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Welcome, Queens!

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This is a gathering of perfection!

For so long, boldly figured girls and women have been looked at with scorn, as though they’d been created by a lesser god, different from the Creator of all. For so long, those of us with curves have received judgements, one way or the other. Most times the curvy ladies have been overlooked for certain capabilities and skills just because they weren’t stick figures…

But it ends!

Being curvy doesn’t mean intellectually handicapped, it doesn’t mean ugly, nor does it mean an inability to live, love and be loved. Chubby people are first human and that comes with all capabilities and emotions that human beings are born with.

ChuBBy is body positive.

ChuBBy is fun.

ChuBBy is standing out and being sassy with your curves.

ChuBBy is living life, being adventurous and loving hard.

ChuBBy is sexy and fiery hot.

Join us!

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Get Hooked

Hello, ChuBBies.

Happy prosperous new year to all of us. May strength, vision and focus be ours this 2022, amen.

That said, enjoy this darling excerpt from a novel that released on the 31st of December, 2021.

Get hooked to your motivations, new year resolutions etc, just like the main characters in this book got hooked in love.

Name: Hooked up

Blurb: It was meant to be a fling. Two strangers, unavoidably attracted to each other, taking the edge off. But these things never go as planned. Tiabasi is left with consequences she’s not prepared for. And Nathan can’t get the enigmatic lady from the garden off his mind. 

These two are about to find out that love barges in with no permission. It also stays without consent.

This story can be read as a standalone complete with an HEA. However, to enjoy it more, you can read Rita and Ben’s story – Shots Fired – also available on Bambooks.

Buy link: Read Hooked Up on Bambooks.

https://bambooks.io/Book/share/Hooked-Up/15064

Excerpt:

AUTHOR’S NOTE

This book happened because I actually dreamt of eagerly trying to hook up with Cristiano Ronaldo. Read the book for the dream. One damn door refused to lock in that dream. Jeez, a girl can’t even get her rocks off in an alternate realm.

Anyway, I was going to write this story as quickly as a fling and as exactly as the dream. However, I’ve noticed these days my characters simply need me for the writing, not the telling.

If you hate this book, don’t kill me. I’m just the messenger who thought something light for Christmas would be ideal. There you go.

May something less than up to par turn to the most amazing thing for us.

Merry Christmas!

1.

Tiabasi

“Wow, Tee, look at this place,” Rita enthused when we opened the door to the suite we’d been given at the Rosemohr Gold Hotel.

“I know, right,” I enthused right along, our mouths open as we admired the plush suite, decorated in different hues of cream and brown. 

The soft lights highlighted the decor, making it relaxing and inviting.

“We must have done something right today,” Rita nodded, turning to smile brightly at me.

I nodded. “We pulled off the wedding of the century – between two royal families!” We both squealed like pigs in shit. I hoped the walls were thick enough to muffle our ecstacy.

“God, when Madam Edith called to tell me she wanted me to meet with the Dowager Queen, goodness, I almost peed my pants.”

“I swear, your mentor is amazing. May God bless that woman for us,” Rita commented, coming to hug me. 

I understood what she was feeling. I felt exactly the same way – both disbelieving and pumped with adrenaline. I hugged her right back, sighing out some of my nervous energy.

“But, it’s good to be rich o,” Rita joked in pidgin English.

“I tell you. We were able to pull off all that amazing glitter because money flowed.”

“Please, aunty, it’s also because we know our onions abeg,” Rita was quick to add.

“You’re right, as usual,” I chuckled, finally dropping the overnight bag I’d gone home to hurriedly pack when the Dowager demanded we attend the after party of the wedding.

The woman gave us a whole suite!

I sighed and fell on the firm, comfortable bed. Rita groaned appreciatively beside me when she equally lay facing up.

“For the first time in my entrepreneurial life, I’m grateful we aren’t running this after party.”

“Seriously! I’m so fagged out and ready to sleep. I feel like I’ll have good dreams in this bed.”

Laughing at my partner, I wiped tears of happiness from my eyes. “It’s the room, the decor is calming,” I sniffed, humor tinting my tone. “I seriously feel like sleeping too.”

“Or we’re just plain tired after today. I wish all clients were like this Dowager Queen. See how she insisted we pay off all vendors at the end of the event.”

“It’s really admirable. I want to be like her when I grow up.”

Rita chuckled, “Me too! And she’s kind. She didn’t have to invite us to the after party or give us plush lodgings.”

“Indeed,” I agreed. “Maybe she wants to introduce us to her friends. Rita, I swear, we’ve made it o,” I joked in pidgin English.

“Abeg, we were already made. You know, despite how amazing your mentor is, she would not have reached out if she didn’t believe Ritaz Imaginations could pull this off. This is a promotion – a very huge promotion.”

Nodding to her wise words, I turned my neck, my gaze shifting from the nicely molded ceiling to the beautiful, fair skinned, plus size woman beside me. A mother of two rambunctious, five year old twin boys and an adorable three year old girl.

“Well, I must thank you for giving my crazy idea a chance six years ago. Thank you for taking me on this adventure with you,” I said sincerely.

Rita Inyang rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I was wondering when the gratitude speech would make an appearance,” she shook her head and struggled up from the bed. “Oh God, I wish I could sleep here tonight,” she mockingly wailed. At that moment, she resembled her adorable daughter so much. And Rita, the forty-three year old woman, was simply waving off my gratitude as usual.

“Didn’t you say Mr. Ben was a guest here?”

She nodded and stood with a sigh. “Yes, his elder brothers are friends with the groom. They practically dragged him for this after party,” she chuckled, her eyes going dreamy for a second. It was no secret that Rita and her husband, Ben, were wildly in love.

Goodness, whenever he visited our new permanent office, they left the rest of us breathless with their intensity.

“Well, there are two rooms in this suite. You can sneak Mr. Ben into your room,” I wriggled my eyebrows at her and she burst into laughter.

“T-girl, please, don’t make me laugh so hard, I’m too tired.”

“I’m telling the truth. I’ll remain in my room so I don’t hear anything,” I bit my lower lip suggestively.

“Jesus, you’re so rotten,” she said and we giggled together. Rita sighed heavily. “But, unfortunately, my baby girl is down with malaria. Ben will not hear of spending the night away from his daughter.”

“Aww, I want what you both have created so badly,” I pouted, sitting up while she smiled.

“And you’ll get it.”

“When?! I’m thirty-five and I’ve not had sex in four years! Perhaps, I will shoot my shot at some of the handsome men at this party. One night of sex should make life less gloomy.”

“Uh, that went from one to a hundred pretty quickly,” Rita commented humorously. “And, I believe it’s called hook up these days,” she raised an eyebrow at me.

“I don’t care what it’s called. What would complete the perfectness of this day would be me under a man who knows how to handle a plus size woman.”

Rita chuckled. “You’re not asking for much, are you?”

“I’m simply stealing a page from your jotter, madam. Maybe, I might just get my own Mr. Ben tonight.”

“It’s not a bad dream to have,” she smiled at me. “In fact, I’m wishing this dream comes true for you,” she said as she pulled off the finely tailored, Navy blue slacks worn under a matching peplum top with a red corsage and red ballerinas- our choice of uniform while we managed this event. I still had mine on. We had to look good while remaining smart during events.

However, Rita’s comment about my dream coming true immediately reminded me of the strange dream I had last night. I gasped.

“What? My arse is not that big,” she said indignantly, eyeing me with mock fury over her shoulder.

Chuckling helplessly, I shook my head and hand at her. “No, not that. Although, your arse is that big. But that’s not what made me gasp.”

“Then what?” She asked, marching to the bathroom in only panties and bra, uncaring of my presence and quite comfortable in her skin.

“I recalled a strange dream I had last night. I was at an event and then I recognized Cristiano Ronaldo. We ended up hooking up in the bathroom…well, we almost hooked up. I recalled I was worried about locking the doors, but then one door wouldn’t lock and then it all got confusing after that.”

I’d been so lost in recalling that dream, my eyes staring down the light brown tiles and didn’t realize Rita sat beside me. I jerked when her cold hand touched my temple, as though checking for my temperature.

“When was the last time you treated typhoid? That’s the illness that usually comes with hallucinations,” she said candidly.

Laughing, I playfully shoved her hand from my face. “It’s a dream, anything is possible.”

“So, Cristiano Ronaldo – the football god?” Rita looked skeptical about my health.

“Urrg, I should not have told you,” I wailed while hurrying off to the second room. “I’m going to shower and change.”

“You do that, Mrs. CR7!” she called after me and I groaned under my breath. I know Rita will tease me with this for a long time.

2.

Tiabasi

Feeling chic in my knee-length, shimmery silver dress, I still fumed that I had to wear heels for this event. Rita felt the same way too. However, after pulling off a fantastic royal wedding, we dared not appear like peasants in an intimate event filled with the creme de la creme of society.

Rita and I were soulmates when it came to wearing relaxing clothes. It made me miss our early days in the business when we mostly concentrated on event decorations. Now that we’ve grown, it meant rubbing shoulders with high society and we couldn’t be caught un-fresh.

Melanin and proud, my silver slings added four inches to my 5’6 height. My muted blond, chin-length wig tenderly cupped my angular face. The off shoulder of my dress bared my neck and considerable cleavage which I was proud of. The stretch of the silver material hugged my figure dreamily. I knew my arse, like Rita’s, was killer – we’d both admired ourselves in the suite.

Rita still preferred her naturally long hair, one she wore down tonight. Her tube, black dress also hugged her figure, emphasizing her fairness. Where her makeup was light, I had on bold red lips and silver eyeliner added to my face beat. Jokes apart, I was out to snag me a man tonight. Not necessarily for the purpose of forever, but to feel wanted – attractive. It had been too long.

That dream had triggered a deep seated longing in me that I’d been ignoring. My dream football god had slung an arm over my shoulder, his fingers brushing my nipple and instantly hardening it. Recalling it had my body flushing with warmth. Goodness, I’d been celibate enough. This girl needed to be fucked several ways to Sunday.

After making the rounds of the glittering crowd, being nice to people we recognized and people we didn’t, Ben stole his wife away and I was left to be a wallflower in the corner. The conversations I could overhear were of government, elections, charities and community development projects. I was bored out of my head an hour into the event.

The handsome men I’d eyed were mostly married, or dedicated to licking the arses of prominent people. I’d seen Ben’s brothers, they were as handsome as Ben. The eldest looked like a giant barrel, handsome but mean looking and married. The second seemed playful but aloof to all that was happening – his friends too. I heard he was a successful footballer. And with how equally fit his friends looked in their tuxes, I assumed they were footballers too. 

That group seemed a bit too unreachable for me. Their aloofness indicated a hint of arrogance. I simply respect myself as I didn’t want anyone insulting me for trying to flirt.

But wait a minute – did this mean no single guy in this dratted party found me attractive? The thought was debilitating. Heart gloomy, I dropped my empty wine flute and walked the edge of the gathering till I pushed through the side exit into a dimly lit verandah.

Inhaling the cool night air, I wished for this party to end. If my wish for a one night stand wasn’t coming to reality, at least, let me utilize my suite. With how tired I was, I could sleep for a week.

Another deep breath had me admiring the garden beyond the verandah, dimly lit with fancy, colorful lights. The calm of the flowers at dusk beckoned to me. Additionally, the plush looking grass seemed like what would solve the severe pinch of my shoes. Looking left and right to make sure I was alone, I lifted my right foot, hooked my finger and pulled off the strap.

I did the same with the left and hurried down the short flight of stairs, giggling under my breath at my shenanigans. I sighed heavily when my feet sunk into the slightly damp grass. My toes luxuriated in the soft soil as I marched into the well manicured garden.

This place seemed like a mini-wonderland. All my stress evaporated as I followed the narrow path made by rows of flowers on both sides, my shoes dangling from my fingers. The cool breeze ruffled my wig, brushing tenderly on my face, neck and arms. The scent of the flowers perfumed the air, making me close my eyes as I inhaled, still walking.

For a second, I was transported to a version of paradise, until I walked right into a wall. Well, it didn’t hurt, so it must not have been a literal wall. When my eyes flashed open, I was facing a white shirt stretched over a broad chest, loosened tie dangling down and opened flaps of a tux.

“Oh,” was all I could say for a few seconds. As the owner of the barrel chest wasn’t saying anything, I worried about stepping back and meeting his gaze. This little accident was obviously my fault. I shouldn’t have shut my eyes while walking on a narrow path.

He huffed, shifted away, turning to the left to pick up his phone lying helplessly under a flower bed. The low light reflected on his face and had me gasping – pretty loudly.

3.

Nathan

I groaned when the careless lady gasped. It could have been a trumpet sound with how loud it sounded in that quiet garden. 

Skipping out of the after party to this hidden garden for peace became the best part of this day. It was the first time I was breathing freely after persevering through the wedding. Someone else had snagged my girl. We’d been friends from childhood, dated a bit but I’d messed up, cheated on her and she refused to give me a chance after that.

Losing her as my girl had taught me hard lessons. It was the reason I hated groupies. As a fifteen year professional basketballer, recently retired, I’d had a lot of groupies at my disposal – still did. Additionally, it was unfortunate that I shared some sort of look alike with a great footballer, it made having a private time difficult. 

It had been minimal in the US where I’d had my basketball career. People had not cared so much. But when I’d relocated to my hometown to start a string of businesses I was interested in, I never had peace. People were crazy about football here and so instantly spotted the resemblance.

My girl had caught me in a compromising position with a damn, sexy groupie out to seduce. I’d tried resisting her. But, who knew she’d had her friend videoing the moment. Even though the club’s techie had caught it almost immediately and wiped it off the internet. It had made no difference, my girl had seen it already.

It had taken months of begging before she even agreed to speak to me again. However, no amount of groveling had changed her mind about continuing the relationship. God, it had been my first weakness and it had destroyed me. Seven years of playing, I’d avoided groupies. The one time I’m weak, and everything goes to shit.

Nancy, my sweetheart, asked that we remain friends. I readily agreed. Even when she returned to our hometown, I called and chatted everyday, hoping I’d make a dent in her heart for me. I held on to that hope even when she told me she’d met someone. 

Well, that someone had married her today. There was no denying the envy in my heart at how perfect they looked together – a princess and a prince – literally. I did not come from royalty, but I would have been a prince to her. I would have treated her like my queen.

So, one can imagine how difficult this whole event has been for me. My friends were kind enough not to make jokes or snide remarks. Max, our mutual friend from way back, had been supportive. We all just pretended that I was happy for my childhood sweetheart. When in reality, I hated myself for falling for that groupie. 

Deep down too, I also miffed Nancy for not forgiving me or giving us a chance again.

Now, there was this lady who’d walked smack into me. I waited for an apology and got none – seeing as she was the one walking with her eyes closed. Whatever that was about. But I didn’t need added stress. So, I bent to pick up my phone which had fallen in the accident, holding my breath that she wasn’t a football fan.

However, that loud gasp dashed my hopes – this was another possible groupie. Avoiding the numerous comments on my resemblance to C.Ronaldo had been my motivation to escape to this garden. It’s the only damn thing I’ve been hearing all day.

Angrily, I straightened and pinned her with all of my fury. “Yes, go ahead and say it. I look like the damn footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo! Can we move along now?” I snapped.

She – a luscious piece of absolute beauty – stumbled back at my lashing. Goodness, my eyes unconsciously bulged when I took her in, fully. Perhaps, I’d been hasty to snap at her. She was curvy all over and knew how to emphasize it. The way her dress skimmed over her bountiful boobs and generous hips dried mouth. Her startled eyes made her stunning – those red lips!

Damn, mama! This was the first woman to make me sit up and take notice. I’d been sulking for years and suddenly, bam, I wanted to fuck. 

A growl rumbled in my throat at how primitive my thoughts had turned in a blink of an eye. Jesus. I couldn’t say I was drunk. But I felt high staring at her.

“Umm, I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking.” She blinked lovely eyes at me and my knees weakened. Okay, she was certainly a witch to have this instant effect on me.

“And, for what it’s worth, it’s only your side view that looks like – the damn footballer.”

And she had a sense of humor? My heart pranced around its cage. I took a deep breath, cleared my throat and managed a calm smile. “Is that so?” My deep voice came out smooth, sexy and ready to seduce. 

I swear, I did not do that on purpose. Why would I want to seduce this unknown lady? For all it’s worth, she might be married.

She gasped at my tone and I wanted to do more. Her left hand landed on her mouth watering cleavage and I sighed in relief – no ring in sight.

Nodding, she continued. “You certainly speak better English.”

She said it so softly it took a while for what she said to register in my brain. It wrenched an unconscious chuckle from me. 

“You’re taller – way taller than him. You’re darker and don’t have the mohawk haircut. You have thicker eyebrows, beard, thicker muscle mass, thicker lips -” her voice went husky at this and she had to clear her throat and look away from my face.

I instantly missed her eyes on me. There was no hiding her admiration for me. Did she see my admiration for her? I suddenly didn’t want to go back home anymore. I’d been headed to my car, chatting up Max, my closest friend, to let him know I was gone. Now, I simply wanted more time with this goddess.

“Walk with me,” I said suddenly. Her eyes snapped up to hold mine. “Please,” I quickly added.

She frowned. “I thought you were leaving,” she pointed her left thumb over her shoulder towards the entrance of the garden.

“Not anymore. Come, there’s somewhere we can sit for a moment,” I prodded. Jeez, Nathan, you sound like the devil luring a naive victim.

Her thick, red lips detached as she inhaled. Her cleavage tightened against the low neck of her dress. And my body seized up, dick going from semi to hard in a breath – literally. 

“Why? You just snapped, quite angrily, at me a few seconds ago,” she asked, her long fingers, tipped with red, manicured nails, flicking her short hair from her face. It revealed her raised brow.

I looked into her eyes while answering. “I like anyone who clearly states that I don’t look like the damn footballer.”

Her sexy lips twisted for a second, until she couldn’t hold her mirth. Her laugh tinted the night’s air, mingling with the scent of flowers. Man, was I a poet now?

I just liked her laugh. It was deep and unpretentious. Free and fresh.

“Alright, I’ll bite,” she said. And I had to take deep breaths to counter the heat hurtling to my dick as she spoke of biting. I instantly imagined her teeth sinking into my shoulder while I pushed her down, her wet sheath sucking in my hard cock. Goodness, the woman was a temptress and unconsciously too.

She walked beside me as I led us back to where I’d been sitting before deciding I needed to get home. It was a dried up fountain. The concrete built around it made a comfortable seat in the small, grassy clearing surrounded by flower beds.  

“This is nice,” she breathed as she sat down, arranging her shoes and purse beside her. I admired her equally manicured toe nails with the same red. Then I got curious as to why she wasn’t wearing her shoes.

“I’m Nathan,” I said, leaning my tailbone on the concrete instead of pulling myself up to sit, like she’d done.

She flicked her hair again and turned to me on her left, her lovely scent whispering under my nose. “I’m Tiabasi. People just call me Tee, though,” she shrugged.

“Hmm, nice name – remember God.” Her eyebrow rose when I interpreted her name. “Even though I spent years in the US, my parents wouldn’t let me forget my heritage. So, I know the meaning of your name,” I grinned at her. I have no idea why I offered the fact that I’d been in the states. Usually, I tried to hide that fact a lot. 

The ladies, both single and married, go crazy when they find a bachelor just back from the states. Single ladies wanted me, the married ones wanted me for their female relatives. Thank God, my accent wasn’t too obvious. So, I went mostly  undisturbed, well, except the resemblance thing.

“You sound so proud. I feel I should rustle up a medal for you,” she said softly, her eyes shining with mild sarcasm.

The laughter began in the pit of my stomach and splashed into the night loudly. God, she was funny. She chuckled quietly beside me and when I turned, she was staring at me intently. There was no denying the attraction. The space between us hummed like a naked wire charging with electricity.

“Good one, Tee. So, why aren’t you enjoying the party?”

That eyebrow raised again. It was another sexy feature of her. “Who said I wasn’t enjoying the party?”

“You’re here in this dark garden, where it could be dangerous for a lovely damsel such as yourself.”

She sighed deeply, looking into the trees. “I know karate. I can take care of myself. How about you?” She vollies the ball right back at me.

Chuckling at her badass attitude, I folded my arms over my chest. My peripheral vision caught how she bit her lower lip, staring at my arms. “Well, I assumed you came here because, like me, you weren’t enjoying the party. I’m hiding from heartbreak.”

Tee’s gaze rose to my face, giving me a speculative look. Once again, I cannot say what made me blurt that out. To cover up, I shoved the ball in her court again. “So, who or what are you running from?”

“What – why do you think I’m running?” She chuckled, eyes on mine.

“Your discarded shoes?” I held her gaze, the tension heightening. 

She swallowed and chuckled dryly. “The shoes were tight. Plus -” she pinned me with a look, like she was contemplating whether to share something. She swallowed again.

“Plus?” I prodded softly, not making sudden moves even though my pulse was racing.

“I was out looking for a one night fling,” she choked and took a deep breath, invariably stealing mine, right from my lungs.

There was no controlling the sharp raise of my brows and widened eyes. That was absolutely  unexpected. I took a deep breath to calm clamoring nerves. I needed to get control of myself. “Did you find it?” I asked, tone raspy.

She shook her head. “No,” she whispered, her eyes dropping to my lips and her tongue swiped over her lower lip.

Silence engulfed us for a few seconds. “So, if I kiss you now, what will you do?”

Her cleavage tightened against the neck of her dress as she inhaled deeply. “I’ll lean in closer and deepen it,” she replied in a husky voice.

My heart started thumping harder. “What if I grabbed your -” my gaze dropped to her considerable bosom, then flicked back to her face. “- boobs?” My mouth watered at the notion, hands tingling to grab the luscious bulbs.

“I’ll probably moan and grab your arse.”

Fuck, I thought. My cock strained against my fly. Without meaning to, I’d moved. Tee unhesitatingly spread her knees and I now stood in between her legs, my hands bracketing her thighs on that concrete.

“And if my fingers slide into your panties?” I whispered, barely breathing, my eyes holding hers.

She swallowed, holding my gaze. “I’ll unzip your fly and reach for your dick.”

That ripped a growl from my throat. I moved closer, suddenly in the vicinity of her scent. “Please, can I be your fling tonight?”

https://bambooks.io/Book/share/Hooked-Up/15064

Read more on Bambooks.

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Wield Your Scepter.

Hey ChuBBies!

Happy holidays! Hope you’re enjoying this Christmas season and the blessings that come with it.

It’s a couple of days to the new year and it is pertinent that we position for the greatness we will create and receive.

2021 had its ups and downs. But you made it through. Being alive and well is a chance to make it better, to win. A new canvas to paint yours dreams and make them real.

Queens, let’s polish our crowns. Let’s wield our scepter and claim greatness in the new year.

This is another chance to get it right. Put your tools together, take a deep breath and plunge.

Happy new year in advance. Let’s meet on the other side.

Love and light.

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#BookRelease INSIDE OUT by Emem Bassey #RomCom @ememjamesbassey @loveafricapress

You guys, my lovely ChuBBies, check this read perfect for the holidays!

Sexy Romance Novels

Title: Inside Out

Author: Emem Bassey

Series: A Ridiculous Royal Tale #1

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Publisher: Love Africa Press

Release Date: Dec 3, 2021

BLURB

Once upon a time, two monarchs from different kingdoms decided to switch their adult daughters with the hope of curbing their inherent character flaws.

Nkoyo, princess of Efik Kingdom, is impetuously problematic, spoilt, and unruly. Wofai, princess of Atam Kingdom, feels easily threatened and has temper issues. So, she screams as a way of expressing her anger.

Will this ridiculous plan save two princesses from themselves?

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CONNECT WITH EMEM

Instagram:@emembassey.thechubbyauthor

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Does it Matter?

Hi, ChuBBies! We got to the end of the year in one piece. Yippee…and Christmas is rolling in. Well, celebrations don’t mean we’re out of the hood in terms of life, but it gives hope of better futures.

The image above is food for thought in this new month and end of the year. We must start gearing up for the new year. We must start keeping positive mindsets for the new chance at living happily. So, here goes:

There will always be those human beings who insist on recalling – in public – how fat you used to be. They’d reminisce even, on how beautiful your skin used to be when you were fat. They might even tell you that you must have chosen a wrong slimming regiment and that now you simply look old.

Goodness, the struggles are numerous. Which brings us down to why you’re loosing weight or if you aren’t…
📍Do it for yourself – loose your weight because you want to, not because someone teased you or is forcing you, or because it’s for a man! And make sure you do it at a pace you’re comfortable with.
📍Before anything, polish your self-confidence and wear it as a crown – Whether you’re plus size or have lost weight, your self-confidence gets you into places.
📍Know your value ladies! – Plus Size or not, when you know the worth of what you bring to the table, no one will consider appearances any longer.
📍Seek alternative means – If you come in contact with a person mean enough to reject your amazing worth simply because you’re Plus Size, please, walk out with your head high and seek alternative direction. Most times, what we dream and seek never comes in the manner we’ve envisaged it. But it comes.
📍Have faith – Sister, you have to believe the universe works for your good. Sometimes, it might be slow, but steadily, the universe rotates until you win.
📍Be patient – We need this virtue a whole lot! With patience, we understand that things take a process and processes can take time. But it’s all worth it at the end.

It is not your weight that matters. It is your person.

Love and light to us. 😘😘

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You’re Loved

Hey, ChuBBies. We are almost to the end of the year. It’s beautiful to know we held on. And may we keep doing so.

Today’s caption is a message of encouragement and a bit of announcement. If you thought no one liked you because of your body, then you’re totally wrong. Read the story below.

A handsome man messaged the page and confessed his preference for plus size women. However, the few he had encountered and liked, blatantly, disbelieved his motives. One of his experiences struck a nerve –

He met a plus size lady on the bus. He admired her instantly and by the end of the journey had gotten her number. He courted her for months on the phone as they lived in different cities. Finally, they met and did the deed.

According to him, it was a glorious weekend. Said lady was in tears at his finesse. She said nobody had made love to her body the way he had. Except, when she left, her number ceased going through. And when he visited the address she’d given him, he was told she’d moved.

After worrying for weeks that she might have been hurt or worse, he was left confused as to why she purposely ghosted him. He could not explain the phenomenon, especially, as he’d had a strong connection with the lady. They had burned up the sheets, he’d said. His mind had been occupied with thoughts of her. He had to take excuse from work to travel to her town, just to make sure she was okay. However, she had invested energy in avoiding him. The man said he was still hurting.

There are so many variables here of what could have made said lady to run off. However, we cannot deny that most plus size people live defensively. I used to be like that, so I would know.

I’d suspect anyone who paid me a complement. I’d view the men romantically interested in me as scavengers. If I liked you enough to date, I was quick to break up in mere months (I’m talking two, three months, tops). It was a position of power and protection. Breaking up meant hurting the man first before giving him a chance to hurt me.

So, yes, I know what it means to live defensively. But not everyone is the enemy. And even if they were, having confidence in the fact that you’re beautiful and can be loved, allows you to decipher the grains from the chaff. It allows you look and observe calmly without the anxiety of doubts.

If you believe you’re beautiful and deserving of love, of course, you will not immediately doubt any complement or comment to that effect. It doesn’t even matter if the complement is genuine. Answering such complements with a confident – “I know, thank you”, – adds to your attractiveness. Make sure not to sound pompous. A nice smile makes it confident.

Therefore, dear plus size woman, realise that you’re appreciated, loved and adored.🥰

Cheers!

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Girls – Be Loud!

Hey, ChuBBies.

How amazing are you at the moment? Keep striving, for even that effort is something profound.

As it’s The International Day of the Girl Child (Oct 11) it is necessary to acknowledge girls all over the world.

It is necessary to make sure girls are heard. No matter their size, colour, status, job, religion, career, location etc, it is pertinent that strength be granted to their knees today.

Girls need to be loud. We refuse to be muffled any longer. We refuse to be muted anymore. Our voices matter.

The world needs to allow us be what we want to be. The patriarchal construct needs to be smashed to smithereens once and for all.

So, Girls – Be Loud!

Love and light, ChuBBies!

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A Glimpse

Hey, ChuBBies,

It’s been more than a minute. How has it been? Life interrupts one’s schedule and flow and makes things a bit difficult. But – the main thing is never giving up. Dust yourself up and try again.

So, ChuBBy is back with exciting offers. First on the list is a glimpse to a new book about to be published come October. It’s a small gift to you and an apology after being quiet for some time.

Enjoy the prologue of FAVE OGRE the 3rd and last book in the Retired Navy Men Series by Emem Bassey. Please comment your enjoyment when you’re done. And you can get FAIR ODDS and LIKE OURS, the 1st and 2nd series from here http://lintr.ee/emembassey

Prologue

Five years ago

Chris

“Who even gave us the name Special Boat Service? It sounds like we’re sensual entertainers on a luxury, cruise ship,” Gbenga – our lead on this mission – griped.

There was no helping the snort of laughter that came out of my throat. Chuckles from the other six commandoes of the SBS echoed in my earpiece as we crawled out from the dark, cold water of the Port Harcourt creeks.

This was the second mission James and I were on after over a year of Special Forces training. The first mission had been ceasing the activities of pirates in a small village off the Gulf of Guinea. This one was still on pirates who had kidnapped a foreign expatriate working with one of the oil companies that saturated Rivers State.

With how high placed this expatriate was, the nearest NNS (Nigerian Navy Ship) had been deployed with a Special Forces unit – us – to search and rescue Mr. Tommy Price – white male, 5’7, brown hair, pale gray eyes and a noticeable pot belly. He was to be brought back save and hearty and the pirates were to be decimated. It would be one less gang of rats on the seas.

This was quickly becoming our special mantra for each mission we were deployed for. Our commander said he liked the synergy between James Akai and I. He was the five to my six and vice versa. We had clicked over a shared dirty joke when we’d been in training and since then, we’ve been buddies. James had quickly become the brother I’d never had as I was an only child raised by a widower.

I think his innate need to always be perfect, good and do things right, called to me. I wasn’t a terrible person, but, I had to acknowledge that I wasn’t enthusiastic about always following the rules. James helped me with that even though during training I had still managed to get into a lot of scrapes.

“When you call it The Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service, it doesn’t sound so bad,” Colin commented from his position far off to my left in the dense rain forest we had just crawled into.

Silence followed his comment and then more snorts of laughter erupted on the communication channel. I don’t know what others thought of the name but it still sounded weird. I had never bothered about it before Gbenga brought it up. But now that he had, I’m sure we were all going to make dirty jokes about it when the mission was over.

Like spectres in the dark, we stripped out of our head-to-toe swim suits, opened our waterproof backpacks and wore our tactical gear. James stood beside me as we pulled on dark camouflage combat pants, black skin-tight shirts, black combat boots, belt, knee and elbow pads, Kevlar, night vision goggles and of course, our Tavor rifles, cocked and loaded and then our helmets. Our pockets were filled with extra ammunition, knifes, bombs and all sorts of weapons that we might need.

The SBS was Nigeria’s naval elite fighting force. And the fact that it had been likened to the United States Navy SEAL so many times had made me proud to belong. James had shared the same sentiment.  

“Commando three, report,” Gbenga’s voice requested. His tone had changed from humour to deadly in seconds. He was talking to Rufai, the unit’s tracker who had gone ahead while we dressed.

“Commando three reporting – the south is best to break in, it has less foliage to hide the sound of our approach.  I count seven hostiles outside, armed. There are four huts in the clearing and no sign of the victim.”

“We will be with you in two minutes, over,” Gbenga said.

“Copy that. Over and out.”

“Move out – single file – south bound,” Gbenga commanded and led the way. “Keep your eyes peeled.”

Before we moved, James stopped and checked my gear by wrenching on my Kevlar and weapon belt. It held. I did the same to him and bumped leather clad fists as we followed our unit, bringing up the rear.

Adrenaline pumped in my system as we skulked through the dark bush, using the thin sand path and avoiding stepping on anything that looked like a branch. The slightest noise could alert the hostiles and we would lose advantage of surprise on our side.

When we got to the clearing, we met Rufai, who had remained about a hundred feet behind the thick line of plantain that formed a fence around the hideout. We had to be careful not to trip off any trap these hostiles might have set. It was why we had Rufai.

Quickly, he pointed out the danger points and gave suggestions. Gbenga chose to crawl under twines joined to two plantain stalks. Rufai had discovered the almost invisible trap. An unsuspecting person walking the forest would pull the twin with the lift of his thigh as he walked and the precariously placed stalks, already chopped off, would topple over noisily, alerting the hostiles.

The whispered plan was to spread out. As we were eight, we advanced in twos towards each hut, eyes peeled for the victim. I pulled down my night goggle when I stepped out of the bush and into the clearing slightly lighted by flickering torches. Despite the fact that we had just swum the chill ocean from the ship to this obscure island, my armpit prickled with sweat.

James stood beside me. We shared a nod before taking position – Tavor rifles ready in front of us, we bent over and plunged in. James walked slightly behind me, taking the rear and covering it. Sounds of someone choking as they were being strangled floated through the channel.

“Sub-unit 2 has one hostile down.”

James touched my thigh to stop me from moving forward. We were almost to the last hut when someone rounded the third one, unaware of our presence. He was lean and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. A lighted cigarette hung from his lips as he stretched his hands to the heaven, groaning.

It was always so exhilarating how stealthy we were. I mean, we were right behind this guy, if he turned slightly, he would catch both of us behind the mango tree. But, he had no idea he was about to die.

James allowed him take another drag of his smoke. As he was about to expel it, he grabbed his nose and mouth from behind. The man struggled, arms flailing as he tried pulling James’ hand from his face. His burning cigarette had been flung a distance away. I appeared in front of him and his eyes widened. My combat knife did fast work of his throat, ending his struggle.

“Sub-unit four has one hostile down,” James reported.

We lifted him into the shadows, making sure our surprise advantage still held. But it wasn’t to be. Soon after that, someone shouted in alarm and gun shots disrupted the silence of the night.

“We’ve been made. Four hostiles are spraying with machine guns. Sub-unit four, take them from behind,” Gbenga calmly commanded.

“Copy that, LT,” James replied tersely.

 Nodding at each other, we had no need for words as we continued behind the mud hut. I had just passed the right side of the forth hut when the mud walls exploded. Someone must have heard our tread outside the hut and sought to shoot blindly. A few seconds earlier or later, he would have gotten me or James. My heart stuttered as I turned to check for James.

He was fine and remaining behind the hole in the hut. Pressing his fore and middle finger together, he pointed forward three consecutive times, meaning I should keep going.

I did.

Nearing the sounds of the hostile shootings, I detached from the mud wall of the hut and went into the trees to have better sight. They were in front of me, also hiding behind trees as they held off the other sub-units.

 Breathing through my mouth, I lifted my Tavor. Holding my breath, I shot off three rounds in quick succession, picking out three of the four hostiles like tin cans on a wall. They dropped like bags of potato. One died with his hand still on the trigger, shooting into the air.

The forth guy flew into the left side of the hut we had just rounded.

“Sub-unit four, three hostiles down, one on the loose,” I reported as I noticed James wasn’t where I’d left him. So, I started jogging back there, eyes swerving from left and right.

More reports of hostiles going down floated in the com-channel. I followed the fourth man who had docked when I was shooting. The left side of the hut was extremely muddy and even in the gloom of the night, I saw his skid marks. Creating my own skids, I followed tentatively, hearing sounds of combat.

When I rounded, I was relieved to see James stabbing the life out of the hostile he’d been fighting with. I’ve no idea if the dead guy is the same that had docked out of sight. I was just relieved my brother was okay.

“Hey –” I started saying but James growled and flew at me. My heart lurched into my throat. It all happened in seconds. His shoulder hit my stomach, ploughing me off my feet the same moment bullets whizzed past my ear. Before I could recover, James shot off his gun in the awkward position which we lay on the ground.

The hostile dropped forward just as our unit guys rounded into the vicinity.

An eruption of more gun shots disturbed our relief. It came from inside the hut we were behind. I recognised the sound of the Tavor and hoped that one of us finally got the hostile inside there. We quickly got to our feet, guns at the ready, silently moving like ghosts, eyes searching for more threats.

“Victim secured and well,” Gbenga announced. “I repeat, victim secured and well.”

“All hostiles down,” Rufai announced seconds later and I finally sighed in relief longer than a few seconds.

My heart raced a mile a minutes as I realised I would have died – twice, tonight. I turned on James and hugged him tight. “Thank you,” I choked even as I trembled in his arms.

“You’re good. We’re good. You did the same for me last time,” he chuckled but I could feel him trembling too.

Unlike the army where their Special Forces were divided into several small units like Amphibians, Paratroopers, Trackers, Rangers and so on, an SBS officer went through an overall training in all departments. We had to pass Airborne and Amphibious Schools plus everything else. However, it didn’t matter that we were experts and went for these missions eagerly. We were also humans and worried about death.

Indeed, I had shot a hostile over his shoulder in our last mission, taking him out before he shot James. But to be the one saved felt different than being the saviour. I felt vulnerable in that moment and my bond with James solidified.

“Good job, gentlemen. Good job,” Gbenga said when we had conveyed Mr. Price – Etehi, the buffest amongst us, carrying him on his back – to the ship. The man had been weak and shaky when Gbenga found him and definitely couldn’t walk on his own.

The ship doctor immediately took him for thorough check up while we shared a drink on the deck, being transported back to base.

“Not bad for a couple of sensual entertainers,” James commented dryly and the deck erupted in raucous laughter, echoing over the vast space of the sea. God, I loved my job.

While the others conversed, laughing loudly, James turned to me, his leather clad fist raised and pointed towards me. “Brothers for life,” he said, smiling at me.

My heart bumped happily. We were not blood, but we were indeed brothers. I made a fist and bumped his. “Brothers for life,” I repeated, meaning it wholeheartedly.

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Holiday Reads (Nigeria)

Hello, ChuBBies!

It’s the Muslim holiday in Nigeria. Happy Eid-el-Kabir to all our Muslim ChuBBies!

It’s always cool to have free days were you relax at home. What do you do with yours?

Some like to read. And there’s a promotion going on Okadabooks that can help these ones get many great books.


booksales

Good news, guys!
My books are on sale on @okadabooks mid-year sales!
🔻
Let me tell you #secrets :-
✓ Duct 5 is coming before year’s end. It’ll be wise to get acquainted with previous characters.😜 This is an opportunity to get all previous four series in one book at #50% off the original price.
✓ Also, the Retired Navy Men Series #3 is showing up in August or September. Get the first two series for less the original prices.
✓ Visit the Okadabooks app to search for titles.
✓ Hit linktr.ee/emembassey and check directly.
✓ Promo ends on July 23rd.
✓ Don’t snooze or you lose.😎
🔻
I write sexy African romance featuring plus size heroines.

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Own Your Crown, Queens!

Hey, ChuBBies!

It’s been a whole month! What is going on with you? The comment section is so open for chats. We can meet up and encourage ourselves.

First off, happy new month to us. This July will be amazing. But first, how are we standing up?

You know, there will always be some of us who exercise or dieting would never reduce. It doesn’t mean we are weird or stuck. But like the pic said – God wasn’t confused when he created different kinds of people.

We are all valid human beings in our different shapes, sizes and colours.

And we can all get loved passionately. We just gotta love ourselves first – passionately.

Accept that body. Refute all trolls. Love self to receive love. There’s someone out there for you. All you need is a step out of the closet.

Love and light, ChuBBies.

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A New Thing

Hi, ChuBBies!

Hoping your month was great. And here we are at the end. Let’s presage the new month and give ourselves something new to be glad about, yeah?

Here’s a new release from Emem Bassey – LIKE OURS. Enjoy the first three chapters. Hope you love it.

Name: LIKE OURS
Author: Emem Bassey
Genre: Romance, a bit of crime
Heat level: 4 🔥🔥🔥🔥
Insta RD: May, 31, 2021.

BLURB
Matt Akang had been killed in a boating explosion – at least, that was the official report released by the Nigerian Navy. No one mentioned the robbery he’d planned and carried out with three other officers – also declared dead. No one mentioned the huge amount of money carted away that night.
Ten years later, Matt Eben resurfaced to save his twin brother’s life. However, returning to being a ghost became difficult, especially when he met voluptuous beauty – Jane Ituen. With snarky Jane in trouble and in need of a pretend fiancé ASAP, Matt offers himself but insists the marriage must be real. The couple are happy even though Matt has a looming dark secret. Everything is unbelievably blissful until someone from Matt’s past shows up for retribution.

RNM
…retired, not inactive. In the Retired Navy Men Series – some left the service honourably, some not so much. However, they aren’t down for the count. Not in action, certainly not in romance. Find these service hardened, gruff men and see how they handle their curvy lady loves…or how their curvy lady loves handle them.

BUY LINKS
Smashwords: https://cutt.ly/JneXwFM
Okadabooks: https://cutt.ly/MnrT4o9
Amazon: https://cutt.ly/nnrYxQ6
Kobo: https://cutt.ly/CnovCLL
Bambooks: https://cutt.ly/xntTTfV
Add to Goodreads: https://cutt.ly/MntEurU

Chapter One

Ten years ago

Matt

“You’re too loud,” I huffed, stopping the undulation of my hips. My breath came out harshly, blowing the tendrils of hair on Laura’s nape.

I had her pinned on the wall beside her bedroom door. Her long legs circled my lean hips, dick buried in her pussy. My jeans hung halfway down my thighs, my arm muscles bulged from bearing most of her weight. For a slender woman, she sure had considerable heft. Perspiration glistened on our dark skins, making the whole ordeal irritating.

We shouldn’t have done this – at least, not now, especially without electricity. February in Yenegoa, capital of Bayelsa State was hot as fuck. It didn’t even matter that the town was riverine – when the sun came down, it burned. It was, therefore, inadvisable to have sex in the afternoon – without electricity. But Laura had insisted, almost making a ruckus.

Laura pouted, thick lips extending as though needing a kiss. There was no way I was kissing her now. It would only elongate this session that I’d not been interested in from the onset. I needed air. What I was inhaling in her crammed room was hot and balmy and damn annoying.

When her pout did nothing to clear my ferocious frown, she rolled her slanty eyes and resorted to her natural bitch attitude. “Are you afraid of your friend hearing us?” she asked coyly while tightening her vaginal walls.

Usually, that shit had me pounding into her as roughly as she required. However, today, there were other things on my mind – serious things. My body was a machine at this moment. I’d only succumbed to her request for sex because she’d have thrown a huge tantrum. And I’d not wanted that with Justin waiting for me in her sitting room.

With the paper thin walls in her small one room apartment, her fake moans would surely bother Justin, and embarrass me.

“Maybe, having a bit of shame would do you good,” I faked a smile, not hiding my sarcasm.

She scoffed, eyes sharpening, “Look who’s talking. Are you seriously taking the high moral ground when you’re the naval officer organizing a robbery –”

“What the fuck, Laura? You aren’t supposed to speak of this! It’s all on the down low. We all vowed our silence!” I could feel cords in my neck bulging in my need to curb my fury. Seriously, she should know better than to blurt stuff like that. Walls had ears.

The anger on my face must have sunk in. “I’m sorry, baby. But Joe, you know how I love it when you fuck me,” she crowed, becoming all coy, her long fingers caressing down my shoulder to pinch my right nipple.

My dick twitched in her channel. “Let’s get this over with, I’ve got things to do,” I snapped tightly through clenched jaws.

Shifting backwards the tiniest bit, I heaved, carrying and dumping her on the table displaying her toiletries. Plastic containers rolled and bounced loudly on the cement flooring. She omphed at the slightly rough handling, but she grinned like a Cheshire cat; she liked it. And I’d do anything to finish this sex assignment and focus on important things.

Widening her thighs, I moved. Our talk must have made her dry but I didn’t care. She either climaxed or she’ll be shocked to find I’m not ashamed of chucking my dick back into my pants without cumming. Better yet, I might just take my pleasure and be done with it.

But things changed at my rough pounding. Her moans were natural now – more whimpers of pleasure than the previous loud noises she’d been emitting. Soon, she arched her back, legs tightening around me as she orgasmed. Gritting my teeth, I shut my eyes and let go of my control for the seconds needed to reach my end.

My climax was uninspiring, but Laura didn’t have to know that. I pulled out from her already limp in the condom and went into her matchbox of a bathroom. Cleaning up, I pulled on my pants while re-entering her room.

She’d moved from the table to the bed, not bothering to cover up. She was tall and ebony complexioned. Her breasts were round and firm on her chest, brown nipples pointing upward. Her slanty eyes made her beautiful but Laura was too venal for her own good. Nevertheless, that venality had been why our relationship had lasted almost four months.

If you asked my twin brother about me – he’d probably postulate to the fact that I enjoyed playing on the dangerous lane. And it wouldn’t be a lie. Compared to my brother, I’m the cavalier guy, the fun twin, always ready to give a thrill except when there’s something serious to be done.

Not that I was in any way venal. However, I didn’t need a pretentious woman whenever I get my breaks from the tedium of my work. Being able to speak freely of my mischief, drink, smoke, fuck anyhow I want without offending her sensibilities was best for me. At this point in my life, I had no stomach for female drama.

After buckling my belt, I picked up my t-shirt from the foot of her bed where I’d discarded it.

“Joseph of the seven seas,” she hailed me and grinned. I have no idea why she insists on calling me that and I had never asked. Perhaps, it was a reference to being in the navy. She stretched in a manner that suggested she’d been sexually satisfied. Good for her.

In my silence, I battled the usual guilt of using my brother’s name. I’m not close to my brother. Being the favourite son of our single mother made me special. With my brother always getting in trouble with our mother, the divide had been natural. However, once in a while, something twisted in my heart – I missed my brother who was also a naval officer, stationed at the Eastern Naval Command at Calabar, Cross River State.

Being stationed at the Central Naval Command, here in Yenegoa, meant there was only the slimmest chance of Laura ever finding out Joe wasn’t me but my twin. However, this did not calm the guilt.

“I’ve got to go,” I grumbled, pushing my arms into the sleeves of my black t-shirt.

“Hey,” she called out, sitting up, her perky breasts bobbing.

A big sigh left my mouth as I came to a stop. I turned my head over my shoulder, body still facing the door.

“It will be fine. Don’t worry too much.”

“Of course, it will,” I flashed my usual amiable grin and she giggled, giving me the chance to slip from the room.

Justin wasn’t in the cramped sitting room. I sighed, not blaming him at all. It was hot. But I was also thankful he’d not heard Laura’s attempt to be a porn star; at least, I’m hoping he hadn’t.

I found him in the kiosk outside Laura’s apartment. With the backdrop of the erosion beaten road, unpainted buildings, and naked children playing rubber wrapped football on the road, fair-skinned Justin looked out of place.

The only similarity we shared was our over six feet height.

“Hey,” he greeted, blowing cigarette smoke from his mouth, eyes squinting.

“Let’s walk,” I told him. Not like we had a choice. There was no transport to be seen in this neighbourhood, except the boats in the river surrounding half of the area.

Dropping the butt of his cigarette, he pressed it with his sneakered foot and followed me, smoking streaming from his pursed lips. Having visited Laura over the past months on my off days, I knew the area pretty well. I took Justin down the uneven path that led to the river.

The whole neighbourhood was covered in houses, mostly constructed with wood and tarpaulins. It was the poor area of Yenegoa, mostly found around the river edges in the town.

With the sun beating down hard, I led him to a popular bush track. It was an area where many navy guys came to purchase marijuana on their off nights. During the day, even the weed sellers retreated into their tarpaulin constructs, hiding from the heat.

Settling under a considerably shady tree close to the river edge, a little breeze from the water relieved the heat.

“So, Chief Alphonsus?” Justin muttered under his breath. Despite the place being deserted, we still had to be careful – everything had ears around here.

“Mm-hmm,” I replied, pulling out a wrapped stick of marijuana from my jeans pocket, grateful it’d not been destroyed in the sex session with Laura. I lighted it and inhaled deeply.

Justin allowed me two more drags, by then I could feel the calm settling in my belly before he spoke again. “You know he’s like a god around here, right?”

Flashing my grin at him, I replied, “A god everyone hates.”

Chief Timi Alphonsus was freakishly wealthy. In fact, it’d been rumoured that he sponsored all kinds of militant groups and the insurgencies happening in Port Harcourt. He owned a couple of cargo ships rumoured to traffic drugs and girls. However, apart from the poor people who had experienced his brutality and greed, the rest of the populace knew the man as a pillar of society and a great philanthropist.

“So, this is for altruistic reasons?” Justin asked of the plan I had in place to rob Chief Alphonsus blind – well, at least, the safe in his Yenegoa home.

 “Not entirely. I agree the plan started out altruistic, but, we all have needs.” I dragged more narcotics into my system, squinting off into the horizon.

Hearing that the greedy chief had been taking plots of land from widows without paying proper compensation led us to start talking. It’d been Utuk, Uzor – my colleagues, and Laura hanging out that day. Then Laura had mentioned that she knew the man’s steward. After speaking with the man, the joke had turned into something serious that had taken my sleep.

Yes, I wanted to return those lands or, buy them back anonymously for the widows. I kept thinking, what if they were my mother? Nevertheless, I was definitely keeping part of the money in that safe – there was nothing wrong with having more money.

Justin needed part of that money for his wife’s cancer treatment. His savings had been drained dry by the chemotherapy. Uzor was in for the thrill and the money, of course. Laura was the money all the way; she cared nothing for the widows. And Utuk – really, it wasn’t clear why he was joining, but he’d seemed amazed when the steward had mentioned the billions of naira just lying around in a safe in Yenegoa.

The gentle giant beside me sighed heavily, his eyes also considering the distant shoreline. “My salary advance had been rejected again. I’ve collected too much already. I’ve used everything I had up. And I must thank you for thinking of me. I need this money.”

I nodded, finishing off my marijuana, ideas for a successful operation sparking in my brain.

He sighed again. “Let’s do this,” he declared determinedly, his big fist aimed at me. I made a fist and bumped his. We were in business.

***

A month later

Matt

The plan had been simple.

With Chief Alphonsus out of town, leaving with most of his security, the house was an easy take for four, expertly trained navy officers.

Work time had been twenty minutes. Two minutes to get in from the lower part of the fence at the back, two minutes to incapacitate, not kill, the six guards left behind and any other staff who had a hero complex.

None of the staff had that.

With sixteen minutes left, Justin and Uzor worked on opening the old model safe, conscious they had five minutes to do so, less, if possible. They’d succeeded with less.

We’d come with guns, even a couple bars of C4 explosives, just in case the safe needed blowing open. We’d agreed that we could live with the loss of the money in an explosion if it came to that, just as long as the chief was punished. Whatever cash salvaged from that explosion, I’d have handed it to Justin. That had been my thought, anyway.

The guards were bound and locked in a room, phones stripped from their person. Same thing with the staff – the steward included. We had free reign of the house. Utuk had been stationed at the south window of the office which faced the main gate, to be the look out. Not that we were expecting any trouble.

Our getaway plan included hauling the bags full of money back over the fence; pile them into the van we’d stolen earlier in the week and head to the fish market by the river not far off.

It was a silent night as we shoved ten 50-inch weatherproof duffel bags into the van. Uzor and Justin climbed in the back, shutting the double doors while on instinct, I decided to drive.

Utuk should’ve driven the van. However, I explained how wound up I was even with success clearly in sight. I felt like driving that van would ensure the complete success of the night.

No one spoke in the van. It seemed we all couldn’t believe we had pulled that off. I was reckless and a hothead compared to my brother, but I suffered the same disbelief that we had made it.

Despite the tension in the van heavy enough to make my hands shake on the steering wheel, I kept the speed under the limit. Since it was a bread delivery van on the deserted road at one in the morning, we’d planned to explain – if stopped by cops – that we closed from work late. We were dressed in normal t-shirts and jeans, having dumped the darks clothes on the roadside. However, it had been a big ‘if’, because the road we’d chosen to take was off the main roads and would not have cops there.

My phone vibrated in my pocket. Looking at the screen confirmed who it was. Laura had been following the strict time limit and was not to call before then. “Yeah, we made it.”

Her squeal of excitement brought a smile to my face, the tension lessening a bit. I’d just indicated right and turned the vehicle into the untarred road leading to the fish market when the first shot rang out.

It was so loud in the quiet night it could have been an explosion. Unfortunately, that first shot took Justin’s life.

“Jesus! Jesuuu –” a staccato of shots bombarded the van. I recognised the distinct sound of the TAR-21rifle – service weapon for the navy and DSS. Uzor’s terrified shout ended in a choked groan that was unmistakeably death.

The whole thing was surreal, like I was having an out of body experience. It wasn’t me hunched over the steering, driving like a maniac on the uneven topography of the path. I wrenched to the right, plunging into a bush with trees, terrified the van would get stuck in between trees.

It didn’t. It got battered squeezing through a couple of paired trees before finding leeway. My rough driving tore off the side mirrors. I noticed the white trucks following us couldn’t go through.

There was no mistaking the CNC logo and writing on the body of those trucks. Shit! Navy Intelligence was after us. Christ, how the fuck did they know?

“Stop the van, Akang, it’s over. I don’t want to die like Justin and Uzor! For fuck sake! Stop the fucking car! Don’t be selfish, you bastard!”

I heard him – I heard Utuk. But I’m not sure I understood what he was saying. It didn’t sink. I couldn’t let it sink. If it did, I’d be debilitated that Justin’s sick wife would never see her hero again. I didn’t know much about Uzor, but there were sure to be people who would miss his exuberance. I would miss his exuberance.

But I didn’t let it sink. I was in survival mode. I could wonder what must have gone wrong – not yet. I couldn’t think who might have sold us out. My adrenaline had led me to drive a bush track that I’d never have tried in a million years. It was our saving grace. It meant the CNC trucks had to take the long route to the riverside. We had a chance.

With sweat on my palms like I’d dunked them in water, while rivulets  dripped from my heated head into my rapidly blinking eyes, I’d no idea how I hadn’t wrapped the van around a tree. I was shocked to see the riverside and had to slam on the breaks before driving right into the middle of the water. Only the front tires sunk in the waterlogged sand at the river’s edge.

Utuk had still been shouting aspersions at me. Without a word, I dropped from the driver’s seat and hurried to the back. I was conscious I would never forget the sight of Justin, face down in his blood, hole in the back of his head and Uzor, eyes and mouth open, forever silenced mid-scream.

Nausea surged from my throat. Hyperventilation began. Suddenly, my head banged so hard it threatened to blind me. I wanted to lift my arms to my head in despair, but Utuk joined me. Shockingly, he wasn’t shouting. We pulled out those hefty bags on to the sand.

While Utuk sobbed and went in to pull out the others, I dragged two of the bags, throwing them in the water. Like apparitions, my hired divers bobbed up from the water, grabbed a bag and sunk back into the depths. Ignoring the silence between us, I kept dragging those bags to the river edge.

This part of the plan had been meant as a surprise. Utuk had known about the boat that should’ve been arriving at – I checked my wristwatch – 1:29 a.m., nineteen minutes ago. The divers had been a contingency plan. In fact, with how smooth the operation had gone, I thought they wouldn’t be needed.

But, someone had betrayed us and my secret plan had turned out the – my thoughts ceased abruptly with the image of my dead comrades in the back of that van. No, my secret plan hadn’t saved us all, but it would save people, I promised determinedly.

Rushing back to the van, I dove in, sobbing with a wrenching pain in my heart as I pulled out their phones from their pockets. It appeared Utuk had been frozen with grief and couldn’t move after pulling out the remaining bags of money.

“Let’s go, man,” I prodded, unzipping one of the waterproof bags of money and dumping our phones for protection. I dragged two more bags around the van and into the water, not shocked to find four divers already waiting. Two more bags were left.

I was out of breath when I returned to Utuk. “Jesus, man, snap out of it. Let’s move. The boat isn’t here, so we have to swim,” my heart stuttered when I wondered if the navy would deploy speed boats to come after us. Could we even swim as far as the divers currently transporting bags of money to the distant shore?

Whoever betrayed us – my thoughts were on Laura – would’ve decided that we’d have nowhere to go when our boat didn’t show up. Wrong.

“How can you move on, Akang – they’re dead,” he sobbed and I felt like the worst kind of person on earth for wanting to live when my comrades were dead.

“I want to live because Justin’s wife needs –” my words ceased when headlight from several approaching vehicles lit up the night. Without another word, I dragged Utuk to the water edge and dived in.

One of the divers caught me, shoved a reed into my mouth which I almost spat out before I recalled that’s what they used in breathing for long underwater. I was a consummate swimmer but nothing compared to these young men who were practically birthed in these waters.

It was dark underwater. And no matter the tactical training I’d received in the navy, it was still terrifying to be buried in that liquid darkness. My arms ached fiercely and I was grateful for the help of the drivers who each grabbed my shirt and kept me moving.

At some point, I wondered how Utuk was faring, but hey, it’s not like I could ask questions. My eyes burned and the tiredness wiped the thought from my head almost immediately.

When we surfaced on a water-edge covered with foliage, I sobbed in relief and abject grief. But it might have passed for breathlessness and my need to suck in much-needed air, coughing rackingly. The leader of the divers – a slim, old man, pulled me up with surprising strength.

“Dem fuck you up, abi?” he asked me in Pidgin English. It’d been a rhetorical question about being betrayed; the first divers must have reported the state of things on the other side. The right question should’ve been – who did it?

Then I jerked, despite my bone weariness, eyes flying around in search of Utuk. “Whe – where is my fu – fu – friend?” I asked, already shivering from the cold, teeth beginning to chatter.

“Make we comot from here before CNC speed boat come,” the old man prodded in Pidgin English but I insisted, fear clogging my chest that I might have lost another friend.

One of the divers said something in their local dialect. The old man turned to me, slapping my back in what I could only interpret as pity. “Your friend, na him fuck you up. My boy say him stay for shore to talk to CNC.”

I might have been suspecting the wrong person then.

***

Matt

The old man took me underground, becoming my protector. Despite the fact that he hadn’t done anything suspicious, his kindness was still suspicious to me. I mean, I’d just been betrayed, two of my friends killed. I could not entirely trust anyone.

But that man took care of me until I stopped shivering and begun thinking analytically.  

Even as I saw Utuk’s call hours later, I still didn’t believe that he’d betrayed us, getting Justin and Uzor killed in the process. And for what – a damn promotion? Because that’s the only thing he was going to get.

With the way the operation had been planned, the only people who would’ve heard about the hit would’ve been the chief and his staff, because they were victims. The owner of the divers swore his business thrived on being discrete. The boatman had no idea what he would have been transporting; he’d just been asked to show up. We’d made sure everything remained quiet – or, at least, I had.

“My God, Utuk, where the fuck are you? I thought you drowned. Oh, thank God. Jeez, man, you scared me. Thank God you’re alive,” I enthused, my voice cracked from my silent sobs after catching a breath and wondering what I could have done differently so that my friends wouldn’t die.

“I err – couldn’t swim so I ran back into the forest before they got to the shoreline.”

A navy officer who couldn’t swim – fucking lying bastard!

“We were lucky,” I murmured soberly.

“Yeah,” his tone was insincere, no matter how he tried to make it so.

Like, did he think I was a fool?

“Hey, err – did you get the money?” he asked hesitantly.

“I got one bag. I almost drowned swimming with it.”

“Man, you tried. So, where are you? We need to meet and talk. What are we going to do, are we returning to the command? Do you think they know it was us?”

I’d been expecting the first question but it still floored me that he would want to finish me off despite everything. How wasn’t he guilty that his betrayal had killed our friends?

Utuk’s call had been two hours ago. I’d described where I’d be waiting with a getaway boat and the money onboard.

It’s surprising what money can achieve in a couple of hours.

My plan had been daring, but then I was desperate and had only the old man as n aally – an ally that I’d threatened to gut. He’d laughed but had declared he’d help me. With Utuk coming with the full power of our superiors to apprehend me, I needed serious help.

Getting arrested wasn’t the right thing. Who would look out for Justin’s wife? Living with that shame of a botched robbery would’ve been terrible, not just for me but my brother too. Death was the answer.

With a heavy heart, I doled out more than enough cash to get me a rickety old, small cargo ship that had been slowly rotting in the dockyard. A dead body was made available from a local mortuary – I refused to watch the mortuary attendant position the body. Perceiving the formaldehyde was bad enough.

The couple bars of C4 we’d carried in case we needed to blow open the safe was in one of the bags. It came in handy. And a locally made bomb to be introduced into the fuel tank was acquired.

Now I waited for Utuk and his army.

I answered his call. “Utuk, I almost left, you’re late,” I managed to sound nervous even though I wished to wring his neck.

“Which one are you in?” he asked and I stepped onto the yawning deck of the decaying ship, the engine coughing every other minute as though about to sputter off. I’d made sure to anchor away from the few vessels on the dock.

“At the edge,” I replied, my blood boiling in fury. “You’d have to use the bush to get to me.”

I waited on the phone. Directing him, pretending I didn’t hear the fierce whispers coming through from the background.

My heart hammered as I viewed the face of the traitor in the lightening sky. His medium height arse stumbled down the incline I’d directed him to use. Naval police roamed the shadows behind him, following stealthily.

When I made sure he’d seen me, I regretted that this plan didn’t include killing the arsehole. I waved at him, my smile cold. I should have just walked back inside and done what needed doing. But I couldn’t bear not making sure he knew he had lost.

I allowed him to get close.

“Akang, we need to talk,” he stopped at the edge of the water and called out to me. “Can this vessel even move?”

Despite the risk of the rickety steel breaking off under my weight and sending me to my death, or a self-maiming plummet over the side, I leaned over the rust-covered rail.

“Fuck you, Effiong Utuk!”

My throat clogged with so much more I wanted to say to him, so many curses I wanted to ply on his head. But I flashed my cavalier grin while his eyes widened in realisation. When I walked inside, he started shouting and other voices joined him. Pandemonium ensued, breaking the silence of the calm dawn.

I lit the long fuse connected to the C4 and crossed to the other side of the deck facing the river. I removed the ship from anchor, the lump of iron groaning as it begun moving at a snail pace. I had less than a minute to dive. I timed it to the last couple of seconds. I was still in the air when the boat blew up.

Once again, divers pulled me underwater, away from the burning shrapnel flying every which way and the heat of the inferno.

Word on the street and eyewitness report spoke of a man who had jumped on the ship just before it blew up.

Utuk deserved the death he got.

And I deserved the prison I’ve created for myself.

Chapter Two

Present day

Matt

Greenery

Blurry though it was, but it had been a while I’d seen its lush starkness against the horizon. I had not taken this path in over ten years. It looked different now because the road was tarred. But this path was indelible in my DNA. I grew up here. Could walk it blindfolded even.

However, the green flying by also looked strange to me. I dreaded where it led. I dreaded what to expect. We were on a dangerous mission.

Brief background – I’m a ghost.

No, not the spiritual, floaty kind. Though if close family friends caught me and my brother together, the charade would be off. You see, ten years ago, my name – Matthew Akang had been penned in the register for dead people. It didn’t matter that they’d been no identifiable corpse to bury seeing as I’d ‘died’ in an explosion, there’d still been a burial. No, I hadn’t attended that.

Too much guilt had settled in my spirit after only three months of dying. That guilt grew beyond my imagination in the following years. And I lived with it, accepting it as punishment for my reckless living. Why did I resurrect after ten years? Good question. An old girlfriend with a vendetta who had no idea there had been two of me, had stumbled on Joe, my twin.

Unfortunately, when I’d been with her, I’d pretended to be my brother. Not original, I know, but, I’d always done stupid shit like that from childhood. And my dear brother always got into trouble for it because I’d been our single mother’s favourite twin.

Don’t ask. I have no idea how she’d decided which of us was her favourite seeing as we are identical. But all my life growing up, I’d been glad as a pig in shit that I was the favourite. It made me an arsehole.

So, Laura – that vindictive bitch, went after Joe thinking he was me. Of course, I’d not just died and abandoned my family. After the money I stole – the reason I faked my death, it’d been natural for the bad people I’d been involved with to want revenge on my family. Sheesh, don’t ask me that either. Villains will always be villains.

With thoughts of protecting my family, I’d left feelers in the street. I’ll always be a Navy officer, coupled with having mixed with some bad people it wasn’t difficult to anonymously put snitches on retainer. They’d reported what Laura was about and well, I’d wronged my brother enough already and decided to resurrect from the dead for him.

Thankfully, I’d been in time to stop my ex from almost killing my brother’s wife, Mandy. I went berserk when I heard she’d poisoned my brother through apples. Yes, my twin was the opposite of me, straight and strictly on the narrow, but had a weakness for sweet things and apples. Laura had coerced my brother’s staff stationed in Bayelsa to lure him over for a case and gave him the apples.

My feelers hadn’t caught that one. More guilt graced the ever-growing pile. I’m grateful Mandy had found him unconscious and had called in the calvary, saving my brother’s life. Even though we’d never been close as twins should, it’d still have been my fault if he’d died and more guilt to live with.

Laura was in prison now. No matter how she spewed that some dead guy was still alive, no one listened. Thank God for my brother’s clout as a respected, retired Navy officer and now Private Investigator – he owned a small but damned impressive security outfit.

Nevertheless, I had no idea that after resurrecting from death, it would be damn difficult to go back to dying. I realized I’d missed being a twin after talking with my brother for days on end and he forgave me for all the shit I’d put him through, even apologising for our mom having me as a favourite. Ten years was a long time to be alone – lots of spare time to ponder on my life.

Our mom had wronged my twin from childhood. We don’t know the details about our dad but mom had raised us alone. She’d suffered the stigma of being a single mom in Ikot Eyo village, forty-eight years ago. But, now, I thought it wasn’t a good excuse to have alienated her first child by two minutes.

Joe had grown up without the warmth of a mother and I did not care at the time. Shit, I’d taken advantage of it and gotten him into trouble over and over, even in death.

My continuous heavy sighs had Joe turning from the road to give me a considering glance. “Stop worrying,” he grunted, his jaw flexed and his hand tightened on the steering of his SUV. Yep, he was worrying too.

The dangerous mission I earlier mentioned was us going to see our mother. Yes, I’m aware of the risk this little excursion entailed. However, after too many hours of thinking, I felt it was time to straighten mama out. I felt terrible when Joe told me that she’d also not attended his wedding with his late first wife.

“Have I told you how sorry I am about everything I’ve ever put you through?”

Joe muttered a curse under his breath, “I’m tired of hearing it.”

“I’ll never be tired of saying it,” I murmured, scratching my beard under the hoodie that was necessary to enter our village. We’d been the only twin children growing up in Ikot Eyo as at then. It would take only a glance for some old-timer to recognise both of us. And that wasn’t good with me having died a long time ago.

Then why the hell was I disturbing the sand that had settled for over ten years? Another good question. I wanted to live again. Obviously not as Matt Akang but as Matt Eben, the fake identity I’d created two years after “dying” and used for my bank transactions.

Well, I couldn’t just have left the money I’d stolen lying around, could I? So, I’d reached out to our buddy, Darius Udeng – badass Navy officer, had stints in the army and the DSS too. Darius was obsessed with security. A few years younger than us, he’d taken Joe as his mentor when we’d all still been in the Navy.

Smiling, I recalled being like the fun uncle in that relationship. It had been mostly because Joe had always been serious-minded while I’d remained goofy throughout. Additionally, Darius saw me more since we were both stationed in CNC. Thank God he had left to join the military by the time I had been planning that robbery. If he’d still been around, there was no way he’d not have been on my crew. Even though the guilt remained like a boulder on my chest, I shook my head to clear that thought.

Perhaps, I wasn’t so different from my brother since we joined the Navy without each of us being aware. We’d only found out we joined when we went to tell our mother.

So, I became part owner of a large security outfit – Secure Inc. fronted by Darius. It’d been his dream even before Joe set up his. I’d recalled the plans Darius had never shut up about and shocked him by coming back to life a few years later. As a staunch force guy, Darius had taken it all in stride. He hadn’t rejected the money I’d given him enough to kickoff the company now worth some cool millions of dollars.

Darius had no idea, but he’d been my saving grace, providing me someone close, almost family to converse with. It didn’t matter that it had been phone calls, it was great to connect with someone from my supposed past.

“We are here. Need a minute?” Joe broke into my thoughts, slowing the vehicle at the entrance of mama’s home. Despite sending money to her through Darius to fix the gate in her refurbished parents’ house, she hadn’t. Joe had explained he’d given up on it too since she’d barely wanted to see his face.

Yep, I should need a minute since it felt like I stood at a precipice about to fall over. Inhaling deeply, I shook my head. “Nah, rip the fucking band-aid off.”

My twin nodded and surged forward into our childhood compound. We decided it would be better if we showed up in the afternoon when her neighbours were still at their farms. We’d not been wrong. The area was as deserted as though the Apocalypse had occurred. Might as well have happened with people like me returning from the dead.

Mama sat on the veranda of the large house, her foot tapping as she waited. It was a miracle that she’d answered Joe’s call after ten tries. She’d been pissed that he disturbed her nap. He wouldn’t have if she’d picked the first ten times. Joe had told her he worried she’d died. That her shut her up long enough for Joe to tell her he’d be coming to the village.

There were two ways this could go. Mama could faint from shock, come to and hug me or lock her door in fear and call her pastor. I’d been an arsehole to my brother all our lives – 48 years of it. I guess it was mama’s turn. Perhaps, I simply couldn’t prolong the inevitable any longer.

So, despite Joe’s plan to ease her into the news, I opened the door the same moment he did and stepped out despite his gasping my name. Mama squinted at both of us. At 79, she rose to her feet quite spryly. I noticed her walking stick, a black generic kind with a curve at the handle. Her mouth widened as the space between us reduced until I loomed before her.

“Mama,” I croaked from a throat gone tight. Despite her bad mothering, she was still my mother and I’d missed her.

I’d expected terror, a hug, sobs. I was ready to catch her if she fainted. No, I’d not expected that slap. I swear my neck cracked as it swerved to the left, pain travelling along my gums, making my teeth ache. What had the woman been doing with her hands? My gaze found Joe’s stupefied one while I twisted my jaw to release the pain.

Chapter Three

Matt

I still hadn’t recovered from that slap when I caught Joe’s eyes widening a hairbreadth before pain bloomed in my thigh. Mama’s walking stick obviously wasn’t for walking. She slammed that surprisingly sturdy wood anywhere she could reach on my body.

Yep, this scene reminded me of watching Joe go through this as kids. I’d only experienced it ten out of the fifty times he had. Fucking hell! I might be a man of 48, hardened from the Navy and the shits I’ve done. But at that moment, I wanted to grumble and cry out like a fucking child.

It took Joe hugging her from behind to stop the beating. Mama heaved, her wiry chest rising and falling as she finally sobbed. She had shrunk after ten years; still beautiful but old and wrinkled. Fucking hell, more guilt grew on the already tall mountain in my chest. Grimacing, I followed them – Joe holding her shaking shoulders, into the house.

Uh, Joe had obviously done more than send her money and care packages. Despite the severity of the situation, I shut the metal front door that used to be light wood and looked around the fairly modern home. This used to be our grandparents’ house. It’d been post-colonial in style. But we managed to modify that when we started collecting salaries in the Navy.

Now though, none of the furniture was familiar. Joe had them replaced with soft cushions covered in dark blue velvet. As we hadn’t changed the structure of the house, only modernized it, the house still had the simplicity of a large sitting room, a kitchen and about five bedrooms.

The number of chairs in the parlour had reduced. There used to be numerous tattered ones lining the walls. Now, there were two settees and four single ones and large spaces between the seats and the walls. A coffee table graced the centre and a flat-screen with cable graced the wall. Joe had told me that he had one of the neighbours check on her to see if she needed help.

“How could you?” the censure in her wobbling tone slashed through my reverie. “How could you be so despicable…like him?” Wow, she broke out the phantom ‘him’ which we had always assumed was our father.

Joe had made her sit in one of the single chairs, but he hovered at her side as though he worried she’d keel over. Mama did look delicate, but I wasn’t afraid she’d die from shock, not after the beating she’d just given me. That woman was as strong as a horse, probably getting strength from being as cantankerous as I recalled.

I swallowed the pain her words gave. I deserved every bit of it. Joe’s gaze held pity, the reaction I should’ve held when he’d received this as a kid. Only, I’d giggled and enjoyed dreamless sleep while my twin grew solemn everyday.

Her words were sharp blades slicing through my skin and heart, bleeding me where I stood. For in my mother’s book, ‘him’ – our absent father, was eviler than the devil himself. And Joe had suffered these kinds of accusations from childhood. It had gotten worse when I ‘died’.

Mama’s voice might have rasped with age, but her tone, the spite in her eyes remained the same. Only now, pointed at the wrong twin. How the hell had Joe turned out a good man when he’d suffered her wrath until this moment?

Swallowing with some difficulty, I mentally acknowledged that, indeed, I deserved the tag more than my twin ever had. Joe had been nothing but a good son. Quiet, broody, but good and caring. I was the devil all along. And now this devil had come to accuse.

With a deep breath, I took a seat and faced my mom. “Mama –”

“Don’t you dare call me ‘Mama’!” she spat, venom swimming in her eyes.

Pain rocked my heart but I couldn’t help my chuckle despite feeling Joe’s anxiety from all the way where he stood beside her. I shook my head like I couldn’t believe her words because I couldn’t. “So, now it’s my turn to face your wrath?” another chuckle burst out of me.

“You pretended to be dead. What kind of person does that if not the devil?”

“And what kind of mother looks at her identical twin children and chooses to hate one?” I spat, allowing my anger to reign. Oh, I might be the carefree one but my anger was way deadlier than Joe’s.

Our mother blanched at my question.

“Matt –” I could hear the warning and plea in Joe’s tone. It meant I should let go. He’d learnt to live with it. But I believed he shouldn’t have to. It wasn’t any of our faults that our father had been an absolute bastard to her. None of us should have to suffer for his sins. And I might have learnt to carry this weight of guilt for this long, but, I needed some fucking relief.

“No, Joe, I won’t let it go. Mama, answer me. What is more devilish than hating one of the twins you birthed? What is your justification? I need to hear it because I’m damn well going to give you a justification for faking my death.”

“You have no justification,” she spat.

“Oh, I do. You might not like it but I do have one. I didn’t want to go to jail.”

“Then why steal?”

It must have been unavoidable for Joe to share the particulars of my case with her. She would have wanted to know everything. I’d been a disgrace to the navy – to my family, especially, Joe. He’d been saddled with a brother rumoured for gross misconduct unbecoming of a naval officer.

If I’d not faked my death, the consequences would have been severe. But with all the officers on the crew – I, Uzor, Justine and even the traitor, Utuk – dead, the navy dropped the investigations. Doing that meant they avoided any aspersions being thrown at the Nigerian Navy for such a case.

“I believe you do not have the justification for hating Joe. He’d been nothing but a good son to you. I’m shocked even with you treating him like a second class citizen, he’d still done all this,” I waved my hand indicating the house.

“Matt, please.”

The heat in my chest urged me to continue, blocking Joe’s voice. “Mama, you were left with one son but never drew him close. You refused to go to his first wedding. Of course, you couldn’t have comforted him when he lost his wife. Years later, he’s blessed with another wife and you still refused to show – ”

“Because I couldn’t stand the guilt of how I’d treated him already!” Her face twisted and fell in her gnarly hands as she sobbed. It sounded ugly, it wrenched at my intestines and Joe looked confused, his eyes red. He didn’t know how to comfort our mother – if he even should.

“I was young and hurting that your father had refused to have anything to do with me after the hospital. He’d paid the bill, decided he would name Joe while I named you, agreed his name be used as the father, made sure everything with the birth certificates were right and then disappeared.”

“I always thought it was because Joe had been sickly at the hospital. He must have run when it seemed too challenging, especially with extra money to pay for medication. What else could I think? And then we got home and Joe became well, strong as an ox. I went to find him, to tell him the good news but he and his properties had disappeared. My mother wouldn’t let me hear the end of my disgrace, neither did the community,” she sniffled and looked up unseeingly.

Joe paced. The anxiety and fury roiling in my stomach clear on his face.

“I’m sorry you went through that. But you punished your child for years for another man’s sin,” I forced out. No, I didn’t want to keep kicking her while she was down. But she needed to understand what she’d done. Joe had suffered from her neglect. It was his story of eight years of loneliness. He’d rejected Mandy’s love until he’d almost died from those poisoned apples that he got some insight into living instead of existing.

This whole excursion had been inspired by Joe’s stories. My wanting to live again, to take a chance, to have love and happiness like my twin, was a result of his happiness. And the possibility of it with a certain woman I’d been unable to get off my mind for months now. However, thoughts of her had no place here.

Mama squeezed her eyes shut again, her thin shoulders shaking. “I didn’t know how to stop. Your death only intensified the need to push him away. His kindness and care made me angrier. Then shame wouldn’t let me repent,” she was hiccupping now. She heaved and turned to Joe who was now crying, dammit, I was crying too. Tears burned my eyes.

She grabbed his wrist. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. It just felt easier to keep you away. I don’t deserve your forgiveness, so I’ll not ask of it. But know you never deserved how I had treated you. It had not been your fault but mine and the loathing I held towards your father. It was unfortunate that he’d chosen to name you, giving me the excuse to transfer my aggression on you.”

“I forgive you, Mama. I forgave you before today,” Joe croaked, kneeling beside her to hug her. They cried on each other’s shoulders and I felt relief in my spirit. Yes, my brother had his mom back.

I wiped my tears and waited. There was one thing about our mother though. She thrived on hating something or someone. I knew my forgiveness would not come today, but I hoped.

“This was good,” Mama croaked, leaning back weakly. Her dull eyes met mine. “You did well in this. But it is unforgivable pretending to die and putting us all in grief.”

Told you so.

Smiling, I got to my feet and brushed my clothes as though I’d been sitting on a dusty surface. “Well, I came here to repair what you destroyed. I’ll wait until you find something else to hate before I come for my own forgiveness.”

“Matt!”

“Don’t worry about it, Joe,” I said calmly as I watched our mother shut her eyes. She was done with me. She had a new favourite.

Pain knotted in my stomach. Who knew when she’d find something else to hate so that I could seek her forgiveness? Was there a name for this kind of behaviour? Was it a psychological illness? Sighing, I left to wait in the car while Joe said his goodbyes, probably begging on my behalf.

That was the difference between us. Joe had always been selfless as opposed to my selfishness. But ten years of death had shown me my wrongs. Slow and steady, I would repair. Although some were irreparable, I wanted to live again; that only meant, living right this time around.

With the window of the SUV slightly down, I inhaled the air that had begun cooling, smelling like the possibility of rain. Perhaps, it would help the current heaviness in my heart. I hoped it rained.

Wishing us a happy new month tomorrow.

Love and light, ChuBBies.😘

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