Lauren heard a thud at her door. Only her dad knocked before entering her room, unless her mum had developed a new good habit. The door opened and her mum stepped in. It was good that some of those bad habits had slunk out, though not all. The woman hadn’t changed from her night robe—another bad habit, covered with her excuse of being at home. If she couldn’t feel loosed at home, then where else could she.
Lauren reduced the stereo’s volume. “It’s ten, mom.”
Mum sat on the bed. “And?” Her voice whiffed pizza.
“You’re still on night robe. Before I return to school, I’ll make sure I rid you of this habit.”
Mum flung a hand. “I hear enough from your dad.”
The robe lady should enjoy the robes while she can. Switzerland would be calling soon. Her work there wouldn’t give her time to wear robes twenty-four hours.
Mum shifted closer and her face transformed into something resembling a solemn one, like when a mother was about to leave her only daughter and would want to say the “I love you” and “I’ll so miss you.” She touched Lauren’s lap. “Honey, I want you to start schooling in Switzerland.”
Lauren’s whole body jerked. “School? I’m already started here.”
“You’re in your first year. It won’t do much hurt to begin again.”
She was not used to saying no to her mum, but this was different. She had created a niche in the country, and it wouldn’t be easy leaving that. “Mom, I’m sorry. I can’t do that. I can’t leave Nigeria. I’m settled.”
“I know you are. I noticed, and that’s why it’d be hard, but it’s for the best.
The education standard here is incomparable to that in America or Europe, and you know it. I talked with your dad and he consented. That’s what he wants. That’s what we both want.”
“But I want a different thing.”
“We know what is good for you, honey. During the holidays, you could return back here.”
“Mom, but Newfield is good. They have high standards.”
“But there is a better standard overseas, far better than what Newfield has.”
Mum’s low, piercing words snaked straight to Lauren’s soft spot. Lauren tried in directing them away from there. “I can’t mom, I can’t.” She thought of the months she had spent. She thought of the friends she had made in school. Few, but worthy. She thought of the time she would spend establishing herself in a new country; she had experienced that in Nigeria and wouldn’t want to a second time. She thought of her dad and the times she had with him. Little, but she might not get as much with her mum in Switzerland. She thought of the few unforgettable times like the time at the bay. She thought of Jide and his austere friend. “Sorry mom, I’m not going.”
“Think again, honey. Please think this through. I’ll get back to you. I should go remove the dough before it burns.”
Lauren watched her mum open the door and prayed never to see her with such a face again.
Dining time came. They had brunch of hard-baked pizza and coffee. Mum certainly would wait for the meal to be over before bringing up the topic. Rules didn’t let them talk such talks during meals—Mum’s rules.
“Honey, you’ve thought on what we talked about.” Mum broke a rule.
“Yes, and I’ve decided to stay in Nigeria.”
Mum’s lids lowered to her coffee cup.”
“I might further elsewhere, wherever you want me to, but I’m obtaining my Bachelor here.”
“If it’s friends, talk to them. They’ll understand.”
“Not friends, mom. Nothing. I just want to stay here.”
“Is it some sort of boy? Let me talk to him.”
She downed the remaining coffee and tried hard not to yell at the woman. “Nothing. Nothing. People have made it here.” She abandoned her pizza to the table and marched out. “I’ll be back. Want to go see someone.”
“Tell the driver to drive you.”
“You have a license?”
“They don’t search.”
“You can’t meander past those bad roads and potholes yourself.”
Lauren didn’t bother on her mum’s next words.
She rode her Lexus to Erneto Aives. Jide’s Toyota stood in its space. She parked and strode to his office, avoided long discussions with his secretary and opened Jide’s door.
The important-looking papers and documents on his desk stole all of him.
“Lau, you should learn to knock.” He raised his head to her. “Did your mum or dad beat you at home?”
Perhaps he was a psychic. She sat on the leather and watched him scribble his signature at the bottom of a document that had his initials underneath. She filled her mouth with the office air and let it burst out. “I got into a tiny tussle with my mom.”
“Where’re your manners? The woman just arrived into the country.”
“I know. I tried not to take it to the extreme. I had to leave the house.”
“And that’s the extreme. I don’t need you to tell me you walked out on her.”
Sure, he was a psychic, but his skills weren’t helping. “At least ask why first, Jide. That could help.”
The door squealed and opened. Lauren turned to catch a glimpse of the intruder. It was his secretary. The lady progressed towards them, holding Jide’s gaze. Her bob hairstyle was most likely a wig, even though people wouldn’t notice because of its original black like a real hair. Real hair didn’t form perfect curves at foreheads and chins no matter how relaxed and streamlined.
She told Jide she didn’t come to office with a certain file, causing Jide to whine on how he tried phoning her thrice the previous day, but got switched-off responses.
“My phone was stolen,” she said.
“Then get a new one,” he said without pity. Lauren wondered if he was that insensitive. He certainly wouldn’t have pity on her situation.
The secretary explained how armed robbers attacked her the previous evening on her way home and snatched the phone. Jide patted head and some pity crawled in. Good to know he wasn’t that insensitive. He advised her to stop carrying money late evenings and to leave the office early as her house was far away.
She shook her bum out of the office. Lauren kept her eyes on her. What time did she leave the office? What time did they both leave the tiny office?
Jide called and got back her attention. “You like her outfit?”
She flung a hand. “Oh no. Or maybe the shoes. It’s Italian.”
“They sell them in every boutique I know. Back to the table, why are you mad at your mum?”
“She wants me to go school in Switzerland and is so bent on it.”
Any atom of cheer in his face disappeared. “Is that why you’re mad at her?”
She didn’t reply. With the face he carried, whatever answer she gave, she would still be the guilty one. It was like a bond existed amongst advanced adults’ league that always made them support themselves.
He meshed fingers and stared straight at her. “Go back home and talk with your mother. Ever since, I had myself thinking why your mum or dad would want you to school here. And now, your mum is giving you the gold and you’re rejecting.”
“You want me to leave?” It was so bad he didn’t care, and worse that he couldn’t pretend to care.
“It’s the best, Lauren, and everyone wants only the best for you. Don’t say no to your mum.” Seriousness lurked around his face as he uttered the jargons, extreme seriousness that made him call out her full name. It was supposed to be Lau, the way he mentioned it that made her wish her name was just Lau, but now he added the second syllable. What made her drive to his office and think he’d be on her side?
“It’s my choice to make. I should be leaving” She rose and aimed for the door.
“I’ll call you,” he said.
She walked out, and then headed to the café, had burger and Pepsi, ate half, drank half, and made for her Lexus.
The traffic jam gave the hawkers of magazines and snacks more room to stand by her side window and wave the things contained in their baskets, and some of them shouting oyinbo, and some trying to speak an overly correct English to her as though that should make her buy from them. If she had accepted her dad’s offer to help tint her windows, none of them would have seen her and none of them would have been shouting oyinbo, have you tasted this one. The traffic fuelled her distaste for the country. But she wasn’t leaving it. The face of the secretary slunk into her. All secretaries in the country were nincompoops.