Nnedi shook her head ruefully as she got down from the Molue at Mile 2. She would have to take another bus back to Oshodi she mused. Finally seated in the bus, she let her mind wander to that fateful afternoon when Ik’s mother came calling. It was the same day Ik had resumed work after the miscarriage. She was sitting on a chair by the window when she heard a key turn in the lock. She wondered if she was about to be robbed in broad day light. She stood up from the chair and rushed to crouch behind the curtain just as the door flung open
To her surprise it was no armed robber but two women. One was elderly, in her fifties; the other looked to be about her age. She wondered who they were and why they had a key to Ik’s apartment. She crept out slowly from behind the curtains startling the two visitors who by now were making themselves comfortable on the bed.
“Who are you?” the elderly woman asked
“And what were you doing behind that curtain?”
“My name is Nnedi”
“Are you Ik’s girlfriend?”
Then what are you doing here?
“I live here”, Nnedi replied woodenly
“Look, I am his mother”, the woman continued impatiently. “And I have come to see my son”.
“I have also brought a wife for him from the village”, she said gesturing towards the younger female who remained silent.
“I suggest that you pack your things and start leaving. How can you be living with a man that is not your husband? All you girls of nowadays, remain in your mother’s house, you will not listen. You think it is by living with a man that he will marry you?”
“But mama I have nowhere to go”, Nnedi pleaded
“And how is that my concern? Don’t you have parents? Go back to your village”, she shouted
Nnedi felt hot tears sting her eyes. Slowly she made her way to the door
“Come and take your things with you”, Ik’s mother hollered behind her
“I am coming ma”
She continued to the front of the compound. She decided she would wait outside for Ik to come. She sat on a stone by the road to wait for Ik’s return.
The afternoon sun had given way to the dark of nighttime, still no sign of Ik. Nnedi patted her chest for her money and sighed inwardly as she felt the familiar roll of currency notes safely ensconced in her bra. It was in that moment of waiting that Nnedi decided what she would do.
She stood up, brushed that dirt from her skirt and hailed a motorcycle
“Oga take me to Lagos Motor Park”, she had told the rider
When she got to the park, the last bus had just been filled, but she was told that there was space for passengers who were willing to sit on wooden stools in the bus’s aisle. Nnedi paid for one of such stools and bid a silent goodbye to Onitsha as the bus rolled out of the garage on its way to Lagos.
She reached Lagos the following day tired and sore from the journey. She had heard stories about Lagos and how the place was a land of opportunity. In her small town of Umuaku she had seen people travel to Lagos with only the shirt on their backs and return home a few years later with lots of money and cars. She wondered what it was in Lagos that made people so successful only after a few years.
On her first night in Lagos, Nnedi slept at the bus park. She didn’t have enough money to go to a hotel as she had done in Onitsha besides she had learnt the hard way that hotels were unsafe for unaccompanied females. The bus park seemed safe enough, she thought. After all, people kept going and coming all night, even the food sellers sold food through the night. The Hausa man who roasted suya at the entrance to the park didn’t seem like he had any plans of shutting his eyes. Some of the bus drivers had gathered around a low table in a corner of the park to drink beer and they were talking and laughing loudly. A couple of skimpily clad girls loitered around the park and Nnedi noticed one of them being led by a driver into his bus. She finally emerged from the bus after what seemed like an eternity, on the heels of the driver, who was struggling with the zipper of his trousers. Soon she noticed some of the girls claiming the empty benches that were lying around. She moved to also secure one for herself and stretched her aching muscles on the uncomfortable platform. She thought about her family back in Umuaku, she imagined how Chidi must have grown. It had been six months since that fateful night of Ihenacho’s death when she had made the snap decision to run away. She thought about Ik and wished she had waited for him to come home before leaving unceremoniously. But then she didn’t know how much influence his mother wielded over him and she wasn’t willing to cause a quarrel between mother and son. When sleep finally came, she slipped into its gentle embrace goaded by exhaustion from her long and arduous trip to Lagos.
Nnedi was awoken by the sound of a male voice from a megaphone announcing various destinations. She opened her eyes to the bustle of activity going on around her noticing that it wasn’t even daybreak yet. She stood up and smoothed her rumpled clothing as best as she could before making her way to the entrance of the park. There were people everywhere, even this early in the day, with different sizes of luggage all trying to board a vehicle to one destination or another outside Lagos. She slid out of the park and onto the street which was no less crowded.
Nnedi continued walking, not knowing where she was going. Everything seemed so strange to her. She saw huge, yellow buses filled with people, sitting and standing. Others were holding on to the open door of the bus, their feet only just scraping the coal tar as the bus sped on, oblivious to the fact that they could be flung to a certain death at any time. She saw street hawkers, children going to school, a street preacher, and a drunkard who had spent the night in a gutter and was only just stumbling out of the mire.
Nnedi turned wondering who knew her in this strange city. When she didn’t see any familiar face, she continues walking
This time the voice sounded closer and she turned again.
Nnedi narrowed her eyes as recognition set in. It was Ezinne, her classmate in primary school.
“What are you doing here?” Ezinne asked breathlessly
“I saw you as you walked past. I wasn’t certain it was you so I followed”
Nnedi nodded silently
“So what brings you to Lagos?”
I need a job”, Nnedi elaborated
“Where do you live?”
“Nowhere for now”
Ezinne nodded sympathetically
“I work as a cleaner for an Oyinbo family in Ebute Metta but I live in Oshodi with my elder sister and her husband. I came here to buy food stuff with our chief cook.”
“You can follow us home so that I can introduce you to the Oyibo madam. She is a very nice woman. I’m sure she can find something for you to do”
A curved, tree-lined driveway led up to the white-washed, two-storey house with black wooden shutters. Ezinne took her to the servants’ quarters where she had a bath and was lent a clean blouse and skirt. They entered the big house through the kitchen and Nnedi was assailed by the smell of food being cooked. Her stomach grumbled as if in protest of being reminded that it had not received any nourishment since she left Onitsha three days ago.
Just then the Oyibo madam entered the kitchen
“Good afternoon, Aunty”, Ezinne greeted
“Good afternoon,” replied the white lady liltingly
“And who is this with you”, she asked, turning to face Nnedi exposing even, white teeth
“Aunty, she is my friend from the village. We went to primary school together”
“Wonderful”, replied the Oyibo madam
“My name is Mrs. Carter but everybody calls me Aunty”, she introduced in her sonorous voice.
“What’s your name?”
“Aunty, Nnedi just came to Lagos from our village. She needs work”, Ezinne supplied
“Well, I don’t have anything for you to do now. But I will ask Mrs. Lugard next door. They might need a nanny soon”, she winked.
Nnedi didn’t know how to react to the Oyibo woman’s warm-heartedness. This was the first time she would be this close to white person. The other times were back at Umuaku where she barely caught glimpses of the white men in the Ministry of Agriculture where her father worked as a Forestry Manager.
“You can show your friend to your room, Ezinne”, said Oyibo madam, dismissing them both.
As they walked back to the servant’s quarters, Ezinne suggested, “Tomorrow is my day off, so we can go to Oshodi together”
“Let us go so that you can gist me all that has been happening in Umuaku since I left”
Okoye came back the following night as promised. In fact, he couldn’t do anything useful all day as he continually replayed the events of the previous night in his head. The danger of being caught heightened his excitement as he scratched at Chinwe’s window. They had both agreed that he should not be caught knocking on her door but give a signal by scratching her window. Chinwe flew into his arms as she opened the door and he had to restrain himself from taking her right there on the floor by the door. He allowed her to guide him to the bed and when he spread her knees, he found her pulsing and wet. She reached up impatiently and grabbed his shoulders, pulling him to herself and when he entered her, he found her warm, wet center so welcoming. He rode her until they were joyfully gasping with their mutual release.