She hated it. It had shown her how cruel it could be. How it could snatch everything she had and leave her helpless. It reminded her about the powerlessness of humans. It was a foolish thing for anyone in the world to think they had control over their existence when they didn’t even choose the beginning of their lives. Mortality was as random as the thoughts passing through a toddler’s mind. All it took was two horny people to copulate and new life was made, bringing in another helpless mortal into world who would have no power over their existence. Every morning, humans woke up, not because they could, but because they were fitting into a script; one which didn’t grant them the ability to rewind time or jump into the future. They weren’t even granted the choice to pick their race, ethnicity or family. Everything was written before they came.
Everything, including Leonel’s death.
It took months for Kyenpia to accept that his passing was one of those things that happened in life. Anybody could draw a deck of cards and be faced with their death, the same way they randomly came into this world. It wasn’t anything anyone could alter, and this was why she hated fate.
It was spinning the wheels again and changing everything around her while her world remained dark. Life was reshuffling back to the way things were, with Ishi now occupied with The Refuge and Shacksmith, the architectural firm he founded with Lanre. He was smiling again and spending hours away from his house and with Lanre. Just over a year ago, she was part of them. Ishi, Lanre and Kyenpia – it had always been that way. But they were moving on now without her. They had to pick up and start again while she remained with the rubbles of her wrecked life. The money she possessed and the recognition that came with it couldn’t mask the harrowing silence in her heart. It was even harder now that she was staying in the house Leonel built for her. She had everything a woman could ever wish for, but she felt alone.
Kyenpia sat at the top of the stairs this morning. Her cup of tea had gone cold. Her eyes were cast downwards where she conjured up a memory of Leonel standing at the foot of the stairs smiling up at her.
“So, what’s your verdict?” He winced. “You like it or not? If you say you don’t, I’ll be mad, but I will buy you something else. It’s too late to start building another house, though.”
Kyenpia smiled. “You will buy me another house?”
“Just tell me if you like this or not.”
“Of course I do, Leonel. How can I not love this? Are you crazy? Look at this place! It’s fit for a queen!”
Kyenpia still saw him there, smiling up at her. She breathed out to stop tears that had made a vow to spring eternally. She didn’t think she would stop mourning him. His ghost was alive within the walls of this house, more than any place else. Left to her, she wouldn’t be here, but that silly KNN journalist woman had struck again with pictures of her and Ishi outside her other house. In one of the pictures, they were sharing a kiss in Ishi’s car, just outside her gate; in another, they were hugging. The news trended for two days, with the public shaming her for quickly moving onto her late husband’s cousin after her husband’s death. Ishi, infamously known as Pastor Scandalous, got his own share of the online bashing, especially for the fact that he was Eliana’s father. A past scandal was resurrected on Eliana’s paternity, and bringing to question, the paternity of the twins as well. The slut-shaming hadn’t bothered Kyenpia as much as her privacy. In fact, it had kicked off a different kind of anxiety that pushed her into instructing her assistants to contact a moving company to take their belongings back to the bigger house.
Here, she felt safer and was cut away from public scrutiny. One would need clearance from her to be let in at the estate entrance, and then face the guards at her gate before being allowed in to see her. It hit Kyenpia hard that she could no longer move about as freely as her friends did. She was now too affluent to live a normal life. She already made plans to temporarily abandon her life here and travel the world. She wasn’t sure how her friends would take the news, but she didn’t care if they supported her decision or not. Ishi, on the other hand, already knew of her plans and he hadn’t said anything about it, except, “You’re not taking my daughter anywhere.”
They hadn’t spoken about it since then.
“Ms. Kyenpia, would you want me to get you another cup of tea?”
Kyenpia looked up at Nelly who had snuck up beside her.
“You haven’t touched this one, and it’s been an hour since I gave it to you.”
“It’s six already?” Kyenpia asked.
“On the dot,” Nelly answered, staring at her wristwatch.
“What time are the decorators coming in?”
“And the caterer?”
The occasion was Eliana’s birthday party. She had turned two a couple of weeks ago, but Kyenpia had moved the date for the party forward, specifically to make it her sendoff party as well. She wanted her farewell to be one to remember.
