And the drama continues…
But before then, I want to give a special thank you to a special someone who sent me a special something to help fix my laptop. Thank you, E. You’re far too kind. And to everyone who checked in on me and sent kind words, God bless you.
This episode is dedicated to Rikitava Bimbo. May your star keep shining brightly, sweetheart.
Fam, enjoy this really long, two-in-one episode.
“Christie, you can’t leave na. You came to spend Easter with me. Not with them. With me, Mosun. You can’t be packing your things and leaving because of what happened na. Please, stay.”
Christie’s ears were blocked to Mosun’s pleas. Both women were in Mosun’s bedroom where Christie had been accommodated for the Easter weekend. Christie had already put together the few items she had come with. She was presently searching for a scarf she had on earlier. Mosun who was holding Tamilore in her arms was having difficulty pacifying the newborn. She was as sore as her mother.
“Christie, please nau.”
Christie, crouched on the rug-covered floor in search of her scarf, sprang up as if hearing Mosun’s voice for the first time. “Stay?! And do what, Mosun? Smile with people who hate me?! With a husband who would not defend me?!”
“Keep your voice down. Nobody is fighting you here. It’s me and you, Christie.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t stay.”
“Na wa o. I’ve never seen you this angry.”
“Well, there’s always a first.”
“Folarin was actually smiling when you were doing your thing. He was in total support.”
“Total support my ass!” Christie hissed “Mo, I’m going home and I’m taking my kids with me.”
“Yes, Nessa is coming with me too.”
“It has not reached like that na. If you take Tife, this fight will enter another level o, Christie. I’m not joking. Don’t upset me.”
Christie saw seriousness in Mosun’s eyes. “Fine, she stays.”
“And you too.”
“No, Mosun. I just have to leave.”
Christie relieved Mosun from the burden of carrying Tamilore. A few back rubs and whispered words to the baby brought her to calm.
“Thank you so much for just being you, Mo. I owe you plenty.”
“I had fun plans for this Easter until they showed up. I couldn’t drive them away.”
“No need to explain, dear. Thanks for taking care of Tife.”
Mosun waved her gratitude aside and gave her a hug. “I don’t want to say anything about you and Folarin for now. When I find my voice, I’ll talk to you both. But Christie, take it easy. And seriously, I think the reason he didn’t jump to your defense was because he wanted you to handle them yourself.”
Christie didn’t believe her. She feared that Folarin’s silence was a sign that he was beginning to listen to his mother. His behavior had offended her. She wanted to be far away from him at the moment.
Mosun helped carry her bags out of the guest bedroom, and together, they left the house, walking through the living room where the old woman and her daughters still lingered. Folarin was not with them. The trio cast eyes on Christie that could make roses wither, but she walked past them as if they did not exist.
Loud voices coming from the exterior of the compound drew her attention and Mosun’s. The noise led them out of the gate, and there they found Cyrus Junior crouched over and grunting in pain, holding his right hand by the wrist. Folarin was in the act of reaching for him but the boy stepped away from him.
“What happened?” Mosun inquired as she and Christie moved towards the scene.
“CJ?” Christie went to her son and tapped him. He managed up, revealing a fist that was covered in blood. “Jesus! What happened?”
“He tried to hit me and missed,” Folarin explained, nodding towards a high fence behind him. “He punched the wall instead.”
Christie winced. “You tried to hit your father, Cyrus? Are you crazy?”
“He’s not my father!” Cyrus Junior raged. Christie could tell that he was still under the influence of alcohol. “He sat there and let them insult you! He is not my dad!”
“Shut your stupid mouth before I slap it out of your face!” Christie commanded. “Go and enter my car!”
“What happened between you two?” Mosun asked Folarin.
“You heard his reasons.”
“N wa o! Let’s just get him to the hospital. We’ll use your car.”
“I’m not entering his car!” Cyrus Junior retorted. Christie struck his face with her palm.
“Christie, it’s okay.” Mosun pleaded with a rub of her palms together. “Let’s just get him the treatment he needs. The boy is not in his senses right now. Let his head calm and you can do all the slapping you want.”
“I’ll take him in my car,” Christie stated. She marched back into the compound where her car was parked. Mosun assisted in wrapping Cyrus Junior’s fist in a towel while Christie strapped Tamilore in her chair.
“Ignore what he said about Folarin,” Mosun whispered to her. “It’s the alcohol talking.”
Christie nodded. By the entrance of the house Vanessa stood, watching them. Christie gave her an apologetic gaze before she entered the car and drove away.
On the journey to the hospital, she said nothing to Cyrus. She was doubly crushed. She didn’t know which hurt most, her son’s behavior or Folarin’s earlier. She was still aching over the manner in which he had not stood up for her, but she didn’t want to settle on it. Cyrus Junior’s matter was more troubling.
“This drunkenness thing, is it just today or it’s something you do regularly, CJ?”
