If I thought the Sunshine Spot was crowded the afternoon we’d last visited, walking in that Saturday evening, I realized the first time had been child’s play. It was so full, the crowd had even overflowed outside, with rusty metal chairs placed around makeshift tables. The music, old Nigerian Highlife, was loud, and the room was dense from all the smoke. For a small town, the people here sure liked to have a good time.
I suddenly found myself wishing I’d stood my ground and declined accompanying Anuli there.
By some stroke of magic, a party of 4 people vacated their table just as we walked in, otherwise our meeting with lover boy from Asaba would have been held standing!
Anuli tossed her long wig and smacked her glossy lips. It was no wonder she was attracting a lot of attention. With her flawless honey colored skin, her perfectly made-up face, and the mid-riff top and scandalously short shorts she wore that hugged every voluptuous curve of her body, she looked good enough to eat. And she knew it. As she waved greetings at those she knew, and batted long lashes at those she didn’t, it was clear she was enjoying the attention.
“Anuli. Did you really need me to come with you? It looks like you’re having enough fun all by yourself.” I muttered as our drinks arrived; a soda for me and a beer for my cousin.
“Don’t worry, he’ll be here soon.” she answered, mistaking my sarcasm for impatience or, worse, eagerness. “You know he’s coming all the way from Asaba.”
“That’s only 30 minutes away.” I said, amazed by how much of a big deal she made commuting from the neighboring towns appear.
“Ehn ehn! If you’re going to behave like this when he comes, you better just go home now oh!” Anuli retorted, her eyes flashing anger. “I only just called the guy. Did you expect him to fly here or what?!”
On a good day, on a very good day, that would have been all the cue I’d need to get up and walk away. Because truth be told, I would rather be at home, pondering over the mysteries that were Chalowku and the pregnant woman in the picture, than sitting here waiting to meet another of Anuli’s jokers. But apart from the fact that I was eager to possibly get a ride to Onitsha soon…I was curious.
“Look, Goli. I wouldn’t have asked him to come if I didn’t think he’s worth it! Ejike is a fantastic guy!” Anuli said, having calmed down after her outburst. “And he is rich!!! Not just regular kind of rich. I mean RICH!!! Stupidly and phenomenally rich!!! Oil money kind of rich!!! He even has a…” her voice trailed, and the broad smile on my face was all the indication I needed that the Ejike had arrived.
I looked up to catch a glimpse of him, half expecting to see another badly dressed clown like Olisa, but I was surprised to see a good looking man approach us, with a smile on his face. He was simply dressed in grey knit t-shirt, which I immediately could tell was Armani, and a pair of green cargo trousers. When he approached us, I noticed his feet were clad in simple sandals you’d never know were Gucci, if you didn’t know your fashion. I was impressed.
“Ejike! My G!” Anuli hailed, pumping her fist as he took his seat.
As he sat, he smiled at us. “Anuli! So great to see you again! What brings you back here?”
I just couldn’t help but be amazed by this guy. His English was clean and clear, with only the slightest trace of an accent. Looking at him close up, you could tell he was in his early 40s, and was no spring chicken.
“I brought my little cousin to town.” she answered, throwing her hand over my shoulder. “Her name is Golibe. Isn’t she pretty?”
Ejike looked me and smiled politely. “Golibe. That’s a nice name. You live in Lagos?”
“Lagos ke? My cousin is a London girl oh! Fine London girl for that matter!” Anuli answered, almost scandalized by his assumption.
“I’m sure Golibe can talk for herself.” he said.
“She’s right. I live in London, but came home for…for some family reasons.” I answered politely.
He nodded. “From your accent, I can tell you were born and bred there. Is this your first time in Nigeria?”
“No. I was here when I was 10…”
“She understands Igbo oh! Very, very well!” Anuli said, beaming proudly. “And she’s young too. Only 25!”
Ejike nodded, almost bored, as he signaled for the waiter.
“So, I’ve kept my side of the bargain, Ejike!” Anuli said, leaning forward. “This is the exchange you said you wanted! I’ve brought you the kind of girl you like…so when are you going to introduce me to one of your friends, like we agreed?”
Ejike threw his head back as he laughed, a deep throaty laugh. “Oh, is this what all this is about? Anuli!!! Will you ever change?!”
“Ejike, why are you laughing?” Anuli demanded, “Wasn’t that what we agreed? Isn’t that what you said last December, when I asked you to introduce me to either Collins or Emeka, after you turned me down?”
As quickly as the laughter had erupted, it disappeared, and a small frown appeared on Ejike’s face. “Anuli, you are too old for all this kind of behavior. You mean all the things we discussed that day entered through one ear, and escaped through the other? Abi is it all this weave on on your head that absorbed all the advise on your behalf?”
I couldn’t help but snigger, and Anuli threw me a dirty look. “Ejike, I didn’t ask you to come here for a sermon! I thought you’d be interested in meeting Golibe, that’s all.”
I watched them, mesmerized, not even minding the fact that my cousin was trying to pawn me off like was a slab of meat.
“Okay, my bad!” he said, throwing his hands up in mock surrender. “Golibe, please forgive my manners. Let’s start over. I’m Ejike.” he reached out to shake me.
“I’m Golibe.” I smiled, shaking his hand.
“So, tell me about yourself. What do you do in London? How long are you here for?” he asked.
“I worked at the University of Reading until earlier this year…” I began.
“That’s not in London.” he interjected.
I smiled. “No, it isn’t. You know the U.K. well?”
“What are you saying? Ejike is a well travelled man! London, Paris, New York, Japan, he is always in the skies going from one place to…” Anuli’s voice suddenly trailed off mid-sentence.
I looked at her, and was surprised to see that she had blanched, and goosebumps had appeared all over her arms. Thankfully, Ejike’s drink arrived just at that point, so he was too distracted to notice. Looking in the direction of her gaze, I saw a dark skinned man standing at the door of the bar. He had a pleasant face and looked to be in his mid to late 30s.
Looking at Anuli again, I saw her hands were actually trembling.
“Are you okay?” I whispered, placing my hand on hers, and was startled when she jerked it away.
“I…I have to go.” she said, rising to her feet so abruptly, she almost toppled the glasses on the table over. “I…my stomach doesn’t feel great.”
I rose to my feet. “I’ll go with you.” I said, reaching for her hand.
“No. No need. Ejike…please bring her home. You remember the house.” she answered, grabbing her bag and scampering off towards the other door.
I watched her as she left, and saw her cast another glance at the dark skinned man, who had, by now, taken his seat at a table at the far end of the room, before she scampered away quickly.
“Anuli! Ever dramatic!” Ejike chuckled, as he sipped on his drink.
I wasn’t amused at all. I was extremely worried. I had never seen that look on Anuli’s face before. It was a look of terror. Something about the dark skinned guy had frightened her. Looking at the culprit, sitting gently at his table, waiting for his drink, he looked so harmless, adding further to the mystery. What had happened between them to frighten Anuli so badly?
“Golibe, I like you…so I’m going to be straight with you.” Ejike said. “You are a very pretty girl, and I can also tell you’re incredibly smart…”
I smiled in spite of myself. “I feel like there’s a ‘but’ coming…”
Ejike also smiled. “And you would be correct. If Anuli told you I’m looking for a wife, that’s correct. I am. But with all these your tattoos, and your London upbringing…I don’t think you quite fit what I’m looking for.”
I laughed. “Not to mention that I can’t cook to save my life!”
Ejike threw his head back and laughed his deep, throaty laugh. “Yeah, that would also be a problem.”
“So, why not Anuli?” I asked, unable to help myself. “She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she can cook…she checks every one of those your boxes. Why not her? I don’t believe what she said about you wanting someone younger. Besides, she’s not that much older than me!”
Ejike’s eyebrows shot up in what I wasn’t sure was surprise, shock or amazement. “Anuli isn’t your age mate, Golibe. What ever gave you that impression?” he took another sip of his drink and leaned forward. “You’re correct, age is not a factor for me. But I could never be serious with a woman of her reputation. How can I take my wife out, when she’s probably slept with everyone in my social circle?”
I deflated, knowing what he was saying was true. In the few days I’d been in Nigeria, I’d already witnessed my cousin flirt with and tease more men than I could count.
“Look, I love Anuli…but only as a sister. I truly care for her, which is why I sat her down for over an hour last December, advising her to change her ways!” Ejike said, after a lengthy pause. “You and the rest of your family should try to talk to her. Let her, at least, try to finish school. She is a very intelligent woman, and can make something of her life if she just puts her mind to it. She doesn’t need to be running up and down after men, begging for money.”
I nodded, agreeing with him. There was no reason for Anuli not to have made something more of her life. I made a mental note to ask Chuka to speak to her.
“Do you know that guy?” I asked, tilting my head in the direction of the dark skinned guy who had scared Anuli away.
Ejike turned to look in his direction and shook his head. “No. Never seen him before.” and then he caught sight of another familiar face, and waved. “Nwoke’m!”
I looked at my heart lurched at the sight of Duke, sitting in a corner, smoking a cigarette.
“You know him?” I asked Ejike.
He smiled. “You mean Duke? Yeah, we’ve met a few times…and have had very interesting conversation. You don’t get that a lot from the people around here! He’s a very smarty guy”
I stole another look at Duke, who was also staring lazily at us.
“Do you know what happened to him? I hear he’s a drug addict.” I stated.
“Drug addict? No way!” Ejike exclaimed. “You’ve never met a more lucid fellow. His only vice is that cigarette he smokes from morning to night.”
“So what happened to him? I heard he was doing so well in England…” I pushed, my curiosity overwhelming me.
“Woman wahala!” he chucked and shook his head. “That’s what I hear happened to him.”
Woman wahala? I looked at Duke again, who by now was no longer looking at us, but was engaged in conversation with another person. He looked as unkempt as ever, with his afro even more unruly than the last time, and his patterned shirt frayed around the collar. Could it really have been a woman that would have reduced him to this?!
“Anyway, Golibe…why don’t you tell me what really brings you to Ogwashi?” Ejike suddenly asked. “From the look in your eyes, I can tell you’re on a mission. The question is…what?”
Partly because I was hopeful to get a ride to Onitsha, and partly because I was hopeful he’d have an idea who Chalokwu or the pregnant lady were, I proceeded to tell Ejike the entire story; how I’d decided to come in search of my birth parents after my adoptive father’s death, and the wild goose chases I’d already been on.
“Unfortunately, I can’t be of much help, as I only moved to these parts a couple of years ago.” he said sympathetically. “I grew up in Lagos, but only decided to build my country home here after my parents decided to retire home, and also when I realized it would be a good central hub for me, between my business assets in Warri, Port Harcourt, Aba and Lagos.” then smiling at me, added, “But what I can do is to give you a chauffeured car, to take you anywhere you want to go.”
The smile on my face went from ear to ear. That was more than enough.
As we left the bar, the dark skinned guy had joined Duke on his table, and our eyes clapped as we walked by them. Ejike waved again, and I found myself wondering whether or not to do the same, especially after Anuli had insulted Duke only earlier that day. But I didn’t have to ponder for long, as he raised his hand to wave at me, a small smile playing on his mouth, which was almost invisible behind that humongous beard of his.
But I was more interested in the dark skinned guy, who was looking at me with renewed interest now. Making me wonder…who exactly was he anyway?
Catch up on Golibe’s story here:
- Golibe 1: The Journey
- Golibe 2: Brave
- Golibe 3: Blood Relative
- Golibe 4: Strangers
- Golibe 5: Fill the Gaps
- Golibe 6: Awele
- Golibe 7: Frolicking
- Golibe 8: The Trunk
- Golibe 9: Retrace my steps