I didn’t know what to think. I thought I was almost prepared for this moment, I had put together the words, the explanation and everything but as Uncle Mufu’s eyes pierced through my skin (that’s what it seemed like), my thoughts swayed to Mama and then I just didn’t know what else to think…
Is Mama ok?
Azeez…. Is that how they do.
Is she ok?
Your mother is fine but is that how they do. You just leave. No phone. No call. Oti o..
I…err…ema..ema binu sir
What happen that you just leave like that. Even if they steal your motor. You suppose to come and tell me so we can find a solution.
Uncle I didn’t know how…..
Still yet! Ahn Ahn Azeez… Still yet, you suppose to come and tell me; Ahn ahn… that is how family do. (He said, slightly raising his voice)
By then, some on-lookers had gathered outside my room and I noticed Debby getting more and more uncomfortable. It wasn’t till then that I wondered just what she was doing there and then Uncle Mufu said..
Close your door, let us be private.
I moved to close the door even as our spectators unwillingly began to leave. I closed the door and turned to resume the baptism I was sure to get.
Opelope aburo e. (thank God for your sister), I don’t even know she always see you. The both of you, you don’t know how important family is ni ehn Debola.
He turned to look at Debby.
So, if I did not talk about it with your mother, you will not have remember to tell me you see your broda in school.
Debby looked away from Uncle Mufu and twisted her hair as if praying for this drama to end even as I gradually began to recollect images of the young Debola I sometimes saw at my Uncles place back then. She was schooling outside the country at some point and looking at Debby then, I noticed the semblance even though the transformation was astounding.
That is matter for another day. It is very late to find the motor but we will try. I will talk to my friend D.P.O and see what can happen. For now, life must go on, so have this
He dropped a bunch of keys in my hand…
That is the key to KJ492 in the park. Pick it from the park and use it for now…
I was surprised beyond words and even though it was clear my uncle was not going to hear a word of my protest, I managed to get in a word…
But no uncle, I can’t accept this…
My excuse for a protest fell on deaf ears. Uncle Mufu gave me one of those stern fatherly looks, he then turned to Debby and back to me… He dipped his hands into his pocket, produced some money, which he more or less squeezed into my hands even as he said…
Use that to get anything you need. I have a lot of work to do.
With that, he hurried out of my room and Debby hobbled after him giving me that sort of look that said… “I’m sorry” as she walked out.
I checked the money Uncle Mufu stuffed in my hands – 5k. Something must not be right. How did Debby or Debola know enough about me or my car to tell Uncle Mufu and what exactly did she tell him and why was he being so generous. I know it wasn’t like a new car but that golf was still very functional and even I would not take it so lightly if one of my drivers got it stolen, family or not. And we’re not even family. It all didn’t make sense to me. Well, except that I now knew why Debby always seemed to run from me whenever I saw her at Kassy’s place. I needed to think. I got out my bucket and went to have my bath. I got back to the room and Dare was around.
It felt like I hadn’t seen him for weeks. He even had a new haircut I hadn’t seen. He was his usual efiko self. He bombarded me with questions upon questions and before I could answer them he drifted off into the world of engineering. It was just about a week to Christmas so things were pretty much rounding up in school so I hadn’t missed much but exams had been scheduled for late January barely giving me enough time to breathe once we resume from the break. I chatted with Dare for a while, I needed the distraction. During our conversation, Fadeke sent me a text message. She just wanted to check up on me. Maybe that was what I needed. I called Fadeke and after talking for a while, I asked if we could see later in the day. She hesitated but later agreed. We planned to meet up at an eatery close to Medilag; 4pm. Nothing major.
I slept for a while after talking to Dare then I woke up about an hour before my date. I freshened up and took a cab to Moremi park. I dressed very casual, just a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. After serious consideration, I decided to go with the car but upon getting there, if I wasn’t confident enough, then I would park somewhere far off and just walk or take a bike. I didn’t want to start off by giving the wrong impression. Maybe I already did by not telling her I was a taxi driver/driver? I didn’t even know how to define my current status. By the time I got to the car at High Rise, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to drive anymore. I noticed the car had been re-parked. Princess definitely had a spare key. I decided to drop off some of the things I had on me in the car. Actually, the only thing I needed to drop was the car key Uncle Mufu had given me. I opened the car, dropped the key and some other documents I found in my wallet in the pigeonhole.
Few minutes later I was in a bus to Ojuelegba. The events of the morning and the night before went through my mind again and I was still somewhat confused. I tried to focus my thoughts on Fadeke even as I got closer to the eatery. I was surprised to meet her there even though she said she had only just gotten there. She wore a simple dress with casual slippers. She packed her hair backwards and it only made her look more beautiful. I teased her about her hair and she laughed. It seemed so easy to talk to her and in no time we were deep in conversation just about anything and everything. We talked about football, Arsenal, her hostel, mine, religion and family – her family. She had two siblings; elder brothers and both were out of the country. There was a little bit of awkwardness when I told her about my mother. She seemed so sad and concerned. I had to get our order so I could change the subject.
As I walked to our table carrying my tray, I looked up and noticed Kassy walking into the eatery. I picked up pace and rushed to the table hoping Kassy did not spot me. I wasn’t prepared for any weird explanation. Kassy seemed decently dressed enough from where I sat but knowing her, I could not risk it. I tried to look away whenever I noticed Kassy looking in our direction but a part of me was very sure she saw me. Kassy picked up her order and left. I had been so worried about Kassy spotting me I didn’t think about Fadeke until she asked…
Huh? (Fadeke caught me unawares) … well, more like employer.
It’s quite a long story – not for today…
We went back to our meal after that and then I asked when her birthday was. Surprisingly, she said, next week Sunday – Boxing day. We spoke about that for a while. She was going to turn twenty-two and she really had no plans for the day. I was considering traveling to Ibadan for the holidays but hearing Fadeke say she didn’t have plans seemed like an opportunity was being presented to me. I enjoyed her company so much and I knew I could do with a lot more of it especially if it helped get my mind off every other thing.
Just then my phone rang. It was Princess. I thought about not picking but then I was in one way or the other working for her still so I had to…
A-Zed. Where are you?
I’m out of school but not far.
Please can you come and get me now. It’s urgent please.
She cut the call. Quite unusual. I looked at Fadeke then and before I could speak she asked if I had to go. I answered yes, reluctantly. I so didn’t want to leave. I was having so much fun with Fadeke it only seemed logical for me to cook up some sort of excuse for Princess and stay. But she did say it was urgent. Probably one of her many ridiculous trips to some party or some customer’s house. I wondered then why Princess put herself through all that madness. She seemed like a well brought up girl who was comfortable and brilliant too; what else could she possibly want. What did she get from this life… this ridiculously dangerous and stupid lifestyle. I knew it wasn’t supposed to be my business but after experiencing the previous night and returning without Tomi, reality hit home. Maybe Uncle Mufu had given me a way out. I could take the new car and thank her for all she had for me and return to my old controlled lifestyle and hope for the best with Mama. Maybe, just maybe.
I broke out of my thoughts as Fadeke hugged me. I promised to call her later so we could pick up our conversation. I made it back to High Rise and by then I had made up my mind to give Princess just one more chance. If this trip involved any form of Nollywood drama, it would be my last. I had barely gotten into the car when I saw Princess walking through the door. Wherever we were going, she really wanted to get there fast. She looked extra exposed too. Her dress was backless and very revealing. She made an effort to cover her body with the scarf she held but it did very little. She got into the car, the back seat this time. Without a word of greeting she asked me to head towards Lekki Phase 1. As I drove, I looked back at her and my level of irritation began to rise. I just couldn’t take it anymore – why was she doing this to herself.
I held my thoughts and drove on. As I drove into Lekki, Princess directed me and as she did, I realized the streets looked very familiar. But of course, I thought to myself, we were heading towards Chief’s house. Chief’s house! Ridiculous. I tried not to say anything until I was sure. Lo and behold, Princess asked me to park just outside the compound. As she got out of the car she told me to come back for her by 11pm but I had had it with her. I got out of the car and stopped her.
Why. Princess why? Why do you do this to yourself?
She held back her words and listened on…
It’s not bad enough you’re ruining your life with all these people and unnecessary places you visit. Now you’re back here, to him. He almost got us killed, just because of what? How much did he offer you to get you to forget so soon? How much?
It was faster than my eyes could see. It was a strong slap on the right side of my cheek.
How dare you. How dare you Azeez….You know nothing about me or my life…
You’re right. I know nothing. Nothing except what I’ve experienced in the past few weeks and you know what? It stinks Princess. Can you not smell trouble?
And you being the expert at trouble detection, I’m sure you predicted everything that happened on every single one of our trips.
I’m not a child. This is my life and how I chose to live it is up to me. It’s either you can fit in it or not. Forget about coming back to pick me. I will find my way home.
She shoved me aside and walked towards the gate. Seconds later, she disappeared into the compound. I just wanted to leave the car and head back home but that wasn’t me. I was so angry. I got into the car, slammed the door and drove off. I would drop off the car with a note telling her I wasn’t coming back. As I sped down Kingsway road, my phone rang and I hesitated in picking it as I thought it was Princess calling to apologize or something. I answered the call…
Goodday, am I on to Mr. A-Zed?
Yes, who’s speaking.
They call me Senior.
Senior? Oh, Senior… How did you get….
Forget that… I have a message for Princess. I can’t seem to get across to her. Please let her know that I’ve gotten her a +2 for the event on the 26th but she has to confirm latest by tomorrow. I guess I’ll see you then.
He cut the call and I was so angry and confused I couldn’t make sense of what he told me. I was sick and tired of this world and all I wanted to do was get out. I drove faster and soon after, I was back at High Rise. I parked the car and as I stepped out to lock the doors, I remembered the keys I had in the pigeonhole.
I went back in and took out the key along with the documents. I needed a piece of paper to write my resignation note. I looked through the pieces of paper I had with me and realized I had picked some additional ones from the pigeonhole. I flipped open one of the pieces and noticed it was a medical test result sheet. It was addressed to Adejuwon P. George. I scanned through the ticked boxes and noticed only the HIV box was checked. I looked to the bottom of the page and the result read positive.