Continued from Shadow of a Rainbow.
The sound of a car horn blasting repeatedly and someone calling my name made me turn left to see the silver G-wagon with customised plates- WBC 3.
“What happened? You just rushed out without saying anything after that phone call.”
I opened my mouth to say something sarcastic but it was sobs that rose from my chest to my lips
“Don’t cry” he had come out of the car and he held me while I sobbed even harder.
“Your boss said you had an emergency at home and you had to leave, you even forgot your bag too”
“My grandfather has been sick, his condition has been getting worse and now he says I should come before he dies” I managed to say those words without bursting into tears.
“Let’s get into my car, I’ll take you home.” He said, and gently guided me towards the car.
I started laughing and laughing while he stared at me with confusion etched on his pimple free face.
“If you take me to Idi Araba with this car, CNN will carry it by evening that Biliki came home with her aristo”.
“Bili what? Aristo? I’m your friend Godammit!” A tiny vein in his forehead began to throb.
“Oga William we are not friends, I am the woman who helps you maintain your beard gang cred. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“I want us to be frie… We’ll discuss this later, right now you have to go see your grandfather”.
He quickly flagged down a taxi, I was fascinated at the speed with which he did that. The taxi drivers would have ignored me if I had done the same. Is it because I am female or can they perceive the scent of wealth on the dude even through their closed windows?
“Where in Idi-Araba will he take you” he asked and I noticed the look of alarm that crossed the taxi driver’s face.
“Alhaji Musa Street”
“I know the place Oga but na 10k”
“10,000 kor” I snapped.
“William please I’ll go by bus, that’s how I come to work daily.
“Oga I go collect 3k to take your wife home safely” the taxi driver must have realized that his chances of getting a customer grew slimmer.
“Go with him, you’re not in a good state to navigate bus routes and everything.”
I exhaled and was happy that I didn’t start a new sobbing spell. “Where’s my bag?” I just remembered that I needed my bag for money.
“Get into the taxi and I’ll go and bring your bag”.
I entered into the backseat like sheep going to slaughter as Ogechukwu likes to say and William handed me the bag through the window.
“There’s money in the bag that will cover the fare and other things” he said as he squeezed my hand.
“Driver please take care of her and drive carefully”
“I will Oga” the driver parroted and I shot him a look of disgust but he was too excited about talking to a “big boy” to notice me.
We had been driving for a few minutes before I remembered to check my bag for money to pay my fare, I wasn’t afraid that he hadn’t given me enough money but that he’d given me too much.
“Yeepa!” the sight of two bundles of crisp one thousand naira notes loosened my tongue and made me jerk backwards
“kini? The driver looked at me through the rear-view mirror.
“My grandfather is very sick, the shock just hit me”
“Pele” he said grudgingly “don’t scare me like that again”
“Ese Sir” I thanked him in Yoruba
“What is your name dear?” he asked suddenly
“Habiba but everyone calls me Bilquis”
While my late grandmother had named me Bilquis after the mythical Queen of Sheba, my grandfather had named me Habiba which is beloved in Arabic. Habiba is my first name but it got overshadowed by Bilquis/Biliki because my grandmother died the day after I was named and everyone called me the name she chose for me in order to honour her memory.
“Biliki jare, you are Omoluabi- a true daughter of Oduduwa and not a nyarinya”
“My grandmothers were both Hausa so I am half Hausa”
“It doesn’t matter jare” I did not answer and we continued the ride in silence.
Just as he took the turn into Ishaga road, I peeled off a huge chunk of notes from one of the bundles and hid that bundle and the other one in the false bottom of my bag. We navigated the narrow streets until we got to the two storey building that I called home.
“Your grandfather will get well Insha Allah” he said as I handed him his three thousand naira.
“Ameen” I said even though I knew it wasn’t true.
My grandfather owned the building and we lived on the second floor. My grandfather, my unmarried aunt and all the grandchildren occupied the ten rooms. My parents lived in a two room apartment in Garba street, a few meters away from the house but none of my siblings lived with them. They lived alone and “enjoyed their love”- their words not mine, all of us came to live with Baba Ibrahim just after our third birthday and our grandfather was the one who paid school fees and catered for us.
“Biliki, why has your grandfather been asking to see you? Why is he not asking for your father or your elder sister?” My mother’s accusations were the first words I heard when I got on the landing of the stair case
“E kasun maami”
“Did I ask you for greetings? Answer my question jare” she snapped
“Maami I was at work when Sister Rukayat called me and told me that he’s asking of me, you’re in a better position to know why he wanted to see me because you are here.” I snapped right back.
“Is it me your mother that you are talking to like that?”
I did not answer her, my grandfather’s room was the last room on the right and that was where I headed. His door was slightly open and I walked in.
“Bilquis is that you?” His chest rose and fell with an alarming speed, the end was near.
“Bee ni Baba” I tried not to less the tears stinging my eyes to get into my voice too.
“Joko Habiba” he gestured to the cane chair beside his bed and I sat while fighting to control the tears that choked me.
“Get a paper and a biro so you can write all the things I want to tell you”.