A story written by INEGBENOISE OSEODION OSAGIE. (07068221839, 08093828575, [email protected])
When the wall clock ticked three, Lauren ended the discussion with her Aunt. Since the two days she came, there had been lots of America and Europe gist. Mum had said a lot, so nothing her aunt said was new.
She stretched to a side of her bed for her jacket and flung it over a shoulder. “Want to go get my car done.” She buttoned down the jacket and rose.
“Your car has an issue?”
“It’s not engines, but it’s an issue.”
Aunt Juliana rose and stretched her spaghetti strap to cover her cleavage that refused covering. Big breasts for a small body, the only thing that showed she and mum were sisters. If she were black, men would be all over her. Black men had this thing for big breasts. She must be receiving a double portion of stares wherever she walked past. White plus big-breasted; what a combination. “You mind me following you?” she asked.
Bad idea. Very bad idea. “I wouldn’t stress you. Mum might need you. There’s a lot of catching for you two.”
“I think I have more catching up to do with you. I’m going with you, Lau.”
The former Aunt Juliana had never been this pushy. In fact, was never pushy. Nigeria changed people. Lauren smirked to remove any grimace that might have unconsciously found its way. “I insist you don’t follow me.”
She sighed and dropped shoulders. “’Cause I can repair a car on my own.” She picked her car keys from the desk and tried using a smile to remove any unwanted scene. “See you when I get back.”
Cars were still parked at Erneto’s parking lot when she got there. Jide’s Toyota stood in that large space created for the COO. Lauren parked at a suitable space and strode to the building, entered the reception and flirted with the clerk and the people roaming with papers.
At past four, Jide’s office was still open, his secretary’s hands still on the keyboard. What time did they both leave the office?
Lauren called and stole some attention. The secretary spared her a look with those Jessica Alba’s eyes that every man, no matter how strong, would drown in. She never wore anything other than button-ups, knee skirts or full trousers, and that was supposed to be a good thing, but it wasn’t. Cleavage-showing tops and hips-revealing skirts would be much better, to do a perfect job in scaring away the good African man that needed to be scared. In all the African movies she had watched, the good men always ended with the woman that buttoned to the neck, not the one that showed the widest cleavage and juicy laps.
The secretary telephoned Jide and told him the white girl wanted to see him, called her white girl as if she was some kind of white weirdo.
Lauren opened the door. Jide was placing some papers in his file cabinet, causing him to give her a half face. First words he said—Exams over? What an old young man.
“I was hoping you’d direct me to where I could get a tear on my car chair done.”
He closed the file cabinet and gave her a full face. “You still drive unlicensed?”
“I’ll stop when I get caught. Till then, I need the tear mended.”
“It’s four-thirty. You can mend your tear tomorrow. A tear on a chair can be done anytime.”
“You’re rounding up. If you leave now, I think we wouldn’t waste more than thirty minutes.”
He pursed lips, and the lips thinned as though begging for a kiss. “Lau, pity me. I’m tired.”
“I’m not arguing that. If I knew the place, there’d be no need bothering you.”
The telephone buttons squeaked as he punched them. He phoned his secretary to start rounding up and hooked the receiver to its cradle. “Where’s the car?”
“Is it leather?”
“It’s lion’s skin.”
“When I’m done, we’ll go. There’s a carpenter at my house street. I don’t know if he’ll be able to do it.” He continued clearing his desk of the numerous papers. “How were the exams?”
She huffed. After much praying he never asked that question, he yet asked. “Some were fine, while some could turn out fine.”
A half smile nearly folded his cheek into a dimple. She studied the forming dimple and wished her finger could poke it and turn it into a full one.
“Next time, make all fine.”
Was that what he did in his time? She wanted to ask, but she better saved herself the lies everyone asked that said. Her mum topped her class all through her senior year. Dad came second only once and that was when he suffered from fever during the exams.
“Not so many Canadians are here. Represent Canada well.” The fan blew a paper to the floor. He lowered to pick it and slotted it in a cabinet. “I’m done,” he said, rubbing palms together.
“So we start leaving.”
“I’m not promising I’d drive you to where it can be done if my carpenter can’t fix it. Some of these car leathers are complicated. Not today.” He walked to a window and slid them into closing. She helped him with the second window.
At the secretary’s office, the secretary somehow led him into talking. Lauren tried not to pry into the talks. There would be no nosing. It was nothing but the everyday office talk bosses and secretaries had, she told herself. Nothing but office talks. After leaving the office, they met another delay—Richard. She waved and managed a smile at him. He shook her with his army hand, patting her back with the other, and then lingered on a conversation with Jide. When done talking and laughing, Jide and she finally made it to the car.
On seeing the leather, Jide said, “I don’t know if this can be done, but let’s try. My house is not too far away. Follow me behind and make sure you don’t get lost.” He carried the most sceptical face as he stalked to his Toyota, his briefcase dangling against his legs.
She trailed him past the gate into the main road and maintained focus above the numerous cars, making sure she didn’t miss a glimpse of the Toyota and dodging the potholes the same way he did.
They reached a junction with a signboard showing a street’s name, one of those twisted native names impossible to read. Not many cars used the lane, lessening the difficulty in trailing. Children, not with bare buttocks or undies, hovered and played between the bungalows that dominated the region. Jide stopped in front of a shack and stepped out. She parked beside his Toyota and struggled to step into the tiny space between her car and the Toyota.
“Next time, you park well,” Jide said.
She waved to a wood stack at the other side of her car. There was no way she could have parked well with that. She searched for a suitable side of her car to lean.
He walked into the shack and later came out with a man in navy overalls, most likely the carpenter. Jide and he walked to the passenger’s side of the car, and the man pushed the pile of wood so that he could open the door. After examining the leather, he told Jide in Pidgin English that it could be mended or covered with a new one. Mending, she insisted, as that would be less time consuming. Jide finalized the conversation with the carpenter using the already introduced Pidgin English. Though not as fluent as the carpenter, he spoke it more fluent than someone like him should. Everybody in the country spoke the Pidgin English, or Broken English, as her schoolmates called it. The carpenter retired to his shack after giving her series of glances.
“We’ll drive to my house and come back here in few minutes,” Jide said. No one needed to tell her that.
After a short ride, he stopped front of a storey building whose gate opened like French doors and revealed a brown building topped with an etched image. The gateman hailed to Jide as he rode on the red interlocked tiles. The etched image was a horse and its rider.
“You like horses?” she asked.
“Yes, I like horses.”
“You have one.”
“No. I sometimes ride at the stables.”
“Same here. I ride when there’s a chance.” It was a good thing that they had something in common. “I ride in Canada. My dad taught me. But I haven’t mounted on a horse since I landed in your country, and neither have I seen any stable.”
“There’s one in Lekki.”
“Where’s that place? I’ve heard people talk about it.” They stepped out of car. “You have a nice house.”
He fished a key from his pocket and inserted it in the door’s keyhole. A reflection of scarlet hit her eyes as the door opened. It was Arsenal’s logo reflecting on the wide LCD television.
“You’re arsenal?” She eased into the cosy air, savouring the bits of a perfect replica of fresh fall hayride on a dewy morning.
“I have no other.”
Football had never been her thing, but now, she wished she had sat with her dad those few times he watched the English League.
“Feel at home, Lau.” His cheeks folded into full dimples. Though full, she yet wanted to give it a poke.
“Sure I will.” She strode into the living room and sat on a long leather sofa that almost had her ricocheted. “Your sofa is hard.”
“It doesn’t tear that way. Very thick leather.”
“I need that kind in my car.”
“It’s not conducive for cars.”
He pulled off his suit jacket and slid the windows open. “You need fans?”
“Just do what you want to. I’m okay.” She tried a carefree face. “Where’s your fridge? I’m beginning to get hungry.”
“Over there.” He looked to the dining.
Cold air bathed her as she opened the fridge to the arrayed bread loafs and wine bottles. At an edge lay a brown substance wrapped in cellophane, and touching it gave her palm a hard feel.
“Is this a snack or something else?” she asked Jide. “Something wrapped in cellophane.”
“It’s a food. It has to be heated before eaten. It’s beans pudding, called moimoi here in Nigeria.
“Beans pudding. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that.”
Two slices of bread, she picked from a loaf, decorated it with a spoon of mayonnaise and cut a huge bite. Her teeth chilled as the ice melted on it. She closed the fridge and sauntered to the living room, biting her slice and chilling her teeth.
At the living room, she stopped biting and stared, quivered, and continued staring at the six-pack struggling with his singlet, or was she imagining things? She blinked away and continued with her bread before he could turn to her. A suit jacket covered loads of things.
She sat beside him on the two-seated sofa. “You did the army with your friend?”
“Rick went through that hell alone.” He stretched arms and tried swallowing a yawn. “I should go do light showering upstairs. Try the TV, I’ll be back soon.” He tottered into the corridor and thudded his way up the stairs.
To Be Continued….