GENTLEMEN OF THE BAR (12) by Umari Ayim

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ANGELA

It is early, far too early in the morning to be plotting and scheming for the young girl whose plight has continued to haunt me for the time I have been in this town, yet it is all I have been doing for the past one hour. Naden is sleeping at the other side of the bed, his back turned to me. In the semi darkness of the room, he stretches and looms high above me like a wall, blocking the other side of the room from view. I watch him sleep for some minutes, ideas forming in my head to replace old used ones. Cozying up to him had not worked. He had taken up my invitation to share the bed, listened to me discuss the case with a smirk on his face and clammed up in the end.

And you cuddled.

I remember the morning after that night with renewed embarrassment. I had woken up in his arms, my nose pressed against his chest. Rattled by the intimacy, I had asked him for space. He had obliged, moving further away from me until there was enough distance between us. Things had remained the same since then.

Still lost in thought, I am a little startled when Naden sits up unexpectedly and swings his legs off the bed. Silent as a shadow, he crosses the room to the bathroom and closes the door behind him. I get over my surprise after some minutes and roll over to face the window.

Outside, the gray light of dawn has already ushered in the new day. I stare at the faux brocade curtains and remember Hussaina again.

What if Barrister Shuaibu wins the case?

I let the thought fill me with hope until I remember Naden sitting at the reading table in the corner of the room two days ago, lines of concentration on his face as he prepared his final address for the court hearing today. Hope disappears and a sinking feeling settles in my stomach. He was going to court prepared. Barrister Shuaibu’s stuttering and fumbling was no match for his legal prowess. I close my eyes.

It is over.

The sound of rushing water from the bathroom interrupts my thoughts and I open my eyes to look at the door. New thoughts replace thoughts of court room activity. I see Naden standing under the shower, his body wet and slippery with soapy water.

Wet and slippery with soapy water.

I get up from bed. It is time to put one of my ideas to the test. The bathroom door opens easily when I touch it. Poking his head through the shower door he pushes open, Naden watches me with a puzzled expression on his face. I stop within inches of the shower stall, slip my hands into the straps of my light pink satin night dress, shrug it off and let it pool at my feet.

“Can I join you?”

I know better than to wait for Naden’s answer. Stepping out of the circle of night dress on the floor, I walk into the glass enclosed space to join him. When I touch him, he is just the way I imagined.

Wet and slippery with soapy water.

********************

NADEN

I keep my eyes trained on Angela’s face as she moves into the shower stall, closing the door behind her. Her eyes are lowered and fixed on my chest, so it is hard to read her. My resolve not to have any kind of sexual encounter with her crumbles when she touches me. Head angled to the side to avoid the spray of water from the shower, her right hand travels all over my chest, gathering soap suds. She stops and steps even closer so that her nipples graze my chest. I look down at her body, now glistening with water and feel myself stir. Her breasts are taut and beautiful to look at.

“Touch me.”

It is both a command and a plea. I look into her eyes for the briefest second, and then reach between us to cup her in my hand. Gasping and throwing her head back, she raises both hands to my shoulder and holds tight. The sound causes heat to surge in my veins. Her lips are parted and inviting but my attention is drawn back to where my hand is. I caress her slowly, enjoying the soft silkiness of her flesh. A second gasp follows when I slip my fingers between her.

Slick heat welcomes my intrusion and she begins to move against my hand, bottom lip caught between pearly white teeth. I lower my head to kiss her and she opens up to me, sucking, nibbling and sighing breathlessly against my mouth. My fingers still working between her legs, I use my free hand to stroke each of her breasts, rolling her nipples between my fingers until I draw a moan from her. I pull away just then, breaking all contact. Turning her around, I back her against the wall of the shower stall and begin to drop light kisses along her collarbone. I move down to her body, leaving kisses along the way until I am at the inviting softness between her legs.

Holding her hips in place, I lower my head and place soft languid kisses on the insides of her thighs. Nails bite into my shoulder as I turn my attention to the center of her thighs and caress her with my tongue.

“Wait…Naden…”

I rise back on my feet and stare into eyes that smile and seduce at the same time.

“My turn.”

Roping her arms around my neck, Angela presses into me, aiming for my lips. Her lips are quirked up in a smile as she closes in on me. I have questions, but they can wait.

******************

ANGELA

I kiss him and taste myself on his tongue. We kiss passionately for a few minutes and I leave his mouth and work my way down his body until I get to his hardened length. Taking him in my hands, I purse my lips and kiss the tip. I feel him tense as I take him deeper in my mouth, curling and my tongue around the top of his length. Putting the knowledge gained from Cosmpolitan dos and donts, I work on him like a professional until his gasps tell me it is time to stop. I give him my hand and he helps me up to my feet.

“Bed?”

I nod.

We shower quickly, eyes devouring each other as water rinses the soap from our bodies. We are dry when we hit the sheets. He touches me again like in the shower, making me melt against his hands and mouth. I arch my back and grind against him.

“Now please.”

He finds another condom in the top shelf of the bed stand. As soon as he is covered, he finds his way back to me. Holding my eyes, he slides into me and begins to move. A wild uncontrollable feeling rips through me and I dig my nails into his back. I push against him, willing him to reach the deepest part of my soul. He senses my urgency and plunges deeply into me, taking, giving and taking again. Spiraling in a place of light and sound, I lose sense of my surroundings. I am aware only of Naden, his scent and his essence. It finally ends and I cling to him, wondering if I ever had it this good with Peter.

He rolls off me and gets rid of his condom. I pull the sheets over my body.

“So what do you want?”

I meet his eyes unflinchingly even though I am unsettled by his uncanny ability to read me.

How did he know?

His lips curled in a sardonic smile, Naden props himself on his pillow and turns sideways to look at me.

“I am waiting Angela. You didn’t come to me for nothing.”

His eyes are microscopic and piercing. I realize the futility of denying his words. Pushing myself upwards in the bed, I pull the sheets with me and face him.

“You are right,” I admit with a sigh. “I want something.”

“Okay.”

“It’s Hussaina.”

Naden shakes his head, regret in his eyes.

“Sorry Angela. We are done talking about her.”

“Naden….she was raped. Those men should be made to pay for what they did to her.”

“I will prefer to let Barrister Shuaibu worry about that. That is his job actually.”

I am tempted to lash out at Naden, to accuse him of being a cold hearted bastard, but then I remember Agatha’s words.

Men are like babies, show them love and you will have them eating out of your hand.

I sidle up to Naden and press my body against his side.

“We just had consensual sex Naden. It was great.”

His eyes coolly appraise me, giving nothing away. I sigh inwardly.

Why is he so hard to break?

Moving slightly and effectively dislodging me from his body, Naden stands beside the bed, naked and confident. I settle back on my haunches and crane my neck to look up at him.

“I know the drill Angela. Offer yourself for sex, and then compare it to forced non-consensual sex to drive your point home.”

“I am not…”

“Yes you are Angela, but you should have tried something else. Using sex as a bargaining chip does not work with me.”

I sink deeper into the bed, disappointed and angry as he spins on his heel and heads to the bathroom.

“You are a mean person Naden….a horrible mean person.”

He disappears into the bathroom without a word. I sit with my regrets and wish I don’t have to go to court.

He will win and criminals will be freed.

************************

NADEN

I lean against the bathroom countertop and frown at my reflection. I am upset at myself for letting my guard down with Angela. It had been a game all along. Her fevered response to our lovemaking had been an act, a calculated plan to manipulate me. My inner voice sneers at me.

And you thought it was because she wanted you.

I exhale and turn from the mirror.

I walk into the shower stall and turn on the faucets. Needles of warm water hit my pores and I close my eyes for a second.

We just had consensual sex Naden and it was great.

I think of the young girl I have never met. I imagine her ordeal and hate myself. If only things were different. If only I was her lawyer.

You are a mean person Naden…a horrible mean person.

I purse my lips and direct my anger outward. Sleeping with Angela had been a mistake. One I was never repeating again again. I count the days until our trip to Lagos.

Two days.

************************

THE OYELOWO MANSION

Damilola Oyelowo knocked on the door of the room where her husband’s niece stayed, but did not get any answer. She tried again, and again. When it began to seem as though she would spend the whole day knocking, she decided to drop all demands of courtesy and enter the room uninvited. Fausat was on her stomach on the bed, legs up in the air, her teenage ears blocked from the sounds of the world and assaulted by the deafening beats of a popular American rap song. Damilola waved at the teenager from the door, but she got a rapid nodding that was not in response to her greeting. Fausat sang along with her American rapper.

Four in the morning, and I’m zoning

I think I’m possessed, it’s an omen

I keep it three hundred, like the Romans

Damilola frowned at the lyrics of the song, wondering what kind of songs the girl listened to. She strolled into the room and stopped in front of the Fausat. Big eyes looked up to her and well aligned teeth flashed at her.

“Hey aun…aunty.”

Damilola winced at the volume of the girl’s voice. She motioned to the earpiece still stuck in Fausat’s ears.

“Oops sorry,” Fausat said, shouting again.

Damilola waited until the girl tossed her iPhone and ear piece to the side.

“Have you seen mama?”

Sitting cross legged on her bed, Fausat shrugged.

“She went out with uncle Seun.”

Damilola nodded.

“Ah okay.”

Seun was Martin’s younger cousin who sometimes came to pick his aunt for her weekly calls on relatives in the Lagos Island area. Damilola turned to the door.

“Thanks. See you later.”

“Are you going out?”

Damilola stopped at the door and turned to see a wistful expression on the teenager’s face.

“Yes why?”

“Be…because I am bored,” Fausat said, lips drooping at the corners. “I miss Angie.”

Damilola smiled. “She will be back soon…in a few days actually.”

Fausat’s face brightened.

“Really?”

Damilola nodded and was on her way again.

“Urm…Aunty, can I come with you?”

Damilola thought of Fausat’s request. She was on her way to Tosin’s place to celebrate the graduation and return of her son Bawo. It would be a hectic atmosphere and she didn’t think she had the energy to –

“Please aunty,” Fausat said, jumping into Damilola’s line of vision and disrupting her thoughts. Her eyes big and hopeful, she tugged at one of Damilola’s slim hands.

“I’ll be good, I promise.”

Damilola sighed and smiled.

“Okay.”

“Yay!”

Fausat clapped and planted a noisy kiss on her Aunty’s smooth cheek before rushing to her wardrobe to throw it open. Dropping to her knees and reaching for the one of the boxes at the bottom of the wardrobe, she threw her aunty a look across her shoulder.

“For..formal or flirty?”

Damilola’s face showed confusion.

“What?”

“I said, formal or flir…flirty,” Fausat repeated, giggling.

Damilola found herself smiling.

“Proper.”

Fausat made a face.

“Ugh…you sou…sound just like my mum.”

Damilola continued to smile. Fausat reminded her in many ways of Angela in her teens. Playful and quite rebellious, it had been difficult to contain the teenage Angela. Now as she watched Fausat frown at her box, she realized how fond of the girl she had grown.

“Will this do?”

Damilola nodded at the white knee length dress Fausat held in her hands. They drove to Ikoyi thirty minutes later. Fausat was her usual chatterbox self, deluging Damilola with questions about her life.

“Where did you meet Uncle?”

“Law School.”

“You went to law school?”

“Yes.”

“Wow! So that makes you a law…lawyer?”

“Yes.”

“But how come you don..don’t have an office like uncle?”

“I have an office.”

“Where?”

“Ikoyi.”

“You’re a lawyer in your office?”

“You never stop being a lawyer.”

“So you go to court?”

“Not anymore.”

“Hmmm. So…urm uncle…you said you met him at law school.”

“Yes.”

“My mum told me he lived in London…is it true?”

“Yes. He schooled there…university.”

“Okay…and he met you when he came right?”

“Mmmm hmmm.”

“Oh okay. Cool…must have been romantic.”

Damilola smiled and concentrated on her driving. As she drove, she saw herself standing on the ground floor of the law school lecture hall many years ago. A tall, handsome young man had approached her, eyes striking as they stared into her own.

‘Scuse me, can yew show me how to get to the registration room please?

Damilola had thought her future husband’s British accent was endearing. She had given him a bright smile and led him towards the dinning center which the school had recently begun to use for registration of students. At the dining room, he had asked politely again if she could wait for him. She had given him a shy smile and agreed. He took her back home in his brand new 504 that evening. Their relationship would begin almost immediately.

**********************

SOMEWHERE ALONG BENIN ORE EXPRESSWAY

The driver of the Sienna drew out the money in his pocket and handed a substantial part of it to the petrol attendant. They cracked jokes for some minutes and slapped each other on the back.

“Driver make we dey go na.”

“Day don dey late. When you want make we reach Lagos?”

Pulling his door open and sliding into his seat, the driver grinned into his rear view mirror at the five faces scowling at him.

“Make una no worry, we go soon reach. Dem no dey call me Schumacher for nothing.”

His words drew laughter from the formerly irate passengers. Only the man sitting beside him, reading glasses giving him a bookish air, sought to question his choice of nickname.

“Do you know he is a racing legend?”

“Yes na,” the driver nodded, steering the Sienna out of the filling station to the road, “na why dem give me the name. Before ehn, if I just put my leg for pedal ehn…na correct racing we go dey.”

“Abeg no race anything there o,” one of the passengers warned, her bleached face reddening with annoyance. “Just dey drive jeje as you dey drive from Benin. Easter dey come abeg.”

The passengers laughed again. The driver and his companion discussed Schumacher, highlighting his life, achievement and his recent accident.

“Osanobua! Im don die?”

“No no, not at all. He is a coma.”

“Eyah, na God go help am.”

The passengers forgot the driver’s inclination for racing and settled back into their seats. In the back of the Sienna sat the sixth passenger. The passenger was a young with a pair of huge dark sun glasses that covered a good portion of her face. She watched the tree dotted land as it flew past, eyes brimming with tears under her disguise. She had lost the love of her life to the long arm of the law, and she was too cowardly to wait behind to see what happened next. She whispered her apology to the wind, tears escaping her glasses.

I am so sorry Boma….so sorry.

************************

THE OYELOWO MANSION

MARTIN’S STUDY

Martin Oyelowo had just returned from his meeting when he saw the news. The first thing he did was open his drawer and bring out the file that contained information on his most prized employee. He read through carefully, eyes narrowing thoughtfully. He remembered Naden’s call.

I plan to ask for adjournment today sir. There are facts I’d like to examine.

Call me back Naden.

Martin did not have time to spare. The news about Naden’s brother was timely. Martin flipped his wrist, eyes glowering at the round face of his expensive Hublot wristwatch. He would wait ten more minutes. He was prepared for whatever surprises Naden would spring on him. He had surprises of his own.

*************************

NADEN

I feel her eyes on me as I return to my seat. Across the aisle, Barrister Shuaibu gives me a grateful smile as he takes his own seat. I question my decision to seek adjournment as conversation continues unabated in the court room. There is no explanation for my decision, except conscience pangs. I lift my eyes to the empty dais. The judge’s seat is still empty. Thirty minutes ago the judge had excused himself from proceedings and returned to his chambers. The clerk had whispered the reason for his hasty departure.

There is something…the judge that they removed in Rivers…they…want to have a meeting. I think the chief justice is calling him.”

The other lawyers discuss the clerk’s claim. There is no time to listen to court gossip as I receive a call from Martin. I leave the noise of the court behind and seek the silence of the corridor outside. As I press the answer key, the call icon begins to dance in the center of my screen.

Mum.

I answer Martin first.

“Naden?”

“Sir.”

“I waited for your call.”

“Sorry. I was going to call you after proceedings.”

“After you ask for an adjournment?”

I sigh. This was going exactly how I pictured it. I brace myself for friction with Martin.

“Yes sir.”

“I actually expected you to say no sir.”

“Sorry.”

“Actually Naden, you cannot ask for an adjournment.”

“Sir but…the facts.”

“I don’t care about facts. I want you to deliver your final address and come back to Lagos.”

I keep myself from arguing with Martin. I had given Barrister Shuaibu my word. We would seek an adjournment.

“And…Naden, have you seen the news today?”

I frown. “What part of the news sir?”

“The one about a certain Mr. Boma that bears a striking resemblance to you and even shares your surname.”

My hand tightens around the phone I hold to my ear.

Boma was in the news?

“He is your brother I presume.”

I draw in a deep breath.

“Yes sir.”

“Well, they were saying something about a kidnap in Edo state. I think you should read about it.”

I close my eyes.

“Okay sir.”

“Good…and Naden?”

“Sir?”

“Go ahead with your final address. I might be able to do something about this brother of yours.”

I stay where I am minutes after Martin ends the call between us. I think of my mother’s call. She had seen the news too. I steel myself and call her. She is in tears. She tells me in a shaky voice that a relative had heard the story about Boma kidnapping a senator in Edo state. My mother’s painful cries ringing in my ears, I return to the court room and prepare for my final address.

******************

ANGELA

He reclaims his seat beside me, opening the file on the table and reading through the paper holding his argument. My hear sinks.

He has spoken to my father.

There is a loud thumping on the door at the side of the platform where the judge sits.

“Court!”

Wigs fly to the heads of the lawyers and gowns straighten. We stand up as the judge enters. I look sideways at Naden. His eyes stare straight ahead.

I know he will not be asking for an adjournment.

I look past him to catch Barrister Shuaibu’s smile. The man had been full of praises for Naden during our five minute conversation.

If only he knows.

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