D: Who is this please?
UNKNOWN: Fake boy like you,
D: Well, that’s an improvement. I was beginning to think your vocabulary was limited to just two words.
UNKNOWN: Idiot! Faggot like you! Who da hell do you think you are?
D: Someone who has gotten sick and tired of your pestering, that’s who. Now kindly do us both a favour and get a life.
UNKNOWN: It’s your asshole that is sick and tired. Disgusting faggot! Lousy idiot!
D: It says a lot about me that I don’t even have your number stored in my phone. To me, you’re a nonentity. Thank God for Whatsapp’s block button, because after this response, I’ll be blocking you. So don’t bother sending me any more of these childish messages.
D: Get. A. Life!
I sat in the hallway that adjoined the conference room inside where moments ago, I’d sat with Mrs. Oguzie, Estelle and Dotun for a preliminary grilling session, during which my superiors shed light on the issue surrounding the complaint filed against me.
The complainant was Jim Moneke, an intern who’d been employed by Fit Plus, and left the company three months ago upon the completion of his appointment. He had come back to file an employee misconduct charge against me, claiming that I used him during his time in Fit Plus; seduced him with the promise of pulling enough strings to get him permanently employed by Fit Plus, had sex with him, and then tossed him aside when I was done, without fulfilling the promise I’d made. And the reason he had come back to file the complaint after three months of parting ways with Fit Plus was because he had recently contacted me on Whatsapp to jokingly remind him that I owed him, and he was shocked when I reacted by furiously telling him to stay away from him or he would regret it; in Jim’s complaint, he alleged that I’d said he should ‘go to hell.’
As I listened to Mrs. Oguzie, the Deputy Manager of Fit Plus’ Human Resource Department, relate the content of Jim’s allegement, I felt my face burn with a mixture of embarrassment, anger and shame. Mortification at all the falsehood the former intern had so publicly smeared the truth with coursed through every fibre of my being. I could not believe that idiot! I could not believe he’d had the presence of mind to bring to light this many lies – and truth. Because, indeed, both of us had been lovers. Our intimacy, however, hadn’t happened out of any coercion on my part. We’d both been two gay men who met, intuited that we had the same desires, and struck up a friendship that ultimately graduated into sexual relations. Our dalliance had been brief, and I ended it primarily because of Jim’s nagging. The intern believed I had to have some clout in the company, and could pull a few strings to help his lover. The breakup had not been pleasant, and I had summarily gotten rid of the young man from my life. It helped that a couple of months later, his internship was over.
But, of course, I couldn’t reveal all this to my superiors. Dotun perhaps, later. But certainly not Mrs. Oguzie and Estelle. It was the truth, but one the women might find ugly. So I fought to debunk Jim’s lies by telling some lies of my own.
“I’m not even friends with this Jim person!” I’d fumed before the other three. “We only conversed and laughed right here at work. I have no knowledge of him outside the workplace!” My eyes flashed as I took refuge in my anger. “This is ridiculous!”
“So you never made any promises to him about helping him get employed here?” Mrs. Oguzie asked, her eyes narrowed behind her glasses.
“Absolutely not!” I exclaimed, allowing my voice to climb a few decibels of outrage. I couldn’t afford to overdo it though. “He once mentioned it to me though, wanted to know if there was a way I could help him. And I told him no. I’ve only been working here for – how long? – how can I have any power to influence anybody’s employment?”
“And you never” – she paused for a millisecond – “seduced him to have sex with you? You two never” – she made a small waving gesture with her hand – “got intimate with each other?” The woman’s expression had soured, as though she had bitten into a particularly nasty-tasting snack.
“I am not gay, ma,” I said flatly. I divided an earnest look between the three of them. Dotun’s expression was carefully neutral as he looked back at me. “So these claims have no bearing, because there’s no truth to them.”
“So he’s lying?” Mrs. Oguzie asked, her brows arched.
“Yes, he is.”
“And this Whatsapp chat,” Estelle interjected. She was a few years older than me, pretty, ambitious and kind. “Did you threaten him when he contacted you?”
In that moment, I gave silent thanks that I hadn’t deleted my chat history with the unknown person who had been harassing me; an unknown I now believed had to be Jim. “No, I never threatened anyone. In fact, I have here a chat” – I dug out my phone from my pocket and clicked on the Whatsapp icon – “a chat that I had with somebody I don’t even know. I suspect the number belongs to Jim Moneke, if you check. Here, look…” I handed the blackberry over to Estelle after I had navigated to the chat.
She squinted at the phone screen, and when Mrs. Oguzie, who sat beside her, craned her neck to look at the screen, she moved her hand forward to accommodate the bespectacled woman. Both women skimmed the virtual conversation for a few moments before Estelle handed me back the phone.
“Anyway,” Mrs. Oguzie said as she made to stand, “that’s all for now. Mr. Moneke is in my outer office now, I told him to wait there pending our inquiry on this issue. You, yourself, can wait outside the conference room while we go and talk to him. This is a very delicate matter, which has a potentially ugly report if not handled carefully. So…” Her words trailed off, and she nodded at me before walking out of the room.
Estelle followed after her. Dotun spared a few seconds to give my shoulder a reassuring squeeze before following suit.
And in the twenty minutes since the end of the meeting, I’d been seated outside the conference room, waiting, worrying and pondering my fate.
“Declan,” somebody called softly.
I looked up. Kizito was just coming to a stop beside me. His very virile scent assailed my nose, and with my current vulnerability, I had a sudden yearning to collapse against that broad chest that stretched against his shirt and have his arms wrap around me and hold me close. The yearning was so acute that I felt a sting of tears in my eyes and an aching sensation fill my heart.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Are you crying?”
“No!” I gasped. My goodness, was my misery that obvious?
The look of sudden outrage on my face must have seemed comical to him because he chuckled softly. “Relax, I know crying is the last thing you’ll do before me.”
“Good, keep that in mind,” I said with some sternness.
His smile remained on his face. “Is it that bad though?”
“Is what that bad?”
“The case against you –”
“What case?” I burst out. Jeezuz! What does he know? I wondered frantically. Does everybody know? Oh my God! If the slightest hint of the exact nature of Jim Moneke’s allegations ever got out, I could never live down the shame. The whispers. The sidelong glances. Gawd! And the people in these offices can like to gossip ehn…!
“You know, the complaint that was filed against you,” Kizito answered.
“What do you know about it?” I fired at him.
“Nothing. Just that a complaint was filed against–”
“How did you hear about it?” I cut across his response.
“Mahmud told me.”
“How did he know?”
Kizito’s lips twitched. “My goodness, you’d make the Spanish Inquisitors very proud.”
“I’m serious, Kizito.”
“Fine. Okay. He heard it from Bisi, Mrs. Oguzie’s secretary. He’s been chyking her for some time, and yesterday, after work, she let it slip.”
“Did she know about –”
“Relax, Declan, nobody knows anything,” Kizito interrupted, lifting his hands to hold my shoulders and give me a gentle shake.
At his touch, I recoiled. It was involuntary. And he quickly released me when I made the move. I could see from his withdrawn expression that he thought my rebuff happened because I was still holding on to my antagonism for him. That wasn’t the case. In light of my current situation, paranoia at what my close contact with any male at work could be interpreted as was now rooted inside me.
I wanted to soothe his wounded ego, to tell him that I hadn’t rejected his act of kindness, that I was starting to really like him again, that I had other reasons for reacting to him the way I did. But that would require me explaining too many things I wasn’t ready to explain. And to tell the truth, I wasn’t entirely sure I could trust him. One kiss does not a trusting fool make.
“Hi, Declan…” a female voice singsonged just then.
The two of us turned our attention to a young woman who had stopped briefly beside us. She is Mary Jane, a stunner. She is one of those women who make the sex appeal they ooze seem so effortless. Like, she could take a sultry selfie one morning, upload it on instagram, and caption it ‘Just woke up like this’, and you would believe her. Her presence in any room in the workplace always managed to make the males in the vicinity perk up. But her charms were always lost on me. Why? Well, because of that teensy weensy thing called my preference for guys, duh?
“Sup, Kizito,” she said.
“Hey, MJ,” Kizito greeted with a wide smile.
One penciled brow lifted. It was such an eloquent facial expression, one that reminded me of Sean Connery in his James Bond movies. “Abeg, my name is Mary Jane joor,” she said with a chuckle. “All of you that are trying to relate me to Michael Jackson, I come against you.” She snapped her fingers with ministerial fervor.
Kizito laughed heartily. I managed a smile.
She turned to me. “What’s up, Dee?” She is the only person, with the exception of my close friends, who calls me that. “This one you’re sitting here with a long face, o di kwa mma?” She’s Yoruba, and so she said the Igbo words with the delicacy of one tiptoeing across a minefield, with a charming inflection.
I smiled. “Yes, I’m fine, MJ – er, Mary Jane.”
“No, you can call me MJ –”
“Ah…” Kizito choked out in mock-hurt.
“Oh please,” Mary Jane said, waggling her fingers at him. “Declan is my very special person. He gets privileges the rest of you don’t.”
There were some more chuckles before she sauntered off. Kizito’s eyes lingered on her as she walked away. My eyes were on him. He turned back to me, and smiled when he saw me watching him.
“You know she likes you,” he said.
“No, seriously, she likes you-likes you.”
“Right. The same way you like her too, yea?”
“Not as much as I’m starting to like you.”
“No, really, Declan, you and I, we need to talk.”
“About us. About that kiss and what it means. About –”
“You kissed me, Kizito,” I hissed, finally getting to my feet to eyeball him. “You kissed me. So whatever your intention was for doing that, that’s exactly what it means.”
He opened his mouth to say something.
“Declan Odum,” a clear voice cut in.
We turned. It was Bisi, Mrs. Oguzie’s secretary. My heartbeat picked up a quicker pace.
“My madam would like to see you now.”
I nodded. My throat was dry. Bisi smiled cheerily at Kizito before disappearing from our sight.
“It’ll be fine,” Kizito murmured. “You’ll be fine.”
I nodded again, and bit my lip.
“Gawd, I want you kiss you again so bad,” he rasped.
My eyes, wide and shocked, swiveled to meet his. He looked amused, like he’d been teasing me. And yet, there was something about the look on his face that told me he wouldn’t mind kissing me. His eyes smouldered, as they moved slowly from mine, over my nose, and settled on my mouth, in a look that was slow and lingering, making me feel it on my face like one long caress. My face became hot, and synapses were set off, sparking their way downward toward my groin. And behind my trousers and boxers, I felt a nudge.
I quickly backed away from him. “Okay…” I stopped, cleared my throat and began again, “Okay, that’s enough for one afternoon.”
His smile turned crooked. “I thought you said I should tell you my intentions.”
“I did not say that. I said – oh never mind, I’m going.”
His sift laughter followed me down the hall as I stalked away from him. This guy is dangerous, I thought as I turned a corner. The Federal Ministry of Health…well, the gay unit, should release a warning about the likes of him.
My amorous thoughts however withered the closer I got to Mrs. Oguzie’s office. I walked past Bisi, who was heavily laying on the super-busy-secretary act behind her desk, knocked on the door of the inner sanctum, and heard the low grunt that asked me to enter.
Mrs. Oguzie’s office was well-appointed and air-conditioned, and its officious appearance was softened by little touches, such as the framed photographs of her and her family that lined her desk, and the playthings that were tucked away in a corner, items she kept her children occupied with when she brought them to work from school, and was not done for the day yet. She was seated behind her desk; Dotun and Estelle sat on the settees positioned in front of the desk, and seated in the high-backed chairs across the desk from her were Jim Moneke and another woman who looked vaguely familiar. She was clad in a formal suit and her hair was sleeked back in a bun.
I kept my eyes away from Jim, whose stare I could feel on me, and turned to Mrs. Oguzie.
Waving at the other woman, she said, “This is Remi Odunaike, one of our in-house legal counsels.”
It’s a lawyer thing now? I thought with a silent groan.
“Declan, sit down,” Remi said in a kindly tone, pointing at the third high-backed chair on her side. Jim was on her other side. “I’d like to hear your own side of the story.”
“I’ve told Mrs. Oguzie everything,” I said, my heart pounding.
“Yes, I know. And she has updated me. But I’d still like to hear from you what happened.” Her gaze on me was direct, beguiling and sharp. The gaze both made me want to confess the real truth, and yet filled me with caution.
“You don’t have to tell the whole sordid tale,” Mrs. Oguzie interjected brusquely.
Sordid tale? That told me that this woman may have believed everything I told her in the conference room, but one thing she wasn’t buying was that Jim and I hadn’t had sexual relations.
“Just hit the high points,” she added in a tone that implied she’d had enough of all this.
Remi gave a small, conceding smile and nodded at me to go ahead.
I took in a breath, surreptitiously so, straightened my shoulders, and did my best to look both honest and indignant. “Like I told Mrs. Oguzie, Ms. Ogbonna and Mr. Akintoye earlier, yes, I knew Jim Moneke, but as a workplace acquaintance. Nothing more.”
“Declan, you lie!” he exploded then, half-rising from his seat.
And for the first time since I entered the room, I turned to stare icily at him. Even when I was attracted to him, I admitted to myself then that there was nothing particularly dashing about him. I was perpetually horny then, and he’d looked good enough and was good enough in bed to keep me soothed. That was then. Now, all I saw was a grasping, malicious person whose face was contorted into the most unattractive expression I’d ever seen. I disliked him enough to wish he’d step out of this building and get cut down by a hit-and-run driver. The bastard!
“Please, Mr. Moneke,” Remi said crisply, “this is no time for theatrics. You have acted out your anger earlier, and now, we need you to remain calm.”
“How can I be calm when I’m listening to him lie against me?” he spluttered.
“Would you rather we ask you to step outside then?” Mrs. Oguzie said coldly.
He turned to her and quailed. Her dislike for him was thinly veiled.
Attention returned to me, and I continued, “We were friends who only knew each other here. He asked me a couple of times if I could influence his employment here. I said no. soon, he left Fit Plus. And early this week, someone using a strange number began pestering me on Whatsapp with provocative messages. I ignored the messages until yesterday, when I finally responded. The chat quickly turned hostile, and I cut it short and blocked the number. I never knew who I was chatting with, he or she never introduced himself, and I never once threatened him.”
“And that was the only hostile Whatsapp chat you had with anyone this week?” Remi queried.
“Yes. And I’m certain now that the number belongs to Mr. Moneke. All you have to do is cross-check it with his phone.”
“And you still have these messages?”
“Yes, I do.” Peripherally, I could sense Jim’s unease. What, the bastard didn’t think I’d have proof that he was a lying jackass? I handed my phone over to Remi. All she needed was evidence that one part of Jim’s claims was a lie, and the entire case he had against me would seem bogus.
She glanced perfunctorily at the chat, noted exactly the words that had been exchanged and turned to Jim. Her tone was just short of icy as she said, “Mr. Moneke, would you like us to confirm that this number belongs to you, hence proving that this was actual exchange you had with Declan Odum? Or would you like to amend your story?”
Jim glared at me, and then at her. The muscles of his jaw moved rhythmically, as though he was chewing on his words. Then he said, “Yes, okay, so maybe I lied about that last part. But he and I had sex, and he seduced me, and he –”
“Yes, yes, we’ve heard all that,” Remi cut in. I was very pleased to hear the skepticism in her voice. “And for that, we will deal accordingly with Declan. But no crime has been committed here. It’s your word against his. And frankly, if there were any sexual relations between you two, it is hardly our concern. It occurred outside Fit Plus. On your own time. By your own admission, you two met at your place and in motels to have sex, never once in this building. And any private business of our staff is strictly his or hers alone. If it gets out tomorrow that I sleep with sugar daddies, that’s my business, as long as my private life doesn’t affect my work here, no harm done.” Then she eyed Jim beadily as she continued, “I would like you to remember that, Mr. Moneke, should you decide to take any further action that might compromise this organization.”
A pin-drop silence came in the wake of her words. Words that were simple enough, and non-threatening. And yet, the threat had been implied.
And understood, if Jim’s suddenly sullen look was anything to go by.
“Are we clear, Mr. Moneke?” Remi said.
“Yes,” he muttered, and abruptly got to his feet. “I’d like to go now.”
Remi shrugged. “Of course. Bear in mind that we will not treat this matter lightly. If it’s any consolation, Declan will be dealt with accordingly.”
I felt a chill at that.
After the door was shut behind Jim’s stiff back, Remi stood. She addressed Mrs. Oguzie, “My work here is done. I’m sure whatever crisis that should have come from this has been averted. Even if he” – she jerked her head at the door – “kicks up any further dust, it won’t be anything we can’t handle. Declan, just make sure you don’t delete those messages.”
Mrs. Oguzie said, “So you don’t think this is something Upstairs should hear about?”
Upstairs! The floor that is home to the main administration and the powers-that-be. I swallowed hard.
“Nah.” Remi waved a dismissive hand. “Not as the situation is currently, anyway. It’ll just be an unnecessary bother if it’s reported upstairs.”
Mrs. Oguzie nodded primly. Remi turned to leave, smiled briefly at me, said her goodbyes to Estelle and Dotun, and left the office. There was a brief spate of silence, before Mrs. Oguzie began, “Declan –”
“Ma,” Dotun interjected. She turned to face him, her brows lifted enquiringly. He continued in a deferential tone, “Can we first discuss whatever decisions that are to be made, before anything else?”
The woman appeared to hedge. My heart kept on its rapid tattoo. Then she nodded. “Very well. Declan, you may wait outside.”
I stood on feet that felt rubbery, and managed to walk with a firm gait out of the office. Bisi stared at me with avid curiosity as I settled on the settee in the outer room. I knew she was burning with questions, but she and I were not that friendly.
It was minutes before I heard the murmur of voices coming from inside. The volume rose and fell, and the timbre was at times dissentious, argumentative. I couldn’t make out what was being said. I shut my eyes and my lips moved in silent prayer. Please, God, don’t let me lose my job. Visit any contrary spirit inside there that is working against me. Consume them. Touch Mrs. Oguzie’s heart. Fight for me through Dotun. God, please, I cannot lose my job! I cannot! I just can’t!
I opened my eyes. Dotun was beckoning to me from the open doorway. I stood and went back in with him. Mrs. Oguzie’s expression was grudging, like she didn’t like what she was going to say.
“Declan Odum, you’re still employed here. I’ve been made to see” – she shot Dotun a brief stony look – “that there’s no real reason to recommend the termination for your employment. No reason even, to place any penalties on you. But take this incident as a warning.” Her eyes bore into me. “The next time any such allegation comes up again from any other person here, you’re out.” Her right forefinger jabbed the air at me. “Have I made myself clear?”
Crystal, I thought. “Yes, ma,” I said.
“Good. Now, I’d like to get back to what’s left of my day.” That was a dismissal.
The three of us subordinates filed out of her office.
“Estelle,” I called as we started down the hallway. The woman stopped and turned back to me. Dotun stopped as well. “Please, can we keep this between us?” I said earnestly. “I am innocent of Jim’s claims, but it’s still an embarrassing allegation. And if –”
“Don’t worry, Declan,” she interrupted with a smile. “My lips are sealed.” She made a zipping motion over her mouth, and smiled some more. Then she walked away.
“And you,” I said with a smile as I turned to Dotun. He was grinning as well. “Let’s go to your office. I want to thank you properly there.”
His grin widened, turned lascivious. The moment we got into his office and I clicked it shut, I walked into his arms and kissed him. It was a thorough kiss, passionate, and he responded, keeping his arms lightly on my waist. Then, I pulled back a bit and my right hand went down to cup his crotch. His hard-on filled my palm. I rubbed it and he moaned in response, instinctively pushing his hips forward, and his erection harder into my palm. My fingers flicked deftly over his trousers, pulling down his zipper and parting the fabric of his boxers that held back his cock.
When my hands closed over it, he shuddered and moaned again. His cock was beautiful, rock hard, surrounded by the dark curly hair I remembered from two days ago at his place, and it filled my hand. I played with it, with my palm and fingers moving over it, tip to hilt and back. He groaned and began a gentle thrusting motion with his hips.
“Kiss me again, Declan,” he panted.
We stepped a little closer and our lips met again. The wanking continued as the kiss got longer and more passionate. My hand continued to work his cock, and he continued grinding into it. Then his breathing became fast and he broke away from the kiss and looked down, with his face twisted with concentration as he felt the beginnings of his ejaculation. His groan was stifled and drawn out and his body clenched just then. We both looked down in time to see him start to come. Five or six big powerful spurts, then a long dribbly stage, covering my hand with cum.
Then he gave a trembly sigh and looked up at me. I smiled. He chuckled, a little awkwardly.
“Wow, that was intense,” he said.
I planted a quick kiss on his lips and said, “That was my ‘thank you’ to you, for being a good friend.”