Part 1 of Cash or Credit below.
9.00pm Saturday night at MacDonald Street on Ikoyi Road.
The temperature had dropped from the searing late thirties heat of the afternoon to cooling early twenties this evening. The wind drifted in consistently, rustling branches and swaying the mango, orange and guava trees that grew abound. Fallen leaves flitted across dirt roads and cluttered streets and the air was cool to the skin and tongue. Balmy breezes ushered in by the Atlantic drifted through the Island enveloping it in soothing euphoria. The swept up salty mists of the ocean harmonized with the citrus undertones sweetening the air, highways and bridges in a beautiful zest.
On streets lit by large halogen lamps hawkers retrieved wares from wooden shelves in market stalls; signaling the end of a work shift. The hustle and bustle of the day had wound down to steady rhythm, fireworks lit up avenues and alley ways with the neon signs of bars, restaurants and clubs as they opened, beckoning Lagosians to unwind and immerse the worries of the week away in laughter, food and live music. All across residential areas children gathered on woven mats for moonlit tales of make-belief and pretend that preach commandments, instill virtues and cement tradition. The youth lay on garden chairs in the verandas promising of days yet to be; ambition and hope alive in their voice. Elders sat across wooden benches and watched time pass by, sipping on palm wine and discussing old loves and renewed passion. A world where animals talked and gods ruled men were brave and women flawless. That world came alive as twilight unfurled….
All beneath a canopy of clear night sky, punctuated with twinkling stars, a night of magic.
It was on this night that Jen fell in love.
Jen stuck out her tongue and tasted the salty air as she soaked in Lagos at night, by no means quiet but compared to the pandemonium of the day much easier to enjoy. Standing at the curb adjacent to the traffic lights, her gaze followed a woman dare-devil cross the intersection in 5-inch kitten heels, all the while chatting on her phone. Wow Jen thought, now that’s a cosmopolitan lady.
Hawkers hawked, their chickens squawked and the party-goers paid no attention or too much
“U dey fear?” asked the elderly woman sat beside Jen on the ground as she fanned the coals of her open fire. In the bright glow her face was much wrinkled especially around the eyes and mouth, her smile lines entrenched deep into her cocoa skin and cheeks that slightly drooped. This was someone that had spent a majority of her life laughing. Jen watched as she carefully and almost religiously spread maize on the fragile wire and hum to her herself. The smell of roasted corn went up like a beacon signal and immediately orders were being shouted out by passers-by
“Mama put ₦20 for me oh”
“Mama Paul I no say na u be that now. U already know how many I want”
“ah ah na that one no be ₦20. I never chop today oh”
The orders seemed to all come at once and in a fascinating mix of Yoruba and English.
The maize lady merely nodded and continued with her separate and roast technique. Jen wondered if she even heard the request amidst customers yelling and shoving naira bills in her face.
“I say u de fear cross road?” The question came again.
“No Ma” Jen responded while pulling out a ₦10 bill- the smell is so delicious she just has to have one.
The old lady accepted it, tucking it into a small fabric pouch of her PDP wrapper and promptly placed small maize on the grill. She looked up at Jen for a minute and patted the large rock next to her.
“Wetin de worries u?” she persisted
Jen sat gingerly down and for reasons unbeknown to her proceeded to explain her impending date with Kabir- in her mix and match Yoruba, ending with the sudden realization that there is no way she could possibly be in his league so why lie to herself
“E ma worry” the woman replied smiling broadly at Jennifer.
“Na man knows wetin e like. Young young girls dey to worry if na for true talk.”
“I understand that but what if I get to really like him and tomorrow he no want me again” Jen answered with her eyes cast to the floor, watching the flames bounce of the almost translucent sand.
“Na tomorrow u go know that one.” The woman simply responded
“Na boy see u”
“E come meet u”
“Ehen now.” Today u knows say he want, tomorrow God go tell you.” And with that she dusted her hands on Yaradua’s face on her wrapper and picking up a cardboard flap with blackened finger-nails resumed fanning her coals to keep the embers burning.
