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TRIANGULAR (13)

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TUESDAY, 15TH JULY 2014

9.00am

“Pauline, please open the door. I beg you in the name of God.” Mrs. Adesuwa stood outside Pauline’s bedroom, carrying a tray of food. “You have locked yourself up since you arrived yesterday and have not eaten anything. Do you want to die in my house?”

There was no response.

She turned to her husband who was eating his food and watching the television. “Come and help me talk to your daughter, please. Maybe she will listen to you. I cannot bear that she has not eaten since yesterday.”

Her husband glanced at her. “When she is hungry, she will come out.”

“You cannot just say that. You have to tell her to come out and eat now. She needs to eat. It has been twenty four hours now.” The disillusioned mother dropped the tray and sat down beside her husband of thirty five years. “Have you tried to call her husband? He has not been picking my own calls o! That foolish boy will regret doing this to my daughter.”

Her husband kept eating without saying a word.

Mrs. Adesuwa was agitated already, but the way her husband sometimes ignored her made her really annoyed. And sometimes she found it hard not to react. “Oko mi, I am talking to you now. Why do you always do as if I do not exist? As if what I say is nonsense.”

Her husband, obviously fed up, jumped to his feet. “This woman, what else do you want me to do? Should I go and break the door down, drag Pauline out and force the food into her mouth? You already said her husband did not pick your calls. Should I travel down to Lagos and drag him here so you can beat him up?”

“That is not how I mean it.”

“Then how else do you mean it?” He shouted at her, very tired of her troubles. “If Pauline had listened to me from the start, we will not be having this problem today. Sometimes when we old people speak, the young ones think we are foolish. When problems now arise because of their own foolishness, they start running back to us for help. Let her remain there and not eat. Like I said, when the hunger has nearly killed her, she will come out.” He sat down and continued eating his food.

Mrs. Adesuwa sighed sadly. It was clear her husband was not going to render any emotional support. She stood up and walked towards the bedroom again. “Pauline. Please answer me.”

“Mama, please leave me alone.” The voice on the other side of the door was clear but sounded weak.

“But you have not eaten since yesterday.”

“I am not hungry.”

“Okay. Just open the door and let me in. I even have some fresh clothes for you. You should change from that one on you.”

There was a bit of silence before the lock turned. Mrs. Adesuwa quickly picked up the clean clothes she had placed earlier beside the door. When she saw the state of her daughter, she almost cried. “Ah! Omo mi!

“I am fine, Mama. Just give me the clothes.”

“But you don’t look fine. Maybe you should clean up and come outside for some fresh air. I also cooked your favourite food. See.” She pointed at the tray. “Yam and egg.”

Pauline looked at her mother, pitying her. The woman was trying all she could to make her feel better, but right now, nothing, no one could change what had happened. “Thank you for your effort.” She saw her father eating and ignoring them. “Good morning, Papa.”

“You are supposed to be greeting your husband this morning, not me.” He said in low tone, but clear enough for everyone not to ignore the sarcasm accompanying his words.

Her mother rose to her defense, speaking to her husband. “You are not helping the situation.”

“If you think I am going to pat and rub her back for her failed marriage, then you must be dreaming. She laid her bed. She must lie on it.”

Pauline could not say a word. She knew coming to her parent’s place would result to this. Her father would not stop letting her know how much it served her right to disobey him when she should have listened. She faced her mother, taking the clothes from her. “Thank you, Mama. Let me freshen up.”

“And eat too.” Her mother carried the tray and entered the room without seeking her permission.

“When you are done crying your eyes out, you will pick all you came with and return to your husband’s house where you should be.” Papa stared hard at his daughter. “You are not welcome under my roof.”

Pauline could not reply, stifling the tears in her throat as she closed her bedroom door. Why must Papa do that, make her sink lower than she already felt? This was the only place she could turn to, the only place she had thought she would find some comfort. And now, she was being turned away.

“Don’t mind your father. He is just being hard for no reason.” Her mother held her shoulders. “This place is your home too and you did nothing wrong coming here.” Her eyes strayed to her daughter’s scarred hands. “So, he and his new wife did this to you?”

“I don’t want to discuss this now, Mama.” Pauline started undressing.

“But you cannot hide from your troubles. We have to discuss and find a solution.”

“Not now, Mama, please.” The least thing Pauline needed now was her mother smothering her with possible solutions to a problem that could never be solved. Her marriage was over! Couldn’t Mama just understand that? Standing in only her underwear, Pauline handed her dirty clothes to her mother. “You should not waste your time bothering over what is lost.”

“But… but if only I can talk to your husband. He has not been picking my calls.”

“You have been trying whose number?” Pauline was furious. How could Mama do such a thing without her consent? “I didn’t ask you to. Do you want him to think I am begging him to take me back? He is the one that should be begging me instead. He is the one cheated!”

“But…”

“There is no but, Mama. I cannot even believe you would try calling him at all. Please leave me alone.”

Mama didn’t understand why her daughter would be angry at her. After all, she was only trying to help. “But I ….”

“Mama, I beg you in the name of God, leave me alone.” Pauline moved behind the door and opened it. “Go and meet your own husband and leave my life alone.”

Mama’s mouth was open wide in shock. What had she done to deserve this kind of treatment from Pauline? She moved towards the door with the dirty clothes in her hand. “A wise woman builds her own home, but the foolish pulls it down.”

“So now, I am foolish, abi? Please just leave. I see my coming down here is a mistake.”

As Mama got to the door, she stopped, looking very remorseful. “I didn’t mean it that way, ma binu. No marriage is perfect, child. I have been in it for almost forty years now and I can authoritatively say marriage is not an easy journey. Do you know how many times I thought of leaving your father?”

“So, what kept you waiting all these years then?” Pauline asked, getting impatient with this unnecessary talk.

Mama stared into her daughter’s eyes. “You.”

“What!”

“The time I would have left was when that terrible incident happened to you. I could not add to the problem already plaguing our family. So I chose to say. Because of you. You needed me more than ever and I needed to put you first before myself.” Mama sighed deeply. “Don’t get me wrong. I do not regret my decision. But sometimes, things happen in our lives that will require us to make some hard decisions. Decisions like staying back to fight for what is yours.”

Her words sliced through Pauline’s heart like an arrow. Staying back to fight for what was hers? Was there anything left in her marriage to George that she really wanted to stay back and fight for? There was no child to bind them together. George did not even love her anymore, and she doubted if she did love him like before, but this same man had sounded very remorseful on the phone and had come to look for her in the hospital. Didn’t that count for something? That perhaps he wanted to make amends? She shook her head. No, he did not come to make amends, because if he did, he would have been patient enough to have waited for an explanation when he found her in another man’s arms. Instead, he had stormed out like an angry bull and told her never to return home. There was nothing for her to fight for.

“Thank you, Mama, for staying back for me.” Pauline tried to close the door. “But because it worked for you does not mean it will work for me.”

Mama just shook her head with pity displaced across her face as she stepped out of the room. As soon as she stepped out, Pauline dashed straight for her phone. She sat on the bed and scrolled down her contact list to a number she had collected from one of her colleagues in the office some months ago. She dialed the number and waited for the caller to pick.

“Good morning, please am I on to Mr. Stephen?”

The picker responded.

Pauline’s hand trembled lightly. “I understand your firm deals extensively with divorce matters. Please can you explain to me how I can start the process?”

Pauline’s heart beat faster as she listened carefully to the lawyer, each word sounding like a death sentence. “Okay, how soon can I sign the forms?”

 

*************************************

9:30am – Lola Williams’ Office

 

“So once we are able to reach our target audience effectively with this social media campaign, the other parts will be a walk in the park.” The young Marketing Executive, looking immaculate in his navy blue suit, looked round the room checking for approval on the faces on the Committee members. He especially was interested in one face – that of the Director of the Company.

Mrs. Lola Williams snapped out of her reverie when the sound of claps stormed her ears. She looked up to see the expectant face of the young Executive fixed on hers as if he was expecting her to clap as well. Quickly, she fixed a smile on her face and the man relaxed. Truth was she could not recall his presentation. He had hardly started before her attention drifted. Since last night, she had been trying to reach Charles, but he never picked, only for her to wake up this morning to get a text message from him stating he would call her within the hour. That was four hours ago and still no call. Maybe he was busy, she kept telling herself, but with every passing minute, she knew he may never call at all. Every time her phone blinked, she would nearly jump out of her skin, thinking it was her son only for her to be disappointed over and over again. She desperately needed to talk to him, to beg him to come home, to tell him of what she had been hiding from him, of the disease that could take her life if he chose to ignore her plea.

“So, what do you think, Ma? Do you like the overall campaign strategy?” Rose, her Personal Assistant and Secretary in the Committee, whispered into her ears. “I think it’s a very good one.”

“If you think so, Rose, then it must be.” Lola replied with a wave of her hand. As hard as she tried to hide her lack of enthusiasm, she couldn’t. There was a heavier matter on her mind right now. She stood up with a forced smile pasted across her face. “Good job everyone. Let’s take a break and have a final discussion tomorrow, okay?”

The group dispersed, leaving her and Rose in the Board Room.

“Are you okay, Ma? You look like your mind was far away throughout the meeting.” Rose asked kindly as she packed up all the paper work.

“I am fine, Rose. Thank you.” Lola replied sweetly.

Her phone rang and she nearly screamed when she saw who the caller was. She immediately instructed Rose curtly. “Can you excuse me, please? I need to take this call privately.”

Rose quickly packed what was left and hurried out of the room. If her boss just told her she was fine, the way she had reacted to that phone call proved otherwise.

Immediately Rose shut the door after her, Pauline clicked the green button. “Charles! Is this the ‘within the hour’ you promised?”

“Hi, Mum. Why the attack? I just got to the office now.” Charles did not sound pleased. “Why do you always make me feel like I make a mistake anytime I call you?”

“Anytime you call me? And who is supposed to be the one angry here? I have been calling you since yesterday and you refused to pick my calls.”

“I was on shift and had multiple surgeries to do. I didn’t even know where my phone was until this morning and the first thing I did when I located it was to send you a message.”

“Yes. That you would call me ‘within the hour.” Lola stressed the last three words emphatically.

“Well, I dozed off. I was very tired.”

“But why are you doing this to me, Charles?” Lola tried to hold back the tears.

“Doing what to you again? Mum, you know how terrible this place is, how I have to work tooth and nail to feed my family and the useless government. If I do not pick your calls does not mean that I intentionally did not want to pick, but that I am busy to even notice the phone ring.”

“But that’s terrible! That isn’t even a life. If you had listened to your father and I about your taking over the family business, maybe you would not have to work this hard to have a good life.”

“Oh! Drop this, Mum! Is this what your calling me is all about? To try again to convince me to give up my own dreams and continue my father’s?”

Lola cleared her throat. “Well, that is part of it.”

“Well, that one will not work and if the other part is to beg me to come home so you can see my face, I am sorry that may not work again. At least for now.”

Lola was confused. “But… but you said you would come home next month.”

“Well, I tried to work on my schedule, but I found out that my coming home next month may not be as possible as I thought. I discovered there are some major surgeries that have been booked next month and the people are relying on me. I cannot disappoint them.”

“But you can disappoint your mother?” Lola was disillusioned as she paced from one end of the room to the other. “I guess your mother isn’t as important as your patients then.”

“Don’t play with my emotions, Mum. You know how much you are important to me and how much I love you.”

“Then prove it.”

“Yes, I will. That is why I have called Aunty Ope to come and stay with you for a while.”

“You called your father’s younger sister to come and stay with me?” Lola hit hard on the wall with her bare hand. “Is she my son? And did I tell you I do not have enough capable hands to take care of me?”

“Those capable hands are not family. Aunty Ope is family. She will take my place till I visit. I trust her.”

Lola clamped her lips together, shutting off the lethal words that were at the tip of her tongue. How dared he call her in-law into this matter? She asked him for proof of his love for her and this was the best he could do? “Just as you called your Aunt the first time, you will call her again and tell her not to step a foot into my house, you hear me? I don’t want to see her in any radius of the house.”

“I don’t get you, Mum. You ask for attention and I am giving it to you. Still you are not satisfied. What else do you want from me?”

Lola could not keep the tears back anymore. They spilled down her face without control. “Never mind, Charles.”

“I hate it when you get this way.”

There was a moment of silence on both ends of the line as each tried to make some sense out of the jumble.

After over a minute, Charles spoke. “Mum, are you still there?”

“One of your kidneys.”

“What! I don’t understand.”

“You asked me what else I wanted from you. Can I at least get a kidney since I cannot get your heart?”

Charles burst into a bout of laughter. “You really are funny, mum. The way you weave our talk makes me laugh. I see why dad couldn’t do without you. You have a great sense of humour. Can I call you back later in the day? Something just came up.”

Lola cut the call abruptly, angry that her son would make mockery of her request. How more insensitive could he be? She laid her back against the world, breathing in and out deeply and fighting the pains of rejection she had just received from her own flesh and blood. She scrolled through her phone looking for the details of her lawyer. Once she got it, she dialed his number. It was time she did another amendment to her Will.

 

 

*******************************************

1.05pm

“I cannot take care of it. It is your problem.” A woman clad in a neck plunging blouse and skirt that did nothing to cover her nakedness held out a baby wrapped in a filthy cloth.

“You call the baby ‘it’ like she is not a human being?” A man looking very unkempt and disorganized at the news replied.

“If you had used a condom like every normal person, this would not have happened. I have done my part for nine months. It is your turn to do yours. I cannot even give her the life she deserves.”

“How am I sure she is even my child, considering your line of business? She can as well be hundreds of other men’s.”

“Don’t be ridiculous! She is your child. I got pregnant after I slept with you!” The woman dropped the baby carelessly on the bare floor. The baby started crying and she stepped further away from it. “She is your problem now. Don’t call me because you will not find me. I am leaving Lagos and not coming back. I don’t care what you do with her. She is none of my business.” She turned and started walking away.

“Wait, Lorita!” The man chased her. “Where do you think you are going? Come back here, now!”

The cry of the baby became louder and the man had to stop chasing and walked back to the baby. She looked very dirty like she had not been bathed for days. He bent down and picked her and she wailed even more, the splitting sound causing some ache in his head.

“You little imp!” He spat on the child. “You have come to make my life a living hell. You will regret this.”

As if on cue, the baby cried the more and the man thought about leaving her on the lonely, dark road to die. The slut had claimed the baby was his, but he knew that was one in a thousand chances.

“I will keep you for one day. Just one day. And if I find you are more of a trouble than you are already, then I will kill you myself.” He placed the baby on his left shoulder and walked down the street, hoping no one had seen the exchange and regretting ever walking into an hotel ten months ago and meeting the baby’s mother. The woman whom he would never see again.

“Aunty Bola!”

Bola’s eyes shot open at the voice. She had been having the usual dream she always had. The dream about her mother and how the woman had left her with Baba. Though she was not sure exactly how it happened, but she had pictured it over and over on her mind that it began to look real and had begun to dream about it too. Sometimes she wondered if her mother ever regretted that decision, if she missed her little girl and would ever want to return into her life again. She had said in the dream she would never return. And for many years Bola had waited for her. She never did return. She never would.

“Aunty Bola! You have a call.” Tomiwa handed the ringing phone over to her.

Bola sat up straight on the balcony where she had spent most of the morning, thinking about her life before she eventually fell asleep. “Who is it?” She asked.

“I don’t know.” Tomiwa replied and didn’t wait for more questions before he dashed from the balcony back into living room.

Bola looked at the details and was a bit afraid when she saw ‘no number’. She placed the phone against her ear. “Hello.”

There was a heavy breathing on the other line. “So you think you can just walk away and go scot free, right?”

“Excuse me? Who are you?”

“Your unfinished business.”

Bola tried to stand on her feet. “I don’t know you. Who are you?”

“I sent you to deliver a package and you mess everything up for me. Worse still, you have the police chasing me up and down. You are a fool, girl and you will pay for it.”

Bola stammered, fear completely overtaking her. “Bo…. Bo… Bosco?”

The man laughed sarcastically. “You mean the Bosco you put in the police cell? No, I am not Bosco. I am his boss.”

“Chair… Chairman?”

“Well, some people call me that.”

“What do you want from me?” Bola’s voice trembled. What would this man want with her? She had only met him once at the party Bosco had dragged her to and was not even aware he was also involved in the drug deal. Bosco never mentioned him.

“This isn’t just about what I want from you, but also what you need from me.”

“I don’t understand.”

“My contact told me you were taken into the house of a rich woman, in fact, one of the wealthiest families in the country. Am I right?”

How did he know that? Bola could not imagine how he got to know. “I don’t care what your contact told you. What are you calling me?”

“That means I am right.” The man spoke slowly as if he was in no hurry to end the call. “You see you have something I want and I have something you need.”

“What are you talking about? I don’t have anything with you!” Bola yelled into the phone.

“Are you sure about that?”

“Please leave me alone and don’t call me again!”

“Why don’t you stay calm and listen to what I have to offer.”

“You don’t have anything to offer me. In fact, you are disturbing me right now.”

“Really? How about I tell you that I have your father with me and will kill him right now if you do not do what I need you to do.”

“What!” Everything stood still for Bola. “What… what are you saying?”

“Your stupid father has been captured by my men and is here with me. I will kill him unless you do what I say.”

“You are lying! My father is not with you. Your threat is not going to work.”

“You took what I wanted. Do you know how much that drug exchange would have brought me? Nothing less than N30millin. You hear me, N30million! And you messed everything up for me. If you ever want to see your father again, here is what you will do.”

Bola could hardly concentrate. “I don’t believe you. My father is safe away from you.”

“You think so? Why don’t you speak to him then?”

Bola could hear her heartbeat in her ears. This was not happening at all. To think that when her life was beginning to have a meaning, something like this would come up.

“Bola! Bola!” It was unmistakably Baba’s voice. “I don’t know these men. They just came to pick me up this morning at the beer parlour. Please do whatever they tell you to do. They said they will kill me. Please I don’t want to die.” Baba started crying. “Please…”His voice trailed away.

“You heard him, didn’t you and is he your father or not?” His captor smirked into the phone. “Now, this is what I want you to do if you ever want to see your father again. You hear me??”

Bola visibly trembled as she took in his words one after the other. The sheltered world she thought she finally had began to crumble one brick after the other until everything turned into sinking sand. She clamped her hand over her mouth to shut the shriek at the tip of her tongue. Why would the world turn against her again? Would she ever be free of her dark past? Bitter tears rolled down her cheeks. No, it appeared she would never be free. She would forever be haunted like a fugitive. And after what she had been asked to do, she was afraid she could be more. A fugitive and worse, a traitor to those who she had begun to love.

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TRIANGULAR (10)

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SUNDAY, JULY 13TH 2014

2.15pm

George was restless. As restless as a hungry lion. What happened this morning had set his body on a fire that would not quench. When he saw the way his wife’s body had peeled from the hot water and how she had writhed in pain, something within him snapped and a secret he had thought was buried had come haunting him. When Pauline had declared how much she hated him, her words had seared his heart, leaving a big hole that would never be filled. Truth was it was he that should have borne the scar. It was he that should have suffered all the years. It was he that should be asking for forgiveness. It was he that…

Dim, abeg come help me rub my back. You know say this belle no easy.” Nneka sat beside him on the double-couch.

George did not move an inch, his eyes staring into the empty space.

Nneka noticed his still expression. “Dim, you still dey angry with me? No be your fight I fight? That ogbanje no wan leave, so I use force push am out.” She moved closer to him, rubbing his chest. “Okay, no vex. But you suppose know say na my love for you and our pickin make me do am.”

George cast two cold eyes on her. “Our pickin?”

“Yes, our pickin. Abi you no want am again?” Nneka studied his expression and did not like what she saw.

George took her hands off him and stood up from the couch. “Don’t follow me.” He ordered as he walked to his bedroom.

Nneka was confused and wondered what it was she did wrong. She was trying to protect him from that foolish Pauline and now he looked like he was actually angry at what she did. Truth was when she came back and met them talking, she had been very scared and had acted out of fright. What would become of her if the man and his wife reconciled? She did not want to go back to the village and be called all sorts of names. And what about the baby? It was his, after all, wasn’t it? A little guilt sneered at her. You dey sure? You don forget your different escapades with Azuka and Obi?  She shook her head. No, this baby was George’s. She had it while with him, under his roof, and no matter what it would cost, she had every right to stay in this home. Her place was beside George now and if she had to repeat what she did this morning, she would do it with joy. No ogbanje would take her place.

George locked the door quietly behind him and headed straight for his cellphone on the bed. He needed to make a very important call, one he had been avoiding for a while now. He dialed the number and waited for the call to be picked.

“Hi, George. What’s up? Been a while.”

“There is trouble, Femi.” George was in no mood for nitty-gritty.

The person on the line took the cue. “What is it?”

“It’s Pauline.”

“What! Does she know?”

George released a frustrated sigh. “No. I haven’t told her.”

“Then what is the problem?”

“It’s the silence, Femi. I thought I had gone past this, but it has come back to haunt me.”

“You know I told you to tell her from the beginning, but you refused.”

“Well, it was better to keep quiet about it and save my marriage than speak up and destroy it.”

Femi could feel his friend’s disappointment across the phone. “Well, so what do you want me to do? Tell her for you? You know it isn’t my responsibility to do that. I am your doctor, not your mouth-piece.”

“You are making feel more terrible, Femi.”

“You should be. You better go and tell her now before it is completely late.”

“It is late already. Pauline moved out of the house. Actually, I sent her out of the house. Another woman lives with me now and she is pregnant.”

“What!” Femi sounded stunned. “You know that isn’t your baby, right?”

There was some silence on both ends. George staggered backwards and fell on the bed. The way Femi had plunged the truth at him had left him dazed.

“George, are you there?”

“Yes, I am.”

“I am sorry your marriage had come to this, but if you had listened to me and had told Pauline before now, perhaps, she would have been understanding. That woman loved you, George, but it is clear you took her love for granted. You are my friend and I must tell you the truth.”

“Oh God!” George felt like crying.

“That baby you think is yours isn’t. You have got to send that woman packing and bring your wife back.”

“That would not be easy.”

“Well, you should have thought about that before you sent Pauline out.” Femi sounded very serious. “God gave you an egg to protect, but you threw it on the floor that it broke and you know how hard it is to get spilled egg together, but it isn’t impossible. You can have a second chance.”

“Thank you, Femi. I’ve got to go and get my wife back.”

“Good. Guess my work is done.” Femi concluded before he cut the call.

George jumped off the bed and picked his car keys on the drawer. Then he dashed out of the room.

“Where you dey go?” Nneka came out of the kitchen with a cup of water in her hands.

“I am going to bring my wife back and before I return, make sure there is no trace of you in this house. If I return and find you around, ten buckets of hot water is the least you will suffer from.” He walked out the door and down the stairs hastily as fast as his legs could carry him. Femi had mentioned a second chance. Maybe he still had a shot at it. Maybe his wife would still forgive him if she still had a soft spot for him. He brought out his phone and dialed her number. He would gather what was left of the egg and make the best use of it. Give me a second chance, Jesus. Make my wife love me again.

********************************************

2.35pm

“Ola!” The name tore out of Pauline’s lips before she could realize it. “You are here!” She fought with all her willpower not to get out of the chair and jump into his arms.

Ola dropped the full paper bag in his arms, shocked at the bandaged arm. “I thought you said it was only a minor accident.” He moved closer to her, his face etched with worry. “What happened to you?” Then he noticed the tensed atmosphere in the hospital, the uniformed police officers who carried a man who looked half-dead and covered with blood out of the building. “What also happened here? There is a little crowd in front of the hospital too.”

Pauline stood up. “You won’t believe any of it, if I told you. Please let’s go inside.” She led him out of the reception to the room where she had been admitted. “I am just glad no life was lost. That man they carried out came into this place to kill a young girl just next door.”

“What! For what reason?”

“I don’t know the exact details, but what I picked up was that it involved drug business. I think the girl messed up the plan and the man was sent to kill her before she could expose the people involved.”

“What a mess!”

“Yes.” Pauline sat on the bed. “But it’s okay and I’m glad you are here.” Her eyes flew to the bag in his hands. “And you got something for me.”

Ola smiled. “Well, it was not really what I wanted to get, but it was the best I could lay my hands on.” He placed the bag on the bedside drawer and emptied the content.

“Beverages and drinks.” Pauline tried to hide her disappointment. What else did she expect? That was what a friend would bring his sick pal.

“Well, and I got this too.” Ola brought out the last item. It was a yellow rose inside a beautifully-designed get-well-soon card. “Just to make your day more cheery.”

Pauline collected the item with trembling hands. He got her a rose? That communicated something deeper than what she thought, even if it was just a yellow rose. “Thank… Thank you so much. I… I really appreciate this.” Her eyes caught his and they held for a minute, before she became uncomfortable and averted hers. “Thank you for your care, Ola.”

Ola closed his eyes for some seconds, trying to gain control of himself. Did he just feel some current pass between them? Did he just notice how her eyes went all soft and inviting as if she was communicating something to him? She had appreciated him for his kind gesture, but deep within himself he knew he wanted to do more, to be more. But Pauline had built a hard shell around herself, as if she did not want anyone close to her at all. Starting from when they met at the University, when he had been her fellowship’s pastor, to the time of the rape incident and especially after that, Pauline had made it clear by her actions she did not trust anyone anymore. And when he had tried to be close and develop a relationship with her, he had always met with a brick wall. So he had recoiled and always acted out the part of the fellowship pastor, and nothing more, though sometimes he had wished he could be more. But her cold attitude had driven him away, and the fear that she may not want to be more than he wanted her to be had kept him apart from her all these years, coupled with a conscious effort to forget about her and carry on with his new life. When he stumbled upon her picture on Facebook, he could not resist the urge to reach out to her again and the business trip was just perfect timing. So he had made the call he did not want to make and here he was. When he eventually met her again last Friday, the feelings he thought he had overcome had come flooding back. But as much as he tried to reach out, she still tried to hold back from him, as if she was protecting herself from him. She should, because his feelings for her was dangerous, not only to both of them, but also to their families. She had a happy family with two beautiful girls and an adoring husband and he… well, he had his own family too, though he hardly saw his kids after the divorce, no thanks to his wife having custody of them. He needed to get out of here before he said something silly.

“Where is your husband?” He found himself asking as he regained control. “I thought you mentioned he was around.”

Pauline didn’t know how to respond. “He… He…”

The door opened and Ezinne walked in with a phone in her hands. She handed the phone over to Pauline. “It’s your husband. He wants to speak to you. He is on his way.”

Ola stepped back, trying to hide the disillusionment raging his body. “I should leave.” He said with a forced smile.

“Wait!” Pauline raised her hand. “Just hold on a bit for me, please.”

The way she pleaded made Ola’s heart melt, but he knew waiting was not a good decision. “Okay, I will be outside.” He concluded before walking out the door.

Pauline placed the phone against her ear. “Yes.” She sounded as cold as ice.

“Pauline, I am so sorry.” George sounded very broken over the phone. “There is something I need to tell you urgently and I am on the way to the hospital. In fact, I am almost there. Please forgive me for what happened this morning.”

“There is no reason for you to come, George. And there is nothing you want to say that will change anything. Our marriage is over. You got what you have always wanted with another woman. Please I beg you, don’t come and create more trouble for me. Go back to your new wife.”

“It is not what you think. Pauline! It is…” The line cut, leaving George more frustrated. He increased the pace of the car. He needed to get to his wife before it was too late. She sounded like it was too late.

Pauline felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction when she cut the call. Who did George think she was? That she would forgive him and forget the agonizing years in he made her life hell over a fake phone call? He must be kidding!

“That was the man you told me about, right?” Ezinne asked, pointing at the door. “He looks really cute, but we both know nothing can happen between you two.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you just spoke with your husband and I think he is coming to beg you. He sounded very sorry over the phone. I think you should give him a listening ear.”

“He never gave me a listening ear all these years. He doesn’t deserve mine.” Pauline disagreed. “You of all people knew what I went through. It is because of him I am in the hospital. I cannot believe you are taking his side, Ezinne.”

“I am not taking his side. I am just trying to find a solution.”

“Well, keep the solution to yourself.” Pauline walked towards the door. “I played the gullible wife for years. Today, I have outgrown that.”

“You are making a mistake, Pauline.” Ezinne advised. “That man out there has his own family too. You are emotionally distraught right now and are prone to take some actions you may regret later.”

“When you are married, Ezinne, or if you ever will, and you go through what I have gone through and survive, then you can have all the right in the world to advise me on how to solve my problems, okay?” Pauline opened the door and stormed out angrily.

Who was Ezinne to judge or advise her? Pauline thought furiously. Ezinne was her friend, not her counselor. It was she who wore the shoe that would know where it pinched. It was she who bore the scar of humiliation on her body. Funny how everyone usually had an opinion on other people’s matters, without minding theirs. Ezinne should get married first, before she was qualified to air her views on marriage matters. Pauline walked straight to the reception where Ola was waiting for her, as he should be. But what she saw when she arrived the room stopped her on her track.

Ola was chatting happily with the elderly woman as if they had known each other before. When he turned and saw her, he stretched his arms at her. “Come here, please Pauline. Let me introduce you to this wonderful woman here.”

Pauline walked slowly to them, her eyes never leaving the woman’s.

“Mrs. Williams, please meet Pauline, my good friend.” Ola introduced before he turned to Pauline. “Pauline, meet Mrs. Williams, my elementary school teacher over thirty years ago. Isn’t that amazing? She did not change much at all.”

Lola appeared calm as she stretched her hand for a handshake. When she felt the hands of the younger woman, she sensed some stiffness. “Nice to meet you again.”

Pauline muttered a rigid response, her eyes still on Mrs. Williams, and still wondering how this could have come to be. She never would have thought, in her wildest dreams, that Ola would know this woman, this woman who liked poking her nose in other people’s affairs. When she first saw the woman and her ‘goddaughter’ thief-girl, she knew they were trouble and had tried as much as possible not to cross their path. She had failed, falling into her arms like a pack of stick.

“I need to leave now, Mrs. Williams. It’s so good to run into you again.” Ola gave Lola a big hug.

“Good to know God has made you great, Ola. Don’t ever forget to serve Him more.” Lola patted his back.

Ola turned his attention to Pauline and was short of words for a second. He pulled her into a deep embrace, whispering aloud. “Take care of yourself, Pauline.”

Pauline relaxed into those strong, protective arms as if she belonged there. She had never felt safer, more loved at that moment. It was as if she should remain there, as if that was where she was meant to be. Her arms tightened around him and she could feel a tear trying to slip from her eyes.

“WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?”

The trio looked at the entrance and saw a big man standing there, looking very angry as if he just witnessed something he hated to see.

“George!” Pauline drew out of the embrace.

“You better start explaining to me what is going on here before I lose my temper permanently.” George walked into the reception, looking every bit like an irritated animal. He turned to face Ola, who looked very confused. “What were you doing holding my wife in your arms like that?”

“You are her husband?” Ola pulled back.

“It isn’t what you think, George.” Pauline tried to defend them.

George looked like he just got a blow to his heart. “I cannot believe what I just saw. I thought I was coming here to get another chance with you. I didn’t know I was coming here to get a broken heart, to see you in the arms of another man.” He spat at Pauline. “I was right all along. You are guilty of adultery, you love another man.” He shook his head pitifully. “No wonder you were eager to make me not to come here. You could not wait to be with your boyfriend.”

“You know that is not true, George.” Pauline retorted at the top of her voice. “You sent me out of our matrimonial home, remember? You felt I was barren and got another woman who is now pregnant for you, remember? Your new wife poured hot water on me that got me into this hospital, remember?” Pauline pointed a finger at him. “You have no right to come here and accuse me of adultery when you yourself are guilty of same.”

“It’s okay!” That came from the elderly woman. Lola could not believe how things were turning out. “We can settle this elsewhere, not in an hospital.”

“But you told me you had kids. Mary and Martha you called them.” Ola asked Pauline. “You were lying to me?”

Pauline didn’t know what to say. She shook her head, words escaping her mind. Tears gathered in her eyes. “It is now what you think, Ola. Please let me explain.”

“No, there is no need.” Ola stepped away from her. “I don’t want to be part of this charade. He looked from one person to the other. “Excuse me, please.” He walked towards the exit and when he passed by George, he stopped. “And I am not her lover. Never has, never will.” He walked out of the hospital without a backward glance.”

“Don’t even think of coming back home.” George told Pauline. “We were a mistake from the start.” He turned his back and walked away.

Pauline broke down on the floor, very flustered and confused. Soon, the tears starting falling like a flood. She had lost everything. EVERYTHING.

Lola watched the younger woman weep away and her heart broke. She wished she could help, but the poor woman had always snubbed her. She dipped her hands into her purse and brought out a card. She knelt beside the young woman. “If you need to talk, please call me on this number. I will be glad to help you.” She stood up and walked back into the room where her ‘goddaughter’ was being prepared to leave.

Pauline stared at the paper on the floor. She didn’t want anybody poking into her life. She didn’t want any advice from anybody. She just wanted to be alone. Calling the woman was the last thing she would do, even if it was her last breath. She picked up the card and squeezed it as hard as she could. Her life was over.

 

***********************************

2.40p.m.

Bola sat rigid against the black leather seat of the car with her bandaged left leg and arm carefully tucked in comfortable positions. She was very tired and had just gone through the most horrifying moment of her life. In the last few hours, she had been forcefully involved in a drug deal, had nearly lost her life in a motor accident and had almost been murdered in cold blood by the man she thought was her way into a better life. Her life had been a roller coaster, going round and round and always ending up where she started, without a purpose. Stagnant.

She took a quick peek at the woman sitting at the other edge of the seat. The way her hands were placed calmly on her laps showed she was someone who had everything under control. She had come to Bola’s rescue before, when Bola had almost been put behind bars after her theft incident in the Mall, and here she was again, helping her out of a precarious situation. As much as she tried to deny it, Bola knew she owed the woman her life. If not for her, she wondered who she could have turned to. When the woman had stepped into the room after Bosco had been disarmed, Bola had jumped off the bed into her arms. Suddenly, the person she had once turned her back against suddenly became her only hope of safety and salvation. And for the first time in her life, she was grateful. Someone had shown great kindness to her and had not asked for something in return.

A little nudge on her left made her turn to see her little brother, sitting in the middle, smiling up at her. He looked so happy that Bola could not resist returning the smile. He had been a brave hero, her knight in shining armour, without whom everything would have gone sour. He had been the one who had made the call that would save her life. She ruffled in hair and tried to kiss him on the forehead.

“You should be careful not to stress yourself at all.” A woman, dressed in a nurse’s attire and sitting in the front seat, advised. “Today has been a long day for you.”

“For all of us, actually.” Lola replied. “Once we get home, we need all the rest we can get. It’s been an eventful day.”

Lola turned her head to the young girl. “What happened today is a miracle you should thank God for. That He brought us together again is astonishing, isn’t it? And at the point where you needed urgent help. I should get in touch with your parents and tell them where I am taking you.”

“No!” Bola yelped. Then she calmed down. “I mean you cannot tell anyone where I am.”

“Why?” Lola could not understand why the young girl would want to keep her location secret from her parents.

“I don’t have a family. It is just my brother and I.”

Lola faced her fully. “You mean you don’t have a family? What happened to them?”

“Nothing.” Bola was getting nervous. Couldn’t this woman not just stop bothering her with questions?

“Baba sent us out of the house.” Tomiwa cut in, much to his sister’s annoyance.

“And your mother?” Lola asked, a bit flustered by the response she was getting.

As Tomiwa was about to answer, Lola placed a hand above his mouth.  “Our mother died when she gave birth to Tomiwa.” She lied. “And since then we have been living with our father until he sent us packing.” If only the woman could stop asking these irritating questions.

“Why did he send you packing?”

Bola was fed up and this time, she shouted. “He didn’t want to have anything to do with us anymore! Please stop asking questions and if we will be a liability to you too, please stop the car and let us get out.”

The silence in the car was deafening and all eyes were on Bola. Bola clasped a hand over her mouth, too ashamed of the foolish words that just fell out her mouth. Now, everyone would see how ungrateful and disrespectful she was.

“It’s okay.” Lola’s words were gentle and calm. “You have gone through a lot of stress today and are going through a lot of trauma right now. It is my fault. This isn’t the right time to bug you with questions.”

Bola stared at the woman’s eyes and tears filled hers. How could the woman still be kind to her after what she just did? “I… I am sorry. I did not mean to be rude.”

Lola smiled sweetly, patting the girl’s head. “It’s okay, dear. You were only acting out of strain. I am sure when we get to know each other better in the coming days, you will find I am just trying to help. And just to get this out between us, I do not see you or your brother as liabilities, okay?”

Bola could hardly respond and she fought to hold back the tears. She turned her head, facing the window before they could spill. Right now, she was very confused at the turn of events in her life. And as much as she tried to appreciate the kindness being shown to her, it seemed the bad side of her would always show up, that side that had grown to be selfish, suspicious and scared of any benevolence directed at her, as if there was a darkness within her, holding her from reaching out to the light that shone her way. Would she ever overcome that part of her?

Lola relaxed into the seat, her eyes closed. She had been slightly shaken when the girl had shouted back at her. Everyone had. She had enough problems of her own already, and now she had to take on another person’s problems? And the person happened to be a girl who would have none of her and did not appreciate her kind gesture. This would be worse than she thought. Obviously a very bad decision on her part.

I cannot do this, Lord. I just cannot. This is more than I can handle.

Why don’t you leave that to me and do your part.

Lola opened her eyes wide as she recognized that familiar Voice. What part is mine, Lord?

It’s so simple. Simply trust Me. Is anything too hard for Me?

Nothing is, Lord. Nothing is. Lola smiled within herself as she adjusted herself into a more cozy position as her breathing became more even and sleep she had been fighting finally took over.

 

TRIANGULAR (8)

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SUNDAY, 13TH JULY 2014

9.20am – The Grace Cathedral, Ikeja

Pauline tapped her feet impatiently. She had been waiting, actually hiding in-between the cars for close to thirty minutes now and still had no sight of her husband… or his car. She knew he did not like missing church neither did he like arriving late. So something must be wrong. Church had started some twenty minutes ago and there was no sign of him. She resisted the urge to dial his number with her phone. It would make her look like she was begging and trying to get back into his life, and that was the least thing on her agenda. There was only one thing she desired – to have her revenge on the man who had taken away her joy. Quietly, she walked down to a call centre at the end of the street. She would dial his number from there so he would not be able to trace the caller. If he picked the call, then he was not in church. George always switched off his phone while in church.

“I want to make a call.” She spoke to the young girl who sat under the umbrella, waiting for customers.

The girl brightened up and quickly handed over the phone in her hand. “Good morning, ma.” She greeted with a smile.

Pauline was not in any cheerful mood, so she simply acknowledged the greeting with a nod, collected the phone and took some steps away from the girl.

She closed her eyes tightly. Should she do this? Wasn’t she harming herself more? What did she hope to gain? Wasn’t this foolishness? Maybe she should return the phone and apologise to the poor girl. On the other hand, she could be bold and dial the number and see if George picks. If he does picks, what would happen? Her thoughts were jumbled and disjointed. Maybe this was a mistake.

Her phone rang unexpectedly and she nearly dropped it out of fright. It was probably Ezinne, who had woken up and found out her distraught friend had left the house, but she was shocked when she saw the caller. It was George. She started shaking with indecision. Should she pick or not pick? Perhaps she should hold on and let this fail and then see if he would call again.

“Aunty, no be your phone dey ring so?” The call centre girl asked. “You no wan pick am?”

Pauline’s hand hovered around the green button and when the call was about to come to an end, she pressed the key.

“Hello.” She tried to make her voice as dispassionate as possible. There was no way she would make him think she was an emotional wreck.

“Pauline, where are you?” George sounded very annoyed. “Do you want to disgrace me? Why didn’t you tell me your mother was coming over for a visit?”

“My… my mother?” Pauline could not believe what he just said. She had not invited her mother over, so what was she doing in the house? “You mean my mother is there in the house?”

“Stop asking me stupid questions. Get yourself down here immediately. She has started asking some silly questions, asking after you and why another woman opened the door for her. I cannot take anymore nonsense from your family. Leave wherever you are right now and get down here immediately, you hear me?” He cut the call.

Pauline was confused. Why would her mother make an unexpected visit without first informing her? What was going on? Quickly, she handed the girl’s phone over to her, whispering incoherent apologies and ran to the nearest bus stop where she could get a bike.

“Church Street, Salvation Road in Opebi… do you know the place?” She asked a young chap wearing dark-rimmed glasses.

The boy who looked like a teenager nodded. “But that place too far o! E go cost you. You fit pay?” He asked, taking in her odd appearance.

“How much?”

The boy scratched his head. “N500.”

“Oya, let’s go.” Without waiting, Pauline jumped on the bike behind the boy. “Please go as fast as you can.”

“Alright, madam.” The boy brought the machine to life and zoomed off.

Pauline rubbed her eyes to be sure she was not dreaming, but the pounding in her veins told her she wasn’t. This was real. Her phone rang again and this time it was Ezinne, but instead of picking, Pauline decided to cut the call. Right now, she did not need her friend to stop her from doing what she wanted to do. She switched off her phone to prevent further calls.

Fifteen minutes later, she stood in front of her home and took the stairs up slowly and alert to any sudden movement. When she got to her doorstep, she raised her hand to knock but couldn’t. The fear of what laid behind the door crippled her. Maybe she should just turn back and leave, call her mother and get her out of the place, make…

The door opened without warning and Nneka was at the entrance. She had a basket in her hand as if she was going to the market. Shock played on her face when she saw Pauline, but she quickly recovered.

“I go soon come back, Uncle.” She shouted back into the house. “Madam don come.”

Almost immediately, George appeared behind her and closed the door after him. He turned his full fury on Pauline. “You and your mother are toying with me, right? You think I am a fool and don’t know what you are planning. You called your mother to come in here to beg me to take you back. But you are mistaken. Your stay in this house is over, you hear me?” He faced Nneka. “Go and find a place to stay for some hours. I will call you to let you know when to return.”

“Yes, my love.” She stood on her toes and planted a kiss on his cheek. Then she cast Pauline a contemptuous look, rubbing her belly and communicating a silent, but lethal message.

Pauline willed all her strength to restrain herself from reacting. This was not the moment to cause a scene. She had hoped that the next time she would see George, she would have the upper hand, but things had turned out the other way and against her. She waited for Nneka to get out of the audible range before she turned her full attention to George.

“Point of correction.” She started in clear, icy tones. “I did not get my mother here to beg you. I will never do that because I have no interest in spending more miserable years with you. I am as surprised as you are by her visit and had no prior knowledge. She did not even call me. So don’t blame me if you cannot handle a situation you caused yourself.”

“I don’t care what you think and it doesn’t matter whether you knew or not.” George’s eyes blazed with fire. “Point is, your mother is here and I will need you to act as if everything is fine between us. You will tell her you just took a walk down the street and are just returning. You will not, in any way, make her feel there is something wrong or that you no longer live here. I am sure you do not want her leaving here with heartache.”

“I know I have to act like the good wife and you the adoring husband, though we both know it’s all a façade. You play your part and let me play mine. This pretence is only for a short while. Soon, the whole world will know what you are trying desperately to hide. Then I will see how much pride you will have left.” Pauline walked past George into the house. She had no intention of waiting for his reply.

As she stepped into the living room, her mother walked out of the visitor’s rest room.

“Mama!” Pauline flung herself into her mother’s arms. “Mama, I have missed you.”

Mrs. Adesuwa, a women in her sixties, but who looked younger and graceful, tightened her grasp on her daughter. “Pauline, it is so good to see you.”

“You don’t know how happy I am that you are here, though you did not inform me you were coming and on a Sunday morning. What if we had gone to church early? Was it supposed to be a surprise visit? What of Papa?”

The older woman released her child. “One question at a time. Well, I am sorry. You are right. I should have informed you and your husband before coming, but you know how terrible the network is at our end sometimes, so I decided to try my luck. And here I am! Unfortunately, I shall not be staying too long as I have to return to your father today. You know how much he likes having me around.” She noticed the withdrawn look on Pauline’s face. “Are you okay? You look tired. Too much work?”

Pauline forced a smile on her lips as she studied her mother. Mama had always been the perceptive one, always sensing when something was wrong or right and always ready to proffer solutions. But this problem was one she would never be able to solve, because she would never know about it.

“I’m fine, Mama. A lot has been happening lately, but you have trained me well to be a survivor. All I need is rest and I shall be fine in no time.”

Mama drew closer to her ear. “You know this wahala you are doing could be one of the reasons of the delay. You should take some leave off work and maybe come and spend some days with me in Abeokuta. I met a man who specializes in helping barren women. I hear he is very good. You should meet him.”

George walked towards them with a tray filled with eggplants and groundnut. “Here is for the most wonderful mother-in-law in the world.”

“Oh!” Mama picked one eggplant . “How did you know this is my favourite fruit?” She smiled at George. “You know, when my daughter brought you home as the man she wanted to marry, I felt a lot of hesitation, considering you were Igbo and we were Yoruba, but I must confess you have impressed me so much. Despite the apparent delay, which we are hoping will come to an end soon, you have stuck at my daughter’s side against all odds. I am very happy she made the right decision.”

George and Pauline exchanged nervous glances.

“Well, I am the lucky man here. Marrying your lovely daughter is the best thing that happened to me.” George replied, pulling Pauline close to him and kissing her forehead. “Don’t worry, Mama. I assure you that soon, you shall carry your grandchildren. You just have a little more patience with us. We are praying about this and believe God will answer us soon.”

“Well, I believe that too.” Mama sat on one of the chairs. “I should be leaving soon. So, if there is anything you want to feed me with or send to your father-in-law, go and get them ready.”

George kissed Pauline on the forehead again. “Go and cook something delicious for Mama, honey. Let me go inside and see what we have in the house and gather for her.”

“Yes… Yes, Love.” Pauline replied rigidly as she dashed straight to the kitchen. While there, she took some seconds to do a recall of the drama that just happened. George was a very good actor… and liar. And while she desperately wanted to call his bluff, she knew she had to play along as well to fool her mother. After Mama left, she would give George a piece of her mind.

“Are you sure everything is okay between you and your husband?”

Pauline nearly jumped out of her skin at that voice. She turned and saw Mama standing at the entrance of the kitchen. “You always know how to sneak up on someone. Everything is okay… fine.”

Mama rubbed her chin. “I must have perceived wrongly. The way you stood in his arms as if you did not want him to touch you must have deceived me.”

Pauline quickly turned her face away so Mama could not see the truth in her eyes as more lies flowed out of her mouth. “I am just tired, nothing more. He is my husband and I… I love him.”

“You should consider what I told you about that Baba in Abeokuta. I told him about you and he said he can help. We can give him a try. Promise me you will come.”

“That’s the reason you came, right? To come and convince me about this man.”

“Well… yes. I needed to tell you face-to-face because I know I can never convince you over the phone. I spoke to your father about it and he is in agreement too. Your husband does not need to know if you do not want to tell him. You only tell him you are coming to visit us.”

Pauline picked an onion ball and began to slice it, a lot going through her mind. Her mother had proffered a solution she would never have considered. Going to see a native doctor was not something she wanted to do, but she knew her mother would not rest unless she gave a positive answer. “Okay, Mama. I will take some time off work and come to Abeokuta,”

“Good. That is what I want to hear. I promise you this will work.” Mama walked back to the living room with satisfaction on her face. She had achieved her goal.

An hour later, Mama was ready to leave and both husband and wife wished her a safe journey, with George accompanying her to the closest bus stop. When he returned to the house five minutes afterward, Pauline was seated on the sofa, waiting for him. She looked like a mad woman about to go on the loose and George smirked, wondering what she had on the back of her mind. He had lived with her for eight years and knew what she could do and what she could not do. He knew she did not have the guts to stand up to him. Never had, never will.

“What are you waiting for?” He asked her. “The act is over. You can go back to wherever it is you came from.”

“I am not going anywhere.” Pauline sat more comfortably into the sofa, lines of stubbornness etching her brow. “This is my home as much as it is yours.”

George was confused. “I don’t get it. An hour ago, you stated clearly how you didn’t want to spend more miserable years with me and now you are saying what? That you want to stay?”

Pauline stood up and walked towards the window, her back against him. She had felt really bad tricking her mother and when Mama had praised George and said Pauline had made the right decision to marry him, Pauline wished she had spoken out and told Mama the truth. But the way Mama looked so proud and happy had made her keep quiet and play along instead. Mama had expressed hope for her marriage and guilt had eaten her up, making her regret why she gave up so easily. Perhaps, she could have fought more for her position in the house, could have not agreed to the deceitful plan of having another woman take her place or have her mother-in-law dictate the way her family ran. Perhaps, if she had stood up and faced the situation instead of crying and feeling sorry for herself, things would not have gone this bad.

“I did not like the way we deceived my mother.” She spoke calmly. “And I feel really guilty about it.” She turned to face George. “When you said I was the best thing that happened to you, did you really mean it or were you just acting?”

George rolled his eyes, completely ignoring her question. “I am sorry I made you deceive your mother, but we had no choice. We both know our marriage has crumbled, though we try to keep it away from the world. I have tried, Pauline, haven’t I? I am growing older by the day and cannot wait for you anymore. And if God has given me a child through another woman, do you expect me to reject His blessing?”

Pauline stared hard at the floor. How could she tell him to deny the greatest miracle that ever happened to him? A miracle she had not been able to give him. “Oh, George!” She crumbled to the floor. “There is something you should know.”

“And what is that?”

“I don come back.” Nneka walked through the door to join them. She faced George, pointing at Pauline and dropping the basket in her hand. “She never go?”

“I am not going anywhere.” Pauline replied curtly.

“You have to.” George over-rided. “I cannot allow you to stay in this house and be a threat to my baby and his mother.”

“But George…”

“Please, Pauline. Don’t get over-emotional on this. That is what I want and that is what you will do.”

Pauline stood up, her eyes firm like a stone. “Then you would have to carry my dead body out of here. This is my home and nothing can make me leave.”

“You no wan leave?” Nneka pointed an angry finger at Pauline. “Wait, I dey come.” She headed for the kitchen and returned with a water flask. She sat on one of the sofa and opened the flask, pouring some very hot water into the cup as if she wanted to drink it. Without warning, she poured the content on Pauline. “You still dey here?”

Pauline screamed from the hot pain that sliced through her skin. Nneka didn’t wait as she poured more hot water on her rival. George kicked the flask out of Nneka’s hands and pushed her away from Pauline.

“Pauline!” He shouted as he grabbed her collapsing frame. “My God!” He barked at Nneka. “What have you done?”

“Now we go see if she still get mouth.” She directed her fury at Pauline. “You wan come back come use your witch kill my baby, abi? God no go allow you. Onye ochi

Pauline could hardly say a word. Terrible sting throbbed through her right arm, which had suffered most of the attack. She pushed away from George, rushing towards the exit.

George raised his hands to help her.

“DON’T TOUCH ME!” Pauline yelled at him, her throat clogged with tears. “You have always wanted a divorce. Now you’ve got one! I hate you, George, I hate you so much and curse the day I met you.” She placed her arm on the knob of the door. “You will never hear from me again.”

“Wait!” George reached out to her, but Nneka pulled him back.

“Make she carry her ogbanje go.” Nneka placed a hand on his chest. “Now you are free.” She turned his face to meet hers. “We get family to raise.’

Pauline knew when the battle was completely lost. She shook her head, amidst tears and ran all the way down. All her life had come to this. She was condemned. A complete failure. She wished she had never been born. She brought out her phone to dial Ezinne to pick her up. She saw it was shut down and wondered how hard her friend would have been trying to reach her. Immediately she put it on, another call from Ezinne came through.

Ezinne didn’t wait for Pauline to speak up. “Pauline, where are you? I’ve been to the church but no one has seen you. Are you okay? Where are you?”

“Come to Opebi and pick me up to the hospital.”

“Hospital? What did you go to do in your house, Pauline? Did he hit you?”

“It’s a long story. Just come as quickly as you can. I barely escaped with my life. It could have been worse.”

“I swear, if he has hurt you, I will strangle him myself.”

“Ezinne!”

“I’m on my way. Just stay calm, okay?”

‘Stay calm’ was not how Pauline felt now. She cut the call and moved back to the stairways, sitting on the first flight of steps. She stared at her peeled skin. It would definitely leave a scar, a reminder of how she came, she saw, and lost.

 

**********************************

11.00am

“Should I go over the instructions again just for it to sink properly into your thick skull?” Bosco spoke in native language as he drove Bola to the place where she was to drop a package.

Bola stared out of the car, trying to keep calm while her insides were screaming in terror. She looked at the small black backpack lying on her laps and shook at the thought of what laid inside. Bosco had wrapped 30 packs of cocaine into that bag and Bola was to deliver it to a stranger who will, in turn, hand over to her another bag fill with money. Her hands quaked with apprehension and sweat filled her palms. She had been given no choice but to do the job or risk losing her brother. Earlier in the day, Bosco had threatened to kill Tomiwa if she failed to do this assignment after she made another attempt to appeal to his emotions to allow them leave. He had even made the threat pointing a gun at the poor boy’s head and that had broken her heart. Tomiwa had looked as if he had seen a ghost and the horror in his eyes was one that would forever haunt her.

