Chidera rounded the corner to see a delivery motorcycle from Tranex parked outside their building. Its rider must have just gotten off as the children playing with their paper and cello-tape ball on the street stared, faces squeezed in irritation, at the intruder- he had parked in the only goal post, a pair of rubber Dunlop slippers, separated by five or six foot spans of the biggest child.
On sighting Chidera, the rider walked towards her. She noticed a slight limp in his uneven steps, favouring his left side.
“Aunty, good day.”
The shouts of the children resuming play near a relocated post distracted him. He shook his head and continued.
“I dey find one Miss Beth Sekumade. I get package for am.”
“I’m her roommate, Dera. Any issues?”
“No o, for why?” He exclaimed, scanning through his clipboard .
“Okay Aunty, I don find your name, you go first hep me sign here.”
Beth sat cross-legged on the rugged floor, facing her half packed and repacked luggage. The windows were open and outside, the sun masked everything in a golden orange hue as he completed his circuit for the day. In the distance, a speaker echoed the voice of a muezzin’s melismatic call to prayer. The past few days had been good. At least, that’s what she had thought when the news came from Dera. She’d been awarded The Ben Dikko Foundation Grant for History and Cultures in Sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative of the foundation was to document the culture of minority tribes in Nigeria.
Why then did she feel the carpet would soon be pulled from under her feet to jeer her from this dream? Her phone beeped on the table. An email from Ciroma. He’d accepted her invite to be on the team. He would be very helpful; after all you don’t find someone who can speak six languages easily.
Chidera waltzed into the room, balancing a tray with two glasses with her left hand and smiling as she voted for her favourite contestant in a music talent reality TV show with her phone.
“Babes, how far? You’re not done packing ni? You no go again?” asked Chidera.
“I’ll soon finish, don’t mind me,” replied Beth, stroking the letter from the foundation, “You know Dera, it’s kind of unreal. £15,000 is not small money and the project is quite massive. I hope I’ll be able to manage.”
“Aunty, you worry too much. Shey they’re not giving you the money all at once and you’ll have access to their financial advice team and the other guys, what’s the name again—”
Dera took a sip from one cup and immediately spat it back.
“Omo this peppermint and apple vinegar thing is terrible. I don’t even know who recommended it.”
Cleaning her mouth with a piece of tissue, she continued,
“Oya tell me the people you’ve decided to team with and where you’re going first. At least your boss at work was kind abi wise enough to give you that one year leave. You’ll be famous, you know?”
Beth, now smiling, picked up a notebook and began to read,
“Issokay o, let me tell you who I’m eyeing and why. First off is Ciroma. He was in my department at school. The guy killed the local diversity paper we did in 300 level and his speaking like four languages when he presented didn’t hurt at all. Then there’s Kola. He used to work with us at The Mirror but now he’s a freelance photographer. I saw on Instagram that he’s shot some pictures for National Geographic. He travels a lot and is good at his job.”
Beth flicked a switch to illuminate the now darkened room and dispel the elongating shadows.
“Thank God this solar thing is charged. At the briefings, they mentioned some other people will be joining us but that would be at our first location. Um, I think that’s all. Cynthia hasn’t replied yet.”
Dera arched her brows, “Cynthia from NYSC camp that was claiming Miss NYSC? How does she want to contribute? Hmm, don’t go and use money to buy Orchidée Impériale o.”
A gigging Beth replied, “Dera, calm down na. She’s not that bad. And besides, her job working with WHO has taken her to many towns and places up North. She’ll be useful.”
“Okay o Beth. So where are you going first? I don’t know why you didn’t just give me your travel details and logistics before you applied. Now I have to ask you for everything.”
“Haha, it’s not like that na, you know me and surprises. Actually, we’re going to Jos first. The Afizere people are just wonderful.”
“Oh really? Its fine.” Dera stretched full length – not unlike a jogger warming up – and pulled a medium sized brown diary from beneath Beth’s bed. “Here, I thought it’d be nice if you had this.”