Previously on Beautiful Sinners...
Kevin confesses to Kuddus that he's been having sex with Jude since the beginning of their relationship, and now Kuddus isn’t speaking to him.
Demoniker is going to be involved in a play production, and she’s juggling this with her newly developed feelings for Josh, even though he has clearly stated that the kiss they shared is a mistake.
And Amara has found out from her father, Mazi Peters that her mother committed suicide in front of her when she was just a little girl.
A week had passed since Amara’s breakdown after finding out that she may have witnessed her mother’s death. Deidre, the woman who'd started out as her therapist but had quickly turned into a friend, had worked hard to make her overcome her feelings of guilt over her incapability, as a six year old, to prevent her mother's suicide.
One way for her to get over the feelings of inadequacy was for her to get back in control of the things she loved doing, and her father had only been too willing to cede control of the firm to her in the time he was recuperating at home.
Amara was only too glad to step into the shoes of Managing Partner.
And she was running late for her first day as the boss.
The engine of her car squealed in protest as she did a sharp swerve into the parking space reserved for her. She was grabbing her files and bag and tumbling out of the car before the ignition was properly turned off.
As she marched toward the lobby of Peters and Associates, a wiry, stylish-looking man stepped out and approached her, his face beaming at her.
"Well, good morning, Madam Boss Lady," he trilled as he relieved her of the bulk in her hands.
He was her personal assistant, David, who she'd alerted to her imminent arrival moments before getting to work.
"Madam Boss Lady?" she said with a wince as she retrieved a compact case from her bag and snapped it open to check her appearance. She couldn't afford to look less than poised and elegant during today's board meeting, which she'd been chairing – her first task as Managing Partner.
"Yes nau," David said a step behind her. "Before, you were Boss Lady. Now you're Madam Boss Lady."
"For about 50 seconds," Amara rejoined. "Then my dad will be back to reclaim the mantle."
David gave an indulgent little laugh. "Surely, even you can't believe he'll ever truly take back the job. He has passed it on to you. He's old. He needs rest. Even if he does come back, this is all yours."
Amara let her assistant's words warm her heart as they rode the elevator to the managerial floor.
David prattled on about her schedule as they moved.
“Remember, you have that meeting with the board members at 10am. Also there’s a seminar on the fifth first for interns and they need you there as a guest speaker. And by two, you have an appointment with Mr. Ogbonna. He says his wife left him. Oh and–"
"That'll be all for now, Dave," Amara cut in. They were now in David's fiefdom, the outer office that to hers. "Get those to Processing." She gestured at the files in his hands. "Then come back in twenty minutes so we can go through my notes for the board meeting."
"Yes, Madam Boss Lady."
Amara chuckled as she watched him exit the room before proceeding to her office. Stenciled to her door was a gilt sign that read: Amarachi Peters (PhD) Law (B Sc) Economics.
She walked into her office and stopped short when she saw the man inside. His back was to her as he looked out the wide windows to the sedate bustle of the district below.
She felt a slight clutch of trepidation as she said, "Good morning, sir. How may I help you?"
What she'd longed to say was: You should be outside in the outer office and wait to be admitted before you let yourself in here!
She resisted the urge for insolence. After all, this was the first time she'd be alone and in the same room with Aliu Musa since she jilted his son at the altar. She still suffered pangs of guilt for her irresponsibility that day.
The man who would've been her father-in-law turned to face her. His angular face was a weathered version of his son's, and his closely-cropped hair and beard were perfectly salt-and-pepper.
“Good morning, Amara.” The tone of his voice was well-modulated.
"You're in early, sir," Amara said while attempting a smile. "Is there something I can help you with?"
Aliu regarded her for a moment, his gaze hooded. Amara felt a stir of unease as the silence stretched.
Then, as though he hadn't heard her question, he said, “You must be very excited to be filling your father's shoes.”
“I am," Amara said with a small laugh.
“Hmmm," the man said, then nodded. His lips were pursed.
Some more seconds tightened with some more silence.
Then Amara decided that she'd had enough. The man had to either speak quickly what was on his mind or get going.
“Sir," she began, "I’m really sorry I haven’t been by the house to see you and Mummy. I’ve just been really–"
“Busy, I know," Aliu interjected. “Kareem told me. He still cares for you, you know, even after..." He stopped and something tempered flashed in his eyes.
Amara swallowed hard, wanting to be anyplace but here, with this man.
“I suggest you take a picture," Aliu continued after what felt to Amara like an hour of dead silence.
“Sir?" she said, bewildered.
“Of the Managing Partner's office, when you relocate there – because you won't be there long.”
“I don’t understand what –"
“Let me just put it this way. You hurt my son, and while I’m mad about that, I can take a little embarrassment. But what I won't take is you, the same woman who couldn't make up her mind about marrying my son, running my company, even if it’s not permanent!”
Aliu's facade had cracked, and Amara found herself confronting the snarling avenger beneath. Instead of the trepidation she expected to feel, her spine stiffened with ire.
Who does this man think he is? She fumed silently.
“No offense, sir," she responded icily, "but it’s not just your company. The existing Managing Partner, who happens to be co-owner of this company made the decision.”
“And it will be considered just how sound that decision is, considering he's currently an invalid," Mr. Musa retorted in an equally cold tone.
Then he advanced on her. A gasp catching in her throat, Amara skittered backward, out of his way.
But he was just on his way out of the office. He jerked the door open and stalked out, leaving the door open so she could watch his every stomping gait toward the exit.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about," Demoniker protested heatedly. “I’m not in love with you!”
“Are you sure?" the man in front of her asked. It was almost as if he was certain she didn’t mean what she'd just said.
“Of course I am," Demoniker answered, looking away from him, adamant not to make eye contact. “Why wouldn’t I be?"
“I don’t know. Why don't you tell me?”
And then he began walking up to her, his countenance predatory. And before she could stop herself, Demoniker recoiled from him.
The whole room turned to the man who'd just interrupted. Adam Kosoko was bearded, with a heavy fall of dreadlocks on his head and a restlessness to his tightly-leashed personality. When Demoniker first met the director, she'd gotten an impression of him as a panther, constantly poised to strike.
Adam was seated on the front row of the pews arranged in the Play Hall, a large indoor arena that had seen many performances of the Arts since the decade it was erected.
“What’s wrong, Demoniker?" the director said with a sigh, his eyes trained on the chagrined woman. “Everybody and their grandmother saw that hesitation. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, my apologies..." Demoniker felt heat flood her face. She couldn't remember the last time she humbled herself like this. "I'm just still trying to fit into the character.”
“In take four?" The terseness of Adam's tone was not lost on Demoniker.
“Maybe we need a break to regroup," Demoniker’s male co-star chipped in. He shot a quick conspiratorial smile at the star.
She smiled back.
“Okay," Adam agreed grudgingly. "A ten minute break, and then we’re back on stage to get it right."
As the small crowd in the hall dispersed, Demoniker went to take a seat in a corner of the stage. She dropped her script to the seat beside her and picked out her phone, promptly disappearing into digital activity.
"Hey," she heard someone say. She looked up at her co-star.
"Hey," she said.
“So, Candy Crush, huh?" he gestured to her phone upon whose screen was displayed the bright colours of the game she'd just paused.
She chuckled. "Yes. Helps get my mind off things."
"Why does your mind need to be off things? Are you okay?"
"Yes, I am. Why'd you ask?"
“Nothing. It’s just...you seemed a bit distracted on stage. I thought maybe–"
“It’s nothing really," Demoniker interjected. “I just needed a minute.”
“Oh." He let out a sigh. “For a minute there, I thought maybe you didn’t like me.”
Upon hearing this, Demoniker burst into laughter.
“There she is!” Kareem Musa exclaimed. “Welcome back, Demoniker.”
She laughed again, instantly beginning to enjoy Kareem Musa’s company.
As they maintained a nice repartee, she glanced past him to the pews and spotted her assistant talking to a man who hadn’t been in the room before. It was Josh. And just then, Demoniker felt a surging sensation go through her. In spite of the distance, she could get a read on the displeasure that Josh seemed to be giving off.
She smiled. She was suddenly ready for rehearsals.
Minutes later, everyone had taken their positions and the two co-stars were once again facing each other.
“AAAND ACTION!” Adam yelled.
“You have feelings for me, Maya. Just admit it!” Kareem said earnestly.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Demoniker countered. “I’m not in love with you!”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I am.” Demoniker looked away from him now, affording her a quick glimpse of the pews. Josh was watching. “Why wouldn’t I be?
“I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me?” And then Kareem began moving toward her.
Demoniker was waiting, facing him off defiantly as the distance diminished between them. And then he was snatching her into his arms and their lips met in an electrifying instant that lasted a few seconds before the director boomed “Cut!” in a voice that showed his deep satisfaction.
As he continued talking, Demoniker looked beyond him to the people milling about.
Josh wasn’t among them. He was gone.
The editor’s floor of Classic Inc, a foremost fashion magazine company in Nigeria, was just as busy as it usually was that late morning. Different cubicles and the walkways meandering around them buzzed with the activity of men and women who dominated in different genres of fashion – gothic, native, casual, formal, and the likes. The floor was a well-ventilated open space with workers either deep in work or deep in conversation.
Kuddus sat in his cubicle, his ears plugged to the sound of Lana Del Ray blasting away from his computer. Outwardly he seemed engrossed in the pretentious article he was editing about why green is actually wrong for festive seasons; but within, his mind churned with thoughts he didn't want to be thinking, thoughts of his boyfriend's betrayal. A steady fire was also burning inside him. With each day that passed since Kevin devastated him with his confession, he realized that the fire was a potent mix of anger and jealousy, anger at Kevin for what he'd done to him, to their relationship, and jealousy at Jude, the man who, even without effort, seemed to own the one man he, Kuddus, had always wanted.
It’d been exactly a week since that evening in the hotel in Ibadan. And if he never saw Kevin again, it'd be fine with him.
Just then, as though his thoughts had been intuited into, his phone began to ring. Kuddus glanced at the screen and his countenance darkened when he saw it was Kevin's perky picture dazzling him with a smile above the Caller ID. He moved his hand, his forefinger outstretched. One tap and the call was plunged into digital oblivion, unanswered.
Then he returned to his work.
Moments later, a presence bustled up to his work station. He looked up into the dimpled, oval face of a co-worker, whose name tag identified as Bisi. She was plump, with voluptuous curves she always kept snugly fitted into skimpy clothes. Bisi believed she was the quintessential African queen, and so should work what her mother gave her. She also fought, one word at a time, for the right of other plus-sized women to be comfortable in their skin from a corner of the floor marked Fat Fashion.
"Hey Handsome," she breathed out, her eyes sparkling at Kuddus.
She was also unabashedly smitten by him.
On a good day, Kuddus tolerated her overtures with amused cordiality. But today wasn't a good day. A groove dipped its way down his brow as he took off his ear piece and looked up at her.
“Can I help you, Bisi?" he grunted.
“Umm...yes." She scrunched her attractive features into a look of concern. “You just have to tell me why you’re so moody today.”
In spite of himself, Kuddus chuckled. “Am I?"
“Oh absolutely, darling. You've been moping all week. And just now, you were hitting that keyboard like it's the bearer of bad news. Plus, you’ve barely said a word to me since you came in this morning." She pouted briefly, and then the concern was back. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing," Kuddus said curtly.
“Oh," was her dejected response.
Kuddus instantly felt remorseful and quickly added, “Maybe after I’m done with work, we could grab lunch?"
It was like someone had lit a fire in her when Bisi heard this. The sparkle came back to her eyes with a huge wattage. Kuddus had never asked her to join him for lunch; instead he'd made it a habit of turning her requests for him to join her down.
"Sure," she squealed breathlessly. “Sure. Lunch then." She winked at him and turned to saunter off.
It's just lunch, Bisi. Don't go picking out a wedding dress please, Kuddus thought wryly as he watched her go.
Then she stopped and turned to him. “Oh yeah! I almost forgot. Some dude is out in the reception waiting to see you."
Kuddus groaned as he turned to his computer screen to stare at the article he'd started working on an hour ago, one which his thoughts and human interruptions seemed determined not to let him finish.
As he walked down the short flight of stairs that connected the first floor to the ground floor at the end of which the reception was, he wondered who it was that had come to see him. Kevin was the only person that came to mind. At the thought, he felt his heartbeat quicken; whether with the anticipation of seeing his boyfriend or the forestallment of a confrontation between them, he couldn't tell.
There was no one but the perky receptionist in the room when he got there.
"Hey Connie," he said as the woman glanced up from her desk at him. "I got a message that someone is here to see me?"
"Yea, he's outside." She waved a lacquered hand at the heavy glass door.
Kuddus shoved the door and stepped out into the brisk early afternoon. Traffic roared from the main road right next to the compound.
And his entire system constricted when he saw Kevin standing a few metres away; he was looking out at the road, his phone in his hand. A contemplative expression marked his profile. Kuddus knew that look; it was the look he got whenever he rooted around his mind for the lyrics to yet another new song.
For a second, Kuddus felt the impulse to dart back inside and leave instructions with the receptionist that his visitor be told that he wasn't around.
Then Kevin turned, and that decision was snatched from him. He took in a deep breath, faced the other man off with a suddenly flinty stare and said, “What are you doing here?"
When I heard his voice, the metallic tone of it, I knew my mission here wasn't going to be an easy one. He was clearly still mad.
But that was alright. It wouldn't be a love worth fighting for if he wasn't still upset with me.
“I wanted to see you,” I said softly as I walked up to him.
He moved a step back, and I stopped. The move was a not-so subtle suggestion of the barrier still up between us.
I swallowed hard and reiterated, "I miss you and I just wanted to see you."
“I don’t want to see you," he ground out.
“Kuddus, it’s been a whole week now," I began, a touch desperately. “Please talk to me. You have to talk to me.”
“I don't have to do anything!" he snapped in a voice that rapidly rose with each word. He paused, checking himself, then continued with the previous volume, "What do you want me to say, eh? What do you want me to say, Kevin?”
“I don’t know," I replied, blinking hard. The tears that were stinging my eyes had startled me. "Something... Anything! I’m restless not knowing how you feel.”
“You’re restless!" Kuddus coiled scorn around the two words, volleying them back to me with derisive speed. “You're restless, eh? Well, Kevin, this might come as a bit of a shock to you, but not everything revolves around you.”
“I didn’t say that..."
“No, you don't have to say it. Your attitude stinks of it."
This time, I was the one who took a step back from him. His face was starting to twist with his antagonism.
“I specifically told you to give me space," he was saying. "Yet here you are. It’s been barely a week and you’re here, demanding for my attention because you're restless!"
“Kuddus, it's not like that. I just wanted to know –"
“Know what? If I'm still bleeding from your vicious betrayal? How upset I am from the knowledge that you've been fucking someone else the entire time you've been with me? Is that what you're here to find out?”
His anger, though subdued so as not to draw the attention of any wondering eye, was very distressing for me to see.
The stinging sensation behind my eyes intensified. “Kuddus, but I told you. You didn’t find out! That's got to count for something."
“Count for what? That you, alas, have a conscience and an awareness of other people's feelings, you self-centred little asshole!"
“Tell me," he barreled right on, “all those nights I wanted to come over but couldn't because you insisted you needed some alone time, was this because he was there?”
I stood there, not saying a word, impaled by my shame.
Kuddus let out a mirthless chuckle. "Unbelievable! I mean, I'd hoped... But really, this is rich."
“I was in grief–" I started.
“DON’T YOU DARE PLAY THAT CARD!" he screamed at me.
There was a brief moment of silence after this. Behind him, I could see through the glass door the startled glances of the receptionist and man she was attending to.
Kuddus was breathing fast, visibly attempting to leash his temper again. When he spoke, his voice was a rasp. “You know what, Kevin, I don’t want to see you right now. So please, just leave so I can get back to work.” He turned to head back into the building.
Quickly and without a moment of thought, I grabbed him by one hand.
He turned around, and this time we were staring each other in the eye. His bore vicious acrimony and mine tottered with shame-faced misery.
“Kuddus, I’m sorry..." I felt a catch in my voice. “I'm so sorry. I love you. I really do. What happened was just a mistake –"
“It’s never a mistake when it’s with Jude," he hissed while shaking off my hold on him.
The truth of his words struck me hard, deepening my sense of guilt. Jude was ruining my life all over again, and like before, he didn't even have to try.
“You wanted to talk, didn't you?" He turned to face me again. “Well, this is me talking. And here's what I have to say. Kevin, you’re a selfish person and this pains me so much because I love you so fucking hard.” He said this and stared at our hands which were shaking slightly.
I eagerly reached for the ray of hope. “And I love you too –"
“Let me finish," he cut me off. “You’re selfish and everything always has to be about you, and while that may have been cute at the beginning, it has long since gotten pretty fucking old."
“No, you don’t! Because if you did, you wouldn’t be here. You’d know that there’s nothing you can do or say to influence my mind over how I currently feel.”
"Your friends were right!”
He was in fine form, it would seem, because his words found their mark in me again. They stung so much, weakening my control over my tears. Beads of tears began to trickle down my face.
Kuddus didn't acknowledge my stark grief. He went on without pause. “You act like the world revolves around you and it doesn’t. You need to realise that and work on changing your attitude.”
Then he paused, and I noticed then that he was also trying to fight off tears. “It's just a shame that I won’t be there to see it happen.”
Panic flared inside me. "What does that mean?" I choked out.
He didn't answer. He simply turned and began walking away.
"Kuddus!" I called out his name once.
He didn't falter. His resolve stayed firm as he pulled the door open and stepped into the reception. The glass door slid noiselessly shut behind, leaving me to watch him walk away from my life for what appeared to be forever.
Written by The Reverend