She didn’t want it happening this fast. She had planned to take her time with him, to get into his mind and heart slowly, to have him invest in her, and then bring him to ruin.
But here they were. Tipsy and out of his mind, he was. Face over hers, eyes wanting to devour her. He had already talked about his failed marriage and how broken he had been after his wife of six years left him. He had also talked about being a disappointment to his late father.
All of this had been triggered by the unexpected appearance of his ex-wife at Wendy’s party. The woman was some sort of gem to the parents of the pupils in the school. A good number of them had attended the party. She had also been the school’s administrator, running its affairs under the guidance of Luper’s father, even while they were divorced.
At the old man’s death, communication between her and Luper fell apart, and after a nasty battle between them, Luper forcefully took over the school from her.
Following that, he got into a short-lived whirlwind romance with Wendy that led nowhere and left Wendy broken. To compensate her, he put her in charge of the school’s catering department. But nothing he did at that point could please the association of parents that were angry with him, especially after Wendy and his ex became close friends and kept a circle of friendship with snooty, conservative mothers from the PTA who were in their mid-thirties and were carried away with the importance of their wealth.
Time had long passed since the events, but the women still felt the same way about Luper. His ex’s presence at Wendy’s party had opened up old wounds that led to a verbal altercation between them. A seemingly appropriate birthday bash turned into a clash of the exes where cuss words were uttered and skeletons rolled out of unlocked closets.
Dugo watched from a corner, sipping her wine. When Luper stormed out of the place, she went after him. He didn’t hear her calling his name, and certainly didn’t see her when he put his car in reverse in the parking lot. She jumped out of the way and he stepped on the brakes.
“Shit!” he swore as he stepped out of the vehicle. “I am so sorry. I didn’t see you. Are you okay?”
“Are you leaving already? I hope it isn’t because of what happened?”
“I have to go and do my laundry.”
“Oh, okay then. I can give you a lift, if you’re fine with that,” he offered.
They drove away from the troubled area onto a quiet street. The sun was setting at that moment.
“Sorry about what you saw back there,” Luper apologized. “It’s not me. I don’t get into a war of words in public. It’s just that my ex and I, we’re not best of friends. We never were.”
“Even before you married?”
“It was a one-sided thing. I was in love and in a delusion. Things turned bad really fast. Worst part, my dad liked her. Nothing I said or did was right in his eyes. She was never at fault.”
Luper slowed the car at an intersection. He let out a long breath.
“Have you ever been married?” he asked.
She had. For five years. To a man thirteen years older and loved her like a younger sister. He had married her to help her become a German citizen. There had been nothing romantic between them. And not a single day when they had a fight over an issue. He was a quiet man with distant blue eyes and a soft smile. He sometimes watched her porn videos with her and took her out for lunch when he was feeling generous. But they never shared a kiss or a bed. Their divorce was as quiet as their marriage had been.
“No, I’ve never been married.”
“Good. Stay that way for as long as you can. Marriage is a scam.”
The car was moving again, turning to the left at the intersection.
“I don’t mean to scare you. I’m just…”
“No need to explain. I’m old enough to understand that marriage is not all that it’s painted to be.”
Luper stayed mute for some time, until they came to a traffic stop.
“Do you feel like having a drink or two?” he asked.
Dugo was not the drinking type. She enjoyed the occasional wine, taken in the solitude of her house. The public thing repulsed her.
“You want to go and drink?” she asked.
“You make it sound distasteful.”
Dugo laughed a little. “Why don’t we buy the drinks and go to your house or mine?”
“Not a bad idea.”
She was hoping to end up in his place. They stopped at a liquor store and picked a few bottles of wine and spirits. Dugo found some excuse why they couldn’t go to hers. Luper was only too glad to take her home.
His house was big and had elements of a home that was supposed to have a wife and kids in it. But when he led Dugo upstairs to his private sanctuary, she walked into a different space and time that was masculine and modish. And definitely bachelor-like.
He welcomed her into his man cave where he entertained his friends on most weekends. It had everything, apart from strippers dancing on poles, to keep the average man occupied on lazy evenings.
Luper took off his blazer and got comfortable in his t-shirt and jeans. He extracted ice from a fridge that was already teeming with cans of beer.
“Are you a drunk?” Dugo asked. Her question would have elicited a frown from Ace if he was present. He had always warned her about asking direct questions that could make the other party uncomfortable.
