The first time she flew in a private jet was the morning after she met Leonel. She remembered feeling out of her element, fighting everything in her that was inclining towards him so fast. He seemed too good to be true. It was as though someone had taken her teenage fantasy of the perfect man and inserted him into her adult life. She blamed the romance books she had read when she was younger; and she had read so many of them. Fiyin had been her source then. She was the rich one in their little friendship triangle. She spent her holidays outside the country where she bought the latest Mills & Boon and Harlequin romance novels. Upon return, she would sneak some to Amaka who wasn’t permitted to read such literature, and then visit Kyenpia at her foster home and spend the time with her, discussing the ones she had already read. In school, all three girls reviewed the books together, mainly to fantasize about the men in them and the happily-ever-afters they would have in the future.
“Tall, dark, handsome…” Amaka said dreamily one evening as she and Kyenpia lay on Kyenpia’s bed in the hostel.
“And rich,” Kyenpia added. “Don’t forget rich.”
“Me, I like fair guys,” Fiyin chipped in from the top bunk. “I don’t think the dark they are describing in these books are dark Nigerian men. They are talking about dark white men.”
“Which one is dark white men again?” Amaka asked.
“Just like we have fair and dark, they do too.”
“This girl, you’ve started again. Fair and dark oyinbo men kwa.”
“If there aren’t dark ones, why do they keep describing them in the books nau?”
“Maxy, she has a point. I see the difference on TV.”
“Back to what I was saying…” Amaka returned to her dreamy state. “Tall, dark and handsome.”
“And you forgot the rich? Who will come and build me a mansion nau?”
Kyenpia had been the poor one amongst her friends. Fiyin came from a home of oil tycoons. Amaka’s father wasn’t swimming in wealth, but he had enough to care for a wife, nine daughters and an ex-wife; and those excluded his younger ones and relatives that constantly leeched on him.
Kyenpia had lived with her half-sister until she passed away. She was then taken in by an American missionary who also died not long after she turned sixteen. She sold off what little the woman left behind and found herself an apartment somewhere in Ojota, Lagos. To survive, she got a job with a newspaper house and worked there as an errand girl. It was there she fell in love with broadcasting, discovering that she had a knack for writing. One morning, she put down her first article, not long after she wrote the Joint Admissions Matriculation Examination that would help her get into the university. She had sat in despair, thinking about how her life was going to end woefully because she hadn’t done well in the exams; but then thought to herself, why not write these things down?
She had loved every word she wrote, and with confidence, she walked to the editor-in-chief while he was going out for lunch, and handed the article to him. Two weeks later, she saw her story on the seventeenth page, her name simply written as KLJ. Leaping for joy, Kyenpia ran into the man’s office and thanked him.
“Can you write more for us?” he asked.
Thus began her life in broadcasting. She eventually quit the job and boldly asked the editor-in-chief of a bigger news agency to offer her something better. She also got into the university the following year. It was at that time she met Ishi and Lanre. Ishi had just been given the job of handling the daily affairs of The Refuge. He was already an MIT graduate with two degrees to his name, gunning for the third. He had also just become born again, abandoning a reckless lifestyle not so different from Leonel’s. Kyenpia recalled the battles he faced at home with his father over his faith, and how she had wished that she had been as rich as he was, so that things as mundane as religion would be her problem.
But it was then she also got introduced to Ishi’s generosity, for in his deepest difficulties, he picked out her need and offered her a home and a means to care for herself. She had been at her lowest before then, owing her landlord and wondering how she would survive without selling her body. Even Amaka and Fiyin hadn’t known the depth of her poverty, because she was one to mask her struggles so well.
Her dreams of marrying the perfect man quickly faded away, as it became imperative for Kyenpia to be her own perfect person. Through Ishi’s help, she got a radio job and did a post-graduate course in public relations management. Afterwards, he pushed her to pursue her master’s in business administration. Still, Kyenpia wanted more. As the years wore on, she began to see the need for her to be a woman that would turn things around for other women. Working in The Refuge made her see how her kind were constantly the victims of the norms and cultures of the society that favored men mostly. From the sexually abused to the widows, she heard and saw stories that broke her heart daily. She talked about them on her radio shows, so much so that she got fired from her first two jobs because her content made her bosses uncomfortable. When she finally found her voice in a station that understood how powerful her message was, Kyenpia flourished. Still, she was unsatisfied with her position. She longed for more. She was desperate to be a beacon to women who couldn’t make their own dreams come true. She wanted to empower them financially and educationally; and she wanted to do so on her own. It was a dream so lofty that she never shared it with anyone for fear of ridicule. Kyenpia kept it close to her heart until she met Leonel.
Their first night had been stuff of dreams. From the way he smelled, to the manner in which he kissed her and made her laugh for no reason, even while deep inside her. He was enchanting. Kyenpia was sure that she would wake up to find out that he had been all in her head. But the next morning, he was there; and just like in the novels, he had been staring at her while she slept.
“What do you want to do with yourself in the future?” he asked as they showered together.
“What are your dreams?”
Kyenpia told him everything—words she had never shared with anyone before—and then regretted that she had opened up to him, because he had said nothing of what she had told him. On their way back to Lagos, in his grandfather’s private jet, she asked him why he had asked about her ambitions.
“Because I want to be in that future with you when you become the woman you want to be.”
“Because I want you, Kyenpia Elizabeth Joseph. Even your name sounds like something out of a romance novel.”
To this, she had laughed, thinking to herself how creepy it was that he was thinking the same thing about her that she was thinking of him.
“Allow me insert myself into your life, Kyenpia. Let me be like that punctuation mark, that if taken out of your life sentence, everything would cease to make sense.”
Kyenpia was overwhelmed by his request. Firstly, for the reason that she was tired of men having had a good run with them, and was now done with their shenanigans. Secondly, Leonel was too good to be true. The wealth and the looks didn’t distract her from the fact that if the outer layer were peeled away, she would find a beast much like the typical male. She didn’t want to be fooled by the pizazz, but he was too sweet to throw away. She wanted him to be that sweet bedside snack one knew they shouldn’t be taking, but would take anyway.
The plan had never been about Leonel making her dreams come to reality. She had fought him at every turn, just as she had fought Ishi, too, whenever he tried to upgrade her financially. Even with the coming of Eliana into their lives, Kyenpia had struggled with both men, insisting on caring for her daughter alone. It was her marriage to Leonel that finally broke her stubbornness and allowed her see that she needed help to lift others up. For getting pregnant, she became a hundred million naira richer. For bearing his name, her wealth doubled.
“You can now start fulfilling your dreams, Kay,” he said to her on their wedding night.
“I don’t like the way you keep throwing money around, Leonel.”
“Giving my wife money is me throwing money around? Don’t annoy me, Elizabeth.”
“I’m just saying it’s a little too much.”
“And I’m saying no amount of money is too much when you’re changing lives. Besides, calm down. There’s a lot more where that came from. Let it get into your head that we can never be poor. Never.”
She came to understand the depth of his words only when his account team showed her how much she had become after his death. Kyenpia had been dazed for a good part of the day after seeing the numbers. Most of the cash was in stocks and investments, but that didn’t put a dent on what she could tangibly claim. Leonel had made her a billionaire, and she sometimes had to shake herself to be sure she wasn’t living in someone else’s fantasy. She could now make her dream a reality. But how could she do it without Leonel? The punctuation of her life had been taken and nothing made sense. Her story now read like a tragedy and not the happily-ever-after she longed for. Not even her sons whom she had birthed two months ago could bring alive what was dead in her.
Seated with them and their nanny in Igwe’s private jet headed back home to Lagos, Kyenpia tried to keep her spirit upbeat. All she wanted was to lock herself in for days, and later on, numb her heart with work.
Last night, Ishi had come into her bedroom in his house in Boston where she had been for two months. He had asked if she wanted company. For the first time since she had the boys, she had longed to be held.
She let him in and placed her head on his chest.
“Thank you,” she said.
“For being here with me throughout.”
The birth of Reginald and Kane hadn’t been eventful. They had come into the world late one morning, in the same hospital where Kyenpia had had a surgery done in which a detached ovary was replanted back into her. Early last year, Kyenpia hadn’t believed that she would ever conceive naturally. She had only wanted her ovary back to restore her feminine bodily functions. The surgery had been a success, an evidence of the brilliance of science. But what had happened afterwards had been a miracle.
Ishi had been there at the birth of the twins. He wouldn’t have missed the moment for anything. Leonel had had the honor of being present at Eliana’s birth. Ishi felt it was his right to support Kyenpia at the birth of Leonel’s sons. He had not only wanted to experience the moment for himself; he had wanted to be strong for Kyenpia, because she had been weak before then. Her strength had begun to fail her emotionally when she started to feel the pangs of labor. Ishi was there at every step, encouraging her, reminding her that she was not alone.
“He is supposed to be here,” she cried on the way to the hospital.
“I know, sweetie.”
“I can’t do this.”
“I can’t!” she sobbed harder.
In the hospital, she got worse, and the doctors feared that she might not be strong enough for a vaginal delivery, but she insisted that she could go through with it.
“I want to feel the pain.”
“Kay, you don’t have to,” Ishi said. “You could have an epidural.”
“No. I want to feel everything.”
He told her that she was punishing herself, and he didn’t know why. But he respected her decisions, as did the doctors. When the time came, he sat behind her. He didn’t miss a single second, even the times when she called out Leonel’s name and not his. Her body shook occasionally and he feared for her.
“You’ve got this, Kay,” he told her when the first twin’s head began crowning and she complained that her vagina was on fire. “You can do this.”
