Wura is swamped at work. Genesis, having explained that she won’t be at the office for whole week, has dumped all her duties on her. By 11am Wura is already feeling the heat of having so much to do and yet so little time. She is irritable and everyone knows better than to get on her nerves; everyone except Didi who waltzes in, chatting away on her phone.
“Where are you coming from?” Wura asks. She has just stepped out of her office for a break to put her thoughts together. Didi’s appearance disrupts the moment of bliss.
She stops at her cubicle and stares at Wura with a clueless expression.
“In my office,” Wura says, standing up from where she is sitting. Didi follows her back into her office.
“So, where were you coming from?” Wura goes around her table.
“I had a visitor. I was outside with him.”
Wura takes her seat. “You do realize this is a job, right? Not some socializing spot where the men in your life drop by anytime they want and you go out to entertain them. It’s becoming quite irritating the way they keep coming here. I know you’re in your prime and you’re beautiful and you’re getting all of this attention but my dear, this is a job. I will not have you entertain any more men during work hours. Understood?”
Wura stretches her hand and picks up a fancy, black folder from her desk and pushes it to Didi. “Client is a five-year-old boy named Samuel. His birthday is on Saturday. You’re in charge.”
Didi’s eyes widen. “Me? I’m in charge?”
“Yes. Don’t disappoint me. And there’s better news. His parents have given consent to us to record the entire planning process. So, congratulations, you get to have your face on TV as an event planner when the reality series drops on DSTV.”
Didi is stunned. “Me?”
“Yes, you, Ndidiamaka. Production crew will be here by twelve to prep you up. Hand them over the folder so they can plan their shoot.”
“Thank you very much, Wura.” Didi beams. “I will not disappoint you.”
“You better not.”
Excited, Didi leaves the office.
Wura yawns, pushes back her chair and tries not to recall how the previous evening had gone for her. She had been in the company of Mahmud, Asma, Asma’s husband and one of Mahmud’s childhood friend from the north who had come visiting with his wife. They were at the mall to see a movie. Having just gotten their tickets, they stopped for popcorn and drinks. But from nowhere, a pair of girls, dressed rather lewdly, came towards them and screamed out Wura’s name so loudly everyone in the area turned. Wura merely smiled back as embarrassment filled her face. The girls were colleagues from her stripper days in Port Harcourt and clearly, nothing seemed to have changed about them. Calling her “Belinda”, they went into classic vulgar mode as their type are known for. Wura could only stand there and do nothing as they dredged up her past without apology.
“But you don clean up now oo!” one of them said, touching her face. “You don fat up sef. See as your boobs don full,” she added and squeezed Wura’s breasts with both hands. It was then Wura felt she had had enough. Only Mahmud was standing beside her now. The other couples had shifted away and stood by to watch the spectacle.
“Girls,” Wura moved closer to Mahmud, “this is my fiancé and we’re here to see a movie with friends. If you don’t mind, we’ll be excused.”
Cringing as she turned, Wura hoped they would just get the message and disappear. Luckily for her, they did. She faced Mahmud to apologize.
“It’s okay, mami.”
“I’m so embarrassed right now.”
“Totally understandable but don’t let it ruin our evening. Let’s get popcorn.”
They walked back to the others and no one made a comment about what had happened. The movie compensated for the awkwardness but not for Wura. As the outing drew to an end, she concluded that her past was never going to let her go.
Fighting hard not to recall the incidence as she sits before her desk this morning turns out to be a waste of time, so Wura thinks up another way to redeem her image. Does she make plans for dinner tomorrow and invite Asma, her husband and Mahmud’s friends? They need to see her as a responsible mother and not the person those girls had painted her out to be. She picks up her phone and calls Mahmud to ask his opinion. He thinks it’s unnecessary for her to do anything to save face.
“Asma and her husband already love you, Woo. As for my friend and his wife, I don’t care what they think. Do I go forming opinions about his wife whose sense of makeup screams cheap Hausa ho’? No. So, let them think whatever. You’re my wife and I love you, past and all. In fact, I can’t wait for you to pole-dance for me. In our new house, I will install a pole in our bedroom and you’re going to slide up and down the thing for my pleasure.”
