“I am so sorry, Nick.”
Mofe left the comfort of her luxurious bed and took a chair in one corner of her hotel room as Dominic recounted details surrounding Lexus’ brain surgery. She listened attentively, noting the deep emotion in his husky tone.
“But she’s not in a coma, is she?” Mofe asked.
“No. In fact, I just spoke to one of the neurosurgeons right before I called you. She woke up about an hour ago and went back to sleep. She’s okay.”
Mofe was relieved at the good news. “But you don’t sound so elated.”
“I’m scared. I can’t…lose Woyintonbra. She’s all I got, Mofe. You’re a woman of faith. Please, pray for her. I’m at the point in my life where I’m not so sure God answers my prayers anymore.”
“I’ve been praying for her and I won’t stop, Nick.”
She had never heard him sound so defenseless.
“Pray for me too…”
“No, I mean…there’s a reason I need that prayer.”
She heard a grunt from him but he said nothing more.
“Yeah, uhm… The thing is…”
And he let it all out. Everything about his fatal attraction to Genesis. He held nothing back.
Mofe was silent. She walked back to her bed and sat. His words were hitting her hard. As a woman, it was difficult hearing her man confess that there was another woman occupying his thoughts.
“I’m sorry that I feel this way. It’s wrong and I have no excuses. It’s just that I need you back. I need us to get married soon, Mofe.”
She felt sour but she wasn’t going to let him know. She kept her emotions corked. “This was not part of the deal, Nick. The whole marriage arrangement we made was not to satisfy your lusts…”
“Let me finish. It was not because of sex. If I recall, you told me you weren’t so particular about sex.”
“Now I am.”
“So she stirred your lust?”
He gave no reply. His silence left her question hanging in the air and reminded her that she was beginning to sound jealous. She couldn’t risk him thinking he had that much power over her.
“Look, if she’s good for the job as the nightclub manager, then hire her.”
“What did you just say?”
“You heard me, Nick. Hire her. Didn’t you say the manager you were expecting turned down the job?”
“She brought in customers last night, didn’t she?”
“She did but…”
“And you made good money, didn’t you?”
“Hire her, Dominic.”
“Aren’t you the least bit jealous?”
“No.” Mofe bit her tongue and winced at the pain. “Look, you stayed two years without sex. You can still do it, Nick. It would be unwise to ask you not to hire her when there are a million other girls out there that will still distract you.”
“Why aren’t you jealous?” he asked in a gruff voice.
“Only people in love get jealous.”
She almost bit her tongue again.
“It’s not about being in love, Mofe. It’s about territory. I want a woman who is protective of her territory.”
Mofe laughed. There was no humor in it. “So that was why you told me about her? You do realize that what you just did was insensitive and childish, not to say the least? But I’m not going to complain because this relationship is not based on feelings. And no, I’m not one of those females who would fight for a man, Nick. I did that already with my late husband. See, just hire her and prove to yourself that you can control your urges. That way, you’d score points with me.”
Dominic sighed and she heard an alarm beeping from his end. It was six in the morning.
“Have you slept?” she enquired.
“No. And I can’t. I have to go see Woyintonbra. The doctors want to run some tests and they want her medical history and stuff.”
“Okay. Ehm…my fight’s in a few hours. I’ll see you when I get in.”
“Remember our first date? When we talked for six hours?”
She smiled without her helping it. “Yes.”
“And the second? We talked for almost ten hours?”
“I remember.” She smiled again.
“Can we not lose that?”
“We won’t, Nick. I have to go now.”
“I miss you.”
They said their goodbyes and hung up. Mofe lay back on her bed and reran the conversation in her mind. She brought her phone to her face and went to Google. She typed in the name he had given her. Genesis Raymond. A Facebook profile link came up first but she didn’t click on it; rather she went to ‘images’ and clicked on the first one she saw. Genesis’ face came into view and Mofe stared at it intently, remembering when she first came across her in Dominic’s office. The beauty and sheer sexiness that graced her phone screen was enthralling. Mofe searched other images, looking for one ugly representation of Genesis but she found none. This made her leave her bed to the dressing table where she stood to take in her own reflection before the mirror. She paled in comparison. There was that hidden beauty but life and its miseries had robbed her of it. Confidence and control had been the masks she had used to cover her pain but now, left alone, there was nothing to hide. She just wasn’t good enough for Dominic. What on earth did he see in her?
She touched her breasts. There were small. A miserly A-cup. Not like Genesis’ which were full and shapely.
She squeezed her breasts hard, as if by just squeezing them they could get bigger but the effort left stinging tears in her eyes. She knew she ought to be slapping herself for her silliness but this was one of those days when her low self-esteem was brandishing its sword. The thrusts it gave her were fatal. It felt like she was back with Jibo, her late husband.
Jibo used to say she was beautiful the way she was. She didn’t care about her looks then. She had her brains to rely on, something most women lacked. And so she never bothered to look good for him. She spent most of her time in the garage, fixing some engine or the other, or reading up some engineering book. Jibo by no means complained but he became unfaithful. His mistress lived in their neighborhood, just a few houses away from theirs. She was everything Mofe wasn’t, a near reflection of Genesis. Mofe found out about the affair in the worst possible way. A kind but nosy neighbor, Mama Ruky, dragged her from her home one night and took her straight to the other woman’s and from outside her bedroom window, Mofe watched as Jibo made love to the strange woman under candlelight. There was something different in the way he did it, in the way he touched her breasts and dug into her voluptuousness like he was digging for life. And that image engraved itself in Mofe’s mind.
It took time but she forgave him in the end and she never stopped loving him. But her confidence died that night. Years later, and she was yet to have it fully restored. Dominic was supposed to be the man to heal what was left of those scars but he already had his attention elsewhere. She didn’t want her life to become a cliché. The needless drama between women fighting over a man, she had been through it all. No one was going to pull her into that madness again. Not even Dominic whom she was already falling for.
The term hung over her head like a bad shaggy dog story. After thirty-five years her life had come to this? A victim in the arms of strange, wanton, wretched low lives? How ironic. It was she who possessed a short fuse for women that had suffered raped, never really understanding why they made a big deal out of the experience. Her attitude towards them was: they raped you, yes. You’re not the first. It’s just dick and you’ll survive. Move on!
But hers had not just been a dick. There had been five of them. Five ugly, sweaty, ruthless men that touched, poked, fingered, pinched and squeezed her like children discovering a new toy. Their faces, the ravenousness, the leers, the disregard, the sheer pleasure in having their way with her, the humiliation, the piercing pain…everything had come in one flash, seeking entrance into her memory.
She laughed as she struggled with the recollections. A soundless, mirthless, bitter laugh that was worse than tears. She wasn’t going to cry. Never. The air in the cab that was taking her home was humid like the air outside and it worsened her state of mind but she fought to remain sane. She wasn’t going to cry.
The images came again; this time, with smells that filled her nostrils. Her head swooned as severe nausea hit her. There was a strong need to ask the cab driver to stop so she could find somewhere to barf by the roadside. But again, she held it back, driving it all down by taking deep breaths. There was no way she was going to give in to any after-effect. In fact, nothing had happened to her. She hadn’t been raped. To her, it was a consensual gangbang. She was not going to cry about it, she wasn’t going to talk about it and she definitely wasn’t ever going to be labeled a rape victim. She was a fast learner and fast learners did not dwell too long on their past, no matter how revolting.
Instead she took all she was feeling at the moment and dumped them on Mother. Hate she had never felt before consumed her. And it made her laugh again. She had finally found the little chink in the woman’s hold over her, something she had been previously afraid to look into. She recalled Mother’s conversation with her back at the beach house as she toyed with the gold earring dangling off her right ear. The more she pondered on the statements Mother had made, the more the chink widened and the easier it was for her to see Mother’s weakness. In reality, it wasn’t really much of a weakness because the woman had controlled people and events around her with it. In a society where dark magic was believed to be potent, people’s attitude towards it had played right into her manipulative hands. As Genesis ventured into the deep of her mind, she concluded that most of what Mother used was pure psychology. The spiritual aspect, an added bonus. But to let in such doubts meant Genesis was questioning the beliefs her existence had been centered on. Allowing that line of thinking would be turning her whole life with Mother right on its head.
But the truth had to be faced, as nasty as it looked, if she wanted to survive. Life had just entered a phase of the dangerous; Mother’s kid gloves had been replaced with calloused hands. It was a pattern Genesis knew so well as she had witnessed it in the case of the other girls. Why had she been deceived to think she was going to be treated any differently? Mother was a venomous scorpion whose nature it was to strike without much reason. She carried in her a lust to see people in agony. She was like the cat that played with the mouse all day before it pounced on it for dinner. That was her modus operandi and even her clients were not spared.
Her approach with them was to lend them her girls for a short while with the claim that the girls brought luck to their lives. But there really was no such luck. She simply reached into the vast wealth of her connections to rich and influential people and called in a few favors. Thereafter, the clients’ fortune turned around. As long as she was paid for her services and her girls were treated well, the clients were fine. Yet nothing was guaranteed with her. Some clients could be lucky to last five years and she would look for some reason to withdraw all of her privileges. Following that, contracts, business associations and partnerships would fail. Sometimes the girls, under her instructions, plainly blackmailed the men. Other times, the clients would be under the influence of a prolonged use of a powerful mind-altering drug; whatever the girl wanted from him, she got. Consequently, they would sign away their entire wealth until they came to ruin by their own hands.
Therein lay Mother’s all-powerful secret.
If Genesis knew about it prior to this, she never mentioned it to anyone nor bothered about it. She had been fascinated by the luxurious life, held bound by the enchantment that Mother presented on a gold platter. It was a dreamworld her life was wrapped in and not even her wildest nightmares could have taken her to the place Mother had just plunged her. A place of shock, agony and betrayal; but also a place of awareness and the gnawing need to move on even though it meant defying the truth and living in denial.
She was not a rape victim. She was never raped. No one would tell her otherwise and no one would stop her from possessing the man for whom she had already suffered.
The box lay open before her. The smell of dust and mold of two years assaulted her nose and she sneezed. She found everything just as she had left them—clothes at the top layer, dollars and two international passports in the middle and Jibo’s bloodstained shirt, trouser and boxers at the bottom. God bless Mama Ruky for not breaking into the box in her usual nosy manner to find what it hid. She was kind enough to hide the box for the length of time Mofe was in prison. Now she was leaving Lagos and Mofe was going to miss her. Apart from her brother and his wife, Mama Ruky was the only other family she had. Mofe considered handing the dollars over to her. It was stolen money and she could not spend it. Someone else who was innocent of the fact could make better use of it.
So she took out the clothes at the top and the bottom and took out the money as well and placed it in another bag. Then she returned to the clothes, particularly the bloodstained ones, and her mind carried her back to that night of Jibo’s death when he was shot twenty-eight times by the police.
It had just rained that evening. And she was seated before the TV in the parlor watching something on Discovery Channel as her fingers obsessed over her two-month pregnancy in a gentle caress. From the blue, Jibo burst in, panting like he had run a thousand miles. He locked the door behind him and pulled all the curtains in the parlor close. Mofe sat up.
He didn’t speak; he began to undress until he was stark naked. He dashed into the bedroom and she followed him. He wore a new combination of clothes, all black, with a matching jacket on top.
“Jibril, what is going on?” she repeated.
He ignored her still and reached for a box buried deep in their closet and pulled it out. His fingers manipulated the combination lock and the box fell open, revealing dollars, international passports for them both and a couple of guns. At the sight of the guns, Mofe backed away.
“Jibo, what is this?” Her voice shook.
He loaded the smaller gun first and tucked it in his waistband and picked the other which she was going to find out later was an SMG. She was speechless at this point and kept a wide-eyed stare at him. He picked the passports and placed them in her hands and dragged her to the parlor. He spoke in a low tone.
“I did something bad, Mofe. And the police are coming for me…”
“You did what? What are you talking about, Jibo? Why are you carrying guns? Jibo, what is going on?”
“You didn’t see me today. If anyone asks you, I’ve not been home for three days.”
Jibo picked the clothes he had discarded earlier and shoved them into her hands. “Hide these and the passports too. And don’t sleep here tonught. Expect my phone call tomorrow morning. If you don’t hear from me, find somewhere to hide then when you’re sure no one is looking for you, use the dollars and your passport to get out of this country.”
“Jibo…” Mofe could hardly speak or breathe. She was terrified to death. Jibo pulled her into a kiss and tucked the SMG in the inner flap of his jacket. He opened the front door, stared outside for a moment before he stepped into the night.
That was the last time she saw him alive. She put the passports and clothes into the box with and took them to Mama Ruky’s. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get away. Two hours later, the police came for her. They drove her to some quiet neighborhood where she was asked to identify Jibo’s body. He was a muddle of blood, brain matter and mud lying on an un-tarred road. She recognized him only by the jacket he had on. She didn’t recognize the other bodies lying around him. The police dragged her away and dumped in the back of their truck with two other guys, both of them bleeding from gunshot wounds.
That had been one of the worst nights of her life. There were similar ones that followed but none of them compared to the horror she experienced from that shocking reveal of who Jibo really was. Yet she didn’t let prison or the unjust treatment she got from the law wipe away the fond memories she had of him. She kept the memories warm for two years. Today, however, she felt it was time to let him go.
She took the passports and the clothes and all the pictures of him Mama Ruky picked from their home after the police raided it. Mofe carried them outside and on her way picked a matchbox from the kitchen, but just as she made it to the backdoor, something dropped to the floor. She looked down and saw a memory card. She didn’t bother about it, though, until she was done with her mission. On return, she put it aside for consideration later. Dominic was calling at the moment.
She was livid. The veins on her neck were sticking, her eyes were red and she was finding it hard to breathe properly. To worsen things, the weather still had not let up and the power was out. The choking humidity around her added to her anger. She was not alone; her housemates were with her. None of them was in a good mood but none was as angry as she was.
“Jene, calm down.”
Wura’s voice was supposed to soothe her but it only added to the way she was feeling. She spoke and her voice came out in faltering sounds.
“Be-be-because it’s her-her house she thinks she-she can just barge in and-and in-insult me li-like that?! Who the hell is-sh-she by the way?”
“Eva?’ Kasi laughed. “The almighty Eva?”
“Screw that! She had no right to-to-to do what she just did!”
“Clam down na, Jene,” Wura pleaded again.
“Don’t tell me to calm down!”
“It’s okay nau, Jene. See how your eyes are red. Calm down. And you, stop crying,” Wura said to Ehi who was curled up in Kasi’s arms. “Everything will be fine.”
Ehi lifted her head in reply. “You can say that because she didn’t kick you out. The rest of us are homeless.”
“Homeless keh!” Genesis hissed. “That can’t happen! You guys sh-should just pack your things! We’re not s-s-sleeping here today!”
She marched into her room and slammed the door behind her.
She wanted to kill Eva. No one had ever insulted her the way Eva just did. But it wasn’t the words she used that had riled Genesis up; it was the manner in which they had been delivered. Eva, in her notoriously uncouth manner barged into the house, called Genesis before her housemates and delivered the most mortifying insults to her. Genesis hadn’t believed her ears and eyes. It felt like she was watching one of Eva’s tacky movies. Yet she took it all in without one word of reply. But the moment Eva left the house, she found her voice.
“We’ll see who is a slut,” Genesis muttered as she slipped into fresh clothes. Her phone buzzed on her bed and she went for it. It was Dominic replying a text she had just sent.
Just got into the office now. you can come
He didn’t see it coming. She was narrating her encounter with Eva to him one minute and the next she was in tears. She had walked into his office, dry-eyed and composed. She stated that she was there to discuss her employment status and if things went well, seek a solution for the accommodation issues she and her housemates were facing. But the moment he took one look into her eyes and asked what was wrong with her, she went into tatters. He saw that she was fighting to be calm but the tears were relentless. Even when she defeated them at intervals and calmed herself, something from within he couldn’t see would throw her back into another spell. He blamed himself for her present state. He shouldn’t have bothered about the red he saw in her eyes or the sad face her makeup couldn’t mask. Where was his characteristic arrogant air and blank stare? Why had he welcomed her in with a smile and offered a seat like they were old friends?
He was exhausted as it were, weighed down by Lexus’ present condition. And somehow he suspected Genesis had misread the smile he used to mask his pain. Hence, she relaxed in his presence and cried to him like he cared. It was certain she was hurting and it was not only about Eva; it came from somewhere else deeper.
Dominic took off his glasses and watched her, his fingers rubbing his chin.
“Why do I have a feeling that this is more than your thing with Eva?”
She hadn’t heard him.
“Seriously, what is wrong, Genesis? You can talk to me.”
She shook her head and buried her face in a hanky. “I’m sorry, Mr. Dominic,” she murmured, rising up. “I’ll come back tomorrow when I feel better, and we’ll talk.”
“Sit down, Genesis.”
Genesis grabbed the door handle but Dominic hurried to her and stopped her.
He made sure not to touch her even though his hands seemed to want to do so. She took her seat once more.
“The job is yours. Your tears actually bullied me into hiring you.” He smiled, trying to lighten her mood but she held a glum face. “The job comes in two parts. There is an event planning wing which is yet to kick off and from your résumé it seemed you handled events as well?”
“You must understand that this is Lagos, Genesis. The competition is brutal and I don’t go into something to be ousted by my rivals. I must always be on top.”
“Mr. Dominic, I can do it.”
“We’ll give you a try, young lady.” He smiled again. “About your accommodation issue, you and your housemates can move into a hotel for the night while I have someone fix my guest house.”
“Thank you, Mr. Dominic. I’m really grateful.”
“It’s nothing. Don’t just do the waterworks in front of me again, okay? I can’t handle it.”
Genesis smiled. She rose to her feet again and they stood in silent awkwardness until he opened the door for her.
“I’m a very difficult man to please, Genesis. Don’t disappoint me,” he said.
“I won’t. Thank you, Mr. Dominic.” Genesis put a foot forward and gave him a hug. He remained stiff in her arms and she stepped back.
“And that… don’t do that again,” he added.
She nodded. He opened the door wider and she left the office.
There was no sexual attraction to her this time. It was a different type of magnetism. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that she was vulnerable and he felt the need to help her or maybe it was because he finally saw a normal person beyond the perfection of her beauty. Or could it possibly be his present state of mind that was weakening his resolve?
Whatever it was, it had a pull on him and it wasn’t weak. Genesis was seeping into him, one small trickle at a time.