Fiyin’s front door was open, which wasn’t an unusual thing. She had never seen reason to take security seriously. Kyenpia had scolded her many times in the past over being halfhearted about her safety. She always reminded her of her financial status and how it made her a soft target for kidnappers.
Leonel had also talked to her about hiring a bodyguard, but Fiyin laughed it off and told him that it was ridiculous. He had still gone ahead to send a security guard to man her gate and secure her house. He told Kyenpia that he was disappointed in Fiyin’s parents for taking their daughter’s safety so lightly. His conclusion was that they didn’t care about her. Kyenpia agreed with him to a certain degree, remembering how much Fiyin’s parents had left her to be all on her own through her formative years. It was ridiculous how they popped back into her life from nowhere, just to pressure her into getting married and giving them grandchildren. Kyenpia had never understood their motives and behavior.
But it wasn’t for any of those reasons Kyenpia and Amaka stopped at Fiyin’s early this morning. They had missed talking to their friend, and had come with a basket of breakfast for three.
“Fi?” Kyenpia called as they walked into the house. The television was on, showing a blank screen. “Fiyin?”
Both women went into Fiyin’s bedroom and peeped in. No one was there. Kyenpia could see the bathroom from where she stood and she could tell that Fiyin wasn’t in there either.
“Fiyinfoluwa!” Amaka called as they made their way back to the living room. “Your two best friends in the world are here o! I hope you’re not doing something bad in the kitchen!”
They found her lying on the kitchen floor, face looking up to the ceiling. In both hands, she held her phones.
“Fi, what’s wrong?” Kyenpia dropped her handbag and went towards her. Amaka followed, clutching the food basket.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” Fiyin muttered.
“I’m tired!” she moaned, dragging herself up.
“Tired of what?” Kyenpia rested a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“My parents! My entire family! They’re making my life miserable!”
“The marriage thing?” Amaka asked.
“Talk to us.”
“My uncle…” Fiyin wiped her cheeks with the sleeve of her sweater.
“Let’s talk in the parlor.” Kyenpia took her hand and helped her up. She guided her to the living room and made her sit on a couch, settling beside her. Amaka took a second couch. “Oya, go on.”
“That stupid uncle… He’s not even my biological uncle. He’s like my dad’s friend. One mumu alfa like that. He’s been calling me and bugging my life, telling me that I’m getting old and I would soon get to the stage where I won’t be able to have kids. Can you imagine? Last week, he sent me the pictures of one beastly-looking guy he says my dad wants me to marry. The guy is so daft and cannot just take a cue and leave me the fuck alone!” Fiyin thrust her phone at Kyenpia. “Just look at the person popsi wants me to marry.”
Amaka left her seat and leaned in to have a look at the photo of a man in his thirties on Fiyin’s phone screen. She made a face. “Eww! He looks like Ninja turtles.”
“The stupid alfa went as far as calling Bolanle and telling her to speak to me. She sef, goat that she is, called me and was forming caring half-sister. I told her to shift before I report her to her husband that she’s a kleptomaniac.”
“Yeah, I remember,” Amaka frowned. “She stole one leg of my earring that year.”
“Bolanle is even better. How about my aunties and uncles that randomly call me to ask me why I haven’t gotten married yet? People that I haven’t seen or spoken to in years o! I’m just tired! I’m sure Alhaja would soon call two of you and tell you to speak sense into me.”
“Why are they so desperate to see you get married?” Kyenpia asked.
“I don’t know, Kay! I just don’t know! Have they announced the end of the world and I am not aware, because I really don’t get this!”
“Why are you people acting like you’re not in Nigeria again?” Amaka looked confused. “My family started bugging me when I turned twenty-five. Fi, your parents are typical Nigerian parents. They won’t rest until they get what they want.”
“I sha suspect popsi. He’s been the devil’s workshop ever since his retirement last year. I heard he has one twenty-something year-old girlfriend now. He’s bored.”
“You shouldn’t let them get to you, darling.” Kyenpia rubbed Fiyin’s arm gently.
“I was holding on strongly, but when I woke up and the first thing I saw was this guy’s ugly ass picture and the nonsense text my uncle sent me, telling me that I’m running out of time, I just lost it.”
“Fi?” Amaka moved to the edge of her seat. “You know your parents love you, though. They only want the best for you…”
“Where is this going, Maxy?” Kyenpia interrupted.
“Fi, it’s every parent’s dream to see their daughter happily married and settled…”
“For fuck’s sake!” Kyenpia swore. “Are her parents happily married and settled? Why are they pushing her into something they couldn’t cope with?”
“Toh,” Amaka answered resignedly. “But you’re your mom’s only child, Fiyin. Imagine how Bolanle’s mother would be insulting her because you’re not married–”
“I’ll stop.” She lit up her face with a smile. “We came with food! Maybe you’ll eat and be happy.”
“We brought hugs too,” Kyenpia added.
“Everything will be fine. If your mom calls us, be sure that we’ll talk some sense into her. Right, Maxy?”
“Me…I can’t talk sense into anybody’s mother o. That’s disrespect. I’ll just be saying ‘yes, ma’ upandan. But I remain loyal, Fi.”
Kyenpia rolled her eyes. “Fi, are you hungry?”
“What did you bring?”
“Beans and dodo…”
“And peppered chicken.”
Fiyin smiled. “Let me get plates.”
She left for the kitchen and Amaka faced Kyenpia. “The thing is bigger than what I saw the last time,” she whispered. “Why is she hiding it?”
“Maxy, we already talked about this. Don’t say anything. Let her break the news to us herself.”
“Because it’s her body. Don’t say anything.”
“What if she goes and aborts it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Boobsy, shut up.”
Amaka grunted and leaned back on the crouch with crossed arms. Fiyin returned to the living room with a tray carrying plates and cutlery. Amaka took on the duty of dishing out the meal while Kyenpia went for water and juice in the kitchen. They ate in the living room, on the floor. Amaka was chatty, as usual, keeping them entertained with hilarious stories about James and their kids. Kyenpia also had a story or two to share, but Fiyin was silent for the duration of the meal, although her spirit had been lifted a great deal.
“So, how is Jaiye these days?” Amaka asked suddenly. “I haven’t seen him since that day I mistakenly slammed his hand on the door.”
“Maxy, we all know that wasn’t a mistake,” Kyenpia said.
“Really? I wasn’t looking. How is he, Fi?”
“What about Bosco?”
“He’s fine too.”
“And what’s the other one’s name? Fashanu?”
“If your questions are geared towards asking me if I’m still seeing my men, the answer is yes and no. Allow me to rest, abeg.”
“Na wa o. Simple question and you’re snapping at me as if you’re hiding something.”
Kyenpia gave Amaka a furtive frown.
“A friend cannot inquire about her best friend’s sex and reproductive life again?”
“Let’s talk about your own instead,” Fiyin bit back. “How is your husband’s big dick?”
Amaka opened her mouth to speak, but shut it. Her face went red. “I wish I hadn’t told you about his size. Now, you’re using it against me.”
“I’m not the one using anything against or in you o.”
Fiyin and Kyenpia laughed.
“But is it really that big?”
“God punish you, Fi.”
“Leave me and my men alone. By the way, better tie your womb before Oga Haliru will impregnate you again.”
“Have you tied your own womb? Isn’t that a baby sitting pretty in your belly there?”
“I knew this was the reason for your visit.”
“Not me,” Kyenpia said in an innocent tone. “I told her that you deserved the right to keep the baby a secret from us. I told her not to ask you.”
“I didn’t ask her nau. I only said is that not a…”
“Shut up, Amaka,” Kyenpia scolded.
“Fi, how can you be pregnant and not tell us?”
“My body, my business.”
“It’s not fair.”
“I don’t care, really.”
“Did you think we were going to judge you?” Kyenpia inquired.
“No. I just wanted to keep it to myself.”
“Or you think we’re witches, that if you tell us about it, you’ll miscarry.”
“Amaka, you’re stupid o,” Fiyin told her.
“I concur.” Kyenpia nodded.
“But am I lying? Is that not what we do here? People get pregnant and hide it from everyone. I can’t believe you hid it from us…”
“Get over it, Chiamaka! God!” Fiyin hissed and began picking the plates off the floor.
“How many months?” Amaka persisted. Fiyin gave no answer. She dumped the plates on the tray she had brought and took them to the kitchen. When she came back, Amaka repeated her question.
“Four months!” Fiyin answered. “Satisfied. No more questions abeg.”
“Is Jaiye the daddy?”
“Amaka!” Fiyin yelled.
“You know I cannot rest until I know the truth nau!” she yelled back in a weepy tone.
“I know nau, gbeborun! You will now broadcast it to everyone!” Fiyin accused.
“Yen, Lolo, Gina…”
“Yes, Maxy. You’re always the weakest link amongst three of us. Your mouth cannot shut up. Cho-cho-cho-cho-cho! You can’t keep quiet.”
“True,” Kyenpia nodded.
Amaka shrank into her seat. “Two of you are ganging up against me.”
“Maxy, I swear that I’ll unfriend you if you tell anybody I’m pregnant.”
Amaka made a gesture of zipping her lips, but she unzipped it and asked, “So, you won’t tell us who the baby daddy is?”
“Do you even know who he is?”
Kyenpia gave a tired shake of her head.
“You think I was having sex without condoms? Haba, Maxy!”
“Then how did you get pregnant?”
“The way everybody else does!”
“But you just said you were using condoms! Did the condom fail or what?”
“Then how did it happen?”
“I didn’t use condoms! Duh!”
“You just said…!”
“I used condoms for the rest, but not for this person! Satisfied?”
“Oh.” Amaka went silent for a bit, then spoke up again. “Boy or girl?”
“I haven’t checked yet.”
“Please, let it be a girl, so that she’ll marry Sean. Eliana is already Eric’s wife. Your baby will be Sean’s wife. Yes! All our dreams are coming true.”
“You’re the only one dreaming,” Kyenpia stated.
Amaka stared up dreamily. “Our children will marry our children and we can keep the wealth amongst us for generations to come. Sounds like one soap opera thing.”
“Congratulations, Fi,” Kyenpia said.
Amaka left her seat and went to Fiyin to give her a hug.
“Leave me joor.” Fiyin tried to push her away but she put her arms around her and forced her into a hug and multiple kisses.
“Thank you for not aborting my daughter-in-law… But wait.” She straightened her posture. “Please, don’t be angry with me for saying this. I just have to say it because the Bible said that we should preach the gospel everywhere we go, and me, I don’t want to be the child of the devil.”
“Amaka, just say what you want to say.”
