Toni carried that look on her face that women are often said to have after a wonderful night with men they love. She just couldn’t stop smiling, although she had kept a composed demeanor when Andre took her home the next morning and plastered kisses on her face and neck.
“I’m going to miss you, Arinola.” He kept his constantly-focused eyes on her.
She wanted to tell him she would miss him too; instead she leaned over and kissed his chin. It was her favorite place on his body to kiss apart from his lips. She loved the way his stubble felt on her face
“I’m beginning to understand your subliminal language, young woman.” He laughed. “In other words, you’ll miss me too. It’s aiight. My regards to your mom and bon voyage.”
When he was gone and she was alone, Toni became mushy, listening to Rihanna and singing out loud while smoking. Leticia stood at her bedroom door and watched her in amusement. After some time, she interrupted the moment with applause. Toni looked at her and flashed wider the smile that won’t leave her face.
“You’re singing Love on the Brain, Antonia. Looks like Dre destroyed your kitty last night.”
Toni hiked her weight up. “He more than destroyed it, babe. I no fit shout.”
And thus she broke the news of her present relationship status. Leticia screamed so loudly and excitedly, one would think they were both dating Andre.
“So give me details of what went down.”
“I’m not telling you jor. You’ll go and mouth it off to Daisy.”
“Please nau! Details! Juicy details!”
“Okay… It was…wild, then mellow, and then really emotional. Dude will not let my boobs be…”
Leticia rolled her eyes. “Did you hear me say details?”
“I’m not telling you everything, Tish. You will not have my boyfriend in your head while you’re masturbating.”
Toni stood up, took off her underwear and found Leticia smiling.
“You just said ‘boyfriend’ so easily. Do you remember when you told me no guy was ever going to have that privilege?”
“Well,” Toni’s fingers played with the label of her G-string, “Andre is…how do I put it? He’s not just any guy. He’s…special.”
“That’s because he doesn’t worship at your feet.”
“That’s the truth. You can’t control him. He’s got you where not even Mark was able to. He has you trapped.”
“There’s no entrapment here; just two adults trying out the dynamics of a relationship to see where it goes.”
“I’m happy for you but I’m particularly happy for Andre.”
“You’re in love with him and when you love, you throw your all in. Dude doesn’t know how lucky he is.”
Toni’s face distorted into a frown as she walked into her bathroom. “Nobody said anything about love.”
“Says she who was just listening to Love on the Brain.”
Toni poked her head out. “There’s love, I won’t lie. It’s just not on the brain. It’s on the D-train.”
Christie started the morning in a low mood. There was no desire to go to church but she forced herself into a Sunday outfit, dressed Vanessa up and they both left the house. When they arrived at the church, she discovered they were a little late. She chose a seat at the back and sat through the entire service in melancholy. After the closing prayers, she hurried out to catch up with Cyrus Junior who was hastening out of the church.
“Hey,” she placed her hand on him and he turned.
“Good afternoon, mom.”
In response she gave him a hug.
“How are you?”
“I’m good.” He tickled Vanessa’s cheek, avoiding Christie’s eyes.
“Are you coming to visit this week?” Christie tried not to show her sadness.
“I’m not coming.”
“Why?” Vanessa pouted. “It’s Mommy’s birthday on Saturday.”
“So you’ll come?” Christie smiled. “I’ll cook, bake a cake, and then maybe we can have some drinks and watch a movie.”
She nodded and that was because she didn’t have anything more to say.
“I have to go.”
Christie nodded again and tapped his cheek but he removed his hand from her face and hugged her. “I’m not angry at you, mom,” he whispered.
She nodded for the third time, some sort of lightheartedness creeping into her. She stood and watched him get into his father’s car, which he had come with. She waved, he smiled back. A smile that vanished too quickly.
Christie managed through the week, sinking herself into work to get distracted from her present troubles. Raji became a major factor responsible for her stress. It was reported to her daily that he often came to work tipsy and was unable to attend to his duties. Izu was forced to fill in for him more than a few times. Christie avoided him as much as she could but she was worried. Raji was the type of man that did everything in extremity. He loved too intensely, worked himself to exhaustion, spent recklessly, and now he was crashing dangerously. It scared her to think that she was the only one who could stop him from falling over the edge. She didn’t want to have that hold on him anymore.
Izu had begged her to speak to him but she refused to, initially. She felt Raji could handle his issues on his own. She had only been a place where he buried his anxieties, and then a catalyst to expose his brokenness. She included him in her daily prayers and planned to continue until she saw a change. She didn’t care what anyone said or thought. The Raji she knew was a good man who had followed the wrong path just as she did. He also deserved redemption, and it was a burden upon her to send up prayers for him.
As for herself, she had determined to get past the tears to seek a way back into Folarin’s heart. She was tired of crying and feeling sorry. She didn’t care if Folarin punished her for the next ten years as long as he stopped acting like she didn’t exist. Whether he liked it or not, he was going to speak to her before her birthday came. She didn’t want to get into her new year without him.
And thus, first thing Thursday morning, she called Toni and begged for her help. She was out of options.
Toni went into thinking mode and came up with a quick apology plan.
“Well, since he doesn’t want to listen to you, we will take extreme measures.”
“I have the perfect plan on how to get him back to you, Christie. Know that you owe me one.”
“As long as I get him back, Toni, I’ll give you anything you ask for in return.”
“Remember you said that.”
“So what’s this plan?”
Toni laughed. “Relax. I wish I was in Nigeria to handle it myself. All the same I have a jobless assistant who will be glad to do it. All I need from you is a picture that we can crop your face out of but your husband will recognize easily.”
“Secondly, what’s the pet name you use on him?”
“Oh, quite a few. But he likes ‘chief’. It was what I used to call him when we started dating.”
“Great. Lastly, I’ll send my PA’s account number for you to wire some money in. It will cost you oh!”
“I don’t care how much.”
“Is that all?”
Christie sighed in relief. “So, gist me what this plan is.”
“Naa. I’m surprising you too. Just get ready. Everything will be put in place tomorrow. By evening, you’ll have him in your bed.”
“Thank you, Toni.”
“You owe me.”
That afternoon, after a meeting, Izu cornered Christie outside her office.
“I am not talking to him,” she said before he uttered anything.
“Christie, we need Raji back in his good head for business. Please, talk to him, for the sake of Covet.”
“You do realize how awkward it’s going to be for me and him, right?”
“I know but he needs to straighten out.”
“Fine. Fix a lunch date.”
“Done already.” Izu stared at his wristwatch. “You have fifteen minutes on the clock. The venue is The Place.”
“I hate you, Izu.”
“If I discover this is some ploy by Raji…”
“It’s not. It’s all me. I want you guys to talk, iron out your issues and let’s move forward. Covet cannot suffer because of an affair gone bad.”
Christie said no more. She entered her office, picked her phone and left. Her driver took her to The Place where Raji was already waiting. In his usual gentlemanly manner, he rose up when she approached and pulled out her chair.
She murmured in reply and sat down. Raji called over a waiter.
“I’m not taking anything,” she said. She was on the last day of her ten-day fast.
“No, thanks. Water, maybe.”
The waiter came by and Raji made orders.
“So, how have you been?” he asked when they were alone. He looked into her eyes; she returned the stare. Gone was the spark between them. He was just Raji, her friend and partner.
“I’m good, Raji, but quit with the questions. This is not a date to catch up on missed time. This is two friends meeting to have a difficult conversation.”
“Raj, we’re all worried about you and your drinking problem.”
“We or you?”
“We, me, what difference does it make?”
“Go on,” he mumbled.
“It’s affecting your responsibilities in the office and generally putting you in a bad light. You have to pull yourself together.”
“Christie, you have no idea how heartbroken…”
“Raji, we’re over. We’ll never get back together. I’m doing everything I can to win Folarin’s love and I think you should do the same with Salma. If not for anything, for the kids. They’re still too young to comprehend what is going on. Deejah and Leelah are just four-years-old, Raj. They can’t even bathe themselves or tie their shoe laces. Can’t you think about them, sacrifice your feelings for me and do the right thing? Can’t you find that love you once had for Salma and start all over again?”
“She shut me out, Christie. I did something stupid with Comfort, but I apologized and retraced my way back to her. I tried everything to make her happy but Salma shut me out for three years. Am I supposed to be begging her forever? You act like you don’t know what I went through.”
“I know, Raj. I remember everything but here again, you made another mistake. Insisting that you still love me and drowning yourself in alcohol will not fix things. Going back to Comfort is not the solution, either. Stop being selfish and acting like a confused human being. Make a move in the right direction, Raj.”
Raji played with the cuffs of his shirt. “I’ve actually accepted that we can’t go back to what we used to be, and that’s why it’s so difficult. Living in the delusion that you would come back to me was much easier. It kept me in a bubble. But I’m facing up to the truth, hence the drinking. It numbs me. I see you every day and I can’t kiss you or touch or feel you. It kills me Christie.”
“Channel all of that to Salma. Forget the divorce and how much she wants to make you hurt. That’s just because she loves you. And I think that if you truly change and show her that you’re on your way to being a better man, she might take you back.”
“What if I don’t want to be married anymore? What if I’d rather remain single?”
“As long as you’re always going to be there for the kids and keep a cordial relationship with Salma, I think it’s okay. But seriously, if you still love her, then fight to have her back.”
The waiter returned with their drinks. Christie smiled at him and waited until he was gone to have a sip.
“But seriously, how are you?” Raji asked in unveiled concern.
“Folarin? How’s he holding up? You think maybe I should call and apologize?”
“I think you should.”
Raji had a full gulp of his drink. When he returned the glass to the table, Christie reached out and touched his hand.
“Please, go back to Salma. Do it for me, Raj. And also go back to God.”
His gaze fell on her hand and she pulled it back, rising to her feet.
“You’re leaving? Sit and let’s talk about the Etisalat meeting tomorrow.”
“Raji,” Christie smiled, “that was how it all started. Business talks over harmless dates. I’m not falling for that again. Have a nice day.”
She made her exit. That night, she slept well for the first time in almost two weeks. A huge burden had been taken off her shoulders, knowing her amorous chapter with Raji had finally been closed.
Raji, on his own end, took her advice and went home to Salma for a much needed conversation. They had dinner with the kids and after putting them to bed, he followed Salma into her bedroom.
“Comfort is on her period?” she asked in sarcasm as she cleared clothes off her bed.
“Comfort means nothing to me, Sal.”
“Really? Was that the same thing you were saying about me to Christie?”
“Sal, can we talk without any drama?”
“It’s your house. I’m still your wife. I have no right to refuse you anything you want. So, sit.”
Raji lowered himself on her bed. Salma took the other end, looking away as she folded her clothes.
“I know that if I say I’m sorry it would be a waste of your time.”
“Thank God you know.”
“But it doesn’t stop me from saying it. I’ve hurt you, Sal. I’m sorry. And really, I’m not asking you to take me back.”
“I wouldn’t even dare.”
“What I want is for us not to end up as enemies. I don’t know if we can find a way to heal from this but I think we should try for the sake of the kids.”
Salma replied in silence. Her hands worked in swift motion as she continued folding her clothes.
“I feel we’re rushing things.”
“The children need time to accept that we are divorcing and adjust to the changes.”
Salma leaped up. “What are you trying to do?! You think you can use the kids to keep me bound to you?!”
“No, Sal.” He looked at her. “I just don’t want us to rush things.”
“I am not rushing anything! I have endured pain and heartache from you, Raji Asepita! I just want to be free of you and have my peace of mind! Leave me alone!”
Raji sighed, rubbing his forehead. “Salma…”
“Don’t call my name! Just go away, Raji! Leave!”
Raji stood up but disregarded her command. He moved towards her.
“Raji, leave! And seriously, go and be with Comfort or with Christie or with whomever! I don’t care!”
“Stop being inflexible, Salma. I’ve signed the divorce papers and agreed to everything you demanded. All I’m asking right now is that we delay ending things abruptly. You and I need to come up with a plan to break the news to the kids and how the whole living apart is going to happen.”
“Fine. I’ll write my own suggestions down and give my lawyer and he’ll give it to your lawyer…”
“For God’s sake, Salma! Why are you being this problematic?!”
“Because I still love you!” she pronounced, breaking down. “I still love you, Raji, despite everything. I still want you here with me, every day. Not with anyone else… I want us back to when it was just two of us…”
She lost steam, unable to continue. She wheeled away from him to hide her face in a dress, and for the first time, Raji empathized with her. It was the same way he felt over losing Christie.
He placed his hand on her shoulder.
“Please remove your hand from my body, Raji.”
Stubbornly, he moved closer.
“Salma, I’m sorry.”
“You’re not. You’ll never be. And somehow it makes you happy that I just revealed to you how I feel for you.”
“It does not, Sal. Trust me.”
She plopped down on the bed. Raji sat beside her and forced the dress off her face. The distressing look he saw on her put him to shame.
She grabbed his collar and dove for his lips. The shock of her attack left him motionless but when he gathered his wits, he responded with the same urgency she gave.
She didn’t taste of experience like Christie or Comfort. She was unapologetically Salma, pure and virgin like the first time she gave him her body and the thousand other times that followed. She had kept him wanting her for exactly one year, and when she finally decided to give him the honors to be her first, it wasn’t without a promise from him.
“I’ll never hurt you, Sal,” he had stated. “You’ll be the only woman.”
It was easy then to swear, because he loved her and was willing to do anything to keep her.
But now, it all sounded like a different Raji to him. He was not the man he used to be; and he didn’t even recognize who he was anymore.
Salma, however, hadn’t changed after all the years. She was still pristine as he had known. Even when he entered her now, he had to guide himself in slowly, inch after inch, so as not to hurt her. He was gentle and as affectionate as he could be. She responded to his thrusting hips and they found a familiar rhythm they had worked with through the years.
They went safe and slow, in fine, circling movements until he was seized by a rush of sensation that made it hard for him to keep going on.
Later on they both lay on their backs in silence. When he reached out to hold her, she moved away and gave him her back.
“After watching the videos of you and Christie having sex, I knew two of us would never connect in that level. When I kissed you and decided to have sex with you just now, I wanted to see if you could be that way with me and if there was anything worth saving here but there isn’t, Raji. So we’re done. Please, go.”
He wore his clothes. “Think about what I suggested. We need more time.”
Raji left the room to the master bedroom. He spread out on the floor and lashed himself mentally.
You shouldn’t have kissed back. You shouldn’t have touched her… you shouldn’t even have married her in the first place.
He felt like a colossal ass, knowing that even if he tried, he could not be the man Salma married seven years ago.
Christie had hit the nail on the head in her assessment of him. He was selfish and confused, and didn’t even know what he wanted anymore.
Some might call it midlife crisis or just a man having some form of breakdown.
But to Raji, he knew he was hitting rock bottom. He saw the fall coming but he didn’t know what to do to stop it.
Christie woke up, as usual – with a heavy heart, even though she had slept well. It was another day without Folarin in her life, and not even the promise of Toni’s marvelous plan could make her smile. But her morning prayers somewhat gave her succor.
Folarin and Savanna were already out of the house. Christie’s driver was waiting outside, set for the day. When she was dressed, she got into the car and they headed to the office. It didn’t take long for her to spot a huge billboard belonging to Covet displaying her photo with her face cropped out as Toni had promised. Below it was the caption “I’m sorry, Chief. I want to make everything right again.”
Christie gasped. She couldn’t believe her eyes. Toni had gone all out. She didn’t even think she would pick that particular picture. She had sent her several; including a collection from a photo shoot she did almost five years ago just for fun. The picture was one of them.
Christie was certain Folarin saw the billboard on his way to the office. She wondered what he thought of it. But knowing who he was, it was going to take a lot more to get a reaction out of him.
She heard her phone ringing in her handbag and hoped to God it was him but when she saw that it was Raji, she ignored the call. Soon, her driver’s phone was ringing too. She knew it was Raji still. She was about to tell the driver not to take the call but the man answered and passed the phone over to her.
“Good morning, Christie. How are you doing?”
“Great. Any problem?”
“All our electronic billboards have been hijacked by you. Very lovely pictures, I must say, but Christie, those billboards are for business, paid for by clients. Their ads need to be up there and not you. Secondly, APCON is going to fine our asses because the posters weren’t vetted.”
“Have they contacted us yet?”
“Then what’s the stress? I’m trying to save my marriage here, Raji. Can’t I just have this for today?”
“I’m sorry, Christie, but give orders that those posters be taken down or I’ll give the orders myself. They didn’t pass through my table for approval. This type of behavior hurts business.”
“Why are you so mean? You’re just jealous of Folarin and I think you’re drunk already. Look, Raj, forget about me. Totally.”
“You wanted me back in my business frame of mind and in my senses…”
“No, this is not you back in your senses. This is you being an ass. If I meant anything to you as you said, you would want my happiness. So just go screw yourself or jump off a cliff so that I can bury the memory of you and forget about you totally!”
She ended the call and tossed the phone aside, forgetting it didn’t belong to her. Obviously, she had spoken to a brick wall the day before and it angered her. He had sounded drunk on the phone, the practical asshole he was, and the morning hadn’t even started! She was through with him and didn’t care what he chose to do with his life. She was going to suggest to the management board to have him transferred to their new office in Abuja. Business there was down anyways. If he chose to ruin it further, it was not her concern. She was tired of him.
“Ma, please my phone,” the driver told her.
She passed the phone back. The journey wore on and two more billboards of her apology to Folarin were encountered along the way. She watched commuters’ reactions and saw that it was getting quite the attention it deserved. But was it getting the attention of the right person?
Later on in the office, Christie would come to realize that Toni had also used popular blogs to send across her message to Folarin. By midday, the hashtag #WhoIsChief? trended briefly.
Christie waited for Folarin’s phone call but nothing came. As the day ended, she became sadder. It seemed all their efforts had gone to the bin. There was only one last chapter of the plan left but she didn’t have hope it would work. The iciness of Folarin over the past week was something new and if none of what Toni did earlier got to him, then nothing could break into his resolve.
Christie rubbed her eyes. She yawned while doing so, just as the door to her office opened and her assistant walked in.
“Ma, you said to remind you about the meeting with the Etisalat guys by 4pm.”
“It’s already 4pm?”
“Twenty minutes to, ma.”
“Um… Tell my driver I’ll be out in the next ten minutes and then call Asepita’s office to remind him.”
“There’s a bit of a problem. I just got word from his secretary that he’s not around. Seems he won’t be attending the meeting.”
“He’s not been in the office all day and no one can reach his phone.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? Go and call that secretary.”
The assistant rushed out while Christie tried dialing Raji’s number. She got a dead tone twice. Her assistant returned with his secretary.
“Where is your boss?”
“Ma, he came into the office this morning, stayed until around ten and then he just left. He didn’t tell me where he was going. I have been trying his phone all day.”
“Was he drunk when he came in?”
“No. He seemed normal.”
“Which one is normal? Was he drunk?”
“A little, ma.”
Christie sighed in frustration. “Why is Raji doing this nau? This Etisalat thing is his gig. What am I supposed to go there and say? I don’t even know what they’ve discussed before now.”
The two girls stared at her in uneasy silence.
“And Uchendu, is he in?”
“Head of accounts nko?”
Christie got up and started out. Her assistant ran after her with her phone and handbag.
“I need you in my house tomorrow morning to help do some shopping,” she instructed.
Christie stopped and picked her things from her.
“Happy birthday in advance, ma.”
Christie waved back. She tapped on her phone. It came on and she opened her call log to get Izu’s contact. She dialed him and he answered.
“Izu, have you seen Raji today?”
“No. I tried calling him some minutes ago and couldn’t get through. I was about to call you sef. Berna just put to bed. It’s a boy.”
“Are you serious? Congratulations!”
“How is she?”
“Tired. The baby’s fine too.”
“Awww, my love to them. I’ll check on you guys once I’m done with my meeting.”
“The one you and Raji were supposed to go for?”
“Yes, and I can’t find him.”
“I’m sure he’s drunk somewhere. How did the talk yesterday go?”
“A waste of my time, clearly.”
“Wow. Well, if I get news on him, I’ll call you.”
“Okay. I have to rush off,” Christie said, coming out to the street where her driver was waiting with the car.
She got into the backseat. A message from Mosun she had ignored earlier popped up on her screen as a reminder.
“Shoot. How did I forget this?” she groused.
Mosun had informed Christie that her (Mosun’s) mother was in town and presently staying at hers. She wanted Christie to send the driver over to pick her because the old woman was whining about not having seen her son in a while.
Christie had made a mental note to tell the driver to go pick her but somehow she forgot. Now, however, was not a good time.
She tried calling Folarin to find out if he was less busy but his phone rang unanswered. Christie tried one more time and still couldn’t get through. She put her phone aside and applied makeup on her face. The meeting was more important at the moment.
Lade’s appetite was returning and she was beginning to crave certain things. Today, all she wanted was Farm Fresh yoghurt. She had plans to slice bananas into it, throw in some crushed ice, chopped fried groundnuts and enjoy the mix as she watched Sleepy Hollow with Leticia.
But Leticia would rather talk. If left alone, she could talk all day and night. She always had something to say. Once she had looked at a fly perched on the floor and had gone into this gist about how she found a fly in her meal in a classy restaurant and how the manager had apologized his ass off and ended up dating her for a month. She then switched the topic to short relationships and how they made her sick. The only consolation would be if the sex was good. Next, she switched to sex and finally, stopped at abortion, which Lade realized made her uncomfortable.
It was the same manner every day since Toni traveled. Leticia will talk her to boredom and bring her back to life again. She was glad Dapo was there to even things out sometimes. He was awesome company whenever he was around, although he would rather spend his time with Daisy next door who was almost ten years older than he was. Leticia was not happy about the association; she had cautioned Daisy about Toni finding out. Daisy, in reply, maintained there was nothing going on between them.
“He likes my children. Is anything wrong with that?”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Leticia added. “I don’t even know why I introduced you guys to each other sef.”
This evening, Dapo was with Daisy again. Lade could hear them outside, laughing like old friends. She left the house and the moment Dapo spotted her, he let out a smile.
“Iyawo, what’s up?”
Lade wished he would stop calling her Iyawo. She was leaving his brother. The name always made her feel guilty for her decision.
“Please, I need to go to that supermarket on the next street to buy some yogurt. Can you take me?”
She had spoken in Yoruba; it was a clear statement to Daisy that she wasn’t liked.
“No wahala.” Dapo looked at Daisy. “Daze, let me take this my wife to get something in that supermarket.”
“Okay but please can you help me buy diapers for my baby? Size 3. Huggies.” She stood up. “Let me get my ATM. I don’t have cash on me.”
“Your ATM?” Dapo asked. “That means you’ll tell me your pin?”
“Abeg, just keep the card. I’ll buy the Huggies. What does it look like?”
“It’s this big.” She opened her hands in description. “Transparent bag. It’s like 72 inside.”
“Thank you.” Daisy smiled coquettishly.
Dapo took Lade’s hand and they strolled out of the compound. Once inside his car, Lade rested reprimanding eyes on him.
“She is already asking you to buy things for her?”
“Who? Daisy?” He started the car.
“It’s just diapers. I’m sure it’s like a thousand bucks.”
“No, it’s a lot more than that. She knew this and that was why she came up with the ATM move. Classic.”
Dapo laughed, turning the car onto the street. “You’re so cute when you look out for me, iyawo. Don’t worry, I’m fine. If she rapes me, I have you women to defend me.”
“Shaking my head at you.”
“You can just shake it, rather than say it.”
Lade shook her head this time.
“So, are you serious about leaving Tayo?”
“Let’s not have that conversation, Dapo.”
“Is it because of that Manny person?”
“Manny has nothing to do with it.”
“Are you sure?”
Lade was sure. She wasn’t leaving Tayo to hop on Manny’s lap. She couldn’t deny that there was strong chemistry between them nor could she hastily forget the steamy kiss he gave her just last night. But she only loved him as a friend. She wasn’t going to let herself get entangled with him as some form of gratitude for giving her the career she always wanted. He was her manager and she would keep the relationship strictly professional.
“I’m sure. I’m not going to date him.”
“Glad to hear that.”
Dapo turned the street and came to the next. On their right was a large supermarket. He parked his car and they walked in. Lade helped in picking out Daisy’s baby’s diapers but she picked something far cheaper and smaller. Dapo caught on and replaced what she had taken with the specific one Daisy asked for.
“Wait till she starts demanding you pay school fees.”
Lade picked two bottles of her yogurt, alongside some snacks for Leticia. On their way out, she bumped into Lulu who was making her way in with some guy.
Both ladies stopped, saying nothing but staring stiffly at each other.
“Excuse me, girls.” A woman pushed through and Lade shifted aside.
“Hi Lulu,” she finally said.
“Let’s go outside,” Dapo suggested. All three of them, including Lulu’s companion stepped out of the supermarket. Lade and Lulu pulled to a corner.
“So you’re in this town, Lu.”
“Of course I am. Where else will I be?”
“Lulu, I lost my baby, I almost died, and you never came to see me or call me or even text me.”
Lulu pulled a confused face.
“You lost your baby?”
“Please stop acting like you’re just knowing.”
“I’m just knowing! When was this?”
“Like three weeks ago. How can you not know? Manny didn’t tell you?”
“Manny? Me and Manny have not spoken since.”
Lade’s face mirrored Lulu’s confusion. Manny told her he had given Lulu the news of what happened to her.
“Are you sure he didn’t tell you?”
“Haba. How can Manny tell me that kind of thing and I’ll not come and see you? You sef. You should know me by now. I was calling your line at some point but you didn’t answer, so I figured you got back with your husband and abandoned us again.”
“I didn’t. Manny was with my phone when I was on admission.”
“You lost your baby?”
“I did,” Lade replied. “And it was terrible, not like the other miscarriages. I was bleeding so badly that to save my life they had to take my uterus out.”
“Jesus!” Lulu clutched her chest. “It’s a lie, Omolade.”
“I went through hell, Lulu. I saw death with these two eyes.”
“When did this happen?”
“Not long after I left your house nau. In short, the next day. I fought with Tayo that night and by morning, I told Manny to come and pick me.”
“Did Tayo beat you again?”
“No. Just normal shouting and insults, so I left the house with some of my things, hung out with Manny and stayed over at his place. It was about midnight or thereabouts that I started bleeding. Manny rushed me to the hospital. I was thinking it was the normal miscarriage thing I used to have only for me to start bleeding like mad. The doctors tried everything but they couldn’t stop it, so they had to take out my uterus.”
Lulu’s eyes moistened up. She was speechless listening to Lade give details of her horrific experience.
“What did you eat that day?” she eventually asked.
“What did I eat? Haba Lulu, you’re supposed to know that miscarriages most times have nothing to do with what you eat.”
“I know why I’m asking. What did you eat?”
“Pancakes and scrambled eggs in the morning with tea. Then I had some Chinese food with some chick from Guru and Monet. At night, I wasn’t hungry, so I asked Manny to buy me yogurt. None of those things contributed to my miscarriage and like I said, it’s not by what you eat.”
Lulu went quiet again. She sank to the floor, sitting down on a slightly elevated slab leading into the supermarket. She began to weep. Lade sat also and held her.
“Don’t cry, Lu. I’m over my tears now. God knows best and I think it’s all for good.”
“How can you say it’s all for good?”
Lade chuckled. “It is. God let it happen for a reason and I don’t think it’s a bad reason.”
“God has nothing to do with it,” Lulu said vehemently, pulling out of Lade’s hold.
“Lade, what I’m about to tell you will hurt you. It will break your heart and it might put me in trouble but I can’t keep quiet. My conscience will not let me.”
“I don’t understand.”
Lulu covered her face for a bit. “Manny will kill me.”
“What does that mean? What did Manny do?”
Lulu let down her hands and looked into Lade’s eyes. “I am not sure but I think Manny is responsible for the loss of your baby and womb.”
“What are you saying?”
“Like I said, I am not sure.”
“Please, I’m confused here. Say what I can understand.”
“Okay. Remember when you were at the hospital due to Tayo’s beating?”
“We were all very angry at him. Remember how Manny was so angry?”
“Well, that anger didn’t die that day or the next. In fact, we both were not happy when you didn’t miscarry. We were like the baby still keeps you tied to Tayo. My own was out of concern for you. With all the stories on Facebook of women dying in the hands of their husbands, I didn’t want you to end up as a statistic. I thought Manny felt that way too. Sha, we both came up with a plan to slip in an abortion pill into your food or drink so that you’ll miscarry.”
Lade sprang up in shock.
“I bought the pill but I couldn’t sleep. I was having a change of mind. I now called Manny that Monday and we talked about the plan but I told him that I couldn’t go through with it, that it was wrong. I told him you really wanted that baby and I was scared that if we did anything something might go bad. Manny was angry and cut off the line. He now wired 100k into my account, knowing how desperately I needed money. I sent him a text to thank him and he and I never communicated since then. I swear, Lade, I didn’t know he went through with it. And I’m praying that he didn’t because if he did…”
Lade threw her hand across Lulu’s cheek. The impact of the slap was so hard that Lulu fell backwards.
“You planned to kill me!” Lade screamed. “You and Manny connived to kill me! You wanted to destroy my life! Tayo was so right about you people!”
Dapo and Lulu’s friend rushed to the scene.
“You poisoned me!” Lade seethed.
“I did not.” Lulu held her cheek. “I threw the pill away, I swear!”
“God will judge you!”
“What’s going on?” Dapo held Lade.
“God will judge you!”
Dapo picked her handbag and dragged her to the car as she threw out more insults at Lulu. On their way home, she wept dejectedly. He was unable to get a word out of her. The moment they got home, she went into her bedroom and locked herself in.
“What’s going on?” Leticia, who had just returned from work, asked.
“I have no idea. She bumped into her friend at the supermarket and things got hairy. She slapped the girl and accused her of trying to kill her. She accused Manny of the same thing too.”
“Hian. She didn’t say anything to you?”
“Well, I have Manny’s number. We should call him.”
“Not yet. Tayo and Toni are on their way. Tayo will handle her better. Let’s wait for her to either calm down or for Tayo to return.”
They got quiet, which was a little uncomfortable. An incident that occurred between them during the bikini party a week ago was responsible for the awkwardness. Dapo had attended the party and bumped into Leticia in one of the VIP rooms. In her manner of drinking alcohol, she consumed more than she needed, danced with him and kissed him. But when she realized her cosmic screw-up, she played the older sister card and scolded him for taking advantage of her.
Dapo didn’t react to her drama. He simply continued the night as if nothing happened and never brought up the issue again.
“You bought that for Daisy’s baby?” Leticia ended the silence as her eyes strayed to the pack of diapers sitting on a couch.
“Yeah. Let me take it to her.”
Leticia didn’t approve of friendship with Daisy, and she blamed herself for it. If she hadn’t forced her lips on him, he wouldn’t have chosen Daisy as preferred company to be with. Also if she hadn’t told the mother of two that Dapo was way richer than Tayo, Daisy wouldn’t have given him a second look. Now, she was left with the task of fighting her off him.
“You shouldn’t be buying her things, Dapo. She’s a user. She’s probably after your money and the best way to get it is to manipulate you because you’re younger.”
“I’m fine, Leticia. Thanks for the concern, though.”
The word on Leticia’s tongue was ‘ho’ but she chose something gracious.
“…in-between relationships. And I mean, she has baby-daddies. And she may be trying to make you the third. And…”
“Leticia, it was just a kiss.”
“Nothing more. I’m sure you don’t even remember it. But I do, and I’m saying it’s okay. I’m not doing the ‘I kissed you and I’m jumping on your neighbor move’. No. It was just a kiss.”
“That long speech was totally unnecessary, Dapo. You can go.”
She watched him leave and slapped herself – literally. Hot and sharp on her cheek. She did it the second time to rearrange her defective thinking faculty, which was telling her that it hadn’t been just a kiss she shared with him.
He’s growing on you, Leticia.
As a younger brother, she corrected herself.
He was way too young for any type of weird attraction to occur between them. Besides, Toni would totally kill her if she tried any funny business.
“Behave, Aunty Leticia,” she said out loud, walking into her bedroom.