tagNovels and NovellasOf All the Girls in Lagos Ch. 06

Of All the Girls in Lagos Ch. 06

byJerryJonesAfrique©

***

Banks entered the kitchen ten minutes later. He had gone to his room to put on a t-shirt and camouflage-colored three-quarter shorts. A jug of cold milk and empty tumblers were on the kitchen table He saw Vanessa and Mike talking to each other in low tones each sipping from a glass of milk. Mike wore an apron over his white inner vest. He was tall and muscular, just the kind of guys his sister usually went for. They noticed him, stopped talking and smiled at him.

"Ah! There he is!" Mike said aloud.

"Hey guys! What were you whispering about?" Banks returned. He went to pour himself a glass.

"Mummy called...she said she and Susan had missed their flight. They'll find a hotel for the night and then take the first flight home tomorrow."

Banks shrugged. He sniffed the air. Mhmm. He loved the smell of butter and cream. "Whatever you're making Mike, it sure smells nice.""Thank you, I call them Indian cookies." Mike said. Banks and Vannessa exchange glances.

"Indian"! Banks was surprised.

Mike chuckled. It sounded like a coughing leister. "They are cookies alright, but the recipe is Indian." Mike said.

Banks turned to Vanessa with a quizzing stare, "Has anyone in the house been to India lately?"

"Mike has! He just got back two weeks ago."

Banks turns to Mike with awe. "How come I've not been anywhere? What took you there, Mike? Can't be business?"

"It was all business, alright. It was a three-month crash course in jungle combat techniques."

"That's interesting, Mike...but about the cookies, it's almost midnight. We are having fun as it is; the last thing we want is a running stomach." Banks said.

Vanessa chuckled in agreement. "He's right, babe."

"Wait and eat before you judge." Mike replied laughing.

"Speaking of judgments..." Banks began when Mike stopped laughing. "What is this big secret you guys wanted to tell me about?

Vanessa and Mike exchanged glances. Mike nodded at her to go ahead. Vanessa raised her left hand to show Banks the beautiful diamond ring around her middle finger.

"Mike proposed to me this morning, and I accepted!" Vanessa said with excitement.

Banks grinned even though he was surprised. He placed his glass on the kitchen table and went to hug her. He could see the relief in their faces at his approval. "To be honest, I was expecting to hear that my sister is pregnant. I'm really happy for you, Sister V. that it is not." He said with a jovial tone.

Vanessa disengaged from the hug and searched his face, only to find a teasing smile on them. She thumped his chest. Banks pulled her into a fiercer hug. "I'm really happy for you, don't mind me." He said more seriously. He went to shake Mike's hand afterwards.

"We thought you'll be slow to accept the idea..." Mike began.

"The idea! You call marrying my sister an idea? Check that sort of language at the door when talking to my mother." He said smiling again. "And why would you think I'd be slow in accepting? Anything that will get my sister out of this house so I can have it all to myself is fine by me." He had a serious tone in his voice.

Vanessa and Mike exchanged surprised glances and turned puzzled looks at Banks who suddenly began to laugh again, pointing at their faces.

"Come on," Banks said. "I never thought I'd get you guys this easy! You know I'm always teasing you Sister V! I'm genuinely happy for you both. Mike, I've watched your relationship with my sister since it began, and I see that you're happy and contented with each other. I don't know... but, sometimes I wish I had that." He was quiet for a moment with a frozen smile and a blank stare. Thoughts of Lade flashed in his memory.

Vanessa noticed he'd slipped out into a different mood and guessed what was troubling him. "Do you mean what you just said?" She asked bringing him back to present.

Banks said, "Yes, hundred percent support" and took a swig off his glass. They were both pleased with his reply. The part that remained was selling his mom 'the idea'.

Just then the oven beeped. Mike chose two kitchen towels from a wooden railing. He opened the oven and carried out a large baking tray covered with heart-shaped cookies.

"Oh sweetie...they look as good as they smell!" Vanessa said.

"I'm sure they taste even better." Mike replied. He placed the tray on the kitchen surface and took a hot one to his mouth. He closed his eyes to savour the taste. "Mmmm...this is...come on guys...you have to try it." He urged.

Vanessa took one. Banks followed suit. They both took tentative bites and exchanged glances. "What do you think, Peter?"

"Definitely better than yours, Sister V... it is hot and spicy, heavy too...a real snack. Mike, you should totally own a café..."

"No way," Vanessa replied. "Mike is too manly for kitchen duty."

"Well, what a waste of culinary skills then," Banks replied. "This is very good, Mike. Just save some of this for mom and you're definitely welcome into the family."

"Peter," Vanessa chided. "Don't forget our deal."

"What deal?" Mike asked.

"I tell him our secret, he tells us his, right Peter?"

Banks didn't reply at first. He found himself staring at his milk glass again, wondering which part to tell them and which part to leave out. "Peter!" He looked up to see them both watching him.

"Slow down Vanessa. Let him talk at his own pace." Mike advised. They ate hot cookies and cold milk in silence for a full minute. Vanessa was at the edge of her patience when he cleared his throat signifying his readiness to speak. He was reluctant at first. "I ran into an old friend the other night. Her name is Lade. Sister V, I wonder if you remember her..."

"Lade...Lade...Lade. Why is the name vaguely familiar?" She wondered aloud with a thoughtful frown on her face.

"We were close back when I attended Ibadan High! Remember?"

Vanessa's eyes widens in recollection. "Lade is in Lagos! Wow, that should be good! As I recall, back then, she'd left with... too many blanks unfilled."

Banks shrugged to that.

Mike was clueless.

"Well, what is she like these days? When are you inviting her home?" Vanessa hurled the questions at him. She could remember the girl that wouldn't date her cute brother even though they were close friends back in his secondary school days. She'd had a hard time working her brother's ego back into shape after Lade left to further her education. Vanessa noticed his hesitation and frowned at him. "Peter, what happened?"

Banks remembered his sister had liked Lade most 'of all his girlfriends' as she used to say. He suddenly felt like the bearer of bad news. Somehow, it would have been better if Vanessa didn't remember her at all.

Vanessa turned to Mike, "I'm not getting a good vibe out of this." Mike shrugged at her. "I don't know... I'm sure there is more, we just have to be patient to hear it all." Mike said. He turned to Banks. "You say you ran into her..."

"Yes, three nights ago." He paused to sip his milk absentmindedly. "I bought her a beer...big stout."

Vanessa was surprised at that one. "I didn't think..." Mike nudged at her to keep her from interrupting Banks' narration.

"We began getting reacquainted at the bar near where I met her. She was there alright - jovial, full of playful jokes and quick witted, just as I remember; but she was like...like a different person. The Lade I remember had a self-imposed curfew at seven pm, not to mention the alcohol..." Banks lapsed into another thought-filled silence.

Vanessa was puzzled. "Is that it? Is that why you've been brooding these past few days? I thought it had more to do with Andy and why your Mercedes has been missing from the garage for the past two days."

Banks continued as if she hadn't spoken. He looked up at Mike this time. "Then one ugly man came in...and asked her...quite roughly...if I'd paid her for her company." Banks gulped the rest of the milk in his tumbler down. He heard Vanessa gasp. Mike didn't react.

"Did you sleep with her?" Vanessa asked rather too quickly.

"What sort of question is that?" Banks asked frowned at his elder sister. "No! We were just talking like I said! The man came in, and I had to leave!"

Nobody said a word for quite some time. Neither Vanessa nor Mike had a ready-made response for this one. Banks took another cookie and bit it in half.

"What I don't understand is how it is possible. Where is her elder brother Godwin. He used to give me a hard time about her hanging with me back then. And her father! He'd spent a lot on her! She was the valedictorian in my sect, remember Sister V? How is any of it possible?"

"Maybe...she needs him for something...something she can't get on her own." Vanessa suggested.

"You mean drugs! No way!" Banks replied. He couldn't picture Lade as a drug addict. Sting though had looked like someone who messed with drugs. He had goons.

"Or maybe, she's paying off a debt," Mike offered a milder suggestion. Vanessa wasn't putting her thoughts off for that. "Does she have marks on her arms?" She asked Banks.

Banks sighed in exasperation. "Just because I said a mean ugly man came in and asked her if I paid for her time, you already think she's a junkie?" Banks asked. However, the more he thought about it, the closer its plausibility loomed. Was Lade a junkie? She smoked cigarettes. Was that why...?

Vanessa looked to Mike for support. "It's possible," said Mike. "Most hookers are drug users, usually mere Indian hemp. Most times heroin too. Still there are lots of other addictive drugs."

Banks preferred to remain adamant. "I don't think she is a hooker. I don't think she is a junkie. There's got to be some other explanation."

"Sure...maybe...but she don't owe you one unless you pay for her company." Mike said. "Mingling with such crowds..." he shook his head but didn't continue. From the daggers Banks' eyes threw at him, he figured he'd said enough.

"Sure, he knows it is dangerous," Vanessa reiterated.

Banks chuckled out loud all of a sudden. "Of course I know how dangerous it is," he said. "It's just...the more I try to push her out of my mind, the more she sticks. "I need...I need some closure. I can't pretend she was never my friend."

"That's a hasty decision. Peter..."

"Relax Sister V, I'm not going to sleep with her. I just want to talk. I need to know what happened...what is happening. I owe her that at least." Banks refilled his tumbler.

"What if she's not the person you used to know? What will you do then?" Mike asked.

Banks paused, his tumbler on its way to his lips and a fat, spicy cookie in the other hand. He shrugged at the both of them. "That would be very unfortunate, wouldn't it?" He turned to exit the kitchen.

Again, Vanessa and Mike exchanged glances. They were obviously appalled at his circumstance. They also trusted him to do the right thing.

***

She watched TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE on her DVD. She sat at her favorite TV-watching position - on the floor with her back leaning on the bed frame cushioned by a pillow. A bottle of GUINESS BIG STOUT was standing on a linoleum-covered floor beside her. The light from the TV flickered in the dark room. The volume of the movie was quite loud, but the only other sound was the ceiling fan clicking at each turn. Lade's attentive eyes were glued to the screen. Just then, her cell phone rang from the dressing table where it was.

Lade picked the remote controller and paused the movie playing. She got to her feet brushing her bum shorts which showed off her smooth chocolate thighs and slender calves. She had a toe ring on today. She was tipsy. She kicked the beer bottle by mistake. The bottle fell and spilled some contents before she hastily bent to pick it up. She sighed. She was always spilling things on the floor. She picked up the bottle and took it to the dressing table with her to pick up the ringing phone which was beside her little coke tray. She frowned at the unknown caller identity but answered the call.

"Who is this?" She began.

Banks in that moment was on the edge of his bed holding his cell phone to his ear. He had the card on which she'd written her number for him on the other hand. "Lade, It's Peter. Or is it, Nicky."

She smiled languorously. "You called at last." She said with a slight slur in her speech.

Something about her voice made him smile without saying anything funny. He resisted the urge to smile. "Honestly, I wasn't sure I wanted to call. Here I am anyway." He said. "How are you?"

Lade went to part the curtains and push the ALMACO window open. It was past midnight. Everywhere was quiet outside, apart from some music playing from a distant night club. "I'm fine," she said. "How are you?"

"I'm fine now," Banks said, wondering what he meant by that. They were both silent for a while.

Lade held the phone away from her ears to belch, the moonlight on her happy face. She placed the phone back over her ears. Banks hadn't said a word either. She wondered what he was doing. "What are you doing?" she asked.

"Nothing," Banks replied. "Just...thinking."

"About what?" Lade asked.

Banks hesitated. "About the little fun I had with you, just before your friend came in." He said.

Lade said, "I'm glad you did. I'm sorry for... the interruption."

Banks chuckled. She called it an interruption, an ironic humour. "I'll like to see you again, Lade. We need to...talk, catch up on things. Just like we said we would."

It was Lade's turn to hesitate. What good will it do them both if she rekindled their friendship. She wasn't an innocent, harmless kid anymore. Still, he'd called her. He had understood everything that happened that night, still he'd chosen to call her.

"Lade."

"Yes Peter, we agreed. I have a lot I think I need to tell you." She immediately began to wish she hadn't said that. She wondered why she thought he'd understand better, if she told him the truth from her own lips. He'd probably resent her. She almost began thinking up a quick excuse.

"Tomorrow evening. You promised me a date, remember? Let's do tomorrow evening."

Lade gave up trying with an inaudible sigh and a slight nod. She wanted to see him too. Maybe she could explain better. Maybe he won't like her as he used to. Maybe he'd even pity her. Any of that was better than he judging her. "Okay, where?"

"Don't bring your friend. The one that threatened to carve my face open. Who is that guy anyway?"

There it was. The question. She didn't have any answer. She had long given up on preparing an answer for when Peter would ask her the Q-question. "He's called Sting. He's uhm... we do business sometimes, it's not important." It was a good thing she was on the phone. She hadn't made ready an answer and SHE knew he knew she was lying. Her answer didn't sound truthful even to her own ears. Sting always said she was a bad liar, and judging by the fact that Banks hadn't said anything either, she was sure he knew.

But how could he begin to understand it? Lade had just lied to him. Should he ignore the lie or ask all the questions in his head? No, that would push her into more lies and he'd end up achieving nothing. Banks wondered if she'd lie to his face if he questioned her at their date. He decided to wait till he saw her.

"So tomorrow evening..." Lade's voice interrupted his thoughts over the phone. "Time and place?" she asked.

"I don't know." Banks said sounding reluctant.

Lade's eyes widened in alarm. Was he backing away already just because she'd lied? "What do you mean by you don't know?"

"Yet...I mean." He added. "How about I plan and send you a text before midday concerning a venue. Would six be okay?"

"Six is good!" She replied. "We really need to catch up." She stressed.

"Okay, this is my phone number. I'd text you." Banks said. "Good night Lade."

At least it wasn't goodbye. "Thanks Pete. Good night." She said smiling. She ended the call and went to switch on the electric lights. She went to her dressing mirror to look closely at the plaster-covered cut on her cheek wondering if it could all look alright in eighteen hours. It wasn't really hurting anymore, but the scar would be hard to hide under her usual make-up. She had bitten her cake and now had a chance to have it back; an opportunity to correct the first impression without lying to him. How was she going to pull that off?

Meanwhile Banks stared blankly at the fixtures in his room. He was going to see her again. He owed her the benefit of doubt even though she had lied; or so he felt.

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