The massive cathedral was lit from above, industrial power fluorescent lights set into the expansive ceilings. Louise sat in the back, wedged between two female choristers and zoned out, turning her attention away from the smart-suited girl who addressed the choir meeting to the Cathedral’s glorious architecture. It felt a little bourgeois to her when compared to the extravagance of the Sistine in Rome where her parents her dragged her to four years ago. She wondered why they even called an edifice this massive a chapel. It kind of defeated the purpose of all the fancy architecture.
“Papa might be coming to worship with us this Sunday, so our praise must be excellent…”
Her attention was rudely drawn back to her surroundings when she felt someone tap her brusquely. She turned to glare and hastily stood up, mumbling apologies when she realised everyone else was on their feet. The girl beside her rolled her eyes and Louise fought the urge to say something nasty. The singing started in earnest, the formerly quiet hall suddenly enveloped in overwrought melisma and consummate gesturing. Louise cringed and wondered how she’d gotten herself into this, joining the choir and the drama and ushering groups in Covenant all for some penis. She went through the motions of the first run of the song, and then the second, glancing over to see if her roommates were watching her. During the third run she turned over to the girl on her right and whispered to her.
“I think my period just started.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh shit! Did you bring a pad?”
“I always carry a pad, the irregular flow thing.” Louise replied grimly. “I need to go deal with this thing, but I can’t do it in the chapel toilets in case I have already stained myself and need to change my panties, can you cover for me?”
The girl nodded effusively and stepped away so Louise could pass. Louise scrunched her face as though in pain and picked her bag and the girl on her other side muttered condolences. She limped her way through the throng of singers and exited the chapel through her favourite side entrance. She heard one of the excos ask where she was going and both girls respond simultaneously, rushing to be the first to ‘explain’ to everyone that she was having another painful period, the relish in their voices unmistakable as they practically embellished the morself of information she’d let slip to their hearing. Louise shook her head and broke into a self satisfied smile. That was the thing her parents had factored in when they had sent her to a place filled with tattlers, with a little nudging she could use their need for gossip to her advantage.
Louise abandoned the limp once she was out of view of the chapel and picked up speed, crossing the distance between the chapel and the college of development Sciences as fast as her perfectly tailored pencil skirt would allow. She headed for the closest toilet block, switching off the lights as she passed the entrance and ducked into the last stall. She left the door slightly ajar and stood in the silence and tried to still the nervousness that was making her hands shake. Self doubt flooded her and she wondered if she wasn’t just being stupid, if any of this was worth it in the end. She closed her eyes and bunched her hands into fists at her sides and tried to calm herself. Then she felt a hand clamp over her mouth and went rigid.
She felt dampness mist behind her ear, shallow breathing on her neck, the expelled air smelt like mint and menthol. She sighed into the hand over her mouth and felt her body loosen. She had worried when he didn’t find a way to contact her but her worries had been baseless.
‘I almost didn’t come today.’ He whispered into her ear as he pressed himself into her back. She felt his erection through the soft cashmere of his slacks meld against her thigh and flushed from inside out.
‘Why?’ she asked in a faltering voice.
His left hand moved from her mouth into her box braids and pulled back with a practiced ferocity. ‘You keep testing my limits, pushing to see how vindictive I can become. That Farhad boy, I thought I told you to stop fucking around with him.’
She arched her back, pressing herself into his erection and swirled her hips slowly. Her reply was a breathy whisper. ‘I told you I used to have a crush on him, but I don’t anymore. He still wants me and I’m flattered by it all, but that’s about it. I can’t be a bitch to him, but there’s nothing more than friendship.’
His other hand tickled the hem of her skirt and peeled it up an inch to reveal soft plush thigh. He stroked down the outer thigh and up the inner thigh. She shuddered as his cold fingers left trails of moisture and bit her inner lip to keep a moan trapped inside her chest.
‘L.J, I know you and I don’t believe you. You’re just waiting for an opportunity to whore around.’
She reached down and stopped his hand. ‘I defied my parents and came to Fox River because of you. I followed the great Luminous into this hellhole. If that doesn’t tell you that I’m loyal to you, then I don’t know what will.’
His lips puckered on her earlobe and his tongue flicked out and teased a whimper out of her. He worked his down up to her neck and he slathered her with kisses before grazing her gently at the precise spot where her shoulders lined with her neck, eliciting a gasp of pleasant surprise. Her free hand found its way to the back of his head and pressed him down on her neck and the other took his fingers and guided them up very slowly up her thigh, dragging the hem of her skirt up with them. She shifted her foot to give way into the inner recesses of her thigh, his fingers curving up and in, shifting her lace panties to the side. He cupped a supple breast through her white shirt and worked her with his fingers and his lips, turning her into an incoherent tangle of tingling nerves and shuddering sensations, held on her feet by his hands. His fingers always felt so cold and this time was worse or better, her extra sensitivity amplified each random twist of his wrist guiding the tempo of his long slender fingers.
The chapel’s loud speakers crackled to life in rapturous song at the perfect time to mask the uncontrolled mewling that came from their stall as Louise lost it entirely. The kissing, the fingers and his hands feeling her up through her blouse and the added awareness from the risk of someone walking in on them was all too much for Louise to handle. She pushed off his body and leaned into the wall for support, her legs wobbling under her as she turned in time to see him leave the stall and walk away. She frowned in disappointment as his shadow lengthened and disappeared in the square of light from the main door. She reluctantly dragged her skirt down and straightened out her hair before fishing out the small white pill she’d kept in her pocket and lobbing it into the toilet bowl.
‘Not getting laid after all.’ She muttered to herself as she flushed the morning after pill.
The Kia MDX was a microcosm of vibrant life as it crossed the first Lekki toll bridge, loud trance music bursting from the speakers of the SUV as it manoeuvred into a lane and slowed to pay the toll. Tariebi reached over to the car stereo and turned down the volume for her ‘date’, the creative muscle behind the new but highly praised Vince Eko bespoke label. He paid the toll attendant and asked her to keep the change. He turned over and frowned when he saw she’d taken off her seat belt again and had her bare legs pulled to her chest in the shotgun seat. She gave a coy smile and returned her attention back to the Blackberry in her hands.
The car ate up the free highway, crossing and overtaking other cars. Tariebi shook her head and dug up her Louboutin platforms from under the car seat, pulling them on before stacking her legs on the dashboard and admiring how much longer they looked with her heels on. That drew another frown from the guy in the driver’s seat, this one she didn’t even bother acknowledging. They got to Admiralty way and had to park about four buildings down from the Grey Velvet building because of the sheer number of vehicles already parked in Centro Mall’s parking lot.
‘That’s what we get for wanting to make an entrance.’ Her date said with a rueful smile.
Tari swung her feet on to the road, stepped out of the MDX. She fixed her romper and boyfriend blazer before sashaying over to her date, already on the Bailey’s red carpet and taking his arm. The Bella Naija photographer lined them up for his shot and took a couple, asking Tariebi to angle herself so the guy’s arm tightly wrapped around her waist would be visible in the shot. He smiled to indicate that he was done with them and turned to the next couple standing aside pretending to be disinterested by the whole process and beckoned them over.
‘Shall we?’ she asked.
Grey Velvet was half full and almost every hand held a glass tumbler sloshing with ice and Irish cream. Tariebi stayed at her date’s side as he and his posse of friends worked the room, stylists and makeup artists whom he’d grown close to after his debut collection showed at LFDW and practically sold out. He was the glue that held them together, the reason they were playing nice with each other. She distracted herself with alcohol, downing a starter glass and snatching another from the hired waiters as they passed the makeshift bars scattered around the atelier. It was the only way she was able to tolerate their nasal laughs and inside jokes which she didn’t understand. She hadn’t planned to come but the designer guy wanted his ‘muse’ here with him wearing one of his designs since his clothes were going to be adorning the Grey Velvet’s shelves. She zoned out of the current conversation with a fashion journalist and scanned the room, cringing when she spotted the tell-tale wavy mop of hair that could only belong to one person adjacent to her.
Farhad was dressed immaculately in an embellished calf length jallabiya and his hair teased as a curly afro. He cocked a tapered eyebrow when he noticed her watching him. She also recognised the girl around whose shoulder he had his arm. She was one of those popular twitter girls, ruthless as she was beautiful, eager to throw someone under the bus for a few laughs. Tariebi did a double take when she recognised the girl and wondered what she was doing here with Farhad. She groaned, remembering Farhad was one of them now, a cool kid. Farhad waved at her and made his way towards her. She rolled her eyes and turned away, deliberately turning and feigning surprise when he finally reached her and tapped her on the shoulder.
“Long time no see.” He said.
Tariebi shrugged. “You could have found me if you really wanted.”
“Not on twitter at least.’ He replied casually, his girl perking at the first hint of drama. ‘What was it you tweeted when you were deactivating your account, ‘I’ve outgrown this childishness’?’
Tariebi tried to contain herself. ‘Yeah, which isn’t exactly surprising if anyone would take anything you tweet seriously.’
The fat personal shopper and newest entrant to her date’s entourage squealed when she realised who Tariebi was talking to and waddled over to Farhad, literally pouncing on him while his girl looked away, suddenly disinterested. She only had eyes for Tariebi’s date, obviously star struck.
“Would you like me to introduce you?” Tariebi asked, anything to shift attention to someone else.
The girl’s eyes widened and she nodded effusively, afraid to open her mouth and embarrass her by blubbering. Tariebi felt second hand embarrassment for the girl. She tugged gently at Vincent’s shirt to get his attention. He excused himself from the conversation with the journalist and turned to her. She gestured to Farhad’s date and smiled.
“So Vincent, I think she’s one of your rabid groupies.’
Vincent broke into the megawatt smile that had earned him magazine covers and had Farhad’s date giggling in no time. Farhad didn’t even notice, all his attention commandeered by the personal shopper who giggled and not so subtly pushed her breasts in his face as she delved into a largely boring story about some client of hers. Tariebi slipped away from Vincent and his new interest and stalked over to the nearest bar, picked up a fresh glass of Irish cream and a cupcake and walked the room alone, deliberately avoiding anyone she knew, perusing the clothes instead. It was nearly twenty minutes past seven, she hadn’t even realised they’d been here for nearly four hours. She did one last round and ended up picking a clan dress and an exquisite Eki Orleans skirt. She walked over to the counter, paid for the dress and surreptitiously scanned the room while the attendant rung up her bill. She couldn’t find Farhad or his ‘date’ and Vincent was at the centre of a three inch deep circle of shoppers involved in a hearty debate.
She took her purchase and snuck out of store and paused just inside the gate as she spotted Farhad plant a kiss on his date’s lips and help her open the door to a red cab. She got in and he shut the door behind her and waved as the cab started and turned into the road. He turned unexpectedly and caught her eye and smiled. She rolled her eyes, with the neon green playsuit she was wearing; she could probably get spotted from the moon. She reluctantly walked over to him.
‘Ditching the crew this early?’ he asked.
‘They’re going to Orchid bistro when they leave here, and then on to some swanky strip club on Thomas street in Ikeja. I have a casting tomorrow morning and I didn’t bring my car, so I’ll just bow out while I’m ahead.’ She replied. ‘What happened to your date?’
He chuckled. ‘She wasn’t going to put out, so I cut my losses.’
She couldn’t tell if he’d just made a joke and she didn’t really want to find out.
‘We’re both going to Yaba. Why don’t we just share a cab and split the fare?’ he suggested. She thought about it and gave a non-committal nod. They flagged the next cab that came and after negotiating and giving the driver directions, she crawled into the backseat and he followed, blatantly disregarding the empty shotgun seat. She rolled her eyes.
‘You still talk to Louise?’ she ventured after they had ridden in silence for nearly twenty minutes.
‘Yeah she’s fine. I haven’t confirmed but I think that her luminous boyfriend is in Covenant with her. Don’t even want to imagine the shit they’re getting down to in there.’ He watched Tariebi’s face scrunch in disgust and remembered there was something he’d wanted to ask her earlier but it hadn’t seemed the appropriate time.
‘How is Panlam sef? Wallahi, I’ve been hearing rumours about her, all kinds of ‘stories’. That she’s been frequenting Blu Radisson and Four Points nowadays and not in the company of her parents, if you know what I mean.’
Tariebi turned to Farhad and looked him in the eye. ‘You have Panlam’s number, why don’t you just pick your phone up and call her. But I will say this: Panlam has moved up in the world, she’s left gossipy boys and girls who embarrass themselves and grovel because of some B-list upcoming fashion designer. And trust me for once, fuck what you’ve heard about her, it is NOTHING like you imagine. Not even remotely like you…’
‘Hey! Calm down, I’m not the enemy here.’
Tariebi peeled her eyes off Farhad’s face and moved them down to her bare thigh which had been empty a second before, and was now a resting place for Farhad’s palm. She raised her eyes back to Farhad’s and he gave his most disarming smile before leaning over to kiss her.
Tari felt her head swim, she’d totally forgotten how good a kisser Farhad was and her lids involuntarily lowered as he deepened the kiss. She let him draw close and nudge her lips apart, and his tongue dart in to tickle her palate. As the cab slowed and jerked to a halt outside her block and she pushed him off her, exiting the car in a flurry of legs. She closed the door and leant in through the open window and smiled coquettishly.
‘In case you were still nurturing hope, take my word for it, I will never put out for you Farhad.’
Louise got off her bunk and stalked over to the light switch in the room. She looked to make sure Florence and Jennifer were fast asleep before switching the lights off. She walked back to her bunk and climbed in, putting her Blackberry on vibrate and sending a PING to the only pin she had on her BBM. She slipped the Blackberry into the waistband of her pyjama pants and lay on her belly, whimpering into the microphone of the iPhone as her phone began to vibrate under her in response to the continuous pings that flooded it. A particularly breathy gasp escaped her and she giggled. Yes, this was definitely better than sexting.
Farhad’s iPhone dinged and he dropped his mother’s Blackberry, not bothering to clear the chat, it was just pings anyway, nothing incriminating. It was a Whatsapp message from an unknown number. Farhad opened the message and felt his blood bubble with rage. He read the message aloud to himself to be sure he wasn’t misreading the any sentence.