Cheta’s visit to Ransome’s house had been a bootless errand. In three hours, she was back home, cussing herself for being vulnerable in front of a man and swearing that it would never happen again.
The house was quiet when she got in. She peeped into the living room and kitchen but didn’t find anyone. Quietly, she went up the stairs. She dropped her overnight bag in her bedroom and stopped at Obi’s door. She heard him talking to someone as she knocked. He came to the door seconds later, taking his phone away from his ear. He had been on a call.
“You’re back,” he muttered.
“Yeah.” She stared at the mess that was his bedroom. “Everything okay?”
“Good. Clean your room before breakfast tomorrow. And please, let in some fresh air…”
“He called? Why?”
“Said you weren’t picking your phone. Said you should call him back.”
“Uncle Dera called too.”
“Okay, thanks.” Cheta stared at Obi’s hair. “When are you having that haircut we talked about?”
“Never.” He turned away, attention returning to his phone.
“Obi, we talked about this. Your hair is a mess. If you want to loc it…”
“I like it this way,” he grumbled, slumping hard on his bed. “Jeez.”
She gave up.
Cheta returned to her bedroom and fetched her phone from her bag. She hadn’t looked at it since she got to Ransome’s place earlier. All she had wanted was to shut the world out, get rid of her horniness, and face her issues. Ransome, as she had expected, had been game with the dick appointment, but he had been respectful enough to let her know that he now had a woman.
“She’s in my life for political reasons.”
“The daughter to the Inspector General…”
“Of the police?”
“Yeah. For us to be taken seriously in the society, we must be married. And we must marry up.”
“Do you love this person, Rans?”
“I’m sure I’m cuter, and I’m probably better in bed. Plus, I’m your friend.”
To this, Ransome laughed.
“You actually thinking that we’re stupid enough to think you really want to get married to us?”
“Didn’t I just propose to you?”
“Cheta, I can dump my woman and marry you at the bat of an eyelid, but you’re playing games with me. I don’t want to be used to get back at Hadiza and your parents. Secondly, you’re the type who marries for love, and you’re so not in love with me. You love him.”
Cheta noted that he had deliberately avoided mentioning Nero’s name since she shared her story with him. But he was right about Nero. The feelings were growing by the second.
She left the bed and poured herself a glass of wine to down her disappointment.
“But we can still spread you like butter and make you cum so hard you pass out.”
“I’m not going to be your sidechick or whatever.”
She returned to the bed and sat next to Ransome.
“You remember Mimi?” she asked.
“Yes, I remember Laja’s ex basic bitch.”
“You remember how we all knew that marriage wasn’t going to work from the start, but he disregarded our warnings?”
“Are you trying to say that’s going to happen to me?”
“I’m just telling you not to do something you’ll regret.”
“I’ve heard. Now, let’s talk Hadiza. How do we handle her?”
Cheta did not want to think about Hadiza. There were more pressing issues on her mind to worry about. Her production company was one of them. She had almost forgotten how hard it was to set up a business in Nigeria. Sunflux Entertainment had drained her finances. To save up on cash, she had set up office at Laja Towers, taking an entire floor by using her position as co-owner. The management wasn’t happy about it, but they didn’t have much say on the matter. Nero, though not speaking to her at the time she made the decision, sent an email to the management to show his support for her.
“I’m not interested in talking about Hadiza. I just came to vent.”
“How about every other thing you told me? Your mom…”
“Don’t want to talk about that either.”
“Well, you’re all cried out, which means that you’ve self-soothed and you’re ready to blow shit up.”
“Hadiza is not someone you should toy with,” Ransome stated. “I haven’t personally met her, but I’ve heard stories from my inner political circle. She didn’t entirely go off the political scene; she still ran shit in her wheelchair. She’s a godmother of some sort right now. You don’t want to mess with that type of woman. I want to believe that you’re prepared for her.”
“I’m not afraid of her, Rans. If she wants a fight, I’ll give her one, but I’m sure that there are better ways to handle her.”
“If you say so. How about money?” he asked. “How much do you need to keep things oiled up for business?”
Cheta cringed within, slapping herself for having been vulnerable to him earlier about her financial needs. She had explained that she was so broke that she was thinking of dumping business for a while and taking a job offer from a South African production company.
“I’ll be fine joor. I just need you to sign off on that documentary I told you about.”
“I’ll make it work. The process of releasing the cash is where the ish is. Government bureaucracy and bla-bla, but I can hasten it. In the meanwhile, send me your account number. Let me do sugar daddy for you small.”
Cheta smiled, but she knew that she would first roll down a hill of thorns before sending her account details to him. The only man whom she had allowed to help her financially was Laja. Being maltreated by her parents had taught her to be independent. The pride she attached to her worth was factory-fitted.
Cheta went for more wine, reaching for an untouched bottle. As she grasped a corkscrew, she felt Ransome behind her.
“We love you, you know that?” he said. “Yeah, we do.”
Ransome was irresistible when he wanted to be, and this was one of those times.
Later at home, after the burn of her lust had cleared, she would accept that it had been her horniness at play here, not his irresistibility.
She made no protests when he took her waist, pulling her body into his. His hands started to do a thing she liked to her bum.
“You could be the best girlfriend I’d ever have, but the wife part…”
She wanted him to shut up and do things to her body. And he did by breathing at the back of her neck and nibbling on her lower lip. He was a nibbler, he enjoyed lite sadomasochism.
She pushed backwards, longing for him to press his body into hers, but he took his time, cupping her breasts first. She drew in her breath as he eventually moved in closer and pressed his straining erection on her bum. His hand then traveled from her breast to her neck and held her lightly there.
