“Ahhhh!!!” Ese screamed, slamming her fist into the wall, before she continued pacing the living room, “how did he end up in your house? I found him first. In the bush. Passed, out. I took care of him. Why didn’t your parents or your house helps care for him when he was dieing?”
“Ese stop this!”, Rodah frowned. If she knew Ese would be this saucy and unreasonable, she’d have kept what she knew to herself.
She had spent a greater part of her day with her father and Aaron. It was from the discussion she got to understand, she had only left the house about 30 minutes, to Ese’s, when Aaron arrived. That was the evening before.
He was actually to come with two junior officers who were to assist with the recruitment exercise. But he left them in Lagos, saying they were on assignments, and would join him the following day.
Having put down his luggage, he had said to Mrs. Akiri, he wanted to take a short stroll around the village, to get acquainted with its surroundings and the natives.
Along the way, he met two young men, natives, also taking an evening stroll, and thought it wise to have their company, for guidance.
True, his accent was not what they were used to. He spoke through his nose, like the white men. And seemed to have imbibed their English and character.
The men in his company spoke in their local dialect and laughed, several times. Aaron could tell they were laughing at him. But he didn’t mind. Being away in Britain, almost all his life, right from his childhood, was enough to make him speak and act like the British.
It was these same men though, thinking he had gold or some money in his pocket, that attacked and almost killed him. And killing him meant, they could steal without being caught.
It was on the spot he was left to die, Ese found him, and took care of him. And he made it quite clear, he owned her his life.
Rodah was not happy a stranger to the village had to be treated badly by the natives. Chief growled with anger. He already promised to fish out the culprits and have them punished.
But Aaron wouldn’t hear of it. He was safe, that was what mattered. But, he wasn’t going to go out with the villagers again. That simple.
“Perhaps when you’re not so busy”, Chief turned to his daughter, “you could show him around. A short stroll will do”.
“That will be nice. That is, if you’re up to it”, Aaron turned pleading eyes on Rodah. But the plea soon disappeared, only to be replaced by admiration, and something else. She wasn’t sure what.
“That’s ok”, she said, trying not to swallow and make it obvious, she was nervous under his gaze. The man had striking features – fair-skinned, tall, neatly combed afro on well-trimmed beards. His lips were pink. His hands were large, with long fingers and neat finger nails.
What’s better? He seemed gentle, for not wanting his attackers to be punished.
Was there anyway she could get close to this stranger, even just for a stroll around the village, and not fall in love with him? Especially when he stared at her, in the way he was now starring.
Heat crept up her body. Her heart beat doubled and she knew if she was not going to hurt her best friend and destroy the love and trust they had between each other, it was best to let Ese know where the man was staying, where the recruitment exercise would take place, when and where they’d stroll to. If they ever took a stroll.
“So will you be able to?”, he asked, when she still said nothing. He could tell though, she was checking him out.
She’d take the stroll. There was no escaping that. Saying no meant being rude to her father’s guest. “Yes”, she said at last. He sighed in relief. He had been holding his breath
She’d have to tell Ese everything, including wherever they’d be taking a stroll to.
If Ese knew where to look, then she could make herself available so she could spend time with Aaron too. At least she’d have a chance to win his heart.
“And what about your own heart?” Her conscience asked,
“My heart will be fine”, she replied, sure of her words. She’d be fine, long after Ese marries this man who seemed to get ladies on their toes. She’d hurt a little. But Ese deserved the best.
And so Rodah had returned to Ese’s house later that evening, to tell her about the development and Ese was not taking it well at all.
“Stop what?” She fired at her friend, “you enjoyed city life. I stayed here. You went to Europe to study. I stayed here. When you had rich men falling at your feet in Lagos, I had drinkers, lazy farmers and a good for nothing teacher trying to woo me. But I never, not even for once, tried to steal your place. I never complained…”
“What is wrong with you, Ese?” Rodah was truly pissed now, “yes you found the man. But it so happens he was invited over by my father and is putting up at our house. Is coming here to tell you where you can find your prince charming my crime?”
“Are you telling me you don’t like him?” Ese accused. Rodah swallowed. Was she so transparent, Ese could see through her? Well, whatever the case, she had to defend herself
“Look Ese, Aaron is a very l…..”
“Oh! Aaron. You even know his name”.
“Yes. I know his name. I never should have told you he is staying with us. I thought you’d be happy to know that because you’ll have easy access to him. I came here to invite you over. To stay with us and join in the recruitment exercise starting from tomorrow. Then you have a better chance of having to spend time with him and making him fall in love with you. Instead of you to let me explain, look all the trash you’ve been spewing”.
“You’re inviting me over?” Ese stopped pacing
“Just so I can be closer to him?” Her once dull expression brightened. Hope filled her eyes.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to say since I got here”, Rodah threw her hands up in frustration, “but no. You wouldn’t listen. You just chose to attack me like I’m your enemy”, she finished.
“Hahahahaha…” Ese laughed and jumped on Rodah, pulling her into a tight embrace, “why didn’t you just say so from the start?”
“I was trying to”, Rodah laughed, hugging her back, “but you’re such a naughty girl”.
“What are we celebrating?” Mrs. Eugene said, stepping into the sitting room. Her steps though, faltered a bit, “Rodah, you’re here”,
“Diguor ma” Rodah greeted, pulling back from Ese, to take a good look at the elderly woman. From the evening before, up until that morning, Mrs. Eugene’s steps were bold and firm. So why did she suddenly look like she was sick?
“Vredo. How was your day? And how are your parents?” She sat on one of the benches,
“My day was fine. My parents are fine”.
“I’m going to Rodah’s, mama”, Ese announced happily.
“A brief holiday?” Her mother asked, brows raised.
“Yes”, Ese was over joyed. She told her mother everything Rodah had said, and how she hoped to not waste her opportunity to be close to the stranger from last evening.
“Ok. I’ve heard everything you said. But you can’t go”, Mrs. Eugene countered, “I forbid you to go”.
“But mama why?” Ese couldn’t hide her disappointment.
“Why mama?” Rodah asked too. Confused.
“I forbid my child to go to a house where she’ll be regarded as a servant”.
Rodah’s heart broke. Why would a woman she regarded as a second mother, say what she just said? “Mama that’s not fair”, Rodah protested, “Ese is like a sister to me and my parents know that”.
“Yes they do. But would they treat her as equal? Or look down on her, as just another lowlife to be used for your many house chores? And there’s nothing you’re going to do about that, Rodah. My daughter would never be anyone’s servant”
Rodah was shocked now. Stunned. Confused. Speechless. Disappointed, “mama, you did not just say that”, her voice came in a whisper.
“Mama you’re taking things the wrong way”, Ese protested, “Rodah is only helping me get closer to the man we saw yesterday. What is his name again?” Ese turned to Rodah.
“Aaron”, she answered, though her countenance remained sad,
“Mama please”, Ese turned back to her mother, “this is important to me. You know that”.
“This is for your own good, Ese. And yours too”, she looked up at Rodah, “you should go home now. This meeting is finished”.
Rodah shook her head in disbelief, “I do not know exactly how it is for my own good, and to think you’re even chasing me out of your house”, she said, then looked up at Ese, “the choice is yours. I’ve done my part. If you can’t come to the house, meet us at the village square tomorrow morning. That’s where the trainee recruitment exercise will take place. You can choose something decent to wear from these”, she put down the black nylon bag she was holding, “at least if you work with us tomorrow, you’ll be seen as a respected young lady. Not a servant”, she took one sad look at Ese’s mother, “good night ma”,
She headed for the exit. Ese wanted to escort her, but Mrs. Eugene stopped her and asked that she helped finish preparing dinner.
Ese was reluctant. But she eventually obeyed. And as soon as Ese left for the kitchen, Mrs. Eugene rushed to the door. Rodah was only a short distance away.
“Rodah”, she called out.
Rodah paused, then turned around to look at the elderly woman. The sadness in her eyes was unmistakable. Mrs. Eugene hurried to stand before her.
“Rodah, I’m sorry”. She apologized, “I only said what I said, to avoid future problems. I prefer you both remain friends than fight viciously over a man”.
“But why will I want to fight over a man? And one who my best friend loves?'”
“Rodah, things are not as simple as the eyes see. I am a medicine woman. I use my medicine for healing, it doesn’t mean I don’t use sorcery too. I see visions. You and my daughter will become sworn enemies. You should never have invited her over. Because the more she draws closer to that man, the more he’d reject her and choose you instead. And then the more she gets hurt and bitter. If she doesn’t pull close to him, the issue will die in her heart “.
“But she loves him”, Rodah defended.
“And you love him too”, Mrs. Eugene spelt out the words for her, “You’re attracted to him more than you know”.
“Are you asking me to give him a try? To consider him and ignore Ese’s feelings?”
“Yes. Please. You have no idea what My daughter is capable of if something dear to her is taken away from her. Besides, that man doesn’t love her. He loves you. It is better, she doesn’t get closer to him”.
Rodah saw it. The sadness and suffering the woman was going through. She knew what she was doing would hurt her daughter, but she did it anyway. Because she feared her daughter would be rejected and the end of the story will be everything but good.
“Go home”, Mrs. Eugene said, patting her cheeks, “think about what I’ve said. And please, take it seriously.
Rodah nodded, bent her knees in greetings, and then left. Her heart was heavy, and confused.
The rest of that evening, Rodah pondered on Mrs. Eugene’s words of advice. And when they all sat at the dinning table for dinner, she couldn’t take her eyes off Aaron, as he explained how the recruitment exercise would be and what kind of assistance he would need.
Sure, the junior officers he left in Lagos had arrived that evening, and even settled in, thanks to the servants. Now they all sat at the table, having dinner, and Aaron was making it clear, he needed more assistance.
“A good thing Rodah is here. Will you be able to give some of your time to this, dear?” Se asked.
Rodah had nothing doing, as she wouldn’t be visiting Ese for sometime, until issues were cleared up. “Yes I can”, she replied, her gaze still on Aaron, “But you’ll need to put me through.
“Yes, I will”, Aaron took a good look at her for the first time since dinner. And Rodah felt it. Her heart did a number on her again, as he spoke, “I truly appreciate your willingness to help”.
“Oh. It’s nothing”, she smiled lightly, “it’s not like I have anything important I’m doing”.
“Thanks, all the same. Perhaps if your evening is free, I could give you the lowdown on what the exercise would look like and exactly what you can do to help. This way, you wouldn’t get confused tomorrow, when we start”.
“Ok. The would be good”, she agreed. As her eyes lingered on his lustful gaze, she knew in her heart, Mrs. Eugene was right. This man was into her. And she couldn’t deny she wasn’t feeling anything for him. He was hers. And she was going to do everything to keep him
The exercise started promptly. 8:30 AM dot. There were four tables and a chair behind each. The men sat. And Rodah sat too. Piles of forms sat by the side of each table. And long queues were made before each table.
Many of the men in the village joined the queue. Tests were taken. Questions were asked and forms were filled.
Everything went smoothly for Rodah. In fact, she was enjoying the process until about 10:00 AM, when Ese showed up, looking like an elite lady from one of the richest families in the city. Her clothing, a dark yellow, not so fitted, off the shoulder gown with bogus long sleeves, on black akpola heels, was stunning. Jewelries made of real gold graced her ears, neck and wrists.
Her hips swayed, left to right. The men on the queue whispered among themselves, not taking their eyes off her. Even the navy officers with Aaron couldn’t help but notice her approaching figure.
But Aaron, he was too busy checking up a document with Rodah. They didn’t notice her until she stood in front of them and said “good morning”.
“Good morning”, Aaron recognized her, though he looked surprised at her outfit. He never for once thought she’d be able to afford such an expensive gown, let alone the shoes and jewelries, “it’s nice to see you here”.
Ese blushed, “it’s nice seeing you too”.
“Ese, you’re here”, that was Rodah. She finally found her tongue. Yes, she had asked Ese to come. Her mistake, now that she thought about it. But her dressing was certainly screaming for attention. Aaron’s attention, definitely.
The Ese in front of her was not the Ese she was used to. She was not a walk over. And her clothing was of high quality. Expensive, definitely. And Rodah knew, this particular gown was not among the collection she bought for her friend. So where did she get it?
“Yes, I am here”, she, smiled, “I thought I’ll come help with the recruitment exercise. The workload will be too much for only the both of you”.
“Oh, thanks. That’s thoughtful of you”, Aaron smiled his gratitude, “there are actually four of us here. But we could make us of extra hands”.
“It’s no big deal”,
“Please come this way”, He took her hand and led her to the last table where one of the officers attended to the men in his queue. He spent time putting her through what to do. While Rodah continued at her table, occasionally spying at them
One by one, they interviewed the men in the queue. Those accepted were given another set of forms to fill and asked to return the following day for the second stage of the exercise.
By evening, they were done for the day. They were able to attend to everyone. While the officers, along with Ese, started to put their documents together, Aaron left his desk and walked up to Rodah.
“Hello”, she replied, then returned her gaze to the documents she was compiling.
“The exercise was more tedious than I thought it would be. But do you think you can stand a stroll back home after a long day? You know we haven’t taken that stroll yet”.
Rodah chuckled, “yes, I know. But trekking, strolling, they both involve moving the legs. Aaron chuckled too.
“I’ll send my boys ahead then”.
“Ok. I’ll just quickly finish up here”.
Aaron returned to his officers to instruct them. And while he did, Ese, done putting her documents together and handing them over to the officer she worked with, moved to Rodah’s table.
“How was the work?” Her countenance was unreadable.
“Good”, Rodah said, looking up at her, “nice outfit. I didn’t get the chance to tell you earlier”.
“Thank you”, Ese smiled. But Rodah saw, it didn’t reach her eyes.
“So where did you get it? The outfit?” She couldn’t help but ask.
“Let’s just say, it isn’t your business. You’re not the only one with good fashion sense or the ability to afford good clothes”.
“I know”, Rodah said, easing up as she was sure Ese was ready for a fight. She didn’t know why though, “But one thing is certain, Ese, I am the only one who will tell you, you’re trying so desperately to get the attention of a man who hardly notices you. You’re belittling yourself. You didn’t have to dress like you were attending a politician’s party. This is a recruitment exercise”.
“Keep your lecture. I know you think he will never look at me. And I know you want him for yourself. I don’t believe in your fake promises back at home, that you have no interest in him”.
“I didn’t have an interest in him, Ese. But thanks to you, I now see what a perfect man he is. I am interested in him now. Are you going to fight me?”
Ese chuckled, “dirty myself because of you? You must think you’re worth something, Rodah”.
“Four years apart from each other, and I don’t even know you anymore”.
“Oh, I was the same person you have always known, until last evening”.
“If I hadn’t come over to tell you the plan last evening, you wouldn’t be here now. At least not like this. So stop acting like a victim”.
“Victim? You did good, telling me about this exercise. But then you did bad. And I will not forgive you for that. You and my mother must think of me as a stupid girl who knows nothing. You cannot imagine my shock when she told you to keep my man. A man I found first. Saying crazy stuffs about him not belonging to me. And you who is supposed to be my friend, you agreed to her idea. You couldn’t refuse”.
“Your head is in the cloud. I’m very sure when mama was explaining things to you, you weren’t listening to what she was saying”.
Ese laughed, “explaining? No she didn’t. I saw her follow you, after she sent me off to the kitchen. And I returned to the window. I didn’t tell you I now have a very good hearing ability, did I? I heard both of you. I heard your discussions. I know why she kicked against me coming over to your house. And I heard you agree to take away my man”.
“That’s some serious accusations”, Aaron came up from behind Ese. She looked up at him and smiled.
“Yes, it is. But that aside. You promised you would come over to the house again, to explain things to us. My mother and I”, she quickly added.
“Oh! Yes I did”, he rubbed his head over, “this recruitment exercise has really taken over my thoughts. Please forgive me. How’s your mother?”
“She is well. So when should we expect you?” She grinned.
“Errrr….when do you think will be convenient for you, so we go together?”.
“Now is ok”, Ese was already over the moon. Mr. Handsome was coming home with her.
“Err…Sorry… I was asking Rodah”.
“Oh!” Ese eyed her friend, “yes, when will be convenient for you?” She rolled her eyes.
“I don’t know yet”, with Ese’s behaviour, Rodah wasn’t sure she wanted to find her feet anywhere near her compound again. And no way, was she going to allow Aaron go with Ese, or go there alone. If Aaron was truly hers, as Mrs. Eugene had said, then she was going to keep him, away from Ese, “perhaps we can talk about visiting some other time”.
“Ok then. I understand you’re tired. I shouldn’t stress you”, he turned to Ese, “Maybe some other time, please bear with us for now “, Aaron pleaded.
“Ok”, Ese managed a smile in Aaron’s direction. But she turned hateful eyes on Rodah, before matching off, trying to keep her steps straight, as she gathered her gown in one hand.
“Please put on something less stressful tomorrow, Ese”, Rodah called after her. She was mocking her.
“You two were like sisters yesterday. And today, you’re…I don’t even know what to call you two”.
“I don’t know what to call us either. It’s nothing though. Just call it women’s quarrel”. Aaron chuckled.
They returned back to putting the documents together. And Aaron sent the other officers ahead.
The next 30 minutes met the duo taking a stroll on the streets of Iri. It was a sightseeing process for Aaron and an opportunity to get to know Rodah a little more.
Of course, the natives they walked by didn’t miss the sight. Chief Akiri’s only child and daughter, with the stranger, walking side by side, talking and laughing.
Rodah knew, that seeing her with the navy officer was hot gist. The men, and especially the women, will gossip about them for weeks, until something better took their attention.
She also knew, the gossips will filter into Ese’s ears. She will wait for her friend to confront her, then she’ll talk sense into her head and try to make her stop behaving like a baby.
©Karo Oforofuo. August 2017. All rights reserved
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