WHILE SHOLA DROVE, STEVE SEARCHED the internet. First, he had read the details of the crime story, which Shola had mentioned before leaving the office; next, he had opened a link that offered an array of similar cases. Steve had just opened a new tab on the web browser when Shola pulled the car to a halt, in front of his house. He hurriedly typed in the search engine: Possible effects of a sexual abuse early in life.
“Thanks, Shola,” Steve said as he reached for his bag.
Shola nodded, slowly. “Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked.
Steve looked at him, puzzled. He quickly figured out what Shola meant. He was also quick to put up a convincing smile—and an equally convincing lie too. “Oh, I’m fine. Actually . . . it’s Gloria’s work; a take-home assignment. I’m trying to be the ‘good big brother’—though it’s killing me,” Steve said, hopeful that Shola had not taken a peek while he was engrossed in what he had been reading. He assured himself that Shola had not seen a thing.
“Is Gloria in town?”
“Yes! She came back few days ago.”
Placing a hand on Shola’s shoulder, he said, “And, you know, I chose not to bother you with much talk; no doubt, the director gave you an earful.”
“You’re crazy!” Shola said, after a light chuckle.
Steve just maintained a wry smile.
“My regards to Gloria,” Shola said.
“No problem! I’ll let her know that her runaway husband asked after her,” Steve said, trying to assume his usual playful disposition, which had been lacking that evening. He had just stepped out of the car when he said, “Thanks, man.”
“See you tomorrow, Steve.”
Steve’s phone brightened immediately Shola moved the car ahead. He selected the result that was uppermost in the list, which the search engine had provided.
* * *
Jerry saw a road-side joint where noodles and fried eggs were prepared at demand. He walked in.
“How you want am?” the owner of the place asked him.
“The small pack, three. And . . . two eggs.”
“Three hundred naira,” the man said.
He nodded his approval. While Jerry waited, he considered his next line of action: The money he had left was not enough to stay in a hotel room that night. Jerry checked his wristwatch as his dinner was placed before him: seven forty-eight. At exactly 8:15 he was done eating, and thinking. He did not have much options—three actually, and he had easily identified the bottom two options. There could have been a fourth, but he dismissed it in a heartbeat: None of his relatives lived near, and he had not visited any in a long while.
Jerry reached for his phone in his pocket. He started to type a text message. Jerry paid for the meal and walked out of the shop, after he had sent the message. He prayed a call would come through soon.
He walked on.
“Hey, fine boy,” a female voice called. Jerry turned. Where she stood was a bit dark, but Jerry could make out the features: she was clad in a tight-fitting mini skirt with a bra that revealed almost her entire breasts. “You want some nice time?” she asked. “Come check my package nah.” Jerry did not take a second look. He walked on, with an increased pace. Several ill-clad ladies loitered there; Jerry was certain a brothel would not be far away. He did not walk too far before he saw one. Jerry could not tell how it happened: he had bumped into one of the ladies. She did not bother to use her hands to push him away; her large breasts took care of it.
“Na ikebe you dey look abi, na im make you no see road,” she said.
“Sorry,” he quickly said, afraid that the ladies could gang-up and drag him in. He had a feeling that she had knowingly stood in his way.
“Come make we play small!” a young girl called, unashamedly. Jerry looked at her briefly. He made a guess: same age; if older, then she would be twenty. “Na small money I go charge,” she said. Jerry did not consider her a second time.
Only after he had gone a reasonable distance was he able to smile. Jerry felt the crotch point of his trousers, then the erection within. Jerry slipped his hands into his pocket. It allowed him a better feel. He wondered what it would feel like to penetrate a girl.
The sound of his mobile phone brought an end to his reverie. He pulled his hand and phone from his pocket.
Jerry hesitated before he answered. The call he had anticipated had come, he was just unsure what response he was about to get. “Mummy, good evening,” he said softly.
The voice he heard did not sound like his mother’s. “Jerry, is that you?”
“Yes. Who are you?”
“That’s good, Jerry. I almost thought that I sounded like your mother,” the woman said, then a light laugh followed. “I’m Mama Abraham, your neighbour. Your mother is here with me, we’re in a hospital.”
“A hospital? What’s wrong with my mother?” Jerry asked quite alarmed.
“She will be fine when she sees you,” Mama Abraham said. “We got your text message, asking if you could come back home. Yes, you can. Where are you presently?”
“I’m . . . I’m not that far from home.”
“I’m sure you know the hospital close to our house, that’s where we are.”
“What’s wrong with my mother?”
“When you get here you will find out. Do we send someone to come pick you where you are, or will you find your way to this place?”
“I’ll find my way.”
“How long will it take you?”
* * *
Steve had taken his bath, and had dinner too. He had one more mission to accomplish before he would call it a day.
As much as he tried to, he could not remember a surname he wanted to: Evans’ surname. Steve wanted to find him. He rose from his bed and walked towards the door. Gloria might remember. Gloria was in the living room. Their mother was there too.
“Glo, do you remember the surname of our neighbour, the ones that lived opposite our flat . . . at Yaba, I mean.”
“I can’t remember.”
“Mum, do you?”
“I doubt. They were quiet people, hardly relating with other neighbours,” she said. “Why do you need it?”
Steve had expected that question. Any answer would do. “I’m carrying out a research . . . like, how people move from one location in Lagos to another—Island, Mainland.”
“Let me ask Jerry,” Gloria said.
“Jerry? How?” Steve asked.
“Don’t worry. Give me his username.”
To read the last chapter of My First Kiss, click on this link: previous chapter