“You think Aanu did this?”
Kyenpia’s voice sounded like it was coming from another space and time. Yenkat wasn’t there with her. She had switched off again, just as she had been doing since Bem broke the news to her. It was an on-and-off thing. Her mind came and went without her being able to control it. She couldn’t process the pain. She didn’t want to. She just wanted to get out of the hospital and resume her life.
“She did it,” Yenkat answered Kyenpia’s question in a whisper. “I know what she’s capable of.”
“You think it was in the juice? Maybe Bem can do a blood test to confirm.”
“He said the likelihood of tracing the pill in my blood is slim, because of the time that had passed since I took the juice…”
And off went Yenkat’s mind again. She was blank for a few seconds, but was brought back by a gentle touch from Kyenpia.
“You want to talk about how you feel right now?”
Yenkat shook her head. “You should go home.”
“I’m not leaving without you.”
“Bem wants to keep me here until tomorrow.”
“Yen, you need to rest. You have a fever and your mind keeps switching off. You’re not doing okay, and that’s understandable, considering what happened. I’m so sorry, babe.”
Yenkat didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her. She didn’t want to be consoled either. She just needed to be alone.
“You know I’ve been through this before, right?” Kyenpia persisted. “I know how you feel. I know you just want to shut the world out. And that’s okay. So, I’ll just sit in that corner and say nothing. Is that fine with you?”
Yenkat tried to give her a smile, but she couldn’t. She touched her hand, instead, and Kyenpia reached forward and hugged her.
Kyenpia got off the bed and went towards a two-sitter couch that was stationed against a wall. She stopped to look at Yenkat whose eyes seemed lost again.
“Yen?” she called, but got no response. She sat and picked her phone from her purse.
Outside the ward, standing on a long corridor verged with private wards on one side and an open courtyard on the other, Omar was on a call. He had just dialed Aisha, his father’s fiancée. She had tried reaching him twice earlier, but he had been preoccupied with Yenkat.
“Omar?” Her voice was drowsy.
“Sorry to wake you up,” he said to her in Hausa. He found it easier conversing with her that way.
“It’s no problem. We really need to talk.”
She yawned. “See, I don’t want you to take this the bad way…” She yawned again. “But your mom is up to no good. Your dad too. I overheard them talking about Yenkat. She’s pregnant, right?”
Omar shut his eyes and swallowed hard. “Yes.”
“Your mom… She said she’d do everything to make sure that baby doesn’t get to see the light of day. She was so upset that she kept saying that she would kill Yenkat if she were given the chance. Your dad tried to calm her down, but I don’t think he tried hard enough. Omar, do you think there’s something between them? Am I wasting my time with him?”
Omar wasn’t going to answer both questions. He knew his parents still had sex, and he suspected that Nasir was responsible for Aanu’s pregnancy. Not Obidan.
“He’ll have to answer that question himself,” Omar replied Aisha.
“Anyway, I just thought you should know, so that you’ll warn Yenkat to be careful.”
“Thanks. You said my dad was in on this?”
“Not really, but he didn’t stop her. And that really bothers me, Omar. What type of man is Nasir?”
Omar wished he knew. Nasir had always had a weak spot for Aanu.
“Well, just be careful.”
“No problem. Greet Yenkat for me.”
Omar hung up. It took him some time to process what Aisha had just told him, and when he did, he lost his calm. But since he couldn’t expend his anger, he went on a long walk, in which he had time to think. By the time he returned, his heart was heavy with guilt. He blamed himself for what Aanu did. If he had kept the news of the pregnancy to himself, the story would have been different tonight.
He walked into Yenkat’s room and stood by the door until she looked his way and called him over. She had a smile for him.
“Why were you standing there like a stranger?”
He sat on the bed, taking her hand. “This is all my fault. I’m so sorry.”
“Your fault?” She smiled again. “Boy, that sex was just what I needed. You didn’t hurt me.”
Omar knew her so well. He knew her heart was in pieces. He had been there when she lost her first baby. He saw firsthand what that loss took from her.
“I’m not talking about the sex. I’m just…”
He didn’t want to say anything to Yenkat of what Aisha had told him about Aanu.
“I’m sorry you’re going through this. I wish I could undo all of it. I wish…”
“It’s fine. You shouldn’t worry about me. Your flight leaves in the morning. Go to school, Tobi, study hard and get your life in order. I’ll be all right.”
But she didn’t look all right. She looked lost and broken. Her eyes were faraway, like she wasn’t there with him. It killed him to know that all of this would have been avoided if he had shut his mouth.
“I’m so sorry.”
He held her hand until she slept off; and then, he sat there watching her. The night rolled by torturously. At exactly 5:00 a.m., he woke Kyenpia and told her that he was leaving. He said he needed to speak with her. They stepped out of the room together.
“I know you never wanted me with her,” he stated.
“For obvious reasons. Nothing personal.”
“Well, you can relax now. I’m leaving for good.”
“It’s what we both want, what she’s always wanted. It’s for the best, though. I just need you to do something for me. Tell her how much I love her, how walking away is killing me, how…”
“Why don’t you tell her yourself?”
Because he couldn’t look into Yenkat’s eyes and say those words to her without breaking down like a baby. His emotions would screw him over. He was feeling a lot of things right now. First of which was guilt. He blamed himself for the loss of their child. Secondly, he hated his mother for the person she had always been to him and what she had become. Thirdly, he could do nothing about the hate because he loved her despite everything. Fourthly, he had finally accepted that he wasn’t good enough for Yenkat; that he was too young and immature, and all he could give her was pain.
“Because it’s hard to say goodbye. I’m not good at doing that. So, just tell her I’m sorry and I love her.”
“You know she loves you, right?”
“No, you don’t know how much, because she’s never shown you the depth of what she feels for you. It’s very deep, but it’s dangerous. Everything about your relationship is so messed up. I wish things were different for you guys, so that I can cheer you on, but Omar, I choose my cousin’s happiness and safety above all else.”
“I applaud your maturity in this decision you’re making. Thank you.”
“I’m wishing you the best.”
Omar nodded and walked away. He came out to the parking lot, got into his car and drove to Aanu’s home. She was still asleep when he arrived. He went into the kitchen and rummaged through her trashcan, pouring the contents on the floor. He was looking for evidence that she had poisoned Yenkat’s juice with an abortifacient. But he found nothing. He barged into her bedroom next. She jolted up at his intrusion and was dazed for a few seconds before she fumbled with the bedside lamp. When she switched it on, it flickered and died.
“Tobi…” She sighed. “What’s going on?”
“I want to ask you a question, and I beg you to answer honestly.”
“How can you just burst into my room this early morning like this? Have you gone mad?”
“Just listen to me and answer my question.”
Aanu shook her head and said something in Yoruba about him lacking respect.
“Did you poison Yenkat’s drink?”
“Poi…? Wha-what are you saying?”
“You put an abortion pill in her drink.”
“What are you talking about?” Aanu touched her chest. “Me?”
“Mom, of all the things you could ever be, I never imagined you would get to the point of murder!” he shouted.
“I hope you’re happy! She lost the baby! We lost the baby. And I’ve lost Yenkat! You got what you wanted!”
“Don’t even start with your pretenses, please! Yesterday, you put up the worst ever performance when Yenkat was here! And I should have known that you had something up your sleeve! I should have seen it coming!” He moved closer to the bed. “All I wanted from you, Mom, was to bury the beef! That was all I wanted, because I felt responsible for breaking up your friendship with Yenkat, and I wanted to fix that! I thought that the bond you and I built in the village this past month was strong enough to make you understand how much I loved her! But I was wrong! I was stupid! A fool! And now, Yen has to pay the price!”
“I didn’t do anything, Tobi.”
“You knew how much she wanted that baby. You knew the hell she’s been through all these years. Still…” He shook his head. “How heartless can one person be?”
“I didn’t do it. Please, believe me.”
“I can never believe you, never trust you, and I never want to see you again after today. I hate you, Mom. I hate you for everything…” His long held tears broke free. “For how much you hated me as a child, for all the abuse and the rejection. I’ll be gone from your life for good, and I hope that makes you happy.”
“Tobi…” She got off the bed and moved towards him, but he backed away.
“Don’t fucking come near me.”
“You were never my mother.”
Omar charged out of her bedroom. Aanu went after him, clutching her bedsheet to her chest.
He left the house and got into his car. He still had three hours before his flight.
“Good morning, beautiful.”
He cut a sexy image standing under the morning sun, covered in his sweat and tight boxer-briefs. He wasn’t the finest man she had been with, but Fiyin knew she could stare at him all day and never get tired. However, she had a busy morning waiting. She needed to stop by at Yenkat’s and then rush off to work.
“Your ride is all good to go,” he said, shutting the hood of her car. “You want to hop on it and shift some gears?”
Fiyin giggled. “Don’t start your madness, abeg. Come in and take your shower and be going.”
“No breakfast? After all the work I did here and on you last night?”
“I didn’t ask you to fix that car. You carried your oversabi self and went to do work that no one asked you to do.” Fiyin pointed at a new car parked in her garage. “I’m good to go with this.”
“Well, you can sell this because it’s in good condition. It just needs a little spraying and it’s great.”
“Thank you. Now, can you come in, wash all that grease off and find your way home?”
He walked up to her, and before she could move away to let him through, he put his arms around her. She shrieked as she tried to escape his grip.
“This bathrobe is Givenchy! Do you know how much it cost me? Why are you like this nau? Let me go!”
He grabbed her bum with both hands as his lips went for hers, instantly silencing her.
“I hate you,” she said, giggling.
“No, you don’t. You like me. You really, really, really like me.”
“Leave me joor.”
“Fash and Fiyin under the blanket K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Do you remember that?”
“Liar.” He sucked her lip. “I was your first kiss.”
“Fashanu, we didn’t kiss. You pecked my lips and it was rather fast because I kicked your dick and you burst into a cry like a little girl. Then, your mom came in and gave two of us the beating of our lives.”
“And your mom was mad at her because you ended up catching a fever.”
“And they exchanged words that kept them apart for years.”
“And now they want their kids together.”
“Hmm… Technically, my mom is fine with me bringing anything home that has a dick. She wants you as a son-in-law, but not like that.”
“And you think I don’t have a bunch of girls all lined up for me?”
“Then why have you been on my case for almost three weeks now?”
Fashanu smiled, bringing Fiyin’s lips back to his with an upward tilt of her chin.
“The sex is great, you are sweet, you make me laugh, I like your mind, and I so badly want to know your dark side.”
“Dark side ke.” Fiyin moved away from him, tapping his chest. “Let’s just go in and shower.” She turned towards the front door. “You owe me a new bathrobe.”
They barely made it into the living room before they crashed into each other—Fiyin’s body pressed against the wall, Fashanu’s body pressed against hers, heavy breaths, moans and laughter in-between, grease stains on the wall. It was sweaty and fast, and left them both breathless. When Fiyin turned around to face Fashanu, he rested his body on hers. She caught a shadow in her peripheral view and focused on it until it sharpened into Bosco’s full form.
Fiyin tapped Fashanu, pushing him away.
“Hey…” She pulled down her bathrobe as Fashanu tugged up his underwear. “I didn’t know you were coming.”
Bosco was silent. His expression didn’t give away his thoughts, but Fiyin knew he was angry. He stood at the entrance of the living room from the kitchen, hands in his pockets.
