Wura groaned and fought hard from stomping her foot in agitation. She was having a bad day already. First, she had had another of her nightmares. Second, Mahmud was yet to call her; it was a week since they last spoke and she had called twice and gotten an engaged line. Third, she was late for church. Fourth, an unsightly zit had popped up above her upper lip. Fifth, her skirt was a little too tight and she didn’t have a replacement. And sixth, her period appeared from the blue, which would explain the fourth and fifth.
Jesus, why me?
She groaned and took off her stained underwear. She flung it in a bucket in her bathroom and hurried out to the sitting room, a towel around her body. Checking to see that Kasi was nowhere in sight, she called out, “sanitary pad, anyone! Two preferably!”
Genesis looked up from where she was seated at the dining area. She was sucking on a lollipop and clipping her toenails. “Tampon?”
“Anything. Even a rag will do.”
Genesis got up and walked to her bedroom.
“Wura, you’re so irregular,” Lexus murmured, stirring a steaming mug of coffee as she took Genesis’ chair at the table. “You had to go get your period just after three weeks.”
“Great. It’s going to spread like a virus now and all of you’ll start bitching,” grumbled Kasi who was emerging from his bedroom with a girl that had spent the night with him. Wura wrapped herself properly in her towel and waved a greeting to the girl before going into Genesis’ bedroom.
“Pick.” Genesis opened a box containing different brands of tampons. Wura picked three.
“Go dress up and come back let me do your makeup.”
“I’m already very late for church. Thanks, though. But I want to ask you something, Jene.”
“Go ahead, darling.”
“How much is too much when you want to come clean with a guy about your past?”
Genesis placed the sanitary box on her bed. She rubbed her left eye, peeled out a strip of fake eyelashes and stared at it as if it was alien. “You mean coming clean about how many other guys you’ve slept with?”
“In the past, yeah.”
“Never tell the truth.” Genesis dropped the fake lashes in a paper bin close to the door. “Never go beyond four.”
“Yes. Tell him you slept with only four guys.” She took to the bed and continued with her toenails. “Number one was your first; turned out he was an idiot and he broke your heart. Number two was angry sex guy; your friends took you to a club to drink and drown in your heartbreak and you had sex with a total stranger in the back of his car, something which you regretted. Number three was the actual rebound guy; you guys dated for a while but it didn’t work. And number four was your closest male friend.”
Wura laughed. “What? For real?”
“Trust me. No one knows more about friends and sex like guys. They invented the ‘friends with benefits’ and ‘friendzone’ memes. The idea of a close female friend having sex with them turns them on. But don’t forget that the number four guy is dead now. You don’t want your new guy being worried that you might still go back for the occasional sex; you just want him believing you’re a naughty girl underneath that pretty angel face.”
Wura laughed again. She was starting to like Genesis. They had a few things in common like their love for music and peppery meals. In addition, Genesis could sing almost as much as she could. But it was her maturity and life’s experiences that drew Wura to her. Wura was enthralled like a young sailor learning from an old wayfarer who had sailed around the world and possessed a great deal of wisdom to impart. One thing was certain: Genesis was unlike anyone she had ever met. She was a wanderer who went anywhere the wind blew. The only problem was that Wura wasn’t so sure what type of wind blew her.
“So basically, I should have lied,” Wura mumbled mostly to herself. “Thanks for the advice sha.”
“Can I ask you something, Wura? Hope you wouldn’t mind.”
“What is it?”
“Early this morning I walked into your room to borrow a blade but you were still sleeping. I saw something, though…”
Wura’s stomach churned.
“You were having a wet dream and… it seemed pretty intense. Did you remember it when you woke up?”
Wura thought about lying but Genesis’ round, knowing eyes made her uneasy.
“Hmm.” The round eyes slowly came to squints. “Does it happen often?”
Again, Wura was tempted to lie.
“You enjoy these dreams?”
“No.” The answer was immediate.
“Have you ever heard of an incubus before?”
“We call it Spirit Husband here.”
Wura became really uncomfortable. Genesis had just confirmed her suspicions and it was contrary to Pastor Ralph’s deductions. To him, her encounters were set off by impure thoughts and could be done away with God’s word, prayers and a right attitude towards the opposite sex.
“It’s a demon,” Genesis continued. “And it wants your soul.”
Wura felt an instant chill. “Jene, I have to go. We’ll talk when I get back.”
“I can help sha,” Wura heard Genesis add as she headed back to her room. She took a second to drown out the conversation before she began to dress up for church. Her clothes, makeup and hair were done in a record ten minutes. She picked her handbag and bible and dashed out, nearly running into a grumpy Ehi who was just getting in from her parents’. It wasn’t unusual to have Ehi cut short her weekends at home; like Lexus, there was always one family drama or another that ruined her stay with her folks.
Wura did a quick wave to everyone and dashed out. The sun was unfriendly and the instant she stepped out of the comfort of the cool house, she was assaulted by prickly heat in her underarms.
“Aunty, you dey go?” An okada roared before her and its rider gave an expectant look but she shook her head and began a quick walk down her street. “Easy o! This upstairs you climb so! Make you no come fall.” The okada man was referring to her six-inch platform heels and it made her smile.
Oga, I’m fine o, she replied him in her head.
Learning how to move in heels was the only good thing she kept from her stripper days. That, and maybe how to move her waist. She smiled as the second thought passed through her mind. Then she thought of Genesis and the incubus and another chill went over her again. She forced thoughts of Mahmud in to give her calm but they were unpleasant thoughts as well.
Why hadn’t he called? Was he ever going to call? Why had she even shared her past with him?
On a second thought, she turned back and called the okada guy. As much as she was she was saving up money, she couldn’t walk the distance to the junction thinking about Mahmud after having done that for an entire week. Besides, she was already late.
She stood before her dresser. Her fingers caressed the glittering gold necklace around her neck that matched earrings that dangled off her ears, a wedding band on her fourth finger, a bracelet on her wrist and a wristwatch that lay on the dresser table. They were the only items that connected her to her late husband, the only things the police had not confiscated. Jibo gave them to her on her birthday, just after he got back home from one of his numerous ‘trips off the coast of Nigeria’. How naive she had been then to believe that he worked with an import/export company. He was convincing, though, with the gifts he brought, mostly expensive jewelry. Some were new and the others, not so much. He often told her he got the latter from the shipment of fairly-used things that came in twice a week. Mofe believed him. She had no reason not to. They had been friends since their childhood and she knew almost everything about him. How on earth could she have suspected he was the leader of a gang of infamous robbers responsible for the deaths of many?
Sometimes she still lay awake at night and wondered how she never saw the signs. Yes, Jibo had been wild and even troublesome but so were members of his family. They all lived life on the edge and it seemed they each had faced one police trouble or another. That was why she liked them and the same reason why she was crazy about Jibo. He had possessed charming cockiness that always thrilled her, coupled with the immense respect he boasted of in their neighborhood, having mostly enforced obedience into those who stood against him. And that was the irony of it all because Jibo was quite short for all his troubles, fitting perfectly the expression ‘short but mighty.’ Yet she had loved him that way and it was the same traits she saw in Dominic that pulled her in.
Dominic was sophistication, hubris and authority packed into one man. He entered a place and everyone else seemed to become of no consequence. His imposing height and stiff shoulders, made noticeable by impeccable fashion taste always gave him an unapproachable demeanor. But Mofe saw beneath all that. It was in his eyes. She had not been fooled by the layer of iciness he presented in his looks. She saw in him a friend, perhaps a lover, or maybe even a helpless romantic. She was not afraid of him.
On their first date, she had wondered why he had picked her out of all the beautiful, more accomplished women on that dating site but she found no answer. Now, she knew the truth – albeit partially, having stayed up all night browsing the net to connect the dots. The results had left her somewhat baffled and dug up old skeletons from their graves. Certainly, he was not a man that believed in coincidence and meeting her on that site had been nothing short of a stalker haunting down its quarry. She didn’t know what he wanted from her exactly but she sure wasn’t going to back away now that her heart was beginning to find its regular pulse again.
She heard a knock on a door somewhere and realized it was coming from her sitting room. In haste, she did away with the jewelry set, put it in a vanity case and pushed it beneath the bed. She hurried to the front door.
Dominic stood outside, the sun bearing down on him.
“Impromptu visit, I know. But we need to talk.”
She held open the door and invited him in.
“Thank you.” He stepped in and sat in a chair she offered. The sitting room was small and humble and had only a window. She could afford something better, considering the success she had in her unique line of work as a female vehicle mechanic but Mofe had always been known for her modesty; her simple life served her fine.
She offered Dominic something to drink but he declined. She settled into a chair that was adjacent to his.
“I was with my lawyer yesterday evening and we discussed the prenuptial agreement and the terms you stipulated. But… first of all, your perfume is… What’s the word? Enchanting? No. It’s um… interesting.”
“Thank you, Nick. Someone sent it to me anonymously yesterday with a card that said ‘for a woman so complex’.”
“Really?” He scratched his beard.
“Thank you, Nick.”
She saw his eyes lit up. He loved compliments.
“So, back to the prenuptial. You said you want to share my bedroom with me?”
“And you also want me to reconcile with my daughter?”
She nodded again.
“Sorry, how do you even know about her?”
“I read about the mess with her mother and the guy between them and how it was all linked to both of us. Got me thinking about your parenting skills. You two must have done a bad job somewhere. But it’s not too late to try. The girl is screaming for attention from you.”
Dominic made a sound that was similar to a grunt. “You know it’s not your business, right?”
“It is if I’ll become your wife.”
He straightened his shirt and pinched the tip of his nose. “On the matter of bedroom-sharing, what happened to your need for just wanting a friend? Why bedmates now?”
“How else will you have that baby you want?”
“That is so cold. Children are conceived and grow out of intimacy between their parents. I lost my baby because his father was not there while he was still in the womb. If you want a healthy child from both of us, you’ll have to give him or her life in the normal way and not on a doctor’s cold table.”
Dominic raised a brow so discreetly Mofe thought she had imagined it. She knew her time in prison had turned her into a difficult woman, with multifaceted emotions, well-hidden intentions and a temperament that was poles apart from the average woman.
“Very well then. You want me to reconcile with Woyintonbra? You’ll have to meet her first. I’ll send the chauffer to come get you by six.” Dominic stood up. “And be prepared to meet her mother too. It would be better to kill two birds with one stone.”
He walked to the door and opened it but on a second thought, turned back and leaned over her, planting a peck on her cheek.
“I hope your ovaries came alive and felt the intimacy from my lips.”
The mall was busy as usual. Nothing new to see. Ehi and Genesis had chosen, on a whim, to watch The Butler while Kasi was somewhere in one of the eateries with his date. With Lexus at home asleep, Wura was left alone, wondering why she had chosen to fill in for her colleague. Sundays were her days off and as such she was supposed to be at home or hanging with Genesis and Ehi but because her mind was still mulling over Mahmud, she chose to occupy it with work.
Church had been great. A visiting minister had prophesied over her, telling her she was going to have a great year that would see the end to all her financial troubles. He also told her an engagement ring would adorn her middle finger before Christmas. But why was she not excited? Why did Mahmud have to steal her joy like that? What was it about him that unsettled her that way?
She walked into the supermarket where she worked and headed to the employees’ lounge and signed in. She changed into her uniform and made small conversation with the colleagues she was to start the evening shift with. They did the talking, mostly, while she sat and listened. When it was a few minutes shy of three, she left the lounge and walked out to her station at the supermarket. The moment she settled in her seat, someone pushed a card on her table with bold letters in gold saying I AM SORRY.
She looked up to see Mahmud standing before her, an explanation waiting at the tip of his lips. Momentarily, she was distracted by his looks. She didn’t think anyone could dress in casual jeans and a t-shirt and look that good. Her eyes couldn’t help but adore his hair.
She opened the card and saw a long handwritten note. She closed it and looked up at him again, willing him to speak.
“Will it be out of place to ask to see you in something else out of your work clothes?” he enquired. Wura didn’t reply.
“Wuraola, I am so sorry. What I did was rude and ungentlemanly and I would love another chance to talk with you, though not over the phone again.”
“I’m sorry. I’m not interested. And take your card.” She pushed the card in his direction.
“Wura, please, forgive me. Your story shocked me and I was appalled… but I had no right to be. What you did, sharing all that with me, was brave. Foolish but brave. And that is all I kept thinking about throughout the week. You were on my mind at work, at home, while I was driving, sleeping, eating, taking a shit…”
Wura swallowed down a smile.
“Can we start again?”
“Look, Tokunboh or Mahmud…”
“I’m fine with both names.”
“Just like you said, I did a foolish thing. We both know that. Good. So let’s move on. I don’t know why you’re here. Maybe you think because of all I told you, you can easily get me to sleep with you…”
“Whoa!” Mahmud laughed. She didn’t like his laugh. It was loud. Genuine gall filled her as her mind ran through what she just told him. She convinced herself that she was right; he only wanted sex, having heard the story of her past. He was no different from all the guys she had met. What was she thinking worrying about him for a week?
“Please, just go.”
“Okay.” He pushed his hands into his pockets and began backing away. “I’ll be waiting till you’re done with work. I don’t care how long. I deserve to be heard and I think I deserve a proper date so I can tell you how I really feel about you.”
He turned around and left her station. She forced her eyes elsewhere as they fought to watch him walk away. Her first customer for the day appeared with a bag of frozen chips and slammed it over the apology card.
The silence was crushing. Shock was written on Eva’s and Lexus’ faces. The blow Dominic just delivered them was obviously not what they were expecting.
He allowed the news sink in as his thumb quietly massaged Mofe’s knuckles. Eva stared at their hands linked together and she looked into his eyes, asking him an unvoiced question.
Yes, it’s for real, his eyes replied, I’m marrying her. Back off.
“But she’s not even wearing an engagement ring,” Eva blurted out. “You’re not wearing a wedding ring,” she repeated to Mofe.
“I don’t wear jewelry,” Mofe answered coolly.
“Oh. Wow.” Eva giggled edgily. “Typical of Nick to find a woman who is nothing like me just to make a point.”
Dominic gave Eva a warning stare.
“I’d like to wish you guys the best but Eyimofe, he does this all the time and quite honestly, I’m tired of his charades.” She stood up. “All the same, nice meeting you. I have somewhere to be right now. Excuse me.”
She picked her purse and walked out.
“One minute.” Dominic said to Mofe and followed Eva out. He caught up with her just as she was getting into her car.
“What is wrong with you? Why did you have to be bitchy and rude to her?!”
Eva lifted a stubborn chin at him. “She’s not even your type. No jewelry? Are you kidding me? What is she, deeper life?”
“Go back into that house now! I’m not done with you!”
Eva looked like she was about to defy his order but she gave him a slight shove and turned towards his exquisite duplex. He followed her back in and found the atmosphere as he left it. Mofe was seated, legs pinned together, fingers locked over her knees while Lexus had a leg crossed over the other like a boy, staring at her with burning eyes.
“I brought Eva back because we are not done with our conversation,” Dominic explained to Mofe in low tones. “Could you give us a moment to iron some issues out?”
He deliberately left a light kiss on her lips before she disappeared. When she was behind earshot, he pulled himself to the edge of his chair and faced Lexus.
“Look at me.”
Lexus looked in his direction but avoided his eyes.
“Because of that woman that just left here I’m taking you back in as my child but make no mistakes, young lady, what you did in the past or have been doing of late will not repeat itself as we try to build our relationship as father and daughter. First of all, you will go back to school…”
“You heard me. You will finish your final year…”
“Nick, that is insane,” Eva interjected.
“Stay out of this, Evangeline.” He faced Lexus. “Secondly, I will not have either of you staining my name on the net again. Especially for you, Woyintonbra, if it happens another time, there will be consequences.”
“I don’t want to go to school.” Lexus’ voice was strained.
“She wants to open a tattoo parlor,” Eva informed him.
“It is never going to happen! You were born a Christian and a Catholic, for that matter. Tattoos are against God’s laws and I will not support it!”
“Dad…” Lexus was almost in tears. “Please…I’ll change. No more parties, boyfriends or anymore tattoos. I’ll be good, I swear but I can’t go back to school.”
“You will and you will get a degree! And by the way, you’ll be staying here from now on!”
“Dad, why are you being so unfair?”
“You want me back, those are the rules.”
Lexus looked at Eva for help but when Eva tried to speak, Dominic cut her off.
“As for you, you’re fired from Novocaine. I’m bringing a new manager this week.”
Eva’s reaction was a humorless laugh that ended with menacing glare at him. “I put my money into that club, Nick! I bought everything inside there!”
“But whose club is it?” Dominic threw at her. “Whose idea brought it into life? On whose property is it standing?” He leered. “Your guess is as good as mine. I am boss and I get to say who works there. Your time is over. I can’t have you and your unhealthy craving for small boys ruin my business. You have a bar in town; manage that one and while you’re at it, stop trying to give people the impression that Novocaine belongs to you. You have a career as a successful actress, although I don’t even know what it is you act. But whatever it is, just stick with it and get off my case.”
Eva was incensed. She shot up from the sofa and tried for words but only grunts came out. When she found her voice, it was raucous and filled with bane. “The high horse you’re sitting on will bring you down, Dominic Ditorusin!”
He was unmoved.
“And concerning Woyintonbra,” Eva continued, “you have no right over her life! She’s an adult and can make her own decisions and I stand by her!”
“Good for you both.”
“Lexus, baby, let’s get out of here jor.”
She took Lexus’ hand and pulled her up but Lexus stalled.
“Daddy, I’m sorry about Nimi.”
Dominic’s face took on a different type of anger. The veins on his neck became pronounced and his lips began to twitch.
“It was a mistake and I miss her too and I’m very sorry…”
“Don’t ever talk about her again.” His hoarse voice had an extra rawness to it. “Her name is never to be mentioned in this house or anywhere around me.”
“I didn’t mean to…”
“Did you hear me?!” He thundered and Lexus nodded.
“Let us go!” Eva tugged at Lexus’ hand and succeeded in pulling her away. The clacking of Eva’s stilettos against the marbled floors echoed in the house and stopped when a door slammed angrily somewhere.
Eyimofe returned to the living room and picked the sofa Eva and Lexus had sat on. She stared at Dominic for a long time before he became aware of her presence. The grief she saw in his eyes when he focused on her was infectious; she almost caught it.
“It’s not her fault,” he breathed. “She thinks I haven’t forgiven her but it’s not that way. I haven’t forgiven myself for what she’s become. When I look at her, I see my mistakes, Mofe, and I don’t know how to get things right with her.”
“Surprise yourself, Nick, and surprise her too. Do something that will shock you both. Then, you can start from there.”
Dominic stretched out his hand and Mofe walked to him. They sat without speaking to each other until the darkness came. He sought her hand and took it while the other made a phone call to his personal assistant.
“Find out what it costs to set up a state-of-the-art tattoo parlor,” he instructed.
When he hung up, he leaned back to rest his back and held Mofe’s hand in both of his. It gave him comfort. She was his pain medicine and her presence was a million times better than the cocaine he snorted on the occasion.