Joel is seated in his cousin’s living room watching a movie on the television. Since his return to Lagos, he had been squatting with his cousin who is two years older and also doubles as his bestfriend having learned the business of sale of building and construction materials together.
“Joe Jo.” Ike, his cousin called as he walked into the two bedroom flat which he inherited after his boss traveled out of the country.
Ike is regarded as their boss’ favorite as he was the only one who completed the three years he signed up for and graduated as a certified professional. Unlike the other apprentice including Joel who at one point or the other ran away giving one flimsy excuse or the other. Apart from the house, Ike had inherited his boss’ business which he has been managing and applying all he had learnt into making it big. Joel had been fortunate enough to have his boss sign on his certificate before he traveled, which made him qualified to practice anywhere in the world, and he had moved back to the East where he set up a shop.
“Ike, how na?” Joel asked as he shook hands with him. “How work?”
“Fine fine.” Ike replied as he settled down on a single seater couch on the right of the three seater on which Joel sat. “Guy! I met one babe this afternoon.” Of all the good qualities Ike is blessed with which Joel is envious of, there is one he detest; love for women and anything in skirt. Ike so much love women that he could spend his life savings on women whom he kept on short term basis as he doesn’t have time for a real relationship.
“All your life, you never come home with positive news, it’s always about the woman you saw or the one you wished you saw, why?” Joel asked.
“My brother, life is too short to be taken seriously. Enjoy while you can. Women add to the bliss and without them your enjoyment is a scam.”
Joel shook his head as he switched off the TV with the remote and stood up. “Why you off the TV na?” Ike asked angrily.
“Let’s visit Mama Chinwe’s joint.” Joel replied.
One jumped up excitedly. He not only enjoy going after the opposite sex, he is also a drunk. It is often said that you can’t like women without being a drunk. And with Ike, the statement is true. Even though Joel is a drunk too, his love for women is normal as it is in most men.
Two hours layer, Joel was on his sixth bottle while Ike was opening the ninth.
“Madam, give me Star Radler.” Joel who is on the verge of loosing himself requested. He knew Ike was totally wasted and to avoid him being in such state, he had to change his drink, hence the reason for the 2% alcoholic drink.
“Give me one orijin and one fayrous.” A customer from the back thundered. “Give me Goldberg.” “Give me berbecue.” “two sharwamars abeg.” “We need straw here o.” “Cup abeg.” The orders continued to fly and the two attendant employed by Mama Chinwe to assist herself and her daughter ran helter skelter to attend to the customers. “Madam, I swear I will stop coming here o. Imagine, I requested for catfish pepper soup for the past thirty minutes and I have not been served. The drinks are getting warm and I wasn’t given a cup or straw.” An angry voice rained from the extreme right of the big bar,making him the center of attention.
“Oga, abeg no vex. Chinwe, is the fish not ready?” Mama Chinwe, a middle aged woman called from her desk where she handled finances.
“Almost ready ma.” A feminine voice responded from a distance which Joel suspected to be the back of the bar.
Moments later, a twenty year old young girl appeared from behind the bar bearing a flat tray.
“Oga, your fish is ready.” Mama Chinwe said calmly to pacify the man.
“Oga Ikechukwu, kedu.” The young girl greeted as she passed their table. “Uncle Joel.” She curtsied.
“Chichi, when will you come to my house to greet me?” A visibly drunk Ike asked.
“God forbid, my daughter will not visit a drunkard like you.” Mama Chinwe replied.
“Madam, let your daughter mingle. Send her to we your customers. Let us do stuffs to her, it encourages us to come here next time.” Ike fired back. His response was met with laughter from every corner of the bar.
When the laughter had died down, Joel confirmed his cousin’s drunken state, he proceeded into the reason why he brought him out to drink.
“Nwanna, m mkpa indumodu.” (Brother, I need your advice) Joel began.
“About what?” Ike asked calmly as if in a sober state.
“About my child in Doctor Ayeni’s house.”
“This is a big issue. You need to see the mother of the child first, talk to her, explain things to her. You have no business with the doctor. Samantha is the one to make things easier for you. You don’t even know the gender of the child.”
“Who is Samantha?” Joel asked.
“The mother. Abi what’s her name?”
“Natasha.” Joel corrected. “Remember I told you I saw a small boy in her car the last I went to Doctor Ayeni’s house? He could be…”
“The boy could be anybody. The doctor’s grandson, or Natasha’s son from her husband.”
The thought of that sent shivers down his spine. She couldn’t have gotten married so soon. It’s only been five years. Five years is too short for a young lady to deal with an unwanted pregnancy as a student.
“She can’t be married this soon.” Joel said.
“Probably, a rich Alhaji was in the waiting, ready to accept her and the pregnancy. Look at you.” Ike replied.
“Natasha will never marry an old man. She was full of life, she wanted to start a life with a man who is as inexperienced as she is.”
“And that man was a broke gardener in you?” Ike asked, mockery evident in his tone.
“She saw my future, it is bright. Our future.”
Ike laughed out loud as he spilled his drink over the table. “Who is the drunk one here? Me or you?” He asked still laughing. “Your future is so bright, I need shades.”
Joel was not in the least offender by his cousin’s utterances, because he saw truth in most of his words and that’s what he needed to hear.
“Just go meet Natasha, tell he the circumstances under which you left. Of course, you are scared, her Uncle threatened to have you arrested if he ever set his eyes on you. Anybody in your shoes will run. If you two are in love as you claimed, she will forgive you and more so the child is yours.”
Joel kept quiet for a while; “What if the child is not mine?”
“You are drunk.” Ike hissed as he got up, brought out his wallet and signalled to one of the bar attendants. “So you left Onitsha to Lagos for nothing?”
“It is just a possibility. It flashed through my mind.” Joel tried to make him see reasons as they walked out of the bar. “I mean, why will she treat me like a leper the last time she saw me? I mean, seeing me for the first time in five years.”
“Tell me will your sister will hug a man who impregnated her, put her future in jeopardy and took off only to return after five long years?” All the truth he needed to hear was buried in Ike’s response.
Starting from tomorrow, I will seek Natasha’s audience and make sure she sees reasons with me. He resolved within himself.
Preparation for Audrey’s wedding is in top gear. As in the next three days she will be walking down the aisle with her heart rob. Natasha who is the chief bridemade has taken the week off from work to enable her do her little part in the preparations. For the rest of the week, she knew she is going to be Audrey’s driver around town which is not a big deal, because considering the kind of friend Audrey is, she deserves everything in the world.
After spending the early part of the morning going over some new trends, the bride to be suggested that they have lunch in a restaurant close by.
“Is anything bothering your mind Tasha?” They hadn’t settled down before Audrey threw the first question.
Knowing Audrey as someone who hardly eat out, Natasha knew there was a reason she asked them to go out for lunch.
“Nothing at all.” Natasha lied.
“Poor attempt little princess, try again.” Truly, you can lie to everybody, but not to a friend with whom you have shared everything over the past decades including the darkest secrets.
“Give me malt.” Audrey ordered.
“Aunty, what about you?” The waiters turned to Natasha.
“Same thing with hot dog.”
“How many hot dogs?” The waiter asked.
“Once of course.”
After the waiter had taken their order, Audrey kept her eyes glued on Natasha. Tasha on the other hand knew the look.
“Okay, don’t swallow me, I will talk.” She conceded.
Audrey smiled. Such was the friendship she has managed to build with Tasha, even when she left Nigeria to study abroad, nothing much changed.
“Joel is in town.” Tasha said.
“Joel? Who is Joel?” A confused Audrey asked.
By now the waiter had return with their orders. “Thanks.” Audrey mouthed.
“Don’t tell me you don’t know Joel, Philip’s father.” Natasha replied.
“Oh!” Audrey exclaimed.
Come on, it’s been five…five long years. Five years during which the name Joel and the person who bears the name has been in absence, not been mentioned by anybody. Everybody would forget who bears the name.
“What does he want?”
“You know.” Natasha replied. “They all want their child back.”
“The child that they were not there for when he was growing up? The pregnancy they abandoned is now their child?” Audrey asked.
“I’m confused right now.” Tasha confessed.
“You have to do something fast as this can jeopardize what you have with Raymond.”
“Are you suggesting that I ignore Joel?”
“Not exactly, but you are a smart woman. Figure it out.”
Natasha left the restaurant more confused than ever as Audrey was neither here nor there. Even though she knew she had to do something real quick.
To be continued