As Chinedu pressed the bell to the Adedeji’s house, he readjusted his tie for the umpteenth time. He hated wearing ties but since he took up the job of a home teacher to the Adedeji’s three kids four years ago, he had had to wear them every time he was going there. His mum had bought him the ties and told him that he looked more presentable in them. She always told him the popular saying, “The way you dress is the way you would be addressed”. Mrs. Adedeji was one of his mum’s clients and on one of her visits to her store; she had hinted her that her son was looking for a vacation job. Mrs. Adedeji had asked if he could take her kids mathematics as she was also looking for a home teacher. She had called her son on phone immediately to find out if he could do the job. He had been overjoyed and had accepted without a second thought. It was an opportunity to assist his mother instead of staying home doing nothing. He had told his mum to get the address of the Adedeji’s house and to find out if he could start work the next day.
Mrs. Adedeji had laughed and asked him to come over for a chat. She had liked him the first day she met him. He was brilliant and had a dogged attitude to work. They had agreed on a monthly payment of ten thousand naira and that anytime he was on holidays, the job was waiting for him. After two vacation jobs at the Adedeji’s, Mrs. Adedeji had on her own volition increased his monthly salary to fifteen thousand naira. Chinedu was grateful for the job as most of his friends hung around doing nothing during vacations while those who eventually got jobs earned half of what his take home was. Besides, the job was always there for him to pick up again anytime he was on holidays.
As the gate opened, the doorman greeted. “Good afternoon, Mr. Chinedu”.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Taju. How are you today?” Chinedu asked smiling.
“I’m fine, thank you”.
“And how’s the family?”
“They are all doing well and yours?”
“Good, good. Are the kids at home?”
“Yes, they are. I’m sure they would be delighted to see you”.
Chinedu smiled his thanks and walked in to the main house. As the housekeeper opened the door for him and greeted, one of the twin boys heard his voice from the living room where his siblings and himself were seated in front of the television watching cartoons. He jumped up and ran to meet him at the door.
“Uncle Chinedu is here”. Temitayo called back with elation to his siblings.
“Uncle Chinedu”. The other twin, Temidire screamed running to meet him at the door.
Temitope, the only girl and the last child stood up and smiled. She was just eight and even at her young age, she was beginning to become self-aware. Her brothers who were ten were becoming more rough and rugged by the day. They were however, protective of their sister and proved it even at school.
“Are you teaching us today, Uncle Chinedu?” Temitayo asked dragging him into the living room.
“Yes, I am”.
“Ooh, Uncle Chinedu, we want to watch cartoons today”. Temidire grumbled.
“You can continue with your cartoons once I leave”.
“I want to play arm wrestling. Let me show you. I learnt it in school”. Temitayo said pulling up the sleeve of his shirt to unveil his biceps.
“No arm wrestling, Tayo and no cartoons Dire. Let’s get down to business”. Chinedu insisted.
Temitope who had been watching the whole drama switched off the television and went in to get her books. She placed them on the table and sat quietly waiting for the next instruction from Chinedu.
“How are you, Tope?” Chinedu asked smiling.
“Fine, thank you”.
“I hope the boys haven’t been pestering you”. He asked searching her face.
She smiled and shrugged, “Not really”.
“Good. Let’s see what you have in here”. He said as he opened her books.
By the time Chinedu was leaving the Adedeji’s home two hours later, he was famished and exhausted. Getting the boys to sit still for an hour had been a herculean task. Temitayo had also made sure he did not leave without engaging him in a bout of arm wrestling. He had asked for three sessions and boasted he would win them. Chinedu had let him on the first two rounds but on the third round, Chinedu had taken only five seconds to end the session. Temitayo had felt elated all the same saying that if he could win two out of three, it meant he was stronger and Chinedu had smiled agreeing with him. He also told them to inform their mother that he was back from school as she was yet to be back from work by the time he left. As he walked the distance between the bus-stop and his house, he longed for two things; his mother’s food and Fadeke.
The six weeks holiday was soon over and students were beginning to resume back in school for the second semester. Chinedu had gotten his luggage ready and was to leave the next morning. After they had had dinner, his mum told him she wanted to discuss something important with him. As he sat down on the single couch in the living room, his mum said, “Chinedu, I would not pretend not to have noticed your midnight calls. I have not bothered to ask you because I do not want you to feel that I am intruding into your privacy. Now, that you are going back to school, I just want to ask that whatever you decide with the lady you have been speaking with the last six weeks, make sure you do the right thing. I’m sure you understand what I am saying”.
“Yes, I do mum. I won’t disappoint you”.
“Thank you, my son. Remember, you are all I have got”.
“Yes mum. I would”.
He went to his room a few hours later and as he lay on his bed, he picked up his phone to send Fadeke a text message. They had both agreed the previous night that since he had to wake up early to set out for school, they wouldn’t talk into the night as they had done every day. She replied immediately wishing him good night and asking him to be careful on his trip.
Two days later, Fadeke called Tochukwu to find out if she was back in school and to inform her that she would be in school the next day. Tochukwu was happy to speak with her roommate after a long while. “Fadeke, this isn’t fair oh. You did not even call me at all throughout the holidays”. She accused.
“I’m sorry jare. I got caught up doing a lot of things that before I knew it, the holidays were over. Besides, I called you once and your phone was switched off”.
“So, what have you been doing with yourself?”
“Make I no lie oh. I just dey watch film everyday”. She replied.
“Ehen, watch film? Na you dey enjoy”.
“What about you?”
“Well, I actually travelled to the U.K. I just came back last week”.
“Wow, look who’s talking about enjoyment. Meanwhile, you were gallivanting around.
No wonder your phone was switched off. I’m sure your folks would never allow you roam your line”.
“Roam wetin? I wasn’t even allowed to travel with the phone. They said they did not want me running them bankrupt on phone bills”.
Fadeke laughed, “I can imagine. Besides, they could reach you wherever you were”.
“Yeah. So what’s good?”
“I’m going back to school tomorrow. When are you back?” Fadeke asked.
“Tomorrow as well. I should be in school by noon”.
“Good. I should be there before night falls”.
“Have you heard from Chinedu?” Tochukwu hesitated before asking praying that her friend would not sense her edginess.
“Have I heard?” Fadeke laughed. “We talk every night. What do you think?” She giggled.
Tochukwu felt like she had been stabbed in the heart and was quiet for a few seconds trying hard to compose herself. “So, you guys still do these midnight calls?” She sneered.
“Yep”. Fadeke replied oblivious to the sarcasm.
“With the way you guys take advantage of the promo, the telecoms companies should have either scrapped the promo or barred your lines from benefitting from it”. She snapped.
Fadeke sensing that her friend was beginning to tow the path that she knew too well, kept quiet and refused to respond to the sarcasm. Tochukwu also noticing that Fadeke no longer responded, regretted her action but decided not to care about it.
“Anyway, so we see in school tomorrow, right?” Tochukwu asked nonchalantly.
“Yeah, tomorrow. Enjoy your evening”. Fadeke said ending the conversation before Tochukwu had the chance to say something else.
She wondered about Tochukwu’s aggression anytime she talked about Chinedu. At first, she thought it was because of her perceived notion that all guys on campus were “no-gooders”. Right now, she was beginning to have a rethink. There had to be more to it than that. Or was she envious of her? No, Tochukwu couldn’t be envious of her. She was no longer interested in the guys on campus and she had made that known a number of times. As she lay on her bed that night, she made a mental note to ask Chinedu when next they spoke, if he had an inkling of the whole charade. For now, she was going to sleep with loving thoughts of him regardless of what Tochukwu or any other person thought.