“I can’t let you do this.”
There was a couch between them. A table too. And that pesky little beagle that couldn’t decide what to bark at.
“Ace?” Dugo spoke in apprehension. Ace had her laptop with him. She had just gone to use the toilet. This wasn’t what she expected to see as she returned to the living room. “Put the laptop down.”
“You can’t do this.”
“Dugo… The moment you press that button and send that email, you can’t take it back. And you know what it’s going to do, right?”
“I know, Idowu.”
“It’ll affect the school and Luper.”
“I know that.”
“And you still want to get on with it?”
Annoyance took hold of Dugo. “What is this, Ace? Why are you doing this now?”
“Adaugo, Acadia International is twenty-one years old and it’s unquestionably one of the best schools in this country. Built on the blood and sweat of an honorable man. Too bad he’s not here today to see how much his son has accomplished with it. Do you think he’ll be happy wherever he is to know that the one person this son of his is in love with wants to tear everything down?”
Dugo couldn’t believe Ace’s words. She laughed to shake away the incredulity of the moment. “I want to tear everything down?”
“Okay, wrong choice of words, but you know what I mean.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t let you do it.”
To pull her thoughts together before she lost her cool on Ace, Dugo went into the kitchen for a glass of water. The puppy ran after her.
“What are we going to name you?” she said to the animal, and then downed the water in one swoop. She didn’t feel any better after the freezing drink. She went back to the living room. Ace was still there. The laptop was not in sight.
“Ace, where’s my laptop?” Dugo asked. Her tone held trouble.
“You cannot be doing this to me, Ace!” she screamed.
“I know, but if you would just calm down and listen to me for a second–”
“I planned this for years, Ace! For years! And now you want me to not do it because of some dead man who is turning in his grave?! I don’t give a fuck, Idowu!”
“Dar ist mir furzegal!”
“You have to give a fuck, Adaugo.”
“And so what if it affects the school?! What about me? Hmm? What about all the girls that Madam America screwed up?! All of us were raped! They beat us! They starved us! They treated us worse than animals! Some girls, they made them sleep with dogs and horses! I’m doing this for them! For all of us, Ace!”
Ace’s hands were clasped together, pleading.
“Give me my laptop right now or this friendship ends!”
“I don’t want to hear! Give me my laptop!”
“Listen, Adaugo! Please, sweetheart… Listen.”
“Unbelievable,” she muttered to herself.
“I know what you went through. You and all the girls. I know. And I know that it was hell…”
“You have no idea.”
“Okay, I agree. I have no idea. Nobody does. We can never understand the pain and horror, and the nightmares you still face. It’s unimaginable.” He began walking towards her. “But if there’s one thing I know is that you overcame all of that. You rose above the ashes. You survived. And what Madam America did to you no longer has a hold on you. You’re free, baby. You’re no more that girl whose freedom was taken away, who had no choice to live as she wanted. You’re here today, doing everything to make sure those other girls get a better life like you did. And that’s one of the things I love you for. You’re a star, Ada. A hero. A superhero. And superheroes always make sure nobody gets hurt…”
“Except the bad guy.”
“Except the bad guy. But if hurting the bad guy hurts others nko? Especially the one person the superhero loves to death?”
Ace was standing in front of Dugo now. She moved away from him to the other end of the living room. The puppy followed her.
“I know I should not have fallen for him again,” she murmured, arms folded across her chest, head down. “I shouldn’t have.”
“You had no choice, Deedee. You and Luper are meant to be. You never stopped loving him.”
She whirled around. “No, I was stupid! Blinded by love! I had a plan, Ace. I should have stayed focused!”
“And you did. Your plan is complete. You’re on the right path.”
“Then why are you trying to stop me?”
“I am not, baby girl. I’m only asking you to eliminate one part of it. Don’t let the school and Luper be casualties of Madam America’s crimes. Let her pay for what she did. Alone.”
