Kunle’s mother scrolled for a while on her contact list. When she saw the contact she was looking for, she pressed the green button and waited for the other party to pick up. She got up to close and lock the door before returning to her chair.
‘Hello?’ she said into the phone.
‘K Mama! What’s up babe?’ the female voice on the other end asked.
They spoke for about fifteen minutes before she disconnected the call. This is just perfect, she said to herself. She opened the lid of her laptop and got to work on the day’s account, humming while she worked. She was greatly excited. One good turn deserves another, she thought, isn’t that the popular saying?
Anike was given a long broom with a handle along with a dustpan. Her job for the day was to sweep up debris that was deposited near the entrance every few minutes by incoming customers.
As she worked, she kept up a fantasy in her mind. In her daydream, Kunle’s mother accepted her into her family and she lived happily ever after. Her fantasy played like a movie and she smiled to herself. If daydreams were horses, runaways like her would surely ride and enjoy every step of the way.
Later at night when it was time to close up shop, Kunle’s mother summoned Anike. She wasn’t seating at her table this time, she was reclining comfortably on a sofa. She patted the space beside her and Anike sat.
‘I hear you worked really hard all day.’ She said.
‘I tried to, ma.’ Anike replied, trying to understate the work she had done. After sweeping up dirt for a while, she had proceeded to doing this and that; little jobs that ensured that she stayed on her feet for most of the day.
The woman nodded, ‘I think you’ll do well.’ She said cryptically.
‘Thank you, ma.’ ‘Listen, I’m a very nice person and since you told me your story, I’ve been thinking of ways to help you. Ideally, I’d have you complete your education but that depends on you.’
‘I would love to complete my education, ma.’ Anike replied, shifting to the edge of her seat.
‘That’s great then, have you written your SSCE?’
‘Yes ma. I had 6 B’s and 3 C’s.’
‘Good,’ The woman returned, she seemed happy with the answers she was getting, ‘how would you like to study abroad?
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Anike stared at Kunle’s mother. Was this woman being serious? They had just met today for heaven’s sake. A total stranger was offering to take her abroad for further education.
This was way better than her fantasy. She just couldn’t hold back the tears as she got on her knees and expressed her effusive thanks.
‘It’s okay,’ She said, somewhat embarrassed, ‘Help the girls with the packing so we can get home. Isn’t Kunle back yet?’
Three weeks later, Kunle had to go back to school. His semester break was over. He was resuming as a 200 level student of Transport Management at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology. He was glad to be shedding the title of a fresher as the stallites were always on their case.
As if they weren’t freshers once, Kunle thought with contempt. He looked around his room one more time, hoping he didn’t forget to pack anything he might need.
He had stocked his massive travelling bag with all sorts of consumables from his mother’s supermarket and it was now so heavy that he couldn’t carry it alone. He looked out of the window of his room and yelled the gateman’s name.
‘Abeg come help me with this bag, I no fit carry am alone.’ He shouted.
‘I dey come.’ Yahaya, the gateman yelled back. He dropped the watering can he was holding and proceeded to the main house. When he got to Kunle’s room, he tried to prove how strong he was by lifting the bag by himself -typical Yahaya- but he didn’t take up to five steps before he dropped it again.
‘Kai, oga, this thing heavy.’ He lamented, straightening his back.
‘Aha! So you sef know say something heavy. Shebi you dey prove superman?
Yeye.’ Kunle derided.
Yahaya, now feeling challenged, gave Kunle a condescending smile before lifting the bag clean off the floor and unto his right shoulder. He then marched noisily out of the room and down the stairs. Kunle smiled to himself. Mission accomplished! Manipulating Yahaya was a favourite pastime of his.
‘Kuuuuunnnnnnleeeee!’ his mother’s voice interrupted his self congratulations.
Kunle hurriedly scanned the room one more time. He was grateful that his mother was going to drop him in school and Anike was tagging along. He couldn’t imagine handling all that baggage by himself. He was going to miss her though, he thought as he ran down the stairs of the duplex.
He had gotten so used to her presence over the past few weeks that he tried persuading his mom to let her seek admission to Lautech instead of travelling abroad.
His mother wouldn’t have any of it, though. The arrangements were being made. Even when Anike told her that her WAEC statement of result was back in Lagos, the woman wasn’t deterred. ‘I’d come up with something’ was her reply.
True to her word, Kunle’s mother presented Anike with her passport that weekend. They were travelling to Lagos together so she could take delivery of some items she had ordered for the supermarket.
She planned to attend to business after handing Anike over to a bosom friend of hers. Kunle’s mother complained all the way to Lagos about the state of the Ibadan airport.
Why, she asked Anike, was the airport not functioning? Anike grunted sympathetically at intervals. She didn’t care about local airports and their functionalities right now.
She was worried to death about the possibility of coming across her uncle at the airport. He travelled to the U.K a lot on business and all hell would break loose if she happened to meet him.
A couple of hours later, the plane was in the air. Anike was seated beside Aunty B, the woman Kunle’s mother had handed her over too. She would be her guardian over the course of her studies.
All she had to do was do a little bit of housekeeping and as Kunle’s mom had told her, keeping a house was a cheap price to pay for her board. Anike tried to relax.
It was her first time on a plane and she had been too scared to be excited. She glanced at Aunty B who was settling down to sleep beside her. She was a voluptuous fair skinned woman in her late thirties, not quite beautiful but attractive.
Anike thought she looked a bit like Kunle’s mom. A slim white woman dressed in black was sitting on the other side of Anike, a window seat. She smiled at Anike when she caught her gaze. Anike smiled back shyly.
‘Hi,’ the woman greeted, obviously willing to make conversation.
‘Good afternoon.’ Anike replied.
‘Is that your mom?’ the woman asked pointing to Aunty B.
‘No, she’s my guardian.’
‘That’s interesting. Are you going to Italy on holiday?’
‘Not Italy,’ Anike gently corrected, ‘I’m going to school in England.’
The woman frowned. ‘This plane is headed for Rome.’
‘No ma, it’s going to London.’
‘Let me see your passport.’ She said to Anike, stretching her hand.
Anike rummaged in her small handbag and produced her passport. She handed it over to her, secure in her knowledge that the woman didn’t know what she was talking about. She watched as the woman opened her passport.
‘Aha! Your visa is for Italy.’ She said triumphantly, she then paused and raised an eyebrow, ‘You were playing a prank, right?’
Anike snatched the passport from the lady’s hand and stared down at the first page. She immediately saw that whatever was written on the page wasn’t English. She scanned it desperately and a moment later, she saw it clearly; VISTO ITALIA.
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Anike glanced at Aunty B on her right side. She was fast asleep. Why would she be headed for Italy? She asked herself. Kunle’s mom had stated that she was going to England to enter the university. It then occurred to Anike that Kunle’s mom hadn’t asked her for the subjects she took at SSCE.
Neither had she asked what she wanted to study. And how would one gain admission into a university without their previous academic record? She started to panic.
She had been too stupid to see the signs. The white woman was now staring at her strangely but Anike barely noticed. She was trying hard to figure out what was going to happen to her once the plane touched down.
To be continued…