Here’s the first episode of Where to Find Breasts. The second one comes on Tuesday, next week.
Thirty-three was no different from thirty-four. Yenkat discovered this on the morning of her birthday. She felt as old as she had felt the night before. Maybe older by a minute. Not that it mattered to her.
Outside, the morning air was frosty. Dark clouds blanketed the sky. It had been raining for days. Angry, gusty, cloudbursts. And Yenkat had been locked in, allowing her mind go numb as she let the radio play nonstop. Her gateman wouldn’t let the darn generator rest. Each time the power went off, he brought life back into the house in a matter of seconds. Even if it was 3 a.m. in the morning. She had had the mind to tell him not to bother with the generator at odd times of the day, especially when it rained and the crispy air cut right through to her heart. But Yenkat had not been able to move her legs in the manner she had wanted to in a while. And it wasn’t just her legs. Everything else was non-functional. She had been this way, in this state of half-done permanence since she lost her brother. Today, however, she planned to restore all useful faculties to full working mode.
She switched on her phone. It had been shut down for five days. The calls and messages had been too much to handle. Hence, she cut off from the world and gave instructions to her domestic staff not to let anyone in.
Yenkat dropped her feet to the floor. She stood and wobbled a little. She was lightheaded. Little worm-like objects floated in her vision. Her hand shook as she rubbed her eyes. She was famished. Her skin had gone pale and her nails brittle. She walked to the bathroom with unsteady legs. Sitting on the floor, she filled the tub with warm water. When she slipped in, her body trembled, but soon found comfort in the soapy water. It felt like a good back massage after a tired day. She shut her eyes. The minutes ticked by.
An hour later, she was seated before her dressing mirror, erasing the signs of her pain with makeup. It was much easier to do that than to comb her weave, which had tangled at the edges. When she couldn’t get it right, she picked a scarf and made a turban.
Her room had a stuffy odor to it. Her perfume dominated the air, but it was suffocating. Yenkat picked her buzzing phone. Condolence messages poured in like rain, and birthday wishes too. There were unusually few. She could sense that a lot of people were not sure if they could wish her anything hearty in her period of mourning. Normally, she would throw herself a party. This year wouldn’t have been different if Dashe hadn’t died.
Yenkat walked down a wide hallway that led to the kitchen. Her housekeeper, Oyin, who was yet to get used to her nudity, gasped when she saw her.
“Good morning, Aunty Yeni.”
“Morning, Oyin.” Yenkat walked past, stepping on the floor she had just mopped.
“Happy birthday ma! I didn’t forget o!”
She heard Oyin coming after her. “And you have four cakes waiting in the kitchen. And flowers… They’re all over the parlor. People kept bringing them. Some even spoilt and I had to throw them away.”
Yenkat opened the fridge in search of fruits. “How many people visited?”
“I told you to keep a visitor’s book.”
“I did. I wrote their names down. Your cousin and her husband came too.”
“Which of my cousins?”
“The one with the fine, rich husband.”
“Ah.” Yenkat took out a bowl of plums and two pears. “Wash these for me and make me some oatmeal.”
“Yes, ma.” Oyin genuflected as she took the fruits from her.
“Oh, stop bowing like a slave every time.”
“I’m sorry ma.”
“Any other information I need to know?”
“No. Nothing. Oh, I need to go and shop. We’re running out of yam and other things.”
“Make a list.”
“Oh, and Aunty Aanu called yesterday. She said she will call today again.”
“Okay.” Yenkat rubbed her arms. A cold wind had blustered in through the kitchen’s open windows.
“Get me my robe.”
Oyin, always eager to serve, hurried out. Yenkat cast her eyes on her tea shelf longingly. She had survived on teas for the past five days. Oyin would leave a tray outside the door, containing a mug, a kettle of steaming water and a pack of exotic teas. Like a prisoner, Yenkat would open the door a little and drag the tray in. Morning and night, this happened. She wasn’t a coffee person. Her tea game was so tight that the shelf before her was dedicated to all sorts of teas from around the world. This morning, on the occasion of her birthday, she felt like doing something vintage, so she chose one of her most expensive teas, which had cost her $3000 per kilo. Tieguanyin tea was named in honor of the iron goddess of mercy in the Buddhist religion. The leaves could be brewed seven times before losing their strong chestnut flavor. This was Yenkat’s first brew since she bought the pack. Her mouth watered as she turned on the cooker.
Oyin brought a cotton nightshirt instead of the robe. Normally, things like that irked Yenkat, but she was unbothered this morning. She wore the shirt and brewed her tea. She sat in her living room that was made up of all things white, surrounded by sympathy flowers, and sipped the tea in absolute silence. Many things ran through her head, all of them business-related. Her facilities management company was falling apart due to bad investment from a bad manager. She had gone off for two years to complete a course outside the country, leaving the company in the hands of her late younger brother. She returned to find things the wrong way up. She was now on the brink of selling it. Her focus, upon return, had been real estate. She had already found an impressive upcoming firm in which she was going to invest. The profit edge promised to be high. All that was left was for papers to be signed.
Yenkat stretched out on the sofa and extended her hand when she saw Oyin coming towards her with a tray of oatmeal and fruits.
“Clean my room, please.”
Oyin turned away after handing her the tray. Yenkat navigated her thoughts back to business, but her phone wouldn’t let her be. She took calls as she had breakfast, thanking the people on the other end for sympathizing with her or wishing her a happy birthday. Seven calls later, she was drained. She reminded herself that she needed a new personal assistant. She had fired the one she had just a week before Dashe died. The girl had gone and gotten pregnant to her scum of a boyfriend. Yenkat was disappointed. She had had great plans for the girl. Where was she to find her replacement?
Her phone was ringing again. It was a UK number. She took the call. A voice began to sing the birthday song to her. Yenkat endured the croaking as she walked to her bedroom. Oyin was mopping the floor when she got in.
“Happy birthday!” The voice was done singing. “Wait first, let’s Skype or Facetime or something. I want to see you.”
“Aanu, I am not in the mood for your energy this morning.”
“I know my darling. I am so sorry. I have been calling and calling. Oyinda told me that you didn’t want to be disturbed. It is understandable. My dear, this life is painful. Dash just died like that. My handsome, sweet Dash. Kai!”
Yenkat didn’t want to be sad. Today, she was celebrating a new year in her life. Dashe and his suicide couldn’t take her joy from her. She was done mourning him.
“Can we not talk about Dash?” She motioned Oyin away.
“How are you doing?” Yenkat asked. Aanu had suffered a snow-related accident with her brother-in-law after his car skidded off and hit a parked truck outside his house. They were returning from a nearby store where they had gone shopping.
“I’m getting better jare. This leg is taking forever to heal. Old age is a bad thing.”
“Aanu, you are thirty-four for gossake.”
“That’s old in my books. Thirty-four with flabs everywhere. Old and flabby. But forget about me for a second. This is not about me. It’s you. You need me. You need comfort food and stories that would make you laugh. I would have come, of course, but my leg…”
“Why are you explaining? My friend, better get well before you start flying down here. I’m fine.”
“I miss you fa. This place is one kind. I can’t wait to come back. But anyways, I have a surprise for you.”
The last time Aanu prepared a surprise for Yenkat, it turned out to be her pastor going down on one knee in front of her house to propose to her. Aanu’s surprises always came with men at the other end of them. Yenkat was tired of her best friend trying to hook her up. It wasn’t that she was opposed to relationships; she just didn’t see the need for them. And she doubted that she would ever be ready. Men were not top priority to her. She hadn’t been badly burned by an ex that she couldn’t survive. She had even been married before, to a man that was all shades of scum, but she didn’t carry any baggage. She just never saw men and relationships as her thing, and her failed marriage had proven her point. The only pain she bore was her infertility. She had always wanted a child, and had tried unsuccessfully. Her present childlessness was responsible for how fast or slow her biological clock was ticking. Men were not the reason. She wished Aanu and the whole world understood that.
“You’ll love my surprise.”
“I don’t think I will.”
“Yes, you will,” Aanu sang. She loved to sing, even though she had a horrible singing voice. She was talkative, bubbly, and kindhearted. However, she was quick to anger, and whenever she got angry, she became an entirely different person. But Yenkat loved her the way she was. They had been friends since their teenage years in Maiduguri. Aanu’s father had worked at the teaching hospital at that time as one of the best surgeons. He was a proud Yoruba man with a strong Christian reputation. But his first daughter, who was just twelve years old, fouled it when she fell pregnant for a Shuwa Arab boy, Nasir, who lived down their street.
