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The familiar devil is better than the strange angel; yea right but at a point in time, not even the familiar devil would need to tell you to take a leap of faith and grab the wings of the strange angel. – ME (2014)
Some tasks are not as hard as it looks, or so Kate told me.
I rolled over on my orthopedic mattress and allowed the wind of my thought blow me away, off into the ‘thought city’, and right into memory lane.
“So I’ll like you to help my friend out” I said, looking straight into Kate’s eyes.
“Hehehe… Undercover mission indeed” she replied, as she removed her phone from inside her bag. “Punch in Dave’s digits”
“Hmm… I don’t have his digits. I mean he switches lines like an assassin so I’ll confirm it and get it to you” I looked inquiringly to confirm if my countenance didn’t give away the fact that I was lying just immediately after Sunday service.
“Ok. No problem. Just take a chill pill. I get the message. I have to carry out the operation as soon as possible cos she’s leaving lag and I have to make everything look very accidental right?… I gat all the brief right here” she said tapping her temple with her index finger. “I won’t let you down”
Kate was either taking this ‘mission’ thing too seriously or too nonchalantly. I couldn’t tell which. It wasn’t like we were some military operatives or some governmental Tom Cruise MI Ops. We were just 2 ‘bloody’ civilians who needed help with the aid of a premeditated drama.
For a reason I couldn’t specifically lay my hands on, I was beginning to feel uncomfortable in Kate’s car… Moreso, the whole church’s parking lot was left with around just ten cars scantily scattered here and there. I couldn’t wait for us to get this discussion over with, after refusing her offer to drive me home since I didn’t come to church with my car – I didn’t want her to know my place and I didn’t want distractions at this crucial time.
After all the explanations, exclamations and ‘must-answer’ questions, Kate agreed to come into play. One question I was very grateful to the heavens she never asked was who the fiancé in question was. That would be the dynamite to explode everything that sounded possible and real about this ‘mission’ and instantly turn it from mission to fiction.
“Other information stays classified or would be updated in my database ASAP right?” She asked this time looking more serious than Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider.
“You know what? Forget it Kate. That’s it. I’m outta here. This ain’t some ‘Lano-Delta’ gulf invading bullsh*t. This is just finding a way to accidentally make friends with another human being. Not a visitor from outer space!” I thought to myself.
“Yes, it would. Thanks dear. Gotta be on my way now… I’ll talk to you soon”. I smiled as I made my way out of the car and disappeared almost immediately with the help of the timely bike man.
Ikeja City Mall always looked different on weekends. Of course everyone was out of the inevitable hustle and bustle of the week to the hustle and bustle of the weekend. Lagos life. If you’re not in a hurry to work to make money during the week, you’re in a hurry to get to that event or hang out over the weekend. One sure thing is, you must always be in a hurry. The smallest state in its containing country but one of the most populous in its containing continent.
A bit laughable if you ask me.
This weekend was no different either, as people trooped in and out of the building engulfed by the presence of shoprite that the totality of the mall is often mistaken for shoprite. Smiling faces here and there, some girls taking pictures for new d.p’s under the large circular skylight, a few serious looking uniformed personnels and one particular female one, sleep-standing on duty.
“Sorry, excuse me. Hi!… I’m kinda finding it hard choosing between this lavender and acqua fresh. Can you help me?” Kate held two cans of ambi pùr air fresheners in her hands, smiling childishly as the lady she asked took some thinking time herself.
“It depends on space though.” She replied “if you’re placing it in a living room, I’ll go for the acqua fresh. I use lavender for my bedroom cos the scent is slightly thicker”
“Its my bedroom”
“Lavender it is. Thanks”
Kate continued her shopping and in a couple of minutes, was facing the shoprite cashier, smiling as her atm was being worked on for cash removal. As a very regular customer with good rapport with almost all the staffs, she whispered a few words into the cashier’s ears and was soon on her way. She was almost walking past the escalator when she got a light tap on the shoulder. It was the same lady who helped her with the fragrance choice. She wore a very straight face with distaste written all over it.
“Sorry, excuse me! I helped you decide and that’s not enough familiarity for you to pay for my cart”
“Its nothing dear. Thanks once again.” Kate smiled back
“Nineteen thousand is something when you don’t even know who you’re paying for. I’ll like to go pay myself if you don’t mind.”
“Actually, I didn’t pay cos you helped me with my ambi pùr decision. I paid cos you look very familiar but I just can’t place the face and I don’t wanna look too forward.”
“Yea. You were in London some two years back.” Kate said, tilting her head a little to show it was more of a question than a statement.
“Your favorite store was Northampton’s Walmart”
“Do you still buy a bar of sneakers every time you shop?” Kate’s smile was like a detective who just cracked a case.
“You’re freaking me out now”
“I’m Kate and you’re June.”
“Ok. That’s it Kate… You’re either a stalker or you just happened to slip out of my memory”
“A ten minutes conversation, thousands of kilometers away from home won’t have glued me to your memory anyway but I don’t just forget faces. Then you happened to be the first Nigerian I met back then, who wanted to go back home asap. Others get annoyed when you ask them when they’re going back home. They wear a very stupid frown and be like ‘when they’re sending my body back for burial”
Both ladies bursted into laughter.
