I wake up with a banging headache, as usual.
The sun is streaming into my room. I’m curled up beneath my comforter. My head complains of every moment as I yawn luxuriously and adjust my position. My heart starts to beat with force as memory from yesterday night comes flooding in. Tony! That wicked man beat him. I start to shake like a leaf in harmattan from the thought of him lying helplessly somewhere while I lay in bed. Someone grabs me from behind and rubs my forehead with a wet cloth. Don’t they understand! This isn’t fever! This is Tony lying in a ditch somewhere. They don’t understand him. No one does! Not even Melvina. I want to shout till my words sink in but I can’t find the strength to.
Someone is shushing me and holding me firmly. The person is also blocking the sunlight too so I smile. I sleep off again dreaming about the angelic face of the man by the window.
I wake up in the evening without benefit of clock or sun. The simple act of rolling over wakes me because every pain nerve reacts to little movements. My ribs ache, my knee stings, my arms ache every time I move them; even my jaw is sore. Groaning, I ease into a sitting position and inch my legs over the side of the bed. If I feel this bad, I wonder how Tony would feel. Tony! That dog’s punch would have been worse. I open one eye then the other. Another day, Melvina would be somewhere around but not today. I feel someone’s gaze on me and turn towards it. I see the rude guy’s face. He is standing by his window and looking into my own. Why is my curtain not drawn? I frown as I realise Melvina must have left it open. I limp towards my window but he doesn’t even flinch. We stare each other down for a moment then I pull my curtains close just as he smiles. I limp towards the bathroom and put my face under the tap. My heart starts to beat as I remember how his face grew cold when he forced my face up and saw it. I raise my head instinctively and it hit the tap. “Ouch.” I rub it causing more pain. I look properly into the mirror and for the life of me can’t understand why I’m engineered this way. Speaking of engineered this way, I got a job for 3pm today. God please. I walk out to check the time and see it is 5:18pm. Great.
“Melvina! Where is this stupid girl?” I know she wouldn’t come out of her hole. Coward. I told her I had a job for today. Why didn’t she wake me? I walk back into my room and pick out something to wear. I don’t even waste time. I just pick a clean jeans and a shirt. I pull the shirt on and drag the jean on. I walk to the dresser beside my bed and rummage for my wristwatch. I see the aspirin and glass of water she laid down for me. I swallow the pills and down the glass of water. I carry the templates I need for the completion of Rita’s room. Rita is the rich kid I have been working for for almost two weeks. I’m supposed to finish her room today but I’m very late. Nothing in my life is going really well except my art. I can’t lose it. “Just keep hiding!” I call into the room as I lug the templates out the door and kick it shut behind me.
“Please ma’am, I’m very sorry.” I apologise to the Rita. See how money just turn things any which way. This girl can’t even be more than twenty three oh.
“No. I don’t want to see you again. We had an agreement but you flunked it.” She says. She is lying down on the sofa in her father’s large living room and is playing with her phone -iPhone 6s.
“I’m sorry.” I apologise again. She didn’t even spare my bruises a glance.
“You’re sorry? You told me this was going to be done in a week but you have almost spent a month on it.” She accused.
“You changed the design three times. I had to start all over again!”
“You are changing the subject. Your tardiness.”
Thank God I read novels. “I’m sorry. I will try my best.”
“No.” She states firmly.
My head is banging; my ears are ringing and I’m about to cry.
“Rita!” Her mum calls from upstairs.
She reluctantly looks up from her phone. “Mum?”
I look up too and greet. “Good evening, ma’am.”
“Good evening, dear.” She greets back and faces her daughter. “Forgive her dear. I will foot the bill.” The woman promises. It’s like she knows her daughter’s real worry. I have a feeling she used my money to pay for something else. Maybe some clothes or perfumes or even as part of the payment for her new phone.
Rita’s frown quickly turns into a full blown smile. “Thanks mum!” She jumps up excitedly. “I will go get the key.” She says and walks off. I stand uncomfortably for a minute but then she is back smiling at me. Wow. She gives me the key and I go to work. I know my way around the house. I take the stairs two at a time, lugging my templates and fresh paint.
When I’m done, I call her over the bannister to come take a look at my work. I must say I’m proud of myself. I feel it wax stronger when her mouth falls open as she enters. She told me the first day that she wouldn’t look at it till I finished. I didn’t care but she was adamant. I guess she kept her own promise. She suddenly frowns when she sees I am looking at her. “It’s alright.” She compliments grudgingly.
“Thanks.” I say and turn to look at it. “I will just get my stuff and be out of your hair.”
She leaves the room. I ignore her attitude and carry all my stuff into the car. I make about five trips before I’m done. I guess I had really been piling stuff up through the weeks. I walk out of the room and look over the bannister but Rita isn’t on the sofa. I adjust the strap of the bag I am carrying over my shoulder and move towards the voices I hear. Rita’s mom and a man.
“I hear the child was an imbecile.” The woman is saying.
“Aha! That explains his absence. No one in his right mind would abandon all this wealth and just disappear to God knows where.”
“It’s a pity Omiata didn’t plan his death well. He was a formidable man. Whatever happened to his daughter?” Rita’s mum asks the man.
I should knock or just make my presence known somehow but my feet stay glued to the ground for some unknown reason. I guess I just wanted to hear the wealthy talk without knowing they were being heard. I jolt out of my reverie though when I hear footsteps. I knock gently.
“Who is it?” The woman asks.
“It’s me, Uwa.” I reply timidly.
She opens the door a fraction and frowns at me when she sees it is me. “What are you doing here?” She asks looking down her nose at me like I’m unworthy of her time.
“You said you would pay me.” I explain.
“Where is Rita?” She asks.
“I don’t know.” I reply.
“How much?” She asks.
“Forty thousand.” I reply.
She walks into the room and for a second, I see the man but not quite well. Soon she is back and handing me the cash.
“Thank you, ma” I say and retreat backwards. She nods her head and closes her door firmly. I’m still walking backward when I hit solid muscle.
“Oomph!” A male voice makes the sound behind me.
I turn to apologise. “I’m sorry.”
“No problem. Just watch where you are going.” He says and ruffles my hair. I don’t even know this guy. I could be older than him. I shove my money into my bag as I descend the stairs leaving the crazy family behind. As I rev my engine, I decide to take a detour to Tony’s house first.
I hope he forgives me.