55. Home at last.
The following morning, we set out for Ekpoma with my Toyota Rav4.
The Driver and I occupied the front seats while Juliet took the back. I instructed the driver not to go beyond 120km/h.
The roads were bad and i wasn’t ready to crash in Nigeria after what i went through in Europe.
By 12pm, we were in front of my house in Ekpoma.
News that i was coming home reached the village long before me and as a result, a lot of people were waiting for my arrival.
With that killer dress style of mine, i looked different.
My father killed a goat immediately i settled down. A feast was naturally called.
Drinks were quickly organised and people started drinking.
As expected, everywhere started filling up.
People came to see the little Maria from Italy.
Successes they said, has many friends.
People trooped in to shake my hands.
My little brother kissed and hugged the Rav4 as if it was egg.
Boys who were my age also came, mostly my old school mates.
Some were still living with their parents while some has become farmers. Some got admission into higher schools; everybody pursued his or her destiny.
I didn’t know if what i did was right or wrong but at that very moment in my village, i preferred the things i have done, even though it miraculously worked for me.
To cement my big girlship, i decided to sleep in a hotel that night.
The driver took Juliet and I to Benin city.
We went to a night club and had fun.
When my mother called the following morning, she said someone was waiting for me at home; a man.
I didn’t want to ask who he was since i was returning to Ekpoma.
When our driver picked us up at the hotel where we slept, we drove back to Ekpoma.
Jude was a friend of my uncle who rented my apartment in Lagos. He said my uncle told him that i was in town and since he was also from Edo State, he decided to pay me a visit that morning.
He requested for private talk between two of us.
“Maria, your uncle have told me so much about you. I have asked him for your phone number so that we could have a talk while you were in Italy but he said i should wait until you return. He said you are a very nice person” Jude had said.
I felt that i knew where he was going but waited for him to say it himself anyway.
“I want to know if we could have a matured relationship. The kind that could lead to marriage” He concluded.
If not that Jude was a visitor, i would have asked him to leave my place immediately. Not that his proposal was such a bad thing, the timing was bad. After several years of suffering in Europe, he couldnt allow me to stay for a week in my own village before coming up with his marriage idea.
“Look Mr. Jude, what you said is not bad but i think i am not ready for such thing now. I came here to rest and have fun. We will have another chance at this topic” I said.
It seemed he had discussed the topic with my mother because she came out of nowhere and started telling me that Jude came with good intentions and that I should consider his proposal.
In a bid not to upset the woman, i told her that i would consider the proposal when i am more relaxed.
When Jude left, I told the driver to start getting ready, We were moving back to Lagos.
There were a lot of black magic in Edo State. It wont take them much work to confuse me and before i knew what was happening, it would be my wedding with Jude at a strange Church with strange faces and that could mark the end of me as a free human being.
It was true that every woman wanted her daughter to get married someday but it wasn’t my time yet.
The way my mother even pleaded in front of the Jude man, it seemed she had been compromised somehow. She could have either been bribed or charmed.
“I am going back to Lagos mummy” I said to my mother.
She has been standing in one place watching as the Driver cleaned the car.
She knew something was wrong.
“Why Maria, you only returned here yesterday” She said.
“Yes, but i have a business to attend to in Lagos. There are some things i sent from Italy. They just called me to come and claim them in Lagos Airport. I will tell you when to come to Lagos” I said.
My father who has come out of the house also stood in awe as i hugged my mother goodbye.
I had settled them with money back in the house; therefore there was nothing holding me back.
Two teenage girls whom i told to see me before i left where there. Both were between 16 and 17. The plan was to find a way to move them to Libya where i would pick them up later.
I gave them my phone number and money, then i asked them to call me the next day.
The Driver and Juliet were already in the car by the time i finished settling with everyone else.
As soon as i entered and closed the door, it was goodbye Ekpoma.
I didn’t know when i would return to the town again but judging by the way Jude and Mama suffocated me with the marriage stuff, it was clear that it was going to take a very long time.
On our way to Lagos, Juliet asked why i called the two teenage girls. She felt it was her right to know since she also planned to go to Italy. Somehow she must have known that i planned to send them to Italy to work for me.
“I am not interested in discussing this with you” I said to Juliet and she never asked again.
Back in Lagos, i paid the driver for his work and he parked my car in front of my apartment.
The next one week was spent at the Sanya Field Driving school.
Juliet and I would go there every morning to perfect our driving skills.
By the fourth day, i was already moving a vehicle very well. I would venture into the Service lane of Oshodi-Apapa expressway and drove for two miles, then i would turn around and return to the field.
I felt that i could now move around Lagos on my own but the instructor told me to wait for another week.
One morning, i summoned enough courage and asked Juliet to enter the car, we were going to Lekki Beach.
She had some reservations about if i could drive that far but she had no power to stop me.