Thursday, 9 November 2017

Bukky Alakara Episode 24

The Phillips sat in the sitting room watching their favourite television programme, Super Story. The door-bell rang, but, they all remained seated. It rang again and again. The couple exchanged glances then turned to their daughters who were seated on the rugged floor.
“Someone is at the door,” Remi addressed the girls.
None of them moved.
“Won’t you go and get the door?” Baba shouted at them.
Lola and Kemi exchanged glances.
“Go and see who it is?” Lola tapped her sister on the lap.
Kemi eyed her, “Why me? Don’t you have legs?”
“I am your elder sister,” Lola stated as a matter of fact.
“Senior ko, junior ni,” She eyed her again, “We are just two years apart. It doesn’t count.”
“You are mad. Something is wrong with your brain,” she glared at her.
“And you are a fool. Instead of you to get married, you are lounging in your father’s house.”
“Is it me you are talking to like that?”
Kemi hissed, “No, it is your shadow I am talking to.”
“I have been warning you,” she poked her on the head with her finger, “Mind the way you talk to me. I am not your mate.”
“Abeg park well.”
Lola slapped her sister, “You are very silly.”
Kemi held the side of her face, “Oloriburuku ni ota e ni?”
Her elder sister slapped her again, “You are still talking.”
Kemi cried out in pain and lurched her weight at her sister. They both exchanged slaps and blows.
Remi pulled off her leather slippers and threw it at the girls.
“Ah! Maami…” Lola let go of her sister, jumped to her feet and held her head.
“Daddy…” Kemi turned to her father, holding her stomach.
“If you come near me, I will slap you,” Baba eyed her.
Kemi hissed and folded her arms across her chest.
Lola stumped her feet on the floor and slow walked towards the door. She turned the key and yanked the door open.
Her heart missed a beat when she found her elder brother standing by the doorway, “Brother!” she looked him up and down. He stood there in
a black short-sleeve tee-shirt and jeans with a blue knap-sack hanging on his shoulder. His face was lean and pale, he looked thin and malnourished and was no different from the kidnapped victims auctioned at the slave market in the movies she watched recently.
Gbemiga limped into the flat and settled on the chair closest to the door. He was so tired and hungry.
Remi and Baba jumped to their feet when they saw their son. He was a shadow of himself.
“Gbemiga,” she rushed to his side.
“Where have you been?” his father seized him up. He barely recognized the boy.
“What happened to you?” Remi didn’t like the way he looked.
“You and Abisoye just disappeared just like that. You were both supposed to come home for your traditional and church wedding,” Baba glared at him.
“Gbemiga,” Remi placed a hand on his forehead. His temperature was a little bit higher than normal.
“We called the Da Silvas and they claimed that they haven’t heard from both of you. Hope both of you didn’t elope to get married. Why would
you do such a thing in the first place when you have the backing of both families?”
He raised his head and stared at his father.
“Explain yourself. This is September. You were supposed to be married in August.”
He dropped his gaze and met his mother’s questioning stare. “Just thank God that I am alive,” his voice sounded hoarse.
Lola and Kemi drew close to their brother. They didn’t like the way he was looking. Where were his luggages?
“What happened to you?” Remi looked into his sad eyes.
“I have been in the police’s net since the second week of July.”
Silence filled the room.
“I was whisked out of my apartment, locked up in a hole in the police station, questioned and tortured for a crime I didn’t commit,” tears
glistered in his eyes.
“What are you talking about?” Baba seized up the boy.
“I almost died,” he looked from his mother to his father.
“Why did they arrest you?” Remi held back the tears threatening to spill all over her face. It was hard to believe that their son had been
suffering while they thought he was enjoying himself in Abuja.
“Abisoye stole a hundred and fifty thousand dollars from USAID and they thought I was involved.”
Remi placed both hands on her head, “Mo gbe, mo gbe, mo gbe ooooooo!” she went on her knees and began to weep.
“She defrauded the agency and disappeared. No one knows where she is, not even her family.”
Baba blinked back the tears gathering in his sad old eyes. He couldn’t imagine what his son must have gone through.
“When they discovered that I was innocent, the agency dropped the case against me. I was released, but, I lost my job. My bank accounts
are frozen; they took everything from me.”
Baba sat beside his son, “But, why? If they found out that you were innocent, why punish you? What’s wrong with all these foreigners in our country?”
He turned to his father, “My association with Abisoye cost me everything. They… they took all I had. Everything I worked for… at least, I am alive,” he started to cry.
“Ahhhhhh! God punish all my enemies! Evil people! Enemies of progress! They must all die by fire!” Remi rolled on the floor, screaming and crying.
Lola and Kemi sat on the floor and started to cry too.
“You mean Abisoye is a thief?”
Gbemiga nodded and looked at his distraught father.
“How come you didn’t know?” he eyed the boy.
He sighed heavily and wiped his wet face with the back of his hand.
“You should have been sensitive enough to know the kind of woman you were getting married to. I thought you were a strong Christian. Look
at the kind of trouble you have brought on us all.”
He folded his arms across his chest. How was he supposed to know? Was he a magician or a wizard? He didn’t know and his ignorance had cost him everything. How was he supposed to take care of his family now? Where was he going to start from? He looked up at the ceiling and sighed heavily.
God where are you?
“What about my sister?”
He glanced at his father, “She was the one that paid for my bail at the police station.”
Baba sighed with relief.
“She… she said she has washed her hands off my case,” his voice trembled.
“What nonsense?!” he became infuriated.
“She said I have shamed the family. She called uncle Tayo and uncle Korede. Both of them said that they can no longer sponsor my Masters program.”
“What have gotten into them?”
Gbemiga shrugged and sighed heavily. He was still trying to wrap his mind around everything that happened to him.
“They can’t do this. A promise is a promise. They must follow through on their agreement. They can’t just back out. Are they saying that you
are guilty?”
He looked at his father. The man’s anger was understandable. He had also been upset when his aunt and uncles dissolved the promise they made to him during the family meeting. He came to a conclusion after many nights of restless sleep. It was only God that would stand by him and see him through the thick and the thin. No man would.
“I must speak to my sister…” Baba got up, “Where is my phone?” he looked around.
“Daddy… daddy, leave her. Leave them. Let them go.”
Baba glanced at the boy.
“They are not worth it.”
He sighed heavily and sat back on the chair, “What they did is unacceptable.”
Gbemiga nodded in agreement, “It is well. Let’s just thank God that I am alive.”
Bukky carried the bucket of wet clothes out of the bathroom and headed out. She strolled to the back of the building and searched for space on the long line. She moved some of her neighbour’s clothes which were already dried and began to spread hers. A smile spread on her face. She was super excited because her fiancé called about two hours ago. He shared the news that he would be coming home in less than four months. He had also given her the go ahead to resume the plans for their traditional and church wedding. They were going to have a Christmas wedding. It would be so romantic. She couldn’t wait. Finally, she was going to see the man her heart beat for and tie the knot with him. God was good. God had been really good to her and she would be eternally grateful.
When she called her parents to inform them, they were beyond ecstatic. They promised to make sure that everything was ready and perfect by the time Chike arrived. She also called his parents and they intimated her that they had been informed. They would be working with her parents to make sure that her wedding turned out well without a hitch.
“Am in love, am in love, am in love. Am in love, am in love, am in love. Sweet Holy Spirit, am in love,” she began to hum the tune of her favourite song.
“Have you heard?”
“Heard what?”
Two of her neighbours came out of the building and stood by the fence. Bukky heard them and turned. It was two of the single girls living in the compound.
“Good afternoon.”
“Afternoon,” they chorused.
She returned her attention to the clothes she was spreading on the wire.
“Gbemiga is around.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, na. I saw him with my own eyes.”
“What is he doing back in Lagos? I thought he got a job in Abuja after he completed his service year.”
Her friend clapped her hands in excitement, “So, I heard. I heard that he was sacked.”
The other covered her mouth with a hand, “Are you sure?”
“He has been home for more than two weeks. What is he doing back home if he truly has a job in Abuja?”
Her friend nodded in agreement, “You are right.”
“Do you know that he and his family have moved back to that self-contain apartment beside the Nepa pole?”
“What?! What happened to their three bedroom flat?”
“One of their neighbours told me that they made a bargain with the landlord that if they could find a new tenant, he would give them the balance of the money they paid.”
“Ah-han! What is going on?”
“They paid for two years and they have only lived there for about ten months.”
“So, did they find a new tenant?”
“Sharp, sharp,” she laughed.
“So, that means they needed the money.”
“Not just that. I guess, since Gbemiga came home jobless, they reasoned that they won’t be able to afford the place. While wait till their rent expire?”
Her friend nodded her head, “Smart plan. They shouldn’t have moved there in the first place. They should have waited till Gbemiga stabilize in Abuja.”
She hissed, “Don’t mind them. They have been claiming that they were better than everyone in the area. Now, look at them.”
“What about their properties?”
She laughed out loud, “They sold it all to the highest bidder.”
Her friend shook her head, “Total waste of money. I doubt if they will recover the exact amount spent in buying those things.”
“Of course that will be difficult.”
“I wonder what happened in Abuja?”
“Who cares? The Phillips have been brought to their knees. Their arrogance and air of superiority has played out its course. Now everyone will take their pound of flesh.”
Her friend shook her head, “I feel so sorry for them.”
Bukky picked up her empty bucket and walked back into the building. She overheard some of the things the ladies said. Were they just gossiping or was her ex-boyfriend truly back in Lagos? What was going on?
She went back into her apartment, dropped the bucket in the bathroom, retrieved her phone from the charging point and sat on the bed. She searched for his phone number. It was no longer on her phonebook. She lay back on the bed and typed his full name on facebook.com search box. She found him and clicked the friend request button. She dropped the phone and sighed heavily.
Her neighbor said he had been sacked and he and his family had moved out of their flat. Was it all true or was it truth mixed with lies? The area was known for the way news about people spread like wild fire. Her heart missed a beat. What if it was true? She picked up her phone to check if her request had gone through.
She smiled when she discovered that he had accepted her request. She sighed with relief and sent him a message. ‘Call me Asap’. Almost immediately, her phone began to ring. She sat up and picked the call.
“Hello…”
“Bukky…”
She recognized his voice, “Gbemiga.”
“Hi.”
“Hi. Em… I heard you were back in Lagos.”
“Oh… yes.”
“I heard somethings too.”
She heard him clear his throat.
“Are you home?”
“Yes.”
“Let me come over.”
“Okay.”
The line went dead. She dropped her phone on the bed and got up. She went to her wardrobe, pulled off her sleeveless top and shorts, and changed into a jeans and a red long sleeve blouse. She went to the window and pulled apart the curtain. What was going on? She scratched her scalp. It was about time she loosened the weave-on and wash her hair. The style was so good that she left the weave-on, on for longer than usual. Now, her scalp itched like hell.
She heard knocks on the door. She hurried to it and opened it quickly. Her ex-boyfriend stood at the doorway, in a jeans and a white short-sleeve tee-shirt. He looked thinner than she remembered.
“Hi…”
“Hi, please come in,” she stepped back in.
He walked in and went to sit on the chair. Bukky shut the door and approached him. She sat at the edge of the chair. Her questioning eyes observed his sad looking ones.
“Rumours have been flying about since I got back. Most of it is true,” he met her worried gaze.
She swallowed hard, “What’s going on?”
He turned away, “I lost my job and returned home. I have been job hunting since I got back. I didn’t know that the labour market was a nightmare. There are hundreds of thousands of us out there,” he lamented.
She folded her arms and watched him. He looked depressed and frustrated. She felt so sorry for him.
“My parents and siblings quit their jobs when I relocated to Abuja. Can you blame them?” he laughed sadly, “Now we are all looking for jobs.”
She closed her eyes and opened it. She could imagine what they were going through. The year she moved in with her aunt, her father had also lost his job and her mother’s sales at the market could hardly feed them all or pay the bills. There were days they went without food. It had been pure torture and she won’t wish that experience on her worst enemy. She and her siblings had been shared among relatives in order for them to survive.
“I am so sorry.”
He glanced at her, “I need a job fast. I can’t watch my family suffer this way.”
“Em… what about your fiancée? How is she taking this?”
He blinked and turned away, “Abisoye is the root of my problems.”
“What happened?”
He gave a shake of head, “It is a long story. Right now, she is nowhere to be found and I am here suffering for her actions.”
She stared at him with concern. She wondered what his fiancée did. She wanted to ask, but, sensed that he didn’t want to go into details.
“It is well. I am alive and kicking. Everything will definitely work out for my good,” he tried to smile and turned to look at her.
“Amen.”
“How are you doing?”
She blinked and got up, “I am good,” she walked to her wardrobe and brought out her bag. She counted a few naira notes and returned to the edge of the chair.
When he saw the money in her hand, several thoughts ran through his mind. There were a million things he could use the money for.
“Please take. This is em… I just em… I pray that God will sort you and your family out.”
“Thank you,” he collected the money and counted it. It was eight thousand naira. He raised his head and stared at her in surprise.
“Please manage it, I know it is not much.”
“Th-thank you.”
She smiled, “You are welcome,” she got up again.
Gbemiga got to his feet, “I am grateful.”
“Don’t give up, okay. I believe that God will turn things around sooner than you think.”
He nodded and headed for the door.
Bukky followed him out of the room and watched him walk towards the entrance of the building. She sighed heavily and went back in.
.
To be continued..

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