Chapter Eleven – Bahamas, baby!
There were levels to being wealthy, and Rain had seen examples of crazy wealth during her trips around the world. She had met people that made her feel poor, whose wealth was the first, and sometimes, only thing one saw about them.
Kofo and her friends fell into that group. Rain once ran into them at Bora Bora. They were there for Jola’s daughter’s engagement party. The bride-to-be had shut down a beach resort for the party and the gist made waves across the quiet island. The entire affair was typically Nigerian—loud and glitzy. The display of wealth irritated both the locals and tourists. Rain hoped that on this trip, Kofo and her friends would mellow down on their excesses.
She had come to Bahamas, prepared to be responsible for her fun, but Kofo wouldn’t let her. Everything was paid for, and she was given a credit card to max out as she desired.
“Is there a limit to this?” Rain had asked Dora who handed her the card on Kofo’s behalf.
“Don’t embarrass me, Rain. Do with it as you wish. It’s your mother’s money.”
But it wasn’t Kofo’s money Rain wanted. She came on this trip to bond with her. The chances of that happening were slim, as Kofo was going all out to make her party grand, in her typical manner. She had flown in her closest friends and trusted business partners to share in her celebration.
“What sort of money does this woman have again?” Jaya asked Rain. They had just settled into their hotel suite, which boasted of a beachfront and the setting sun.
“The type of money I want to have.” Rain was already lying on her bed. She was exhausted after spending endless hours in the air, although they had traveled private, stopping at Frankfurt to switch planes.
“You’ll have that type of money, Rain. I can feel it.”
“You’re always feeling things.”
Rain shut her eyes for a minute, and when she opened them, she saw that Jaya was already dressed in a bathing suit with a sheer dress over it.
“Babe!” Rain laughed.
“I saw some fine ass black men earlier, and I know they’re Naija guys. I’m going out there to sell my market.”
“Go get ‘em, girl!”
Jaya stopped to twerk and Rain laughed again. She admired Jaya’s almost-flawless body, which had been paid for by her. She was just discovering that she and Kofo had a thing for splurging on friends. Of what use was her money if her best friend who was from a less-privileged background couldn’t benefit from her?
After Jaya was gone, Rain napped until it was dark. She was awoken by a ringing phone. She looked around and found it resting on the nightstand beside her bed and Jaya’s. She picked up the receiver and Kofo’s voice came on.
“Good evening, Aunty Kofo.”
“Hope your trip wasn’t too stressful?”
“No, no. It was good.”
“Great. So, would you like to come and have dinner at the house this evening? I’m a bit lonely. My other guests aren’t here yet.”
“Great. Drag your mom from her suite. I don’t know why she insists on staying in a hotel. I’m very mad at her, Rain, but I won’t fight with her. Not now.”
“Please, don’t. You know how Dora can be.”
“Come along with your friend too. I really like her. She’s so gorgeous.”
“Is It true her birthday is tomorrow?”
“The day after tomorrow.”
“I love December babies. A chauffeur will ring up your room to pick you in forty-five minutes.”
“Okay, Aunty Kofo.
“See you!” Kofo rang off in a cheery voice. Her alter personality that lived for parties and the extravagant lifestyle was out to play. For the rest of their stay here, she was going to run on a natural high.
Knowing who Kofo was, Rain was sure that the chauffeur would call in exactly forty-five minutes. The woman, despite her partying side, was principled. It was probably one of the reasons she was successful in business. She was also the reason Rain focused on a career in tech when other professions tried to pull her away. Kofo was the woman she wanted to be when she grew up—but she doubted that she could catch up. Kofo had miles on her experience and success. She had believed in IT even before people knew what it was.
“Rain!” Jaya burst into the suite. She came with two cocktails. “I was right about them being Nigerian!”
“Who?” Rain let her feet down to the floor.
“The guys I saw earlier. Look, one of them bought me a drink and I said to him, ‘I have a friend upstairs’ and he bought one for you.”
Rain took the cocktail Jaya offered and drank some of it before heading to the bathroom. Jaya followed her.
“I think we should hang out with them later tonight.”
“Or we could just stay in and gist about stuff that don’t have to do with men.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
Rain dropped her thong and sat on the toilet seat.
“Guess what one of the guys does for a living. Wild guess.”
“I’m peeing, Jaya.”
“He’s an astronaut. Have you ever seen a Nigerian astronaut before?”
“Nigerians do everything. But I don’t get you. You left Nigeria to come all the way here to hook up with a Nigerian man?”
“Says the one who traveled all the way to some unknown country to spend three weeks with a man she hardly knew.”
“We’re not going to talk about my ex.”
“Wow. He actually attained ‘ex’ status.”
Rain directed angry eyes at her.
“Can I, at least, know if you want to get back with him?”
“It’s none of your business, Jaya. Last I checked, you didn’t like him.”
“Well, I didn’t know him then. Now, that I’ve seen his Instagram, he looks…”
“Rich? Like he has the financials to take care of me? Like someone I shouldn’t just fuck and go?”
“Wow. You know how to carry a grudge. Okay, I’m sorry for the things I said about him. I was only trying to make sure you don’t get into the same thing you got out of.”
“Thanks for your concern. But you have lost the privilege to have an opinion on my love life. Anything or anyone you see me do in this Bahamas, unlook.”
Returning to the room, Jaya replied, “Got it!”
“Get ready for dinner!” Rain wiped herself and flushed the toilet before heading to the shower stall. After she was done, she returned to the room to find Jaya spread out leisurely on the bed.
“We’re going to Aunty Kofo’s house for dinner. Get dressed.”
Jaya jumped up. “Why didn’t you tell me? Wait… She has a house here?”
“She’s renting it?”
“No. It’s hers, but she leases it out throughout the year.”
“Jayamma, dress up.”
“I have to shower first.”
