Kunle went into an inner office and brought it. Anike got to work immediately, cutting her long, dark brown hair with quiet efficiency. She cropped her hair very close, almost like the crew cut Kunle was sporting. When she was done, she looked at herself in a mirror and was satisfied with the result. Even she found it hard to recognize herself.
‘No one, not even that wicked lawyer can recognize me now.’ She told Kunle with a smile.
Kunle nodded. ‘African queen’ he said, teasing her.
Anike replied with a smile and a catwalk. A problem shared really is a problem half solved, she thought. Immediately after telling Kunle her story, it was like a burden was lifted off her very being. She now felt light-hearted, almost happy in fact.
‘You must be hungry.’ Kunle said, interrupting her runway moment.
‘Just chill,’ he went inside the inner office again and returned almost immediately with a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. ‘Change into these while I get you something to eat.’
Anike looked down at herself. She hadn’t realized that her green dress, which she had worn for three straight days, was now dirty. She smiled her thanks, grabbed the clothes and headed towards the back of the shop while Kunle went out to buy her breakfast. Kunle returned before long with steaming rice and beans and Anike dug in.
‘What time does your mom come to the shop?’ she asked with her mouth full.
‘Usually around 10 o’ clock, why do you ask?’
‘She mustn’t meet me here, remember?’
‘Oh that’s true,’ he glanced at his watch. ‘It’s 8:15 already, the salesgirls get in by 8:30 so you might need to wolf down your food.’
‘Yes sir.’ She replied with her mouth full. The food was really nice, Anike thought and she thanked Kunle again. He smiled at her as she picked up a piece of meat and bit into it. That was when she heard movement in front of the shop. She looked up sharply.
‘You locked the door, didn’t you?’ she asked Kunle, her voice full of fear.
‘Of course I did. Except its mum, she has her own set of keys.’ Kunle looked worried. He got up and made his way to the door to investigate. He almost collided with his mother.
‘Hello darling, I must have forgotten my other phone here last night. Could you help me check…?’ Kunle’s mom stared at the girl sitting on the floor of her shop. She saw her food flask sitting snugly between the girl’s legs with a sachet of “pure water” which was starting to pour on the floor. She pointed at it and Anike quickly righted the sachet before scrambling up with great fear. Kunle had mentioned how strict his mother was.
‘Who are you?’ she asked, before turning to her son to repeat the question. ‘Kunle, who is this?’
Kunle started to stammer like an idiot. The woman turned back to Anike. The combination of her fear-she was practically shaking now- and the stew that had dribbled down her chin made her look like some sort of moron. She turned back to her son.
‘Since the cat seems to have gotten your tongue, I’m going to wait in the office for you to get it back so you can tell exactly what is going on here. And you better not waste my time.’ She narrowed her eyes before turning on her heels and marching off into the office.
Five minutes later, Kunle had summoned enough courage to face his mother. He told Anike to wait outside the shop as even he didn’t know how his mother would react after hearing the story. He entered to see his mother sitting in her chair, frowning at her phone. She had just jumped on the Android bandwagon but didn’t quite understand how it worked yet. She looked up and gave him a look that said she was listening. He started repeating the story Anike told him just that morning. He decided to change one part of it, though, claiming Anike had been sent away by her aunt. There was no telling what his mother might say if he told her the whole truth.
When Kunle finished the story, his mother thought about it for a few seconds and came to a conclusion.
‘Well, it’s not as bad a scenario as I thought,’ she said, relaxing in her seat, ‘At least it’s not some girl that you knocked up or something.’
‘Mooooom! How could you think that of me?’ he screwed up his face in mock annoyance, ‘I’m hurt, really.’ He said placing his hand over his heart.
His mother smiled. ‘Call her in.’
Kunle sauntered outside to summon Anike. He was greatly relieved that his mom reacted that way. He had been expecting fire and brimstone. It’s a miracle, he thought. The poor girl had suffered so much, this stroke of good fortune was long overdue. He looked up at the ceiling and muttered his gratitude.
Anike stood before Kunle’s mother unsure of what to expect. True, Kunle had told her that his mother reacted positively but she just didn’t know what to think.
‘Why did your aunt-in-law send you away?’ she asked Anike.
Anike blinked. She glanced at Kunle who was sitting on the arm of his mom’s chair. His look told her to play along and she immediately caught on.
‘I don’t know ma, I think she just didn’t like me. Also, she was always complaining about the extra mouth she had to feed.’
‘I see.’ The older woman returned distractedly.
‘What did you say her name was again, your aunt-in-law?’
Kunle’s mother nodded. ‘Why don’t you make yourself useful? By the end of the day, I’d have decided what to do help you.
Anike got to her knees, gushing her heartfelt appreciation.
‘It’s no problem, little one,’ she replied, waving Anike back to her feet, ‘Kunle, take your friend to Susan, the sales manager. She’ll find something for her to do.’
Kunle beamed and beckoned Anike to follow him. As soon as they were out of the office, Kunle’s mother picked up her phone again. This time, she was only interested in the basic function of the phone; she needed to make a call