Farhad was roused from his bed by the sound of scraping under his bunk. He raised his head and immediately turned away as his eyes were assaulted by the sight of Xhiz on his knees, head and arms rifling for something under the bunk. His rump was raised high in the air and his bright yellow skinny jeans riding low on his hips revealing a sliver of butt crack framed by the waist band of hot pink leopard print briefs. Farhad huffed loudly and dragged himself out of bed, all the sleep he’d hoped to have utterly annihilated by the offensive image. He walked over to the only chair in the room and sat, waiting for Xhiz to find whatever he was looking for leave the room so the racket he was making would end. Xhiz gave a whoop of triumph from under the bunk and retracted his torso, his trophy of two chocolate shin length hiking boots clutched against his bare chest.
Farhad sighed. “If I have to kick your ass, I will; cos there’s no way in hell you’re leaving the room wearing those disgustingly ugly ‘shoes’.”
Xhiz froze, startled to see Farhad out of bed and waiting for him. He’d woken up earlier than usual hoping to avoid yet another confrontation. No such luck there. He steeled himself from the inside and relaxed his face into a snooty smirk.
“When did you turn into Unilag fashion police? Drop it abeg.”
Farhad slowly shifted himself so half of his body blocked the door. Xhiz pretended not to notice, turning on his heel and stalking for one of the two massive cupboards in the room. With his back to Farhad he reached for the most offensive shirt he owned, a grey t-shirt with a legend of Marilyn Monroe photoshopped to seem as though she was fellating a pistol. He wore the shirt and pulled on the hiking boots.
“I know why you’re behaving like a little drama starved brat.” Farhad said, finally.
Farhad ignored the sarcasm laden response. Xhiz was going to listen to him whether he wanted to or not.
“I get that Pandorus messing with your head and catfishing you was-” he paused momentarily, searching for the right word, “-traumatic. But man, you need to get over it and get back to being yourself. This little ‘I’m a faggy slut’ persona is definitely not the person I’ve been rooming with for the last two months.”
At that Xhiz turned back to him and raised an eyebrow. He noticed how tightly shut Xhiz’s fists were and stifled a little schadenfreude-fuelled smile. Xhiz’s tells were so easy to read and it was obvious he was livid. He continued, pressing the small advantage.
“After your Twitter meltdown two weeks ago when you practically outed yourself to the whole of Nigerian twitter, the last thing you need is to be dressing like ‘this’ and picking fights all over twitter. You’re not being ‘fierce’ or a ‘bad bitch’, all you’re doing is drawing unwanted attention to yourself. In case you’ve forgotten, homosexuality is still illegal in this country.”
Xhiz crossed the room in a few anger driven strides, stopping when he was practically centimetres from Farhad’s face. He started to say something and stopped, putting the back of his hand in mouth and biting down instead until the wildness left his eyes.
“Farhad, I don’t want to say something I can’t take back, so I’ll keep it simple. You have no fucking right to say that shit to me or do you think I’ve forgotten how quickly you became a jerk after our first encounter with that Luminous bastard? Because nobody said anything to you, you want to feign moral high ground with me? Of all people? Talmbout ‘homosexuality is illegal’. By all means, don’t stop there, remind me the sky is blue too.”
Farhad rose to his feet so Xhiz would have to look up at him. He hadn’t expected Xhiz to turn that angle on him and he struggled to rein in the urge to retaliate, shifting his argument to a less offensive angle.
“Xhiz, that’s not the point and you know it. You’re losing yourself in whatever this is. For God’s sake when was the last time you went for a class early? What am I saying sef, when was the last time you went for a class at all? What happened to the Chibuzor who wanted to get a 5.0 and give his GPA that final push towards a first class?”
Xhiz threw his head back and cackled, surprising Farhad. He kept laughing till tears started to leak down his cheeks. Mid-bout he poked Farhad’s chest and read him.
“Wait, you really brought up the fact that I’m skipping a few classes? Like really? See ehn Farhad my GP is VERY fine, thank you very much. I’ve always been a straight A student and don’t worry; a few skipped classes won’t change that. If I was you I’d be more worried about getting rusticated for all my ‘cultist ties’.”
Farhad’s jaw dropped. He hadn’t told anyone about the visit to the guidance and counselling office and Ms. Forson the guidance counsellor’s subsequent calls and threats. His mind racing, cataloguing all the people who were privy to that information and had access to his circle of friends. Xhiz watched him with a smug smirk.
“You’re wondering how I know abi? Seeing as we’re best friends and you didn’t consider that important enough to inform me. So yeah, if you’re wondering how I know, Kike told me. She seems to feel the need to go all verbal diarrhoea to me about everything nowadays but since you are all sneaking around hiding secrets from me, I’m not complaining. So when you’re coming to complain about my dressing remember you have much bigger problems. Commit your energy to fixing your own life.”
They stood there in silence, Farhad gaping at Xhiz. He was coming to the realisation he didn’t know this person standing in front of him, this person who had watched him worrying for days and said nothing. He didn’t realise when the words escaped him in a pained whisper.
“What happened to you Chibuzor?”
Xhiz’s expressionless mask softened for a bit and his shoulders sagged momentarily. His reply came in a whisper too.
“I’m just tired of being the nice guy.”
He picked up his back pack and left the room without a further word.
Thoughts of Peter Okoye and Mai Atafo, both shirtless and sitting on each side of her, their bodies glistening with body oils they individually slathered slowly over their pectorals and rock hard abdomens; body tensing as their hands moving from slowly teasing themselves and up to her breas-
BOOM! BOOM!! BOOM!!!
Tari jerked awake, the torrid late morning dream practically exorcised from her subconscious by the ridiculously loud banging at her front door. Disoriented by the forced awakening and the panic, she reached for her phone and felt her heart race at the ten missed calls from an unknown number. She shuddered as another round of fists were unleashed on her door and slipped out the bed. She tiptoed into the kitchen, picking up the nearest blunt object she could find and hiding it behind her as she padded towards her front door.
“Just a second!” she called sweetly as she turned the lock in the door, her arm poised for a swift softball swing.
“Bitch, why don’t you ever pick up your phone?”
Tari raised her eyebrows as she opened the door a crack. Chibuzor stood on the other end, loud and obnoxious. She took in his get-up; grey shirt with misogynist legend, not quite enough to hide the top of his leopard print briefs and the belt buckle of his hideous looking yellow skinny jeans and dung coloured shin length hiking boots and fought the impulse to hurl. Instead, she shook her head and barred the door with her hands.
“You know I don’t take calls from strange numbers and you’re dressed like every mother’s worst nightmare. What are you even doing here anyway?”
Xhiz rolled his eyes as he noticed the rolling pin now held limply by her side, reached into his little brown satchel type thingy and pulled out a handful of pharmacy prescription bags, each little plastic square filled with marijuana. He pushed it in her face and smiled; a peace offering.
“Is ‘class was boring me to death’ a good enough excuse?”
The windows on both front car doors were wound down as Tari sped down the Lekki expressway, more so they could air out the stench of marijuana that clung to their clothes. A dopey eyed Xhiz sat in his chair tapping a beat on his thigh, a lopsided grin on his face. She stole glances at him in the mirror to make sure he didn’t nod off as she turned off the expressway and into the street that led to the Palms, smiling apologetically at the guards as they drove in and circled the lot, looking for a place to park.
Xhiz stumbled out of the car and steadied himself by the door while Tari locked up and walked over to join him, the cloud of perfume that surrounded her tingling his senses. She threaded her arm into his and led him into the small Café on the veranda of the massive complex, guiding him into a seat and ordering him to stay put while she went to the restaurant’s bar to place an order for a Long Island Iced tea for herself and Whiskey on the Rocks for him. She waited while the drinks were mixed and served and took them to her table herself, informing the bartender to keep the orders coming. The first and second glasses of cocktails disappeared quickly and they were in the middle of their third one when Xhiz suddenly sat up and cleared his throat, his finger rounding the rim of his glass.
“Tari, I think I want a lover now. Like I’m tired of this ‘little brats running around messing each other up’ and I just want to see what it’s like on the other side. Dude or chick, I don’t really mind; I just want them rich and much older… sort of like the ones you have.”
Tari’s wandering eyes well in the process of ogling a middle aged Blatino man stopped and swivelled over to Xhiz.
“Did you just insinuate that I sleep with older men for money?” She snapped, “why would you even suggest that? Do I look like Assistant Madam to you?”
Xhiz gave an undignified snort. “What? Why would I insinuate that when frankly the both of us know you’re not quite there yet?”
Tari stiffened, trying pointlessly to hide how deeply Xhiz’s words just cut her. She took a deep breath, remembering all the messages Farhad had sent her warning about Xhiz’s new found cattiness. She put aside the retort that had begun to stew in her head and tried to use a softer hand with him.
“Xhiz, it’s not as if I can’t introduce you to people, it’s just that this new person you’re becoming is worrying me. This is just Thursday and you’ve already come to my house three times this week with the same excuse of classes being boring. You just have less than seven months to graduate. Don’t fuck it up with this juvenile acting out all in the name of rediscovering your-“
“Spare me Tariebi.” Xhiz calmly interjected, his voice cold as dry ice. “You and Farhad should just give it a rest already.”
He rose unsteadily to his feet, grabbed his new drink and knocked it back before dropping the glass back on the table and leaning forward so he could whisper without the nearby tables hearing him. Patrons were already beginning to turn and stare.
“Isn’t it a bit rich for a secondary school dropout to be dishing out advice about how to graduate uni? And even if I do flunk out I’m not worried. Here you are, all dressed fancy and spotting for these crappy cosmopolitans or whatever they’re called at these ridiculous prices. Illiteracy hasn’t harmed your chances for social mobility.”
He straightened and gave Tari a tipsy mock salute before ambling out of the veranda’s awning and out of the Palms complex. Tari watched him without uttering a single word, her compassion for him replaced with a more immediate revulsion.
Usually the architecture of the main chapel provided endless amusement for Louise but today she barely looked up as she fidgeted by her seat, pretending to pray with the rest of the Choir’s prayer team as she rehearsed the things she was going to say to him. A hundred different scenarios flitted through her head, distracting her, flashes of all the disasters that had happened since he came into her life, most recent of which was Xhiz’s little bitch rant at her when all she was trying to do was t-
“IN JESUS NAME WE PRAY!”
“AMEN” she replied with chorus of choristers content the prayers were concluded.
As they took their seats, she put her hand on the seat next to hers and was about to hold the seat with her hand when she saw fingers gently lift her hand away by the wrist and the most perfect set of cashmere slacked thighs pour themselves in to the chair.
“Dexter.” It came out as a sigh.
He looked over at Louise and flashed a smile. He was an Adonis, what one would get if they took the best parts of Farhad and Xhiz and mashed them together. That was the reason why she’d fallen for him in the first place. Both of her former loves, reborn in one person.
“I got your frantic DMs, which was a surprise because you’ve been avoiding me.”
He’d said that in a half curious, half disinterested way that sent frisson running across Louise’s already tense body. She drew a breath and tried to stay in control. Dexter put his arms beside hers and flexed his forearm, rubbing against her, perfectly feigning absent mindedness. She tried to ignore it.
“You know I’ve been avoiding you. After you promised that no more mind games with my friends, I find out via twitfight of all places about you deceiving Chibuzor as somebody called Lawrence for months and then that you’ve been threatening Farhad. You promised me and lied to my face. How do you expect me to ever trust you again?”
Dexter chuckled. “I don’t need you to trust me. I just need you to stay with me. You’ve been distant, and those your ‘friends’…” he spat the word out like poison “…have been trying to delude you. I lashed out at them, so they’ll know I can hurt them back if they keep trying to take you away. But I didn’t do anything serious. Those were just silly games.”
Louise gripped the edge of her chair to keep herself from screaming. The nerve of him calling everything he’d done a ‘silly’ game, as though he hadn’t hurt Xhiz badly. She turned herself woodenly.
“You know what, I don’t even care anymore. We need a break. Honestly Dexter, I didn’t want to say this but honestly you scare me. That fear of you used to be sexy but I don’t feel that anymore. I’m just tired. Some time apart will do us both some good. Like its abou-“
The words unspoken evaporated into a soundless scream as Dexter grabbed her thigh through her skirt and squeezed, digging his clawed fingers through the chiffon layers of her skirt and into the skin below, all the while staring ahead and smiling innocently. Louise worried her leg trying to shake him off but he held fast. When that didn’t work she tried to pry his fingers with her hands but all that made him do was clench harder. She panicked and slapped at his head, surprising him and momentarily breaking his grip, all the time she needed to jump out of her chair and flee the church in her now bloodied skirt. She tried to not register the commotion that she caused among the choristers as she fled, all she could think of in that moment was safety.
The sound of her roommates snoring was the only prompt Louise needed to throw back her covers and leave her bunk. She’d holed herself up there since after the choir practice, hiding under her covers and refusing to speak to her roommates or any of the girls who’d come to ask what had really happened between her and the very handsome boy from Sociology. She’d pretended not to hear when they said he’d been marched off to his own room by the choir master and reprimanded for using swear words.
She tiptoed to her other roommate and waved a hand in her face to ensure she was as gone as the snorer and stalked to her travel box when she was sure, reaching into the valise’s false bottom and extricating her phone. She hit the speed dial number and held the phone to her ear, her body shivering despite the heat of the room. A groggy voice replaced the dial tone and muttered an absent minded hello. The familiarity of the voice drew a sob out of Louise.
“Daddy?” she ventured guiltily. “I want to come home.”