CHAPTER EIGHT – Winds of Change
Sunny’s wife was basic. From the start, he had known that she had nothing to offer except the traditional duties wives were expected to fall into—and he picked her solely for that role. She boasted of a bachelor’s degree in education and a diploma in computer science. Asides those, she looked good in expensive clothes and being chauffeured around town in a posh car. He couldn’t remember her raising her voice at him or disagreeing to his plans and opinions. Everything he said or did was fine by her, including being sexless toward her for eleven years.
The last time they had sex, it was to try for their third child in the hopes that it would be a boy. But they had another girl and Sunny stopped trying. He neither blamed his wife nor sought to impregnate another woman outside to get a boy. He accepted his fate as the father to three amazing daughters. He liked to think of himself as a liberal whose wife was lucky to have a man like him that didn’t give her reason to worry over her place in his life. All he wanted in return was respect and loyalty. She had done more than enough in those areas, except for one thing. Her relationship with Kofo.
Sunny was yet to figure out how the women bonded behind his back, as they were dissimilar in many aspects. They weren’t the best of friends either and they met only on the occasion, but each time Kofo appeared in her life, she became a different person for a couple of days.
Coming out of his bedroom this morning to hear her laughing and speaking with Kofo in the felt like infidelity on her part. Kofo had told him she was coming over to discuss a sensitive matter, which was unlike her. Usually, she would ask them to meet somewhere. But Sunny wasn’t bothered by it. He surmised that she was trying to get him to drop his bid for the CEO position.
It was out of her hands now. The Hara Group of directors were going to make their decision later tonight, and he knew the seat would go to him.
“Good morning, ladies.”
Kofo and Ijeoma stopped laughing and stared Sunny’s way as he made known his presence.
“Hello, Sunny,” Kofo greeted. Ijeoma merely smiled at him.
“I didn’t know you were here already,” he said to Kofo and looked at Ijeoma. “Nobody told me.”
Ijeoma smiled again, saying nothing.
“I’d like a cup of tea, please,” he requested. “Get one for Kofo too.”
“No, that’s fine. I had something before coming here. Besides, I’ve been entertained already.” She pointed at the dish on a stool in front of her, containing grapes.
“Tea?” Sunny looked at Ijeoma again and she got on her feet. He took her seat as she left the living room.
“So, what brings you here, Kofo?”
Kofo made sure Ijeoma was gone before she faced him. “I’ll make it quick.”
“Please, do. I’ve got things to—”
“Is Atari your son?”
Sunny slowly turned to look into her eyes. But he didn’t give her an answer. Instead, he picked a grape from the dish.
“I hate the way you call my name, Kofo. No respect at all.”
“Stop trying to evade the question. Is Atari Abashi your son?”
“That is such a wild thing to ask me.”
“Thirty-one years ago, I remember Janet walking into our main office in Ikeja and requesting for a job. Her application letter caught my attention and called her in for an interview right away. She was smart and had a diploma in accounting. But from speaking to her, I saw that she was someone who was ready to learn and take on any position in Rain Textiles. Unfortunately, we were overstaffed. So, I sent her to the office in Lagos Island. To you.”
“Then, I slept with her and got her pregnant. That’s your conclusion, right?”
“Let me finish my story.”
“I didn’t hear from her for a while, but I had someone in the office who informed me that you were favoring Janet a lot. I figured that you liked her and it was nothing serious, because you had Ijeoma. Soon after, Ijeoma got pregnant and you had to do right by her by hastening the marriage, which you did. You then went to the UK for your honeymoon.”
“Wow. History teacher.”
“You came back after one month, and that was when the drama started. One morning, you and Janet got into a very public fight that had Ituah firing her and asking security to throw her out of the office. I never heard from her again until she showed up five years later, claiming that Ituah was the father of her son.”
“And you didn’t tell Ituah or me, because…?”
“Because, as you already know, I was not myself.”
Ijeoma walked in, bearing a tea tray. She served Sunny and left.
“Again, Janet disappeared from radar, but once in a while my mind would prod me to look for her.”
“But you didn’t.”
“She was inconsequential to me, Sunny. However, this year, I decided set a few things in order and thought to look for her. That was when I found out that she was dead. I did a little digging about Atari too.”
“And decided to go behind the Olumeses to offer him a juicy position at Hara.”
“Firstly, Sunny, he’s my children’s half-brother or cousin – if my theory is right.”
Sunny chuckled before taking a mouthful of his tea.
“Secondly, I made a promise to Janet years ago to take care of Atari, if anything happened to her.”
“Women supporting women.”
