BEAUTIFUL SINNERS (Episode 13)

BEAUTIFUL SINNERS (Episode 13)

Previously on BEAUTIFUL SINNERS

*

I sat on the lumpy sofa as I watched the nurse take my blood.

I had done this a number of times before; getting a blood test, that is. But today felt different. Today felt like I was getting a test that could very well determine if I would live or die. I’d done a couple of HIV tests in the past, but none of them had the pressure point so centred like this one did.

I’d been having sex with Jude – sometimes unprotected sex.

Jude was HIV positive.

I could be HIV positive.

The knowledge of that fact had been quietly but decidedly nibbling at my peace of mind ever since Jude blurted out his news to me two nights ago at the back alley of the bar, City Delights. I couldn’t believe that I’d been there to enjoy an evening of drinks with my colleagues, an outing I blew, by the way; or that seconds before Jude materialized into my life that evening, I’d been about to give a total stranger a blow job in the darkness of the alley. All that drama seemed so far away as I sat there, trying to still the trembling inside, to focus on what was going on before me.

“You’ll hear from us within twenty four hours, Mr. Ashike,” the young doctor who stood by while the nurse drew my blood said.

“Achike,” I said, the correction coming automatically from my mouth.

“Sorry?”

“It’s Achike,” I repeated, suddenly feeling very weary.

“Okay, Mr. Achike. So how would you like to be notified – email, text…”

“Text,” I replied.

“Alright then.”

“Is that all?” I asked.

“Well, yes. But we would like you to…” He was holding up some brochures.

“That’s alright. I’m good,” I said, waving dismissively at him. Then I grabbed my jacket and left.

***

“Maybe you should try being positive.”

“Marketing has looked at the logistics. There’s nothing to be positive about.”

“Jay Dawg is hot with his singles right now. We should be pushing for him to record an album.”

“Yes, but Faustina is having a really good year. She should ride out the waves of her success before we try to promote another artiste’s album.”

“This is Faustina’s sophomore album. Jay Dawg is a new artiste. Why are we giving preference to the one who’s tried and true over the shiny new thing?”

“You sure you weren’t going to say ‘the one who’s a woman over the one who’s a guy’?”

There was a small outburst of chuckles around the table as the executive who’d been put on blast protested his male privilege.

The back and forth going on in the Mad House conference room was swirling about all around me, the words barely registering to me. I watched the executives speak and the underlings scribble, and I simply didn’t have the strength of mind to bring myself into the moment.

My imminent reality was all I could think about as it ticked by in my mind in a series of words that had become a mantra. Sex with Jude… Jude is HIV positive… I could be HIV positive…

An idea had occurred to me on my way to work from the hospital that this could be my comeuppance for cheating on Kuddus. That thought had drawn a bitter laugh from me, as I thought about what would happen should Kuddus come back to me.

Hello, Kev, I realize now that I love you very much and I can’t live without you and I want us to get back together.

Sorry, Kuddus, but I’m HIV positive. Jude gave it to me during all that sex we were having behind your back.

“They were right, Kevin. You really know how to make an effort to sabotage your life,” I muttered.

“Yes, Kevin?”

The words penetrated the morass that was my mind, and I looked up, startled as I met the expectant stare of my boss, Theresa Bassey.

“Erm…er…” I stammered.

“You were going to say something about working with Jay Dawg on his album?”

“Was that decided or do I have a choice?” I blurted out.

There was an outburst of laughter in the room, as though I’d just told a really good joke. I didn’t get it. I hadn’t meant to be facetious. I didn’t like Jay Dawg; I thought he was too crass and too street. Plus, for a new artiste still earning his stripes in the music industry, he seemed to have an inflated opinion of himself. And hadn’t he been caught on video cussing out a fan with homophobic slurs simply because the fan, effeminate as he was, had tried to get a selfie with him? No. I could never work with a guy like that.

The meeting progressed very quickly after that, and I tried to pay more attention. I’d noticed that Theresa had caught on to my lack of concentration earlier and hadn’t been fooled by how I sidestepped her query. She kept shooting me looks intermittently, and I tried to keep my focus on the meeting so I wouldn’t be caught off guard again.

When the meeting was over, I joined the throng of Mad House staff moving like a tie out of the conference room. I was headed down the hallway to the songwriter’s dome, when someone called me. I turned to see Rita, Theresa’s well-appointed personal assistant walking up to me. She was tall, leggy, beautiful and good at her job; which was saying a lot, considering the legend Theresa Bassey had for firing her assistants with the same consistency that people had breakfast.

“She wants to see you, Kevin,” Rita said simply.

My heart dropped the several-storey fall down to stomach. “Did she say why?” I asked, even though I had a sneaky feeling why.

Rita arched her plucked brows at me. “No she didn’t. But I’m sure I could go back and ask her.”

That was another thing about Theresa Bassey’s longstanding assistant. She was a bit of a bitch.

I followed her back up to the floor from whence I came, to the plush section of the top Mad House executives. Theresa waved me over to her desk the second I walked into her office. I approached and remained standing. I waited while she typed off an email on her iPhone.

“And send,” she said in a singsong voice as she tapped her keypad one last time before setting the phone down. “Sit down, Kevin,” she said while she removed her glasses from her face.

I sat down.

She looked at me. “So…” she said simply.

Just the single word, and it felt like an indictment. So I blurted, “I’m so sorry, ma’am. I really am. I know I didn’t give my one hundred percent to that meeting, but I was a bit distracted.”

“A bit?” She laughed. “Kevin, we were in Lagos and you looked like you were somewhere in Jupiter. And Jupiter didn’t even look like a fun place for you to be in.”

I chuckled a bit nervously. She was making jokes. That must mean I wasn’t going to get fired.

“I’m truly sorry. I had a rough morning.”

“And any good songwriter would channel that rough morning into the job he’s getting paid to do. You… you just zoned out on us.”

“Again, I am sorry, it will never happen again.”

“It shouldn’t. I don’t have a lot of patience with people who don’t give me results.”

“I promise I will put my 200 percent into my job.”

She cocked her head to one side and studied me for a few seconds. “You like it here, don’t you?”

“I do very much.”

“Well, OK then. You should know that Mad House was able to get to where it is today among the top in the business by tasking its people to do the work and work it hard. I don’t know how things were run at Highland but there’s no room for babying anyone here. So I’m just going to ask you this once.”

I swallowed hard and waited.

“Are you okay?”

I was silent for a moment as my thoughts and emotions rioted for supremacy. I thought about Kuddus breaking up with me, about finding out that Jude was HIV positive, about my test result that was due anytime from now, about my best friends – well, former best friends, Tayo and Sly, who weren’t speaking to me, and about how I’d never felt so lonely as I did now.

I thought about all this. Then I factored in who had asked the question.

And I gave the only answer I could. “I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded. “I’m fine.”

“So I have nothing to be worried about?”

“Nothing I can’t handle.”

At this point, she got to her feet. I stood up too. It seemed like this meeting was over.

“Kevin, you know why I hired you, right?”

I shook my head. I’d hoped it was because she wanted to use me in some elaborate ruse to get back at her ex-husband. A more reasonable part of me not enamoured with Hollywood reasoned that it was because of the status writing Demoniker’s album had given me. None of them sounded like things I should say to my boss.

“Well, because my son recommended you,” she said.

I stared at her in shock. Josh had put this job together for me? I couldn’t process that now as Theresa was still talking. She talked about how after I told Joshua in the hospital months ago that I had no intention of resuming at Highland, he’d seen fit to secure a similar job for me someplace else, but not until I was ready.

“I usually don’t respond well to favors, Kevin, especially when it involves Mad House. But Josh spoke so highly of you and your passion…” She paused and gave me a beady stare. “But I’m yet to see that passion.”

“I promise you, I’ve still got it,” I said. “I’ll even work with Jay Dawg just to prove it to you.”

She smiled, and I realized I’d just been played. She could have easily made me work with any artiste in her label, but clearly, she’d wanted me to want it too.

“Very well then,” she said. “You may go.”

I turned and started out of the office.

“Oh, and Kevin…”

I turned around.

“Don’t be mad at Joshua. He was only looking out for his friend. He really is fond of you.”

At this, I felt a sharp stab of loneliness that caused tears to sting the back of my eyes.

“Thank you for letting me know that, ma’am,” I said in a husky voice before hurrying out of her office.

I was out of the elevator on my floor when my phone pinged. It was a text message. That tremble from within began tremoring through my body again as I recognised that this could be it. This could be what would determine the rest of my life.

Sex with Jude… Jude is HIV positive… I could be HIV positive…

And then I clicked to open the text.

***

“You’re so negative!” Demoniker screamed.

“Someone has to be,” Kareem screamed back.

“Do you even hear yourself? Someone has to be! Could anyone sound more damaged than you right now!” Demoniker’s rage was magnificent.

“At least I am frank about who I am. With all your sunshiny optimism that gets nauseating every time you open your mouth, one might be forced to think you are desperately hiding something.”

“Please, do not speak nonsense to me.”

Kareem took a step toward her, invading her space. “Is it nonsense…or the truth?”

“AND SCENE!” Adam yelled. He began to clap as he jumped on the stage. “This was brilliant… Just brilliant!” he enthused. “I could feel the magic in this scene. Good work, guys. You just keep bringing this A game and we might just end up with a decent play after all.”

The three of them laughed at that.

“TAKE FIVE, EVERYONE!” the director hollered to the hall, and everyone began disintegrating.

Demoniker made her way to her dressing room, feeling flush with the success of the scene they’d just finished with. She hadn’t thought she’d love acting this much, but she really was getting into the grove of things. She made a mental note to ask her agent to look into possible movie roles for her. Nothing major, just some supporting roles here and there; she would earn her stripes in the movie industry, not muscle her way in with her star power.

She was debating which of the selfies she’d just taken to post on instagram when someone rapped on her dressing room door.

“Come on in.”

Nneka jerked the door open and walked in.

“Brilliant performance back there,” her assistant commended.

“You think so?” Demoniker said as she pouted for another selfie shot.

“Definitely.”

She nodded, accepting her assistant’s praise as her due.

“Do you want anything?” Nneka enquired.

Demoniker paused and turned to look at her quizzically. “Where’s Ben?” she asked of the Highland executive who’d been babysitting her ever since the scandal of her affair broke.

“Huh?” Nneka said.

“Ben… I haven’t seen him around the last couple of days.”

“I suppose he’s been recalled to where he actually works.”

Demoniker arched her brows at Nneka. “And Josh decided to make you his replacement?”

The other woman gave her a flustered look. “I’m sorry, Demoniker, but I don’t –”

“Oh don’t worry.” She returned to her camera angles. “I think it’s sweet how Josh still wants to keep an eye on me even though he doesn’t have to. But I wish he’d pick someone who didn’t make it so obvious.”

There were some moments of silence in the room, before Nneka finally said somberly, “I’m sorry, Demoniker.”

“That’s alright. Just remember that you work for me, not Highland.”

“Absolutely, I know that.”

“Very well then. You may go. I don’t need anything. Just come back for me when Adam calls us back to stage.”

“Yes, Demoniker.”

The assistant shut the door as the singer gave a tiny squeal of delight as she finally found the perfect selfie to post on instagram.

***

Amara was seated opposite Deidre, her legs crossed on top of the sofa and her arms folded. She had a wide smile etched across her face, a smile that made Deidre wonder about her.

“So,” the therapist said, “I was going to ask how you’re doing, but I can already see that –”

“I’m great! Super! In fact, I’ve never felt better. Not in a long time,” Amara exclaimed rapturously.

“I can see that,” Deidre said with a light laugh. “Mind telling me why?”

“Well, remember the morning a couple of days ago, when I called you, all rattled and stuff, because my ex-fiancé’s father had just threatened to replace me in the position my father handed over to me?” At Deidre’s nod, she said, “Well, I took your advice and tried to calm myself. I also realized you were right when you said the man was only trying to get into my head, to destabilize me, rattle me so I come off as incapable of the new responsibility in front of the company’s board, who I was going to do a presentation for shortly after. It was going to be my first meeting standing in for my father. I’m positive Kareem’s miserable old fart of a father wanted the board not to like me as my father’s successor, no matter how temporary it may be.”

“So you did well at the presentation?” Deidre asked.

“Did well? I killed it. I crushed it, is what I did.”

While Amara talked, Deidre couldn’t help imagining herself being in that boardroom, seated amongst all the suits, clapping along with them as Amara finished off the final bit of her presentation with some flourish. She pictured the smile she was wearing now on her face in the boardroom, with so much vitality in her eyes. And then something happened, and Deidre was no longer in the boardroom. All the suits had dissolved away from her imagination and it was just her in her seat and Amara at the front of the room. And her eyes were on Amara’s, traveling down to face to her honeysuckle lips, down the column of her neck to her breasts –

Deidre came back to the present with a start. Her face was suddenly flushed and she wondered if the air conditioner had broken. She fanned her hand over her face and tried to refocus on her patient.

“You should have seen the face of that old fart, Deidre,” Amara was saying. “It was priceless!”

Deidre cleared her throat before saying, “I can imagine.”

“The thing is,” Amara said while adjusting on her seat, “that experience was very empowering. I’ve been like a sitting pup for months, feeling sorry for myself, licking my wounds, blaming everyone but me for all I’ve been going through. But now, I believe I’ve got my groove back.” She dazzled Deidre with her smile.

“I’m sure that is exciting, Amara,” Deidre said with a slight chuckle, “but Amara –”

“No, Deidre, there are no buts.”

Deidre’s brow furrowed. “Amara –”

“I’m finally fine. Everything is fine! For the first time in a long time, everything in my life is just fine!”

“And that’s good –”

“Yes, yes it is.”

“But we still haven’t gotten to the root of why you came to me in the first place.”

Amara looked at her. The light seemed to have fled from her eyes and her face was hardening into something not quite human.

“No,” she said simply.

“Amara –”

“I am happy,” Amara rasped.

“I don’t think you are,” Deidre countered gently. “I think you are latching on to this victory you’ve scored as a reason to ignore what you really need to address.”

“Why are you doing this?” Amara’s eyes had dewed with a bright sheen of tears.

“I’m not doing anything, Amara.” Deidre moved forward on her seat and reached out a hand to her, but Amara jerked away. “You came to me for us to work together to help you through this. And we haven’t, Amara.”

“I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

“Your mother, you mean.”

Amara flinched.

“Amara, she took her own life right in front of you when you were six. And you remembered nothing about it. And the last time you were here, you were broken because you thought she’d come back to haunt you, to accuse you of her death. Amara, don’t you see –”

“I SAID I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT ANYMORE!” Amara roared, startling Deidre.

Then she leapt to her feet and faced the therapist, her eyes sparkling with that inhuman expression from before.

“You listen to me. For a very long time, I’ve let this hold me back – this obsession with my mother, this feeling…this feeling of being incomplete –”

“Amara, I –”

“NO! I’m still talking! I let the feeling take over me and it turned me into someone else, so much so that when I looked into the mirror, I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. Do you even know what that’s like, to see yourself and not like what you’ve become! I used to be fierce. I used to be a boss bitch! And now! Now! Urgh! A little face-off with an old fart of a man and I was a blubbering mess. For chrissakes, I needed a therapist to tell me to get my shit together! Maybe there is a reason I blacked out that woman’s cowardly act –”

“That woman was your mother, Amara, and what she did may not have been cowardly –”

“Stop speaking to me about her! For a while, I thought I wanted answers. But I don’t anymore! And the next time I see her, I will tell her exactly that!”

“Amara…”

But she had whirled around and fleeing from the room, a faint sob reaching Deidre’s ears from her.

“Amara, please…” Deidre got to her feet.

She was out of her office, yanking the door open and shoving past the startled secretary who had probably just then come to see if there was a problem.

Her secretary looked a question at her, and Deidre shook her head at him. She knew she wasn’t supposed to feel this way, be this attached, but even then, she had this conviction in her heart that Amarachi Peters was one woman – patient – she was not going to give up on.

Written by The Reverend

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Previous Say NO To Hookups In Ojo, Lagos!!!
Next SIX – 6

About author

You might also like

Series (Fiction) 6 Comments

890-6

Because Aliu had a slew of appointments with Mr. Ajayi following that first day, I got to see Khalil almost every week, after school hours. Even though he exhausted me

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Series (Fiction) 16 Comments

ROULETTE OF THE DAMNED 6: Revelations

Abbey knew it was past four in the morning. Daybreak was around the corner and she didn’t want to risk waking Jiro and Andrew if they were asleep. She hoped

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Series (Fiction) 14 Comments

LETTERS TO MY FUTURE HUSBAND (Entry 8)

Dear Future Husband, So the time came a few weeks ago when I had to make a really tough decision. I took an unscheduled visit to Uyo. Yes, I had

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

3 Comments

  1. Mandy
    May 23, 08:30 Reply

    Welcome back Kevin, Demoniker and Amara.

    But Amara sha… Gosh, is this her mother’s mental illness manifesting in her? I hear it’s hereditary.

Leave a Reply