“Guess who’s back!”
Agatha flinched when Nathan’s car key hit the center table.
“Our very own blessed Daddy G.O.! Released from the EFCC and all charges dropped. Isn’t God good?”
Agatha wasn’t listening. Her eyes were on the moving figures on TV whose voices she had muted.
“Aggie?” She blinked and found Nathan’s face in hers. “Are you okay?”
His eyes took in her appearance. “Where are you going?”
“There’s that Women in Ministry meeting thing I have to attend.”
“Oh.” He checked the time. “I think you’re late.”
He brushed something off her face. “You best be going.”
She knew her responses sounded robotic, but she couldn’t stop herself. On the day Nathan did his HIV tests and got a negative result, what she felt for him began to die. She watched him celebrate the result, heard him curse Chioma, and cringed when he swore to get back at Ishi and Kyenpia. He did this, tipsy on wine and full on suya. Afterward, he grabbed her and forced her to dance with him. But that wasn’t enough. He began to kiss her, ignoring the protest of her body when she silently expressed that she didn’t want him.
He didn’t stop there. He led her to their bed and undressed her even when she told him she wasn’t in the mood.
He told her that her body drove him insane, and it had been a while since they had done things to each other. She wouldn’t deny her loving husband his rights, would she?
She wasn’t clean, she complained. He said he didn’t care.
She needed to wash up, she pleaded. Didn’t he just say he didn’t care? Why couldn’t she simply relax and enjoy him?
He opened her legs and lowered his head between her thighs. When his mouth tasted her, she whimpered. He appreciated her response and told her she was a good girl. His tongue began to move, and against her will, her body responded to him. She was caught between tears and pleasure.
But this wasn’t the first time. He had always been this way—and she, the same. She would have an orgasm and he would do with her body anything he so desired.
And anything meant every dirty thing his mind so desired. It was marital sex, after all. It was as if he was saying, “Shebi I’ve given you want you want. Now, it’s my turn to have mine.”
She had never complained before. Why now? Why did it seem like he was taking without her permission? Why did it feel like a violation?
And from then on, something alien began to grow in her. It made her see Nathan as someone else, not the man her heart had loved and respected for years. Did she marry a monster or create one? Was he even a monster? Wasn’t this what other husbands did?
Agatha felt bare and raw. This new image about who he really was left her in pain each time it blew through her mind.
“Hey…” Nathan held her hand. “You’re sure you’re okay?”
“Good, because I need you to be. The one person that protected you in First Glory and will restore our jobs and all we lost is now back. You have to go and see him and tell him everything that happened in his absence.”
“I should report his wife?”
“I heard she denied him access to their home. He’s living in one of the parsonages. I think it’s good for us. That way, she won’t be there when you talk to him.”
Agatha wanted to remind Nathan that it was foolish to paint a man’s wife as evil to him, but she didn’t have the strength to speak.
“I love you.” Nathan kissed her, lingering. He put his arms around her, and for the first time, his comforting body felt like it was going to suffocate her. “When you get back, we will just stay in bed and cuddle. Maybe if you’re in the mood, we could do more?”
He kissed her again and let go. Returning his smile, Agatha picked her purse and left the house.
Inside her car, his last words lingered in her head.
Maybe if you’re in the mood, we could do more.
This had been his language for years. Why aren’t you in the mood? Why do you make sex look like it’s a chore? Must I force you? You always just lie there and make me do all the work.
But these were all lies. She had her days when she gave him everything, and they were more than a few. He was the one who didn’t want her on such days. His horny calendar never seemed to sync with hers—and she had always blamed it on their jobs and schedules. But she could see now that he had been deliberate. He wanted to control their sex life and her emotional needs. Sex was when he wanted it, however he wanted it. Even if she were somehow willing whenever he was, it had to go his way.
Agatha rested her head on the wheel. Was this marital rape?
Her mind cringed as the wind of truth blew her way again. She lifted her head and keyed the engine.
Oby spotted Agatha the moment she walked into the hall. She also took note of the slouch in her shoulders and the sad lines on her face that ran down the sides of her nose to her mouth. Then, she remembered all Ishi had told her about Agatha and felt an instant burden for her. She knew immediately that God wanted her to take up her fellow sister’s case.
“Pastor Oby,” the moderator of the conference called. They were seated on stage, having a discussion with four other women in ministry. Oby was the youngest of them.
“The church in Nigeria and even beyond has seen God move mightily through you, through your music and inspiring messages, which have particularly changed the lives of women. When you first started out, there was a lot of talk about your appearance—the hair, the tattoos, the unconventional look. Did that affect you in any way?”
Oby hated questions like this. She was tired of talking about how different she was from what was considered proper as a pastor’s wife.
“I paid no attention to the talk. All I wanted was to do what God asked me to. Those who judged me lost out on what I had to offer.”
“You’re married to Pastor Ishi who is a force amongst the youth. On Sunday, he was trending because of his move to BCC. How has being married to him affected your own ministry? Do you sometimes feel overshadowed by his influence? Do you feel like nobody sees you?”
“Um…” Oby laughed briefly. She recalled the service on Sunday and how overwhelming it had been to observe the massive support Ishi got from the congregation. She had seen it many times before, but this was scary—and for that moment, she felt insignificant. It was as if the summation of her life as a minister was only to be a helper to her husband. For a second, she doubted if moving to BCC was the right move; which was why it meant so much to her to have a smaller gathering at home where she felt as important as he was.
“I love my husband so much. Before we started dating, I knew how popular he was, and I was ready for the attention. Now, don’t misinterpret what I am about to say. Listen carefully, sisters. I am tired of us having these conversations about the place of women leaders in the church, when it has to do with our husbands. The pastor-missus-ness has to stop. We are our own persons. Pastors and leaders in our own rights.”
“Yes!” one of the women on stage agreed, prompting an applause from the audience.
“But you might say ‘I don’t want to be a leader, that’s too much responsibility. I’d rather be behind the scenes.’ Babe, I am the wrongest person to share those sentiments with.”
There was laughter in the room.
“We have been sold a bill of goods that presents women’s giftings as inferior to men’s. That’s why we see many women unwilling to become the unique persons the Lord made them to be, thereby, missing out on God’s calling in their lives. I’m here to tell you that it is not God’s intention for you to be less so that your husband can be more.”
“If we see ourselves as the Lord has called us to be, we will square our shoulders and walk fiercely and unstoppable. As a woman, you are a life-giver in your marriage, in your ministry, in every season of life. If there was ever a close representation of God’s glory, it’s in the woman.”
Oby looked at the moderator. “So, to answer your question. My husband’s ministry has helped mine grow, as I have done with his. And no, I don’t get overshadowed by God’s move in his life because I’m being moved and used by God as well.”
There was an echoing ovation for her response.
“Wow, Pastor Oby, you just took us to church there…”
As the moderator continued speaking, Oby returned her attention to Agatha. She had always known her from afar, but even that was enough for her to know that she looked pale right now. Oby couldn’t wait to be done with the session to have a word with her.
But her time on stage went on for forty minutes, at least. After that, there was a photo session and people coming over to speak to her. An entire hour later, she managed to tear herself from the crowd and went in search of Agatha. Since the conference was held in a hotel, she searched the lobby and restaurant but didn’t find her. She was about to give up when she spotted her walking into the restroom, her hand using the door for support. Oby hurried after her and found her crouched over the washbasin.
“Aggie, are you okay?”
Agatha didn’t respond. She opened the tap and splashed some water on her face.
“Aggie?” Oby touched her back just a second before she retched and threw up. “Oh dear, what’s wrong?”
She kept her hand on her until she was done emptying her guts. Then, she went to get some tissue for her.
“Your temperature is a little above normal. Do you mind if I checked your pulse?”
Agatha stared at her but didn’t stop her from taking her hand. Oby felt her pulse for a reading.
“You seem fine. A little erratic, but you’re okay.”
Agatha dabbed her mouth with the tissue. “After ten years of trying and giving up, I randomly become pregnant at the worst moment of my life.” She covered her face and began to sob. Oby was at a loss for words.
Two women with whom she was familiar walked in and greeted her. She returned their greeting with a smile.
“Let’s get out of here,” she whispered to Agatha, taking her hand. They stepped out and Agatha dabbed the tears off her face.
“A baby is aways a good thing, Aggie. I’m sure that once this whole thing blows over, you and Nathan—”
“Don’t act like you care,” Agatha responded in venom, keeping her voice low. “Your husband and his baby mama set out to destroy us.”
“That’s not true.”
“Then, why did they take the side of the enemy?”
“Enemy? Aggie, Nathan admitted to—”
“He was pushed. They lied to him and-and coerced him to lie too.”
Oby went silent.
“If they had just left it, maybe…” She shook her head, warding off fresh tears. “Nathan is a good man, Oby. He’s a good man.”
She walked off as Oby tried to say something. Oby’s eyes followed her until she disappeared. She was no Leonel who could read people at first glance, but she could tell that Agatha was saying those words about Nathan to convince herself that she was right.
Again, Oby felt a burden for her. She was sure the Holy Spirit was asking her to do something about Agatha. But what?
“Pastor Oby?” someone called and she turned. “You’re needed here!”
At exactly twelve noon, Asher got into a three-year contract with Ijo Records. The event happened at their headquarters in Victoria Island, and a few notable press people were present. Once the signatures were appended and photos taken, the news hit the web. Asher was elated, but he couldn’t brush off the feeling that he had taken a weird turn in his life’s journey.
“Why were you not smiling?” Joey nudged him when they got into the elevator heading out.
“Was I frowning?”
“Look.” She showed him photos of himself that she had taken while the deal was being finalized. She had caught him frowning more than a few times.
The elevator door slid open and they stepped out to the reception.
Joey handed Asher one of his phones. The first message he saw was from Love. She had dropped it in the family group, adding a GIF of him signing the contract. She congratulated him and his elder sisters did the same.
He and Nnani were still fighting, but she dropped a voice note, which he chose not to listen to yet.
Asher stopped moving and turned. Clint was hastening toward him.
“Why did you leave so abruptly?”
“I have to get to Ikeja now.”
“I just wanted to congratulate you. I mean, us!” He laughed and play-punched him. “More money for you is more for me. Big ups, man.”
“Thanks. You made it happen.”
“Well…” Clint was about to say something smug but his eyes skimmed over Joey and he frowned. He shook hands with Asher, instead.
“By the way, the label is throwing a welcome party for you tomorrow. They’ll send the details to her—”
“They already did,” Joey answered.
“Great, then. Talk to you later.” He started walking away. “Don’t forget the meeting with Durex! They said they have a new campaign.”
“New campaign?” Asher muttered as he headed out.
“Are you going to do it?” Joey asked him.
“I don’t know.”
In the car, they got into an argument over Asher’s schedule for the rest of the day. Joey didn’t think it was wise for him to go to the other end of Lagos to meet with Niamee when he had a meeting with Durex on this side of town.
“We have four hours,” Asher explained. “I have to see her.”
“Why? I can reschedule.”
Asher got annoyed that he was explaining himself to her. “Who’s the boss here?”
“You are, Mr. Omotosho.”
The snide look on her face annoyed him further. “Let’s keep things that way.” To his chauffeur, he gave the instruction to take them to Ikeja.
Niamee was everything she believed she was. Asher had partied with her in Accra, watched her on stage, and listened a great deal to her music for the past couple of weeks. But this was his first time seeing her without the paparazzi and noise.
The meeting happened in one of the studios of her record label. She was in the voicing booth, playing around with Chloe’s Surprise with her band. Wearing an overside off-shoulder tee with bum shorts underneath, her hands ran over her body sensually as she sang. She oozed of seduction, and Asher admitted to himself that he was spellbound. At some point, she kept her eyes in his, and they remained that way until she was done.
But it wasn’t just the sex appeal. Niamee was gorgeous. She had the type of beauty that Kenny used to say was to be unspoiled by the world. “You go just keep am for show-glass, dey watch am like film.”
“Asher!” Niamee screamed into the mic. “You came! Yay!”
“Yikes. She’s more excruciating every time I see her.”
Asher looked at Joey, recalling she was with him.
“Don’t you have something to do right now?”
“We’re going to Durex, remember?”
Niamee stepped out of the booth and hugged Asher before he could respond. “Bro! Damn! You’re the CEO of smelling like a billion dollars.”
She giggled. “Sorry for liking all your posts on Instagram last night. I was high as fuck.”
“Hope your girlfriend isn’t mad at me?”
“Nnani?” Asher smiled, recalling Nnani’s sulk last night when she walked past and looked over his shoulder while he was on Instagram. “No, she’s cool.”
“So, before we talk business, first things first.”
Niamee got out her phone and stole a quick selfie with Asher.
“Aww, we’re so cute together. Don’t mind if I post this, do you?”
Her fingers worked fast over her phone screen. “Caption: no context. And…done!” She smiled at him. “So… Let’s leave the boring stuff to our managers and talk music. But first, do you want to get in there and do something interesting?”
“We have a meeting in an hour,” Joey chipped in. Niamee looked at her. “Hi.”
Niamee possessively hooked her arm in Asher’s. “Let’s test our chemistry and see if we have a future together?”
She dragged him into the voicing booth. There was an entire team of professional instrumentalists, a couple of them whom Asher already knew. After pleasantries, the drummer asked Asher if it was true that he could sing and rap any song on request.
Asher laughed. “Says who?”
Niamee raised her hand. “Guilty! But it was gist I heard. They said you’re like a karaoke app. You can sing the randomest song, even from 1920 or something.”
“Well… Close. My brain has a photographic memory when it comes to music.”
“Pass our test or we don’t believe,” the drummer said.
“Are you up for it, Ash?” Niamee asked.
“I guess, but I sort’a feel ambushed.”
“True, we planned this whole moment,” the bassist confessed.
“Then, let’s do it. Hit me with anything.”
“Okay! Here it goes! Marvin Gaye.”
“The singer or the song?”
Niamee looked at the drummer with a secret grin, as if to say, ‘I told you so’.
“The song,” she answered.
“That’s easy na. I thought you’d give me stuff like Islands in the Stream or something weird.”
“You want to do a Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton?”
He shrugged smugly. “If you’ll do it with me.”
Niamee flexed her shoulders in an exaggerated manner. “That’s a challenge.”
She instructed her band to play the intro of the song, pushing Asher toward a stool and mic stand.
“Can’t believe you’re making me sing country.”
“Shine, baby.” She winked and perched on a stool behind a second mic stand. The instruments began, cuing Asher in. When he sang the first line, Niamee did a silent scream, forcing a smile out of him. He returned the energy the moment her voice came on and she burst into a laugh that almost had her falling off the stool. Her mic didn’t survive it, though. As it headed for the floor, Asher caught her hand and drew her to share his mic. She perched on his left thigh and they sang the chorus together.
The second verse was hers. She took it smoothly, adding a signature money note that brought goosebumps to Asher’s skin. But just as the second chorus came on, the band switched to Pras’ hip-hop version of the song Ghetto Superstar.
“Mad!” Asher yelled, impressed by the transition, which had taken him unawares. Nimaee switched to the new chorus and Asher came in with the rap. Each time he looked at Niamee, he found her watching him, as though the physical contact wasn’t close enough. At the end of the song, she gave him a hug and asked that they take a walk to discuss business.
“I want to do something big with you,” she told him as they came out of the booth. “Not the reason you’re here, though. I know my label won’t like it, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I think you’re perfect for it.”
“An entire album with duet covers of the greatest baby-making songs ever.”
Asher looked at her, unsure if he should take her seriously. She walked up ahead, guiding him down a hallway that had both walls decorated with photos of successful afrobeats musicians. Niamee was one of them.
“I’m serious,” she said.
“You have to pay for a lot of royalties, though, since it’s an entire album.”
“That’s why my label won’t be happy. But it’s small money, considering how much we’d sell. It’s about what I want, though, and I think we’ll be perfect together.”
They entered a lounge that had nothing but a grand piano and comfortable black and white beanbags. The floor was covered with a black rug that contrasted with the glossy, white piano. Niamee sat on a beanbag and crossed her legs. Asher sat beside her.
“Imagine what it would do your career,” she added.
“Sounds great, but I have to talk to my manager—”
“And your mom.”
He looked at her. “My mom?”
“Are you a mommy’s boy?”
“Not what the rumors say.”
“Who are these people spreading these rumors?”
“Asher, you’re popular, thanks to your voice and your family. Get used to it.”
“I thought I was already.”
Niamee was on her phone, typing speedily. “So I just sent my people an email, requesting a zoom meeting tomorrow.” She hooked two fingers together. “Fingers crossed, let’s see how they take it.”
“Are you always this spontaneous?”
“No, not really. It’s just that…you make me nervous.”
“Asher…” She breathed out and looked into his eyes. “I have a crush on you.”
Asher tried to hide his surprise at her bluntness.
“You’re not going to slut-shame me or something?”
“Slut what? No, Niamee. I’m not that kind of guy.”
“I really like you. I love your voice more, though. So, please, if you see me doing anything inappropriate that could fuck this work relationship we have, don’t hesitate to stop me. I don’t want to move mad.”
“I just overshared now, right?” She covered her face. “I’m so embarrassed.”
“If it makes you feel better, I sort of like you too.”
“I won’t cheat on my girlfriend with you.”
“I know. But I’m glad we got that out of the way. Wait… she sings, right?”
“Maybe she can come around sometime and we could hang. I feel like me and her could hit it off. We have similar names.”
“Okay, this is getting weird.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I was just trying to slide out of my shame. But I’m curious. Don’t you want to sing with her or feature her in one of your songs? Like, she’s so into you on her Instagram, but you’re so…typical.”
“Just let her in musically. She needs all the help you can give.”
The problem was that Asher didn’t believe that Nnani was supposed to be pursuing a career in music. She was passionate about men’s fashion and was amazing in it than she was in music. Asher had worn a couple of her designs on stage and had given her a shoutout. But in the same manner she wasn’t confident about her music, Nnani struggled with believing that she was a good designer. Asher had an elaborate plan to push her into fashion.
“I’ll do my best.”
Niamee gave an abrupt turn, away from him, stretching over the floor to grab a tote bag that Asher was just noticing. But his eyes also traveled the length of her exposed legs, all the way to her bum peeking out of her shorts. It seemed strange that someone like her had no tattoos or extra piercings asides the one in her septum. He liked it and liked her spotless skin too.
“This is for you.” She handed him a customized notebook with her name on it. She also gave him a pen. “And this is mine. So, let’s start working.”
“Can we put a pin on this for another day? I have an important meeting.”
Niamee sighed. “Me too. Let’s just go, but I really don’t want to do that campaign with them. My manager has been calling me.” She showed Asher her phone and he saw an incoming call.
“And I have a call too.” Asher’s phone buzzed with Clint’s call. He ignored it and pulled Niamee up. He didn’t move when she deliberately took a step closer. Rather, he gave her an intense stare that made her uneasy.
“Let’s go!” She stepped back and went for the door.
“You’re riding with me,” Asher said.
Out in the lobby, Joey gave Niamee an unfriendly stare but turned a blank face on Asher as he approached her.
“Clint has been calling. He’s waiting for us.”
“Then, we have lunch with your mom at four.”
“Cancel. Tell her I’ll come for dinner. You know what? Take an Uber home.”
Niamee grabbed Asher’s hand. “Ready?”
Asher led the way out.
“No, no, no, no, no!”
“No! I do not help patriarchy princesses because they are swine that would turn around and rend you. Besides, this is a war.”
“Agatha and her rapist husband are on one side. The rest of us are on Chioma’s side. Oby, you’re taking the side of the oppressors. Then, you’re now asking me to help her?”
“Just get a counselor or a therapist for her. You have access to them.”
“I think a pastor would suit just fine. She doesn’t need my help.”
“Kyenpia, I’ve seen the amazing work you’ve done with broken women, how you’ve helped them walk away from terrible husbands and marriages. Agatha needs a second chance at life. She has to leave that man, and she can’t do it on her own. I don’t know any pastor that would push her to get a divorce and start her life afresh.”
“A divorce?” Amaka asked. She was sipping a milkshake. “Odikwa serious.”
“It is, Amaka.”
“I thought you pastors don’t advocate for divorce?”
“Well, I don’t know about others, but rapists do not deserve to have wives.”
“I support that.”
Oby studied Kyenpia’s face. She didn’t seem to have gotten through to her.
“Amaka, help me.”
Amaka went silent.
“Oby, Kyenpia doesn’t play with rape o.”
“I know, but Agatha is a victim here too.”
“How?” Kyenpia questioned.
“What if…?” Oby allowed her newfound theory grow wings. “What if she’s a victim too? What if he does the same to her?”
“Did she tell you that?”
Oby was about to say something, but a loud scream of excitement stopped her. It was from Sochi or Eliana, she couldn’t tell. Other children’s voices joined in the excitement.
“Keep it down!” Kyenpia ordered. Oby and Amaka were in her house, and their kids were going to spend the weekend together. Leonel had promised them an adventure, but work called a few hours ago and he got on a plane to London. Kyenpia was planning her great escape from the children.
“You didn’t answer my question, Oby. Did Agatha tell you she was a victim?”
“No, but I sense it.”
“How? This woman has been a bitch to me and your husband because of Chioma and you want to swoop in and save her? What if she doesn’t even want your help?”
“I will get through to her. Just get me a professional.”
“My answer is still no. I can’t do Chioma like that. And it’s odd that you’re speaking to me about this and not your husband.”
Oby looked into Kyenpia’s eyes. “Because when it comes to these cases, you’re the boss of him. He will do only what you say.”
“That’s not how it happens, Obialunanma.”
“Should we try?”
Kyenpia gave up. “Maybe Leonel can recommend someone to you?”
“I wouldn’t want to go to him for help without your permission.”
“Go ahead, Oby. I’ll tell him to give you a call.”
“Thank you, Kyenpia.”
Kyenpia’s face became soft toward her. “I’m sorry.”
“She’s really sorry,” Amaka said. “She’s loyal like that.”
“I know, and I love her for it.”
“My own is these kids now. What do we do with them?”
“Take them to the villa,” Oby advised.
“Now, why didn’t I think of that? Elyon Villa to the rescue!”
“Can we spend the weekend there too?” Amaka asked and Oby laughed. The villa belonged to the Igwe family. It was the most impressive estate Oby had seen that belonged to a single family. One could use it for a wedding, a honeymoon, a vacation, a retreat, a resort, and a fun center for kids.
“I have something better,” Kyenpia said. “Let’s wait for Fiyin to come first. Then, we’ll drop the kids and do our thing.”
Fiyin was their other friend and single mother of one. Oby had known them to be as tight as a cord of three.
“Do you want to join us, Oby?” Kyenpia asked.
“Me? For the weekend?”
“Yeah, abandon our men and just have fun.”
With the girls away, Oby and Ishi had planned to stay in and watch movies. This offer from Kyenpia sounded tempting. “I…”
“Ask Ishi and get back to us. I promise, we won’t be doing anything God doesn’t approve.”
“You can even lead us in devotion every morning,” Amaka suggested and Kyenpia eyed her. Oby laughed.
“Some other time, girls. This weekend, I’m Netflixing and chilling.”
“I feel you! Lay all that pipe, baby!” Kyenpia winked. Oby smiled back. It was still a little weird to her that Kyenpia had had a healthy sexual relationship with Ishi. She sometimes wondered if he had been a great lover to Kyenpia as he was to her.
“Somebody remind me again why I came back to this country!”
Fiyin swept in, wearing a form-fitting dress. Her figure was carved to beauty standards, but in a plus size body. Fiyin was the one Oby knew least amongst the friends because she had spent the past three years outside Nigeria, returning during Christmas last year. Her reason was that she had missed her life back home and couldn’t stand the fact that her ‘market’ wasn’t selling abroad.
But she was as sweet and kindhearted as Kyenpia and Amaka.
“Pastor Oby!” she called, delight filling her face. One would think she hadn’t seen her on Sunday. She rushed to Oby for a hug. “My personal pastor!”
“Pastor Oby. Please, pray for me.” She sat beside her. “I’ve been having a bad day. My son spoilt my purse and I lost my ATM, plus I mistakenly flushed down one of my diamond earrings when I went to poop this morning.”
“That’s not all. I’ve been put on read by this guy for three days now. Then, today, he blocked me! The devil is after my life.”
“Fi, Pastor Oby is not an automatic prayer machine, biko. Besides, your problems are very boujee and man-related. God is not interested. Leave Pastor Oby alone.”
“It’s okay, Amaka.” Oby rubbed Fiyin’s back. “It is well with you, Fi.”
“Ladies, I have to go.”
“Thank you for coming, Oby.” Kyenpia hugged her, as did Amaka. “Expect Leonel’s call tomorrow.”
She walked Oby to the door, and together they waited for Oby’s security aide to bring her car to the entrance. In the distance, the children were playing. Sochi saw her and waved.
“Did you tell the girls you were expecting?” Kyenpia asked.
“So, how did Sochi know?”
“When they returned from school earlier, she mentioned having a baby brother soon. And she said it quite casually while taking off her shoes.”
“Kids do that a lot, Kay.”
“You know this is different.”
Oby looked Sochi’s way again. “She’s too young to be burdened with a gift of foresight.”
“How old was Samuel when God called him?”
The car pulled up in front of them.
“Talk to you later.”
Kyenpia went back in while Oby got into her car.
Asher got home a little after eight. He had been caught in an unnecessary traffic jam caused by long queues from two petrol stations—and what was supposed to be a twenty-minute ride stretched on to two hours.
When he arrived home, he was frustrated and tired. The last thing he wanted was another fight with Nnani, but she was waiting for him with a look on her face that presaged trouble. Asher ignored her to attend to his friends who had shown up for games night. He had forgotten that they were supposed to come over.
After pleasantries, he went to raid the kitchen for drinks and snacks. Nnani was there, making dinner.
“If I wanted to get into fashion school, I’d do it myself,” she said to him.
Asher looked at her. “What are you talking about?”
She picked up her phone and showed him an email. “I’ve been admitted into the prestigious Roland School of Fashion?”
“I was going to tell you.”
“When? Before or after you decided what I should do with my life?”
“No, I need you to answer that.”
“RSF is the best out there. It was hard to get you in. I had to use my connections. The least you could do is say thank you.”
Nnani was stunned. She switched off the cooker and folded her arms under her breasts. Asher knew he was in for a long night.
“Look, can I take these drinks to my friends and you do whatever you’re doing? Then, we can circle back later and sort this shit out.”
“Nnani, this is not the time—”
“This is the time, Asher! You don’t go behind my back to plan my future without telling me first! Am I your child or younger sister?”
“You’re not, and I’m sorry—”
“Sorry is not enough! We talked about this. I said I wanted to sing. You promised to get me a voice coach. Then, you go and do this without asking me?”
“But you love fashion and you very good at it, Nnani. Just give it a try.”
“No! And you’re still not listening to me! I want to sing! End of!”
“Okay. Do whatever you want to do. It’s fine!”
Asher picked up the drinks and was about to head out, but he stopped and turned. “You know what? It’s not fine. I love you, Nan, and that’s why I won’t allow you waste your time with music without telling you the truth. You’re not going to make it as a musician.”
“What?” Her voice was thin.
“There! I said it. Music is not your calling.”
“Asher, you’d say that to me?”
“I had to rip out the band-aid.”
“FUCK YOU, ASHER OMOTOSHO!” She marched to him and jabbed him in the chest, causing him to hit two liquor bottles off the counter. They fell and shattered on the floor.
“See what you did.”
“I hate you!”
Dashing off, she almost ran into Taiye who was coming in. She stopped for a second to eye him and hiss.
“Guy,” Taiye called Asher.
“Sorry, bro. We were just—”
“Don’t explain, man.”
“I’ll get the drinks and—”
“We want to move this thing to the club. Today is Farouk’s birthday.”
“Oh, the one that was giving us those atilogu moves at your wedding party?”
“Na im.” Taiye and Asher laughed. “We want to go to his and then to the club.”
“Cool, man. I’ll catch up with you guys later.”
They shook hands and Taiye stepped out. Asher stared at the mess on the floor. The cleaner was coming by tomorrow, but he didn’t want anyone getting hurt. He picked up a broom and mop and cleaned it up. Through with that, he went upstairs. Nnani was packing a bag when he walked in.
“What are you doing?”
“Going to Besi’s because if I stay here, we’ll just keep fighting.”
“Going away won’t fix our issues.”
She ignored him and went for more clothes in the closet. He stopped her.
“Asher, leave me.”
“Leave me!” She yanked her arm off his hold. He sat on the bed and watched her. After a while, she stopped and faced him. She began to yell about Niamee planting herself in his life and he doing nothing about it. He didn’t utter a word to defend himself, as he was drained and anything he said would be used against him. Nnani was a lot of trouble whenever she wanted to be, and he had discovered that the best way was to let her do her thing. She always sobered up and returned to her senses.
“Why aren’t you saying anything?” she asked, now done with her rant.
“Am I supposed to talk?”
“You have nothing to say?”
“Because you’re guilty! You know what? If you want to fuck her, just tell me, so that we can end this thing. I don’t want to look like the fool here!”
Asher lost it. He sprang up in anger. “What’s doing you sef? What’s your problem?”
“What’s doing me?”
“I’ve not fucked any other girl since we started dating! Yes, I’ve danced dirty with them and hung out with them. But that’s all, Nnani! I’ve never cheated on you! Shouldn’t that count for something?”
“Oh, I should clap for you for doing what you’re supposed to be doing? Okay, Asher.” Nnani clapped in his face. “Take your accolades!”
“You’re a bitch.”
“And you’re a FUCKBOY!”
“What’s going on here?”
They both turned to the door. Phoebe was standing outside, holding a hamper. Nnani instantly went calm.
“Good evening, Mommy.” She curtsied.
“What sort of nonsense fight are you two fighting that you’d use such words on each other?”
They were both silent.
“I won’t get into it because it’s not my business. Asher, I came with a bottle of wine to wash your contract with Ijo Records, but I think we should do this tomorrow—”
“No, Mom.” Asher began walking to her but she stopped him.
“Sort this thing out. The wine can wait.”
Phoebe walked away and Asher blessed Nnani with an angry stare.
“I don’t know why I put up with your madness. But please, pack that bag and stay as long as you want at Besi’s and fuck Blaque as you like! I’m done!”
He slammed the door on his way out. Hurrying down, he called out to Phoebe. She stopped at the front door, holding on to the hamper.
“I don’t want her for you,” she said. “She brings out your worst.”
“It’s just a fight, Mom. Couples do that all the time.”
“Baby boy… You’re too young to be stressed over a woman. Let her go.”
“She means a lot to me, you know it.”
“I’m not arguing with you on that, but the woman you’ll truly love is out there. She is not Nnani.” Phoebe’s eyes looked away from him, to someone behind him. He turned and saw Joey.
“Good evening, Mom,” she greeted.
“Hello Josephine. You look lovely tonight.”
“I…” Joey stared down at her nightwear of silk pajama shorts and a matching top.
“It’s your hair I’m referring to.”
“Oh. I had my braids done yesterday. The salon you recommended.”
“Thank you.” Phoebe’s eyes returned to her son. “Congratulations, baby boy. Don’t be fighting on your big day.”
Asher walked her to her car. “Can I follow you home?”
Smiling, she kicked off the engine and drove off. Asher walked back in. Nnani was set to leave, clinging to her bag, but he said nothing to her and walked past. Seconds later, the front door slammed shut. He went into the kitchen and picked a six-pack of beer. From one of the cabinets, he drew out a jar where rolled joints were kept. He picked one, along with his beer, and went out to the poolside.
After smoking for a bit, he took off his clothes and dove into the pool. The water was warm and soothing, but not enough to calm him. So, he swam four laps before coming up for air.
Joey was waiting with a petit basket of small chops. Sitting at the edge with her feet dipped in the pool, she offered him the basket. He grabbed two spring rolls, not realizing how hungry he was until he took a bite.
“Mmm… I could kiss you right now, Joey.”
He came out of the water and sat on a lounger. Joey passed him a towel.
“You’re trending on Twitter. One Solomon Buchee person that likes to give hot takes no one asked him about said that you’ve fallen off the wagon by getting into a contract with the devil.”
“The entire devil?”
“Yup. Then, he went ahead to post pictures of you from six years ago in a gay parade. He also talked about your sex tape with Mina that same year. According to him, you’re not a Christian, and the only reason you were in the choir in BCC…”
“Was because I was an Omotosho.”
“You saw the thread?”
“No. But he’s right, though.”
“Asher, you love God. Maybe not like others do, but I know you have a thing for God and your faith in him is there. Nobody sees it. I do.”
“I just don’t fit into church.”
“And I don’t think I’ll ever be the person my dad wants me to be. He thinks I have this special anointing on my head, but I don’t.”
Joey handed him a beer. “Your dad has never been wrong, though. If he says something is there, it’s there.”
“Let’s change the topic. Any thoughts on my fight with Nnani?”
“I know you were listening.”
“Em…” Joey pushed her braids to the side and shook her head. “No.”
“I seriously have no opinion.”
“You’re off work hours. Talk to me as a friend.”
“Okay, she’s right. You shouldn’t have gotten her into RSF without her consent.”
“It’s for her own good,” Asher countered. “She sucks at singing.”
“Then, what would you say about me?”
“You should be shot anytime you sing, Joey.”
“But I like you like that. I mean, that’s my point. I like that Nnani is not there musically because it’s not her calling.”
“You’re so heavy on the church lingo, pastor’s kid.”
“I just don’t want her to fail and get depressed. She already suffers from low self-esteem. Doing the one thing she’s flawless at will take her to the top, and that’s fashion. I’m connected with celebrities. I just need to put in the word and they’ll rush her. Why’s she stubborn about this?”
“Don’t you think that maybe you’re sounding like your parents right now?”
“How? It’s not the same thing, Joey.”
“Don’t do that.”
“That thing where you say ‘okay’ and leave me to my conscience.”
“Asher, you like to argue. I don’t have time for drama, like you and Nnani.”
“I’m dramatic now?”
“Yes. You want to fight me for not arguing with you.”
Asher mulled on her words and said, “Okay.”
“What does that mean?”
He pointed at her. “Aha!”
She laughed again, spurting out beer. Asher looked at her, smiling. His mom was right. She looked different, and he didn’t know why. Of course, her hair was lovely.
“Do you have makeup on?”
Joey’s cheerful face disappeared into a frown. “A little. I’ve been experimenting on my brows and for the first time today, I put on my lash extensions myself.”
“Isn’t that like the first time you’re ever wearing them?”
“Second, actually. And they don’t itch.”
His eyes dropped to her lips. Then, to her neck and chest. “Why are you making up at this time of the night?”
“Because I can.”
“I want to swim.” She got off the lounger and removed her pajama shirt. Left in a bikini top and shorts, she dipped into the pool. Asher picked up his phone and went on Twitter. He found Solomon Buchee’s thread about him, reading the whole thing with amusement on his face.
He stared at Joey, who was floating on her back. She wasn’t going to approve of what he was about to do, but it gave him pleasure to do it.
He quoted Buchee’s thread and replied with the caption: Sending you a holy kiss, Brother Solomon. It must be tough being called to judge others
Laughing, Asher added a kiss emoji and clicked on the send button. When he let his phone down, he saw Joey at the edge of the pool, watching him.
“What did you just do, Sir?”
“Nothing. Oh, look! You left a lash back in the pool.” Joey turned around and Asher burst into a laugh.
©Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages
Hmmmm, Asher and Nnani; Agatha and Nathan.
And it’s so good to have Fiyin back.
Children like Sochi, do we have them again,it can be a blessing and a burden.
Anyways, Sally, thank you for taking my mind off elections for a moment.
I hope Agatha accepts the help she needs & not reject it out of loyalty to a rapist husband. Asher and Joey… Thanks Sally.
Why I’m I angry at Agatha? Why does she keep making excuses for Nathan?
Yahhh Fiyin is back. I needed this read
My FI spoilt rich kid is back
Sally, I love the way you put in characters from the past 👍
I see what you did with the Solomon elenu gboro 😁
My FI spoilt rich kid is back
Sally, I love the way you put in characters from the past 👍
I see what you did with the Solomon elenu gboro 😁
Joey…. I see You…
Why do I feel this chemistry between Joey and Asher ….. shit is so hot I can feel it here in France. That’s the power of your work Mami.
Agatha I shake my head for you sha , I pray you get the counselling and healing you so much need. Naani should carry her ashewo self back to Ghana Biko. Sally this really took my mind out of what is happening in Nigeria and the moment and I really appreciate the fact that you still took out time knowing how anxious you might be to post this. I Love You
This Sunny and his brother are devils, recapping where they did not sow
The Buchee part cracked me up!!!!
Waiting to see what happens with Agatha, and especially between Joey and Asher.
Thank you, Sally.
Omo…I enjoyed this episode. Thank you!
The solomon buchee reference was so funny 😂 asher shouldn’t have made the decision for nnani, and nnani is unhappy in that relationship. They’re both making each other miserable. I actually love phoebe’s relationship with Asher. She’s one of the few mothers who aren’t controlling of their son’s love lives. Kyenpia and Oby’s relationship is weird but wholesome, because i feel like kyenpia is Ishi’s soulmate, although soulmates don’t always end up together. And i missed fiyin and her antics i’m glad she’s back😂