I push the final piece of pineapple into my mouth and enjoy the syrupy sweetness of the fruit. Dropping the small, round saucer to the side stool between me and Lydia, I pick up the piece of serviette on the stool and wipe my hands.
"Want more?" Lydia asks, extending her own saucer where five slices of pineapples chopped into small pieces sit.
I shake my head, still wiping my hands. "No, thanks."
Lydia nods, and then dumps the plate on the stool.
"So, how are things going between you and Ladi?"
I try to shrug but my lips twitch until a smile finally breaks out on my face.
Lydia laughs and shakes her head.
"Wow! Look at that smile. You really like this guy."
"It is hard not to like him."
"Yeah, I know," Lydia says with a knowing smile. "Especially with the intimacy."
"Intimacy?" I repeat, an embarassed smile on my face.
"Yes, the intimacy," Lydia says wriggling her brows. "It bonds people you know. And hey, you didn't tell me anything about it the last time I asked."
"It is okay," I say with a casual shrug.
"Why do you keep saying it is okay?" Lydia asks with a bemused smile. "I hope you are not one of those women who just lie there and let the man do all the work."
"No I am - "
"Maybe you are just shy to talk about it."
"Not really. I...we are - "
"Mental conditioning," Lydia says, cutting me off again before I get a chance to explain the state of my relationship with Ladi. "Look Arisha, intimacy is normal. We can talk about it without acting like it is a tabboo."
"I am not acting like it is a tabboo." I protest with a laugh. "I just don't know how to discuss things like that."
Lydia looks at me for some minutes and nods.
"I was right. Mental conditioning."
"Lydia, it is not."
"Yes, it is," Lydia says, nodding with conviction. "You were brought up to see intimacy as a bad thing. That explains your reluctance to discuss it."
I give a small shrug in acquiescence, unwilling to enter into an argument with Lydia.
"People have become shy about these things. At the end of the day when they have problems in their relationships because of it, they just suffer in silence, instead of seeking help."
"Lydia, we are not having problems in that area."
Lydia angles her head, studying me with pursed lips for some seconds. Moments later, she shrugs.
"Okay, but listen to this story. My mum shared it with me some time ago," Lydia says with a smile, pausing to switch to a more comfortable position in her chair.
Lydia begins her story. A young woman visits her aged mother after a domestic issue with her husband, and the old woman is not satisfied with her daughter's explanation of the events leading to the misunderstanding.
Lydia slips into the role of daughter, mother and narrator. I watch her in fascination, enjoying her dramatization of the story.
"So the old woman turns to her daughter..."
Lydia shrinks her frame and sits with clasped hands between her thighs, cocks her head to the side and sags her shoulders in her old woman role.
"My pickin, you sure say na all de matta be dat?"
She straightens, and shrugs, now playing the perplexed daughter.
"Yes, mama. Na all the matta be dat."
The rest of the conversation continues with Lydia making different facial expressions and adopting several postures as she slips in between roles.
"Okay..." Lydia sighs, old woman fashion. "How di bedroom matta?"
"Yes, bedroom matta. No hide anything from me o! You know say na me born you."
"Mama, bedroom matta fine."
"Okay...how you dey lie down for bed when di tin dey happen?"
I make a face. "Eww."
Lydia stops and shakes her head at me.
She goes back to acting and realizes that she has forgotten her lines.
"Where was I again?"
"You were at the part where the mother asks her daughter if she is an ice queen in bed.
"Okay," Lydia says with a nod. "The young woman says, ha...mama?! How dat one wan come take consign wetin dey ground now?"
I laugh and Lydia stops to switch roles again.
"Na now I know wetin be di real matta between you and ya husband. E be like say you no dey give ya husband bodi for bed. Abi, you tink say na only food men dem dey like chop? Wey dat hankerchief sef?"
Lydia becomes the narrator.
"So the woman finds her handkerchief in her bedroom and collects her daughter's hankerchief to make them two. Finally, she holds up the two handkerchiefs before her daughter's face....wetin be dis?"
"Mama na hankerchief dem be."
"No...one na ya waist, the other one na ya husband waist. When im move..you move..Oya...."
Turning her hands down and pinching her forefinger and thumb together as if holding handkerchiefs between them, Lydia begins to wriggle her hands up and down, the imaginary handkerchiefs moving in perfect symphony.
"...shake am...shake am....shake am..."
I collapse against the armrest of the chair in laughter.
Lydia drops her hands and her acting to smile at me.
"The woman was only trying to save her daughter's marriage."
I stop laughing and mull over Lydia's story. "What if she was wrong, and there was more to her daughter's issue than intimacy?"
"Maybe," Lydia says with a shrug. "Either way, her advice was a good one, and shows that our mothers knew the importance of intimacy, especially how to be responsive to your husband."
I let seconds pass before I defend my relationship with Ladi.
"I understand your position on this, but Ladi and I are taking time to get to know each other. Unlike the woman in your story, I am not married to Ladi. I want to make it work with him, so taking a break from intimacy seems like the best thing to do."
"Fine then...it is your call really, but always remember the old woman's advice," she says with a mischievous smile as she reaches for her saucer of pineapple again.
I laugh and then fall into silence. The silence is long enough to make me think about my relationship with Ladi.
"You know, I did not plan for this to happen. It just did."
Lydia raises one eyebrow at me, fingers wrapped round a piece of pineapple.
"You didn't pray for what to happen?"
"My relationship with Ladi," I say with a sigh. "Sometimes it feels like a dream."
"Get used to it," Lydia says, pushing the pineapple inside her mouth. "Love happens." She chews and swallows. "I keep telling you...don't over think it."
My early morning conversation with Hannah comes back.
I just didn't want to sound like a spoiler, but it is all too soon Arisha.
You should have given it time.
It is just two months. That is not enough to know a man. What makes you think it will last?
Sorry if I sound harsh. You know I care about you, right?
I break out of my reverie to see Lydia staring at me with questions in her eyes.
"What are thinking?"
I tell Lydia about the conversation with Hannah.
"She thinks I should have waited long enough before getting involved with Ladi."
"I don't think so," Lydia says, shaking her head. "There is no perfect time to get into a relationship. As for knowing him...even married couples are still learning about each other. You guys will get there." Lydia moves her hand up and down as if bringing down an imaginary hammer on a gavel. "Case dismissed."
I smile, feeling relieved by Lydia's upbeat attitude.
Lydia gives me a warm smile and picks up the remaining pieces of pineapple on her saucer and shoves it into her mouth. I remember to ask why she has not been coming to the Compatriot.
"Uhm...lookin..fur 'noda job," Lydia tells me, her mouth full of pineapple.
"Changed your mind about being a journalist?"
Lydia swallows and then nods. "It got boring."
"You will change your mind if you spend more time there."
Lydia disagrees with an emphatic shake of her head.
"I don't think so...anyway, how far with the mint case?"
I tell Lydia about the latest developments surrounding the mint case.
"I think the case will be forgotten."
"Typical," Lydia says with a sad shake of her head. "I guess there is nothing you can do about it now."
I sigh and look down at my fingers. "With Ladi's uncle in the picture, it is really tricky."
"Don't worry," Lydia says, reaching to pat my hand. "Take it one step at a time. Everything will work out somehow."
Lydia and I begin to talk about other things and the day speeds past until the sun begins to lose its harsh glare. I look at my wristwatch to find that it is almost five p.m.
"I have to go now. Ladi and I have to go to his uncle's place later."
"Already visiting his family," Lydia says with a suggestive smile. "This keeps getting better."
"It is not what you are thinking," I tell Lydia, leaning forward to pick my black handbag from the floor.
"What is it then?"
The bag now on my lap, I toy with the short straps and endure the inquisitive gleam in Lydia's eyes.
"It is just a simple visit..nothing more."
Lydia shrugs, and rises with me as I leave her home. Downstairs, the road is full of pedestrians and several cars competing for space. We spend a few minutes searching the busy road for taxis and finally we spot one. The driver is middle aged with tired rings around his eyes. He barks out a high fare, I want to haggle the fare with him but I look down at my wristwatch and find myself running out of time. I wave Lydia goodbye, pull the taxi door open and sit behind the driver. As the driver joins the slowly thickening traffic, all I can think of is the house in Maitama.
