Emeka had not shown up at the restaurant; she had waited there for over two hours. She had called his mobile phone, she had asked his driver Shomolu to call his mobile phone. Nothing.
"Shomolu where your oga dey?" she had asked the driver, but he did not know. Stupid, useless man.
He had not called her back, it had been over a week and he still had not called. There was no excuse he could give that would be good enough, nothing he could say, except, maybe he died or something. But she was sure he was not dead, she would have heard about it somehow.
She sucked her teeth and rolled her eyes every time her phone rang and it was not Emeka calling; which was every time. She had a lot of work to do, she was getting more customers than she could handle. The last thing she needed was to be thinking about one useless married man.

But he was not useless, this was Emeka for god's sake!

Why the hell was he avoiding her? He stood her up-he was the one that asked her to lunch that day, he even sent his driver to pick her up-why would he suddenly know what? She would not be bothered, she would focus on her work, go over the patterns for the bridesmaids dresses she was supposed to be designing. It needed a lot of revamping, she was pretty excited about it actually, very impressed that the bride wanted a 'native' theme for her 'white' wedding. That was how the woman had put it; she was a charming woman, but a little affected in the way she had constantly pat her hair with her left hand making sure her oversized engagement ring caught and reflected the light and said with a strong English accent: "I want the brides maid dresses to be made from native fabric, Woodin or some other african print fabric. I want my wedding to have a 'native' theme...". She would add beaded lace trimmings and a satin sash, make each of the dresses just a little bit different from one another. The bride-to-be had requested twenty-five dresses, so there would be twenty-five bridesmaids then. That would be one big wedding; Toyosi was not interested in having a big wedding. She wanted a very small to just over small church service and an even smaller reception; a nice dinner, live music. Just her mother and maybe five or six friends; her husbands family...her husband... God, what the hell was she doing? Where the hell was Emeka and why had he not called her?

She suddenly felt a quick burst of anger and she threw the box of pins she had been holding against the linoleum floor. The stupid plastic container did not give a loud enough crash to satisfy her annoyance as it fell against the floor, it only made her angrier. But she felt something else, she was not sure if it was shame or maybe... jealousy. If he was ignoring her, then things were probably going well with his wife. She felt as if she had not claim to the man, no right to be angry or jealous or anything at all, but...ugh!

She was not going to call again, he had ignored enough of her calls, refused to return enough of her messages; even the stupid driver was ignoring her. Enough. She was going to wait for him to come to her, he would, he always did.


She stood in front of the door waiting for Chidinma to come and open it, she had so much to tell her! Unfortunately it was her roommate Bisi who opened the door.
"Hey, whats up? Chidinma dey?" she inquired and tried too look through the gap in the door
"No, I never see am since morning" Bisi rolled her eyes at the mess behind her " E be like say she dey rush when she commot, u wan wait am? she asked
"Yeah" she replied as she walked into the messy room
She hated coming to Chidinma's room when she wasn't around, her roommate Bisi was just not the friendliest person on earth but she decided to stay anyways.

Bisi was sitting on her bed with books all around her, madly scribbling formulas into a worn-out notebook. As far as Nneka was concerned, thats the only thing Bisi and Chidinma had in common, they were both efikos.

After waiting for more than an hour, Chidinma walked in the room.
"Ah Nneka whats up? Bisi how far?" she asked breathless from the long walk from the gate.
"hey" Bisi replied barely looking up from her books.

Nneka eyed her friend as she walked across the room, there was something quite different about her, for one thing she wouldn't look up. Although Chidinma wasn't that "bubbly-always-full-of excitement-type" she seemed down cast. Nneka decided that they needed to leave the room to talk.

"Chidinma lets go and get Sharwarma, hunger dey waya me!" As if she knew what she would say next she quicky told her that she would be paying. Chidinma changed into a pair of jeans and flip-flops and they left...

As they walked down the road, Nneka began to talk about what was going on with her. The thing was you could never directly probe into Chidinma's life, you had to open up to her, and then she might let you in. Nneka babbled on about how her boyfriend Chuks was beginning to get on her nerves with his constant nagging about how she dressed. Through out the conversation Chidinma inserted "oh's" and "Eyah's" where appropriate, it was obvious she wasn't paying much attention.
"Nneka" Chidinma said, with her voice dropping slightly at the end. "I have a problem, you know things have been rough for us since my father died" she looked at her friend square in the eye which was very unusual for chidinma
"We have used up all the money he left us and my mother's business is slow. My younger brother Junior is going to write his JSCE soon and i have used all my money to pay for his school things. I'm fed up, worried and I just dont know..."
She looked up at her friend and sighed.
Nneka did not know what to say to her friend so she opened up her arms and just gave her a hug, right in the middle of the street. And there they were, two young women embracing and crying and laughing like only adults can in the hope that maybe it would get better...


As they sat down to eat the sharwarma they had waited an hour for Chidinma began to tell Nneka her story.
"I don't think I have told you this before, I had a very happy childhood infact I was very content. My father was a civil servant and my mother had a provisions store, everyday after school I would go to the store and do my homework and then help my mother out. Life was simple, after my father closed work he would go and pick my brothers up from lesson and then pick me and my mother from the shop. My mother would make us dinner and we would all watch the seven o'clock news"she smiled as she said this and she seemed lost in her reminiscing.
Chidinma paused...and then her voice became choked up but it seemed like she felt a pressing need to continue, so she did. "I was in SS2 when my father died, when i got to the shop that afternoon my mother was not there, the shop wasn't even locked. I knew something was wrong. I walked from my mothers shop all the way home it took me about two hours and thirty minutes. When I got home our neighbor Alhaja as we all called her rushed up to embrace me. I was confused. She began to mumble some prayers in arabic, she was crying, I was still confused. so I started crying too. Then she said "your brothers are inside I brought them home but you must go to the hospital immediately your mother is still there, Bayo will take you."

Alhaja's oldest son Bayo, my very good friend and sort of older brother did not say a word, he did not look me in the eye as he drove fast to the teaching hospital. I felt like jumping out of the car and running, like it would get me there faster.The old daewoo was going as fast as it could go but it would never be fast enough.
When we got to the hospital the receptionist began to mumble something to me. I couldnt understand her, there was a woman wailing in the hallway, she sounded familiar yet really strange. As if in a trance I followed the sound to an open door.And there she was, my mother being held up by two nurses. Why was she screaming? "Mummy!" I shouted at her! "mummy what happened?" She looked up at me but it seemed she was looking through me and all she kept screaming was "My husband, my husband". It wasn't only my father who died that day a part of my mother died too.


"I've been sleeping with another woman." Emeka finally said. His voice was so low, it was barely audible and his words came out so fast, they bumped into each other, the last ones beginning before the first words finished. So his statement came out like one long word "I'vebeensleepingwithanotherwoman." But she heard, because he spoke in his sleep, and they had been married long enough that she could decipher the meanings or at least the words of his mindless mumbles. So she heard.
The number 19 was reflecting the light that spilled in form the big arched window in the hallway. It was sparkling and the familiarity of the place startled her. She had not been back in so long, after she got married and moved out she had come to visit Anu a few times, but not recently. She looked around the hallway while she waited for Anu to open the door, she had rung the door bell twice but... she turned to face the window, the glass was spotless and she could see the palm trees across the road, swaying, swaying. She began to move her head slowly from side to side, mimicking the movement of the trees. She imagined that there was a soft breeze rushing past her ears, her eyes, bidding her head to sway like the trees. She was a palm tree, tall, untouchable...well except by palm wine tappers. Palm wine tappers could touch her and they did and lizards too, lizards and birds. So she was not untouchable. She was fooli-

"Rose?" Anu asked, shattering Roseline's reverie. Roseline faced her sister slowly and saw the puzzled expression on her face. Something must have been wrong with her face, because Anu nearly jumped when she looked at her, her eyes moved down to the suitcase and up again to Roseline's face and she moved closer to cover her sister with herself and she embraced her and comforted her until Mr.Manesh from flat 18 walked out, the smell of incense wafted out behind him. He walked to the lift with his head turned the opposite way, towards them, staring, he nearly walked into the wall.


It was a slow day in the office, he had sent the driver to pick Toyosi up and take her to the restaurant. He would take the company car and meet her there.He had heard it was a decent place, but honestly he wasn't really hungry and he didn't feel like talking. He would prefer if they just went straight to her flat, but it was mid afternoon; her mother would be there. So lunch it was.

He had just gotten out of his chair and was heading to the door when the white phone n his desk rang, he answered it with a sigh "Nneoma," he said to his secretary, his tone impatient "I'm heading out to lunch, what is it?"
"There is a lady here," she said, her voice sounding slightly frightened and she stuttered "M-Ms. Anu B-Bakare, she says its urgent."
What the hell was Anu doing here? "Send her in." He said, he fell back into his leather seat and let his head roll back. He heard the clacking of her heels before he saw her, she didn't bother knocking before opening the frosted glass door.