“Let me have that.” Nelly took the cold cup of tea from Kyenpia.
“We could drive out for some much needed therapy, if you don’t mind.”
Therapy = spending time at a shooting range, killing a human cardboard target. It sounded appealing, but Kyenpia wasn’t angry anymore. She didn’t feel like killing anyone these days. She just wanted to be normal again.
Nelly walked down the stairs. Kyenpia could tell that she was disappointed. She loved guns.
Kyenpia fixed her eyes on the front door. In a few hours, her friends would barge in with all the cheer and sweetness in the world. They would come with their kids and birthday gifts for Eliana. They would do everything to make Kyenpia forget that by this time last year, things were great with her and Leonel, notwithstanding the bumps they had. Everyone had looked into the future and seen what a phenomenal couple they were going to be. How utterly myopic they all were!
Kyenpia heard one of the twins crying. She rose up and went into her bedroom where she had left them. She had formed the habit of having them sleep in her bed. It was too big for her, anyway. They brought comfort and warmth to the spaces left hollow by Leonel. Kyenpia called them her little husbands. She always thought of the many wonderful stories she would tell them about their father.
Kane was awake. Lying on his tummy, he lifted his head in the direction of the door when Kyenpia walked in.
“Kane?” she called. He stopped crying and gave her a smile. “Hi, baby.” She lay on the bed, taking him into her arm. On the nightstand stood a feeding bottle warmer. Kyenpia reached for it just as Ishi knocked on her door and took a peep in.
“Busy?” he asked. She smiled. She was happy to see him. He looked well. His return to normalcy was good on him, although it had affected their relationship. He wasn’t as available as he used to be.
He walked in. He didn’t bend to give her a kiss as she anticipated. He also didn’t seem comfortable in her bedroom. He had told her, after she moved back in, that the place was heavy with Leonel’s presence. He said that he had dreamt about him a couple of times, and in both dreams, he was alive. Kyenpia had thought nothing of it. She still dreamt about Leonel being alive.
“Big day, huh?” Ishi said. “I see buckets of tears ahead.”
Kyenpia laughed. She picked her phone and dialed the twins’ nanny. When the woman answered, she instructed her to come for Kane.
Ishi bent over Reginald and kissed his forehead. “I’ve missed these boys,” he whispered, “and you want to take them away from me?”
Kyenpia had no response to his words. The nanny came in and waited by the door. Kyenpia called her over. She handed Kane to her and led Ishi to one of the guestrooms. He shut the door, drew the curtains and switched on the air conditioner. While he did these, Kyenpia rested her back against the door, watching him. He then went to her.
“Why are you doing this? I know that what we have isn’t as deep as what you and Leonel shared, but come on, Kay. You’re all I have. You and Ellie and the boys…” He rested his hands on the door, pulling closer to her. She took his glasses off. He blinked to refocus his stare.
“Ishi, I’m sorry. I just…want to get away from here and all the toxicity and stress and live somewhere else for a while as Kyenpia. Not as an Igwe or Leonel’s widow. I need to find myself again. I’m tired and depressed and…”
He hugged her. “I know, sweetheart. I know.”
She kissed his neck where her face was burrowed. She then moved to his chin and lips. When he responded to her urge, she stopped to grasp his shirt. There were deep emotions she fought with. She had promised herself to be strong today. But all it took was a taste of his lips and she was melting like butter in a hot pan.
He drew her to the bed and had her sit on his lap. “What I’m about to tell you is not to make you feel more awful than you already do, but it has to be said.”
“Oh God.” Kyenpia rubbed her nose with the sleeve of her oversized sweater. “I need to lie down for this.”
Ishi let her stretch out on the bed and lay beside her.
“The first person that ever told me I had a hero complex was you,” he said. “Do you remember how I argued with you on that?”
“Well, you were right. I do have a hero complex, and I think I have chosen women solely on that. Even you, I first fell for you when you were needy. But for the first time, I became the damsel in distress after I lost my family. I wanted to be the one to be saved, and you couldn’t save me because you needed saving too.”
