Yenkat hugged herself, rubbing her upper arms, even though she wasn’t cold. The air this morning was humid. As humid as the cell she had been locked in through the night. The smells and sights from her short incarceration at the police station wouldn’t leave her head. She was traumatized from the experience, shivering now and then, especially each time the memory of what she had gone through came to her.
Last night, Amaka begged her not to leave her home, telling her how much fun they were going to have if she slept over like the other ladies planned to do. But Yenkat’s night plans didn’t include the ladies. She was craving Omar’s body against hers and the comfort of his deep voice whispering soothingly into her ears.
Kyenpia who understood just what she needed, sent for Clarence to come take her home. Yenkat felt that she would have been better off taking an Uber because of the awkwardness that ensued between her and Clarence in the car; but looking back now, she was grateful that he was there. How else would anyone have known that Aanu sent policemen to pick her up just outside her gate, accusing her of attempted murder? Her rights had not been read to her; neither was she given details of the so-called attempted murder. At the police station, her handbag, which contained her phone and purse, was taken from her and she was thrown into a cell with eight other women that looked like they belonged in a madhouse. Luckily for her, she was wearing Amaka’s sleepover jumpsuit, which kept the mosquitoes at bay. Unluckily, she was hit with the worst human stench her nose ever encountered.
She shivered now, recalling details of last night. Her lower lip still hurt from the slap a policeman gave her when she tried to let him know that he wasn’t following legal procedures by denying her access to her lawyer. She had a good mind to march back into the station and return the slap. She was as angry as she was traumatized. Kyenpia and Jacan were in there with the police officers. They had come for her before dawn. A grumpy policewoman escorted her out of the cell and brought her out to meet them.
“So, it’s because you have ogas and madams at the top you were talking to me anyhow last night abi?” the policeman who had slapped her asked. “God save you.”
“Desist from speaking rudely to my client, sergeant, or I’ll punch your mouth in” Jacan said with the sternest of faces. Leonel hadn’t been joking when he told Yenkat sometime ago that his uncle was a troublemaker. There was hardly any police officer that didn’t know Jacan. He was famous, not only for being Igwe’s son, but for freeing innocent people who had been wrongfully accused of crimes or had faced police brutality. A mention of his name was enough to throw a case away. Add an angry Kyenpia to the mix and you had a group of remorseful police officers apologizing for bad behavior. It was the type of thing Yenkat loved to watch, but she was exhausted.
She still longed for her bed but not with Omar in it. He was the major reason she was angry. Yenkat had gotten the gist only now, having just looked through her messages to see angry texts from Aanu, detailing what Omar had done to Obidan. Naturally, Aanu accused Yenkat for her son’s misbehavior, but what she failed to mention to the police was that her son was Obidan’s assaulter. Yenkat was glad that Omar didn’t have to go through what she went through last night. However, he was going to get an earful from her when she returned home.
He was calling her now. She declined his call and walked towards Kyenpia’s car where Clarence was waiting. He was standing outside, arms crossed, eyes on her.
Omar sent a message on WhatsApp: I’m just hearing about what mom did. I’m so sorry, Kat. Where are you? What station?
Yenkat typed a reply: I’m fine. I’ll be home in a bit.
She locked her screen and walked up to Clarence.
“Thank you,” she told him.
He let down a hand and touched her lip. “Who did this to you?”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m fine.”
His hand dropped to her neck and caressed it. He drew her for an unexpected hug, but let go almost immediately as if he had suddenly realized that he had done something wrong.
“I saw when they picked you up. I followed them all the way here yesterday, but they denied that they had you. I couldn’t reach your cousin or Captain. Uncle Jacan’s phone was off, so I had to wait. I knew I could call other people, but Uncle Jacan is the best bet to have whatever case they had on you thrown away. I’m sorry you spent the night in there.”
“It’s fine. You did great. Thanks again.”
“So, what happened? I saw that your annoying friend with the policemen last night.”
“Long story. She’s accusing me of trying to kill her fiancé. I didn’t do anything to him. Omar did. He broke his shins, elbow and head.”
“Wow. And you’re with this boy?”
“Clarence, I told you I didn’t want to talk about Omar…”
“I’m just worried. He seems unstable.”
“He’s fine. He’s only protecting his mother from a monster. Any son would do that.”
“Okay. I just hope he doesn’t have any violence issues.”
“You’re one to talk.”
Yenkat reached towards him and parted one side of his jacket, revealing a handgun tucked in a holster.
“I told you last night that this gun or any other weapon you see me carry around has nothing to do with you, okay? My job is to protect your cousin and her kids. That part of my life was not and can never be connected to you.”
Yenkat rubbed her arms. “Let’s just forget this conversation.”
Clarence opened the backseat for her and she sat in, waiting for Kyenpia, who soon arrived with Jacan. Jacan peeked into the car and asked how Yenkat was faring.
“I’m okay, Uncle Jacan. Nothing that a couple of hours of sleep can’t handle.”
“Triple the sleep time and stay home today. Sorry for your ordeal.”
“Thank you so much. God bless you.”
“Anytime. You are family. If anybody looks for your trouble, just call me. My name is not Jacan for nothing.”
“I hope you’ll be attending our annual charity ball in a couple of weeks, though?”
“The one organized by The Refuge?”
“Yeah. I already got an invite.”
“Great. Take care.” He straightened his posture, hugged Kyenpia and made for his car. Kyenpia entered the car with a sympathetic smile.
“What does Uncle Jacan’s name mean?” Yenkat asked.
“Trouble. It’s Hebrew.”
“His dad named him that?”
“No. His original name is Jacob. He renamed himself. Long story. Forget it. How are you?”
“It’s not that bad.”
“Not that bad? You look like you saw death.”
“That place is horrible. Imagine what prison feels like.”
“I don’t want to imagine.”
“Thank you, babe. I owe you plenty.”
“No, you don’t.” She tapped her thigh. “Clarence, you’ll be taking us to a certain private hospital in Yaba. Let me get the address from my phone…”
“Babe, I said I’m fine.”
“No, I’m not taking you to see a doctor,” Kyenpia replied in distraction, her eyes on her phone. “The police gave us the address of the hospital where your ex is recuperating at right now. Aanu is there too. I think it’s time we had a word with her. Don’t you think?”
Leonel’s plane touched down in Port Loius, Mauritius, after a fourteen-hour flight from Tel Aviv. Strangely, he wasn’t tired, unlike Idara who had slept through the entire flight and was now wondering out loud if she could sneak in more hours before they honored their appointment with a couple of hotel moguls.
“You’re lazy,” John Doe commented. Idara ignored him.
“You can’t afford to not be sharp at that meeting, Idara,” Leonel said to her as they got into the car waiting to take them to their hotel. “You’re representing me.”
“And what’s Brisa’s job?”
“Concentrate on yours. You’re there to make sure it all goes well. If you ladies nail this one, you’ll move on to the next level of negotiations which would take place at Belle Mare. Once they take you there, the deal is done. They’ll be presenting you with papers to sign.”
“I can’t trust Brisa. She’s a loose cannon.”
“Two good heads are often better than one, Ida.”
“I doubt that she has a good head on her.”
“She gives good head. I don’t know, though. I’m just keeping to the script, trying to say what I think he’ll say.”
“What you will say, Leo. You, not him.”
“Fuck. This sucks.”
“You cannot keep referring to yourself as ‘he’ or ‘him.’”
“Even when I don’t feel like him, which is basically like every single second?”
“Leo, you already know this. Your knowledge as a psychotherapist will aid your treatment. Please, don’t drag as back.”
“I’m still a patient, psychotherapist or not.”
“I know. Just remember that you’re not a pair of people sharing the same body. Whatever state you’re in at any time is just you having a different way of expressing yourself. What we want is an increased degree of communication and coordination among your identities. Just listen inside to hear what your other self is saying to you.”
She tapped his hand. “Follow my leading and everything will be fine.”
Nothing felt fine. Leonel didn’t realize how much he was dependent on his medication until now. He presently had a migraine and he was restless. He planned to find his local marijuana dealer the instant he was alone.
“I’ll have you hooked to a tiny ear pod, which you can cover with your hair,” John Doe informed Idara. “Leo can listen in on what’s going on in the meeting through that, and he can direct you accordingly.”
Leonel answered, “Don’t worry about her. She’s a beast when it comes to cinching deals.”
Idara shut her eyes for the rest of their journey. When they arrived at the hotel and Leonel got to his suite, he threw the windows open to allow in cool air. The view reminded him of his penthouse suite back in Lagos and how he loved standing out at the balcony, looking at the sights below.
John Doe came in and announced that he had to set up security and communication equipment. His formal manner and constant need to follow protocol were tiring to Leonel. He gave him permission to proceed with a dismissive wave of his hand.
John Doe took his time with the equipment, and once he was finished, he handed Leonel a new phone.
“Brisa is at the reception, asking to know your suite number. Do I send her up?”
“Please, do. Call in Idara for a brief meeting. You guys have a little over an hour before your appointment.”
Leonel dialed Captain’s phone number and it was answered promptly.
“Hello, Son. Already in Mauritius?”
“Wrong number, Pops.” He hung up and focused angry eyes at John Doe. “Before we left Jaffa, what exactly did I tell you about communicating with Captain?”
“You said I should cut off all forms of communication with him.”
“And how the fuck does he already know this new Mauritius number?”
Leonel charged at John Doe, forcing him to back away until he was up against the wall behind him.
“You want to get on my nerves?”
“Do you want to get on my nerves, John?”
“No, sir…but Captain said…”
“I don’t give a fuck what Captain farts! Fuck with me one more time and you’ll be on your way back to Lagos!” He nodded towards the door. “Leave.”
John Doe straightened his suit before finding his way out. Leonel rested both hands on the wall and took heavy breaths. He hadn’t intended to be fierce with the man, but his reaction had come naturally to him before he could stop himself. He badly needed to do something about his restlessness. He was suffering withdrawal symptoms.
He heard a knock and went for the door. Idara walked in, dressed in a formal outfit – a grey skirt suit that Leonel didn’t approve of at first sight.
“How do I look?”
He moved towards her and sought permission to touch her.
“As long as it’s not inappropriate.”
He reached for her suit, but she stepped back. “What are you doing?”
“No, Leo. I don’t like that the lines are beginning to blur between us. I’m your therapist…”
“Not at the moment, Idara, and please, don’t make this moment painfully dramatic. You’re not my therapist right now, but my business partner. And I feel that your outfit is not inspiring enough to close a major deal. So, come closer.”
“Wait… I know we’ve already drawn boundary lines, but…”
Leonel groaned in exasperation. “Okay, let’s spell this our properly. You’re my therapist, yes, and the treatment is unconventional because I am running against time. I need to get home to my family soon, and one of the ways to make that happen is to ensure that these deals click. Second way is that you do the job of keeping me sane as my doctor. So, we have business on the one hand and health on the other. I can handle both. But can you?”
“I can. I already told you that.”
“Good. Any other thing asides those two will fall into a scope we both did not sign up for. And if that happens, please call my wife.”
“You bet I will.”
“Until then, stop being such a baby. I’m not going to be inappropriate with you. You’re my dad’s ex, for fuck’s sake. I’m not that deviant.” He took a step towards her and tugged down her camisole, positioning it underneath her breasts.
“There.” He stepped back to admire his work.
Idara examined her outfit and went in search of a mirror in the bedroom. “Why do you get to have two rooms and I get only one?”
“Because I’m a spoilt brat.”
She found the dressing mirror in his bedroom and stood before it to admire herself.
“You have beautiful breasts.” He pulled up behind her. “I don’t understand why you like to hide them.”
“It’s hard for men to take you seriously when your breasts are all in their faces.”
“That’s the trick. They look at breasts and don’t see when the brains hit them.”
“So, why do I get to be the one with breasts and Brisa comes with the brains?”
“I already told you she’s a beast. The moment she gets in there, she becomes a whole different person.”
“I don’t totally agree with doing this, but I agree that this outfit looks better this way. Turn around while I change.”
Leonel obeyed her. She took off her camisole and flung it over his shoulder. He caught it and smelled it. “Gosh! I miss Kyenpia.”
Idara buttoned up her suit and took her camisole from him.
“Please, have a seat at the dining table while we wait for Brisa and John Doe.”
He had scarcely finished speaking when Brisa barged in. She was also dressed formerly, wearing a pantsuit that was uncharacteristically conservative for her. Her hair was neatly put together in an up-do, drawing attention to her jagged jawline.
“Hello Idara.” She smiled. “Hi Leo. Shall we begin?”
John Doe entered. All four sat on a small table as Leonel mapped out details of the deal they were walking into. He was nippy with his brief, which lasted about fifteen minutes.
“These men know hoteling like the smell of their own farts. They own hotels across Africa, even in Nigeria. They love to stay in the shadows, but trust me, they are not small boys in the business. As much as they are looking to sell to the highest bidder, they don’t want to give their hard-earned assets to people who would ruin them. And this is where you come in, Brisa. They know you as an hotelier. You have to assure them that they are selling out to the best person out there.”
“I am the best out there.” She winked.
“When you three convince them that you’re worth it, they will invite you to Belle Mare and have you sign the deal there with them. I had already gotten to that stage with them. My honeymoon was supposed to kick off there, after I acquired the hotel, but I…died, and they closed the window to sell until now. Now, we have even a better offer. Hotel, tourist company and travel agency. Three-in-one. We have to cinch that deal fast.”
“I heard that they’re selling another hotel along the same beachline,” Brisa mentioned.
“Yes, but I’ve looked into that one. The location is mad…”
“Don’t you want to buy it?” Idara asked.
“It needs a little renovation, and my dead man’s coffers cannot afford that right now. I pray someone in Charybdis picks up the scent of that sale and comes for it quickly. That’s what I would have done. Damn! I miss my team.”
“Well, you have me.” Brisa stroke his thigh underneath the table.
“Us,” Idara corrected.
“Yeah, I have you guys, so don’t fuck this up. Brisa, please, don’t disappoint. John Doe, do your thing as a lawyer. Every clause they present to you in their trade deal that you don’t agree with, argue it right there with them. Don’t postpone. They have a lot of people lining up to buy. And lastly, Idara… Remember all we discussed?”
“Yes. Sit in silence and allow Brisa and John pitch. Then, close the deal by convincing them that they’re getting the best offer. In other words, screw with their minds.”
“You got that, Doc. That’s what business negotiations are about.”
“I hear you.”
Idara left the suite first. John Doe lingered for more instructions from Leonel before leaving. The instant he was gone, Brisa took out a rolled joint and lighter from the cleft of her breasts.
“Are you kidding me?” Leonel laughed.
She lit the joint and blew a good dose of smoke on his face.
“You do realize that you have a very important meeting in an hour, right?” he asked.
She took slow steps towards him and fixed the joint between his lips.
“Did you miss me?” She jumped on him, wrapping her legs around his waist. “You smell so sexy, Leo. I just want to lick you up and down.”
Leonel didn’t want her here. Not now, not when his head was messed up and he couldn’t get his thoughts straight. But she came with weed, and while he couldn’t resist it, Spirit was not known to resist her. They both wanted two things she was offering at the moment.
“I’ve missed you,” she whirred, biting and licking his earlobe. “Did you miss me?”
“I know you did.”
She brought her lips to his, but he resisted them. “Let’s talk business, Brisa. We have to be on the same wavelength before you go in for that meeting.”
“Talk about what again? You covered everything just now. The only wavelength you and I should be on right now is…”
“Brisa Bautista, focus. Get down.”
Brisa pinched his cheek and jumped off his body, but smiled wildly when her eyes dropped on his midsection. She reached for the growing bulge underneath his pants, but he jumped backwards and pressed a hand on the bulge.
“I just want to taste it.”
Giving up, she grumbled in some language he didn’t understand and sat on the bed.
Yenkat hated the way the front door whined every time it was opened. It was even more irritating now as she entered the house with a nasty mood.
“Oyin, why are Polar’s toys littered all over the floor of this parlor nau? How many times will I talk about this?”
Oyin appeared from the kitchen, shaking water off her hands. “I’m sorry, ma. I’ll pack them.”
“And the entrance of this house is dirty. Please, don’t let me remind you to sweep it again.”
“Sorry, ma.” Oyin took her handbag from her and asked if she wanted a cup of tea.
“Yes, black tea, please.”
“Should I turn on the generator?”
“No. Has Polaris gone to school?”
“Yes, her daddy took her. He’s not back.”
Yenkat entered her bedroom and stretched out on her bed as she engaged a client in a long phone conversation. She had a shower after that, scrubbing off her harrowing encounter at the police station.
Her legs shook in tiredness when she returned to her bedroom. She managed to get herself into a loose-fitting dress before crawling underneath her blanket.
Oyin came in with her tea, and some slices of lemon cake on the side.
“I know you’re hungry.”
“Thank you, dear.”
“Do you want any other thing like Vitamin C for your wound?” Oyin inquired, staring at her lips.
“No, Oyin.” Yenkat didn’t need her concern right now. “Thank you.”
“No distractions, please. I want to sleep.”
Yenkat had her breakfast, recalling her visit to the hospital with Kyenpia to have a word with Aanu. The plan hadn’t been to see Obidan, but Aanu had been happy to let them in to see how he was faring. He was a mess. Yenkat could understand why she had been arrested. Omar definitely lost his mind.
“I think we should just forget about the whole thing and go,” Yenkat whispered to Kyenpia. Kyenpia shook her head.
“Aanu,” she called as they made her way out of the hospital room, “I’m sorry for what your son did. We shouldn’t be apologizing for his actions, being that he’s an adult who decided to do things on his own…”
“She made him do it,” Aanu stated with a finger pointed at Yenkat. Kyenpia gently pushed her hand down.
“No, she did not, and this was why it was very irrational of you to have her arrested. Same way you went overboard when you hurt her the other time.”
“Well, she got her revenge by having me kidnapped.”
“She did not. I did.”
Aanu’s eyes widened.
“Yup. I am responsible for your kidnap, and there’s no telling what else I’ll do, because you see Yenkat? She’s family, and I don’t joke with family. I need you to understand that–”
“But you’ll joke with your son, right? You’ll let your friend screw your son and turn him against you, abi?”
“I…” Kyenpia folded her arms over her chest and took on a thoughtful expression. “I understand where you’re coming from, Aanu. I really do. I’d be pissed too, if it were me, but I’d employ commonsense…”
“Or just kidnap her.”
Kyenpia laughed. “No, I won’t, because I value loyalty. I’d rather cut off said friend than hurt them. I wouldn’t let my son go either, but I wouldn’t jump into a relationship that would mess me up in the end, just to get back at my friend. Look, Aanu, Yenkat has given me the details of your life. I know your story, and it’s really sad.”
“You don’t know me.”
“No, I don’t, but I know your story, and I think it’s time you accepted the truth about the role you’ve come to play in this. I’m not going to say anything except advise you to take out time and travel deep into the past. Sit and ask yourself if you made the right decisions as a mother. Then ask yourself again if you’re doing the right thing now. Omar beat Obidan up to protect you because he watched Yenkat being abused by him. Your son loves you despite everything. Shouldn’t that matter? Wouldn’t you choose that over hatred?”
“Kyenpia, you’re being a hypocrite here. I’ve heard all you’ve said, but you’re a hypocrite. And I don’t think I want to talk about this anymore. Please, leave.”
“Okay. Thanks for having us…”
“To hell with two of you!”
Kyenpia had found the exchange amusing, but not Yenkat. She was back in that place where she agreed with her rational mind that she was wrong to have anything to do with Omar.
But you’re no longer friends with her.
Does it matter? You’re disloyal. You should have shut this shit down when it started.
I tried. You know I tried, but it just happened.
You can still shut it down now.
Yenkat tossed. She didn’t need this dilemma in her life right now. It was either she continued with Omar or she let him go for good. He would have to take Polaris along as well. Was she ready for that?
“Is this a good time to come in?”
Omar was outside her door. She left the bed and unlocked the door to let him in.
He entered with a remorseful expression on his face. “I’m sorry,” he said.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“What happened to your lip?” He moved towards her, but she backed away. “I’m really sorry.”
“What you did was very stupid, Tobi. Highly, extremely, thoughtlessly stupid. Your mom is a grown ass woman and she has chosen to marry an asshole, and you shouldn’t make it your business.”
“Don’t say that. It’s my business, Yen. She’s my mom and I care about her. I care enough to make sure she doesn’t marry someone who’s going to emotionally and physically abuse her.”
“And so you try to kill him?”
“I only wanted to scare him off, but I lost control somehow.”
“What did you even use to beat him up that way?”
“A baseball bat I got from Dad’s.”
“Do you have anger issues?”
“No. You know I don’t. I just needed to rough him up a little.”
Yenkat sat on the bed. “And I had to suffer for it.”
“Somehow, Aanu had been kind enough not to tell the whole world that I stole her son, but you went and triggered her, and now, I’m seen as scum. Everyone now knows that I’m fucking you, thanks to what you did. Your grandfather and aunties sent me messages, insulting me. They all believe I instructed you to beat up the one good thing that has happened to your mother. All the blame is on me, Omar! On me!” Tears broke free from Yenkat’s eyes. “You don’t even want to know what I went through last night because of your one, thoughtless, foolish act!”
Omar stooped before her and tried to take her hand. She slapped his hands away.
“You don’t go beating people!”
“I know, and I said I’m sorry but only for how it affected you. I ain’t sorry for what I did to that prick. I’d do it again to save my mom.”
“And hurt me in the process?”
“Then what are you talking about, Omar? Anything you do to Obidan would come back and bite me in the face!”
“I don’t want him with her, and I won’t stand by and watch her ruin her life because she’s dick whipped.”
“Then remove me from the mess! Just leave my life alone and go and save your stupid mother from destroying herself!”
Omar stood up. “What are you saying?”
“Tobi, if you want to complicate my life in the name of saving your mom from herself, I won’t give you the space to do it. I will end what we have now and you can go ahead and be her hero. Just count me out! Please!”
“But she’s my mom, Yen.”
“I know that!”
“She doesn’t know that Obidan lived off of you. She doesn’t know about the times he got angry from nowhere and threw things at you or slammed you against the wall or destroyed your stuff… You never told her. You hid everything, and I wouldn’t have known either if I didn’t witness it firsthand. I don’t want her to go through that, because she’s not as strong as you. She won’t survive it. She will stay with him until he ruins her! Do you understand that? Do you understand that I’ll never forgive myself if I let her get hurt again? I was useless as a child and a teenager, watching those men abuse her and I did nothing! I can’t be useless as an adult nau!”
“Good! Just go and do your thing and leave me out!”
Omar turned away in frustration and swore. He returned to Yenkat. “Do you want me to choose between you and my mom? Is that what you’re asking me to do right now?”
“No. I am simply begging you not to complicate my life.”
“But you don’t have to walk out on us because of this. I can handle Obidan without it ricocheting your way. I just need you to trust me.”
He dropped down again – this time, with a knee to the floor. “Come on, mami, trust me.”
Yenkat sniffled. He sounded convincing and looked so. It was crazy that the only thing she wanted at the moment was to be held by him, even with her anger at him.
“I don’t know, Omar. This is complicated. The more I think about us…”
“Stop thinking. Just be. Live in the moment.”
“Yeah, I don’t expect that you’d say anything different. It’s all sex to you.”
“Don’t talk like that, Yenkat. Don’t fucking say those words to me right now.”
“But that’s the truth.”
He jumped to his feet. “You have no idea, have you? No idea whatsoever about what I feel for you!”
“It’s lust and infatuation. It’ll fade away, Omar. I know these things–”
“Because you’re older?”
“Yes! It doesn’t last, and I don’t see why we should complicate matters just because of fleeting emotions.”
“It’s been complicated from the start, Yen! Nothing new. Not all relationships are simple. Ours is…”
“We’re not in a relationship, boy.”
“Okay. What we have is complex and thorny, but when I’m with you, it’s like walking a straight road, mami. Like making French toast with my eyes closed. Everything is easy and simple. I don’t want you to take it away.”
“Just allow me–”
“I…need time alone, please.”
“What for?” He frowned.
“I need time alone.”
“You want to convince yourself that you don’t need me and being with me is a mistake you wish you could take back? You want to undo the sex we had?”
“I never said…”
“Yeah, that’s what you want to do! And then, you’ll call me later and have me sit down for this long, tedious talk about how we can’t be together and you’ll dump me!” He laughed. “I shouldn’t even be complaining, right? I’m better than the other guys. I mean, I went beyond that one night. I should be grateful–”
“Omar! What is wrong with you?”
“Why the fuck do you need time to be alone?!”
“Can you not raise your voice at me, Oluwatobi? I have a headache and I have not slept! Please, leave! And don’t come in here until I call you!”
“Man, screw this!”
“Don’t cuss at me! Don’t you do that!”
“I’m sorry, ma’am!”
He charged out of the bedroom and slammed the door. Yenkat threw her weight on the bed. She crawled underneath the sheets, hugging a pillow. Sleep was a long way off.
Curled under the blanket, battling menstrual cramps, the last thing on Fiyin’s mind was work. She had come to Jaiye’s two hours ago to pick her favorite bra, which she had left in his bedroom during her last visit. But just as she arrived at the house, her period began. Jaiye, who was set for his morning run, let her in and went for his run. Luckily for Fiyin, she always carried tampons in her handbag. She used one of them and prayed that her period behaved itself this time. Sadly, her prayer went unanswered. It didn’t take long for the pain to kick in. It rendered her body weak.
Jaiye returned an hour later. He tried to wake her up, but Fiyin pretended to be asleep. He gave up trying and went for a shower. By the time he was done and dressed for work, she had dozed off. She stirred when his lips brushed against hers.
She opened her eyes.
“I have to run. Aren’t you going to work? It’s almost nine.”
“I have period cramps.”
“Awww, sorry.” He placed his hand on her tummy and she pushed it away. “Pele.”
Fiyin buried her face in a pillow to contain a spell of shooting pain. When she lifted her head, her eyes were brimming with tears.
“You need drugs?”
“Yeah, but don’t worry about me. I’ll call an Uber to come and take me to the pharmacy.”
“I can get the drugs for you.”
“Jay, go to work. I’ll be fine. Go.”
“I won’t stay long. I just need to meet with a couple of clients and I’ll be back.”
He kissed her and was off. Fiyin went underneath the blanket once more. She stayed there until she got a small window of respite that gave her the strength to leave the house to a pharmacy nearby. She bought drugs for her pain and a hot water bottle. When she got back to Jaiye’s, she discovered that he was back. He came with food and fruits, but the only thing she was craving was ice-cream.
“Isn’t sugar bad for you at this time?”
Fiyin shook her head like a baby. “I want ice-cream.”
“I’ll go and buy it for you, but lie down first, let me put hot water in this thing,” he said, taking the hot water bottle. Fiyin watched him leave. She thought he was cute to be worried about her the way he was. She knew he had a full day of work, but he had cleared his schedule just to be with her. She appreciated the effort.
Jaiye soon came back with the bottle. “Let me make a few phone calls and then I’ll go and get your ice-cream.”
He picked his phone and left the room. His phone calls lasted almost an hour. He came back for his wallet and car key.
“I want to go with you,” Fiyin said.
“Stay. I’ll be back now. What flavor?”
“I’m coming with you.”
Fiyin rummaged through his clothes for a pair of shorts and a hoodie.
“You need to wear a bra, Fi. Your boobs are too massive for you to be going around like that.”
“Jay, it’s just to go and buy ice-cream. Chill.”
“See how your nipples are showing. You’ll draw the wrong attention.”
Fiyin ignored him. She started for the door. He followed her and they left the house. He didn’t seem offended by her stubbornness. He chatted with her in the car until they got to the neighborhood supermarket where he always shopped.
Fiyin headed straight for the ice-cream section while Jaiye went around, picking a few things needed in the house. Fiyin’s eyes scanned the different flavors of ice-cream in a freezer before her, not sure if she should take banana or coconut flavor.
“Coconut,” a voice behind her said, and then a hand she knew so well reached for a bowl of coconut flavored ice-cream.
Fiyin turned slowly and found herself facing one of her exes.
“Hi.” He had his boyish smile on. The one that made him look like he was ten years younger. She hadn’t seen him in almost a year. He looked older, but more handsome. He had a beard now. She wondered if he still slept with rich, older women to get by.
“What are you doing here?” she asked. He didn’t answer; instead, he put his arms around her and hugged her. He swayed a little under the lingering hug, whispering that he had missed her. When he let go, he kissed her neck.
“I’m back in Lagos…” he said.
“To new sugar mommies?”
He laughed. “No, Fi. I’m done with that life. I now work as a travel agent with an agency in Ikeja. So, if you or your girls want to travel anywhere in the world, I’m your man. I’ll offer you the best deals in premium travel.”
“Okay. I hear you.”
“How are your friends, though?”
“I miss you ladies. You, especially, Fi. I’m so sorry about the way things ended between us.”
“What part exactly? The part that you lied to me about who you really were or the part where you tried to finesse me of fifteen million, so that you’d run away with the woman you really loved?”
“Fi, I’m so sorry. I’ve told you this many times and I will keep telling you. I am sorry. I am a changed man now.”
“Changed man, my ass,” Fiyin said in annoyance. “I look at you and the past just keeps replaying in my head. I’m so happy I got rid of that nonsense pregnancy that would have tied me to you forever.”
Fiyin grabbed the ice-cream bowl. “Don’t call me.”
She began walking away but he snatched her hand, forcing her to face him. She looked away.
“Do you want me to go on my knees or prostrate…?”
“And just die abi? Yes.”
“Leave my hand, abeg. I hate you, Bosco.”
She walked away and met up with Jaiye who was already at the counter.
“A friend of yours?” he asked, looking Bosco’s way.
“Yeah, an old friend. My ex, actually.”
They paid for the things they picked and walked to the parking lot. Fiyin had gotten into a mood. She opened the ice-cream bowl and began eating it angrily with her finger.
“That’s irritating, Fi. You couldn’t wait until we got home?”
Fiyin ignored him.
“Is it a period thing or what?”
“It’s nothing, Jay. Just drive.”
“Okay. Sorry for asking.”
They drove home in silence. Jaiye microwaved the food he had bought earlier and they both sat in the living room, watching a show on MTV.
“Your ex…do you still have feelings for him?” Jaiye asked from nowhere. Fiyin looked at him.
“What sort of question is that?”
“I’m just asking.”
“And even if I do, what does that matter to you? It’s not like we’re dating.”
“We’re not dating,” Jaiye said. “I got that.”
“Please, don’t ask me that type of question again, Jay,” she told him.
“And don’t use that tone on me. I only asked because of the way you’ve been moody since you saw him.”
“I’m on my period! I’m allowed to be moody!”
“And bitchy? See how you’re shouting on me.”
“Just stop talking about my ex!”
“I will, but please, let me know if you’re going to start having sex with him. I don’t share pussy.”
On impulse, Fiyin tossed the ice-cream, which was now melted, at him. She stormed into his bedroom and changed into her clothes. He came to her just as she was leaving.
“I’m sorry, Fi. I’m so sorry.”
She tried to walk off, but he held her in a hug and pleaded for a long time.
“I was jealous when I saw you with him.”
“Jay, I’m not your girlfriend.”
“I know, but stop reminding me. I really like you, Fi, and I want whatever is between us to last. Please, don’t go back to your ex.”
Fiyin couldn’t deny to herself that’s he was mildly shocked by this version of Jaiye. He was not the same man who was stern and authoritative at the office or the one that dominated her during sex.
“I’m not going back to my ex, Jay.”
“Sleep over tonight.”
He kissed her tenderly and dragged her back to the living room.
“Why do you think Kyenpia wants to have dinner with me tonight?” he asked Fiyin as they settled in the couch.
“She probably wants to warn you not to break my heart. She’s sweet like that. She loves to protect all of us.”
“When will you ladies stop seeing me as the enemy?”
“When you stop being the enemy, Jay. You know you can’t be trusted.”
“You can trust me, Fi.”
She placed her head on his lap. Trust was a luxury she couldn’t afford. Bosco was to blame for that. Fiyin would rather spend the night in a hole with venomous scorpions than let her guard down around Jaiye.
Jaiye was already waiting at the restaurant when Kyenpia arrived. She had picked the venue. It was quiet and business-like. Nothing romantic about the place. During the day, one could find businesspersons having breakfast or lunch while they discussed serious financial matters.
Kyenpia approached the table with a courteous smile, which Jaiye returned as he stood up. He pulled out a chair for her and she sat.
“You were here before me, and I was right on time,” she said. “Trying to impress your boss, Jaiyesimi?”
He laughed, taking his seat. “Of course, ma’am. Lovely dress, by the way. I hope it’s not inappropriate to say that?”
“No, I appreciate the compliment, thank you.”
“I had to ask, being that you’re a feminist. One never knows what ticks you ladies off these days.”
Kyenpia simply smiled.
“I hope you’re as hungry as I am?”
They made their orders; and as they waited for their dinner to come, they talked about office matters.
“I want Anna and my business manager to make the trip to Mauritius to see that new hotel that’s up in the market. I was told that it would need a facelift.”
“Yeah, but Kyenpia, I’m supposed to make that trip.”
“I know, but I trust Mr. Hamed. He worked with Leonel and knows this business as much as you do.”
“I’ll need you to represent me at that conference in Oslo, instead.”
“I wouldn’t mind that.”
“You can take Fiyin along. The office will pay her expenses.”
Jaiye had a smile on his face at her words. He was about to say something, but a waiter came by with their meals. He kept his thoughts until he had a first bite from his dish.
“Kyenpia, why did you ask me out to have this dinner with you?”
Kyenpia shrugged. “I just want to get to know you better. If Leonel trusted you and worked with you for ten years and my friend feels you’re good enough to have in her bed, I feel like I can give you a chance. Don’t you think?”
Jaiye took a second bite of his food, smiling.
“I also want to ask you what intentions you have for Fiyin,” Kyenpia added.
“Wow. You sound like you’re her mother. Even her parents didn’t ask me this question.”
“Her parents do not know her or you the way I do. What’s the answer to my question?”
“Well, Fi and I are adults and mature enough to know that we can’t just jump into a relationship simply on the basis of great sex. We’re taking things slow.”
“Jaiye, everyone knows how much of a womanizer you are.”
“Ho-ho-ho!” he laughed with a full mouth. “Please, don’t make me choke.”
“Only stating facts.”
He had a sip of water. “Yes, I can be a womanizer, but one thing I don’t do is sleep with a woman almost every day or let her sleep over in my house or leave everything I have in the office just to nurse her because she’s having her period. I’ve done all that for your friend, and I will do more if she gives me a chance. I really like Fiyin, and I want to take her seriously and forsake all others.”
Kyenpia gave him a straight look, trying to decipher if he was serious or joking.
“I’m serious,” he assured her.
“Just don’t break her heart. If you do, the third floor of Leon Hotels would not be enough for two of us.”
Their discussion switched to other matters, and Kyenpia soon found herself being comfortable in his presence.
“I’m not such a bad person,” he said at the end of their meal.
“Except that you tried to steal my husband’s company from me and attempted to get my entire pregnant self in your bed.”
“A nigga had to try. I didn’t have all the luxuries and privileges Leonel got. I had to fight my way to the top. And when you end up doing that a few times, you just naturally want to borrow, steal and kill to have your way. Don’t take the kill part seriously; it’s just a figure of speech.”
“I understand, but I still think you’re disloyal, so much that if I let my guard down, you’d knock me off and take my place.”
“Boss lady, you’re the king right now, and you’re playing a tight game. I surrender to your authority.”
“I’m still not sure how your relationship with Leonel worked, because he hated untrustworthy people. What on earth did you do to get him to sign that deal with you, forgiving you for all that money you stole.”
Jaiye belched silently and had a drink from his wine glass. “Since we’re on the same side now, I’ll let you in on a little family secret.” He leaned forward and whispered, “Your husband was not a saint.”
“I know that.”
“No, you don’t. I’m not talking about the many girls he shagged before he met you. I’m talking about a side of him that you never knew.”
“I won’t tolerate any slander.”
“And I’m not here to slander him. Just letting you know that the money I stole was too much to be forgiven on the mere basis that we were cousins. In business, I think it’s called…leverage. I had leverage, and Leo was too smart a man to get on my bad side.”
“What did you have on him?”
“I just told you. Leverage.”
“You don’t want to tell me what it is?”
“Kyenpia, it’s all in the past. All buried. As they say ‘three people can keep a secret, only if two are dead’ or is it if one is dead. I don’t even know how that goes. It’s a Benjamin Franklin, right?”
“I’m not impressed by your theatrics, Jaiye. You can die with the information.”
“Look how quick her fangs come out when she can’t have her way.”
“As you said, I’m the king here. That’s how we do.”
“I really like you, Kyenpia. I’m glad we’re on the same side of the table now.”
“I hope it’s as fun as when we get back to opposite ends.” Kyenpia picked her bag. “I have to run. Thank you for a great dinner.”
“I should be thanking you.”
Kyenpia stood up, as did Jaiye. He escorted her to her car where Clarence was waiting. He gave her a hug and a peck on the cheek.
“My regards to Ishi.”
Kyenpia said nothing.
“That’s one cousin I’ve never understood. One minute, he’s a pastor; the next, he’s fathering a child out of wedlock; and the next, he’s…”
Kyenpia got into her car and Clarence shot the door, leaving unfriendly eyes on Jaiye. In the car, Kyenpia took out her phone from her handbag and dialed Anna.
“Are you at home?”
“Yes,” Anna answered.
“I’m coming over to yours.” Kyenpia hung up and gave Clarence instructions to take her to Anna’s. The place wasn’t far from the restaurant. They arrived there under ten minutes. Anna answered the door, wearing a frown and a t-shirt that was too big for her.
When she turned around, Kyenpia saw a UCLA logo on the t-shirt. It had belonged to Leonel, obviously. He had done his PhD at the University of California in Los Angeles. Kyenpia wondered if Anna had been wearing the t-shirt before she called or she had put it on just before she came.
Kyenpia declined the offer to sit. “I won’t take long.”
“I wanted to know about Leonel and Jaiye. Do you have any idea why Leonel did nothing about Jaiye’s theft?”
Anna gave a shrug as she sat on a settee. “They’re cousins. He forgave him and took his job from him.”
“I know, but Jaiye told me he had leverage, meaning he had something over Leonel. Something that Leonel didn’t want anyone to know. Any idea what that is?”
Anna seemed to have gone stiff for a bit. “I don’t know.”
“Are you sure?”
“Why would I lie? It’s between them. And why are you even digging up the past? You also chose to forgive Jaiye, and now you’re asking questions? Please, just let Leo rest in peace.”
“Jaiye quoted something about three people keeping a secret…”
“Jaiye likes to quote things he knows nothing about.”
“Anna, I’ve been with you for almost a year now, and that’s enough to know when you’re hiding something from me.” Kyenpia sat on a couch, facing Anna. “What did Jaiye have on Leonel. What did my husband do?”
“Ms. Kyenpia, he’s dead and buried. Whatever he did lies with him. Let it go.”
“Anna, please, talk to me. I need to know. I can’t rest until I find out the truth. I need to know–”
“You’re annoying!” Anna uttered. “That’s why he kept coming to me! You were too perfect, too good! You always wanted him doing the right things and acting like he was a saint! But he wasn’t! And I understood that! I knew that side of him that he kept hiding from you because you’d have left him if you knew! I took him as he was, and he took me as I was! We were both not perfect, but we understood each other! I understood him! I loved him!”
Kyenpia sighed, throwing her weight back on the chair. She didn’t come for this. It seemed Anna’s tantrums were never going to end. Just like her own pain was unrelenting. Earlier, she had gone to the villa to visit Leonel’s gravesite. She didn’t take him flowers, because she knew he hated them. She took him one of his favorite bottles of red wine and poured it over the granite surface, weeping like she had just lost him all over again. The pain was still fresh.
“I’m sorry that you still feel this way, Anna. I shouldn’t be apologizing because I was the one that was cheated on, but I’m sorry. One day, you’ll get better. We’ll both get better.”
Anna wiped her face with the t-shirt.
“Do you now want to tell me what leverage Jaiye had? I need to know because he can bring it up again, as a tool against me. I am not taking chances.”
Anna let the t-shirt down from her face. She cast her eyes on the center table, but she wasn’t looking at it. She had traveled back in time.
“Leo…” She sniffled and heaved. “He killed…he killed somebody, and Jaiye covered up for him.”
Anna covered her face with her t-shirt again and wept. Kyenpia picked her handbag, stood up and walked out of the apartment.
She rested her back on the door and tears gathered in her eyes. She didn’t feel herself slipping to the floor until Clarence’s hands grasped her and pulled her up.
She heard his voice in the distance. She heard Anna’s door open and Clarence yelling, “What the fuck did you tell her, you stupid bitch?”
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages