There was nothing he could do. Jordan was sticking to both Eva and Lexus.
“Kasi, if Lexus handle you, your life go reset, I swear!”
Kasi didn’t like the direction the conversation was going but Jordan pressed on.
“That girl, mehn, she’s…” he shook his head for effect. “But seriously, Kasi, you and her never…?”
“Never do wetin?”
Kasi didn’t even want to consider the question. Lexus was his friend. Anything outside that would destroy what they had. Besides, she was not his type; not that he had a particular type. He just loved females, no matter what size, complexion or height they came in. As long as they were feminine, he was game. But for Lexus, it was hard to say where she fit in. She was always dressed to cover her feminine features and she lacked the grace the average woman possessed.
But that was not the point. Jordan was trying hard distract him from the real issue at hand.
“You don ever see her dey do press-ups?” Jordan went on. “My guy, each time she drops down and works those muscles mehn, like say make I just die…”
Kasi had heard enough.
“JD, let’s get serious here, abeg. You know wetin go happen if Eva or Lexus find out?”
“And who wan come tell dem?” There was a raw tone in Jordan’s question. Kasi didn’t have to wait long to hear the inevitable. “I always got your back. I think you should do the same for me.”
“Mother and daughter, JD? It’s not normal na.”
“By whose standards?” Jordan laughed. It was humorless. “Yours? Let me refresh your memory over a certain night in a certain hotel in Bariga.”
Kasi felt his blood rise. “You’re bringing that up?”
“Calm down, dude. I just dey remind you say dis na Lagos and people go do anytin to survive.”
“I didn’t do anything!” Kasi bellowed.
“Guy, calm down na.” Jordan touched his shoulder and Kasi hit his hand off.
“I was talking about me. I have to survive. Eva oils my bank account while Lexus restores my youth. I think it’s the best threesome ever.”
Kasi hissed and turned away.
“No take panadol for my own headache o!” Jordan warned.
Kasi wore his headphones and entered the mall. He wasn’t going to spill anything to Lexus – at least, not directly. He smiled as a plan hatched in his head.
She slammed her service tray on the bar table and got a cutting stare from Genesis. Ever since the iPhone incidence, they hadn’t spoken with each other. Lexus had tried to offer an apology but Genesis made it obvious she wasn’t going to let her get off easily.
“If I serve any more drinks I’ll die,” Lexus groaned. “The idea of it being a nightclub is so that people can come to the bar themselves and get their drinks. I hate those people that sit down and wait to be served.”
Genesis could not hear a thing she was saying. The music coming from Kasi’s booth was deafening but she seemed to have adjusted to it quite quickly.
Lexus eyes panned the entire club, looking for something to excite her but it was the same old scene of people dancing under the influence of alcohol and the effects of a variety of lights. She was tired of clubs and bars and longed for a good old home party. As her mind considered throwing one the following weekend, a bunch of her friends, all males, stepped in. A smile spread on her face and she threw a wave at them. She motioned that she would be with them soon and pushed her tray towards Genesis.
“Four tequilas!” she instructed.
Genesis set to work and seconds later the tray was laden with four tequilas in double shot glasses, slices of lemon and a saucer of salt. Lexus drew the tray back to herself with a smile. She picked a glass, saluted to no one, licked salt off her hand and in one smooth take, sent the tequila down her throat before sucking on a slice of lemon. She repeated the same for the other remaining glasses and when she was done, went to join her friends. After exchanging pleasantries, one of them led her to the dancefloor and Kasi blessed them with an Avicii. He was Lexus’ favorite musician at the moment. She danced to his music and other songs that followed and would have gone on if another friend hadn’t made his way to her and flashed his phone in her face. She took a moment’s break and peered at the phone screen. Her face took on different expressions starting from confusion to amusement to disbelief and finally anger. She said something to her friends and exited the dancefloor, finding her way out of the club.
At the virtually-empty parking lot of the mall she whistled for a cab and waited till it pulled up beside her. It took her home where she kicked off her sneakers and sat herself in front of the TV to play a racing game. Wura was the only one at home. Ehi had gone to spend the weekend at her parents’.
Lexus was glad for the time alone. A gossip blog had posted news about Jordan sleeping with Eva and her at the same time. It had also released news about Dominic and his new girlfriend. Lexus was unsettled by both stories but she buried it all in her game. Two hours went by without her knowledge and even when Kasi and Genesis returned she remained in her spot. They both went to bed, leaving her alone in the sitting room. Another hour dragged along before she decided for a break.
But a sound drew her attention. It sounded like someone crying and it was coming from Wura’s bedroom. Lexus drowned out the low hum of music coming from the television and focused on the sound some more. It was hard to ignore, hence she took counted steps to Wura’s bedroom, and pressed her ear to the door. What she heard stunned her. She smiled in mischief and opened the door stealthily. The bedroom was dark but a security lamp outside gave perfect lighting that cast a dull, yellow glow on Wura’s bed where she was caught writhing and twisting in what seemed to be pleasure of some sort. Lexus took out her phone and set about recording a video of Wura having a wet dream. Whatever seemed to be bothering Lexus, if there was any, had been temporarily shoved aside to entertain her mind with her present discovery.
The dream didn’t last long. Wura jolted up from her bed with a horrified expression on her face. Lexus did away with her phone.
“Woo-woo? Are you okay?”
Wura didn’t seem to hear her. She parted her legs, put a hand between them and brought it to her face to stare at it in horror before dashing out of the bed and into the bathroom. Lexus couldn’t hold her laughter anymore. She let it rip as she left the room and walked to hers.
A freezing air welcomed her in and so did the sound of her ringing phone. She took the call. It was Jordan.
“How long, JD? You and Eva, how long?”
“You could at least say hi.”
“Okay, hi.” She put the phone on speaker and left it on her bed.
“I didn’t sleep with your mother, Lex.
That’s insane. I mean, I’d be really screwed-up to do that. Come on, baby, you know that blog was lying and I’m going to ask them to take down the post. I am not a gigolo. I’m a model. An honest, struggling model…”
“Who drives a Range Rover Sport and lives in Lekki Phase 1.” Lexus unbuttoned her red and yellow checked shirt.
“I got all that from a contract which will expire soon. Lexus, baby, you have to believe me. I have never slept with Eva.”
“Eva?” Lexus unclipped her bra. “You call her Eva now?”
“It was just a slip…” Jordan sighed. “I am not sleeping with her.”
“Are we good, baby?”
“Yeah. Yeah, we are. Why shouldn’t we be?” She pulled down her shorts and kicked them to a corner of the room where a pair of dumbbells rested.
“Good. So will you hang out with me and some of my friends later? It’s a barbecue thingy.”
“Eva… she’s throwing a party. I’ll let you know how it goes.” Lexus shimmied out of her thongs and flung her bra to the floor.
“You know I love you, shey?”
She hissed. “Tell that to girlfriend number five.”
She ended the call and cut him off as he began to laugh. Another call came in immediately. It was Eva. Lexus watched it ring for a long time before she answered.
“Woyintonbra?” Eva called in a gentle tone she hardly used.
“You did it again, madam. You found a way to make my life miserable as if giving birth to me was not enough.”
“That blog was lying and I swear to God, I’ll make them pay. The effrontery! Do you know what that story will do to my image?”
Lexus rolled her eyes. Eva was making it about herself as usual. She let her rant on until she was exhausted. She came back to earth and pulled out the gentle voice again.
“Sorry for any pain this has caused you, okay? And about your dad and that woman, I had no idea. I’ll do some digging and find out more on her. I’m sure they’re lying about that as well.”
“You and I should go out one of these days and…
“Woyintonbra, you can start calling me ‘mommy’ na. Am I not your mommy?”
Lexus let out a mock gasp. “You are?”
“No more ‘madam’ or ‘Eva’ like I told you to. You can now call me ‘mommy’ or ‘mom’, which is cooler.”
Lexus almost fell for it. Eva was a good actress and with a beautiful American-tinged accent she could infuse any type of emotion in her voice at will. But Lexus was not moved.
“Madam, I want to sleep now.”
She hung up and shut down her phone completely. A mosque in the area announced that it was 5:30am or thereabouts with its call to prayer. Lexus knew it was her cue to start her routine workout. She walked to her wardrobe which was basically a bookshelf that held all her clothes. She picked out a sports bra and yoga pants. Next, she turned on her CD player and began her workout.
The knock on the door woke him up. He swore something bad and lay on his back for a few seconds before heading for the door. He threw it open and there was Genesis standing before him. Her hair was not in spikes; she had a hairnet on. But her body again… it had him thinking impure thoughts. It was uncharacteristic of him to be taken by the figure of a woman that easily. There was just something very compelling and carnal about Genesis and he didn’t know what.
“Kasi, please can you tell Lexus to turn down the volume of the music in her room. The walls are thin and my dressing table is literally vibrating. I can’t sleep. Please…”
“I’ll talk to her. You can sleep in my room now if you want.”
“Thank you.” She pushed past him as she entered his room and he felt funny again. It wasn’t a pleasant sort of arousal. She made him uncomfortable.
He went to Lexus’ door and opened it without knocking, knowing she wouldn’t have heard him even if he did.
She was doing bicycle crunches for her abs. He picked a remote control and turned down the volume of her music. She got to her feet, panting hard.
“What’s up? Can’t sleep?” she asked.
“Genesis is in my room. You woke her up.”
“Oh. Didn’t mean to.” Lexus kept her legs in motion to steady her breathing. “You can crash here.”
Kasi didn’t need an invitation. He was already on her bed before she ended her sentence.
“Are you upset?” he asked.
“Jordan? No. Dad? Maybe.” She wiped her brows with the heels of her palms. She dropped to the floor and commenced her first set of push-ups. Kasi recalled what Jordan told him earlier and watched her with interest. There was something sexy about how effortlessly she went through the motions but more than that, Kasi could tell she was angry by how fast she went about it.
Exhausted, after a while, she fell flat to the floor and buried her head in her arms. Kasi snuggled under her blanket and was seeking his much needed sleep when he heard a sniff. He stopped moving and waited and he heard another. He rolled to the edge of the bed, his head hanging out to stare at her.
It took one touch from him and she hit the roof with her tears. Kasi hurried to her and lifted her off the floor and into his arms. She had the worst cry face he had ever seen and he was going to tell her that later but for the moment he held her.
“He’s still blaming me for Nimi’s death. And I know it’s all my fault. I was supposed to be watching her at Uncle Martin’s but…”
She couldn’t go on. She did not need to. Kasi knew the story about the man who was Dominic’s best friend, who took his place in her life from her pre-teen to her late teenage years. Dominic had trusted him and left Lexus in his care but the relationship turned a different course as the years wore on. It would have continued undiscovered had Dominic not walked in on them having sex in Martin’s home. Kasi was yet to know the full details of how things went down that day but the results left Martin dead by Dominic’s hand and a rift between father and daughter.
“I know this is not the best time to ask this but why Uncle Martin, of all people, Lex?” Kasi asked as she blew her nose in her earlier discarded shirt.
“Because he disvirgined me.”
Lexus lowered her shirt. “He first touched me when I was eleven.”
“He was not a bad person, Kasi.”
Kasi pulled away from her and looked into her eyes properly and saw that she wasn’t lying. For the first time everything began to make sense—why she had daddy issues, why she preferred dating deadbeat guys and why she kept her emotions hidden. Dominic had got it all wrong to think she turned wayward all on her own but he had got it right to end the life of the pedophile that sexually abused her.
But Lexus didn’t see Martin that way. Even in death, he still held higher ranking over Dominic. To her, Martin was the father she never had, the only man she loved. He taught her how to fix engines in his workshop, encouraged her to go partying, allowed her experiment with alcohol and boys, didn’t find offence over her obsession for tattoos, bought her first tattoo kit and even allowed her practice on his body. It might have sounded like a normal romantic relationship, only that it was not. Somehow the abused fell in love with her abuser. And Dominic was none the wiser for it.
Having heard the complete story, Kasi removed all blame from Lexus and placed it on Dominic and Eva. He held Lexus till her tears died down and tucked her in bed.
“You should tell your dad all you just told me.”
“And have him pitying me like you’re doing now? No way.”
She covered herself. Kasi headed to the door.He heard her muffled thanks to him as he shut the door.
The church was desolate when she got in. She sat behind and played with her toes, gripping and releasing her slippers. The pink of her nail polish stood in contrast to the bright yellowness of her slippers but both colors matched the arrangement on her dress. She stared at the blackened knuckles of her toes, a sure sign that she was bleaching her skin. Genesis had already offered to help her with better products; something like what madam used on her skin.
“But it’s costly o. 5K for the soap and 7K for the cream. Cleanser is 2K. But if you bring 13K, I’ll get it for you.”
Wura wanted skin like Madam’s or Jene’s. She wanted money for a new hair. She wanted to go back to school. She wanted so many other things but it seemed God wasn’t listening. And to add to her worries, her nightmares had resumed.
Wura looked up. It was Pastor Ralph, her closest friend and choirmaster. She stood and walked a long distance to where he was at the front of the church.
“Good evening, Pastor.”
“You came an hour before choir practice. Hope no problem?”
“Eva’s not bugging you?”
Wura shook her head. It was amazing how Pastor Ralph and Eva came from the same womb and yet were so different.
“Is it Woyintonbra?”
“No, no. Everything’s fine.”
“Okay, then. Let’s begin.”
Wura was singing but she croaked halfway. Her hands covered her mouth immediately and a giggle followed. She looked at Pastor Ralph; he was not amused but she could tell his sharp stare was harmless. A discordant note on the grand piano before him sounded as his hands dropped to his laps.
“What’s going on?” he asked. “Too much agoyin?”
Wura winced. “I think the key is high,” she squeaked.
He fingered a white note. “It’s on G.”
She bent over the piano and let her fingers over a full chord. “I think it’s on F.”
“You and this F sef. You sound better on G. But if you want it on F, I’ll need you to pick out the key yourself. Don’t strain your voice.” He put his fingers over the keyboard again. “Let’s go.”
Wura started from the top at a more convenient key for her and ran through the song without any problems.
“Good!” He was impressed. “So what was doing you the other time?” he questioned.
Wura shrugged and sat beside him. She looked up at the bright lights that hung high in the massive church hall and brought her eyes back down again, grazing over the unoccupied chairs. It was hard to believe that the same place would be packed to the brim in less than twenty-four hours with worshippers. It was harder to believe that she was sometimes allowed the privilege of leading those same worshippers to God with her voice, considering her past.
“Wuraola? What’s the matter?”
“He’s back. He came to my dream last night.”
Pastor Ralph scratched at his beard and went silent. She waited for a scolding to follow, for him to say he had told her time and again that she was more than a conqueror in Christ and a harmless dream couldn’t stop her but he didn’t say anything. He simply lowered his head and his lips moved in silent prayer. It was a habit of his. He prayed anywhere at anytime. He believed in the power of prayers but she believed more, in the power of his voice.
It was godsend. From the first time she heard it from the stage of that huge cathedral in Port Harcourt two years ago up until now, it still brought healing to her. She couldn’t believe she had almost missed that concert. She remembered her friend, Janet and how she bugged her for two days straight to accompany her there. Wura reluctantly agreed; not because she wanted to but because she couldn’t stand the fact that she would fall asleep and be visited by the strange, evil man that slept with her in her dreams. It had been going on for almost three weeks and at first she enjoyed it but when it went past the fourth day, she knew it wasn’t normal. She had tried everything from taking weed and cocaine before she went to sleep but nothing worked. What made her situation scarier was that she knew the man. He had come to Blue Room and asked for a private lap dance in their VIP room. When they got there, he asked for more and because she doubled as a prostitute on the occasion, Wura allowed him take her to a nearby hotel. There she had the best sex of her life that left her in pleasant shock and tears. She had slept with him without a condom and not long after discovered she was pregnant even as she was on the pill. She immediately aborted the baby and from that moment on the nightmares began. She never met him again; never even knew his name. Like a bad thought, he disappeared from sight but invaded her head.
She suffered his tortures until she met Pastor Ralph. Watching him sing on that stage was like watching Jesus himself. It was as if arms she couldn’t see wrapped themselves around her and held her, telling she was going to be fine. She wept throughout the entire time he sang and the moment he got off the stage, she went after him. She caught him in one of the backrooms and held him tight, refusing to let go, no matter how much the ushers tried to pry her away. The next day, she followed him to Lagos, leaving her old life behind. He helped her get a job at the mall and a place to stay. The friendship between them grew even though he was married with kids and seventeen years older. She had massive respect for him and he in turn, adored her as a younger sister.
“I just prayed to God to give me an answer for you but it seems he’s taking a power nap,” Pastor Ralph joked. Wura smiled. “Do you sometimes feel like you’re too sinful for God to change you?”
“I’m trying to don on my psychologist cap now and get into your head since the spiritual is off duty. Something must have triggered that dream. Can you recall anything that happened of recent? Maybe some fine bobo who gave you the hots?”
She laughed at his tone of voice. It was so easy to talk to him. He reminded her of her elder brother; they had a lot of things in common. Pastor Ralph was older, though. The first signs of grey were beginning to show in his beard.
“Yes, I met a guy.” Wura, in uneasiness, traced the pattern of the large, pink flowers on her yellow dress. She told him about Tokunboh.
“I haven’t stopped thinking about him. Is that the trigger?”
“No. Unless you were thinking dirty thoughts.” Pastor Ralph looked into her faced. “Were you?”
“A bit. I’m so sorry. I know I’m not supposed to but I can’t stop. I even planned to fast, which I didn’t but that’s not even the most annoying part, Pastor Ralph. I gave him my number and invited him to church!”
“Good? My intentions are not good!”
“You don’t have to follow up on those intentions, Wura.”
“But I can’t stop thinking about him! I’m afraid that I’d do things I’m not supposed to with him.”
“Wura you can’t win a race by expecting to fall flat to your face before you get to the finishing line.”
“So I should not see him, right?”
“And yet keep thinking about him in unhealthy ways?”
“What should I do?! I hate that he’s making me feel like this. Tell me not to see him.”
“I can’t. Pray and ask God for guidance. I think it’s time you stood on your own spiritual feet.”
Wura turned a sad face.
“And this guy…be honest with him, will you? Don’t hide anything. Being open and honest keeps you in check. You have a habit of being overly spiritual without being true to yourself.”
He was right. He was always right but for the first time it seemed Wura might have misinterpreted his advice.
After choir practice that evening as she sat in a bus on her way home, Tokunboh called and they had a long talk. It started with him telling her his name wasn’t Tokunboh.
“At least, that’s not what my parents named me. My real name is Mahmud. I’m from Katsina. I’m Muslim and that is why I might not join you to church tomorrow but I could drop you off there and take you back home.”
Wura couldn’t speak at first. Her suspicions about him being northern were confirmed but being of a different religion was not anticipated.
“Are you there, Wura?”
“Since we’re being honest, you should know my real name is Belinda…”
And she held back no details about her past life. She told him everything, excluding her nightmares. She felt weight off her shoulders as she bared it all out to Tokunboh. He didn’t interrupt her. He listened to all she said and when she was done, he asked if that was all she had to say.
“Yeah.” She felt bad for lying but there was no way she was going to reveal she was haunted by an incubus.
“Okay. I have to go now.” His tone was flat. Cold. Curt.
The line went dead.