There were a few things as refreshing as a cold shower on a bad mood. Alcohol was one of them. Food as well. Maybe a deep tissue massage, followed by a long, restful night in a bed of feather-soft blankets.
Yenkat wanted all of that. It was better than breaking into tears. The last thing she wanted was to cry. She had done so much of that in the past because of Dashe. He had been a brother from hell. Selfish and unrepentant. Many times, she had given him a chance, and in each occasion, he had blotched it. He wasn’t worth her tears. Yet, Yenkat felt pain so deep, it drowned her.
The cold shower felt good. Yenkat stayed under it longer than she usually would. La Roux’s Trouble In Paradise album was playing in her bedroom. Dashe had introduced her to the album. He had loved music, and had had thousands of songs in his digital library. It was one of the things they bonded over. Music and their love for movies. Recollections of Yenkat’s childhood were painted with moments that had her and Dashe sitting under the bright light of the television in the family living room, watching movies and trying to pick out mistakes or predict their endings. But that had ended when their father married a second wife who changed the order of things in the house. Their mother moved to Maiduguri, taking them along. They went from being rich to just getting by. The change affected Dashe more than it did Yenkat. It took a long time for him to get over the fact that their father wanted nothing to do with them anymore. It was from that period he began to show signs of the kind of adult he would become.
Looking back, Yenkat told herself that there was nothing she could have done to change him. She had tried everything, from tough love to indulgence. Nothing had worked. Dashe had been who he was, unapologetically. However, this didn’t erase the misery Yenkat felt. Her heart bled. She wanted to reach inside and rip out that part of it that still beat for him.
She turned off the shower. She had heard a knock on her door. She reached for a bathrobe and covered her body with it.
“Who is it?” she asked.
Yenkat unlocked the door. Omar entered the room, pushing in a food trolley.
“Finally, this trolley is put to good use,” she said, smiling genuinely at the food Omar had wheeled in. Her tummy whined in agreement with what she saw. “Comfort food. Boy, you’re the best. Close the door, please.”
Omar kicked the door shut.
“So, what do we have here?”
“I made loaded bacon mashed potato pizza, crispy S’mores spring rolls, chocolate lasagna and Guinness ice cream floats. Of course, there are two bottles of wine for your alcohol craving.”
“I want a bit of everything.”
She sat on the bed and salivated as he served her a plate bearing all the things on the trolley.
“I was rejoicing that I had lost weight. Now, you want me to add it all in one night.”
“I don’t mind. You look lovely when you’re chubby.”
“Guinness ice cream floats first.”
Omar handed her a beer mug containing the ice cream. She wedged the grey-striped straw sticking out of it between her lips and sipped the mix of Guinness beer and vanilla ice cream noisily. “Yeah baby. Oooh! This is delicious.”
“Thanks.” Omar sat beside her.
“Aren’t you going to eat?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“No, you have to eat.” She put her plate between them. “Go ahead.”
“I’m full. Just eat.”
Yenkat dove into with her meal.
“Lord Jesus, bless this food,” she prayed with a full mouth, and then, shut her eyes when the taste of the bite hit her. “Goodness! I think I just got wet! Omar?”
He laughed. “Just eat abeg.”
“The cheese is yum, and the pizza crust is just perfect. Your mom would be so proud.”
Yenkat stopped speaking. The pizza kept her mouth busy, as did the other little tasters on her plate. She felt her emotions get into formation with each bite. She had always turned to food whenever she was sad. It wasn’t why she was chubby, but it contributed to her weight. Alcohol and food were her pain medicines. While food made her happy, alcohol sobered her up. Generally, she had a bubbly personality. She was like Aanu in many ways. They were both boisterous in their individual bearings. Aanu was on a constant high; Yenkat, on the other hand, came alive only at nights, or whenever she didn’t have money running through her head. She was like two individuals in one, a nature that had endeared her men to her in the past. They loved the way she was able to switch from one woman to an entirely different one.
“So, what’s up with the red lingerie?” she asked Omar, when she came to the end of her meal. Omar, eyes on his phone, looked up with a coy smile. “Mm-hm. You heard me.”
“Well… I saw it online and thought you’d like it.”
“Or you saw it online and thought of seeing me in it?”
Omar made to answer, but he ended up laughing. Yenkat picked her ice cream mug again. “Are you going to deny your lust for me?”
He was quiet.
She had a long, noisy sup of the ice cream. “I first noticed it nine years ago. You were thirteen then. Nothing had happened that day that I could blame for what I saw, but I saw it in your eyes. I said to myself that I was imagining it, but I kept seeing it. Day after day. Especially when you hated every single man I dated, even the ones that treated me nicely.”
“They were not good for you.”
“I also told myself that you’d grow out of it, but it remained there as the years wore on. It got worse on that morning you saw me naked. From then on, I felt like you always wanted to fuck me.”
“What?” He laughed again. “It’s not that serious, mami.”
“Omar, it is. I am the reason you love older women. I’m not a psychologist, but I suspect that you fulfil your fantasies about me when you’re with these other women.”
He looked at her fully. “And so what?”
Yenkat was taken aback by his response. She put her beer mug away. “Did you just say and so what? Omar, I’m like your mother.”
“But you’re not, and you’ll never be.”
“I raised you like my son.”
“And that should stop me from catching feelings? It turns me on even more.”
Yenkat sighed. This was her Omar. Audacious and cheeky. He had an attitude problem that Aanu had tried unsuccessfully to deal with from his teenage years. Yenkat, adversely, had nurtured it, encouraging him to stay true to himself, and not change to please anyone. Now, she wished she hadn’t.
“Your phone is ringing,” Omar informed her. She hadn’t heard it ring. When she picked it up from beside her, she saw that it was Aanu.
“It’s your mother. Video call.”
Yenkat did. “Hi babe.”
She got off the bed and went into the bathroom. Aanu was calling to ask her to wear the dress she had sent and take photos for Instagram.
“Go and wear it and snap nau. Tell Omar to snap you, abeg.”
“Can we do this tomorrow? Please?”
Aanu pouted. “It’s not fair. If I were the one, I’d do it.”
“I know, babe. Just let me do it tomorrow. Now is not a perfect time.”
Aanu was disappointed. “Okay. Sha help me put an eye on Tobi for me, abeg, let him not be chasing girls up and down.”
“He’s allowed to. It’s the age.”
“It’s not, please. I want him very responsible from now on. My prayers cannot go to waste. All the people that called him a bastard will take back their words. God pass all of them.”
Yenkat smiled. “Can I go now?”
From Aanu’s side, a baby burst out into a shrill cry.
“The monster is up. Kiss Tobi for me, and please, take care of him. Only you know how to handle him.”
Aanu blew a kiss. “Send the pictures o!”
Yenkat went offline. She exhaled and stepped out of the bathroom.
“Can we go back to our discussion?” she asked Omar.
The ‘mami’ name again. Now, it didn’t sound so innocent. Yenkat had always been in denial of his thirst for her. He had never acted on it; hence, she had looked the other way. Now, that it was out in the open, she was uneasy. Yet, there was something tiny and nasty that felt some sort of excitement. A logical voice, however, prevailed. It told her to walk away and forget all they had discussed earlier. Another voice, which sounded logical too, told her to make it clear to him that he was out of his depth.
“You cannot be having feelings for me, Omar Mustapha. It is wrong.”
“Wait… Before you continue, I want to beg you not to talk to me like I’m a child. I know that I am your best friend’s son, and you raised me like I was your child, blah-blah-blah… But please, don’t make me feel small because I expressed how I feel about you.”
Yenkat slowed at his words. “Blah-blah-blah?”
“Please, don’t make it about that. I meant and so on.”
“And so on was not your childhood. It was not the motherly care and love I showed you. I want you to understand that.”
“I do, but I don’t look at it that way, and I think it’s okay for me not to.”
“Omar, all I just wanted to say is that it’s not normal for you to want me the way you do.”
She walked towards the food trolley. He had poured some wine for her. She picked the glass and washed it down her throat. Omar got up and topped it again. He kept his eyes on her as she had a sip. His brows had come together in a focused expression.
“Would it be a bad thing if something happened between us?” he questioned.
She nearly choked on her wine. “Omar…”
“Just answer my question.”
Her eyes stayed on him. He was suddenly all man to her. This was not the nineteen-year-old boy she had last seen. Many things had changed about him, which was a weird thing. Given the present state of affairs, she was supposed to view him as he was to her. A son. But all she saw was a man who was well within his rights to be attracted to any woman his heart desired. And she understood this. She understood that this could happen to any young man. This made Yenkat annoyed at herself. She wished she wasn’t so rational sometimes. Nevertheless, she had to pull the age card immediately.
“When I finish drinking this wine, you will apologize for having sexual fantasies about me, or whatever it is that’s going on in that head of yours right now. It just has to disappear forever. After apologizing, we will end this chapter and never speak of it again. Understood?”
He was deep in her eyes. He shook his head slowly, defying her.
“Then, I suggest you get out of my house before I slap you back to your senses.”
“Is it my fault that I feel the way I do?”
Yenkat chugged her wine.
“Answer me, please.”
“Then why do you want to punish me for it?”
“Because it’s wrong.”
“It’s just wrong.”
“You’re not sounding like yourself.”
“Are you sounding like yourself? Does this seem normal to you? How can you be buying me lingerie and saying all these things, Omar?”
“I can’t help how I feel. I really like you in a way that is not platonic, and I am not sorry about that.”
Yenkat turned away, almost laughing in irony. She had created a monster that was now haunting her. Wasn’t it she who had taught him to always express the way he felt and not be sorry about it?
Once more, she gulped down the entire glass of wine. “I’m going to bed.” She spun around to face him. “You should do the same. By morning, all of this would be over. It had better be.”
She started to clear her bed, but stopped, holding the jumpsuit Kyenpia had given her. “Did you ever, in that block head of yours, think of what your mother would say if she knew how you felt about me?”
“No. And that’s because I’m never going to tell her. She has nothing to do with it.”
“She has everything to do with it, Tobi. She is my best friend.”
“And so what, mami? So what if she finds out about us?”
“Us?” Yenkat asked in a raised voice. “Which us? Are you out of your mind, Oluwatobi? That you can summon the guts to tell me this nonsense shows that you’re mad and have no respect!”
He put on a scowl. “You know what? Forget I said anything. Stupid of me.”
“Yeah, stupid of you. Very stupid and foolish. Don’t ever try that shit again. I’m not your mate. Leave my room.”
He stormed out of her bedroom. Yenkat puffed out. Her head was spinning from the heat of the moment. She picked the wine bottle and finished it. But it didn’t help her mood. She cleared her bed and lay on it. Her restlessness continued. In all conscience, she hadn’t meant to raise her voice at him. Nothing he did warranted it. He deserved an apology, even though she feared that it could give him impetus to maintain his stance.
Yenkat left her bedroom when she couldn’t stand the restlessness any longer. Omar was in the living room, lying on a sofa. There was a movie on, but he wasn’t watching it. He was on his phone. He didn’t look up when she came in.
“We should talk.”
He ignored her.
He put his legs down and made room for her on the sofa. She sat.
“I apologize for the words I used on you earlier. The stupid and foolish thing. You know that’s not my style.”
“I’m really sorry.”
“I don’t want what happened to come between us. I understand how you feel…”
He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Have you ever loved someone from a distance, knowing that nothing should ever happen between two of you because all hell would break loose?”
“I can’t say I have…”
“Have you ever been around someone you loved so much that it hurt, but you couldn’t do or say anything because you didn’t want to lose them? Have you?”
“Then you don’t understand, Aunty Yeni. You have no idea how difficult it was for me to express myself to you back there. You know it’s not my thing. I don’t normally feel things, so this is real. It is deep, and if you’re going to use it against me, just keep whatever you have to say to yourself. I’m begging you, with all due respect.”
“We don’t have to fight about this, Omar. We can both be adults…”
“This is me being an adult.”
“So, just leave it like that. I fucked up, and I am sorry. You will never hear me talk about how I feel again.”
“It’s fine.” He went back to his phone. Yenkat didn’t know what else to say. She sat there for almost a minute until she decided it was best to leave.
She took her weight off the sofa, but Omar tended towards her and seized her hand. He did nothing with it as he stared furiously into her eyes, daring her to walk away from him.
“You’ll regret whatever you think you’re doing right now, Omar. Let me go.”
“You don’t want me to let you go. If you did, you’d have walked away. My clutch isn’t even that tight.”
He wasn’t lying. He was holding her lightly, and yet, she couldn’t let go. Yenkat was curious, eager to know what he was all about. That tiny, nasty thing in her was grown now, taking up her reasoning space. It wanted her to stay and let Omar talk more about how much he liked her. For curiosity sake, it said. Just to know. And if things progress from here, you’re both adults to know that it means nothing. The boy has handled women older than you. It’s not like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. This is not child abuse. He’s not a baby anymore.
Yenkat moved a couple of fingers, just to see what he would do. If he let go, she would walk into her bedroom, turn off the lights and sleep off the silliness of the night. But if…
He tugged her back, drawing her towards him. Yenkat’s chest tightened for a second, and then, her pulse went erratic. She slumped back into the sofa and Omar leaned over her.
“Can I kiss you?” he asked.
Once more, he was only being the gentleman she had groomed. But this wasn’t the time to be one. She wanted the kiss, and she didn’t know if it was out of curiosity or it was because she hadn’t been kissed in a while or she just needed it badly. She feared that she might chicken out if he didn’t just go ahead and kiss her already.
But Omar didn’t wait for her answer. His lips touched hers. Her eyes were opened, gazing up at him. She didn’t know what she was looking for. Her heart pounded against her chest so fiercely that she was scared it would break out of her flesh.
Omar kissed her upper lip first. Softly and teasingly, touching nerves that sent ripples through her skin. When he touched her lower lip which was her weakness, her mind stopped trying to figure things out. With her pulse still racing like it was on steroids, Yenkat’s body gave itself over to whatever Omar had to offer. She closed her eyes, held his face and took his mouth ferociously.
Age was nothing but a number at this point. She became twenty-something again. And to her, he was man enough. But when his hand rested on her hip and slowly went for the small of her back, she froze and looked into his eyes.
This was Omar. The boy that had grown in her arms. Her friend’s son. Her little boy. And yet, he was a complete stranger to her. A man she badly wanted to know some more. How on earth was this even happening?
“Stop! Stop, stop.” She put her hand on his chest, driving a wedge between them. “We can’t do this.”
He held her hands in his. She was just realizing how big they were against both of hers.
“No.” She sprang up, pointing at a door to her left. “That’s your room. I’m going to bed. Goodnight, Omar.”
He hung his head in disappointment. “Goodnight.”
Yenkat lay in bed for a long time. Her conscience judged her for kissing him. Her logical mind told her that she had just debased herself and Omar would not respect her any longer. She felt stupid and angry.
She opened her bedside drawer and took out a bottle of sleeping pills. She was aware of the danger of mixing alcohol with them, but all she wanted was to shut down and rest her head. Sedated and in dreamland was the best way to ward off immodest thoughts of Omar. With any luck, Aanu wouldn’t appear in her dream to haunt her for kissing her son.
Yenkat turned off the lights and stuck out her hand that held the air conditioner control. She dropped the temperature of the room. Freezing underneath her duvet was the next closest thing to having a cold shower to quench the inferno between her legs ignited by Omar. If that didn’t work, she would take out her pair of handcuffs from the bedside drawer, cuff her wrist and fling the key across the room.
This body of hers that wanted her to eat the forbidden fruit had to be cast into the lake of fire by all means.
Sleep rapidly came and brought respite. She had a restive night and awoke at the buzzing of her phone, which had automatically gone on by 7 a.m. She snatched if from the top of the bedside drawer and tried to focus on the screen. The name ‘Amaka’ was displayed. Yenkat tapped on the answer button.
“Hello?” a shaky voice spoke.
“Hi.” Yenkat struggled with the blanket.
“Yenkat, it’s Amaka.”
“I know, Maxy. What’s up?”
Yenkat heard a sniffle.
“Are you okay?”
“It’s Kyenpia. Everything is not okay.”
Yenkat threw off the blanket, rising up. “What happened to her?”
“I can’t speak over the phone.”
“What happened to Kyenpia? Is she okay? Where is she?”
“She’s fine. But just come. Please, just come.”
“How can you tell me she’s fine and you’re crying? You’re her best friend. What’s going on?”
Amaka’s response came in deep sobs. Yenkat rose up.
“Maxy, talk to me, please.”
The line went dead. Yenkat looked at the phone, puzzled. She returned the call straightaway. Amaka’s husband answered.
“Just come.” He seemed calmly, speaking in Hausa. “It’s not something we can tell you over the phone. We’re at home.”
“Is Kyen okay?”
“She is. Come.”
He hung up too.
Yenkat found the easiest dress to wear in her wardrobe, which was a deep blue piece that didn’t require her wearing a bra. She swooshed around some mouthwash in her mouth while she relieved her bladder. When she was done, she picked her wallet, phone and car key and dashed out. Oyin was sweeping the living room. She curtsied, greeting her.
“Is Omar up?”
“I have to rush off somewhere. When he wakes up, tell him I stepped out. Don’t make breakfast for him. He cooks his own meals.”
“Yes, ma.” Oyin reached over and took off Yenkat’s bonnet, making her weave fall to her shoulders.
“Thanks.” Yenkat hurried out of the door. Once she got into her car, she tried Kyenpia’s number, but couldn’t get through. As she began to drive out, she tried to reach Leonel too. She got the same response.
Amaka, and her husband, James, were close pals with Kyenpia and Leonel. They were most people’s textbook definition of couple goals. They had everything going for them, moneywise, and in the love department. Of course, Yenkat wasn’t aware of the dark side of their relationship because Kyenpia never discussed that with her, and Yenkat respected that. It was one of the things she loved about her cousin. She had compartments in her heart for everyone, and ensured that her friends’ secrets were always safe with her. If she lost Kyenpia, it would hurt her as much as the loss of her mom did. She prayed that she was truly okay as Amaka and James had assured her. But then, she was unnerved. Why wouldn’t they tell her what was going on?
Yenkat arrived at their home earlier than she had anticipated she would. It was a Saturday, and there was no traffic, especially in the direction she took. When she got to the house, she honked at the gate. She noticed that a couple of cars were parked outside. That didn’t seem like a good sign.
The gateman stepped out to have a peep. He recognized her and instructed her to park behind a black G-Wagon, assuring her that her car was safe. She didn’t expect that anything would happen to it, though. This was a high-end estate, with topnotch security.
She locked the door and entered the compound. Her palms had become sweaty and her mouth dry from worry. She held her breath as she walked towards the front door.
The door opened up for her. James welcomed her in. From the foyer, she couldn’t see into the living room, but she heard voices.
“James, what is going on?”
He shut the door.
He walked ahead. She followed him into the living room. Amaka was seated on a couch, head rested on the armrest beside her. Being of fair complexion, her face was all red from crying. There were others in the room with her, people that Yenkat had known through Kyenpia.
One of the ladies present was called Fiyin. She was the closest friend Kyenpia and Amaka had. The one seated beside Amaka was her elder sister, Loretta. Next to Loretta was Bem, her boyfriend. There was Gina, James’ business partner; and the fifth lady was Stephanie, if Yenkat recalled properly. She was engaged to Ishi, Leonel’s cousin. She had her head on Loretta’s laps. Like Amaka and Fiyin, she was in tears too.
“What’s going on nau?” Yenkat demanded impatiently. “Why are you guys crying? What happened to Kyenpia?”
“Sit down.” James pointed at a couch.
“No. I can’t. Tell me what’s happening.”
“Yen,” he took her hand and guided her to the couch, “sit down.”
She sat like a zombie, fear filling her heart by the second. James settled beside her.
“There was an incident last night at Liana’s resort where the Igwes were having their family reunion.”
Yenkat stared at him, wide-eyed.
“According to the scanty details we got, armed men barged in and attacked them. There was massive shooting and certain family members got hit.”
“Leonel was one of them.”
Yenkat’s face went blank, but her eyes remained enlarged.
“There was also a bomb explosion after that.”
“He…didn’t make it.”
She slowly looked away from James, and to the others, and back to him. “He didn’t make it… How? What does that mean?”
“Leo passed away last night, Yen.”
Amaka let out a cry. Yenkat stared at her.
“Leonel didn’t make it… I don’t understand. Which Leonel? Because the one I know was in my house yesterday. In my house.” She shook her head. “James, is this a new type of joke or what?”
“No, Yen. It’s all over the news. The Igwes lost nine family members last night.”
Instant tears swamped her eyes. “You’re lying.”
“I am not. Leo was one of them, tragically.”
Fiyin was the next to cry out. Yenkat blinked and the tears flowed. “And Kay?”
“She’s fine. She’s with Leo’s father right now.”
“Fine, as well.”
Yenkat was afraid to call the next name. She looked at Stephanie who had stopped crying. She was staring distantly into the air.
“Ishi?” Yenkat barely muttered.
“He was shot too,” James answered. “In critical condition.”
Yenkat couldn’t handle what she had just heard. She left the couch and went outside for air. Her legs shook as she sauntered. She lowered her body on the steps leading to the house. James came out to meet her.
“We called you here because we knew Kyenpia would want you to know. We also want you to become security conscious.”
Yenkat glared at him.
“We don’t know who is behind the attack. We should all be vigilant.”
“None of you went for the party?” Yenkat asked.
“Stephanie did, but she and Ishi had a misunderstanding and she left. We were on our way, but turned back because of traffic. There had been an accident. A container fell and blocked the road, so we couldn’t go further. I called Leo and explained to him and he said it was fine…” James sat beside Yenkat. “I spoke to him, Yen. He told me he’d call me once they’re done. I don’t understand how this could have happened. I’ve been calling his phone since last night and no answer. It makes no sense.”
“Are you sure it’s him? Maybe it’s David that got shot.”
“David is alive. I got through to him this morning. Yen, he was crying like a little baby. I have never seen him emotional before, but he cried so much that I almost joined him. How do you watch your twin brother get blown up in bits after your younger brother just died in your arms?”
“What younger brother again?”
“They have a younger brother, Ramsey. He died too.”
Yenkat felt tremors in her body. “I need to use the restroom,” she requested.
James showed her the way to the guest toilet. She went in and locked the door. It was hard to breathe. She held onto the wall to keep herself from falling as she forced in long breaths that hurt her chest. She had felt this exact way when she got the devastating phone call about Dashe. The same pain in the chest. The same feeling of falling into an endless, dark pit. Death and Leonel were not words one found in the same sentence. Leonel was life. He lived and breathed like the world belonged to him. How could he be dead? She refused to accept it.
James knocked on the door. Yenkat sniffled.
“Please, come out. Are you okay?”
She washed her face and stepped out. There were more friends in the living room. The atmosphere was depressing and unreal. Everyone seemed to be weeping. She wasn’t sure this was where she wanted to be. She announced that she had to leave. James escorted her out to where her car was parked.
“I’ll communicate funeral arrangements if the family reaches you before us,” he said. “Call us if Kyen calls you first.”
“Are you sure you can drive?”
“Come here.” He pulled her into a hug. “This is harder on you than any of us, because of your brother. I’m so sorry. We’ll find time to come and see you. I have to go back in there and make sure Amaka rests. She’s pregnant and I’m worried about her health already.”
James let go and opened the door for Yenkat. She drove away, listening to his voice repeatedly saying, ‘he didn’t make it.’ The words made no meaning to her. Somebody was joking somewhere. Leonel was probably behind the cruel joke. He was known to be mischievous like that. She was sure she’d find him in his office, seated behind his desk, amused over the whole thing.
Yenkat made a detour to Ikoyi where the nerve center of Léon Hotels was located. She knew the place like her own breath. She had spent numerous nights in some of their finest suites. She had also come for business deals with Leonel. He had even tried once to buy off her company and keep her under his payroll, but she had turned down his request. Leonel was not just her cousin’s husband. He was her friend and occasional business partner. She had to get to the bottom of this prank. It was no longer funny.
Her car slowed at a distance from the hotel. There was some traffic leading towards it. She discovered that the source was from the hotel itself, as she neared the entrance. A detailed security check was ongoing. When it got to her turn, she was questioned over the purpose of her visit by an armed guard while another did a sweep of her car.
“I’m here to see Leonel Igwe.”
The guard frowned. “He’s not on seat.”
“I’ll see the manager then. Jaiyesimi Tanimola.”
“Business or personal?”
The man requested for her ID and she gave him her driver’s license. When his colleague cleared her to go, he let her through. Another guard controlling the traffic within the premises directed her to a different car park from the one she was familiar with.
She parked her car and took a long walk to the hotel. Nothing seemed amiss from the exterior, but the moment she burst in, she was met with chaos. Guests littering the reception area were responsible for the disorder. Yenkat quickly sensed that it would be a waste of time getting information from any of the receptionists. She targeted a bellhop, instead, who was walking past, and asked what the chaos was about.
“Are you one of our guests from the resort?” he asked tiredly. “Please, just find a spot and wait. We’ll get back to you with a suite. Have you collected your access card from the front desk?”
“Just wait…” he said, hurrying off.
Yenkat’s eyes roamed about, wondering if she would catch a glimpse of Jaiyesimi. He was an Igwe, one of Leonel’s numerous cousins and Yenkat’s ex. She had gotten into a short-lived romance with him sometime ago that ended badly. They hardly spoke these days, but Yenkat wasn’t here because of their past. She wanted to hear directly from him.
She got into the elevator and rode to the third floor where the administrative wing was located. A uniformed guard stopped her, asking for her access.
“Yes. They’ll give you one at the reception after your appointment with Mr. Jaiye has been confirmed.”
“He’s my friend. I just want to…”
“Then call him.”
Yenkat no longer had Jaiyesimi’s number. “I lost his contact. Can you help me with it?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. Please, return downstairs for clarification.”
“Is it true that Leonel is dead?”
“Please, ma’am, I don’t want to repeat myself.”
Yenkat turned away numbly. Her mind was beginning to accept the state of things. She got into the elevator and returned to the ground floor. Her eyes located the entrance to a passageway that had been barricaded. She looked around to be sure that she wasn’t watched, and then dove under the barricade and walked through. The passageway curved to her right, stopping in front of a private elevator, leading to the penthouse suite. She punched the up arrow button and the doors parted. Upon entrance, she was greeted by one of Leonel’s signature perfumes. He alone used this elevator. It led directly to his suite, which he hardly let anyone have access to.
She recalled her first visit here. It had been a date and they were going to end up in his bed, but she had gotten a burst of entrepreneurial inspiration after sharing a wrap of weed with him. The chemistry between them died and they spent the night mapping out a rough business module that made them some cash a year after. In the future, they would joke about how weed saved them from making a silly mistake.
The elevator doors opened. Yenkat stepped out and found herself facing the door to his suite. It was ajar. She pushed it in and walked in cautiously, praying in her heart that she would find him staring out from his massive balcony at the city skyline.
But she met no one. Silence welcomed her in. The place had changed a lot since her first and only visit. The furniture and décor were dark and grey, in typical Leonel style. The living room smelled of him.
“Leo?” Yenkat called, walking towards his bedroom. She heard a sound. “Leo?”
The sound got louder as she came to the door.
“Leo?” Like the front door, this one was ajar too. Yenkat pushed it in and entered. There was a human form standing at the balcony. She moved towards it, but saw, to her disappointment that it was a woman. It wasn’t Kyenpia.
The lady turned. Yenkat recognized her. She was Leonel’s personal assistant.
Leonel had trusted Anna with his life. She was efficient in her duties, and professional too. Those who knew him were aware that if you did not appease the goddess that was Anna when trying to get a favor from Leonel, you were wasting your time. Yenkat had never really liked her, and she had more reason to, when Kyenpia confided in her that she suspected that Leonel had had something with Anna in the past.
Anna didn’t look the type to sleep with her boss, though. But it was hard to even put her under a type. There were days she came off nerdy. Other times, there was a sexy woman in a tight, little skirt. Perhaps it was because she reminded Yenkat a lot about herself. Anna, like her, seemed to possess the mercurial power of being whoever she wanted to be.
Anna turned around. She appeared pail and exhausted, swaying like she was about to be blown off the railing by the wind.
The high altitude outside the penthouse came with strong winds. Today wasn’t so cloudy, though. The normal dusty January weather was returning after the faux show of rainfall.
Anna was wearing a sheer nightie. Short and transparent. Yenkat saw that she had a divine body underneath it. Her feet were bare. Her face looked like it had been washed with a torrent of tears. The sight of her cleared all doubt about Leonel.
“He fired me on his wedding day,” she said to Yenkat. “And it was your cousin’s fault.”
“She didn’t like me, so I had to go. I was so angry at him when he came to tell me we had to end it. We were at the resort. I was in my suite. He came in, dressed in his wedding tux. He looked good.” Anna smiled, pain on her face. “I just wanted to kiss him, and hold him and… But he said he had to let me go. He told me his wife was everything to him and he was done cheating on her.”
Anna laughed bitterly.
“Cheating? He called what we were doing cheating? I made him happy whenever she treated him like a postscript. She was in love with his cousin, for fuck’s sake! She loved him. She had a baby for him, not for Leonel! She constantly changed like broken Christmas lights, and yet, he chose her! I was so mad at him! I told him she would leave him for Ishi or just get into that her stupid feministic mode and act like she didn’t need him! But he didn’t listen.”
“Anna, none of that matters now.”
Anna ignored Yenkat’s words. “So, I told him I hated him, that he had ruined my life and I never wanted to see him again. He said ‘you don’t mean that, Anna.’ I said I did, and told him that I wished he died painfully and excruciatingly, because of the pain he was causing me.” Anna nodded. “I said that. I killed him. I killed the man I loved, the only man that ever loved me… I killed him with my words.”
Yenkat felt sorry for Anna, as much as she was hurting herself.
“You should come inside. You’re leaning dangerously on that railing.”
Anna threw her head backwards to stare down. “I’ve been thinking how easy death would be if I fell.”
“What am I living for?”
“You’re living for life, for your family, Anna. Trust me, you’ll put them through hell if you killed yourself. Just come inside.”
Anna looked at Yenkat and walked away from the railing. “I wasn’t planning to jump, though. I’m a coward.”
She walked past Yenkat, into the suite. Yenkat stayed back for a while, recalling memories from the past. This had been where she had smoked weed with Leonel. She could see him and hear his laughter now. How could he be dead? How is this happening? How do people go from being alive to lifeless? Who made the rules that existence must end?
She thought of Kyenpia and the grief she was currently feeling. What sort of torture was it to accept that she would face life without Leonel?
Yenkat didn’t understand these things. She began to feel some sort of heaviness she had never felt before, akin to dense clouds enfolding her, about to let loose a downpour of emotions.
She shut the balcony doors and went inside. Her eyes had to adjust to the darkness in the room for a couple of seconds, and when they did, they found Anna on the bed. Her face was buried in the sheets, hands gripping pillows on both sides as she wept. The agony was too much for Yenkat to handle.
Quietly, she made for the door and came out to the living room. She hurried through the front door. She got into the elevator and rode downstairs. The reception was rowdier than before. Yenkat wound her way through the crowd and strolled to the car park. Inside her car, she picked her phone and went online. Leonel was trending on Twitter and Facebook. It was still surreal to her. She clicked on one of his photos and stared at it for a long time, the same way she had done with Dashe’s photos. How could they both be gone like that?
Yenkat rubbed her eyes to stop the tears. She tried Kyenpia’s line once more. It rang and someone answered.
“Please, may I speak with Kyenpia?”
“She’s not taking calls at the moment. You could leave a message and I will pass it on to her.”
“Just tell her that I love her and I’m sending hugs her way. And please, could you call me when she starts taking calls?”
“Sure. Anything else?”
Yenkat hung up. She put her phone away and drove home.
®Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages