“Richard, did you just slap me? Over some smelling bush girl?” Cynthia looked more disappointed than upset.
She threw her items to the couch and stormed off into their room.
Richard dropped on the couch and sank deep into it. His heart was racing and he felt dizzy. He leaned out of the chair and buried his face in his hands.
Stella crept away.
The sound of rolling plastic wheels on tiled floor jerked Richard alert.
Cynthia’s eyes scanned the space. “Stella!”
“Take this downstairs.”
Stella’s eyes grew wider. “Ma?”
“I said take the box downstairs!”
Stella began to roll the tall box away.
Richard stood up. He felt a sharp icy quiver and nearly lost balance.
Cynthia opened her hand bag and started throwing the items she left on the couch inside. Her set of white headphones went in last.
“Baby.” Richard made to hold her.
She pushed his hand away and disappeared through the door.
That night when she called Vanessa from her room in her father’s house in GRA Ikeja and told her what had happened, what Stella had told her and how Richard had slapped her “on top of it”, Vanessa did not get mad.
She only asked her to calm down that she would come by and see her tomorrow.
But the most surprising thing was that Vanessa went to see Richard first.
Stella opened the door for her.
“Good morning, Ma.”
“Where is your master?
“Oga is in his room.”
Richard came out wearing his long sleeping robe which Cynthia often teased him that he looked like a magician from Middle Earth in it. He finally stopped wearing the garment but he did not allow Cynthia to throw it away like she did any of his wearables she asked him to stop wearing.
“Oh my god, Richard you look so stressed out.”
“How are you, Vanessa?” Richard said. He tried to smile but failed. His entire face was without life, like when one had drank poison and just waiting for death.
He sat down and Vanessa quickly joined him in the couch.
“Richard, you look awful really.” Her hand was on his thigh.
Richard tried again to smile. It was more productive this time, at least. “I’m ok.”
“Oh no, you are not. I mean look at you.” She reached to straighten the collar of his garment.
Richard nodded, projecting a near moronic face.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you back in no time. It’s just a minor complication. Things will be okay.”
Richard so wanted to ask her what in god”s name she was saying or even what she had really come to do, but he dithered.
Vanessa turned to collect the wine glass from Stella. Her face twisted. “And you, you are the maid, are you not?”
“Why did you tell your Madam that your master slept in Mma’s room. Is that part of your job, gbo?”
Stella went still like rock.
Richard’s brows rose at her. “Stella, did you say anything to your Madam?”
Stella was shivering and stammering.
After Richard barked at her to go inside and pack her things and she entered the room, Vanessa rubbed Richard’s chest and told him to calm down and not to get himself all worked up again.
“So do you know where the girl is now?” she asked after Richard had settled back in his seat.
“I don’t know.”
“She doesn’t have a mobile, does she?”
Richard shook his head.
Vanessa sighed. “This is serious. I must say my friend has acted a bit too irrational. The poor girl was pregnant for God’s sake.” Her voice went quieter. “But then who would blame her?”
She turned to pick her wine glass.
Richard stared at her with expressionless eyes. She was short, yet not small. In fact, one would think twice before calling her short. Maybe on days she wasn’t on a high heeled shoe, which was never.
She had clean dark skin like Mma”s but then, no one could actually tell because like her friend, make-up was her close relative.
She sipped from her glass. “I think it’s best we go looking for her.”
Slight interest permeated Richard’s face. “We should?”
Vanessa nodded. “Yes.”
“But where would we start?”
“We can drive to Jibowu. That’s where those eastern people go to board bus to the East.”
Those eastern people. Richard wondered if she wasn’t from the East herself.
“She might have gone since yesterday.”
“Maybe.” She sipped her wine and dropped the glass. “Or maybe not. She could have missed her bus. And no one actually knows if she had enough cash.”
“Yes. Go change.”
“Ok.” He rose.
Stella appeared out of the hallway with her bag.
Richard counted her salary and gave her.
“Oga, you must forgive me. I did not—”
“Will you disappear from this place! That’s how you people go about breaking homes everywhere. Com”on, si ebea gbafuo osiso!”
She hissed and crossed her legs.
Richard walked quietly into the room.
Blinding rays of early morning sun hit her face and she opened her eyes.
She rose and folded her Ghana-Must-Go which she had used as pillow to her belly.
She put one palm to her mouth and yawned. Her head ached badly. It could have been hunger.
She finally rose and picked her wrapper. She must hurry to be sure she did not miss her bus again.
The only transport line she knew and trusted was “The Young” and because it’d taken quite a time for her to get the direction to the park yesterday, she’d missed the last bus.
She was informed the last bus just loaded and left only some minutes ago.
All attempts made by the desperate bus-loaders to get her to enter another bus went futile.
Mma would not listen. She had come with “The Young”, the same bus will take her back.
She finally spread her wrapper beside a silent vehicle when it was night and slept. When she gets to the village, she would tell any ear that cared to listen all about the city that never sleeps.
On her way to the The Young’s station, she saw a food seller by the corner of the road. She was very hungry so she stopped.
About four coolers, each of various size and colour, were on the table. The ones with stew or soup had oil stains on them. Behind, two benches lay facing each other. They were occupied by loud hungry customers.
The food seller, a fair, fat lady in an oil- stained dark-blue apron was spooning rice, beans, spaghetti, kpomo into plates, as the customers directed.
Often, a customer dropped an empty plate, picked a sachet of cold water or toothpick and then paid the woman before walking away.
Another would take the space.
The food seller handed the newest customer a plate of rice, beans and stew.
“Madam, I said kpomo twenty-naira.”
“Twenty-naira kpomo don finish.”
“So? Who go come pay for this one?”
The woman jerked the plate from him and transferred the kpomo into a plate.
Mma greeted her.
“I wanting to buy rice.”
“How much rice?”
“Putting one plate for me.”
“One plate, how much?”
Mma was confused.
“Madam Fuji, give me seventy-naira rice, thirty-naira spaghetti and fifty-naira beans with one strong kpomo,” a new customer that has just sat said.
When Madam Fuji finished with him, Mma quickly said, “Ok, putting seventy-naira rice and fifty-naira beans for me.”
The woman scooped some beans onto the rice. “What else?”
“Putting meat for me.”
“Kpomo or beef?”
“No, I not wanting canda. Putting meat.”
“Everything how much now?”
“Ok. Putting plantain thirty-naira to completing it two-hundred.”
A customer shifted for her and she sat.
She had finished her food and drank some water before she opened the zipper of her bag to bring out money to pay.
She saw nothing.
Copyright © Daniel Nkado 2014. All rights reserved.
Consented personally by the author to be used on Alifediary only.
Daniel Nkado is a Nigerian writer and journalist, author of bestselling Ola – The Tale of a Young Moon Maiden and founder of DNBStories.com.
Interact with him on www.dnbstories.com or @danielnkd on Twitter.