“You skanky bitch!”

“I know, right,” I said with a chuckle, missing the venom in Adebola’s voice and misreading good humour in his words.

“You scheming little bitch!” he said caustically.

This time, I didn’t miss it. My head snapped around to face him and my eyes narrowed. “I beg your pardon?” I said.

“You guys never have enough, do you?” Adebola seethed. “You just can’t respect boundaries, can you?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Bryson is my friend! My friend! And it was that friendship you ruined when you trotted your ass, like the shameless slut you are, in his face!”

“Excuse me!” I snapped, feeling my temper ignite. “Who the hell are you calling a shameless slut? And speaking of that night, perhaps you’d like to tell us next that it is possible for a dude to force his ass down on someone else’s dick when he’s not consenting!”

“You guys just can’t learn to leave my associations alone!” Adebola roared.

“Now, now, Adebola –” Biola began hastily.

“Let me finish!” Adebola rounded on him. “First it was you with George, and your determination to get into his pants. That went south, and I lost a friend, even though I had no business being made to suffer for your discrepancies. Then it was this floosie –” He swept a hand in an up-and-down wave over me.

The snide expression on his face made the insult and his gesture sting. “You’re starting to really piss me off, Adebola,” I said in a bristling tone.

“Yes, Adebola,” Ekene cut in, “back off. You’re crossing a line.”

I am crossing a line?” he shot back, a hand placed on his chest, his brows lifted with incredulous anger. “Me – are you fucking kidding me! Bryson was one of my true friends from the fashion industry, until he was embarrassed to dump me along with everyone in this group.”

“He is a grown person,” Yinka intoned. “He made his decision to distance himself from you and all of us. Don’t blame Declan for that. Take it up with Bryson.”

“See me see trouble o,” I exclaimed, spreading my palms open.

“But this Bryson sef, it have do for him joor,” Paschal interjected. “He’s too pretty, I didn’t think pretty boys were your taste, Declan.”

“Who does not like pretty boys bikonu,” Ekene said with a small laugh.

“You apparently,” Paschal slung back.

Amidst an outburst of chortles from Biola, Yinka and Jonathan, Ekene bridled, with a finger wagging in the air, “Oh no, you did not just diss my man, you two-bit man-whore!”

“What did you just say to me?” Paschal flared.

“That you’re a two-bit man-whore!” Ekene maintained defiantly.

“Oya, oya, cut it out, you two!” Eddie interrupted sharply. “This isn’t about you two.”

“This isn’t about anything,” I headed him off. “I simply told you guys about my new relationship. It isn’t supposed to be a big deal.”

“But it is a big deal,” Eddie countered. “Five seconds ago, that guy was straight. Now, all of a sudden, he’s not only fucking ass, but wanting to go steady with you?”

“Honey, that’s just setting you up for an epic heartbreak,” Biola said.

“I know, right,” agreed Eddie. “Are you sure this is the right thing to do, Dee? Wasn’t it this same guy who was too embarrassed to own up to the fact that he had sex with you?”

“Well, that was –” I started.

“And in the midst of a gay group sef,” Paschal added with a mocking chuckle. “Like he had any reason to be embarrassed. Na all of us follow dey do am nah.”

“Look, this is –” I tried again.

“And I can’t stress this enough,” Eddie cut me off. “He is straight – was straight, at best confused. That’s no recipe for a solid relationship. Those who are undecided about their sexual orientation are a torture for gay men to date. Bisexuals are bad enough.”

“Gee, thanks, Edidiong,” Jonathan said curtly.

“You’re welcome,” Eddie sallied back.

“Listen –”

“Although I think you’re right,” Jonathan interrupted me to say. “Not about bisexuals, mind you, but about guys such as this Bryson who come to a realization of their gayness at such a latent stage. But that’s not my problem with this whole thing. I’m with Adebola. It’s unfair to him what we are doing, honing in on his territory and making things awkward between him and his friends. I mean, come on, Dee, Lagos city is full of gay men. You could have spared a thought for your friend before deciding to make things weird for him.”

“It is my happiness, Jonathan,” I said icily. “Last I checked, that counted for something.”

“Yes, but, can’t you see all the reasons why this relationship may not be good for you?” Eddie said.

“I just want to live in the moment, to love and be loved. Is that too much to ask?” I gritted out, my stare hard on him. “When and if things end badly between Bryson and me, I will hurt. I know that. But then, isn’t that why I have you guys – my friends? To make me feel better about a bad situation?”

“Wouldn’t it just be better if you – I don’t know – avoid heading toward that bad situation?” Jonathan said.

“You can stop kissing Adebola’s ass now,” I snarled, turning my glare around on him. “We get it, he played a major role in fucking your boss over, and you’re grateful to him for that. Just don’t feel obligated to constantly shut me down just to prove how grateful you are to him.”

“Hey, listen, Declan –” Jonathan began hotly.

“No, you listen! All of you, listen!” I swept my angry gaze over the group. “I have always, ALWAYS being there for each and every one of you, never questioning your choices, never second-guessing your decisions. I realize you think that being my friends is about telling me the hard truths, but I have thought about all this, and yet I said yes to him. Why? Because he makes me happy, and I just want to have that, to be happy. What will come, will come, but living my life for now makes a whole lot more sense than worrying about the future. So, could you all just stop – just stop, and be happy for me?”

The silence that settled in the room in the wake of my impassioned admonishment pulsed with undercurrents of dissipating tensions for about three seconds, before Adebola moved forward, slowly, toward me. Then he stopped directly in front of me. One finger was raised up and he poked me in the chest, hard enough to actually rock me back for a second.

And he hissed, “He is not your happiness to have, Declan. The sooner you realize that, the better friends we can be.”

And he turned away from me and stalked to the door. There was a muted chorus of protests from the others as he walked stiffly away.

He is not your happiness to have, Declan. The words roiled around in my mind, settled, and then sprouted with an awareness that hit me with a force that made me draw in a sharp breath. “Adebola,” I called out in a clear voice. He’d just turned the door handle and jerked the door open. He wasn’t going to stop, so I hurried on in a clear voice, “Adebola, are you in love with Bryson?”

He froze at the door. Another momentary silence fell on the room. For a moment, he stood by the door, his stiff back to us, and then he slowly turned around. His face was a grimace of pain willfully held in place, and his eyes were like twin glaciers, like nothing could ever melt them. His voice was a rasp as he said, “Yes. Yes, I am.”

And seconds after that admission, the door whispered shut behind him.

Written by Pink Panther

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