Reginald was born after two long pushes. Kyenpia got only a moment of respite before her body began to birth the second twin. It took Kane six minutes after his brother, to be birthed. He cried less and seemed calmer than Reginald, who had come out quite angry with the world. Subsequently, Kyenpia fell into a deep sleep. Ishi watched the boys until she woke up. She asked to see them, and when they were brought to her, she went into another episode of tears.
“It’s not supposed to be like this.”
Ishi had the attending nurse take the boys away.
“You want to talk about it?”
“No. I don’t want to see them.”
She carried on in this manner for days, spending time with them only when they needed to be fed. She also stayed away from Ishi. And he would have been fine with it, were he not worried about the state of her mental health. He spoke to her doctor, who felt she should be given some time before any intervention could be taken. He was certain she would come out of it. But that didn’t happen. When Ishi got tired and spoke to her about getting her to see a professional, she begged and assured him that she would get over it. She needed time.
He granted her wish, only to be shut out again. Kyenpia had felt bad for how her state of mind affected him, but she couldn’t help the way she felt. When he came to her door the night before and asked to lie in bed with her, she still wasn’t in the mood to be with anyone. But she let him in because he had been so insistent on seeing her get better, so committed to her happiness. And she didn’t know that she needed him until his body touched hers. She relaxed into him and felt him take her despair. She slept restfully and woke up to kisses she had missed for a while.
“Come with us na,” she pleaded.
“We’re not ready for what people would say, Kay. Family, the press, our friends…”
“You’re right. But do we even have a thing going on?”
“I don’t think so.” He was caressing her edges with his finger. “All I know is that you bring a little sunlight into my dark world, and I’m okay with that. Even if someone steps in tomorrow to take you away from me, I’ll be grateful that I shared this moment in time with you.”
She smiled for the first time in a while.
“But I’ll be in Lagos tomorrow. Did Leo have Igbo names for them?”
“Gramps will name them. Family tradition.”
She kissed him deeply before leaving for the bathroom.
The flight was long and tiring, but seeing her friends at the airport, holding a banner that welcomed the twins home, made the journey worth it. Amaka, who had had her baby a month before Kyenpia’s, hurried to her first and hugged her.
“Wow. You lost weight so fast, Kay. What’s your secret?”
Depression. I wanted to end my life.
“Nothing o,” Kyenpia answered. “These boys are sucking me dry.”
That too. Sucking the life out of me and my emotions. I look at them and see their father. When will I get over this?
Fiyin, Gina, Loretta and Yenkat all encircled her in a hug. Surrounded by the affection and warmth, Kyenpia thought she would erupt in tears, but she held her heart together and enjoyed the ride to the Halirus where she would stay for a couple of days before going to the villa.
She was given a hearty meal and she slept fitfully. The next morning had the Haliru household in a buzz of activity. Amaka brought in a tailor to take Kyenpia’s measurement for the outfit she was to use on the christening occasion. Subsequently, a hairstylist arrived with her team and Kyenpia was forced to have a hair makeover done.
“We will not look like what we’ve been through,” Amaka said after the beauty team left. She walked in on Kyenpia nursing Kane. Reginald was asleep. The boys already had separate feeding and sleeping patterns that drove Kyenpia crazy.
“You’re so beautiful, Kay.” Amaka smiled at her friend.
“I am? Without makeup?”
“You’ve always been beautiful.”
Kyenpia smiled back. Amaka got generous with compliments only when she wanted to apologize.
“I forgive you, Maxy.”
Amaka sat on the bed. This was the first time they were bringing up the disagreement they had over Kyenpia being with Ishi. As usual, they had pushed it aside and moved on with their lives.
“See ehn, I was very foolish,” Amaka admitted.
“You and Pastor Ishi are adults.”
“You can call him Ishi.”
“Yeah, he’s no more a pastor. I don’t know what he is now sef. But the point is that Butter Babe is not here, so why should I judge you if you want to be with Pastor… I mean, Ishi?”
“Maxy boo, I’m so over that fight. Let’s forget it.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t think of where you were coming from. It was when I saw how he broke down at his mother’s funeral that sense started coming back to me.”
Kyenpia didn’t want to recall the depth of sadness that had taken over Ishi after his mom passed away. She was glad that she had been there for him. He had been open to her support and comforting presence. He had even gone as far as agreeing to see a grief therapist at her recommendation. He was yet to give her updates of his sessions, but she noted a change in him as the months went by. Kyenpia’s present wish was for the pain to be over for both of them. She wanted time to slip away quickly.
“I’m very sorry,” Amaka repeated.
Kyenpia accepted her hug. She had missed the way her friend smelled, although she could detect the faint scent of breast milk. Kyenpia wondered if she smelled that way too.
“This naming ceremony is going to be massive o. From the gist we’re getting.”
