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Olawritesfiction

My writing journey, updates, publications and work in progress.

Illusions of Dreams

This story is dedicated to the victims of terrorism all round the globe. I wrote it about 10 years ago and after the recent attacks in Manchester and London thought to publish the whole story – republished from the Anthology – ‘Wiping Halima’s tears and other stories’ by Naija Stories.

crying

Sandra wrapped her arms around herself and closed her eyes as she sat wedged between a large woman who sat fanning herself and another woman with a baby that wouldn’t stop crying. Then, a sharp pain bit into her side and her eyes flew open.

It was the large woman next to her, prodding at her with her thick okra like fingers.

“What number are you?” Sandra’s eyes swept over the woman in her tomato red suit with blinding fake diamante, down to the cracked nails poking out of her expensive leather pumps. Surely she could have gone for a pedicure and maybe gone a size up on the suit. Class is something money really can’t buy, she thought, giving her a fake smile in reply.  “It is 55 Madam.”

 

Sandra closed her eyes and continued planning.

 

If she could get to London everything would be ok. She would pay off all her debts and her family wouldn’t suffer any more.

 

Getting to England had always been her goal.

 

As a child, her favourite book was one with the picture of a big house on a green hill in England. Her mother had said that she was six when she announced to the world that she was going to see the Queen.  The women in the yard had laughed and nicknamed her ‘Princess Sandra.’ The name had stuck and her passport read Sandra Princess Adeyemi. Those closest to her called her Princess.

 

Although her family had struggled to send her to University, she learnt to carry herself with poise and confidence. Men found her attractive but she would only date those who treated her like a lady. At the University, young men would ask her out and she would size them up and shake her head, knowing even then that she was destined for the kind of man that could take her places.

“Who do you think you are?” Men would ask in derisive tones.

“Someone who is too good for you.” She would reply in a heartbeat.

Then, in her third year, she met her Prince. Felix wasn’t particularly handsome or rich but he had something that made him stand out from all the men she had ever known – he understood her need to be better than everyone else and did not try to squash it. After they graduated, they moved to Lagos to find work. Felix was an Architect who didn’t know any prominent people to give him any contracts, and they survived on what she brought in as a secondary school teacher.  The constant struggles they faced had made her start thinking about England again.

 

Sandra cared for Felix but realised that someday soon, the practical matters of finance would kill any kind of feelings she had for him – so England seemed like a good option.  Many people had made a good life over there- the big men who threw money around like water talked of the place as if it was the back of their compound.

 

Once she got a job and made some money, she would send for Felix.  She hadn’t spent all these weeks praying and fasting for nothing.  Praying for God to forgive her sins and touch the stony hearts of the white people at the British High Commission so they could grant her a six-month visa.

 

Then, she could go over there, start working and disappear into the ever-swelling abyss; the underpaid underworld that did the jobs the British wouldn’t do.  She didn’t care if it was smelly manual labour; she wasn’t afraid of hard work.  She was more afraid of remaining in this city and watching her age mates succeed in life, while she remained in poverty.

 

It was 2004 and some people said that England was at risk from terrorists since the invasion of Iraq, but couldn’t that happen anywhere?  Safety now had no geographical home. It was an illusion of hope and would always remain so, no matter what any government said. Even the Americans with all their money could not protect themselves anymore. She might as well pursue her dreams and put her trust in God.

 

She had her letter from her cousin in London who had ‘promised’ to pay her fees. She was going to be a student. Armed with a letter offering her admission to college somewhere in Peckham, and her cousins bank statement bulging with the money he had borrowed from a few friends – she hoped to convince the officials at the British High Commission in Lagos that she was not going to need any money from the great people of Britain.

 

She wiped her brow.  The fan was on full blast but it didn’t matter, she was strung up.  She checked her folder of documents.  Her School Certificates, her University degree…testimonials, references from her employers and the money for her visa application that smouldered in her purse.

 

A month ago she had gone to Allen Avenue and got herself picked up by a rich businessman who had paid her well for her reluctant favours.  Afterwards she had stumbled onto a bus, got home, stayed in the bathroom pouring hot water over herself as she scrubbed herself raw.  She spent the night curled up on the sofa watching Felix sleeping like an innocent baby.

 

The next morning she got up at five and prayed like a mad woman for forgiveness to come and take away the guilt and disgust that, like a troublesome mother-in-law, had refused to leave.

 

She went to work and spoke to her colleague Pat who assured her that it was no big deal.

“Look at our colleagues,” Pat had laughed, flicking her long artificial hair away from her face. “Even our snooty Headmistress – she has a boyfriend who is helping her.  How do you think she bought that new car – on our meagre salaries? You must be kidding!”

 

She had known Pat since they were in Form One.  They had gone their separate ways afterwards but ended up working in the same school.  The first time she saw her again, she had marvelled at how Patricia, whose body used to be tattooed with eczema, had now metamorphosed into this sophisticated beauty. She wore the latest clothes and had a rich Banker boyfriend who according to him, was unhappily married, with two children.

She had asked whether his wife minded.

Pat had just laughed. “How long have you been living in Lagos?”

“About six months.”

“Stick around. You will soon understand what life is about.”

The man had properties abroad and had given her a car.  He had promised to give her enough to open a supermarket so that she could leave this ‘stupid’ teaching job.  Her middle aged lover wanted a young girlfriend and she wanted his money so she could have the finer things in life; elementary supply and demand.

 

It had taken three years of being Pat’s friend to convince Sandra that Allen Avenue was her only way to realise her dream. Pat said that if she was wise, Felix never needed to know about what had happened.

 

“Even when you are alone together like this,” she held her hands together like she was praying. “You mustn’t tell him.  You know how men are about such things. Did you tell him that I agreed to lend you the money?”

 

Sandra dared not allow her mind to dwell on what Felix would do if he knew the truth.  She was just glad she had been careful and protected herself.

 

Pat laughed. “He should even be glad that you are prepared to stay with a small boy like him when his mates are riding Lexus and living in the posh suburbs of the city. I’ve always thought you deserve more – you are a beautiful girl – my boyfriend knows some really cool guys with money. I could introduce you.” She had given her a long look and wagged one long crimson claw at her. “We are just the same when it comes down to it.  We both know how to use our bodies to get what we want.”

 

So when she told Felix that Pat had decided to lend her money for the visa, her voice was steady and sure. Felix had stood like a stone staring at her, the only thing moving were the muscles in his neck.  “I don’t want you to take anything from that woman!”

 

She had touched his cheek and let her eyes promise the world. “Look, I know you don’t like her but she is a good person. It’s just a loan and I will pay it back.”

He just shook his head.  “She doesn’t have a heart. It was replaced by a calculator long time ago.” His eyes had never left hers. “You will pay it back alright. I hope you don’t lose your soul in the process.”

 

She tried to lighten the air by cooking his favourite meal and all the while she kept asking herself.  Does he know?  Did he see it in a dream?

 

The days stretched into a month and when the thoughts invaded her peace, she would think of the opportunities and the new life that they would have, and feel better. She would show the Big Men – the lawyers, Bank Managers and politicians who thought that because they had money – they could buy her soul. The money she earned would buy her a new life, a new destiny and hope. One day, she would return from England with enough money to buy a mansion and several expensive cars and these same men would look at her with respect and call her ’Madam’.

 

A few days later, during a tender moment, Felix had kissed her hard and long and called her his little princess.  His eyes had gone all funny like the way men’s faces did when they wanted a woman, and guilt had flooded her soul.  Felix was good and patient and kind.  The man she had gone with was cruel; his lip curled in contempt as he flung the wad of money at her and drove off in his expensive car.

Once they approved the visa, she would make it up to him by being the best wife ever.  She would never let him down again.

 

I had no choice. She told herself. It was the only thing to do.

 

The pressure of family commitments had forced her into it. Her widowed mother was old and demanding. “Your brother’s school fees need to be paid. The University is threatening to kick him out but I know God will provide this money.”

Princess felt if that was the case, Mama could go and tell Him and not disturb her regularly with these problems. She sighed. “Don’t worry Mama – I will sort something out.”  She always did. Somehow, sha. Princess would sort something out.

 

Felix had told her she was a slave to her family. “He is nineteen years old! At his age, I was working and supporting myself!”

She had said nothing because she knew he was right.  She couldn’t wait till her brother would just graduate and take care of Mama.

 

But where did her family think she would get the money? Did they know or care?  What would they say if they knew about Allen Avenue or would they just assume the ignorance of the dead as long as they got what they wanted, like so many others did, living off the money their children earned from living very much below their potential in some foreign countries. Yet, she was willing to risk everything to do exactly the same thing in England.

 

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

Sandra watched people leave the interview room.  Some danced with joy while some wept openly, their hands on their heads. They all had one thing in common.  Rich or poor, Madam or pepper seller, clerk, student or Doctor – they wanted to get to England whether it was for business, a family occasion, their education or health.  The dream of going to England was in her grasp. It was a place where having three square meals a day, getting to work in one piece and constant supply of electricity and water were not just preserves of the rich and corrupt. It was a place where she could build a new life.

 

She would work hard and pay for Felix to join her. He would get a good job as an Architect.  She would study nursing and they would have three lovely children who would speak perfect English as if they were relatives of the Queen of England.   She and Felix would be so successful, that Pat would see that she hadn’t made a mistake by marrying the man she loved.

 

Then, she saw Felix coming back from the Gents. It was so nice he had taken a day off work to stay with her while she waited for her interview. He had been offered a job as an Office Manager in an Oil company a few days ago and she was happy for him – at least he wouldn’t starve when she went to London.

 

He sat down in the now vacant seat beside her.  When he spoke, his tone was resolute. “You don’t need to do this anymore. I don’t want you to go. I am not going to let you prostitute yourself in England for me.”

 

She stared at him. Did he know about Allen Avenue? “Who said anything about prostituting myself? I’m going there to work.  After all the plans we have made together, why are you coming out with all this nonsense?”

 

Felix eyes were red. “I have just thought about this. I have a new job here with good money and there are lots of opportunities here for both of us. I have a friend who works in an International school in town and he says there are vacancies for teachers. I know about the UK and how people have to work two three jobs so that their relatives can survive here.  I do not want to live like that – it is bad enough here. God help me – I love you woman! I want to look after you and give you the best life here – if you will let me.” Felix threw his hands in the air.

 

Sandra whispered through clenched teeth.  “We have already discussed this – why on earth are you changing your mind now?”  She could hear someone on the queue chuckle and another louder voice advising them to take their business outside.  She looked around at the businesswoman in the red dress who had jabbed her in the ribs earlier. The woman was shaking her head and in a posh voice, maybe influenced by the fact that she was in the British Embassy, said loudly, “It is not good to put all this dirty linen out for the public to see like this.”

Sandra flashed her warning glance. “You had better mind your own load Madam.  What concerns the meat seller with the price of fish, eh?”

 

There were more laughs from the queue, as some people were obviously glad for this diversion from hours of just sitting and worrying.  A white woman came out of the inner office and walked towards them shaking her head.  “I’m afraid I am going to have to ask you to leave or I will be forced to call security.”

 

“See now…you are forcing them to call security!” Sandra threw her hands up. “See what you’ve caused! See how people are looking at us!”

 

Felix was unmoved. “I have fought with my whole family just to be with you and I won’t stand by and let you leave me. Going to England is your dream – it is not mine.  The whole thing is beginning to consume you and you don’t even know it!  He wrenched the folder with her documents from her and they struggled.  He was stronger and got them away from her and ran out.

 

She stood rooted to the spot not really believing that he had just walked out with her precious documents. “Felix! Come back…are you totally crazy?” she shouted. She had been in the queue since morning and knew he could make her lose her place by going to look for him.  She hoped she could find him in time. He was probably sulking downstairs in the lobby.

 

“I’m coming back. I have my ticket number,” she said to the woman behind her. Pushing past the looks of derision and the shaking heads of those on the queue, she ran down the stairs. If he couldn’t support her dream, he did not deserve to be part of her future.

 

She was on the ground floor looking around for him when she heard a loud boom and the world exploded into bits around her. She was picked up and slammed against the cold hard floor, debris of wood, glass and metal swirled around her; into her mouth and eyes.  She could see part of the front desk sticking out of a man’s chest and in a drowsy sense of horror, she watched the blood trickle out of his mouth as her hopes for her future shattered into little pieces around her and she lost consciousness.

 

——————————————————————————————

 

Felix was standing outside the British High Commission trying to tear up the documents in the folder, when he heard an unearthly bang. Then the whole place shook and flames sprouted from the windows. His first thoughts were for the girl he left inside hanging to her ticket and yelling at him. He ran back but the flames and smoke stopped him.

 

A man was screaming, blood pouring out from his eyes. “We didn’t bomb any one! We didn’t invade anyone’s country! Why are they bringing their wahala to Africa eh?”

 

It couldn’t happen here, could it? Felix put his hands on his head in horror, as he watched flames leaping out of the windows of the British High Commission building.

 

Felix heard a scream tear into the air followed by more shouts, then a woman’s cry, shattering the silence of those who would never laugh, hope, love or go to England to make money.  Those were the preoccupations of the living.  A man was saying that some people were alive. Blood-stained and limping, they were led out and he prayed she might be one of them.

 

Then he saw her, this blood stained girl staggering out – and he ran over to catch her before she fell.

 

“Felix….what happened? There is fire everywhere…. what about all those people on the 2nd floor?” Sandra looked with horror at the inferno. The woman with the baby…the fat woman in the red diamante skirt suit? The white woman who was going to call security?

 

Security guards ran around shouting. Everyone was either shouting or crying. Even Felix was crying as he held her close.  “Princess, my Princess. I’m so glad. I thought I had lost you.”

 

They held each other tight.  Sandra closed her eyes.

 

They were still alive and so were her dreams and hopes.  Maybe this was why God had spared her life so that when this madness had passed and Blair and Bush – the terrible twins – declared the war on terror over, they  would come back and try again, after all England would always be there and so would her dreams and hopes.

 

“Where is my folder…my documents?” Her voice was shrill.

 

He had dropped them on the floor and watched in a dull sense of realisation as she bent over slowly, using his arm as a lever and picked up the folder. She held it to her chest, like a woman who had been reunited with a lost child, opening the folder and s going through the papers, checking for any damage.

 

He did not know the time his legs started moving towards the gate, away from Princess and her crazy dreams into the smoke, screams and destruction.

 

 

 

 

 

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Love. Unconditionally

Excerpt from my new book out on Amazon

love-me-unconditionally

I love you, he had said. I’m crazy about you. I’ve never felt this way about anyone else before.

Her jaw tightened. Yeah, yeah. That was before she had started behaving like a wife – before he had put a ring on it. Before having a child became the carrot dangling on the string. When all she needed was to hear him tell her that he loved her. Unconditionally. Whether she could have children or not. That he loved her first thing in the morning with all her hair standing on end. That he loved her hair natural even with the bits of grey in it. That whether she was a size 8 or 18, or could cook jollof rice like his mother, he was totally, irretrievably in love with her.

She had obviously been asking for too much. Did such a guy exist anywhere else but in her fantasises?

Deola Banjoko  `Love Me Unconditionally’

Link to Amazon –

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Books-Ola-Awonubi/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=n%3A266239%2Cp_27%3AOla%20Awonubi

The Perplexing Case of the Pink Chicken

 

chicken-hot-pink-silhouette

I liked the Ogunjimi’s. Not only were they my next door neighbours – they were very accommodating. Back in those days I must have really been a pain. I had questions for everything and complaints about the food, the language, the mosquitoes yet they were very patient and seemed to do all they could to convince me that Nigeria was a wonderful country.

 

Like most of the staff that lived on the campus, they grew their own vegetables and fruits.  Most of them seemed to be more interested in cultivating tomatoes, okra, peppers, spinach and cocoyam than growing hibiscus, bouganivea or any of the flowers. The Headmaster however, was an avid gardener and could often by seen in the mornings and late afternoons tending his plants in front of his quarters, a medium sized bungalow, two streets away from the Corpers home.

 

The Ogunjimi’s also kept some chickens, which of course came in handy for the eggs and for the meat at Christmas or birthdays. There were seven of chickens and the girls took turns to feed them with grains of rice, corn or any leftover bits of food.  These creatures had the run of the compound. I would often see them majestically stepping around the house clawing and pecking at some poor worm.

 

Sometimes people would identify their chickens by attaching bright pieces of cloth to their legs. This was to avoid the trouble that could result from someone appropriating a neighbours chicken for their evening meal.

 

I was on my way back from classes when I saw Mrs Ogunjimi searching for something amongst the bushes in front of her house.

 

“Good afternoon.”

 

“Afternoon o. “She continued her frantic search.

 

“What are you looking for? “ I was at the gate to my house now.

 

She shook her head. “One of my chickens has gone missing.”

 

So I joined her in the search. We looked in the shed behind the house where the family kept their bicycles and old boxes of coke bottles, clothes and household utensils. We looked in the backyards of the adjoining teacher’s houses and down the road that led to the Boarding houses. The search went on till we were both tired.

 

“Mr O will not be happy.”

 

It amazed me how the woman would constantly refer to her husband as ‘Mr O’ but worked for them.

 

“Maybe it just wandered off.”

 

Her voice was cold. “Chickens do not just wander off from their group. Something has happened to it. I know it. Maybe it’s that Mrs Nwobisi. It’s the kind of thing that she can do. You know how these people are.”

 

I had no idea of the tribalism that existed on campus and by this time I was tired, hungry and hot.  Yoruba’s had views on Ibos and Ibos had views on Yoruba’s. Someone had told me this was a country of over three hundred languages and dialects. I guessed that there must be many views flying around.

 

I thought nothing of it until the next day when I witnessed my first fight. Well, I had seen people fighting on the road, and in the market where I brought my weekly provisions of soap, oil, Gari, Rice and the rest. Just not on the school premises.

 

These two women were rolling on the floor, pulling at each other hair and screaming obscenities at each other first in their individual languages, then in Pidgin English. There was a crowd gathering – a couple of houseboys, some students and one male teacher who was trying unsuccessfully to separate them.

 

I caught sight of the first woman and realised to my dismay that it was my friendly neighbour Mrs Ogunjimi and the woman she was pummelling in the face was the neighbour across the road – Mrs Nwobisi.

 

Stupid woman. She screamed as they both jumped to their feet.

 

Your mothers mother is stupid. The other woman replied aiming a kick which dislodged her wrapper and revealed the fact that she was wearing a pair of jeans shorts underneath.

 

I was incredulous. Someone laughed.

 

Mrs Ogunjimi flexed her muscles and crouched down.” I have come prepared for you today.”

 

They went for each other again and almost broke Mr James’s glasses as he tried to pull them apart.

 

He tried to appeal to them. “Madam. This is not befitting of you. Mrs Nwobisi. What is all this? Think of what your husbands will say if they see you like this. Or your children?”

 

“This foolish woman accused me of stealing her chicken!”

 

“I know she stole the chicken.”

 

“Why would I steal your chickens – I have my own chickens?”

 

Mrs Ogunjimi laughed. “You call those dried up specimens of flesh and bone – chickens? I wouldn’t eat them if you paid me.”

 

Mr James tried to speak. “ Madam. There is no reason why Mrs Nwobisi would take one of your chickens.”

 

Mrs Nwobisi  was indignant.” Yesterday I had nine chickens. I prepared one for the soup- pot. I am supposed to have eight left but I only have seven.”

 

Mrs Ogunjimi shrugged.” Do you think I have time to be counting your scrawny chickens? I don’t care whether you have eight or eighty.  Why were you killing a chicken in the night and depositing the feathers like a thief in the night….”

 

“Eh. So you are monitoring my dustbin now? I am sorry for your husband. He does not know that you are a mad woman.”

 

“You are the mad woman!”

 

“All your family is mad.”

 

“Eh? You dare abuse my family.!” She lunged again and tried to slap Mrs Nwobisi who being younger, deftly avoided it and managed to push her on the floor, then sit on her.

 

“Yes. Your mother and your father. That is if you know who he is?”

 

At this point a man joined us. The crowd parted and he stood towering over the women. His eyes were red.

 

“What is all this?”

 

We all looked at Mr Nwobisi.

 

“Your wife stole my chicken.”

 

“I have not got time for this. “ He said coldly.

 

He signalled to his wife who reluctantly relinquished her hold over Mrs Ogunjimi who in turn aimed another kick at her shins.

 

Mr Nwobisi pulled his wife away. “You can’t just go around accusing people like that without proof. Do you think we are so wretched that we can’t afford chickens?”

 

Mrs Ogunjimi hissed in contempt. “I don’t know what you people are capable of.”

 

“I cannot be standing here arguing with a mere woman over something as basic as a chicken. I will be discussing this with your husband when he returns.” With that he walked off with a comforting hand around his wife’s shoulder.

 

Mrs Ogunjimi hissed in contempt. “Do whatever you like. Go and call the whole police force if you like. I know what I know and I know that she stole one of my chickens.”

 

I went over and tried to encourage her to go back into the house, which she did reluctantly. Later on when she had calmed down I asked her why she was so sure that it had been Mrs Nwobisi that had stolen her chicken.

 

“They ate chicken yesterday. There was no celebration or party. People just don’t kill a chicken if there is no reason. She stole the chicken early in the morning and thought I would not know but my mother did not give birth to a fool. I know that it was her.”

 

“I don’t think that what you have told me points to her stealing the chicken.”

 

“You wouldn’t understand.”

 

That was the end of the conversation. I never did get to know how Mr Ogunjimi felt about the incident and I cant say I gave it too much attention, but when I was going to school the next morning I saw seven chickens scratching for food in front of their garden.

 

I had never seen anything like it before.

 

Their feathers had been dyed a bright bubblegum pink. I guess this was Mrs Ogunjimi’s way of branding her chickens. I heard some of the students laughing as the chickens walked majestically behind their mother as she made her way across the road.

 

 

A few days later it was Environmental day where everyone had to tidy up their surroundings.  I was asked to inspect the grounds behind the Boys hostel, not usually a very pleasant place to be with mounds of rubbish – empty bottles of soft drinks, cartons, bottles, newspapers, food wrappings. Today everywhere had been swept clean and the refuse left in a heap at the end of the compound.

 

That was when I saw it.

 

A little mountain of pink feathers concealed under the rubbish. It dawned on me that I was probably looking at the mortal remains of Mrs Ogunijimi’s missing chicken.

 

This was an issue of common sense and not a case for Miss Marple. The facts were clear – Boys Hostel near the scene of the crime. Suspects – Two hundred boys who were usually hungry anyway – having to contend for the meagre and really bad food served in the canteen.  Tempted by the chickens being fattened up under their noses. It was a crime begging to happen.

 

Now the deed had been done and another accused of it. The only evidence – a bunch of pink withered feathers buried in a shallow grave behind the Boys Hostel.

 

I thought of telling Mrs Ogunjimi so that she could apologise to Mrs Nwobisi then decided against it, realising that would just cause more trouble between them.

 

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that dyeing the chickens pink was no deterrent to hungry teenagers and that the other surviving chickens ran the risk of facing the same fate eventually.

 

The Normalcy of NEPA

 

 

lagos_broad_street

 

It was like being transported into this parallel universe where everything functioned in a haphazard way.

 

The first day at my Uncle’s house in Lagos the lights went off and everybody screamed NEPA. I asked who NEPA was. My Uncle laughed.  NEPA; short for the National Electricity and Power Authority, was supposed to supply electricity but rarely did. Despite Nigeria’s famous oil reserves, the power would routinely switch off in the middle of using the electric cooker, ironing or watching football and you would hear the collective cry from the neighbours as people would shout and issue curses as if NEPA was a human, who turned the electricity on and off at whim

 

The rich and middle class Lagosians had generators.  My father’s younger brother was an accountant but out of principle he refused to buy a generator because he said they were a symbol of all the things that were wrong about Nigeria. His wife was always nagging him to buy a generator because she couldn’t keep anything perishable in the fridge like meat or fish.

 

One day I read in the newspapers that a family of six had died after inhaling the fumes from a generator left on overnight. That was just everyday Lagos. People would gather around and talk about how horrible it was and then they would switch on their generators and go to bed and pray that God would take care of them.

 

 

Normal for me was cold and wet London. It was eating fish and chips dripping with vinegar wrapped up in newspaper and rushing home on Friday to watch East Enders. It was watching your breath turn to icy smoke as you stood in front of the bus top and agreed with the old dear who shook her head when you said – “Terrible weather innit.”

 

It was normal that we both find agreement in the weather even though we had never met before. It was normal that I would turn and comment on her dog and say how nice it was – even if it was mangy had fleas and a bad attitude.

 

That was the normal I knew. The normal I craved.

There was so much to learn about the country of my parents and every time I asked questions, people would answer with another question.

Why do you ask so many questions?

Why are you not married yet?

Why don’t you get this job/ drive this car/ live here or wear this.

People would just laugh and I found it uncomfortable. They laughed when I spoke; when I asked why everyone seemed so scared of policemen, why there were so many children selling things on the roadside when they should be in school or why any man needed to have more than one wife.

Despite the terrible roads, the dire transportation system and the sometimes shaky political situation, people seemed to be relatively happy.

 

No matter how bad it got – I understood that optimism was ingrained into the Nigerian DNA. You could see it everywhere in the children that walked miles to school chattering away happily, in the buses and lorries bearing slogans such as words ‘God Dey’ another with, ‘Only God can judge me’ and, ‘God will bless me’.

 

I soon learnt to respect the resourcefulness of Nigerians. Commerce in this city is not 9-5! It was in Lagos that I went to my first night market.  The night was a black velvet backdrop scattered with the lights of thousands of kerosene lamps flickering from the market stalls, where women sat frying puff–puff and chin-chin.

 

I couldn’t believe it, despite the blackout life went on. Was their nothing Nigerians could not adjust themselves to? Coups, blackouts, hunger, poverty, fuel shortage….the atrocious cost of tomatoes!

 

I thought of my uncle’s resilience. He reminds me of a Nigerian version of Del Trotter. He always believes like so many other Nigerians that ‘Tomorrow go better.” I must confess that I did not always share his optimism.

A Class Act – work in progress

 

One woman.

Two men who would change her destiny forever – one for good and the other in the worst way possible.

One, a bad mistake that will haunt her for years to come but holds secrets about her no one must know.

The other – the keeper, the forever guy – the one she needs in her journey of life.

Which one does she go for?

 

———————————————————————

Lagos, 2005

 

She got to his room and knocked on the door.

“Come in.”

The suite was all cream walls, expensive rich brown leather settees and a golden brown carpet.  A big bouquet of freshly cut flowers dominated the huge glass coffee table.  The news was on the large plasma TV.  As she went into the room she saw that Tunde was outside on the veranda staring down at the city below him as if he owned it all.

 

She joined him and looked at the street below, cars and people like little stars against a black velvet sky.

 

“You can view Lagos from here.”

 

He turned and nodded. His eyes meeting hers and then sweeping over her, drinking in every atom of her appearance.  “Oh. I agree. I like the view I’m seeing now.”

 

She stared at him silently. A myriad of thoughts going through her mind.

 

He turned to look at her a small smile on his face. “I wonder what is going on in that pretty head of yours?”

 

She folded her arms across her chest. “Can we just get on with this?”

 

“Hey slow down. Let’s at least get to know each other a bit more.”

 

She stared at him. Words were superfluous at this point in time. Her lips tightened. He wasn’t to know that she wasn’t a runs girl. A fact that he was going to find out imminently.   Fear tied her stomachs into knots.

 

Maybe she should leave. Go back to her parents. See if they could raise the money to pay the four years rent arrears, pay her brother s school fees. Pay for her grandmothers operation…..anything but selling her soul.

 

She took a step back but he was standing in front of her, his warm breath tickling her neck. She could see the hunger in his eyes.

 

“I can’t do this. “ The blood thundered in her head. “Tunde …..”

 

He was smiling. It was a slow smile. It started from those compelling eyes of his and rested in the dimple at the side of his mouth. “That’s a shame. You’ve only been here for 5 minutes!  Why the rush. I thought we had plans for this evening.”

“I don’t want to be part of those plans any more. I’ve changed my mind.”

His eyes were hard. “I thought we had a deal.”

“This isn’t a contract.”

He shrugged. “Have it your way. You want this job. It’s yours. You want to help out your family? Ten thousand pounds.  It’s all up to you, Lola. I can have the money in your account first thing tomorrow.”

Ten thousand what …..and a job!

She hated that. She had now taken her first step into the Runs girl school of philosophy.

Well done girl. 100% over 100%

She thought of the implications of what he had discussed. Her mouth was dry.

He was looking at his watch. “So what is it to be Lola? Let’s not waste each other’s time.”

She stared at him as the meaning of her predicament sank in. “O.K”

“O.K. Is that all you have to say. “He laughed and took a step towards her taking her hands in his. “Don’t look at me like that Lola; it’s not as if you’re some rookie at this.” He whispered as his lips clamped down on hers and she stood like a statue. His hand rested lightly on her waist then moved to cover her heart.

 

The Break-up – Excerpt from Love’s Persuasion

 

The next day Tony sat in the car watching Ada’s house. Everything looked the same. The old lady was still on the veranda, frying yam. The young men were gathered in the front yard, playing cards and ogling a group of teenage girls who walked past.  The little shop that sold soft drinks was open and a few customers milled around in front.

 

Tony sat in the car until evening, hoping he would see Ada, but she never came. He was relieved when he saw her roommate return, though. He waited for her to greet the old woman and let herself into the house and then he approached. Everyone looked up.

 

He bent his head and greeted the old woman in Yoruba.

 

E kurule Ma. Good evening, Mama.”

 

“Good evening,” The old woman nodded. “Ko sin bi. She isn’t here.”

 

He understood enough Yoruba to register what she was saying, and nodded.

 

He walked down the corridor and knocked on her door. It opened and Liz stuck her head out.

 

Gini? What do you want?”

 

He tried to smile. “Don’t be like that Liz. At least hear me out…”

 

She stared at him. “If you came to see her you are at least a day late.”

 

“What do you mean? Is she ok?”

 

“She is fine. Well, as fine as she could be in the circumstances after the way you and your family treated her.”

 

“That’s what I wanted to see her about. I don’t understand what is going on, but surely she should know that I’m prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt.”

 

Liz shrugged. “Una do well eh …you and your family. But I’m the wrong person to talk to.”“

 

“I’ve been in the hospital with my father. It was serious – in fact still is. It was difficult to get away. I’ve been texting Ada all night and there has been no response.  Her phone has been switched off.”

 

“So?” Liz folded her hands over her chest.

 

“So what is going on?”

 

“As you can see she isn’t here.”

 

“Liz – I’m tired and have had a horrible few days. Where is she?”

 

“Right now. Probably in the East somewhere.”

 

His brows knitted together. “What do you mean in the East somewhere? Don’t you  have a forwarding address for her?”

 

“No – and if even if I had it, I would not give it to you.”

 

He sighed. “Look Liz I can understand your feelings for your friend but if you really care about her you would want us to sort things out. I have really deep feelings for Ada. I realise now that I’ve messed up big time and all I want to do is to see her and apologise.”

 

“I’m telling you the truth – when Ada left here she was absolutely heartbroken. She went back home to see her Father and would be there for a week or so before she decided what she is going to do next.”

 

“What do you mean – what she is going to do next? Isn’t she coming back to Lagos for her final year?

 

“No. She is going to take her credits to another Uni. She told me she has spoken to someone and it can be done.”

 

She watched his face fall as she said this. To give him credit he did not look himself. He had not shaved and was dressed in rough jeans and a shirt that had not seen an iron. He also looked as if he had lost a lot of weight.

 

Serve him right. Like most men he did not know a good thing until it was taken from him.

 

“She did leave something for you though …she said you might turn up soon.”  She went back into the room and came out with a couple of books which she handed over to him.

 

“What is this?”

 

“The books you lent her.”

 

Tony scratched his head as he stared at the copies of Persuasion and No Longer at Ease. “Liz…in the name of God give me any information you have on where she can be reached. I love her.”

 

She looked at him and saw the tears in his eyes. Chei!Only Ada could make a big man cry like this. Na wa o.  She shook her head. “Sorry. I cannot help you. Goodbye.” She put her hand on the door handle.

 

Tony walked down the corridor, like a man in a trance.

Click below to buy on Amazon

Click to buy

 

 loves persuasion for ola n

The Pink House

 

 

 

 

In 2008 I decided to take a chance and submit a short story to a writing competition, something I hadn’t done since I was about 8 years old. It was the National Words of Wordsof Colour competition and I came first with my short story about a little girl growing up in Nigeria in the late seventies. The story received first prize and it encouraged me to take my writing more seriously and go back to Uni for my MA in Creative writing and Imaginative Practice.

Presenting The Pink House republished by Brittle Paper-

——————————–

My mother always used to say that we lived on the decent part of the street where the houses had larger yards and cars but smaller families. The other side was for those whose social standing meant that they had no choice but to pack themselves and sometimes their extended families into rented rooms in small squalid bungalows. Opposite us there was one of these unfortunate habitations; painted the exact colour of my favourite bubble gum.

Warm rosy pink, its window shutters and doors reminded me of an old woman’s mouth; an odd selection of different colours thrown together like odd shoes. My father was an architect and believed that the Town Planning people should pull it down and build a decent house. He said it was an eyesore; a boil on the face of humanity and an absolute monstrosity.

My father loved to confuse us with big confusing words.

My mother was a governor at my school, a teacher and lay preacher at the local Anglican Church. She believed that the house’s presence on the street was like the serpent in paradise, a cancerous legacy that lay dormant and if not dealt with might threaten all the decent families and ultimately the whole society.

“I don’t know why we stand for it. We complain and the police promise to deal with it—yet nothing is done.”

I was eight years old then and wondered why she felt so strongly about the house across the road, but I had long learnt that when children asked questions adults did not want to answer they got sent off to their studies. –

See more at:

The Pink House | by Ola Awonubi | An African Story

 

 

 

 

With love from Tuscany

 

 

Skyline-Florence-tuscany-italy-zzzz.jpg

 

He smiled like a child who has been told that he has passed his exam.

 

He talked about everything and told her nothing. Did she know that Okada motorbikes had now replaced ordinary bicycles? That the nearby oil refinery had stopped recruiting local labourers and contractors and that Mama John’s daughter had just left her second husband? Was she aware that his mother had the malaria fever so bad that she had to be rushed to Benin Teaching hospital where she had been on drips for two weeks?

 

His voice buzzed around her head like a demented mosquito searching desperately for a way out of a net.

 

Are you not happy with this room? Why are you squeezing your face as if your head is hurting you? Are you well? Shall I go and get some food? Is it true that Oyibo people eat food with pepper? Did she miss Nigeria at all?

 

“Yes. No. Godwin…I’m tired. I want to sleep.”

 

“Yes of course. Italy is not a village down the road. Get some rest. I will leave you.”

 

Ese sensed the relief flooding out of him as he closed the door then heard him talking on the phone.  She imagined that he was telling Miss or Mrs Red shoe off, for leaving evidence under the bed.

For more go to With love from Tuscany

 

Date for a dare part 2 – Excerpt

 

 

black couple embracing

Alicia eyed the water chute warily.

“I don’t know.”

” Come on girl…..where’s your sense of adventure?” She could hear people shrieking and see them waving their arms in the air as they slid down the channel chute.

She shook her head.

He laughed. “Do you think I brought you all the way here to sit and watch me have fun?”

She shrugged. “Maybe I’m not a water chute person.”

His eyes mocked. ” How will you know what you like unless you give it a try?”

“I’m not sure.”

” So give it a try…..you never know. You might get a pleasant surprise – actually enjoy yourself for once.” He took her by the hand and faced the attendant,” Two tickets please.”

It’s not too late girl. You can still say no. Chicken. Coward. What are you scared of? The water chute. Hmmm. Getting my hair wet. This hair must not get wet. It must not get wet. This hair must NOT GET WET! She had said it three times and he still wasn’t listening because the words never left her lips!

They took their seats and were strapped in …..

 

***********************

She had stopped shaking and Anton was helping her out. Her legs felt like spaghetti and she was clinging to him.

She could his heart beating.

He tried to steady her, his hand on her back. “Are you ok?”

She shook her head and stepped away from him. ” I should never have listened to you.”

“Didn’t you find that exciting? The wind blowing in our hands. The shouts and the shrieks?”

She put up a hand to her damp hair.  It had probably gone all fuzzy and would take hours to blow dry.

His eyes went to her hair. “It’s a warm day – let’s walk around, should dry soon.”

She tried to tie it back with a hair band.

“Leave it down.”

She stared at him.” What’s it to you? ”

” It would dry quicker.” She knew he was right and managed a smile.

“Where do you want to go next?”

Home. Did she really say that? Obviously not because he was still smiling. He was being nice and trying so hard to please. Was she being terribly ungrateful, uncharitable and an absolute pain in the rear?

“Would you like something to eat?” She smiled trying hard to remember her manners.

He smiled back. “That’s better. I hardly recognise you.”

Despite herself she felt her lips curve into a smile and then a chuckle. He spun round and stared into her face.

“Was that a laugh or was I dreaming? ”

“ I do laugh sometimes you know.”

” I like it. It suits you.” They were walking through the crowds and some woman charged into her with her buggy. His hand slipped into hers as he dragged her out of the way of the Mother and Chariot, but he wouldn’t let her hand go.

“Thanks.” she grinned.

“Two smiles in one day and a laugh.” He commented. “I must be doing something right.”

She was silent as she soaked in the sun, the ambience of the day, the happy families and lovey dovey couples, the hum of the crowds. He was still holding her hand and he nodded in the direction of an elderly couple sitting on a park bench. Hands entwined, just enjoying the day and a lifetime of loving each other.

“That’s what I want one day you know.”

She laughed. ” You don’t strike me as the sort that wants marriage and 2.2 kids and a little house on the Prairie.” The elderly couple were engrossed in each other but looked up and smiled to them as they walked past.

Anton turned to her. ” What would it take to make you look at me like that? ”

Alicia looked at him and suddenly everything went quiet. He drew her closer to him, so close that his lips were closer to hers. This guy is going to kiss me. In front of everyone in this park. This guy is going to kiss me….. and I don’t even like him.  Isn’t he the office flirt? Tales of what had happened after the last Christmas party were still circulating.

She felt her stomach tighten as she snatched her hand away from his. Then she heard her name and turned round to find herself looking into the surprised eyes of her Head of Department at Church. Her husband and children were straggling behind.

” Hello.” It was a big smile as he reached out and shook Sister Susan’s hand. ” My name is Anton. Anton Walker.” Sister Susan looked at Alicia. Alicia looked at Anton and Anton just kept on smiling.

 

 

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