Jaya ran into the bathroom while Rain picked something to wear, then went to the suite next door to check in on Dora. She found her eating chocolate nuggets and drinking grape juice. Surprisingly, she was already dressed for dinner.
“So… Are you ready to meet your siblings tomorrow?”
“I am. Let’s just do it and get it over with. There’s a family meeting, right?”
“Yes. Kofo wants to bring the key players in the Olumese family, basically her children and Sunny, to heal the wounds of the past or whatever she thinks she wants to do.”
“They’re her children, Mom.”
“Rain… Kofo won’t say this because, as you said, they are her spawn. But you need to know that they are horrible people. You won’t like them, and trust me, they won’t like you either.”
“I’m fine with that.”
“Another thing… You might see me fighting with her during this holiday. I don’t know how long the fight will take but I intend to drag it out until she comes to her senses.”
“What’s the fight about?”
“Do you remember Nwanneka’s son?”
“Yes, that one. He was the boyfriend you never had.”
Rain shook her head in recollection of a teenage love that almost happened but didn’t because she and Dora went on one of their numerous trips. She had spent that summer heartbroken. When she returned to Nigeria, Yuri and his mom had moved to Russia.
“Well, he’s back in Nigeria now.”
“To look for a wife. And that wife is you.”
Rain laughed. “Me? Why?”
“Well, ask your mother. Kofo feels that you being a wife will be good optics for your journey to becoming CEO of Hara. Nwanneka is just trying to hook her son up to the most eligible single woman.”
“Well, I’m not averse to marriage.”
“Rain, don’t start this nonsense. You don’t need a husband to fulfil your dreams.”
“And I never said I did. I need a husband and a home and beautiful kids.”
“Fine. I respect your decision to be part of the statistic.”
“But don’t let Kofo push you into hooking up with Yuri.”
“But Yuri is cute. I saw his pictures on Facebook the other day. He’s a fine ass man.”
Dora disagreed with a smirk.
“Mommy!” Rain laughed and locked her arms around her. “You know I love you, right?”
“Just let Aunty Kofo be the typical African aunty she wants to be.”
“She’s your mom.”
“I think I prefer her as an aunt. You, on the other hand, you’re mi madre for life.” She pecked Dora on the cheek. “I love you!”
The bedside phone rang.
“Must be Kofo’s driver.”
Kofo’s Bahamas home was everything Dora told Rain it was. Maybe the most beautiful house Rain had ever seen. Houses in Bahamas were expensive, and only the crazy rich could afford them. This one was worth every dollar put into it. If Rain were to estimate how much it had cost Kofo, her guess would fall between thirty-five to fifty million dollars. Situated in the heart of New Providence, Nassau, the Krystal House was layered in luxury. Rain had been taken by it from the moment she entered its premises. The place drew her into its luxuriousness—and for a moment, she was carried away as she sat with Jaya and Dora in the family living room. But Kofo’s sudden appearance brought her back to her wits. The woman swept into the room, bearing a warm smile.
She hugged them each, leaving air kisses beside their cheeks.
“Tomorrow, you three must sleep over.”
“No,” Dora answered. Kofo gave her a typical Nigerian mother side-eye, making Rain and Jaya laugh.
Servers came in with wine and finger foods. Jaya had been ‘wowing’ like an ambulance since their arrival. Now, she whispered into Rain’s ear that she felt like she was on the set of a period movie in the Victorian era. Rain held back laughter and pretended that she was used to this type of life—which was a strange thing, being that she had grown up rich. She didn’t know if she should be grateful to Dora for showing her the world or resent her for denying her this type of luxury.
After wine, finger foods, and small talk, Kofo invited them for dinner. Again, the setting was over-the-top. At this point, it seemed like Kofo was trying to impress them. But this was Kofo being herself. She was even more superfluous whenever she threw owanbe parties in Lagos. Dora had a theory that those born into poverty who eventually became rich had a vendetta to make money feel smaller than they had felt.
Rain looked at Kofo.
“My baby, are you full? You’ve not finished your food.”
“I’m good, thank you.”
“Or don’t you like it? That’s why I asked them to lay the table with all sorts of dishes.”
“Thank you, Aunty Kofo, but I’m full.”
“Where’s Dad?” Rain asked. Habib had flown in with them but had disappeared once he had them settled in their hotel. Rain knew he was somewhere in the house.
“He’s tired after a long journey.” Kofo smiled. Rain didn’t want to imagine what the smile meant.
After dinner, Kofo walked them to her car and hugged them each. As Rain and Jaya got in, the older women moved aside to have a talk that started cordially but ended in heated words. Rain unsuccessfully tried to make out what they were saying. When Dora returned, she asked her if everything was fine.
“It’s all good, watermelon.” To the chauffeur, she said, “Take us back to the hotel.”
“Somebody slap me to wake me up from this dream.”
Lanumi felt a palm on her face and a burning sting that followed. She eyed Nadia as she touched her cheek.
“I didn’t mean literally.”
“I was actually slapping you to not disgrace us.”
“Disgrace?” Lanumi opened wide her arms. “This is our mother’s mansion!”
They had just gotten into Kofo’s house, and they stood waiting in the foyer, wide-eyed and overwhelmed. Nadia, who had complained about the endless hours in the air and slept for most of it, was now awake and invigorated.
“I suddenly feel cheated,” Nehi said. “All my life, I was deprived of this extravagance.”
Nadia snorted. “You’re using big words, Nehi.”
“Boys? Boys!” Lanumi called after her sons who wandered away from her side and ran off. Xavier’s daughter was also getting restless. One look from her mother and she composed herself.
“I think you should have let those boys stay with their fathers in the hotel,” Nadia said to Lanumi.
“Mind your business, Nad.”
“Is she going to keep us waiting here forever?” Xavier asked. “I need a shower and some lunch.”
“Didn’t you eat something in the plane two hours ago?”
“Nad, always mind your business.”
“There you are!”
They turned in the direction of Kofo’s voice, coming from a room on their right. She swept toward them with open arms and a wide smile. The only persons that smiled back were Lanumi and Bamitale.
“Welcome, my darlings!”
She hugged Zion first. “Aww, look how grown you are, my special girl!”
Then, she hugged Bamitale and told her she was glad she showed up. Lanumi was next, with a hug that lasted a bit. The one with Xavier was brief because he pulled back quickly. Nehi got a squeeze and a peck on the forehead as she reminded him that he was her baby and couldn’t outgrow her. Lastly, she stood before Nadia and touched her cheek.
“I was worried you wouldn’t come.”
“Well, I’m here.”
“Give your mother a hug.”
Nadia hugged her and smelled her hair. There was something motherly and warm about it that stirred a longing in her. She drew back and offered a polite smile. Kofo touched her cheek again before facing the rest.
“Welcome to Nassau, Bahamas. This house is called Krystal Rain, and it has everything you need at the push of a button. They will show you to your rooms,” she announced, swinging her hand in the direction of two stewards that stood, waiting on her instructions. “After you’re settled in, you’ll have lunch outside. It has a great view of the beach.”
“There’s a beach?” Nehi asked.
“Yes, it’s a beach house—”
“Mansion, you mean?” Lanumi said. Nadia eyed her.
“Anything you want to call it. It’s all yours whenever you want it. I’ll advise that you don’t come here mid-year. It’ll be raining a lot and you won’t like it.”
“Like it? I can live here all year!” Lanumi exclaimed shamelessly.
Kofo laughed. “So, settle in and I’ll see you later. I have guests I’m entertaining. They would love to meet you but I guess you’re tired” She turned to leave but stopped and looked at Xavier. “You and your wife are sharing a room.”
“Mom, we’re separated.”
Kofo ignored him and took Zion’s hand. “My little princess has a room all to herself. I asked them to decorate it specially for you. You want to see it?”
She took Zion away and Xavier tried to keep a serious face. “We’re not sharing a room.”
“Aren’t two of you screwing each other like rabbits?” Nadia almost cut him off as she walked past him and gestured at one of the stewards to take her suitcase.
“You’re what?” Lanumi asked in shock, glaring at Bamitale who looked away, embarrassed.
“Na wa o.” Nehi picked up his suitcase and went upstairs.
In her bedroom, Nadia stared out the window, grateful not to have a view of the ocean but of a garden with a breathtaking array of colorful flowers. She took pictures of the view and made a video, which she posted on Instagram. Then, she had a shower and requested an Uber. She wanted to see the city and pick a birthday present for her mom. It had to be something small and forgettable. She had no desire to go out of her way to please her, as she didn’t think she deserved it. Secondly, what sort of present could one give a woman as rich as Kofo Aboderin?
Her Uber came minutes later, and she went downstairs, keeping her eyes about her to be sure Kofo wasn’t around the corner. She made her lucky escape to the front door but she stepped out to the unwelcoming image of Kofo with her grandchildren. She noticed that Kofo had changed into a bikini set, covered in a sheer kimono. She stunned in the ensemble, but Nadia would cut her tongue first before leaving her a compliment.
“Going out?” Kofo inquired as she made to walk past her.
“Yes.” Nadia frowned, slowing down. “I have things to do in town.”
“You won’t be having lunch with your siblings?”
“That’s fine. Let my chauffeur take you—”
“I have an Uber waiting outside the gate.”
“It’s a long walk to the gate, Abidemi. Ask your Uber to come in and get you.”
Kofo’s tone was firm and a little intimidating.
Nadia sent a message to the Uber driver and stood awkwardly beside Kofo who made a phone call to the security at the gate to let the driver in.
“You don’t like me very much, do you?” Kofo asked.
“I don’t know you.”
“And it’s all my fault. I—”
“Please, let’s not go down this road again. We already did that in Lagos. It’s exhausting and I hope tonight’s family meeting is not about you tying to absolve yourself of your past sins.”
“You do realize that you’re talking to your mother, right? You should have some respect, Nadiakhe.”
“I only want to know you better.”
Nadia kept her eyes on Lanumi’s sons, who were picking up seashells from a flowerbed nearby.
“Trust me, you don’t want to know me.”
“Because you think you’re a horrible person?”
“Having a compulsion for sleeping with people’s husbands doesn’t make you a bad person.”
Nadia glared at her.
“It only points to the fact that you have daddy issues.”
Nadia’s jaw dropped.
“That’s because you were raised by two horrible father figures. There was no way they passed on anything virtuous to you.”
Nadia took a step away from her. “Can you not…?” She spied her Uber approaching them. “Good. My cab is here.”
“We’ll continue this talk later.”
“Have a nice day, baby!”
Nadia walked as fast as her legs could take her. She got into the cab and kept her face away from Kofo, but as they drove off, she turned to stare at her. Why was she liking her more than she was supposed to?
Rain had planned to spend the afternoon shopping with Jaya, but Kofo had asked her over to the house to meet her friends. She squashed her plans because it felt good to have a mother who was typical and did the type of things she had heard her friends complain about that mothers did.
She didn’t let Dora know about the visit but she informed her that she was out of the hotel. Dora, herself, was in Kofo’s house as well.
As Rain left the reception, she spied someone she thought looked like Tari, entering the elevator. But when she looked again, all she saw was a group of Asian friends, laughing loudly and speaking Mandarin. She thought it was crazy of her to think he would be in this part of the world at this time.
She stepped out to Kofo’s waiting car. On her way to the house, she got a call from Habib.
“Why is my favorite girl not spending time with me?” he asked.
“Dad.” She smiled. “You’re the one who hid yourself.”
“I’m so sorry, Rain. I’m having a small case of food poisoning.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m on my way to you.”
“You’re coming to the house now?”
“Yes. Aunty Kofo…”
“You can call her mom.”
“Mom wants me to say hi to her friends.”
“You’ve not met them before?”
“I have. Many times. They’re also Mom’s friends. Dora, I mean.” Rain laughed. “This is so confusing.”
Habib laughed too. “See you when you get here.”
Rain found herself smiling after the phone call. Habib was the only man that did to her. Tari too, but that was in the past. She would try one last time to reach out to him once she got to Lagos. If he still gave her the cold shoulder, she would give up and move on.
“Sometimes, people come into your life for eternity. Others are just for a moment.”
Habib was always right. Maybe Tari was for a moment.
Rain was so lost in her thoughts that she didn’t realize that the car had stopped moving.
“We’re here, Ms. Rain.”
“Thank you. Please, have my number, so that I can call you directly and you can reach out to me.”
Rain took his digits and went into the house. A steward led her out, taking her all the way to the beachfront where Kofo’s friends were lounging and chatting over drinks and pepper soup dishes.
“Rain, my darling!”
A feeling of warmth spread over Rain as she moved toward them. She hadn’t seen these women since Jola’s daughter’s wedding. She missed them and their loud mouths. In Lagos, they met once every month, if they didn’t have activities that had them meeting regularly. They had kept a strong bond for years. They were all affluent, all mothers, all in their late fifties or early sixties. They had been there for each other financially and otherwise.
Rain knew some of their children who were now grown and scattered around the world. The mothers had tried unsuccessfully to make their daughters build the kind of bond they had, as they believed that the world would be easier for them as women if they stuck with each other. But the daughters had plans for how they wanted their lives to go. The sons, however, weren’t expected to be anything but successful. This, they had accomplished, without much effort, as all they had needed to do was inherit wealth and businesses passed down from their parents. What was left for the unmarried ones was to build their futures with women their mothers deemed worthy. The woman topping the list of eligible wives was Rain.
She did not anticipate that coming to greet her ‘aunties’ would turn into a pitching session for their sons as husband materials. It seemed they had just discovered that she was Kofo’s daughter.
Dora lay quietly on her lounger, refusing to join in their madness. Kofo was absent but she was somewhere in the house.
Rain would have laughed at her aunties’ attempts at shamelessly marketing their sons if it wouldn’t come off as rude. Hence, she endured the ridiculousness of the moment, and while she sat there, she allowed her mind wander off to Tari. Last night, Mide had asked her about him, when last she saw him.
“At the VIP restaurant at work. As usual, I did not exist in his world. Mide, I think I want to give up.”
“No! Please, don’t. You really like this guy. Try and reach out.”
“It’s going to hurt more if he says no.”
“Then, you know you tried and you can let go.”
Mide had always been right on the mark when it came to picking out good men for her friends. Rain wished she could apply the gift to herself.
“Are you here with us, Rain?” Nwanneka, the dainty-eating auntie asked. The catfish head in her dish was a collection of crushed bones and brain goo.
“Where will she be before?”
It was Jola speaking, the fifty-nine-year-old housewife and mother of five.
“I was only asking because she looked like her mind was elsewhere.”
“You’re not sensitive enough. Can’t you see that this whole talk about marriage reminds her of that Noah boy?”
Rain smiled. She always found the banter between both women entertaining. But they were best friends, even with their constant angst toward each other. In fact, they were in-laws, as Nwanneka’s third son was married to Jola’s second daughter. Nwanneka was proud of her sons and would often brag that she had raised a fine collection of young men, all three of them. Her first son was a catholic priest. The second son was Nwanneka’s favorite and Kofo’s choice for Rain. But Jola and their other friend, Millie, were not having it.
“Rain, my dear… In the end, ignore us old women and do what you want,” Millie, gentle as ever, said. She was careful not to overpitch her son. That was because he was Rain’s ex. Rain had dumped him because his egomania threatened her mental health. Their breakup affected Millie more than Rain herself.
She didn’t rate any of the men in question, especially Yuri, who was half-Russian, half-Nigerian and was supposedly hot cake in circles that mattered.
“But you and Desmond already know each other,” Millie stated quietly. “It would be like catching up on old times, continuing where you two left off.”
“Millie, I can’t believe you’re laying here and acting like Rain didn’t leave your son because he treated her like she was an accessory to him.”
It was Jola speaking. She had an only son she doted on to the point of madness. He was an award-winning afrobeats musician and brilliant actor on the side. But Kashope bore the curse of stardom which came with groupies, a constant night life and an existence that was only for the cameras. He also had two children by different mothers, and Rain knew that Jola’s intentions was for her to walk into Kashope’s life and fix him up.
“Des has changed,” Millie kept on with her pitch. “He’s a youth pastor now and he’s running an entire hospital on his own. He’s really changed, Rain. Give him a second chance.”
“No!” Jola and Nwanneka said together. The fierceness of their response caused Millie to wince.
“Rain, my baby,” Jola said, flashing a dentition that boasted of a gold tooth. “You know how crazy Kashope has been about you. He still has that picture both of you took on his birthday when you were both seven. He has loved you all his life.”
“And a million other girls,” Nwanneka added snidely.
“Don’t interrupt me, Nwanne!”
“As I was saying, it’s about feelings, my dear. You need a man who loves you more than you love him. You’re a modern-day woman. Just like Dora. She must have taught you a thing or two about being in control in a relationship. I know you can handle him and put him in his place.”
“What’s that saying again?” Nwanneka asked Millie. “Women are not rehabilitation centers for men or something like that?”
Millie was silent but she bore a smile on her face. Nwanneka pushed forward on her lounger. She was a heavy woman, and it was impossible for her to move without shaking a few body parts. “You know my stance on issues like this, Rain. It’s all about what God wills for you. If God says that you and Yuri will become one, who am I to go against that?”
“Then, allow God talk na!” Jola cut in.