“Did you also pay for me that day?”
“Three hundred pounds or thereabout but yes I did.” Kate replied starting to move towards the central rotating exit door.
“I think I know you now. Forgive my poor memory and thanks again”
Coincidentally, June’s Honda was parked just beside Kate’s Explorer jeep. They got talking, exchanged numbers and zoomed off in their respective directions.
I held Dorothy’s right hand, leaving the left for Lizzy. Freedom Park was the venue Lizzy had chosen for our hang out. We had loads of stuffs in our spare hands and we got a free shaded spot. In no time, I spread out the long mat while Liz set down the cooler and arranged the small chops we were going to munch to awaken our appetites. In a couple of minutes, we were seated and Tammy wasted no time at all, suppling the living things in her tummy their portion of the picnic goodies.
“I don’t really agree with what you’re doing Jay.” Lizzy said as soon as we had settled down. “What if this June girl gets to know?”
“A wise man is a man who however perfect his plan seems, he always have a contigency plan.” I replied with a half filled mouth. “If anything goes wrong my dear, I’ll take the escape staircase”
“You sef. The extents you’ll go to help and protect your friends are extreme and off limits. I hope they’re worth it and won’t hesitate to reciprocate if you were to be in need of their help”
I didn’t reply.
“The innocent etisalat guy at Abj won’t know what’s being prepared for him until the time he’ll get served” Liz continued, sipping her drink. “What a life!… But Dave didn’t have to go that far.”
“Mummy, I want to go and play football there” Tammy said pointing to a group of teenage girls kicking a rubber ball between one another.
I was just about telling her to go ahead and have fun before Lizzy cut me short.
“How many of your mates do you see there? Sit down there my friend and enjoy the match as a spectator.”
Tammy started to grumble and I handed her a pack of assorted digestives which helped calm her down, although she still looked very interested in going to join the older ladies some fifteen, twenty steps ahead of where we sat. I and Liz kept discussing about different things over our cups of drinks and plates of small chops. Since she was such a good conversation holder. We never ran out topics and we never got tired of listening to each other.
“Well, we didn’t plan to bring the rice and chicken all the way here and return it back home. Did we?” Lizzy asked stretching simultaneously and it made her sound like a recorded baby voice.
“No ma’am.” I replied, amused as usual at her voice.
“Then let’s eat. Or what do say Dorothy?… Dorothy?!”
I looked around to realize Dorothy was not there. “Dorothy?!” Liz shouted embarrassingly.
“Hey!… Easy dear. She must have taken her own escape stair case to join the footballers. My little Tammy and football though.” I said as we both walked towards the girls who seemed oblivious of everything else except their circle of excited friends.
“Sorry to interrupt girls but have you seen a little girl, about five years old, slim and a bit fair. She’s wearing a white round neck, jean short and a pair of white slips… And yea, she has sun shades on” I asked the girls, showing them a harmless smile.
All the innocent looking girls shook their head in unison and gradually, my heart began to beat fast and hard against my chest. I was scared but I dare not show it unless I want Liz to go haywire right there and then.
“Thanks girls.” Liz said removing her sun shades with her right hand while placing her left arm on her head like she wanted to reach over her head and touch her right ear. Fear was vividly written on Lizzy’s face and I just didn’t want to think ahead as was my habit. Not in a time like this.
“You go towards that direction, and I’ll go towards this side. She must have blended with one of these chidren scattered about in groups. Don’t be scared okay?”
“I’m not scared and I’m not going towards any direction. I’m coming with you.”
The cool breeze of the environment had no effect on my body system anymore as I began to sweat. I quickly wiped it off before Liz would notice. Liz kept shouting “Dorothy!” While I chose to call “Tammy!”.
“Hey boys! Please have you seen my daughter?” I said, coming accross a group of boys playing ‘Carry and Jump’. I described Dorothy’s appearance and they shook their heads too. Lizzy was starting to freak out.
“Or wait. She was here but her mummy, she has come and taken her away.” A little boy replied hesitantly.
Liz almost jumped on the kid who should be six years old. She firmly put both hands on his shoulder, with few centimeters between her face and his.
“Which direction did they go?… Where are they?” All the scared boy could do was point.
Without further ado, we promptly followed the direction and approached a mat where three grown up ladies sat and one little girl who I immediately assumed was Tammy. They sat in two on each side of the mat, all having their sides turned to us as we moved closer.
“Dorothy!” Liz shouted almost as we got there but to my uttermost suprise, everyone sitting on the mat were familiar faces.
“Titi!… June!… Kate!… What the f girls?… What are you doing with my daughter?”
They suddenly bursted into a scornful, irritating laughter and Lizzy immediately grabbed Tammy and tried pulling her out from amidst them, which led to a tug of war cos they started pulling her back. Confused, speechless and a bit freaked out, I joined the tug of war from Lizzy’s side and almost immediately, my phone started to ring. I ignored and we kept pulling. We were outnumbered but one way or the other we managed to wriggle Dorothy out of their grasps. Immediately, I shouted.
…And I woke up with a start!
Sweat was streaming all around my body and my heart was beating like crazy!… One of my worst ‘afternoon mares’ ever.
My phone rang again.
The only enigma is your mind. Conquer it, and you can conquer anything.