Abike (chapter 1)

For Abike, the absence of a father figure in her life left a hole in a heart, driving her to go to great lengths to find out why.

"Your call credit has been exhausted, and your call terminated. Please recharge or dial…." She pressed the "end call" button in frustration and let out a long sigh. "Just send him a text." A voice beside her said. "Salome, are you unfortunate, or do you just want to be unfortunate? Didn't you hear that my credit has finished?"

"Abeg no dey shout for me o. I'm just trying to offer alternatives. Besides, these service providers have customized "please call me" messages. Have you tried that one? "I don't even remember the code. Do you know it?" She got a shrug in response. She ran her fingers through her braids that have served her for over a month now. She needed money for more important things than braids.

"Abike, let's go. He's not going to come out; the security won't let us in." They'd been waiting for hours outside the bank Abike believed to be her biological father's place of work. "And to crown it all, you have no way of reaching him. Just give up." The look in Abike's eyes caused her to retract. "I mean, just for today. We can always come back another time. Your mother will be worried."

At the mention of her mother, Abike let out a sad laugh. "If my mother knows where I am now or who I'm planning to meet, she'll skin me alive." "Don't you think you're exaggerating a bit? I mean, it's not like you're following a sugar daddy – which I still believe you should seriously consider doing – we're talking about your father here." "Who apparently thinks I don't exist." "You see, the odds are against you here. How will you prove to him that you are his daughter." "DNA test, na!"

"So you think a total stranger will just appear from nowhere and claim to be Dr. Leenwii's daughter, and he'll open his pocket and bring out good money to do a DNA test to prove it?" Abike faltered. "Now that you put it like that, it sounds a little too far-fetched." "Now that we are on the same page. Get up, and let's go home." The walk home was silent. Each lost in her own thoughts. "Did your mom ever tell you what happened between your father and her?" Salome asked as they neared their street.

Abike ignored the question." It was probably a bad idea for us to go wait in front of his building without a solid plan. We looked really out of place with our shabby clothes." They both looked down at their clothes and let out a laugh. They were dressed simply in jeans and a red t-shirt, the mandatory uniform they had to wear as tailoring apprentices. "I swear," Salome agreed. "We look like beggars waiting for the 'big men and women to withdraw their money so that we can run after them." "Abegi! Speak for yourself, o." Abike laughed. It was the evening, and for a place like Gogo Avenue, it seemed as though the day was just starting out instead of ending. Film shops blasted loud music out of their big speakers, and a couple of children hawking danced with their wares on their heads. Fruit sellers milled the side of the road, a few of them rushing to sell to occupants of the cars that had been stuck in the usual traffic associated with Lagos.

The motorcyclists swerved expertly between cars and humans alike. A few of them provoke strings of colorful statements from passersby. "Abike, I don't think I'll make it to work tomorrow morning. I have somewhere to be." Salome said as they neared the T-junction that separated their houses. She examined her nails and blew on them even though it was obvious to both of them that there was nothing on them. "Okay," Abike replied. She had problems of her own, and adding Salome's own would just be too much for her to handle. "Help me tell Madam T."

Madam T, the owner of the tailoring shop where Abike and Salome were both apprentices, was a difficult person to work with. She was good with her hands but not so much with her mouth. Her shop was the hub of the latest gist. She was the first person to know when a woman's husband started eating the forbidden fruit outside his matrimonial home or a woman who has embraced the bosom of another man to compensate for her rich husband's continuous absence. She could give a comprehensive list of all the young girls and boys going after married men and women. She knew the boys who were into internet fraud as well as their bosses. Abike and Salome usually joked that she's more current than all the media houses in Lagos combined.

Madam T kept a stern eye on all her interns and was especially wary of Salome, whom she accused of following sugar daddies instead of concentrating on what she came to learn. And Salome is not one to be intimidated, so they both didn't like each other at all. "What should I tell her?" "My mother is sick," Salome replied without missing a beat. "Really? Don't you think that excuse is getting old?" Salome shrugged. "What do you expect me to tell her? That I am sick? She'll just spread nasty rumors about me getting pregnant or trying to get rid of my pregnancy. I don't want to be the subject of her gossip, abeg." "Okay."

As they parted ways, Abike began to think of a strategy that would help her meet the man she suspected to be her father. Luckily for her, there weren't many orders for that week, so she'd been able to embark on the 1-hour journey to Vine Avenue as soon as she'd closed from work. Next week, she wasn't so sure she'll be able to get away. She worked every day of the week, her only free day being Sundays, and banks didn't open on Sundays. She wondered what went wrong between her Mom and Dad. What could make her mother tell her that a man who's alive died before she was born?

To be continued...

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