Nwanneka continued speaking, unbothered by Jola’s tone. “Dora did a great job with you and you’ll make an excellent wife! But I am not God, and I will not choose on his behalf!”
Jola burst into a laugh.
“I am certain that Noah was not from God and I’m also glad that the Holy Spirit destroyed that relationship. Imagine if you two had married and you ended up divorced? That would have been the worst thing.”
“Aren’t you divorced?”
“What God has started with you, Rain, my daughter, he will complete it—”
“Not with Yuri o!”
“Jola, for heaven’s sake!”
Jola scoffed and Rain smiled.
“In the end, it’s about what you want,” Millie said in a gentle tone.
“Yes, it is,” Nwanneka concurred.
Just then, Kofo joined them.
Rain was mentally exhausted by dinnertime. She hadn’t returned to the hotel; instead, she asked Jaya to get her a change of clothes, as Kofo had invited them to sleep over. She was to take one of three guest apartments somewhere in the mansion. By the time she sat to have dinner with Habib in the bedroom he shared with Kofo, Rain accepted that Dora’s parenting skills were unmatched. Kofo was an exhausting mother. Rain said this to Habib who laughed so hard, he choked on his meal. She also told him about her aunties and what they put her through all afternoon.
“And my weird sister just sat there, staring at them, right?”
“I wanted her to save me.”
Habib smiled with a shake of his head. They were done having dinner now.
“Are you ready for more drama in the next hour?” he asked. Rain wasn’t ready to meet her siblings anymore. She didn’t think it was necessary, but Kofo loved drama, and she would drag everyone into it or she would not rest.
“I have to go and change.” Rain got up. “First impression and all.”
“Be determined not to be provoked.”
“Yes, Dad. Good night.”
Rain left the house to the guest apartment. She put on a dress with an open back and charming bowtie that Jaya thought made her look as cute as a button. It went well with a pair of purple sneakers and bulb wig. Jaya hung her purse on her shoulder as she hurried to the door.
“So that they know you have somewhere to be.”
“We’re going out?”
“My birthday is tomorrow, Rain. Tonight is my birthday eve.”
“Oh, that’s true.”
“Go. I’ll text you the address to the lounge or club I end up in.”
Rain made her way to the main house. Kofo was a warm host, as usual. She welcomed her with a cheerful smile and bear hug.
“You’re perfectly on time,” she said to her. “We just had dinner and the family is waiting in the sitting room.”
Kofo led her into the same sitting room. She counted four people, seated, asides Dora who was alone. As Rain walked in, she realized she wasn’t as ready as she thought she was.
“Good evening, everyone,” she greeted with a nervous smile. A couple of people responded.
“Hi, baby.” Dora patted the space beside her and Rain sat.
“I thought Dad was here,” Rain whispered.
“No, he’s not com—”
Habib walked in. He donned a blue linen shirt and matching shorts, looking at ease with himself and bearing his distinctive refined air. He muttered a greeting and stopped to place a kiss on Rain’s head before sharing Kofo’s two-sitter.
“So…” Kofo said, pulling forward. “Not everyone is here. Sunny and Innocent are on their way. But before they get here, I’d like to make some introductions. Firstly, I want you all to meet Habib Kareem, whom I’m sure everyone here knows as one of the CEOs of Hara. Habib is also my partner. Romantically.”
“Oh,” someone said. Rain couldn’t make out who did.
“He is the one your father accused me of cheating on him with,” Kofo confessed and went silent. Her children gave Habib a second, more scrutinizing look.
“Secondly, that is Dora Kareem. She is Habib’s sister. Dora was once Nigeria’s biggest gold merchant. She’s retired now and enjoys traveling the world.”
Rain was staring at her siblings’ faces, trying to make out their expressions. She couldn’t get anything out of them, but she could sense the growing unease.
“And finally, that is Rain Kareem.” Kofo grinned. “Rain is your…half-sister.” She gave another deliberate pause, making sure her words were delivered. Rain saw the questions and surprise on their faces. “I’ll tell you how that happened in a bit. Rain, meet your siblings.”
“Wait…” Xavier moved forward, eyes on Dora. “Aunty Aisha?”
Dora’s face widened into a smile. “Hello, Gbenga.”
“Oh my God! How did I not recognize you?” He got off his seat.
“Well, you were barely a baby when we got separated.”
“I was four nau. I remember! It’s so great to see you!”
“I’d get up and hug you but my knees are acting up.”
Xavier bent and hugged her. “I’m so sorry for not recognizing you.” Then, he looked at Rain. “Hi.”
Back to Dora, he said, “We have to catch up, Auntie.”
“Rain,” Kofo continued, “that’s Xavier, your elder brother.”
“I think I remember you too,” Xavier said.
“Seriously?” Nadia responded with a roll of her eyes. Rain glanced at her. She was the one with the unfriendly glare. Slim, petite, dressed in a black dress, not a strand of hair out of place, she came off as snobbish.
“I really do remember her as a baby,” Xavier insisted, “but I won’t go into details. Good to see you, Rain.” Rain noted how tall he was as he bent his frame and offered a hand to her. “Xavier. Not with an X, with a Z. But around here they call me X.”
“I’ll introduce our younger ones,” he told her, cutting Kofo off as she tried to say something.
“This is Nadia,” he said. “Nadiakhe.”
Nadia dropped her eyes to her phone the moment Rain looked at her.
“And here’s Lanumi. She comes after me. Well, after you.” Xavier laughed.
Lanumi waved at Rain. She seemed nice underneath the curious look on her face. She was dressed in shorts, flipflops, and a sheer top.
“And this is the baby of the house,” Xavier said, pointing at his brother. “Nehizena. Or just Nehi. He’s only twenty-four.”
“That wasn’t necessary,” Nehi mumbled. He looked twenty-four. He also shared a resemblance with Rain.