Kyenpia nodded. Jaiye’s younger sister, Fayoke, who was the event planner in charge of the naming ceremony, had already called Kyenpia to intimate her on the details of the event. Fayoke was the only one in the Tanimola family that was loved and accepted by the Igwes. She was also the only Tanimola that bore the Igwe name alongside her surname.
“I can’t wait,” Amaka said in anticipation, concerning the party. “That tailor better do your dress well. He’s already complaining that he hates express jobs.”
Kyenpia didn’t share in her excitement. The party was going to bring back memories of Eliana’s naming ceremony. Leonel had proposed on that day. What good could possibly come out of this one? But she let Amaka carry on with her joy. Soon, Fiyin joined them. They went on about the party for the better part of the day. Nobody wanted to give her updates on Léon Hotels and BFAM. Where was Yenkat?
Towards evening, friends began trooping in to see the twins. James organized a barbecue bash in the spacious backyard for those who had come visiting. David and Peggy came. According to gossip from Amaka and Fiyin, the couple seemed to be having a rough patch. Peggy had taken the kids to her family in Tanzania, and was now threatening to leave David. James had told Amaka that David had changed since the demise of his brothers. He had become irritable and distant. Peggy had tried her best, but his attitude was destroying their home. This turn of events bothered Kyenpia. She hoped to get a moment with David if she could. They used to be close before tragedy befell them.
“Your boo is here,” Fiyin whispered. For a second, Kyenpia’s heart leapt. She had thought Fiyin was referring to Leonel. And this was ridiculous, being that it would take something more than magic and a miracle, combined, to bring him back from the dead. In her head and her heart, he was the only boo she knew. Not Ishi, who had just come in.
He moved in his typically quiet manner. She could tell that he didn’t want to be here. Many church members were present, and the last thing he wanted was to be questioned over neglecting the gathering of the brethren. But he hid behind his glasses whatever mood he was in and presented smiles, handshakes and hugs to all who greeted him.
He came over to where Kyenpia sat with Fiyin. For Fiyin, he had a hug. For Kyenpia, a peck on her cheek.
“Where are the boys?” he asked.
“Inside. I was finally able to make them sleep at the same time.”
“How are you doing?”
“Great. Let me greet people and get something to drink.”
“Fi-fi.” He pinched Fiyin’s cheek, making her smile sheepishly as he walked away.
“He’s so sexy, so hot. Kay, you really have to stick with him o. Are you seeing how chicks are eyeing him anyhow in this place?”
“Ishi is the least of my problems now. Let’s talk about work. Why won’t any of you give me updates? What is this nonsense na?”
“You’re on break.”
“Yes, but not to be totally cut off like that. Jaiye is sitting on my seat, running my company.”
“And doing a very good job of it. Relax.”
“Fi, the plan is still to kick him out of there.”
“And we will. I said, relax… Oh my God! See Ireti!”
And off she went. Kyenpia picked her phone and texted Anna. She asked her over.
Already on my way, Anna replied. Kyenpia was relieved. She texted Yenkat next. Why aren’t you here yet?
Fiyin hated keeping up appearances. She had lived most of her adult life free from the farce of pleasing people that meant nothing to her. This was mostly due to her rebellious nature when it concerned her parents. Left to them, she would attend high societal functions, socialize with the children of the rich and famous, and live like the daughter of billionaires, which she was. But Fiyin hated that life. She had been raised by a distant aunt, as her parents had been absent for most of her childhood. Said aunt had seven children of her own, and Fiyin was just an addition to the flock. She hadn’t been treated specially, even though her parents always sent enough money to cater for the entire family. When Fiyin became a teenager and was old enough to stay on her own, she spent most of her time with Amaka’s family. She enjoyed the simple life so much that all attempts by her parents to ‘upgrade’ her failed. Fiyin cared for neither the money nor the popularity that came with it. She saw cash in her bank account as just numbers. The houses and cars in her name meant nothing to her.
Friendship and relationships were her sustenance. She was addicted to attention and companionship, constantly seeking validation from emotional connections. Unfortunately, the men she’d come across had failed her continuously. From the abuser to the user, she had dated them all. Unfulfilled, Fiyin was now done with them. These days, she engaged in vain sexual encounters, mostly with younger men. She enjoyed the ‘sugar mommy’ feeling. It gave her a different type of pleasure, even though it was always transient. Her friends had no knowledge of this, and she kept it secret from them for fear of being judged. Her parents also, were not aware. As far as they were concerned, their daughter was lonely, miserable, and in desperate need of a man.
