A story written by INEGBENOISE OSEODION OSAGIE. (07068221839, 08093828575, [email protected])
When her dad finished with the grace after breakfast, Lauren retired to her room and shut the door. The Saturday was warm and cosy, at least so far. She prayed it remained so. She mounted on her bed and played with her mobile. Aunt Juliana’s obnoxious cry over an expanded can-drink in the freezer disrupted the cosiness. Lauren covered her ears with headphones and listened diligently to the low tunes of Michael Jackson.
A voice from the outside mixed with Michael’s. She removed the headphones and got a good dosage of the voice, calmer than Michael’s. Jide’s voice. What was he doing in her house, and with whom did he exchange words? She jumped from the bed and made for the living room, stood behind the curtains and peeped. Jide and her dad were discussing. Things like mining site, state government issues, naira figures, limestone, and some other stony words came out of the discussion. When bored of feeding only her ears instead of her entire five senses, she shifted the curtains open and showed herself. Jide’s dark eyes flew to her. She smiled and greeted. The white light drew a line on her. Her stupid, burgundy, baggy pyjamas still covered her, and it was ten in the morning.
Jide smiled back at her. “Just waking up?”
Her fingertips itched and the itching migrated to the entire fingers. “No. I-I just overslept. Sorry, I mean I’ve been up since seven. Forget my pajamas.” She threw a hand at herself.
He chuckled and told her dad something that had her name. Dad laughed—the kind of laugh that hardly came. Jide waved and reverted to discussing stones.
She maintained her smile as she walked to the veranda. The two women reclined and chattered on the longue. Joining them would be a very bad idea.
“Honey, you’re still in your nighties,” mum said. “I thought I was the one with that bad habit.”
“One of the things I learned from you. I’ll go pull it off.” The right excuse to discharge.
Without glancing at the men, she treaded the living room ground and made it to her room safely. Her mirror showed the specks of sleep marks that circled her eyes. Nobody drew her attention to those during breakfast. What sort of house was she living in? Jide must have thought she was one of those lazy girls who woke up any hour and helped with no chores. She entered the bathroom and did quick showering.
Back in the room, she opened her closet and flung out a pair of trousers and a top. There would be no makeups; the two women with gawking eyes hadn’t left the house. But an eyebrow line wouldn’t do harm. Nothing but a brow line. She picked a black eye pencil and drew a faint line on both brows.
She sat on her bed and waited for any closing remark from the two men. Her enhanced ears caught rising footsteps. Sooner than expected. She left her room for the curtains. The men were through with the meeting, and dad approached her vantage. She closed the curtains and sauntered into the living room.
“Good you’ve changed from your pajamas,” dad said, without giving much eyes to her wears. Her clothes really were nothing above casuals.
Mum started a discussion from the veranda. Words didn’t leak out, but three distinct voices were busy—two female’s and a male’s. Lauren sat on a sofa and used the TV. At the ceasing of the three voices, she bolted for the veranda.
“Mom, I want to buy a black pen from the shop along the street. I need one.” She smiled at Aunt Juliana. A little support could be useful.
“I think I have a black pen in my bag,” mum said.
“You have blue, not black.”
“Let her go buy her pen.” Aunt Juliana said.
“I should save my legs some stress and follow Mr Jide.”
Mum shrugged. “Okay, but you’ll have to trek back,” she said with no hesitation. Saturdays were the best.
Lauren hailed to Jide, striding to him. Her voice reached him before he could touch the gate. Getting him to give her a ride didn’t last a minute, not with that her smile that could force any man to lick her foot, and even Jide was not immune to that.
He started his Toyota and its engine sputtered. “Where are you heading? East or West?”
“You’re driving towards the main road?”
He pushed the gear and twisted head to the rear screen, wheeling the car backwards. “Your house is beautiful.”
If he saw the dome roof at Canada, he would know the definition of beautiful and that beautiful didn’t mean big as most of the countrymen thought. “What were you discussing with my dad?”
“Some business matters. Easier than setting up a full joint meeting where the CEOs and everybody would be present.” His hands smoothly twirled round the steering wheel—a worthless, round, non-living thing. “Where actually are you stopping?” Jide asked.
“Three streets from here.”
“What?” He widened eyes as though she asked him to drive her round the world.
“I’m kidding. A few drives left. Cabs run this place. I’ll take one back home.”
“You have much resemblance with your mum whom I guess is the woman in red.”
“Isn’t she beautiful?”
“Of course, she is.”
His phone rang. The ringing continued for some more time before he struggled to get the phone out of his pocket, whining on how he hated answering calls while driving. He viewed the screen and smiled. It didn’t seem he hated answering calls while driving. He spoke to the phone and said things that couldn’t and wouldn’t be said to a man. The conversation ended. He placed the phone on the dashboard, still carrying remnants of the smile.
“Who was that?” she blurted.
“Girlfriend?” She attempted some seriousness if that would warrant an answer. “Or fiancée.”
He gave her a tightened face. “You talk too much. You shouldn’t ask every question that crosses your mind.”
Questions needed answers, and that was no answer.
He removed his fingers from the steering wheel and let the car create a straight path, and then halted at the signal of some uniformed students who begged to cross the road. The big ones held the hands of the small ones and they scurried across the road, but with a reduced speed in order to carry along the pupils lacking long legs. The boys wore trousers whose hem no longer met their feet, and the girls’ skirts stopped far beneath their knees, not the kind that showed s*xy** laps, but one outworn. Like the others she had seen, some of the students seemed too big for high school.
“At what age does most students here finish high school?” she asked Jide.
“In my time, it used to be much older. Some of us finished over twenty, but that should have dropped. Now the graduating age should be about eighteen.”
That was almost same as in Canada. If in Nigeria, eighteen was still a high school student, whom adults still called schoolchildren, what then would tell call a seventeen year old? A seventeen year old girl, black or white, would be a little school girl, and not a woman who had the things men look at. A little school girl that should be reading her books and helping her mum in the kitchen.
“I’m stopping here,” Lau said. “What do you think of a ride at the stables sometime, before I return to school?”
After much staring at the airbag, words found a way out of his mouth. “I’ll get back to you. Can you find a cab to hire?”
“I’ll stop one of the running taxis.”
He decelerated to the side lane and she stepped out. He watched her try to stop one of the running taxis, and she watched him with a cornered eye until a taxi stopped, one with an aged driver. She was happy to have met an old man on the driver’s seat. Old men didn’t have the strength to talk all through the ride and ask those questions that every black man she met for the first time asked. If at all the old men wanted to talk, they would not count their words and speak with such English that was too careful to be correct. The old men would speak with the local pidgin, whether she understood or not, providing she paid them their fare at the end of the ride. But the good thing the old and young cabmen had in common was their eagerness to continue driving after dropping her off. They didn’t look at her with a countenance that asked for a huge tip. They would simply tuck their pay in their Bosom pockets and continue driving, unless the days she left some change with them. In those days, they would almost stare at her, voicelessly telling her she had done something so alien, even to come from a foreigner. And after the stare, they would smile with gaping teeth and thank her.
She entered the front seat. The taxi fled. Jide’s car moved.
To Be Continued….