The eight weeks that followed my coming out to my sister went speedily by, and I didn’t take much note of the passage, because nearly every day was full. It wasn’t long after that first day at the Pan Atlantic University, when I met Oscar, before I was done with my enrolment for the Business School course of Human Resource Management. Earlier on, Dotun had told me of a foreseeable future, when he’d climb up another rung on the corporate ladder of Fit Plus’ management, and because he’d be given the option of a recommendation, he would want me to take up his vacated position. And to be a better candidate, I needed better educational qualifications than my First Degree.

I settled into my renewed schooling with some disgruntlement. My classes were scheduled for Saturdays, and it was with some displeasure that I kissed goodbye all those extra hours I luxuriated in bed on Saturday mornings. Oscar helped some. He had more classes on different days of the week, including Saturdays, and we endeavoured to spend time together during the breaks we got from our lectures. His company was a welcome change from the tedium of my lessons. We got along very well, discovering new characteristics we shared in common; on some level, I realized he was filling a void left gaping by the distance between my friends and I. Our conflicting schedules were starting to get more frequent, and those very precious Sundays I now had left, I spent either lazing at home, or reconnecting with my boyfriend.

“You have that foolish grin on your face again,” Oscar observed, jolting me out of my preoccupation with my Blackberry.

I looked up at him from my BBM chat with Bryson and chuckled, “What grin? I don’t grin foolishly abeg.”

“The expression on your face begs to differ,” he said before scooping some rice into his mouth.

It was lunchtime, and the lunchroom was astir with the muted buzz of people enjoying the break. Conversations were proper, laughter was subdued, and the hum of human interaction was punctuated by the frequent clinks of cutlery against dishes.

“Well, I can’t help it,” I said in response to Oscar’s remark. “I miss him. Lately, we’ve not been able to see each other as often as I’d have liked. He’s hustling really hard with his career, and I’m starting to appreciate my Sundays very much.”

“So you two then make up for all that separation by chatting a lot and wearing goofy expressions, huh?” he teased.

I laughed. “Well, what can I say? Bryson is a charming, gorgeous man.”

“I’ve never asked before. Can I see his picture?”

“Sure.” I quickly produced a selfie I’d taken of the two of us one of the nights I spent at Bryson’s place. We were beaming at the camera and looked disheveled from the sex we’d just had. I held out my phone to Oscar, but he took one look at the screen, and made a mock grimace, pushing my hand and the phone in it back toward me.

“I didn’t ask for a pic where you two look like love-sick puppies. Eww! I want to see him, just him.” He shook his head at me as I laughed at his words.

I located another photo. It was one that was currently Bryson’s Facebook profile picture, and I’d saved it off his Timeline after I saw the picture and fell in love with the pouty sensuality of the snapshot. It was one photo out of an album he’d done for a magazine, with a small spring of water cascading over his scantily-clad body, the wetness plastering his singlet over the well-defined ridges of his abs and pecs. The picture had been a hit on his Facebook page, and within a week of him uploading it, it garnered more than 500 Likes.

It made me proud to have such a hot boyfriend, and I could feel that knowledge warming my heart as I handed my phone to Oscar a second time. He stared at the picture a moment, and then said “Hmm”, before turning to his meal again.

“What do you mean ‘Hmm’?” I queried, unperturbed. “He is delicious, no?”

“Yea, well, if you’re into that sort of thing.” He waved a fork dismissively at my phone.

I gave a short laugh. “What sort of thing? What – muscles, height, and eyes that can make you cum simply by them looking at you?”

It was Oscar’s turn to laugh. “Yea, well, I don’t do Akpans.”

“What did you just call him?” I said, my eyes widening with my mirth.

Akpan… You know, dudes who look like they pound fufu for a career.”

That got me. It was all I could do not to double over and howl with laughter. “My goodness, Oscar!” I hissed with a merry undertone. “That’s my man you’re dissing like that. I should take offense, but I can’t even.” I chuckled as I prepared to lift a spoonful of rice.

“As well you shouldn’t,” he said. “I like my guys slim, but not skinny, with just the right amount of flesh to fill out their asses, and fill my arms.” As he spoke, he swept his eyes pointedly over me, starting from what part of my upper body was visible above the table to my face. His expression was guarded, so I couldn’t make anything out of his stare.

But it made me self-conscious, so I looked away from him and focused on my meal for a while.

“Do you love him?” he suddenly asked.

“God, no!” I denied swiftly. “I find him incredibly sexy, and the sex is great. But that’s basically all we have – good sex and burning chemistry.”

“Yea, you’ve told me about that before,” Oscar said ruefully.

“It’s just frustrating, you know,” I continued, not really hearing him. “Having a relationship you expect – you wish – to go somewhere, and yet there’s not enough fuel to take it in the direction you’d like. We have almost nothing in common. He’s all about fashion – clothes, runway shows, photo shoots, fitness, the gym, dieting. Eish!” I blew out an exasperated breath. “Sometimes, I just want us to have a conversation, you know, to talk about stuff like art, literature, movies – he doesn’t even do movies, not much really. One day I was talking about wanting to re-watch The Island, that film that Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson did, and he asked me who they were. Hello? Moulin Rouge, anyone? Okay, I can understand not knowing Ewan McGregor, but Scarlet Johansson – seriously! I was trying to describe her to him, and when I mentioned The Avengers, he goes, ‘Oh, that Avengers babe.’ That Avengers babe?!” I scoffed and shook my head.

Oscar was looking at me with a deliberate expression, one that was telling in its studious neutrality. And I chuckled when I understood it. “I’ve started yapping away about Bryson again, haven’t I?”

“It’s always such fun, these little Bryson 101 lessons you give every now and then,” he said, smiling to take the sting off his words.

“Well, that’s what you get for being the one friend accessible to me,” I said, sticking my tongue out at him.

He gave a rueful smile, before saying in a more somber tone, “If you don’t love him, and you haven’t much faith in the future of your relationship, why then are you still with him?”

“Did I fail to mention that the sex is great?” I said, wagging my eyebrows suggestively. He laughed at that, and I added, “Besides, who said I don’t have any faith in our relationship? We’ve only being seeing each other about three months. Too early to start worrying.”

“I guess so,” he conceded.

It wasn’t very long before the lunch break was over, and we returned to our lessons. By 5pm, we were done, and I reconnected with Oscar in the lobby. Amidst other chattering students, we strolled out of the premises.

“Let’s chatter a cab to my place,” Oscar suggested as we filed to the side of the main road. Several hands were in the air, waving bike-men and Keke-Napep to a stop.

“To your place?” I asked, my brow furrowing.

“Yes, I want you to know where I live. It’s in Ebutte-Metta, and my folks won’t be around. So that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Why would they being around be a problem?”

“Nothing, nothing,” he said hastily, his gaze skittering away from mine. “So, what do you say? Should we make it a date?”

“A date?” I said, smiling. “It is just to know your place, right? There’s no candlelit dinner waiting as a surprise when we get there, is there?” I teased.

He ducked his head in that characteristic manner of his, before shaking it. “I wish. Nothing grand like that.”

“Well, alright then.”

A few minutes later, we were ensconced in the back of a taxi, conversing about our classes, while observing the passing scenery of Lagos municipality. I watched Oscar as he talked animatedly, the very fair-complexioned skin of his face reddening somewhat whenever he exerted it, like with a laugh or the energetic making of a point. I realized then as before that I liked him; he’d been good company to me these past several weeks. I knew he liked me back. I just wondered how much.

A lot, you know. He likes you a lot, the Voice answered.

Hopefully not enough to cause any awkwardness between us, I responded.

Yea, hopefully not.

Soon, the taxi driver was pulling up by the side of the road, before a row of condominiums that was the characteristic accommodation in the area. Oscar paid the driver, and led me up the stairs. He seemed quite agitated as he talked and walked ahead of me. Inside, the apartment was neat, and the furniture was worn but comfortable. The television set was the focal point of the living room.

“Nice place,” I remarked, glancing at the smiling family members on the framed photographs hanging from the wall. “Very homey.” I pointed. “Those are your parents, right?”

“Yes. And that’s our firstborn, my second brother, my elder sister – she’s married – and my other brother coming after her.” His pointing index finger accompanied each introduction.

“That’s nice. Your sister’s husband – that’s him there, right?” When he nodded, I said, “He’s hot.”

He laughed shortly. “If you’re into the daddy type…”

“Who isn’t?”

“I’m not.”

I rolled my eyes theatrically. “Oh, I forgot. You’re into twinks.”

“Nah, not twinks. I like them matured.” A beat passed before he added, “Like you.”

I’d been about to make a comment about how he and his mother were the only light-skinned ones in the family, when he said that. At first, the words didn’t register, and I turned to ask, “What?”

“I’m into you, Declan,” he said.

“Oscar…” I began.

“I mean, I like you –”

“Yea, I got that –”

“Like, I really, really like you…”

“Oscar…”

“And I know you like me too.”

“Yes, as a friend.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Maybe I should stop talking and just show you.” And with two steps, he was suddenly in my personal space, cradling my face with his hands and kissing me.

For a moment, I was too nonplussed to react. I stood still, my brain cells processing the sudden intimacy slowly, as though they were bogged down with molasses. Then I felt his tongue attempting to slip through my lips, poking at my teeth, and my mobility was revived. I shoved him back with such force, I found myself staggering back in the process.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I snapped, wiping the back of my hand over my mouth.

“Kissing you.” He seemed genuinely bewildered by my resistance.

“Who said you could do that? Oscar, I have a boyfriend for chrissakes!”

“Who you don’t love, and who you have nothing to click with. But me –”

“But you are just my friend,” I lashed across his words. “Was just my friend.”

“Was?”

“You clearly expect more from this acquaintanceship than I’m disposed to give.”

“But this is what you want, isn’t it?”

“No!” I said emphatically. “Why would you even think that?”

“That’s what he told me… He said you like me, that all I need to do is make you see –”

“Who said that?!” I said. When he didn’t reply immediately, my brows furrowed over the storm gathering in my eyes, as I said, “Who, Oscar? Who is filling your head with this nonsense about me?”

***

I shut the door of the vehicle with restrained vehemence.

“Ah, oga, you wan break my door?” the taxi driver protested, before he revved his engine and began to reverse.

I ignored him and strode angrily into the compound. I knew he’d be here. I’d called Yinka on my way out of Oscar’s house, and he’d told me I would find him here.

As I approached the front door, I could hear the sounds of TV and someone talking. I stopped before the door, and took deep inhalations, trying to relax, to calm the burning in my heart. But I couldn’t. When I rapped my knuckle sharply on the door, I was still very enraged.

Biola opened the door. The smile that started curving his lips at his sight of me wilted when he saw my stormy expression.

“Uh, Dee, what’s –”

“Where is he?” I snapped, looking beyond him into his living room.

“Where is who?”

You!” I saw him walking into the parlour from the corridor and shoved past Biola to get in. “You!” I was pointing a finger at him as I advanced. “I want you to stay the fuck away from me, you hear me? Stay the fuck away from my life! And stay the fuck away from my relationship!”

Adebola glanced coolly back at me. “What are you talking about?” His tone was icy.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about!” I raged. “What did you think you were going to achieve? Get Oscar to seduce me, have him tell you and you can carry the news of my betrayal to Bryson to break us up? Are you truly that evil?”

“Adebola…” Biola gasped.

“It was worth a try,” he drawled nastily. “All I did was encourage him when we met and he told me you two were now hanging out. Whatever he chose to do with my encouragement was entirely up to him.”

“You bitch!”

“Takes one to know one.”

“Oh, I know you now. If you’re capable of this kind of low, then you’re capable of anything. And to think I’ve been talking to Bryson all this time, trying to get him to mend his friendship with you… Now, I’m done! You can go to hell for all I care!”

“I was done like five minutes ago. Now get out!” he hissed.

“Get a life, Adebola!” I fired, wanting to wound. “Seriously. Get away from my business and get a life. I’m with Bryson now. And I’m not going anywhere.”

He gave a bark of humourless laughter. “The same Bryson who you have nothing in common with?” I blinked, startled by the realization of Oscar’s betrayal, and Adebola continued with a cruel smile, “Yes, Oscar told me. You tell him everything, and he tells me everything. Don’t get too comfortable with Bryson, darling. I don’t need to be TB Joshua to know this won’t last.”

“In the meantime, I’m there and you’re not, isn’t that so?” I shot back.

My barb found its mark, and his face clouded.

Just then, I felt spent. Suddenly, I had no desire to carry on with this confrontation. I just wanted to leave here, and go home, and have a bath to wash out this ugly episode. I also never wanted to set my eyes on Adebola again.

I turned and walked to the door, ignoring Biola’s call of my name on my way.

“Declan.”

I was at the door when Adebola called me. I stopped and turned to face him.

“I know you didn’t ask,” he continued, “but here’s my advice. Amuse yourself with Bryson. Don’t take this thing you have with him too seriously. And definitely do not fall in love with him. Do otherwise, and you’ll just end up getting hurt. But by all means, knock yourself out. That ending would give me lots of satisfaction.”

I jerked the door open before responding, “You were right, Adebola. I didn’t ask. That is because I have no use for your opinion.” And I slammed the door resoundingly shut behind me.

Written by Pink Panther

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