With his back against the SUV his grandmother got him and his favourite shades over his eyes, Saanyol waited in the area reserved for private vehicles at God is Good’s new park at Uselu. He’d been sorely disappointed by Benin City, after everyone had practically mewled in his ear about how cool the town always was, he’d practically been toasted black by the unrelenting evening sun. His only consolation was how smooth the highways were now, Oshiomole had sprinkled fairy dust and turned the place to a commuter’s paradise. His shoulders sagged in relief as a cream coloured coaster bus emblazoned with red script turned off the new junction and parked in the office’s open garage.
He waited by the car, watched the passengers get out, stretching and snatching their bags off the heap being taken out of the bus. Saan smiled when he spotted Xhiz, frazzled from the trip. He was about to call when he saw Xhiz stall for a few seconds before leaning back and helping Kike out. Anger and concern raged for supremacy in his head and his full lipped smile tightened into a grimace. Kike spotted him at that moment and pointed him out to Xhiz, urging him forward with their luggage before asking one of the attendants where their bathrooms were.
“Fuck face, I thought I told you to convince her to stay back in Lagos?” Saan nodded angrily in the direction of the bathroom the minute Xhiz reached him. “Are you both stupid? It’s not safe for her to travel around in that condition. Not as if she’ll be any use now that she’s here. Plus I won’t be able to get anything done now because I’ll be too busy running after her. Well done oh!”
Xhiz rolled his eyes. “Saanyol, you have no idea what Kike is like now that she’s pregnant. She’s like—“ he gestured in exasperation “ a pregnant bridezilla! I tried but she didn’t even give me face. She threatened to come on her own so I let her have her way.”
Saanyol sighed and opened the boot for him to put their luggage. Xhiz dumped the bags in before joining them in the car. Saan leaned in and caught his eye through the rear view mirror.
“We’re taking a detour to the nearby Total filling station. Mama bomboy is craving sugar.”
“So after all your pleading Kike, your fuckboy cousin didn’t come with you; he’s too much of a twitter celeb to descend to showing up for my grandma’s funeral?”
Saan’s voice dripped with malice as he joined them at the table with their take-away meals and Kike’s cup of ice-cream. When he’d put his arm around Xhiz’s shoulder instinctively like old times, that one shrugged him off so violently some of the other Mat-Ice patrons turned away from their meals to get a glimpse of what was happening. Xhiz turned to Kike as if to ask permission to say something and they shared a look which Saan caught but didn’t quite understand.
“This week just isn’t good for him.” Kike finally spoke up. “His father just returned to the country last week so he’s stuck playing house boy.”
She stared him down over her cup, daring him to question her. He smiled inwardly, He was beginning to see the stubbornness Xhiz had complained about. It was tempting to goad her but he decided against it, he was trying to break old habits, best start with the small ones. Besides they were already attracting too much attention, a spat would just brand them into everyone’s minds. He turned to Xhiz who was trying very hard to make himself invisible and patted his arm. Xhiz’s arm slipped out from under his hand and disappeared under the table faster than he could blink. He stole a guilt laden glance at Kike who had eyes only for her ice-cream. Saan felt a sudden cloud of loneliness threaten to envelope him and he grabbed his keys and pushed off his chair.
“Kike, you can finish up your stuff in the car. We have a long drive ahead of us.”
“Bruh! What is all this sme-sme now? Hurry up I want to lock the car.”
Xhiz sighed, hidden from view by the chassis of the SUV. He already had all the luggage in hand but he stalled, dreading the unexpected minefield he was about to walk into eyes wide. From the moment their bus stopped at God is Good he knew he had made a grave mistake coming. Things had gotten progressively awkward since they left Mat-Ice, with Saanyol trying almost brazenly to get his attention through the drive to Ikpoba Hill and Kike pretending not to notice. Before now, He hadn’t given much thought to the awkward sexual triangle that was now an unaddressed subtext in his interactions with the both of them. He knew he was being obvious, but he wanted to show Kike his loyalty was exclusively to her now. His phone buzzed in his pocket and he ignored it. It was probably Lawrence. Now wasn’t the right time. He reluctantly left the safety of the boot and walked over to Saan and Kike, catching the last of saan’s introduction.
“—the first and smallest of my paternal grandma’s three houses. Believe it or not, the old woman fucked both me and my mom over and willed everything she owned to her siblings.”
Kike smacked him on the shoulder at that comment. He laughed and led them into the quaint bungalow painted in eggshell brown and set flush in the middle of a massive yard. The house was surprisingly elegant on the inside, with a plastered living room ceiling and mural of dancing virgins covering the walls of the dining space. There were three bedrooms in the place and Saan showed Xhiz to one of the guest rooms. He opened the other guest room and gestured for Kike to enter. Kike gave him a death stare.
“Keep dreaming Saan. I’m sleeping wherever you’re sleeping.”
Saanyol was awoken by the breath on his cheek a second before he felt his lips moistened by Kike’s lips.
Kike waited hesitantly for some sign that Saan was receptive before stealing another kiss. He sat up in one fluid movement, wide awake thanks to the burst of adrenaline that shot through him. He deepened the kiss, his hands instinctively reaching for Kike’s breasts through her flimsy pyjama top. He gasped into her mouth, her C-cups were veritable melons now. She moaned as his kneading went from exploratory to urgent in a matter of seconds. He deepened the kiss, all the months of involuntary abstinence manifesting as a very urgent need. Kike gave as good he did, her earlier indifference a thing of the past. His hands flew over the buttons of her shirt and before she knew it, her torso was bare. Saanyol’s hands went from her breast to her belly, worshiping its firmness. Her hand found one of his and led it lower. He grew rigid when he noticed she wasn’t wearing her pyjama bottoms. He tried to get a word past but she swallowed them all with her kisses. Suddenly she pushed him onto his back and straddled him.
“What the fuck are you doing?” he asked as she reached for the hem of his boxer shorts.
“What the does it look like?” she retorted, breathing heavily. “I haven’t had sex in seven months Saan and we both know whose fault that is. I’ve been wet since I saw the outline of your bulge through your shorts when you came to pick us up.” She dug into his boxers, “And little man is obviously happy to see me too.”
He hesitated, his hand hovering over hers.
“It’s safe, I checked.” She gave what she thought was a reassuring smile. He nodded hesitantly. She lowered herself slowly and just as they touched , he grabbed her thigh and lifted her off him.
“Kike, I just can’t. It doesn’t feel right.”
She practically scrambled out of the bed, picking her clothes and pulling them on as she bristled with rage. She walked to the door and paused in the doorway, turning back to him.
“Fuck right off Saan! I’m going to sleep with Xhiz. That way you can’t sneak off and try to shag him either.”
Xhiz saw Kike’s tweet scroll past his timeline and looked up at the both of them. Today thankfully, Saanyol’s attention was exclusively for Kike and while she pretended to not like it, he could see the satisfied smile tugging at her cheeks. Something must have happened last night to make Saan grovel so badly. They were caught in late morning traffic and they’d spent the last hour crawling the express and finally stalled beside the Royal Palm Hotel. Saan was telling Kike about the heydays when it was the best hotel in the city when another call came in on his phone. He peeked at the lit up screen and put the phone on silent.
“The UBTH mortuary attendant again.” He said to no one in particular. “You’d think they embalmed for free, the way he’s calling to harass me.”
Xhiz stifled a chuckle. He’d spent most of the morning placating Lawrence who was pissed Xhiz hadn’t answered any of the dozen messages he’d left him across whatsapp and twitter. Xhiz was typing yet another explanation slash apology when he heard Kike say his name.
“–Of course, He doesn’t have time for you anymore, Chibuzor’s practically in a long distance, long suffering relationship with this pandorus person off twitter. Get this, they’ve been talking for a few months now and they haven’t even met. Even better dude’s anonymous everywhere.”
“Mind your business Kike.” Xhiz blurted defensively.
“Why? You don’t want Saan knowing you’ve dumped him for a shinier, more mysterious ‘best friend’?” she taunted, making air quotes as she said best friend.
It came out of Xhiz like verbal diarrhoea. “Jeez! Kike, I’ve said it a million times that he isn’t anonymous. Because of you people I badgered the boy’s life till he sent me like half a dozen pictures, actual pictures of himself. Why cant you just let it go, or are you just out to make every one else bitter, because no one gives a shit about you anymore?”
The cabin was immediately enveloped in silence, Saanyol completely equally appalled and amused that this new lukewarm Xhiz could still serve up inner bitchiness. Saanyol gave Xhiz a perfunctory ‘What the fuck?’ look through the rear-view and Xhiz hung his head. He turned to start damage control when his phone lit up and Wizkid’s Back to the Matter started playing. Saanyol asked for a minute and picked the strange number.
Saan was genuinely surprised. “Panlam?”
“Don’t act so surprised, you’re hurting my feelings.”
Saan bit off a snarky retort and settled instead for a question. “So why did you remember me all of a sudden?”
Panlam roared with laughter. “Very funny Saan. You told Xhiz to inform of us your grand mother’s burial and expect us not to come? To a Bini social obito?”
“Who is ‘us’?” Saan asked, ignoring the rest of what she’d said.
Another round of laughter. “Who else, Tariebi of course. We really waited for Louise but she couldn’t get the exeat to leave Fox River in time. We’re almost in B-side and I need you to come get us so we can drive convoy to where the obito’s holding.”
Saanyol cradled his phone to his cheek with his shoulder and eased the brake, covering the pocket of space that had opened before him. “I cant come get you girls, I’ll text you the address once I find a place to park. Talk soon babe.”
He disconnected the call and turned to Kike and pointed to the phone. “Tari and Panlam are on their way.”
Another pocket opened and he urged the SUV into it, concentrating on the road and shelving his thoughts on Xhiz and his anonymous friend for later.
It was a little past 1 pm when Saan finally drove into Patrick Ehimen street, the hearse in tow. They parked at the end of the block, the entire street was filled with matte cars and SUVs, only the centre left bare for guests to drive through. Xhiz whistled in awe as he exited, it had been a long time since he spotted a ferrari, a 2013 Corvette and a fourth generation Hummer all in the same place.
“What took you so long?” A voice shrieked from behind them. They turned, spotting a woman in an elegant white buba and iro ensemble power walking towards them.
“Mom, there was traffic at Uniben all the way down to airport road. In fact we had to cut through that back route at college of medicine.” Saan responded, visibly irritated.
His mother’s discomfort dissipated the moment she spotted Kike. She said something to him in Bini and he nodded. She crossed the distance between them and drew a very bewildered Kike into a warm embrace.
“My darling, welcome. Iwobe’s grand aunts and uncles have all been waiting to see you and my mother’s first great grand child.”
She took Kike by the hand and led her towards the thick of the gathering. Kike followed reluctantly, turning back to confirm with Saan that it was alright. Saan gave a light lipped smile and waved her off.
“Really, Iwobe?! God! This your Edo slave name is the wackiest thing I’ve ever heard.” Xhiz teased.
“If you ever tell anyone about it I’ll make your life miserable.” Saan growled half heartedly.
He handed his keys over to Xhiz so he could retreat to the car if the canopies got too rowdy and ambled off to the family house to change.
Saan’s uncle’s and Saan disappeared to organise the boy’s brigade and pall bearers leaving. Xhiz found himself a perch under the canopies and watched in awe as a colourfully dressed marching band took the fore of the procession of family members and pall bearers bringing Saan’s grandmother ‘home’. This was his first proper burial and the pageantry of the whole thing just floored him. Scratch what he’d said yesterday, He was glad he’d decided to come.
Xhiz flailed as his phone was snatched from his hands and his attention was pulled back to his immediate surrounding. His eyes widened, Panlam and Tari were standing mere inches away from him and Tari was playfully scrolling through his chat with Lawrence. Her eyes stopped roving and she scowled as she saw the last few messages.
“OH WOW! What do we have here?”