Aanu had hidden the pregnancy from her family until she could no longer do so. By the time her mother discovered that she was with child, she was already seven months gone. Enraged, her father beat her up in her pregnant state, almost causing her to lose the child. Yenkat’s mother, a nurse in the same hospital, rescued Aanu and took her in until she gave birth to Omar, so named by Nasir, whose parents, like Aanu’s, detested him for his actions. Omar spent his first two years with the Burjas (Yenkat’s family) until Nasir’s father had a change of mind and took Aanu and Omar in. Only then did Aanu’s parents step in. A battle for the boy ensued, which spanned two long years, until Aanu, having now become an adult legally, eloped with Nasir.
Their relationship didn’t work out. Three years later, they split. But Aanu never returned home. She moved to Lagos where she worked and schooled, and raised Omar on her own with Yenkat’s help. The women opened a small restaurant in their neighborhood and the business grew to the point where they began handling events. Aanu, being the better cook, got job offers that eventually saw her working for top-rated hotels. Yenkat, on the other hand, went beyond just the catering business. She saw an opportunity to provide other services to hotels, easing them of the stress of managing their facilities. But being unable to start something of her own, she worked from one hotel to another for short periods, taking an ace team with her. While she did this, she got herself a masters degree in hospitality and another in business administration. She also invested in small businesses that paid off massively. By the time she turned thirty-one, she had her facilities management company running smoothly. This meant fat bank accounts, more investments and a drove of men seeking her hand in marriage. She chose one of those men, someone she thought was full of promise. But the marriage barely lasted one year. Yenkat divorced him and moved on.
Aanu was with her throughout, except for that time when Nasir returned and Aanu agreed to be his second wife. He bought her a house in Lagos, and gave her and Omar everything they needed. Aanu, on her own, quit working, and took on the role of a housewife. In three years, she got fat. In four, she was divorced. But Nasir didn’t stop providing for her and Omar. He sent the boy outside the country to school, and had since been in his life. Aanu presently ran a grill and bar somewhere in Lekki, but at the moment, she was in the UK with her sister who had just had a baby. Yenkat was to expect her back home in a couple of weeks, were it not for Aanu’s accident and Dashe’s death.
“I saw this lovely dress on a mannequin in a shop that I feel would fit you perfectly, Yeni.”
Aanu always saw stuff that would fit Yenkat. Yenkat always ended up paying for the stuff.
“I imagined you wearing it for a date. It’s short and dangerously sexy. I know this is not the time to fall into the arms of a man, but imagine if you had someone now. He would hold you when you cry, and say, ‘here, take small dick to ease your pain.’”
Yenkat tossed her head backwards and laughed hard.
“Abi I dey lie?”
“Small dick? I’ll pass.”
“I sha already bought the dress. Expect it today. Oops!” She laughed. “Spilled part of the surprise out.”
Yenkat smiled. “You’re such an idiot.”
“But please, I beg you, wear that dress for a lucky guy, and allow him lift it up slowly, as his fingers graze over your thighs. Then, allow him grab your buttocks, massage it gently and pull you to him.”
“Buttocks?” Yenkat rolled her eyes. “Are you reading M&B again?”
“They are not. It’s the same thing all the writers write. The way the lovers meet, the first kiss, the falling in love, the first sex, the short moment of bliss, the conflict that comes to tear them apart, the reconciliation and the last sex. Same story arch.”
“Fiction always mirrors reality.”
“If that were the case, you and Nasir would be doing your happily ever something by now.”
“Just allow him lift that dress up and shift your pant, Yeni.”
“Okay, Aanu. I will wear the dress and let the imaginary man you dashed me do all those things to me. Satisfied?”
“I want pictures.”
“Of him doing the stuff?”
“Of you in the dress. Tell Oyin to snap them and then send them to me.”
“Please, don’t photoshop yourself into my pictures like you did the last time.”
Aanu sniggered. Yenkat’s eyes fell on the wall clock facing her. They had been talking for more than an hour. How on earth did they never run out of what to say? “Aanu, I have to go.”
“Sure, luv. Wear that dress and have a fabulous birthday. And again, my deepest, sincerest condolences. We all miss Dash. I’ve been crying like a baby. God does take the good ones.”
The good one that ran my business down, hated me, stole my money and killed himself.
Aanu hung up. Yenkat sighed in exasperation. She always felt virtue leave her each time Aanu called.
She stared at her closet, contemplating on what to wear. To mourn the dead or celebrate a new year? She went for something upbeat and colorful, touched on her makeup and left the house. She drove out to Victoria Island, arriving at a certain office for her eleven o’clock meeting just in time, which lasted a little under an hour. She visited a salon where she had her hair and nails done. By the time she was done, her tummy was grumbling in hunger. Yenkat stopped at Omar’s Grill and Bar, owned by Aanu, and asked for a couple of mini lamb burgers and a six-pack of light beer.
When she got home, she changed into a crop top and joggers, sat on the front porch, and had her second meal for the day, which was the beer alone. She had suddenly lost her appetite for the burger. And this bothered her a little, because she was a foodie who could eat her weight in food. She loved alcohol too, and since today was her birthday, she consumed three cans for a start. Towards the end of her third can, she heard a vehicle driving into the compound. A white SUV soon came into view and parked beside her car under a canopied parking spot on the right side of the compound.
The driver’s door opened and a young man stepped out.
Yenkat smiled. She hadn’t seen him in almost three years. This was the best surprise Aanu had ever gifted her. She watched Omar struggle with a cake box in one hand, and numerous gift and grocery bags in the other. Yenkat got some pleasure watching him struggle. The gateman was kind enough to leave his post to help him out.
Yenkat walked into the house and waited. There was a generous smile on her face when Omar got in. The last time she saw him, he was lankier, had his face covered in acne, and constantly bore a virginal look on his face, even though he was far from innocent. Now, he was showing some muscle, bearing a full beard and having a look that said he knew some of the secrets of the world. He was not the boy she used to know.
But she had known him so well back then. She had been there at his birth, had watched him take his first step, had held him in her arms on most nights until he slept off, was present throughout his childhood and teenage years. She gave him his first lesson in sex education, knew when he first had sex, was there for him when he almost fathered a child, and was his escape from home whenever his mother turned her wrath on him. Yenkat was Omar’s second mother, and she loved him as though he belonged to her. Her boy was home.
“Aunty Yeni,” Omar called, voice deeper than she remembered. “The only Yenkizzle in my nizzle!”
Having dropped the items he came in with, Omar hugged her affectionately.
“I’ve missed you, baby boy.”
“No more missing me. Your omo daada is here. Happy birthday, mama na. But first things…” He broke away from her and brought out his phone.
“What are you doing?”
“Smile for the camera. Mom says to take a selfie with you.”
“And did she add that you should leave some space where she can photoshop herself in?”
“You know her na.” Omar took a few selfies, showed them to Yenkat and sent them to Aanu.
“When did you get into town?”
“Last night. I am so sorry for your loss, Aunty Yeni. I’m still in shock.”
Omar searched her face. “You’ve not been sleeping?”
“I have. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine.”
He hugged her again, rubbing her back. He was expressive and open, although not as his mother was. He had his moments of introversion and long silences. But with Yenkat, he held nothing back. She believed she knew all his secrets. And he knew some of hers too, specifically from the time that she was married. Omar had been living with her then, and had witnessed how dysfunctional her marriage had been. On the night that her ex lost his mind and hit her, it was Omar who rescued her and beat the man to unconsciousness. He saved her life that night and kept the incident a secret. Not even Aanu was aware of the events that occurred.
“So, I’m here to let you know that Chef Omar is at your service tonight. I will make you some comfort food that will make you feel better.”
“Awww, that’s sweet. First of all, allow me to address you accordingly. Welcome home, Chef Omar Oluwatobiloba Mustapha.”
Omar gave an exaggerated bow. Yenkat was proud of him. He had just gotten a degree in culinary arts from the New England Institute in the United States. It wasn’t what his parents wanted him to study, but he stuck with it, getting support from Yenkat.
Omar picked the cake he had come with off a stool beside him.
“Happy birthday. I got you devil food cake. I wished I had baked it myself though. It’s dark chocolate. Your favorite.”
Yenkat smiled appreciatively. “Thank you.”
“That’s not all.” He returned the cake to the stool and presented her with ten gift bags, placing them on the center table. “I wanted to make them thirty-four, but Dad has been stingy lately.”
“Are you out of your mind? You finished your pocket money on me?”
“Shebi you’ll dash me money when I get broke na.”
“See your head.” She tried to pull his ear. He caught her hand and kissed it.
“What are in the bags?”
“Not now. What’s in that one there?” Yenkat pointed at a lone bag on the floor.
“Oh, that’s Mom’s gift. She says you should wear it and allow me take a picture of you in it.”
“The dress can wait joor. Come, let’s pop a bottle of wine. I want you to gist me all about school and the girls and everything else.”
Yenkat led the way to her kitchen. Omar towered above her, shadowing her with every step she took. The boy always made her look short. But she wasn’t. He was six-foot-one. He had taken after his father in height and looks, bearing some of that Shuwa Arab blood in him.
“So, I’m hungry,” he said. “I haven’t eaten since last night.”
“Say no more.” Yenkat opened her microwave and took out the burger she had gotten from Aanu’s grill and bar. She pulled a chair for Omar and made him sit at the kitchen table where the gateman had dropped the groceries Omar brought.
“This is an Omar,” Omar muttered after his first taste of the burger.
Yenkat cleared some of the groceries off the table. “Water? Beer? Or more beer?”
Omar chuckled. “Water.”
She took out a bottle of water from the fridge and sat facing him. She watched him eat, recalling when, as a little boy, he had struggled with food. A couple of times he had had to be admitted in the hospital to treat malnutrition. Aanu hadn’t had the heart to be patient with him or the mind to be strong during his weakest moments. That was where Yenkat came in. She was there, serving the role of a second parent.
“You’re dreaming away.”
Yenkat straightened up. “Hmm?”
“You’re doing that thing when you disappear into the past or something.”
“Just remembering when you used to throw up all over me because you couldn’t put food down.”
“And now, look at me. Eating like a pig.”
He didn’t eat like a pig. Yenkat had taught him the basics of etiquette, and how to live the life of the wealthy and classy. She was glad to see that her lessons stuck.
Omar filled her ears with stories of his adventurous life outside the country. His father had wanted him studying something related to finance or business management, but Omar had chosen his own path, causing some sort of silent beef between him and the man. Nonetheless, Nasir already made it clear that he had a job waiting for him in his brokerage firm. Omar wasn’t going to take the offer. He planned to go to France or Italy to pursue a diploma in pastry arts and another in cuisine. The plan, after that, was to return and open a restaurant.
The pressure to do as well as his cousins stressed him. He also didn’t think the Mustaphas considered him one of them, even though he was his father’s first son. This was because they had always wanted him to convert fully to Islam. When it came to religion, he was neither here nor there. Whenever he was with his father, he lived like a Muslim. And with his mother, he was a Christian.
“So, I want to help you with your tuition and everything else you need for school,” Yenkat told him.
He lowered his glass of wine and sat up straight.
“You’ll help me?”
“Yup. With everything. School fees, pocket money, wardrobe allowance, flight tickets, all of it.”
“Wow. I didn’t tell you I needed money for school.”
“I know you do, and I know you don’t want to ask your parents.”
Omar was speechless. He reached over the kitchen table where they sat and took her hand. “This is why I love you.”
She loved his eyes. They were intense. Right from the cradle, he had borne the face of someone that was always introspective, and anytime he smiled, it stole her heart away. He was twenty-two and he still made her smile without trying hard to.
“Just write down all you need for a start and give it to me. I should be able to send you something next week.”
Omar left his side of the table and went to her. He dropped down to put his arms around her. “You’re the best.”
“The very best. I love you, mami.”
Something about the way he called her ‘mami’ made her blush. It was a new pet name. He had started using that on her over a year ago, each time they chatted online or on the phone.
“I love you too, but sit down and tell me about the women in your life.”
Omar gave her a demure smile. She noticed he hadn’t said anything about his love life, which was weird, because he always told her everything.
He walked to the kitchen counter and began emptying the grocery bags.
“I had a couple of relationships here and there. Nothing serious.”
“I need details.”
“I’m serious. They were just short affairs. I couldn’t commit.”
“Because I knew I wasn’t staying.”
“Reasonable. But tell me the juiciest ones.”
He turned. “It was just sex with mostly older women.” He had a direct look in his eyes. Yenkat shook her head. She had always been intrigued with his obsession with older women, and it seemed it was something that would stick.
“I have a theory about you and this cougar thing you’re into.”
“I love your shirt, by the way.”
He stared at himself. “It’s Guy Laroche.”
Yenkat was impressed. From his taste in fashion to his manners, Omar had taken after her. She had groomed a stylish gentleman.
“It’s the texture I love.”
“Thanks. You were saying something about a theory?”
“Yes. You love older women because they are unavailable.”
He smiled, tongue-in-cheek, literally. A habit of his. “Maybe.”
“Other than that, I can’t understand why you don’t connect with girls your age.”
“You’ll never understand. Do you have more wine?”
“You know I do.”
Yenkat rose up from the table to her storeroom where a wall was dedicated to her wines. She picked a bottle from a shelf and handed it to him.
“I hope you know you’re sleeping over tonight? I’ll have Oyin fix up the guestroom for you.”
“Oyin!” Yenkat called.
“I’m coming, ma!”
Yenkat had heard the doorbell. She wasn’t expecting anyone. She hoped it wasn’t the guy next door who had suddenly developed a crush on her. She regretted telling him that today was her birthday.
Oyin came into the kitchen. “Ma, your cousin and her husband are here.”
“Oh, okay. Thanks.” Yenkat instructed her to prepare the guestroom for Omar, observing the girl’s eyes couldn’t leave him.
Yenkat picked her phone and walked out to the living room. Her cousin was staring at a painting on the wall while her husband sat, one foot resting on the knee of the other leg. Her cousin was glowing, bearing the radiance of a new bride. She had been married barely a week. Yenkat was sad that she hadn’t been able to attend. Dashe had died and messed her appointments up.
“Hey babe,” she greeted, and turned to her cousin’s husband. “Hi you.”
He rose up. “Yenkat…” He had that look of sympathy on his face. Yenkat couldn’t wait for a time that normalcy would return to her life and people would stop feeling sorry for her over her loss.
“My condolences.” Her cousin’s husband hugged her.
“Thank you, Leo.”
“How are you?”
“Good.” She received a hug from her cousin as well and they all sat. There was a short moment of silence before her cousin spoke.
“We visited when we heard. Oyin told us you weren’t taking visitors. Yen, we are so sorry.”
“I saw the pictures on the web. Who on earth took them and shared them?”
Yenkat sighed. She had no idea. Dashe had been dead for some days before his neighbors broke into his house and found him rotting away. The pictures went viral on the net even before Yenkat was informed.
“People are so insensitive.” Her cousin took her hand. “But we’re here for you, Yen. We brought you birthday gifts, of course. They’re in the car.”
“Have you spoken to a grief counselor?” her cousin’s husband interrupted.
“Leonel?” his wife scolded.
“It’s okay, Kyenpia.” Yenkat smiled. “No, Leo. I haven’t.”
“You should. Considering the circumstances surrounding his death and all. Suicide is hard on the loved ones of the victims. They are victims as well. You are, Yenkat. And if you wouldn’t mind, I’ll give you the number of a colleague. She’s good with cases like yours.”
Leonel was a psychologist and a therapist, whenever he wasn’t running his chain of hotels. But Yenkat doubted that he had practiced in a while. She had known him long before she knew her cousin. Leonel was one of the few people in the hospitality industry that gave her the chance to blossom. Through his connections, she got contracts from hotels and other organizations. They used to be quite close back then, often hanging out to have drinks. It was during one of their outings that he discovered that she was related to Kyenpia, who was his girlfriend then.
Over the past couple of years, she had developed a bond with Kyenpia that was so tight, one would think they had known each other all their lives. Kyenpia had become more than a blood relative. She was a friend and confidant. With her, Yenkat never felt judged, and it was the same on Kyenpia’s side. Their bond tightened naturally, amazing both of them. Yenkat loved her as much as she loved Aanu, and this sometimes made Aanu jealous. But Aanu herself had come to adore Kyenpia as well. It was hard not to fall in love with her. She had a larger than life personality.
“So, can I get you guys anything?” Yenkat asked. “Drinks? Food? I have ogbono and egusi…”
“Don’t stress yourself abeg,” Kyenpia said. “We’re not staying.”
“We have this family reunion dinner today. You’re invited sef.”
“But I’m not an Igwe.”
Leonel laughed. “You want me to hook you up with one of my countless cousins?”
Yenkat rolled her eyes and he laughed some more. “Your family is like the mafia abeg. I’m scared of you guys. Kyen, anytime any strange thing happens, just run here.”
Kyenpia laughed as well.
“But seriously, how is married life treating you guys?”
Kyenpia looked at Leonel adoringly. “Good. No different from dating, I guess.”
“But you’re living together, at least.”
“So, did you die?”
Kyenpia snorted, trying not to laugh. But it didn’t work. She erupted so hard that tears filled her eyes.
“What’s the joke?” Leonel asked.
“Your wife told me that she would die if she lived with you in holy matrimony. Look at her now. All married, all wife and all pregnant.”
It was Leonel’s turn to look adoringly at his wife. Yenkat felt her heart swell. Love like theirs was rare. But she didn’t long for it. Gone were her childish fantasies of the perfect man, although she wouldn’t be averse to having one of her own.
“Why didn’t you guys come with Eliana nau? I miss my baby.”
“She’s with her grandpa,” Leonel answered.
Eliana was a love child, but not the usual type. She had been conceived via artificial insemination. Kyenpia had wanted a child, and she had had the choice to pick between Leonel and Ishi, who was, by the way, Leonel’s cousin. She chose Ishi, because at that time, she had had one foot in her relationship with Leonel, and the other, ready to bolt at the slightest screw-up on his side. Leonel had been upset when he found out that he wasn’t Eliana’s biological father, but it didn’t stop him from loving her as though she was his. The little girl also adored him.
“We’ll bring her after the family reunion weekend is over,” Kyenpia promised.
Leonel stared at his watch. “Unfortunately, we have to run off. I’m sorry that this was quick. We came to see you, to tell you that everything would be okay.” He left where he sat and took the space next to Yenkat’s. “Yen, always know that you have family. You’re not alone. I know you’ve lost everyone and it hurts like hell, but you have us. Our doors are open. You can come in anytime you want, and stay as long as you desire to. If you’re not down for seeing a therapist, that’s okay. But please, talk to someone about your pain and every other emotion that you feel over Dashe’s death. Don’t hold it in. Okay?”
“We’ll come by after we return from our honeymoon.”
“We’re always here for you.”
He hugged her. His words had touched something inside.
They walked outside together. Their chauffeur was waiting with two gift boxes. Yenkat took them and stood until their car left her house. When she returned to the living room, she put away the boxes and went back to Omar. He was vegetables.
“Your friends are gone?”
“My cousin and her husband.”
“Oh, Aunty Kyenpia?”
“Yeah. Um…Can I take a little time off?” Yenkat asked.
Yenkat went into her bedroom, asking Oyin to come along with her gifts. She began with the ones from Kyenpia and Leonel. One of them held a Temperly London jumpsuit. The price tag had been taken off, but Yenkat could tell, just by looking at it, that it was worth a fortune. The second box had a platinum card with lifetime access to Liana Beach Hotel and Resort, owned by Leonel.
There were a few other gifts from friends, brought in by one of her workers in the office. Yenkat opened each of them before starting with Omar’s. She had kept his for last, knowing how thoughtful he always was with the little things he gave her. It was weird that the men in her past had never known what she wanted in terms of gifts, as Omar did. And he was just a boy. Aanu had once jokingly told her, that, she, Yenkat, had raised him to be the type of man she wanted to have.
Each bag from Omar made Yenkat smile until she got to the tenth, (because he had numbered them). In it was a lingerie. Red and shockingly indecent. Yenkat spread it on her bed and took a moment to stare at it. Questions came to her mind, but she didn’t have the chance to ponder on them because Oyin was knocking on her door.
“Aunty Yeni, you have visitors.”
Yenkat cussed silently. She didn’t want to see anyone. Maybe she came out of hibernation too early. Nonetheless, she put up a smile as she went out to entertain her guests. She gave them wine and finger foods, and chatted with them until the sun began to set. She felt drained after they had gone. Hungry too. But just as she was entering the kitchen for a meal, the doorbell went off again.
Yenkat whined. She felt Omar’s hand on her shoulder. “You don’t have to see anyone if you don’t want to.”
“Better now than later.”
Oyin went for the door. Omar disappeared into the kitchen as Yenkat strolled towards a bouquet of colorful flowers on the dining table. They smelled fresh. She picked up the tag and saw that it was from the guy next door.
Happy birthday, beautiful, it read.
“Aunty Yeni,” Oyin called. Yenkat turned. “I don’t know who is at the door. She said she is Uncle Dashe’s friend. She didn’t tell me her name.”
“Let her in.”
Yenkat smelled the flowers one more time before walking out to the living room. Her guest was a chubby lady who seemed to be in her twenties. Her natural hair was styled in an afro. It was the rave these days. Everyone was going natural. Yenkat assessed the rest of her. She was stylish in a black and white patterned dress and gladiator sandals.
“Hi,” Yenkat greeted.
“Good evening,” she responded, eyes studying Yenkat.
“You’re Dash’s friend?”
“And your name is?”
“Jenifer. I was Dash’s girlfriend.”
“Okay.” Yenkat sat. Her attention was arrested. Dashe had never introduced any of his girlfriends to her. He had kept his love life far from her, because he had felt judged by her over the manner in which he used and dumped girls.
“I had come before but the gateman didn’t let me in.”
“I wasn’t taking visitors.”
“I’m not a visitor.”
Yenkat was beginning to see hints of an attitude. It showed on Jenifer’s face. One side of it was lifted in a superior mien.
“Well, I don’t know you, so, you’re a stranger in this house.”
“I’m carrying Dash’s baby,” Jenifer revealed, face showing anger. She didn’t give Yenkat the chance to take the news in. “He knew about it and told me we’d get married and leave Nigeria for London. He made so many promises. And I believed him, but the fool went to go and kill himself.”
At the mention of fool, Yenkat raised her brows. “You do not call my brother a fool,” she said, almost interrupting Jenifer.
“He was, and you know it.”
Yenkat drew back. “Look, I don’t like your tone. I don’t appreciate a total stranger coming in here to speak in the manner you’re doing. So, if you want me to listen to you, apply some respect.”
Jenifer continued, “Dash also owes me money. Four million naira.”
“And he said you’d pay.”
“Yes. We signed an agreement.”
“I didn’t sign any agreement with you.”
“Well, he said you’d pay…”
“You know what?” Yenkat stood up. “I think you’re done here. It’s time for you to leave.”
Jenifer picked up a handbag that was beside her. She took out two papers from it that had been stapled together, and pointed them at Yenkat who stared back at her.
Jenifer marched to her. “I’m not lying. Just look at it. Is that your name on it or not?”
Yenkat dropped her stare on the papers. It was an agreement between herself, Dash and Jenifer. She was stunned. She snatched the papers and went through the agreement, which stated that Jenifer was to give Dash four million naira and Yenkat would reimburse the money in six months. There was an entire section where Yenkat gave her consent, acknowledging that the loan was done with her knowledge. At the bottom of the second page, her signature was boldly appended beside Dashe’s.
“And is that not your signature?”
Weakened, Yenkat could only mope. She was shaken, yet, she wasn’t surprised. Dashe could have killed her for money if given the chance.
“I am not accepting this,” Yenkat said, handing the agreement back to Jenifer. “I’m sure you know that any form of contract between two or more people requires that they all be present. I wasn’t there when you people came up with this.”
“He typed it himself and showed me and I signed it, and he said he’d give you to sign.”
“And you believed him?”
“Well, you’re his sister…”
“I didn’t sign this. My brother did. So, do yourself a favor and count your losses. I do not owe you any four million.”
Jenifer laughed. “You’re joking.”
“I am not.”
“You will pay me my money.”
“I will not. In fact, to help you, I will show you Dashe’s grave. You can go there, dig out his corpse, and settle this matter with him. As for me, I’ve had enough of you in my house right now. Better leave.”
Jenifer remained on her feet, angry eyes, looking down on Yenkat. This was one of those moments Yenkat wished she were taller.
“So, what happens to the baby?”
Yenkat turned away, heading towards the kitchen. “Abort it.”
“Your brother’s only child?” Jenifer’s voice shook. “His legacy? Your father’s legacy?”
Yenkat stopped and turned. “Let the legacy die with them. If you love yourself, abort that thing before you bring another evil spawn into this world.”
Her words brought a chill on Jenifer.
“Oyin, show the lady out, please. And don’t ever let her back in here,” she said, looking into Jenifer’s eyes.
“Don’t bother, I’m going.” A tear dropped from the side of Jenifer’s eye that touched nothing in Yenkat. “The next time you hear from me, you’ll not like what you see.”
She picked her handbag and stormed out. Yenkat entered the kitchen. She rested her hands on the sink and breathed out, grunting angrily with each heave.
“DASHE!” she screamed and hurled a glass bowl to the floor.
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages