Toni was feeling woozy. The pinkish liquid in the glass was the fourth that night and it was beginning to take its toll on her.
Emptying it all in her mouth, she told herself it was the last glass of cocktail before she called it a night.
While she had been married to Michael, she’d never really hung out without him, neither had she taken alcohol without him present.
However, since he left her, she had to drink without him there and of course, without her companion for the night worried about her.
“It’s just cocktail abeg, you will be alright.” Tania had said to her when she declined the now empty glass. “It’s called shallow babe for a reason; it’s cause you don’t really feel a thing until you take like 10 glasses.”
They had a joke between them – Tania could exaggerate ‘for Africa’, whenever she said something, she was either blowing it out of proportion or underplaying it.
She did the former more than the latter most times and Toni had learnt not to rely on her or take her version of things seriously.
Once, she had told her to try a certain hair product.
“Your hair goes tender in max five minutes and no product around here would give you the results it would give,” she’d said too many times until Toni grabbed two cups of the product from the hair and skin care aisle in Shoprite.
Days later, she ended up in a Dermatologist’s office, Tania’s recommended product had not only damaged her hair, her scalp was on fire.
“Hian, and it worked for me o.” she’d said in her defense when Toni confronted her.
But somehow, she had found herself listening to her that night. Something she shouldn’t have bothered with at all.
She pasted a smile on her face when the hot chocolate she’d met only minutes before looked her way.
“Are you okay?” he asked and she nodded quickly. Maybe too quick, because he had a frown on his face when he asked again, “Are you sure?”
“One hundred!” she said with two thumbs up. He nodded slowly, unconvinced and looked at Tania who was flirting with a man close to her. “Do you want me to get your friend?”
Toni looked at Tania and considered it. She was about to nod when she saw Tania’s pointy nails beautifully painted in blue run up the man’s chest. He was also responding to her.
Toni knew she could not afford to be a party pooper. And if Tania was having fun, there was no need getting in her way.
“No, she’s having fun!” she yelled over the loud music. It was Ycee’s Omo Alhaji playing and she found herself nodding her head to the beat.
There was something sexy about the song – it almost made her jump on her feet and attempt to wriggle her waist.
Her attention was drawn to the buxom beauty swinging on the gold pole in front of them. She was a fan of the music too, because her dancing seemed to have taken on an excitement Toni didn’t see before.
The fine man near her moved an inch closer to her. When his body touched hers, she took in a long deep breath.
Was it the alcohol or did she actually feel something move in her when he shifted closer?
“That’s my Mentor by the way,” he said about the man Tania was now throwing her arms around.
“Oh, the one who owns this place?” she quizzed, then went ahead to ask the question she wanted to ask when she was sober “Why does he own a strip club though?” then when her companion frowned, she quickly added “Forgive my manners but…”
He burst out laughing then, confusing her.
“What’s funny?” she asked him.
He shook his head, “Nothing really. You just seem utterly confused that someone would think of opening a strip club.”
She shrugged, “Well, yes I am. It’s unconventional…”
“… unconventional is normal.” He pointed out and she nodded.
“I guess I’m just not used to seeing this.” She said
“What are you used to seeing?” he asked her and even though his hands weren’t touching her, she suddenly felt like she could feel his touch all over her.
It was a really strange feeling but what seemed stranger was how she actually wondered what it would feel like if his body was pressed hard against hers.
“Toni!” her attention was immediately drawn to a laughing Tania, who stood and adjusted her short dress. “Come and follow me to the Toilet,” she said and drew Toni up from her seat. “She’d be right back, Lummy.” She added as they made their way for the Ladies.
Tania was already referring to him as ‘Lummy’, like she belonged to his inner circle or like they had known each other longer than some minutes.
But it was how she was and how Toni felt she could never be.
Tania warmed up to people in a few minutes or hours and she never really disliked anyone. It was a sharp contrast to who she really was – she who never made friends until they made her.
Her brother used to say she had never made friends all her life, “They make you.” He would tease her whenever she insisted she had more than one friend in her life.
It was how it had always been with her. Her best friend at the University, Rekiya, a Northerner whom she’d met in the bathroom one day when the water suddenly stopped running and she’d had to wait, naked, soap on her face and body while the situation was being handled, had been the one who spoke to her first.
Toni had spotted her first but Rekiya had made the first move.
And they hadn’t even become friends until they ran into each other five times at the Library.
Later, Rekiya had said she thought Toni was a snub and she wondered what sort of person felt burdened to make conversations with other people.
And after she left the US, Rekiya had gone to Italy and then the UK and somehow, communication had waned.
And it was something social media couldn’t redeem.
She’d been without friends until Tania came into the picture.
Tania opened the Toilet door now, sat on the WC and rolled down her lacy black and red thong. She was pulling tissue as she spoke to Toni. “I think that Lummy guy has the hots for you,” she said, dabbed at her vagina and tossed the used tissue into the toilet.
Tania chuckled, “don’t be silly. You’re tipsy not stupid.”
Pushing down the flusher, Tania strolled out of the Toilet and headed to the tab where she generously washed her hands with an antibacterial soap and water.
Staring at Toni through the large bathroom mirror, she said “You don’t have to agree with me but I have eyes,” she continued “And I think you should fuck him.”
Toni gasped in utter shock.
And like she hadn’t asked her to open her legs for a total stranger, Tania cleaned her hands with a paper towel and folded her arms under her chest, facing her pokerfaced.
“I don’t hook up with guys in strip clubs.” She said slowly, as if hoping each word would sink in if she didn’t hurry through them. As if hoping Tania would realize what she said was not only outrageous, it was plain stupid.
“I didn’t ask you to sleep with him here. Take him to your house, so he doesn’t have the upper hand in your arrangement and so you can kick his naked ass to the curb in the morning,” she giggled when she said the words as if proud she had made a quote that would be quoted generations to come “I always wanted to kick a guy to the curb before dawn,” she shrugged “But somehow I always sleep heavily after sex and wake up in the morning. But you can do this for us…”
“I am not doing anything for us” Toni replied, heading for the door.
Tania dragged her back, “Do it fast, on your couch, so he doesn’t enter the room you once shared with your husband and make sure you get at least two rounds and one orgasm.”
“Okay, this is insane,” Toni had almost made it to the door this time when Tania stood in her way.
“What would it take from you?” she asked
Toni’s eyes widened in shock, “My body sweat, my integrity and my self-worth!”
“See? You take things too seriously.”
“And you clearly take things too lightly! I certainly am not drunk enough to fall into bed with a stranger!”
Tania sighed, “I just want you to loosen up…”
“I am downing cocktails in a strip club and making conversations with a random guy, I am loosening up.” And with that she pushed past Tania.
“Hey, you haven’t had sex in two years!” but she was already back in the VVIP area, drowned by the loud music and voices.
When she returned to his side some minutes after, he sensed something was wrong.
She was fuming and gone was the ease she seemed to feel initially.
She raised a hand to stop him.
“Sorry.” He said and looked away from her.
He had to admit, she was gorgeous and a delight to watch. And he could stare at her for hours on end.
And even now when she seemed angry, he still wanted to watch her every line, every muscle and every single part of her face contort in anger.
It was a weird feeling but it was also a feeling he realized he didn’t mind at all.
“Tania, we should leave.” She said and grabbed her black purse which had a gold strap. Swaying, she found something to hold for support.
He sprang to his feet and held her before she fell. “You cannot drive.” He said matter-of-factly. “And neither can she.” He said about her friend who was now walking up to them, a look of concern on her face. “I will drive you ladies home.” He said his hand demanding for the car key.
“No.” she said quickly and firmly. “We will get an Uber.”
“And leave your Car here overnight? Okay.” He shrugged and was about to take his seat when Tania spoke up.
“Please drive us, Lummy.” She met her friend’s stony glare with a smile, “You are in no state to drive, Toni.” And with that, she grabbed the car keys and tossed it at him. “Let’s go.”
He drove in silence to their home. It was somewhere after Ajah and it was peaceful, calm and beautiful.
He’d respected Michael a lot and had been quite close to him when he was alive but he had no idea his house was so breathtaking.
The man had an eye for good things – he had a beautiful structure erected off Ajah and a gorgeous woman he went home to. Olumide wondered vaguely if that was ever going to be him.
He wanted a family but he had never loved the right women and he had too many demons from his childhood that he still bore heavily on his shoulders.
“Thanks.” Tania said when he pulled up in their driveway. Flanked by two houses where it sat in the Estate it was built, the house had a lush green lawn in front of it, a white picket fence and it was painted in lilac.
Olumide knew there was no way he was building a house in lilac but he also had to admit that the edifice before him was beautiful in that color.
“Do you want to come in for a drink?” Toni asked him when he got out of the car and handed her the keys. “You can have a drink while you wait for a cab.”
“I have to go to bed, guys.” Tania said and disappeared behind the building before Toni could get a word out.
There were at her front door in seconds. After several seconds of fumbling in her purse for her house keys, Olumide offered to help her.
She flipped on the switch when they stepped in and he wondered if she ever drank alcohol at all. Four glasses of cocktail and she seemed lightheaded.
Michael was the conservative guy who rarely hung out with the other men at Mysterios and hardly ever drank alcohol.
Clearly, he married a woman who shared his principles and views.
Olumide wondered how much more like Michael Toni was. Did she also have secrets? Was she also a woman who belonged to a sect nobody else could ever find out about?
Did she know about her husband’s involvement with Mysterios?
Too many questions but no time to ask.
Now that the night had played in his favor and he was in her house earlier than he ever thought he could be, he decided he was going to get the tape and be gone as soon as he could.
She abandoned her purse on the couch, kicked off her shoes and disappeared through a door after she offered him a seat.
Glancing around the sitting room, he made himself familiar with the photos of Michael and her hanging on the wall; they seemed happy and very much in love.
He knew she had to miss him.
Michael was a wonderful man and what happened to him had been unfortunate. It had been unfortunate and sudden.
And because he was such a wonderful man, it would be hard for his woman not to miss his presence.
Even he missed Michael.
She returned now with a bottle of white wine and two glasses.
He was surprised she was still going to drink.
Handing him the glass, she poured him some wine. As the bubbles rose, Olumide’s eyes fell on her.
There was no expression on her face and the corners of her face seemed to be determined not to crease in a smile. Yet, he watched that face, and her mouth and the pixie cut she wore as her hair.
“Thanks again.” She muttered, taking a sip.
His gaze didn’t leave her face when he took a sip from his glass. “You’re welcome.”
There was a pause before he asked, “I couldn’t help but see the photos on the wall. Married?”
“Oh.” He said, “I’m sorry about that.”
She smacked her lips and set the glass aside “It’s fine. It has been two years actually.”
“And how have you been coping?”
She looked at him for a short while and looked away. He wondered if she thought there was more to the question.
“Coping.” She said simply as if that was enough to answer the question.
An awkward silence followed before she said, “So what do you do?”
“I am a pharmacist.” He was not willing to say more. He didn’t want to say more to her. After that night they were never going to see again and there was no need to bond. But because he needed something in that house and he needed her to relax, so he could make his move, he asked “What do you do?”
“I own a secondary school. I teach biology there and I also serve as the principal.”
He cocked his head to a side, watching her intently. Maybe it was the word biology, but his eyes had dropped to her neckline now and they were traveling down her stomach, her thighs, her legs…
“I should turn on the TV,” Toni said and hurried to the TV. The room had suddenly become too hot and it was because of the man sitting spaces away from her.
Of course, Tania’s idea was stupid but how could she admit to herself that she was thinking of the man in many sinful ways?
The carnal thoughts she carried couldn’t even be erased if she were to try.
Wendy Williams came on the moment the TV screen came to live. Finding her way back to her seat, she wished she was Tania.
She would have taken him right there and then, on the couch, letting him access into parts of her body only her husband had.
Moaning his name while he thrust in and out of her… she hurried to her seat and downed the glass of wine. She couldn’t bear another second in the house with that man without getting drunk.
So when she emptied the glass, she poured herself another.
“You seem in the mood to let loose tonight.” He said with a smile. Her insides reacted to that one smile and she drank some more wine.
When he smiled at her again, her knees went weak but her vision was also going blurry.
“How loose do you think you can go?” he asked her, his voice echoing.
Her words slowly became a slur, “Very loose.” She said, slipping, letting go.
She felt his hands on her body, “I like that.”
She let out a chuckle. Darkness was slowly overtaking her but she also liked the sensation it brought with it.
When she shut her eyes finally, she remembered two things – his delicious masculine scent and his hard chest on which she laid her head.
When she woke the next morning, she sensed something was wrong.
He was gone, of course and so was her drunk state.
Standing, she hurriedly checked herself and realized she was still dressed. He hadn’t touched her.
Still, she felt something was not right.
However, it was not until an hour later, after she had made breakfast and was about to pick the almost empty glass of white wine lying near her that she saw it.
It was almost lost but somehow, she saw it, like an evidence of something bad that had happened.
Putting her hand into the glass, she touched it, it was what she thought it was.
Gasping, she hurried to the kitchen and washed her hands.
He had slipped something in her drink when she wasn’t looking.
Whoever said bringing a man home guaranteed you safety?
Alarmed, she wondered if he had taken something. She’d woken up fully clothed and nothing seemed out of place so he hadn’t slept with her.
But why had he drugged her?
She raced to her bedroom and checked for everything to be certain stuff where in place.
It was not until an hour later, when she was checking the guest room that she saw proof that something was missing.
In a box that contained some of Michael’s things, a box that had been paper taped, a recording tape was gone.
She sprang up immediately. Who was that man and why had he taken something that belonged to her late husband’s?
Going in search of Tania, she managed to quell her anger.
But she knew when she saw him, there would be hell to pay.
For those having issues navigating the site, I’m sorry about that. Had a chat with Sally earlier and she notified me of this. I would have worked on it right away but I have deadlines. Writing Hush (i hope you guys watch it on Africa Magic showcase every weekday. One of the most watched shows on the continent, people!) and something else my Oga told me to do. So I’m swamped. Please bear with me. I’ll get to it once I can. Have a great weekend and anticipate The Darker Berry on Sunday.