Distance Episode 2

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It was her father who called….“Look
Tobi, it is taking too long to get a job
here in Lagos. Your mother and I have
discussed this. Go to Asaba and stay
with your uncle, Fashola. He has
connections there and might be able to
get you a job. At least, you won’t be
among strangers. I know you don’t
want to leave Lagos because of your
friends, but you can–“
“Papa, I’ll go to Asaba. When can I
leave?”
“Ah, I’m surprised o. I thought you
didn’t want to leave Lagos.”
“There is nothing left for me in Lagos,
Papa. I’m ready to leave.”
“Okay then, you can go tomorrow.”
That was how Tobi left for Asaba on the
day Folake was having her bridal
shower.
Tobi’s uncle, Chief Fashola, was a kind-
hearted person, with a face that
matched his heart. He believed that life
was to be enjoyed in the company of
others. So, he surrounded himself with
people, and was well-connected and
well-known in Asaba. He had worked
at the Delta State Ministry of Works and
Housing for almost ten years, rising
through the ranks.
But his ambition outgrew the civil
service, and he left to devote himself
full-time to the business he had been
partially devoted to: importing and
exporting Italian furniture. His wife,
Priscillia, was a former beauty queen,
having won the Miss Delta State title at
one time. Although the title was in the
past, that youthful beauty was barely
touched by time, and she looked just as
radiant as she did back then.
Her uncle had told Tobi’s father that
Auntie Priscillia would meet Tobi at the
motor park. So, Tobi had taken an
early bus, leaving Lagos at around 7
am, and arrived in Asaba just a few
minutes shy of 3 p.m. The journey had
taken almost 8 hours.
As soon as the bus arrived in Asaba and
after Tobi had secured the single
travelling bag she brought with her, she
went in search of a light snack. There
was a woman selling Plantain
Chips close to where the luxury buses
were parked. Tobi approached her and
asked how much she sold her Plantain
Chips . The woman looked at her like
she had just uttered a curse word, and
Tobi quickly corrected herself.
“Madam, well done ma! How much is
your Plantain Chips?”
That did the trick. She paid 50 naira
and sat on a bench beside the plantain
chips seller, munching away. She had
just put another slice of chips in her
mouth when a newspaper vendor
walked past her carrying some bunch
of newspaper. Maybe it was the bright
red t-shirt the vendor was carrying or
just the need to fix her gaze on
something other than the typical motor
park regulars. Whatever it was,
Tobi caught sight of the newspaper
headlines, which read:
ABA RAPIST BELIEVED TO BE IN ASABA
“You must be kidding me,”
Tobi thought to herself. “Of all the
times for a rapist to be in town, it had
to be when I was visiting.”
Turning to the woman who sold the
chips to her, she proceeded to pump
her for more information. The woman
did not seem in the least bit interested
in chatting about criminals, and made
her reluctance obvious. Tobi gave up
after two failed attempts, and decided
that she would buy a copy of the paper
herself. No sooner had she decided on
this, than she heard a familiar voice
shouting her name:
“Tobi! Tobi!”
It was Auntie Priscillia who had spotted
her and was briskly making her way to
Tobi. At this point, she knew her short
stay at the motor park was over. She
gathered her belongings, got up and
was about to leave. Suddenly, seized
with an unexplainable boldness, she
turned to the chips seller, said in a low
tone:
“The chip no sweet sef! Mtcheww!”
Without turning back to watch the
woman’s reaction, she quickly ran
towards her Auntie. Something about
this city was excite.
Auntie Priscillia was the first person to
meet Tobi at the motor park when she
arrived in Asaba. After exchanging
pleasantries and greeting her warmly,
they entered the green Toyota Land
cruiser that had conveyed Auntie
Priscillia to the motor park, and left to
go home. Auntie was chatting
excitedly, telling Tobi about the many
pranks of her two youngest daughters,
who were still in secondary school, and
lived at home.
“Can you imagine? We caught Mary
jumping the fence, the other day! Your
cousin, Mary now sneaks off to parties
at night. Her sister, Chikodi … Ahn
ahn! Tobi, why are you crying?” Auntie
Priscillia asked in alarm.
“It’s nothing, Auntie,” Tobi lied. Just
mentioning the word ‘party’ triggered
off a boat-load of memories of the ones
she and Mayowa attended together.
They were almost inseparable. And
now …
“Come on, Tobi. It’s me now. You
know you can tell me anything,” Auntie
Priscillia cooled. Tobi was not sure
about that. If her cousins felt like they
could not approach their mother to ask
for permission to go to a party, then
what on earth made the same woman
approachable on the issue of
relationships? Tobi dried her tears and
kept quiet.
“You don’t want to tell me, abi? Or are
you shy because of Godwin? He’s just
the driver. What can he do? Shebi it’s
between you and me?” Auntie
Priscillia continued. Tobi knew her aunt
very well. She would not drop the
matter, but would persist till she got
the answers she wanted. So, she finally
gave in.
“Mayowa broke up with me. He left me
for Folake. She was my best friend, and
… and … they’re getting married!”
Tobi broke down crying again. Her
aunt pulled her close and comforted
her.
“It’s okay, my dear,” Auntie said. “It
might seem like it’s the end of the
world, but it isn’t. If he left you for
another person, he wasn’t really yours
in the first place.”
Tobi kept crying, and Auntie continued
her counseling.
“But he left you for your best friend?
That is wickedness. In fact, both of
them are wicked. Oya stop crying now,
stop crying. Another man will come–“
“No, Auntie. I don’t want another man.
I want Mayowa!” Tobi moaned, in
between her tears. This was the first
time she had allowed herself to grieve
openly since Mayowa left her. She had
put up a front for so long. But now, it
felt good to just let it all out and cry.
Tobi cried for a few more minutes,
during which time Auntie
Priscillia promised her that things
would work out for her good. Maybe
coming to Asaba was a setup for a new
chapter in her life, Auntie reasoned. By
the time they reached the house,
Tobi had started to believe her.
– to be continued – Please stay tune!