“Ah, Seni, Seni, oya come and sit here. Oya come now-ow …” he said, patting a spot beside him on her own bed.
The look on her face said, “Get out now!” but she obeyed. Mentally, she added locking her room to the list of life-changing decisions she planned to make before she turned 21. It was right up there with threading her eyebrows.
Dele never came to her room when she was at home, except to borrow something, and he certainly never came in her absence. Something was up.
“I know I’ve been very standoffish lately, but I want you to forgive me.”
“Why? ‘Cos you need my help?” Seni asked, her face betraying the irritation she felt.
“Well … yes, I do. Big time. I promise, I’ll take you to–” Dele began, smiling sheepishly and trying to side hug her. She moved away widening the gap between them.
“Don’t bribe me. What do you want?” she asked coldly.
“Okay, I’m sorry for what I said and did–”
“You know I won’t forgive you just like that.”
“I know, but I was hoping we could bond over some Veronica-related gist,” he said, looking at her hopefully.
“What about her? Didn’t you say she was off limits?”
“Yes, and I’m sorry. I hereby revoke that restriction.”
“Dele, I’m not a robot without feelings. You can’t just expect–”
“I know, but I want you to try … for old time’s sake. Please?”
In all her life, Seni had never seen her brother so sincere. She smiled a little, and the ice in her heart thawed a little.
“Okay. I forgive you. For now …”
“What?! You mean I’m on probation?” Dele asked.
“Yes, I’m watching you,” Seni said. “Very closely,” she added, narrowing her eyes.
“So what was this about Veronica?”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said about being careful with her. You know … she never asks me directly for money. She just asks me to pay for stuff … so it’s been okay. Until we started dating …”
“What?! You’re in a relationship with her? Already?” Seni asked, horrified.
How silly could this guy be?
“Yes o. Two weeks now,” said Dele, a sheepish smile on his face. “She’s very–”
“No, charming. And her body … Chai!” Dele said, rubbing the back of his head with one hand, as his eyes clouded over dreamily.
“Look, did you come to praise Veronica’s assets or what did you–” Seni demanded impatiently.
“Oya sorry … Ahn ahn! Jealousy!” Dele teased.
“No … I’m not jealous. I’m your sister. I don’t want to hear you describing another’s woman’s body to me. Gosh! Reserve that for your buddies. How would you feel if I started gushing over some guy’s abs?”
“Don’t even try it … I don’t even want to hear sef,” Dele replied quickly.
“Ehen … So you see what I mean?”
“Yep. I do.”
Dele went on to tell Seni that since he started dating Veronica, she had started asking for larger sums of money for what looked like genuine expenses: books, exam fees, even her hair.
“Are you her father? Since when did you start paying for all this?” Seni asked angrily. “Just how much have you given her?”
“Emm … close to N 100,000 naira.”
“Chineke! So, you have that kind of money and I’ve been jumping bus, taking public transport up and down in the hot sun, abi? See discrimination! And you’ve been giving that to a girl? You’re just a mugu … Correct, original mu–”
And then Seni remembered that this was her elder brother. She reeled in her tongue, but she was still visibly boiling with anger. She got up and started pacing the room.
“I just didn’t have the heart to say “No.” You know her exams are coming soon and it’s just the two of us in this house. We’ve always had everything. Veronica has like six brothers and sisters, and her dad is retired and–”
“I don’t care,” Seni spat.
“Come on, Seni. Have a heart!” Dele pleaded.
“I do have a heart, but there’s a difference between being kind and being foolish. Right now, you’re being very foolish. She sees you as the type of mugu who can pay her bills. End of story. Once you start saying “No” to her, she’ll dump you,” she said resuming her seat on the bed.
“Well, I didn’t come here so you could keep calling me a mugu,” Dele said, in a hurt tone.
“Yes, I know that but–”
“Okay, here’s what I need your help with: I just gave her N 50,000 naira today. It’s the first time I have ever actually handed over money to her. Then, she told me she needs to fix her hair. She said she needs to do million braids that it keeps longer and she won’t have to worry about her hair for months.”
“Yes, that’s correct. And so?”
“So … I became concerned with the price. She said million braids will cost N 100, 000 naira.”
Seni leapt to her feet screaming.
“Yeeepa! One hundred thousand what?! Why didn’t she kuku tell you it will cost N1million naira, one naira for each braid?! Ole buruku! Even Sallah ram does not cost that much for goodness sakes! If you add some more money to that, you can buy a Tokunbo car. Ah, Dele, you have chopped!”
“But that’s the thing. I said I was concerned now … I haven’t actually given her the money. It just seemed a bit … I don’t know … too high for just one hairdo.”
“Anyway, I don’t blame her. If I also saw a guy who would agree to pay for this and that, I would also cook up crazy, bizarre figures and claim it’s for school. So legitimate. Pathetic!”
“So, that’s why I came to you? What do I do now?”
“Oh, you’re still asking me? Break up with her, of course! She’s using you.”
“Break-up? Come on … It’s not like she’s cheating on me. Maybe I can tell her to be more considerate or–”
“Dele, listen to me: a woman, in fact, any person who will lie to you just to take money from you, will lie about anything else. Go and check it!”
“Okay, okay. I’ve heard. So, what do I do now?”
“I’m not sure I want to waste my time on this matter. I think you should just go and learn the hard way.”
“Ahn ahn … you must hate me o … You know I’m your only brother.”
“No, I don’t hate you. I hate giving advice and pointing out obvious red flags and still watch you fall into an open and obvious trap.”
Dele stiffened and sat up suddenly. He looked very serious.
“Okay, I’ll take your advice. What do you suggest I do?” he asked.
“You have to promise you’ll do what I say, first,” Seni said.
“Okay. I promise.”
“Now, here is what we’ll do.”
Seni told him her plan, and he agreed.
The next day, Dele picked Seni up from lesson and together, they went to wait for Veronica at B & U. She was to show up for her hair appointment, and Dele was to pay for it directly to the clerk at the salon.
They both waited in the car for almost an hour past Veronica’s 3:00pm appointment time, while Seni wondered if the appointment itself was legitimate. It was a well-known fact that anyone who wanted to get million braids would do well to go to the salon in the morning because it was a time-consuming hairstyle. But Seni kept that to herself.
The salon was full and there was nowhere to sit that afternoon, making it necessary for them to camp outside in the car. Just a few minutes before 4 o’clock, they finally spotted Veronica approaching. She had just alighted from a taxi, and was walking towards the salon.
As she came towards them, Seni got to see her for the first time. Veronica was a tall, elegant, girl, curvy with bright eyes. Seni did not see those bright eyes till she was close enough and tried to kiss Dele on the lips. She took off her shades and Seni thought she was hallucinating. She recognized her immediately as the girl she had seen talking to Razor at the snooker joint.
But if Veronica recognized her at all, she did not show it.
That was when it all made sense. The money. Passport. Everything.
Dele introduced Seni to Vero and vice-versa. Vero just glanced at her and said “Hi.”
“So, I’m already late for my appointment,” she said to Dele. “You don’t have to wait for me. You can just give me the money and I’ll pay when I’m done.”
“That’s not what you told me yesterday,” Dele replied.
“Yes, I know. I changed my mind.”
“Well, I did too.”
After turning down Dele’s offer to go with her into the salon several times, Vero finally lost her patience.
“Ogbeni, just give me the money and let me get my hair done now!” she shouted.
“Which hair style are you doing for 100K? Ole oshi!” Seni finally jumped in, unable to contain herself.
“Eysssss … Who invited you? Oh, so you people came here to embarrass me, abi? It won’t work o,” Vero said defensively.
“I invited her, and for your information, we already asked the owner of the salon. They don’t do million braids. The braiding centers that do charge less than N 30,000 for that!”
Veronica snapped and hurled several curses at Dele, ending with:
“You know what? I’m done. Go and find a cheap girlfriend!”
“No, Vero. Look for another mugu!” Dele yelled at her.
That was how it ended. Veronica walked out of Dele’s life for good.
* * *
A few weeks later, Dele told Seni what she had already surmised: Veronica had left the country for good.
“But now it’s your turn to be surprised o,” said Dele.
“Boye has left too. He’s in the UK.”
Seni was shocked. She certainly did not see that coming.
– THE END –