“But you fulfilled a deeper need, Kay. You made me feel. I was numb and dead inside, because after you lose four members of your family like that, you just stop feeling. So, when I opened my heart to you and let you have my body, I wanted the ground beneath me to shake again. I wanted life. You made me alive. The sex was amazing and unreal. I was like, this is the woman you’ve always wanted, the woman you would move the world for. I wanted it to last forever, Kay. I didn’t want to lose us, but I saw this moment coming. I knew we would end.
“We were still friends on one side of our love story, or whatever you wish to call it, and that was why we held on tightly, grasping hard because we both needed it. I had your heart, your love, your friendship… But not the extra thing, not the place you reserved for Leo. You didn’t give that to me. You can never give it to anybody. And that’s fine. I have accepted it and accepted the fact that we can’t be together as a couple, Kay.”
Kyenpia bit her lips. Her eyes were taken by instant tears.
“And even if we somehow end up together, it would always be an uneven love ratio. I don’t want that. I deserve to be loved the way I love back. I deserve a woman who would love me the way you loved Leo and still love him. I know that woman is out there, and I’m fine with her not being you. I have finally let you go, Kyenpia. This your trip will break my heart o. I don’t want you to go, but you need to heal. You haven’t. You’re so broken it tears me up.”
He touched her tears with his finger, making them disappear. She wished he could make her pain go away like that too. He had always been her hero.
“I want you to be happy again. It’s been a long time I saw you really smile.”
He held her in a cuddle. Kisses followed. They touched each other for a long time, as if they were afraid to do something more. Even the stripping part was done slowly. For Kyenpia, she wanted the moment to last, because she feared that this would be the last time she would be intimate with him in this manner. So, they did everything in a slow, intense dance of their bodies. It took two long hours. Kyenpia held onto his body when Nelly came knocking on the door. The caterer wanted to see her.
“When’s your flight leaving?” Ishi asked after Nelly left.
“On Wednesday. I have a few things to sort out before I go.”
“And I’m allowed to come and take Liana when school resumes?”
Ishi slowly got off the bed. Kyenpia drew a pillow and threw her face into it. She cried as he wore his clothes.
Yenkat could hear the kettle whistling in the kitchen. She yelled out Oyin’s name, but remembered that she had stepped out to buy a few things in a store nearby.
Yenkat hurried to the kitchen and turned off the gas. She made herself a cup of ginger root tea, sweetened with honey and returned to her room. There was an unsightly heap of clothes on her bed. For an hour, she had tried different outfits and none of them made sense. It was ridiculous that it was all for Omar. She knew he wouldn’t mind if he came in and saw her nude or wearing a bathrobe. Somehow, she wanted to look good. Was it to mask the nervousness that had eaten into her these past weeks or the guilt she felt for pushing him away?
Their fight over what he did to Obidan had been nasty, but Omar was ready to get past it. Yenkat, however, couldn’t. Not when his family members sent texts, insulting her. Aanu had spread the word about their relationship, taking the gist to his paternal family. Nasir’s sister, Basira, who was Yenkat’s friend, reached out to her first. She told her everyone knew and nobody was happy about it. She advised that Yenkat stay away from Omar. Yenkat took her words seriously and told Omar they were done. His reaction surprised her. She had anticipated some sort of drama and resistance from him, but he accepted her decision and tried to stay out of her way as much as he could. It bothered her initially, but Basira called and explained that he had been in discussion with his paternal grandfather. Basira didn’t have the details of what they talked about, but she was certain that Omar was slowly being brainwashed by the old man.
Yenkat let the matter rest, but she couldn’t take Omar off her mind. She had accepted that she had fallen for him. She had also accepted to love him from afar. They saw each other now and then, whenever he chose to come and pick Polaris and take her to school. His eyes would linger on Yenkat. Sometimes, he dared to ask her how she was doing. Her answers were always brief, articulated with eyes looking elsewhere. The longest conversation they had was over a week ago when he dropped in to announce that he was taking Polaris to Maiduguri with him for his cousin’s wedding. Yenkat wanted to know how long they would stay and if he could handle her tantrums, which were becoming a big issue these days.
He assured her that Polaris was in safe hands.
“They’re not going to take her away from me, are they?” Yenkat asked, scared.
“They won’t. Are they mad?”
“But you know they’ll suggest it, right?”
“I know, but I won’t even listen to them.”
“How have you been, though?” he asked. There was a strong bluster of wind rattling the windows. A heavy downpour was on its way.
“I’m fine,” Yenkat answered. “You?”
“Great. I will come and pick her first thing tomorrow morning. Is that cool with you?”
“Yeah, yes… It’s okay.”
“I should run before the rain starts.”
When he came the next morning, Polaris was ready for her trip to Maiduguri. Yenkat watched them leave, fighting the sadness growing in her. She sought Kyenpia’s comfort later that day.
“I feel like I’ll lose her the same way I lost him.”
“You think you’ve lost him?” Kyenpia was signing a bunch of documents on her table. She scarcely looked at Yenkat as she spoke.
“Yes. We don’t even have the former relationship we had before. I’m no longer Aunty Yenkat.”
“Don’t be silly, Yen. Aunty, and letting him go down on you.”
“Don’t remind me, please.”
Kyenpia looked up. “You’re not regretting, are you?”
“No. Those memories are gold in my head. I just miss talking to him.”
“You’ll survive, Yen. If you guys are meant to be, nothing will stop you. But for now, just let go. It’s too messy to be sweet.”
The next day, Basira called her and told her of the family’s plans to see Omar married to his childhood friend, some Fadilah girl Yenkat vaguely remembered him mentioning a few times.
“Fadilah is not interested in the marriage, but her father is pushing her. He’s Baba’s friend. Fadi is his last daughter.”
“And do you have any idea what Omar’s reaction is to the whole thing?”
“Omar is quiet. Baba has told Nas to convince him. And I know Nas will do it to get back on Baba’s good graces. I don’t know if he will convince Omar, though.”
Yenkat was tired of the whole saga at this point. She didn’t want to know anymore of Omar from afar. If there was anything she had to be told about him, she wanted it to come from him. So, she thanked Basira and asked her not to give her any more updates.
“I just want you to know what is said about you here in your absence. That stupid Aanu of a human being really spoilt your name. Imagine being labeled a pedophile.”
Yenkat smiled sadly. Aanu was going to get what was coming for her.
“If I were you, I won’t take that lightly o. She’s a witch!”
Basira didn’t stop giving Yenkat updates, but Yenkat didn’t care anymore. Last night, Omar called and told her he was in town. He was at Nasir’s home in Ikeja. He was bringing Polaris to her.
“And I’m coming to make us breakfast, so that we can talk. Are you cool with that?”
“Yeah,” she answered, feeling a rush of relief. She had imagined many things about the way he felt about her. She had thought she had lost him for good. And that would mean losing Polaris too. What would her world look like without them?
Yenkat placed her empty cup of ginger tea and dropped her eyes on the pair of shredded bum shorts on the floor in front of her.
You’re not trying to kick in his lust, are you?
She pretended not to hear her conscience. She wore the shorts and put on a bra.
There! We’re wearing a bra. We’re not trying to seduce the poor boy.
She wore a t-shirt and began clearing her bed.
Making things neat and clean for when your bodies hit the shit, aren’t you?
Yenkat stopped and laugh. That hadn’t been her intent, but something in her was preparing for it.
She cleared up the room and went into the kitchen to give instructions to Oyin concerning a few things. Yenkat planned to sleep over at Kyenpia’s house after the party.
She went back to her room. Soon after, Omar and Polaris arrived. Yenkat went out to the living room to meet them. Polaris ran to her as she stooped with arms spread wide for her.
“Polar Bear!” She lifted her up. “I’ve missed you like crazy.”
For a moment, Omar wasn’t there. Yenkat got lost in the child, kissing her a thousand times, and coming to see how dangerously involved she was with her.
She finally let her down and Polaris ran to Oyin. Yenkat rubbed off the tears in her eyes.
“How was your trip?” she asked Omar. He didn’t answer her. He walked over to her and hugged her.
“I can’t do this,” he whispered in a strained tone. “I can’t.”
Although he towered over her and covered her body with his, she was the one that comforted him with her hold.
She held his hand and took him to her bedroom.
“They hate you,” he told her as he sat on the bed, “and I hate them for hating you. You have no idea how much I wanted to get out of there, but Dad begged me. He told me to do it for him.”
“Tobi, they hate me because of what Aanu told them.”
“That one too…”
“Don’t refer to your mother in that manner…”
“Her father is dying and she wants me to come and be with her.”
“Your grandfather is dying?”
“Yeah, and I don’t care.”
“Tobi, don’t talk like that–”
“I am tired of everyone telling me how not to talk and what to do! I’m fucking tired!”
“I just want to live my life without all these rules and obligations to family.”
“Is it true that they want you to get married to Fadilah?”
He threw his body backwards on the bed. “That’s not going to happen. They’re doing everything to frustrate my life and push me away. And when I go now, they’ll blame you for it. Fucking idiots!”
Yenkat understood his frustrations. Aanu had gone through hers with her father. Yenkat herself had struggled with her own father at some point. It was a phase he would get over in time. His family needed to see him as a man. The first step was being independent. The second was not giving a fuck about them. People had a tendency to respect you when you didn’t kiss the floor they walked on and you lived life on your own terms without their help.
She told Omar this, explaining that he needed to focus on himself and his future.
“Forget about what they would say of me. They already think the worst. Just concentrate on you, okay?”
She didn’t realize how close she was to him until his hand touched hers. She jumped to her feet as if he had electrocuted her.
“Let me make breakfast,” she said.
“No, I promised that I would.” He stood up and accosted her by the door. “Did you miss me at all?”
“Tobi, let’s not get into any weird mood…”
Her sentence ended between his lips. He had done it so fast that she didn’t get the chance to resist him.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
She wasn’t angry. Her mind was refreshing everything about him—the taste of his mouth, the softness of his lips, the prickles from his beard on her face, the scent of his perfume, the touch of his hand and the concentration of his stare—all that she had long buried.
“Breakfast,” she stated, opening the door.
He made her an Italian breakfast, which he called ‘garden cheddar frittata.’ It was a baked meal of potatoes and cheese. Yenkat enjoyed it as much as the time she spent chatting with him over stuff that had nothing to do with their situation. This was what she missed and wanted so badly. She knew, however, that their time was through.
“I’d be happy if you came along with Polaris and I to Kyenpia’s for Eliana’s birthday party,” she told him when they sat in the living room, sipping on wine.
“I don’t think it would be a good idea.”
“My friends are not your family, Omar. They know about us. They won’t judge.”
“Are you sure?”
“Kat, I don’t know…”
Yenkat felt sad that his family had pushed him to become this person. He never used to care about being judged or labeled. She hoped his return to Italy would set things right with him again.
“Please, come with us.”
Her gaze was persuasive.
“I fucking love you,” he said.
Eliana’s party had been a hit. Kyenpia must have dreamt of this day a million times in her past when fantasies filled her head of the perfect life she wanted to live as a wealthy woman. She had wanted a daughter, one she would spoil silly and give all the things she never had. Today, she made those dreams a reality, even surpassing what her head had conjured in her fantasies. Ishi had been extra with his gifts for Eliana. Kyenpia had insisted on paying the party planner alone. Her money ensured that Eliana got five birthday themes merged into one, even though the planner advised her not to. She explained that toddlers had a short attention span and did not appreciate extravagance the way older kids did.
“Do you have recollections of when you were a two-year-old?” Kyenpia had asked the woman.
“Well, I do. There are no birthdays in my memory. I want my child to have colorful memories she can look back to and smile at. Even if they come in flashes. Madam, we’re going big with this.”
But big meant Kyenpia’s friends alone. She didn’t trust anyone outside her circle. She invited the clan, certain members of the Igwe family and anyone else she could trust. The birthday didn’t make it to social media. Kyenpia begged her guests to keep the pictures they took to themselves.
By six, Eliana and her friends were exhausted, as the planner had predicted. For those that needed to go home with their parents, Kyenpia gave them a warm farewell with gift bags. There were parents that wanted to stay back for Kyenpia’s party, but wanted their kids taken home. Hence, Kyenpia arranged for Clarence to drop the kids off. Those left were from Kyenpia’s tight circle. David, Amaka and Loretta’s kids were taken upstairs where they were left under the watchful eyes of the domestic staff.
As the event planners packed up their equipment, Nelly arranged tables and chairs at the poolside. There were drinks and an assortment of barbecued meat on grills. Kyenpia invited her friends over and kept them entertained with music. The air was cold and brittle, and it smelled of Christmas. It kicked off memories from the past, which they brought to remembrance. It was hard not to talk about Leonel, but each time they saw Kyenpia walking towards them, they switched the topic. She was still busy with details of Eliana’s party. She wanted to ensure that she had settled everyone that needed to be paid.
“Let Nelly handle everything. You’re keeping your guests waiting,” Ishi told her.
“Just one minute.”
Kyenpia hurried into the house and changed into something more comfortable. She checked on the twins before she dashed out again.
“I’m so sorry, everyone,” she announced. Her friends were gathered around three tables. “You have all my attention now.”
“So, what is this about?” David asked. He was seated with his wife. Kyenpia had noticed an easier flow of interaction between them that was missing the last time she saw them together. David was more responsive these days, carrying about a courteous smile and quiet willingness to engage with everyone. He had come with gifts, not just for Eliana, but for Kyenpia as well.
“I’m sorry I haven’t visited in a while,” he had apologized earlier upon arrival. “I’ve been preoccupied with work lately.”
“It’s okay, Dave.”
“How are you holding up?” he asked, directing his eyes to the entrance as Peggy made her way in with their kids.
“Good.” Kyenpia followed his stare and smiled. As usual, Peggy was making an impression with her outfit – a jumpsuit that put the accent on her unfussy classiness. Her sense of style was something Kyenpia had always admired. “How are you?” Kyenpia asked David.
“I’m great. Like I said, work is stress, and I’ve been held under for a while now, but I’m coping.”
His eyes were on Peggy again. Kyenpia called her over and they shared a hug.
“Hey, stranger,” David muttered, taking Peggy by the waist. Kyenpia watched as he kissed her and whispered to her how much he had missed her. Peggy was guarded in her response to him, but open enough to accept the kiss and his lingering hand that wouldn’t leave her waist. The scene triggered warm memories in Kyenpia. It was still sometimes hard to look at David and not see Leonel. She was somewhat glad that David didn’t visit her often. Everything about him was a reminder of the man she had lost forever.
“So, are you guys getting back together?” Kyenpia had asked Peggy as they settled down.
“Well…we’re speaking a lot more these days, but he’s still distant. I think he needs a little more time to return to himself. I don’t want us rushing back into things, only to end up here again.”
David came forward and chose the seat that flanked Kyenpia on the left, but she jumped up to let him take hers.
“No, it’s fine. Please, sit,” he said.
“No. I am your host and I’ll be doing a lot of running around. So, enjoy.”
The lovebirds sat and Kyenpia stood by, listening to them make small talk about their children and the stress of their jobs. Each time Peggy spoke, David went silent. Sometimes, he looked at her with eyes that were reminiscent of Leonel’s, tugging Kyenpia’s heartstrings. He was staring at Kyenpia with those same loving eyes now. He always treated her like she was his younger sister.
“So, I have an announcement to make,” Kyenpia declared. “First of all, Merry Christmas everyone! We all made it to the end of this year. Phew! It was tough and scary, but here we are!” She laughed. “I want to thank you all for your support. I don’t know what I’d have done without every one of you.”
Her eyes brushed over Jaiye. She couldn’t believe that she counted him as one of the people that had supported her. Earlier this week, he had spoken for her at the board meeting when she announced her decision to travel out and hand over the CEO position to him. Some board members had had opinions over her decision, calling her inconsistent and indecisive. Jaiye had come through for her, shutting them down. Before that, he had been active in the search for a new COO who would take his seat. Kyenpia found him agreeable when you gave him what he wanted. He had her position now, but they would run the business as co-CEOs.
“A new year is coming in a couple of weeks, and I want to be honest with you guys, I don’t think I can handle it. I’m not ready to do a one-year remembrance of Leonel. Amaka, you mentioned it, but it’s not going to happen. I am not strong enough for that or even strong enough to be here, which is why I would be taking some time off to really grieve. I know you’ve all seen me cry and lock myself in and all of that, but I haven’t had the time to process everything and let Leonel go. I jumped from mourning him to running his company to having my babies. I have not had time for myself, guys, and it’s killing me. It’s taking everything from me. I don’t know who I am anymore. I am stressed, my BP is high, I can hardly produce breast milk… I am tired. Drained physically, psychologically and emotionally. I need some time off. I need to breathe. This is why I called you guys here. It would be rude to leave without saying goodbye.”
“Goodbye?” Amaka asked. Her rosy cheeks gleamed with tears. “How long will you be gone for?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? You’re not coming back?”
“Maxy?” Fiyin murmured.
“What? I don’t want her to go. I don’t want you to go.”
“Did you hear all she just said?” James asked.
“When are you leaving?”
“What!” Amaka’s lips trembled.
“Awww, Maxy…” Kyenpia murmured, just as Amaka burst into tears. She got off her chair and went to Kyenpia with a hug.
“Kay, I’m so sorry that we didn’t notice it was this deep,” Lanre said with a solemn voice. “So sorry.”
“It’s okay,” she said to him and to Amaka.
“Where are you going?” Yenkat’s question was asked in a low tone.
“I’m starting with Barbados. I want to go to all the places he loved visiting. Europe will be after winter.”
Amaka pulled away from her. Kyenpia looked at her face with a warm smile.
“Are you okay?”
“Can I go with you? Jamie, can I go with her?”
James shook his head in a manner that made them all laugh. Amaka rested her head on Kyenpia’s.
“As long as you’ll be fine,” said Peggy.
“Yeah, as long as you’ll be fine,” Bem, Loretta’s boyfriend, echoed.
“Are you going with Eliana?” Fiyin asked. “How about the hotel? Who is in charge?”
Jaiye, seated beside her, raised his hand.
“Jaiye is in charge. We have a new COO. As for Elem, she spends holidays with me and she’ll be with Ishi whenever school is in session.”
No one said anything. They stared at Ishi’s face to know his thoughts, but he kept it blank. Kyenpia dragged Amaka back to her chair and sat at their table as the lively mood slowly returned. Soon, they were laughing again and telling jokes. Daylight disappeared and the sky were lit up with stars. Now and then, Kyenpia’s eyes would wander to the mural on the fence that was of Leonel’s face. She had had plans to have it painted over, but she hadn’t mustered up the strength to do so yet. Like everything else about him that she was yet to let go of, this mural signified how alive he was in her. Leonel was refusing to rest peacefully.
From the corner of her eyes, she saw Jaiye rise to his feet. Kyenpia recalled that she had a couple of work-related stuff she wanted to iron out with him before he left. She got up as well, but sat down again as she saw him take out something from his pocket.
“Oh God, please, don’t do it,” she murmured to herself.
Two days ago, Jaiye had come into her office, asking her if she thought it was a good idea to propose to Fiyin.
Kyenpia raised her head from her laptop. “Why?”
“Because I love her and I want to make us official.”
“Are you behind this or is it Alhaja’s doing?”
Fiyin had complained to Kyenpia that her mother and Jaiye were getting too close for her liking.
“It’s mine,” Jaiye answered. “Not her mother’s. I love your friend. Look, I know you don’t believe me, but I do. I’ve dumped all my hoes for her.”
“Riiiight,” Kyenpia mumbled.
“So, what type of ring do you think she’ll like. Heart-shaped? No, she’s not a heart-shaped person. Amaka is.”
Kyenpia raised her brows.