“You’re too untamed for my liking, Chichetaram. That’s the problem here.”
He released her body, cupped her bum and dropped his weight to bury his face to it. Knowing what was coming next, Cheta held on to the table and arched her back as he tugged up her dress. When his warm lips touched her labia, she let out a sigh that came with a moan. She hadn’t done this in a long time.
But when she shut her eyes to enjoy the moment, Nero’s face invaded her thoughts without warning. She opened her eyes again, and it seemed like some form of common sense jarred her. A struggle began. She wanted this moment; she didn’t want this moment. She needed Ransome badly; no, she didn’t need him. She was dying for the feel of a man’s body all over hers; nope, she wasn’t dying for shit.
“Stop,” she muttered.
Ransome paused. “You said?”
“Are you serious?”
“You have a girlfriend, Rans.” Cheta moved away from his mouth, pulling her dress down.
“Does it matter?”
He sighed and slowly stood.
“I should head home.” She walked away from the table to the bed where she had kept her handbag. “We’ll talk later.”
“You’re a cocktease,” he groaned. “Sha send me your account details.”
He walked her downstairs and to her car. When she drove out of the compound, she reached for tissues in a box at the backseat and soaked up the wet mess between her legs, but it wasn’t enough to suppress her heat. She was still aroused, even now, as she returned Dera’s call.
“I thought you were mad at me or something,” he said in a sleepy tone.
“Mad at you? Why?”
“I don’t know… How are you?”
He didn’t say anything for a few seconds.
“Cheta, I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? For what?”
“For everything. For coming into your life and taking your space and…”
“Stop it, Dera. It was never your fault. Yes, I would have liked you to be a little more supportive of me as an elder brother, but I think you’ve done well.”
“I’m still your elder brother?”
His tone touched her. “Of course, you are. Nothing’s changed.”
“I’m very sorry for all you’ve gone through.”
“It’s fine, really.”
“And I want you to forgive them. I know it’s hard, but they are your parents. Please, forgive them.”
“Dera, I’m not holding a grudge. They should just respect the fact that I’m an adult and I can make my own decisions.”
“But is it wrong for them to want to see you get married?”
“No. They retain the right to desire that for me, just as I retain the right to remain single if I want to.”
“Dera, please, not this night. Don’t be a mouthpiece for those people after everything they did to me.”
“And you said you don’t have a grudge.”
Cheta groaned. This was still her elder brother in all his annoying ways. “Let’s not have this talk, please.”
“Would you be more willing to discuss it tomorrow?”
“The day after?”
Cheta hung up. She tossed her phone to the side and her eyes wandered to her closet. Hidden somewhere in there was the best vibrating dildo she had ever used. The thought of it both annoyed and pleased her, but generally, what she wanted was a man. Not a motorized cock.
She left her bedroom to Gold’s. She found the door open and saw her friend dancing to music she was listening to on her earphones. She was in front of the mirror, applying a green mask on her face.
Cheta watched her for a bit, recalling how hard they had partied together in their first two years in school. Gold had been a cute mess when she first met her. She had come to school that morning, not wearing a bra, getting the attention of not only the students but also the lecturer who was taking them in a 7 o’clock class. He sent her out of the hall after she was stupid enough to show herself by asking a question. Cheta was standing outside the hall, not because she didn’t get a seat, but because she hated going for lectures. She watched as Gold stomped out angrily, unrestrained breasts bopping to the amusement of other students. Seconds later, she was face flat on the ground, having been tripped over by a boy who stuck out his foot as she hurried by.
There was a roar of laughter that stirred virtuous anger in Cheta. She put away her freezing bottle of Coke and went to Gold’s side.
“Are you okay?” She stuck out her hand and Gold looked at her curiously before accepting the hand. Cheta glared at the boy who had made her fall. “You’re a retard.”
She pulled Gold up, but she noticed that she wasn’t willing to rise past kneeling level.
“My skirt tore.”
Gold was holding on to the long skirt she wore. Earlier, it had boasted of a high slit, reaching all the way to her upper thigh. Cheta tried not to think about how higher the slit now was.
“Chill, I’m coming.” She unbuttoned her denim jacket and handed it to Gold, who wrapped it around her waist and helped herself up. There was more hooting from the crowd outside now, and it took Cheta a few seconds to recall that she also wasn’t wearing a bra underneath. Luckily for her, she didn’t have Gold’s type of massive breasts. She held her head up, hooked her arm in Gold’s and they left the school together, finding amusement over the drama along the way. They became friends that day.
Gold had had been on every boy’s fuck list. Cheta was hot too, but she was not as wanted as her friend was. It had to do with Gold’s curves. Her face wasn’t always a stunner, and in comparison to Cheta’s, she couldn’t stand a chance. Yet, she got most of the attention. Almost two decades later, she was still a distraction to men.
“I can’t remember when last I danced in a party,” she said to Cheta as she moved away from the mirror.
“I can’t remember when last I went for an actual party.”
Gold turned off her Bluetooth speaker and searched Cheta’s face through the mirror to see if she was still angry with her.
Gold rushed to her and hugged her. “A man can never come between us.”
“Story. All you need is Ozzy back in your life to kickstart the Golzzy train and your brain turns to mush and starts draining from every orifice of your body.”
Gold disentangled from her. “You’re still mad at me.”
“Of course, I am. But let’s not talk about it. Let’s talk about my affliction of horniness. Argh!” She fell backwards on Gold’s bed.
“You’re ovulating, abi you’re on?”
Everyone knew about Cheta’s aggressive lust, triggered by her cycle.
“Worse.” Gold lay beside her in same manner. “You think it would be such a bad thing to hire a long-term boyfriend for you just for the sex? It’s bad for you as a Christian, though…”
“Says someone who is actively having premarital sex.”
