Bukky tossed and turned on the almost flat foam continuously until her disgruntled aunt woke up and gave her a knock on the head. She rolled to the edge of the bed, lay still, and massaged the spot where the pain emanated from. She couldn’t sleep. Thoughts of how her boyfriend fondled her replayed on her mind over and over again. She enjoyed been kissed by him. She liked been in his arms. The deal breaker was that things could really get out of hand. What if she got pregnant? She was just eigteen and he was twenty. They were not matured enough to take care of themselves, talk about a child. She didn’t want to be a baby mama. It was the trend amongst several teenage girls and young women in the society. Was it possible to date someone and be able to prevent getting physically intimate? How does one control the sexual urge in the face of temptation? She had no idea that it was going to be that tough. Living in obedience to God’s word was a whole new affair when it involved matters of the heart. She cleared her mind and tried to think about other things.
Her boyfriend was now an undergraduate and in the next four years, he would be a graduate of LASU, with B.sc in Economics and Statistics. Where would she be then? If by chance they were still in a relationship, would her illiteracy come in-between them? If she really wanted to get educated, how was she going to finance it? God said in his word that he had given her the power to make wealth. She needed a very good business idea. If she began to do something, God would surely bless the work of her hand. She was not too young to run her own business. She closed her eyes and began to pray.
Kike woke her niece up that morning before leaving the house to the market place to hustle for her daily bread. The girl didn’t allow her to sleep the other night. The way she was turning every five minutes kept her awake. Even after hitting her on the head in order to caution her, she heard her praying a storm a while later. If not that the girl was her elder sister’s daughter, she would have driven her out of the room. She wasn’t against the prayers, but, it was done at the wrong time. She should have considered the fact that she wasn’t alone in the room. She would raise the issue when she returned home in the evening.
Bukky sat up on the almost flat bed, drowsy and exhausted. She doubted if she slept for more than three hours. She scratched a spot on her scalp and thought of loosening her plaited hair. It would cost her nothing less than two hundred naira to have it re-done. She looked around for her leather wrist-watch and found it on the floor. She stretched out her hand and picked it up. It was several minutes past seven. She was late. By the time she had her bath and dressed up, an hour would have gone by. If she met a queue outside the only bathroom in the compound, two hours would take flight.
She rubbed her fingers against her eyes and yawned loudly. A random thought crossed her mind. There was a woman that lived three houses away from theirs, when she used to live with her parents. She sold fried bean cake, popularly called akara. Whenever she was sent to buy some bean cake, she watched how the woman turned the grinded bean in a big basin and scooped it into the hot oil. The people that patronized her used the akara to eat cooked pap, bread, or garri soaked in water. She heard that the woman was able to sponsor her children’s education with the business.
Bukky jumped off the bed. Several thoughts and ideas ran through her excited mind. She could do the same thing. She had less than a thousand naira in her purse. She could start with what she had. She would buy a module of beans, a bottle of vegetable oil, pepper, maggi, salt, what else? She used to see one of her neighbours with a big black fry pan. She would borrow it. She needed a coal pot too. How much does it cost to buy coal and fire wood in the area? She would find out. First things first, she needed to ask the landlady for permission to use the front of the bungalow to sell her wares. What if she asked her to pay? She hoped she wouldn’t. She paled. The landlady was known to be foulmouthed and easily angered. She prayed to God for favour.
She slipped into her Dunlop slippers, changed into a blouse and a skirt and hurried out of the room. She was going to take the bull by the horns.
Bukky placed the big black fry pan on the medium size charcoal stove and re-arranged the coal and firewood underneath. The pan was borrowed from her neighbour, on the condition that she returned it washed and cleaned every day. She hoped to buy one soonest. The yellow light of the fire began to lick its way around the wood and coal which cost her a quarter of the money she had in her purse. She opened the bottle of vegetable oil she bought that morning and poured it into the pan. She threw the empty bottle aside and began to turn the mixture of grinded black-eyed beans, pepper, onions and seasoned with maggi and salt. She had no more money left. She promised to pay the local grinder after sales that day. The woman was the only one she owed. It had been a miracle when the landlady gave her permission to use part of the frontage of the house to cook and sell her wares. The woman didn’t even ask any funny questions. All she wanted was a daily portion of bean-cake. She looked up to the sky and prayed to God to bless her business.
“Na you dey sell akara for here?” one of her neighbours approached her. The pot-bellied man was bare-chested and had a wrapper tied around his weight.
She looked in his direction, “Yes, sir.”
“Very good. How much?” he stood in front of the charcoal stove.
“Ten naira per one.”
“I want a hundred naira own,” his eyes darted around, “Don’t you sell bread?”
“What about corn pap?” he directed his gaze at her sweat streaked face.
He scratched his bald head.
“I will start selling bread by tomorrow, and maybe corn pap later on,” she made a mental note to go to the bakery at the junction and find out what it would cost to buy hot fresh bread daily, with or without cash. She might buy corn, blend it and make the pap herself. Her mother taught her how to make corn pap before she turned twelve.
“Once your akara is done, please sell a hundred naira own for me.”
“I will go and buy bread at the junction.”
“Okay sir,” she watched him leave and smiled; her very first customer. She started to scoop the mixture into the hot oil with her hand until the pan had no more space. The aroma of the cooking bean-cake drifted into her nose. She grinned from ear to ear. She could discern that it was going to be very tasty.
Thirty minutes later, almost everyone living in the twenty room bungalow gathered around her, ordering for the akara. They argued, fought, joked and bought her wares. People from the houses next to theirs joined them and in less than three hours, it was sold out. When she counted the money she made, it was triple the amount she spent that morning. She had enough to prepare for the next day, pay her debt, make pap and buy bread from the bakery.
She had her bath, changed into a tee-shirt and a jean, brushed her hair and set off to the market. She thanked God as she walked towards the junction. She had a feeling that her business was going to do very well. Finally, she would be able to sponsor herself and get educated. It didn’t matter how long it would take, she would not give up.
Kike returned home from the market that evening and met her niece sieving a large amount of corn pap outside their room. One of their neighbours who saw her in the market informed her that Bukky’s akara was the best she had eaten in a long while. She thought the woman was high on something, until she met someone that lived on the same street. The man was just dishing out advise without been asked. She had no idea what her elder sister’s daughter had been up to, but, it got the attention of many people.
”Good evening aunty Kike,” she looked up at the tired looking woman in her mid-thirties.
The dark skinned a little above average height woman eyed her, “Your news travelled all the way to the market and made me look like a fool. Next time you want to do something, please let me know in advance. Or have you forgotten that you are living with someone? Are you the one paying the rent?” she hissed and marched into the room.
Bukky scrambled to her feet and hurried after her, hands covered with blended corn. She found her mother’s sister seated on the almost flat bed, fuming.
“I am so sorry aunty. It all happened so fast…” she went on her knees, “I am sorry. It won’t happen again. E ma bi nu ma.”
Kike hissed again, “You are not serious at all. When your mother sent you to me, what did I tell you? Since I have been living in this compound, no one has heard my voice. I mind my own business. I don’t want any problem with anybody.”
“I am sorry,” she sighed heavily. Maybe she should have looked for her aunt and intimated her of her plans when she was at the market that morning. Assuming she had a phone, she would have been able to call her. Or maybe she should have gone to the lady selling recharge cards under the umbrella down the street and put a call through to her aunt. Next time, she would do just that.
“What exactly is going on?” she turned to the remorseful eighteen year old girl.
Bukky narrated how she started the akara business that morning. Her aunt advised and encouraged her. She thanked her and returned to the basin of pap she left outside the room.