The Fourth Finger – 12

Catch up on previous chapters HERE

Toni’s meeting at the BMW office went smoothly.

It was her second time with them. After the first presentation on Tuesday, which saw other ad agencies competing for a chance to pitch their campaign ideas, BMW called Covet back for another run. They loved their idea and wanted them to tweak it a little. They specifically asked for Toni; she went there and wowed them the second time.

It was a huge project ticked off her list for the day. The rest of her afternoon was loaded with activities, but first she needed to stop by the office for a quick meeting with her team before she headed out again.

“You did great back there, Antonia,” Christie said to her as they both settled into the backseat of Christie’s car.

“Thanks.”

Christie took out her makeup purse. “I’m excited to have you as partner. And Raji says we have you to thank for getting back the Musta account.”

“Musta?”

“The phone company from Finland.”

“Oh,” Toni laughed. “What a name. You know what it means?”

“It’s Finnish for Black.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

Christie thinned out her lips, applying her favorite shade of nude lipstick as she checked her reflection in a gold-plated pocket mirror. Toni loved that she kept her looks natural, but she was curious as to why she didn’t do jewelry, save for the one piece that never left her neck. She was a beautiful woman and Toni could see why Raji was obsessed with constantly staring at her.

“So, you’ll be handling them. The Musta guys,” Christie mentioned.

“Really?” Toni was not pleased with the news. “I thought you were handling them.”

“They insulted me, Toni, made me have an accident, and quite frankly, I don’t want to see their dirty Caucasian faces around me. I just want their money.”

She set her mascara brush to her eyelashes.

“So, when they come in next week, just go ahead and do your thing, girl. They’ll love you, I promise.”

Christie’s phone situated in-between both women, lit up. Giving the phone a glance, Toni saw the name ‘Raj’ before Christie took the call.

“I’m on my way. Calm down,” she spoke, laughing.

Toni stared outside, her thoughts going to Andre. They had enjoyed a wonderful time, but ended it on a bad note, the fault being basically hers. She wondered if he would answer her calls if she tried reaching him.

Christie dumped her phone beside her again and went back to her eyelashes.

“Do you ever think of getting married and having kids, Toni?”

“Not really. Why do you ask?”

“I’ve never seen you with a boyfriend. Are you a lesbian?”

Toni laughed. “No.”

“So who’s your man?”

“I don’t have a man.”

“You’re lying.”

“I’m not. Men are distracting. I’m not ready for a relationship.”

“How about kids? Don’t you ever want to have a baby?”

“No.”

Christie let her hand down, looking at Toni wearily. “You’re a strange one.”

Toni chortled. “So I’ve been told.”

“Men are stimulating. You should give them a chance.”

“I’ll try.”

“How’s my makeup?”

Toni looked at her face and tried not to show puzzlement. There was hardly any makeup on her.

“You look great.”

“You’re sure?” she struck a pose.

“Yes. But Christie, why don’t you wear jewelry, apart from the one on your neck?”

“It’s something I grew up with. Very conservative childhood. No earrings, no trousers, no relaxed hair, no TV…”

“For real?”

“No boys, home-schooled until SS3.”

“Wow. No wonder you’re married to someone like Folarin.”

Christie was amused. She threw her head back in laughter and for the first time Toni realized that what she always thought was a birthmark between Christie’s breasts had always been a tattoo.

“Is that a tattoo?”

“Yeah.” Christie parted her hair and gave Toni a better view. “I was young, crazy in love with Folarin and would do anything for him, so I went and got this comma.”

“What does it mean?”

“That our love will never stop; it goes on.”

Toni was touched. “You guys really love each other.”

Christie’s eyes fell. “Yeah.”

The car made a right turn and stopped outside the gate of a quiet hotel that had a huge poster of Flavour of Africa clad in nothing but his signature pair of jeans. Above the poster it said Home of Flavour. Toni wondered whether he owned the hotel or frequented it much or if the poster was a marketing gimmick.

“Come back for me in an hour,” Christie said to her driver as she picked her handbag and phone. She tapped Toni’s cheek.

“See you, partner.”

She stepped out and the car turned. Just as they drove away, Toni took a peep into the hotel’s premises and saw an SUV that looked like Raji’s.

***

“Sweetheart, Nessa, please come out.”

“No.”

Folarin rested a tired forehead on Vanessa’s bathroom door. She had been locked in since nine in the morning and had refused to come out. He only discovered this twenty minutes ago when he came out to the kitchen and found her breakfast untouched.

It was unlike her to behave in this manner. He was worried, but was in a patient mood, else he would have broken the door in.

“I want Mommy.”

“Your mom is at work, Boluwatife. I am losing my patience here. Please, come out and talk to me.”

“No. I want Mommy.”

Folarin walked away from the door and tried Christie’s number for the fifth time. He got her voicemail.

“Chris, where are you? Where did you keep your phone? I’ve been calling. Your daughter needs you. Come home as soon as you get this.”

He hung up. It was easy for him to hop into his car and drive to the hotel where Christie and Raji were probably humping each other like rabid dogs.

He knew where they were and knew a lot more about their affair than he did a week ago.

Having installed a spy software in his phone three days ago, he now had access to both their privacies. For each of them, there was a special dashboard that replicated their phones. He had access to messages, call logs, videos and images. He was able listen in on their conversations or make phone calls and send text messages on their behalf; he could even trace them via a GPS tracking option. He had gotten all of this for an affordable price. All he had done was put a call across to them individually and stayed on the line for thirty seconds.

He now had enough evidence to divorce Christie. There were videos and photos Raji had stored on his phone. Christie was more cautious on her part. She had gotten a new phone for the affair and always left it at work or in her car but Folarin got her new number by hacking Raji first.

For people having an affair, Folarin felt they were too careless. Especially Raji. He was insensitive to Salma. Folarin had always been of the opinion that if a man wanted to keep a mistress on the side, he was to ensure that his wife knew nothing about her. He was to respect her by making certain she believed she was the only one in his life. Raji was a bastard for hurting Salma the way he was doing and Folarin had sworn to make him pay.

The doorbell clanged. Folarin hurried to the sitting room and unlocked the door, letting Salma in.

“Hi. Morning!” She was smiling as she hugged him.

“You look sunny today.”

“Forget the exterior, Folarin. I’m falling apart inside. I don’t know how much of this madness I can take.”

“Hang in there, Sal. I promise you, it’ll be over soon. How is Ahmed?”

“He’s good. He’s to himself mostly. We talk but he’s shy. Nice guy, though.”

Folarin noticed how her facial features relaxed when she spoke about him. He wondered if she had any idea how Ahmed felt about her. He had called Folarin after that first night they met and told him he liked her, asking if it was normal to like someone else while mourning his wife.

Folarin had said nothing. He felt it was too soon for both of them to nurse any type of attraction, but was rather glad that something was building up. However, if anything was to happen, Salma would have to give the green light. It was frustrating that Raji still owned her heart and reasoning.

“Well, thank God you’re here.” Folarin shut the door, pulling her in.

“Nessa has locked herself in her bathroom all morning. I’m very worried. She played with the neighbors yesterday and there’s a twelve year old boy there. I’m freaking out, Sal. I hope nothing happened between them.”

“Vanessa’s not like that. She would have run home and told you if anything happened.”

“You’re sure she’ll tell me? Right now, she won’t let me in, insists on seeing her mom. And for obvious reasons, I can’t reach Christie.”

“Obvious reasons?”

Folarin nodded. Salma shook her head.

“Those two are disgusting. You really hacked their phones?”

“I did. You want to see pictures, text messages…?”

“No. Please, no. It’s difficult sticking to our plan as it is. I so badly want to claw out Raji’s eyes and give Christie a beating she will never forget.”

Folarin smiled. “Please, come and help me with this child.”

He led her to Vanessa’s bedroom. “She’s in there.”

He pointed at the bathroom door and Salma walked to it.

“Vanessa?” She knocked. “It’s Aunty Salma. Are you okay?”

“Aunty Salma?”

“Yes, hon. Your daddy told me you’ve been in there all morning and won’t come out. What’s wrong?”

“Where’s my Mommy?”

“She’s in a meeting. She can’t come, but I’m here, my love. Please, open the door and let me in.”

There was short silence.

“Nessa?”

“Is my daddy there?”

Salma shooed Folarin away. “No, he’s in the kitchen. Please let me in.”

There was another spell of silence and the door opened. Salma walked in. She locked the door behind her and noticed Vanessa was fully dressed but dripping wet. She had been sitting in the bathtub filled with water. Salma also noticed the water was slightly tinted with red. She looked at the child with a gentle smile.

“You’re having your first period?”

Vanessa looked down in embarrassment.

“Hey, there’s nothing to be shy about, hon. It’s totally normal.”

“It’s not. I’m not a teenager. Only teenagers have blood coming out of them. Now, everybody will start laughing at me.”

She covered her face and began sobbing. Salma put her arms around her.

“Nobody will laugh at you. They don’t need to know what’s going on with you, Nessa. I’ll teach you how you can take care of yourself, okay?”

“The blood doesn’t stop coming out.”

Salma smiled. “It stops. Trust me.”

“And then my tummy is paining me.”

“I’ll get you something for that.”

She unplugged the drain and asked Vanessa to take off her clothes. “You’ll have a shower and I’ll get you a sanitary pad and teach you how to use it.”

Salma headed for the door, but Vanessa stopped her.

“Is it true that I can get pregnant now?”

The question caught Salma off-guard. “Em…yes, you can but…”

“I don’t want to be pregnant.”

Vanessa flew into tears again. Salma rushed back to her.

“You won’t, sweetheart. You won’t. Stop crying. You’ll be fine.”

“Just make it stop. I don’t like it.”

Salma stroked her back gently until she calmed down. She wiped her tears.

“Take off your clothes and have a proper shower and I’ll be back with pain killers and a sanitary pad.”

“Okay.”

Salma walked out. She met Folarin waiting outside Vanessa’s bedroom.

“What’s wrong with her?” he asked.

“She’s fine. She’s having her first period.”

“Oh.” He breathed out in relief. “Really? She’s just nine.”

Salma shrugged. “I had mine at eight.”

Folarin pulled back, giving her a surprised look.

“I’d even started having boobs then. My dad forced the hijab on me and stopped me from playing with my brothers,” Salma recalled, laughing.

“Interesting. I thought a girl had to be a teenager first.”

“You think just like your daughter. Don’t worry, daddy. Nine is not a bad age to start. The only thing is… have you guys had the sex talk yet?”

“No.”

“Folarin!”

“Christie keeps postponing it.”

“Well, the girl needs it now. Not today, though. She’s traumatized.”

“Does she want to talk to me?”

“No. Don’t bring it up. Just pretend I told you nothing. Um… does Christie have sanitary pads?”

“Yeah.”

He turned around and Salma followed. They entered his bedroom. He pointed at Christie’s closet. “Good luck finding it in there.”

Salma rummaged around and found a pack of sanitary pads. She returned to Vanessa as Folarin made lunch for three of them. Vanessa chose to remain in her room while Salma sat with Folarin in the sitting room.

“Folarin, you think our plan would work?” Salma was licking off soup from her thumb.

“It will.”

“I’m all for barging in on them having sex one of these days.”

“And they’ll say they’re sorry, it was the devil or they’ll blame us for pushing them into the mess. Things will become emotional and we’ll end up forgiving them…”

“And this our plan is better? It will all come to the same end nau.”

“Don’t you want to have fun?”

Salma shrugged. “I guess.”

“Don’t you want them to feel the pain you’re feeling?”

Salma picked up a piece of meat from her soup dish. “You’re scaring me Folarin. Is this all about revenge?”

“Yes. It’s not going to change the fact that they cheated, but it will teach them a lesson. People who cheat should not be let off with a slap on the wrist. They need to feel the type of pain they’re causing their significant others.”

“I guess you’re right.”

Folarin wasn’t sure Salma was strong enough to go through with their plan. He needed something to nudge her to a place of commonsense.

“I miss my kids. I think I’ll go see them today,” Salma said.

“You want me to escort you?”

“No, I’m good.”

***

Toni arrived at the office and basked in the fresh admiration the employees of Covet now had for her. Ever since it was made known that she was a partner, she got more ass-kissing and followers. She also made new enemies.

Her personal assistant, a tall guy in his mid-twenties whom had been thrust on her lap by Raji, ran towards her the moment he saw her stepping out of the elevator. He went for her handbag, but she held on to it. She didn’t feel she needed his services, although he helped ease some of the stress from her shoulders. For instance, he already had her team waiting in the conference room. When she walked in, they all straightened up and put on their serious faces.

She had never been a nice boss. She wasn’t Christie who was sweet and benign. Not that she was difficult or discourteous; she just wasn’t playing nice with anyone beneath her.

At the head of the table, her laptop waited. She took in her staff, all seven of them, grouped into three teams.

“We’ll do a quick one. I’m starving.”

She tapped on her mouse and a screen behind her lit up. “We have three new clients. First is Eva. Gist is she’s left music. Truth is she hasn’t. She’s just putting her life together. She needs to come back with a bang. Team B. You’re on Eva. Come up with a plan before Monday.”

“Yes, ma,” someone answered.

“Next client is Promasidor. They’re switching from their former agency to ours, so we have to impress. Team A, I’m working with you on this one. Get me something by tomorrow morning.”

A couple of faces frowned at her. They were her best she had; they gave her trouble the most but delivered excellently every time.

“And lastly,” she pointed at the screen as Omolade’s photo appeared. “Jane Doe.”

“Jane Doe?” her assistant repeated.

“I don’t know who she is, but they call her Isabella. She’s an upcoming actress and they say she’s going to be huge. She’s taking the lead role in an Ighalo Gidado movie.”

“That’s huge.”

“Exactly. I don’t take unknowns, but her manager who owns the production company handling the movie called me personally for this one. Looks like he’s throwing in big money on her.”

“She’s hawt!” a guy with full beards exclaimed. The other males in the room agreed.

“Well, since you seem to think so, you handle her. Find out about the movie too. What role is she playing? Get me everything about her. Does she need a beauty team to change her image? Does she need a controversy to kickstart her career? I want details. Dirty and clean alike. Dig deep. We don’t want surprises in the future.”

Toni shut her laptop.

“That would be all.”

She sat and watched them file out, craving a cigarette, but craving for Andre’s lips more. She hadn’t seen him since Tuesday and she was desperate to walk down the street, barge into his office and kiss him senseless.

“Ma,” her PA burst in, “Ms. Leticia is looking for you.”

He hadn’t finished speaking when Leticia walked in. “You can go.”

Leticia sent the boy out. Standing by the door, looking worn-out with tears in her eyes, she was just returning from her Easter break.

“I thought you were going to call again and say you postponed your trip until tomorrow.”

“I missed you, Toni.”

“Come and sit on my lap and tell me why you’re crying, baby.”

Leticia dragged her feet to her. She didn’t sit on her lap; she sat on the table.

“First and foremost, how was the break?”

“Terrible. My mom wouldn’t let me be.” Leticia rubbed her eyes. “God! I said I wasn’t going to cry when I met you.”

“Talk to me, Tish.”

“So Nnamdi is coming back in a month’s time and my family wants us to get married immediately. And then he wants me to go back to Denmark with him.”

“Seriously?”

Toni instantly got infected by Leticia’s sadness.

“That’s not all…” Leticia wiped her nose with a tissue in her hand. “I don’t want to go…”

“Of course, baby.” Toni stroked her hand.

“No, you don’t understand, babe…” Leticia drew in a noisy sniffle. “I can’t go or even marry Nnamdi because I’m pregnant.”

Toni’s hand stopped moving.

“It’s Izu’s, and I don’t want to abort it. I want to keep it.”

Toni leapt up as if shot by a needle in her bum. Her disappointment was clear.

“I know you’re angry with me but I wanted this, Toni.”

“You wanted a married man’s baby. Can you hear yourself?”

“Yes. I wanted his baby. I love Izu.”

“How?”

“I tried to tell you so many times but you never wanted to hear me talk about him. I really love him. Besides, I don’t think I can ever be a faithful wife, so I’m sparing Nnamdi a huge one.”

“You’d rather be a baby mama.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t want to talk about this here, Tish. And seriously, I don’t know why you’re crying. You got what you wanted.”

“You’re doing it again, refusing to listen to me…”

“We will talk at home.”

“Why? Because you’re better than me? You’re a saint and your life is perfect?”

“No. Because you’re the stupidest bitch I’ve ever seen. Stupid! You think with your pussy! Haven’t you learnt anything from me? Anything at all?!”

“Stop shouting on me.”

“I’ve not even started!”

Toni began towards the door.

“I need you, Toni. You’re my friend and you’re supposed to comfort me, no matter what. You can’t leave me when I need you the most…”

The desperation in Leticia’s tone broke Toni’s steps. She hated Leticia sometimes; in fact, most times. The dumb chick always took the wrong steps and came crashing down, leaving Toni with pieces of her broken life to fix. However, she was all she had. The realest person in her life, the one who may not literally catch a grenade for her, but would stay back to gather the remnants of her shattered body after the blast. She was the only friend she had.

Toni walked back and held her in a hug.

“Does this make you feel better?”

“You have no idea.”

“You’re so stupid.”

“I know. Stupid in love.”

Later on, they were seated at the cafeteria, having lunch. Leticia had stopped crying and was back to her old self. Toni was less angry at her. They were talking about Toni’s short Easter romance with Andre, which had been, in her own words, ‘feminizing’.

“He made me feel like a woman, Tish. Do you know when last I felt feminine during sex? When last I actually felt my uterus?”

Leticia gasped. “He’s that long?”

“No, I meant, he…” Toni swallowed. “I…”

“Awww, he got you all emotional.”

“He stripped me bare, just made me potty in his hands.”

“Awww.”

“We were having sex and I was seeing myself in a wedding gown and thinking babies, Tish. Babies!”

Leticia laughed so hard she farted.

“You’re disgusting.” Toni frowned.

“Thinking about babies is a good thing, Toni. It’s a phase all women go through.”

“No, it’s bad. Bad.”

Leticia suddenly stopped laughing and held the sides of her face in an expression of apprehension. “Please, tell me you didn’t screw things up, that this story has a happily-ever-after and we’re going to have little a Tondre soon.”

Toni winced. “I messed up.”

“What exactly did you do, Braithwaite?”

A particular moment from earlier in the week was brought to the discussion.

It was Tuesday morning and Toni’s alarm had just gone off, but she had been awake for almost an hour before the time. Andre had woken up much later, and they both lay in bed, fingers linked together, staring into the dark without speaking.

She didn’t know what was on his mind but hers was occupied with apprehension. She had just realized she didn’t want the Easter break to end or for him to leave. She wanted to have many more days with him.

The thought left her terrified and out of sorts.

“Andre?” she called.

“Don’t spoil the moment, Tone,” he whispered.

It was uncanny how he could read her mind.

“You have no idea what I’m about to say.”

“You want to ask me to leave. I know. And that is why I said you shouldn’t spoil the moment. Enjoy the calm before we face the week and all the stress of work. Enjoy this.”

Then he turned and held her in his arms.

“Well,” Toni said to Leticia, “we had sex one more time and after that, I asked him to leave. I wish I had stopped there and said nothing more but I ran my mouth, Tish.”

Toni could actually feel emotions stirring in her as she recalled the exact words she had told Andre that morning.

“I don’t want this to happen this way again, Andre. If we’ll have sex another time, then it should be somewhere in some hotel. Not here or your place…”

“Why?”

“Because we’re not a couple and we’re not going to be doing couple things like what we did during this Easter. It just doesn’t work for me.”

“I see.”

Andre had risen up from the bed and gone for his clothes. She couldn’t tell if he was upset or not. She watched him dress up and then she searched for his face in the darkness of her bedroom.

“It’s not like I didn’t see this coming,” he stated, facing her. “I did. And I took the risk and just enjoyed the time with you because I thought that maybe you would be human enough to let me down easy.”

“Andre…”

“I’m not grouching. I’m not. But if you think what we shared these past few days is not enough to leave a mark, then I think I should let you be.”

“Stop being petty, Andre. It was just sex. You’d probably leave here and do the same thing with someone else…”

“The same way you’ll hop on Mark’s dick. Yeah, I get it. Well, here’s the thing. I’m not your sugar daddy. And I’m not doing the hotel thing with you either.”

“Then what do you want?”

“What do I want?”

He scoffed and muttered something in French.

“Tone, for someone who prides in being very smart, you’re dumb sometimes. No need for long talk. Have a lovely week.”

He walked out of her room without flair like he had not just dropped a bomb.

“Wow,” Leticia exhaled. “I leave you for a few days and you lose your commonsense.”

“Tish, I don’t want a relationship with him.”

“Yeah, you’d rather fuck Mark and get drugged by Sylvester and spend all your time with them than with a man who is single, available and likes you even after what you did to his wife!”

“I did nothing to his wife!”

“Just saying,” Leticia murmured.

Toni dropped her stare on the meal in front of her. Her private conversation with Leticia had attracted some audience from colleagues around them who were also having their lunch break. This was why she hated eating in the cafeteria.

“Let’s talk about something else, abeg.”

Leticia didn’t seem eager to drop the topic but the next one was as equally juicy.

“So Mark walked in on naked Andre.” She rested her chin on her hand, eyes twinkling.

Toni laughed silently. “Don’t mind Mark. He’s still vexing for me.”

“Like what right does he have?”

“I wonder o. Somebody that is married.”

“Maybe he was vexing over the size of Andre’s junk.”

“He didn’t see anything. Andre hid it well.”

“But seriously, how loaded is our man?” She winked.

Our man?”

“Abeg talk.”

“Tish, don’t try to fuck him. I will never forgive you.”

“Okay, that hurt, but I’m still basking in the goodness of God, which I acquired during Easter, so I’ll forgive you and pursue my line of questioning. How’s the junk?”

Toni smiled. “Just right. You know size is not my thing. So many guys with trucks between their legs and they don’t know how to drive them.”

“And Dre does?”

Toni shook her head. “Let’s not continue with this gist abeg.”

“Why? Because it brings warm memories?”

“Because…” Toni lowered her voice, “I desperately want him. And not just sexually.”

Leticia put a straw between her lips and slurped from her glass of Chapman noisily as Toni spoke.

“I think you’re in love.”

“That is never going to happen.”

“Just tell me about him. What’s he like, character-wise?”

Andre’s smile flashed in Toni’s mind. And just like that, she began to laugh.

***

Folarin stretched out long legs beneath him. He hated sitting in a particular place for a long time. It always hurt his weak knees.

Not far from where he was, Raji and Christie were doing their thing in a hotel. They were getting too careless now. This was their second rendezvous for the day, with Raji telling Christie over the phone how pertinent it was for them to catch up on the time they missed during the Easter holiday. Folarin mused, for the second time, on how easy it would be to drive over and wait for them at the hotel’s reception to give them the scare of their lives.

But the power of just knowing and not acting on it was more thrilling. He was worried about his calmness, scared of the pain that ran deep, which he couldn’t express. It was piling like a heap of garbage, spreading into his core like venom from a cobra.

Folarin sat up. A glass of beer was in his hand. He placed it on the table before him just as he saw Izu walking towards him. He picked his phone, went through his call log and put a call through to Raji. He shook hands with Izu as he waited.

“Guy, how far nau?” Raji came on.

“I dey. Still down for drinks?”

“Sure. It’s just past eight.”

“Me and Izu dey wait for you.”

“I’m headed to you guys now. Abeg order nkwobi for me.”

“Sure thing.”

The connection went off and Folarin called over a waitress.

The bar was a quiet, nameless place off Ajose Adeogun on Victoria Island. It wasn’t far from Covet Advertising and definitely not far from Christie and Raji’s favorite den of sin. On most evenings, after work, Folarin would drive down from the mainland, and to avoid the traffic going to Lekki, he would stop at the bar for a drink or two with Raji and Izu.

This was supposed to be one of those days but it was past the rush hour.

Raji walked in and headed towards them. They were seated at a quiet corner with a good view of the bar table and the entrance door. After brief handshakes, Raji sat down and requested for his favorite brand of beer. Folarin hadn’t seen him since the last time they met up at Izu’s birthday party.

Outwardly, Raji gave nothing away. His mannerisms and expressions remained as they had always been except for subtle gestures Folarin picked on. No one could tell he was screwing his friend’s wife.

They had drinks, nkwobi and peppersoup. Afterwards, they entertained themselves with a game of pool. The evening was rather dull and even Izu who was usually talkative, had very few words to say.

Folarin felt the mood had something to do with Raji’s treachery as a friend. Guilt had a way of exhibiting itself even when not intentionally displayed.

“How work nau?” Raji asked, into their second game. Izu had chosen to let them play. He sat nearby, attending to his phone.

“Nothing new. But I’ll quit next week.”

Both Izu and Raji glared at him.

“For real?” Raji asked.

“Yeah.”

“That’s a bold move. What finally pushed you?”

Folarin gently placed his phone on the pool table beside his glass of beer. “Life. It stabs you in the back like an unfaithful bitch.”

“What happened?” Izu asked, concerned.

“I can’t talk about it, man. Not now. But soon.”

Folarin bent over the table and aimed for a red, striped ball.

“Guy, talk abeg,” Raji urged.

“Seriously, not now.”

“Have you told Christie?”

Folarin potted the ball. “No. But I’ll tell her soon.”

“Well, whatever that problem is, we thank it for pulling you out from that hell hole.” Izu lifted his beer bottle.

“Abi?” Raji added.

“Good one.”

“So what’s next?”

“I’m starting off something. I can’t say anything about that one too.”

“Haba!”

Folarin laughed, potting a second ball.

“You’re sure you’re alright?”

“I wish I knew, my guy. Life is a rapist. You go just dey your own, dey chill, and before you know it, you’re being taken anally without lubrication.”

Izu snorted. “E dey happen.”

“But God dey. We must survive.”

“Do you need help in any way?” Raji asked. There was concern on his face. Not long ago, his expression, to Folarin, would mean basically what it meant, but right now, Folarin didn’t know what to make of what he saw.

“Financially, network-wise… We can help. Just name it.”

“I’m good. When I need your help, you’ll be the first to know.”

Folarin sought to pot yet another ball. He pointed at a solid, which belonged to Raji.

“Free on your ball.”

“Guy, you wan fuck me up for this game. You dey vex.”

“No be small.”

A waitress came by with more drinks. She seemed new to the establishment and rather shy. When she turned away, Izu kept a steady gaze on her bum.

Folarin, having scored yet another point on the game, but losing the cue ball to a pocket, concentrated on his beer while Raji took over.

“Why are you cheating on Salma, Raj?”

For a second, there was a flash of uneasiness on Raji’s face at the sudden attack.

“Is that what she told you?”

“Dude, she stayed in my house when Christie traveled. She was devastated. Why are you doing this again?”

“I’m not cheating on her. Salma is just imagining things. I steadily dey house with her, unless I travel commot. If I no dey with her, na here I dey. Which time I come get for another woman with all the stress of this our rubbish economy?”

“But she’s convinced there’s someone else.”

Raji makes a shot at a solid and misses the pocket. “Ignore her. She just craves my attention after starving me for sex for three years.”

“So you’re getting it elsewhere now?”

“Guy, no.”

“But would you blame him if he gets it from outside?” Izu faced Folarin. “If your own wife starve you for three years, you dey tell me say you no go get sidechick?”

“Help me ask am!” Raji exclaimed.

“But it’s not like Salma starves you.”

“She doesn’t give me until I beg. What’s the difference? All the same, I’m not cheating.”

For the first time since his arrival at the bar, Folarin caught a lie in Raji’s eyes. He faced the game again, aiming for the 8-ball, having cleared all his balls.

“But how would you feel if Salma cheated on you?”

“Why are we still on this topic?”

“Just answer the fucking question.”

Rather than a response, Raji gulped what was left of his beer.

“You, what would you do if you caught Christie cheating?” Izu threw back at Folarin.

Folarin smiled. “I don’t know.”

He made a clean shot on the 8-ball and ended the game, giving him a double win.

“You won’t throw her out if she cheats?”

“Because that’s the worst thing one can do to a cheating wife?”

“Well…”

“Look, the question does not even apply to Christie. We’re having a great time with each other these days. I don’t know what happened. She just suddenly became very… What’s the word? Sexual? She comes home and wants to go down on me or wants to try this new style or wants to have sex in some insane place other than the bed.”

Izu leaned in closer. “She was never like that before?”

“She always was, but she never bothered until recently. It’s like something took the lid off her inhibitions.”

“And that’s a problem?” Raji asked.

“No. That’s great.” Folarin laughed to himself quietly.

“What’s funny?” Raji held his eyes.

“Last night… we had this amazing, tantric session and good lord! Chris was something else…”

Raji appeared uncomfortable. “I think you should stop.”

“Why?” Izu frowned at him.

“Because we said we’d never do this. We’d never talk about our wives that way over drinks.”

“She’s my wife, Raji,” Folarin emphasized. “And I can talk about her the way I want to, anywhere I want to.”

“Well, it is wrong. Christie’s an amazing woman and her body and what comes out of or goes inside it shouldn’t be a topic of discussion on a beer table.”

“She is my wife, Raji.”

“And no one is disputing that with you. Just don’t talk about her like that here.”

Folarin was furious, but his face gave nothing away. Rather, his hand freed the glass of beer it held and it shattered to the floor, drawing attention to their table. He didn’t mean to cause a scene. It was all he could do to keep from smashing the glass in Raji’s face.

His phone rang, giving him escape from the awkward air.

“Chairman,” he answered the call.

“Where you dey abeg?” Ahmed, on the other end, asked.

“I’m far. What’s going on?”

“It’s Salma.”

“What about her?”

“You better come abeg. She’s a mess, here. Drunk, throwing up all over the place…”

“I’m not drunk!” Salma screamed in the background. Folarin heard some noise he couldn’t make out, then her voice hit his ear.

“I just had two bottles of beer. I wanted to try it for the first time.”

“Why nau? You don’t drink. What happened?”

“Just come.”

“What happened?”

Her voice took on a sober tone. “I should have listened to you,” she sniffled.

“What did you do?” he grilled, catching Raji’s eyes narrowing in on him in curiosity.

“I went to Comfort to talk to her about Raji. I wanted to know if there was something I was missing, if I’m doing the wrong thing with him. I needed her to tell me what Raji saw and liked in her…”

“I told you not to do that.”

“I’m sorry.”

“And what did she tell you?”

“She said he told her he never loved me,” Salma burst out.

“I’ll be right there. Just don’t touch any more of that nonsense you drank. And allow Ahmed take care of you. Do as he says. Don’t give him a hard time.”

“Okay.”

“I’ll be there soon.”

The line went dead from Salma’s end. Folarin stood up.

“What’s going on?” Raji inquired.

“Nothing serious. A friend needs me.”

“Who is she?” Izu smiled.

“A friend.”

He extended his hand for a shake.

“We’ll see nau.”

He shook Raji too. “Later, guys.”

The moment he hit the streets, he put a call across to Comfort.

“Nice one, Comfort.”

“Well, I just told her what Raji told me. She needed to know the truth.”

When Folarin called Comfort earlier and asked her to be open about her past relationship with Raji to Salma in case Salma brought the discussion up, he hadn’t expected her to be that forthright. He had only wanted her to let Salma have a glimpse of a side of Raji she hadn’t seen.

“If I didn’t know you better, Comfort, I’d say you did what you did out of the goodness of your heart. What was your aim?”

Comfort was silent for a bit before she replied. “Let me be honest with you, Mr. Folarin. I’ll be thirty this year. With no man, no relationship. And I don’t need to tell you that having a sick child reduces my chances of hooking up with someone. Raji put me in this position. Would it be a bad thing if I had him back seeing that things are not going well with him and Salma?”

Folarin was taken aback by Comfort’s bluntness. He had always sensed she was this person, but being her boss at work made it difficult to know her better.

“But wasn’t it you who dumped him?”

“I wasn’t in a good place then. Now I know what I want.”

“Do you still love him?”

“Love has nothing to do with it. My son needs his father and I have as much claim on Raji as Salma does. I’m tired of being known as just the baby mama. What is she giving him that I can’t give?”

Folarin couldn’t take any more of her brazenness. “I think you’ve done enough already, Comfort. Back down now and let them handle their issues.”

“Yes, sir,” she answered sarcastically.

“Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, sir.”

Folarin dumped his phone on the passenger seat. He wasn’t sure how he felt over the whole Comfort thing. It brought in a new twist. All the same, he was glad Salma had gotten the nudge she needed to move on. It was now time to set the ball rolling on his plan.

Neither Raji nor Christie would see him coming.

 

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