“I’m no longer doing that. I spent the whole day, praying and fasting, and asking God to cleanse me of everything I did with Basim.”
“How is Basim taking that?”
“He’s not. We’re no longer together.”
Cheta raised her body up, resting on her elbows. “Why?”
“Hadiza. The woman is coming for me. She’s done with Ozzy and I’m next. She’ll kill me, Cheta.”
Cheta relaxed on the bed again. “Chill. Nothing is happening to you.”
“I’m not you, Cheta. You can say that because you’re the mother of her grandchild.”
“I said relax joor. She won’t do you anything. Stick with Basim, if you want. In fact, date him. He really likes you.”
“He told you that?”
Cheta had a talk with Basim about Gold almost a week ago. It was refreshing to watch a grown man talk about his feelings for a woman.
“Yeah. He wants to be your man. Don’t say no.”
Gold sat up. “And Hadiza?”
“Let me handle her on your behalf.”
This was part of Cheta’s grand plan for Hadiza. She was going to defy her wishes, except for one.
“How did it even go in Abuja? You didn’t tell me.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Cheta said. She was itching to unburden to Gold about Nero and how he was constantly burning on her mind, but Gold was no longer on the list of people she trusted.
Cheta sat up as well. “We’ll be meeting tomorrow to sort out custody issues.”
“So, you’re saying that Hadiza accepted you without any stress?”
“Didn’t I just say I didn’t want to talk about it?”
“Okay, back to Basim. He sent me a message this morning, asking me if I was serious about my bakery business, that he wanted to set it up for me.”
Gold and her million business ideas always amused Cheta. But the baking side of her had been a constant along the years.
“You’re serious about it?”
“Then do it.”
“With Basim’s help?”
“Yeah, babe. Do it.”
Encouraged, Gold nodded. She was always an easy person to convince. It never mattered how strongly she felt about something, once you gave her a good reason to think about something else, she abandoned her initial convictions.
“I’ll front small sha. Do you think one week is too long?”
Gold nodded again. Cheta undressed, and left in the nude, she dug under Gold’s blanket. “Come and hug me. I need someone’s touch.”
“That’s so gay.”
Cheta’s tummy churned as she remembered her mom. She wasn’t homophobic, but the thought of her mother being a lesbian didn’t sit right with her, especially with the type of woman her mom had been along the years.
“Let me kuku go and sleep in my room.”
Gold hated being cuddled while she slept. Cheta was a cuddler.
Cheta picked Gold’s wrapper from the bed, wrapped herself in it, and returned to her bedroom. She then went for the vibrating dildo in her closet.
“Hi.” She stared at it. “Can I call you Nero tonight?”
“Is she coming to stay with us?”
“For a while.”
Cheta glanced at her son’s face. He had the expression he always got when he didn’t approve of something. And he had been quite disapproving of her choices lately.
Firstly, it was the visit to Ransome’s, which he knew nothing about. An entire week had gone by, yet he still held it against her. In his head, she had gone to have sex with one of the numerous men in her life.
Over the years, he had witnessed her date different men, none of whom she took seriously. The one that lasted long enough to stay got up one day and ghosted her, the same way she had ghosted Nero. Obi had been attached to that particular boyfriend, so much that he had a heartbreak when the relationship ended. The boy appeared to have blamed her for the demise of that relationship. She had tried to talk to him about it, but he had shut her down each time. He was the king of passive-aggressiveness.
Another thing that he was critical of was the fact that she had rejected Nero’s invitation to a dinner date some days ago. He had overheard them speaking about it when Nero came to get him for a sleepover. When he returned the following morning, he asked Cheta about it and why she had said no.
“Obi, it’s between your dad and I. Stop eavesdropping on people. It’s a bad habit.”
Frowning, he walked away from her. Today, he also did not support her decision to let Aunty Kamharida and a cousin come visit for a while. Obi liked both women, but he liked his space a bit too much.
“Maybe I should stay with Dad for the weekend?” he requested.
Cheta regarded him from the vegetables she was slicing and saw him trying on a bribery smile. He always looked cuter whenever he smiled like that.
“Fine, you can go.”
Cheta continued with the vegetables but stopped when she heard him say, “Should I ask him to get me the PS5?”
“Why would you do that?”
“He has one already. If I ask him to buy it for me…”
“Obi, he already bought you a new phone and that thing you’re wearing on your head.”
“It’s a Bluetooth beanie.”
“Yeah, and the drone. What more do you want?”
“Chill, Mom. He asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I thought I should tell you first, since you promised to get me the PS5.”
Cheta pacified herself as she recalled that she had carelessly promised to get him a PS5 because she had failed to get him a PS4 a couple of years ago.
“I’ll still get it for you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Obi, you know I try to keep my promises as much as I can. And you see this one? I’ll get it for you. Don’t stress your dad.”
“It’s not stressing. He has the money.”
Obi’s words came with a sting. She needed to talk to Nero about his indulgence with the boy. He had him feeling like he could get anything he wanted just by asking. That was not the way she had raised her son.
“I’m done with the eba. Can I go now?”
Cheta checked to be sure that his words matched his eba wrapping skills. She then nodded in approval.
“Where are you going again?” she asked him.
“I told you I wanted to get my drone from Yomi.”
“Obi, you hardly have the thing for two seconds and you’re already letting Yomi play with it? That boy is the most careless person I ever met.”
Obi wasn’t listening, he was typing on his phone.
“Should I use the car?”
“Yes, but tell Bassey to take you and bring you home.”
“Mom, let me drive na.”
“No. Not today.”
He didn’t complain. He left the house through the backdoor. Cheta added the sliced vegetables to the soup she was making and picked her phone. Last night, Nero had called and she didn’t answer. She returned his call now.
“Hey,” he answered. He sounded like he was still in bed. It was past ten in the morning.
“I’m returning your call.”
“I called?” he yawned.
“Yeah, last night.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know. I must have drunk-dialed you.”
“How are you?”
“I’m good,” she answered.
“He’s fine. He stepped out for a bit.”
“Did he tell you I invited him to spend the weekend?”
“Yeah. Made it sound like his idea, though.”
“I was going to talk to you about it, but he said he’d ask you first.”
“It’s fine. You guys have a lot of catching up to do.”
“Yeah. I was thinking that you and I could do some catching up of our own too… And just before you say no, think about the many fun things we could be doing.”
Cheta laughed quietly.
“Breakfast tomorrow? I know a beach.”
“I don’t like beaches.”
“You’ll love this one.”
She smiled. This was what she wanted—him, wanting her. But it was not in her plan against Hadiza.
“Awesome. I’ll come get Obi later this evening.”
“See you later.”
Cheta hung up and nursed a blush on her face for a while. Gold caught her in the middle of it.
“Nero?” she asked, walking into the kitchen.
“You’re lying. But wait first…” She drew in a long breath, taking in the aroma of the soup. “Cheta, you make the best soups.”
“What’s the occasion?”
“Aunty Kamharida and Naza.” Cheta watched Gold’s face fall. “They’ll be staying for a while.”
“Perfect,” Gold replied in sarcasm. “I can as well just end my life now.”
“Haba. They’re not that bad na.”
“Can you hear yourself? Aunty Kamhari always looks at me like a gold-digger. Oh, wait. She actually called me that. Then, Naza? Let’s not go there. We met only once and she hates me.”
“If it’s any consolation, Naza hates my guts too.”
“They are your family.”
“Just try and manage, Goldie. They won’t stay here permanently.”
Gold gave her a ‘whatever’ look. “Do you need help with anything?”
“Yes. Just help me clean up. I’m done with the soup. I want to go and shower.”
Cheta washed her hands, turned off the cooker, and went upstairs. The moment she entered her bedroom, she turned on her surround system on high volume and proceeded to sing along to songs from her favorite playlist as she had a shower. When she stepped out of the bathroom, she found Gold entering her bedroom.
“They’re here.” She had a grim face on.
“They’re downstairs. Aunty Kamharida already made jokes about my weight. Something about me turning into a pot of gold because I’m already twice my weight in gold.”
Cheta covered her mouth to stifle laughter.
“I’ll just throw away my dignity and go and live in sin with Basim.”
“Like that was not the plan initially”
“See you later.”
Gold left the bedroom. Cheta put a robe on and went downstairs. She heard the voices of her aunt and cousin in the kitchen. From the way Kamharida spoke, Cheta could tell that she was eating already.
She burst into the kitchen with a smile.
“There’s my favorite baby girl!” Kamharida exclaimed, rising up from her seat. In front of her was a wrap of eba and a dish of soup. “Come and hug me, luv!”
Cheta gave her overweight cousin an eye before sweeping towards Kamharida. She hugged the older woman, then turned to spread open her arms to Naza.
“That’s not happening,” Naza folded her arms over her breasts.
“Babe, it’s been six years. Must you fight with everybody?”
“You ghosted me, Cheta.”
“I know, and I have apologized endlessly, Chinaza. Can we kiss and make up? I missed you.”
Naza rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t hide the smile in them. They hugged and Cheta lingered to feel the comfort of Naza’s body. She loved cuddles; Laja had given her the best ones.
“Let me go.”
“I missed you. Plus, you smell nice. You always smell nice. Not like that meaty smell your fellow fat people carry around.”
“Don’t start with the fat-shaming jokes. Ugh!” Naza pushed her away but touched her cheek. “How are you, though? Are you fine? Any man in your life? Any man you can dash me?”
“For God’s sake, Naza,” Kamharida scolded.
“It’s Lagos, Naz,” Cheta answered. “Last I checked, Yoruba men are spilling over from every corner. Na you go tire.”
Naza was never ashamed to admit that she was always man-hungry—especially for Yoruba men. She claimed that they had the same morals she possessed. In addition, she was their spec. She had abundant breasts, bursting hips and a backside that had caused enough trouble in her lifetime. Naza had once been responsible for an accident while walking down a busy street. It was a minor one, but an accident, nonetheless. She had been hoping to cause more since then. In the same manner she triggered members of the family. No one could tell her anything on any matter that pertained her life. She was the family’s second rebel, assuming Kamharida’s role. Her parents were always on the brink of disowning her. They would admit that their biggest mistake, asides letting her grow fat, was to allow her leave the country to school. Naza had gone from the sweet ten-year-old they entrusted in the hands of relatives to a sassy, tattooed, multiple piercings, penis-worshipping, rebellious woman. Her mom, in particular, had given up on her. She was now concentrating on raising her last daughter in the same manner she had raised Naza’s elder sister.
“Come and take me to my room.” Naza pointed to the set of suitcases she had come with. “Those are all mine.”
Cheta showed a frown. “You’re staying for only two weeks and you brought all of that?”
“Cheta, I’m fat. My clothes occupy more space.”
“Sorry o.” Cheta picked two of the suitcases and left her with the heavier ones.
“Like I told you, I want the room downstairs…”
“No, that’s for Aunty Kam, because of her knee.”
Naza grumbled. Cheta led her up to the room she prepared for her.
“It’s nice actually,” Naza muttered, looking around. “You can be organized when you try.”
Cheta looked at her and saw stress lines on her face. “I’m sorry I ghosted you, Naz. It was a difficult time for me. I took Obi from my parents and they started giving me hell… I had just moved to Lagos then, trying to get myself sorted out. Major depression. I was…”
Naza cut her off with a hug. “It’s okay. Aunty Kam explained everything to me.” She let her go. “I’ve been through hell myself.”
“You want to talk?”
Naza shook her head, then smiled. “I got you something. I got for Obi too. Where is he?”
“He went out. He’ll soon be back.”
“So,” Naza sat on the bed, “what club are you taking me to today?”
Cheta cringed. “I don’t party like I used to, Naz.”
Naza looked unimpressed. “Gold will take me then. She’ll take us.”
“Gold is spending the weekend with her boyfriend.”
“Then, it’s you. No excuses.”
Cheta gave in.
“Oya, come and gist me about Obi’s dad, since you’ve finally decided to tell the whole world who he is.”
“About that…” Cheta scratched her head. “My parents don’t know yet. So, let’s keep it to ourselves.”
“Oya tell me about him. Aunty Kam showed me his pictures. He’s soooo fine! His Instagram is fire! Girrrrl! Marry that man already!”
Cheta laughed. “Nero and I are not…”
“Have you eaten? Aren’t you hungry?”
“I’m on a diet.” Naza grabbed her hand and pulled her down to the bed. “Talk!”
Cheta’s phone rang. She jumped up to take the call.
“Bassey, talk to me.”
“Ma…” he muttered.
“Ma, there’s a small problem o.”
“Small problem? What’s wrong with the car?”
“I don’t know, ma.”
“What do you mean by you don’t know? What happened?”
“I don’t know. Iz Obi that say I should call you because he’s afraid to call you. I think he has done accident with the car.”
“Accident? Bassey, I don’t understand. Are you not with him?”
“Me? No. He said that you said that I should give him key.”
“And you gave him?”
“Ma, you say I should not give him?”
“Bassey, I will handle you later. Where is he right now?”
“He said Chevron.”
“Get your ass there and wait for me. I’ll meet you people.”
“Okay, ma. Please, come with money, ma. Iz as if he is the one that hit somebody.”
Cheta ended the call and swore. She explained the situation to Naza who offered to go with her. They requested for the services of an Uber. When it came, Gold went along as well.
They arrived at Chevron, at the scene of the crash. Obi was with his friend, Yomi. Bassey was there as well. Cheta’s SUV didn’t look so damaged, but the other car that Obi had run into would need some time in an auto workshop. The owner was an older woman who was enraged and threatening to have Obi locked up when Cheta arrived.
Naza stepped in and spoke to her, bringing her to calm after much pleading. They reached an agreement about fixing the damages caused by Obi, since the woman didn’t have insurance. Cheta would wait to get word from an unbiased mechanic about how much the repairs would cost; afterwards, she would pay to have the car fixed.
“I need collateral,” the woman said.
“You need what?” Cheta asked.
“Something to keep, in case you don’t keep to your promise.”
“You want money?”
“No o! So that you’ll disappear completely?” She shook her head. “Don’t use Lagos sense on me, young lady.”
Cheta gave her a thorough stare. She didn’t seem much older than she was. What was with the young lady talk?
“I like that your phone.”
“Ha-ahn?” Naza eyed her. She looked at Cheta. “She’s mad, right? Madam, that’s an iPhone 12 Pro.”
“That’s why I want it. Or do I take your car?”
Cheta had a better idea. She marched to her SUV, opened the backseat and picked Obi’s drone.
“Mom?” Obi called, going after her. “Mom, no.”
Cheta returned to the woman who glowered at the drone. “What’s this?”
“It’s a drone. Trust me, it’s more expensive than my phone. You can keep it until your car is fixed.”
“Come on, Mom.”
The woman took the drone and gave Obi a harsh stare. “That boy is too young to be driving a car,” she said as she turned to leave. A car had just arrived to fetch her. “Every responsible parent knows that you don’t let teenagers behind the wheel.”
“Excuse me?” Cheta asked. Gold placed a pacifying hand on her.
“I said what I said, young lady. Do better as a mother. Anyway, I don’t blame you single mothers. I blame the men who abandoned you to raise children alone. Useless men everywhere. Deadbeat fathers.”
“Excuse you!” Cheta retorted. “What the fuck does that mean?”
“Ah! Hear the type of word you’re using your mouth to speak. No wonder your son is the way he is. My dear, I’m not fighting you. I’m just advising you to do better. In a sane country, you’d be jailed for endangering his life by giving him a car at this age—”
“My friend, will you shut up!” Naza cut in. “What do you know about sane countries? Be going home with your dirty isi owu!”
The woman looked aghast. She then gave Naza a nasty glare, as if just noticing her. Cheta could tell that she was drawing parallels between her dressing and the manner in which she addressed her. Naza was in shorts and a t-shirt that almost covered the shorts, making it look like she was wearing the t-shirt alone.
The woman hissed, muttered something about prostitutes, and entered her backup car.
“Did she just call us prostitutes?” Naza asked. Gold nodded.
“Obiedika,” Cheta called. He and his friend were now standing under a tree nearby. He walked to Cheta, head bowed. “Can you tell me when you started defying me and doing stuff behind my back?”
“I’m sorry, Mom.”
“You’re sorry? Do you know how much it’ll take me to fix that car and mine? Have you any idea the sort of mess you’ve gotten me into right now? You’re lucky that for some reason, there were no policemen here today. You’d have ended up behind bars! I told you not to drive yourself! I gave you instructions, but you disobeyed me! That’s how we want to start doing now?”
“No, Mom. I just wanted—”
“Will you shut the fuck up! What makes you think you have the right to give me any fucking excuses?”
“I only wanted to—”
“I said SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
“Cheta, calm down,” Gold pleaded.
“Abeg, leave me! Look at the nonsense insult I just received because of him!”
“That woman was a bitch,” Naza stated. “I should have slapped her.”
“Obi, get your ass in that car right now! Where’s my key?”
He handed her the car key.
“Get in the car! And you, Yomi, get your ass home, and let this be the last time I see you near my son!”
“You are bad for each other! You don’t make any good decisions when you’re together! So, let this be the end!”
“Mom, you can’t do that.”
“Try me, Obi! Just try me! My friend, get into the car! And you, disappear!”
The boys obeyed her. She marched to her vehicle and assessed the damage for the fourth time. “This is a Mercedes, for heaven’s sake,” she grumbled. “Where do I have the money to fix this car? Why did Obi do this to me? I don’t need this stress in my life right now.”
Gold stood beside her and rubbed her back. “It’s going to be fine.”
“Obi?” she peeped at him. “There goes your PS5!” She pointed at the smashed vehicle that was now being towed away.
“And no, you cannot ask your dad to get it for you!”
Cheta got into the vehicle and scolded Obi all the way home. She said one or two things to him that she knew she would regret later, but she didn’t stop. Neither Gold nor Naza could placate her.
At home, she poured her frustration on Bassey too, threatening to fire him if he annoyed her one more time. She then sent him to the auto repair shop with the vehicle.
Her day was ruined, and no one could uplift her spirit. It was always this way with her whenever she got angry. She alone could soothe herself.
She stayed in her bedroom until dusk when she changed into a short dress and put on some makeup. It was for Nero’s benefit, but she lied to herself that it wasn’t.
She saw his car pull up minutes later. She picked her phone and went downstairs. Obi was already dressed and packed for the weekend. Her anger was now gone and she regretted the harsh words she told him earlier. She wasn’t going to make it easy for him, however.
“Behave yourself there,” she instructed. “Don’t touch any of his cars. You know how he is with them.”
Obi didn’t respond. There was a knock on the front door. He went for it.
“Good evening,” he greeted Nero who was standing outside.
“Hey, Obi.” He peeped in and his face melted into a smile at the sight of Cheta. She smiled back.
“Hi,” she responded.
“Glad to see you smiling.”
“Obi told me what happened.”
“I’m sorry about the stress. I want to help you fix both cars.”
“No, don’t worry. I have it covered.”
“It’s nothing. I have a tab at this mechanic workshop, the best in Lagos. They can fix anything…”
“Nero, I’m okay, seriously.”
“All right.” He looked at Obi. “Ready?”
“Yeah. Um… Dad, can I stay until next weekend?”
Nero looked at Cheta. “Ask your mom.”
“He can stay. I don’t even want to see his face right now.”
Obi hurried out of the house.
“He’s really sorry,” Nero said.
“Not as sorry as I want him to be.”
“You already canceled his PS5. That’s a major heartbreak there. Take it easy on him, he’s just a kid.”
“Really?” Cheta crossed her arms. “You’re a better parent than I am now?”
Nero didn’t take the bait. “Breakfast tomorrow is pretty early. Be ready by seven.”
He turned around and left the house.
“Na wa o!” Naza exclaimed, popping out from the living room. “He’s yummier in real life.”
“Can you behave yourself?”
“Three of you actually make a beautiful-looking family.”
“Well, we both know it takes more than beauty to make a family.”
“So, the club thing…”
Cheta sighed. She unlocked her phone and dialed a friend. There was always someone willing to give her a good time in Lagos.
Naza was bad influence, the proverbial devil that loved to sit on people’s shoulders and destroy them one whisper at a time. Cheta had never met anyone so determined to be bad, not realizing that she was already foul to the core. There was always one new trouble she had to conjure.
For tonight, it was drunkenness. It wasn’t a new thing with her, but she was determined to get Cheta drunk, no matter what it took. Cheta, on the other hand, was old in the game. You couldn’t get her drunk even if you offered her a million dollars to drop her guard. She was the worst version of herself under alcohol intoxication, and she had vowed never to get drunk if she could help it. Hence, Naza’s plans flopped.
At exactly 3:00 a.m., Cheta called a cab and went home, leaving Naza in the company of trusted friends. She snuggled under the blanket, dreaming about her date with Nero.
When daylight came, she was up and dressed, ready for him. He called at seven to inform her that he was waiting outside her house. Cheta gave herself a final look in the mirror before she made her exit.
Nero had come with a truck today—not exactly what she would have picked for a date. But it was a 2020 Ford F-150 Raptor, and it already gave her a mini orgasm to see the monster parked outside her gate.
“He-ehn! No o! I have to take a picture with this,” she said. Nero laughed. He stepped down and asked her to pose for the camera. When he was done, he showed her the photos he took.
“You’re good at this thing. No wonder all your pictures on Instagram look peng.”
She stared at him weirdly. “Do you realize that we’re dressed alike?”
“Yeah. Noticed you in all your white sexiness from the moment you walked out of that gate while you were ogling the ugly truck.”
“You’re looking good. I mean, you’re stunning, radiant, beyond gorgeous… Okay, that’s a lot.”
“You’re not bad yourself.”
He was dressed in white, adorned in a casual pair of white jeans and a matching t-shirt. Cheta also had a white-on-white arrangement of bum shorts and a crop top. She had slapped on a sky-blue denim jacket that went with the pair of sneakers on her feet. They both wore sunglasses.
“Beach ready?” Nero asked.
“Let’s do it.” She was grinning for the sheer pleasure of being in the truck. “Can I drive?”
“You want to drive?”
“So badly my clit tickles.”
Nero gave a naughty smile.
“Forget I said that. Just let me drive please.”
“It’s all yours. It’s not so much fun on the road because it’s meant for rough terrain and such, but you’ll absolutely love the dominating feeling it gives you.”
“I can’t wait!”
They got into the car and Cheta brought the beast to life. She steered it away from her neighborhood with ease that could only come from experience with machines like this. She must have cum a million times behind the wheel. While she was awestruck by the car, Nero, seated beside her, was impressed by her control.
“Even I had to get a little used to it when I first drove it. And it gives me the same feeling each time I switch from a smaller car. But you…”
“Cars become me, Okiemute.”
“Then, let’s get you one that’s tailor-made for you.”
She frowned. “In the name of what?”
“In the name of you having raised my son all on your own and I owe you arrears of parenting expenses.”
“Is this about the car he bashed?”
“Maybe. Obi told me that the woman wanted yours in exchange. Maybe if you gave her…”
“Stop right there, Nero. What happened yesterday was between her and me. You’re so not coming in to save the day.”
“That’s not what this is. I owe you…”
“You don’t owe me, Oghenero.”
They were silent for a bit.
“You’re a proud woman, you know that?”
“My pride has saved me from being used like a roll-on by men.”
“I don’t use women like a roll-on.”
“I didn’t mention you.”
“You said men.”
“Exactly. Not Nero. Don’t do a ‘not-all’ over this.”
“Okay.” A few seconds passed, and then he muttered, “Not all men.”
“So, I was thinking that you could share with me the songs in your iTunes library.”
“Because, if I recall, you had such a wonderful taste in music. It would be tragic if I didn’t get to hear what you’re listening to now. Don’t take it as creepy; it’s just me panicking over the fact that I’m missing the best songs and singers out there. Imagine me stumbling into Jack & Jack just randomly.”
“Oh, they’re good.”
“I mistakenly found them, Cheta! Can you imagine? How many more awesome musicians am I missing?”
“I totally understand.”
They talked some more about music, then switched to cars. By this time, they were driving into their destination. It was a beach resort off Lagos. Nero swore that their breakfast dishes were to die for.
He helped Cheta down from the truck, clutching her waist with steady hands. She wanted him to hold her for longer, she wanted to hide her face in his neck and sniff him a little more. She wanted him, not in the way that his mother wanted her to want him. Marriage was far from her mind, but so was walking away from him. She had decided that she would tell him the truth about the accident that happened almost seventeen years ago. She had come to peace with the fact that he might hate her for it. She was also ready for what life would throw her way after that. But one thing she couldn’t do was give anyone any sort of leverage over her. Having cried all her tears at Ransome’s that night, she freed herself from the weight of that tragic episode on Giri Road.
“Obi is a blessed kid,” Nero said as they walked towards their breakfast spot. “I look at him and I’m proud. I want to so badly say ‘I did that’ but I can’t.”
“Thank my parents. They somehow know how to raise boys better than girls.”
“Hey, you turned out fine, despite the abuse.”
“My mom is crazy about you. What did you two talk about that made her fall in love with you that deeply?”
Cheta shrugged. “I’m not telling.”
They arrived at their table and Nero pulled a chair for Cheta. They sat, both of them picking up menu booklets at the same time. They paused when they noticed the uniformity in their action. They looked at each other and laughed.
“If my cousin saw this—us—she’d build a future for us, complete with kids around our table and stuff.”
“And that’s so bad?”
Cheta covered her face with the menu. “I didn’t say that.”
“I see that future for us too. Not with the many kids, but…”
Cheta cleared her throat. A waiter seemed to have dropped in from nowhere.
He took their orders and left. Having nothing to distract them, they talked about Obi and their plans for him as regards school. Nero wanted to be his major and only provider.
“You’ve done enough. Let me take over.”
“That’s not how parenting is done.”
“Also, I would have to start sending you child support every month until he’s eighteen.”
Cheta showed unease.
“I’m sorry. I noticed you don’t like talking about money.”
“Is it because you had to hustle all on your own through the years?”
“Nero, please, stop.”
Their breakfast arrived. Cheta ate in silence while Nero talked about Obi some more. He stopped after a while and apologized for being talkative.
“He’s your son. See it like you seeing him crawl and walk for the first time…”
“But you missed all that too.”
Cheta nodded. There was always pain in her heart whenever she recalled how easily she handed Obi over to her parents.
“You did the right thing, giving him up.”
Nero briefly touched her hand from across the table before he went on with his Obi adoration. Later, following breakfast, they took a walk along the shoreline, both holding on to their shoes.
“What do you want from me, Cheta?” Nero asked.
“You clearly aren’t crazy about money, you cringe when I bring up the idea of marriage… But you are here with me on a very romantic date at the beach on a lovely Saturday morning. What do you want? Sex?”
“So that you can disappear again from my life after another Spartan encounter?”
Cheta was about to reply but a frisky wave from the sea washed over their legs suddenly, making her yelp. She grabbed Nero’s arm for support. He waited for her to steady herself before they continued walking.
“What do you want?” he repeated.
“I don’t know,” Cheta answered. “I like you, obviously. It’s like old feelings and fresh ones at the same time… Nero, I don’t know.”
“I know you don’t have a man. Obi told me that you’re single with a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign at the door of your heart.”
“What?” Cheta laughed. “Obi said that?”
“So, would you let me take off that sign?”
Cheta blushed. “No.”
“Just a little? See how it feels to be disturbed? Let me be your distraction and break that habit?”
“Oshey! You’re now toasting me with Jack & Jack?”
“A brother has to try, Chichetaram.”
A second but fiercer wave washed up over their legs and Cheta felt herself falling. Nero caught her and she clung to him.
“I told you I hated the beach, it’s overrated.”
“You’re so dramatic.”
“Am I? Is it normal to feel this sharp pain on your foot when water washes over it?”
“Sharp pain?” Nero stared down. His brows winched up.
“It’s a crab, isn’t it?”
“Why always me? Every freaking time I go to the beach something weird happens! The other time, it was a tiny turtle chasing me.”
Nero laughed, lowering to a squat. “Cheta, turtles are slow as fuck.”
“It was swimming towards me and I fell down because the waves pulled me…”
“Hold on.” He freed her right big toe from the claws of the attacking crab. “Done.”
She stared down. “I’m bleeding. Now, I’m going to die because that crab is dirty and infectious and it just gave me a disease. Wasn’t it how that Australian crocodile guy died?”
“A stingray killed him, Cheta.”
“I know, but my point is that it was a water creature. It could have been a crab, just like this particular crab could have been a stingray.”
Nero stood, looking at her as if she were a child. She was embarrassed that she had actual tears in her eyes.
“You won’t die, Cheta. It’s just a cut.”
“I can’t move my leg.”
“You can. You just don’t want to.”
“Carry me on your back. It’s all part of the romantic thing nau. Imagine if we ended the date with this incident, God forbid. It’s more romantic to end it with me on your back.”
Nero was amused. He took a few seconds to laugh. “What’s the importance of this date ending romantically to you?”
“You want something to look back on and fantasize over later?”
“And that begs my question again. What do you want from me, Eden?”
Cheta pulled back. “Wow. You called my Christian name, which I never told you. Obi is in deep trouble.”
“I’m serious here.”
“Carry me on your back and I’ll whisper it in your ear.”
Nero lowered his frame and Cheta burst into laughter.
“Do I look like a joke to you, Cheta?”
“I’m heavy o. 82kg.”
“Nothing I can’t handle. Your toe is still bleeding. Hop on.”
Cheta climbed over his back and he straightened up. “If you’re dying from the weight, talk o. Don’t be forming macho man.”
“Obi is so right about you. You can be annoying.”
“And sweet too.” She kissed his cheek as he walked back the way they came. The sun shone above them, but it wasn’t harsh. The breeze from the ocean was cool and soothing. “I want you. That’s what I want about you,” Cheta whispered.
She waited for him to say something, especially in objection to her response, but he was quiet. When they got to the truck, he took out a First Aid box from the backseat and treated her wound.
He smiled at her. “Ready to go home?”
“You didn’t say anything about what I whispered in your ear. Or didn’t you hear me?”
“I did. I’m still processing what it means.”
“Do you want me to break it down?”
“You have nothing to break down, Cheta. I had an epiphany while we were at the beach that already answered my question. You want me, but you don’t want to go in deep. You just waddle on the surface to see if anything pulls you in, if it’s a crab, or a stingray or a shark.”
Cheta was speechless.
“I don’t want to pull you in. It’s not something I enjoy doing, and trust me, I have a PhD in pulling people in and keeping them, but not anymore. So, as much as I want to do more of this sort of thing with you and wake up to your face in the morning or chat with you into night, I have to learn to run away when I see a tiny turtle coming after me.”
“Stop speaking like that… Stop the figurative thing.”
“You get my point, though?”
“Good. Let’s head back. I’m sorry that I’m not leaving a romantic picture for you to brood on later.”
Cheta was disappointed, but she put on a smile as she made to step down from the backseat of the truck. Unfortunately, she missed her step and ended up slamming her knee on the door. It sent a piercing pain through her thigh and weakened the leg. Nero caught her before she hit the ground.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “So sorry.”
He tried to make her stand, but she cried out in pain. Hence, he lifted her onto the backseat and asked her to sit while he examined the knee.
“It’s fucking painful. I have weak bones. Fuck!”
“Don’t freak out, but I think something shifted. We have to get you to the hospital.”
Cheta panicked. If there was anything she hated, it was hospitals. She could have a whole panic attack at the thought of visiting one.
“I know you hate hospitals. I’m utterly sorry. Today wasn’t supposed to go this way. Come here.”
He pulled her into a soothing hug, rubbing her back. “Forget everything I said, erase this entire fucking day and let’s start again.”
“I want to go in deep with you, Nero, but I’m so scared. I’m scared that you’ll not want me if you found out who I really was.”
“You’re Cheta, the woman I fell in love with and never stopped loving. An extraordinary film producer who is about to walk into her greatness. The mother of my child.”
“I have secrets, Nero.”
“Me too. Nobody’s perfect.”
“No, you don’t understand…”
“Shh… This is not the time. Let’s get this knee fixed and take you home to rest, okay?” He released her and helped her sit properly to allow her injured knee rest on the seat. He asked how she was feeling.
He lingered. “Is this a good time to kiss you?”
Cheta looked from his eyes to his lips and subconsciously licked her lips. Resting on both hands, she lifted her head to meet him, her mouth moving towards his as he was doing the same. For a fraction of a second, she wasn’t sure if their lips had touched because it felt like a brush from the tip of a feather. But it happened again, and she was sure this time, because he was more deliberate with his caress and she reciprocated in equal measure. He tasted of warm familiarity and something new and mysterious. Something she wanted to keep tasting.
But it seemed like he had had enough for now. He drew back.
“Do you remember our first kiss happened in a car?” he asked.
“And now, history is repeating itself.”
He looked like he would kiss her again, but he stepped back and shut the door. Cheta exhaled. This was a nice turn of events.
If only life were as easy as the manner in which she and Nero kept falling for each other.
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages
Isi Owu – Thread hairstyle (Igbo)