The last scoop melted on her tongue like butter on a hot pan. She closed her eyes and licked her lower lip to keep the taste in.
“Now that’s what I call ice-cream,” she purred and pouted sadly at the empty ice-cream cup in her hand.
Wura turned and threw a smile at a couple of her colleagues who were leaving the supermarket. Having just completed the night shift, they were now headed home.
One of them turned around, arms spread out. “Be my Val, sweetheart!”
Wura shook her head in a smile and bade them goodnight. She threw the empty ice-cream cup in a trashcan nearby. It was almost twelve-thirty; most shops were closed and only a handful of people littered the place. She had another thirty minutes or so to wait for the staff bus that would take her home. A pair of lounge benches, backing each other a few feet away beckoned to her. She strolled towards them and picked the one that was facing her favorite store in the mall. It was a clothes store. Many times, while walking by after closing hours, she would stop and stare at the mannequins for a long time. Her mind would be gone, pondering over different issues, until something or someone would drag her back into the present.
Today as she sat, her lips hummed a familiar tune and her legs swung in rhythm to it. The distracting thought for the day was Mahmud. She had not seen him since Sunday but he had done a good job of pestering with phone calls. His apology card was lying beneath her pillow. Every word he left in there, scrawled in the ugliest handwriting her eyes ever encountered, was stuck in her head. She was settled on not wanting to be part of his life, yet she couldn’t stop thinking about him.
Someone sat on the second bench, their back turned away. She didn’t want to bother with who it was, though she felt the person smelled divine. Curiosity got the best of her and she made to turn around but Mahmud’s voice stopped her.
“Could you please listen to this?”
Her heartbeat quickened with excitement. She instantly felt floaty so she pressed hard into the bench to still herself.
“Since you won’t pick my calls to hear how I feel about you, I have decided to speak to you in the language you know best.”
The introductory first notes of One and Only by Adele coming from Mahmud’s phone invaded her right ear as he pushed one piece of a pair of earphones in. The second piece remained with him and they both listened to the song, sitting back to back.
You’ve been on my mind
I grow fonder everyday
Lose myself in time
Just thinking of your face
God only knows
Why it’s taking me so long
To let my doubts go
You’re the only one that I want
I don’t know why I’m scared, I’ve been here before
Every feeling every word, I’ve imagined it all
You never know if you never try
To forgive your past and simply be mine
I dare you to let me be your one and only
I promise I’m worthy to hold in your arms
So come on and give me the chance to prove that I’m the one who can
Work that mile until the end starts
“This is exactly how I feel, Wura,” Mahmud muttered. “I really, really like you.”
“Tokunboh…” Wura started to say as the volume of the music went down. “I’m not sure I want to date anyone now. I don’t want to play around anymore. I want a serious relationship.”
“Me too.” Mahmud turned around, leaned out a little and gazed into her face while his hand went beneath and found hers. “I know I’m not the best candidate for a long term relationship because I’m still struggling. Girls these days want made men that can take care of all their needs. I haven’t gotten there yet but I will, someday soon…”
“It’s not the money, Tokunboh.”
“Then what is it?”
Wura had gone through this conversation in her head already and practiced the lines but now she couldn’t find a way to tell him.
“Because you’re a Christian and I’m a Muslim?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yeah. It can never work. I want a relationship that would lead to marriage. And I’m sorry I can’t marry out of my religion, so why waste my time and yours?”
“Give me a chance, Wura. At least, until Valentine’s is over. Let me show you that I’m no different than your average Christian brother.”
She had a feeling he wasn’t going to stop bugging. Guys like him were rare. She couldn’t remember when last someone wrote her a love note, played music to tell her how he felt or even toasted her in an old school manner. All her ex-boyfriends had become official after she ended up in bed with them. But Mahmud, he was refreshing and she surmised, authentic.
“Until after Valentine’s?” she asked.
“Yeah. It’s just a week away.”
Wura knew she couldn’t front anymore. She liked him, how he smelled, his fine hair, his bearded face, his easy-going, restless manner, even his dull-toothed grin.
“I don’t like hairy guys,” she said to him with a smile.
“Ah. You don’t want to see the rest of my body then.”
“No, I don’t.”
“So am I getting a yes?”
“Mm-hmm.” She nodded.
“Yes!” He pumped a fist into the air and she laughed, then he lifted himself to his knees, leaned over completely and took her lips in his. She tried to fight him off but he was gentle and his lips felt cool over hers, calming her instantly. She hadn’t been kissed in a long time.
He let her go.
“Been dying to do that. Now you can slap me or something.”
“Don’t kiss me again without asking first, Tokunboh.”
He laughed. “You’re in trouble. You don’t know who you just said yes to.”
He stood up and went around to sit beside her.
“So I’m a doctor, a gynecologist, working in one small clinic like that in Victoria Island. I’m always busy but I do find a way to make out time. I’m a talkative as you’ve noticed and I suffer from ADHD.”
“Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I have issues with paying attention or concentrating on anything. Poor time management and organizational skills. An unwholesome addiction to cigarettes and gambling. And erm…I’m impulsive.”
“Wow. So how did you become a doctor?”
“Ah. I have an alter personality that doesn’t do any of the things I just listed out to you. Plus, I think I’m fascinated by the female genitalia.”
Wura glared at him.
“My mom wants me to branch into something else more wholesome but I’m not budging. I’m on my way to becoming a renowned surgeon. Wish me luck.”
Wura didn’t say anything. Mahmud was already becoming too much for her. She had always basked in the fantasy of dating a calm and collected guy.
He nudged her while thumbing over his phone’s keypad. “Already regretting your decision to date me? Don’t. I’m the best boyfriend a girl will ever have. Trust me.” He winked and stood to make a phone call.
Wura stared at him. She really liked him. Opposing thoughts tried to see him in a different light but she fought them away. Talking on the phone, he returned to her and pulled her off the bench.
He whispered in her ear. “Do you like ice-cream?”
“You look like a chocolate type. Chocolate?”
She was surprised. How did he know?
Again, she was stunned. She couldn’t take her eyes away from him as he continued with his phone conversation in Hausa. He brought his lips to her ear again.
“I know somewhere I can get you chocolate ice-cream this night. Wanna go?”
She couldn’t resist. He had figured out one of her weaknesses already. They began out of the mall. At one of the huge entrance doors, Wura spotted Genesis coming in. She stopped for a word while Mahmud continued with his phone call.
“What are you doing here?” she asked Genesis.
“Uhm I’m supposed to meet someone here.” She gave a wink.
“So is that him?” Genesis turned her eyes to Mahmud.
“Not bad. Not bad at all.”
She tapped Wura on the bum lightly. “Later babes.” Then she hurried away.
“Ready to leave?” Mahmud took Wura’s hand again.
She knew he was watching. He could see every movement she was making. His penetrating eyes, she imagined, would be fastened on her body as it swayed, almost unclad to the sound of the music in the air.
But she wasn’t just doing a dance to seduce him. At least, not directly. She was performing an ancient invoking ritual, something that was coined from the Dance of the Seven Veils. Through precise body movements she was requesting for unseen doors of Novocaine Nightclub to be opened. For every door unlocked, she had given out a piece of clothing as a gift. Now down to her underwear alone, her movements became more spirited and sensuous. The final door was particularly difficult to open. The last time she had performed the ritual, she hadn’t been so successful. It was important that she maintained focus and offered everything within her.
So she danced…reminiscent of the girl that millennia ago asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter.
Every limb in Genesis’ body responded to the music coming from the speakers in the club. Illuminated by the lights that lit up the dance floor and certainly not hidden from Dominic’s eyes, she stripped off her last item of clothing and was left completely nude.
But her body did not stop moving…
Just that last door… That final veil… It had to be torn and the forces behind it unleashed.
She writhed. She squirmed. She cried. She begged with silent chants.
She would give her all and do everything to have him. To possess him.
Like she had never wanted a man before, she was desperate for him.
Dominic, she chanted, her lips alone moved in breathlessness. Dominic. Dominic. Dominic. Dominic.
Give me the soul of Dominic Ditorusin.
He pushed his chair backwards and turned away from the computer screen. That had been too much to watch. And weird too.
In all his travels to all the exotic places in the world, he had never seen such performance from a woman before. And he had seen it all—belly dancers, burlesque dancers, strippers, and even Beyoncé performing at the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour—but none of them had done him in like what he had just witnessed.
Who was Genesis?
The question was a constant, plaguing his mind every so often. The background check he ran on her did not yield much. She kept to a circle of friends, most of them female, almost as gorgeous as she was. A couple of male friends added to the circle with just one known ex-boyfriend. Never been married. Never been engaged. Was once rumored to be the mistress of the president but this was before he came into power.
And that was all about her he could garner. One thing was for certain, though. She was a seductress and was gunning for him. Eko babes! He laughed to himself, wishing her good luck. Many were the women that tried to get into his pants and pockets and failed. As much as she was striking and always aroused him, there was nothing new she was going to present that he hadn’t possessed before.
He got off his chair and picked a few things off his desk. He decided to call it a night although it was barely two hours to dawn. It was becoming a draining habit to leave the mall at an hour when normal people were in their beds, snoring away. But he wasn’t allowed such pleasures. He had been struggling with a bad case of insomnia for years. Nothing he did worked. Sleep came only when it desired. He wondered if that was the case with Genesis. Since that first night he gave her a ride from the hospital, both of them had been spending their time at the mall. He was always swamped under office work and never bothered about what she did back in the club. But curiosity had got the better part of him earlier and pushed him to check on her via the surveillance security feed. What he caught her doing was nothing his mind had imagined.
He had a feeling she knew he was watching her.
He was almost freaked out by her sudden appearance in his office.
“Sorry.” She smiled. “I saw the door open.”
“It’s okay. Ready to leave? I could drop you off,” he offered. She nodded with a smile. This ritual wasn’t new to them. He would ask if he could drop her off and she would smile and nod. And they would leave the mall and drive to her house where he would kill the engine and wait for her to step down before going away.
Today was different, though. As he killed the engine, he looked directly into her eyes.
“What do you want from me, Genesis?”
“Wh-what?” she gave a puzzled smiled.
“You know what I’m talking about. What do you want – from me?”
“I just want to manage Novo.”
“You’re sure that’s all?”
“Yes, sir.” She giggled.
“If you say so. Happy birthday, by the way.”
“You remembered.” She grinned.
“Well, I would, considering your birthday party is re-opening the club later today. Can’t wait to see how that turns out.”
“Don’t let it bother you, sir. Just come and enjoy the party.”
Dominic did a slow nod. She opened her door and put a leg out.
“No more nude dances at the club, okay? The cameras see everything.”
“Yes, sir. I was just letting out steam.”
“No more of that, please.” He kept a serious face and waited until she was gone before he started his car.
Difficult! That was the only way to describe him. Difficult, dapper, debonair and damn too distracting. She had never encountered a man like him before. And she had been through all sorts—the rich, the powerful, the deeply religious—yet none of them had been this tough. It usually did not take more than a day to have them eating at the palm of hand. But Dominic… He was different.
She could see the desire in his eyes and sense the strong chemistry between them but it always ended there. For four days she had done everything to catch his attention, yet he was unmoved. She didn’t understand it. Or were her powers depleted?
She paused for a moment, almost pressing her face to the window of the taxi she was seated in.
Maybe it was the recurrent nightmare that had plagued her for three nights. This morning had not been any different. The moment her exhausted body hit her bed as she got in, her subconscious was invaded again and as usual, she couldn’t stop it until it ran its course. The moment she woke up, she went for a scalding shower as if to expunge herself of the nightmare. Now, she was headed to the one person she knew would have answers and help for her. She couldn’t handle this on her own.
Mother or sometimes called Mamisi, was already at the office, even before her secretary showed. Seated behind her desk, holding a steaming cup of coffee, she didn’t look like she was nearing sixty. Her skin was flawless and her light complexion glowed even in the daylight.
Genesis paused by the door to take in the beauty of the woman who had raised her for twenty-two years. How she kept herself that beautiful was a mystery. Boys half her age drooled whenever she walked past them. Men of all ages tumbled over themselves because of her. Behind her back they termed her Mami Wata. She had eyes that did not belong to humans and a body that was perfect. Mother was everything Genesis wanted to be.
“Come in, Genesis. You still gawp like the thirteen year old I met so many years ago.”
Genesis walked into the woman’s office. It was a cool, azure blue space with décor centered on an aquatic theme. Genesis sat in a visitor’s chair and sighed in tiredness.
“You, my darling, haven’t slept. Why?”
Genesis rested her elbows on Mother’s table and leaned forward.
“I can’t get through to him, Mother.”
“Yes,” she answered out of exasperation. “I have tried everything. Just a few hours ago he even caught me on camera doing the Dance of the Seven Veils but he didn’t budge. I’ve used all the scented lotions and perfumes and the mixed oils I have, I even channeled his energy towards mine…I’ve done it all, Mamisi… It’s so frustrating! ”
Mother put aside her cup of coffee and rose from her chair. She flipped back her long, flowing hair and strolled to Genesis. After staring into her eyes for a prolonged time in silence, she delivered a nasty slap on her face.
“Mamisi!” Genesis gasped. She squeezed the assaulted cheek that had turned a deep red. Mother lifted her chin and stared into her eyes again and shook her head in annoyance before raining in a second, anger-laden slap on the same cheek.
“You foolish, stupid, idiotic child! You have fallen in love with him!”
“In love?” Tears clouded Genesis eyes.
“After all these years, when you’re so close to taking over from me, you go and let your heart breathe! Such a disappointment, Genesis! Why?!” Mother groaned.
“I’m not in love, Mother…”
“Yes, you are! And you’re going to get out of it before it destroys you! No wonder you can’t get through to him!”
Mother went back to her chair and slumped in it. Her face was now bereft of its earlier beauty; an ugly grimace took over.
“Genesis, Genesis, Genesis…” Mother was distraught.
“I’m not in love,” Genesis muttered inaudibly, still shaken from the slaps.
“Do you know what you are, who you are? You have a gift that is rare and the only way you’ll lose it is if you let a man control your heart. Get a hold of yourself, Genesis before you self-destruct.”
The older woman picked her cup of coffee and went at it with one gulp.
“Mamisi?” Genesis called in a small voice, laced with apprehension. “There’s more.”
“Oya talk na.”
“I’ve been having this nightmare for days. In it, I’m standing outside a church building and I perceive his perfume, strong, and I start to follow the fragrance and it guides me into the church. The moment I enter, I realize I’m wearing a wedding gown and without my helping it, I find myself walking towards the altar to meet who I’m thinking is Dominic. But then I get there and the person waiting there is not him. It is this woman I saw in his office the other day.”
“Who is she?”
“His fiancée, according to his daughter. Her name is Eyimofe. So in the dream, she is standing there at the altar and she has this evil look on her face. Very evil. I can’t get it off my mind.”
“Does she say anything? Does she touch you?”
“No. She just looks at me like she wants to kill me and then I wake up. Same dream every time I go to sleep. Mother, what does it mean?”
Mother pumped red, luscious lips and flicked something off her eyebrow. “Obviously, the perfume you followed, the wedding gown and the expectant desire to see Dominic at that altar confirms what I already told you about your feelings for him. But as regards to his fiancée… Hmmm…that woman is going to constitute a serious problem for you. If you’re already seeing her in your dreams, it means she holds him where no other woman does and that my dear can be dangerous for you. Our first client was very specific with what she wants done to him. He must go through pain and ruin the same way she suffered. All he has must be taken away from him.”
“I can do it, Mother. You know I can.”
“I know you can but you must stay focused. After your party today, we’ll meet at the beach for a fresh cleansing. Gen, you must do away with your feelings, darling.”
The compassionate tone in Mother’s tone brought a relieving sigh from Genesis.
“I won’t fail you, Mamisi.” Genesis picked her purse off her laps. “I have to go.”
Mother opened her drawer and got out a transparent bottle holding dark-colored oil.
“You have often asked me for my secret, why men only need to see me and commit their whole lives to me. Well, this is it. Very expensive. Mixed by my own hands. The reason I’m giving you this is because you cannot use it and be in love. They have two opposing elements, so do not use it anyhow or men you don’t want will follow you.”
“It doesn’t really have a pleasant smell but when mixed with fragrant oils it is masked.”
Genesis reached for it but Mother held it back.
“Use it wisely. Only when you know the light has turned green.”
Genesis took the bottle with a covetous hand. Now she would have Dominic right where she wanted him.
It was her first checkup since being discharged from the hospital. She didn’t see any need for it because she felt fine. Apart from the occasional headache, she was doing quite well but Kasi’s insistence left her no room to object. Furthermore, she was having bouts of dizziness that hit her and disappeared at will.
She arrived at the hospital with Kachi and sat in the waiting room while he tried to convince a feisty nurse that they needed to see the doctor immediately.
Lexus was seated beside a pregnant woman and a quiet little girl. Both of them had the same sickly look she bore on her own face. She had not been herself since she returned from the hospital and there was no explanation for it. Everything around her irritated her and she found that she preferred the solitude of her room, particularly with the shades drawn and the lights off. It wasn’t that she was heartbroken; she was just zapped of her zest and she feared a familiar depression that plagued her once in a blue moon was stopping by again.
The little girl tapped her and pointed at a television hanging off a green-painted wall facing them. The girl said something in Yoruba she didn’t understand but she caught the words ‘Father Christmas’ and she stared up at the TV screen. A movie she had watched before (Santa Who?) was playing. It was about Santa Claus who falls off his sleigh, hits his head and has amnesia and is rescued by the innocence of a little boy.
She was not interested in the movie and had become restless all of a sudden. She rose up from her chair to find Kasi but a dizzy spell hit her. It was not like the others. This one was stronger but not violent, although it swirled her head in slow motion like the rocking of a boat on the sea.
She became disoriented and looked around for Kasi but she couldn’t find him. There was a strong urge for her to find a place to rest her head and sleep off the dizziness. Nothing around seemed appropriate except the floor. She looked down. It beckoned to her to take a rest. She lowered herself until her hands touched the cold tiles beneath. Then she let herself down gently, used her hands as a pillow and closed her eyes into bliss. She was thinking as she slept, how it would be good to wake up like Santa and have her slate wiped completely clean.