6:00 am Saturday morning, saw the city come to life. Pedestrians went about their own activities as car horns blared throughout major roads in the city.
Priscilla was already out of bed and in the bathroom, despite coming home late the previous day, and sleeping off late after going through their records for the day.
She had spent so much time at Tuoyo’s, because he had not done anything about Mr Bamidele’s car door, and she wasn’t interested in leaving without the complete job done.
Of course, he had wanted to start a quarrel, just to divert attention from the work and postpone it again. But she had already paid the street guys before getting to the store and before Tuoyo could start a quarrel, they were there already, asking him to get the job done or get his workshop burnt.
Seeing the seriousness of the situation, he had gotten the door out and started immediately. The work was finally finished at about 3:17 PM. Priscilla had asked for some extra paint, and at 6:00 PM, when the door was slightly dry enough, thanks to the harmattan, she lifted it into her car with help from her street friends and drove back to the shop.
Faith was the only one left, but she had cleaned up and looked ready to move.
“What happened?” She had asked.
“I had to force him to get the job done.”
With Faith’s help, she got the door out of the car and repainted the parts that had lost paint, before locking it up in the workshop to dry.
The sisters would have headed home together, but Faith had said she was going to Harry’s place. The two were inseparable anytime Harry was in town. So they were not expecting her back until he was ready to return to his work at sea.
Gloria was still awake when Priscilla got home. She was the only one of the sisters living with Priscilla at the moment, and she normally took charge of putting all the details for the day in the logbook. She had prepared dinner; semo and afang soup. And Priscilla was happy to devour it.
Ella lived with her husband. And they already had a sweet little boy whose presence in their life was the major reason they were trying to work on their marriage
She couldn’t understand why Ella chose to stick with her husband. As long as Priscilla was concerned, Men are not worth any sort of sacrifice. The more she tried to make her sisters understand this point, the less they understood it. Even Faith had been dickmatized and lost her senses to sex. She wasn’t even sure if Harry was faithful or truthful.
Gloria seemed to be the only one playing safe by avoiding premarital sex.
Stepping out of the bathroom, she towelled her body dry as her thoughts shifted to the handsome stranger who visited the shop the previous day. She knew well enough Ella would try to hook them up, but she was not falling for it.
Sure, the guy seemed ok. But she wouldn’t be deceived, ever again. She was done with men. But on second thought, if she changed her mind, she could just use him by making him get her pregnant. All she needed was a child to call her own, then she’d adopt two more babies. No need for a man or his ring.
A knock at the door disrupted her thoughts.
The doorknob turned. The door opened slightly and Gloria passed her head through. ” I’m set. Waiting for you downstairs.”
“I’ll join you shortly.”
Despite some serious traffic at Akenzua, the ladies were able to reach the workshop in 45 minutes.
Ella was on the ground already, fixing Mr Bamidele’s car door. Faith joined them thirty minutes later, looking as radiant as the morning sun.
“Someone had fun!” Ella smirked.
“Ah, yes. She even almost died of it,” Faith chuckled as she changed into her work clothes.
“You should have just died so we can go on with our lives in peace,” Gloria said, with pouty lips.
Gloria, forget you’re my senior. I will whoop. Your. Ass.”
“Nobody’s ass is getting whooped. But all our asses are getting to work,” Priscilla announced, after giving Gloria a stern look.
The next hours saw the sisters attending to all the unfinished repairs from various cars, while Faith attended to new clients who wanted to get their tires pumped, or wanted other quick jobs done.
11:45 A.M. met Gloria and Faith getting ready to take a break when they heard a car pull up in front of the workshop.
“Oh. These people won’t let me sit for a minute,” Faith complained, throwing her hands up in frustration.
“No time for complaints, Faith,” Ella said from where she stood beside Priscilla, bent over an engine. “This is what pays the bills.”
“Good day, ladies,” a now-familiar voice greeted.
Everyone looked up from their respective positions.
“You came!” Faith grinned.
“Did your car spoil?” Priscilla asked.
“I’m not your ma’am!”
“Ok. Miss. I just thought I’d come to hang out with the most beautiful ladies in Benin City.”
Priscilla frowned and turned to Ella. “You really invited him?”
“Oh come on. I see he brought free food, and besides, we need company,” Ella said, in her most nonchalant way.
Getting up from her spot beside the engine, she walked over to stand in front of him looking very stern. Hammer in hand.
“What’s your name?”
“Gabriel, in case my sisters didn’t tell you, they are all hooked. One is married, the other is engaged, and the last has a serious relationship going. There’s no room here for you.”
“But you said, one is married, one is engaged and one is in a relationship. You never said anything about the fourth person, and I believe I’m looking at her.” He winked.
“There’s no need trying your luck with the fourth person. You’ll end up in regret.”
“Regret is a good thing, at least to an extent. It helps me remember the events that led up to it; brown eyes, beautifully structured nose, kissable lips, beautiful neck, and..” his eyes dropped to her cleavage.”
“Say the word, and this hammer will hit you hard.”
“And a lady with balls,” the smile didn’t reach his eyes this time. Her expression was enough to say, ‘not playing’, and Gabriel knew that.
“If you choose to stay and play away with my sisters, feel free. But don’t cross my path.”
“I’ll do worse than stepping on your balls. I’ll rip it off and feed it to street dogs: maybe even dash it to a ritualist. So stay far from me,” she pointed the hammer at him before going back to pick up the engine she had been working on and heading outside to work on the car it belonged to.
“So, what do you think about my sister?” Ella grinned, walking up to him.
“Before you two continue that conversation, can I take that bag of food? I’m starving,” Gloria asked.
“Me too,” Faith said from the table where she lay.
Gabriel handed it to her before turning to face Ella. “I was told this is the best place to fix my car and fall in love if I have balls. They didn’t remember to tell me it’s also one of the places to have missing balls or die.”
“Not funny.” He turned to look in the direction Priscilla went. “What exactly makes her like that anyway?”
“Like I said yesterday, she’s had it bad!” Faith responded as she opened one pack of jollof rice from the Mat Ice bag. “And in case of next time, please buy something to swallow. I prefer it to chewing rice after some serious hard work.”
“Can you just be grateful for the rice? And besides, I think you mean Harry deflated your energy bag last night because I’ve never seen you this tired at what, only 1:15 pm.” Gloria countered.
“Just say you’re jealous. You’ve never tasted Frank and you’re not sure he is any good.”
“You’re a hopeless case!” Gloria dropped on the nearest couch and descended on her own plate of rice.
Gabriel smiled. Then he turned to Ella. “If there’s anything I love about your sisters, it is the fact that they say it as it is. No pretence.”
“We have no use for it. As for Priscilla, here are the rules. Don’t try to impress her. Don’t let your statements or actions indicate that she’s weak. Keep patriarchy at arm’s length. Call a spade a spade. Say otherwise, and it’s over. Can you handle that?”
“Good. Now one last thing. If you eventually get her and turn out to be no different from the other guys, I’ll be the one doing the killing myself.”
“We’ll join you in the killing,” Faith winked.
Gabriel chuckled. One could easily tell he was ready for whatever tough game the ladies had.
Not wanting to lazy about, he joined Ella in coupling another engine. Of course, he was mostly learning the tricks and handing her working tools. After coupling the engine, they headed out to the car the engine belonged to, amidst his asking a lot of questions about their job and how they operate.
“So how did you get the men in this city to patronize you ladies? I know how we men can be about ladies helping us fix a car.”
“As you can see, we don’t have so many customers. But the few we have remain loyal after trying us out. We started by giving free repairs, just to spread the word about how good we are. It worked because most of the new clients we have were by referral. Even you came here by referral.”
“Yes I did,” he nodded, as Ella opened the bonnet of the Kia SUV. She went straight to fixing the engine. “Have you tried videoing your work here and uploading it on social media? You’ll go viral instantly, grow your followers and get customers like crazy.”
“We tried once. Didn’t go well.”
“Wow! How did you go about it?”
“We got a graphics person to design an e-flier and circulate it. And to think we paid heavily for that stuff.”
“What did the graphics look like?”
“Just a normal kind of flier. We got just 5 prospects from that deal. And when they came with their cars, saw that we were all ladies, only 2 remained. The other three, one lady and two men, drove off without a word. Look, it’s no use. Just forget it.”
“No, I won’t. The person who handled this for you the first time didn’t know jack about what he was doing. Will you give me a try? Let me do this for you?”
“Is that what you do for a living? Social media?” He heard a now-familiar voice ask. Gabriel turned around to find Priscilla emerging from underneath a car, with the aid of a ground glider.
“Oh, now you want to talk to me?”
“Not really,” she dusted her hands before moving to face the open bonnet of the car. ” I’m only wondering why people like you waste time on social media and expect everyone to do the same.”
“Social media is not a waste,” he said, taking a few steps in her direction. “It gives you the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world. In the long run, you get clients from all over the world.”
She chuckled wickedly. “What a stupid thing to say. What makes you think people will cross borders with their cars, just to repair it here in Nigeria; Benin City of all places?”
“You seem like a pessimist. So here is my offer. Give me the free hands to record you ladies and the work you do here. I’ll handle editing of the videos, graphic designs, opening a dedicated Instagram page and managing your growth. When you get your first 100 clients, then you pay me. Deal?”
“How can you be here all day, every day, filming us? Don’t you have work to attend to?” Ella asked.
“Well, lucky for all of us, I’m on a one month break from work.”
“Where do you work?”
“That’s not important. But you can call me an officer.”
“So you’re police?” Priscilla frowned at him.
“No. Not the police.”
“Then what?” Ella insisted.
“I work with the State Security Service, Abuja.”
“We don’t like anything uniform. The people who wear them are terrible,” Priscilla said. “But we’ll give you a chance. I want this business to grow. It’s the only thing I’m interested in. If you can make it work, then we have a deal. Yes?” She stretched one hand for a shake.
“Deal,” he took her hand. But she yanked it away as soon as the shake was over and then returned to work like he didn’t even exist.
Gabriel signed and returned to Ella’s side. When she looked up at him, a smile tugging at her lips, he shrugged.
“Give it time,” she whispered, “besides if you pull off this social media thingy, you may just get a chance. So, SSS huh?”