THE ONE POUND COIN
It was November 12th. Alex paced to and fro the store at the city centre, looking for what to get Nora for her birthday which was coming up on the 14th. She wanted something out of the ordinary, because she wanted Nora to feel really special. Nora had lost her father five months ago, and her family was still going through some financial re-adjustments. Alex knew her friend was in no mood for a party, or any celebration, but she wanted her twenty second birthday to be worth remembering. She had planned a small surprise gathering of classmates and some of Alex’s family members to show up at the birthday dinner on the 14th.
Her gaze fell on a pair of nude court Jimmy Choo shoes at the far end of the shoe section, and she walked swiftly to hunt for Nora’s size. Nora was a size 3. Her size was usually not a problem because not too many people wore a size 3 UK. She tried to get the same pair for herself but as usual, size 6 was long off the shelf.
As she queued to make payment, her phone rang. It was her mother, Lisa Udeh. She rolled her eyes as she answered her call. This was the fourth time her mom was calling in the day.
“How are you, my Love?” Lisa said.
“Mom, once again, I am very fine.” Alex laughed.
“How’s the weather? I hope you’re not too cold o, and your heater is working fine?”
“I’m not home. I’m at a store.”
“Spending my money again, ehn?” Lisa joked.
“I’m getting Nora’s birthday present.”
“Oh! I actually forgot it’s her birthday today!” Lisa screamed.
“No, it’s on the 14th.”
“Okay fine. Send me her account details so I’ll send some money to her, although that might take like three days till she gets it. Does she also use Tsb?”
“That’s a long one. Just send it through her Nigerian account. She can withdraw it with her ATM here.”
“Oh better for me. I’ll send someone at the office to get that done tomorrow. How is school? Hope it’s not too difficult?”
Alex burst into laughter, and the lady behind her on the queue had started giving a face of disapproval.
“You forget I graduated undergrad with a first class from OAU. Don’t worry, Mom. Everything is fine.”
“Alright love. Talk later. I love you.”
“Love you, bye.”
Alex and Nora had been best friends since they met at the Obafemi Awolowo University six years ago. They had been on the same queue for course registration, and found themselves in the same room; Mozambique Hall, Room S5. They had clicked instantly, and became inseparable ever since. People called them twins even though they looked absolutely nothing alike. Nora was on the small side, dark skinned , and had a very beautiful female structure and endowment. Alex was slimmer, taller, with less female assets, but more attractive because she was mixed race. Her skin was very beautiful despite the harsh Nigerian weather, and her eyes were a rare brown. Her curls were long and full, and she just drew that attention wherever she went. Beyond the fact that they shared a room and a course of study, there had nothing else similar.
Nora was from a less than comfortable home. Her dad had been a laid off Staff of an old bank, and her mom was a secondary school teacher in a government secondary school. She was the first child of five. Little wonder she had that street smartness all over her, unlike Alex who was more of a mummy’s girl. Alex Milton was Lisa Udeh’s only child. Lisa had met Alex’s father, an Oil company contractor in Port Harcourt, many years back when she had been working at a night club, to make ends meet. The white man had taken interest in her, and had promised to marry her and take her with him to the United States the following year. However, after she told him she was pregnant, he told her he was sorry, and that he had a family back in the US. The following week, her father decided the man who had put Lisa in the family way must marry her, and he had been keener on this ‘moral principle’ when he heard the man in question was white, rich, and an American citizen. They got to his apartment and his neigbours said he had left the country. And that was the last Lisa ever saw or heard from Mr. Milton. She had a daughter nine months and one week later, left the baby in care of her mother, and finally completed her education.
She had had other men in her life twice, but she kept discovering the men were married when the wives came to threaten her. She finally decided to give up on love, likeness, or whatever similar affection there was, and focused all her time and effort into building her career, and was now a top management staff in the same oil company Mr. Milton had worked.
Alex was the object and sole beneficiary of her motherly love. She chanelled all her love on her daughter, swearing never to let her make the mistake she made with men. She was determined to give her a very luxurious life, better than what she had ever had as a child.
Nora dropped her handbag on the bed and grabbed her phone from her pocket. She hadn’t checked on her family in days. She doubted if her mother would even remember her birthday was in two days. The woman had enough stress she was dealing with, handling the troubles from her late father’s relatives, and taking care of her four siblings.
Alex’s mom had helped relieve so much of the burden when she promised Nora that she would sponsor her Master’s Degree tuition and other expenses, if she was able to get admission into school. She had initially not wanted to apply to the University. She still remembered the day she had sat in Alex’s room, thinking of what she would do next after NYSC. She would have to leave the Firm that Alex’s mom had helped secure for her, because they had a no- retaining policy, and she would have to start dropping CV’s all over corporate Nigeria. Alex suggested they both applied for a Master’s degree and Nora had laughed hysterically.
“Who will pay my fees? Have you forgotten my dad is jobless.” She had said.
Alex had told her to just go ahead with the application, and that they would search for a scholarship. They both applied, and before the offer letters came, Nora’s father died. She had tossed aside every dream of a degree till Alex’s mom had promised to sponsor her. That day, she had been so speechless that she actually burst into tears. Her mother had knelt and thanked Lisa Udeh like a god, and out of modesty, promised to pay back, but she knew she could never raise about Eight million Naira to repay the woman.
“Good afternoon Mummy,” Nora said, flinging the Lebara recharge voucher on the table.
“Nora my dear!” Her mother screamed. She could hear the dance in her high pitch.
“How una dey?” Nora said, smiling.
“We dey o! How London?!”
“I’m not in London, Mummy,” Nora laughed. “We’re in West Midlands. Birmingham.”
“Everything is London to us here now. How is school? You sure say you dey hear wetin your oyibo lecturers dey talk?”
“Yes o! I can hear well. I’m not bush like the rest of you.”
They both laughed.
“How are Bright, and Tony, and Vivian and Comfort?” Those were her siblings.
Her mother sighed.
“Bright is at home o. He didn’t pass JAMB again. Tony has gone back to Benin. His school has resumed. Vivian and Comfort are fine too. Just that, that Vivian, she’s getting out of hand. She is always out of the house, and I am warning her, I am not accepting any unwanted pregnancy!”
“Calm down Mummy. Everything will be fine. Has the school paid salary yet?”
“Not yet. I had to borrow some money from my sister last week for Tony to take to school.”
Nora sighed this time.
“I hope you are searching for a job and not just shopping around like your friend. You know you shouldn’t deceive yourself. She is not your blood. If you can even get a good job, and then bring your younger ones over to the UK.” Her mother said.
“I’m trying to get one, but I can’t just bring them…”
The call went off. Her mother’s battery was out. Thanks to the legendary NEPA.
Alex walked in, and dropped her three carrier bags from Selfridges and Mango on the bed. Nora had already started to open one of them when Alex snatched it.
“No way. That one’s a secret. The others, you can see.” She smiled.
Nora hissed and opened the other bags. She admired the new purse and the new dresses. None cost less than £65. She smiled as Alex chatted on about how she couldn’t walk past the dresses, and as her friend spoke, she remembered her mother had had to borrow money to pay for Tony’s school fees.
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