In the world where the following took place, it was a typical Friday evening and nothing unusual was slated to happen. The metropolitan was alive in its usual buzz and being that it was the beginning of a weekend, the clubs and watering holes were expected to come alive, to accommodate the ever pulsing nightlife of the famous Lagos. Drinks flowed, dance floors kissed the happy feet of vivacious social animals, acquaintances were made, deviant deeds blamed on alcohol went down and the police had their hands (and pockets) full, handling a myriad of cases for the night.
While all this went down, our focus was shifted to three couples in the story that were within the confines of their respective homes, handling their issues as best as they could.
We began with Raji and Salma, a divorced couple and parents of three young children, who still saw each other regularly. They would often say, just before they found themselves entangled beneath the sheets, that they were keeping a connection for the good of the kids. Tonight was one of such moments. The venue was Raji’s fully-serviced apartment on the twelfth floor of a glass structure. The children were in the care of a nanny back in the home where all the amazing and awful memories between Raji and Salma were stored. Salma had, in her own words, driven to Raji’s to have a word. Well, we all know how that progressed. Moments later, they were both panting hard on Raji’s bed.
“Is it me or the sex got better after we divorced?” Raji asked. Salma shrugged, trying to catch her breath. She had been on top and done most of the work. In the days when they were married, she had found it hard to be his cowgirl. Tonight she rode him like he was her horse and she was his rider, surprising herself. Divorce had transformed her, given her control, opened her up to the woman she had hidden within her for years.
Raji moved towards her and rested his head between her breasts. She was a beautiful, curvy, plus size woman who was turning him wild these days. Sometimes he would look at her and kick himself in the nuts for losing his mind and cheating on her. He loved the woman she had become. She was now independent and empowered.
“Raji, I need to go home,” she said to him, playing with the short curls in his hair.
“Home keh. Do you know what time it is?”
“I have to go home.”
He lifted his head up at her. “Sleep over.”
“You know I can never do that.”
“It won’t mean anything if you do.”
“It would mean that whatever we’re doing is serious. I don’t want to wake up in the morning and see your face smiling at me.”
Raji let out a full grin at her. “What’s not to love about this handsome face?”
“Oya, get up, let me be dressing and going.”
“No.” He held on like a baby, working his hand into the plumpness of her breast.
“Get up, Raji.” Her body moved beneath him and he rose up, only to find her lips ready for a kiss.
“We should stop doing this,” she said under a moan.
“It’s wrong. We’re no longer married.”
“You’ll always be my wife, Salma.”
She managed to escape his prison. She took the bed spread with her when she rose up, but Raji tugged it off, exposing her nudity. He was content to watch only, and so he lay back and observed her as she went into her clothes. Soon her voluptuousness disappeared beneath a long sari. She picked a veil off the floor and covered her hair with it.
“Sal, I don’t like these clothes you wear. They’re so…bleh. What happened to all those sexy ass outfits I got for you?”
“I wear them at home where the eye of no man is watching.”
“But you look a lot better in them. Besides, they’re not so bad.”
“All they do is show my curves. I find them a little indecent.”
“Of course, not you. Sometimes I wonder if you’re a Muslim,” she stated playfully.
“So when are we doing this again?”
Salma didn’t give an immediate answer. She concentrated on securing her veil.
She faced him. “We should start dating other people, Raji.”
He sat up. “Is there someone you want to tell me about?”
“I don’t want to talk about him now.”
“Who is he, Sal?”
“Not tonight, Raji. But I’m serious. This has to stop.”
“Come and walk me to my car. Your parking garage scares the hell out of me.”
Raji slipped into his clothes. He followed her out to the living room.
“I’ll be at the Adediran’s tomorrow for the naming ceremony,” Salma mentioned. “Were you invited?”
“Yeah, but I’ll not be attending. I’ll send over an envelope.”
Salma stopped at the door and looked at her ex-husband. “Do you miss your friendship with Folarin and Christie?”
“I do. It’s harder when I have to be reminded that Christie is my business partner and I can’t go beyond talking business with her. We used to be such good friends. And then Folarin… That’s the hardest. He looks at me and all I can see him say is, ‘Raji, you slept with my wife’. I feel judged all the time.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself, Raj.” Salma placed a hand on his cheek. “You’ve paid penance. Find your new life and move on.”
“I don’t want any new life without you.” He took her waist. “Let’s not see other people. Let’s go to a marriage counselor and strike out our issues.”
Salma placed a soft kiss on his lips. “I don’t want to be married to you again.”
“Walk me out, boy.”
He led her out of his apartment to a large parking garage in the building. When she was safe behind the wheel, he bent over and told her he loved her.
“Kiss my kids for me.”
She started the engine and he stood, watching until she exited the garage. He got into the elevator that took him up to his apartment where he sat and mulled over her words of not wanting to get married to him a second time. It upset him.
He stretched out his legs on one of the black couches in the living room that complemented a set of masculine-inspired furniture which was in keeping with the overall décor of the apartment. The place had a combination of black, navy blue and grey, set in luxurious design. It was the classic bachelor setting for the rich, unmarried man. But Raji hated the place. He longed for his family home that was inviting, with bright colors, the constant whiff of food and the carefree laughter of his children. He missed his old life. He wanted his wife back, and he was willing to do anything to get her.
Christie and Folarin. Our second couple for the night. In their large bedroom which was less flamboyant than any of the rooms one might find in Raji’s apartment, the cries of a newborn tore her mother away from the novel she was reading.
But let’s not be fooled. Christie was in no way less rich than Raji, who was her partner and co-owner of Covet Advertising, one of the leading advertising ad agencies in the country. It was rumored that, in fact, Christie was actually richer than him. She just wasn’t flamboyant as he was. She was a woman of simple tastes, a mother of three, a wife to a man who earned about twenty percent of what she earned, yet loved her in a way most men weren’t known to love their wives.
Christie walked to her baby’s cot and lifted her out of it.
“Who beat my baby?” she asked in typical Nigerian mother language as she began rocking the child. “The person that beat Tamilore should come out let me beat them back o. I’m not happy o.”
She returned to the bed and set about nursing the seven-day old child. Her husband, Folarin, walked in. a hunky specimen of a man, with quiet looks that contrasted with his tattooed body. He had the kind of appearance that made ladies swoon, but also possessed the manner that men like him carried about –the obliviousness of his effect on women. He had eyes only for Christie.
“Everything’s set for tomorrow,” Folarin said, taking off a black t-shirt he had on. “I am tired.”
“I made dinner.”
“You made dinner?” he asked. “What about momsi?”
“Your mom has been cooking your meals for seven days. I deicded you should have a taste of mine today.”
“Chris, honey, that’s why she’s here. To help you out. You have to relax. You just had a baby.”
“Not a trailer. I can do everything I used to do. And this is my third child. Besides, I miss cooking for you.”
Folarin melted at her words. “Fine. Just tonight.”
“And a few other nights.”
He gave her a quizzical stare. “Do you feel like your mother-in-law is taking over your personal space?”
“My mother-in-law? Look, chief, momsi and I are fine. She’s here to help out with Tami and I appreciate that. It’s just for a month, isn’t it?”
“It is. Thank you for being accommodating. I don’t know how many women would put up with a mother-in-law who kicked them out of their own home.”
“Let’s not bring the past back, please.”
Folarin went into the bathroom, had a shower and returned in the nude.
“Can you stop doing that?” Christie said with pleading eyes.
“Seducing me. Stop it. It’s torture to have to wait for six weeks before I can touch you.”
Boyish laughter erupted from him.
“Put some clothes on, chief.”
He went to the closet and came back with a pair of pajamas. “Better?”
Christie shook her head with a smile. She handed their daughter to him. “Burp her, please.”
She returned to her novel but kept an eye on father and daughter. When Folarin wasn’t paying attention, she took out her phone and captured the moment in a photo.
“Chris, I’ve been thinking…”
“I’d like to have a DNA test done on Tamilore.”
Christie’s hand froze on her phone.
“But the thing between me and Raji ended before…”
Folarin looked at his wife. “Just to be sure.” He went back to his daughter. “This little angel here is adorable, but I don’t want to be looking at her and wondering if she’s my friend’s daughter. I need to know for sure.”
Christie smiled. She tried not to show that his words bothered her. She was certain that the baby belonged to him, but because of an affair she had with Raji, the year before, she knew she had lost her right to contest the DNA test.
“It’s fine. I understand. We’ll do it next week.”
“Thank you.” Folarin began towards the door, speaking to his baby. “Let’s go and say goodnight to grandma.”
Christie picked her novel again. It was the best way to get her mind off the latest development.
The worst thing any woman wants to hear from the man she loves is that he has a child somewhere with another woman. Consider this worse than the act of cheating itself. An unfaithful man can change. A scorned woman can forgive and forget being cheated on. But when an offspring is brought into the balance, there is that little matter of DNA that can never be altered.
Such was the case for Andre and Toni. Our third couple. Andre dropped the bomb about a three-year son he had with another woman who was outside the shores of the country. He broke the news to Toni after they had engaged in a session of lovemaking, fought heatedly and then made love again.
The evening had begun like other Friday evenings they shared. They both had returned from work, meeting each other at the doorstep and engaging in ravenous kisses because they hadn’t had the privilege to be alone the entire week long. Toni was then lifted off her feet, taken into the house and to Andre’s bedroom where he made love to her intensely.
Afterwards, when they lay puffing, their backs to the bed and clammy faces staring up at the ceiling, Toni asked, “Did you just cum inside me?”
In response, Andre laughed, before turning to stare into her face.
“Is it such a bad thing if I did? Don’t you want to have kids?”
The second question was supposed to be harmless, but the tone, as Toni would tell him in a short while, ticked her off.
“You make it sound like it’s awful for me to want something else other than being a wife and a mother.” she almost yelled as the question kicked of a mild argument that grew into an intense one.
“Calm down, Antonia.”
“Lately, I have been getting all the subtle insinuations in your facial expressions at me, your voice, and even in your words.” She kept on in annoyance, putting on a t-shirt as she ranted. “You make me feel less because I don’t want what you want. Well, you know what? Fuck you, Andre! And fuck you for cumming inside me!”
She picked her glasses, her laptop, and a pack of menthols and marched out to the living room. She lit a cigarette from the pack. The menthol smoke was to her like a cup of cold water on a hot day. It calmed her, even though it took the entire stick to stop her from walking about in circles.
Afterwards, she sat on one of the sofas, reminding herself that the fight she had with Andre was their third in two weeks over the same issue. And if she knew him well, he was not going to drop the topic until he had his way.
Being exhausted from the day’s work, she propped her back on a cushion and proceeded to pay attention to some unfinished office work.
Time sped by and soon the clock was striking 2am. Toni then stretched out her legs on the center table and went on the web. As the head of PR in Covet Advertising, she always kept abreast of the latest on the internet. Her clientele ranged from huge multimillion naira companies, to the women and men who ran them, and also to top celebrities. The job was demanding. Time was not something she played with, and definitely not something she could spare beyond what she presently apportioned to the ones she loved, Andre being number one on her list.
Before their series of fights began, they had never talked about having a family in the sense of actually having it. There had been sparse discussions on the topic, and in all of them, Toni had made it known that she was appalled by the idea of being a wife and a mom. She didn’t consider herself maternal material. She believed she was too selfish to care for a child; and with being an executive and senior partner in the agency which she partly owned, she felt it would be unwise to bring a child into the world, just to have it cared for by a nanny.
Andre was well informed of her position on the matter. But as was his manner, he was determined to get beneath her skin. Toni, however, had prepared herself to lose him to another woman if it ever came down to being faced with the decision to stay with him or walk away. No man was worth the risk. Not even Andre who had broken down the walls other men had not dreamt of touching.
With a silent sigh, Toni exorcised these thoughts from her mind as she brought her web-surfing session to an end by visiting an email that was dated a while ago. She lit another cigarette and clicked on the email which opened to familiar words.
Dear High Mistress,
I think I’m losing my mind these days by falling desperately in love with a certain Frenchman. I had prepared my heart against this from the start, came up with ingenious ways to ensure that he doesn’t find my mumu button where I had it buried. I had even made myself scarce on weekdays just to eliminate any cache of feelings that may be lingering in places my commonsense can’t reach. But alas! I go and fall for him with everything I’ve got.
Now, I feel stuck and helpless! I’m lost!
Is there a way out for me before I disappear into the abyss of this man’s world?
Hopeless in love,
Toni had a long drag of the menthol cigarette between her fingers and blew it out. She waited for the smoke to clear before her eyes refocused on her laptop screen. She read the date of the email which had been sent to her inbox by her almost eight months ago, with the title, ‘Note to Self’. Having read it more than thirty times since then, Toni now knew the words verbatim.
“And I’m still falling,” she murmured to herself.
The tall form of Andre made an appearance at the doorway of her living room from her bedroom. She looked up from her laptop.
“You’re still awake,” he said. “You’re not fuming over our spat?”
He came up behind her and bent over the sofa she was on, pushing both hands into the oversize boyfriend tee she was wearing. Toni gave a sigh of pleasure and stubbed her cigarette in an ashtray.
“Is there anything more delicious than you, young lady?”
She smiled and accepted the kiss his lips were offering, head tilted backwards. Soon they were snuggling in the couch, facing each other. The night was cool, the windows drawn open. Andre’s hand was beneath her t-shirt and his face in her neck when he asked in a cavalier manner, “But why don’t you ever want to have babies?”
His words came at Toni like pricks from a hundred needles, while the warmth of his breath left featheriness on her skin.
“We can’t seriously be having this conversation now, Fabrice,” she said, calling him by his French name. No one else called him that. She was constantly fascinated by his Ivoirian and French background. He was her man, a picture of melanin, African pride and exoticness. And even although he enjoyed asserting his alpha maleness over her own stubborn feministic nature, she loved him that way. Dating him was like playing Chess. Sometimes she was willing to sacrifice valuable pieces of her ego and heart to let him have his way. Other times, like the queen she was, she held down her pawns, chiseled at his pride and protected her heart from being stolen by him.
This felt like one of such moments, although her weakness for him was potent.
“Please, let’s talk about something else. And it’s a weekend. After being stressed from a long week, we both don’t need baby talk.”
“As you desire, ma chatte.”
Toni gave a blushing smile. He always used the term when he wanted to remind her that she belonged to him. Ma Chatte was French for my cat or my pussy. For all intent and purposes, the latter definition held Andre’s meaning, even though he would sometimes tell her that it was because she was so feline and feisty in her ways. But mostly, he used the term for what it was – to seduce her. Presently, his hand was moving a little higher in search of her breast.
She responded readily, banishing the annoyance that had dropped in because of his earlier question. Or maybe it was just her being weak again. Earlier in the relationship, it had been easy to express her grievances at him. These days, she just let things be.
“Compromise,” her friend, Leticia, called it. “You can’t be in a relationship and not compromise. Get used to concessions.”
And Toni, for a rare moment, took relationship advice from her nymphomaniac friend and conceded. Now, she found that she was doing it a lot.
“Hello?” Andre called in a sensuous tone, but in French. “Where are you?”
And yes, she had learned some French too. Just to please him.
“I’m right here,” she responded, her accent almost as good as his.
She rested fully on her back to take his presented lips, letting in his muscled, six foot plus frame between her legs.
“So you won’t be the mother of my kid?” he asked with harsh desire.
She shook her head. There was no longer annoyance; not when she suddenly desired to feel him within her. Their lovemaking sessions had been irregular recently, with both of them getting occupied by their careers and having little time for each other.
Her desire shot into full mode as she pushed his briefs away from her most treasured appendage on his body with just one tug, and spread wider her legs.
He went into her tenderly, in his careful manner of never wanting to hurt her. There was a smile in his eyes as he began to move. The type of smile that conveyed he was up to no good. But Toni wasn’t bothered about what it meant. She held him in securely and enjoyed the pleasure his body gave which hit all the deep emotional wells in her. They went from silent lovemaking to feral in no time. Loud moans and masculine grunts came together to disturb the quiet of the night for several minutes until Andre gave himself to pleasure, bucking within her as if he had plans to be lost in there forever.
Heaving hard, they both descended from the peak of their combined ecstasy.
“Did you just cum inside me again, Fabrice?”
“Did I?” A chuckle escaped his lips. Toni gave no reply. Andre was skilled in the art of withdrawing before he had an orgasm. He always bragged about his pullout game, which Toni could attest was topnotch. Tonight, however, he had made no attempt at all. But Toni had lost strength for another argument. Instead, she murmured, “Stop doing it.”
Andre shot to his feet, pulling his briefs up.
“Can I speak to you about something?” he asked.
“Hopefully, not about kids.”
Andre smiled. Toni went back to a sitting position. He faced her.
“It’s about kids, actually…”
“Andre,” she heaved. “Not this night. I can’t…
“I have a son,” he revealed. “He’s just three years old and a few months…”
Toni raised a hand but her head was lowered in shock. “What?” she whispered.
“I impregnated my former business partner’s elder sister, just after I lost my wife. I was vulnerable and grieving then…”
Toni raised her hand again. This time she kept her face on him. “You have a son?”
“Oh God,” she mumbled. “Please, tell me I’m dreaming this, Fabrice. Unsay those words.”
“I can’t, unfortunately. I truly have a son.”
“No, you don’t. This is a joke, Andre Kouassi. This is a joke.”
Toni jumped out of the sofa. “And you’re just telling me?!”
“We have not gotten to the shouting part yet, Tone. Calm down.”
Toni covered her face. “This is not happening to me.”
“My son’s mother got pregnant but didn’t tell me because of her own personal reasons. She left Nigeria and moved to the UK where she had the boy. He was raised there.”
“So, you’re saying that you came into my life, got into a serious relationship with me, made me fall in love with you, had me move in with you, played house with me and you were keeping a baby mama somewhere?!”
“She and I had nothing going on between us asides parenting. And I didn’t know I had a son.”
Toni shook the shock out from her head. “I can’t deal with this right now.” She picked a cigarette and left the house. Andre followed her but stopped at the window to watch her. She hopped on the hood of his car and proceeded to smoke. He couldn’t tell if she was in tears or not, but with the way she kept flipping her weave backwards, he knew hell awaited him. He was even certain that he would lose her once he completed his reveal.
He remained at the window, watching her until she was done with her cigarette. She returned to the living room and turned on the extra lights. With eyes showing her disappointment, she stared at him unflinchingly until he looked away.
“You said she didn’t tell you she was pregnant right away. When did you eventually find out?” Toni asked.
“About ten months ago.”
“And you didn’t think I had to know, Andre?”
“I didn’t think you’d be happy to know I have a kid. What we had was amazing and therapeutic. I needed you more than you needed to know the truth–”
“Don’t tell me that. Don’t, Andre! Choose your words carefully from now on. Don’t destroy the little respect I still have for you.”
“Toni, I didn’t mean to hide him from you.”
“But you did! And I was here like a fool, loving you, giving you everything of me, Fabrice! Is that why you started talking marriage and babies and started cumming inside me?! You were preparing me to be a stepmother to your son?!”
Andre was quiet.
“It’s okay. Don’t talk. I don’t even want to hear anything more! I’m out of here!”
She stomped past him but he went after her and held her hand.
“Toni, let’s sit and talk about this, without all the shouting and yelling.”
She gave him another long, hard look. “No.”
After tugging her hand free from his, she marched into his bedroom. When she came out some minutes later, she was dressed in fresh clothes, clutching a few of her belongings in both hands.
“Help me with my laptop.”
“So we’re not going to talk about this?”
“Please, help me with my laptop.”
Andre picked her laptop and glasses from the table.
He picked those as well and followed her out. She got into her car, spared him no more words and screeched out of his compound as if being chased. Andre returned to the house, deflated. He had seen this day coming, he had anticipated the aftermath, yet he was not prepared for it or for what was to come next. But one thing was certain. He was going to lose Toni.
She was the most difficult woman he had ever been with. She adored him; her feelings for him were probably stronger than they both knew. But her problem stemmed from the unwavering principles on which her pride and heart stood. They both had different definitions of what love and relationship were supposed to be. He believed in marriage and long-term family goals; her views were of the contrary. And thus, when the fun, excitement, dinner dates, gushy amorousness and savage knacks began to seek for a stable sort of arrangement, tiny battles arose.
He had no doubt that he was ready to settle down a second time. The loss of his wife had left a deep hole that only Toni could fill. Now, with his confession about his son, he wondered if it would ever happen.