WHORE Of BABYLON (Episode 21)

WHORE Of BABYLON (Episode 21)

“Mark, you sent me this address twenty minutes ago. Are you going to let me get there or do I have to cancel this meet?” I say into my phone, irritation heavy on my voice.

I cannot understand why he won’t be patient. I’d left Uwani this morning by 9 AM, despite my body screaming for more sleep. I sent a text to Kenny before getting let out of the mansion by the help, grateful that Jide wasn’t around for me to potentially run into.

I was soon on the first bus back home. I thought about Ife, realizing that she should be on her way back to Lagos and Iliana must have seen her off to the park, as I didn’t see either of them when I got to the room.

It is a little painful that I didn’t get to see more of Ife like I’d wanted. But I have her contact. We’ll always talk.

And yeah, Sage too… The connection with Ife, my animosity toward him, the plans I hope to execute against him…

Dark thoughts. Negative energy.

I close my eyes and will them away.

And now is Mark, who won’t stop beeping me. He has been calling every two minutes since we fixed our date, as though he is not assured of my coming.

What’s this driver driving bikonu? I think sullenly, as I eye the bus driver from behind, feeling a slight elevation in my heartbeat as he bangs through yet another pothole on the road leading to Trans Ekulu.

“Oga please, don’t kill me for my mother o.” I tap him twice on the back to get his attention.

He doesn’t even act like he heard me as he pulls at his steering.

“O bu otua ka olu gi di?” a man seated behind me asks.

I turn, unsure whether the question was directed at me. Then I meet his eyes and his direct gaze lets me know that he’d asked me that question.

Is this how my voice is?

What sort of question is that?

He appears to be in his forties, with a receding hairline that is more a result of excessive carving than from age, and a face that was probably handsome when he was much younger and minded his business.

“Yes,” I reply curtly and turn my face away from him back to the front.

“It’s nice. I like it. I really do.”

I turn to look at him again, my eyes narrowed in suspicion.

But there is an effortless kindness in his voice and an undeniable sincerity to his words that registers with me.

I also become immediately alert to the fact that we are in a public space, and that such a compliment from a man to another man is asking for trouble. I look around, waiting for a snort of derision or a snide remark from any of the other passengers, ready to strike at such an unfortunate person.

No one says a thing.

So I look at the man again, giving him a smile. He already has a smile waiting and upon seeing it, I feel a lightening of something inside me.

Soon, I am alighting from the bus and my eyes meet his. He waves and I can almost hear him telling me to be careful, to love myself. To keep being.

Of course I will.

The rest of the way to Chillins Restaurant, the place that Mark chose for us to meet, is too short a distance for a bike or bus, and yet too long – all thanks to the raging sun – for a trek. I groan inwardly and start along the sparsely-shaded kerb to the place.

So many thoughts begin to run through my mind as I make my way there.

What if he doesn’t like me? Pictures and phone conversations can only tell so much.

What if I don’t like him? Like what if I really do not like him?

Another unsettling question rears up in my mind: What if I like him?

***

I have only ever been to Chillins Restaurant once before. My mother used to buy Okpa from here, and that is how I came to know of the place. Okpa stuffed with boiled eggs. Who does that?

The food here is on another level of horrid, and I’m not the only one that shares this sentiment. The restaurant never seems to have any day that it is booming with business. And that is the reason for it’s the perfect spot to meet someone. It is almost always empty.

It is Mark’s hand I see the moment I step inside, raised and waving. I follow the hand first to the broad shoulder from where it is jutting out, then up the sturdy neck to his face.

And the first thing I notice about his face is how brilliant his smile is.

It lights up everything about his face, I notice as I draw closer to him, from the beam in his eyes to the creases in his cheeks. He doesn’t look conventionally handsome, but that smile gives him an appeal that is magnetic.

When he stands to hug me, his height of 6’3 dwarfs me at 5’9.

And he must be aware of how striking his smile is, because he won’t stop smiling.

“Going for a Joker audition later today?” I say as I settle into the chair opposite him. He has a bottle of cold water already half-drunk, and I suddenly feel parched.

I must have stared too long at the bottle because he calls for the server and asks him to get me a bottle of water.

“My smile is prettier than Joaquin Phoenix’s abeg,” he finally says to me.

“Well, it may not be running on any battery,” I say, “but my phone is. Your frequent calls almost ran my battery down.”

“Well, can you blame me?” He said, beaming that smile at me. “You have this way of making me feel like I have to be extra in order to get and keep your attention.”

I chuckled. “Oh Mark, it was twenty minutes. Did your mama never teach you that patience is a virtue?”

“She did. But she also taught me to go hard for whatever I want.” His eyes softened on me. “And I want you, Ikem.”

I am caught between annoyance at his use of my native name and panic over the tenderness of his declaration. Luckily, the choice to react is taken from me by the server as he arrives just then with my order. I hide how flustered I am by grabbing the bottle and taking several grateful gulps of the cold water within.

“Why don’t you like me calling you by your native name?” he queries the moment I am done drinking. “Aside from the authenticity of a native name, Ikem sounds more personal. More intimate. More–”

“More of things you’re not to me!” The effrontery of this guy sha! I ignore the flash of hurt I see in his eyes and continue, “I’m still getting to know you, Mark. The least you can do is respect my wishes.”

He smiles again, swiftly dispelling the hurt that was on his countenance just seconds ago.

“What do you want?” His voice has taken on a sensual chord, dripping suggestiveness and startling me with how much it stirs something recognizable in me. The last two times I felt that something, I was holding on to Bryan as he smashed into me in the dark of Iliana’s compound kitchen. And then I was staring into Jide’s eyes in the reception of Francis’s office.

What the fuck!

“Don’t do that again,” I say warningly.

“Do what?” There is a glint in his eyes, hot and inviting.

“You’re seducing me!” I hiss. “In public!”

He laughs richly and crosses his long fingers on the table. I study them for a bit. Isn’t there something they say about the relationship between fingers and the penis?

“Me, seduce you? That’s entirely your department, sugar.”

“How is it my department? You’re the one acting like a Hollywood heartthrob.”

“See? I have to act like someone to be sexy. All you have to do is sit across from me and be irritated, and my blood will just be boiling up and down.”

It is my turn to laugh. Unbelievable guy, this one. I hate that I’m enjoying him more than I would like.

“You didn’t answer my question.” He leans forward again and I notice for the first time that he has light brown eyes.

I drink from my bottle, a move to help me focus and take my attention away from his sharp appeal.

“You haven’t asked any question I haven’t answered, Mark.”

“Don’t be coy, Ike – sorry, Sizi.”

I smile inwardly. Someone is learning.

Ikem.

My power.

There really is an intimacy about the name. An ownership in the name such that anyone who addresses me with it lays a claim to me. That is one of the reasons I have been against random hookups and acquaintances calling me by my name.

But Sizikora is just that…a name. Appropriately informal. Befitting the distance I like to place between me and people.

“Well, you seem to have figured out the much of what I want. Call me Sizi. Ogwula.”

Although his eyes crinkle at the corners with hesitation, he nods his acquiescence.

“What’s your native name?” I ask.

His face starts to beam again, and I am struck by the force of how beautiful it becomes once it lights up.

Gah! He is handsome. My subconscious does a pussy-drop and lies flat on the floor with both arms spread out.

“Chuka,” he says.

“Chuka,” I repeat, tasting the name.

“You like?”

I nod. “You know what else I like?”

“Pray tell.”

“Food.” He begins to laugh at my answer, and I continue with a smile, “Yes, food. Are we going to get to the solid anytime soon, or is cold water the only thing on the menu?”

“I like you. I like you very much, you know?” He isn’t smiling now, and for some reason, this kicks at my heart.

“You like–” I start to speak, but he holds up a finger, silencing me, and with the other hand, calls the attention of the server.

“You’ll eat first, Sizi. And then you can sass me later.”

And in that moment, I start liking him. I start liking him very much.

***

Chillins must have changed the industry they do business with, because the food is incredibly good, certainly better than what I had when I was here last. When I mentioned this to Mark, who was only having ribs (according to him, he’d had something at the hotel he’s staying at before coming out), he said it was the effect of eating food in the presence of someone you like.

“My company is a sweetener to your life. Accept it. It’s evident in the meal you’re eating,” he’d said with a wink.

I didn’t bother rebutting because I suspected it was partly true. Even though I will never admit it, I find myself enjoying his company very much. Our conversation is salted with great repartee, and I am very charmed by his gorgeous smile and unwavering attention on me. In spite of his air of sophistication, Mark is very easygoing and has a good sense of humour.

The affection I saw in his eyes for me is unmistakable. That’s a good thing, I note as I alight from the keke in front of my house.

Does he know you have sex for money? He doesn’t seem like a guy who will tolerate such.

Then fuck him!

I am not and will never be apologetic for who I am. If he doesn’t accept me, then that’s too bad.

What am I even saying? Have I even accepted him? Hian!

With a toss of my head, I check the time on my phone as I walk toward the compound.

6.45pm.

The sun is receding, leaving in its wake orange streaks of light that mark the dark blue skies such that it strikingly resembles one of the paintings I saw in Dr Francis’ office – one of those drawn by Just James. I smile at the memory, noting how distant it all seems, even though it’s just been weeks.

I miss Mandy.

I make a mental note to call him before the day runs out as I cross the pavement that leads into my compound.

That is when I see Bryan.

It is the first time I am seeing him since that memorable night in the kitchen. Seeing him and remembering what we did that night cause a flush of heat to warm my face and pool in my belly.

I remember how his face was nothing more than a blur all of that night – and how seeing him in the light of the early evening feels like I am really seeing him for the first time today. Of the three men I have found myself getting drawn to, he is the least good looking, but he certainly has an appeal. There is a boyish innocence about him, and I note how strong and full his thighs are; I remember them slamming against my derriere as he pounded into me that night.

With Jide, what I feel is an intense attraction; a clash of emotions and fire. With Mark, it’s an affection that is insistent, stubborn and true. That feeling that comforts you with the knowledge that I can ask him to take a bullet for me and not be disappointed with his reply.

With Bryan however, I see a boy I could run away with and conquer the world in our own small way. We would probably wear bathroom slippers and have only one change of clothes and a toothbrush, but we wouldn’t care. It would be adventurous, edgy, careless and potent.

He smiles at me but it’s a half-smile, seemingly forced like he’s trying to minimize something. I do not know what to make of it so I just smile back, walking towards him. As I stand in front of him, I half expect him to grab my head and kiss me, and then proceed to take me right there, hot and without hesitation. I find myself feeling both exhilaration and horror when I realize that I might not even refuse him should he suggest we go raw again.

“There’s something you should know –” he begins.

“There you are!”

Mitch’s rich timbre pierces the air, causing me – and some neighbours who are scattered about in the compound – to look his way as he emerges from the corridor.

“Did you miss me?” I say as he draws close, arching my brows at him.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” he retorts with a smile. “Bitch, where have you been? I haven’t seen you in days.”

“Is Iliana back?” I ask conversationally as we begin to make our way inside.

It is Bryan who replies with some somberness, “Not yet.”

What is his problem anyway? He’d said there was something I should know… I hope he’s not looking to burden me with his feelings.

“There’s something we have to tell you,” Mitch says, pulling at my hand as I move to stand before Iliana’s door.

“Hey, hey,” I protest as he half drags me toward his own room.

Bryan follows quietly behind.

Mitch pulls me into his living room and then releases my hand. This is the first time I am in here, and I use a beat to take in the fact that he and his man apparently occupy the biggest apartment in the compound: a self contained apartment that is made up of two rooms, a kitchen and a bath stall. This space must cost a prettier penny than Iliana’s one-room.

“Something tragic has happened, Sizi,” Mitch says.

My breath catches. I cast a quick glance at Bryan, who is now seated but has his eyes fixed on Mitch as though he is avoiding mine. My mouth goes dry. I think immediately about my mother, my siblings.

Iliana!

Did anything happen to her?

Oh Lord knows I hate bad news. My knees buckle and all of a sudden, it seems like my legs can’t carry my weight. But I’m still standing. Somehow, I still stand.

“Tell me.” My voice seems distant, almost alien. “What happened?”

Mitch places his hands on my shoulders as if to pass strength into me.

“Sizi,” he says, “Sage is dead.”

Written by Delle

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10 Comments

  1. Fred
    April 24, 09:47 Reply

    “Sage is dead.”
    …and it’s not Amobi’s doing, me thinks

    • Delle
      April 24, 15:24 Reply

      It’s very healthy to think 😏

  2. Mandy
    April 24, 15:30 Reply

    So now we’ve met Mark. And we’ve met Bryan again.

    And I’m still positive Jide will be the one. 😀 Take that bet to the bank, people.

    • Delle
      April 24, 21:42 Reply

      😂😂😂😂

      My goodness! The pressure on Sizi now though 😂

  3. Olutayo
    April 24, 15:33 Reply

    Sage is dead? Sage is DEAD??? Who killed him? Wassaldis? After that jackass move he pulled on Sizi, he’s just going to die? Just like that?
    I feel so robbed!!! 😤😤😤

    • Delle
      April 24, 21:43 Reply

      Men wee hembaraz you 😩

  4. Adebuzz
    April 26, 01:08 Reply

    Sage is dead?
    No no, that asshole needs to be resurrected, he needs to have a taste of his medicine 😭😭😭

    • Pink Panther
      April 26, 09:12 Reply

      😂😂😂😂😂
      Someone fetch Jesus. We need a resurrection to happen quick.

    • Delle
      April 26, 21:54 Reply

      😂😂😂

      You know how life can sometimes be. The bad get away with the things they do. It’s sad but shit happens. Yeah?

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