“Yes, I know what your friends like, and Fiyin would love a circle-shaped ring. She wouldn’t like it too small or too big. Just perfect. So, when do you think I should propose?”
Kyenpia was out of words.
“I was thinking during Christmas, but she said something about traveling with her dad. Is New Year’s okay?”
“Jaiye, you can’t be serious. You’ve been dating each other for like two minutes or so.”
“Two months and ten days, including the days of meaningless sex. See, Kyenpia, I love your friend.”
“Repeating it doesn’t mean it’s true.”
“But I do. She gets me sexually.”
“The fifty shades of grey thing?”
“Yes! But that’s not all, she’s sweet and kind and…”
He smiled. “It’s not about the money.”
Kyenpia crossed her arms. “Mm-hm.”
“I’m serious.” He laughed.
“Jaiye, I won’t tell you what to do, but know that Fi is not ready for marriage.”
“How do you know?”
“She’s my friend. I know. First, try to win her heart over.”
“I have.” Jaiye seemed deflated. “I have.”
He went down on one knee in front of Fiyin now. The DJ turned off the music. There was tight silence in the air. Fiyin wasn’t smiling.
“Fi, I know this is crazy,” Jaiye started. “We don’t know each other like that, but it doesn’t matter. It’s what we feel inside. And this is why I want to ask you to marry me.”
“Who is this guy again?” Lanre whispered. He was seated beside Kyenpia. He had every right to be worried. He was Fiyin’s cousin.
“Shh!” Kyenpia hushed him.
“So, is it a yes or a yes?” Jaiye asked.
Fiyin dropped her head in her hands, covering her face.
“Kay, is he still the enemy?” Amaka asked. “Because me, I’m not understanding.”
Fiyin lifted her head. Her eyes were wet.
“She’s going to say yes?” Amaka said.
“She won’t,” Kyenpia replied.
“Jaiye…” Fiyin blinked, sending down a tear to her cheek. “I don’t know how you think this is done, but you don’t shock someone with a proposal like this. Forget what you see in movies.”
“Ouch,” Lanre muttered.
“We should have talked about this before now. I’m…I’m not ready for marriage. I’m sorry, boo, my answer is no.”
The silence continued as she left her seat and walked out of sight, making a turn towards the house. The music resumed and so did the banter.
“They’re so going to fight,” said Kyenpia.
“They had better o,” Amaka responded. “Me I cannot accept Jaiye as a friend.”
“He’s an Igwe,” James remarked, “and the Igwes are our friends.”
“Not this one biko. His own is too much. He likes forming familiarity. Was it not how he followed Fiyin the other time we invited everyone for dinner. He came with that his tasteless wine.”
James laughed. “I don marry wife.”
The electricity went out, but the house was still connected to power, having been automatically linked to the backup inverter unit. The exterior of the house, however, needed a generator. The inverter was only able to power the security lights. But none of these was the concern of Kyenpia and her guests as Fiyin’s voice, yelling at Jaiye, ruined the silence that ensued the power outage.
“I cheated on you with Bosco! I’ve been fucking him for the past week because I can and I want to! When you were doing your own, did I stop you? Ogbeni, I don’t owe you or anybody an explanation! Fuck off!”
“Whoa.” Lanre lowered his head in embarrassment. Kyenpia sighed.
“Wait, is it the same Bosco we all know that got her pregnant or is it another Bosco?” Amaka questioned. She got no answers. They were all too stunned by Fiyin’s confession to respond. Jaiye was heard calling after her.
“I’m calling you and you’re walking away!” he shouted in Yoruba. “Are you not stupid?”
The sound of an earsplitting slap was heard next. Amaka gasped, the generator went on, and Lanre jumped to his feet, all at the same time. David also got up and both guys dashed towards Fiyin and Jaiye. Amaka and Loretta followed them.
Kyenpia couldn’t be bothered. She reached for Lanre’s bottle of beer. Fiyin, her restless vagina, and Jaiye with his community penis were not her problem.
Kyenpia threw her head backwards, downed the beer and laughed. Her friends were mad and she was going to miss them.
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages