This is Thursday’s episode. Sorry, it’s so late. I lost the episode. Silly me, I didn’t back it up.
This is not the long episode promised. So, please expect more before the long break. I won’t say when because I don’t want to break another promise. Apologies again. Have a great week.
He could see her lips opening. Her hands pointing at her ears. She swanned over and bent to unplug his headphones.
“Daddy, what are you doing? Did you sleep down here again?” Annabel scowled in disapproval. “Grandma is not going to be happy.”
Obinna could still hear Kenny G’s Duotones even though his headphones had been unplugged. His daughter complained some more as she picked up the empty glass and bottle from the table.
He remembered ringing Isio at four in the morning. At five, when he thought he could take no more. When his mother rose for her morning prayer and she came down for her insulin injection.
She did not speak to him. Her face wore the same disapproval on his daughter’s face.
It had occurred to him that she wanted him to see this. That she wanted him to realise she no longer approved of Isio. Perhaps she was tired of seeing him make phone calls that went unanswered. Of seeing him walking around, arched with the weight of it all.
He noticed it. And ignored it.
“Wakey wakey, Daddy. Grandma is entertaining your guests. You need to get up.” His daughter repeated he had to get up again. “Uncle Chib is here. Remember, you have to prepare for Uncle Ifeanyi’s arrival tonight.”
He stopped himself from asking if she had taken her medication. He knew she would have. With her glass of water, stringy cereal and sliced fruits.
“Daddy, did you hear me?”
“Yes, Bell.” He picked up his phone to check if Isio had called him or sent him a text.
“Uncle Chib is here.”
“They are in the garden. Grandma asked him to fit the new gazebos. Remember what’s happening this weekend?”
“Nice of him to do something for someone else for a change. Knowing him, I bet he wants something.” He could not remember how long it was since he paid for his brother’s rent. It did not feel that long. Two or three weeks. Perhaps not that long.
He could still feel the uncomfortable way his lungs constricted when his mother said Chibuzor would end up homeless if he didn’t pay it.
“Are you coming?” Annabel started to head for the door. “Aunty Meimu is here too.”
Obinna showered. The quickest he had ever had.
It was to ease the pain in his temple. It started after his calls to both Isio and Biba went unanswered.
“Keep it together,” he muttered to himself whilst lathering moisturizer on himself in front of the standing mirror.
He had come to realise some time ago why he prevented himself from feeling like this. Why he kept women at bay and work and family matters at the fore front.
His siblings and mother were sat under one of the newly erected gazebo’s when he joined them. Meimu’s greeting sounded as awkward as Chib’s did. She did not seem herself either. And when her phone started ringing whilst he was asking about her mother, she turned it off.
“Boyfriend trouble?” He asked.
He had come to expect her this way. Strongly opinionated and articulate when talking about others. When it came to her life, she paused frequently. Sharing only what she had to share.
She did this when she came to the house last week and spoke briefly about Stan.
“Do you need to come in to talk to me, Meimu?”
“It is done, bro.” Chibuzor answered for her. “How is she supposed to take a man that cheated on her back?”
“Look who is talking. The man is a saint compared to you.”
“I’m not a saint…”
“Oh, believe me, we all know it.”
“You that is a saint, are you married? Have you found a woman that will take your shit? Even Issy could not take your big ego.”
“Chibuzor,” their mother screamed. “What is wrong with you? You want to kill me, is that it?”
“He went low first.” His brother said. “I was putting my mouth only for the matter at hand. My sister’s. I was going to say Stan does not deserve a second chance after getting her cousin pregnant.”
“So, your brother can not open his mouth to talk again? This is a man that sent you to three different universities. Even if you did not graduate, he tried.”
“I didn’t say anything too much, Mama…” Chibuzor grunted.
“Mba, stop it.” Their mother interrupted him, throwing the napkin paper in her hand in his direction. “Your brother has done everything for you. Why are you always antagonising him? Do you even think Mr Balik would have given you a job if not because he knows your brother?”
“I didn’t mean it like that.” He looked up at his brother and parted his lips like someone about to say something.
It was all for their mother’s benefit. His brother had always been envious of his relationship with their mother, he knew. And keen to appear the victim in front of her.
Obinna did not wait for him to speak. For a false apology that would be as worthless as the years he spent at the universities. He turned and headed back into the house. On his way in, he took his phone out of his pocket as he had felt it vibrate.
The pictures of the newest vineyard in Paarl came at the right time. Vibrant colours covering acres of land. Shooting buoyantly. Close to the peaks of Paarl. Valleys and rivers and vineyards that were as spectacular as the ones in Cape Town and Stellenbosch.
He was so busy with the pictures, he did not see Meimu come in.
“What’s making you smile now?”
“Issy,” he answered without thinking.
“I bet she is.” His sister plonked herself down on one of the chairs. Without taking her eyes of him.
“I’m talking of a vineyard. Our newest vineyard in South Africa.”
“You gave your vineyard your ex’s name?”
“It’s not just mine. And she wasn’t my ex at the time.” He wondered if to tell her that his partners at the winery started it. Changing names of old vineyards and giving them names of their significant others. Dame Helen herself named a winery yard after one of her lovers. But she was looking at him the way he did when Emeka came home and talked about Uche for three hours without a break.
“Does she know?”
“It’s dead romantic, brother. Tell her.”
“It has never been the right time.
“Has she not forgiven you yet? That girl is defo milking it now.”
“Have you forgiven your cousin?”
She pulled the fruit bowl closer and picked out an apple. After inspecting it, she returned it and picked a small plum she rubbed between her palms. Nearly squashing it. She took it to the sink, rinsed it and started to eat it.
“You have to forgive your cousin.” He expected this to take a while. Months. Possibly longer. After the baby’s birth and Meimu had seen it looked nothing like Stan, he hoped the cousins would be fine again. With Meimu reportedly ignoring her cousin’s calls, sometimes, he wasn’t so sure.
Lotachi’s stubbornness had kept his parents awake. Compared to Meimu, Lotachi had started to appear not as stubborn as they thought. His sister stayed quiet when she was not happy. How could anyone argue with someone whose thoughts remained unspoken.
Meimu threw the fruit’s stone in the bin and washed her hands at the sink afterwards. Even after she had dried the wet off her hands, she did not go back to her seat.
“You can get a new boyfriend. Habiba’s place in your life can not be filled by another cousin. You don’t even know if the baby is Stan’s. For all we know, it could be Chibuzor’s.”
“It could be anyone’s. That’s what I told my mother to tell Biba’s father.” She shrugged. “I don’t actually care. Congrats to Stan if it’s his.” She glanced out through the window at the garden. “It’s Chib I’m worried about. I think you should give him a break. He is trying.”
“What?” He heard himself laugh even though what she said was not funny.
“He told me you were strict with him when he was young.” Her voice was gentle, face quite stern. “He told me how you called him names when he was young. You called him a bastard making him question his identity for years.”
“He told you he questioned his identity?”
“Yes,” Meimu replied. “It really affected him.”
“Even a blind person can tell that idiot looks like me. How did he doubt his identity?” She did not answer him. “Did he tell you what he did to deserve the tongue lashing?”
“It doesn’t matter. He is your brother. Please come outside with me, let’s sort this. Let’s all talk and settle your issues before Ifeanyi and his wife arrive.”
“No, darling. I’m sorry. That won’t be happening today. I need to go and pick up Ifeanyi’s present. If he is punishing me because I lost my temper with him once, let me go because if I go out there, I won’t be able to stop myself.”
Anu had been unable to move since she arrived. Her children had worn her out with their questions before they left home.
They asked if they were going to see their father. They asked if they could go to the cinema with him.
She would have opted for a lie-down if she was home. But she didn’t want Kanyin – who had gone into the kitchen to get her a drink – worrying.
She could not stay home after what happened yesterday. When Miles came to the house to tell her what happened at Aspire, her face did not stay stoic whilst thanking him. She was polite. More than polite.
It had occurred to her, when she thought about the visit, that her strength was wavering. Although she had promised to stay away from him, yesterday she was too polite. She had thanked him for the flowers and cards he sent to the house. For giving her the space she requested. She had let a smile spread round her face and walked him to his new car. In the dark, his hazel eyes brightened. And for a moment, she thought his car, wine-coloured like his tie, suited his brown hair and olive skin.
“You will like this,” Kanyin came towards her with a glass of sparkling drink.
“Thanks princess.” Anu took the glass cup from her and patted the space next to her. “Please sit down. I should be the one looking after you.”
“I’m fine, you know.” Kanyin sat back down and covered herself with the blanket that were on her legs when they arrived. “Don’t worry about me.” She moved her lips like someone trying to smile.
“I’m not worried about you. Just the baby. You were the one that took the decision to start wrestling on the streets in broad day light.”
“I’m fine. The cramps have stopped.”
“Thank God for me or the baby?”
Anu reached out and patted one of her step-daughter’s legs. “You have no idea how much I love you. How I wish me and your father were stable so we can support you through this.” Idriss had apologised again last night. After his phone conversation with his children. This wasn’t why she had chosen not to let her emotions rip apart her shield and bubble to the surface whenever she spoke about him. Instead, she promised to heal. For her sake and her children’s.
“I wish you had told me what my Dad did.”
“I couldn’t.” Anu said.
“Biba…” She shook her head. “I trusted her. And Isio, I loved her like a sister. I told her my secrets.”
“Isio is not to blame here. You know that. Try to forgive her. You know, she could not have told you. Your father is Obinna’s best friend.”
“So, she chose to put her Jay first.”
“Like you would have put Austin first.” She drank some of her drink. “Your father is the one you should be mad with. He is the one that broke his vows.”
“Believe me, I’m so angry with him.”
“Right, you need to shower.” Anu stood up slowly, supporting herself with her free hand as she would at home. “By the time, Austin comes back with your brother and sister, I want you to look fresh. I don’t want to eat next to a girl that has not showered for two days.”
“Austin is not complaining.”
“Please, Austin’s senses don’t work where you are concerned. Oloorun, get up.”
Her step-daughter started to giggle. She was laughing as she stood up holding the blanket in her hands.
Isio had never seen Biba fuss over anyone like this. Not even Pete. Definitely not Damian.
They had spent most of the day talking. Briefly interrupted by her father’s abusive phone call. Biba had gone into the toilet straight after. Coming out later with no visible signs of distress.
But Isio had known she cried in there. That it had upset her hearing her father calling her a prostitute. Hearing him disown her. Just because he found out she was carrying another child.
“I can’t believe Lucky knows Chib.” Biba said as she came back into the room with the paracetamol tablets Isio asked for.
“I can’t believe I slept with the jerk.” She took the pack from her and popped three out instead of two. Swallowing them with a sip of her water quickly.
She wanted to go back to sleep. She wanted to forget about them all. If only Biba would let her.
“What exactly did you say to Jay in the text you sent?”
“I told him the truth.”
“That I can’t have children and he should leave me alone. I can’t exactly tell him I let another man fuck me, can I?”
“Issy. Technically, you didn’t cheat on him. You and Obi are no longer together. You said you and Lucky used protection, so chill. Just keep your lips sealed.”
“His brother knows!” She would have raised her voice to remind her of the text she saw on Lucky’s phone. Despite knowing she didn’t have to.
They had spoken at length about it. And Biba had suggested paying Chib to keep him quiet.
“Issy, we will use the cheque the brother gave you. Case closed.” She placed one hand on her stomach. “I don’t think Lucky and Chib know each other that well. I think Chib discovered by chance and honestly, I don’t think he could ever tell his brother. Idriss said things are bad between them.”
“What if the bribe doesn’t work?”
“I don’t think he could ever turn money down.” Her friend shook her head and sniggered. “He wouldn’t.”
“What if he does?”
“Then you will get to the brother first. We will blame it on Chib, saying he set you up. Saying you were sad, drunk…”
“You know he is a very traditional man. He would never be cool with it. If kissing his brother is not enough, this one would finish us.” She thought of what the doctor said and sighed. Slowly, she heaved her legs off the floor, placing herself on the bed, her head delicately on top of her pillow. “I’m sure the fertility issue has nailed it all, sha. He wants children desperately so It’s over. Why bother?”
“Ssh.” Biba rushed over to her and stroked her face. “If he decides he doesn’t want you because you can’t have children, then it’s his loss.” She stroked her face again. “You will not die because a man decides you are no longer enough for him. You have me. Your job, your mum and Lohor.”
“You don’t get it,” Isio muttered. It hurt when she tried to raise her head so she left it where it was. “I feel exactly how I felt when I lost my father whenever I think of not having Jay in my life.”
Lucky did not blunt her misery. The attraction she felt for him grew quickly. It did not blossom, however, to what she felt for Obinna. He kept popping into her head. Sometimes taking over completely. And whenever she tried not to think of him, she found herself shouting at Biba for leaving plates in the sink. She no longer felt like eating in the canteen at work. Or staying past her finishing time at work. Going in no longer made her happy.
She missed him.
Biba was warming fried rice in the microwave when Obinna arrived. He returned her greetings and went straight into Isio’s room, knocking once.
There were mutterings at first followed by raised voices. She could hear him telling her that doctors got things wrong all the time. She shouted some more at him. Then muffled sounds.
Obinna’s voice was audible. Quiet but audible. She could hear him as she walked past the door saying he loved her.
When he came out of the room for some food, she noticed that the buttons on his top had been undone.
“Get your mind out of the gutter,” he grinned when she stared for a little longer than was necessary. “It was warm in the room. You know how Summer in London is.”
She giggled. “I know how it is.”
“Nah. Seriously, I wouldn’t take advantage of her. She is fragile right now.”
“You are a good man.”
“Thanks,” he beamed.
She served him a generous amount of fried rice and placed it in the microwave.
“Issy said Damian is not letting you see your son. I can get one of our lawyers on the case for you.”
“Really? Thanks Jay. Thank you.”
“You are welcome. Anything for my sweetie’s best friend.”
“I will bring the food in for you when it’s ready.” She volunteered.
“Thanks.” He picked up the juice cartons and cups from the tray and took them in the room with him.
Biba warmed up some chicken wings she found in the freezer. Placed the plate of fried rice on a colourful tray with cutleries. Some coleslaw and the chicken wings on each corner.
When she reached the door, she heard Isio moaning from the bedroom. Obinna’s composed voice saying calm down, sweetie.
“I don’t have protection, sweetie. I don’t have anything…” His voice trailed off.
Moments later, he was the one moaning. “I’m helpless, Issy. I’m so into you, it’s unreal.”
After leaving the tray by the door, she picked up her phone from the living room and retreated to her room quietly.
The front door opening and closing woke her up shortly before midnight. Isio came into her room dressed in matching bra and shorts. She climbed in her bed and tapped her.
“Jay has gone home, Bibby.”
“I don’t need to know if you two made up.” Biba’s eyes hurt. The result of waking every few minutes. “I heard!”
“We really made up.” Isio smiled. “For the first time, I feel like the man is where I want him.”
“Where do you want him? On top of you?”
“Listen jo.” Her smile broadened. “I wanted him in love with me as I’m with him. I wanted him to fall deeper. Like this.” She shifted closer and pulled the duvet over to cover her legs. “He has stayed here today even though his brother and wife have just arrived from Germany.”
“You have what his brother doesn’t have.” Biba chuckled. She did not need to be told to stop talking.
Obinna cared for Isio, she had always known this. Even in the beginning, when she thought he was like her father’s friends. With their love for submissive, younger women. Younger women who waited at home whilst their husbands travelled the world with other women.
“He kissed me when I told him about what the doctor said.”
“I go love.”
“I tried to be honest with him and I couldn’t.”
“Honest about what?”
“He asked me if I slept with Lucky.”
Biba winced and covered her mouth.
“I couldn’t. I lied. I had my chance to tell him and I just couldn’t.”
“You don’t understand. He said we can put everything in the past as long as we are honest with each other. But I couldn’t.” She was quiet for a while before she spoke again. “It’s Ifeanyi’s birthday tomorrow. He wants us there. Please come with me. I can’t go by myself.”
“Whatever you want, babes. Just stay quiet about Lucky. It’s too late to tell Jay now.” Before falling asleep, she had contacted Chib. They would pay him to stay quiet.
Tomorrow, they would talk about it. Tomorrow, she would tell her Lucky rang her phone, also. For now, she let her talk about her Jay.