“I’ll take a quick shower,” Fashanu said, heading in the direction of Fiyin’s bedroom. Bosco’s eyes followed him and returned to Fiyin.
“Is this why you haven’t been picking my calls?”
“I’ve been busy–”
“Clearly. You don’t answer your phone, you’re hardly at home…”
“We were together on Sunday, Boss.”
“And then you ran off.”
“My mom needed me. You were there when I took her call. What’s your problem?”
A knock on the front door startled her.
“See, don’t give me stress this morning, Oris. Don’t.”
She turned around and looked through the peephole. “For real?”
She unlocked the door and opened it. Jaiye walked in. The first thing he did was kiss her.
“Stop.” She stepped away.
“I have good news. Oga at the top has this apartment he’s managing at the Burj Khalifa and I have access to it for the entire weekend. You and I are going on a vacation to Dubai. All expenses paid by me. We also have gift cards to a couple of the biggest designer stores there, so you can shop until you…”
He stopped, spotting Bosco.
“What’s he doing here?” His eyes dropped on Fiyin, taking in her body. “And why are you covered in… Is it grease or…?”
“Jay, this isn’t a good time. We’ll talk in the office.”
Fashanu emerged from her bedroom, a small pink towel around his waist. “I just need to get my um…” He picked a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from a side stool.
“Don’t smoke in my room nau,” Fiyin complained with a sigh.
“I’m smoking in the bathroom,” he replied, returning to the bedroom. The door shut and Jaiye laughed in disbelief.
“Like I said, we’ll talk in the office.” She pointed him towards the front door.
He left the house in a huff. She locked the door and faced Bosco who hadn’t moved an inch from his position.
“You care to explain to me why Sunday happened?” he asked Fiyin. She walked towards the kitchen, ignoring his question. “Fiyin?”
“Sunday happened because we were both horny and the chemistry between us never really died.”
“Fi, you know I’m serious about you. Sunday wasn’t just about the sex. You know I want to be with you. I want to make things right.”
Fiyin picked the hot water kettle and filled it with water while he spoke.
“If you knew that you weren’t going to go all the way with me, why did you do what you did?”
She turned the kettle on before responding to him. “Boss, you’re funny o. So, in your mind, you had done your work on me well and assumed that you had successfully saved me from Jaiye and other men out there. And so, on Sunday, you decided to zoom in and reward yourself with my pussy…”
“That’s not true. Sunday was special.”
“Well, it wasn’t to me. I was horny, and that was it. No emotions, nothing. I like you. Yeah, I do, but I like Jaiye too. And Fashanu. And Doyin.”
“You’re sleeping with Doyin as well?”
“No. We’re just going on dates, but he’s still fun.”
“Are you hearing yourself? Is this a healthy life to live, Fiyinfoluwa?”
“Raising your voice at me and calling my full name is not going to make your point sink in deeper. I’m fond of all the men in my life, you inclusive. If you don’t like the fact that I have decided to be polyamorous, then you can leave. It’ll hurt to lose you, but I’ll be fine.”
He moved towards her and rested concerned eyes on her. “This wasn’t the deal we had. I am in your life to help you stay focused on yourself, to keep you away from your addiction. Sunday was great, but it was a mistake. I shouldn’t have. I should have held it together and kept you on the right path. I don’t want you getting hurt, Fi.”
“And I don’t need a hero, Boss. I just need someone who takes me the way I am.”
“Well, looks like you have enough people taking you.”
“You will not slut-shame me.”
“I don’t need to. Your conscience is already doing a good job of that. Have a nice life or whatever.”
He made his exit through the backdoor, leaving Fiyin with a troubled mind. She hated to lose him; spending time with him over the past month had been therapeutic. Their connection was strong and Sunday had been romantic. It had something to do with the tightness of his apartment, the coziness of his bed, the nostalgia his kisses and hands brought. She realized now that it had been more emotional than physical. But Fiyin wasn’t so sure if the emotions she felt were reciprocated. Bosco had always known how to get to her heart.
She made cups of coffee for herself and Fashanu. She took them to her bedroom, which was reeking of cigarette smoke. He was already dressed and was smoking a second cigarette while he browsed the net on his phone.
“Fash!” she whined as she handed him a mug of steaming coffee. “You know I hate the smell of this thing.”
“I’m sorry,” he apologized. “It’s an addiction I’m trying to kick. If you agree to be my wife, I will stop.”
“Darling, don’t be stupid,” she said in a British accent, imitating his.
“So, are we hanging out this evening?”
“No. I have things to do.”
“Other guys to fuck?” She eyed him. “Hey, I’m not judging you. I totally understand. I have my hoe moments as well. We’ll make a great couple, because we’re alike. Open relationships are the rave these days, and I see why. That monogamy thing is bullshit and unrealistic. Think about it. Seven billion people in the world and you decide to get yourself locked in a civic union with just one person for life? Tragic.”
“But what if we get married and one of us ends up falling in love with the other or with someone else?”
“Like I said, tragic.” He got off the bed. “I have to go. Coffee is not my thing. I prefer breakfast in bed or ice-cream between your legs.” He kissed her. If you change your mind, you can call me anytime, darling.”
Fiyin lost her mood for her coffee after he left. She had a shower and got dressed for work. On her way to Yenkat’s, Amaka called.
“She’s in the office,” she told Fiyin. “Don’t bother going to her house.”
“She’s at work already?”
“Yes. And she doesn’t want to talk about it.”
“I feel so sad for her. She’s lost weight. Why is this life not fair to some people, Fi?”
“I don’t know.”
“Yenkat can’t even get pregnant for five minutes and some chicks are out there aborting upandan.”
Yup, that’s me. Four abortions, and I can’t find the love of my life like y’all have.
“I’m sha on my way to the office.”
“Come with donuts for her. She said she’s hungry.”
Fiyin stopped at a donut place and bought a pack of sprinkled donuts for Yenkat. She also bought a sympathy card. She got to BFAM a few minutes before eleven. Yenkat had a guest in her office when she arrived. Fiyin stayed in her office and attended to a few matters for half an hour before going in to see Yenkat.
“I’m so sorry, Yen.”
“No, it’s not. I know it hurts.”
Yenkat’s eyes were sad. Fiyin teared up.
“Please, don’t do another Amaka for me. No more crying.”
“I’m so sorry, Yen.”
“You already said that. Bring those donuts here, abeg.”
Fiyin pushed the donuts and the card towards her.
“Do you want to read what I wrote inside?”
“When I had an abortion and I was dying with regret, I wrote the poem that’s inside this card. I know it’s not the same thing, but grief is universal.”
“Thank you, dear. I’ll keep it till I get home. I am here to eat donuts and work.”
Fiyin went around Yenkat’s table and hugged her. “I still believe in miracles. You’re a great mother, and I know your baby is on the way.”
“I doubt that.”
“You can’t give up nau, Yen. You just can’t. There’s this Yoruba saying… Bi esin ba dani gule a tun gun ni.”
“If a horse throws you down, you get up and climb it again,” Yenkat translated.
“Beeni! Never give up. God’s timing is always perfect.”
“Thank you so much, Fi.”
Fiyin dropped a peck on cheek. “Allow me to rush off to Léon.”
She made her way out as Yenkat took a big bite from the first donut she picked from the box. Fiyin stopped in Amaka’s office, blew her a kiss and hurried off.
Leonel was unfocussed. Fidgety too. He didn’t know why he had chosen to wear a suit this morning. A t-shirt and pair of jeans would have suited him better. He felt stuffed; he shouldn’t have had a full breakfast. Maybe a tall glass of something alcoholic and soothing would ease his mood. A joint would take the edge off. Maybe another dose of his antipsychotic pills. Maybe a session with Idara. Maybe time in bed with Kyenpia…
“After trying all these years…” Fiyin, seated before Leonel’s table, sniffled. “It’s so depressing. I tried to be strong when I went to see her. She already looked frail. She said she was fine, but I knew she wasn’t.”
Leonel needed to visit Yenkat. She needed a hug and comforting words. But what do you say to someone who lost their unborn baby?
“I think I should offer to be her surrogate. I’m beginning to have baby blues. I’ll be happy to make her happy.”
“Fiyin?” Leonel called. She looked at him. He wanted to tell her something about going straight to the point of her visit, but he saw that her sympathy for Yenkat was genuine. “Your friend will be fine.”
“I pray she gets over this. It reminds me of Kay and that time she had her miscarriage. It was so depressing.” Fiyin burst into a sob. Leonel was irritated. His head throbbed under a wicked migraine and she made his mood worse. Yet he comforted her with words, and waited until she was calm before he asked the reason for her visit.
“Well, the last time we spoke, you told me to date all three men in my life since I couldn’t choose which one I wanted.”
“For real? You took me seriously?” Leonel laughed. “It was said tongue-in-cheek. I didn’t think you’d go ahead and do it.”
But the truth was that he didn’t give Fiyin any such advice. Spirit did; it was the type of crap he would advise.
“Well, you specifically told me to explore my inner hoe, and I went ahead and did. The problem now is that they are four guys and not three. A family friend is caught in the mix.”
“So, you’re presently dating four men?”
“Yeah… Sort of. I’m having sex with three of them. Doyin is still very much on his abstinence path, but he says he wants me back. He’s willing to forgive the past.”
“So, how is it all working out?”
“Liberating. For the first time, I am not judging myself.” She laughed, dabbing off leftover tears from the corners of her eyes and looking at her fingers. “It’s not the sex that’s great. It’s the sense of acceptance – me accepting myself finally. My mind also feels decluttered as regards to my sexuality. I’m no longer wondering if having sex makes me a whore or not. I’m more focused on my pleasure, and this makes me more aware of what I want in a man and what I’m doing. Does it make any sense to you?”
“It does. So, how about the guys? Do you feel a special connection to any of them in particular?”
“So, here’s the thing… Underneath it all, I am being pressured by my parents to settle down. This is what makes the whole thing difficult. I am supposed to choose one man from these four wonderful men and make him my husband, and I’m thinking it won’t be a bad idea to marry all of them.”
She giggled. “Just kidding. Okay, let’s start with Doyin. He’s financially and emotionally stable, god-fearing, focused, and he’s still crazy about me. I have feelings for him too.”
“But I don’t see him as my husband, to be honest. He’ll bore me to death. Second on the list is Jaiye. Phew!” She laughed and shivered for emphasis. “Your cousin lights my fire.”
Leonel puckered up his brows. “You don’t mean it.”
“I swear! There’s no dull moment with him. He gets me sexually, like all the way! He’s spontaneous and resourceful.”
“But he’s very patriarchal in his ways. We’ll get married and he will start telling me not to hang out with the girls or to quit my job while he chases after other girls. I don’t think I can handle that. Then there’s Fashanu…”
“The new guy?”
“Yes. He’s a mechanical engineer. He just moved in from the UK and opened this massive auto repair shop in VI. He’s doing great. We knew each other as kids, our families are acquainted. So, marrying him would fit right into my parents’ plans for me. The sex is great, almost as fiery as the one with Jaiye. He’s adventurous, non-judgmental, he lets me be myself…”
“But he’s a loose canon. I’m scared that we’ll get married and one day he’ll bring his boyfriend over for a threesome.”
“He’s into guys?”
“No. But he could become bisexual or any of those weird things people are becoming now. He has no morals.”
“Finally, there’s Bosco.”
Leonel noticed a gleam in her eyes.
“He’s the brokest of them all. The least person my parents would want to see me with. But he’s hardworking and has goals for the future. We’re friends – we can talk for hours and not get tired. He gets me mentally.”
“And the sex?”
“Weirdly satisfying. It happened on Sunday after more than a year, and all I could think about was the past, when I was in love with him and…” Fiyin sighed. “We didn’t do all the crazy stuff I usually do with Jaiye, but it was hot and emotional. He had all this sweet things to say to me afterwards. Leo, he’s madly in love with me and he’ll make a perfect husband, no doubt.”
“But I don’t know if I can trust him again. I don’t know if I can trust myself to stay faithful to him. You know how horny I can get.” She covered her mouth to stifle laughter. Leonel smiled. “God forgive me.”
“So, what do you advise?”
“First of, I’m glad you’re in a happy as regards your sex life. There’s nothing better than knowing yourself and accepting who you truly are.”
“Yeah.” She sighed. “Thanks for telling me to explore my inner hoe. I mean, you and Kay are really meant for each other. She was the one who first came up with the idea.”
“Hmm…” Leonel took a more relaxed pose on his chair. “She did, huh.”
“Yes. I was pissed at her when she suggested it, but you reiterated it, and I thought, ‘why not?’”
Leonel smiled once more. It was weird that he was finding out that Kyenpia and Spirit had a few things in common. “Just make sure you play safe, Fi.”
“I will. So, your advice?”
“Fiyin, I need to be blunt with you. You’re not ready for marriage. Don’t let your parents pressure you into walking down the isle. I know it’s hard not to want to please them, but in the end, it’s about you. There are too many failed marriages today for you not to learn from. You don’t want to be part of that statistic, especially when kids are involved. You want to take your time and be sure that the man you’re going into marriage with is the one. So, my advice is that you narrow your search to one person, someone you have feelings for and see yourself dating. Get to know that person better before you take that leap.”
“Thank you, so much, Leo.”
“Can I keep fucking all of them, though?”
Leonel threw his head back in laughter.
“I can’t stop you, Fi. Just fuck with a goal in mind. In the end, senseless sex is…senseless.”
“Got ya! Thank you, Butter Babe.” She clutched her handbag. “Busy day ahead. Kiss Kay and the kids for me.”
Leonel waited for her to leave, and then he called Idara.
“We need to talk,” he told her. “I think Spirit is connecting with Kyenpia. The plan’s working.”
“I told you it would.”
“But I’m afraid that he wants to be in control so badly. For how long do I have to go under?”
“Going under is not a good way to describe this, Leo. We’re making progress.”
“I don’t feel so well and I’m out of medication. I don’t know how that happened. I suspect Spirit got rid of my pills.”
“Then, you’ll have to see Doctor Marvin.”
He groaned. “Not him, please.”
“Leo, go and see your doctor.”
“You know how much I hate psychiatrists, Idara. Marvin, especially. He always makes me feel like I’m crazy.”
“But he’s still your doctor, and you haven’t seen him in a while. I went against my ethics prescribing those pills for you the last two times. I can’t do it again. See Marvin and he’ll write you a fresh prescription.”
“I’m sorry, Leo. The most I can do is squeeze in an hour for you today.”
“Fine. I’ll see you in a bit.”
“Thanks.” Leonel hung up. He pressed a hand on his temple to stop the throbbing in his head. “God! Shoot me.”
Ishi wasn’t sure what was going on with her hair, but whatever it was, he liked it. He watched her from his office as she stepped out of the car and briefly admired her looks. There was not a single day that she didn’t look beautiful and natural, even when dressed in the most sophisticated clothes. He couldn’t believe that there was a time she hated her hair. It was more of not knowing where she was really from than the nature of the hair itself that prompted the hate. Her friends used to call her locks ‘oyibo hair’ but she didn’t feel that way about it. She had wanted to be hundred percent African (her complexion was fully afro) but her locks always sold her out. There were full, long and curly, and always gave her unnecessary attention. If she tried to apply relaxer to straighten it out, the result would be disastrous. It was even worse whenever she went under a clipper; hence, she would constantly wear weaves like everyone else. He thought she was crazy to do so and always told her to appreciate what she had. It took him time to make her love her hair, and in so doing, accept that it was okay to be different. On the occasion of their first kiss, he had buried his fingers in the locks and refused to let go even when their lips separated.
“Your hair alone can make me break my vows.”
“Not my lips?”
“Your lips are beautiful, Kay.”
“I must be such a terrible kisser for you to describe them as just beautiful.”
He kissed her again, but slower. He then withdrew his fingers and jumped to his feet. “If I kiss you one more time, I’ll have a lot to answer to God for. I love your hair, still.”
Kyenpia laughed as he hurried out of her apartment. It wasn’t just her hair. It was the connection between them, the growing chemistry that was hard to quench. Even now, his heart still stored her in a special place where no one could reach. But there was Oby who seemed to take up most of his thoughts these days. Kyenpia was supportive of his relationship with her. She told him that it was her desire to see them make something permanent of their bond. Ishi had noble intentions towards Oby, but he wasn’t ready to go that far yet. Things had to set themselves right first.
Ishi turned away from the window and to his door. Kyenpia was peeking in, smiling.
“You’ve been here since morning? You didn’t go to Shacksmith?”
“Shh.” He put his finger to his lips and then pointed at Eliana who was asleep on his couch. “She got into a fight in school with a boy and he pushed her to the floor. She hit her head.”
“A fight?” Kyenpia dashed in. She stooped before their daughter and examined her forehead. There was a bruise and some swelling.
“Is it something we need to take up with the school?”
“No. Baby girl fought back. Bit the boy on his arm.”
Ishi nodded. “I gave her paracetamol syrup to ease any pain.”
“Can you take her home, please?”
“I’m off to Shacksmith.” Ishi pecked Kyenpia on the cheek as he made his way out. “Have a good day.”
He drove to Shacksmith, spent three hours there and left for church where he had a scheduled counseling session with the senior pastor, which lasted an hour. He then decided it would be best to kill time with the youth this evening. There was traffic heading towards his side of Lagos and he wasn’t going to jump into it.
As he approached the church hall, he picked out the sound of someone playing something on the piano. And it wasn’t just any sound. It was Beethoven’s timeless ‘Moonlight’ Sonata. Ishi could recognize the sound in his sleep. It had been one of his father’s favorite, and Ishi had listened to it repeatedly after he lost his family. Hearing it now stirred nostalgia in him.
He entered the cathedral and watched Oby play the classical piece on the grand piano. Because her back was to him, she didn’t see him walking towards her until he was just a couple of feet away from her. She stopped and turned.
“You scared me,” she laughed, hand to her chest.
“Thou shalt not fear in thine father’s house.”
“How are you, Pastor Ishi?”
“That was some work you were doing there. I don’t know anything about the technicality of piano solos, but I know Beethoven’s Moonlight and I know that it takes a master to play it the way you do.”
“Thank you. I haven’t had time to play in a while, so these fingers are rusty.”
“Nothing rusty about what I heard. It was perfect.”
“You don’t mind if I finish it then?”
He watched her play. The way her fingers moved over the keys, the manner in which they went deep sometimes and other times, softly brushed over the keys like a feather. The movement of her body to each sound, the rise and fall of her shoulders, the ecstatic expression on her face which came with a deepening of her brows, and silent movement of her lips as though she was trying to say something and choosing not to say it at the same time. Obialunanma lived and breathed through her music. It was the same way she got lost whenever she was singing. She was a passionate musician. Not like Ishi had met any music minister who wasn’t passionate; Oby was just different, without the theatrics. Her love for God was profound and personal. Ishi felt that if it were left to her, she wouldn’t share it with the world. But it wasn’t just her faith. She was an intense person in every aspect, devoid of outward emotional expressions. One had to dive in deep to catch that side of her. She was complex, yet he understood her like he had always known her.
“Wow.” Ishi applauded as she struck the last notes of the sonata. Grinning, she lifted her fingers off the keyboard of the piano. “That was amazing, for lack of words to use.”
“You flatter me too much, Pastor Ishi.”
“I thought we said we’d take off the ‘pastor’ titles? Come on, Oby. It’s been three dates.”
She laughed. “I just feel more comfortable calling you Pastor. Addressing you directly suggests a certain level of familiarity we are yet to attain.”
“It’s no fault of mine, if I should say…”
Ishi looked at her.
“After three dates and a visit to your friends’ home, you and I should be on to something by now, but for some reason, you’re holding back. Do you want to tell me why?”
He forgot how forward she could get. She was as audacious as she was restrained.
“Pastor Ishi!” someone standing at one of the back entrances of the church called. Ishi turned, grateful for the timely interruption. “G.O. just got in! He’s asking to see you!”
Ishi got up. “I’ll see you later, Oby.”
“How about after the service tonight? I’ll be ministering. You may want to attend.”
Ishi hurried out of the hall and followed the person who had come for him. The general overseer of the church was in his office with other pastors. Ishi was surprised that he was invited for the meeting. As much as he had been welcomed back to the fold and given a new office, he was yet to be reinstated to his former position. He was on a month-long spiritual cleanse, which was backed by regular counseling sessions with one of the senior pastors. He was yet to consider himself worthy enough to be the leader he used to be.
The meeting with the G.O., although impromptu, ended up taking longer than expected. Afterwards, the man asked to have a one-on-one with Ishi. The church wanted to run a couple of community outreaches and needed the help of The Refuge. Ishi was glad to assist them in any way he could.
He left the G.O.’s office two hours later. By then, the youth service was already halfway done. He entered the hall and took space in a discreet corner. Oby was on the stage, and he thought she looked chic this evening. He hadn’t given much attention to her attire earlier. She had dumped her signature Boho look for a denim shirt over a black pencil skirt and leopard print heels. No woman he knew killed it in heels like she did. And he found it weird that he felt a sense of pride from the fact. Was his attraction to her that deep?
“Our theme for this month is Road to Damascus,” Oby said, moving away from the pulpit to face the congregation. The hall wasn’t as full as it always was every Sunday, but there was a sizable number of people in attendance this evening. “I promised you that I’d share my story with you today. The story of how I met Jesus.”
Ishi was interested in this story. He had tried to get it out of her, but she had held back. He was a little stung by the fact that he was going to hear it at the same time everyone else was.
“I um… haven’t celebrated Christmas in twenty years. And this is why. Twenty years ago, following the Igbo tradition of heading to the village to celebrate Christmas, my family and I were heading to our hometown in Imo State for the Christmas holidays. Father, mother, and three children. We’d done this for many years. But that year, tragedy struck, and a trailer ran into our SUV, killing everyone except me.”
There was reaction of sympathy from the crowd.
“I found myself on the sidewalk with my guts spilling out of me. I remember gathering them in my hands and frantically trying to push everything back in. I didn’t even know that one side of my scalp was hanging loose and already torn in four parts that were held together as if by a thread.”
Oby took off her scarf, exposing her Mohawk and the scarred side of her scalp that was tattooed. When the camera zoomed in on her head, the congregation gasped.
“I haven’t celebrated Christmas since then. I’m left with the scars and nightmares.” She placed her scarf on the pulpit. “I lived with my grandfather from the age of fourteen. He was a grumpy old man with a lot of money. He spoiled me, but made my life miserable as well.” She smiled with a shake of her head. “He wanted me to study medicine at all cost, because his only child, my dad, had been a doctor. So, I studied medicine when I got into uni at seventeen. I graduated and went ahead to become a doctor. But all I ever wanted to do was to be a musician. And guess what I did. I pursued a degree in music at UNN without Grandpa’s knowledge. I worked and schooled at the same time. He found out and stopped helping me financially, but I didn’t care. I did it all on my own, graduated, packed my bags and went to Holland.
“In Amsterdam, I stayed with a friend for some months and then pursued a master’s in classical music at the Conservatorium Van Amsterdam, where I perfected my art in the piano. That was where I also lived rebelliously. The tattoo on my scalp and other places are proof of what type of person I became. Well, I don’t think having tattoos is sinful, but that is not the topic for today. Anyways, think of all the immoral things a young adult could do, I did them all. God wasn’t even an option in my life because I was very mad at him for taking my family away.
“But what changed? How did I find my faith? How did I find God?”
Her eyes roamed and caught Ishi for a second. He saw something like a smile.
“I woke up one morning, craving for poffert. It’s a special Dutch cake with raisins, and in the whole of Amsterdam, there’s just one bakery I liked buying it from, and I liked it fresh out of the oven. To get it, you’d have to wake up very early. So, there I was, out on the streets as early as six, about to take a walk to the bakery, when some lady who walked past me in a hurry to cross the road, was suddenly hit by a speeding car. It was unusual for cars to drive that fast on those streets, but it was more unusual to watch someone being run over. It happened in seconds, and there she was, lying on the other side of the road in a mess.
“Her guts, intestines and all, were exposed. Just as it had happened to me when I lost my family. And I froze right there. I forgot that I was a doctor, forgot that someone was lying there needing help… I just couldn’t move because I was high on crack that morning. So high that my mind couldn’t process anything at all except proffet. Luckily, someone rushed to the scene and called 112. Unluckily, Fenna didn’t make it. She passed away.”
“Aww,” chorused the congregation.
“I spent days in isolation, devastated, guilty. I blamed myself for her death. It was a horrible moment in my life, but my friend somehow managed to convince me to get out of bed and find her family, so that I could get closure. I did. I got out, asked a few questions and found them. I confessed to them that I could have helped Fenna but I didn’t. I broke down in front of them and asked their forgiveness. And you know what they did? They hugged me and told me they held nothing against me. They said Fenna would have forgiven me too. They showed me pictures of her and the wonderful life she lived as a Christian, saving and mentoring young adults who were hopeless drug addicts. That morning of her death, she had gotten a call about one of her mentees who had relapsed and overdosed. She was hurrying to get him to the hospital.”
“Ouch,” Ishi muttered.
“Meeting Fenna had been my Road to Damascus moment. Brothers and sisters, I wanted to be like her. I wanted to do what she enjoyed doing. But first, I needed to let God in. And that was what I did. Right in her home, right in front of her family, I asked Jesus into my life. Weirdly, I didn’t feel liberated that day. I was even more depressed than before. It took me weeks of constantly asking God to help me beat my addiction before I fully realized and accepted that I was a new creation. My grandfather fell ill about that time and I had to return home to take care of him. His hospitalization lasted four months, so I was stuck in Nigeria. That was when I joined this ministry in Owerri and began my walk with God fully.
“Well, here I am today. Totally devoted to Jesus, changing lives one day at a time.”
The congregation applauded.
“So, what is your Road to Damascus story?”
Ishi didn’t stay until the end of the service, but he sent a text to Oby, telling her that he would be waiting for her in the parking lot. He then walked to where his car was parked. His bodyguard was standing outside, eating a snack.
“It’s been a year since this our relationship started,” Ishi said to him.
“More than a year.”
“You think maybe it should end? I mean, I’m out of danger, ain’t I?”
The man laughed, his bulky chest heaving. “Boss, you crack me up all the time.”
“I don’t think anyone wants to kill me.”
“Boss, I wouldn’t know about that. But one thing I know? I’d be a dead man if I fucked with Captain. And Captain says I’m your cover for life. It’s for better or worse, boss.”
Ishi gave up. He sat in the car and listened to the radio until he saw Oby approaching them.
“Give us some privacy.”
The bodyguard walked away. Oby came forward and Ishi stepped out of the car.
“Stirring sermon tonight, Pastor,” he commented.
“Finally, you let me into your past. Me and everyone else.”
She gave him a teasing stare. “Are you jealous?”
“Jealous? Is that the definition of when a man wants to get to know a woman better? When he thinks he’s earned the right to…finally want to make things official with her?”
Oby dropped her stare and brought it up again. “What are you saying, Pastor Ishi?”
“I’m saying that I’m in the same space as you.”
“I like you, Obialunanma. My attraction to you was instant from the first day. I like that you’re beautiful, intelligent, a woman of faith, fearless, different, deep and fun to be with. I want to dig deeper, know you more, spend more time with you, and see where it goes. Is that something you think you’ll be open to?”
Her face broke in a smile. “I thought you’d never ask.”
“But I need some time to pray about it. And this has nothing to do with my feelings for you. I just want to be sure. I…haven’t heard from God directly in a long while.”
“Maybe the Holy Spirit’s speaking to you in other ways you’re not used to.”
“You’re right,” he responded. He believed she was. But in this instance, he wanted to hear directly from the Holy Spirit. Stephanie’s betrayal still stung.
“For me, I’m a hundred percent sure,” Oby said. “Ishi…I have a confession to make. This was what I said I wanted to tell you.”
“I’ve crushed on you for more than a year, almost two years.”
“Healthy, holy crushing, if there’s such a thing.” They both laughed. “Even when you publicly proposed to Stephanie. I followed the whole saga. I mourned with you when you lost your family, quietly keeping up with gist about you up until rumors got out that you and Kyenpia had something going on. So, I want to ask… Did you guys…?”
Ishi cleared his throat.
“I withdraw the question then. I just want you to know that it’s taken me a while to pray about you and I am certain about us. I see my transfer from Owerri to Lagos as God pointing me in your direction.”
“Ishi, I’ll be waiting for you, ready when you are.”
“Okay! I think I should run off. Have a good evening.”
She hurried away and walked a distance, but turned back.
“I feel very stupid for all I just told you right now. I… It wasn’t my intention to put any pressure on you. I don’t want you thinking of me as a stalker or someone desperate. Oh God, I’m not desperate. Far from it, Ishi. I’m so sorry and so stupid.”
“Please, forget it. Take your time or just ignore all I said and forget about me and…”
“It’s okay.” He took her hand. She stared at their hands linked together. “I’m with you, and I deeply appreciate all you just told me. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“It would have to be God saying we aren’t good for each other. Certainly not me walking away from you because, as I already said… I like you. So, relax. I just…”
“Or more like, I need to be honest with you. Oby, my reason for asking for time is because I’m undergoing a cleanse right now. That thing they said I did with the mother of my child? I kind’a did it. A lot. We were both going through grief and we needed each other, so…”
“Now, I need to have God prepare me for my future wife.”
“Do you still feel embarrassed?”
“I mean, I just admitted to having been immoral, so I definitely should wear the crown of embarrassment.”
“Go in peace, knowing that this man here is thinking a lot about you.”
She blushed. “All right, Pastor.”
He rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb and let go.
“One more thing…” she said. “Is Kyenpia going to be a…?”
“No. We’re over.”
“Okay, then. Goodnight.”
She strolled in the direction of her car as Ishi got into his. His bodyguard took his place in the driver’s side.
“Take me home, abeg.”
“Yes, boss.” The engine came alive. Oby drove past them, towards the exit. The bodyguard looked at Ishi with a smile. “Pastor Oby is a beautiful woman, boss.”
Ishi eyed him. “This is why I want us to end this relationship, Marcus.”
Marcus gave a guttural laugh and set the car rolling.
They came with flowers, pepper soup and three boxes of her favorite dark chocolate. Leonel held Eliana in his arms as he offered words of comfort.
“You guys are making it sound so serious,” she laughed. “It’s not that deep. I’m fine, seriously.”
“I know you are, Yen,” he responded, “but it’s okay if you feel down. It’s also okay to talk to someone about it.”
Yenkat smacked her lips dismissively. “Don’t you think we’re getting too dependent on therapists these days in Nigeria? No offense, doctor.”
Leonel gave an understanding smile. “Just in case you need to talk to someone.”
“No wahala. But thank you for the gifts.”
“Is there anything you’d like us to do for you?” Kyenpia asked. “Maybe visit Aanu and have a talk with her?”
“No, please. As much as I suspect her, I don’t want to get into anything with her.”
“Has she called or visited you?”
“She called, but I didn’t take the call. I didn’t feel like.”
“You know it’s a serious offense if she really slipped a pill into your drink, right?” Leonel said.
“We can get a confession out of her, if you’d like.”
“I’d rather you don’t. Just let things be.”
“If you insist.”
“Anything else you’d like?” Kyenpia asked.
“Yeah. Take Polaris along.”
“I wasn’t even going to ask you before taking her.”
“Oyin has already packed a bag.”
Kyenpia got on her feet. “Let me get her.”
As she disappeared into the house, Leonel moved to the edge of his seat. “On a scale of one to ten, how shattered are you?”
Yenkat put on a smile. “I’ve moved on already.”
“It’s me, Yen. Talk to me.”
She maintained her smile. “I’m good, Leo. Trust me, you’ll be the first to know if I start to fall to pieces. Right now, I’m okay.”
But she was lying; she was far from okay, or good, or fine, or any of the other wonderful adjectives she had used to describe herself all day. She was yet to grieve, and she could feel it coming like a tidal wave.
When Leonel and Kyenpia left with the girls, she opened the first box of chocolate and a bottle of wine. She also opened Fiyin’s condolence card to her. Amaka and Kyenpia had testified that Fiyin was good with words. Back in the day, they had believed she would end up a writer.
“If tears could build a stairway,” Yenkat read, “and memories a lane, I’d walk right up to heaven and bring you home again. No farewell words were spoken, no time to say goodbye. You were gone before I knew it, and only God knows why.”
She lowered the card, hands shaking. To push back the tears, Yenkat downed a full glass of wine. It took some time before she opened the card again. She continued: “My heart still aches in sadness, and secret tears still flow. What it means to lose you, no one will ever know.”
Yenkat shoved a piece of chocolate into her mouth, and at the first taste of it, the tears burst out like water breaking from a dam, spilling on her face. The walls that had held her up collapsed. She heard her own sounds, raw from inside. The pain came in waves, and all at once. She felt hollow, as if her life was being snatched from her.
She didn’t hear him call her name.
She still didn’t hear him until he touched her. She let down the throw pillow in which she had buried her face and looked at him through blurry eyes. He was crouched in front of her.
“I was knocking on the door and got no answer. I heard you crying.” He placed his hand on hers. “Kyenpia said you might need me.”
She couldn’t say a word in response. Still staring his way, she sobbed. He rose up from the floor and sat beside her, pulling her towards him. She pressed her head against his chest.
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
She was grateful to have him here – the sound of his voice, the sturdiness and warmth of his body, the mild fragrance of his perfume.
He stroked her back like he would a wounded kitten, but her tears continued in waves, broken in bits to let in recovering breaths and release words she hadn’t been able to tell anyone. Only for her to be tossed back into the outstretched arms of her heartache once more. Through it all, Clarence comforted her. When she finally eased up and all she could do was heave in-between breaths, he gently rested his chin on her head.
“Don’t go away,” she whispered.
“I’m not leaving you again, Yen. Not this time.”
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages
Fiyin’s poem to Yenkat – author unknown. Source: myforeverchild.com