Read the first episode here
Mrs. Onifade’s scream jolted Fadeke out of her reverie. In frustration, she picked her school sandal, wore it and hurried off to the kitchen to carry the gas stove. She could hear her mother’s screeching hisses as she rushed out of the house.
As she walked on her street, she heard some boys made advances at her from different dark corners in the street. Fadeke lived on one of the inner streets of Lende. She had the urge to sing or at least hum a song but her mother had warned her about singing at night or doing anything at all that drew attention to her.
Lende used to be a posh area of Lagos as it had accommodated some Federal Government Parastatals when Lagos was the Federal Capital of Nigeria. Over time, Lende lost it serenity and became heavily congested following the relocation of the Federal Capital from Lagos to Abuja. Certain areas were still clean and inhabited by quiet families; however, shanties bordered most sane areas of Lende such that serenity lived side by side with insanity. While other Lagosians are asleep, Lende and many of its residents are awake, they live dusk to dawn lifestyles. Night life in Lende is ruled by fear: fear of hoodlums, rapists and thieves who lurk around dark places just to perpetrate fear. You would often see policemen everywhere but they were also part of the night life, they either encourage crime in order to receive their part or play dumb. Of course, Lende night life was nothing without the ‘quick houses’ especially those at Barbeque Junction. Barbeque Junction was never lacking in human traffic, from the customer seeking girls, to the quick gratification needy men, to the tools-providing and ever supportive business people.
Fadeke hurried past Barbeque Junction and arrived at ‘Everything Gas’, refilling the small sized gas stove used to cost N800, but the sales boy insisted that it was now N1,000. They haggled on the price and finally settled for N900.
On a bench a little distance away from Everything Gas sat three boys in the same age group as Fadeke; they sat in silence while smoky puffs lunged out of their mouths and nostrils. They noticed Fadeke as she arrived at Everything Gas and watched her as she gesticulated and rolled her eyes at the sales boy.
‘One time like that, I hear ‘Egbon’ when he talk say this girl big pass her age’ first broke the silence.
‘na true talk o, my brother too talk am so. He talk say she don dey full and ripe for plucking but say she no dey give anybody face’ The second boy contributed.
‘Me sha, I admire the girl, she dey smart and she get nice voice. See ehn, if I get opportunity like am, I no go dey follow una with this kain lifestyle’ the third boy who said in regret laden voice.
‘Abegii, na that one we go chop? How many smart guys wey be say them try and still dem no make am and dem come back for here dey join us weed.’ first did not sound too pleased with third’s comment “see ehn, my sister go Yabatech for one year but Malé no fit afford am, na so she withdraw come back area here dey hustle at Barbeque Junction” second concluded
“Na the same thing we dey talk, if you get opportunity go school, and you get person wey go pay for am, no joke with am”. The third boy insisted
“I agree with you. I wan get out of this lifestyle. If I fit hit one million ‘pepper’ now, I go ex from this place” first enthused. Second and third laughed and gave first a look that said ‘joker’.
They watched Fadeke as she paid the sales boy; pick up the CamGas and head home, oblivious of the three pairs of eyes staring at her and wondering different thoughts.
As Fadeke passed Barbeque Junction on her way home, she noticed a girl around her age or younger whispering to a man “come, I’m very good and affordable. Just N1,000”.
“Get off you silly girl. Why will I follow you when I can have a more matured one at N500” the man responded. It was not unusual to hear such conversation at Barbeque Junction. Each time Fadeke heard such similar conversations, her heart would beat rapidly. She hastened her steps…
Tade stood up from the bench, bid the other two goodnight, and dragged himself home. Home was a shanty under the popular Lende Bridge. There were a lot of boys around the shanty, either exchanging lighted papers or wrapping them, all the while uttering all sorts of profanities. Each night, these boys had routines, they hang around the bridge, waiting, hoping and anticipating that a car would break down. Any unlucky person who stopped or whose car broke down at that point would be attacked and robbed, sometimes without the use of force and at other times, very forcibly.
Tade was born in Ogbomosho, and until four years ago, all he knew was Ogbomosho. Four years ago, he lost his only surviving parent, his father. He had lost his mother at the age of ten. Following his father’s funeral, there was a big fight within the family regarding the custody of Tade; all the eligible persons complained that they could not afford to take Tade in. Tade’s ‘big brother’, who came all the way from Lagos, had no choice but to take Tade back to Lagos with him. Tade was very excited about the prospect of coming to Lagos, he had so much expectation. It wasn’t until they got to Lagos that his big brother explained his predicament to Tade. Tade did not exactly understand many of the things his brother told him. What was certain to him though, was the fact that his brother was not as rich as he thought. The periodic goodies they used to receive from him during the festive periods were not evidence of his wealth but symbols of his attempts at impressing his family and displaying a successful outlook. The first night Tade spent in the shanty was one of the worst days of his life. He could not understand the bad smell oozing from the area, the noise and curses, and the giant mosquitoes.
His brother tried to do his best; he enrolled him at St. Johns High School after almost a year of inactivity. He also bought him some of the books he could find with the elderly man who sold ‘second hand’ books at the roundabout. Although Tade decided that he would not join the smoky boys, he was encouraged to take a smoke one evening during the one year of inactivity; afterwards, he simply could not resist the urge to smoke.
Thoughts of Fadeke came to his head as he struggled to stay awake. She was fortunate she had a parent who cared for her. She would never have to patronise Barbeque Junction. He knew he liked her but he dare not tell the other two. He hoped she got home safely. He would see her again.
Fadeke threw yet another paper into the waste bin in her room. She tried to write again and after three lines, she got frustrated and was about to give it one more shot when the image of her mother’s disapproving eyes popped in her mind. She closed the lyrics note and picked up her chemistry text book. She had to fulfil her mother’s dream…
Mrs. Onifade tossed and turned on her bed. This was the usual routine every night. She always found sleep difficult to come by. She wished her life had taken a different direction than it did. If only she had waited, she could have married the right man. She remembered how Enitan begged her to give him time. She had just returned to Lagos after obtaining a National Certificate of Education at the Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo when she met Tunde Onifade. He was older; older men were often more romantic with younger women and Tunde was no exception, or so it seemed. Tunde promised her heaven on earth. He was ready to get married and that was crucial to her at the time.
She knew she loved Enitan but there was a lot of pressure on her to get married. Enitan was not ready. He had just obtained a degree in biochemistry at the Federal University of Technology, Akure. He would often tell her that he would show her the world, if she was patient. However, she was not on friendly terms with patience, so she married Tunde. Everything went well, although she continued to nurse her love for Enitan. Eventually, she discovered that Tunde was not half the lover boy Enitan was, so all he did was the basic; provide shelter, clothing and food for her and their daughter. Things began to fall apart when she learnt that Tunde had another wife who had three kids for him. She confronted Tunde and he waved it off as nothing. She asked him whether he made provisions for them and his response was a quick no, he had no business with them.
When Fadeke was twelve, and three months after they moved to the apartment at Lende, Tunde moved out of the house and never came back. The next time they heard about him, he was with some other woman who was heavy with his baby. Mrs. Onifade decided to let go and move on with her life. Unfortunately, she had relied on Tunde for most of their needs so life became a real struggle from the point of his exit. Fadeke was her crown, the only joy from her union with Tunde.
Gradually she felt herself move to the other realm where she dreamt of Dr. Fadeke and her big hospital…
“Egbon” – Big Brother
“Malé” – Mother
“Pepper” – Nigerian slang for money
To be continued….
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