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My mom, the religious nut she is, will always tell me, “Nothing is ever hidden under the sun. One day God will expose you.” It makes me always wonder what type of mother she is. Normal mothers support and protect their kids but my mom will gladly throw me under the bus to please Jesus. And today, she has reared up her ugly head to remind me that nemesis is at my door.
“Mommy, I have heard you,” I say to her on the phone. I don’t even know why I answered her call. I am in the middle of something here.
“Ojonoka, pray o! Pray well-well! Devil wants to use you.”
Devil is already using me. He’s six foot tall, rugged, the exact opposite of my husband and he is presently screwing his fine tool into my lady parts. So, nothing new, mommy. I am potty in the hands of the devil because you refused to help me cover my sins.
“Can I go now?” I tell her gruffly, biting down my lower lip to contain the pleasure the father of my illegitimate son is giving me. I can’t tell you his name, so let’s call him B.
I dump my phone on the floor and clasp my arms around B as he digs in deeper in a manner that would make you think he wants to drill a hole all the way to my mouth. But it’s pleasure to me. It comes with pain that I’m used to. Pain that I like. This is a lot better than waiting and begging to be loved by Ibro. Forget that I shed tears before Celia just the other day. It’s tears of regret, not of guilt. I regret that I didn’t listen to my mom when she told me to be straight with Ibro on the issue of my first son. The money was all I saw and I was going to have it even if it meant denying my own blood. That was what I did, and now, I am paying for it. B has refused to stay in the shadows but it’s all good. This is a blessing in disguise. He gives me the attention Ibro denies me. Yes, I have to pay for it but body no be firewood. This is me loving myself. So, please don’t judge. You have no idea what it means to be neglected and to spend many nights alone until you have walked in my shoes. I started collecting B’s tool a long time ago but for people like Celia and Bimpe who like to poke their noses into people’s affairs, I had to play the victim card.
The two annoying creatures caught me leaving a hotel with B a year ago. It was after dark and we had the shadows to our advantage but that hawk-eyed Bimpe sighted us from afar as B was shoving his tongue down my throat while begging me to go back with him to the hotel for another round.
“Is that not Noks?” I heard her say. I froze and spun around. Guilt filled my face but I played a quick one, when I turned around, slapped B and hurried towards my friends.
“Noka, what is going on here?” Celia asked. I began to cry. She faced B. “Excuse me, what were you just doing to my friend?”
B laughed. “Ask her.”
And then he walked away. I held Bimpe tightly and bawled my eyes out. When they were finally able to get me to stop, I opened up to them and revealed everything. The only part I doctored was the part about how I enjoyed my moments with B.
“Please, don’t tell anybody,” I cried. “If Ibro hears it, he will divorce me. What will now be left of me and the boys?”
Celia who was also in tears with me, promised that she would keep her mouth shut. Bimpe also gave her word. All has been good so far. My mom’s prophecies can hit a brick wall and shatter to nothingness for all I care. The universe is on my side. Ibro does not love me. B is my recompense.
“Is he as good as this?” B asks me, his hand grasping my hair as he grinds me senseless.
“No,” I reply breathlessly.
“You’re the best,” I moan.
“You’re the best!”
He is not the best, though. Ibro is. My husband can make love like humanity depends on his dick for survival. But dick that can form for Africa, is that one dick?
I hold on to B, clutching his hairy butt for more of what he’s giving but I know dude is spent. So I brace myself for the end of my short-lived pleasure and start making plans for dinner. My boys are spoilt; they won’t eat yesterday’s leftovers or the nanny’s meals. I have to go home and prepare something fresh.
“Please, don’t cum,” I beg B. If only he listens and lasts as long as Ibro does.
“I’m sorry, baby but…”
He cums. Hard and noisily. I wish I have another fifteen or more minutes to spare to get the full measure of the type of pleasure I want.
B withdraws from me. I pull my legs up. He can see that I’m not happy but he doesn’t care. Shey he has taken all my money and gotten his satisfaction.
“Same time, next week?” he asks. “Or rather, come earlier. These days you just want to pop in and dash out. What’s up with that?”
I shrug. These days I’m being careful. Celia is insisting I tell Ibro the truth and my mother keeps preaching to me. Somehow it’s all getting to me.