“What sort of name is Rain, though?” Nadia asked.
“A name that means a lot to me and her mom,” Kofo answered.
“Dora. She raised Rain.”
“Wait… How old is she?” Nadia looked at Rain. “How old are you?”
“She’s older than all of you, except Xavier.”
“Um,” Nehi mumbled. “The math is not mathing, please.”
“Wait…” Nadia lifted her hands. “I don’t understand. You did not only cheat on Dad. You had an entire child with someone else while he was away?”
“Did he know?”
Nadia’s eyes widened.
“But your uncle, Sunny, knew. He used it to blackmail me and that’s why he is where he is today.”
Nadia stared at the floor in thought. “A lot of things are beginning to make sense now.”
“Is that why we have Rain Textiles and this house is called Kyrstal Rain?” asked Lanumi. “Because of her?”
“Oh.” Nadia looked at Rain again. “The favorite child. The one that got all the money and motherly love. Nice to meet you, big sis.”
“Well, now that you’ve all been introduced—”
“So, it’s true that you left us and went back to him in the US?” Nadia questioned Kofo. “Everything Dad said about you was true?”
“Nadia?” Lanumi nudged her with an elbow.
“The story is more complicated than you know, Nadiakhe.”
“I want to hear all of it, Mommy.”
“Well, the last time we met in my house in Lagos, I wanted to tell you, but you were bent on unleashing your rage on me.”
“Don’t you think you deserved it?”
“I did, and you got your chance and that’s that. I don’t owe you my history anymore.”
“You owe me and my sister and brothers more than your history, Mom.”
“And I am doing everything to compensate for the past. But I won’t let you keep making me feel like I was the worst mother on earth, just because I sought my happiness and freedom—”
“At our expense!”
“Grow up, Abidemi.”
“The name is Nadiakhe!”
“Nadia, calm down,” Xavier pleaded.
“I’m calm. I’m very calm.”
“So,” Nehi leaned back on his seat, “now what? We’re supposed to be one happy family with her?” he asked, pointing at Rain. “Or is it that you’ll give her some inheritance money and she’ll go away?”
“You should try closing your mouth sometimes, Nehizena,” Kofo told him. “It won’t kill you.”
“I’m just asking a simple question. What does Rain want?”
“Only God knows.” Nadia stood. “You know what’s wild? How everyone here is taking the sudden appearance of this person like it’s nothing. Our mother cheated and she’s now bringing a stranger into our lives. And because we’re adults, we’re supposed to be fine with it? Well, I am not! I have better things to do with my time. Rainfall, we’re not sisters. We can never be.”
“Nadiakhe!” Xavier barked. “Sit down!”
Nadia folded her arms in defiance.
“Sit down,” Kofo repeated in a calmer tone and she sat. “What happened in the past has happened, and I’m not going to be apologetic about it more than I already have. Rain is now part of your lives, and if you can’t deal with that, it’s your business.”
“Of course,” Nadia muttered.
“She doesn’t want anything from any of us. Money is not her problem. I made sure of that. So, no more snide comments from any of you.” Kofo sighed. “I had wanted this meeting to be more… I don’t know… Friendly? Warm? But here you are, acting like you weren’t raised better. Rain, tomorrow, we’ll do this better over dinner. We’ll have a proper meal and family time. Is that okay with you?”
“Not like I have a choice in the matter,” Rain said.
“Great! In the absence of Sunny and Innocent—”
She broke off at the sudden entrance of Sunny, wearing an annoying smile on his face.
“Finally!” Nadia muttered. “Somebody with a bit of sense.”
“He didn’t tell Dad that Mommy had a child,” Lanumi whispered. “You still think he was on our side?”
“My darling! How are you?” Sunny patted Nadia’s head.
“Well, you know me. I love being fashionably late. Lanumi? I haven’t seen you in a while.”
Lanumi got on her feet and hugged him.
“How are your men and babies?”
She giggled. “They’re good. Where’s Uncle Inno?”
“Not interested in being here.” Sunny bowed his head at Habib. “Good evening, sir, and madams.” His eyes wandered in Rain’s direction and he stopped. “What do we have here?”
“It’s nobody,” Nadia answered.
“Young lady, have we met?” he asked Rain.
“Cut the pretense, Sunny,” Kofo uttered. “You know who Rain Kareem is.”
“Oh. You’re the lovechild! I’ve heard so little about you.”
Rain raised her brows at his rudeness.
“Pleasure to finally meet you.” To Habib, he said, “She has your eyes.”
“Everyone, I’m sorry I’m late. I hope I didn’t miss anything?”
“You forgot to mention that we have a sister.”
“Oh, that! Well, you’ve met her now. Nothing spoil.”
“Uncle Sunny, that was so unfair to Daddy.”
“Nadia, your old man was a prick. Accept it and have peace. He’s dead now too, so…”
Nadia tried to hide her reaction to his response, but Rain saw the way she gripped her knee, digging her nails into it.
“Anyways,” Sunny rubbed his palms together. “I have a little surprise for all of you.”
“Uncle Sunny, I don’t like your surprises, abeg,” Nehi told him.
Sunny walked to the door, peeped out, and called out to someone. Everyone’s attention was drawn to the door. Seconds later, Tari entered the living room. Rain was confused for a second.
He was here in Bahamas?
She searched Kofo’s face for answers but found astonishment.
“Sunny, what’s the meaning of this?” Kofo asked. “What is he doing here?”
“Ah!” Nadia exclaimed. “Another lovechild!”
Sunny smiled. He put his arm out, calling Tari over. Rain tried to catch Tari’s eyes, but he seemed as confused as everyone else was. He whispered something to Sunny and Sunny smiled at him, patting his shoulder.
“Ladies and gentlemen, meet Atari Abashi Olumese.”
“I said it!” Nadia laughed.
“Atari what now?” Nehi asked.
“Atari is family.”