“And I was working toward it, when I heard that you were ahead of me already. You’ve gotten him a house, a car, and you’re trying to push him up the ladder to the CMO position?”
“Who told you these things?”
“Sunny, am I right or wrong?”
Sunny sipped his tea again. Kofo was a dangerous woman. Petite as she was, she was to be feared. Everything she had concluded about him and Janet was true.
He recalled being drawn to Janet’s handwritten application letter before falling for her.
She appeared plain at first sight, but the longer his eyes remained on her, the more he saw that there were curves underneath her pleated skirt and simple blouse. He was instantly attracted to whatever she hid underneath her clothes. But he wanted to hear her speak first; so, he asked her questions and kept his eyes on her lips as they moved.
“Where did you school?”
“University of Jos. I have a diploma in accounting. I intend to go for a full degree in UNILAG. That’s why I came to Lagos.”
She wasn’t only articulate, Janet was confident as well. Sunny gave her the job at once and turned away other applicants. It didn’t take long for him to make known his intent toward her. He had fallen hard for her, and Janet herself expressed that she was infatuated with him. They soon began to sneak around after office hours and during the weekends—and what began as a sexual relationship quickly turned into something deeper. They hid their affair from everyone, as they had to work with each other by day, following nights of infinite pleasures. One morning, however, when the staff hadn’t yet come in and they thought they could steal a moment in Sunny’s office, Ituah walked in on them. He said nothing of it and life seemed to go on.
What Janet didn’t know, then, was that Ijeoma had just discovered she was pregnant. A family meeting went on without Janet’s knowledge and Sunny was pressured to marry Ijeoma. A speedy traditional ceremony was conducted in her hometown, followed by a church wedding. Afterward, Sunny traveled out of the country on a month-long honeymoon, leaving Janet devastated. In his absence, Ituah slithered into her life to console her, while taking advantage of her vulnerability.
When Sunny returned, Janet ended what she had with him and concentrated on her job. He still wanted her, but she was resolute on her decision. A short while later, she mentioned to him that she was pregnant for Ituah, confessing to what had happened between them in his absence.
Sunny lost his mind and they fought in the office, not caring for the presence of staff and clients on the premises. When Ituah tried to weigh in, Janet turned her anger on him, as well. Apparently, he had dumped her, just as Sunny returned. He also knew about the pregnancy before Sunny did, and he denied responsibility. To cover his shame, Ituah fired her and asked security to escort her out of the building.
The last Sunny saw of Janet, she was dressed in a white dress, entering a yellow cab, her face bathed in tears. His anger ran on for months, after she was gone, but not as enduring as his affection for her.
Sunny searched all over Lagos for Janet; and when he couldn’t find her, he went to her hometown in Nasarawa state, where he met her cousin, who informed him that she passed away at childbirth, along with her baby. He should have known, by the man’s hostile monosyllabic answers, that he had been lying.
Her alleged demise was like a million stabs to his heart, but he mourned her and moved on. In January, however, he got a letter from her that brought back to life the past. Sunny found out that a relative into whose hands she had entrusted the letter forgot to send it to him, and only remembered to, when moving houses. Janet had been dead for nine months at that time. In the letter, she had told him about Tari and how she had strongly suspected that he was Sunny’s son.
Sunny mourned her a second time, recalling how much of a happy soul she had been. Janet had had a bright disposition to life and always saw the good in everything.
“I was born to be rich, you know?” she once told him, after he gifted her a designer bag in which he placed a wad of notes. “God gave me an illness that leaves me with low immunity because he knows I’ll have money to take care of myself. This is just a chapter in my life that will soon end.”
Sunny hired someone to follow Tari around and give him updates about his life. He wanted everything on him—where he ate, whom he hung out with, the women that shared his bed, his favorite thing to do after work hours, his past—all of it. The investigator was efficient, and every weekend, he brought him to date on Tari’s activities. Sunny soon became obsessed with playing the all-seeing-eye. So much that he preferred to be in the shadows than reveal himself to Tari. There were things about the young man that reminded him of Janet, even though he watched him from a distance. Things that reminded him of himself. Hence, Sunny’s clandestine surveillance stretched on for four months until he was certain that his heart and mind were settled on what role Tari was to play in his life.
As it were, he was without a male heir to take over from him. Tari being his son was going to solidify his claim to the ownership of Hara Telecoms. But to do this, he had to be sure Tari wasn’t Ituah’s.
“You know she was a harlot,” Ituah said of Janet when Sunny told him about Tari. “I’m not going to accept that boy as mine.”
“Just meet him and talk to him.”
“What if he’s yours? Have you thought about that?”
“Then, why are you bringing him to me?”
