This episode of Where To Find Breasts is dedicated to Oluwakemi Obilade. Happy birthday in arrears!
Kyenpia was up before Leonel. He would usually stir at exactly 4:30 a.m. each morning, and she, an hour later. But she hadn’t had a good sleep in three days. Somewhere in Boston, Ishi lay on a hospital bed in an intensive care unit. It didn’t feel right to her that he was there; he had been through so much already. His surgery had gone well but recovery was slow. This drove Kyenpia crazy, and it showed. Her body was terrible at keeping secrets.
First, it was the rapid weight loss, then the anxiety attacks that she tried to hide, and now the sleeplessness. Leonel was beginning to ask questions. This was in addition to the passive-aggressiveness he had displayed for five days.
“Do we need to put you on medication?”
“For what?” Kyenpia paused from admiring a black dress she had taken from a line of black dresses hanging in her closet. Leonel was standing a couple of feet away from her. He had just woken up. He looked like he could use a little more sleep and a beard trim.
“Leonel?” Kyenpia called. “For what?” He had temporarily zoned out from her as he set fire to a half-smoked joint.
“Medication for your anxiety attacks. Or you could try this?” He pointed the joint he held in her direction. Kyenpia shook her head. She could handle cannabis, but she needed to go through this morning with a focused mind. She had two meetings and had to squeeze time in-between to take the twins for their ninth-month vaccinations.
“Trust me, you’ll feel better,” Leonel persisted on his offer.
“No, Butter B.”
“Why don’t I take the boys for their shots, you cancel on your second meeting and just come home and sleep?”
“I can’t cancel on that meeting. I’ve been postponing it.”
“You need to chill, Kay. I’m worried about you.”
This was the sweetest he had been in days. Kyenpia took it as a good sign and walked up to him. She stretched up to meet his mouth and kissed them.
“Just a drag.” He put the joint between her lips and she drew in a mouthful too fast. It attacked her gag reflex, leading her to a coughing fit. Leonel went for a bottle of cold water from their bedroom. She took a sip and had a few more puffs of the joint. It went to her head instantly. In a matter of seconds, she was relaxed. A lazy smile stretched her lips.
“Go back to sleep.”
“I will.” She tapped Leonel’s chest as she returned to bed. Leonel changed into his jogging outfit and left the house, just as Kyenpia fell into a relaxing nap. She stirred when he returned. He apologized for waking her up and asked her to go back to sleep, but she said she felt rested.
Kyenpia had a shower and went to Eliana’s bedroom to wake her up. She took over from her nanny and got her ready for school. Afterwards, they sat for breakfast, all three of them.
“So, this birthday vacation in Mauritius is really happening?” Leonel asked.
Kyenpia frowned. “Why are you doing like this nau? When you ask these questions, it makes me feel like you don’t appreciate the effort Peggy and I have put into this thing. This is your first birthday celebration since your childhood. It must mean something to you.”
“Na wa o, Kyen. I asked just one short question.”
Kyenpia was still on edge. The cannabis and short nap hadn’t done anything to calm her nerves. She smiled at Leonel in embarrassment. “I guess I’m still so high.”
He didn’t seem convinced.
“I appreciate what you and Peggy are doing.”
Kyenpia stared at her unfinished breakfast. She had lost her appetite. “Let me check on the twins and change. I don’t want to be stuck in traffic this morning.”
She hurried upstairs to the twins’ bedroom. They were not awake yet. Their sleep routine was in a constant state of fluctuation. The good thing about it was that they got adequate rest
Kyenpia withdrew quietly from their bedroom. She returned to hers, dressed up and joined Leonel downstairs. They drove to the hotel together. He was quiet in the car, eyes steady on the streets. But the moment they got into the hotel and into his office, he locked the door behind them and leaned against it, tugging Kyenpia towards him.
“I don’t want to share you.” His brows formed an angry slope as he stared into her eyes. “I know you can’t help what you feel for Ishi. I can’t stop you, even though it hurts. But I need you to assure me that I have your full attention. That you’d freak out for me the same way if something bad happens.”
He lifted her dress and rested his hands on her bum. “I want to be sure that I’m the only one in your head when I’m fucking you. That it’s me alone you think of when you’re touching yourself.”
“Why would I want to think of anyone else?”
“Kyenpia, you know I’m a jealous man. I know your heart wants what it wants, but as far as it affects me, you don’t get to hold all the cards. Give me your undivided attention and we’ll have peace. If you don’t…”
“Is this a threat?” Kyenpia pressed herself into him, feeling his hardness reaching for her.
“You know how vindictive I can get. Don’t push me.”
She pushed further into his body. His intense face broke into an errant smile. He grabbed Kyenpia’s thighs from underneath, lifted her off the floor and carried her to the leather sofa on which he took powernaps. They had ten minutes before their meeting kicked off, but they took their time, making out. There was something relaxing about kissing and caressing body parts for long periods without having to go all the way. Kyenpia didn’t want to stop when Leonel stopped. His body brought her comfort.
“See you at the meeting, boss.” He peeled away from her. “Don’t be late.”
Kyenpia lay on the sofa until she could feel her toes again. She checked her phone if Aaron had sent her any update on Ishi. When she found none, she freshened up her face and slipped into her stilettos. On her way out, she got a text from Fiyin.
Check the group chat.
Walking out of the office, Kyenpia went on WhatsApp and saw that Fiyin had dropped a voice note in their Girls Only group. Kyenpia was apprehensive over what was in the recording. It was 2016 and Fiyin was still known to do shocking things. Kyenpia hoped that it had nothing to do with the baby.
She played the recording and stopped in the hallway to listen.
“Girls, first of all, good morning,” Fiyin began. “I hope everyone is fine. I’m dropping this message because I don’t have the heart to say to your faces or even on the phone, what I want to say. Kay, Maxy, Yen, Lolo, Gina, I’m taking a retreat. Don’t ask me where I’m going. I won’t tell you. Just know that I’m leaving and I won’t be back until after I have my baby. Why am I going away? Let me see… One, my family is stressing me. I just can’t deal abeg. Secondly, the men in my life ain’t shit. When did men start getting attached and clingy to women after meaningless sex? It’s tiring abeg. Me, I just want peace, and I’m going to pursue it at all cost. My BFAM family, I’m so sorry that I didn’t leave any prior notice. Please, consider this my official announcement. Girls, don’t be angry at me. Especially you, Maxy. Calm down. I’ll be back soon. I need your prayers. I’m in a very anyhow type of place. Fast for me, if you can. Every Friday would be best.”
“Lastly, this stays between us. Don’t tell anyone.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“I’ll keep in touch. I love you girls. Kiss your men and kids for me. I love you! I love you!”
The recording ended. Kyenpia found herself smiling. This was what she wanted for Fiyin.
She switched her phone to silent mode and made her way to the boardroom. Leonel was presiding over the meeting already. He paused when she walked in. She urged him to go on as she looked for some corner to sit. Amaka was calling her phone, but she ignored her and tried as much as she could to concentrate on the meeting. It was hard, however, not with Ishi on her mind. The discussions went over her head until someone called her attention. It was Jaiye.
“What does my capable CEO have to say about this?”
Kyenpia brought her mind to the table and cleared her throat.
“This union thing is a ten-headed dragon that we have to deal with or it would get out of hand. Jaiye and I already handled it before, but it’s rearing its head again. I suggest we let them have the union.”
There was a murmur from conflicting voices. Kyenpia got on her feet.
“Listen to me, please. I agree with you that a union would be problematic for us in the long run. However, we can’t keep ignoring them. So, I suggest that we let them have their union, but headed only by people we have under our thumb. This means we have to infiltrate that group that is pushing for this unionization.” She looked at Zara. “I heard you’re good with the staff already?”
“Good. Let’s leave that in your hands, shall we?”
Kyenpia didn’t miss the look of admiration on Leonel’s face. She picked her handbag.
“I’m afraid I’m a little under the weather. I need to rest. Have a good day.”
She returned to Leonel’s office. Nelly and the twins’ nanny were waiting with the twins. Kyenpia spent a short time with them before she kissed them goodbye and left with Nelly to BFAM.
“Cancel every other thing I have today asides this next meeting abeg,” Kyenpia instructed Nelly.
“Yes, ma’am. Except that you can’t cancel that condolence visit to the wife of the pastry chef we lost.”
Kyenpia groaned. “Can’t we do it tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow, she’ll be leaving to the village for the burial.”
“Okay,” Kyenpia sighed. “After this meeting, we’ll stop by.”
She yawned as they both went into an elevator. Her body was beginning to give out on her. The smooshing session she had with Leonel was therapeutic, even though her mind remained restless. He was always so good with knowing what her body wanted.
She had a short nap in the car as they headed to BFAM. She hardly had time for anything else when they arrived. Her business acquaintances were already waiting. She apologized for coming in late and commenced with the meeting. Luckily, it didn’t last as long as she had projected. They were done in good time and she went into her office to have a refreshing drink of chilled pineapple juice.
Amaka burst in. “How can you be okay with Fiyin going away for five months?”
Kyenpia looked at her friend. She saw that she had been crying.
“Our friendship circle is breaking,” Amaka burst into tears.
“Maxy, stop it nau. She’ll be back once her baby is born.”
“She needs us to be there for her because she’s a first time mommy. She was there when I had Sean. She needs me. She needs us.”
Kyenpia was not in the mood to console her, so she tendered her juice to her. Amaka took a sip and asked, “Has this got anything to do with running into Bosco the other day?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Awww… She still loves him.”
The ‘other day’ had been Wednesday. The ladies had embarked on a three-day fasting and prayer exercise for Ishi, starting that morning. Towards evening, they chose a restaurant close to BFAM to break their fast before rounding up for the day. Right in the middle of their meal, Bosco and an unidentified female walked into the restaurant, holding hands. He spotted them and made his way to their table. Fiyin kept a smile as he asked how they were doing and introduced the lady as his girlfriend. Turning to leave, he dropped a compliment with Fiyin, telling her that pregnancy looked good on her. While everyone was shocked that he could pick out that she was pregnant, Fiyin was battling with the sudden pain in her heart, which she couldn’t express to her friends. Later at night, though, she spoke to Kyenpia about it and unburdened herself.
“Maxy, I think it’s beyond Bosco. Look, she really needs that time out. Let her enjoy it in peace.”
“This means that she won’t be around for them Butter Babe’s birthday vacation. What is a vacation like without Fiyin?”
“Remember you had yours too when you were so mad at James?”
“True. But I’m so going to miss her. Could it be that I love Fiyin more than I think I do?”
Kyenpia laughed. “You’re so not well, Chiamaka.”
“Who am I going to harass now?” Amaka asked solemnly. Kyenpia picked her handbag and began to walk away. “I’m serious. This is a genuine question.”
The condolence visit was torture for Kyenpia. Watching the woman stare languidly in the air as sympathizers went in and out of her house took Kyenpia to a place she would rather forget. She understood the woman’s pain, the type that one couldn’t put in words. This was why she didn’t say anything to her. She just sat with her until Nelly whispered into her ear that Aaron was on the line.
Kyenpia jumped to her feet and hurried out.
“So, good news,” he announced. “He’s out of the ICU and lucid enough to speak.”
“Thank God.” Kyenpia exhaled.
“He doesn’t want me taking care of him, and Oby can’t get a visa fast enough, so Fayoke would fly in from San Antonio to be with him.”
Fayoke was Jaiye’s younger sister. She and Ishi were close.
“But I’ll keep you updated. I’m sure he’ll call you when he’s strong enough.”
“Thank you, Aaron.”
When he hung up, Kyenpia breathed easy. She returned to the house and spoke to the widow privately.
“I got information that you have four children and you’re a housewife with a terminal illness?”
“Would you mind if my husband and I, in collaboration with The Refuge, handled your children’s education from now on?”
The woman looked at her in confusion.
“You won’t have to ask anyone to help out with their school tuition again. We’ll also get you enrolled in a business you can easily handle and make money out of. At least, for feeding.”
The woman’s confusion turned to overwhelming gratitude. She tried to go on her knees, but Kyenpia stopped her. She held her to her chest, rubbing her back, as she wept.
“Thank you so much, ma. My husband used to say you’re too kind.”
“God bless his soul, and you too. I understand exactly how you feel.” Kyenpia recalled how the wealth Leonel had left behind hadn’t meant anything to her then. All she wanted was to see him again.
On her way home, she related all that had transpired to Leonel. He was at the clinic with the twins and Kyenpia could hear one of them whimpering in the background.
“Kyen, how many children are we sponsoring through school again?”
“Seven. In partnership with our friends, six kids. With The Refuge, another six. These new ones would make them four extra.”
“Babe, I think it’s time you started running these generous ideas of yours through the business manager, don’t you think? Twenty-three kids… That’s a lot of money.”
Leonel was generous, but he was no philanthropist. Ishi, on the other hand, wouldn’t have complained one bit. Each year, he gave out until it hurt his finances. He was a sacrificial giver, and it was one of the things he and Kyenpia shared in common. Now that he was made richer by the funds his late family members left behind, he was going to give twice as much.
“What’s the essence of having all that money that we can’t possibly finish if it isn’t there to share with others?” Kyenpia asked Leonel.
“Come on, Kay. You know those kids are not the only ones benefitting from my help. I just need you to take it easy and always consult the business manager or me first. Okay?”
“From now on, I’ll do it alone.”
“Don’t let us fight over this.”
“I’m not fighting. I just thought that you’d be happy to help this woman without thinking twice.”
Leonel sighed. The whimpering twin was fully wailing now. “You know what? Let’s talk about this later. And if you’re comparing me to Ishi in your head right now, stop it. I hate when you do that.”
The line went dead. Kyenpia was amused by his last words, but not surprised. He always enjoyed reading her thoughts. Mostly, it was cute, but not on this occasion. Was she that obvious about Ishi or was Leonel excessively jealous?
The week went by quite quickly. Mentally, Kyenpia was fine. Her anxiety episodes had vanished because Ishi was doing great. Physically, she was exhausted. Planning for Leonel and David’s birthday was more demanding than she had imagined. This was because she and Peggy had tossed in the Mauritius idea last minute. Brisa and Anna were responsible for how the vacation would turn out in Mauritius while everything else rested on Kyenpia and Peggy’s shoulders. They were to organize nineteen adults and thirteen children to get set for a week-long vacation.
“Have I told you that you look sexy when you’re super busy and don’t have my time?”
“Not now, Leonel.”
He had just walked into the kitchen where she was organizing breakfast with the chef for the kids. Amaka and Loretta’s kids had slept over on Kyenpia’s insistence. Both sisters were bad with keeping to time, and since the flight to Mauritius was leaving at 11 p.m., Kyenpia thought it was best to have the kids under her watch. Polaris and her dog had been in the house since Monday.
“I love the way your hair smells.” Leonel stood behind Kyenpia, breathing over her neck.
“What part of ‘not now’ is hard for you to understand, you horny toad?”
“The part that so badly wants a quickie.”
Amaka’s sons burst into the kitchen from the backdoor being chased by Egg and Polaris’ dog, which was yet to be named. Polaris had begun calling it bread, but Yenkat was not having it.
Eric, James’ son from a previous relationship, screeched when he came to the door that led out to the living room and crashed into it, hitting his head. Kyenpia and Leonel winced.
“I’m good!” he shouted, giggling. But his two-year-old brother, Sean, wasn’t so lucky.
“Butter B, we have boys. God, we have boys. Is this what we have to put up with?”
“It gets worse,” Leonel answered as he walked to Sean and carried him.
Kyenpia focused on Eliana who stood by the backdoor. She had picked something off the floor and was directing it towards her mouth. “Adannaya!” she scolded. The little girl dropped the object. “I’m going to lose my mind. Argh!”
Eliana’s nanny walked in, looking apologetic. She had gone to pick clothes off the line. She dropped the basket of clothes on the floor to clean Eliana’s hand, but one of Loretta’s twins climbed into the basket, tumbling face in. He tipped the basket over. The adults in the kitchen burst into collective laughter. Kyenpia gave up.
“Breakfast is in your hands,” she told the nanny. “I’m out of here.”
“Heard from Peggy yet?” Leonel asked her once she stepped out of the kitchen.
“Please, don’t remind me of how mad I am at David right now.”
No one had heard from David yet, and his line was unreachable. Captain had informed them that he had left his house the morning before and was yet to return, but his clothes were still in his room. Peggy was understandably freaking out, and she had let everyone know that she and her kids weren’t going ahead with the trip if David didn’t show up.
“Don’t let anything stress you, Sunshine. Let me rush off to the office to tidy a few things.”
Leonel kissed Kyenpia on the cheek and dashed out. Kyenpia went upstairs and entered her bedroom just as her phone began to ring. When she saw that it was Ishi trying to reach her and it was a video call, she adjusted her hair and walked into the light.
“Why are you awake at this time?” she asked him.
“Been sleeping all day and playing chess with Fay.”
“How is she?”
He moved his camera to reveal Fayoke sleeping on a couch.
“How are you?”
“Good. Can’t wait to get out of here.”
“Do you miss Oby?”
“Weirdly? Yes. Badly.”
“What’s weird about missing her badly? This is a woman you want to spend forever with.”
“I know, but I still feel some type of way about how much I’m falling for her. And I use the word ‘falling’ because I really am. It wasn’t like this with Steph.”
“Be nice, Kay.”
“I know I’ve said it more than a few times, but I’m really happy for you.”
“Yeah, me too. I get… What’s the word? Giddy. For lack of a better word to use. I get giddy when she calls. And it feels good to have someone crush on you like she crushes on me. She prays for me every night, reads the bible to me, sings to me, makes me laugh… And she’s so open with me, it’s scary. I almost feel like I’m not worthy of her affection. Like I can’t love her enough.”
“You can. You just have to stop thinking that way. And you know that part of your heart where you have me protected? Release me, Ishi, and love Oby the way she deserves.”
“What if she turns out to be what she’s not?”
“You know she’s not Stephanie, and she’s not me either. Why don’t you just go all in?”
“I’m trying. I really am.”
“I’m thinking of a December wedding for you. I can see it now… You in a tux, Oby in a dress, Elem as your little flower girl…”
Ishi chuckled. “There has to be a name for this zone we’re both in.”
Kyenpia frowned. “What are you talking about?” She slid open the balcony door and stepped out to the cool morning air.
“You want me to get married in December, just as you did.”
“You’re in constant denial about us. You’ve made it seem like I’m the only one who has feelings. Even while we were having sex.”
“Ishi, how did this talk reach here?”
“Kay, we love each other. Not only as friends. And I can’t say as lovers, because we’re not. I also can’t term it an emotional relationship, because you already have one with Leonel. That’s not to say you still can’t have one with me…”
“What I mean is that we have something. I just don’t have a name for it. But whatever it is, I appreciate it. I appreciate you being in my life.”
“Okay. Me too.”
“I’m never going to bring this up again. Ever. The moment I propose to Oby, she comes first.”
“As it should be.”
“So, I’ll say it now. Kyenpia Elizabeth Joseph, I love you. God knows that I’ve tried to banish you from my heart, but I can’t. I am so glad that I get to share Eliana with you. I look at her and know that I did one thing right in my life.”
“Ishi, you do many things right.”
“Thank you for friendship, for being there when it mattered, for the amazing thing that happened between us…”
“Pastor Ishi, you can say the word. We fucked.”
“I have officially relegated you to the friend zone.”
“Do I get to be one of your best men on your big day?”
“No, Kay. Leonel will break my head and my wedding would trend for the wrong reasons.”
“Okay, but I get to pick your tux and shoes.”
“And the rings too?”
“Look around you, sweetie.”
Kyenpia gave her environment a quick sweep of her eyes.
“Boundaries, Kay. You’re now in the friend zone.”
“Stay in the zone.” He yawned. “Now, I feel sleepy.”
“You should rest.”
“Have fun in Mauritius. Don’t feel the need to keep me updated. I have Fay. I can’t be bored.”
He rang off. Kyenpia remained at the balcony until her phone began to ring again.
“So, how did your time here go?”
David halted in his steps as he made his way to his bedroom. He had just returned from spending an entire day in Ibadan. He knew that Peggy was somewhere, losing her mind over his disappearance, and he felt bad about it, but old habits were hard to kill. His phone was back on now, and the texts were pouring in. He still wasn’t in the mood to take any calls.
“Did you enjoy being with your old man?” Captain rephrased his question.
“Am I allowed to just pick my stuff and leave in peace?”
Captain inched closer to him. “You are who you are, Son. You can’t change it for shit. It’s in your DNA.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Hating me doesn’t transform you into this person you wish you could be. This is why you cannot connect with your wife. You haven’t let her see your true self. Look at your brother. He has a great marriage because Kyenpia knows him – the good and the bad – and she has accepted him the way he is. He has accepted himself, and I think it’s time you did, too.”
“Are you done?”
“I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the one called Igwe the First. Your grandfather’s grandfather. His biography is in the National Library and a good number of British publications wrote about him.”
“History has it that he crucified a British priest and burned down an entire village to avenge the death of his wife, who had died out of natural circumstances. Igwe killed his own clansmen, women and children; and with his band of merry savages, raided neighboring villages, abducting young, abled men to be sold into slavery. He also abducted teenage girls as slave wives, commandeered farmlands and homes, and set himself as a monarch over the people. They were weak to fight against him. All attempts made to attack him ended in casualties. His heinous acts continued to go unpunished for a while because it suited the British to have him do their dirty work of controlling towns that were previously resistant to the Queen’s soldiers. It was said that Igwe the First struck a deal with the provincial commissioner, who was still furtively engaging in the smuggling of slaves, even after slave trade had been abolished.
“But his savagery and double-dealing with the white man didn’t go unpunished by the chiefs and leaders of the people. A secret meeting was set on a certain night, and Igwe was cursed and declared an outcast. The blood of the innocent, which he had spilled, was to rest on him and his sons forever. Igwe had laughed and called them fools, on learning about the curse. But after the birth of his third son, years later, he escaped to the west, following several attempts on his life. He left his men at the mercy of people who were yet to heal from his crimes against them.
“Igwe lived long, but tormented by his mind. In his old age, he was beset by a mental illness that often had him speaking to himself at night.”
“The type that haunts you?”
Captain gave an unbothered smile. “He’d been wise to shield his third son, Bowley – so named after the priest he had crucified years ago – from the life he lived, sending him off to Britain to school via the connections he had with the British. Bowley became the father of Abraham, your grandfather.”
“Okay. Is there a moral argument in this long tale you just told me?” David asked.
“It runs in the blood, Afamefuna. The curse, the bloodthirst, the paganism, the savagery… We all have our versions of it, in varying degrees. It’ll be good to accept who you are.”
“Is that all?”
David entered his room, packed his clothes and left the house. A colleague was waiting to take him home, but he asked him to make a detour. He stopped at a flower shop and bought Peggy a potted plant.
It wasn’t strange to him that the house was quiet when he got home. The kids were probably in school because Peggy was the type of mother that wouldn’t let them have an extra day at home just because they were taking a week off school.
David walked into the house and found Emem in the living room, reading a book and babysitting the baby of the house. He bent to give both of them a kiss and inquired about Peggy. Emem informed him that she was having a shower.
He went into his bedroom. Suitcases were neatly placed in a corner; David was sure that Peggy had packed for him as well.
He positioned the potted plant by the window and waited outside the bathroom door for Peggy. She soon stepped out in the nude. David took hold of her hand, and she reacted on impulse, twisting her hand out of his grasp and bending his backwards. She had acted faster than her eyes had laid hold of him. Halfway, she let go, breaking into a laugh. He grasped her waist this time and drew closer to her for a kiss.
“I feel like strangling you right now.” She hugged him as though he would vanish from her grip if she didn’t. “Don’t ever make me worry like this again.”
The fragrance of her perfume and softness of her skin reminded him of how much he had missed her.
“That’s a beautiful flower.” She let go and followed the potted plant to the window. “Calla lily. You remembered when I said I grew up surrounded by lots of it.”
“I listen to you Margaret – always.”
David took off his t-shirt.
“How is Daddy?”
“He’s doing well, unfortunately.”
“You should call Kyenpia and apologize for almost ruining this trip for her.”
David reached for his phone and sent a text instead, assuring Kyenpia that they were ready for the trip.
“What would you like for breakfast?” Peggy asked.
“Can we talk, first?”
“I’m sure you’re hungry.”
“It can wait.” He held her hand and led her to the bed. They both sat.
“I just want to let you know that staying at Captain’s was bullshit. We didn’t get to talk. I doubt that we ever will.”
Peggy expressed disappointment.
“But I got to spend a lot of time with myself, which I’m just discovering I’ve never done. Whenever I’m not with you, I’m occupied with work. I’ve never really enjoyed my own company. But this time I did. It was a good opportunity to read my Bible and pray, and really do some soul gazing.”
“And how was it?”
“Mostly unpleasant. Peggy… I have to tell you something.”
“I killed someone in 1994.”
“But you were only a teenager then.”
“I was fifteen and I was dating a girl whose father used to rape her. He was a soldier, same ranking as Captain then. She was a very beautiful girl, but she was always sad. She never told me why; her sister did. That one was abused by the man as well. Their mother knew and she said nothing about it. She was scared. So, I told Captain, knowing he could deal with anybody he wanted to without any form of consequence. But Captain told me that the man was my problem to handle and that a single shot to the head could end everything. Before then, he had taught Leonel and I how to handle firearms. We were good at target practice with all sorts of guns, but we had never really used them, except on rabbits and pigs. So, Captain said this was my chance to prove to him that I was a man.
“He took a few days manipulating that part of me that detested rapists, making me see reason why I had to kill a fellow human being. Then one evening, he dragged me out of the house and said we were going to have drinks. We went to a bar and he made sure I was tipsy, but not so much that I couldn’t tell what was happening around me. After that, he took me to a secluded place. No houses, no people, just tall grasses and trees. Tied under one of the trees was my ex’s father, surrounded by soldiers. He was butt naked. I remember the fear in his eyes when he saw Captain. He began to plead, because he knew that he was a dead man. Everyone in the army knew that getting on Captain’s bad side for whatever reason could end your life. So, this man begged and begged and…”
David stopped, staring ahead of him. Peggy peered deeper into his eyes.
“When Captain gave me the gun, he turned his attention on me and kept begging. Captain called out his crimes to him and asked him how he pled. He said he was guilty and was ready to take whatever punishment as long as his life was spared. I could have said no that night. I could have dropped the gun and walked back to the car, but I was dead scared of my father, Peggy. When I was five, he had snapped a man’s neck in front of me, and then lied to his wife whom he had sent to buy cigarettes, that the man had a heart attack. He attended his funeral, which he paid for and made me attend it too. Weeks later, that man’s widow came to work in our house as the new cook. He made sure I saw him fucking her on a couple of occasions. Years later, he would tell me that it was my first introduction into manhood.”
“That’s just sick.”
“That was the man my father was, Peggy. Who was I to disrespect him in front of his subordinates? How dare I showed him that I was weak? I could die for his approval then. I’d have given everything for him to be proud of me. So, I aimed the gun on that man, squeezed the trigger and shot him three times in the chest.”
David looked into her eyes with a sad smile. “D’you love me less?”
“But it didn’t end there, Peg. He made me do other things that I can’t talk about. No, I didn’t rape anybody or hurt any woman. But he tried to turn me into something I was not. My aunt found out and made Gramps step in. Leonel and I were flown out of the country to school. That was how I escaped him.”
“Flora, my ex, is still alive. I visited her in Ibadan yesterday. She never got married because of her fear of men. Her father almost ruined her life, but she’s good now. I went to her to confess what I had done.”
“Because it’s been a burden all my life, Peggy. They say you don’t forget your first kill. I never forgot her father, as vile as he was. I could never erase his voice in my head, pleading for his life.”
“Did she forgive you?”
“Have you forgiven yourself?”
“I don’t know,” he whispered.
“Well, this is a first step. I want to apologize for all the times I defied you to side Captain. Yes, I’d heard terrible things about him, but I’d always put it down to rumors. And this was because you never really told me the type of person he was. It was in your absence that Mommy and Kyenpia sat me down and told me what he did to Mommy… I’m so sorry.”
David ran his fingers through Peggy’s hair and smiled at her. “It’s okay.”
“So, is this the origin story of your lack of emotions?”
“Origin story.” David laughed. “Well…it began way before then. When my mom disappeared. I just stopped feeling. And I think it was because I was more emotional than Leonel was. I went from the really expressive one to the one who didn’t know how to express anything at all. It was trauma that I never healed from.”
“Do you think that maybe you can heal from it?”
“Yesterday, I’d have told you I couldn’t, and I didn’t want to. Today, I don’t know. I’m willing to let go.”
“Dave, that you were able to open up to me is a huge step. Just don’t withdraw into your shell again.”
“I’ll try not to.”
“Thank you for making the effort. Usually, people change when something drastic happens. But you did this all on your own. I’m proud of you.”
David found solace in her hug. She was right about one thing. The world hadn’t turned upside-down neither had some rock from space landed on his head to get him to this point. It had been a combination of sober reflection, Bible passages prescribed to him by Ishi, prayers, and solitude, that had gotten him here. Ishi once told him that God loved to visit in a whisper, and David was sure that he had heard that whisper during his stay at Captain’s despite the loud resentment he felt for the old man.
“Anytime you see me slipping away from you, don’t be afraid to call me back,” he said to Peggy.
“Okay. Let me get you breakfast.”
Peggy put on a robe and went on her feet, but before she got to the door, he dashed there and stood with crossed arms, waiting for her. It was a regular prank he played with her. The trick was to get to the door as fast as he could, using her blind spot.
“Come here.” He drew her body to his as he leaned against the door. He silenced her laughing lips with a sensuous kiss.
The flight to Mauritius took off at 11:00p.m. No one had missed it, which was a huge relief to Kyenpia. She had wished, though, that Fiyin had made it somehow. The vacation was not going to be the same without her, despite the delights that awaited them.
Kyenpia tried to sleep on the flight, but Reggie and Kane demanded her attention constantly. There were four domestic assistants traveling with them to take care of the thirteen children on board, yet the boys insisted on Kyenpia’s presence. She was beginning to learn that they were deliberate in conniving to have their way, and once they set their heart on something, nothing could stop them. She and Leonel endured their fussiness throughout the journey, but once the plane touched down in Port Louis, their nanny took over and Kyenpia got temporary respite.
Three buses arrived to take them to Salzana White Sands Beach Resort and Spa at Belle Mare. It was only an hour’s drive, but they were all exhausted, having spent roughly nine hours in the plane. Brisa was waiting to welcome them. It didn’t surprise Leonel that she had come out dressed only in her bathing suit and a sarong. She kissed him on the cheek when she hugged him and pecked Kyenpia’s lips. For everyone else, she had a hug.
“If you could be patient, we’ll have you all settled into your suites in no time,” she addressed them. “The children’s suites have been fitted with surveillance cameras as per your request, and you have security detail to ensure your safety at all times. Welcome to Salzana White Sands Resort and Spa.”
She put up a serious face and turned towards Leonel. “I believe we have a few things to discuss.” She looked at Kyenpia. “You too. Would you care to join us?”
“No, thank you.”
Brisa led the Leonel away from the reception to her office at the administrative wing of the resort. Leonel hadn’t been in Mauritius in three months, and he was impressed to see how much she had accomplished in a short time. It seemed that every time he came here, there was something new to see. For the millionth time, he was glad that he had made Brisa his partner.
The meeting in her office was brief. When they were through, Brisa took Leonel on a tour to see the latest developments she had done in the resort. The place could not be compared to the resort in Lagos, but it was beautiful, nonetheless. Its biggest attraction was its proximity to the beach.
“Where is Anna?” Leonel probed as they walked down a long hallway on which one side led to hotel suites and the other opened up to a view of the coastline.
“Anna’s doing her possible best not be caught anywhere around you.”
“She hates me that much, huh?”
“More like she’s still crazy in love with you.”
“I thought you guys were together?”
“We are, but not for long. I feel like she’s tired of us.”
As much as Leonel was curious about their relationship, he didn’t probe further.
“If you wouldn’t mind, I have other things I have to attend to,” Brisa said, passing him a silver-plated cigarette case. “A small welcome gift from me.”
He opened the case to find eight rolled joints. “Thanks, but you know I always have my shit sorted out, right?”
“This is the best shit out here. Trust me.”
Leonel slipped the case into his pocket as she walked away. There was a deliberate swing of her bum to get his attention. He ogled her for a few seconds and turned away in search of Kyenpia. He found her at the reception area. She was not alone; Emem was with her. They were in the company of a lady whom Leonel suspected was Timaro.
“Son, I’m glad you’re here,” Emem signed in excitement as he neared her. David emerged from one of two arched hallways. “You too, David. Come over.”
Timaro looked up from her phone and let out a smile that was an exact replica of Captain’s. But it was human and sweet.
“Leonel?” she asked. He nodded. “Oh my God! I’ve waited like forever to meet you!” She hugged him fiercely, making him miss his footing. “I’m sorry.”
He had seen her pictures online and he thought that he had prepared to meet her, but being in her presence was a different thing. She was more lively and carefree than she was online. Her fashion taste was the same, though.
“You’re all over the news. In Forbes and Time Magazine. You’re impressive.”
“Thank you. I can’t wait to get to know you better. Nice kicks, by the way.”
“Thanks.” She stared down at her shoes. She was wearing gold oxfords, matched with a jungle print crop top and white skinny jeans.
She turned to David and made a mock military salute. He laughed and they hugged.
“I can’t believe I actually have elder brothers. I can’t believe it. Our baby brother is a pain in the ass. You’ve got to meet him. He’ll drive you crazy.”
“Why isn’t he here?” David asked Emem.
“Yeah, Mother. Why is Callum not here?” Timaro repeated. Leonel sensed that she was trouble. “Tell them.”
Emem didn’t seem to have an answer.
“Callum is scared to death of our father and every one of you. Thanks to mom and her Nigerian horror stories.”
“Well, we may have to go down to London ourselves and get him, if it comes to that,” David suggested.
They bantered a little further. Leonel noticed an instant connection between them. She seemed drawn to his military side.
“Timaro, let’s get you to your suite, shall we?” Kyenpia offered. She led her to the front desk.
“Where is your lover boy?” David inquired of Miguel. “Isn’t he supposed to be here?”
“I don’t know if he’s still coming.”
“Is everything okay?”
“We had a little fight because your father insisted on being here–”
“You didn’t know?”
“No,” the twins answered in unison.
“Oh. I thought you knew. I asked Kyenpia and she confirmed it.”
“She didn’t tell me,” Leonel stated. He wasn’t happy with the news.
“Please, don’t bring it up with her. She’s tired. We all are.”
“Is there anything we can do to make Miguel change his mind?”
Emem shook her head. “He’ll surprise me by showing up tomorrow. I know him that well. But if he doesn’t show, I have all my children and grandchildren in the same place, at the same time. A man is the least of this old woman’s problems right now.”
“You’re not old, Mom,” David said.
“You’re sweet,” she mouthed and patted his cheek as she made her way to the front desk.
Leonel waited until Kyenpia was through before he walked up to her. He put an arm around her neck and kissed her forehead as they strolled to their suite.
“Why didn’t you tell me Captain was invited?”
“I didn’t invite him. He called me to let me know that he was coming to Belle Mare for unrelated business. I tried to dissuade him, but he wouldn’t listen. I didn’t want to upset you. I’m sorry.”
“I forecast drama ahead, though.”
“I’m all for it, abeg. It’s what makes vacations like this so much fun. Gosh! I miss Fiyin. She won’t respond to my emails, except to say that I should have fun. You think maybe she’ll come?”
“Kyen, she’s pregnant and probably relaxing from all the stress. You think you’re that important to her?”
“I know. I just miss her.”
From the distance, promenading under a grove of coconut trees, were Yenkat and Clarence. Leonel and Kyenpia stared as the couple stopped to kiss.
“I’m so proud that I brought these two together,” Kyenpia said smugly. “I also worry that it won’t last.”
“Because of Omar?”
“Yeah. She still loves him. I doubt that she’ll stop.”
Yenkat looked their way and waved. They waved back. Clarence kept his stare ahead. It was still awkward to him to be this open and free around his bosses.
Jaiye sat by his balcony, staring at his phone. He had just connected it to the hotel’s WiFi and activated his number to allow roaming services. There were important emails that needed his attention and a couple of calls he had to make. First, he checked to see if Fiyin had replied any of his messages. Asides the one in which she told him that she was doing fine, she hadn’t said anything since. He was mad at her; so were her parents. But they all believed that she would be back soon. These days, though, he didn’t pine for her as he used to. He was now beginning to enjoy having other women in his life. He was a man, and apart from the fact that his body no be firewood, he was not going to let a woman have control of his heart.
Fiyin would come back to him whenever her head calmed. He knew her medicine and he would give it to her when the time was right.
The doorbell to his suite rang. Jaiye recalled that he had ordered a cocktail. He walked to the door and opened it, expecting to see a waiter with his drinks; but there stood Anna, bearing a smile on her face.
It was a pleasant surprise, but he wasn’t going to tell her.
“Do you come in peace?”
She made her way in without invitation. “Aren’t you happy to see me?”
Jaiye shut the door. “Last I checked, you hated my guts and tried to get me kicked out of my job.”
“Last I checked, you deserved it.”
Jaiye admired her little white dress and its dipping backline, which plunged all the way to her waist. He saw that she wasn’t wearing underwear. She turned around after letting him have his fill of her backside.
“So, why are you here?”
“Do you still love doing business?”
He chuckled. “See question. I’m an Igbo man underneath this skin.”
“Let’s not argue about that.” She strolled towards him seductively. “I need a favor, Jaiye. I wish I’d come with an actual business deal, but here I am, swallowing my pride and asking you to help me.”
Jaiye liked the sound of her words.
“Take this as a loan that I’ll repay.”
“Talk to me, baby.”
“I want to return to Lagos and back to the hotel.”
Jaiye lifted his brows. “You’re joking.”
“No. I want to return as guest relations manager.”
“Wow. You didn’t even ask for a fitting role like my personal assistant or something. You went all the way to management.”
“I’ve worked my ass off for Leonel to get to that point.”
“This is all about him, then?”
“Jaiye, be serious.”
“I thought you loved it here.”
“I’m done with this place. I want back in.”
“Because I do…”
“Leo doesn’t have any other woman’s time, Anna.”
“This is not about Leo. I miss my old life and I want it back. You are COO. You can make it happen.”
“And what do I get in return?”
“Do you remember how I used to make you feel?”
He released deep laughter. “And you think I can’t get a hundred more of you if I wanted to?”
“You know you want me.”
“Um…” Jaiye was quiet for a moment, as if in thought. “Let’s see… Yeah, yeah. We can make that work… But I need something worth my effort.”
“Okay. How about this? Brisa is looking to buy another piece of property along the coast, not far from here, but she doesn’t have all the funds. She needs a partner.”
“She has Leonel.”
“He doesn’t know about it. The hotel is bigger, and if it opens, it could give Salzana a run for its money. She wants to be his competition.”
“And she’s good. Everything she touches in hospitality turns to gold. This place was shit before she came in. Look at it now.”
“So, you think I should…?”
Anna pulled up closer to him. “There’s more.”
“She’s partnering with Mekka City Hotels in Lagos…”
“Our biggest rival.”
“And Leo doesn’t know.”
“No. Brisa would appreciate your alliance, if you came over to her side.”
“But I don’t think I have the type of money she needs in a partner.”
“You and I know that you do. You stole more than those auditors could trace.”
Jaiye laughed and moved away from her.
“Think about it, Jay. I get the position I want in Léon and you have your dreams come true. You can finally stand head to head with Leo.”
“I’ll need to ponder on this,” Jaiye said and let out a lustful grin. “About your job, though, it’s done.”
“Yeah, only on the premise that we have something going on.”
“So, should we celebrate with a kiss or something more intense, girlfriend?”
“I’ll see you later, Jaiyesimi.”
She started towards the door, but he stopped her and crushed her lips with a demanding kiss. She tried to pull away unsuccessfully. He backed her up against a wall.
“Some ground rules if you’ll be working for me, Anna. I own your body. Whenever I want you, I get to have you. Is that understood?”
Anna smiled, nodding.
“Good girl. But I admire your conniving little ass. You took your time to get here, you patient, little dog. Oh, I’m so going to pass you my fat, meaty bone.”
He freed her, but not without cupping her breasts. Anna retained her smile all the way to the door, but once she was outside, she ran through a list of expletives. A waiter who had come with a tall glass of White Russian stopped in front of Jaiye’s door. Anna took the drink from the tray and sauntered off.
She hadn’t felt this good in a long time. Jaiye would fall for her plan and betray Leonel, giving her the opportunity to buy Leonel’s trust back, by exposing the plans he and Brisa were up to. She would then negotiate a better deal with Leonel. Maybe the hotel manager’s position. Maybe she would even go as far as asking for the COO seat. And who knew? He might just want to get back into old habits.
One of the biggest lessons she had learned from this business was that the patient dog didn’t always get the fattest bone because there was always an underrated bitch that plotted behind the scenes to have it first.
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages