I made a swift diversion back to mama’s shop with fear and trembling.
‘Please, give me more time,’ mama was pleading with the officials from the Local Government.
‘Enough of this useless begging, madam,’ one of the officials spoke with venom in his voice, ‘after serving you a Demand Notice plus one week of grace…you should know by now that the government is a no Father Christmas.’
‘Sales has not been regular…please…I will pay…’ mama knelt in tears.
Meanwhile, Madam Felicia was busy making frantic attempts to put a call through.
‘Stop shedding crocodile tears,’ the other official spoke in a similar pattern, ‘the directive says that we should lock up the shops of every defaulter.’
‘Officers,’ ‘he beckoned to the Policemen standing outside, ‘please commence your operation…’
Within a twinkling of an eye, they stormed into our shop.
‘Hold it there!’ Madam Felicia challenged, ‘where are you rushing to?’
‘Respect yourself, woman…’
‘Please…’ mama continued pleading.
Just then, Madam Felicia’s phone rang.
‘Hello, Taju’ she began with confidence, ‘why haven’t you been picking my calls…? Okay…I understand…’
‘Everyone move outside immediately!’ one of the Policemen ordered.
Mama and I cringed while Madam Felicia maintained her composure.
‘…Taju, I need your intervention…’ she continued in a relaxed tone, ‘your boys are about to lock up my friend’s shop…em… I know…I know they’re doing their job… please…sweetheart…honey-pie…kiss…kiss…oh, thank you, my love…okay, hold on…’
She paused and handed the phone to one of the officials, with a triumphant smile.
‘Your boss wants to speak to you.’
‘Hello sir,’ the official began, ‘okay…yes…yes, sir…’
Wearing a look of defeat, he handed the phone back to her and vacated our shop with his crew.
‘Felicia, God bless you,’ mama embraced her warmly.
‘Don’t mention. That is the least I can do for a friend who doesn’t even regard me as one. I’ve only helped you to shift the judgment day a bit further, you’ll still have to pay in the end. The days when people avoid paying statutory bills are gone. In this present administration, there is no more hiding place.’
‘Thank you ma,’ I gazed at her with a fresh look of admiration.
‘That’s okay my dear,’ she pulled my jaw playfully, ‘at least, with the little you’ve seen, I’m not a bad person after all. Don’t mind the small drama you witnessed between your mother and I a while ago, both of us are actually childhood friends…’
The lady went on and on; and the moment my gaze caught my mother’s, I remembered my undone mission at the food vendor’s shop!
The effect of the scorching sun made little impact on my way to the food seller’s shop, as my entire attention was focused on the heroic act of Madam Felicia.
Some people are really angels in disguise; I reflected…perhaps, mama was wrong…
‘Yago lo na fun mi jo!’ an angry cart pusher shouted behind me and in a bid to get out of the way for him, I narrowly escaped being hit by a motorcycle.
‘Are you blind?’ the motorcyclist barked, ‘akoba, adaba!
I sighed and just as I was about to cross to the other side of the road, an SUV pulled beside me.
I turned and realized it was Segun, our landlord’s son.
‘Good afternoon, Brother Segun.’
‘Good afternoon, Nena, where are you off to in this hot sun?’
‘Iya Ramota’s food shop.’
‘Can I give you a ride?’
‘Oh yes. Thanks.’
‘Why Iya Ramota?’ he probed, oozing out an alcoholic breath as he spoke, ‘are there no canteens close to your shop?’
‘My mother instructed me to go there.’
‘I don’t really see any special thing in her food, yet a lot of people throng there like bees. Have you tried Iya Lekan?’
‘No,’ I shook my head innocently, ‘my mother insisted that it has to be Iya Ramota.’
‘Must you always obey your mother?’
‘Yes, because the holy book says so.’
‘I know,’ he stressed, ‘but do you obey your mother at all times?’
I was speechless as I pondered over my next reply.
‘Well Brother Segun, it’s not about satisfying one’s desires, rather, one should follow the generally acceptable best practice.’
‘You’re such an intelligent girl!’
‘I like you a lot, Nena,’ he continued, gazing at me.
‘Please watch; you’re in motion!’
‘Never mind, I’m a master of the road; I could even drive with both eyes closed…’
My heart skipped. Driving with both eyes closed? I imagined. Not when I’m still in this vehicle!
As the journey progressed, I discovered that the route was becoming less familiar.
‘Please, where are we?’
‘Relax girl, you’re in safe hands…’
‘Brother Segun, where are you taking me to?
‘I say relax, Nena, I’m really enjoying your company. I’ve always craved for this opportunity to be with you but your watchdog mother never gave me the chance.’
‘Please let me out of this vehicle for God’s sake,’ I was close to tears.
‘Would you be my girlfriend?’
That unanticipated request brought Madam Felicia’s words to my mind…‘The hunters are all over the place…’
‘I’m not enjoying this roller coaster ride…’
‘Speak on, Miss grammarian!’
‘Sincerely, I don’t expect this from you,’ I spoke calmly, ‘I’ve so much respect for you and that’s why I address you as ‘brother’, even though we’re not related in any form.’
He laughed heartily and before I knew it, he brought out a tiny sachet of a liquid content from his pocket, tore it open and emptied the entire content in his mouth in a single gulp.
‘Nena, you’re my African queen, the girl of my dreams…’ he sang.
‘Stop this vehicle, please…’