“Nothing. I’m just busy.”
“Don’t be too busy for me.” He taps my ass, and when I try to walk away, he pulls me back. “Watch this.”
He shows me a video on his phone. It’s the latest recording of our son. Tears fill my eyes as I watch the boy playing football with a friend. B might be greedy and lacking of morals but he’s a good dad. He actually uses some of the money I send to him on our son. I am grateful for that.
“I’m tired of him asking for his mother.” B stops the video midway. “When are we going to tell him the truth?”
My tummy knots. “B…” I sigh. “You want me to lose my marriage? Where will the money come from if I do?”
“Your son thinks you’re his aunt and that we’re brother and sister. How does that sound right in your ears?”
“As right as you eating my monthly income!” I yell. “I don’t hear you complaining about that! But if you want it to stop coming, go ahead and tell him who I am! In fact, go and tell the whole world! Or better still, invest the money so that when my husband eventually kicks me out of his life, we’ll have something to fall back on!”
I hiss and pick my clothes off the floor. He watches me without saying a word as I dress up.
“See you next week.”
I pick my handbag and phone and head out. The moment I shut the door, I bump into Eno.
I gasp. Loudly. She gasps as well. She is also leaving a hotel room, and I can hear the voice of a man. Well, well… This should be interesting.
“Noka.” She recovers faster than I do. “What are you doing here?”
I am about to throw the same question at her when the door behind me opens and B sticks out his brainless head.
“Baby, you forgot your watch.”
I grab it from him and he retreats, totally oblivious of what he has just done. I turn around to find Eno’s arms crossed and a malicious look on her face.
“Noka, what did I just use my two eyes to see?”
“I should also ask you the same question,” I throw back at her as the man she is with steps out of the hotel room. Unfortunately for me, even before she says a word, I can see a clear resemblance between her and the guy. They possess the same complexion, same eyes, same lips and same color of brown hair.
“You mean, this guy?” She laughs. “This is my baby brother who just completed his NYSC and is here for some seminar being organized by this hotel. Should I assume that the guy that just handed you your wristwatch is your brother too?”
“Erm…yes. I’m his sister.”
“So brothers call sisters ‘baby’?”
I laugh drily. “That’s what everyone calls me at home.”
“I see. So, Ibro knows him?”
“I… No. Ibro hasn’t met him yet. He doesn’t live in Nigeria. He just came in from…Kuwait. He’s a…basket baller. See how tall he is? Hehehe.” I scratch my neck uneasily. I’m a rusty liar.
“I see. Why don’t you take him home? Why is he here?”
She walks past me and knocks on the door. Stupid B opens it.
“Hey, Noka’s tall brother.”
B frowns at her and then turns his eyes on me.
“I’m Eno, Noka’s mate.”
“We’re married to the same man.”
“Yeah, nice to meet you. I was just scolding her about letting you stay here when she has this really fancy house.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m…”
“Nonsense. You should come to hers. My husband would be glad to meet you. Seems you guys haven’t met before, which is quite strange. He knows every member of my family. I don’t see why he shouldn’t know Noka’s.”
Right now, I am praying for a bomb to drop or rapture to happen so that I can escape this mess. How do I get out of this one?
“Really, I’m fine here.”
“Okay. If you say so but Ibrahim won’t like it. Welcome to Nigeria.”
B looks at me. I smile.
He goes back into the room. Eno turns to her brother.
“Get your things, let’s go home.”
I see a complaint on his face but the frown she flashes him makes him disappear back into his room. The moment he leaves, she faces me.
“You smell of sex, you know that? Your hair is a mess, your lipstick is gone and there is guilt all over your face.”
“Sex? What are you talking about?”
“I have nothing more to say to you. Ibro will hear about this…”
“Eno, no.” I grab her hand. She looks at me and I withdraw. “Let me explain…”
She opens the door to her brother’s hotel room. “Explain it to your husband.”
And that is how my mom’s has used her mouth to jinx my good fortune. I clutch my fearful heart and handbag and leave the hotel to my car where I mull over what awaits me. It doesn’t matter what I would cook up to tell Ibro, Eno will paint a terrible picture and that would be the end of me. The only person that can save me is my mom but she would rather be burnt at a stake for Jesus than lie to save her daughter’s ass.
I am done for. Nobody can tell me anything. My own is finished. I better call the girls and start finding a way to twist this tale my way.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
I haven’t seen Naomi since the incident. I had taken her to the hospital that night, following what her husband did to her, and stayed until the morning when she begged me to leave. She expressly told me I was never to visit her again. I knew it was the abused woman in her talking and so I ignored her pleas, went home and checked in on her later that day. I wasn’t allowed in to see her, however. I left and made plans to visit the following day. When I returned, I was told that she had been transferred to another hospital. According to the nurse at the front desk, the doctor who had handled a few other similar cases from Naomi was tired of her shielding her husband and lying about her injuries. She had claimed the latest one was from a car crash and he wasn’t buying it. Hence, he asked her to leave, stating that he was scared of being implicated if she eventually ended up dead. No one knew what hospital she was taken to. I called her number several times but she ignored my calls. I am scared for her.
It’s a Tuesday, a tiring one, but not too tiring for me to respond to a call from a friend. I don’t do it alone. I take Peace and Honey along to see Mary. I don’t really suggest the visit. I just drive up to see Peace, pick her up and then do the same to a whining Honey.
“I’m tired,” she complains. “This is 3pm. We’ll jam traffic on the way. Can’t we do this during the weekend?”
“No. Lasting friendships do not run on convenience. Mary needs us…”
“No, she needs you. She called you alone.”
“Honey, stop being such an annoying person this afternoon.”
“I’m tired!” she almost cries.
“Enter the car, jare.”
“You’re lucky I used a cab today. I wouldn’t have followed you,” she says, taking the backseat. Once she gets in, she sets to nurse Jiney. “I hate you, Celia.”
I get in behind the wheel.
“What’s with Mary, though?”
“I don’t know. She called me, says she needs to talk.”
“Then it’s serious. Mary’s the one we all go to when we need to vent. Now she needs to talk to someone. That’s new. I hope Kene’s not being an ass.”
“I hope so too.”
I put the car in gear and we drive away. For the first part of the journey, we are quiet. Well, Honey and I are. Peace is on a phone call with one of the girls manning her boutique. After trying her hands at different businesses and small-time jobs, Peace decides to settle for running a boutique. Reno finances the project single-handedly and now her stylish shop stands in one of the lavish spots at the Lekki mall, the one owned by the BSD Group.
“I didn’t want to go expensive,” she explains to us after the phone call, “but Reno insisted. And now, the shop is draining me.”
I rub her thigh. “Things will be fine.”
“But I think the whole thing is Reno’s way of letting you guys know that, despite the fact that everyone’s giving him the silent treatment, he has not crawled up into one hole and died. He is doing very well.”
“He’s a rapist,” I remind her even though I know it would hurt her.
“Ex-rapist,” she corrects.
“Celia, be nice,” Honey scolds.
“But he’s your current friend with benefits?” I look at Peace.
“Cee, don’t start.”
“Swear that you’re not having sex with him.”
She stares away from me.
“Once in a blue moon.”
“That’s why you dumped the German guy? Eyha.” I make a weepy face. “And I was hoping for cute kids.”
“Oyibos are overrated if you ask me,” Honey states. “Besides, he couldn’t fit into our circle.”
“Hon, he got circumcised for her and she didn’t even let him taste the goods.”
“I was not in love with him, Celia,” Peace responds. “Apart from that, at my age, I shouldn’t be looking for love. I shouldn’t even be looking for a man. I can do well by myself.”
“That’s the spirit.” I give her a high five. She doesn’t slap it.
“Awww, you’re hanging my hand. What’s wrong, darling?”
She seems annoyed. I really have to stop bringing up these discussions. They always leave her uncomfortable. It’s not an easy decision when you choose to walk on the path of solitude. The new Peace is done with giving her heart to men and to getting involved in any kind of relationship.
“There’s something empowering about being alone but it can also get lonely,” she whispers. “That’s why I still spend some nights with Reno.”
“We’re not judging you, P,” Honey responds. “Ignore the rapist statement Celia made.”
Peace smiles. I smile too. Peace is all grownup. Just the other day she was crying over how much she needed Reno. Today, she is doing fine by herself. Even her sense of fashion has improved. She has evolved into her own style. She’s doing the whole Naturalista thing; replete with the Ankara head-wraps, earthy sandals, African inspired jewelry and long Boho skirts. In fact, this is the precise description of what she is wearing now. A batik tee gives her appearance a modern edge that leaves her looking younger than her current age.
“I hope Mary has food.” Honey takes a long yawn that pushes me into yawning as well. “This child is killing me with all her sucking.”
“I’ve not even had lunch.”
“Mary always has food.”
We all go silent as I navigate a busy street. My thoughts are on Naomi, and on the threatening text I received from her husband last night. It came in one short line: leave my wife alone, Celia.
I have read it so many times that I now feel I wrote it myself. I didn’t show the text to Shady and my reason is simply that I want to handle the situation alone. I need to get Naomi out of the abusive situation she is in right now. As for her husband who thinks he can send me texts, he doesn’t know what his problem is yet. Dude is soon going to suck on his own balls for making that mistake with me.
“I’ve not seen Noks in a while,” Peace murmurs. She is rummaging through her handbag as she says this. I wonder what she’s looking for.
“I haven’t seen her too. Have you called her?”
“No.” Peace stops her rummaging. “Have you?”
“Honey, have you?”
“I don’t care. Meanwhile, I have found out her dirty, little secret…”
Peace makes a sharp turn. “What secret?”
I look at Honey through the rearview mirror, trying to see if she’s kidding.
“I’m not telling anyone, Peace. But Noka should never insult me or any of you or I swear, I’ll expose her.”
“What’s the secret nau?”
Honey shakes her head.
“No. Face your front.”
“Whatever it is,” I say, “if it will ruin her marriage, Honey, please don’t expose her. I know she’s been mean to you but it’s not enough reason to share whatever you saw with anyone.”
Honey holds my eyes in the mirror. I look away.
“You know the secret, Celia.”
Chai. This Honey sef. Why is she always this smart? And how on earth did she find out about Noka?
“I don’t know anything,” I reply.
“So two of you know this secret and you’re not telling me?” Peace whines. “Tell me how that is fair.”
We both ignore her and she goes on and on until we arrive at Mary’s.
“We’re all not good friends, Cee,” she concludes. “We’re losing our little circle. I blame Bimpe. She was the glue that kept us together.”
“We’re fine, madam,” Honey snaps. “Nobody is losing anything.”
My car stops outside Mary’s compound. I honk and seconds later a guard comes out. When he sees us, he smiles and returns to the compound. Soon, the gate slides to let us in. I drive through. Mary is waiting at the front door, dressed in white leggings and a matching top. She blends with the whiteness of the house, except for the pitch blackness of her new hairdo.
We walk up to her. She has hugs waiting. We haven’t seen each other in a few days but it isn’t us she’s really interested in. The moment she sights Jiney, she gets all mushy. She takes her off Honey’s arms.
She leads us into her beautiful home that still manages to take my breath away even after my many visits. The décor makes no attempt at being modest. Our dear Ekene is ostentatious; the house reflects his person. Mary, on the other hand, is the opposite. As long as she is comfortable and the house is clean, she can live in any condition. It’s interesting how both of them find a balance.
“First of all, food!” Honey cries. Mary laughs.
“Help yourselves. Jiney and I will be right back.”
“You kukuma have big breasts. Give her some while you’re at it.”
Mary disappears while three of us help ourselves with meals of our choice. There’s so much to pick from and we knock ourselves out. We settle in the living room. Mary joins us shortly with Jiney, now dressed in a complete Versace baby ensemble.
“Whoa!” Honey exclaims. “What have you done to my baby?”
“The same thing she did to Dara and Sammy,” Peace answers.
“I got some things from my last visit to Paris with Kene.”
“Awww, this is so sweet. Jide will fawn over her.” Honey coos at Jiney and gets out her phone to take a photo. “Jiji, did you say thank you to Aunty Mary?”
Jiney lets out a grin and Honey takes a photo. I also take a few shots.
“Mary?” I call, after we go back to our meals. “Are you fighting with Kene? Is that why you called me over?”
Mary smiles sadly.
“You cook a lot when you’re upset. You know that? What’s going on?”