“I know you drink beer but to get drunk like this, Cyrus? And to do it so openly? And then, attack your father like that? That’s not you, CJ? What’s going on?”
The only answer she got was a murmur.
“You have troubles in school? Girlfriend issues?”
The boy secured his stare outside, refusing to utter any more words. Christie gave up with a long sigh. An hour later, however, he found his voice.
“I’m sorry, mom.” He was sober now, having just stepped out of the emergency room with his injured hand wrapped in a bandage. A couple of fingers were fractured, but nothing so serious it couldn’t heal in a short while. Mother and son were seated in a waiting room. Tamilore was asleep.
“Did you hear me, mom? I said I’m sorry,” Cyrus Junior repeated.
“I heard you. I’m tired. We’ll talk tomorrow after you’ve rested.”
“I fucked up, trying to hit dad. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“You have to apologize to him.”
“I didn’t mean it when I said he wasn’t my dad.”
The doctor who had treated Cyrus Junior appeared. “I took the pains of getting you the drugs myself,” he stated, handing a white polythene bag to Cyrus Junior while ogling Christie. “Take them judiciously.”
“Return on Monday so that I can have a look at it. Call if you feel something is off.”
“And stay off alcohol.”
A receipt was given to Christie, along with a lingering gaze. She didn’t seem to notice as she muttered her gratitude and began towards the cashier who was nearby.
On the way back, Cyrus Junior slept off, falling under the effect of the painkiller that had been administered to him by the doctor. On arriving home, Christie spotted Folarin’s car outside the building. For the first time in years, she didn’t want to be around him.
“Is he sleeping?” He came towards her car when she parked it.
“I’ll help him out.”
He opened the front passenger door and tapped Cyrus Junior awake. The boy stirred but didn’t move. Folarin dragged him out and into the house, dumping him on one of the couches in the living room. Christie also put Tamilore to sleep. She returned to Folarin. They sat across from each other. He still couldn’t look into her eyes.
“Hi,” he said, picking up a stuffed toy that rattled whenever it was shaken. It used to be Vanessa’s as a baby, but she had gifted it to her little sister at her birth.
“Hey,” Christie responded.
“You’re mad at me over what happened at Mosun’s.”
“I’m not.” Christie had sworn not to bare her heart to him except to show affection. Putting up a strong front was important to her, even though sometimes she just wanted to pull down the walls and force herself into his mercy.
He cleared his throat. “I… I just want to see how you’re doing. I was worried about you.”
“Why didn’t you say anything back there, though? You just sat there in silence.”
“Christina, have my words to my mom and sisters ever made a difference? I’ll talk and it’ll give a temporary effect that would wear off too quickly and they are back howling at you again.”
“You could have said something,” Christie held.
“And it would have changed nothing. That was your moment, Chris, and you did it so marvelously. I was smiling throughout. I have waited for years for you to grow some backbone and bite back. Trust me, they’ll never come at you again after tonight.”
“I don’t feel any better. Your silence meant more to me than everything that was happening there.”
“What did it mean?”
“That you’re tired of us and you’re finally listening to your mom.”
Folarin tended backwards on the couch, resting his head on a throw pillow. The image sparked a memory in Christie. The setting was similar. A small room and parlor that was Folarin’s home, that had become hers and Cyrus Junior’s too. Those were the simple days of staying in and playing card games, keeping awake all night and coming up with ad ideas together, listening to the radio and spooning on a worn-out couch that always smelled of mold and masculine cologne. Christie remembered laughing a lot then. Humor came easy to her. She didn’t have a lot of troubles on her shoulders. Folarin’s presence alone was enough to give her respite from whatever bothered her. She didn’t care that her friends felt she was settling for a man who could never meet up to her status. She didn’t bother about the things people said of them. Her head was in the clouds for Folarin.
“There’s another woman, Chris,” Folarin revealed. The quietness in his tone added a dark effect to his utterance. Christie began to pick her fingernails. “She’s a friend. She’s not married. We… It’s purely sexual.”
Christie stopped moving her fingers. “Why are you telling me?”
“Just letting you know…”
“To punish me? Because you could have just kept it to yourself and continued without letting me know.”
“CJ saw us. I was with her last night and he saw us.”
“You brought her to our house?”
“It was at…a hotel. He was there. I saw him when I was leaving. It was the cause of our spat earlier. He confronted me, got angry at my response and wanted to hit me.”
Christie’s obvious emotion was sadness. The blow had been dealt and the pain was harsh, but somehow, she also felt relief. She had expected him to have his own affair, even suspected that he was doing so. Now that she was aware, the feeling of being left in the dark over how his life was progressing without her was peeling away.
“Is it Khanyi?”
“No. You don’t know her.”
“Do you have feelings for her?”
Folarin returned to his sitting position, his eyes on the toy. “Chris, what I’m doing with her is not revenge. I’m not doing it because you did it.”
