My nightmare began on the 13th of December when my father died of heart attack in one of the private hospitals in Lagos. The Yoruba adage says “when the crown has fallen from the head what is left is disgrace”. Indeed, what was left after my father’s death was more than disgrace, like lightning in the sky, we were stricken by poverty and all the faces we had grown to know, became foreign.
We held the burial ceremony in my father’s house in Ilorin, when every members of the family disagree to agree we lay him to rest in one of the public cemetery in Ilorin. My father had lived all his life in Kogi, he stayed there for more than thirty years, where he met my mother, before she died in an accident, so I had thought he would be laid to rest where he had spent all his youth. Although, he is a native of Kogi, but who am I to face the vultures in human clothing on where to bury my father.
Mama shade, my father’s immediate sister, kept feeding us with words we can’t really place as condolence or declaration of abandonment. After a long discussion, my elder sister, Bolatito left the sitting room when it became crowded with neighbors and distance relatives. My father had told us series of bad event that had taken place between him and his sister, he once claimed she might be a witch, and due to this reason we had no close relationship with our fathers family. The burial ended in two days and every one left for their homes.
Everything we say echo back to us, all the furnitures has been sold for the burial and at that period my sister was in ss3, therefore, we had no income to furnish the house or feed ourselves. Everyone had gone back to their various houses; except for uncle Shile who stayed to see what we were going to do next with our life. After a long deliberation we decided to travel down to Lagos with uncle Shile.
I had traveled to some other states in Nigeria but Lagos seem different. It has beautiful buildings like those in American movies with colorful flowers surrounding each house. The houses looked identical except from the numbers differentiating them, the road to the buildings was tiled, which was quite different from that of Ilorin. Uncle Shile quickly explained what the place was called when he noticed I kept staring at everything I walked past. He said it was an estate and only rich people are known to acquire such luxurious building, he held my hand and made sure we walked at a fast pace to reach his house as quickly as possible.
We stopped in front of a building, boldly stamped number thirty with green color. He made a call to his maid, Rashidah to open the door for us. After we had made our way into his house, we met His wife, Aunt Gloria who was seated on one of the couch in the sitting room with her leg crossed. Bolatito greeted her, and she responded grumpily, I was too tired to give that a serious thought, hence I asked Uncle where we would be sleeping for the night. He gave instruction to Rashidah to direct us to the boy’s quarter which was built separately from the main house. I was disappointed we had to leave the main house, everything in the house glitters, from the chairs with straps of gold to the glass cups placed on the dining table and the bulbs changes color like we were in a disco house. It was definitely a good place to quickly forget our sorrows.
I held my sisters hand as we made our way to the boy’s quarter and I could hear the rate of her heart beat, which sounded like a loose grinding machine and the excessive sweat coming from her palm made my hand sticky. She kept wiping her face with her other hand and sniffing the mucus that has made it way out to her upper lips. ‘’I hope she was not tasting the mucus’’ was what quickly came through my mind and I made a soft giggle.
Rashidah sat us down on the pavement in front of one of the rooms in the boy’s quarter. She told us some rules Aunt Gloria has made about the house, she listed about ten rules before she bid us farewell. The rules was not important, not to me or my sister, because we had a lot going on in our head and rules made by an heiress of a golden castle is not one of them. We rested for the night, hoping that tomorrow will be a good day.
It was dawn, I had already woken up but Bolatito was too tired from the journey we made yesterday, she covered herself with a duffel, one of her leg was resting on the stool and the other was placed carelessly on the bed.
There was a loud noise coming from the main house, before I could make my way out of the quarter to see what was happening, Rashidah was already running toward me looking like rainbow of many colors. She wore a purple blouse with a yellow rapper tiled above her breast and a green scarf to complement the craziness, her loosed white slippers was stitched with a green sewing thread, which gave the slippers another kind of funny design. She hit me on my shoulder multiple times asking for Bolatito.
Bolatito woke up from her sleep to join us outside, probably due to Rashidah’s lousy attitude of disseminating a message. We all went to the main house to see what was happening. There were lots of broken glass on the floor; Aunt Gloria had already broken some flower vase placed in the sitting room out of rage. She held Uncle Shile’s shirt, while she was hurling curse on him for cheating on her with his secretary. She showed Bolatito the message on Uncle's phone with proves of his betrayal. The noise went down a bit when Rashidah brought a neighbor from the estate to settle the matter. Aunt Gloria sat down to listen to the sermon given by her neighbor, Mrs. Johnson, who shared her knowledge of how to cope with a cheating husband. Mrs. Johnson stressed on prayer been the key to solve all problems, while Aunt Gloria bowed her head as she listened. Uncle Shile put the house back to its normal state while we were all curdled on the dining table waiting for the crisis to dissolve completely.
My stomach started rumbling, it was past twelve and I haven’t taken breakfast; I left the main house to the quarters to find something to eat as the sermon kept getting longer. After some time has passed, I came out and saw Uncle Shile looking all dressed for work. He wore a black suit with a matching shoe; he drove a white Mercedes-Benz and on his way out of the house he gave Jamiu, the gate man one thousand naira note for lunch.
When I entered the main building, Bolatito and Rashidah were stuffing their mouth with bread and Aunt was still sitted with her head bowed. The house had already been put back to its normal state, everything looked has it was when we first arrived. My inquisitive mind kept pushing me to ask Aunt Gloria why Uncle had to leave for work in the afternoon but I gave up on asking when she switched on the LG television to cartoon channel. The day did not start has I had anticipated but I hope for better days.
The next morning Uncle called Bolatito, to discuss her choice of institution. They deliberated for a while until Bolatito finally picked university of Lagos. She did her Jamb the same year, and she was admitted into the department of Industrial Chemistry, she left for school immediately after the payment of her school and hostel accommodation fee.
I continued to stay in the house until I finally spoke to uncle about learning a trade. Fashion designing was a prominent trade in Lagos. I enroll into a learning school at Bodija. My tutor was Madam Jayeola, a woman in her late thirties with a masculine figure, simply known as Mama Jaye by her closest allies, she was known to be a warrior, as madam Jayeola tend to engage in other people’s affair and always causing trouble in the neighborhood. I learned the trade for three years and it felt like hundred years, every day was greeted with a different kind of terror from Mama Jaye and her malicious gang. She has a way of making life miserable for all her apprentices and those who tried to run away find it hard to work as a fashion designer in other places within Lagos.
After my freedom ceremony with Madam Jayeola, I opened a fashion shop very close to the estate with the help of my Uncle. I named it “Style in Styles”. It was really difficult to get many customers, since the shop was new; I made an exception to always open on Sunday unlike other fashion shops and it eventually grew famous.
Before I was able to get a phone, Bolatito always send letters home, she wrote about her school facilities and some funny moments with one of her English lecturer in class, Mr. Patrick, who was always spitting while giving lectures and students take cover whenever he approaches them. She also told me about her new boyfriend Richard Omole and how her course mates makes fun of ‘’Omole’’ in comparison to a wall gecko, ‘’Omole sound like the Yoruba meaning of a wall gecko’’. Her letter was always in two phases. The first phase was addressed to everyone at home, and that was the letter I showed to uncle and his wife. The other letter was about her school experience, which I read and stored in my diary. Every time I read her letter, it was evident that she was enjoying her study in Unilag.
After four years, Bolatito’s course in university of Lagos came to completion. She came home with her school boyfriend Omole. Uncle was furious at first before Aunt Glory made him see reason that Bolatito is old enough to get married. They proceeded from casual dating to introduction, the families of both parties met themselves and after some months, they started talking about marriage. I volunteered to handle their wedding invitations and sewing of bridal cloths.
Like the dawn of a new day, we greeted a new bride. The wedding ceremony was filled with crowds. The MC brought about eight apprentices, excluding the four drummers and the flute players. Bolatito’s mother-in-law invited hundreds of friends alongside her church members. It was like a crusade in a hut. The event hall Bolatito and her husband rented could only contain three hundred guests, with about five hundred guest in attendant and excessive calls from guest running late, it should all together be about six hundred guest attending the wedding. I became frustrated when I saw people lying outside like beggars from the entrance to the main road. Some were sitting on mat, while some made use of a long bench. I was furious when I made a call to the Hall manager for more tents to accommodate the guest outside the hall.
I can never forget May 21st, for that was the date of the wedding day. It was a day to always remember. A hall full of guest chattering and eating so loud, made my head hurt. Children were crying for their mother’s attention, while the mothers were busy dragging a plate of rice with the server. Alcohol smells everywhere and bottles were lying on the floor like we were in a beer house.
Dancers don’t care what they were stepping on; they just kept bashing their feet on the floor, it was a wedding of five hours and it felt like five years. When it felt like it was about to end, the MC would call some members of the brides and grooms family to dance on the stage just to gather more money. The most depressing part was the cutting of the cake. I had never known in my life that it took about thirty minutes to pronounce Jesus, before a cake is cut.
When it all ended everyone went to their various homes and that was when I could breathe properly and perceive the beautiful smells coming from my sister’s wedding gown. The couples drove to their new apartment in Surulere, and I went back to the estate with uncle and his wife. After that day I had sworn to never get married.
Things happen so fast and sometimes it felt like the world is moving beyond our pace. Bolatito, who got married last year, has given birth to a baby girl in one of the hospitals in Lagos. The naming ceremony was done at Surulere, in the couple’s compound with few members of the family and some pastors. The couples only rented one tent to accommodate the few guests they invited. Food was dished in a takeaway plate, which was placed in a nylon imprinted with the baby’s face and names, together with two bottles of coca cola. She was given about fifteen names, but we all decided to call her by her first name, Joy.
After a few months, Bolatito resumed to work in one of the banks at Surulere, where she worked as an accountant. As Joy began to grow it became difficult for Bolatito to nurse a baby and at the same time attend to work without any help. She applied to get a maid from Togo, an online company that distributes maids to any region in Nigeria by paying a sum of five thousand naira to the company every Month.
Sarah, for that was the maid’s name, she started working immediately her payment was made. It became easier for Bolatito to work with Sarah’s help, while Mr. Omole, Bolatito’s husband find it easy to enjoy a night out with his wife.
Everyone in the family lived alright for some period before a storm swept our happiness away. Four years had already passed like the winds, and it felt like yesterday when we celebrated my partnership with one of the renowned fashion designer in Lagos, a person of Mrs. Mina and Bolatito’s congratulatory award for making it into the position of a General Manager. But now, all she has left was that award made of brown wood, looking like a stature of unforgettable mistake. It was incomprehensible, for an honest person like Bolatito to be sacked for embezzlement. She got the paper on a Monday morning, the day she started her leave from work. Whether it was a conspiracy by her co-workers or misfortune sent by the universe, it was definitely not the right time. She was the only hope left for her family, since her husband lost his job over a letter he wrote, appealing to his company to raise his salary. He got sacked for being inconsiderate of the company’s earnings. Her husband looked up to her to cater for the family until he finds a new job.
Uncle Shile and his wife received Bolatito and her husband into their home. It was nice to live under the same roof with my sister again after a long time and this time, with my beautiful niece, Joy. It was fun to have someone to share my thoughts on fashion with, even though the time might not be right to share my achievements with my sister, I hoped the time comes quickly.
Bolatito accepted the suggestion made by Aunt Gloria, to work as a school teacher in one of the schools her friend managed at Maryland. It was difficult to journey from Uncle’s house to her school, due to Lagos traffic; this made her sleep over in the school quarters, sometimes for days, and the longest was a week.
Joy was admitted in a school closer to the house, it became easier for her at a very young age to learn fashion designing. She was already familiar with the length of a tape rule that made one yard and sometimes she slip-stitched the blouse neckline by hand, which may be difficult for kids at the age of four. Joy was very sharp for her age and it made my customers always seek her company. She closes from school by 4 o’clock in the afternoon and stays with me in the shop till 8 o’clock at night.
The house was always full at night, everyone was at home including uncle’s friend, Engineer Dayo, who returned from the United States some months ago. We often discuss about Nigeria economy and the country's situation at large and sometimes we drifted from serious topics like unemployment to soccer.
When soccer was included in the topic of discussion, Aunt Gloria rushes to bed, she was never a fan of soccer, neither was I nor Bolatito. The women in the family prefer to discuss something more intriguing like the latest Korean movies. We were all fans of Korean movies, even Rashidah, who does not understand English, watched it to appreciate the Korean beauty. She at a point picked one of the actors to be her future husband. Joy concentrated on her late night cartoon, ‘’sponge bob square pants’’ before she eventually fell asleep.
Uncle Shile left his job in care of his manager, as he chooses to rest in the house for some months, to revitalize his energy. His friend had already gone back to the State and Joy was on holiday. She decided to stay with Uncle in the house instead of using her holiday in my shop.
Joy and uncle Shile were the only one left in the house after everyone had gone to work. I checked on them sometimes but it was really difficult to stay with them for a very long time. Some of my customers do not have the patience to wait when I was not in the shop.
I had fewer customers on Fridays, so I entered the house to check on Joy, to see if she was okay with the food I left in the food flask. She was always picky about food. When I entered the house, everywhere was quiet. I had thought they were both asleep and I walked carefully not to wake them, I tip-toed into Joy’s room, where I met Uncle Shile kissing Joy on her lips, removing her pant and inserting one of his fingers into her virginal. I was shocked to see Uncle in that position. Joy was asleep, and she did not know what was happening. He immediately acted like he was trying to cover her with the bed sheet when he noticed my presence. It was daunting and confusing, that I forgot to accuse him.
Bolatito came home that night to spend some weeks with the family, I could not stop thinking about the occurrence that happened in the afternoon, my mind kept pushing me to tell her what I had seen, but I was being careful not to raise the wrong alarm and I had decided to be more attentive.
I dragged Joy to my shop the following day and since then; we have been going and coming home together. I thought I had the situation under control, when I diverted her attention to my fashion shop until I noticed that my two faced Uncle always took Joy out in guise of getting her junks outside the house and in the process of carrying her, he is always dipping one of his fingers into her virginal without making it too obvious.
Bolatito was not aware of Uncle Shile’s terrible intentions. She was always willing to allow Joy follow him to get whatever she likes and Joy never resisted the urge to follow him. She was always happy whenever he was taking her out. I became furious when I noticed his animalistic behavior and eventually told my sister about it. I made a suggestion to my sister, to take Joy away from Uncle Shile’s house, when I noticed that she was oblivious to what was happening to her.
My sister became furious and decided to confront Uncle Shile. When she confronted him, uncle Shile reprove the claim and shifted the blame on me. I only knew about it when my sister changed her attitude toward me. She does not respond to me nicely the way she used to, she now looked at me with a spiteful intention that I had caused her great pain. I strived every day to stop my niece from going out with our Uncle but all my effort was wasted and since then I remained the bad influence, who created a false story to disrupt the family.
Bolatito never believed me, she could not accept the fact that her daughter could have experienced such treatment from our uncle. He continued the act, even when he knew that I had found out. Nothing changed no matter how hard I tried and out of frustration and from a broken spirit, I left the house and never returned.