Fiction

Love on the road

That morning was very cold. Rain fell the previous night and it kept me on my bed. The weather brought that sensation that makes you crave for more sleep even when it’s bright outside. My mother stormed my room and then expectedly slapped my butt. She was very fond of that. She usually tells me that my butt was too big for me. For the most part, she recounts how she had a flat ass-cheek at my age, and perhaps I had inherited mine from her mother, my grandmother. I couldn’t really fathom why she’d complain about it like it was a problem for anyone. Even if it was, it’d be for the boys.
I felt weak and nervous. My cold hands and feet refused to obey my will. In despair, I gathered myself for a final heave and woke up. I still didn’t answer mother until she yelled my name loudly.
“DAMILOLA!!”

I groaned and murmured a reply I didn’t understand myself.

She was about to reiterate the act when I turned to her, sitting up on my bed.

“Won’t you wake up? The sun is coming out and you’re not dressed up for office,” she hooted.

“Mummy, it’s too cold outside for angels like me to fly,” I grumbled.

Gbenu soun,” exclaimed mum. “Dont even try to use that ‘Ed Sheeran’ line here o. Is sleeping at home going to pay your bills?”.

Yes, Mother knows Ed sheeran and other musical artistes I don’t even know myself. She spends most of her day in front of the TV but unlike every other typical African mother who watches News, she watches MTV base.

From early, Mother had taught me the significance of hard work. She trained me to be an independent lady. She believed every woman should be a support to his spouse and not a burden. She wakes me up for work every morning. It’s her daily routine and most times, I’d believe it’s not morning yet if she hasn’t come to wake me up.

I gently rubbed my eyes and stretched my self. My duvet has whirled around my legs.

Ever since I lost my dad, it’s been only Mum and I. She stopped working shortly after, and she used to manage a rental business untill it failed and she had to stay at home and sell on Etsy.(An online shop)

I was working as a customer care agent in one insurance company. I inherited an old salon car that drives me through the busy streets of Lagos to my working place. The car was old and rickety but it was better than going through the hustle and bustle of Lagos and its horrible traffic inside one terrific public bus.

My workplace was on the Lagos island and I stayed on the mainland. At first, I found it stressful to work there because it involved driving very long distances everyday and I had to be early so I could beat the rush hour. I spent most of my day in traffic, so often that I got used to it as days went by. Secondly, the pay wasn’t enough. I was only managing the job after I graduated and I did my youth service but all efforts to get a high paying job was futile. One uncle Ade had promised to get me a good job in Abuja. With my high hopes, everyday I was praying he’d break some good news to me, at least it’d be an off from this tiring job in this strenuous city life but till now I haven’t heard anything from him and he stopped picking my calls.

I took my bath and changed into my regular everyday office wear.

My outfit was an alarming conspiracy of yellow and blue marvellously scrolled, and below it were my pair of long and narrow shoes. My tight-fitting skirt makes my butt plead to come out of their hiding place.
I picked up my car keys in a hurry and I said a brief goodbye to mother who was persuading me to take a few bites of the meal she had prepared which I had refused because I realized I couldn’t tie down the time.
I was so much in a hurry that I forgot to use my neck chain too. The car side mirror showed me my bare neck when I was already on the go. Well, I couldn’t bother myself since it wasn’t a crime not to use jewelry and nevertheless, I knew I was looking beautiful and just a piece of ornaments missing on the neck wouldn’t depreciate it. I don’t see myself looking beautiful to please anyone but myself.
I increased the car speed, I wanted to beat any traffic that might be laying ambush for me. If I got late to work, there’s a new sheriff in town that was ready to pester me.

My new assistant boss that I work directly under derives pleasure in humiliating, as a payback for turning him down when he asked to be sleeping with me under the pretence of being my boyfriend. I could see it in his eyes from the way he looks at me that he only desired my body and doesn’t love me truly. Ever since then, he hated me and he doesn’t appreciate my efforts at work. Aside from being unethical to date one boss, I had zero likeness for him because he wasn’t just my type.
I know I wasn’t getting any younger and I needed a man in my life but the good ones aren’t coming. Most of the ones I meet are the ‘chop and clean mouth’ type and gold diggers.

I blasted my favorite Sola Allyson song on the car’s CD player and hummed as the day’s sunshine highlighted my silky hair. My session of relaxation broke as I heard a loud shrieking sound.
“What the hell”?
I killed the music and slammed the brakes. The sound returned with a louder and faster pace. I restart it but it didn’t start. I hurriedly got out the car and stared at the bonnet. I opened the cowl and I stared in confusion before my eyes widened in a moment of realization. The engine seems to be knocked down.
I returned back into the car and made efforts to restart the engine but it was to no avail.
I had no idea whom to call. I used to have a mechanic that repairs the car sometimes ago but I stopped using him after I realized how much of money he extorts from me for a minor fault in the car.
I sat helplessly and tried to make one or two calls. I knew I was already late for work. There was no point hurrying. I would just tell the whole story to my boss or cook up a very convincing one. It’s either he believes a bitter truth or a sweet lie.

“Hello Rachy.”

“Girlfriend, Wassup? Where are you na?” Said Rachy.

Rachy is my workmate. The only girl who’s not jealous of my curves at the office. I told her what’s going on.

“Ha-ha. What the hell is that? Flat tire?” She scoffed.

She requested to come over to pick me but I declined.
At the middle of the conversation with her, the trunk of the car closed all of a sudden and then a young man dressed in a green workshop uniform walked past the car.

“You left your trunk open” He said.

I waved at him and I continued on the phone. I was still chit chatting with her when it dawned on me that the young man who had just passed could be of help. I convinced myself from the way he dressed that he’d probably be a mechanic but then he was already walking away.
I whispered gently to call him and he turned quickly bouncing back towards me.
He drops the backpack on his back, and held it with his left arm and then we exchanged formal pleasantries.

“If you’re not in hurry, could you spare me some minutes of your time, please?” I asked.

He smiled awkwardly and replied.

“I wanted to ask when I walked past if all was well but it seemed you were busy on the phone.”

He asked me to get my tools from the trunk and I obeyed. He spoke very calm and in a polished accent, unlike what I had expected.

I watched him carefully as he worked on the engine. He requested intermittently that I get in the car to start the engine and turn it off again. The displeasing sound made me lose hope. I was already deciding that I’d leave the car there to take a cab to my work place but then when I least expected, the car surprised me and the engine came back to life. I felt so delighted. I jumped out of the car and ran to him. I was emotional. At first, I wanted to hug him but then I recall that he was just a stranger I met some moments ago. I held his two forearms, covered in grease and I thanked him as I tittered with excitements written all over me.

“Which way are you going?” I asked.

“Your way,” he replied jokingly.

I rolled my eyes and he nodded. I noticed he grinned with confidence and our eyes met all the time.

“I don’t know how to thank you o. But I really do appreciate your help,” I uttered.

There was silence as I held the steering and maneuvered on the road, dodging potholes.

“Okay… So where do you work?”

“Presently, I intern with my boss in a small workshop,” he explained.

I was admiring him but I didn’t let him notice that. A bunch of black beards billowed around his mouth, right below his double chin. He had a dapper, bristly moustache.

The lush, black medium cut hair he groomed so carefully had a rippling quality and gave him a mature look unlike other boys with mohawk ‘afro’ and dreadlocks. His only blemish was that he was beetle-browed and they sometimes knitted when he talked.
He had a hawkish nose and a defined cheekbones.
He was kind of quiet at first and he only talked whenever I asked him questions.

“What about you?” He asked. His words spilled out of his mouth like honey from its jar.

I told him where I worked and he watched me while he listened.

“You’re a very beautiful woman and you sure drive a lot of customers to that your company” He flattered. I smiled without a reply.

He stretched his arms forward to pick up the music album jacket that lay on the car dash and I was about to do the same thing when our hands touch.

“You listen to ‘Kwam 1’ music too?” he asked and I nodded. He slowly started to become chatty. He looked at me, expecting me to say something more but I didn’t.
I was waiting to hear more from him too.

“How do I reward you for this free ride?”

“How? Anyhow.” I raised my eyebrow and grinned.
I couldn’t see why he was asking that. He was the one who had saved me from my car’s difficulty and now he’s asking to reward me.

“What about we hang out later tonight?” He sounds charming. Now I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Darn! I was on the wheel and he was seriously distracting me.
I shrugged and said No.

He looked disappointed as I turned him down. I was too quick with the answer. He took his eyes off me and he looked out at the fast cars that shared the road with us.

We arrived at a building and he asked me to pull over. Before he dropped off the car, he asked for my phone number but I suggested I have his own instead and I would call him when I get to work. He waved at me and he watched me drive away until my car was out of sight. I stared through my car mirror too as he stood with leonine power, with purpose and authority. He still looked spiffy even in that bleakish uniform.

Later after work, I returned back to my mother to see her watching her regular musical station and mimicking the dance style of the vixen in the video. I cackled.

She stopped when I entered and she sank into the sofa, panting loudly.
I served two bottles of chilled beer from the freezer and gave one to her and then I began.

“Mum, I met someone today.”

“Who?” she asked. Her attention drifted towards me like she had been yearning for a gist for so long.
Mother was a good listener. She was always ready to hear me talk about everything I was going through and offer any help she could. I could remember when my ex-boyfriend decided to rub my heart in the dust. It was so hard for me to accept the fact that he didn’t want me anymore. He cheated on me consistently with other girls but I couldn’t still leave the toxic relationship that never ceased to hurt and break me down. Mother was there to help. She gave me the strength to move on and the counsel to be a better woman. She’s my therapist and the ‘go-to’ person before I set my feet into a relationship with any man.

I cleared my throat. I watched the expression on her face and I was forced to burst into more laughter.

“I met a guy today on my way to work.”

“Really? How does he look like?”

I did a brief description of him and mum couldn’t stop staring at me curiously.

“Sounds like your father when he was young” She said.

“Really?. Mr George didn’t grow beards remember?” I teased her.

“Common,Tell me more” She rolled her eyes and then patted me on the back.

“In short, my car broke down and this young man came like a God-sent and did his magic on my car,” I said. “He said he works in a small workshop and seeks a job.”

I told her about his request to take me on a date and how I turned him down. She thought it was a wrong decision to make and that I should have given him a chance to play his cards. I reasoned with her too but all I was trying to do was not to precipitate the game but to take things steady and easy. We could start with an enjoyable conversation on phone and if it’s worth-while, we could have a date.

The next morning, I was ready for work and I was in my car. Mother came into the car with a food flask. She sat next to me and smiled as she talked.

“Greet ‘Boda Meko’ o if you find him on the road today”

“Maami!”

“And if you do, this time, no do Shakara for him again o.”

“I have heard you ma.”

She hugged me and patted me on the back.

Later in the noon, I was struck by hunger and I thought about getting lunch outside before I drive my long way back home.

I entered my regular restaurant to get a meal but to my utmost surprise, I saw this young man again – the same mechanic guy I met the previous day. He was sitting at a corner of the room. He seemed to be waiting for his order. Our eyes got interlocked as I entered the room and he waved at me to join him on his table.
I was nervous at first then I picked up my food slowly. He didn’t say a word to me. We were just staring at each other.

“What did you call your name the last time?” I broke the silence first.

“You didn’t ask for my name the last time,” he blurted.

I was quite confounded. I felt that was a poor pick up line and his response which was meant to stir up the atmosphere failed on my own side, ’cause it made me feel so embarrassed. He laughed out and I was forced to join him.

He was at the workshop the next day, the next and the next. Everyday, I’d find him working on different cars, sometimes lying underneath. I’d walk to him and we would have absurd conversations and then I’d go away. I’d sit beside him, and we’d talk like we had known each other since ages past. I fell in love with him but I couldn’t say it.
Everyday, I hope he’d blurt out his own feelings for me ’cause from the way he looks at me, he sure had something for me too.

A creative entity, big dreamer, music and book lover.

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