It has been days since the interview and in the days that followed I grew restless and tensed. A simple marriage proposal had gone terribly wrong and everyone had demands. Mum wanted a daughter-in-law and grandchildren as fast as I could make it happen, Debbie wanted out of the deal and threatening scandal, Alex was threatening to go to Debbie, Goge was dying on me and the media houses were lobbying to cover the wedding – a rivalry I couldn’t understand. Having so many ‘friends’ in that sector made it difficult to decide.
I was way over my head with the roller coaster ride that I had signed up for and I regretted following through with the promise of getting married or pushing for an interview aired to millions.
This was all mothers’ fault! She had pressed tirelessly and when the opportunity had presented itself with Debbie, I was quick to seize it – good genes, brilliant mind and interesting personality. I should have told Debbie about Alex and her role in the façade from the beginning. If that had been part of the agreement she signed, her cheating and implied but ambiguous threat of going public with her affair wouldn’t have been so ruinous – and even if she did, only mother would be hurt and I’d make sure she paid for it dearly. It hurt that she cheated right under my roof, falling for her was not planned either. I wanted her, I wanted Alex…a tough decision and until she had mentioned public laundry washing and Alex had gotten jealous, I was just fine.
Mother saw the interview and had called to reprimand the surprise sternly and in the next breath demanding to speak to Iyawo. You would think after 38 years in the UK, she’d have cleaned up on her Yoruba acts. The phone had been given to Debbie and that was a fatal mistake. The duo had gotten in sync almost automatically and was laughing in few minutes like they knew themselves; Debbie turning on her full charm had mother eating out of her hand in few chats. Mother went ahead to cut me out and collected her number directly. Now, I didn’t know how often and long both talked. Alex, my partner was getting increasingly jealous and demanding too. He wanted to meet with Debbie and tell her I was his! He wanted to be known as my partner and be accorded same recognition. Being Caucasian and having same sex marriage legalized in his country, he couldn’t understand why I had a hard time accepting I was gay – bisexual. That had caused a big row and he accused me of playing with his emotions going on air to announce my love for a woman! I didn’t want to lose him yet and I couldn’t afford the chance of Debbie finding out I was going out every night to have fun with a man. I should have listened to Goge. Marriage was a wrong idea.
For a moment I stopped to ask myself why I was hell bent on getting married to Debbie Black and I knew why. My mother and perhaps a chance at being ‘normal’. If she ever found out her perfect son played with the boys and rolled in the hay with them, she’d sure die of a heart attack and I couldn’t have her blood on my head. A single mother, she was all I had and I was all she had. I was gay growing up but I had since upgraded to having preference for both sexes. Being bisexual was liberating and one had options. Women I came to love but men were my all-time favorite partly because they were my first and there was kinship with men that existed naturally – there were no pretenses and what we wanted, we did….until Alex.
‘She would tell me if Alex told her about us, wouldn’t she?’ I asked myself a hundred times as I watched her sleep in our new room. I was sure Vince would keep the knowledge to himself seeing that I had saved him from getting rape by some of my male friends….or would he? Surely one good turn deserves another. Debbie on the other hand was surprisingly cheerful not minding the fact that I had moved us to my new place in Ikoyi. It was a move meant to stop Vince from finding her or coming to the house in my absence. That aim had been defeated since her friends trooped in to organize showers and take her outing. The one named Uloma and Tina were the craziest but they were good people. A man could get used to been straight I thought as I watched them have fun at dinner and Debbie for the first time laughing hysterically at being tickled because she failed a question. A dark thought sneaking up on me as I watched her – perhaps she had plans of killing me without an heir after the wedding or she was probably pregnant for Vince already. What if she was? Would she abort it? What if she killed me and passed the bastard as my son? She had mother on her side and she had already signed the document. For the first time, I was afraid of what I was getting myself into.
Debbie was unusually happy and less interactive when we were alone, preferring to stay on her phone than engage in a conversation. ‘A new world’ she said when I questioned her obsession with the social media. Mother would call her for hours and both would discuss wedding plans and Debbie’s preference for honeymoon. Mother was more interested in honeymoon….the place where babies are made. The pre and post wedding plans fell squarely on my shoulders – Shola’s shoulder. My personal Assistant was flooded with work and was also acting up as the days got nearer. I knew she was uncomfortable with the fact that I was getting married and had nursed hopes of becoming Mrs. McGregor someday but I didn’t want her love suffocating me in close quarters. The puppylove eye and seductive moves was enough to disqualify her but she was good at her job and I was pleased with her work.
And then Debbie had gone out with Dan returning with smiles and an unreadable expression on her face as she watched me move around the house almost subdued. What did she know? Was she waiting for the wedding day to reveal her findings? Was Vince giving her the armor she needed or Alex had contacted her as threatened. If that was the case, I had a lot of damage control to do. I was definitely going to lose most of my business partners and clients if she decided to get even. This publicity wasn’t good although the bluff about publicity working to my favor had worked. Debbie came out with her demands sooner than I was hoping.
“I see someone has my mother in her pocket” I said finding her on the balcony. Alex was not returning my calls and a drive to his flat at 1001 Estate confirmed a change in locks. Debbie in a long maxi gown at the balcony looked rather beautiful in the night light and I was ready to find out what she knew and what she was going to do about it.
“Mother already asking for baby names” she answered looking up at me as I stood beside her. I laughed.
“If only she knew” I said in a tiring smile.
“When do you intend telling her you are hijacking a bride” she asked with a small sad smile.
“I wish things were different” I said taking a seat. The wedding was only two weeks away thanks to Shola’s planning abilities and resources.
“Me too” she said somewhat stressed.
“What are we going to do?” I asked finding myself smiling.
“First, get a new agreement drafted. Since you have no plans of dying soon, terms and conditions are invalid” she said going back to her phone.
“I won’t be doing that sweety. We are getting married and you are going to give your new mother-in-law babies” I said in a smile.
“I am not sure I will be doing that. Infact I took the liberty of drafting a new agreement. I will be having Goge’s place and you will have a wife that won’t give birth but opened to adoption. A very simple employer-employee agreement with a little marriage twist” she said looking serious and I knew she was ready to make her demands.
“I don’t see that happening” I said putting up a bold face.
“I think you will. Mother wouldn’t want to know her son loves men and forcing me into marriage when I clearly don’t want to” she had turned violent.
“How did you find out?” I asked already sweating…she knew.
“Didn’t take Alex long to find me. I am surprised you didn’t include that in the agreement” she looked straight at me and for the first time I wanted to deny my sexual orientation. There was the need to deny but I defended instead.
“I am bisexual and Alex is…..was” I couldn’t define it.
“A fling? Your love?” she was back to palming her phone.
“So, when are you going to Mother with this?” I asked hoping she would not.
“Not sure I should. I like mother and I want the job. It would be in your best interest to sign the new agreement. It should be in your email by now” she said and smiled.
“I see” I said, standing up and heading to my study. I needed to see the agreement immediately and I had the inkling I was going to sign the damn agreement.
What goes around does come around.
The man who sat with sunken eyes and subdued spirit had finished his sob story and Umar was surprisingly believing. Umar who had the nose for sniffing lies and conspiracies looked like he was satisfied with Caleb’s shabby account. According to Caleb, he was married to Alama, they were never divorced and he thought she was dead because of a fire outbreak 16 years ago. When I asked why he reacted the way he did when he saw her picture, he skipped answering and went on to reveal that she had been pregnant with his child, giving birth to a premature stillbirth and in few hours, his house had mysteriously burnt to the ground with Alama inside because she was sedated and probably was unconscious. He was a man who had suffered because of his loss. His reaction was because he remembered the last time he had seen her and he still missed her. But I knew something was missing here….that was 16 years ago. Alama or Debbie couldn’t have been that sophisticated, so matured and made-up as she looked in the photo. My instinct told me he had more to say than he was letting on and I felt like telling Umar to do his job! Umar, a friend and intelligence officer however looked rather uninterested and I wondered why.
“You said it was the devils’ work. What was the devils’ work?” I asked barely satisfied with his story.
“I was confused because you were shouting and calling the police. All these years, I felt like it was my fault she died in the fire and when you started shoving the picture in my face I panicked out of grief” he answered in excellent tenses. He was calmer now and spoke clearly. I could see Umar nodding nonstop and I wondered what was going on with Umar. He was usually the master ‘driller’.
“And what of the marks on Debbie’s back?” I pressed. He looked lost.
“Alama…or whatever, what of the marks on her back?” I repeated my question.
“My Alama had no marks’’ he said, his earlier fearful stance was gone. If his story of the house burning was the truth, then it was plausible that Debbie had survived the fire but scarred.
But I was worried because I knew in my gut he was riding on pity and his story didn’t answer my questions. Why was she afraid of men? Of being touched? Did this man have anything to do with it? He abused her?
“How old was she when you married her?” I asked, doing Umar’s job.
“16, no, she had just turned 20” he corrected and I caught his eyes shift.
“Where did you two get married?” I continued without pausing for breath.
“Vince! Stop” it was Umar. My face spoke volumes.
“He needs to answer these questions”
“Not yet he doesn’t”
“Are you on his side now?” I couldn’t help the question, upset.
“I think we need to speak to this Alama, Debbie. If there is anyone who has to tell us anything is the woman in question. How she survived, why she changed her name and why didn’t go back to find her husband are details that can help this case, if there is a case” he said quietly. I took a deep breath. I could see the direction this was leading and I didn’t like it at all. Umar was going to drag Debbie into the questioning room if I insisted on continuing with the barging. Debbie had to answer these questions and I wanted the answers – whatever they were but I wanted to have them alone. I just wanted her. All of her.
“I may have seen the lady on Television” Umar said studying the picture on my tab.
“Just keep an eye on him. I need answers and I am going to get them” I said taking a picture of Caleb before standing up, the move indicating I wanted my space.
Now more than ever, I wanted to see her. Was she really married to this man? It was unthinkable to imagine her with this clown but he spoke of things that were too real to ignore. Alama? Perhaps he was paid to do this I concluded. I tried her number for the umpteenth time and got the same dead tone. Then it hit me! She may have blacklisted my known numbers but certainly a new number may reach her.
They were soon out of the house and I tried Debbie’s number on my private number.
“I see you were married before” I said with annoyance. I heard her suck in her breath.
“Who is this?”
“Vince and I need answers Debbie, or is it Alama now?” I asked almost too angry to care.
“I don’t know what you are talking about and don’t call me again” she sounded scared and stiff.
“I think you will be calling me” and with that I ended the call.
“In police custody…” I captioned the picture of Caleb and sent it to her email taking a bite of the cold pancake. It was time to play the waiting game. She was going to call me, of that I was sure.
It was rather strange that after 48 hours of airing the surprisingly believable interview I got a call from a man named Alex Douglas. With an accent, he had asked for a meeting to tell me about my ‘dearest Kole’. In need of information that could help me with the pending nuptials, an arrangement had been made to meet him at Tango with Kole’s in-house driver. If there was ever a meeting I came to hate was the meeting with Alex. Professing his undying love for Kole was pathetic with his red nose and eyes pleading for a cancellation of a wedding I had nothing to do with.
“You do realize Kole set this up?” I asked after I let him blow his nose.
“I do and I don’t understand why”
“I swear to you Debbie, I love him and I think he does too”.
“Of course you do” I said a little irritated and ecstatic at finding out where Kole had been spending his nights. To think I was considering ‘settling’ with him.
“Are you going to help me?” he asked, wide eyed and hopeful.
“I will see what I can do” I said already tired of the details of their tryst and why I must ‘see that Kole was just getting married because I was pressurizing him’. Wearing my aviator to avoid being recognized, I made my way out of the dark underground club. It was absolutely unbelievable. Kole was gay and he was getting married to me without telling me about it. I was right about Kole being secretive on his night outings and his going red at the mention of speculation but I had no idea it was this deep. While I was somewhat disappointed at ‘losing’ him, I was glad I had the information I needed to make my demands.
The mention of new documents had him fidgeting and I watched sadly as he walked to his study to get a look of the demands I made. I was going to resume in Goge’s office as earlier agreed but there would be no heir and a quick divorce after 3 months on mutual agreement. Signing of a pre-nup to protect his assets is agreed to but I will remain as the Business Head for West Africa for a minimum of 10 years or until I resign or found guilty of negligence or corruption. There were simple logical demands and I was sure he was going to agree to them. I had gone too far with his mother and really liked her; almost considering a real marriage but he had to be gay!
Just then my phone rang. An unknown number, I refused to pick the call. Ringing again, I answered it with annoyance.
“Hello, who is this?” I asked half hoping it was Vince and it was but it wasn’t what I was expecting. Standing up at the mention of my ex-husband and my birth name, I was desperately afraid.
“I don’t know what you are talking about” was all I could come up with, my heart beating so fast, my mind going haywire. What if he knew….did he know? What else did he know? A demand to stay away had been voiced and not long after my phone had beeped and Caleb’s face was staring at me via my mail. He looked like he had just had a confession session. My phone rang again and I stared at the caller I.D…a new number.
“I told you I don’t know anything about ….” I was saying
“Alama?” a female voice with a distinct accent called and I froze.
“Mum?” I called almost too afraid to believe it was her voice.
“Alama” she called and I could hear tears in her voice.
“Mum!” I called and burst out in tears of relief! She saw me!
“I want to see you”
“Mum” it was all I could say. I forgot about Vince as I turned around blindly looking for nothing in particular.
“I am staying at the Sheraton. Please baby, come see me”
“Yes, yes…I am coming now” and with that, I was rushing out of the house in nothing but a tank top and gypsy skirt. Remembering to go get my purse, I decided against taking the driver.
In less than an hour, I walked into the lobby when I saw her. She looked exactly as I knew her at 10 years before father kidnapped me from school. She stood, smiling and I stopped briefly, holding my breath. She was alive! She was here. Almost in a sprint, I ran into her arms and the tears I had long suppressed came pouring down in torrents. She was crying too and in that moment, I saw flashes of camera lights and heard clicks of phones.
It was paparazzi.