MAGICAL MONDAYS WITH KREATE
WELCOME TO CHAPTER II OF TUBOSUN & SUMBO
I was jolted from a dream by the persistent beeps from my alarm device. I had a dream but it eluded my memory. I couldn’t remember ever having one and it bothered me a great deal. My grandmother once said that people without dreams were like unwary antelopes in a forest of wolves and lions. She believed those who dreamt had the foresight to avert impending doom. There were a couple of evidences that corroborated her theory but only one had gotten me convinced. Many years ago before she passed away, she had called one evening warning my mum to suspend a vacation trip. Mum obeyed her and I had thought her crazy to have listened to senile Granny. On the eve of the scheduled departure date, there was a newsflash of a plane crash. My mother would have been on that plane if she hadn’t heed Granny’s warning.
The alarm was set to wake me twenty minutes later so I stayed in bed, relaxed my senses and hoped, for the umpteenth time, the dream would wander back like the biblical prodigal son. After what seemed like 10 minutes, I sighed deeply, mentally shook off the feeling of gloom, imagined the beauty of yet another busy work day, and sprung off my bed. I was in and out of the bathroom in twenty-two minutes. Wednesday was Uniform day – the day when everyone’s dress code had to be homogenous. I selected a grey suit, white shirt and black shoes from my wardrobe. A careful study of the lady in the mirror revealed I was ready to go.
I had barely opened my intra-mail inbox when the door abruptly introduced Akin. ‘Sweetheart,’ he called, walked up to me and gave me hug and a peck on the cheek. ‘You know I forgot to brush my teeth this morning’. I leaned back, wrinkling my nose. ‘I wondered where that smell was coming from’.
‘Shut up,’ he grinned and punched me playfully but it hurt a bit. ‘Do you have some gum?’ I rubbed my right shoulder ‘You really do have to start treating me like a lady’. I pointed at my handbag.
He grinned again; a grin that would have made him a killer salesman. His white teeth complemented his black skin terribly well. He wasn’t a hot runway model but he wasn’t bad looking either, and he certainly knew how to dress. He looked good in his Grey suit, white shirt and black pointed shoes. His hand dived into the bag and produced a pack of gum. He popped a couple into his mouth and chewed. ‘So how did the meeting with Mrs. Padraig go?’ I had turned my attention back to the monitor. ‘Better than anticipated actually. She is a pleasant lady and we got on quite well. She paid for lunch at that Thai restaurant.’
I skimmed through each mail. They contained regular intradepartmental and interdepartmental mails, nothing spectacular. Nothing unusual for a Wednesday.
‘And even better, she subscribed to the product I introduced,’ I said giving Akin a satisfied grin.
‘That’s good news. I had no doubt you’d seal the deal.’ He took a piece of tissue from my desk, emptied the contents of his mouth into it, and dropped it into the bin at the foot of the desk. He cupped his right palm, brought it over his mouth, exhaled into it, and sniffed the hollow.
‘Minty!’ I couldn’t contain the laughter. He joined in.
‘I’ll see you later, Sweetheart.’ And with that, he left.
Five minutes to eight and I knew exactly how the work day would begin. Wright would be awaiting my feedback.
A symphony of singing birds found their way into my ear canal, their voices prying my eyes open. I listened for a second or two and decided that their rendition was too complex for me to make any sense of. It was a beauty nonetheless. I parted the window blinds and a yellow ray of weak sunlight illuminated my room. And like magic, the voices and the hidden creatures that gave them life faded into a distant nowhere.
I peered through the window. The backyard lawn was still green, the waste bins were still immobilized, and the creepy black and white cat was, unsurprisingly, licking a paw. I got off the bed, went down on both knees, and said a morning prayer, interrupting thoughts wandering in and out in between. After the prayer, a minuscule wave of guilt swept over me. Although I couldn’t confront this idea face-to-face, deep down I knew my conviction about prayer had waned to a feeble state. I wanted a steady relationship with a woman I desired but had none. I wanted to switch jobs but no alternative presented itself, even though I had tried countless times. I missed my family and Nigeria but the meager twenty work hours stipulated by this damned government for non-European studying immigrants rendered my wishes wingless. So why exactly should I keep praying? My head ached.
This wasn’t a good way to begin my day so I picked up my guitar, turned on my laptop, fished for a lifting song on the internet and brought life into the guitar strings. The melody travelled through my veins building a sensation that made me slightly optimistic about the prospects of the day. My mobile rang from somewhere under my duvet. I found it and pressed the receive button: it was Beatrice. Her animated voice further lifted my spirits. She would be here in another hour so we could leave for the university together.
The accounting department’s door shut behind me and I paused in my tracks, allowing the feeling of triumph to envelop me for a moment, and then proceeded to the elevator. My smug smile must have been caught by Jack the hulky security personnel because he said: ‘Someone is in a good mood, hey?’ as I approached the elevator. I replied with a happy nod and an animated hello. Philip, the accounts department head, had just reluctantly signed off on the proposed budget for the marketing campaign of our new product. A few minutes before then had witnessed a face-off of strategic decisions and cost maximization issues regarding my proposed marketing campaign. He had flung questions at me and countered my every motion while the other heads of department watched like a cinematic audience. But I had prepared thoroughly and at the end of the day, the board was on my side. I had relished the frustrated look of loss in his eyes.
The battle had left me hungry and the imagined aroma of freshly baked croissants from the store on the ground floor made my belly grumble. The lift’s door to the ground floor slid open soundlessly and the aroma that wafted in was an improved replica of my imagination’s version. I followed the scent, heading straight for the counter. I observed that the small area was almost filled to capacity, a usual for any time after 12 noon. Fortunately, the table by the window was vacant.
‘Hey Sumbo.’ My name sounded even more terrible coming from the barista with a strong Italian accent and a wide genuine grin. He was missing a tooth, which made his face slightly comical. Antonio’s amiable personality and croissants gave him a consistent stream of viable customers. His cream apron was smudged with coffee spots. He smelled like freshly brewed coffee. ‘Wonder when you going to show. How you are this fine day?’ He asked as he turned and made Cappuccino. I was a Cappuccino and Croissant lady and he knew it.
‘Great, Antonio. Just great,’ I smiled. His English language needed a lot of work but he communicated just fine.
‘I see that very well,’ he said focusing on the heating milk. I did a quick survey of the customers around but there was no familiar face. He settled the white ceramic cup of Cappuccino on the counter. ‘So which one you want?’
I selected the two largest looking croissants from the display glass and Antonio chuckled as he fished them out. I settled the bill and found my way to the window seat I had sighted. The second croissant was almost done when my phone vibrated. The title New Message from Mrs. Padraig greeted my eyes. It read: Can we meet again, if you aren’t busy. I’ll send Adrien over to pick you up by 2pm. I smiled. I enjoyed our last meeting, food and conversation. I glanced at the walk clock opposite my seat. It was 12:45pm. There were a few loose ends to tie up in the office. I popped what was left of the croissant in my mouth, washed it down with the remaining Cappuccino, turned to Antonnio and waved. He returned the gesture with another smile. As I took off, my phone rang: It was Wright. All tasks after 2:00pm had been cleared or delegated to other colleagues. Adrien arrived in my office in fifteen minutes before schedule. This time he had a red baseball cap and a blue tee with a miniature white 22 boldly inscribed on the top left corner. I found the dress code a bit surreal for a chauffeur for someone of Mrs. Padraig’s pedigree but I had to confess it suited him pretty well. ‘Good afternoon, Miss Sumbo,’ he said, standing on the threshold of my doorway.
‘Hello, Adrien,’ I said, returning his smile.
He looked around. ’Quite a beautiful office you have here,’ and then he gave me a piercing look, ‘almost as attractive as how you look right now’. It was not what he said, but the look in his eyes that almost made me blush. ‘Mrs. Padraig asked me to pick you up.’
‘Always a charmer, aren’t you?’ I smiled.
‘Could you please give me another ten minutes?’
‘Sure. I’ll be waiting in the parking lot,’ he replied and left.
As expected the street was buzzing with mobile cars and pedestrians on the sidewalk. Traffic was slow but progressive, not unusual for a peak period in a cosmopolitan city, especially now that university students were on break. Some unfamiliar French music was playing on the disk player and although I couldn’t place the lyrics, the synergy between Adrien’s humming and the tunes created beautiful melody. Abruptly, Adrien stopped and switched the music to British radio.
‘Apologies, I was lost in the moment,’ he said.
‘There’s no need for one. I love the melody. Put it back on, please.’
The delight in his voice was so obvious I chuckled. He put the French music back.
‘So, what is he saying now?’ I was now swaying in response to the melody.
‘Hmn. The relationship between love and destiny, destiny brings love birds together, one way or the other -’
‘Oh, that’s so sweet,’ I said, and then a thought crossed my mind.
‘So don’t you think destiny has brought her to you already?’ It wasn’t my business but I had a feeling that he wouldn’t mind.
‘Who-’ and then he must have figured who I was referring to because he said sounding slight downcast. ‘I don’t even know if she likes me.’
‘Don’t you think you owe it to yourself to find out?’
‘What if she doesn’t?’ he replied.
‘What if she does? I must say you amuse me. You don’t strike me as the fearful, shy type.’
‘My experience had taught me one thing: the ones I want, don’t want me, and the ones that want me, I don’t want them. So you see my problem?’ He asked, glancing up at me through the rearview mirror.
‘I do,’ I sighed. ‘But do you think your sad past should stand in the way of the possibility of a beautiful future?’
He didn’t respond and didn’t go back to the humming. I felt sorry for him. Who was I to be handing out advice by the way? I was 26 and had feelings for no one. I had had a couple of flings while I was in the university. On odd days, I craved the feeling to love and be loved. In any case, my life was pretty satisfying most of the time. But after Adrien’s words I could not help but try to imagine the beauty, or perhaps misery, that defined love and how my life would fit around it. My mental canvas came out blank. I figured I would know when the time was right. The traffic was no more and we were outside the city center. The automobile came onto to a T-junction, took a left and then another left. We came to a street of elegant structures; the tallest amongst them was a hazel painted hospital with a large banner reading Le Meridien Hospital.
A posh medical centre for posh citizens, I thought as we drove past the building. After that, there was nothing but tall bushes for another few minutes until we arrived at our destination. The car halted in front of a huge black metal gate.
‘We are here.’ Adrien was smiling, as he looked over his shoulder, the solemn voice gone. He got out of the car, and walked briskly to a brick fence that seemed to stretch into the tall bushes at both sides of the gate. He pulled down the cover of a black box by the left pillar of the gate and punched in some combination. The gate jerked and gradually opened inwards, creaking.
As the car slowly rolled inside, gravels creaking rhythmically underneath, I noticed two lines of green, trimmed hedges on both sides. I could tell they were taller than I was. They stretched on to an unusual magnificent Victorian edifice: The walls were a pale cream while the roofs and three visible chimneys were burgundy. We stopped right in front of a small stairway that led to a black door at the right wing of the structure.
Adrien got out and I followed suit. ‘Mrs. Padraig should be in the garden wing,’ he said, pointing to my left. I figured the hedges shielded the view of the garden.
‘Thank you, Adrien,’ I said. He replied, got into the car and took the right path. I took the left path.
I was stopped in my tracks by a beautiful sight. A tall white flowery arc, with two miniature ornamental stone statues holding each end, opened into a wide green lawn. As I advanced, I noticed a multi-colored flowery circle at the far end. Inside it was a large white mermaid, face facing the heavens, while water shot upwards from her mouth and palms.
There were clusters of lilies and roses everywhere. Then I caught sight of Mrs. Padraig seating on a bench by a small-sized fir tree at the right corner of the garden. She was wearing a sleeveless floral blue shirt, a pair of jeans and wooly slippers. By her feet were a brindled Great Dane, a white Collie, and a black German shepherd with tawny patches around its neck and legs. There was also small circular table containing a transparent bottle of orangey something and two glasses. I paused. I loved dogs but I knew they could be territorial. She beckoned affably and I walked towards her, figuring it was safe. The brindled and the tawny-patched black canines lay there, looking blandly at me, panting. On the other hand, the German shepherd wasn’t as patient as she bounded towards me. I knew dogs and the look on its face was definitely friendly. I dropped down on one knee. It reached me in a minute, barked and started doing circles around me, wagging frantically.
‘Hey,’ I greeted. I petted its forehead and it responded with two wet-licks before rolling onto its back. It was a female. I ran my fingers through her belly and she barked with delight. I got up and we both returned to her lord. I knew I had made a new friend, at least for the day.
‘Currie has a mind of her own,’ she said, playfully ruffling the German shepherd’s fur, who whined satisfactorily.
‘She’s rather adorable,’ I replied. ‘Good afternoon, Mrs. Padraig.’
‘You can call me Edna,’ she replied.
‘Please join me’. Currie wagged as I sat beside Edna. The other two simply ignored me.
‘This is Butch,’ she touched the huge head of the Great Dane, ‘and this is Betsy,’ she said touching the head of the Collie. ‘It takes them a while to get friendly with newcomers. Would you like some orange juice?’ she asked.
I realized I was thirsty. ‘Yes, please’.
She filled her glass and mine, and handed me one. I drank half the glass in one go. It tasted fresh, unlike the Freshly Squeezed you found in most stores.
‘I’d like you to accompany me to an art/pawn shop, if you don’t mind,’ Mrs. Padraig said after a moment, placing her empty glass on the mat. Visit an art and pawn shop? I had been expecting our meeting to take on a business outlook. Well, I reckoned spending time with her still fell under the umbrella of customer relationship. ‘It would be a pleasure.’ I downed the remaining orange juice and settled my empty glass on the stool. ‘The juice was lovely.’
‘Give me thirty minutes to prepare, if you please. You are welcomed to look around the house.’
‘Thirty minutes would not be enough to appreciate this big house,’ I said, pointing at the building. ‘If you don’t mind I’d to appreciate the beauty of this garden. I think I have a thing for your fountain,’ I smiled, looking around.
She smiled, ‘I know the feeling. Well then, see you –
I turned to her as she her voice trailed off. Her pupils seemed dilated, and the imperceptible wrinkle on her forehead became prominent. Her eyes were glued to me but she wasn’t looking at me. Everything except her breathing was paralyzed.
‘Mrs. Padraig, are you alright?’
No response. My heart was racing now. Was she having a stroke? I was about to scream out Adrien’s name when she snapped out of it. She looked at me, smiled and said in a calm voice: ‘We’ll talk about that at some point in the future.’
With that she stood up and sauntered off to her home, her faithful companions following behind her. But Currie remained with me. I wondered for a moment what had just happened, brushed the thought off, and walked over to the mermaid fountain.
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