At the mall – as I walked out of the coolness of the complex on my way to the parking lot, happily bearing the weight of groceries in the yellow and red branded plastic bags – that was the first time I saw her pretty face. It must have been the legs.
The legs that get me, like the trap of a wise hunter. Pastor Onyeachonam would talk about making a covenant with our eyes and I would nod as if I had been thinking about doing just that, but I’d be eyeing the girls in church, right under his nose.
She was tall; not like those women who seemed to have taken American movies and Vogue as their Bible. She must have been eating well, she had ample things in the right places. She wore a body-fitted black sequinned dress that stopped far above her knees. I took in the silky smooth shapely legs.
She was hunting, I was hunting.
She was on her way in – purposeful, as if she was hurrying to meet someone, or to the restroom – to drop some hot stuff in the can; or to grab something on the shelf to buy and take home. I didn’t care. I turned; I followed my target, just like a good hunter would.
“Excuse me.” I said as soon as I got near enough. She turned to look, not slowing down.
“Can you please slow down?”
“You don’t even know what I want to tell you.”
She stopped; her hands on her hips, a shy smile. “What is it sir?”
“No, not sir,” I said, “Name is Doye. I work for this modelling agency in Lagos, I’m actually on holiday in town, but seeing you, the beautiful figure, lovely skin, charming smile, I’m kind of seeing a goldmine here.”
“A goldmine.” she said, glancing at her watch.
“You seem to be in a hurry. What I mean is, I can get you great modelling deals in Lagos. You’d make a lot of money. Let me give you my card.” I said breathlessly, hurriedly placing one of the plastic bags on the floor to free a hand to reach for one of the cards in the pocket of my trouser, as if a moment’s hesitation could make her vanish like smoke in the wind.
She took the card, eyed me with a pout and said OK. I wanted to take her number, but I knew she had taken the bait. Thanks for your time. I had appealed to her vanity; that is something that hardly ever fails with beautiful girls.
I hoped she would not type the name on the card in Google. I hoped she would call earlier. I hoped she would agree to a date as soon as possible. I could only be Doye for a short time.
She called a few hours later. It was a quarter past seven and I was under the blinking red and blue lights at Tisco’s 1759, making alternative arrangements based on the assumption that she may not call. Akure’s 1759, with its many desperate girls and loud music. I was desperate; this was not Lagos where I had them in different area codes. I didn’t want to be alone on the bed, it was harmattan season. You know how cold it gets that time of the year.
I had just a few days in town to make sure the real Doye would see his mansion as he wanted it to be. The swimming pool – clean, the lawn – green, paint job – done, interior deco – done, generator – done, groceries – bought, cars – fuelled; everything had to be set for Doye to come home for Christmas with his family to enjoy the comforts.
“Hello, it’s me, Bridget, the girl from the mall.”
It didn’t even occur to me that I had not asked for her name at the mall. “Oh, Bridget, how are you?” I hurried, in fact, ran away from the crowded tables. I wanted the conversation to flow without wearing her out with the urge to repeat herself.
I played my part very well. I was this kind-hearted hot shot from Lagos with contacts and resources that could make her rich and famous; and she was this beautiful girl that would be blind to the strings that could be attached to his offer.
She wanted us to meet at Finger Licking tomorrow afternoon, say 2 o clock, or would I be busy? Absolutely not! I didn’t know the town very well, so I guessed Finger Licking would be something like KFC or Nandos.
I took one of Doye’s cars, the white Benz. I had asked a few people, I got a pen and a sheet of paper and drew lines and curves and arrows. This is Adesida Road, this is Cathedral junction, this is Gbogi street, you turn here and turn here.
She was waiting for me even though I got there at a quarter to two; she sat in a corner near the window. She must have seen me getting out of the car. I saw her immediately I walked in. She was in a white body-fitted blouse; I could see the shape of her nipples when she stood up to hug me. She had a leather skirt that stopped above her knees. I wore one of the black suits in Doye’s wardrobe. No tie – that would be too formal – , white shirt, black shoes. No perfume; I was sure she wouldn’t mind the mild smell that says the outfit had stayed in the closet for too long.
The bald waiter in white shirt and black trousers came with his pretentious smile. He wanted to know how we were doing. As if he really cared. Bridget showed him some teeth and said we were fine. She wanted two fish, sharwama and a fruit wine to eat in, and a fried chicken to take away. I said I would have the same – without the fried chicken.
That was when I really took in the whole place: the pictures of greasy foods, the lights, the chandeliers decorated with many pieces of glass hanging from the ceiling, the flatscreen TVs you would see wherever you turn or sit, the bottles of wines and beers and whiskeys – different shapes and sizes, the richly dressed people on the other tables.
I did not immediately notice the card before me on the table, which was like the one in front of Bridget; but when I read the contents of the card I couldn’t help but feel a weight in my stomach. I knew I didn’t need the toilet.
“Bridget,” I said, I had to clear my throat. “Let me get something from the car downstairs. I’ll be back.”
Five thousand Naira for one fish?
That was the end of my hunt.