“Sometimes, bad behavior, is just a desperate plea for attention”
He didn’t like making the trip home. He loved his Parents – overbearing as they could be – but he just believed they could never understand who he was.
The Taxi he joined from the Ojota park in Lagos pulled to a stop at its last bus stop and he hopped out of it. His hands firmly holding the straps of his backpack, he scanned the Stop for a Bike.
A man in an old Ankara top and faded jeans beckoned to him. Wading through the crowd at the Park, AJ found his way to the Bike man.
“Bodija” he said and the man nodded. AJ took his seat behind the Rider and in seconds they were on the expressway leading to his home.
The afternoon sun was unkind, with a scorching effect; it felt like the Earth was at the heat Olympics with Mars.
“Where for Bodija?”
They were nearing his destination now and AJ braced himself for his meeting with his Parents. He had seen them recently but they had insisted he returned home for yet another meeting.
It had something to do with his mother’s dreams.
“I dreamt something vivid this time” he had rolled his eyes when his mother said that to him on the phone. All her dreams have always been “vivid”, what could be more different now?
“All your dreams have always been vivid” he’d pointed out, “Except you’re saying this one is in 5D”
“What is 5D?” his mother had then asked, “Please don’t even bother to answer just come home immediately if you know I am your mother” then she’d hung up.
It was all he needed to hear before making preparations to leave Lagos.
“Hope there’s no problem? This is quite sudden” Hakeem had said when he informed him of the sudden need to go home.
“Nothing I’m sure” He’d replied and held himself from saying his mother just felt the need to narrate yet another dream. Sometimes, he wondered why the woman was not named Josephine.
The aroma of Jollof rice wafted through the front door and welcomed him to the house before anyone else.
For a moment, he forgot how annoyed he was with his Parents for the sudden call and the food provided an instant calm.
His father was sitting on his favorite chair in the small but tidy sitting room when he stepped in. Ajayi greeted him immediately, “E kaasan Sir”
“Ajayi” his father said, his bespectacled eyes reading through a page of the Nigerian Tribune which was clutched in his hands. The brief mention of his name was all the man was willing to offer in form of a response to his greeting.
Ajayi was the only child of his Parents but there was no pampering or any sort of overindulgence where he was concerned.
Actually, his Parents sometimes went overboard to prove to him they were never trying to treat him like a precious stone simply because he was the only child they had.
Many times in the past, his mother had said, “You think because you’re the only child you will not have sense?” when she believed he was behaving a certain way because he was the only child.
Once he mistakenly broke a plate and his mother had landed a slap on his face that sent him reeling backwards, then she added, “You think because you’re the only child you can break plate”
At Church one Sunday, he had gotten into an argument with the Sunday School Teacher, on the way home, his father had pulled his ear while his mother said, “You think because you’re the only child you can argue in the House of the Lord?” she hissed and added, “Do you know how many only children are in Hell with the Devil?”
He’d been tempted to say, “No, mom. Do you?” But he knew he would have gone to Hell that day to find out, so he had simply said nothing.
His mother emerged from the Kitchen now with a wooden spoon in her hand, “Ajayi, bawo ni Oko mi?”
He responded with a greeting.
“How is everything?”
“Good. Go and drop your bag, lunch is ready”
He had turned to leave before he remembered he wanted to know how soon the reason for his trip was going to be. He had to return to Lagos soon, he and the crew had to plan their trip to Ghana.
After giving a name to the crew, Yellow had been like a man on steroids about the whole plan; willing to get things moving as soon as possible.
“Are you not on Holiday?” his mother inquired when he voiced his concerns about the duration of the trip. He nodded and was about to say he had reasons to return to Lagos when she added, “Please, you’re not going back to Lagos soon. Go and drop your bag and come and eat lunch” she said and returned to the Kitchen.
His WhatsApp notified him of a message from the squad, Yellow had created the group just that morning.
He remembered Ekanem had made a comment about Squadi sounding like Squadron, a brand of the local gin. And Yellow had said something about them being local.
AJ, Ifeanyi wan know whish kain account you wan open
Yellow’s message said.
Omo, we have a more serious issue o. My Parents are not letting me leave the House soon.
His phone rang immediately, it was Hakeem on the line.
“AJ, what’s going on?”
AJ launched into a story of what happened the moment he stepped into his Parents’ house some minutes before.
“That sucks, man” he said, realizing how that was going to set them back. They had already slept through the whole plan already. A Gmail App was on his father’s phone, something the old man might have deleted and which he might have found suspicious.
They were to go to Ghana soon and finish the whole thing off ASAP, so this new turn of events was going to affect them grossly.
“I will find a way to convince them” AJ promised from the other end of the line.
“Please do” He said, they made small talks about nothing in particular after then and Hakeem got off the phone. Throwing the gadget in his pocket, he ran down the stairs and made for the Kitchen.
The Chef had just finished making a meal of Porridge mixed with vegetables. He offered him some.
“Nah thanks” Hakeem said, eyeing the food that did nothing to arouse his hunger. Opening the Fridge, he pulled out a bottle of Vitamin water. He felt the need to run, it had been a while he took a run round the Estate but the Sun outside reminded him of how ridiculous that idea will be.
Turning to leave the Kitchen, he found his Father standing there.
“Dad” he acknowledged and made to leave.
“What happened between you and Martha yesterday?” his father asked. Hakeem stopped, faced the old man.
“She slapped me. That’s what happened” he replied, if the man thought he was ready for another one of those interrogations of his where he sided with his darling Martha, he was going to let it known that he wasn’t down for it.
“You were rude” he said simply. Hakeem shrugged.
Seconds passed, Hakeem swigged the bottle of water in his hands and his Father watched him quietly before leading him out of the Kitchen to the sitting room.
“What are you doing making friends with people you shouldn’t be making friends with?” Alhaji asked, taking a seat.
“I am not sure it is fair to be told who to make friends with” Hakeem replied
“There are some people you shouldn’t…”
“Dad, I don’t get everything I want from you. You devote your entire life to Lexy and her mom. I try to be a good son and this is what I get? You telling me who to be friends with and supporting your darling wife for slapping me? Who gets slapped for being friends with whoever they want to be friends with?”
He was angry. They treated him like he didn’t matter and then, only took interest in his life when he became friends with people they weren’t comfortable with.
That fueled his desire to build a stronger bond with Ekanem. He picked his phone then and sent her a quick message.
Hey, wanna see a movie?
“I am just looking out for you” his father said quietly.
“I have been looking out for myself for a while now but thanks Dad” he said to the old man. Martha emerged from the stairs, she was ready to leave the house. Lexy trailed behind her, her face buried in her phone.
“Hakeem” Martha called but she got no response. Hakeem’s phone vibrated then and he realized his response from Ekanem had come through.
“I know you must be mad at me but your father and I are only looking out for you like good Parents” Martha said, a smile on her face.
Hakeem ignored her, his fingers busy typing a response to Ekanem’s last message.
Genesis Deluxe. 2.30. We can do lunch at the Food Court before seeing whatever is showing. Should I pick you up?
Martha placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, “Hakeem, darling. Don’t be angry at me”
Hakeem looked at her then, his eyes holding the gaze of one of the people he loathed the most in his entire life. He was not certain why he hated Martha that much, trying to be his mother and taking his father’s affection was not heinous enough. But he just could not bring himself to love her.
I’m not on the Island. You can’t pick me up. See you there.
Ekanem’s message came in and slowly, Hakeem brushed Martha’s hand off his shoulder.
“I have to go” he said and walked out of the sitting room.
Minutes later when he reappeared from his bedroom, dressed in his favorite sneakers, a pair of denim and a V neck Tee, he heard Martha and his father arguing.
“You shouldn’t have slapped him. You’re driving him farther from you”
“He was rude! You won’t be having this conversation from him if I was his mother!”
He smiled. Martha was right, she was not his mother and she was never going to take the place of his mother.
Pushing through the door, he scanned the compound for what car his mood dictated that afternoon. He went for the Range Rover Evoque.
Ifeanyi was the typical human being; act like being upright was the most important thing to his existence and then have a total change of mind when the right price was mentioned.
Not that he was against that, he was just amused that he had strongly being against their plan until he got the right price offered to him.
He listened to him now as he told him everything was in place.
“Everything is ready” he said to Yellow on the phone and the latter beamed in satisfaction.
This was it; their plan was ready to take off.
“Thank you, Ifeanyi”
“No, no. It is you I should be thanking, that money came in at the right time I needed it” Ifeanyi said before he got off the phone.
One of the babies cooed and Itunu chuckled. Since she birthed them, they had been the only thing she was enthusiastic about. Yellow hated to admit he sometimes got jealous of his own babies because now, their mother devoted all the attention in the world to them.
“This one you have been talking to Ifeanyi every time these days, ki lon sele?” Itunu asked, placing a kiss on one of the babies.
That was another thing she was enthusiastic about; listening in on his phone conversation like she was not and then passing seemingly harmless comments after.
“I cannot greet my cousin again?” He was defensive. He had to be, Itunu was not stupid.
“Ahn ahn, who said you should not greet your cousin again, Ejike? I am just asking now”
“Ehn, I am just greeting him”
“Okay, I will add it to the list of things I should remind you about every day.” She looked at him now, “Because you have been greeting him every day”
He looked away from her and grabbed a copy of Complete Sport lying idly on the table in front of him.
“Thank you” he muttered, unwilling to let her drag him into a conversation he knew was inevitable.
He slammed the Paper on the table then and stood, “Please Itunu, I am not in the mood for this Policeman conversation” he snapped in Yoruba, grabbed his phone and stormed out of the house.
He had only walked a few metres before he realized he was shirtless. Making his way back to the house, he found Itunu waiting at the door with his shirt.
Muttering his gratitude, he snatched it from her hands.
“You know, your guilt is what is chasing you not me” his gaze met hers, the truth in her words immediately humbled him. The woman was his kryptonite.
“I am just saying” she added then just as he was about to move, “You are sleeping on the Couch tonight and every other night until you tell me why you are suddenly hiding things from me. I will not lose the father of my children like I lost my only brother”
Then, she shut the door in his face.
Brownies and Frozen Yoghurt had been her choice for lunch, not because she was not hungry but because she was not sure she wanted to eat in front of Hakeem, alone.
It made no sense but she was extremely conscious of herself around him. He made her take extra care of her appearance; ensuring no hair fell out of place and every outfit flattered her figure. He also made her nervous; not in a bad way, but in an exciting and almost dangerous way.
“You’re beautiful though” he mentioned when she sliced her fork through the brownie sitting on her plate.
She managed a smile, “thank you”
“How’s your boyfriend these days?” he asked and she shrugged. Phillip was okay. They had seen the day before and had boring sex in his apartment, somewhere in Oshodi.
“I’m sorry about yesterday”
Ekanem looked at him now, “You have apologized many times over, Hakeem. It’s okay really. It is not your fault”
He shrugged, “Maybe it’s not. But I invited you and I shouldn’t have underestimated Martha.”
“You don’t seem to like her much”
Hakeem looked away from her. Martha was not really likeable, even if you were like her, you weren’t likely to like her. However, it seemed Hakeem felt something stronger against her, stronger than she had ever seen anyone hate anyone so close to them.
“I don’t hate her” he replied simply. He grabbed a paper napkin and wiped a stain off her lips. His fingers brushed her skin lightly and she shuddered. “You okay?” Hakeem asked when he saw her body’s reaction.
She nodded quickly, embarrassed. “I’m just cold” she lied.
“You want me to get you a Jacket or something? It’s going to get colder in the cinema hall”
“No. I’m fine” she replied. She was aware of how cold it could get inside the movie theatre and that was why she had chosen a midi dress which accentuated curves and which provided warmth because of the material it was made from.
However, what she had not prepared for was the way her body was going to react when Hakeem’s fingers mistakenly touched her.
God, help your daughter. She is about to be very stupid.
Hakeem was not her type, he was two years younger and even though age was nothing, their worlds simply were too far away to unite.
Martha’s reaction to her was a harsh reminder of that.
She had also slept with Alhaji too many times to do that with his son.
Common sense told her to stop seeing Hakeem on these harmless outings but her body wanted her to. He was the handsome Heir to an empire that could never be hers, the one whose queen was usually people like Nadia and who never genuinely felt anything for people like her.
She wanted to stop herself from being infatuated by his good looks and his sometimes nice gestures.
How had she even landed here?
“Ekanem, are you okay?” he asked and she nodded
“How far with our plan?” she asked, willing to steer the conversation in a direction that was certain to remind her of why they were together in a Mall in the first place.
“AJ is stuck in Ibadan” he responded, a little boy of about three years stumbled towards him. Intrigued by the gold bracelet Hakeem always wore, the child tugged at it.
Hakeem chuckled, “Hey little man” he said to him and the toddler’s eyes twinkled.
Ekanem watched him intently, he was not the guy that stole from his father and spoke rudely to his stepmother.
He was the guy that longed for attention, the guy who wanted to be seen, the guy who had a lot of love to give.
She remembered how he had come through for Yellow and his family and how he had honored her mother’s request and eaten with them in a house he did not have to set foot in.
Her eyes followed the mother of the tot as she appeared and carried her little one after saying something nice to Hakeem.
Why did his family not see him like that? Why was his father so occupied with anything other than making his son a man he would be proud of? How long before they saw the man he really was and that he was dying to be?
And how long before she realized she was on a fast trip down that slippery slope they called love?
– Squadi: The Originals
Tomilola Coco Adeyemo
who is feeling like a bonus episode? lol