Ok Ade, I’ll send some money over tomorrow,’ I said into the receiver of my mobile phone.
I appreciate the help, big bro,’ my younger brother replied, and cut the conversation. My sibling was self-sufficient and had never requested anything from me so I knew that he asked because resources were meager at home and there was no other avenue to source funds. Father had founded a small-scale business some months after losing his job but proceeds from it wasn’t enough to restore the family to the financial stability it once held, even with mother pitching in. I had only just sent some money to another sibling who was still job hunting. And a relative was hounding me for money to help her start up a business. I had promised to be of assistance at some point. It didn’t stop her from reminding me from time to time. If only she knew that life in the UK wasn’t all it was positioned to be. The intention had been to put away some cash to keep me independent when I returned home to Nigeria, till I secured employment but he was my brother and leaving him stranded wasn’t an option… I felt an ache on the lower part of my skull and an accompanying, all too familiar, painful sensation on the left upper back. I had to stop worrying.
To get rid of worry, I recalled the events of the weekend. We had gone to her place after breakfast
on Sunday. Kissing and coitus had followed. We had discussed her job and how much I disliked mine. She had told me that most of my team would warm up to me eventually. More kissing and coitus had ensued.
By the time the bus pulled to a stop at the semi-busy city Centre, my spirits were elevated.
I ran into my line manager, a tall formidable-faced blonde, at the apron cabinet.
Morning Betty,’ I greeted cheerfully.
Morning Tubosun, did you have a good weekend?’ she asked in her semi-shrill voice, the tone perfunctory as usual.
A very good one,’ I replied. It had been her weekend in. ‘Was it busy here?
Manic,’ she said. ‘Right, can you please take off your baseball cap and replace it with this skull cap?’ She handed me one. ‘Sure.’ But I wished the new hideous skull caps hadn’t arrived yet. I knew it wouldn’t suit me as I had tried on a colleague’s own and was told I looked funny.
As anticipated, the coffee shop was still quiet at 10am, with only three customers utilizing some of the tables. I knew business would climb to a dizzy state anytime from 11am: great for the business, frustrating for the insufficient members of my team. I wasn’t looking forward to the inevitable groans and grunts from my team members. Other departments were usually unwilling to help when asked for assistance but I couldn’t blame them, not with our greasy tables and over-sensitive customers. Café business was a messy one. I wondered again if the decision to take on the role had been a good one.
Drey, my pool partner during breaks, was behind the tills, serving a customer. He was a tall gentle giant and everybody loved him. I noticed he had also gotten rid of his baseball cap and now had a skull cap on. His forehead appeared more prominent and I found this amusing. For some reason the manner with which the cap sat on his head reminded me of Alphas – Islamic religious leaders – in Nigeria.’
Morning, Drey.’ I pointed to his skull cap and blurted affably:
Someone looks like a Moslem.’ He guffawed. ‘What a joker. Morning, Tubor. Have a good weekend?’
Yeah. Lovely one, actually.’ Perhaps today wouldn’t be so bad, I thought, as I turned into the kitchen area, almost bumping into a female barista holding a cup of steaming filter coffee. I exited the money transfer store into the autumn winds of October, rubbing the rear of my neck with a palm. The headache was severe. I hesitated outside the store and texted the details of the transfer to my sibling.I tucked the mobile phone into my trouser pocket and proceeded to the bus-stop.The bus arrived when I reached the stop.
Taking a seat, I replayed the events of the last two hours. I smiled ruefully and my head shook simultaneously. It was as if karma had chosen the worst moment to strike me for some unknown wrong perpetrated in a distant past. My heart felt like it held anchors. I needed to speak to someone. I pulled out my mobile and rang Sumbo’s number. After a couple of rings, it went to voicemail. My throat felt dry and a surge of pain ripped through my upper back, nevertheless I spoke: ‘I have been dismissed from work.
The alcoholic beverage was tasteless; nonetheless I downed it all in one gulp. I looked around Sumbo’s sitting room to find something or anything that could spark up humor to ease into the gloomy tale I was about to tell. I found nothing so I began. She listened intently without interruption as I recounted the communication with Drey that had led to a customer reporting to management, which led to an immediate investigation that culminated to a summary dismissal.There was compassion in her eyes and voice when she spoke. ‘Ah, Tubosun,’ she sighed. ‘I’m really sorry about this. Discriminatory language is taken very seriously in this country even when there isn’t any malicious motive.’
I feel betrayed. They could have taken into account my unspotted record prior to the incident. The person I made the utterance to was clearly not offended. He laughed heartily for Christ’s sake. I shouldn’t have accepted that promotion. Not in that department. Now, I am without a job and the prospects of getting another one is rock bottom –with a dismissal on my record, only a handful of employers would be willing to interview me, and a handful of that handful would offer me a job. Dear God!’ I exclaimed, raising my voice in despondence. ‘How am I supposed to help the guys back home?
She placed a hand affectionately on my shoulder. I noticed her drink hadn’t been touched. ‘This is going to be painful for a while, and it is okay to allow grief take its course. I assure you that you’ll come out of it. Meanwhile, I’ll speak to my boss. See if there is any opening.’ My mobile phone rang and I picked it. The name on the screen sent my heart racing.
Oh my God,’ I groaned. ‘How do I break this news to him?
My father -He will be heartbroken. Perhaps I shouldn’t tell him?’ I asked looking into her eyes for affirmation.
‘I understand this is hard, Tubosun, but he is family. You should tell him.’ I placed the mobile phone to my ear, sighed, hit the receive button, and said: ‘Hello Dad.’
Black figures stood out in contrast to the clear grey area. She slowly gazed around to observe her environment. There was at least thirty people here and there. Some were wailing, some were silent, and some just looked bemused. Some family, some familiar, and some unfamiliar. She turned to look at the twenty-something looking young lady who clung to her arm, unrestrained tears flowing from her eyes, her face staring at the grass on which they stood. The young lady looked up at her. The Afro on their heads, the color of their skins, the sadness in their eyes, and everything else were clear indications that they were fraternal twins.Undertakers carrying a brown casket with golden side panels, danced into the scene like they were here to advertise their trade. Meticulously, they placed the casket on a casket lowering device, and began affixing necessary straps.He was loved and the atmosphere around attested to it.A preacher came next and his sermon was swift. Then the casket was lowered into a dark hole provided by the freshly dug soil. The preacher beckoned to her and handed her a shovel. She dug into the elevated moist earth by his grave, raised the shovel and peered into the black abyss. She looked over her shoulder to look at her twin. The young lady nodded then vanished. Her attention returned to the grave and she emptied the contents of the shovel into the hole. Then she fell to her knees, weeping.I woke up with a jolt, wide-eyed with fear, feverish blood running through my veins. I turned frantically to the figure on my bed and was slightly relieved to see he was alive and fast asleep. I hurriedly removed the ring from my finger and shoved it in my bedside shelf. I glanced at the alarm clock: it was 5.05am. It would be 7:06am in Corfu now.
Edna had gone on vacation to the Island in Greece and she would be returning in another two weeks. But this couldn’t wait. I scrambled out of the bed and Tubosun stirred but didn’t wake up. I picked up my mobile phone and tip-toed out of the bedroom into the living room.
The phone on the other end rang once before it was answered. .
Hello, Sumbo.’ I went straight to the point without further ado. ‘I had another dream…’ I recounted the whole dream. ‘Does this –’ my voice trailed off in despondence. ‘Oh my God. He is going to die, isn’t he?
The voice on the other end didn’t respond for what seemed like forever, instigating me to fidget in antsy. ‘Edna?’ I asked. ‘Talk to me, please.’
Let us not hope for the worst just yet. I’ll move my flight over to this Friday. Come over to the house on Saturday and bring Tubosun along. Meanwhile, do not fret. And please do not tell him anything yet. It would not be a good idea until we are certain.
Don’t fret? That was easier said than done. But I made a decision to be optimistic. I had to be optimistic. ‘Thank you, Edna.
It had been four weeks now and employment wasn’t foreseeable. Sumbo’s workplace wasn’t recruiting at the moment.A few good interviews that had been attained but had gone sour the moment my dismissal was mentioned. It had become sickening to watch housemates leave for places of work every morning. They were aware of my job seeker status and made it a point to knock on my window to say hello before leaving for work. Perhaps it was out of compassion, but I wanted none of it.
And today was no different. I waved at the smiley Bengali guy and fell back into bed. I would be going for a run soon –as soon as I could manage to get out of bed. More running had been absorbed into my weekdays’ routine for stress management, on the Sumbo’s instruction. The routine also included lifting free weights, watching movies and going out for long walks. I wasn’t sure if the long walks were positive as it only made me think about my misfortune. Unfortunately, these activities only engaged a small part of the day, allowing plenty of time for worry. And worry only perpetuated the pain on my back and the migraine. Worry was unhealthy, I knew, but I couldn’t help it. Weekends with Sumbo were the only days that had the least worrying time. Our talks laced with humour, picnics, scrabble, and passionate love making, were second to none. Whenever I relapsed into a sneaky, unexpected bout of anxiety, she always managed to pull me out.Something had been troubling her lately, I could tell. But whenever I broached the subject, she would dismiss it quickly saying it was work stress. I wasn’t so sure that was the case. But I figured she’d talk about it when she was ready.
I was looking forward to the weekend, which fortunately began tomorrow. An invitation had been extended to us by an affluent lady who had taken particular interest in Sumbo. It would be my first time meeting Edna, as she was referred to by Sumbo. Sumbo did, however, tell me to address Edna as Mrs. Padraig. Sumbo had spoken highly of her, her hospitality and her friendship.
Funny noises escaped my belly. But first things first: It was time for a run.
I stood behind Sumbo as she hit a button on the buzzer of a gargantuan gate and announced our arrival. The gate responded a few seconds later.Halogen bulbs illuminated the premises. The pathway leading to the edifice was littered with rustling dried hazel leaves and twigs that must have been separated from surrounding hedges by the autumn wind. There was something artistic about the way the colors of the fallen leaves complemented those still attached to their mother branches. The building itself was enchanting and exuded old English money from deep pockets.‘Quite impressive, don’t you think?’ Sumbo asked, clinging to my arm, as we approached the house.I nodded in agreement, ‘Just like my single room.’She smiled. ‘You are crazy.’
‘And the sound of your voice warms my heart like hot cocoa on a frosty night.’
‘You can be such a charmer sometimes,’ she said, stopped in
her tracks, and gave me a brief kiss on the lips. There was worry in her eyes.
‘Is anything the matter, dear?’
‘I’m fine, love.’
A tall, confident looking man with a baseball cap appeared from a wide door. He must be the French guy named Adrien, I thought. He strode jauntily in our direction, amiability evident on his face. He gave Sumbo a casual hug before extending a hand to me. ‘You must be Tubosun. It’s a pleasure putting a face to your name.’I shook the hand harmoniously. ‘The pleasure is mine. Call me Tubor. You must be Adrien. Sumbo has said much about you. Only good things.’
‘How’s Mimi?’ Sumbo interjected in a monotone. There was an almost imperceptible flush on his cheeks. ‘She’s doing very well, thanks. Shall we go in?’ Adrien asked. ‘Mrs. Padraig is expecting you.’
‘And it’s getting chilly out here,’ Sumbo said, interlocking her arm with mine.
Inside was warm and inviting. As we walked in the direction of three large sofas located at the centre of the room, I stared incredulously at the pale yellow illuminated, square, large space with white and black tiles. It looked like a lavish foyer intended for ball room dancing. At a corner of the room was an exquisite ancient looking, grey stairwell with a zigzag design that led to another floor. There were quite a few shut doors spread around, architecturally, on both floors. And paintings hung at intermittent positions of the room. As we reached the seats, Adrien announced that Mrs. Padraig would be joining us in a moment. Sumbo requested a glass of any juice and Adrien went to fetch it.I searched around; expecting to see a large flat screen TV somewhere, but it was hidden from sight.
Is there a –’ I was saying before catching that worried expression in her eyes. ‘Sumbo, you can talk to me, you know. You’ve been my shoulder to lean on and my voice of reason during this trying period. Let me be yours. And if I can’t provide a solution, I can listen. A problem shared is a problem half solved.’She hesitated then said: ‘I’ll tell you, but not now.’ Adrien was heading our way with a tray containing a glass of what seemed to be orange juice.
Ok.’ At least, now I was certain something was wrong.
Here you are,’ Adrien said, handing her the drink. ‘Thank you, Adrien,’ Sumbo replied.
The mellow sound of slippers tapping wood caught my ear. I followed the direction of the sound. From the description Sumbo had given me, it could be no one else but Edna. Her blue floral gown exuded elegance, swaying lightly as she descended the zigzag stairs. Sumbo and I rose when she reached us, I noticed a flicker of surprised recognition in her eyes. ‘He is a handsome young man,’ Edna said, throwing Sumbo a glance with an accompanying wide grin. ‘It is lovely meeting you, Tubosun.’ She extended a hand. Sumbo had been unbiased in describing Edna. There was no vestige of hauteur in her greeting, only dignity. I accepted the hand, skillfully turned it, and kissed the back of her palm. ‘Likewise, Mrs. Padraig,’ I said giving her my most fetching smile. ‘Your house is a wonder.’ ‘He is charming too. Shall we have dinner? I’m starving.’ Edna said.
Adrien ushered us through another door at the right wing of the room and we came to a meal-induced aromatic room with a rectangular table and four chairs. On the table were hot assorted delicacies – basmati rice, king prawns, curries, fruit salad, and vegetable salads – and drinks. I cast a glance at Sumbo. From the look on her face, it was obvious that it was her first time in the dining room.Adrien was about to leave when Edna said: ‘Adrien will you join us, please? The more the merrier.’ Adrien grinned and took the seat opposite Edna while I took the one facing Sumbo. Then we all helped ourselves to some food and drinks.Edna opened the conversation. ‘So what do you do, Tubosun?’ She asked and put a fork of basmati rice mingled with curry in her mouth.
It was a harmful question, I knew, but I was reluctant to tell strangers about my predicament. I took a sip from my glass of red wine. I managed a smile. ‘I’m actually in between jobs.Edna shot a questioning glance at Sumbo, who smiled awkwardly. ‘I see. What kind of job are you in the market for?’ she asked, her attention mine again.
Marketing communications -advertising, PR, or something along that line,’ I replied.
‘I shall speak to some friends, if you do not mind.’
‘I’d really appreciate that.’ I uttered effusively.Edna leaned over a bit. ‘To be honest, it was not intended as a request. I was only trying to be polite.’ Everyone laughed.
I turned to Adrien. ‘So how did you come to work for Mrs. Padraig?’ He dabbed his lips with a napkin. ‘It’s a funny story actually. Six years ago, I moved from France to England to get away from a lot of frustrating things.’ Then he looked at Edna and smiled with gratitude as if there was some secret between them. ‘She knows about them. But the moment we landed at Heathrow airport, I began to question the wisdom of such a decision. No house, No contact. No idea of what to do. I was screwed.’ He chuckled. I laughed as well then thought that Edna might have taken offence to the foul word so I glanced at her. She seemed to be enjoying the tale.  Adrien continued: ‘But there was no turning back. So I went out of the tarmac and came to a space with taxis and private cars. And then I saw this lady,’ he said, gesturing a hand towards our host’s direction. ‘She appeared to be having some problems with her car so I walked up to her and offered my help.’ He paused and drank some water before continuing: ‘You see, my father was a mechanic so I knew a thing or two about cars. Fortunately, I was able to get the car running again. She introduced herself and said she was waiting for a cousin whose flight had been delayed. And then asked where I was from and what brought me to England. For some reason, I felt comfortable with her and told her my story.’ Then he shook his head, smiling. ‘And to my utter surprise, she smiled and
said: Silly boy, I might be able to help you -’ ‘Will you be my man?
’ Edna interrupted, laughing. Adrien was laughing too. ‘I agreed immediately though I was unsure of what that meant. But I took rest in the question: what harm could she possibly do?
A lot, silly!’ Sumbo blurted out. And everyone laughed again.
Well, I haven’t regretted the decision ever since,’ he concluded.
The rest of dinner went on smoothly. I noticed Sumbo was picking her food. Her mind was definitely somewhere else.
Right,’ Edna said and stood up. ‘Tubosun, is it okay if I borrow your lady for a moment?’
‘By all means. I’ll help Adrien clear the table. That was a grand meal by the way. Thank you.’
‘I’ll pass that along to Beth, my cook. She will be pleased.Sumbo stood up too and the duo disappeared behind the door.

Kreate is a budding Nigerian writer with a flair for fiction. Writing for him began sometime in secondary school where he dabbled in poetry and plays. He has authored two self-published short novels. He is a banker and lives in Surulere. Read more interesting pieces at KREATEATALE