Fiyin listened to the rain outside in silence. She missed times like this when she would sit, just to take in the calm that came with drops of water against hard surfaces. Her life these days was filled with unending activities, and she longed for a timeout. Hiding away at Kyenpia’s home turned out to be a good idea. If she had known she’d get this much rest, she would have done so sooner.
But she planned to leave after a week. As much as she loved the serenity of Kyenpia’s house, it was nothing like her home. She needed her privacy and the feel of hard male flesh against her hormone-ridden body.
Today, she and Kyenpia had arranged for an early morning walk, but they were presently stuck in her bedroom, listening to the rain from the warmth of a shared blanket.
Leonel had been out of town since Sunday evening, and was due to be back in a few hours. He had called the night before to let Kyenpia know that he’d stop at the office first. He also wanted to know if she would love to have dinner at some new restaurant in town; but Kyenpia was going to be on air tonight and couldn’t squeeze him into her schedule. Fiyin had listened in on their conversation because Kyenpia had put him on speakerphone while she fed Reginald from his bottle. Old stirrings of envy struck something in Fiyin, but she banished the feelings and concentrated on Kane who was in her arms and looking up with curious eyes as she fed him his night meal. She quietly mused at how she had foolishly coveted her friends’ lives not long ago. She had wanted the type of men and relationships they had. But she had grown since then, since Bosco broke her heart. She explained to Kyenpia that she had stopped caring about the things that weighed her down and had decided to live her best life.
But she wasn’t sure that it would be that easy; not without her men and family butting in.
“I need new men,” she said to Kyenpia now. Kyenpia stared at her. “These ones I have are too attached, and I don’t need anyone claiming my baby. I just want men that would spoil me rotten with attention. Is that too much to ask?”
Fiyin drew out her hands from underneath the blanket. “So, do you know any emotionally unavailable men?”
“There are many, but I can’t trust them to treat you right. However… I can arrange something,” Kyenpia said naughtily. “Zia’s escort service has men…”
“That’s prostitution nau.”
“What if you didn’t have to pay? What if I paid and you just enjoyed the benefits? He’ll do everything you want him to do.”
“He? Just one?”
“Two, then. We’ll pay for exclusivity.”
Kyenpia sounded like she was joking, but Fiyin knew her friend too well. She wouldn’t be surprised if a strange man who ticked all the right boxes approached her in public one of these days.
“I’ll think about it.”
“Or…” Kyenpia turned to her side, facing Fiyin. “You could just swallow your pride and call the one man you love.”
“I don’t love any of them.”
“Fi, shey you know that this strong-head you’re doing, I’ve done it before? Leonel suffered in my hands, but see where we are now. So, stop prolonging the inevitable. Swallow your pride and call Bosco.”
“Should I call him on your behalf?”
“Kay, don’t annoy me this morning.” Kyenpia giggled. “I mean it. Don’t get on my nerves.”
“Look at how you’re passionate about him…”
“He loves you.”
“And how does that matter? How do our feelings for each other factor in the grand scheme of my life, Kyen? Okay, I swallow my pride and I let him back in and we start dating, what next?”
“I don’t know. You see how it goes?”
“I don’t want to see shit. Relationships drain me, Kay, and I am so done. Allow me to fuck my fuck in peace. No strings attached.”
“But you know you love the strings attached to you. You want your men to be needy of you. That’s why you haven’t thrown Jaiye away. You enjoy him groveling. You also love that Doyin wants you back. You bask in Fashanu’s neediness of you. New men cannot fill that void, Fi, unless you are able to string them along like you have now mastered.”
“Kyen, you give me too much credit.” Fiyin laughed.
“You know I’m not lying.” Kyenpia yawned, adjusting her head on her pillow. “Sha consider Bosco.”
“I hear you.”
Nothing further was said. The rain had a drugging effect on both of them. Soon, they were asleep again. Fiyin didn’t know when the rain stopped and the day brightened up until Nelly knocked on the door, waking them up.
Kyenpia got off the bed and let her in.
“Good morning, Ms. Kyenpia.”
Stretching, Kyenpia yawned and acknowledged Nelly’s greeting with a nod. Unsurprisingly, Nelly was already set for the day. She had come in with Kyenpia’s personal phone and a cup of coffee for her.
“Good morning, Ms. Fiyin.”
Fiyin grumbled in response and hurried to the bathroom. When she returned, she met Nelly running Kyenpia through her schedule for the day while Kyenpia sat on a chair, chatting on her phone.
“What’s the time?” Fiyin asked.
Nelly paused and answered. “Fifteen past eight.”
“Elem has gone to school?” Kyenpia inquired.
“Yes, Ms. Kyenpia.”
“I’m such a lazy mom these days.” She kissed her teeth. “Go on, Nelly.”
Nelly concluded on the day’s schedule and lowered the tablet she held.
“Let the twins be brought to me, please.”
“No, let them bathe them and dress them up. They’re going to work with me …”
Nelly nodded, turned away a little and mumbled something. Fiyin could tell that she was communicating with someone on her two-way radio earpiece.
“I’m sorry for the interruption, Ms. Kyenpia, but there’s a Mr. West here to see Ms. Fiyin.”
Kyenpia frowned. “Who’s that?”
Before Fiyin could speak, Nelly showed Kyenpia a footage on her tablet from the surveillance feed at the gate.
“Oh?” Kyenpia had an expression of surprise, which she directed at Fiyin. Fiyin smiled. “Nelly, give us a minute…and yeah, tell them to let him in.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Nelly hurried out.
“West is your baby daddy?” Kyenpia asked Fiyin. “As in the West that is Tonye?”
“More or less.”
“When you told me that the father of your child was going to show up here and I kept asking if I knew him, you said I didn’t.”
“I wanted to surprise you.”
“Haba, Fi, you shouldn’t have lied nau. You know I wouldn’t have judged you. Right now, I’m just shocked that West got you pregnant.”
“I didn’t see this coming at all. I swear, I didn’t.” Kyenpia got off her chair and sat on the bed beside Fiyin. “Seriously?”
“What are your thoughts?” Fiyin asked.
“Allow the shock to settle, first, because this twist no be here o. First of all, where did you dig him up from?”
Fiyin laughed. She hadn’t dug West up from anywhere. Last year, they bumped into each other at a supermarket in the mall where he worked. She had gone shopping, and it turned out that she ended up at his counter. It had been a pleasant surprise to her; for West, it was embarrassing. She could sense his discomfort, but Fiyin didn’t care. She went over the counter and gave him a hug. It wasn’t every day one came across that particular ex that got away.
West had been her first everything – first love, first kiss and first sex. His father used to work as a chauffeur for Fiyin’s dad back in the day. West came visiting his dad every holiday, and for years, he and Fiyin were just friends. But they grew into teenagers and began to take notice of each other. During that period, Fiyin loved to stay at home, abandoning her aunt’s place, just to be around West who had then been employed by Alhaja as one of the cleaners. Their favorite moments were when they took walks in the neighborhood or when Fiyin helped him with the cleaning. He knew how to drive, so he taught her how to whenever their parents were absent. It was during one of those trips he kissed her. West was two years older and he seemed knowledgeable about the things of the world; so, when his lips touched hers, it felt as if she was kissing one of the men from the numerous romance books she always read.
Fiyin fell in love with him during that long holiday, and a wild but brief romance ensued. She didn’t realize that she was pregnant for him until he was gone. After running a test with the help of her cousin who had first picked out the signs of her pregnancy, Fiyin made the difficult decision to tell West’s father. It had been Kyenpia’s idea; her reason was that she was certain that the man wouldn’t tell her parents and he alone knew how to reach West.
Uncle Black was calm when Fiyin told him about the pregnancy, but he pleaded with her not to tell her parents. He also assured her that he would get West to come over within a day or two. Fortunately, neither of her parents were in town at the time.
Uncle Black kept to his word, when two mornings after, he sent for Fiyin to come over to the boys’ quarters where he lived. West was there, already waiting, forced on his knees by his father. Upon entering the tight single-room apartment, Fiyin could tell that things would go badly. Uncle Black questioned West about the pregnancy, asking if he was responsible. Glaring into Fiyin’s eyes, West denied that he had ever touched her. Uncle Black, whose anger was already looking for release, hit West in the face and questioned him a second time. West’s response was the same. When Uncle Black punched him again, Fiyin burst into tears and begged on his behalf, but the man was determined to either get an answer out of his son or teach him a lesson.
Unable to handle it, Fiyin returned to the main house. She saw West later that evening, as he was leaving. He walked with a limp and with a face so swollen that she hardly recognized him. Uncle Black asked to see her, and when she stepped out of the house, she noticed that his bags were packed. He apologized for West’s actions and told her that he was quitting his job. His reason was that he couldn’t bear to stand the wrath of her father, whom he was certain would kill him. This brought Fiyin to tears and she pleaded with him to stay. Her cousin had already made plans for her to have an abortion, and she knew someone who could do it without complications. The man didn’t take Fiyin’s words seriously, so she asked him to drive her to her aunt’s home. There, they spoke with her cousin who assured him that everything would be taken care of and their secret buried.
The following morning, Fiyin found herself on a doctor’s table, having her first abortion. After it was done, she allowed herself feel the first pangs of a heartbreak. She and Uncle Black became closer after the incident; he was to her, the father she’d always longed for. As for West, they never spoke about him. In Fiyin’s third year in the university, she got word from her mom that Uncle Black was dying of cancer. Everything had been done to save him, but the doctors had given him less than six months to live. Fiyin went to see him in the hospital and his frail form broke her. His other children, West’s younger sisters, were present, but West was yet to visit him. The man died a few months after and Fiyin was invited to his funeral. West was present then. He looked tired and unkempt. Fiyin longed to ask him how life had treated him, but he had few words to spare. They found each other on Facebook a while later and kept the line open. Whenever she was in-between boyfriends, she would inform him and suggest a date, but he would always come up with excuses. She eventually gave up and left things between them at a friendship level.
Running into him at the mall after those years made her change her mind, though. West had that raw sex appeal that always got her. She thought he was the sexiest thing as she watched him run her groceries over the price scanner. Fiyin dropped her number with him and requested that he called her.
He surprised her when he called the following day and asked to come over to hers. He visited with a gift and apologies. He told her that he wanted her back, but she no longer felt the same for him, although she was open to having a friends-with-benefits affair. He said he was cool with it, as long as she didn’t have a steady boyfriend. They sealed the deal with their first shag in years, which was something emotional for both of them. But the feelings ended on that bed, as Fiyin was adamant on not being exclusive with him.
Owing to her kind nature, she did everything to see that his financial status moved up from its present situation. She asked a favor from a friend in the fashion industry, and soon, West was doing a nine-to-five in a popular fashion brand. The pay wasn’t much, and even though he knew that each salary he got was going to be spent on his younger siblings, West was grateful. Life had dealt him many hard blows. For a long time, it had seem like nothing good was going to come his way. Fiyin was his angel.
“I want you to have my baby,” he told her one night while they sat on her couch, lazily eating ice cream. Fiyin had laughed at him, but he continued to throw in the request each time they met. His words began to work their way into her and she soon found herself desiring a baby as well. It didn’t make things easier that Kyenpia had just had the twins and Amaka had her baby about the same time too. Fiyin was hit with the worst baby blues then, but she held on until her defenses began to break away. One morning, she woke up and decided that she was ready to be a mother.
“Let’s do it,” she told West nervously.
“Should I quit on my contraceptives?”
West stroked her tummy tenderly. “You and I both want the same things, Fi, and one of them is a baby. I really want you to be the mother of my child.”
“Are you doing this to erase your guilt from the past when you abandoned me? I told you that I forgave you already.”
“No, no. It’s not that.”
“Then what is it? Why me?”
He hadn’t given her a direct answer; rather he pestered her with kisses, and she read nothing to it. The baby topic became something of a running joke between them after that day. Fiyin discovered that she was pregnant at a time she hadn’t expected it to happen. She had thought that her body would take its time adjusting to normalcy after she stopped her pills, but it seemed like her hormones developed anxious feet and ran ahead of her. By the time it occurred to her that she was pregnant, she was already ten weeks gone.
“I’m really nervous about seeing him,” Fiyin confessed to Kyenpia after explaining how the baby came to be.
“Why are you nervous?”
“What if he doesn’t want the baby?”
“Why won’t he? You just told me that he pestered you to get pregnant…” Kyenpia paused, as she seemed to recognize something. She looked Fiyin directly in her eyes. “Fi, did you pick him as a baby daddy because you wanted someone who didn’t have enough money as you, who’d have little financial say over your baby’s life, so that you can always have full custody?”
Fiyin got up. “Your mind travels too fast, Kay. Don’t let it go and have accident.”
Kyenpia laughed. “Fi, just go down there and talk to him. Brush your teeth first, madam.”
Kyenpia left to be with her children while Fiyin brushed her teeth and thought of the politest way to break the news to West. She then slipped into a boyfriend tee Kyenpia had given her and went downstairs. West was waiting in the living room, eyes on a painting of Eliana and her dog.
He turned and she saw a frown on his face before it brightened into a smile. “Hey.” He walked up to her and hugged her. His perfume was a new one, different from the last one she had smelled on him and the one before that. It was hard to keep up with him and his fragrances. His company worked with some of the big brand names; it wasn’t unusual for him to enjoy the benefits of perfumes, clothes and accessories.
“How are you?” he asked. His body left hers and he placed a hand at the nape of her neck, bringing her mouth to his in a needy kiss.
“Okay. Somebody really missed me,” Fiyin said, smiling.
“You have no idea.”
“I saw you frowning when I came in. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing serious jare.”
It was never nothing serious with West. He was a typical Rivers boy who always got into one trouble or the other.
He observed her with tense brows. “I’m really nervous about this thing you want to tell me. My flight came in four hours ago, and I’m tired, but I’ve been restless since your call on Sunday.”
“We should talk upstairs.”
“Um…wait…” He walked towards a couch and picked a gift bag he had come with.
“You didn’t have to.”
“After everything you’ve done for me?”
West was the most appreciative of her men. She was certain that he wasn’t with her because of her money. In fact, it had been hard convincing him to take the job she helped him secure, because, according to him, it bruised his male ego.
He put his hand on the small of her back as they made their way upstairs.
“So, you live here now?” he asked, eyes adoring the house.
“No. Just for a few days. I needed a break from work and all.”
“You work too hard, Fi.”
“Not long ago, I used to be considered very spoilt and lazy. Isn’t that what you used to call me?”
“So, what changed?”
Fiyin smiled sadly. Bosco changed her.
“Life changed,” she answered as she opened the door to her bedroom.
West took in the scene with a look of approval. “Everything about this house is so cool. What’s the idea here, though?”
“Retro,” Fiyin answered, recalling when Kyenpia asked her what type of bedroom she wanted to stay in. The options had been chic, techy and retro.
“Not bad,” West muttered, dropping his eyes on Fiyin. He put a finger under her chin and tilted her face to him. “I want to be inside you so badly right now.”
He didn’t have to ask a second time. Fiyin locked the door, pulled the drapes to block the sunlight and returned to him. The sex was quick and fiery. Minutes later, they were lying in bed, trying to catch their breaths. Breakfast was brought to them by one of the domestic assistants. West made himself a cup of coffee while Fiyin poured herself some orange juice.
“You’re pregnant,” he said carelessly. Fiyin froze. He burst into laughter. “You should see your face.”
“You thought I’d not notice while we were fucking? You made me hit if from behind just because you wanted to hide it?”
“You sure know how to kill a surprise, West.”
“Awww, it was supposed to be a surprise? That’s why you called me here?”
Fiyin frowned. She hated him sometimes.
“But this is not my baby, right?”
Fiyin slowly lowered her glass of juice.
“Who else’s would it be?”
“You were fucking other guys, Fi.”
Fiyin sighed. This wasn’t how the conversation was supposed to go.
“How am I sure it’s mine?”
“You were the only person I went bare with.”
“I just need to be sure. Can we do a DNA…?”
“Calm down. I’m just saying…”
“No, West. No DNA.” Fiyin stood. “This wasn’t how I saw this moment going. You’ve spoilt everything. Come and be going abeg.”
“Haba, Fi.” He dropped his coffee and stood. “It’s not like that. I’m just surprised that we’re pregnant.”
“Correction: I am pregnant. Me. Just me.”
“No, Fi. It’s us. I’m shocked, yes. In fact, I’m very shocked. But underneath it, I am mad happy. It’s just that I’m having a bad morning already, with some bastard who’s owing me some money. Give me till the end of the day for my mood to come back…”
“So what was the DNA talk about?”
“First, I apologize for the manner in which I asked for the test. My reason is because I really want this baby to be mine.”
“Tonye, it’s yours.”
“Wait, let me finish, abeg. You know I don’t play around with these things. I could have gotten some chick or more knocked up along the years, but it was not the right time. And there was never the right woman. Until you came into my life again…”
Fiyin searched his eyes. “What are you saying?” Fear was beginning to creep into her.
“You’re not stupid, Fi. You know what I mean. I want your baby to be mine, only because I want you to be mine.”
Fiyin’s fear gave way to weariness. She sat hard on the bed, staring up at him – at the angry expression on his face that didn’t match the soft honesty in his eyes. It was as if he was angry with himself for admitting to what he felt for her.
“I know you don’t want any relationship right now, but I want you, Fi. I need you in my life so badly. I’m crazy about you. I never stopped loving you.”
Fiyin buried her face in her hands. “Why are you telling me this now? Why didn’t you tell me when we first hooked up, when I opened up to you and told you that I didn’t want a relationship, I just wanted friends-with-benefits? Why not then? Why now?”
“Do I look like a fuck buddy to you, Fi?”
“You tricked me into getting pregnant for you Tonye! How could you do this to me?”
“You wanted a baby too…”
“Yes! But you lied to me! You lied, Tonye! And I don’t want to see your face again!”
“You don’t mean that.”
He was a proud man. She knew he wouldn’t beg.
“Fine. I’ll call you later.”
He left the bedroom and she flung a pillow at the door before she withdrew into the bed and went underneath the blanket.
An hour later, she was seated beside Kyenpia in the car, on their way to work.
“Maybe you should travel out,” Kyenpia suggested. “You seriously don’t need all this stress. Your baby doesn’t need it too.”
“Why are they all loving me when I don’t want to be loved?”
“Because you’re hot cake? Take a good look at yourself, baby. My friend is hot!”
“And the one annoying man I love, I can’t trust.”
“Please, can we not tell Yenkat about the baby yet?”
“Fi, my cousin is stronger than you think.”
“I don’t want her feeling bad…”
“Fiyin, Yen can take it. What would be hard to take would be you hiding it until she discovers. How do you think she’ll feel then?”
When they got to the BFAM building, just before their management meeting, Fiyin drew Yenkat to her office and broke the news to her.
“Why were you cringing the entire time?” Yenkat laughed. “You’re carrying our baby, Fi. Mine and yours. I’m so happy for you! Come here.” She hugged Fiyin and sent up a prayer for her.
“Amen!” Fiyin uttered. “Should I say, ‘God will do your own for you’?”
Yenkat shook her head.
“But he will, Yen.”
“Maybe some of us were never meant to be mothers.”
Her words made Fiyin sad. “I reject that on your behalf in Jesus’ name.”
“Okay, that came out wrongly. I’m already a mother to Polaris and Dashe, and I’m fine with that.” Yenkat smiled. “Let’s go in for this meeting.”
They went in for the meeting, which lasted an hour long. The four friends remained in the boardroom afterwards and Fiyin broke the news to Amaka about the paternity of the baby.
“So, Waste is the father of your baby?” Amaka asked.
“West,” Fiyin corrected.
“Na wa o. Why, though? Didn’t you tell me the other time that he was broke or something? I hope he’s not milking you dry?”
“He’s working, Amaka. He just got back from Norway on a work-related trip.”
“Did you sponsor him on the trip?”
“Maxy, I just told you it was work-related.”
“Stop being defensive, Fiyin. You’re rich, and your baby is going to live the type of life you live. Can Tonye keep up?”
“I don’t care.”
“Mommy Christmas, you’ve always upgraded most of your men. First was Deji, then Doyin, and then Bosco. Let’s not forget that mumu Deen who took your six mil and was still burning you with cigarette in the name of wickedness.”
“It was BDSM.” Fiyin rolled her eyes.
“I don’t care what it was, Fi. Don’t you like to be pampered by your men? To just sit down and let them be buying you stuff? Where in this world is it normal for the woman to do all the buying and pampering? Men are in our lives to take care of us. Period!”
“See, Fashanu is better for you. I’d even pick Jaiye or Doyin over him.”
“Chiamaka, can you stop? You’re making this baby all about the men in my life, and that’s not what this is about. I want this child for myself alone! So, shut the fuck up!”
Amaka gave up, raising her hands. “I won’t talk again, even though I don’t get it.”
“Boobsy, shut up,” Kyenpia muttered from behind her phone.
“I just don’t want her getting hurt by Waste again.”
“West, Maxy. West.”
Amaka was silent for the whole of five seconds and she said, “Your baby is going to be so cute though.”
“Can I be his godmother?”
Laughing, Yenkat pulled out of her chair. “Girls, I have stuff to do.”
“How is Omar these days?” Amaka inquired.
Yenkat smiled. “He’s…”
“Na wa o. You’re blushing.”
“He called yesterday.”
Kyenpia lifted her eyes from her phone. “Gist us.”
Yenkat perched on the table. “It was a video call. I couldn’t believe it myself.”
“Did you take the call?”
“Not at first, because…hey, he blocked me unprovoked.”
“But you sha still took it.”
“Yes, Fi. After Clarence had slept off.” Yenkat rolled her eyes at herself.
“He said he was sorry, that he cut me off because he’s still crazy about me and he didn’t want us to remain stuck in our illicit situation…”
“But he has a girlfriend na,” Amaka mentioned.
“He said that she’s just there to help him forget.”
“Same way you’re with Clarence?” Kyenpia probed.
“No. Rence is… He was there when I needed someone. And I really love what we have.”
“Because he makes you forget.”
“Kyenpia, I like Clarence, and that’s all I have to say about him.”
“But you still love Omar?”
Yenkat rose up. “Let’s end this talk. I have stuff I need to do. Talk to you later.”
She hurried out of the boardroom.
“She still loves him, and still hates herself for loving him,” Kyenpia said, staring at her watch. “Who’s as hungry as me?”
“When did this happen?”
“About thirty minutes ago, sir.”
Captain was staring at the lifeless bodies of his most vicious guard dogs. Their necks had both been snapped and their bodies placed beside each other, arranged in the same manner.
“How did it even come to this? Who let them out?”
“Their doctor,” Captain’s aide-de-camp responded. “She came to give them their shots. These two broke free and went after…”
“Yes. They attacked him, just as he stepped out of the backdoor. But he acted fast.”
“How fast exactly?”
“Under two minutes, sir. It was the most remarkable thing to watch. He got a deep bite, though. The vet doctor treated him.”
Captain gave his dogs one last stare and headed into the house. He left instructions with the chef to have his lunch brought to him. He stopped at the minibar to pour himself some brandy before proceeding to his bedroom. When he got in, he found Emem waiting. She was sprawled on his bed, wearing nothing but waist beads.
For a second, he shut his eyes, trying to banish her away, even though he knew it was useless trying. She had become more annoying since the reappearance of the human Emem. She was provocative too, stirring in him emotions that he had no power over. It was mostly sexual; she’d go as far as touching him sometimes. Idara had an interesting take to the entire situation.
“She’s only projecting what your body so badly wants to do, what your mind can’t stop thinking about. Your sexual attraction to your ex is still strong. You want her so bad, and it’s frustrating you that you’re not the man you were when she left. You can’t make love to her, you can’t…force yourself on her. I’m sure that if you had your dick still intact, you’d attempt to rape her again.”
“What sort of bullshit therapist are you?”
Idara had smiled in a sinister manner. She enjoyed reminding him of his weaknesses and limitations. But she was always right, which was why he couldn’t do away with her.
“So, what do you suggest I do?”
“Stay away from Emem. The real Emem. As for your constant companion, how about using on her one of those many strap-on dildos you used on me? It’d be perfect. Imitation fucks imagination hard. Don’t forget to tell her to suck your dick.”
Captain blew smoke into Idara’s face from the cigarette between his lips. When the smoke cleared, he was back in the present, taking off his suit while Emem sauntered in circles, complaining of a headache. The human Emem had suffered from migraines back then. He hadn’t known if she had been telling the truth or looking for excuses to be alone.
“Sit down, please. You’re making me dizzy.”
“Aren’t you going to say something about our son? He killed those dogs with his bare hands.”
“That’s hardly anything one should give him credit for. I’d be disappointed if he couldn’t do it.”
“That is not my point. He’s a coldblooded murderer, Luke. Doesn’t that bother you?”
“They were dogs, Em.” Captain slipped out of his pants. “That doesn’t count as murder.”
“So, you’re going to be in denial? You’re going to act like David isn’t disturbed?”
“Disturbed? He has zero records of murder. Nothing. Zilch.”
“You’re going to lie to yourself?”
Captain’s chef knocked on the door. He asked the man in as he went for a pair of shorts in his closet. The chef served the meal on a tray, placing it on a reading table.
“I’ll do red wine this afternoon,” Captain said to the man as he wore his shorts. “You can take the white back. I have a bottle of red here.”
The chef left and Emem resumed. “You now have amnesia?”
“Emem, what is it nau?”
“I want to jog your memory a little.”
“I said no! Get out of my sight!”
Someone was knocking on his door.
“Who is it?”
Captain pointed a finger at Emem. “Make yourself scarce.”
“Oh, don’t worry. You’re the only crazy one in this house who sees things.” She laughed and vanished. Captain walked to the door and opened it.
David was facing him, hands in his pockets, both hands bandaged.
“I killed your dogs today.”
“I was told.”
“I have no apologies because they attacked me.”
“I wasn’t expecting you to apologize.”
“Okay.” David turned away.
“Aren’t we supposed to have some kind of father and son talk?”
David looked at him. “To what end? Do we really need to dredge up the past and remind you of how you made me a murderer and tried to turn me into one of your minions?”
“Is that what has fucked your life up so badly?”
“Don’t you dare!”
“I don’t have time for this. I’m supposed to be here until the eve of my birthday. So, let’s do it this way. Stay out of my way and I’ll do the same. And your bloodthirsty dogs too, keep them away from me. If one of them as much as sniffs me, I’ll kill all of them.”
Hands still in his pockets, David walked away. Captain returned to his bedroom. Emem was dressed now, wearing a long, black robe. She sat on the bed.
“So, let’s go back to 1994, shall we?”
Captain pulled out the chair facing his reading table and sat.
Kyenpia swore under her breath. She didn’t know how many times she had done this or how many steps she had taken in the past hour.
“How much longer?” she asked Lanre who was seated calmly nearby. She didn’t understand how he could be so calm after what they had experienced. Pastor Jacan too. The man was listening to music from his phone. Didn’t they witness Ishi gasping for breath as she did? Hadn’t they seen the trickle of blood from his nose? Didn’t they all watch as he fell to the floor, right in the reception of The Refuge where they stood? Why was no one worried? And why were the doctors taking so long?
“Kay?” Lanre called. She seemed not to hear him. “Kyenpia?”
“Hmm?” She stopped moving. “Can you please, sit?”
This was his fifth time pleading with her. He had managed to get her to sit on two occasions, but she had bounded up on her feet again and continued with her ambling.
He was standing in front of her now. “Maybe we should take a walk.”
He held her hand. “Yes.”
“What if they doctors come out of the ER?”
“Pastor Jay is here. And don’t worry, we won’t miss anything.”
“Why are they taking so long?”
“Your baby daddy is fine. Trust me. Let’s walk and talk.”
Lanre bought her a bottle of water from a store outside the Accident and Emergency building as they commenced on their short walk. The air outside brought Kyenpia some relief.
“I don’t want you having a full-blown anxiety attack on me, Kay. That would be two health crisis too many in one evening.”
“I don’t want to lose him.”
“You’re not going to lose him.”
Kyenpia held on to Lanre’s hand for reassurance.
“Did he tell you that he had a bullet stuck in him from the shooting?”
Kyenpia’s movement ceased. She gave a slow turn of her head to look into Lanre’s eyes.
“I’m guessing he didn’t. It was for your own good, though.”
“A bullet in him?”
“You know he had a couple of surgeries after the shooting. There was a bullet that hit his hip…”
“Yeah, I know that, but he didn’t tell me it was stuck there.”
“Well, the bullet traveled up, all the way to his chest, close to his heart. Doctors felt it would have been too risky to remove it then.”
“Ishi has been going around with a bullet in his heart?”
“Chest. Actually. I don’t know if it got to his heart.”
Kyenpia’s tummy churned in a bad way. She inhaled deeply. Lanre held her hand.
“Are you okay?”
“I suspect that the bullet moved and that was why today happened…”
“I’m not a doctor, Kay. I’m not sure. But relax. He’ll be fine.”
“Please, hold me. My head is woozy.”
Lanre put his arms around her and rested her head on his chest. “Everything’s going to be okay, Kyen. Breathe.”
Kyenpia prayed. She couldn’t see herself living without Ishi. Losing Leonel had been too much torture. She couldn’t go through it the second time.
Lanre’s phone rang. Jacan was calling.
“Let’s go back in.”
They hurried back the way they came. Jacan was speaking to Aaron and another doctor when they arrived. Kyenpia caught the concluding words of the doctor.
“We have to take it out as soon as possible. He can go a few more days, but the risk is…”
“We’re taking it out,” Aaron interrupted. He looked Kyenpia’s way and gave her a smile.
“Is he okay?” she asked.
“Yeah. He’s asking to see you.” Aaron shifted his eyes towards the entrance on the building and his face released another smile. Kyenpia turned. Oby was making her way towards them. She had an expression of worry.
“Good evening,” she greeted. Aaron hugged her. She turned to Kyenpia and they hugged. She shook hands with Lanre, Pastor Jacan and the other doctor. “How is he?”
Oby faced Aaron. “Can we talk privately?”
As they moved to a corner, Kyenpia asked the doctor if she could see Ishi.
“Sure. Come this way.”
He led her to a nurse who showed her into a room. Kyenpia poked her head in. Ishi was alone, eyes on his phone. He looked pale already, but he managed a smile when Kyenpia walked in.
“Hi.” She went to the bed and stood, staring at him blankly. He opened his palm and Kyenpia held it lightly, careful not to disturb the IV line running through his vein.
“How are you?”
“Tired,” Ishi answered. With his other hand, he adjusted the nasal cannula that delivered supplemental oxygen to his lungs.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want you worrying about me, Kay. You’d have freaked out. You didn’t need that, not while you were mourning Leo.”
“You’re going to be fine, right?”
“Aaron is talking about flying me to Boston to have the bullet taken out. The doctors here say they can do the job. What do you think?”
“If flying you won’t cause further complications, then I’m with Aaron.”
“Just go and come back and continue to be the awesome man you are. Also do and get married.”
Ishi laughed silently.
“Oby is here, by the way.”
“Yeah, I asked her to come. I need someone to spend the night here with me.”
“Oooooh… You guys are that deep?”
Ishi laughed again. “It’s not what you think, Kay. We’re waiting until we get married. If we get married.”
“Well, first, get better soon, okay?”
“That’s the plan.”
“Then, you can get married to her. I hope it’s a really loud wedding. Louder than Leonel and ours. He’s been talking about renewing our vows.”
Kyenpia’s phone rang. She pulled it out of her handbag. “Leonel,” she murmured and returned the phone to her handbag. “I’ll call him back once I get out of here.”
“You know I love you, right?” Ishi said, his voice waning.
“And I love Eliana to death too.”
“You’re not allowed to say that word right now.”
“If anything happens…”
“Jesus, Ishi. Shut up.”
“Nothing’s going to happen. You will do the surgery and come back to us, healthy and strong. Okay? Now, shut up and rest.”
“Everything I own is in your name and hers.”
“Don’t let me slap you here o. Shut the fuck up,” Kyenpia ordered through clenched teeth.
“Yes, ma.” He grinned.
A nurse walked in. “Pastor Ishi, I need to give you your medicine. Just a shot in your drip.”
“Go ahead.” He stared at Kyenpia. “Call Oby for me.”
Kyenpia bent and kissed his hand before leaving the room. She stepped out, surprised to find Oby waiting just outside the door.
“He wants to see you.”
Oby gave a polite smile as she made her way in. Kyenpia peeped and saw her placing a kiss on Ishi’s forehead before sitting beside him.
“How is he?” Lanre asked, walking towards Kyenpia.
“He’s good. He’s into the whole Boston thing.”
“That’s great. Pastor Jacan just spoke with Gramps. A plane is on standby and they’re already working on his travel access for whenever he’s ready to move. How are you holding up?”
She smiled, masking her distress. Lanre walked her to her car outside where Clarence was waiting. The moment she was alone in the backseat, she released the tears that had threaten to spill all evening.
Kyenpia was dead scared of losing Ishi. It was the type of fear that others would call irrational or unnecessary, but that was who she was these days. She was constantly scared of losing her loved ones. The fear came whenever Leonel traveled, every time Eliana or the twins fell ill, whenever she didn’t hear from Miguel in days, and in random imaginations of her friends dying in car crashes. Idara had called in thanatophobia and had suggested that she saw a specialist to help her through it, but Kyenpia had been too busy. Asides that, she was more comfortable having the once-a-week session with Idara that helped with her anxiety issues.
She wished she could call her now and tell her how she felt about Ishi’s present case. It wasn’t something she could talk to anyone about. She didn’t want them getting the impression that her fear was borne out of her feelings for him.
“Ms. Kyenpia, your husband is asking to speak with you,” Clarence informed Kyenpia, dragging her out of her worried mind. “He said he’s been calling your line.”
“Oh. Um… Tell him I’ll call back.”
Kyenpia listened to Clarence speak to Leonel on the phone. Once he hung up, she called Leonel.
“Sunshine, what’s up with you nau?”
The sound of his voice brought some relief. It was good to know that it was Leonel and not Spirit.
“I’m missing you. I came home early and thought you’d drop by before heading for the studio. Are you there already?”
“Are you okay? You sound…”
“I’m fine. I’m…good.”
Leonel was the last person she wanted hearing about her visit to the hospital to see Ishi. He still felt insecure about her relationship with Ishi.
“Just a little headache, but I’ll be fine.”
“Okay. I’ll be listening to you on the radio.”
He told her he loved her and hung up. In a good way, his phone call had made her feel a little better. She maintained the vibe all the way to the studio. When she went on air, she had a change of mind about her prepared topic of discussion.
“I want us to talk about phobias tonight. Tell me about your phobias. What scares you the most? What are you so afraid of? Is it heights? Are you scared of the dark? Of commitment? Of cats? Of success or failure? Or are you very afraid of losing your loved one? Talk to me this evening, share your fears. Our lines would be open soon.”
The show went smoothly, as usual. Few minutes to the time she was supposed to sign out, she saw her phone light up silently. Aaron was calling. Luckily, a song was playing, so she hurried out to take his call.
“Kay, Ishi’s case just got a little critical.”
Her chest tightened. “Critical?”
“We’re flying him to Boston tonight. We just want to sort out the necessary red tape and flight stipulations before we leave. I thought I should let you know.”
“How bad is it?”
“Not so bad that he can’t talk. But we’re doing everything to stop him from stressing himself.”
“That’s… That’s good.” Kyenpia could barely hear her voice. “Aaron?”
“Don’t let anything happen to him.”
He hung up. Kyenpia leaned on the wall behind her for support as she went through a breathing exercise Idara had taught to help her cope in situations like this.
“Ms. Kyenpia?” a lady called, thrusting her head out from the studio. Kyenpia pulled away from the wall and returned to her station. She managed another six minutes of airplay before signing out. She left them one of Ishi’s favorite songs.
“Here’s Seal with Love’s Divine. Have a lovely night and talk to you later!”
Kyenpia kept her composure as she walked out of the building, to her car. Clarence opened the backdoor and she sat in. She asked him to play a collection of Seal’s songs to keep her mind distracted. The mood revived memories of her best moments with Ishi – of laughter, warmth, fights and the depth of friendship. As the car approached her house, Kyenpia prepared her mind and body for Leonel. It was going to be hard pretending that she was okay when her insides wanted so desperately to erupt like a volcano.
“You can sign off, Clarence.”
She clutched her handbag and entered the house. Leonel, just emerging from the kitchen, caught her by surprise, taking her hand and forcing her to his body to kiss her sensuously.
“Great show tonight. It was refreshing listening to people talk about their fears.”
“Of course, you’re weird.”
He kissed her again. His mouth tasted of something sweet and spicy.
“You look so exhausted. Come on, let me run you a bath.”
He took her unawares by lifting off the floor. She held on to him, burying her face in his neck. Upstairs, in their bedroom, he placed her on the bed and went to run a soothing bath for both of them. By the time he returned, she was undressed.
“What’s wrong, baby?” he inquired, taking off his clothes as well.
“I’m tired, is all.”
But she had just received a text from Ishi that said: My biggest fear would be leaving this life and not giving our daughter all the fatherly love she deserves. Relax, Kay, I’m not going anywhere. Thanks for playing Love’s Divine.
Ishi’s text was supposed to elevate her mood, but it made her sadder. It took a great deal of strength for her not to break into a sob.
“Let’s get you all cleaned up.” Leonel dragged her into the bathroom and they both dipped in the tub. He lit a joint while she sipped from a glass of wine. They stayed silent for a sometime, listening to the sounds of R&B playing from surround speakers.
“It’s okay to cry, you know?” Leonel told her from behind a haze of smoke.
“For Ishi. If you’re scared you’ll lose him, I think it’s fine to cry.”
Maybe she had rejoiced too quickly that Leonel was back. Presently, she wished Spirit were here instead of him. Spirit wouldn’t have cared about how Ishi’s present predicament affected her. Leonel, on the other hand, was jealous as hell of Ishi. Right now, the look in his eyes confirmed it.
Kyenpia had a drink of her wine and kept a straight face. “Ishi is the least of my problems, Leonel.”
“Anything you tell yourself to make you feel better, Sunshine. I don’t give a fuck.”
Oh yes, he did. He gave many fucks.
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages