It felt weird when he woke to find a beautiful face that was not Christie’s. For a second he forgot where he was, but when soft, wet lips touched his cheek, he was reminded of everything. The consumed bottles of champagne, blithe banter, intemperate laughter, brazen covetousness, hungry kisses, fiery touches, loud moans, primal movements on soft, cottony sheets in a room glowing dimly with scented candles…it all came to him in a rush. The guilt was there too, hanging over him like a heavy cloud. But that seemed like it was all it could do. It had been there from the moment Comfort left her position and took his lips and he did nothing to stop her.
“You can stay in all day.” The wet lips left his cheek and caressed his ear as warm fingers traveled down his tummy.
“I have to go to work.”
“Work can wait.”
A low buzz from the nightstand drew his attention to his phone. He reached for it. The number flashing on his screen was familiar. There was a moment’s unwillingness to take the call, but he did as the wet lips began to kiss their way down his body.
“Is this a good time to talk?” the voice on the line asked.
“It’s never a good time to talk to you, Raji, but I’m listening.”
“Look, man… I don’t know what you think you’re doing with Comfort, but you need to stay away from her and face your marriage.”
“You’re one to talk.”
“Yeah, I screwed up big time, but it doesn’t stop me from protecting what’s mine.”
“She’s not yours.”
“She’s the mother of my son, and anything that affects her, affects Raheem and affects me.”
“Welcome to my world, bastard.”
“Something is going on with you. I understand it, but don’t take it out on Comfort. Face me like a man.”
“Leave her alone. Don’t get her hopes up. Don’t screw with her head…”
“You think I’m stupid, Raji? You don’t give a shit about Comfort. This is about Christie.”
“It is not about her, but think what it’ll do to her when she finds out.”
“You want to go tell her? Maybe fuck her too while you’re doing it?”
“Folarin, I won’t have this conversation with you, man. Just fix your shit and leave Comfort alone. And please, get help. You’re messed up.”
“Get off my line abeg.”
Folarin tossed his phone on the bed, drew his companion into his arms and turned her around to pin her beneath him. He reached for a condom on the nightstand. There was a pause before he wore it, a voice asking if he wanted to do this again, wondering if it was a good time to stop and end his foolishness. But he shut his mind as he had done the night before and took the juiciness offered to him.
“Can I kiss you?”
Folarin responded to Comfort’s request in silent laughter. He had expected this. Wine, chocolate, and brainstorming over how to end an erotic novel had driven them both into this moment.
“You’re laughing,” she said. “You think it’s funny? Folarin, you’ve been seducing me since you came in here.”
“I was not the nude one earlier.”
“But you’ve been the one staring directly into my eyes with that hazy look. How does your wife not rape you? And how have you stayed faithful to her all these years?”
“I just want to kiss you, to kill my curiosity.”
“Or let your curiosity kill you?”
She reached towards him suddenly and placed her lips on his. When he didn’t resist, she parted his lips.
“Satisfied that curiosity?” he asked.
And then she kissed him deeper, while he sat there in guilt, responding to her, yet, wondering if that was how Christie had felt when she first kissed Raji. Did her conscience burn as his did? What did she tell herself to keep from sinking under the weight of her own guilt?
“This means nothing,” he said to Comfort. “I’m not going down Raji’s path.”
“I don’t want to be your sidechick, Fola,” she answered, holding his face and looking into his detached eyes. “You’re a broken man and I understand why you’re doing this. Let me be your cushion as you hit rock bottom.”
He gave no protest when she kissed the muscular planes of his chest and scratched her nails over the tattooed hardness of his arms. She then ran her lips all the way down to his blatantly-aggressive bulge, and there, she stopped to admire him, moaning as it throbbed out of his briefs.
“Damn, Folarin. Your dick is gorgeous. If it was all mine, I’ll never look outside…”
Her last word had been muffled because she had taken him and stuffed her mouth before she finished speaking.
He felt immense pleasure when her mouth covered his hardness. It left him groaning and releasing deep sighs. She was excellent with her mouth and tongue skills. It wasn’t news to him. Raji had once let out details to him and Izu, lamenting how he missed Comfort’s oral ministrations. Izu had made no attempt at hiding his lust, but Folarin had shaken his head at them both and asked Raji to repent. Yet, here he was, experiencing the ecstasy her mouth gave.
He didn’t feel like a hypocrite. The guilt stung less with each bop of her head. Yet he knew he wasn’t going to have enough balls to go through with his plans.
“Commie,” he called weakly after a while. She didn’t respond. “Comfort.”
She kept on. He moved backwards a little. “Stop.”
Her head emerged from between his legs. “Why?” she asked, wiping her mouth.
“I can’t, and you know why.”
She rose up and in one sudden movement, had her dress to the floor. Folarin swallowed at the sight of her nudity. She went back to the couch on which he sat, stretched herself on the available space and opened her legs. He dove after her. She put her legs around him to lock him in, but he kept a distance between them.
He kissed her and then said, “I really want to do this, Commie. You have no idea how much.”
“Then why are you holding back, handsome?” she asked, digging her fingers into his mouth and gasping as she did so.
“It’s complicated. For one, I’m your boss. We’re friends…”
“You’re also the mother of the boy whose father slept with my wife. It’s too thorny.”
“But Raji slept with Christie, Fola. Doesn’t that get you angry enough to want to do something about it?
“I just can’t, Commie. I’m sorry.”
Comfort reached down and seized his penis. “You’re already there,” she whispered, arching upwards to meet him. “Just do it.”
“Comfort, I really want to. I came here to be with you this evening just to do it, but I can’t. And my hard-on means nothing.”
“Thanks for killing the mood.”
Comfort gave up with a sigh. “Then just go home and be with her.”
He straightened up, tugging his jeans over his waist. Just then, someone knocked on the door. Comfort’s phone began to ring at the same time. She looked at it.
“It’s Raji. He’s here to sign some forms,” she revealed, leaving the couch languidly. Folarin picked his phone and laptop and headed to the door.
“Please, let him in,” Comfort murmured.
Folarin stopped. He glanced at her. “No hard feelings?”
She shook her head. “Just a throbbing clit. Go home, Folarin.”
Folarin unlocked the door and opened it. Raji, leaning by the entrance, came to a straight posture upon seeing him. He stared down at his unbuttoned shirt.
“Hey,” he greeted with a face displaying curiosity.
Folarin grunted in response as he walked past him to his car. When he sat in, he breathed out. He was both relieved and mad at himself for passing up on Comfort’s offer. He was messed up. It was a painful recognition of his state of mind. He had journeyed far from the man he used to be and he didn’t know how to get himself back. Two days ago, after begging him not to cheat on Christie, Khanyi had told him he was suffering from PISD.
“Post Infidelity Stress Disorder.”
He had laughed loudly. “Bullshit, Khanyisile. How do you come up with these things?”
“I didn’t. And it’s a thing. A theory.”
“I want you to get help, Folarin.”
He had smiled, eyes darting around her cozy office which once was the living room in her former apartment. She had turned it into a snug space for her private practice. He wasn’t seated on a couch or some comfy chair as her clients loved to do. He was standing by the window; looking out at times, staring at her now and then. He hardly ever sat when he was with her. He liked to walk about or stare out that particular window. She had told him his behavior was a reflection of the disquiet within him.
“When you have PISD, which is almost like PTSD, you re-experience the trauma of your wife’s infidelity repeatedly and also have recurring images of her being with someone else. Does this happen to you?”
“No,” he lied.
“And then you have the stage where you avoid her and become emotionally numb. Feelings of anger, dejection, hollowness… You lose pleasure for the things you used to love doing so much. You withdraw from people that mean so much to you. Tell me, have you gone to see Vanessa since she went to stay with your sister?”
“No. And that’s because I’ve been busy.”
“Your mom? Tamilore? Christie herself?”
“Khanyi, I’m not suffering from PISD whatever.”
Khanyi left her seat. She strolled to her desk and from a collection of complimentary cards on a mini cardholder, she pulled out a card.
“Doctor West.” She thrust out the card to him. “Talk to him. He’s good. And he’s also a pastor, in case you need spiritual guidance.”
“Thank you, but I don’t need shit.”
“Off the record,” Khanyi said, pushing the card into his pocket, “speaking as a friend, I worry about you. It breaks my heart that you’re not the man you used to be.”
“Who is speaking to me right now? Khanyi the friend or Khanyi the woman who’s crazy about me?”
“Stop it, Folarin.”
He took her waist without warning. “If I leave Christie today and decide it’s you I want, will you refuse me?”
“Yes. Maybe I would want to be with you, but I’d be too scared to be with a man who can’t forgive.”
“Why? Because you’d cheat on me too?”
“Aww, Folarin.” She ran her palm along his cheek gently. “Please, for the sake of your kids, if not for Christie, get the help you need.”
He stepped away from her. She went back to her chair and continued her analysis. “Third stage of PISD comes with insomnia, change in sleep, lack of concentration…”
He tuned off from her and kept his eyes outside. Now, her words were returning to him, and it was scary that she had gotten him right on the mark. He hadn’t been able to sleep well in a while. He spent most of his nights writing, and when he wasn’t doing so, he was in some hotel nearby, seated at the bar, watching reruns of football matches and managing a beer or two.
This felt like one of such nights. He buttoned his shirt and set his car wheeling down the street. In a short while he was driving through the gates of the hotel.
When he got to the bar, the barman set his preferred brand of beer before him. They both kept their eyes on a widescreen television, watching highlights of football matches played during the weekend. The bar was empty, excluding a couple of guys playing a game of pool.
The minutes passed and Folarin found himself taking meager sips of his alcohol. The barman had served him a complimentary dish of asun which had been poorly consumed also.
“Still fighting with the missus?” a female voice asked, coming from behind him. Folarin turned. A voluptuous lady in a bikini with a towel around her neck was smiling at him.
“Barakah,” he mentioned with a demure smile. She moved towards him and called the attention of the barman. He came forward.
“Two bottles of champagne to my suite. The usual.”
Barakah rested her elbows on the bar table and thrust her body at Folarin.
“Two bottles?” he asked.
“I can’t finish them alone, baby boy. Care to join me?”
“What’s in it for me?”
She ignored his question. “You look like a lost puppy.”
“Maybe I am.”
She started out. Folarin followed her. He was led to her suite which was on the second floor of the building. It was a luxurious space, personalized to her taste. She had been staying in the hotel for more than half a year. She had the money to get herself a house but she had no plans to take up residence in the country as she was soon traveling back home to Libya.
Her late mother, a Nigerian, married a Libyan forty-something years ago. Barakah was a result of that marriage, which lasted barely five years. Barakah followed her mother back to Nigeria after her parents divorced. She had since lived in the country. She grew up to become a woman of learning and intellect. Professionally, she was a pharmacist. She had worked with some of the country’s top drug manufacturing companies. However, Barakah loved politics and the men who loved to dabble in it. She found powerful men stimulating. They gave her a sort of high nothing else in the world could. She didn’t go after them for their money as she was already self-made. She simply enjoyed the thrill of romancing Nigeria’s top politicians. She had made the mistake of marrying one of them once only to discover that being tied to a husband was not her calling. She ditched him after two months and continued her life as a political courtesan.
It was she whose story Folarin was writing. They had met in the hotel last year. He was having a drink and she was seated beside him at the bar, engaging in a lengthy phone conversation with her mother. Folarin had caught a few words about her desiring to tell her story but not being able to. He had been curious as to what her story was. Guessing from her looks, she couldn’t have been anything younger than forty. Yet she didn’t seem married. She carried the sort of flightiness unbridled women bore that men couldn’t take their eyes off. When she ended her call, he introduced himself and told her that he could ghost-write a book for her. She had given him a long, scrutinizing stare and then asked him why he wasn’t at home with his wife and kids.
“Just chilling, watching football.”
“Or staying away from the wife?”
“Nothing like that.”
“We just came back from a vacation and I’m drying my feet out here.”
“By soaking them into alcohol. Look, I’ve seen a lot of situations like this long enough to know how it all goes down. You’ll end up cheating on her one day. Today, it’s the beer. Tomorrow, it’s a woman.”
Folarin had laughed.
“When that day comes, though, let me be the one you do it with.”
Folarin had been stunned at her brazenness.
“About the story I want to write, give me your card so that I can look you up to know if you’re worth your onions.”
He did as she ordered. Two days after, she called him and requested an appointment. A professional and friendly relationship ensued between them, but there was always a whiff of something more in the air. Barakah was sensuous without even trying. She was a woman who loved life and never held back on indulgence. That part of her reminded him of the Christie of his past who was carefree, uninhibited, and earthy. Nowadays, she laughed less, worked more and was emotionally complex.
Spending time with Barakah always took Folarin to a place of warm memories. And just like the other women in his life, she served her purpose.
Upstairs in her room, she lit scented candles and lay in bed in an inviting pose. But Folarin held back for as long as he could, even though he knew how things would end. They had champagne and spoke on banal topics before she sauntered over to where he sat and stripped him until he was nude.
“I’ll make you forget your pain,” she said into his ear. “When you taste me, there’ll be no going back.”
And he had thought to himself of how much a hypocrite he was, ending up with a woman who had slept with numerous men, yet he was angry at Christie for sleeping with just one. But he didn’t care anymore. He was tired of being the good husband, the faithful spouse. He wanted to know what lay on the other side.
The radio was on this morning. Celine Dion’s version of Natural Woman was playing. It left her in a good mood, adding to the sense of pleasure she was already feeling. Someone in the radio station seemed to have the same collection of songs on her phone and had been blessing her with good vibes for an hour. Holding a party dress in her hand, she gave a slow dance, following the soulful rhythm of the music.
She knew he was watching. Sitting on the dressing table, brows brought together, his eyes were fixed on her in that adorably-destitute way of his that often left her wanting to smother him with affection. She was also aware that, in that same stare, curiosity lay. He wanted to know why she was packing her things without telling him her reasons.
She folded the party dress and dumped it in a bag. Her eyes lifted up and met his. He bit his lip. She returned her concentration to her clothes, dancing still, even more enticingly.
“Tish,” he called. She pretended not to hear. “Leticia!”
She stopped swaying. “What?”
“Where are you going?”
“Why are you packing your things?”
“Because I’m going home with them.”
“Seriously? What’s going on, Tish?”
“So why are you packing your things and ignoring me? You won’t let me touch you. You won’t have sex. What’s up with that?”
“Oh. Yeah… Um… Old things have passed away.”
“Dapo, last week I rededicated my life to God.”
“I’m changed now. I wake up, read my bible, pray, go to church when I’m supposed to, stop being a bitch and stop fornicating.”
She picked another dress off the bed.
“I don’t understand a word of what you just said.”
“I want to live a chaste life.”
Dapo laughed, his face showing only a smile. “You’ll starve yourself of sex?”
“I know it sounds impossible but with God all things are possible.”
“Baby, this is about the prenup, isn’t it?”
“Prenup? No. I already told you I’ll sign it, didn’t I? It’s not about it. Why would I want to give you the impression that I’m with you only because of your money? Dapo, I’m with you because I love you. And that is why I have to keep my private part untouched until our wedding night.”
“You said private part.”
“Yes. My language has changed too.”
Dapo stepped down from the table. “Anything else changed around here?”
Her eyes caught the swell of his bulge underneath his sweatpants. She forced herself to look away. He had a delicious talent of maintaining an erection while engaged in non-sexual activity. He did it solely for her pleasure, and each time, she pounced on him.
“No more husband privileges too. I won’t cook or clean or do your laundry or cuddle you in bed. All of that will come only after we’re married.”
“No. I’m not.”
He walked to her and stood staring at her for a while. “Tish, are you still angry about the prenup?”
“No, Dapo. No. This is me setting my priorities right. I agree to everything written in that prenup except the pregnancy before marriage part. You can sacrifice that little one for me, right?”
“Tisha, I need you.” He sat on the bed, facing her. “Please, say you’re joking.”
“I’m not, but don’t be upset. We can still kiss…”
He pulled her to him and dumped her on his laps. She settled in comfortably.
“We can even dry-hump,” she said, twirling her bum on him in cadence to the Kevin Campbell song now playing.
“I know you’re joking. You’re still mad about the prenup. I understand. But I know you’ll calm down and we’ll talk about it.”
She smiled at him, trying her best to fight the moan hanging in her throat brought on by the feel of his bulge. She delivered a kiss and pounced up. He continued to stare at her. It was a pasttime of his. He would spend long minutes with his eyes fixed on her, saying nothing. Just gazing.
“I need to make some calls,” he said suddenly, standing up.
She knew he was upset but was trying to be a big boy about it. She wasn’t going to enjoy breaking his will as Toni had anticipated. It was going to hurt, but it was something she needed to do. She prayed that the numerous girls who were crazy about him wouldn’t begin to blink on his radar.
Leticia, done with packing her clothes, zipped up her bag and took her things out of the room. As she had suspected, Dapo wasn’t making any calls. He was seated at the dining table, having a bowl of cereal. She watched him for a while, feeling bad over her actions. He was, in some ways, her pet. She was excessively affectionate with him sometimes, filling up the empty spaces his mother’s absence left in his life. She prayed that he would cope with the new state of things.
“I’m going.” She went over and enclosed him in a hug, kissing his head. He pushed a bundle of one thousand naira notes to her.
“Change your hair.”
She gave him a reprimanding stare. He loved carrying money around. Crisp notes, precisely. He would sometimes sit and play with the notes for no reason. Leticia understood that it was therapeutic for him, even though she didn’t necessarily like the idea of him keeping huge amounts of cash around. Sometimes he had them in foreign currency. Two days ago, it was the Chinese yuan she found him counting repeatedly. She feared that the silly habit would attract the wrong attention.
“Take it,” he urged. Leticia shook her head. She badly wanted to. In fact, she wanted the money to send home to her mother who had called the night before to say she needed some help. But Leticia didn’t want to drill a hole into her well-laid plans. Dapo needed to know she was no gold digger.
“I can’t take it.”
He looked at her. “When did that one start?”
“Baby, I just can’t.”
“Give it to Toni then.”
“You know your sister doesn’t like when you give her money.”
“Tell her it’s for the kids she’s taking care of.”
Leticia picked the cash and gave him a rub on his back. She left the house a little sad. When she got home, she found Toni and Duke watching Miles from Tomorrow on the Disney Junior channel. The boy was cuddled in Toni’s arms. Leticia thought they looked cute together.
“Why aren’t you at work?” Toni asked.
“I called in sick. You?”
“His temperature went up again. I had to call Tochi to take Ruby to school.”
“Have you given him paracetamol?”
“Yeah. I just wish I knew why he keeps having these fevers. The doctor says he’s fine.”
Leticia rested compassionate eyes on Duke who was presently dismembering Toni’s cigarettes. Toni hadn’t been able to smoke freely since she started caring for the kids. They often gave her weird stares if she tried. Duke would then destroy any cigarette he came across.
“How are you? Leticia asked Toni. She was concerned for her. Being responsible for the kids came with its challenges, and for Toni, it was new territory. She had told Leticia that it hadn’t occurred to her that she was a mother until Duke crawled into her bed some nights ago and clutched her tightly. There was a thunderstorm and he was scared. He had begged her to make it go away. She was forced to play soothing music and conjure up some story about bravery before he went back to sleep. For the best part of an hour, she cuddled him tightly, unable to move away because he called for his mother each time she did. Toni had cried through that night, out of exhaustion and sympathy for the kids whose pain she was beginning to understand. Ruby was a quiet child. She hardly spoke with anyone asides Duke, but was mannered enough to help around the house and assist Duke with his homework. Last night, Toni had told Leticia over the phone that she was falling in love with them.
“He’ll be fine,” Leticia assured Toni as she took space on one of the couches.
“This one that you came back with your things…”
“I did as I planned. I told him we’ll stop smashing.”
“How did he take it?”
“Not good, but he’ll survive. He gave me hundred grand. I refused.”
“He now said I should give you.”
“We’ll sha share it.”
“Take all of it abeg. Money is the last thing I need right now.”
“I’m guessing the first thing is Andre?”
“You guys really broke up a second time.”
“Andre is tiring.”
“He loves you. He wants all of you, Toni.”
“Well, all of me now includes Duke and Ruby, and if he doesn’t want them too, I’m sorry, I can’t be with him.”
“You guys make me sad.”
“You can’t be as sad as I am, Tish. In short, I’m angry. Angry at him, angry at the woman who has kids but left them to follow someone else’s husband halfway across the world, angry at Uncle Abrams.”
“Why?” Duke asked. Toni smiled at him, patting his arm.
“Watch your cartoon.”
“The man had to travel to treat his sick wife,” Leticia said. “Was he to take them along? And seriously, you should stop putting the blame on him. You wanted this. You should have gone to court to swear an affidavit that you weren’t taking responsibility.”
“I was busy through that week, Tish.”
“The lawyer said he wanted to do it but you stopped him. It wasn’t about being busy. You simply didn’t want to do it.”
“Okay, fine. I didn’t want them ending up with any of their greedy relatives. I was sure Uncle Abrams would keep taking care of them.”
“Well, look where we are now.”
“Aunty Toni, is Uncle Abrams coming back?” Duke questioned.
“Yes, he is, but I don’t know when.”
“How about my mommy?”
Toni gave a silent sigh, looking at Leticia for help.
“She’ll come back soon, okay?”
The boy nodded.
“See what I go through?” Toni said to Leticia inaudibly.
“Well, I’m here now. But can I be honest? I’m not liking Andre now.”
“And I feel sad for you.”
“Don’t be. I’m getting myself a revenge boyfriend.”
“Yes, so that I can make Andre my side cock.”
Leticia burst into laughter. Toni joined her.
“You sha must still smash the Frenchman.”
“I’m addicted. But really, it’s simple. The moment he knows I’m seeing someone else, he’ll start circling around me.”
“But wait… who is this unfortunate soul you want to string along?”
“Tochi,” Toni answered with a straight face.
“What?!” Leticia yelled. Duke startled up.
“It’s fine, Duke. Your aunty is in shock.”
“Are you crazy?!”
“Maybe, but I think Tochi is the best person for the job. Andre already dislikes him, he’s cute…”
“He is not! He’s just fair and tall and…”
“You know Tochukwu is cute.”
“Exactly. He’s everything Andre is not right now. Plus, he would do anything I ask him to do, like eat me out…”
“Why?” Duke asked, lifting up his head to stare at Toni. She winced.
“You should watch your cartoon…”
“Animation,” he corrected.
“Animation. Watch it. I’ll clean up this mess you made.”
Toni lifted him off her laps and cleared out the cigarette shards he scattered on the couch. When she headed for the kitchen, Leticia followed her.
“You’re seriously out of your mind, Antonia. Tochi? That skinny, annoying…”
“Sometimes insanely-sweet guy who has done nothing to deserve your dislike.”
“Anyone but him, Toni. Please, don’t…”
“I will. And nothing will stop me. He is Andre’s punishment.”
Leticia grumbled as she marched to the backdoor. She threw it open, bringing daylight into the kitchen.
“If you hadn’t dashed me that 100k, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now.”
Unruffled, Toni fixed a smirk on her face. “I want to fry yam and eggs. You want?”
“Yes.” Leticia unbuttoned her blouse. She leaned on the kitchen counter. “You know Tochi likes you, right?”
“And you still want to use him to get at Dre? When two of you now reconcile, what happens to him?”
Toni gave no response. She walked into the store and came out with a tuber of yam.
“You didn’t answer me.”
“I’ll explain everything to him,” Toni replied defensively.
“And he will still agree to it, but it doesn’t stop him from liking you. Why do you want to break the boy’s heart?”
“It’s not your heart I’m breaking, Tisha,” Toni said edgily. “So let it be. Leave me, abeg.”
Leticia hissed and grumbled her way out of the kitchen.
Raji was swimming in a depth of emails when his secretary announced that Comfort was waiting to see him. He had been informed of her presence minutes earlier but had responded that he was on a video call. He was angry at Comfort. Last night had ended awfully between them. He felt she needed to be punished a little.
“She’s already on her way in, sir.”
The secretary had barely finished speaking when Comfort barged in. She stomped to his table and dumped a collection of forms on it.
“Sign them, Raji.”
He slowly looked up at her. He found a fuming face and eyes that wouldn’t meet his.
“You’re beginning to have too much guts these days, Commie. You’ve forgotten your place.”
“Place?” She laughed. “I’m no longer your sidechick. I have as much claim on you as Salma, seeing that she doesn’t wear your ring anymore, and that is why I won’t leave here until your drop your signature on my son’s education trust fund. What’s your problem? Your other children already have millions accumulating in their accounts but Raheem has one miserly account with barely anything in it. And I wouldn’t even have known that he was cheated on had Salma not opened her mouth to brag. Look, better mind yourself, Raji Asepita.”
“I’ll mind myself after you apologize for the way you spoke to me last night.”
“You brought it upon yourself. You came into my house and started shouting on me like you own my body and can tell me what to do with it.”
“And so you walk me out of the house I pay rent on, abi? It has now reached like that?”
“You deserved it,” Comfort held stubbornly.
Raji left his chair.
“Sign the form, let me be going, please.”
“What are you doing with Folarin?”
“I’m not answering that question.”
Raji leaned forward on the backrest of his chair, facing her.
“He is married.”
“And weren’t you?”
“He is happily married.”
“If he was, he wouldn’t be coming to me.”
“Comfort, leave the man alone. For once, do the right thing. You want to be a sidechick forever? Don’t you have self-respect?”
“You have no right to judge me.”
“I am judging you. Don’t go and tear the poor guy’s family apart. If you want a boyfriend, I’ll help you find one, but please stay away from other people’s husbands. Raheem shouldn’t have to grow up with an image of his mother as a home wrecker.”
“Yeah, because his father already wrecked his own home with another man’s wife.”
Raji shook his head in exasperation. “I’m no longer that man, Commie. I lost Salma and it still devastates me. And there’s Christie whose present marital problems make me feel terrible. I blame myself for what she’s going through with Folarin. Trust me, Comfort, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of a broken marriage. For you, it’s easy. You enjoy the sex and get paid for it. For the person whose home you helped wreck and the kids who have to suffer it, there is no end to the pain.”
“Just sign the forms, please.”
“I’ll sign them when you leave Folarin alone.”
Comfort brought her eyes to slits. “Oh, that’s how it is now?”
“Commie, have a good day.”
Comfort left his office in the same angry manner she had come in. Raji picked his phone and connected with Salma to get his mind on happier things.
“You can’t be calling me after last night,” Salma said when she took the call. “I am depleted, Raji.”
He laughed. “I’m coming back for more this night.”
“Is there a way I can divorce you a second time? We can’t keep doing this.”
He picked out the seriousness in her lighthearted tone.
“I don’t want the kids thinking we’re back together.”
“And what’s so wrong in them thinking that?”
“Raji, we seriously have to stop. Tomorrow, you’ll meet some girl and fall in love and then the kids would have to go through the torture all over again.”
“Salma, you’re all I want.”
“And Christie too.”
“Be honest, Raj. I won’t be mad at you. If you hear that she’s no longer with Folarin tomorrow, won’t you go after her?”
Raji pushed back his chair and rested his feet on his table.
“Christie is my past. I’ve moved on.”
“Why are you calling, though?”
“Just to check in on you.”
“I know, I know. I should stop. We should stop. I know, but I can’t help it, Sal. I need you back.”
“I’m cutting this call, Raji. Bye.”
She hung up and left him staring at his phone. He felt no remorse for his actions. The truth was that Salma had become more desirable to him after their divorce. And unfortunately for him, he was not the only one who had eyes on her. When word got out that she had now become single, suitors started coming in from all corners. He had never imagined a woman at her age with three kids would be hot commodity in the dating market. Raji considered himself lucky to have her attention on some nights. But these days, the frequency was dwindling. He knew she wasn’t amorous with someone else. She wasn’t that sort of woman. But he feared that she would soon be taken.
Yesterday, driving to work, he spotted Ahmed at the fuel station. Of all the suitors coming for Salma, Ahmed was his biggest threat. The man had been out of the country. Seeing him pop out of nowhere on a random day put Raji ill at ease and pushed him into visiting Salma after work hours. He had arrived at hers with presents for her and the kids. She received hers with a suspicious smile.
“A vibrator and a dildo?” she asked, pushing the box aside to attend to the meal she had on fire.
“For nights when I’m not there.”
Chuckling, she shook her head at him. “Just because I fornicate with you doesn’t mean I’ve totally fallen off the wagon, dear ex-husband.”
“It’ll help you keep strange men out of your bed.”
Tasting her soup, she gave Raji an eye.
“Did you by any chance run into Ahmed?”
“Ahmed? Who’s that?”
“Okay, I saw him somewhere.”
“And then you went to buy me sex toys.”
Raji was going to give her an answer, but Fahad and Raheem burst into the kitchen, calling for his attention over some argument they were having.
Later, after dinner and a satisfying lovemaking session that involved the use of the sex toys, Raji asked Salma about Ahmed.
“He proposed,” Salma revealed. “We had dinner last night and he popped the question.”
Raji’s heart sank. “And…?”
“I said no.”
“I’m still scared of marriage, Raji. I don’t want to go down that path again. Ahmed is an awesome guy and we click emotionally and spiritually, but…I just can’t do it.”
Her confession made Raji happy, so happy that he snuggled beneath the sheets and began to drift in slumber. But Salma tapped him awake and asked him to leave.
“Come on, let me just spend the night.”
“I promise I’ll be out of here before the kids wake up.”
He placed both hands behind his head stubbornly. “It’s not fair. You cook a heavenly meal for me, give me the sex of my life and then you kick me out just like that.”
“Yes, Raji. It’s late. Be on your way.” She yanked off rumpled sheets from beneath him. He rose up with a yawn. She tossed his briefs at him.
“How is Christie, by the way?” she questioned. “I heard she was at work today.”
“You still have your spy at Covet?” Raji laughed.
He pushed a leg into his trousers. “Christie’s doing great. Back in her game.”
“She and Folarin?”
“I don’t know. Is he not your friend again?”
Salma went for the second bed sheet and tugged if off. “Folarin has changed. He doesn’t feel like the guy I used to know.”
“How so?” Raji picked his shirt.
“I can’t really say, but when you’re close to someone, you sense when something is off about them. I know he and Christie are not having the best of times right now. I pray they get through it.”
“Awww…you have a big heart.” Raji placed a peck on her shoulder. “That was why I married you.”
“And yet you broke the big heart. Oya, be going.” She looked into his eyes with a smile. “Goodnight.”
Raji caressed her lips with his before making his exit. In his car, he turned on his phone which he had left charging earlier. A voice note from Comfort dropped in, reminding him that he was yet to append his signature on Raheem’s education fund forms. He grunted. The one person he didn’t want to upset was Comfort. She had her own special type of hell for him whenever he messed with her. It usually left him parting with huge sums of money. He hadn’t put aside signing for their son’s education fund. He had been busy with restructuring Covet. But Comfort would not understand even if he explained. She believed he loved Salma’s kids more than Raheem.
She still felt intimidated by Salma, even now that Raji was no longer married to her. She kept tabs on the other Asepita children and if she as much as got a whiff of any type of favoritism on Raji’s side, she gave him trouble. But she wasn’t as niggling as she used to be. And she didn’t seem like she still yearned for him. The chemistry between them hadn’t been extinguished, but the urge to act on it was gone. He had been pleased that she was dating other men and had commended her for moving on, but the last person he had expected to see with her was Folarin.
Last night had left Raji disappointed in him. The one friend he could vouch for as being forthright was now going down the deep end. He wished he could tell Folarin that he was playing with fire, but in some way, he wanted him to walk a mile in his shoes – if only he would stay away from Comfort and not hurt Christie while at it.
Her mug was held to her lips. She had been on her way to taking a gulp of her special hot chocolate when Savanna walked into her office. She left the mug suspended as her eyes regarded Savanna coldly.
“I…came to apologize for yesterday. I said some pretty nasty things to you. I’m sorry.”
Comfort let the mug down. “Okay.”
Savanna remained standing like she was waiting for something.
“Anything more?” Comfort enquired.
“This is where you say you’re sorry too.”
“Oh, okay. I’m sorry too,” Comfort stated.
“Awesome,” Savanna said humorlessly. “Um…one more thing. Please, stay away from Folarin.”
Comfort leaned back and crossed her arms troublesomely.
“He’s going through a lot right now, and he’s open to doing stupid things. You shouldn’t encourage it. He loves his wife and they’re gonna get through their issues. You don’t wanna make things worse for them.”
“Are you insinuating that I’m trying to break them up?”
“I didn’t say that. But I know he slept over at yours yesterday. That shouldn’t be happening.”
Comfort had a nasty reply for her, but she didn’t think it was a good idea to let it out.
Savanna smiled and left to her office. Comfort let her arms down. She was angry. She hated that she was being accused of sleeping with Folarin. She was yet to find calm after Raji’s shenanigans earlier and here was Savanna with her own allegations. She had only wanted one night with Folarin. He was not the type one kept as a sugar daddy or even had an affair with. Everyone knew of his love for Christie. Comfort, in her defense, had only wanted to help heal his pain. She hadn’t been hurt when he turned her down. In fact, it left her wanting more of him. Her night had been spent in fruitless fantasies of him which she had exorcised by morning, coming to the necessary acceptance that nothing could happen between them.
However, she was presently having a change of mind. She had always been that person that carried out an act she was wrongfully accused of, just to get back at her accusers. For Raji and Savanna, she would go after Folarin until she got him. She didn’t reckon it would be so hard, considering that he had been at the door of her pleasures so easily.
“Hey, Comfort!” she heard him call. He had just gotten into the building, and for obvious reasons, it got her blushing. Memories bringing back the taste of his lips and feel of his body over hers filled her thoughts. Pushing them away, she chugged down her lukewarm chocolate and made her way to the kitchen where she prepared another for him. She took it to his office.
He had his concentration on his laptop, his fingers playing with the collection of bracelets on his left wrist. She let her eyes run over the length of his veiny, tattooed arms, remembering how he had held her.
“Is there a reason why you’re ogling?”
She shook her head and went forward.
“To start up your morning,” she said, placing the mug before him. He gazed into her eyes.
“Do you want to talk about yesterday?” he asked.
She saw that he had more to say but she made her way to the door.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
She left the office.