The seat belt lights came on as the air hostess said through a microphone. “We would be at the Lagos Muritala Mohammed airport in a couple of minutes so we encourage all passengers to fasten their seat belts” she said, her accent sounding almost British. So he had decided to go after a night of intense self-conflict. In the end, he arrived at a perfect train of thought. Going to Las Gidi meant getting his card unblocked. Getting his card unblocked meant getting his millions back. Getting his millions back meant he could get Cynthia’s ride back and make it up to her in any way possible. She still hadn’t replied his text, 24 hours later
Clinton fastened his seat belts quicker than anyone in the first class section and probably more than anyone in the plane. He was too aerophobic to risk travelling by air for more than an hour and as such had never left the country. He would have taken transportation by road if he could but he already had a plane ticket and he had heard horrible tales of road accidents. Maybe it was just paranoia but he had a sinking feeling that Anita had intentionally booked a window seat for him. She had been there when he discovered this unnatural phobia. His father’s mother had just died and was to be buried in the village according to her will. So they had all booked first class seats in a plane going to his hometown. Clinton had thrown up a total of 11 times during the hour’s journey. His mother had had to accompany him by land when the burial was over. He tried asking a pretty air hostess to find someone willing to swap seats with him but she never returned. His flirting game became weak when his phobia kicked in.
The entire 45minutes flight had been like a scary ride on a Ferris wheel. The one time he had summoned courage to look out the window, the height scared him so much he ran to the toilet to throw up. After which he had just blocked his ears with loud headphones, closed his eyes and let his mind wander.
He hadn’t intended to go to Lagos. His parents couldn’t have summoned him for anything good. The fall out they had had three years ago was legendary. They said a lot hurtful things to him and he had left, vowing to never come back. His mother Abigail Okoye, a doctor in sociology and a successful entrepreneur, had reached out to him soon afterwards, apologizing for what had been said, mostly by his father. Chief Barrister Cletus Okoye was the CEO of Cellular Ltd, the most profitable telecommunication network in Nigeria. He had bought a regional telecommunications organization and built it into a multibillion naira company which had almost fifty percent of the nation’s cellphone and smartphone users. The current net worth of the network was a little over three hundred billion naira and still growing. The Chief was indeed a very wealthy man and with such wealth came a certain kind of arrogance, Clinton thought.
Then his sister’s indication towards marriage unsettled him. He was still very young, wasn’t he? 28 was considered the peak of a bachelor’s years by a great many. Maybe that was the reason they were summoning him, to advise him to get married and have grandchildren for them as soon as possible. Maybe his father was dying of cancer or some other deadly sickness that plagued this world. He smiled despite himself. He was so going to stamp his foot down and say “I love you both, but you have to exercise patience if you want a grandchild from me”.
The thought of his father dying brought him comfort through the turbulent landing of the plane. The plane skidded to a halt on the runway in a rather rough fashion. Clinton closed his eyes tightly, holding a rosary in his black leather jacket till the horrific landing was over and then he got up as fast as he could. He grabbed his small luggage from his assigned luggage cabinet above his head and made his way quickly to the door as if afraid the plane would take off again. The thing with first class passengers was that they always took their precious time embarking or disembarking from whatever transportation they found themselves. Probably because they are used to owning everything. He was fine with their speed, so far they weren’t hindering his exit from what he believed to be a death machine.
He finally made it out the plane and breathed in the Lagos air. It smelt bad of memories. With a sigh he walked towards the airport to clear himself. There was a certain sense of rush here in this Muritala Mohammed airport that was absent at the Nnamdi Azikwe airport in Abuja. Everyone seemed in a hurry to be somewhere other than where they were presently. He was shoved at least twice, the first time by a man in a second-hand business suit racing to the counter and the second time by a woman who had one too many children dragging them away with their luggage. After checking out at a counter occupied by a grumpy Yoruba woman, he leisurely walked outside the airport. There were many people, too many people. They were all waiting impatiently to see associates, friends or family. No one was waiting for him. So this was what being back in the industrious state felt like? How uncomfortable.
He left the waiting area and moved outside the airport proper, where he was greeted with loud voices trying to out shout one another. “Yes cab?!” “Yes cab?!” Drivers of rickety yellow taxis screamed at him. The horror. Why hadn’t he just ordered an Uber, he wondered as he searched for the least rickety taxi. He found one that looked halfway decent with a driver that was well into his 60s. The driver wearing a worn out fedora, leaned against the taxi and chewed on a brown chewing stick. The old driver reminded Clinton of Maleek, his father’s personal driver going on seven years now. He asked “Yes cab?” to which Clinton nodded. “Where?” the driver asked moving to open the booth of the car. “Banana Island” Clinton replied, still looking at the vehicle and weighing his options. The driver stopped in his tracks and turned to size Clinton up from head to toe. He probably saw a young man in a leather jacket, a pair of denim jeans and a pair of white Jordans, accessorized only with one golden chain around his neck. Something about Clinton must have convinced him that he wasn’t joking. “Oga, taxi no fit go there. Na private estate” he said, walking back to lean on the side of his car. “Take Ober there” he said. “Uber” Clinton corrected, irritated at his wasted time. The driver just scoffed and called to the next person behind Clinton “Yes cab?” So he was going to have to use Uber after all. What a welcome back to the city of his youth. The city he had earlier vowed never to return.
For the second time in two days, Clinton was arriving at a family member’s house reluctantly and not even in his own car. The deja vu of shame hit him hard. The Okoye mansion came into view long before the vehicle arrived at the gate. He wondered if he should have camouflaged like he did at Anita’s house. The vehicle cruised to a halt in front of the massive gate and the driver got out heading to the booth. Clinton got out and waited while he carried the luggage out. Bolaji was this one’s name according to the app, which also told Clinton that his fare was five thousand one hundred and twenty naira. He handed him six thousand and said “Keep the change”. “Thank you sir, thank you” the driver said “And please sir, five star ratings” before walking back into his car. Clinton only smiled. This driver wasn’t getting five stars, he wasn’t even getting two. He had tried repeatedly to engage Clinton in conversations, talking about the country obviously under the impression Clinton had just arrived from a foreign country. Clinton on the other hand would have been satisfied completely if he had been left to stalk @Slaynthia on social media in peace. Snapchat showed her at a mall in Abuja they frequented, still slaying. She was with her friends, almost a completely different set this time. He missed her and wanted to be with her as soon as possible but he couldn’t, not while he was this broke. He had put aside his pride and forsook his rule, messaging her on her Snapchat. “Cynthia, I’m sorry” he’d typed and sent immediately and then hoped for the best.
The clouds were getting dark faster than usual. After staring at the enormous house through the iron gates, he summoned up courage and rung the bell by the side. Unlike his sister’s house, no gateman came to check from the gate but rather, a voice came from the little electronic telecom just above the bell. “Good afternoon” came the voice. The familiar voice belonged to the family butler Jude Makonem who had served the family for more than a decade. “Good afternoon Jude. It’s me, Clinton” Clinton said into the telecom. In a way, Jude’s voice was reassuring to Clinton. “Master Clinton, welcome. I’d be with you in a minute” the voice said and then the gate swung open mechanically. He grabbed the handle of his luggage and pulled it through the gates.
The acres surrounding the house were occupied with vegetation, automobiles of different makes, palm trees and colourful roses everywhere. There were Rolls Royce, Mercedes, and Jaguars parked all around. His father did like his cars and his mother, her flowers. A large high fence with wires secured the land on all sides. Although there was no indication of it, he knew those wires had more than ten thousand volts of electricity coursing through them, more than enough to send a grown man into instant cardiac arrest. He knew this because he was present years ago when a thief had attempted to sneak beneath them. He had died on the fence and his remains had been pushed off with wooden sticks by policemen the next day. That was the closest he had been to a dead body.
The double doors of the mansion swung open and a light skinned man in a monkey suit came out accompanied by a little poodle. “Master Clinton, it’s been a while” Jude said, bowing slightly. “Yes, Jude. A long while” he said smiling and shaking his hand. Clinton’s gaze fell on the little dog that was barking furiously at him. This one’s new, he thought. “Come now, sir” Jude said, taking his luggage from him “Your father and mother are waiting for you inside” and then he walked quickly inside, the poodle racing after him. Clinton stopped dead in his tracks and swallowed hard. His parents were in. He had hoped he’d have more time before having to face them. Apparently he had no time at all. He brought out the rosary from the pocket of his jacket and exchanged it with the golden chain on his neck. That ought to put him in their good graces, he hoped. Something fell on his head and he looked up. It had started to drizzle. As if to slaughter, he reluctantly walked into his father’s mansion.
He heard his mother’s high pitched voice before he saw her. “Jude! Stop letting Princess follow you outside, she’s an indoor dog” she said, gathering the poodle from the floor. Looking up, she beheld her only son. “Mum” he said, a slight smile creeping up his face. “Oh my darling” she said, dropping the poodle and rushing to her son. Although he hadn’t seen her face to face in three years, she had video-called him from time to time. A beaded woman in an expensive looking Katana, donning heavy make-up, which helped reduce how old she looked was stood. Her hair was tied up in a bun. People always said Anita was a carbon copy of her and in that instant, he knew why. She tiptoed to kiss his left cheek then his right cheek and then his forehead before hugging him tightly. “How I have missed you, my darling” she said, pronouncing the ‘darling’ as ‘durleen’. He smiled at her then took in his surrounding. The living room hadn’t changed much although the decorations had been transformed as was annual tradition. The floor tiles had been changed to a different design as was custom every year. The long windows were draped with layers and layers of silk curtains. A television almost thrice the size of his, overshadowed the northern wall which also had two inbuilt sound systems in it. Another wall held an emphasized portrait of Jesus Christ and the last wall had stuffed animal heads decorated upon it. There were black Caribbean settees everywhere. A fine chandelier suspended from the high ceiling above casting a golden light all around the room. Apart from the silent humming of the various air conditioners situated around, the room was quiet. “Oh come now” his mother said, interrupting his environment assessment “Your father is in his study” and she made her way to a carpeted staircase that led to the next floor. “Quick and painless” he said to himself and then he begun ascending the staircase behind his mother.
She walked quickly but gracefully like a woman in her natural habitat. Despite being in her early 50s, she still had the airs and stamina of someone decades younger. Although he knew exactly where his father’s study was, he chose to stay well behind his mother. She stopped before a brown door and knocked twice “Sweetheart, it’s me” she said before she opened the door. The study was a boring room as far as Clinton was concerned. Shelves of books were on all sides, typical of a lawyer’s study. In the centre of the room, a large couch was strategically placed so as not to obstruct passage. By the side of one shelf, was a mini bar which Clinton knew would be filled to the brim with wine and spirits. Further down the room was a large table upon which paper and documents lay scattered beside an open laptop. Behind the table was Chief Barrister Cletus Okoye, seated on a large swivelling chair. A balding man in his late 50s. The curtains of the long window behind him were drawn allowing the lightening outside to flash inside giving him the look of a villain in an action movie. Which was what he usually was to Clinton. Abigail Okoye moved fluidly and settled herself on the couch, leaving Clinton exposed to his father. Cletus Okoye was a man of rather large body build. He had the look of a fit and still very vibrant man, fitter than his age should permit. The only thing that made him look his age were the circular spectacles he wore on the bridge of his nose rather than on his eyes. “Good evening, father” he said, bowing slightly just as Jude had done only moments before. Cletus smiled dryly “Well, if it isn’t the great Cleanblings, gracing us with his presence”. He didn’t have to wonder too much about how his father knew his social media handle, Anita, his sister, may have gotten her looks from their mother, but she most certainly got her personality from their father. They both had the passion for taunting him mercilessly and both did it with dexterity.
Cletus closed the laptop on the table and leaned back into the chair “Kedu? Come and sit down na” he said in an igbo accent, waving nonchalantly to the two office chairs on the other side of the table. Clinton walked swiftly and placed himself in one of the chairs. He was determined not be made a ridicule of this time. His father sat across the table, with a knuckle under his chin, staring at him and smiling. Clinton stared back for as long as he could before averting his gaze to the lovely view of the raging weather behind his father. “A catholic rosary?” he said looking at Clinton’s neck “What, no money for clean blings?” he said humorously. “Cletus sweetheart, you promised to play nice with the boy” his mother’s voice came to his rescue. Cletus laughed and said “Alright then, I’d be blunt and simple, Cleanblings” calling the nickname with as much irritation he could muster in his tongue “You’ve been useless to this family for too long”. “Cletus!” his mother shouted. “Spades can’t be called diamonds, Abigail!” he shouted back, still glaring at Clinton. “A Spade must be called a spade and you Clinton Okoye have been useless for far too long!” Clinton fidgeted in his seat and wondered if he could vow never to come here again, for the second time. “You’ve incurred nothing but debts without ever suggesting a single way to make money for this family” his previously pleasant mood was disappearing fast, most likely due to Clinton’s mere presence. “So, Clinton, we’ve arranged a way for you to be useful even if you weren’t trying” his father paused and then bit out “Not like you could be even if you tried” “Now Cletus…” his mother interrupted again much to his father’s annoyance. “Abigail, don’t you have somewhere else to be?” this time looking past Clinton directly at Abigail. She made no reply so he turned his eyes back at his son. “Clinton, you just have to do us one tiny favour and then you can go back to cleanblinging all around the federal capital once again” he paused to let his message sink in. “Do it and you’d make enough money to settle your debts and even have more to keep up your lavish lifestyle. Will you do this for us? For your mother? Sister?” another pause “For your old man?” Cletus said, a sneaky smile spreading across his face. “Will you do it for your old man, Cleanblings?” he asked mockingly and then waited as if expecting a response. He was fond of asking ridiculous questions and waiting for a reply. After no one spoke for almost a minute, Clinton mumbled inaudibly “Yes sir” “What was that?” Cletus asked, feigning innocence. “Yes Sir.” Clinton said, squealing louder than before. “Yes what?” he asked “Yes I’ll do the favour for you” he said loudly this time. “There. You see, Abigail, Cleanblings is on board. Just like I told you he would be” his mother shrugged and made no effort to comment. “Now then, what’s today?” Cletus said, pushing up his spectacles and looking up at a calendar hanging from a nearby wall. “Wednesday? Yes Wednesday” he turned back to his son. “Clinton, you’re getting married on Sunday”.
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