Her mom, who had largely not cared about her love life, was suddenly interested in whom she was dating. This was because Fyin’s stepsister had recently gotten married, and it seemed like a major tally over Fiyin’s mom. She then began to send references Fiyin’s way. There was always someone’s son who was qualified to become a husband, waiting around the corner. So far, over the past few months, Fiyin had shirked her way out of every blind date planned for her. This time, however, her mom successfully trapped her. A friend’s daughter was getting married on the following weekend, and family and friends from all over were invited to attend the wedding. The bride’s brother, some guy Fiyin vaguely remembered from her childhood, had just flown into the country. Fiyin was not aware of this, as usual. She had cut herself off from knowing who did what and where, whenever it came to the lives of the caliber of people she was supposed to mix with. But her mom had all the details, and was gracious enough to share it with her.
“Fash would love to have drinks with you, if you wouldn’t mind,” she told Fiyin the night before.
Having just returned from the naming ceremony of the twins, Fiyin was exhausted and prepping herself up for bed. “Who is Fash again?”
“Imagine the silly question you’re asking me. You don’t know Fashanu now?”
“He wants to have drinks with me? Mommy, I’m tired o.”
“I don’t mean this night. Tomorrow evening.”
“I’ll be tired still. Tomorrow is Monday.”
“You keep doing this, giving excuses here and there. That was how you disgraced me in London.”
Traveling with her mom to London for the Easter had been a mistake, just like the other times she took trips with her. After being abandoned for four days due to business reasons, Fiyin was forced to stay with a highly conservative family for the remainder of the holiday because they had two sons that were ripe for marriage. In typical fashion, Fiyin rejected the brothers and jetted back home to Lagos, leaving her mom behind.
“Have I not borne enough embarrassment from you, Fiyinfoluwa?”
“Don’t be typical, Mommy. Stop hooking me up with these guys.”
“Trust me, Fash is not one of those guys. Google his name. You’ll like him. Meanwhile, I gave him your number. He’ll call.”
When Fiyin lay in bed to sleep, she checked out Fash’s résumé online. It was impressive. His looks were not bad too, but Fiyin was untouched. Her younger self would have been carried away at first sight.
She fell asleep thinking about the back-to-back meetings she had at work the next day. Morning came, and the first call she got was from Fash. He wanted to know if she was free for drinks in the evening. He was kind enough to let her pick the venue.
“Léon Hotels. Poolside bar.” Fiyin didn’t see herself making an effort to leave her work premises.
“Léon is great. I love the ambience at the pool bar. See you at seven.”
Fiyin’s day began as she had dreaded. She started the morning at BFAM and then drove to Léon for a meeting. Officially, she was BFAM’s lawyer, but for the hotel, she was in charge of marketing and conferencing. Her prior experience with another reputable hotel had made her perfect for the role. One thing Kyenpia had ensured before going on her maternity leave was to outsource certain important services to BFAM, giving them control of some of the key departments that used to be handled entirely by the hotel. Jaiye had not been happy about the changes made, but Kyenpia had used her position as CEO to have her way.
In her absence, however, Jaiye behaved himself. Fiyin had even begun to find him agreeable, following harmless flirtations between two of them. She would have been fooled to believe that the allegations against him by Anna were false had Kyenpia not called her and the ladies in for a meeting in her office towards closing hours today.
“Don’t you get tired?” Amaka asked, dragging her feet in and heading for the couch. She had her little girl with her, having just picked her from the hotel’s daycare center. Stretching on the couch, she lay the child on her chest.
Fiyin sat on the chair facing Kyenpia’s table. Surprisingly, she wasn’t as exhausted as she thought she’d be. She opened a can of coke and kicked out of her heels. Yenkat came in, shepherded by Anna.
“You’re going home after this, right?” Yenkat asked Kyenpia, concerned for her. “I think it’s too early for you to leave those boys with nannies.”
“It’s not an everyday thing. Tomorrow, I’m staying at home.”
“The Igwes have the best childcare staff you can think of,” Kyenpia made clear, arranging her table. “Kane and Reggie are fine. I can’t say the same for my boobs, though. They’ve been leaking all day and they hurt, and the right one has gone solid.”
“Eww,” Fiyin muttered. “It smells like breast milk in here.”
“But Kay, have you rested?” Yenkat asked. “You came back on Thursday, had a party on Friday, naming ceremony yesterday, and now, you’re here.”
“Yen, I’m good.”
“So, what’s this meeting about?”
Kyenpia sat. She picked her iPad. “Girls, whatever I reveal to you here, stays between us.”
“Sure,” Fiyin answered.
“I got the report from the audit firm…”
“It’s not good. Everything Anna said was true. Jaiye was stealing from this hotel and from all the branches, and he had a whole gang of thieves working for him.”
“For real?” asked Amaka.
“It’s all documented here.”
“Good. Time to call the EFCC on him.”
“And finally, you can remove him,” Yenkat added.
“There’s a small glitch, though.”
“He stopped his fraudulent activities last year.”
“Last year?” Anna frowned. “I didn’t know this.”
“He stopped just before the last audit. After that, he resigned as COO.”
“Let me see that,” Amaka requested. Anna took the iPad from Kyenpia and handed it to her, but not before peering at the screen in confusion.
