– the funloving, but hardworking single parent
By Treena Kwenta
Hi readers! As we approached Cotonou, I changed my mind about going to pick up Rachaelâ€™s donated clothing items to Joeâ€™s church, from Nkem. I mean, I was anxious to get home and sleep on my own bed, and the earlier we get into Lagos and past the famous Mile Two, the better.
Also, even though the two ladies had put up a show of friendliness after their fight at the Veronique Hotel poolside, for all we know, they might have stopped talking to each other later. That means, Nkem, wouldnâ€™t have gone to Hyacinthâ€™s place to pick up the stuff. Going to her house in Cotonou would then be a waste of our time.
As if reading my thoughts, Kodjo, Sebâ€™s driver, asked if we were going to Madam Nkemâ€™s house.
â€œNo, Kodjo,â€ I told him. â€œI think weâ€™ll skip that. Iâ€™m not so sure that she has the items with her, and weâ€™re pressed for time.â€
â€œBut your brother would be very upset to know that we refused to bring donations of clothing items from Rachael to the needy in the church,â€ protested Ify. â€œAh, I wouldnâ€™t want to be a part of such a heartless decision o. Itâ€™s not as if Nkemâ€™s place is out of town and a long way off.â€
â€œDo you know where she lives?â€ I asked.
â€œI donâ€™t know, but Cotonou is not such a big place. We should be able to get there and out within 30 minutes. Show the address to Kodjo so that he can tell us whether itâ€™s far or not.â€
That got me annoyed. Why should Ify want to order me around?
â€œIâ€™m doing nothing of the sort. Weâ€™re still far from Lagos as it is, and youâ€™re aware of the long delay at Immigration and Customs at the Seme border. Donâ€™t you want to get home today? Do you want to spend the night on the road. Kodjo, please drive straight on.â€
â€œI shall report you to your brother,â€ sulked Ify. â€œI shall tell him how you heartlessly refused to pick up donation of items for our church. That your decision might earn you a place in hell.â€
â€œIf it does, then youâ€™ll be my companion there because you refused to go get the items yourself.â€
â€œHow can I do that? I have no transport of my own here.â€
â€œYouâ€™re not serious about helping the poor, Ify. If you were, as a Pastorâ€™s wife, and a deaconess yourself, you would have got down, collected Nkemâ€™s address from me, and taken public transport down there to get the items yourself. Later you would return to Lagos by bus. All perfectly simple things for a serious philanthropist.â€
â€œI can see you donâ€™t love your brother at all.â€
â€œIf you love him, you wouldnâ€™t tell his wife of many years to get down from this vehicle to go take public transport in a foreign land.â€
â€œCotonou is not a foreign land. Youâ€™ve been here many times in the past, and you still come periodically to buy goods for your shop. Nothing adverse can happen to you if youâ€™re left here to move around by public transport.â€
â€œI could go missing.â€
â€œThat wonâ€™t be a bad thing. Thereâ€™s better power supply here than home, and the security is better. You can stay missing here for the rest of your life.â€
â€œYouâ€™ll have to go look after your brother, madam Smart. You wonâ€™t last 24 hours, as heâ€™s very demanding. Youâ€™d then come look for me yourself and return me to my home.â€
We joked some more until we got to the Seme border. As we drew to a stop, a tall, goodlooking but stocky young man came over to our vehicle, carrying two suitcases.
â€œAha! Very good!â€ exclaimed Ify. â€œMadam Smart, you havenâ€™t escaped after all. I think one of those suitcases contains the stuff for my church! Hurrah!â€
â€œWhat are you talking about, Ify? Stop rambling. Whoâ€™s the young man approaching us? You know him?â€
â€œThatâ€™s Rachaelâ€™s son or cousin, or townsman. Whichever! Itâ€™s the famous Zodo. I think he was sent with the items from Lome.â€
â€œGet your facts right, Ify. Nkem went to dump the guy in Lome where Hyacinth refused to have him back in his house. How could he have been sent with the gift items?â€
â€œHello! Zodo,â€ Ify called out as the man went over to the driver. â€œAre you looking for us?â€
He came over sluggishly, stared at us for some seconds before it occurred to him that he should greet us. I didnâ€™t return such a lousy greeting, but Ify answered enthusiastically.
â€œSo, how are you this morning, Zodo?â€ she asked.
â€œIâ€™m cool. And you?â€
Wao! What insolence and display of bad manners! Nanny frowned heavily at him and hissed. I looked at her and shook my head, showing my disapproval of her own rudeness.
â€œIâ€™m okay. This is Mrs. Kwenta, my husbandâ€™s younger sister.â€
â€œHow are you?â€ he greeted me. Of course I didnâ€™t answer him, even though I was staring at him. He looked surprised, and he asked how I was again. I still refused to answer. Ify seemed embarrassed. â€œSo, where are you off to?â€ she asked the insolent man.
â€œEr, this morning, er, we talked things over in Lome, and uncle Hyacinth sent me on an errand to our village. He said I should give you this suitcase of clothing items and get a ride with you to Lagos. The items are for your church. Iâ€™ve been waiting at the border here for several hours now. Iâ€™ll drop the suitcases in the back of the vehicle and go sit in front with the driver.â€
That got my back up, so I had to speak. â€œWhen you say â€˜vehicleâ€™, are you referring to this one Iâ€™m sitting in?â€ I asked with raised eyebrows. He looked surprised. â€œOf course,â€ he said arrogantly. â€œEr, I have this note here for er, Treena, from uncle Hyacinth. Whoâ€™s Treena?â€
I began to boil, but suddenly some cool air seem to blow over me, bringing self-control.â€˜Now, Treena dear, calm down. This fellow is not worth getting angry with. Donâ€™t bring yourself down to his level. He has nothing to lose if you explode, but you have a lot to lose if you do. Heâ€™ll be glad of the opportunity to exhibit further rudeness. Youâ€™re a lady of class. Keep calm.â€™ I listened to this inner voice and I pipped down; even allowing a small smile on my face.
â€œIâ€™m Treena. Please give me the note. Thank you. Can you please wait until Iâ€™ve read it, before you know whether youâ€™d be permitted to ride along with us or not? Thanks.â€
The note wasnâ€™t from Hyacinth, but Rachael. â€˜Dear Sister, please forgive me for what took place at your hotel the other day. Iâ€™m very sorry. Even though I had apologized to Madam Nkem in your presence and she seemed to have forgiven me, as soon as you left Lome, she told me that I must never, never come near her again. I donâ€™t know why she said that. I will continue to beg her.
Itâ€™s the only way I can remain in my husbandâ€™s house. Iâ€™m afraid that if she tells him to sack me, he surely will. Sheâ€™s helped him so much in life, and he said that itâ€™s only over his dead body that anyone connected with him would offend her. This is why this naughty boy Zodo has to return to Imo State, and why I couldnâ€™t send the clothes through Madam Nkem as I had said. Please kindly give Zodo a lift to Lagos.
Heâ€™s not really a bad boy, but heâ€™s suffered a lot in life and he tries to act tough to cover up his feeling of insecurity. In Godâ€™s name I ask for this help. Thank you, sister. Please give my regards to Ify, our dear Pastorâ€™s wife. I enjoyed the company of both of you. God bless. Itâ€™s Rachael.â€™
I read the note a second time, taking my time over the words in order to keep the silly Zodo in suspense. A hard life doesnâ€™t excuse bad manners, and I wanted him to know that I disapprove of his bad manners. Ify looked at me anxiously. I suppose as a Pastorâ€™s wife she has to put up with all sorts of misbehaviour. Thank God I have no such restrictions. I folded the note and put it in my handbag, not bothering to tell the fellow that he had lied when he said the note was from Hyacinth. Maybe he thought that I wouldnâ€™t take it from him if he said it was from his kins woman.
At last, I called out to Kodjo and asked him to come put away the two suitcases himself. I kept Zodo on his feet until this had been done, then I told nanny to go sit with the driver in front, and I asked Zodo to take her place at the back next to the luggage. He hesitated at first, so, I told Kodjo to come shut the door and move. It was then he hurriedly mounted into the jeep.
Ify sighed and patted my hand. I returned the gesture.
Luck was on our side. The delay at the border was short, compared with our outward journey. Also, the Badagry Expressway wasnâ€™t too bad. Soon, we were at Mile 2.
Kodjo pulled into one of the motor parks for the East and he called out to Zodo to come down.
â€œOh, where will I spend the night?â€ he asked. â€œI want to travel in the morning. I learnt that Madam er, er, Treena lives in this area. I thought I could spend the night at her place and the driver could bring me here early in the morning.â€
I didnâ€™t say a word. â€œEr, I live in Dolphin Estate, which is a very long way from here,â€ Ify told him. â€œIf I were to take you to my place, you canâ€™t return here until about ten in the morning. Youâ€™d miss your bus. Madam Treenaâ€™s place is full of guests, so, there would be no place for you, even though itâ€™s close by.â€
â€œI wouldnâ€™t mind staying in her boysâ€™ quarters or the guardâ€™s hut till morning, since itâ€™s not far from here.â€
I think his insistence must have annoyed Kodjo because he suddenly became busy, bringing down the two suitcases Zodo had brought, and asking him which one was his. This was grudgingly pointed out to him. He put the other back in the vehicle and told Zodo that passengers are allowed to stay at the bus depot until they travel.
â€œGo and take a ticket straightaway, and then hang around. There are restaurants and everything you need around. Staying here is the only way you wonâ€™t miss your bus. Goodbye, my man.â€
Zodo suddenly remembered that he had no transport money. Ify pulled out her purse and went with him to the ticket desk. â€œSorry, Treena dear,â€ she said. â€œLetâ€™s settle this.â€
She returned 25 minutes later, looking exasperated. I chuckled to myself, but didnâ€™t ask her what happened. Thank God Iâ€™m not a Pastorâ€™s wife. Sisters of Pastors are excused from playing the Good Samaritan to rude and insolent people, arenâ€™t they?