Jen stared at her ready made fairy Godmother as her face was repeatedly cast in light and shadows, her eyes squinted against the sting of the smoke, the relaxed set of her jaw as she easily hummed, and realized that u only live once. Jen continued watch fascinated as she began to bop her head in tune to the music blaring out a car as it crawled by, the driver engaged in a recharge card purchase. This lady was completely content, it might not have been the path she chose for herself but at this moment she was happy doing this, with the breeze on her back and fire in her palms. Jen knew where she wanted to be. She was allowed to make a whimsical decision based on the stars, even if angels and guiding lights sounded stupid. Jumping up she hailed a taxi just as she was handed her corn wrapped in a Thisday newspaper. The woman then pressed a roasted pear into her hands as “jara” and promptly dismissed her with the wave of her free hand.
Jen spoke quickly to the driver “Ikoyi Hotel abeg” without even haggling for a price.
She waited patiently as he too bought two ears of maize- it really was that delicious and fastened her seat belt.
Arriving just in time, Jen paid the taxi man an exorbitant fee and unbuckled her seat belt still smiling; his story of having to battle a crocodile to win his wife’s’ affection had her in hysterics. The warm cab, good story and delicious corn helped to soothe her nervous state. After checking that she had no corn skin stuck between her teeth she emerged out of the taxi a relaxed woman.
As the taxi sped away Jen fiddled with her outfit, the indigo jewel cocktail dress seemed an appropriate ode to her guardian angel- hey bribery works. The string like straps shone against her fair skin, chandelier earrings gleamed from her ears and her neck lay exposed. The sweet-heart neckline cut in at just the right amount of décolletage- leaving just enough to the imagination to make it impossible to swallow. The dress grazed her knees towing the perfect length line and her legs ran for miles before meeting Mary-Jane black heels. Her hair was tousled to perfection with the tips kissing her shoulders in curls, her eyeliner, blusher and foundation were all MAC naturally. Strawberry lip-gloss- no guesses for that reason- completed the look. Now if only she could stop being so nervous, Jen attempted to rub her sweaty palms against her dress the same time the door porter took her extended hand.
“No thank you, I’m oka….” She looked up and into that massive chest and knew it was him. Kabir. She was ready for the effects this time, her throat closed up, her heart began thudding against her rib-cage and her palms began to heat up, once again drying instantly. Jen had no doubt he’d represent tonight, after all Kabir made office wear in season but standing under casting glimmer of the ceiling lights he was a vision in his white Dolce & Gabbana shirt- no cuff links. The salmon pink buttons stood against his chocolate complexion and the dark slacks made her love those narrow hips even more, a brown leather Rolex wristwatch his only accessory- yet here he was in all his glory. Kabir. My God he is beautiful, she could stare at him all day everyday. Her olfactory sense went into overdrive as she breathed in all of him, that unique spicy scent making her mouth water, she had to grip her feet to stay standing.
“You waited for me” Jen gasped
“Of course I did.” Kabir stated. “I couldn’t have anyone whisking you away. I was right to do so too cos u look beautiful. Like all my blessings come true” Kabir leaned in ever so closely and stared into her irises. Raising his hand slowly he caressed her left shoulder, just catching the ends of her hair. Twirling his long fingers around the wispy strands he mouthed you look beautiful.
“You look good too”
“Ah…no u’re a masterpiece. To be with you here tonight, I must have done something right”
Jen began to blush furiously, damn her milky complexion.
“Im really hungry Kabir.” He seemed likely to whisper sweet nothings in the foyer all night, with the concierge listening to every word.
“So u’re into the oriental hmm.” She wishes he would stop looking at her like she was ice-cream. On the other hand she didn’t want him to stop; he made her feel like she was the only person in the world.
They had a staring contest as she allowed herself to be lost in those almond eyes. For a flicker of a second it seemed like they held the power to do damage to her soul. Every time he blinked- which wasn’t often, Jen suddenly felt like she had been shut out of a magical world. She wanted to explore him, understand every little speck and she wanted her heart to be in tune with that bemused expression he wore in the elevator when they first met. The one that made her heart flutter, her lungs expand until it felt like she couldn’t be any happier.
He held her hand in that way that said it belonged there and stared at her as they were led to a non-smoking area of the Thai restaurant.
The head waiter muttered something about specials but Jen was too busy studying the arc of his eye-brows how they were dark and bold, a huge contrast to his pretty almost delicate eyes which were a mixture of vanilla and chocolate with a hint of gold. It was like looking into an angel’s halo, the way it glinted back at her.
Handing the waiter her menu Jen simply nodded to whatever made him so animated and said thank you, Kabir asked for the same and the waiter collected their menus.
This was moving too fast, they met two days ago, spoke for the entire length of Friday but that doesn’t explain this connection, a connection so strong it felt like they are the big picture and not just a part of it. Like everyone was just a guest in their world, a contestant on their island. Guiding lights be damned this isn’t normal, panic set in and Jen began babbling.
“So Orientals huh. I love the east u know, I’ve always wanted to go but I keep putting it off for strange reasons. My friend had this geisha themed room back when we were in college and an actual framed kimono. Not a real one of course –cos those are too expensive but a really good mock up. Even her wardrobe had sliding doors, just like in Kiyoto its amazing with all the bright colors how vibrant the culture is. Isn’t it? I mean I thought that….”
His warm hand grazed the side of her face halting her mid-sentence; she had lost all her air again. Inhaling strongly she breathed him- all of him in. The delicious spice that made her giddy and light-headed. Those light brown fingers traced her cheek bones stopping to rest at her top lip. His long index finger traced her cupids bow and Jennifer purred….he looked at her, she gazed at him. His strawberry lips got closer to her dusty pinks and
“Here is your meal” the waiter announced with a flourish. The heavily scented steam rose up clouding Jen’s vision of Kabir
“For you madam and for you sah” Dropping two plates heaped with noodles and strips of chicken coated in soy sauce onto their table the waiter remained at their sides beaming like he cooked the damn meal himself.
Kabir’s annoyed sigh reached the waiter as he stood at his side, awaiting the taste test.
“I shall come back to see how the meal progressed” and with that he scampered away confused.
Moment ruined. Magic lost. Jennifer stayed very still hoping she and Kabir could just pick up from where they left of. She watched his right hand crawl towards hers on the table and just when it was an inch away the aroma of the food hit her empty tummy. Instinct taking over she dove for her fork and dug in much to Kabir’s delight. He chuckled as he watched her roll heaps of stringy noodles onto her fork; Jennifer made a face at him as she ohhed and ahhed with each bite.
Before the stupid banza waiter showed up it seemed like something magical was about to happen, not a kiss but something deeper. To Kabir it felt like he was about to seal the deal to some unspoken agreement they had brokered as they looked into each others eyes. They had reached a conclusion, about eternity. Oh damn it, the kiss would have explained everything but the Dan iska of a waiter had ruined it all. May 1000 maggots infest his home, and may the lagoon frogs have residence there.
Kabir wasn’t one to enjoy mundane things-like watching someone eat but Jennifer managed to turn it into a seduction session. She bit her lip as she slowly intertwined the noodles in the prongs of the fork and she stared at it the entire way to her mouth, chewing as if to savor each morsel, enticed with each flavor then pouting those lips in an ohhh. Wow he wasn’t even hungry anymore. At least not for heavily spiced noodles…
“If you think staring at me like that is going to put me off my food, then u don’t know me very well” Jen said as she forked a chicken strip into her mouth licking the sauce of her bottom lip in an exaggerated motion
“Ah I would think off no such thing” Kabir smiled
“My people take food seriously” Jen continued
“The only thing Edo people take seriously is their black magic’ Kabir teased
Jennifer laughed. Being Edo but looking half-caste always came with the territory of jazz and being deported from Italy. She found the whole thing hilarious.
“At least we don’t spend our time forming life time friendships with cows” she shot back
“Cows are amazing creatures” Kabir responded in a serious tone
They both collapsed in laughter causing Jen to nearly choke on her food. They passed the rest of the dinner teasing each other, exchanging childhood stories and trading embarrassing events. No talk of exes or bruised egos, for this time and space was theirs alone. No one existed…it didn’t matter. Jen would occasionally respond in cow talk by mooing out syllables explaining to Kabir that she was sure it made him feel comfortable. Kabir would respond by asking how many pregnant flies and lesbian peacocks it would take to cure her delusions, laughing Jen would respond that lesbianism used to be a hobby of hers.
After her meal Jen was full and her cheeks ached from laughing so hard, she was certain her face was bright red and her top lip covered in a light sweat from the heat of her noodles but she never felt more beautiful. Laughing and trading borderline inappropriate jokes with Kabir made her feel like the luckiest girl in the world. She watched as he arranged the salt and pepper shakers to explain the distance from his hostel to his secondary school girlfriend’s room, an act that got him isolated for two weeks. All because he wanted her to get her vals gift at exactly 1min past midnight. “The funny thing is” Kabir said as Jennifer collapsed in giggles when he explained the part of pretending to be deaf when he was eventually apprehended by the night watch man.
“The funny thing is she dumped me the minute I got out” Kabir bowed his head laughing.
“Awww moo moo moo moo? Moo moo moo moo” Jennifer said sympathetically
Kabir merely shook his head muttering “The women I pick up. Baba will have to fix this one too.”
He sighed “It’s a good thing Edo jazz is so strong”
“See your big head” Jennifer hissed
“Ah! She speaks…..wow, the mere mention of powerful Baba Edo and she speaks”
The waiter brings their dessert and Jennifer proceeds to make love- there’s no other word for it- to the chocolate mousse cake.
Licking whipped cream off her manicured fingers and smiling at him like that, this girl should stop playing with him. Breaking a bit off the triangle she spoons it into her mouth and tilts her head back sighing. Allah help me Kabir sighed, this girl will be my undoing. Keeping her eyes closed she performs his favorite trick and darts her pink tongue over her juicy bottom lip. Kabir exhaled sharply and steeled himself for the oooh that would inevitably be coming next. Oh there it was, moan.
“Jennifer.” He barely whispered
She looked up at him with those dark eyes
“What?” she answered innocently but the sly smile gave her away.
“Here, u have some” and with that she ran a finger across the soft chocolate sprinkles and ran it along his top lip. Kabir opened his mouth but Jennifer just continued to trace and re-trace his top lip. He reached out to bring her finger closer but Jen was faster, she retrieved her finger and placed it on her tongue slowly, never once breaking eye contact.
“Subahanallah” Kabir exclaimed. Jumping out of his chair he whistled to the head waiter to come forward. Gesturing to their empty plates he reached into his suit jacket and dropped a thick wad of ₦1000 notes on the table. This was twice their bill at least, and then some. Before Jennifer could ask if he’d gone insane, Kabir pulls her out of her chair and half-carries, half-drags her out of the very full restaurant. Jennifer hearing his labored breathing was finding it difficult pretending to be upset. The waiters all rushed to their vacant table- some even leaving customers they had previously been attending to and on checking that the ₦1000 notes were consistent all through the bundle, began loud ovations in Kabir’s honor.
“ahh Chairman u do well oh”
“God bless you sah”
“E go better for you”
“Your mama goes enjoy”
“Jesus go bless you times two”
It was completely over the top, the head waiter in particular kept bowing; so embarrassing, the whole restaurant was staring at them. Jennifer loved it!
As they- or rather Kabir stormed outside Jennifer gave up on her righteous indignation; it sounded false to her own ears. Kabir abruptly set her down and exclaimed
“What are you trying to do to me?” His breathing was less labored and he stared at her in a mixture of exasperation and desire. Before Jen could respond, a shimmering reflection of blue caught her eye and she gravitated towards it. Turning left at the entrance hall she approached the swimming pool, the dimmers had been set but the moon reflected in sharp blue water. The tall buildings that housed the hotel rooms of Ikoyi Club flanked the pool, the view to the parking lot was blocked off by large heavily flowered trees; creating semi-privacy. She stared up at the full moon and innumerable twinkling stars and could almost feel the electricity in the air. Jen never heard Kabir walk up behind her but she smelt him long before his warm hands rested on her shoulders. He kissed her hair then her forehead, running his nose along the side of her face, his breathe heavy against her neck. There is no way she smelt half as good as he did…..
Turning her around slowly he muttered “Do u even know what you do to me?”
“I could ask the same thing of you” Jen sighed in response
“Im usually in soo much control, but u bedazzle me” Kabir stared at Jen for a long time after that
“Im going to kiss you now” Kabir whispered. Jennifer’s air caught in her throat.
He leaned in slowly and paused an inch away from her face, Jen thought he’d changed his mind until she noticed the question in his eyes. How could he think she would want anything else, need anything else but his lips against hers?
“Yes” Jen answered and before the last enunciation was slid from her lips Kabir kissed it into the salty air. His kiss was urgent but his lips soft, oh so soft. Jennifer expected an arrhythmia as their tongues danced in each others mouths but she got a lot more. The minute his lips touched hers her heart stopped beating, the electric shock coursed through her veins, jolting her entire system back to life. Her heart beat for him, with his, trumpets roared, horn blared, drums beating to the rhythm of their hearts, a rocket took off somewhere in Kazakhstan. All Jen knew was that she had found her center. This is the kiss that awoke princesses from deep slumber, reversed evil curses, and re-arranged the stars. Kabir was her prince. It couldn’t stop here.
“Jennifer” Kabir breathed as he finally broke for air
“Kabir” she sighed back.
He began to kiss her shoulders- soft, wet kisses- as Jennifer licked the perspiration off his Adam apple. It bobbed up and down as he swallowed furiously. Her eyelashes tickled the length of his neck and his body trembled in response. Sliding the thin straps off her shoulders he began to trail kisses down her to her bosom; Jennifer was two steps ahead of him as she unbuttoned his shirt with unsteady hands. Her fingers spending way too long on each button as Jen’s frazzled nerved struggled to find co-ordination.
Kabir pulled down her dress to waist level, unhooking her strapless black lace bra with a flick of his wrist, he bent his head to lightly graze her pink erect nipples with his teeth. Jennifer arched her damp back even higher and pulled his head tighter to her breast. His name continuously sighed over and over from her lips as he drove her mind and body to the edges of ecstasy. Kabir slid one hand down her narrow fair back and cupped a firm buttock; Jen bit her lip till she drew blood.
There was no need for finesse as she pulled his shirt off his back; she watched the beauty that he was; dark muscles rippling in the moon light. Kabir laid Jen gently on his shirt spread out against the cold concrete floor beside the pool steps. Leaning over her, he hesitated, Jen kissed the question from his lips before there were even uttered- of course she was sure. Reaching into his pocket for a condom Jennifer rolled the rubber over his thick shaft, long, black and hard. Just as perfect, as he was. Kabir her prince. Thrusting into her slowly Jen begged him for more. She wanted all of him in her.
“Not yet, my pet” he whispered.
Holding her head steady Kabir locked eyes with the object of his undoing and painfully kept the bulk of him off her. Angling most of his weight on his elbows he arched his body over hers. Staring in amazement as the pool cast blue shadows over her exquisite face. Those pink lips that tasted just as he thought, her face glistened in sweat. Overcome by desire Kabir crushed his lips to Jen in a ferocious kiss.
Jen pleaded for more and deliciously slowly her prince meted out desire in high doses. The peaks became higher and more furious; Jennifer finally impatient gripped the base end of Him, pulling all of 7 inches into her as she tightened her thighs. Kabir taken by surprise lost his stability and fell onto her, Jen welcomed the weight- after all she wasn’t fragile- the feel of his slick chest on hers, nipples hardened by desire his member filled her completely and Jen purred long and contentedly. Kabir felt paralyzed by the same desire that fuelled him, barely able to move he struggled to contain a growl as Jen began to roll her hips. Their silhouettes cast murky figures on the surface of the pool, as their bodies moved in a rhythm as old as time. Days, months, minutes or hours Jen remained encapsulated in a desire so savage it defied convention. Her back arched higher and higher with each thrust and at the peak her body convulsed, the tremor running through her spine. Jennifer saw heaven.
An hour later they sat in the back of a yellow taxi kissing, touching and pledging eternity to one another. Jennifer knew those eyes now, they were her kingdom. As Kabir walked her to her front door he looked down as those exquisite lips curve into a smile and completely surrendered himself to the force of nature that was this woman. It had been five hours since she stepped out of that taxi, changing his focus, altering his world. Holding her to him, he mused on the few hours they would spend apart till they met up again at Holloway on Monday morning. My beloved she whispered to him…
Up above the planets re-aligned and Jen was matched to Kabir, their souls entwined by The Fates themselves, but as they say in Lagos No Condition is Permanent abi.
To be continued........