My alarm rang and I woke up with a start. It was 5 am. I looked at my phone and wondered why it woke me up by 5 instead of 6:30. It wasn’t my regular alarm, this was a reminder; I had a flight to catch by 8am. I didn’t remember any such flights. Where was I going? And to do what? The ‘mail’ icon on my phone was blinking so I opened my mail. I’d gotten a mail from the Human Resource manager of my company reminding me of my scriptwriting conference in Port-Harcourt. Apparently she’d booked the conference for two months but this was the first I was hearing of it.
I wanted to reply the mail saying so but I changed my mind. There was no big deal. A trip to Port-Harcourt wasn’t a terrible idea and I didn’t have to spend a dime of my own money.
I got ready and by 6:15 I was at the airport. I’d just stepped into the airport when I got a text saying my flight had been postponed for one hour. I wasn’t angry, I’d made a vow never to get angry at Nigerian airlines anymore; it was a waste. I looked around for a comfortable chair where I could sit relaxed. There was a good chance the postponed flight would also be postponed. I found a chair and sat.
I’d just sat for less than a minute when somebody joined me on the chair. I caught a glimpse of her from the corner of my eye and stopped. No, it couldn’t be. I slowly turned around and looked and yes, it was!
Adesua Etomi was sitting beside me.
Enter, all my shyness demons.
I could not believe this. She was my biggest crush in the world and I’d dreamed of the day when I would meet her. I’d dreamed of all the good things I would say to her and blow her mind. I’d also planned that if things were going really well, I’d call my parents and tell them I’d found the one, even on that first meeting. But I was doing none of that. I sat still, not moving any part of me; afraid to scare her off.
I looked at her from the corner of my eye and thought of all the good lines I could use to open a conversation. I’d exchanged tweets with her before, severally. I did a post for her birthday and she replied. Using a lot of emojis, I should add. Maybe if I showed her my Twitter/Instagram handle, she would know who I was. How would that conversation start though? ‘Hi, check out my Twitter handle’? That was stupid.
I was starting to sweat because I had been sitting still for too long. Maybe all I had to do was say ‘hi’ and the conversation will flow. Maybe.
I turned to her. “Hi.”
She looked at me and smiled. “Hello.” And she went back to her phone.
Okay, maybe not.
I had to do something. This encounter was going on my blog and it couldn’t go there if it doesn’t go past ‘hi’ and ‘hello’. I was a frigging writer, why were words failing me now? Okay, if this was Adam Ademola meeting her, what would he say? I shook my head, Adam wasn’t the right character to channel. Mark? Martins? Faruk! What would Faruk say? He’d probably start with something funny.
For a few minutes I thought about jokes I could open the conversation with. I threw away one terrible joke after the other; I was never going to find the perfect… wait a minute, a joke just came to mind. It was perfect.
I was about to turn to her when her phone rang.
“Hey,” She said. “Yeah, the flight was postponed.” Pause. “Okay, I’ll meet you outside.”
She stood, nodded at me and walked away.
That was it? How could I write a blog and talk about how she nodded at me? I shook my head and relaxed on the chair, I was just a sad ol’ geek.
I closed my eyes and dozed off.
It was almost 9am and the flight was not postponed any further. I started on the line to enter into the plane and to my surprise saw Adesua Etomi getting on the same flight with me. What if I ended up sitting next to her? That would be awesome! But who was I deceiving? She was probably in First Class and I trust my stingy HR boss, I was sitting in Economy.
We entered the plane and I was right. Adesua sat in First Class, segregated from me. I felt like a second class citizen sitting at the back of the bus.
But something happened that turned my life around. I was upgraded to First Class.
I wanted to stand and shout Hallelujah but I was afraid I would be sent back to Economy or off the plane so I just beamed a huge smile and said the Hallelujah under my breath.
As if that wasn’t great enough, my seat was next to Adesua’s. It felt like a dream, I couldn’t believe the kind of luck I was having.
“Hi again.” I said, as I sat. I wasn’t going to dull it this time.
“Hello.” She said and before I could say anything added. “Are you lordjoshwrites?”
I nodded so vigorously, smiled so sheepishly, I must have looked like an idiot.
“It occurred to me it was you after I left earlier so I went to check your picture.” She stretched her hand to me. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”
I shook her hand. I still could not believe this was happening.
“What are you going to Port Harcourt for?” She asked.
Finally I found my voice. “I’m attending a screenwriting conference.”
“Well, except there are two screenwriting conferences going on in Port-Harcourt today, I’m speaking at your conference. Giving the actor’s point of view.”
“Wow, I can’t wait to hear your presentation.”
“Want to hear it now?”
“Of course.” I said. “Wait, no. I’ll wait to hear it at the conference.”
“That’s fine then.” She said. “They’re sending a car for me, maybe you could ride with me.”
“That would be crazy awesome.” I said.
We sat in silence for a while. I could not believe what was happening to me. I was already writing a letter to my kids; ‘How I met your mother’.
“Do you mind if I take a picture?” Adesua said.
“Sure.” I said. “As long as you agree to send it to me.”
She giggled. Oh such a sweet sound.
She lifted her phone to take the picture then my phone began to ring. Who on earth was calling me at this kind of time?
I looked at the phone, it was my alarm and it said 6:30. That was weird.
I looked up at Adesua and her phone but they were not there. In fact, there were no other people, there was no plane.
Oh my God! It was a dream? I was still at the airport?
No wonder, why would Adesua want to take my picture?
I opened my eyes wider and looked around; this wasn’t the airport. I was on my bed! There was no mail from HR! There was no flight! There was no screenwriting conference!
Well, smack me on the head and call me Sule.
There was no Adesua!
Giving birth to four children was not very easy. Having to raise them was even less easy. Did I mention they are all boys? I think the first round of blame should be given to my husband and I. After the first two boys, we should have stopped. But I always wanted a daughter so we tried again and bam; another boy. This time we swore we were done. Two of the boys were toddlers already and I could already tell we were in for a lot of trouble with three.
Well, you know how these things go. One night we got too excited over my new Benz and in two months we found out we were expecting a fourth child.
Okay, we only had to hope and pray it was a girl. It wasn’t. Another boy and we had a quadruple of them.
Raising them was the most strenuous thing I think I’d ever have to do. The pains of labor could not be compared to the pains of rearing. There were the nights when they couldn’t sleep because they were high on sugar. There were the days when we had the Royal Rumble in the house. These fights weren’t scripted at all and believe it or not sometimes the youngest won some fights. There were days when instead of jumping in to stop them from fighting, I just sat down and watched. It was easier to tend their wounds than stop the boys from getting them.
