How do you break up with someone without being a monster?
Ace’s text to Dugo went unanswered.
Can I just ghost her instead?
Still, no reply from Dugo’s end. Ace crushed the empty beer can in his hand and picked another from the fridge. It was too early to be drinking anything alcoholic, but he needed to remain in one piece when he shattered Joana’s heart.
She entered the house, springy, and with all the wow of her beauty. She was wearing the same dress she had worn on the day they she dumped him, as if it was a sign that the heavens were okay with what he was about to do.
“Just coming from church.” She dropped a kiss on his cheek and wiped the spot. “Not straight from there exactly. Stopped at the market to buy things for turkey stew.”
Ace took the shopping bag she had come with off her hands. He wondered if it was a good time to drop the bomb.
“Can you help me unzip this dress?” Joana gave him her back. “I’ve added some weight and the thing is so tight, I can hardly breathe.”
He ran the zipper of her dress down. The dress dropped to the floor and she leaned backwards, releasing her weight on his body.
“I’ve missed you,” she said. “These past two days have been hell at work.”
Ace’s body responded to hers. It used to be so easy to resist the magnetism, but lately, he had been vulnerable. He couldn’t keep up with his feelings for her anymore. His heart seemed to be getting ahead of him. He wanted to covet her totally these days, have her all to himself. The mention of Sebastian’s name on her lips or the thought of her leaving his place to see the man always made him angry. He had been glad that she had postponed the wedding, but annoyed that she hadn’t called it off completely.
Dugo once predicted this would happen. And her recent analysis of his situation, although annoying, was accurate. He was loving Joana again as he had loved her before. Wholeheartedly and foolishly, rationalizing the excuse of being with her just to hurt her for what she had done to him. He found that strategy falling apart, losing its power at each moment he spent with her.
“We need to talk,” he said to her, trying to pull away.
She turned around. “The talk can wait.”
On their own, his hands pushed through the strings of her G-string to mold the fleshy cheeks of her bum. He felt powerless as she elevated her body off the floor and wrapped her legs around his waist.
They found themselves in the living room, on the couch that always gave them occasion for their sexual trysts. Ace became lost in her eyes for a moment, searching for something that would give him justification for dumping her, but all he saw was soaring desire. He impressed a voracious kiss on her willing mouth and stopped. He had an addiction for kissing her.
She smiled at him in the manner she used to do back in the time when money wasn’t a thing between them, when she was content with him the way he was.
“You’re so handsome…and so harrrrd.” She giggled naughtily as his hardness became even fuller under her strokes. Ace spaced out her knees and settled himself within the warmth of her thighs.
Slowly, he went into her, as if it was her first time and he was scared to hurt her. Joana gave an unbroken moan as he filled her, bringing up her knees to accommodate him. Ace sighed in absolute gratification and buried his face in her neck, inhaling her perfume and leaving soft, wet kisses there.
He went in deeper into her with each push. He felt the sharp but sweet scratches her fingernails left on his back as she greedily drew him closer, deeper into her. He kept kissing her. Her ears, her neck, her throat, her face, and as his thrusts hastened, her mouth. She tasted sweeter as she got wetter.
Several minutes passed and she pulled his face from her jutting breast and told him she loved him. Something about the way she said it made him lose his rhythm and control.
His splayed hands went beneath her hips to grab her bum. It was hard to concentrate when she ground against him the way she did. Her incoherent mumbles alone were enough to push him over the edge. But he held on just a little longer. His breath became choppier. His grunts louder. Her pussy wetter and tighter. His movements beastlier.
With his next deep thrust and with her body arching into his fiercely, he lost control and let go, releasing himself within her.
He couldn’t breathe for a moment. His head was resting between her breasts. She was panting as well.
“That was intense.” She licked her lips. He knew she’d want a drink of water next. He got up.
“I’m sorry. You didn’t cum.”
“We have the whole day.”
He lifted his body off of her. Regret hit him as if it had been waiting for him to be done so that it could say, ‘You’re an asshole. You fucked her first and now you’ll dump her? You want to have your cake and eat it.’
Joana picked up that something was off.
“What’s wrong? What do we have to talk about?”
He picked his shorts off the floor.
“Idowu?” Joana called.
“Just give me a minute.”
He hurried into his bathroom. He washed his face and drew courage from his reflection in the mirror. When he came out to his bedroom, Joana was there, lying on the bed.
“I need to say something,” Ace muttered. “Or rather, do something.”
“Okay.” Joana gathered a pillow underneath her chest and looked up at him, oblivious of what was coming.
“We have to stop seeing each other,” he said. “What we just did and what we’ve been doing, all of it has to end.”
“We have to stop seeing each other, Jo.”
“You’re breaking up with me?” The words were said slowly.
“You don’t break up if you’re not dating in the first place.”
“Idowu, what are you saying? You’re ending us?”
She sat up, her face clouding up in dread. “Did I do something wrong? Or say something to hurt you?”
“The money I give you is not enough?”
“It’s more than enough, Jo.”
“Then why are you saying this?”
He looked at her. Her makeup was all gone, showing off the natural glow of her skin and that bare, puffy look of kiss-plagued lips. He was letting go of all of that?
“I’m tired of being a sidecock, Jo,” he explained in weariness. “And I can’t imagine myself doing it for the long haul. Apart from that, I love my life. I don’t want somebody after me tomorrow because of his wife.”
She was standing before him in a flash. “But I told you not to worry about that nau. Sebastian is hardly in the country. He’s always traveling.”
“I don’t want him in your life, Caramel! I just don’t!”
“Don’t do this nau. Not now.”
“What happened to you, really? When did money become your goal in life that you’re willing to be the wife of a man who will not always be there for you and his penis cannot satisfy you?!”
“You’re making it sound like I’m this greedy person…”
She touched his face and put her hands down, exasperation in her voice. “I’m not, boo. It’s just that I don’t want my kids to ever suffer. I don’t want to see brokeness in my life again. The thought of not having enough gives me nightmares. I just can’t imagine living without luxury. I can’t.”
“Well, me I can’t imagine a life that cannot let me be with the woman I love in public, that I have to hide in the shadows because she belongs to another man. I can’t imagine having a child with her under such circumstances. It can’t work for me at all. So, I’m done with this.”
“Stop this nau, Ace!” Her eyes gleamed with tears. “Please, don’t do this, baby. Don’t kill me. Tell me you’re joking.”
“Let’s not get dramatic over this, please.”
She rubbed her eyes with the heel of her palm, sniffled and began to sob.
“Why don’t you just leave him and come back to me?”
“I can’t. He’s invested in me. He bought a house in my name already. He has put me as a board member in his group of companies. Last week, my uncle took a loan of twenty million from him to start a business. This is asides the car he bought for Momsi and the school fees he paid for my sis. You don’t even want to know how much he puts into my account each week. Ace, I’m trapped. He has planted his life in mine and I don’t know how to get out.”
“You barely even know this man, Joana. Why did you allow all of this to happen?”
“I don’t know,” she cried, lowering to the dressing stool. “I don’t know.”
She wept like someone who had just lost a dear one. Ace longed to soothe her, but he held himself back.
“Please, don’t do this to me, Idowu. You know I love you insanely.” She fell to her knees. “I’m sorry for what I did to you. I wish I could take it back. I wish I could just get up and leave Sebastian’s life right now, but you know I can’t. I’m very, very, very sorry. Please, don’t leave me.”
Ace tried to pick her up from the floor, but she wouldn’t let him. “Get up.”
“No. Until you tell me we’re not breaking up.”
“Joana, I’m not taking any form of emotional blackmail from you. Get the fuck up.”
He grasped her arms and pulled her up.
“You don’t love me anymore?” she inquired, voice like a squeaky mouse.
He shook his head because he couldn’t rely on his voice to lie to her.
“I’m seeing someone else.”
Her lips quivered.
“The last time you were here, you saw lipstick…”
Joana dropped her eyes to the dressing table. The lisptick was still there, along with a hairpin. “No.”
“Yes. It’s not Dugo’s. There’s another girl. She doesn’t have a man out there, controlling her life with money. She has me and she worships me.”
There was more to tell that that would shatter her further. The words stayed in his throat when he saw her brokenness, however. He held her a couple of seconds longer, as though he was going to pull her closer and cloak her in with a hug, but freed her arms and moved away.
“Go home, Joana. I’ll bring the car and the keys to the shop to yours …”
He had barely finished when she abandoned herself to her tears again, falling to the floor. Ace felt every heave that came from her chest, every moan and hiccup. It was like running out of air and light, groping for oxygen in the darkness.
He left the room to the kitchen. He picked her dress off the floor. Her shoes too. He didn’t return to the bedroom immediately. He stood outside the door and listened to her until she went silent.
He walked in. Her head was resting on the dressing stool, cushioned by her arms. She looked lost.
He dropped her stuff on the bed.
“I don’t want them,” she said brokenly as he began to leave. “The car and the shop, they’re yours. I don’t want them back.”
He was going to return them to her still. His pride was at stake. He wished he could return every kobo she had given him. He would, someday.
“I love you, no matter what,” she added. He ignored the words and went to the living room.
She tried to mask a smile when he turned up at the door and let her in. But he caught it. Her eyes held a certain sparkle. Lips that were pressed together too tightly arched upward at the edges. The glow on her face was undeniably fresh.
“How good was he?”
“What?” She muted a giggle as she shuffled into her room. Ace tailed her.
“How good was the schwanz?”
Dugo dumped her handbag on the bed. Her body followed it. She pushed a pair of pillows to the headboard and rested her back on them.
“Deliciously curved,” she responded.
“I didn’t ask for how it looked. I was talking about the way it felt.”
“It was okay.”
“Okay? Just okay?”
“Okay is good. Very good. Because that is real. That’s not some guy on some drug, poking me at a difficult angle.”
“Hmmm… His head game nko?”
“Oh, we’re not doing that yet.”
“Same reason you’re not doing that to Titi.”
“The fear of STDs.”
“Ya. We’ll go for tests on Monday and then I can eat his ass after that if he wants.”
Ace showed disgust on his face. Dugo laughed.
“You’re a freak,” he said.
“But seriously, is he the best you’ve had away from the camera?”
“He is.” Dugo’s hidden smile was swaying on her lips again.
“I’m not surprised. He’s a Tiv man.”
“I told him everything about me.” Dugo began unbuttoning her shirt.
“Everything? Like, everything from the scratch?”
“How did he take it? What did he say?”
“Nothing, at first. I told him and went outside because I was feeling so sad and I didn’t want to cry in front of him. He came outside and said he was sorry. That was when I told him I used to do porn back in Germany.”
“It was emotional. I was crying and he just held me. When we entered inside, he went down on his knees and asked me to forgive him for all he and his mother did to me.”
“He then asked questions about my porn life. Am I still doing it? Was I paid well? Did I enjoy it? Did I have safe sex? What awards did I win?”
“Did you tell him?”
“About the awards?” Dugo took off her shirt. “No. He just wants to go and find my videos online.”
“And you don’t want him to?”
“Ace, you ask too many questions!” Dugo complained. “Leave me jor.”
“Because he will get jealous of the guys he sees me with on camera. I don’t want that. My past is my past.”
“But you know he’ll find those videos one day.”
“I hope not. I’ll never show him.”
“He’ll find them.”
“He also asked me if I did surgery on my vagina because he said I was tight.”
Ace swallowed, eyebrows tweaking up in attention. “You’re tight?” Dugo flung a pillow at him, laughing.
“You’re a ho.”
“But you seriously tightened it?”
Dugo got off the bed. “Ya. After my first amateur, I took the money I made and borrowed some from a friend and did the surgery. Those men at the bordell when I was a teenager, they were rough. I got some injuries. One labia was longer than the other. It was ugly. I had to repair it, and I said to the surgeon ‘tighter’.”
“And tighter is good, no?” Ace said in her accent.
She sniggered. “Tighter is good, ya.”
“Come, let me make you lunch.”
In the kitchen, Ace diced vegetables while Dugo gorged on a bowl of grapes, telling him about her reservations over Luper’s rape story.
“I don’t think he raped Tabi’s mom.”
“Tabi. That’s the daughter’s name?”
“Yes. Tabitha. I don’t think he raped her mom.”
There was a crease between Ace’s brows. “Why would you think that?”
“He said they were making out and then it happened and he went to sleep.”
“He cannot remember raping her,” Dugo said defensively.
“He was high.”
“But he can remember every other thing.”
“What if his brain blanked it out because he’s ashamed of what he did?”
“His brother and cousin were in that room with them. His other cousin liked his girlfriend’s friend, so they went out for a stroll. It was just four of them left. They were all high. Then he started making out with his girlfriend. She didn’t like it because the other guys were there. She was asking him to stop, but he didn’t. He wanted to give them a show.”
“And then what happened?”
“His brother said they needed to give them privacy and they left. Luper got up to lock the door and went back to her and started taking off her clothes. She said she wanted to pee. That was all he remembered. Can you imagine? Next thing, somebody is breaking the door in and accusing him of rape.”
Ace stopped his activity for a bit, face in thought. “He really can’t remember doing it?”
“Still doesn’t mean he didn’t do it.”
Dugo’s voice was firm. She believed in Luper. She knew he wasn’t a rapist.
“You do realize that you’re helplessly in love with this guy, right? You’re defending him with all your heart.”
Dugo wasn’t going to lie to herself anymore about what she felt for Luper. It scared her how much she knew him by just looking into his eyes. She recalled the kiss he gave her when he promised that he was going to try his best to undo the consequences of his actions against her. She didn’t know if it was the briny air that had slapped against her face at the beach or the tears that dried on her face that made that kiss salty when put his lips between hers. When he told her that he was sorry for all the pain she had suffered. She had not closed her eyes as he kissed her. She looked into his and knew that he was being honest. Same way she had known that he didn’t rape Idenyi.
Her late ex had told her about the power of emotions, especially the one they called love. He had put it that way exactly, because love had been a struggle for him. He had loved Dugo from afar, although they had been seconds apart on most days. He had hated what she did with her body, and yet loved her for it, wanting to have her to himself. Knowing still, that she was not his to have.
And Dugo had been oblivious of all of this. How stupid she had felt when he told her on his dying bed. The signs had been there. Who in their right senses met someone in a cinema just once and invited them to their house for a cup of hot chocolate simply because they saw them crying? How about the nights he stayed up late because she was on some long shoot, just to ask if she was okay the moment she returned home? Or the way he stammered and dropped his eyes when he sometimes wanted to talk to her.
The man had borne the anguish of hidden emotions, and it had hurt Dugo to find out. She had promised not to do that to herself with Luper. Not like she had much of a choice. For fifteen years she had held a grudge. This meant she was preoccupied about him enough to bear all that emotion and plan her future with him in it. The only way out was to turn her pain to something pleasurable. Giving the house to him was the singular act she needed to help her accept the truth about what she felt. It had been difficult. Not the way Ace saw it. She had struggled with the decision. Because she loved Luper. Certainly not the type of love that started from the blue. It was there from the first day, even though she hadn’t recognized it.
But now she knew, she was certain about their future together. The only problem remained Madam America. Luper wanted Dugo to forgive all that the woman had done. Dugo didn’t see herself doing that.
“And what about his mother?” Ace asked, as if reading her mind.
“I can’t let her go like that.”
“I’ll be mad at you if you did. What’s the plan?”
“An apology to the girls. Face to face. More of them are coming in next week. I want her to say she’s sorry and then give all of them fifty-and-two-hundred thousand each.”
“Sounds fair. It can’t undo the past, but it’s okay.”
“Luper said he’ll talk to her about it.”
“This means he’ll tell her about you.”
“I’m having dinner with the family next Sunday.”
Walking halfway to the gas cooker, Ace stopped. He looked at Dugo with a fascinated smile. “You are something else.”
He tilted the chopping board he was carrying over a pot on fire, and an array of colorful vegetables slid into it. He poured in a small amount of coconut oil.
“Are you sure you can handle seeing her after all these years?”
Ace snatched the bowl of grapes off Dugo’s hand and passed her two large packs of noodles. “Open them.”
As she got busy, he opened a can of tuna and emptied the fish in it into a dish.
“That woman sounds like a shark, Deedee. Don’t bleed in front of her.”
“You have to keep your cool, no matter what happens. You cannot go there and fall apart.”
“So what happens to your job now that Luper knows that you’re not a child psychologist? You told him, right?”
“I did. He said I’m good at it, that I should take an online course on it and he will pay. He doesn’t want to let me go.”
“Awww, you two are a pair of criminals in love. The rapist and the fraudster.”
Dugo pouted. “Not funny.”
“Not from where I’m standing.”
“How are our wives?”
“I broke up with Jo.”
Dugo observed Ace’s face. “No way.”
“I just couldn’t do it anymore. It was becoming too intense for me.”
“How did she take it? Did she cry?”
“Why are you awwwing for her or for me? I’m the bleeding one here.”
Dugo jumped off the kitchen table and dashed to him. She put her arms around him from behind. “I’m here for you, boo. Do you miss her?”
“Madly. She’s been calling…”
“Ndo. You’ll be fine.”
“Oya, free me, let me cook.”
Dugo let go. “And Titi?”
“She stays. I can’t lose out on both ends nau. Who’ll comfort me with heartbreak sex this night?”
Dugo shook her head. “Men are cheap hoes.”
“But you’re good?” Dugo was concerned.
“I’m straight, baby.”
Driving home from the hotel, Luper was attacked by that familiar sense of detachment. That irksome feeling of being a stranger in his own home. It was in contrast to all the affection he had received from Dugo for two nights. Ironic, because he was surrounded by family. But it was something he was used to. From the moment he left the shores of Nigeria to school, everyone had been on their own. Terwe and Nenge spent a lot of time with each other. Nenge lived in Canada with her husband and son. Terwe stayed in the US. His wife was a Latino. A professor in some school there. They had two kids. Both families holidayed together quite often. Luper had tried it with them when he was married to Shipinen. They didn’t like her. It never worked out.
A dog breeder was waiting for him when he got out of the car. He had phoned the man to come over. He wanted to get a puppy for Dugo. She once mentioned that she loved dogs. He wanted one for himself too. Irobosa was with the dog breeder when he approached them in the backyard. He seemed to know a lot about canines. He advised Luper to get a beagle for Dugo and a bulldog for himself. The dog breeder approved, although he stated that he didn’t have a beagle at that time. Luper would have to give him a day or two.
A transfer was made to the man’s account and he left the house. Luper’s timetable was free for three hours. Later on, he was to have drinks with friends.
The voice sounded like Nenge’s. Or maybe Udazi’s. It was hard to tell the difference. He went into the house via the backdoor. Udazi was tossing some green stuff into a blender in the kitchen.
“I’m not the one calling you,” she said. Luper walked into the living room. Nenge’s son was held in his father’s arms, bleeding from a gash in his head. The boy was screaming. Nenge was pressing a towel over the wound.
Luper didn’t need an answer before he saw the mess on the floor. The boy had tried to climb the shelf where Luper kept an expensive collection of Chinese figurines. The result was the destruction of some of the figurines and the injury in his head.
“Again?” It was the second time this was happening in a few days. Luper was pissed, but he said nothing.
“Lu, can you take us to the nearest hospital?” Nenge requested. There was no apology for what her son had done. “And I think we’ll have to put some of these things away because of the kids. They can get hurt,” she added. “Your house is not safe for them at all.”
Luper took them to a nearby clinic where the boy was attended to. Nenge kept complaining about the service and the way the nurses were unprofessional.
“If it were in Canada…”
Luper was tired of hearing that phrase. She couldn’t go an hour without reminding everyone how wonderful her life abroad was.
“I seriously don’t know what you’re doing here, Lu,” she told him when they got home. Her son was asleep. His father had put him to bed. Luper and Nenge were seated at the entrance of the house. “Come to Montreal. I can help you get a good job there. It would be nice to have you around.”
“And what happens to the schools here?”
“Shipinen might be a bitch, but she’s a good administrator and business woman. Daddy always said that.”
“I love it here, Nenge.”
“Luper, this country is messed up. Do you know how many Nigerians are moving to Canada monthly? The number is staggering.”
“Try and think about it. Do it for Tabitha. She deserves better.”
Terwe’s kids, a boy and a girl, were chasing each other in the compound. They reminded Luper of himself and Nenge as kids. They had been close, so close that Terwe didn’t seem to exist in their world.
“I’ll be happy to have you with me, though,” she said. “It can get so lonely.”
“But you have a husband and a son and a good job.”
“I know. I’ve missed you. That’s all I’m saying.”
“What happened to us?” Luper asked.
“Me and you. Where did we lose it?”
“Our closeness. Was it after the rape thing?”
He observed her fingers grip her knees.
“Please, be honest. You never said anything about what happened.”
“That was because I wasn’t there. I went to church that night. Remember?”
“But you came back the next morning and met Denyi. She slept in your room. I know she told you everything and it was you who reported to Mom and Dad when they came back. You were mad at me and things haven’t been the same. Are you still mad at me?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Do I need to apologize for disappointing you as an elder brother?”
“I said I don’t want to talk.”
“I just want to know where we lost it.”
Her chubby face had gone rigid. She got up from the stairs. “I need to eat something. I’m hungry.”
Luper stood up as well. He swore never to bring up the conversation again. With his family, his life was like walking in a field of landmines. He was always apologetic for what he had done, although not verbally. That judgmental look was there in their eyes. And now, there was Tabitha to deal with. It was all tiring.
He stepped into the house. Udazi was the next person to have a word with.
“You are marrying this girl?”
“Nobody said anything about marriage, Mom.”
“But you are dating her?”
Luper was irritated. Udazi was a tumor in his heart. He had just told her about Dugo as calmly as he could, constraining his emotions, even though he wanted to unleash his rage on her. He reminded her of how she had taken Dugo for an abortion and deceived her family to send her to Europe, fleecing them in the process. He shared Dugo’s story but kept the porn part away. He didn’t feel it was necessary. He was expecting some remorse from Udazi, or at least an acceptance of the wrong she had done. The woman, however, showed no penitence. He didn’t know why he expected any better from her.
“You can’t be dating her, Lu. Imagine the number of men she’s slept with. Her body count must be off the roof.”
“How dare you?” Luper kept his tone low. Showing his anger would give her power. She fed off that kind of thing. Besides, they were in the kitchen. He didn’t want anyone listening in on them.
“Being mad at me won’t change the fact that she is a harlot.”
“You’re to blame. You sold her as a sex slave. Don’t you even have an ounce of remorse? Don’t you feel guilty? What type of mother are you?”
“The one that birthed you and raised you and gave you the best of everything. I separated Charity from you because she wasn’t good for you. The girl couldn’t speak one straight sentence in English and she stank. How did you even sleep with her?”
Luper was dumbfounded. “What type of person are you?” His voice came out in a whisper.
“Stop asking me such stupid questions. I have told you before that I am sorry. I am changed. My life is straight now. Can’t you see the type of man I want to marry? I wouldn’t have thought of going near his type years ago, but look at me today. I really hate that you keep bringing back my past sins to judge me. I did bad, but so did you. The evidence of your wickedness is upstairs in her room, so stop judging me like I’m the worst person on earth. And if you have nothing better to tell me, please leave me to drink my smoothie!”
Luper didn’t leave. He stood there, right in front of her, his eyes refusing to leave hers. She held his glare as she sipped from her glass of green smoothie.
“Are you going to keep standing there and staring at me?”
He made for the door, opened it, but had a change of mind. He returned to her. “You’re going to apologize to Adaugo and all the other girls you sold as sex slaves. You’ll apologize in person. You will then compensate them financially…”
Udazi had begun to laugh.
“If you don’t, I will personally leak out those past sins you claim you have repented from. Every one of them. I have enough evidence to nail you.”
Her laughter died.
“And I’m sure there would be willing witnesses to corroborate your crimes.”
“Are you threatening me?”
“No, Mom. I’m only giving you an option.” He towered over her, eyes knifing her. “An option to do right by the people whose lives you tried to destroy. If you don’t, you’ll regret ever giving birth to me. I’m done cossetting you.”
“So she’s twisted your mind against me already? How long have you even known this person? You didn’t even go to church today because you were with her, fornicating.”
“Don’t talk about her like that.”
“How are you sure she’s not back in your life to get revenge for all that we did to her?”
“Yes, we. You and me. If you hadn’t gotten her pregnant, I wouldn’t have known someone like her existed. It’s all your fault.”
“You’re incredible, Mom.”
“If I were you, I wouldn’t trust her. But I am not you and you are not me…” Udazi’s expression showed exasperation. “Your choice of women has always been off.”
Udazi’s face became stonier. “You and that girl will not ruin what I have with Keziah. If you try it, I will make you wonder if this womb ever bore you.”
“I’ve always wondered that, Mother. Always wondered.”
“What are you two talking about?”
Nenge was at the door. They both looked at her.
“It’s nothing,” Luper replied.
“Nothing? I could hear you from the parlor. Mommy, what’s going on?”
“Should I tell her?” Udazi asked. She put her glass of smoothie away. “Your brother here has gotten involved with a girl that plans to ruin my name. A girl I helped get a better life outside the shores of Nigeria.”
“Tell her, Luper.”
“Are you serious right now?!” he threw at Udazi, refusing to rein in his anger anymore.
“What’s happening?” Terwe appeared at the door as well.
“Some years ago, I helped this unfortunate girl leave the country to Europe. You people know that it was what I did, right? I helped the poor, gave them opportunities to live better lives abroad.”
Nenge and Terwe nodded like zombies. Luper was confused at their reaction. They couldn’t possibly believe her.
“There was a woman in Italy who told me she could give the girls I sent to her jobs and permanent residency. I had no idea she was selling them as sex slaves. I didn’t even know it was a thing then. I only found out about what the woman was doing a few years ago. Thank God she’s in prison now. She wrecked a lot of lives.”
Luper’s jaw dropped.
“Anyway, the girl we’re talking about was one of her victims. She ended up selling her body in Europe and tarnishing herself. Somehow, she found her way back to Nigeria after all these years and located your brother and has lured him into some kind of relationship. He believes he’s in love with her. In love with someone who sleeps with all sorts of men for money.”
“You better stop this,” Luper warned.
“Now, he’s here to tell me how I owe her an apology for destroying her life. Something I never did. I only wanted to help. I’m now the enemy. He’s even threatening to expose me to the world that I was involved in human trafficking.”
Nenge turned her eyes on Luper who was still shocked at how Udazi had warped the story.
“Why are you doing this, Mom?” he whispered. “Why are you lying?”
“Lying?” Udazi’s voice trembled. “Lu, I’m your mother. I love you. I’ve never lied to you, Son. What will I gain by lying to you? Has this girl so twisted your head like this? She’s turned you against me already?”
“Calm down, Mom.” Terwe hurried towards her.
“I only wanted to help.” A tear surged down her cheek. She began to sob. “God knows my intentions were pure. I had children too. I had you people. How could I have sold someone else’s child to be used as a sex slave? What type of mother would that make me? I can’t believe you’d see me as that type of person, Lu.”
“It’s okay, Mommy. Calm down,” Nenge pleaded. Luper couldn’t believe himself. “She’s upset. I think you should give her some breathing space. We can talk about this later.”
Luper had not heard Nenge. His glare was still fixed on Udazi. Terwe was holding her, rubbing her back as she sobbed.
“Just go, Luper.”
“So this is how you want this to play out, Mom? This is how you’re going to twist this story?”
“I’m not twisting anything!” Udazi bawled. “Why can’t you believe me? I only helped her!”
“Luper, what’s all this nau?!” Nenge yelled. Her husband and Terwe’s wife were peeping in from the living room. “Go away before they start asking questions,” she said in Tiv.
“Just go,” Terwe pleaded.
Luper wanted to tell them to go fuck themselves. But he didn’t. “You shouldn’t have, Mom,” he said to her in Tiv. “You’ll be sorry for this.”
He marched to the door and was out of the kitchen in a fury. He left the house entirely, walked out of the gate. He couldn’t stand to be around them any minute longer. He opted for a walk to calm his nerves. It was better than finding solace in a bottle.
Luper cussed as he heard the screech of tires. He had sauntered into a street without looking. A car had just almost run him down. The driver poked his head out, swearing at him. Luper ignored him and strolled on until he came out to another intersection. He stopped at the pedestrian walk like he was lost. A policewoman was commanding the traffic. He stood, eyes about him, but not really taking anything in. The streets were colorful, as usual. Trees in every corner, flamboyant houses and buildings competing with each other in architecture. He loved taking walks here on days like this. There were hardly any cars around on Sundays.
The policewoman recognized him and waved. He waved back. He took his phone out of his pocket and got across to Dugo.
Her voice made him smile. There was affection in her greeting.
“Hi, sweetheart. What’s up?”
“I’m good. Trying to sort out my laundry.”
“Okay. Um… Those documents you said you got from Italy. You still have them, right?”
“Ya. You want to see them?”
“Yes. Can I come over?”
“Do you have to ask?”
“I’ll be right there.”
He flagged down a cab reeling towards him. He sat in and gave the driver Dugo’s address. As the car went into motion, Luper fought off the niggling voice telling him that he was doing the wrong thing.
You don’t expose family. Love covers a multitude of sins. She’s your mother. What if she’s right? What if Dugo is doing this to destroy your family?
He kept wrestling off the voice. He would do what he had to do. He was never known to make hollow promises. Udazi would pay for her sins.