Idriss gawked at his girlfriend and his lover until his eyes came to rest on Anu’s face. He was sure, his own face looked as if he had just been told the woman he slept with was in fact, a ghost.
“I don’t understand. Do you two just like referring to each other as sisters?”
Anu’s expression told him she was as confused as him. She looked away when their eyes met.
“We just sort of…found out.” Elicia giggled. “I was gonna tell you this weekend, lover.”
“Alhaji is your father?” He found his voice. The skin on his body felt clammy. His girlfriend had her characteristic friendly smile on her face. On this occasion he felt like telling her to quit smiling. This wasn’t good at all.
“I told you about Idriss when I came home.” Elicia grasped Anu’s hand. “He is the one I refer to as the bf.”
“I remember you talking about a certain bf,” Anu said. “Personally, I don’t think Idriss here could pass for a boy except the cut off point is late thirties these days.”
Although Elicia laughed, her sister’s face remained intact. She didn’t look like the softly protesting girl he told to get back in bed last night when she tried to leave his bed. She seemed to have morphed into the girl Alhaji described to him; the girl whose kind heart disappeared with her mother’s passing.
A waiter had moved towards them. He asked if they needed anything. Idriss realised they were disturbing the customers trying to enjoy the quiet ambience of the cafe. The suit-wearing group at a table close to the door were gawking at them.
“Join us Anu.” He gestured towards the table after giving the waiter the thumbs up sign.
“I have to go.” Anu raised her phone up. “I need to ring someone about a house and then I need to group-chat the team back at work.” She kissed her sister on the cheek. “Let’s catch up later, baby-girl.”
“You better ring. We need to hang out.”
“We will. I promise.”
With that, she was out of the cafe. He would have let his shoulder’s relax, if his girlfriend’s calm countenance fooled him one bit. Her hand was stirring her Thai iced tea with the shiny teaspoon provided when she asked why Anu was weird with him.
“I know what is weird.” He looked up from the menu in front of him. “The fact that you didn’t tell me Alhaji is your father. I told you he was one of the people I planned to network with up north to help me establish my property development business. You still didn’t tell me he is your father.”
“I didn’t want it to ruin what we have especially because all you are doing with him is just business.” Elicia put her spoon on the saucer. “I have only known for three years anyway. Besides, he has never really been my dad. He is nothing but a sperm-donor.”
He reached for her right hand and squeezed it, hoping that his real feelings about the situation wouldn’t show. Alhaji had hurt too many women he knew. How could he have gotten away with his self-seeking ways for this long?
“Mummy told me not to tell anyone when she eventually told me the truth. Anu is my friend, my best friend…so I had to hide the secret from even her. It has been hard you know, growing up without a father figure and then having to keep their dirty secret.”
“Well, you don’t need that man in your life now. You have me.”
Elicia giggled. “I have you.” She put down her spoon and grabbed hold of one of his hands.
“One thing though, please stop giving people ridiculous pet names like bae, boo, bf, bs. I don’t want you nicknaming our kids b-one and b-two.”
“I was thinking of calling them mini Idriss and mini Elicia. Better than naming our kids something ridiculous like apple, blanket or player. ”
Idriss laughed. “Stop it joor. Why would any sane parent name their child player?”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Have you not heard of the Jamaican man around our area that got four women pregnant in one year? The main chick named their baby, player. After his father, I guess.”
They laughed. The laugher seemed to thaw the tense air between them. This was what he liked about her: her ability to help him relax.
She traced the inside of his palm with her index finger really slowly. “That reminds me of our chat the other day. I know you said you are not ready to get married but I was kinda hoping we can… perhaps settle for a commitment that will make us stronger. Like… a baby.”
“Where do you think you are going?” Idriss asked Anu when he got back to the hotel and found her in the lobby area with her bags.
Her eyes glared at him as if they could cut through skin. She drew her head back and sucked her teeth.
Afterwards, silence seemed to be her weapon of choice. The silence was like a brick wall between them. Solid and unyielding.
He crouched beside her. “I didn’t know you had a sister.”
“I didn’t know you had a girlfriend.”
“We never said we were exclusive.”
“No, we didn’t,” she yelled. “But you could have hinted that you were seeing a girl from my town. I mean…what the hell were you thinking. It’s a small town that can be missed if you blink. All the Nigerians back home in Ribble Greaves know each other because it is that small. The Christians all know each other. The Muslims have one mosque.”
“I couldn’t think.” He moved closer to her. “You did something to me, I guess I didn’t think. Please, baby, don’t be mad at me
“She is my sister, Idriss.” She looked spent. Tired.
The chauffeur walked into the lobby and headed towards them.
“What do I tell Elicia? She is coming over later to see you. It will look suspicious if you are not here.”
“I’m sure you will make something up. Men like you always do.” She stood up, rising with a new strength that surprised him.
Idriss held the phone close to his ear as if someone from the next room would hear his conversation if he didn’t drag the phone closer. After pacing the hotel room for three quarters of an hour, ringing his friend had sounded like a good idea. Now though, he wasn’t sure if Emeka was mocking him or supporting him.
“You dis man, na life you dey enjoy like this.”
Idriss frowned. “You don kolo. Shey I say I dey enjoy di trouble wey I enter?”
“Last night nko, when you dey grope Alhaji’s pikin.”
He glanced at the bed and it all flooded back. Idriss rubbed his head and hoped for a clear head.
“If you wan ere my own, I fit say make you finish wit them both. Even, your main girl, Elicia sef. Alhaji no be soft meat. My man, run for your life. Stay in London joor or go Lagos, plenty fish dey for market. Water no pass your garri yet.”
“I hear you. Make I call you back jare.”
Although, he was already tired of the conversation, the real reason why he wanted to let his friend go, was because a message box had appeared on his phone’s screen. It was a message from Elicia. Reading the message did not relax the puckered brows on his face. Spending the night with Elicia would give him the temporary respite his mind needed. Still, there were other issues that needed more attention than one would give a puzzle split in several parts. Elicia’s determination to get him to commit fully to her, for a start. That was why she suggested they try for a baby.
Why else would she suggest something like that?
She was too young to be weighed down by the demands of motherhood or wifely duties. That was what he told her at the cafe when she broached the subject with the casualness of someone simply asking, how you dey? A situation further complicated by her being Alhaji’s daughter and Anu’s little sister.
He sighed as the lift got him down to the first floor. Emeka was right. How could he continue to have a relationship with Elicia after whispering all manners of meaningless words into her sister’s ears?
But when he saw his girl in the lobby of the hotel, his friend’s words vanished. The words simply grew wings and flew out through the sliding door.
He had never seen her look that beautiful. Her hair was in a bun, held together by a diamond encrusted clip. The same type as the pair of curved jewelleries adorning her ears. Her light skin shone against her black jacket under the lobby’s yellowy gold chandelier. As she walked towards him, showing legs that looked exceedingly long and thin, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. Perhaps it was because of her wide smile or perhaps because the jacket only covered up to the middle of her thighs.
“I know you told me you are busy,” she said. “I miss you. I can just hang around whilst you work.”
He pulled her to himself. “Work when I have you here? I don’t think so.”
Elicia studied the nail marks on his back as he slept. She knew where they had come from. Earlier, in the cafe, she had spotted her sister’s, long false nails with the attached rhinestones – and she had noticed them because she had never known Anu to make that much of an effort with her appearance.
Working out something happened between the two people closest to her had been easy. Her sister’s behaviour earlier was odd. And then, she left London without coming to see her.
“We will be fine, bf.” Elicia whispered, pulling her camisole top back in place. She reached for her bag on the floor and took it with her to the bathroom.
In the bathroom, Elicia took out her pack of contraceptive pills. She emptied the ones for the last five days in the toilet and watched the pills flush away.
The first time she saw him was years ago. Dreams where he was her hero plaqued her, night after night. Meeting him again in London was no coincidence. It was a plan that she orchestrated for months because having him was more important than anything that she had ever craved for. Losing him had never been a part of that plan. She would do anything to be his wife.