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Dedicated to those who share.
Dedicated, of course, to the ghost readers. The numbers don’t lie.
“Ow!” Wura cried out and shoved a bleeding forefinger before Mahmud. Just stepping into his kitchen with a bowl of frozen fish, he went to her.
“How did that happen?” He put the bowl away and placed the finger under running water.
“Shey you refused to buy can opener in this house. I was trying to open the can of tomatoes and it cut me.”
He put an arm around her. She felt the heat from his breath as he left fluffy kisses at the base of her neck. She was accustomed to his lips on her body, but everything he did was limited only to places she exposed. After two weeks as a couple, they were still on their bet, and so far she was winning. Mahmud was cool about it; he had confessed that he was beginning to like the idea of abstinence since it afforded them time to know each other on a more intellectual level. Their personalities and temperaments were different.
“Come on, let’s dress this.”
Mahmud led her to his bedroom which was quite a mess. She had learned he couldn’t really function without chaos. Cleaning up after him was not allowed, so somehow she managed to accept his weird sense of structured disorder.
“You’re going to sing to me one of these days, you know.” He pushed aside a large medical dictionary on his bed and she sat.
“If you tell me why you’re called Tokunboh, I’ll sing for you.”
“Oh, so it’s like that abi?”
Wura stuck out her tongue at him. He walked to his bathroom and returned with a first aid box. She watched as he carefully dressed her injured finger.
“You have to stop bleaching. You’re doing damage to your kidneys.”
“I’m afraid to stop,” she replied in honesty. “The last time I did, the results weren’t good.”
“I’ll refer you to a dermatologist. She’s competent. She’ll help you transition.”
“Dermatologists are expensive.”
“Don’t worry about the bill.”
“Yeah. Just kiss me and I’ll pay.”
“Interesting. If I offer to add, say, Indian hair nko?”
“Yeye.” She pinched him.
“Oya just call me Mymood and I’ll pay. I like the way you say it.”
“Mymood?” Wura flapped her eyelashes at him.
Life was good. She was living a dream and there was no way she was waking from it. Everyone had her time and she felt like a newborn. Dominic, in particular became this completely new person with her. He always stopped by her room every morning to ask how she was doing. They didn’t talk much but it felt good to have him check on her always. On one occasion he placed a peck on her forehead and she almost went to tears. He was a reserved man; those acts alone were huge coming from him.
Eva became more talkative. Of course, she made it about herself, and she didn’t take the doctors’ instructions to help Lexus with her memories. Instead she loaded her with the latest in Nollywood. Somehow, she didn’t want to delve into the past and Lexus was fine with it. Her visits were depressing; Lexus had developed the skill of falling asleep with her eyes wide open whenever she was speaking.
Wura didn’t do much talking about their friendship. She was big on the prayers and bible verses and kept telling her that God had a reason for letting her lose her memories.
“You just have to ask him why and he’ll tell you.”
Lexus nodded and switched topic, wanting to know more about Mahmud.
“I call him Mymood,” Wura smiled. “He’s such a gentleman. He bought me this N200 doll because I told him I never had a toy as a child. Isn’t he sweet?”
“Had sex yet?” Lexus asked on a certain day.
“No. God, no. I’m a music minister in my church.”
“I’m like a preacher of songs. It’s a sin to…”
“Lexus?!” And Wura laughed and snorted in habit.
“You’re pathetic, Woo-woo.”
“Hey, you remember that name!”
“Of course, I do, Woo-woo. The doctors didn’t say my whole memory is fried. Just some of it.”
“Selective amnesia. Hmm… Mahmud has that. We’ve not even dated for a month and he’s already a typical…”
“Prick?” Wura laughed again and snorted and Lexus mimicked her.
Kasi was there for her. Every single day. And sometimes he took her next door to his place and had her listen to a collection of all her favorite songs from 2009 to date. Each song had a special moment trapped in it and Lexus was amazed that he remembered it all. He wanted so badly to take her out to her favorite places, but he wasn’t permitted to yet, so they sat indoors and watched movies or listened to Genesis share stories from her trips around the world.
Today, however, no one was in both buildings. They were all by themselves and Lexus was bored.
“Let’s go out,” she suggested, legs stretched out on Kasi’s laps.
“Your dad finds out and I’m dead.”
“I’m getting fatter staying at home.”
“Sorry. Thou shall not incur daddy’s wrath.”
Lexus groaned and scratched her surgery scar.
“Lex, are you faking your amnesia?”
Lexus pulled her face slowly into a frown. “What?”
“I just feel like you remember a lot of the things you’re not supposed to. And I’ve been on the net researching dissociative amnesia and you don’t quite fit the description of someone going through one. So is this an attempt at getting attention from your dad?”
Lexus took her legs away from him and got off the sofa they were both resting on.
“Lexus, come on…”
“I’m looking for attention? Is that what you’re saying? I’m looking for attention?”
“I’m not saying you are. I’m just asking. If you tell me the truth, I would understand, baby.”
“Fuck you, Kas. Don’t call me baby. I’m not your fucking baby.”
She turned towards the staircase and ran up to her bedroom. Kasi scurried after her and caught the door before it slammed in his face. He walked into a freezing room with R&B music playing from a compact Dr. Dre Pill speaker.
Lexus was perched on the armrest of a chair in the middle of the room. Her right leg was raised, her right elbow rested on it and the rest of her other arm disappeared under t-shirt. She fixed her eyes on a flat screen television in front of her. Kasi let himself into the lower bunk of her double-decked bed and stretched out.
“Why did you snap like that?”
Lexus didn’t answer immediately. She played with her belly button while she flipped cable channels before she gave an answer that came out in all shades of bile. Kasi listened patiently. It wasn’t something he had not heard before but he didn’t speak until she was through.
“You’re getting me wrong. You have every right to do what you’re doing. Don’t just lie to me about it. You’re my homie. Don’t do shit like that to me.”
“Okay, fine. I’m faking the whole amnesia stuff. I remember everything. I just didn’t want to wake up from that hospital bed to face the same old crap again.” She turned off the television. “Can’t believe I’m even explaining myself. Fuck you, Kas.”
“What’s with all the F bombs? You’re really upset o. Oya come let me pet you. Come and receive a kiss for all your pain.”
Lexus left her chair and went to him. He moved; she took the little space beside him and they both squeezed in. To make her more comfortable, he rested on his side, leaning on an elbow.
“You should tell your dad all the things you just told me. I’m not in your life to be playing daddy for you.”
None of them spoke any further. The only voice in the room belonged to Jason Derullo and they listened to him in stillness. No conscious movement was made by either of them as song after song played, but somehow, they had moved closer.
“Am I the only who thinks two of us lying this close on this small bed is a bad idea?” Lexus asked.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She shifted a little and found his face. “Kasi, let’s just pipe and get it over with.”
“What!” Kasi moved until his back was to the wall. He looked into her face and found a serious stare that had him laughing. “You’re serious.”
He shook his head to drive away the shock of her blatant request. “You’re just horny. Use a vibrator.”
“Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it, especially these past few days.”
“I haven’t but em… I’ve been catching some kain yeye feelings of late.”
Lexus smiled smugly. “See?”
“No, Lex. We can’t have sex or pipe or whatever you call it because the aftermath could either be a joke or a total disaster.”
“You’ll never know until you try.”
“Are you seriously asking for sex?”
“Are you seriously turning a homie down?”
“Now, that just sounds wrong on all accounts,” Kasi muttered, leaving the bed. “Lex, I don’t see you that way. You’re like a…” He couldn’t complete the sentence but he was courteous enough to stop and look into her eyes.
“I’m like a guy?”
“Oh, now you just asked for it, player.”
She dragged him back into the bed and before he could turn away, she took off her t-shirt and exposed her breasts which were without a bra.
“Do I look like a guy now?”
Kasi was at a halt, his eyes fastened on her breasts.
“Hey!” Lexus snapped her fingers at him. He blinked and a roguish smile followed.
“You’re trying me for the millionth time, Woyintonbra. If anything happens here today, I won’t be blamed for your emotions later…”
Lexus drew him close and ended his speech with a short kiss.
“Easy there, aggressor,” he tried to pull away but she clung to him and dragged him down.
“Why, Lex? What do you want from this?”
“You. Here. Now. And then we forget it ever happened.”
“And our friendship?”
“Kasiobi, please nau! You’re turned on. I can feel it. Just be a normal guy and not use your head for once and–”
Kasi put his hand over her mouth.
“Shhh…” He eased his weight on her slowly until she was completely relaxed beneath him before he lifted his hand and replaced it with his lips. Their fingers locked into each other’s, and for the second time that afternoon, there were no sounds from them, just the voices of Sevyn Streeter and Chris Brown in a duet.
The foreplay was at a leisure pace, with Kasi piloting it. He took his time and held back the itch. It felt like a lazy drive down a slope in a deserted area – the ignition killed, the headlamps switched off, Sevyn Streeter and Chris Brown on repeat.
When the magical act finally began, they both had different reactions. Lexus was her usual self, enjoying the moment from the first thrust, but Kasi was cautious and slow. Physically, they could have created fireworks, but he met her only halfway. He was more connected to her in emotions that deepened with each movement. He hadn’t expected to be so drawn in, but Lexus couldn’t care less as long as he was the cure for her present hunger. Regrettably, Kasi could see the outcome and it didn’t look good. He didn’t want to face the aftermath, hence he stopped halfway and lay beside her.
She neither questioned him nor complained. One look in his eyes and she understood that he couldn’t continue, though she didn’t know his reasons. She also was aware that he didn’t want to speak about it. But ultimately they were both unsatisfied and out of their depth.
“You know we just screwed up now, right?” Kasi whispered.
“Yeah, we shouldn’t have.”
“I’m going to be haunted by your boobs. You walk by and gbam! Boobs! You look at me and gbam! Boobs! You talk to me and…”
Lexus got off her bed and took her blanket with her, but it got caught between her legs and she stumbled to the floor. She swore and Kasi laughed. The awkward spell was broken. He leaned over and yanked the blanket away and she curled up in a fetal position to cover herself. Kasi brought out his phone from his pocket and took a photo.
“At least one of us has proof of this awkwardness.” His phone went back into his pocket. “See you later, friend without benefit.”
He jumped over her and left the room. She stared at the door after he had gone and fell into laughter.
“So I’ll come pick you by eight?”
Mahmud’s eyes were on the huge cathedral where Wura worshipped. It was situated across a busy street from where his car was parked in the heart of Apapa.
One minute.” Wura attended to her ringing phone. She listened to Genesis on the line for a few minutes and ended the call with a ‘yes ma’.
“Who was that?”
“My new boss. Genesis.”
“Oh, the hot one.”
Mahmud got a smack on his head.
“The fat one, I said.”
“So you do what for her exactly?”
“Marketing. I told you already na, Tokunboh.”
“Yes, you did and I remember saying I didn’t like the job.”
“It’s event planning, not an escort service,” Wura said in defense. “Besides, I don’t do much. Ehi and I just go where she sends us and leave reminders with the clients. They already know her.”
“Okay o. Just be careful. I don’t like her.”
“I thought she was hot.”
“Fat. I said fat.”
Wura spied a group of her friends headed in their direction. “Let me be going.”
“I’ll come pick you by eight.”
“No, don’t worry. I’ll get a ride with friends.”
She gave him a quick hug and joined her friends outside.
The rehearsals lasted thirty minutes longer than usual and Wura stayed an additional thirty minutes for a friendly chat with Pastor Ralph. She told him nothing about Mahmud. They talked about other things and called it a night.
Outside the church building, her friends met up with her and they started out. When they emerged from the gate, she caught sight of Mahmud waiting by his car at the same spot she had left him earlier. He threw a wave and flung what looked like a burning cigarette away.
“Who’s that guy waving at?” one of the girls asked.
“Me.” Wura waved back.
“Ooooh, your boyfriend.”
Wura left them without notice and walked to Mahmud. The girls followed her.
“Hi.” She smiled at him. “I told you I’d find my way home.”
“Well, it’s my free day and I don’t see why I shouldn’t be your chauffer.”
He reached for a hug. She was halfhearted with her response and stepped away from him just as her friends appeared.
“Hello ladies,” Mahmud saluted. “Doll Face, introduce me, will you?”
“Oh. Um…this is Folake, and Gloria and Lydia. And girls, this is Tokunboh.”
“Or just call me Mahmud, the boyfriend.”
Mahmud shook hands with each of them. Wura smiled but it was clear she was uneasy.
“You girls going towards Lekki or Ajah?”
“Yeah,” Gloria replied.
“We’ll give you a ride. Hop in.”
The ride was one of Wura’s worst car rides in history. Mahmud had decided that since she wasn’t going to make it clear to her friends that he was a Muslim, it was his duty to do so. He picked out the most Arabian music he had in his car and played it, apologizing for his weird taste. The silence from Wura’s friends only indicated that rumors would go round the church before worship ended the next day. Wura was pissed.
The girls stopped at Ajah Market roundabout and Mahmud took a left turn into a busy street called Ado Road. He switched the music to hardcore rap that matched his present mood.
“You’re ashamed of me? You didn’t want to introduce me as your boyfriend or tell them I was a Muslim?”
“Why should I when your plan was just to embarrass me?!” Wura blurted in anger. “Well, thank you! I’ll be the trending gossip in church tomorrow!”
“Because you’re dating a Muslim? What type of church is that?!”
“A real church! See, let’s just be honest here, Tokunboh! Your people won’t accept me and my people won’t accept you! This won’t work!”
Mahmud ground his teeth and leaned his elbow on the door while his other hand stayed on the wheel. His face was lost in the dark. Now and then bright lights flashed at him from the street and all she got was a glimpse of his eyes. She didn’t like what she saw in them.
He pulled up at a junction that led into her estate and killed the engine.
“You’re stopping me here?”
“Yeah. Please, come down.”
“You won’t drive me in?”
“Well, today I don’t feel like, Wuraola.”
Wura hugged her handbag and opened her door. “Goodnight.”
Mahmud mumbled something and she shut the door. She already regretted her actions, but was too proud to apologize. She hailed a bike, hopped on it and headed home.
Not far into her journey, bright headlamps flashed from behind her and she told the bike rider to give way so the car could overtake them. But the car sped up and caught up with them.
“Oga stop your okada!” Mahmud’s voice startled her. She turned and saw his car beside them.
“Oga, no stop o,” she countered his instructions. “Dey go!”
“My friend, park! Na my wife you dey take try your craze! Oshi! Park joor!”
The bike rider slowed and pulled up beside the road. Wura paid him fifty bucks and began walking away. Mahmud tailed her with his car.
“You hurt me, Wura. Made me wonder if I’m wasting my time with you.”
“Maybe you are.”
“What are you so afraid of? What people will say or you falling so deeply for me you won’t be able to get out of this mess that is our relationship?”
She quickened her steps. “Thank God you know we’re a mess.”
“Why do you want to throw us away, Wura? We don’t choose these things. They’re predestined.”
“No, Tokunboh, you chose me. I chose you. And we can undo it.”
Mahmud stopped his car and Wura moved some paces before stopping. He came out of the car and sat on the hood.
“You chose to say what you just said. I chose to stop this car and sit on it. We chose to have this fight. But the way we both feel for each other right now, we didn’t choose it and we can’t stop it if God’s hands are in it.”
“Tokunboh,” Wura sighed.
“Leave me if you think I’m not the guy for you. Just keep walking, Wura. And me, I’ll just go home and we’ll end this.”
Wura couldn’t move. She saw her house in the distance and her mind was already there, but something else held her feet to the graveled ground beneath her. It was a weak force; she could fight it yet she didn’t. If there was one thing physics taught her in school it was that the fight against gravity could never be won.
She turned back to Mahmud and found a weary but winning smile waiting for her.
There was no reason why Tuoyo would lie to him. Dominic had always known him as an honest young man, one who was very protective of his sister.
Mofe was his only family, apart from his wife and little son, and he respected her deeply. He respected Dominic as well and had been instrumental in helping him get into Mofe’s life. It was he who had registered her in the dating site that connected them both. The young man was a hundred percent in support of their relationship. And that was why Dominic knew that he could take everything he told him without a pinch of salt. Besides, Dominic had visited his home at an odd hour; certainly, not a good time for Tuoyo to tell tall tales.
“I’m so sorry, sir. I didn’t know she just up and left without telling you.”
Dominic shook his head. Mofe told him nothing of her plans to travel to Germany for a six-month course with Volkswagen. Two weeks of trying her line and not getting through, visits to her house and finding no one, texting and receiving no replies, all culminated to what Tuoyo was telling him at the moment.
“I’ll give you her number, sir.”
Tuoyo produced his phone and read out a phone number Dominic stored. They shook hands and Dominic left the house. Back in his car, he apologized to Genesis who was seated in the passenger seat. He wasted no time in trying Mofe’s number. It rang a couple of times and it was answered.
Dominic took a breath before speaking. “Mofe.”
There was a pause from her. “Hi, Dominic.”
“Mofe, what are you doing in Germany?” he demanded.
“You have no right to speak to me that way.”
“I only asked a question.”
“Nick, we’re over. I already told you that. I don’t owe you anymore. You have your memory card and your secrets. I have my life. Let me be.”
“This is just stupid. You left the country without telling me?”
“Dominic, I left because I was walking into a bad déjà vu with you. It was like Jibo all over again and I just couldn’t handle it. So please, let me go.”
“I can’t. I’m coming to Germany this week.”
“No, Dominic. It’s over. I’ve moved on. I have…someone else…”
“No, I’m not. He’s an ex. He helped me get here and I’m living with him. This is his number.”
“I want to speak with him.”
“I want to speak with him. Put him on.”
There was some noise and whispering in the background. Seconds went by and a male voice came on.
“Yeah?” The stranger was defensive. Dominic couldn’t find his own voice.
Dominic put the phone away from his ear and ended the call. He turned on his ignition and put the car in gear.
“Are you okay, Mr. Dominic?” Genesis asked.
“Yeah, I’m cool.”
But he was not. Shock was a mild word to explain the way he felt. He couldn’t accept as true that Mofe had moved on. It was a blow to his pride and plans. She was perfect for him. If she had accommodated someone like Jibo, then being with him would be easier. He had loved and lost and lusted and now he wanted more, something deeper without pain, an unfussy bond between two adults. Mofe was supposed to be the one.
He was mad at her and mad in his thoughts as he muttered to himself, not caring that Genesis was beside him. In the course of their journey home he had dialed Mofe a second time and gotten the same strange man on the phone. It was then he let it sink in that she was actually serious. Besides, Germany and Nigeria were in the same time zone; Mofe was not the type of woman to be in a man’s house at 4:30 in the morning if she didn’t have something intimate with him.
Dominic left his hand on his horn and gave it a prolonged blare as he approached his gate. The gateman let him in and he drove into the compound in a rage. He got out of his car, jacket flung across his shoulder; and he walked off.
“See you later Mr. Dominic.”
He replied Genesis with a wave and entered his house. Thirty minutes afterward and a cold shower, he was ready to snooze. But a dastardly-wild thought passed his mind as he stood out on his balcony. He mulled over it briefly. It wasn’t one of those matters one pondered on for long; it was to be taken on impulse.
And he did just that.
He picked something from his bedside drawer, left his room and made it downstairs via the backdoor, through a pedestrian gate at the backyard and into the guest wing. A staircase led him straight to Genesis’ apartment and he knocked on her kitchen door. It took a while for her to come to it but she showed no surprise at his presence. On his part he displayed no outward reaction to the fact that she was only in her underwear. It was as if they both had planned the moment and were acting out their roles.
“I don’t like being teased. I hope you’re packing real heat.”
He put a hand on her bum and squeezed into it. She gasped, and for a moment he thought he saw fear in her eyes, but the texture of her flesh pressed in his palm and the supple feel of her breasts crushing into his chest clouded his thinking. It was two years too long for him to think straight. In fact, from the moment he inhaled her captivating scent his reasoning faculties stopped working.