Three hours later and several cups of coffee, the accounts finally balanced. The second presentation could go on as scheduled tomorrow, their fate settled except Mr Femi, whose hold on his job was already teetering. She knew their boss was not going to take this last botched episode lightly. She shut her laptop, yawning as she did so. Her eyes were red rimmed and as she stood up, she heard a creaking sound. Her back was acting up again. She stepped out, strapping her bag on her shoulders and bade her colleagues goodbye.
Just the thought of food preparation weakened her despite the gnawing hunger. She stepped into the car park and remembered her car was at the mechanic’s workshop. Her shoulders dropped. Wrong timing for all these. She glanced at her wristwatch. It was almost 10pm. Sighing, she made her way to the bus stop. Hunger made her extremely sensitive to the street food scents around her. As she stood waiting for a bus going her way, her stomach growled. She placed her hand on her stomach. The aroma of roasted chicken and suya (thin sliced peppered barbecued beef) wafted across the air. It smelled delicious. Her stomach protested again. She looked around embarrassed hoping no one heard the rumble. Her glance fell on a little girl sitting morosely with her wares on a tray beside her. It was clear that the girl was exhausted from trekking and walking with her tray on her head. Poju’s heart skipped. What was this little girl doing at this time of the night by the roadside? She drew closer and the girl looked up expectantly. “Aunty, you go buy kokoro?” Pointing to her tray where a corn delicacy laid tied in small nylons. Honestly, Poju had no intention of buying but her heart was moved with compassion so she replied affirmative. The girl smiled in joy. “Aunty how much?”
She was touched. “How much is one?”
“Aunty, na ₦50.” The girl responded in pidgin.
“Hmmm …….you have 10 packs remaining. That is ₦500. Pack everything for me” as she put her hand inside her bag to bring out the money.
The girl eyes shone in delight as she deftly packed everything into a black nylon and tied the it. “Aunty, Olorun bukun fun o. God bless you. “
“Ami” replied Poju as stretched her hand to collect the bag. Her eyes caught sight of a large burn scar on the child’s arm. Noting the direction of her gaze, the girl quickly withdrew her hand and picked her tray. Standing, she picked up her wrapper that she had used to support her tray.
Poju observed her discomfort and pretended not to have noticed the scar.
“Ki ‘ni oruko re? What’s your name?”
The girl paused and looked at her, her tray clanging against her calf.
“My name?….eh…” She stuttered. “My name is Ify.”
“Ify, that’s not a yoruba name. Yet you speak yoruba well.” She mused. “By the way, why are you out at this time? You are supposed to be at home. It’s late.” Poju looked at her watch. “It is 10pm.”
Ify’s gazed changed to alarm as she looked over Poju’s shoulders. Her demeanour changed, her behaviour turned skittish. Poju looked back but did not see anyone among the milling night crowd at the bus stop that could cause that intense fear she saw in Ify’s eyes. She turned back to see Ify scurrying away like a scared rabbit.
Poju was perplexed, her face scrunched up. “What just happened?” she asked herself. She shrugged and put her purchase inside her bag and turned back to the bus queue.
Image by Lisa Feythe
Story by Oruare Ojimadu