It felt like a deal with the devil. He found me skulking around his house in the dark and hauled me in. At first I thought it was to hand me over to the police but he introduced himself (his name is Kanayo, if you care to know) and offered me a meal. I didn’t care much about his name but I jumped at the food. I had not eaten in days and even my vaunted pride was dead after so long.
On my twenty-first birthday, and just a few weeks to Christmas, my dad disowned me. He also had me thrown me out of his house for insubordination to him and his second wife, my wicked stepmother. Yes, those species exist in this day and age. This was not a story I told to just about anyone, but in fear of a police cell, and then the promise of food, my mouth had gushed it all out, as my eyes let out tears. That was when Kanayo came up with this deal.
I stood trembling near the door, exactly where I had remained since entering the spotless mansion when he began to talk of something other than food.
“Before your food is ready, there’s something I would like to discuss with you so please sit down.” Kanayo gestured to the seat and I sat down.
After a few moments of tense silence, Kanayo spoke again, “Listen, this is confidential but it’s not more than you’ve just shared with me. I am thinking we might help each other but it depends…” He looked meaningfully at me but I just returned a neutral nod.
“My mum is forcing me to get married. Not only that, she is pushing the last girl I would have considered at me. I don’t want to get married yet but with my mum’s backing, the girl in question is also trying to force herself on me.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked; not seeing any dots to connect.
“I think there’s a way you can help me discourage this girl in her pursuit of me. I know that she is on very good terms with my housekeeper who keeps her abreast of all that happens here.”
“I still don’t understand what I can do to help you…”
He cut her off impatiently, “I want you to stay here with me for a while. Erinma will be back from her trip by Sunday and I’m sure your mere presence here will drive her crazy.”
I looked on silently as he smiled wickedly at the thought. Mischievous lights danced in his eyes and their corners crinkled when he laughed out loud. A reluctant smile tugged at my own lips; it had been ages since I had been in the presence of one so light-hearted. My own mischief seemed to have died with my grandmother; the atmosphere in my father’s house had not encouraged my siblings to be that close or free with me. Kanayo’s words brought me back to the present.
“You will live here, ostensibly as my love interest and this will create a situation where it will be plain to Erinma that there’s no room for her in my life. Hopefully, she will then get off my back.”
“You can’t be serious?!” I blurted out. “You expect me to sleep with you?”
“Ostensibly,” Kanayo snapped standing up, “I certainly don’t expect that from you.” The look in his eyes made it clear that he could get that from much better girls any time he wanted. I felt stung and looked down at my hands as he continued in a gentler tone. “Joy, the thing is you are currently homeless… I’m only offering you the use of my home for a short while.”
“A temporary accommodation here will not solve all my problems. And there’s no denying that it will benefit you too. I’m supposed to cause a breakup between you and your girlfriend…”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” Kanayo ground out through clenched teeth.
“So why not introduce her to a real girlfriend instead of arranging a farce?”
“There’s no real girlfriend around now.” At my stare of disbelief, he added: “I couldn’t sustain a long distance relationship with my last girlfriend after I returned from the ‘States and my mum has been pushing Erimma at me ever since.”
I sighed and stood up again. “I wish you luck, but I don’t want to be involved.”
“You might think I’m exploiting your plight and you don’t have much to gain but I want you to reconsider. I promise that you don’t have to do or say anything even if Erimma comes here and at any time you want this week, I’ll take you back to your father and plead your case. Maybe a man-to-man chat will sway him.” Kanayo cajoled taking my hands in his.
Pulling my hands away which had begun to tremble at his touch, I moved my eyes to the snow globe on top of the center table. I knew what was happening but didn’t want to put a name to it. Finally, after I got my equilibrium, I looked up at him and shook my head, “You don’t know my father. Nothing will move him.”
“We’ll cross the bridge when we get to it. Just give me a chance. And if that doesn’t work, I could maybe help you in other ways,” he assured me with confidence.
That confidence and the compassion colouring his voice made my resistance crumble. I was attracted to him, and there was no denying it. It made me want to spend some more time with him. I thought also about the possibility of reconciliation with my dad, maybe Kanayo could really help me convince him to take me back. I only needed my father to complete my university education in just over a year.
If my father didn’t work out, maybe this deal with the devil could help me get a better job and a place to stay. I didn’t want to think about moving back to the Buka where I had been working and living for the past two weeks until it was demolished yesterday. Christmas was just days away and no matter how the streets had toughened me, I didn’t want to spend the holiday alone and in a shack. I needed to keep hope alive, hope for being united with my father, and hope for a better tomorrow.
After another deep sigh, I agreed with a quiet, “All right.”
“Yes!” Kanayo exalted as he caught me up in a hug. I knew I was attracted to him but the tingle that ran down my spine surprised me as did the goose bumps which spread over my body from all the points our bodies that touched. I quickly pushed him away. He tried to search my face but I avoided his eyes even as I wondered if he had felt the same tug of attraction.
He smiled at me and I smiled weakly back, my heart doing flip-flops in my chest. This was going to be an interesting Christmas.
Above is a snippet from an upcoming book by Myne Whitman, published first by The Naked Convos as the final instalment in their 12 Days of Christmas series. Enjoy and please, feedback as always. Thanks!