Red Paper.

Quietly stepping out, Ozy slowly shut and locked the door to her small self-contained flat, shoved the key down the back pocket of her denim shorts before walking towards the gate. The time was about 6:04 that Saturday morning and the rest of the neighbours were yet to awaken. Ozy was on a mission this morning.
By this time yesterday, Ozy’s flat was full of nothing edible, and she would have passed out from hunger had “nice Ben,” next door not helped out with a bowl of garri, groundnut, sugar, and two chilled sachets of pure water. It was crucial moments as such that got Ozy believing some higher power up there looked out for her.

It was over a week now in this small surburban axis of Ogun state and the Youth Corpers residing here were yet to be allocated their monthly “allowee.” Well, there was word in the grapevine that payday was next Monday, but there was just one problem – Ozy feared she would be long dead and gone by then. And then came the shock which sent Ozy jumping and screaming out loud on the road like a raving lunatic the night before, and without a care in the world of who watched her. The buzzing bank alert had greeted her phone unexpectedly with a generous amount from no other than her “Mummy dearest.” Ozy had personally decided not telling her single parent of a mother of her dire financial situation; convincing herself it was out of sheer consideration and not pride. But it appeared that special bond between mother and child came calling louder, Anyways, Ozy had called her mother last night to bombard her eardrums with countless “thank you’s” and “I love you’s.” They were all each other had in the world, ever since Ozy’s father absconded with a nameless woman and leaving them with nothing almost six years ago.
Reaching the gate, Ozy quietly unlocked it and helped herself out, trying her best not to awaken the neighbours, most especially her irritable landlady.

In less than a minute, Ozy pocketted her hands in her hoody and hurried down the free road with the chilly December harmattan air beating at her bare legs, making her regret not grabbing her sweatpants along while reaching for her blue hoodie. Her denim shorts would just have to make do. Feeling for her ATM card in her right pocket one more time, Ozy hurried down the road, hoping to spot a commercial bike she could hop on to the nearest ATM. Then she heard it coming. Relief! Her eyes lit up at once.
Turning, Ozy’s face turned into a frown of disappointment upon sighting a Power bike instead and not the regular Okada she sought now, but to her surprise, the machine suddenly slowed and pulled to a halt before her. A bit puzzled, Ozy stopped and watched this mystery rider take off his black helmet.
“Morning, beautiful.”
At once, Ozy recognized Enoch. He lived a couple of streets away and was well known for his successful chain of boutiques and BET Naija centres – and then there was his reputaion with both the local girls and female Corpers trooping into town with each batch.
“Hi,” Ozy called back and then looked out to the road for any approaching bikes while he stared at her in surpise.
“What are you doing out this early?” He asked. “It’s not safe, especially this December period, you know? I’m sure you must have heard of people disappearing. A fresh girl like yourself shouldn’t be out this early and all by herself,”
“Oh, please!” Ozy scoffed with obvious sarcasm as she scratched at her disheveled hair. “Fresh what? I haven’t even brushed nor bathed, this morning,”
“Like I mind,” Enoch teased and flashed her a grin as he grounded his bike. “So, where are you off to this morning?”
“I was just rushing down to the ATM,” Ozy replied. “But where are these bikes when you need them?” Then she acted on the lookout again while Enoch ogled.
“You’re in luck then,” he mentioned and tapped the back saddle. “Hop on. I’ll take you,”
“Oh, really? Wow!” Ozy played surprised. A part of her had actually hoped he would offer. She approached Enoch on his bike surveying the large machine allover. “Guess I’m in luck then, but…this your bike ehn. Hope it’s very safe though. I’ve never ridden on one before,”

“Cute you,” Enoch teased, flashing her his most charming grin. “I’m safe. A trial should convince you, babe,”

“Oh, please!” Ozy could not help but laugh out now at his choice of words. “You didn’t!” Then she climbed upon the large machine with some effort before straddling her petite figure comfortably behind Enoch’s bulky form.
“Sit tight, and feel free to grab on to me tight. This guy here is a fast rider,” Enoch teased with a smirk as he fondled with his large helmet before passing it to her. “And put this on,” Ozy frowned in confusion.

“But don’t you need this more than I do?” She asked taking the helmet. “You’re the rider afterall.”

At that, Enoch shook his head.

“We don’t want any damage to that pretty face of yours now, do we?”

“And you need to cut it with these one-liners, okay?” Ozy called back shaking her head in humour, wondering if these were the fire-lines this notorious womanizer used on those other girls who threw themselves at him. But what did Ozy care? She was getting a free ride, sparing her meagre expense she had borrowed last night.

Chuckling to himself, Enoch shook his head at her before gesturing to the helmet in her hands.

“I insist, Corper…..”

“Ozy,”

“Hmm, Ozy. Lovely,” Enoch stated. “I’m Enoch. I see see you around a lot. I’m sure you’ve heard of me a lot around here,”

“Emm…No,” Ozy blurted the lie to his astonishment and she took notice even from the back of his head. She quietly rolled her eyes behind him; no way was she joining the bandwagon of easy girls whom all relished in stroking his egotistical shaft.

“Oh…I see,” he muttered. The fluster in his tone was obvious “Just wear the helmet and let’s get going.” Then he glanced about again. The morning sun was starting to come out from hiding now.
“Alright, Captain,” Ozy teased as he revved the engine to life while she raised the large helmet to her head and then paused, frowning .
“You know what? You wear your thing, abeg,” Ozy called briskly placing the helmet upon his bald head.
“NO!” Enoch called out in alarm, eyes shooting open in horror as the helmet touched his head. “Don’t do….” POOF! He was gone!
“HOLY BLOOD OF GOD!” Ozy cried out, flying off the bike in a flash. Enoch had vanished right before her very eyes.

Throwing both hands over her head, Ozy frantically gazed about the desolate street as her heart pounded hard and mind trying to process what had just occured. There was still no one in sight. “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” she exclaimed before taking to her heels. But if you thought Ozy was racing back to the safety of her compound, you were wrong; for whatever mystery might had befallen Enoch, nothing was stopping Ozy from reaching that ATM. Panting heavily, she quickened her pace without looking back. “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”

***

Opening the front door, Nita stuck her head out, then hurriedly urged her visitor to come in.
“What took you so long?” She asked shutting the door and turning the key in the lock.
“I overslept,” Saheeb replied looking about the apartment like he was expecting someone to emerge from any corner. “Are you alone?”
“Duh!” Nita muttered as she approached him in her pink nightwear. “Would I have let you in if I wasn’t?”
“How long do we have?” Saheeb asked lowly and she glanced at the clock. “The last thing I want is your brother….”
“Hush,” Nita placed a finger on his lips. “I’m done caring what that stupid bully thinks,”
“Then why are we still sneaking around behind him?” Saheeb asked frowning.
“Ooh, Saheeb!” Nita groaned. “Will we keep talking or……something else?”
“Something else,” Saheeb chuckled and then drew her close while she giggled. He stared at her hairnet and generously applied facial mask, and then he made a face. “Na wa o! Are we going to do this with your face like horror film,”
“Please, shut up, Saheeb,” Nita retorted before shoving him upon the couch. “I’m having breakouts, and you yourself wanted me to get rid of them, didn’t you?”
“Fine,” Saheeb said giving a grin. “Now stop talking and come here.” He beckoned with a finger. At that, Nita threw herself upon him, pressing her lips against his. They moaned hungrily as they explored each other’s bodies with their hands. Time was of the essence.
It was not up to ten seconds when a key turned in the lock, then the front door suddenly flew open to both their shocks and they frantically sat up and froze as the unexpected figure strode in.
“Oh, no! Please, don’t stop on my account,”
“Mya?” Nita frowned in surprise as she then got to her feet, adjusting her night dress in the process. “What are you doing here? The last time I checked, there was something called knocking,”
“Last time I checked, I had my own keys,” the august visitor flaunted her spare as she dropped her red duffel bag while her matching expensive handbag hung on her arm.
“What?” Nita was surprised. “Since when?”
“Ask your brother. Look, Nita, I’m not in the mood for this” Mya stated as she waved a dismissive hand and then brushed her expensive Brazilian hair behind both ears. “So….you both can carry on with….whatever it was you were doing. I’m here to spend the weekend with my man,”
“Don’t waste your time,” Nita didn’t hesitate to say as she adjusted her nightwear again. “He’s not around,”
“Then I’ll wait for him,” Mya stressed out and then picked her bag. “I have the whole weekend, don’t I?”
“But Enoch never said anything about you dropping yourself here today,” Nita countered in displeasure to Mya’ s astonishment, whom then cocked her head back and threw her a state. Even Saheeb peered at Nita from behind her.
“I’m sorry, ma!” Mya called all sarcastic. “Okay! I didn’t know your big brother now asked your permission now.”
“Free her, Nita,” Saheeb called.

“Smart guy! Thank you!” Mya called to Saheeb before throwing Nita a look, then she took out a key, picked her duffel bag and headed for her boyfriend’s bedroom.

Glaring after her, Nita hissed after her, then Saheeb took her hand.

“Nita, let’s go into your room and….”
“No, Saheeb,” she objected and pulled away.
“What’s up with you now?” He frowned shaking his head in surprise. “Why are you letting her spoil our own flow?”
“You won’t understand. This is so wrong,” Nita shook her head back at him as she began pacing. “The timing is just so wrong. She is not supposed to be here,”
“Timing?” Saheeb was all confused now. “How does it affect us and …..” Then a piercing scream tore through the air and they jumped and turned towards the room Mya had just entered. Nita gasped out. “What is that?” Saheeb let out before dashing off leaving Nita whom raised a hand to her face in shock.

“Oh no…” she muttered and then hurried off after him.
“What happened?” Saheeb called barging into the bedroom. Backed away at a distance, Mya pointed at the large open wardrobe with a trembling hand. Both Saheeb and Nita slowly approached, gazed in and then cried out at the horrific sight before them. Standing upright in the spacious wardrobe was none other than Enoch himself. His eyes were wide-open with his head abnormally tilted to a side, and still clad in his large helmet. His jaw was dropped in an odd form, exposing his mouth which appallingly vomited various denominations of bank notes to the floor without ceasing. This was beyond belief to the people in the room.
“NOO!” It was Nita’s turn to scream out now. “Enoooch! My brother cannot be dead!” Then she yanked of her hairnet and began wrenching at her hair in hysteria. “This is a mistake!”
“Nita…” Saheeb called trying to hold her but she shoved him off.
“No! Leave me! It’s not supposed to be him!” She cried. “This is a mistake! Enoch, why?” Nita was rambling uncontrollably, she barely noticed Mya and Saheeb staring at her now, their faces pale.
“What?” Saheeb called. “Anita, what are you saying?”
“Leave me!” Throwing both hands over her head, she shook her head in tears. “My brother oo!!” Then she gave a painful cry before slumping to the floor, making Saheeb and Mya instantly backed away to the wall.
“Aah!” It was Saheeb’s turn to lose it. His hand across his forehead, he looked to the lifeless form in the wardrobe one more time, and then to Mya.

At that instant, they both knew instantly without question what Enoch had been all about, and it was all too much for Saheeb to take in all at once. “I was not here o! I don’t know anything! I don’t like wahala in my life!” Then he looked down at the unconscious form sprawled on the floor. “Ah, Nita! YOU!” He pointed before turning to flee the room for fear of him probably falling next victim to this diabolical family.
“Enoch?” Mya muttered in disbelief, frozen on her feet as she stared at the lifeless form. More notes still freely dropped to the floor before her; then she placed a hand across her chest feeling her heart pound rapidly. This explained the source of it all – the chain of boutiques, the betting centres, the car, the bike, and all that money he flooded her bank account with. She shook her head. “Enoch why?” Then she heard Saheeb slam the front door shut in his escape.

Mya’s heart pounded harder as she dared to step forward towards the wardrobe. Dollar and Naira bills gushed out from the dead Enoch’s small mouth ceaselessly, scattering allover the floor now.

Taking a deep breath, Mya made a brisk sign of the cross across her chest before dropping on her knees, and then she began grabbing at the bills with trembling hands – stuffing them in both her bags – handful after handful until there was no more space left. “I’m sorry, baby,” she called up to him sombrely, as she scrambled up to her feet and then  shut the wardrobe, leaving him in the darkness where she had found him.

Mya’s bags felt weighty as she frantically lifted them. If she was quick enough, she could make it to the motor park before 7:30 for the next available bus back to Lagos.

Adjusting her brown hair in a poised manner, Mya stared at the closed closet now, giving a deep sigh again. “Goodbye, baby” she calmly called before walking off. Nita was still sprawled on the floor unconscious and Mya didn’t pity her one bit. Too bad for her, she would have so much to answer for upon regaining consciousness. “Dumb bitch,” Mya called before stepping over her, and out of the room with more than enough money she had ever needed.

Shutting the apartment door behind her, Mya stood for a moment, trying to process all she had just witnessed. She and Enoch had not been an official couple nor the only man in her life but Mya had been quite fond of him to an extent. His predicament was quite unfortunate and she might sob a tear, or two over him later. But at this moment Mya had just one thought : the bills had to be paid!
Taking one long deep breath, Mya threw her head back, wore a straight face, and then sashayed towards the gate bags in hand, and without looking back.



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