If you missed the first three parts, you might want to start from Part 1. Here’s a direct link to the entire series:
But if you’ve been following regularly, thanks for the support … And let me stop yarning. Here’s Part 4. Enjoy!
* * * * *
He came home briefly to drop his traveling bag and pick up some other items. It was the same navy blue traveling bag that Seni herself had used whenever she returned to school at Meiran after holidays. She knew that Dele would be going to Boye’s house, for the mini get-together to celebrate his birthday. She decided that it was better to tell him about Boye’s advances before he left for that party.
As it turned out, her timing was totally off.
“What were you wearing when he came to “harass” you?” Dele asked, his eyes flashing. He was not really expecting a reply as evidenced by the “Shut up!” he barked at her when she tried to tell him she had been wearing a simple dress the first time Boye approached her.
“That’s all you know! Boys! You better not bring any pregnancy to this house!”
“Preg what? Who is pregnant?” her mother said, walking into the sitting room. Seni was sure that the entire universe had conspired against her that evening. How come it was when Dele randomly mentioned pregnancy that her mother happened to be passing by?
Chai! See bad luck!
“N-n-n-o-o-o, Mummy. I was just–” she began, but Dele did not let her explain.
“This silly girl has not even entered uni, and she’s already chasing boys! She just told me that Boye–” Dele began. His mother interrupted him.
“Which Boye? Is it Boye Aladegbola?” Mrs. Balogun asked.
“Yes, ma. The same one,” Dele replied. “She said he has been harassing her. I’m sure she was the one who seduced him with those short-short things she has been wearing.”
“Ah, mummy, it’s not true,” Seni wailed, finding it hard to believe that she was being blamed for something that was not her fault. She knew she should not have taken Nancy’s advice.
“Will you shut up there?!” her mother shouted. “Boye is from a good family. Just wait till your father hears this!”
Dele told her to get out of his way and left in a rage. For a while, she had had her suspicions that he no longer took her side since the whole Veronica incident. This was proof of it.
Seni quickly fled to the room and let out a stream of hot tears.
“Everything points to Veronica! Dele and I used to be so close until that day. And now he’s sabotaging me.”
Ordinarily, Dele would have listened to her and probably warned Boye off her case. Now, she knew she was on her own. Normally, she would have gotten a slap and serious flogging from her mother except that her parents had sworn off corporal punishment since she graduated from secondary school. They had kept their word, surprisingly too. That was her only saving grace.
From that day onward, she knew she was on her own where Boye was concerned. What would she do?
God has a way of helping people in the moments when man’s help is not forthcoming or has failed. Seni was about to experience this first hand.
About two weeks later, on her way back from lesson, her last bus had a flat fire about a mile away from her bus-stop. Other passengers were even farther away from their targeted bus-stops. The spare tire was non-existent and ignoring all the curses and insults hurled at them, the driver and conductor told the passengers to disembark and “find their level.” Not a single kobo was refunded.
Seni did not waste her time lambasting the conductor with much-deserved insults and was just thankful that she knew a short-cut to her home, not too far from where the bus had stopped.
It was almost 2:00pm and the sun seemed to be playing hide and seek with some clouds. Perfect for walking. Well, almost perfect.
Her route took her past the snooker club, which Dele and Boye used to frequent together back when JAMB was still kicking Dele’s derriere. However, since he conquered JAMB, Dele had abandoned that local hangout. But, not Boye. The area where the snooker club was located was a largely residential one, but here and there commercial shops had sprouted in what were once upon a time, houses inhabited by people.
The former house where the club was now located had just been painted blue, the shade of blue that made one wonder if the owners had any taste, because it did nothing to give the house-turned-club a proper, much-needed face lift. But there it was.
The gate was perpetually open, signaling that anyone was welcome there, as long as they had money. Originally built as a duplex, the snooker area was upstairs with an open veranda where patrons lounged. The bottom part was a restaurant of some sort, with white plastic tables and chairs arranged in the spacious compound, shaded by a red canopy with white poles.
A saucy-faced attendant, who was perpetually chewing gum, and dressed like she was hired not just to sell food, but to appeal to the predominantly male customers, stood behind the counter. There was a fridge with a transparent glass door filled with the typical assortment of local beverages. Standing close to the fridge was a glass display case housing unsavory-looking pastries and other snacks. Anyone who was familiar with this joint knew not to go near the meat-pie and other baked goods. They were horrible. But the stick meat, with chunks of spicy, fried beef interspaced with onions, tomatoes and red pepper on toothpicks, was a winner. It was single-handedly the best-selling item in the entire restaurant, and that was what sensible people came there to buy.
As Seni passed by and caught sight of the stick meat in the display case, her mouth began to water. If she had not thought of stick meat before, it was all she could think of now.
She made a detour there, and endured the hostile stare of the scantily-clad attendant. Pointing to the stick meat, she told the girl she wanted to buy some of them. The girl replied that those ones were reserved for customers who had called ahead. If she wanted to buy stick meat, she would have to wait for a fresh batch, which was already on the fire.
Although she suspected that the girl was lying about the “reserved” stick meat, but not seeing any remedy in sight, she decided to wait for the next batch. The fresher, the better, right?
Seni took a seat and waited.
There were a few customers seated there that afternoon. Some of them were smoking, drinking not-so-soft drinks like Gulder, and some were just eating and chatting.
Seni had barely sat down at an empty table, when a rather rough-looking man walked up to her. He looked to be in his late 30s or early 40s, lips blackened from extensive cigarette use, and the demeanor of a less-than-honest person. This was the sort of person parents had in mind when they warned children not to talk to strangers. He looked like a real gbomo-gbomo.
As uncomfortable as she was, Seni assumed that at her age, she could not be kidnapped. Certainly not in broad daylight, and not in the midst of people.
The man did not introduce himself. Reeking of tobacco, he asked Seni in a lowered voice:
“Wetin be your name?”
The look on Seni’s face simply said, “I’m sorry, did you expect me to answer?” But no answer came out of her mouth. She just frowned at him, failing to recognize that men like this were used to being ignored and would not be put off by the hostility of a teenage girl.
“Siddon there dey squeeze your face, you hear? No be you say make I come meet you for here?” he asked in louder tones. Seni’s frown intensified. She was quite confused.
“I don’t know who you are or what you’re going on about,” Seni replied, her voice shaking a little. What did this man want?
“You talk say you go wear green top on top blue jeans. Why you come dey pretend say you no know me? Stop all this forming jo!”
Seni looked at her bright green tank top and dark blue jeans in surprise, as if she did not look in the mirror before leaving the house. Yes, she was dressed in the manner this man described, but he was a stranger to her.
She was about to tell him that she did not know him, when he said:
“Sister, if you no want dis pali again,” he said, flashing a green passport in her face, “you for don talk am since. No dey waste my time. I get plenty customer … no be only you. You no know wetin I suffer before I get dis one. We never even chook mouth inside visa matter … with all dis shakara wey you dey do, dat one go cost well well–”
At that point, she knew for sure that this man had confused her with someone else. She was telling him this when out of the corner of his eye, he spotted someone else, and walked away, but not before saying:
“You no even fine sef!”
Still smarting from his insult, not to mention still wondering how he could have confused her with someone else, she followed him with her eyes and saw him walk up to a young woman who was dressed almost identically to her, except that this person wore dark shades.
“That must be the person he came to see,” Seni reasoned. Who was this girl? What did she want with this fellow? Seni had no idea, but she was relieved that the horrible man had left her alone with only insults. He looked like the kind of person who carried multiple weapons.
“That’s what I get for craving stick meat,” she grumbled. Just then, she remembered that the girl had told her to wait for 15 minutes. A quick glance at her wristwatch told her that she had been waiting for close to 30 minutes.
Seni got up and went back to the counter. This time around, there was an older woman with her, who was obviously her Madam. She was not there when Seni arrived earlier.
As soon as the attendant saw Seni coming, she tried to leave and go to the kitchen. But her Madam called her back and told her to attend to the customer. Madam herself disappeared into the kitchen. Seni told the girl the amount of stick meat she wanted to buy and the girl reluctantly reached into the display case and pulled out a few sticks from the supposedly reserved batch. Unbelievable!
“Didn’t you tell me you were reserving these ones for other customers?” Seni asked, raising her voice loud enough to draw Madam’s attention. It worked, and Madam reappeared almost immediately, asking the attendant what the matter was.
Seni explained what had transpired while the attendant looked like she wished the ground would open up and swallow her. Turning to the attendant, Madam yelled in anger:
“You dis foolish girl! You’ve started again, abi? Haven’t I warned you to stop reserving meat for male customers? Idiot!” And she began to hurl insults at the girl before finally ordering her into the kitchen. The girl left in tears. Seni could care less.
Serves her right for wasting my time like that.
“Customer, abeg no vex o. You know how these girls can be. Abeg no vex,” Madam pleaded and added a few extra sticks of meat to Seni’s purchase. Who could say no to jara?
She paid and was about to leave when she heard someone call her name. She turned around just in time to see Boye emerging from the entrance to the house. He must have seen her from the balcony upstairs where he was playing snooker.
Crap! How could she have forgotten that Boye would be here at this time?
“This is what Further Maths will do to your brain. Confusion!” she chided herself. Should she pretend not to have heard him and just run? No. He would definitely catch up with her. That guy was fast. Literally.
She accepted her fate and just stood there until he walked up to her.
