This one’s for Toni Kuyinu, who inspires me in so many ways he would never know.

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“I don’t know where to go, I don’t know what to feel, I don’t know how to cry…so what now?” Rihanna, What Now.

#1

She had not seen him in five years. The last time she had set eyes on him was at his wedding reception, he had been dressed in a striking white tux, a black bow tie and expensive shoes that shone, his countenance not as bright as his clothes while he asked her not to leave.

She hadn’t said much, but had urged him to stop being silly, go into the massive reception hall that held hundreds of guests to join his wife and forget her forever.

He did not leave right away, he had asked questions she couldn’t answer, demanded to know why she couldn’t stay with him and what he had to do to change things.

She had told him it was too late, he had been joined with another woman some minutes earlier in church and she was never going to ruin his marriage.

She hadn’t missed the pain in his eyes or the sad smile that accompanied it, he had told her after, that she should go away then and never come back. And she had promised she would leave and never see him again.

She had kept the promise for five years but now she was back. She was back at his office, a massive law firm situated in Lekki, waiting for him to come in to work that morning.

His secretary, a chocolate skinned bright eyed girl with big glasses, who she surmised was in her early twenties had sweetly welcomed her and directed her to a cushioned seat at the reception.

She had nodded and without returning the dazzling smile the secretary had sent her way, headed to the seat. She sat, her maroon coloured below-the-knee dress, shifting upwards and revealing her smooth thighs as she crossed her waxed legs stylishly.

She placed her Zara bag by her side and restlessly played with her recently manicured finger nails while she waited.

She was nervous, nervous about meeting him and nervous about how their meeting would go.

She had promised to go away but here she was, back, to ask for his services.

She wondered what he would think and how he would react. She hoped the meeting would be brief and he would be sympathetic enough to give her what she needed as fast as she needed it.

“Dede”

She would recognize the voice in her sleep, the voice she had known all her life, the voice that she had heard formed from that of a shy cute little boy into that of a confident handsome mature man.

Her head shot up, he was around. He watched her with a blank expression from where he stood at the door, one hand stuck in his pocket, the other holding his tab and iPhone.

Dede stood up, her knees trembling and threatening to fall apart and her heart thumping, her throat was dry and no words formed in her mouth even as she tried hard to find something to utter to this man.

He still had that effect on her. The one he had on her seventeen years ago when she had allowed him kiss her awkwardly and the one that made him a constant visitor in her dreams ever night five years after she last saw him.

“You need something?”

She could sense some sort of impatience in his voice and she asked herself what that was about, he might not be excited to see her, but he didn’t have to sound irritated to see her standing in his office. She glanced at the secretary and realized she was immersed in work and completely unconcerned about what was going on in the little office.

Dede gathered herself together, she had always held her own. That had been the case since she was a little girl with nobody to care for her till she became a socialite who graced magazine cover, whose every move made headlines and who leapt in and out of marriage with several money bags. She never allowed herself to be looked down on, even when she was at the bottom of the food chain, she never allowed herself to be without the power she wielded everywhere she went and that certainly wasn’t about to change now.

“Hello Mr Akinbami. I need your services.”

Toni watched as she drew her manicured hand out for a handshake, she still looked as gracious and as beautiful as he remembered her to be.

He had always been in awe of this woman, ever since he first set eyes on her at the Williams’ home where she worked as a maid.

As a little boy of ten, he had thought she was the most beautiful person he had ever seen, she was thirteen then and was just stepping into puberty. Her boobs were small and taut and her lips which always seemed to be formed into a pout had intrigued him and every time he had the opportunity to grab a pencil and paper, he had drawn several images of her, kept them and then stared hard at them every night before he went to bed.

Every time his parents visited the Williams and took him along, he had asked his best friend and the Williams’ only daughter, Funlola Williams, numerous questions about their beautiful maid.

Funlola had told him everything Dede did during the day and night and the magazines and cosmetics she liked to save her money for. Funlola had also mentioned the “high heels” and “body hugs” Dede liked to wear around the house when her parents weren’t home.

That had made him be more in awe of her.

After three whole years of studying her secretly and drawing numerous images of Dede, Toni had finally summoned courage to talk to Dede. He had found her in the kitchen one evening while she was pounding yam for Chief Williams’ dinner.

Dede had been so occupied with what she was doing that she barely noticed the thirteen year old staring at her at the door. She had wiped the sweat on her forehead with the back of her palms and pounded the yam vigorously like a pro, oblivious to the cute teenager peeping at her.

After a few minutes of watching her with keen interest from the door, Toni had finally summoned the courage to walk up to Dede.

“One day you would pound yam for me too” he had said to her and she had looked up at him and frowned.

A few moments passed and she didn’t say anything, then she eyed him, hissed and returned to her business.

That had been Dede’s first reaction to him; an unwelcome look, a frown and a hiss. That had stayed with him for a long time to come and broken his heart in so many ways words couldn’t say.

“Are you not going to take my hands or is this the way you treat your clients? I’m surprised they keep coming back” Dede was disappointed he refused to take her hands. He just stood there, looking at her like she was a stranger.

“I’m sorry about that Mrs Bello. That’s still the name right?”

Dede could sense the displeasure in his voice, he wasn’t proud of who she had become. She had been married three times and she had been changing her surname as often as she changed shoes, she knew his last statement was regarding that fact. She felt humiliated, it wasn’t her fault she was the person who she was, life had just not been fair to her and she had taken the best of whatever had been tossed her way.

She wasn’t accountable to this man and he had no right whatsoever to judge her.

“Yes. That is still the name for now” her response was defensive, she wasn’t leaving room for a man who had been lucky enough to have the world handed over to him right from the cradle, to judge her for the woman she had become.

Toni raised an eyebrow in response, a frown forming on his handsome face.

“You have plans to change that too? Interesting” he said, he wasn’t in the least bit impressed.

“Can we at least go into your office or am I going to employ your services here in front of your secretary?” she snapped at him, his attitude towards her was really beginning to irritate her.

“Please come with me Mrs Bello” he said to her and led the way through the adjoining door into his office. As soon as Dede stepped in, he shut the door behind them and politely waved her into a seat.

Dede looked around the room before she sat comfortably in the white leather seat in the office, it was a medium sized room with walls painted cream, frames of Toni and the Chief Justice of Lagos state, him and the Governor and him and the president adorned the wall behind his table.

On another side, a small plasma TV rested on the wall, by the side of the TV, a shelf stood, housing many books which she guessed had to do with his numerous cases as a lawyer. She had no idea divorce lawyers kept that much material, she had assumed they didn’t have to read much like their counterparts who dealt with criminal cases.

Her last divorce hadn’t included a trip to her attorney’s office, they had simply communicated at her Salon in Zest Ville and sometimes met at the Fowler hotel on the Island.

“What do I offer you? Water? Wine…”

“Its rather too early to drink wine don’t you think?” she said to him, dragging her gaze from the survey of the room she had been doing.

“Oh well, I don’t remember the period of the day ever stopping you” he said, the sarcasm leaping at her from his words.

Dede wasn’t going to allow his words sting her for long, apparently the man couldn’t stand her for a minute longer and she wasn’t going to try to make him understand. Nobody knew what she went through or had to deal with on a daily basis and she was done trying to prove herself to the world.

She went straight to the reason she was in his office. “I came here to employ your services Mr Akinbami. I want a divorce”

Toni observed her for a few minutes, her words hitting him hard in the face and leaving him with mixed emotions, she wanted yet another divorce? For the first time that morning, he took his time to see beyond the pretty face and perfect make up and he saw sad eyes, very sad eyes.

She was unhappy.

That discovery didn’t make him pleased in anyway, it tug at his heart and broke it into tiny pieces.

“This would be your third divorce in five years.” He said quietly and she scoffed.

“Someone has been counting”

He hadn’t only been counting; he had been buying every magazine that featured her, reading about her online and following every development in her life. He had known about the first husband, Captain Harrison, who died in a car crash and left her nothing. And the second husband Senator Ilevbare, whom she left two years after they tied the knot and who had the press publish terrible stories about her months later.

“Why are you leaving him?” he asked.

Was he concerned? A part of her wanted him to be. She hoped the exterior which she revealed was unreal, that he hadn’t given up on her like the rest of the world. “I need to leave him.” she said, impatiently.

Toni could almost swear he heard pain in her voice.

“Why?”

“Just do something Godamnit!” she yelled and immediately felt foolish for it.  She didn’t want the man to know what exactly was going on with her. All she needed was his services and she would be far gone, living her life alone without the care of anybody else in the world.

“My friends say you are the best in town and I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t convinced you are the only one who can help, because you told me to go away before now and I was ready to stay away”

He couldn’t believe she was making him take the blame for what happened years before. “You decided to go away Dede, that was entirely you.”

That afternoon still haunted him, if only she knew how often he had thought of how she left him after showing him how much she could love him. it didn’t make sense to him that he still loved her, that he still thought of the moment he first saw her at the Williams’ home, that he still thought of their first kiss when she was eighteen and he fifteen, that he still thought of the first time they made love at his bachelor’s eve.

She nodded. “Just help me now, would you? I don’t want this to drag like the last one. I want it to be fast and without the mess the last one created. The last thing I want is the media having so much fun at my expense” she sounded tired, Toni noticed that too.

She was tired of the whole divorce process.

Her phone rang and she picked it,

“Hello”. It was her husband, she realized. Turning her back to Toni, she walked towards the window, looked out of the office and viewed the cars that passed by while she listened to the man she loathed with the whole of her.

“Where are you and where is my money?” She heard her husband yell from the other end of the line, “You think you can play a fast one on me? You harlot! You must think you are dealing with the other men you sleep around with, come home now and give me my money or have yourself to blame for the rest of your life! And you know I don’t give empty threats!”

Dede shut her eyes tightly as the call ended. She tried to fight back the tears that were threatening to gather, harlot, whore, prostitute, gutter girl. The words her soon to be ex husband constantly hurled at her stung and made her want to cry like a little girl.

She hated him.

She hated him and wanted to be separated from him forever but she was going to take everything of hers that he had forcefully taken from her first, before walking away from him, never to return.

She exhaled, plastered a smile on her face and turned to look at Toni. He was leaning on his desk and watching her, she realized his eyes held so many questions but she wasn’t willing to answer them, not now, not ever.

His business was to get her separated from her maniac of a husband without so much trouble.

Dede knew she had to go home first, pick some of her things and take it to the new apartment she had rented for this period. Then she would take the ATM card with her and hide it where her husband would never see it.

“I will be back soon. I have something I have to quickly take care of” she said to him and hurriedly left the office.

Toni watched her disappear from his office, she wasn’t fooling him with any of those plastic smiles or calm appearance, he knew she was hurting and going through a lot of pain.

He wondered if it was Chief Makun Bello who was responsible, his teeth clenched as he tried to imagine what the man was doing to her.

DEDE DID NOT EXPECT WHAT SHE GOT WHEN SHE GOT HOME. Her husband was waiting for her in their massive matrimonial bedroom when she arrived.

She had been shocked to see him sitting on a chair in front of her dressing mirror, a koboko in his hefty hairy hands and the ATM card lying on his laps.

He had ditched the agbada and buba he was wearing earlier for a white vest, which clung to his potbelly like a second skin and barely covered the bulging stomach.

Dede’s heart began to beat fast, afraid of what would happen next. She knew the koboko was meant for her; the man had beaten her many nights and raped her most times after and sometimes he had locked her up in the house, allowing her no visitors and leaving her to tend her wounds alone.

She was repulsed by him so much and wanted to be free from him forever.

She leaned on the wall, eyed him warily and watched as his fingers played with the whip in his hands, his eyes were filled with venom and anger.  Dede considered running out of the house but she couldn’t just yet, she had to pack her things, she had to pack some of his things.

He raised the koboko and pointed it at her.

“Omo ole ni e” He bellowed at her.

Dede had lived in Lagos since she was six and she understood Yoruba perfectly, she knew what he had just called her and the hatred she had for the man intensified. The man was a party chairman who stole the country’s money and spent shamelessly, yet he had the nerves to call her a thief. Bile rose in her throat and his presence began to make her sick.

“And I am going to deal with you” he snarled.

Dede wished she had a gun at that moment, she wanted to aim it at him and pull the trigger. She wanted to watch him go through the pain he had been putting her through for the past two years.

He stood and marched towards her like a Lion approaching its prey, she knew she was in trouble and tears began to roll down her eyes. This scene had played out so many times in the past twenty four months that she knew what was going to happen next. He was going to beat her mercilessly, then rape her till he was tired and then have her locked in the house while he released his ferocious Rottweiler into the compound.

She knelt in front of him as he walked up to her and grabbed his feet, then she began to plead, her body could take no more pain, she just couldn’t bear it anymore.

“Please don’t beat me. I will leave all your money, I will let you rape me all you want just please…”

The whip hit her back in two quick successions, leaving pain as it coursed through her body and seared her back.

She stilled as she took in the pain, the man was going to kill her and she was not going to fight anymore.

He grabbed her fourteen inch weave and pulled her up with force, not minding the pain he caused by yanking so hard at her scalp.

“I have told you I am not like the other men you sleep with and steal from gutter girl.” Then he discarded the whip and slapped her hard across the face, she swayed and hit the wall, the paint on the wall bruising her soft skin.

Without giving her time to recover, he pulled her into the bed, grabbed his whip and beat her mercilessly, while she wailed and cried for help.

When he was satisfied with the pain he had caused her, he removed his trousers and parted her legs, then he pulled out his erect manhood and planted himself into her.

His weight weighed her down, causing more pain but she bore it while he thrust in and out of her for the next ten minutes. When he was done he grabbed his keys and left the room.

Dede laid there in silence, her body shaking violently as a result of what it had just been put through.

SHE HAD HOPED HE KEPT A GUN IN THE HOUSE. Just like in the movies, the best ending would have been her discovering a gun in his house and silencing him forever.

But that was not the case, as she rummaged the last room in the house without seeing what she hoped to find.

She called the security man and asked him to get her rat poison, she told him she needed to kill rats and he promised to go when Oga returned but she had a problem with that. She did not want Oga to know about the “rats”.

He returned home very late that night, walking into the house with a stench.

Dede couldn’t quantify how much she hated the man and she wanted desperately to be free of him forever.

He staggered past her and headed for the room, she stretched her legs on the couch, her body ached with each move and she winced. Her body was in serious pain and sleep was impossible, so she laid there till morning, barely sleeping a wink.

It was either Makun Bello killed her or she killed him, but as it was, the former was likely to happen sooner.

She was still stretched out on the couch when she heard a loud bang on the door that morning, she wasn’t bothered. She laid there, not willing to move. If Makun had asked anybody to come over then he had better go and attend to his visitor himself.

The knock on the door continued and he began to feel irritated, Makun himself walked out of the room and stomped to the door in anger.

Dede didn’t turn to look at him, she wasn’t bothered and she wouldn’t have turned if she hadn’t heard Makun yell.

She sat up, still mindful of the pain in her body.

Her husband was being pushed into the sitting room by three men, the last of the trio held a gun pointed at him, Dede began to shiver, the end had come and she would be dying with her scum of a husband.

The trio barely paid her any attention as they pushed Makun to the floor and pulled the trigger.

Dede began to shake as she watched her husband struggle to hold on to life and eventually become silenced forever, she had wanted to do this for a long time and now someone else had done it for her for some reason she didn’t know and wasn’t willing to find out, that was if she was alive after the next minute.

The man who pulled the trigger looked her way and studied her for a minute, he frowned and looked from the dead Makun to his battered wife.

“Did he do you like this?” he asked.
She nodded, too scared to speak.

“You should throw a party then” he said and stormed out of the house with his goons.

Dede sat there, motionless, hours after they had gone.

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