In less than 40 minutes, the SUV had pulled into an impressive, but modest two-storey house on Okpannam road. Her uncle, Chief Fashola was not at home when they got back, but her cousins, Mary and Chikodi were present at home.
With just two years between them, they could be mistaken for twins. They looked so much alike, but they were very different.
Mary, the 17-year old was tall, skinny with a figure that resembled a coke bottle She was in SS2, and was the more daring of the two. Chikodi was 15 years old, and was in SS1. She was almost as tall as Amaka, but not as shapely. She had more of a boyish figure with smaller hips. She was more laid back, and not as adventurous as her sister, but hers was usually the voice of reason.
Both girls had inherited their mother’s beauty, but not her grace, evidenced by the noticeable akwardness in their steps. Graceful or not, both girls were excited to see their cousin, Tobi, and nearly fell over each other trying to hug her.
“Tobi, Tobi! We have missed you o! Welcome! Let me carry your bag.” That was Chikodi speaking for both of them. Mary was busy going through her purse to see what Tobi could dash her, like she said jokingly. Finding nothing she particularly liked, she handed Tobi’s purse back to her and told her to be ready to give them gist from Lagos.
“Haba! Won’t you let her rest?” their mother scolded. “And why are you calling her by her name? Does she look like your mate? You should be calling her ‘Sister Tobi.’ “
“Ah, no Auntie. That won’t be necessary. That will make me feel really old,” Tobi said laughing.
“Okay then. At least I tried. Okay girls, I hope you’ve set the table. We need to eat.”
The girls had not set the table. They had planned to dump it on Rita, the house girl, but their plan backfired. So, they were forced to set the table themselves and did it rather quickly. In no time at all, they were all downing large amounts of egusi with pounded yam. The soup was so good that Tobi asked her Auntie if she could eat the same thing for dinner.
“My dear, doesn’t your mother cook Egusi for you people at home?” Auntie Priscillia asked in wonder. She should know how to cook it.”
“Auntie, she does. But your own tastes very different from my mother’s own. I don’t think my husband would complain if I cook two different types of Egusi for him. I want to learn how you make it too.”
Auntie Priscillia laughed. “It’s okay. I will teach you. As long as it’s not ogbono soup sha,” she said.
“Oh, don’t worry, Auntie. Mummy makes ogbono soup all the time at home. But Egusi like yours is far superior.”
Auntie Priscillia stared at Tobi for one whole minute without saying a word, and then left her. As she walked away, Tobi could hear her muttering to herself:
“No wonder her boyfriend left her. When she eats ogbono soup. Tufia!”
Tobi did not know whether to be upset or let it go. She decided that she had shed enough Mayowa-related tears for one day. Auntie Priscillia was entitled to her opinion. She knew that it was Folake, not ogbono that had snatched Mayowa away from her. Besides, the pounded yam was working its magic, and combined with the fatigue of her journey, she fell asleep in Chikodi’s bed.
When she woke up, it was almost midnight. The whole house was quiet and Tobi concluded that everyone was asleep. Needing a little snack, she tip-toed downstairs and made herself some bread and butter and a cup of tea. As she dropped two cubes of sugar into her cup of tea, she remembered how Folake preferred to mix the powdered milk and milo together in a cup and munch it.
“How was this girl my friend, again? We were so different,” Tobi wondered. The thought of eating Folake’s milk and milo concoction was so off-putting that she hastily drank some of the hot beverage to wash away that memory.
As if …
Oddly enough, Folake was everything Tobi was not, which was partly why Mayowa had gone with her instead. But, Tobi could not understand what Paul saw in Folake. They were complete opposites alright: Folake was the unplanned, adventurous, disorganized, walking human experiment, who was obsessed with trying out different hairstyles almost every week. Her hairline told the story. Too many Ghana-weaving-like hairstyles had taken their toll on her hair, leaving her with a chop-chop hairline that was hard to miss. And yet, with her chop-chop hair, Mayowa had picked her, and told Tobi that she was boring.
So for five years he had endured boring Tobi, and had hopped on the Folake’s train at the slightest opportunity?
“Men are so inconsistent, and Mayowa is the most inconsistent of them all,”Tobi thought to herself. It was best to forget him.
“Well, so much for forgetting Mayowa … and Boluke. Every little thing seems to stir up memories of them in my mind.”
That night, Tobi decided that she would do everything possible to start afresh in Asaba. Little did she know that her resolve would be tested the very next day.
The following day was a Saturday. Tobi sat to eat breakfast with the family, and met her uncle for the first time since her arrival in Asaba. He was happy to see her, and told her that he would do his best to find her a suitable job very soon.
“It might not be as glamorous as Lagos, but I will find something for you, okay?” Chief Fashola promised. Tobi expressed her thanks and went off to help her auntie clean up.
Auntie Priscillia told Tobi that Rita and her daughters were able to handle most of the chores. But since Tobi pressed her for something to do, she told her to empty the kitchen dustbin. Tobi agreed.
As she carried the dustbin from the kitchen outside the gate to empty it into the larger trash can, she almost tripped and fell over one of the pavement stones that was out of place. She quickly regained her balance and continued on her mission.
Once outside the gate, she lifted the metal cover of the trash can. Something prompted her to look to her left, and as she did, she saw a young man standing outside the gate of a house, two doors down, about to do the same thing: empty the dustbin. As soon as he saw her, he paused and waved a greeting at her. Tobi eyed him, and simply turned away without responding.
Something must be wrong with me, she imagined
– to be continued – Please be patient