“Jesu!” she exclaimed as she peered at the Infinix Phone in her hand – 6.35am. She kicked her wrapper off and scrambled out of her room into the sitting room. Empty! She was either unsurprised or too much in a hurry to care. She was late again and she needed to be in church…like ten minutes ago. She stripped quickly, dumping her clothes carelessly on the corridor floor and dashed into the bathroom. She turned on the shower and remembered why she never showered with cold water but there was no time to boil water.
In record time, she was out of the bathroom… towelling her body… stuffing her feet in black flat shoes… wondering who else in the world wore shoes before underwear… Pulling up her black straight skirt over her hips with her left hand and putting lip gloss on with her right hand… Grabbing a peach off-shoulder blouse with her left hand and drawing her left eyebrow with her right hand… Brushing her black 12-inches straight weave and putting it in a tight bun… Eyeshadow… Foundation…
She picked up her phone and dialled her taxi driver. He picked on the first ring
“Oga Chibuike, abeg na that girl wey dey transformer street for Rumuigbo… Ehn! Psychiatric Hospital road… Ehn! Yes… The girl wey you carry with her sister last week… Yes! Yes! Na me! Good morning… Abeg you fit come now, carry me go GRA side?… Abeg I dey wait for you… Come now o… I don late… Thank you.” she hung up.
She picked up a bottle of some unnamed perfume and sprayed her underarms and behind her ears lightly, strapped on her black leather wristwatch.
She hissed angrily.
“If she wakes me up and says ‘Ari, I’m going o’, will she die?” she hissed again. It was annoying that she lived in a house with a person who would never deem it fit to wake her up. Everyone knew she wasn’t an early bird – alarms or not – so it was increasingly annoying that her “dearest” cousin, whose room had the door across hers in their three bedroom apartment, who attended the same church as her, who was always in time for Sunday mornings workers’ prayer meeting at 6.30am, would never wake her up.
Her phone screen lit up to indicate an incoming call but darkened almost immediately. The taxi driver was outside. She picked up her bag containing her Bible, note pad, purse and some other things girls never admitted to having in their bags, and headed out of the apartment. She locked the door and the burglary proof gate and was about strolling out of the cramped compound with a three storey-building and five boys quarters, when she heard the shrill voice. Lord have mercy!
“Nwanyi oma, are you going out?”
Ari forced a smile on her face before turning around to the stocky woman, hurriedly making her way towards her on short legs.
“Mama Oroma, good morning.” Ari greeted, bending her knees slightly.
“Mmm. Morning. I say are you going out?” Mama Oroma asked again, readjusting her loosely tied wrapper over her heavy bosom, hidden behind a faded floral blouse. She was short:her head, mere inches from Ari’s shoulder; and she was the landlady. The annoying landlady.
“Yes ma. I’m going to church.”
“I see your sister going out this morning. That one that cannot greet but is keeping eye up-up like chekeleke. That your sister.”
Ari didn’t know what was more disturbing: Mama Oroma’s improper use of tenses that grated on her linguistic sense, the fact that she had no idea what chekeleke was or that it was some minutes past 7 am. As for Bibo, her cousin but otherwise called her sister by everyone in the neighbourhood, being a snub, she could relate. After all, said sister mostly ignored her too.
“Mama Oroma, I have to go. I am running late… “
“Yes, you have to going. But you go pray well well o. Pray that tenant be paying quick-quick or they be packing out like useless Mama Chiboy them.” she raised her voice at the end so the unwilling recipient of her prayer point would hear her. Ari’s smile faltered a bit. Which kain yeye woman be this sef? “You will also praying that you and that your sister will married this year. Yes o. Because is like they place curse on you people. Ah! When I was youngie like you people, I have born my first son and that one is in SS3. FGC Rumuokoro, here.” she pointed.
Ari scowled but said nothing. “So Adanne, praying well so that your Chi will not chasing man from you because is like they curse you…”
“Mama Oroma,” Ari snapped angrily. “that is enough. I am going to church. Have a nice day.”
She made her way out of the compound and hopped into the blue taxi with white stripes, parked by the gate.
“Sister good morning o. GRA abi? Na church abi?” the taxi driver asked in his thick Igbo accent as he turned the ignition. She nodded, too angry to speak.
Mama Oroma was the kind of landlady that made you leave your house at five AM for a nine AM appointment and return home at ten PM just to avoid her. She put the N-O-S-E-Y-trippleY in “Nosey”. The kind of landlady that probably had a timetable on her kitchen wall and peered at it everyday to determine who she would pick a fight with every morning. The kind of woman that fought her husband noisily every day but disturbed the compound with her loud groans of intimate passion at night. Na wa o.
Ari resisted the urge to stare at the time. She was late already, no point making herself miserable, so instead she chose to take a selfie as the driver took a right turn into the residential area.
“Sister we don reach o.” the driver announced, parking at a corner of the enormous white fence that read “APEX OF GRACE MINISTRIES” in bold gold lettering. She fished for a thousand Naira note in her purse and handed it to him with a smile. “Make I come carry you after?”
“I never know. I go call you.” she replied.
Alighting from the taxi, she walked briskly into the busy church compound, blending into the crowd of worshippers as late as she was. Her phone rang, she ignored it. Instead of walking through the main entrance like everyone else, she walked to the right side of the building, grabbing the handle of a door with the inscription “MEDIA TEAM ONLY“, and pushed it open.
Oh Crap! She thought as she came face to face with the scowling man in a white shirt and blue monkey-jacket that matched his blue trousers, “You are late”, and received a douse of his signature mouth odour.
[to be cont.d]
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