He dished the hot steaming catfish pepper soup into four different bowls. He placed the bowls on a big stainless steel tray and carried it out of the kitchen, a step at a time. He navigated his way to the dining and placed the tray on the wooden table. He looked sideways. Where were they? He returned to the kitchen and poured hot milky chocolate beverage into four large mugs. He placed the mugs on a plastic tray and carried it to the dining. He arranged each mug beside each bowl and took a seat. Should he go and call them or wait? He raised his head and glanced at the wall clock. It was past eight. He heard footsteps and turned his head. The dark chocolate skin slim elderly man, about five feet seven inches, approached him. He looked better now that he had freshened up. The red tee-shirt and black trousers was a little bit big for him, but, it wasn’t that noticeable. His wife followed. She was darker, shorter, slimmer and the clothes she was putting on made her look like a clown. He averted his eyes and tried not to laugh. Their daughter walked behind them. Her chocolate brown skin was complimented by the brown fitted blouse and white ‘A’ shaped skirt. She was taller than her parents, probably his height.
He lifted his eyes and met her watchful brown gaze. She was pretty. Her straight dark brown hair graced her shoulders. Was it her real hair or a hair-extension? Women and their weave-on were like inseparable twins. He tore his gaze away and leaned against the wooden chair. They all took their place at the dining and started to eat. The hot soup warmed his body and chased the biting cold away.
“My name is Bassey Etim; I am a Christian and a Dentist by profession. Welcome to my home,” he sipped at the hot liquid.
The elderly man cleared his throat twice, “Oluwatomisin Philips is the name. Thank you for…” he coughed and met Bassey’s encouraging gaze, “Em… we are grateful.”
He nodded with understanding, “You are welcome sir.”
“Jesutofunmi is my name.”
He turned to look at the man’s wife.
“We are strangers, yet… you accommodated us. God will bless you,” her eyes smarted with tears. Her husband reached out for her hand and gave it a light squeeze.
“I am Oluwagbemisola.”
He directed his eyes at the young woman.
“I am the only surviving child of my parents. Thank you for helping us.”
They ate in silence for a while, each lost in his and her own thoughts.
“I… I was a business man,” Tomisin finished eating and pushed the empty bowl away, “I dealt in the import and sales of exotic cars here in Lagos. I brought my best friend into the business and…”
Bassey snorted at the sound of the word ‘best friend’. It seemed best friends all over the world were dealing with their friends mercilessly.
Tofunmi noticed the young man’s angry expression. It was truly a wicked world if his best friend had also hurt him too.
“He took over my business in less than a year. He stole all my customers, manipulated my investors and rendered me penniless…” Tomisin had a lost look on his face.
Bassey pushed his plate away and picked up his half-empty mug of milky chocolate drink. He was beginning to feel very irritated. Why were people so wicked?
“I couldn’t pay the loans I took at the bank. They claimed my houses, cars, properties, everything was taken from me,” Tomisin’s voice shook.
Misi stopped eating. She could still remember everything that happened to her family like yesterday.
“We… no one… not even family… relatives… friends… no one helped, no one came to our rescue,” tears spilled all over Tomisin’s face.
Bassey’s stomach tightened with pain. He placed the empty mug on the table and swallowed hard.
“I… I lost my children. One after the other, to sickness and hunger…” Tomisin began to weep. His wife started to cry too, “Here we are… no way forward…” he sobbed. His daughter covered her face with her hands and cried.
Bassey pressed his lips together. He breathed out loudly and held back the tears threatening to burst out of his eyes.
Tomisin looked up at the young man through blurred eyes.
“It is going to be all right. God has not forgotten you,” Bassey’s voice turned hoarse.
Tomisin nodded in agreement. He had not lost his faith in God.
“You can all stay in my house for now. We will put our heads together and think of a way forward.”
“Thank you,” Tomisin whispered. His heart swelled with gratitude.
“Thank you sir,” both women chorused. God had sent them help when they least expected it.
Bassey pushed the chair backwards and got up, “Have a goodnight,” he smiled at them and left the room.
Tomisin held his wife and daughter’s hands. They bowed their heads and said a prayer of thanksgiving.
Bassey could hardly sleep that night. The Philips family situation lingered on his mind. He called his parents and told them about the Philips. They decided to donate their old clothes. They promised to send it through his younger sister the next day. He called his sister the moment they hung up and asked her to sort her wardrobe and bring everything she wasn’t wearing or using to his place the next day. He also called his brother and asked him to start looking for any vacancy in his place of work. He hoped to get Misi somewhere to work before the end of the week. He would also discuss with his parents about employing Tomisin and Tofunmi. They would be able to start afresh and move on with their lives. He had seen the sign board of a two bedroom flat for rent along the street where his clinic was located. He would check out the place on his way back from work the next day. He had learnt early in life that it was good to be good. One never knew when one would also need help. No man was an island. He felt a bit relieved and at peace with all the plans he had made. He turned on his side and closed his eyes.
Misi leaned over the sink and washed the dishes. Her parents were fast asleep, but, sleep had evaded her. She couldn’t remember the last time they had a decent meal and bathed with clean water. She had thought she would work in her father’s company as an accountant when she graduated from the university, but her dreams ended when his friend hijacked the firm. The thought of how her siblings died one after the other consumed her. Everyone turned their backs on them, even those who had benefited from her father’s wealth. It was exactly a year since they had been living on the street, jumping from one uncompleted building to the other. She didn’t want to think of what would have happened to them if the doctor had not rescued them from the angry crowd.
God I cannot thank you enough. E se baba.
“E se o o o, baba oluwa, e se, e se, baba oluwa, e se baba, baba wa, baba e se…” she started to sing and dance.
Bassey strode into the kitchen and found her washing the dishes, singing and dancing. He leaned over the refrigerator and watched her with a smile on his face. Her voice sounded nice to his ears. He knew the song she was singing, although he doesn’t know the meaning. He had heard it in church a number of times. She appeared graceful as she moved left, then right, swirling her hips, lost to the world.
Instinctively, Misi sensed that she wasn’t alone. She turned around and found the doctor in the kitchen watching her. She stood still and heard the throbbing of her heart. The loud thuds echoed in her ears.
He walked over to the cabinet beside the sink and opened one of the drawers. He brought out a tin of Milo and a tin of Dano milk. He set it on the table and reached out for one of the mugs she had just washed.
She returned her attention to the sink. She wanted to finish washing the dishes, but, her hands refused to respond to the message her brain had passed.
I have made a fool of myself. What does he think of me now? He found a crazy girl dancing in his kitchen. Misi, Misi, Misi oooo!
She exhaled loudly when he left after making himself a hot mug of chocolate drink. She bit at her lower lip and started to rinse the bowls she had washed. His face flashed through her mind’s eyes. She recollected that he was actually smiling when he caught her dancing. She made a sign of relief. He definitely didn’t think she was crazy.
Bassey emptied the mug and placed it on the bedside drawer. He changed into his boxers and returned to the bed. Misi’s dancing figure flashed through his mind’s eye. He smiled and closed his eyes. He liked it when people knew how to praise their God. A heart full of thanksgiving was much more valuable than gold. He drifted off to sleep and dreamt about a woman singing and dancing. She called his name and asked him to join her.