I want to say something… I have failed you guys…
By not answering comments as I should…
I feel bad over this…
I am very sorry….
I’ll start doing things right from today.
And for today’s episode…
Kasiobi’s mouth has just gone dry. His hands holding his phone are both unable to move. Lexus’ last message has somehow become the only thing on his phone screen.
-Yours, Kas. She’s your baby.
His mouth gets drier.
“Kas, what’s going on?” Kira questions but her voice seems to him like it’s coming from outer space. He has no idea what she just said. Everything else apart from the message ceases to be relevant.
He feels a little pain on his arm and comes to.
“Talk to me or I’ll pinch you again,” Kira threatens.
“Excuse me, abeg.”
He pushes her away and gets off the bed. He makes his way out of his bedroom to his studio, a lot of questions driving him there in haste. When he gets in, he slips into the dark voicing booth and sits on the bare floor. Saliva returns to his mouth in a rush as he gathers his wits from the breaking news.
He sends Lexus a reply.
-You were pregnant?
Her answer to his question comes back immediately.
-It was why we broke up, Kas. I’m so sorry
Anger starts to grow in him.
-Please let me explain
And so she gives him details. She tells him the baby’s name is Trinity, amongst other things. At the end of her tale, Kasiobi draws in a long breath and lets it out to shake off his nerves. He is not taking the story in well. He believes he is being pranked.
-Stop playing with me, Lex. Just come clean
The message is delivered and he waits for her reply, but what he gets is a video – a close-up shot of the baby’s face, her mouth latched to a nipple as she is being breastfed. Kasiobi can hear Lexus’ voice in the background, telling the baby how angelic she is and how her daddy is going to be head over heels in love with her.
Another message from Lexus drops.
-Convinced now? I have more of these. Wanna see?
She sends four pictures of her breasts taken at different angles; none of them has her nursing Trinity. All the same, Kasiobi notices the breasts are fuller but he is irate by her pranks.
-Are you alright?
She sends videos of Trinity. Two of them. And by the time he is through watching them, all his doubts are cleared. Replacing the shock is a new feeling of fondness for Trinity and respect for Lexus.
-When are you telling your dad?
-Tomorrow morning but I’m freaking out Kas. He’ll lose it. Remember how he warned us before we traveled not to get pregnant
-Yeah but there’s nothing anyone can do now. We just have to tell him
-We? He’ll kill you Kas. Don’t come near my house for the next week abeg. I love you too much to watch Dominic fuck you up
-You love me? TF is that?
-Bitch, don’t play me. You got preggers, dumped my ass, went to stay with a white boy, had a whole baby without telling me and you’re here talking shit about love. TF is wrong with you
-You need serious ass whooping
-On which ass? This one?
-Stop playing. When am I going to see Trinity? By the way, I don’t think she’s mine
-Then do a DNA oga. I’m not even gon get into any crazy drama with you, Kasbi. She’s your kid.
Kasiobi takes a short break from the chat, letting it all sink in. His emotions come to him in a mix. He’s uncertain of what to feel.
-Tell me more about Trinity
-You can call her Trini, Kas. Trinity is too long
-But you named her that
–Blame the nurse who enters my room with this huge ass crucifix hanging off her neck and tells me that they need a name on the baby’s birth certificate. I ask her why she can’t just use Baby Ditorusin. She says she just can’t. I have to give her a name. So I’m staring into the air and my eyes catch her crucifix and I think of the holy trinity and I tell her that I’m calling my baby Trinity
-Are you ok???
-It will make daddy happy and it’s a good name. Hopefully she doesn’t get the generational curse of getting preg outside marriage because God the father, the son and the Holy Spirit are with her
-Smh. Just tell me about her
-Let’s meet and talk
-Just come and pick me
An hour later they are both watching the waves of the Atlantic lap at the shore of a quiet beach they both call Fuck Zone. The place is famous for car sex. People drive there simply to have sex in their cars. Some, with the windows up while some enjoy the thrill of being watched. No one bugs anyone. Not even robbers drop by. Once you pay the touts manning the area a fee of five hundred bucks, you’re allowed through to do as you wish.
Thus Kasiobi and Lexus sit in Kasiobi’s Renegade, feet hanging out as Lexus smokes a joint. Her first since she left Nigeria. She had made a promise to Dominic not to touch the substance while in the States. Now she is back home and on her favorite high. Kasiobi, on the other hand, is nursing a bottle of Hennessey mixed with a coke. They are listening to Bryson Tiller on the SUV’s speakers. Kasiobi is anxious to get more information about Trinity but he waits until Lexus is done smoking.
She steps down from the car and stands before him like she is about to render a performance of some sort. He figures she is high.
She begins: “On why I broke up with you…”
Kasiobi raises his hand to stop her. “That’s not why I’m here.”
“Please, Kas. Let me explain.”
“What’s there to explain? You woke up one day and decided we were done and then you moved on to Russell or whatever his white ass name is.”
“That’s your own version. Don’t you wanna hear mine?”
“No, Lex. I came here to hear about the baby.”
“Fine. Trinity is yours…”
“You already said that,” Kasiobi replies gruffly, lifting the Hennessy bottle to his mouth.
“But she’s not mine.”
Kasiobi’s hand freezes.
Kasiobi lets the bottle down in slow motion. He turns down the volume of the music.
“What kind of nonsense play is that, Tonbra? Which Chichi?”
“Which other Chichi do you know?”
“So the baby is not yours?”
She laughs – long and annoyingly.
“Me, a mom? Are you out of your freaking mind? I’m not having kids! Ever! Who wants that type of yeye responsibility?”
“So all the shit you were telling me on Whatsapp…”
“Just pulling your legs, Kas.”
“But your boobs are bigger.”
“Somebody cannot even add weight again?”
“I hate you. I really hate you.”
She blows him a kiss.
“Someone needs to choke you almost to death.”
She crosses her arms. “So, apparently, when you left New York at the start of summer last year, you came back here and started piping Chichi?”
“So? She was my ex. I was heartbroken. She was there for me. We had sex but I am not the father of that child.”
“Kas, Trinity is yours. She has your ears and pink lips.”
“All babies have pink lips!”
“Where did you even see Chichi? She’s in South Africa! And last I checked you guys weren’t talking to each other.”
“When Chichi was five months pregnant, she sent me a DM on Twitter, telling me how you guys hooked up again when you came back and then she had to leave because her mom was sick. Two months later, she discovered she was pregnant. She freaked out and tried to abort it but her mom told her she had a dream in which she saw her bleeding to death. So, she said she called you and told you but you denied…”
“Why won’t I deny? Chichi and I went bare only once and then she told me she took a morning-after pill only to call me two months later to say she was pregnant, that the pill didn’t work. What sort of nonsense joke is that? Am I a fool? Chichi that can sleep with anything. Abeg, nobody should bring that bullshit my way.”
“Anyways, I felt for her, asked her to send me her number. She did. I called her. She was crying on the phone, saying you blocked her on social media and you were refusing to take her calls. She even called Genesis but Genesis said it was not her business.”
“She was rude to Genesis before she left. The woman fired her ass from Novo.”
“She said so. Anyways, three weeks ago Russell and I flew to South Africa for their SA menswear fashion week. I didn’t feel like going but I was curious to see Trinity. So, I went to Durban, to Chichi’s and spent a whole day with her family. Chichi has changed, Kas. Motherhood changed her and that’s because Trinity is adorbs! The cutest, little baby. I took loads of videos. She makes me want to have my own babies.”
Kasiobi washes down a bad taste in his mouth with his drink.
“I know you don’t believe she’s yours but trust me, Kas, you’re her daddy. The first time I saw her, I was looking at a smaller version of you.”
“She’s not my kid, Lexus. What the fuck is wrong with you? Chichi is a ho!”
“Was a ho. She’s changed. She even goes to church now.”
Kasiobi snorts. “You don’t know that girl. And I’m mad that she’s using you to get to me.”
“Just fucking do a DNA, dude. She’s flying in soon with Trini. You guys can do a DNA so you can rest.”
“You think it’s that easy? That I’d just do a DNA and the kid is mine and things go chill? Do you know that once you’re a parent you can’t undo it? There’s no going back?”
“Then you should have had protected sex.”
“We went bare only once! And she was supposed to take care of herself!”
“Well, it takes two to make a baby and you did your part well. Get over it.”
Kasiobi raises the volume of the music once again. His mood is not lifted and the liquor does not make him feel any better. He corks the bottle and dumps it on the backseat. When he lifts his head, he catches Lexus yawning, her arms stretched out under the full moon, lifting her t-shirt to reveal a body he had missed. Kasiobi eyes rests on her navel briefly before they travel up to her breasts which are not held in a bra.
She returns to the SUV. Quietness takes over. A moaning woman lends her voice to the night as the waves provide background music to her pleasure. Kasiobi feels some kind of calm settling in.
“Russell was not my boyfriend,” Lexus reveals. Kasiobi looks at her. “We never fucked. You were the last guy I laid with. Russ and I were just friends.”
“He was all over your Facebook and gram.”
“He was in love. I wasn’t. I was still all about you.”
“Why did you leave?” Kasiobi asks.
“Kas… I turned twenty-seven and reality hit hard. All my friends were getting married or having babies and I didn’t want that. Not then. Not now. Not ever. But you were there, making me breakfast in bed, talking about how many kids you wanted, asking if I’d like a diamond ring… We wanted two different things, Kas. You just automatically assumed that because we had something deep going on, that I wanted to commit and that I wanted the same things you wanted…”
“Then why didn’t you say that?”
“I did. So many times but you thought I was playing. And so I had to leave. I didn’t want to lead you on or get to the point where I was forced into wearing a wedding dress. It was the hardest decision to take, Kas. In many ways, I regret it but at that time, I just had to leave.”
“Your dad is right about you. You’re spoilt, selfish and impulsive. Why are you back sef? To torture me again?”
“To build my life, Kas. My tattoo parlor needs to really kick off and I want to do something huge with my art. Diversify. Maybe go into fashion or anything that needs designing. I’m not so sure. But I’m tired of America, abeg.”
“After breaking Russell’s heart.”
“I was not his girlfriend like that.”
“So what do you want from me?”
“Nothing. Just you and me as friends like we used to be.”
Kasiobi cackles. “Yeah, good luck with that.”
He climbs down and makes to walk to the driver’s side of the SUV but Lexus stops him.
“I’ll drive. You’re tipsy.”
He hesitates for a second and then gives in. She takes the wheel while he sprawls on the backseat, head on one end, feet resting on the other.
∞∞∞ ∞∞∞ ∞∞∞
Vhasti wakes him up, all four limbs doing a catwalk on his body. He’s thinking to himself as he stirs awake that one of these days he’s going to kill the cat.
He picks her up by her neck and flings her off the bed, across the room. She whines angrily before scuttling away. His eyes open fully, colors of grey and claret, mixed with a deep shade of brown that seems almost black, come to him intrusively. The scent of Genesis’ mild perfume caresses his nostrils and he immediately longs for her, noting he is alone on the bed. Their fight from yesterday carries on, no doubt, and he knows it falls on him to make amends.
She had slept beside him the night before, Zoe in her arms. Zach who is a lot different from his twin can sleep well in his cot without any fuss. But Zoe is different. She still enjoys being breastfed and sometimes nuzzles in Genesis’ arms before she sleeps. Last night she had kept them both awake and slept only after Genesis sang to her, much to Dominic’s annoyance. But he had dared not complain because Genesis’ wrath was waiting in a corner, ready to be unleashed. This morning, he hopes it is all expired.
He leaves the bed to the bathroom, and after washing his mouth, he walks back to the room and out to the balcony where breakfast is laid on a table and Genesis sits staring out, wearing only his shirt.
He takes it as a good sign as he bends to give her a kiss. The cold feel of her cheek beneath his warm lips reminds him that she is still mad at him.
“Coffee or tea?” She regards him with silent eyes. He sits.
“Tea.” He yawns.
She lifts one of two silver kettles off the table and pours him a full mug of coffee. He pretends not to notice.
“Sugar or honey?”
She tips in honey.
“Milk or cream?”
“Whatever you want.”
She adds nothing and passes him the mug.
“There’s toast bread I made. It has cheese and egg in it with slices of sausage.”
“No, I’m good.”
She pushes a saucer of the said toast towards him. He knows better than to reject it.
As he takes his first sip of coffee, he keeps his stare on her. Netted hair, face free of makeup, passive-aggressive, she presents an un-screwable-with exterior. The moment passes by in quietness and then she speaks.
“Don’t ever call me names again, Nick. I’m not that type of girl. Don’t do it. Ever. Give me the same respect I give you.”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart.”
She rises up. He smiles. He loves this side of her and relates better with it than the side that cries and throws tantrums. But she won’t be Genesis if she doesn’t switch from diva to boss lady at caprice. It is what keeps her employees on their toes.
He takes her hand as she makes to leave.
“Let’s go somewhere today. To Seyi’s place. Back to that bedroom where we first made love as husband and wife. You remember.”
Warmth clouds her eyes briefly.
“To what gain? You’ll disappear tomorrow to some end of the earth. Why bother?”
Dominic pulls her onto his laps.
“We can recreate that night. No kids. No work. Just Mr. and Mrs. Ditorusin.”
“Tempting, but no thank you.”
She tries to remove his hands from her body but fails.
“You do this every time – come home, wow me with gifts and great sex and while I’m still recovering from the magic, you disappear. I feel like I don’t own you, Nick, and I don’t think I ever will. No one can. I’m beginning to understand that.”
She manages to free herself and gets back on her feet.
“I’ll be waiting at Seyi’s this evening,” he says. “Please, come.”
Genesis walks to the door.
“Nice ass, by the way,” he compliments. She stops and turns. He doesn’t look at her as he picks the day’s newspaper off the table.
Later on, after the fight is settled over angry sex in his study, Genesis tells him she is making plans to bring Mamisi to come live with them. The reaction to this is a cutting glower from him.
“Can you repeat yourself?”
“Mamisi is well now. She’s out of her catatonia and can communicate as well as she used to. I don’t want to take her to a retirement home, Nick. She deserves more.”
“She deserves nothing.” Dominic’s husky tone comes with a sting. “I wonder why she didn’t even die.”
“She is not coming here. Period.”
“Nick, she’s my mother. She raised me when I had no one and took me to the best schools…”
“She taught you how to sleep with other people’s men and then bring them to nothing. Have you forgotten? This same woman arranged five men to rape you and sat there watching the whole ordeal. She is not your mother and she is not welcome into this house.”
“She has nobody, Domi. Nancy is no longer in the country. All she has is me and I think I owe her that much.”
As Genesis speaks, Dominic pours himself a stiff glass of whiskey.
“And I think she has changed after her ordeal. She lost everything.”
Dominic leans on his work desk and turns his eye on his wife.
“Please, Nick. I know how you feel about her and I know you think I’m being weak… but my conscience won’t let me rest if I send her to some old people’s home when she’s full of life.”
Dominic ponders on the situation. Genesis is still oblivious of the fact that Mamisi is her biological mother. He fears that the old woman would let that cat out of the bag if Genesis threatens to cut her loose. He also understands where Genesis is coming from. She alone had paid Mamisi’s hospital bills during her nineteen-month stay in a mental institution. She alone visited her every Saturday, judiciously, throughout the woman’s stay there. Dominic understands how difficult it would be to sever that relationship. But what he doesn’t understand is why it has to become part of his life too.
“That woman is soulless, Gen, and to have her here with the kids worries me.”
“Me too. And that’s why I want to suggest that we put her in the guest house, upstairs.”
Dominic shut his eyes. “Please, don’t do this, Gen. Don’t do this.”
“Okay, we’ll do it this way. I will rent her a house close by and get a maid for her and you can see her as often as you want. Is that okay?”
Silence meets his suggestion. He opens his eyes and sees a sad Genesis.
“That’s the most I can do, sweet cakes.”
He drops his glass of Johnny Walker. “Come here.”
Genesis walks over to him and he holds her in a sheltered embrace.
“Your good heart will get you in trouble, baby,” he whispers. “Sometimes you just have to be a coldhearted bitch.”
“But you’ll learn. You’ll learn soon.”
∞∞∞ ∞∞∞ ∞∞∞
This is one of those days when I don’t feel like going to work. Owing to the way the weather has been since the month before, it has become increasingly difficult to leave my bed at mornings. I’d rather sleep in for an extra hour or two but sadly, I don’t have that luxury. Not when the breadwinning role falls on me.
I start my hustle as early as five in the morning and it doesn’t end for me until I get home in the evening, many times, to no food and a messy house. And then it falls on me to prepare dinner and clean up the place, also attending to a toddler, who, having missed me all day, clings to me butter to bread. I am always left exhausted, falling to bed like deadweight until my alarm sounds the next morning and I start the hustle all over again.
I am losing my youth fast. Just the other day, I saw a line breaking on the side of my nose and threatening to go down the side of my mouth. Actually it was Peace who noticed it. She had held my chin and turned my face this way and that and said to me, “Celia, you’re having worry lines. What’s wrong?”
I had laughed, making her look silly with her assertions. But what was I supposed to do? Tell her that I’m both the woman and man in my home? That Shady is not on his way to superstardom and sits about the house in his boxers doing nothing? That we’re relying on my salary alone to take care of us? That I’m on the verge of losing my mind from the suffering?
No, I can’t tell her these things. I just can’t. The façade must continue. Shady’s face must be saved. We must give the impression that all is well with us. We must not let our friends know.
Those had been Shady’s words, actually, not mine, on the day he sat me down and told me that his huge acting break was never going to be as the show was canceled even before it started because the Nigerian crew had squandered a huge sum and were being sued by the producers.
“I have nothing, Cee.” My husband’s voice had been barely a whisper. “I quit my job and I have nothing.”
I had hushed him, told him to stop being pessimistic, told him something bigger was coming. But he laughed and repeated, “I’ve lost everything.”
And I didn’t understand what he meant until months passed and I watched him sit about on the couch all day and all night, doing nothing. Only then did I realize that he had lost his will to do anything. And for me, I had lost the Shady I used to know.
I don’t need to tell you what it means to have a man whose pride is bruised, whose manhood has been robbed of him. And I’ll spare you the ordeal I go through daily to ensure that I keep sane and not wake up one day to set the house on fire with him in it. My job is all the distraction I need but at the same time, it is killing me.
I mumble a prayer as I leave the bed. The bedroom is a mess, of course. Later on, while at work, I will text Shady to help me clean up, praying he catches the mood to do so.
I get into the bathroom and while I shower, I decide that I’ll go see Mary today to borrow some money so I can pay the rent. We’re six months behind and the landlord, who lives next door, isn’t smiling anymore. I am yet to think up a lie to tell Mary when I ask for the money. I’m considering just opening up and telling her the truth. Lord knows I’m tired of lying. Maybe if all our friends know that Shady has been jobless since November, they can all come up with ways to help him. I’m tired of nursing his lazy behind and ego.
When I step out of the shower, I go to the sitting room and without thinking it through, I put a call across to Mary. It’s still dark outside. My landlord’s chicken is crowing.
“Hello?” Mary answers, and only then do I realize I had called too early.
“May, I’m so sorry for waking you up.”
“That’s okay, Cee. I’m wide awake,” she says and chuckles. In the background I hear Ekene’s laugh as well. I instantly know I have interrupted an intimate session. I feel a sting of jealousy. Life is unfair. Mary and Ekene, much like Jide and Honey have everything – the money and the love. But I pine away here, unable to even afford my next salon visit. And sex…let’s not even broach that topic. Shady, amongst other things, has lost his erection as well. I have been in a sexless marriage for months.
“What can I do you for?” Mary asks before bursting out laughing. Ekene’s voice is louder this time. I hear something like a spank and then Mary squeals.
“Cee, can I call you later? I’m kind of in the middle of something here.”
I want to tell her my reason for calling, that I want to see her later in the day but I think against it.
“Okay. Take care.”
She is off with another giggle. I put my phone away and stare into the dark, feeling tears in my eyes.
“God, for how long?”
I am too weak to pray these days. What do I even pray for? I feel the little strength I have leaving me. I’m no longer the Celia everyone knows. When last did I throw a party or go shopping for underwear or even pay my tithe? In fact, when last did I genuinely smile?
Sobs shake my thin frame and I let it out, knowing I must brace up in a few minutes and embark on another monotonous day. I don’t even have the luxury to cry properly anymore.
“Lord, please give me something new and different today. I’m tired of this life I’m living.”
I stop the tears midstream and dress up for work. I take the bus. The car has issues. It’s somewhat of a miracle that it was able to take us to the Onuoras’ home and back yesterday. I am thinking of selling it but Shady has warned me not to try it. The car, like his fancy clothes, helps put up the impression that all is still well with him.
I arrive at the office to smiley faces from energetic colleagues. Somehow when you’re down in a financial rot, it seems like all is well with the world except you.
“Oga is asking of you,” one of my colleagues informs me.
“Any problem?” I ask, putting my handbag down.
“No. He just poked in his head a few minutes ago and asked of you. Says you should see him once you get in.”
I straighten out my jacket and head straight to my boss’ office, following a long corridor that has walls which appear to be closing in on me. I have often thought about this – if it’s my imagination or if the corridor is too narrow. I am yet to ask anyone if they feel the same way about it.
“Come in,” my boss answers to my gentle rap on his door.
I walk in.
“Morning to you too, Cecelia.”
I smile. There’s something calming about this man. Forget the fact that he is so fat he probably hasn’t seen his toes or penis in years. Forget that he blinks forty-two times (yes, I counted) in one minute. Forget that he has bouts of rage that come from nowhere. Forget all of that and you have the coolest boss in the world who answers to greetings not thrown at him and calls his employees by modified versions of their names.
“I’m good. And you?”
I make to sit but he asks me to remain standing.
“And that’s because you will be on your way to see Mrs. Charles. Clearly, she was impressed by your first visit and is asking of you.”
At the mention of the name ‘Mrs. Charles’ the image of a young woman in her mid or late thirties or even early forties comes to mind. One can’t really tell how old she is, considering the fact that she takes good care of herself. She reminds me of Genesis Ditorusin, only less glamorous but not lacking in refinement.
However, there’s something strange about her. I just can’t figure it out yet.
“Her driver is already waiting outside to pick you up. She’s up to an early start today and requests to see you this morning.”
“Please, do everything to impress her the second time, Cecelia. She’s paying big for our services.”
“Of course, sir.”
I laugh. This man has jokes for life. Which one is go slay again?
I leave his office, elated that I don’t have to sit behind my desk or hound potential clients with phone calls. Sometimes the job of a financial consultant is easy. Other times, it’s not so much fun.
I step outside the office building. An expensive-looking SUV is parked away from the other vehicles and by intuition I walk to it.
“I’m here for Mrs. Charles?” I say to a sleepy man behind the wheel. He jolts up and bows his head in a greeting.
“Mrs. Celia?” he asks.
I nod. He steps down, goes round and opens the backdoor for me. I enter the luxurious vehicle and soon we’re on our way to see Mrs. Charles. It’s a long drive, one in which I fall asleep. When I wake, we are driving into a compound that takes the breath right out of me. I feel like I have been taken from the streets of Lagos to a dream that stands grand and white with greenery and flowers that could have only be cultivated by a horticulturist suffering from OCD. It’s all too perfect and intimidating and beautiful at the same time.
The driver leads me into the house through a huge glass door I am sure costs as much as my rent. I find myself taken into a cozy den with a little too many couches that have rich fabrics giving off an overall feminine feel. There’s a collection of black and white art and an extensive assemblage of books on shelves that line two walls. The colors are a range of brown and mellow beige, made diffuse with dim lighting coming from wall lamps.
I am asked to make myself comfortable and I do so, waiting for Mrs. Charles. She walks in after a short while, tall and fair, with long braids falling all over the place. The scent of her perfume spells money. But she comes to me, all smiles as if I am an old friend.
I am given a hug and a wet peck on just one cheek.
“How are you?” she asks, some foreign accent present. Can’t tell which.
“I’m good, ma.”
“Ma?” she puts her hand to her chest and laughs. “I’m not that old, baby. Call me Naomi, with a ‘Nay’ not ‘Nah’.”
“So, have you had breakfast?” she asks, walking away from me. “Follow me, Celia.”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Great. Breakfast is already served.”
She takes me out of the cozy room and up a staircase that brings us to a large empty room with white walls and huge double doors. Naomi throws open the doors and to my surprise, I see a body of water below us. Breakfast is a rich meal of all sorts on a table laid out on a terrace overlooking a lagoon and most of Lagos Island. The sight is amazing.
“Sit down, hon.”
She takes a chair that is wooden except for the all-white cushions resting on it. She stretches out as I settle into the second chair. She is backing the view but I can see it all and I am wondering how much the house itself costs.
Naomi engages me in mild conversation about everything and then finally touches down on the topic of husbands. Her voice mellows at this point and then she stops, asking if she can trust me.
She goes ahead to tell me how her husband does not remember she exists.
“I can’t recall when last we had sex. I stopped counting when we went past a year.”
She breaks from chewing a slice of apple.
“It’s like I don’t exist. You don’t know how hard that can be. To have a man constantly around you but you can’t have him.”
I relate to this, I blurt out. Her brows perk up.
I hesitate a little but I can’t hold back now. I need someone to unburden to. And so I tell her everything, my tale coming in tears I have not had the luxury of letting out. Naomi comes to me and lends me her shoulder. It is comforting, as is her hand on my back. When I’m done crying, she suggests we should spend the day at the spa.
“I’m sorry, Naomi. I must go back to work.”
“Work? How do you people do that boring thing?”
“Well, we must survive.”
“Work, work, work, work, work, work,” she sings in a not-so Rihanna tone. I laugh. “It’s all nonsense! Trust me. You need to get your own thing going on, bae. Give me a minute.”
She picks her phone from the table and calls my boss right in front of me, telling him she has hijacked me for the day. They talk for some more minutes and then she hangs up.
“Let’s hit the town, baby.” She winks.
We’re on the road, she behind the wheel, me listening to Melissa Etheridge on the car’s speakers. Mind you, we’re not in the same vehicle that picked me from the party. This is a Bentley—luxurious and girlish—chosen out of a collection of seven cars. Naomi first takes me shopping, calling it retail therapy. She doesn’t buy me much, just a change of clothes out of my office attire. She then drives me to Tirta Ayu Spa in Lekki, a place Noka always talks about. We are given first class treatment, the whole works, something I have never experienced before. It leaves me feeling crisp, refreshed and beautiful.
After that we have lunch at Bangkok Restaurant not far away. At this point, I tell Naomi I have to call it a day.
She opens her handbag and takes out an envelope.
“This should help you solve some of your financial issues.”
“Naomi, you don’t have to…”
“Shh. Just take it.”
“Celia, please accept it.”
She clasps my hands around the envelope.
“Don’t open it yet.”
“Okay. Thank you so much.”
She looks into my eyes. “You’re welcome.”
“So, take care,” I tell her, “and I’ll call you tomorrow to know how far on your decision on which brokerage firm you decide to go with and then I’ll also guide you how you can get the best out of them.”
She nods absentmindedly. I doubt that she has heard anything I just said.
I go for the door handle but I feel her fingers around my neck and before I realize what is going on, Naomi’s lips are on mine.
Shock. Total shock. Earth-shattering shock. Shock that makes you want to slap yourself a few times to wake up shock.
I pull away. “Wh-wh-what the hell was that?”
She returns to her seat, patting her lips as if she is the one that has just been assaulted.
“I like you, Celia.”
“You’re a lesbian?”
“No. I don’t know… I just know I had to kiss you. I’m not a lesbian. I’ve never been with a woman before. I just…I really like you, Cee.”
“Don’t call me Cee!” I shout.
“Please, keep your voice low. I hate when someone shouts on me.”
“Then don’t call me Cee or ever put your lips on me again!”
She nods. “I’m sorry.”
“So this was what this whole day was about?”
“And this envelope too?”
“No, Celia. The thing is I hardly have friends. The few I have, it’s either they have slept with my husband or are planning to or they just don’t really like me.”
“Yeah, I can see why.”
“No, no, no, please don’t think of me as this crazy person. I liked you the first time and then again today, I just sort of fell for you…”
“You know what? Take your envelope and it’s goodbye from me. Our business relationship is over.”
She picks the envelope I have flung at her and pushes it into my handbag. “Forget the kiss. You need this. Please, take care of your family. Please.”
I almost burst into tears, realizing how desperately I need whatever it is she is giving me. I really need it. And I hate that I really need it.
I pick my handbag and open the door.
I catch moistness in her eyes as I leave and also the look of warmth. I shut the door. There’s a keke passing by. I quickly hail it and it stops a few feet ahead of me. I hurry to it.
“Eko Hotel roundabout,” I say. The keke rider nods. I hop in. Naomi’s Bentley zooms past.
As the keke continues its journey, I take out the envelope and to my shock I find bills of hundred dollars, all thirty of them.
My heart misses its rhythm. I take out the money, shield it with my bag and count again, slower this time – and nothing changes. Three thousand dollars. I quickly get out my phone and calculate how much this amounts to in Naira. The figure I get can pay my rent twice and leave me with change.
I sit in silence, robbed of reasonable thought. I remain that way until I get home. Shady is sitting in his boxers as usual, holding our daughter who has just returned from daycare. I walk past him, uttering a sparse greeting. The smell and state of my house suddenly irritates me having tasted the luxury of Naomi’s home and the spa.
“Did you go to work dressed like this?” I hear Shady ask. I don’t give him a reply. I enter our bedroom and take the money out one more time. It is still the same.
I exhale. How can a fellow woman give me this much money?
I hear my phone ring in my handbag. I take it out. Naomi is calling, of course. I put the phone away. It rings on until it stops. Next, an SMS comes in. I open it. As I suspect, it’s from her.
I’m actually not sorry for the kiss, Cee. I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to more. Please don’t say no. I’ll take care of you better than any man can. And that money, it’s chicken change. There’s more where that is from. Please, think about it, bae.
I fall back on my bed, staring up at the ceiling.
Lord, when I said I wanted something new and different today, I didn’t mean this. Please, take away this temptation.
I close my eyes, clutching the dollars. The kiss lingers.