The day started well for Nora. She woke up early as usual and prepared breakfast for the family. After serving them, she went about preparing lunch for Mr and Mrs Adepoju.
Been the naughty boy that he was, Tayo was at the dinning already complaining about the arrangement of the room.
“I’m not changing my mind about it, Tayo. By the way, why are you so scared of arranging one room?” His mother had asked.
“I just can’t!” He said, truthfully. “You can tell Nora to do it.”
Nora held her breath at that precise moment. So Tayo is trying to keep his promise? She thought. What a jackass he really was.
“Nora has a lot to do,” his mother objected. “You want to kill her with work?”
“A little room arranging won’t kill her.” Tayo insisted.
“True. You are right.” His father chipped in.
Tayo’s face lit up with excitement. His father was on his side and that was all that mattered. “You see, daddy understands.” He said to his mother.
“Yes I do,” his father supported. “So this is what we are going to do. You will go to the market, buy everything your mother has written in her market list. After that, you come home and cook. While you’re at it, Nora will arrange the room.”
“Jesus! Daddy! That’s unfair.”
“No, it’s not.” His father countered. “What is unfair is your insane pride and belief that only house girls arrange rooms. You know what, Tunde will stop washing my car as from today. Guess who’s going to be washing it now?”
“You of course.” His father said, tartly.
“No way!” Tayo almost yelled. “How can you ask me to wash your car? That’s Tunde’s work. He is the driver, not me.”
“I think your father and I have spoilt you almost beyond repair.” His mother said.
“I’m going to introduce a new law. From this moment on, your duties in this house include washing the cars; all the cars, not just your father’s own. Then you must ensure the flowers outside are trimmed once every month.”
“I will add other duties for you as soon as I can think of something.” Mr Adepoju cut in. “You are lazing around too much and it has to stop.”
From the kitchen where she was eavesdropping, Nora smiled with self-satisfaction. Tayo was definitely going to get himself busy with house chores. There was no escaping it, not when his parents had put their foot down.
Taking her mind off their discussion, She packaged lunch in their lunch bags and took them to the main dining table.
“Here.” Mrs Adepoju said, stretching a small piece of paper at Nora, along with a bundle of one thousand naira notes. “When you get back from the market use the fresh fish for pepper soup, then boil some pieces of yam and unripe plantain for three. You can cook anything else for the rest of you.”
“What about me?” Tayo asked. His frown was sign enough that he wasn’t still happy about the new development.
“You will eat anything Nora cooks for you.” His mother replied.
“Really? Christ!” He said, got up and marched out of the dining room.
“If he doesn’t wash the other cars,” Mr Adepoju said, getting up from his seat, “you let me know when I get back.”
“Yes sir,” Nora replied, stifling a smile. It was high time Tayo learnt to do something useful with his hands. But that aside, if Tayo wasn’t among the three she was to prepare yam for, then who was the third person? Since she was not told, she didn’t bother to ask.
Soon after breakfast, Mr and Mrs Adepoju left for work; leaving Nora to put the house in order.
At about 4:35 PM, a yellow cab with black stripes pulled up in front of the compound. Nora, in her blue jeans trouser, sky blue bodies and neatly packed braids, stepped out from it with her shopping bags and paid the driver off. Seconds later she was in the compound and minutes later, in the house. She was exhausted after returning from the market but, she couldn’t rest. Not when dinner was yet to be prepared. However, she had only started the process of cleaning out the fish when the clanging of the doorbell disrupted her.
“Oh! Who can it be?” she grumbled as she washed her hands quickly and marched off to the sitting room. Peeping through the door hole, she frowned and then opened the door
“Good evening sir.” She greeted, trying to ignore the scent that suddenly enveloped her. Nice perfume. She thought before looking up at him. “Please who are you looking for?” she asked.
The man standing before her bore a great resemblance to her boss but she wasn’t too sure they were related. Below his dark brows, blue eyes stared back at her, unflinchingly. He maintained a neat, low cut on his oval head and well-shaved side beards. His white, long-sleeved shirt was open at the neck, exposing a throbbing pulse there. His black trouser matched his black leather shoes. Generally, the aura of the light-skinned man was of class and sophistication. Absentmindedly she swallowed. She swallowed because she noticed he too was taking in her appearance.
For christ sake, she was a housemaid! What could a man like him be looking at in a simple house girl with simple clothes?
Rolling both her spoken and unspoken questions to the background, the man looked at her without any form of expression. However, his dark blue eyes appraised her. Not even the apron she wore could hide her curves and gradually, his full lips curved into a smile. What a beauty she is. And she’s without makeup? He thought, smug and self-satisfied
“Sir, who do you want to see?” She repeated the question, ignoring his disrespectful appraisal. Who did he think he was? Handsome or not, he had no right to look at her in that way. “Look, sir, this is not a hotel and I am not a whore. If you want to see my boss, you will have to come back another day or wait outside,” she said with all the respect she could afford.
The man frowned, rolling away the pictures that had formed in his head. “Wait. Outside?” He asked, confused.
“Yes. I’m sorry. But it is the rule. There are too many kidnappers on the loose and you sir, could be one of them.”
“Oh! Really?” He shrugged. “Ok. At least can I get a chair? If I’m going to stay outside, I might as well be comfortable.”
“I’m sorry,” she apologized, “but I can’t bring any of the chairs out. You can stay in the garden. We have good shade there and lots of fresh air. I’ll bring something for you drink.”
He laughed then, revealing a set of white teeth as well as nice dimples on both cheeks. He was handsome, no doubt. His laugh was enough to make anyone want to laugh too. However, Nora stifled a laugh as she stared at him, wondering what she had said that made him laugh. “So you do care about my comfort?” He asked, at last. “And here I was beginning to think I was just another nuisance disturbing you.”
“I never said so, sir.” She defended. “I only said you’ll need to wait outside. I promise you will find the garden very comfortable.”
“So what about my bag?” He asked, pointing at a black trolley by the side of the door. Nora had been too carried away to notice it.
“Oh! It can stay here. Or you can take it along.” She quickly added when his brows shot up at her first reply. Surely he didn’t think she said so because she wanted time alone to search it for valuables. She was not a thief. Never had or would be. “I will get you your drink now.” She said, quickly going in and shutting the door behind her. Once there, she leaned on it with her back, took a deep breath and then let it out.
Jeez! He is so handsome. She thought. His striking features was enough to make her forget her name. How she managed to remain composed was a total mystery. And to think she was going to see him again shortly. “God help me.” She whispered, moving away to get that drink. No one had ever affected her that way. Maybe its because I’ve been so locked up in my housemaid duties and haven’t really seen a man. She thought.
The next fifteen minutes met her serving the handsome stranger at the garden. He sat under the shade of a mango tree and placed his trolley by his side. She served and left without a word of gratitude from him. He had suddenly turned from an amused observer to a cold, distant person who saw her as nothing but disturbance. She hissed mentally as she made her way back to the house. What did she really see in the dunce that made her go all nuts the first time? Dinner was far from ready and her employers would be home any minute.
Once back in the kitchen, she swept the thought of the ungrateful visitor under the rug and went about preparing dinner.
At exactly 7:03 PM, the familiar sound of a car horn came from outside the compound and soon afterwards, the sound of an opening gate followed. Who could be opening the gate? She thought. Ever since Mustapha; the security man, went on leave, she had assumed his duties and taken care of some of the things he used to do. Tayo wasn’t in. He left as soon as his parents were out, obviously dodging his car washing assignment. So who could be opening the gate?
Turning the heat low, she dashed off to the sitting room and was soon out in the open; just in time to see the car parking in the garage. Looking up, she saw the visitor guy closing the big gate. It was he who had opened it. What is he trying to do? Get me fired? She thought, feeling a little frustrated. She ignored the sad feeling tugging at her heart and started toward the car. She was still some distance away when Mrs Adepoju hurriedly stepped out of the car saying.
“My son is here. At last.”
“Son?” Nora stopped in her tracks, wondering if she was speaking literally. But she couldn’t be sure, especially since the woman was filled with great happiness. The so-called visitor, on the other hand, was all smiles as he rushed into the older woman’s embrace.
“Oh, mum. I missed you like crazy.”
“Hey! Watch it. You can’t just come from nowhere and start toasting my beautiful wife,” Mr Adepoju’s deep voice interrupted them as he got out of the car.
“Ah! Daddy please now.” He joked, before moving over to embrace the elderly man. They gave each other a manly pat and remained that way for a while.
“You’re welcome home, my son.” Mr Adepoju said after they had pulled back.
“Thank you dad.” he smiled, charmingly.
“Did you just arrive?” Mrs Adepoju asked; patting his cheeks fondly. Nora’s eyes widened in horror. If he was truly their son, she was in deep trouble. How could she have prevented him from entering his own home? Her mind went back to the early hours of the day; recalling every event that proved they had been expecting him. It was the only logical reason Mr and Mrs Adepoju had asked Tayo to arrange one of the rooms. It was also the reason for the special pepper soup dinner. So why didn’t he say anything when she asked him to stay outside? Why didn’t he just say he was their…”
Her thoughts were interrupted as she heard him tell his parents he had only just arrived. Nora frowned. He didn’t have to do that. He didn’t have to cover up for her mistake.
“So where is your bag?” His mother asked, worried. “Don’t tell me you came empty-handed.”
“Don’t worry about my bag mum. I kept it at the corner when I went to open the gate. I will carry it in.”
“Ok…Errr… errr…Nora!” Mrs Adepoju called. She had only just noticed the young lady’s presence, although she was still some distance away. “Come and meet my son.” She said happily.
Nora groaned inwardly as she moved to stand in front of them. “Good evening ma,” She greeted.
“Good evening dear,” The older woman replied, taking her son’s hand. “This is Kayode, my eldest son.” She announced, happily.
“Good evening, sir.” She greeted, “and welcome,” she added. Greeting him wouldn’t have been so bad if his eyes weren’t laughing at her stupidity.
“Good evening to you too.” He replied. His voice was teasing and it made her burn with anger.
“Kayode would have been my only child,” Mrs Adepoju went on to explain. “I had him and only him. But twelve years later, Tayo sneaked into my womb.” She laughed. Kayode laughed too but Nora forced a smile, even though she was just hearing that for the first time.
“Actually I used to think Tayo was an only child,” Nora said.
“Well, now you know better.” Mr Adepoju joined them. He had been in his car searching for some documents, while Tunde carried their bags and briefcases into the house. “Well, let us go inside. Outside is not the only place happy reunions are done.” He teased and the others laughed.
“Nora please get Kayode’s bag,” Mrs Adepoju said, then turned to her son, “you tell her where it is so she can get it.”
“Oh, she knows where it is,” Kayode replied; his eyes laughing at her for the second time as he went off with his parents
“Damn you,” Nora thought; marching off to the garden.