She took a deep breath. “I got it clearly. I am to stand at Allen Roundabout and try to act as natural as possible. A man with a red fez cap and a black suitcase would come over and stand by my side and when he says he is thirsty and needs a bottle of coke, I will know he is the one I’m waiting for. I should cautiously hand over this bag and wait for him to check the content. If he is satisfied, he will hand over the suitcase to me. I am then to walk down back to the car where you will be waiting to take me back home.”

“Great. Make sure you do not make any silly mistake.” Bosco glanced briefly at her. “You know what will happen if you do.”

Bola’s hands tightened into a fist. “I am well aware and will do this right. Just keep my brother safe.”

“Well, that depends on you.” Bosco made the turn into Awolowo Way and took a quick look at his wristwatch. “We are almost there. The appointment is at 11.30.”

They passed through the front of the Ikeja City Mall and a memory rose up on Bola’s mind. She remembered the old woman who had tried to help her, give meaning to her life, but she had been despicable. She wondered what could have happened if she had allowed help into her life. Instead, she had been an ingrate and had blocked, perhaps, her only chance at a good life. She would not be in a drug business neither would she have her life and that of her brother hanging on a balance. She regretted turning her back against the ‘angel’ that waltzed into her life. She deserved everything happening to her now.

Five minutes later, Bosco parked the car at Allen Bus Stop and asked her to alight. “Cross over to the other side. Can you see where people are waiting for bus?”

Bola nodded.

“Just stay with them and wait for the man, okay?”

Bola nodded again.

“Remember, act natural.” Bosco drove out of the Bus Stop. “And don’t get caught.”

“Caught?” Bola raised her head and saw two policemen standing at the middle of the road, waiting to catch any traffic offenders. “You did not tell me policemen would be here. What if I am caught?”

Bosco replied in an irritated voice. “Then try not to get caught. Remember your brother’s life is in your hands if you ever want to see him again.”

Bola banged the door angrily and as Bosco drove away, she looked around the area. It was a busy place with a bit of traffic as vehicles waited for instructions from the traffic lights. She cast a glance at the policemen but they had their attention on opposite direction. Bola wore the bag on her back and started crossing the two-lane road. When she got to the other side, she went towards a corner and stood there, waiting and hoping that the exchange would be done over with as soon as possible and she could get out of there.

“Hey, school girl! Why are you on school uniform? Isn’t today Sunday?” A tall, sweet-looking lady asked Bola with a broad smile pasted on her face.

Bola looked down at her well-ironed uniform and fought for the right lie to give. “Ermmm… I… I am going back to school. I am a boarder.”

“Oh nice! My son is in the boarding house too. He schools in Federal Government College, Ijaniki.”

Why won’t this woman leave me alone? Bola thought distastefully. She is really distracting me. I need to find a man with a red cap.

“So what’s the name of your school?” The woman asked as two buses parked to pick up people, but she did not enter any.

Bola went stiff. She had never thought of finding out the name of the school she was representing, was not even sure it was the uniform of a real school. So she said the first thing that came to her mind. “Girls Model College.”

“I have never heard of that school before and I thought I knew Lagos very well. Where is the school located?”

Bola wanted to zip up the mouth of this woman. From the corner of her eyes, she picked up a man wearing what looked like a red cap coming towards them. “It’s in Surulere.” She looked at the approaching man. Yes, she was right. He was wearing a red cap and carrying a black suitcase.

“I should check it out. So what class are you?”

The man with the cap was tall and of very intimidating stature. Bola felt like an ant when he stood few steps away from her. He wore a casual T-shirt over a faded pair of jeans. He looked like every normal man. No one would suspect a thing.

“SS3.” Bola began to sweat profusely. All she wanted to do now was to do the exchange and not to have little, unnecessary chitchat.

“Wow! My son is in the same class as yours. What a coincidence!” The woman’s eyes sparkled with delight at the realization. “I hope you read your books well.”

“I feel very thirsty and need a bottle of coke. Where are these boys that sell coke today?” The man’s voice was deep and guttural like thunder and he cast a glance at Bola, telling her with his eyes to end the conversation with the woman.

Bola moved away from the woman and closer to the man, removing the bag from her back as if she wanted to take something from it. She looked left, right and left again and when she saw no one was watching her, not even the woman whom had been taking much of her time, she quickly stretched the bag towards the man, whispering as low as she could. “Here is it, sir.”

The man grabbed the bag from her hands and as he was about to give her the suitcase, the woman turned, holding a pistol in her hands and pointing it at them. “Hold it right there!”

In split seconds, when the man found out they had been discovered, he started running and the woman shot at his right knee. He fell on the ground, writhing in pain.

Bola was shocked beyond her imagination. Who was that woman? She did not wait to find out. The operation had been compromised. As the woman turned towards her direction to grab her, Bola took to her heels.

“Wait! Don’t go! I’m here to help you.” The woman shouted at the top of her voice.

But Bola would not be stopped. Without waiting to check the traffic, she jumped into the road and the last thing she saw was a car coming at full speed towards her. She felt a sharp pain rock her body and felt herself falling down. Little by little, darkness took over her and the last face she saw was the face of Tomiwa, crying for help that would never come.

 

*****************************

12.13pm – Bosco’s House, Surulere

“You are a fool, Bosco! How can you make such a stupid mistake?”

“I didn’t know it would turn out this way.” Bosco barked into his phone as he paced back and forth in his living room. “I had everything under control. I don’t know how this happened.”

“You should know. I trusted you with this and you disappointed me as usual. Can’t you just handle a simple operation?” The voice sounded extremely irritated. “Now you have got us into deeper shit.”

Bosco rubbed his hand through his head in frustration. “What do you want me to do? I promise I will not get it wrong this time.”

“How can I trust you enough to handle a bigger problem when you could not handle a simple job? The girl did not die, Bosco. She is just unconscious, and do you know what this means for us? She will expose us all when she awakes. We are doomed!”

Bosco marched angrily without direction. “So what do we do?”

“You know what to do.”

“I have her brother with me.”

“What a dummy you are! I’m not talking about the inconsequential, little rat. We have to kill the girl before she wakes up and talk to the police.”

“Kill her?” Bosco stopped dead on his feet. “How are we going to do that? She was taken to the hospital immediately and the policewoman went with her. We cannot just walk into the hospital with a pistol and kill her.”

“We? There is no ‘we’ here, Bosco. You alone will do this job. You caused this problem. You must solve it alone. Where is this hospital?”

“Duro-Soleye Hospital in Ikeja. I followed them secretly to be sure.”

“At least, you did one sensible thing. Find your way there now and make sure that girl does not wake up at all. If you mess this up again, I promise you that your life is not the only thing that will go for it.”

“Please don’t touch my mother. I promise I will kill the girl and bring you proof.”

“You better.”

“One last thing… What should I do with the boy?”

“I don’t care. He’s your business.”

The line cut and Bosco fell flat into the closest chair. Today had gone awry for him. He had never been in this kind of situation before since he started this business and right now, he wished he had not met Bola. He wished he had been more careful in picking the new girl to replace the one who was killed. He was a total loser and needed to regain his reputation and save his face, which was why he needed to make sure this next operation was a success. And as for the boy, he would deal with the rat when he returned from the hospital. First things first. He stood up and headed straight to the kitchen to grab a bottle of beer. He needed all the courage he could muster for this job.

Some steps away, two little eyes watched Bosco secretly, too shocked at the revelation that just floated into his ears. Uncle Bosco was going to kill his sister? What had happened to her? Why was she not back with him? Tomiwa knew his sister was in big trouble and that he needed to find some help before she was killed. His hands went to his pocket and he brought out a paper, the card her sister had thrown away. While she forgot about it, he had picked it up and kept it always with him. He was glad he did that now. He looked through the card and saw the number he would dial for help. He quickly ran back into the room and closed the door. Then he went for one of the pillows, where he had kept his sister’s phone, which she had left for him in case something like this happened. Aunty Bola had always been there for him. Now it was time for him to her hero.

 

 

************************************

12.35pm

Emeka peeked at the rear-view mirror and saw his Madam’s long, sad face as he drove her home. She had been very quiet since she came out of the hospital, as if she had some heavy problems on her mind. He knew she was having health issues, but yesterday completely destabilized him when he was called to carry her to the hospital, almost half-dead. The way she was limp had made him freak out and wonder at how delicate life was. This moment one was alive and bubbling and the next, one was just a step away from death. Man was like the wind that came and went like it never happened and that realization got Emeka scared. What would happen to him if he died today?

“Can you please go a bit faster, Emeka?” Lola requested politely from the owner’s seat.  From the moment she stepped out of the hospital, all she wanted was to get into the comfort of her home where she could have time alone to think without any interference. More than ruminate on her predicament, she wanted time alone to pray. God had to find a way out of this for her and though He had been quiet for a while, she was sure He would never leave her.

“Yes, Madam.” Emeka replied, changing gear immediately.

“Hope you do not feel any pains, Mrs. Williams?” Nurse Titi, whom Dr. Aluko had assigned to take care of Lola, asked from the passenger’s seat beside the driver.

Lola gave one of her brightest smiles. “Not at all, Nurse. Thank you.”

“Just let me know if you need anything.” Nurse Titi nodded approvingly before refocusing her attention on the magazine in her hand.

Lola nodded, staring out of the window. Nurse Titi could not give her everything she wanted. The nurse could not bring Charles home neither could she bring Tobi back from the dead. She would do her best, no doubt, but no matter how hard she tried, she still would not be able to take away the kidney disease. Lola sighed with sorrow. This matter was between her and God, which was why she needed to get home on time.

One of her phones rang and she saw an unfamiliar number. Normally she was careful of which calls she picked, but anyone trying to reach her on this particular channel would be someone close to her. She usually did not give her out this phone number or the card which has this number to just anyone. She knew she had to pick the call, but why did she feel the resistance to? Right now, what she needed was not a relative calling to ask for money or her secretary calling to brief her about business affairs. She cut the call and was about to place it into her bag when it rang again.

“Hello!” She almost shouted into the phone.

“Help my sister. They want to kill her.” The voice was barely a whisper, as if the caller was trying hard not to be caught making the call.

“Who is this?” Lola became alert, especially as she deciphered the voice to be a young child’s. “Where did you get my number?”

“She is in Soleye Hospital in Ikeja. Please save my sister before they kill her.”

“Who is your sister and what is her name?”

“Bola…” The voice trailed away.

Lola heard another voice, this time an adult male, holler at the caller and the last thing she heard was the little boy’s scream before the line was cut. She stared at her phone and was confused about what just happened. Was that a prank call? It couldn’t have been. The scream of horror was too real. The boy could not have had access to her phone number unless… “Change of plan, Emeka. We are going to Ikeja now!”

Emeka and Nurse Titi turned to query this new decision.

“Why, Madam?” Emeka asked. “I think say you wan get home on time.”

“You need rest, Mrs. Williams.” Nurse Titi added with concern in her eyes.

“Just drive there and don’t ask me any questions. We are going to Soleye Hospital.” Lola turned to the Nurse. “Do you know the Hospital, Nurse?”

“Yes, I do. A friend of mine works there. Is there a problem?” Nurse Titi asked, a bit worried about her Patient’s sudden panic.

“Good. We go there now. Someone needs our help and if we do not hurry, what we shall meet shall be her corpse.”

“What!” Emeka did a quick u-turn, changing routes.

“Do you know who this person is?” Nurse Titi asked Lola.

Lola stared at the nurse with her mouth wide open. What was she doing, she chided herself, going to save someone who was in grave danger and endangering her own life and those of others alongside? What if it involved very bad people? But the boy had sounded so desperate, like he depended on her, trusted her to save his sister.

“What’s her name, Mrs. Williams? The person we are going to rescue?” Nurse Titi asked again.

“I… I have no idea.” Lola replied, staring out of the car.

TRIANGULAR (5)

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FRIDAY, 11TH JULY 2014
6.13am

Pauline stood in front of the mirror and was amazed at how her eyes were lightened up with anticipation. She could not recall the last time she felt this pounding blood rush in her veins, the fast racing of her heart and how her head was about to explode with exhilaration. She was supposed to feel guilty for feeling this way, but strangely, she did not. Instead, she felt happy. A sensation she had not experienced in a very long time that it made her feel awkward. She had been looking forward to this day since the beginning of the week, since that moment she received that call that brought a flicker of hope into her declining life. She opened the drawer of the cupboard housing the mirror and her hands shook slightly as she brought out the Mary Kay collection she had not used for a very long time. She picked out the red lipstick and dabbed a little across her lips before rubbing them together. The way the lipstick transformed her face even shocked her herself. Little by little, she could catch a glimpse into her former bubbly beautiful self. Perhaps if she added a little more… she chided herself. It was just a meeting, it was not even a date. Just a reunion with an old friend. Well, an old flame. But still, that did not mean she could make up herself in such a way that even a passerby would notice she was trying to create an impression. Her eyes caught the Christian Dior Perfume she had not used for a long while. It was once her favourite scent and she once proudly wore it especially after her husband commented he loved the way it smelt on her. That was many years ago. Now, he barely recognized if she used any perfume at all. She picked up the red bottle and dabbed some on her body. Today was a special day in her life. A day someone would appreciate her for who she was and not who she was supposed to be. He would not look at her weaknesses, but rather appreciate her good sides and make her feel like a woman and not some burden he could not tolerate. A cross he was ashamed to carry.

By the time she was done adorning herself, Pauline smiled at the image staring back at her. This was how she was supposed to look every day – beautiful, radiant and lively, and right there, she made up her mind to find herself again. Just like everyone, she deserved a happy life, didn’t she? And if she could not get happiness in her home, then she would find it outside. She picked up her handbag and walked out of her bedroom. She did not even bother to greet anyone as she walked towards the door, not that they would reply if she did greet. Already, she was used to being ignored. That was the only way they could all live together peacefully. But the story was about to change, at least for her. By the time she returned to this house, she hoped to have had the best time of her life in many years.

“What is that smell?” The voice came from the dining table, at the entrance to the kitchen.

Pauline turned to see her husband having breakfast with his ‘new wife’ sitting beside him.

“Is that Christian Dior’s Poison?” George asked with interest. “It smells really good.”

Though she tried to deny it, Pauline was a little pleased that he could recall the perfume. At least it showed he still acknowledged her presence in the house. “Yes, it is. Good morning.” She smiled and walked towards the door.

“And you used makeup today. You look really good. Today must be a special day in your office.”

Pauline placed her hand on the knob. If only he knew how special it was. “Yes, it is very special.”

“You should use it more often, you know.”

Pauline could almost swear she saw a spark of admiration in his eyes, but it disappeared almost immediately as it came. She nodded at him and opened the door. “Have a nice day.” She didn’t wait for his reply before she closed the door behind her.

As much as she tried to act nonchalant, she had not been too comfortable with the way Nneka’s arms were placed around her husband’s back, but she knew there was nothing she could do about it. Even saying anything about it could cause a problem. It was no doubt George and Nneka were sleeping together and that tore painfully at her heart, made her feel incomplete. She hurried downstairs to avoid the urge of going back upstairs to start a fight. There was no need to waste time on a lost battle. Right now, she should start planning for her future. Right now, she should start looking for how to start afresh, and a time out with Ola seemed to be in the right directon. She could hardly wait for evening to come.

********************************

9.30am

“Good morning, Ma.” Thirty-five year old Rose greeted her boss as she entered the big office, carrying a big case of files. “I thought you were not going to come in at all this week. Thank God you are here now. There are many papers for you to sign.”

Lola looked away from the window and covered it fully with the drapes. “I know you must have been praying I should not come in today at all, Rose.” Lola teased her long-time Personal Assistant. “Sorry to burst your bubble.”

Rose dropped the files on the mahogany table and tried to hide a smile. “Not at all. I am very glad you are around. The office has been boring without you and there are a lot of things to sign.”

Lola sighed tiredly. “That is why we have a Chief Operating Officer to stand in my place any time I am not available.”

“Mr. Henry is not the signatory to our accounts. Only you are since the Chairman…” Rose could not complete the words.

Since the death of the Managing Director, things had slowed down a bit in the Company and while Mrs. Williams had tried to take over his responsibilities, it had not been easy for her to get the full grasp of things.

“I will just arrange the papers according to the order of importance and give any explanations you need.” Rose explained.

Lola walked to the table and scowled at the pile of paper on her table. How she hated paperwork! Her late husband had been the one doing this part of the job, while she had provided support in the little ways she could. Now, she was to do this alone. Sometimes, she wished she could just hand over the Company to her son, but on several occasions, he had indicated disinterest and had reaffirmed his love for his medical profession. These were times she wished she had more than one child. This was another reason she wanted him to come home, so she could get another chance to convince him to take over and she could finally take her mind off business and concentrate on her health. Her failing health.

Focus, Lola, focus! She reprimanded herself. Right now, this was not about her. It was about the Company and how she would keep it afloat. If anyone in the Company got a whiff of her deteriorating health, it would cause a lot of anxiety and affect the Operations of the Company. Already, it had taken God’s intervention to keep the Company together after her husband’s death and the shareholders had expressed their doubts, but through prayers and lots of meetings, she was able to regain their trust in the Company. Right now, she needed to put her act together and be the kind of boss everyone expected. Her health was her private life and should, in no way, interfere with the Company.

Her eyes flew to the Italian leather chair that once accommodated her husband and in her mind, she saw him seated comfortably, sorting through the papers, with a hot cup of coffee beside him and a young secretary helping with the paperwork. They had started this telecommunications Company together from scratch. She remembered when he was afraid to send the proposal to the Ministry of Information and Communication and she had kept pushing and pestering him until he had submitted it. The next week, they were invited to a meeting with the Minister and the following week, they started business. It had been a geometric growth from then. That was twenty five years ago and the business had grown so big that it had offices in almost every State in Nigeria and had become one of the four service providers in the industry. God had been good to them.

I know you have not left, Tobi. I still see your smile and the dimple on your left cheek. I still smell your perfume in this office and see your shadows in the darkness of our room. I still feel your breath on my neck as I dress up every morning. Life was beautiful with you. I hope I am smart and strong enough like you to keep our legacy going for as long as I have breath.

She sat on the chair and immediately took on a business-like expression, picking up a pen from the stationery case. “Okay, so where do I start from?”

Rose relaxed when her boss sat down to start the business of the day. At first, she thought her unkind reminder had sent the poor widow into a wave of painful memories and she chided herself for being too talkative. One would have thought after working with the graceful woman for almost ten years, she would have learnt some etiquette herself. She would be more careful from now on. She pushed the papers closer to her boss. “The first one is the final proposal for the ‘Express Yourself’ Promo to take off next month. We shall need twenty million naira for that campaign to launch successfully.”

Lola picked up her spectacles from the table and took a critical look at the proposal. She needed to take extra precaution against anyone defrauding the Company in whatever way. “Why is it twenty million naira. I thought the approved budget was eighteen million.’ She raised a curious eye.

Rose cleared her throat. “Yes, ma. You are right, but the Committee found out they needed an extra two million to increase the reward for subscribers. With that additional two million, if all goes well, it should bring us about five million naira.”

Lola understood the logic behind the calculation, but still… “Okay.” She signed the proposal. “I hope you people will not run the Company underground with all these campaigns you are shoving down my neck.”

“Not at all, ma. It is best for business and this is the first major one we shall be doing this year, plus it is very much still within the marketing budget for the year”.

Lola separated the signed paper and moved to the next. “What are these pictures for?”

Rose explained. “Those are pictures of all the ‘Tosin Ayoola’, the girl you told me to look for you. There are five existing people on Facebook bearing that same name, so I printed out their pictures for you to see which of them you wanted.”

“Oh!” Lola had completely forgotten about the crazy teenage girl-thief she met on Saturday. “Old age is fast taking over me. I didn’t even remember I asked you to do this for me.” A bigger storm has taken over my life. “Let me see.” She went through all the pictures carefully one after the other and shook her head. “No, she is not any of these girls. Are you sure these are all the people you can find?”

“Yes, I also checked through all other social media. Same faces kept popping up.”

“Then she must have lied to me.” Lola shook her head in distaste. “What an ungrateful girl! She gave me a lot of trouble at the Mall on Saturday and I remember adding to the goodies I bought her, I also included some cash in the nylon and my card as well. It’s been… how many days now? I doubt if she will ever call. Well, I thought I could get close to her and help her, but unfortunately, I guess it isn’t meant to be. Some people don’t just want to be helped.” She picked up the pictures, tore them and cast them into the nearby bin. “So what is the next one, please?”

Rose quickly launched into another explanation and by the time they finished getting all the documents signed some fifty minutes later, the least thing on Lola’s mind was a teenager who refused to be helped.

********************************
9.15pm

Bola shifted uncomfortably in the tight, little dress she had on and she tried to pull it down to cover her laps that were completely bare for the world to see, but the dress didn’t budge. Instead, the more she tried, the more upward it went, almost revealing her panties and as if it intended to spite her for her foolish decision. She wished she had stayed back and provided an excuse not to make this party, but her greed had pushed her to this. Bosco had promised to give her some money for the weekend if she attended and when she thought of other options of getting money and found out she had none, she had reluctantly agreed. It was only for some few hours, she had consoled herself, and her little brother would at least have something to eat. So, when it was almost time to leave the house, she told her father she was going to spend the night with her friend across the street. He barely acknowledged her request with a nod. He did not care whatever she did with herself, as long as she brought food to his table. With a final look at Tomiwa, who was sleeping peacefully on the mattress, she stepped out of the house and hoped she was not making the biggest mistake of her life. Some minutes later, her heart told her she was.

When Bosco picked her at the bus stop with a brand new 2013 Toyota Camry, he had frowned distastefully at her choice of clothing. She had worn a faded pair of trousers over another fading, red shirt. That was her best outfit, but it was not good enough for her new, rich boyfriend. He had looked at her as if she had just stepped out of garbage and had driven her over to a boutique at the end of the street, where he had picked out the shortest red dress she had ever seen.

“Wear this.” He had said. “This party is for hot girls, not some poor holy holy girls.”

Bola had collected the dress and went to the fitting room to try it and when she saw the transformation in the mirror, she almost changed her mind. Besides the laps that were exposed, the dress also had a plunging neck line that almost had her breasts pouring out.

“Beautiful!” Bosco had exclaimed when she stepped out. “My sweet Caro, My african queen.” He showered her with praises as unbridled lust shone from his eyes.

“I cannot wear this.” She covered her breasts with one hand and pulled down the gown with the other. “It is too open.” She felt like a prostitute. “Please let me wear something more covering.”

“Omo, this is sweeti pororo.” Bosco’s eyes gleamed with satisfaction. “This is exactly how you should dress to the party. Pretty lepa toh sexy! All my boys will be jealous me tonight.” He moved closer to her and placed her right hand on his head. “See as my body dey hot because of you. Omo, na me get luck pass today!” He took a quick look at her back. “Mehn! Your backyard na to die for! Why you dey hide these wonders since na?”

Bola looked down at herself. The way Bosco spoke made her hate herself in the dress more. A part of her wanted to tear the cloth off her body and run away for her dear life, while the other part, the more reasonable part, wanted to stay and attend the party, so she could have some money for the weekend. She wanted the money so desperately that she could do anything right now for it, and if looking like a prostitute for some hours of the night was all the price she had to pay, then she would pay it. But would that be all? What if there was more? She quickly brushed the warning aside before it got the better part of her.

A hand rubbed her laps in a seductive way and she cringed inwardly. What was she thinking? As soon as they left the Boutique and got into the car, Bosco hands had never left her. Every now and then, his right hand would stray, caressing her laps and telling her how soft and enticing they were. She tried to push further away from him, but that did not stop him.

“Calm down, baby.” Bosco cast her a quick glance from the driver’s seat. “No be my fault. Your legs are baaad. I don’t know why you hide them. Many girls are looking for this kind of sugar laps and they don’t have it. Shey you know you can get anything you want in this world with what is between those hot legs.”

Bola shut her laps together instinctively. She had no intention of letting anyone get in-between those legs tonight, not even Bosco. Her heart pounded heavily. She wished she could stop the car and find her way back to the house, but she had no dime on her and they had been on the road for about twenty minutes, so going back home was not an option. She did not need a seer to tell her she was in a precarious situation and that she just made the most foolish decision of her life. She tried to draw his attention away by changing the subject. “Who are those who will be in the party?”

“Just my friends and their girls, that’s all.”

“And when will it end?”

“Don’t worry, baby. I will get you back to the house before 5am. No one will even know you came home late.”

Bola sat straight in shock. “5 a.m.? I thought you said it was just for a couple of hours?” Had he lied to her?

Bosco laughed. “It is called a night party, baby. Na all night we go flex. Relax. You go enjoy am. Stop behaving like a small girl.”

Bola took in deep, nervous breaths. How would she be able to stay calm all through when inside her head, warning bells were ringing loud?

Just then, Bosco drove them into a corner and into a big compound enclosing a bar and a large parking space filled with big and expensive cars. Bola had never seen such array of beautiful cars all in one place before and her mouth was wide agape in wonder.

“I tell you say I dey roll with the big boys now.” Bosco spoke proudly when he saw the awe on her face. “Get ready, my love. Your life is about to change and you will thank God you met me.” He put off the ignition and got out of the car.

Bola could not contain the excited thumping of her heart as she got out of the car. So this was where the money was; this was what living big looked like. She took in the colourful duplex where low music was playing and saw some men sitting on the patio of the first floor and having the fun of their lives with some half-naked girls dancing around them.

A Mercedes Benz pulled in beside them and a young lady looking very elegant and expensively dressed came out of the car and walked towards the duplex, clutching her designer bag in her hand.

Bosco moved closer to Bola and pulled her gently at the arm. “You can be like that girl if you choose, you know. Everything is possible in a place like this.”

Bola was stiff on her feet. She had never been this close to rich people and she did not know how to react. All her life she had spent dealing with the poorest of the poor and here she was, just some steps away from the kind of life she dreamed of.

Bosco laughed quietly into her ears when he noticed how rigid her body was. “Welcome to Paradise, iyawo mi.”

Bola nodded absently. Bosco was right. This was Paradise. And she intended to enjoy every bit of it for the few hours they had. “Let’s go in.” She could hardly contain her excitement. For a moment, she forgot her reservations. All she wanted was to have a taste of what being rich felt like. Just a tiny taste was all she craved for.

“Now, that’s my girl!” Bosco curled his arms around her neck and guided her to the duplex. As they went into the house, his eyes caught a pair of eyes of one of the men on the patio and he nodded at him. The man nodded in response and turned back to the lady on his laps, as if nothing just happened.

Bosco smiled inwardly. Things were going just as he planned and before the party was over, someone would be richer and that person was him.

TRIANGULAR (4)

I trust you are enjoying our new series. Remember to keep a date with us every Monday, Thursday and Saturday morning for fresh episodes. And tell a friend too…..

If you missed the last episode click here

MONDAY, 7TH JULY  2014

3.20a.m

“Hello, Sweet Potato.”

Bola rubbed her eyes as she struggled to keep awake. The voice on the line was gruff and sounded slurred like the person had been drinking all night. She knew it could not have been 5.30 am because her tiny Nokia phone’s alarm had not rung. Who could be calling her at such an early hour?

She cleared her clogged throat. “Hello. Who is this?”

“Who else can it be? It’s me, Bosco, your love. Were you expecting someone else?” Bosco, her boyfriend of few hours replied, sounding a bit irritated.

Bola’s foggy head became clearer. She could hear some music playing in the background on the other line. “Bosco?” She racked her brain, trying to clear her head and gain control of her sleepy eyes. “Oh! Bosco! Forgive me, I was not expecting your call… or any call.” She rubbed her eyes and remembered how excited he had been when she gave him her answer hours ago and how he had promised her heaven and earth for making him the happiest man in the world. What she had not expected was that he would call her at this time of the night, as if he had every right to. “It’s barely morning, Bosco, and you should be sleeping, not calling me.”

“You know I hate it when you call me ‘Bosco’. After last night, you should have found a sweeter name for me, not Bosco. And is there any rule that states I cannot call my baby anytime I want?”

Bola sat up on the floor, moving further away from the other sleeping figures on the bed, whispering into her phone. “You know my father is sleeping. I don’t want to wake him.”

“Then I suggest you go outside.” His voice became stern. “Because I feel like talking to you.”

Bola looked at her father, who was turning on his side. Tomiwa slept peacefully, holding the edge of the bed as if he was afraid to fall. She was confused on what exactly to do. How could she open that creaky door without arousing her father from his peaceful sleep? She knew how much he hated being disturbed in the night. She wondered what was so important that Bosco could not wait later in the morning to discuss.

“Are you outside now?”

“Shhh! I am going outside now.” She replied in undertones. She stood up and walked as quietly as she could towards the door. Carefully, she placed her hand on the knob, turned the lock and opened the door as noiselessly as she could. The door made some squeaky noise, but not enough to wake anyone. She let out a sigh of relief and as she took the first step outside, a voice stopped her.

“And where do you think you are going?” Her father, whom she thought was deeply asleep, raised drowsy eyes at her.

She least expected this would happen. She stammered, quickly hiding the phone behind her back. “I… I need to go and ease myself.”

Baba turned his head to the wall. “And is that why you are sneaking like a thief? Be quick about it. Your movement is disturbing me.”

Bola did not wait to reply. She stepped outside quickly and closed the door after her. She walked briskly to the backyard door and yanked it open, heading straight for the small bathroom that was barricaded with nothing but roof-pans outside the house.

Once inside, she turned the lock and spoke harshly into the phone. “What do you want exactly?”

“Was that your Papi?” Bosco’s mocking laughter filled her ears. “See how he dey control your life. You know say you fit fashi am come live with me abi? Just think am well, okay?”

That sounded as the most fantastic and yet, most ridiculous idea to Bola. Though she needed his money badly, living with him under same roof was out of the picture for now. She meant to keep their relationship away from her family, especially from her father whose condemnation she would not be able to bear. And as long as she could do that and still bring food to the table, she was game. “Okay. I will think about that. So what is it you want to say that cannot wait till morning?”

“Well, my padis are organising a faaji this Friday night for some few hours, and we suppose come with our kokolets. So you have to come with me o, make we go peche and enjoy ourselves.”

“A faaji?” Bola had never been to an overnight party before. She had heard of many atrocities committed there, how everyone got drunk, how girls were raped without their knowledge after they had been drugged. “I don’t think I can come.”

There was an uncomfortable silence on the other end of the line. “Why? By ‘padis’, I no mean all these omo kekere in this mushin o! Emi ke? I mean big boys with big moneys in this Naija. Me no dey send all these small area boys na, my level don change o and I fit change your own sharp sharp, so I no understand why you no want to come with me. This one no be one chance o! Na de real deal.” He tried to push further. “If you know the soji people that will be there, eh!”

Bola’s ears tingled. How much she wanted her level to change too, but attending a night party was not what she signed up for, at least for now. They were just barely few hours into their relationship! “Ermm… It is not like I don’t want to go, but I will be very busy Friday night.”

“Doing what?” His voice was curt.

“Ermmm…” Bola didn’t know what to say. It was obvious he would not accept whatever reason she gave.

“Baby, you no fit do this to me. Wetin you want make my boys say about me? We just start this thing and you want to embarrass me in front of them? I need you by my side.”

“But…”

“There is no but. I will pick you up by 9pm at Morgan Bus stop. Do you still have some money left?” His words were in proper English sentences for the first time and not in Pidgin or his favorite Yoruba language.

“Yes.”

“Good. Get a fine dress and look doro-sexy for me. We will go and dorobucchi all of them.”

Bola felt very uneasy. She did not like the way the conversation was going. “Okay, but…”

“I love you, my sugar-baby. Make sure you dream about Bosco, okay?”

Bola’s mouth became bitter. What had she gotten herself into? She had not bargained for this. “Good night, Bosco… my… my love.” It sounded very strange in her ears.

There was a soft chuckle on the other end. “You are getting there small small.”

Bosco made some kissing sounds on the phone that Bola found very disgusting. She cut the call and rested her head against the door. She needed to find a way out of this, but could not think of any. By the time she returned to the room, her father was sleeping soundly. It took almost an hour before she could find sleep again.

Few kilometers away, Bosco counted his luck. A shrewd smile escaped his lips. He was good, no doubt. He knew how to have his way with women. Who wouldn’t want to have him? He was young, smart, and rich. Just what every woman wanted in a man. He leaned against the railing on the verandah and dialed another number.

“Yes, this is Bosco. I have a new girl.” He listened to the person on the line. “No worry, she dey perfect for the job. You just give me time to win her to our side and we make the move.” He chuckled loudly. “This one na done deal, trust me.” He chuckled again. “Yes, I will be bringing her to the party. Relax I go bring am come your side. I dey sure you go like am once you see am. She be mugu too. Just who we need.” He paced around the little balcony he was, paying rapt attention to the receiver. “Okay. Bye bye.”

He cut the call and became overwhelmed by the feeling of satisfaction that filled his body. The last time he felt this way was when he got his first millions when he started this ‘business’. It was then he knew there was no going back for him. Getting money was easy once you knew how to find your way or ‘who to use’.

“Baby, come back to bed.” The voice was husky and seductive.

Bosco turned to see the woman he had picked up to warm his bed for the night. How long had she been standing there? He thought wildly. She rubbed her eyes and Bosco knew she probably just woke up. She looked nothing more than a skeleton as she leaned against the door, inviting him with an enticing smile on her face. No normal man would have been able to resist that invitation, but Bosco did not know what was wrong with him lately. After sleeping with any of these girls, the next thing he felt was revulsion for them. “Go back to bed, ashawo.”

The lady choked on her feet. She did not need to be told she had been ‘dismissed.’ She covered her bare breasts as if protecting them from him and scampered away. Bosco rolled his eyes in disgust. He wondered what he saw in her in the first place. Right now, what he needed was ‘fresh meat’ and if he played his cards well, he would have one before the end of the week. A mugu named Bola.

***************************

11am

“How dare you, mother! How dare you get your pastor to call me? What… what was that for?”

Lola nearly jumped off her seat as the voice of her son startled her. She had least expected his call and not at this particular time when she was waiting for the results of the numerous tests the doctor had taken. She had spent over three hours in St. George Hospital undergoing one test to the other. The female doctor wanted to make sure she got her results accurately. After listening to Lola’s complaints and going through the results from the previous hospital, and a reputable one at that, Dr. Flora knew she dared not make any wrong diagnosis. Lola was seated at the edge of the leather seat in the waiting room, scared and worried about the outcome of the result. She had not thought her son would call her now. Last night, Pastor Mark had told her he had been unable to reach Charles, but that he would keep on trying. He obviously had succeeded.

She breathed in deeply as she placed the phone on her ears again. “Charles, just calm down. I had no other choice. I just had to get someone to call you since you refused to pick my numerous calls.”

“And that person had to be your holier-than-thou pastor? Did you know how I felt when I heard his voice, begging me to travel down to see my own mother? MY OWN MOTHER! I felt very embarrassed. He made me feel as if I was uncaring.”

“I am sorry if you felt that way. I am sure he didn’t mean to make you feel embarrassed. But you know how many times I have tried to call you. Didn’t you see my calls?”

“Mom, you know how busy I am. Sometimes, I do not even have the time to pick calls. I am always going from one surgery to the other and it is not easy for me. Even my family is suffering for this.”

“But Charles you know you have to create time for your family. A time will come when your children may not even recognize you again.”

Charles’ voice sounded more defensive. “My children understand my kind of work. They know I am doing all these to secure their future. This will only be for a while. When I have made enough money that will pay off our mortgages and last a lifetime, I will take time off to spend more time with them.”

“What about with me? When will you have the time for me? I need to see you urgently.”

“Mom, everything is always urgent with you. Was I not home last Christmas?”

“You only spent a week and that was seven months ago. You didn’t even come home for Easter this time!”

“A week was the best I could afford.” His breathing was louder. “At least I tried. You should praise me for that first.”

There was silence at the other end of the line. Lola felt like crying. Here she was begging to see her son when she needed him most and all he could give her was silly excuses.

“Are you there, mom?”

“Yes. Yes I am.” Lola sniffed.

“Are you crying?” Charles sounded weak.

“I just want to see my son. Is that too much to ask?”

Charles hated to be pushed into a corner. “Okay.” He gave in. “I guess I can find a way around this.”

Her face lightened up. “Really? Are you sure you can?”

Charles was not completely sure but he knew he did not want to break his mother’s heart more. “I will have to rework my schedules, but my coming may not be possible until next month. Is that okay?”

“That… that is fine.” Lola would have wanted sooner but she did not want to push her luck further. She knew she had already boxed him into a corner and she was grateful he had given in. She only hoped it was not too late before…

“Mrs. Williams?”

Lola looked up to see the doctor standing outside her office with a file in her hands and a vacant look on her face. She quickly spoke into her phone. “I will call you back, Charles. Please make sure you pick your phone this time.” She cut the call before Charles could respond. She stood up slowly. “Yes, doctor?”

The doctor smiled at her. “Can you come into my office? I will like to discuss the results with you.”

Lola brightened up when she saw the smile. Maybe Dr. Aluko was wrong after all. She followed the doctor into the office and when she sat down, her heart began to beat heavily. What if she thought wrong? What if the first diagnosis was indeed correct? Her hands began to shake uncontrollably.

“Calm down, Mrs. Williams.” The doctor assured as she sat opposite her patient. “There is no problem without a solution.”

“You mean there is a problem then.” Lola concluded, her fears coming alive.

”Well, I am afraid the first diagnosis was right.” Dr. Flora opened the file in her hands and placed them before Lola. She pointed at some words scribbled on the paper on top. “This is the summary of all the results of the tests.” She leaned closer and pointed at a part she had circled with red ink. “You are having kidney malfunction, Mrs. Williams. You have to undergo surgery as quickly as possible. Do you have anybody that can be a donor?”

Lola’s mind had wandered far away. Life had just given her a death sentence. Suddenly, everything became empty and nothing mattered anymore. “How much time do I have left?”

“Well, that depends on how quickly you agree to do the surgery. If you do it on time and it is successful, then you can have many happy years ahead of you. But what is most important now is getting a donor that is compatible with your system.”

“And if I don’t get one on time?” Lola stilled her mind for the bitter truth as she stared straight into the doctor’s eyes.

Dr. Flora shifted uncomfortably on her seat. This was the most difficult part of her job. She hated telling her patients they had little time left to spend with their loved ones. It was as if she was taking a knife and slicing it slowly through their hearts. “I am afraid it could be months, weeks or even days. Right now, you have very high blood pressure and we also detected traces of blood in your urine. The CT scan shows a side of your left kidney is damaged. I am surprised you ignored Dr. Aluko’s advice all this time, Mrs. Williams, and that is very dangerous. It is advisable you do this surgery on time. I am pleading with you.” Dr. Flora expected the old woman to fall on the floor, weeping and rolling back and forth in tears as most female patients did anytime she conveyed some terrible news, but was shocked when the woman did not even blink a tear. “You were prepared for this kind of news?” It sounded more like a statement than question.

“Doctor, how else do you expect me to take this news? I am sixty two years old and I must say I have lived a fulfilled life. My husband, God bless his soul, went to be with the Lord eight months ago. Since then, I have never felt lonelier in my entire life, despite my being surrounded by friends and relations. If this is the way God has decided to call me home, then so be it. ”

“Mrs. Williams, at sixty two years, there is still a lot you can achieve. I have treated patients who are well older than you. In fact, I have a man who is almost ninety years and you will not believe the kind of work he still does in this community.” Dr. Flora grabbed Lola’s hands. “Look at me.”

Lola raised her eyes slowly at the doctor. It was obvious she was trying to control her tears, trying to be brave.

“You are only old in age, but not at heart.” The doctor continued. “And there is still a lot you can do for this world. You will go for this surgery. It will be successful and we shall spend more years together. Your children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren will have a good time with you.”

Lola found herself smiling. “That’s a good picture you just painted, doctor. Unfortunately, I have just one child and two grandchildren whom, I must confess, I do not have a good relationship with unfortunately because of their father’s tight schedule. They are based in the UK and I hardly see them. So, you see they will hardly miss their grandmother.”

Dr. Flora reached for her bag. “Then I guess you have to find a way to get them to love you, which means you need to live longer by doing this surgery in India.” She brought out a card.

“India?” Lola was dumbstruck. “INDIA? I cannot travel that far, doctor. I cannot even travel at all.”

“We don’t have the facilities to conduct the surgery here in Nigeria. A lot of people travel to India because it is cheaper there than anywhere else in the world and the doctors are good. Our hospital has good affiliation with this hospital I am about to recommend and I have had many patients transferred there. So far, ninety percent of the surgeries were successful.”

“And the other ten percent?”

Dr. Flora handed the card over to Lola. “I prefer to dwell on the positive side. The Hospital is called Kokilaben Hospital in Mumbai. They specialize in this kind of area.”

Lola collected the card. “Like I said, I cannot fly doctor. But I will hold on to this card.”

“That’s a positive sign.” Dr. Flora smiled at her. “I will really appreciate if you can make this decision as soon as possible. We do not have the luxury of time. In the mean time, is it possible for you to recommend a kidney donor? We will like to conduct the necessary tests before we can declare him or her a suitable donor.”

“Hold on to that thought, doctor. I will get back to you on that and if there is nothing else, I will like to leave now. At least, I won’t be dying tonight.” Lola stood up.

“Of course, Mrs. Williams.” Dr. Flora handed her a paper. “This includes some drugs recommended by our Pharmacist, which will help with any pain and hopefully slow down the damage. Thank you for paying us a visit and I hope you were satisfied with our service.”

‘Satisfied’ was the least way Lola felt now. What she wanted to do was to go home, get on her bed, hide under the duvet away from the world and cry her heart out. It was not every time one would go to the hospital and be told one had a failing kidney and had limited time on earth. Even a sixty two year old grandmother would not expect that.

“Thank you, doctor.” Lola expressed as she walked towards the door. “You have been of great help.”

“Bye, Mrs. Williams. I shall be waiting for your call.” Dr. Flora rested her back on her leather seat. As soon as the old woman closed the door behind her, she let out a big sigh. The old woman had taken this more maturely than she expected. But there was more. Beneath that aloof demeanor, Dr. Flora had noticed a pain that went beyond the disease of the kidney. There was a growing disease of loneliness in Mrs. Williams’ heart and unfortunately, no surgery in the world could take that away.

********************

2.31pm

“Pauline, are you okay?” Jumoke asked her colleague who had been toying with her food for almost ten minutes. “You are supposed to be eating your food, not play with it.”

Pauline paused suddenly. She did not know she was being observed, was not aware she had been turning her spoon round and round in the plate. She was not even hungry. Food had no taste in her mouth these days. “I am fine, Jumoke.”

“You don’t look so to me.” Jumoke was a beautiful, young woman who everyone loved in the office. The way she joked about almost everything made her everyone’s delight. “Maybe you should go visit the doctor. Who knows?” She grinned mischievously. “Maybe you have swallowed the cockroach.”

It was break time and both of them were seated in the company canteen with few other staff that were eating and chatting away in groups. Pauline wished she had swallowed ‘the cockroach’, but the last time she checked, all the cockroaches had deserted her. She was a certified barren woman.

“You know not having appetite to eat is a symptom.” Jumoke continued. “I remember when I had my first son. I could hardly keep anything in my mouth…”

Here we go again. Pauline thought sorrowfully. She closed her mind against what Jumoke was saying. Why would the world keep reminding her of her cross as if she had not suffered enough already? When she arrived at work this morning, she had promised herself not to be weighed down, but she had failed. When she stepped into the kitchen and had seen Nneka, her husband’s new love preparing breakfast, she had snapped and demanded the lady left her kitchen. But instead of doing that, Nneka had stood her ground and told Pauline to get out of the kitchen instead. After all, she had as much right in the house as Pauline had. That had led to a big argument and when George had come in to intervene; he had taken Nneka’s side, stating that he was the one that requested she cooked breakfast for him. Pauline had left the kitchen filled with shame and bitterness.

By the time she got to the office, all she could see was Nneka’s mocking face; all she could hear was Nneka’s chant of victory and when it was time to take a break, she had found an empty spot in a corner of the canteen, hoping no one would come there to disturb her, but she was wrong. Five minutes later, Jumoke had pushed her way through the tables and seats to where Pauline was. As much as she didn’t want any company, Pauline did not want to sound rude, so she decided to keep quiet instead. But now, she wished she had actually told Jumoke off.

“So, don’t worry. This phase will pass.” Jumoke continued, not bothering to check if she was listened to her. “But you first need to do the test and be sure you are pregnant in the first place.”

“Thank you, Jumoke. When I have done that, I will let you know.” Pauline replied, hoping that would shut her up.

But chatty Jumoke did not look like she was about to end soon. “Of course, the evidence will be out there for everyone to know in few months’ time.” She chuckled. “But I hope it’s a boy. Boys are adorable as babies, but when they grow up, they become a handful and…”

Pauline’s phone rang and her mind strayed from Jumoke’s babble. The number calling her was foreign, starting with the United State’s code, and she wondered whom it could be. She quickly did a quick run-through of who that could be in her head, but still could not figure it out. She signaled to Jumoke to keep quiet as she placed the phone against her ear.

“Hello.”

“Good afternoon. Am I speaking with Pauline?” It was a male voice with a mixture of American and Nigerian accent.

Pauline stood up and walked away from the table. “Yes, this is Pauline and who am I speaking with?”

The voice became friendlier. “Pauline Adesuwa! So glad I got you. This is Ola. Can you remember me? Pastor Ola from Covenant Believers Fellowship in Unilag? I was your Pastor in our students’ Fellowship nine years ago.”

“What!” Pauline could not believe her ears. “Pastor Ola Solomon?”

The man chuckled loudly. “Wow! I’m impressed you still remember my full name. How have you been? It’s been donkey years!”

“My God! I can’t believe it’s really you. How did you get my number?”

“Well, I asked somebody who asked somebody who asked somebody that had your number. You know how it works, but eventually, I got it. So good to hear your voice again.”

Pauline’s heart melted at that deep baritone voice she fell in love with nine years ago. It was Pastor Ola that had taken it upon himself to make sure she received adequate medical attention after the rape incident. It was he who would check on her every morning and evening during and after her stay in the hospital and made sure she was well fed. His voice was the first thing she would hear every morning and the last before she slept. And it was he who held her hands and whispered soothing, encouraging words into her ears at those moments when she could not hold back the tears. He had been her knight in shining armour and she had fallen deeply in love with him. But there was a problem. It was public knowledge that Pastor Ola was engaged to another sister in the fellowship, so Pauline knew there was no place for her in his life. She had kept her feelings for him secret and when he finally travelled out of the country for another Masters Programme, her heart broke. Just when she thought she would never find love again, she had met George a year later.

“It’s so good to hear from you too.” Pauline’s heart beat faster. “How are you and your family?”

“Family’s fine.” His voice was a bit curt. “How is your too? Your husband must be a lucky man.”

Pauline took in a pained breath. “Well, if you say so.”

“I was going through Facebook recently and stumbled upon your picture on a friend’s wall. Immediately, I contacted him to get me your details. It’s been a long time and I am sorry I didn’t reach you all these years. But I am happy to see you moved on and now have a family.”

“Well, what can I say? Life goes on.” Even without love. A sharp pain tore through Pauline’s heart. Even without love.

“I can’t wait to see you, though, so we can catch up on the lost times. I am coming down to Nigeria this week. I will be glad if we can meet, you know.”

“That… that would be great!” Pauline could barely control the surge of joy that shot through her body. “I mean, I will be available. You just tell me when you will be free and I will work my schedule to suit yours.

“Well, I am coming in for business-related matters with two of my colleagues, but I can make my time flexible. So it’s all about what’s convenient for you.”

Pauline smiled. Ola had not changed at all. Still putting people ahead of himself. Wasn’t that how a good husband should be? “Okay. I will let you know my schedule. When precisely are coming in?”

“Wednesday, but I will not suggest Thursday because I shall be having series of meetings.”

“Friday?”

“Friday is more like it.”

“So it’s a date… I mean a meeting.” Pauline wanted to slap herself for that slip.

Ola chuckled again. “I will call it a reunion. Hold on please. Just a minute.” He requested.

Pauline could hear some voices on the other end of the line and she waited with the phone on her ear. He had called their meeting a reunion. That was fair enough. Though she wished it could be more. She cautioned herself. He is a married man, for Pete’s sake. Nothing can come out of it. She paced around the canteen nervously. He isn’t just any married man. This is my first real love and fate has brought us together again. She stopped walking as her thoughts wandered deeper. What do you think you are doing, Pauline? Don’t be stupid to think he has feelings for you. He never did and never will. He is married to the love of his life and you should go and fix your own marriage. But what if…?

“Hello, Pauline. Are you still there?”

“Yes, yes, I’m here.”

“Okay. So Friday it is. Can’t wait to see you.”

“Me too.” I am actually dying to.

“Bye for now. My regards to your husband. Got to go now. My lunch time is over. Got to get back to work.”

“It’s okay. Thanks for your call and looking forward.”

The line cut and Pauline stood for several minutes staring into her phone. Could this be another chance at love? She shook her head. She was clearly deceiving herself, but why could she not control the happiness she felt in her heart? It had been years she felt this way.

“So, was that a call from a former boyfriend?” Jumoke sneaked up on her from the back.

“Mind your business, Jumoke.”

“Well, I guess I’m right. From the way you literally brightened up like a star, I knew it must be from someone very special to you. Does your husband know?”

Pauline shook her head in disgust. “Like I said, mind your own business.”

“Okay. Just be careful.” Jumoke shrugged nonchalantly. “I hope you know how to play this kind of game well or else you will lose on both ends.” She strolled out of the canteen.

Pauline went back to the table and settled in front of her food. This time, the food looked appealing and she started eating. She knew Jumoke’s warning was sensible. But this opportunity was something she did not want to miss. Meeting Ola again could lead to more catastrophe, but it was worth the risk. Her marriage had already crashed anyway, so what’s the bother?

TRIANGULAR (2)

Please read previous episode here. Don’t forget to share with as many as you can. Cheers!

 

Saturday, 5th July 2014

3.30pm

Bola stood in front of the face-me-I-face-you house she had lived all her life in the Olosha area of Mushin, a lower-class area of Lagos known for its hostile and notorious lifestyle. Everyone lived for himself, whether old or young, male or female. It was like a battle ground where the fittest could only survive and the losers get trodden. This was where she had been lived all the seventeen years of her life trying to make sense of why she existed. Tomorrow, she would be eighteen and she still was yet to find the answer she craved. She sighed sadly as a familiar feeling overwhelmed her.

You are a failure, Bola. You have always been from the moment you were born.

No! I can make it through this.

Really? And how do you intend to do that? You can barely feed yourself and your brother. You had to resort to stealing. You are a complete embarrassment. Just look at how you disgraced yourself today. Now, the whole world knows you as a thief.

Shut up! Shut up! I will survive this.

Really? After seventeen years? You better do what you need to do. Your mother did it too. After all, that was how you came into the world. Laying on your back for some few minutes every day won’t hurt. You got to do what you got to do. Plus, it isn’t like it will be your first time any way.

SHUT UP!

“Aunty Bola. Are you okay? You look sick.” Seven year old Tomiwa held his half-sister’s hands, looking very bothered. He asked in fluent Yoruba. “Is it the headache again?”

Bola had not noticed her seven year old half-brother walk up to welcome her. She stroked his head. “I am fine, Tomiwa. Just need some rest.” She replied in the native tongue.

Tomiwa’s face lightened up and he grabbed the nylon in his sister’s hand. “Is that food? Where did you get it?” He placed the heavy bag on the floor and rummaged through its contents. “Yeeee! What is this?” He raised a bar of chocolate. “Is it sweet?”

Bola choked back the tears in her eyes. If life had smiled on them from the start, her little brother would not be so much in awe of a simply candy as he was now. He looked like he had seen something so magical. “Let’s go inside. We will share it together.” Then she hesitated. “Is Baba around?”

“No. He went out since morning and has not returned. I am hungry, Aunty. Baba did not give me money for food.”

“Don’t worry. I brought enough food for us. We just have to hide it away from Baba, so it will be enough for us for days, okay?”

Tomiwa nodded in agreement. At such a young age, he already knew life was not fair and was ready to make sure he survived as well, even if it meant hiding food away from his uncaring father. The siblings walked into their one room apartment that could boast of nothing except a tattered mattress on the floor and some plates and pots carefully arranged in a corner. The colourless wall was marked with cracks here and there and the only window to the room was covered with a net that had large holes.

“So where did you get this plenty food?” Tomiwa asked as he settled on the mattress with his sister, his eyes bulging with excitement.

“Well… I um… a kind woman bought them for me.”Bola replied, forcing a smile on her face. She had only been able to pick some candy she had stuffed underneath her cloth, but when her ‘godmother’ had come to her rescue, she had ended up leaving the mall with a full bag instead. The woman had added a lot of things to the stolen items and had paid for everything. That kind act had shaken Bola to the depth of her soul and had got her scared too. No one had ever been generous to her before and she had not known how to react. Instead of showing gratitude, her first instinct had been to be unthankful and to run away as fast as she could. Come to think of it, why would anyone want to show her kindness? In this life, she had learnt not to trust anyone. If someone did you good, be assured that it was because the person wanted something in return. Her father, whom they called ‘Baba’, had proven that over and over again. There was not a single day in that house that he did not mention how kind he was by giving her and her brother a roof over their heads. If not for him, they would be on the street, prostituting and penniless like their mothers. Instead, he had been an ‘honourable’ man and had taken custody of his children from ‘the ashewos’ from the moment they were born. But that was where it stopped. What they would eat was none of his business. So, Bola became responsible for bringing food into the house and feeding them, Baba inclusive. He had provided the house. She was to provide the food. From childhood, she had resorted to begging and doing petty jobs for people to make ends meet. When Tomiwa was brought into the house seven years ago when Bola was just ten, she knew she was not a child anymore. She was now a mother. Taking care of a baby was not something she had bargained for, but with help from older women around, she had succeeded in raising a strong boy. Anytime she looked at him, she felt the pride of a mother, but something still tugged at her heart. She needed to get him out of this violent neighbourhood if he ever could make meaning out of his life. She had been working on that that for seven years and yet, she had not succeeded. Was there something she was doing amiss?

“God bless her so much.” Tomiwa said, taking in a large chunk of the chocolate. “Did you remember to say ‘thank you’?

Deep guilt filled Bola’s heart. “I will when next I see her.” If I see her again.

“Okay. Please tell her I also said ‘thank you’, okay?”

“Eat your food, Tomiwa.” Bola cut him off gently before his next words would pierce her heart even more. The way he rushed the candy made her want to cry. “Eat as much as you can.” I don’t know when next we shall eat food as good as this.

When she had woken up that morning and discovered there was no food to eat in the house and no means of getting money for the weekend, she had resorted to doing one thing she had vowed she would never do again. Stealing. So, she had stood up before 6 am and pocketed the last N100 she had left before embarking on the journey to the Mall, which she had heard so much about. With the N100, she had hoped to get cheap transport that would take her half-way and she would walk the rest. A lot of petty thieves in the area had mentioned how lucrative ‘business’ was in the mall. Perhaps, if she was careful and smart enough, she would be lucky to steal as many things a poly bag could carry. By the time she completed the first lapse of the journey, she was totally exhausted and knew within her that she would not leave that place without getting what she had come for. Unfortunately, luck did not shine on her. She had faced the greatest embarrassment of her life. Thankfully, a kind-hearted woman had come to her rescue. When she walked through the door, Bola thought she had seen an angel, only that she didn’t have wings and when she had declared her a relative, Bola didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. When the guards had asked for her name, she had given a fake name. Tosin Ayoola. How the name jumped out of her lips still puzzled her. One thing she knew, she had been able to cover her tracks well. Anyone looking for a ‘Tosin Ayoola’ would never trace her to a ‘Bola Shotimiu’. One thing, though. She was grateful the woman had come just at the nick of time. Too bad she had not found the grace to say a simple ‘thank you’. Instead, she had been an ingrate. No doubt, the biggest ingrate that ever lived.

“What is this?” Tomiwa delved deeper into the nylon. He shouted excitedly. “See, it is money!” He waved the folded pieces in his hands. “Plenty money!”

Bola grabbed the money off his hands with trembling hands. Her eyes widened with shock as she counted one currency after the other. “N5000!” She jumped to her feet.

She had never held such big money all at once. The last time she held something close to that was when she had  lain under a man who had promised to pay her N4,000, but ended up tossing N2,500 at her, asking her to ‘manage’ it and to get the hell out of his room before his wife returned. She had never felt more miserable and as she shamefully picked up the money, she heard the man smirk at her. That was seven months ago when Tomiwa had fallen sick and desperately needed some drugs. Now, in her hands she held N5000? She could not believe the woman would further extend such kindness, after all Bola had put her through. “Maybe she forgot it in the nylon.”

“Maybe she just wanted to give you. And you did not say ‘thank you’ to her.” Tomiwa sounded very accusatory this time. He emptied all the content of the nylon and a paper flew out. He picked the paper and when he could not make out the content, he handed it over to his sister. “What is this?”

When Bola collected the paper and discovered what it was, the shock on her face turned into a frown. She was proven right again. No one in this world showed kindness without expecting something in return. She brought the business card closer to her face. On one side was a name and a phone number. Lola Williams. The name had a good ring to it, but Bola was not deceived. No doubt, the old woman wanted something in return; that was why she had left her card, so Bola could call her. If that was what she wanted, she would have to wait till eternity. Bola turned the paper and on the other side was a simple sentence. A question actually.

Have you got Jesus?

That question nearly made her laugh in disbelief. This rich woman was not only silly, she was also one of those Jesus freaks. No wonder she had been a little self-righteous. Bola flung the card across the room. She wanted nothing to do with people like that. She didn’t need their Jesus to take control of her life. After all, where was He all through the years of suffering? If there was anything she knew she needed to make it in this life, it would be perseverance, not some story about some Man who died thousands of years ago. She doubted if the story was real anyway, just a bunch of lies that were passed from one century to another. She brought out a packed plate of rice and ate hungrily. No, she didn’t need Jesus. What she needed was a regular plate of rice.

 

*****************************

5.30pm

Pauline walked up the stairs to their two bedroom flat located in Opebi area of Lagos. Her heart pumped heavily with fear. She had been out of the house since morning and was just returning over eight hours later. She knew her husband would be extremely angry and would not hesitate, in hard terms, to let her know that, but coming back to the house was the last thing on her mind after she left the Mall, so she had decided to stop by her friend’s place in Ojodu-Berger. Ezinne, the only person in the world who knew what she was going through, had provided the kind of comfort she needed, but still that was not enough. She needed a lasting solution. Tonight, in the stillness of their home, she would ask her husband for divorce. Finally, she would take the step that had been inevitable for months now.

But nothing prepared her for what she discovered when she got to the doorstep of her home. At the entrance were different pairs of shoes, indicating her husband was not alone. Happy chatters from inside floated into her ears and her heart quickened more as she recognized one of the voices. Her mother-in-law’s. What was she doing here, uninvited and without formally letting her know she was coming beforehand? New rage boiled within her. This was totally uncalled for. Even her own mother would not have such audacity. Shaking with anger, she placed her hand on knob and tried to open the door, but it was locked from the inside. This was what her life had been degraded to. She had been shut out from the comfort and happiness the home she built should provide and left without in the dark to languish in loneliness. Outsiders were now the lords of her lair and she could only watch from afar as they destroyed what she had nurtured for years. Enough was enough! She banged hard on the door and was rewarded with a sudden silence. Seconds later, the door was unlocked and a lady peeped from inside. She was young, light-skinned and beautiful. Pauline had never seen her before and she wondered who she could be.

The lady frowned at her. “Why did you bang on the door like that?” She had a heavy igbo accent and one could tell she was not well educated.

Pauline resisted the urge to slap her. How dared this ‘small thing’ talk to her like that, challenging her in her own house? She hissed and tried to pass through the door.

The lady blocked the entrance. “Who you be sef?” She looked back into the house. “Mama, please come here. I don’t know who this woman is.”

Pauline’s mother-in-law, a short but dominating plump woman marched towards the door and when she saw Pauline, her smile turned into a deep frown. She hissed loudly, made a sign of the cross, and spoke to the young lady. “Allow her in. It is the Ogbanje.”

“Oh!” The lady stepped back, creating some space for Pauline to walk in, while assessing her in a strange and belittling way.

Pauline ignored her and when she stepped inside, she saw her husband sitting in front of the television and eating food she obviously did not cook. She greeted him, loud enough for him to hear, but if he did hear, he chose to ignore her, focusing more intently on the football match on the screen. She sighed sadly and walked into the kitchen. When she got there, she found the sink filled with unwashed utensils and the floor was stained with dirty water. Puddles from the soup had stained the wall and the gas cooker was filled with milky water. Who could have done this? She thought irritatingly. She dropped the groceries on the cupboard and dashed to the living room where the women had joined her husband, but what shocked her was how the young lady had cuddled into him as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

“Ermmm… sorry, excuse me…” She didn’t know how to begin. “The kitchen… it’s a mess. What happened there?” She looked from one person to the other.

“If you had come home early enough to cook food for your husband, you will not be asking such stupid question.” Her mother-in-law chided her.

Pauline shut her eyes and tried to hold back the retaliatory words at the tip of her tongue. She was not ready for this, had not expected it, did not want this. She was already physically and emotionally exhausted and having people remind her of her failure was the least thing she needed right now. She caught the scornful look on the girl’s face and watched as her husband gently stroked the girl’s hair. She did not need a soothsayer to know what was going on here. She was being mocked and right at her face.

“Who are you?” Pauline turned to the girl.

“This is the beautiful girl I have brought from the village that will give me a grandson.” Mother-in-law chipped in again. “Since your witchcraft has tied your womb, I can no longer watch my son suffer at your hands anymore. In my family, in all our generations, we always have children upon children and that will not stop with my only son.”

“But, mama, do you know what you are doing?” Pauline challenged her. “You are trying to break up your son’s marriage.” She glanced at her husband, expecting him to say a word, but he kept watching the TV as if she was not even there.

The old woman jumped on her knees. “Which marriage, eh? The one I did not support from the start? I told my son to marry from our tribe, but you bewitched him and he disobeyed me and married you. Now, I am glad he has seen I was right all along.” She pointed a finger at Pauline. “Soon, shame will make you pack your load and leave this house when my girl starts giving me grandchildren; strong boys that will feed at my breasts.”

Pauline turned to her husband. “George, you knew this all along and you did not even inform me?”

George ignored his wife and instead, picked up the remote control and increased the volume of the television. A ball of fury consumed Pauline and she moved to the socket where the television was connected and switched it off. How dared he treat her this way and in front of these people?

George cast her a very annoyed look. “Why did you do that?” He asked in a calm but irritated voice. “Or rather, how dare you do that?”

“I asked you a question, George, and you pretended not to hear me.”

George stood on his feet, his posture very intimidating. At 37, he was a successful banker with a progressing career and one who believed in keeping a united home-front, which was why he always threatened divorce, but would never actually carry it out. He believed it would not only damage his reputation, but would also undermine his authority as a man. “I didn’t answer you because I consider it a foolish question and you decide to disrupt my football? Are you mad? By the way, you told me you were going to the Mall since morning and you are just returning. I guess you went to see your manfriend, right?”

“I don’t have any manfriend.”

“Then where did you go?” He walked slowly towards his wife.

Pauline took some steps backwards. Right now, she did not know what to expect from her husband. One thing, though, he had never laid his hands on her before but from the way he fumed, she doubted he would not do that. “I was at the Mall and when I was returning, there was heavy traffic on the road.” She lied.

“Liar!” Mama shouted. “There was no traffic when we entered Lagos o! Everywhere was free.” She faced the girl. “Abi, Nneka?”

“Yes, mama. You are right.” Nneka replied, sitting more comfortably in the chair.

“Are you lying to me?” George asked his wife.

“No! I am not.” She pleaded with her eyes. “You and I are the ones that live in Lagos and you know how Lagos roads are. Plus today is Saturday. People have weddings and ceremonies. I swear, it was traffic.”

George’s eyes narrowed into slits. “Keep cheating. The day I will catch you will be your last day in this house.”

“Cheat?” Patience was exasperated. How dared he accuse her of an act he himself was guilty of? On so many occasions, she had secretly read through his phone and had seen many incriminating messages, which she had not had the courage to challenge him, and now he was flirting with one right before her eyes and he had the nerve to warn her about cheating? “We both know who is the cheat here, George and it is obviously not me.”

“Well, you cannot blame a man who hardly enjoys sex with his wife not to have something by the side. But as a respectable man, I have tried to be discreet, which is why Nneka is here. She will be living with us and taking over some of your roles. To others, she is a maid who has come in to assist us with our busy life, but among us in this house, she will be more than that.”

“Are you doing this to spite me, George? All these because I am yet to give you a child?”

“Which other reason is there? I am growing older and cannot keep waiting for your womb to be active. I want sons of my own and you should be grateful I will still allow you to stay under this roof and bear my name. At least, with that, you can still retain your respect.”

Pauline’s eyes were filled with tears. In her whole life, she never would have imagined this would be happening to her. She had heard tales of people going through hell in their marriages and had prayed she would never have such experience, and here she was going through the very thing she had feared most. “You should have at least discussed this with me before taking the action, George.” She said amidst tears. “At least, courtesy demanded that.”

“Well, I wanted to discuss it with you this morning, but you were so desperate to go and meet your manfriend.”

I have no manfriend! She wanted to shout at him again, but decided against it. No matter how hard she tried to convince him, he would never believe her. He had made up his mind on this and there was no use fighting a lost battle. Her marriage had failed. Her life was in shambles. Life had finally become empty. There was no need to ask for a divorce anymore. It had already happened. All that remained was to sign across a piece of paper.

She started crying uncontrollably and when her husband tried to move towards her, his mother blocked him. “No. Let her get used to this. Trust me, she will get over it.”

Pauline ran to her room and bolted the door. She flung herself on the bed, wailing like a bereaved widow. Actually, she was bereaved. Bereaved of love, of life, of her humanity.

TRIANGULAR (1)

Welcome to a new series on REDigion, your number one faith-based blog. While we hope to launch into our new home in the coming year, we shall start off ‘TRIANGULAR’ here. I hope you not only enjoy this story, but also allow the Holy Spirit draw insight and lessons for you. In this world, troubles will come, but don’t get carried away. You got Jesus and He’s got your back. Sit back and relax with this series and ensure you follow episode by episode so you can get a full grasp. Also, please share the story on all your social media. You may not know how your little, kind act will go a long way in someone’s life out there. Also, your comments in the comment box are welcome. Thank you and have a good read.

 

SATURDAY, 5TH JULY 2014

9.30a.m.

Pauline Okonji drove carefully through the entrance of the Ikeja City Mall in the upper middle-class area of Lagos. It was the first Saturday of the month of July and though the day was bright and sunny and looked very promising, Pauline’s spirit was dampened with sorrow and she tried to hold back the tears that threatened to fall. When the security man handed her the pass and greeted her with a smile, she chipped a quick response and hoped he had not noticed her swollen, red eyes which she had tried to hide behind her heavy mascara. She took a quick glance at the rear-view mirror and was not surprised at what stared back at her. Her once cheerful eyes now looked lifeless and her chubby cheeks were sunken like a deep hole. Her charred lips had been covered up with red lipstick she had quickly applied before rushing out of the house… a place that had now become hell for her.

She found a vacant spot in the parking lot and quickly swerved into it before another driver took the shot. Though it was barely 10a.m, the mall was already busy and she was not about to take chances. In Lagos, one needed to be very smart or else, one could get toppled over by another and everyone was right in his own eyes, especially the ever-rushing Lagos driver. She switched off the ignition and took in deep, tired breaths. Though she was here to pick up a few groceries, she knew she had come for more. She desperately needed an escape route, away from the troubles that had plagued her life for many years, away from a home that reminded her of her failure as a wife, away from a man who had made it his life’s mission to tell her how much of a misfortune she had brought him.

This morning, she had woken up with a heavy heart and while lying on the bed and staring at the rolling ceiling fan, she had given thought to a terrible idea she never would have imagined in the first place. At least, if she did it, she would no longer be a problem to her dear husband. After all, there was nothing they had together anymore – no love, no commitment, they didn’t even sleep in the same bedroom anymore. He had moved out of their bedroom three months ago, after all, she had failed to conceive after eight years of marriage. That was the root of his many ‘issues’ with her and it was further fueled by an irritating mother-in-law who never failed to remind her of how ‘fruitful’ they were in their own family and how she was the weak link. She must be Nwanyi-iga, her husband’s mother had told her to her face, and have been cursed by the gods, never to have children for an evil she committed which she had refused to confess. Her in-laws had never liked her and had not hidden their displeasure at their son’s marriage to a woman outside their tribe. Her husband, who she thought would stick by her side for better for worse, had eventually succumbed to their beliefs, and had condemned her too. First, it was her inability to give him children, then it became her food which had become tasteless to him before the complaint that she was getting unattractive started.

“Don’t you see how the wives of my friends dress? Can’t you just be like them and use your head for once?” He had barked at her last Sunday before they left for church. “I still wonder at what I saw in you in the first place. Go and change that dress! I don’t want people asking if you are my mother.”

Amidst tears, she had run inside her room and picked another dress, which yet didn’t satisfy him enough. If only she had listened to her mother’s plea not to hurry into marriage with a man she barely knew, but she had been blinded by love… love that had failed her and left her a dejected woman.

Her mind flew back to that dreadful day nine years ago when she met George for the first time. It was the happiest day of her life, or so she had thought. She had just completed the National Youths Service Corp programme, a Federal Government-designed year-plan for fresh graduates, and had decided to attend a celebration party hosted by one of her friend’s rich parents who were based in Kaduna, where she had served. It was in the party she met George, whom she thought was the most handsome man she had ever seen. He, too, had been struck by her and two days after, they had started off a romantic relationship, so sweet that she considered herself the luckiest girl in the world. She had met her match made in Heaven and God had answered her prayers in the least likely of places. It was, therefore, no surprise when she had given him an immediate answer the moment he popped the question. It was a dream come true. She was just twenty three. Naïve. Impulsive. Very foolish. Perhaps, if she had been wise enough to ask for more time, she would not have made the greatest mistake of her life. And now she would pay for it for the rest of her life.

A mixture of laughter snapped her back to reality. A young man and a woman were laughing over what the young man was saying as they walked to the car next to Pauline’s. They appeared happy, like they had no problem in the world. The man secretly tapped the lady’s bum playfully and she squirmed loudly.

“Let’s get home first, baby. You cannot even imagine what I have in mind for you.” The lady teased.

“Ha! I can’t wait.” The man replied excitedly as he unlocked the car and placed the bags of groceries at the back seat. “You cannot imagine what I have in mind either. I hope the kids don’t come back on time.”

“I hope so too. It’s been a while we had our alone time.”

“Catch!” The man threw a bunch of keys over the car to the woman. “You drive.”

“Really?” The woman gave him a confused look. “You really want me to drive?”

“Isn’t that what you were begging me for this morning?”

“Yes!” She jumped in the air and blew the man a kiss as she moved over to the driver’s seat. “Now, we’ll see who is the better driver.”

The man laughed heartily as if his wife just cracked the joke of the century. “You better bring your A-game then.” He got into the passenger’s seat, unaware of the woman who watched them from the red Mazda car beside them.

As they pulled out of the parking lot, Pauline broke down completely. Why me? Why me? She wept like a baby. I deserve to be happy too. I deserve a man who loves me. I deserve a happy home filled with happy children.

Almost immediately after the couple pulled out, a big SUV with tinted glass quickly took the empty spot, taking more space and Pauline quickly cleaned her face not to draw attention to herself. A casually-dressed young man came out of the driver’s seat and walked to the other side to open the door for the person seated at the owner’s corner. Pauline could barely pick out who the person was, but from the look of the car, it would be, no doubt, someone who was very rich and influential, perhaps a politician. Her mobile phone vibrated and she picked it up. When she saw who the caller was, she cut the call, switched off the phone and threw it at the back seat. His voice was the last thing she wanted to hear. Already, her head had started to ache when she saw his name. He could be her husband, but he had no right to her anymore. He lost that authority the day he told her if he had his way, he would divorce her right away.

She checked her face in the mirror. It had become a mess with the tears and the mascara and her swollen eyes were bare to the world. Her pain, which she was trying to hide, now hung open for the world to mock her with. She fumbled with her bag and brought out an handkerchief and a pair of very dark sunglasses. She dabbed at her eyes and wore the glasses before she opened the door of the car, placing her bag on her arm.  When she saw her reflection on the car’s side mirror, she was a bit satisfied at what stared back at her. This was who the world would see – a tall, slim, dark-skinned, stunning, successful woman in her prime. No one would know that underneath that beautiful skin was a woman who was crying desperately for love and attention. Simple things she was ready to give the world for.

 

***************************************************************

10.05a.m.

Lola Williams was getting impatient as she scanned through one tuna can to the other, trying to avoid the ingredients the doctor had warned her not to eat. At 62, she counted herself lucky to still be able to do her shopping herself. Not that she did not have maids to run such errands, but recent developments had made her want to appreciate the little things of life. Things like doing your own shopping, stopping to say hello to a neighbor, and making those little calls to the people you cherish. Especially when you were told your time on earth was fast coming to a close. Every minute would begin to have more value and things that once did not matter would suddenly appear important, as if your next breath depended on them.

She glanced at the younger woman beside her, taking in her beauty and her youthful radiance. She had looked exactly like that a long time ago, when life had been happiest and with the man of her dreams beside her. She sighed sadly. How I miss you, Tobi. Life has never been the same since the day you said goodbye. Now, I have to face my battles alone. The younger woman looked very confused in her choice of beverage to pick as she checked one can after the other.

“Have you tried Ovaltine? It’s the best for me.” Lola spoke softly. “Also good for kids.”

The woman gave her a ‘did I ask you?’ look and didn’t mutter a word. Instead, she managed a forced smile that did not reach her eyes and faced the counter again as if the old woman never existed.

Lola could have chosen to be angry, but instead, she smiled inwardly. Strangely, this woman reminded her of who she was some thirty years ago… lost, lonely and embittered, hiding her pains behind a steel face covered with dark-rimmed shades. At some point, all she had felt was emptiness that ate to the root of her soul and left her stark naked to the shame life inflicted. She had suffered depression and at some point, thought of killing herself. She actually tried to. She remembered that cold evening when she had stood at the edge of the Third Mainland bridge, counting down to the moment she would take the leap. Everything had come crumbling down before her eyes and she could take it no more. It was at that moment she met Jesus face-to-face. Actually, Jesus had come in the form of a man. A man named Tobi. She could still remember his first words.

“You can either take the leap forward to death or backward to life. It’s your choice.”

That had been the most difficult decision of her life to make, but she was glad she made the right choice. Tobi had not only come with a chance to a better life, but with the key to sustain it. He had led her to Jesus and the day she accepted Him as her Lord and Saviour, she had found hope in ways immeasurable. Jesus had been her light and stay after Tobi had been involved in the car accident that took his life eight months ago. And when she had received some terrible news from the doctor two days ago and had wept bitterly in the shadows of her room, she had found solace in this same Saviour, who was always there to comfort her.

“Is dat all, madam?” A young man of about twenty five approached her, carrying a basket full of groceries.

Lola turned to face Emeka, her driver, who had accompanied her into the store. “I am just a bit confused whether or not to buy tuna. I have to be careful of what I eat now. You know I am getting old.”

Emeka laughed. “Old ke? No, madam. You dey look young than before sef.”

“Indeed. Wait till you get as old as I am, then you will understand you cannot eat as many things as you want anymore.” She returned the cans back into the rack. “They are processed foods any way, not healthy for me. Let’s go and pay. The crowd here is becoming too much for me.”

They passed by the younger woman who didn’t even look as if she acknowledged their presence. Pauline watched as the elderly woman walked away with so much confidence and dignity and wondered who she really was. Obviously one of those high-class society women who thought they could wield power over other people’s lives, poking their noses into other people’s businesses. She saw the boy walk after her like a dog after the trail of its owner. She shook her head in disdain. The boy looked like he must be rendering other ‘services’, apart from driving the woman around. These days, one should not take things at face value. She pitied the woman’s husband, who must be old and blind that he could not see what was happening right under his nose. She refocused her attention on the beverages she wanted to buy and sighed. The last time she bought Bournvita, her husband had complained it was not sweet, as if she was the one who manufactured it. She wanted to buy Milo this time, but he might complain it was too sweet. It appeared he would complain of whichever one she bought. The old woman had advised she took Ovaltine, which was ‘also good for kids’. That had struck a nerve in her. Why would everyone try to throw a jab at her? Was it her fault she could not have kids? She adjusted her glasses and turned away from the beverages section. She would buy none of the beverages. Her life was not at all sweet anyway. As she walked to one of the payment tills, her eyes caught the rich woman standing at the till next to hers with a smile on her face. It was as if the woman had no problems in the world. Her eyes were sparkling with contentment and when they caught hers, Pauline quickly turned her face to the other side. She didn’t like the way the woman looked at her. It was as if the woman saw past the pair of glasses down into the crevices of her soul. Pauline felt naked before those aged eyes.

“I swear, I didn’t take anything.” A loud, female voice distracted everyone.

“Just come with me to avoid embarrassment.” One of the store employees, dressed in clean-cut white uniform, spoke gently to her.

She was a young girl, not more than seventeen and she looked disheveled. Her shirt and jeans looked very tight and dirty and her hair had been packed in a hurry, leaving many strands falling off. “I told you I didn’t take anything. I am not going anywhere with you. What kind of embarrassment is this?” She shouted at the top of her voice, not bothered that she was drawing attention to herself.

“That is what you want us to believe, but the camera says another.” The staff was getting agitated as he was joined by a couple of security men. “You have to come with us so we can do this more civilly.”

The girl shook her head. “No. I didn’t take anything. That your stupid camera is lying.”

Without warning, the guards picked her up and dragged her through the store to an inner room, much to everyone’s surprise. She struggled to liberate herself unsuccessfully and kept shouting till the door was shut.

“That is how they do.” One of the female customers on the queue started. “They are many here o! Beggars and thieves! Thank God for CCTV. If they think they can also come to a place like this and steal and go scot free like they do in Balogun and Oshodi, they are mistaken.”

“Lagos nawa!” Another customer responded. “That is why I cannot settle here. After today, I am leaving for my Abuja, where life is better and thieves are less in number. You people are trying.”

A third customer, a man this time, countered. “Whether Lagos or Abuja, thieves are everywhere. Abuja is even worse. Is that not where your leaders are looting our money every day? They are even the real thieves in this country.”

An argument started as each one tried to maneuver the talk to his favour. Lola’s mind was elsewhere. It laid beyond the closed door. She wondered the kind of treatment the poor girl was getting and what would have pushed her to come to steal in a place like this, why she would have risked her life when she knew she could easily be caught. There was only one answer to that. Poverty. In a country where resources were concentrated in the hands of the few and the majority was suffering. Poverty had driven the girl to do things she ordinarily would not have done. Lola, herself, had once been a captive to this monster and had God not come to her rescue just on time, the monster would have taken her life.

She pushed gently through the queue. “Excuse me, please.”

“Where you dey go, madam? Make I come?” Emeka asked, looking confused as to what his boss had in mind. He knew she was a spontaneous woman, after working with her for close to six years now, but sometimes, she still did some things that mystified him.

“Just wait on the queue. I will be back.” Lola instructed as she made her way to the door where the girl had been taken.

From where she was, Pauline snickered loudly. She was right about this old woman. Couldn’t she just mind her business just like everyone else was doing? Must she poke her nose into things that obviously did not concern her? Or did she think because she was rich, her affluence would make way for her?

Lola knocked hard on the door thrice and when someone opened, she demanded to see the girl.

“And who are you?” The security guard asked, a bit angry at the boldness of the woman.

Lola raised her head with a smile that was hard to resist. “Oh! I am Lola Williams, and I am here to pick my goddaughter.”

“Your goddaughter?” The guard scorned. “You mean the thief?”

Lola laughed, waving her hand. “Oh! She can be naughty at times and trust me when I say ‘naughty’. Let me talk to the manager and resolve this issue as soon as possible. I don’t want further embarrassment for us.”

The guard didn’t know whether or not to believe her. “Stay here. I will be back.” He closed the door, leaving Lola standing outside.

Lola took a quick glance at the crowd waiting at the till and hoped they did not think her as foolish as she considered herself. What am I doing? She thought. What am I getting myself into? Godmother to a girl I barely know and one who is obviously a thief? She hoped nobody in the crowd could recognize her. That would be a further embarrassment.

Pauline thought the old woman, not only foolish, but over-confident. Who did she think she was, trying to be savior over other people? She hoped the woman got the answer she deserved and that would put her in her place.

The door opened and the employee who had caught the girl came out. “I hear you are the mother of the girl.”

“Godmother, actually.” Lola corrected. “I will pay for whatever it is she stole. But please, don’t press this case further. She is an embarrassment and I will deal with her appropriately.”

The staff scratched his head as if pondering on the next step to take. “Okay. You can come in. if not for you, she would have slept in the cell tonight.”

“Oh, thank you. Thank you so much.” Lola gushed with appreciation as she walked past the open door.

Pauline rolled her eyes in disgust. Who would fall for that kind of crap? Godmother? Was that even a real thing?

“Hmmm… just look at the girl and look at the woman.” A customer spoke. “Who would have thought they are related? Imagine a girl like that coming from a rich family and still stealing.”

“You think stealing is normal? That girl is possessed of the devil.” Another customer opined. “She should be taken for deliverance in MFM. By the time they are done with her, that spirit will disappear.”

“What a shame! That old woman try sha. If na me, I no go even go near am. Make she die for prison.”

“Next customer, please.” The cashier called out.

Pauline emptied the content of her cart and waited for the cashier to scan all the items, while her mind was on what was happening behind the closed door. Would they take more of the old woman’s lies? It was obvious she was not in any way related to the girl. Even the contrast in their clothing was enough evidence.

“N12,850, ma.” The cashier looked at her expectantly. “Are you taking these ones too?” She pointed at some baby bibs that were left by the previous customer.

Pauline glowered at the cashier. “Do I look like I am nursing a baby? Or are you mocking me?”

The girl looked confused. “I am sorry. I thought it was meant for you.” She quickly picked up the items and placed them on the corner of the counter. “I am not mocking you in any way.”

“Then do your job well!” Pauline flung some cash on the counter.

The girl quickly picked up the money and packed the items for her customer. There were times she hated her job and this was one of it. Customers could be very pushy sometimes, and while the popular slogan ‘customer is king’ is rung in her ears every morning, sometimes she wished she could have her way and retort. This particular one would not have gone scot-free at all.

Pauline picked her bags angrily and stormed out of the store, but not without first giving the cashier another scathing look. First, the nosy old woman and now the garrulous sales girl! Why should the world keep shoving her problems up her nose? Already, the home front was too hot for her and now, she had to face same discrimination from the outside world, where she thought she could find some solace?

She had planned to pick up a couple of things from other stores, but the recent event had disorganized her. She marched hastily back to her car and as she walked through the foot court, the loud sounds of children’s laughter that came from every corner made her want to cry. It was as if they were making fun at her and her inability to have children. She quickened her steps, hoping she would make it on time before she collapsed on the floor in tears and embarrassed herself.

By the time she reached her car, the tears were already falling uncontrollably and a few passersby noticed her, but made no attempt to ask her what was wrong. That was how she wanted it. She didn’t want anyone poking into her affairs. She flung the bags to the back seat and turned on the ignition. She locked the doors and put on the air conditioner, trying to shut out the world completely, but failing woefully as her mind drifted to an event that occurred ten years ago… the event that had taken her life on a downward slope.

She had been returning from night study with some of her friends in preparation for their final school examination that was to take off the next week. One would have thought that since they were within the school premises, they were safe. Plus, that was not the first time they would be having a night group study and returning back to their rooms in the middle of the night. But that night was different. On their way back, they had stumbled upon some guys who were obviously returning from a secret meeting. The red bandanas they wore around their heads and hands proved they were members of a cult and they reeked of marijuana. The boys didn’t waste time in letting their intentions known and while the girls had run for their lives, two of them were not so lucky and Pauline was one of them. That night, the gang of twelve boys had taken their turns one after the other on the girls, after they had gagged the girls’ mouth to stop them from crying for help. It had been Pauline’s worst nightmare and had left a scar on her that was difficult to heal. Luckily, with the help of her friends, family and the University’s support, they were able to trace the culprits and expel them, but still, that was not enough to take away the damage they had caused. The school’s doctor had sadly informed her of the impairment the act had brought to her womb and that it would be difficult for her to conceive, except by a miracle. Her cervix had been scarred, changing the course of her life forever and depriving her of the joy of motherhood. As the years passed by, she had held to a tiny ray of hope, believing that the expected miracle would take place, but it never did. Every day, it looked like it never would. She placed her head on the steering wheel and wept bitterly. She had never told her husband about this. It would only bring more chaos to her already-muddled life. Perhaps, her in-laws were right. She was indeed cursed.

A loud argument from outside distracted her and she quickly cleaned her eyes to see the old woman and her ‘goddaughter’ quarrel noisily as they came closer to the car.

“Why should I thank you? I didn’t ask for your help. I got everything under control!” The girl barked at the woman, not minding if she sounded rude. “Who are you anyway, claiming to be my godmother? I don’t want an old hag as my mother. I don’t even need a mother!”

“Do you know who I am?” Lola asked quietly, trying not to get angered by the little girl’s outburst. “I risked my reputation to save you from spending the rest of your days in prison and this is what I get in return?”

The girl folded her shoulders and turned her face to the other side. “Just give me my bag and let me go. I didn’t beg you anyway.”

“You want something you didn’t pay for. You have no right to it.”

The girl turned a distorted face at the woman. “Because you paid for them does not mean they are yours either. I took them first.”

Lola turned to her driver. “Give her the bag.”

Surprise shone on the girl’s face at the turn of event. She had expected another retaliatory remark, but instead got the opposite. She grabbed the nylon from Emeka and started leaving, without another glance at the woman who had helped her out of a difficult situation.

“Madam, you dey try o! If na me, I for don slap the girl since. Which insult be dat na?” Emeka didn’t like the way things turned out. “Dat is why it is not good to do good things for people sometimes.”

“Don’t say that, Emeka.” Lola corrected him. “Because people don’t appreciate what you do does not mean you should stop doing good. If we all stop doing good, can you imagine how wicked the world will be?”

Emeka shrugged and unlocked the jeep. Sometimes, his boss said and did things that were beyond his understanding, but he loved her all the same. She was the only person he had worked with and had never had a problem with. Instead, she treated him more like a son than a servant and he was grateful for that.

He opened the door at the owner’s seat. “I don ready, madam.”

Lola barely heard what Emeka said. Her eyes were on the retreating figure of the belligerent young lady she just spoke with. “Get me my phone, Emeka. I need to speak to Sarah urgently.”

Emeka shook his head and brought out the phone in the small compartment of the car. “Here, madam.”

Lola punched some keys on the phone. “Hello, Sarah. Sorry to bother you. I know it is Saturday, but I have a small job for you.” She scratched her nose. “I need you to use all the tools you have, Facebook and whatever, to trace someone for me. Then you can show me on Monday. The name is Tosin Ayoola, I think. Yes, she is female. Can you do that for me? Good. I know I can depend on you. Have a lovely weekend.” She disconnected the call and handed the phone over to her driver. “Thank you.”

Emeka nodded at the open door. “No problem, madam. We dey go now?”

“Yes, please. I have had enough stress for the day.” Lola gently stepped into the car with Emeka’s help.

When Emeka walked over to the driver’s side, his eyes caught the ones of a woman sitting in a red Mazda car and who obviously had been watching everything that had happened. He couldn’t blame her. The scene was unavoidable and quite interesting for anyone who cared to watch. It was like a Nollywood script being acted out. He jumped into the car and started the ignition. He looked at the woman at the back seat through the front mirror. “Na house we dey go now?”

“Yes, let’s go home.” Lola replied. She was emotionally exhausted after all she had gone through. The doctor must not hear of the stress she had taken herself through today. He had clearly instructed her to take enough rest as much as she could, but the allure of a morning shopping had been irresistible. As they pulled out of the lot, she had no idea that a pair of interested eyes followed them, wondering what kind of superwoman she thought she was.

 

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