Part 1 can be found below and Part 6 can be found HERE!
Thursday evening 49 Bode-Thomas Street Surulere.
Osaze Oyakilhome angled the light of the lamp to the couch, stared at the flushed expression of his brother and the red face of the girl avoiding eye contact and knew exactly what he had interrupted. He was glad he decided to weather the storm and make his way home in the end…this should be an interesting evening.
“Aren’t you going to introduce us?” he asked with a cheeky grin
“I believe you are capable of introducing yourself” Esosa responded. Osaze smiled, his brother was still upset over their argument earlier today and so was he as a matter of fact, which is why he was going nowhere despite the looks Esosa threw at him.
“Hi I’m Osaze. Esosa’s younger brother. I live here as well” he said in his most charming voice
“J-Jennifer” the girl stuttered. He took her hand, felt the soft palms and wondered where his brother found this ajebota from. She didn’t look like she had ever known suffering. All three of them exchanged looks, the lamp casting shadows on their face making it appear they wore masks. Osaze simply hopped over and made himself comfortable. Snuggling right in and kicking his shoes off he lay facing them. Making it obvious he was staying put.
“Osaze” Esosa said in a serious tone
“Oh sorry broda” he replied and got up to place the shoes neatly by the door, returning back to his position and settling in with a “hmm”
“Perhaps we should turn on the gen” Esosa suggested
“Ah ah who are you trying to impress. Generator only comes on at weekends” Osaze said in their native tongue. Jen hid a smile
“Jen is from Benin” Esosa said, annoyed that she had to hear that
“Kóyò” Jen said greeting him hello
“Oops” Osaze said not looking embarrassed at all
“Whereabouts?” he enquired and Jen responded. “This is our sister now” he chuckled to Esosa who didn’t smile back. It appeared his brother still thought he’d be venturing out into the rain.
“Vbè ore 'nì rue?” Osaze asked
“Jennifer” Jen responded, hoping he wouldn’t ask for her Edo middle name so he could tease. Osaze shook his head and smiled
“érhá” he asked with a determined look, asking for her father’s name. Jen, for her full name- Jen volunteered thanking the Lord for the millionth time that her father wasn’t involved in politics.
Osaze looked like someone who was angry at the world, Jen was very observant and it appeared with every question he asked; however innocent- he was judging.
“Ób’ókhían” he greeted her
“Ù rú èsé” she replied
So far, from his charm it appeared she had passed, but still it was a little cute to see someone looking out for Esosa. Even if he didn’t appreciate it, sitting on the reading chair sulking like a boy who had been denied a treat.
She easily relaxed with Osaze, and forgot that a couple of minutes ago her bra was about to be unhooked by his brother on the very couch he now lay on.
“Have you been given a tour?” he asked
“I still say you got the better bed” Jen leaned in and whispered.
“Oh definitely” Osaze agreed patting a cushion of the couch
“If it wasn’t raining cats and dogs I’d have shown you the piece de resistance?”
“Oh Esosa’s shown me the balcony” Jen said with an inviting look to Esosa to join in the conversation
“Really! You are the only one to comeback alive then” Osaze teased
“What can I say? My chi is strong”
“You are from a good breed” Osaze mimicked a typical Benin man and Jen laughed her head off. He did a couple more and soon Jen was grabbing her stomach in stitches. Jen relaxed completely in his company and decided to leave Esosa to his own devices so he could cool down a bit.
Osaze couldn’t be anymore different from his older brother. He was blessed with charm right from the onset and Jen was enjoying his company like it was originally her plan to visit him. She could now correlate the restless explorer in him with the lead character of his favourite book. They spoke about Gulliver’s at length and Osaze confessed that he always wanted to travel the world. He told her he was studying English at UNILAG because it was his dream to be an English teacher in someplace foreign. Jen asked where? Osaze said it didn’t matter but he wouldn’t remain in any one place for longer than 18 months at the most. He probed Jen for where she’d been to and Jen replied not that many places. As comfortable as she was she was not as unbecoming as to play the role of middle-class baby and rattle off the countries on her passport. So she told a white lie- stating her only destinations as England where she schooled and next door Cardiff where she once vacationed.
Esosa stared at the pair of his brother and Jen already annoyed that he had to come interrupt. He watched Jen sway as Osaze reminded her of folk songs she had not heard sung since she was a child, they laughed over stupid things and Esosa just prayed for the rain to stop so he could kick his brother out. Osaze had always been easy around people, growing up he was always defended by his older siblings and had learnt to get by on his charm, and this unfortunately had rendered him lazy. So lazy that he had yet another carryover from one of modules at University this year. Again. Esosa couldn’t understand why the boy did not apply the same work ethic to his books that he did to forming friendships with people he just met. His truancy and repeated number of skipped class lectures had gotten them into an argument just this morning, Osaze wasn’t rude; he wouldn’t dare, but he still managed to come off as flippant before leaving on an errand that he claimed would take hours. Esosa merely assumed he would spend the night with a friend sending a text to say he would be home the next day. But here he was home early, and treading on a private moment between him and Jen just to fluster him. It was moments like this that made Esosa reflect. Esosa tired of playing the role of father and brother to him, it was difficult to be stern on one hand and then ask for privacy the next so he could spend some alone time with a girl, but he promised his stepmom- Osaze’s birth mother that he would care for her son and that is what he intended to do.
“Will you join us?” Jen asked Esosa pointing at the ludo game Osaze had unearthed. He shook his head no and waved them on with a smile
“Oh come on” Jen coaxed
“I’ll referee” Esosa said
“It’s because he always wins” Osaze told Jen
“How? It’s a game of luck”
“Not when you are the brilliant Esosa its not” Osaze replied
“Well not me, I’m horrible” Jen confessed
“Thank God me too. Tell you what; we each get a chance to cheat twice” Osaze propositioned
“It’s a done deal” Jen said and they shook hands on it.
The divided up the primary colours that marked up the starting squares, Jen took blue and green which displayed the pictures of Fela and Tupac and Osaze took on red and yellow- Michael Jackson and Oliver de Coque- and they began to race their token of selected colours from start to finish by rolling the dice. It took them both ages to roll sixes and they laughed at their sad luck.
“Ye evban” Osaze would occasionally tell Jen. Pointing at a square he wished her to send her token, which would place it in his path so he might overtake and win
“You wish” Jen would roll her eyes
The game lasted for over thirty minutes and when Osaze attempted to cheat a third time Jen called him out on it, soliciting the designated referee for back up. Esosa merely waved them on and Jen got annoyed with his determination to pursue his sulking. When the game ended with Osaze the clear winner they hoped to roll again but the light of the electric lamp began to wane. Esosa called to his brother to bring out the spare behind the bar but Osaze confessed to not charging it.
“But when I asked you…”
“I know broda I’m sorry”
“Laho” Osaze apologised. Esosa grunted
“Laho Esosa” the minute Jen said that she regretted it. The annoyed look that crossed Esosa’s face indicated she had taken his younger brother’s side for more than just a rechargeable lamp issue.
“Khue Osaze” he said and reaching behind the table lamp for a torch light attempted to make his way up the stairs. Jen didn’t know if that was to be a joke, but she didn’t find it funny. In a voice employed by her mother when she intended to scold Jen stood up and bid Osaze goodnight while climbing up the stairs to Esosa’s bedroom.
“What was that all about?” she asked “Telling me to pursue your brother”
“Oh you didn’t find it funny?” Esosa said as he sat on his bed
“I am waiting for you to make your point” Jen said with her hands on her waist, she was sick of his petulant behaviour. She was enjoying the kissing too, but there was nothing to do for it. Osaze lived here as well and it was pouring outside; she made the best of the situation, why can’t he?
“You shouldn’t encourage him. He’s lazy and when you jump to his defence like that you give him license to act cheeky” Esosa told her
“I wasn’t. I am sorry I didn’t mean to interfere” Jen apologised
“Osaze is used to having things slightly easier than my siblings and I”
“Isn’t that the way it should be? He’s the youngest”
“Yes. You’re right” Esosa left it at that but Jen looked at him so he continued
“He’s not doing well in school and I don’t understand the problem. Its not girls or drugs, those I can deal with, he’s just unserious. I don’t know how to get him to focus. Take school seriously”
“He wants to travel, not school”
“I am not helping with his school fees so he can go gallivanting the world”
“If you stop being so stern you will see that there are other ways to reach him than scolding”
“He’s a child”
“He’s only two years younger than I am” Jen said
“Well its different for you isn’t it”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jen blinked
“It doesn’t mean what you think it does Jen” Esosa said to pacify
“Really because what I meant was stimulating him with something else; perhaps, by encouraging him to look for a job during his holidays as a flight attendant. That way he can experience travelling and earn some money as well, that should help Osaze re-focus plus it will show you support him.”
Esosa looked humiliated after Jen explained
“You obviously meant the fact that I had my father pay for everything when I was in Uni” Jen looked at him
“I am sorry, it just came out. It was a stupid remark. It was in no way a personal attack or reflection of you. You already know I think you’re a wonderful person”
Jen looked at him upset and declared
“I’m going downstairs to make sure I have everything I came with, I wouldn’t want to disturb Osaze when he’s sleeping in the morning” and she turned on her heel and climbed back down; making out the shapes in the darkness with her hands, upset that she didn’t think to grab the torch off the bed before marching out. Well she couldn’t go back now could she? Osaze was putting away the board game and didn’t appear startled to see her materialise out of the darkness.
“Sorry to disturb you” Jen said
“No not at all. Can I help with something?” he asked looking for Esosa behind her
“Just making sure I didn’t leave anything behind”
As Osaze helped look around for foreign belongings Jen saw a bag of unopened plantain chips
“Oh can I have some?”
“You eat that? Posh girl like you”
“Meaning what?” Jen laughed
“Meaning I thought u only snacked on Pringles or Walkers crisps” Osaze said, there was no laughter in his voice
“Ah ah why would you think that” Jen said wondering at his change in tone
“You’re madam money bags now. Madam international passport” he jeered
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jen said for the second time that night
“Why are you here?” Osaze stopped searching behind cushions to stare at her. Jen looked at him confused
“Really you think you’re fooling me” Osaze said with a low laugh
Jen was confused, wasn’t this boy the one she just played ludo and sang with?
“All these rich girls who want to see what’s its like on the other side, abi? Squat in a one bedroom at the opposite end of town for the experience of ‘managing.’ Before running home to air-conditioned houses and housegirls and maiguards.
“In what position are you to judge me like that…?” Jen felt like she was talking to a different person
“Do you even like my brother?” or is he just a game to you? Something fun”
“My relations to your brother involve only your brother” Jen responded
“Esosa does not mate for fun. So if this is some sort of social experiment to you, then just leave now”
“Where are you getting all this from?” she enquired
“Oooh I know ur type all too well…sophisticated girls but lacking in substance, drive round in expensive cars and wear expensive clothes but pretend to understand the life of a common man because you spare a couple of minutes to chat. You think that makes you emphatic to their suffering?”
Esosa was right Jen thought. Osaze is a child; still angry at the world for what happened to their father. Not in the noble way that Esosa was by refusing to work for the people who disappointed his family but in a selfish way. All Osaze knows is that one minute they lived on the Shell estate with a driver and the next he was being placed in public school. He feels the whole of Nigeria owes him an apology.
“Your fight is not with me…” Jen began “but everyone who made you feel inferior for having less Osaze, and let me tell you now, that until you are proud of what u have achieved, u will never be content. Your brother is and he doesn’t apologise for it. That’s why I’m here, because he works hard and has the confidence of a man who built everything himself and hence has something to say.”
“Yeah whatever material girl” Osaze hissed in her direction
Esosa thundered down the stairs then, to check on Jen and before her very eyes Jen watched Osaze transform to his charming self, handing her phone and bidding them both a goodnight. Appears he was only nice to be respectful to his brother, he didn’t care for her, and Jen didn’t know what she had done but guess you can’t win them all. Can you.
She climbed back up to Esosa and when they reached the landing he apologised again and Jen told him not to sweat it. In his bedroom he had created a makeshift sleeping area on the floor for himself and left her the bed with the covers on. He also offered one of his shirts to sleep in and handed her the torch so she could make her way to change in the bathroom. Jen returned and climbed in uttering a quiet good night, she heard Esosa turn on his side severally so she wasn’t surprised when he started talking into the darkness.
“My mother died when I was young, I don’t remember how old and my father re-married shortly after. All my early memories are of íyé are Osaze’s mother. She loved me like I was her own and though she bore six more children- four girls and Osaze- she never stopped caring for me. After my father got a bad back that pushed him into early retirement, things got hard. We never knew when the pension would come or how much so we struggled to make ends meet.” Esosa took a deep breathe he wasn’t used to pouring his heart out
Jen kept really still lest she frighten him
“My parents were adamant that Osaze try to live the way we were intended to” Esosa continued “that meant no manual labour for him, just school. Lots of it. We didn’t mind, if anything we were glad to raise the baby of the house as middle-class as we could afford. Just look what’s it’s done to him now. He’s gotten so used to everyone toiling on his behalf that he doesn’t listen to advice anymore. I will not always be there to fix everything; I just wish he would take responsibility instead of having his head in the clouds.” Esosa exhaled and continued
“Jen its not that I don’t support him, I don’t want you to think that I will ever be that cold, I am only looking out for him”
“I know” Jen whispered “It was not my place to tell you how to raise him”
“Raising Osaze” Esosa frowned in the dark “my father would have known what to do”
“I’m sure he’s proud of you”
“He died shortly after I returned from Ghana. He never even got to see me move from my uncle’s couch into my own place”
“I’m sure he’s proud of you” Jen said with certainty
“Osaze isn’t a bad kid. He just resorts to truancy because he wants attention. You’re a tough act to follow you know. Maybe he just feels that because he can never excel academically like you did, he might as well not try. “Jen gasped “I apologise I’m doing it again aren’t I? Psycho analysing”
“No please” Esosa said “It takes a woman to know these things”
“Your brother loves you. He’s very protective of you” Jen said
“And I of him” Esosa said with such resolve that Jen smiled into the darkness
“Good night Jen”
“Good night Esosa” she replied and when he fell asleep leaving only his gentle snoring for company Jen knew for certain she had fallen for him; because she had seen the sort of person he could have let himself become: bitter and resentful. She understood him more and with each layer she peeled back she liked what she discovered. Esosa the Economist. Esosa the friend. Esosa the First Son. Esosa the Lover? Jen rolled on the bed till she leaned over the edge looking at Esosa sleeping on the floor, his hands underneath his head and the steady rise and fall of his chest. She wished she could study him in better light but that would mean shining the torch in his face, Jen smiled when she realised that she would enjoy watching him sleep.
She had fallen for Esosa Oyakilhome.