“She needs me. You don’t. You stopped needing me a long time ago, Chris. After a long day, I go to her and she’s there. It’s not like returning to an empty home or to a wife who nods off when I’m telling her about my struggles. She doesn’t look at me like I’m not enough. It’s a new, fresh feeling. She makes me alive, Christie. I’m not on one end, dishing out all the affection and attention and getting nothing in return. And I’m not saying that you never tried as my wife; I’m saying that cooking my meals and doing my laundry were not the reasons I married you. I was looking for a friend and a partner, but you were never there, Chris. Great sex, yes. Awesome intellectual conversations, yes. But I was your side cock, and every day it felt as if I was going to be kicked out at the snap of a finger. The world out there meant more to you than what we had. And God knows, I was scared to lose you. I prayed, I did everything, I never complained when you left me alone to raise the kids. I played my part well, hoping that it was enough to keep us together.
“And then Raji happened, bringing all my fears to reality. I fought immediately, like someone who was dying and doing everything to hold on to life. I thought that if I forgave you quickly and put the incident behind us, we would get back to what we used to be. And for a few seconds, it worked. But I went out there, toured Africa and saw that I had been living a lie, that I can be so much more, that I can be wanted and needed…”
He paused, shaking the toy and causing a rattle. Christie’s tears dropped heavily on her hands. She gazed at him through water-veiled eyes.
“I need to gain myself back, Chris. I know the answer is not in another woman’s arms, but for now, it’s my escape. The question everyone keeps asking is if I have forgiven you. Yes, I have, and no, I haven’t. It comes and goes like that and I’m fighting to forget. But one thing that’ll never change, Christie, is how much I love you. And that’s why I’m staying away. I realize that you’re my weakness. Not my kids. Not my writing. But you. A dangerous weakness, because you can hurt me again.”
“But you did, already, darling. So easily. I can’t get past that. So easily, Christina.”
“Another question everyone asks is if we’ll get back together… I don’t know. I badly want to, but I don’t know. Right now, I’m not with us. The sacredness of our marriage means nothing to me, so to speak.”
Christie covered her face and allowed the tears turn into body-shaking sobs. Folarin left his couch and went to hers. When his hand rested on her back, her sobs got more intense. He dug his fingers into her hair and drew her in for a hug.
“Let’s start from here, from now,” she pleaded.
He kissed her head. “I can’t. Give me time.”
“Don’t leave me.”
He kissed her again. “Fix a date so we can sit with Tife and CJ and explain everything to them.”
Despite her pain, Christie nodded. He pulled away. She grasped his hand.
“You told me you’d never leave me, chief. I know I don’t deserve it, but please, give me another chance. Come back to me. I want to start from the scratch.”
Folarin ran his thumb beneath her eye, letting out a smile that lasted a mini second before he stood up and left the house. When the door shut, Christie hid her face in a throw pillow.
Caving under the weight of her emotions was easy, but she was tired of holding on to the pain. Her time away from Folarin had been used to delve deeper into her faith. It was what gave her strength. Her prayer wings had grown back and every night, she stayed awake for a couple of hours, conversing with God. Tonight didn’t feel like one of such nights, though. She was too broken to pray. Instead, she held on to the pillow and wept.
Toni welcomed the comforting effect of her first cigarette in days. Duke and Ruby had just been put to bed and the adults alone were awake. It was a mini party in the living room, energized by the presence of Dapo, Tayo, Lade, Daisy, Tochi, Khanyi and of course, Leticia. There were drinks, fried chicken and humor for the night. Toni hadn’t had that much fun since she and Andre stopped being an item.
Speaking about items, Toni picked out not-so-obvious sparks flying between Tayo and Khanyi. She pretended not to notice, but Leticia who had an eye for such things had whispered something about it in her ear while taking a China dish of chicken bones to the kitchen. Toni then kept her concentration on them, and also on Omolade, whom she was more concerned about.
The girl had changed. Not that anyone could call her a girl now. She seemed more mature and sophisticated. Her debut Nollywood appearance which had been produced by Manny hadn’t been quite the sensation, but her performance in it was highly applauded. Toni used her connections in ensuring she became an overnight celeb, landing her more movie roles than she could handle. At present, Toni was trying to cut her a deal with the famous fashion brand, Guru & Monet. But getting them on a table to agree to her terms was proving uphill. The downturn in the economy was playing a bad one on all industries. Brands weren’t crazy about marketing and advertisements as they used to be. The advertising regulatory board had increased their fees suddenly; same as all major media outlets. If Toni was to clinch a deal with Guru & Monet for Lade, it was going to involve some compromise on the side of Covet. No one was playing ball with their money anymore.
But Toni believed in Lade, in her talent, in her marketability. Maybe a little too much. Maybe because she loved her as a sister. She was protective of her. The young lady didn’t have support from her family. The Ogunfunwas were all she had, Toni, especially. The thing she shared with Tayo was now dead and decaying in a past of bittersweet memories. Toni felt it was her responsibility to give her a sunny future.
“Lade?” Toni called. Lade looked up. Toni nodded in the direction of the kitchen as she rose up from her seat. Lade hopped up too, her bouncy hair bangs, bopping on the sides of her face as she walked. She tugged down her top over the swell of her bum and followed Toni to the kitchen gingerly.
“So, tell me how you’ve been doing,” Toni requested. She wiped a clearing on the kitchen counter. The kitchen was a mess, with little space to rest a foot. “I know we chat online all the time but nothing is sweeter than live gist. Oya, start talking.”
“I’ve been good.”
Toni gave a roll of her eyes. “You’ve always been good. I want the juicy, naughty stuff, like boyfriends, sex, all of that.”
Lade giggled and began clearing the dishes. “Well…”
“I have kissed just one guy after Tayo and it wasn’t serious.”
“And that’s all. I’ve been too busy to care about guys.”
“Seriously?” Toni asked through smoke-covered lips.
“Aunty Toni, I don’t want to go down that road again. I want to concentrate on my career. Just like you did.”
“Are you sure you want to do what I did? It’s a lonely road, my dear. And these days, I can’t even cope so well. I’m turning to a soggy mess.”
“I’m off guys for now.” Lade’s lips stretched out in a grin.
“How about Tayo? Think you two will ever get back together?”
“No. The chemistry’s gone. Besides, we want different things now. He wants a family, and I think the reason is because he wants another chance to do things right. Nowadays, he misses Ife a lot. He calls me up and wants to talk about her. He’s even printed out several pictures of her which he keeps everywhere.”
Toni saw the fall in Lade’s shoulders as she spoke about her departed baby. She doubted if the pain would ever go away for both parents.
A glass cup slipped from Lade’s hand and fell to the floor.
“Oh God. I’m so sorry.” She stooped to pick the shards.
“It’s fine. It’s just a glass.”
Toni went for a broom and dustpan. Lade picked the bigger pieces while she swept off the little ones. When they emptied them in the trashcan, Toni took Lade’s hand.
“When you’re ready to have kids, maybe with Tayo, maybe with someone else, just call and I’ll handle everything for you. I’ll get you a surrogate and pay for the entire process.”
“Thank you, Aunty Toni.”
Toni held her in a hug. “You’re awesome, Isabella. Let no one tell you differently. You hear?”
Lade nodded. Toni let go, but put an arm around her shoulder as they returned to the living room. Khanyi walked up to them and took Toni’s hand.
“Sorry, Lade. Let me steal her for a bit.”
Toni was dragged back to the kitchen and the door shut.
“Toni, I really like your brother,” Khanyi let out in her usual blunt manner. Toni looked at her, finding a makeup free face with a candid expression.
“You like my brother?”
“Oh.” Toni feigned ignorance.
“And I think he likes me too. He keeps staring.”
“I just want to know if he’s seeing anyone right now. Do you know?”
Toni shrugged. “I don’t know. But wait sef… wasn’t it you who told me you were crazy about someone else the other day?”
“Yeah, but…dude is married and he has issues with his wife. Right now, they’re separated. And it feels like a good time to swoop in, but I don’t want to be that chick that causes someone else to leave his wife. So, I had to let go.”
Toni went on tiptoe and opened a kitchen cabinet above her. She pulled out a cigarette pack.
“Toni?” Khanyi shook her head in laughter.
“Duke destroys all my cigarettes. And he’s so cute. I can’t stop him, so I keep hiding them.”
“Maybe you should stop smoking altogether.”
“Abeg, continue what you were saying jare.” Toni picked a lighter from the top of the fridge.
“Yeah, I was saying that I’m done with the guy. I need someone that doesn’t belong to another woman.”
Toni lit her cigarette and puffed out a cloud of smoke. “This married man you’re talking about, is he by any chance Afolarin?”
Khanyi’s eyes shifted. “How did…?”
“I know things, Khanyi. But it’s fine. I’m not judging you.”
“If we both wanted something to happen, it’d have happened when he came to SA with Savanna. They were in my house for three days. Savvy went out clubbing every night while we stayed in. We almost kissed, but he didn’t let it happen. He’s such a good guy. It’s just that these days he has so much…”
Toni leaned in for more.
Khanyi deviated. “Damn! He’s so sexual.”
Toni winched up her brows. “Sexual?”
“Yeah! Have you ever been close to him, like really close? He oozes of pure masculine sex.”
“Folarin?” Toni laughed. “The Folarin I know? Khanyisile, you need to get laid ASAP.”
“And will your brother help me out with that?”
Toni continued laughing. “Where do I find you shameless people?”
“You just want to knack him and go?”
“No. I need a man. Someone I can wake up to, call up in the middle of the night, shag in my office… That kind of situationship. Not necessarily love.”
“Look, baby girl, just shoot your shot. He’s right there. Go and ask him out.”
“That’s the ish. He seems kind’a traditional with his ideas about men and women in relationships. You think I’ll not spook him out if I shoot my shot?”
“The only way to know is to try, Khanyi. Good luck.”
“Okay. But I’d like to ask before I give it a go. Is there anything I should know about him?”
“Anything at all. A bad past? Drug problems? Psychological issues?” Khanyi winced. “I’m sorry, I sound so creepy. It’s the psychologist in me talking. I’ve worked with people who dove into relationships without any background checks and ended up in a lot of trouble later…” She froze under an apologetic expression. “I’ve gone overboard. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
“It’s fine. I understand,” Toni replied, remembering the stories Lade told her of the emotional and physical trauma she suffered in Tayo’s hands. But she shook them away with a smile at Khanyi.
“Tayo’s a cool guy. Don’t break his heart.”
“I promise. Thanks.”
Toni opened the door and they stepped out. Tochi came to her holding out his phone. “Andre.”
There was a moment’s hesitation before Toni took the phone. She had deliberately switched hers and Leticia’s off because she didn’t want to hear from Andre. His power over her was so potent that all she needed was to hear his voice and she was running all the way to the other side of town to see him.
“Hey,” she said into the phone, walking back to the kitchen. Tochi followed her.
“You’re stubborn, Tone,” Andre mentioned.
“Is that all you called to say?”
Tochi came up behind her and enclosed her in his arms.
“It’s a lonely Easter Friday without you. I made dinner, cleaned the house, sent Jozi off…”
Toni caught signs of a cold in his voice.
“And you’re not here. I just want you for this weekend…to get lost in you. Nothing more. I’ll return you to your boyfriend when I’m done.”
Toni felt Tochi’s lips on her shoulder.
“Don’t say no, ma chatte.”
But Toni was already saying yes in her heart. She liked when he begged, enjoyed when he was helpless without her.
“Tell me you’re coming.”
She tried not to laugh. His ‘N’s’ were sounding like ‘D’s’ and ‘M’s’ like ‘B’s’.
She didn’t wait to hear anymore. She stopped the call and pulled away from Tochi’s hold. When she turned around to give him his phone, he rested hungry lips on hers. She let the kiss run its course before she stepped back.
“Don’t go to him,” Tochi begged.
“You don’t have any right to tell me that. You gave that up when you accepted his job offer and got into that stupid ‘let the best man win’ game with him. What were you thinking? Andre will always win.”
“So you’re saying there’s no chance for us?”
“Andre owns all the rights to this,” she explained, waving a hand over the length of her body. “If you want a piece of it, earn it.”
Toni left the kitchen to the living room and announced to everyone that she needed to nurse Andre who was ill. The general response came with teases and jibes. She gave them the middle finger and headed to her bedroom. Leticia went after her.
“Your brother is begging,” she said. “He wants us back before he travels again. I’m desperate to give him a going away fuck. What should I do, dear high mistress?”
Toni stepped out of the playsuit she was wearing. “Dear high mistress is on holidays. Come back next week.”
“I’m serious nau, Toni. I’m thinking that I can compromise once. Just once. And then he’ll travel and we can resume the status quo.”
Toni slid into a dress without any underwear. “Tish, don’t do it.”
“I miss him. Our present arrangement is not working. Just look at him out there. So cute and horny. He needs me.”
“Why are you dick hungry like this?” Toni asked as she took out clothes from her closet. “Dapo knows about your addiction to his dick. He’s using it to bait you and you’re falling for it.”
“Isn’t it the same thing you’re doing?”
Toni stopped. There was a guilty smile on her face. “Andre’s really ill.”
“But honestly, Tish, don’t do it. Endure. He’ll crack, and when he does, you’ve got him. All of him – heart, body, money and everything. Just hold on. Trust me on this one.”
“Argh!” Leticia fell on the bed, throwing herself backwards. “This is torture!”
“You’ll be alright.”
Toni zipped up her bag, having filled it with what she needed.
“You’re staying for the entire weekend?”
“Maybe, but I’ll pop in every day to check on the kids. Will you guys be fine?”
Leticia nodded. Toni picked her car key and flung her overnight bag across her shoulder. Out in the living room, she delivered a hug to each person. She stopped at the kitchen to pick a few things for Andre and then left the house.
Andre thought she smelled of sexiness and nostalgia when she came into his house. She also brought with her the exotic mix of cigarette smoke and perfume. She normally didn’t smell of cigarettes, but whenever she did, it turned him on.
Wearing a form-fitting dress he had gotten for her last Christmas, he could tell she had kept to his instructions not to have any underwear on.
He was going to place his lips on hers when a sneeze broke out from him. He covered his nose and mouth. “I’m sorry.”
Toni dropped her bag. She took his face and reached up to him to find his lips. “You’re hot,” she mumbled when she kissed him. He rested his head in her neck and grunted in relief.
“It’s crazy that I miss you like this. Ma chatte, ma belle.”
The cool sensation of her skin against his fever-distressed body brought release and sent shivers through him at the same time.
“How are you feeling?” She put some space between them to gaze at him better. He sneezed again.
“Let’s get you inside.”
He let her drag him to his bedroom.
“Lie down,” Toni instructed. He sat on the bed, and while going down, tugged her along.
“Stop it. I want to make you ginger and lemon tea.”
He tried to hold on to her but she forced herself out of his grip and went to the kitchen. When she returned, she brought along a mug of something steamy. With a stern stare, she watched him down the mixture.
“I put something in it to help you sleep,” she told him. He nodded. She took the empty mug he presented to her and put it away. Andre caught her again, and this time she stayed in his clutch. He locked her in beneath him, a thigh wedged between hers.
“Why are you so stubborn?” he asked. Toni offered no replies. “I love you, Arinola. It makes me want to possess all of you. I don’t want to share you.”
“But you said you wanted an open relationship.”
“Can I unsay it?”
“No. You can’t just do and undo as you wish. You’re not the boss of me.”
“But I am, and you know it.”
She accepted his touch on her thighs with a stifled moan. He sensed how much she wanted him from the hunger in her eyes. Skipping foreplay, he pushed her legs apart and found his way into her. They both moaned at the moment of entry. Andre stopped, digging his face into her hair. He whispered to her in French, telling her how much he loved and needed her, something he had never felt for any woman beyond the boundaries of obligation. Toni alone had the power to shake his world, and she was already doing so, one mad day after another.
He had always been crazy about irksome women. A love interest had to come into his life with a little drama and a lot of fire. Tony had both and more. She alone could tame him. He was always appreciative of their fights. It was an indication that she loved him fiercely, no matter what she tried to project to the exterior.
But he understood that she was scared of giving him everything and falling into the same trap she fell into with Mark. The fear was a third person in their relationship, rearing its ugly head at chosen moments. However, if there was one thing Andre had learned about Toni since the introduction of the Ebute kids into her life, it was the fact that she could overcome her dark side to let the light in as she so desired. With the kids, she didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, and yet she executed her motherly duties like she had birthed them herself. All she had needed was a little nudge.
“Andre,” she panted out his name, clinging to him like he was her lifeline. He paused and had a taste of her trembling lips before continuing. She responded to him with nasty talk and screams of his name. It was one of those encounters that Leticia would term ‘savage fuck.’ He had her in many positions, and then settled for a slow, passionate session that stirred her so profoundly tears came to her eyes. She held him securely as though she would fall if she didn’t; sucking him in, clamping shut her flesh against his. The act pushed him to the brink and thrust them back into savagery.
“Let me cum inside you,” he pleaded.
“No,” she responded, still shuddering.
He felt the first rush and pulled out, but held her tightly as he let go, muttering obscenities in French that got her laughing.
“You’ll be the end of me, ma chatte.” He reached for a tissue box on the nightstand to wipe her thighs. Afterwards, he lay on his back and linked his fingers with hers. They were silent for a bit but he soon turned to his side and held her.
“For real?” she asked in a chuckle, hand going for the erection he was pressing against her.
“It’s not my fault,” he answered before finding his way between her thighs again and burying his head there.
“You’re ill, Fabrice. You need to rest.”
“Allow a man condition his beard.” He bit her thigh and elicited a squeal from her that soon turned into a gasp.
The oral session went on for a long time with Andre brining her to the edge and letting her down again a few times. When she finally had her burst of ecstasy, he turned her around, pinned her to the bed with his weight and drove back into her wetness. It was a killer position for Toni. It didn’t take long to have her moaning out his name again; and even less effort to see her in a series of uncontrollable contractions.
The drug Toni administered to him began to take its toll. Still buried in her, he turned her around, spooned her and logged out.
He woke up at noon the following day. Toni was sitting on a chair, facing the bed, feet on a divan. She had her tab resting on her thighs, bespectacled eyes staring into the screen. Music was playing on a low volume. Andre focused his eyes on her. She was wearing his t-shirt and he thought she looked flawless. A woman couldn’t look more beautiful than that. He wanted to wake up every morning to find her right there with him.
She stretched a leg; he reached over and touched it. She looked at him.
“Mon beau, feeling any better?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m good.” He stretched, adding a yawn.
“Your nose still sounds stuffy. Let me make that tea for you again.”
“No more drugs, please. I can’t be sleeping like a fool.”
She went to him. Sitting on his thighs, she lowered and gave him a long, lazy kiss. She then rested her head on his chest.
“When are you going to introduce me to Jozi?”
“I saw his pictures on Facebook and that video you posted on the gram. He’s so adorable.”
“Adroable keh. That person’s a monster.”
“Like his father.”
Andre palmed Toni’s bum.
“Let me fix breakfast and get you something to drink.”
