THE SAN ((I’m Poor As A Church Rat) Episode 3
The next Day Daniel introduced Linda’s mother to Barrister Barry, the property lawyer at Jones & Barry. Her reluctance to accept his help was understandable. But Barry had decided to help, practically undercharging them. He expressed his pleasure at helping Daniel out. Too bad they couldn’t have him at the chambers.
A month later NLNG called. He had been short listed for a preliminary test in Port Harcourt. He couldn’t believe his luck! Excited, he borrowed some money from a friend. He would go to Asaba to see his mum and probably spend a day with her before heading on to Port Harcourt. He hadn’t seen her in a while.
The test centre was crowded but well managed; there were so many candidates, so the test was done in batches. Walking around the grounds while he waited for his batch, he couldn’t help but dream of what it will be like, working with the oil and gas company. They had better pay well. He planned to get a place of his own and settle down with Linda as soon as possible. They would manage at first but things will work out fine. Linda Understood.
The test went well, better than he imagined. He struck up a friendship with a staff who worked on the NLNG Facility on Bonny Island. Tope was the HR guy for one of the NLNG contractors. He reliably informed him that the interviews will come up soon, best stay around.
Daniel spent the next few days learning about the Operations on the facility. He couldn’t move around freely at first but with Tope’s help he got by.
At nights he talked to Linda. She sounded more distant with every passing day. He didn’t read much to it at first but on this particular night he couldn’t shake the feeling that she was holding something back.
“Linda, is there something you’re not telling me?”
She sighed “No Danny, I’m fine.”
He wasn’t convinced. Could it be the Property issue? Lord! He’d practically forgotten about that.
“How far with the property thing? Is Barry helping?”
“Yes, he is.” her response was rather fast, “Everything is fine.”
“That’s good. So…..is it an out of court settlement? I don’t want it to stress you too much.”
“Yeah, yeah……” the pause was long and filled with a pregnant silence. “So…. have you spoken to Barry at all?”
Daniel kicked himself, muttering under his breath. He should’ve called Barry. He hoped he didn’t come across as being unconcerned about her.
“No, Linda. I haven’t called him. I promise I will though, after I’m done talking to you. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay Danny,” she sounded almost relieved. “When are you coming, I miss you bad.”
His heart lurched at the softness in her voice.
“I’ll come tomorrow.”
“What? Really? Tomorrow? Just like that?”
He paused to think about it. Yes, he could take that risk. The interview wasn’t yet; he could steal a day or two.
“Anything for you, babes. I’m going crazy here anyway. I need to see you.”
Linda couldn’t contain her joy. She jumped up from the bed she was lying on.
“So you’re not pulling my legs eh? Don’t try me o!” Her laughter tickled his ears sending his heart fluttering crazily.
“I no fit, Lolo. I’ll be there.”
“Gee, thanks…” her voice trailed off, the excitement waning. She thought of the ugly situation she would have to face with her mum and paused. “Huh… Danny, don’t come to the house. J…just call me when you land and I’ll come over.”
Daniel frowned at that, “Why now? Ehn, Linda. Other than the dislike your mum has for me, anything else?”
“Nothing Danny, it’s just …..”
“See, Linda. I’m a man. I know my limits. The only problem I would envisage is if you decide to look beyond me. But as long as I have your love, I’m good, ok? But hey, no wahala. I’ll holler at you so you’ll come to my end.”
He could hardly sleep that night. Something was wrong. He could feel it. But what could it be? Had they been kicked out? No. it couldn’t be, she’d have told him. No use stressing over it though, he’ll find out soon enough.
He caught an early bus to Lagos in the morning. The journey was long and arduous. The bus was jinxed. It kept breaking down at odd and dangerous places.
“What kind of stupid bus is this?” The guy beside him complained glancing at his watch for the umpteenth time. “I have to be in Lagos before 5pm, ah!”
“My guy, let’s just pray we arrive Lag in one piece. These roads are dangerous at night.” Daniel shook his head, looking this way and that.
“Exactly. I hate these roads. All these robbery stories we hear.” He looked around too, as if expecting some angular jawed bandit to leap out from the woods.
“If not for my brother, wetin I wan go do for Lag?”
“Really?” Daniel chuckled
“Yeah. I’m going to kinda help him out. He’s meeting his wife’s family in two days, introductions and everything. My mother will kill me if I don’t show. She’ll probably say something like “Nobody will help you when it’s your turn o.” he quipped trying to mimic his mother’s voice. He pulled his hand from deep in his pocket and stretched it “My name is Ernest by the way.”
“Daniel, Daniel Peterson.” Daniel shook his hand firmly. “And, congratulations on your brothers wedding.”
“Hmmm, long time coming. He had better settle and quit breaking hearts. I guess he got tired of running the gamut, you know, best settle down.” He winked.
“I feel you, bro. Bold move.”
“So, you married?”
“No, no. I’m not. Still trying to be like your brother”
They both laughed at that. The air was cold and still. Ernest pulled out a cigarette and proceeded to light it.
Daniel watched him with a wry smile. He never liked to smoke. He tried it once and almost choked to death. If that was what it took to be hype, he had condemned himself to being hopelessly square.
The bus coughed back to life and everybody got on, Ernest being the last. A few people pinched their noses as he squeezed through the aisle.
They continued their journey on the rickety bus.
He stepped into his room in Lagos at around 6pm. He called Tina immediately. She answered on the first ring. Twenty minutes later, she knocked lightly on the door.
He swung it open, looking directly into her dull eyes. They bore no excitement, no spark, almost no life.
“Linda, what is it? You look love lorn.” He teased.
She forced a smile, and gave him a hug, a long warm hug.
“Daniel, when are you expected back in PH?
“I have only arrived, girl. Why do you ask?”
“I’m coming with you.” Her tone was calm but determined.
“What? Coming with me? Come on Girl, have you been drinking?”
“I’m serious Danny. I can’t stay here. I can’t.” her lower lip trembled as tears pooled in her eyes.
“Linda, I….I don’t understand you. I’m only in Bonny for an interview, for a job I don’t know I’ll get. Why would you want to come with me?” He lowered her onto the mattress and put his arms across her shoulders. She relaxed a little.
“Hey, hey, relax girl. It’s okay. Tell me exactly what the issue is. You know you can talk to me.”
She paused a little while as if considering what to tell him.
“Uncensored.” he warned, pointing a stern finger at her.
She shrugged and smiled sadly.
“It’s nothing Danny. I …I’ve missed you, that’s all. It gets lonely around here.”
He smiled mischievously, “So, I’m driving you crazy huh?”
“You know you are.” she smiled again but it didn’t quite reach her eyes.
He didn’t know what to believe.
“How far with service year? When do you go?”
She shrugged, “Soon, I guess. They just released our results.” She turned to face him and held his hands. “How was the test? I’m sorry I haven’t asked”
“Hmmm, well. It was good. I’m hoping for best, waiting for the interview and getting some adventure. If I get that job though, I’ll have to move to PH…” he paused for effect “and I’ll love to have you serve there.”
“Yes girl, so we can be together. Do you know anyone who could help you work that out?”
“Well, we’ll see about that.” A few names came to her. She’ll have to do everything she could. But for now, she had to deal with her mum.
Linda slept in Daniel’s little room that night. He protested some but she said her mum was away for two days to see her sister in Enugu. She hoped he wouldn’t ask about the property issue again.
They both stretched out on the flat mattress and talked into the night.
“You know, I wish we were married already.” Daniel said, tracing the lines on her brow with his thumb. “We’ll probably live in PH, with our five children.”
“What?! Five what? God forbid.” She tapped her thumb against her middle finger and shrugged. “Only two ‘pikins’. If you don’t want tell me now o.”
“Ha, but how can you say that babes, you know I’m the only child my mother has.”
“So you must help your father out, ehn?”
“No, not help him out, do greater things.”
She buried her face in her palms and cracked up.
“Let’s not wake the neighbours o”
Linda sobered for a minute, staring into the night. She reached out and touched his face, ran her palm over his neatly cropped hair.
“Hmm?” Her touch was taking him places.
“Promise me one thing.”
“Whatever happens, you’ll never forget me, never.”
He opened his mouth to speak but paused. He propped himself up on his elbows and leaned towards her.
“I’ll promise more than that girl. I’ll always be by your side. All I do is for you…..and me.” he added with a chuckle.
Linda slept soundly that night, better than she had in a long time. Danny was here, she was alright. But what would happen in the morning, when he’ll have to leave?
A week later, Daniel walked into the plush office to face the interview panel. A gust of cool A/C wind hit him square in the face as he stepped in. There were seven interviewers looking straight at him, ready to give him hell. They all had name tags on the table in front of them, billed to intimidate. Only one caught his fancy though: Oghogho Ekiye, SAN. He smiled at that, blood coursing through his veins in lighting speed. His heart beat faster and his palms moistened. This wasn’t fear, no, it was excitement. He was this close to his dream.
“Something funny, young sir?” It was the only female seated at the table. She must have caught his smile.
“No ma’am.” He straightened up.
“Do take a seat and tell us about you, for starters.” He almost chuckled at her accent, purely British.
The interview went on without a hitch. He dazzled them, or so he thought. They wanted young lawyers, no experience necessary but he showed them he had knowledge, the much he’d garnered from books. Time dragged on as he answered question after question. He was actually enjoying this. But with so many more candidates to be interviewed, he knew he had to wait to see if he had dazzled them enough to be selected.
“Thank you very much, you’ll be hearing from us” said Mrs. Black Britain. He rose to go but Oghogho’s baritone kept him in his seat.
“Mr. Peterson?…have you ever heard the term massive lawsuit?”
“Huh, yes sir. I have.”
The man nodded sharply, his eyes boring into Daniel’s. He pointed a firm finger at him.
“You make a name for yourself when you crack one of those. And they come around…” He paused for effect, leaning forward “ …quite often.”
Daniel nodded, swallowing noisily. There was something about the man’s name, gaze and subtle advice that had an otherworldly effect to it. He could feel goose pimples rise on his skin.
He stayed two more weeks in PH, went down to Asaba and stayed two more.
His mother was ever so glad to see him again. She spoilt him rotten with food and pampering. He loved his widowed mother for bringing him up the way she did. They never had too much at any time but he knew he’d have to work hard to make up for the rest. It was another reason he loved Linda. They had too much in common. They’d both lost their fathers and were both only children, no siblings.
On the second week of his stay with his mum, he got a text message inviting him to the NLNG facilities for Medical tests. He could hardly believe it. What does it mean? He got the job?
He stayed one more day in Asaba before going down to PH. The day after the medicals, he got his appointment letter. He tried to hide his excitement and act neutral as he scanned it at the HR office.
First thing he checked out was the remuneration. He almost fainted at the figure. Wow! Finally, he could start a life, a real one, away from baba Ijebu’s shed of an apartment.
He could hardly contain his joy.
Linda! Yes, he had to call her. He could just imagine how excited she would be, for him, for both of them. Ha! Welcome to the good life.
He searched for his phone and speed-dialed her number. No connection. He tried again, her phone was switched off. Okay, wrong time. He’d call her later.
On the bus home from Lagos he thought of how he’d break the exciting news to her. He’d probably go straight to her house and hope her mother was in. He’d say it so she could hear. He’d show them the letter; surely her mother would wish she’d been nicer to him. Ha! Yes she would.
He willed the bus to hurry.