Hi everyone. Counting down to the release of Book 2 of the Cupidess Mismatch Series. Soon and very SOON! Excited…
In the meantime, here is Chapter Two to whet your appetite.
Resting the mobile phone against my ear with a huge smile on my face, I lean back on the executive chair in my newly converted study. This is my favourite place in the three-bedroom flat I’ve rented for an entire year.
The gorgeous view of the city below was a big selling point. That and the fact that the dark grey walls and the total lack of clutter provide the perfect ambience for me to be productive. A quiet place where I can write … and think.
“Mum, I’m fine,” I mutter, shaking my head as though she can see me. “I’m a grown man quite capable of looking after myself.”
My mother’s constant fussing drives me crazy. And pulls at my heartstrings. I love her for always showing me how much she cares. Sometimes, even going overboard, calling me almost daily or sending me positive affirmations every morning.
From the age of ten, when I was rescued from a biological mother whose severe drug addiction left her unable to look after me, and then, got adopted by my new family, my mother’s loving care has cocooned me in her eternal positivity.
Mr and Mrs Duncan … they came to meet me, and that was that. Originally from northwest England, the pair took me into their home, showered me with love and support, and did their best to help me forget the harrowing early years of my life.
Yet, all the love I’ve received from my adoptive parents and three siblings hasn’t done much to eradicate my bleak and pessimistic outlook on life.
Blank soul. Hardened heart. Incapable of loving anyone.
Just a few of the ways women have described me. Mostly exes. Including my most recent—an unfaithful former girlfriend trying to explain why she’d strayed.
“I couldn’t get to your heart. You’re made to be alone.”
I tap my fingers on the desk. Unpleasant as the memory is, it’s my main reason for being here. To sort through my past. And if at all possible, heal some festering wounds.
“So, have you found him yet?”
My mum’s question pulls me from my roving thoughts. I let out a low chuckle.
“In the less than two weeks I’ve been here? I’m an actor, Mum, not a magician,” I reply, crossing my legs at the ankle. “Besides, I’m still settling in and getting the lay of the land before I go searching for him.”
Her soft laugh warms my heart. “Okay, love. I hope you find whatever it is you’re looking for and that it brings you peace…” She hesitates, and my stomach clenches.
“What is it, Mum?” I ask, although I already have my suspicions.
“Well … I just don’t really understand why you’d travel half a world away looking for a man who may not want to be found. Or why you’d want to dig up disturbing memories.”
Her Scouse accent, which fifteen years of living in London hasn’t dampened, rises in my ear. Hearing her voice always soothes me. Reminds me of our life in Liverpool, when I was just a young black boy living with an all-white family, carefree and without the constant scrutiny from folks asking why I was so different from the rest of the family.
People in my neighbourhood knew exactly why, and were relieved that I’d finally been removed from a harmful environment and placed in a safe, loving home.
Moving to London changed all that. A new city meant new neighbours, ones who asked loads of questions, sometimes curiously, and other times, rudely.
My early years in Croyden were marked by misery. People glared at me whenever they saw me with my family. Things at school were even worse. If I had a nickel for the many times that I was called the real black sheep of the family, I’d own a castle made from the silvery metal.
Without my wonderful mother who always found a way to shield me from the pain, I would have imploded. I push back the memories.
“Nigeria is not worlds away, Mum,” I say with a wry twist of my mouth. “It’s only a six-hour flight.”
“I know, but … are you sure you really want to—”
“Oh, Mum.” I suppress a sigh. It isn’t fair to be flippant about my mother’s concern. I know she loves me unconditionally, perhaps even more than my biological mother Nancy. “We’ve talked about this. I need to find him. Look him in the eye and tell him what he did to Nancy … to me…”
My tone is more passionate than I intended, but the thought of seeing the man whose evil blood runs through my veins angers me. And yet, I am eager to meet him.
“I need some closure. And maybe if I get it, I can finally heal … finally manage a healthy relationship.”
“Oh, Justin, I wish you’d realise how wonderful you already are. Rochelle … she’s the fool, the one that cheated and—”
“It’s not just Rochelle, Mum. Three women have cheated on me. Three,” I say, humiliating as the truth is. “They are not the problem. I am.”
My outburst seems to have rendered her speechless, because Mrs Duncan, who is never at a loss for words, has no response.
“And their excuses are scarily similar,” I continue. “I’m the reason they’ve strayed.”
I brush my palm across my face, tightening my jaw at the recollection of opening the WhatsApp message Rochelle intended for her sidepiece, but erroneously sent to me. If she hadn’t deleted it immediately, I may have even believed the lie she first told me.
My disbelief and persistence eventually wrung the truth from her—that about six months into our eighteen-month relationship, she’d started seeing an up-and-coming musician named Raul. According to her, my lack of emotional availability had left her no choice but to seek her happiness elsewhere.
Having replayed that fateful evening and her candid assessment of me in my head countless times, I can still remember everything Rochelle said as if it were a recording.
“You’re a brick wall,” she cried out, tears running down her cheeks. “Even now, you’re so calm. I’ve just told you that I’ve been fucking someone else for months, and you’re unmoved, silent. What kind of man are you?”
That question still haunts me, because her assessment was dead-on. I felt close to nothing. Sure, a little miffed … a certain hit to my male pride. But truthfully, no more upset than the time I lost my keychain and went through all that entailed—a locksmith, new keys, changed locks. Inconvenient, but hardly worth going on about.
Nope, I was neither hurt nor devastated. I still am not, and I actually planned on marrying Rochelle. Had even ordered the engagement ring. Is she right? Is there something wrong with me?
“Maybe it’s in my blood, Mum. Something genetic about me that repulses women. Maybe just like my biological father, I’m—”
“Not another word from you, lad,” she cuts in, her voice suddenly back in full force, her words heavily laden with her Scouse accent. “You can’t inherit evil. It’s an excuse wicked people give to avoid taking responsibility for their horrid actions.”
She blows out a harsh sigh that prickles my ear. “And you can’t let any adult blame you for their decisions. Those awful women decided to cheat instead of talking to you. That’s on them, love. Not you.”
I drag in a deep breath. On some level, I agree with my mother. Of course, I didn’t make Lily, Nene, or Rochelle cheat on me. No. They did it all on their own.
However, they all found me lacking emotionally—called me detached, hardened, cold. That’s got to mean something.
“Okay, Mum,” I say, reluctant to start a debate I’ll never win. She only sees the best in me. No way I’d ever convince her I’m the loser I sometimes feel like. Or that I am unable to keep any woman happy or even content. She thinks I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread.
“Justin …” My mum blows out my name in a soft voice. “Just take care of yourself for me, alright?”
“Will do, Mum.”
“And keep me in the loop, no matter what, okay?”
“Always,” I say, my throat tight. This woman’s my rock, a light that shines in the darkened space of my heart. “Love you, Mum.”
“Love ya, too. Stay safe.”
“You can count on it. And you, too. Stay safe.”
Ending the call, I lower my mobile phone onto the chestnut oak desk and glance out the massive bay window. I rise from my seat, walk across the room and slide it open. Taking a deep breath, I fill my lungs with the fresh air that filters into the room.
It’s Friday morning in Lagos. And from my apartment’s third-floor vantage point, I can see the busy traffic below.
Bumper-to-bumper, cars move at a snail’s pace, motorcycles snake between vehicles with reckless abandon, horns are blaring left, right, and centre, and people are yelling instead of talking. Maddingly chaotic. Exactly how I feel right now.
The first time in my life being in Nigeria should be joyous—a sort of homecoming. And in some ways, it is. Except really, my sole purpose for being here is finding my biological father. Not that I have much to go on. Just a grainy picture of the man who my birth mother believed sexually assaulted her.
According to Nancy, she had been so high off drugs that she couldn’t remember much about the incident, except that she’d woken up bruised at the corner of a building, her clothes in tatters, and bleeding from down below. Her only real memory of the attacker was going home with a man she’d met at a party—a handsome Nigerian student vacationing in Liverpool.
I walk back to my seat and pull out the desk drawer. Retrieving the old photograph, I settle back onto my seat and stare at it for long moments. The one picture she’d managed to get of him. Because the club had been dark, his facial features are blurry. All I can see is a dark-skinned black man of average height and build.
My first task is to find this man. And as if that’s not hard enough, then I need to come up with a plan to get a sample of his DNA, so I can see if he’s really my father. And find out if I share the genes of a person capable of such a heinous crime. A shudder runs through me at the thought, but it doesn’t deter me.
Which is why as soon as we wrapped up shooting the final episode of Men of Valour’s Season Four, I headed straight back to my Chelsea flat, packed my bags, and took the next flight from London to Lagos.
Fortunately, there’s nothing pressing on my plate for a while. Yes, a few promo rounds are scheduled four months from now in preparation for next season’s premiere, but I can easily fly in and out for those.
So, I have enough time for the hunt. Somebody somewhere must know him. Lowering the picture carefully back into the drawer and sliding it closed, I turn my attention to the open laptop on my desk.
I unlock the screen and log into my Twitter account. I’ve uploaded the photograph onto my feed and have already gotten over three hundred retweets. I know the chances of someone already replying are less than remote, but I can’t help looking. Sure enough, I’m right. Nothing. I’ll just have to wait and be ready for the first lead I get.
A notification blinks at the top of the screen, fracturing my musings.
You have a new message from Cupidess.
I click the link, and my heart lurches. As I read the text, the staccato beat in my chest strengthens with each word.
Good Lord. Nearly a week of ignoring me on this app, and the first response I get from Adanna is a none-too-pleased epistle berating me, followed by a herd of angry emojis.
I pull my seat into the desk and lean forward, keeping my gaze glued to the screen of my laptop, completely arrested by what I just read. My breathing becomes shallow as I re-read the message, slowly this time, so I don’t miss a single word.
Adanna: Mr imposter Justin Igwe, you couldn’t have chosen a worse day to contact me with your fake-as-hell profile. You may enjoy playing games on this app, but the rest of us are not here for it. Possibly you think all women are desperate and stupid enough to fall for your scam. We’re not.
So, you find me intriguing? What a load of crap. You really want to get to know me, you say. Well, here’s a sneak peek of intriguing me.
Just a few hours ago, my boss informed me that I have to have sex with him to get a promotion that I totally deserve.
He calls it scratching his back. As if agreeing to it wouldn’t mean selling myself short and losing all my self-respect.
And you know what’s worse? Instead of telling the pompous, rotund, old-as-my-father lecher that I have no intention of selling myself or my professional abilities short and throwing away my self-respect, and that he could shove his offer where the sun doesn’t shine, I remained silent. Mute as a mule.
You know why? Because I’m so broke that I barely have enough money to make it from month to month. I left the office actually contemplating his disgusting proposition.
Now, what about this do you find so intriguing, Mr Fake Celebrity?
Next time you’re tempted to use your fake profile to chat up an unsuspecting woman, stop and think. Maybe, just maybe, she’s having a day from hell, and you would do well to resist that temptation.
Flabbergasted, I lean back onto my seat and whirl it around, almost as rapidly as my mind is spinning. Several emotions collided with one another as I read Adanna’s message. But red-hot rage wins out.
My seat comes to a crashing halt and I grip the armrests, closing my eyes tightly. How can any man be so disgusting, so vile? To demand sex in exchange for anything. To take advantage of Adanna … or any woman.
Bile rises within me, and I swallow hard to keep myself from being sick. I’m a product of this kind of evil. I can’t explain it—it’s irrational really—but I feel guilty. Almost responsible for her boss’s behaviour.
I let out a frustrated sigh. Life is so damn unfair. That Adanna, or my mother, should have to suffer something so ugly is unconscionable. I hate that she’s going through this, even if I don’t know her. And I wish I could do something to help, find a way to make her boss pay for this.
I glance back at the darkened screen of my computer and clench my jaw. The screensaver is a black hole. Just like my heart.
Ever since my birth mother Nancy revealed nine years ago that she’d been raped and I was a product of that violent act, I’ve been on auto pilot—almost like the life I’m living is not under my own control. As if someone else is pulling the strings on a marionette.
I know exactly how it feels to bear the burden of someone else’s sins. So, I don’t judge Adanna for considering the offer at all. In fact, I feel sorry for her, angry on her behalf. And completely helpless, just like I sometimes feel about my own situation. If only I could do something to help her.
I lean forward again and my fingers fly across the keyboard in reply, my chest burning with all my conflicting emotions. I stop typing, read over my message, and correct a few typos.
Heaving in a deep breath, I press the Send key. When I see Message Sent, a surge of anxiety floods my senses. What if my message makes her feel even more shitty? What if I’ve made things worse?
There’s no way to delete a sent text. My stomach churns. Damn it. I hope to God she doesn’t block me and that I don’t lose the only connection I have to the most intriguing woman on this dating app.
I hope you enjoyed this. Can’t wait to share this love story with you. Comments below.