“What does this mean?” Yenkat pulled a chair to sit.
“It means that Leonel knew, as Anna already told us, and he probably asked him to step down as COO, giving him a slap on the wrist for the things he did.”
“And the others he was working with?”
“Five people were fired last year,” Anna answered. “Two of them were accountants. One from the Port Harcourt branch, and the other from Abuja. I think Leo… I mean, Mr. Leonel was laying them off quietly.”
“Wait…” Fiyin raised a finger. “So, you’re saying that Jaiye didn’t quit on his own, Butter Babe made him do it?”
“Seems like the only explanation,” Kyenpia replied.
“He had a soft spot for him,” Anna noted, moving a step towards her. “Ma, permission to speak.”
“Please, don’t let this go. We don’t know if he – Mr. Leonel – asked him to step down. We’re just speculating here. Mr. Jaiye is never to be trusted. I feel he is still robbing this hotel blind. He’s like a snake. You catch him here, he slithers his way through to get back to you. I think you should still involve the authorities. Everything he has stolen should be returned or he goes to jail.”
“I agree with her.” Amaka sat up. “This is a lot of money, Kay. A lot of money. You can’t let it go like that.”
Yenkat bopped her head. “I agree too. He has to go, he and his cohorts.”
“How do you steal this much money and you’ve not escaped to one island somewhere to hide?” Amaka got on her feet to placate her baby who had begun crying. “It’s like he was basically telling Butter Babe that he could throw back his generosity in his face. Such an ass! Look at his bald head. Kay, don’t ignore this abeg. If you try it, I’ll vex for you.”
Yenkat now had the iPad in her possession. She shook her head. “This is bad. I agree with Anna. There’s no way somebody will take this much money and just stop like that. He’s up to something more sinister.” She lifted her head. “He has to go.”
“Fi? You’ve been quiet.”
Fiyin looked up at Kyenpia. “Hmm?”
“You have that look on your face that says you think differently. What do you suggest?”
“I’m thinking about a date that I’m supposed to have this evening that I’m not in the mood for…”
“Be serious, Fi.”
“Okay, here are my thoughts. And please, nobody should crucify me.”
“First, sit with him and let him know what you know.”
“I plan to do that.”
“Secondly, find out what you don’t know. If you suspect that Butter Babe made a deal with him, find out about that deal.”
“It wouldn’t matter what she finds out, Fi,” Amaka said. “He’s guilty and needs to go to jail.”
“I have one question that needs intelligent answers.”
“If you were in his shoes and your late cousin’s wife who has just taken your place…”
“It’s not his place,” Kyenpia rectified.
“Humor me, Kay. Get into his head for a second. If you were in his shoes and you’ve just been exposed, and threatened with loss of your job and jail time, what would you do? Remember that your cousin’s wife is way richer and more powerful and can certainly ruin you, and you have nothing to lose. What would you do?”
“Beg for my life,” Amaka answered.
“Kay, what would you do?”
Kyenpia was in thought. She dropped her head and looked at Fiyin. “I would fight dirty, anything to make sure I don’t go to jail.”
“Go to the press, maybe. Or sue the hotel and Charybdis. Something stupid, but major.”
“Exactly! And does your late cousin’s wife want that?”
“Does the hotel need the bad press?”
“And that’s enough reason to let him go?” Anna cut in, her voice on edge.
“I’m not saying that. I’m not even saying that Kyenpia shouldn’t do anything. I just want her to think steps ahead, that this might be his reaction. I don’t know him much, but with the little I know, he seems to enjoy playing in the mud. Kyenpia should be ready for that, and look for a better way to handle him before it gets messy.”
“Hmmm…” Yenkat murmured.
“Still call EFCC,” Amaka insisted.
“Kyen, what do you want to do?” Yenkat asked.
“I don’t know. All I know is that I can’t let it go. How to handle it is the issue, but I’ll figure something out. Thank you, Fi. And of course, every one of you.”
“Kay, you know you’re an Igwe, right?” Yenkat said.
“And Igwes have their own way of handling things.”
“And your point is?”
“You figure it out.”
Kyenpia’s eyes held hers for a second longer before letting go. “Meetings over, ladies. Can I say thank you for the job you’ve been doing here as BFAM? I’ve seen the changes and I am impressed.”
“We aim to impress.” Yenkat smiled.
Fiyin lifted her can of coke. “To BFAM!”
“To more money in the bank!” Amaka toasted.
“To the future!” Yenkat appended.
Anna stood in silence, unaffected by the cheer. When they were done, she called Kyenpia’s attention.
“It would mean the world to me if you hold him responsible for his crimes, Ms. Kyenpia.”
“I don’t think Mr. Leonel made a deal with him just to let him off. He was probably planning something.”
“Thank you, Anna. You may leave. You’re done here, today.”
