“You have got to be shitting me!”
Louise took her phone off speaker, afraid that someone would hear their conversation. She’d struggled with even “Panlam, I was beyond embarrassed. How this could happen to me? Like I’ve been so careful.”
“Hmmmm, careful abi?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Which day was it here that you were telling us you were a virgin and now you’re…”
“But I’m still a virgin Panlam, you’ve got to believe me.”
“Okay, I’ve heard oh. Just forget it Louise, She can’t be right. Get a second opinion, okay?”
Louise finally dragged herself out of bed. It’d been three days since her ‘sham’ of a date and the Tariebi’s party after. She ran her hands through her hair to smooth down the ugly poof it had become. Even with the silk pillow she slept with, sometimes it just chose to misbehave. There were a few messages from Xhiz on her phone.
He’d even gone as far as calling. He wanted to know why she was ignoring him. Ugh. She had no intention of replying him any time soon, not until she found out what he and Farhad had discussed and why he got so detached after. She could still remember Tariebi gloating as Farhad ever so politely ended their date before it even started, and then the issue of the call. She didn’t even want to think of the scandal if it ever got out.
She shimmied off her bed and crossed her bedroom to the bathroom en-suite. She’d have loved a morning soak but a shower was more practical. She had to fix this quietly and there was only one person she could really trust.
“This fucking idiot!” Tariebi swore under her breath. Saanyol had the gall. Tweeting that rubbish at her. If she wasn’t at this go-see, she’d have made driven down to his house and punched him square in the jaw. She fumed as she waited for the light to change at the intersection and pulled her hair into a bun. She couldn’t see why this casting was being held on the island when the bulk of the models who were invited lived on the mainland.
She drove down Sinari Daranijo and parked on the pavement opposite the maroon gate. A number of models were already there, clacking away at their blackberries. The casting was starting late, as usual. Tariebi went into the compound and ordered a bottle of coke at the bar, for the caffeine more than anything else. The designer and his team came in soon after, all dressed in black and sporting dark sunglasses. Tariebi sputtered into her drink, no wonder they’d chosen Life House. Old money. The designer had olive skin and a slight wave in his hair, she recognised him instantly, Jeremiah Lawson.
He was always in This Day style’s event pages. Heir to a shipping magnate. She retreated into the restroom, pulled the band off her hair and shook it out, cleaned off her clear lip gloss and replaced it with ruby red lipstick. Only the female designers appreciated a professional look, the men were always looking for a pretty face.
As she exited, the younger of the designer’s two assistants came out from the event space to call out names. They were casting by agencies and since she was the only model from independent model that she knew of casting that day, she would be going after a gaggle of obviously green models. The four kept giggling as they swarmed inside in their colourful minis and mermaid weaves. She shook her head, she gave them ten minutes maximum, and none of them would get booked looking like that. Soon enough they were out, all quiet and sombre. Tariebi looked at her watch; as a group they’d lasted only 8 minutes.
“Belae?!!” The assistant called.
Tari pocketed the keys to her Carina and crossed the patio into the makeshift casting room. The older assistant read out the details in her portfolio while younger one took quick measurements to confirm them. She felt fingers part her hair from behind and steeled herself not to flinch.
“Wow! It is really all your hair.” He had a British lilt.
“Yes, Mr. Lawson, it’s all mine.”
“Interesting, can I have her portfolio?”
Tariebi turned to face him as he thumbed through her pictures.
“You’ve done extensive work. Impressive. How many years have you been modelling?”
“Almost five now.”
“Excellent, an old hand.”
He handed the portfolio to Tariebi and beamed at her.
“My assistants have your number, it will be a delight to work with you.”
Tariebi smiled and extended her hand to shake him. He took her hand and gently stroked it with his thumb.
“The last picture on your portfolio is my favourite. You should study it.”
Tariebi nodded, wary to say anything more. She detached her hand from his and nodded to the assistants before leaving the room. The next batch of models were fidgety, they’d probably heard from the first batch and gotten nervous, no point allaying their fears. Tari scrunched her face as though she was about to burst into tears and half ran to the gate, stopping only when she reached her car. She burst out laughing as she fished out her keys and got in to the driver’s seat and began flipping through her portfolio to the last page. Her laugh sputtered and died the minute she noticed the complementary card tucked in the corner of the picture on the page. She flipped it over and read the cursive scribbling on the back.
“Eko hotel, room 1204, 6pm. Pack an overnight bag. – Jerry”
Saanyol felt a niggling of guilt as he typed out the last DM but after a moment’s hesitation, he sent it anyway. He had a persona to project and honestly, it was too good a joke to pass up. He knew the reason she really didn’t want to come up was because she thought he’d want to get to physical with her. That, honestly couldn’t be any further from the truth, he gotten himself treated ages ago; another brush with an STD was way, way down on his to-do list.
He pulled on a sweater vest and dress shoes, to complement his Frankie Morello flat front pants and olive green dress shirt before locking the flat behind him.
Surprise was etched on his face when he saw Louise by the cab outside. Good save not pressuring her to come upstairs, she looked a mess. Her full hair was held back with nothing but an Alice band and she was wearing ratty jeans and a t-shirt. She didn’t even bother flat-ironing her hair.
“An STD’s not the end of the world, you know?” He said casually, savoring Louise’s reaction as her eyes bulged with rage.
“I said I’m not sure that doctor was right.” Louise stammered.
“Considering how busy you’ve been, she probably is.”
“That’s why we’re going to see your friend. So that if on the slight chance she is. I’ll get it treated on my own.”
“Okay. Get in.”
He held out the door and shut after her, then got in the front seat.
Louise was surprised at how old most of the structures were in the teaching hospital. She hardly ever got sick and the few times she did, their family doctor did house calls. They passed the out-patient department and through the radiology wing to get to the Paediatric ward where Saanyol’s friend was waiting. The minute she saw the face she instantly recognised it and the handle it belonged to. She couldn’t believe the guy was serious let alone a medical student with how much he goofed on Twitter.
Saanyol beckoned to him to come out and he excused himself, gently placing the emaciated child he was examining in the hands of the nurse who accompanied him on ward rounds.
“Dude, what’s up?” He said enthusiastically and gave Saanyol an awkward hug because his hands were still gloved.
Saanyol gestured to Louise. “Kenny, This is my friend I was telling you about.”
“Ah, okay. Have you guys done the tests like I asked.”
“Yeah, I have them here.”
Louise fished in her purse and brought out the three envelopes.
“Nah, not here, let’s go to the medical student’s common room.”
Kenny led them through the maze that was the hospital complex, past the physiotherapy and psychiatry consultation departments, a number of theatres down to the heart of the complex where the doctors, nurses and med students had their common rooms and conveniences. The student’s common room had a number of worn couches and an old television perched in metal cage high up in the corner of the room. Saanyol and Louise picked a couch and Kenny dragged a chair up to them. He opened the envelopes in quick succession and browsed through them, lips pursed.
“Okay, thankfully all you have is Gonorrhoea, which is a purely bacterial problem and antibiotics will flush them out easily,” He tapped the bottom of the page repeatedly. “This test makes me worried. You say you’re a virgin. How did you get Gonorrhoea then?”
Louise felt like turning invisible. How did they expect her to just blurt something as sensitive as…
“She’s been getting head on the regular from one of our widely travelled friends.”
Saanyol was smirking at the look of horror on her face. She felt even smaller. He’d known all the while she and Xhiz were intimate. She obviously knew Xhiz was sleeping with other people but telling people about their private business was something she thought Xhiz was above. She cringed to think about how many other people knew.
“Have you been giving him oral sex?” Kehinde asked.
“Ewwwww!!! No! I’d never do that.” Louise replied defensively, drawing sarcastic laughter from both men. Kenny tore out a leaf of paper from the jotter in his pocket and scribbled onto it.
“Your… partner is probably infected and transmitted it to you. Here are prescriptions for treatment. I’ve written another one for him too. Make him adhere to it.”
Louise took the paper from him and folded it before putting it in her purse. She knew she wasn’t going to give the prescription to Xhiz, probably because she was never going to talk to him again.
Tariebi listened to the shuffling from the other side of the door and questioned herself again, why she’d bothered to come in the first place. The mechanical locks clicked as the door was unlocked from the inside. The door opened about 10 inches and a head full of damp curly head appeared through the opening.
“You came.” said, a sopping wet Jeremiah Lawson
“You asked me to come.” Tariebi said.
“Sorry we won’t be able to go out.” Mr. Lawson said as he threw the door open to let Tariebi in. She gave him a once over, taking in the razor nicks on his chin from his fresh shave and the his exposed chest. Perhaps she’d been apprehensive for nothing.
She smiled. “I didn’t come here to eat.”