Wura breaks out in laughter. Mahmud has a way to always make her happy no matter the mood.
“Just enjoy your day, mami. Asma is on the other line. I have to go.”
The line goes dead. Wura, feeling lighter, faces her work.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
Dominic walks into the house with Genesis coming behind. The moment he steps in, he finds the trio of Lexus, Zoe and Zach, waiting to give him a hero’s welcome. There’s a welcome banner of balloons hanging above them. The twins are wearing party hats and fighting over a blow horn.
Dominic finds the scene adorable. Lexus runs to him and slows down when she’s just a step away.
“Can I hug you? Will it hurt if I do?”
She moves forward and rests her head on his chest as she encloses her arms around him. “Don’t scare me like that again, dad.”
He kisses her forehead and she moves away to let him lift Zoe who has crawled to his feet. Zach remains where he is, trying to rip the blow horn he bullied out of his sister in pieces. On his way upstairs, Dominic picks him up as well.
“You have started abi?” Genesis scolds from the bottom of the stairs. Dominic turns. “The doctors said you should take it easy and you’re already carrying load.”
Dominic chortles. “My children are now load.”
He continues up. When he enters his room he finds it brighter than he had left it. The drapes have been changed to a perkier shade and a lot of sunshine let in. Fresh flowers in a vase by the dressing table give the room an airy fragrance. Fruits have also been placed on the nightstand.
Dominic sits on the bed, placing Zoe beside him. Zach pushes his way down in search of the next thing to lay his hands on. Lexus perches at the foot of the bed.
“I thought I was going to lose you, dad. I’m sorry I couldn’t stay in the hospital. I freaked out. I went to Kasiobi.”
Dominic smiles and it is filled with mischief.
“It’s not what you think, dad.”
“I’m not thinking anything but I’m just curious. Are you guys getting back together at all?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. He kissed me yesterday, though.”
“How was it?”
“Dad, am I supposed to describe that to you?”
“Did you like it? Were there strings attached?”
“There were. Lots of strings. It was intense.”
“But that was all.”
Dominic studies his daughter’s eyes and sees that she wants to say more but he doesn’t bug her about it.
“So the procedure is permanent?” she asks. “The stent stays in?”
“Yes. It’s for life. I have to take aspirin every day. So, Genesis will give you an aspirin container, she holds one, Seyi holds one and I also keep one. Whenever you guys see me, you have to ask if I have taken my pill for the day. If I haven’t, you have to make sure I do.”
Lexus gives a sad smile. “You were always my hero, dad. Right from when I was little. Whenever you flew in from the States and came to grandma’s, you made me very happy. Every time you left, I fell sick. Every single time. To me, you were strong and powerful and there was nothing you couldn’t do. So, yesterday that image was shattered, and I just couldn’t bear it. I wanted my strong daddy back. I…”
She pauses. Tears plug up her eyes. Dominic struggles with his emotions as well.
Yesterday, he had returned home after his long flight from across the world just to prove to himself and the doctor in Singapore who had told him to take things easy, that he was in control. The sex with Genesis had been awesome and ego-boosting but the pain in his chest that followed brought his machismo to nothing. Lying on the bathroom floor after his fall hadn’t scared him; it was the dread on Genesis’ face, the tears she cried in the ambulance and the unspoken gratitude she bore on her features when they wheeled him out of the Cath Theater. She had cried again after that, asking him many times as he drifted off into sleep, what she was supposed to do with her life if he was not there. Those moments had brought on the reality check. Not the near-death encounter.
What was his family to do without him? How would Genesis start again? Who would love her the way he does? Would Lexus ever recover from losing him?
“Don’t leave me, Dominic,” Lexus pleads.
“I won’t. God will keep me alive to see Zach and Zoe’s kids and your grandkids.”
Lexus vacates her spot and walks over for a hug. This time, it is he who gets a peck on the forehead.
“I love you, dad.”
“Me too, Lex.”
