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Golden orange rays from a sun that was beginning to set broke into Kyenpia’s vision as she woke up.
She lifted a hand to shield her eyes and slowly got off the bed. The headache she had battled with this morning was gone. Last night, she had mostly been awake. Kane was ill, and had cried throughout. Emem was gracious to step in and help. Leonel had been of no use. Kyenpia discovered, quite annoyingly, that he was bad with kids. He wasn’t Leonel, of course. That one was a good father. This one was a stranger to his kids, and he made little effort to connect. Kyenpia wanted her husband back. She was worried over his frequent switches, and she had voiced this to Idara during their last session, asking her what she suspected the triggers for his recent episodes were.
“His mother,” Idara answered. “Spirit wants to connect with her, but Leonel is blocking him. I told him not to do it.”
“Leonel is stubborn.”
“Well, you can’t blame him because he suspects that Spirit has a sinister motive. Leonel would rather Spirit didn’t reconnect with Emem, because once that happens, there is a high probability that Spirit would want to dominate. However, connecting with Emem and finding closure over her betrayal would go a long way to help.”
“Wait… He’s not forgiven her yet?”
“Leonel has. Spirit hasn’t, even though Spirit didn’t fully manifest until she was gone. I would say that her disappearance was the major catalyst that birthed him.”
“So, he needs to find closure there. Can you help him do that?”
“You’re his wife.”
“As much as this is true, I don’t want you to let it become real. Spirit is your husband too.”
“My husband doesn’t just wake up and buy cars at a whim. Four cars now! What are we doing with all of them? Spirit is wasteful and spontaneous and so insensitive!”
“He’s a boy.”
“You have to help him.”
“It’ll come to you. Maybe you need to talk to his mom too. Leonel already told her about his condition.”
“Condition,” Kyenpia muttered to herself with a fling of her head backwards. The entire business didn’t feel real to her, yet it was exhausting. “I’ll do my best.”
Last night, her best hadn’t been good enough. She gave him an earful about his irresponsible ways, following his neglect of their ill son. His response was to pick a pillow and leave the room. It was at that point she sought Emem’s help, waking the woman from her sleep.
“It’s fine,” Emem whispered when she apologized. She clutched her bathrobe and followed Kyenpia to her bedroom. Kane’s whimpering had just turned into a wail.
“I know he’s teething, but this sounds worse. I’ve gotten his temperature down, yet he won’t stop crying.”
Emem picked Kane from Kyenpia’s bed. She examined him for a bit and assured Kyenpia that the boy would be fine.
“Go to sleep,” she mouthed.
Emem nodded and patted Kyenpia’s cheek before leaving the bedroom. Sleep didn’t come easy for Kyenpia, but she eventually shut her eyes and awoke at eight. She went searching for the twins; she was informed by Nelly that Emem and Miguel had left to church with them.
“He accompanied them.”
Kyenpia didn’t recall hearing Leonel move about in the bedroom this morning. She had probably slept too deeply. “My church or…?”
“Catholic. He didn’t want to go, but Mommy insisted.”
“Would you be attending church this morning too?”
Kyenpia was famished. “Yes. Ask the chef to get me eba. If the oha soup he made yesterday is still there, I’ll take that.”
Kyenpia had breakfast in the backyard, under a small grove of growing trees where Miguel enjoyed reading. She felt lazy afterwards and returned upstairs to take a shower. After the shower, she stretched out on her bed and went straight to sleep. Now awake, she could hear the sounds of hammering from downstairs. She wore a dress and went down, following the sound to the sitting room where she found decorators changing the look of the place.
“Excuse me!” she called, trying to get the attention of the men who were erecting white floating shelves on the wall that held paintings of the children. The expensive paintings were kept in one corner now, and she noticed that her favorite couch was no longer in the room too. “Hello!”
The men turned.
“Good evening. Please, who asked you to do this?”
“Me.” Leonel walked in, moving past her and stopping to admire the work being done. “That second cube isn’t straight,” he pointed. “Shift it a little to the left,” he instructed the men, “and maybe half an inch lower. No shoddy work, abeg. And you guys would have to repaint over the mess you’ve left on the walls.”
Kyenpia gave him a full look. He was wearing a native attire, the exact one she had tried to get him to wear to church a week ago that got them into a verbal exchange.
“You’re annoying,” she recalled him saying, lighting a half-consumed joint as he stood on the balcony of their bedroom. “We’re going to look like clowns, wearing the same shit. I hate it.”
“Leo…” She dropped her shoulders in disappointment.
“Fuck church and fuck that aso-ebi shit.”
Kyenpia had been taken aback. She watched him walk into the bathroom, wondering what had gone wrong with his mood. She allowed him some time alone, and when he stepped out, she told him that it was okay he didn’t feel like wearing the attire. “I just thought we’d look good in them together.”
“You thought wrong.” His mood was still off. “But if you want me to wear it…”
“You don’t have to.”
“Let me just have the fucking thing.” He stretched out his left hand to her, and she knew immediately that she was dealing with Spirit. The night before, he had been Leonel. She was tired of the switches.
“I got you a new pair of shoes too,” she said to him. He walked into the closet and she tailed him. She watched him undress and change clothes.
“You look so handsome, Leonel.”
“I’ve always wondered… Why do you call the name in full?”
