Lanre. He had spent the night here. Face buried in my neck and a leg tucked in-between mine, he slept the sleep of the exhausted and angry, after a long session of intense sex, following two hours of Krav Maga in which I was defeated asininely. He had pinned me beneath him at the end of the session and demanded to know why I launched a personal attack on Baka.
“You put yourself at risk and jeopardized the mission!” he shouted. “I’m pulling you out of there!”
We were in my backyard, on a short stretch of land that held artificial grass on which Duru spent most of his time. A nasty rainfall was beating down on Lanre and I. The training session had been difficult. My body ached all over. Lanre was not the type of man you flexed your muscles with. He was swift and brutal.
“You don’t do shit like that!” he insisted. “It was thoughtless!”
“Don’t take me out of there, please.”
With the look on his face I knew I was wasting my time pleading with him. Lanre had never liked the case in the first place. He was angry that our bosses were simply putting up a front that they were doing their job to please someone that was bearing a grudge for Kashimu. Everyone knew the guy was untouchable.
“Let me move onto Baka. His human trafficking ring is massive. I can take the whole shit down. If we’re unable to cut through the red tapes to get Kash, we can nab Baka.”
“Kash?” Lanre’s eyes came to slits. “That’s what you call him now?”
“I’m technically his girlfriend, Dada, so yes, he’s Kash. I’m doing my job.”
Lanre freed me. I watched his ripped frame march into house. I lay on the grass a while before dragging myself inside. He was in the shower. I stood by the door, waiting for him to be done.
“You were with him for one week,” he said, wrapping a towel around his waist as he walked into the bedroom. “You switched off your phone. I was worried. I had no idea you were having a good time.”
“The thing between us is not serious.”
I couldn’t tell him Kashimu held me prisoner because he had discovered that I was the Black Witch.
“Kashimu is dangerous, B. Whatever you think he is, he is not.”
Lanre stood before me, livid eyes telling me things his lips would not utter.
“You’re an asset to the NIA, to your family. They can’t afford to lose you to some conscienceless criminal.”
“And you, what am I to you?”
His response came with his hand behind my neck, pulling my lips to his. He was fierce. I felt his anger and fear for me. I felt those things that his lips would not utter. The man loved me, and I guess I had emotions for him in some way, although it wasn’t the type that moved my world. What we shared was like that thing nobody talked about, but knew existed; that thing that came alive whenever it was needed and then disappeared into obscurity again.
Like wild beasts we fucked. He didn’t ask me to leave everything and escape to some place with him this time. He didn’t seem too much in the mood to talk. He simply wanted to have me. I wanted him too. I had accepted a long time ago the impulsiveness and freedom of my sexuality. I had whoever I wanted at any time. Lanre was one man I couldn’t stop having.
We collapsed when we couldn’t go any further, and fell asleep, after finishing a pack of pizza.
I woke up early and went for a jog. I returned to a house smelling of plantain and eggs. Lanre’s specialty. I didn’t find him, but my breakfast was waiting in bed with a note reminding me of a debriefing at the home office later on today.
After I was done with breakfast and a shower, Duru informed me that Jethro was here to see me.
“Let him in.”
My younger brother walked into my bedroom, typing furiously on his phone.
“What’s up?” I didn’t receive a response. He sat on my bed while I got on with my business.
“Are you going to talk to me sometime in this century?” I asked when I was through putting on my clothes. He looked at me and tossed his phone aside.
“You’re going to work?”
“Why do you like dressing like a boy, though?”
I stared at my reflection in the mirror. I wasn’t doing tomboy today. I was all about the rocker style – a vintage t-shirt, ripped jeans, leather ankle-strap sneakers and a leather jacket that was hanging off my dressing stool.
“I run a gym, remember? I’m not exactly supposed to be wearing ballroom dresses and heels to work.”
“You’re always chic, don’t get me wrong. But I’m confused about you. Sometimes you dress like a girl too. Are you…bisexual?”
I crossed my arms and looked at the brat. He hadn’t changed from the little boy who asked a million question and poked his nose into businesses that didn’t concern him.
“We’re asking questions about my sex life now?” I scolded. “We don’t have respect again?”
“Sex life? Naa. Just your sexual orientation. I’ve been confused about it. I’ve never seen you with a guy.”
“Jet, get on with why you’re here. I don’t have time.”
“Okay, so I want to change my last name to Soyombo. I don’t know how to tell Mom and Dad. Mom, especially.”
I was leaning into the mirror, turning my face this way and that to determine if I needed to slap on some makeup.
“You’ve started spending time with your asshole dad, huh?”
“Something like that. He’s cool, though. Our weekend was lit. He took me out on his yacht. There were girls. They were aiit. Yesterday we were at a gentleman’s club. Not my kind of thing, but it was really special, you know. We bonded. He’s not as bad as mom painted him.”
I was doing some painting of my own as Jethro spoke. A deep shade of pink on my lips.
“So, has he explained to you why he chose not to be part of your life for twenty years and just pops into the scene after Idris raised you up like his biological son?”
“Um… He said he felt angry and heartbroken over Mom cheating on him with Dad.”
I smacked my lips. My brows went up and came together and up again. They needed shading.
“What went on between him and Mom had nothing to do with you, Jet. He should have taken over his responsibilities from Idris the moment you were born.”
“But he did. He’s paid my school fees and still sends money to Mom.”
“Being a father is not just about spending money on your kid. It’s about being there. The way Idris was there for you and Polo.”
“I know, but I’m not a Bahago. I’m a Soyombo. And I want to change my name to Soyombo.”
I didn’t show my disappointment. Drawing a perfect arch for my left eyebrow, I told him, “I’m proud of you for wanting to stick to your roots and all. I’m also happy that you’re not mad at your father for abandoning you all your life. But…you should tread carefully. He doesn’t sound genuine to me.”
“Argh! I knew you’d say that. You sound just like Polo.” He stretched out on my bed, feet clad in sneakers.
“Polo always makes sense. You should listen to him.”
“I want to be a Soyombo.”
“You already are, Jethro. Just don’t go hurting your real parents because of a man who shows up in your life from the blue. I’d suggest that you wait until you’re done with school before you change your name. That way, you make the decision as an adult.”
“I’m already an adult.”
I shook my head in disagreement. “Mnh-mnh.”
“You’re just twenty. Still a baby.”
He grunted. “You used to be way cooler, Yanka.”
“Don’t let me smack your mouth from here.”
“There’s another thing I need to talk about.”
“I kind’a think I have a girlfriend that I’m serious about.”
“Serious, as in?”
“I want her to meet Mom.”
“But Mom is not going to like her.”
“She’s…not so rich. She’s not even rich at all. In short, she’s poor. An orphan.”
“Yup. Victoria is not going to like her.”
“My dad does, though. He met her on Saturday. Gave her two hundred gees.”
Done with my left brow, I moved to the right. “How long have you been with this girl?”
“I think you should wait. With Mom, you have to be dating for at least six months before she takes you seriously.”
“But I want to introduce her to all of you.”
“Boy, you need to learn that little word called patience. Pa-tience. Give your mother some time. Okay?”
“Now, get going.”
He rose up from my bed. “Thanks Yanka.”
I received a hug and a peck on my cheek. He also took a selfie.
“You know I love you, right?” I said to him.
It was something we did all the time. It had begun with him telling me the exact words on my seventeenth birthday, barely few months after I met him for the first time. He had come into my bedroom with his favorite stuffed animal. A dinosaur he called Dinah. He was the first to wish me a happy birthday, thrusting the toy at me.
“Happy birthday, Yanka. You can have Dinah. I don’t have any money to buy you any present.”
I took the toy offered, looking at him oddly. I was yet to get used to any form of affection, but Jethro was growing on me by the day.
“Don’t you like Dinah anymore?” I asked.
“I like her, but Yohan said toys are for girls, so you can take her.”
“Say ‘thank you.’ When somebody gives you something you say thank you.”
He climbed onto my bed and hugged me tightly. “You know I love you, right?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. I knew I was supposed to tell him I loved him too, but I couldn’t bring myself to say the words. And so I replied, “I know.”
I had kept Dinah through the years. She was presently sitting on my window couch.
“See you at home on Friday.”
Saturday was Idris’ birthday. Everyone was expected to be around for the weekend.
“Come with your boyfriend!” Jethro added.
“Fuck off!” I said to him, laughing.
Several minutes later, I was in the gym. The morning yoga period was handled by me. I also took on one of Archie’s clients in a personal training session. It was while I was concluding with the lady I heard Archie’s voice. Something about it made my tummy churn in a good way. I hadn’t seen him since his wedding night. Muna had returned from their honeymoon a week ago while he proceeded to Uyo to join the Super Eagles as they trained for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. I wasn’t expecting him back. It was a pleasant surprise to find him standing in my office with a sunny smile and a plaster on his nose. The air was blessed with the fragrance of his sporty cologne.
I shut the door. “You’re back.”
“You’re not going to Russia?”
“Nope.” He sucked his thumb upon which a dollop of the ice-cream he was eating fell. “I was put on compulsory leave because I just got married,” he said. His eyes turned softer. “How are you, B?”
I headed towards the bathroom. I needed to get the sweat off my body. Archie caught my hand and tugged me towards him.
“I’m sweaty,” I told him.
“I’m not trying to do anything. I just… I missed you, Bianca.”
I didn’t want to look into his eyes, but I couldn’t help it. What I saw was a man crazy in love.
“Ice-cream?” He held a scoop before my mouth. I took what was offered. It tasted as good as his mouth when he unexpectedly kissed me.
“There’s such a thing called consent,” I told him after I unfettered my lips from his.
“Okay. I’m sorry. Can I kiss you, sweetheart?”
“No. Let me wash up. I’ll be back.”
I entered the bathroom and returned shortly, wearing what I had on earlier. Archie was perched on my desk, looking out the window.
“She knows,” he murmured.
“Who knows what?”
“Muna. She knows about us.”
“There’s an ‘us’?”
Archie turned. The plaster on his nose suddenly became a thing of interest to me. “What happened to your nose?”
“Minor accident in Uyo. Nothing serious.”
“Or Muna attacked you over what she thinks she knows?”
He gave no answer. My guess was spot on. I wasn’t interested in his married life, however.
“It was my vows. The vows I said to her. While I was in Uyo, she watched the video over and over again until it came to her that I had said them to you and not her.”
“Your vows?” I chortled to show indifference. “She thinks you said them to me?”
“I did, actually. They were to you and not to her. And I think you know.”
“I know nothing.” I took the ice-cream cup from him.
“Bianca, I couldn’t sleep the night before that, after we hung out with my cousins. I kept thinking about you, about us…”
“Archibong, we’re not having this talk again. You’re married to my sister and whatever happened between us ended when you put that ring on her finger.”
“I shouldn’t have.”
“Don’t be a fucking fool.”
“I was a coward too.”
“No. You were ambitious and hungry for recognition, and you got what you wanted. Marrying a Bahago gave you everything you were striving for. Even your other family members who considered you an outcast showed up for your wedding, and now you’re a full-blooded Kentoro-Abassi. Congratulations, but please, don’t come here whining about what you feel for me just because you want to fuck. I’m not having that.”
“It’s beyond sex…”
“Look…my marriage ended from the first day it started. I give Muna and I one year. Two years, tops, if a baby comes. And no, I’m not crying over spilled milk. As you said, I got what I wanted. I’m just wondering… Isn’t there a chance for us?”
“A chance? You mean, you want to keep me as a sidechick or something? Are you out of your mind?”
“Clearly. But I hope we can keep being best friends.”
“That’s never going to change, Archie.”
“Muna…she’s pretty angry, though. No, she’s mad. Pissed as fuck. I denied everything, but she doesn’t believe…” He sighed. “You’re in the clear sha. She doesn’t think anything has happened between us yet.”
“I also think nothing should happen again.”
“Is that the way you want it?”
“One last time, then?”
He got down from the desk. “Just once. One weekend.” He tipped my chin upwards. “Me and you alone, no distractions…”
His breath over my lips was sweetly warm. I so wanted to kiss him again. To hold him, to rest my head on his chest and just listen to him talk about anything, to give him the assurance of my loyalty in a way no other woman could.
My head was mush at that moment. Archie always left me weak. I remembered their wedding day and how my legs felt like they couldn’t hold my weight when he stood there, breathtaking as a god. I remembered the many fleeting gazes at different times that took his eyes away from Muna. I remembered how weirdly I understood what his eyes said, and how I had known the vows he would say would be for me.
“They always tell you to get married to your best friend if you want to have a happy marriage,” he had said. “You’re my best friend. The only one I can trust with my life. The person who was on my mind last night and this morning. And it has always been my wish to wake up with you lying next to me. Today, I’m taking a major step in my life. And it means the world to me to have you here with me. You don’t say much, but you say everything with those eyes, that laughter, that smile. I promise to love you, no matter what. To honor what we have. To protect it and protect you. To do everything to ensure that we’ll spend the rest of our lives together. I love you so much, Ms. Bahago. Only death can part us.”
Munachi had giggled then, dabbing her cheek with a hanky. The church was in silence, dotted with dreamy sighs from most of the ladies as Olajiga stepped forward with the rings. From that moment on, I zoned out. The proceedings became hazy to me. I carried on like a zombie until it was over. The photograph session was torture. It was at that moment I accepted that regularity was never going to be mine to have. When Captain took me away at the age of eight, he stole my chances of having a normal existence. I had not been able to recover and integrate into the world around me, even though I had the rare privilege of morphing into anyone I wanted to be at any time.
So it was with much endurance, I went through the first half of the wedding. The reception was considerably nicer to me. I took on the role of his best man, and best men were known to drink their asses off during weddings. That was what I did. I drank, I flirted with strange men, drank myself senseless, and ended up falling asleep in Yohan’s apartment where he had thrown a party.
“I’d sleep like a log of wood too if I witnessed the love of my life get married to my sister,” Yohan said to me the next morning when he walked into his bedroom and I stirred from a four-hour sleep.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Yanka, I’m your elder brother. I know these things.”
He turned on the air conditioner on full blast and lit us a joint.
“This’ll help with the hangover.”
We smoked like we used to do back in the day, and talked about love and relationships until I got some sort of clarity. I knew I’d seen things none of my family members had seen, and been places they could only dream about, but a big brother was always a big brother. Yohan gave me good advice I was going to stick with. Well, as much as I could.
“I can’t do it, Arch.”
“Just a weekend.”
“Okay, I promise we won’t have sex. Let’s just talk.”
“No, still. And please, leave.”
He gave me double kisses on both hands. “I know you’ll change your mind.”
He held me in a snug hug. I remained stiff, but he continued to hold me until he was done. He brought his face to mine.
“You have to let go,” I said to him.
He left the office, and just in time for me to receive Kashimu’s phone call. He had just flown in from a trip. He wanted us to have dinner in his home.
Tsakani kept her mind occupied with a video on YouTube as she waited in Tanko’s secretary’s office for Tanko. He was in a brief meeting with a couple of investors, as she had been informed. There was a soft sound of R&B playing from the secretary’s laptop. The color theme of the office which was a mix of orange and blue gave the place a lively atmosphere. Tsakani considered changing her theme to something similar. The default setting of grey and white was beginning to get to her.
She switched from YouTube to Whatsapp to respond to a chat. She noticed that Pero was online. She fought the urge to chat with him. They hadn’t communicated since he left to China. She understood that he needed space to breathe.
The door to Tanko’s office opened and out came Apollo and two men.
“Hi Tsaka.” he greeted.
“Good morning, Polo.” Tsaka grinned, rising to her feet. Polo was always a breath of fresh air. If it wasn’t his dashing looks giving Tsaka something to smile about, it was the unwavering sense of calm his presence gave her. They shared a hug and he rested a hand on her shoulder as Tanko came to the door.
“I wasn’t in when you came to pick the kids yesterday,” Polo mentioned. “Debbie said you asked after me?”
“Just asking. I haven’t seen you in a while.”
“Work. Trips upon trips, and work again.” He hung his head in tiredness. “You guys should come over for dinner some time though.”
“We will,” Tanko answered.
“I meant her and Pero.” Polo’s stare on his brother was reprimanding. “It’s been a while,” he continued. “I hope he’s okay, though?”
Polo was one Bahago Pero was comfortable with. They had a connection.
“I have to go.” He gave Tsaka a shoulder squeeze and made his exit. Tanko held open the door to his office to let her in. She walked into a less colorful space, but an inspiring one, nonetheless. Tanko had a thing for colors.
“To what do I owe this pleasant visit?” he asked as he spun a visitor’s chair for her to sit on. She took the chair. He took another and moved it to face her.
“I was thinking…” she began. He interrupted.
“You didn’t show up at Liana Resort. You didn’t answer my calls. And when I got back, they said you were gone.”
“Tanko, you seriously expected me to have some rendezvous weekend with you in some cottage when my husband is at the other end of the world working his ass off to make me and my sons comfortable?”
“I don’t like the way you think sometimes. You thought all we’d do is have sex?”
“Come on, Tsakani. Even while we were married, did we have sex all the time? What did we do the most?”
“I didn’t come here for this.”
“What did we do the most?”
“That was all I wanted. If it came with sex, well…”
“I couldn’t be there.”
“Why? You felt guilty over what happened?”
“Actually, no. I didn’t.”
And Tsaka was being honest. It was what bothered her about the whole thing. She had spent that morning after the night she had with him, trying to force herself to feel shame over what they had done, but her conscience remained unaffected. The more she mulled over it, the more she became aware that part of her had not let Tanko go. That part felt she still belonged to him.
“I left the family house to my husband’s to get everything into perspective. I needed to think without your dick being a distraction.”
“Fair enough. So, what’s the conclusion after a whole weekend of introspection?”
“I want to officially introduce you to Pero and your son. I want us to sit and have a talk about the way forward as regards to child custody, since we’ll be leaving for Australia.”
“You want me to sit and talk with the man that took you away from me?”
“Are you going to do it?”
“Am I going to do it?” Tanko repeated, speaking to himself, a leg crossed over the other.
“Please, Tanko. We need to have this whole thing cleared up.”
“I understand, Presh. I seriously do. I mean, I can’t imagine how it must be for you, being torn between both worlds. Or even all you’ve been going through with his family and how things would go the moment they hear that I somehow materialized out of nowhere.”
“I can cope. I’ve always coped. I just need to have everyone know what role they play in this.”
“And what’s my role? I don’t mean the role that you and your assistant husband will end up assigning me to after the general meeting. I’m referring to the place you plan to put me when no one is looking in.”
“Tsakani, I’m up for anything that makes you happy. If you want to go away to the moon, it’s fine. As long as you’re okay and Jason is doing well, and I can get to see you guys from time to time, great. Do I want you to go to Australia? No. I want you both here. Selfish me, but what else do you expect me to want? I can’t see myself with another woman. You know women never interested me. You were the only one. It’s tragic that neither of us is to blame for what happened and I have to be the one who ends up with nothing. But you’re not the only person who had an entire weekend of introspection. I did too, and maybe I had a word with Polo on the matter too, and got some perspective. I had to accept that that I have to let you do whatever you want to.”
It was hard not to feel his pain as he spoke. Harder for Tsaka not to find some way to comfort him. She had always been his pain medicine. Her biggest worry was what would become of him when she left.
“Thank you for understanding. I also want to let you know that I’d like to attend your doctor’s appointments with you for the time being.”
“Don’t pity me,” he responded, getting on his feet.
“It’s not pity, Tanko…”
“It is. That’s what this whole thing is beginning to feel like. You know I hate pity. Just don’t.”
“You requested, and I’m going with you. You can’t stop me.”
“And what will Pero say about it?”
“Pero doesn’t have to know. It’s between me and you. I want to know what happened to you. I want to help you heal.”
“Heal?” He laughed. “There’s no healing from what happened, Tsaka. What I went through is never going away. I’ve accepted it. I just need to find the people behind it and get my pound of flesh back.”
“The Bahagos, like any rich family out there, has lots of enemies, Tanko. Looking for who was responsible for what happened to you is a waste of time…”
“Don’t!” He raised a warning finger. “Stay out if it.”
She stood up. He took her hand, tugging her to him as he leaned on his desk. She didn’t push away. She waited for him to speak, but all he did was stare at her.
“I have work to do.”
He dropped a kiss on her forehead. She peeled away from him and left the office. The day sped past, hours hurrying by as she got lost in the pile of work waiting for her. She didn’t know the time had struck six o’clock until the phone on her desk rang. She picked it up. Tanko was on the line.
“Go home. It’s late.”
She read the time on her cell phone. It was almost 6.30 p.m. “Shit.”
Tanko hung up. Tsaka shut her laptop and tossed important items into her handbag as she jumped to her feet. She hated not putting the boys to bed. Jason loved to be sang to. Razaq was still in the stage of bedtime cuddles. Tsaka’s routine with them had been inconsistent lately.
She dashed out of the office and to the parking lot. She was lucky not to hit traffic along the way. She arrived home under thirty minutes. Her first action was to dash into the boys’ room. They were both asleep. She sighed in disappointment, gently closed the door and headed to her bedroom. When she walked in, she found Pero standing before the television, watching some football match while Simi serenaded the air with her voice. Hands in his pocket, Pero struck a calm pose in his tailored-to-fit office outfit. She was always proud to be married to a man of style.
“Baby?” she called in surprise. He turned. “What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be in Hong Kong?”
“Technically, I never really made it into Hong Kong. I got all the way to China and changed my mind at the airport. I took the next flight back here.”
“Your meeting nko?” Tsaka dropped her handbag on the bed.
“My partner would handle it. I told him I was sick. And technically, I am. All that jetlag makes me feel like a pregnant woman in her first trimester.”
“You have no idea what it means to be pregnant,” Tsaka replied, laughing as she went to him. She put her arms around him.
“I came back so we can talk, aya mi. I don’t think I would have been able to concentrate on anything besides you.”
Tsaka blushed. He had just called her a special pet name. It was a good sign. Rubbing the nape of his neck she kissed him. “Have you eaten?”
“Yeah. I had something at the office.”
Tsaka dragged him to the bed. “You must be tired. You need a massage.”
“No, I need to talk.”
She stripped out of her clothes and helped him out of his as well, but her plan to massage him was squashed the moment Pero lodged his face between her legs. He was a different kind of lover from Tanko. A passionate one. An emotional one. Tanko was more playful. To him, sex was not supposed to be something serious. He could be burning in anger, and yet take his time to deliver pleasure to Tsakani. But Pero dug deep and sought for connection. If he or Tsakani was not feeling it, he wasn’t doing it.
Tonight, he made it all about her, leaving her in a quivering mess when he was through. He had ordered a meal of spaghetti and chicken for them in the heat of their lovemaking, and now a food delivery guy was at their door. Pero slipped on a robe and went for the door. He came back with packs of food.
Tsaka found the strength to speak only after a third bite of her chicken.
“I want you to tell me how you feel about Tanko’s return.”
Pero’s startling words almost choked her.
“You must have some type of emotion about it. I want to know.”
“Please, don’t ruin a beautiful evening, baby.”
“No, this is not some heated discussion, aya mi. I got unnecessarily angry with you the other day. It was insensitive of me. Tanko certainly meant everything to you, and then he disappeared and you had to mourn him while carrying his child. Tsaka, I met you then. I remember everything. Now, that he’s back, I want to know how you feel. Are you happy? Sad?”
“Try confused. Disoriented.” Tsaka had her first taste of the spaghetti. “I’m happy he’s alive, but somehow I wish he’ll remain dead. I’ve moved on with you. My life with you is perfect. I don’t care about your family not liking me. You’re my joy, Pero. You’re all that matters.”
Her words provoked a smile from Pero. He kept mute for the rest of the meal. Tsaka wished it would remain that way, but after a long drink of water, she saw seriousness take form in his eyes as he propped a couple of pillows to lay his head on.
“So, you still love him?”
Tsakani, still eating her meal, chose to ignore the question.
“I don’t want to answer that.”
“Do you still love Tanko?”
“It’s a simple question, aya mi. I thought we were talking?”
“Why can’t you just let things be? What’s your aim with that question? You wanted to talk, I talked. Now, you’re asking me how I feel about my ex? Have I asked you that type of stupid question before?”
“Why are you angry? It’s either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.”
Tsakani kissed her teeth and dumped her food pack on the floor. She rose up to use the bathroom.
“You’re being unnecessarily angry,” Pero said. “Dramatic sef. I just want to know what you feel about a man whom you have loved from your teenage years. I want to know if I’m playing second fiddle, if I’m wasting my time.”
Tsaka poked out her head from the bathroom door. “There! That’s what’s bothering you!”
“Would you blame me? You’ve forgotten that you made me the repository of the stories of your entire life with him. Your first kiss, your first sexual encounter… Heck, I even know the size of his dick. You told me everything, so much that I feel like I was there with you guys. And that’s what I’m afraid of. I don’t want to be in any stupid love triangle, aya mi. You are my wife. I’m supposed to be the only man in your life.”
“Then let’s go to Australia if you’re not comfortable here. I suggested that on Friday, abi? Let’s go.”
“I can’t.” His head shook sadly. “I just got new investors and my partners and I are gunning for another one… Things are good financially and businesswise right now. Yes, the job offer in Australia is tempting, but I can’t. We’re staying.”
“Well…” Tsaka shrugged and retreated to the bathroom where she had a steaming shower.
“I just want to know, do you still love him?” Pero’s question was waiting for her when she came back to the bedroom. “An honest answer, please, even though you feel it’ll devastate me. It’s better I know than for me to have sleepless nights over it. Just cut in with one slice, Tsakani. I’m not going to judge you. Do you still love Tanko Bahago?”
She knew she was cornered. Anything other than a yes would make her out a liar. She clung to her towel, as if seeking for support in it. “I never stopped loving him.”
“And it’s not something I can change. But it doesn’t mean anything. You know how I feel about you. Nothing’s going to change that either.”
His ‘okays’ were flat, his fists balled. Tsakani was exhausted. She didn’t think it was a good time to bring up the meeting with Tanko to talk about Jason’s custody.
“Just come and sleep.” Pero moved away from her side of the bed. When she settled in, he spooned her. “We can make this work.” He left hot breaths on her shoulder. “I want to do everything to make it work.”
It was her turn to say a flat, ‘okay’.
She fell asleep first. Tanko’s laughter was ringing somewhere in her head. It wasn’t a surprise when the opening scene of her dream had him beckoning to her. He was his fat self again. Standing in the middle of his father’s massive corn farm in Kaduna, he was roasting a few cobs and telling her he was not a lazy Nigerian youth. The leaves on the stalks didn’t itch when she pushed through them to meet him.