THE SAN (I’m Poor as a Church Rat) Episode 2
“Danieli dey house?” The landlord asked rubbing his palms together and licking his lips at the sight of Linda.
She hissed and folded her arms across her chest. “Baba, e dey sleep, I no fit wake am.”
“Ehn, ehn? Ok now. When e wake tell am say we get talk, hmmm?” He stretched his neck trying to get a glimpse of the room. Linda blocked his view and ground out,
“Ok I go tell am.” She turned and slammed the door in his face before he could say another word.
“That your Landlord sef no get liver. What’s his problem?”
“Linda, I hope I’m not in trouble o. What if he decides to kick me out?” Daniel said coming out of hiding.
“Don’t worry, you’ll move into my house.” She sat on the bed again crossing her legs, a mischievous smile on her heart shaped face.
He laughed at that. He loved the way she made him relax every time. But this time he knew he had to get his act together, or he’ll soon be sleeping on the streets.
“Ok, but I’ll be sleeping in your room o.”
“Of course, now. Where else? My mother’s room?”
“Ehn? World war 3!” they both hollered in unison, laughing like there were no issues.
Two months later, Daniel received a text message inviting him for an interview. He was trudging into the community bathroom with his soap dish floating in the little bucket of water he carried when the beep came. He was so excited he almost hugged his landlord. The Ijebu man was chomping on his chewing stick when Daniel bumped into him.
“Look where you dey go o, haba. Foolish boy, rent you no pay, na so so fine girl you go dey carry up and down.” His countenance changed slightly at his allusion to Linda
“Ehn, ehn, come.” He gestured with his free hand for Daniel to come closer. “That yellow girl wey dey come look for you, that fine one wey get am well, well” he gestured with his arms as he described her, “Shebi na your cousin? Abi….something dey?”
Daniel’s excitement prevented the disgust that would normally have been his reaction to such an outrageous question.
“Baba, leave story, better dey land for me o. Something dey happen!”
He hurried off to the bathroom as his landlord hissed, spewing out chewing stick juice through the gap in his teeth.
“Better dey abi? Pay my rent o!” he screamed at his retreating back.
The bathroom as not unoccupied, so he waited patiently at the door, his eyes scanning the message again. This must be the law firm he applied to at Igbosere road. The place wasn’t so posh but it was a good start.
He made a mental note to tell Linda about this. In fact he would head to her place right after his bath. It was the jolliest bath he’d had in a long time. The mildew on the walls did not irritate him; neither did the fungi growing on the termite infested door get to him. Today was a good day. The interview was in two days.
Thirty minutes later he knocked on the door of Linda’s house, a huge smile on his face.
“Who is that? Don’t break my door please.” Her mother’s voice sailed from the kitchen; she appeared at the door wiping her hands on a dishtowel. She did a double take at the sight of the young man she had warned to steer clear of her daughter.
“Ehn, ehn?” she clasped her hands together and placed them on her generous mid section.
“Good afternoon ma. How are you?” Daniel managed, almost wilting under her intent gaze. He tried to put on his best I-hope-I-can-be-your-son-in-law-someday smile.
Her hiss wiped off the intention of the smile still gathering at the corners of his mouth.
“What is it to you, if I am fine or not? Biko, tell me why you are here, I’m busy inside.”
“I want to see Linda ma.” Why hadn’t he called before he came?
“Linda no dey. She went to school. Ooh?”
The door slammed in his face before he could think of a response. He just couldn’t get over the woman’s attitude. On second thoughts, she was probably edgy because of the recent downturn her business had taken. Linda had told him a week ago about the break-in at her mothers shop. Yes, that should be it. The poor woman must be stressed sore. But then again, she’d never liked him, stress or not.
Dejected, he retraced his steps back home, but the thought of going back to his empty room did nothing to lift his sprits. He decided to visit his new found neigbourhood pal, Seni, the newspaper distributor. He had struck up a friendship with the guy so he could check newspaper job placements easily. Seni had expanded his business and now had a small stall where he sold magazines, dailies and other periodicals.
“The San! My learned friend! Wetin dey?”
The guy hollered as Daniel rounded the corner and stopped at his stall. They shared jokes for a while before he sat down to read some magazines.
Whilst there, he decided to forward the interview invitation to Linda. He wanted to see her reaction. Does she really believe in him like she says she does? Will she wait for him? Stick with him? Her mother’s attitude was getting to him. The woman had a strong hold on Linda, she could convince her to stay away from him.
He shook his head to clear the thought; he hoped it never came to that.
Her found the message on his phone and forwarded it to her. Thankfully, he still had some airtime. Three minutes later, his phone rang, it was Linda.
“Danny dear, I got your message. Who sent it? Is it for real? It’s in two days o, you don prepare?” she went on; the excitement in her voice was soothing.