“It’s a sin to have a child out of wedlock.” Kyenpia and Fiyin sighed. “You have to get married.”
“Maxy, I am pregnant and feisty and so not in the mood for any nonsense. If you get on my nerves one last time, I will burst into tears and cry until tomorrow.”
“No, abeg, abeg!”
Fiyin was notorious for being overly dramatic with her tears occasionally.
“Who wants to have a tour of Elyon Villa?” Kyenpia asked.
Amaka raised both hands like a giddy, little girl. Kyenpia looked at Fiyin and nudged her. “You always wanted to go there.”
“I know, but I’m not in the mood.”
“I’ll take you to Igwe’s private quarters and you’ll walk down the hallway of fame and see all the paintings of world leaders and celebrities that have visited the villa. We can also see a movie in their home theater. What movie do you want to see?”
“The Revenant,” Fiyin muttered. Kyenpia went for her bag and picked her phone. “Let me call the COS and tell them to expect us.”
“What is COS?” Amaka asked.
“Chief of Staff.”
“Chief of Staff? I thought it was only for presidents?”
“Well, Igwe is still called Mr. President, and the villa is still run like a presidential villa, so…”
“This money thing has levels, Fi. I suddenly feel really poor.”
“Brace yourself,” Kyenpia responded. “That villa will humble you.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
Emem smiled at Leonel, tapping his knee. They both fixed their eyes on the house before them. It was a duplex, designed in architecture of the 80’s. There was something regal about it, but it was eerie at the same time. The distance from the gates to the house was about a hundred meters, with a driveway for cars, edged on both sides with flowers. There was also a path that cut through the middle of a roundabout garden, leading straight to the front door, with fountains on either side. Giant trees formed a border behind the house, adding to its eeriness.
“You want to come in with me?” Emem asked Leonel.
“Been here since then?”
“Yeah. When I was a teenager and I wanted to hand out with a girl without Captain knowing, I’d bring my girls here.”
“Heard nasty stories about your sex life.”
“Mom, unhear them, please.”
Emem smiled again and opened her door. “See you later.”
“Do you want me to come pick you up?”
Leonel peeped into the rearview mirror and Emem’s eyes followed him. There was a car parked in the distance.
“You people and your bodyguards.” She sighed.
“Be safe. Call me if anything…”
“I’ll be fine,” she assured him and stepped out of the car. She waited for him to leave before she faced the house. Her eyes moved to the left side of the compound, where a seesaw and swing-set were stationed. Sounds from her past filled her head, of her sons playing with their cousins and friends. She could see them there now.
Daniel has just emerged from the backyard with a garden hose. The other children know what’s about to happen and they all break out in excited screams, each person looking for some place to hide, but not running too far, because they actually want to get soaked.
There are two soldiers standing guard with assault rifles at the entrance of the house. One of them is smoking a cigarette while the other seems to be having discussion with someone via a two-way radio. Emem lifts her eyes up to the second floor of the house, specifically to a balcony that is protected with a metal door. It didn’t used to be that way. There was a time when it was a normal balcony with a short railing like the others in the house. But Daniel had fallen off its ledge and landed on the concrete floor beneath, almost losing his life.
He lies there now with his father crouched over him. Captain’s friends, who are sitting around a table in the garden by the corner, leave their bottles of alcohol and rush to the scene. Emem has just run out of the house and is gunning towards Daniel, but one of the men grasps her in his arms, holding her back. And no matter how much she cries and struggles, she can’t fight him away. Several minutes pass before an ambulance arrives. Only then is she allowed access to Daniel.
“Go with them,” Captain says to her, helping her into the ambulance van. His fingers smear her face with Daniel’s blood as they touch her. He looks as hopeless as she does. The strong, fearless Luke Igwe has tears in his eyes, he looks like he wants to cling to her chest and cry.
The days and weeks that follow after this moment shows her the vulnerable side of him. It is also during this time she decides to leave him. She knows that if they continue, the toxicity between them would destroy them and their children. Wasn’t she directly responsible for Daniels fall? If she hadn’t fought with Captain that other night and destroyed the railing, if Daniel hadn’t come across Captain’s glass of brandy and drunk it and thought the best place to lay his head was on the railing, none of this would have happened.
“You’re truly leaving me?”
Emem is in the house now, in the bedroom she used to share with Captain, which is now hers alone. This is months after Daniel’s recovery – when Captain keeps telling her that he will change his ways even though Emem has already begun divorce procedures. They have just returned from California, and suitcases containing gifts Captain got for her on their trip are arranged neatly in one corner of the bedroom.
“You think you can live without me?”
She chooses not to respond to him anymore about their turbulent marital issues. He leaves her bedroom, but his questions don’t stop. Every other day, he demands to know why she has decided to throw him away and all the benefits that come with being associated with him. Sometimes, he shows his anger. Other times, he lets her see his vulnerable side – the part of him that makes her think that underneath his hard surface lies a soft man that can be loved. And she does love him on occasion; so much that she lets him into her bed now and then. But those long nights of them being held in each other’s arms isn’t enough to keep them together, because no matter how much she tries to accept that what they have is normal, it cannot erase the fact that she is married to the vilest man in the country.
Emem leaves the bedroom and takes a walk around the house, traveling through the memories brought to her in the laughter of her sons, the warm meals from her kitchen, the long nights she’d stay up in bed reading a book to ward off the pain of her situation, and the fights between her and Captain that were getting out of control.
In the kitchen now, she watches the scene from that fated night. Daniel had cut his palm with a penknife gifted to him by Captain. As she applies First Aid to the cut, she lets Captain know that she’s disappointed at him for giving an eight-year-old a knife to play with. In his usual manner, he dismisses her concerns, and when Daniel leaves the kitchen, Captain begs her to sleep over. By now, they are divorced, and she lives in a smaller apartment far away from him. They have kept things cordial for the sake of the boys. Once in a while, Captain drops by at her place and she lets him in. It’s hard to say no to him, not when her body still feels like it belongs to him alone. Like an addict, she is hooked. She hates herself for not wanting him today, and tomorrow, she wants him again.
So, she pays the ultimate price for her weakness when that penknife goes into her neck. At first, she doesn’t feel it, because it happens so fast and the knife comes out even faster. But Captain’s first panicked whisper of “no” as he lets go of her hand held in his, brings a sting so sharp that she feels the pain singe right through to her head.
The last thing she hears is the sound of the wind howling outside. Her life does not flash before her eyes. She’s thinking about the clothes she left hanging on the line back at her apartment. Would her neighbor be kind enough to take them in before the rain comes down?
“I didn’t expect you to be here before me.”
Emem turned towards the sound of Captain’s voice. He had just walked into the house, and he stood in the living room with an air of familiarity. For his age, she thought he had done a great job of taking care of his appearance. She had always admired him in his simple outfit combinations, especially the classic he had on now, of a fitted pair of black trousers and a plain white shirt.
“Thanks for coming.” He walked pass her, into to the kitchen, and straight to the store where he used to keep his collection of vintage wines. “I never really changed anything here after you left,” he said to her when he came out to the kitchen with a bottle of wine. “I did a few renovations on the roof and walls, and that was it. Everything was as we left it. As you left it.” He opened a cabinet and took out two wine glasses, which he rinsed. “I hired people along the years to care for the place. I couldn’t bring myself to let go.”
He pulled a chair for Emem and another for himself, and they sat, facing each other.
“You’re still so beautiful, Em. Still so pure. You shouldn’t have left.”
Time hadn’t changed some things about him, especially his emotionally manipulative side. Emem put down her glass and asked him why he wanted to see her.
“How long gone were you when you left?” he asked.
“Just a month.”
“What’s her name?”
“I’m sure you already know.”
“Pretend I don’t. Tell me about my daughter. What was her childhood like? Did she grow up asking about me? Does she know about me now?”
“Her name is Timaro,” Emem answered, spelling out the name.
“Yeah. I looked it up. It means ‘remember that love’ or something like that. Did you name her that because of me?”
“No. Because of her brothers.”
“So, you told her about them?”
“Why do I need to tell you about my personal life, Luke?”
“It’s a simple question, Em.”
“She didn’t know about them when she was growing up.”
“I told her you had died.”
“And now? Does she know?”
“Yes. She knows everything.”
“She must hate your guts for lying to her.”
Emem picked up her wine and took a long gulp.
“I want to meet her.”
Placing the wine glass on the floor again, Emem shook her head.
“I said I want to meet her.” Captain’s expression had turned stern. Emem went up on her feet.
“I thought you wanted to talk, to find closure. That’s why I came here. For the first time, I was ready to dredge up the past and introduce you to the monster you were to me, so that I can heal properly. But I think I made a mistake coming here. No need awakening the ghosts from the past. Let them all stay dead.”
She started towards the door, but Captain went after her and took her hand. He turned her to face him. Pinned by his gaze, she was forced to listen to him.
“I am sorry for everything I did to you, Em. Yes, I was a monster. I was the devil, but I am no longer that man.”
“I know I’ve lost you. I know you won’t take me back, even though it’s the only thing I’ve wanted since you popped back into my life again. But I’m fine with losing you as long as you let me see my daughter.”
Emem freed her hand from his and took a couple of steps away from him. He caught up with her again.
“She doesn’t want to see you.”
But this was a lie. Their weird daughter, Timaro, had taken a strange likeness to Captain the instant Emem unveiled her history with him to her. Timaro had been a handful from the moment she could tell right from wrong. Emem had always believed that it was God paying her for abandoning her sons at a tender age.
“You must have told her horrible things about me,” Captain stated, “but that’s understandable. Still, I want to see her. You can bring her down here or I can go to the UK… I’m fine with whatever decision you take.”
“No.” Emem continued towards the door, but Captain jumped in front of her again. She didn’t want to make things easy for him. She was mad at Timaro for accepting him even before meeting him. Nothing she had said to the girl was enough to make her hate Captain. In fact, Emem’s intentions achieved quite the contrary. Presently, Timaro wasn’t speaking to her.
“Please, Em.” Captain went on his knees. She looked down at him in disgust. It had always been this way with him – he would hurt her and crawl on his knees to beg. “Don’t start.”
“You know you’re my weakness, Em. You’ve always been my weakness. If you want to take my life now and rid this world of the beast I am, I’d gladly offer my life to you. If you want me as a sacrifice, I would obey. I’m your humble servant, Em. I await your favorable command.”
“You’re a joke.”
“Please, let me see Timaro. I’m her father, Em. Even if it’s just once.”
Emem’s hands were tied. Anything she did now, apart from bringing father and daughter together, might see her losing the rickety connection she had with Timaro. On captain’s side, she knew he would stop at nothing until he got to see the girl, even if it meant kidnapping her. And Emem didn’t want that. The last thing she needed was getting into any sort of situation with him over the issue. She suppressed the frustration in her that was coming to the surface. She hated that she still feared him, that she still had to let him have his way because she was scared of the consequences of not giving into his demands.
“Fine. I’ll talk to her.”
Emem felt that the twins’ birthday, which was around the corner, would be the best time to introduce Timaro to her brothers and to Captain.
“Thank you, Em. Thank you so much.” Captain stood. He held both of her hands and kissed them. He attempted to get closer to her, but she moved away from him and started towards the door.
“I love you, still!” he shouted.
Emem stepped out of the house, and it felt like she had come out of a burning furnace.
Yenkat smiled to herself when thoughts of how crazy her day had been came to her mind. First, she had had to catch up with a 7:00 a.m. flight to Abuja on short notice, only to be informed by the personal assistant of the man she was going to meet that the man had just left to Port Harcourt. Yenkat then hopped on another plane to Port Harcourt, waited four hours to see the man, and was lucky to catch the last seat on a plane back to Lagos. All for a contract that went south because the man’s wife called last minute and said she had bad vibes about him making a deal with Yenkat.
Yenkat couldn’t even be mad. She had had worse days in her line of work. She was certain that the man would come looking for her soon. No one could give him the type of terms she was offering.
Sat in the backseat of the Uber taking her home, Yenkat watched videos of Baby Dash sent to her by his adoptive mom. He was the cutest thing on two tiny feet. Yenkat planned to take a weekend off to visit them soon.
She put away her phone for a few seconds and fought the urge to venture into Omar’s Instagram. She had been snooping on him since he blocked her on social media. The madness started not long after he left for Florence. When he was certain that she had recovered from her miscarriage, he walked away from her. There was no explanation from him, no reason why they shouldn’t stay connected. And it tore her to bits. The first few weeks were harrowing. It wasn’t only the fact that she loved him that broke her; it was also the judgmental thoughts that filled her head that wouldn’t let her be.
You groomed him to love only you.
Your behavior was predatory. You preyed on his vulnerability and age.
How could you sleep with your friend’s son?
Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?
After a while, she admitted to herself that Omar blocking her was for the best. She also accepted the thing she had with Clarence, letting him in, although she still burned for Omar. Yenkat let go for a while, and even convinced herself that she was done with him, but one night, all alone in bed, she created a new Instagram account and began to keep up with him again.
It broke her heart when he posted a picture of himself with some Italian girl whose account had more pictures of them than her personal pictures. Clearly, they were dating and were all over each other about it. Yenkat thought they looked cute together; the girl seemed perfect for him. But was he happy? Why hadn’t he Facetimed her to speak to Polaris? Three long months and he didn’t ask about his daughter. Was everything okay with him?
Yenkat tried not to let it bother her now as she watched a video of him and his girl doing the Running Man Challenge, dancing to Ghost Town DJs’ My Boo. The challenge was trending, and even Kyenpia had a recent video of herself and Leonel giving it a go.
Yenkat put her phone away and forced her mind on Clarence. It wasn’t odd that he made her smile at random times. He was just what she needed at this time in her life. Every woman deserved a man that could effortlessly make her forget.
She shut her eyes in sleep and opened them when the Uber driver called her name.
“This street or the next one?”
“This one,” she said, sitting straight. She yawned, thinking about what type of Chinese tea would suffice for the night. The car approached her gate and she told the driver to stop. She put her feet out, taking her stilettos and handbag. At the moment of shutting the door, an SUV driving on full speed screeched in front of the Uber. Yenkat sighed and told the driver that he could end the ride.
Aanu stepped out of the SUV in full rage.
“You told Bidan I was fucking Nasir?” she shouted, charging towards her.
Yenkat ignored her. She knocked on the pedestrian gate.
“I’m talking to you!” Aanu moved in front of her.
“Aanuoluwapo, for a pregnant woman, you are quite mad.”
“As if that’s news to you. My whole life, I have been called mad. You don’t have to remind me because that’s not what I’m here for! Just answer my question! Why did you tell Bidan that I was fucking Nasir and this pregnancy is not his?”
“I didn’t tell Bidan shit–”
“Liar! Because you can’t get the man you want and can’t have a baby of your own, you want to ruin my life! Wicked human being!”
Yenkat knocked on the gate the second time and Aanu smacked her hand, taking it down.
“Aanu, respect yourself o. I’m begging you. Don’t push me to the wall. You know what I can do.”
“What can you do? Nothing! You’re nothing! You have nothing! No man! No child! And that’s why you were shamelessly going for my son! But I’m glad he dumped your sorry ass! Have you seen his sweet, young girlfriend? Have you seen them together?”
“Aanu, go home.”
“You’re a cursed soul! All because of the wickedness you showed your father and brother! They cursed you from their graves! You will die lonely and miserable!”
“Aanu!” Yenkat warned again. “Don’t push me o.”
“Me, I’ll push you!”
And Aanu did just that. She jabbed Yenkat on her chest, sending her backwards.
“That’s enough, madam!” Clarence stepped out of the gate, just in time to stop Aanu from going after Yenkat again. There was shock on Aanu’s face at his sudden appearance.
“You?” She pointed at him in recognition.
“Yes, me. I’m glad your memory works. You remember what I’m capable of. When I take you away this time, it’d be for good.”
“I said it! Yenkat was behind everything! So, you really sent your thug to kidnap me, Yeni?”
“I’m not her thug,” Clarence replied. “I’m her man.”
“Huh?” Aanu slowly drew her head back and looked at him from top to bottom.
“Yeah. And you’d be stupid to think that you’d hurt my woman again and I’ll let you go in peace.”
“I can handle her, Rence,” Yenkat said. “Just give us a moment together.”
“Your woman is Yenkat?
“Look, the next time I see you here or around her, something worse will happen to you.”
Aanu had no comeback for him. The look in his eyes made Yenkat uneasy. She had never seen that side of him before. Aanu was also subdued by it.
He took Yenkat’s shoes and handbag and returned to the house. Yenkat stood in front of Aanu.
“You’re now sending your man to fight–”
“Shut up, Aanu. I am done with you, and this is my last warning. If you come here, or approach me anywhere else or call or text or reply me on social media, I will fuck your life up so badly you’ll commit suicide. You accuse me of being wicked to Dashe and my dad. Yes, I was. I admit that I was a witch to them, but they deserved it. Just like you are about to deserve what I will dish out to you. So, if you don’t want to go the way they did, delete me from your past, present and future. Let the name Yenkat never ever enter your head again.”
Aanu hissed. She ran her eyes over Yenkat’s body in a condescending manner, hissed a second time and walked to her car. When she got in, she poked her head out the window and shouted, “Barren fool! Man sleeping with man!”
And off she drove.
Yenkat dragged her tired body into the house. Polaris was already asleep, but her puppy was active around the house, hopping around Oyin who was doing her routine night chores before going to bed. Yenkat requested for a cup of normal black tea, abandoning her Chinese tea plans.
She went into her bedroom. Clarence was spread out on his tummy on her bed, reading a novel he had been struggling to finish for a month. He turned around when she walked in and called her over.
“Hi,” she smiled.
“Your mad best friend gone?”
Yenkat stripped out of her clothes and climbed over him. When her body felt the warmth of his, she lay down on him, resting her head on his chest.
“What do you want to talk about?” he asked. “Your trip or Aanu?”
“Are you hungry?”
“What do you want?”
“A massage. My lower back hurts.”
Yenkat got off his back and lay on her tummy. She told him where her massage oil was located. He went for it and began his work on her back.
“Just give me the word and I’ll handle your friend once and for all.”
“Handle? Explain that to me in simpler terms.”
“She won’t bother you again.”
“Thank you, but I think I know her medicine.”
“Then why aren’t you giving it to her?”
Yenkat didn’t respond.
“Is it because you feel guilty for what you and her son had?”
“I said I didn’t want to talk about this.”
“That woman is crazy, Yen. I fear that she might do something to harm you. Just let me…”
“I won’t hurt her or the baby.”
“Clarence, I really appreciate your concern, but I need to take care of Aanu all on my own.”
“The way you handled your father and brother?”
“I don’t want to dig into my past either.”
“Okay. But I know you’re a good soul. I also know your dad died from a kidney related disease and your brother killed himself. Nobody could blame you for them. Don’t listen to your friend.”
But would Clarence still think she was a good soul if he found out that she had been an eligible kidney donor for her dad, but she refused to spare him a kidney or the money to carry out the transplant when they found another eligible donor? Would he still see her the same if he knew she had desperately wished for him to die, the same way she hoped that Dashe would cease to exist years later, because he had put her through so much frustration? In Dashe’s case, she had even replied to his texts of threatened suicide, telling him to go and kill himself, adding that she hoped he wasted away in hell. Aanu alone knew about that side of her. What would Clarence and her friends think of her if they found out that she wasn’t what they thought she was?
And this was why she endured Aanu’s taunts and abuse. Not because she was scared that she would be exposed by her; but because didn’t want to make an enemy out of her, the way she had done to her father and brother. Yenkat was learning to forgive and to let go of those who hurt her, instead of holding it all in.
Two nights ago, she had had the chance to get her revenge at Aanu when Obidan showed up demanding for answers about Aanu’s relationship with Nasir. For a moment, Yenkat was ready to spill the dirt on Aanu, but she paused for a second and thought about the consequences. Obidan was a volatile man, and there was no telling how far he could go with Aanu. Yenkat had been lucky to get only a few shoves and bruises during their time together, but she had seen him hit his younger sister and get into unnecessary fisticuffs with strangers on the streets on separate occasions. She feared that he might do something to harm Aanu and the baby. Hence, she lied. She told him Nasir and Aanu didn’t get along anymore. She asked him why he wasn’t happy to finally have the baby he had always wanted, and his answer shocked her.
“Because I realized that I made a mistake letting you go,” he said, eyes looking into hers earnestly. “I miss you, Yen. Aanu is…” His eyes darted away in regret. “I’m sorry.”
“You should go home.”
“I should.” He looked at her again. “Aanu told me about the miscarriage. I’m sorry that you went through that a second time.”
“I’m used to it now.”
“But do you really love that boy?”
“Go home, Bidan.”
Yenkat wasn’t telling. She knew how these things worked. He would go home and tell Aanu and they would talk about her and make fun. But God! She still loved Omar. She missed him in a way she had never missed any person before. Memories of him came in waves, randomly, at odd places.
Obidan tried to kiss her, but she pushed his face away and called him a fool. He left her house without saying goodbye. She hoped that it would be the end of him and Aanu in her life. But here they were…
“Rence, what are you doing?”
Clarence seemed to be done with his back massage. He was presently kneading her butt cheeks.
“Just making sure you are relaxed a little more.”
She already felt better, but she couldn’t complain about what his hands were doing. She tried to hold back a moan, but it slipped out and gave him incentive to do more. Before long, he was guiding himself into her slowly. But he didn’t maintain his gentility when her body fully accepted him. He was rough and nasty, and less passionate than he had been on their first encounter. This made Yenkat like and unlike the fact that he was beginning to grasp her sex language without her having to explain it to him. But she worried more that she was sharing the part of her with him that she had given to Omar alone.
Lying beside her minutes later, Clarence wondered loudly where their relationship was headed.
“Do you think we’ll get more serious than this?”
“I don’t know.” Yenkat didn’t want to think about it, yet she asked, “What do you want, Clarence?”
“A little more commitment I guess.”
“I am committed to us.”
“I know. I just want you to be a little more into it. Or are you just passionless?”
“I know you have fire in you. Emotion. I see the way you are with Polaris. I want that.”
“You want me to treat you like a child?”
“I want you to give me that much devotion.”
“I love her.”
He started to say something, but stopped.
“What did you say?” she asked.
“I’m not asking for love. I don’t think I’ve gotten there yet with you as well. But just a little more, Yen. With time, of course. I’m scared to think that what we have could end up as just a straight line, going nowhere. No highs or lows.”
She stared at him. Sometimes, he was good-looking and warm. Other times, he looked like someone else. Distant and vague. She didn’t know who he was, except for the things he had told her about him. She had never seen him angry or sad or anything else, save for the man he was when she was in his arms. But did she want to know him? Was she ready to go deeper?
“I had fun. Thank you, boo.”
Fiyin lingered when she hugged Kyenpia. They had just returned from Igwe’s villa. Igwe himself had been present and had welcomed them to his private wing where he hosted them for lunch, in the company of Jamila and Aaron. The moment had been surreal for Fiyin; it was her second time being in the presence of Igwe and nothing had prepared her for his regal personality. He was stately in his ways, like he belonged to another time and age when immortals still walked the earth.
“Take your vitamins and call me or Maxy if you feel depressed,” Kyenpia told Fiyin, freeing her from the hug but holding her hand. “Stop being a stranger.”
Fiyin nodded to Kyenpia’s parting words. She peeped into the SUV where Amaka was soundly asleep.
She waved and entered her compound as Kyenpia got into the SUV. Spotting two unwelcome cars parked behind hers, Fiyin’s face came into a frown, erasing every sign of the bliss she had returned with from the villa.
“Fiyinfoluwa!” her mother called, stepping out of the driver’s seat of the car on the right. “Didn’t I tell you that I was coming today? Why would you go out, lock the doors and switch off you phone?”
The second person that came out of the car from the passenger seat was Jaiye. He smiled at Fiyin; she frowned harder in response and gave a quick eye to her belly. Amaka’s outfit idea of a pair of jeans, worn under a polka dot blouse and a contrasting printed cardigan had worked so far without anyone noticing the bump.
“I got invited to the Igwe villa,” Fiyin explained to her mother. The mention of the Igwe name quenched whatever fire her mom came with.
“Oh, that’s good. But why didn’t you go with Jaiye?”
“Kyenpia took me,” Fiyin responded in English. She and Alhaja always communicated in Yoruba. Whenever Fiyin used English, she was sending a message that she’d rather be on her own, although Alhaja always pretended never to understand her.
“Oh, okay. Jaiye and I were just talking about you.”
Fiyin cast a panicked stare in Jaiye’s direction.
“I was telling him about you as a little girl. How it was so hard to get you to put on any clothes.”
Fiyin painted a tolerant smile on her face, but the frown returned almost immediately. Alhaja opened the backdoor of her car. “Oya come and carry these things I brought for you.”
As Fiyin moved forward, Jaiye stopped her. “I’ve got it. Just go in and lie down. You must be tired.”
“I’m fine,” Fiyin answered grumpily, marching towards the car. Loaded on both floors of the backseat were food warmers.
“Mommy, I haven’t finished the food you brought two weeks ago.”
“Carry them inside and stop complaining. I have enough time in my hands to cook these days.” Alhaja yawned as Fiyin handed her the key to her house. “Don’t forget the yam in the boot o!”
Fiyin stood until she was out of sight, then she faced Jaiye. “I told you not to come.”
“I had a bad dream about you when I was taking a nap this afternoon. Is my baby okay?”
“Yes, my baby is fine. Now, can you leave?”
“No. Not until I’m sure you’re good.”
He ignored her and lowered to lift the food warmers from the car.
“Jaiye!” Fiyin lowered as well. “I’m talking to you. Go home.”
He walked into the house. Fiyin cussed as she picked the last warmer. She followed him into the house. He was already engaging in another round of conversation with Alhaja in the kitchen. His loud laughter made Fiyin want to stick her foot in his mouth. She dumped the warmer on the dining table and walked off to her bedroom, locking the door behind her. She wished she had followed Kyenpia home. This was going to be an excruciating evening.
To calm herself, Fiyin went into her bathroom for a shower. Constantly pouring cold water over her body, no matter the weather, was her new pregnancy craving.
She spent a few minutes longer than necessary in the bathroom. When she stepped out to her bedroom, she heard Alhaja’s voice in the living room and Jaiye’s laughter in response to whatever she was telling him. Fiyin spent more time alone, looking for something to wear that would hide her bump. She ended up with a thick, black hooded sweater on baggy pajama pants.
She came out to the living room and found her guests having dinner. There was a movie showing on Africa Magic Yoruba and they were both captivated by it. Alhaja had seen it before and she was giving spoilers to Jaiye. She paused now to ask Fiyin what soup she would prefer to take.
“It’s in the red warmer…”
“No, don’t worry.” Jaiye sprang up. “I’ll serve you. Just sit. Don’t stress yourself, iyawo mi.”
Alhaja gave Fiyin a discreet wink as Jaiye dashed towards the kitchen. Fiyin didn’t have the strength to go after him. She was tired and hungry. She planned to leave them after her meal and go to bed.
“Useless man!” Alhaja yelled, referring to a character in the movie. “You will die today!”
Fiyin picked her phone to keep her distracted. Jaiye soon returned with her dinner. She offered no thanks as he laid the tray on a stool in front of her.
“Have you lost your manners?” Alhaja asked her. Fiyin frowned like a little girl, scratching the nape of her neck. “What are you supposed to say to him?”
“Thank you,” Fiyin muttered in English. Jaiye leaned over and kissed her cheek. Alhaja looked disappointed. She hissed at Fiyin.
“If your father cared for me as half as this young man here did, do you think we’d be divorced today? All you girls of these days, always acting like you have all the time in the world…”
“Shut up and eat your food!”
Fiyin was on the edge of an outburst. She had stifled her resentment towards her family for a long time and Alhaja was pushing her to the brink.
“Just eat,” Jaiye said calmly. Fiyin eyed him before she began her meal. She ate slowly, allowing the food act as a balm to her tension. By the time she was through, Alhaja and Jaiye were done with their meals. Alhaja was now yawning for the fourth time. She announced she was going to bed, but she stayed a little longer before dragging herself to the guestroom. At her departure, Fiyin took her food tray to the kitchen and returned to the living room. She lay down on the couch while Jaiye spoke with someone on the phone. She soon fell asleep, and Jaiye lifted her off the couch and took her to her bedroom. When he laid her on the bed, he stopped to kiss her.
“Leave me abeg.” She pushed him away. “I’m hot.”
“Let me turn down the temperature of the AC.”
“Leave it. I like it like that,” Fiyin answered sleepily, lifting her body into a sitting position. She pulled off her sweater and pajama pants and lay back on the bed. She pushed Jaiye’s hand off when he rested it on her tummy.
“I’ll sleep on the couch,” she heard him say.
She also heard the door close as he left. She slept and dreamt of a wedding in Elyon Villa. She was the bride and all her men were present, each with a baby that looked like the other, yet she was still pregnant. Aaron was the pastor, officiating the wedding. She thought he looked a lot like Ishi. Kyenpia and Amaka were the flower girls; they were little, carrying baskets of colorful roses and throwing them in the air as they laughed with their adult voices. Soon, everyone was laughing with them, laughing at her, pointing at her tummy. For some reason, she fell, and the ground underneath her began to give way. But a familiar hand reached out for her and she took it. When she lifted her face to find the owner of the hand, her mother’s loud voice stopped her, dragging her out of the subconscious to reality.
Fiyin opened her eyes.
She blinked several times before her sight cleared. Alhaja was standing in her bedroom with arms crossed as she stared down at her. For a second, Fiyin didn’t realize that she was almost nude, wearing only a granny panty.
“I’ve not finished sleeping,” she said to Alhaja. “Go.”
“Is something wrong with your head?”
Alhaja’s use of English stripped off what remnant of sleep Fiyin had. She shot up straight, trying to tug out her blanket to cover her tummy.
“How did that happen?” Alhaja pointed.
Fiyin didn’t give a reply. It would be useless to lie at this point, but she wasn’t going to tell the truth either. She was pregnant, and that was that.
“Who did that to you?”
“If I slap your face, you will get up and tell me who got you pregnant!”
“I did,” Jaiye responded, walking into the bedroom.
Alhaja gave a sharp turn, glaring at him from top to bottom as if he were a stranger to her.
“I’m sorry. It’s not like we planned it… It just happened.”
Fiyin covered her face, feeling the tears rush to her eyes. This was a disaster.
“Jaiyesimi, I thought you were responsible! How could you do this to my daughter?”
“Mommy, I’m sorry. I just… I’m so sorry.”
As he went on with a silly explanation of carelessness and failed contraceptives, Fiyin got off the bed, walked into her bathroom and locked herself in. She dialed Kyenpia’s number. Kyenpia answered, voice drowsy.
“Kay, come and pick me, please. My mom just found out that I’m pregnant and Jaiye is claiming it. I want to die,” she sobbed. “Come and get me out of here.”
“I’m on my way.”
“Thank you.” Fiyin lay on the bathroom floor. The chill from the tiles made her shiver, but she embraced it.
She reached for her phone again. There was one more person to call – the one whose baby she was carrying. He was somewhere in Europe and was going to return in a couple of days. She could wait until he came back, but considering the present state of things, she needed to reach out to him.
It was time to let him know that he was going to be a father.
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages