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The Davies’ residence stands alone on a close which ends in a cul-de-sac. Houses dot the close situated a few metres apart from each other. The house is a modest bungalow with a pent-house. After putting in over twenty years of service in the banking industry, Femi Davies could boast of a house of his own. Building the house had not come cheap as he had taken a ten-year mortgage loan from the bank he worked for; but it had been worth the pain. In two years, the house was built and he had gladly moved his young family in. It lacked beauty on the outside as he had left a few finishing undone. He had not been bothered as his family had an abundance of beauty on the inside and made it a home. Few years later, one step at a time, he beautified the surroundings and made it his dream home.
As the principal’s car drives into the close, Bola notices a number of people going in and out of her house. This is unusual and she becomes more worried. Her parents lived quietly and tried as much as possible to keep few friends. The driver parks in front of her house. She steps out of the car and says thank you to the principal who nods his response back. The atmosphere carries an impending doom. Bola tries to look for an answer to the situation in the principal’s face but he only signals towards her house with his head. She looks at the house and her environment with people thronging in and out. She wonders if this is the same house she has lived all her life.
She walks towards her house like one in a trance. She sees different faces; some known, some unknown. Her entrance is greeted by pitiful faces and mournful looks. One nudges the other and the faces all begin to pave way for her to go in. She enters the living room and sees her mother sitting on the floor. She is surrounded by two women; her best friend and her only sister. Bola takes in the environment as she looks round her as if looking for someone. Banke sees her daughter and is instinctively aware that her daughter already knows. She stands up to embrace her and they both burst into tears.
“What…what happened to Daddy?”
“I…we…your…your…daddy”. Banke struggles to mumble before the tears start flowing freely again.
“It’s okay, mum. It’s okay”. Bola says as she hugs her mum tightly. She knows whatever it is, they will pull through it.
“No, please don’t do it. Please, please. No, no, noooooo….” Banke screams and is jolted out of her sleep. She is sweating profusely.
Bola, who is lying on the bed beside her mother also wakes up with a start. She had been awakened by Banke’s scream. She sits up and looks at her mum in confusion. “Mum, what’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry I woke you up. I had a nightmare. Please go back to sleep”. She says to her daughter. She is still panting like someone who had been in a run.
“No mum. I need to know what happened to daddy”.
“Not this night, Bola. We both need to rest”. Banke pleaded.
“Mum, I have a right to know what happened to my father. And I want to know right now”. Bola asks stubbornly.
Banke sighs as the event of two nights ago flash back. “We arrived the country at about 5.00pm. We chartered a taxi at the airport. Since we had promised to check on you on our way home, the taxi was to take us first to your school, then take us home. The taxi had a flat tyre on the way and the driver asked that we get down so he could change the tyre to a spare one. As we got down, he suddenly brought out a gun and asked that we lie flat on the ground”. Tears roll down Banke’s cheeks.
Bola’s jaw drops.
“The driver spoke good English and we guessed he was learned. We begged him to take everything he wanted but spare our lives. He said he would do exactly that provided we co-operated with him. Meanwhile, we had not taken note of a car that was parked some metres ahead of us. The taxi driver whistled and the person in the other car reversed towards us. Both of them started offloading our luggage from the taxi into the other car. As they were about driving off, your father raised his head probably to get the plate number of the car they were driving away in”.
“Ah, why?” Bola exclaimed.
“I heard the driver’s voice asking in anger why your father had to raise his head and then……Banke holds her head. “A gun shot and your father screamed”. The tears are coming down in streams now and Banke struggles to continue her story. “The…the taxi and the other person drove off. They drove off and left me alone. I had no one to turn to. The…the road was deserted. I…I told your daddy to allow me call my sister to pick us from the airport. He…he…he refused. You know how your daddy would always say he does not want to inconvenience anyone. If…if…if…I had known”. Banke breaks down uncontrollably.
Bola moves closer to her mum and embraces her as they sob on each other’s shoulders.
The burial of Femi Davies is done quickly. Banke is not willing to prolong closure for herself and her daughter. She is supported by her sister and her best friend and a few of her colleagues at work. Her neighbours also make themselves available and Femi Davies is laid to earth. A few of his colleagues promise heaven and earth. Bola’s education will not suffer. They would ensure she is well taken care of. Her university education will be outside the country; because that is what Femi would have wanted. Her education would be sponsored to Master’s level. A job awaits her once she is through with her university education. Promises! Promises! Promises! But Banke knew better. Promises were easy to make; talk is cheap. Fulfilling them came with responsibilities.
Twenty years ago, she had met Femi Davies when she went to drop her resume at the bank he worked for. He had just been retained at the bank after his National Youth Service. He was sitting behind the customer service counter when she walked up to him. It had not been love at first sight and nothing had struck to give them lasting impressions. She had also just finished her Youth Service as a secondary school teacher. She had enjoyed the job but it was not financially rewarding. She had therefore dusted her Economics certificate and headed to various banks dropping them at their customer service desks. She also checked the dailies for job openings and applied for them with an expectant heart.
She got responses from some inviting her for tests. She had passed each one of them. Her joy was however short-lived during her interview sessions. They were either looking for experienced hands or someone with a second degree. How am I supposed to be experienced if I am not given a chance? How can I afford a second degree if I do not have a job? Her parents had done enough by sending her to the university. They were traders in palm oil and foodstuffs and she was not ready to impose additional responsibilities on them. Her younger sister who was ten years younger was about securing admission into the secondary school. They had enough on their plate already.
She had waited quietly in queue until it was her turn to go to the customer service desk. She smiled as Femi asked, “Good afternoon madam, how may I be of help to you today?”
“Good afternoon, I just wanted to drop my CV here”. She said as she leaned forward on the desk and spoke in a whisper.
Femi smiled. He was lucky to have been retained by the bank. A lot of his friends still roamed the streets with their CVs just like the lady sitting before him. Some of them had handed their CVs to him as well, while a few people still walked in just liked she was doing. He knew he had every reason to be thankful to God. “Okay, madam”. He said stretching out his hand to collect the single piece of paper from her.
“Thank you”. Banke said as she handed the CV to him.
Three months later, she received letters from two different banks asking her to write an employment test. One of the banks had been the bank Femi worked for. The interview sessions had also gone smoothly and both banks were willing to offer her a placement as a bank teller. She became confused on which to pick.
One day, on her way to the market, as she alighted at the bus-stop, she found herself standing face to face with Femi. “Hi. How are you doing?” Femi asked smiling.
Banke was at a loss. “I’m sorry. Have we met before?” She asked confused.
“Of course. Ain’t you Banke? You dropped your CV with me at Alájeséku bank a while ago”.
“Oh, I am so sorry. I am not good at faces”.
“It’s fine”. Femi says smiling. “Have you heard from them yet?”
“Oh yes. I have even been given an offer but I am yet to accept”.
Femi is surprised. “Why? I thought you really needed a job”.
“Yes, I do. I have offers from two banks”.
“Right! So you are confused, I guess”.
“Exactly. The take-home for both banks are about the same. Also I was offered the same position in both banks. So I am trying to look at other benefits and pick the one with better options. I am meant to get back to both banks with my acceptance or rejection next week”.
Femi smiles as he looks at her. “A brilliant idea”. He says.
“So have you checked out all those benefits now and considered them?”
“I just did earlier on today”.
“And your final answer is….?” Femi asks raising a brow.
Banke laughs as she sees his expression. “I picked your bank”.
“Nice. So I get to see you every day”.
“My bad. My name is Femi Davies”. He stretches his hand.
She takes it and responds. “It’s a pleasure meeting you again”.
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