Ishi wasn’t expecting this much of a sabbatical calm this morning. He was prepared for the stares, the questioning faces, the wariness, but not the silence. It wasn’t that the silence was any different from what he was used to in the past whenever he was up on the stage to minister; it was more of what it meant.
This was his first time ministering since he left the church. He was aware that his dereliction had been a disappointment to many, even though he hadn’t come out directly to tell them that he was turning away from the faith. The tabloids had been brutal with the gist about his relationship with Kyenpia, and unlike the previous scandal he had with her, he didn’t deny the rumors this time. It affected his followership, with a good half of his fans drawing conclusions about him. There was no smoke without a fire, after all. Ishi had never really been bothered about people’s perceptions of him as he was now. For reasons known better to him, he needed to mend his reputation. In running back to God, he had been reminded of the importance of character and a spotless image. More than anything, he was ready to prove that there was more to him than being Pastor Scandalous.
Standing before the congregation, he spoke about his loss and grief and the difficult time he went through. He also talked about how it affected his faith and everything else around him. He kept Kyenpia out of the picture but shared the good news about his only surviving sibling turning to God after living as an atheist all his life. He explained that the church’s leadership had been helpful and forgiving, and that he was glad to be accepted back into the fold. His sermon this morning was about finding God when it seemed like he didn’t want to be found.
After the service, Ishi received stayed back to speak to members of the church who wanted a word or two with him. One after the other, they came into his office. Some, just to say hello, others with more pressing issues. He did well not to hold any counseling sessions then, but scheduled meetings for the week ahead.
By the time he was through, it was almost 3:00 p.m. He had a refreshing drink of water, leaned back and sent a text to Oby. He asked her if it was okay to see her this evening. As he awaited her reply, he got set to leave. Just as he was about stepping out, he heard a knock on the door. He was tired and not ready for any more conversations, so he picked his phone, bible and tablet and hurried to the door. When he opened it and saw Oby standing before him, he burst into a smile.
“Hi.” She returned the smile.
“Hi, Oby. You’re still here?”
“Yeah. I…got your text.”
“So, what’s your answer?”
“Great. Seven? Can I come pick you up?”
“With your bodyguard?” she teased.
“No. Melvin is not riding with us.”
“Great. I’ll see you later.”
“Okay.” She started to walk away. “Great sermon, by the way!”
He kept his eyes on her as she walked down the long hallway that was lined with administrative and pastoral offices. He then took the opposite direction and found his way out to the parking lot. Melvin was munching on a burger when he got to the car.
“I’m going on a date today,” Ishi informed him, taking the driver’s seat. “And I don’t want you to come along.”
“Not going to happen, sir.”
“What will it take to make you scarce?”
“You’d have to kill me.”
Ishi sighed. He started the car.
“You know I’m not going to be in your way. I’ll simply tail you and mix with the crowd.”
“Have you seen yourself? Do you look like you could mix with any crowd?”
Melvin looked at himself and gave a nonchalant shrug as he continued eating. Ishi put the car into gear.
“Pastor Oby is uncomfortable with you.”
“That hurts. I like her.”
“Just try to make yourself less obvious tonight.”
Yenkat was still in her church clothes when she stopped by the office to pick a few documents that needed her signature. Thioro had been ill for a week and this meant more work for Yenkat, but it wasn’t something that she couldn’t manage.
She left the office and drove to Clarence’s. It had been a minute since they last had an alone time together. Their relationship was three months old and they had now fallen into a quiet rhythm of dates and sleepovers at each other’s apartments. They had even gotten used to visiting each other without prior announcements. His schedule was easy to predict. He knew hers as well and enjoyed sneaking into her bed at night to cuddle her to sleep.
Today, she was doing the sneaking thing herself. It was something she had tried unsuccessfully. You could never catch him unawares, but she was going to keep making attempts. He had promised her a gift if she could successfully sneak into his house without him noticing. Sneaking in meant her being able to show up at his door without him standing there waiting for her already. It always astounded her how he always knew she was coming, because with the way his apartment was positioned, one couldn’t see anyone coming into the building who took the back road. And she always took the back road!
She parked her car outside the building and ditched her heels for a pair of flip-flops. When she got into the compound, she looked up at the building to see if there were any security cameras. She had never thought to check if there were before. When she saw none, she proceeded to the entrance and took a flight of stairs up to Clarence’s floor. There were nine other floors in the building and a functioning elevator, but Yenkat was on a journey to fitness.
Catching her breath, she stopped on the sixth floor. She could hear music coming from Clarence’s apartment. Today, he wasn’t opening the door for her before she could steady her breathing – this was a good sign.
She tried the door handle and the door gave in. Another victory! She entered the apartment stealthily. As usual, everything was black and dark. His personal space was the opposite of hers, which was all things white. His couches, flooring and drapes were all black, contrasting with a white ceiling, a white TV shelf and large white paintings. The overall look to it was minimalist and rather austere.
Yenkat lowered her handbag to the floor, and with the giddiness of a child, tiptoed towards the kitchen where she heard him cooking something. Just as she was setting her foot in, he called her name above the sound of music playing. She grunted and dropped her shoulders.
“Can’t you just let me win for once?” she said. He came to her, laughing. He kissed her on the cheek and forehead.
“Just closing from church?”
“No. I went to the office to pick a couple of things. How are you?” she asked.
“Hungry. Want something to drink?”
He didn’t wait for her answer. He knew she wanted a tall glass of basil and ginger iced tea; the same way he anticipated her other needs and worked at meeting them. His chivalry scared her sometimes, but she was going to listen to Kyenpia who told her to allow herself be treated like a princess. The only problem with this was that she didn’t feel as deeply for Clarence as he did for her. She still loved and wanted Omar. Clarence was aware of this, but he didn’t care. He said their arrangement worked well for him. Yenkat wasn’t so sure about that.
“You’ll particularly love this one,” he told her, handing her a jar of the iced tea from his fridge. She had introduced him to the tea life and he was catching up fast. She sipped from a straw, her face slowly widening with a smile. “You like?”
He walked towards his gas cooker where he was making chicken stew. She took in his nude torso, her eyes now familiar with the curves and bumps of his muscles. She hated how she was beginning to want him. Her mind was still all over Omar and she didn’t want to let go, but she lusted after Clarence. She felt like a widow who was fast losing memories of a dead husband because life was making her forget him.
“Sleep over tonight,” Clarence requested.
It was imbalanced that he had spent nights with her and she was yet to have a single sleepover in his place. But he wasn’t complaining. Yenkat, however, felt that it was time to return the favor. He had earned it over the past three months. Maybe she would even go all the way tonight. Her body needed more than just cuddles.
“What’s so special about sleeping over in your house?”
Clarence turned around, wiping his hands on a towel. “Well, for starters, I give the best cuddles.”
“You don’t, but okay…”
“Secondly, I’m great company when you want to just curl up and watch TV. If you want to play a game, that’s even better.”
“I don’t do FIFA.”
“Thirdly, I do breakfast in bed, so I’m the whole package, excluding the other thing that you so do not want.”
“What other thing?” Yenkat asked with a glint in her eye.
“Maybe if you ask nicely, you might just get it.”
“We’re asking for that now? In this day and age?” He scoffed. “Get over yourself, Yen. I’m not that desperate.”
Yenkat was getting used to Clarence’s snide tongue and his pride. Unlike Omar, he didn’t act like her body was some treasure he was longing to claim. He had shown remarkable restraint since the start of their relationship. The most she knew about his penis was how hard it could get. He had never allowed her feel it completely. He told her that if she wanted it, she had to take all of it.
“A king!” Kyenpia had declared, raising both hands when Yenkat told her. “Respect!”
But he did command respect in Yenkat’s eyes. It was one of the things she loved and unloved about him. There was always that thin line between self-worth and pride, and Clarence was the king of dancing on wires.
“Come. I have something to show you.”
He took her hand and led her to his bedroom. From the corner of his bed, he picked up a woven dog basket on which a puppy lay.
“Oh my God,” Yenkat gushed. “It’s so cute.”
“It’s a Yorkshire terrier. I got it for Polaris. I hate when she cries each time Liana doesn’t let her play with Egg.”
“Awww… She’s going to love this. Can I carry him? Is it a he or a she?”
“He. Go ahead.”
Yenkat picked the puppy from the basket and held him. “So fluffy and cute. Thank you, Rence. You’re such a sweetheart.”
“I’m in love already. You’re a darling.”
“I know that too.”
“Let me finish up with the stew. I hope you haven’t eaten this afternoon?”
“I’ve not even eaten all day.”
He frowned at her. “Are you trying to kill yourself?”
He returned to the kitchen and Yenkat played with the puppy before placing it in the basket and stretching out on the bed. When her head hit the pillow, she felt something hard underneath it. She lifted her head and tugged out a handgun. It wasn’t new to find a weapon lying around the house, she was now used to it. But today, she was curious to know how the thing worked.
Using her knowledge of what she saw in movies, she tried toyed with the parts. She was disappointed that she couldn’t find any bullets, so she hooked her forefinger around the trigger area and pointed the gun at the closet.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Clarence said from the door. “It’s fully loaded.”
“And if I shoot, what will happen?”
“You’ll freak everyone in this building out, the security and some nosy neighbors will come to my door and ask questions, and you’ll have temporary hearing loss, with your ears ringing for days.”
“Really? But why don’t they wear ear protection in movies?”
“It won’t look cool.” He sat on the bed. “When I was training with firearms, we always covered our ears.”
Yenkat recalled something. “I remember Kyenpia complaining about not being able to hear properly after that incident at the resort. She said Elem had to be taken to the doctor to have her ears checked out as well.”
“Yeah… That night was horrible. The gunshots and blasts… Nasty stuff. Once in a while, I still get this ringing sound in my right ear.”
“So, are you ready to eat?”
He got on his feet again.
“But I want to ask you a question that’s been on my mind.”
“Did you wake up one day and decide you’d be a bodyguard for life? Is there a school or something you went to for the training? Do you do bad stuff for Captain?”
Walking backwards in the direction of the door, he said, “One question, Yen. Choose the right one before I come back.”
He turned away and she looked at the puppy. “Should we just go ahead and ask him if he’s ever killed anyone before?”
Clarence came back with lunch and they ate on his bed. Yenkat had developed a bad habit towards food; she hardly had an appetite nowadays. But she made an effort to finish everything Clarence put on her plate. It made her lazy afterwards. She stretched out on the bed when she was done washing the dishes. Clarence lay beside her and the puppy was in-between them.
“Is this relationship ever going anywhere?” she asked.
“Must relationships go somewhere? Why can’t two people just enjoy each other’s company?”
“You don’t believe in marriage then?”
“No. It’s not my thing. But I want to have kids. Just two. And I’m going to nominate you to be my baby mama.”
“Nominate?” Yenkat chuckled.
“You’re such a wonderful mother.”
He turned, facing her. “Let’s have a kid. You need one, I need one… I know I’ll be a good dad.”
Yenkat smiled. “Getting pregnant is the last thing on my mind now, Rence.”
“I’m sorry if my proposal came off as insensitive.”
“It’s fine. I still want to be a mother, but not now. I’m scared to try again.”
“Nothing’s going to happen. Not on my watch.”
“What if Aanu did nothing to me?”
“Stop trying to make excuses for her, Yen.”
“I’m just saying. What if it was my body? I’m so afraid.”
Clarence placed the puppy on the floor and moved closer to Yenkat. “Don’t be afraid. You will have your own child when your body is ready, and I’ll wait for as long as it takes.”
She faced him. “You’re sweet, you know that?”
“You’ve not even tasted me yet.”
“What if I want to?”
His eyes dropped to her lips and down to her breasts, and up again. “We’ll find out tonight.”
Fiyin got a text just as she was finding a comfortable spot on her bed, ready to take a nap. She had battled with a hormonal migraine all afternoon that had begun from church, and it was now getting on her last nerves. Having just pleasured herself to an intense orgasm, she only succeeded in getting drowsy; the migraine persisted. And now, the text she had just received was going to deprive her of a much-deserved sleep.
Fiyin forced herself out of her bed and to her bathroom where she washed her face. She then picked a black dress that dropped all the way to her ankles. It hugged her curves and gave a generous view of her breasts. Black was her companion these days – good for her fluctuating moods and a perfect cover-up for her rapidly changing body. She then slipped into a pair of flat shoes and left the house.
She didn’t feel like driving anymore. For some reason, it had become highly stressful to her. Maybe it was time to listen to Kyenpia and get a driver. But what would Alhaja make of it? The woman was already subtly throwing statements about Fiyin living too ostentatiously and killing her chances of finding an eligible suitor.
“Since you won’t pick Fashanu or Jaiyesimi, then start positioning yourself for the average man,” she had said the other day in frustration.
If anyone had told Fiyin that her mom would end up being the type of mother who pressured her child into getting married, she would have laughed at them. But here she was, falling into the cliché script that African parents forced on their daughters and it wasn’t funny. Fiyin was gracious enough to see things from the viewpoint of her folks, though, especially her mom, of whom she was an only child. Yet she wasn’t ready to be anyone’s wife. Not even now that she was four months pregnant. A baby would not be the reason for her to settle down.
Fiyin entered her car and held the side of her head that throbbed. She called Bem and complained about the migraine. He alone knew about the pregnancy. None of her friends was aware. She wasn’t ready to share the news with anyone yet; not even with the man responsible for it.
On the phone, Bem prescribed a drug for her and encouraged her to sleep. He also asked her to begin lying on her side.
“Don’t forget that you’re coming in tomorrow,” he reminded her.
“I’ll be there.”
“But are you okay, though?”
“Told your girls yet?”
“Scared that they might judge you?”
“I don’t care.”
Fiyin loved her baby already, and she was determined to keep the pregnancy a secret until she couldn’t hide it anymore. The moment either Amaka or Kyenpia found out, her privacy with her fetus would be over. It would then take a matter of days for Alhaja to get the news. That was if Alhaja didn’t notice the bump first. It would no longer be her baby alone. Everyone would pick a front row seat and begin playing their roles. Then she would be forced to give up the identity of the father.
Driving in the direction of the nearest pharmacy, Fiyin received a call from Fashanu.
“Babe, how you dey nau?” His pidgin sucked.
“I want to come over. I’ve missed you.”
“Don’t. I’m bleeding from my pussy.”
“Jeez! You don’t have to put it that way.”
“If I don’t, you’ll make me do period sex, which I think is highly gross.”
She wanted him badly. Damn! She wanted all of her men. Anyone would do. But she was scared of them detecting her growing bump.
“I’ve missed you, though,” Fashanu repeated in a needy voice. “We can’t keep staying away from each other if we’re going to get married.”
The only thing she missed about him was the way he said ‘can’t’ and ‘other.’
“We’re not getting married, Fash.”
“I hate when you say that.”
“So, what am I going to tell my mom?”
“You don’t have to tell her anything. Get some girl pregnant and propose to her.”
“But I want you.”
Fiyin suddenly lost her patience with him. She had been like that a lot in the past three months. Today, in particular, she was frustrated over her desperation for affection. She wanted to be lied to by a man, kissed endlessly and given an everlasting cuddle. There was this younger guy on the side that came by now and then. She wondered if she should call him over tonight. He gave the best foot massages.
“Fash, leave me the fuck alone.”
“Calm down, madam. You’re not the only woman in Lagos. I hate the way you keep fronting for me.”
“Take your sense of entitlement and shove it, abeg.”
Fiyin cut him off. She took the turn on her right that led to a complex where a pharmacy was located and parked behind a car. The moment she got in, the owner of the car began blowing his horn. Fiyin knew she had parked wrongly and was blocking his exit, but she didn’t care. Her mood was sore and she was spoiling for an emotional outbursts. She sensed that today was one of those days.
She walked towards the counter in the pharmacy and asked for the pill Bem had prescribed. The honking outside continued until it began to get to her. Before long, the security man who had been absent when she drove into the complex came looking for the owner of the car that was blocking the exit. Fiyin gave no answer.
“Ma, are you the owner of that Mercedes C-Class outside?”
“Yes?” she answered in the defensive.
“Please, can you come and move it? You’re blocking somebody.”
“Can’t you see that I’m buying drugs? If the person waits, will they die?”
“But ma, the man has been horning since.”
“Let him keep horning like the animal he is nau. Shebi he will come and remove the key from my hand and carry my car on his head?” To the lady behind the counter, she said, “Abeg, give me my drugs. Men and always claiming rights!”
The honking went on and stopped just as Fiyin was leaving the pharmacy. A tall, angry man accosted her and asked if the red Mercedes belonged to her. Fiyin gave him a rude stare and continued to her car.
“I’m talking to you, young lady!”
“Talk to yourself, sir!” she responded. Can’t you see that I’m pregnant?! She screamed in her head.
Stunned, the man watched her until she got into her car. But he quickly recovered, went to her window and began hitting it. Fiyin lost her cool and let the window down.
“Oga, are you mad ni? Did they swear for you?”
He cussed at her, but she didn’t waste her breath on him. She left the complex and didn’t stop until she was quite a distance away from the pharmacy. She then popped a pill as she waited under a traffic stop and washed it down with a bottle of water she had taken from her house. Her head throbbed even more now, and she was tempted to return home, but the person that had sent the text needed her.
Fiyin arrived at her destination a short while later. The migraine was less severe now, but her mood was still coarse. She parked outside a compound and made her way into it. A group of young men having beers in the parking area cast lustful eyes on her as she approached the first apartment. She knocked on the door and waited.
The door opened.
“What are you doing here, Fi?”
Bosco was standing before her, annoyance on his face. Underneath the frown, she saw tiredness.
“Why are you here, Fi?”
“Ruth sent me a text. She told me what happened. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Oris, let her come in nau,” said a depleted voice from within. “It’s me she came to see.”
Bosco moved away from the door and let Fiyin through. She walked into his apartment. His cousin was seated on the only couch, head bowed. She managed to look up at Fiyin with a smile.
“Fi?” she muttered with a sniffle. “My boy is gone o. My baby is finally resting in heaven.”
A heartbreaking sob followed. Fiyin was moved by it and couldn’t stop her own tears. She held her.
She met Ruth three months ago, after Bosco showed up at her door early one morning, just as he had done when he caught her with Fashanu. This time, she was with Jaiye. It seemed to be the last straw for him, and he told her that he was done with her. He had articulated his words quite angrily, and it occurred to her right there that what he felt for her was deeper than she had imagined. This bothered her for a while, so she paid him a visit to see if they could talk about what they shared. She was also beginning to like him more than she wanted to.
But she didn’t meet him in his apartment that evening. She met his cousin, Ruth, who informed her that Bosco was with her son in the hospital. The boy had been battling with a brain tumor for a year, and being a single mother with no funds, Bosco had been her helpline the whole time. The boy was in desperate need of a brain surgery that would be done in India, which would cost $7500. He was running out of time.
On their way to the teaching hospital that day, Ruth asked Fiyin if she was the Fiyin Bosco always talked about.
“Yes. He really loves you. I’m sure he’ll be happy to see you now. He’s with my son. I just came home to have my bath.”
Bosco wasn’t happy to see her when they got to the hospital. He wasn’t thrilled either that Fiyin transferred four million naira to Ruth’s account for her son’s surgery and trip to India. They quarreled outside the hospital ward that day, and she told him to fuck right off because he wasn’t man enough for her. Words she had since regretted.
They hadn’t spoken since then. Ruth took her son to India and they returned to Nigeria a week ago. Fiyin had been too busy with her hit reality show, taking place at Liana Resort, which had just wrapped up; she hadn’t had time to visit them. It was heartbreaking to find out that despite everything done, the poor boy didn’t make it.
“I’m so sorry, Ruth,” she sniffled. She had held Ruth for almost half an hour now, consoling her while Bosco sat on his bed fiddling with his phone.
“Thank you, Fi. You tried, dear. God bless you. You will never lack anything in this life.”
“Do you want me to get you anything?”
“Okay. I want to go and buy something down the road. I’ll be back.”
Ruth left the apartment. Fiyin sat in the uncomfortable silence that Bosco’s presence brought.
“Thank you for your help,” he said eventually. She looked at him.
“I wish I could have done more.”
“Well, you tried your best, and now that it’s all over, I think you should leave.”
“I didn’t come here for you, Oris.”
“But I want you to go.”
“Why are you still mad at me? Fight that we fought three months ago, you’re still angry?”
“Maybe you should be careful of the type of words you say to people when you’re pissed.”
“I am sorry nau. You know me, Boss. You know I only said those words to get on your nerves.”
“So, why are you surprised that it worked?”
“You know what? I’ll go,” she said, rising to her feet. “Tell Ruth I’ll call her.”
“Enjoy the rest of your weekend.”
Fiyin left the house, feeling her eyes throng with tears again. She sat in her car and let her emotions out. Her door opened from outside; she looked up and found Bosco staring down at her intensely.
“You asked me why I was still mad at you. I’ll tell you. I’m not mad at you, Fi. I’m projecting my anger at myself at you.”
“Do I have to write it on a billboard? I’m crazy about you. But you don’t give a fuck about me. You don’t care. And I’m not going to force you to feel something for me or put you in a state where you pity-love me. No, that’s not going to happen. I’d rather we don’t have anything to do with each other anymore.”
Fiyin shook her head, sad. “You’re unbelievable, Boss. So unbelievable. You think you have the right to be angry because I don’t love you back? Have you so quickly forgotten how badly you broke my heart and left me pregnant, all by myself?”
“You cut me off.”
“You didn’t try hard enough to get me back.”
“I was supposed to spend every waking hour begging you?”
“Just admit that didn’t care because you were in love with someone else.”
“How many times will I tell you that I stopped loving Onagite when I realized the huge mistake I made losing you?”
“And that was when exactly?”
“Fi, just go. I’m done explaining myself.”
“Stay mad then. I don’t have the cure for your sickness.”
Fiyin shut her door and drove home, sobbing all through the journey. She hated the way Bosco made her feel. It dredged up the past – how she had realized that she loved him deeply only after she lost him. She hated to admit that it was the same thing now. Seeing him this evening made her realize that there might be something more in her heart for him.
She arrived home just as darkness came. Jaiye’s car was parked outside and he sat on the trunk, waiting for her. His all white kaftan worn with a pair of Adidas slides showed that he had gone to church and had stayed in all afternoon, sleeping. She knew him that well.
He jumped down from the hood and went to her. She quickly wiped her tears as he approached her door and opened it. He paused and looked at her curiously.
“Were you crying?”
She shook her head.
“Yes you were. Your eyes are all red and I just saw you wiping your cheeks. Who beat my baby?”
“Jay, leave me alone, please. And go home. I don’t need you right now.”
“Same thing you said two weeks ago, I think? Two weeks and two days. Yes, I’m counting.”
“I’m serious, go home.”
His eyes moved from her to the drugs that were spilling from the plastic bag the pharmacist gave her. Fiyin’s heart skipped a beat. The migraine pill wasn’t the only thing she had gotten; she had also picked a pack of Pregnacare because she was running out of her present supply.
She reached for it, but it was too late.
“Fi, is that Pregnacare?” Jaiye asked.
“Yeah. I bought it for someone.”
“A friend nau. Why are you questioning me like that?”
“Sorry o.” He backed away to let her through. “Are you going to invite me in?”
She wanted him gone, but he gave the best shoulder rubs, and she needed one right now.
He followed her into the house, but she prevented him from going all the way to her bedroom.
“Which one is this again nau, Fi? When were my privileges revoked?”
“Jaiyesimi, me and you are not dating. How many times will I tell you that?”
“I hate that I’m being used as a sex toy.”
“That’s exactly what you are. So, sit down in the parlor and wait for me to press your buttons.”
He took it in good stride, as he always did. It was one of the things she liked about him. He never took life too seriously.
Fiyin went into her bedroom and undressed. On a second thought, she felt that a shower would pacify her. She entered her bathroom and took to the shower stall. The cool water was refreshing, combined with the mild coconut fragrance of her body wash. She ran her hand over her bump many times because it was soothing. Feeling her own hands over her body reminded her of how much she needed to be touched. She was tempted to ask Jaiye to sleep over.
She turned off the shower, picked a towel and stepped out of the shower stall to find Jaiye leaning by the bathroom door and staring at her with a satisfied smile.
“How far long are we?”
Leonel hated business meetings on Sundays, especially after a long flight from one end of the continent. He kept all work-related matters strictly on weekdays. But there were certain appointments one couldn’t pass up, especially if they came with juicy offers. This was one of them, and Leonel was glad that he had honored it, even though his body was longing for the comfort of his bed.
He shook hands with his latest investor in the quietness of the VIP section of a restaurant and took his leave. His security detail, waiting outside, informed him that Captain had called.
“He said he tried calling your line but you wouldn’t pick up,” the man said as they walked out to the reception of a popular hotel.
“Did you tell him that I was in a meeting?”
“Yes, sir. He says you should call him after you’re done.”
The sound of familiar laughter caught Leonel’s attention and he stopped moving and turned around. Emerging from one of three hallways that burst out to the reception was Peggy. She was in the company of a man Leonel didn’t recognize. He watched as they stood, discussing in low tones. He sensed some sort of closeness between them that irked him. When the man dropped to whisper something in her ear, his hand rested on her upper arm. He stepped back a little and then hugged her. The hug lingered, his hand stayed on the small of her back. And as they separated, Leonel caught a wistful look in her eyes he hadn’t seen since the early days of her relationship with his brother.
The man turned away and only then did Peggy notice Leonel’s presence. There was an instant expression of apprehension on her face that was quickly smeared over with a smile.
“Leo!” she called, coming forward. He didn’t return her smile as he moved towards her. His intention was to make her feel uncomfortable. He was displeased with what he had just witnessed. Peggy wasn’t the expressive type in public. Whoever that man was, he meant something to her, and Leonel was going to find out.
“Hey Peggy.” They hugged and she stepped back, looking into his eyes, as if searching for his suspicion.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“It’s my friend’s hotel. I just wrapped up a meeting.”
“Um…I came to see a friend. Good to see you. You look well.”
“Thanks. You look amazing too. Bubbly. I haven’t seen you glow like this in a while.”
She laughed. “Leo, just say what’s on your mind.”
“Okay. Who was that?” Leonel asked.
She smiled guiltily. “The friend I came to see.”
“You went into his suite to see him?”
“Leo, he’s just a friend.”
“A friend? Really? That’s what you’re going to tell David?”
“Leo, relax. It’s not what you think.”
“How about what I know?”
She looked away with a sigh. “I knew you’d bring that up. That was in the past, and trust me, it’s over.”
“Was he the one?”
Peggy’s eyes didn’t return to Leonel’s.
“For fuck’s sake, Peggy, what was he doing here?”
She stared down. “Can we not talk about this?”
“That’s not going to work.”
“Leo, please, let’s forget it.”
“I’m supposed to pretend that I didn’t see him?”
“Jeez, Leo. He’s not my sidecock or whatever. He never was.”
“The last thing you want to do right now is lie to me. I’m not going to take it. I want the truth.”
Peggy had always been forthcoming with him. He was like an elder brother to her. Ten years ago, when she and David began to have their issues, which were largely David’s fault, Leonel had stood by her. Years later, when their marriage seemed like it was going to fail and they had their first major separation, Peggy confessed to Leonel that she had found succor in the arms of another man. Leonel had been mad at her, naturally, and had asked her to break things off with the guy while doing his best to reconcile her to David. When they got back together, Peggy promised Leonel that she was done with the relationship and was now wholly devoted to David. This was why what he had just seen angered him a great deal. He had a good mind to find out who the guy was to put the fear of God in him.
“He was in Accra and decided to stop by,” Peggy explained to Leonel.
“He flew all the way from Accra and you’re telling me that there’s nothing between you guys? Why are you still communicating with him?”
“We are still friends nau.”
“Gosh, Peggy! You told me it was over.”
“It is…” She sighed. “We’re done.”
“Then why were you looking into his eyes as if you’re still smitten by him?”
Peggy was silent.
“Can we, please, not talk about this? Please, Leo. And don’t tell David.”
“He’s my brother, Peggy. My twin brother. If he finds out that I knew about this and never told him, you know how mad he’s gonna get.”
“I know. Just don’t tell him.”
“This conversation isn’t over. I’ve always loved and respected you, Peg. I took your side because I knew how difficult Dave could be. But this thing you’re doing to him is trashy. End it.”
“I still love you, though.” He planted a peck on her cheek. “But don’t break my brother’s heart. That’s when I start to hate you.”
She nodded. He walked away, heading towards the exit. He banished the entire matter on his way home and caught some sleep in the backseat of the car. When he got home, he sneaked in through the backdoor to avoid coming across Liana and Polaris who were playing in the living room. He didn’t have the energy for them.
He went upstairs and stopped outside his door. He took a sniff of himself. He had been on a plane for eleven hours, plus another three hours spent in a meeting and in traffic. He hoped he smelled good for his wife. It was one of the things she loved about him.
“Room service,” he said in a feminine voice, knocking on the door. Seconds later, Kyenpia opened the door with a wide grin and nothing on but a thong. “Oh, wow. I thought I was the one with a surprise.”
She held him in a tight hug, her face buried in his neck. “Take off your clothes, Leonel.”
“Three weeks is too long,” he said, kissing her as he began unbuttoning his shirt.
“It is.” She helped him unbuckle his belt.
“We shouldn’t do that again.”
“Now that the boys are weaned, can you start traveling with me sometimes?”
“Or you could stay home more?”
His clothes now on the floor, they paused for a bit, taking in each other’s breaths. “How many times did you touch yourself in my absence?”
Kyenpia laughed. “I didn’t.”
“I’m not lying.”
“Not even small?”
“At all. And this is why I’m going to wreck you right now.”
They wrecked each other on the couch Kyenpia loved to take naps in, on the bed, and on the centerpiece rug on the floor while Leonel was on an important business call. He tried to end the call when he felt himself getting closer to the edge, but Kyenpia, riding him, urged him to keep talking. With one hand clasping her bum, he held on as much as he could.
“You’re so wicked,” he whispered and had her giggling. She fastened a palm over his mouth.
“Is everything all right there?” the person on the phone asked.
Leonel bit Kyenpia’s palm and she let go. He forced the breath out from his lungs. “Yeah, yeah. Go on… I’m listening.”
It took just a few more fire movements from her waist and he lost himself. He heard nothing of what the caller was saying as he dug his fingers into the softness of her bum and held her hard against him. She fell over his body, breathing hard and laughing. He stayed on the call a minute longer before ending it and tossing his phone away.
“What the heck was that?”
“I so love you ehn.”
“And I’m so lazy to get off this floor.”
“I have carpet burns on my knees.”
“Sorry.” He kissed her hair. They stayed silent for some time. Kyenpia then lifted her body and marked out his tattoo lines with her finger, slowing down at the places where his body bore scars from his gunshot wounds.
“How are you, though?” she inquired.
“You want to talk business or have dinner or just sleep?”
They talked about other matters asides business before dragging themselves to the bathroom for a shower. They sat outside for dinner, on the expansive and furnished balcony of their bedroom.
“I want to tell you something,” Kyenpia said, “and I don’t want you to tell anyone.”
“Peggy is…cheating on David.”
Leonel carved out a piece of chicken from his plate and shoved it into his mouth.
“It’s not breaking news to you?” Kyenpia asked. He didn’t give an immediate answer. He took his time with the chicken. “Leonel?”
He had a sip of water before he spoke. “It started five years ago, I think, when they had their biggest fight and were separated for almost a year. They got back and she told me it was over with the guy. She told you she is still seeing him?”
“Not sexually. I think there’s an emotional connection.”
“Leonel, David is emotionally dead.”
“Okay, maybe dead is too heavy a word. He’s cold.”
“He loves Peggy. Deeply.”
“But does he show it? Twelve years of marriage and she has to constantly wonder if he’s there with her or not.”
“Are you making excuses for her now?”
“No. I’m just saying that your brother isn’t helping issues by being emotionally distant to his wife.”
“It’s no excuse for her to cheat on him. If he’s dead to her, she can fucking walk out. What she’s doing is wrong.”
“True, but let’s not go moralistic right now. Let’s be real. David has issues he needs to deal with. He needs to see a therapist…”
“Do you know what it means to lose the one parent that loved you unconditionally and then you’re stuck with the bastard parent that doesn’t give a hoot about you?”
“I understand what he went through.”
“I don’t think you do. Captain didn’t give a fuck about David, and he never hid it. And you know what hurt the most? David looked exactly like me, yet he couldn’t connect with him, showing him that his actions were deliberate. A good example of Jacob I loved, Esau I hated. If you were David, how much of fucked up do you think you would be right now?”
“But that was all in the past.”
“David stopped feeling when we were teenagers. His heart died a long time ago after it broke in many ways, Kay. Peggy was the only woman he ever dated. He never fell in love before her. All he did was sleep around. You think I had a high body count in my early twenties?” Leonel laughed. “Try my twin brother. He was scared to love because it terrified him to death. I still don’t know what Peggy did to get through to him. He went in blindly with her, heart and soul entirely. You know how long they dated before he popped the question?”
“Three weeks and five days, Kay. I was scared for him. I told him to give it some time, but he wouldn’t listen. He wanted her to himself before she changed her mind. Luckily, she didn’t. Unfortunately, she’s cheating on him now, and there’s no excuse for that. I’d rather she divorced him than continues what she’s doing.”
“Leonel, all I’m saying is that David should meet her halfway. No woman can handle a man that’s here today, and tomorrow, he’s a different person…” Kyenpia’s voice waned as Leonel pierced her with a stare. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“In many ways, David is like me. Mine is mental. His is emotional. Peggy knew what she was getting into before she said yes to him…”
“In under a month?”
“It took them another three months before they got married.”
“That’s not enough time.”
“Why are you making excuses for her?”
“Because I understand where she’s coming from.”
“Great. Remind me about you and Ishi.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Am I lying? It’s the same thing.”
Kyenpia stood, pushing her chair backwards. “You just got back and I don’t want to fight with you. But we’ll soon have a serious talk about leaving the past right where it is. Before then, talk to your brother. He’s disappeared to God-knows-where again, leaving Peggy unsure of herself. Leonel, she’s a good woman, and if he’s not careful, he’ll lose her.”
“Why are you taking her side against him, Kay? That’s what I want to know.”
“Because your brother, underneath his moral façade, is a dickhead. A woman needs consistency.”
“And this so-called side nigga is consistent?”
“Five years and he’s still there for her. You do the math.”
Kyenpia began to walk away, but Leonel grasped her hand. “Where are you going?” He brought her onto his lap.
“You’re annoying me.”
“Oya, I’m sorry for whatever I said that’s annoying you. Don’t be vexing for your man like that. Kiss me,” he pleaded in a meek tone that got Kyenpia laughing. She kissed him.
But he was still mad at Peggy. He was done seeing things from her side. On this one, he would stick with David, and this meant finding out the identity of the other guy and paying him a visit.
His phone on the table buzzed. He stared at the screen. Captain was calling for the fifth time. Kyenpia passed the phone to him and went into the bedroom.
“Yo, Pops,” Leonel answered.
“Did you see my calls and get my message?”
“I was in a meeting. I just got home.”
“Okay. Is this a good time?”
“For how long have you known that your mother had other children?”
Leonel’s brows creased, bringing his face into a frown. “Sorry, what?”
“When were you boys going to tell me?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re saying you don’t know?”
“I’m just hearing about it.”
“Apparently, one of them is my daughter.”
“Wh-what?” Leonel chuckled. “No way! But you guys were divorced nau…”
Captain smacked his lips. “Forget whatever version of our love story you were told. Your mom couldn’t do without me. We still saw each other after the divorce. Apparently, she was pregnant when she left.”
“Then she had another kid. A boy.”
“I don’t believe you abeg.”
“Call her and ask her or ask your grandfather and Jamila. Those lying farts seem to know everything nobody should.”
“I’ll ask them.”
“Oh, and this last piece of information might interest your wife.”
“Her father is crazy over your mom.”
“What!” Leonel’s laughter was louder this time.
“They spent a weekend together in London.”
“Isn’t that like incest?”
“In-what? Come on, Pops! Is that jealousy I sense?”
“Emem’s always mine.”
“Stop deceiving yourself, old man. Thanks for all the info, though. I will verify…”
“And get back to me.”
Captain hung up. Leonel went over all he had just heard and kept a grin of amusement on his face for a while. He was amused by the whole thing. His mother’s life was like the best thriller novel, bursting with twists at every turn. Who would have thought that she could pull off an entire family without anyone knowing? He couldn’t even be mad at her. She had had every right to live a brand new life without them in it, and he was happy that she found contentment away from the Igwes.
But two kids!
“No, Emem.” He shook his head. “You’re the real gangster. Sheeeet!”
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages