Chapter 2 - The Beginning of New
The ants moved in a file, disappearing into the crack in the wall, oblivious to Abass studying himself in the mirror. He concluded that he was dashing in his traditional wear. The Chairman was expected to deliver a speech at a gala tonight and by obligation, not to mention desire, he had to be there.
The life of a PA was definitely more tasking than the role he managed for Laguro. It was more organized, more fulfilling, and he enjoyed every bit of it. In the last 1 week, he had already met quite a few dignitaries in Lagos. Most of them commented on how intelligent he was; one even told him that he would do well in politics. The commendations thrilled him, fueling his desire to exploit this opportunity to the fullest.
Someone knocked the door to his face-me-I-face you room. ‘Come in.’
It was the Bimpe, the NYSC lady living in the next room. She was a black beauty. They had fooled around a couple of times…well more than a couple of times. He had never made any promise to date her and she had never asked. They simply enjoyed each other’s company. She was holding a meal container.
‘Hello AB,’ she greeted, relishing the way he looked at her like a delectable snack. ‘I figured you were hungry.’
Abass snapped out of the feeling. There was no time for frivolities now. ‘Bumble Bee, you can’t tempt me now. I can’t be late.’
‘You look nice. Where are you headed?’ She drew closer to him and placed a hand on his chest before sliding it down to his lower abdomen. ‘Hmm…I think you a little hungry.’
Abass pulled off her hand before it lingered too long. ‘Naughty girl,’ he laughed. I really have to go. I’ll satisfy that hunger when I return. ‘Keep the meal hot for me.’ He winked.
Abass swore as the motorcycle rolled to a very slow pace. He had checked Maps a few minutes ago and the road had been free. Something must have just happened. He was glad he had decided on the Okada service against its four-wheeled counterpart. Soon they drew close enough to what appeared to be causing the traffic jam. A lovely-looking lady looked frustrated as two touts talked to her, making intermittent gestures at her car. If he had to guess, they were offering to push the car away from the road to a nearby mechanic shop. He felt an overwhelming urge to help her. He had been taught by his mother to always offer assistance to women who required them. He looked at his watch and decided that he could spare some fifteen minutes and still be early for his function.
‘Chairman, please stop by that car,’ Abass said.
The motorcycle rider shrugged. ‘No problem.’ The longer it took them to get to the destination, the higher the bill. Free money with no stress.
The motorcyclist parked behind the car and Abass got off. She looked even prettier up close. The red dress and light make-up she wore suggested she was heading to a function as well. She was engrossed in the discussion with the touts, trying to convince them to accept an online bank transfer as she had forgotten her debit card at home and did not have cash either. The touts declined vehemently, threatening to leave and reminding her that the area was not safe at nights.
‘Good evening,’ he said to her.
‘Good evening,’ she said. Her attention turned to him and her expression was as though he was her last line of refuge.
‘I’ll sort this out,’ he assured her before turning to the touts who had begun wondering who he was. The look on one of the pair showed recognition.
He produced his ID card and gave it to one of the them who eagerly examined it to confirm his suspicion.
‘Ah, Taiye!’ He said to the other guy. This guy na Laguro second ooo. Abass Akande.’ They both threw up their hands, hailing him. ‘We no fit offend you baba. Just tell your boys what you need!’
Abass gestured silence and turned to the lady. Her visage now exuded hope and admiration. ‘Miss or Mrs?’
‘I am Abass.’ He examined the car. The steam that emanated from its bonnet suggested that the gasket had blown off. ‘Your gasket is busted from what I can deduce. Are you in a hurry?’
‘Actually, I am,’ she responded. ‘Can you help?’
‘They will get it to the mechanic shop and it would be ready tonight, perhaps on your way back.’
She looked at the touts and back at Abass. ‘I’m concerned.’
Abass smiled reassuringly. ‘I promise you that the car will be fine. I know we just met but I hope you can trust me?’
Catherine looked into his eyes and concluded he seemed like a good fellow. But this was Lagos, the land that harbored wolves in sheep clothing. But what choice did she have? ‘I don’t see any other option. My father will be cross if I am late for this event.’
‘Your car will be fine,’ he said giving his most reassuring smile. ‘If you are comfortable on a bike, then you can have mine.’
Kenneth rang the doorbell to a magnificent house located in a prime area in Surulere. The gateman opened the door and his frown automatically changed to a smile.
‘Oga Keno! Wetin dey happen now?’ As much as he spoke pidgin, the gateman’s Yoruba accent was clear as a swallow’s in Spring.
‘I dey bounce o, my brother. Cynthia dey house?’
‘She dey,’ the gateman replied, gesturing Kenneth inside.
He couldn’t be too cautious. Kenneth hesitated, peering into the compound.
‘Oga and Madam never come back. E go still reach like three weeks. Enter jare. You too dey fear.’
Kenneth grinned and strode into the house. He was familiar with the house and headed straight for the boy’s quarters where the maid was lodged. He knocked on the door and it was opened by a lady in a bathrobe.
‘Hello Ken,’ she greeted. ‘Please come in.’
‘Hi Cynthia. I’ll give you a few minutes to get dressed.’
Cynthia shook her head. ‘You play hard to get. A con man playing hard to get.’
She was beautiful and smart, waiting for the mandatory NYSC call-up letter. As much as Kenneth found her attractive, he was not in the business of mixing business with pleasure. ‘Get dressed, please. I have a job for you.’
‘Oh oh why didn’t you say so. Thought you just missed me.’ Cynthia laughed and returned to her room. She returned in another 10 minutes in a cropped top and a bum short. You’d never know she was a maid.
The sitting room was small and had only the most basic of things: A bed, a rack for hanging clothes, a standing fan, and a television box. They sat side-by-side on the bed.
‘Mr. Brown is in town and would be at Inagbe resorts over the weekend for a retreat. He would like to meet you. You free?’
‘Definitely,’ Cynthia confirmed.
‘Awesome. You know the drill so be careful.’
‘Aww,’ she cooed. ‘You are so sweet. I’ll be fine. This isn’t my first assignment. The Mugus are easily manipulated. You are the only one was hasn’t fallen under my spell….yet.’
Kenneth shook his head but couldn’t help smiling. ‘I’ll credit your account.’ He stood up. ‘Be safe.’
As Cynthia accompanied him towards the gate, his phone rang, halting his movement. It was Charles. The guy wouldn’t give up on trying to win his soul. Kenneth ignored it and stuffed the phone into his pocket.
Mope was restless. Amora’s bar would not come alive for another 4 hours. She was in no mood for television series or nibbling snacks or visiting friends or indulging in any of her other favorite pastimes. Her eyes caught the portrait of her and her late husband. Teddy would have known what to do. His tickles, his boyish smile, his silly yet exhilarating humor would have done the trick. He was her magic wand and she missed him dearly. Since he passed away, most attempts at filling the void withered a few moments after the initial jolt of relish. Suddenly, she hated the 20-year age difference that had been wedged between her and Teddy. It meant she still had a longer time to live and a longer time to die while living.
She pulled open the drawer beside the king-sized bed and retrieved an album. The photos brought back memories, each page associated with specific times in their history. The entire photobook held nothing of the memory of a child. They had been one of those couples who had never been blessed with the cries of a newborn. There had been no logical or health reason behind her infertility. Put simply, children had simply ignored her womb, seeking more worthy abodes. She sighed.
Someone knocked. It had to be the help. The gateman and the gardener were never allowed inside the house. ‘Come in, Toyosi’.
‘Good Afternoon Ma,’ She greeted, standing by the door.
‘How are you?’ Mope noticed Toyosi’s eyes. They were alive with quiet fear. ‘Why do you look like you have seen a ghost?’
‘No ghost Ma,’ she curtsied. ‘No problem.’
Mope was in no mood for silliness. ‘So, what do you need, Toyosi?’
‘Erm… one madam is looking for you downstairs.’
‘Okay. Who is she?’
Toyosi’s response was swift. ‘I don’t know her before o.’ The defense in her response was unnecessary.
Mope sighed. ‘Let her in and offer her a drink. I will be with her soon.’
Mope observed the uncomfortably seated lady as she descended the stairs. The stranger’s elbows were resting on her thighs. She seemed oblivious to her surroundings.
‘Hello dear,’ Mope greeted, bringing the lady back to the present.
The stranger’s face shot up to look at Mope and she rose up almost immediately. ‘Good afternoon Ma,’ she greeted.
The lady looked like she was in her early twenties. Looking at her, Mope instantly felt a sense of foreboding. Her heart skipped a beat. The reason behind her help’s fear was obvious. The eyes, the nose, the full lips, the entire face of this lady reminded her of her late husband. Mope’s legs lost vitality and she sank into nearest seat.
‘Please seat down,’ Mope said.
The lady did as she was told.
‘What is your name?
Mope could guess the answer, but she had to ask. ‘Who is your father?’
Eniola hesitated. She had played the scenario in her head and she had not expected her late father’s wife to ask that question so early in the conversation. She struggled to hold Mope’s gaze. ‘Theodore Adetokunbo.’
‘Teddy,’ Mope said. She got up and disappeared up the stairs.
Eniola understood the finality to Mrs. Mopelola ascent. She didn’t blame her. There was no textbook on how a woman would respond after finding out that her husband had fathered another. She asked herself again what she was doing here. She took out a piece of paper, wrote her name and phone number on it, and handed it to the house help.
‘She might need this later. Take care, Toyosi.’
Abass arrived at the venue fifteen minutes late. Thankfully, Nigerian time was still potent as guests had just started showing up. He quickly called his boss, Yayi and found out he had not gotten to the venue yet. He exhaled. Now he had the time to drink in the spectacle that was the venue. The hall was huge. The floor shone with black marbles, crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, the chairs and tables were lavishly covered with exquisite cotton, and the entire experience was decorated by serene music playing from the DJ’s stand.
Abass noticed the speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr. Kayode Coker seated with his aide. Dr. Coker was tall, broad-shouldered and looked like he visited the gym regularly. They had met a week ago in another function. He had left an impression on Abass and Abass had left one also. The Ph.D. holder was famous for always been on time.
He strutted up to the political icon. ‘Good evening Sir.’
Dr. Coker beamed, revealing deep set dimples. ‘Hello Abass. It is good to see you again, my friend,’ he responded, extending a handshake which Abass shook. ‘Is Yayi here?’
‘Any moment from now. How are you doing Sir?’
‘Very well, my friend. Very well.’
‘Glad to hear tha -’
‘Hello Dad,’ someone interrupted. The voice was feminine and sounded oddly familiar to Abass.
The moment their eyes locked, Abass realized that she was the damsel in distress. He had aided the daughter of one of the most powerful men in Lagos state without knowing it. She recognized him too.
She beamed in a manner similar to her father’s. ‘Small world! Thank you very much for the help.’ She turned to her bewildered father. ‘Dad, this is the gentleman that helped me with the car issue on my way here.’
Abass grinned effusively like one who had just hit jackpot. Words evaded him for the time being.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives smiled and looked at Abass with newfound admiration. ‘Is that so? You are definitely in my good books now. Now, you must complete this act of chivalry by arranging to bring that car home. She is my daughter and I wouldn’t have her going to pick up any car at night. Lagos can be unsafe at night.’
‘I totally agree Sir. I will figure something out.’ As if by cue, his phone rang. His boss had arrived. ‘Forgive me but I have to leave now. My boss is here.’
‘Alright. Swing by later for the address to my home.’ With that Abass left to find his boss, feeling like his stars were aligning wondrously.
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See you next week Friday.