The little drama between Kingsley and Jovita was an eye opener to see that they were indeed having issues. Regardless of our presence, rather than keeping it lowkey between themselves, they preferred making a big deal out of it.
“What’s up with those two?” Simon asked, looking puzzled.
“Leave them aside. What is paining me now is this my one kay that I just lost to her,” Oluchi cut in.
“Lost to who?”
“That I lost to Jovita! We had a bet and I lost. I’m not even concerned about the money but her attitude. If not for Fifiʼs intervention as we came here, I would have changed it for her. She doesn’t know how to talk,” Oluchi lamented.
“Just shrug it aside.” Simon said.
Kingsley returned with three other guys who introduced themselves as Uche, Bauchi and Eagle. They claimed to come with a car and wouldn’t mind giving us a ride back home. We followed them and along the way, Boma held my hand as we strode along. Oluchi and Simon also had their hands clutched together, thereby making Mimi the odd one out as she was left alone. I heard her cough and looked back, only to see her smiling.
“Whatʼre you looking at?” I asked. She smiled and winked, pointing to Boma.
“You are not serious!” I laughed and faced front.
“So you guys have settled?” he asked.
“Since when!” I replied, facing him.
Something about Boma was that, no matter how rough he looked or how roughly dressed he might appear, he still maintained that classic look of his. Even with the sweat and stains on his jersey, he looked attractive. I must have soared too deep in my reverie when he brought me back with a question.
“You stare too much. Is anything wrong with me?”
“No,” I quickly covered up.
“Why don’t you stop at my place for a shower?” I added.
“I would love to, but I canʼt. I have something to settle with these guys at home. Maybe I would come over later.”
We soon got to where the car was parked and discovered there was a problem; it couldn’t contain all of us. It was a six sitter car and two people had to be excluded. Simon and Oluchi volunteered to take a public transport in order to make space.
Evening had fast approached by the time we got home. We were dropped at a junction close to our area where we had to walk from till we got home. I felt weak and hungry as well as Mimi was, but nobody wanted to do the cooking.
“You won’t go and cook abi.” she said.
“Itʼs your turn today na.” I protested.
“How is it my turn? You that cooked burnt porridge yesterday that nobody could eat, is that one food?”
Mimi liked arguing a lot. In order to avoid brewing up space for an argument, I suggested that we do it together and she agreed. I peeled the yam while she sliced it and we proceeded to grinding the sauce.
While adding the sauce into the pot, Mimiʼs phone rang from the room and she left to pick it. She returned shortly after and said the caller wanted to speak with me.
“Hello! Is this Fifi?”
“Itʼs me. Who am I speaking with?”
“Hope it was delivered to you?” The caller asked.
“Delivered to who? Who am I speaking with?”
“Hope it was delivered to you?” The caller repeated.
“I don’t get you. Who am I…”
“Itʼs Big Tiny,” he cut me short, “I came with Lady Tee yesterday and we delivered a package. Hope you got it?”
“You mean the nylon?” I queried.
“Yes, the nylon bag. Did you see it?”
“See what? You are confusing me.”
“Did you see what was in the nylon?” he repeated.
“I didnʼt check it, I only peeped into it and saw a piece of cloth, nothing else.”
“You didnʼt check well then. Check well and Iʼll call you later to confirm,” he said and hung up immediately. I was confused.
“Who was that?” Mimi asked, taking the phone from me.
“Remember that lady I told you about, the one I met at the restaurant?” I asked. Mimi nodded.
“They came here yesterday,” I continued, “and they dropped something with the landlord.”
“What was it?” Mimi asked.
“I donʼt know. I havenʼt checked yet.”
“So what are you waiting for?”
We went back to the room and took the nylon from the top of my wardrobe where I had flung it. Mimi said a short, quick prayer to herself and did the sign of the cross three times before we loosened the knot used to tie the nylon and untied it. The moment we spilled out the content it contained, the first thing to fall off from it were dozen-stacked T-shirts with APC logo on them, followed by a stamped envelope and another smaller nylon that fell. We opened the nylon and saw a pack, containing a sealed brand of the latest iPhone. Our mouths spread ajar.
“Fifi, are you seeing what I am seeing!” Mimiʼs eyes bulged. I didn’t know whether to reply her, keep mute or just keep staring at the pack.
“What’s in that envelope in your hand?” She asked, snatching it from me. Before I could blink an eyelid, she had tore it open.
“Jesus Christ!” She screamed as the envelope fell off her hand.
“What is it?” I asked, almost panicking.
“Fifi, donʼt touch that envelope!” Mimi screamed, acting like she just had a cardiac arrest.
“Whatʼs in it?” I asked again. She kept staring at the envelope like she had just touched poo.
“Mimi, what is inside?” I repeated.
“Don’t touch it,” she said.
