Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Featured Story: Bewaji's Ankara Adventures (The Aso-Ebi Chronicles) - Abimbola Salu

Okay people I'm back with another exciting story for your reading pleasure. As y'all know I
love reading novels, be it romance, thriller, adventure, inspirational, comedy and what have you. As a child, reading anything in sight helped me to develop my vocab and I could be refered to as a spelling bee (did I just say that). Thanks to my parents for everything. I thank God for the life those two made me live; a life of an enthusiasitic, curious and lover of books. I enjoyed reading as a child (I still do, as an adult).

Back to our story time, while looking for another exciting story to read on Okada books (they got quite a lot), I finally settled for Bewaji's Ankara Adventures. Ask me why I chose that particular novel *rolls eye*, probably because of the word Ankara' and 'Adventure'. As a typical Yoruba girl, I went for it because of the title. Finito. I finished the whole story within 2 hours and I thought I should share it on here as usual (with permission from the writer of course). Sit back relax and enjoy one of my favorite stories.

Chapter 1

"Hi, Bewaji. It's me, Seun."
He did not have to announce his name. As soon as she saw "Unknown Number" on her cell phone's screen, she knew who was calling her. Although Seun was not the only friend who
called her from the United States, he was the only one who called regularly. Regularly, as in once a week, not once a month. Normally, Bewaji would not have minded answering his call,
but she was a bit hesitant this time around - she was standing in line at a motor park, waiting for the next bus to arrive; just another inconvenient consequence of fuel scarcity.
It was not that she did not have the time to talk to Seun there and then. No. The problem
was that she had this pet peeve: she hated listening to people carrying on loud, personal
conversations in public places. And she was at a bus park, the grand-daddy of all public places.

There were several people already doing this right there on the queue: the middle-aged man in the shabby brown suit, yelling at someone over the phone that he was running late and was not going to take a taxi; the slender multi-tasker with the short dreadlocks and pink lipstick, who was also on the phone, and chewing gum with all her mandibles as if that art was going out of fashion. She never lost her gum-chewing rhythm and miraculously, kept up with the conversation too. Finally, there was Bewaji Bankole, the under-employed graduate, already on her way back home from her job as a part-time clerk at a travel agency. It was just 2:00 p.m. The only reason she was already on her way home was that her boss had to travel out of Lagos that afternoon, and in his words, he could not "leave a clerk alone in his office where money was concerned." Bewaji hissed inwardly when she thought of the accompanying look of distrust Mr. Lawal had given her when he made that remark. The only other employee at the travel agency, Mr. Ifeanyi had given her the "please-ignore-him" look from the across the room where he stood looking up names in a directory. Bewaji had held her tongue at that moment as she remembered what Mr. Ifeanyi had told her about Mr. Lawal and his bad experiences with former employees. 

He had every reason to distrust his clerks as they had stolen several thousands of naira from him. So, he was not being overly cautious. She knew that she had to earn his trust. Meanwhile, she would do whatever it took to retain this job because in a land where water is scarce, every drop counts.
Whatever she was earning from this job, however little, was still better than what she
used to earn: zero.
"Are you there? Hello-o, Bewaji!" the voice on the phone demanded, more urgently than
before. "Time to break my own rules, I suppose," she thought to herself.
She responded in the affirmative. Really, she wanted to know why Seun, who usually called
her on the weekend, was suddenly calling her on a Tuesday afternoon.
"Yes, I am," she replied calmly. "What's up?"
"Plenty o. Do you have time to spare? I need your help, big time!"
"Fire on." And she listened as Seun told her a rather surprising story. Seun was a third year Business Administration student. Being that it was summer, he was not taking classes. Instead, he was interning with a company, which sold electronics in California. His supervisor, a middle-aged white woman named Connie Burnell had grown quite fond of Seun. It was not hard to see why.

Seun was an easy-going, good-natured guy in his early 20s, who made friends easily. Like
his friends, mostly the female ones, told him repeatedly, he was just so easy to talk to. Well,
Connie who was old enough to be Seun's mother had shared a closely-guarded secret with Seun during lunch one day. She was a divorcee with three children, but she still nursed the hope of re-marrying one day.
She had tried to jumpstart her post-divorce dating life by going on several blind dates, but none of them had worked out. In fact, as Connie told Seun that afternoon, she would have to be declared medically blind and crazy to pursue a serious relationship with any of those men. So, she had turned to the internet, searching for love. In the middle of telling Seun all of this, she suddenly said: "Bawo ni?"The look of shock on Seun's face drew such a forceful burst of laughter from Connie that the other employees at the cafeteria turned their eyes on the odd pair. The attention did not last long though as they eventually turned back to their lunches and conversations. So did Seun and Connie.

In a tone of excitement, and without even trying to hide her amusement, Connie explained to Seun how she came to know the Yoruba greeting for "How are you?" She told him that she had a Nigerian friend who had taught her a few words of Yoruba, including that all-too-common introductory line. But that was not all. This Nigerian "friend" was a man in his early 30s, according to her, who she had met in an online chat room. His name was Olu Ade. "Are you kidding me? Olu what?

Ade what? What happened to the rest of his name? I mean, that cannot possibly be his full name," Bewaji interrupted in an irritated voice. Here she was lining up for a yeye bus whose fare had  quadrupled overnight, and yet Seun was giving her some lame sob-story about one oyinbo woman chatting with Mr. Fake Name online. "Na wetin concern me?" Bewaji wondered. "That's what I thought too," Seun continued. "I told her immediately that the guy sounded like a complete 419, but she insisted that I was wrong." "So what does any of this have to do with me? Why not just leave her to her own devices?"
Bewaji queried impatiently. This conversation was dragging on and the sun was beating her mercilessly.

Bewaji was chocolate-skinned and certainly not worried about getting darker under this sun.
However, she was worried about dehydration. Pure water was a no-no for her. How long would it take before this bus arrived?
"I was going to leave her alone, but …" Seun began. "But what, Seun?" Bewaji asked sharply. "She errr … cooked dinner for me," Seun said hesitantly. Bewaji started laughing. There is nothing like a well-cooked, delicious meal, cooked by a woman to turn a man's head. Or in Seun's case, his heart.

"So, she made efo-riro for you and so you changed your mind, abi?" she teased. "Not exactly," Seun replied, with a tinge of embarrassment in his voice. Connie had invited Seun over to her house and cooked dinner for him. But what is dinner
without conversation? Over a bottle of cheap wine, she had told him more about her Nigerian friend, Olu Ade. He lived in Lagos. Olu told her that he was a primary school English teacher and loved working with children.

"Oh please!" Bewaji scoffed. "Let me guess: Connie thought he'd be good with her kids too,
right? How predictable!" Bewaji said in a mocking tone. How people could be so gullible was
beyond her. She was quite sure no one would tell her that kind of rubbish and get her to believe it. But then again, what was that thing the Pastor had said the week before? Oh yes: Let he who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls. Well, that did not apply to her. She
knew for sure that she could never be swindled. That warning was for those JJCs - newcomers who were not street smart. She was no JJC.
Seun affirmed what Bewaji had assumed: that Connie had taken a liking to this man who she
had never met. They spoke regularly over the phone, with Connie, of course, doing most of the calling.
"She actually showed me his picture, Bewaji. I took one look at the guy and concluded that
he was could not possibly be in his 30s. He must have lied about many other things too. I voiced my suspicions, but she insisted that he was an honest person," Seun said.

"What happened to Skype-ing? I mean, it is 2007." "I know. According to her, Olu Ade does not have a webcam. In fact, he does not have a lot of things: a car, a house, a wife, kids, and apparently, he doesn't have a lot of money. Connie sends him money regularly. I mean, she gets paid bi-weekly and she sends a certain percentage of her paycheck to this guy. A complete stranger." "Are you serious? These oyinbo people sef! Na only person wey don chop belle full go dey do dis kain tin. She must be quite comfortable or else she wouldn’t bother. So, Mr. Roberts, what does this have to do with me? Bewaji asked for the umpteenth time that day.

"Well, I've grown quite fond of Connie. I see her more as a friend now than my boss and as her friend, I feel like I owe it to her to let her know the truth about Olu Ade. As far as I am concerned that guy is scamming her big time and I can't just fold my hands and watch my friend get ripped off. My internship ends in a month and I wanted to find out if this man she's been gushing on and on about is real or if he is who she thinks he is. I have discussed it with Connie and she's on board with my plan. She thinks I'm being overly-cautious, but in her words, she think it's cute that I care so much." Bewaji giggled. Seun hissed and continued. "So what's in this for me? And how come you didn’t ask any of your sisters or even your brother, Gbolade to do this for you ehn? Bewaji asked, wondering what excuse Seun would give. "Well, the thing is, Bewaji," Seun said, his voice suddenly getting softer, "you're pretty good at this sort of thing." "Snooping around? Are you calling me a poke-noser?" Bewaji asked, trying to sound a little offended. Truthfully, she knew what Seun was getting at, but refused to admit it at that stage.
"No. Uncovering the truth," Seun said in a serious voice. "You're the one person who came
to mind for the task. I'm sure you won't disappoint me."
"I certainly hope so, Seun. I'll need more details, but I have to go now. My bus is here,"
Bewaji said, as she hurriedly put away her phone and made for the bus. The people in front of her had already entered and it was a wonder that no one had jumped the queue and "rushed" the bus. As she rode the bus home, the only thought on her mind was Seun's strange request, and how she would fulfill it.

Read the concluding chapters on Okadabooks or Smashwords
Credit: Sharon Abimbola Salu

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