She hopped off the bed.
“Oh, your phone was ringing. Some foreign number like that.”
When she disappeared, Andre picked his phone from the headboard. He punched in the password on his way to the bathroom. The screen popped up, revealing a number he was familiar with. He relieved his bladder, shut the door and sat on the toilet to make a phone call. After four long dials, the call connected.
“Andre, how far?”
“Sorry, man. I been dey sleep when you call.” Andre yawned again. “Wetin dey?”
“Well, I spoke to her and she seems to buy into the idea. She’s here, though. She wants to hear it from your mouth.”
“Put her on.”
There was a short pause and a female voice came on. “Hello?”
“I remember you. We met a couple of times.”
“Okay. So, I’m sure Izu had a discussion with you about my reasons for speaking with him over the past couple of days.”
“Yes. We spoke. He told me everything.”
“And you agree with my proposition?”
She went silent.
“I’m still considering.”
“They are your kids, madam.”
“I know but I’m not ready for them yet.”
“Like my deal proposes, I guarantee that you and Izu would have junior partner positions at Covet if you return and take your kids. I give my word.”
“Why not senior partner? That’s the position I want.”
“You cannot afford senior partner right now, madam. Covet is a public limited company, and to buy into partnership is not beans. Secondly, your former friends would sooner skin themselves alive than see you sit at the same table with them. But I can guarantee both of you junior partner positions. You two were excellent while working with Covet until you fucked up. I’m counting on that excellence to continue upon your return. But I’m taking a chance here by helping you.”
“Andre, you and I know why you’re doing this.”
Andre tried not to remind her that she was with someone else’s husband who was now broke and getting tired of her.
“You have until the end of today to give me your answer. I can’t wait that long. There are people qualified for the position I’m offering you.”
“I’ll get back to you.”
“Please, one more thing… Have you seen my kids lately? How are they?”
“If you want to know, come back home. Good day, madam.”
Andre cut the connection and went through his call log for Christie’s number. He dialed her. She answered promptly.
“Good afternoon, Andre.”
“Hi Christie. How are you doing?”
“And the little one?”
“Cool. So, I just spoke with Nkechi. Izu has told her everything.”
“What’s her response?”
“She’ll take what I’m offering. She’s just forming. Izu wants to come home.”
“His wife called me last night. She’s returning to Nigeria permanently.”
“Why on earth would she want to do that?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been begging her for almost a week to change her mind but she’s adamant. She called to tell me that flights have been booked.”
“Not now. Not in this economy abeg. She should wait.”
“I’m not supposed to tell you this but her family wants her back so that she can remarry her ex. She had been forced into marrying the old man when she was really young but she eloped with Izu who carted her off to the US, put her through school, took care of all her needs and married her. Now the old man is promising a substantial part of his business just to have her back. He is infertile and is ready to adopt Izu’s kids. Berna is broke, desperate and willing to do anything to put food on the table right now.”
“But I thought she was all into praying and waiting for Izu.”
“She was but the kids have to eat.”
“Mehn, fuck Izu. He’s a retard.”
“He is, but he’s also my only hope of keeping Berna from making a terrible mistake. This was why I didn’t object when you came up with the idea. We need him back here and earning some money for his family. Berna loves him so much that she forgives everything he does.”
“That’s stupid, though. Can’t she work?”
“Hmmm… See, Berna’s issue drains me, Andre. I just want Izu back again, as much as I despise him for what he did to us. If it wasn’t for Berna, I wouldn’t even have considered your idea. But all the same, great job you did finding them.”
“Thank you.” Andre spared her the details of how much it had cost him to trace them to their exact location.
“Let me run off, Andre. I need to do some shopping. My love to Toni. You guys are spending Easter together, right?”
“Send my love.”
“Sure thing. Have a beautiful Easter, Christie.”
Andre stopped the call and left the bathroom to the kitchen. He snuck up behind Toni. She jumped at his touch but relaxed in his arms, turning around to meet his lips in a kiss.
“Long phone call,” she said.
“Yeah. A client.”
Traffic had been a bitch, holding Comfort at three different spots on her way to Salma’s. A journey that began at 9 a.m. was now stretching past twelve noon. Comfort cussed herself for not taking the Third Mainland Bridge which would have deposited her directly at Ikoyi. But even then, she wasn’t sure she wouldn’t have missed being held up at some point. It was Easter Saturday and Lagos was abuzz with the activity of shoppers. She wondered why she hadn’t left her friend’s house the night before and driven back home. Salma’s house was just a fifteen to twenty minute drive from hers.
“Salma, I’m sorry. I’m almost there,” she said into her phone, arriving at the street where Salma lived.
“I’ve waited for three hours fa.”
Comfort tried not to scream back at her. “I’m already here,” she replied calmly.
She slowed at an estate gate. A guard walked to her window and she let it down. He handed her a pass, adding a smile. She nodded and drove in. The air of wealth that always intimidated her whenever she found herself in the estate welcomed her to familiar grounds. Seven years ago when she began her affair with Raji and he unwisely brought her to his house on a particular weekend that Salma had been out of town, she had been foolish to believe he would make similar lavish accommodation arrangements for her. But he had gotten her a two-room apartment in a less comfortable estate and that had been all. Her closest friend, a fellow mistress, had told her she didn’t know how to play the game. She was not supposed to have fallen in love with Raji. But Comfort had not cared then. Raji was everything to her. Even after they fell out, she hadn’t pressured him into going overboard with her needs. Where she came from, one was lucky enough to have even a bicycle to one’s name. Raji had given her more than she could ever dream of acquiring on her own.
But she didn’t feel that way currently, especially over her son’s education trust fund. She was still angry at him and was not ready to explain that she wasn’t sleeping with Folarin.
Comfort parked outside the Asepita residence and hurried in, being let through by the gateman. She headed for the front door which she found open. When she entered, she saw Salma seated at the stairs, tiredness on her face.
“Traffic was bad,” Comfort explained.
“You should have come for him last night as I said.”
“And as I told you, I was on the mainland.”
Neither of them offered any sort of cordial acknowledgement to the other. They were two parallel lines that were never going to meet.
“Children, come down o!” Salma yelled. “It’s time to go!”
Comfort gave Salma’s appearance a full assessment. The woman was all covered up in the quintessential dressing for a proper Muslimah, but she was expensive and posh. Her gold jewelry set matched the pair of slippers she had on. Even her veil didn’t look like something one could find in any store in Nigeria. Comfort reckoned that Raji’s last trip to Saudi Arabia must have been spent shopping for her. For Comfort, he had gifted a gold waist chain, oil perfume and incense, as she had requested. She wondered if he bought an entire store for Salma.
The Asepita kids came running down the stairs. The girls looked cute in their little hijabs and Ankara dresses. Comfort was sure Raji would disapprove of their outfits. Back then he used to complain to her about Salma trying to impose too much religion on his children.
“Hi girls.” Comfort waved, smiling. The twins ran to her and she lowered for a hug. Fahad joined them, almost toppling her down.
“Fa’ad, behave,” his mother instructed. Comfort rose up, after blessing each of them with a kiss. She found to her amazement, that Raheem didn’t come to her. He stood beside Salma.
“Raheem?” she called. The boy linked his hand in Salma’s. “You won’t say hi to me?”
“Go to your mommy.”
Salma looked down at him. “Why?”
“I want to go with you.”
“Raheem, we already talked about this. Your sisters and brother have to go and stay with their cousins for the break. They’ll be back soon.”
“No, mommy. I want to go with you.”
At the mention of ‘mommy’, Comfort pulled back. Salma squatted and faced the boy. “Darling, follow your mommy home, okay? Be a good boy.”
“No!” He put his arms around Salma and began to sob.
“Aunty Comfort, let him follow us na,” Fahad pleaded, tugging at Comfort’s dress. Salma lifted the boy up. She gave Comfort an apologetic stare. Comfort understood that Raheem couldn’t tag along because Salma’s sister, whom they were going to visit, detested her and had no issues treating Raheem unkindly.
“Go to your mommy.” Salma walked over to where Comfort stood and passed over the boy. He screamed but Comfort grasped him tightly and started out, barely thanking Salma.
“Stop kicking!” she instructed, but the boy kicked harder. Comfort was angry. She hadn’t raised her son this way. Clearly, Salma had spoiled him. And even gotten him to call her mommy! Raji was not going to hear the last of it.
Comfort opened the backdoor of her car and dumped Raheeem there, strapping him in with a seatbelt.
“If you try any nonsense, I will use the fanbelt in my boot and flog the nonsense out of you.”
She shut the door and got into the driver’s seat. As she began out of the estate, Raheem launched into an annoying wail.
Comfort’s eyes ached with unshed tears. She was already nurturing plans to give the boy a long break from Salma. She couldn’t stand to have her claim her son.
She slowed her car at the estate gate. Weirdly, Raheem had mellowed down. Comfort was grateful for it. She managed a smile for the guard this time as she presented the pass he had given her earlier. The gate was opened and she was let through. She came out to a T-junction and stopped, waiting for a chance to cut into the other side of the street. Luckily for her, an SUV coming from her left slowed down. She took her foot off the brakes and was about to hasten onto the street when she heard Raheem’s door open.
Comfort stepped on the brakes again and turned, finding that he had escaped from the car.
“Raheem!” she called in anger and looked into the rearview mirror.
What met her eyes put the chills in her. Raheem was racing back to the estate, at the exact moment a car was speeding out of it. Comfort became immobilized, watching helplessly as the car squawked to an abrupt stop and Raheem disappeared from sight.
“Jesus!” a passerby shouted.
Comfort let out a terrifying scream.