Inching towards the door, I turned the lock open. Slowly, I pulled the door ajar and peered through the opening that was wide enough to allow me to catch a glimpse of who it was. My neighbour Chris stood with one foot on the first step just before my door and his other foot on the second step. Stretched across his face was a smile.
“Hi, Sewa. I knew that would get your attention.”
Pulling the door some more inches wider, I let out a hiss. Chris was one annoying neighbour but had a way of making it into everyone’s space. Even if I was trying hard to stick to minding my business in my neighbourhood, he was fond of tossing at me, greetings that were too loud to ignore. Somehow, he had won me and everyone around him over to his world where ‘hello’, ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ were impossible.
“Sorry. I hope I didn’t startle you too much with that?” His smile had come to stay.
“Startle? That was a very insensitive joke.”
He clasped his palms together in appeal. “I am sorry.” I hissed again and leaned against the door frame.
“Really I am. I can kneel if you want.” He began to lower himself to the ground.
“Ah, please I didn’t ask you to kneel.” If I knew him well, he would kneel and create a scene in minutes. He straightened himself and tucked his hands into his pocket with an air that said he was fine where he stood and didn’t want to be invited into my apartment. I really liked and respected that about him. Anytime he came around, he always preferred to hang around the door or sit on a chair outside.
“So what do you want?”
Digging into his pocket, he pulled out a sheet of paper. “Here, call that number. There is a family in need of a caregiver to a one-year-old girl.”
“Chris!” Anger crashed through me without warning. I guess it was pent up anger from waiting endlessly for God to just give me my dream job.
“Sewa!” he retorted. “You’ve been in search of a job. Here’s a lead and you are yelling my name.”
“Thank you for your concern but no thanks! A job as a baby sitter? Seriously?”
“And what’s wrong with it? You’ve been on the lookout for a job, I see a vacancy and decide to be kind enough to help a friend in need, and you sound like I just did something wrong.”
Pulling on a sweet tone, I bowed. “Thank you so much for landing me a deal of a lifetime.”
I cocked my head and picked up the tone that seethed with rage. “Chris, really I appreciate your concern, but please some jokes are too expensive. I am a Bachelor’s degree holder, and you are seriously giving me a lead to this kind of job?” Why wasn’t I surprised? He was an office assistant and probably thought everyone had small dreams like him. Stuffing his hands in this Jean trouser pocket, he shrugged.
“Well, you will do well to keep that paper safe. You will need it.” Without waiting for a response, he trudged away.
This wasn’t happening. I looked from the sheet in my hand to Chris. Sewa, you have suffered. Tears stung my eyelids. It wasn’t his fault. If God had not decided to go on a vacation where answering my prayer was concerned, would I be tossed such an insult?
I stepped back inside, shut the door and flung myself on the bed. God had truly forsaken me. The dam in my eyes broke loose, and tears flowed, drenching my pillowcase. Maybe I should go back home. Quickly I discarded the idea. Mum had big dreams for me. She was a crusader that the girl child was worth the celebration a male child attracted in Africa. We were her hope that being a mother to four girls was not a minus. No, I couldn’t give up now. I couldn’t give in. I would fight till I saw the finish line, but this was not how long I had planned this to take. I must have fallen asleep because I was suddenly jolted out of sleep by the sound of the power alarm in my landlord’s apartment. As I rubbed my sleepy eyes with my knuckles, there was a loud ‘hello’ at the door. Monifa was back. My heart skipped a bit. I glanced at the wall clock. It was just 2pm. Or had she been laid off? I’m ashamed to own up that I half wished that it was the case. At least I wouldn’t be alone on this road of joblessness.
I pulled open the door. Monifa was doing a jig. Ouch, she hadn’t been fired.
“Babe, what’s up? You’re back early.”
“Just take a wild guess…” I stepped aside as she bounced in, bubbling over with excitement.
“Hmmm…You were given the day off?” I shut the door and plopped into the chair beside the table.
“Oh stop being dry. Who gets excited about a day off?” She kicked off her shoes and sank into the bed, beaming.
The earlier I got used to Monifa being the one with good news always, the better.
“You got promoted.” She flashed a grin. “You’re close but give it one more try.”
“Please, I’m tired.” My stomach rumbled. I was tired and hungry.
“Well, your girl right here won staff of the month again and will be going on an official trip to Dubai with the boss!” She flicked the locks of her braided wig backwards.
“Wow! Are you for real?” Deep inside, I was struggling with the wild blend of emotions that took me by surprise. I hoped I sounded as genuine as I should.
“It truly feels surreal, but it’s really happening. I just came home to change my clothes so I can head out to do some shopping for the trip. You should come along. We could also grab lunch somewhere nice.”
“Oh, no. I don’t think I want to go out.” I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend all afternoon having Monifa rub the goodness of God in my face the whole time. This lady was tired of being a charity project and that woman who had everyone’s pity. She gets a ticket to Dubai, and just hours before, I got a paper with details to a babysitting job. What was wrong with my life?
“No thanks, I’d stay back. I’m sure you’d still have loads of fun.”
“Come on, what’s fun when I’m going to be all by myself? Besides, I’ve told you to stop hiding in here, feeling sad about not having a job yet. One will come, trust me. You know what, I will buy something nice for your mum and your sisters. You can send it home to them, so she doesn’t worry about your wellbeing.” Monifa had strong persuasive powers, probably why she got a job long before I did.
“You win. I’ll come with you.”
We got dressed and were set in minutes. Monifa’s outfit left me with a raised eyebrow. She wore a chiffon top with a low cut neck thrown over a pair of jeans. Her jeans weren’t bad but the top! It put a generous portion of her cleavage in public glare and screamed of too much sex appeal.
“Babe. Don’t tell me you’re going out in this?” Monifa looked at herself and shuffled to the mirror.
“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“Your top is too revealing! You can wear something else.”
I yanked open her side of the wardrobe to fish out a better top and her bible and daily devotional tumbled out. That’s where they had been in recent times; tucked out of sight. They had moved from their usual place by her bedside. Worry seeped through me; worry for Monifa. I shook it off and replaced the Bible and devotional.
“Please free me, sis. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, I need to get a nice selfie for the gram.” She struck a pose and took some shots.
“I’m not saying you shouldn’t look good, but this is extreme.”
“My darling, staff of the month twice in a row is a big deal. I have to live up to the name and status by being socially compliant.”
“And that includes putting your breasts on public display? Come on, many young ladies are excelling in their careers without having to do this.”
She twirled her hair.
“While you whine, I will be on my way.” She beamed with her best smile and took another selfie.
“Are you coming or not?” I picked up my purse and trudged along. I had to stop pushing my point least I began to look like I just wanted to be a spoilsport because I was the one who was without a job.
I had to admit that Monifa had a kind heart. She had housed me without complaining or tossing sour attitudes at me. That left me feeling indebted to her. If she sent me packing because I had become overbearing, where would I go? Little did I know that days later, I would be confronting that dreaded issue.
On the day of her departure to Dubai, she had asked to quickly talk to me about something just before heading for the airport. I sighed and sank into the bed, bracing myself for whatever it was.
“I will be moving from here at the end of the month.” She paused like she needed to let it sink. My heart crashed into its cage of bones and cartilages. In a second, all the sad pictures flashed before me.
“But our rent doesn’t expire until three months.” I said with a quivering voice
“Yes, that’s right. You can stay till then, and I’m sure you would have a job before the time elapses.”
“Oh wow. I didn’t see this coming. This is sudden. Is everything alright?”
“Oh, everything is fine. It’s just that I want to be closer to the office. My responsibilities are increasing. I will be working late a lot and also have to resume early. I don’t want traffic in the way. I’m sorry I’m just letting you know. I got caught up with preparations for my trip.”
I sighed. “Okay. I’m trusting God for a way out of this fix before then.” Just then my phone beeped. I tapped it awake. It was a bank alert.
“I sent you fifteen thousand naira. Hold on to that till I’m back.” Monifa said.
“Thank you, Monifa. I can’t thank you enough.” My mouth said thank you, but my heart cried something else. Lord, can you still hear or see me? This is not the life I want.
She stood up and adjusted the dress that hugged her like a second skin. I wasn’t out to become all legalistic, but something wasn’t right with my friend, I could sense a red alert inside of me, but I just could not lay a finger on what it was. Why would I want to witch hunt her just because she was doing well? She was housing me and helping out whenever I needed help. I would mind my business and appreciate her help. We hugged, and she tugged her suitcase and hand luggage out the door. Her taxi was waiting already.
As the door shut, the pain in my heart echoed loudly in the room. Trudging to the table, my eyes fell on the sheet of paper Chris had given me days before. Maybe I should call the number. Perhaps I should take the job. I didn’t want Monifa to return from her trip, and I was still here being a burden. It was time to swallow my pride and take the available job.
Two days later, I got a job. While Monifa was flooding our timelines on Instagram with pictures of her moments in Dubai, enjoying the perks of a super flourishing career, I Sewa the second class upper degree holder in Mass Communication got her very first job offer as a caregiver to a toddler. I lost count of how many rounds of crying I went through after getting the job but had to finally pull myself together with the consolation that crying didn’t change anything. If I had more of these surprises lined along my way, I had to ditch crying and begin to trust a God who knew the end from the beginning.
….To be continued