The words were stuck on his tongue. He didn’t know how to let them out. Spilling that type of news wasn’t going to be as easy as he had imagined. Across the table sat Lexus, Vhasti in her hand and a leg thrown over the armrest of her chair. One part of her breakfast went to Vhasti and the remaining barely made it into her mouth. Dominic noted that her lazy eating habits had not changed over the years.
He took two sips of his coffee and tried at the words again but he failed.
“Your hair is growing,” he said instead.
“Yeah.” Lexus put a hand over the half of her head that was shaved. It was dark and contrasted with the other half which fell across her face in shocking red.
“I want to cut the whole thing so it can grow together.”
“And you’ll finally look like a boy.”
Lexus giggled. Dominic smiled and concluded it was the best time to spill the news.
Again he chickened out.
Lexus shook her head. “Thank God, no. That psychiatrist always bores me to death with his documentary voice and flashcards.”
“He’s only doing his job, Woyintonbra. Don’t give the old man a hard time, okay?”
Vhasti left Woyintonbra’s hold and sauntered towards Dominic over the table but he flung a teaspoon at her. She dashed to the floor, complained and sashayed off. He shoved a pronged sausage in his mouth and was going for another when Lexus threw in an unsettling question.
“Dad, how did Grandma die?”
Dominic stopped chewing and rested his eyes on the table. He went into instant uneasiness. No one on earth knew the circumstances surrounding his mother’s death but himself, the assassins that shot her and the person who sent them.
“Dad?” Lexus called. “Was it robbers? Eva mentioned something when she came yesterday…”
“She is Mom to you and not Eva.” Dominic tried to change the subject but Lexus steered it back.
“Yeah, how did Grandma die?”
That was what the death certificate held, the lie he told everyone. Her casket had been a closed one and her burial barely four days after she passed. Up to the present moment, he was still raw from the shocking events of that night. He was to blame for her death. His advocacy group had been lobbying to influence legislation for a trade association of health insurance companies in order to offset the influence of tobacco corporations in the southwest. It seemed like a noble cause, but it was politically and financially driven. The politics at play behind the scenes was not for the lily-livered; the cost of which ran into millions daily. To dissuade Dominic from his mission, masked men barged into his home in the thick of night, shot his guards, dragged his mother from her bedroom and into his and pointed a shotgun to her head. They didn’t drop any threats on him before his mother’s brains splattered on the wall behind her. Her brutal murder was enough warning, even though he never heeded it.
How was he to tell Lexus that her precious grandma was buried with half her face gone and that he was to blame for it?
“Yeah…robbers shot her. You were at Eva’s that weekend. I know you can’t remember.” He cleared his throat. “I’m so sorry.”
“I miss her,” Lexus muttered.
“Yeah, me too.”
Dominic instantly drove his mind away from the depressing discussion and visited the issue that had his tongue tied all morning.
“Woyintonbra, there’s something I need to tell you.”
“Grandma left me a shitload of money?”
“No. Hey, you remember Eyimofe?”
Lexus gave a vacant stare. “No.”
“Okay, I had a fiancée briefly but we’re done now. At the moment, I’m seeing someone else.”
“Please, don’t tell me it’s Eva. Please, don’t…”
“No it’s em… not Eva.” He inhaled. “It’s Genesis.”
Lexus dropped her fork. “You’re shitting me!”
“Hmmm… makes sense.”
Lexus made animated gestures in the air to describe Genesis hour-glass figure that had Dominic in laughter.
“She’s your type. And by the way, I already knew. In fact, everyone knows.”
“Kasi, Wura and Ehi. You two have been sneaking into each other’s rooms like rats for three weeks now and I think last week I heard some moaning in the middle of the night.”
Dominic covered his mouth to keep from laughing. His eyes held a mixture of embarrassment and surprise.
“But Dad, why are you telling me?”
He took on a serious face as his hand left his mouth. “I think you should be involved in my life more often, as I should in yours. Would you tell me when you get a new boyfriend or a tattoo?”
“How do you know when a guy’s in love with you?”
Dominic didn’t know what to make of her question.
“Um…”Dominic cleared his throat, “I guess he’ll show you.”
“If he’s having sex with you and stops halfway and starts to avoid you after that and starts seeing random girls and starts doing everything to make you jealous, does that mean he’s in love with you?”
