For years this association continued, until, like every good male bond, a woman entered the picture.
That woman came in the form of Chioma. A tall, slender girl with beautiful thread plaits and a charming gap toothed smile.
Chinedu had seen her on his way to the market and well versed in English, decided to chat her up.
To his surprise, she responded eloquently and they agreed to meet every day at that spot.
For weeks they met under the tree and shared experiences, knowledge and often a meal.
Chinedu’s love for this woman was ridiculous, he had considered mentioning it to his mentor and teacher, but thought it wiser to propose to her first.
One this faithful day, he had gone to the spot and she was nowhere to be seen. He waited for as long as he could and when she didn’t show up, he left.
The next day he waited again and still she didn’t show up. It then occurred to Chinedu that he had no idea where she lived and where he had to go to find her.
He went home and prepared his masters meal, deeply burdened and concerned for her.
As he was plating his master’s meal, the teacher arrived with a guest and demanded an extra table setting for his guest.
Chinedu knew the routine, unless otherwise asked to hang around; he was forbidden to be in the vicinity of the teachers guests.
“Ah Chinedu my boy, hold on a minute! I’d like you to meet my wife.” He could hear the smile in his voice.
There had been very few moments when he saw his master’s smile.
Chinedu wiped he hands on his shorts and went in to greet her.
His heart fell as I saw my love, standing beside the teacher.
“Her name is Chioma and I paid her bride price today. Can you believe it?!” He smiled again, pulling her closer.
‘What exactly had I thought? I didn’t have the money to marry her, or anyone!’ Chinedu thought.
She averted her eyes as one who had cheated.
Again, Chinedu stormed off.
He couldn’t live in the same house with someone as pretty as Chioma. Not only was she beautiful and intelligent, he had connected with her on so many levels and peace was far from him, sleeping on his now threadbare mattress while she giggled and sighed in the room next to his.
Chinedu packed up a bag and his savings and snuck out the back of the house and began a new trek.
Again not knowing where he was going, but knowing he had to leave, he began to walk.
His endurance was longer that his first adventure, causing him to walk for hours without breaking a sweat.
He took breaks in developed places, buying food from the market squares and sleeping under the huge trees.
Chinedu walked from Udalu village to Anambra’s main city, wxy.
As if by possessed by a magnet, he began to walk towards the University.
Resembling his former self, dirty, clad in raggedy clothes and thirsty, he quickly walked into the University premises, ignoring the guards’ calls.
“Mister!” two hefty guards ran after him, tackling and pinning him to the ground.
“I just need to get water!”
One scuffed, placing his dirty boots on his back; “Water! That’s a new excuse.”
“A silly excuse too!”The other laughed.
“I’m not lying! All I want is a drink and I’ll be on my way!”
The bigger of the two removed his boot and kicked him; “Abeg commot this thief from my University.”
“What’s going on here?” a man in a dashiki stood on the pavement above me.
“Sir, this man, just came in here; just walking in gboi gboi like he owns the place!”The ‘boot-man’ explained.
“Is that why you have him on his back, in the dirt; Mr Johnson?”
“Sir, he might be a thief!”The second explained.
“What if he’s an errand boy? What if he is my nephew from the village? Did you think to ask anyone?”
“You stupid fools! How many people have you sent out in this manner?”
“Sorry for yourself! My friend let this boy go!”
“Sorry Sir” they mumbled and helped Chinedu to his feet.
“Young man, what’s your name?”
“Chinedu Sir.” he replied, dusting the dirt off himself.
“What brings you here today?”
“I have been travelling for days and I stopped here for a drink only to be harassed by these two!”
“Chinedu, where are you coming from?”
“Your use of English is very good, for someone form Udalu.”
“Thank you sir.”
“Chinedu, how much education do you have so far?”
“I have never been to school sir. I spent seven years as a teacher’s assistant in Udalu, perhaps that’s why I know so much.”
“Would you be interested in a University education? You seem very talented and I wouldn’t want that talent to go to waste.”
“Chinedu, come with me to my office. I’ll set you up with a tutor so that you can take the entrance exams.”
“Why are you doing this sir?”
The man chuckled, “You remind me of myself and I sincerely wish I had someone who had taken me under his wing.”
“Oh God bless you sir.”Chinedu , prostrated on the ground in appreciation.
“Please get up; you can repay me by being a good kid and staying out of trouble!” He patted his head and led him to his office.
Chinedu trotted after the man as he had the teacher.
The new teacher set him up with a boy, just a little older than he was, to assist him in the University’s entrance exams.
It took about seven months, and by the time they were done, Anambra State was no longer accepting applications.
Professor Nwabara used his connections and got him entrance into the prestigious Ogun State University. The agreement had been that he would wait on one of the professors in exchange for free education at the University.
Chinedu beamed with pride, having not only passed his exams, but for the favor he had received.
He left Anambra for Ogun State with the few things he had, hoping that on his return he’d be a big man, able to pay back Professor Nwabara.
Ogun State was nothing like Anambra, the topography was incredible; it would seem as though the State was carved out of mountains.
Chinedu navigated his way to the State University, introducing himself at the gate as he had been instructed by Professor Nwabara.
Professor Majekodunmi was supposed to be his boss and benefactor.
Chinedu had expected a kind and pleasant man, one who would so profess to pay tuition for a boy he had never met before surely must be kind.
He was wrong.
Professor Majekodunmi was a thin, lanky man with shabby hair as though he played with live cables all his life.
He was mean from his very first hello, yelling and screaming and Chinedu for being late.
“Boy, hurry up! I haven’t got all day.”
He briskly walked towards the back of his house, to what he referred to as the boy’s quarters.
It was a dirty, smelly and run down place with mold on the walls and braved rodents who boldly ran in and out of the rooms.
“You’ll stay here. You’ll wake up at 5am and clean my house, then prepare our food, take the children to school and then return to finish up the remaining chores I have listed for you.”
Chinedu stared at the man, wide eyed.
“Sir what about my classes?”
“Professor Nwabara said…”
“Boy, do you see him here? This is my house, my turf and what I say is the order of the day.”
“School ko, school ni!”He hissed.
The room he assigned to him was worse than a prison. Chinedu was too scared to even touch the walls.
The room itself was tiny, with a spring bed in the corner of the room, a stove and a radio in the other.
“I don’t want you near the campus grounds unless I send for you!” he barked.
“Chinedu, I don’t like to repeat myself.”
“Get settled and come and make my dinner.”
Chinedu carefully placed his bag on the bed, removing his wrapper and laying it on the bed.
“Chinedu!”Prof Majekodunmi yelled from the main house.
“Stupid boy! You’ve been here less than an hour and I’m already screaming your name!”
He jugged up to the house, “Sir.”
“My wife wants some juice. Run down the street, to mama Tolani and buy some.”
“When you return, come and pound some yams and make soup for dinner. Madam is pregnant and I don’t want her stressing herself out.”
If Prof Majekodunmi was evil, his wife was spurn from the devils fabric.
She beat him with wooden ladles, wires, hangers, anything that was in her range. One time she flung her shoes at him.
Chinedu’s life became an official hell.
The secret was that he often crept into the University and sat in classes, making certain never to go close to Professor Majekodunmi’s classes.
He attended math, Physics, Geography, Yoruba, French, Biology, Business and a string of other classes, often taking the quizzes and exams along with the rest of the class.
He began to learn how much students despised Professor Majekodunmi and how much they plotted his downfall, however his home and office were like a military base-impenetrable.
Chinedu had often fantasised about letting cult boys into the premised to teach his master a lesson but lacked proper motivation until Mrs Majekodunmi gave him much more cause than he could ever ask for.
He’d been asked to iron their clothes for a wedding they were to attend the next day. Mrs Majekodunmi, now at full term was an evil witch.
She demanded that he completed a hundred tasks in the time assigned for one task.
Chinedu had plugged in the iron that fateful day and gone ahead to do the hundred other things that she demanded.
“Chinedu, I hope you have ironed and hung our clothes and pulished Oga’s shoes and made the children’s food and repacked my hospital and…”
Chinedu mimicked her in the laundry room, “Woman no go kill person!”He sighed, putting the iron to the batik fabric.
In his race to complete all her demands, he had not paused to check the temperature of the iron.
The iron carved a perfect oblong hole into the fabric.
Being the evil persona that she was, she walked into the room, just as Chinedu clasped his hands over his head.
“Oh foolish boy, what have you done now?”
“Aunty, it was a mistake. I didn’t know the iron was hot.”
Mrs Majekodunmi picked up the burnt fabric and wagged it in his face in rage.
“This is the aso ebi. You ruined the aso ebi!”
“What am I to wear now?”
“I can go to the market and buy a new one Ma. I have seen it in the market!”
“I can go to the market and buy a new one Ma. I have seen it in the market!” She mimicked.
“I bet you’ll sew it too, right?”
“Foolish boy! What were you thinking?”She grabbed the hot iron and seared his arm.
Chinedu screamed in pain, immediately grabbing the affected spot.
“Stupid boy! Go and polish the shoes and make my children’s food!”She hissed, tossing the iron carelessly on the carpet.
Chidedu, dove for it, aware that Professor Majekodunmi was going to have an assigned punishment for the burnt garment, he didn’t want to add burning the carpet to the list of his offense.
“Chinedu, hurry up! You can’t do anything right; I don’t even know why you have a brain.”
Chinedu unplugged the iron and went to make the children’s food, all the while plotting the end of the Majekodunmis.
Mrs Majekodunmi did not see reason for him to treat his scorched arm until all his chores had been completed.
Chinedu had heard of a boy called Bayo, who hated the Majekodunmi’s with his very existence.
He cringed as he applied a balm and salve to his injury, growing more and more upset as he did.
Meeting Bayo was more tedious than he had imagined. He had assumed that he’d walk up to one of the famed cult boys and explain his idea and he would be ushered to meet Bayo, but there was a lot of politics.
“I heard you’re looking for Bayo.” A girl came up to him randomly in the market.
“What if I am?”
She hissed impatiently, “If you want to see him, you have to go through his sister. Her name is Bisola, but everyone calls her Bisi. He listens to her and sees her every day.”She brushed past him and continued through the market before he could ask her any questions.
Chinedu finished his shopping in a hurry, he no longer cared what the Majekodunmis did to him, him arm still hadn’t healed and he was certain it was going to scar.
As soon as the family was out, he went in search of Bisi.
She was a beautiful girl whose beauty was maintained solely by her wealth. She could afford all the powders and lotions to maintain her lustre.
“What do you want?” She held her nose up as though he smelled like fermented wine.
Chinedu explained that he needed to see her brother.
“I see” She replied dryly.
“He’ll be here in about thirty minutes, can you wait that long?”
“I have to go back to Prof’s house soon.”
She sighed and took out a cellular phone from her purse.
Chinedu had never seen one before; even the great Professor Majekodunmi didn’t possess one.
She pulled out an antenna and punched into the sing song dial pad.
“Hello! Busayo, some guy needs to see you urgently. He says he can get you Majekodunmi.”
“Yes, that’s what he said!”She sighed.
“Uh huh; uh huh. See you there!”
“He says we should meet him at Ziggy bar.”
Ziggy bar was very close to the house, so Chinedu went along, he could easily make up an excuse for being late.
Bisi ordered two of the new Cokes, the one litres as well as a Mirinda.
His eyes lit up and he was certain she did it intentionally as most of the light skinned Ibos were said to turn into orange men after consuming the drink.
“I’ll have the Coke.” He said quickly.
“Who said it was ordered for you?” She eyed him but passed him a bottle.
Chinedu gulped the drink until his throat threatened to explode.
The chilled drink made his brain numb for a full minute.
“Thank you.”He burped.
“You’re so disgusting!” She wiped off a stray saliva that had followed his appreciation.
Busayo and his ‘friends’ arrived just then, practically over shadowing the two of them.
“Excuse me!”Bisi got up and sashayed away.
It was obvious that she liked one of the boys in the group and used body language to the maximum.
“What’s your name?” a gruff voice demanded.
“Chinedu. I work in Prof’s house.”
“Is that right?”Busayo replied.
“See this yeye boy oh!”
“How you go sit down and the capon go dey stand?” another wacked him violently on the head.
“I’m don even drink capon coke oh” yet another teased.
“Leave him alone, he had information we need. Information we have been searching for, for years.”
“Sit down, Chinedu.”
Chinedu used the opportunity to study the man, they referred to as capon.
He was an unlikely person to be a cultist. He looked nothing like the members of the suspected sect.
He was clean shaven, wearing one of the expensive shirts, Chinedu had seen in a magazine. He, like his sister, reeked of wealth, or maybe it was just a really good perfume.
“Chinedu, what can you do for us?”
“What do you need done; I can open the gate for you, I can drug him, I can do anything but kill them.”
One of the members grunted and muttered.
“That’s fine, all we need is the door opened.”
“What do you want in exchange?”
Chinedu took a gulp of his coke and thought hard.
“I want to go to University.”
The boys laughed.
“Quiet down, you fools!”
“Chinedu, I think that’s great! I’ll ask for that as well if I were you, however; that’s a big request.”
Chinedu sighed out his burp, if he got saliva on Busayo, the muscled thugs behind him would snap him head like a twig.
“I didn’t say it was impossible.” Busayo smiled.
“I can guarantee it on the condition that you join my group of friends.” He stretched out him arm.
Chinedu knew that he had no choice but to accept the offered arm, especially if he wanted to be alive the next day.
“You wan fall capon hand?” another slap came to his head.
Chinedu quickly grabbed Busayo’s outstretched palm and shook it.
“We’ll see you tonight!”
Chinedu finished his drink and thanked Busayo.
“Don’t forget the others!”Busayo smiled.
“Welcome to the good life, Chinedu!” he chuckled as Chinedu quickly tucked the bottles into his pockets.
“Erm, what time would you be coming tonight?”
“We’ll be there at 9pm. Chinedu, make yourself scarce, it might not be pretty.” He snapped his fingers and in a flash, he and his friends were gone.