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.”

———————-

SEAMS S2: Janus

————

Fishing out a tube of Ruby Woo from her purse, Panlam pursed her lips and coloured in her pout in time to W4’s Kontrol pouring from the speakers set into the ceiling. She fluffed her hair and checked her teeth for lipstick stains, all the while stealing glances at her phone. She sighed as her phone dinged for the third time and one of the names on her Whatsapp icon appeared at the top of the chat list. Dr. Kolupo, no way in hell she was going to reply his messages; he was the type who insisted on long drawn out conversations about nothing in particular. She picked up her Nokia Lumia and pushed her makeup purse into her handbag. It was probably time to give up and stop hiding out in the bathroom; her date wasn’t going to show.

She straightened her dress and gave herself one last perfunctory glance in the mirror and exited the restroom.  She passed the security guards back into the haze filled lounge of Jade Palace and riveted as she noticed the handsome middle aged man seated beside the entrance. He slowly raised his eyes in her direction, cocked his head to the side and gave a lopsided smile. Panlam felt her disappointment melt into a puddle of excitement. He looked exactly like Tariebi had described and unlike the last three she’d sent her way, this one really did have the body of a twenty five year old. She couldn’t quite place it but there was something very familiar about him. He signalled for her to stay where she was and walked over to the bar.

Panlam contemplated waiting and then decided against it.

‘Start in the way you mean to go.’ She said to herself and navigated the tables scattered around the floor till she was standing behind him.

‘After an hour of waiting with no apologies or explanations, I don’t do very well with being ordered around.’ She purred.

The guy turned around in surprise and flashed another of his lopsided smiles. He gestured to the bar stool beside him and helped her climb onto it.

‘It’s a good thing you came anyways; you’d be surprised at how hard it is to guess the favourite cocktail of a girl as exotic as you.’

Panlam acknowledged his subtle flirting with an irreverent smile. He wasn’t the type to apologise which meant she’d taken the right approach by not playing the ingénue with him; it was time to cement that image. She asked the waiter for a shot of scotch on the rocks, matching his order and downing her glass in one gulp while he was still on his first sip, his wedding band catching the strobe lights that lined the bar.

‘Meks, we should find a proper table and get down to the meat of why we’re here.’ She said casually, trapping five one thousand naira notes under her glass and pushing it to the barman and gesturing to both their drinks. Emeka Anyanwu, son of oil magnate Fidelis Anyanwu raised an eyebrow, unsure whether to be amused or insulted by Panlam’s antics. Panlam started for the only free table on the other side of the room, not bothering to check if he was on her heels. He picked his glass and followed, decidedly amused.

Panlam heaved an inward sigh of relief, watching Meks follow her through the mirrored bar, she wasn’t in the mood to grovel to anyone. She manoeuvred her seat so that her back was to the entrance doors of the Jade Palace but could still steal glances, that way she would have to entertain any sudden surprises. Meks reached the table and dropped into the other seat and lit up a cigarette.

‘I asked the barman to send waiters with drinks every twenty minutes, that way our meeting will be well greased. I also put it on my tab; I don’t like being upstaged by teenagers.’ He waited to see if Panlam would try to correct him about her age, and barely hid his increasing amusement when she didn’t. ‘So why did you ask to meet me baby girl.’

‘Panlam,’ she corrected, irritated by the pet name. ‘My name’s Panlam. I’ve heard a lot about you and your interest in dabbling in the entertainment industry, particularly the Nollywood new school. So I asked for this meeting so I could sell you on my ideas.’

He sloshed around the ice cubes in his glass. ‘And here I was thinking you didn’t want my money. Pitch, I’m listening.’

Panlam sighed in relief and fished out a manila envelope from her handbag and put it on the table. Meks picked it and shook out the bound document inside and began to thumb through it.

‘My partner and I have been working on the script in your hands for almost a year. It’s our idea for a medium budget short film with heavy potential to gain attention in the international film festival circuit. It’s a contemporary story about a group of friends in the different creative industries in Nigeria struggling to make it to the zenith of their respective fields and how their lives intersect. Set across Nigeria and with absolutely no need for any fancy graphics or CGI, just good, clean innovative, gritty story telling. The exact kind of thing you’d want to be associated with as your hobby or side project, philanthropic gesture, whatever your PR people decide to spin your financing as…’

‘So, this partner. Is it a he or a she?’ Meks cut in, eyes still trained on the script in his hands.

‘What?!’ Panlam replied, completely thrown by his lateral question. He started to repeat himself and she stopped him with a flurry of words.

‘Oh, my partner. It’s a he, He’s the one who wrote most of the script and will consult through most of the pre-production and filming process. I will be taking administrative head and doing most of the directing.’

Meks gave her a funny look. ‘I’m really impressed. Your script is surprisingly good plus you and this partner have clearly figured out who does what, and he’s letting you pitch your idea alone. That’s the kind of girl I like, a girl with balls.’

‘Thank you?’ Panlam ventured.

He wagged a finger. ‘I have reserved a room at the Eko. I really hate the smell of places like this, can’t really think.  We should retreat there and finish this discussion and then maybe we’ll see about me writing you a cheque.’

‘Oh, my manager and agent Fidipo Lawal feels it’s better for me to meet possible sponsors personally so they know who they’re giving their money to.’ Panlam replied almost immediately. She hid her satisfaction watching Meks Anyanwu blanch as she mentioned her agent’s name. ‘Fidipo handles the actual business side. She’s on her way to meet us. In fact she should already be here by now but she’s probably giving us time to get ‘acquainted’. Can we just give her like ten more minutes or should I just message her to meet us there?’

Meks stared blankly at Panlam for a few seconds and then took his phone out of his pocket and fiddled with it before turning to Panlam and fishing out a couple thousand naira notes and thrusting it into Panlam’s hands.

‘Regina, it was nice meeting you, but I have another meeting in a couple of minutes. I’ll keep your script so I can read it properly. Have your agent call my office on Monday.’

Panlam’s eyes widened in mock surprise, she’d been expecting this. She rounded the table to Meks and planted a kiss on his cheek in full view of everyone.

‘Thank you so much.’ She whispered sweetly in his ear and walked out of the lounge, hailing a cab outside.

‘Where to Madam?’ The cab man asked.

‘Just head for Ikoyi, I’ll tell you where to stop.’

————

————

Tariebi spotted Panlam as she sauntered into Terra Kulture’s restaurant and waved her over. She’d never seen Panlam so put together, with her black Louboutin heels, high-waist pencil skirt and cap-sleeved blouse she looked like she’d walked right out of a Tumblr post. Panlam tottered over and settled herself into the adjacent seat, completely ignoring pleasantries and the Caesar salad Tariebi had already ordered for her before she launched into a diatribe.

‘Tari, is this what we fucking agreed on? This is the fourth guy you’ve set me up to meet who has literally tried to drag me into his bed. Like jeez, I’m not averse to fucking for what I want but at least I wouldn’t mind being treated like little more than a heifer in the interim. Besides you know I don’t fuck married men.’

Tariebi didn’t even know when she startled to cackle.

Panlam gave a pained look. ‘Stop it jor. Even people who fuck their friend’s boyfriends have to draw the line somewhere. Principles and what not.’

‘Thank God you brought that up yourself. I don’t know what you want oh, Panlam. You can’t go and meet these hot blood millionaires wasting away in unhappy marriages looking like fucking Marilyn Monroe and then act surprised when they try to taste your box. Like I don’t even understand.’

Panlam rolled her eyes. ‘Please all these fuckers are perverts. I took your advice with that Kolupo guy and dressed deeper life. Till today that nigga hasn’t stopped calling me talking about how he likes my ‘innocence’ and wants to be the one to ‘show me the world’. ‘

Tariebi shuddered. ‘Ugh! That sounds filthy no matter how I try to spin it in my head. So what happened with Meks?’

Panlam hissed. ‘That one, He didn’t even listen to a fucking word I said, just kept turning the whisky in his shot glass and licking his ridiculously hot lips. When he got tired of me trying to keep things professional, the nigga just asked out right that I follow him back to Eko hotel. I sha, sprung Fidipo Lawal on him and he literally kicked me out with his tail between his legs.’

‘Who is Fidipo Lawal again?’ Tari asked.

It was Panlam’s turn to cackle. ‘You don’t know who she is and you’re a model? Just think Linda Ikeji but much more discreet. She owns a law firm and handles celebrity divorces and entertainment law. She helped some mobile phone millionaire’s wife get one hundred and fifty million Naira in a divorce settlement last year, got a hefty commission too. Her nose is always on the ground, looking for the next cheating millionaire.’

‘AHHHHHH! Father be a Fidipo Lawal, so I can rest from this modelling gig.’

‘Hahaha! Me I don’t want all that stress, God should just give me an Olu Kanye. See as that Iyawo chick is flexing. Babe is twitpic’ed two thousand dollars loun loun that bros gave her just because and tensioned every single girl on twitter.’

Tariebi clucked her tongue. ‘Na wa sha. So what are you going to do about Meks?’

Panlam sighed and stuffed a forkful of salad into her mouth. ‘I don’t know oh. I was actually starting to crush on him before he pulled that stunt. He already has my Whatsapp. So I’ll call him on Monday and see if I can arrange another meeting. I just really don’t want to have to ask my parents for money.’

Tariebi suddenly got serious. ‘Don’t fuck it up this time Panlam. I’m running out rich millionaires to set you up on meetings with who’ll even bother to meet without sex in the equation.’

‘I know.’ Panlam replied, the realisation of how futile it was to succeed without having to compromise with sex heavy in those two syllables.

­­­­­­­­­­————-

BUZZ! BUZZ!

Tariebi reached groggily for the source of the sound intruding on her sleep. She tapped around to her left and felt for the slim curves of her Blackberry Torch. She jerked awake and looked around in the darkness, suddenly aware she wasn’t in her room or her bed. She pressed her phone to light up the screen and used it as a wand and felt her anxiety ease as the light rested on the curly hair and almost yellow skin of the man lying next to her. Jeremiah Lawson. He’d wined and dined her then invited her to sleep over. Her phone vibrated in her hands and she slipped out of bed and tiptoed to the bathroom en suite and locked the door behind her.

—————

————-

Tariebi clacked out the last message with her nails and put off her phone. She felt drained after the conversation and a little remorseful for being so cold to Xhiz. He used to be her charismatic wing man once, but now he was just a whiny apologetic little bitch that hung on to Farhad’s coat tails for validation and pissed her off. She opened the door and gave a little shriek when she saw Jeremiah standing outside the door in nothing but his tented boxer shorts.

‘I woke up with my little man very excited by the prospect you in bed with us but you seemed busy.’

‘Yeah, I had to attend to a friend in crisis, didn’t want to wake you up.’

He reached forward and pulled her to himself, cradling her in his arms. ‘Lord, you smell amazing even this early.’

Tariebi responded with a gentle kiss to his chest.

‘So I received a call from Meks late last night. He wasn’t very happy.’

Tariebi buried her face in Jeremiah Lawson’s chest and gave a muffled reply. ‘I’m trying my best. But it’s taking forever to soften her up. She’s stubborn.’

Jeremiah sighed and put a hand into Tariebi’s hair. ‘I know she is. Just like her father. Stubbornness is a quality they both share. And if I can’t break him, I will break his precious only daughter.’

His grip suddenly turned firm and he pulled Tariebi’s head back till her eyes met his. ‘You promised me you’d make her amenable to an affair with me or one of my friends. That she is desperate enough. I hope for your sake you were right.’

SEAMS S2: Weave and Weft

———–

———–

———–

Xhiz stood in the corridor, resting his back on one of the many poles that supported the flat roofing above the corridor. It was still twilight, dark enough that the corridor was hidden in shadow, perfectly obscuring him from view as he waited. He’d left school at five thirty and endured an hour of morning traffic so he wouldn’t arrive too late and now here he was, almost two hours later, kept waiting by Kike. He glanced at his phone’s screen again and fought to tweet another rant.

He watched the LUTH maternity ward from his vantage point, surprised at the sheer number of women waddling in from the hospital’s parking lot, their arms steadied by doting husbands, sisters, mothers and other familial relatives and he felt a small pang of guilt. He knew he should have gone to Kike’s house to pick her up instead of taking the easy route and coming to wait for her here like she’d suggested. She said she knew how Nigerians never knew how to keep their mouths shut and she didn’t want anyone falsely assuming he was the idiot who knocked her up.

‘That honour is exclusively for Saanyol.’ she’d joked bitterly.

He was such a coward for letting her convince him it was for the best.

I’m better than this’ he thought to himself and made his way to towards the maternity ward. As he drew closer he noticed a woman hunched forward on one of the benches, breathing heavily. There was something familiar about her, something he couldn’t quite place his hands on even though most of her face was obscured by her loosely draped head scarf. He walked over.

“Kike?”

Kike raised her head and spotted Xhiz. She took a deep breath and tried raise herself but pain lanced through her leg and up her spine and she winced. She instead extended an arm towards him. Xhiz took it and lifted her up as gently as he could. He led her through the ward into the loud waiting room filled with heaving and sighing women.

“By the way, what the hell is this getup and why are you wearing a wedding ring? I barely even recognised you. You look like one of those haggard wives from Fuji house of commotion.” Xhiz whispered at her.

She rolled her eyes. “I have a size 46 waist now, it’s not as if I can just reach into my wardrobe and pick out a random pair of skinny jeans and put them on. Besides, these nurses don’t roll their eyes as much when they think you’re an unfortunate underage bride instead of a stupid teenager with an unwanted pregnancy.”

“What happened to you?” Xhiz asked.

Kike sighed. “Slept on my foot last night. Now it’s swollen. Pregnancy woes.”

“Why didn’t your dad bring you?”

Kike pretended not to hear him, instead turning her eyes towards the overhead clock. It was a little over seven thirty which meant she still had some time to wait before her name was called, a little time to catch up.

“How was moving into the hostel finally?” she asked.

“Good good. Farhad’s clothes are always all over the place and he never seems to remember where he kept something after using it but other than that it’s not nearly as bad as I feared.”

Xhiz took out his phone and tapped it diligently, his brief but regular chuckles interjecting the silence between them. Kike felt her curiosity rise under a current of annoyance. He was supposed to be here to keep her company; she didn’t take too well to someone else taking his attention from her. She reached over and snatched his phone out of his hands and held it away as he lunged and tried to steal it back.

“Kai! Kai! settle down jor, can’t you see I’m pregnant?”

“Kike, please give me back my phone.” Xhiz begged.

“Not until you tell me what is making you giggle like a vagina.”

Xhiz scowled at her and lunged for the phone again. She ducked out of his path at the last second and Xhiz fell forward, onto the very pregnant woman sitting next to Kike. The woman turned and glared at the both of them and they immediately took their seats, chastened. The woman’s withering gaze settled on Kike and she clucked loudly before turning away.

“Shebi you see what you caused.” Kike hissed, “Oya, I promise I won’t look at your phone if you tell me what you’re hiding.”

“Hand over the phone and I’ll tell you.” Xhiz bargained.

“No.”

Xhiz sighed. It was worth the try. “Okay,” he began, “Remember all those people that flooded my DMs fishing for information after that whole Luminous nonsense?”

Kike nodded. “Well, There was one of them that I started DMing regularly. I won’t tell you what his handle is, but sha when everyone else finally got bored, he didn’t. He said he’d known about everything before it blew up and had been looking for a way to talk to me.”

“Is he a faggot?” Kike quipped. Xhiz raised an eyebrow and she rolled her eyes. “Ugh. Don’t start with your politically correct nonsense, you know what I mean.”

“No, he is not Gay. At least that’s what he said.  Like his third DM after we started talking, ‘No I am not gay, and no I’m not interested in sleeping with you’ were his exact words. He says he wants to be my friend and so far he’s been quite interesting. Even though every now and then he goes creepy on me.”

“Creepy? How?” Kike interjected.

Xhiz squirmed. “He kind of is intense with a lot of things, asks what I’m doing, talks to me a lot, asks me to send pictures of myself every now and then, not nudes sha. And well, he brings random handles of people of twitter and asks about their sexuality and wants me to use my ‘gay contacts’ or whatever that means to find out about them and stuff. I’ve asked why before and he said he’s just curious.”

Kike gawked at Xhiz, letting everything he’d just said sink in. Eventually she sighed and handed his phone back to him.

“So all this has been happening in your DMs. You must have a lot of time on your hands.”

Xhiz gave a guilty chuckle. “Well, he’s on my Whatsapp now. Been for a while. You know, with everything happening with us, it’s good to have someone I can just talk to. He’s a relief from all the drama.’

‘Oh?’ Kike cocked her head. ‘Do you know what he looks like?’

‘No.’

‘So why do you trust him?’

‘I don’t.’

‘Then Chibuzor, why are you letting this continue? I know I’m no model for good decisions, I mean look at me in my mother’s clothes pretending to be married so people won’t question my pregnancy but make e no be like say I no tell you; this ‘thing’ wey you dey do with this ‘guy’ no go end well.’

‘KIKELOMO OLASINDE?!’

Kike turned to the sound and raised herself up so the nurse who’d shouted her name would see her. The nurse’s face lit up with recognition and she beckoned.

“Just think about what I said.” Kike said, before turning away and limping over to the consultation room.

He watched her go, his nerves all a tingle with a sense of foreboding. He couldn’t shake the feeling that Kike was right but he wanted to give Larry the benefit of the doubt, it was only fair.

————

————

————

The chatter began immediately she entered her department and followed her as she took her time navigating the stairs up to her class. It was as though they all forgot she was pregnant when classes ended for the day and had to reenact the whole charade of gasping in surprise when they saw her, staring at her as she passed and gossiping afterwards. She did her best to ignore them, focusing instead on her hurting leg and favoring it as much as possible. Having to go back home and change into age appropriate clothing had taken more time than she had anticipated, a risk she would have gladly taken if it wasn’t Mrs Arigbede class.

She finally reached the floor and took a moment to catch her breath and ready herself. She went to the door at the far end of the lecture theatre, cringing as it gave a screech when she pushed it open. Heads swiveled, looking for the source of the distraction and widened when they settled on her. She lowered her head and shuffled to the nearest person with a chair.

“Please can I share?” she asked under her breath.

“OLASINDE!”

Kike froze in her half crouch as Mrs Arigbede’s scratchy voice reached her. She straightened slowly and faced the woman’s sly smile.

“Come forward, I asked them to keep a seat for you in front so that you don’t have to stress yourself squinting to see the board or straining to hear what I say all the way from over there. Pregnancy doesn’t deserve any more stress than necessary.”

Kike gave a grim smile and headed for the front of the class. The only thing that could be heard in the deathly silence that took over the hall was the slap-slap of her sandals as she took her time coming down the path between the columns of seats. She knew they were all waiting to see if she would slip or something more embarrassing would befall her and she was determined to disappoint them. She got to the front of the class without event and thankfully sank into the plush chair usually reserved for visiting lecturers. Mrs Arigbede gave her a smile and turned back to the board and began to write.

“See, I like Olasinde’s determination.” She remarked loud enough for the entire class to hear as she copied out the day’s notes. “Normally girls just disappear to their villages when they allow one stupid boy trick them into getting pregnant. But not Olasinde, she’s such a strong girl. When I was pregnant, leaving my bed to go to the fridge was torture. But then again, unlike her I was sensible enough to get pregnant in my husband’s house.”

The class erupted with snide laughter. Mrs Arigbede who usually never tolerated any disturbance in her class faced her board squarely and pretended not to notice. Kike shriveled in her seat, kept eyes firmly on the board and copied, unexpected tears brimming under her lashes.

————

————

————-

————-

————-

————-

—————

It took all of Kike’s strength to drag herself up her street, through her gate and down to her front door. She fumbled in her bags for her keys and let herself in, stopping by the door to pull off her sandals and rub her swollen foot. She reached down and froze when she noticed the beautiful pair of black patent platform heels with vibrant red soles. Surprise shook her as she realised it was size 29. There was only one woman she knew who had feet that small. Anger surged through her and flushed her cheeks and she trampled her way past the foyer and into the moderately sized living room.

‘LINDA! What the fuck are you doing here?’ She spat at the woman sitting on the couch furthest from her, her youngest brother on her lap.

The woman smiled and dropped the boy, squeezing a one thousand naira note into his grubby palm and whispering that he go play inside. She stood up, ran a hand through her expensive Brazilian weave before addressing Kike.

’I came to offer my condolences. Your father called me.’

She felt the baby move and her hand instinctively flew to her swollen abdomen. The nurse had told her to avoid getting unnecessarily agitated. She took a menacing step forward and growled.

‘Thank you for coming. But I don’t why the hell you presume coming back is a good idea. I thought you said you wanted nothing to do with us.’

Kike’s mother blanched. ‘I said I wanted nothing to do with your father, not you. You’re my baby, and I will always be here for you. Your father called me and told me you need my help.’

Kike cocked an eyebrow. ‘Me?!!! Need anything from you?’

Linda replied, unfazed. ‘He told me your child’s grandmother had offered to raise the child for you and you refused. I’m quite comfortable with your step father and we have no children. I can help you with the baby when it comes, and care for it until you’re ready to take over…”

‘Yeah! Like I’ll believe anything that comes out of your selfish, self-serving mouth. You think you’ll just reappear after five years in your Brazilian weave and your Louboutins looking a unilag whore and expect me to put my child’s life in your hands?

‘Do I look like a fucking idiot to you? You think I’ll let you fuck with my child’s head like you fucked with mine? You cheap-‘

‘SHUT UP YOUR DIRTY MOUTH THERE!’ Mr Olasinde bellowed, suddenly appearing from inside the house. Kike grew quiet, her anger ebbing just as quickly as it had risen. She realized she’d actually been screaming.

Kike’s dad turned to her mom. ‘Linda, I thought I told you to not come and agitate my daughter. What is this nonsense?’ he turned to Kike. ‘And you Kike, I have told you, no child of mine will have an abortion, neither will I raise anyone’s bastard in my house. I married one whore and raised another; I have done more than my quota of goodwill for humanity. So you better decide what you’re going to do.’

Kike looked from her father, to her mother and suddenly felt alienated from the both of them. She dropped her head and fled to her room, locking the door behind her. She heard heated words from beyond her door and wondered if it wasn’t better that her parents had divorced. She banished the tears that were threatening to fall and stiffened her upper lip. Nobody was going to force her into doing anything. Those days were gone. Plus it was Saanyol’s baby too. Just because he was in rehab didn’t give her any right to do with his child as she wished. She sighed, it was time. She picked her phone and dialled the only American number she had stored on her phone but had never called. The phone rang twice and was put through to a switch board.

“I’d like to speak to a patient, Saanyol Terwase please.”

“…”

“Hello, who’s this?”

“Saan, its Kike. Please don’t cut the call, I have something important to tell you.”

———-