One name came into Dominic’s mind and it was Kasiobi. He was relieved to know there wasn’t some strange guy out there.
“I don’t understand what you just said but it sounds like the guy really likes you and he’s doing his best not to show you because maybe he thinks things would be awkward between you two.”
“Hmmm… I didn’t see it that way. So what do I do?”
“Talk to him about it. Sounds like you like him too.”
“I do, but he believes in all that walking into the sunset and crap.”
“You should try it sometime. Not the sunset walk. The crappy part. It’s not that bad.”
“I’ll fall in love when you do, Dad.”
Her statement cut him deep. She was merely a reflection of him. He hoped it was not too late to turn things around.
“Would you like to go out with me tomorrow evening?”
“Are you asking me out on a date?”
“Yeah. And I want you all dolled up. Hair, makeup, nails, pretty dress…”
He saw a sparkle in her eyes. “It would be my first date ever.”
“I’ll be honored.”
She grinned. They didn’t say anything after that. None of them wanted to spoil the magic of the moment, but Dominic knew it was the only occasion he had to break more unsavory news to her.
“I have one more thing to tell you.”
“Genesis is pregnant already?”
“No but I’m getting her a car.”
“What! Dad?! That is so not fair! What about me?!”
“Yours will come soon.”
“Soon? I’m your kid! I should get a car first before any woman out there. Clearly, Daddy, you’re pussy-whipped.”
“Someone should have whooped your ass as a child.”
“But Dad you have four cars. You just got a new one last week… is that her car, the Kia Optima Hybrid?”
Dominic did not reply.
“Okay, just give me one car. The SUV. I want the SUV. Plizzzzzzzz!”
“I’ll get you your own car but Genesis needs hers for business right now. It’s really important.”
“Yeah, you’re definitely whipped.”
“Sorry Dad, but still not fair.”
Dominic glanced at his phone. A ping from Genesis had come in. It was a raunchy photo of her with the caption ‘had breakfast yet?’ He sent a quick reply: yep but dinner is ON me.
He put his phone away.
“Our birthdays are coming soon,” he looked at a fuming Lexus. “Tell me what you want, apart from a car, and I’ll get it for you.”
“Short of Chris Brown singing a birthday song to me, I want nothing else.”
Annoyed, she left the table and made it upstairs. Dominic took one last sip of his coffee. The talk had gone well.
She was upset. No, she was mad – at Sister Kate, at the church leaders and their marriage committee, at Pastor Ralph for leaving the country when she needed him the most, and finally, at Gloria and Lydia. She was determined to cut off those last two from her life.
But thank God for Folake who was an angel and had been gracious enough to call and tell her what was going on behind her back in church.
“Wuraola, where were you on Sunday?” Folake had asked the moment Wura took her call.
“My dear, I was at home. I wasn’t feeling well jor. Kini tuntun?”
“Hmmm… the way things are now, it’s em… koda o.”
“Ahn-ahn, why nau? What happened?”
“Sister Kate reported you to the marriage committee o. She said that since you didn’t show up for Sunday service twice this month and you also missed bible study and youth meeting last week, that you must be living with your guy. So she reported you.”
Wura laughed. She couldn’t believe the gall on Sister Kate.
“Gloria also said she saw you with your guy at the mall yesterday evening.”
“Na wa o. So I can’t hang with my own boyfriend again?”
“I wonder. Anyway, Sister Kate reported you this morning to the marriage committee leader. I went to church to see the resident pastor and I overheard them. The guy was like they’ll invite you to their meeting on Thursday to explain yourself. Me, I just said let me let you know.”
Wura sighed. “Thank you, dear.”
“Ah, don’t mention. Just take it easy.”
Wura was upset over the phone call. She was being accused wrongly. Sure, she had slept with Mahmud three weeks ago but it was just that one weekend and by Monday morning she was ridden with guilt so badly that the moment she left Mahmud’s house, she repented and rededicated her life to God. Since then, there had been no more sexual encounters with Mahmud. They were back on their platonic wagon. Mahmud never pressured her; instead, he limited the times they spent alone and took her to public places, and since they were both movie freaks, the cinema was their favorite spot. After three weeks, Wura was certain that in some way she had fallen in love with him. She was at that point where her head was in the clouds and she didn’t care what anyone thought about her. Her reasons for not showing up at church for the midweek services were work-related. As for the Sunday service, she was unable to make it because she had been plagued by a strong spell of nausea that often preceded her irregular menstrual periods. Not that she was going to explain any of this to the marriage committee that had just sent her a text, summoning her to their evening meeting. It was her intention to go there, be as polite and respectful as she could, and give them info only on a need-to-know basis, even though right now there was no need for anyone to know anything about her.
