Muna snuck into the Bahago house a little past 4 a.m., after her fifth can of beer began to taste like piss. She wasn’t a drunk, but sometimes she found solace in a can or two. Tonight, she had needed more, looking for that usual relief, but the beer left her empty and sore, and with recollections of what she had done to Archie. Also recollections of her actions after she left his place. She had driven to see her ex who had pinned her to the wall, spread her legs apart as he nailed her while choking her. The sex had given her temporary relief, especially at the point when she almost passed out while at the peak of her orgasm.
Afterwards, the emptiness returned. Thoughts of losing Archie for good left her scared. She was more afraid of the shame she was going to face if he pushed on with his threat. Friends and enemies would mock. Social media would have a ball on her expense. Muna felt wrecked.
Standing outside her parents’ bedroom, she sniffled. It was loud. It hurt her nose. Her eyes, throat and head ached also. All that crying and begging…
The door opened from within. Victoria was standing before her.
“Munachi?” She secured her night robe, eyes examining her daughter. Muna didn’t exactly cut a neat appearance. Her hair was tousled. The strap of her dress had fallen from her shoulder. Victoria reached out and put it back in place.
“Are you okay?”
Muna covered her face and fell into her mother’s hold.
“Archie dumped me. He called off the wedding. Mommy, he dumped me.”
“Are you drunk?”
“I want to die.”
Victoria drew her in and shut the door. The anteroom to the master bedroom suite was cozy with two comfortable loveseats, a bookshelf that held only books on agriculture and a television stuck to the wall that was hardly used. The floor was covered with a rug that matched the curtains. The base color was butter with highlights of gold and brown. It was the same color scheme throughout the entire house. In the mornings, a wide window was left open to let fresh air into the room. On the ledge rested a small flowerpot that held an English Ivy with leaves that tilted towards the sun.
“Sit, let’s talk about what happened,” Victoria instructed, but Muna held her tightly.
“Mommy, call him and talk to him for me.”
“Muna, it’s just five in the morning. I can’t call Archibong now. Sit and let’s talk.”
Victoria freed herself from her. “Go and meet him inside.”
Munachi wobbled into her parents’ bedroom. Idris was just stirring from his sleep when she walked in.
“Mu?” he called. She climbed into the bed.
“Archie called off the wedding.”
Idris turned on the bedside lamp.
“I don’t know what to do,” Muna sobbed. “I begged and begged.”
“What happened?” Idris asked, sitting up. He was a tall man. In his younger years, he had been slim. But now he had a body that fit well with his frame. He pulled Muna into it. He had always treated her like the baby of the house, even though Bianca was his favorite. Bianca’s disappearance had given room to a bond between him and Muna. An unhealthy one in which he spoiled her senseless and saw nothing wrong in anything she did.
“It’s about that stupid prenup I told you. He still wants me to sign it.”
“I don’t see anything wrong with a prenup.” Victoria’s arms were crossed.
“How can you say that?” Idris countered.
“Archie has money…”
“And so does our daughter.”
“And that’s the point I’m making. They are both rich. The prenup helps Muna as well.”
“I don’t want it.” Muna pouted. “I love him and that’s all that matters. Why didn’t he bring it up when we were dating? Why now?”
Victoria showed exasperation at her daughter. It wasn’t the first time they were having the conversation. Munachi was stubborn and egotistic. Always purporting to be right, she saw no wrong in any of her actions. Sometimes Victoria wished it was Bianca that came out of her loins instead. Muncahi was a replica of what Idris had been in their youthful years that pushed Victoria into the arms of other men. But these days he was cool-headed and patient. These days she loved him in a way a woman loved a man after accepting his shortcomings and the numerous ways he had hurt her. He was now pliable and indulgent; an easygoing husband, father and grandfather. One would find it hard believing he held a rascally past. He was a dedicated Christian now. A deacon in his church, a charitable man. But Victoria was afraid that nothing he was at the moment could erase all he had done previously.
“Daddy, talk to him. Please.”
Victoria sighed. “You’re not going to tell us what you really did, Munachi? The Archie I know would not dump you over the fact that you didn’t sign that prenup just two days to your wedding. Something is missing in your story and you better come clean.”
“I already told you…”
“Did you cheat on him?”
“Insult him? Call him names? Throw stuff at him because you were angry?”
Muna’s eyes shifted. “No.”
“Vicky, she’s stressed, clearly.”
“No, she’s drunk and lying to us. Archie is a good boy, and if it wasn’t that this wedding was around the corner, I would have dug into this matter. Right now, we’ll see how we can talk him out of his plans to disgrace all of us. I’ll speak to his aunt if need be. I can’t spend all that money and paparazzi only for your pigheaded self to spoil everything. And God bless you that you marry into the Abassi family and you go there and disgrace us. I will personally tell them to throw you out.”
