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Previously on Boys With Toys…
Beatrice lost her baby and tried to hide it from Bankole but he found out and dumped her. Ruky zoomed in on him.
Madu’s revenge on Guru comes to execution as a staged photo of Guru with another guy in an intimate pose goes viral. Madu steps in to save the day and thrusts a girlfriend upon Guru. Mrs. Tunji and her son, Duro, think it’s a good plan that would help the image of G&M ultimately.
Mrs. Tunji in a private conversation with Duro tries to convince him that Hope is his child, reminding him about the relationship he once had with Monet.
Uju is dumped by Khalid because of her refusal to get rid of his baby. Slighted, she flies back to Abuja to poison Sachi’s mind against him and suggests that he be gotten rid of. Things turn bad, however, when she mentions that she is pregnant with Khalid’s baby. Both ladies get into fight that ends with Uju’s cracked skull on the kitchen counter.
Today, the story continues. For those of you wanting to know about Monet, here’s a glimpse into that fated moment in her life that produced Hope.
On the outside they looked like every normal couple out in the town to have fun. They seemed tailored for each other, although the man was older, masked by good looks as against the woman’s plain appearance. At least, she had beautiful eyes. Bankole was drawn to them from the moment she walked into the joint, following her husband like she had been tethered to some invisible leash held in his hand. They had picked a table and the woman immediately crossed her arms over her chest and struck an isolated pose. Her manner hadn’t missed Bankole’s notice or the dark patch on her upper arm that made her wince whenever she touched it. Or even the cut on her lower lip which her lipstick couldn’t quite hide. Her beautiful eyes were sad and often looked upon her husband each time he spoke like she was terrified of him.
Bankole wondered what on earth would make a man hit his wife. He hated brutes. It was 2008, for heaven’s sakes and the world was advancing but it seemed some animals on this side of the planet were still wading in their embryonic ways.
Someone nudged him. It was his friend, Mike. Bankole turned dispassionate eyes at him. Mike had been speaking for a while and Bankole had tuned off. The topic was Bankole’s recently failed relationship in which his girlfriend of two years left him for his landlord whom she had been having an affair with. As usual, Bankole’s closest friends, Mike and Roland had an opinion about how he should have handled his love business. They meant well, no doubt, but he felt it was his cross alone to bear. None of them understood how much he was hurting. Investing in a relationship for two whole years and then to have it crash in a most humiliating and degrading way was tearing him apart. It was the reason he took a short trip from Calabar to Lagos. He just wanted to breathe a different air for a while; he didn’t need anyone analyzing him.
But it was Mike and Roland. They always had something to say about everything.
“Chicks have to be put in their place, Bankole.” It was Roland speaking. He sat head above them at the table, with a wiry frame and a long, pointed nose. “That’s why as una know me so, I no get time for any babe, say I dey do boyfriend-girlfriend nonsense. Na just to fuck, go. Shikenah!”
“If you wan come marry nko?” Bankole asked.
“I go just travel go see maale make she arrange one nice smallie from villa for me.”
Mike shook his head in disapproval. Bankole didn’t even bother to put out a rejoinder. He knew Roland would launch him into a superfluous argument.
“So, as I dey yarn, my guy…” Mike turned to Bankole. He was the calmer one and the most successful amongst them, having already made his first million and was pushing for more. “A girl will not respect you if you have nothing to offer. That Calabar where you go tanda dey dull your life. Come Lagos, I go set you up with a good job. And your photography business… make you just forget am…”
Bankole blocked his ears again. Photography was his life; the lens was his eyes. He saw the moving world in still pictures, moments in time that could never be recovered. It came at him in colors, in smiles and frowns, in eyes that told stories lips couldn’t utter, in body language that revealed more than the heart would love to show and in nature humanity often overlooked.
Nobody was taking him away from his photography. His brothers tried and failed. Mike was fighting a losing battle.
“By the way sef,” Roland called his attention again, “e get somebody wey dey look for photographer.”
Bankole sat straight.
“I know no the specifics but I go give you the girl number. You fit talk to her.”
Later that night, Bankole spoke to a girl who gave him details to meet with a lady at the Federal Palace Hotel the next day. She simply called the woman Monet and added that she was British and didn’t like to be kept waiting. The following afternoon, Bankole was dressed in his best. He had his Canon camera with him, which was the most expensive thing he possessed in his entire life. With an hour ahead, he embarked on a journey to the Island. He had visualized Monet in his head as an elderly woman with bourgeois airs and a thick cockney accent. Nothing prepared him for the person Monet was and how she was going to change his life.
He arrived at the hotel fifteen minutes early. One of the girls at the reception informed him that Monet was not in her room. She pointed to her right and directed him down the hotel’s lobby, to a flight of stairs that led down and outside. When he took the route, he found himself facing a massive open space of lush green lawn, obsessively-trimmed to perfection, fringed by flowers, dotted by palm trees. Gazebos were spread sparsely on the lawn and the entire space was bordered by a concrete fence; beyond it was sea water from the Atlantic.
Monet was sitting over the fence. The receptionist had told Bankole she was wearing ‘something white and blue’. He spotted her just as had been described but wasn’t so sure he was looking at the right person. He walked towards her with slow steps and stopped when he was at a reachable distance. She had not seen him coming; her head was lowered and it seemed she was in deep thought.
“Good afternoon, ma,” Bankole greeted. She appeared not to have heard him. “Good afternoon.”
She looked up this time.
“Are you Ms. Monet?”
Her face came alive and he captured it in his mind. She was no elderly, snobby, bourgeois woman. She was young and eclectically attractive. Her eyes were honey-brown and sparkled with a smile which came from lips of deep pink and a perfect dentition. He had never been crazy about women of mixed race but this one was different, instantly fascinating. There was something so contagious about her aura that he just wanted to walk up to her to know more.
“Yes.” He loved her voice. It was husky and hardly had a tone. It was as if she had whispered to him loudly.
“Gosh, you’re so fine!” she exclaimed. He smiled, slightly surprised at her blatant statement. He would have blushed if he could. “Come over, darling!”
Monet watched as the charming-looking stranger walked to her with slow steps. She smiled in her head at the effect she had on already him. It was a sad smile, though. She had been sad for days; an emotional boulder was weighing on her shoulders.
“Hi,” she spared Bankole another smile as he came to her. She let out her hand for a shake. He took it and lingered. His palm was soft. She wondered how it would feel over her skin.
“So you’re a photographer.” She withdrew from the handshake and rested the heels of both palms on the fence she was seated on.
She saw that he was unsure of his answer.
“You have a studio? You’ve done photoshoots?”
There was a pause, a slight turning away of the eyes. “Actually, no.”
“Then you’re no professional.”
“But I’m good, ma. I came with some of my pictures. They’re in a card reader. If you have a laptop, I’ll show you.”
She smiled at him. She wasn’t going to need his services; she already hired a professional. But she was going to need him in her bed that night, no doubt. Her ex needed to be exorcised from her system at all cost and she wanted fresh blood. The thought of having the boy’s lush lips over her skin made her shiver. His eyes caught her in the middle of her lust. She looked down at herself and realized her rogue nipples were straining against her white t-shirt.
Just then her phone rang and she went for it in one of the pockets of the turquoise blue shorts she had on. It was Mrs. Tunji calling. She took a breath before she answered.
“Hey, Aunty Jola.”
“Kissy, you left without telling me?”
Monet brushed curly hair locks that slapped over her face to the back but a gentle wind pushed them to the front again.
“I had to.”
“You’re mad at me too?”
“I am not my son, you know. Whatever Duro did to you, I had no idea.”
“You’re sure?” Monet felt heat coming to her face.
“I swear, my darling.”
“How could you not know? You’re his mother.”
“Kissy, I swear.”
“And you’re like my mother. You’re supposed to tell me things like that, protect me…”
“I don’t want to talk to you, Aunty Jola.”
“Fine. I understand. But when are you coming back?”
“I don’t know. I’m putting things together for my fashion label. It will take some time.”
“I could help.”
Monet hung up. Putting her phone back into her pocket, she looked up at Bankole and caught him lowering his camera. He had been taking photos of her.
His face calmed her instantly; she had a feeling she was never going to get tired of looking at him. There was something soothing about him and she knew she needed to be soothed, pampered, tempered, loved, even if for a night. Too many assholes in her life. She needed an angel.
“So, I’m giving you the job,” she said to him and watched his face grow into some form of smile.
“Thank you, ma.” He bowed.
“Call me Monet.”
She could hear her darn phone ringing again.
She went for it and saw that it was Madu Ibekwe. Bastard son of the devil.
“Hey, monster,” she said, taking the call.
“Babe, na wa for you o. That was how you just disappeared this morning. Was I that bad yesterday?”
“So, what’s up? What’s happening? Still up for tonight’s gig?” he asked. Monet looked at Bankole who had gone behind the lens again.
“No, not tonight…”
“Monet, the guys I talked about will be there. You need them if you want to hit it big.”
“Abeg, they can wait.”
“Short stuff, I’ll call you on Sunday, aiite? We’ll spend the whole day and map out some plans.”
“Just you and I?”
Monet rolled her eyes. She loved Madu to death. He was her kind of person, not generally caring what people thought about him. His caustic mouth and high-ended attitude often kept her entertained, although he believed it was his huge penis. He hardly pleasured her during sex but she always turned to him whenever Duro disappeared from her life. He was a bull in bed and it often came with pain which she used to numb her emotions for Duro. But more than that, she trusted his ruthless business ways and knew that if she was going to succeed as a fashion designer in Nigeria, she needed him.
“Just you and I, monster. See ya!”
Her phone went back to her pocket again, but not before she stared at it longingly, hoping Duro would at least, send a text.
“Done, stealing pictures of me?” She stared up at Bankole who released a laugh. God knows she was a sucker for pretty boys.
“Want to see them?” Bankole asked.
She called him forward with a finger. Bankole walked to her, released his camera from his neck and presented it to her.
“Press here to see all the pictures.” He pointed. She took the camera from him and their hands brushed against each other’s. Her hair whipped into his face and a faint sandalwood fragrance blew across his nose. Without knowing, he leaned in for more.
“Oh, wow, Banky… Can I call you Banky?”
“Banky W is my friend, so… Oh, these are amazing! You have an eye for detail.”
Without warning, she turned her torso around in such a way that frightened Bankole. He put his arm around her to protect her from falling over the edge.
She was pointing at a palm tree in the distance. It stood at the banks of the water.
“The way you brought that tree to life.”
“You like it?”
“Yes! And look at this one. I didn’t know my eyes could be captured like that. You make me look like fucking Beyoncé!”
Bankole laughed as he gently took his hand off her back.
“Please, can we go and sit in one of those huts?” he asked. “I don’t like the way you’re sitting on this fence and me I can’t swim if you fall.”
Monet cackled and gave him another scare by leaning backwards without warning. He put his arm around her again. They both shared a laugh.
“You’re good, Banky.” She passed the camera back to him and jumped down. It was then he noticed she had a curved backside. It was petite but perfectly shaped.
“So, you want to go in and have lunch?” she asked.
“I didn’t ask you to buy lunch, luv. Besides, I know you’re a broke ass,” she said, walking ahead. Bankole was amused as he trudged behind her. She had beautiful legs. They were sparsely freckled at the thigh area but smooth and inviting. The woman was distracting. In just a short while, he had forgotten his ex.
They had lunch in her hotel suite, right after she struck his lips with kisses. He didn’t resist; the chemistry was strong between them. To Bankole, she tasted exotic and was going to leave something in him that would once in a while make him think of colorful places in the world he had never visited before. She was wild and voracious. Bankole knew he couldn’t give her what she was looking for, yet he tried. In the end, he suspected he came up short but didn’t feel worse for it because with Monet, you only felt like a god when in her arms.
“Did we just have unprotected sex?” he had asked, staring up at the ceiling as they lay on a centerpiece rug in her bedroom suite after their wild encounter.
“Don’t worry, I won’t come to you nine months later with a small version of you.”
It wasn’t an unplanned pregnancy Bankole was worried about. It was STDs. He was clean. Was she?
Lying on Bankole’s chest, eyes to a wall, Monet was thinking how much of a slut she was becoming and how it didn’t give her any pleasure. The night before, she was with Madu and for the first time she refused protection. In fact, she had insisted. It was an insolent act against her feelings for Duro. She was so upset she wanted to do something entirely very stupid. And now she was with a total stranger who had indulged her fantasies but left her unsatisfied emotionally. All the same he had felt really good inside her; so good, she didn’t care if she had his baby just to defy Duro and all the years she faithfully loved him.
“What are you doing?” Bankole whispered, bringing her attention back to him and the cold hotel room. Absentmindedly, she was arousing him again. She looked up into his eyes and for a second felt like the boy could read her soul. Something about him rang deeper than the physical.
“I want more.”
Bankole couldn’t say no to her request, he pulled her closer and they began again. Later on, after dinner, they lay in bed and he addressed her broken heart even though she told him nothing about it. He spoke to her in a way she wished Duro would. His words were soothing, they carried hope, they were salve for her pain and for that moment, he was her angel.
By morning, she took him to the photo studio of the professional photographer she already hired and had him watch as the man handled a photoshoot. It was Bankole’s first real encounter of the world he was going into. After the man was done, Monet requested that Bankole have his turn behind the camera. She wanted his perspective. The professional and models didn’t seem pleased but none of them protested. Monet, despite all appearances, had a certain stoniness in her that commanded respect whenever she meant business.
Relying on his instincts, Bankole embarked on his first studio experience. He didn’t feel accomplished after he was done but in the end he would be what Monet was looking for. She would pick his pieces alone, she would marvel at his talent, she would give him a special place in her heart and upon discovering she was pregnant, would wish that the baby was his.
That same evening after the photoshoot, with Bankole gone, Monet dressed up in a short, dinner gown, packed her hair up and wore on makeup. She was meeting a man who had wooed her for quite some time, a man of sophistication and exposure, a close friend. If life had offered a different hand of cards, it would have been him she would have fallen for. She wouldn’t have cared about his background or terrible past with women or amoral way of thinking or even his incurable greed. They would have been quite a pair.
She thought about all of this as she journeyed to his house, not far from the hotel. She knew they were never going to be but it was better thinking about him than about Duro.
Already slightly intoxicated on wine, she walked up to his doorstep and tapped at the door. It was opened for her and she walked in. Khalid welcomed her with a hug and a kiss, his fingers holding her neck possessively.
“I’ve missed you, Kissy.”
She was too weak to speak. Emotions came to the surface. She was sobbing in his arms before she realized it. She told him about Duro for the first time, and the years of pain and neglect. Khalid was angry as he listened. What man in his right senses treated a woman beautiful as Monet so disdainfully? Who the hell was this Duro faggot?
Khalid soothed Monet and made dinner for her in the house where he had been locked in for two months because he was avoiding his wife. Having heard Monet’s story, he felt they were finally on the same pedestal and could easily do away with their insignificant others and build the life he always dreamed they would have. He told her this while they were in the shower a few minutes after midnight.
“But Khal you’re married,” Monet protested.
“Marriage of convenience, of which I just got to find out my wife can’t have kids and her money doesn’t really belong to her.”
“And let me guess, my money belongs to me and that’s why you want me.”
Khalid smiled, soaping her back. “Money has always turned me on in women and you’re no different Monet.”
“Remind me why I still stick with you.”
Khalid wrapped his arms around her. “You know how I feel about you, Kissy.”
“Khalid, you love your wife. I saw it in your eyes when you first met her. The way you went on and on about her…”
“I was infatuated,” Khalid stressed but he knew Monet wasn’t lying. Sachi curved him in a place no other woman, not even Monet herself, could. And that was what made the pain of her betrayal more vicious.
“I feel like you abandoning her and holing yourself up in this house and proposing to me is just to kill whatever feelings you have for her. She is not like the other wives.”
Suddenly Khalid didn’t feel like talking about Sachi anymore. He just wanted to spend quality time with Monet. He made his intentions known by tracing a finger down to the middle of her legs. She didn’t struggle. At this point, she was numb. She didn’t care anymore. Her senses had been dulled with alcohol. A dozen men could take her and she would just lay there. It was what Duro wanted, to see her used and broken. She was going to give him his wish.
She returned to her hotel in the morning and the days went by without making much sense to her. She locked herself up in her suite and lay in bed watching television with little interest. She refused phone calls and visits and would often sit out at the balcony and watch cars drive in and out of the hotel premises.
Eventually, she turned on her phone and the messages poured in. The first was from Duro. He was in the country and wanted to see her. She replied the text. Two hours later he was at her door. She let him in against all reasoning. She knew he wasn’t coming to claim her heart. She didn’t even want him to. He belonged in a different world, not hers. She just wanted to hear what he had to say, so she stood, arms crossed in defense, hair tussled from all that lack of sleep and head hurting from a hangover.
But Duro had not come to talk. He took her hand and pulled her to him.
“You know I love you, Kissy. No matter what.”
His voice was a lull in her ear and she drew closer. She could never stop loving the man. He had been there from the start. It was he who named her ‘Kissy’. As a little girl and an only child, spoilt by her parents, she had been too loving. She hugged and kissed at the slightest whim. Naturally, Duro had hated her as a kid but years later, her kisses were the only thing that made him feel normal in a world that was changing for him.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “Things weren’t supposed to go this way. All the times I disappeared…”
Monet hushed him and hushed her own protesting voice. She was her own Judas, she knew, but she couldn’t help herself with him. He was her Achilles.
“Kiss me, Durodola,” she begged.
“Please.” She was straining on tiptoe, going for his lips.
“I can’t keep doing this to you.”
He sighed and kissed her. They both shut their eyes and when they opened them, it was his that were filled with tears.
From nowhere, she slapped him as anger filled her on instant.
“You’re crying?!” she screamed. “How about me?! I’m the one who is hurt here, Durodola! You keep using me!” Her hands hit his chest. “Using me! Using me!”
He tried to hold her but she fought him off, marched to her bedroom and slammed the door. He followed her in. She was seated at the foot of the bed.
“You should go.” she spluttered.
“I only came to…”
“Just go! Get out!”
Duro turned back to the door but she didn’t let him get to it. She stomped off to him and grabbed him with both hands. They stared at each other for a long time. They knew this was the end for both of them. It was only likely that it had to conclude on a high. He took her lips again. He wanted something to take with him, something to remember her by. For her, she just wanted to be loved.
They were both hungry afterwards. He wanted to leave; she wanted him to stay. He obliged and rang the kitchen to bring them something; she insisted on eating downstairs. Being that she was persuasive, she prevailed and they went down to the restaurant for lunch. For that moment, all seemed well. It was just the two of them in their own world, like it had been for them several times in London. Monet enjoyed the time shared as best she could while Duro seemed a little restless as he toyed with his meal.
Lunch ended, Monet made another request for a walk round the premises but Duro strongly declined. Just as they were stepping out of the restaurant, a young man with dashing looks and a toned body bumped into them. Duro’s hand, held in Monet’s, slipped out fast. The man looked from Duro to Monet and back again with questioning eyes.
“Hi darling. Been looking all over for you,” the stranger said with a British accent. “I thought you’d been kidnapped or something. Your phone’s been switched off. That’s unsexy. Lord knows this country scares me, with the abductions and all…”
Monet smiled uneasily and looked at Duro as the man went on.
“So, are you going to introduce me or not?”
Silence followed his question but he turned his attention on Monet.
“Hi. You must be Monet.”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, I’m Devin. And I’m sure you already figured out that we’re sharing the same man.”