But Luper was fine with her inquiry. He laughed as he sat beside her on the long couch she had taken. He passed her a glass of wine.
“I am not a drunk, but I love alcohol.”
“I just do.”
“It makes you forget?”
He smiled evasively and then sipped his drink. “You’re a weird lady, Adaugo. Has anyone ever told you that?”
“Your accent… Were you born in Germany?”
“No. I was born here, in my village in Enugu. From there, I went to Germany.”
She missed out the part where her mother took her and her brother from the village to Benin.
“So you stayed in Germany long enough to sound German.”
“Unfortunately? Isn’t it a good thing at a time when Nigerians are tired of being identified as Nigerians?”
“It’s sad. I want to be connected to my roots again. The colonizers have stolen a lot from us.”
“Don’t tell me you’re one of those African traditionalists that have suddenly become woke.”
“I feel that Africa should wake up. We need to be great again.”
He nodded. “Valid.”
She saw him topping his drink. She hadn’t even known he had finished the other.
They talked for a stretch of three hours. Luper was an even-tempered man, different from the boy she had fallen in love with. This man loved to laugh and take life easy. He was a romantic, the type any woman would want to have as her man. When he loved, he did so wholeheartedly. The same way he was open and honest with everyone around him.
Dugo was beginning to understand why he wasn’t so liked by the parents. His stern ex-wife had run the school with his father in a strict, conservative manner. Luper brought change and liberality. He was light years ahead of them in understanding the current educational system. They wanted the old. But he was stubborn. He ran the school the way he liked.
What worked for him was the general academic improvement that was recorded with the students. Artistically and scientifically, they were above their peers in similarly-run schools. Still, a coalition of disgruntled parents wanted his ex back, and were pushing hard to see that happen. The woman also owned shares in the school. This left her with some level of clout.
“Look, I can be very unassuming.” He was talking about the fight with his ex again, eyes staring at Dugo’s hair as he twirled its kinky strands in his fingers. “But when you push me to the wall…”
His eyes fell on Dugo’s face.
Her reply made him laugh.
“You’re very African too.”
He was still twirling her hair.
“Why do I feel like I know you?” He put his hand down and picked his glass.
“I don’t know.”
After a long gulp, he said, “I should take you home so you can do your laundry.”
“But you’re drunk.”
“Tipsy. And I can drive. I can even drive from here to Abuja this night.”
“No, you can’t.”
His hand was in her hair again. “I’m sorry. You have gorgeous hair. Can I?”
And he burrowed his fingers in, and drew them out in fascination. “Wow.”
“Let me use the restroom.” Dugo jumped to her feet. It was her second visit to the bathroom. She was beginning to feel like she was tipsy herself. When she came back, she found Luper playing a game of pool alone.
“Let’s play,” she said. “I’ll win you.”
He showed surprise. She gathered the balls on the table and arranged them in the triangle. She gave him the chance to begin.
With Asa singing in the background, they played an engaging game of skills. Dugo beat him as she had promised, leaving him stunned.
“Where did you learn how to play like that?”
Her husband had kept a table in their house. Pool was his habit.
“Friends taught me,” she lied.
“Impressive. Up for another one?”
“I’ll win again.”
They began, and like she did the first time, she beat him a second time. Luper gave up. They got talking once more. This time, they were standing. When Dugo asked if she could sit on the pool table, Luper surprised her by lifting her up and setting her on the table.
“Is that okay?” he asked. Her hands were on his shoulders.
His eyes had gone cloudy suddenly. They danced over her facial features. “I so want to kiss you right now. Can I?”
Her heartbeat paced up as she dropped her hands. “No. Look, I have to go home.”
Luper shut his eyes in an expression of embarrassment. “I spooked you. I’m sorry.”
She jumped off the table.
“I’ll take you home.”
“No. I’ll call a cab.” She picked her phone and consulted a taxi app. Luper stopped her, hands on hers.
“Let that be on me.”
He pulled out his phone from his pocket and dialed a number. He spoke to someone in Tiv.
“A cab will be here shortly,” he told Dugo after the call ended. “Please, wait.”
Dugo was seated again. There was an awkward silence in which she berated herself mentally for not wanting to kiss him. How could she be afraid of a simple kiss if she was going to get all the way to being intimate with the man? Why did she make him feel bad for asking for what she so desperately wanted?
“I’m not angry,” she muttered.
“That’s good to know.”
“And maybe I wanted the kiss too.”
“Maybe?” He chuckled. “You don’t have to make me feel better by lying.”
“I’m not lying.”
“So that means you like me?”
“I’m drawn to you, Adaugo, but I don’t think I want to do anything about it, so I’ll leave it at the level of attraction. This was a wonderful evening, by the way. Thank you for coming.”
The silence returned until the cab arrived. Luper helped Dugo to her feet.
“I’ll make dinner tomorrow for me and you,” she told him. “You should come.”
“Are you sure?”
He escorted her to the waiting cab. On her way home, she battled within herself, with the part of her that loathed Luper, the part that wouldn’t let go of the pain he and his mother had caused her. If it was possible, she would have gotten her revenge without opening the door of her heart to him. But something had got to give. And that giving, she was just realizing was pleasurable. Old, warm emotions from her past that still had strands of connection to Luper were strengthening. It both excited and scared her.
Dugo arrived home. For a few seconds, there was utter silence. She knew Ace was in his room. She was about to announce her presence when she heard feminine laughter.
Dugo had an instant sour mood. Joana was here again. The chick hadn’t been joking this morning when she told Ace that she was returning. Dugo was irritated at both of them, but she kept her thoughts within. It was Ace’s business and not hers. She retired to her bedroom and called Luper to let him know she had gotten home safely.
“I’m looking forward to dinner tomorrow. I won’t eat for the whole day.”
Dugo laughed, taking off her sandals.
“Have a lovely night.”
Dugo undressed. She slid into a long nightie that swept the floor. Ace always made fun of her whenever she wore it.
She picked her water bottle, feeling desperately thirsty. She needed to get water from the dispenser in the kitchen. Stepping out, she discovered the living room was dark. She didn’t recall turning the lights off.
A few steps further and she heard the sound of a moan that made her freeze. There on the long couch, Ace and Joana were having sex.
Dugo’s first reaction was annoyance, borne mostly for Joana. She didn’t think she would have minded if Ace was with another girl.
The moans got louder, and Dugo knew she needed to give them some privacy, but she found herself transfixed, watching them. Curiosity soon took over, which was kind of a weird thing because she had witnessed uncountable scenes of people having sex. But there was something different about this. It wasn’t staged. There was no director giving orders to Joana to moan out or telling Ace to stick to a perfect angle so that the cameraman could get a good shot of genital action. It was unscripted and natural. What people called lovemaking. It was the first time Dugo was witnessing something that lovely.
So engrossed was she that she didn’t notice when Ace stopped moving until Joana screamed out.
“Dugo, what the fuck?!” Ace exclaimed. Dugo was unmoved.
“Just observing. Nice moves. Carry on.”
She went into the kitchen smiling to herself. When she passed by the living room again, Joana was still in shock, clinging to Ace’s shirt which she had over her body.
Dugo smiled her way to her bedroom. Several minutes later, Ace was at her door. She opened it.
“If your plan was to ruin my evening, it worked. And if it was also to scare Jo off, that worked too. What was that all about, you watching like a ghost in that long ass ugly nightgown?”
He was angry. It was understandable. But Dugo offered no apologies.
“Jo thinks you and I have something going on. Nothing I said convinced her that we’re just friends. She’s gone and she said she won’t be coming back.”
“Good rubbish to bad riddance.”
“It’s good riddance to bad rubbish,” he corrected.
“Yes, she’s bad rubbish.”
“Don’t talk about her like that.”
“You know I’m telling the truth.”
“Dugo, what you did was wrong. I do not appreciate it. Now, I have to go looking for her…”
“This same girl that you told me yesterday that she’s engaged?”
“She doesn’t love him.”
Dugo swore in German. “Young man, she’s using you, and I can see why.” Dugo dropped her eyes to his midsection. “You’re good.”
Despite his anger, Ace had a smile between his pressed lips. “Thank you. Just stay away from my love life.”
“You don’t have a love life, Ace. Just a sexy butt.”
And then she began to replay Joana’s moans, calling out Ace’s name with a face that had mastered the art of putting on a show of pleasure. Ace eyed her in annoyance and marched off. She went to bed, tickled by her own mischief.