She was dressed and ready for her date with Dominic. Standing by his classiest car she caught a glimpse of her reflection and felt stupid and utterly ridiculous. Save for her new edgy hairstyle, she didn’t quite appreciate the way Ehi had put her in a little black dress, subjected her into fixing artificial nails and made her face up. The housekeeper said she looked beautiful but she disagreed. She had refused the heels given to her by Ehi and settled for the most girly shoes she had – a pair of pink and ash colored sneakers.
Dominic’s chauffer, a young guy in his thirties met up with her in the car park and opened the backdoor for her but she chose the front passenger seat instead. The chauffer shook his head in a smile and went behind the wheels.
“Prince, where are we going?” she asked.
“That’s where your father said I should take you.”
“Oh, bore.” Lexus pushed her chair backwards, clipped on her seatbelt and rested her legs on the dashboard. The chauffer’s eyes ran the length of her body. “Stop staring. I have balls under there, Prince.”
“No, Aunty Lexus, I’m not looking o. For all the ten years I’ve been working for your father, this is the first time you’re wearing a dress.”
“Nigga, just drive.”
As they hit the street outside the house, her phone buzzed and she dug it out from a purse on her lap.
She played with the hem of her dress as she listened to Dominic. His words didn’t go well with her. The conversation ended and left an angry look on her face.
“Prince, let’s turn back home. He’s going to see Egbon and won’t make it.”
The house was dead silent when she got back in, save for the barking dogs howling in their kennels. She walked up to her room and found Vhasti on her bed. The cat meowed. She carried it and stood by one of her windows, the one that was in the direction of the main gates. Random, distressing thoughts filled her head. Foremost of which was Eva and the news about her that broke on the internet. Lexus was put off by it. Bashorun was quite a disgusting man. He would sleep with anything that had a vagina, and his friend’s exes and daughters were not off limits.
At the height of Lexus’ distasteful relationship with Martin, Bashorun had found out, showed her video evidence and threatened to report to Dominic if she did not sleep with him as well. But she related the conversation to Martin who didn’t take things lightly with Bashorun. Roughly four days later, Dominic walked in on Lexus and Martin in bed. The events that followed, obviously, left no scars on either Bashorun or Eva. Their present mess splattered all over the internet was not going to be forgiven by Dominic, Lexus was sure. Bashorun was going to pay. As for Eva, Lexus decided it was time to accept that she never had a mother.
The pedestrian gate beside the main gates creaked open and Lexus’ attention was drawn there. She spied Kasi strolling in, a white polythene bag in hand. These days they hardly spoke much because he was always with one girl or another. She hadn’t stopped thinking about the day they almost became friends with benefits, wondering how things would have turned out if they went all the way. Few instances in one’s life leave permanent markers in the soul and for Lexus, Kasi left his taste, his smell, his feel in her and they were distinctively different from the Kasi she knew, although they still carried his unmistakable signature. It didn’t matter that they didn’t finish what they started; the line had been crossed and she just wanted to be around him to know what next lay ahead for them. Whether it be a sizzling sexual relationship or one based on emotions or just back to the way things used to be, she wanted him. She missed him.
Taking Dominic’s advice to heart, she put Vhasti down and gave herself one look in the mirror before she left the house.
The guest wing was alive with loud music as she approached it. Lexus had plans to take the last available bedroom there as she had missed her old housemates terribly. She found the front door ajar and walked in, surprised that UB40 was streaming from the home theater system. Nobody there really liked reggae except Kasi who was crazy over it one time but gave it up when he broke up with his ex, Chichi.
In love with all things Jamaican, Chichi had a great influence over his choice of music and everything else. But after their eighteen-month old long relationship came to a nasty end because he discovered she was cheating, he tried to erase all that even mildly reminded him of her. It was quite difficult though, to totally remove traces of her from his life. Wild, carefree, beautiful and yet boyish when the need arose, Chichi was Kasi’s picture of the perfect girlfriend. Letting her go was difficult but he had endured her infidelity for too long a time and couldn’t take it anymore. He was very certain then that after he left her she was going to run into the arms of the man she confessed she was seeing. But he was quite shocked when she packed her things and left for South Africa where her family was residing.
On one end Lexus was happy Chichi was gone from Kasi’s life, although she missed her too. But the truth about Chichi which no one knew, not even Kasi, was that she was bisexual and sometimes slept with rich women for money. Lexus found this out only after a drunken confession from Chichi herself a couple of months before Kasi dumped her. Chichi pleaded for her secret be kept because everyone knew Kasi was deeply homophobic. Different from most guys, he didn’t even subscribe to girl on girl action. Chichi knew that if he discovered who she really was, it could tear him to pieces.
Eventually her unfaithfulness blew open after Kasi confiscated her phone and found implicating messages from whom he thought was a guy. After things ended badly, Chichi accused Lexus of letting her secret out and brought the hammer down on their friendship before she left the country. With the help of Lexus, Kasi got back on track but shied away from relationships, often telling Lexus she was all the girl he needed. Except for the occasional one night stand, he was on his own, concentrating fully on his music. His constant excuse for not dating was that he was looking for that one special person to fill up Chichi’s space and he wasn’t sure anyone he had met so far qualified. He sang that song for two and a half years until after Lexus’ brain surgery.
From that point on, he started to care a little more, stare a little longer, touch a little gentler and smile a lot deeper. All of this came to a climax and a halting end after their awkward sexual encounter. But Lexus was ready to make another move and keep things non-sexual this time.
The only problem was…
She was back!
And Lexus was staring at her from the sitting room as she danced with Kasi in the kitchen to the sounds of UB40 and their famous Come Back Darling.
Lexus watched the pair in shock. Kasi had his arms around Chichi from behind as they both did a slow, swaggering dance that was anything but platonic.
How could he have forgotten so easily all she had done?
Chichi ground her backside into him in a manner that got Lexus jealous. She couldn’t move a single muscle; not even her eyes blinked. A film of moisture clouded her vision and she wasn’t sure if it was from staring at the duo for so long or it was tears from her emotions. She stood there like one under a spell until the song came to an end and Chichi turned around to give Kasi a full lip service. It was then Lexus found her motor functions and took a step back. She was going to leave quietly but Chichi spotted her and let out a scream.
Chichi left Kasi and ran into the sitting room. Her hands were in the air and she threw them around Lexus’ neck in excitement. Both girls were almost the same height, with Chichi being slightly an inch and a half above her, so Lexus felt her weight press down on her shoulders.
“Baby, I missed you like mad!”
She left a peck on Lexus’ lips and stepped back to admire her. “Wow! You wore a dress! What’s the occasion?! And you cut your hair, baby!”
The ‘baby’ moniker which Kasi liked using on Lexus actually came from Chichi. She used to tell everyone Lexus was a product of herself and Kasi.
“God! You’re sexy!” She pinched Lexus’ cheeks and Lexus saw a brief lusty look in her eyes. “You’re all grown. Come, on talk to me, nau. I know I fucked up the last time but I’m so sorry. Talk to me.”
“I don’t think she can remember you,” Kasi said, coming from the kitchen.
Chichi laughed and flipped back her long, curly weave. She was all feminine – hair, nails, makeup, body shape, sensuality and all. But every now and then she had a boy in her, the part Lexus was once connected to.
“What do you mean she can’t remember me? What type of joke is that?”
Kasi explained what he meant, leaving out no detail.
“Amnesia? Aww, baby… You’re sure you don’t remember me?”
She looked genuinely disturbed.
“It’s me, Chichi. Chisom. Half Nigerian, half crazy South African from Durban. Beyonce once in a while and Hilary Swank when we needed to kick guys in their asses? Remember?”
Lexus shook her head.
“You can’t remember how Kasi caught me cheating and we broke up?”
That particular question held deeper emphasis than the rest and all Lexus heard was ‘you don’t remember my dirty secrets?’
“Oh, wow. That’s… depressing.
Anyway, God dey. Your memories will come back. But babe, you’re banging. Look at these tats!” She caressed Lexus’ biceps, running her fingers over her tattoos. “And you still work out. Go girl!”
She lifted her hand for a high five but Lexus stared back at it.
“Sorry, I don’t know you.”
“It’s okay. Soon you will.” Chichi grinned. “Since I’m here to stay and I still have my 2011 diary, I’ll take you down memory lane.”
“You’re here to stay?”
“Yup. I’m back in Nigeria and I’m working for Novocaine Knights.”
“Yeah, your dad’s event planning company. Novo Knights…Pleasure Knights? You haven’t seen the huge billboard after the first tollgate?”
Lexus had seen all that but she was speechless at the fact that Chichi was back for good – with Kasi. Where did that leave her?
“I’ll be living right here with Le boo.” Chichi put an arm around Kasi‘s waist.
“He helped me get the job with Ms. Genesis.”
Lexus stared hard at Kasi. “Nice. Um…Kas, I came to see Wura. Is she in?”
“Okay. See you guys later.”
“You don’t want to stay?” Chichi asked.
Lexus turned to the door and was glad that her fake amnesia gave her an excuse not to be polite. She couldn’t have gotten away from the house any faster. Head bowed, hands hugging her sides, she made it back home just as dusk was giving way to darkness. In her room, she tried not to think about what she just witnessed. To drown her thoughts she turned on loud music and stood again by the window to stare out. The armed guards that took the night shift had just come in and were having a friendly chat with the gateman. Her grandmother had been against the presence of guards in their old house and Lexus was sure if she was alive today, she would have given Dominic a hard time with these ones. She always used to say that guns never really protected anyone. Ironically she had to die to prove that point. None of the guards on duty that night survived the attack of the masked men. Lexus didn’t know all the details of what happened but she was very certain it wasn’t armed robbers. She was determined to get to the bottom of the story. Her grandmother was the only mother she had known.
Lexus threw her head over her shoulder. Kasi was standing in her bedroom.
“I’ve been knocking since but the music is too loud!”
Lexus moved away from the window and lowered the volume of the song playing.
“Before you go off on me, let me explain. Chichi and I have been chatting online for almost a year now. I didn’t want to tell you because of what happened between you girls in 2011. She’s changed. She lost her dad and that transformed her for the better. You don’t have to be worried.”
“Who says I’m worried? I’m not. Your cup of tea if you want to be with the girl that cheated on you.”
“So you’re mad.”
“I’m not. I’m happy for you.”
“And I’ve not been avoiding you, Lex. It’s just that…I’ve been having a lot of guests…”
“I know. No need to explain, Kas. I’m good with the new arrangement, really.”
Lexus gave him a nod.
“Cool.” He gave her his fist and she bumped it, trying on a smile. “By the way, you’re hot. What’s the occasion?”
“Just felt like playing dress up. I know, I look stupid.”
“Yeah. Stupid. Girly. Sexy. I like. So who are you wearing?”
“Who?” Lexus gave him a silly look. “A dress.”
“No, when you’re asked who you’re wearing, you call the name of the designer.”
“Oh. Erm…I dunno. Starts with a C… Cohen something.”
“Cohen et Sabine.” Kasi shook his head in a laugh. “Are you sure you’re Eva’s child?”
“The earrings and necklace are by that Nigerian jeweler and sneakers are…” she stared down at her feet, “definitely Adidas.”
Kasi took a photo of her. “I don’t know when I’ll see this again.”
She gave him more poses and they had a few together before he transferred them all to her phone.
“Going to the mall with Chichi. Want to tag along?”
“Nope.” Lexus fell on her bed.
“You’re really upset. What’s with you girls? Ehi’s upset too.”
“I tire. After she formed for me, now she’s claiming territory, telling me that she’s had feelings for me all this time, that the reason she didn’t act on them was because I am a one-night-stander. Mehn, she was really vexing o. With tears sef. Abeg, I no want virgin wahala.”
His phone dinged.
“It’s the boss lady.” He took the call. “Good evening, Genesis.”
He left the room and Lexus stretched out herself on the bed with her hands behind her head. Three things came to mind. One, every male in her life was being controlled by a vagina. Two, Kasi was so over her. Three, she was now in the friendzone.
She didn’t know whether to cry or cry really bad. The universe was surely against her.
The urge to smash his car into something was strong. But that meant killing himself and he did not desire death; at least not until he became a multi-billionaire and owned the mall exclusively, after doing away with Dominic and Seyi. Dominic, especially.
The bastard had charmed the pants out of the Egbon and succeeded in getting the land Bashorun had fought his late father secretly to possess. The Balogun royal family was plagued with the daily drama of any other wealthy, influential family, having two widows constantly at war with each other and their children fighting over inheritance and landed property. The reigning monarch was Bashorun’s stepbrother and by right owned the stretch of land connecting to the mall but because Bashorun had begun hustling for most of what their father owned long before his death, he felt that that piece of property which stood on one of the most expensive parts of Lagos rightly belonged to him. But the late King had not been moved by his theatrics; Bashorun was his least favorite son. In fact, Dominic had more standing in the family than Bashorun did. Back in the day, his deceased father was best friends with Bashorun’s father and the love the late king showed Dominic was carried on by the present one. But Dominic always kept his distance for the sake of Bash and would often seek permission from him first if he needed any type of assistance from the family.
When Dominic had called him earlier in the morning, reminding him of their visit to the palace, he had gone into instant anger but kept a normal tone on the phone. It was obvious that the Genesis chick did not carry out his instructions. If Egbon succeeded in giving out the land to Dominic then it meant that his chances of inheriting anything tangible other than some estate somewhere in Epe were slim.
But alas! just as he feared, Egbon gave out the land without much prodding. It only took him one good look into Bashorun’s eyes to see his frustration and he gave his word to Dominic. All he wanted, as customary, after the sale, was a fixed percentage each year from Dominic.
Bashorun left the palace boiling within. After he and Dominic parted ways, he sat in his car and did a line of cocaine. As the drug began to work into his bloodstream, he recalled the days when he had so much influence on Dominic. He had introduced him to drugs and his type of lifestyle but Dominic got his acts together after an overdose that almost killed him and became a better man than he previously was. And that was one of the things Bashorun hated about him– the way in which he always came up on top no matter what was there to bring him down. He seemed impervious and carried around that famous Ijaw fearlessness that got people cowering before him always. Bashorun made an oath to himself to get rid of the streak of luck and protection that followed him before bringing him down to his knees for good.
Still boiling over the visit to the palace, Bashorun arrived at Mother’s office and barged in without invitation as she was clearing up her desk for the day. She took one look at him and went back to what she was doing.
“Lord Bash, it will serve you well next time to remember not to burst into my office without my permission.”
“Apologies… But Mamisi, what is going on? Your girl gets into my friend’s life and he gets richer? That’s not what we discussed!”
Mother took her time with arranging her desk before she sat down. She gave him a calm stare.
“There’s a manner in which these things go, Lord Bash. Even I have no say over them. Give it time; what you ask for will be done.”
“By then all my plans would have been ruined.”
“Tough luck?! You’re here deceiving yourself! Your girl is taken in by his charms! I could feel the strong chemistry between them.”
“It’s not possible.” Bashorun scoffed. “I know Dominic. He will not commit to a woman who has no feelings for him.”
Mother smiled. “If he’s fooled into thinking Genesis loves him, then she is doing just what I want.”
“There is something deep between them and I’m not sure if it’s your doing or something else because I tried to dissuade him from being with her.”
Mother laughed. “You’re wasting your time doing that. It won’t work. Once Genesis traps a man, she traps a man. But why did you even try to dissuade him? Isn’t it what you wanted?”
“I was testing to see how deep she had reeled him in but I found out it was way out of point. Whatever she’s doing, she should tone it down and get right down to business.”
“And before you get all cocksure, question her very well. Dominic has a way with every woman that gets into his bed.”
“Unlike you.” Mother smile and it teased a little but a cold look crept into her eyes. “Your envy of that man would bring your ruin.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Rumor has it that your life is tied to Dominic’s, an act by your late father, who made you swear not to touch your friend or you would die as well.”
Bashorun stepped back a little. The shock his face portrayed was epic. No one on earth knew about the oath forced upon him by his father in an Ifa shrine a few years ago.
“And yet you forge on like a bull seduced to the slaughter.”
“Who told you this?”
“I hear things,” she whispered and laughed loudly, her mouth coming to settle in an eerie scowl.
“I swore not to spill his blood,” Bashorun confessed, “but what I’m doing now has nothing to do with that oath.”
“Not my business.” Mother rose up.
Bashorun instantly felt the hairs on his skin rise. It was as though the room had turned cold just staring into the nothingness that was her eyes.
“Don’t just let Genesis mess things up.” He pointed a finger at her but felt it shrivel. He withdrew it and looked at it. His cocaine high was surely doing things to him.
The instant he left her office, his heart started to beat normally again.
He didn’t like the silence in the house when he got in. Normally, Lexus would have been playing music in her room no matter the time of night. But all was silent. He stopped at her door and knocked.
“Come in, dad.”
He was surprised she was awake. He walked in and found her watching television on a muted sound.
“Daddy’s big head,” he called. It was a name he gave her when she was still little. She used to hate it; she didn’t have a big head then or now.
“Hi dad. Thanks for standing me up.”
Dominic sat on the lower bunk of her bed and felt awkward in it.
“I apologize. Business, as usual.” His eyes narrowed and he noticed she was wearing a dress. “Goodness!” He beamed. “Damn! You’re smashing. Stand up. Let me look at my baby!”
“Dad…” She complained.
“Stand up, please.”
Lexus obeyed and stood before him and he smiled at her proudly. “You are so beautiful.”
“I can get used to hearing that.”
“Can I take a photo?”
Like Kasi, he took not just one but many and asked her to sit beside him. Then she took a selfie of them both with his phone and handed it back to him.
“Twitpic it and cc me. We’re cute together.”
Normally she would roll her eyes at such statements but she was silent.
“Dad… about the guy we talked about yesterday…” Lexus pulled at the lacy hem of her dress. “He’s back with his ex and it looks serious.”
“And how does that make you feel?”
She scratched the lobe of her ear. “I don’t know. I mean…it’s not as if I’m crazy about him but… I don’t know.” She sighed.
He could see her heartbreak through her eyes.
“You want this boy?”
Dominic had come to understand her language through the years. She was like him; she was never going to fully admit to her feelings.
“You’re a Ditorusin. We always get what we want. You know that, right?”
“So grandma used to say.”
“You’re gonna get that boy. I’ll teach you how.”
Dominic stood up to leave but he paused for a moment and let his mind ponder over a critical decision.
“Tonbra, do you have a scarf?”
“Dad, come on, you know I don’t.”
Dominic loosened his necktie.
“What are you doing?”
“Relax.” He put the tie over her eyes as a blindfold and dragged her away from her bed.
He led her out of her bedroom, down the stairs and out of the house. They stopped at the car park and he pulled off the cover put over the new hybrid vehicle he bought for Genesis. Then he led Lexus to the driver’s side and opened the door.
“Sounds and smells like a new car, dad.” He heard excitement in her voice. He helped her into the vehicle, got in beside her and took out the blindfold.
She was breathless, eyes popped out in disbelief.
“This is all yours.”
“Dad.” Her voice barely made it out.
“For the first eight years of your life I missed, for the times I made promises I did not keep, for days I should have understood you and didn’t, for all the pain I caused you… Woyintonbra, Lexus, Tabitha, I am sorry and I…”
She touched his hand lightly. “Hush dad… You’ll ruin the moment. Can you hear that?” she whispered.
“That’s because I’m about to…”
She let out a loud, excited scream that had him blocking his ears. He knew that her joy wasn’t because of the new machine; in the past, she had owned two cars at different times given to her by Eva. Lexus was ecstatic because she was feeling the same way he was at that moment. After twenty-five years, they were finally bonding as father and daughter and the only way she could express the strong emotion overwhelming her was to let it out in unbridled hysteria.
He laughed at her excitement but soon after tears filled his eyes and he was glad that it was too dark for her to see his face. He was happier, however, that he made the right choice in giving her the vehicle instead. In the present scheme of things, Genesis was the side piece. The girl beside him was always going to be his main chick.