She comes to him in the morning. He is barely opening his eyes from a three-hour sleep when he hears a knock on the door. As he drags his feet to the living room, he imagines it is Chichi knocking. It’s something that has played out in his head several times—Chichi standing before him, begging to be let back into his life and him slamming the door in her face. Or it could be Kira coming back to pick a thing or two she left in the house. Last night he dumped her after she admitted, without flinching, that she couldn’t care for Trinity.
“I didn’t ask you to fuck her mother without a condom. She’s your problem, not mine. Isolate her from our relationship.”
That last line had been the cause for the fight that pushed Kasiobi to isolate Kira from his life entirely. She had cried a little but took the breakup rather maturely. He is hoping she is not the one returning to say she is sorry.
A surprise, however, awaits him as he opens the door to find Lexus standing outside with a tear-stained face and hair that looks like she has just tumbled out of a washing machine.
“Lex, what’s wrong?” he asks.
Lexus shakes her head and throws her arms around him. Her sobs are intense, shaking both of them with each heave. Kasiobi manages to shut the door but that’s all he can do. She doesn’t let go of his body. So, he stands there, rubbing her back, rocking her gently and assuring her that things would be fine even though he has no idea why she is crying.
Eventually, she comes to calm and explains to him that Dominic collapsed some hours earlier and is presently on a surgeon’s table having a procedure done to keep his heart in better shape.
“They said his coronary artery was blocked by a blood clot and they need to place something they call a stent in to keep it open.” She wipes her nose. Kasiobi is weak from what he has just heard.
“He’s been suffering from coronary artery disease.”
“How come no one ever knew?”
“It’s not something we talk about. He manages it with drugs, diet and exercise but he’s been getting easily tired lately.”
Kasiobi guides her to a couch and sits beside her. “He’s going to be fine, Lex.”
“That’s what the doctors said but I just couldn’t wait there. I just couldn’t. Kas, I’m so scared. What if I lose him like I lost Eva?”
Kasiobi’s words don’t hold water. She begins to sob again. He holds her. The familiar scent of pineapples coming from her hair, blending with her perfume puts him in a place of memories. He recalls nights when they snuggled together on the only couch they had in their apartment in New York, covered by a blanket to keep warm, watching something boring on TV. Sometimes they ended up making love. Other nights, she would sleep off while he stayed awake, playing a computer game.
“Genesis is strong,” she murmurs. “I don’t know how she sits in that waiting room without losing her mind. I just can’t.”
“Your dad is going to be fine, Tonbra. Just believe that.”
Lexus nods but bites fingernails that peek out from the sleeve of an oversized sweater. Kasiobi drowns down the urge to kiss her hair, to bury his fingers in, push back her head and take her lips. These are thoughts that always occupy his mind in idle moments when all the things they had done and been comes rushing back to him. Just the other day when she came over to pick Trinity, he had longed to hold her hand when he handed over a feeding bottle to her. He could have told her then how much he missed her right before kissing her.
But his pride didn’t let him. Not even when he saw that she wanted it. Her eyes had taken on that look he knew so well that revealed how much she wanted to be kissed. That look always made her vulnerable, like a woman, open to the wiles of a grown man.
“I’m sorry for bugging you like this, Kas.”
“It’s fine,” he replies. “You’re fam.”
Lexus pulls away. She sets herself in a comfortable position to face him. They stare at each other without words for a long stretch until her eyes moisten up again. He doesn’t touch her this time. He simply watches as the tears slowly course down her cheeks. He thinks it’s a beautiful sight, sad as it is.
“I was pregnant for you in New York,” she confesses.
For a second or two, he doesn’t understand her words.
“And I didn’t want the baby. But I couldn’t tell you because you were serious about us at that time. You wanted us to get married and have a family and it wasn’t what I wanted. I always tried to tell you but you just assumed we were on the same page. That was why I had mood swings and shut you out so many times. And then I went and got pregnant. I felt stupid and irresponsible. I hated myself…”
“What happened to the baby?”
“I had an abortion.”
Kasiobi shows no reaction, and this is not because he can’t. He keeps it in because he doesn’t want to upset her more than she already is.
“That was why we broke up. It wasn’t that I stopped loving you. No, Kas. I was…and I’m still crazy about you.”
At this, Kasiobi rises up. “Thanks for explaining everything but let’s not bring this topic up again.”
“Kas, I’m sorry. I just couldn’t face you after what I did.”
“You had an abortion, Woyintonbra,” Kasiobi responds with much calm. He is neither angry nor bitter but he feels the need to express himself.
“You aborted my child. You made that stupid, senseless decision all on your own without telling me and now you’re saying you still love me? What am I supposed to do with that? Dance? Let you back in?”
The sincerity in her tone makes it hard to keep a grudge; that and the fact that he is tired of the distance between them. She has been a mother to Trinity, helping him out without asking anything in return. This more than makes up for everything she did to hurt him. He wants her back but is scared to take the leap again. A friends with benefits arrangement would be better. That way, he eats his cake and keeps it.
Trinity wakes up with a scream.
“This talk is not over,” Kasiobi makes clear. “We won’t do this today. After your dad gets better, we’ll talk about it.”
As Lexus makes towards Trinity’s bedroom, Kasiobi pulls her back and enacts his fantasy of kissing her.
It’s a long and deep one, the type that is gentle and fierce all at once. He has longed for this, dreamed that it would come in a finer setting and with a romantic ambience, but this is just as good and he would leave it hanging right here.
He marches away from her. She follows him to Trinity’s bedroom. The first sight of the little girl puts a smile on her face.
“Can I carry her?”
Lexus walks to Trinity’s crib and lifts her out of it. The screams die down immediately.
“She’s hungry. Make food for her. I’ll heat up her bath water.”
Less than an hour later, the three of them are in Kasiobi’s SUV, on the way to the hospital. Genesis had called to let Lexus know that Dominic was out of surgery and asking to see her.
“Why do you think he’s asking after me?” Lexus had looked into Kasiobi’s face after Genesis hung up. “You think he wants to say goodbye? Give me some sort of last words?”
If Lexus hadn’t been dead serious with moisture dancing in her eyes, Kasiobi would have laughed. And even now as he parks in some empty spot in the car park of the most expensive hospital in Lagos, he sees that her apprehension hasn’t let down as she keeps chewing her nails.
They walk into the hospital, to the ward Dominic is recuperating, but they don’t let them in. Genesis comes out a while later.
“He’s sleeping,” she informs them. “Sedated.”
“Did it go well?” Lexus asks.
“Yeah, it went well. Your dad is fine, Tonbra.”
“He’s not going to die?”
Emotionally drained, Genesis can only shake her head. “Come here.”
Lexus steps forward and into a waiting hug. “Your dad is not going to die, Tonbra. Far from it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Very sure. Just believe that, darling. I’ll take good care of him. I promised you this on the day we got married, didn’t I? He’s not dying on my watch.”
Yet, Lexus is inconsolable. Genesis doesn’t let go of her until she pulls herself together. Only then does she step away.
“I’m such a cry baby.”
“It’s okay. I don’t think you can handle any more loss. Me neither.”
They both smile.
“That being said, you’re a mess, Tonbra. Let’s go and have our nails and hair done and we’ll be back here when he’s awake.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Lexus sniffles.
Genesis links arms with her. “Kasbi, thank you for bringing her. She literally bolted out of here earlier.”
Lexus turns to talk to Kasiobi but he nods her away. “Go and glam up, B. We’ll see later.”
She gives Trinity a kiss and leaves with Genesis.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
Today, I had to say goodbye to Saratu. Her ex-husband is back in her life and she answers to his call without a second thought. She is off again to the UK to wastefully give her body to the man, not caring how it affects business. Dele’s wife thinks we don’t need her anyway. This is painfully said over a table where we are all seated. We’re in a noisy restaurant that has families with loud kids, all of whom have come to have their Sunday lunches. Eating out is quite a big deal in Lagos these days. I stare at some of the families and wonder if Jide, Jiney and I are going to be them someday.
“I’ll come back, baby.” Saratu takes Dele’s wife’s hand.
“Please, don’t. Just remain there even after he breaks your heart again and treats you like trash.”
“Oh, he will misbehave but before then, I’ll suck his account dry.”
Dele’s wife withdraws her hand. My eyes fall on Yazmin who is awfully quiet.
She doesn’t hear me. Her concentration is on her phone.
Saratu snatches the phone off her hands. “They’re calling you.”
Yaz looks up and her eyes dash to her phone.
“You’re consulting your ovulation app?” Saratu asks nosily. “Na wa o. Tobe is just over a year and you want another one?”
Yazmin mutters some insult in Spanish. Dele’s wife and I burst out laughing. Saratu frowns and hands Yazmin back her phone.
“One person I will not miss is you sha,” Saratu says to Yazmin. “I hate your racist ass.”
“Cabrona,” Yazmin cusses.
“Screw you right back, baby.”
“Yaz, be nice,” I scold.
“She started it.”
I am ready to roll my eyes right now. This is a typical day at work. I have no desire to see them play it out over this farewell dinner which is already going moodily.
“Can you two just get along? Just once?”
I know I’m speaking to the wind. How they have managed to work with each other for almost a year beats me. I love them both, though, and I tell them this. Saratu hugs me and we both tear up. I am going to miss her. She is the one friend I love and hate in equal measure.
Somehow we all manage through lunch and after we’re done, we walk out to the parking lot. Saratu hurries to one of the security guards and takes her pet dog from him. After shoving little pieces of chicken through the dog’s willing mouth, she brings it to me. I don’t cringe or move back. The animal has become a friend over the past month and has taught me to face my fears. These days I can stomach the sounds of barking and howling dogs.
“It’s for Jide.” Saratu hands me the leash. “All the times he stopped over at the office he came with something for him. I think they’ll bond well.”
“Jide will be glad,” I tell her. “Thank you, Sara.”
The dog, Barry, sits beside me and looks up at Saratu, expecting more chicken but she stares at her phone and announces that she is set to leave. An Uber is already waiting to take her to the airport.
She embraces Dele’s wife first and comes to me next. I leave a few words of love with her and give her a parting gift. Finally, she stands before Yazmin.
“Don’t come back,” Yazmin says. We laugh. They hug and we afterwards, we watch Saratu leave. When the Uber has driven out of sight, I say goodbye to Yazmin and Dele’s wife and get into my car. Barry obediently sits in the backseat. I drive home.
When I get in, I catch Jide having an afternoon nap. For a moment I am distracted by the man’s half-dressed sexiness which lies invitingly on the couch. I want to do things to him while he sleeps but Barry whines and I behave myself. I quietly lead Barry to him. The dog sits beside the couch and on his own puts his nose to Jide’s sides and sniffs. Jide scratches the spot but Barry repeats his actions that get him a smack right before Jide springs up.
He glares at the dog for a few seconds and then at me.
“Sugams, what’s going on?”
Barry yelps. Jide stares at him again and then recognizes him.
I don’t know if dogs can smile but I think Barry just did.
“How are you, boy?” Jide ruffles his fur. Barry responds by wagging his tail in excitement.
“He’s all yours. A parting gift from Saratu.”
I watch his face light up. He is a dog person but he has kept the house free of them because of me. I am happy to see him this way. Momentarily, he forgets I am there as he bonds with Barry.
“I just hope Fumi doesn’t get allergic to him.”
“He’s hypoallergenic. Have no worries.”
Fumi is the short version of Fumnanya, Jiney’s Igbo name. Jide is the one who starts calling her that and it’s beginning to stick.
“So, we’re going to have a visitor anytime soon,” he informs me.
“Visitor? From where?”
My face changes.
“She is stopping by to say hello and formally ask your forgiveness over the Facebook pictures stuff.”
“I’ve forgiven her. She doesn’t have to come here.”
And at the instant, we hear a knock on the door.
“That should be her.” Jide stands up and goes to the front door. I take the seat he was sitting on, putting on an unwelcoming expression on my face. Soon, I hear her voice and seconds later she is in my house.
“Hi, Honey.” She stands by the door, waving at me with a smile. As usual, I find her distractingly beautiful. She is wearing a fitted gown and heels that are to die for. Gold bangs fall to one side of her face and join a fluff of alluring curly hair that bounces each time she moves.
Jide offers her a seat and walks to the kitchen to get her a drink. When he is gone, she pulls up to the edge of the seat. I know an apology is about to come, yet I act oblivious.
She starts out slowly, picking choice words she feels will get to my psyche. But bit by bit, she breaks through my tough exterior and locates a soft spot in my heart. It’s a very small spot, though.
“It’s alright, Hauwa,” I find myself saying. “As long as you’re not stealing my man, we’re good.”
“I will never hit on someone I consider my brother.”
“That’s good to know.”
Jide returns with something alcoholic for her and a glass of orange juice for me. After she is served her drink, we all sit and converse. Before long, Hauwa and I are laughing like old friends. All the resistance I put up against her falls away as she charms me with her openness. It doesn’t take long for her to express how desperately she is to get married.
“Why desperate, though?”
“I’m thirty-eight, Honey. Everyone I know is married, even my younger ones. My mom cries all the time because she believes she has done something wrong in her past and that’s why I’m in this situation. My dad and I now have this strained relationship. Home is no longer home. I’m the one everyone looks at with pity and when I’m not there, I become their gossip topic.”
“I just need to take the shame away. At this point, I’ll marry whoever is ready to settle down…”
“But the problem is that I am still too picky. Am I not supposed to have sense and do away with some of my deal breakers?”
“You shouldn’t,” Jide replies. “I’ve told you over and over again, Hauwa, you will find a good man. Just hang in there.”
“You know I have offers to be a second wife. Many of them, in fact. Some of the men are my dad’s friends, but I just can’t. I want what two of you have or at least, something close to it. Even if I don’t find love, let me find a man who respects and treats me like a princess. Am I asking too much?”
Jide and I shake our heads in the same manner without meaning to. Hauwa finds it funny.
“You guys are sooo cute together.”
“We know,” Jide says.
“What if I fix a few blind dates for you?” I ask.
“I’m game. I never stop believing, though, and that’s why I moved to Lagos. The land of dreams.”
“And heartbreakers,” Jide adds. “Be warned.”
“This heart has been broken so many times that it is now numb to whatever.”
We talk for longer, keeping to the topic of marriage and all things relationship. When she announces that she is going home, I have a good mind to ask her to stay a little longer but I don’t. We walk her to the door and the moment she is gone, Jide turns to me.
“So, what do you think of her?”
“I like her. She’s nice.”
“And I feel for her. I’d be desperate too at her age. Frustrated even. There are just very few women in Nigeria these days who are comfortable being single after they clock thirty.”
“I respect such women.”
“You respect every woman,” I tell him with a certain look in my eye. He catches it.
“Can I respect you now?” he asks, taking me by the waist. I fall into his arms as my body presses into the muscles of his chest and the tightness of his abdomen. Jide, to me, is like some Greek god twenty-something hours of each day. It’s not about sexiness; he’s just incredibly male, and that always turns me on. Now that I have had Jiney and done away with that weird phase of sex-hating, I am always on heat. Jide can so get it any day, at any time.
Forgetting that Barry is present, we start to make out – first, standing, and then we fall onto the nearest couch. We are so into it that we don’t hear Didi’s door open and close until we hear a sound and we turn to see her standing near the front door with some guy I do not recognize.
Neither Jide nor I move. Thankfully, no private parts are out in the open.
“I’m sorry,” she apologizes. “We had wanted to sneak out quietly.”
“Go ahead then,” Jide tells her.
The guy with her wants to say something but she takes his hand and drags him out. I sit up.
“Who is that boy?”
Jide shrugs. “Some guy she said was her friend.”
“Hotstuff, that’s the second guy she’s bringing here. I am uncomfortable with it.”
“She’s allowed to have visitors.”
“No. Not anyhow. What if she brings an armed robber or pedophile?”
Jide screws up his face in thought. “You’re making a point…”
“Talk to her or I will. The only guy permitted to enter this house is her boyfriend. If she doesn’t have one, she should entertain her men outside.”
“I’ll talk to her. Now, can we continue?”
Like I said, I’m on heat. He scarcely finishes speaking when I grab him again and we fall back on the couch. Barry barks. We both turn and catch him staring.
“Let’s take it to the room.”
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
I watch the sunset from the kitchen window as I wait for the pasta I put over the stove to cook. I ate less than three hours ago and here I am, hungry again. My pregnancy cravings will soon do me in.
Emeka is in the living room watching a football match on TV. It’s a chill evening, the weather is fine, the baby is not kicking much, all is good. What can possibly go wrong?
The doorbell dings. I pay it no mind. The sunset still has my attention. However, Emeka soon walks in and announces to me that Yazmin is around and wants to have a word with both of us. I frown. Yazmin and I are still not cool, although we are never at each other’s throats. She will always be the other woman that snatched my husband from me, an act I have not forgiven Emeka for, either.
I follow him out to the living room to find her waiting.
“Good evening, Tola,” she greets. I like when she greets me. Nne has instructed that she pays me respect always. So far, she is acting like the nice, little iyawo she is.
Emeka picks a sofa that is away from both of us. He rests his feet on the center table and glances at her.
We wait for her mouth to open but instead of words we hear a whimper as she covers her face. Emeka and I both stare at each other in puzzlement.
“Yaz?” he calls. “What’s wrong, bae?”
She shakes her head and sobs. We keep our eyes on her for a while until Emeka, loving husband that he is, goes to her and holds her. I won’t lie to you, I feel jealous. I don’t think I can ever get over the fact that he holds me the same way he holds her and that she gets the same type of loving I do.
“You don’t love me anymore, papi,” she cries. “You spend your whole time with her and hardly even pick my calls. And then when you’re with me, you’re always on the phone with her. Don’t you love me anymore?”
“Hian!” Emeka exclaims. “Yaz, is that why you came here?”
“But why would you think I don’t love you anymore, mi vida?”
“It’s the truth. You spend all your time with her.”
“And so?” I bite back. “He’s my husband.”
“You know she’s pregnant, baby,” Emeka explains. I roll my eyes. Is it something someone needs to tell her? She cannot endure until I give birth? See me see wahala.
“She needs all my attention,” Emeka continues with his unnecessary explanation. Me, I just feel like walking over to her and slapping her so that that pretty, white face will turn red. But all I can do is sit still and take in the scene. Emeka is speaking to her in Igbo, a language I’m finding difficult to learn. Yazmin already knows how to speak bits of it but understands it well. Honey, too; and even Mary. I am the only woman married to an Igbo man that is carrying last.
Emeka manages to calm Yazmin down. I don’t say a word about what I feel about her right now. We are both not allowed to insult each other or she wouldn’t have heard the last of it. This is the same babe that is playing games with Emeka, using that Omoh human being just to get him all jealous. Two nights ago, he disgraced himself by going to Omoh’s house to pick a fight but the security guards wouldn’t even let him in. He is treated like trash, all because of her. Tell me why I should like her?
“Are you better now?” he inquires.
“There’s more,” she answers. My frown deepens. I cross my arms.
“I’m listening, mi vida.”
My crossed arms unfold. Emeka gives her a nasty up and down glare.
“What did you just say?”
“I’m pregnant, papi.”
“Don’t ‘papi’ me! Which one is that you’re pregnant? Pregnant for who, biko?!”
“Yazmin Ivan, you are on the fucking pill!”
“You know I hate pills, so I stopped taking them. They were getting me fat.”
Emeka cannot believe what he has just heard. I can feel the coldness that has just settled on him.
“You did not take your pills at all.”
“No,” she answers in her usual I-don’t-give-two manner. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for yourself and your whole family back in Mexico! They didn’t give you proper home training at all!” He charges up. “And fuck you!”
She starts to cry. I hiss and give her a piece of my mind.
“Your crocodile tears are useless, Yazmin. What you did is wrong. You intentionally got pregnant just for attention. What type of nonsense is that? Do you think marriage is some game you play with your husband and that babies are things you use for your own selfish ends? Tobe is not even up to eighteen months and you’re carrying another one. Why, Yazmin?”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“Same way you didn’t mean to take my husband and have a son for him abi? Same way you didn’t mean to come between us! Why can’t three of us just stay in peace without you cropping up something from somewhere. The other time it was chlamydia and now, this!”
“I seriously didn’t mean to.”
“Abeg, keep quiet!” I yell back as I stand up. “I don’t sha blame you. I blame Mex and his community penis.”
My anger is now directed at Emeka.
“If you kept it in your pants, we won’t be here. This is your mess, handle it, and leave me out of it!”
I march to the kitchen. I warn myself against crying. I will not shed a tear because of those two. I must not. My baby needs me to be happy at all times and that’s the way I will remain.
I take down the spaghetti from the stove, serve it into a dish for one, add peppered stew that has lots of meat and head to my room to enjoy my meal.
Emeka comes in. I pretend I don’t see him.
“Doc, I am so sorry.”
I don’t reply. He sits beside me. “If you want me to divorce her, just give the word.”
“So that a Mexican warlord abi drug lord will come and kill all of us here? Abeg o! Take responsibility for all your actions. It’s your fault. You went to marry an omo daddy. Now, see where you have landed yourself.”
“I won’t lie to you, Tols, I’m regretting everything.”
“That one concern you. All I know is that once I finish this food, I’ll need you on this bed with me, to cuddle me while I sleep, right after you give me head. Only head. That your dick must not touch me.”
“I’m very sorry.”
“Meanwhile, are you sure she’s even pregnant?”
“She may be trying to play a fast one.” I drop my fork. “Where is she sef?”
Before Emeka replies, I leave my room. Fortunately, Yazmin is still in the house. I call her over. She gives me attitude.
“Come jor. Abi you think I’m Emeka that you’ll be doing anyhow ni?”
She walks to me. I point her in the direction of my bedroom.
“Why?” she asks, pouting those her red lips that make my husband lose his mind.
“Don’t question me, onyibo. Just be going.”
She walks ahead of me. When we enter the room, I tell her to take off her panty and lie on the bed.
“S’onsiere ni? You think we’ll believe anything you say? I need to check if you’re really pregnant. My friend, off your pant and lie on that bed! I don’t have time for shit!”
Emeka tells her something in Spanish and she obeys while I get some gloves from my First Aid box. When I return and part her legs, I am shocked to see my husband’s name tattooed on her cleanly-shaved pubis. I eye him.
“Relax, Yazmin,” I instruct, although I’d rather shove my fingers in there and injure her.
“Don’t kill my baby.”
“That’s if there’s anything inside.”
“I’m not you.”
I push my fingers in and press down on her lower tummy without further warning. It doesn’t take me long to find out that she’s truly pregnant. I shake my head with a sigh as I pull out my fingers.
“Satisfied?” She gets off the bed. I remove the gloves, wash my hands and continue eating. I ignore them until she goes away. I can’t kill myself because of them – so I say to myself. But after my meal is completed and I’m cuddling the life size teddy on my bed, I put a call through to Mary and tell her what is happening. I say this while crying like a little baby. I tell her that I think it’s time to give Emeka an ultimatum. He either divorces Yazmin or I leave. I can’t take this again. But until then, I want to move into Mary’s. Does she have a spare room?
“Yes, Tola. Come over.”
Cabrona – fuck you
Iyawo – wife
S’onsiere ni – are you crazy?
omo daddy – daddy’s baby