It was nine in the morning and the day was somewhat work-free. Her plans were to stop over at Mahmud’s to do some cooking, cleaning and laundry, and then spend the early part of the evening with him when he returned from his shift before she headed to church.
She walked into his apartment and found it hot and stifling. All the windows were closed and the air smelled of cigarette and his perfume. Both smells sparked off some irritation in her and she didn’t know why. She usually loved the mix of both, but lately she had been put off by it and by other strong smells. She blamed it on the hormonal changes her body was presently going through. She had complained to Mahmud but he didn’t take her seriously and joked that she could be pregnant. Well, that was highly unlikely because he had ensured she took some ridiculously expensive morning-after pills the Monday following their lovemaking weekend.
She brushed the disturbing thought away and left a mental reminder to speak to him on the issue of late periods and unruly hormones. She set three kilos of turkey to boil on the stove and entered his room to clean it up. The mess was unbearable.
His insides bubbled with laughter, but he held it and channeled his amusement to the swiveling of his chair. His friend, Seyi, was hilarious. Spread out on Dominic’s office sofa, Seyi was narrating a tale about his encounter with some Chinese man who believed he was in the process of duping him out of a huge amount of money. Seyi had always been the clown amongst their friends, the life of the party back in the day, and the one who stole all the ladies; although, in reality, it was Dominic that always ended up with the finest of them. Seyi was known for his optimistic and laidback approach to life. Constantly agreeable and friendly, it took a lot to get him distressed.
But not Bashorun, the other person who was seated in Dominic’s office at the moment. He was quite the opposite of Seyi and Dominic, and he didn’t even settle anywhere in the middle. His temperament ranged from very jovial one second and extremely irrational the next. For a man coming from one of the top royal families in Lagos, he was not befitting of his status. Bashorun, sometimes called Lord Bash, was uncouth, depraved and morally bankrupt. He did drugs like it was going out of fashion and dabbled into all sorts of businesses that often got him in trouble. His name, however, kept his head above water. And with friends like Dominic and Seyi who had his back no matter what, he seemed untouchable.
The three of them had come a long way. From childhood in Nigeria, to young adult life in the States and back to Nigeria where they transformed into reality, their lifelong dream of building a mall. It had been difficult passing through all the government red tape and securing the right investors, but it was Bashorun’s family connections that gave them the advantage they needed. Five years later and all the money sunk into the mall was returning in healthy sums. All debts were offset and plans to franchise the business were well underway. For the first time in a long while, all three friends were breathing easy.
Having concluded his amusing tale of the Chinese man and finally putting Dominic and Bashorun into uncontrollable laughter, Seyi suggested an Easter vacation, all expenses paid by him.
“Let’s go to Greece or Fiji or one of those nameless places. No women. Just the three of us.”
“Which kain homo waka be dat one?” Bashorun fired off in his untainted Nigerian accent.
“Help me ask him o,” Dominic answered, and switched the topic to some new business idea that required a massive piece of land connecting to the mall which belonged to Bashorun’s elder brother, the present reigning monarch of the Balogun family. Dominic wanted them to build the largest event center in Lagos. Bashorun was against the idea, but Seyi was in support. As Bashorun began laying out reasons why it was a waste of their money, Dominic attended to his blinking intercom. His secretary informed him that Genesis was there to see him.
“Let her in.”
Seconds later, Genesis walked in and instantly put the office into silence. Bashorun left his mouth and its speech hanging as she smiled and tendered them a cordial greeting.
“It’s evening already?” Seyi asked as he consulted his wristwatch. “It sure is. Hello, Genesis. Long time.”
“Hi, Mr. Seyi. Nice to see you here.” She gave him a firm handshake and turned to Bashorn whose mouth had behaved itself and clamped shut.
“Bash, meet Genesis Raymond. She manages the nightclub and the event planning business. Genesis, my friend and partner, Bashorun Balogun, His Royal Highness,” Dominic added, knowing he would get into trouble without the proper honorifics.
“Pleasure to meet you, sir.”
“Pleasure’s all mine, sexy.” Bashorun took Genesis’ extended hand.
“Mr. Dominic, looks like you’re busy,” Genesis tore away from Bashorun. “It’s about the Ashanti concert. I’ll come back when…”
“No, no. Please, stay. Come over.”
Genesis went round the table and handed him an iPad. While she rushed over certain details concerning an upcoming concert she was organizing, Dominic indulged his eyes through his reading glasses. She was dressed in normal work clothes—a navy blue skirt that stopped just above her knees, a red, lacy chemise on top and a camel-colored jacket that was buttoned beneath her breasts to lay emphasis on her irresistible cleavage. He didn’t hear a single word she said and he cut her off midway. He saw a twitch on her lip and knew he was going to be scolded later for what he just did.
“Can we go over this after sundown?” His manner was officious.
“Sure, Mr. Dominic.” She maintained her smile and picked her iPad from his table.
“And can you get Chris Brown for the concert?”
“Chris Brown? Heard he’s mega expensive.”
“Get him. This Ashanti chick, I don’t know what she’s all about. Chris Brown is a crowd puller.”
Dominic’s finger left a discreet stroke on her hand as she turned away. The office went into silence again as her red stilettos clacked all the way to the door. A soft click from the lock after she left threw the men into conversation again.
“Ah Domi, you’ll never change!” Seyi exclaimed and Dominic smiled. “You’re hitting that already?”
Dominic laughed. “No, I’ll wait for you. Ode! Actually, she’s hitting me!”
“So she’s a side piece?” Bashorun asked.
“You know I don’t do side pieces.”
“What happened to Jibo’s widow?” Bashorun asked.
“Eyimofe?” Dominic frowned. “She dumped me.”
“So this is serious, not a fling?”
“Fling? Dude, I’m too old for flings. That woman that just left here is perfection, the embodiment of the holy trinity of womanhood.”
“You’ve dubbed the trinity on her already?”
“Why not? Beauty, Brains and Bang! She’s got it.”
Seyi, who was absorbed in his phone, nodded. “You can’t do without the bang, man.”
“She’s my eminado. She walks into my life and everything begins to turn to gold. New endorsements, new contracts… Did I tell you I won that contract I’ve been pursuing with the federal government for over a year?”
“Seriously?” Seyi asked. Dominic nodded slowly, and with a satisfied smile.
“Yeah, congrats, but be careful with this chick sha,” Bashorun warned.
“She just strikes me as trouble.”
“Lord Bash, you don start now. When you’re off screwing every twat that struts by, do I butt in?”
“Domi, chill. I just dey advise you. Be careful.”
“Uncle, you don’t even know her. You just met her here some minutes ago…”
“I’ve met her before but she can’t remember.”
“No be wetin I fit tell you.”
“You know I hate when you do this. Wetin come be your beef now?”
“Beef?” Bashorun laughed. “Abeg, Dominic, remove your head from between her legs and use it to watch your back. She is bad news.”
Dominic held back a retort and relaxed into his chair.
“Back to more pressing issues…” he remarked but Bashorun cut him off.
“Back to more pressing issues than the one you’ll do on her this night abi?”
Dominic spread out his hands in an unspoken question to Bashorun.
“You want to know my problem?” Bashorun asked and sat straight. “This pressing issue you want us to look into now, no be dis same babe introduce the idea to you?”
“What’s your problem?”
“I am not speaking to Egbon to release that land because this whole events center idea you want to sink money into came from that chick, and my guy, you know that is not how we do business!”
“How on earth did you jump into the conclusion that it came from her?”
“I just know.”
“You know what, since you want to be difficult here, I’ll speak to the board…”
“The board doesn’t own the land.”
Dominic rubbed his chin in annoyance and put away his glasses. He turned to Seyi for support, but Seyi was still engrossed in his phone. Luckily for him, Seyi took a break and lifted his head with a naughty smile aimed at Bashorun.
“Daddy of the year! The only Lord Bash! HRH! Congratulations! You’ve sown your wild oats in the most unlikely place again.”
“What are you talking about?” Bashorun made a scowl.
“It’s breaking news across all copy and paste blogs in the country. Domi, you’ll like this.” Seyi held out his phone as if he was about to read out an announcement from a piece of paper.
“Lagos playboy, divorcee, multi-millionaire and longtime bachelor, Bashorun Balogun from the Balogun royal family is expecting his sixth child with veteran actress Evangeline Ogiame…”
“What!” Dominic sat straight.
“I’ve not finished.” Seyi continued reading, “It should be recalled that Evangeline or fondly known as just Eva is the baby mama and ex-girlfriend to Dominic Ditorusin, Bashorun’s closest friend. We do not know what type of love triangle is going on between the three but it is clear that Eva is being passed around the two friends. As for the pregnancy, Eva herself confirmed this latest development with a tweet that said: Yay! I have royal blood now running in me. God has touched me at the age of 41 and I am BASH-full’ Well, Madam Eva we know who really touched you.”
Seyi put down his phone and fixed his eyes on Bashorun who seemed unperturbed.
“They didn’t even add the HRH to my name,” he grumbled.
Dominic was irritated. “Bash, tell me that story ain’t true.”
Bashorun adjusted his shirt and crossed his legs, ignoring Dominic’s question.
“What can I say? We’re adults. It’s not like she’s a stranger…”
“I don’t even believe it. Eva won’t touch you if you were the last straight man on earth. I’m calling her.”
Bashorun shrugged and Dominic dialed Eva. He put her on speakerphone.
“Let me guess, you’re calling to confirm what you just read online.” Her voice was cheerless. “It’s true. I’m pregnant.”
“For Bash? You don’t even sound excited.”
“I’m one of his baby mamas. What’s exciting about that? The news leaked from the clinic Bash and I went to for the test. I just had to tweet to end the rumors.”
“Congratulations. I thought you had reached menopause. You’re like how old? Forty-eight?”
“Hey, be nice. You sound really bitter. I only shacked up with your friend a few times. It’s not like the sex was great. Bash grunts like a pig when he’s about to cum.”
Seyi erupted in laughter at the shock on Bash’s face and the snide pleasure on Dominic’s.
“Who is there with you?” Eva asked.
“Is that Seyi? Am I on speakerphone?”
“No. Um… so what are you going to tell Woyintonbra? God knows you’re bad in breaking pregnancy news.”
“Yeah, says the guy who fainted when he heard he was going to be a daddy.”
“I gotta go. Have a nice evening, Evangeline. And no alcohol with this baby, please.”
“I’ll try to be a good expectant mother, Nick. Have a cool evening, boys. Lord Bash, the empty space on my bed won’t warm itself. The baby needs you tonight.”
Bashorun smiled to himself as the line hit a dead tone.
“Bash, you don buy serious job with Eva,” Seyi mentioned, rising to his feet. “I feel for you my brother. Take heart.”
“Domi, we’re cool?” Bashorun held on to his smile.
“Why shouldn’t we?” Dominic didn’t share his humor. “What’s a whore amongst brothers, right?”
“Na wa o. You still dey vex.”
“You know I don’t do weird, twisted shit. Eva’s the mother of my child. I don’t want Woyintonbra near you for any reason.”
“Domi, don’t bring up the past,” Seyi pleaded.
“The past still haunts my family and I’ll never forget that Bash knew what Martin was doing to my kid and didn’t tell me. What you did stung me more than what he did. And now you’ve knocked Eva up. We’re not going to be one big family.”
“Domi, have you spoken to a therapist about the way you feel?” Seyi asked and got a scathing stare from Dominic.
“No, it’s okay. I understand my guy. I know wetin go settle hin mind.” Bashorun stood up. “I’ll visit Egbon tomorrow concerning the land. You can tag along. God knows you’re more family than I am sef. He might just sell it to us once he sees you.”
Dominic let out one of his invisible smiles that twinkled in his eyes for a split second. He tendered no gratitude to Bashorun, but got to his feet and shared handshakes with both men. He walked them to the door and sauntered back to his desk where the invisible smile now made itself evident; and it was in all appearances, very conceited. As usual, he had gotten his way.
And thanks to the philosophy of keeping one’s friends close and best friends closer, he was now proficient in the art of picking out his most lethal enemies. Bashorun, no doubt, was still topping the list after so many years.
Kini tuntun (Yoruba): What’s new?
Koda (Yoruba): Bad