Lillian was carrying a half-baked cake. Richard had brought out the cake from the oven and he had given it to her. She could not eat it, and she did not want to throw it away, howbeit the cake was useless. She asked him why he brought it out when he knew it had not baked, he had told her he did not know, and Richard had apologized to her and promised to bake another cake better than the first he had baked. She wanted the cake so bad but since it was half-baked, she could not have it, someone she saw vaguely collected it and threw it away and she wept.
She woke up with a shriek “My cake” her face was damp, she had actually cried out from her dream. She didn’t understand, she had had this dream an umpteenth time in different versions.
She scrambled for her phone to consult the time; it was when she found it that she remembered that she had not switched it on. Her throat was dry, she had cried and screamed in her dream, and she needed water. She rose up from bed sluggishly and made for the living room. She consulted the time on the wall clock, it was quarter past three, she had not slept for long yet she felt like she had slept all night, she still had about three more hours to sleep, it was long, she thought. She headed straight into the kitchen; she got herself a bottle of water, she thought of whirling away sometime in the living room but soon decided otherwise and went back to the room.
It had been almost seven hours since Richard called, he must have arrived at a stop-over, she thought. She drank the water she had brought before she got back on bed. She picked her phone and switched it on; just as she did, a message came in. The message was from Richard, who was telling her how sorry he was and that he loved her. She did not know when a beam found its way to her face. She still loved him, even though he had been mean to her. Before she knew it, she had read the message three times again and by then she was ready for an exam to say every word it entailed without mincing.
It was Richard’s call that woke her up. He didn’t call her on the land line; he called her on her mobile phone. When Lillian saw the number calling, she knew it was Richard because the number was strange; it was an international one. She picked the call with smiles spreading on her face as water spreads when poured. Immediately she had his voice, her ecstasy grew into melancholy, her smile blurred, her mood gloomed, she remembered something, his voice brought her déjà vu, the dream. She had remembered the dream she had earlier.
The first thing he said was “I am sorry” which had been the last thing he said in her dream. The voice did not change a bit, just as it were in the dream.
Lillian forced herself to speak with him. Before then she thought she had forgiven him, but she just couldn’t forget what he did to her even in her dream. After the call ended, she got out of bed and engaged herself with some little house chores so as to forget whatever was bothering her mind for the time being.
Not until Lillian wanted to go out did she discover that the driver had not resumed that day, she consulted her time, and it was almost twelve noon. She could not decipher what was happening; she called his phone for what seemed like an umpteenth time before he received it.
“Meaning what?” she was shocked
“Am sorry Aunty” he replied from wherever he was.
“Thank you” she ended the call. He had probably been avoiding her calls. But why would he do this to her. Because he was traveling and he did not want her to go out, he had told the driver to take his leave. He knew she did not like jumping into buses or taxis, and that will actually reduce her going out. Even in his absence, he had continued to humiliate her, and this time, she promised would be the last time. “Mary?” she screamed as if it was her that had told the driver not to come. “Mary” she called again before she was answered.
“Aunty” she came out running with fright painted all over her face. “Aunty, you called me”
Even Lillian was confused when she saw her. “Are you alright?” she called
Mary was even more confused because she thought she was supposed to ask her if she was all right. “But aunty, you called me?” she stated with a question.
She was embarrassed. “Are you implying that I am not all right?” She had let her emotions controlled her, she was sorry. “Never mind, I...I...”she garbled. She was still tensed; she knew she needed to be calm to be able to convey her message. “Let us go in” she ordered as if the fault was from Mary.
Lillian’s day had been marred and she was mad. The last time she had felt that, she had ended up been sorry. The little walk inside helped soothe her irritation. By the time she got inside, she had regained her senses back. She sat down and waited for Mary to do the same, but she just stood puzzled. She knew she had made her frantic with the ear-splitting call. She managed to fake a smile so she could be calmed.
“Sit down” she asked with a smile.
Mary knew Lillian well, she knew something was bothering her, she rarely pick on someone except she was troubled. She could deal with and hold back anything, but that, she was unable to. She sat down as she was being told.
“I need somebody” she stated unfinished.
Mary was stunned. It was as if her ears were just hearing for the first time. A part of her was happy that her boss needed someone. Why had she waited this long before she knew she needed someone, she could help her with that, it was time she left her stupid boss, she thought.
With the look on Mary’s face, Lillian was confused. She was smiling sheepishly as if she was paid without working. As she studied Mary, her smile intensified and she only succeeded in getting her more bamboozled.
“I said I need someone, and you are smiling. What is so comic about that?”
Not until then did Mary give it a thought that the somebody she needed might even be a lady or some other maid, her smile faded and she was embarrassed by her own folly.” am sorry aunty” she paused for a while. “Tall or short”
“What are you implying?” she asked still confused.
Mary was now confused by her boss’ confusion. She studied her for a while and resolved to say what she ought to have said. “What kind of person do you need?” she asked solemnly.
“Good, I need a driver.”
Mary hissed silently, she was disappointed by her boss’s response. “Driver kwa? “She asked with a clandestine.
“I thought you once said you could help me with that?”
“It is not a problem, aunty. I will get you someone” Mary was at least happy that Lillian had taken a big bold step to correct her mistakes. Now she thought of whom she was going to bring. Two people from her neighborhood flashed her mind, but she did not know for how long she would need them because these persons would only take up the job if it were to be on a long term.
Lillian read the confusion on Mary’s face and decided to let her get Clarity on the issue. “Don’t be confused” she started. “I just need someone that can drive me for the next two or three weeks” she raised her brow to ask her if she understood what she had just told her. Mary nodded. “so, are we good?”
“Yes aunty, I know someone” she knew someone, not a driver but good enough for what she was thinking.
“Can you get him now?” she could not wait to get started.
Mary was surprised at the urgency in Lillian’s voice; she didn’t know she could be this desperate when she needed something. She rose up. “I will get his phone number” she left the living room to get the number.
Lillian waited impatiently for Mary. She had only gone for two minutes but it seemed like she has be gone for some thirty minutes. She knew why her husband told the driver to take time off, so she would not go out or frolic around.
After what seemed to be like ages the man they had been waiting for came. He had met the gatekeeper who directed him into the house. He didn’t fail to notice the large scale of the compound, the flower beds roundabout giving it a beautiful look and a sweet smelling ambience. From where he was, he could count like three cars and he was still counting when he was interrupted by the woof of a dog supported by a feeble one. He was actually expecting that in a house as big as that, he traced the sound and saw the massive Doberman pinscher which he sized46kg with his eyes finicky in its cage. He knew that the kind of dog was an aggressive one because of its type of breed, crossed between the Rottweiler, the German shepherd, the black and tan terrier and the German pinscher. Beside it was another cage for its companion, a sable Welsh Corgi which was been compelled to join in the bark by its senior colleague. The Welsh corgi should have been a pet, he thought. Just when he was doing a further study on the things in the compound, Mary who came to receive him intercepted him.
“I heard the dogs” as if it was an answer to the question he wanted to ask.
He looked at her as if she was talking from another realm; he didn’t reply her greetings if there were any. All he did was follow her inside. Even until then, he did not know what he was doing there; he had only received a call from her asking him to come almost immediately. She had hung almost as soon as she had called, she rolled out the address and begged him to make it as soon as he could, and know that he did, all she said was that she heard the dogs and she probably knew it was him.
Mary knew he was thirsty for answers; she was going to give him but not outside. She led him in to the living room where Lillian was waiting. Mary had always received visitors in the waiting room but she dare not do that this time because she knew the extent to which the meeting was urgent.
He gulped and looked around the whole living room before his gaze rested and fixed on Lillian who took a pew cross-legged. He just didn’t want to look like a tramp; he would have taken time to look everything so well.
So far, he had not been disappointed until then. Seeing the house from outside he knew how big it could be and when he came into the compound, he had seen things that he knew would be there, and now that he entered, he was expecting to see a Madam as Mary had told him on the phone. Maybe he was actually concluding too soon, he thought, she might be a daughter or a sister to the Madam.
“Aunty, this is the person I told you about” she gestured at him. Mary noticed the awe on his face; she knew he was expecting someone bigger and older. She smiled at his confusion.
Lillian ogled him before she asked him to sit. “Take the weight of your feet please” she watched him as he sat down. She waited for him to be settled and a little habituated to the heartland before she started.
“I presume you know why you are here?” she started.
As much as he wanted to hear her speak, he didn’t hear what she just said. He was busy taking in her beauty, her grace and her posh. How could she be Mary’s boss, he wondered, It had looked as if she just came out of an English movie. He suddenly noticed that she was not speaking again but staring.
“Oh... sorry?” he stuttered.
“Are you all right?” she asked with a deep level of concern. “Mary, get him something to drink. Forgive my manners”
“Oh...” was all he could say. He needed to focus.
Lillian continued. “I was asking if you knew why you were here?”
“No I don’t” his words came out clear and straight for the first time.
“I need a driver”
He looked at her as if she was speaking Dutch. He felt a little bit embarrassed, how could Mary have requested his presence urgently for such debasing chat. Couldn’t she have found someone else to help her boss get a driver rather than calling him or better still tell him on phone?
Mary came in with a tray of juice and a glass. She placed it on the table beside him; she knew she would have a lot of explaining to do to the both of them so she waited patiently.
“I said I need a driver” she emphasized. “Will you take the job or not?”
“Job?” he was more stoned than he had been at first; he had just gotten the picture. She was offering him a driving job not that she wanted him to help her get a driver. He looked at Mary for answers.
Mary took it from there. “Aunty” she cleared her throat. “Actually he has a job but he....”
Lillian intercepted furiously. “But what, did you not tell him when you called?”
Mary ignored the latter part of her question. “But he can teach you how to drive”
“What?” he asked. Mary had succeeded in pushing words into his mouth and added to his work span, what she was aiming at, he didn’t know.
Before Lillian could come in, Mary continued. ”I thought it would be better if you actually learnt how to drive rather than employing a driver who” she hesitated “could be laid off at any time” Now she was been emotional.
By your husband, she scoffed as she completed Mary’s statement in her own mind. “okay, can you teach me how to drive?” she changed her decision, which she actually thought was better. At least, Mary had a better thought.
He was surprised at her sudden change of tone. She was not entreating neither was she demanding. “Am a very busy person, I work”
She cut him off. “I was expecting a yes or a no” she was blunt.
He was not surprised at her forthrightness. He looked at Mary who was pleading earnestly with her eyes and head. “Okay, I will” he was expecting to see smiles, he saw it but on Mary’s face.
“For how long can it take?” Lillian asked, hoping she could get it all as soon as possible.
“Depends on how fast you can learn. You could have four to five teachings and be able to drive a car and it could be ten”
“I can learn fast. How much?
He was actually trying to be nice but she was making it difficult for him. “No charges.”
“No charges?” she asked with contempt. “I am not asking for charity” Lillian had always thought that things that came cheap were never of good quality, and not to talk of them being free.
He wanted to tell her that she was stubborn, but he decided to teach her a lesson in his own way. “Five thousand naira per lesson” he affirmed.
“Ah...five what?” she wanted to protest but decided not to, she was paying for her folly. “Okay.” She agreed gracefully.
He could not help but smile to himself. “We start tomorrow, 5pm”
“Okay. What work do you do?”
He rose up. “I know it” he smiled a smile that was satisfactory, a smile that sent a message of payback.
“What superciliousness” she muttered. She knew he was getting back at her for her own haughty attitude. She had the opportunity to know whatever work he was doing, but she blew it.
Mary was happy that he would at least help her, although she was not pleased with her boss’s behavior. The only thing that gave her concern was that she had never seen her that way; ironically it was the same thing that comforted her because she knew that whatever was making her act that way was transient. “Thank you” she called out to him.
“You are welcome. I need to go, I will call you” he said softly to Mary.
Lillian who was still seated asked with her voice raised. “What is your name?”