Osagie and Blessing Daodu sat on the sea sand beneath the tall coconut tree, wrapped in each other’s arms. The sea breeze cooled their skin and refreshed their minds. They were glad that they had allowed their children to convince them to celebrate their birthdays at Takwa Bay beach. They had hesitated at first, but had succumbed after several days of enticement and sweet talk.
He and his wife were birthday mates; born in September, the twentieth to be precise. It had always been a pleasure to celebrate their birthdays together, be it at an organized party in their home with friends and family or at a restaurant with their children and a few family members who could make it. But this time around, their children suggested a beach-hang-out. No friends, no relatives, just them and the plan had turned out better than they anticipated.
“I prefer this beach to others I have been to,” Blessing’s gaze was fixed on the roaring waves.
“Same here,” he squeezed her hand, “It is not crowded and every group here seem to have their own privacy.”
She nodded in agreement.
“We will come back.”
She turned to meet his gaze. He was smiling. She and her husband rarely take time off from their busy schedule. It will be a miracle if they could find time to relax at a place like this, without thinking of work, the children or anything else.
“I will love that.”
“I know. We need a break.”
“Yes, we do,” she leaned into him. He kissed her lightly on the cheek and sighed.
“I think we should head back.”
A frown creased his brow, “Why?” He was comfortable where he was. He wasn’t ready to return to their shade.
“It is almost six.”
” Promise said all the boats will leave by six,” Blessing looked at her husband.
She nodded. His frown deepened. A boat had brought them to the beach and they had been told that a boat will take them back. It had not been a fun-journey. The driver was too rough for his taste. Another boat ride wasn’t something he was looking forward to. He got up and helped his wife to her feet.
“I don’t think I want to be stranded on this beach.”
She chuckled and held her fifty year old husband by the waist and they headed back to their shade.
They met Promise, their first daughter, arranging their picnic baskets.
“Did you enjoy your long work?” She smiled at them.
“Yes we did,” Osagie sat on one of the beach chairs.
“Your father and I plan to come here once in a while,” she winked at her husband.
“That’s great!” The excitement in her eyes warmed their hearts. “Both of you need to take time off work and relax.”
Osagie cleared his throat. He knew his daughter was right, but, he and his wife had spent the best of their years to establish a textile company. When one ran a business for so many years, it was hard to take a vacation.
“We are thinking about it,” she assured her.
“Good, I am glad to hear that,” she returned her attention to the coolers and baskets she was arranging into a big bag.
Her parents had been running a company of their own for as long as she could remember. The textile company her parents owned had fifty staff members and they produced quality local fabrics. Business had been topsy-turvy over the years, but they had been able to feed, clothe and shelter her and her siblings. Hence, they had been able to send them to school.
Recently, her father had bought a five bedroom bungalow from a friend and this had eased the burden of paying rent annually. He had also bought a new car, and this had made his other car, a white Toyota Camry 2004, available for her and her siblings to use.
“Where is Prince and Gift?”
Her mother’s voice broke into her thoughts.
“Prince has gone to secure a boat for us and Gift said something about tagging along.”
“Are you done?” Her father lifted himself up, “I don’t want to be stranded here.”
Promise looked up at her dad and burst out laughing.
Gift returned and informed them that the boat had been secured. She helped her elder sister to carry some of their picnic baskets and coolers. They all left the shade and headed straight for the exit.
An hour later, they alighted from the boat. They found their car, a black SUV Jeep, along the roadside. Prince paid the guy who had helped them to watch over it. They all got into the car and headed home.
“Mum, dad, I hope you enjoyed yourselves,” Gift glanced back at her parents. They smiled and nodded.
“This is one of the benefits of living in Obalende, we will soon be home, unlike people heading towards the mainland, I don’t envy them at all,” Prince grinned. Gift rolled her eyes, her brother liked bragging about things that she considered unnecessary.
“When are you leaving for Abuja?” Gift addressed her elder sister.
“In two weeks time.”
“Once you are through with camp-things, I will like to visit. I hope they give you a cool place to stay.”
“Busy body!” Prince chided.
“What’s your own?” She eyed him.
“Will you visit if they post her to one of those remote villages?”
Gift hissed and decided not to respond. Her family rarely travelled, except during the Christmas holiday. They sometimes travelled home to Esan Central to visit her grandparents. But, they don’t spend more than a week there. She had never been to any other part of Nigeria and now that her elder sister had been posted to the capital city for her NYSC programme, she would visit her as much as possible. She hoped to be posted to Jos, Portharcourt or Abuja when she graduated in three years time. Those were the parts of Nigeria she had been longing to visit since she was a child.
“Don’t mind your brother, you can visit whenever you want.”
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“Thank you Promise, ” she smiled at her sister and stuck out her tongue at her elder brother.
Prince eyed her and concentrated on the road. His younger sister was a pain in the neck. He avoided her at school, but whenever they were home on vacation, he had to endure her presence. As far as he was concerned, last born were pests. The sooner he graduated, the sooner he could leave home and start his own life. He had two sessions more before he completed his tertiary education.
Promised closed her eyes and leaned back on the leather car seat. She had never been to Abuja. Since she had been posted, she had googled about Abuja almost everyday, trying to find out as much as she could about the place. She wondered where her place of primary assignment would be. She doesn’t mind teaching a bunch of students but she would prefer serving in a communications company, be it telecoms or any media houses.
‘God, you know my heart. You know my thoughts and desires. But not my will, let your will be done in my life,’ she said a prayer within her.
Prince drove into their compound at exactly 8 p.m. Promise and her siblings carried all the baskets, coolers, mats and sheets into the house, while their father shut and locked the gate. His wife waited for him and they went into the house together. It had been a good day.
Promise stood under the torture of the morning sun and tried to get a cab to work. Unlike Lagos, cab fares in the capital city was fairly cheap. She would have opted for a bus, but she wasn’t accustomed to the buses and their routes. Taking a cab to work and back was the best she could do at the moment.
She was headed for Government Secondary School in Garki. She had been a bit disappointed when she found out that she was going to be teaching. How she wished she was posted to NTA or somewhere else.
‘Where are all these crazy cabs going?’ She said to herself. She had been waving, but they didn’t stop. She would get to work late if she didn’t get a cab on time.
The self-contained apartment she shared with three other corpers was a stone throw from the bus-stop. She met the girls when she arrived at the camp and had found out that their place of primary assignments were also in some Secondary Schools in Garki.
The schools they were all posted to had made no provision for accommodations for them. They had gathered the little money they had and rented a self-contained apartment in Area 1, Garki.
The landlord had been lenient enough to collect four hundred thousand naira for a full year. The other houses they had surveyed were more expensive and their owners wanted two years rent. Where would they get that kind of money from?
The money she had left might sort her out for the rest of the month, but she hoped that the government would pay them promptly and not delay their monthly allowance. The Secondary School she had been posted to had made no provision for monthly stipends. She wondered if the principal was siphoning the Corpers’ fund allocated to the school and transferring it into his own pocket.
If she ran out of cash, she might have to call home. That would be her last resort. She doesn’t want to disturb her parents with her needs. They had a company to run and two extra mouths to feed. Her siblings were a handful. She hoped to get a good job after her service year. She would be able to support her parents and also take care of her siblings. She wanted her parents to eat the fruits of their labour before they began to age drastically.
An hour later, she walked into the school compound and sighted the principal, Mallam Bature, speaking to some of the corpers. Every morning, he stands at the school gate immediately after the assembly and any corper that came late was given a stern lecture about punctuality and discipline.
‘Doesn’t he ever get tired?’ She groaned and joined the others. The school had made no provision for accommodations and monthly stipends for them, yet, they want them to resume work early. That was slavery! According to her anyway.
Promise went straight to the staff room the moment the principal was through with them. She needed to go through her time-table and make some changes. She cannot afford to teach every single day of the week. She needed time to sort out the students’ notes, mark their assignments and prepare questions for the mid-term test. Why they asked her to take the students English and Literature was beyond her. Was it because she graduated with a second class upper in Mass Communication?
The staff room was empty. She greeted the few teachers around and walked over to her corner. She cleaned her dusty wooden table and chair. She wondered why the capital city was so dusty. She had been told that it was worse during the harmattan season.
“Miss. Daodu, you are looking good this morning.”
Promise looked up at the person addressing her. It was one of the male teachers. On her first day, he had assumed that she was a muslim because of her surname. She had to explain to him that her grandfather was a muslim, but her father had converted to Christianity.
“Good morning Mr. Usman,” she tried to smile, but it barely reached her dark eyes.
He leaned over her table, “You are looking smart and beautiful,” his eyes seemed to glitter. She wondered what was beautiful about her khaki trousers and white tee-shirt. Was it the khaki face cap that was deceiving him or the khaki jacket? If he was trying to warm up to her, he came at the wrong time.
“Thank you,” she forced the words out and concentrated on the books she had placed on the table.
“Do you know that I am also an English and Literature teacher in this school?”
To Be Continued…