Chekwube was in school on time and today, she had in her hand, a bag with two lunch boxes. She had asked Auntie Lizzie for permission and she had agreed. Chekwube walked into her class with the biggest smile on her face and headed straight to Mickey’s desk.
Mickey was always in school on time as she made it a point of duty to be in school before assembly.
“Hello.” Chekwube greeted with a smile.
“Someone looks happy.” Mickey said, raising her eyes from the novel she was reading.
“Someone’s reading.” Chekwube said, sounding impressed.
“I used to love reading a lot.” She said. “It used to be a kind of escape for me.”
“Really? That’s so hard to believe.” Chekwube said, looking at her former bully in a new light.
“Why do you have a big bag in your hand?”
“I brought lunch for the two of us.”
“For the two of us?” Mickey asked, surprised.
Chekwube placed the bag on Mickey’s table and brought out a lunch box which she handed over to her.
“This is my way of saying thank you…”
Mickey smiled, she was touched by the gesture.
“You for nor do am na…na wah for you ooo.” Mickey said, switching to pidgin.
“You’re silly.” Chekwube laughed.
Mickey laughed too. Chekwube looked at the book in Mickey’s hands.
“Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. He’s my favourite author.” Chekwube said.
“I love Buchi’s work best.” Mickey said.
“I didn’t know you loved reading, if I did, I’d have loaned you my novels.” Chekwube said.
“I bet that you don’t have as much novels as I have.”
“A boaster is a liar.” She said.
“How many novels do you have?” Mickey asked.
Chekwube did a mental count.
“About twelve in all but I brought just five of my best ones to Lagos.”
“I have almost seventy-five or more but they are both Nigerian and foreign authors and I’ve read all.” Mickey boasted.
“It’s a lie! Where did you get the books from? I don’t understand.” Chekwube asked in surprise.
Mickey closed her book and said.
“My brother used to love reading and writing. He taught me to read and made me love reading.”
“Really?” Chekwube asked, wondering which of Mickey’s hoodlum brothers was into reading. “Which of your brothers? I know three and they don’t look like scholars.”
“You don’t know him.” Mickey said solemnly.
“Oh, okay…I understand now, he doesn’t live with you guys right?”
“No, he doesn’t…not anymore.” Mickey said.
“Where does he live? Is he married with a family?” Chekwube pressed.
“He’s dead.” Mickey said.
Gbenga wasn’t thinking straight, he was panicky and he wanted so desperately to cry. He shot off his chair as soon as his mother rushed into the house with Jermia on her heels.
“I came as soon as you called, baby. Are you okay?” Bunmi asked her son, pressing his face against her chest.
“No…I’m not fine…he seems to have disappeared into thin air. I called all his friends and…no…no one seems to know where he is.” Gbenga cried. “This is all my fault. I disappointed him…I went out to an all night party and I drank. I am sure my dad’s so ashamed of me and maybe he was thinking about me and lost control of the car…and…and…”
“Shhh…sweetheart…” His mother cooed. “Justina, get him a glass of cold juice. Has he eaten anything?” She asked Mummy Justina.
“No, he has refused to eat anything and he hasn’t slept either. He was awake all through the night.” Mummy Justina said.
“Thank you for taking care of my son, I am truly grateful.” Bunmi said to Mummy Justina.
“Where is my dad? Where is he? He has never left the house without telling us where he’s headed…” Gbenga cried.
“I wanted to speak with him yesterday but when you told Jermia that he was at the barbing salon, I decided to postpone it till today. Did you speak to the people at the salon?” Bunmi asked.
“Uncle Soji called the barber and he said that my dad left the salon at about eight pm.” Gbenga cried.
“What of his car? Did he take his car?” Jermia asked.
Gbenga nodded and said nothing.
“Don’t worry son, I am going to take care of this. I promise to move heaven and earth till your daddy comes back to you. I promise.” His mother said.
Gbenga breathed easily, he felt assured by his mother’s words.
Ola knew something wasn’t right. Baba Tee had sent one of his friends to pick her up and bring her to him. When she met Baba Tee, he was behind the steering of a big jeep and a wealthy-looking man was at the back seat of the car with his eyes closed in slumber. They had set out and changed cars within a few miles and the man had been transferred to the back seat of a bus while she occupied the front seat with Baba Tee.
What was going on? Who was the man at the back of the car? Why wasn’t he awake? Why has he been sleeping for such a long time? She wondered.
Soon, they arrived at a very discreet location, outside of Lagos. There was a scary-looking house and it was beside a swamp. The house looked deserted. They alighted from the bus but one of Baba Tee’s guys stayed behind in the car with the wealthy-looking man.
“Go inside and clean all de dorty.” Baba Tee ordered her.
Ola looked at the dirty house and could imagine how the interior would look like.
“Eez too dirty…me can’t clean everything finish.” She protested.
“Look here, you don become my property and what I tell you to do, you must do. Nor make me vex or I go send you back to ya mama for village.”
Ola couldn’t believe that Baba Tee had just spoken to her in such condescending tone. She was amazed.
“Wia de rag?” She asked meekly.
“I resemble rag for ya eye? Shebi you pack some of ya cloth come. Take one of dem and clean the house. I go find soap and bucket for you.” He said and walked away.
Ola took shaky steps towards the house and on reaching the door, she pushed it open and a dried snake dangled down from the roof of the house.
To be continued…..