“Vicky, calm down.” Idris looked at his daughter. “Sweetheart, if there’s anything you want to confess before we talk to Archie, you better do it now. No matter what it is, we would stand behind you.”
“No, I will not stand behind or beside or anywhere near her if she is setting out to tarnish our name. Archie is responsible and has worked hard for his money. The house you are going to live in as a couple, he bought it with his own cash, Munachi. He is responsible…”
“Vicky, we know.”
“I’m just reminding her.”
“I didn’t do anything to him,” Muna stated, her sober air leaving her and being replaced by something haughty. “We just fought and he dumped me. He said the wedding is no more happening.”
“I know there’s more to this,” Victoria insisted.
“Okay, I smashed his new car. Satisfied?”
Victoria shook her head.
“It was after he dumped me sha. I got angry and wrecked it with an iron rod I found.”
“I’m done here.”
Victoria left them, her mind on Tanko already. She needed to fix breakfast for him. He used to love tapioca, but she had stopped buying it after he disappeared. She had stopped listening to Michael Jackson and Prince too. He used to love both artistes. When Prince died, she cried like she was his mother, clutching her chest and wailing in front of the domestic help. They had stood in her presence, head bowed in embarrassment. Had Yohan not chosen to walk into the kitchen at that moment to whisk her away, she might have gone on for a long time.
“I miss him, I miss him, I miss him,” she had repeated over and over, until Yohan comprehended that she was talking about Tanko. Now that he was back, she felt like listening to Prince and Michael Jackson all at once. She went to her music library on her phone and started off with Michael Jackson. The maids and Iyatu were already busy when she got into the kitchen. After the morning’s pleasantries, Iyatu stood beside Victoria.
“Can I call you the happiest mother on earth?”
Victoria smiled. Happy was a good word to describe her presently, even though she wasn’t exactly sure she entirely was.
They tell you that when you kill someone, you see their face in your dreams when you go to sleep, in a mirror when you stare at it, in your food when you’re about to eat. But that’s bullshit. You see nothing.
That is if you are trained by Captain. Two things he would teach you – to kill your conscience and murder your emotions. Three things that would happen to you. You mind becomes detached, your body follows, and then your heart.
One of the earliest lessons I was taught on emotional detachment was when I had to murder a pet given to me during my abduction. I had been taken away from home when I was eight. What happened between that time and when I turned thirteen was a series of horrific events. By the time I was thirteen, I had become one with my abduction story. Home was far from my mind, and I had accepted my reality.
I was gifted a dog. I named her Sheba. She was almost a replica of another Sheba I had at home whom I had formed a strong bond with. Other kids in captivity with me were gifted pets as well. Our handler said she wanted to know how responsible we were. It was our job to feed and care for our pets. Now, this was a strange thing coming from the same people that taught us how to clean, assemble and shoot guns; people who also instructed us in martial arts and drilled us like war soldiers. These same retards allowed strange men enter our rooms at night to rape us senseless. Suddenly, we were to display our nurturing side.
Nonetheless, caring for Sheba came second nature to me. It took only a couple of days for me to fall in love with her. She was everything home represented. I would bury my fingers in her fur and talk to her as she lay on my bed. She always responded with a whine or whimper. She seemed broken. I saw myself in her. I wanted so badly to heal her. And I did. In some way, I got comfort from doing that. Sheba and I lasted a few months as best friends. And then one day, I was summoned with the other kids and we were asked to murder our pets. It seemed like a terrible joke. Our handler, a woman as distant as a person lost out in sea, gave the instructions, using the story of Abraham and Isaac as a sick comparison.
“The only problem here is that there is no God here with a lamb to replace your darling pets.” She was smiling, showing burnished white teeth that seemed to be the only upmarket body parts she had.
“But why?” I questioned, feeling restrained annoyance crawling out of me. “Why will you give us pets and ask us to kill them?’
“Because I can, Bianca.” Her face remained vacantly smiling. “Because I can.”
We were given pocket knives. I took mine with a hand that fidgeted, wishing to stab her instead. But I hadn’t the guts yet.
That night, I slaughtered Sheba while she slept. Foolish of me to think I could make it quick. But she was a strong dog despite her seemingly-weakened state. If you’ve ever tried killing a dog before, you’ll know what I mean. She struggled so much that the walls in my room were daubed with her blood. I cried as she died in torture, eyes looking into mine.
After I was done, I left my bedroom and sat outside until morning came. When my handler instructed me to join the others in a morning drill, I assaulted her with the pocketknife. It left a gash on her cheek. She tackled me to the floor and beat me senseless. I was locked in solitary confinement for days. When I got out, there was Sheba waiting for me, undead, panting with her tongue sticking out. For a moment, I couldn’t comprehend why a dog I had murdered with my own hands was standing in front of me. But on closer inspection, I realized it wasn’t Sheba. Just another random dog that looked like her. And it was male.
He barked at me and sat on the floor. My handler was there with him. The cut on her cheek still fresh.
“Captain wants your pet to be replaced. He’s done the same for everyone. Take the dog to your room. You know the drill.”
I didn’t connect with this particular beast, no matter how much it tried to get my attention. I took care of it as I was instructed, but I was dead to it. Same thing I noticed with the other children at first. However, they began to adjust to their canine companions as the months passed while I remained unfeeling towards mine. As young as I was, I had understood what mind-fuck was. This Captain they always talked about, that neither of us had ever seen, was fucking with our minds; and as I would learn later, our emotions too.
I wasn’t taken unawares when one night, our handler summoned us as she had done before and asked us to kill our pets again. But this time, it was more of a competition.
“You don’t get to kill yours. No. You find someone else’s and cut off its head as a trophy. I hope you know what a trophy means.”
“It’s an award,” someone replied.
“Good. The person with the most dog heads gets their award. This means you have to protect yours at all cost. You begin tomorrow. Good night.”
The first thing I did upon getting to my bedroom was to kill my wannabe Sheba. I felt nothing as I carried out the task. It was swift and effortless. I had learned the trick to beheading dogs. The beast’s head was dripping with blood when I placed it on my reading table. I collected three more heads that night, sending the other kids into a premature dog-murdering spree, which ended up in physical human combats that got the attention of our handlers. As they tried to restore sanity to the house, I went about collecting more heads. But this time, it was of the guard dogs. I was into my third one when blinding lights fell on me. I heard the cock of a gun and I stood up, lifting hands drifting with blood. I could not see the people behind the light, but a pair of shiny shoes came forward. My eyes followed the length of the legs that wore them all the way up to meet a man with a clean shave and an air of authority that instantly got me feeling something akin to fear.
That was the most I could see of him in the dark and with the light in my face.
I didn’t respond.
“My name is Luke. But you may call me Captain.”
I ground my teeth. So this was the man responsible for my abduction? The man who took me and other kids away from home to God-knows-where to have us trained as killers and used as sex slaves? The man people talked about in hushed tones? So this was all of him?
I became angry, but I dared not show it on my face.
“Put your hands down.” He also signaled that the light be turned off. “You are a disturbed girl. And clearly, you like to do what you like to do, not what you are told.”
“I just wanted to collect more heads. They said there’s a trophy.”
“A trophy?” He laughed. “You’re cute too. What trophy do you think you deserve for your murderous rampage? Mm?”
“I just want to go home.”
“Home? Are you sure you want to? You have been gone a long time, Bianca. Home no longer remembers you. This is your home now.”
Rage surged from me as I burst into a scream so loud I almost went deaf. I felt my body dropping to the floor. I was weak, exhausted, broken. Soaking in the blood of the dog I had just killed, I stayed there, crying. Captain stooped down and touched me. He was gentle as he spoke.
“I’ll have my eyes on you from now on, Bianca,” was all he said before rising to his feet. I didn’t get to see him until two years later.
We were taken on a trip at that time, to a place with less comforts and harrowing mountains. Somewhere in the north. I didn’t know the godforsaken place we were at, but was glad to be let out after seven years of confinement. It was camp-like. Freezing and blustery. The wind loved to slap our cheeks from all angles, making our teeth clatter and our necks clench. I had a taste of my first cigarette there. You got rewarded with a couple of sticks if you completed a task. Sometimes it was better than food. We ate tasteless meals and got drilled like soldiers. Every morning, there was a shooting training. Every evening, they made us combat each other. You acquired points for hitting a target with a gun and for beating an opponent senseless. There was this boy who lost his hearing after a single punch from me. He was beefy and had sunken eyes. I felt nothing when I saw him hit the ground and blood oozing from his ear. A soldier flung him over his shoulder and went away with him and we never saw him again.
On some afternoons it got hot and we went about in our underwear, which wasn’t much of a thing since boys and girls shared the same bathroom facilities. We weren’t allowed to have sex, but some people did it anyway. Behind rocks and in the makeshift bathroom. I didn’t care much for anyone’s dick. I was not a vagina person either. I was more consumed with why I was there in the first place. I wanted to know why Captain had chosen me. At that point, I had accepted who I was, although I didn’t know exactly what to call myself. I just knew I enjoyed guns and knives and drills and fights. While my friends complained about the present camp situation, I was having a ball.
I took walks alone after lights-out. It was forbidden, hence I had to be stealth about it. I was learning the routes in and about the camp. On a particular night I had walked so far away that I could see a major highway on which cars zoomed past. I would always return to base before anyone noticed. I had no plans to escape. I was too much of a caged mouse that freedom became a foreign concept to me.
Three nights before we left, I had gotten restless as usual. Captain had arrived earlier, his presence bringing some sort of excitement to the camp. Sleep eluded everyone, so it was difficult for me to go out as I usually did. It took a while before I found my privacy. I began on my walk, following familiar terrain, using a blind spot the soldier often overlooked. I soon found myself meandering through a tight gap between two rocks. Taking a less stressful route would put me out in the open and under the scrutiny of the men on guard. I had just successfully come out of the crevice between the rocks when a familiar form accosted me, blocking my path.
I looked up at him. There was a sleek smile on his face. The same smile he held on all the nights he came raping me and asking me to pleasure him. He had begun on my twelfth birthday and continued until I was fourteen. After that, he disappeared. Now, here he was. He didn’t look so tall or menacing, even though very little about him had changed.
“Bianca, Bianca… You’re a big girl now. Look how grown you are.”
It was the first time I was seeing him in camouflage. He was a soldier after all. Another scum in the army, just like the others Captain used to do his despicable work. I hated them all.
“And so beautiful. At the same time, built like a boy. How are you these days? Do you miss me? Do you miss Daddy?”
He had made me call him ‘Daddy’ on the nights he raped me unpityingly. The bastard tried to do everything to destroy my picture of what a father and daughter relationship was supposed to be. It made me miss Idris. Made me cry myself into illness on so many nights.
“I missed you. And I’m proud of you. I’ve been told of your exploits. The men, they like you. Even Captain is impressed.”
He laughed. The laughter brought pain to my chest. It stirred up the moments I had suffered in his hands. From the smell of his sweat that mingled with his breath each time he lay on me, to his grunts in my ear, and the slime of his spittle when he forced his lips into my small ones, and the weight of his hairy frame rubbing against mine. It all returned to me. The memories came with a pain of my chest and a rise in my pulse. Anger was stirred in me. Not the type of anger I was familiar with. Something new, dark and fearless. It hit me fast. The world around me was shut out and all I saw was the man who had defiled my body, detached it from me and made it worthless.
“For me, I always knew you would become something,” he continued, oblivious of the change in me. “Because you are my…”
And his next words got stuck in his throat, as I drove my blade into his right lung. I hadn’t seen it coming myself. My hand seemed to have acted on its own volition, and years later, it would continue to do so.
I pulled out the knife and speared his eye, and then the other, because he had been staring at me like I had betrayed him. I sent my foot into his gut and had him rolling down a gradient. Seconds later, someone was barking instructions at me and asking me to raise my hands and drop my knife. Minutes after, I was standing before Captain in his tent. He was on a chair, leg crossed over the other, reading a Time magazine. He looked up, unsmiling.
“Bring him in,” he barked out to someone outside, and my rapist was dragged in and dropped on the floor. The vermin was still alive, although now blind. Captain stood up.
“Come here,” he called me over. I went to him cautiously, knowing I could die in a wink for what I had done.
He picked a walking stick and pointed at the bleeding man lying between us.
“In the assault of the body the objectives are to stop the breathing, start the bleeding and promote established shock. These objectives are what all weapons are designed for. For instance, it’s a waste of time peppering a man with bullets if none takes a hit at a vital spot. Equally, you can torture a man to death by a thousand cuts without one being mortal in itself.”
I held my breath, waiting for more.
“First we must understand oxygen. It gives life. Cut it off, cut off life. You must know the parts of the body that control our oxygen intake and how to make them work against us. Now, you see the back of the head, just above the spine?” He rested his leg on the man and pushed so he was laid on his side. “You can crush this with a hard object or destroy it with a single bullet. Using your hand, you must be forceful. Personally I prefer a kick from a military boot. Now, coming downwards we get to the neck… A blow to the back of it will not only damage the spine, it can force the vertebrae forward and encroach on the windpipe and cause asphyxiation.”
He dropped his foot. The man fell back to his former position. All of this gave me some sort of sick pleasure. Captain placed the stick he held on the man’s neck.
“The wind pipe can be slashed and blood will fill the lungs. Usually, this method of death causes severe blood loss; net result is oxygen starvation. I’m sure you have been taught that choking naturally results in death. Strangulation stops oxygenated blood from going to the brain by stopping the flow in the carotid arteries. Death by anoxia.”
Captain looked at me. “Bored yet?”
“Now the lungs…”
His stick was poking at the stab wound my knife had inflicted on my victim.
“Attacking one lung cannot bring a quick death as the opposite side can carry on alone – if necessary. Case in point, this person here. Make sure there is failure in both lungs or you might just be wasting your time.”
Captain went on, explaining in detail how the human body worked and what best way to give someone a quick or slow death. I stood in awe, falling in love with him as he spoke. The rapist had stopped writhing. Although alive, he was now motionless. When Captain was through with his lecture, I continued to remain in wonderment of him.
“Are you here with me, Bianca?”
He extended a handgun to me. “I’d have made it fun for you and let you take your time. But this man is a soldier of the Nigerian army. He deserves an honorable death. Make it quick.”
I took the weapon, ensured that there were bullets, released it from safety and aimed it at the man’s heart. I looked at Captain. He went back to his chair and picked his magazine. Somehow, the rapist had heard the sounds I made with the gun from the depth of his catalepsy and stirred. If he had eyes, he would have opened them to see me looking at him emptily as I squeezed the trigger and fired the single bullet that ended his life.
After the deafening sound of the gunshot died down and the hum in my ear which I was now accustomed to, stopped, Captain gave me his attention once more. I stood there, my hands frozen over the gun. It only occurred to me after I had done the act, that I had actually taken a life. This was no Sheba or guard dog. This was a man I had known. I was just fifteen and I had killed him.
“Any regrets?” Captain asked.
“I forgot to ask his name. I don’t know his name.”
Captain smiled. “Well done, Biancavitch.”
My hands unfroze and I let the gun down.
“You know what Biancavitch means?”
“Bianca Witch, because you love to move about in the dark. Oh yes, I know about your night walks. In Africa, it is said that only witches do what you do. So I was thinking to myself that I should call you Biancawitch, but that would be too boring. Vitch sounds sexier. Biancavitch.”
The name stuck from that night. Everyone began to call me that. I tweaked the spelling later on to Biyankavitch, because back home, my brothers called me Yanka, a moniker that caught as much as Bibi. But I didn’t feel like little Yanka or Bibi anymore. That night, my heart died with the man I killed. Emotions, feelings, all things warm and sentimental went with the blast of that gun. Years after, I was yet to find my pulse. A few hours ago, in Archie’s arms I had tasted it briefly. What we had shared was different from what I had with Lanre. For the latter, it was something of familiarity and need. Fierce familiarity. But Archie made me breathe. His body gave me life. It wasn’t about the pleasure. It was about the otherworldliness of our union. I was taken to a place where I was free from my different lives. It was the type of lovemaking that gave flight to my heart and made me see light where darkness had always been.
A strange fuck, I should say. Quite weird. Very emotional. This was why his words afterwards killed me and brought my wits back. But I wasn’t going to soak in the disappointment. I brushed it off. Victims like Archie, somehow they enjoyed the abuse they got. You try to save them from drowning, they pull you down with them. He was free to enjoy his marriage until I was done with Kashimu. Kashimu was the type of guy that could kill any man who as much as breathed the same air his woman did. I couldn’t put Archie in that type of danger.
“I can’t leave Muna.” Those had been Archie’s exact words to me, head on his pillow, eyes in mine. “I hope you understand. What happened between us is not enough…”
“You don’t have to explain, Archie.”
“And nothing to be sorry about. It’s not like one night of senseless sex can change anything. And then, she’s my sister, so it would be super heartless of two of us to think we’ll become an item if you guys break up.”
“But seriously, it’s fine.”
I had on the face that showed nothing. Archie displayed a nervous smile that was now turning into a relaxed one.
“I’m glad it’s you. You’ve understood meaningless sex from our teenage years.” He laughed. “Imagine if it was some girl out there, she’d be catching feelings now.”
I laughed too. But within, I was pricked. I was the girl out there, stupidly feeling something intense for my best friend after spending an amazing moment in his bed. But what was I expecting? I’d always loved him. Was I thinking I’d feel less after being intimate with him? And my plans to see that he and Muna didn’t tie the knot, where did they all go to? Why did I wake up with a heart that felt like mashed potatoes?
“I believe in Muna. I know this is just a phase. She’s not a terrible person. She would grow out of it. I’ll keep trying until she gets well. I think when she becomes a mother, she’ll be more compassionate and soft. All the same, I want to thank you for the fuck given. It was…wow!”
He was quiet after that. I was in my thoughts. It took me a while to realize that he was asleep.
His bedroom hemmed me in around me like a perfect, white ball. It wasn’t that it was spherical. I just had this thing where I associated perfection with round things. I didn’t know why. In primary school, other shapes stuck out to me as flawed. But spherical things were seamless, unspoiled. It was the way I viewed Archie and his world, even after I spent the last couple of hours ‘spoiling’ him.
His bedroom was white. Or almost white. Or something between grey and white. I hated the candidness of it. I was used to dark colors and tight, shadowy places. Archie loved spaciousness. His houses and rooms had to be extra-large.
He was still asleep when I left the bed for a shower in the bathroom. I stepped out and went to the kitchen where I attended to a couple of phone calls. As my team and I at the NIA had anticipated, Kashimu was digging into my private life. Last night alone, he made three phone calls. He wanted to know who I was. He was requesting for dirt. Had I gone to him as an alias, he would have found out my true identity. There was always someone who would talk for the right fee. Someone who probably shared the same office as me or sat across me at the table during lunch breaks. Using your real identity for a covert operation was the easiest way to tweak reality, but the hardest to pull off; especially with a weathered criminal like Kashimu. He was probably wondering why a billionaire’s daughter who worked for the Nigerian intelligence wanted to ride his dick so hard it burned.
I also chatted with an old friend on the phone whom I hadn’t seen for a while. Nafisa was a sister and a friend, but in the hierarchy of echelons under Captain, she outranked me and was about two or three years older. She was beautiful, fair-complexioned and gorgeous in the way Northern girls were known to be. Because of her beauty, Captain had named her Desire. He had, however, not allowed her go on covert missions like the ones I got assigned to. It was his own little joke to turn her delicateness into a killing machine. Desire was pitiless, quick on her feet and sharp with her eyes. Captain had assigned her to be my handler on this case. He didn’t want me dead or botching the operation. I didn’t know whether to feel flattered or annoyed. Nonetheless, I was happy to have her on my team. My houseboy and cook also. He was my tech guy. Every type of information or data one wanted to get via the web or through devices that could be bugged, shadowed or hacked, Duru was your guy. He was a cobbler too. In spy terms, a cobbler was responsible for falsifying documents and certificates. Duru was so good he made the real thing look fake.
I felt complete with my lineup, but feared for my vagina. No matter how much one does these things or how many men one has slept with, one never gets used to the feeling of being a sex slave. Captain had made every one of his girls pass through horrific sexual abuse. It was done solely to make us hate men.
“It makes you focus and do your jobs efficiently and pitilessly. The vagina, like the heart, is a pathetic thing. She falls in love quite easily, but if you traumatize her, she would either become hateful or unfeeling.”
According to his analysis, my vagina was both to the men I slept with, except for Lanre and Archie.
Archie had just walked into the kitchen while I was trying to find my way out.
“I should be going.”
“You should. Muna might just be on her way here with the whole Bahago clan and her crazy friends. I don’t envy myself, right now. But I was thinking, maybe you should stay a bit and have breakfast.”
He came towards me but remained on the other side of the kitchen table. “I feel as guilty as you feel. I think, even worse. But we shouldn’t let this destroy our friendship.”
“I’m still that Calabar boy that slays in the kitchen. I haven’t changed.”
“I don’t expect you to.” I stared out the kitchen window. “It’s not like it’s daytime even. We still have time to kill.”
Killing time translated into having me on the table with my legs spread open and Archie between them. Again, he reached into that place where I had hidden my feelings for him and drew them out. But for him, I was just that last mindless fuck one had before giving your entire life to another person.
“This is insane,” he said, panting after we were done. His brows showed a mix of pleasure and remorse. “I still love Muna like mad. What’s going on with me? Why have you suddenly become so irresistible, B? After all these years, why now?”
I pushed him away and got off the table. I didn’t do guilt. It was for people like him.
“I have to go.”
He caught my hand. “I promised you breakfast.” He held me tighter. “Stay.”
Breakfast was his signature cheese sandwich. He served it hot with coffee. While we ate, he talked about Muna.
“She’s amazing.” He had this wistful stare, eyes gazing into the air. “For instance, planning this wedding, she made sure I didn’t lift a finger because she didn’t want me to stress…”
He brought his head down.
“She can be cool when she wants to be. When did this her temper start, B? Because I know she had it before we started dating.”
“I don’t know,” I answered. My feelings for him had begun breeding jealousy. “Can we not talk about Muna?”
We talked about my new job at his gym, instead. The place was located somewhere in Lekki and it was a success. Archie, being a sports doctor, had done well for himself. He was part of the medical team for the Super Eagles and a personal doctor to a couple of them and others on the national basketball team. When he wasn’t treating sprains and foot injuries or ensuring his patients lost weight the right way, he was spending his time in one of the teaching hospitals as an orthopedic specialist
He was offering me a fulltime job as the manager of his gym. I was to begin the following week. We discussed my salary and other important work details. Done with that, he escorted me outside where I had a cab waiting.
“You’re still my bestman?” he asked.
“I’ll be there beside you at the altar, Archie.”
He smiled, right before we shared our special handshake which was the sort of thing two guys would do. My eyes fell on my phone as the cab drove away. Muna had sent me a message. She wanted to talk about what happened.
Do you think I should replace his car? I don’t even know how to start begging, but daddy promised to help. I’m at home. Please come and let’s talk. I’ve missed you.
“My head is literally spinning from all the love.”
Tanko’s fingers rested on his temples as he applied light circular motions on them. Tsakani sat beside him in the back of her car. Victoria was tailing them in her own car. She had with her a couple of bodyguards which Tanko was not comfortable with. He trusted no one and hated the attention the presence of burly men would give them in public.
“Mother, please,” he had pleaded a short while ago.
“Please? You’re saying we should go out in the open like that without them so that they will come and take you away from me again?”
Her words gave him a sudden headache. He was barely twelve hours at home and the woman was being a pain.
“Fine. Ride with them. I’ll go with Tsakani and her driver.”
Victoria looked at Tsaka. “No problem.”
Tanko was desperate for a long nap. His brothers, Yohan and Polo had come in at dawn, waking him up and taking him away from his bed. Their reunion had put the entire house into an emotional moment. It had been a combo of tears and laughter and hugs for three of them. Tsakani had watched them, holding Jason in her arms, wondering for the first time, why she had not waited for Tanko to return; why she had not believed the nagging voice that kept telling her he wasn’t dead.
“I didn’t know you were pregnant when I left,” Tanko said to her now, resting his hand on hers.
“Two months,” she answered.
“Jason looks like me. He has my nose.”
“So everyone says.”
“When will you introduce him to me?”
Tsaka ran a line along her brow with her finger.
“You don’t want to,” Tanko said.
“Not yet. Just give me time.”
“Let this all seep in and to tell Pero…”
“Yeah, Pero. I forgot about him totally.”
“You can’t have that attitude if we have to work things out.”
“Give me time. I’ll introduce your son to you.”
Tanko was caressing her fingers. “I missed you crazily, Presh. Your face in my mind, that was what kept me going.”
She searched his eye. “Kept you going where, Tanko? What happened to you? Where were you? Who kidnapped you? You haven’t answered these questions.”
“I don’t want to.”
“And you think that helps? I need to know. Mommy, daddy, we all need to know. Tell us everything.”
He looked at her with a troubled expression. “I can’t,” he whispered. “I don’t really remember.”
“And yet you remember when you thought about me.”
“That’s all I remember.”
He sounded genuine. He looked it. But Tsakani knew he was lying.
“It only comes to me in bits. I’m sorry.”
He rested his head, still holding her hand. His eye shut and stayed that way until they pulled up outside the hospital.
He jerked up, startling the driver.
“It’s okay.” Tsakani squeezed his hand. “Relax.”
The doctors ran a series of tests and had a scan done. Tanko was subsequently given drugs for his headache and other body aches, and to help him catch up on much-desired sleep. The medical team was going to consult one of the top neurosurgeons in the state for a better diagnosis on something they had picked up in his scan. There was strong evidence to suggest that Tanko had suffered from a traumatic brain injury, although he claimed not to recollect anything of the sort. He largely appeared not to be interested in anything the doctors had to say. This upset Victoria, but she didn’t push. She had him taken to a hotel nearby to escape the crowd at the Bahago mansion and give him the privacy he needed to sleep.
When the drugs given to him kicked in and he dozed off, Tsaka sought Victoria’s permission to leave.
“I have to go and shop for him.”
“Go ahead, darling. I’ll be here when he wakes up.”
She was by his bedside, worried eyes on him.
“He’ll be fine, Mommy.” Tsaka rubbed her back, and when she took her hand away, Victoria grabbed it.
“I shouldn’t have spoken to you the way I did last night.”
“Mommy, it’s fine. I understand.”
“Sit down a bit.”
Tsaka sat on the bed. Victoria faced her.
“Things are going to get really hard for you as regards to Tanko and Pero. Unless Tanko decides to let you go, which is something I doubt he’ll do. He still loves and wants you.”
“Your relationship with Pero will suffer. He will want you all to himself, because he will face pressure from his family, too. You know we love him as one of ours, but, sweetie…” Victoria sighed. “My boy comes first. And I will do everything to ensure his happiness. I have no intention to stress you over the issue, and I will tell Tanko not to, either. You will have my support every inch of the way.”
