tagNovels and NovellasOf All the Girls in Lagos Ch. 04

Of All the Girls in Lagos Ch. 04

byJerryJonesAfrique©

Jennifer exited the house via the back door. The loud party music was shut off when she shut the door behind her. She descended into the clean and serene backyard which was illuminated by security lights. The pool had been drained off. She was still wearing her party dress that would have made her look exquisite in the bright lights if not for the ugly frown on her face. She was holding her iPhone and was typing a text message to Banks as she walked towards the pool shade.

Banks always broke his promises to meet her. That was one thing that was consistent about him. He rarely made promises and broke each one she wrung out of him like it was nothing. He had sounded a bit more sincere this time but he was supposed to have arrived an hour ago. Even after realizing he would be running late, he hadn't bothered to call; not even to cancel.

He'd call or arrive any moment now, she consoled herself. She scrolled through her phonebook but hesitated to call him. Maybe an SMS would do. She was anxious and didn't want to experience the fun without him. The house was full of single guys and lots of alcohol was moving around. She had danced with only Andy and turned anyone else down and was still holding her first can of Smirnoff ice. She navigated to the CREATE MESSAGE page on her cell phone and started to type. DS PLACE IS NOT MUCH FUN WITHOUT YOU.

***

HURRY UP. JEN.

Banks took a quick look at his wrist watch and quickly re-read the message from Jennifer.

"Is that your girlfriend for the month calling in a curfew?" Lade asked chuckling. She took a swig off her bottle while she watched him.

And that was it... Banks looked up at her teasing face and fell right back in love with her. She was beautiful. The kind of beauty that made your heart skip a beat at certain awkward off-guard moments. She was definitely worth putting anything off for at least another thirty minutes.

Lade couldn't rein in her chuckle as it turned to a full throaty laugh. They hadn't been together more than an hour and he'd already resumed his signature silent stares at her face. Almost like he was memorizing her eyes or her nose or her lips, or whatever it was that fascinated him about her face. She shivered in secret excitement. She never let on the effect Banks had on her. He never knew. He probably never would.

"It's my friend, Jennifer. She is my colleague at the art school I was telling you about. We were supposed to go to the birthday party together." Banks explained.

Lade frowned in realization. "Oh! Oya come and go! Don't stand the poor girl up. I'll give you my number so you'll call me and tell me how the date went."

"We have a lot of catching up to do, Lade."

"Then we'll do it on our own date. Tonight is someone else's. So go."

Lade fished into her purse and retrieved a complimentary card. "You carry biro?" She asked.

Banks got one out of his front pockets and handed it to her. Lade wrote her phone number at the back of the card and handed it to him. "Take! Call me when you're free and let's hook up." She gives him his pen back. Banks accepted the card wishing he didn't have to be on his way. He looked around. The bar was filling up with guys and their women...

***

Sting's phone buzzed when the text message entered the phone in his hand. He read it: NO MANDY. Okay good, Mandy wasn't in the bar. Meaning the bar girl was probably not lying about other things she'd reported. Spencer was behind the wheels. "Kunle?" He asked.

"Yes! Mandy isn't in... wait here." He ordered. He took a revolver out of the dashboard, alighted and stuffed it in his waistband. He and Spencer had sat in the HILUX for the past ten minutes while he thought of what to do to Nicky and her new lover boy with the crew cut and designer clothes as the bar girl had described him. This was enemy territory, so he had to be careful, especially in case fresh boy rolled with Mandy. Kunle and two others had gone into the bar to scope it out. They all had pistols and an extra clip just in case. One attempt had been made on his life already and it was just day two after Johnny's demise. It wasn't even paranoia yet.

***

Lade's gaze fell on him as he walked in. This time it wasn't a warm, fuzzy feeling in her taut belly, rather a numbing cold that chilled its way out of her very bones on to her skin surface. Goose bumps suddenly appeared on her neck. Of course Banks noticed. He followed her gaze and saw the tall, muscular guy standing at the entrance. Banks could tell she was frightened.

Sting spotted both of them at the counter. The both of them had seen him, and the look on Lade's face gave him even more confidence.

What's wrong? Is that your boyfriend?" Banks queried. The ugly man was coming straight at them.

Lade gasped in surprise at Banks' supposition. "Believe me. He's anything but my boyfriend. Listen, if he asks, say you just met me and bought me a drink." Lade said in a low tone.

Banks remained baffled. However, he didn't have time to satisfy his curiosity. A quick glance told him that he and Lade were the center of everyone's attention. Whoever the tall ugly man was, most of the people here knew him.

One of the bar customers sitting right next to Banks and Lade vacated his stool when Sting arrived. Sting pulled the stool closer and joined them. "Nicky, wetin you de do?" He asked. He looked even more intimidating now that he was here. At first, Banks couldn't take his eye off the knife scar on his right cheek. Nicky, the same name Jerry had called her. Banks was puzzled.

"You talk say make I come Rosa place..." Lade was saying.

"And do what! Drink beer with strangers? Is he even a customer?" Sting's voice was up a notch. Sting turned to stare at Banks.

Lade's shoulders shrank in embarrassment. She should have known better than to mix business and pleasure. Better still she should have exchanged contacts with the guy and hurried him along. She was supposed to be working. If only he wasn't the boy that she would've gladly fallen in love with and... And yet, this was what it had led to. She felt naked under Banks' quizzing gaze. She was supposed to be working.

"Who are you and what do you want?" Sting asked Banks. He'd put on a menace on his face. Lade interjected. "Sting be nice to him. We met outside and he thought we should have a drink first."

Sting frowned at Banks who was confused, but nodded in agreement. "Has he paid?" Sting asked Lade.

Lade looked down at her lap to hide the embarrassed tears in her eyes. She blinked them back as fast as she could. "Yes he has. You could have waited till later to get the cash as usual." She said.

"How much?" Sting growled.

"The usual... Come on, Sting this is really unnecessary." She answered, getting a little bolder in her exasperation. Sting's eyes widened a bit. He banged the counter angrily. "You're growing some nerve girl! Show me the goddamn money!" Sting barked.

No one else in the bar moved a muscle. It was obviously a typical Sting taking-care-of-business-as-usual and you were better off not getting involved. Mandy's men in the bar knew Sting's ferocity. Everyone was on guard. The rest just fell in line. It was an eye opener too for them all who'd noticed Lade before. No wonder she was alone and looking available for whoever was interested. She was one of Sting's women. Her face was memorized.

Banks' too, but he wasn't conscious of anything else yet. He was still trying to wrap his head around the drama unfolding before his eyes. "What are you mad about?" He asked Sting. Lade's fright was communicable, but he had put his scattered nerves together. "Just take it easy! We can sort anything out, can't we?"

Sting turned even redder at Banks' comments. The designer boy was actually talking! He returned his angry glare at Lade.

"Peter, stay out of this! Please!" Lade said to Banks. She opened her purse and took out all the money which she gave to Sting, her hands shaking with nervous embarrassment. Banks stared on dumbfounded as Sting took the money from Lade to count it.

There was at least ten grand in the wad of cash Lade had given him. He looked up at designer boy with a scowl on his face after counting the money. "Peter huh?" Sting began, smiling cynically. "So you bought yourself a piece of flesh for the night and thought of getting drunk first...somehow I find it hard to believe..."

Banks looked at Lade in shock as some clarity began to diffuse through his puzzled mind. Piece of flesh for the night! Lade wouldn't meet his gaze.

"...It sounds to me like Nicky's cock-and-bull...you don't look like a customer to me...no... more like...I don't know...like you're looking for some free love for the night." Sting chuckled at his own assessment.

Banks felt he needed to say something. He didn't know what was going on, or what Lade was into these days. Hell! It'd been eight years since he saw her last. That was enough time for a devil to turn into a priest...and vice-versa. Lade looked like she was in a lot of trouble; the least he could do was to defend Lade regardless of whatever aboki shit he'd just stepped on, extricate himself and then...

"Look man," he began. "I don't want any trouble. It is as she says. I gave her the money...then...thought we should get acquainted first...if that is a problem, then I think I'll need a refund." Lade cringed in shame to hear Banks defend her. If he did, then he understood already. What had she been thinking? No, she hadn't been thinking.

Sting laughed. "A refund! Wow! You get mind! How do I say this in Queens English for you, Peter...?" He put the money in his pocket and wiped the smile from his face as he did. "Walk the fuck out now before I decide to carve your face open with my knife," he said, all mirth gone from his voice.

Banks fist folded and his eyes narrowed as his own anger slowly boiled to the surface. What gave this ugly man the right to exercise such authority over a person - a beautiful person. His beautiful person. Okay, that was long ago but still...he half-stood glaring at Sting. It was Lade who stopped him from acting out his first impulse, which was to break his Heinekeen bottle over the man's head and whisk Lade out of there forever. "Please go now," she said leaning forward to whisper. "Please...don't make a scene. Go!" She was actually begging him to leave. Banks gave her an incredulous look.

"If I were you I'll listen to her," Sting said. "I like your shirt. I'll hate to stain it with your blood. Moreover, you're alone here."

Banks looked around and saw that everyone in the room was watching him. Including Lade. He saw her eyes water and his heart skipped a beat. "Just go..." she mouthed through trembling lips. Banks nodded and got to his feet. He walked slowly to the exit where he stopped and turned in time to see Sting towering over Lade menacingly, saying things he couldn't hear.

"Be like say you wan make person carry you commot here, abi?" Banks turned to the speaker. Kunle was standing with two other hefty men who looked like they killed for a living. Kunle raised the hem of his shirt and showed Banks the pistol half-hanging out of his trouser at his waist. Okay, maybe they did. Anyway, he wasn't sticking around to find out.

The fresh air outside hit him as he exited the bar. It was going to be a long walk to get to where he'd find a taxi at all this time of the night. Andy was too busy to pick him up. Vanessa would be at her night shift by now, and he didn't have the strength to smile at Jennifer and pretend he was cool. He wasn't tonight. Not after meeting Lade and her friends. A TOYOTA TUNDRA was parked outside. The man behind the wheels was smoking a cigarette and watching him. He half-turned to notice Kunle standing at the doorway, making sure he left. For the first time in a very long while, he felt alone and weak. And so, catching caution from the wind, he walked away, hating himself as he began the long trek back to civilization.

***

Jennifer slipped off her heels and kicked them in opposite directions. She was standing in the middle of her bedroom where various shades of red and white made the suite look like a video shoot was going on. There were two windows hidden behind white, heavy damask curtains. A painting of her draped over a pool chair in her bikini set was hung on one side of the walls. It had been made by Banks a year ago and was as wide as her windows. It was the most distinct feature in the room. Her bed was close to one of the windows and was covered with pink sheets.

Jennifer walked to her dressing mirror which was attached to a dressing table with so many drawers. There was nothing on the top of her dresser and no clothing was visible in the room. The place was pristine and immaculate. She slipped off her dress and let it slide down her body to her feet. She looked at herself in her matching white lace underwear; all the while wondering what could have gone wrong. She had dressed up for him and he hadn't even called to cancel. He didn't even pick up when she called. Jennifer had never been stood up on date before. Not that she went on many, but at least she always had the decency to call and cancel when she didn't feel like one.

But Banks didn't care. Okay, he cared about certain things. After all, he had helped her research on her own project topic. He was only non-chalant when it came to her feelings. If only she didn't have this... like... everlasting crush on him.

Jennifer took off her bra and felt the weight of her full breasts standing without sagging. She'd dreamt of a perfect date; and a perfect ending to it - at least a kiss. She'd wanted to be kissed. She'd wanted to be touched. She'd wanted to be held by the guy she loved. She felt the hot tears fill her eyes and blinked them back. She wouldn't shed even one - not for him. He was too blind to see what she was offering. Not for her. No, that would be self-pity. She removed her hair clip and allowed her hair to fall on her shoulders. What kind of man wouldn't notice her? What did they want in their women...smartness and independence...beauty? She knew she could go out to the club tonight and catch herself a man. Too bad she wasn't that insecure. Maybe men were different, and Banks was so far off the tangent! It had taken him two years to agree to a date, yet he'd stood her up.

Jennifer kicked her legs out of the dress. She picked the dress up and went into the wardrobe closet. She took out a fresh towel from among a small pile and wrapped herself in it. She opened a drawer and took out a fresh pair of panties from the top of a neat pile, then walked out and into an adjourning bathroom. A knock on the door stopped her. She heard Chika and Andy talking in low tones on the other side of the door but couldn't make out what they were saying.

"Jennifer," Chika called.

Jennifer steeled her voice to make sure it didn't quiver. "Go away!" She replied. "I'll like to be alone! I'll see you guys tomorrow!"

"Are you sure? We could play a video game...or something fun...together," Chika said from the other side of the door. Jennifer could hear Andy talking in low tones.

"No thanks! I'm going to go have my bath now! I'm fine really! Good night! Good night Andy!" Jennifer walked into the bathroom looking distraught. She shut the door after her and leaned on it, blinking back her tears. How could everyone be so heartless?

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