Seventy-five-year-old Lolly made her way into her grand-daughterâ€™s bedroom. Everything was topsy-turvy. The bed was not made. The pillows were scattered about on the tiled floor, the bed sheet was in a heap at the edge of the bed, the wardrobe was wide opened, and clothes were hanging in a big mess. There were lingerie hanging on the chairs, empty plates of food on the table, used cups, glasses and cutleries were under the table. It was a total chaos. A scowl appeared on her dark round face. She couldnâ€™t understand why the room was no different from a pig sty. She didnâ€™t bring her grand-daughter up that way, but the girl refused to be tutored. She grew up strong-willed, stubborn, and undomesticated. Most times, she feared for her. She noticed that the dark chocolate skin girl was fast asleep. She lay on her tummy; head rested on her arms.
She kicked a pillow away from her path and walked towards the bed, â€œBinaâ€¦ Binaâ€¦â€ she bent down and shook her by the shoulders.
Bina groaned and turned on her side.
â€œWake up. It is already ten oâ€™clock,â€ Lolly spoke harshly.
â€œWhat has that got to do with me?â€ she raised her head and lay back on her tummy.
Lolly frowned, bent down and smacked her on the buttocks.
â€œGranny!â€ she glared at her.
â€œDonâ€™t you know that you are a woman?â€ Lolly eyed her.
â€œPlease donâ€™t hit me again, ah-hanâ€¦ what is it?â€ Bina hissed and rubbed the painful spot.
She settled at the side of the bed, â€œYou are thirty years old for heavenâ€™s sake,â€ there was a note of disappointment in her voice.
Bina rolled her coffee coloured eyes. She was in no mood for the old womanâ€™s nagging lecture.
â€œLook at the state of this room, what happens when you get married?â€
She flashed a smile, â€œTill then.â€
Her defiance attitude enraged the elderly woman, â€œThis is one of your many problems. You donâ€™t take these things seriously.â€
She hissed again and laid her head on her arms.
She didnâ€™t respond.
What am I going to do with you?
She bit at her lower lip, â€œTjay is in the sitting room.â€
â€œI will see him later,â€ Bina turned on her side.
She hit her on the buttocks, â€œGet your bum out of that bed this minute!â€
â€œOh-oooooh! Leave me alone now, ah-hanâ€¦ Granny you have started o, I donâ€™t like this, I donâ€™t like this at all. I am being maltreated in my own house,â€ she sat up and eyed her.
They heard a knock. They turned and looked towards the door. It opened and a black head peeped through it.
â€œMy God! This room is worse than the ruins under Oshodi Bridge,â€ his dark eyes darted around the room.
Lolly got up, â€œTalk to your friend,â€ she looked back at her and navigated her way out of the room.
â€œYoung woman, why do you live like this?â€ the dark skinned, broad shouldered, five feet seven inchesâ€™ tall young man with a round face and full black lips walked into the room.
Bina reached out for the closest pillow to the bed and flung it at him. He dodged it and joined her on the bed.
â€œSeriously, you need help,â€ Tjay eyed her.
â€œWhatever,â€ she yawned and stretched out her hands.
He gave a shake of head and noticed that she was still in her night-wear. A sleeveless satin lace mini gown which barely covered her soft pear shaped bosom. He dropped his gaze and it fell on her glowing smooth dark chocolate thighs. He swallowed spittle and tore his eyes away. He wished he had waited for her in the sitting room.
â€œWhat are you doing here anyway?â€ she lay on her back and covered her body with a wrapper.
He exhaled with relief, â€œIâ€¦ Iâ€¦ Joy, Charles and Nneka came to see me last night.â€
She hissed and turned her face away.
â€œIbinabo,â€ his disapproving look seized her up.
A smile spread on her lips. Aside from her grandmother, he was the only one that called her by her full name. Everyone else called her Bina.
â€œThey are supposed to be your friends,â€ his voice turned sour.
â€œGood luck with that,â€ she closed her eyes.
â€œI donâ€™t like your nonchalant attitude. I donâ€™t support the way you have been treating them, no wonder they have all decided to keep you at armâ€™s length.â€
She flung the wrapper away and sat up, â€œThey can go to blazes for all I care!â€ her coffee coloured eyes shone with fury.
Tjay looked her up and down. He wasnâ€™t deterred by her annoyance. He needed to tell her the undiluted truth.
â€œWho does Joy think she is? Ehn? Answer me?â€
â€œShe is your friend,â€ he crossed his arms.
â€œWhat friend? She thinks she is the Queen of England because she lends me money once in a while. She wants me to worship the ground she walks on, abi?â€
â€œThe same money you refuse to pay back each time and every time,â€ he stressed the last word.
She hissed and turned her head.
â€œDo you want to render her penniless? Why donâ€™t you pay her back the money she lent you in the past?â€
â€œWhen did you become her advocate?â€ she eyed him.
â€œShe is my friend too. She doesnâ€™t have a wealthy grandmother like you. She works and earns her money. I donâ€™t understand why you borrow money from people in the first place.â€
â€œWhat, what, what? Is it because you lend me money too? Abeg park well.â€
He stared at her with a sad expression on his face. They had known each other for more than a decade. His parents had relocated to the area the same period he gained admission into the university at eighteen. She had just completed her Senior Secondary School examination then, even though she was three years younger, they became fast friends. He had also grown feelings for her over time and had been unable to express it. He watched her date several people over the years and had stood by her side as a confidant. Now that she was single again, he had better sum up the courage and open up to her. The matter on ground saddened him. She treated people badly. He feared she might end up alone and bitter.
â€œThey came to report me to you, abi? Mr. Counselor,â€ she vented.
He blinked, â€œYou know you need to change,â€ he was beginning to get upset.
â€œOh-oooh is that what Nneka told you?â€ she pointed a finger at him.
â€œShe mentioned that amongst other things, butâ€¦â€
â€œAh-ha!â€ she jumped down from the bed, â€œThat Ibo girl, Miss. Einstein, she thinks she knows everything and feels she can advise me at will.â€
He placed a hand on his forehead, closed his eyes and gave a shake of head.
â€œCharles or whatever he calls himself, I just asked him to look for another job for me and he went ballistic. What sort of a friend is that? Ehn?â€ she placed her hands on her hips and drilled him with her raging eyes.
He raised his head, â€œHow many jobs has he helped you to get?â€
â€œHow many did you retain?â€ he pointed a finger at her.
â€œWhat sort of a question is that?â€
â€œWhat is wrong with you?â€ he got up, â€œDonâ€™t you think that something is seriously wrong with you?â€ he confronted her.
â€œYou are the one that something is wrong with,â€ her voice rose a pitch, â€œIf you are here to insult me, you better go home, that is the door,â€ she pointed at the open door.
â€œYou have a problem, a very big problem. You canâ€™t keep a single job; it is one complain or the other.â€
â€œAnd so?â€ she clapped her hands, â€œWhat is your business?â€
â€œWhy do you think all the guys you were supposed to marry left you?â€
â€œYou are mad!â€ his words hurt her, â€œYou are crazy!â€ she gave him a push.
He backed away. He could see the pain in her eyes. He didnâ€™t mean to hurt her.
â€œHow dare you come to my house and start vomiting rubbish!?
Someone hurried into the room. They both turned towards the door and saw Lolly. She had a worried look on her face.
â€œGranny, I donâ€™t ever want to see this young man in this house again,â€ she glanced at her.
Lolly frowned and shook her head, â€œThis is my house. I decide who goes and who stays.â€
â€œFine, fine, well played,â€ she clapped her hands and paced the room, â€œDo whatever you like. But you,â€ she met his pale gaze, â€œDonâ€™t come here looking for me. Stay away from me, you hear!â€
He sighed heavily. Their fights and quarrels were always heated, although she was always remorseful afterwards. Nneka, Joy, and Charles had probably gotten tired of her and stayed away. Maybe he should do the same. He wished it was that easy.
â€œWhat are you waiting for? Go way! Leave me alone!â€ she pushed him towards the door.
â€œIbinabo stop it! What has come over you?â€ her grandmother glared at her.
â€œPlease stay out of this,â€ she eyed the elderly woman.
â€œNot this time. Do you want to chase all your friends away?â€ Lolly stood, akimbo.
â€œIt is my decision.â€
Tjay turned around and headed out.
â€œTjay,â€ Lolly held him by the hand, â€œI am sorry.â€
He met her saddened stare, â€œIt is okay ma. Your grand-daughter needs help.â€
Ibinabo marched towards the doorway, â€œYou are very, very stupid for saying that!â€
Lolly stared back at her in shock. Amongst her friends, Tijani was the closest. Why was she so angry with him?
Tjay caught a glimpse of her and walked out.
She hissed and returned to bed. She lay on her side and covered her body with a wrapper.
Lolly looked heavenwards. She had been taking care of Ibinabo since she was five. Her son and his wife abandoned her and went in search of wealth and fame many years ago. They bought a house for her and sent her monthly allowance so that she could take care of the girl. Money wasnâ€™t everything. She had decided to send the girl back to her parents in Europe when she completed her Secondary school education, but, the couple died in a plane crash on one of their numerous journeys. Their entire wealth was in a Swiss account in the girlâ€™s name. She had not been able to tell her, fearing that she might squander it all. She had hoped that she would change, but, had worsened over the years. She was at her wits end.
God what am I going to do with her?
She sighed heavily.
â€œGranny please shut the door. I want to sleep.â€
She dropped her head and glanced at the figure on the bed, â€œIt is almost noon dear.â€
â€œJust go away!â€ Bina pulled the wrapper over her head.
The seventy-five-year-old woman sighed again and backed out of the room.
She stood outside His Majesties Kitchen, a Chinese restaurant, on Town Planning Way, Ilupeju. It had been raining heavily and most of the buses plying the route refused to stop. If only she could get a bus to the next junction, she would be able to board a bike or another bus home. She lived at Mafolukun, Oshodi; she was a bit far from home. If it wasnâ€™t raining, she would have been able to trek to the bridge and board a bus to Mafolukun. She wished she had extra money; she would have chartered a taxi. She had spent her weekly allowance and it wasnâ€™t even weekend yet. How was she going to survive? Her Grandma had warned her concerning how she spent money. If only she had listened. Now, she was drenched, cold and stranded. She wished she had stayed home that day. How was she to know that it would rain? She wasnâ€™t a soothsayer or a witch.
She told her Grandma that she needed a car. The woman could afford it. Yet, she declined her request. She complained that the last car she bought for her didnâ€™t last a year. She doesnâ€™t allow her to drive her green Honda Element. The pathetic old woman wished her all sort of suffering. If her parents were still alive, she believed that they wouldnâ€™t deny her whatever she wanted, no matter how many times she asked. She was already thirty, yet, the old witch refused to give her details of her inheritance. What was she waiting for anywhere, until she was dead and buried?
â€œHello,â€ a black Prado Jeep stopped beside her. The side window was a bit lowered.
She narrowed her eyes and stared back at the driver, but, she didnâ€™t recognize him.
â€œCan I give you a ride?â€
She nodded her head. God truly loved her. He sent her an angel in disguise at the nick of time. She had thought of calling her Grandmaâ€™s driver, Martins. If he wasnâ€™t running any errand, he might have been able to pick her up. She pulled at the side-door, it was not locked. She climbed into the vehicle and shut the door.
â€œWhere are you heading to?â€ he addressed her.
She glanced at his brown square shaped face, â€œI am going to Mafolukun.â€
â€œNot my direction, but, I donâ€™t mind dropping you off,â€ he swerved the car back to the road.
â€œThank you,â€ she smiled at him. He appeared to be cool, calm and collected. His blue Hacket short-sleeve tee-shirt attested his well-muscled body. She wasnâ€™t a fan of skinny or fat men. She liked them tall, handsome with muscles and all.
He sensed her perusal and directed his gaze at her, â€œYou are welcome. You are dripping wet.â€
â€œHmmâ€¦â€ she sighed and thought that he must be worried about his car seat.
â€œI live in Ilupeju. You can change into something dry at my place, and then I will take you home later.â€
She thought to herself. She doesnâ€™t think it would be a good idea to go home with someone she didnâ€™t know.
â€œI am a Medical Doctor, I am concerned about your health,â€ he returned his attention to the road.
â€œOhâ€¦ I see,â€ If she followed him home and he tried anything funny, she would show him that no one messes with her and goes scot free, â€œOkay, letâ€™s get me warmed up.â€
He chuckled and turned the car into a street. He stopped outside a two story building and honked thrice. A security guard in red and white uniform with blue stripes opened the white gate. He drove into the compound and parked in-between two other cars. They climbed out of the vehicle and walked into the building. He led her into one of the flats on the second floor and unlocked the door. She noticed that he was about five feet eight inches, exactly two inches taller than she was.
â€œWelcome to my humble home,â€ he bowed comically.
She giggled and walked around the large sitting room. It looked homely. The curtains, rug and furniture were in shades of cream and brown. The electronics were sophisticated and everything she laid her eyes on spoke wealth.
â€œLetâ€™s get you warmed up.â€
She turned towards him and noticed that he was easy on the eyes. She could swear on her parentsâ€™ grave that he had a lot of female admirers.
â€œPut your wet clothes in the washing machine, when it is dry, you can iron it.â€
â€œOkay,â€ she followed him into one of the bedrooms, â€œCan I dry my shoes too?â€
â€œYes. There is a big tee-shirt in the wardrobe. She can wear that until your clothes are dry.â€
â€œI will make us tea,â€ he backed out of the room and close the door behind him.
She looked around her. The bed was well made and the room looked spick and span. She made a mental note to organize her room when she got home. She went into the bathroom and got out of the wet clothes and shoes. She found the tee-shirt in the wardrobe and put it on. She looked ridiculous. It was three times her size. At least her hair was in weaves, in an all-back style. It wouldnâ€™t come undone. She packed her wet clothes and shoes and joined him in the kitchen. He put her clothes into the washing machine and turned on the dryer knob. He filled two big mugs with hot water, dropped in bags of Lipton tea and added milk and sugar. They returned to the sitting room and settled on a long chair. The hot tea made her feel warm. She relaxed and thanked God that the stranger stopped to give her a ride.
â€œMy name is Erhumu Ogheneochuko, my friends call me Eru.â€
She met his friendly gaze, â€œI am Ibinabo Udeme, and you can call me Bina.â€
He sipped at the hot liquid, â€œWhat brought you to this area?â€
She sighed, â€œA job interview.â€
He raised an eyebrow, â€œWhatâ€™s your discipline?â€
She stared back at him, â€œBusiness Administration.â€
He nodded and took a long drink.
â€œWhere do you work?â€