“Thank you for being here for him.”
“You can go.”
She stood up.
“Has he told you anything about his time away?” Victoria asked.
“No. He doesn’t want to talk about it.”
“If he eventually does, please relate everything to me. Make sure you don’t tell a soul. Not even Pero.”
Tsaka left the hotel suite to the parking lot. She dismissed the driver. In the car alone, she allowed the weight of her troubled heart come down on her. She needed to speak with Pero. He was a great listener and always had the right words to soothe her. She only had to hear his voice to feel better.
She dialed his line. The phone rang. He didn’t take her call. He still wasn’t talking to her. She dumped the phone on the seat beside her. Like Tanko, her head was beginning to ache.
Tanko was asleep for three long hours. Good enough time for Victoria to run the affairs of her home from her phone while sitting out on the balcony of the hotel suite. She was also consumed with her thoughts, her mind in the past, recalling all the mistakes she had made with Idris. There were things that couldn’t be undone. They had left permanent scars, and some of them would continue to eat deep. She was glad to have Tanko back, but something about his return didn’t feel right. It gave her the feeling that another terrible occurrence was about to happen. She had voiced this to Idris earlier, but he had shut down her thoughts.
“Tanko is back. It’s all over, Vicky. Relax.” His hands had been on her shoulders, delivering a gentle massage. But she hadn’t been able to shake off the feeling. Not even the preparations for Muna’s wedding could stop the restlessness.
Victoria turned. Tanko was seated on his bed. He had just woken up. She entered the suite.
“Are you okay?”
“Just three hours…”
“I’m fine. Where’s Tsaka?”
“She’s gone shopping for you and then she’ll head home. I was wondering if you could…”
“Whose toes did you and Dad step on?”
Victoria baulked. Tanko raised his head and fixed his eye on her.
“What are you talking about?” She asked with a straight face.
“You two did something and that’s why I was kidnapped. What did you do?”
“Tanko, I don’t understand–”
“What did you do, mother?!”
Victoria retained her composure, adding a stern face to it. “Don’t raise your voice at me, boy.”
“Don’t lie to me, mother. You’re the reason I was taken, tortured, dehumanized and used to cause the deaths of people, and you stand in front of me and tell me that you know nothing? That your wealth is pure? That you’re not part of some evil society somewhere that makes money off the blood and backs of hardworking Nigerians?”
Victoria stiffened. “We need to go home.”
Tanko rose up. He looked down at her. She lifted her head to meet his stare. There was silence between them that bore the heaviness of unspoken words.
“You used to mean so much to me,” Tanko finally said. The words knifed Victoria. Her façade fell apart. “More than Tsaka, more than everyone else in the family. No matter what happened to me or how bad my day went, all I needed was to look at your smile and…”
“Please, just stop talking.” Glassy eyes pleaded with Tanko. “Stop, baby. Stop.”
Victoria put her arms around him, head to his chest.
“I did everything for you, son. All for you.” She applied gentle strokes to his back.
“There’s no need to butter your words or affection, Mom. I was going to tell you that you still mean so much to me.”
He pulled away and held her arms. He looked at her intensely.
“I was also going to ask you what you thought was the best way to get back at the people who fucked me over. I want their names and everything about them. For every minute I spent there and every drop of blood I shed, they will pay.”
“Tanko, no. You don’t know who…”
“I’m dealing with? I know I don’t know. But I know you know, and you’re going to help me get them. Every one of them. Okay?”
“Okay?” He shook her.
“Yes, baby. Yes.”
He dropped his hands and straightened the sleeves of her blouse where his hands had squeezed too tightly.
“Let’s go home.”
Victoria watched him walk out the door with her heart racing within her. Tanko had no idea what he wanted to get himself into. As she picked her handbag, she dialed the family doctor.
“Doctor Chima, in addition to the neurosurgeon, can you get me a psychiatrist?”
“You think he might be mentally affected from what happened to him?”
Victoria took a peep outside. Tanko was discussing with the bodyguards. She held the door shut.
“I know something is seriously wrong with him. I need a doctor that can make a diagnosis and put him on meds immediately.”
“I think it takes a while and more than a couple of consultations…”
“Chima, I need a doctor that can put him on meds.”
“I understand. I have just the right person.”
“Good. Call me when you talk to him.”
Victoria rang off. She breathed out and opened the door. Tanko looked at her. She smiled at him, even as her heart bled within her. The table he was about to shake was going to kill them all. She couldn’t let that happen. It was either his mental health or the lives of everyone she held dear.