After she is gone, Dominic lies on his side and places Zoe beside him. Her littleness reminds him of Nimi, of how one moment he was cradling her newborn frame in his arms and the next he was holding her limp body in a hospital reception crying for a doctor to attend to her. The pain of that loss never left him. Same way he still vividly recalls the night his mother’s head was blown off in front of him and also the time he had stared at Eva’s lifeless body and wished that he had given her a better life than she had lived.
He knows the pain of loss all too well and how one does not recover from it. His family must not go through it, and so he shuts his eyes and begs God for long life and happier days.
Minutes later, Genesis walks in with Iya Idaya who takes the twins away. Genesis, concluding he is asleep, tiptoes about as she has a shower and changes into clean clothes. Afterwards, she leaves the room. He then opens his eyes, picks his phone and makes a call to Wura.
“Good morning, sir.”
“How are you doing?”
“I need you to do me a huge one.”
“I need you to organize an appreciation party for Genesis and Lexus. I want to thank them specially for being in my life.”
“Aww.” Wura makes a mock sniffle. “I think I’m going to cry.”
Dominic smiles. “I’ll leave the details to you, just make it for either Friday or Saturday. Genesis has a new trusted friend. Her name is Honey Onuora.”
“I know her. She’s been here a couple of times.”
“Good. Get her involved.”
“Get Kasiobi involved too.”
“Thank you, Wura. Have a nice day.”
When he hangs up, he dials Seyi’s number. He needs a friend to talk to.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
“Fumi, what is your problem nau? Ah-ah. Kilode! Stop shouting on me.”
This is how I wake up today, to Jiney screaming at the top of her lungs and her father giving her a dose of her medicine. He is not angry though; it’s just the normal daddy and daughter conversation they have on the regular.
It’s going to be a lazy day for me. No office work; although I’ll drop by later to see how things are progressing. The place is under some construction and the front desk girl would be present to ensure that the work is done well.
I dive deeper beneath the blanket as Jiney’s cries intensify. There’s a full bottle of refrigerated breast milk I have kept. Jide will feed her while I go back to sleep.
I close my eyes. Sleep comes swiftly but I am awoken when Jide barges in and announces that Yazmin is here to see me.
I step out, surprised to see that she has not come alone. Tobe is with her and a Gucci box rests at her feet.
“Yaz, is everything okay?”
She shakes her head. Tobe toddles over to me and I lift him up. As I pick a couch to sit on, Jide enters the living room with Jiney. He is here for whatever gist Yazmin has come with.
“I messed up, Hon,” Yazmin reveals. “I’m pregnant again.”
The news does not shock me. Dele’s wife and I have suspected that she is with child.
“And Emeka is mad at me.”
“Why did you stop taking your pills, Yazmin?” Jide interrogates. His tone is not friendly. He has never really liked Yazmin for Emeka.
“You stopped taking your pills?” I look at her.
I turn my eyes on Jide. “Hotstuff, how did you know this?”
“Emeka called me this morning and told me everything. He is this close to leaving you, Yaz. And that’s not because he doesn’t love you. He’s just tired of your constant drama.”
Yazmin’s face is sad but surprisingly, she doesn’t cry. I suspect she has cried her eyes out already.
“He said he won’t be around for the period of my pregnancy. He’s choosing to be with Tola.”
“And that’s why you’ve come here?” Jide asks.
“Just for a few days. I want to go back home to Mexico.”
“No nau,” I tell her. “It has not reached like that.”
“It’s okay. I’ve thought about it a lot and I don’t think he loves me the way he loves her. And it’s fine. I’ll go home, have this baby and come back so that we can work child custody issues. I want to live in Nigeria. I love this country. Staying here is the best for my kids.”
I am devastated by all I’ve just heard. Yazmin is like a younger sister to me. She’s a beautiful soul and I love her dearly. Yes, she has the propensity to be selfish but that’s because of the way she was brought up. It’s no fault of hers and clearly, she alone isn’t to blame for how things have turned out in her love triangle. Emeka caused it. The moment Tola announced that she was pregnant, he abandoned Yazmin. A few times I caught her crying in her office. On one occasion, she opened up to me, telling me how lonely she was. When I told her I was going to speak to Emeka about it, she begged me not to.
“Yaz, we will have a word with Emeka on this. You’re not going anywhere. He is the father of your kids and he will treat you as you deserve to be treated.”
I glance at Jide who is feeding Jiney. He doesn’t look at me.
“Don’t go booking that flight, Yaz. Stay with us and trust me, Emeka will come looking for you soon and he’ll beg you to come back to him.”
I stand up and ask her to follow me. The room opposite Didi’s is unoccupied and that is where I lead her too.
“All yours for as long as you want to stay.”
“Thank you, Honey.”
“Do me a favor. Don’t pick his calls. Don’t text or chat with him. Put some respect on yourself and trust me, he’ll come here, begging.”
Yazmin nods. I ask her if she has had breakfast, she tells me she has. I return to the living room where a frowning Jide is waiting.
“You’re the one encouraging her to misbehave,” he accuses.
“I didn’t ask her to get pregnant, Jide. But I’m not going to support Emeka treating her like shit. That baby is his and she is his wife. He has to treat her better.”
“She needs to go. Emeka can’t do this. He can’t love them equally. Tola has his heart.”
“Then he shouldn’t have fooled around with Yazmin. What he’s facing now is the consequence of his actions. He can love her and treat her better if he decides to. Why should she be crying always because of him? Haba! I am so disappointed in Mex, and in you for supporting him.”
Well, if you guess that the argument goes downhill from here, you guess right. But the good thing is that Jide and I can get quite civil in a fight, which is also a bad thing because the words are more lethal since all the shout has been stripped from them.
Still frowning at me an hour later, Jide leaves for work. I am not bothered. We will make up before the day runs out, and of course, awesome sex will follow.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
Kasiobi asks her out on a date. His message on Whatsapp is short and straight.
Ice cream at Coldstone, Admiralty Way. Pizza at mine’s. Game?
She stares at the chat for a long time. Her answer is yes but she doesn’t want to sound too eager.
-We need to talk, remember?
-And Trini? Who’ll watch her?
-Let me worry about that.
She puts her phone down. From the window of her art room she sees that the sun is setting. Her body is covered in oil paint. The canvas that towers above her has a half-completed painting of Dominic. She doesn’t think it looks good. She has the urge to rip it apart. Wiping her forehead, she abandons the project for the day. A warm cup of yogurt sits on the floor next to her foot. She picks it and downs what is left in it.
Her house is quiet today. These days she finds that she doesn’t do too well with loud music when she’s working. Picking a half-smoked blunt she had picked from a glass stool in the living room, she enters her bedroom. The place is in shipshape. She sits on the bed, lights the blunt and smokes till she can hardly hold it. She dumps what is left in an ashtray, annoyed that she is scarcely high.
“So much for 10k weed,” she mutters, taking off her clothes. She goes for a quick, cold shower. When she returns to her bedroom, she takes her time with a body lotion and her makeup which comes out looking like she has not made any effort. Next, she embarks on picking out what to wear.
This is where the problem comes.
Nearly an hour later on, she is still searching for what to wear. Her tidy room now looks a mess and she is on the verge of losing her mind. Frustrated, she takes a picture of the mess and posts it on Instagram.
She captions the photo: Date in an hour with an old flame. My room is practically upside down and no outfit yet. Outfit ideas anyone???!!
#messyroom #datenight #frustrated
She plops down on her bed and before she can blink, she begins to get notifications on her phone. Most of them from guys suggesting all manner of outfits. She stays on the phone longer, laughing at the comments pouring in. A few girls give her some ideas, and just when she is about to dump her phone and slip into a dress, she sees a comment from Kasiobi.
I’m sure said ex-flame doesn’t mind if you show up nude. It’d be kind’a nice tho
“Horny toad.” Lexus laughs to herself. The edge has suddenly been taken off and out of the corner of her eyes, she spots the perfect girly combo – a pleated bowknot mini skirt, an off-the-shoulder top, a mini satchel detail bag, open heart earrings and a pair of heeled sandals. When she takes in her appearance in the mirror, she approves of what she sees. After posing for a few photos for Instagram, she leaves the house. A surprise awaits her outside, however. Kasiobi is standing beside a cab, hands in his pockets, earphones in his ears.
Butterflies flutter in her tummy for no reason when he looks up at her.
“You didn’t tell me you were coming to get me.”
“Thought I’d surprise you.”
“What happened to your car?”
“I’m tired of driving.”
He opens the backdoor as she walks towards him.
“You’re beautiful,” he compliments. “Cool outfit.”
She expects a kiss on her cheek but she gets nothing. He holds the door open until she sits in. He shuts it and walks over to the other side.
“So, ice-cream?” he asks, sitting beside her.
“John Bellion? Dappy? Or Brymo?”
“Dappy, it is,” he says to the cab driver. The man nods. Shortly, music begins to stream from the car’s speakers. They say nothing to each other on the drive to Coldstone. When they arrive there, he reaches over and picks something from her nose.
“Piece of thread.”
His breath over her lips brings back the last kiss they shared. She desires more of it even if it is all he will give her.
He clasps his hand around hers and together they walk into the ice-cream joint. After making orders for pizza, they climb to the second floor of the building where their date takes place. They don’t talk about Lexus’ pregnancy or the abortion she had or why they break up. That comes a lot later, after they fill in the details of the missing period they didn’t get to spend with each other. They also share their favorite Trinity moments and talk about her future.
“Would you let Chichi back into Trini’s life if she returns?” Lexus rests her chin on her hand and apprehends his eyes as she awaits his answer.
“No,” he replies. “I don’t care where she’s gone to or what the story is. You do not just get up and abandon your child.”
“Which brings me to say this. Lex,” he takes her hand, “thank you for being an amazing mom to Trinity, for being there and helping me take the load off. It’s not been easy but you’ve been dope.”
“I’m crazy about her. My entire ‘gram is full of her pictures.”
“I know.” Kasiobi stares down at their clasped hands. His thumb is beginning to rub over hers in a familiar manner.
“I’m hungry. We should get our pizza and take this party to my place.”
“I’ve got a better idea, though.”
“Let’s just get out of here and I’ll show you.”
She rises up first and drags him. Downstairs, they pick up their pizza and head out. They cross over to the other side of the street to stop a cab. A red one readily pulls over and Lexus gives the driver directions. The drive takes them away from the island but not so far away from it. The cab comes to a stop at a street that looks busy only during work hours.
“Where is this place?” Kasiobi raises his head to stare up at a building that boasts of four floors.
Lexus walks ahead, taking him through heavy glass doors that open in when she pushes them. They find themselves in a large room that is almost empty and has a front desk and waiting benches.
“This is my art center!” Lexus spreads out her hands in pride. “Still under construction but almost there.”
“Wow. You didn’t tell me about this.”
“Well, now I am. Come.”
She hurries ahead, towards a flight of stairs. They come to the second floor which opens up to a few small offices a gallery and an art shop.
“This is where we make the money. For customers only.”
“B, this is really cool.”
Lexus stops and looks at him. He had just called her the pet name he gave her in New York. She doubts that he even realizes that he did it.
“Who is financing this?” he inquires.
“Lex, this must cost you a lot.”
“Mommy left me plenty money, so…” she shrugs.
“I’d like to help.”
“That’s sweet but no, thanks. I must do this all on my own. And if it flops, it flops. Heard that’s part of being grownup and shit. Fall, bitch about it, get up, dust yourself up and say fuck the world while you try again.”
Kasiobi stretches out his fist and she bumps it with hers.
“Next floor,” she says, strolling out. “First to get there.”
She barely finishes speaking when Kasiobi breaks into a sprint that takes him up the stairs. He stops halfway, looks down at her stunned face and they both laugh.
She trudges up at a slow pace and together they arrive at the third floor.
“For students and their teachers. All sorts of art courses and trainings will happen here. You like?”
Lexus bends over abruptly and her bum positions itself perfectly on his crotch.
“These heels are getting tight.”
“Let me help.”
He stoops down, puts aside the pizza box and unbuckles her sandals. When he makes to rise up, his head gets caught in her skirt. Lexus swallows down a giggle which blows out the moment he frees himself and gives her a curious stare.
“You’re not wearing underwear.”
“Oops.” Lexus covers her mouth. Her amusement has a hard time staying away from the surface. Nothing is actually funny; it is more of an expression of pleasure and the anticipation of more of it.
Leaving her sandals behind, she leads him to the last floor which turns out to be the only furnished place in the building.
“Typical of you to work in a backwards manner,” Kasiobi comments. “Why start fixing here first?” he asks, walking into a small lobby that welcomes him with warmth and Picasso-like paintings on the wall.
“Well, I have my tattoo parlor and makeup studio here,” she responds, pointing at doors that stand at opposite ends. “But that’s not all.”
She moves a few paces ahead of her and pushes in a door which opens to a large room that is an exact replica of their studio apartment back in New York. Everything Kasiobi left behind is found here, including their favorite couch and his plasma TV that has a small crack on the top right edge. The compact space with its small-sized bed to a kitchenette and even a shower cubicle and toilet takes Kasiobi and dumps him back in a place of beautiful and depressing memories.
“I was waiting to bring you here on your birthday but…”
“You shipped everything down?”
“I just couldn’t let go, Kas. Those days and nights were the best of my life. I threw away a good thing and I am sorry.” She bites her lips. “Can we go back and start again?”
Kasiobi doesn’t give an answer. She holds her breath as she watches him. He seems to have become suspended in time, frozen on his spot. Unsure if she has done the right thing, she picks a remote control from a Moroccan pouf on the floor and turns on the home theater system to rub out some of the awkwardness. Dappy comes on and continues from where he left off in the cab. His music seems to do its magic as Kasiobi comes to and places the pizza box on a craft table he and Lexus had both bought after watching an episode of Friends and getting inspired to visit the famous Pottery Barn. His fingers then caress the edge of the table and find their way to the couch where he takes the weight off his feet. He invites Lexus over. She wobbles to him, feeling the weight of her emotions slow her. When she drops down beside him, he shifts to the edge, takes her hand and pulls her towards him in a manner that ensures she is lying on the couch. He also stretches out until they are in a spooning position. With his hand holding her beneath her breasts, he buries his face in her hair and breathes in.
“I’ll do anything for this, B.”
And they fall into silence, listening to Dappy, the lyrics of the present song meaning a lot to both of them.
I thought that you’d give up
When all we had was us
I can’t even lie, even lie to ya
I’m sorry it ain’t my fault
I run out of all my trust
I went through hell and back
To get it back
That’s why every day I thank the lord
You ain’t just with me for money
Cos you keep on giving without taking nothing from me
I remember all the times when I was low
And you never let go
I’m just being honest with you oh
You could be down and out
But it won’t matter
Just call for back up
And I will always come through oh-oh
You don’t need nobody else
It’s me and you against the world
Cos I was built for this
So forget about my previous
When I say I’m being serious
I’m too real for this
I feel to run and tell everyone
As if I’ll find anyone as good as this
As good as this
You know I’m built for, for you
I keep it
So the only thing that matters
Is you can always count on me
Cos you know I keep it one hundred
And I have done right from the start
This time round I won’t let you down
Cos you and I were a part of me
That’s hand on heart
So tell me if there’s anything I could do to make it better
Let me know a way I could take away any of the pressure
Now if ever you feel low
Just know that I’ll never let go
Now tell me who do you love?
Even though I haven’t made it easy
You think I’ve come this far just to give up?
Cos what it is
Cos I was built for this
So forget about my previous
When I say I’m being serious
I’m too real for this
I feel to run and tell everyone
As if I’ll find anyone as good as this
As good as this
You know I’m built for, for you
I keep it 100
Lexus turns. She rests on her back and receives Kasiobi’s waiting lips as his hand travels up her skirt to familiar territory.
Outside, it’s Lagos on a typical Monday night but to two of them, it’s New York in winter and warm bodies moving against each other with sighs and moans as hearts reconnect.
To Lexus, they were both built for moments like this.
Image credit: Blackfathers