Putting the girls to sleep was an arduous task for Yenkat. She was out of practice with discipline when it came to bedtimes. Getting Polaris to bed was one thing; having to ensure that Eliana did the same was double stress. Somehow, she succeeded and got two of them in a snooze. She quietly shut the door to Eliana’s bedroom and prayed that neither of them stirred anytime soon.
The twins had just returned from the villa and she could hear one of them crying. She walked into the living room to find out what troubled him.
“He’s hungry,” his nanny told her as she stretched out her arms to take him. “And he doesn’t want formula.”
“Reggie, what is the problem?” she asked, placing him on her chest. “Your mommy is on her way.” She began a slow, rocking movement to placate him, but he cried harder. His twin was already on his way to losing his cool too. Just then, a car pulled into the driveway. “Mommy is here. Oya stop crying.”
Before long, Kyenpia strode in with Ishi in tow. “Reginald, na wa o. I could hear your voice from the gate.”
“Don’t mind him. Always feisty.” Yenkat handed the boy over to Kyenpia, just as Kane burst into a cry. “You too?” Yenkat laughed. “I don’t envy your mommy at all. Hi Ishi.”
“What’s up Yen?” Ishi gave Yenkat a hug as Kyenpia sat on the nearest couch and held both babies. Nelly placed a nursing pillow on her laps, helping her position the boys under each breast.
“This always looks like rocket science to me when you do it,” Yenkat said.
“I’m used to it now,” Kyenpia replied, sighing in relief as she inclined her back on a pillow Nelly placed behind her and her feet on a stool in front of her. “Thank you, Nelly. You girls can go to bed now.”
Nelly and the nanny made their exit, taking Eliana’s poodle along. They resided in a smaller apartment in the compound. The nanny routinely came in at night to check on the babies. She had a baby monitor connected to her room.
“How was your day with the girls?” Kyenpia asked Yenkat.
“Fun. Omar had their time. I didn’t have the energy they needed at all. I had to bring Polar here, because I couldn’t separate them. They’re both sleeping.”
“Thank you, luv.”
Ishi leaned over Kyenpia and whispered into her ear. She smiled at him, pulling his shirt to bring his lips to hers. She whispered back and kissed him.
He straightened up. “Goodnight, Yenkat.”
Neither of the ladies said anything until he was gone. Yenkat sat on a couch facing Kyenpia’s.
“How was your retreat?”
“Relaxing. I didn’t know I needed it until I got there and just fell on the bed and slept like I was in a coma. Eight hours of good sleep. I woke up, ate, and took a walk in the middle of the night. We came back and talked mostly, asides other activities.”
“Can I ask a question you may not want to answer?”
“I already know what it is. And my answer is no, I don’t know what will become of me and Ishi, Yen. I still miss Leonel. So badly. I thought I’d stop dreaming about him, but I can’t. He’s still so alive to me. Will this feeling ever go away?”
“I don’t know, but I know it’s going to get better, Kay.”
“Ishi is so sweet. I don’t know how to thank him for always being there for me.”
“You’re also being there for him.”
“It’s going to end, Yen. I know it will. He’s going to find God again and this situationship would end. I’m scared.”
“Don’t think about it.”
“I try not to, but it’s hard.” Yenkat looked down at Kane. She caressed his forehead and placed a finger in Reginald’s palm.
“Kay, I don’t know what to say, except that you don’t have to figure everything out right now. Know that you’re not alone. You have God and Ishi and us girls and Lanre and the Igwes and your kids. We will never leave nor forsake you.”
Kyenpia made a baby face and smiled. “Enough of depressing talk. Tell me about last night, Yen. How did it go?”
Yenkat couldn’t stop the smile that invaded her lips.
“She’s smiling! Was it that good?”
“Good? It was better than good.”
“That would be a stretch.”
“Gist me. Specifics, details…”
“Have you ever given me details of your sex life, Kay?”
Yenkat tried to recall, looking up.
“Okay, brace yourself. This is very X-rated.”
“Enough of the preview already!”
“So, I opened my bedroom door, about to go out and make chamomile tea, and there he was. He was the last person I expected to see. I was excited, I won’t lie.”
“Was that when you texted me?”
“No, I texted you much later. Anyways, we hugged and…it just happened.”
“Which one is we hugged and it just happened? I said details, Yen.”
“See ehn, in all my life as a sexually active adult, I have never gone so fast from hugging someone and having sex with them like what happened to me last night. Another second first was that I came through penetration alone. That has never happened to me before.”
“Then I’m special. Nobody I know has cum through penetrative sex alone. I need to be in a freaking museum.”
“Stop being a showoff.”
“Don’t mind me. Go on.”
“There were factors that led to that cum. I think the major one was that I was already horny before he showed up. He kissed me and I started dripping like a faucet. He had my back against that door and his fingers were killing me down there. Damn!”
Kyenpia smiled naughtily. “You haven’t been laid in like forever, babe.”
“I know, right? Second factor was the excitement over these past months that had led up to all of that. All the flirting and the kisses from the past.”
“Thirdly, the tabooness of it.”
“Taboo because he’s only twenty-two?”
“Twenty-three, actually. He turned twenty-three last month. But that’s not it. I raised this boy, Kyen, and I think that totally turned me on like mad.”
“Fourthly, he was good.” Yenkat feigned a shiver. “Like, good, good!”
“But he’s always been with way older women na. Were you expecting less?”
“Gaskiya, I didn’t know he was that good until it happened.”
“How did it happen?”
“Haba, Kyen!” Yenkat gave a shy laugh.
“Which one is this one? Are you Amaka? Talk joor!”
“I’m ashamed to say this, but I was the one that pulled my boy shorts down and asked him to…” Yenkat shook her head at the memory. “See, I wasn’t thinking about anything but being fucked like mad. The way he lifted me off that floor and put me on the bed ehn…”
“See, everything before he entered was a blur, because my head was spinning with lust. But when he got in there and started sliding in, my senses came alive. He pushed in and I was like ooooh… Went in deeper and ooooooh… Deeper and ooooooooooh!”
Kyenpia laughed at the top of her voice, startling Reginald. He responded in an angry whimper. “I’m sorry, Reggie. This gist is too sweet.” She placed her nipple back in his mouth and looked at Yenkat. “Is he that big?”
“You know what they say about skinny guys and the things they carry between their legs.”
Kyenpia clamped her mouth shut, muffling more laughter.
“So, I’m high at this point and soaking wet, but I have these few seconds of panicking and thinking that he might not know how to use that tool, because of my past experience with big for nothings.” But Kyenpia Elizabeth Igwe, I was the one who nutted in less than two minutes.”
“Wayo Allah!” Kyenpia gripped the nursing pillow and bent over her sons to have a good laugh.
“I think it was the way he lay over me. Every thrust was mad! My clit and g-spot betrayed me so badly, Kay. I came like a motherfuck. I had to beg him to stop. And the idiot boy pulled out and was looking at me like I was a crazy person, asking me what’s going on. I just came, you handsome devil and you’re asking me question!”
“What happened after that?” Kyenpia wiped tears of mirth that lined her eyes.
“I was ashamed. You know that post-orgasm shame?”
“Well, it was all over me. I just wanted to crawl under the blanket and ask him to leave. How can a small boy do me like that, Kay? A whole Yenkat! And he’s been having fantasies about me, I’m sure, building all these scenarios in his head of how I was going to use my experience to screw his senses out. But there I was, like a fool, vibrating idiotically.”
“Yenkat, please, don’t kill me with laugh this evening. I think I just peed my pants.”
“After I gathered my pride back, much to his amusement, I redeemed myself. I told him to lie down and let me show him who’s boss.”
“And how did that go?”
“Do I need to recall that too? Kyen, I can never forget last night. Never.”
“How did you feel after everything?”
Yenkat gave a shrug. “I was weirded out a bit, because I couldn’t erase the fact that I nurtured him from when he was a baby until he reached adulthood. Then, it also felt good and liberating, because what the fuck! I’m only human abeg.”
“So, what are you guys now? A couple?”
“We’re not anything, Kay. He’s going back in January to do another course, and won’t be back until October. So, we have from now till the end of the year to enjoy what we have. Look, he’s still young and he’ll outgrow me.”
“I know. I want him to. I want this to be just a phase in his life. I’d be worried if he keeps loving me like this until he gets to his thirties.”
“Shit happens, Yen.”
“I know, but…” Yenkat shook her head. “I don’t want that.”
“What if you end up falling for him?”
“I already love him.”
“I know you do, but what if you end up falling for him?”
“I won’t because I know what I’m doing. You start having feelings when you stop thinking. I have my wits about me and I can already see the end of our affair. But even if I fall for him, it would make no difference. The feelings will end up dying because I won’t do shit about them.”
“And you wonder why they call you cold.”
Yenkat shrugged, unbothered.
“Did it feel like a sugar mommy experience?”
“Kay, you ask questions like you’re interviewing me on your show.”
“In some ways, yes. After everything, he picked his clothes and wanted to leave…”
“He said he knew me and knew I’d become cold towards him and need my space. It hurt to hear him say those things, because he was just reiterating what everyone else feels about me, that I’m a coldhearted bitch. I really felt those words because he said them. I asked him not to leave. When he came back, he just laid out on the bed and rested his head on my lap and we talked.”
“That’s so sweet.”
“I couldn’t stop the moment or stop playing with his hair. He’s my baby in many ways.”
“And he became your man.”
“I’m not calling him that yet, but yeah, he was all man last night. He spooned me while we slept sha and totally woke me up with a boner. Breakfast came afterwards. Can I say best morning ever?”
“Na wa o. That’s how you abandoned my Clarence.”
“Clarence is sweet, but cold. And then, he looks like he’s killed people. I tried to connect, but he wanted to remain mysterious. He was tiring abeg.”
“I know. He’s too secretive.”
“Omar and I talked at length this morning. Not about us. About him. He’s going through a quarter life crisis.”
“And what’s that?”
“Something that happens to people in their twenties when they start to question life. It’s a stage where they ask questions about where their life is headed and why they feel so lost. Omar said he felt stuck. He wasn’t where he wanted to be, but he wasn’t so sure where he wanted to go. He suddenly felt like he didn’t know what he wanted in life. He found himself asking if this was all there was to it. He even started wondering if he was normal to be in love with me and not some girl he’s age mates with. His career choice too… He’s doubting himself.”
“Is he kidding me? Does he know how much we pay the sous and cuisine chefs at the hotel? Those guys are balling. Please, he should come and work for us. We need his experience.”
“Abeg, abeg, no. I don’t want him near where I work. I can’t handle that.”
“I understand. But what did you tell him after he opened up to you?”
“I told him it was totally normal to feel those things. I encouraged him to talk about them with me as much as he could. I don’t have all the answers for him, but I promised to be always there. I reminded him that he was doing great for a single father in his twenties.”
“I think he’s really mature for his age.”
“He is, but his age shows sometimes.”
“Don’t be a bitch.”
“Look, if you try to come for my boys in the future…”
“I’d have stoned you with this throw pillow if you weren’t breastfeeding.”
Kyenpia sniggered. “Sugar mama of laive! You’ve joined Fiyin’s league be dat. She likes younger guys.”
“How come we’ve never met any of them?”
“Because she feels we’ll always judge her choice of men. And quite frankly, we will. What are friends for? We have to keep each other in check.”
“Why aren’t you keeping me in check?”
“Because I know you need this thing you and Omar have, just like I need mine with Ishi. Whether it lasts long or fades away, you need to go through it or it’ll be that moment in your life that haunts you. The worst thing you’ll do to yourself is live in the ‘what ifs’. You don’t need that.” Kyenpia lifted Reginald off the pillow and kissed his cheek.
“Looks like Amaka is the only one with a normal relationship around here.”
“Lucky her. James is a dream husband… Help me burp this boy abeg.”
Yenkat took Reginald from Kyenpia, rested him on her chest and rubbed his back while Kyenpia did the same to Kane. They were silent until the twins slept. They changed their diapers together, discussing Aanu’s latest misbehavior.
“That your friend needs help. Unfortunately, you’ll keep being the enemy in her eyes.”
“Does Omar know that she’s marrying Obidan?”
“He does, but doesn’t want to talk about it. I raised it up and I could see how upset he was. I feel really sad for her.”
“You’ve tried your best, jare.”
Kyenpia complained about how the rest of the year was going to be busy for her.
“Conferences, seminars, charity events… Tiring.”
Yenkat offered support by putting an arm on her waist. “We’ll do this together.”
“Sure.” Kyenpia placed her head on Yenkat’s shoulder and they both watched the twins as they slept. Few minutes later, Yenkat was at the door, saying goodbye.
“Because of man you want to leave me alone,” Kyenpia teased, holding the door. They hugged. Yenkat left the house and got into her car. She sped down streets that were free of traffic congestion. When she got home, she found Omar watching a documentary on Animal Planet. She leaned over the couch and he reached for her neck, pulling her to him. Their lips locked in a kiss.
“I asked Oyin to take the evening off.” His breath was minty. “Her sister visited.”
“It’s just me and you, mami. Are you hungry?” he asked, looking intensely in her eyes. She laughed.
“You want tea?”
“Yeah, but let me take these clothes off first.”
She started towards her bedroom, but was hauled off the floor by Omar who had snuck up behind her. She held onto his neck for support. The gaze of utter worship in his eyes scared her. She had always seen it but had not known it for what it was until now.
“I’m going to break your heart, Tobi.” She caressed the nape of his neck. “Please, don’t fall for me.”
“Too late, mami.”
He carried her into the room and threatened to throw her on the bed.
“Don’t you dare!” She clung tighter to him. He lowered over the bed and let her down gently. Rising up, he tugged her leggings off, taking her thong along.
“What’s wrong with you?” she giggled, snapping her thighs shut. “You too like rough play!”
“You said you wanted to strip. I’m helping you.” He went for her shirt next, undoing one button after another. Left with her bra alone, she stared up at him in expectation. “Turn around,” he instructed.
Yenkat lay on her tummy and he undid her bra. What followed was a series of wet kisses deposited along her spine, all the way to her bum. Goosebumps binged on her skin, but his warm breath made them disappear as he followed her spine up again and tickled her earlobe with his lips. He dropped down, close enough for her to feel the hardness he pushed against her bum. She silenced a wayward moan that came up to her lips. She knew her body was going to betray her again tonight. This was madness.
He rose up abruptly. “Let me make your tea.”
She spun around and saw a wicked smile on his lips. “Are you all right, Tobi?”
He pressed a hand on his bulge. “I don’t want us to get tired of each other, Kat. We have all the time in the world.”
She rephrased his words in her head. I don’t want you to get tired of me, Kat, because that’s what is going to happen eventually.
“Tobi, I’m not going to be tired of you,” she guaranteed.
He smiled and let his body down over hers. “You’re addictive, you know that?”
No man had ever called her that. She had always wondered if she had been so stiff in bed that the men she had been with didn’t keep coming for more. She had had more one-night stands than real relationships. But with Omar, it was different already. It wasn’t even up to a full day and he was beginning to make her feel wanted.
“I’ll be right back.”
Left alone, Yenkat covered her face with a pillow and asked herself what she was doing.
Could you keep your head up when you’re losing ground?
Could you keep your head up?
Everything you once felt, like your own blood, comes crumbling down
Could you keep your head up?
Sometimes the tears we cry are more than any heart can take
We fight, just keep it inside
Small wonder that it starts to break
Many moons will light up the way
As sure as night would follow day
And everything you once loved remains unbroken, unbroken
Could you find a daydream in the dead of night?
Could you find a daydream?
Keep your quiet victory to a whisper in an uphill fight
Could you keep your head up?
Sometimes the tears we cry are more than any heart can take
We fight, just keep it inside
Many moons will light up the way
As sure as night would follow day
And everything you once loved remains unbroken, unbroken
Kyenpia sat alone in her bedroom, listening to Birdy; and Leonel sat in his, faraway in Tel Aviv, watching her. He remembered when she used to call Birdy’s songs depressing, second to Lana Del Ray’s. She had always wondered how he listened to them. Now, they comforted her, especially on nights when Ishi wasn’t there.
Leonel knew the healing power of music, how sad songs could make a person experience all their collective heartbreaks and losses, taking their mind away to some other place. In school, he had studied how music could release dopamine and oxytocin. While dopamine was like a high, oxytocin was a relaxant, regulating anxiety and stress, both of which Kyenpia was suffering from. Sad songs worked in a similar manner to when exposure therapy was used in the treatment of PTSD. Emotive music had the power of making the brain recall a traumatic event, helping the person reprocess the memory. And sometimes, that was enough to enable them go through the pain instead of going around it.
Leonel had flown in from London barely two hours ago. He hadn’t slept well in more than a week, but he couldn’t keep his eyes off his wife. He had missed his favorite pastime of watching her. He had been doing so for months via hidden cameras planted in her home. Sometimes, he simply listened in on her. Captain had given him access to a system that had live surveillance footage from her home and Ishi’s, and even in Ishi’s home in Boston. Leonel was aware of all that was going on in her life—the good, the bad, the nasty, and the days when it seemed like she was moving on without him, only to plummet down to the depths of sadness. This was one of those days. Right now, she was holding the dinner gown she had worn on the night that he was shot. It was her go-to comforter, sometimes. His blood had not been washed off the gown. The stain remained, now a deep shade of violet over the lacy lilac material.
She hugged the dress to herself, sniffing it. There was a faint smile on her lips. The gown was one of the few things she reserved of him that reminded him of that tragic night. The others were the clothes he had worn that morning, Sometimes, she spread them out on the bed before she slept. These days, her memories of him made her smile, but he knew she would soon have a terrible fall downhill. December was approaching fast. Last year, she had had the best time of her life with him. How was she going to cope this year?
You can just get on a plane and go back home, you know. Save her the misery.
But he wasn’t ready. Spirit was still alive. Denying himself sleep and taking pills to avoid waking him up was not the solution. Leonel needed more therapy. He was glad that Idara had agreed to come along with him on his trips. But the strongest boost was reuniting with his mother. It was a huge step up the ladder. He could feel himself getting closer to the man he wanted to be. She had been a healing balm during his time with her. His head still swirled with memories from the past week.
Closing his laptop and stretching on his bed, he fell into one of many moments in which he paused whatever he was doing to smile at precious recollections that came to him unexpectedly. That first morning he shared with her was one he would never forget. He had wept on her shoulder like a little child, and then spent the entire day with her in a long, candid discussion. She exposed secrets from her past, especially the times Captain abused her, and how she had sought ways to take her life to be free from him. She also told Leonel how her life had been since she left.
“Lost,” she revealed. “I was suicidal for a long time. I’ve carried this guilt on my shoulders for years.”
Leonel watched her fascinatingly as she signed, eyes following every nimble movement of her hands and fingers. Her face was more communicative than he remembered, and she displayed the most animated facial expressions that left him laughing so hard. He still understood her language. One of the first charity causes he got involved with as a teenager was to working with those who had speech and hearing impairments. Since then, he had donated to NGO’s that catered to their needs, organizing yearly charity events to help raise funds for them. He had done it devotedly, with Emem in his heart.
“It was not your guilt to carry, Mom.”
“I left you boys. Even though it felt like the right thing to do then, I have never forgiven myself. I was so afraid. I’m still so afraid.”
“You don’t have to be anymore. I’m here.”
Emem asked about Kyenpia. She showed him her phone, where she had stored the latest photos of all of them, even the ones of his funeral.
“All the extra gifts you got from your aunt during your birthdays and Easters and Christmases were from me. I was with you boys the whole time. Primary school, secondary, university, right to your PhD. When I heard that you died…” She paused, her face turning sad temporarily. “I cried for months. I hated myself for going away. If I had stayed with you boys, maybe you wouldn’t have been hurt. You don’t know what it means for me to see you here, alive. All grown, fully a man, everything I prayed you’d be.”
Leonel dropped his head with a shy smile. She alone could elicit such emotions from him.
“I am so proud of you, Daniel. So proud. You are the son every mother dreams of.” She placed her hand on his. He looked up at her.
Did she know how much of a sick asshole he was? Had she been told that his mind was filled with broken fragments of the son she knew that could not be fixed?
“And Kyenpia…she’s an angel.” Emem gestured the word she had coined for Kyenpia’s name. It was the letter ‘K’, pressed to her heart.
“Beautiful and smart. I’ve been reading all the articles about her lately. I watched her speak at a women’s conference the other day. She’s inspiring, and so strong to be able to cope with three little children and all that office work alone. Daniel, you have to return home.”
“I will, Mom.”
It was a blessing to say the word ‘Mom’ to the right person. His heart swelled each time he uttered it.
“Please, don’t do what I did because of him.” Her face came to an ugly frown. “He is not worth it. Don’t let him take your joy and peace away from you like he did mine. Fight him, Daniel.”
Leonel wished he could tell her that his worst enemy was himself, and not his father. Captain’s powers were useless, as far as it concerned him. He had shown the man that he could kill him if it came to that. Two years ago, he pointed a gun at him and put a bullet in his chest. He hadn’t intended to take his life that day; it was only a warning.
“One day, I’ll be as strong as you and face him.” Emem said the words, not with her hands, but with her lips as she held Leonel’s face with both hands. “Very soon. For now, I am so sorry.”
“So, you live here?” Leonel didn’t want to talk about Captain. “In London?” he asked. Emem dropped her hands and shook her head apologetically. She couldn’t tell him where she lived. “I understand.”
“Come, let me make dinner for you.” She stood, stretching out her hand to him. His hand took hers and covered it. She was still slender and fragile. Haunting images of Captain hurting her filled Leonel’s head as they made their way to the kitchen. He didn’t want to, but he was forced to remember the many times Captain made him take flowers to her and had him apologize on his behalf. Leonel would find her curled up on her bed, sobbing.
“Were you ever ashamed over the things I saw?” he asked. Emem turned.
“What he did to you and made me watch.”
“Always. I blamed myself that you witnessed it. You were just a child, Leonel, and I’m sorry.”
She opened the fridge to pick something. Leonel heard the sound of Igwe’s walking stick against the floor as he came to the kitchen.
“I’m turning in,” he announced. “I’m glad to see you two together. I hope the rest of the family does too.” He concentrated on Leonel. “I also hope we don’t keep secrets from each other anymore.”
Leonel and Emem smiled together.
Igwe said to Emem, “Remember I told you he has your smile?”
“He does, doesn’t he?”
Emem snapped her finger to get Leonel’s attention. “There’s stew here. You want pasta or should I microwave what they ate earlier?”
Leonel wasn’t hungry, but he couldn’t say no to her. “Microwave.”
She shut the fridge and set about warming their dinner. It was past nine and everyone else had gone to bed. She showed signs of sleepiness with a yawn.
“Mom, you don’t have to…”
She raised her hand, stopping him. “I haven’t fed you in twenty-eight years, Son. Shut up and sit down.”
He moved into the kitchen, pulled a chair and sat before the table. He observed every movement she made, imprinting her in his memory and heart. He continued to do this on the days that followed. Every moment they spent with each other took him deeper into her head. He got to know her better, and saw that she needed his healing presence. There was so much she had endured in so little a time spent with Captain that had left her traumatized. Leonel became her therapy, as she was his. He went so deep into her mind that he was able to convince her to return home.
“I need time,” she told him last night. “I have to prepare.”
“How long?” he asked eagerly, staring into her eyes. She pulled back and laughed.
“You’re so intense, this boy.”
“I know. But how long?”
“I don’t know, Daniel.” She dropped her hands on her lap in quiet unease.
“I’ll tell you what. Just take your time, but don’t take too long. David needs to see you again. You have seven grandkids you need to spoil with all this love, Mom.”
She nodded, laughing and sobbing at the same time.
“Let’s do it this way. We’ll go back home together.”
“Yes. Just know that the longer you stay away, the longer you keep me away from my own family.”
“Daniel…” She exhaled. “Why don’t you just go home?”
She was now aware of his identity disorder and the current struggle he was facing.
“I need to get better. I really need this second phase of my life with Kyenpia to be perfect. I’ve hurt her and I am not doing that again. So, I’m going for more therapy while I make more money around the world. This means that I also need time. But I’m not going to be away for long, though. I will come back and get you and we’re going home. Okay?”
She prayed fervently for him before she went to bed, blessing the work of his hands. Early this morning, she said her goodbye. Her parting gift was an album of all the photos she took with him and David when she was still with them. It was the only one she had.
“I’m giving you as a sign of my promise to return home.”
He hugged her, knowing the courage it took for her to finally come this far. There was still a long journey for them ahead, but this first step was a life-changer.
After her departure, Leonel came out to meet Jamila in the backyard. There was a gazebo shaded by vines. It was Igwe’s favorite spot in the house to relax and read. This morning, Jamila was there, playing a game of chess alone. When Leonel walked up to her, she asked him to join her.
“No, thanks. I want to talk.” He sat.
He didn’t begin immediately. He stared directly into her eyes until she became uncomfortable.
“Leo, don’t start your craziness this morning. I don’t have the energy…”
“Mama Jams, I love you so much,” Leonel began to speak, “but I am so disappointed in you.”
“You created the monster that is Captain. God knows how many times you screwed up his head to believe that he was in control. He should have been locked up in a madhouse years ago, but you made him feel normal. I don’t believe that shit Gramps mentioned about a family curse. No, there isn’t one. All I see is a generation of power-hungry, bloodthirsty people related by blood that covered their sins by any means possible. I am so happy Uncle Samuel died. Too bad his family went with him, but Ishi is better off without a father that was a serial killer. I also cannot wait for the day I bury my own father.”
“I was five years old when he made me watch as he killed a girl who stole from him. A girl he probably raped. He poured acid on her and laughed as it slowly burned her to death. I can still smell her burning flesh.”
“I’m sorry, Leo.”
“He made me his unwilling audience each time he raped my mother. And he did it in the open! Anyone could have walked into the house all those times and seen him! He didn’t care! Thank God, I was always the only one. He enjoyed it when I watched. Sometimes, he looked at me and smiled. What kind of person does that to their child?”
Jamila sighed, head bowed.
“I attended orgies as a teenager because he made me do it. The man messed me up, Mama Jams, and it was because of you! Where were you when he was fucking my life over? You somehow knew how to be there when it benefitted him! How to screw my head and give me a different explanation to all I saw! Just like you did on that night! The lies, Mama Jams! God! The lies! And you wonder why I’m so messed up?”
Jamila lifted her head to show eyes that were swamped with tears. “I am so sorry, Son.”
Leonel gazed away, traveling into the past. The memories slapped him hard. They had been brutal over the past days, since reuniting with Emem.
“I used to come to you and tell you the things he did to me or made me do, but all you’d say is ‘forgive’. Just like I had to forgive him because he mistakenly killed my mother and was honorable enough to bury her. And like the times he made me give her roses and told me to apologize on her behalf, I bore the weight of that night on my back, Mama Jams! All my little mind knew was that we killed her together! We buried her together, because you made me an accomplice to murder! I was eight years old! I WAS EIGHT FUCKING YEARS OLD!”
Jamila burst into a cry, covering her face with a veil.
“How about my mom? All these years, she was away, suffering with depression, trying to kill herself. But you didn’t care!”
“That’s not true.”
“Don’t tell me what is true or not true! You kept all of us in a lie! Just to make your brother feel that he was in control! To make him happy! You abandoned my mom and kept nurturing your monster!”
“I was protecting her from him.”
“How about us? You didn’t think that we needed her?”
“She didn’t want to come back.”
“You could have made her come back, Mama Jams! If you could convince him that he killed her, and he believes it till date, you could have convinced her to come back! We needed her! But of course, you wanted to take her place, to steal her sons and fuck with their heads because we were all toys to you!”
“But I loved you, still.” Leonel went calm again. “Oblivious of what you were doing to me, I adored and admired you. I wanted to be like you, to become a psychologist and heal myself and others, because you were my hope, my mentor, my star.” His face twisted in a sob and straightened out again. “You were my mother. Look at your son, Mama Jams,” he whispered. “Look at the boy you made. What good is left of me?”
She pulled the veil off her face. “Don’t talk like that.”
“You think I don’t want to go back to my wife? I badly do, but I can’t at the moment. And it’s all your fault. I want you to remember that you could have made me better when I was just a child and my life was a clean slate. You could have written a different story on me, changed me, healed me, and made the man my mom wanted me to be. But no, you erased Daniel completely and nurtured Spirit. You created the person Pops wanted, so that I could become like him.”
“You can never be.”
“Then why do I always feel that way? What have I been all these years if not a shadow of him?” Leonel looked at Jamila as if waiting for an answer, but he went on. “Many times I’ve fantasized about killing him. Many, many times. When I shot him two years ago, I just wanted to let him know that I could do it. But the truth is that I won’t, because I don’t want this vicious cycle, this so-called curse to continue. It will end with me. I will not pass it to my sons. I will not become him.”
“You could never, even if you wanted to.” Jamila’s face was haunted by guilt. She sniffled and looked at Leonel. “Can you ever forgive me?”
Leonel dragged his weight up. “You taught me how to forgive, and that’s why I forgive you. You’re already a tortured soul, no need to add to your pain. Your past continues to stare you in the face. I pray you find your healing.” He leaned over her and left a kiss on her forehead. “I still love you.”
She caught his hand as he tried to leave. “I couldn’t break your mind, Leonel. I tried, but I couldn’t. As young as you were, you were stubborn.”
“I was abused.”
He snatched his hand away from hers and strutted off. He left her under the gazebo. He also didn’t inform her that he was leaving for Tel Aviv.
Leonel arrived Jaffa at night and locked himself in. Catching up with surveillance footages of Kyenpia brought him peace. Tired now, he gave rest to his eyes.
Leonel dozed off. Hours passed and he woke up at noon the following day. There were no indications that he had awoken at night or been active while he rested. For some unknown reason, Spirit was keeping away.
Leonel sought for something to eat first, ignoring the need to freshen up. Smoking a joint, he found his way to the kitchen. The cook was preparing lunch. Leonel made a bowl of cereal and went about the house, looking for Idara. She was with John Doe in Captain’s study. Leonel peeped in, said hi and returned to his bedroom. He turned on his television and put a call across to Captain who was back in Lagos.
“Hey, Son.” Captain’s face came up on the screen. “Back from your holiday?”
“So, your grandfather, Chioma and Amara now know you’re alive. Who else in the family are you telling?”
“No one else, Pops. But just so you know, I’m returning. This whole hiding away thing has to end.”
“They’ll kill you.”
“No, they won’t. You’re just paranoid, and I’m tired of it. But that’s not what this call is about. I need you to tell your guys to remove all the recording devices in my wife’s house and Ishi’s.”
Captain had a drink of some dark liquid from a glass cup. “Why?”
“Because I said so.”
“I already told you that you’re the only one watching. Nobody else is. The system allows you know if someone is remotely watching her. You know I will fuck anyone up that takes a peep at her.”
“Pops, I’m done being a voyeur. I want those cameras and recording devices out right now.”
“They are there to protect her.”
“Take them out.”
“Alright. I’ll ask them to take everything down. Anything else?”
Leonel hung up. He finished his cereal, had a shower and came out in time for lunch. The table was set for three. He didn’t wait for Idara and John Doe. He had a few bites and leaned back to roll a second joint. Idara came in. She looked disapprovingly at him before sitting down.
“Hi, baby.” His stare was laden with lust. She stopped in her movement, regarding him carefully. He laughed. “It’s just me pulling your legs. Got you there for a second.”
“How are you, Leo?”
“What did you get for me from London?” She drew out a chair, facing his.
“You’ll have to come to my room to get it.”
She hissed as she sat. John Doe walked in. Leonel looked at him and sent him away with a nod.
“He’s not such a bad person,” Idara said, serving herself a meal of baked potatoes. “We bonded in your absence.”
“I need your help, Ida.”
“Remember years ago, during therapy, when I suggested that I let Spirit fully take over and you kicked against it?”
“I think I was right. Of course, I’m always right. I think that’s what I need.”
“We should do that.”
“When you’re already on a different treatment?”
“I’m the patient. I am not complaining.”
“Leo, it’s dangerous. You’re exhausted mentally, you’re on medication… You need to be sane and be Leonel because of the business deals you have in Mauritius or you’ll go there and fuck everything that has a vagina and fuck things up.”
“Chill Idara. Considering how well Barbados went, you have to have a little faith in me.”
“I do, but only in the person I’m speaking to right now.”
“I insist, Idara.”
“I’ll double whatever Captain’s paying you.”
“It is not about the money, Leo. It’s about…” She puffed out. “Are you sure you’re ready to do this?”
Leonel wasn’t sure. It scared him to even consider it, but he needed a drastic cure to his problem.
“Spirit is not entirely a creation of Captain’s. He was my strength as a kid. He got me up from that hospital bed when they declared me brain dead years ago and when I was in a coma just the other day. I am Spirit, and Spirit is me. Until I accept this, I’ll keep fighting myself. I need to embrace and accept him, and he’ll succumb to me. Only then will I take back what I deposited in him. Once I do that, he ceases to exist. The quickest way to make this happen is to take myself as I am to Kyenpia, of course. But you know I can’t, for obvious reasons. The second best way is to let Spirit take control.”
Idara returned to her meal. “Leo, this is dangerous.”
“I know, but listen; your job is to find a way to bring two of us together to co-exist at the same time. It’s never happened before, but you have to make sure it does. Me and him, side by side.”
She paused again, looking at him. “And if things get out of control?”
“They could, Leo. What should I do if that happens?”
“Call my wife.”
Idara reached for a bowl of vegetables as Leonel had a drink of water. He had no idea what he was doing. If he failed on his mission, Spirit would take over completely. The last thing he wanted was Kyenpia seeing the other side of him.
“Well, let’s pray that never happens,” he said to himself.
“What did you say?”
He picked an apple and bit into it. “Nothing.”
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages