“Nawa o!” Ekene exclaimed, punctuating his words with a snap of his fingers. “Adebola went too far abeg. What nonsense.”

“It’s ridiculous, really, guys who will go to any great lengths to be bad just for another guy,” Yinka said as he steered his car past the gateway of the Maison Fahrenheit Hotel.

“Straight people do much worse in their relationships,” Ekene rejoined tersely. “Drama due to jealousy is not exclusive to gay relationships.”

“I’m not saying it is,” Yinka said. “And I’m not trying to go the ‘he’s a man like you, you shouldn’t fight over him’ route. I’m simply saying that if it’s me, gay or straight, I would never stress myself over another human being.”

“Yea well, you’ve never been in love,” Ekene said. When Yinka opened his mouth to speak, he quickly added, “And don’t even wave that your ‘I’m in a relationship’ flag. What you and Dayo are doing is a joke, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Open relationships are real, honey,” Yinka said with his characteristic smile. He’d become accustomed to the general disapproval some of his friends had for the status of his relationship with his corporate worker boyfriend. Ekene, especially, didn’t seem like he’d ever get used to the idea that two people dating could ever come to the mutual agreement to sleep with other people. He liked to refer to Dayo as Yinka’s friend with benefits.

“You’re awfully quiet all of a sudden, mister,” Yinka said with a glance at me as he pulled up into a parking spot.

I heaved a small sigh. “I just feel a little sad, you know. I’ve been so mad at Adebola, and now, I’m not quite so any longer.”

“Not mad enough to make up with him?” Yinka asked.

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “Not while he still feels resentful toward me. After this stunt he pulled with Oscar, I’m not sure I can trust him anymore. I didn’t ask to be with Bryson, knowing that he wanted him. But it has happened. I just wish he would get over it, because there’s no way I’m breaking up with Bryson just to make him feel better.”

“Absolutely not,” Ekene concurred, with a glare at Yinka, as though daring him to try to convince me otherwise.

Yinka caught the look and gave a short laugh. “Hey, don’t look at me like that. I’m not about to play mediator here. I’m just here to ogle fine boys and know if there’s anyone I can take home with me.”

We shared a laugh as we opened the car doors and stepped out into the evening. It was Saturday, and I had no classes today, which was good, because that freed me up to attend a fashion show Bryson was a part of. It was the Alfie Esang Fashion Show, an exclusive event the designer, Alfred Esang, put together once every year when he wanted to release his creations for the year. Esang was one of the topmost designers in the country, whose clothes had been seen on several celebrities walking the red carpet and attending lavish functions. The day Bryson landed the gig to model for him during this particular fashion show, he’d been so excited.

“You have to be there, Dee,” he’d enthused to me. “You absolutely have to be. Bring your friends, come alone, I don’t care. Just be there.”

And here I was, with Yinka and Ekene, to witness my boyfriend be a star, even though it was just for one evening and along with several other good-looking people doing the same thing.

We chatted as we walked into the hotel lobby, and located the elevator that whisked us up to the rooftop, where the show was scheduled to take place. There was some traffic leading up to the rooftop. We were early – it was just 6.30pm – and so the crowd was made up of mainly the young generation – entitled university students, fashionable yuppies and the photogs, their keenness to score some sort of action from the show palpable. Esang’s older patrons would start arriving much later, when the night had completely fallen, and the atmosphere was throbbing with the delights of the evening.

The rooftop was already a picturesque setting of silk draperies, floral arrangements and beautiful people. The runway was set, and there were people everywhere, some seeking out their seats, others idly chatting and laughing, and some others moving about with purpose. The show would soon be underway.

“Guys, let’s find Bryson,” I said. “I need to let him know I’m around.”

“Can’t we just settle down and meet him after the show?” Yinka sighed unhappily as he winked happily at a male model he must already be acquainted with, because the model winked happily back.

“Yes, I can see exactly how you’d like to settle and on whom you’d like to do the settling,” I sallied.

Ekene laughed as Yinka returned, “Oh stop. I could never settle so early in the evening.”

Eventually, we found Bryson backstage, and my friends stayed back as I approached him. My heart filled with gladness as I observed him. He was talking with three guys, two of them with unclad torsos like him. His sinewy arms appeared to ripple in the dying light of the evening, and I sighed blissfully as I imagined running my hands over those ridges that were his pecs and abs.

“Hey,” I said as I came up to them.

He turned and beamed a smile at me. “You came.”

“Of course I came. It’s a big night for you. Who knows, after this, you could start walking the runway in Milan, Paris and New York.”

There was a smattering of laughter from the group.

“I know, right?” intoned one of the other three guys in an affected foreign accent, the only one who was fully dressed. He had on a T-Shirt that clung to his lean upper body and skin-tight jeans that held on to his long legs so tightly I wondered if the cells on his thighs could breathe. I knew, even before he lifted a limp wrist to tap Bryson ever-so-gently on his arm, that he had a membership in the Rainbow Department. His laugh tinkled as he said, “I keep telling him to watch out. He has the charisma to really blow out in his career.”

“Hey, Rome, what about us nau,” one of the other barely-clad models said with a pout. “It’s not just Bryson joor.”

“Of course you two will do big things, my darlings,” the guy, who looked like he was in his early thirties, drawled. “You will all do big things. But Bryson is special, aren’t you, darling?” He turned a megawatt smile at my boyfriend, who grinned a tad self consciously back.

“Abeg, stop washing me, Rome…”

“Oh, I’m not, darling –”

“Excuse me,” I cut in stiffly. “I didn’t quite get your name.”

“Oh, that’s because I didn’t give it,” he said, turning his smile to me. The smile was arch. The one I returned to him was wooden. He continued, “You know, you get used to being so recognised, you tend to forget to have to introduce yourself. My name is Romesh. My friends call me Rome.”

When he didn’t speak further, I gave him a blank look, arching a brow as though to ask, Romesh who? Did this skank really think he was so famous he didn’t have to add his surname in an introduction? Who does he think he is – Cher? Beyoncé? Please! 

“Rome is something of a bigwig in the fashion industry,” Bryson explained to me.

“Something?” Romesh said with a sultry little laugh. “Oh darling, don’t lower my credits before the uneducated please.”

The uneducated?! I bristled instantly. What a bitch! And how many ‘darlings’ was he allowed to get away with in one conversation? I fumed silently.

“Anyhoo,” he continued, “I think I’ll circulate now. I believe that’s Uti right over there, he’ll want to say hello. Darlings, make sure you break a leg this night. Just a leg, you hear me” – he wagged a finger theatrically – “and not the rest of your gorgeous selves.”

The models laughed as he turned and sashayed away from us. The other two promptly moved away, and Bryson turned to me.

“Charming fellow,” I said, nodding at Romesh’s departing back.

“Yea, he really is,” Bryson said. “He has his hand in everything fashion – pageants, fashion shows, plus he runs his own modeling agency. We don’t run in the same circles though. The guy rubs shoulders with lots of celebrities. He’s never spoken more than a few words to me before tonight. And for him to be complimenting me and telling me all this stuff about my career” – his grin widened – “I’m totally psyched about that.”

I’m sure he means for you to be exactly that, I thought acidly as I glared at the man who I was starting to dislike more and more. “Anyway, enough about him please,” I said, smiling to take the sting off my words. “I just wanted to wish you the best as you go up there. I believe this will be the stepping stone to greater things ahead.”

His smile dazzled me as he said, “That is such a sweet thing to say, baby.”

“It’s my job to say sweet things to you, baby,” I replied.

His eyes softened and his gaze dropped to my mouth. I felt a tug in my groin, and instantly began willing the hard-on away. Bryson however didn’t help as he murmured, “And it is my job to kiss the hell out of those lips that say sweet things to me.”

“Stop please,” I said with a flustered laugh.

“Stop what? Kissing you or talking about my desire to kiss you?”

“You aren’t kissing me. So yes, it’s the latter.”

“I could kiss you now, you know.”

“Right, and land us both in the spotlight that has nothing to do with the fashion show.”

He threw his head back and guffawed at that. “You cheeky bastard, oya go joor. I have to get ready. We’ll see after the show, right? I mean, you’re going home with me tonight, aren’t you?”

“Well, since you asked so nicely…” We shared another smile, and I was on my way out of the backstage to find my friends.

I soon found them seated, and Ekene pulled me down to the seat next to him, before bursting out with, “You won’t guess who just arrived.”

“You’re right, I won’t guess. So why don’t you tell me.”

“Your nwunye di,” he gushed. At my quizzical expression, he said, “You know, Bryson’s girlfriend, before you came into the picture. Asri – that’s her over there.”

I followed his pointing hand to a corner of the room where the model held court. Just Asri, another Nigerian fashionista with no last name. She looked expectedly stunning, with her hourglass figure clad in a champagne-coloured mini dress, and her dark hair falling in loose waves to her shoulders in a coiffure that complemented the striking features that had started to dominate magazine covers. She was starting to become a household name in Nigerian fashion, certainly a bigger star than Bryson. And I’d found it odd that they’d split when he could have benefited from her celebrity. He’d told me he was the one who broke things off with her; why that happened and whether it happened before or after we started seeing each other were items of the news he didn’t impart to me. To be honest, I wasn’t that much curious to know. I tried as much as possible not to deal with anything that had to do with the heterosexual part of Bryson’s life.

Asri was soon pushed out of my mind by the time the event was underway. All eyes and camera lenses became fixated on the long runway, which was a river of moving colours, beauty and style. Music rent the atmosphere as the lovely models undulated back and forth the stage, the females looking so slim and slinky, and the males hulking with muscles that shone and rippled under the flashing lights. They strutted with all the confidence of those who were in their element, marking their superiority over the rest of the populace in the room with each gait, each pose and each smouldering look.

“I often wonder why models on the runway have to always look like they have a quarrel with the rest of the world,” Yinka observed sometime during the show.

Ekene and I gave in to some laughter, and I said, “I know, right? I mean, a little smile while you’re sashaying down the runway ought to help market what you’re marketing, right?”

“Nah, you want them to smile and forget to concentrate on not tripping to the ground?” Ekene rejoined.

The three of us laughed some more.

The moments Bryson walked the runway were the pinnacle of the show for me. His muscled body was evident even when he was wearing clothes, and whether he was flashing skin or not, I felt a surge of lusty delight ripple through my skin with every sight of him. One of the moments he stalked sensuously down the stage, my eyes involuntarily moved over the spectators, seeking out Romesh. I found him. He was staring at the catwalk, at Bryson, with a sort of speculative expression that made my blood stir.

“Relax, Dee,” Yinka said, when he noticed who had my attention, “that queen is certainly not a threat.” I’d told him and Ekene about what happened when I went backstage.

I believed his conviction, dismissed Romesh from my mind and refocused on the stage, and on my boyfriend.

***

“Thanks again for coming tonight,” Bryson murmured to me inside one of the stalls in the men’s room. We were the only ones in the convenience, but a stall provided better privacy for the intimate moment.

“You know, you don’t have to keep thanking me,” I said huskily. “I was very glad to come – anything to see you without your clothes on.”

He chuckled. “Very well then, I think I’ll give you a private show when we get home.”

“I’d love that,” I said, looking from his eyes to his mouth.

He drew the mouth closer to my face, raising his hands to hold my head and angle my mouth for his kiss. Our tongues swirled and fused together, lighting up a dazzling array of colours in my mind. I moaned and began to bring my hands up to his chest, but he pulled back.

He was smiling as he said, “Time to go, before someone walks in here to wonder why there are two pairs of feet sticking out beneath the door of one stall.”

I groaned, then chuckled, and then we walked out, leaving the convenience for the lobby. There were still lots of people around. It was getting on 10pm, and the fashion show was over. There’d been an exodus from the rooftop earlier, with people crowding into the elevators and spilling out downstairs. Bryson had asked me to wait for him, and Yinka and Ekene had had to leave without me. Now, he was done and we were ready to leave. I stifled a yawn as I thought about the long drive back to the mainland, feeling grateful that I had nowhere to be the next day.

“Hey, Bryson, just a minute please…”

Someone called his attention as we made our way out of the lobby, and he excused himself from my side to get swallowed up by a gaggle of fellow professionals in his career. I stood and patiently waited, bringing out my Blackberry to attend to some of my notifications, and occasionally staring lovingly at him.

“He is incredible, isn’t he?” a voice husked close to me.

I looked up with mild startle, to set my eyes on Asri’s profile. This would be the second time I would be up close to her, and the impact of her beauty didn’t seem to lessen with the reoccurrence. I was momentarily tongue-tied, and blinked at her, unsure she was talking to me.

She turned to me, flicking a small sheath of her hair backward as she did so. “Hello, Declan.”

“You know my name?” I choked out.

Her lipsticked lips parted in a smile. “Of course I do. Admittedly, I didn’t retain it the last time we were introduced. But recently, I have come to make myself familiar with you.”

“Me? Why?” I stared uncomprehendingly at her.

She turned her profile to me again, and said, “He stands a chance of being really big in this business, you know.”

“You mean Bryson?” I queried.

“Yes. He was incredible up there tonight, generated quite some buzz too.”

“Well, I’m sure he’ll be very glad to hear it.”

“Yes, I plan on telling him. I also plan on patching things up with him.”

My heart constricted. “Oh?” That was all I could manage.

“Yes.” She turned to face me again, and there was a sudden iciness to her beauty. “I want him back, Declan.”

And I knew without a shadow of doubt that she knew everything there was to know about what was currently going on with Bryson. And me. My face shuttered and I stared stonily back. “Why are you telling me that?”

“Because I learned from some sources that you’re the one to reckon with in this matter – not another girl, some silly, little bimbo… You.”

Adebola, you will go to hell for this! I seethed inwardly. Outwardly, I remained deadpan. “I don’t know what you’re implying –”

“Oh, I believe you do.”

“Even so, pertaining to whatever it is you think you know, shouldn’t you be repulsed? Running to the hills, with thanks that you managed a narrow escape? Shouldn’t you be leaving him – us – alone?”

“He doesn’t belong with you, Declan. He is not your kind.”

“My kind,” I repeated, tasting the words and feeling my face sour at the taste. “You remember that saying about going black and not going back?” I stared pointedly at her, and her nostrils flared when my meaning sunk in.

“I want him back, Declan.”

“You are welcome to try, Asri.”

There was no further exchange as she turned and disappeared into the human traffic headed out of the lobby. I stared after her, wondering with some exasperation at the fatality of these landmines Fate had set upon my relationship. Adebola, Romesh, Asri… You think you can cut me some slack to simply enjoy being with this guy? I threw silently and furiously heavenward.

Written by Pink Panther

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