Boye seemed to be more jovial than usual, but Seni was in no mood for conversation. She had just narrowly escaped getting slapped by a complete stranger, and on top of that, the stick meat girl had lied to her. What a rotten day!
Boye, as annoying as he was, could tell that there was something bothering her. She expected him to brush it aside, but he surprised her when he said:
“Come on baby, what’s the matter? Who be de maga wey come make your face be like dis?”
“In English, please,” Seni said, saucily. She was not in the mood for this foolish talk, but something in her wanted to share all the curious happenings of the past hour with somebody. Anybody. Boye was a convenient receiver, so she told him about her encounter with the rough-looking guy.
“That’s strange, but not so strange. You see that guy?” Boye said, nodding towards the man who had approached Seni earlier. He was still talking to the girl with the shades. Seni acknowledged that she knew who he was referring to, and Boye continued.
“His name is Razor and–”
“Say what?!” Seni said in amusement. “Is his last name ‘Blade’ abi which kain yeye name be dat? I’m sure he wasn’t christened Razor by his parents.”
“Stop acting like a child. Just look at this place. Does this look like a place where people use their real names?” Boye asked.
Seni shook her head in response.
“Ehen, so why are you surprised at his name? As long as he has left you alone, you’ll be fine. That guy is not the type of person you want to deal with unless you absolutely have to. Believe me, you don’t want to reach that stage in your life,” Boye said. Although the statement was calculated to sound abstract, the way Boye said it made it seem personal. Very personal. But Seni did not quiz him on that issue.
“That’s true,” she said.
“So baby, how far now? So ti consider proposal mi ni?” he said, breaking into that adulterated form of Yoruba, liberally mixed with English, that had grown increasingly popular with younger generations.
Seni heaved a deep sigh and rolled her eyes. Should she rake for this guy? Would he then take her seriously? One look at Boye’s face convinced Seni that this was not a man who gave up easily. He was a fighter.
Up till this point, anytime they had a conversation on this relationship issue, Seni had yelled her responses to him. Now, she considered changing her strategy a bit. With a coy look on her face, she invaded Boye’s personal space and said in the sweetest voice:
“Boye, I see you as my brother. There can never be anything between us. See ehn, you deserve better. Me, I’m just a small girl. In fact, from now you’re Brother Boye to me.”
Boye burst into laughter at her weak attempt at changing the game. He was not born yesterday.
“Brother what? My dear, I’m not your brother o. I don’t even want to be. Dele is your brother. Stop playing with me. I have sisters at home. I’m used to all the games you girls play. So just say “Yes” and stop wasting time.”
Seni would have been stuck there arguing back and forth with Boye, certain to lose the argument with him every single time, except that at that moment, the wind blew in her favor. A teenager, some local champion, who Boye owed money and had lost several snooker bets to, showed up. As soon as Boye spotted him, he ended his toasting session hurriedly with a rushed “We’ll talk later,” and slunk away down the street.
Seni could not believe her luck. She almost ran out of the place! As she passed through the gate of the snooker club, she saw the girl hand over a red nylon bag with the name of a foreign boutique to Razor. He saluted her and she heard the words, “Balance” and “Later” escape the girl’s lips.
“Tomorrow?” Razor asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
She left and narrowly avoided colliding with another couple walking into the restaurant. Seni watched as she hailed an okada down the street, hopped on it, and disappeared just as suddenly as she arrived.
Seni would not have thought about the girl anymore, except that she happened to have the same poorly-styled haircut that Seni had at the moment.
“I wonder if she went to B & U too? I seriously doubt it. There are plenty of bad hairstylists in this Lagos,” she thought to herself as she walked home.
Beautiful and Unique, popularly called “B & U” by students, was one of those places that had a reputation for being over-priced, but was well-patronized for the exact reason. Students had a love-hate relationship with the place. Boyfriends generally hated it if they had to foot the ridiculous bill for their girlfriends. Girls loved to boast that they had got their hair done at B & U, even if it was a much cheaper salon they had actually visited.
This particular salon’s prices were often five or six times higher than other salons offering similar services. One could only conclude that the exorbitant price was attributable to the excessive use of imported products at this salon. In fact, the only functional part of the salon that was not imported was the select group of hair stylists. They were all Made in Nigeria.
Seni had been there just once and had vowed never to set foot in that salon again because that was where they had botched the Anita Baker haircut she requested. By the time she left, she was convinced that the Anita Baker her stylist had in mind was a Yoruba actress, and not the famous American songstress.
As soon as Seni got home, she ran to her room. She had restrained herself from eating the stick meat on the way home, but she planned to eat everything but the stick and plastic bag, in her room.
She opened the door of her room, and took several steps back. Right on her bed, sitting there and completely at home, rifling through her magazines, was Dele.
What on earth …
– to be continued –