SEAMS S2: The Girls Are Alright

 

Panlam stood by her mirror, in nothing but a grey terry robe, held shut at the breast with her hands. From the window next to it, she could see out into the street. With ease that belied how often she’d done this, she let the terrycloth side onto the floor and stretched, her full body tantalizing displayed. She reached for her bed and took away a blue chemise with exquisite French trim and stepped into it, slowly pulling it up her legs and over her hips before settling its hem under her pectorals. She leaned forwards so her breasts would pour into the chemise’s cups and slid the thin silk straps up her shoulders. She knew no one was probably watching, but it was a small fantasy of hers, a talisman of sorts she employed when she needed to feel sexy. The final meeting with the financier the director had found for their film was today and he was hinging his decision on if her, the green scriptwriter and producer. She closed the window blinds and plopped on to the bed. She noticed her phone flash methodically, indicating internet activity.

—– ——————————- ——————————-

Panlam couldn’t hide her surprise as she stepped out of the cab she hired to ferry her from her house. She was in front of the building occupied by the address Emeka, the contact who’d reluctantly agreed to become her project manager and all around hype guy had given her. They’d met only twice before and had arranged this particular meeting over the phone. He’d told her to dress ‘slut formal’ and come prepared for anything. Even now, in one of Louise’s designer dresses and more make up than she’d worn in her entire life, she wasn’t quite sure she was prepared for anything. She took the walk from the gate to the lobby of the hotel in quick, long strides and smiled when she saw Emeka on the other side of the transparent glass, pacing anxiously.

He was one of those guys who always looked off unless he was wearing a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. He looked particularly uncomfortable now, his six foot three frame constricted into a sleekly cut evening tuxedo worn over a regular dress shirt. The lush beard that adorned his face in his social media profiles was gone, replaced with freshly cut buzz. He really was taking this meeting much seriously than she had.

He sighed in relief when he saw her and hurried out to bring her in. “I thought I told you the meeting was for five pm, I’ve been here waiting since four thirty.”

Panlam gave him a look. “Calm your tits Emeka. He said meet me up by five and here I am, at five on the dot. No point coming any earlier, we want to look punctual not desperate.”

“What the fuck ever, Panlam.” Emeka replied, “Now get your pretty ass inside, he’s already on his way down.”

Emeka didn’t wait for a response before threading his arm around hers and subtly but firmly steering her into the hotel. They went past the grand lobby with its beautiful colonnades and panelled walls, a grand reception leading into the visitor’s lounge. Emeka led Panlam to one of the sofas there and sat with her, fidgeting slightly as they waited. Panlam took out her phone and began to scroll through her social media timelines, looking for something to distract her from the nervousness slowly beginning to grow in the pit of her stomach. She didn’t know why, but suddenly she felt the urge to look up. It was then she noticed him coming down the stairs that led to the visitor’s lounge. Actually it was his shoes that caught her attention as the rest of him was still obscured by the landing of the first floor. They were genuine Giuseppe Zanotti’s; her father used to own a few pairs before he became what he became and gave them away.

“He’s here.” Panlam hissed at Emeka who was engrossed in his fidgeting.
They both rose to their feet as their mystery benefactor stepped out from behind the staircase and walked over to them. Emeka just stood there and fidgeted while they waited for him to say something. Panlam rolled her eyes and put out her hand, flashing a wide smile.

“Thank you so much for meeting us sir, my name is Panlam Nok and this is my project manager and the person who’s supposed to be doing the introductions, Emeka.”
The man took her hand in a firm grip and let out a mega smile of his own.

“Hello Panlam, I have heard a lot about you, my name is Jeremiah Lawson.”

—— —————————————- ——————————-

Tariebi froze when she heard Jeremiah Lawson’s smooth baritone sail through the waiting room. She and Chechet had come to the hotel nearly two hours before and had waited in the very same space where Lawson, Panlam and her associate were now. They’d quietly left when the guy had arrived and had watched from the relative safety of the nearby bar while Panlam came. Her heart had skipped when she saw him come down through the mirrors but hearing his voice….

Tari felt a sharp pain in her side and turned towards a very displeased Chechet. 

“Cut it out.” He drawled.

“What?”

“That shameless mooning. You’re drawing unwanted attention.” He mouthed.

She reluctantly leaned away from the conversation and waited for Chechet’s cue while Panlam and Lawson got to know each other. Tari could hear snatches of conversation and the occasional nervous giggle from the third wheel as they stood and talked and Tari’s tighten around her glass of Club Soda. It unnerved her, this unexpected jealousy she was feeling over a meeting she practically orchestrated herself. Sure the sex with Lawson was great and he was dangerous enough to keep her titillated but this, this was unexpected. She stole a glance at Chechet to see if he was watching her but his eyes seemed firmly glued to the mirror at the back of bar, watching Lawson and his sister. Eventually Lawson shifted stance and turned to the other guy who had come with Panlam, her manager. He said some words to him and the man practically bowed at the waist before curving around the older man and leaving the lobby.

“Let’s go.” Chechet announced, just as Panlam followed a beaming Lawson out of the visitors lounge and into the restaurant at the far end of the hotel’s ground floor. Chechet led Tari up three flights of stairs before turning right and stopping at the 10th door. He slipped a card from his front pocket and slid it into the card slot set into the door and pushed it open after the mechanism clicked green and the hydraulic lock gave.

“After you.”

Tari slid past Chechet into the room, a look of wonder mixed with genuine fear on her face.

“How did you get Lawson’s card key.”

Chechet gave a malicious smile. “You’d be surprised how much an accent and a little flirting will get you. We only have about an hour, let’s get to it.”

Tari subtly angled her face away to hide the tightness that now pulled against her cheeks and focused on the task at hand. Chechet had gotten her to weasel information about his meeting with Panlam out of Lawson the last time they’d been together. That was how they knew that he’d planted a camera in the room of the hotel he was going to meet Panlam in.

They were here to one up the older man by finding and destroying the camera. Tariebi didn’t think that was a very good idea but she kept her opinions to herself. Chechet was usually a selfish viper to people who couldn’t offer him anything, and him deciding to do something in Panlam’s favour probably served some plan he was hatching. She’d slept over in this room once before so she led the search, carefully avoiding the bed as they checked the rest of the room, scouring the wooden headboard and the fake wood panelling that went around the walls. They searched the light fixtures on the ceiling and scoured the cabinets and appliances set into a corner of the room all the while Chechet’s displeasure simmered into rage. His voice wafted to her from the other end of the room where he was dismantling one of the bedside lamps.

“So, I’ve been dying to know. What really happened with your friend Saanyol’s girlfriend and her Houdini pregnancy? Panlam told me about it, but then Saanyol said she wasn’t pregnant anymore and now she obviously is. Help my weak brain solve the ‘mystery’?”

Tari sighed.

“Actually all of that was my fault. Kike came to me and wanted advice on what to do with it. ‘It’ being her pregnancy. So I took her to some guy I’d overheard the other models talking about. How was I to know the machines weren’t always accurate. He misdiagnosed her and I told Saan the truth and here we are. At least she should be grateful she didn’t let him stick anything inside her, otherwise we’d be having a very different stor…”

“Tari?”

A dangerous edge had crept into Chechet’s voice, so Tari kept quiet and continued searching. She stopped when she realised he was standing behind her.

“Tari,” he repeated, touching her hem of her jeans, “When you guys ‘did it’ here, what was his favourite prop?”

“Chechet…” Tari growled, but Chechet was undeterred. He put his hand on her neck and slowly bent her over the bed, pushing his appreciably engorged groin against her behind.

“Did he press you down like this? Feel your slick back with filthy rich fingers while he took you?”

He began to slam his clothed groin against her, starting slow and working himself into a frenzy as he slurred his little ‘questions’. Tari didn’t make a move to escape his grip on her neck even though she could have easily; she liked the role play, the illusion of powerlessness. They both started as the door knob clicked loudly and murmuring came from the other side of the room. Chechet flew off Tari in an instant, rushing over to the bedside to fix the lamp. He gestured to the en-suite bathroom and hurried Tari into it, following behind her. They pulled the door almost shut just as the door to the hotel room finally clicked and fell open, spilling Lawson with his arms around Panlam.

It was a miracle and a curse that the door to the bathroom was in full view of the bed. They could monitor everything that was going on without having to open the door anymore than a sliver but they were also very, very trapped. None of that seemed to be of any concern to Chechet, he was more interested in the thing he was rifling through his knapsack for while Tari held the door in place. He dug through the contents and drew out a non-descript ballpoint pen. Then they switched positions and he pressed a barely concealed button on the shaft of the pen and pressed it into the sliver the opened door created.

“It’s a pen camera.” He whispered to Tari who rolled her eyes.

They watched together as Lawson and Panlam flirted some more and the older man reached over and pulled her to himself. He was deft, and before long they were unbearably close, lips locked and Lawson’s hand running across Panlam’s thigh. Tariebi watched intently, unsure which was stronger, the revulsion she felt towards Panlam or the arousal that grew for Lawson. After about ten minutes of kissing and fondling Panlam pushed herself off Jeremiah Lawson and put distance between them.

“You said we were just coming up for celebratory drinks?” The question was evident in her voice.

“We both knew that was a lie yet here you are.” Lawson replied smoothly.

“Well, I came to see you to negotiate a deal, you might have signed the papers but that doesn’t mean you’ve given me the money I need to make my film. Until the film is made, I don’t think I have the luxury to call you out on your lies.”

Lawson gave a little laugh. “Very articulately put. Yes, until the film is done, I might own you but I’d much rather prefer a pet that comes willingly than one I have to use a leash on. Which one are you?”

Panlam kept her eyes on Lawson as she walked towards the door. She stopped beside it and her right hand disappeared behind her. Tari’s smile bloomed from within her, a sunflower opening to morning light. She felt her smile fall when instead of the door handle turn, she heard Panlam unzip her dress. It was then she realised Chechet had been bristled beside her the whole time and that he just relaxed. He began to click the camera pen as Panlam gave a walking strip tease, stopping right in front of Lawson and dropping her chemise. She began to lean forward to give a sprawled Lawson a kiss when the silence was rent by the blaring of Davido’s Skelewu. Panlam’s hands flew over her breasts.

“Oh God! That’s my mother.”

Lawson couldn’t hide the disappointment on his face as he waved Panlam off to take the call. She leant over to the room’s worktable and fetched her bag, pulling out her phone and putting it to her ear.

The room’s acoustics were good enough that everyone could hear Panlam’s mother’s howling through the phone’s speakers.

“Panlam, get home right now! First we find out today from immigration that your brother is back in the country, after everything we did to make sure he didn’t come back….Now your father is asking me what you have been up to. He’s been following us for weeks….I couldn’t lie to him. I’ve managed to calm him down and buy you a few hours but you need to get home and face him right now, you hear me? NOW!”

Panlam whispered into the phone, pacifying her frightened mother as she slowly stepped away from Lawson and squatted to pull up her chemise and dress still pooled around her borrowed Louboutins. Lawson sat up and watched her lazily as she tried to reorder herself.  He pulled himself to his feet and grabbed her arm, announcing with cold disinterest.

“That was quite amusing but we’re not quite done here.”

Panlam looked up at him with frightened, saucer wide eyes. “You know I would never jeopardize my movie getting made. I’m already yours; please you can have me any other day.”

Lawson shook his head like petulant child. “That’s the thing, I want you right now.”

With that, he hefted Panlam by that single arm and threw her onto the bed. She howled in pain and Tari felt her blood go cold. Lawson crawled onto the bed, taking care to pull off Panlam’s shoes so she couldn’t cause any damage with them. He trapped her flailing thighs with his haunches, pressing his weight on top of her. She struggled against him, scratching at him with her fingers and he gripped her neck with his left hand and dealt her a series of heavy slaps across the face. Her thrashing quieted immediately after that, replaced with a defeated whimpering. Tari tried to leave the bathroom but Chechet put a leg in her path. She looked up at him and he scowled.

Tari turned away from the door, listening in horror as Jeremiah Lawson peeled off Panlam’s dress and fondled her roughly, all the while whispering filth at her. It was too much even for Tari and in a split second of instinct she pushed Chechet out of the way and flung the bathroom door open. Lawson turned at the sound, surprised by Tari who clambered on to his back and tried to pull him off Panlam. Lawson flailed defensively, landing a glancing blow on Tari’s jaw. She felt her jaw shift a second before the rest of her face did. That, not everything had happened before, finally woke Chechet. He sprung to action and ran out of the bathroom, fists clenched. He sent two well aimed rabbit punches to Lawson’s sides, knocking the wind out of him and Lawson fell off the bed. Before Lawson could rise to his feet, Chechet drew out a pocket knife and pointed it at him.

“Man, don’t fuck with me,” he said. “I’ll shank you before you take your next step.”

He turned his head back at the bed. “Tariebi, help Panlam get dressed.”

Tari climbed onto the bed ignoring her jaw which was beginning to swell, helped Panlam off the bed and into her torn chemise and rumpled dress.  Panlam cooperated, seemingly oblivious to her swollen eye and torn upper and lower lips. The bruises on her shoulders were visible and there was a scratch on her chest, Tari quietly inventoried, surprised that such damage could be done so fast. Chechet directed Lawson into the bathroom after making him empty his pockets and then locked the bathroom door on him. He turned to the girls.

“We have one hour before someone comes looking for him, get a move on.”

Tariebi and the siblings snuck through the floor and the staircase, both girls averting their faces as they passed the reception. As they left the lobby and entered the cool early night air of the street beyond, Tari felt herself finally release the breath she’d been subconsciously holding in. Panlam just stood there, looking at Chechet with blank eyes. Something about the way she looked must have unnerved him because his hand slid back into the pocket that held the knife.

“Are you going to just keep looking at me like you’ve seen the devil or are we gonna get you to a hospital?”

Panlam ignored him, it was taking all of her sanity to not snap at either of them. She pulled off her heels and hobbled to the road. It took them nearly ten minutes to find an empty cab and they piled themselves in, Panlam and Tari in the back, Chechet in the front. The driver began to move, driving in the general direction of the island. Panlam pulled her phone out of her handbag and began to scroll frantically. Chechet, irritated by the gesture leant into the back compartment.

“Are you going to direct us to a hospital or are you going to stay there pressing your phone?”

Panlam looked up from her phone, ignoring Chechet and tapped the driver.

“Please turn the car and head for Ikoyi.”

This time Tariebi was the one who asked.

“Ikoyi? What the hell is happening in Ikoyi?”

Panlam shut her phone and sighed. “Kike is in labour.”

SEAMS S2: Counterbalance

The deathly silence of the room was something Kike never thought in a million years that she would savour. From her seat, set on the teacher’s podium she could see the rest of her course mates, heads down and sitting in orderly rows that stretched out to the end of the hall. It was such a culture shock from the usual rowdiness and disregard for authority they usually had. But this was Prof. Arigbede’s course and the woman was notorious for holding people back an extra year or two or ten. Kike surveyed her paper, she’d already written three pages in, another surprise for her as usually she’d still be sorting out her thoughts and fretting over her lack of preparation. But now she felt at peace.

She watched the lecturers trolling the aisles, hawk-eyed and eager, she wondered what her university’s academic board hoped to achieve by giving financial rewards to teachers who caught students cheating. It made no sense to her, to watch them literally come alive during invigilation when they had spent the entire semester disinterested in even trying to teach. It made no sense, when financial benefits could be given to lecturers who produce the most graduates and first class students each session. It all seemed very…

“Olasinde, you look as if your head is not here with us, are you fine?

She turned to her right, where Professor Arigbede stood, framed by the lecture room’s doorway. Behind her low drawn glasses her usually stern face was coloured with concern.

“I’m fine ma, thank you.” The words came in a stutter.

Arigbede gave her a lingering look and then stalked off to monitor the other lecture halls where the assessment tests were holding. Kike put her head down and focused on her paper, arguing the finer points of philosophical thought.

“Twenty Minutes Left!”

Kike’s head sprang up as the rest of the class erupted into frantic murmuring. A little louder than the din was this persistently loud, almost dangerous whispering. Kike followed the sound to its source and rolled her eyes.  Jane, her friend from the year before leaned forward over her desk, her ears practically at the lip of the boy in front of her. Kike cringed, last year that would have been her. She turned away and summarily scanned the room and felt a pang of all consuming sadness growl in the pit of her belly. It had been three weeks since Farhad just upped and left Lagos and this was irrefutable proof that something was really wrong with him. Kike tried to write some more, but the paper blurred before her eyes with the tears that were clumping her lashes. She turned in her paper a full ten minutes early, hefting her satchel on to her shoulder and headed for the door. As she passed the threshold, she heard the lecturer beside it grumble.

“I hope they don’t think these exams will mean anything if the strike starts next week.”

—————-

————–

Kike emerged out the Keke Napep that dropped her off in front of her house and stood immobilized on the far side of the gutter that separated the street from the garden that framed the garage and her father’s studio. Saanyol’s SUV sat her driveway, its driver’s seat reclined enough that his self congratulatory smile was all she could see as she leaned in for a look. He gave her a theatrical wave and beckoned and Kike reluctantly crossed over the gutter and walked over to the passenger window. They stared at each other for almost a minute before Saanyol gave in and spoke first.

“What?”

“Down.”

“Down what?”

Kike rolled her eyes. “Wind your window down.”

Saanyol reached over and opened the door instead, holding it ajar so it wouldn’t hit her. “I thought you realized I was waiting for you to come in.”

Kike rolled her eyes again as she exaggerated her climb into the car. “Why won’t you just come inside? It’s not as if you’re staying here out of respect. You’re literally parked in his living room already.”

“Trust me,” Saanyol replied, flashing his new Gold Rolex watch, “Your father isn’t at home, I would be inside if he was.”

Kike arched an eyebrow and frowned when she noticed he was unusually dressed up in a white kaftan, Hugo Boss dress shoes and a gele cap pulled down on his head.
“So why are you here?” she finally asked. “It’s not as if you ever dress this good to come and see me.”

She watched Saanyol’s hand slide up to his watch. “The expectant grandfather and current controller of my mother’s family fortune has finally requested me to summon you. He has asked you to today’s family dinner and in case you didn’t get the hint, no isn’t an option.”

Kike’s shoulders sagged. “What will this ‘dinner’ entail?”

Saanyol’s voice was devoid of inflection. “I wish I knew.”

Kike removed a small purse from her satchel before turning with some difficulty and throwing the satchel into the back of the car. She pulled down the passenger mirror and touched up her makeup then glanced over at Saanyol.

“I will go with you, one condition. This is not your grandmother’s burial where I get blindsided with information you could have easily told me. If I am going to meet your parents, then we are going to find somewhere private and you are going to tell me everything I need to know. Understood?”

Saanyol rubbed his eyebrows and put his head down as he said, “Yes.”

Kike gripped his arm, jerking his attention back to her. “Saan, I’m not fucking around. It’s not just two of us anymore. If I need to raise this child on my own, I will and I will fucking cut you off and never look back. Do you understand?”

The “Yes” was much louder the second time around.

—————

—————-

The only thing that truly made Kike stop and mope as Saanyol led her through the new Ikeja City Mall was the tastefully Grey Velvet flag ship store. She refused to budge and Saanyol tried to lead her away, her attention riveted on the moss green dress into which a single peacock feather had been embroidered. She reluctantly left the storefront, following the aisle down to the food court where she took a quick pee break and picked a big muffin before heading up on the escalator to the upper floor. Saanyol took her out to the balcony and gestured with both hands.

“BheerHugz on the left and Rhapsody on the right. Your choice mademoiselle.”

She turned right, circumventing the randomly arranged tables to the one at the extreme end of the balcony. Saanyol started them with a beer for him and a virgin cocktail for her.

Kike pointed at his frosted glass. “I hope you know you’re not taking another of that if you want me to follow you to your father’s.”

Saanyol returned with a momentary scowl before reclining into his chair.

“So we’re here, as you wanted. Can we get to this?”

Indignation rose to her cheeks, making Kike’s face hot with angry words. She sipped her drink and took a second to swallow them before speaking.

“Something happened to you, or rather was happening to you while we were together. Something that was big enough that after what happened with that Luminous boy, your parents took you away, and when you didn’t get better they put you in rehab. I want to know, everything.”

Saanyol rubbed his eyes as if to clear them. “Long story short, I dabbled in substance abuse, I got addicted, and I got clean.”

There was no surprise on Kike’s face, just resignation. “I was your girlfriend. Of course I knew you were using stuff. The glassy eyes, your constant horniness, and how you always went from not eating for days to gorging on everything in sight. I mean what happened in those six months.”

Saan raised an eyebrow. “’Was’ my girlfriend?”

Kike waved dismissively. “Saan, please let’s stay on topic.”

Saanyol sank into his seat and wrapped his head behind his hands. “ Okay, I never told you this because I was already getting enough slack from my parents and I couldn’t deal with any more but I dropped out of college in the US. It was out of rebellion and partly because I realised I wasn’t going to waste a chunk of my life pursuing a degree in medicine that was simply not useful to me in the real world. We all knew I was being groomed to take over the businesses from both my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother understood my reasons but my parents were livid, which led to me being returned to Nigeria until I could get a business degree elsewhere. Then all of last summer happened. My parents dismissed it as me acting out and shipped me back to the US. There I met Chechet, Panlam’s brother. And everything went to hell.”

Kike’s eyebrows were raised so high they looked like clown caricatures. “Panlam’s brother is real?”

Saanyol laughed, a bitter oily sound. “Chechet is very, very real. I really don’t blame Panlam for finally cutting him off when she did. But that was when I got back to the US, after the weekend we spent in my father’s house in Ajah and Tari led me to believe you were faking your pregnancy. He helped me get a shit load of money off my gran for a new business school, scammed me out of sixty percent of it and disappeared. By the time Kike and my parents found me, I was down to thirty three dollars and a fistful of prescription pills. Hearing my gran suffered a heart attack made me get my shit together.  And so, here we are.”

There was an uneasy silence between them as Kike contemplated everything Saanyol had just told her. Eventually she leaned forward and wet her tongue with her drink. She didn’t even complain when Saan ordered a second beer.

“Saan, I get that a lot has happened and we’ve both changed, and while I love you I am no longer top priority in my life anymore. This is why I have to tell you that I want you to be in this boy or girl’s life but I won’t hesitate to cut you out if you dabble again. I will tolerate many things, but a junkie father I will not abide by. Understood?”

“Understood babe, Understood.”

Saanyol’s phone began to ring. He picked it up and saw his father’s name. He answered, looked at the screen and pushed out of his chair.
“It’s my father, time we got a move on.”

—————

——–

The occasional road bump was all that was keeping Saanyol from falling too deeply into the mellow state that the beer and having no more personal secrets from Kike brought. As they tore tarmac and the car purred he wondered what she meant by her declaration. There was a time when he was able to discern which of her threats he could bluff but now, he didn’t quite know. Something in her had shifted, and everything he used to know about her shifted with it. Right now the child she carried was more important to him than anything, someone he could correct all the mistakes he made with his parents and raise like his paternal grandmother raised him.

“Saan!”

He looked over, they had just turned into his street and even from the end he didn’t think anyone could miss the massive Hummer 3 jeep that sat out in front of his house. Internally he groaned.

“Yeah, Kike what is it?”

Her voice came stringy with surprise. “That’s Alhaji’s car outside your house. Alhaji as in my mother’s second husband Alhaji. What the hell are you up to?”

“My father said a family dinner,” Saan replied, super focused on his driving now, “It wouldn’t be a family thing if at least some of yours weren’t there.”

Kike glared and smacked him on the arm with her purse, but he kept his eyes ahead. They drove past Alhaji’s car and into Saan’s family compound. It was then she realised why her mother’s brother had parked outside, the compound was littered with SUV’s. Saan drove up to the main house and came over to let her out, as she alighted, she spotted her father’s modest Peugeot sandwiched by two Toyota Priuses.

“Saan, what are you up to?” she asked, this time softly.

He led her into his house, intertwining his fingers in hers. The opulence of the foyer and the living room beyond bowled her.  There was so much gold leaf delicately worked into the interiors of the house. The lights above were built into the ceiling’s extensive plaster work. She took in Saanyol’s uncles and aunt and her mother’s brother the other Alhaji in her life; all dressed immaculately and seated in front of what she could only describe as tapestry. She felt completely under-dressed in her simple grey dress and sandals.  Just then she heard footsteps echoing from her right and she turned to see all three of her parents flanked by Saanyol’s mother and father.

Her parents were traditionally attired same as Saanyol’s and laughing loudly. Her confusion was suddenly lifted, when she spotted Farhad, by the tastefully decorated buffet tray of food, dressed near identically to Saanyol,. Turning around, she delivered Saanyol a swift backhand.

“You thought you could just write me into a wine carrying ceremony? You want to tie me to yourself without even asking me?” She screamed, drawing attention to them. 

“Kike, calm down, it’s just symbolic. Nothing more.” Saanyol pacified, dreading the confusion on the faces of their families. 

Kike spun like a tornado. “Farhad!!! So this is why you’re missing tests? To help him plan my arranged marriage.”

Farhad tried for a guilty smile. Kike was not pacified. Saanyol crossed the space between them and put his arm around her.

“I’m sorry love, I just wanted to do something nice for you, and I wanted to show you I was ready to raise our child with you. What better way to show you I’m ready for this than a betrothal?”

Kike’s face darkened and she shrugged him off her.

“Never in a million years, did I imagine you would do something so thoughtless, and you would get my family to join you. All of you, well done. If Saanyol wants to marry me, he should ask like a proper fucking man cos I have no problem with us raising him or her as single parents. Ugh! I just….”

She backed away from all of them, angry tears already beginning to wet her cheeks and made for the door. Saanyol started to follow but Mr. Olasinde, Kike’s father stopped him.

“Let her go. She’s too angry to listen to anything you have to say right now.”

———–

———–

The backlight that illuminated Farhad’s face as he confirmed his flight ticket back to Kaduna for the next morning dimmed as a call came in. Farhad took in a heavy sigh as he swiped and raised the handset to his ear. All the blood drained from his face as he heard the frantic voice on the other end of the line.

“Come quick Farhad, bring Saanyol, just get here right now, we just had a car accident and I think my water broke.”

SEAMS S2: Counterpoint

“I really don’t think they have anything good enough to wear to go see a movie director here. We should have just gone to The Palms.” Panlam griped to her mother as she put yet another washed out green dress against her frame.

Mrs Nok side eyed her. “Please sit down somewhere, is the man Steven Spielberg?”

“But you have no idea how much I worked to get this interview. Momsie, this is like everything to me.” Panlam replied petulantly.

Her mother didn’t deign to give her another response; she merely turned to the rack of dresses and began to peruse them, her fingers deftly shuffling the hangers like a practiced gambler. Panlam swallowed her disappointment at being ignored; she knew her mother even offering to pay for a dress for her was a big coup. That was her practically offering her blessing, which knowing her mother was a very big deal. They searched through the clothes in silence and when Panlam didn’t find anything she particularly liked, they left the small boutique, the fifth one they’d browsed and headed for another of the many boujie boutiques that littered Ikota shopping mall. The next one they found was about two streets down from the last one. A beautiful floral bodycon dress on a mannequin set by the shop window had caught her eye. They entered and Panlam asked the attendant if they had the dress in black. She took the dress and picked out four other similar styles and made her way to the small changing cubicle tucked into the corner of the shop. As she pulled off her yellow jumper, her mother spoke up from the other side of the curtain.

“I would have gone to the Palms with you, but you know how your father is about these things. While I want to support you in this your new dream of making films, I’m not ready to get on your father’s bad side. So this place is a good compromise.”

“I understand mother.” Panlam replied wearily. “Don’t take all my complaining seriously, I just wish he would understand that his company is his dream not mine.”

“He just wants you to comfortable and cared for. And he doesn’t want his empire to fall apart. You know the man’s ego is as big as his sex drive.”

Panlam gagged. “Ewwww! Momsie, I did not need to know that.”

Her mother’s smirk was obvious in her tone. “See ehn, you need to understand that for him, there’s dignity in textile production, so he wants you to share in that dignity. Besides you were the one who told him you wanted to do your Industrial Training with the company in Lagos, what did you expect him to think?”

Panlam sighed as she zipped up the dress. “Mom, I talked to you about this. I needed to create contacts in the industry so when I’m ready, I won’t be starting from scratch and this felt like the perfect opportunity to do it. You know once I graduate he’ll not even let me serve before he traps me with a job.”

She stepped out of the cubicle and did a twirl, her mother frowned and shooed her back into the cubicle to try another dress.

“But you sef, what did you think would happen? You know how your father is about work ethic. How many times have you gone to the office since your IT started? He was really proud of you for being a good friend to that Louise girl and trying your best to save her from falling with a bad crowd, even though she eventually got herself almost kidnapped. You want to now spoil that with this.”

Panlam stifled a chuckle inside the cubicle mid way through pulling the new dress; an A-Line Aztec fit and flare dress over her head. She’d forgotten about her spin on the Luminous debacle. She sold them the idea that Louise had come to her for advice about the boy and she’d tried to show her the right way, even going as far volunteering to follow her on her outing so she could ‘discourage’ bad boys. Of course Louise was unavailable to tell her own side of the story and by the time she resurfaced no one wanted to hear what she had to say anyways. She straightened the dress and exited the cubicle so her mom could appraise.

Her mother frowned. “The neckline is somehow on you, makes your tits look too big, try something else.”

Panlam reluctantly put her current choice aside and swooped up the last dress, a demure, knee length sheath.

“What of your brother Chechet? When last did you talk to him?”

“What?” Panlam stuttered. Her mother’s scathing laugh came loud and clear from beyond the cubicle.

“You two think you’re so smart. You people think I don’t check my account balances and all the transactions made in my name? I know you steal my money and send to him, so when was the last time you spoke with him?”

Panlam stood in the cubicle, the untried dress still cradled in her elbow and tried to compose herself.

“Err… I haven’t tal- called him in a while. He stopped replying my messages when I came home and stopped sending him money.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, I don’t know where he is anymore. But his domiciliary account is still active so they could probably track his transactions if I asked.”

“There’s no need for that. I just wanted to know he’s alright.” Her mother replied, her expression soured.

Panlam looked down at the dress on her arm and sighed. She exited the cubicle still dressed in her day clothes and made for the sales counter, placing the dress and her mother’s black credit card. The shop assistant’s eyes widened for a second before she took the card and swiped it before packing the dress and handing the package back to Panlam. Panlam strolled over to her mom and hugged her tightly before dropping the card back in her palm.

“Thank you mom.” She said, and it was obvious to all three of them in the store that the gratitude was for far more than the dress.

As Panlam and her mother crossed the mall’s lane to their car, neither of them noticed the nondescript BMW parked behind them. The same one that had been trailing them all morning. The occupant in the back seat watched as Mrs. Nok cleaned off the lipstick, blush and eye shadow that had accentuated her eyes and cheek bones as she told Panlam she’d only be able to cover for so long before her father found out about her ‘movie’ career. He bristled visibly as Panlam tied her hair up and pulled a hoodie over the spaghetti strap vest she’d worn all morning replying her mother about them crossing that bridge when they came to it and cringed as their car started, pulled into the lane and rode out of the complex. Yes, he’d suspected, but seeing his suspicions validated by cold evidence broke Mr. Nok’s heart.

—————-

——————-

After nearly three hours at the new Tanah Styling shoot and one hour of drinks with the photographer and the other models Tariebi was more than eager to slip out and head home, but she waited as was customary, until the designer waltzed in with her entourage and ‘hung out’ with them. Everyone always made it out like it was this huge honor when really all that was happening was the designer talked about nothing in particular and the models pretended to look interested. After an extra hour, she air kissed a few of the models and pocketed the photographer’s card before slipping out through a side door at Ikeja City Mall’s BeerHugz and going to pick up her car at the parking lot. As she crawled along the single line of lights headed towards Yaba, she found herself thinking about how scary things had become with Jeremiah Lawson. He used to be such a happy go-lucky guy when she first met him nearly a year ago, before he found out she was friends with Panlam. Now every time they met or talked on the phone, Panlam’s name somehow crawled into the conversation. She had no illusions as to how influential he was, and how dangerous it would be to cross someone like him. The whole hopelessness of the situation exhausted her and she sped up, suddenly feeling claustrophobic in her small Toyota Carina.

Relief washed over her as she finally turned into her street and drove into the little space between two SUV’s waiting just for her. She exited the car, leaving her work bag in the back seat and took the stairs leading up to her floor two at  a time. She faced her flat squarely, feeling the unnatural urgency to open the door and shut it behind her as fast as she could.

“Tariebi?”

The voice from the dark stairs that led to the floor above startled her so badly her keys slipped through her fingers and fell to the floor. She stood in shock, keys long forgotten as the person shrouded in the dark stood up from where he sat and walked down into the weak moonlight coming from her balcony. She gasped as she recognised the curve of the jaw and the alert, piercing eyes though the body the face was sitting on was much bigger and spry than she’d imagined, much more perfect.

“Chechet?” she ventured.

The stranger broke into a smile. “After all the delays, I’m finally here.”

Before she could even check herself, she flew into his arms and let him raise her off her feet and crush her against himself. She didn’t understand it, but somehow finally seeing him in the flesh brought her to tears.

“You’re here, you’re finally here.” She kept whispering into his shoulder as he stroked her hair with his left palm.

“I promised you I’d come.” He cooed back.

Finally Tariebi was let down and she fumbled awkwardly for her keys, taking twice as much time as usual to open her door. She flicked on the living room light switch and stood aside as Chechet walked in first, ogling every inch of his sinewy six foot three frame, nothing like his far more diminutive sister. She also noticed in passing that all he had with him was a medium sized knapsack, and it worried her a little that the only thought she could conjure in response to that was how much fun it would be to take him shopping. He dropped his bag beside the biggest sofa and stretched himself atop it, a yawning majestic feline. Tari cursed herself for not cooking something before she left. She started for the kitchen but he stopped her in her tracks with a raised brow, summoning her over with a wordless pat on the sofa. She changed direction and wiggled onto the couch with him, snuggling into his chest.

“Thank you so much Tari for everything you’ve done for me, most especially for not freaking out and kicking me out for just appearing at yours without a word.”

She smiled and sniffed his shirt, he smelt of musk and sweat. “It’s nothing Chet, after all the time I’ve waited to meet you; this was like Christmas came early.” A small part of her wondered how Chechet knew where she lived seeing as she couldn’t remember ever telling him but she quickly suppressed it, it just seemed petty now that he was lying beside her.  She however couldn’t suppress the other question. “Does your sister know you’re here?”

She froze when she felt his body stiffen beside her. When he finally spoke, his voice came out shaky.

“No, Panlam doesn’t know I’m back. Neither do my parents. How could I tell her I was coming back to the country when she finally decided to abandon me like my parents did and leave me to the American legal system without a dime to fight to stay in America? My deportation was finalized yesterday morning. They literally put me in cuffs and marched me on to the first plane headed for Nigeria.”

Tariebi loosened her rigid spine and with a now submissively pliant body, melded herself more into him. She raised her head so he could look into her eyes as she spoke.

“Chet baby, how could they dehumanize you so? I feel so bad right now, for everything you’ve gone through. I’m just so happy you messaged me all those months ago, and that this ‘thing’ we’ve created came to be. At least if you don’t have anyone else, you have me. And everything I have is yours. I promise.”

Chechet’s pained scowl straightened and expanded into a toothy smile that shone down on Tariebi. She felt her body flood with joy as he unexpectedly found her lips and kissed her deeply. It was like her body went into shock and she was watching herself kiss him with almost a year of pent up emotions.  They finally broke the kiss, Chechet breathing heavily and Tariebi light-headed from the intensity of it all. Chechet planted a light kiss on her forehead and drew her closer even still, his vacant eyes trained above them.

“So what about the things we discussed?”

It took Tariebi a while before she was sufficiently in control of herself to sort through all the thoughts in her head and retrieve the one that answered his question. There was only one thing important enough for him to have brought it up after something so intimate. One person actually; Panlam.

“I’ve done what you asked, I-“

“What we agreed.” Chechet interjected.

“Huh?”

“You have done what we ‘agreed’ not what I ‘asked’.” He replied, patiently enunciating every word.

Tari sighed. “yeah, what we agreed. I suggested to Jeremiah Lawson what you said and he was all over it. All that is left now is to get Panlam in place so that it will happen and then we will get what he promised. Ten Million Naira.”

Tari felt Chechet’s body shake with a deep chuckle that erupted into laughter filled with happiness, the kind that she hadn’t felt since she was a child. He dragged her on top of him and slid his hand down to her buttocks, grinning as he held her in place with his eyes.

“Tariebi Sayani Nok, has a nice ring, doesn’t it?”

——————-

As Louise walked past the massive dog house that housed their guard breeds, she felt uneasy and stopped to let the slobbering dogs three hours earlier than the guards usually would. The Rottweilers howled and bounded off in the direction of the gate to worry people who passed by and Louise felt some measure of peace return to her, just as much as the peace she’d felt when she’d gone to the Palms with the driver and spent nearly three hours between the three mobile network service centres ditching her old numbers for a set of new ones. She slipped into her house and tried to speed past the living room and her mother who had taken an interest in what she did and where she went.

“Louise.”  Her mother called, even though her face was buried in a novel and she had her back to her.

“Ma?” Louise crossed her arms over her chest.

“How was your day?”

“Fine ma.” Louise replied, her voice a flat monotone. “I went to the Palms and saw a movie, among other things.”

“Hmmm.” Her mother replied. She chose to interpret that as a dismissal and resumed the sneak towards the staircase and the relative safety of her room when she heard her mother clear her throat and turn over.

“Ehen Junie, some boy called Lawrence called my phone today. He said he’s been worried about you since none of your numbers go through anymore. That I should tell you that boy who was harassing you at your old school, Dexter or something like that has left the school too and you should look out for him. So that…”

Louise’s mother halted mid-sentence, the rest of the sentence suddenly trivial at the sight of Louise crumpling to the floor.

SEAMS S2: Bias cuts & Repercussions

—————

The secretary in front of Farhad’s father’s office kept crossing and uncrossing her legs as she pretended not to notice as he watched, mesmerized. That was the beauty of Lagos, how aggressively decadent the lifestyle was. If it was back when they were in Zaria, his dad’s secretary would have been covered from the neck down, the only parts of their bodies visible to him disfigured with henna. But here, this thirty something year old woman was flirting openly with him, with absolutely no regard for her office or his father.

He reluctantly averted his eyes from her little show and returned them back to the book in his hand. He glanced at his watch again and groaned. He had his final test for Mech521 by 2pm and the meeting Ms. Forson at the guidance and Counselling office had organized for him at Unilag’s security office at his father’s request by 12. He picked his phone, typed out a short SMS and scrolled through his contacts, his fingers stalling as the scrollbar came to rest on his father’s name; Alhaji Usman (Baba). His finger hovered on the send icon before it skidded over to the cancel button.

He didn’t know what mood his father was in and didn’t want the old man ticked off over something as trivial as a text message. He pushed the book aside and settled in, making a mental note to ask for a permission slip to give the engineering professor organizing the test in case he missed it. The door to his father’s office unexpectedly burst open and Alhaji Usman stormed out, his immaculate shadda Kaftan swept forward by his sudden movements. His secretary merely straightened her legs before turning to him.

“Hold all my calls for the rest of the day and cancel all appointments. I was talking to the minister and completely forgot I had other obligations.” He said, eyes straying to Farhad as he said ‘obligations’.

“I’ll get to it immediately.” The secretary replied and bit on her lower lip stifling a smile, and he realised she wasn’t going to be in the office for much longer after his father left. His father walked past him to the door that led out of the office and opened it before turning back to Farhad, the door still held open.

“Tashi mu taho.”

————-

­—————-

“Do you ever put down that stupid phone?”

Farhad looked up and over at his father, who was glaring at him, his hula balanced precariously on his thigh.

“When we were in the car coming here, sai tapa waya. And now since we got here, your eyes have not left that phone’s screen for more up to a minute; you probably don’t even know what this room we’re in looks like. Put that phone away this very minute before I take it from you and smash it.”

Farhad tucked the phone into his front pocket and averted his eyes. He could still feel his father’s stern gaze on him. Instead he turned his attention to the ante-room in which they were waiting for the commandant. It was a small office from what he could see. There were signs of age everywhere, the ceiling boards sagging from years of dampness from leaky roofing, the cobwebs that had solidified in the corners of the room and on the burglary proof lattices that adorned the windows. The only thing that looked new was the jam lock mechanism and even that simply nailed onto the carcass of an older and far superior bolt mechanism. Everything was hidden unsuccessfully by single coat of varnished paint which Farhad suspected was what had been considered as ‘renovation’. There was an orderly behind a small table next to the door to the commandant’s office hidden from view by a formerly green lace curtain, stealing glances at Alhaji and Farhad looking for signs of affluence. Farhad laughed inwardly, Alhaji never bothered to dress up, except for his occasional expensive Arab kaftans which most people mistook for the ordinary clothes. He looked so different sitting next to his father. Apart from his eyes and his smile, he was every inch a clone of his Shua Arab mother. Sometimes he wondered who had ensnared who between his parents. The door to the ante-room creaked and swung open to reveal Ms. Forson, dressed in her usual fashion.

“Is this the guidance counsellor we’re waiting for?” Alhaji spoke over his shoulder to Farhad.

“Yes Baba.” Farhad whispered.

“A modern woman, and beautiful too. I had expected one of those old withered women who always found a way to entrench themselves in administrative posts but this comes as a surprise.” He commented to Farhad, loud enough for him to cringe from secondhand embarrassment.

If Ms. Forson heard what Alhaji had said, she had not tells. She walked over to both men and stretched her hand out to Alhaji and jumped right into an apology.

“Sir, I received the call from the commandant a while ago but I had so many matters that needed my urgent attention. There is so much to be done and there are so few hands. I hope you didn’t wa-”

Alhaji rose to his feet, interrupting her in crisp Hausa accented English. “I should be the one apologising. We left the office quite late on my account. I had a meeting with some dignitaries that dragged interminably. Then the treacherous Lagos traffic just made everything worse. I am sorry for the inconvenience.”

Farhad sucked air through his teeth as Ms. Forson broke into a flustered, pink cheeked smile. “It’s nothing sir, the good thing is that you’re here and we can get to helping Farhad.” She looked around Alhaji’s shoulder at the orderly. “Is commandant ready to receive us now?”

The orderly stood up from his seat and leaned over, peeking through the eyelets in the lace into the other room.

“Oga don finish make call, una fit enter.”

Farhad felt his phone buzz in his pocket as they filed into the room. He ignored it, now was not the time at all. The commandant was a tall bony man with a crown of greying hair, his height evident even though he was hunched over a massive executive table that took most of the office’s floor space. His head flitted around in tiny movements as he observed them. Alhaji and Ms. Forson took the guest chairs opposite the commandant and left him standing behind his father. Ms. Forson breezed through introductions as they settled in.

“I should ask my orderly to get a chair for your son.” The commandant said in a matter of fact way, his eyes finally settled on Alhaji. Alhaji smiled.

“Let him stand. He trained for months because he wanted to go to NDA. An hour or thereabout on his feet won’t kill him.”

The tension in the commandant’s shoulder eased. He’d been worried Farhad’s father was one of those men who were difficult when it came to their children.  He didn’t see any point dwelling on inane talk so he went straight to reason for their meeting.

“So, Alhaji Usman, I know you are somewhat aware of why you have been summoned. We received claims that Farhad has had cultist ties prior to joining this university. Claims that were beforehand unreported by your son or either of his parents. This is a serious claim and we are trying to get to the bottom of it.”

Alhaji sat up. “No Mr Commandant, I think you have this all upside down. Farhad does not have cultist ties. I had to move Farhad and the rest of my family to Lagos because Farhad’s life was threatened by cultists. That is documented in Farhad’s transfer documents. From what I have gathered, Ms. Forson here was the recipient of a malicious rumour about my son and has chosen to act on it without confirming properly what actually happened and I wonder why.”

Ms. Forson self consciously straightened her jacket before addressing the men.

“Alhaji Usman, I do not spend my time entertaining mere rumours. I am sure you have heard about the federal directive concerning cultism. In response to that, my department created an anonymous tip line to encourage students to offer information. Every tip offered is documented and forwarded to school security for further investigation before any student is approached-.”

“And we have conducted our investigations concerning Farhad’s situation and we have questions.” The commandant continued without missing a beat. “Every student transferring who has cultist ties is required to report to the security office and introduce him or herself, Farhad did not do that. Also we went through his transfer documents and found only one record briefly documenting this incident you just spoke of Alhaji, and when we called his former university, they told us he was given four documents to submit here. So you can understand our concern, sir.”

Alhaji suddenly swivelled in his chair, grabbing Farhad by the arm and pushing him out to the corner of the room where everyone could see him clearly. The old man was seething.

“Farhad, Everything commandant has said, is any of it true?”

Farhad held his hands at his sides, fingers clenched into fists. “Well, No one told me I was supposed to report anywhere. All I did was submit my documents at the senate building where the woman in charge of admissions in the student affairs asked me to take out every extra document but my transcripts and my transfer letters. She was the one who asked me to submit only the police report.”

“Where are the documents now?” the commandant prodded.

“The woman said I didn’t need them, so I threw them away.”

Farhad realised how stupid the words he’d said were the minute they left his mouth from the looks on everyone’s faces. The commandant smiled triumphantly, taking small pleasure in how his actions had been validated. Ms. Forson looked at Farhad in horror and Alhaji just stared slack jawed, utterly flabbergasted.

“What do you mean you ‘threw them away’?” Alhaji finally managed to croak.

“They were photocopies sir,” Farhad practically vomited, jumping at the chance to spin the mess he’d just put himself in. “They kept the original documents at ABU, said it was part of their records.”

“Well, that’s too bad.” The commander tsked. “We’ll be forced to recommend Farhad be put on probationary rustication starting tomorrow, pending when he can provide the documents that corroborate your claims, Alhaji Usman.”

Alhaji turned to Ms. Forson, realising that the commandant’s mind was made up. “Ms. Forson, you are the guidance counsellor, is there anything we can do?”

She sighed. “There are about three weeks before examinations. I can arrange for him to defer the semester. If we do that, the commandant will give him the whole of the next semester to solve this problem before he is sent before the school’s disciplinary board. But if you have someone back home who can get the documents from his school, since he says they have the originals, then I suggest you do so immediately.”

Alhaji’s expression turned unreadable as he looked back at Farhad. “Please give him a week before you start the process for deferment. I’ll give him a chance to solve this problem himself.”

He stood up, walked over to Farhad and took him by the scruff of his collared shirt, and marched him out of the commandant’s office, stopping at the door.

“Thank you both for your time.” He said graciously. “Ms. Forson, I’ll be in touch.”

He turned back to Farhad and bullied him out of the room. Ms. Forson felt a chill run through him as the older man tightened his grip around the boy’s neck and hiss in his ear.

“You promised me I wouldn’t have to come to your school for anything but your graduation yet here we are. See, let me just tell you plainly, I will kill you with my bare hands before you disgrace me.”

—————

—————-

Farhad spotted Louise long before she did him. It was as though they’d reversed roles, Louise looked slimmer and better dressed than he’d ever seen her, and he looked like he’d spent the entire day getting tumbled around in a washing machine. Even through the seething rage he felt towards everything in that moment, he couldn’t help but admire Louise. She came over to meet him where he sat, swaying her hips as she walked. That was new too. She sat beside him and gave him an unsolicited kiss on the cheek, catching the stench of cigarettes on his breath and a freshly lit one between his lips. 

“When you said you were having a bad day, I thought you were exaggerating,” she said. 

He took the cigarette from his lips and let out a cloud of smoke. “Somebody’s been practicing her bitchery.”

She ignored the insult and nervously combed through her hair with her fingers. “So why are you at the airport? Are you picking someone up?”

He tapped on the ticket between them with his thumb and ring finger, the fore and middle fingers preoccupied with the cigarette held between them. “I just got banished to Kaduna, no thanks to you. My dad didn’t even let me carry a stitch of clothing, just sent the driver down here with me and dumped me with a return ticket.”

Louise racked her brain for something appropriate to say and lapsed into silence when nothing came. Farhad finished his cigarette in silence and tapped another one out of the pack.

“Louise, I don’t need company. What do you want?”

She sighed and tried to remember the speech she’d streamlined in her head during the cab ride, it was the one she’d been saving for Xhiz slightly amended, since he’d stopped responding to her calls and messages altogether.

“I… I got my father to pull me out of Covenant. I had kind of suggested they send me there as punishment for everything that happened because Luminous begged me to.”

Farhad’s ears perked up at Luminous but he restrained himself from launching a barrel load of questions, he was too angry to even indulge Louise right now. She continued, oblivious.

“Lawrence is Luminous’s real name. I know you all don’t like him and he acts like a jerk sometimes but he has a good heart and he loves me. Sort of. More like obsessed but that’s neither here nor there right now. He gets jealous and needy and lashes out when he feels threatened by you guys. Not that I’m making excuses for him but it’s not really his fault. That’s just who he is. But I drew the line when I found out on twitter what happened with Chibuzor.”

They sat in silence for a while, Farhad smoking and she fidgeting, playing with her cuticles growing out under her acrylic nails. Louise took this as permission to continue. 

“He kind of threatened me when I confronted me about it, so I confessed to my dad about everything. He went to the police but we can’t prove anything so they won’t do anything to him, for now. I just wanted to say face to face that I’m sorry for everything. I never even imagined any of this would happen.”

Farhad flicked the stub of his cigarette into the nearby waste basket and burst into hysterical laughter, startling Louise. He laughed till tears leaked from his eyes.

“So you really think it will be that easy. You’ll fuck up for months and just waltz down when your fuckups finally hone back on you and think we’ll just grin and say ‘forget it, we’re BFF’s’?” He asked.

“I don’t think that.” Louise replied immediately, a whiny petulance tinting her voice.

“Then what are you doing here? Please enlighten me, I’m dying to know.”

“I just wanted to take responsibility for my actions and maybe ask how I can make it up to you.”

Farhad devolved into another round of derisive laughter.

“You’re such a self absorbed brat. Can you turn Chibuzor back the nice guy he used to be before your ‘boyfriend’ used him as a social experiment? I have to travel to Kaduna to make sure this entire semester which I have read my ass off for isn’t wasted because of you. Can you fix that? Can you?”

Louise’s face scrunched into a tearful mask and she whimpered as she tried to keep her emotions in check. Farhad had hurt her with his words, deeply. She knew he was venting his anger on her for whatever happened with him earlier but that didn’t take the sting off his scathing diatribe. Farhad took one look at her and rolled his eyes, registering at that moment, the announcer call up passengers for his flight to board. He rose to his feet, picked up his ticket and his packet of cigarettes and raised Louise’s chin so that she was looking into his eyes.

“See Louise, what you have to understand is that you fucked up, like really really bad. I get that you were or are naïve. Even though this get-up and new attitude is you trying very hard to say otherwise. I forgive you for that, but you have to understand that your actions have consequences. And one of them is that I might never trust you or be ‘cool’ with you again. If you can accept that, then we’re fine. Goodbye Louise.”

He stroked her cheek gently and walked away, leaving Louise completely shattered, as tears began to stream down her cheeks.

SEAMS S2: Chameleon


———————

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.

“Oh?”

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.”

SEAMS S2: Open Confrontations

———

“OH WOW! What do we have here?”

Tari towered over him in her stacked wedges and floral patterned jump suit, the screen of his Android pushed into his face. He could see where she’d highlighted Lawrence’s message, the one where he’d called her a whore. Panlam stood apart from them in a pastel yellow chiffon sundress bare from the bust up, one hand weighed by her carry-on bag and the other at her hip. If he could blush visibly, his cheeks would have been crimson fountains. He flew to his feet and swiped for the phone but Tari was faster than him. She danced out of his reach and almost bumped into one of the older guests doing a slow shuffle to the band’s cover of Sir Victor Uwaifo’s Joromi. The man turned sharply and glared at the three of them and Tari stopped, mumbled an apology, walked back to her friends, Xhiz’s phone still securely behind her back.

“Give me back my phone!” Xhiz hissed at Tari.

“So that you can go back to insulting us with your Twitter boyfriend. No thank you.”

Xhiz turned to Panlam. “You see what she’s doing abi? Tell her to stop this nonsense and give me back my phone.”

Panlam side-eyed Xhiz, insulted that he was trying to make her moderate their foolishness.

“What happened to your mouth? Abeg, It’s bad enough that I’m here literally standing out here, looking like someone who dressed for a club night at funeral. I’m here to network and make connects so I’d like to be excused from whatever you both are doing.”

Tari gave Panlam a hurt look and Xhiz made a face at her, pleasantly surprised that Panlam had tongue lashed the both of them. Tari saw his smirk and made a show of putting his phone into the deep recesses of her hand bag.

“I don’t care what Panlam says, I’m not giving you back your phone. At least not until we see Saanyol. You will just have to survive a few hours not talking to Pandorus.”

Xhiz gave feeble protest. This was Tari, short of forcefully taking the bag from her; he had no other hope of getting his phone back before she was ready. Defeated, he asked the girls to come with him to the Saan’s SUV so they could drop their stuff. Along the way Panlam told him how one of Tari’s friends had been gracious enough to bring them to Benin on his way to Abuja and even go as far as dropping them at the street. Xhiz nodded gratuitously, punctuating every sentence Panlam uttered. He’d heard the rumours about their extracurricular activities.

By the time they reached the car and he’d relieved the girls of their bags, he’d managed to push his anger at Tari out of his mind. They strolled back to the funderal party,  arms entwined. By the time they got to their table, one of the young stewards was beside it, looking around frantically, searching for something. He smiled when he spotted Xhiz and walked over to them.

“Are you Uncle Sheez?” he asked.

Xhiz cocked his head. “Yeahhhh, Is there a problem?”

The younger boy’s smile widened into a grin. “Uncle Iwobe sent me. He said I should make sure you and all his other friends are well cared for.”

Panlam stepped in front of Xhiz and took charge. She patted the boy and drew him close.

“What’s your name?”

“Ohiole.”

Kike murmured the name to herself, getting a hang of it. “Ohiole my man, you know what you’ll do for us?”

The boy shook his head. She smiled and pointed the table beside ours, occupied by some mid forty patrons.

“See that their jerry can of palm wine, you go bring one like that for us. One of the smaller ten litre ones oh and make sure it’s full, and bring three tumblers as well. But first ehn, bring us three plates of pounded yam two wraps each. Make sure it’s Egusi for me and ogbono for them.”

She patted the steward again and sent him off. She turned back to see a very bewildered Xhiz.

“You and who is eating two wraps of pounded yam?” he asked incredulously.

Kike winked conspiratorially. “I don’t know about you, but I have never attempted finishing ten litres of palmy on an empty stomach, and I have no intentions of starting now.”

Before long, they were playing their favourite game of ‘spot the old pervert’ with the guests, drowning themselves in 20l black jerry cans of overnight palm wine.

———————

—————

The crowd had thinned to just a handful of stragglers when Saan and Kike finally extricated themselves from Saanyol’s mother and her army of cousins and uncles and aunts, all wanting a little time with him and the ‘Yoruba girl with whom he was having a baby’. As they exited the house and searched the canopies for Xhiz and the girls, he wondered why it mattered that Kike was Yoruba. He’d even overheard one of them tell another how grateful he was to that God at least she was not Igbo. His uncles kept pulling him aside to talk privately and advising him to be careful, never actually bothering to state plainly why. The tribalist old men. They were all civil to her out of respect for his grandmother’s memory but underneath that he could sense the undercurrent of distrust. They didn’t have to look for long, the riotous laughter coming from the furthest canopy alerting them to Panlam’s presence.

“If it isn’t the lovely couple?” Panlam announced as she spotted them. She sat up from the plastic chair, tumbler of palm wine in hand and hugged Kike, completely ignoring Saanyol. Saanyol waved to Tari and found a seat for Kike before taking one for himself and snatching Xhiz’s tumbler. Xhiz made a face and Tari sucked air through her teeth.

“Please ignore him, it’s not as if he’s been drinking it anyways, He’s distracted by other more pressing matters.”

Saan looked over to Xhiz and he just shrugged his shoulders and looked away. Saan knew he was supposed to worry Xhiz into telling him what was happening but he was too tired and hungry for any of that right now. Instead he concentrated on his glass and emptied it in slow savoured gulps. All four went a second round, with Xhiz and Saan passing a glass between themselves much to Tariebi’s amusement. As Saan reached for a third fill, Kike stopped him.

“You still have to drive us all the way to the house, plus I don’t think I’m comfortable with you drinking any more on an empty stomach.”

Saan frowned. “I guess you’re right. Since we’re all here, I might as well treat you guys. You up for Pizza?”

—————-

Night had fallen proper and lightning was streaking the sky when Saan finally turned off Sapele road into the expansive parking lot of Kada Plaza at Ikpokpan junction. He found a parking space close to the entrance and they all piled out, tottering into the eatery proper.

“You guys go find a table, Xhiz and I will take the orders and bring them.” Saan offered.

Panlam nodded and led the girls away to one of the three empty tables beside the floor to ceiling glass panels that consisted as a section of the far wall looking out into the lawn. They took their seats and dragged two more for Xhiz and Saanyol and sat in silence, each girl waiting for the next to start the conversation. Kike, cranky and frustrated from an entire day of kowtowing to strangers spoke up.

“At least I know I don’t have friends on this table.”

“Huh?” Tariebi perked up.

Kike turned to her, glad she was the one who’d taken the bait. “I said, at least I know I don’t have friends at this table, seeing as neither of you have called me in months. You know, now that I upped and got myself pregnant.”

Tari rolled her eyes. “You know you could have just said that straight up right? See you know I don’t have time to coddle anyone, when you cut me off and stopped taking my calls, did you really expect me to keep calling?”

“A ‘hi’ on twitter would have been nice, at least. Oh, that’s right you were bullied into leaving twitter.”

“Girl please, I just got tired of seeing you guys embarrass yourselves day after day.”

Panlam leaned forward and put her hands on the table. “Me, I’m not even going to delve into this with either of you. You guys are the ones who all had epiphanies on me; Xhiz turning into a Muppet and changing handles, you turning into Sheena the warrior princess, Tari quitting twitter altogether for whatever reason. All because some brat said shit about us a few months ago. The good thing is we’re here, now and everything is in the past? Can we keep it that way?”

“Keep what which way?” Xhiz asked, appearing behind them with the Pizza boxes stacked on his arms. Saan appeared a few minutes later, drinks in a plastic bag. 

Tari replied sarcastically as they set everything out on the table. “We were just talking about we should leave everything that happened in the past and enjoy each other’s company, here and now. And maybe finally address this disturbing issue of Xhiz and his boyfriend.”

Xhiz gasped. “Tari, what is your own now?”

She cackled. “What is my own? Really Chibuzor, what is my own? Wait, guys give me a second let me give you people a few reasons why it is not just my own problem but our problem?”

She dug Xhiz’s phone out of her purse and started to read from his conversation with Pandorus. With each screen page of messages she read, the faces around the table squeezed into disapproving frowns. By the time she reached the twentieth screen page Kike had had enough.

“You told that… that… stranger what I told you about the school trying to force me to defer a session? God! Are you stupid?”

“Lawrence won’t say anything to anyone, I swear. I trust him with my life.” Xhiz railed.

“So how do you know that Chibuzor?” Saan countered. “Do you know this Lawrence, personally? Have you gone to his house, met his parents? Interviewed any of his friends to see how he is with them? Cos from what Kike told me, you haven’t met him. After everything that happened with that Louise’s boy, you still haven’t learnt anything?”

“And what if I haven’t met him? You all have people you’re close to that you haven’t met. Why is it that when it’s me, you all start splitting hairs? Besides I told you, I know what he looks like, he sent me pictures!” Xhiz was raising his voice, the hint of defensiveness very obvious.

“Okay.” Saan said.

“Okay what?!” Xhiz spat, his eyes slit in defiance.

“Who has a smartphone here, something with good internet, my Blackberry is shit and I can’t go back to my car and get my tablet.”

Tari reached into her handbag and handed over to Saanyol a sleek iPad 3. Saan raised an eyebrow as he handled it, the tablet was so new, the email hadn’t even been configured, and all it had on was an Instagram account. He opened his email with it and asked Xhiz to forward the pictures Lawrence had sent him. He fiddled around suddenly snorted.

“Aha! Xhiz, is this your Lawrence?”

Saan cleared a place on the table and dropped the tablet so everyone could see it. The screen displayed a Facebook account, the profile picture enlarged. It was a spitting image of the boy Xhiz had said was Lawrence, only the name of the facebook account wasn’t Lawrence, it was Preston Oluwatola Adekunle. Xhiz snatched the tablet off the table and scrolled through the pictures on the profile, his confidence waning into an overwhelming uncertainty and then morphing into a betrayed look.

“How did you find this person?” He asked to no one in particular, his eyes still focused on the screen.

“I just did a back search on the pictures with Google. Every single one of the pictures he sent you led back to this account. The wonders of modern technology.”

Oh My God! This Preston is mutual friends with me and you! He’s online.”

“Ask him for his twitter account.” Panlam goaded.

Xhiz tapped out the message on the tablet and after a few seconds his face fell even more. “He doesn’t have a twitter account. Doesn’t even know how to operate one.”

Xhiz slid the tablet onto the table and hid his face in his hands. Everyone watched him, half sad that he was so betrayed; half satisfied that the mystery of Pandorus had been unravelled.

“What are you going to do now?” Kike asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, you have to do something. You have to confront him about him find out who he really is.” Panlam suggested, her curiosity getting the best of her.

Tari gasped. “Oh shit! I just hit me that he might be that Luminous idiot.”

Xhiz sat up, the possibility suddenly becoming very obvious, almost too convenient even. Everything made sense now; the slightly suspicious interest in his friends lives, the constant ‘inane’ questions. The constant interest and weird reactions when he was ignored even though he swore had no interest in him sexually. Xhiz felt stupid, used. He just wanted to lie down and never wake up. He stood up and took Saan’s keys from the table and headed out of the eatery alone.

Saan sagged in his chair. “I guess that means this outing is over.”

————–

Xhiz raised his head off the pillow and glanced at his phone. It was almost three am. He’d barely caught a wink of sleep since he excused himself and gone to bed at ten. Too many scary dreams about the person he’d thought was Lawrence. He slipped out of bed and headed for the kitchen to get some water to wet his parched tongue. As he passed the guest bathroom he heard muffled noises. He stopped and drew closer to the door, afraid it was a burglar or something. Then he heard the low unmistakable moan followed by hoarse whispering; Saanyol.

“You have no idea how much I fucking missed you.”

The person behind the frantic reply sounded nothing like Kike, yet her voice was all too familiar.

“Saan, just shut up and fuck me.”

SEAMS S2: Burial Cloth & Subtext

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.

“Saan?”

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.

“Hey babe.”

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?”

SEAMS S2: Homecoming

———–

———–

“Please bear with us as we perform final checks and await clearing for take-off. In the meantime please check that your seatbelt is properly secured and all electronic devices switched off. Thank you.”

The flight attendant smiled curtly before securing the receiver for the plane’s PA system. She disappeared behind the curtain that separated the economy class from the business class. Saanyol groaned, looking up from his phone as the woman next to him tried to settle in, apologising profusely as her massive thighs pushed against him. He ignored her and spread his legs defiantly, thankful he’d bothered to charge his iPod and tablet. The flight was shaping out to be long and uncomfortable. His phone rang, Kike.

“Saan?” Her voice trembled.

“Hey, you couldn’t have called at a better time, my flight’s about to start give or take ten to fifteen minutes. What time is it over there?”
“About five am. I just wanted to ask what time you think you’ll get here. It’s not really safe for me to moving about in my current situation.”

Something about the way Kike said ‘current situation’ lit up warning flares in Saanyol’s brain but he dismissed them. She’d said they had things to talk about, things that couldn’t be discussed over the phone. There was no point getting worked up prematurely over things he would eventually get to hear in a few hours.

“Depends, but I think late afternoon, from 2pm would be a good time to get to the airport.”

“Oh, okay. See you soon.” Her voice trembled again. “I love you.”

“Err.. okay, bye.”

Saanyol ended the call by pressing down the phone’s power button till the screen blanked. He’s slid it into the front pocket of his jacket and took a deep breath to calm his racing heart, zoning out as the intercom came back on and the engines spun to life. He hated that about Kike, how easily she unsettled him; their conversation had lasted barely and minute and yet here he was, filled with dread. She was very much like his father in that respect, the only difference was that they evoked in him very different emotions. His father’s actions were deliberate, perpetrated with all the malice in the world, like making him travel back to Nigeria via Arik economy, as if he had personally taken a knife and plunged it into his father’s mother’s chest.

His ears were suddenly assaulted with the rustle of praying lips as the airplane began to speed up the runway and a collective gasp escaped the cabin as the tyres left the ground. Saanyol shook his head in disgust, everyone in the plane had fallen into a deathly silence as it ascended. Even the woman beside him; the formidable slab of fat wearing a ratty brown weave seemed to shrink and give him momentarily relief, only for her to rudely wrestle it away, literally expanding in relief as the plane levelled. Saanyol violently widened his thighs and pushed at her, thoughts of Kike and his father pushed aside by the more present need to make the flight as uncomfortable for his seat mate as she had for him.

————

Where are you guys now?

———–

Kike fired another IM to Farhad and waited for a response, jiggling her foot to rid herself of the cramp that was beginning to form in her calf. Xhiz sat beside her, watching with a mix of apprehension and concern as though the slightest exertion would send her into premature labour. She shot him a very annoyed glance and he averted his eyes. In the beginning, the new docile Xhiz had appealed to her; the bleeding heart and the lack of sly comments was something she’d appreciated, a relief from the old Xhiz who would have used every opportunity to slip in snarky remarks about her getting ‘knocked up’, but right now she couldn’t deal. It was like he didn’t have any bones in him, constantly breaking into a panic if she so much as winced. It was almost 3 pm and she and Xhiz had been waiting here for nearly an hour. All thanks to her brilliant idea of coming to the airport early to beat traffic that never seemed to cease at airport road. She just hadn’t expected the place to be devoid of any real entertainment, and even worse she couldn’t even use her phone properly, lest the battery die before Saanyol arrived. Xhiz had laughed when she’d complained.

“Everyone knows all the drama happens at the departure lounge.” He’d said.

Her phone buzzed.

———-

Just got into the car park, come and wait for us by the entrance.

———

“Farhad just got here with the aides.” She announced to Xhiz. “Stay here and help me find seats for the other guys far away from us while I go get them, I’ll be impossible to miss now that I look like a whale.”

Xhiz just nodded, her self-effacing joke flying right over his head. She sighed and trudged over to the entrance to wait.

The older of Farhad’s father’s aides spotted Kike first among the small crowd gathered by the transparent glass of the arrival lounge’s doors. Her stance was off, shoulders pushed back, arms dangling at her sides; the front of her maxi dress was raised by her distended abdomen as she fidgeted, facing the wrong direction.

“Oga, no be your papa sister pikin be that?” The man said, pointing at her.

Farhad rolled his eyes when he saw her. He’d told her to dress responsibly, seeing as his father was going to arrive a full hour before Saanyol did and he’d badgered her into agreeing to see him. Then he shrugged and laughed, the less responsible she looked, the easier it was going to be for her to take the heat off him. He quickened his pace and tapped her on the shoulder.

“Na wa oh!” he exclaimed theatrically. “We’re breathing the same air the second time this week, if this happens one more time you might actually start to like me again.”

Kike rolled her eyes. “Oh fuck off. What the hell kept you? We were supposed to all meet here by two.”

Farhad shrugged apologetically. “Not my fault oh, I had to go back home and pick up the Prius. Popsie has a meeting to attend as soon as he lands, and he didn’t want to do that public transport runs.”

Kike turned and started for the waiting area, Farhad fell in step beside her. “You could have just told me, instead of leaving me with Xhiz. God, the last hour has been torture. The boy literally has his period every time I move. How do you deal with that?”

“It’s not that bad. Stop exaggerating.”

“No Tomiwa, you have no fucking idea. He kept asking if I was okay and if I needed anything like every five minutes. It was fucking annoying. Like I can fucking walk, just because I’m pregnant doesn’t mean I’m a cripple. Why did he even agree to come with us sef? He says he wants to see Saanyol, but I don’t believe him.”

Farhad gave a throaty laugh, lowering his voice as they approached the row of metal chairs where Xhiz was waiting. “His anonymous bestie tweeted about coming to pick an uncle up today so he came along to see if he’d spot him. So very Romeo and Juliet.”

Xhiz turned to them at that very moment and Farhad lit up in an innocent smile. Xhiz scooted over so they could sit, before directing the guards over to the row in front of him. Now that they were at the airport, Farhad’s apprehension returned like a flood. All the psyching he had put himself through earlier in the day just melted in the face of the reality of facing Alhaji. Everything that had happened in the last six months he’d convinced his mother to keep from his father, but this new development at school had forced her to call him and give a detailed explanation of why his presence was needed so badly. The man had been furious, ending the phone call with his mother abruptly only to call him on his own phone and verbally berate him for the better part of two hours. Thankfully, his mother had obliged his pleas to slip Kike’s pregnancy into the story and his father had asked him to make sure Kike was at the airport as well when he arrived. He looked at her, glancing occasionally at her phone and then at the board that announced arrivals. She looked even more miserable than he was.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, sidling over to her.

She raised her face to him. “I still haven’t told him. It just hit me that he’s coming in two hours and I still haven’t told him.”

“Oh…”

“Yeah.”

“But I thought his family knew.”

“Just his grandmother and I made her promise not to tell him or his parents. Not until the baby was born at least.”

“Jeez Kike! Walahi that was stupid.”

Kike glared at him. “Yeah, tell me something I don’t know.”

“My mom told popsie about this.” Farhad added succinctly, gesturing at her belly as he said ‘this’. Kike gave him a pointed look. He ignored her and spoke over her shoulder at Xhiz who was turned away from them, staring intently at a light skinned Igbo boy standing by one of the concession stores.

“Seen mystery boy yet?”

Xhiz suddenly found his fingers very interesting. “I wasn’t exactly looking for him but no.”

“Eyah! Maybe you people aren’t just destined to mee-“

Just that minute the overhead PA system crackled with static, quickly dispersed by a disembodied voice with a crisp British accent that filled Farhad with dread.

“Qatar Air flight from Dubai to Lagos has arrived. Please remain seated, passengers will exit shortly.”

————— ­

Alhaji stood out almost immediately, apart from the fact that he stood a full foot taller than almost everyone exiting the plane, he bore the same striking looks as Kike’s mother; perfectly complemented by his pristine white kaftan and his Arab Keffiyeh held in place by a lopsided agal. The aides who’d been lax while they waited sprung to alertness as they spotted him, one running forward to take his hand luggage and the other taking the tags for his bigger bags and heading for the carousel. Xhiz stood a respectable distance apart from Kike and Farhad, partly out of deference for the situation and partly because he didn’t want to miss spotting the reason he’d bothered with coming along. Farhad’s father whispered something to the guard and finally walked over to Farhad and Kike.

“Sannu da Zu-“Farhad started, but the rest of the greeting was silenced by his father surprising him with an unexpectedly vicious slap to the cheek.

Farhad’s hands flew to his face and Kike took an instinctive step back, certain Alhaji’s next action would be a complimentary slap directed at her. The man didn’t seem to even notice she was there.

“I warned you, you Dan Iska! Do I look like ina da lokacin ka? You want me to start running around behind you, fixing your messes like Kaduna?”

“I swear baba, all of this was not my doi-“ Farhad tried to interject, his cheek had started to swell.

“Ka yi mun shuru Dan banza. Keep your bloody mouth shut.  This was the same nonsense you said in Kaduna and I warned you. I warned you to not let this repeat itself, yet ga mu nan, doing the same nonsense all over again. I am going to that police station as soon as I finish my meeting this evening, Allah ya tsine ma, they say something contrary to all the lies you’ve been feeding your mother. I will send you so far into the Sahara, vultures picking the flesh off your withered bones will be the least of your problems. Tashi ka ba ni wuri.”

Farhad stepped aside in humiliation, ignoring the eyes that had trained on them as his father turned to Kike. She cowered in front of him, completely horrified by the spectacle that had just played out in front of her. To her surprise, his ugly visage softened into a rueful smile.

“Baby girl, it’s been a while.”

It took Kike a few seconds to gather her wits enough to form a reply. “Good evening uncle. How was the trip?”

He sighed and stepped forward, gently placing a hand on her belly. “Thankfully uneventful. This your baby is growing really fast oh. How many months along are you?”

“Just entered my third trimester sir.” She replied quietly.

“Ah, that’s good, before you know it, you’ll be in the labour room giving Farhad and his brothers their first nephew abi niece.” He grew serious. “What about your mother? Has she been around to visit you?”

“She came once.” Kike replied vaguely, unwilling to recount the disastrous visit.

“I see. That one doesn’t know she’s no longer a child. Don’t worry baby girl, I’ll give her a call as soon as I get a chance to sit in one place for more than an hour.”

The second aide joined them, dragging two suitcases and a massive knapsack on a trolley. Alhaji glared at Farhad and gestured towards the exit. He sullenly turned and started in that direction tailed by the aides. Alhaji turned back to Kike.

“You’re not coming with?”

“No sir.” Kike replied. “I was just waiting with Farhad; I’m here to pick someone else up.”

“Oh.” The man took Kike’s hand and pressed a couple thousand naira notes into them. “For your transportation. Baby girl, please don’t let the small one come before you introduce him to his small uncles. My house is always open to you.”

“Thank you sir.” Kike grinned with tears in her eyes. With a final glance, Alhaji left to join his posse, his kaftan swirling around him like a spectral cloak.

“Wow! Your uncle is all kinds of intense.” came Xhiz’s voice beside her ear. She swivelled to him and shrugged his hand off her shoulder, an eyebrow raised as high as it would go.

“Is that why you refused to come over and introduce yourself?”

Xhiz smiled guiltily. “You people seemed to be having a family moment, the opportunity just never presented itself.

“Right.”

The intercom crackled to life again, this time announcing the arrival of the JFK – LOS flight. Kike felt her legs go wobbly, her mind flashing to how disastrously things had turned out for Farhad mere moments before. She clasped Xhiz’s hand for support, a long forgotten prayer imprinting itself on her consciousness.

————–

Saanyol blanched as he caught sight of himself in one of the stainless steel panels of the baggage carousel. There was dried drool on his left shoulder from where the fat mami had tried to use his shoulder as a pillow. His hair was a mess and his shirt was wrinkled. Kind of apt for how his life felt right now. He was just a bundle of loose ends and unfinished pieces. He had no idea what he was going to do with himself now that he was back in the country. He was almost sure his father wouldn’t send him back, not with his grandmother gone and all the unfortunate events that had led him to this very moment. He spotted his single travel box and pulled it off the rotating ramp, pushing his way through the crowd at the carousel and making for the corridor that led to the arrival lounge.

Kike was waiting as he hoped, as beautiful as he remembered. Xhiz was beside her, that one he hadn’t expected. He noticed her wrest her hand free of Xhiz’s and wondered what that was about, were they a couple now or something? As he drew closer, he noticed there was something off about Kike; it was as if she’d gained weight but not really. The fat was in her cheeks and her arms and her belly. It seemed concentrated in her belly but that meant? His eyes widened as he exited the corridor and the realisation hit him. Kike was pregnant, heavily.

Kike looked into his eyes, and smiled sadly.

“Hey.”

—————

SEAMS S2: Collusions

——————

—————–

Farhad sent the last message and powered down his iPhone’s screen, tossing it aside. He stretched on the bed and froze when he felt freshly shaved legs rub against his calf. He glanced over and a smile split his lips when he saw the face and remembered the girl; one of his newer conquests. He’d totally forgotten about her.

He rolled out from under the duvet and sat up, pulling on his briefs and wool slacks and stuffing his wallet, keys and mobile into the corresponding pockets before reaching over and tapping the other occupant of the bed. She stirred a little and turned away from him, snuggling with her pillow. He tapped again more insistently.

“Sary Hai, get up. Sary Hai!”

Her head shot up from the pillow and trained on him. He cringed inside when he realised he had addressed her with her twitter name, again. Wasn’t really his fault, he was meeting so many people these days that having to remember real and twitter names was becoming a bit of a struggle. He leant over and gave her a peck on the cheek and felt the hint of her name sift to the surface when he noticed her very prominent lips, Last night they’d looked positively Jolie-esque, this morning not so much.

“S…Sar… Salome.” He sounded out the syllables, using her facial expressions as a guide.  “Salome dear, we need to get dressed. It’s almost 9am and I have classes.”

She nodded quietly, gathered her stuff and slowly swayed her pert behind into the adjoining bathroom. Farhad decided just that instant to not point out the irony. It would probably lead to a discussion he wasn’t quite ready to have. Unrequited relationship drama and all that was decidedly Xhiz’s area of expertise. He pulled on his shirt and shoes while she dressed and trashed the empty cans of Kiss Mix. She came out of the bathroom slightly wrinkled but not as bad as he’d anticipated. He slipped past her to flush the used condom and led her out of the self contained apartment, stopping at the door to give her a side hug.

She frowned. “You’re not seeing me off?”

“Farhad shrugged. “The roommate called when you were getting dressed. He forgot his key in the room so I need to wait for him. I hope you understand.”

Salome’s frown turned into a betrayed scowl as she fastened the top buttons of her shirt dress, suddenly realising her triumphant seeing off into school with her new ‘squeeze’ had just degenerated into a very solitary walk of shame. She hissed and started off, withholding her goodbye. Farhad made no move to follow and even waved when she stole a backward glance as she turned the bend that led back into school. Once she was out of sight Farhad pulled out his phone and dialled.

“Hey bro, thanks for letting me use your room for the night, I dropped the key under the welcome mat like you said. Wish everyone on twitter was as cool as you.”

“Sure bro, anytime you need a favour, just call me, I’ll be glad to help. After all isn’t that what friends are for?”

Farhad gave a hollow chuckle in response, topped with a sarcasm drenched ‘Of course’ and ended the call. Maybe it’s because of this blasted early morning shower, he thought to himself, but everyone is acting hyper clingy this morning.

­­——————

The police station was thankfully scant as Farhad traversed the squelchy wet sand. He crossed the road with difficulty after waiting almost ten minutes for a break in the traffic and pulled himself together before entering the Lekki Expressway Police ‘precinct’. He wove through the small army of painters and daubing at the walls of the DPO’s office and shook his head. They ignored the dilapidated front buildings to ‘renovate’ the only office in actual good shape. Atypical. He knocked on the front door to announce himself, pushed inside and froze when he was met by an unfamiliar face.

“Heysss! Stop there!” The policewoman shouted, scrambling to her feet and reaching for her service rifle.

Farhad threw himself forward and trapped the woman’s hand on the table. “AH! Madam what is it now? What do you want to use your gun for?”

The woman glared at him. “You dey crase? You waka enter my office with ya boko haram face and ya bag wey be like say bomb dey inside, you no even get fear sef you con dey hold my hand on top. E be like say you wan sleep for cell this night. Oya, bifor I kant tiri, Leave my hand! Wan!”

Realisation hit Farhad in the face like a ton of bricks and he slowly backed away. “Madam, I came to see corporal Festus. I’m supposed to sign some ledger with him. He hates having to come open the door so he said I should just announce myself and come in.”

“Na wetin you for fes talk na.” the woman beamed. “Dem don transfer Festus go Yaba. E no sabi type letter. E no even sabi anytin. Na me dey here now.”

She gestured to a seat and reclined in hers.

Farhad took the seat and took extra care to put his satchel in her line of sight so she didn’t think he was up to any foul play. Every now and then, things like this happened to remind him that not everyone was enamoured with his ‘exotic looks’. He waited quietly as the policewoman fished out the ledger from the stack of hard cover books on her table and leafed through it with peculiar interest. She closed it abruptly after ten minutes and sat up.

“Ehn? Kidnap?!!!”

Farhad rolled his eyes. “It wasn’t kidnapping. That was the original accusation but it was dropped eventually on the condition that I presented myself once a week for a period of time.”

“So you don dey come here for nearly five months now com sign this register? For this statement they say una be seven wey involved inside the case. Where all the other people? Why them no dey follow you come?” She asked, her eyes glinting at the prospect of unexpected gossip.

Farhad sighed and rubbed his temples. He really didn’t relish having to tell this story all over again. He looked up at the corporal, practically slobbering in anticipation and sighed a second time.

“Madam please, nobody kidnapped anybody. See me, I be like person wey fit kidnap somebody?”

The policewoman gave him a sarcastic smirk. “Dem never tell you say crase be like AIDS? That kain tin no dey show for face.”

Farhad huffed, feeling his anger bubble. “Walahi, this is what happened. One of our friends found a new boyfriend. She met him online and they grew close very fast. But she didn’t know that he was one of those crazy people they show on television, those types that become obsessed with people. He sha found a way to convince her to leave and go yawo with him without telling her parents or anybody. We were the people closest to her, her only ‘friends’. So when her parents reported her missing to the police, they went to meet her friend Panlam who gave them our names as her friends and possible suspects in her disappearance.”

The woman leaned forward, enamoured with his story. He thought it a good sign and began exaggerating details. 

“Because of all the wahala with Boko Haram in the north and because I am half-Hausa and the newest of her friends, your incompetent nincompoop colleagues named me the prime suspect in the case and put me in detention. I slept here three days before that idiot girl came back home without her boyfriend. Apparently he didn’t let her call home and she got scared and left while he was asleep. She didn’t know anything else about him other than his name, apparently. So your people asked me to keep coming to report myself because they think she’s still lying to protect me even though the boy is obviously very real. Thankfully my father was not in the country; otherwise this thing would have been blown out of proportion.”

The police woman scrunched her nose and handed the ledger over to Farhad. “Na wa for this una children of nowadays oh. I don tell my sister tire say this Facebook and 2go tin go soon put her pikin for trouble she no dey hear. Where the girl dey now?”

“Louise? She’s in one of these private universities. I think her parents think she’ll be safe from boys there or something. If only they knew.”

Farhad he flipped through the pages and found the latest entry, ignoring her ‘Facebook’ comment. Another discussion spiral he wasn’t ready to initiate.

“If only they knew wetin? Wait, you this boy, you sure say you no follow that girl do anything?”

Farhad’s lips widened into a positively filthy smile. “Not yet.”

The woman surveyed him and made a face of disgust before snatching the ledger out of his hands. She’d obviously gotten the sinister undertone in his reply. Not that he cared; he had so many plans for Louise, none of them particularly noble. If he had to go through all this nonsense because she had bad taste in men, then he was going to make her make it up to him, his way. The policewoman frowned and tapped at the ledger, drawing his attention.

“For here e say e remain three weeks for you before them go clear you.” She caught his eye and nodded at the door suggestively. “But as Festus no dey again, I fit reduce am for you to one week provided say you rub body.”

Farhad’s shoulder’s sagged as she rubbed her thumb and forefinger. He dipped his hand into his back pocket and counted seven crisp five hundred Naira notes, wadded them into a ball and placed it gently in the woman’s outstretched palm. She lifted herself off the chair and stuffed the ball into her back pocket. At that moment his phone came to life, blaring Wande Coal’s ‘The Kick’. He gestured to his pocket and she waved him off, grinning widely as she marvelled to herself how she had almost missed noticing just how handsome Farhad was as he exited the office and shut the door behind him.

———————

——————–

Farhad cursed as he left the dryness of the cab and entered the light drizzle, breaking into a run towards the Eco Bank building. He turned the corner sharply and ran past the bank building and the school shop and darted into the third building, the block that housed Unilag’s guidance and counseling centre. He headed straight for the felt notice board set flush in the middle of the corridor that doubled as a waiting room for students and started to scan the squares of paper attached to it with all sorts of adhesives.

“Your name’s on the bottom left corner.” A tired voice came from behind him.

He swiveled in apprehension and groaned when he saw Kike sprawled on the bench set out for waiting students, her legs stretched in front of her. She stood up and walked up to him, staring back with no remorse.

“It’s almost four pm and I called you since one. Where the hell were you?”

“Today’s Thursday remember?” he replied. “I had to go and mark present at that police station in Lekki. What are you doing here?”

At the exact moment, a yellowed face with red chemical burned cheeks poked out from the office at the end of the corridor. It belonged to a woman in her thirties with a scowl that added at least a decade to her wrinkly face. Her eyes roved from Kike’s protruding belly to Farhad and back.

“Kikelomo Olasinde?” it was half question, half insult.

“That’s me.”

“Is he the one responsible for your pregnancy?” she asked, gesturing with her upturned nose at Farhad.

Kike suppressed an amused laugh. “No ma, he’s my cousin Farhad Usman. He’s here to see the Guidance Counselor as well.”

“In that case, oya you two come and pass, Ms. Forson will only be here for thirty minutes, you might as well see her at the same time.”

Ms Forson’s office was everything and nothing Farhad expected. Of course there were the dusty shelves full of books and the token CAC calendar hanging on the wall, not to talk of the musty smell, the overflowing table and the walls with peeling paint. But Ms Forson herself didn’t fit at all inside her office. She was very young, couldn’t have been much over thirty with perfectly coifed hair, a pink lipstick smile, Nirvana T-shirt and a plaid over shirt. When she offered them the seats on their end of the table and sternly warned her bleach burned secretary to close the door properly behind her, her American accent was quite pronounced.

“I’m sorry for bundling you both in like this after making you both wait so long.” She apologized with a shy smile. “I have a meeting in about thirty minutes and I absolutely have to see you both today.”

“Is there any problem ma?”

“Call me Ella, everyone does. Can I call you Kike?”

“Sure.”

“Kike, I have received several complaints from your lecturers and your course advisor concerning your present situation. The general consensus is that your academics are suffering thanks to your pregnancy and they have asked that I advise you on how to proceed.”

“I see.” Kike said warily. “So what ‘advice’ do you have for me?”

Ms Forson gave a rueful smile. “Well, I think you’re lucky that your third trimester coincides with the beginning of a new session. I would suggest that you leave school, not drop out, just defer the session so you can have your baby in peace, get enough time to wean him or her and arrange alternative care before you return to school, next year. Fresh and ready.”

Farhad looked at her incredulously. “Are you serious? You want her to lose a year of her life just because she’s pregnant. In the North pregnant mothers go to school all the time. It’s not that big a deal.”

Ms. Forson’s jovial demeanor darkened for a second as she turned to Farhad. “I was addressing Ms. Kike and not you.”

Kike put a hand on Farhad’s shoulder and dragged herself to her feet. “Farhad please don’t bother trying to convince her of anything. I’m not deferring anything, being pregnant is not against any of Unilag’s rules. Trust me MISS Forson, I checked. So unless you people are going to kick me out, I suggest you not call me here again, cause I won’t come.”

She turned on her heels and left made for the exit with as much dignity as she could muster, pushing the door open suddenly to the surprise of the secretary who stood guiltily in full view of the office. Kike shook her head and pushed past the older woman, heading for the corridor.

“What did I say about your eavesdropping?” Ms Forson growled. The secretary burst into a litany of apologies and closed the door firmly this time.

“That was eventful.”

“Please can we just get to the point?” Farhad retorted, obviously irritated.

“If that’s how you want it, Farhad Usman.” She replied, dragging the syllables to emphasize their Arabic origins. “I have recently received a seemingly legitimate tip by someone anonymous that you were a part of the notorious Pirates confraternity in your former school ABU Zaria and that while you were never formally affiliated to this confraternity, you are somehow involved in the events that led to the assassinations of three lecturers there in 2011 and that this is the reason you changed schools.”

Farhad gawped at her in utter shock, his mouth moving but unable to form words. Ms. Forson noticed and decided to push the angle.

“I didn’t quite believe the tip at first, until I was informed of recent events involving a suspected kidnapping and you getting detained by the police. I do not know what is going on with you Mr. Usman and I’d like to think this is all a misunderstanding but such claims need to be investigated. But first I need to have a meeting with your parents as soon as possible to get their perspective on this whole incident.”

At the mention of parents, Farhad’s word drought immediately ceased. “My mother is a housewife and is out of her depth at these kinds of things and my father’s been out of the country for most of the year. But he’ll be back next week Thursday.”

The guidance counsellor nodded and scribbled something into one of the books on her table. “Sure, but I have to warn you. The longer this issue stays unaddressed, the less likely it will be resolved quietly. And you should be aware by now that Unilag has a zero tolerance policy to cultism. My doors are open whenever you’re ready.”

Farhad thanked her profusely and backed out of the office as fast as his legs would carry him. He was so distracted he almost bumped into Kike in the corridor.

“What happened? Your face is a fucking mess.” she asked.

He shrugged. “Nothing much, just academic wahala. Were you waiting for me?”

“Yeah, I just got an email from Saanyol. He’s coming back for his grandmother’s funeral next Thursday; he wants me to come pick him up. What do you think I should do?”

Farhad smiled, a sinister thought suddenly occurring to him. “You definitely should, my father’s coming next Thursday sef, I’m sure he’ll be pleasantly surprised to see you.”

———————-