me. We don’t have to let it affect us.” She tried not to sound pushy. He would forgive her uncle soon enough. Lola too. Having felt herself thawing when she listened to Lola’s long voicemail message today, she had believed Tony would be fine with her one day.
Lola’s revelation at the end, that she was pregnant, would help mend their relationship. She had been grateful for that at the beginning. That her favourite cousin who was in fact more like a sister had a relationship with her future husband. Not the obligatory one between her and John.
Lola and Tony’s relationship was different to theirs. They liked the odd phone conversation. Lola would defend him, calling Kenny stubborn. Kenny hoped they would be like that again someday. Even if he never spoke to Jackie ever again.
“It isn’t about Pastor,” Tony said.
“So, now it’s pastor, is it?”
“It’s about us,” he heaved her off him gently. Sat on the edge of the bed for a while before rising and zipping up his jeans. “I still want you. I do.”
“You don’t wanna get married anymore?” It wasn’t easy for her to tell what he was thinking about them. Sometimes, his expressions were thickly painted on. Readable because of his communicative face. His lips often crinkled too. And he was the type that would soften his face for the sake of strangers. For her, the tell-tale signs of his day were never hidden. “It’s easy to let go with you,” he told her once. “You make it feel easy.” She could tell even when the school board had made his day slightly difficult. Today, he held back. “If you don’t wanna marry me anymore, just say it.”
“Did I say that?” He had gone to get his drink from the table and was now leaning on the wall.
“I’m not stupid. I analyse people’s thoughts for a living. Of course I’d be able to tell what my own fiancé is freaking thinking!”
“Yeah. I know you.”
“Yes, you know me so well you couldn’t even tell when that witch you call cousin was trying to come between us.”
“I have apologised! You don’t have to keep reminding me I messed up.” She straightened her top and picked up her cape from the floor. “Fine. I will go home.” One of her multi-layered earrings gleamed from the shaggy rug’s thick fibres. Not far from where her shoes were. Kenny had not realised it had come off. She picked it up and then felt for the clip with her fingers skewed like the tips of a comb.
“You look good like that.” Tony’s voice sounded friendlier from behind her. “In that position.”
Kenny smiled. She sat on the rug and hoped he would join her. He had some of his drink and then came closer. Instead of the rug, he chose the edge of the bed.
“My mind is all messed up,” he placed the drink on the floor. His gaze lingered on it for a bit. “Mum told me you know all about our past…where I came from.”
“You shouldn’t let it affect you. Especially not now.”
“It’s easier said than done.”
“When I feel like this, I feel like taking a flight down and showing up where that man and his shady politician-friends are and calling him what he is.”
“That won’t help your mum. She doesn’t want him to find her. She did say he is quite powerful and connected.”
He was quiet for a while. The quietness was one of those that didn’t need filling. A comfortable one. Heavy with shared emotions. It was quite a while before she asked him what she wanted to ask him since she found out. If he told her lies about being Nigerian. Sister T did not say anything about originating from Nigeria when she narrated her experiences. Kenny had found herself wondering about this. Even before she found out, she had wondered why Sister T didn’t relish her Nigerianess. Why she avoided Nationality Day in church.
“What do you mean? I’m definitely Nigerian. If it’s because of the surname, my mum’s adoptive parents, the Cameroonian couple that helped her…” he glanced at her to see if she understood and she nodded. “They suggested she take their surname. So, that no one in search of her from Nigeria would be able to find her.” He held his hand out to her and helped her onto his lap. “I didn’t make up anything I told you. I just left things out. One day, I will tell you the little I know about my father.”
“You don’t have to.” With a palm on one side of his face, she kissed his lips. The short stumps of hair on his lower face was unusual but it suited him. “You don’t owe me anything. You can even break it off. I know you’ve been good to me.”
“I don’t want to break it off. I still want you as my wife.”
“I still do. But you will have to be patient with me. I need to sort the job problem first.”
“I can sustain us for a while.”
“Yes. So you can come home and be like Anthony come and massage my feet. Then carry my bag upstairs and go run me a perfect bath with sparkling bubbles. After that come and feed me jolof rice with chopsticks.”
“I hope you will serve chicken with the rice.”
“You like fish too. You want me to catch the fish? I can even let you sit on me whilst you eat. You know you don’t like cold surfaces.”
“You can be naked too whilst you are serving me. It’s your choice. You know, I’m not a slave driver.”
“You’re not a slave driver, babe. You just want a warm butt and a sexy man to feed you.”
Kenny intertwined her hands around his neck whilst he reeled off other exaggerated scenarios, putting her in a mood that had eluded her these past few days.
“Thanks for the offer babe but I like to be busy. I like earning. Or maybe you have ways I can earn my money that only includes things I like doing. Things all men like doing.”
“You never know.”
She was starting to get excited again because he was staring at her lips. He looked set to kiss her then they heard his mum shouting for them.
“What are you doing tomorrow evening?” He asked. “Prof is coming here after church.”
“Mum is going to see Taye. She is staying there for a couple of days.”
“Good. I can come to yours then. I can be your slave. As long as all the work is in the bedroom,” he added with a breathtaking smile.
“Yeah sweetheart. Can’t wait.”
“Cool. Let me go shower. I’ll join you soon. I know the beer smell bothers you.”
She was about to tell him he knew her too well. More than she thought he did. But his mother was knocking on the door and asking if they were naked or dressed. His phone, which he had left in the living room, was ringing.
Lola did not have time to heap concealer on her face when she heard her cousin’s voice. Her excitement was evident. John’s hasty voice which was interrupting Kenny’s did not share her enthusiasm.
“Lola is sleeping. She will call you tomorrow, Kenny.”
Kenny came into the room without knocking. She pulled her to her bosom and hugged her. “Babe, I have missed you.”
“I’m so sorry.” Lola had planned how to apologise to her cousin. How she would remind her that they promised to be each other’s warrior. Sister defenders. Something like that. But the exact words would not come to her.
Her cousin hushed her. When she stood back to look at her, she exclaimed. “What happened to your face?”
“Oh. My face.” Her brain would not help her. She had not thought of what to tell people because she had barely left the house. When she woke up yesterday, the bruise around her right eyebrow had turned browner. The upper eyelid noticeably swollen. Work was busy yesterday, her first day back. She had covered her face with one of her concealers, two shades lighter from her skin and avoided her colleagues. Eating alone instead of the canteen. Fortunately, none of her close colleagues were in.
“She has been fainting. Falling anyhow.” John said from behind Kenny and waited for her to turn around. “You know your cousin, even before pregnancy na delicate girl.”
“Tell me about it,” Kenny beamed. “She used to see a tiny speck of blood and before you know it, she hits the floor.”
“Abi, what can I do? She is still the most amazing woman ever. I’m a lucky man. Lucky father-to-be.”
“Yes, congratulations. I’m so happy for you two. I can’t wait to be the cool auntie.”
“The one the child will run to when we wake him up at dawn for morning prayer.”
His smile was wide. The type he branded his face with when Lola was just polite to him. When she thought of him as the man that would take over from her father one day. And Omar saw him once and in that relaxed manner of his casually mentioned that John liked her. She had laughed that day until Omar put his hand out as if to cover her mouth, his own face crinkling with laughter.
Lola and Kenny ate the doughnuts John brought them in bed. They were sat close together. Just like when they were younger. But back then, Lola had to put up with Kenny’s sporadic quietness. It would come unexpected. Undeterred, Lola would think of something funny. Her cousin would laugh and at times, she would tell her what had triggered her quietness. Usually something to do with Uncle Kola.
There was none of that quietness today. Lola was pleased that her cousin talked to her about Tony despite what happened between them.
“You know I’m sorry.”
“You have said that so many times.”
“I just want you and Tony to forgive me.”
“I have forgiven you. Tony will get there. You know he likes you. We can tell him the baby fed on your faculties or something.”
“Faculties ke? Don’t finish me. Tony has clearly taught you very well.”
“The man is thorough, what can I say.”
Whilst her cousin picked up another doughnut, she thought of how best to do what her father asked her to do yesterday. She shifted and fidgeted, until she found an opening that felt easy to track. “You know what cousin, I’m struggling to understand how Sister Yemi could have abandoned Jackie like that. I feel close to this one already.” She patted her stomach. It was slightly distended. The result of John bringing her food every few minutes and refusing to let her do a chore that involved moving.
Her cousin stared at the TV on the wall. The volume wasn’t audible and the programme on, a documentary about speaking in tongues was something John had recorded for Lola. The type of show her cousin wouldn’t watch.
“Jackie is really messed up,” Lola tried again. “Mummy said she has been eating in her sleep. She gets up, goes in the kitchen and clears the fridge. Then she goes back to sleep with no memory of it! Mummy says it’s strange that she only eats the things she likes. Anyway, I told Daddy when he called yesterday that he has to tell her the truth, sha.”
“He said I have no idea how complicated the whole thing is. That telling her the real truth could ruin other people’s lives. What real truth is there? What else don’t we know?”
“No idea,” her cousin shrugged. “You and your brothers were the ones there when they were planning it all in Nigeria… I hope whatever other secrets those guys are keeping doesn’t include me. I’m so done with it all. Our parents keep secrets for the sake of keeping them. Even someone like Sister T who has good reasons doesn’t have that many secrets.”
“What are you talking about? What secret is Sister T keeping?”
“I thought we were fine now.” Lola picked up the empty plate and placed it on the floor. She took out wipes from her facial wipes packet, kept a couple and passed the rest to Kenny. As she wiped her hands, she wondered when they would be able to tell each other everything like they did before. She was the one choking with secrets. Eager to share why it hadn’t been easy for her to fall asleep at night. Why her husband preferred to have her with him these days.
“If you must know,” her cousin scratched her chin. “Something terrible happened to her when she was young. I can’t tell you anything else, sorry.”
“Like what happened to you?”
Kenny continued scratching her chin instead of responding. But her eyes shared what she didn’t say.
“Oh boy. Poor Sister T.”
“I didn’t say anything, woman.”
“You know you can trust me.”
“Like the way you trust me so much at the moment? You look so tense and yet you won’t confide in me.”
“I’m fine. I’m.” It wasn’t as if she could easily tell her everything. How could she forget her husband’s warnings? That her friends and family would not forgive him if they knew what he did to her. That their concern for her would morph into hate for him. And even church members would never respect him again. This was why he had been postponing his meeting with her father.
“Do you want me to help you with your plans tomorrow?” She asked, laughing. “I don’t believe in sex before marriage but Tony needs something babe.”
“You. You seem to have forgotten that Omar got you proper tutored first. He didn’t get in there but you and him got up to all sorts of nastiness.”
Lola’s laughter drowned her cousin’s whispering. When Kenny left after hugging her and John, she wished no part of their conversation had been spoken quietly.
“You told her, didn’t you?” John said as she shut the door. He didn’t wait for her to answer. Marching into the kitchen like someone who didn’t want to be followed.
When Lola got to the entrance of the kitchen, he was turning off the cooker. The pot on one of the rims had a lid on and whatever he was cooking smelt delicious. She tried to think of how to compliment him about this but he was dumping the utensils on the side in the sink. His back to her, ranting.
“You promised not to tell her. You promised. Do you think she will be fine with me ever again? No. She won’t be! Even if we survive my stupidity, your family will never be fine with me again. What about my reputation as a pastor?”
“Johnny, I didn’t tell her.”
“I heard you and her whispering!”
“We were talking about someone else.” She thought of asking him if he was eavesdropping on their conversation but his knuckles had tightened around the edge of the sink. “We were talking about Tony’s mother, okay? It turns out she was assaulted too. I didn’t want to say anything because I promised Kenny.” She didn’t pause despite wanting to. His voice had started to rise. Knuckles gripping the sink edge tighter. “If it gets out, he will know it came from her and you know it will finish their relationship.”
When he eventually turned to her, his jawline was not taut like last time. Yet, she stayed where she was. Deciding that going to him to hold him would not be a wise thing to do.
“Are you calm now Johnny? Or should I go and stay with my parents tonight?”
“I was just asking you a question.”
“I know. I know, hun. I was thinking …I should go and see them and explain how I fell. So that tomorrow, they won’t be asking questions in church about my face.”
He came towards her and as he embraced her, she tried not to wince. It was harder not to think of Omar. How angry he would be to learn of what she was going through. The differences between the men. Omar the bulkier one who spent every other evening in the gym. Yet, he never raised his voice at her. Not even slightly.
“Stay with me wifey.” He softened his features as he cupped her face and kissed her. “Don’t go to church tomorrow. Stay here and rest. I will be back before midday.”
“I’m supposed to help you with your sermon.”
“Daddy can do the sermon. You know he likes to talk about the olden days when he is preaching about love.”
“Fine. I will stay home and watch TBN. Hopefully Joyce Meyer or the Bishop will light up my weekend.” She felt his heart thumping when she smoothened down the crease near his shirt’s buttons. “I should have ironed this for you.”
He sighed, then pouted. “I’m worried about your relationship with your cousin.”
“There is nothing to worry about.” In the past, she wouldn’t have been this understanding. She would have accused him of acting insecure. If she didn’t walk away. “She is my cousin, you are my husband.”
“She will keep pushing until you tell her what I did. What I mistakenly did.”
Tony checked his watch again and then sent his mother a message.
Hiya mother, I’m here. Come out if you wanna get a lift home. I have to get ready for my night with Kenny.
Tony had been waiting for a few minutes, parked at the end of the car park. He didn’t have to be at Kenny’s house until much later. But the church service would finish soon and he didn’t want to be seen by her uncle or Jackie.
He didn’t want a reminder of the dreadful lull in Coventry. Feeling like he had gotten away from it all and he could start again. Finding out from his mother’s messages that Jackie did tell the truth. He was relieved to have his mother’s foster parent’s house to himself.
The kind couple were in Florida, on holiday. Although they called every day and his mother too, when she found out where he was, the person he wanted to speak to was the one that made him want to throw his coffee cup across the room.
Thinking about her made him turn to beer. He also realised he couldn’t sleep without turning on his phone and reading the notes she emailed him in the beginning. The ones where she begged that he should guard his heart with steel armour. That she liked him. But her heart was too hostile to love.
John came out of the church. He appeared to be hurrying off and when he spotted him in the car, Tony hoped the greeting and expected polite exchange would be brief.
“Tone-Tony, how you dey?”
“Good man, hey.”
“Great to be back.” He climbed out of the car to be courteous. Having never known how to be friendly with the young pastor. It wasn’t as if he could bump fists with him the way he would friends at the gym. Or his football mates. “How is the wife?”
“We thank God. How are you? I know life don knack you something. If you want to hang out, you know where I dey. You know we are good like that. You can drink your beer, I can enjoy my coke.”
“I’m good, mate. I’m. I have my pals, mum and my babe.”
“I’m talking about your mum.” John flashed his gleaming teeth. They were like his suit, hair and shoes. Flawless.
“What about my mum?”
“Kenny told my wife what happened to your mum. Everything that went down. My wife has been so worried. Bro, don’t worry, we are here for you.”