Kyenpia’s first reaction when she found out she was trending on Twitter was laughter.
“Wow. I’m sexist. Interesting times.”
She stared at Ishi who was seated on her dressing stool. He had that morning look. Ruffled pajama pants, a shaggy beard, Puffy eyes without his glasses, sleep-deprived face and dry lips that needed the wetness of her kisses. They hadn’t been intimate since she had the twins. The boys had been more than a handful to her, especially at night. Ishi was sleeping over a lot more, just to help her. She was on the verge of a breakdown.
“I shouldn’t be bothered about this, but this sleazy ass KNN woman who is writing this shit about me doesn’t even know me. She claims she’s a reputable journalist, yet most of all she wrote are lies!”
“You know she’s mentally disturbed, don’t you?”
“I know, but the other half of her claims….” Kyenpia exhaled. “The details are correct. I mean, she must have gotten it from somebody in the hotel, right? But the hiring process at L on is transparent. We’re not hiding anything.”
“But this is detailed.”
“You think somebody is telling stories out there.”
“I know she is being fed information. And this wouldn’t have been an issue, except that the outfit I wore to work two days ago was described perfectly by the bitch.”
“Maybe she saw you somewhere while she was investigating you.”
“I left the house in a car with tinted windows, got to work and the car was parked in an enclosed parking lot. Same thing when I was coming back home. This makes me feel exposed. I suddenly feel like Leonel. They followed him everywhere and were obsessed with all he did at some point. Remember?” Kyenpia dropped her head on her laps. “I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t. I want my privacy back. Ugh!” she moaned.
“Too late. But you can control the way it makes you feel.” Ishi drew the dressing stool towards her. He rubbed her thighs and she lifted her head. “You’re stressed, Kay. You shouldn’t have resumed work so quickly, but I understand why you did it. I applaud you for your diligence and commitment to your job, but sweetheart, you have to rest. For yourself and the kids. So, here’s what we’ll do. Today is a Friday. We’ll take the weekend off, just you and I….”
“Without my babies?”
“They’re on formula, Kay. Best decision you made this week, and thank God, they’re feeding well.”
“I feel like a bad mother. Who puts their two-month-old baby on formula?”
“A good mother who knows that her body is not healthy enough to feed two babies well. You still breastfeed them, at least.”
“It doesn’t stop me from feeling terrible.”
“But just have a good look at you, Kay. You’re getting thinner by the day, having acne, constant headaches and mood swings. It kills me to see you do this to yourself.”
His gentle tone caused her eyes to burn with tears.
“So, we’ll take today and tomorrow off. We’ll return by evening. I just want you to relax and refresh.”
“The kids will be fine.”
“And you and I get to do some very adult things…or just chill. Anyone that’s fine by you.”
She wanted to smile at him, but couldn’t. She had a lot to do today, the thought of it caused her stress. She threw her weight backwards and her head hit a toy Eliana had left on the bed earlier. Kyenpia picked the toy and flung it across the room in frustration. She was close to tears, but contained her emotions until she felt strong enough to get ready for work.
“I’m going to The Refuge today,” Ishi informed her as she took off her nightwear.
“Yes, I just want to see how things are going. I miss the place – sort of.”
“Just so you know, apart from the renovations, nothing’s changed.”
“I know…. I’m actually going there because Stephanie is in town and she wants to see me, and I don’t want to take her to my house or for lunch or anything that would make her feel like I’m good with her. So, I asked that we meet in my old office.”
Kyenpia was quiet. She fixed her eyes on Ishi’s Adidas slides. When he spoke again, her eyes traveled up, past his pajama pants and white t-shirt and rested on his face. She hadn’t heard what he had said.
“Steph and I are not getting back together.”
Kyenpia entered the bathroom. “And what’s my business with that?”
Ishi followed her. “Just letting you know.”
“Not my business. But if you’re going to start having sex with her….”
“I wouldn’t do that to you or myself.”
“Good boy. Come and shower with me.” She towed him towards her, tugging his waistband. Her hands found his bare bum and squeezed it as he kissed her. They had a quickie against the wall. It wasn’t exactly the comeback sex Kyenpia fantasized about, but she was satisfied with it for now. They showered together subsequently.
Ishi picked her outfit for the day – a delectable workplace gown, matched with a black pair of red bottoms.
“Stop reading the things they write about you online,” he advised, helping her clip on her necklace.
His beard rubbed against her cheek. “I want to officially adopt the boys,” he said unceremoniously.
Kyenpia turned around. “For real?”
“Oh my God!” She kissed him.
“Easy. You want to swallow my mouth?” he laughed.
“Thank you, Ishi. Thank you!”
“It’s everything to me. You won’t understand. It’s not that I can’t raise them alone. I can. I just want them to have what I didn’t have.”
“I know, but I hope you understand that this doesn’t affect what we have. We’re still where we are.”
Kyenpia let her hands fall from his shoulders. “Why do you always feel the need to remind me that there’s nothing serious going on between us?”
“Because there isn’t, and it would continue this way until you decide I’m important enough to be a permanent fixture in your life. No pressure.”
Kyenpia gave him some distance. She picked her handbag and phone. “I’m not the one who has a committed relationship hanging over their head.”
“Committed relationship? What are you talking about? Is it because I said Stephanie was around?”
“I’m talking about God, Ishi,” Kyenpia replied, almost interrupting him. “You have a serious thing with God. Two of you are fighting right now, but when you reconcile, I won’t matter anymore. And God knows I can’t compete with him.”
Ishi, scratching his head, asked, “That is your excuse? God? Kyenpia, please–”
“Deny that God doesn’t mean anything to you, Ishi. Tell me you’re done with him completely and you want to live your entire life, pretending he doesn’t matter to you.”
“I can’t deny that.”
“Good. So, when you guys make up, I will become secondary. No more late night cuddles, weekend getaways or sex.”
Ishi was deeply amused. “This is all about sex?”
“Ishi, you loved me for ten years, but held your dick like God was going to strike you dead if you fucked me.”
“And having lost loved ones in a wink, I realized that I could have died like that without loving you at all. Tragic.”
“Don’t derail my thoughts, young man. Tell me, does anyone know how many times I tried to seduce you or those periods I was emotionally vulnerable and gave myself to you and you turned me down? Does anybody know? Of course, only God knows. It was your deal with him, and it was fine, because I always had men stashed somewhere to run to whenever you respectfully turned me down. And this is what scares me. You’ll leave me for your thing with God, eventually, and I won’t have anyone to run to.”
“I’ll become your husband then.”
Kyenpia shook her head. “In case you didn’t realize, you Igwe males have a short lifespan, and I am not signing up for death a second time.”
Kyenpia made for the door. Ishi followed her. “You confuse me, you know that?”
“You want me sometimes or every time or you don’t want me all the way or you want me to be the father of your kids….”
She stopped moving and turned to address him. “Let’s just enjoy what we have now, Ishi. No plans for the future, just us, doing us, because you and I know that this thing…. This sweet, make-believe love story we have right now will come crashing down. Badly.”
“I don’t think.…” Ishi began to speak, but stopped.
“By the way, thanks for this morning’s orgasm and for picking my outfit. See you later, handsome.”
She left him laughing over the absurdity of their situation.
Yenkat placed a glass of chilled tea on Amaka’s table, causing her to lift her eyes from her laptop. Amaka gave her an apologetic stare. “I don’t do caffeine.”
“It’s caffeine free. Trust me, you’ll like it.”
Amaka picked the glass. “Ice tea, basically?”
“Not really. It’s called invigorating tea. It has lemon, mint, ice and caffeine-free tea, of course. I added a little something sweet in yours to stir up those mammary glands.”
Amaka had a sip. “I hate that mammary word. Makes me sound like a cow…. Oh my God! This is really nice! Yen, are you sure you will not open a tea shop like this?”
“No, thanks.” Yenkat placed her own mug of tea on Amaka’s table. She looked around. “I like what you’ve done here. It’s very…feminine and minimalist.”
“Please, which one is minimalist again?”
“Simple, uncluttered. White and unfussy colors. Very inspiring. I like this rope thing you have on the wall that you’ve hung your postcards on. Reminds me of those days when my mom used to hang all the Christmas cards we got.”
“Yeah, my stepmom did that too.”
“I know, right? I was so happy when that era ended.”
“That, and blinking Christmas lights. God!”
Both women laughed and drank their teas at the same time.
“Speaking of Christmas….” Amaka said. “What’s the plan?”
“Fiyin and I were thinking Dubai. James wants to take me somewhere that has lots of beaches and palm trees, but I’m tired of all that. That’s not why I don’t want to go, though. I want us to do a girls-only Christmas holiday, so that Kyenpia doesn’t feel left out. She’s going to have a really terrible Christmas, because it was during that time Butter Babe opened the resort and she discovered she was pregnant and they got married.”
“I know….” Yenkat replied in a sad tone.
“So, we have to make her forget. What do you think?”
“Anything to make her feel better.”
There was a knock on the door and Thioro prodded her head through.
“Ms. Yenkat, you said I should remind you when it’s time to leave.”
“Okay, Thio. Get my handbag and the car key.”
“Somebody brought something for you. It’s in your office.”
“What is it?”
“It’s an invitation card.”
“Going to the hotel?” Amaka asked when Thioro left.
“Yeah, and other places.”
“Ehen! You didn’t even tell me how Abuja went again.”
Yenkat gave a shake of her head, recalling her two-day visit to the branch of Léon Hotels in Abuja. “Everything is good. Not everyone is cool with the change, but it’s running smoothly.”
“You shook your head when I asked. Is it Richard?”
“He’s so annoying! No different from Jaiye. I hate to speak bad of the dead, but Leo didn’t try at all. He hired competent men to run his business, no doubt. However, they’re so chauvinistic. God! Richard gave me multiple headaches! How didn’t Leo, who was the opposite of all these guys, see what type of men he was hiring?”
“Because men concentrate on competence. You know how they do nau. They will dump their nonsense behavior outside and get the work done, unlike us women, we always allow our ways stop us from working.”
Amaka made a pout. “Don’t put me on the spot biko. Women have women ways, and men have men ways.”
“Okay, have our ways stopped any of us in BFAM from doing our work well?”
“I’m glad you get my point.” Amaka sneered.
“You’re always annoying. Anyways, fact is that Leo was surrounded with filth. I suspect that Richard and Jaiye were taking advantage of the junior female staff in the hotel. Just like here in Lagos, the ladies in housekeeping and other service departments were happy to jump from Léon to BFAM. One of them kept asking if she had to answer to a male boss, that she was tired of men.”
“I’m sure she was happy about the pay raise and shorter working hours. Same job, better conditions.”
“Yeah. We’re doing something good then.”
“Except that people online don’t see it that way. You saw that KNN woman’s post?”
“It’s annoying that people are now saying that Kyenpia would ruin Butter Babe’s hard work with her women agenda.”
“Na today? Let them keep frothing while we get the work done.” Yenkat picked her mug. “Let me be going.”
“Are you coming back?”
“Buy me ice-cream, please. Add pizza.”
“I’m eating for two, abeg. Plus, my ass is growing and I don’t want it to stop. Not everybody can be doing fitfam like you and Kay.”
Yenkat laughed. “Okay, dear.”
“Why don’t you have a boyfriend sef?”
Yenkat laughed loudly. “You and your out-of-the-blue questions.”
“Answer the question.”
“I have a boyfriend.” Yenkat spread out her arms. “This! Work shags me hard night and day.”
Amaka gave her a thumbs-down. “Wrong answer.”
“Kay warned me you would do this.”
“It’s my dream to see my friends all coupled up. Fiyin is a problem to me right now.”
“So, you’re shifting your focus on me?”
“Yes,” Amaka replied with a serious face.
“All right, if you find man for me, I will collect.”
Amaka rubbed her hands. “Okay nau! Na you go run. Hehehe!”
Yenkat returned to hers office, which was less flamboyant and more formal. She picked her phone and left the building.
“What does it feel like to be the daughter of billionaires?”
“Well, considering the state of the economy, I can’t really call my parents billionaires anymore.”
“Don’t lie. Your dad is still up there. Tell me what it feels like.”
“I should ask you the same question. What does it feel like to be Igwe’s grandson?”
Jaiye, laughing in a low tone, left his side of the bed and grabbed Fiyin’s waist. She shrieked as he pulled her towards him. “Sharp, sexy mouth. Always answering questions with questions.” He attacked her lips with his in a hungry kiss.
“You know we have a meeting today, right?” she managed to say.
“Thank God it’s Friday, and thank God for the simple pleasures of having to eat your ass.”
“Can I do it now?”
“No, Jay. I have to leave. I have an appointment. I’m not a boss like you.” Fiyin attempted to get off her bed, but Jaiye snatched her wrist and drew her back. She winced in pain, holding on to the wrist.
“I’m sorry, baby. I forgot.” He let go and kissed her tenderly. “So, sorry.”
He helped her get on her feet and put an arm around her, rocking from left to right as he spoke. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me, Fiyinfoluwa. I’m so crazy about you. These past two weeks have been heaven.”
“Stop lying joor.”
“I kid you not. I’m in a haze. You’re sweet, sexy, kindhearted, intelligent, loving…. I’m not letting you go.”
Fiyin squirmed when his lips touched her neck. She had enjoyed his company too. Every night was different; he never seemed to run out of ways to make her feel adored. They sometimes met at his place, hers or some other place where nobody knew them. The secret nature of the affair excited Fiyin; it made Jaiye more thrilling. She had no idea when it was going to end, but she was certain it would. For the moment, she wasn’t ready to let go. He had been right about how addictive he was. From the sex to how shockingly romantic he was, Jaiye scored higher than all the men she had dated. She was sure she would suffer from withdrawal symptoms once it was over.
“Spend the weekend with me,” he pleaded. “Pack a bag and come to my house.”
“The whole weekend?”
“You know you want to come.”
“Then, it’s a date.” He stopped moving, but kept his arm on her waist. “I’m hungry. Let’s get breakfast.”
He dragged her to the kitchen. As she took out a bowl of stew from the freezer, Jaiye peered outside the window. “It’s going to rain.”
“Again? Doesn’t this Lagos rest from rain?”
She put the stew in the microwave to defrost and went for a pack of pasta. As she stretched to pick it from a shelf above her, Jaiye snuck up behind her. When her hand dropped, her body fell into his. She smiled. “Jay?”
“Please, don’t tell me that’s another boner.”
He lifted her t-shirt and pressed his groin on her backside.
“Jaiyesimi, e joor nau.”
She managed to get away from him and put the pasta to boil. The instant she was free of any activity, Jaiye went for her again, lifting her off the floor and onto the counter.
“Open your legs.” His tone was commanding, his eyes stern. She bit her lower lip. “I said open your legs.”
She dithered, still. He grabbed her legs and roughly parted them, forcing her to rest her weight on her hands. Her left wrist, bruised from being twisted wrongly in a handcuff last night, ached terribly, but Fiyin didn’t care. She waited in anticipation as Jaiye lowered himself.
“Jay, I’m not clean. All the juices from last night and earlier…” she said, whisperingly. She knew the way she smelled was the least of his problem.
“You know I hate it clean.”
Fiyin held her breath. The first touch of his mouth on her flesh caused her to shiver. She shut her eyes and moaned softly. There was thunder in the sky, a short announcement of the downpour that came almost immediately, bringing a fierce gust of wind that rattled windows and upset the doors in the house. The rain started aggressively, increasing tempo by the second.
Fiyin felt raindrops hit the left side of her body, coming in through the window that stood above the sink.
“Jaiye,” she murmured out in pleasure. Her body was in paradise. Eyes still shut, she evoked memories from last night, how he had bent her over the trunk of her car and driven hard into her. The suddenness of his actions and pain that came with it had made the moment insanely exciting. Fiyin wanted him that way now – she, bent over the counter; he, behind her.
“Don’t stop! Please, don’t stop!” she begged. Doors continued to slam in the house, obeying the fierceness of the rainstorm. It was the perfect weather for Fiyin. She was lost in the pleasure from Jaiye’s mouth, oblivious that her mother’s car had driven into the compound. She didn’t hear the woman knock on the front door and open it. Her moans, combined with the sounds of the rain stopped her from hearing her name being called. Her mother entered the kitchen and stood by the door, observing the scene. But not for long.
Fiyin snapped shut her legs as Jaiye straightened up. She tapped him away and jumped off the counter. Her mother’s eyes were unfriendly as she glared at both of them.
“Good morning, ma,” Jaiye greeted. He didn’t get a response.
“Fiyin, is this why you didn’t come for your friend’s wedding and you wouldn’t answer my calls?” Alhaja Abibat asked.
She waved her hand up and down in Jaiye’s direction. “Because of this person and the nonsense thing you people are doing here. Fiyinfoluwa!”
“Fiyin! When will you change? Are you waiting till you die from a penis-related accident before you learn your lessons?”
“Mommy, not now….”
Alhaja faced Jaiye. “Young man, what is your name?”
“You don’t have a surname?”
“Jaiyesimi Igwe,” Jaiye responded.
“What type of combination is that?” she asked in Yoruba. “Who is your father?”
Fiyin sighed silently. She had gone through this more than a few times with Alhaja in the past. The woman always questioned the men she saw her with, demanding to know what families they were from. She had never approved of any of them, because Fiyin had always gone for men below her financial status. But Alhaja had never pressured her daughter. Largely, Fiyin was always left to choose the men in her life.
“Lateef Tanimola,” Jaiye mentioned, replying Alhaja’s question.
“And who is he supposed to be?”
“The son of Abraham Igwe.”
Fiyin saw a flash of surprise in her mother’s eyes. “The former head of state?”
“What do you do?”
“I am the manager of Léon Hotels. The COO of Charybdis Hospitality.”
Alhaja said nothing more, but she kept her eyes on Jaiye for a bit, before resting it on her daughter.
“That thing between your legs will kill you one day.” Her words were in Yoruba. To Jaiye, she said, “Give us some privacy, young man.”
Jaiye hurried out. Alhaja faced Fiyin. “If you didn’t like Fashanu, why didn’t you let him down easy or at least, tell me? Then the worst was you refusing to show up for the wedding, disgracing me. Fiyinfoluwa, you are not a child. You are a grown woman, and you had better start acting like one. And what nonsense is this that you people are doing in this kitchen? Don’t you have a bedroom again? You couldn’t even close your front door. What if your gateman entered and saw you?”
Fiyin opened the fridge to pick a pack of cranberry juice. “Mommy, what do you want?”
“Pour me some of that juice and tell me about this Jaiye boy.”
“Please nau…. I have to go to work.”
“But you were collecting head here just now. Pour me some of that juice, my friend.”
Being an only child to Alhaja, Fiyin was spoilt. Her father was also indulgent with her. She got the best from both worlds, and this was chiefly responsible for the way she communicated with her parents. She was expressive to them in a way that many might consider rude. Her parents had raised her as if they were afraid that discipline would kill her. But somehow, she turned out fine.
Fiyin filled a glass with cranberry juice for Alhaja, who downed it and kept the glass. “I came here to scold you over your attitude to Fashanu and over how you disgraced me in the eyes of the Bellos….”
“I’m sorry,” Fiyin answered casually.
“Are you serious with this Igwe boy?”
“I just want to know. Are you serious with him?”
Fiyin thought about her answer before she let it out. If she said she wasn’t serious with Jaiye, her mother would reprimand her and continue in her quest to keep finding her a suitable man.
“Yes. We’re dating.”
“For how long?”
“And you didn’t mention it?”
“Mommy, I don’t want my relationship to get out there. I’m not doing competition with them Bukky and all those girls. I just want to be left alone….”
“And make me miss the chance to brag to my friends that you’re dating an Igwe. Are you okay?”
Fiyin didn’t have words for her.
“Anyway, your daddy is coming into town today. On Sunday, I’m inviting everyone for a family dinner. Make sure you come. You can bring your handsome boyfriend along. Tell him to come with a bottle of wine. Your daddy likes such gestures.”
“I have to go. Is everything alright with you at work?”
“Everything’s fine, ma.”
“Do you need money? Foodstuffs?”
“Mommy, I’m fine.” Fiyin poured herself a glass of juice.
“Okay, dear. Please, learn to be locking your door. And before I forget, Mobola wants to know where you did your liposuction. She wants it done for that her hopelessly fat daughter. Please, text me the details later on. And please, use condoms.”
Fiyin thumped her forehead on the door of the fridge in frustration.
“I know it’s a good thing to finally have a man that’s worth your class, but the last thing you want is getting pregnant before you get married. You won’t look good in a wedding dress. You should have seen Samiat last week, walking down the aisle like a fat pig! I felt ashamed on her behalf.”
Fiyin returned the juice pack to the fridge.
“I have to go. That reminds me!”
“Mommy….” Fiyin groaned.
“Apologize to Kyenpia and Amaka for me. I didn’t attend their babies’ naming…”
Fiyin said in annoyance. “I told you two months ago about Kyenpia. I told you about Amaka’s baby too, but you didn’t even call or text them.”
“I will. Let me have their account details.”
“Mommy, they’re not small girls anymore, that you’ll be sending them money. Especially Kyenpia. Just buy the baby gifts. I’ll deliver them myself.”
“Okay, my dear. Let me run.”
Fiyin didn’t walk her mother to the door. She knew a chauffeur would be waiting outside with an umbrella. She checked on her pasta, instead. After that, she made for her bedroom.
“Jay, I’m so sorry for what happened. My mom can be a pain in my….” She stopped as she walked in. Jaiye was absent. “Jay?” she called, peeping into the bathroom. She turned back and noticed that his clothes and phone were gone. Grumbling to herself, she returned to the kitchen.
Fiyin was late for the management meeting. It was not a habit of hers, but her wrist had hurt so badly, she stopped at a pharmacy to have it bandaged. She knew Kyenpia would not be impressed with her tardiness. She was the only BFAM staff that was constantly allowed into the hotel’s management meetings, due to the contract of her business with them.
She slipped into the boardroom where the meeting was taking place and picked the only available chair. Coincidentally, it was facing Jaiye’s. It seemed he had come in late too. He usually occupied the head of the table.
Fiyin sat and looked at her without an expression on her face. She loved when they behaved in that manner with each other. It was always fun later on to peel off the façade off each other.
“You’re just in time, Fiyin,” Kyenpia said. “The table is yours.”
“One minute, please.” Fiyin opened her briefcase and tugged out a small pile of files, which she passed to everyone present in the room. “I apologize for coming late. I had a bit of an accident on my way here.” She lifted her hand.
“Are you okay?” Kyenpia asked.
“Yes, I am. I’m good everyone. Let’s get to business. So, I’ve handed you all briefs for an idea I’ve been working on for some time now. We all know that Liana Resort is not doing as well as it should because of what happened earlier this year. We’ve spent money on ads, subtly trying to convince the public that they can safely have a good time there, but somehow, our message is not sinking in. People think of Liana Resort and they’re thinking guns and bombs. And this is why I have come up with the idea of a reality show that can be hosted by the resort.”
“Dream Island,” Jaiye muttered, eyes on the document before him. He chuckled.
“Anything funny, Mr. Jaiyesimi?” Fiyin inquired.
“Nothing. Go on.”
“So, the show is going to be like similar TV reality shows, where people looking for love, stay in the resort for a short while and find the love of their lives.”
“Interesting,” Jaiye said.
“We already have the east wing of the resort with lodgings specifically for couples holidaying together. I feel it would be the best place to hold the reality show. It’s closer to the beachfront too, so it’s not a question of spending too much money, building sets and stuff.”
“And what does this do for the resort?” he asked.
“Exposure, advertisement…. People need to know that the resort is safe once more, that they can come and have a good time there. This brings companies and investors as well. We would be looking to get sponsors for the show, of course.”
“Have you any idea the cost implications of running a reality show?”
“Yes. Check page eight. I did a cost estimate.”
Jaiye flipped pages of his document and rested his eyes on the mentioned page. What came from him was a whistle that ended in laughter. “This is…. Wow! Where do we get such money from?”
“Like I said, sponsorship. I know four big brands that would drop their pants and get hard into this the moment we pitch to them.”
Jaiye looked at her with a smile, similar to the one he gave her last night when they lay in bed and he fed her with berries he held between his teeth.
“Drop their pants and get hard….” He muttered. “Unfortunately, Fiyin, this is not something we can roll under the sheets with right now. We would end up spending more than we’d get back in profit. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is a shoddy idea. It’s not. It’s great, but I think you should stay within the scope of your job as an external marketer for this hotel and let us handle special projects, as we’ve done effortlessly in the past.”
“My job is to convert prospects into paying guests and spread the brand message of the hotel and the resort. This includes developing programs to increase occupancy, which I have been doing effortlessly. The numbers do not lie, Mr. Jaiye. I didn’t come here to play. In four months, I have delivered back-to-back. So, if you want to come up with some other excuse as to why you think I shouldn’t do this, you’re welcome. But this your excuse no follow abeg.”
The resort manager agreed with Fiyin, buttressing the need to try imaginative ways to put the resort back on the lips of the public. But the accountant countered him, taking Jaiye’s side, laying out why he thought it was a risky venture to embark on. One after the other, everyone in the room spoke, asides Kyenpia. Opinions were divided and Fiyin turned to Kyenpia, asking her what her decision was on the matter.
“I’ve listened to everyone and I sort of agree with you all. Thank you for giving me a broad view from both sides. Should we do this or not? I think we should. No, I’m very sure we should. I’ve come to learn that in the absence of ideas to move any business forward, simply relying on what has been done repeatedly without different results is not an option. A drastic change is needed for the resort. If not, we would be looking to selling that place to other hotels. And trust me, they will circle Liana like vultures once they smell our carcass. I will not let what my husband had sleepless nights over for years go to the bin. So, unless any of you here has a different idea that can revamp Liana, we’ll go with Fiyin on this one, and give her all the support she needs to see this happen. We’re talking long term relationships with the brands that would sponsor the show and give exposure to the entertainment industry to use our facilities. This is a great idea, Fiyin. It needs more work in the creative side of it, but we’re going with it.”
Jaiye slammed his file on the table. Kyenpia looked at him.
“Do our ideas here matter anymore, Ms. Kyenpia?”
“I don’t get your question.”
He took a straighter posture. “Am I the only one who feels that Léon has suddenly been taken over by BFAM? First, they come in here in the name of easing us of the burden of running everything here on our own, but next thing, they are trying to do our jobs for us. And madam here, backs them all the way. Little wonder, we’re getting bad press.”
“Point of correction, I’m the only one getting bad press.”
“And you are the face of Léon Hotels. Do I need to tell you how that affects us? BFAM comes and takes over the services, maintenance and marketing of the hotel. They take the staff that worked under those departments, and when no one is watching, fire most of the males and replace them with females. Why won’t they call us sexist?”
“BFAM has a rigorous recruitment process,” Fiyin responded. “If we picked anyone from here and find out that they are not competent, we fire and replace. Men and women have been fired and replaced with men and women. There’s no sexism. It’s about who knows how to do the job well. From what we’ve seen, women are more competent in the service delivery department.”
“I see. So, BFAM is basically where to find breasts?” he said with his eyes taunting Fiyin.
“What?” Kyenpia asked, laughing. “What’s that?”
“That’s what they call BFAM out there,” Jaiye answered. “Where to find breasts.”
“Where to find women who are great in doing their jobs, don’t you mean? Look Jaiye, I don’t want to get into some gender fight here with you. I just want to address that thing you said minutes ago about bad press. There will always be tacky publicity. We just have to keep doing a great job. As Fiyin noted, the numbers don’t lie. Despite losing Leonel, we’re turning in massive profit here daily. Whatever we’re doing is working. It’d be a shame to lose focus because we’re bothered about what some mad journalist is saying out there.”
“Let’s end this discussion. I have other things to do.” Kyenpia stood and Anna arose with her. “Mr. Jaiye, a quick word in my office right now.”
Kyenpia started out. Fiyin received a text from Jaiye, telling her to smile a little. She looked up at him as he rose up, giving him a frown.
Beside her, Anna had dropped the items she was carrying, one of them being a cup of coffee. It spilled over documents.
“Shit,” Anna murmured.
“Pele. Let me help you.” Fiyin pushed her chair backwards and stooped to assist her. “Thank God these are laminated,” she said, handing a couple of the reality show briefs to her.
“Thank you.” Anna’s eyes rested on her bruised wrist. “You fell in the bathroom?”
“Thanks. I’m fine.”
“Reminds me of my ex who would handcuff just one of my hands in the name of sex so that he can turn me around anyhow he wanted. You know those cuffs that have a long chain between them?”
Fiyin nodded. She had the exact same type at home right now, cuffed to one of the legs of her bed.
“He ended up bruising me all the time. I was constantly bandaging my wrists. I had to dump his ass.” Anna hoisted up. Fiyin stood as well, and caught her eyes on Jaiye as he left the office. “Nonsense and BDSM,” she spat, leaving the boardroom.
“Interesting,” Fiyin mumbled.
A few doors down the hallway was Kyenpia’s office. Jaiye had just walked in. Kyenpia asked him to sit. When he was comfortable, she took her seat as well and presented him with proof of his fraudulent activities over the years, complete with the members of staff he had worked with. Unmoved, Jaiye kept a smile on his face.
“What are you going to do about it?”
His blasé manner unnerved Kyenpia.
“Fire me? Call the cops on me?”
“For starters, I can report you to the board. It would take one sitting to have you out on the streets.”
“Why would you want to do that though, Kyenpia? I’m the MVP around here. I have worked with this hotel for ten good years. If you dare try to yank me out, I will take it personally and sue the hotel just for fun, after I take our shit out there to the press.”
“Jaiye, you stole. You’re a thief.”
“Former thief. I saw the light and changed my ways, after a little tête-à-tête with your husband. It happened about this time last year, I think…. No, earlier. We talked and struck a deal that had me dropping my position as COO. I think you should have a copy of that deal. Give me a second.”
He took out his phone and went busy with it. Kyenpia received an email from him seconds later. It contained a PDF document. She opened it and read the details while Jaiye strummed the armrests of this chair as he bopped his head to music in his head.
Kyenpia revealed nothing of what she felt, having perused the document.
“Any problems with what you saw there?” he asked.
“I’m sure you’re feeling like a bad guy right now.”
He grinned. “I’m a bad guy, Kyenpia. You know I am. You’re an Igwe, so you understand how the family works. We don’t wring each other out to dry. Leo saw my mistakes and forgave me, asking me to respectfully step down as COO and concentrate on my managerial duties. And I did that gratefully.”
“You should have kept to the deal, and not put yourself forward as a candidate for the COO seat.”
“And that was what I was trying to do. I jumped the COO position and went for the CEO, but you wouldn’t let me. You used Uncle Jacan and Mama Dooshima to bully me out of that seat and back in the place I so wanted. Poetic!”
The taunting smile on Jaiye’s face infuriated Kyenpia.
“If only the auditing firm had come in before the elections,” he added, provoking her further. “But it’s too late now. I was elected democratically, following the rules of the board. No one can unseat me. Not even you, madam.”
“Are you done being a pest?”
“More or less.”
Kyenpia gathered the documents on her table and put them in a pile, except for one, which she pushed towards him.
“So, you have immunity, and that’s good for you. But your cohorts don’t. Here’s a list of all their names and the amounts they made fraudulently from the hotel. You, as the COO and the manager, would fire every one of them.”
Jaiye’s face turned stony.
“I don’t tolerate crime, and I frankly do not have the forgiving spirit my husband had. But at the same time, I’m tired of being seen as a bad person. Since I’m the front face of the hotel, it would be unwise for me to carry out this seemingly callous act. So, it’s over to you. It’s even better that the backstabbing comes from your side. What do you think?”
Jaiye sprang up. “Are we done here?”
“Yes. Don’t forget this.” She pushed the file forward, smiling. He marched out and her smile vanished. “Leonel, what were you thinking?”
Yenkat returned to the office towards sundown. Amaka and most of the staff were gone. Thioro was waiting, also ready to leave. Yenkat gave her permission to, and entered her office to get her laptop. On her way out, her eyes caught the invitation card Thioro had told her about in the morning. It was resting on the table, addressed to her. She picked it up and opened it. The words on the card brought goosebumps on her skin.
“Aanu, no.” She read the words one more time, shaking her head. “No, don’t do this. No.”
Snatching her phone from the table, she hurried out. Her destination was Omar’s Grill and Bar. It took her a little over an hour to arrive there, due to rush hour traffic. Bracing herself for drama, she walked in and asked for Aanu. She was informed that Aanu was yet to show up.
“Do you know what time she’s coming in?”
“I don’t know if she will even come,” the barman said. “She’s not been regular here of late. Maybe you want to speak to the manager?”
“No, it’s fine. I’ll check her at home.”
Yenkat drove to Aanu’s home, which was a short distance. It was now past seven and darkness had come. She received a call from Oyin, who wanted to know if she should let Polaris have a cookie before she put her to bed. Yenkat gave her consent and parked outside Aanu’s gate.
The gateman let her in. She walked to the door and knocked. It took a while, but Aanu opened the door. She looked sleepy and her hair was tousled.
“Hi,” Yenkat greeted. They hadn’t come across each other since their fight, although Yenkat had received many hate messages from her. Aanu seemed to have added some weight, but Yenkat wasn’t so sure.
“What do you want?” Aanu asked hostilely, holding on to a bedspread wrapped around her body.
“I just want to talk.”
“I’m guessing you got my IV?”
“Just let me come in and let’s talk.”
Aanu let her in. The living room was littered with invitation cards, similar to the one Yenkat had received.
“Sit,” Aanu offered a chair. Yenkat sat, but on the edge of the chair.
“Oya say what you want to say. I have to go back to bed.”
“You’re getting married to my ex-husband to get back at me?”
There was a smile of satisfaction in Aanu’s eyes as she shrugged.
“Even after what he did to me, Aanu?”
“That’s why you came here?”
“Aanu, don’t do this. Obidan is a monster.”
Aanu’s question caused Yenkat to baulk.
“It’s not about acting shocked. How is Obidan a monster? If I ask you now, you’ll tell me that hewas emotionally abusive and manipulative. And so, you went and wickedly divorced him.”
“Aanu, you know what a mess I became because of him, how I suffered low self-esteem and depression constantly. He wanted to control me, and when he couldn’t, he made me feel like I was nothing. How could you forget? You cried with me on many days. Has that all escaped your head?”
“Yeni, let’s be fearing God and tell ourselves the hard truth oo. I agree that I cried with you, but can you be honest with me and tell me truthfully that you didn’t deserve the way he treated you? There’s so much a man can take. You called yourself a wife, but you were never there, physically or emotionally. It was always, work, work, work! Do you know how many times he called me to complain? You emasculated him, Yeni! He could never express himself around you or tell you how you made him feel because you always reminded him that you had a career that came first and you were richer!”
“You know that’s not true, Aanu. How can you be saying these things? Have you forgotten how he blamed me for the miscarriage?”
“It was your fault! How won’t you miscarry when you couldn’t stay one place? You knew your difficulty with getting pregnant, but you kept traveling up and down. Where did you even miscarry sef? Was it in your house? On your bed? Or in a hotel room in another country? And you didn’t want the man to blame you? You’re here, forming victim when Bidan was the real victim in that marriage, not you! Sorry that you lost your baby o. Sorry that you can’t have another one, but don’t be acting like you were not to blame.”
“Aanu?” Yenkat whispered.
“Look, you should get over the past, because he’s moved on. My engagement to him is not about you. He always had eyes for me, but somehow, you two happened….”
“Aanu, please, I am begging you. Don’t do this out of spite. You told me to stay away from Omar and I did–”
“How? How did you stay away from him? Are you not with his daughter? My granddaughter? You took her away from me, Yeni! You shut me out of her life and yours!”
“You hurt me, Aanu, and that’s me putting it lightly. I ended up in the hospital–”
“You had me kidnapped!
“Deny it and let Sango strike you!”
“That doesn’t even matter anymore. I’m with Obidan now. After all, you begged me not to marry an old man, so, I went for fresh, young blood, and my dad is very pleased. I get to have a husband at long last and remove the shame that’s been hanging on my head. Obidan gets to have a good wife who would treat him like a king. Everybody wins! You should be grateful that I even invited you for our engagement party after all you did.”
“You only invited me to rub it in my face, and that is unnecessary. I am not dating your son, and I want nothing to do with him.”
“Story! You’ve poisoned his mind against me. He hasn’t said a word to me since he left this house four months ago. Not a text or phone call!”
“I’m not responsible for that, and you know it.”
“Look, I’ve gotten what I want…”
“I wasn’t aiming for that, but yes, lace the shoes, bitch! Just so you know, Obidan and I love each other. I know it’s something you don’t understand, because you’re incapable of feelings, and you didn’t share that type of connection with him. But it’s time to stop putting the blame on him. Who in their right mind divorces a man just after one year?”
“What are you saying?” Yenkat raised her voice. “We dated for two years before we married! You know I put up with his manipulative ass for that long, Aanu! What has gotten into your head, for fuck’s sake?”
“Nothing has gotten into my head but sense. Me, I can’t make the type of monumental mistakes you made with a good man. I love him, he loves me, and we are getting married. End!”
Yenkat got on her feet, feeling an abrupt change of emotion. She knew she had gotten to the end of her rope, tired of Aanu and her ways. This was the end for them. “Does Omar know?” she asked.
“No, but when he comes back and you’re fucking the commonsense out of him, you can tell him. You’re still welcome to my engagement party and wedding.”
“I politely decline.”
Yenkat straightened her skirt and found her way out. Closing the chapter on Aanu, she headed home.
Oyin answered the door and relieved her of her laptop and handbag.
“Is Polaris asleep?”
Yenkat checked in on Polaris. The girl was fast asleep, hugging a teddy. Yenkat felt bad that she wasn’t always home as much as she would love to. This weekend, however, she was staying in.
She went into her bedroom, shut the door and rested her back against it, inhaling and exhaling. She did this a few times until her lips stretched out in a smile. It had been a long, tiring week of wins and fails. She needed the healing touch of that smile and all the pampering the world could offer. There were things her body craved for—a soothing cup of chamomile tea, a back rub under the calming effects of jazz music as someone whispered sweet-nothings in her ear while rubbing his groin against her bum, a yoni massage, and finally, a cuddle that would last all night.
Yenkat sighed wistfully as she walked to the bathroom, shedding her clothes. The shower was warm and relaxing, and she was tempted to stay there until it ran cold.
She stepped out and toweled herself dry, letting in random thoughts of Omar. He was no longer the forbidden fruit. Her former self would have looked for the usual reasons why she couldn’t have him, but she had stopped caring. Her respect for Aanu and the bond they shared had been her restraint, the reason she curbed her shamelessness. Those days were gone, now. Omar had become fair game.
Yenkat slipped into a hooded crop top and a pair of boy shorts. Chamomile was still on her mind. She would sip it with relish and watch some tacky movie on TV, since she couldn’t have the other things she craved for. She picked her phone and strolled to the door, asking herself when last she walked around nude. Her skin needed to breathe. She missed her nudity.
Yenkat swung the door open. Standing before her was Omar. She gasped.
“Hi.” He was gazing at her with a subtle smile, but her response to him was a burst of laughter that had her turning face away.
“For real?” she muttered. Life couldn’t be any more devious. It was one thing to fantasize about someone when they weren’t there. Having them appear from out of the blue was another matter entirely.
“Am I getting a hug or not?” Omar asked.
“Tobi….” She faced him, fighting her smile. “You scared me.”
“And your response is laughter?”
“You won’t understand.”
He worshipped her with his eyes. “I’ve missed you like mad, mami.”
Omar took her waist, bringing her body to his. He bent to give her a snug bear hug that stirred silent waters and unlocked doors she had shut for a long time.
What were those things she craved for again?
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages