By Treena Kwenta

HI Readers! The bus tour of London really loosened me up, and all the loneliness and self-pity I had been experiencing disappeared fast. I couldn’t help wishing that we had something similar back home, say, in Lagos , Abuja, or any of the big cities. It’s so relaxing and educative too.

I asked Tayo if it wouldn’t be a good business to establish a tourism company that would take people to historical places and scenery around the country.

“Many years ago, Seb and I wanted to establish such a company. It was to be called SEBTAY Tourist Company and we were going to put Edmund as the head.”
“Really? You dark horse! You never mentioned it to the gals or to me, Tayo. Naughty, naughty! So, what happened?”

“Edmund convinced Seb and me that it was more profitable to go invest in hotels in Onitsha, saying that maintaining buses well on our bad roads would be too costly, and also, the average Nigerian doesn’t appreciate tourism. On the other hand, hotels in a commercial city like Onitsha would be highly patronized.”

“That was sound reasoning, in my view.” “Yes. Seb bought the idea enthusiastically, but I was wary, and didn’t put my money in there.”

“Why not?” “I didn’t think Edmund had the discipline to run hotels and make a success of the business. He is streetwise and had the right business acumen, but the fair sex can always twist him round their little finger.”
“Many men are like that, Tayo dear. What has that got to do with running a hotel?” “Plenty, silly! If a man has that sort of heart, there would always be girls who would want to take advantage of him, and fleece him of his money.”
“Like what happened recently in Birmingham?”

“Exactly. Just imagine! He met a girl he was attracted to at a party, and without researching her history and background, he believed her story of being a destitute with nowhere to live with her brother, and then he installed them both in his flat! Amazing for an Onitsha boy! It was a most idiotic thing to do.”

“Was that what happened to the hotels he and Seb invested in, in Onitsha? I thought they got burnt down by rioters.”

“Rioters instigated by the boyfriends of the girls he had allowed to go live there free of charge, according to him. He saw himself as a Father Christmas, but they saw him as a girlfriend-snatcher who must be taught a hard lesson. Seb believes Edmund himself actually hired people to go burn down the hotels. That theory sounded plausible.”

“Why would Edmund do a thing like that? Burn down his own hotels.”

“He was running them at a loss. Some of those girls he lodged there free of charge, were renting out those rooms to prostitutes and other lodgers. You can imagine the sort of people who would want to stay at such hotels. Decent people kept away, and soon, the hotels began to lose money! Big money!. Poor Seb! For more than one year, he was paying the staff from his own pocket. The hotels began to decay. Was the poor man livid! The hotels were in Edmund’s name, but Seb paid for them. He trusted Edmund so much”

I was going to ask more questions when Seb and Belinda came to join the queue at the cinema. Yes, the four of us were meeting up for the evening, and were going to be Seb’s guests.

“It’s a sort of send-off for Tayo who would be leaving for Lagos at the weekend,” he had told me on telephone while Tayo and I were on the bus tour. “Ask Tayo if it’s okay by her.”
“Let me pass the phone to her so you can tell her yourself,” I offered.

“Oh no! Just ask her if we can meet you both at Piccadilly at five, so we could go to the pictures to see the film ‘ONE DAY’. I know you like the actress Anne Hathaway.”“Oh yes! She was fantastic in the film ‘The Devil Wears Prada’. I’ve watched it over twenty times.”
“I know. Heather and Robert told me, so, I thought you and Tayo, and Belinda, of course, might want to go watch this her latest effort. She’s a good actress. You would like to , won’t you?”

“Oh yes. Thank you.”
“Afterwards, we’ll go to that Chinese restaurant at Bayswater; Tayo’s favourite.”
“That’s just great, Seb. Just where Tayo and I wanted to go. I’ll tell her. Thank you, Seb.”

I thought Tayo would be just as enthusiastic and excited about Seb’s invitation as I was, but she wasn’t.

She just grunted. I was surprised. I mean, She and Seb are very close and she’s always happy to be in his company, so, I couldn’t understand her lack of enthusiasm. I let that go until we had got down from the bus at Piccadilly and we were walking over to the cinema house. For a minute or two I got lost in the wonder of the Piccadilly lights. I must have seen them a million times, but they still send me dreaming. Just walking about there window shopping makes me feel good. The queue was building up when we got to the cinema house. Seb and his lady hadn’t arrived yet, so, I decided to ask Tayo if she didn’t want them in our company.

“Who?” “Seb and Belinda. You just grunted when I told you that they were joining us here, and afterwards, Seb would host us at your favourite Chinese restaurant in Bayswater. He said it’s like a little send-off for you since you’ll be returning to Lagos at the weekend. You normally receive invitations from him with joy. I know they’re not offering us anything new, rather they’re joining us in outings we had already planned for ourselves, but I thought, well, you’d be glad because the offer is from Seb.”

“Oh, I’m always glad to be in Seb’s company, Treena dear.”

“Okay, it’s Belinda’s presence that you resent, is that it? I can call Seb to tell him you’re not feeling well and that you want to return to your hotel.”
“Why would you do such a silly and rude thing, Treena? I haven’t said I’m not accepting the invitation.”

“But you don’t look glad. I don’t like to be in the company of morose-looking people, so, maybe we should call the whole thing off. They haven’t arrived yet, so, we can just leave now. I won’t mind. I can see this film another day.”

“You don’t understand. I don’t mind Belinda at all. She can’t bite me, nor you either. The problem is that Edmund and his daughter Margery were going to join us at Bayswater for dinner. He’s hosting.” “Oh, that’s kind of him, but he doesn’t need to host us. We were going to pay for ourselves. I wouldn’t want him going about telling people that he took me out to a restaurant, as if I couldn’t afford to do it myself. I wouldn’t like to hear that. ”

Offer to come

“Treena dear, I think you’re being petty and childish. As I was leaving Birmingham this morning, he suggested using the outing to apologize for the way he led you to believe that his daughter was his fiancee. He said he knew you wouldn’t take his calls, and he just had to apologize to you before you leave London. He will be staying on for another week after you’ve leave, and he wanted to do this while I’m still here. I wanted it to be a surprise when he shows up with his daughter. Seb’s offer to come here with Belinda and then go host us at Bayswater, brings some friction into the matter. That was what made me go pensive. I was trying to find a way out of the problem. Seb wouldn’t like to see Edmund there. I don’t know where Edmund is at present. I can’t reach him on phone because he’s switched off his two mobile phones.”

“Send him a text then. He must not come to Bayswater. Explain that Seb will be there with Belinda, and while we’re not saying he Edmund is a coward, he’s coming with his daughter and it wouldn’t be decent to have her witness how Seb snubs her father.” “That’s good reasoning, Treena dear. Sending a text is a good idea, but what if he doesn’t read it before he and his daughter head for Bayswater? I’ll try his lines again half way through the film. He may have switched on his phones by then.” “That’s a good idea. It seems Seb and Belinda have arrived.” “So they have. Well, well! She’s looking quite dishy in those jeans.”

“Er, well, if you say so, Tayo dear. But with a huge behind like hers, she should have given denim trousers a wide berth. If I were that endowed, I wouldn’t touch trousers of any shape or size. I’’ll stick to trendy skirts and tops. You can look sexy and youthful in them if you know what’s right for you.”

“Well, we can’t all be as thin as a bean pole like you, Treena dear. I always wonder where all the food you eat disappear to. You lucky gal! As for trousers, some of our women don’t feel ‘with it’ if they don’t wear trousers when they come out here. I have some friends who wear trousers only when they’re out of the country. Belinda’s okay. Yes, the behind does shoot out in those denims, but what the heck! It’s probably what Seb likes in her. Look, do we have to acknowledge their presence?”

“Do you want to? I don’t want to be lumbered with them all evening long. I thought we should pretend not to see them, get our popcorn and go get seats inside. We can meet them up in Bayswater.”

“Good idea, Treena dear. Here, it’s our turn to get the tickets. Don’t look their way. I’ll bet though that Seb must have sensed that his wife is around. He has his way of sniffing you out.”

Far down in the queue

“He couldn’t have seen us. They’re still far down in the queue. Here’s your ticket. Quick! Let’s get the popcorn. Point of correction, Tayo dear.”

“Don’t tell me. You’re not Seb’s wife, but his concubine. Ha! Ha!”
The lights were still up as the hall fills up. We looked around. Tayo sighted Edmund and his daughter first.

“Now, keep calm Treena my darling,” she whispered in my ear. “Now we know why Edmund’s phones were switched off. He and Margery are two rows down from us. Can you see them?”
“Oh wao! This is just too rich. What are you going to do now? Go down to tell him not to go to Bayswater?”

“Of course not! I’ve decided that the more the merrier. Margery should be able to accept whatever way Seb decides to treat her father. But knowing your Seb, he’s going to behave himself very very decently.”

“I wish I can share that your optimistic view. Why are you so certain?”
“It’s because I shall take him aside to tell him to sheath his sword here with Edmund, and unsheathe it when they both see again in future. I’ve decided that I must enjoy this evening. If he’s the host, etiquette demands that he’s the epitome of courtesy. I won’t have him ruin the evening for me. I won’t allow it. So, relax, my darling, and let the evening roll.”

The film was just okay, and not as exciting as I thought it would be. However, it was nice being there.

Tayo and I slipped quickly out of the hall to go take the tube. Soon, we were in Bayswater. How refreshing to see both sides of the street lined with Chinese restaurants. It always fascinates me.

“Let’s go in through the back, Treena,” said Tayo, giggling. “Go in through the kitchen? Why?” “Then we can stay in a corner and watch the others come in. I wonder who will arrive first. I’ll like to see the expression on Seb’s face when he sees Edmund. We shall reveal ourselves when they’’ve taken their seats.”

See my hell-raising friend? She’s well known in that restaurant so, the cooks allowed us to get in through the kitchen. The place hadn’t changed. A bit cleaner than the last time I was there, but still quite rowdy. What I have against the place is that you have to go through the kitchen to use the loo. I don’t think that’s decent for the food. Tara.

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