Friday, 8 August 2014
SPOKEN FOR 07
"You can't eat from this pot of soup today James! Go and bring money into this house! Go and get a job!" James' wife shouted at the very top of her voice. James was trying to calm her down so that the neighbours wouldn't hear them but she was having none of that.
"Do you know how I got the money to buy meat and make this soup?" She continued to shout.
James sighed, then he walked out of the kitchen. His children had already gathered in the kitchen and they were listening and watching the drama between their parents; all three of them.
He had three kids and he couldn't afford to pay the school fees of any of them. His wife was the head of the home now, and that was why she called the shots. She sold provisions at a small kiosk right in front of their Face-me-I-Face-you apartment at Orile. Actually, James had been the one who had given her money to set up that kiosk when he still had a job. He used to work with a bakery for some years, until the owners left the country and somehow, the business wound up. After then, he had searched for jobs to no avail, till he finally had to climb down his high horse and accept a job opening as a driver with an oil company. At least there was one glad thing about it. He could tell his friends and every one who cared to listen that he worked with an oil company. However, he had tried to play smart. So times when his boss sent him on errands with the company car, he stopped to pick up other people and made a profit from the fare he charged them. Other times, he picked up pretty ladies from the street for free, and claimed he was a big man. He got caught and was fired eventually. Now he had been home doing nothing for over a year, and he was fast loosing the little pint of respect of every one ever had for him.
He went into his bedroom and sat on the bed, trying to think of a way forward. He couldn't continue this way. He really needed to act fast. It wasn't as though he willingly chose to sit at home doing nothing though. He had sent so many applications to food and beverage companies, and even NAFDAC, when he had heard that they were recruiting. But nothing was forthcoming. He had studied Chemistry in the University. He couldn't go back to being a driver. He had only taken the driving job as a temporary one pending when he got a better offer. But the better offer never came.
His fifteen year old daughter opened the door of his bedroom and walked in. She was holding a plate of hurriedly made Eba and okra soup. He knew she had sneaked behind her mother to make him some food.
"Daddy, oya quickly come and eat before Mum catches me. She has gone back to her kiosk." His daughter said. She was still the only one that respected him a little.
James wanted to reject it. His wife had hurt his pride. But he was hungry and he also didn't want the girl's effort to go to waste. She dropped the plate on the small stool beside the bed and then walked out to get him washing water for his hands in a plastic bowl. He watched her. She was fast becoming a young woman and no more the small girl of yesterday. Her hips were protesting to be seen as she walked. Her breasts had started to announce their appearance too, benevolently. His mind started to go wild, and then he hoped that no boys had started to touch her already.
Then he went down memory lane.
The young girl that had been in his class during his NYSC days as the Chemistry teacher.
She had been fifteen years old.
The young girl he had slept with in the Chemistry Lab.
Kemi was her name.
Shomi opened the pink paper bag and then lifted the tan colored Calvin Klein purse that Dapo gave to her. She smiled. She wasn't used to getting gifts from anyone. In fact, no one gave her gifts. She didn't even have a birthday. Madam Joyce had picked one for her because prior to meeting the woman, Aunty Kemi had never celebrated a birthday for her. It wasn't her birthday, but Dapo, her boyfriend, had gotten her a gift. She looked at him. They were in his apartment. She didn't know what to say apart from thank you.
"I really appreciate it. It's beautiful. Thank you." She said.
Dapo smiled too but he wanted a better expression from her. They'd been dating for some months now and yes, he loved her very much and thought she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever met, but he couldn't get over her lack of expression or emotion. She hardly told him that she loved him. And the few lucky times she ever did, he felt like she had struggled to say it. He had thought maybe like most women, gifts would get her to open up, but no matter how expensive the things he got her were, she still had the same expression and the same signature thank you.
He'd asked her for sex, and she hadn't refused him. And when he did sleep with her, he felt like a rapist.
"Sweetheart...I need to talk to you about something." He said, holding her hands. He needed to get this off his chest.
Shomi looked at him, wondering what it was that he wanted to talk about.
"Do you love me?" He asked.
Shomi sighed. She knew it was going to come to this. Yes, she knew that she wasn't the most expressive person in the world. She just wasn't built that way. She'd had to struggle through life through thin tunnels of hate and strictness. Love and warmth was sort of alien to her. The guys that had approached her in her University days of course just wanted to sleep with her. In fact, that was her mind set. She didn't think there was any man in existence who wanted a woman just for who she was. She'd had hopes that Dapo was different, apparently because he had been the sweetest guy ever of all the lot she had met. But then, some weeks after they had started dating, he asked her for it. She hadn't rejected him, although she had been disappointed. He wasn't so different after all. There was no point holding back or rejecting him. She'd lost the right to reject any man since age seven.
"You know how I feel about you." She said flatly.
"But you don't show it! You're just always so plain with me. Am I the only one who's really into this relationship?"
Shomi shook her head.
"I'm going into the kitchen to make you some food, and then I'll be leaving." She said.
Dapo couldn't really understand her. What kind of a person was she?
"You know what, Shomi, just leave now. I don't think I'm in the mood to even eat anything from you right now. I'm trying to talk to you about my feelings and you're being so weird about it!" He nagged, and he felt worse that he was nagging like a woman.
She looked at him for a little while. Dapo felt for a moment that she was going to come closer and hug him and say she was sorry. But she went towards the sofa, picked up the gift, and her own purse, and walked out of his house.
Shomi had moved houses. They no longer lived at the shack of a house where Madam Joyce had brought her up. With her booming business, she was now able to rent a small two bedroom apartment at a better part of the axis. Madam Joyce had moved in with her, but she had disagreed about moving the Akara stand though. She said she cherished the place and that even if they had a million branches, it would always be the head quarters. Shomi had laughed over it but she wasn't able to convince the woman. But she had a plan though. She knew competition would rise fast and they would attract a chunk of their customers. She had a business plan and she was going to go through with it, no matter how long it took.
It had been a week since he heard from Shomi. Many times he had wanted to call her but he decided he was rather going to wait till she realized her faults and came to apologize. Monday passed, Tuesday, Wednesday, and the rest of the days. He hadn't heard a word from his girlfriend. He began to get worried now. What if there was a problem and she wasn't okay? What if she was in trouble? What if something bad had happened?
He decided to go over to her place after work. He knew she would be home. She was only busy in the mornings till about five thirty P.M maximum. He had wanted to call her to inform her that he was coming, but he decided to keep it secret. He would apologize either ways, even if she was the one at fault. He had stopped by at a mall and had gotten her an expensive bottle of perfume and a box of chocolates with a card that read I'm sorry.
He parked his car by the edge of her block and turned off the ignition. He opened the door and climbed out of the car. He knew she had just moved to this place, but he still didn't like it. He had it in mind to marry her so that she could move in with him. He still wondered how his parents, especially his mother, would react when they found out that he was dating an Akara seller. He didn't see her as an Akara seller. From the first day he had set eyes and ears on her, he had seen someone with huge potential of success, and he was willing to do anything to make her rise above her background. His mother loved his ex, Biola. Dapo had met Biola while he was in the UK. She was a financial analyst and worked with the Bank of Industry. They had planned to get married, but Biola had told him she wanted a break because she wasn't ready to get married. She still wanted to take professional examinations and a Ph.D and she didn't think she could do that effectively if she got married with the possibility of being knocked up with a baby asap. He'd been hurt, but he had to let her go. It had been hard getting over her, and when he eventually did, he was glad he was starting afresh with someone who wasn't that career exposed. It wasn't as though he was taking advantage of her humble career. He just wanted a woman who wouldn't let career get in the way of her heart.
He was walking towards her block when he saw them. Shomi climbed out of a black Hyundai. Then the driver climbed out too. They hugged and then he kissed Shomi's lips. She smiled and then he handed over a piece of paper to her. Dapo guessed it was a cheque. He was shocked. He couldn't contain himself. He had wanted to turn back and go home but his anger wouldn't let him. He charged straight at the guy and shoved him in the chest.
"What the hell?!" Dapo yelled. Shomi stared at him, speechless.The other man was confused.
"Who are you?" He said, pushing Dapo.
"Shomi what is going on here?!" Dapo yelled again. Shomi shook her head, finding the words to say.
"He's...he's a close friend. Why are you angry? Didn't we break up already?" Shomi said.
"What? So because we have a small fight you already conclude we broke up?!" Dapo couldn't believe his ears. He looked at her in shock. He grabbed the cheque from her hand.
"You're sleeping with him for just a hundred and fifty thousand Naira?! Are you a whore?!"
Shomi couldn't take it. She walked away. The other man got into his car and drove off in anger. Dapo ran after her. A crowd was beginning to form.
"You're embarrassing me, please!" She said.
"Oh so you're embarrassed! I don't get it? What kind of person are you?"
Shomi looked at him. They had gotten to the door of her flat.
"I didn't sleep with him. I'm not a whore. He likes me and he loaned me the money for my business."
"But I saw him kiss you."
"Look, I don't care what you think, okay? Think whatever you want. I don't owe you anything and neither do you. I was fine with my life before you even came along. I don't need you!" She hissed and slammed the door in his face.