Gbenga was jittery. He jumped when mummy Justina asked him if he wanted more food and he spilled his water on his trousers when she’d added an extra piece of meat to his plate.
“Are you okay, Gbenga?” She asked.
“I am fine…” He said quickly.
“Are you sure? You don’t sound too fine….are you sure you’re not falling ill?”
“I’m not a baby! You don’t need to keep asking me if I’m fine.” Gbenga gritted.
Mummy Justina was taken aback, Gbenga had never been rude to her before.
“You heard him, didn’t you? Shoo!” Jermia who was seated also at the dining said rudely.
“Don’t you dare talk to me like that….” Mummy Justina fired.
“Justina, please take a break and leave the kids alone, especially Gbenga. You pamper him too much. You seem to forget that you’re not even his mother.” Bunmi said raising her head from the magazine she was reading.
“I will make sure my boss hears about this. I have worked for Mr. Felix for a very long time and I have never been disrespected. Never!” Mummy Justina said with tears in her eyes.
Gbenga wanted to rise to her defense, he wanted to tell his mother to stop making mummy Justina feel sad, so he said.
“I am sorry mummy Justina, I…”
“Oh darling, stop letting her play the victim here.” His mother said. “We did nothing wrong to her. She asked you if you’re okay and even after you said that you were, she couldn’t stop harassing you.”
Gbenga nodded and continued eating his food. He actually felt jittery because he was scared of what he and Jermia had planned to do tonight. They’d planned to crash a party that they hadn’t even been invited to and that wasn’t all, it was an all night party. Mummy Justina hurried out of the dining room. As soon as she left, Jermia spoke.
“Bunmi, Gbenga and I would like to hang out tonight…” She said.
“Hang out? Really?” Bunmi asked pretending as though she had no idea of what Jermia was talking about.
“Yea…there’s this cool party happening and we’ve decided to go. Don’t worry, I’ll look out for him.” She said.
“Look out for who? Me? I’m a Lagos boy ooo…you’re not even familiar with your surroundings. How can you look out for me?” Gbenga asked.
“That’s my son! He’s so confident and brave. I wonder how you let your dad lock you up in this house for so long. I’m glad you’re deciding to fly free.” His mother said to him.
“You approve? Does it mean we can go?” Gbenga asked with eyes wide with excitement. His mother was so cool. His dad would never approve.
“Sure…I trust that you can take good care of yourself. I’m not like your dad….he’s such a hypocrite while I’m not.”
Jermia smiled and winked at Gbenga and he winked back.
Chekwube sat on the sofa in Nosike’s room and stared at the wall in silence. It was already quite late in the night and after listening to her mother’s cries over Ola’s predicament, she felt she couldn’t bear staying a moment longer in the room. Her mind went to her conversation with EM that afternoon. He’d asked her to be his girlfriend. She couldn’t be more shocked. She shook her head slowly as she remembered their conversation.
“You must be stupid to think that I’d ever succumb to that.” She’d said loudly to him.
He’d dragged her roughly and shook her in order to silence her. Chekwube had struggled hard to set herself free when she finally did, she spat at him.
“Don’t you dare touch me again! I knew from the beginning that this is what you’d always wanted from me but I didn’t place too much thought on it till now. You must be ashamed of yourself. I’m sixteen and I’m sure that you’re close to twenty-five, why don’t you look for a girl close to your own age?”
EM threw his head back and laughed.
“Look at you! You think that you’re some sort of hero right? You’re so lucky that your door has a lock. If it didn’t, I would have found my way in and gotten what I’ve always wanted.” He’d said to her and turning away from her, he’d walked away.
Chekwube had stared at him in horror, she had been so scared at his words that suddenly, it seemed that leaving Auntie Lizzie’s place was the best thing to do. Did EM mean what he said? Would he have forced his way into her room if it didn’t have a lock? And even if it did, how long would he have waited before he was able to destroy the lock and come in. She’d shuddered at the thought.
Now, she sat on the bed and stared at the walls of the room. Nosike had left the room a few hours ago, leaving her with her mother. She could tell that Nosike was very worried and from the look in his eyes, he was very sad.
“Chekwube…” Her mother called out to her.“Ma…” She responded.
The room was quite dark because there was no power supply so, the only thing that provided light was the rechargeable lantern.
“Ma…” She responded.
“Your sister has dragged our name through the mud.” Her mother said in their native language.
Chekwube didn’t speak, she kept staring at the wall.
“You haven’t spoken to me since I arrived. Is there any problem? Are we quarreling?” She asked.
“You don’t care to know whether I want to go with you or not. You didn’t even ask me how I fared? All you did was demand that I return home with you.” Chekwube accused.
“I am not the only one who feels that your coming home will do you a lot of good but Nosike’s aunt as well. Come to think of it, his family is going to return your sister’s bride price. There are no ties between us anymore. How do you think his aunt will continue harboring you in her home after what your sister did to Nosike?”
Chekwube bit her nails.
“Why do I have to go with you? Shouldn’t this be about Ola? Why am I being dragged into this?” Chekwube asked.
“To be honest, when I tell your father everything that happened with Ola, he’ll be able to bear it when he sees you.”
“When he sees me? You have several more children, he won’t be worried if he doesn’t see me.”
“Enough Chekwube! Enough! I will not let you remain in this city that has corrupted your sister.”
“Don’t you understand what you’re doing to me? If I go back to the village with you, my dreams will die and it’s just like….it’s death for me too.”
“Don’t say that!” her mother warned. “When you go to the village, you can help me take care of your younger ones and when a deserving man comes for you, you will get married and have a family. You won’t be like Ola because I will make sure that whoever comes to ask for your hand in marriage doesn’t live in the city.”
“Mama, please go to sleep….I’m not in the mood to talk.” Chekwube said curling herself on the sofa.
“We have a long day tomorrow….” Her mother said as she covered herself with her wrapper to sleep.
Chekwube stared at the walls of the room and the song she sang with her classmates at her former school in the village came to mind.
‘Oh my home, Oh my home,
When shall I see my home,
When shall I see my native home,
I will never forget my home.’
Tears fell from her eyes, Lagos was her home and she’s never felt happier anywhere else but in the big bustling city. Just as she was about to close her eyes to sleep, Chekwube heard a slight knock at the door. She thought it was Nosike so she stood up from the sofa and made her way to the door and opened it.
It was Mickey.
“Mickey, it’s late…” She started.
Mickey placed a finger against her lips, urging her to be silent.
“Is your mom still here?” Mickey asked.
“She’s sleeping…” Chekwube whispered.
“Come with me…where’s your bag?”
“Stop acting like a dummy and bring your bag, quick!”
Chekwube quickly hurried into the room, careful not to wake up her mother, she picked up her bag and made her way to the door.
“Let’s go.” Mickey said.
Chekwube’s eyes widened at Mickey’s suggestion but she felt an instant surge of relief. She shut the door quietly behind her and disappeared with Mickey into the darkness.
The music was so loud that Gbenga was scared that his eardrums will burst from the sound. Jermia didn’t seem to be bothered by the music, she was dancing about like she’s never been to a party before.
“This party is going to be so much fun…look, there’s booze.” She yelled, trying to be heard over the music.
“The noise…the music is too loud.” Gbenga shouted.
“Yeah, it has to be loud…or the party won’t be fun….” She shouted.
She dragged him to the bar and the bartender asked them what they wanted to drink.
“Can we have Smirnoff please?” She said bringing out her purse and opening it to reveal the money that Bunmi had given to her to spend.
“Smirnoff Ice? Doesn’t that contain alcohol?” Gbenga asked.
“Smirnoff isn’t even an alcoholic drink, you should be ashamed to call it an alcoholic drink.” Jermia taunted.
Gbenga hated it when Jermia made him feel like a baby so he said.
“What’s Smirnoff? I’ve drunk it before.” He lied, knowing very well that he’s never ingested alcohol before.
“So, when we’ve had our drinks, we’re going to mingle at the party and make new friends. Hopefully, you’ll snag a new girlfriend here.” She said with a wink.
Mickey was asleep when she heard the commotion in the compound. She sat up and rubbed her eyes, it was still six am in the morning. Ola wasn’t sleeping in the room with her as Baba Tee had taken her to a friend’s place for a while. She got off from the bed and walked out of the room. She saw some neighbours walking over to Nosike’s room and she wondered what was going on.
“How? Where can she be?” Nosike asked aloud.
“What is happening?” Mickey asked.
Chekwube’s mother was wailing inside the room and rolling on the ground.
“I just came back home this morning because I didn’t spend the night here but at my aunt’s. I found Chekwube’s mother in the room getting ready to leave for the village. She thought that Chekwube was in the bathroom so when I came in, I went searching for her in the bathroom but she wasn’t there…” Nosike said in worry. “I think she ran away.”
“Heeiiii…” The neighbours shouted.
“Which kain pikins dis woman born sef? Ola run follow Baba Tee and now, Chekwube don run away…” A very nosey neighbour spat.
Mickey stood there, she wanted to laugh but she held herself. Helping Chekwube out of her predicament was the best thing she’d ever done.
“Eehh ya…sorry ooo…” Mickey said to Nosike. “I have to get ready to go to school now.”
“Do you think she’ll be in school?” Nosike asked Mickey hopefully.
“I don’t know…but if I see her, I’ll tell her that you’re looking for her.” Mickey informed. “I guess her mom has no choice but to return without her. Tell her that we will do all we can to find her and that she shouldn’t worry.”
Nosike looked at Mickey and nodded.
“Yes, she has to return to the village today because her family is expecting her but I will make sure to find Chekwube soon and return her to her family.”
Mickey made her way back to the room she shared with her mother while Chekwube’s mother continued wailing inside Nosike’s room and calling out her daughter’s name.
Gbenga felt so sick, he bent his face over the toilet seat and vomited. All that happened last night felt like a blur, he couldn’t recall how he’d returned home after the party.
He heard a brisk knock at his door.
“Gbenga!” His father called out.
Gbenga’s head snapped, his father was at his door.
“Gbenga! Open up! I want to talk to you before you go to school.” His father said.
Gbenga’s head hurt badly and he was feeling dizzy. He threw-up again in the toilet bowl and blinked at the tears that were forming in his eyes.
“Gbenga!” His father called out again.
Gbenga tried to stand but couldn’t, his stomach rumbled loudly. The door opened and his father walked into his bedroom.
“Gbenga!” He called out, then he walked over to towards the bathroom attached to Gbenga’s room and stopped in his tracks. “Gbenga! Are you okay?” He rushed to his son’s side in concern.
Gbenga couldn’t look at his father, his face was bent into the toilet bowl and another vomit escaped his lips. His father caught the whiff of alcohol and said in shock.
“Gbenga, have you been drinking?”
To be continued next week….