“Because no one else does.”
“So, this church thing, how does it work, because I don’t remember?”
“It’s a Pentecostal church. A lot of singing and dancing and…”
“Pastors hooping stupidly while they fleece the sheeple. Is Ishi going to be there?”
“For God’s sake!”
“Does he turn you on when he preaches?”
Kyenpia marched to him. “Leonel Afamdi Igwe, you will behave yourself this morning. Am I clear?”
“Yes, Mother.” He dipped his hand into a shoebox that rested on a shelf and took out another joint.
She snatched it from him. “How many will you smoke this morning?”
Kyenpia forced her thoughts away from the past and back to the sitting room, to Leonel’s intrusive eyes on her.
“Well?” he asked.
“I asked you a question.”
“I didn’t hear you.”
“And I’m the one with the mental issues.”
She gave him a hostile stare.
“Do you like this?”
“No, I don’t.” She was done coddling his feelings. It was time he knew that his insensitivity and impulsive behavior were not tolerated. “Let’s talk.”
She took his hand and led him out of the sitting room. “That’s a family space, Leonel. That was why I had paintings of the kids on the wall. You don’t just wake up and change things up without consulting me. If you had done that to the living room, I wouldn’t have bothered.”
“So, you want me to take it all down?”
“No. You’ve clearly spent some ridiculous amount of money, as usual…”
“Ugh! Money again? You’ve been going on and on about how I’ve been wasteful these past two weeks when I’ve not even asked for the money I bequeathed to you when I died.”
“You want it back?” Kyenpia felt her anger growing. “Please, Afamdi, be my guest. I’ll send it all back to you.”
“The money is never the issue, Kyenpia. For fuck’s sake! Chill with all that talk. I already have enough, and I can choose to spend it the way I want.”
Kyenpia had a biting remark waiting to be uttered, but she breathed in and spoke calmly. “My point is, please, try to include me in your decisions, especially if they’re going to affect me. This is a marriage, Leonel. I’m your wife. Don’t just…”
“Noted.” He stared at her chest. “Wear a bra. Your nipples are showing and there are strange men in the house.” He started to walk away, but stopped. “By the way, somebody is painting over that mural outside. I hate it.”
Aghast, Kyenpia dropped her jaw and watched him walk in the direction of the kitchen. He knew what the mural meant to her. Why was he being this way?
She spotted Emem observing them from the foot of the stairs where she stood. She had one of the twins with her.
“Is everything okay?” she signed.
Kyenpia was yet to grasp sign language fully, but she understood this one. She nodded as she walked in Emem’s direction. She recognized the twin in her arms as Kane.
“Hi baby.” She stretched out her hands to him and he smiled. “How are you doing?”
He clung to her, seeking her breasts. His scent and soft tufts of his hair gave her comfort. Miguel came down the stairs with Reginald who burst into a cry upon hearing Kyenpia’s voice.
“I’ve tried my best all day with this one,” Miguel said, smiling. “How are you, querida?”
Kyenpia smiled back, even though she longed to tell on Leonel to both parents.
“Are you sure?” Miguel searched her eyes. She looked away.
She took Reginald from him, declining his request to help her carry the boy upstairs. Emem placed a hand on her. “I will talk to him,” she said inaudibly.
In her bedroom, Kyenpia fed the twins and listened to soothing music until they both fell asleep. She called their nanny who had just returned from a short holiday to take them to bed. She then returned downstairs to ensure that everything was arranged for dinner. It was already past seven and the table was set.
“Would you like me to include a dessert?” the chef asked.
“Sure. It’s not my thing, but I think the parents wouldn’t mind. They love your desserts already.”
The chef smiled in appreciation. Kyenpia invited Miguel and Emem to the table. Leonel was in the living room, listening to music and fiddling with a camera Kyenpia had never seen with him before. She informed him that dinner was ready. They all settled on a small table for four, with Kyenpia seated opposite Leonel.
“How’s the work outside going?” Miguel inquired.
“Oh, they’re done. And it’s all good. I told them to return tomorrow so that they can begin work in the garden. They’re bringing more flowers.”
Dinner was lively, and Kyenpia almost forgot how frustrating the day had been. Sometimes, she caught Leonel gazing at her; other times, he was staring at his mother. It was hard to read his blank facial expressions. Getting used to this side of him wasn’t as easy as she had predicted.
“I’ll be leaving in a week,” Miguel announced, just as dessert was served. Kyenpia stopped her present activity of trying to figure what spoon to use for her pudding. “Maybe you could come to Brazil with me, meu bem?” Miguel suggested. “Just for a few days. You and the kids… Meet your siblings?”
She glanced at Leonel, but he looked away.
Kyenpia didn’t want to meet her siblings. She felt her life already had all the people she needed in it.
“I’ll prefer to visit when the boys are older, though,” she told Miguel with a smile.
“Anything that works for you.”
“How about you, Mom?” Leonel asked Emem. “When are you leaving?”
She responded with a dismissive wave of her hand.
“You’re not sure? I thought you said by the end of January?”
“She can stay for as long as she wants,” Kyenpia stepped in. Leonel dug his fork into the crumb cake before him. He took a bite and chewed, staring fixatedly at Emem.
“I’m happy you’ve settled in. Maybe we can get you a house, so that you can stay permanently and pretend like you never went away? Then we can be a happy family again, putting the past behind us.”
Kyenpia reprimanded him with a stern glare. Emem dropped her spoon and gave him a serious talk with her hands. Kyenpia and Miguel concentrated on their dessert while this happened. Leonel took the scolding from Emem in silence as he finished his pudding and crumb cake.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” he said, wiping his mouth with a napkin as got on his feet. “You know I love you, right?” He bent to kiss her cheek, and whispered, but not so inaudibly, that Kyenpia couldn’t hear, “I can’t say it’s mutual on your side.”
Kyenpia dropped her head in disappointment.
“Dinner was lovely. Have a good night, everyone.”
He walked away. Kyenpia looked up and caught Miguel staring at her in worry.
“We need to have a serious talk,” he said.
“Sure.” Kyenpia requested the presence of the chef and thanked him for the meal. “I have to turn in too. Goodnight, Dad, Mom.”
She went upstairs with a heavy heart, stringing up words to tell Spirit. She felt it was time to have a discussion with him about his mental condition. With Leonel, it was easy. She wasn’t sure that Spirit would give her an inch closer into his mind, but she was going to try.
She entered their bedroom and stopped moving when she saw him crouched on the floor, gasping for air.
“Leonel!” She dashed to him and fell on her knees. When he lifted his head up, she gasped. His lips and eyes were swollen. A wheezing sound escaped his lips. “What’s going on?” she asked in panic. “What happened?”
“The cake…” he croaked. “What cake is that?”
“What…you put…in it?” he managed to ask.
“I didn’t make it. Donald did. There’s almonds in it…”
She broke off when she saw his reaction to her words. “Allergic…to almonds.”
Kyenpia was confused. “But we ate the same cake the other day…”
“Allergic to almonds,” he repeated hoarsely, gasping.
Kyenpia moved swiftly, running out of the bedroom to call Nelly whose room was down the hallway. The girl had some medical experience.
“Almonds?” Nelly followed Kyenpia. “But he had some of that cake a couple of days ago.”
“Just do something! He’s not breathing!”
“Let me get the first aid box,” Nelly said, running downstairs.
“Why isn’t it upstairs for fuck’s sake?”
Kyenpia returned to the bedroom and helped Leonel up. His breathing didn’t seem to have gotten worse but his face had.
“Nelly is coming, Leonel. Please, stay with me, baby.”
“Not dying, hotness,” he muttered, laughing a little, and then falling into a coughing fit that made Kyenpia panic even more.
Nelly dashed in with a first aid box in one hand and an Epipen in another. She speared his outer thigh with the pen. Kyenpia picked her phone and called Leonel’s chauffeur, instructing him to bring the SUV to the front porch while Nelly monitored him. She asked him about other symptoms he was having and he responded to her questions with nods or shakes of his head.
“The car is here,” Kyenpia announced when her phone buzzed.
“I’ll be fine,” Leonel managed to say. “Just another…sh-shot.”
Nelly stared at her watch. “In a minute. That’s if things don’t get better.”
“Leonel, let’s get you to the hospital.”
Nelly stood her ground and waited until five minutes had gone past since she administered the first dose of epinephrine. She took out another from the box, but Leonel grabbed it from her and gave himself a second shot.
Nelly looked at Kyenpia.
“Leonel, you need to see a doctor.”
“I feel better…now. Just go, Nel. Thanks…”
He sounded better than before, but Kyenpia still wasn’t comfortable with his appearance. His lips looked like a botched case of Botox. His left eye was now swollen shut.
He stood and dumped his weight on the bed. “Go, Nelly.”
Nelly picked the box and left the bedroom. Kyenpia was restless and confused. Spirit was allergic to almonds and Leonel was not? How?
“I’m so scared right now, Idara,” she said to Idara on the phone, minutes after Leonel had gone to sleep. “This is beyond physical again nau. It’s spiritual? How is it even possible?”
“Trust me, it isn’t spiritual. Spirit is allergic to certain tree nuts. I will send you a comprehensive list of things he should avoid taking, and other important information. I’m sorry you have to go through this.”
“No need to apologize. This is my cross to bear.”
“Please, take it easy on yourself.”
She said goodnight to her and stayed by the door leading to the closet, eyes on Leonel. She retired to bed much later, following a long session online, absorbing every information she could about Dissociative Identity Disorder. She slept off with her phone in hand. When she woke up, it was still too early. Just 4:00 a.m.
Kyenpia used the bathroom and exited the bedroom quietly. She went to her study to do some work. She had resumed working fulltime at The Refuge last week. Her role at BFAM was merely as a figurehead; she went there only for meetings and other important matters. The same with Léon Hotels, although she was still head of the board of directors. After his interview with the press, in which he alleged that the reason for his disappearance was because he was kidnapped, Leonel reclaimed his CEO position, taking over Kyenpia’s duties. It felt good to return to her favorite job, and felt even better to have Ishi and Lanre there with her.
In the quietness of her study, Kyenpia worked for an hour-and-a-half before deciding that it was time to hit the gym downstairs. Her personal trainer was already waiting. She worked out for forty-five minutes; by the time she was done, daylight had crept in.
Nelly was waiting outside the gym with a glass of cold water.
“At nine, you have a management meeting at The Refuge,” she informed Kyenpia as they climbed the stairs. “You have another meeting at Radisson at eleven. Lunch with the exec of African Women’s magazine at one. Four o’clock, management meeting at BFAM. Then you have a dress fitting for your upcoming photo shoot with CNN’s African Voices.”
“Can we cancel that?” Kyenpia stopped outside her bedroom door.
“The shoot is on Wednesday, and you haven’t chosen an outfit yet.”
“My stylist always gets it right. Tell her to pick an upcoming designer…”
“None of the popular names.”
“Okay, Ms. Kyenpia.”
“And let her come to the house, instead. Sometime between seven and eight?”
“You know she hates that. She loves that her shop.”
“Not like I care. Get me the twins.”
Kyenpia walked into her bedroom. Leonel was still asleep. She tried to be as quiet as possible. She went for a shower, and when she stepped out, she found that he was gone. She welcomed in the twins’ nanny who came with the boys. Kyenpia fussed over Kane for a bit as she settled to feed them. She lived for moments like this each day, when she had an alone time with her children. Today, she felt particularly emotional and maternal. She wished she could cancel everything and stay in. The boys and Eliana were her strength. There was a bond she had with them that she couldn’t share with anyone else.
Kyenpia kissed her sons many times on their faces before handing them to the nanny. Kane burst into a cry first and Reginald followed. She felt her mood drop as she hurried into the closet to change into work clothes. She came out wearing a white off-shoulder top, a pair of black skinny jeans and black ankle length boots. Her outfit was complemented with statement jewelry and her favorite cross-body vegan handbag. Looking at herself in the mirror, she tried to infuse some happiness into her demeanor. As was the custom with her these days, she paused for a few minutes to count her blessings. Right now, she was grateful for the privilege of wearing whatever she so desired. If she came across a look on a fashion blog, magazine or celebrity she longed for, all she needed was to call her stylist and she would get an exact or near version of it in twenty-four hours or less. It was hard to believe that there had been a time she had denied herself basic needs to save up for secondhand clothes. She would fight Amaka and Fiyin if they bought her anything then. She had hated being looked at as a charity case; hence, the girls, Fiyin especially, would anonymously send her new clothes. The clothes always came from a particular secret admirer, mostly before a big event came. Now, her story was different. These days, she gave out entire boxes and wardrobes of clothes anonymously to the needy, paying forward her friends’ generosity. It was worth being grateful for.
She went to the kitchen for breakfast and walked into a surprise waiting for her. Leonel was dressed in a pair of jeans and an apron, dicing vegetables. For a second, Kyenpia wasn’t sure she was with the right twin. It had to be David; he was the culinary one. But the effects of last night’s allergy were evident on the face of the man before her. His eye was still swollen shut, and so were his lips, even though they were less puffy.
“Hey!” He grinned at her. “Looking fab!”
Kyenpia returned the smile. “How are you feeling?” She pulled a chair before the kitchen table and dropped her handbag on it.
“Great! You want to see a trick?” he asked, picking up three knives from a knife block in front of him. “Watch this.”
He tossed all three knives in the air, one after the other, and began to joggle them.
“Leo?” Kyenpia called in worry. The chef stood in a corner, entertained. “Easy, please.”
Leonel went on a few seconds longer and ended it without any incident. The chef applauded. Kyenpia breathed in relief.
“Cool,” she said, noticing how his left hand deftly handled one of the knives as he resumed dicing a carrot. “Since when did you learn how to do this?”
He looked up. “Do what? Cook?”
“Since like forever. Mama Jams was on my case to learn the darn thing. On all our cases, even your Ishi. I’m glad I stuck to her lessons. Sit down, hotness, let me whip you something.”
Kyenpia sat. Leonel had never cooked anything sensible since she had been with him. This Spirit person, however, was full of surprises.
She sat and cupped her chin, watching him. He was charming in the way he whistled and hummed as he cooked. He seemed to enjoy what he was doing. Sometimes, he reached for the glass of liquor beside him and drank from it. Other times, he responded to a phone call.
Did she really want to know this man as she had longed to do when she thought she had lost him? Was this all of her Leonel? Was there more? What else could he do?
“Since my face looks like my wife beat me up the night before, I won’t be going to work today,” he stated as he came to her with a glass of ice tea. “There you go, hotness.” He rested both elbows on the table and leaned in towards her to kiss her neck. He inhaled. “I so want to fuck you on this table right now.”
“Stop it.” Kyenpia blushed.
“I could send the chef out and lock us in.”
“Just five minutes. I promise I’ll cum before you catch your breath.”
Kyenpia covered her mouth in laughter.
He worshipped her with his eyes before he pulled himself up. “You should dress more corporate to work, though. This thing you’re wearing is very distracting.”
“Go and bring me my eggs jare.”
He went to the cooker and came back shortly with scrambled eggs and stir fried vegetables. The chef brought two slices of toast to Kyenpia.
“Thank you, guys.”
Leonel pulled a chair and sat. He placed his drink on the table. “You’re so gorgeous, you know that?”
He then went on to tell her how sexy she was and how much he longed to spend an entire day making love to her. He described what he would do in detail, making it hard for Kyenpia to concentrate on her meal.
“Try not to sell the house and move us to Antarctica while I’m away,” she told him, patting his cheek, as she rose up. He stood and swept her off the floor. She put her arms around his neck.
“We should take the next weekend off. There’s an island off Fiji…”
“It’ll be good for two of us. For you, especially. It’ll help you know me better.”
Alarm bells went off in Kyenpia. Idara had warned her about this. She had told her that Spirit would try everything to show that he was a better personality than Leonel, in a bid to keep Kyenpia hooked to him. If she stayed hooked, he had reason to stay longer. His aim was to get the Leonel she knew out of the way. Kyenpia had told Idara, at that point, that it was all confusing.
“I know, but always remember that Leonel is not fighting against himself. He is fighting against the person his father created. And although Spirit can be charming and addictive, you cannot let him dominate. He is to integrate with Leonel, not take over. So, please, don’t encourage him. Stand your ground whenever you see the horns growing.”
“I like the sound of a vacation,” Kyenpia told Leonel. “We’ll talk about it when I come back tonight.”
He carried her outside and gently helped her into her waiting car. Then he stole her lips in a kiss and pulled out of the car, shutting the door.
“Good morning, ma’am,” Clarence greeted.
“Morning, Clarence. The Refuge, please.”
“Doctor Bem is ready to see you now.”
Yenkat tossed her phone into her bag and looked at the chubby nurse who was standing in front of her. The lady reminded her of Thioro, with a perfectly made-up face and glowing dark skin.
“That way.” The nurse pointed to her right, to a door that had Bem’s name on it. Yenkat was already familiar with the place. She had been here a week and two days ago. First, to have herself registered with Bem. Secondly, to see if Bem could come up with a theory as to how she got pregnant. He ran a host of non-evasive tests on her and asked her to return today for the results. He also certified her and the baby healthy.
Walking towards his office now, Yenkat recalled how much she had held her breath when he ran a scan on her. She had been scared of his verdict, scared that something was wrong with the pregnancy.
The nurse opened the door to the office and ushered Yenkat in.
“Good morning,” Bem greeted.
“Good morning,” she responded. They shook hands and she sat, facing him. He had his file in front of her and a bottle of water beside it.
“I’m sure you’re curious?”
“Then let me just get straight into it.”
He opened her file. “So, in trying to find a reason for your miracle baby, I had to go digging into your medical history. The records you sent to me from the other hospitals helped quite a lot, but they were not enough. Five days into my investigations and my instincts began to drive me in a particular direction. I had to call a hematologist who took a special look at your blood samples.”
“You have what is called Antiphospholipid Syndrome.”
“It’s when your body contains antibodies against certain types of phospholipids. Phospholipids are a necessary component of human cells. Now, when you have antibodies against them, it can cause clots in your blood and things like deep vein thrombosis. It also increases your risk of having different health complications like stroke and cardiovascular issues.”
Yenkat was speechless.
“It could be triggered by an autoimmune disease, but in your case, having gone through your medical records, I don’t think it’s what’s happening. APS may not present itself with any symptom or disease. However, it could be responsible for multiple miscarriages in women.”
“Is that what you think happened to me?”
“Most likely. APS can cause tiny blood clots that block blood supply to the placenta. It could also interfere with the fertilized egg’s ability to implant in the lining of the uterus, making pregnancy impossible.”
“But I’ve had only one miscarriage.”
Bem moved closer to his table. “I suspect that you might have had more than one. Your period diary seems to point to some unexplained incidents that could have been possible cases of miscarriages. Now, I want you to think back to the time with your ex-husband. Was there any other period in which you suspected you might have miscarried? Anytime during your menses that you had some tissue loss, which you probably believed was normal shedding of your uterus lining?”
Yenkat didn’t have to think hard. It had occurred a couple of times. Obidan had even made an insensitive joke when it happened the second time, telling her that her body always bled because it hated being pregnant.
“Yes,” she responded to Bem.
“These times?” he pointed at the printed version of her period diary. She had never been so grateful as she was now that she had judiciously kept a record of her cycle along the years.
“I suspected there must have been at least one other incident or more in the past. But we won’t dwell on that. The test result is clear. However, we would run a confirmatory one in a few weeks.”
“So, what does this mean?” Yenkat asked in worry. “Will I miscarry again?”
“No. Once we get you started on treatment now, your chances of having a successful pregnancy increases drastically. We’ll have to monitor you carefully all through and ensure that you don’t stress yourself. Okay?”
Bem smiled. “Relax, Yenkat. You’re in good hands. Your cousin didn’t refer you to me because I’m friends with her. It was for my expertise. And God knows she will have my neck if anything happens to you.”
Yenkat’s face broke into a smile, but it was a short-lived one. She was still apprehensive. Bem ran a second check on her vitals and did a scan to ensure that the baby was okay. Only then did Yenkat allow herself relax. Bem had the hospital’s pharmacist get her the medication he prescribed and sent her on her way.
Her day kicked off the moment she left the office, but following Bem’s instructions about decluttering her activities, she canceled an appointment for the morning, catching up with only one. Luckily, her third appointment was also canceled by the person she was to meet. This gave her enough time to rest until the BFAM meeting at four. Yenkat decided it was best to go home, have breakfast, and take a nap.
“So, how did it go with Bem?” Kyenpia asked her on the phone as she arrived home.
“Good.” Yenkat explained what Bem told her.
“Ehen! I knew that that unexplained fertility thing was rubbish.”
“Well, I think the doctors didn’t have enough time to diagnose me properly, because I was always on the go.”
“Plus, they didn’t know I had suffered from multiple miscarriages. Or maybe I hadn’t had it then.”
“Just say that Bem is the best. He and that fine ass white doctor took out my ovaries and put one back in and I got pregnant naturally. With the aid of some drugs, but still…”
Yenkat smiled. “Okay, he’s good.”
“Just sha take care of yourself. Don’t come for the meeting if you don’t have to.”
“I’m coming. When it’s not as if I’m dying.”
“Babe, let me run. Kiss Polar Bear for me. Bring her for a sleepover this weekend so that you can rest. Elem will be back from her daddy’s this week.”
Kyenpia hung up. Yenkat entered her bedroom and spread herself on her bed. Ever since Polaris, she hadn’t had time be all alone in her bedroom. The girl seemed more attached to her than before.
“Oyin!” Yenkat yelled. “What did you cook o!”
She was suddenly hungry, feeling the effects of morning sickness wear off. And just as she thought about what to eat, she remembered that she had left her drugs in the office.
She called Thioro and instructed her to come home with the drugs. “And get me fresh watermelon juice from that juice place.”
Yenkat hugged a pillow and soon found herself drifting off. She didn’t know for how long she was gone for. She woke up at the sound of Omar coming into the bedroom.
“Kat?” His warm breath was on her cheek. She opened her eyes.
“You’re home. I’ve been calling your line. I called Thioro and she told me you’d be here. Are you okay?”
His hand rested on her tummy. He was aware of the pregnancy, because she had chosen to discard Kyenpia’s advice. She was going to adhere to it initially, but wise counsel from Leonel made her see a different side of things. He hadn’t started out by advising her to tell Omar about the baby. They were discussing her relationship with Omar when the baby issue came up.
“So, tell me about this Omar business,” Leonel had asked her in his office, just after a meeting with the hotel’s management. “Your cousin filled me in on the entire thing, and phew! That’s a lot for you to bear.”
“Kyenpia talks too much.”
“Husbands and wives gossip. But on a real though, I want to hear from you. What do you feel for him?”
“Only the truth, Yen.”
“I really like him.”
“Just like? Or it’s deeper?”
“It could be deeper, but I don’t allow myself fall that much, you know? I don’t know how far I’ve fallen. Even when we’re together, I hold back a lot.”
“Because… Well, you know.”
“Hmm…” Leonel inclined backwards on his chair “How old were you when he was born?”
“So, you were still a child.”
“You could say so.”
“No, you were a child. It doesn’t matter that your friend shirked on her responsibilities as a mother during your teenage years, and you stepped up. I wouldn’t blame you for feeling like you were an adult during that time. But the truth is that you were just a child raising another child.”
“He was a baby.”
“Well, he’s man enough now to give you a baby. Why don’t you let him grow in your eyes?”
“I want him to, but he hasn’t experienced life, Leo. What if he decides one day that he’s tired of me? What if his parents convince him that I’m taking away his youth?”
“You’re scared of the future?”
“I don’t want to put everything into our relationship and he walks away from us eventually.”
“Have you asked him how he’s taking all of this? Or you just assume that he’s strong because he’s the one expressing all the love?”
“We’ve never really talked about his feelings in that aspect.”
“Do it, Yen. No matter what decision you take in the end, you need to let him open up to you on his fears too. And you see this plan you and Kay have to hide the truth from him? It’s stupid. I already told her, and I’m reiterating it. He has every right to know that you’re carrying his baby.”
“I can’t tell him, Leo.”
“It’s your choice, but it’s a stupid plan. It’ll backfire.”
Therefore, Yenkat told Omar about the baby three days ago. He had been happy; but at the same time, he sensed her unspoken words.
“You still want to dump me,” he said.
“Omar, we won’t work. Not with your mom and…”
“And my age. You think I’ll get tired of you in the future.” He sighed and shrugged. “I might. It’s life. I mean, there are girls throwing themselves at me, but I chose you, because I don’t know what I want. I’m just a child.”
“I didn’t mean that.”
“Then what do you fucking mean!”
His sudden anger made her flinch.
“I am tired, Yenkat! Tired of carrying this relationship alone! My entire family is on my back! All of them! My mom and my dad’s siblings! They all think you’ve done juju on me! My grandfather called an alfa for me to cover me spiritually! Or is it because I didn’t tell you? My other grandfather just before he died, told his pastor to pray for me! Everybody thinks I’m insane! I don’t even hang out with my friends no more because they call you a cougar, a sugar mommy! They think it’s all because of the sex! You have no idea what I’ve given up for you, Yen! No idea!”
He stomped out of the house. She knew better than to go after him. Omar was difficult whenever he wanted to be. It was best to let him cool off. But five hours later, he was still outside, seated at the front porch smoking pot. She had never seen him with marijuana. It disturbed her. She went out to meet him; he wouldn’t speak to her at first.
“I’m very sorry.”
“Stop saying that,” he retorted. “You aren’t. You want out of what we have and that’s okay. I’ll walk away, I’ll leave you to date the more mature men like Clarence.”
“But you see this child you’re carrying? You will not dare stop me from being its father. Do you understand?”
“Do you understand, Yenkat?”
“I hope you’re happy now. You have the breakup you always wanted.”
And she hadn’t since him since then. Waking up to find his face was more than a small blessing. She was already too hooked to him.
“I’m not going to apologize for our fight,” he told her. “I did nothing wrong.” He sat. “All I’ve ever done was love you, but I don’t think you’re ready. You may never be, and that’s fine. I’m glad that I have to go away to school. I can concentrate on other stuff and not brood over you.But I’m seriously tired of pulling all the weight here…”
“It was never my intention.”
“I’m going to miss you, Yen. My flight leaves tomorrow.”
Yenkat saw the bags under his eyes that indicated lack of sleep. His pain was deep. She had been there before, having accepted that she would lose him, probably forever. She wanted to reach out and ease the pain, but all she could say was, “I’ll miss you too.”
He got up. “So, I have a favor to ask.”
“My mom wants to see you.”
Yenkat lifted herself up to a sitting position. “Why?”
“I told her and Dad about the baby.”
“Are you out of your mind, Tobi?”
“It was the right thing to do. They would find out either ways.”
Yenkat covered her face in consternation. She jumped off the bed and walked around agitatedly for a few seconds.
“Tobi, you shouldn’t have.” She stopped moving. “Why would you do that?”
“Because they are my parents. They deserve to know.”
“No! This is between me and you, Tobi!”
He scoffed. “Is there a me and you?”
“Don’t try to get smart with me, here. You should have asked me before you told them. It is my baby…”
“My baby,” he replied calmly.
“What if it’s not? Hmm? What if it’s Clarence’s?”
“Is that the lie you want to go with because you’re a coward? You think hiding the truth longer can change anything? You fucked your best friend’s son and he knocked you up. Deal with it!”
Yenkat saw that he was still mad at her.
“All I’m saying is that telling them was my decision to make as well.”
“Did you seek my decision before you told your friends? They knew before me, Kat. You’d put everything and everyone above me, because, well, I’m a small boy…”
“Omar, stop it.”
“Please, just come with me to see Aanu. We’ve talked and she doesn’t hate you anymore. Grandpa’s death did something to her. She’s a lot sober now. She’s pregnant herself.”
“I still don’t trust her, Omar. She tried to hurt me. She threatened my life.”
“I know, but she’s sorry, and it’s all in the past now.”
Yenkat saw this coming. From the moment Omar’s tone began to change about Aanu, she knew this day would come.
“Aanu and I can’t undo that past, Tobi.”
“She’s my mom, Yen, and it would mean a lot to me that you fix things up with her. I’ve accepted that we won’t be together, but I won’t have you shutting her out of this baby’s life.”
“Do this for me,” he begged, moving closer to Yenkat. There was sincerity in his face, vulnerability and brokenness. She wanted to hug him and tell him that everything would be fine. She missed his lips against hers, and the surprisingly warm hugs his skinny body always gave.
“Alright,’ she said. “It’ll be best to go now and get over it. I have a meeting at work soon.”
Yenkat looked for comfortable flats and pushed her feet into them. Just as they were leaving, Oyin showed up with a tray of food.
“I’ll eat when I come back,’ Yenkat told her. “If Thio shows up, tell her to keep the drugs on my table.”
Omar walked ahead of Yenkat. He was still sweet enough to open the passenger door of his car for her. When she tried to find his eyes, he looked away.
“Omar…” She touched his hand resting on the wheel.
“Put on your seatbelt.”
He started the car. He was silent throughout the trip to Aanu’s. Yenkat didn’t attempt to make any conversation. She was half trying to summon the words to say to him, half wondering what Aanu had up her sleeves.
They arrived at Aanu’s home after a short traffic delay. She received them warmly. Omar, especially. His response to her was warm too. Yenkat could tell that her father’s loss had somehow brought them together. It was a beautiful thing to see, even though it bothered Yenkat.
“Yeni?” Aanu looked into her face. “I missed you at Daddy’s funeral. I wished you had come.”
“Again, I’m sorry for your loss.” Yenkat had sent a couple of condolence text messages to her on the morning her father passed away, and she had gotten gracious responses to them both.
“Generally I’ve missed you.” Aanu sat with her. Yenkat gave her a thorough look. Apart from her obvious weight loss, she seemed stressed. It made Yenkat pity her. “I know a lot has happened between us this past year, but see, life shouldn’t be like that. We were friends before this boy here came between us. Remember when we said we’d never let any male do that? What happened?”
“Life,” Yenkat answered.
“What if I die tomorrow or something really bad happens to you? What would we have gained?”
“See, Daddy’s death shook me up o. Even though I watched him dying slowly, it still shook me. This life is rubbish abeg. Let’s bury all this beef, Yeni. I can never find a friend as good as you. I miss you like mad.”
Tears broke from Aanu’s eyes. Yenkat’s were dry; so were her emotions. The only thing she felt was suspicion.
“I’m sorry about this.” Annu wiped her tears. “Let me get you something to drink. Do you want food? I made acha.”
Yenkat hadn’t eaten acha porridge in a while, and it was crazy that she had been craving for it in days.
“No, thanks. I just ate.” Omar gave her look. “Juice is fine.”
“Okay. I made watermelon juice. One of your favorites.”
Aanu went away and Omar pleaded with Yenkat with palms pressed together.
“Please… She’s genuine. She really misses you.”
Yenkat stayed silent until Aanu returned. She came with three glasses of watermelon juice for all of them. After just one sip, Yenkat moaned, making Aanu and Omar laugh.
“No one can do this like you,” Yenkat was forced to admit. “What is that flavor you put inside?”
“I won’t tell you. If you like, kill me.”
“I missed this.” Another admission, but not a forced one. Yenkat did miss Aanu’s culinary side. Omar was good, but Aanu was a master with meals.
“So, will you forget the beef, for food’s sake, at least?”
Yenkat laughed, and in so doing, choked. When she started to cough, Omar jumped to be by her side. Aanu rested a hand on her back and rubbed it. The cough subsided and Yenkat dabbed her eyes. She gulped down the rest of her juice.
“Friends again?” Aanu asked. Yenkat nodded and got a tight hug. “You know this stupid boy here loves you to death, right?” She let go. “I’ve done my best to separate you two, but he’s stuck on you, Yen. Don’t break my baby’s heart.”
It was clear that Omar hadn’t told Aanu that he and Yenkat were done. She wondered why.
“I wish he were with someone younger, someone else not connected to me, but his heart wants you. What can I do? Just take care of him for me.”
“I will.” Yenkat smiled at Omar. “I have a meeting I must rush to.”
“Don’t be a stranger.”
“Is it okay to come and take Polaris sometimes? Let her sleep over here?”
“Great! And congratulations on your pregnancy.”
“Congratulations on yours.”
Yenkat itched to leave. Something about Aanu still didn’t feel right. She was happy when she smelled the outside air. Omar opened the door for her as he did before, and when he sat in, behind the wheel, he took her hand.
She took his lips. He didn’t resist.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I want to tell you not to walk away from us, but this is for the best.”
He held her hand and placed it over his nose and mouth, inhaling with his eyes closed.
“Do you want me to spend the night with you?” he requested. “One last time?”
He dropped her at the office and came for her after the meeting. She had had her first meal of the day while the meeting was going on, and presently, she felt bloated. She complained about it on their way back, and he asked her if it was okay for pregnant women to take Gestid. She said she’d be fine.
When they arrived home, she took the drugs prescribed by Bem and lay in bed to watch a movie with Polaris and Omar until the bloating disappeared. Omar put Polaris to bed and came back to the room.
Can I suck your nipples?” he asked.
“What?” Yenkat laughed. Omar undid her robe and slid lower to reach her breasts. But he pulled up again and told her how much he loved her and how badly he would miss her.
“If I get with another girl, I’m doing it to forget about you. I’m hoping and praying that you’ll change your mind and be with me.”
“I want to.”
“And I hope you have a boy that looks exactly like me.”
“You deserve all the love this baby can give, Yen. I’m happy for you.”
Her eyes found tears. “I’m so sorry.”
He held her close, resting her head on his chest. “I still want to suck your nipples.”
“What’s stopping you?”
He went lower again. When his lips met a nipple, she shivered. She was sensitive from the pregnancy, but she made no complaint about it. Omar made a feast of her breasts; and soon, she was asking him to do more. Upon her request, he made love to her in the spooning position, slowly, careful not to hurt her. He didn’t have an orgasm, but she did. One that was so intense, she felt some cramping in her cervix. When he pulled out, she lay wasted and drowsy.
“I’ll miss this too,” she murmured pleasurably.
“Fuck,” he muttered.
“What?” she asked.
“This can’t be normal, right?”
“What can’t be normal?”
Yenkat turned and found him staring at his penis with a frown. She looked down slowly, afraid of what she might find.
“You’re bleeding, Yen.”
Yenkat spread open her legs and placed her fingers over her vagina. Her hand shook as she brought it to view.
“No.” Tears filled her eyes hastily. “No nau. Nooo….”
Omar jumped off the bed, panicking. “Fuck, what are we going to do?”
Yenkat reached for her phone. She dialed Bem’s number. Loretta answered.
“You want to speak with Bem?”
“He just got in. He’s having a shower. Any problem?”
“Loretta, I’m bleeding. I think it’s a miscarriage.”
“How heavy is it?”
Yenkat felt a small surge of blood spilling out of her. She grit her teeth to keep herself together. “It’s not so heavy.”
“Any other symptom?”
“No. I don’t know.”
“Um… Okay. Can you make it to the hospital right away?”
“We’ll be there, waiting.”
Yenkat’s hand dropped without her ending the call. Omar, who had dressed up already, took the phone and asked her what Loretta said, but she couldn’t say a word. She sat there, stunned, staring ahead of her.
Omar searched for a sanitary pad and a cotton panty. He handed it to her and she dazedly attached the pad to the panty and wore it. Omar helped her into a maxi dress and dragged her out of the bedroom.
“You won’t lose the baby,” he assured her. “Everything will be fine.”
She asked to lie in the backseat of the car. Omar helped her in and she curled up.
“Supreme Specialist Hospital, right?” he asked. She didn’t answer. He started the engine and eased out of the compound.
Tears gathered in Yenkat’s eyes. She clung to Omar’s sweater, which she found on the seat. The pain in her lower tummy had begun to worsen. She covered her face with the sweater and sobbed.
“God, why do you hate me so much?” she screamed into the sweater.
“He doesn’t, mami. He could never.”
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages