I’m holding my phone. Restless, I visit Facebook for the fifth time, going through old posts. When I get tired, I stop and pull my laptop close and add a few words to a blog post I’ve been working on for days. I stop after a paragraph and visit my phone again, my eyes darting to the door that leads to the fast food joint I’m chilling in.
She is late. Why is she late? Did she change her mind? Is she held in traffic?
A couple of uni girls in a corner who before now were taking selfies, are presently throwing glances my way.
It’s my reading glasses. I always get female attention when I have them on. Honey says I’m cuter and more approachable with them but who cares about these things? It’s not like one leaves the house with plans to seduce people’s daughters. Actually, I don’t even wear the darn things anywhere, except on the rare occasion that I need to work outside the office. And that is what happens today.
Earlier, I left the hospital when Amata told me over the phone that she would honor my lunch date invitation. Knowing I would be here before her, I pick my laptop to finish up unfinished business on my blog. But restlessness has not let me do anything.
And this is no date, by the way. Amata and I are not getting into anything. Zanzibar was a stupid mistake, one that would not let me have a good night’s rest. I barely slept a wink last night. To ward off any suspicions, I told Honey I had a backlog of things I needed to do on my blog. I turned down her offer for sex. Imagine! Just because I was restless.
And I still am.
The entrance doors push open and Amata walks in. I breathed out the first batch of relieving breaths.
Amata is frowning as she comes to me. She is with my her baby. Being the gentleman I am, I stand and pull out her chair but she declines and points to one of them tables that have longer leather chairs facing them. The one she points to is beside a window. We walk there and sit. She places her baby beside her.
“Is this meeting necessary?” she questions in annoyance.
I smile. Her frown gets uglier. “You look finer when you smile,” I say.
“Really? This is why I’m here? So that you will start looking for ways to get back into my pants?”
“Jide, that night was awesome. Your dick was out of this world. It really was, but I have long forgotten you. Please, move on.”
As much as it’s a relief to hear her say she has moved on, I feel somewhat offended. Women do not forget me like that. Yes, I’m saying this with all self-importance. I know what I do to them, and Amata is just being petty for reasons best known to her.
“I’ve moved on,” I tell her. “My marriage is awesome. My wife is the best thing that ever happened to me….”
“Then why are we here?”
I look at her baby.
“Seriously, when my sister said you called and asked for my number, I was like what is wrong with this guy? Can’t he understand that I don’t want him anymore?”
“Madam, calm down. Meanwhile, your baby is tired of sitting that way.”
She lifts the little angel and places her on her laps.
“Your baby is mine,” I say to her without flinching.
“You can’t be serious!”
“Jide, I was already pregnant when we had sex. She was born in July. Satisfied?”
“You were pregnant and cheated on your guy with me?”
“Are we going down that road?”
“So why am I here, Jide? I am asking for the last time.”
“I want to do a DNA test to rule out the possibility that she is not my baby.”
Amata’s jaw plunges down.
“What’s her name, though?”
“Are you kidding me?!”
“A DNA test?!”
“Lower your voice.”
“Jideofor, what is wrong with you? She is not yours.”
“I don’t believe that. She looks like my daughter. Look.”
I get out my phone and show her a photo in which I have put her baby and Jiney side by side.
“See their smiles and their eyes? Look at my eyes. See that?”
Amata is too shocked to speak. She is glaring at me like she wants to bang my head to the table.
“I’m really sorry about all of this,” I tell her. “I don’t mean to spoil things for you but know that I’ve been restless since yesterday and it’s going to get worse until I am sure that she is not mine.”
Amata jumps to her feet. “You’re out of your mind, Jideofor. Don’t ever call me again! I mean it! If you do, I’ll tell your wife everything. Her name is Honey, right?”
I widen my eyes.
“You’re not the only one who can be creepy, so stay away from me. I’m warning you.”
She begins out and I stop her dead with my words.
“My wife knows already.”
“She knows about us. Does your husband know?”
“Is that a threat? You’re going to tell him?”
“That’s not a threat. Here’s the threat, Amata: I’m willing to take this far, just to clear my conscience.”
“What does that mean?”
“I will go as far as getting permission from the court to have this DNA done. I don’t care how long it takes. So, I’ll advise you to work with me here, let us do it quietly and quickly.”
I watch her loose her inflexibility in a silent sigh. “She’s not yours, Jide.”
“You’re sure of that, Amata. But I am not. Give me the chance to have my own peace of mind. Please.”
She ponders on her options for some seconds before saying, “How fast can we do the test?”
I breathe out in relief a second time.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
“My name is Zuwaira Suleiman.”
Wura feels an instant painful knot in her tummy. The woman before her can’t possibly be Mahmud’s wife. It has to be a sick joke going terribly wrong by each second. A bitter taste comes to her mouth as anger and sadness fill her in one blow.
“Tokunboh has spoken so much about you and it’s a privilege to finally meet you…”
Zuwaira stops abruptly as her eyes fix to the front door. Wura follows her stare and finds Mahmud, or rather, a gaunt version of him standing by the door. He has an irate expression on his face and it is directed at Zuwaira.
“Hi Wura,” he greets, refusing to take his eyes off Zuwaira.
“Tokunboh, please, what’s going on here? Who is she?”
“Tell her who you are,” Mahmud says to Zuwaira.
“No, I’d rather tell her what you’ve been up to.”
“What’s going on?” Wura repeats.
“What I’ve been up to is nobody’s business Zuwaira,” Mahmud states and looks at Wura. “Mami, let’s go.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Exactly. She stays. And I’ll tell her everything.”
“Are you out of your mind?!” Mahmud loses his cool. His next words are uttered in Hausa. Zuwaira yells back and all Wura can do is sit and watch. The yelling goes on for some time until Mahmud marches towards Wura and snatches her hand. She yanks it back.
“I’m not going anywhere, Tokunboh! I want to know what is going on here, and if you won’t tell me, let her do it!”
Mahmud storms out, slamming the front door. Wura looks at Zuwaira.
“Start talking, aunty. Who are you to him? Are you his wife?”
“Wife?” Zuwaira puts out a look of confusion that lasts a couple of seconds before it transforms into a smile. “Oh, no, no, no. I’m not his wife. I am his cousin.”
Brakes are put on Wura’s supposition. “His cousin?”
“Yes. Our late fathers were brothers.”
“Oh!” Wura puts a hand to her mouth. “You are Zuwaira! I remember you now. We once spoke on the phone. You called on his birthday.”
Zuwaira smiles again. “Yes.”
Relief comes to Wura like a cool shower on a hot day.
“I’m so sorry. I thought…”
“It’s fine. I know you and Tokunboh broke up… And all that stuff I was saying about the condoms was directed at my husband. I thought he was the one that walked in when you came.”
“Buba and I just got married. We’re not ready to have kids but we’ve been careless with family planning.”
“About Mahmud…” Zuwaira’s face becomes serious. “It’s been really hard on him. And that’s why I want us to talk.”
“You won’t like what you’re about to hear. He doesn’t want me to tell you this.”
“My husband is going to scold me for this but I just have to let it out.” Zuwaira pulls out from her seat and rests on its edge.
“Buba and I just moved in from Sokoto. He got a job here, so I had to come with him. I’m also looking for a job myself. When we came to Lagos, it was hard finding a house, so Tokunboh offered us the spare room here and told us to stay for as long as we wanted. A few days later, he called Buba and told him he had actually just renewed the rent.”
“Yeah, it had expired. He was planning to renew it before we broke up.”
“Okay, so he said we could pay him like half of what he paid and take the house. Buba was worried and almost turned down the offer but Tokunboh insisted. I was happy myself. The rent is affordable and we were getting it at half the amount. I begged Buba to take the offer. After much forming, he agreed. We paid and got all our things in.
“A few days later, Tokunboh came to tell us that he wanted to take the furniture and electronics to his new place. We said no problem. But when Buba offered to help so that he could follow him to his house and know the place, he refused. By evening, some guy came and cleared everything.
“Tokunboh then told us to give him some time to move out, that his new place was not yet ready. We didn’t mind. If anything, we were grateful for all he had done to help. But two weeks later, he was still here. I watched as he withdrew from Buba whom he used to gist a lot with. He would enter his room and lock himself in, refusing to eat anything I give him, staying away from us. We became worried, especially when I saw that he was taking medication. I didn’t know what it was for. The container was unlabeled.”
Wura makes no comment about the drugs. She is not sure she can trust Zuwaira enough to tell her that Mahmud suffers from ADHD and sometimes has to medicate himself for his own good. But Wura is more worried about the fact that he is back to taking the drugs he had stopped taking for a long time.
“Anyway, we didn’t question him. We became observant and soon, Buba started to suspect that he was gambling. I then told him that Mahmud once fell into a serious gambling problem in the past when his wife died. The family even had to take him to rehab.”
“That’s new. He never told me.”
“Well…” Zuwaira shows an apologetic expression.
“It’s fine. Go on.”
“Just last week, when I went for a job interview I saw Tokunboh’s car with some chick in town. When I asked him about it, he said he sold it to her. Me, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I told him I knew he was gambling and begged him to stop. Tokunboh went mad. Raving angry. I was even scared that he’d hit me. But he didn’t. He told me not to butt into his life and that he was leaving. So, he packed his things and left.”
Zuwaira ends in a depressing note that reflects Wura’s current mood.
“I’ve been trying to find a way to get your number to call you… It’s God that brought you here. Please, whatever he did to you, Wura, I beg you to forgive him. Take him back. He’s broken. I feel so sad seeing him that way. He’s an elder brother to me. Please, just let everything go and forgive him.”
Wura smiles in irony.
“Buba doubts that he even has a place to stay. He suspects that he sleeps in the hospital. But I refuse to believe that Tokunboh would lie to me like that. He’s not the type.”
“Please, forgive him.”
“I’ll talk to him. Thank you so much, Zuwaira. This means a lot.”
“I’m happy you came. Will you stay and eat?”
“No dear. I have to rush.”
“Okay. By the way, Bilal is cuteness overload.”
Wura gives a proud laugh. “Thank you.”
“His energy is…wow! You dey try.”
“You don’t want to know the half of it.”
“My love to him sha.”
“Okay, Zuwaira.” Wura stands up. “Thank you. And please, greet your husband for me.”
Zuwaira walks her to the door where she apologizes for not going further because she is not properly covered.
Wura strolls to where her car is parked and finds Mahmud waiting beside it. Their eyes lock for some seconds before Mahmud speaks.
“Whatever she told you…”
Wura raises her hand, stopping him. “You need to eat. You need a hot bath and a lot of sleep.”
She opens the passenger door for him.
“Please, get into the car.”
Mahmud does as he is told. Wura shuts the door and walks over to the driver’s side.
The trip to Wura’s house is silent. Neither of them makes an attempt to spark up conversation. But Wura would stare at him from time to time.
When they arrive at her house, Bilal runs out to greet her, but when he spots his father, he abandons her and leaps into Mahmud’s arms.
Wura runs a bath for Mahmud and afterwards, makes dinner. They eat together as a family, Mahmud feeding Bilal. After dinner, Wura clears the dishes while Mahmud spends quality time with Bilal. Wura joins them later and together they put Bilal to sleep. When they retire to her bedroom, they sit and talk. Mahmud tells her how the death of his parents messed him up, especially when he found out that he had been left out of his father’s will. His eldest brother, who is also the family lawyer, had explained that the decision to exclude him was made two years ago when Mahmud told the family he was getting married to Wura and not the girl formerly betrothed for him.
“But Baba gave us his consent,” Wura mentioned, shedding silent tears.
“He did but never got the chance to amend the will before he died because he was very sick. So imagine me going for a family meeting and everyone is told they are left with this and that and then when it comes to my turn, there is total silence. Imagine the humiliation and feeling of being unloved.”
“But Uncle Habib sef. He could have amended it since he’s the first son nau,” says Wura, referring to Mahmud’s elder brother. “You’re the lastborn. In Yorubaland, that means a lot. He could have added you to the will before calling everyone to read it out. That’s not fair.”
“Habib is not to blame here, Woo. Nobody is. It’s just what it is.” Mahmud shrugs. “I always felt like the black sheep. I was too liberal, too stubborn, too opinionated. My brothers and Asma were straight. Devout Muslims. I was a disgrace.”
“Don’t say that, Mahmud.”
“I was. And I still feel that way.”
“Not with me…”
He looks at her, smirks. “Are you sure?”
The meaning in his words sinks in and she comes to the sudden realization that she had been all he had these past two years. She had chosen everything else over him. When he needed her most, she had failed him, just as his family did.
“I’m very sure, Mymood.” She takes his hand.
“Gambling gives me control. There’s a rush. It makes me feel alive. I don’t do anything with the money. I just throw it back into some new bet and that’s how everything goes. I lost all of it.”
“Where have you been staying?”
“We have a family house here. My siblings, out of the goodness of their hearts, gifted it to me. I’m on my way to selling it too if you don’t stop me.”
He looks at her. “I’ve been taking my drugs to slow me down but nothing has worked. I think I need help.”
“You do. You need a wife.”
“Mahmud, you need me. You need me to watch you every day, to help you out of this. I know what it feels like to be unloved, to feel like you’re alone and nobody wants you. I know. And that is why we have to get married…”
“You’re marrying me out of pity?”
“I’m marrying you because I love you. And my love wants to heal you. It wants to undo all the rejection you feel. It wants to love you the way you deserve to be loved.”
“That would make a nice song.”
Wura grins. She leans over and strokes his beard before pushing her lips through his.
“I almost sold your ring.”
She moves back. “Tell me you didn’t.”
Mahmud shoves his left hand into his pocket and takes out her engagement ring. He hands it to her. First, she kisses it and then slides it over her finger.
“Mahmud Suleiman?” she calls.
He raises an eyebrow that brings out a smile from her. She always finds him sexy whenever he is in a vulnerable state, which hardly ever happens. He is usually wired. This side of him is definitely brought on by medication but it doesn’t make him any less appealing to her.
“Will you marry me?” she asks.
“Am I allowed to think about it?”
“Okay… Yes, I’ll marry you.”
She dives for his lips again, pushing him down to the bed where they cuddle and stay up for most of the night, talking. Mahmud eventually falls asleep around 5am. When Wura is sure he won’t stir, she dresses up and leaves the house.
Some fifteen minutes later, she is standing outside Ralph’s door, thumbing the doorbell.
Ralph comes to the door, wearing nothing but a towel around his waist. He grimaces at Wura.
“Adegbite, it better be that the trumpet has sounded and we both missed rapture and you’re here to hide away from the 666 guys.”
“Huh?” Wura squeezes her face.
“It’s past five actually.”
Ralph yawns. He moves away from the entrance to let her in.
“I want to get married today,” she utters as she walks into the darkness of his home.
He turns the lights on. She can hear his generator roaring somewhere nearby.
“Did you hear me? I said I want to get married today.”
“Okay nau. Go and marry, let me go back to sleep.”
“I’m serious, Pastor Ralph. I want to get married today and you’re going to do the honor of joining me and Mahmud.”
Ralph leaves her standing and crashes into a couch in his sitting room. Wura goes after him.
“You have a license to wed people, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but I don’t use it anyhow.”
“Okay. Hear me out, first.”
Wura sits and gives him a lite version of the situation with Mahmud.
“But I hope you know that marriage changes nothing,” Ralph states. “He’s still a Muslim and he won’t stop gambling overnight.”
“He’s still the man I love and won’t stop being the father of my son overnight.”
Ralph turns on his side and looks at her. “You’re sure about this?”
“Why me? Why didn’t you go to the registry or just pick someone else?”
“Because you need to redeem yourself, Ralph.”
It is the first time she is calling him without adding the ‘pastor’ honorific. It is accompanied by an intent look into his eyes. He gazes away.
“You’re suddenly acting like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Okay. Let me remind you. In Dallas, after our first meeting with Kirk Franklin, you were in an overexcited mood and made an embarrassing attempt to kiss me. You apologized almost immediately and stated that you had zero feelings for me. I overlooked it and neither of us has brought the incident up since. But I’m doing it now to let you know that you owe me one.”
“I thought you said you had forgiven me for that poor attempt of a kiss.”
“Forgiven, not forgotten. But it all depends on you. This is your chance to show me that you truly feel nothing for me and that day was a mistake.”
“It was, and again, I’m sorry.”
She stands up.
“So are you doing it or not?”
He doesn’t reply but accompanies her to the door. “Well, your family and Mahmud’s have already given consent and you guys want this…”
“More than anything.”
“I think that’s all that’s important.”
“If officiating your wedding will make you happy, Woo, then I’m here for you, baby girl.”
Wura hurries off to her car. Her next destination is the Ditorusins, where she spends a few minutes. By the time she returns home, it’s daylight. Mahmud is awake, watching a video on YouTube of a medical procedure being carried out on a woman’s uterus. Wura sits beside him and takes his phone off his hands. She then tells him of her plans to get married immediately. It is met with laughter.
“I’m not joking.”
“You’re not.” He stops laughing and grasps her waist, tugging her over to sit on his laps. She hesitates.
“So are you interested in getting married today?”
“As long as I get laid immediately after.”
She smacks him and pushes him to the bed, straddling him.
“I would love to walk down the aisle with you this moment, Woo, but you had grand plans for the wedding. You’re a wedding planner. You deserve the best.”
“I deserve a happy marriage, Mahmud. I’ve been involved with the planning of so many weddings that I have seen a lot of emptiness and showoff. The glitz doesn’t impress me anymore. All I want is you.”
He elevates his body and seeks her lips for a kiss. But she presses her palms on his chest to push him down.
“Marry me and get the entire package tonight.”
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
My brother has never been one to keep secrets. Especially those that have to do with his love life. It is not just in his nature. He tells me everything, including one-night stands and passing crushes. He spills it all to me. And this why I don’t understand why he never told me he was seeing Peace.
“But I just told you,” he says to me as we wait in the departure lounge of the domestic wing of the Lagos International Airport.
“Wow. I could never have guessed something was going on. Peace was so…”
I was going to say secretive but the look in his eyes when he uttered the word showed that what they shared was more than just a casual relationship.
“I was crazy about her, Cee.” He rubs the stub on his right hand that once used to be his fore and middle fingers. In his fight against terrorism, he had lost both fingers and has since been taken off the warfront.
“How did you guys happen?”
“Remember we danced at Mary’s wedding?”
“Something sparked. We exchanged numbers and started chatting a lot. On her birthday, I stopped by with a bottle of champagne.”
“I remember that. I found that rather odd.”
“And then when I got injured and came to Lagos to stay, we worked on that chemistry.”
“How was it?”
He looks at me. “The best thing that ever happened to my life. Peace was an angel. There was so much love in her heart to give. I didn’t understand it at first. She just…”
He sighs, looks upwards and lets down his head with another sigh.
“She had a bucket list for this year. Ironically.” He straightens up. “When she showed it to me, I said to her, ‘Why wait until next year? Life is too short, you know?’”
Listening to Joey is hard. The sadness I’ve been able to do away with begins to come back.
“So I offered to help her strike off everything on that list. She wanted to ride a bike, shoot a gun, give a ridiculous amount of money to a random beggar on the streets, learn a martial art, fly in a helicopter, learn sign language, make love in public place, record a song she had been writing for years, spend an entire weekend in an orphanage, test-drive a Ferrari…”
“She did?” I ask.
“She always wanted to drive a Ferrari. Awww, Joey, you’re so sweet. What else did she want to do?”
“Visit India. I couldn’t give her that. And then she wanted a baby.”
“A baby? Wait… did you get her pregnant?”
“I have no idea.”
It’s a bittersweet feeling hearing all he just told me.
“She lived fully before she died, Celia. I’m happy I gave her that in a short time.”
I can’t speak. My head goes into imagination, creating pictures of what a happy couple they would have been.
“But why didn’t you guys tell us?”
“Peace was scared of you.”
“She didn’t think you’d approve.”
“Why? You guys are adults? I wouldn’t have had any issues…”
“Cee, you can be difficult sometimes. You always mean well but you’re tough.”
It hurts a little to hear him say that.
“Secondly, I think Peace was afraid that we weren’t going to last. She didn’t want me to be Reno all over again. So, she was waiting to see if I was for real.”
I rest my hand on his knee to comfort him. “I’m so sorry, Joey. I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
“I’ll survive.” He places his hand over mine.
A female voice on the PA system announces the final boarding call for a flight heading to Kaduna. It’s Joey’s flight. Normally, he’d be on the plane by now.
“You should go.”
He squeezes my hand before standing up.
“Thank Shady for being a good host, and remind him that I owe him a slap still.”
“Just let it go.” I laugh. “I’ve forgiven him.”
“If it wasn’t that he hasn’t done well for himself ehn…”
I sneer. He pinches my cheek.
“Give plenty of hugs to Darasimi for me.”
“And take care of the little one.”
We hug and then he turns away. I watch him leave, slinging his rucksack across his back, his buff body intimidating everyone around him. I remain in my spot until he disappears from sight.
“May God be with him,” an elderly woman who has been sitting beside us mutters. I look at her.
I head out of the airport. The air is crisp this morning. I let down the windows of the car and enjoy the gentle wind that flies past. Morning sickness has been a bitch for the past couple of months but I’m having better mornings these days. Earlier, I was able to prepare chicken stew and efo riro for Bobby without any trace of nausea. The other wives and I have been doing our best to care for him and Reno in any little way we can. From what I hear, he is pulling through faster. As for Reno, all I can say is that people grieve differently. He will get better eventually.
I arrive at Bobby’s home, which is within the Ikeja area. I park outside and carry the food basket I have come with to his doorstep. Just as I am about to knock on the door, it opens from within and my dearest Naomi steps out. She breaks in her movement when she sees me. I look at her and then at Bobby who is behind her, dressed in his boxers alone.
“Good morning,” I greet.
Naomi moves away from the door before she responds to my greeting. Bobby gives me an uncomfortable smile.
“Hi Celia,” he says. “Good morning.”
“I brought something for you.” I pass the basket to him. “Hope you like it.”
“Thank you. I’m definitely going to enjoy this. Very thoughtful of you. Thanks.”
In an awkward moment that ensues, he holds on to the basket and remains standing. I get the hint that I’m supposed to leave but I pretend not to understand it. I want him gone, so I can ask Naomi why she is leaving his house at this time of the morning. My insinuations could be wrong but my mind tells me this is more than a lawyer/client visit.
“I’ll take this to the kitchen.” Bobby finally gives in.
“You should.” He turns back in. “And em…please turn everything into your own containers so that I can go back with mine. I’ll be waiting! Thank you!”
He goes out of sight. I face Naomi and she decides it is the best time to wear her sunglasses.
“What is going on between you two?”
“Nothing. He’s my lawyer.”
“And you’re leaving his house this early?”
She stares at her watch. “It’s a few minutes to nine.”
“Nay, you are dressed in formal clothes that don’t look fresh. Your face is without makeup, and your hair is a mess.”
She pats her hand over short, bristly hairs.
“I’m guessing this was the outfit you wore to court yesterday. What is going on, Nay?”
She hesitates before she answers me. “I spent the night here.”
I pull back. “You what?”
She takes off her glasses. “I spent the night with Bobby. Do you have a problem with that?”
“Why? Last I checked, we were both adults and widowed.”
“Last I checked, he just lost his wife.”
“And I lost my husband. We’re two lonely, grieving people who need each other.”
“No. He is one lonely, grieving man who is about to be used and dumped by one lesbian who has a history of mental illness and a manslaughter charge on her head.”
“Wow.” Naomi displays a sad smile. “Celia, you’re a mean person.”
“So I now have mental illness? I lose my mind after murdering my husband in self-defense and I’m now a crazy person?”
Her words make me feel a little guilty.
“But you’re a lesbian,” I repeat.
“Bisexual. And it was just a phase. It could have happened to anyone in my shoes. I was constantly abused by my husband and a woman showed me love I had never felt before. I am not a lesbian, Cee.”
“I’m not judging you for being one, Naomi. I am simply worried about my friend. He just lost his wife. He doesn’t need a casual sex partner right now.”
“I am not a casual sex partner. We are friends and we’re helping each other heal…”
“Through sex? How exactly does that work?”
“Ask Marvin Gaye. He sang about it.”
She begins to walk away. I stop her.
“Don’t use him, Nay.”
“How are you sure that I’m not the one being used? That Bobby will not dump me after he uses me to get stronger?”
I have no answer for her.
“Of course, you didn’t think about me, and all I’ve been through this whole time. Somehow, you believe stabbing my husband multiple times with a butter knife and watching him beg for his life was a walk in the park for me. You believe this present moment in my life with court appearances, my in-laws hounding me and the media calling me a coldblooded murderer is heaven on earth.”
She gulps in air and tears suddenly fill her eyes.
“Bobby defends me in court, and outside it, he makes me forget I’m going through hell. I dread the day when the case will be over and he’ll have no use of me. But until then, can I be allowed to enjoy him while we last?”
I recall Joey’s words about how difficult I can be and remorse fills me.
“Of course, Nay. I’m sorry.”
She wears her sunglasses again. “I’ll come see you later.”
I get a peck on my cheek and she is gone. I saunter back to Bobby’s house. When I walk in, I see him seated on a glass stool, waiting for me with my basket. The house is dark, even in daylight – a reflection of his anguish. Kate’s essence is still so strong that I feel like she would make a sudden appearance from the shadows. I don’t know how Bobby copes.
“I’ve not forgotten Kate,” he tells me, “just in case you think I have.”
He stops me with a raised hand. “Naomi is not using me and I’m not using her either. Last night just happened. And it felt good. That’s all I can tell you.”
“Bobby, you don’t owe me any explanation. I totally understand.”
“You have your husband, Cee. You hear Dara crying at night… You’re never alone. So, no, you can’t possibly understand what I’m going through.”
“So while I appreciate your concern and your caring heart, I’ll ask that you don’t do or say anything to Naomi that would hurt whatever it is I have with her.”
“Of course, Bobby.” I nod. He stands.
“Thank you for the soup and stew.”
He escorts me all the way to my car and hugs me. I have actually missed his teddy bear hugs. He has lost so much weight in a short period of time.
He shuts my door and I steer my car away from his house.
As much as I feel bad for the way I handled what I just witnessed, I am sticking with my guts. And it tells me that things may not go smoothly for them.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
One of the primary things the event planners in Novocaine Knights are notable for is their ability to organize events on short notice. They are also known to fix the screw-ups of other planners and work under pressure. Being a perceptive boss, Genesis had taken her time to study the lapses of her competitors and turned them into selling points in her own business. Every planner trained under her is skilled with the ability to work wonders within the shortest time given.
This is why it comes as an easy task for the crew when she makes a phone call to each of them with instructions to churn out a modest, yet fabulous wedding for their boss, Wura. They are given only nine hours on the clock to work.
While they get busy, Genesis pays Lexus a visit. It is an awkward moment when Lexus comes to the door and both women stare at each other without speaking. Genesis is eventually invited into the apartment and offered a seat.
“Can we go somewhere instead, so we can talk?” Genesis suggests.
Dressed in nothing but shorts and an oversize tee, Lexus dons on a denim jacket, straps on gladiator sandals and leads Genesis to a small café located on the first floor of her art center.
Genesis orders an espresso while Lexus goes for a piece of chocolate cake and water melon juice.
“I like the name of this your art center. Nimiva. A combo of your sister and Eva’s names?”
Lexus nods. Genesis senses she is still upset with her.
“Nice. I love the place. It’s really cool.”
“So… my coming here is about your wedding…”
“Our wedding, you mean?” Lexus says sarcastically.
“Your wedding. First, I want to say I’m sorry for going against your wishes.”
“You already said that a hundred times.”
“It doesn’t change the fact that I am.” Genesis places both of her palms on the sides of her espresso cup as if trying to warm herself up. She is yet to taste it. Lexus, however, is halfway into her cake.
“Lex, I love you too much to lose you over this. I really want to give you the best, and not just because it’s good for business. I’m doing it for you.”
“Then, let me have my wedding the way I want it.”
“You will. I’m throwing in the towel. Wedding and reception will go your way.”
Lexus gives her a suspicious stare. “What’s the caveat?”
“There’s no caveat.”
Lexus’ eyes narrow in disbelief. “You’re lying.”
“I am not. The day’s all yours. It was stupid of me to try to mess it up.”
Lexus leans back and throws a piece of cake into her mouth. Chewing, she keeps a pointed stare at Genesis who finally takes a sip of her coffee.
“I’m not sure if I should believe you. I have this picture in my head that I’ll come for the reception and everything you planned in that ugly ass black book will be waiting for me.”
Genesis laughs, putting her coffee down. “You have no reason to fear, Tonbra. I’ve given my word.”
“Okay o. If you say so.”
Genesis switches to another topic. “I saw a huge painting of Eva at the reception. You did it?”
“Didn’t know you do oil paintings? And gosh! It’s beautiful! It almost made me like Eva, posthumous.”
“I don’t even like Eva posthumous.”
“She was such a bitch,” Lexus adds.
“Would you do a painting of your dad for his birthday?”
“A painting? Yeah. Sure.”
“I’ll pay a fortune for it.”
“I also want to pick a couple of pieces from the gallery for the house. There’s one that has a mother and child on the streets, and another that looks like a cluster of houses separated by a street but from far, looks like a tree.”
“Those are expensive pieces, Gen. I’m even tempted not to sell the one with the mother and child. I should auction it.”
“Please, don’t. I want it.”
Lexus gives a half-smile. “Dad is the art collector. When did you join the league?”
“I’m evolving.” Genesis goes for her phone which begins to ring. “Let me take this.”
Lexus finishes up what is left of her first meal for the day as Genesis gives instructions to one of her employees concerning Wura’s wedding. She returns to Lexus who asks what the dress code for the wedding is.
“She told you she’s getting married?”
“I was just about to tell you.”
“She called me earlier. She’s so excited. I’m double-excited for her.”
“Abi?” Genesis’ mouth stretches in a proud smile. “When she came to tell me, I wanted to suggest that she and Mahmud wait a couple weeks, get their families involved…”
“And then I recalled all they’ve been through and looking at the conviction and peace in her eyes over her decision just put me in tears. They truly deserve all the happiness in the world.”
“They do. So, what’s the dress code?”
“Formal-casual. Deep blue and magenta.”
“And which one is magenta again? Is it not pink?”
“A sort of dark kind of pink.”
“Can I just wear jeans and baby pink?”
“Whatever rocks your boat…”Genesis’ phone rings again. “Babe, I have to run. Crazy day ahead.”
Genesis rises up. “See you later.”
She starts to leave but Lexus grasps her hand.
“What if we make it a two-day wedding affair?”
“Okay? Explain, please.”
“I get my day and you get yours.”
Genesis smiles secretly.
“Please, throw more light on that.”
Lexus turns in her seat to face her. “The wedding is on Val’s day and Val’s day is on a Tuesday. I get to do my simple reception. But you can then have your glamorous wedding party four days later…”
Genesis gives another discreet smile.
“Mine would have no media, no noise. But yours…go ahead and break all your legs.”
Genesis lowers and kisses Lexus on the cheek. “I love you, baby. See ya!”
Putting a merry spring in her movement, Genesis departs from the café. The rest of her day is spent giving Wura what she calls the princess makeover which includes spa and beauty treatment. By 4pm, just an hour to the wedding, Wura is ready to walk down the aisle but is suddenly beset by restless nerves. Thrice, she cancels the wedding. Thrice, Genesis reminds her why she is about to spend the rest of her life with the man she can’t do without.
“Just think of this…no more religion to tear you guys apart and you can have all the sex in the world without feeling guilty.”
In the end, Wura is flanked by Genesis and Lexus who hold her supportively and lead her into a deluxe car that journeys to a private dock where Mahmud is waiting. He is not alone. Kasiobi, Seyi, Hauwa and a few Novocaine Knights staff are also present.
Wura’s palms become sweaty as she takes a slow walk to Mahmud who is standing with Pastor Ralph beneath a charmingly-decorated gazebo. Around the dock are balloons, ribbons and flowers in matching colors that mark the theme of the occasion.
When Wura approaches Mahmud, he stretches his hand to her and she takes it.
“You’re too beautiful for words,” he whispers. “I can’t wait to eat you out tonight.”
They both snicker. Pastor Ralph calls their attention.
“Can we get this ball rolling?”
Wura takes in a full gulp of air and lets it out with a calm smile, eyes caressing Mahmud’s. The dusky sun gives a deific ambience to the setting. Beneath them, a serene body of water gently sways as sounds of the buzz of Lagos resonate in the distance.
Pastor Ralph begins by reading the opening charge, but his words are lost on the lovebirds who continue to hold each other’s eyes like the world around them doesn’t exist. They return to earth only when it is time to say their vows to each other.
“Mahmud, you go first,” Pastor Ralph urges.
Mahmud speaks to Wura. His words, brief but soulful, bring tears to her eyes.
“Wuraola?” Pastor Ralph turns to her.
Looking lost, she explains that she didn’t get the time to write down her own vows. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Mahmud says.
“But can I sing it instead?”
And like one who is always waiting with a song on her lips, Wura through Meghan Trainor’s words, tells Mahmud how she wants to kiss him longer, make the most of the minutes, love with no regrets, take her time to say what she wants, use what she has before it’s all gone, hold him like she’s saying goodbye and love him like she’s going to lose him.
When she is through, there is hardly a single dry eye around them.
“With the power conferred on me by the Lagos state government and God Almighty, I pronounce you husband and wife,” Pastor Ralph declares. “Mahmud, you may now kiss your bride.”
In a breathless, unmatched moment where white and magenta-daubed doves are released into the air, Mahmud takes Wura’s waist and brings her to him, kissing her with untamed pleasure.
In the blink of an eye
Just a whisper of smoke
You could lose everything
The truth is you never know
So I’ll kiss you longer baby
Any chance that I get
I’ll make the most of the minutes and love with no regrets
Let’s take our time
To say what we want
Use what we got
Before it’s all gone
‘Cause no, we’re not promised tomorrow
So I’m gonna love you
Like I’m gonna lose you
I’m gonna hold you
Like I’m saying goodbye
Wherever we’re standing
I won’t take you for granted ‘cause we’ll never know when
When we’ll run out of time
So I’m gonna love you like I’m gonna lose you…