“Thank you, ma’am. Bye, ladies.”
There was silence as she left the office. Her heels had been loud against the floor. It was one of those days in which she had chosen to be chic.
Once the door closed, Amaka came towards Kyenpia. “Is it me or that chick behaves like you and her are mates, Kyen?”
“The one that just left. Abi I’m the only one noticing it?”
“Noticed it too,” Fiyin concurred. “She has an attitude. As if two of you are sharing the same dick.”
Kyenpia kept a straight face.
“If she hates the fact that she has to work for you, she should quit. You’ll find someone better. Look at Thioro. She’s finer than her, but so respectful to Yen, and efficient. In short, just fire her if she gives you more attitude.”
“Calm down, Maxy. It’s not like that.”
“She’s rude. Or was she crushing on Butter Babe or something? She called him Leo. Did anybody notice that?”
Fiyin concurred a second time. “I think she crushed on him. You know all these chicks that won’t mind their boundaries. She probably tempted him, and knowing Butter Babe, he resisted her.”
“Can we not talk about my husband?” Kyenpia pleaded, face still blank. “Please?”
“Can I sha talk about my sex life or lack of it?” Fiyin raised her hand. “I need a man. No, I need men. Solely for sex.” She got up and tossed her empty can of coke in the trashcan. “Yes, I have come to the conclusion that I can never be faithful in a relationship. Hence, relationships are not for me. This is why I need the frequent booty call. From more than one guy, of course. I’m seriously considering a cougar life.”
“You’re just thirty,” Kyenpia reminded her.
“Too early to make such conclusions about your life. You should try being faithful instead of giving up on yourself.”
“How do I put this?” Fiyin looked thoughtful. “I date a guy I love, but I see a hotter guy and my body just goes for him. It’s my biological conditioning. I can’t help myself.”
“Hoe,” Amaka muttered.
“I just want to have fun and spoil someone’s son while doing it.”
Kyenpia laughed. “But wait… Fi, this one that you’re telling us what you want, it only means one thing.”
“It means you already have it. You already have the small boys you’re toying with and the multiple dicks. This is your way of confessing.”
“I agree!” Amaka exclaimed.
Smiling to herself, Fiyin picked her handbag. “Darlings, I have a date this evening with some hot guy, but only to please Mommy dearest and let her have the impression that I am not going to end up miserable like her. Kay, I intend to use one of your rooms here.”
“It’s a dick date?” Amaka probed.
“Amaka!” Yenkat laughed.
“Don’t mind her. After the drinks I have with this guy, I won’t have energy to drive home. So, I need to sleep here. Kay, give orders like the boss bitch you are and let them reserve a suite for me.”
Amaka shook her head. “She so wants to fornicate.”
Kyenpia nodded, arms crossed like a disapproving mother. “Yes, and she will sleep with a fuckboy because that’s her spec.”
“How about the suite?”
“Let your date pay, biko. I didn’t come to Lagos to count buildings. Off you go.”
Fiyin blew a kiss and left Kyenpia’s office. She felt blithe, now that her friends were aware of her present sexual station. Now, she could do as she pleased, and they would not be shocked when they eventually found out.
She got into her car in the parking lot and drove into town for an appointment. She returned a half-hour before her date with Fash. In one of the restrooms, she touched up on her makeup and ditched her corporate outfit for a casual one. The substitute dress was black and tight, highlighting her curves. Three months ago, she had done a liposuction to remove excess fat from her tummy and thighs. The result had kept heads turning, which wasn’t a new thing to her. She had always been voluptuous, but had struggled with her weight and excess tummy fat. The surgeon had done a great job on her, boosting her confidence and sex appeal.
Shaking the curls of her weave, Fiyin left the restroom and headed for the pool area. Since it was a Monday, there were only a few tables occupied. One of them had a couple who seemed rather tired. The other table hosted a group of men that were canceling beers and discussing loudly.
Fiyin walk past them and their voices died down a little. She chose a table and a waiter came forward.
“Margarita or something sweeter,” she requested.
The waiter went away and she picked her phone to see what she had missed online. Her drink arrived a while later, and only then did it occur to her that Fash had not yet shown up. It was approximately ten minutes after seven. She thought to give him a call, but didn’t want to seem desperate. She sipped her drink and continued her online surfing.
Ten minutes passed again, and her drink was almost done. She called Fash and he answered.
“I am so sorry, Fiyin. I am stuck in traffic.”
And you couldn’t call?
“I don’t understand this Lagos life. I’ve been in traffic all day.”
“Where are you now?”
“Third Mainland Bridge.”
“Third Mainland? Wow. I think we should just cancel. I am tired and sleepy.”
“I’m sorry. Let’s do this tomorrow?”
“My sister is…”
“Getting married. I totally forgot. We can meet up at the wedding nau. That would be better.”
“Um…if you say so.”
“See you on Friday, then.”
Fiyin hung up, rolling her eyes. She had no plans to attend the wedding. It would be the same as the others. She intended to conveniently fall ill on Thursday.
She called the waiter. He came by.
“Get me something stronger. And with some asun… No, isi ewu.”
“Coming right up, ma.”
‘Right up’ was fifteen minutes later. This was because of the isi ewu. Her second drink had arrived before it; stronger, as she had requested. When the isi ewu was placed before her, her mouth watered. She was aware of the men staring from the table. Indulging them, she washed her hands and began her feast. She had learned the art of seductive eating from Kyenpia, and this included acts of tongue-licking and finger-sucking. She employed them all, giving the men a show.
When she was through, she paid her bill and left the table. As she made to walk past the men, a hand caught hers and pulled her back.
“You’re going to leave without saying hi?”
Her face broke into a smile when she saw that it was Jaiye. “Hi.”
“Hi, Fi. I haven’t seen you in a minute. How are you?”
“Exhausted.” She ran her eyes over the faces of his companions and waved shyly. They responded jovially.
“Going home?” Jaiye asked.
“Going to bed, actually, somewhere upstairs,” she replied, looking up. Jaiye got on his feet.
“You’re sleeping here?” He drew her away from the table. His cologne hit her fiercely. It was boyish, rather than masculine. Playful, but expensive.
“Yeah, I’ll book a room. I have an early start tomorrow and I don’t have the strength to drive home.”
They had begun walking towards the reception of the hotel.
“Let me talk to the front desk and get you one of our suites.”
“Nothing expensive, please. It’s just for the night.”
“You’re not paying a dime. Come here.”
He dragged her in through the staff entrance of the reception. At the front desk, he spoke to one of the ladies in charge. While he did so, Fiyin observed him, following every detail, especially the hairiness of his body. She imagined how he would feel against the smoothness of her skin, how her fingers would obsess over his full beard. She had been imagining these things over the past couple of weeks.
He turned unexpectedly and smiled at her. She smiled back at him and ran her eye down his back to his butt, hidden underneath fitted pants. Everything about him was neat and tempting, but he was the enemy, and she was not to get in bed with him. This excited her even more.
“Let’s go.” He straightened up.
“Or would you rather have a bellhop take you to your suite? I was on my way up to the same floor. I just thought to show you there myself.”
They got into the elevator and Jaiye began to talk about the great work BFAM was doing in the hotel.
“But there’s something odd,” he mentioned.
“Don’t be angry that I’m asking this. But why is your entire management team consisting of only women?”
“Yeah. You guys are eight, right? Including Kyenpia…”
“Kyenpia isn’t part of BFAM,” Fiyin lied. Kyenpia’s role in BFAM was to be kept secret. Her name was not on the record as a partner.
“Oh, my bad.” Jaiye shrugged. “I was just curious. Not me alone. Richard, the manager of the Abuja branch, and the assistant GM here. We were having drinks the other day and he mentioned it.”
The elevator stopped and the doors parted. They stepped out.
“I didn’t even notice that you were all females. Was it premeditated?”
“No.” Another lie. Yenkat had made it clear that she didn’t want a man on her management team from the start. Amaka had called it sexism. Yenkat had said it was a business of women, by women, for women.
“Well, I think you people should bring men in to add some color, don’t you think?”
“Yeah. Of course.”
They stopped at a door. It was a royal suite.
“Not that I’m complaining. It’s been a pleasure working with all of you. Great team of beautiful women with beautiful brains. But not everyone knows that. They look at you ladies and think BFAM is simply where to find breasts.” His words slowed as his eyes fell on her chest.
“Where to find breasts?” Fiyin laughed loudly. “You don’t want people looking for fantastic breasts and they are directed to BFAM?”
Jaiye laughed harder. “Fantastic breasts and where to find them!” he uttered, his hand gesticulating comically in the air. “You should change BFAM to that.”
“And fulfil your fantasy and that of many other men?”
He laughed again, but his eyes turned serious for a second before revealing the lust he bore for her. Fiyin turned on the sex appeal.
“I’m craving the bed in there so badly right now,” she said. “I just want to take off this tight dress and lie down. Goodnight, Jaiye.”
He presented her key card to her. When she made to take it, he held onto it. She went for it a second time and he caught her hand, tugging her towards him. His other hand took her waist.
“Your beautiful, wide eyes have been on me for weeks, Fiyin.”
“You want me. And I want you.”
“Do you think your bed inside needs us both badly right now?”
She giggled. He stopped her with a short kiss that invaded her mouth rudely. He then trapped her lower lip between his teeth. Her nipples ached with need. She placed the card over the lock of the door and the door opened. Once they were inside, he restrained her against the wall.
“Warning: I’m very addictive.”
She doubted that he was. Doubted that any man could have that much power over her again. She only wanted him for the night. By morning, it would be over.
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages