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I have missed much needed sleep to get this one out. Hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading and for the comments. Have a fab weekend.
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He was quick. Too quick for her.
She was thinking of getting off the rug when he lowered himself next to her. He kissed her. Or something that could be described as such. His reeking mouth closing over half of her face and slobbering all over it.
He was trying to climb on top of her when she slapped him.
“What is wrong with you? Get off me.”
“Issy, you can slap me.” He slurred, grabbed the hand she slapped him with and sniggered. “You can bite me. That will only make me wanna jam you … more.”
His eyes were bloodshot and he smelt of the strong alcoholic drink her aunt’s husband reeked of whenever he came home all those years ago. When she tried to push him off her, she found him surprisingly heavy.
He moaned as his head settled on her neck. “Love me, sexiness.”
She was hitting him and screaming at the same time. Even though he slurred that no one would be able to hear her, Isio screamed louder. Screaming until her voice rose above the rap music coming from outside. Until the noise seemed to penetrate his head and he started to get off her.
Yet, she did not stop screaming. Not even when the music stopped and she heard someone knocking on the door. Not even when Kanyin’s husband burst in, grabbed Chib by his collar and hurled him across the room.
Isio sat up, trying to pull her dress back in place at the same time. Her tears were blurring her vision although she could see another man in a grey top had come into the room. He held Kanyin’s husband back and shouted something about calling the police. Biba came into the room followed closely by Kanyin.
“Call the police,” the man in grey said again. “I saw him sneaking in here.”
“Shut the fuck up,” Chib stood up and snarled at the men. “It is none of your business.”
“I heard her screaming.”
“Is she complaining now?”
Chib smirked and despite wanting to shout at him, she couldn’t. He shrugged and started to head towards the door.
“Don’t be scared,” Kanyin knelt on the floor beside her.
She had eyes that seemed to be able to access her mind. Isio tried to speak but instead of words, it was the tears that wouldn’t stop coming.
Kanyin looked up at her husband. “Call the police, Austin.”
Chib charged through the door and ran off. Austin and the man in grey followed him whilst Biba bombarded Isio with questions.
“Why would he try anything like that? I don’t get it. Why would he? He can have any girl he wants.”
Kanyin went to the door and shut it. There were a couple of girls standing in the hallway, looking in.
“What exactly did he try to do?” Biba asked. “I asked him to come talk to you and he said he would only talk to you. He was so gutted you didn’t come to the party.”
“I don’t care Biba about how he felt.” She had never felt like shouting at someone so much in her life. “I just want to forget tonight ever happened. And, yes, he tried to force himself on me.”
“Wait,” Kanyin frowned. “You asked him to come here to talk to her. Didn’t you also tell me and Austin that she was asleep?”
“So? I expected him to wake her. Ki ni big deal?”
“The big deal is your friend nearly got hurt.”
“But she is fine. Chill.” Biba patted Isio’s shoulder. “See you in a minute, babe. I need to go and see off my date. We will talk later.”
Kanyin glared at Isio after she left. “What the hell.”
“Please don’t worry about it.” She wiped her face with her hands. Worse things happened to her in Aunty Ejiro’s house. “I’m fine. I just need you to ring your husband. They have to let Chib go because I don’t intend to say anything to the police.”
“Are you worried about your job? Don’t worry. Obinna and Mummy are really nice. You won’t lose your job.”
“It is Mummy I’m thinking of. Seeing her son in jail will kill her.”
Lack of sleep had depleted her energy source yet Isio was happy to hear Kanyin’s voice at the door. She unlocked the door and greeted her. A yawn cut her greeting halfway.
“Hi, did I wake you?” Her neighbour was dressed in orange shorts and a crop top. She appeared even slimmer. Her dark, luxurious skin glowing.
She was so full of energy. Showed her age because of this and at times it felt strange knowing she had a husband waiting for her at home.
“I didn’t sleep much.”
“I guess it’s because of what I have on my mind.” She collapsed on the armchair and yawned again. She felt like she hadn’t slept for a month.
“Did Biba not come back last night?”
“No. She called to see how I was though.”
“You don’t need friends like that.”
“Did your husband catch up with Chibuzor yesterday?”
“No. Sorry. What are you going to do about work? You can’t go back there as if nothing happened. Austin says we should report it. Men like Chib are dangerous.”
“I called the agency. I can’t go back there. Now, I’m feeling bad. His mother and Annabel have been so nice to me.”
“Don’t feel bad. This is all down to that monster.”
This distracted her from the mountain of guilt she felt about abandoning Annabel and her grandmother. Her worry about her sister’s wedding plans.
Not continuing with the planned shifts would result in a drop of income. Most of this income had been earmarked for the wedding.
“Can I bring you some food?” Kanyin asked. “Please don’t say no. Austin cooked a lot of food. Sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs and fries. He won’t be happy if you say no. We can eat here.”
“Yes please. I’m so hungry.”
What she needed more was someone to talk to. This was what she missed about Nigeria. Someone safe to uncurl her tongue to. Long, soul-satisfying chats. Biba had never been interested in anything other than men, hair and high end fashion.
She had tried in the beginning to continue talking to the friends she had as a teenager. In the end, social media chats had not been enough to sustain these friendships.
Kanyin and her talked all through their meal. They stayed on the sofa afterwards, holding their cups of tea. Their conversation had led to revelations. Her new friend telling her about what her first boyfriend did to her.
“He drugged me so I was out of it. I remember feeling so bad but thinking I could just shower and everything would go back to normal.”
“How did you cope?”
“I didn’t. I was a mess. I felt a bit better after he died.”
“He was involved with all these gangs,” Kanyin said. “He was a thug. He just presented himself like a normal person.”
“Does Austin know?”
“Of course. He helped me with everything. We were friends, you see. He worked for my father and lived in our house. I didn’t see him like that though. All I saw was this guy who liked to listen to me talk. Then, he moved to London to do his postgrad. I used to come to London a lot. They were setting up Aspire in London then. My dad and step mother were here a lot so I came often too. Austin didn’t mind me staying with him.”
“Your dad didn’t mind you and Austin sleeping in the same flat? Getting it on.”
“There was no getting it on. My dad was on the phone to him twenty-four seven. He was always dropping in unannounced too. Austin is not that brave joor.”
She giggled. Her face lit up even more. Isio was getting accustomed to this. Seeing her brightening up every time they mentioned her husband’s name. It made her wonder if love like this was out there for her.
“Anyway, he was seeing this girl from his uni then. They were not serious. But it kinda worried me.”
“You were jealous?”
“I guess I was. Acting so crazy too. Like I was seeing him differently. I wanted him to myself. And if he came home late or took her out, I will be like, I thought you were one of the good guys. I thought you didn’t like sleeping around.” She placed her drink on the floor beside her and folded her legs again. “He tried to protect me though. He would leave the sitting room to take the call in his room if she called. But one night, he must have thought I was asleep. I heard him tell her he is beginning to fall for her. That night enh … I wept. The next morning, I left whilst he was in bed.”
“He came after you?”
“No. He called and texted. I ignored him. I blamed myself. I shouldn’t have let him fall for someone else. Especially after how he helped me.”
Isio grimaced, every bit of her wanting to hear what happened next.
“That morning there was a terrorist shooting at Euston. Four people were shot. I remember thinking I was going to die and wishing I had more time with him. Hoping I could make him see that it wasn’t that I didn’t love him, it was just that I thought I was too damaged to be with someone like him.”
“You are not damaged.”
“I know that now.” She exhaled and planted her chin on one of her knees. “That was what he said when he saw me. When he came to the train station with his shirt inside out.”
“How did he find out?”
“He had seen the news on telly. He was trembling when he saw me. We hugged and then he kissed me. We came back here and he called my dad to let him know he found me. That was when he said, I’m never letting her go again. That night he asked me to marry him. And one of the reasons I said yes was because I knew he would understand if we end up having issues in the bedroom department. Imagine my surprise when on our first night together in Monaco, the evening of our wedding, everything fell into place. I wasn’t scared. It felt right.”
“So, there is hope for me then.” A new wave of dread hit her as his face, old and wrinkly tried to come to the surface. “My aunt’s husband was a perv.”
“Oh, no. Issy.”
He was grotesque to look at. His face was unlike Chib’s. He was like a badly drawn picture. Hair where there shouldn’t be hair. A stomach that shot out like a pregnant woman’s.
“He came back drunk as usual. I was trying to make his food when he came into the kitchen. I remember the pain as his finger tried to find its way in. That pain paled in comparison to what my aunty did to me when she found us.” Isio pulled up her dress to reveal the scars on her thighs. “She beat me until I passed out.” She stopped when she saw Kanyin’s traumatised face. “We were rescued soon after by our father’s friend. It’s all in the past. We are fine now.”
She couldn’t bear to tell her that was the start. That in the coming months, her aunty would hit her with anything she could lay her hands upon. That she would be ordered to sit outside in the sun.
“That yellow pawpaw skin needs to burn,” her aunty would say.
“We are fine now.” Isio repeated as if to reassure herself. “My sister is getting married.”
“That’s good. Are you going home for it?”
“When I have just quit one job and I have huge bills like rent to pay…”
“I’m sure you can arrange something with Aspire.”
“Aspire owns this building,” Kanyin unfolded her legs. “They bought it off the property developers some months back.”
“I don’t really like asking for help. And why would Aspire people want to help me when I have abandoned their favourite Mummy.” She smiled affectionately. “I’m glad this has given us an opportunity to really talk.”
After the nursing agency told him Isio could no longer care for his mother, Obinna wanted to light up a cigarette. Not the electronic cherry flavoured ones, his daughter’s nagging made him switch to. But the real ones he smoked before downing his coffee in the early hours.
He inhaled the clean air and tapped the wall to prevent him from ringing the nursing agency again. It was hard to be polite to Isio’s manager. And the more the man explained, the more he wanted to shout. The problem was, the man skated around, not really answering the question he asked him. Why Isio could no longer care for his mother.
The manager’s part of the conversation were mostly apologies and assurances. “We have other good nurses.” He did not sense his anger. Continuing like someone reading off a list. “I can email you some names. They are all well trained.”
“No, my mother wants Issy. No one else,” he had barked in response.
His mother was in bed, her King James beside her. Her head had been wrapped in a scarf, the blanket pulled up to her neck.
“Mummy, what is this?” She had been fine this morning. Volunteering to make breakfast. Then, the petite nurse arrived instead of Isio and proceeded to call his mother Elizabeth, the first name only his father dared use. “I know you like Isio. I have called the agency, they said she is not available. Please manage the one from this morning.”
“Manage what?” His mother raised her head slightly before placing it back on the pillow. “Manage that skinny one that did not even talk to me. The same girl that did not ask what I wanted to eat.”
“How could she have spoken to you when you did not speak to her. You didn’t answer her, she thought you didn’t understand English. You even shook your head when she asked if you wanted breakfast.”
“I didn’t like her,” she started to cough.
Obinna helped her into a sitting position and picked up the glass of water on the table. Gently he brought the cup to her mouth. After sipping, she sighed.
“There are plenty of girls like her out there.” He placed the cup back on the table without letting go of her.
“Not for Annabel. She really likes her. You saw how she was this morning when she didn’t see her.”
“Annabel rarely takes to people like that. I know. She …even wanted Isio to come with us to her school this morning. That’s why she wasn’t happy when the other nurse turned up.”
“See, what I mean. She likes her. Give it time and you will see what we all like about her.”
He didn’t like the cunning smile on her face. “If this is your plan to get me to settle down…”
“It isn’t. All I’m interested in is to find someone that can look after my only grandchild. I’m not trying to arrange anything. I’m not introducing you to any of my friends’ daughters again. No way. The last one I did, her mother is still not picking my calls. The girl has still not gone back to work. I hear she hasn’t even left her bedroom.”
The last time Angel called him, it was from somewhere she called heavenly, where she sunbathed every day. Where people with foreign accents waited on her. Where Champagne and caviar were served in abundance. He had been relieved that she wasn’t as suicidal as her sister claimed. So relieved that he deposited some money in her account. A lot, actually. A girl has got to eat like she said.
“I wish you would stop blaming me. Angel is not back at work because she doesn’t like work. She only took the cushy job at her father’s company to stop him from complaining. Now she is using me as an excuse.”
“It isn’t an excuse. She wanted to marry you. Don’t blame her. You are a successful man.”
“I hear you. Please try and rest. I want to go out tonight. Your grandchild will look after you.”
“You are going out?” The cunning expression reappeared. “I hope it is a woman you are going to see.”
He supported her back in bed. “Work, mother. I’m going to work. Please stop obsessing before you end up abducting a woman for me.”
On the way back to his bedroom, he found his daughter with a cleaning cloth dusting the living room and stopped. “Okay, my Bell?”
“I’m just helping out.” She placed the cleaning products back in its container. Then she plastered on a look she inherited from her mother. Doe-eyes. Neck bent whilst looking up at him. She was as manipulative as her mother, he found out years ago. The better traits, she gained from him.
“Are you hungry, Daddy? Aunty Issy left meat pies in the freezer. Do you want one?”
“Baby girl, we don’t do secrets. If you have something to tell me, just spill it out.”
“Yes.” He squeezed her shoulder. When that did not work, he pulled her to himself and stroked her head. Her corn rolls were neat and firm against her scalp. “Don’t worry. I will still love you. No matter what.”
“It is mummy,” she put her weight on one leg. “When I called her like we agreed…”
“It’s once a week. I know you refused when she first asked.”
“I’m fine with it. I like talking to her now.”
“So, what’s up?”
“She asked me for your phone number at work. I gave it to her, Daddy. Sorry.”
“It’s okay.” He wanted to tell her off. He remembered warning her. But she was no match for her mother’s smartness. “Your mother has a new husband. I’m sure I have nothing to worry about.”
“He has left her.”
“She said he sold her car and land and then he vanished. Now she misses us. She says she wants to come here. Please Daddy, can she come see me?”
Isio was sitting on the floor, leaning on the puff when the doorbell rang. She ran to it and opened it eager to see Kanyin who had promised to come back when she left earlier.
Standing at the door was Obinna, smartly dressed, clean shaven. She opened her mouth and closed it without saying anything.
“It was pretty easy to find you, Issy. Turns out I’m one of your landlords. Can I come in?”
“What are you doing here?”
“Let me come in and I will explain.”
He was holding a black plastic bag with her name and address labelled on it. She tried to peek through the gap where his hand held the bag and saw the tip of a box.
“You are curious, Issy. Let me in then I can tell you what I’m doing here.”
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