Friday, 8 August 2014
SPOKEN FOR 06
The sound of the clasping of her molars against the chewing gum awoke the Chief from his short nap. He opened his eyes and then looked at her. She was dressed up already and he could tell she was ready to leave.
"Baby girl...why so soon?" He said, trying to work his large weight around sitting up on the bed comfortably. They were in a cheap hotel. He was sweating now because the electricity had been interrupted. The hotel's policy was to only turn on the generator from 7 PM. He reached for the pamphlet that was on the bed side table. His eyes roamed the text on the pamphlet. Everest Hotel and Suites. It had five stars beside it, signifying it was a five-star hotel, but the furniture in the room where they were lodged; the Executive suit, had begun to give way for lack of maintenance.
"Chief, let me come and start going o. I need to be somewhere in an hour." She replied.
He pulled her closer to him but she hissed and got up on her feet.
"It's okay now. Go home to your wife. We will see again on Friday." She said.
He sighed, then he brought out his wallet and started to count her wage.
Kemi still clasped on the chewing gum, as she waited for a bike to take her back home. She couldn't wait for the buses and she couldn't afford to take a cab. Her rent was due and the landlord's son had already warned her that if she didn't pay by the end of the day, he would throw out her things.
Chief had paid her fifteen thousand Naira. She had some money saved up from her other customers so she was going to be able to pay the rent. But then she still had to pay for the electricity that never came, and buy some fuel for her small generator. She found a bike man finally and then she climbed on the okada, after many negotiations on whether he would carry her for three hundred or two hundred and fifty Naira. The bike man said he knew a short cut to her destination, via somewhere in Ikeja. She sighed. She didn't really care. As long as he was going to get her home in time.
It was surprising when it started to drizzle drop by drop because it had been very sunny just some minutes ago. Then, with a loud thud, the downpour increased massively in volume.
"Abeg drop me drop me!" Kemi said, as she sighted a shed by the edge of the road.
"You no get scarf?" The bike man asked, still zooming.
"You dey mad? I say make you drop me!" She raised her voice.
He hissed as she slapped his back, then he went towards the nearest joint he saw and parked the bike. It was an Akara stand.
"Good morning o." The Akara woman said, washing her hands with the water that was in the bucket beside her.
"Madam abeg I go wait here till this rain reduce." Kemi said.
Madam Joyce pulled a small wooden stool then asked Kemi to sit on it. The bike man hissed and then left after Kemi refused to give him any money since he did not take her to her destination after all.
"How much for Akara? I'm so hungry." Kemi said. She opened her purse to bring out some change.
Shomi got down the bus and walked into the market. They had run out of beans and red oil. Madam Joyce had sent her to buy from her usual customer at the main market. Just as she was walking in, it started to rain heavily. She hissed. How more frustrating could things get? All week, she hadn't been able to find a job still, and now that she was trying to get busy with the business that she'd been brought up with, it started to rain heavily. It was when there was a sharp lightning, and loud thunder, that she ran into one of the shops. The shop owner sold crayfish and other spices. She had just finished grinding crayfish for one customer when Shomi ran into her shop to seek shade.
She had some change to spare so she bought some grind crayfish, and other spices before she left.
By the time she got back home, she was too tired to go back to join Madam Joyce so she stayed home and made dinner, and decided to continue looking in newspapers again, hopeful that she would find something.
When Shomi woke up the next morning at 3.30 A.M, it wasn't because she was used to waking up that early. It was something else that had woken her up. Her bright idea. She went into the kitchen and brought out the blended peeled beans from the fridge, then she brought out the spices she had bought the day before. She added the crayfish, then seasoning, pepper, mini-chopped onions, salt and then she decided to add a little Cameroon pepper and strips of boiled chicken into the blended beans mixture. She poured some red oil together with some vegetable oil, and then began to fry the Akara balls.
Shomi wasn't that much of a prayer warrior, or even a prayer whisperer. But she knew she had to have some faith that this would turn out good. She closed her eyes and asked God to grant her favor, then she walked towards the shopping complex that she had targeted. She was going to walk into every shop and sell her specially made Akara. She looked at her small Nokia phone. The time was 7.30 A.M. She had divided the Akara that she had fried into two parts; one with Madam Joyce, and the other with her. She had also made another bean mixture with the same recipe so that Madam Joyce could fry it and serve it hot to passers-by.
The first two shops had told her they were not interested. She hissed. They were ordinary shop girls who were assuming their boss' position till the real boss resumed at around 10 A.M. The third shop patronized her. As she walked towards the fourth, the man in the third shop called her back and asked her to sell more to him. There were fifteen shops in the plaza. Before she got to the eighth shop, she was out of stock.
When she went back to meet Madam Joyce, she met a fast-forming queue of people. They were lining up for Akara. Madam Joyce was almost going hyper and insane trying to coordinate them. Shomi smiled as she hurried her steps so that she could help her out.
Shomi couldn't believe this. It was about two months since she started her special Akara recipe. She had stepped up her game. She now added a special sauce to it. She made fried spicy pepper with locust beans and mashed fish, and spread it over the Akara or sold separately depending on the customer's demand. It was just basic economics that the higher the demand, the higher the price. Ordinarily, she had wanted to reduce the price to get a larger demand, but she didn't even have to. That morning, one of the people on the now usual queue, asked for her number and requested that Akara be brought to their office canteen, but first, she had to be interviewed by the Company's H.R.
Even Shomi couldn't believe her luck, as she walked out of the company that day, after the interview. She had wanted to go and thank the woman that had introduced her, but the lady had gone out. Yes. She got the contract. They wanted her to serve Akara in the staff canteen between the hours of 6.30-8.30 AM for staff breakfast, as most of them usually never had breakfast from home. Shomi wondered if the Akara wouldn't make them sleep at work, but she decided to keep her thoughts to herself, as long as she was making her money. The HR lady hadn't even asked her many questions, so all her over-night preparations didn't matter. Apparently, the woman who had introduced her always bought surplus Akara which she shared with the HR lady, and the HR lady was now stuck on it.
And they were willing to pay her seventy thousand every month, which was subject to amendment and reconsideration.
Dapo was still buying Akara from that stand. Maybe it was because he wanted to see that girl again. But every time he went there, it was just the big woman he met. The Akara had something different about it from the last one he had bought. So maybe it wasn't just because of the girl, but also because of the bespoke Akara that he was getting addicted to.
On his way home from work, he decided he would stop by since he was closing early. It wasn't like he had any food at home.
Well, maybe it was just his luck. He met the the girl there!
She looked a little different from the last time he'd seen her. She wasn't on those corn rows anymore. Her hair was combed and braided in a pony tail. It was still her natural hair. It had quite a length! She was packing up her things, and he assumed she was getting ready to close for the day.
"Hi!" He said, smiling.
Shomi looked up and smiled back at him. She didn't recognize him.
"Hello...Oh I'm sorry we're through for the day!" She said.
"Wow. And I'm so hungry." He said.
"Eeya...we've sold everything we made today, sir."
"I guess I'll just have to eat at a restaurant somewhere." He said.
He was thinking of what he could do or say to have the opportunity of meeting her one-on-one beyond the whole Akara business.
"Say what? Do you take special requests? I'd like for you to make me some for the weekend."
Shomi looked at him. Well, she wasn't doing anything for the weekend but she had never had this kind of request either.
"Okay. Will you come and pick it up tomorrow?" She asked, still unsure if she had taken the right order.
"You bring it over. I'll pay for your transport." He smiled.
"By the way you owe me change of Eight hundred Naira." He said as he walked towards his car.
By the time Shomi figured it out, he had driven off.
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