Dugo slammed her back on the wall behind her and said something in Igbo that Ace couldn’t make out.
“How many ladies do we have and can we get to sit with her in a room, so that she can apologize and sign off cash to them?”
“Six in New Beginnings, eight in other places in Nigeria and at least another four in Italy.”
“Eighteen, give or take. Great.” Ace was walking towards her again. “We’ll do this, Dugo. We’ll do this for them.”
“And me? What happens to me? After all I planned all these years! What happens to that, Ace? Mm?” She tapped her chest. “This pain in my heart that will not go away when I think of her… This anger!”
“I’m so sorry, baby.”
Dugo’s tears broke free, choking her. “My mo… mother died because of this woman. My brother hates me because of her. I can’t sleep sometimes! I can’t breathe! The other day Luper touched me and I almost removed his eyes because for a second he was looking like the many men that raped me! Idowu, I became a porn actor because of this woman, because I thought that if I give my body to a man on my own terms and he treats it like shit, it’s not as bad as when he takes it by force and still treats me like shit! I am afraid that I will start wanting Luper to choke me and do the crazy things that I’m so used to men doing to me! I can never be normal, Ace.”
“I reject that for you in Jesus’ name.”
“Don’t call Jesus here because he doesn’t care.”
“He doesn’t. I was needing him and he left me.” Dugo’s tone went weak. “Everybody left me.” She looked at Ace. “Please, let me do what I want to do. That’s the only thing that can make me happy. Please…”
Ace took her hand, just as she was about slipping to the floor. “Come here.” He drew her into his arms where she abandoned herself to her tears. She cried for what seemed like forever. Whenever she thought she was over, the tears came again. Ace held her all through.
“I love you, sweetheart. Jesus loves you too,” he said repeatedly. “Luper loves you. Your past is gone. You’re a new person. A new woman with a new beginning. Let it all go.”
Nenge was alone in the living room when he got in. He surmised that everyone else had gone to bed. Tired, judgmental eyes looked up at him as he approached her.
“Hey,” he muttered. Their relationship was dangling off a tottering ledge. Terwe’s disappearance had gotten them there. One little push and they would fall out with each other entirely.
“You finally decided to show,” Nenge said. Her eyes still judged him.
“I’ve been away on a trip.”
“At this moment when Terwe needs all of us?”
“Nenge, please, not now.” He dropped his car key on the table. He took the space beside her. She surprised him by resting her head on his laps.
“Do you think he’s dead?” She sounded exhausted, hopeless.
“No. I think he’s fine.” Luper typed out a quick text to Dugo, informing her that he would be late.
“Today I was on Twitter. Three thousand retweets of my missing persons tweet. Nobody has any information. I hate this country.”
“Just have faith. He’ll be back.”
Luper stroke Nenge’s hair. It was full and thick, like Dugo’s. Longer, even. He loved hair. Dugo always had a hard time getting his hands off hers. He’d play with it, massaging the scalp. It brought him as much comfort as it did her.
“Mommy has been giving Catalina sleeping pills since he disappeared,” Nenge informed him. “I was against it at first. But now I think it’s the best. It keeps her from losing it. She’d have brought hell down on all of us. She’s already blaming Boko Haram.”
“She’ll be fine. We’ll all be fine.”
“Do you think it’s his former cult people that took him?”
“I don’t know, Nenge. Just stop worrying. And I think you need some of those sleeping pills too.”
“Yeah. I’ll ask Mommy for them before I go to bed.”
But she didn’t need to do that. She was soon asleep, lulled by Luper’s fingers on her scalp. He dialed her husband’s number. The man answered in a sleepy voice.
“Come down and get Nenge. She’s asleep on the couch here.”
He let her head down on a throw pillow and made his way upstairs to his bedroom to change his clothes. He went to Udazi’s door after that. He knocked.
“Who is it?” she responded.
“Give me a minute.”
He waited. A short while after, Irobosa emerged from the bedroom, slipping into a shirt. He nodded at Luper. Luper watched him as he walked away.
“Luper?” Udazi called. He entered the bedroom.
“Irobosa was just helping me massage my foot. It’s beginning to hurt again.”
Luper knew the young man was doing more than foot rubs. He didn’t care.
“Let’s talk,” he said.
Udazi pointed him over to her bed. He sat, facing her.
“If this has anything to do with your brother, it better be good news, Luper. I can’t lose him.”
“It’s not about Terwe. And by the way, I don’t appreciate you telling my girlfriend to talk to me. Stay away from Adaugo, please. You’ve caused her enough harm already.”
“Is that why you came here? To talk about her?”
“Yeah, actually. Her and the other ladies who were victims of your wickedness.”
Udazi showed a tired expression as she dragged her laptop towards her.
“You’re going to compensate them and apologize for what you did.”
“We’re on this again, Lu? How about the donations I made to your foundation?”
“They don’t count. You will face up to your crimes by telling every single one of those women that you are sorry. You’ll also give them each three hundred thousand…”
Udazi laughed, picking a glass of wine from her nightstand. “You had better be insane, child.”
“Nobody here is laughing with you, Mom. This is not a joke. Adaugo will smear your name, releasing proof of your transactions with the slavers. We have a heap of dirt on you that you know nothing about.”
“I didn’t do anything to those girls that their families didn’t want done to them. Their parents paid me money to take them to Europe. You think they didn’t know what they were going to do there? Including the precious mother of your darling? You think she didn’t know? God! You’re so naïve! More than half of the girls I helped, I didn’t go seeking them. In short, most of them came to me. Their mothers and fathers begged me to take them to Europe after they saw the type of houses the ones that had gone before were building back home. And I don’t know where you got this idea from that all the girls ended badly. The smart ones made their way through and earned big. So, don’t come to me with this your nonsense idea of fixing their rotten lives. I’m not apologizing to anybody! Instead, they should be thanking me. If I didn’t help them, would they have ever seen the shores of Europe?”
Luper wasn’t shocked at her words. She was Udazi, after all. “It’s like you didn’t hear anything I just said. You will do this, Mom, even if I have to drag you against your will. Do you want gist about your past all over the news? Do I have to tell you what you stand to lose? Your marriage, for one. Pastor Keziah will dump you without a second thought.”
Luper’s words hit home, but Udazi kept an unflustered demeanor.
“All your connections and rich friends. Those powerful women you work with will stay away from you. Everything would be gone in a blink. You will not be able to step foot in Benin ever again. Then let’s not forget what it would do to the school and this family. You think I hate you? Imagine Nenge and Catalina cutting you off from your grandkids. All of it can be avoided if you simply swallow your pointless pride, get on your knees and apologize to those women you hurt.”
“Fine. I’ll do it.” She had her chin up. “Just name the place and time. I’ll have my lawyer quickly draw up an NDA that we will all sign. As for the money, I can only do two hundred thousand per person.”
“Three hundred and nothing less. You’re lucky they’re not asking for half a million each.”
“And how much does your girlfriend want from this?”’
“Nothing. She doesn’t need your money.”
“Of course, sex business is lucrative. Especially in the European porn world. I hear that for exotic people like her, she can get paid up to eight thousand euros for just one movie.”
Luper became uncomfortable with the turn the conversation had just taken. Udazi smiled at him impishly, and then turned her laptop around to reveal Dugo in one of her movies, engaged in a moment of fellatio.
“She does it soooo well.” Udazi snorted. Luper stared elsewhere. “Look at all that skill, Lu. You’re enjoying o. No wonder your brain is not in the right place. You’re thinking with your phallus, boy. But I don’t blame you. If I had half her talent, I’d have kept your dad. Kai! No. Lord knows I can never dishonor myself like that before a man. Imagine me going on my knees just to lap up a penis. Disgusting!”
Luper went up on his feet.
“Oh dear. You can’t stand to see her debase herself with other men? My poor son, I can feel your pain, darling. To know that the woman you’re so in love with has her dignity shared with uncountable men, and not even discreetly.” Udazi shook her head in a show of pity. “It’s out there for the world to see. You really want to continue with this girl, sweetheart? Look, if she’s hooked you with her vagina, I can still help you get out.”
Luper started for the door. “I’ll call you when we fix a date.”
“I want you on my side during the pointless apology session.”
He stopped. “On your side, how?”
“Me, my lawyer and you. Your girlfriend and her girls can be on the other side of the table.”
“Are you joking?”
“I’m serious. We’re family and we have to stick together.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
Udazi pointed at her laptop. “You stand by me or this gets out.”
“What type of person are you, Udazi? Why are you constantly a pain?”
“You should know your mother by now. If I say I’ll do something, I will do it.”
Luper was pissed. “And what would you gain from it?”
“To tear you and her apart, Luper Torkuma. I thought it was already established that I’m the villain in this love story. I don’t want you two together. You can do better than her, son. I’m not so particular about you settling down a second time, but please, do it right, if you want to. There are better women out there whose vaginas have not been pummeled by multiple uncircumcised European phalluses! Disgusting!”
Luper marched out of the bedroom. He needed a drink desperately. Something strong and dry. He opted for some whiskey when he entered his man cave. He took three shots of it and started for Dugo’s.
She felt impulsive this morning. She wasn’t sure why. She wanted to do something different. One of her whims threatened to make her hitch a ride to the international airport and hop on a plane to Berlin just to curl up on Mila’s couch and listen to her whine over her kids and their fathers. Her second impulse wanted her to end things with Luper so that she could get on with what she intended to do to Udazi. The third pushed her to name the beagle ‘Laika’. It was the name of the first dog in outerspace, the first animal to orbit the earth.
“Your future is bright, Laika,” she said to the pup as it pranced around her, wanting to be fed something. She walked away from it and to the backyard where she kept her bicycle. She hopped on it. This was another impulsive act.
She rode around the estate, and then, out of it. Daylight was just creeping in. It wasn’t yet six o’clock. Dugo rode for quite a distance, and used the second gate of the estate back home. Once she got in, she went for a freezing bottle of water from the fridge. When she shut the door of the fridge, she found Luper standing before her.
“About last night…” he began to say, but stopped. Last night, she didn’t want to be touched. She had both dogs in bed with them. It got him annoyed. He had ended up in the guestroom.
“You think maybe you owe me an apology?” he asked.
“No.” Dugo walked to her bedroom. Luper followed.
“If something is upsetting you, don’t you think I need to know if I’m going to meet the short end of the stick?”
“I don’t want to talk…”
“No, you have to talk, Adaugo. I don’t read minds here. Yesterday, I left this house in a good mood with you. I come back and I’m getting attitude from you? All through the night, and right into this morning? Talk, for fuck’s sake!”
Dugo undressed from her riding gear. She dumped the sweat-soaked clothes in her laundry basket and entered the bathroom for a shower. Luper waited for her. She returned with a towel around her body and another wrapped over her head. She turned on the air conditioner.
“Charity,” Luper called. He alone was allowed to call her that, and anytime he did, something inside her always responded. She looked at him, eyes softening. She loved the man. She couldn’t help how she felt. And she hated that he was guiltless of his mother’s crimes. She wanted to pin something on him, make him culpable too, so that she could hurt him as she got her revenge on his mother.
She sat on the bed beside him. “I’ve decided not to send those things to the blogs. Those things about your mother. Ace convinced me.”
Her voice was almost silent as she spoke.
“And you’re mad at me for that?” Luper asked. He was gentle, taking her hand. “You hate that you’re so in love with me you can’t do anything that would hurt me?”
“I hate that I love you.”
“Trust me, I do too. I hate that you’re left with a difficult choice. But I already told that if you want to go ahead with it…”
“You don’t know what you’re saying. You’ll never forgive me if the school suffers for anything I do. Maybe not now. But it will be a problem between us in the future. Trust me, I have thought about that a lot and I said, ‘fuck it, let it happen.’ But that annoying Idowu. He just knows how to get me to have sense. He said I should let go. But it’s hard, handsome. It’s very hard. I want to hammer a long nail into your mother’s heart.”
“I know I can never make up for what she did, but can I try?”
“You’re already trying.”
“Not enough, Chums.”
Dugo held his face. “You are more than enough.”
Ace knocked on the door. “Oga and madam, your dogs are hungry. This one wants to eat socks.”
“I’ll come and feed them,” Luper responded. He leaned towards Dugo to have a taste of her lips.
“Fix an appointment with her next week,” Dugo said, kissing him in-between. “I’ll get the girls.”
They kissed some more. “You should totally have my baby, Ada.”
“I have a dog. He’s my baby.”
“You’re too oyibo in your ways. The dog is not a baby abeg.”
“His name is Laika.”
“You’ve named him already? What does the name mean?”
“I don’t know.” She put her arms around him. He reciprocated by taking her waist. In seconds, she was lying beneath him, her towel done away with. He kissed her neck, and began downwards to her breasts, but Laika started yapping. He scratched the door as he did so.
“That dog,” Luper complained.
The bulldog whined as well.
“Issa conspiracy,” Dugo laughed.
Luper left the bedroom to feed the dogs. He had a tight schedule ahead of him. After breakfast, he dashed off to the school to wrap up what he began the evening before. It took him quite some time. When he was done with the work, he turned on his phone which he had switched off to avoid distraction. Texts came in. From Nenge – she shared the good news of Terwe’s return. From Idenyi – she had tickets for him and Dugo for a play later in the evening. She also had another for Ace. Should she invite him too? From Dugo – did he want to come along for a stage play she got invited to by Idenyi? From Tabitha – her plane just got in. Where was he?
Luper jumped to his feet, snatching his shirt off the backrest of the chair. He tried her number as he began out of the school. She answered.
“Sweetheart, I’m so sorry. Where are you?”
“Don’t worry. I’m fine. I’m with Mommy.”
Luper gave a sigh. “She came for you already?”
“Great. So you’re going to her place then?”
“Bye!” She giggled and hung up. Just to be certain, Luper called Idenyi to confirm. He was happy they were getting along. Idenyi could do nothing bad in Tabitha’s eyes. The girl loved her, despite being ignored by her along the years. He commended Idenyi for taking the courageous step to open her heart to her.
“Oh, I hope you invited Ace for the play?”
“Dugo said she’d do it for me.”
Luper found his way home. Udazi was in the company of some woman he didn’t recognize. Nenge’s husband informed him that Terwe had been taken to the hospital to treat a foot injury.
“The useless kidnappers wanted to destroy the leg,” the man said. “Nigeria is a dead place, I swear. I’m glad I got out fast.”
“Happy escape,” Luper muttered as he climbed upstairs to his bedroom. He picked a fresh change of clothes and left the house to Dugo’s. He made lunch while she buried her head in her books. When evening drew near, they both lazily stretched out on her bed.
“Are we going for that play so?” Luper asked.
“We’re going.” Dugo gave a long yawn which had Luper laughing.
“Oya get up nau.”
“You get up.”
“I’ll get up when you get up. You know I’m a man and it’s not hard for me to dress up.”
“Just get up first so that I’ll know you’re serious.”
“You’re not serious.”
“You’re the one that’s not serious.”
The front door slammed. “Deedee!” Ace called.
“He calls you Deedee and I don’t get to?”
“I didn’t stop you from doing that. I only said don’t add the ‘Holiday’, but you started calling me Holiday and Holly instead.”
“Only when we’re…”
Dugo stumbled out of bed and went for the door.
“Come back, let me smack that ass.”
She giggled, leaving the bedroom. Ace seemed in a good mood. He came in with his weekend champagne. “Guess who is going to be shooting Denrele!”
“A whole bunch of homophobic people?”
Luper laughed from the bedroom.
“Me!” Ace answered. “He saw those photos I took of you and shared on the gram and he said they were to die for. He did a regrann and mentioned me and said he wanted to see what concept I had in mind for him.”
“Wow! You’re going global.”
Ace danced his way into the kitchen. “I’m thinking of changing my bio on Instagram. It has to be more professional than what it is. Which do you think is better? ‘Denrele’s official photographer’ or ‘Photographer to the stars’.”
“Snap Denrele first, ogbeni.” Dugo took out three wine glasses as Ace uncorked the bottle of champagne.
“So are we still going to see that drama you told me about?”
“Yes. And please, wear something nice.”
Ace filled each glass with champagne. Dugo took Luper’s to him. She found him lying on his tummy, phone in hand. The sight of his butt gave her ideas. She loved men whose butts she could hold, and Luper had one. She went up on the bed, shooed off the bulldog who was lying next to him and sat on his butt.
“I’m so glad you don’t have a penis, Dugo. My ass would have been in constant danger.”
“I have a strap-on.”
“Has anybody ever sent thunder to fire you?”
Dugo smiled in mischief. “If you ever cheat on me, just know that your ass is done for.”
“Okay, I’m uncomfortable with this talk.” Luper made to turn around. Dugo lifted her weight off his body and sat on him again. She handed him his glass of champagne which he downed in one gulp.
“You’re supposed to sip.”
“Sip fruit juice? Please.”
Dugo put their glasses away and began pestering him with kisses, but her ringing phone wouldn’t let the plans she had for him materialize. She sighed as she reached for the phone. Idenyi was calling to confirm their presence at the play. Dugo assured her that they would be there. Two hours after, they were at the venue. Idenyi was already waiting. When Ace saw her, he threw Dugo a stare that had her smiling.
“She looks good, no?” she asked of Idenyi who had shown up in a dress that put emphasis on curves she always hid. Her hair was made too. The weave bounced around her shoulders as she walked up to them.
The play was hilarious. None of them had laughed that hard in a while. Afterwards, they had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Ace’s treat. Dugo and Idenyi loved the food. The men, not so much.
They ended up in a club subsequently. It was an exclusive spot that let people in only by membership. Ace was a member via Joana’s connections. Luper, who had suggested they go there, was also a member. The ladies tagged along. The night turned out great. As Dugo had hoped, Ace and Idenyi got along. In the backseat of Luper’s car, they talked in whispered tones, bursting into giggles now and then.
They dropped Idenyi at home. She got down and reached into the car to leave a peck on Ace’s cheek before she turned away. There was a short spell of silence as the car picked up again and continued on their journey home.
“That was fun, ya?” Dugo finally uttered. “Ace?”
“Keep your thoughts to yourself.”
“You like her?”
“And a million other women who would dance with me and rub their bums on my kini.”
“But you didn’t dance with a million other women.”
“Adaugo, I’m not talking about this. She was great company. Let it end there.”
Dugo obeyed his wishes, but only for a total of two minutes. And then she said, “That ass, though. Ace, you had a boner, no?”
Luper snorted in laughter.
“Okay, you want me to just fuck her and go? Is that what you want…?”
“…because I can easily do that.”
“I didn’t mean…”
“Stop telling me about boners then. Yes, I had one. Totally normal. But I don’t want to see her again.”
“I agree,” Dugo answered, borrowing one of his most used phrases.
Ace kept to his word and stayed away from Idenyi for the entire week that followed. When she dropped by to see Dugo, he stayed in his bedroom. When Dugo invited her for shopping some days after and they returned home to make a pot of soup together, Ace made himself scarce. Dugo was amused by his behavior. She talked to him about it on their way to New Beginnings.
“I am not ready for another relationship, Deedee. Why are you pushing? Can you stop? Jeez! You can be a major pain in my ass.”
“Okay, I’ll stop. I promise. But I can’t stop her from being my friend. And she’s a really nice friend. See the hairclip she bought for me. You like?”
Dugo was driving. She took a hand away from the wheel to point at a red hairclip used to hold one side of her hair up.
“And she bought me a nice set of lingerie. Not as nice as the ones Luper got me, though. But nice. I have to buy her gifts too. And that means we’ll see much of each other.”
“Why don’t you date her, then? I’m sure Luper won’t mind.”
“Or spend more time in her house.”
“Her grandma is crazy. She doesn’t let us have a minute to ourselves.”
“So what do you two discuss? How Luper’s lips taste?”
“Funny thing is that we don’t discuss men. We talk about business, politics and of other things.”
“You’ve not talked about me before?”
“Not even once.”
“Hmmm… That she likes you doesn’t mean her world should revolve around you.”
Ace was done with the topic. He brought up their reason for visiting New Beginnings. “Are you ready for today?”
“More than ready.”
“You’re in all-black. I believe you.”
“The witch’s lawyer says to hand over every bit of incriminating evidence against her. Can you imagine?”
“And you’re not going to do that, are you?”
“No. I’m keeping all the ones I got from Italy. I’m giving them copies of the videos I made and other documents. I’m not that stupid.”
“Well, I hope that after today, the whole chapter closes.”
“Not for me.”
“You still feel resentful?”
Dugo brought the car to a stop beside Luper’s at the car park outside New Beginnings.
“It’s my right to feel resentful.”
They entered the building. The receptionist informed them that Udazi and her lawyer were waiting.
“And the ladies?”
“They are upstairs. I’ll call them in.”
“He went out. He’ll be back.”
Dugo headed straight for the conference room. Udazi was there, as she had been informed. Interestingly, she was dressed all-white, in contrast to Dugo. Seated on her right was her lawyer. Irobosa was to her left.
“Good morning, Adaugo,” she greeted.
“Gud morgen.” Dugo sat, ignoring the hand Udazi stretched out towards her.
“This is my lawyer, Mr. Precious. And this is Irobosa, my assistant. And that is…?” She gave Ace a full stare.
“And you’re her lawyer?”
“No, I am.” Idenyi walked in. “Sorry, I’m late.”
“Don’t apologize. You’re not late,” Dugo answered.
“Good morning,” Udazi greeted, smiling. Three of them took their seats, facing Udazi and her team. Just then a group of five ladies, led by Osarobo, walked in. Osarobo took the space beside Dugo. The fire in her eyes when she glared at Madam America was enough to turn the room to cinders.
“I think we should begin,” Idenyi spoke.
“No, one more person needs to be here,” Udazi objected.
“Luper has no business being here.”
“But he does. He is my son. He’s family, so he’s coming to stand by me.”
“Well, he’s not here, right now. We can’t wait for him. We have to proceed. Some of us have a lot of things to do.”
“Let’s wait for…”
Luper walked in.
“Oh! There he is!” Udazi beamed. “Welcome, Son.”
“Good morning, everyone,” he greeted. “Apologies for my tardiness.”
“Hurry over, so that we can start,” Udazi said. “I have to rush off to another meeting.”
“One minute, Mom.”
Luper went behind Dugo’s chair and kissed her on the cheek. Idenyi stood to her feet.
“Thank you, Denyi.”
Luper took her seat and she pulled another. Udazi’s disappointment was palpable.
“Is that how you want it?” she asked in Tiv as he smiled at her.
“It’s how it’s always going to be,” he responded.
An empty grin stretched her lips. “Idenyi, let’s go on, shall we?”