But then they began to grow and I began to see a bond between them. They did everything together. Except eat. Eating together was usually the start of the Royal Rumble. They went to school and came back together. They even surprised me and my husband with a song on our wedding anniversary once. It was beautiful, I cried all day. That was not the only time they sang. They sang in church as a quartet, sang in the neighborhood carol, I was so proud of them.
Sometimes they used their unity for bad too.
A boy from down the street once insulted the baby of the house, he just nodded and left. Two days later, they cornered the boy and told him to apologize to their brother. When the refused, they beat him up but still didn’t leave until he apologized. And they made him apologize every day for a whole week. I scolded them for getting into the fight and their father did a little more than scold them, actually a lot more, but I was proud of their unity.
Years went by and they sped through school like it was a Formula 1 race. They aced their classes, graduated with honors, I couldn’t have been prouder as a mother. I still sometimes wished for a girl but I loved my boys.
But the years had done something to the boys, they were no longer as united. They all got super busy with their lives, making money, buying cars, living their dreams. I was happy they were successful but I missed the unity and oneness they used to have.
They rarely came home and when they did, it was never at the same time. They were not fighting, they always told me but everybody was just busy, they would say. Their father, my husband said it was okay, that boys didn’t show their closeness the same way girls did it. I nodded along but I was deeply concerned.
Then Bolaji, the eldest decided it was time to get married. This time they all didn’t have a choice, they had to come home at the same time. They came, greeted each other like everything was fine but it wasn’t. I could sense a rivalry between them. They all brought home their best cars and their ladies. They never mentioned anything about a competition but as their mother I could see it clearly. I wanted to do something but my husband warned me against it. He said all they needed was something to bring them all together. And until that happened, I couldn’t force them to do anything.
Fortunately, the thing that would bring them together wasn’t long in coming.
It was the evening of the bachelor’s eve. They had washed their cars and parked outside the compound waiting for the time they would leave. I was standing outside when a car sped by, ran into a porthole and splashed dirty water all over Bolaji’s car.
“Guy, what the heck?” Bolaji shouted in the direction of the car.
This was no big deal, mistakes happen but the man in the car scrolled down his window and gave Bolaji the middle finger. I could see the rage in Bolaji’s face but the other boys didn’t care. I even saw one of them smile.
That was it, I couldn’t take it anymore. I waited for them while they were at their bachelor’s eve. I was going to let them have it. What had happened to my boys?
It was almost midnight when they came back but I was waiting for them in the living room. As soon as they entered…
“Sit down all of you.” I said.
“Mom, it’s a little late and I’m very sleepy.”
“I said sit down!”
They knew that tone, they sat.
“What is wrong with you? What happened to the four of you?”
“How do you mean?” Bolaji asked.
“What happened to my boys? What happened to the bond between you? You boys used to be best friends, you used to fight for each other.”
Bolaji stood and put an arm around my shoulder.
“We already told you everything is fine. We are guys, we know where we meet. You have nothing to worry about?”
I removed his arm from my shoulder. “How can you say that? Somebody splashed water on your car today, insulted you on top of it, what did your brothers do? Nothing.”
“So you would have wanted us to chase him and beat him up?”
“Yes.” I said then shook my head. “No, not that. I just wanted to see that your brothers were concerned at all.”
“Mom, look out through the window.” Bolaji said.
“Just look out through the window.”
I opened the window and looked out. There was a man outside washing Bolaji’s car.
“Who is that?” I asked.
“That is the guy who splashed the water. He’s going to wash the four cars tonight then come back and wash them again tomorrow morning.”
“What? You beat him up?”
“You don’t need to know the details but let’s just say there things four boys can do that one boy cannot.”
It was a very important day for me. I had a meeting with the wife of the governor, this was the sort of meeting that could bring a surge in my business and change my life. But the day was not starting very well; I had a major challenge. I was fully dressed; make up great but minimal, my dress beautiful but not daring. The idea was to look good but not look flashy. After all, I was trying to paint the picture of an up and comer, not an already arrived business woman. Back to my challenge. One of my tyres was flat.
This was usually not a big deal, I’d changed a few tyres in my day but I couldn’t change the tyre in the dress I was wearing. ‘That is why you need a husband’. I could hear my mother’s voice in my head.
I looked at the time, I had more than one hour before the meeting; I could still change the tyre. I went back into the house and removed my clothes. I returned outside and began changing the tyre. I didn’t enjoy it at all. I was sweating; my makeup was ruined for sure. To make matters worse, the cloud started getting dark. It didn’t happen slowly, it happened almost at once. I had to hurry. The problem with tyres was, no matter how much you hurried, there were some things you had to do. Or else you’d better be prepared to meet your maker.
I successfully changed the tyres before it began to rain. I ran into the house and redid my makeup and wore my dress. The rain wasn’t too good for my plans. What were the chances I wouldn’t get wet somehow before I had to meet the first lady? It would be worse if I got wet and I started shivering during the meeting because the AC was freezing me up. I didn’t have to worry about that yet though so I grabbed my umbrella and headed for the door.
The rain was pouring and it was coming down in torrents. Whoever had angered the rain must have said something really terrible to it. I stepped out from under the covering of my house and ran towards the car. I was almost at my car when the wind blew my umbrella away. I ran the rest of the way as fast as I could and entered the car. I looked at my clothes and wanted to cry. The few seconds I’d spent in the rain had almost soaked me. I had just forty five minutes before the meeting now, I couldn’t go back in to change. Even if I wanted to, I’d get wet all over again. I had only one umbrella.
I turned the ignition and the car started. I backed into the street and started on my way. The heater in the car was on full blast. It soon got very hot but I had to endure if my clothes were to stand any chance of getting dry. The rain was very heavy so I couldn’t drive fast. I put on the radio and Jon Bellion blasted from the speaker; a little balm for my problems.
I heard a sound come from behind the car and then the car began to wobble. Oh no, I’d experienced this before; my tyre had burst. Why on earth was this happening to me? On the most important day of my life, no less. I couldn’t step out of the car to check what happened, it was still raining. Even if I saw what happened I couldn’t do anything about it, I had no spare.
I leaned my head against the steering and started to cry.
Why now of all possible times? Why was it raining today? Why did God even create rain?
I needed help. And fast. I scrolled through my contacts and looked for a guy I knew was in town and had a car. I found none. ‘This is why you need a husband.’ My mother’s voice came again. And this time I agreed with her.
Oh God, send me an angel.
I looked at my watch, the meeting was in twenty minutes. I sighed and turned Jon Bellion off, I didn’t want help, I wanted to cry.
I was about to start my crying fest when I heard someone’s horn behind me. I looked in the rearview mirror and I saw a pair of headlights almost obscured by the incessant rain.
A few seconds later, I heard someone tap on my window. My angel. I rolled down the window a little. A man stood outside my window, holding an umbrella.
“What happened here?” He asked.
“I lost a tyre.” I said, overwhelmed with relief I almost cried.
“I’m sorry about that.” He said. “You can’t change tyres in this rain though.”
“Yeah I know,” I said. “I don’t even have a spare. I just need a ride to the government house.”
“I’m sorry, I’m new in town, I don’t know anywhere.”
“Is that on the way to Adewole Estate?”
“From where we are right now, yeah.”
“Great, can you give me a description?”
Why didn’t he just wait till I was in his car to ask for directions? The rain was beating him in spite of this umbrella. I gave him the description and he nodded along as I talked.
“Thank you very much.” He said.
“One good turn deserves another.” I responded.
“Okay, I hope you get help.” He said and he was gone.
What? I looked in the rearview mirror and I saw his car pull into the road and drive off. Oh my God! I could not believe the guy. The day could literally not get any worse.
My phone beeped and I looked at it. I’d gotten a text from the first lady’s PA. I wasn’t late yet and I was still coming. It did not matter if I had to walk through the rain. I wanted this chance and I had suffered too much to end up with nothing. I opened the text.
“Meeting postponed till further notice. Sorry for inconveniences.”
I rested my head on the steering wheel and began to cry.
Immediately he walked into the dealership I knew it was going to be a good day for me. I’d not sold a single car in a month and it was already the twenty seventh. My boss was out of the country so I was yet to receive any official reprimands but that was not a good thing. When he returned I was going to have it. That was one of the reasons I was glad to see him that morning. My boss had warned me not to judge people by their appearances but I couldn’t help it in this case.
He was dressed in a checkered gray suit, lemon shirt and red bowtie and he carried a brown satchel. It was a curious combination but it also looked exquisite. I saw the car that dropped him off, it was a KIA SUV. The long story short was that I was going to make a big sale. And I was due one.
“You are welcome sir.” I said to him at the door.
He turned to me and beamed the biggest smile. “Good morning.”
He wasn’t the kind of person you pestered with questions. It definitely wasn’t his first car and probably not his first Benz so I stayed behind him, quiet, while he walked around the dealership.
Selling only Mercedes Benzes is a great business. We have a certain type of clientele. They are rich, they know what they want and they are willing and able to pay a good price. That was in turn good for me because I always got a healthy bonus after each sale. I’d almost saved enough to buy my own Benz. This sale will push me over the target.
“This is my first time in your place.” The man said.
“Oh, really?” I said, feigning delighted surprise. “You look like you already own a couple of Benzes.”
“Yeah, I own one but I didn’t buy it here.”
“Benzes are great wherever you buy them but buying from us is not just about you buying the car but about you buying an experience.”
“You don’t need to sell me on buying from you.” He said. “You come highly recommended and I like what I see.”
“Thank you sir.”
For about five minutes he walked around looking inside cars, checking engines, studying whatever rich people studied before picking their cars.
“Can I have you price catalogue please?” He asked.
“I can tell you anything you need to know. Any prices you want.”
“I know you can, I trust your competence. I just want to pick a car without embarrassing myself.”
I walked into the office and retrieved the price catalogue. This was another advantage of selling to rich people. They bought the cars at your sales price. There were several deals a buyer could make to reduce how much he paid or get him to pay in instalments but these people never asked. And of course I never told. The sooner they paid, the sooner I got my money.
“Here’s the catalogue sir.” I handed him the book.
He flipped through and stopped at the 2015 C400 4Matic. He looked at the price and gasped.
“You see why I had to check.” He said. “This is way more than I plan on spending on cars.”
If he bought this car, I would be buying mine in less than a week from the commission I would get from it.
“Sir, I know I don’t need to sell you on the car but it is worth its price and way more.”
“I know my friend, believe me, I know.”
He looked at the catalogue then at the car.
“Can you take a picture of me in the car? I’ll like to see how it looks.”
He handed me his iPhone 7 and entered the car. I clicked the unlock button and noticed he had the Uber app opened. That was weird. What would a person with many cars like him need Uber for? It did not matter. I closed the app and opened the camera app.
“I love this camera.” I said.
“You’re treating me so well, I might just give you phone.”
What? That would be the best gift any customer had ever given me.
In the next few minutes, he took pictures in three more cars. And frankly I did not mind. All he had to do was buy one of them, give me his phone and I would build a shrine for him if he wanted.
“I think I’ve made my decision, I’ll buy the 4matic.” He said.
Yes! I tried to play cool. “That is a very good decision sir.”
“Now can you get me your account details? I’m going to step out to call my account manager?”
“You can make the call here sir.”
“You just get the account details ready, I will make the call now.”
I nodded and headed into the office. I couldn’t wait to finish this deal. I deserved it, a lot. I picked the book with everything we needed to close the deal and went back into the showroom. My eye caught something; a wallet inside one of the cars. I picked the wallet and opened it. It was for the man. It probably dropped while we were taking the pictures. I’d give it back when he was done with his call.
I waited for about five minutes and he wasn’t done with his call. I stepped out of the showroom and looked around the dealership, I did not see the man. Oh no, did he change his mind? Why didn’t he just tell me? Did he go to get the money? I need this sale, please.
Twenty minutes later, he still wasn’t back. I began to panic. I looked at the wallet in my hand, his phone number would probably in there. I opened the wallet and saw a bunch of cards. I saw three ATM cards, all expired but at least they told me his name. I removed the business cards and checked for his. I saw his card and paused. It read MC Roman, Comedian. Comedian? He didn’t look like a comedian to me. The card had his phone number and social media handles.
I decided to check his Instagram. I needed to be sure it was the same man.
I found him and it was the same man. I saw his latest picture, posted five minutes ago and I gasped.
It was a picture of him in the 4Matic with the caption:
“God’s blessings. #NewRide #DontBeJealous #JustHustle”
I dropped into a nearby chair and fought back tears. I knew I wasn’t getting my car just yet.
Superstardom was on the horizon now. Nonye Baker had just been signed to Maybach Music. She wasn’t anybody’s mate in the Nigerian music industry. Getting signed to an International music label was something most artists could and would only dream of. She was living their dreams now. She was only twenty one and a young graduate but she was more known than all her university professors. Maybe even her university. Such fame has its disadvantages though. Now, everybody wanted to take pictures with her. People she had met only once claimed to be her best friend. But the one she had to deal with right now was her secondary school reunion invite.
She’d never been to the reunion and usually nobody cared. They never sent her personal invites or checked to see why she didn’t come. Not even her best friend from school bothered to check on her. But now, they wanted her to perform in their reunion. The nerve they had.
The reunion was that night but she was going to have other things lined up. Her manager was trying to arrange a meeting with Tiwa Savage for the next week but she’d asked that he make it that night. She didn’t care much for her classmates but she still wanted a good excuse for snubbing them.
The President of the old students association had called her severally the day before. He’d called from morning till night, every hour of the day but she did not answer the call. She knew if she said no a day before the reunion, they would do all they could to convince her. It was better she said no just a few hours before. The guy had not called that day though.
Was this pride? Was she just being a snub because she was famous now?
She shook her head, no. Nobody brought her where she was, nobody should take advantage of where she was. One of the things she’d learnt coming up was that people who ignored you, refused to acknowledge or appreciate your progress when you were climbing were usually the ones who wanted a piece of what you had after you got to the top of the ladder. She’d learned to be tough and not get emotional about these things.
One of her former managers had given her the litmus test for people who asked for favors. She had ask herself; is this good for business? If it wasn’t, it was a ‘no’ to the request.
She picked up her phone and opened Twitter. She’d dropped a tweet the day before that was trending, she’d gotten several replies; some from people she didn’t even know knew she existed. Oh, the joy of success.
She clicked on the trends of the day. She was still trending and #Reunion was trending also. Was this her own reunion? She opened the trend and scrolled through the tweets. Most of the tweets weren’t from her old classmates but she kept scrolling. Then she started seeing tweets from people she knew. It looked like her former classmates had started the trend and other people had taken it viral.
She closed Twitter and sat up. If they’d gotten the reunion to trend, maybe it was a good idea that she went for it. She would help the trend and in return the trend would help her.
Her phone rang; it was her manager.
“Hello Pee.” She said.
“I got the Tiwa Savage meeting for you. Seven, tonight, at Caleb’s.”
The reunion was starting at seven too. But she couldn’t cancel Tiwa Savage for a reunion that might or might not still be trending at the end of the day.
“I’ll be there.” She said.
It was eight thirty and Tiwa Savage was nowhere to be found. Nonye had called her manager several times but he was not answering his calls. She’d called Tiwa herself and she wasn’t answering either. This was frustrating. To make matters worse, the reunion was still trending.
A lot of the people in the club wanted to talk to her or take pictures with her but she was too angry she was afraid she would say something wrong to one of them. Her day couldn’t have gone worse. Her tweet had stopped trending, she’d been stood up and it looked like the reunion had given up on her because the president had stopped calling.
Maybe she could go to the reunion, surprise everybody and save her day.
That was what she would do.
She got to the hall and she was shocked; there was nothing. Nobody. What was going on? Was the party so lame they finished before nine? She saw a guard and called him.
“What happened to the reunion holding here?”
The guard’s face lighted up. “The reunion was crazy. Come and see as musicians turned up, it was great.”
She shifted from one foot to the other. “If it was that great, how did it end so early?”
“It ended around twelve because we needed to close the hall.” The guard said.
“What? I thought the reunion was…”
“Yesterday, it was yesterday.”
She brought out her phone and looked at the invite. He was right, it was the day before. She gently walked back to her car. Exactly how silly was she?
I consider myself to be a good boy who sometimes does bad things. I’m a student who has a lot of needs, most of which my parents – especially my father, considers not important. Please, how is a set of customized t-shirts not important? I wasn’t trying to get the t-shirts for no reason. It was my departmental week in a month and I was the director of socials, I had a responsibility to represent my department well. It was not the first time I was asking my father for money and he refused. He refused to sponsor my trip to South Africa, even though I told him the trip was a six unit course and failing to travel was failing the course. He told to fail and ended the call. When I wanted to run for president of my department association, he refused to sponsor me, saying I should ‘yahoo’ like my mates were doing. Of course he added that if I was caught, he would not bail me out of jail and I would cease to be his son.
I don’t consider my father to be wicked, he is just stingy. However, if the ‘danfo’ driver has learnt to drive without stopping, we the passengers must learn to jump out of a moving vehicle. My dad was stingy but I was smart.
“Good afternoon Chief.” I called my father one hot Sunday afternoon.
“My son, how are you?”
“I’m fine sir.” I said. “Thank you for the dry fish you sent the other day.”
“Your mother sent the dry fish.”
Of course I knew my mother sent the dry fish but I wanted to thank him for something. The last thing he did was pay my fees and give me my pocket money for the whole semester. I’d already exhausted the ‘thank you’ for that.
I looked at the dry fish where it was sitting on my cupboard. My mother was so nice. Even if everything she sent I ended up giving out.
“Papa, I need your help sir.” I said.
“Is there any problem my son?”
“Not really sir but you know we are about rounding up our three hundred level that means we are preparing for our final year projects already.”
“Our level adviser, who is also going to be my project supervisor is traveling to Kenya next week and he wants to get all our costume and other materials for our project performance.”
“So, in short, you need money.”
“It is not money I need, it is the project materials, unfortunately to get them, I need money.”
For a few seconds there was silence at the other end of the phone and I was already resigned to another big ‘no’.
“Alright, I will send the money.” He said and I could not believe it. “How much is it?”
I could not believe my ears. He’d agreed to send the money even before he heard how much it was. I was going to ask for fifty thousand naira but not anymore.
“Two hundred thousand naira sir.” I said.
“That will be enough?” He asked. “I hear final year projects cost a lot of money.”
“That will be okay sir.” I said then quickly added. “If the supervisor asks for more money, I will call you sir. You know with this fluctuating exchange rate, we never can tell.”
“Okay, my son.” He said. “Just study well, let me worry about money.”
I ended the call wondering what had just happened. Was my father drunk? Was he dying and he was trying to make me happy before he broke the bad news? Wait a minute, was he cheating on my mother? Well, it did not matter, I was getting what I wanted.
I was about to begin my celebration dance when my phone rang. It was Papa calling me back.
“I just wanted to ask if there was any sample that look like the cloth your teacher wants to buy for you.”
I frowned, what kind of question was that? “I don’t understand Papa.”
“Your mother said that money is too much and wants to see a sample of the cloth so we can make sure your lecturer isn’t duping you.”
“A sample? I don’t have a sample. They get the cloth only in Kenya.”
“Your mother said I should not send the money without seeing a sample. At least five yards.”
This was not good at all, where was I supposed to see a sample of a Kenyan cloth? Then it occurred to me; my father doesn’t know what this cloth looks like, neither does my mother. I could send newspaper sewn together and they wouldn’t know if it was Kenyan or not.
“I will talk to my lecturer and send you a sample.” I said.
I ended the call and called my girlfriend; we needed to go fabric shopping. All we had to do was find a very good material that would justify the money I was asking for.
Two days later, I’d bought and sent a very good material worth forty thousand to my home town. It was an investment. It was all the money I had but as soon as my money came in from him, my T-shirts were sorted. And I’d have change.
It took a while but finally my mother called to say they had seen the cloth. She admitted it was good but wondered why we wanted to buy it from Kenya. Of course, I sweet-talked her until she promised my father would send me the money as soon as possible.
Two days after the cloth got my town, I’d not heard anything from my father. I did not want to put a lot of pressure on him so I did not call. When it was four days later, I could not hold it anymore, I had to do something. I sent him a text.
ME: Good morning Chief. Please don’t forget me.
He replied almost immediately.
CHIEF: Sorry I kept you waiting. Check your Whatsapp.
Check my Whatsapp? It’s not possible to transfer money via Whatsapp. That was a good idea by the way, I made a mental note to think about it later.
I put on my data then opened my Whatsapp application. A few seconds later, his message entered. He’d sent an image. I opened the image and he’d sent a picture of him wearing the cloth I’d sent to him earlier.
ME: Looking good Chief.
CHIEF: It’s all thanks to you son.
ME: So when are you sending the money for the project materials sir?
CHIEF: Sorry, I will not be sending any money. I called your lecturer and he told me he was not traveling to Kenya. But thank you for the free cloth.
CHIEF: How does it feel to be on the receiving of a scam?
Medical school usually is the most difficult thing you could have do to yourself and it was so for me. Not because I had to read too much or because the lecturers were wicked or because we were always preparing for an exam. All these things were true but something else made medical school very tough for me.
In my first year of medical school, I met Toba. I came into school later than my colleagues so I had to combine registration with lectures. This wasn’t easy, especially as the lecturers seemed to love the idea of tests even though they’d taught us virtually nothing. I met Toba and everything became magically better. He’d done his remedial studies in the school so he already knew his way around and he almost always knew which lecturers were most likely to give tests.
He helped out a lot and we bonded very quickly. We read together, we attended the same fellowship, it was good. We weren’t the only ones who had a solid boy-girl best-friendship in our class so no eyebrows were raised by our closeness. But then something began to happen. All the other boy-girl best friends started dating. All of them. It was ridiculous. At this point, people started to look at us, expecting us to follow suit.
I liked Toba, sure. He was a cool guy, the kind of guy I would want to marry when the time came but we were in our first year, I didn’t want to think about that kind of thing. We avoided talking about it for a while until one day, someone asked us directly. We were put on the spot and we couldn’t escape without giving an answer. Toba was reluctant to say anything to I replied the person.
“We are friends, period. We are too young to start thinking about relationships, so leave us alone, don’t spoil our friendship.”
That answer soon spread and that was it. Nobody disturbed us and our friendship continued.
Two hundred level began and Emeka entered the picture.
Emeka was a transfer student from another university. I didn’t even know that was possible until he came. He immediately caught my attention from the first day in class. Unfortunately I didn’t catch his. He’d caught the attention of other girls too and he was loving it.
“Don’t you just hate that guy?” I said once to Toba.
“Which guy?” He asked.
“That guy, Emeka the new guy.” I said.
“That’s his name?”
“See the way all those girls are flocking around him, you’d think he was Chris Brown.”
Toba looked at me, looked at Emeka and looked back at me. He shook his head and went back to what he was doing.
I nudged him in the shoulder. “What was that for?”
“That’s the guy that will take you away from me.” He said.
I hissed. How could he take me away when he didn’t even know I existed?
That ignorance of my existence did not last for long though. In a few weeks, all the other girls had dropped off and for some reason he only had eyes for me. He started sitting close to me in class, offering to help me with stuff. He even bought lunch and brought it to my hostel once. At this point I knew Emeka was into me. I had a decision to make. If he asked me out, was I ready for a relationship? Should I say ‘yes’ or should I say ‘no’? Or should I say ‘wait’?
I usually would ask Toba for advice on stuff like this but I had a feeling he wasn’t going to love helping me out with this one.
Fortunately for me, Emeka never got around to asking me out in two hundred level. He didn’t in three hundred level either. He was probably like me, he didn’t want a relationship that early.
Four hundred level came and with it the first complication. Toba asked me out. I was enraged, I was disappointed, I was sad. How could he? We were friends. We had the best friendship in our class. Girls were so jealous of me because all their female besties had disappointed them. How could he ruin such a beautiful thing?
For a whole month I didn’t talk to him. I didn’t answer his calls, I didn’t reply his texts, I stayed as far away as possible from him in class. Annoyingly, he never stopped calling or texting but he also never came to my room. That was good, I wasn’t in the mood to see him anyway. But after a month, I began to miss him. I’d started missing him a week into my ‘strike’ but now, I could not help it.
I answered his call and we agreed to meet.
“Are you ready to apologize now?” I asked.
He smiled. “No.”
“What?” I wanted to fake anger but I didn’t have the energy.
“I told you how I felt, why should I apologize? You didn’t feel the same, all you had to do was say it.”
“This will not ruin our friendship?”
“No, it won’t.” He said.
And it didn’t. From four hundred level to six hundred level, we were back to being best friends. At least, as far as we could go. There were times I had a feeling there was something he wasn’t telling me but could I blame him? He said he loved me and I threw it back in his face.
As graduation approached, I was getting really pissed at Emeka. He was always around. He always said the sweetest things to me. He’d bought me stuff, he took me to places. When I wasn’t chatting or hanging out with Toba, I was with him. I felt like I was in a relationship but I knew that I wasn’t. He was doing great but he never came out straight with what he wanted.
I tried asking Toba for advice once and he told me this was one problem I had to deal with on my own. He and Emeka never became friends but they never clashed either and I understood why he wasn’t going to help me out with this.
This continued until the day of our induction. We were certified Medical doctors now. Six years of hard physical labour and mental abuse was over. Everybody was happy but I wasn’t. I had to sort out this rubbish with Emeka once and for all.
I saw him taking pictures with everybody, hopping around like he was George of the Jungle.
“Emeka, we are about to leave, don’t you have anything to say to me?”
He looked at me, smiled and pulled me into a tight hug.
“I’m going to miss you.” He whispered into my ear.
I pulled away from the hug. “And?”
“And, I hope you’ll miss me too.” He said.
I turned around and stormed away, I had my answer. The fool just played me all through school and I was stupid enough to believe something would come from him. I looked around for Toba. I was ready to burst into tears, I needed someone who I knew truly cared for me.
Maybe there was still a chance he still loved me even. There was a huge chance I loved him too.
I looked around for him. Had he left already? Did he leave without saying goodbye? I dabbed my eyes with my handkerchief. This was turning out to be the worst day of my life.
I turned around and saw Toba, smiling behind me. I ran to him and threw my arms around him.
“I thought you left.” I said.
“Without saying goodbye to you? I’m not that wicked.”
I smiled through my tears. “I know you are not.”
“I want you to meet my parents.”
He held my hands and took me to where his parents were standing.
“This is the girl I told you about,” He said. “Gloria.”
I curtsied. So he’d told his parents about me; that was great. Maybe today was about to get a lot better.
“How are you my dear?” His mother said. “It is nice to finally meet you.”
Toba pulled me away from them. “There’s someone else you should meet.”
“Okay.” I said. “You want to introduce me to your whole family in one day? I can come to your house for that.”
He stopped in front of a girl I’d never met before. This wasn’t any of his sisters.
“Gloria, I want you to meet Temi.” He said.
I just stood there.
“Temi, this is Gloria. Let’s just say, this girl made me. Best girl in the whole wide world. Apart from you of course.”
I just stood there.
“It’s nice to meet you Gloria.” Temi said. “Toba has told me a lot about you. Would you like to take a picture with us?”
I just stood there.
I’d been under a lot of pressure lately. Not pressure at work, not pressure for money but pressure to get married. It wasn’t anything new. Immediately I started working, everybody – my parents, my grandmothers, even my barber started asking when I was getting married. Initially it was easy to laugh and say, not yet. But a time came when they no longer accepted that answer. If I dared to laugh at the question, I would receive a lecture that sometimes lasted for hours. My Dad will tell me how he had nothing when he got married. My mom will tell me how she wished she had married earlier. My grandmothers told me how I had to marry before I became very successful because ‘these girls of nowadays’ will come for my money. Even my barber had a story from a Yoruba movie he saw. The conclusion; go and marry.
I don’t know if it was the constant barrage and pestering from people but I was starting to feel anxious about marriage too. Everything I saw reminded of marriage and how I did not have a wife. I saw a housefly chasing another one and my heart melted. I read the news of a man who caught his wife cheating, I’d remember I didn’t even have a wife who could cheat on me. I was desperate now. I needed a wife.
It was worse this week because about a week ago, my best friend had his first child. Everybody who saw me at the naming ceremony said it was my turn. Some of them said it more as a challenge than as a prayer. Some even said it like it was a threat. Fast forward to a few days after the naming ceremony and my brother was getting married. My younger brother.
I love my brother to death but I was a little angry he put me in this position. But as the great optimist that I am, I decided to see the silver lining on this dark cloud. Weddings are a great ground to find beautiful girls. So when I got to the wedding reception I isolated myself. I was not here for the jollof rice or the pounded yam, I was here for something more important. And just like I hoped, there were several girls at the wedding. Many of them, beautiful and old enough to be legally married. But there was a problem, there was no spark with any of them. I’d talked to a few and I’d immediately know they were not the one after just a couple of minutes.
The reception was almost over and I was getting discouraged. Maybe this marriage thing wasn’t for me. How could there be more than a billion girls in the world and I could not find one?
“Hello, is this seat taken?” Someone said behind me.
I looked back and opened my mouth and for a few seconds, I just stared. Oh wow, I was giving up too easily. There was someone for me and I’d just found her.
“The seat is not taken.” I said and she sat.
She was complicatedly beautiful. Her complexion was fair and dark hung in a balance. She looked small yet stood so tall. I wasn’t a fan of bunching up your hair claiming to be a naturalist but her hair made me change my mind. She looked as African as they come but yet her nose looked like it had been transplanted from Julia Robert’s face. She wasn’t looking at me but I felt like she was communicating with me. Maybe she was a psychic. Or maybe I had just been hit by the thunderbolt.
I had to talk to her, see if she was as great inside as she was outside.
“Hi.” I said.
She looked at me and smiled. “Hello.”
“You came to the wedding by yourself?” I asked.
“No.” She said. “Why?”
“You’d be sitting here alone if I wasn’t here.”
“Did you come by yourself?” She asked.
“No.” I said.
“Weren’t you sitting alone before I came?”
“Good point.” I said.
Okay, everything was going on fine. She was confident, her diction was great and she had a beautiful smile.
“I’m Justin.” I said and offered her my hand.
She shook my hand. “Grace.”
“Which of them do you know? Groom or Bride?” I asked.
“The groom. Although I don’t really know him that well.”
“So you’re a wedding crasher?”
She laughed. “No, I came with my Mother.”
I looked up and saw my mother looking at us, smiling. Of course she was smiling. If she could get me talking to girls all day, she would. Anything to make me take the plunge.
“Which of them do you know?” She asked.
“Both of them.” I said.
I saw my mother walking towards us and I sighed. She was going to spoil everything. I would be lucky if she didn’t go on her knees and ask the girl to marry me.
She stopped in front of us.
“Who is your friend Justin?” She asked.
“Her name is Grace.”
She frowned. “Grace?”
“Yes ma.” Grace said.
“Grace Adeyemo?” My mom asked. What was going on?
“Yes.” Grace said.
My mom grabbed her and hugged her. “I saw your mother at the church, she mentioned that you came with her. I didn’t even recognize you.”
My mom knew her and knew her mother? This was awesome.
“Mom?” I said. “You know her?”
“Of course, I know her. She is Sewa’s daughter.”
I swallowed. “What?”
Aunty Sewa was my Mother’s stepsister who was out of the country for a long time. We weren’t close because it was only recently that she reconciled with my mom. But it did not make sense; Aunty Sewa’s children were kids.
“Aunty Sewa’s daughter will be like eighteen now.” I said.
Grace smiled. “Actually I’m seventeen.”
Oh crap! Seventeen? Forget the age, she was my frigging cousin!
I picked my cap from the table and walked away. Maybe marriage wasn’t for everybody.
My name is Chinyere Okpara. Three months ago, I met a man named Chukwudi Amadi. He was an apprentice, learning how to sell engine oil. How many ways are there to sell engine oil? He told me three things. One, his master was very wicked. Two, he was about to get his freedom and make a lot of money. Three, he loved me and wanted to marry me. When he told me the first two, I nodded along but when he got to the third one, I talked to my legs and ran to my house.
You see, Mama Chinyere, my mother, is a very huge woman with big hands. My cheeks have felt those hands plenty times and I nearly died all those times. Mama had told me never to let any man come near me. I am not a child, I am twenty so it not pregnancy I fear, it is Mama’s huge hands.
Chukwudi is not the kind of person that gives up, that is part of why I know he will make plenty money so he did not stop stopping me on the road to talk to me. He told me he loved me several times, even said I should come and meet his mother but I refused. After some time, he said we can just be friends. I accepted this. But I know that it is all a lie and one day he will ask me for more than friendship.
One month ago, one of my uncles came from Lagos and brought me a phone. I was so happy. I went everywhere with the phone. I took pictures with it, I videoed everything around me, it was the love of my life. Chukwudi was the first person to collect my number. His own phone was not beautiful like my own but he said he was not jealous. He said he had money to buy phone but he was saving it to buy a motorcycle. I did not believe him. So to prove it to me, he said he would help me do subscription of five thousand naira so I could browse whenever I wanted. And to my surprise he did it.
And that was where my trouble started.
Two days after he did the subscription, Chukwudi came running to my house one morning. When I saw him, I was afraid. If Mama saw a boy coming to the house to look for me, I was dead. I dragged him from the front of our house to the corner of the street.
“Do you want my mother to kill me? What are you doing in my house?” I asked.
“I am dead Chinyere, I am dead.” He said.
“The money I gave you, it is for my master.”
I paused and looked at him. “What money?”
“Chinyere, stop playing. The money I used to buy you subscription, it is my Master’s money.”
I could not believe what he was telling me. “So you don’t have money?”
“Of course I have money.” He said. I stared at him, my eyes were very angry. “Okay, I don’t have money.”
“So what do you want me to do?” I asked him. “You stole money; that is your problem. Glo will not give me your money back.”
“Find the money and give me Chinyere.” He said. “If you don’t find money for me, my master will chase me away and I will not be able to marry you.”
I laughed. “So, it is because you want to marry me that you are sweating like eagle that is afraid of height?”
“Chinyere, I need my money back.”
I laughed and walked away. This boy needs a doctor. Thank God I did not even fall for all his pretense. Poor man that wants to marry good girl.
I got back home and went about my business as usual. I did my chores on time and Mama was very happy with me. That morning, for the first time that year, Mama gave me extra fish with my akpu.
I was about to eat when I looked through the window and saw Chukwudi’s big head outside our house. I left my food and ran out of the house.
“Chukwudi, do you want to kill me?” I asked. I was very angry this time. “Leave here or I will call my brothers to beat you.”
“My Master said he’s coming to report you to your mother.”
I gasped. “What?”
“He said, your mother attends his parish and he knows she’s a good woman who will not tolerate a thief in her house.”
I put my hands on my head. “Chukwudi, what did you tell your Master? I did not steal anybody’s money.”
“I tried to explain that you did not steal the money directly…”
“I did not steal the money at all.”
“Well, baby, my master does not see it like that.” He held my hand. “There is only one solution, you have to raise the money.”
“Raise what? Five thousand? My mother does not even have five thousand. Where am I supposed to raise it?”
“What do you have that you can sell?”
“I don’t have anything.” I said.
“You have a phone.”
I shook my head. “It is not possible, I am not selling my phone.”
“Do you want my master to come and meet your mother?”
What kind of nonsense is this? I did not want my phone to go but if his master reports me to my mother, my life could go. No, I was not going to lose my phone. If my mother likes, she can kill me.
“I’m not selling my phone.”
Chukwudi looked behind him and pointed to a man. “That is my master coming to your house.”
I saw the man coming and all my confidence ran away.
“Where can I sell the phone?”
“I have a friend who can buy it.”
I handed the phone to him and he ran off to find his friend. I wanted to cry but Mama will see my tears and ask what happened. I just stood there and looked at the ground, asking myself why I allowed Chukwudi subscribe for me.
Five minutes later, Chukwudi came back.
“Has my master come yet?” He asked.
“No.” I said. “He entered one fish shop over there.”
“Ah, thank God.” Chukwudi said. “I was able to sell the phone for six thousand.”
“Six thousand? Only?”
“My friend said four thousand, I begged him to agree for six thousand.”
He handed me one thousand naira. “I’ll go and give my boss the money now.”
He ran off and I went into the house. I looked at my plate of akpu and my two fishes but I did not have appetite to eat anymore. I sat in front of the food and looked at it. I wanted to cry but again Mama wasn’t so far away.
A knock sounded on our door and I went to open it. I pulled the door open and in front of me stood Chukwudi’s master. The son of Satan had betrayed me. I was dead already.
“Is your mother at home?” He asked.
Before I could answer, my mother came into the living room and saw us.
“Oga Livinus, welcome.” Mama said. “Please enter.”
“Thank you Madam.” Mr. Livinus said and entered. “Is this your daughter?”
“Yes, this is Chinyere.”
Oh no, he was going to report me now. What was I going to tell my mother?
“Your daughter is beautiful.” Mr. Livinus said.
He was rubbing me with oil before he set me on fire. Wicked man.
“Chinyere,” Mama called. “This is Oga Livinus, he sells fish in Asaba.”
“What?” I said before I could stop myself. “He sells fish, not engine oil?”
So Chukwudi lied about that one too? He was apprenticing to learn how to sell fish? Foolish man. But wait, Mama said he was in Asaba, not our village.
“Let me get you something to eat.” Mama said and left the room.
I looked at Mr. Livinus and something came to my mind. I moved closer to him.
“Sir, please are you Chukwudi’s master?” I asked.
“Which Chukwudi?” He asked.
I swallowed. “Chukwudi, your apprentice.”
“I don’t have any apprentice called Chukwudi.”
Two days later, I saw Chukwudi in the market, he pretended like he did not know me and he was using my phone.
Mimi’s mother in-law – Mrs. Adam, had just returned from the UK and Mimi was as nervous as a terrorist in a CIA office. They had met only twice; once before the wedding and once at the wedding. Her mother in-law smiled at the right time, said the right things but she knew she wasn’t the woman’s friend at all. When her husband mentioned him picking his mother from the airport, she’d jumped on the opportunity. He’d been skeptical but she explained that it would be a good time for them to bond.
She wished he didn’t agree with her.
Mimi picked up the big box and put it in the trunk of the car. She smiled and entered the car.
“How was your trip ma?”
“It was fine.” Mrs. Adam said.
She’d asked that question almost four times and she had gotten the exact same three word answer. Maybe it was time she asked something else. She turned into the road and headed out of the airport.
“Dele wanted to pick you himself but I offered to do it.” Mimi said. She needed to prove she was a good girl who offered to pick her mother in-law when several other girls would have declined.
“Okay.” Mrs. Adam said.
Mimi had hoped for a little more than that. The woman did not even smile or look in her direction.
“Are you hungry? We could stop and get something light for you to eat.”
“Don’t you have food at home?” Mrs. Adam asked.
“Yes ma, we do. I just thought maybe we could stop at KFC or something.”
“I don’t eat fast food.”
Oh, the hypocrisy. She doesn’t eat fast food but she loves cake? Dele had already told her his mother was a chocolate cake addict and there was one waiting for her at home. It was her last card. If the road trip was a disaster, and it was shaping up to be one already, at least she had that.
“So, how long are you staying for?” Mimi asked.
Mrs. Adam looked at her with a look of disgusted surprise. “I just got here and you are already itching for me to leave?”
Oh no! “No ma, that’s not what I meant at all.” Mimi said. Maybe it was time to keep shut.
“I have to ask, what is that all about?” Mrs. Adam asked.
“You don’t want me to see my son, you don’t want me to talk to him, what is that?”
Well, everything had escalated now. Why was she even saying this? It wasn’t true at all.
“Ma, why do you think I won’t want you to see or talk to your son?”
Mrs. Adam stared straight ahead, her face blank and emotionless. Mimi knew she was in trouble now. Her mother in-law was staying with them for as long as she was staying, how were they going to cope? And this whole thing was her fault. Mrs. Adam had already said she wanted to stay in a hotel during her stay but she was trying to be good daughter in-law Mimi and she insisted she stayed with them. How stupid could a person be?
They drove in silence for about twenty minutes. Mimi thought about all the ways she could bring up a conversation but she also thought of all the ways those conversation could go wrong. Anything she said could literally be used against her.
The radio, she could turn that on. Maybe some music would break the palpable tension in the car. She turned on the radio and soft music filtered through the speakers. Finally, some calm.
The music gave way to the voice of the presenter.
“We have a message here from Adeola.” The radio presenter said. “What do you do when your mother in-law is always in your business to the point when you almost feel like killing her?”
Mimi pushed the power button quickly and the radio went off. She glanced at Mrs. Adam and she was staring at her.
“Did you send that message?” Mrs. Adam asked.
“What?” Mimi could not believe this. “No, I didn’t. That was just an unfortunate coincidence.”
Mrs. Adam shook her head and stared straight ahead again. Mimi could not take it anymore. She was a good person and she had tried her best to be a good daughter in-law to this woman.
“Ma, I think we need to talk.” Mimi said. “We are going to be spending a long time together. I am your son’s wife, you are my husband’s mother. I am not going anywhere and I hope you aren’t too.”
The woman just looked at her; face blank, not blinking.
“I have tried to be good to you so why did you say I was trying to stop your son from seeing you or talking to you?”
For a few seconds Mrs. Adam just stared at Mimi. Mimi sighed and concentrated on her driving, this was a lost cause.
“Whenever I call Dele,” Mrs. Adam said and Mimi turned to look at her. “You always pick the phone, all the time.”
Mimi smiled. “That’s it?”
“That is not enough? Now I come into the country expecting to see my son, guess who I see instead.”
Mimi laughed. “I can’t believe this.”
“Are you laughing at me?”
“No, no I’m not.” Mimi said. “Every time I answer Dele’s call, I’m just trying to talk to you. In my head, I thought I was being nice, reaching out.”
“Oh.” Mrs. Adam said.
“Now I know that was stupid. And today, I was trying to be great. I thought picking you from the airport would make you like me more. Apparently, that was stupid too.”
They drove in silence again for a couple of minutes. Mimi could not believe everything she’d done to get closer to her mother in-law were the things driving a wedge between them.
“It wasn’t stupid.” Mrs. Adam said.
“What you did today, wasn’t stupid. Now that I understand, I think I like you more.” She said and smiled.
Mimi bared her teeth in a huge smile. “That’s all I ever wanted.”
“So you are not going to kill me?” Mrs. Adam asked.
“I promise not to even try.”
Thirty minutes later and they were at home. Mimi narrated what had happened in the car to Dele, he just laughed and laughed. He could not understand what burden had been lifted up her shoulders.
“Where is she now anyway?” Dele asked.
Mimi smiled. “In the guest room, with a plate of chocolate cake.”
“Well, even if your car ride didn’t do it, that chocolate cake will do it.”
Suddenly, they heard a groan come from the guest room. They ran to the room and hurried in.
Mrs. Adam was sitting on the bed, her face swollen.
“Oh my God.” Mimi said. “What happened?”
Dele helped his mother into a sitting position.
“What is in that cake?” Mrs. Adam mumbled through swollen lips.
“Nothing,” Mimi said. “I made it myself.”
Dele pulled Mimi aside.
“Are there nuts in that cake?”
Mimi nodded. “Of course.”
“She’s allergic to nuts.” Dele rushed back to Mrs. Adam. “We need to go to the hospital.”
Mimi stood by as Dele helped Mrs. Adam to her feet. Mrs. Adam looked at her, and in spite of the swollen face, her emotion was very clear.