The Doctors didn’t seem to be able to explain the change in Mama. It was as if the Lagos atmosphere had some positive effect on her system. She would still require her surgery but there was a huge difference when compared with how she looked in Ibadan. Uncle Mufu had given me the best Christmas gift I didn’t even wish for just because I didn’t think it was possible. The man had surprised me too much during the year. His niceness to Mama and I was jus not explainable. Not killing me for losing my cab, I thought that was the height of it but bringing Mama to Lagos, I was beyond grateful.
Uncle Mufu asked a doctor at the hospital to check out my “accident wounds” and he still didn’t ask any questions. I spent most of Wednesday and Thursday with Uncle Mufu; He was leaving for Abuja on Boxing Day and he wanted to ensure his family had enough supplies to last them while he was away. Uncle Mufu was a strong member of the ruling political party. A lot of the drivers at the park talk about how he controls most of the happenings in the rough parts of Lagos and have countless stories of how he amassed so much wealth from the last elections. Uncle Mufu was a strong family man. Despite tales and mentions of countless girlfriends and concubines outside his home, he always ensured he took good care of his family.
I spoke to Fadeke – a lot too. I had made up my mind to get her a gift but I wasn’t exactly sure what to get. I thought about asking Princess for help but I decided against it. There was really no other person to ask, well, so I thought till I got talking with Debola one of the days I was at Uncle Mufus house and out of nowhere, I asked her, more out of confusion than nothing else. Her reaction was surprising. She seemed so eager to help. She advised on budgets, locations where I could shop and places we could go on dates. She even offered to help get the cards. She seemed like a natural and I was beyond grateful. I had never ever done this before. Closest I had been to liking anyone this much was after I left secondary school, back in Ibadan. There wasn’t this much pressure then. Not like Fadeke was demanding or anything but this was more or less like an opportunity to present my case. A show of interest and I wasn’t going to let it slip.
Debola did everything. It was like a little project for her and I didn’t get in the way. On Christmas day, I was in Uncle Mufus house. He threw what was supposed to be a little party for close friends and his “boys” as he fondly referred to some of the older drivers in the park. The little party turned out to be a big deal. By the end of the day, one cow and another huge ram had gone down. Guests kept trooping in. it seemed some people had heard about Uncle Mufus trip to Abuja, which I later found out was for his party’s convention and primaries that was holding the following week. That explained all the uninvited guests that came for the party.
As we cleaned up in the evening, Debola handed me the bracelet she got for Fadeke. It was beautiful and a bargain for the amount it was. I wondered if it was real, I knew nothing about these things and even though Debola took her time to try to explain what kind of jewelry it was and why how she had managed to get it ft that price, I still didn’t understand. I was just happy I finally had a gift for Fadeke. I slept over at Uncle Mufus house because I stayed back to help with the cleaning and he had asked me to take him to the airport the next morning.
The next morning, Uncle Mufu woke me early, it always amazed me how disciplined the man was even at his age. I made sure I called Fadeke to wish her a happy birthday and also to set up our meeting before I got ready to leave. As we drove out, he asked me to stop by at the hospital to check on Mama. She seemed even better when we saw her. She was up in bed and though she couldn’t talk much, she acknowledged our presence and I couldn’t hide my emotions when she held out her hand to hold mine. I loved the woman so so much and I vowed to make sure she got better. I promised to come see her the next day since I’d be with Fadeke that evening. I drove to the airport, a short peaceful drive – Lagos is always so bearable during Christmas. Uncle Mufu packed just one bag so I didn’t have to wait with him, before he got out of the car, he told me to make sure I visit Mama as often as possible and to also take care of my “aburos” (younger ones) by that I he probably meant Debola.
I dropped off his car and went back to my room carrying Fadeke’s cake and gifts. I had made arrangements for her to come over to my room and then we could go out from there. All Debola’s idea. The sparkle in her eyes as she gave me the cake and wished me looked made me wonder why she didn’t exert all her energy into doing this instead if running around with older men but everyone had reasons for making their choices. I promised myself that I would talk to her about it later on. After all, she’s family.
I got to my room and cleaned it up. I took a bath and as I dressed, I looked at myself in the mirror. My face had healed well but you could still see signs of the injury. I also had some other scars on my body but I wasn’t really bothered about those. I told Fadeke to come around by 4pm so I still had enough time. I decided to get some reading done and I almost got carried away with it. Fadeke’s call a few minutes before 4 brought me back to earth. She was already on campus and was walking towards my hostel.
I hopped off the bed and cleared my books away; I had to go bring her in. The things one could do once school is empty – I didn’t even know I could bring her into the room till Debola told me what I had to do. A little holiday generosity to the Porters and that was it. Minutes later we both walked in to sounds of cheer and greetings from both of the Porters. They made me a bit shy but Fadeke seemed very comfortable with it. We got to the room and we both sat on the bed. It felt very strange. I doubt if any of my other roommates had ever had a girl over but then again, I was probably wrong. I tried to end the deafening silence; I wished her a happy birthday again and then gave her the cake and her cards.
She was very surprised; she hugged me and then opened her cards – both of them. She read out my short message and looked at me with a very shy look on her face. I was pleased – very pleased and I had Debola to thank. I still had her bracelet to go but I was going to save that for later. We talked after that, I always enjoyed talking to Fadeke, she made it very easy and even though we were alone in my room, it wasn’t different. She told me how her day had been and the gifts she got from her parents. The idea was to stay in and chat for a while and then head out for a meal later but we seemed to be having so much fun. The awkward silence came again and this time I knew what I had to do. I liked Fadeke so much and I could tell she did too. I looked into her eyes and she looked away smiling and near blushing. I moved closer to her and guided her face to look at mine. She closed her eyes and I moved closer. This was really happening, I thought to myself as I closed in to kiss her……
*Ring *Ring *Ring
The loud noise of my new phone ringing and vibrating on the bed as not enough to destroy the moment. Fadeke and I kissed. It was short but absolutely amazing. I didn’t want it to end but the sound coming from my phone kept getting to me and I was so annoyed I didn’t even want to check who was calling. I eventually did and was I surprised? No, it was Princess, I didn’t want to pick but it was all too awkward in the room, I needed a break. I stood up from the bed and picked Princess’ call.
Where are you Azeez? It’s almost 7.
Ehn.. but Princess, we didn’t have any discussion about…
So Senior didn’t tell.. Nevermind, please, this is very very urgent. I’m in Ikoyi and we are very late. Please come.
Princess, Im sorry… (I turned to look at Fadeke)… I can’t…
She was quiet for a while and then..
If I could do this without you I would. I’ll be waiting. Thank you.
With that, she dropped the phone leaving me disoriented and not really knowing what to do. Princess had never begged for anything in my presence and she did use the word please. Maybe it was genuinely important this time, but this was also important. I debated with myself forgetting Fadeke was still there. She punched me gently to get my attention..
Is everything ok?
You have to go don’t you.
I noticed as the look on her face changed. Did I really have to go? Just this time, I thought to myself…
If it wasn’t very important, I wont…
(She shook her head) And that was so not expected, was it? Mr. Azeez, you have some explaining to do and I’d suggest you do it fast if this.. thing here really does mean anything to you.
She was right; I had hidden too much from her. Where would I begin and when?
Look, Fadeke, you’re right and I promise I’ll explain everything to you once I get back. But please let me drop you off.
Drop me? You now have a car too?
No, I mean, yes…
No, it’s fine, I’ll walk.
She began walking towards the door and I walked behind her mot knowing what to say or do. I realized she didn’t take her cake – how could she, if only, she’d let me drop her off…
It’s fine, you don’t have to walk me, I found my way here didn’t I? Please go and do what you have to do.. I’ll wait for your ..erm….EXPLANATION.. (she said with some sarcasm in her voice).. but I won’t wait for too long.
I couldn’t come back from that, I watched as she stormed away after that and I knew it was now up to me. I walked back to the room and packed up the cake. I had to get back in good time. Whatever happened, I was going to be waiting to see Fadeke the next morning.
I got to Ikoyi in a matter of minutes. I was angry but not at Princess, this was all my fault. Yes, she was paying me well enough and yes, I needed the money, especially for Mama but was it worth losing something that seemed so special for? Princess got into the car and I turned to look at her. Short black dress – again. Was it some kind of uniform. She seemed very ok. What was so urgent then? I felt like handing her the keys and returning to go find Fadeke but that was too late now.
I got on the road and from the way I drove, I’m sure Princess knew something wasn’t right. I nearly ran into a car just after Lekki phase 1 and she turned to look at me but instead of asking what was wrong, she told me we had to pick up someone at the next junction. I almost sped past the junction but she managed to stop me. It was just about 8pm and I noticed a figure walking towards the car through my rearview mirror. As she got closer, I realized who it was but I didn’t believe it.
Kassy opened the door and got into the back seat. Also dressed in black. I tried not to give away any reaction. I focused on the road and continued driving. Princess directed me to a house hidden deep somewhere around Lekki phase 3. Like most of the others, it was spectacular from outside and inside. I paid little attention to the details, I just wanted to get the night over and done with. I had already madeup my mind I wasn’t leaving the car. I didn’t want any part of their world. I just wanted to do what I was paid to do – drive.
I parked the car and they got out. Princess turned to ask me to come in with them but I told her I’d be ok in the car. She looked surprised; she paused for a while as if waiting to say something and then began walking away with Kassy. I leaned back in my seat trying to make myself comfortable. If I knew Princess, they were probably going to be in there for a while. It was a few minutes past eight, Princess didn’t say anything about how long she would be but I figured we’d probably be leaving the next morning since she wanted me to come in. I tried to think; my thoughts couldn’t make it past Fadeke. I thought about the moments we spent together before Princess’ call. I really liked her and maybe I should have told her about Princess and everything. Maybe.
I fell asleep and had a dream – more like, a nightmare. I was struggling to wake up when I heard someone call out my name. A-Zed! It was Princess; she was standing by the door about to come into the car. I cleared my eyes and adjusted my seat. I didn’t believe I had slept for that long. I check the time on the dashboard. 10:30pm. That was fast – very fast. Princess and Kassy got into the car and I drove out. After only going past a few buildings, I noticed a car with it’s headlights flashing ahead of us. Princess asked me to park along side the road. I did and they both got out.
Princess handed me a two brown envelopes. The first one, she told me to please keep for her, while the second was mine. Then she said she’d be in touch. They crossed to the other side of the road and got into the other car. The car drove towards me and as the driver made a u-turn, I noticed it was Senior driving. He even smiled as he drove past me. I felt my envelope and knew it was probably money. I didn’t bother to check. I wondered what had just happened. Did Princess and Kassy cut their visit short so they could join Senior for another job or was I just over-thinking?
It was really none of my business. I was still very angry about leaving Fadeke and heading back so soon even got me angrier. I went past the second roundabout and I realized just how empty the road was. It was not yet 11pm and everywhere was deserted. Then out of nowhere literally, I swathe bright headlights from another car come on behind me. It was an SUV, a big one. I felt a little bit of respite knowing I wasn’t alone on the road. The jeep raced very fast towards me and I tried to keep up so I could at least stick with it till I got back to V.I. but it was moving so fast – too fast and it seemed like it was heading straight for me. I swerved to the other lane so it could go past, but it moved behind me with its full headlights on.
Something was not right, I tried to move faster, I was doing almost 140 and the jeep seemed stuck behind me. I wanted to maneuver and maybe force it to stop but I was scared of damaging the car so I did the one thing I could do. I swerved several times and eventually pulled over to the side of the road. The jeep double-crossed me immediately, two hefty men got out of the back seat – both heavily armed. They were robbers; I thought to myself, they wanted the car. I opened the door and raised my hands and bowed my head.
You can take it – please take the car.
Shut up. Where is she?
Where is she?
I…I…I don’t know.. I don’t know..
One of the men got into the car and pulled me out; he shoved me to the other man and then began searching the car. He came out with both envelopes Princess had given me and then spoke to the one holding me:
He’s coming with us. Lets go.