“Yeah… Kene and I are fighting.”
Peace passes her a glass of orange juice. She declines. A minute later we are listening to her talk to us about her desperate need to have a child and how it has become a problem between her and Ekene.
“Now, he’s avoiding sex, and even when we do it, he uses condoms. All he wants is for us to keep going out on dates, traveling to exotic places, doing romantic stuff and all that.”
“Isn’t that a good thing, May?” Honey asks.
“Hon, we have all the time in the world to do that but my uterus can’t wait another year. It’s not him whose biological clock is ticking.”
“May,” I put my hand on hers, “do you love this man?”
She withdraws her hand in quick anger. “What type of nonsense question is that?”
“Exactly,” Peace mutters.
“I’m sorry. Let me rephrase. Do you love him as much as he loves you?”
Mary’s angry bearing disappears. “I love Kene but you know me…I can’t express it the way he does. Apart from that, I’m still growing into loving him.”
“No, you’re guarding your heart, May. And you have to stop it. Your days of spinsterhood where men hurt you are over. You don’t own your emotions alone now. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I’ll advise that you give Kene the key to your heart, please.”
“That’s scary. And I don’t think it’s okay for me to do that just because I’m married to him. He will hurt me. I have seen it happen to all of you. P, look what Reno did to you. And you too, Celia. Men do these things. They hurt us. I have to stay guarded.”
“Kene and I had an agreement. We are to play our roles as husband and wife. But he’s turning the script by demanding too much from me. I just can’t let down my guard like that.”
Honey and I sigh at the same time without meaning to. Mary has always been this tough with men. Jide was the only man she loved wholeheartedly and then he went and broke her heart. In addition, what Reno did to her left her with deep trust issues. Our dear Ekene has his work cut out for him. But I think we can lessen his load a little.
We advise her on ways she can let her guard down and allow Ekene in. We teach her how to express her love through numerous means without losing herself.
“You’re sure it’ll work?”
Honey raises a finger. “And please, make love, not babies. Then watch the babies drop in unannounced. That’s how more than half of the world gets pregnant, my dear. So, get with the script. If you do it right, Kene won’t have time for condoms. Imagine you hearing his car driving in at night and you rush out to meet him and take him right there, while the engine is still running. Will he have time for a condom?”
“Abi o!” I exclaim.
“Hmmm…” Mary gives our words some thought as she rests her chin on her cupped palm.
“And remember this…” Peace takes the last sip of her juice. “You don’t have a great marriage. You make a great marriage. You fight the odds to make it work.”
I nod in hundred percent agreement. Told you my darling Peace is all grown.
“Well, I feel better now,” Mary comments. “Tonight, I’ll swing into action.”
Loud laughter takes all of us. I stand up to have a second serving of my meal. When I return, Peace asks about Naomi. I set my meal on my lap quietly. I don’t want to talk about it but when I’m with the girls, there’s really nothing I can keep a secret. So, I take my seat and let out everything.
“What sort of monster is he?” Honey is most appalled. “So because she won’t get pregnant for him he decides to destroy her womb?”
“How did they even meet in the first place?” Mary asks. “Most times, the foundation of a relationship can tell you a lot about why that relationship is the way it is.”
“Well, they’re both from rich families but Charles’ family is richer and Naomi’s family basically sold her to him. He is almost nine years older than she is.”
“Thought as much,” Mary comments.
“They never loved each other but Nay wanted it to work in the beginning. Charles wasn’t just there. He would go away for long periods and when he returns he looks for reasons to abuse her.”
“Would you believe it if I told you that they have been married for six years and have had sex only twelve times.”
“What?!” Honey yells. “Twice every year or what?”
“I don’t know but that’s what she told me. And twelve times, it was terrible. He would give her everything – his money, cars, access to his bank accounts but not himself.”
Mary frowns. “Is he gay?”
“No. He has a mistress.”
“So why can’t he love his wife?”
“Naomi is beautiful, educated and from a wealthy family. She also runs his business well. She is the perfect wife and he can’t do without her. She knows this, and that is why she has refused to get pregnant for him.”
“And why she chose to be a lesbian?”
“She said she found love in the arms of her aerobics instructor four years ago and hasn’t looked at any man after that. Asides that, the abuse makes her hate men.”
“I’m happy for her,” Honey says snidely. “She should just carry her lips away from yours. And I think it’s time you too should leave her and her marital problems alone as her husband warned.”
“Honey, he has involved me and I will give him what he’s looking for.”
“Meaning, I want to know what he means by that his threat. The fool must be mad to send me that type of text. And that nonsense he did to Nay, he will pay for it.”
My friends are shocked at my stance on the issue.
“Cee, this is just a harmless question o,” Peace utters quietly. “Don’t be annoyed that I’m asking but are you in love with Naomi?”
“So I have to be in love with her before I help her out of an abusive situation abi? You girls think that if it happened to any of you I would just walk away?”
“No. I was merely asking…”
“Naomi is my friend. I have grown to like her and I will not sit down and let anyone touch her again.”
“But Celia,” Honey faces me, “what if you know only half of the story? What if there’s more to this?”
“Honey, I will not sit and let a friend get hurt.”
“But when did you even meet her that you now call her your friend? It’s not the same type of friendship we have.”
“You and Genesis nko? If her husband abuses her, will you sit down and watch it happen?”
“You’re not getting me, Cee. The basis of this your friendship is not on leveled grounds. Your feelings are genuine but Naomi wants to have something deeper…”
“She is an abused woman! She only fell in love with me because she was looking for an escape!”
“Please, let’s leave this talk. I’m getting annoyed here.”
I see Mary pass Honey a look.
“Fine. I’ll let it be,” Honey tells me in a resigned tone. “Just be careful.”
No one says a word for a while. I feel somehow about the way I just spoke to Honey. To lighten the mood, I leave my seat and hug her, kissing her cheek.
“Seems like your Naomi has infected you with a kissing bug, Cee. Step away. I like dick too much.”
I don’t step away. I hug her again. I can’t help it. She smells like a baby. I think I might be having baby blues.
Just then my phone rings. I’m surprised to see that it’s Naomi calling. I leave the girls to take the call.
I smile. I am genuinely happy to hear her voice.
“Nay, how are you?”
“I’m good. You?”
“Gosh! I miss you, sweetie,” the lesbian in her says. I ignore the emotions I hear in her tone as I walk into Mary’s all-marble kitchen. I find a chair and lower myself on it.
“How are you feeling, Nay?”
“A lot better. I am so sorry about the way things went these past days. Whenever Charles gets into his monster mode, my world turns upside-down.”
“Charles did not get into his monster mode, Nay. Charles is a monster, and you have to get out of that marriage before he kills you.”
“He’s not going to kill me, Cece…”
“He almost killed you. Where is he right now?”
“He went to his girlfriend’s place. I don’t think he’s coming back until tomorrow. He forgot to take my phone along. He confiscated it and that’s why I haven’t been able to call you.”
“Did you know that he texted me last night?”
“I was with him when he did it. He questioned me about you. Apparently, he found out about our trip to Fiji. He’s convinced something is going on between us. I told him that we were just friends and that I offered you the job to be my PA and personal consultant but he doesn’t believe me. He doesn’t want me to see you again.”
“He has no right to tell you who you shouldn’t see. You’re a person of your own, Nay. You don’t have to take shit from him.”
“He’ll calm down, Cece. He’s just angry because he found out that I had been lying to him about not being able to get pregnant. All he wants is a baby. Once I get pregnant, he’ll get off my ass.”
I am speechless. My friend really needs help. She has no idea how oppressed she sounds right now.
“Nay, the worst thing you can do to yourself is to get pregnant for that man. Don’t even think about it. All that should be on your mind at this moment is how you will divorce him.”
“But I can’t.”
“Why not?” I almost cry.
“My money is tied to his. Both of us built our company from scratch but he put in more money than me. If I walk away, I’ll lose a lot.”
“But your life will be safe. You’ll be free. Don’t you want to be your own woman, date whoever you want to date, do whatever you want to do?”
“Celia, you don’t understand.”
I stare at a clock on the wall facing me. It’s just a few minutes past six. “Nay, I’m coming over so we can talk better.”
I hang up and hurry back to the living room.
“I want to dash somewhere and come back real quick.”
“Where are you going?” Mary questions.
“It’s not far from here.”
Honey stares at her watch. “Let me kuku follow you and find my way to the family house. We have a meeting.”
Peace shakes her head. “The Onuoras and their meetings.”
Honey stands and takes Jiney in her arms.
“She’s so adorable,” Mary comments, kissing the child’s forehead.
“Don’t worry, you’ll soon have yours,” Honey tells her. “Thanks for the sweet rice.”
I impatiently wait for Honey by the door as she hugs Mary and Peace.
“Cee, you can go home from there,” Peace says to me.
“Yeah. I’ll find my way. Don’t worry about me.”
I rush back and hug my friends and dash out with Honey.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
I park outside Naomi’s compound and walk to the gate. The gateman lets me in after informing me that Naomi is expecting me. I take a long walk to the main house and I am let in by the maid. I see Naomi walking towards me just as I step in.
“You can leave,” she tells the maid as she spreads out her arms to hug me. I notice, just before our bodies touch, that she has lost so much weight.
She hugs me and clings to me like I am a long lost lover.
“You have no idea how I’ve missed you, Cece.”
I want to tell her I’ve missed her too but I don’t want to give her the wrong impression.
“How are you?” She breaks the hug but caresses my cheek. If she is Shady and we are in this position, we would be kissing now. The awkwardness makes me pull away. She takes my hand.
“Come this way.”
She leads me to her main living room. This is quite different from the one I was taken to the first time I was here. It is more spacious and carries that look that marks living rooms of people who collect expensive art and décor items from all over the world. Everything in it is either gold-plated or nearly so. If one sells the room and the items in it, the money made would be enough to rent another house for years. It’s a shame that Naomi has all of this and can go anywhere she wants to in the world at a whim and yet she has no freedom.
“Let me get you something to drink.” She walks through another door, leaving it slightly open, and I see that it’s the room I was led to the first time I was here. The place is cozier and has a modern feel to it.
Naomi soon returns with two glasses of God-knows-what. It’s amazing how her skin heals. I had expected to see her still marked by bruises but nothing on her shows that she has faced any type of violence, except for a fresh scar on her chin.
“It’ll go,” she tells me as she notices me staring at it. “I heal nicely.”
I take what she offers, smell it and decide I don’t want it.
“You don’t like it?”
I shake my head. She downs it at a go, clutches her glass and sits beside me.
“I really missed you.”
“Cut it, Naomi. That’s not why I’m here.”
“I know.” She lifts a leg up on the sofa and leans towards me.
“Nay, you have to get out of this marriage fast. And while you’re planning to do so, don’t make the mistake of getting pregnant.”
“Cece, I understand why you want me to do this. I really do but it’s not so easy to get up and just leave…”
“Are you waiting till you’re six feet under?”
“God has nothing to do with it, Naomi. He will not force you out of here. Only you can do it.”
“Charles is…” She clasps her fingers around her glass of liquor. “He’s not always like this. It comes and goes. Sometimes he hits me just twice a year and it’s always my fault. Maybe I was disrespectful to him at work or he gives me instructions and I ignore them or I am rude to his mom… He’s generally nice. You understand it, don’t you? It’s like what happened to you with your husband. He’s a nice man but you pushed him to the wall and he reacted. We women are like that and men, they don’t know how to hold themselves.”
I rub my eyes in utter frustration. I can’t believe this side of Naomi. I’ve always seen her as a strong, independent, successful woman. Who is this person with me?
I am about to respond to her when she suddenly springs up, runs to the nearest window and peeps out.
“Shit! He’s back!”
“Who is back?”
“Charles! He’s back! He’s not supposed to come back this night. Cece, you have to go. Get up.” She stretches her arm to me as she returns to the sofa.
“I’m not going anywhere…”
“Celia, please! He’ll kill me if he sees you here. Please!”
I stand up. “I’ll stay right here. I’m not going to run out like a rat hiding from a cat. I’m not afraid of him. And I think it’s time someone faced him. I want to see if he’s man enough when his shit is thrown back at his face.”
“Celia, please.” She clutches her dress, eyes darting to the entrance. “Please, don’t do this to me.”
Unfortunately, my ears are blocked. I am enraged and have gone into that mode that Shady says only God and peppered chicken can get me out of.