“Just in case he turns out to be your son.”
“Sunday, he can turn out to be anything, I don’t care. I’m not claiming any bastard.”
“We’ll run a DNA test.”
“No.” Ituah’s word was final and he frustrated Sunny’s efforts to have a test run before his demise. The next time he raised up the DNA issue, it was with Tari, who did not object to it. He submitted himself to a clinic of Sunny’s choosing on the day before his trip out of Nigeria with Rain. When the results came in, it proved that he was indeed Sunny’s son.
“Ogiso, you’re not saying anything. Am I right?”
Sunny lifted his eyes from his teacup and looked at Kofo.
“What is it to you?” he asked.
“It is everything to me, Sunny. You know that Hara is family legacy.”
“Yeah, yeah, so named after Habib and Rain. Please, don’t remind me for the hundredth time.”
“Then, you should know that I don’t intend to hand it over to an Olumese.”
Sunny smiled. “Kofo, my darling partner, I don’t want you to forget that the reason Hara is standing strong is because of my tireless efforts behind the scene over the years. And that is why my son must have a chunky size of that cake. I know you already plan to bring in all your children. That whole Bahamas thing is to butter them up.”
“Hara is their heritage too.”
“Funny, though. They are Olumeses.”
Sunny almost laughed at the frown that curdled Kofo’s face.
“Look, let’s not get into a scuffle over Atari’s presence at Hara. We have many fights on our table, Kofo. Can you just let this slide, the way my son is sliding in and out of your daughter right now, as we speak?”
“I beg your pardon?”
Sunny laughed slowly.
“What are you talking about, Ogiso?”
He sipped his tea and laughed again.
“Where do you think Rain has been for three weeks?”
“She told Dora she needed a break.”
“Well, if a break is Atari’s phallus.”
“I hate to break it to you. She’s in some vacation spot with the boy.”
Kofo shifted in her seat, bowled over by the news. “How…?”
“Kofo, your life and mine have been intertwined for a long time—”
“Because you made it so. You blackmailed me and stole what was mine. And I know that somehow, you’re behind this thing.”
Sunny raised innocent hands. “Not me o. God has a sense of humor and I am amused as well.”
“Oh my God!” Kofo covered her face. “Rain and Atari are related.”
“Not in any way. They don’t even share siblings.”
“Oh God.” Kofo shifted in her seat again, gripping the armrest.
“You may want to breathe.”
But she decided it was best to stand. “You’re lying to me, right?”
“I have more important things to do, Kofo.”
She picked up her purse, and the moment her shawl covered her shoulder, she was back to default mode. “If you’re really telling the truth, then I want to let you know that your plans won’t work. I will make sure your son never goes near my daughter again.”
“I wish you luck with that.”
“Tell Ijeoma I’m gone.” Kofo started out, heading for the front door.
“Don’t forget our meeting! Tell your chef to prepare that his steaming jollof.” He gulped the remnant of his tea. “I can’t get enough of it.”
As soon as he returned to his bedroom, he checked Tari’s WhatsApp. He had seen him online earlier and noticed that he had read all his messages but had refused to reply them.
Sunny pressed his thumb on the voice recorder. “Atari, it’s been three weeks. I know you’re doing what I asked and having a good time, but end it and come back home. Your job isn’t going to be available forever.”
He needed Tari to take what he offered him seriously. Coming out of the shadows to claim the CEO seat at Hara Telecoms was mostly for Tari’s sake. He wanted the transition to be easy for him when the time arrived. But to ensure that happened, Kofo had to get out of the way. This was why he went behind her to the Hara Group, which was headed by three other people who had the largest stakes in Hara Telecoms and all its subsidiaries. In plain terms, they owned the company, alongside Kofo and Sunny. They were called upon only when the most important decisions concerning Hara Telecoms couldn’t be handled by the board of directors. A few days ago, Sunny requested a private meeting with them to give reasons as to why Kofo had to step down.
Unfortunately, their response to his proposal wasn’t what he had hoped for. They called for a dinner meeting at Kofo’s residence—a sure sign that they respected her more than they did him.
It would devastate him to lose the CEO seat, especially now that Kofo had presented Habib Kareem as her preferred candidate for the position. It had been three weeks since she submitted his name at a board meeting. The board was divided in two factions—one for Sunny and the other for Kofo. The Hara Group was worried that a prolonged in-house war could spell doom for the company, especially now that they had had an extended drop in the stock market.
Sunny prepared his speech for the meeting tonight. He had gone to them as a man, strong on logic and business. Now, he had to appeal to their emotions. Kofo seemed to be winning on that front already.
“Do you want breakfast?”
Ijeoma, as usual, had quietly entered his bedroom without his knowledge. He looked at her with a slight frown, annoyed to be disturbed. She understood and withdrew. Minutes later, she returned to inform him that Nadia had stopped by for a visit. Sunny noted the disdain on her face as she mentioned Nadia’s name. It was funny how she detested the girl and loved her mother.
Sunny responded to a phone call before he got off his bed. Sundays were for early morning masses at the church and returning home to stay in all day. Not to entertain annoying women and their daughters.
He slipped into his slides and went downstairs to meet Nadia. She was standing in the living room, admiring a family portrait. He felt sorry for her, seeing her emaciated figure that was a result of mourning her father more than it made sense to. She had been a daddy’s girl, of course. In her childhood years, she saw him as perfection—and on his end, the adoration had been reciprocated. He would give her everything she asked for, without requiring her to earn it. This was because he fed off her need for him, so that he could be her hero and shape her life in the way he so desired. In the end, though, he lost control of her, as she became unmanageable and threw tantrums whenever she didn’t have her way. He then abandoned all parental responsibility to Sunny. Sunny, in turn, enacted revenge on Nadia for her father’s sins to him. In the end, the brothers created a monster that not even beauty and brilliance could redeem. Nadia had the proclivity to be intolerable and callous in her relationships, even toward her siblings. She nailed the cliché image of the snobbish, rich kid without the wealth.
“Good morning, Uncle Sunny,” she greeted without turning to look at him. She was dressed in a black ensemble, as she was still in mourning.
“How are you, Nadiakhe?”
She looked at him now, bearing a dead smile. “Good.”
The girl was every inch her mother—height and facial features alike.
“Sit down, dear.”
Nadia found a couch, as did Sunny.
“Have you had breakfast?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Okay. So, what brings you my way, darling girl? The last time we spoke, you were mad at me for telling you that your father’s houses belonged to his widow.”
“I was only trying to let you know that she was a gold-digger who came into his life to reap where she did not sow.”
“Ironically, there was neither gold to dig nor crops to reap.”
“Yet, she owns his houses.”
“And now, your brother got Rain Textiles and every other thing handed down to him. What exactly did you get, Nadiakhe, for being Daddy’s favorite?”
Nadia’s eyes turned icy. Something about it made Sunny uneasy.
“Why are you here?”
She pulled out a file from her handbag. She kept it on the center table. Then, she went for a diary next. Sunny recognized the diary and looked at her, finding her eyes already waiting for his.
“What are these?”
She pointed at the file. “Every important document on Rain Textiles.”
She pointed at the diary. “Aunty Atiti’s diary.”
“What am I supposed to do with them?”
“I found them in Daddy’s safe last night. We just got back from Benin, but I had to go to the house and search for important documents because I knew that Xave hasn’t taken the inheritance thing seriously. That was where I found Aunty’s journal.” Nadia picked the notebook. “I want to read something to you.”
“Please, don’t bore me. Your aunty liked to believe that she was a white woman with all that diary bullshit. Always keeping records of what should not be kept.”
Nadia opened a page and read: “I just found out that Ogiso is hiding something about that contract with the witch.” She looked at Sunny. “Witch, being my mom, right?”
Sunny gave her a pokerfaced look.
“It was Aunty’s last entry. The date was before the day she died. History has it that she slumped and died in your house.”
“Right in front of me.”
“Heart attack, they said.”
“You’re a good history student, just like your mom.”
“So, what were you hiding Uncle Sunny?”
“Nadia, your father and protector is dead. You’ve gotten away with being disrespectful and rude to me for years, just because he always supported your insolence. All of it has ended now. So, the next time you talk to me like that, I will slap the shit out of your petulant mouth.”
“I apologize.” She reached for the file. “But I know what you’re hiding.”
“You know what now?”
“You and Daddy made my mom sign Rain Textiles to Daddy because—”
“Because she was mentally unstable as a result of emotional and psychological abuse from your dad.”
“Let me finish. You’ve been lied to for years. He ruined your mother and made her sign over her business to him. Then, he initiated a divorce and told the whole world that she was leaving because she wanted to be with her boyfriend. Your mother was thrown out of her own home with just five hundred naira in her handbag and a box of clothes. Your deadbeat father was the villain this whole time.”
Nadia hesitated before she spoke. “But you helped him.”
“Yes. I was greedy and callous. I deeply regret my actions.”
“Uncle, are you sure? Because this contract here states that—”
“Your dad was an equal partner to every future business your mom owned,” Sunny stated. “Meaning that even before Hara was built, he already owned half of it. I got the lawyer that drafted it, and I want to let you know that your dad didn’t know what I did. He was not supposed to find out, the same way your mom didn’t see it either. I slipped it in there to use it as leverage later because I knew who Kofo was, and I was as certain as the sun rising that she was going to get back on her feet with the Kareems behind her. So, I waited until the time came and I showed her the clause.” Sunny smiled. “Who do you think she preferred to be partners with? Me or Ituah?”
Nadia was dazed by his confession.
“And that is how I became her partner at Hara. Nadiakhe, little girl, what are you going to do about it? Go to your daddy’s grave and cry like the baby you are? Or blackmail me?”
Nadia was still dazed.
“Because if you go to Xavier, who now owns Rain Textiles and that document you’re holding, you’re going to lose out on what you’ll get from the blackmail. And we know that Xave is a mommy’s boy beneath all his bravado. He will not take advantage of what it can bring him. Secondly, it doesn’t shake what Kofo and I now have. She has chosen not to take me to court.”
“So, you’re saying—”
“What do you want?”
“Did you actually come in here to accuse me of my sister’s death with no evidence and to remind me that I used crooked means to get to the top? You didn’t have a plan? Is that how I raised you?”
“You’re not allowing me think!”
Sunny leaned forward to make his point. “101 of business. Never miss the chance to swing a deal your way.” He stood. “Emotions will be the death of you, Nadiakhe. Come back with what you want from me.”
He headed back up the stairs, annoyed for being disturbed, but not so much that he didn’t see that Nadia was as dangerous as her mom.
Three weeks wasn’t enough for Tari. If he could pause his life for a long time, just to spend it with Rain, he’d do it two times over. He didn’t realize how much she was like his mom until she lost two thousand dollars during a hike and she didn’t miss a breath. Instead, she asked Tari if he wanted to escort her to get a tattoo and piercings done.
“I’m scared of needles, that’s why I need to do this. I’m not really a fan of tattoos.”
“That’s a wild reason to get inked on. But let’s go.”
Using Google, they hitched a ride to a credible tattoo parlor. Rain asked for a peace sign smiley tattoo behind her ear, but when it was time to have it done, she freaked out and ran out of the building. It was so hilarious that Tari laughed until his tummy hurt. He went after her and brought her in. Somehow, he convinced her to get a nose ring instead.
Again, it was a lot of drama. Tari volunteered to get his ear pierced for her sake. After he did it, she stayed still enough to get her nose done. When the needle went in, she screamed and broke into tears. It was hard for him not to laugh, so he rubbed her back until the artist fixed a nose ring. No one could convince her to tattoo her skin after that. Weirdly, it was Tari who got the sudden urge to do something to his arm. It started with a tribal tattoo, but he wanted more and booked for a session the following day. Rain went with him. By the third day, his left arm was a work of art, although it was sore and hurt for two days afterward.
He was changing before his own eyes, and he could hardly recognize himself. His confidence and faith in life had returned, but he feared that he might become an entirely different person in a short while.
When he said yes to going away with Rain, he knew his time at The Insured Place was over. He asked HR for a week to sort out an emergency. It was approved but it was without pay. Four days later, he turned in his resignation while Rain slept beside him, somewhere in Dominica. They had rented an Airbnb for two weeks, and Tari allowed himself to enjoy his life after an endless existence of suffering. He had looked forward to having a great time with Rain, but he didn’t foresee how much the trip was going to change him. They shopped in expensive boutiques, went on unsupervised boat rides, hung out with other couples from around the world. Tari felt like his life was spinning too fast for him to catch up. Whenever they didn’t leave their apartment, it was because they couldn’t have enough of each other’s bodies. And the best part was that they weren’t vanilla about the sex. Rain was shameless when it came to the usual things for which other women felt shame.
But their time was soon over and they had to get back to Nigeria. The morning they were to leave, while lying in bed, Rain asked him to stay one more week.
“Just like that?”
“I’m not ready to go back. I wish we could stay here forever.”
“You’re really a spoilt kid, Rain.”
“I know. But I want to introduce you to the world of traveling. That is if you’d be interested in occasionally traveling with me on a whim.”
“On a whim?”
“Don’t you like to be spontaneous?” Rain asked him. This was the most ‘whim’ thing he had done in years. “When was the last time you did something crazy?”
“These past two weeks. Going on this trip with you.”
“You don’t want to do more?”
“I don’t think you’d like me very much if I hopped on a plane every time you asked me to.”
“You’re right. I love that we’re different.”
“I also like that we have a friendship thing going on. Feelings have this habit of burning brightly then turning cold. When that happens to us and the outer layer peels off, let’s not fight too much to keep it and lose what’s important, which is us. Feelings refresh, get deeper, and grow when they have a healthy soil that makes them want to stay.”
“Hmmm… Your age is showing, mama.”
Rain smacked him.
“But that was profound.” He snapped his fingers to applaud her.
Giggling, she said, “I can’t even take you seriously.”
He responded by wrapping her body with his for a cuddle.
“Please, one more week with me before we leave.”
He wasn’t sure, but he sensed that she didn’t want to get involved in anything back home that would take her peace. He was already learning that she had clever ways of detaching herself from pain.
They stayed back but spent less time outdoors. Tari couldn’t get his hands off Rain’s body. Even when her period came, he was heavy on the cuddles, having discovered that her biggest love language was physical touch. He visited a local market nearby and got ingredients to prepare goat meat pepper soup because it was her favorite.
“If we ever break up, I’d still come over to your house for food.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t cook,” Tari informed her. “I’m lazy like that.”
“At least, we share something in common.”
“We share many things in common, Rain. Are you ready for Hara?”
“No, but I miss having a job. I can’t wait to go back to an office and boss people around.”
On their flight out of Dominica, she lost her usual cheer. She spent most of the time sleeping. When she woke, she tried to keep her mood uplifted.
She leaned toward him. “Give me your hand.”
Tari extended his hand to her.
“I read palms.”
“It’s the type of weird shit you learn from meeting all sorts of gypsies when you travel a lot. I met this one in Egypt. Her name was Kiya. Very creepy woman, but she taught me a lot about black magic.”
Rain stared into Tari’s eyes. “Like how to trap a man with pussy.”
Tari sneered. Rain tugged his hand closer. She caressed his palm with hers.
“So, what do you see in my future?”
She made an exaggerated show of studying his palm, causing him to smile. “I see you becoming very rich and famous.”
“I like rich. Famous? Not so much.”
“It’s in this line here.” She ran a finger from one side of his palm to the other. “See how unbroken it is?”
But Tari wasn’t looking at his palm. His eyes were on her, following the fine baby hairs on her forehead that disappeared to the side of her face. Then he stared all the way down to her neck, stopping at the distracting fullness of her cleavage.
“You’re going to get married soon,” she foretold.
Rain looked up, catching his eyes. “Me.”
Tari laughed, throwing his head back.
“It’s in your palm.”
He closed his palm and trapped her hand in his. “Did you just use style to propose to me?”
“I don’t propose to men. But soon, you will ask me to be your wife, and I will say yes, and we will live happily ever after with our four beautiful kids.”
Tari cleared his throat. What was the politest way to tell her that he didn’t want children?
A flight attendant came by and asked if they wanted anything.
Rain knew she had made a mistake by telling Jaya what time her flight would be arriving Lagos. Jaya had been worried about her to the point of ridiculousness. She even went as far as getting Mide to accompany her to the airport. Rain had planned to share a cab with Tari, but they changed plans and Tari used the cab alone before her friends arrived.
On their way home, Jaya apologized for showing up late.
“It’s fine,” Rain said, waiting for the scolding to come. She took the backseat while Mide sat in the front with Jaya.
“You won’t believe that Kevin has been blowing up Mide’s line all day because she’s been with me,” Jaya reported. “He can’t take care of his own kids.”
“Are we surprised?”
“On top of that, he was still yelling on her for being selfish. Talking about ‘I planned for us to get away this weekend to celebrate your birthday.’” Jaya hissed. “Birthday that has already passed. Ogbeni, if I don’t slap those stretchmarks off your muscles!”
“Mide, I have said this a hundred times, and I will say it again,” Jaya continued. “You’re my baby and I love you, but the moment Rain is done with you, so am I. We can reconnect when you finally get sense and banish Kevin out of your life completely.”
“Yes, ma.” Mide looked at Rain. “You, you have anything to add?”
“I’m not done,” Jaya continued. “One day you’ll wake up and realize that you’ve lost out on a lot and you have no identity except wife and mother.”
“Jaya, can you just say what’s on your mind and stop using Mide to act like you want to even the scolding?”
“Three weeks, Rain!”
“There we go.”
“With a guy you hardly know.”
“Oh, I know him.”
“Who the hell is he?”
Rain sucked in her lips to hide a smile.
“He looks like an upgrade from Noah sha,” Mide stated.
“Mide, we don’t even know this guy.”
Rain raised her hand. “Hey, I said I do.”
“You think you do, just because you guys are fucking.”
“Does he have a girlfriend?”
“You don’t know that. Is he fucking his sister?”
“You don’t know that too. Is he a yahoo boy?”
“I see where this is going.”
“What are his financials?”
“Rain, you are the only daughter of a…” Jaya glanced at Mide and withdrew her words. “You’re rich. Is he as rich as you or is this going to be another case of Noah, Wilson, Qudus, Raymond, Tobi—?”
“I get your point, I get it. Yes, he doesn’t have what I have, but…”
“Like how many times did this guy make you cum?”
Rain blushed. “Well…”
“But we all know you don’t do one-night-stands or friends with benefits. You see a man and he ticks one box out of your list and you want to go in for the long haul. How can’t you see that you’re insane?”
“You have to live a little, Jaya Nelson. I love the thrill of falling in love—”
“And getting heartbroken. Over and over and over.”
“No, you’re not. Look at this Noah mess, for instance—”
“Rain?” Mide pleaded.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know who you’re talking about. Noah is a strange name to me.”
“The worst part is that in a few weeks, you’ll believe this and your brain will start erasing him.”
Jaya and Mide sighed together.
“Girls, I love the thrill of falling in love. I love relationships. I love being needed by one man and needing him alone. This thing you people do when you fuck around with just anybody is not for me.”
“Me too,” Mide commented.
“So, you’re going to get engaged to this one too?”
“I am not rushing anything.”
“You’re gone. Mide, our girl is gone.” Jaya removed her wig and cast her eyes outside. “I hate him already.”
“Yes. I hate him. Same way I hate Kevin. You’re as needy as Mide.”
“Okay.” Rain didn’t want to fight. “So…. Guess what I got you girls!”
“A man we don’t need?”
“Jayamma?” Mide smacked Jaya.
Rain gave up. She picked her phone and was about to text Tari for a sleepover. But she changed her mind, as she recalled Jaya’s words. It would embarrass her if Tari saw her as needy. She texted Dora instead.
On my way home
“Just fuck him and go,” Jaya advised.
Kofo could feel her heart falling apart as she sat with her partners and agreed to sign over her company to Sunny. This hadn’t been her plan with Habib, as they had gone behind Sunny to lobby the board members of the Hara Group. Her partners had promised her and Habib the position, only to throw in a twist by asking her to step down and allow Sunny and Habib take the CEO seats. Hara Group wanted fresh faces. Kofo’s time was over.
But she wasn’t totally thrown out, as she was to become the new chairman of the board of directors. Her partners believed it was a fair deal; none of them could see how torn she was by their decision. It felt like the Olumeses taking Rain Textiles and her children from her all over again.
“Hara is moving away from command-and-control leadership,” the head of Hara Group explained. “More organizations are putting two leaders at the top. It’s em… It’s hardly new. Co-consuls ruled ancient Rome for nearly 500 years. I believe we’re advanced enough to understand the merits of sharing power.”
As he continued to speak, Kofo felt like reaching across the table to smash his head on the porcelain plate in front of him.
“Habib and Sunny need to each play to their individual strengths, have clear responsibilities and decision rights, and agree up front on an approach to conflict resolution.”
“We will do a marvelous job,” Habib assured them. “Right, Olumese?”
Sunny nodded. He also didn’t seem happy with the new arrangement. At least, that gave Kofo some pleasure.
After the dinner meeting, she completed her act of playing the good host by walking the men to their cars and wishing them a good night with a smile on her face. Sunny was the last to leave, but before he entered his car, he hung around.
“Our lovebirds are back,” he said, eyes on Habib’s arm, which had gone around Kofo’s waist. “I think they had a great time in Dominica. I’d love to know how their relationship is progressing. Wouldn’t you?”
“What’s he talking about?” Habib asked Kofo.
“Oh, he doesn’t know yet?”
“Good night, Sunny.”
He got into his car and drove off.
“You should leave too,” Kofo told Habib as she dropped his hand from her body and headed back in. He followed her into the house and stopped her at the staircase.
“Talk to me.”
“It feels like I’m losing everything to the Olumeses all over again!” she shouted. “You knew what Sunny did to me in the past and you advised me to go ahead with this stupid plan of appealing to those men? My own company?”
“Alma, you and I didn’t see this curveball coming. But it’s a good thing. It is for the good of Hara.”
“Why doesn’t it feel that way? Why am I here, panicking that my company would become something I won’t recognize soon?”
“It won’t. I am at the helm of affairs. Just trust me.”
Kofo shook her head. She didn’t believe him. She didn’t believe anything right now. She felt darkness coming for her, and she couldn’t stop it.
She continued upstairs to her bedroom. Habib went after her.
“We will kick Sunny out eventually. It will take years, but we will do it.”
“How? He has a legacy plan, you know that?”
“What legacy plan?”
“Remember Ituah’s bastard son?”
“Well, he’s actually Sunny’s son.”
“The Atari guy? How?”
“Long story.” Kofo took off her earrings. “The saddest part is that our sweetheart daughter is in some kind of thing with him.”
“Rain? What thing?”
“They’re having sex or dating, I don’t know. I don’t even know how they met. But I am certain that Sunny is behind it.” Kofo sat on her bed, distressed. “I messed up, Habib. I should have told her the truth years ago, so that she’ll know her enemies and be prepared to take over from me. It’s too late now.”
“It’s not. Listen to me.” Habib sat with Kofo. “It’s not too late. I believe in Rain, and I need you to believe in her too. She’s always been on the right path, and she won’t fall off this time.”
“She has a poor taste in men.”
“Agreed, but let’s not look at her through the lens of her relationships but through her accomplishments. She has done well, working with foreign companies. She will do well in Hara too. You made the best decision by ensuring Dora pushed her into IT. You prepared her for this time. You need to trust the process.”
Kofo wanted desperately to hang on to Habib’s words, but it was difficult. He had reached out to her two weeks ago, ending his grudge and agreeing to her terms of becoming co-CEO with her and selling Alma Networks to Hara Telecoms. But it came under certain clauses, which she rejected at first. However, after going back-and-forth with him, she gave in. She could see his genuineness, the sacrifice he took that had him leaving his early retirement to secure Rain’s future in Hara Telecoms.
“If there’s anything, I’m happy that you’re going to be at the top,” she said in a calmer tone. “It was all I always wanted.”
“I need you to be okay, Alma. I don’t want you back in that place your ex dragged you into years ago. It was worse than hell. Please, stay in the light. For Rain’s sake.”
“Having said that, we need to celebrate tonight. A bottle of wine, perhaps?”
“Habib…” Kofo placed her hands on his chest. Her eyes followed the wrinkles around his eyes. “Let’s not. I’m not ready to do anything with you that would make us cross dangerous lines.”
“Alma, it’s just you and me. No Ituah, no marriage vows. Stop running away from me. Stop it.”
“We’re a very complicated pair, Habib.”
“We’re older now. Let’s leave complexities to children.” He placed his hand over hers. “Marry me.”
“Listen, Alma. Listen. I’m old-fashioned—”
“Says the man who was sleeping with someone’s wife.”
“Didn’t I tell you to leave him, that I’d take better care of you?”
Kofo laughed, recalling how serious he had been that year.
“I want to do things the right way. If you want a secret marriage, that’s fine. Just…be my wife, Kofo. Do me the pleasure and honor.”
She shook her head. “I can’t. I have fought many demons, within and without, to get here. I just want to enjoy the rest of my days, happy and pampered.”
“That’s what I want too. Let’s pamper each other, Alma. Please, think on it.”
Kofo looked softly into his eyes and touched his cheek.
“Remember when I first kissed you? I walked into the kitchen and saw you washing the dishes.”
“You told me not to do it, that it was the maid’s job and my soft palms would peel and get hard.”
“But you refused and I joined you.”
Kofo could recall the heat she felt that evening. It was hard to concentrate, standing so close to him. After they were done with the dishes, he wiped her hands with a towel, then asked if he could kiss her. She wanted to protest, but her lips were stiff. They moved only when he took them with his.
“Go home, Habib.”
“How long has it been?”
“I can’t remember.”
Neither could she remember what a man felt like inside her. She once kept a lover, but that was more than ten years ago.
“Then, I’m staying the night and every other night until you realize that what we have has stood the test of time and we belong together.” He got up and gave her his hand. “Let’s get that wine or tea and sit and listen to music like two old people whose kids are all grown and left them all alone.”
She placed her hand in his and he pulled her up to meet his lips. Then he kissed her. It was a tender one, as if tasting her, trying to remember everything about her. She clung to his shirt, feeling the nerves in her fingertips and toes came alive. It felt like she would fall if she didn’t hold on to him.
Habib moaned and murmured her name before letting go of her lips.
“The wine…” Kofo whispered.
“Let it wait.”
Habib went for her mouth again, bringing her body to his. She desperately wanted him, but she had to stay focused and fight for what she had painstakingly built.
“The wine,” she said again.
“Yes, the wine.” He cleared his throat. “Let’s go.”
Kofo led the way out. She felt a tremor when his body touched hers from behind. She hastened her steps, giving him some distance, even though she knew she couldn’t escape him much longer. Habib was here to stay—in her company, in her heart, and in her bed.
Her life as she knew it was over. She didn’t know how to start afresh.
©Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages