So, this episode was supposed to come on Saturday, but I was consumed by the COZA scandal. Forgive the delay. Enjoy the episode.
Can I come and see you? We need to talk
Something about Kyenpia’s text coming to Yenkat first thing in the morning bothered her.
Are you okay? she asked.
No. The answer dropped in immediately.
Oya, hurry over.
This changed Yenkat’s tentative plans for church. Aanu was not impressed when she informed her.
“Just tell her to postpone until after service.”
“I’ve not had my bath. Maybe I don’t feel like going to church today.”
“Kyenpia is gradually taking over your entire life o,” Aanu grumbled, eyes rolling. She was already dressed. Classic buba and iro. Brown, with tinges of gold. Her makeup was minimal, but she looked glamorous. Like every other Sunday, she would make heads turn. Church was important to her, impressions mattered, and this meant she had to look her best at every service. Having a curvy body was added advantage, and it didn’t matter that she was overweight, she always killed it.
“Kyenpia is not taking over my entire life,” Yenkat countered her words sensitively.
“She just lost her husband.”
“I know, but…”
“She is family.”
“And I am?”
“Aanu, please nau. How many times will we have this conversation? Kay is not taking your place.”
“Mama!” Polaris jumped down from Yenkat’s bed where she had spent the night, and threw her hands up at her.
“Take her to church abeg.”
“So that people will be asking me questions up and down? No, please.”
“You’ll have to accept that she’s your granddaughter one of these days.”
Adjusting her gele, Aanu smirked. “No be only granddaughter. That reminds me sef. Tell her silly father to take down that bulge picture he put on Instagram.”
“What bulge picture?”
Aanu picked her phone from Yenkat’s dressing table. She unlocked it and passed it to her. “Check his Instagram.”
Yenkat had a peep. Omar’s latest post was an image of him in boxer-briefs. The swell in his midsection was obvious. She smiled at it dismissively.
“Just doing what boys do. It’s what’s trending.”
“Trending ke. That’s how they will all go and rub their kini until it stands. Then, they’ll push it into their pata and come and be making girls drool.”
“And how do you know that?”
“Check out the bulge hashtag on IG and Twitter nau.”
“It’s not like that joor. You’ll be on Twitter, and next thing, some goat has retweeted someone’s bulge.”
“Stop seeing things. I can’t be thirsting over bulges of boys my son’s age. Eww!”
“But you can thirst over the ones of old men like Uncle Akamu, abi?”
“Akanni,” Yenkat corrected.
“Mama!” Polaris screamed louder. Yenkat lifted her off the floor. “What is it, cuddles?”
“Must you eat?” Aanu teased.
“She’s not had breakfast.”
“But she just ate cake on that bed.”
Polaris gave her a pout.
“See her mouth like food.”
Polaris glowered, closing her eyes.
“Stop cutting eye for me.” She smacked Polaris on the cheek, causing her to burst into a cry.
“Aanu, what is it nau? Why do you bully this girl?”
Yenkat said to her in Hausa, “I know you’re not happy that she exists, but can you try not to show it to her? It’s not her fault.”
“I’m only teasing her. Kids are too sensitive these days, abeg.”
Annoyed, Yenkat left her bedroom with Polaris. A while later, Aanu came into the kitchen, announcing that she was leaving for church.
“I’ll pray for your backsliding ass,” she told Yenkat.
“I’m not the one that’s steadily fornicating and staring at bulges.”
“Seriously, talk to Tobi. I don’t want some thirsty older woman on his case. God knows those cougars are on the prowl these days, and that boy has a thing for them.”
“How do you know?”
“His father mentioned that he likes older women, and the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Have you seen him with younger girls before?”
“I have no business with his love life. And even if I was supposed to, did I stay with him in America to know what he’s been up to?”
“Na wa o. Na question I just ask. You’re sounding angry.”
“Aanu, please be going to church. You’re giving me headache this morning.”
Oyin made an appearance, poking her head into the kitchen. “Ma, there are some people that want to see you.”
“Me?” Yenkat asked.
“Um… Okay.” She handed Polaris to Oyin, tightened her robe and walked into the living room. The people waiting to see her were outside, at the front porch. She opened the door and found two women standing before her. They wore matching t-shirts.
“Good morning, ma.” The older of the women came forward. “I’m Joy from Tayu Spa, and we’re here to invite you to our spa for a special treat.”
“Invite me? A treat?”
“Yes. A whole morning of pampering.”
“Okay? Did I win a competition or something?”
“It’s from a special someone who calls himself your guilty secret.”
Yenkat blushed. It was Omar. She had mentioned to him, a few days ago, that she needed to visit a spa to recharge herself, but didn’t have the strength to go there.
“Who’s your guilty secret?” Aanu asked from behind her. “You have a boyfriend and you didn’t tell me?”
“Just an admirer,” Yenkat whispered in response.
“An admirer who calls himself your guilty secret?”
“Give me one moment,” Yenkat said to the women before her, as she retreated into the house, taking Aanu with her.
“I want to know who he is,” Aanu pressed.
“Just an admirer.”
“You don’t want to tell me? We keep secrets now?”
“Then who is he? Is he the one that sends you all those gifts?”
“Awww, he’s a keeper.”
“So, who is he?”
Yenkat tried to come up with a name, but her head went blank.
“Is he a married man?”
“No. You know I don’t do that.”
“Then who is he nau? Tell me. Time is going.”
“Clarence,” Yenkat uttered, saying the first name her mind could find. She regretted it immediately.
“Who is Clarence?”
“You don’t know him.”
“Shouldn’t I know him?”
“Aanu!” She grabbed her arm and dragged her to the door. “Be going. You’re late.”
“You better gist me when I get back o! I want to know this guy.” She stopped. “Can you ask the massage people if they can give me a treat too? I can bone church for a little TLC.”
“No.” Yenkat gave her a gentle tug.
“Clarence is a real man joor!” she said, walking off. “I need me a Clarence in my life!”
Yenkat winced, waiting for her to leave. After she was gone, Yenkat gave her guests her attention. “Let me change and I will join you.”
“You may take a quick shower to loosen your pores, if you like.”
“In that case, please come in and wait.”
She invited them in and went back to the kitchen. She picked her phone from the table and tried to reach Omar, but met his voicemail. She dropped a message.
“Tobi, the people from Tayu Spa are here. You’re sweet, you know that? I really appreciate it, but you have to stop because of your mom. She’s asking questions and it freaks me out. All the same, I appreciate this. I’ll talk to you later.”
Yenkat took Polaris, who had just finished her breakfast, to her bedroom. They showered together and dressed up for their morning at the spa. When she came back to the living room a short while after, she asked the Tayu Spa duo if they offered prenatal massages.
“Sure,” one of the ladies answered, “but not in the first trimester. Are you pregnant?”
“No, my cousin is, and I’m inviting her. She’s in her second trimester.”
“I am an expert in prenatal massages. She has no fears.”
“How much would that cost?”
“Don’t worry. Your guilty secret has paid ahead for four more spa treatments.”
“Oh.” Yenkat mentally shook her head at Omar.
“Are you ready to go?”
“On their way to the spa, Yenkat reached Kyenpia and invited her for a treat. Kyenpia caught up with her an hour later, just after she had received a rejuvenating body scrub. Eliana, tagged along and the little girls were treated to a scrub at the same time Kyenpia got hers. The ladies had a massage next, and talked about work and setting up BFAM. Kyenpia didn’t state why she wanted to see Yenkat until they had an alone time during a spa break, in which they were served smoothies and oatmeal cookies.
“You dated Jaiye briefly, didn’t you?” Kyenpia asked. They were stretched out on pool loungers.
“Not dated, dated. Just sex. He found out that I was seeing someone else and flipped on me. I couldn’t stand his attitude, so, I called it off. Is that why you wanted to see me?”
“No. I just wanted to know the details.” Kyenpia pinched her cheek a little, picking off a scab of black facial mask, just to stare at it. “I met with Leonel’s lawyer very early this morning. He’s traveling out for a few months, so he had to come with the will. Leonel’s uncle also showed up. He’s a lawyer too, and a member of the board of directors. They both advised me not to take the COO position.”
“So, the story is that Jaiye occupied that seat until a few months ago. He resigned from it, and nobody knows why. Leonel, who is the CEO, took over as COO as well.”
“Not a good idea.”
“The board was to appoint a new COO, but Leonel kept postponing it for reasons known to him.”
“Do you think he wanted you to come in and take the job?”
“If that was the case, he would have told me. But he didn’t, and then handed everything over to me in his will. I don’t get it, Yen. Did he plan on dying?”
“Stop thinking like that.”
“Anyways, immediately after he passed, Jaiye quickly jumped back to the post, because he believed that being the COO meant he’ll also be CEO, the same way Leonel was.”
“So, now, Leonel’s lawyer and uncle are advising me to leave it for him, pending a proper investigation into his fraudulent activities. Once he’s nabbed, we’ll find his replacement.”
“And what happens to you? What do you get?”
“The seat of the CEO.”
Yenkat broke into a smile, slowly sitting up. “That’s perfect nau. You become the boss of him – and everyone else.”
“Yen, that’s huge. I was scared of the COO job, but CEO? It’s massive. It means I’m the president of Charybdis Hospitality.”
“You shouldn’t be scared, Kyen,” Yenkat said. “You can do it.”
“What if I fail?”
“You won’t, trust me. Is that why you had to come all the way to see me?” She lay back again. “Something you could have gisted me over the phone?”
“No. There’s more. Something happened last night.”
Kyenpia went silent as she sipped from her smoothie cup.
“I slept with Ishi.”
Yenkat jerked up. She glared at Kyenpia.
“And I don’t mean sleep like we slept on the same bed. Yes, we did, at first, but we did more.”
“Tell me you’re joking.”
“Kay, isn’t Ishi supposed to be a pastor?”
“He was a pastor. I don’t know what he is now that we did the thing.”
“Wooow. How did it happen?”
“I’ve never been a fan of saying ‘it just happened’, but that’s how it went down. I was drifting off to sleep on his bed, dreaming of Leonel…” Kyenpia shut her eyes. “God, I was dreaming of Leonel. What is wrong with me?”
“And I had a panic attack, triggered by the dream. I have them occasionally, and they can get pretty intense. So, Ishi was right there, and he helped me out of the episode and…it just happened.” Kyenpia pulled her pregnant body up. “In case, you want to know, it was very steamy.”
“Steamy? Isn’t Ishi a virgin?”
“Virgin? He wasn’t always born again, FYI. He was in the world before he found God. So, it wasn’t like I was taking his innocence.”
“I never knew that.”
“But, what’s the problem here, Kay? I know the whole thing seems off beam in some way, but what exactly is the problem from your end?”
“The problem is that I slept with my husband’s cousin while mourning my husband. Do I need to tell you that I feel like I cheated on Leonel? Couldn’t I wait, at least, a year? What type of horniness would push me to do that type of thing?”
“Human nature. I’m guessing you needed Ishi enough to lie on his bed with him. Whatever happened after that was in line with what you needed at that moment.”
“More like wanting. It’s all lust, Yen.”
“No, Kay. You’re not the type that sleeps with a guy just because your body tells you to. Your willpower has always been great, but you’ve not been yourself since you lost Leo. You’ve been in the pits, and have been weak, and in need of human touch and comfort. And if Ishi met that need last night, I don’t see why you should act like you committed the worst sin. Leo is no more here. You are not cheating on him.”
“How about cheating on his memory?” Kyenpia’s eyes watered. “I can hardly go five minutes without thinking about him, but I go and have sex with someone else? His cousin, for that matter! His freaking cousin! While I’m carrying his babies! Who does that?”
“Men. They do that all the time and nobody judges them.”
“Don’t make this a gender issue.”
“I am not making it a gender issue. Do you think that if Leonel were in your shoes and he needed emotional healing from some chick, he would pass up the chance?”
Kyenpia was quiet.
“That’s not a rhetorical question.”
“So, what are you saying?”
“It’s still wrong, Yen. Ishi is my friend…”
“And he has loved you like forever. The chemistry between you guys is strong. He’s the father of your daughter–”
“I don’t want to replace Leonel,” Kyenpia muttered. “I don’t want any man to take his place or make me feel the way he did. He’s still here.” She tapped her chest. “Still alive. It’s like he never left.”
“Kay, look at me.” Kyenpia faced her. “You are not replacing him. Even if you decide to marry someone else in the future, that person cannot take his place.”
“I don’t want to forget him.”
“But Ishi felt so good, and I know it’s going to happen again. I wanted to be angry with him this morning when I woke up on his bed, but I couldn’t. I love him, Yen. I love that man. And it’s always confused me, because I loved Leonel too and it was deep. How come I still have space in my heart for Ishi? Help me make sense of this.”
“The only sense I can make of it is that somebody lied to all of us that there can only be enough room for one person in our hearts at a time. I never believed that. It may not be the case for everyone, but it’s not uncommon. I’ve seen people love more than one person at a time. The good thing about your case is that you’re no longer stuck in that triangle. It’s just you and Ishi now…”
Kyenpia shook her head in disagreement “Yen, don’t say that, abeg. Ishi is not an option. No man is. I don’t want to commit my heart to any other man after Leonel. I just want to concentrate on my kids and what he’s left behind for me.”
“That’s the plan, but Ishi can happen. What am I even saying? He’s already happened, and according to you, he might keep happening. You think all he wants from you is your vagina?”
Kyenpia lay her back on the lounger again. “Please, don’t remind me.”
“Don’t use him, Kay. That thing you did with Leo in the past, don’t do it to him. That’s the only thing I’ll say to you here that you won’t like. I won’t give you grief over what you did with him. You’re both adults. But please, don’t use him to heal your pain, and then dump him. He’s suffered enough in your hands. So, if you know that that’s what you want to do in the future or you don’t even see him in that future, end everything now that you still can.”
Kyenpia gave no response.
“Excuse me a bit.” Yenkat stood up and attended to her ringing phone. An old friend was on the line, commiserating with her on the demise of Dashe. After the phone call, she returned to Kyenpia. She stretched out on the lounger, lying on her tummy.
“You want to give me details of the thing?” she asked.
“No,” Kyenpia answered with a frown.
“On a scale of one to ten…”
“I don’t do scales. He was good. Not Leonel good, but good. I should say amazing because of the fire of the moment. It was a combination of more than one thing. The chemistry we’ve always had, the fact that he’s not had sex in more than twelve years, and the emotions that led up to the whole thing. It was the same energy from both of us, and it’s not something I’ll forget, but I’m dying here because of it. Even if nobody judges me, I judge myself.”
“Do me a favor. Stay strong under this. You need to make a killing in that meeting tomorrow, but you can’t if your head is filled with thoughts of a man. So, please, behave yourself and be the Kyenpia I know. You can control this, whether you choose to stop fucking Ishi or you want to keep doing it. Don’t let it control you.”
“Thanks, but I don’t feel better.”
“You didn’t come here to feel better. You came here to hear the truth.”
“I have another question.”
“Please, don’t ask it.”
“How do you preggies do it?”
“I want to know. I’ve always been curious.”
“And you don’t know your way to Google?”
“Tell me joor.”
“You just want details ni, and I’m not telling you.”
“Just know that it started with a spoon and we forked our way through it.”
Yenkat erupted in laughter.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
There were certain things Kyenpia couldn’t fork her way through, and one of them was Ishi’s presence in her life. If she didn’t have responsibilities to handle, she would have escaped to some place in another part of the world to get away from him. But she didn’t have that luxury. She had to face him after last night, as if waking up in his bed this morning wasn’t hard enough.
He had offered to see Leonel’s lawyer with her. She had not wanted him to tag along to her house, because the ride home alone was important to her. She had wanted to stew on last night and condemn herself, and find a million reasons why she shouldn’t see him again. But they sat together in the backseat of her car as if nothing had occurred. Eliana and her poodle sat between them, saving Kyenpia from what would have been an awkward ride.
The meeting with Leonel’s lawyer and uncle was enough distraction to keep thoughts of Ishi away, even though he was right there with her. The details of Leonel’s will had shocked her. Anna had not told her about all he bequeathed to her. Even Eliana and the unborn twins had their futures secured in the will. It seemed Leonel suffered from a habit of buying properties whenever he came upon some huge amount of cash. In addition, there were fixed savings accounts and domiciliary ones. Somehow, he had learned from his father and grandfather, both former politicians, to spread his cash in different banks and make them undetectable. Someone hadn’t been lying when they called him the richest third generation Igwe. It took Kyenpia some time alone to accept how wealthy she had now become.
But these things didn’t matter to her as she thought they would. For instance, she was moving out of her expensive home to her former place, which was significantly smaller and less luxurious. She was taking just two of the cars with her. The others were to be sold off, and the money given to charity. She hadn’t discussed this with her friends yet, knowing they would advise her against it. Only the domestic staff knew she was moving. They had already begun relocating her things since Friday, and they were almost done, although Nelly advised that Kyenpia wait an extra day for things to be perfect. The lady was compulsive with wanting her job done the right way, but Kyenpia couldn’t wait. She missed her old space. The memories stored in there were gold. She had birthed Eliana in her bedroom, and had raised her in that house until she was a year old. Kyenpia wanted as much of that life back as she could have. And this meant allowing Ishi into her space as well. They were to go back to the status quo as Eliana’s doting parents, which would include regular visits and time spent with each other. Kyenpia wasn’t sure she was ready for it, but she had no choice.
When evening came, Ishi stopped by to drop off a few of Eliana’s toys. He announced that he was leaving town first thing tomorrow morning. Kyenpia wished she could pretend last night didn’t happen. They had both been mature about it in the morning, but she knew she couldn’t put off the talk tonight. She wanted to know his thoughts on the situation and to tell him how she felt too.
If only it were that easy! She became mute in his presence, concentrating on a framed photo of Leonel hanging off the wall. The photo, along with the others, hadn’t been there before. She had deliberately adorned the living room with them as a sort of censor for any form misbehavior on her part.
“I don’t think I remember this room having so many pictures of Leo,” Ishi mentioned.
“I just brought them.” Kyenpia’s eye caught Eliana trying to piggyback her poodle. “Elem, stop it.”
“Stop it Ellie.”
Kyenpia turned away from the wall, unable to hide from Ishi any longer. But she looked around, still avoiding his eyes. “It feels good to be back.”
“I’m happy you’re back here.”
“I want to fry plantain for Elem. Care to help?”
It was time to have the talk. She wanted them away from listening distance. Nelly and her colleagues were still busy, ensuring that things were in order in the house.
In the kitchen, Kyenpia rinsed a frying pan while Ishi sliced the plantain.
“I want to know more about your issues with God,” she probed.
“I told you there weren’t,” Ishi answered. “I went to church today. Can’t you see me in my Sunday best?”
He was wearing a green kaftan. He looked good in it.
“Ishi, talk to me.”
“Is this about yesterday? We don’t have to start analyzing why it happened.”
“I don’t want to feel responsible for pushing you away from your faith.”
“There’s no faith anymore, Kay. I don’t believe like I used to. I went to church today to try to believe, to get back to that place, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t pray or understand anything they were saying… I just can’t find God anymore.”
“Ishi, I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, me too. None of it makes sense. My family burning to death, Stephanie leaving me when I needed her the most… All senseless. I can’t find God in all of it. So, no, you’re not taking me away from him. He took himself away. And I am not angry with him or fighting him. I’m just not chasing after him. When he decides to come back to me, I’m here waiting. For now, he’s gone and I’m left to fix up the broken bits. It never used to be that way between us. The lines fell for me in pleasant places all my life. I had the money and a good run, but I’m in the unpleasant place now.”
He moved towards her and handed her the sliced plantains in a bowl.
“And this is why last night meant everything to me, Kay. You were a flicker of hope. You made me alive. Maybe God showed his face after all.”
“I know that’s an irreverent stretch, but I was blessed by what we shared. Twelve years, Kay. I’ve loved you that long, and needed you as much. Is it possible that the universe screwed us both over so that what happened could happen?”
She walked away, taking the bowl and frying pan along. “That’s insensitive. I didn’t lose Leonel so that I can fuck you.”
“Fuck?” Ishi gave a chuckle. “Is that all it was to you?”
“Isn’t that what we did? You want to make it more than it was?”
“My view can’t be your view, Kay.” He got closer to her. “But we can agree that it was amazing.”
Kyenpia looked at him. “I still dream of Leonel. I still smell him randomly. His voice is constantly in my head.”
“I’m not trying to replace him, Kay.”
“Then stop romanticizing what we did.”
“Wasn’t it great? I just need you to answer that.”
“It was, but…”
“Because you’re everything that I imagined you’d be. And I’ll do it again and again, just to relive it.”
Drumming her fingers on the kitchen counter, she admitted, “I’m a mess, Ishi.” She pressed the heel of her palm on her nose and sniffled. “There’s just so much happening inside. In my head and my heart and my body… I don’t feel like I can handle it all.”
She looked down. He followed her eyes. “That’s why you have me. You can do this, darling.”
“I don’t know. It feels too much for me.”
He placed his hand on her waist. “Then you’ll take it one bit at a time.”
“I miss him, Ishi. He made things so easy for me. How do I start without him? I hate that I feel so weak. I hate it.”
Ishi drew her closer. Kyenpia rested her head on his chest.
“It’s okay to be weak. It doesn’t mean you aren’t strong. I know you’re going into that boardroom tomorrow with fire. So, load all your weakness on me, let me be your strength.” He rubbed her back as he spoke. “You’ll be okay.”
The exit door opened and Clarence walked in. Kyenpia took a step back.
“I’m sorry, ma’am.”
“It’s fine.” She wiped off the tears brimming in her eyes.
“I want to have a word with you.”
“Go ahead. You can speak in front of Ishi. He’s family.”
“Okay. It’s about my colleague who is taking over from me.”
“You’re going away?”
“No. Captain wants us to take shifts. I talked to you about it the other day.”
“Yeah, you did.”
“I just want to let you know that he’ll be coming in tomorrow morning. I will introduce you to him officially.”
“He’s taking the morning shifts?”
“No. Night shifts. I am at your service all day.”
“That’s fine, Clarence. Thank you.”
Clarence bowed his head courteously and walked out. Eliana ran into the kitchen with her poodle behind her. She came with a hat she wanted worn for her. Ishi stooped and fixed the hat on her head. She ran off. The poodle went after her, yapping. Seconds after, she was heard crying.
“She’s fallen down,” Kyenpia said. Ishi hurried to the living room. Kyenpia focused her thoughts on Eliana’s dinner until she was done. She fed and bathed her, and together with Ishi, put her to bed. The poodle was locked out of the child’s bedroom. It followed Kyenpia to hers. Ishi did too, but stopped at the door.
“I have to go. I’m leaving early in the morning.”
“When are you coming back?”
“Antenatal is on that same day. Can you make it?”
“I promised you that I’ll always be there.”
“Thank you, Ish.”
Ishi walked in and hugged her. “If you need me at any time, for whatever, just call.”
“Can I extend the same offer to you? I’m not the only one going through shit here, Ishi. You don’t talk to me about your own pain.”
“Have you even cried?”
He laughed. “Am I a baby? The dead are gone abeg. I just want to keep living.”
“Okay. Goodnight, Ishi.”
He moved backwards a step, but pulled her to him for a kiss. His lips felt fresh between hers. Different from Leonel’s, and yet, intimate.
“Don’t do this again,” she said to him.
He added a forehead kiss before leaving. She shut the door after him and crawled into bed. Her favorite pillow was the next best thing to comfort. She drifted off and didn’t dream of Leonel.
Morning came early. Kyenpia started it with yoga, but gave up towards the end because she found herself in a place of sad memories, triggered by a song playing from her phone that reminded her of Leonel. She spent almost half an hour curled up underneath her blanket. It took Nelly knocking on the door to drag her out of bed.
Breakfast was pancakes and fruit. Eliana ate with Kyenpia in her bedroom while Nelly organized Kyenpia’s outfit for the day. She complained about the lack of space for Kyenpia’s clothes.
“This used to be my former closet,” Kyenpia informed her.
“Closet? No, ma. It’s a wardrobe,” she grumped. “It’s too tiny. Where do I keep your shoes and bags?”
“Get a carpenter to build me a second wardrobe or buy one, Nelly. Don’t stress me, abeg.”
“Or let’s just go back to the main house.”
“This is the main house. Get used to it and get me a new wardrobe.”
“Also look through my stuff. Anything that’s old and I’ve not used in a while, take them out. You girls can pick the ones you want and the rest can be taken to The Refuge.”
“Okay, ma. Thank you.”
“You can leave.”
Nelly made her exit and Kyenpia got set for work. She arrived at Léon Hotels a little before 9 a.m. She entered Leonel’s office and took a moment to still her emotions. She hadn’t been in the place since his passing. She could see him seated behind his table. He faded away as her eyes turned to the wide glass wall that gave a view of the island. He was standing there as well.
Kyenpia walked to the table. A small framed photo of herself, Eliana and Leonel rested on it. She sat in his chair, inhaling the whiff of his perfume that came slowly to her.
Someone knocked. She invited the person in. It was Anna. She entered with her hair and makeup well done, but with a plain skirt and an unflattering blazer over a t-shirt.
“Good morning, ma’am.”
“Good morning, Anna.”
Anna came forward with a file. “Or would you prefer to view it in an iPad? I compiled these while I was at home. A list of all the clean management staff, and another list of the board members we can buy to our side.”
Kyenpia pulled the file forward. “Let’s start.”
Two long hours in the boardroom. Kyenpia had gone in there, unsure of what to expect, even after being prepped by Anna. She had been nervous at first. Quiet, observing, learning. But soon, she found her voice, and with every word she uttered, she gained confidence. The high point of the meeting, however, didn’t come from her. It had been from the two Igwe family members that were board directors but rarely attended meetings. She hadn’t expected them to be there. One of them was Jacan, Leonel’s uncle and a pastor at The Refuge. He had been at her house with Leonel’s lawyer the previous morning. The other person was Igwe’s last wife, Mama Dooshima. They had arrived together, an hour after the meeting began, but their presence brought a change of atmosphere.
Jacan raised the topic of Leonel’s replacement, saving Kyenpia from the uneasy job of doing so. Jacan chose her for the CEO position, and Mama Dooshima seconded his proposal. His reason was that Kyenpia was Leonel’s choice to take over from where he had left off. With stern objections, he prevailed over Jaiyesimi’s attempt to subtly protest his nomination.
“But as acting COO…” Jaiye began to say, but Jacan cut him off the third time.
“As acting COO, you do not have the power to choose who the CEO should be. The board does. Next Monday, we would reconvene for nominations and elections, so that everyone here can have a fair chance of nominating their best candidates for the CEO and COO positions.”
Heads nodded in agreement. Jaiye kept a straight face.
“I want everyone here to remember that Charybdis Hospitality, Léon Hotels and its subsidiaries, are all family businesses and should be run by those who have honorable intentions. Therefore, be deliberate about the candidates you choose,” Jacan emphasized as the meeting ended. “It isn’t just about the money. We must keep Leonel’s legacy, which was passed down from his father. Everything must remain in the family.”
After the meeting, Kyenpia began to have a taste of Leonel’s working life. She had a long list of people waiting to see her, but her top priority was family. She invited Jacan and Mama Dooshima into her office to show gratitude for their support.
“Don’t mention it, baby,” Mama Dooshima said after offering her a comforting hug. “We have our eyes here. You’ll take that seat, even if we have to throw Jaiye off the top of this building to do so.”
Kyenpia turned to Jacan. “Pastor Jay, thank you for putting Jaiye in his place.”
“I’m a bit upset with you, Kay, for not letting me know what was happening with Jaiye. If it weren’t for Ishi, I’d have assumed that everything was fine under Jaiye’s care. Turns out that the trifling fool is no different from his father.”
“Trust me, Ishi didn’t even tell you half of it. We’re still unfolding the details.”
“Well, that means I have to be more hands-on around here then. We need to make a lot of changes.”
“A new auditing firm is coming in tomorrow. Leonel already called them for an audit before he died, without Jaiye’s knowledge. I am yet to inform Jaiye, and it’s going to be a problem.”
“He’s the manager and he’s supposed to know and help facilitate the process, but the problem is that we can’t risk him going behind to bribe them as we suspected he did with the others. I could have it postponed, but I fear that my presence here would make him tighten loose ends. And we don’t want that.”
“He doesn’t have to know, still,” Jacan said. “Since Leo ordered the audit himself, it can still stand. Jaiye would try to give some trouble, but don’t cave in.”
“Yes. Stand your ground,” Mama Dooshima advised. “Meanwhile, Jacan and I would work behind the scenes on the other board members. Simple phone calls and one or two visits within the week would butter things up for you. Jaiye would be too busy lobbying to retain his COO position to bother you. Unless he’s so stupid that he leaves the bird in hand to go after the one flying in the air.”
“Greedy is the word.”
“Have no fears. We have your back. Gramps is in total support.”
“Thank you, Mama Doe.”
Jacan said a prayer for Kyenpia before they left. She felt strengthened, ready to take on the world Leonel left behind. Anna walked in after their departure and informed her that Jaiye was waiting to see her.
“Let him in.”
Anna placed her hands on the table, leaning forward. “Just a heads-up. He’s arrogant and not afraid to tell you what’s on his mind. He also doesn’t rate women. He probably believes you belong at home and not here.”
“Thank you, Anna.”
Anna left. Jaiye walked in. He came with a smile that was vaguely reminiscent of Leonel’s.
“Hi Kyenpia,” he greeted, sitting without being asked to. Like most of the Igwe males, he had the looks. Igwe had chosen gorgeous women to grace his bed. It wasn’t rocket science that his children and grandchildren turned out attractive. Jaiyesimi was taller and darker than Leonel. He was bald, but his facial hair made up for it. He was stylish too. Kyenpia had a theory that he had tried to shadow Leonel in every way, especially with his love for women. Jaiyesimi had his own whore stories to share.
“When was the last time we saw? At the funeral, I guess.”
“Again, sorry for your loss. Our loss. I still can’t believe Leo is gone.”
Kyenpia simply smiled.
“So, you and I have a lot to talk about, businesswise.”
“But topmost is this CEO issue.”
“I’m all ears.”
“I’m thinking that it would be better if you let me take that position…”
Kyenpia relaxed into her chair. “And what would be your reason?”
“Hear me out. I’ll become the CEO. Richard, our Abuja manager, comes here and takes over as COO, and then, you can enjoy the job you know very well…”
“And that is?”
Kyenpia laughed, swiveling slowly in her chair.
“I know it doesn’t go down well with you, but you see, I am more conversant with the hospitality business than you are. I have years of experience and I’ve worked with Leo here for ten years. I feel I’m the best fit for the seat. Richard would also be great as COO.”
“No one’s disputing that, Jaiye. But I have a bit of an issue with this your plan.”
“And that is?”
“Why lobby for a figurehead position?”
“Because I want to make massive changes around here.”
“As far as I know, that’s the job of the COO, and aren’t you that already? Or are you scared that you wouldn’t be nominated for it? Oooor is this a case of greed? You’re not okay with what you have?”
Jaiyesimi was surprised at Kyenpia’s profiling of his person. He expressed this with a smile. “Wow! Leo was right about you. You’re fire. And I love that. But back to serious matters. Richard and I have the experience. Secondly, our board of directors at Charybdis is one of the weakest. They are a lazy bunch of rich people who make money and don’t care for Léon Hotels like Leo and I did. I want to change that. So, let me do what Leo did best. Allow me have that seat. Come Monday, nominate me for it, and I’ll hire you for the post of public relations, and everything would be fine.”
At this point, Kyenpia was losing her calm. “Somebody said you have guts, and I’m beginning to see it.”
“And that person would be Anna, I guess. I can see that she’s already cozying up to you the way she did with Leonel.”
“I don’t entertain slander.”
“Just stating the obvious. I know her very well. We had a thing until she moved on to…”
Kyenpia stopped him with her hand raised curtly. She drew her chair forward.
“Jaiye, you were Leonel’s cousin and someone he entrusted with his business. I respect that. I would also love you to respect the fact that I was his wife. We are going to work together and may not always see eye-to-eye, but that doesn’t give you the right to be unpleasant in my presence. I will not have it.”
“Well…” Jaiye maintained his position. “I just feel that we need someone at this table who knows the business. And this is no disrespect to you.”
“None taken. I know you’re only concerned for what my husband worked hard to build. I appreciate it. He appreciated you too. In fact, he loved your work so much he didn’t know how to reward you.”
Jaiye melted, one side of his face lifting up in a grin. “Leo would be deeply missed. He was a great boss. Chai!”
“And he chose great minds. Jaiye, you’re good at what you do, and COO fits you fine. Heavy is the head that wears the crown no mean say dat head suppose carry everybody crown. When we reconvene in that boardroom next week, we will nominate and vote in a new CEO and COO. If you win this seat, that’s fine, but I’d rather have you doing what you do best.” She inclined backwards, picking up her phone. “Thank you for your time.”
Jaiye hesitated a little, but rose to his feet. “See you on Monday.”
“Oh. See you then.”
He walked out and Kyenpia called Anna in. “Who’s next?”
“Three members of the board.”
“Let them come in.”
“How did it go with Jaiye?”
Kyenpia looked at her. “Please, call the board members in.”
Anna left the office, inviting in Kyenpia’s guests. Kyenpia’s meeting with them lasted quite some time. After they had gone, others came in to see her. And thus, it went until the clock struck seven. Anna returned when Kyenpia took her second break for the day, stretching her joints.
“No more, Anna. They can come back tomorrow.”
Anna came forward. She stood before the table, waiting for Kyenpia. Kyenpia took a pause from her activity and stationed herself behind the table.
“What is it?”
“Jaiye was my boyfriend for a while.”
“Really? When was this?”
“When Leo got serious with you and proposed. I was heartbroken, and Jaiye was there. It was a terrible relationship.”
“Is that why you have this personal vendetta against him?”
“No. Yes… He’s an ass. He treated me like shit…”
“But Leonel didn’t.”
“This isn’t about Leo. And I don’t want to talk about him or Jaiye this evening.”
“Anna, this wasn’t the deal you and I had. I told you I’d bring you back here if you let me in on all the secrets.”
Anna sighed. “Leo knew that we were dating. He didn’t want me to date him. He begged me not to, but I was on some revenge mission. That’s all I’m saying.”
Kyenpia didn’t want to push her further. She saw that there was a struggle for her to speak. There was more to be told. But Kyenpia had to be patient.
“It’s fine, Anna. You can go. And please, dress better tomorrow. We lost a man, not the whole world. We have a business to build and we must look the part.”
Aanu came home at the usual time. It was almost midnight as she walked in and dumped her weight on the sofa beside Yenkat. She had been at Omar’s Grill and Bar all day. She wasn’t the type to shut down her business on Sundays. This annoyed her father as much as opening a bar in the first place. But Aanu didn’t care. The place made her a lot of money, and it was better known for its assortment of grilled meats and burgers than it was for its alcohol.
“Is there food?” she asked Yenkat. What she got was a murmur. Yenkat was on her phone.
“Is it that you can’t see me or hear me? Do you even know that it’s raining heavily outside.” She rubbed her bust on Yenkat’s arm. “I’m wet.”
“Aanu, I’m on the phone nau.”
“With your guilty secret, abi?”
Yenkat laughed. She wasn’t chatting with Omar. It was with a prospective client who was outside Nigeria. The person was looking to invest in real estate.
“I’m not chatting with a man abeg. Chill.”
Aanu relaxed, but only for a second, before she reached over and snatched Yenkat’s phone, jumping to her feet. “Let me even see you people’s chat sef.”
“Aanu!” Yenkat went after her, but Aanu ran off into the guest bathroom and shut the door.
Now, here was the thing about Aanu. She was annoying and still behaved like she was in JSS3. It wasn’t the first time she was doing this to Yenkat. And it wouldn’t have been an issue if minutes ago, Yenkat hadn’t received a thread of messages from Omar, which she was yet to read. She didn’t know what he had told her. If they weren’t implicating, she was fine, because they would be all Aanu would see. Yenkat always archived their conversations daily. But if Omar had been Omar and had gone ahead to send her the sweet nothings he usually sent, then there was trouble. Massive trouble.
Yenkat stood outside the restroom door, not bothering to ask Aanu to come out. She had been in there for well over a minute, during which Yenkat’s heart had crashed more than a few times. It became increasingly obvious that Aanu had seen something. Wasn’t she the same person that would scroll past a single photo shown to her in a phone and go through the entire media library? She would even branch off to read messages popping up on the notification window and relay them to the owner of the phone.
“Aanu?” Yenkat called. She heard shuffling of feet and finally, the door opening slowly.
Her friend stepped out. Mute, subdued, shocked.
“Is there another Omar you know besides my son?”
“Answer me, Yeni.”
Aanu flashed Yenkat’s phone in her face. The texts from Omar was on the screen. “He’s your guilty pleasure?”
Yenkat couldn’t find her voice.
“He calls you Kat? He so wants to kiss you?”
“Yeni, what is going on here?”
Yenkat read her friend’s eyes. She saw that she wanted an explanation that would make her disbelieve what she had just seen. She was hoping that it had meant nothing.
“I’m listening to you.” She sounded soft, gentle. But her eyes were quickly filling with tears.
“Aanu, there’s no explanation that I can give you…”
Aanu’s shoulders dropped. “Don’t talk.”
“Don’t say anything, Yeni. Not a single word.” Tears ran over her cheeks.
She handed the phone to Yenkat, who numbly watched her leave the house. She went after her.
“Aanu, wait. Please…”
Aanu hastened her pace, got into her car and kept her eyes on Yenkat.
“Open the door, please. Let’s talk.”
Aanu put the car in reverse and honked the horn with her eyes still on Yenkat.
Yenkat stood under the rain until her friend drove out of the compound. Only then did she allow her own tears fall.
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages
Kini – (Yoruba) thing
Pata – (Yoruba) pants, panty, underwear
Bawo – (Yoruba) How?