Tugo had been in the village for two days. That was the first time he had seen as many people gathered in one place- the market day. He still couldn’t believe he was there. His father had thought to send him there in order to revitalize their family business there- a farm. He had willingly accepted. Willy, his childhood friend had been sent there for two years and he had achieved nothing. Tugo couldn’t wait to tell the world once more that he was better.
The village disappointed him though; there was no electricity. They predominantly drew water from the well. He had complained bitterly and was reconsidering going back. But Willy tried to make him stay.
“You know what? I know of a place that would soothe your nerves somehow” Willy said as they were strolling through the streets one evening.
“Somehow? Bro, you should know my issue with somehows by now”
Willy went silent, he knew he had piqued his friend’s curiosity and was more than sure he would respond. He tried to keep his curiosity at bay but couldn’t; biting his lips he asked, “What do you mean by somehow?”
“You are quite a spoilt kid”, Willy said while laughing.
“You know how I wouldn’t like to be reminded”
“Just after the town hall, there is this eatery. It’s operated by our people. ”
“Wow, that is almost good news. We should be going there then! ”
Tugo increased his pace already. It was difficult to maneuver one’s way through the market place due to the crowd and the road being too narrow made it even more herculean. That day, being a market day, everywhere was littered with people. Willy led the way. He occasionally shouted at the passersby moving too slow or abruptly stopping to turnaround or price a good. Tugo was thankful that Willy could at least understand a little Yoruba. He even envied him for that.
Almost all the women could be head counted at a glance as many of them wore hijab; a traditional scarf for Muslim women both married or unmarried. The noise emanating from the trader’s banter sounded different to Tugo basically because he couldn’t understand what they were saying. Some beckoned on him to buy from them. He waved his head awkwardly indicating disinterest in their goods as he struggled not to lose Willy.
They walked down the road to a junction and then turned right into the shades. Tugo was greeted immediately with a stench of raw goat meat. He was taken aback. Willy was quick and he couldn’t complain at that moment. There should have been another route than through that slaughterhouse. The heads of goat stared at him coldly as he passed like they were going to haunt his dreams for daring to witness their shame. When at last they passed the slaughterhouse, he heaved a sigh of relief, thanking God for a safe passage. Willy had a mischievous smile on his face as he slowed down so he could catch up with him.
Willy knew how best to maneuver him. He wouldn’t even deny the mastery of his emotions by Willy. He was such a fine man and nothing seemed to get him angry. It was as if a frown could cause havoc to his handsomely carved face. He would have gotten jealous of him instantly if he himself wasn’t good looking too. If Willy could survive that place for two years, then he could too. He told himself as he watched him battling to hide the smile on his face.
“It’s not quite a cool place but they definitely cook better than other eateries here”
“Other eateries? I am gradually getting scared of your definition of eatery” He looked stolidly at him for more explanation. He only laughed and turned away from him slowly.
“Do the assessment yourself. We are here already.”
“What? I can still perceive the stench of dead goats.” He sniffed the air with his nose twitching from left to right to be sure he was right.
The cooking was done outside in a passageway between an adjacent building and the little bungalow serving as the sitting room. The waste water flowed down the pathway. The large cooking pots were on top of the charcoal stoves which were a little bit too close to the wall which had already turned black from the soot. Likewise the big water containers near the kitchen table. At the other end was the charcoal heap which was left to lither the floor. This turned the whole kitchen floor black. A woman sat by the heap cutting leaves and dishing out commands. She was wearing a very dirty gown. She didn’t seem like she got up much from that position.
Tugo gave a knowing stare to Willy.
How can I eat here? Is this the eatery?
Then almost as if to answer his question, he saw a contrast. It was almost sudden. They were as fair as the sun, gliding through the floor from the kitchen to the sitting room. They were clothed in colourful garments; orange, yellow and red. With a colourful snicker that made it seem they floated on top of the dirty floor. The contrast suddenly became beautiful.
“Ada!” Willy’s voice brought him back to the present.
He must have known my thoughts before choosing to bring me here. He mused absent mindedly with his eyes still fixed on what he thought was an apparition in front of him.
“Willy,” One of the beauties turned, smiled and approached. “It’s been long!” Her voice was like sweet music to the ear and she was truly a beauty. She wore makeup which was neither too heavy nor too light; it was just like she was born with it. Her lips were painted orange to match her top and had her natural hair drawn tightly to the back making her circular face very much prominent. She tilted her head a little to the side casting a glance at him. “A new guy?” she asked in Yoruba.
“Taa, speak Igbo biko?” Willy retorted.
“Will, free me. Kedu?”
Tugo thought she was a little bit too polite. How else would he be when an old cracked television was showing HD quality video right in front of him? It was incredulous. He was dumbfounded and stunned yet feigned nonchalance.
“I am okay and hungry. What do you have?” It might have come out hard but he was trying hard not to show his thoughts; not to show how beguiled he was.
What is a beauty like this doing in this small village? His thoughts wandered off again.
“I’m sorry” Ada replied. She was still smiling. “We have swallow, Egusi and Ogbono soup” She had a captivating smile. Her nose was so small and pointed. She looked him in the eyes.
As she spoke she adjusted her dirty blue apron. The threads fastening the edges were loose letting some part to sag. Tugo didn’t know what to make of the whole scenario unfolding before him.
“And I am sorry. No rice” she added, blending her English with Yoruba.
“It’s finished, right?” Willy interjected. Ada understood the sarcasm and cast him a knowing look. Willy laughed. He ushered Tugo onto a bench by the corner. Both the bench and the table were a little too low. He was no longer feeling comfortable.
“Wilson! Oga, good evening sir. You would want to wash your hand. Tugo was completely startled. Who just spoke? Willy laughed again and said, “Man voice. I always wondered if these plastic kettles are only used for washing hands”
“You guessed right, that was why I asked?” the one he referred to as man voice was now staring at Tugo.
“Nope, we are all the faithful flock of one shepherd. What’s your name?”
She couldn’t hide her astonishment. She didn’t respond. Her lips were bigger. The eyeliner she applied made her eyes appear bigger. “Blessing but I call her Ben” Willy responded instead. Just like him, saving the situation.
“You are witty and…” Blessing made to sit but Ada suddenly pushed her away with her elbow as she was carrying food. She dropped the food and sat by Willy’s side opposite Tugo.
“You don’t want to start talking to her now. You might lastly not eat” She unloaded the tray.
“You have not told us your name.”
“Tugo Chiturugo” He knew his name was awesome and unique. His ears had been configured to receiving admiration after saying his name but she failed to be just anybody.
“What about you or your unbuttoned shirt would actually give God glory just now. See Willy. Already with a playboy name.” She cuffed Willy’s shoulder playfully. Tugo was already getting mad.
“I seem not to understand what you are saying” he complained but he understood, he always did understand.
Look at the way they speak with signs; the nudges. What could be the reason he is not dating this one already? He could if he wanted to? Why should he give me something he rejected or better still, someone he has used and dumped? This is one of the reasons I never wanted to be near him again. I am the son of one of the richest men in the state and I am doing well for myself. In fact, if I so wished, I could press a little harder and have myself transferred out of this village. Willy might have all the charm but I have more and more money and prominence too. The more he looked at them the angrier he seemed to get. He shifted his bench backward and exited the scene without a word.
“Tugo! Tugo!” Willy called after him but he didn’t answer. He vowed not to talk to him again. Willy is a friend turn brother but he didn’t like the way he outshone him in everything without apology.
Tugo had made sure to avoid Willy in the church. They hadn’t seen each other since the incident. He left the church immediately after service. The long narrow way that led from the church building to the commercial way seemed farther than it was. He could hear the congregation ululating from behind. He quickened his steps. He had put a call across to his father asking for immediate reassignment. He knew the petition wouldn’t be denied. He had been stern while talking. He still felt disturbed why he should be so affected by Willy’s action. He tried not to think of him, or the damsel that never left his thoughts.
The sound of the bike jolted him out of his thoughts. The biker was in black; putting on black gloves and black helmet.
He hesitated. Who could it be? Then she pulled off her helmet. She had made her hair. It was like a waterfall of liquid gold being harassed by the wind. Her pink was red. That smile was still there. But she looked mean, or rather had a taunting smile on. The image he was trying so hard to put off is now registered by the eyes. And the prospect of her dressing like a man and riding a bike too enticed him. Who is this girl? What else can she do? Can she eat with fork and knife? He was almost amused by the thought.
I am marrying no one! He suddenly corrected his line of thought.
Tugo hopped in. “You should know not to over speed. I don’t like…” The bike started with a little jolt and Tugo gave out a curse. She was now actually speeding. Tugo decided not to shout but involuntarily his hands was wrapped around her waist tightly. She was warm beneath. The passing wind seemed to knock off all his resistance. He even pressed closer and suddenly was lost in the moment. All the while she said nothing.
He didn’t complain of the fact that he could see no more houses but bushes. Let her do the worse. The bike skidded off the tarred road into a bush path. She stopped after some time.
“Get off!” she confidently ordered.
Tugo obediently got off the bike.
Whatever she’s doing, I will punish her later.
He watched her park the motorcycle by the tree. She led the way. She lifted some young branches to reveal breathtaking scenery. It was a hill that overlooked a vast of the country side. It was amazing. There was a rock by the side, they sat on it. Unconsciously, he wondered if she had ever been there with Willy. He hadn’t noticed the small box she was carrying until she extended it to him.
“Here! You didn’t finish your food” Her English was perfect. He was impressed. He knew the game of words and wanted to play.
“I will eat only if you apologize.”
“The only person that needs hear my apology now is God. I chose you over him by skipping church to give you a ride. ”
“I thought you go to church on Fridays? And besides, this is not the type of ride that so pleases me”
“I don’t know how to ride. But I have been practicing”
“For that special somebody, that’s how it goes. I am not the one biker type, as a disclaimer. I really like what I see. The other day, at the restaurant wasn’t about you. I am going to eat the food first. Enough energy is needed for this ride.”
“Oh! Such a spoilt brat. Willy said so” She watched his mood change totally. “Eat the food, it will soothe your anger. It’s not good to expose your vulnerabilities like that. Willy is a good person. ”
Here it goes again and again. Is she trying to compare us?
“No! I don’t like him. At least not in that way. He isn’t a man but a boy. But one thing is certain, he’s a good boy and your loyal friend. He was interested in me the first day I met him. I played him as I do with all men. Then one day, he told me of how beautiful I was, how I was hiding away in this village and…how he would want me to meet his friend. He thought I was too good for him. That you deserved me more”
She studied him again.
“Some people are just gifted by nature. You can’t take it away from them. You can’t just beat them. But you can use them. Willy is a loyal friend. He can do anything for you. He was able to forfeit his feelings for me for you. He told me of someone who might come. And I like what I see”
Unable to contain his emotions any longer, he pulled her close and gave her a deep kiss.
“Your sins are forgiven thee. I can’t let a beauty slide me by. I have been with many girls enough to know when one is sincere. I think you are because everything you just said is rubbish, I just like the way you said it.”
He brought out his phone. “Excuse me; I need to call my father…”