‘’This is the life!’’ Onya piped excitedly. Before her stood a brand new car, on all fours, glistening, rubber and metal wheels!
‘’I’m glad you like it,’’ Mr Bako’s voice reeked of satisfied, condescending pride.
‘’Like it? I LOVE it!’’ Onya circled the car, touching it, obviously fascinated by her good fortune.
Who could have imagined that this would happen? She thought to herself, looking the car over as if it contained somewhere in its exterior or interior parts, the spirit of Luck, or whatever supernal architect had worked her ownership of it.
She reverenced the flashy, blue Peugeot convertible that had just been introduced as her own!
Mr Bako walked over to where she stood and cloaked her curvy, slim figure in his bulk and the generous folds of his babban riga.
‘’You know I can do anything for you, don’t you?’’ This he said weirdly, his voice in a croaky half way meeting of speech and laughter.
Onya snaked her arms around his neck in a show of affection, eager to remain in his good graces.
‘’Do you want to take me for a ride?’’ He teased, nipping her arm and laughing rowdily. Though she winced at the smart, Onya made a convincing show of enjoying his touch.
‘’You know I can’t drive,’’ she whined.
‘’Don’t worry my dear. I have got a learner’s permit for you,’’ he gripped her shoulders fondly. ‘’24 hours now, I’ll be teaching you, y’hear?’’
‘’Okay,’’ Onya said slowly. ‘’But I have school, you know? It’d be better if I just enrolled in a driving school.’’ She looked up at his face sweetly, wearing her most appealing smoke screens.
‘’Oooohhh,’’ Mr Bako droned in playful complaint. ‘’This my baby na wa o! You don’t want me to teach you?’’
Onya laughed indulgently. ‘’I’ll learn faster in a driving school,’’ she said, tracing the outlines of his bulbous face suggestively with her forefinger. ‘’Because then there’ll be no extra-curricular activities.’’
This caused such animated, bestial laughter from Mr Bako that for a split instant, Onya was alarmed.
‘’You this girl, you will not kill me o!’’ He exclaimed with ravenous delight.
Onya smiled, leaning her head on the corpulent protrusion of his arm. ‘’I know a good place,’’ she said. ‘’I could be an expert in no time,’’ she snapped her fingers for emphasis.
‘’Okay o! No problem. Ask them how much and then come, I’ll give you the money,’’ Mr Bako readily agreed.
Onya smiled triumphantly to herself. People may call her loose and immoral, but in the backing of evidence, looseness and immorality yielded high returns.
Mr Bako ordered his driver to take her back to the hostel when darkness began to set in. The driver betrayed no emotion, answering his employer with a highly amplified, mechanical ‘’yes, sir’’ and opening the door mechanically for the ‘’lady.’’ He might as well have done, because Onya had caused many of Mr Bako’s drivers to lose their jobs because she perceived no matter how slightly that they held her in contempt. She had not quite forgotten the last one, an old man, who because of his sturdy physique and energetic mannerism was called Old Soldier.
The first time Old Soldier had driven her back to the hostel from Mr Bako’s place, he had found it difficult to be quiet.
‘’My pikin, how are you?’’ He had begun.
‘’Fine,’’ she’d answered curtly after an inappropriately long pause.
But Old Soldier would not be deterred. He was pushed by an ill-advised sense of responsibility to do right by someone who had clearly chosen her own path. And it did not read ‘Right!’
‘’How your Mama and Papa?’’ He’d kept on.
‘’Daz good o! Tan God!’’ After this, he’d cleared his throat nervously and whistled an indecipherable tune before proceeding. ‘’My pikin, abeg no ves. If at all you go ves, forgive me o! Na old school dey worry me,’’ he’d paused again to capture his fleeing courage.
All the while, Onya had remained quiet, entertaining a vague idea of the old man’s intent, which was confirmed by his silence and discomfort.
Finally, Old Soldier, in an unchecked fit of boldness, had blurted, ‘’you no wan marry?’’
This had turned Onya livid. ‘’How dare you!’’ She’d shrieked.
‘’I talk say na old school dey worry me,’’ Old Soldier had said in his own defense. ‘’But di way you dey dey follow person like my oga, you sure say you wan marry?’’ Having begun, he’d found it difficult to stop. So his unbridled tongue continued to chastise her until Onya could take no more and promptly ordered him to stop the car.
‘’Wetin dey worry you sef?’’ She’d said indignantly, banging shut the door of the vehicle.
‘’Na help I tink say I wan help you before o! Sorry, madam!’’ He’d shouted out to her before driving off.
That was the last day Old Soldier was in Mr Bako’s employ. Subsequent drivers had since learned to stay clear of ‘’Oga’s small madam’’ as they called her, the ‘’big madam’’ being his wife who resided in Lagos because of her flourishing business.
If Onya felt any shame, no one had ever had an opportunity to detect it. The whole inventory of her emotions consisted of anger, pride, contempt and superciliousness. She seemed possessed with an inordinate desire to ‘’live the life’’ as she called it. School was tolerated because it provided an expansive avenue to show off her many material acquisitions and her ever blossoming beauty. Every day, it seemed Onya grew more and more beautiful. Her skin literally glowed a healthy burnished bronze hue. And her eyes! Those dark, curiously searching eyes had been the snare that few could resist.
At the hostel, Onya alighted the car as other girls watched in unveiled envy. Her friends and loyal disciples shrieked excitedly and rushed to hug her and carry in her luggage. Onya smiled in satisfaction, returning hugs and giving hugs and saying ‘’it was just awesome’’ to enquiries about her time with ‘’The Don.’’
‘’Any better for us?’’ Ada asked expectantly.
‘’Haba, of course!’’ Said Onya.
Together, they walked to Onya’s room in animated discussion. Onya flung herself on the bed, while Ada began to search through her bag.
‘’Eh-hen, did anybody come to look for me while I was gone?’’ Onya asked her friend, who was busy munching biscuits she’d found in the bag.
‘’Mmm, lemme see,’’ Ada wore the peculiar look of someone straining memory. ‘’Yes! That your boyfriend came,’’ she said at last.
‘’Which my boyfriend?’’ Onya asked with aroused interest.
‘’That stupid boy! What’s his name again…?’’ She was visibly shuffling through her memory with the tapping of her forefinger on her cheek.
‘’Victor,’’ Onya supplied.
‘’Yes. Him. He said I should tell you he came around and he’d tried reaching you through the phone and you should call him as soon as you can and blah blah blah, etc,’’ Ada said, all the while rolling her eyes.
‘’Let me just change this SIM and call him,’’ Onya began to slide open the back of her cell phone.
‘’What even gives that boy the guts and the strong mind to come here and look for you? You fa!’’ Ada shook her head and scoffed.
‘’What’s your wahala? He didn’t come looking for you,’’ Onya looked sternly at her friend.
Ada laughed. ‘’Shey na love be this?’’ She taunted.
‘’If na love nko?’’ Onya hissed.
‘’You can’t be serious, Onya. That guy is way beneath you,’’ Ada said.
Onya had inserted the new SIM and was concentrating on a phone call, completely ignoring Ada’s jibes.
‘’Baby, I’m home now,’’ she said into the phone. Pause. ‘’Yes. I’ll definitely do that.’’ Pause. ‘’They were all dumbfounded, really! Thanks a lot.’’ Pause. ‘’Of course I know that!’’ Pause. ‘’Okay, baby. Love you too.’’
Ada cleared her throat, smiling smugly. ‘’All that for the stupid boy?’’ She shook her head.
‘’No. Haba! It’s The Don,’’ Onya said.
‘’O…k…a…y! Tell me all about it!’’ Ada quipped. ‘’And what was everybody so ‘dumbfounded’ about, ‘cause if you were talking about that stupid boy his audacity is really dumbfounding. But you weren’t, so…?’’
Onya sat upright and looked her friend square in the face, her eyes dancing.
‘’Are you ready,’’ She began.
‘’Yes,’’ Ada equally looked excited.
‘’Okay, you’ve been warned!’’
‘’I know. Just tell me!’’
‘’The Don bought me a car!’’ And they both shrieked so loudly.
Coming back to school was nothing challenging for Onya; after all, it wasn’t academic.