Edua sat on the long wooden bench and ate the bread and butter as if her life depended on it. She gulped down half of the content of the bottle of soft drink and continued to down her meal. Her mother was seated beside her. She had finished eating her own bread. She watched her swallow the last drop of her soft drink and place the empty bottle into the crate under the bench.
Adesua placed her head in her palms and sighed heavily. What had she gotten herself into? She and her daughter arrived in Lagos an hour before midnight. They slept in a cheap hotel close to the airport, checked out before noon and plunged into the busy city. Every single business associate she called refused to harbor them for a few days. The few friends she had made on her trips to Lagos in the past told her point blank that they couldn’t help her. One had the audacity to advise her to return to her parents. What was wrong with people? Maybe she should have remained in Abuja and sort out her late husband’s friends. She doubted if they would have helped. None of them paid her condolence visit when he passed on. Many of them avoided her. These were people her late husband had helped one time or the other.
Where was she supposed to go now? She wanted to manage the money in her accounts diligently. She needed to be wise with her spending so that they won’t suffer. She raised her head and saw a big black chalk board nailed to the wall of the shop opposite the one they were seated. She read the notice on the board. There were several apartments for rent at ridiculous prices. One got her attention. It was a self-contain apartment at sixty thousand naira a year and five thousand naira per month. It was the cheapest in the group, aside the rooms to let. She dreaded face-me, I-face-you apartments. She had never lived in one and would never try to rent one.
She saved the numbers on the board on her phone. She reasoned that it was better to rent a place to stay than to beg her non-existent friends for accommodation. She needed to enroll her daughter into Secondary School soon. The girl completed her primary school education a while back. Her late father planned to get her admitted into the school he passed out from, but now, those dreams were beyond coming to pass. Once she had rented a place, she would scan the area and search for a good and affordable secondary school for the girl. Her education must suffer because her father was dead and his family looted his wealth. She doubted if she was going to be able to forgive her late husband’s brothers.
Adesua paid the shop owner for the things they bought and signaled to her daughter. It was time to leave. The address on the chalk board was two streets away. She planned to call the numbers and hoped that the landlord or landlady and not the agent that would respond. She didn’t want to be defrauded by callous Lagos agents. They were known for their notorious acts.
Alhaji Musa Sheriff eyed the fair skinned woman and her daughter. He counted the money again and wrote out a receipt for the six months’ payment that she made. He gave her the keys to the apartment and informed her that her electrical bill was a thousand naira per month, the security, sanitation and water bills were five hundred naira each per month, making a total of two thousand five hundred naira extra.
Adesua sighed heavily and brought out some money from her wallet. She counted it and gave it to him. He collected it and grinned at her.
“Welcome to the neighbourhood. My wife and I live in the three-bedroom flat behind this building. There are four self-contain apartments in this house. You are the only single mother in this compound.”
She wanted to argue and explain that she recently lost her husband, but, she held her tongue.
“There is a spinster living next to you and there are four men living in the remaining apartments. They are all bachelors.”
She nodded and wished he would just leave.
“If you look for trouble, it will find you, but, if you live in peace, it will be well with you.”
She raised an eyebrow and sized him up. He was about five feet six inches tall, dark skinned, plump, with bushy beards and an ugly looking pot belly. She noticed the way he was ogling at her and frowned. She made a mental note to avoid him.
“Thank you sir,” she forced a smile and walked past him. She used one of the keys he gave her to unlock the door and push it open.
Edua followed her mother into the apartment, drawing their bags along. She closed the door and joined her mother at the center of the small room.
Adesua grimaced as she looked around her. It was an eight by twelve feet room. If she managed the space, it might accommodate a medium size bed, a settee and a small table. It was impossible to fit a wardrobe in the room. She might ask a carpenter to nail a make-shift hanger with a flat top. They would be able to pile their bags on it and hang some of their clothes. She checked the opened kitchen and laughed. It was very small.
It was at least a tenth of her kitchen in her late husband’s house. The thought of him made her sad. She strode out and walked into the restroom. It had what looked like a poor representation of a shower, no bath-tub, but the floor was tiled. The septic tank was at a corner and a dusty sink. She turned the tap and sighed with relief when water gushed out. At least, there was water.
She backed out and closed the door. She looked at the room again. There were two large windows. It would encourage a little ventilation. She needed to buy curtains for the windows and the doorway. She looked up at the ceiling. She could either buy a standing fan or a ceiling fan. She would also need light bulbs in the room, the kitchen and the restroom. She dropped her head and placed her hands on her hips. She would forego buying an air-conditioner for now. She still needed to buy a mattress, a small refrigerator, table-top gas-cooker, a small generator, and at least a 20’ inch T.V set.
How much did she even have left? She still needed to buy foodstuff. She heaved a tired sigh. Her head ached. She glanced at her daughter and met her lovely light brown eyes. There was a sad glint in her worn-out eyes.
“Come here,” she beckoned at the girl.
Edua flew into her mother’s arms.
“It is going to be all right princess. Mummy is here. I am not going anywhere.”
She sighed with relief, “Promise?”
The warmth of her mother’s reassuring arms calmed her anxiety. The change of environment had unsettled her.
“Just give me a little time baby. Even if you don’t start school this new session, I promise you that by next year, I will enroll you into a good secondary school.”
She lifted her head and met her mother’s stare, “I will be ten next year.”
“I know baby. You are young. Don’t worry, you will still meet your age-mates and other children in your class.”
“Okay mummy,” it suddenly dawned on her that she wouldn’t be seeing her friends anymore. She imagined that they would have been admitted into one school or another. She wished she could call them. She didn’t have a phone anymore. Her mother sold her phone and her iPad that morning. She claimed that they needed a lot of money to settle down. She also promised to get her a new phone.
“It is going to be all right princess,” Adesua bit at her lower lip. She wasn’t sure. She was frightened and unsettled. Living without her late husband was much more difficult than she imagined.
Kikelomo watched her new neighbor as she spread her wet clothes on the lines while her daughter carried the buckets. The woman kept to herself and went everywhere with her daughter. She wondered why the little girl wasn’t enrolled into school. She had also noticed that the fair skinned single mother had an air of affluence around her. If she wasn’t mistaken, the woman was from a wealthy background. What sort of misfortune or challenges brought her to her present state?
Adesua finished spreading the clothes, leaving enough space for her neighbor who was waiting for her. Edua picked up the empty buckets and followed her mother.
“Well done,” Kikelomo addressed her.
She met the lady’s smiling dark stare, “Thank you.”
“The name is Kikelomo Sanusi.”
“Adesua Imasogie,” she smiled back at her, then turned pale. She needed to drop her married name ‘Imasogie’ and start using her maiden name ‘Ayenkegbe’.
“Welcome to our compound.”
She nodded and brushed past her.
Kikelomo dropped her bucket full of washed clothes and followed the woman and her daughter.
”Do you need a place of worship? I recommend Harvesters International Church. It is very close by.”
Adesua cringed. She was done with churches and the so called men of God. She had called the pastor of the church she and her late husband used to attend in Abuja the week he passed on. He was one of the people that disappointed and deserted her. He didn’t come for the burial ceremony. He didn’t even send a representative. Did he even care how she and her daughter fared? She and her late husband had sown hundreds of thousands of naira into the man’s church on a monthly basis for the past several years, but, it was all for nothing.
“It is a bible believing church. The pastor is anointed and I am sure that you won’t regret joining us for both the weekly and Sunday services,” Kikelomo went on, undaunted.
Adesua glanced back at her, “I am not making any promises. I will try and come for one of your services, one of these days,” she feigned a smile. She wanted the lady to leave her alone.
“Good,” she beamed in excitement, “A trial will convince you.”
She went into the apartment with her daughter and bolted the door. She heard her phone ringing. She looked around and saw it on the table beside the settee. She hurried towards it and picked it up.
She recognized her father’s voice, “Daddy…”
“Adesua, how have you been?”
“I am…” she settled on the chair, “We are fine.”
“Are you still in Abuja?”
“No, we are in Lagos.”
“Lagos?! What are you doing in Lagos?”
She leaned against the seat, “Starting over.”
“Why didn’t you come to Benin? You should have come to Benin. Lagos is expensive. Who do you know in Lagos? If you were here, we can all manage together. We will all put heads together and plan the way forward.”
She placed a hand on her forehead and rubbed the throbbing spot.
“Your younger sisters are married to good men. They will assist you. When your husband was alive, you literally spoiled all of us financially.”
“Hmmm…” she closed her eyes.
“You graduated from Uniben, I believe that you can get a lecturing job or an administrative position in that place. Come home and let’s sort things out.”
“Dad, Edua and I are fine.”
“Are you working now?”
She opened her eyes, “No…”
“Is she back in school?”
She groaned inwardly, “No…”
“And you are both fine?”
“Yes, we are.”
“Those in-laws of yours, nemesis we catch up with them in Jesus name!”
“Terrible people. Blood suckers! They killed their own blood and took over all that he had worked for… shameless sons of the devil.”
She shut her eyes in pain, “Dad, let’s leave the past in the past, please.”
“That your husband’s lawyer, are you sure he didn’t connive with them?”
She opened her eyes and blinked, “I don’t know.”
“God will judge all of them.”
“None of them will go scot free.”
“Hmmm…” she shifted on the seat.
“Your mother is greeting you.”
“Send her my love.”
“Take care of yourself and don’t hesitate to call whenever you are in need.”
“Okay daddy. Thanks sir.”
The line went static. She dropped the phone on the table and stretched out. Edua sat on the bed and switched on the television.
“Mummy, our GOTV subscription has expired.”
“Remind me tomorrow,” she yawned.
She glanced back at her, “That was what you said three days ago.”
“Pick one, food or Disney Junior?” she returned her stare.
Edua dropped her gaze, “Food.”
“Wise choice,” she leaned against the chair and stared at the ceiling. She tried searching for a job, but, had given up after eight unprofitable
interviews. If she had enough funds, she might re-start her clothing business. She still has all her contacts. She could start small, rent a small shop somewhere in town, then grew the business from there. Who was going to give her the money she needed?
She had almost used up the money in her accounts. Her rent was almost expired and there were other bills to pay for. She had sent messages to everywhere she knew, people she thought might be able to help. A few sent her not more than five thousand naira, others made promises that they didn’t fulfill and whenever she called to remind them, they switch off their phones. The worst of them all were her husband’s friends. Most of them barred her numbers and the nasty ones insulted her. She was short of ideas. She needed help fast!
“Mummy, I am hungry.”
She turned to the girl, “Go and make indomie and eat.”
“The carton is empty.”
Adesua frowned, “I thought it remained three pieces.”
“We ate it last night.”
“We did?” she scratched her head. Her hair was a mess. It was tangled and knotted in the wrong places all over her head. It needed a re-touch.
“I think we still have rice and beans.”
She nodded. The girl was right. There was a module of beans and two or three cups of rice in the basket. It won’t last them up to a week. What was she going to do?