"Anu," he said to her when she walked in "how far?" he raised his eyebrows and spread out his palms in a surprised gesture, he was trying to hide his annoyance. He had no idea what she was doing in his office, she had been there maybe once or twice with Roseline, but that was a long time ago.
"I dey, how are you?" she asked, it was a seemingly innocent question, but there was something in the tone of her voice and the way she arched her brow, in her smile. Anu was one of those people that smiled when they were deeply furious, Emeka has known her long enough to know her angry smile. She was smiling her angry smile. It was a narrow eyed sneer that made her already aloof demeanor the more intimidating.
"I'm well, please sit."
"Its okay, I wont be here long I'll just stand." She stood in front of his desk with her arms folded across her chest, clicking her heel against the tiled floor. He was distracted by the sound, and when he looked down he saw that her shoes were red. Only Anu would wear red high heels in the middle of the afternoon. In fact her entire outfit was slightly provocative, the form fitting pencil skirt and revealing lace blouse were not exactly 'business casual'. But that was Anu for you, she wasn't beautiful like her sister, his wife, Roseline; no, she was enchanting. She practically oozed sex appeal, it was in her voice, her mannerisms, her dressing. His colleague's had begged to be introduced to her, so they could 'try their luck'.

He had met her first, before meeting Roseline, he had been convinced it was love at first sight. she had just laughed, they were friends she had said, the kind of friends that didn't cross those lines. Then she had introduced him to her sister, and he knew that what he thought he felt for Anu was child's play compared to how absolutely devoted he was to Roseline. But that was a long time ago.

"What is it Anu? Why are you here?" He was not in the mood to humor her. Her smile faded and her nonchalant facade slipped and she let her anger show. She swallowed before speaking and her voice was slightly shaky "So," she said, her voice low "my sisters and I went for a wedding last weekend, Roseline most have told you about it." she sniffed and rubbed the bridge of her nose before continuing " One of our cousins has 'tied the knot'. Any way I met this talented designer, gorgeous. I went to her studio today, because... well, you know me." She smiled a bitter smile "So I'm there checking out her designs, oh her name is Toyosi by the way," she mentioned, making an offhanded gesture with her hand and looking him dead in the eye "Toyosi Oshisanya, do you know her?" then before waiting for him to respond she continued with mock enthusiasm "Anyway I'm looking at her amazing designs, and guess who comes in?" again she didn't wait for him to answer "Mr. Shomolu, you know, the driver you and Roseline hired nine years ago. A year after you got married to my sister." she had completely dropped the enthusiastic act by then and her voice was shaking with anger, she had her finger pointed right in his face when she said "I warned you. I warned yo when I introduced you to her...and I thought after all that went down these past four years would have made you-" Emeka tried to interject, he tried to act confused like he did not know what she was talking about. "Don't bother denying it, don't even bother saying anything. Just fix it." She turned to leave, then turned back around to face him. Her expression had softened and in her eyes he saw sincere hurt "Emeka what happened to you? You used to have such a good heart, what happened?" he had nothing to say, so he just looked away "I mean, I know you guys have been through a lot, nothings perfect...but Roseline doesn't deserve this." she stood and looked at him for a moment, then she stomped out of his office, her red heels clack clacking, practically leaving a trail of fire behind her.
Emeka had been sitting in his chair with his head buried in his hands for the last half hour, thinking. She knew, Anu knew about his affair. She wasn't asking him, or seeking to confirm any suspicions, she was just letting him know that she knew. What now? Would she tell Roseline? Should he tell? How? Wait...Roseline. His thoughts went to Roseline, patient enduring Roseline. Roseline and her quick smile. He said her name over and over in a voice barely louder than a whisper. He needed to see her, to tell her. Anu was right, his wife deserved so much more than he had been giving. But...what he did, what he had been doing was unforgivable. What was he looking to get out of telling her? There, he was doing it again, making it about himself. What was he looking to get...But this wasn't even about him. This was about Roseline, his wife, whom he loved with all that he was, underneath all the pride and selfishness.But...shit. He had to tell her. How come it had not occurred to him that he would eventually have to end the affair and go back home? How had he been so foolish?

He got out of his seat and frantically searched his cluttered desk for his car keys. The driver, Shomolu, had them, where the hell was he? Whatever, he would have to take a company car home. He wasn't sure why he was in such a hurry, but he couldn't shake the sense of urgency that gripped his entire body. He had made up his mind, he would savor the last few seconds he could before telling her. She deserved to know, if nothing else, she deserved the truth.

He rushed out of the office and into the car and drove with such speed that he nearly ran over and killed s few Okada riders and a couple pedestrians.


Every place in the house held shadows of their cracked marriage; the corner, next to the marble stairs was where he had come home to find Roseline, curled up into a fetal position, groaning in pain. That was the first time. She had not even known she was pregnant, it was only a month and a half old,so somehow it wasn't to hard to swallow. The second and third times weren't to easy too take. Those times she had known, and barely three months after conception, she had woken him up with her screams. She would be laying in blood soaked sheets and he knew that it wasn't the intensely painful cramps that made her cry out, it was the deep hurt of their most recent loss.

After that, they had been careful, they had tried not to conceive. In fact they had gone out of their way to make sure they would not conceive another child that wouldn't stay. The child came anyway. And just as they had feared it left them in a small pool of blood on the white floor tiles in the bathroom, only five months later.The different doctors they had gone to had told them nothing useful, they couldn't figure out what was wrong. "Freak accident" one of them had said "These things happen"; Emeka would have cracked the man's jaw if Roseline hadn't being there.

Roseline sunk into a deep depression, receding rapidly into her self. She cried more than she spoke. "My babies don't want me." was most of what she said between sobs and spells of restless silence. She was unable to go back to work. Everything hurt, she said, everything.She became a shell of what she used to be, a brittle hollow shell. And Emeka hated himself for not being able to protect her and all their 'potential' babies, he could not get over the fact that there was nothing he could have done to fix the situation. He felt useless. All of his money couldn't buy away the agony that crawled its way deep into his wife. He felt the pain too, but he knew that his was not as acute as Roseline's and that made it worse; he knew he could never understand her agony. And that separated them.

Anu had been very helpful, she stayed home with Roseline while Emeka was at work. He didn't mean to be callous, but he began to dread going home, it only filled him with guilt and a deep sense of failure. So he worked longer hours, came home when he was sure they' d be asleep.

He was so disgusted with himself, he could barely look at his reflection in the mirror.

It was in those hard painful times that he met Toyosi. They had gone to University together, but they hadn't been very close. Friends of friends, that's all they were.
She invited him to her studio, she had just recently quit her job as a banker and was pouring all her resources into new career as a designer. She needed investors an he could invest. So he did. He was eager to be useful.

The first night they spent together was a drunken accident. Emeka had stumbled out of Toyosi's bed cursing and apologizing "I have a wife," he has said, over and over.
The second, third, fourth and fifth times were not so accidental and they had both been stone sober. Toyosi was a delicious distraction from the gloom that clouded his house. Their relationship was flat, but satisfying-at least for him. She talked a lot, so he pretended to listen a lot. It was a constant battle to keep his thoughts from wondering to his wife, so he let himself be amused by her, he let her laughter infect him.

When Rosleine began heal and her smiles came more frequently, Emeka was a year deep in his affair and he couldn't look his wife in the face. He couldn't say her name, or think of her for too long. He feared that the guilt of his betrayal would manifest itself in form of madness, or blindness, or.....
It would be too heavy for his heart to contain. So he separated himself. He would be Roseline's Emeka and the Emeka that slept with Toyosi. The problem was that Rosleine's Emeka was not him. Roseline's Emeka was hurting her.He would never forgive himself, so he could not accept her forgiveness.
Anu wouldn't have told her, she wouldn't make it that easy for him. He walked up the stairs, slowly; he didn't know what he was going to say or how he was going to say it but...
His heart rate picked up, how would he face her? how would he look at her? He hadn't really looked at her this past year, he couldn't bare too do it.
He walked passed the guest room and stopped at the entrance of their bedroom which he had not slept in for months. He stood at the open door, looking into the room, quietly watching as Roseline rifled through her closet. She was wearing an over sized t-shirt and orange striped panties but she looked so perfect, she had just gotten her hair done and the braids fell across her back beautifully.
"Roseline," he said and she looked up startled and nearly dropped the wooden clothes hanger she was holding.
She started to smile and then stopped, a look of surprise molding her face into a question mark. He hadn't called her, as in spoken her name to her, in such a long time. Of course she was confused.
"Emeka are you alright?" she asked, her eyebrows folding into a slight frown. She tossed the hanger on the bed and took a slow step towards him. He shook his head and placed a hand up for her to stop. He did not want her to come any closer to him, he did not want her to move for him or do anything with him in mind. He wasn't worth it, he didn't deserve a thought from her. He knew this now.
"Roseline," he said again, by then his voice was cracking from the weight of what he was about to tell her. He had his fists clenched into tight balls at his side, he sniffed "I...I have something to tell you," he said, his voice low.
"Oh God, Emeka you're scaring me what is it?" Roseline said, her frown deepening as she shook her head in alarm.
"No, please, don't be scared, just...just listen." He felt his heart slamming inside his chest, as if it were struggling to free itself. He tried not to look at her, He did not want to see her and be reminded of his deep loss. But he couldn't help it, she was all that was there. He gave up and took her in with his eyes, her full figure that was evident even in the over sized T-shirt, he noticed that it was his shirt; an old yellow T-shirt with the word 'Oops' written across the front in navy blue letters. The yellow complimented her deep bronze complexion, he had told her many times, how he loved her complexion, her skin. Skin that scarred so easily. He looked at her bare legs, at the long scar on her upper right thigh. He was responsible for that scar, he had knocked the hot pressing iron over, it had brushed her thigh as it fell to the floor.
His eyes wandered and stopped on her face, her lips were set in a slight pout and her eyes were wide as ever and full of worry and fear. She hadn't stopped frowning, but even with the lines on her forehead, she was still so beautiful. And he could not believe how he could have betrayed someone so perfect.
"Roseline, I'm so sorry," he began to say, his voice was full of the pain of the emotions he had ignored for the last two years. "I've done you so wrong," he had his hands held out, with his palms open and facing upwards. "I've, I...I've been..." he quickly placed a hand over his mouth, he knew that once the words came out it would be done, everything between them would be over. He couldn't bare to lose her, but she deserved so much more than he had been giving.


The traffic was driving her crazy, the cars ahead of her had not moved more than an inch in close to an hour. "Jesu Christi" she muttered to herself in frustration. She was driving her father's old car, the Peugeot 504 pick up he had wanted to get rid of years ago, she had begged to keep it. It held too many memories for her. As much as she loved it, she couldn't help but regret her decision to drive it that day. It was such an incredibly hot day and the pick up's a/c had died before had even started secondary school; that was a very long time ago. She cursed the sun for being so hot, and baking her alive in the tin can she called a car, she cursed the street hawkers that stuffed their goods in her face through the rolled down window of the truck. "Buy your handkerchief, buy your handkerchief!!" "Cold mineral, cold mineral!!" "Fan yogo!!!". She did not want any of it, she wanted to get where she was going.

She was not quite sure where she was going, but she had it written down some where, the designer , Toyosi, had yelled it to her over the loud music from the band. They had met at a wedding reception, the whole thing was quite random, she had noticed the lady's uniquely gorgeous dress from across the field where the outdoor reception was held. She made her way through the crowd and gingerly tap on the Lady's bare shoulder.
"Hello,' Anu said to her when she turned around, she had her hair plaited back in thin neat weaves and dangling silver earings that accentuated her long face .
"Hi..." she replied smiling the confusion in her voice adding a questioning tilt to the end of the word.
"I apologize for being so bold, but that is just a fantastic dress." Anu smiled openly as she spoke.
"Oh, wow, thank you so much." the lady said with a wide smile and an expression of genuine delight
"You're most welcome," Anu said "I saw you from over there," she pointed to the spot across the field where she had been sitting with her sisters "and I couldn't help but come over." They laughed together for a moment "I sound like such a guy." Anu said "But honestly, its really beautiful. I'm Anu, by the way, Anu Bakare." She held out her hand.
"I'm Toyosi Oshisanya, thank you so much, I really appreciate that you actually came up to tell me." Toyosi smiling; her lips were small, but they stretched out into a lovely smile in less than a moments notice.
"If you don't mind my asking,...did you buy it or have it made?" Anu asked, she though that she should be slightly embarrassed for asking, but she wasn't. The swirling colors of the fabric was mesmerizing, it was a bright turquoise with soft pink tribal motifs, embellished with sparkling sequins and beads. But it wasn't just the color or designs that caught Anu's attention, it was the perfect cut. The dress fit Toyosi's figure so perfectly, it was strapless and streamlined, hugging Toyosi's figure and ending just below her knees in a black satin trim. It was so flattering to Toyosi's slender physique and just sexy enough without being too revealing.
"Actually I made it, or designed it... I did both really." Toyosi said in a low voice trying not to sound too pleased with herself.
"No way! You designed that?" Anu's eyebrows shot upwards and she nodded her head impressed
"Yeah, its what I do," she looked through her sequined black purse before saying "I didn't bring a card but you seem pretty interested and I would love to show you more of my designs,"
"Listen if they look anything like this dress, I so definitely want to see them. Do you have a store around?"
"Yes, something like that Its a studio, just a big open space where I work and display."
"Where is it? I'd love to check it out."
Just as Toyosi began to tell her the address the band started playing, cutting her off with their talking drums and jubilant Yoruba lyrics.

Anu rummaged through her overstuffed purse in search of the post it that had the address scrawled on it, she found the crumpled piece of paper just as the car ahead of her moved forward.
"Hallelujah!" she exclaimed pushing her foot down on the accelerator.
The studio was just as Toyosi had described, a big open space with a row of four sewing machines against the back wall. It was on the third floor of a five story building on one of the busier streets in Ikeja. The space had a floor to ceiling glass sliding door that led to a black wrought iron balcony. The white walls were covered in pinned up brown paper dress patterns, and there were brown plastic mannequins clothed in Toyosi's exquisite designs.

Toyosi met Anu in front of the building with a sweet smile plastered on her long face.
"Thank you so much for coming, I'm very happy you could make it." she led her into the building and they climbed up the winding concrete steps that led up to her studio.
"I'm sorry I'm a bit late, the go-slow was not a joke." Anu shook her head, she was exhausted from the drive but she was also eager to see Toyosi's designs.
She was such a girl when it came to unique fashion, she did not follow trends and she was definitely not a label whore but she recognized quality when she saw it. She only collected one of a kind pieces when it came to high fashion, and yes she could go to any tailor or designer in Lagos and buy an Ankara dress but that wasn't what she was interested in. It was clear that Toyosi paid painstaking attention to detail; from the perfect cut, to the out-of-the-box ideas she used. Anu was very impressed.
"How long have you been doing this?" she asked after thoroughly admiring the clothes on the mannequins.
"Since I could hold a needle," Toyosi replied smiling "but I didn't make it a, um, a business until about three years ago. I had to quite my job at Vault bank so I could, you know, really focus on it."
"Risky, but clearly well worth it." Anu said nodding her head.
"Its been a bit tough but...I feel like I'm achieving my dreams, ambitions, whatever." she walked to back wall where the sewing machines stood and picked up a slouchy brown leather purse from the floor. She handed Anu a red business card with the words "ToSanya Designs" written in gold cursive letters across it.
"Here's my card. I'm planning to have a show sometime this year," she said handing the card to Anu "hopefully sooner rather than later."
"Really? How do you work, like is it on commission, or do you have ready made items...what I mean is could I buy something off the mannequin or..."
"Not really, my designs are very specific to the person I making them for, especially when it comes to size and structure. I would rather take measurements and work on one of a kind pieces for every customer as opposed to like mass producing a bunch of, you know, mediocre designs"
"Wow, that's true love." Anu said, and they laughed. "Well I definitely want one, what I want to know is how much that would cost?"
"Well that all depends on how intricate the design is and how much time it would take to finish up. It also depends on the kind of fabric you, that's about it."
"I know, I know, but I do all the designing an cutting and most of the sewing myself. I can't always trust my seamstresses to do it right so I-" she was cut off by the ringing off her mobile phone "excuse me" she said taking a few steps away from Anu and answering the phone.

Anu busied herself feasting her eyes on the embellishment on the hem of the dress on the mannequin directly in front of her. The plastic person wore a short violet tie dye dress with red-orange streaks, it had tiny black, purple, orange and green beads embellishing the hem and edges of the short sleeves. She stretched out her hand to touch the beads and was startled by a mans voice
"Aunty, Oga say make I come pick you" the voice said, she recognized it, but she was confused as to why it was present there.
She turned around to see her sister's driver Mr. Shomolu standing at the open doorway, he had been talking to Toyosi who was still on her mobile phone. She signaled to him with her hands that she would be down soon. He had not seen Anu until she whipped around to look at him, when he saw her face his eyes went wide with surprise and he started to say something, but he stopped and quickly left the room.
She was not sure what to make of that, she knew that he was still her sister Roseline's husband's driver, so what was he doing here talking to Toyosi. He had said "Oga say make I come pick you..." Had Roseline sent him?

"Who was that?" She asked Toyosi, pointing towards the doorway where Shomolu had just being.
"Oh um...that was my, uh, the...he's my...friend, my friend's driver" She seemed hesitant and guarded all of a sudden.
"Oh, you know Roseline?" Anu asked smiling in surprise.
"Roseline? No, I don't, uh..." Toyosi said, forcing a smile and thinking of ways to change the subject.
"I guess I'll come back another time, or, call now that I have you're card," Anu said looking at Toyosi's confused expression "I mean, only because he's waiting for you, the driver." she was talking really fast as she often did when she was anxious.
"Alright," Toyosi said, she was a little confused at the sudden change in Anu's behavior but she tried not to show that she noticed. She added "I look forward to hearing from you, and hopefully designing something for you."
"Definitely." Anu said, she smiled and stuck the red card in her purse before leaving the studio. As she trotted down the concrete steps, she tried to ignore the the rising heat of anger in her throat. She often let her emotions take her over and she had to remind herself to relax, not jump to conclusions before she knew anything for sure. Because really what did she know? Emeka was probably having Toyosi design something for Roseline, that was why he sent the driver to pick her up. Yeah, that was it. That had to be it, otherwise...

She walked out of the building into the busy sunlit street, there were cars parked on both sides of the road, making the road much narrower than it already was. She spotted a silver Mercedes, Emeka's silver Mercedes, among the seemingly unending line of cars,she saw Mr. Shomolu leaning against the car. She walked up to him with her arms crossed over her chest. "Shomolu," she said with a fake smile "wetin you dey do for hear?" She towered over him in her heels.
"Aunty," he began to say, his spotty face crumpled up in worry "Oga send me" he had always been intimidated by Anu, she was not soft spoken like Roseline and she had a sharp mouth.
"Oga Emeka?" she asked her eyes narrowed
"Yes Aunty." he said, looking away, hoping she wouldn't ask anymore queations.
"Shomolu, you know who that woman be?"
Auny please o, I dey do wetin Ogo send me."Mr. Shomolu raised his hands up, as if to prove his innocence in the matter.
"Ehen? And wetin oga send you?" she asked, softening her tone, trying not scare the tiny man.
"Him go vex if him know say I tell you."
Shomolu jo, I no get time, the woman go soon come down. I just wan know who she be and why Oga send you come carry am?"
The man sighed and looked around, he frowned deeply in worry and reluctantly said "Him dey send me come carry am go different different restaurants for V.I. Him say make I no dey follow am talk, but she dey very nice, she like to dey follow me talk."
"Where you dey carry am go now?"
"The name na Coco, na one restaurant wey dey near the round about."
She had heard about the place, it was a fusion restaurant that combined the best of popular West African cuisine and Asian cuisine. Roseline had told her about it, she had mentioned more than once that she really would like to go there.
"You dey talk true
?" she asked
"Aunty I be "Deeper Life" I no fit lie"
She would have laughed if she wasn't so angry "Ehen, but you fit carry another woman go meet man wey get wife for house"
"Na wetin dem send me na in I dey do o."
Since when?" She asked speaking in proper English "How long have you been coming to pick her up?"
"Ah, it don te o, since last year." he seemed more eager to continue, now that he had started talking.
"Thank you." She said before turning around and walking towards her car
"Please make you no tell aunty Rose, she go sack me!" Mr. Shomolu yelled after her.
Anu was consumed by a range of intense emotions as she drove. She felt a deep deep sadness and a raw hurt, but it was the burning anger that determined where she would drive that old pick up truck.

Mr Haruna

He had stopped for some rest quickly in front of some offices, he knew that he would not get any customers here, the people that worked here eh, even their drivers could probably afford drivers! Thankfully the rich appreciate good boli and ekpa and there was a woman slowly fanning the "make-shift grill". She looked up from the roasting plantains and her eyes were dark and blood-shot, one of the occupational hazards of roasting plantains for a living.
"Madam well done oh, how much u dey sell?" he inquired
"This one thirty naira, these two forty, this one fifty, groundnut ten-ten naira" she replied as she breifly touched the items as she mentioned them. She seemed a little weary, like she had repeated those lines one too many times.
"ok, give me the two forty one, and two groundnut"
she wrapped the plantains in newspaper and put them in a plastic bag alongside the clear bag full of groundnuts and gave him with a curt "thank you"

As soon as he relaxed on his motorcycle and began to eat the hot roasted plantains, a young woman walked briskly over to him.
"Abeg i wan go unilag u dey go?" she hurriedly asked. As he tried to finish chewing and re-wrap the plantain he had only taken a single bite of, she was already looking around for maybe another okada man.
"Ah, we go climb bridge, that one na three hundred and fifty naira" he told her. She began to rummage through her purse and retrieved several crumpled bills.
" This na two hundred and eighty naira, na wetin i get be this" she told him, with a questioning tone in her voice. would he take her? He looked at her face for the first time and saw the wet eyelashes and the shine in her eyes. Tears.
"Oya make we go"
she hitched up her skirt a little bit and boarded the motorcycle and they began to swiftly dodge in and out of traffic. Before she knew it they were on the bridge and in front of UNILAG. The wind had dried up her tears and had almost carried her troubles away. but not quite. Motorcycles were not allowed inside the campus so she paid him his money and got off.
Mr Haruna had been wondering all through the ride what could have been making the pretty girl cry and decided to offer some words of comfort. See unlike most Lagos workers he had not lived long enough in Lagos to become hardened like them.
"Yarinya, no dey cry oh, e get pesin weh their own trouble big pass your own, no worry e no dey cry, Allah Seriki!"
She smiled. Maybe there was hope after all.

Banke and Eniola

"There's a Planned Parenthood on Wafer street," she heard herself say to Banke who was curled up under her purple duvet. She couldn't believe what she was suggesting, she couldn't believe it even crossed her mind but....Banke remained silent. "I just goolged it," Eniola said "according to google map its five blocks from here, we could walk if you want-"
"I'm not going there to-" Banke said, her voice was mufled by the pillow she had her head stuufed under.
"Just, to talk to someone...explore your options"
"I have no options"
"At least lets go there and talk to a proffesional Banke, and you do have options-"
"Like what? Abortion?" Banke said, her voice low and agitated "What happened to being pro-life?"
"Banke that is not the point." Eniola's said curtly, not bothering to hide her impatience. This was the difference between them, she thought, Banke tended to sit and moan, feeling sorry for herself and Eniola was a doer. She would rather figure out the solution, eliminate the problem and behave like nothing ever happened than wallow in self-pity in hopes that the problem would disappear.
"There are other options," she continued, "there's adoption, there's... tons of stuff that I don't know about because I'm not a professional. So why don't you get off your ass and lets go."
Banke sat up, anger raising in her, she was about to retort with something hurtful when she saw Eniola's face and realized that her friend was just as frightened as she was. It wasn't like Eniola to raise her voice at anyone, that was more Banke's turf; she was the bossy one.
"Okay" She said as she got out of bed.
Banke still hadn't told her how it happened, how she got pregnant. And she hadn't pushed it, she wasn't sure she wanted to know. It was Saturday and she was leaving on Sunday so she needed to make sure that the 'situation' was 'handled' before she left. They had started walking to the clinic, it was late spring and the weather was already brilliant. Eniola was praying silently, asking for forgiveness for evening thinking that Banke should have an abortion, but what else was there? She was clutching the red and gold rosary that hung around her neck and looking down at the cobble stone sidewalk.
"I know you're disapointed in me," Banke said, startling Eniola who had gotten comfortable in the silence between them.
"O gosh no." she said "I couldn't be so...pious..."
"You said 'Pious'?" Banke said laughing suddenly
"I know abi? Its that bloody English literature class I'm taking" she laughed a little "I can't start forming holier-than-thou, you know?"
They became silent again , but it was not the complacent silence that they had before, it was a more restless one.

"So theres this guy at work," Banke started to say, she worked at the campus book store "Levi. Yanky boy, fine and whatever, we flirt and everything. But its nothing, I'm a freaking Bio major, pre-med, I'm doing organic chemistry and all that. I'm not trying to have a boyfriend or anything." She stifled a sneeze before continuing "Any way, about four, five weeks ago, on a Friday, all of us from work decide to get together at one of their apartments right? Anyway...there's tons of booze and we're playing drinking games and all that. And this is more than I've ever drank in my entire life." she didn't look at at her friend as she talked, she looked at the ground, the moving cars, the trees everywhere but Eniola's face "Anyway, so, me and the Levi boy sha start talking, and somehow we're alone, I'm so, like, tipsy or drunk whatever, I'm so wasted I couldn't even tell you when everyone left or where they went to..." she went quiet for a moment, Eniola saw that she was chewing the insides of her cheek "So me and the boy start kissing sha, the whole thing sort of happened so fast...and like...I couldn't tell you what I was thinking, I couldn't give details if I tried, cos I can't even really remember." she gave a small bitter smile "So that's what happened, so much for my first time right?"

After a long moment of silence Eniola asked "Why didn't you tell me?"
"'Cos I was ashamed." Banke responded brushing hair out of her face "I just wanted to pretend like it never happened you know?" she sighed heavily "It didn't even occur to me to get tested for like STDs or whatever, like I couldn't even tell you if you if we used a condom,well no I know we probably didn't" she said gesturing to her stomache "that's how 'shit-faced' I was. I was so preoccupied with suppressing the sketchy memory of the whole thing, I didn't even stop to think; like oh crap I might be pregnant, or ,shit I might have AIDs or something."
"Okay please don't say that." Eniola said, she had a deep frown creasing her forehead.
"I don't," Banke responded "I got tested for all that last week. Thank God abi?"
"Why didn't you get a pregnancy test then?"
"I was scared man," she said shaking her head,"Isn't it messed up that I was more afraid of being pregnant than I was of having an incurable STD?"
"Very messed up," Eniola said with a small smile "but then again, chances are you'll live longer with AIDs."
"Cos my 'popsie' will kill me the very day he finds out I'm pregnant yeah?"
"Yup." They laughed a little, but it was mostly from nervousness. They had walked all the way and were finally in front of the big Grey building that was the free clinic.
"We're just going in to get information," Eniola said calmly to Banke "maybe talk to a counselor if they have one. Okay?"
Banke only nodded. They held hands and walked into the building.


"Telephone conversation by Wole Soyinka" Mr. Anya, the literature teacher, said drawing a line under the poem title, he had previously written on the black chalkboard. "You were all instructed to write a short synopses on the poem," he took an unnecessarily long pause before asking " how many of you did not do the homework?" the class stayed silent "Good," the teacher said "one of you should come up here and read it out loud."

Nobody moved.
"No volunteers?" the teacher asked with mock surprise, scanning the room for a scapegoat "Tahir Hadi" Mr. Anya called out
"Yes sir?" a lanky dark skinned Tahir responded from the back of the class
"Come forward and read out the poem."
Tahir got up and moved towards the front of the classroom, his long legs stretching out before him in his long strides.
He was so lean and so tall that he seemed to lean into himself as he stood before the class. He held the small leather bound book in his left hand; the title "African Poems" was written in gold cursive letters that glinted as they caught the light from the open window.
"Telephone conversation," Tahir said, his deep voice cracking as if he had a cold "by Wole Soyinka." He got into character immediately, pausing at all the right moments to obtain the appropriate effect. He bent and moved and made hand gestures, he even spoke in a high-pitched nasal British accent when he read out the landlady’s questions "How dark?" "Are you light or very dark?”
His 'performance' was so absorbing that Adeife was slightly startled when the classroom broke out in amused applause as Tahir ended the poem with a very convincing plea of "Wouldn't you rather see for yourself?"
"Okay okay, everybody settle down," Mr. Anya said, failing to conceal his amusement "Tahir back to your seat. So who can tell us the main, obvious, theme of the poem?"
"Racism!" Someone yelled from the corner of the classroom where the Tahir and his friends congregated.

Adeife was sitting on the low fence of the parking lot with had her head cocked back and her face in the sun, her eyes were closed and she could see the red of the back of her eyelids. She could feel droplets of sweat forming on her forehead, it was a hot day, she could not wait to get home and take a shower. The driver was late again, he was new and she didn't like him very much, she didn't like the way he looked at her, that was why she sat at the back instead of the passenger side where she would have preferred to seat.
she turned around to see who had called her, it was her classmate Amaka in her tight uniform; the navy blue knee length skirt stretched so tightly across her hips that the fabric formed folds from the tension.
"How far?" she asked her glossy lips glinting
"I dey, whats up?" Adeife responded, she noticed a group of boys walking across the parking lot towards them. They had untucked their shirts and rolled up their sleeves. She recognized them; well, she recognized everyone really, theirs was such a small school, and she didn’t have the luxury of pretending not to know anyone.
"So are you going for the party on Friday?" Amaka asked right before blowing a blue bubble with her strong smelling chewing gum.
"I don't know." Adeife said trying not to look at the boys that were almost directly in front of them, Tahir was among them, so it was pretty hard to focus on the rusty Peugeot she was trying to seem so interested in.
"Well," Amaka's tone turned teasing "Tahir is one of the organizers, so he will definitely be there-"
"Just in case you were wondering." she giggled and pinched Adeife playfully before turning to leave "My driver is here, bye." she hopped into the red Camry that was parked across from them.
"Bye." Adeife said, but Amaka didn't hear her.
"Miss Bakare," one of the boys said
"Mr. Nwaneri" she said in reply. There were three of them, all her classmates; Obinna, Wale and Tahir.
"What's good?" Obinna asked, but before she could respond, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver mobile phone. He flipped it open and a few moments later said "guy make we dey go 'back gate'"
"I go meet una for there." Tahir replied
"Alright, bye bye Miss Bakare." Obinna said waving at Adeife and walking away with the other boy beside him.
Tahir waited until they were a good way off before turning to Adeife.
"So are you coming on Friday?" he asked, stooping a little so their eyes could meet. She looked away and asked, "Coming where?"
He laughed, "What do you mean coming where? You know my party is on Friday at Club Six."
"Well, I didn't get an I.V." she shrugged trying not to smile, they played this game often; he badgered her with questions, she acted uninterested.
"Ah ahn now, there were I.Vs all over school throughout last week," he smiled, his lips stretching across his slightly crooked teeth, the two in front were a little larger than the rest; buck teeth. "Or do you want a special invitation?" he asked teasingly, he had a slight lisp, almost unnoticeable.
She laughed in response
"But seriously, you never come out. I'd really like to see you in something other than this school uniform."
"Of course you would."
"Of course I would," he cocked his head to the side and put a balled up fist in front if his mouth "Adeife Bakare, I'll figure you out one day." he said
"Ah ahn, what’s there to figure out?"
He just shook his head and said, "You're sha coming abi?"
"I don't know, we'll see."
"Kai, see shakara," he threw his head back and laughed out loud "okay o, sha let me know if you're coming you hear?"
"How will I let you know?"
"Don't you know how to send a text?"
"I don't have your number?"
"Na wa for you o," he took a Biro out of his navy blue Jan Sport back pack and gently grabbed her right hand
"See me see wahala, why do you expect me to have your number, do you have mine?"
He just shook his head as he wrote his mobile phone number on her right palm
"Tahir, not every girl in school is your groupie, se you hear?"
"Sha just call."
"I thought I was texting."
"See, this girl, you can do anything you want." he laughed again, he laughed a lot Adeife thought.

Her older sisters Roseline and Anu were in the kitchen when Adeife got home, and after taking a quick shower, she went to join them. Her sisters came by at least three times a week, usually in the evenings when their father was home; so they could all eat together. Their father was still in the office that day, he was a partner at his own law firm, he really didn't have to work, but he did.
"Ife darling, how was school?" Roseline asked when she walked in,
"Fine," she replied before deeply inhaling. There was always the most pleasing aroma in the kitchen when Anu was around; she made the most intensely delicious dishes. The cream and brown marble counter was covered in the ingredients she was using that evening; fresh ginger, garlic, onions, all sorts of spices and herbs, fresh cat fish, a small plastic bowl of deep red Zobo leaves, a larger bowl full of light green lemons and limes, small plastic containers of dried crayfish, nut meg and cloves.
"Baby!" Anu said giving her sister a tight hug, "Oya come and help me."
"What do you want me to do?" Adeife asked smiling a wide smile. She could not understand how her sisters made her so happy just by being there.
"Could you put about two handfuls of zobo leaves in that pot of water?" she said pointing at the medium sized pot of boiling water on the stove.
Adeife did as she was told; she watched the leaves bleed as they floated in the boiling pot of spiced water. She couldn't wait for the food to be done, she especially loved the way Anu made her Zobo, she used honey instead of sugar to sweeten the herbal beverage she also used tons and tons of ginger which gave it an extra kick.
"So what are your plans for the weekend, besides homework?" Roseline asked, she was gutting and cleaning the cat fish and made a repulsed face at the bloody mess.
"I don't know...well..." she responded coyly
"Well what?" Anu asked with a wide grin, she wiggled her eyebrows teasingly and added, "Do you have a date?"
"No, no no" Adeife was shaking her head "there’s a party on Friday-"
"That’s tomorrow."
"Yeah, and I kind of want to go, but..."
"I don't want to ask daddy."
Roseline and Anu laughed knowingly then Anu said "You could always spend the weekend with me" she put some chopped up peppers and garlic into a hot pan "I could drop you off and pick you up."
"Anu, that would be, like, I would really really really appreciate that." Adeife said, her palms pressed together
"Of course," Anu said, "I know you never go out, I'm not saying you should go and become a bad girl, but it wouldn’t hurt to hang out with your friends once in a while."
"Yeah," Roseline said, "your grades are great, you know, I think you should go." she washed her hands under the running faucet, "as long as you’re being smart, you know. And make sure you always have credit on your phone in case of an emergency, don't finish it texting all those boys."

Classes always seemed to end early on Fridays and Adeife was grateful for that. Everyone was excited for the party including her, but she pretended as if she did not know what they were all buzzing about, the girls were discussing outfits and the boys with their undone ties and untucked shirts were already in party mode, drumming on tables and dancing on chairs.
When Tahir asked if she had made up her mind about coming she shrugged and said, "We’ll see."
and he just laughed, he was sure she was coming, this would be one of the last parties before their SSCEs and even Adeife Bakare wasn't too cool to celebrate one of their last weeks of peace of mind.

She texted him after school "What time should I be there?" the text said. She imagined him smiling and raising an eyebrow when he saw it. "We won't be at the party till about nine, but a few of us are meeting at the galleria at like seven." he replied.

Adeife: So should I meet you guys there?
Tahir: If you want.
Adeife: I want.
Tahir: I know.
Adeife: Disgo.So how are you getting to the club from the galleria?
Tahir: Why am I a disgo?I'm driving. You can come with me.

"If I'm dropping you off at the galleria, then I have to meet the people you're going to the party with." Anu said to Adeife as she handed her a pair of studded black sandals. Adeife nodded, she wasnt sure about the outfit she had on; she didn't go to many of these parties, so she wasn't sure if the purple and black tunic she had on would do. Whatever, she thought; she was tired of playing dress up. After going at Adeife's face with purple eyeliner and some lip-gloss, Anu drove her to the galleria. She parked right below the huge lighted sign that said 'Golden Hawk Galleria' in massive golden letters, and said "Oya call your friends so I can meet them now."
"Can you please come to the parking lot?" Adeife said into her phone after dialing Tahir's number. A few moments later Tahir walking towards them, he was wearing a dark T-shirt with what looked like brownish Grey plaid trousers, or maybe they were tweed.
"Good evening ma," he said to Anu when he was closer
"Ma? Okay," she shook her head and laughed a little "so what’s your name?"
"Tahir Hadi,"
"And you'll be driving to the party?"
"Yes, I have my license and my father knows I have the car, I've been driving for a while so I-"
"Will you be drinking?" she asked, cutting him off. He was nervous, and Adeife could see how he would perceive her sister as incredibly intimidating. Anu whose lips usually curled up in a smile at a moment’s notice, was frowning slightly, her expression wasn't mean, but it wasn't very friendly either.
"No, no definitely not I have to drive back home so I wo-."
"And you're classmates?"
"Yes ma." she could tell that he was getting flustered.
"Okay, well text me his number," Anu said to her "and call if anything. What time should I come and pick you up?"
"Around twelve..."
"Twelve? Okay, have a good time." she got back in the car and wiggled her eyebrows at Adeife before driving off.
"I'm really sorry about that," Adeife said as she turned to face Tahir "she's actually really...nice." Tahir just smiled his wide smile and they started towards the entrance "its fine jo," he said "I just wish you had warned me."
"I did not know..."she said rubbing the back of her neck, she was embarrassed.
"You don’t really look alike, but I can tell you're sisters." he said
"Yeah, you called her 'ma'" she suddenly started laughing as she recalled his slightly fearful expression when he was talking to her sister
"Well yeah, she, I don’t know, she’s scary!" he laughed too "she’s sexy though, you think she'll consider being my sugar mummy?"
"You wish."


She liked him, he knew she liked him, she knew he knew, everybody knew. But she wasn't sure about him, he didn't talk much to other people, he just laughed and played the clown. He was always hounding her with questions though, always teasing.
"So do you like me?" she asked looking out the window, they were on the Falomo bridge and she couldn't help but notice how gorgeous the city looked at night.
Tahir started to say something, and then stopped; he was choking on his laughter, trying to hide an embarrassed smile. He was clearly thrown off by her question.
"You really aren't shy sha." he finally said
"I never said I was"
They were silent for the entire drive to the club and when he had parked the car and was helping her out when he said "You should come out with me tomorrow."
"Should I?"
"Yes," he took her hand and led her through the crowd of boys that were trying to get into the club. Apparently, there was a guest list but you could to pay your way in. "We can go to the galleria, to the cinema and watch a movie or something, if you want." By then they were in the dimly lit club and he had to shout over the music; the DJ was clearly into the reggaeton movement and the dance floor was packed.
She just nodded in response, "We can talk too, tomorrow, when we go out." he shouted
"Or we could talk here" she yelled into his ear, which she had to stand on her tip toes to reach, even in Anu's heels.
He smiled "I didn't bring you here to talk." he said, leading her to the crowded dance floor.

Mr Lanre Bakare

<<Ring Ring>>!!! the telelephone screamed!! "Damn it!!" he jumped
It startled him everytime the stupid thing rang! He had to remember to tell Gladys to change the ring tone.
"Hello" he gruffly answered, still slightly irritated
"Sir, there is someone here to see you, by the name of Chima Ahono" replied his elderly receptionist Gladys
He scratched his head trying to remember who the hell Chima was but nothing came up.
"Oya tell her to come inside" he instructed.

He looked up as she walked into the large office, she was looking down at the floor and did not realise as she walked into the sharp edge of the coffee table.
"Yeh" she exclaimed as she stumbled and rubbed her thigh where she had collided with the table.
"Pele oh" he laughed

And then he saw her face.

Not Chima but Chidinma, Chidinma with the beautiful skin, like warm buttery caramel that would melt in your mouth. She was beautiful, not in your regular Lagos fine girl way but in a very pure and innocent way, untarnished...

He remembered the day they met, he had been at the unilag campus speaking to his long time friend Professor Adegbenro about his daughter Adeife's educational plans... Adeife!!! His daughter who was at most three years younger than Chidinma! Oh God...

He saw that she was still standing looking at the the ground and he quickly beckoned her over.

"Come and sit down here" he said to her, she looked scared and was holding on to her purse like it was a life line.

"I'm happy that you decided to come, how are you? Can i offer you something to drink? he rambled
"No Sir, i'm fine, thank you" she whispered
It was clear that the situation was rather uncomfortable for both parties involved. Chidinma fiddled with her purse and wondered how on earth these things were supposed to work? Should she try to seduce him? If that was the case, she had no hope as she was inexperienced and clumsy. Luckily for her Mr. Bakare soon broke the ice.
"So how is school these days?" he asked her
Finally something she was confident enough to talk about, school, the only thing that kept her interested in what her life had become. She soon began to become comfortable with Mr. Bakare and told him all about her classes, her goals and her fears about school. It had been a long time since anyone had asked her the simple question "how has school been?"
Mr. Bakare noticed how animated she had become once she began talking about school, she stopped fiddling with her purse and looked like she had begun to relax for the first time since she entered the room. So he continued with the questions, infact he was enjoying this almost as much as she was since he really didn't have anyone to talk to these days.
"So what are your plans after your first degree?" he asked her, she seemed very intelligent and he hoped she had higher aspirations
"That depends on alot of things sir" and immediately tears formed in her eyes.
"Sir you see, this is the reason why I am here today, I.. I need help, the only thing stopping me from completing my education is my financial need, i have three younger siblings who need to attend school also and ever since my father passed away five years ago it has been one struggle after the other" she blubbered, by this time the tears were flowing fast down her cheeks.
He didn't know how to react at first and then he handed her a tissue and waited...
"I haven't come here to beg for free money, the truth is i don't know why i came here, I was just hoping, praying that maybe you would be able to help me...
She started to push her chair backwards, stood up and looked him in the eye for the first time since she arrived "I'm sorry that I wasted your time, but I just cant..."
Then she left his office.


It was then he knew, that he would be the one to help her, at whatever cost...

Roseline and Emeka

"He's not picking up," Roseline said to her sister Anu. They were in the kitchen, Roseline was attending to a pan of frying plantains with a fork in one hand and her mobile phone in the other.
"Should I call again?" she asked
"Roseline, his your husband, you should call if you want to call," Anu said her voice slightly tinged with irritation and her eyes watering from the onions she was chopping "It's eight twenty seven," she said looking at her watch "what time does her normally get home?"
"Eight, sometimes nine or ten, eleven..." Roseline sighed "he comes home whenever he wants o"
Are you serious?" Anu asked scattering the chopped onions into a pan of hot oil "Since when? Is he the only graphic designer in the whole of Lagos? What kind of work is he doing that his sleeping at the office?" she said this partly in jest
"Anu, allah I don't know what to tell you." Roseline said turning around to face her sister, she began to say something then stopped and licked her lips "I he cannot be working that late abi, but what can I say...?"she said, with her voice shaking slightly
"Well for starters you can ask him why he comes home so late." Anu responded pouring into the simmering pan a small bowl of pureed tomatoes.
"Anu listen, he works hard, he provides, he does not come home drunk, he has never raised his hand against me, what right t do I have to complain."
"Oh please Roseline, don't make me slit my wrists open" she held a knife to her wrist for dramatic effect "if not being beaten up is all I have to look forward to in marriage, then I think I'll just stay single for the rest of my life."
Roseline gave her sister a dirty look and hissed "You cannot understand until you get married. You've never even being in a proper relationship, you cant understand."
"Oh spare me, if I cannot ask the man I'm with a simple question about why he comes home so late then..." Anu trailed off and looked up in time to see the pained expression on her older sister's face "I'm sorry," she said softly "I didn't come here to fight or-"
"Judge me?" Roseline said cutting her off
"Rose!" Anu said, raising her voice a little "we both know that I'm in no position what so ever to judge anybody, talk less of you."
Roseline stood quietly shaking her head "I don't know what to do Anu, I don't know what changed or what I did wrong..."
"If you've never listened to anything I've said before," Anu said her voice softening again "please, please listen to this," she begged " don't you ever start blaming yourself."
Roseline nodded, she was silent as she took out the blue ceramic serving dishes from the cupboard, dinner was ready.
They had finished their dinner about three hours ago and had moved to the living room to talk. Anu had fallen asleep on the black leather sofa right in the middle of a conversation about their father. Roseline had watched her snoring away for some time. Only Anu could pull lace leggings and a short Ankara dress, only Anu would be brave enough to put it on in the first place; Roseline thought fondly, admiring the orange and green fabric of the dress which had ridden up her sisters thighs.

She got up, stretched and walked to the dining table to clear up they plates they had eaten out of,she placed the plates in the sink and ran some water over the soapy sponge, preparing to wash them. But then she heard the sound of wrought iron gates being pushed opened and a car driving into the compound. She peeked through the curtains and saw Emeka's silver Camry backing up into the drive way. She quickly rinsed and dried her hands and put the plate of food she had dished out for him into the microwave, then she rushed to open the front door.
"Welcome dear," she said, hating how raspy her voice sounded, she cleared her throat and asked "how was work?"
"Um...tiring," Emeka said sliding the strap his heavy black laptop case off his shoulder and giving Roseline a quick kiss on the forehead.
"Eeyah," she said trying to rub his shoulders as he walked ahead of her "are you hungry?" she asked "I fried some plantains and Anu made the stew." Anu was the best cook in the family, nobody could eat anything she cooked without smiling from sheer content.
"She's here?" he asked un-enthused

"Yes I'm here." Anu yelled from the living room, she got off the couch, stretched and walked towards the hallway where Roseline and Emeka stood. She placed her hands and on her hips and gave Emeka a look of deep contempt before asking " how was 'work'?" her tone was clearly sarcastic and it caused Roseline to give her a warning look, to which she said "don't worry I'm leaving." She grabbed her over sized purse from the side table in the hallway, slipped her high heeled sandals on and gave her sister a kiss on the forehead.
"I'll call you tomorrow." she said before brushing passed Emeka as she left the house.

A moment later, they heard her car drive out of their compound, Roseline laughed nervously and said "don't mind her, you know how she is when she just wakes up."
Emeka shook his head saying "listen, I don't care. Shes your sister not mine."
"I know, I know but..." she was walking after him as he walked up the stairs to their bedroom
"aren't you going to eat?" she asked his back
"I'm not hungry," he responded "I already ate."
Roseline angrily wiped away the tears that ran down her cheeks as she ran down the stairs, she stomped into the kitchen, jerked open the microwave and flung the hot plate of fried plantains into the shiny stainless steel garbage bin.

Eniola and Banke

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!! Eniola's mobile phone rang loudly jerking her from sleep, she sat up abruptly and grabbed the phone from her nightstand. She squinted against the blinking neon blue lights of the small screen before flipping the phone open "Banky its two a.m." she said groggily. She normally did not take calls that woke her from sleep, but she made exceptions for her best friend.

"Eni,I...I.." Her Friend was sobbing so hard Eniola could barely make out the words between the sobs "Banky what is it?" she asked alarmed she was trying not to panic, but a lump of fear was rising in her throat. "Listen, calm down and tell me whats wrong"she said after a moment of trying to decipher the meaning of Banke's blubbers and whimpers.
"I, I...I c-cant." she managed to say between convulsive cries "p-p-please c-come here," she begged "you h-h-have t-t-to come please"
"I'll come okay" Eniola said in a soothing voice, trying to calm her friend down "I'll come as soon as I can tomorrow, but tell me whats wrong."
"I c-cant..."
"Are you in trouble?"
"Are you in a safe place?"
"I'm f-fine, b-but I...I'm dead Eni, m-my life is so over...I..."
"It's okay Banky, whatever it is, I'll be there, I'll take the first train after my exam tomorrow, okay?"
She heard her friend mumble something before she broke down into sobs again,
"I'll stay on the phone with you okay?"
She did not get off the phone until she heard Banke's soft snores after her sobs had slowed and then stopped altogether. She flipped her phone shut and curled up under her black and red striped duvet but sleep would not come and worry kept her wondering what was wrong. She got out of bed, sat at her desk and turned on her computer, she might as well study while she was up.

"Oh. My. God. Eni, could you please keep it down" Jules her roommate said curtly, before ducking back under her covers. It crossed Eniola's mind to apologize and maybe move quietly to the common room to study, but changed her mind after considering the fact that Jules' boyfriend Andy practically lived in their dorm, despite the fact that his was only two doors away, had terrible aim and never quite managed to pee right into the toilet bowl, and left his dirty boxers on the futon which she paid for if she remembered correctly. And lets not forget that they kept her up with their noise, either the fighting or the moaning most nights, she preferred the fighting. Thinking of all this made her type a s loud as she possibly could without breaking the keypad. . She heard Jules' grumbling and almost smiled to herself.
"Eni, are you sure you're okay?" Ephraim asked squeezing her hand, they were at the train station waiting for the boarding announcement. She looked at him and tried to smile "Yeah...I don't know, I'm just so worried I called her like eight times and she hasn't called me back. I'm really really worried"
"I can tell, I'm afraid you'd have chewed your fingers off by the time you get on your train." He said with laughter in his voice and a little smile, he then gently reached for the hand she hand in front on her mouth as she chewed on her nails.
"Babe, should I bother asking you not to worry?" he asked and she shook her head. He bent slightly to kiss her forehead "she's fine, there's nothing to worry about" he said reassuringly.

She looked up and caught a few people staring at them, she would never get used to that, she would probably be staring to if she were an onlooker herself.
But Ephraim did not seem to care, he was always so affectionate wherever they were, holding and kissing her hands, her fore head, wrapping his arms around her waist.But it was not just the PDA that drew peoples attention, it was the fact that she was a chubby black girl with long braids and cowrie ear rings and he was a lean ginger haired white boy with green eyes and a smile too big for his face. Some people tried to be polite and looked only from the corners of their eyes but look away when they turned; others just stared unabashed, almost without blinking. And some of them had disapproval written in bold CAPITAL letters all over their faces, especially the older people.

Eniola had despised him intensely on their first encounter, he was her first college roommate's cousin and had been helping her move into their new dorm. He had let out a bothersome "Oh..." when his cousin introduced her as her new roommate. Eniola had been convinced it was because she was black and "from Africa" as the girl had announced enthusiastically. And Eniola had tuned out everything he said or at least she had tried to, but months after that first meeting she ran into him at the Asian food market across the street from campus and remembered his name was Ephraim and he went to the Medical college a few blocks from her school.

Their relationship had pretty much progressed naturally without any of the anxiety or head games that often comes with dating. Eniola had never been in any sort of romantic relationship and had not expected everything to run as smoothly as it did, especially knowing all the gory details of her girl friends' dating experiences. Her and Ephraim had so little yet so much in common, it was always a thrill. They were genuinely interested in and curious about each other and in the eight months of 'hanging out' before they made their relationship official, they had become such good friends that he listed her as a reference on a job application. It was simple, what they had, and Eniola liked it very much.

The announcer made the boarding calls and Ephraim kissed her before handing over her duffel bag. "Call me when you get there." He said still holding her hand "I will" she stepped forward and gave him a tight hug, then she left to board the train.
"Try not to worry so much" he yelled after her.
Banke was sitting on a very uncomfortable bench at the train station. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying herself to sleep, crying when she woke up, crying as she was bent over the toilet failing to keep her breakfast down. Her nose and cheeks were red as well, it seemed her light complexion was doing her a disservice, she thought bitterly, remembering that she had onced considered it her best feature. She did not want to think about the reason for her tears, she could not afford to break down in a place as public as the train station. It was unusually busy and that annoyed her, all those happy people, kids her age coming home for the weekend. They were all blissfully ignorant to the turmoil that boiled away in her chest, just thinking about it made her eyes well up with tears again.
She looked at her purple watch; 3:15. Eniola's train should have arrived by then. She took her mobile hone out of her purse and was about to call when she heard her best friend call out her name. She looked up and saw Eniola with a Grey duffel bag and a worried expression on her face.
"Banky baby, you scared me half to death." She held her in a tight embrace "Oya what is it? Tell me now"
Banke broke down into sobs and they stood there, arms around each other, Banke bawling as Eniola rubbed her back soothingly. She did not care that it was a public place anymore; she needed to cry so she was going to cry.
"Are those what I think they are?" Eniola asked alarmed "Whose are those?!" her voice was rising in panic. They had taken a taxi back to the off campus apartment Banke shared with four other girls. Two of her flat mates were also Nigerian and the other two were Sri-lankan and Peruvian.
Eniola had asked Banke a few times to explain what was happening, but all her friend had said was "I'll show you."
Banke led her straight to her bedroom, without bothering to introduce her to her flat mates who were gathered in the tiny living room watching what seemed to be Micheal Jackson's memorial service on CNN.
She pulled her by the hand without saying a word and lead her to the window sill beside her unmade bed. There, in almost perfectly vertical lines, lay seven white and purple pen sized sticks, they looked like they were made of plastic and it was not until Eniola looked closer and saw double pink lines on the small oval screens on all of them that she realized what they were. She looked up at her friend "Are you joking?"
"Are you mad Eniola!Do I look like I'm joking?" Banke shouted, tears streaming down her face.
", you're didn't tell me you were having...Oh my God!!" It really had not crossed her mind, they were best friends, they told each other everything, she did not remember Banke ever telling her anything about having sex with anybody. They were smart girls, they did not make mistakes like this.
"Jesu, Banke..." her face was crumpled up in what looked like anguish "Banky, what is going to happen now?" Eniola asked
"Eni... I don't know, I don't know how I'm going to open my mouth and tell my father that I'm..." she felt like the word was forcing its way from her stomache through her throat to her mouth. She had not said it, she had even tried to prevent her mind from forming the word, afraid that it would some how make it more real
"that I-I'm pregnant." she finally spat out, it was real.

Mr Haruna

"Sei gobe" said as she waved him off, her heart heavy- it was hard to watch your husband go to work everyday with no guarantee that he would come back.

It had been four months since Mustapha put down half the money for the motor bike, okada as it was popularly called in Lagos, she still couldn't help but look at the thing for what it was, Danger on wheels. But in those four months they had moved out of the one bedroom apartment- if you could call it that- in mile 12 to a small two room apartment in Yaba. They were happy as they always were, four children to thank almighty Allah for and a roof over their heads. She couldn't help but exclaim Alhamdullilahi!

She went back into the house to get the children ready for school.


Mustapha rode the okada towards tejuosho market. Fati hated it when it went there, it was too crowded making it a perfect place for accidents but what could he do? it was also the most lucrative spot. A throng of people needing quick transportation within the market, students always shopping for clothes, wives for food and the occasional foreigner seeking Lagos thrills.

It wasn't as if he loved the job either, there was always a Bismillah being whispered under his breath before he set about on each journey, the LASTMA officials were a constant pain and the danger of it all was at he always at the back of his mind. He loved the people though, how he loved the people!- right from the school girl giving herself a treat of okada instead of taking the bus to the "big oga" just trying to escape Lagos traffic. He also loved the solidarity between all the okada riders- ever since he and Fati had moved to Lagos they had not made any friends- they all seemed to truly care for each other.

He spotted one oyimbo man looking lost and proceeded to drag the motor bike towards him

"Oga where you dey go?" he inquired from the white man.

"Just to Lekki, the mobil around there..." he replied although not too confidently

Mustapha thought about it for a few minutes, this one ride would enable him go home early for the day, although he felt bad ripping these people off. After justifying it in his head he realised that it was fair game the white man was probably exploiting someone else somewhere too... little did he know how right he was!

"ok oga that one na 700 naira" he told the white man

they both climbed the motor bike and sped off towards third mainland bridge.


The children would get a lovely treat tonight, once again Alhamdullilahi!


How does one dress for such events?
Chidinma was having a difficult morning. she had made up her mind on what she was going to do and now she lay there worrying over the most trivial thing- what to wear. It wasn't as if she didn't have clothes- thank goodness for people like Bayo who sold second hand baffs at tejuosho market, they suplied her with the latest fashion for a decent price.

Her clothes were strewn all over the room -when Bisi came back she would be angry, but she couldn't wory about Bisi today, today was an important day- she had tried on numerous outfits, all skirts of course and now she was exhausted. She still had to go for lectures and at this rate she would be late. she removed the thin blue towel and looked at herself. Rich caramel skin, soft round breasts, she tugged at her stomach a little bit and smiled, all that running across campus was paying off...

Blue skirt, white blouse, black ballet flats and a little make up professional yet not too flashy she didn't want to entertain Nnekas questions today.
But as soon as she entered the lecture hall, Nneka beckoned her over to sit where she was, she had to be careful so that the long benches didnt get their splinters in her skirt, this one was quality oh, marks and spencer and she paid Bayo good money for it

" Ah ah see as u con be like babe" Nneka accused her friend before she even sat down.
"Abeg leave me oh, i no fit fine again?" Chidinma replied her with a smile.

This was going to be one long lecture and she, one of the most brilliant students in class was actually not paying attention. As soon as class was over she and Nneka slowly shuffled out with the other students and went to stand under the tree where the fan yogo man usually posted himself. He already knew what they wanted and Chidinma gave him 80 naira.
"Aunty make i keep the change?" he asked with a shine to his eyes
" Oya keep am, i know say na thng wey u like be that" Chidinma replied with a laugh.

Nneka's boyfriend had arrived to pick her up just like he did every thursday, as usual she asked her dear friend to come along and as usual she declined, but for a good reason today. she waved as Tito and Nneka zoomed of in his white camry.

Chidinma opened her bag and looked at the white card sitting at the bottom "Lanre and Sons" it read, she pulled it out and looked at the mobile number scribbled at the back. she began to dial on her purewater phone 0803...
After only one ring he picked up "hello?"
"Hello this is chidinma, I..., the..." her voice trailed off
"Oh I know who you are, when are you coming? he asked
"Tttoday, now" she stuttered
" Ok, i will send my driver"

That was it, the first day of the rest of her life

Toyosi and Emeka

The smell of fried plantain wafted into the room and roused him from sleep. Fried plantain and beans with onion and crayfish, he could already picture it mounded on one of Toyosi's yellow ceramic plates, the steam rising slowly from the dark yellow and brown hunks of food. His mouth watered and he sat up on the bed, rubbing his eyes, he could hear her moving about in the kitchen, the clanking and scraping of stainless steel cutlery on ceramic. He got out of bed and pulled his t-shirt over his head ,it had managed to find its way onto the green sewing machine in the far corner of the room and he had had to untangle it from the red thread Toyosi was working with . He groaned as he stretched before walking towards the kitchen
She hated frying plantain, she hated frying anything really. Something always ended up burnt and tiny droplets of hot oil always sizzled and splattered on her arms, sometimes her face.But Emeka like fried plantain, so she endured the stinging pain of hot oil splashes and the frustration of throwing out the occasionally burnt batch. She enjoyed cooking the beans however, the slow boiling, spicing and stirring worked fine for her. The food was finally done and she served it on her favorite yellow and black ceramic plates. She licked some oil off her fingers and was washing her hands at the sink when she felt a hand on the small of her back. It startled her, making her jump. She turned around to find Emeka standing close with a wide grin plastered on his oddly beautiful face.
"Whats the matter, did I startle you?" he asked jokingly, leaning in to give her a kiss.
"Yes you did," she said playfully punching his shoulder "I didn't hear you come in."
"This smells really good," he stood over the pot of beans on the stove with a fork in his hand,
"Don't do that," Toyosi said grabbing the fork from him before he could violate her pot with it, "I already put some for you on a plate."
They ate huddled together on the couch, the news was on and the presenter was constantly tugging at his powder blue tie as he read out the latest headlines. Another strike was being declared by the university staff union.
"Na wa o," Toyosi said frowning slightly "the poor students are the ones that will now suffer for it."
"Well, hopefully it wont be in vain," Emeka said in response "if the senate improves on university funding, then..." he left his sentence unfinished, assuming she would figure out what he was not saying. He did that often and she almost always figured it out right.
"I understand the reason for the strike, but does it ever work? Are their demands ever me-"
she was cut off by the melodious ring tone of a mobile phone, accompanied by the buzzing sound of the phone vibrating against the wooden surface of the table beside her.
"Its your phone" she said reaching towards the table where both their phones sat
"Who is it?" he asked. She was silent for a moment after she checked the caller ID. "Who?" he asked again.
"Its your wife." she said pursing her lips and handing him the phone with an expression resembling one of discontent. He took it from her and threw it on the red couch at the opposite end of the room, he gave her a small somewhat apologetic smile and filled his mouth with a forkful of food.