Daniel released the breath that had caught in his throat. She loved him.
“I just got it this morning. I’ve even been to your house. I’m really happy.”
“But you don’t sound like you are. What is it? Where are you now?”
“I’m with Seni.”
“Haba, go home and read something o. You must dazzle them for me.”
His smile was wide, now. Love gratitude and an unidentified emotion flooded his heart.
“Ok, I will.”
“Yes, I almost forgot. My friend said something about an NLNG advert o, in Punch newspaper. They want young lawyers, you should check it out.”
“Really? When was it published?
“Ok dearie. I’ll check it now.”
She hung up, after promising to be at his place that evening. Seni still had a copy of the said paper which he graciously gave to Daniel. He hurried home to scrutinize it.
For real they wanted young lawyers. Fresh grads, no experience necessary. Wow. He could hardly believe it. He was so glad he had served in a law firm during his service year. It sort of gave him a foundation.
He sent his application the very next day, along with his scanned creds. He hoped for the best.
The interview at the law firm went well, except there were so many lawyers screened. Most of them had had some form of experience apart from NYSC. Linda encouraged him and he felt confident.
A few days later, Linda called his phone, hysterical. She was crying. His heart beat crazily at the sadness in her voice. He hurried to her place as fast as an ‘okada’ could carry him.
Her mother was out. He was glad. She hugged him tightly he moment he stepped foot in the house. Her breath was hot on his neck, her tears staining his cheap cotton shirt.
He cradled her face in his hands as her tears flowed unhindered.
“What is it baby? What happened?”
Her sobs came faster, her chest heaving.
“My dad’s family, they’re taking away everything. The land, this house, the printing business, they’re throwing us out! Can you imagine?”
He felt a twitch in his jaw at the confusion in her eyes.
“Did he leave a will?”
“Yes, he did. It was read at a meeting. You know he left the almost bankrupt printing business to me, but everything else he left to mum.” She sniffed and wiped her eyes, “The stupid lawyer mentioned something about his intention to change or update the document shortly before he died. Now his brothers are using that as an opportunity.”
Linda’s father passed on two years ago. He wasn’t that affluent but his many responsibilities to his poverty stricken brothers slowed him further.
“That’s serous. Where’s mum now and… when did all these start?
“She went to the lawyer. Last week one of his brothers went to the printing office and presented some crazy transfer of ownership document. We were contacted and mum called the said uncle, he raved on and on about how things will be done differently from now on as women do not inherit properties in their family.” She shook her head as she spoke, her nose flaring.
He could feel her vibrate in anger as she spoke. He thought of the worst that could happen. They’ll probably be forced to leave the house, to go where? The printing press was being managed by the general manager, a trusted friend of her father pending the time Linda could do whatever she wanted with it. She had planned to keep running it, get into some joint venture with a willing partner that could inject more money into it and take it to another level.
They could go to court, if they couldn’t make the family see reason. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
“See, I know this lawyer at that law firm I served. He’s into this property stuff. I’ll see if he can help. Is that fine?”
She nodded slightly and rested her head on his chest. He held her waist with his long arms and pulled her closer, sighing deeply. His heart slammed in his chest as she raised her arms and wrapped them around his neck.
She had stopped crying now, grateful for his being there. She didn’t know who to call. Her mother had almost gone off the deep end, what with the stress she’d been under. Daniel would help them out, she was sure.
She breathed deeply, taking in the manly scent surrounding her. She kept her arms around his neck, softly caressing the back of his neck. He rested his hand on the small of her back.
“We’ll find away around this, ok?”
She nodded again and looked up, her eyes scanning the breadth of his lips. He traced the lines of her lips with his thumb. She leaned into him and stood on her toes. Their lips were just a hairsbreadth apart.
Her eye lids fluttered as his lips touched hers. Her lips were soft and pliant under his. He had kissed her before, once. She never asked or even appeared to want it so he never pushed. But now…
He pulled her closer as their kiss deepened carrying them on a wave of passion. Then slowly, she stirred in his arms, sending an unspoken message. Linda was a lesson in control. He pulled away reluctantly, his arms still encircling her waist.
She smiled shyly, avoiding his eyes. He lifted her chin, and her eyes met his. She shuddered at the tenderness in his eyes. When he tried to speak, his voice was hoarse.
“I love you Linda, I really….”
His sweet words were still on their way to her ears when the door burst open and a very angry Mrs Odi stormed in. She stopped at the sight of the duo who looked like they’d just been caught digging in her pot of soup.
“Mummy, welcome.” Linda managed, visibly shaken.
Her mother frowned, looking at Daniel.
“Good afternoon ma” he greeted, calm and unhurried. “I’ll be on my way now.”
He nodded at Linda, who kept her eyes trained on her mother. She closed the door behind him, waiting for the chastisement she was sure to get.