Too late. The door opens and soon we hear Charles’ footsteps. I brace myself for what is to come, and it comes at us as I expect it would. Tall, huge and quite ugly. A beast in human skin. It looks at its wife and back at me with four o’clock eyes. Even I will abort any offspring it deposits in me. Charles Ogbeiwi is an appalling man.
“Hi darling,” Naomi greets as she sweeps towards him. I note that he doesn’t respond.
“You have a visitor,” he says after she hugs him. He gives me the look that demands that I acknowledge his presence. I don’t.
“Yes, this is my friend…”
“Celia,” I say defiantly.
“Celia,” he repeats. And then laughs. I smile, lifting just one corner of my lips to spell out a smirk. I wait for him to say something about the text he sent to me but he doesn’t. Rather he speaks into Naomi’s ear and they both walk to the other room.
Things are silent for a while and even when I pick out their voices, they’re very low. Something tells me to leave but I don’t listen, not with the way my heart is pounding. I want to see how this ends. The problem with us barrack kids is that we love trouble. I remember Joey taking me around Kaduna town in his small Volkswagen beetle in those days, just looking for who would cross our path. We both enjoyed the thrill of seeing stupid bastards get beat. It is the same way I feel right now.
I hear a sound and I pay close attention to the door leading to the next room. It is left open but I can see only Naomi. She is speaking, shaking her head, gesticulating in a defensive manner. As I try to make out what is happening, I see her head fling to the side as if she has just been slapped. It happens so fast that I am not sure I witnessed it. I hold my breath to see what will happen next. Several seconds go by and when I begin to conclude that I imagined what I saw, it happens again. And this time, I actually see the hand that hits her. I can’t believe my eyes.
But he does it yet again and she moves backwards, begging, whimpering.
“Didn’t I say I didn’t want to see her near you?!” The monster emerges in a bawl as his hand strikes one more time. It’s more forceful than the rest and it sends Naomi to her knees. I am in utter shock that he would do this in my presence. My feet itch to move and the boiling rage in me longs to rush towards her but curiosity keeps me back. I want to witness this. I want to know what my friend goes through. I need a story, a reason to react.
I watch as she lifts her hands to shield her face when he towers over her. She is crying and begging but he doesn’t listen. He throws yet another fist and she falls flat to the floor. My feet move fast and I rush into the room.
“What type of devil are you?!” I scream as I jump in-between them. He advances towards me. I face him squarely. “You’ll hit me too?! Please, go ahead and make my evening!”
He looks down on me in condescension but at the same time I can see that he is taken aback by my brazenness. It fuels my trouble.
“Hit me, coward! Or I’ll give you reason to.”
“Celia, no.” Naomi stands and puts her arms around me from behind.
“You’re a small man!”
The veins on his neck bulge out as his breathing reaches a crescendo. I expect him to burst anytime soon but he remains there, a man whose ego has been deflated by a woman. I wait, still, for him to do his worst. Instead he points at the door.
“Get out of my house!” Spittle hits my face as he growls.
“Let’s go, Nay.” I can feel her holding tightly to me.
“Naomi, if you step out of this room, never come back here! I’ll divorce you and leave you with nothing!”
“Fuck you and your threats! She’ll see you in court–!”
“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”
I make to move towards the door with Naomi but he grabs my shoulder with his paw, grabs Naomi’s hand with the other and tears us apart. When he lets go of me, the force of his strength flings me to a bookshelf. A vase resting on it shaken by the impact, leaves its position and crashes down on my head.
Perfect! This is what I have been aiming for. All I need is just a scratch and Joey will have his boys burn this house down.
Naomi tries to come for me but Charles stops her by pushing her behind him. He then comes for me, hooks those ugly hands on my upper arms and drags me out of the house. I know I should stay calm but I struggle and make it difficult for him. I want his fingers to leave marks on my body. I want to stir my brother’s bloodlust. Charles must pay for everything he has done to Naomi through the years. He must bleed for every drop of blood of hers that stained my clothes that night when she passed out in my arms.
As he takes me towards the gate of the house, I hear Naomi calling and crying. The sound of her voice breaks my heart. I fear for what he would do to her when I’m gone. I pray she stays strong. I hope I have not made things worse for her.