I am feeding Gabby his breakfast when Ifeanyi half-runs into the dining room, looking very flustered.
“Oh God! Ada, I am finished!” he erupts.
“What happened?” I ask, getting worried at once.
“Today is 7th?” he says, staring at me, looking at once unsure and hopeful as he waits for me to answer.
I am not sure if he’s asking me or telling me, but I answer nonetheless. “Ehen? Yes, it’s the seventh, what about it?” I hope he is not going to make me pull out the reason he claims to be ‘finished’ bit by annoying bit.
“I told you before that ANNAMCO asked me to come for an interview.” I nod, and he bursts out with, “I can’t find the letter, and it’s today! I was asked to come with the letter. Worse still, I did not prepare for the interview! What kind of thing is this now!” he wails.
“Ah! This is serious o!” I say. “How come you did not remember to prepare for your interview? It’s not this morning you should be looking for your letter nah.”
“I know! I’ve just been busy!” he wails again.
Of course! Busy hanging upside down with Leticia! I think uncharitably. Aloud, I start to say, “You have to calm down –”
“Calm down?!” he erupts again, cutting off my words. “Calm down?! How can I calm down? I’m looking for something and you’re saying calm down!” He sighs and starts pacing up and down the dining area. “Oh God! What is this now!” he keeps muttering.
Lekwa this man I’m trying to help, and he’s shouting at me! Enwero di m efe! I fume inwardly and continue feeding Gabby, resolutely saying nothing to him.
A few moments pass, before Ifeanyi stop right behind me to ask, “So, you’re not perturbed, abi? It does not concern you, shey?” He seems very close to tears now. He pushes out one of the dining seats and plops down heavily on it, holding his head in both palms.
“See wahala o! Guy, you don’t shout at me that way, and expect help from me. Did you give me your letter to keep? Or did you ask me to remind you of the interview, and I failed to do that? Why are you taking out your frustrations on me?” As I say this, I get up from the chair I’m sitting on and, lifting Gabby into my arms, I move away towards the sitting room, in readiness to take him to school.
I go into the bedroom to grab my purse and car keys. When I come out to the living room again, he is still sitting dejectedly at the dining table, with his head in his hands.
Feeling my pique give way, I say, “Ok, how do you want me to help?”
“I don’t know!” His voice wobbles with the strength of unshed tears. “I really want this job…” he says, his voice breaking.
“Ok, calm – I mean, don’t worry, we will find the letter, and you will go for that interview. Who knows, they may ask you the difference between a rat and a hedgehog,” I quip, trying to lift his spirit.
He doesn’t so much as crack a smile.
“Alright, can you remember when you last saw the letter?” I ask, giving up on my skills as a comedian.
“I can’t remember. That day they gave it to me, I think,” he says, his answer quite useless.
“Ok, think well, when you brought it home, was it in a bag or a newspaper, or in a file…?” I try to jog his memory.
“It was in an envelope. A white envelope. ANNAMCO was printed on the envelope. I showed it to my brother, and then took it inside my room.” His face contorts a bit as he speaks, and I can imagine him dredging his memory with a rake.
“Wait! I think I saw that envelope somewhere… Hold on…” I sprint off towards the bedroom. I come back two minutes later with an ANAMCO envelope. “Is it this one?”
“Yes!” he screams excitedly, coming closer with an outstretched arm. “Let me have it.”
“There’s no letter inside o!” I say, handing him the envelope.
His face immediately falls.
“Sorry,” I add. “I think you should look for it in your room. Check your files, your bag and those magazines you carry when you’re going out.” I truly feel sorry for him. “I have to take Gabby to school.”
And just then, I remember Nneamaka. Picking up my phone to call her, I notice she has already called me three times.
“I’m sorry, nne m,” I apologize for the umpteenth time, but for the first time in person, to Nneamaka, as she enters the car with Nuella.
“No problem,” she says. “I was a bit worried when you did not pick my calls. I thought maybe you’ve forgotten me and gone to drop Gabby.”
“That’s not possible nau! I don’t forget things like that. I was helping my brother-in-law look for a letter he misplaced.”
“So, are you working or anything?” Nneamaka asks me as I start the drive down the road.
“No, I’m still searching for a job. You?”
“I’m searching too, but nne, ehn! This Enugu is a very dry place. No jobs anywhere. Unless you want to teach in primary schools, and even that isn’t well-paying.”
“Tell me something I don’t know. Enugu is my area. I know more that you could possibly know. It’s worse for mothers that need time for their families.” And then, I ask her, “Where did you guys move from?”
“Long story o! But in a nut shell, we used to stay in Delta State. My husband works with one company that installs and maintains internet services. They keep transferring him.” She grimaces at this.
“I was working with one small oil company in Warri, they paid well. When my husband was transferred to Port Harcourt, I stayed back in Delta, applying and praying for them to transfer me to their PH office. When after six months, they didn’t, and I was tired of either my husband or I and Nuella being on the road every weekend, I resigned and moved to PH. I found a school. They were paying well too, then, fiam! They transferred my husband again. This time, I did not even wait. I just resigned and quietly followed him.”
“Eiyaa,” I say in commiseration. “So, you will join the housewives of Africa club, ehn?” I chuckle as I say this.
“N’ebee? For where?!” she fumes. “God forbid! I cannot do that thing o! I cannot just stay idle, biko. I’m already taking courses at NIHOTOUR –”
“What’s that?” I interrupt to ask, befuddled. “What is NIHO…whatever?”
“NI-HO-TOOR!” she pronounces, spelling out the syllables. “It means Nigerian Institute for Hotels and Tourism.”
“Uhm…okay. So, what do they do there? Do you want to start a hotel?”
Her laughter erupts at my question, and she throws her head sideways to give free reign to it. “Sorry, I laughed,” she gasps, still laughing. “The very idea of me starting a hotel…” She keeps laughing.
“Are you just going to keep laughing, or will you answer me?” I ask, feeling a bit cross.
“Ok, sorry. The institute mainly runs a catering school. They teach how to make continental and intercontinental dishes on a large scale. Also, they teach pastries and confectioneries. When I finish, I want to start a catering service business. I’ll call it SOPHIENUELLA Catering Nigeria Limited.”
It was my turn to laugh, and I made good use of it.
At this time, we’ve gotten to the school, and I park my car and proceed to unstrap Gabby from his booster seat. I lock the car doors, and we walk towards the school gate.
“Why did you laugh?” Nneamaka queries as we join the melee of parents dropping off their wards in the school.
“Don’t mind me,” I cajole. “I am just happy for you. You have your set goals. You already have a name for your catering service. It’s a good thing.”
When we are done with the business of handing over our children to their teachers, we walk back to the car.
“Where are you going from here?” I enquire.
“I’m going home,” she says. “We – my compound women and I – are going to Afia Idodo.”
“What’s happening there?”
“Nothing o! Just to buy food stuff. They are quite cheap there.”
“Hmm? That’s cool. I’ve never heard of that place. I shop at Ogbete market.”
“Aahh! That place na big woman market o! Afia Idodo is way cheaper, more so when you buy in bulk.”
“How often do you guys go there?”
“Well, it’s an every four-day market. You know these Igbo market day thingy? But we go monthly sha.”
“That’s nice. Maybe I’ll come with you guys one of these days,” I say. “If them go gree make Selense join them,” I add as an afterthought.
“Are you serious? You don’t want your selense reputation intact?” Nneamaka asks, quite seriously. “Don’t come with us o! Maybe on another market day when they are not going, I’ll take you there.”
“Sounds like a plan!” I say, smiling, as I drive off towards New Haven.
I walk into the house to see a grinning Anyi.
“Ah! What is going on? Did you find the letter?” I ask, pulling off my sandals.
“Yep!” he replies, his grin widening, if that is possible. “I found it. And the interview is on the seventeenth, not seventh.”
I smile, shaking my head. “Thank God for you sha. Better go and prepare for the interview. If you like, go and be running up and down the whole town with Leticia and forget this date too,” I throw back over my head as I make my way to the bedroom.
Lekwa this man… – Look at this man…
Enwero di m efe! – Do I have time?
N’ebee – For where
Afia Idodo – Idodo market.
Written by Adaku J.