Monday evening. Ace was exhausted after spending the day supervising some construction work on Dugo’s newly-acquired property where she intended to establish an NGO to rehabilitate and empower former victims of sex trafficking. Dying for a massage and uninterrupted sleep, Ace slumped on his bed the moment he got home. But Joana showed up shortly after, with a body hungry for him. She was also just returning from work. She tossed her clothes on his bed and entered the bathroom for a shower.
Ace picked her phone from her handbag. Fortunately for him, she still used her old password. He unlocked the phone and held it for a bit, unsure of what to look for. He settled for chats on Whatsapp. She used to be an active user of the app. He needed to get into her world, and not the world she wanted to create just for two of them. He needed to know what she wasn’t telling him.
Four chats down, he found a conversation between her and her best friend. Apparently, the girl had been upset with her for dumping him. A history of their chats gave proof of her angst. But their most recent conversation alluded to a fight both ladies recently had over him, prompted by the friend who had asked Joana if she could make moves on Ace since Joana no longer was interested in him. The tiff had been taken over to Whatsapp with Joana claiming she was still in love with him, and would die before she let go of him. She also claimed that she regretted moving on to Sebastian, but since it was too late to switch back to Ace, she was keeping both men. She warned her friend to stay away.
This new discovery put a smile on Ace’s face. He returned the phone to Joana’s handbag just as she stepped out of the bathroom. She made it known that she wanted him. Eyes of lust ran the length of his body as she approached him. He allowed her undress him completely, and lay back in pleasure as her mouth worked on him. When she was sure she had prepped him up enough, she lifted up her body and positioned herself to mount him, but he stopped her.
“What are you doing?” he asked with a frown. She looked at him, confused.
“I don’t get.”
“Who said we’re having sex?”
“Stop playing joor. I want you. I’m horny.”
“I’ve been thinking about you all day.” As she spoke, her hand kept a gentle massage on his erection.
“Jo, I’m tired.”
“I’m dead tired. We should do this tomorrow morning. Come and cuddle.”
“I’m serious. I can’t do anything.”
“I’m not asking you to. Just lie down and let me do all the work.”
Ace throbbed for her. It was taking him a huge amount of self-control not to pin her to the bed and make love to her, but he was enjoying the power of not doing so.
“I can’t. Come, let me hold you.”
He dragged her to the bed, and despite trying every trick in the book to seduce him, he remained unyielding. She eventually gave up when his eyes began to shut in sleep. She acceded to his cuddle and they both slept off. Sometime in the middle of the night, he awoke to her hand stroking him back to hardness.
“Seriously?” He forced anger on his tone.
“You’ve rested now, abi?”
“Caramel, I’m still asleep.”
“But I want you. I had a bad day at work. I lost a huge contract that got my bosses mad at me. I just want to feel better nau.”
She continued to stroke him.
“Stop wasting your time and go back to sleep. It’s not going to happen.”
He took her hand away from his body in a manner that got her upset.
“Why are you behaving like this? We have an arrangement.”
“And so you feel you can just come to my house and ask me to drop my pants and I’ll obey like a zombie, abi?”
“It’s not like that.”
“That’s exactly what it is. I didn’t agree to this so-called arrangement.”
“But you didn’t seem to have a problem when I sent money into your account earlier.”
“Wow.” He pulled himself up. “Just wow. So because you sent me money, you want me to fuck you? That’s how you see me now, Caramel? A tool you can use anyhow?”
“It’s not like that.”
“Stop saying it’s not like that. It is what it is. You give me money and emasculate me. It’s always been like that. I was nothing to you but a dildo, and now, you’re doing it again. You know what? I’ll transfer your money back to you now, now, so I can end this shit. Whatever you think it is.”
She held him. “No, no, no, no, no. I’m sorry, Idowu. I didn’t mean it the way you’re taking it. Forget I mentioned the money. It was stupid of me. I love you. I really, really love you, baby. Don’t be angry.”
“I already am. Please, put on your clothes and go home.”
“Home? Do you know what time it is? It’s past two in the morning.”
“You want me to drive home now? By this time?”
“I’ll take you home. Tomorrow morning, you can come and pick your car on your way to work.”
“You and who are joking? My friend, get up.”
Joana was stunned. “Ace, you’re actually asking me to leave?”
“Yes. Please, go. There’s so much a man can take. Haba! All I ever did was love you, Jo. I was faithful and worked hard, but you weren’t patient. You want a better man. So, go home to him, abeg. He can still make you cum with his marker dick. Is it not the same G-spot I used to hit with my finger alone? You don’t need my dick, abeg.”
Ace got off the bed, slipping into a pair of jeans he picked off the floor.
“Wear your clothes, let me take you home. I’m still very sleepy.”
“Okay. Okay. I’m going.”
She wore her clothes and picked her handbag. Ace left his bedroom to the living room. When she came out to meet him, she brought along a miserable face. He ignored it.
On their way to her house, she maintained a sulk.
“If we’re going to have any type of agreement, you must learn to respect me and stop emasculating me. You can’t keep throwing the fact that you’re richer than in me in my face.”
“I’ll stop doing it.”
“I’m not with you because of your money. I love you, Jo. I can easily go and find some girl out there and become committed to her, but I’m controlling myself because of what I feel for you, despite the fact that you dumped me. Don’t do anything that will push me into another woman’s arms.”
He placed his hand on her lap and caressed it all the way to her house. When he parked the car outside the gate, he pulled closer to her. He kissed her lightly.
“Our contract doesn’t erase the way I feel for you,” he said to her.
He returned to his seat. “I’ll see you later.”
Joana stepped down from the car. Ace turned around and drove back home, amused at how much he had power over her emotions. He slept well, and with a smile on his face.
He woke up to the sun streaking in through parted curtains. Joana was standing at the foot of his bed, dressed for work.
“Hey.” He stretched on the bed. “What time is it?”
“Shit. Dugo has gone to work?”
“Yeah. I guess. The front door was unlocked when I got in. I don’t think there’s anyone else at home.”
“I was supposed to have dropped her off.”
A hint of jealousy showed on Joana’s face. “I just came to get my car. I’m late for work as it is.”
Ace rushed into the bathroom for a leak. When he came back, he saw her bent over the mirror, applying her mascara. He snuck up behind her and placed his hands on her breasts. He gently squeezed them.
“Leave me joor.”
He took off his hands. She grabbed them.
“I was just joking.”
Soon she was on his worktable, legs spread apart and Ace face stayed in-between them. It didn’t take her long to come to an orgasm, screaming out his name. After she caught her breath, she begged him to make love to her, but he reminded her that she was late for work.
“You’re such a tease.”
“Tease? I wasn’t the one who came all over somebody’s face.”
She pushed her hands through his boxer briefs. “But you want me.”
“Haha. No.” He tugged out her hand. “Start going to work, madam.”
Joana adjusted her gown and put her hair in place. “Let me know what type of car you want,” she said to him as he walked her to the front door. “Nothing too expensive o.”
“I’m fine without a car.”
She stopped. “Because you’re using Doggie’s own?”
“Yeah, you’re jealous much.”
She kissed him at the door. “Let me know what car you like.”
Ace shut the door. He had another busy day waiting. But first, he needed to do something burning on his mind. He dialed a contact. His call was answered immediately.
“Hi Titi. Good morning.”
“Ace, is this really you?”
He smiled. “Yes.”
“Na wa o. So you still exist in this world.”
“Ah! Were you expecting me to die because your best friend dumped me?”
Titi laughed. Her laughter sparked memories from his past. It now made sense why she had always found most of the things he said or did funny.
“How are you, darling?”
“I just dey jare. You?”
“Great,” he answered. “I was just thinking about you, scolding myself for not keeping in touch.”
“That’s fine. I should have called too, but I didn’t want Jo feeling like I was trying to be…”
“I understand. But that’s all in the past now. We need to keep this line open.”
“So would you like to hang out later this evening if you’re not doing anything?”
“You mean, today?”
“Yes. Unless you already have something planned?”
“No, no. I’m available.”
“Alright. I know just the place. I’ll call you later.”
“Okay.” She giggled again. He rang off.
There were a few things that could get Dugo angry. Abuse of any kind was one of them. She couldn’t stand it, especially when it was done to a child. This morning, one of the teachers from the secondary section class presented a thirteen-year old with injuries on his body, a shuddering case of domestic abuse. In addition to it, the boy had a blood clot in his right eye.
Dugo examined him and took pictures of the injuries before sending him to the school clinic for treatment. She contacted his father and asked him over to the school. While she waited, she spent time with the boy until his wounds were attended to. Afterwards, she took him to her office and asked him a few questions. His answers revealed that he lived with his father, a single parent. The man was abusive to him and his siblings. The abuse had begun shortly after his mother left, following a breakdown of a troubled marriage.
“Please, don’t call him,” the boy begged. “He’ll beat me and lock me up in the garage.”
Dugo felt sorry for the teen. “Everything will be fine,” she assured him. “Do you have your mother’s number?”
“Yes. But my dad said we should never call her.”
“Don’t worry about that. You’re not the one calling her. Just let me have her number.”
The boy, with a shaky voice, called out digits which Dugo scribbled down. Just as she was rounding up with her inquiries, the father made his entrance. From the look on his face and the palpable fear in the boy’s eyes, Dugo could tell she was dealing with a brute.
The session with him didn’t go well. He was rude to Dugo, vulgar, and insisted that he had every right to discipline his child the way he deemed fit. It took Dugo immense self-control not to reach from behind her desk and strike his face.
“Why am I even talking to you?!” he barked. “I want to see Luper!”
“He’s busy right now.”
“I demand to see him!”
Dugo pressed a button on her intercom and connected to Luper’s office, requesting to speak with him. His secretary informed her that he was in a closed-door meeting.
“Did you hear that, sir?” Dugo said to the uncouth father.
“Then I am done here!” He shot up on his feet. “I’m taking my son home and this would be his last term in this school! In short, I am withdrawing my other children too! I have never felt so insulted in my life before!”
He stormed out, raging as he went. Dugo arose and followed him. She wanted to ensure that he didn’t harm the boy who was waiting outside the office. She watched him snatch his upper arm violently as they went. The boy looked over his shoulder, leaving Dugo with a pang of guilt. Just at the end of the hallway, Shipinen who was making her way in, ran into the man and his son. From what Dugo could gather, they were acquainted. Their conversation was in Tiv, with the man pointing at her as he raged. Dugo remained outside her door as did the other administrative staff who had crawled out of their offices to witness the disturbance.
Shipinen somehow succeeded in bringing calm to the man, who eventually freed his son and left the premises. Dugo returned to her office. Seconds later, Shipinen was standing before her. She didn’t recall her knocking on the door.
“Hello Adaugo,” she greeted, eyes looking about her.
“Your office is lovely. Quite artistic.”
“I came to talk to you about what transpired between you and Mr. Kuyima.”
“Nothing happened between us.”
“That’s not what he said.”
“Well, I invited him over to ask him questions about the bruises we saw on his son.”
“Did you accuse him of hitting his own child?”
“I only asked him questions based on what his son told me.”
“He said you were rude to him and labeled him an abusive parent.”
Dugo was not surprised. “I did not call him that, and I wasn’t rude.”
“But you did accuse him of hitting his child.”
“He admitted to it. I told him that he was wrong to punish him that way, and that if he did not stop we would have to report him to the police.”
Shipinen laughed. “Report a parent to the police? Clearly, you think this is Germany, Ms. Ganiru. You do not threaten a parent here. They are our clients. They pay the bills. You don’t do that, especially to a man who has made enormous contributions to the school. Who do you think donated all the tables and chairs in the library and the benches in the garden?”
Dugo was done with the conversation. “Ms. Shipinen, you no longer work here. I should not be having this conversation with you. I don’t owe you any explanation.”
“Oh?” Shipinen drew back dramatically, hand to her chest. “Excuse me?”
“I meant I should be speaking to Luper about this. Not you.”
“Oh, he’s Luper to you, right? Not your boss, Mr. Torkuma? I understand. But understand this…” She rested both hands on Dugo’s desk, leaning towards her. Dugo stared at the hands before lifting her eyes up to meet Shipinen’s.
“This is my school, and I will not have you doing as you please because your Luper didn’t give you some ground rules…”
She stopped as Luper walked in, following a knock. He stared at both women.
“Hello ladies. Any problem? I heard some shouting earlier.”
“Everything’s fine,” Shipinen answered. “Just letting your girlfriend know how things are run around here.”
She tugged down her cleavage-exposing blouse and sashayed out of the office.
“Is everything okay, Adaugo?” Luper shut the door.
“No, you have to tell me everything that happened.”
Dugo exhaled, rested her elbows on the desk and recounted all that had just transpired.
“You did the right thing, Ada. I’ll handle Shipinen and also call the boy’s parents separately. They are friends of the family. The divorce is hard on both parties. I didn’t imagine my friend would turn out abusing his kids like this.” He gave the pictures Dugo showed him one last look and shook his head. “This is bad.”
“Thank you for not going off on me.”
“Going off on you? Ada, you did well. Forget all Shipinen told you. She’s going about, brandishing her mace. Yesterday, she fired one of the janitors in the secondary section who was accused of stealing. She didn’t tell me about it. She did her thing and now I have to hire a new janitor.”
“Are you going to let her get away with it?”
“I promise you, I’ll handle her. You won’t have to put up with her nonsense again. I apologize for the drama. Are you okay?”
“Good. Meanwhile, you’re making me like you more.”
“With your outfit, first of all.”
Dugo had on an Ankara with a tight pair of stonewash jeans. The ensemble was a gift from Ace, including the stilettos on her feet.
“But you can’t see the entire outfit,” she told Luper.
“I saw you when you were coming in. You’ve forgotten I can see everything from my window. You’re smashing.”
“Thank you. So what’s the second of all?”
“Second of all?”
“You said first of all.”
“Oh. Yeah. The most important reason why I’m liking you more. Your eyes, the way they were intense when you talked about the Kuyima boy. It was as if you felt his pain, like it was you who had been abused.”
“I hate when people hurt others. Kids and teenagers, especially. They are helpless. They can’t fight back. Somebody should protect them from wicked people. Nobody should be treated badly.”
Luper stared at her with growing interest. “The intensity is there in your eyes again. Do you mind if I ask if you ever were abused as a child?”
“I was not,” she responded quickly.
“Me too, but I think we share something in common. I’m passionate about helping the helpless. Do you mind if I showed you something?”
“I want to take you somewhere, if you’re free right now.”
“Great. Grab your phone, let’s go.”
Dugo’s curiosity pushed her to her feet. She shut her laptop and followed Luper out. It wasn’t long before they were careening down a traffic-free street.
“So where are you taking me?”
“You’ll see. It’s my secret pursuit, although it’s not so secret.”
“Okay, I’m confused.”
He laughed. “You’ll see.”
He took her to an estate and to a building that held three floors. Outside it was erected a marble plaque on which was written New Beginnings.
Luper drove into the compound. “This is my secret pursuit.”
“What goes on here?”
“It’s an NGO I started to rehabilitate women and girls who were forced into sex trade. Come in and have a look.”
Dugo was kicked off balance. Luper was a man who had many sides to him. This was one side she had never imagined she would see.
“Are you coming out or not?”
She opened the door and tailed him to the entrance of the establishment, her thoughts whirling. She had wanted him to be a creep, as bad as his mother or even worse. This was a twist she wasn’t handling well.
“I run this place anonymously,” he informed her when they entered the reception.
He walked to the front desk where he was greeted by a lady whose melanin presented a glow that Dugo envied.
“Let’s give you a tour.”
Luper showed Dugo the administrative offices and then took her up the second floor where the rehabilitants attended classes daily that trained them in vocational pursuits. Some of them acquired basic education while others were sponsored to attend tertiary institutions.
“I’m impressed,” Dugo uttered. But she was more than impressed. She was in awe of the man, and in the way he had taken her dream and brought it to life.
“Let’s go to the last floor.”
They climbed up the final flight of stairs. “This is where the ladies stay. We can’t enter their rooms unless they invite us in. They have everything they need to ensure they’re comfortable. People keep donating. We are looking to have them in a more comfortable living environment while we keep this building strictly for their vocational training and for running the NGO. So if you’re stirred by the good work we’re doing here, please don’t hesitate to assist. It would be appreciated.”
“What moved you to start this?” Dugo asked as they began down the stairs.
“Well, like I said, personal reasons.”
“Care to share?”
“Too personal, Adaugo. But I’ll tell you someday soon.”
They went all the way down to the reception. The melanin goddess at the desk had some documents for Luper’s perusal. As he attended to them, Dugo sat on a chair and waited, still stunned over his kindness and generosity. She was beginning to feel her angst at him chipping away. Her revenge mission was being threatened. It left her in an uneasy state. She felt like bursting through the doors and running far from him.
Dugo jolted up into a straight posture at the mention of the name, coming from a voice that gave her instant goosebumps. She looked up, and found the portly version of a girl she used to know. A girl whose parents had also fallen for Madam America’s lies and sold their land to take their daughter to Italy for a better life. It was she who Dugo had been searching for without success. Her name was Osarobo, but had been renamed Gemma by their maman who had also changed Dugo’s name from Charity to Deanna or Deedee for short.
“Oh my God! Na you o! I can’t believe it! You’re really here!”
Dugo sprang up as Gemma dashed in her direction with open arms. “See how you’re so fine o! Hay Gawd! You have not changed!”
She hugged Dugo who stayed stiff in her hold.
“Deedee! Ah! Gawd! I feel like crying!”
Dugo pushed away from her with an expression of confusion.
“How are you?” Osarobo inquired. “Where have you been?”
Dugo shifted away. A cloud of incomprehension passed over Osarobo’s face.
“It’s me, Osarobo. Gemma. You remember me nau.”
Dugo went into complete panic mode. She cast a glance at Luper who was looking at them curiously.
“You no remember me?”
Without saying a word, Dugo made for the door and exited the building. It was a good thing that the gate wasn’t quite a distance. She hurried through it and burst out onto the street. A bike was zooming past and she flagged it down.
“Just take me out,” she instructed. The bike rider nodded as she climbed on. She could hear Luper calling after her.