Happy Father’s Day!
Yenkat hated blind dates. She didn’t believe that they had anything good to offer. They were akin to rolling a die and expecting to find a number greater than 6 or hoping to draw a joker from a standard 52-card deck. The chances of either of those happening was as slim as a perfect man falling from heaven.
This was Yenkat’s dilemma. She wasn’t searching for a man, but she was going on blind dates, hoping that she found a good one. A man worthy of her time, intellect and body. All in a bid to keep from going deep with Omar who was fulfilling his promise of making her fall for him. It wasn’t easy to stop herself from feeling many kinds of ways when she got his random morning phone calls. To start with, his voice was a killer. Deep and sotto. Then, the things he told her either left her laughing or in a mushy mood. But it wasn’t just lighthearted conversations between them. They kept each other up-to-date on the happenings in their lives. Omar had gotten himself a studio apartment in Florence, and he had started working as a sous chef in a restaurant in the city. He shared with her his fails and wins, and always sought her advice whenever he wanted to take important decisions. From her side, she opened up about everything that bothered her. From bad days to failed business deals. Omar knew everything, except the part that she had unwillingly plunged herself into the dating pool.
Aanu was the genius behind the blind dates. She relied only on her previous knowledge of the type of men that stimulated Yenkat, ignorant of the fact that Yenkat now had a standard. An Omar Standard, so to say. Every man had to live up to it, but thus far, they had all been disappointing. Especially the one seated across the table from her right now. He had the looks, the wittiness and the money, but he wasn’t Omar. Yenkat felt suddenly tired.
“Are you okay?” her date asked, slight nervousness showing on his face. “You’ve been distracted all evening. You don’t like this place? We could go elsewhere.”
The restaurant was perfect. Upscale and romatic.
“No. It’s just that I’m not feeling well.”
“Oh, so sorry. Is it a headache or…?”
“My menses just started.”
Yenkat could feel Aanu’s disapproving glare on her. She hated the word ‘menses’. Yenkat hated it too, but she had discovered that it had a more shocking value than the word ‘period’. It made men silently cringe whenever she said it. And it was often used each time she wanted to end a tiresome date.
“That’s em…” Her date tried not to show his unease. “It’s unfortunate.”
“Yeah, and it’s rather heavy.”
“Do you want me to rush off and buy you em…? Which do you use? Pads or tampons? My late wife liked tampons better. She said it didn’t remind her that she was on her period. She didn’t use to have cramps, so…”
Yenkat now remembered why this particular date bombed. Every two lines from him referenced his late wife.
“She was lucky. But I don’t need anything right now, except to rush home and soak in a tub and watch the water go red.”
Awkwardness clouded the atmosphere. It took great restraint for Yenkat not to laugh.
“Thanks for dinner.” She picked her handbag. “Should I call the waiter, so we can split the bill?”
“No, no, no. It’s all on me. I’m sure Aanu mentioned that.”
“Right. She did. Thanks again.”
“I’ll call you.”
She saw on his face that he wanted some form of warm farewell, but she smiled and walked away. In her car, she had a good laugh. Aanu was going to be upset with her for shelling a fourth date, but she didn’t care. A bowl of ice-cream while watching Mad Men was better than dining in a fancy restaurant with a complete stranger.
Her phone rang. Her eyes dropped on the screen. It was a video call from Omar. She accepted the call.
“Done with your date?”
“My date?” Yenkat asked, surprised. “How did you…?”
“Mom told me.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot. Aanu and her big mouth. Can you guys go back to not talking to each other?”
Omar had given Aanu the silent treatment for three months. He forgave her a little over a week ago, and in typical Aanu behavior, she threw a party for herself in which she baked a cake and ate alone, feeding little slices to Polaris.
“How did the date go?” Omar asked.
“Boring. I told him I was having my menses.”
“That word.” Omar laughed. “You had to.”
“I had to, baby boy. You should meet these men your mom keeps hooking me up with.”
“She says they’re your type of men.”
“Well, I must have grown or something, because I can’t stand any of them.”
“You look smashing, though. Those earrings…”
Yenkat grinned. “Aanu saw me unwrapping them. She was asking who gave them to me. Tobi, you have to stop sending me these gifts or…”
“Stop showing her.”
“I didn’t. She walked in when I was unwrapping the box.”
“You look lovely in them.”
“Just taking a break. I’ll soon pop back in. It’s cool outside. Wish you were here. Your summer body would love this place in a few months. I heard summer here is to die for.”
Yenkat was on a fitfam journey. She had hired a fitness instructor, and it had been three months of great results. Aanu was presently considering doing the same thing.
“Don’t you want to fly over for a quiet weekend?” Omar requested. “I’ll pay.”
“Omar…” Yenkat shook off the instant images her desire conjured in her mind of both of them together.
“Just a yes or no. Don’t start telling me how you think it’s a bad idea.”
“That’s fine. I wasn’t expecting you to say yes. You’re probably going to show up unannounced.”
“Never going to happen.”
“That’s how you do. Unless you want to prove me wrong by accepting my offer.”
“Can I roll my eyes to that a thousand times?”
“How old do you think I am? Fifteen? Is that how you twist the heads of those small, small girls and make them open their legs for you?”
“They don’t even have my time. Not that I’m interested. Look, just stop going on those mindless dates. None of those guys are worth your time.”
“How do you know?”
“I know. All they want is sex.”
“And what if that’s all I want too?”
“You don’t go out on dates with the guys you fuck. You just fuck them. Some of them are guys you already know. Most of them are strangers.”
“Some and most? Is my body count that high?”
“Actually, it’s low, compared to…”
He stopped. She knew he was referring to Aanu.
“Just stop wasting your time with them.”
“Stop being jealous.”
“I can’t help it. Hey, I gotta go,” he stated, looking away. “I’ve been thinking…”
“Would you like me to call you Kat instead?”
“From Yenkat. Mami sounds a little too old, and you’re far from old. You’re young and exciting and adventurous and foxy…”
“And pragmatic and intuitive…”
She loved the way he said intuitive. “Go on.”
“And sensuous and valued. By me, of course.”
“Tobi, just go away.”
He hung up. Yenkat dropped her phone in her handbag, exhaling. Kat wasn’t a new form of her name, and he wouldn’t be the first to call her that, but she was allowing it. It sounded better on his lips.
She backed away from the driveway, pretending not to see her date who was leaving the restaurant as she gunned for the street. Her mind immediately shifted to financial matters, reminding her that she needed to pay Kyenpia a visit. She had a proposal for her, a juicy offer she was sure she wouldn’t refuse. Yenkat had already thrown in the bulk of her cash into the real estate firm she had desired to invest in . They had wanted to give her a top management position that came with an office and working hours, but she had declined. It was better to be a silent investor. Her restless business feet were still drawn to the hospitality industry, and Kyenpia alone could give her what she craved for.
Yenkat approached her street after a twenty-minute drive, scolding herself for not stopping at her favorite store on the preceding street to get her weekend stash of Oreos. There was a strong urge to turn back, but she spotted Kyenpia’s hatchback parked on the street across her house. She edged towards it curiously. Kyenpia would always inform her before she visited. Yenkat hoped everything was okay.
She stopped her car and alighted. The driver’s door of the hatchback opened and Kyenpia’s chauffeur cum bodyguard stepped down.
He wasn’t the one she was expecting to see.
“Good evening, ma.”
“Good evening. Is Kyenpia not with you?”
“No. She sent me with some gym stuff.”
“Oh!” Yenkat exclaimed in recollection. “She said she’d do so. I totally forgot.”
“Seems like your gateman is not around. I’ve been knocking.”
“He’s ill. I’m sorry. I hope you didn’t have to wait for long.”
“No. Just under thirty minutes.” He stared at his watch. “Twenty-eight minutes and twelve seconds precisely.”
Yenkat’s thoughts became suspended for a bit. This was the first time she was hearing him say so many words at once. The first time he wasn’t in all black or wearing a suit. This evening he was in a denim jacket over a white polo and blue jeans. He suddenly looked interesting to stare at. He was frowning, as usual, but appeared a little approachable. Maybe the frown was a default expression, something he learned in bodyguard school, if there was such a thing. He was clean-shaven. No beard, a line of moustache, but full brows that were seamlessly shaped. Yenkat wondered if he shaped them himself. They made up for his unfriendly eyes, though, which were constantly distrustful.
“What’s your name?”
“Clarence, ma.” His brows dipped for a second as his eyes dropped on her.
“I’ll open the gates,” she said as she entered the compound. She unlocked the gates from within and motioned Clarence to drive in. She pointed at her garage, directing him towards it. Afterwards, she drove in. He was already offloading a couple of gym equipment when she came down from her car.
Yenkat opened the garage door and watched as he transferred the equipment in with a bag of unused gym clothes. Kyenpia was being Kyenpia as usual. Always generous and sweet.
“And that’s all,” Clarence said, lifting a hand to shut the hatch of the vehicle. Yenkat saw a handgun peeking out from his side.
“Thank you, Clarence.”
He got into the hatchback and drove out of the compound. Yenkat shut the gates and the garage door. She made her way into the house.
The living room lights were off, which were unusual. Oyin normally left them on until Yenkat herself switched them off when she was ready to sleep. There was music playing that was a little too loud.
“Don’t turn on the lights,” a voice pleaded hastily, but it was too late. Yenkat’s finger was already on the switch. The lights went on, exposing Aanu and some unfamiliar person on one of the sofas. They had been smart enough not to completely take off their clothes to accomplish whatever it is they were doing.
“Aanu,” Yenkat complained. She didn’t pause for memories. She headed to her bedroom. Aanu went after her.
“Didn’t you hear me driving in?”
“I seriously didn’t hear because of the sound system.”
“It was loud. Meanwhile, Oyin and Polaris are somewhere in this house,” Yenkat stated, switching on her bedroom lights.
“I know. I told Oyin to put her to bed and not to disturb me.”
“Why didn’t you use your room?”
“The room is boring nau. Where’s the fun there?”
Yenkat frowned at her. “Do you want me to send you back to your house? The other night, you were moaning really loudly. I didn’t even know who that guy was. But wait, is this some form of midlife crisis? Because I don’t understand. I know you love sex a lot, but this is a little out of control.”
Aanu leaned on the wall, pressing her abundant backside into it. “What if I end up marrying my dad’s friend?”
Yenkat spun around, eyes widening at her. She kicked out of her heels. “Are you mad?”
“Yeni, the pressure is much. The women’s leader and our pastor’s wife have now gotten into the matter. I can’t hold them off any longer.”
“Aanu, please, don’t do this to yourself. We agreed that you wouldn’t.”
“Do I have a choice? What if I don’t meet a perfect man?”
“There is nothing like a perfect man.”
“None of them want anything serious. And the ones that do are not alright in the head. It’s either they want a woman they can control or one that will be spending on them.” She left the wall and walked towards Yenkat. “Uncle Akanni is nice. He’s soft-spoken…”
“He’s old! Sixty-nine years old! His lastborn is older than you!”
“But his family likes me.”
“Of course, they like you. You’re there to restore his youth and serve him as a maid until he dies. Have you ever slept with a grandfather before? The entire pubic area is white. Grey hairs everywhere! Sagging balls! Imagine that!”
“So, what do you want me to do?”
“Say no! Your father cannot keep controlling your life like this, Aanu. You are thirty-four for heaven’s sake! And no, having Omar was not a mistake you have to spend your entire existence atoning for! Daddy needs to know that! God! You’ve really gotten me upset this night! This is why you’ve been anyhow with your sex life?”
“I’m not anyhow. I’m just having a lot of sex before I subject the rest of my life to crinkly sexless penis covered in white hair and saggy balls.”
Yenkat snorted, bursting into laughter. Aanu joined her.
“Okay, that sounded like the title of some homemade porn on Xvideos.”
“It’s not funny, Yeni.” But Aanu laughed harder.
“On a serious note, though…” Yenkat added when the laughter stopped. “I don’t even know where to start. First, you love sex, and I think it’s time you admitted that you’re a nympho and take the necessary steps into controlling your sex life.”
“I’m not a nympho.”
“Aanu, you started having sex at the age of eleven without provocation.”
“Not my fault. I matured too quickly. How many eleven-year-olds had hour glass bodies at that age?”
“We’ll get into that discussion later. Secondly, and most importantly, it’s also time you stepped up to Daddy. Why are you so afraid of him?”
“I’m not.” Aanu sat on Yenkat’s bed. Her breasts bounced generously as she did. Yenkat reached over and pulled one cup of her bra to cover an exposed nipple. “I’m just tired of being the black sheep. Everyone else is happily and legally married. None of them got pregnant out of wedlock. None of them is divorced. None of them is a grandmother. Only me.”
“But that’s your story, Aanu. Not theirs. And it’s not perfect either, but it is what it is. Stop letting them make you feel like you’re the worst sinner in the world.”
“Do you know the things Daddy said to me when I told him about Polaris?”
“I told you not to tell him. He didn’t deserve to know.”
“He would find out later. He always finds out these things.”
“What did he say?”
“He said that Omar was simply taking after me, that both of us have brought nothing but shame to the family. He also said that he’d always known that Omar’s life would end up in the gutter. A child with a wrong foundation, not approved by God, has no bright future. And that if I wasn’t careful, Polaris would go the same way.”
Aanu’s eyes gleamed with tears. Yenkat sat beside her.
“I’m so sorry, Aanu, but you know all he said was bullshit, right?”
“But he didn’t lie nau. Omar got a runs girl pregnant. Polaris is a product of that.”
“And so what, Aanu? I came from a proper home, or so I thought, until I found out that I was a product of rape, that my mom was forced to marry her rapist to cover her shame. But did I let that affect me? Did I let that define my actions? Why do you listen to what people say? Or let your past define you? How many times will we have this conversation sef? I am tired of telling you the same thing over and over.”
“You’ve let your father and the people out there who don’t matter in your life affect the way you live. Today, it’s senseless sex you’re having. Tomorrow, you’re getting blind angry and saying things to people who truly love you, words that you’ll later regret. The day after tomorrow, you’re getting pissed drunk and partying stupidly because you want to max out your secret rebellion card. When will the real Aanu damn the consequences and live for herself?”
Aanu wiped her cheeks, but the tears were on a steady stream.
“I’m really tired of talking. You have to start listening to me.”
“Promise me that you’ll not marry this Uncle Akanni of a person. Does Omar even know about him?”
“You know he won’t let you do it.”
“I didn’t tell him because he’ll go and confront Daddy. And you know they hate each other. I don’t want any more drama abeg.”
“Omar doesn’t give a fuck about Daddy’s ideologies, because it’s clear that he’s selfish.”
“Promise me, Aanuoluwapo, that you won’t marry this man.”
“Oya find me a husband.”
“A husband will not solve your problems, babe! Did Daddy let you rest when you were married to Nasir?”
“Did having Nasir as your husband stop you from wanting to sleep with other men?”
“Then, why not tackle these issues before you go and subject somebody’s son to misery?”
“You’re right, Yeni. You’re always right.”
“This isn’t about me being right. It’s about you doing right by you.”
Aanu nodded, but Yenkat was not fooled by her easy acquiescence. They had had this discussion many times before. Aanu would clean her tears, find some penis to offer her temporary succor, and then continue to subject herself to her father’s rule. Yenkat was tired.
“Thank you, luv. Can I go now?”
Yenkat pointed the way out for her. Aanu got up and kissed her.
“I know your date went badly.”
“In the morning, we’ll discuss your own issues.”
Yenkat began to take off her dress. “It’d better have to do with money. And please, no more blind dates, you this girl. It’s all tiring.”
Aanu rolled her eyes. “I’m not stopping. There has to be a man out there for you.”
Yenkat tried not to think of Omar. She tried quite hard.
“Be going. And please, take your rendezvous to your room.”
Aanu made her exit. Yenkat freed her breasts from her bra and fell on her bed, facing upwards. She blindly reached for her phone in her handbag. She needed to call Kyenpia.
Guns have a spirit in them. If you handle one, you’ll feel like shooting something.
Kyenpia felt like shooting many things. People, precisely. The ones that killed Leonel. That particular one who aimed a gun at her and fired the bullets that he took to save her life. She had longed to kill that one from the second the news came to her that Leonel had passed. She’d lay in bed at night, dreaming of how she would have wasted him had he not died in the same explosion that killed Leonel.
Captain sent for her this morning. He had found some of the bastards that had attacked the Igwe family. They were the ones that got away. The old man wanted her to witness him take revenge for the family. Life for life. Kyenpia was hungry for a kill. For a while now, her forefinger had been squeezing pretend triggers at odd ticks of the day.
Mornings were her worst moments. She would always manage through the night with only three hours of rest, just to wake up on an empty bed with Leonel’s fragrance around her. The customized beddings, all of them had been changed. A set for each week, and sometimes, twice a week, as she desired. But nothing could erase his scent. He lived in her. Around her. In her thoughts, her heart, her dreams… Her Butter Babe was not dead to her.
And yet she mourned him. Who would have thought that she’d end up a widow? She had imagined herself divorced, single, an adulteress, mentally imbalanced, terminally ill, the first female president, a high class whore, a renowned feminist, and many other things… But not a widow. No one ever imagined their husband dead.
It should have been her and the twins she was carrying, had he not pushed her to the floor and taken the bullets for them in an instant. She had seen the gun aimed at her at just the moment before it was fired, but her hero had been faster, and jumped in to save her.
Leonel Afamdi Igwe. He had been one heck of a man. She had loved him passionately. Now, she felt empty. Her heart was still overflowing with that love. What was she to do with it? Who would wake her up from this nightmare?
Today, like the others, Kyenpia’s feet felt too heavy to move. Her heart too frail to beat. Yet, she had to keep living. That was what everyone told her. She had to survive for her daughter and the twins.
A soft rap on her bedroom door took her attention away from the wall she was gazing at. She asked the intruder in.
Her DA entered. DA was short for Domestic Assistant. That was what they called them in the family. Not maid or housekeeper. The DA’s of the Igwe family were not your regular domestic staff. Each had, at least, a degree or a higher diploma in learning, was skilled in a martial art, and could use a firearm effortlessly. And of course, there was the knowledge of other affairs, which ranged from basic housekeeping to knowing how to stitch up a flesh wound.
“Good morning, ma,” Nelly greeted.
Kyenpia felt like raising her voice at her, to ask why she didn’t understand boundaries and private moments, why she had to come in and draw open the curtains and inquire about her night. But she understood that she had unofficially been put on a suicide watch. The Igwes were worried about her, for the reason that she appeared strong on the outside and seemed to have moved on too quickly. Just a day after Leonel was put to rest, she resumed activities at the radio station where she worked as a presenter, and at The Refuge, an NGO, where she filled in the role of public relations officer. Captain’s twin sister, deeply worried over her state of mind, recommended a grief therapist for her, but Kyenpia sent the man away each time he showed up until he stopped coming entirely. She suspected it was the reason Captain sent for her. He believed that, perhaps, seeing him commit murder, would release something in her.
Clearly, she had married into a family of insane people.
“Nelly, leave the shades closed today,” Kyenpia instructed.
“It’s bright outside, ma.”
“Don’t argue with me.”
Nelly bowed. “Yes, ma.”
“Get me a cup of ginger tea and honey, with a tinge of lemon. And call the office. The board is meeting today. Tell them I’ll be attending.”
Nelly paused. She had on a curious look, making her well-shaded brows come together in a W. “Ma, are you sure?”
Kyenpia was patient. “Yes, Nelly. This means we’re canceling our outing this evening.”
“Have Clarence get the BMW ready. I’m driving.”
Again, another curious expression.
Nelly hurried out. The way her petite bum wiggled as she walked away reminded Kyenpia of Anna. She hadn’t spoken to her since the last time she showed up at her bedroom door. It wasn’t that she didn’t take her words seriously. She was taking her time. She wanted to be psychologically ready to jump from one world to another. And God knew that one needed a balls of steel to stand in Leonel’s shoes.
But Kyenpia wondered fleetingly how Anna was coping. She had missed a couple of calls from her, which she had not returned. Asides Leonel’s hotels, what did they have to talk about? How they missed his dick? Or the manner in which he loved to get his fingers soaked most morning with the juices from between their legs?
Kyenpia went into the bathroom. It was quite a walk from the bed. The room had become too big for her from the moment Leonel died. She was nurturing thoughts of moving back to her three-bedroom apartment, which was cozier and held little traces of him. This mansion was not only haunted by him, they had barely lived there as husband and wife. She was still a stranger in it.
She opted for a cold shower. The pregnancy made her hot and sweaty. She always drank ice-cold water, had cold showers and turned down the temperature of air conditioners wherever she went.
Nelly was waiting with her ginger tea and a collection of outfits when she came out.
“I’m not in the mood for black today, Nel. Get me something brighter. And I hate these clothes. They are so maternal. A fitted skirt with a monochrome blouse would do. Wedge sandals to match too.”
“Yes, ma.” Nelly disappeared into Kyenpia’s closet.
Kyenpia was grateful to have her. She was also thankful for her friends. God knows she would have lost it these past three months without them. Her world went from a fairytale to a nightmare in seconds. The terror had not begun after Leonel was shot. She had been confident he would survive. After all, he had resurrected from a brain death and a couple of bullets in the past. A short trip to the ER to take out the bullets would fix the problem. But that wasn’t going to happen. Minutes after she and Eliana had been taken off to safety, far from the masked men that wanted to end the lives of the Igwe family members, Kyenpia sat in the back of Leonel’s SUV and watched in horror as the building went off in double explosions. The same building she had been rescued from, where Leonel was still being attended to by a paramedic. The SUV was hauled off the surface from the impact of the explosions, causing the windows to shatter into bits, over her and Eliana. When Kyenpia regained herself, she lifted her head to watch the building burn.
Hours later, Captain came to her. She had been taken to his house and kept waiting in his living room, with no information about Leonel. Captain, who was before then, energetic and spry for his age, seemed to have aged fifty more years as he approached her. He pulled a stool and sat on it, taking both of her hands.
“He’s gone. Your husband, my son… He’s gone, Kyen. I am so sorry.”
The words he told her held no meaning. The reality didn’t hit her that night or the nights that followed until she was presented with an urn that bore his ashes because he had been burnt beyond recognition, and the family had decided it was best to have him cremated completely. He and the other members of the Igwe family that had died in the fire.
Kyenpia had sat numb at the funeral, and when she was called upon to give her eulogy, she was mute for a whole minute. When she finally spoke, her words were, “So, some faceless, nameless people walked into our party and shot nine of us and blew up the building, and we’ve not found out who sent them? We’ve not done anything about it? We’re here, crying and feeling sorry for ourselves?”
There was stunned silence at her words. She cast an eye on Leonel’s coffin.
“Leonel was a wonderful husband and father, of course, but I will not get over this. Gramps…” She stared pointedly at the patriarch of the family. “Do something about this. Pops?” Her eyes fell on Captain next. “You know that Leonel will not rest in peace until everyone behind his death pays. Either that or he returns to me. I will not accept this burial.”
It was at this point that the family decided that she needed a grief counselor. But none of them understood the pain that tore her heart when no one was watching. They didn’t hear the screams she let into her pillow each night that kept her awake for hours. They didn’t see the tears that flowed like a stream in the darkness of her bedroom. Pain wasn’t a good enough word to describe what she felt. It was like insanity. Her friends alone witnessed it. There was that day when she dropped to the floor in the middle of a discussion and groped around as if she was blind and in search of something because the grief had been too much to bear. The strange action came before the scream. Amaka had fallen to the floor with her, held her and cried together.
She didn’t know how she had made it this far. She was certain that one day she would get up, take out the revolver that lay underneath her pillow and end her miserable life. But for the sake of the twins she carried…
“Ma’am, I think it would be best if I drove.”
Kyenpia was seated in Leonel’s favorite car. Clarence was standing outside, beside her door.
“Take one of the other cars. Do your normal thing of following me around like a hairy tail.”
“Clarence, don’t piss me off this morning.”
She caressed the wheel before she keyed the engine. The car lumbered down a paved path to the entrance of the house where armed guards were stationed. One of them slid the gate open and she drove through. It had been twenty-six days exactly since she had been taking short jaunts out of the house. Yet, everything around her seemed strange. The trees that lined both sides of the main street of the estate didn’t look so green. The sky above was death grey. Houses in the estate appeared faraway and ancient. But she knew the world outside was fine, going on without her. She was the one who had lost joy for life.
Well, except for the night before. She had gotten a taste of her former life, spending the entire evening with Ishi. He had returned from his prolonged stay in Boston with his mom. Seeing him again brought back sparks of Kyenpia’s old life. He made her laugh. They watched an old classic Chinese movie and talked about the earlier days of their friendship. Nothing about Leonel or Ishi’s deceased family. The world was okay for a few hours once more.
Kyenpia looked into the rearview mirror. Clarence tailed her in an SUV with darkened windows. She recalled the dawn period of dating Leonel, when he had told her that she needed to have a bodyguard and she had scoffed. They had fought over the issue, and she had prevailed. If armed men had followed her around after that, she hadn’t been aware. Now, she was used to them, and understood why they were necessary, although, she had come to learn, painfully, that they could be useless in securing lives.
Kyenpia checked her Google map to see if there was any sort of rush-hour traffic on the route to Captain’s home. The old man lived alone. That was if you didn’t count the soldiers, private security and domestic assistants that lived with him. There were the dogs too. Vicious and bloodthirsty. A little too much like their master.
Captain, was the name everyone called him. But to Kyenpia, he was Pops. He wasn’t necessarily fatherly in their relationship. He was indulgent and caring to her in a way that he wasn’t with others. She had been careful about giving her heart to him in the past, but the death of her husband had brought them closer. The man had lost two sons in the attack. Leonel’s younger brother, Ramsey had been shot dead too. Captain also had to bury his younger brother, Samuel Eresoyen, Ishi’s father, who had died with his wife and two daughters. The whole thing was a mess. Family members were now closer to each other than they were before. Every heart was bleeding in some way.
Kyenpia stopped along the way and got some fruits for Captain. Her journey to his house had taken about half an hour. When she got there, she stopped at the gate for her car to go through a security check. She drove in just as a gentle shower began. She was told that Captain was in the backyard, attending to some business.
“Should I wait?” Kyenpia asked the young man who had come out with an umbrella to meet her.
“He actually wants you to come.” The man looked down at her feet. “You may want to change those.”
She now understood why he had come out to welcome her with a pair of fancy flip-flops. He made her sit on a cane chair at the front porch and lowered to change her footwear.
“Thank you.” Kyenpia rose up and followed the man to the back of the house. The guard dogs that had been barking since she drove in got louder as she neared them. Captain’s backyard was large, covered with lavish green lawn, much like the one she had at home. The only difference was the presence of trees that provided shade on sunny days. Sometimes Captain had his breakfast there. Other times, he would stretch out on a lounger and take his afternoon nap under a tree.
Today, he had company. There were four young men and two ladies in the nude. Each of them with their hands tied behind them and blindfolded, were made to kneel. Captain had surrounded them with four of his men, all of them, armed soldiers, each holding a ferocious dog, trying to break out of its leash.
“There she is!”
Kyenpia walked towards Captain. He wasn’t shielded from the rain. He grasped her hand and kissed it while she took in every detail around her. These days, she noticed everything and everyone.
“How are you, darling?”
“And the twins?”
She looked at the weapon he held, noting that it was a Beretta, her husband’s favorite. It was scary how guns didn’t make her squeamish anymore, how she loved them now, and could easily identify what make each was. She learned all of this, not when Leonel was alive, but after he died, when her blood had been hungry for revenge. It still was, but she wasn’t so sure now that she could kill anyone.
“They couldn’t produce who shot my son,” Captain said of his captives. He was a man who was known to get straight to business, even if his head was losing some nuts. Everyone knew that the men who killed Ramsey and Leonel had been gunned down by armed security on that fated night, and then blown to bits. But Captain always had his own reality. “See that one there, he looks like he killed Ramsey.”
Kyenpia allowed the man his moment. She was sure he had gone looking for more people connected to that attack. More would be found, and every one of them would be killed until he got to the person that ordered the hit.
“I called you here to partake in this. You do know what will happen to them, right?”
Kyenpia gave a nod.
“This was what you wanted, for justice to be served. And you will have it today.” He turned the butt of the Beretta at her. “They’re all yours.”
Kyenpia showed no surprise.
“You’d rather watch?”
She didn’t respond.
“Are you scared? You can’t be, because I know that every evening, you and Nelly drive off to my shooting range and she teaches you how to shoot guns. Every evening, you point a gun at some paper dummy and kill it. Now, it’s time to do the real thing, sweetheart. Go ahead.”
“No, thank you.”
He flipped the gun back into his grip. “As you wish.”
The young man with the umbrella placed earplugs in Kyenpia’s ears as Captain pressed the muzzle of the Beretta on the head of the closest captive, who began to tremble and beg for his life. Without warning, the gun went off with a sound so deafening, Kyenpia jerked. She shut her eyes and that night of Leonel’s death returned to her.
“You’re so dashing in this dress, have I told you?”
Leonel loved to give compliments. He had believed that she was the most beautiful woman in the world. But that night, it was he who looked dashing, as if he was preparing for his death. Anyways, he had always slayed in whatever outfit he wore. This one was a tuxedo, deep blue, almost black. The ladies in the hall that were not family had eyes on him. And on his twin brother, David, as well. But David didn’t have the smile of a flirt on his face like Leonel did. He didn’t seduce with his eyes or give that errant smile that made women blush. Weirdly, Kyenpia loved Leonel that way.
The hall was large and occupied by important people, but mostly by the Igwe family. The annual family reunion, which should have been had at the end of the previous year, was postponed because of Kyenpia and Leonel’s nuptials at that same time. It was also the birthday celebration of the family’s patriarch, Igwe himself. Hence, all the celebrations were merged into one. Friends and acquaintances that were invited had come, not only to socialize, but to expand their business networks as well.
The atmosphere was filled with warmth and smiles. Leonel was receiving many a pat on the back for the beauty and extravagance of his newly completed world-class resort where the celebration was taking place. Family and friends had been accommodated in lavish suites, and looked forward to exploring the place the entire weekend.
But everyone’s plans were cut short by the tragedy that ensued. Just a couple of seconds after Leonel dropped the compliment on Kyenpia’s looks, the lights went out. And then, it began.
Gunshots from nowhere. Screams from every corner. The smell of gunpowder in the air…
Backup lights went on and Kyenpia’s eyes tried to process what was happening, but nothing made sense. Almost everyone was down on the floor, save for the masked shooters and the armed guards shooting back at them.
“Kay, get down!” someone screamed. It was a familiar voice. Kyenpia turned around and saw a man in a mask from the distance, his hand pointed at her.
He has a gun… I’m going to die…
But a force so hard and familiar pushed her to the ground and fell over her, while cushioning her fall.
He covered her, his face in her neck.
“You’re okay. You’re fine,” he whispered beneath the noise. Those had been the only words she could pick out at that time, because she seemed to have lost her hearing due to the deafening gunshots.
He lifted his head and held her eyes. “It’s over,” he mouthed.
But it wasn’t. The shots went on forever, and for that length of time, she wasn’t aware that Leonel had been hit. When everything went silent, she felt his weight drop on her.
“Leo?” she called. “Leonel?”
She heard someone wailing in the distance. Her ears still rang, but her hearing was clearing up. Someone appeared to be calling Leonel’s name.
“Over here!” The voice got louder. It belonged to a friend of hers, Lanre. “Leo! He’s been hit!”
Kyenpia’s pulse quickened. “Leonel?” She tapped him. Someone lifted him off her body. He was limp and unconscious, and his entire torso covered in blood. Kyenpia felt a stab in her chest at the sight of him. She sprang from the floor and crawled towards where they had lain him, but strong hands lifted her off the floor and dragged her away.
Captain’s face came into view. Kyenpia blinked out of the past to the present. All six captured assassins had been shot dead. Captain had a contented smile in his eyes.
“Done.” He took out the earplugs from her ears.
She wasn’t surprised that murder didn’t have an effect on her anymore. She didn’t care that six dead bodies were bleeding out on the same lawn upon which she stood. Something had died in her that day that Leonel’s breathed his last. He alone could bring her back to life.
“Does this make you feel better?” Captain asked.
“No. But thank you.”
“Anytime, darling. You want to come in for breakfast?”
“No. I’m fine. I am needed at the office today.”
“Yours or his?”
“Ah. The board meeting. It’s good that you’re attending. I’m sure he’ll be pleased. Go and kick ass.”
Kyenpia watched the guards release the dogs on the corpses. She had heard rumors about how Captain sometimes fed them human flesh.
“You may not want to look at that.”
Captain took the umbrella and held it over Kyenpia. Together, they walked to her car. She handed him the fruits she bought.
“I know that this wasn’t what you envisioned when you fell in love with Leo and married him. I wish I could bring back the fairytale or even bring him back…”
“Pops, it’s fine. You don’t have to explain.”
“Your smiling eyes are gone,” he said sadly. “I do hope you find happiness again.”
Kyenpia doubted that it would happen. At least, not by the hands of any man. Her hope was in the twins. She couldn’t wait to hold them in her arms.
She entered the car and discovered that she had missed a couple of calls. One of them was from Leonel’s office. The other was from Nelly.
Her phone buzzed. Nelly was calling again.
“Nelly?” Kyenpia answered.
“Ma, the office called and asked me to inform you that the board meeting has been canceled. It would be held on Monday instead.”
“They didn’t tell me.”
“Alright. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, ma.”
Kyenpia hung up. She was hungry and tired, but was tempted to drive over to Leonel’s office to demand answers. However, Anna kept buzzing on her mind. After a brief moment of contemplation, she dialed Clarence’s number.
“Get in here.”
In seconds, he was seated on the passenger seat beside her.
“You were Leonel’s chauffeur for how long?” Kyenpia asked.
“A little over seven years.”
“So, you know about him and Anna?”
“You know where she lives?”
“Can you take me there right now?”
“Not a problem. But what if she’s not home?”
“Let me worry about that.”
“Would you like me to take over the wheel?”
“No. Sit beside me.”
Clarence secured his seatbelt and they set off towards Anna’s home. Kyenpia wasn’t surprised to find out that she was occupying a serviced apartment not far from the hotel.
“She’s on the sixth floor,” Clarence informed Kyenpia once the car came to a stop at the underground parking lot of the high-rise building. “But of course, I’m going up with you.”
They rode up the elevator together. When it stopped on the sixth floor, Clarence peeped out before letting Kyenpia through.
It was to their right. Kyenpia walked ahead. She stopped outside the door marked 602. Clarence pressed the doorbell. It took some time for Anna to show up. She came out looking lost without her glasses. She squinted at Kyenpia before stepping away to let her in. Clarence remained outside, under Kyenpia’s instructions.
The apartment was tidy and posh. The air smelled of food. Anna offered Kyenpia a wing chair to sit in.
“Why did you take so long?” she asked as Kyenpia sat.
“I had to set my priorities right.”
Anna crossed her arms, lifting the boyfriend tee she had on, exposing thighs that were spotless and smooth. Leonel did have a thing for thighs.
Anna’ eyes fell on Kyenpia’s tummy. “You’re really pregnant with twins?”
“Can we get on with why I’m here?”
Anna turned away and disappeared through a door. She came back shortly with a stack of files. They hit the center table in front of Kyenpia.
“While you were busy mourning your husband, I was busy gathering evidence of how much Jaiyesimi has stolen from Léon Hotels.”
“Which Jaiyesimi? The one I know?”
“None other than Leo’s cousin and the general manager of the main branch. Oh, and he’s now acting COO of Charybdis Hospitality since you have refused to step up and do your job.”
Kyenpia sensed the hostility, but was smart enough to see the passion. Only someone who had loved a man so much would care about his business after he was dead.
“So far, Jaiye has stolen five hundred thousand dollars. That’s excluding what Leo discovered.”
“Leo knew about it?”
“Yes, and he did nothing. But you have to do something or Jaiye would put Léon Hotels and the resort out of business.”
Kyenpia kept her handbag aside. The files before her were intimidating. Where was she to start?
Kyenpia lifted her eyes. It was the first time Anna was calling her by her name. She had always been ‘ma’ to her.
“Look, I know you still don’t like me, and it’s fine. But Leo worked hard to get to where he was without his family name and money. He worked his ass off, and I’ll die before I see Jaiye and his gang ruin everything. But I can’t do anything as a discarded mistress and a fired personal assistant. You need me and I need you.”
Kyenpia leaned back, smiling to herself. “You used to be so shy, Anna. Where did you get this liver to talk to me like this? Or was that the game you and Leonel were playing? The shy, unwilling secretary who has to give in to her boss to keep her job?”
Anna smiled back. “Shy, yes, but I was very willing, and I wasn’t his secretary. I was his personal assistant, lover, and the only woman who knew about his business to the last detail, and this is why you have to stick with me.”
“You haven’t answered my question. What changed you?”
Anna looked away. “His death.” She brought her head back. “And I don’t want to talk about it.” She tended towards Kyenpia. “And just so you know, it was beyond sex. I had a part of Leo that you didn’t have, and you know it. He gave you the devoted, loving, faithful, fun side of him. I got the business side, the side that couldn’t keep it in his pants. He emptied those wild desires in me. He used me to make himself perfect for you because you demanded too much of him. I took everything in, and because of me, you had a good man.”
“He’s dead, Anna,” Kyenpia retorted with much calm and straightforwardness. “Seems like you’ve not accepted that. The quicker you do, the better for you, and for us, if we are to work together.”
“Hire me as your PA.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t want to fuck you.”
“Me neither. I’m just asking you to hire me. You won’t regret it.”
Kyenpia pushed forward, her face a short distance from Anna’s. She placed her hand on the stack of files. “Let me deal with this first.”
“I hope you have all day?”
“As long as you have food.”
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages
Credit given to @boarnegesVII for the quote “Guns have a spirit in them. If you handle one, you’ll feel like shooting something.”