I was getting fed up with her nauseous attitude. The next thing I knew, she edged closer to her bed and grabbed a full bottle of anointing oil to pour on it. If I hadn’t been quick to stop her, she could have emptied the whole content on the envelope.
“What is wrong with you!” I was forced to yell at her.
“Don’t touch that envelope Fifi. I know what Iʼm saying,” she persisted.
At that point, the last thing I wanted was to start an argument with her. I simply ignored her myopic behaviour and bent low, picked up the envelope and slowly opened it gently.
Within the envelope, four folds of fresh Naira notes were bundled together, but in different piles. I instantly understood what made Mimi react the way she did. I also flinched from the shock and the sight of it.
“Fifi drop that thing. Itʼs blood money,” Mimi kept saying.
“What makes you think so?”
“I can feel it deep within my soul that this money is not pure. Drop it down!”
I looked at her and couldn’t help the laughter that emerged. Mimi always had this funny way of complicating issues with her religious belief.
“So what you are saying is that, this money I am holding in my bare hands is blood money?” I asked, still laughing.
“You think itʼs funny?” she retorted.
“I think it is, because if it is truly blood money as you claim it to be, why haven’t I disappeared? Why haven’t I died?” I asked, staring her directly in the eyes as she was unable to provide an answer.
“You better wisen up!” I added, “These people want me to campaign for them and they are willing to do anything to make me succumb. I already said I am not interested but they won’t desist, so itʼs better I just play along and pretend for the main time.”
Upon the explanation, Mimi still wasnʼt convinced.
“What do you plan to do with the money?” She asked.
“What do they use money to do before? Iʼll settle our rent for another year from it, and we’ll take the rest of what remains,” I said.
“What about the phone?” she asked.
“I don’t know yet, maybe I’ll sell it or dash it out to someone. Or you need it?” I asked. She shook her head in disapproval.
“I don’t want anything affiliated with that money,” she said.
Arguing with Mimi was as pointless as trying to count a full bag of beans. In the end, you just had to accept it that way.
I split the money into two and was counting it when a knock came at the door. I quickly dipped it into the envelope back, along with the iPhone pack and the T-shirts into the nylon and flung it up to my wardrobe.
Mimi opened the door and it was my landlordʼs daughter, Ijeoma. We exchanged pleasantries and she said there was someone waiting for me outside the gate. I asked her who it was but she said the person asked her not to tell me.
Out of curiosity, I followed her to the gate. I wasn’t too surprised to see him since he had earlier promised to return. He had a casual polo shirt and a grey jean, coupled with a jacket that had a hoodie over his head. His black and white snicker also did well to compliment his jean.
From afar off, one could mistake him for a foreigner if they didn’t look well. We approached him and he pulled down the hoodie, letting out his curly Afro hair.
“Thank you,” he said, referring to Ijeoma. Ijeoma turned back to leave when he held her hand softly and slipped something into it. Without even bothering to check what it was, she thanked him and left.
“What did you slip into her hand?”
“Is it necessary?” he answered with a smile. I rolled my eyes.
“Why couldn’t you just come in?”
“See that man there,” he pointed through a visible part of the gate to Ijeoma’s compound, where her dad, who in turn was our landlord, was seated outside the corridor with a newspaper.
“So?” I asked.
“I know heʼs your landlord and I don’t want any trouble, that’s why I asked her to call you out here.”
“Is he the one paying my rent? Whatʼs his business with my visitors. So that’s the major reason you chose to stay out here?”
“I actually didn’t plan on staying or coming in, since it’s getting dark already. Could we just go somewhere else, somewhere secluded and talk?”
“I’m not going anywhere. If you can’t come in, stay outside,” I said and turned to leave when he held my wrist.
I peered at his pleading face and he seemed to have every iota of seriousness on it.
“Why can’t you just come in; my landlord won’t bite you na,” I tried insisting a bit.
“I need somewhere secluded,” he said. He seemed serious about it.
“So where do you have in mind?” I asked.
“Do you know Paloma joint?”
I feigned pretence like I hadnʼt heard of it before.
“I don’t know the place. Where is it?”
“Itʼs not too far from here. If we leave now, we could make it back before 8:30,” he said.
I gave it a quick thought and came up with an idea.
“Hold on, let me inform Mimi.”
I moved away from him a bit and dialled Mimiʼs line. When she picked, I informed her of our destination and venue. I told her that if she didn’t see me back in about an hour time, she should most likely raise an alarm of my dismissal.
After the call, I returned back to him. Unknown to me, he came with a car. I had thought we would convey a public fare all along till he pointed to the small Toyota Camry at the distance. We got in and he reversed the car to take the route we would follow.
In a moment, we arrived at Paloma joint. We hardly talked during the drive.
We eventually got in and secured a table.
“So you don’t know this place?” He asked, trying to start up a conversation.
“I donʼt.” I answered.
He gave me a kind of look that suggested he knew I wasn’t telling the truth. Fortunately, a waiter came by who took our order. I ordered for a medium sized cup of ice-cream since I didn’t know how well equipped he was; while he ordered for beer.
“Upon my presence, you still ordered beer?” I asked, frowning. He laughed.
“I drink beer anywhere and any time. I don’t fake it,” he said proudly.
“And you are proud of it?”
“Why shouldnʼt I be? I am a man! From where I come from, my people say one thing must surely kill a man. It’s either you drink or you smoke or you womanize; one of them must surely kill you.”
“What of those that die natural death without doing any of these things you just mentioned?” I asked.
“That’s their problem,” he said with a smile. That smile meant the end of that topic. That was Bomaʼs way of ending any topic he didn’t like; he just smiled and gave you the sign to know.
I hushed up and sipped a bit from my ice-cream cup, staring into thin air.
“You didn’t bother to ask why I brought you here,” he said, taking a gulp from his glass.
“Thatʼs true. What are we doing here?” I asked with a bit of concern.
“I want to propose to you,” he said with a wild smirk. We both laughed.
“Be serious Boma, what are we doing here?”
We gave a long look at each other’s faces, peering eyeball to eyeball as a brief silence ensued.
“Fifi,” he began, “the night after Jovita’s birthday party last week, you said something that touched me that night. Do you still remember?”
“I do.” I answered.
“I didn’t want to bring up this issue again but I needed to correct you on something. We are not cultists as you may think. We don’t see ourselves as such. In fact, if there was a way I could remove that word from the dictionary, I definitely will.” He said plainly.
“So just because you are denying it now, am I expected to suddenly believe whatever you say?” I asked.
“The ball is in your court. Itʼs your choice to believe whatever you want to,” he said.
I gave a deep sigh and took a sip from my cup as he did the same too from his glass.
“So since you claim not to be a cultist, what does the tattoo and the ring signify?” I asked.
“I got this tattoo even before I joined. As for the ring, it’s a symbol of brotherhood,” he said.
“Do you kill people?”
“We don’t kill unless we are forced to. If you don’t offend us, we can’t attack you. Thatʼs our rule.”
“Then who is the leader?” I asked.
“I can’t tell you. I’ve said too much already; doing that would break the rule and my pledge for loyalty to the brotherhood.” he answered.
Something in me wanted to push on with more questions, but I decided to hush it up.
“Can I ask you one more thing?” I asked.
“Feel free,” he answered.
“What do you stand to gain in this sort of lifestyle?” I asked, straight and direct. He filled his glass with the last content of the bottle, took a big gulp from it, and smiled.
“Good and bad things happen to us in life sometimes. Itʼs a matter of choice in most cases, while in some aspects, your decision matters. I didn’t choose to be this way in my own, neither did I decide it. Itʼs just how life is,” he answered softly with a smile. That same smile that meant the end of the topic.
“I promised not to waste your time. It’s getting late already,” he said, taking a peek at his wristwatch. I wrapped up the remains of what was left of the ice-cream into a nylon as he stood up and stretched an arm towards me, lifting me up.
We came out of the restaurant and stood close to his car. He opened the passenger door for me, probably expecting me to get in.
“Donʼt worry, I can find my way home.”
“Are you sure? I don’t mind seeing you off,” he said.
“Iʼll be fine. Don’t bother,” I assured.
He heaved a sigh and dipped his hand into his pocket, took out his wallet and stretched some Naira notes to me.
“What’s that for?” I asked, quite embarrassed.
“A little token for your transport.”
“I told you I’ll be fine, good night.” I said and turned to leave. I had barely walked a little distance when he called my name.
I turned back and he was right behind me. He held my hand and entwined our fingers, hardly leaving an inch of space between us.
The next thing I knew, he reached for my lips and kissed me. It was a brief kiss as he withdrew almost immediately and clutched my palm tightly, slipping something into it.
“Good night,” he released the grasp from our hands and turned back. I realized he had just slipped the notes into my hand. Before I could call out to him and resist, he got into the car, started the engine, gave me a wink and zoomed off. He was just too smart.
For some reason, I felt unusually glad as I walked back home. The event of the last few minutes kept repeating itself in my head. I knew Mimi was right when she said I had fallen in love with him.
I got to the junction where I was supposed to board a bike home but it was unusually scanty. I kept walking till I got to another junction. I proceeded further into a certain street where I could take a shortcut leading to my area.
Along the way, I noticed there was this certain guy following me. If I turned left, he turned left. If I turned right, he turned right. I became alarmed.
I increased my pace and he also did. When I was sure he was really after me, I started running. He chased after me really fast and I was afraid he would catch up with me when I saw a moving taxi.
The taxi man saw me headed to his direction and he immediately grabbed the scenario. He opened the door and asked me to hop in fast as I did, and he zoomed off.
TO BE CONTINUED…