“Just tell them who he is to you, Sunny,” Kofo said.
“He is his son.”
“Firstborn child and only son. His mother worked for the company and guess what. Sunny and your father were sleeping with her at the same time. In fact, until recently, we all thought he was your brother. A DNA test proved otherwise. I would still take another test, Atari, if I were you. Sunny might have doctored the results for selfish reasons.”
And silence followed as Rain’s siblings glared at Tari while he locked eyes with Sunny. The air was so tight that Rain was sure someone would drop to the floor from lack of oxygen. She didn’t know why, but she found the whole thing hilarious. Yet she felt sorry for Tari because it seemed Sunny had not informed him of the purpose of this meeting. She could feel his embarrassment and annoyance. He was going to be out of it for a while.
“That’s not how the story goes,” Sunny stated, responding to Kofo.
Xavier gave a long sigh and burst into laughter. “I need a drink, please.” He walked to a table that had an assortment of alcoholic beverages. “Anyone want something?”
Nehi followed him, as did Rain. She kept Tari in her view, as Sunny offered him Xavier’s seat.
“Just to let you know,” Xavier muttered to Rain, “the Olumeses are not a sweet, warm collective. There’s always drama and shocking revelations and stuff. There’s bad blood too. I’m sure this Atari guy has his own Olumese curse on his head.”
Rain’s eyes were still on Tari. He maintained his frown.
“Wine?” Xavier asked Rain. She nodded. He poured her some wine.
“Two glasses, please. For my mom too.”
Xavier poured her a second glass and she thanked him, returning to her seat. She offered Dora a glass. Then, she saw Habib look her way. She gave him her wine and went back to the table. A steward walked in, wheeling a tray of finger foods. Two other stewards came in with extra chairs.
Rain went back to her seat, just in time to hear Dora ask Kofo. “Is there anything else that has to be said here that needs my presence?”
“You want to leave?”
“I’ll get the chauffeur to take you to the hotel,” Habib offered. Rain wanted to leave as well, but she needed to talk to Tari. It had been ages since she heard him speak to her alone. She missed listening to his voice. But it seemed he was still mad at her. He had looked at her only once since coming in, and it was a passing stare.
Dora called it a night and Habib accompanied her out. After they left, Kofo cleared her throat to make a speech.
“The reason I called for this meeting is for us to open a new chapter in our lives as a family. I want us to close the curtains on the past and forge forward as one unit. Everyone in this room is involved in family business, one way or the other. We’re all living comfortably because of Hara. Whatever our history, all is well because it will end well. To my children—Xavier, Rain, Lanumi, Nadiakhe and Nehizena, I am sorry for abandoning you. I hope that the latter part of my life reflects how much I love you. I’d do anything and everything to ensure that your lives are the best versions of enjoyment you could ever dream of having.”
“Truly?” Sunny asked. Kofo gave a slow turn of her head in his direction.
“Aren’t you tired of lying?”
“Ogiso, what is your problem with me? Just what have I done to you in this life that you keep harassing me?”
“Don’t play the victim here. Kindly tell your legitimate children what you, Habib, and your lovechild did a week ago.”
“What did we do?”
“That thing you three did either in your house or his house that involved documents being signed?”
Kofo looked at Rain. Habib walked in just then.
“Oh, there he is! Daddy of the century. I was just telling your baby mama to share with us what you guys and your daughter did a week ago.”
Habib sat and said casually, “Kofo and I transferred some of our shares at Hara to Rain. This was in addition to the shares we already helped her in acquiring, making her the highest shareholder in the company. The plan is to get her shares in Hara Group too. Does that answer your question?”
Rain dropped her head. Everyone here was mad.
“Can you state the type of shares she owns now?”
“This means she has voting rights in the company.”
“I just want to state that this whole thing was done without my knowledge, the board’s knowledge or that of the shareholders. But somehow, legal documents were signed, as required by law, authorizing the transfer of those shares by the board. I have people at the CAC, you know? They sent me a copy of your return of allotment form.”
“Sunday, this is my daughter and neither I nor her mother owe you any explanation,” Habib said in a quiet but lethal tone.
“And her siblings? You don’t owe them anything?” Sunny faced Kofo. “Kofo, you are excluding your other children as you’ve done over the years. You walked out on them but you were very much in Rain’s life, financially and otherwise. Now, you’re repeating history. You can as well give Rain the entire Hara Telecoms, so that we’ll know where you stand as a mother.”
Kofo’s eyes burned with anger as she looked into Sunny’s. “You’re an asshole.”
“You’ve not changed,” Nadia said.
“That whole speech you were just giving us was a lie.”
“Nadia, you have an entire company in your name. You saw the papers—”
“It is not enough, Mom!” she screamed, tears in her eyes. “It was not what I wanted!” She sprang up. “You know what? I can’t handle this. I’m taking the next flight back to Lagos!”
She started toward the door, grumbling as she went.
“Nadia,” Lanumi called, but she marched out and slammed the door. Her departure brought on silence.
“May I go now?” Tari asked Sunny.
“You’re going nowhere,” Kofo replied, rising to her feet. “I need you to know that whatever you and your father have planned for my daughter, I will make sure I destroy it.”
“Mom?” Rain called.
“Rain, I’m talking.”
“Atari, I built Hara with my own money!” she shouted, hitting her chest. With each word, she moved closer to Tari. “With my sweat and blood! Your father was nowhere to be found when I started it from scratch! How dare you and he think that you have any right to lay claim on my labor! And you even had the guts to try to worm your way up through my daughter?”
Her small frame towered over Tari who remained seated.
“You’re nothing but a gold-digger, like your mother was a whore! A nobody!”
“MOM!” Rain shouted. Tari’s mood switched from normal to anger in seconds. He lifted his head, which had been bowed out of respect and cast a look of irritation at her.
“And that is why I will frustrate your very existence!”
“You lie, Kofo!” Sunny shot to his feet too.
“Don’t let him deceive you, Tari,” Kofo continued. “His campaign of hate against me will take you nowhere. You will crash and burn, just like he will. So, if I were you, I’d quit Hara and find some other place to work because I will destroy you there.”
Tari went up on his feet without warning, causing Kofo to take a step backward. “I did nothing but fall in love with Rain. I don’t want your money or company. Heck, I don’t even want Rain anymore. But you see Hara? I won’t be bullied out of my job by anyone, not even by you. I have worked my ass for six months. I am earning my right to be there and nothing will stop me.”
“Get out of my house!”
Rain covered her face in embarrassment as Tari made his exit, walking out with all the dignity he could display. She gave Kofo a deadly look and hurried after him. As she stepped out to the foyer, she caught him leaving the house.
The front door slammed at his exit. She ran after him and caught up with him near a water fountain.
“Can you stop?”
He halted and did a half-turn. “What?”
“I apologize for everything she said back there. This whole family meeting thing was a bad idea in the first place.”
“Okay.” He continued walking.
“Rain,” he turned around, “let’s not do this, abeg. Just let me walk away from your life.”
“I’m not the enemy here. Calm down, Tari.”
“Calm down for what, Rain? Your mom slut-shamed my mom. Then, she called me a gold-digger, claiming I slept my way to the top.”
“Tari, ignore her. Uncle Sunny riles her up and she loses her shit.” Rain took a step closer to him. “Look, I’m not trying to downplay whatever you’re feeling right now, but I understand.”
“No, you don’t understand, Rain. I don’t even understand what I’m feeling right now, asides this anger.”
“I know. I understand.”
“Stop saying you do.”
Kofo’s car pulled up beside them. Rain had texted the chauffeur earlier, at the heat of the family drama.
“I’m lodged at the Ocean Floor at Four Seasons,” she said. “We could drop you off at your hotel.”
“We’re actually lodged in the same place.”
“So, it was you I saw earlier today?”
Tari didn’t say anything. He opened the backdoor and waited for her to get in before he did.
“Please, take us to the hotel,” she told the chauffeur.
As the car rolled toward the gate, she asked, “Do you want to talk about what just happened?”
They drove out of the mansion and onto a quiet lane, bordered by tall trees. Tari’s face was to the window.
“How about us?”
“Tari, I’m sorry—”
“For fuck’s sake, Rain, we had plans on how we were going to navigate this whole complicated family mess at Hara.”
“Then, why did you walk away from me, from us? Your parents tried to clog our wheel and you gave up? Just like that?”
“It’s not about them, Tari. It was me. I was going through some stuff that I had to handle alone.”
“And you tossed me aside like I never happened to you? Like the time we spent with each other in Dominica was all in my head alone?”
“I don’t know, man. You hit me really hard, Rain. Do I still like you? Yes. Am I still sexually attracted to you? Insanely.” His eyes swept over her body. “But Rain, once this car drops us off at the hotel, we’re going to part ways for your good and for mine.”
“It has to be this way. I wish I could say it’s just for now, but I don’t think I can deal with your parents or the animosity from my own family. I don’t even want to try.”
Rain didn’t trust her voice to be steady, so she nodded and faced her window. They remained silent until they arrived at the hotel.
“Thanks for the ride, Rain.”
She nodded again, as tears filled her eyes.
“Hey, are you going to be okay?”
She stared down at his hand, resting in the space between them. It wasn’t there seconds ago.
He placed his hand on hers and held it for a bit. “You look amazing, by the way.”
“Good night, Rain.”
Tari got down and she stepped down too. “Tari, wait!”
He stopped. She walked to him. “We can be adults about this.”
“Tari, our families are basically intertwined and we work in the same place, which means that we’ll keep running into each other. And it’s going to be hard for both of us, especially with all these feelings involved.”
“What are you saying, Rain?”
“Let’s remain friends. It would be easier for us to navigate this complicated mess…”
Someone was passing by and Tari moved her out of the way to let the person through.
“And if we somehow become friends with benefits?” he asked. His hand was on the small of her back.
“I’m just being realistic here, Rain. I’m touching you right now and there’s a riot going on in my body. That’s how much you affect me. So, if the friendship somehow grows edges and becomes something else, would that be fine with you?”
This wasn’t what she wanted. No benefits, no grey areas. She wanted to own his heart completely.
“So, as a friend, I’m inviting you for Jaya’s birthday eve thing. I don’t know where it’s happening, but please come.”
“Can my friends come as well?”
“Your friends are here?”
“Sure. Come with them. I’ll send you my location when I confirm the details.”
“Cool. My suite is at the other wing. We’ll catch up later?”
Rain smiled as she made her way into the hotel. She walked to the elevator and pressed the ‘arrow up’ button. While waiting, her eyes wandered and caught a familiar face at the front desk.
Rain blinked to be sure he was the one. At the second blink, Yuri looked her way. She ducked down, hiding behind a flowerpot.
The elevator door opened and she slowly stood. Holding her breath, she dashed into the elevator and pinned herself in an angle that kept her away from Yuri’s view. An Indian couple stared at her weirdly and she smiled at them. Luckily, the door began to close.
But a hand from outside stopped it, bringing Yuri into view.
Rain froze as he slid into the elevator. She put her arms around her body and took a step away from him.
“It’s Yuri, your future husband, as decided by the powers that be, reporting for duty.”
Rain snorted. She didn’t want to laugh, but the whole thing their mothers were up to was ridiculous. So, she covered her mouth and let loose in laughter. Yuri did not join her. Rather, he stood, watching her as if she were a stranger. After she was done, she cleared her throat.
“Hey,” he said.
She allowed him hug her.
“I’ve missed you,” he whispered. She broke away from his embrace and smiled. This was going to be the most interesting holiday of her life.
©Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages