Hi, #IANS fans!
It’s Another Saturday is not coming this weekend as I had anticipated :(. I am sorry.
I’m still writing in bits. This happens a few times. Normally, I put down episode by episode, following an outline but sometimes, the story flows in bits and later I’ll have to piece it together. So, with #IANS, I have a lot of short or full length pieces that are yet to come together. This happened with The Fourth Finger and that was why I did a marathon when I eventually completed the episodes.
Now, I’m not promising you another marathon but it’s definitely going to be more than one episode. At least, two. There’s material for more but let me not promise what I can’t fulfil.
Meanwhile, enjoy today’s episode of Boys With Toys.
It was Khalid’s last day in Abuja, and just as Mrs. Tunji had promised, the murder case against him had been dropped. He didn’t know what magic she used but he had walked into the courtroom at the second appearance, just to hear the judge say that the case was dismissed because of lack of ample evidence to convict him.
He remembered standing and staring vacantly at the bench. He was not moved by the news. Dismissing the case was neither going to bring Sachi nor Uju back.
When he stepped outside the court, the air stung him, leaving guilt running in his bloodstream. He sat on a slab that held a statue of justice a few feet from the courthouse entrance. The sun was almost overhead, tilting at eleven o’clock. It left a shadow as it shone from behind him, exposing how much weight he had lost over the past weeks. A cloud soon appeared and covered the sun but the sun pushed through again. On they struggled until Mrs. Tunji emerged from the court.
“Get into the car, Khal.”
He stood up like a zombie and walked to the car they had come with. He sat behind. Music from somewhere was playing. It was either Jason Derullo or Chris Brown. He didn’t know which. But the song was familiar.
He rested his back into a more comfortable position and listened. The sound was a little soothing.
Mrs. Tunji entered the car. “We leave for Lagos first thing tomorrow morning.”
“No, you go ahead, Aunty Jola. I’ll come next week.”
“No, Abdul Khalid. We will leave tomorrow and you’ll put this ugly past behind you. You will not drag your life and G&M into it again. You have been through so much already. It’s time to let go. As we speak, your property is on its way to Lagos. And following our discussion, the house will be up for sale immediately. As for the company, we will go on with our plan to sell it to investors.”
Khalid made no objections to her suggestions. He was gone in his mind as was his custom these days. Nothing and no one seemed to be able to connect with him whenever he switched to that place of oblivion. Mrs. Tunji had learned to recognize the signs each time he was gone and was by now quite used to them. She was more than certain a return to the bustle of Lagos and his daily work activities would bring his old person back.
“You’ll be fine.”
Of course, he didn’t respond. Somewhere in his head, Onsachi was telling him how her day in the salon had gone.
“Perfect.” Guru smiled as he scrolled through the seventh blog that just published the news about his breakup with Nmachi. The gist hit the net only an hour ago and so far, it was trending. He didn’t know what he enjoyed most—the fact that they believed that the breakup was as a result of rumors over him cheating with some unnamed chick or the fact that the breakup really happened.
He had finally kept to his plan to frustrate Nmachi out of his life. It took one unflattering statement about her acting skills and the camel’s back broke. With unshed tears, she stomped out of his house. Not long after, the gist spread across Nigerian Twitter, made juicier by gossip blogs. Guru was thrilled. He could finally breathe easy now. Nmachi was probably hugging a bottle of Vodka with some friends now, bawling her eyes out. Annoying creature.
He was waiting for Madu to barge in any moment to threaten fire and brimstone. In the meanwhile, he had designs to complete. He left his phone on his desk and faced his work table. The hours went by until the evening drew near and the offices began to empty. There was no disturbance except for the infrequent phone call and Urenna coming to remind him of an activity or two. When she came in the fifth time, she had a disturbed look on her face.
“Are you okay?”
“You need to see this.”
She strutted to him and handed him her tab. On the screen was a picture of two of them sitting by the beach, she was looking up at him with a smiley face and his hand seemed to be resting on her lap.
“This was that day at Bar Beach nau. Who the hell took this picture?”
“I don’t know. But scroll up and read.”
Guru did as she requested and read a short text above the image.
“You’re the mysterious girl I cheated on Nmachi with?” He laughed. “Interesting!”
“There’s more. Scroll down.”
Guru again followed her instructions. His smile disappeared when he was done reading.
“Which kain rubbish be dis one? Who is the devil cooking all these lies?”
“They’re not lies, Roy.” Urenna replied. “When I was in school, I broke into the dean’s office and stole some dollars. I was kicked out but it was caught on tape. Somehow Madu found out about it and got hold of the video. He now threatened to release it online if I didn’t do as he asked.”
“And what did he ask you to do?”
“I’m sorry, Roy.”
“What did you do?”
“The drink I gave you at the Smush party was drugged. I knew it was drugged. I was to make sure you drank it. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to do it.”
Guru put the tab on his work table.
He pulled her into a hug and rubbed her back. “I knew.”
“Yeah, I knew Madu made you give me that drink. I just didn’t know why.”
“I’m not mad at you. Rather I’m concerned. Are you okay?”
Guru pulled away from her but kept his hands on her arms. “Seriously, are you fine?”
The door flung open and Madu announced his coming with a sinister chortle. “If it’s not the most popular couple in Lagos! The designer and the thief! How touching.”
Guru spun to face him. “You’ve gone too far, Madu.”
“I told you not to mess with me.”
“It’s me you have issues with. Why drag Urenna into it?”
“As if the dog passes up on a single piece of meat just because the bowl is full of game.”
“Asking you what you want is a waste of time. You’ve gotten it already. So, can you leave both the game and the single piece of meat alone?”
“No. I just got started. This nonsense, pathetic prince-loves-farmer-girl relationship two of you want to build sickens me.” He made a puke face. “It soils the image of G&M. You’ll literally bore our fans to death. Urenna is too poor to be your girlfriend and she has absolutely no talent whatsoever. Her phone-answering skills are on fleek, though, but that’s all there is to it. And God! She looks like geek fashion gone bad. No offence, Urenna but you should know your place. Giving Guru blowjobs after office hours does not qualify you to date him. I’m sure the security or dispatch guy will find you intriguing…”
Guru charged forward with his fist aimed but Urenna stopped him.
“Ure, leave me abeg! This guy has gone too far! Leave me! Don’t let me push you!” He struggled in her hold, getting more incensed at the leer on Guru’s face.
“I hope you’re recording this?” Madu threw his head back, revealing some unknown guy who had his phone trained on them. It was the final straw for Guru. He broke free from Urenna’s hold and jabbed Madu in the chest, almost throwing him to the floor. Urenna dashed in-between them, just in time to save Madu from another assault. She dragged Guru away and forced him down on his work stool.
Having accomplished what he came for, Madu left the office with his famously annoying smile.
“You and this your temper sef, Roy. I thought you had changed.” Urenna straightened out the cuff of his shirt.
“I don’t have a temper.”
“You do. At first, it is passive aggressive. You let it build up inside you for a long time and then boom! You explode.”
Guru stayed calm for a long time while Urenna tried to make him see reasons not to engage Madu in any kind of interaction.
“Be my girlfriend, Ure,” he said from nowhere, cutting her short mid-speech
“Become my girlfriend.”
“Why? What’s wrong with you? I have a boyfriend.”
“Like I care.”
“You should, Roy. You only want to date me to piss Madu off and it makes me angry.”
Roy stood up and in a flash, grabbed her by the waist and kissed her forcefully. She slapped him but it was weak and painless.
“Why are you letting that fool get to you?” she asked. “Why are you playing his games? This is what he wants, to throw you off focus, to make you do the things you normally wouldn’t do.”
Guru walked past her and sat behind his desk. “I still have feelings for you.”
“No, you don’t! You don’t have feelings for anybody! You’re cold!”
“You are! When we were going out, you were distant and detached. You always made me feel like I was doing something wrong by just being your girlfriend! And you’ve not changed up till now. You treated Nmachi like she was irritating you the whole time!”
“I was supposed to have feelings for her? Ure, the relationship was fake. I didn’t feel anything!”
“The same way you feel nothing for me. Yet you want to use me.”
She picked her tab from the table.
“This is my last day of work. I can’t stand this place anymore. All of you are monsters. You, Madu and everyone else. I can’t stay here and become something I don’t want to be.”
“Ure, I’m sorry,” Guru said, rising up.
She shook her head. “I’m not coming back. And just so you know, you are no different from Madu.”
She turned on her heels and went for the door.
She door slammed at her exit.
The day had begun as usual for him. After some not-so-fiery morning sex with Ruky, which was becoming the norm, he dressed for work and sat shotgun as she drove them to the G&M building. When she killed the engine in the massive parking lot that housed cars from different structures on Broad Street, she turned to him and searched his eyes.
“Are we losing steam, Banky?”
He turned his eyes on her, thinking to himself that they never had steam in the first place. Steam was Beatrice and the sexy way she dressed these days, making herself the topic of gossip blogs. Steam was the intense jealousy that burned in him every time he saw a photo of her in Seriki’s arms.
“It’s about Beatrice, isn’t it?”
“I thought I told you not to bring that name up.”
“You still love her.”
Ruky faced the wheel, removing her eyes from him. “I’m moving out.”
“Because this is not working. We made love today like a couple that has been married twenty years.”
Bankole rubbed his eyes. “Please Ruk, let’s not have this conversation. It’s pointless. You’re my girlfriend…”
“Trophy girlfriend, somebody you want around just to take the sting away but your heart is still broken, Banky.”
“Stop talking rubbish.”
“Like I said, I’m moving out.”
He held her hand. “Tell me what you want and I’ll give you. I admit the sex has been bland lately and that’s because I have some issues bothering me at work but I promise that from this night we’ll get back to us.”
“That’s the thing. There was no us in the first place. Just me living in the shadow of Beatrice. You’re inside me but it’s her face you see. It’s her you’re making love to. I was okay with it at first but I just can’t anymore. I’m at this point where I have to either pursue the feelings I have for you or just face my life and keep my concentration on what’s ahead for me. And no, I don’t want anything from you except commitment to us. But if you can’t give us that, then it’s time for us to part ways.”
“Baby, come on.” Bankole unbuckled his seatbelt and moved closer to her. He caught a hair strand that fell over her left eye. His finger ran down her cheek, leaving goosebumps on her neck and shoulder. Then he went on to give her an unruffled kiss.
“You’re so handsome and distracting, Banky.”
“I know right?”
She smiled. “You’re going to break my heart.”
“I won’t. Beatrice is a forgotten issue. You know what? Let’s go to one of those beach resorts this weekend. In short, from Thursday, we’ll stab work and just take the time out. Breakfast in bed, sex on the beach…”
“Until sand gets in on the action,” He laughed. She rested her forehead on his. “Banky, don’t do this to me.”
“Or you want to travel out? Paris maybe? I have someone who’ll work your visa quite easily.”
He planted a peck on her chest, just at the point where her shirt parted to reveal some cleavage. She tugged him up by his collar and gave him a kiss of gratitude.
“But you’ve forgotten that this weekend is that new club’s launch party.”
“Yeah…” Bankole hissed. “Can we skip?”
“Not when we’re styling half the celebs there.”
He frowned, pushing his lips to a snout. “Next weekend then?”
“Let’s go to work, abeg.”
They walked into the G&M building through different entrances as they always did, even though it was no more news that they were dating. Bankole spent the most part of the morning and afternoon editing pictures with his assistant in his studio. He stopped for air only during lunch and went back until the clock struck five and Ruky poked her head in.
“Go home without me, baby,” he said in distraction. “I’ll be here till eight.”
“Fufu ati egusi?” she asked.
“Yeah. Plenty of smoked fish please.”
She blew a kiss and left. Bankole turned to his assistant. “You too, go home.”
He faced his computer monitor and continued his work. Two hours went by that saw him having sore shoulders and tired eyes. He took a short five minute break where he stretched out, had a drink of water and went online to see if there was any latest gossip on Seriki and Beatrice. He found nothing, much to his relief. Of late, bloggers had become obsessed with the duo, even singling Beatrice out as an upcoming fashionista because of her impeccable fashion choices. He was somewhat proud of her, knowing she always had it in her to be fashionable. The only objection to her new image apart from Seriki always acting like her handbag was that her makeup was excessive. She was gorgeous. She didn’t need that much cosmetic to enhance her looks.
Bankole’s phone buzzed. He looked at it. Mr. Duro was calling.
“Yes, sir,” he answered promptly.
“See me in my office straightaway.”
Bankole put his phone aside and left his studio. Mr Duro was probably calling him about the upcoming photo shoot of him and his wife who were featuring as G&M’s power couple of the coming month.
When he arrived at the man’s office, he met him busy on his laptop. Not wanting to disturb, Bankole pulled a chair and prepared to settle into it but Mr. Duro stopped him with a lifted hand. He remained on his feet.
“The power couple of the month photo shoot, schedule it for next Friday.”
“But it isn’t until the upper week, sir.”
“That’s why I said schedule it for Friday.”
“You may leave.”
Bankole stepped out of the office, uneasy about Mr. Duro’s plan to reschedule the photo shoot. He felt something was off and it had to do with Angela. All of a sudden, she had stopped bugging him. Had she told her husband about them?
“Guy, how far?”
Bankole turned, and down the corridor he saw Guru.
“You never go house?”
Guru yawned. “I just dey close.”
“Abeg, wait for me.”
Bankole hastened up to his office and back. He tagged with Guru in his ride and what was supposed to be a trip to their neighborhood ended up being a visit to a bar on the island.
“I think I still love my ex,” Bankole confessed after a bottle.
“Beatrice? The one with Seriki?”
“You know they’re our August power couple, after Mr. Duro and his wife.”
Bankole took the first taste from his second bottle.
“And you’re doing the photo shoot.”
He had another taste, a noisier one. He was trying to shut out Guru’s voice.
“I screwed up,” he admitted.
“It’s as simple as going to her and telling her that.”
“She’s moved on.”
“How sure are you?”
“Have you seen her with Seriki? The way she looks into his eyes?”
“She looked happier with you, Banky. And she wears too much makeup these days. Why doesn’t anyone tell her that?”
Bankole took a long drink while Guru began lamenting about Madu.
“I wish Khalid was here,” Bankole interrupted. “He always has some advice that fixes things, you know?”
“You think he really killed his wife and sidechick?”
“I don’t know, man. People amaze me every day. I amaze myself every day.”
“Yeah, you do.”
Guru cracked. “I still have more surprises.”
“You better not be truly gay.”
For some reason Banky’s words had them both in fits. Maybe it was the beer or the stillness of the quiet bar that helped take the edge off for that short moment. But they soon fell back to their former state.
“Urenna says I’m cold. She feels I don’t have a heart.”
“What brought up the talk?”
“I kissed her and told her I still have feelings. She used to be my ex.”
“But I think she’s scared of leaving her boyfriend for me because I’m a virgin and she thinks…”
“Wait… Rewind, abeg.” Bankole looked at him. “You’re joking.”
“Never done it.”
Bankole grasped that he didn’t want to expose what his reasons were.
“I envy you.”
He shrugged. “The sheer pleasure of that first entry…I can’t describe it.”
“So I’ve heard but I’m not in a hurry and Urenna she might want sex if we start dating again also she’s scared that I’ll suck but she doesn’t know that I don’t even want it. I just want someone. An exclusive friend that I don’t have to make out with but I don’t have to share with any other guy. Someone who doesn’t want full commitment from me, like bugging me about long work hours or about not replying text and picking calls and all that shit.”
“Then get a teddy. Or one of those sex dolls.”
Guru smiled. “I’m HIV positive.”
The moment froze for Bankole as he angled his head at Guru. The boy was still smiling but his eyes told that he was serious.
“Don’t ask…don’t tell. Just keep this between us.”
And Bankole thought his life was complicated. He looked at his beer and lost his taste for it.
“For how long?” he croaked.
“Long enough for me to build this subzero, separated person that everyone knows.”
“Wow. But subzero or not you’re brilliant, dude. That’s all that matters, you are freaking Guru. You know what that means?”
“Seriously, I don’t. None of that shit affects me.”
He got off his barstool and headed towards the men’s restroom. Bankole tried to resume his love affair with his beer but found it tasteless. The day was ending bad for him and not even the numbness that alcohol often offered could help. He was going home to a girlfriend he had no feelings for, to eat a meal that wouldn’t taste so good, to expend energy having sex that was going to leave him empty and finally lie on a bed missing the woman he truly loved.
She bit her lip hard as he pumped into her. Her nails dug into his back as if holding on to life; she was having her third orgasm and it was coming in squirts. Wasn’t the sheet beneath them soaked with her juices already? Did she have to soak it some more and cringe the next morning when the maid walked in to change it?
Damn him for being so good between her legs. Darn good, too good, annoyingly good. And she was tired of it. Who knew pleasure could wear a human being out? Sharon told her she had no right to complain. But it wasn’t that she was complaining about the pleasure. It was that she was tired of its frequency and Seriki’s insatiable libido. He wanted it all the time. In every freaking place! He could buy her expensive things and treat her like royalty but the fact was she felt stripped of her freedom whenever he was randy. How many times had he asked his chauffer to excuse them while he had her in the back of his car, in the weirdest of places? Two nights ago, it was somewhere in the middle of Third Mainland Bridge. And the other day, it was just outside his mother’s mansion. Somehow he had found it amusing to have the scent of sex on him as he walked into the old woman’s house.
Beatrice was fed up. Nowadays he begged to go without condoms, pleading to have her carry his baby. The Seriki everyone knew was a boss, a man of sway and opulence but in her hands, he was a sniveling little baby whenever his needs were not met. It was something of a miracle that she wasn’t taking advantage of him, although everyone believed that she had him wrapped around her fingers. She was increasingly disgusted at him. She had gone into the relationship wanting a man but all she got was a spoilt child who often turned to a monster whenever she failed to give him what he wanted. And so she endured the domina-slave role she found herself in and basked in the lifestyle that came with it. She had a house on the island, a car of her own and a jewelry shop that was to be opened soon. What more could a girl ask for?
“Shit. The condom broke,” Seriki said, pulling out of her the moment after his own release. Beatrice went into panic mode as she pushed him off to stare down her thighs.
“Riki! Why? You didn’t even use a condom in the first place!”
He grinned guiltily. “I thought you knew.”
She almost slapped herself for not recognizing the dissimilarity. Damn him and his expensive designer condoms that felt like the real thing.
“I’m sorry, cookie but just have my baby nau.”
“No!” She slapped away his hand that was reaching for her and dashed into the bathroom. She turned on the shower. It was cold but she didn’t bother. She stood beneath it, not caring for her two hundred thousand naira weave that felt the assault of the first spurt of water and subsequent downpour. The shower washed away Seriki’s seed and the tears that spilled from her eyes.
“Cookie?” She heard him knock. “I’m sorry, iyawo mi.”
She hated that he called her that. It used to be cute in those first days when she was still obsessing over Bankole. Now, she just wanted to stuff a sock down Seriki’s throat anytime he said the name.
“I didn’t mean to. I’m really sorry. Let me make it up to you, a trip to Zanzibar maybe?”
She sobbed louder.
“Barbados? Cayman Islands? Venice?”
Life was full of irony. Yesterday she would have given her soul to have a man offer her all that Seriki was offering. Today, she would give up every luxury for the simple life, for love, for the thing she used to share with Bankole. He would never gloss over his screw-ups by offering gifts. He would sit and talk; hold her hands and look into her eyes so she can see how sorry he is. And then he would kiss her and lay her on his thighs while he messed up her weave or played with her fingers until she slept off.
“Or you don’t like your car? It’s too masculine? You want a new one?”
“No, Riki! Go away!”
“I’m sorry, okay?”
“I heard. Go!”
She felt bad for treating him coldly but this wasn’t one of those good days. She would wash up and drive home to snuggle in beside Sharon who would no doubt scold her for her foolishness. But it was better than one more minute with Seriki, even though she knew her actions would incur his immeasurable generosity which she was tired of.
“I miss you Banky mi,” she said to the cold bathroom wall her forehead was rested on.