BEAUTIFUL SINNERS (Episode 14)

BEAUTIFUL SINNERS (Episode 14)

Previously on BEAUTIFUL SINNERS. . .

*

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABY.”

I read the text I received from my mother a few minutes ago, shaking my head as I wondered when she would learn to type without putting her words all in caps. It was 6. 30 am and I was feeling a twist of sadness and nostalgia inside me as I thought about my birthdays past and how they were markedly different from this one I’d just woken up to. First was the absence of all the people I could’ve been celebrating it with – Samuel, Tayo, Sly, Jude…Kuddus. My heart was starting to ache with the realization of my loss, so I quickly brought my mind back to the text that was open on my phone screen.

Happy Birthday, Baby.

I blinked back tears as I suddenly felt this yearning need to crawl into my mother’s arms, breathe in her familiar smells and never let go of her warmth. I wanted to be 5 again, when I didn’t have to think about my life or worry about all the people I’d hurt and all the relationships I’d lost.

I scrolled further down the text. My mother had of course included the usual prayers and declarations, but the first three words were all I paid attention to.

 Happy Birthday, Baby.

How come I didn’t feel very happy?

Just then the phone vibrated into life in my hand, the loudness of my ringtone jolting me out of my reverie. I gave a half smile when I saw “Mum” on the phone screen.

“Of course you would also call,” I said with feigned impatience as I answered the call.

Her laughter rang out in my ear and warmed my soul. “Of course I would also call,” she affirmed. “Text messages are so impersonal and so your generation. I wouldn’t be your mother if I didn’t call to wish you a happy birthday.”

“Thank you, mom,” I said with feeling.

“Somebody else wants to wish you a happy birthday.”

And a moment later, a delighted mix of squeals and gurgles burst through the phone, and tears welled up in my eyes as I felt my heart expand with an indescribable feeling of love.

My little brother, Michael.

“Hey, soldier man,” I cooed into the phone.

He responded with a fierce babble of Babynese. I laughed and made yet another supplication for my baby brother to get it right with his life in all the ways I’d fucked up mine.

“He’s teething, so he’s a bit moody,” Mother said, bringing the phone back to her. “He doesn’t know I’m an old woman, that I don’t deserve all these stress.”

I laughed again, and for a moment, I actually felt good.

“So, nna, how are you spending your day?”

I let out a sigh. The golden feeling from a second ago was starting to dissipate again. It was as though I could only get any joy from escaping the reality of my existence. Suddenly, I could understand why people did drugs: anything to not have to face the mess they’d done with their lives. Was that such a bad thing?

“I’ll be at work of course,” I answered.

“Ehn? But it’s your birthday.”

“Yes. And the world doesn’t go on a public holiday simply because Kevin Achike turned a year older.”

“Isn’t the work environment of your profession supposed to be a bit more relaxed?” Mother said with some sternness. “Couldn’t you get some time off? Spend it with Jude and Tayo and Sly? Maybe get some sugar from Kuddus?” There was a chuckle in her voice at this last part.

I couldn’t, mom. Because Jude is HIV Positive and is on a self-imposed exile, and because Tayo and Sly hate me, and because Kuddus hates me even more and wants nothing more to do with me, I thought disconsolately.

However, aloud, I lied, “It won’t be all work and no play today, mom. Some work friends are doing something for me.”

“Oh, that’s very kind of them. God bless them.”

Just then, there was a knock on my front door. Bunching my brow into a frown, I sat up on my bed and listened. The knock came again.

I wasn’t expecting anybody. It felt like it had been so long since anyone knocked on my door.

Unless…

Suddenly, I felt my heart tighten with budding joy. I mean, I knew he had broken up with me, but he once loved me, and we had had such a beautiful relationship for the most part. And it was my birthday. So of course he would remember and reach out.

The knock sounded again. I cut off my mother when I said, “Mum, I have to go. Somebody is at the door.”

“OK. Be good today, Chukwuemeka. And if you can, come home next weekend. Maybe I can get your sisters to visit too and we can celebrate your birthday as a family.”

“Yes, yes, mom,” I said as I slid out of the bed. “Talk to you later, mom. Bye. Love you.”

I hung up and hastily pulled on a house wear. The knock came again as I made my way to the parlour. My heart was starting to make small leaps of joy. It had to be Kuddus at the door. The knocking even had his impatience marked all over it.

“I’m coming,” I sang out gaily as I darted to the door.

I turned the bolts with shaking fingers, wondering exactly what I would say, how desperately I would beg him for a second chance.

I yanked the door open and stopped short, the sight of the person on my threshold freezing my smile, as I battled with disappointment and pleasure.

“Happy Birthday,” Demoniker sang out, lifting her hands in a ta-da gesture. In one of them, she held a bottle of what looked like a really expensive wine.

I blinked. “Wow. Demoniker…” I peered at the yard behind her. Perhaps Kuddus was not too far behind. Perhaps –

“Hello,” Demoniker said, waving a hand in my face. “A little delight will go a long way to warming a girl’s heart.”

I refocused on her and turned up wattage of my smile. “Sorry… I’m just… Well, thank you.” I stepped aside for her to come in. “How did you even know it was my birthday?”

The woman sauntered into my living room, and with all the beauty and verve that effused from her like the currents of electricity, she appeared to light up the drab space.

“Dude, you were the songwriter for my most successful homegrown album,” she said. “I’d have to be an asshole not to have your birthday in mind.”

“Don’t you mean you’d have to be an asshole not to have your assistant put it in her mind?” I teased as I shut the door and went to take a seat next to her.

“Well, that’s why God made assistants – so they can ensure people like us don’t forget birthdays.”

“God made assistants, huh?”

“Yes, along with agents and managers. What do you think the angels are doing up there all around Jesus? They are helping him with his career as God Almighty.”

“Cataloguing people’s birthdays and pointing out which prayers are due for an answer, I’m sure,” I sallied back.

“You know this,” she rejoined, and we shared a laugh.

I was starting to feel better again. And I wondered why I hadn’t explored a friendship with Demoniker; being with her, in spite of her superstar status, had always been so uncomplicated. Perhaps I should start fostering more female friendships; maybe with them, things wouldn’t be so fucked up.

“Please tell me you have a wine opener here somewhere,” Demoniker said, waving the bottle in her hand.

I laughed. “It’s 7 am in the morning. And I still have to go to work. And you would have me drink?”

“It’s your birthday, darling, the one day you’re allowed not to have it all together.”

I sighed, allowing myself to fall for the temptation. “I have to be at work by 9, so just one drink.”

“Just one,” she promised.

Thirty minutes later, we were more than halfway through the bottle, very chatty and quite inebriated.

“You’re joking,” I exclaimed as she wrapped up an anecdote about the man directing her on her play.

“I’m serious. He is such a drama queen.”

“Anyway, that’s how theatre directors usually are. It’s part of the charm.”

“Yeah, when they’re Western with an accent. It can be such a turn-off when it’s a middle-aged Yoruba man with an affectation.”

I laughed as I reached for the bottle to top off my glass. “Still, it must be fun being in a stage play.”

“Mmhmm,” Demoniker agreed with a nod. “And it certainly helps that my leading man is hot.”

I chuckled. “Hot men are a dime a dozen in your world. This one can’t be anything special.”

“You just keep talking until you get to meet him. He’s a drink of water you’ll want to have to go.” As I rolled my eyes, she added, “Speaking of hot men… How’s our love life? Did you make up with Le Boo? Or have you moved on to someone from Davido’s posse. I have it on good authority that someone from his crew runs on your lane.” She winked.

I stifled a sigh, feeling my high suddenly roller-coasting back to reality. I knew she was angling for some ‘gay bestie talk’ but I was not sure I wanted to talk about how my best friend-turned-lover-turned-ex had HIV and how I thought I had it, only for me to find out after hours of gut wrenching fear that I was negative.

“No man, no lover from Davido’s posse, no makeup with Le Boo,” I said, trying to keep up my smile.

“Seriously?” Demoniker said with widened eyes. “A snack like you! I swear, the gay scene in Nigeria is fucked up. I’m sure you’d have more than two guys fighting over you if this was LA.”

I laughed because just a month ago, that was me. I wished I could tell her just how not-so-fun it was.

“Okay what about work? Any new clients that you already like better than me?”

“Not possible,” I said emphatically.

She grinned.

Just then, her phone trilled, and she reached for it from the back pocket of her ripped jeans. She took a look at the screen, hissed and cut the call off, dropping the phone on the seat between us.

I arched my brows at her. “Drama, drama…” I tsk-tsked. “Who was that?”

“No one,” she answered as she took a swig from her glass.

I nodded and snatched up the phone.

“Kevin!”

I leaped up from the sofa, away from her, staggering a bit on my feet. As I navigated her call log, I made a mental note that I had to get something to eat fast, so that I wouldn’t be so inebriated at work.

Joshua’s name was the last contacted on Demoniker’s call log.

“Why are you avoiding Joshua?’

“Give me back my phone,” she demanded.

I didn’t. I just kept looking at her until she finally sighed. “Okay, fine. We have a meeting at Highland this morning to discuss some legal issues.”

“And you don’t want to go because?”

Demoniker didn’t say anything. But I could read the expression on her face and comprehension descended.

“Oh my God,” I said.

She got up and snatched the phone from my hand. “Give me my damn phone.”

“Demoniker,” I said softly with my hands on my mouth.

“I know what you’re going to say.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, and trust me, I’ve been telling myself the same thing.”

“Do you know what people will say?”

“I know, that’s why I’ve been avoiding him – so that I don’t do something stupid.”

“I hate to break it to you, but if you can’t trust yourself with him, then you’ve already gone way past something stupid.”

She nodded glumly and reached for the bottle to refill her glass. “It’s such a shitty world, and all these men are not making it any easier.”

“Mmhmm, say it sister,” I said as I got seated and raised my glass.

“Men are scum,” she toasted.

And we touched glasses in agreement.

Written by The Reverend

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1 Comment

  1. Mandy
    June 21, 06:36 Reply

    Demoniker is saying men are scum, and Kevin is agreeing. 😏😏😏 As if he himself is kuku not the scummiest of them all.

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