I wanted to publish this yesterday, my birthday. Unfortunately, I write at a snail’s pace (Ask Oga Dan). Anyway, since I couldn’t deliver early, I thought I would deliver on time.
Have a blessed day.
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//One Of Those Days//
Although Bayo held on to her waist whilst the two men descended on Emeka – kicking and throwing him back to the ground every time he tried to get up – Kanyin fought him as much as she could.
“Why are you struggling, shortee?” He licked the side of her face and tried to stick his tongue in her ear. “I miss you sweet cheeks.”
“Well, I don’t miss you.”
“If you and I were still hanging, this pervert won’t be taking advantage of you.”
“Let him go, Bayo. I have reported you to DCI Diggs.” She remembered what Kam told her the last time they spoke.
“Tell him you have made a statement to the police. Tell him you’re going to testify against him in court. Even though you have decided not to, he doesn’t know that. Telling him you are going to do it, will make him back off. At least for a while.”
Kam was right. Bayo let go off her and barked at his men to get in the car. Kanyin rushed to Emeka. His face and neck were covered in bruises of various colours.
“You will regret this, Bayo.” She shouted at his retreating figure. Shouting louder than normal because of her anger and the taunting laughter coming from him.
“You are mine, shortee. Mine forever. Tell your uncle I’m watching him.” He jumped into the car and drove off.
“Sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with him.” She touched his face and tried to wipe the muddy soil on his chin without touching his bleeding lower lip. “Let me go and call for an ambulance.”
“How would we explain what we are doing here?” Emeka spat out blood and tried to get up, using one hand.
She tried to help him and began to sob when she couldn’t. His sky-blue jeans and white trainers had turned filthy-brown. The front of his jumper and jeans were wet.
“Go and get my phone, it’s in the car.” He tried a smile that came out wonky. “I’m okay, I promise. Painkillers and plasters will fix me up at the hospital.”
When Idriss arrived at the hospital on Saturday morning and saw his daughter feeding Emeka fruit cocktail from a dessert cup, he stopped at the entrance of the room and watched them for a while.
He needed to collect himself. Those beasts really dealt with his friend. And it awed him knowing this happened because he tried to defend his daughter.
A man that hated fighting of any kind. Not uncommon for him to be the one trying to settle disputes in clubs during their clubbing days. The Emeka he knew did not provoke Bayo and his thugs.
“Eme, he is here o.” It was Ikumapayi that spotted him first, having raised his head from the newspaper he was reading.
Kanyin’s hand paused around the fork as she greeted him. She mumbled something about Emeka not being able to feed himself.
His eyes went to the lower arm in plaster and a sling. The other arm did not look too good either. A large, red bruise covered the elbow area. “It is the least you can do, kiddo.”
Anu was the one who called him last night to tell him what happened whilst Emeka was giving his daughter a lift home. After calling the police station to speak to Kam, to tell him to lock up Bayo or arrest him for murder soon, Idriss decided to come home. Leaving his London business commitments half-way completed.
“I can’t thank you enough. Dude … you are a good friend.”
“Kanyin is doing her best to thank him, nau.” Ikumapayi interrupted, stifling laughter. “Eme bobo himself is happy to collect. Abi, is that not so uncle?”
“Uncle Ikumapayi, Emeka saved me.” Kanyin pouted and placed the cup on the white hospital table, the only furniture in the room except for the bed and the chair, Ikumapayi occupied.
“Eme, you save am, nau. Why are you smiling like one big oponu as she dey disrespect you?” Ikumapayi’s eyes were focused on Emeka as if the man owed him money. “Go and marry joor. Did olowo baba here not change when his Aisha join am for house? Even if that change only lasted for two weeks, at least we know he wanted to try but the witch holding his picture back home don get promotion. And na im third leg she take curse…”
“Let me go and find my stepmum and Austin.” Kanyin stood up. She hugged him without meeting his eyes.
“Aisha is here?”
“They went to the shop to get some fruits and snacks. Emeka… I mean… uncle wanted shortbread biscuits.”
They started to talk about what to do to Bayo after she left the room. The private detective they hired was yet to get back to them. Ikumapayi said they could have fixed him a long time ago if they were in Nigeria.
He had never thought he would miss the Nigerian justice system where money could buy justice. The irony of it was when he lived in Lagos, he hated it. He hated living in the same city where the people that killed his father lived. Where he had no money to buy justice.
“So Kam came to question me,” Emeka snorted. “Me, I no see nobody o. I don’t know nadda. He doesn’t think I know how their UK law works. They will arrest that boy and release him in less than two hours without charge.”
“If you don’t talk, how will they get the evidence they need for court?” Ikumapayi asked.
“And what if he tells those big thugs to come and put a bullet in my back before the court date? What will you do then?”
“We will give you a good send-forth, nau. No need to worry. The detective is already servicing Uche. We just need someone to inherit your house.”
“Shut up, Iku. This is how you were encouraging him to grill me wella. If not that Uche was here at the same time and she told him to chill, by now Kam would have locked me up.”
“Siddon dere, nau. Keep acting as if you didn’t see the jealousy that clouded his eyes when Uche was asking you, are you in pain Emeka boo.”
“You are the jealous one. Hoya has tamed you. Now you are acting as if you too did not once have two or three girls at the same time like your egbon here. Or you think I have forgotten the time my sister revealed that my close friend broke her heart.”
“And you have always assumed that was me. Why? Because I was staying with you? Well, olowo baba has been known to break hearts and please women from two continents away. Because he was living in London then does not mean he didn’t pop Lotachi’s cherry.”
Idriss felt utter shame as Emeka’s eyes dug into him. He wanted to slap Ikumapayi for revealing a secret that he promised to keep.
“Emeka, dude… I don’t know how I crossed that boundary.”
“Well, now you know why I never introduced Uche to you at the start of our relationship.”
Ikumapayi laughed. “This is a girl that is not yours anymore o.”
“Wetin be your wahala sef with this dude?” Idriss asked. His friend had never been the type to indirectly insult anyone. “Chill on the yabbing, nau.”
“Your friend is messing with a very young girl. That is my wahala.”
“Stop it. Or else…” Emeka growled.
“He is doing his neighbour’s daughter. She is in her twenties but Emeka and her father are supposed to be pals.”
“So?” He wondered if the two were hiding something from him. Some sort of disagreement. “She is way past eighteen. Nothing wrong in giving it to a chick that wants it.”
“I haven’t touched her,” Emeka stated.
“See. He is a good guy. By now, if it was me back in the day, the girl and I would be history by now. Just take it slow. If it is meant to be, it will happen. Age difference doesn’t matter, what matters is your heart. Treat her well and your days will become nicer.” He added one of the lines Dollar Bobby fed him in London and regretted it. His friends were looking at him as if he had announced he was giving up women.
Whilst looking for his wife at the hospital’s shop he saw Uche in a corner. She was picking up magazines from the magazine aisle. Going through the first few pages without really looking at them, then placing them back.
“Emeka likes girls’ magazines. The pink one about hair will do.”
Uche did not smile. She dropped the pink magazine she had just picked up.
“What’s up babe?”
“Are you supposed to be talking to me? Your wife is still very angry. I’m not complaining sha. I have been pretty bad at the friend thing.”
“Give her time. And stop stressing. You are too kind and pretty for all that.” Another thing Dollar Bobby talked about in London was the importance of compliments.
“Women love compliments,” The hand holding his beer bottle poised in midair. “How do you think I have made my third marriage last this long? Even if Goriola’s hair makes her head look like a nest of baby snakes, I will still tell her she is fine. Because it cannot be easy for her, sitting there whilst someone is pulling at her scalp for hours in the name of making her look nice.”
Uche’s face let go of its earlier tightness. “Kam is stressing me out too. The thing is, I really like him…”
“And I hear he is crazy about you.” He wondered if he was the best person to advise her about her relationship.
“He wanted to take me to his friend’s wedding today.”
“Waoh. Dude is fast. Meeting the friends already?”
He didn’t like girls meeting his friends before he got married. Not intentionally at least. Having seen Emeka in the area, Anu already knew who he was. She had simply walked up to Emeka when he came to Aspire and introduced herself as “his not-silent business partner.” And drugged up following his diagnosis, both from prescription and what he felt for her, introducing her to Ikumapayi felt natural.
“I messed up,” Uche said. “I called him to cancel when Kanyin called me saying Emeka had been badly beaten up.”
“He is not too bad.”
“So I rushed over here. I told Kamil my cousin has taken ill.”
“Let me guess? Kam came to investigate the case and saw you hear with Emeka?”
“Yes. You should have seen his face.”
“Explain to him then.”
“He didn’t want to know. I tried. He just told me he has to get back to the station.”
“Then make him listen. Go to his house tonight. Believe me, he will drop everything if you start stripping for him.”
“Whatever floats his boat. My point is, surprise him. Show him you are crazy about him.”
“It doesn’t matter that we are so different, does it? He is very English. I’m not westernised enough. My accent is still the same as when I arrived here years ago…”
“Stop acting as if you are from a village. You sound perfect. And I’m sure he likes all these things about you. Trust me. Me and my wife are very different.” She tried to interrupt him but he didn’t want to stop yet. “My wife is a jand ajebutter. She speaks through her nose sometimes. You know that, nau.”
He felt someone slap his back. His wife’s hands encircled him from behind whilst Uche laughed. “Is that how you say welcome home to your hubby?”
“Emeka told me you are here.” Anu returned Uche’s enthusiastic greeting with a curt hi. She waited for her to leave before kissing his chin. “We need to talk, darling.”
“She feels bad, baby. Be nicer to her.”
“I had a visit yesterday night thanks to her blabber mouth. Bradley showed up at Aspire. He knows about…” She stopped talking and after looking around the busy shop, patted the top of her belly.
“I’m sure you handled him.”
“He didn’t want to leave. He even started saying this baby might be born with spinal bifida like his granddad and Kam’s brother. That we need him around to help us.”
“Don’t listen to him. Allah will be with you and the child. You are taking your vitamins and attending antenatal. You look swell, baby, don’t worry. Your stress level is what we need to tackle now.” He reached for her and she jerked away from him.
“Your aftershave is too strong, sorry. Morning sickness.”
“Let me drive you home then. I can run you a bath. Have you eaten?”
“No. I’m not in the mood for anything.” She glanced around, adopting a heated but hushed tone now. “Run me a bath is code for, you know what. And have you eaten is your way of asking me to go make something for you. How about help me reduce my stress today. Take the twins back home to Kate, they are at our house with Aleska. I will go and check in at Aspire with Austin. Do something else that would be lovely. Tell Refiloye to stop ringing Austin’s phone.”
“Don’t panic, he didn’t blab. I saw it myself yesterday when he was at work. She rang him whilst we were at a house-viewing with a client. Several times.”
“Why? What does she want?”
“I have no idea. Please sort her out.”
“I will. Come, let’s go back to the ward together.”
His mind was mentally occupied later on because Kate had demanded quite a lot when he dropped off their sons, a car with no mileage and a family holiday to Tenerife included. He didn’t stop to wonder why Refiloe’s door was wide open. Inside her apartment when the sultriness of the female voice crooning from the stereo hit him, he realised why. She was naked on her chaise except for the small cushion on top of her legs. When she invited him to her home she had conveniently left out, she would receive him like this.
Talk was the word she used.
“We need to talk. There are things you need to know.”
Perhaps if he had listened to her when he called to order her to stop the nuisance calls, he would have realised, she wanted him back.
“I miss you.” The cushion fell to the side as she sat up. “I don’t mind sharing you this time.”
“Is this why you asked me to come?” He looked away from her. From the figure that once gave him pleasure and realised that this had never happened before. His body did not react like it usually did.
“You went back to her because of your sense of duty. That is not a way for anyone to live.”
“I went back to her because I love her. What I had with you can’t compare, full stop.”
“I thought you cared about me.” Her South African drawl came out strong as she broke down. “You used me.”
“I’m sorry, Reffy. I did care.”
“You bought me a car.”
“I am truly sorry. I hope you find what you are looking for.”
At home, he shaved and showered. Having given Aleska extra money to keep Jadesola at her own house and sent Kanyin and Austin messages not to come back until later, he set about setting the table. The local Indian restaurant and Caribbean restaurant were told to deliver in an hour. The pot of chilli con carnie, Kate’s mother gave him, he placed on the hob, ready to be warmed up.
The woman’s skinny hand, veins showing through it like spider webs, closed around his when he thanked her. She told him his wife looked weary the last time she saw her. That he should support her more for the sake of the children.
Hours after he sent his wife a message asking her to come home early, he gave up waiting for her. Retreating upstairs after ringing Austin –who was at the hospital with Kanyin and Ikumapayi – he decided it didn’t matter.
He was about to change for bed when his phone rang. Uche sounded upset.
“Are you asleep? Anu asked me to ring you.”
“Refiloe and Anu got into a fight. No, actually, it wasn’t a fight…”
“Is my wife okay?”
“What exactly happened?”
“Anu came to see me after work. Refiloe was with Efe. I don’t know who said what. The next thing I know, Anu slapped Refiloe and Refiloe pushed her to the floor.”
“She pushed my wife?”
“Anu asked me not to call you… so the girls won’t start to worry.”
“Where is she?”
“Accident and Emergency. We think she is miscarrying. Please come. She needs you.”
The sonographer was with Anu when he saw her. Her eyes were bloodshot and the hand she placed in his trembled as she tried to speak.
“Baby, I’m here.” He placed his other hand around her and kissed her forehead.
“I want this baby. I want my child.”
She cried on his chest and he held her. The sonographer stepped aside and waited next to Uche as he tried to soothe his wife.
When he looked up, the sonographer was leaving the room. His wife hummed ‘My Love’ a Sia song she listened to constantly after her father died. Haunting lyrics about loss. On keeping the departed one in hearts of loved ones. Accepting yet not letting go completely.
“Aisha,” he held her hands. “You need to be strong. For me.”
“I know I’m probably reaping what I sowed. But I went to church for confessions two days ago and I felt better.”
“They need to check you over, baby. I will be here, holding your hand. So gbo?”
“Never let go.”
“I won’t.” He held her hands tighter in his.
Uche left the room and came back later with the sonographer. They were quiet as the woman set to work. And when a blurry picture appeared on the screen, he spoke first.
“Is it alive?”
Two deep smile lines emerged at the base of the woman’s chubby cheeks. “From what I can see, your baby is doing very well.”
Anu looked at him as if to seek validation before showing her happiness. He wiped her tears and kissed her forehead.
“This is good news, Aisha. Really good.”
“Are you okay with this?”
“Delighted, wifey. We should start thinking of names.”
“Good Christian names.”
“Muslim names, joor. I’m so putting my foot down for this one.”
They all laughed together.
Kanyin could hear Austin and Ikumapayi from downstairs as she straightened her extensions with her straightener. She could hear Ikumapayi shouting at Austin for devouring the grilled fish. The two had pounced on the table when they arrived from the hospital. If she had not seen them both go to the canteen twice, she would have assumed they had not eaten for weeks.
“Where are you even putting it, sef? Na only your mouth sweet things dey go, abi? Grilled fish, prawns, meat, only you.” Ikumapayi sounded like his mouth was filled with food.
Kanyin finished her hair and started to apply make-up to her face. She worked faster. The deft movement of her brush on her eyebrows went a long way in calming her rapidly beating heart.
When the men were in the canteen at the hospital, Emeka told her he would like her permission before speaking to her father.
“I want to marry you.”
She had shifted her chair closer to him, half-laughing. “Joke or the drugs talking, you better don’t let Uncle Ikumapayi hear you.”
“I want you. No kidding.” He pulled her closer with his better hand and slipped his tongue in her mouth. They kissed again when the kiss ended.
“Really?” She pulled away to look at him.
“Yes. You can go back to school, if that is what you want. We don’t have to have children straight away.”
“You will wait for me?”
“Yes. Hope this shows you how much I love you.”
Now she was ready to show him how much she loved him. Her hand struggled to focus her phone’s camera as the other hand played with the strap of her bra. Nervous to reveal too much and knowing he preferred conservative women, she decided to keep her underwear on.
Idriss walked to Emeka’s ward rather than take the lift because Refiloe’s text left him reeling.
I never meant to push her. She slapped me first. She told me to take my eyes off you and she attacked me when I told her she should have done her job better. I hope she is fine. By the way, now I know why you are sticking by her. I overheard her and Uche talking about the illegitimate child she is carrying. I can say I have fallen even deeper for you. You are an amazing man. Sticking by your cheating wife to protect her. You know where I am anytime you want me. I don’t mind waiting.
None of his friends could have pictured him raising another man’s child. If they knew him well, however, they would have known his wife’s happiness mattered too much. Seeing her happy today thrilled him. It had taken two nurses urging him to go home before he kissed her and promised to be back in the morning. He hated leaving her behind.
He had decided to be a better husband and father. A better person. Observing his prayers and zakat.
Why make his wife and children’s lives harder by going with women like Refiloe? Girls like Kate. They could never care for him like his wife. Not truly.
Kate’s proposed family holiday had a list that could have crippled normal-waged men. Her grandmothers, mother, stepmother and her boyfriend and his parents were all to go on the ‘twins’ family holiday’. She suggested taking a few of her friends too. Jokingly he asked if she wanted her puppies to travel with them on first class service.
“They will go to the dog hotel,” she said, scowling when he started laughing. “It is cheaper than a normal hotel. I’m not trying to make you penniless. Chill.”
She assured him it was for the twin’s benefit. That she chose Tenerife to save money. And all he could think of was, his wife had never asked him for a ‘family holiday.’
He would tell Kanyin about the baby tonight leaving the issue of its colour until much later. No one would stop his wife and children from living normal, happy lives.
Emeka was in the bathroom when he reached the ward. The nurse that told him to come anytime he wanted, this afternoon, had finished her shift. The one on duty let him wait by Emeka’s bed. He received a shy smile as he occupied the chair beside the bed.
Reaching out, he picked up his friend’s phone on the table to check how much power it had left. He had promised to bring him a charger this afternoon. Toiletries and other necessities. Thanks to Refiloe and Kate, he forgot.
A text message came in. The name of the sender, Retty, stopped him from putting the phone down. It was what he had heard his daughter tell English acquaintances to call her. A shortened version of Iretioluwa, her middle name.
Hi. Did you get my whatsapp message? Check it out. Ping me if you like it.
The message itself did not tell him much. Nor did the other text messages he clicked on quickly. So, he clicked on the WhatsApp icon and scrolled down to Retty. There was a message waiting.
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