The look on Ladi's face is pensive as he drives into the compound. He has been quiet since the drive from the apartment.
"Are you okay?"
Ladi turns to look at me, his left hand gripping the steering wheel.
"I think I am."
"Sure you want to do this?"
"I just want to get to the bottom of this," Ladi says with a sigh, one hand reaching for the ignition to pull his car key out.
We alight from the car and walk into the house, Ladi behind me. In the living room, Ladi's cousins are sprawled in different positions on the large L-shape sofa. Aisha is with them. She smiles and straightens from her half sitting position when she sees me.
Today she is wearing a pink hijab with elaborate white embroidery running round a V-neck line, and down to her middle.
"Hi," she says, the pleasant expression on her face drawing me like a magnate towards her.
I choose the empty spot beside Aisha, and greet Baba, Dipo and Joseph with a smile. Ladi walks to sit beside me. He has a short conversation with Baba about his uncle's whereabouts. He learns that the older man is in his study, and just as he is nodding, we hear two voices floating down the staircase.
"These two never come downstairs together unless they are up to something," Baba tells Ladi, looking towards the television area as if searching out something. I watch Ladi smile fondly in spite of the tension in his eyes. In that instant, I realize I am about to meet Ladi's uncle for the first time.
Copying Aisha, I sit spine rod straight and wait for the man's entry. He soon steps into view, a tall, handsome man in white kaftan, and a pair of brown elegant leather slippers. He is regal and almost aristocratic as he bears down on us. A woman strolls casually with him, fair skinned and wearing a floral print silk blouse with three quarter sleeves over black pants. Her hair is packed in a tight coiffure on top of her head and she is beaming as she looks around the living room.
"Full hou..se," the woman begins, her eyes narrowing as they fall on me. "And we have a new face."
I find myself pushing to my feet and bobbing slightly.
"Good evening ma."
The woman's eyes become friendly almost immediately.
"Good evening dear."
I turn to Ladi's uncle and do the bop.
"Good evening sir."
The man's reaction is more guarded. There are questions in his eyes as they move from me to Ladi. Just when I think I am about to be snubbed, the man gives a nod.
I return to my seat, and watch as Ladi's uncle turn to fix his son with a forbidding stare.
"Did you take that thing out today?"
Baba shakes his head.
"Oh...he did," the woman who I think is Baba's mother says with a snort. "I heard him drive in with it this afternoon."
"Okay," Ladi's uncle says, holding out one hand to his son. "Let me have the keys."
With a sigh of resignation, Baba stands up from the sofa and finds a small key on the stand under the television. Walking back, he places the key in the middle of his father's outstretched palm.
Dipo and Joseph who have been grinning all through the exchange between Baba and his father are horrified to find that they are next. They try to protest their inclusion, but like Baba, they are ordered to produce keys to that 'thing.' Leaving the sofa with scowls on their faces, they march upstairs to fetch keys that they hand over to the stern looking man in white kaftan.
Nodding in satisfaction, Ladi’s uncle turns to him, holding out the keys in his direction. Ladi stands up and collects the keys from his uncle.
“Help me drop them on the table in my study.”
Ladi nods and returns back to his seat beside me. We all watch Ladi's uncle stroll out of the house with his wife. As soon as they close the door, I ask Baba what the 'thing' is.
“Power bikes," he says with a short laugh. “He hates them.”
"Just because his friend's son died last week from an accident..." Dipo grumbles.
Joseph is next to lament.
"And we were supposed to drive to K.D this weekend."
I ask Joseph what K.D is, and he tells me it is an abbreviation for Kaduna.
"Now I am happy your keys have been seized," Aisha says with a shake of her head. "It is dangerous to be driving those things on bad roads."
Baba tells Aisha that it is not as bad as she thinks it is. Unconvinced, she cites examples of close friends and friends of friends that have suffered motor bike accidents. The men listen, but their eyes are on Ladi’s clenched right fist where three sets of keys are. Joseph’s eyes are almost pleading, and Ladi smiles at him before pulling to his feet.
“I will be back.”
I watch him walk away, loving his slow self assured strides. I know it will be some time before he returns. I hope his sake and mine, he finds what he is looking for.
I push the door to the study shut, reach for the switch on the wall beside the door and push it down. The sudden glare of bright white light forces me to squint for some minutes before my eyes finally adjust to the brightness. Turning back to the door, I turn the key in the lock and approach the desk. The keys go to the empty space beside the small pen holder on the desk, and I turn around the desk to where the chair is.
Pulling back the chair, I scan the table for the file I am looking for. The table is completely cleared except for a couple of newspapers at one end. I begin to reach for the top drawer of the desk when my eyes fall on a small piece of paper with the unmistakable scrawl of my uncle’s writing. I pick it up and read,
Lukman and Associates.
There is a landline phone number under the name and I reach for the landline phone on the desk. The ringing does not last for long before a deep voice comes on.
“Salaam Alaikum…It is funny that you should call now, Alhaji. I was just about to call you to say we are working on the libel suit….and as for your issues with the registration….allow me to assure you once again that you have nothing to fear.”
I assimilate this information as my mind attempts to make the connection between the man’s words and the mint case.
I pull the receiver from my ears and return it back to the table. Could this be the lawyer that was behind the registration of Billami Trust? What did he mean about working on a libel suit?
I find my phone in my jeans pocket and dial my lawyer’s number. He picks at the last ring and I inform him of what I have learned.
“Maybe this lawyer was responsible for that company you ran a search for.”
“I think so…hold on a bit…”
I wait for some seconds until my lawyer concludes whatever he is doing at the other end of the phone.
“Okay…” he says, coming back on the phone. “What did you say the name of the firm was again?”
“Lukman and Associates.”
“I will try running another search with this lead….let me call you back later.”
Pushing back my uncle’s chair further, I lower into it and lean back to deal with the sense of shame I suddenly feel. Hassan Aminu is my uncle and mentor. I am about to betray his trust.
I look around the room Aisha led me into twenty minutes ago. I had climbed the staircase on reluctant feet, overwhelmed at the opulence each step revealed. I had seen several gleaming corridors with life sized art works on the stark white walls. It had begun to feel as if we were moving through a maze until Aisha stopped before a heavy looking door, painted white like the rest of the house.
The living room is simple and quite modern with four mint green sofas backed by solid steel frames arranged facing each other. An exquisitely woven Persian rug between them. The flat screen telelvision fixed high on the wall beside the chairs is smaller than the one downstairs, but still large nevertheless. The horizontal blinds on the windows are rolled half way up, allowing the bright light of an halogen lamp somewhere in the compound steal into the room.
“This is where the Baba, Dipo and Joseph live,” Aisha says, hand spanning the living room and the doors at the end of the room.
I nod. “Okay.”
Dropping her blackberry on the sofa, Aisha bends over and shrugs out of her hijab, exposing a black mini skirt and white chemise under. For her petite frame, Aisha is surprisingly busty with a small pinched waist and moderately rounded hips. Placing the hijab on the sofa, she walks back to the living room door and turns the key sticking out of the lock.
“Only Baba gets to see me in these,” she says as she walks back to me. “So tell me, how is it going between you two?”
“Great,” I reply with a laugh, feeling a sense of déjà vu. It is me and Lydia in her apartment again.
“I love the two of you together.”
“I think you guys will last a long time.”
I thank Aisha again, and she is about to say something when her phone rings. She picks it up the next second. Her conversation is in a mix of Hausa and English. The other caller seems to be a girl. I can’t help smiling when she throws back and head in laughter.
“Walahi Jumai, you are a nut case,” she says fondly, and then quickly wishes her caller goodbye. “I am talking with a friend….you don’t know her…okay, bye.”
Finished with her call, Aisha looks at me. “Sorry about that.”
“Oh…it is okay,” I say with a shrug.
“My childhood friend…she just got married….”
“…and her husband seems to have a serious apetite for you know what,” Aisha stops to laugh. “Now she is complaining….she says she always looks forward to him leaving the house in the morning.”
I laugh with Aisha, and then wonder aloud if her friend dated her husband before she married him.
“Yes…briefly though. It was an arranged marriage, but they both grew up together. It made it easy that they liked each other.”
We stay on the topic of Aisha’s friend for a few seconds and then Aisha has tons of stories to share. They are about her boyfriend, his cousin, his adopted brother, and his parents. They are all humourous. I can tell from the genuine affection in her voice that she is part of this family. I have a fleeting moment of regret as I think of the mint case. If only…
I clear the recent call history on the landline phone, add the number of Lukman and Associates to my contact list, stand up from the chair and return the table to the way I met it. Barrister Ogida has not called back since the last time we spoke. I look at my wristwatch. Seven thirty.
“He will call later,” I reassure myself, pushing my phone into my pocket, turning off the light and leaving the study.
Downstairs my cousins are lost in a world of computerized football.
“Come check this thing man,” Baba says, turning around to look at me as I climb down the last step. “Huge improvement from the last version.”
“I swear,” Dipo concurs, his eyes glued to the running figure on the television screen ahead of him as his fingers work feverishly over the control in his hand.
I walk to the back of the sofa and watch them play their game for some minutes.
Joseph nods, taking his eyes off his phone to look up at me.
“Yes…Baba bought it online last week. It just got here yesterday.”
“Amebo,” Baba says, without looking at Joseph. “Simple yes and no, you come dey download for Ladi.”
Dipo guffaws, and then yelps as his player misses the goal post. He shoots Baba a wicked look as he pumps the air with clenched fist. I notice Arisha’s absence for the first time.
“Where is she?”
“Where is who?” My cousins ask in a chorus. Baba is the first to understand my question.
“Aisha took her upstairs.”
I reach for my phone and call Arisha’s number. She picks and promises to be downstairs in ten minutes. When she arrives with Aisha, they are laughing over something. I patiently wait for them to conclude their conversation. We are soon driving out of the compound, and Arisha wants to know the reason for my silence.
“I am thinking.”
“Want to share?” she asks, hand crawling up my arm to rest at the back of my neck where she begins a slow massage. I enjoy the massage and forget her question. “Ladi?”
“I asked if you want to share whatever is disturbing you.”
I consider her question for some seconds and shake my head.
I can’t help feeling bad at the look of disappointment on Arisha’s face as she shrugs. I feel even worse when her hand falls away from my neck.
“Are you mad at me?”
“No,” Arisha says, giving me a bright smile to back her claim. I decide to believe her and concentrate on my own thoughts as we drive back home. The mint case is getting complicated by the day. What does uncle Hassan need a libel suit for?
The apartment is warm and welcoming when I walk into it. Ladi is still quiet as he closes the door behind him. I move to the kitchen, desperately needing a drink. I ask him if he wants a beer and he nods, the distant look still in his eyes as he sits in his favourite sofa. In the kitchen, I pick a can of Sprite and a can of Heinekan from the fridge before proceeding to the living room where I hand over the Heinekan to Ladi.
Leaving my drink on the coffee table, I walk to the guest room. I change out of my jeans pants and cream and black chiffon top, wear my maxi dress and return to the living room where I meet Ladi on the phone.
“…sure I am listening….okay….”
I sit down on the next sofa and pop my can open. As I throw my head backwards to take a swallow from the can, I see Ladi scratch his head, a puzzled expression on his face.
“You want to see me now?”
A pregnant pause. Ladi sighs and moves his head slightly.
“..well I just got into the house a few minutes ago….I don’t know about that…..favour?”
I push to the edge of my seat. My knees make contact with Ladi’s knees, but he doesn’t seem to notice. His face is knotted in a tight frown as he continues his conversation. Then the call ends, and he talks about a meeting with Mr. Uchendu. I stand up with him.
“Was he the one you just spoke with?”
I drop my can of sprite on the coffee table the same time Ladi picks his keys.
“Can I come with you?”
Ladi shakes his head, already moving to the door.
I am hurt by his rather abrupt refusal but I refuse to give my feelings any second thought. I am worried about Mr. Uchendu's obsession with him.
“It is quite late,” I remind him as he prepares to turn the handle of the door. “Besides, this man could be up to something.”
“I know,” Ladi says with a nod. “And that is what I need to find out.”
“Let me come with you.”
“No.” This time Ladi’s refusal has a sharp note to it.
I stare at him in stunned silence.
“Sorry,” Ladi says with a sigh. “I didn’t mean to sound that way…but I need my space right now.”
With that announcement, Ladi pulls the door open and steps out of the apartment, leaving me shocked and rooted to my spot.
I lean on the wall beside the door, feeling drained as I look at the steps below me. I can’t get over the look on Arisha’s face when I told her I needed my space. Pulling away from the wall, I begin to climb down the stairs, my steps slow with indecision. Mr. Uchendu had picked Adetokunbo Ademola street which was only a ten minutes drive from the apartment. We were to meet on the curb beside Amigo.
I had wanted to turn his request down until he told me uncle Hassan owed him a favour. As much as the thought of being pursued by another man turned me off, I know I have to meet Mr. Uchendu for the remaining pieces of the puzzle that the mint case has become.
As soon as I drive out of the compound, I think of Arisha again and kick myself for my lack of tact. It is too early in the relationship to show this side of me. This side that becomes reclusive in the face of intense pressure. It was a side of me that drove my mother and sisters crazy. Only my father understood. It was a trait I had inherited from him.
Arisha’s wounded look flashes across my eyes again and I let out a loud groan.
“Not now Ladi…there is no time to feel guilty…focus…focus.”
My attempts to forget Arisha’s reaction fail, and I turn the steering just before I reach the end of the street and reverse back to the direction of the apartment. One hand on the steering, I call Mr. Uchendu and tell him a lie about unexpected guests. His tone is disappointed, but he suggests a reschedule. My mind is too clogged to debate his choice of next week Wednesday. I agree to his demand and end the call. Just when I drive into the compound, I receive a call from Barrister Ogida.
“I managed to find out a few things.”
I pace up and down the room, too restless and too heartbroken to be still
I need time to myself.
The words play on repeat in my head like a broken record. I begin to feel mind numbing fear at the reality before me. Were things changing between us?
“Maybe I don’t know him well enough…just like Hannah says.”
A few steps to the bathroom, I walk to the wardrobe and lean on it with my shoulder before slipping to the floor.
I need time to myself Those were the same words used by my first boyfriend Funsho to explain his drifting away until we finally broke up. I draw my knees up and rest my head on them, feeling the first wave of hopelessness hit me. At first I resist its pull, but surrender is inevitable and I give in to the tears.
The living room is empty just as I expected it to be. I walk to the guest room, hoping that everything goes according to plan. I had just one hour to patch things up with Arisha, and if possible make her go to sleep before my lawyer called back. There was only one way to make the plan work. I have to break the two week vow.
I hear the room door open above the din of my heartache and freeze.
Raising my hand, I wipe away the tears quickly as Ladi’s footsteps draw closer.
“Are you okay?” Ladi asks, finally appearing in my view. His eyes widen and then narrow behind his glasses as he stares at me. “Were you crying?”
I lower my eyes away from his own and lie.
“Your eyes are swollen,” Ladi says, placing one gentle hand on my arm to coax me to my feet. I go with him until I stand a few inches away from his chest. I keep my eyes glued to my feet, ashamed to be caught in my most vulnerable moment. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I apologize for sounding the way I did.”
I summon enough courage to look into Ladi’s eyes.
“Before I went out this morning, you told me everything you wanted to do at your uncle’s place. What changed?”
Ladi looks as if he wants to answer my question, but changes his mind as he leans forward to kiss me.
“I don’t know…” he says when he pulls away seconds later. “I am that way sometimes.”
I search his face for any sign of pretense, but find none.
Taking my hand, Ladi pulls me towards the bed.
“Let’s lie down for a bit.”
I lift my dress and climb into bed with Ladi. I have barely settled down before he reaches to pull me towards him for a passionate kiss, his tongue exploring, sucking, nibbling and teasing me beyond endurance. Surprised and thorougly aroused, I respond with the same fervour. It takes me minutes to realize that his hands have found their way under my dress. I pull back with difficulty, and remind Ladi about the vow.
“Consider it suspended,” he tells me, a sexy half smile on his face as he tries to pull me close again. I resist him, my hands on his chest.
Slipping off his glasses and placing them on the bedside table, Ladi draws to his knees, and tugs his shirt over his head. His pants soon follow and he comes back to bed to urge me out of my dress. I protest but very feebly as clothing after clothing is discarded. Kissing me while his hands travel in slow tortous circles around my hardened nipples, Ladi parts my legs before going down to disappear between the apex of my thighs. I lose control of sanity and decorum as sensations drive me to a breaking point. At last I shudder my release and Ladi pulls up to meet me with a chuckle.
“I think the whole street heard you.”
I stare at him in mortified silence.
“Was I loud?”
“Uh oh,” I say with a grin, and then my eyelids droop slightly, and I stiffle a yawn. Ladi watches me in interest.
“Not really,” I tell him, straining against his body.
“Great, because I am not quite finished yet.”
Ladi treats me to another round of foreplay and I writhe in mindless pleasure, grabbing at the sheets. Somewhere along the line, I find myself reaching for his hands and slipping his thumb in my mouth, running my tongue around the tip and down the length of it. Pausing to watch me, Ladi’s eyes darken and then he lowers his face towards me. I abandon his thumb, suddenly knowing what he wants to do. Letting my tongue run over my lower lip, I invite him in. His face splits into his signature half smile before turning seductive as he comes close enough to meet my tongue. We flick tongues, slowly teasing, drawing out, pulling in until Ladi lets out an low groan at the back of his throat and in one thrust, moves inside me.
I move with Ladi, hands trailing his arms, flexing back, neck and face. Sometimes I whisper words, but I don’t know what they are. Ladi is never still. He is always moving me to a new position. I explode in his arms a couple of times but the exquisite torture continues, until Ladi finally finds his own release. We lie still and I savour the feel of his skin against my own. When he rolls over to his back, I snuggle close to him, reluctant to break contact.
“You are actually very expressive,” Ladi says, minutes later as I yawn tiredly.
I press my nose to the side of his chest, feeling drowsy.
“And I should take you up on your offer one of these days..”
I pull away from Ladi’s chest to blink at him.
“You kept saying, fill me with your babies...give me your babies,” Ladi says with a deep chuckle.
I close my eyes, my afterglow replaced by acute embarassment.
“Oh God! I need a muzzle…seriously.”
Ladi laughs and tells me I have nothing to worry about. I believe him and then settle back into his chest. I feel his hands running light circles as if lulling me to sleep. I am just about to give in to sleep, and then I remember the mint case.
I watch her sleep and I can’t help fighting sleep myself. I know I must stay awake for my lawyer’s call. I turn my head to see my phone sitting on the beside table beside my glasses. I look back at Arisha and begin to pull away from her still sleeping figure but the innocence of her features stop me. It is hard to believe it was the same woman whose half surprised, half estactic, and half devilish expressions had kept me going over the edge as we made love. Arisha was by far the most expressive woman I had been with. Her feral abandon, coupled with her shyness intrigued me to no end. I know she is going to be a part of my life for a long time. It was a gut feeling, and my gut is rarely ever wrong.
Picking my phone, I leave the bed and the room, careful not to wake Arisha. Just as I enter the living room, my lawyer’s call comes in.
“Are you ready to talk now?”
“Your suspicions are correct. The man was responsible for the registration of the Billami company.”
“He is a highly connected lawyer. A senior advocate too. Many among my colleagues say he has ties with the ruling party.”
I listen to my lawyer extol the legal exploits of the man behind the registration of the mystery company that had sprung up to replace Hassan and Co in the mint investigation. I think about the libel case my uncle's lawyer mentioned. Who was it for? I find the answer seconds later. The newspaper where Arisha worked. The Compatriot.
I lie on my back, eyes clear and devoid of sleep as I listen to Ladi’s talk on the phone. Something tells me the phone call has to do with the mint case. I sigh and turn to my side to face the window. Watching the curtains sway lazily, I get momentarily distracted from my thoughts, but they come back again as I remember Ladi’s uncle.
Suddenly, I understand Ladi’s desire to protect the man. Seeing him at close quarters and knowing how much he cared for his family gave me another perspective into his character. He was no longer the well paid corrupt government agent the editors at the Compatriot made him out to be, but rather, a father, husband, and uncle to the nicest set of humans I have ever met.
“Maybe there is no need to go after him, especially now that the case is likely to be forgotten.” I whisper to the empty room. “The editors have nothing to lose.”
I yawn again, and sleep returns. Just before I close my eyes, I wonder briefly who Ladi is talking to.