Frank refused Efe’s offer of a towel, sat on the easy chair and stretched out his legs on the tiled floor in front of him. Sleep hugged him with heavy arms and he struggled valiantly, fighting off the cold and the drugs and the warmth of the room –
He started awake.
At some point in his doze he had slumped in the sofa, half-sitting half-lying. Now he struggled up – and swallowed a yell as he bumped his hurt finger. Choking on the pain, he sat up straighter and cradled his hurt hand, staring at the sore appendage – at the blood-soaked plaster that wrapped it.
“What is it? Is that the – the accident you were talking about?”
His gracious host Efe swept into the room, holding her voluminous boubou against her body with one hand, steaming cup in the other. Moving quickly but not hastily, she placed the cup on the table beside the sofa and knelt in front of Frank.
“Let me see,” she said softly.
They presented a cozy picture; Efe holding Frank’s hand gently and staring at the red-spotted plaster, Frank looking at her bent head, all kinds of emotion at war on his face. A standing lamp wrapped both of them in its warm glow – and the unrelenting sound of the rain slapping various surfaces gave theme music. For some reason, Frank’s mouth was dry and he swallowed softly hoping Efe wouldn’t hear. He knew he was staring holes through the back of her head; he knew he should just look away –
But to his horror, he couldn’t.
“You’re bleeding,” Efe said, eyes still on his finger. “I think we should take away the plaster. At least we can then know what to do.” She finally raised her head and met his eyes. “Okay?”
Frank nodded. Okay.
Smiling reassuringly, she cradled his hand in both of hers – and then she placed it, palm facing up in her thigh. Slowly, she gently unwrapped the plaster – sucking air through her teeth as Frank’s wound appeared; a red and angry line.
“Fr – Frank! Jesus! Wha – how did this happen?” But before he could say anything she placed his hand back on his thigh, stood up and said “Don’t move.”
There was a swish and she was gone.
The rain did not let up on its insistent pounding.
Frank’s eyes were closed – his head was back against the sofa but he wasn’t asleep. Efe had washed the finger in warm disinfected water and replaced the plaster.
The fiery pain was gone out of it too – it just throbbed dully.
He’d just finished telling her how it happened and was resting. His head was clearer and he was feeling a lot warmer than before. His mind kept drifting back to Fola’s house and the noise he’d heard. Before long he began to feel responsible.
I should have interfered; he thought.
“Hope you like foo-foo,” Efe’s sing-song tone preceded her into the living room – about the same time the heady aroma of steaming afang soup invaded his nostrils and upended his inner calm.
“You cheat,” Frank said with a half-smile. “Of course you know I love foo-foo. And afang?!”
Efe smiled as she gently placed the tray on a table on the other side of the room. And then, waving Frank into his seat, she carried the table and brought it to him. Frank’s mouth watered as he shifted and looked into the plates. Two wraps of foo-foo eyed him with disdain; two wraps of foo-foo that looked as big as a baby’s head each. Chunks of meat and fish hugged the vegetable in the soup as though for dear life. He looked up and into Efe’s face – and she held out a bowl with water.
“Dig in, Mister man.”
Sighing in contentment, Frank leaned back and patted his stomach. “That was really good, Efe. Thanks.”
She didn’t say anything – but he knew she’d heard him as she moved around softly, clearing the plates. He looked at the ceiling – stared at the patterns in the woodwork and itched for a cigarette.
“You can smoke if you want.”
At the same time, a weight came down on the sofa beside him and he turned to look at Efe who was sipping from a cup. Freshly-brewed coffee stank.
“Why isn’t your husband around?”
Efe smiled – a smile that had nothing to do with happy. “He’s hardly ever around. Business trips around the world – this time he won’t be back before Christmas. Packs condoms too.”
Frank cleared his throat. “Haba. That’s – that’s – “ he couldn’t quite find the words.
“ ‘Sad? Shameful? Embarrassing’?” She shrugged round bou-bou-covered shoulders. “I’m pretty much used to it – or used to ignoring it.” She shrugged again. “That’s how it is in marriages these days.”
Frank wanted to disagree – and then he remembered Fola’s jab that morning. So instead he said, “And your children?”
Her eyes met his over the rim of her coffee cup. It stayed there as she drank – then she put the cup down. “They’re asleep – so you can smoke if you want. It’s fine.”
He held the stare a little longer – before moving his head back and forth. “No o, I can manage.” He rose, suddenly aware of his proximity to Efe.
“Is this rain ever going to let up?” he asked as he wandered over to the widest of the sitting room windows. He looked down into the streets, marveling at the rain determined to give it a thorough washing. The rain, the thunder and lightning flashing combined with hazy security lights penetrating the curtain of rain as best as they could combined to make him feel as though he was looking into a scene from a horror movie.
He knew when Efe arrived beside him – but he refused to acknowledge her presence; instead choosing to continue staring out the window as though there was a hidden message on there somewhere he was trying to decipher.
“Nights like this – nights like this can really be hard on me. I just sit and stare at the rain outside while ignoring the one on my face. So you will understand how thankful I am to have you here. Now. With me.”
The hair on Frank’s arms began to rise – and as he turned towards Efe, she pressed her mouth against his.
Almost immediately, the rain stopped falling. The electricity in the house became brighter – so bright – then bulbs started to explode, setting off sparks – sparks he saw even through closed eyes. Efe drank her coffee straight, no milk or cream; that much he could tell as she softly caressed his upper mouth with her tongue – mashing her breasts against his chest and drawing her nails along his scalp. The blood sang exultantly in his body; his nether regions began to grow warm, eagerly jumping to life, dancing and rejoicing at coming alive again after so long.
I haven’t done this in a while…
Suddenly Efe pulled away and smiled in his eyes. “Come Frank,” she said softly, eyes glowing with new life. “Come lie with me.”
Only then did he realize the rain was still falling as heavily as before; the power was still on and all the bulbs were glowing as they should. Efe tugged at his hand and he followed on watery legs. They made it to the couch before she fell in his arms and searched out his mouth with hers.
Oh God; Frank thought. She can kiss.
She could too; really kiss. Without taking her mouth away from his she pushed him till he was lying against the arm of the sofa, and then she put her weight on him, tucking her feet underneath her as she curled up against his body. She kissed like his mouth was ice cream and hers was the scoop, making love to his tongue with every trick in the book and more than a few from the internet.
Frank’s head was screaming in a collage of sounds that made it almost impossible for him to hear anything – anything apart from the blood that pulsed and pounded somewhere in his lower body. He wanted to touch her – touch her breasts – breasts he unconsciously stared at every time she came around the house back then. But her voluminous bou-bou kept getting in the way. He reached towards her thigh and tried to pull it up – and then, she must have sensed his distress because she leaned away from him, and with a half-smile said, “Here, let me help.”
Kissing him with her eyes, she reached towards her ankles. There was a moment in which her face disappeared – a moment that would have allowed for second thoughts had it been longer – but that was all it was.
He blinked – and the bou-bou was gone. She opened her arms to him, light-skinned arms and thighs robbing him of all will. He leaned forward and the assault on his mouth continued, heat from hers enveloping and burning him up. His hands wandered around her shoulders, down her back – and then right up again in the other direction. Efe chuckled softly and whispered, “I wanted this – I’ve wanted you for so long…”
She grabbed the back of his neck – and something cold and hard scratched him there – scratched him so hard his eyes watered –
Something cold and hard. Something; like a wedding ring.
Sanity returned to Frank – sanity with the effectiveness of a cold-water ducking and he pushed away from Efe. He pushed so hard he nearly sent her off the sofa. As it was, he quickly grabbed her arm – and that was what saved her.
“Wha – what is it?” she asked, desire sitting in her throat like thick phlegm.
Frank shook his head. “I don’t want – I’m not sure we should be doing this. You have a husband…and I – “ he shook his head some more, feeling miserable. “I just don’t think we should be doing this. My wife – “
“Your ex-wife. And what do you care, Frank?” Efe righted herself and leaned back into him, placing a warm hand somewhere out of sight. Frank jumped, swallowing spit and trembling from something that wasn’t the cold.
In fact, he was trembling from heat.
“I don’t know. It just doesn’t – “ he stopped. “Twelve years and we never stepped out on each other. Not once. I feel – “ he paused. ”Look, I know this sounds crazy, but I really feel I shouldn’t be doing this. Especially not with you.”
Efe’s laughter rang loud and hollow – echoing the empty feeling in his belly. “Why are you laughing, Efe?”
She shook her head. “Never mind, Frank. My husband does not give a hoot what I do or don’t – and before you go around proclaiming how faithful you and your wife were to each other – “ she hesitated and Frank couldn’t take his eyes away from the generous swell on her chest as she inhaled, “ask her about that. Ask her about a guy named Dapo.”
“What?” He grabbed her shoulders roughly. “What are you talking about – who the hell is Dapo?”
“You men,” Efe began, bitter smile lighting her features, “walk around as though you’re God’s gift to us females. You like to think you’re the bomb – you treat women anyhow and when you hear she’s unfaithful you start huffing and puffing. Your self-righteousness irritates me.”
Frank’s hands fell off her shoulders and onto the sofa between them. “But I never…I wouldn’t…”
Efe pushed her hair out of her eyes. “What does it matter? I’m here now – she’s not. Nothing matters – nothing other than right here, right now.” She posed, arms on hips – managing to look somewhat exciting in her awkward position on the sofa. “What are you going to do about that?”
Frank inhaled, stood up – and almost fell. Somehow, his trousers had made its way around his thighs. He fell back to the sofa, intending to put them back on properly – and then he turned and faced Efe, taking in her heaving breasts, swollen lips – desire a fire that had set her eyes ablaze.
What was he going to do about that indeed?