The Fourth Finger – 13

Catch up on previous chapters HERE

It was hard to stop thinking about him. Harder to admit that he had such a severe effect on her. The last time she felt this way about a man was with Mark. She had almost forgotten how restless she could become when she was crazy over someone.

It was hard to concentrate on her dissertation. Most of her weekend had been spent on television with Leticia, cooking, doing her laundry and fighting the desire to visit Andre. The little time she kept for her studies ended up being used to fantasize over him and the short but steamy weekend they shared.

She had slept with him under the premise that sex was going to kill whatever control he apparently had on her emotions. But it had turned out quite the opposite. Presently, she felt helpless without him, and yet like a blockhead, she desired more of his attention.

“Andre is going to be the death of me, Tish. He has my mumu button glued to his hand. I’m so scared.”

“Toni, you’re the only person I know who gets scared of falling in love.”

“Why did I ever meet him sef? I just wish there was some way I could escape.”

“And yet you’re bugging my sleep around 6am on a Sunday morning, all dressed to see him.”

“Please, stop me. Lock the door and throw the key. Tie me down. Do something, Tish.”

“You’re talking to the wrong person. Go and meet your man, Toni, and allow me sleep before morning sickness will start knocking on my door.”

“You’re no help at all.”

“Try liquid courage then.”

“Alcohol is not the answer to the world’s problems.”

“Then leave me alone.”

Toni walked out of Leticia’s room and stood outside the door. She dialed Mark’s number. He alone could save her from following her urges; but his phone rang unanswered. When she tried the second time, Nkechi picked the call. Toni hung up.

And thus, she left the house, got into her car and drove all the way to Bode Thomas to see Andre.

He came to the door with sleepy eyes and a bed sheet around his waist, held loosely in his hand. She didn’t know what she looked like, standing outside his door with mooning eyes. She suspected she looked stupid, because she felt that way, yet she couldn’t help herself. She struck a serious pose.

“It took one week for you to realize you were wrong, Antonia. One week. I hope your apology is good enough to let you into this house.”

Toni tried to force down a growing knob in her throat. “I’m not here to apologize.”

“Then why are you here?”

“To ask if you have space for me on your bed.”

Andre stared down at her. “What’s the color of your underwear?”

“I’m not wearing any.”

He stepped back and let her in. When the door shut, he pushed her against it.

“You do realize that the more you sleep with me, the harder it is for you to let go. I’d advise that you stop this right now by turning around and going back home.”

She said nothing.

“Say you want me.”

“Andre…”

“Say, ‘I want you so badly Andre, I can think of nothing else’. Say it.”

Toni’s response came as an attack on his lips. The moment she tasted him, she stopped for a breath. It was like having a taste of her favorite ice cream after a long time. She wanted to savor it.

“I missed you,” he whispered, turning the kiss into a hug.

She felt him grow hard against her and prepared herself for what was to follow, but Andre pulled back.

“Let’s make breakfast and talk business,” he said, turning away. “I need Covet to handle some ad ideas I have for my company.”

Toni couldn’t believe him. She wanted to scream that the only thing she was hungry for was his body. She had come provocatively-dressed and oozing of sex and all he wanted to do was talk. Even when his body desired hers!

Was there an end to this man’s pigheadedness?

***

“Lade your husband is here.”

Lulu was looking at Lade with aggressive eyes. Lade was dressed for church, sporting a simple Ankara dress Lulu had given her. Lulu was also almost set to leave for church, but a knock on the door a minute earlier had interrupted her from her makeup session.

“If I had known it was him, I wouldn’t have gone for the door. I told you not to give him this address.”

“He’s my husband.”

“Your husband abi your killer. Wait for him to put you six feet under before your eyes open.”

“I’m sorry but he’s been bugging me.”

“I don’t just want drama in my house. You know I can’t stand brutes. Mo binu o.”

“Ma binu.”

Lade hurried out to meet Tayo. She found him outside, seated in his car with his younger brother, Dapo, whom she hadn’t seen in ages.

Lade liked Dapo a lot. He was poles apart from Tayo. Always smiling and full of jokes.

“If it’s not the beautifulest woman on earth!” Dapo exclaimed as Lade approached the car. He came out and gave her a hug, lifting her off her feet.

“My African queen, how are you, madam?”

Lade laughed. “I’m fine, Daps. Na wa for you. You just abandoned us.”

“No be like dat. Ife’s passing shook me up real bad. I’m still recovering. But how are you?”

“I’m good,” she replied.

“I see that. I want to say that Tayo is taking good care of you, but after what he told me he did to you, I’ll just keep shut.”

At this point Tayo left the car and stood by the driver’s door, staring at Lade. She wanted to forget all he had done and run to his arms, but her reasoning prevailed.

“Hi Lade,” he muttered. She gave no reply.

“Please, let’s sit in the car,” Dapo suggested. “The sun is looking for the mumu person that it will kill this morning.”

Taking Lade’s hand he opened the backdoor and they sat. Tayo took the other end, sandwiching her in.

“I know you don’t want to see your husband’s face,” Dapo began. “What he did is unforgivable and you’d be justified if you stayed away from him. In short, if you were my sister, I’d tell you to stay far away from him. But Lade, Tayo is no brute. You know that. I don’t know what happened, but I know my mom is responsible…”

“She is not, Dapo. Mommy is not responsible for what Tayo did to me.”

“She rubs him off in a wrong way.”

“How? That woman is a good woman. She loves you guys. Yes, she made mistakes, but she is your mother.”

Dapo let out a silent sigh. “Talking about her will lead us to a place we don’t want to be right now. Let’s concentrate on you and Tayo. As I was saying, he made a mistake and he’s come to terms with it. He is utterly sorry.”

“Then let him say it himself.”

Dapo directed his eyes at Tayo who was staring contritely at Lade.

“I’m sorry, baby.”

“I doubt that you are.”

“I could use all the cliché lines like ‘I don’t know what came over me’ or ‘I didn’t meant to’ or ‘it was the devil’ but none of them would erase that I hurt you. I can’t take back what I’ve done, but I can make up for it. I can show you that I really love you and didn’t mean to harm you in any way. I am so sorry, Lade. Please forgive me.”

Lade looked at Dapo. “Dapo, can you give us a minute?”

“Sure.”

Dapo allowed them some privacy and Lade accosted her husband with an angry expression.

“Once a brute, always a brute, Tayo.”

“It’s not true. I’m not like that.”

“You are. It started with you abusing me verbally and emotionally.”

He took her hand and kissed it. “I’ll never touch you again, baby.”

“I don’t trust you and I’m scared to follow you home.”

“Baby, please…”

“I have my own life to live. I’m tired of taking orders from you on how to exist. I have dreams I want to pursue and I know that when I start going after them, you’ll stop me.”

“I won’t. Dapo has spoken to me and I’ve come to realize my mistakes. I promise to let you do your thing and be the woman you want to be. Omolade, you have no idea how much you mean to me. Losing you these nine days has been hell. I am extremely sorry.”

He drew closer, his scent filling her with nostalgia. She longed to be held by him, but she remembered Manny’s words to her, on the need to stay strong against his manipulations.

“Home is not the same without you,” Tayo said. He was leaning in too close for comfort, but Lade didn’t mind. Manny’s warning still rang clear in her head. She left it there as a chaperon, in case she found herself weakening to Tayo’s devices.

“Is there any way I can show you how sorry I am, baby?”

He kissed her head as she considered his question. It was a good opportunity to tell him that she needed his blessing to launch her acting career. She was already signed under Manny’s production enterprise to feature in five movies over the next four years. The news would not go down well with Tayo and looking into his face at the moment, she chickened out.

“What do you want?”

“I…want…you to reconcile with your mom.”

Tayo’s body stiffened beside her. His face turned stony.

“Lade…”

“That’s the only way I’ll know you’re sorry.”

“You’re taking advantage.”

“I’m not.”

“You are. I tell you to ask for anything and you go and pick the one thing you know I cannot do.”

“Tayo, she gave birth to you, for heaven’s sake.”

“Lade, please let’s not get into this fight again.”

“Fine.” Lade went for the door but he grasped her hand.

“Leave me, Tayo. A man who finds it easy hating his mother will have no qualms doing the same to his wife.”

“Okay, fine. I’ll…call her.”

Lade looked at him.

“You’re lying.”

“This evening, together, we will call and talk to her.”

“You’re sure?”

“As long as you come home with me.”

“Tayo, you’re sure?”

“I just gave you my word, didn’t I?”

Lade released her grip on the door.

“You drive a hard bargain, wifey.”

“You don’t make things easy yourself.”

“I know.” He enveloped her in a cuddle. “I’ve missed you.”

“Kiss me.”

Their lips touched and when they separated, Lade straightened up and saw Lulu gawking at them from her front porch. She marched to the car and tossed in Lade’s phone.

“I’m off to church. I’ll call you later.”

Tayo didn’t let Lulu’s actions have a hold on Lade as he crushed her lips with an ensuing kiss.

***

There was something incredibly sexy about him in the mornings, especially when he was buried beneath the sheets.

Christie was headed to the bathroom to take a shower, but she stopped for a moment to stare at her husband. Her conscience stabbed her from many angles as she fed her eyes with his form. Just yesterday Raji had asked her if she still loved Folarin the way she did when they were newly wedded and she had answered emphatically that she did. Then she went ahead to explain that the only reason she was having an affair with him was because he fulfilled a need that Folarin had long stopped fulfilling.

“Don’t think for once that I will leave Folarin for you. What we’re doing is just temporal. It will fizzle out like all relationships.”

Christie was sure Raji was heartbroken by her words. She didn’t know why she had gone off on him but something had left her feeling uneasy about their relationship and she didn’t know what it was. She had sought to soften the weight of her hurtful utterances, but Raji told her he had some things to attend to at the office. He left her in the cold hotel room feeling awful for upsetting him.

But whatever she sensed the day before, it was nothing compared to what she felt now. The journey of her guilt from the onset of her illicit relationship with Raji could best be described as unstable. It weighed heavy in the early stages, then mellowed and disappeared completely. Now, it came back in full force, without warning.

Perhaps it had something to do with Folarin telling her the morning before that he was quitting his job and starting a new business. She was genuinely happy for him, throwing in ideas and offering help, which he graciously declined. He told her he had all the help he needed with his new partner. When she asked to know who the person was, Folarin told her she would be introduced to ‘her’ in due time.

“Her?” Christie had questioned.

“Are you jealous?” Folarin caught her in his arms. “Don’t worry, boo. She won’t take your place. You’ll still be number one.”

He bit her ear and sent tickles down her sides. When she giggled in response, he lifted her up her feet and placed her on his reading table where he kissed her until she was breathless. He made love to her in that position, the table squeaking and hitting the wall while she fought hard to keep from screaming.

The encounter brought the old Folarin back. That was the man she missed. The same man she was longing for now, even though she knew she ought to be getting ready for church.

“Happy anniversary, Daddy Tife,” she whispered in his ear, rousing him up.

Folarin turned. “It’s today?”

“Yep. It’s the third of April. And we’ve been married eleven years.”

Saying the words hurt her. It brought tears to her eyes. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t stayed faithful to him. Her guilt drove her into his arms where she expended herself in tears.

“Is there a particular reasonwe’re crying, Chris?”

His words plunged her into further despair. He was talking in the manner that used to annoy her back in the day, using ‘we’ where he should be using ‘you’ or ‘me’. The nostalgia in the air was overwhelming.

“I’m just so happy we’re still together,” she told him.

Folarin picked up his laptop and opened it.

“I didn’t forget our anniversary, sweetie. I was working on this video, which I wanted to show you at the anniversary dinner.”

“Dinner?” Christie sniffed.

“Yes. But it can’t be today. It’s in two weeks.”

“Two weeks? Why that far?”

“It’s not a private dinner. I’m inviting the Asepitas and the Uchendus.”

“Yeah… Berna’s coming back next week. She’s having her baby in a month’s time.”

“Such a strange couple, those two. They’re the only ones who leave quality healthcare abroad to come back to Nigeria to have their kids.”

“I’ve stopped trying to understand the dynamics that exist between Berna and Izu.”

“Anyways, that aside, I have this special anniversary gift for you but you’ll have to wait until the dinner.”

Christie pouted.

“But watch this video.”

Hurdling close to him, she watched a short video that was a collection of photos commemorating their years together. She was all out of tears, so she held him, squeezing tightly and refusing to let go even when the recording ran its course.

“You have to go to church, Chris.”

“I’d rather stay home today.”

“I wish I could too but I’m traveling to Port Harcourt.”

“For what?”

“Business-related. I’m going with my partner but I’m coming back today.”

“Now, I’m jealous.”

Folarin took her lips in a sudden kiss. “Like I said, you’ll always be number one.”

“Can I have more of those lips, husband?”

“By all means.”

He went up on his knees, put his laptop away and towed her by her legs. She yelped. His lips touched her ankle and traveled up slowly, alternating from one leg to the other and leaving her in feverish anticipation. When his mouth finally touched the warmth between her legs, she was throbbing with excitement. Folarin made a feast out of her with his tongue, releasing her only when she came to a climax; and while she tried to still the waves that shook her body, he gently pushed into her.

For a second or two, they both didn’t move.

“I love you, Christie. I’m happy to spend these eleven amazing years with you, despite the ups and downs.”

“Me too,” she croaked.

“And no matter what comes in the future, I’ll never leave you.”

Not trusting her emotions to keep her secrets hidden, she wrapped her legs around him.

“Just fuck me already.”

“Oops. Someone’s becoming a bad girl. Cussing on a Sabbath day.”

“I’m sorry,” she squeaked. “You’re torturing me here.”

Folarin filled her completely and began an easy movement that built up gradually into a sizzling business. It got wild after a while and Christie couldn’t stop from moaning out with each thrust. It lasted longer than they both thought it would, eating into Christie’s prep time for church and culminating in an emotional end.

“Chris, you’re crying again.”

She covered her face with both hands.

“Is there something you want to tell me?”

She shook her head as he pushed back wandering strands of her hair off her face.

“Talk to me, sweetie.”

“It’s nothing. I’m just… It’s nothing.”

“Are you sure, Christina?”

“I am.”

She put a pillow over her face.

“I can take anything. Just spit it out.”

She lifted the pillow. “It’s nothing.”

Her lips puckered for a kiss and he took them.

“I should shower. I’ll miss my flight,” he said, leaving the bed.

Christie dumped the pillow aside and went for his shirt and shorts. She slipped into them. On her way out she popped a contraceptive pill from a sachet of pills, which she took daily.

Loud music reverberated from Cyrus’ bedroom, causing her an instant headache.

“CJ, turn down the volume of that music and start getting ready for church! Nessa, you too! We can’t be late today!”

She turned in the direction of the kitchen and upon entrance, bumped into an unwelcome presence.

Christie stepped back, gasping as she clutched her chest. The man that stood before her held a smile on his face that made her skin crawl.

“Long time, no see, sis.”

He carried eyes that looked like Christie’s but possessed a darker skin tone. He was long-bearded like an ancient king.

“Solomon, how on earth did you get into my house?”

“I rang the doorbell and my sweet, little niece opened it for me. She wanted to call you but I told her not to bother.”

Christie moved towards him and snatched a purple mug he had in his hand. “That’s my husband’s.”

She dumped the mug and beverage it contained in the sink. When she turned around, her brother forced her into a hug. His familiar hands, wet and cold like things fished out of a pond, clasped her.

“Mmmm…that’s more like it.”

She struggled against his hold.

“I miss holding you like this.”

She pushed him off forcefully and stepped away.

“Why are you here, Solomon?” she asked

“To see my baby sister and her family.”

“You could have called. That’s what phones are for.”

“You won’t pick my calls, remember?”

What do you want?”

He grinned, taking a carrot from a bowl of vegetables on the kitchen counter. Christie watched as he slowly put the carrot to his lips and bit on it, hating every movement he made.

Hate was a mild word. If there was something stronger, it was what she felt for Solomon. But it hadn’t always been that way. She had loved him a long time ago when she knew nothing about love or the appropriate manner in which it was to be expressed.

Solomon, to her then, was the only one who truly loved her. It was what he told her each time he entered her room at night and touched her in places she didn’t even know existed on her body. He made her feel special in a world she knew nothing of. Her entire childhood had been lived in the confines of her house. She only saw the world when she went to church or school to write exams. The other kids always looked at her weird. She would return home in tears, haunted by the taunts she faced from her peers.

But Solomon would soothe her pain with kisses, calling her his special love. The seven-year gap between them often made him seem like a god in her eyes. Their parents had been less severe with him in his upbringing because he was a boy. He had also been locked in most of his life but gained some sort of freedom the moment he got into senior secondary school. Hence he had this store of knowledge that awed Christie. He constantly brought home X-Rated comics and adult magazines of nude women. He would show them all to her and feed her mind with raw desire for what she saw, erasing every knowledge she was taught in church about sexuality.

He would use the old line, told from the beginning of time. “They don’t want our eyes to be open and know the truth, Christie. They don’t want us to know that sex is sweet.”

And Solomon finally taught her this truth one night, taking her virginity while their parents slept just two rooms away. It hadn’t been a pleasant night for Christie, but she discovered that afterwards, she wanted more of him. When she overheard the other girls in school talking about their boyfriends and what they did to them in dark places, Christie thought about Solomon.

But there was Cyrus on the side. Boisterous, cute, intelligent Cyrus whom all the girls were crazy for. He was also from a Christian home, having both parents as clergy. His family had just moved into town and his father was made the senior pastor of the same church Christie’s family attended. Cyrus was allowed to live his life the way he desired and this made Christie fancy him – albeit cautiously. She didn’t think it was right to give her affection to anyone else but Solomon. So she would steal glances at Cyrus and smile back shyly if he looked her way. Soon the relationship between their families grew and Christie became friends with his sisters. She was allowed to visit their home on certain Saturdays after her house chores. Being that they also lived in the same estate with them, she would walk down to their house and walk back after her time with them, which was spent mostly with Cyrus. It was during those visits she realized that her connection with Solomon was forbidden; but she was too scared to tell anyone because Solomon had given her a picture of the untold shame that would be heaped on her if she did.

The sex between them didn’t stop, but she began to open her heart to Cyrus who gradually got physical with her. Cyrus was probably almost as experienced with the ways of the world as Solomon, but he didn’t push her. Rather he goaded her gently as one would a virgin. Finally, she gave into him one Saturday afternoon when the sun burned hot and the smell of oranges and rotting leaves pervaded the air from a small garden just outside Cyrus’ window. The moment he went into Christie, he stopped and looked at her in surprise.

“Christina, you’re not a virgin.”

Shame had instantly engulfed her and she tried to struggle away from him but he held her bound.

“I don’t care. I even like it like this.”

But Christie didn’t. He had looked at her like she was dirty, not the way Solomon adored her with his eyes each night. This made it hard for her to continue with the copulation. She endured it for a couple of minutes but ultimately pushed Cyrus off her, wore her underwear and ran home.

She stayed away from him and kept on with Solomon. However, things got out of hand when her mother became suspicious that she was pregnant. It hadn’t been hard to diagnose. Christie usually went to her for her monthly supply of sanitary towels, but when she missed a month and began to go about the house in a ghostly manner, throwing up at every chance she got, her mother took her to the family clinic. It was then discovered that she was pregnant. Upon interrogation, she called out the only name that was on everybody’s mind.

Cyrus, being brought up to be proper and gentlemanly, didn’t expose the fact that he had met Christie’s cherry already popped or that the sex they had wasn’t exactly consummated. He accepted responsibility and plans were put in place for both of them to share their future with each other.

First, Christie was to have the baby, and after that, continue her higher education while her mother nursed the child. Everything went as planned, and in Christie’s second year in the university, she married Cyrus in a loud wedding ceremony. Solomon had been there, watching her with quiet eyes, his power on her still potent. He hadn’t touched her since the pregnancy, but it didn’t stop him from making advances. They now had a bigger secret between them – the child who was named Cyrus Junior. Through the years Solomon used the boy to get whatever he wanted from Christie, which consisted basically of money.

He had squandered his inheritance after the demise of their parents, bringing everything they toiled for to nothing. This included the family business, real estate and finances. Christie, conversely, made good use of what was bequeathed to her. She bought shares, invested in the stock market and started off Covet Advertising Agency with Raji. Every now and then, Solomon would show up at her door and ask for some ridiculous amount of cash. If she refused, he would threaten to expose their little secret. Christie would give in and part away with hard earned cash.

He always came twice a year. And keeping to his tradition, he had come for his first visit of the year, asking Christie for five million naira, the most he had ever demanded of her.

She stood frozen, staring at him with intent to kill.

“Why are you doing this, Solomon?”

“You have the money to give me or not?” he asked indifferently, eating the last bit of the carrot in his hand.

“I don’t have the money. You know that.”

“And yet your company intends to go public soon. Look, the economy is hard and I’ve fallen on difficult times. I really need this money, Christie. Let’s not get to the part of this argument where I threaten to expose you. It’s tiring the way you always lead me down that track. Just transfer the cash into my account, let’s end the long talk.”

Christie heard her bedroom door close.

“Don’t say anything about the money,” she whispered.

Solomon made a gesture of zipping his lips just as Folarin came in.

“Oh! Big Solo, you’re here.”

“Morning, in-law.”

Both men managed through a handshake. They had never liked each other.

“How is that boring work of yours treating you?” Solomon asked.

“We thank God. Things are looking up.”

“I do hope so. You’ve been there for too long with nothing to show for it.”

“Mm.”

Christie sent a silent apology Folarin’s way.

“Are you planning on staying?” Folarin asked Solomon.

“No. Just passing by. I’ve missed my darling, little sister.”

Solomon tugged Christie to his side and kissed her cheek.

“Well, you’re welcome.” Folarin faced Christie. “Sweetie, aren’t you late for church?”

“Yeah. I’ll have my bath soon.”

“Okay.”

Folarin returned to the room.

“I see he’s still living off of you,” Solomon commented. “When will he start wearing the pants around here?”

“He’s more of a man than you’ll ever be, Solo.”

“Please!”

Solomon took another carrot, but Christie slapped it off his hand. “It’s time for you to leave. I’ll send the money tomorrow.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes. And next time, don’t come here without calling first.”

“I’ll try. A hug for the road?”

“I’d rather hug the devil.”

Solomon laughed, snatched back the carrot and left the house through the backdoor. The moment he stepped out, the dogs began to bark. Christie wished she had told the gateman to let them out of their kennel.

She hurried to the bathroom, locked herself in and wept under the shower.

***

Dear high mistress,

I’m afraid I’ve turned into a brute. I hit my wife on Good Friday over something very trivial and now she’s in the hospital. I’m too much of a coward to go see her. I’m scared of what I’ll see. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror. I feel like shit, haven’t eaten since that day. I know you don’t like to help men but please, I need to be told I’m an asshole. I need to be scolded. I have a terrible temper and I generally do not trust women due to issues in my past. But my wife does not deserve this. Please, tell me what I can do to make it up to her. She’s a beautiful person but I’ve brought out the worst in her, having emotionally abused her for years. I’m afraid I’ll lose her.

Please, HM, help me be a better man.

T.O 

“Awww.” Toni made a sad face as she came to the end of the email. It was her last for the day, having replied all others. She had been too busy through the Easter break and the ensuing week to answer her fans.

She went through the last lines of the email again. “I would usually be mad after reading this but there’s something genuine about this email that makes me want to reach out to the baby in this man.”

“Baby?” Andre asked with a grunt. “That’s a brute. You abuse your wife for years and then you hit her and you’re looking for some form of understanding? I hate men like that.”

Toni watched Andre’s taut muscles flex as he worked parts of his generator she couldn’t name. The machine had died on them while they were working out details of ad ideas for his company. It took only a matter of minutes for the cool air in his sitting room to disappear. A few more minutes and their bodies glistened in perspiration.

“Have you ever tried sweaty sex before?” Andre had asked.

“No.”

“It’s not fun on the sheets, though. It’s better on the wall and best when you finish up in the shower. Want to try?”

“I don’t see why not.”

Andre dragged her off the couch and had her on the nearest wall with his lips between hers. The slippery feel of his body on hers instantly drove her wild. After a long, intoxicating kiss, his mouth went for her nipple. He pinched the hard tip with his teeth and whisked it with his tongue, sending fire to her nerves.

“Mmmm…” she murmured.

“Why are you moaning?”

It took more than a second for Toni to realize she was reminiscing out loud. She was not backed up on the wall of his sitting room with his lips on her nipple; she was outside, observing him fix his generator while the sun burned over them. It revived annoyance over how she felt after he stirred her lust and left her wanting him.

And even now, the sight of him dripping in sweat was too much to handle.

“So what’s your advice for the wife-beater?” she asked him to divert her mind from wantonness.

“He should go and apologize to her, first. Secondly, he should stay away from her until he deals with the issues of his past because there’s no guarantee that he won’t hit her again. Given his anger, she could tick him off easily and he’ll be back to the place where he would be pushed to hit her. Either that or you could invite him over so I can set his brain right with a few upper cuts. You have his email address, right? We can trace him. I detest abusive men.”

“He used a fake email address and even if he did use a real one, it is none of my business.”

“So, supposing one of your readers says he killed his wife, you would ignore him?”

“For all I know, he could be lying.”

“Not really. You don’t care.”

Toni detected irritation in his tone. “Andre, if you must know…I care. I…have a heart. And I did care about Anouk.”

“I am not talking about her…”

“Please, let me finish. I cared about your wife. I worried about her that she’d do something silly. That was why my later emails to her warned her to be careful…”

“Careful?” He snorted. “After the damage was already done.”

“Andre, I’m sorry. I didn’t know what was really going on. I acted based on what she told me.”

“Then maybe you should stop advising people.”

“I’m really sorry, Andre. I wish I could take back everything.”

He looked up at her with a smile. “Actually, I’m proud of you,” he said.

“Why?”

“You’ve mellowed down on your blog, and you seem to give wholesome advice these days. I wonder what is responsible.”

“I’m losing my followers, though.”

“You’ll be fine.”

Toni typed out a lengthy reply to her fan, adding most of what Andre advised.

“I’m done.” He straightened up and wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. “I think you should go in and shower while I turn this on.”

“I thought we’d shower together,” she replied suggestively.

“I have to buy fuel down the street. Go and shower and wait for me.”

Toni smiled her way into the house, head filled with thoughts on what he would do to her. She basked in the feel of the cold water on her skin as she imagined his hands on her body. He had tormented her twice already. She couldn’t take any more of the teasing. She had never yearned for a man in such a manner before.

She stepped out of the shower and heard him in the sitting room. The power was back on and he was playing Les Nubians. Toni made her way to him with nothing on and was surprised to find him all clean and dressed up.

She stopped by the door. “When did you have your bath?”

“Just now. I used the other bathroom.”

“Why didn’t you join me?”

“I figured you were already done.”

Unease crept into Toni. “Andre, why do I feel like you’re avoiding sex with me?”

“Why would you think that?”

“You showered alone, you teased me twice and left me hanging and now you’re looking at me as if I’m some man standing before you. Dude, I’m naked. Doesn’t this move you?”

“Toni…” Andre sighed. “I don’t want to be your booty call whenever you feel like. I don’t share my woman.”

Toni crossed her arms. “I am not your woman.”

“Okay. Paraphrased: I don’t share ma chatte. If you have to have me, you have to be mine. The fact that Mark or some other nameless guy out there is intimate with you gives me the creeps. I just can’t. So until I have you all to myself, we’ll stay platonic.”

“Is this because of how I ended things with us at my place?”

“No. Like I said, I can’t sleep with a woman who sleeps with other men. I’m sorry.”

Toni suddenly felt like a whore. She retreated back into his bedroom and wore her clothes. When she came out, she announced that she was leaving.

“You’re upset.”

“I’m embarrassed. I took off my clothes for you and you ignored me. That has never happened to me before.”

Andre was in front of her in an instant. He took her hand and placed it on his penis. She felt his hardness.

“That’s what you do to me. I can’t get it down.” Andre laughed, but Toni didn’t think anything was funny.

“I desperately want you, Antonia. You have no idea…”

Toni pulled her hand away. “Bye, Andre.”

“Tone…”

She opened the door and sped out. Angry tears were threatening to fill her eyes. She entered her car and let out steam through deep sighs. When she didn’t feel any better, she lit a cigarette and found brief respite with her first couple of drags. As she blew out inhaled smoke, the bullying tears came down.

She was mad at him. No man treated her this way. Not ever. She was so done with him.

She picked her phone and dialed Mark who had already called more than six times.

“Cuddle bear, I’m sorry I missed your calls.”

“Meet me at Intercontinental in the next hour. Book an expensive room. Order food, wine and strip naked.”

“Did you miss me that much?”

“No, I just want to screw your brains out.”

She clicked off and from the corner of her eyes she saw Andre standing outside his gate, watching her. She started the car and drove away. The tears wouldn’t stop.

 

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