The following day started earlier for Andy. He was up and out before 6:00 AM. The movie shoot was to continue by 8:00 AM.
Despite the hotness of the weather and the fact that some casts had to start re-practising some of their roles all over because of a small rewrite, shooting went well. Mr Bamidele was all smiles and praises.
When they took a break that early evening, in preparation for the night filming, Andy called the driver. He picked at the second ring.
“Bros, I hail o!” He greeted, “time never reach yet na!”
“Good evening, oga.” Andy greeted. “I know. But I just realize I have a night shift. I wouldn’t be able to go out at that time.”
“Bros, na my work hours be this o. Unless you go pay. That’s why input am for 8 o’clock before.”
“I will pay,” Andy said. Not like he even thought he wouldn’t pay for the ride before. “If we don’t go there now, I don’t know when I’ll have the chanced again.”
“Ok. I dey come.”
The next 18 minutes saw the Uber parked in front of the lodge for casts and crew members. Andy took an excuse from the director, as Mr Bamidele wasn’t around, and promised to be back in an hour, or an hour and thirty minutes, latest.
He got into the Uber and in the next 45 minutes, they were parked in front of a busy compound. People trooped in and out of it.
“This place is really busy, at 7:45 pm,” Andy said, “I used to think people go home early?”
“People know wetin dem want na. Here, you fit get solutions to your wife problem. Come, make we go inside.”
The next 5 minutes saw them inside the spacious compound. At the opposite side of the compound, a small bungalow stood. Beside it was a twin duplex. Music, gists and sounds of laughter came from inside one of the duplex. The occupants were obviously having fun
The duo proceeded to the bungalow. In front of it, a man sat on a chair attending to people’s demand and enquiries.
There was a long queue on the other side of the table. The driver urged Andy to join in. He did same too.
Another 15 minutes went by before it got to their turn. The man, slim and elderly, looked at them closely before asking what brought them to his house.
“My friend here said you can help me,” Andy said.
“He want Wife,” the driver spoke.
“Is this true?” The elderly man asked with a smirk
“Yes. And without charms please.”
“The man chuckled. “Did he not tell you we don’t use charms here?”
“I tell am say no be native doctor,” the driver defended himself.
“Ok. I’m glad to know charm isn’t involved. So, I really need to return to work.” He looked at his wristwatch. The time was 9:00. “How fast is your process?”
“You pay. Three thousand naira. Then you pick a number from my desk,” he gestured at the numbers arranged on his table. In fact, the entire table was covered with numbers, and still, a lot was missing.
Andy couldn’t help but wonder how many clients bought all the missing numbers. And at three thousand naira each? He was almost tempted to do the maths.
He dipped one hand in his pocket and took out three thousand naira, which he handed to the elderly man.
“Now pick a number,” he said, urging Andy to come closer so he could see the numbers. The paper list was divided into two. One half had men at the top of the list. The other half had women.
Andy noticed more numbers had been bought off from the male number list. The desperation for marriage is real. He thought. This man was making cool money from a lot of people desperate for companionship. Including himself.
“181,” he finally picked a number.
The elderly man tore out that number and placed it on his hand. Now you can go inside.”
A man he had not noticed earlier on, dark complexion and short, emerged from the shadows and asked the duo to follow him.
He took them to the back flat of the bungalow and ushered them into the small apartment. It was tastefully furnished and there were a number of clients seated with beautiful women.
“Please sit here and wait for me,” he said.
The men took their sit. Andy watched the men and women in the room closely. While some of the ladies looked happy, a few others looked dull and sad.
He was still trying to understand exactly what was going on and how one just comes here to get a wife when their guide came back with a beautiful woman. Her red gown hugged her body to reveal curves in all the right places. Her hair hung loosely over her shoulders.
What Andy liked more, even before they got close enough, was the fact that her makeup was light, but beautifully done.
“This is your woman,” the man said, “if you two will take things forward after this, depends on you. We have played our part.”
Andy nodded. The guide walked out of the room, probably to go and guide more clients in.
“Hi,” Andy said to the beautiful woman in front of him.
She said nothing.
“Can you at least sit down so we can talk?”
“I have nothing to discuss with you,” she said.
“But I paid to talk with you. I paid so I have the chance to meet you and we talk about us, dating, marriage and babies.”
She slammed her hands against the table. “Don’t you hear English? I have nothing to discuss with you,” she gritted. “People come here to hook up with a good man or woman for marriage. You also come here? Can’t you look at yourself? If you can’t properly feed yourself how do you hope to feed me?”
“Wetin dey worry this one? Ehn?” The Uber driver spoke. He was visibly angry. “No be here I meet my wife too? And she get manners pass you,” he was boiling already.
Andy’s heart sank. “So you’re already judging me even before we talk?”
“Is there any other thing you want to talk about that is important?” She maintained a blank expression.
Andy looked around him. Now he understood better. This was a dating house, the offline version of a dating site. You pay to get access and try your luck. Unfortunately, he had only one try. Number 181. And number 181 was a girl who could only be impressed by rich guys.
“I’m sorry I came here to waste your time and mine.” He turned to the driver, “let’s go. “
They were already halfway out of the compound when the elderly man selling access at the front called out to them. “Leaving so soon?”
“Yes. Your girl is rude. Sorry,” Andy said without looking in his direction
“You can meet another girl.”
“And pay you more money, ba?”
“Your access is for the night,” the man smiled. “Three thousand per night. Until the night is over, you have access. So if you’re not in too much hurry, give it a try.”
The Uber driver stopped to look at Andy. “This one na awoof o. Dem no do am like this for my time. You no go still try?”
“No. I don’t want another insult. If I change my mind, I can come back here for access.” He turned to the elderly man, “thank you, sir. But it will have to be another time. I’m late for work already.”
“Ok then. I look forward to your return,” he smiled.
Andy couldn’t help but feel the elderly man’s smile was for the free money he made. If not that his mother was ill and desperate about him getting married and having kids, what in God’s name would bring him to a dating house?
They got into the vehicle. The driver turned on the ignition amidst rants of how mannerless girl number 181 is and how he prayed no man, not even the rich one, would marry her.
He had already moved the car when they noticed the elderly man walking up to them. He waved them to stop and then bent over to look at them through the open passenger side window.
“You said you want no charm. I translate that to meaning, anything that sounds fetish, even if it’s not.”
“If it’s really not fetish stuff, I’m good with it,” Andy corrected.
“Something tells me you wouldn’t come back here again, not after whatever experience you had in there. The truth is, when I started this business, the first two sets of people were more accommodating. Now, most of the girls just look out for guys in a jeep. They get sad when men who are not financially stable come for them. But if you’re open to a second option, then I have something for you.”
“What’s that?” Andy looked interested.
“I’ll appreciate if we can talk privately.”
Andy swallowed. He looked at the driver. “A few minutes, please.”
“No wahala,” he turned off the ignition.
Andy stepped out of the car and followed the elderly man back into the compound. They made their way to the second duplex.
“Wait here,” the elderly man said. He then proceeded to unlock the door with a key he had been holding. He spent a few minutes inside the duplex before emerging with a book in his hand. “Here,” he handed it to Andy.
Andy inspected the book. It had a brown leather cover and the words, ‘WW” was boldly embroidered in gold, on it.
“A gift my father brought back from India many years ago. He gave it to me then because I was a chronic womanizer. He told me what to do with it and I did. I had the most beautiful woman ever. She loved me. She adored me. I made her my queen. Our memories together are fresh in my head every day. And when we had to finally pathways, it was painful. But she made me a better man. I could never womanizer again because I didn’t think there was anyone as good as her out there.
Then one day, we met. Again.” He beamed. “Although she was different from the woman I used to know in many ways, she was and still is unique. We’ve been married for over ten years now and I don’t regret it.”
“Sounds like an interesting story,” Andy looked like he didn’t believe what the man had said. He looked at the book again and opened it to read. But he was surprised to see all the pages were blank.
“If this book is supposed to be a guide, why are the pages blank?”
“This is not a regular book. You’ll need to write on it what you want, including a wife. After your time together, the pages would go blank. If you’re lucky, you will meet her again. And this time, there’d be a possibility of happily ever after,” he grinned. ” If you want it, it will cost you.”
“You just want to rip me off?”
“No,” he shook his head, “I only want to help.”
Andy sighed deeply and looked at the book again. He ran a finger over the gold embroidered alphabets. “What does WW mean?”
“Write Wife. Anything you write comes to pass.”
Andy swallowed. So I really don’t need to write about a wife, bah? I can just write about long life for a loved one?”
“You can write anything. But the focus must be the wife you want.”
“You must have been a writer for it work wonders for you.”
“I used to write back in my youthful years. I never really took it professionally. It remained a hobby. So will you be taking the book?”
Andy looked at the book again and flipped through the empty pages. It was definitely an old book. And it felt mysterious; like it had the answer to all his problems.
“How much,” he looked up now.
“One hundred thousand. Believe me, that’s peanut compared to what this book can do.”
“You really just want to rip me off. Thanks, but I’ll pass,” he handed the book back to the man, turned around and started towards the gate.
“Pay sixty thousand,” the man called after him, “you and I know that’s as good as a giveaway.”
“I know nothing,” Andy said. “I’m not even sure your book works. Besides, what if it’s voodoo stuff?”
“Pay 30. Last price. I don’t need this book anymore. It’s why I thought to give it out. I can’t go below that price. It’s better you take the offer, or you would be missing a lot.”
Andy stopped in his tracks. He gave the offer a brief thought before walking back to the man. “Fine. I’ll take it.”
He took the book and made a mobile transfer to the man’s bank account.
“Here is my complimentary card,” the elderly man handed him a small card, “feel free to call me if you have any questions or need help with the book.
“Andy studied the name at the top of the card. Prof. Charles Okeme. “Thank you, professor.”
The elderly man smiled at the recognition. Andy smiled too and promised to be in touch if he needed help.
When he got back to the car, the Uber driver was surprised to see his passenger friend with a big book.
“Na book he give you?” He looked disappointed.
“Yes. The names of all the girls dey inside,” Andy replied.
“Oh boi ye!” He hailed as he started the ignition and then drove off. “You go enjoy o. All the gehs,” he laughed heartily.
Andy shook his head. Who would have thought he’d be so desperate for a wife and go as far as buying a blank book for thirty thousand naira? This was what his mother was doing to him. But of course, she wouldn’t know it. 30k, for a blank book, hoping to find a wife from inside it.
Well, wasn’t he already writing a book about the kind of wife he wanted? Why did he even think this book could bring him a woman who would fall in love with him?”
Definitely, sorcery was involved. He sighed, running one finger over the Golden words ‘WW’.
He tore his eyes away from the book and put them back on the road. All Andy wanted was to get back to the location for the night shoot, before calling his mom to check on her and her health. He looked at the time. It was 9:08 PM.
To be continued…
This is a Pelleura story.
Idea and write-up by Karo Oforofuo. Read the previous chapters here
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