I sat with my Mum that afternoon, after consuming a full bow of Amala with gbegiri and assorted meat, specially prepared by my younger brother’s wife.
Segun’s down to earth beloved wife was pregnant and still tries to do some of the house chores even in her condition.
I was happy that my brother saw a quality wife material in Adetutu.
Maami smiled as she looked at me. She turned to me and said.
“S’alafia ni?…omo mi daadaa? ( How are you my good daughter)
I told her that I was alright even though I tried to cover up my worries.
“Oju re k’ore lowo… (You don’t look happy)… you try to hide it but is right there in your eyes, staring back at me. Se ko si? (Is there a problem?)
“Kosi wahala maami” (there’s no problem Mum)
There was silent as she pause staring at nothing. She obviously has questions that she want to ask. I was only waiting for her to do so.
And then she asked the heavy questions I dreaded most.
“Nje o ti e ni Okunrin kankan l’ore? ( Is there any man in your life?)
I was silent, while still thinking of my answers, she asked another.
“…Omokunrin yibo to Soro re fun mi lojosi nkan? ( There’s one Igbo man you told me about)
“….Philip… that is his name right? I have spoken with him several through your phone… he is a fine young man. How is he…?
I didn’t respond. I remained silent as I thought of Phil.
“…Nibo lo wa? (What happened to him)
She asked concerned.
“Maami! Ijakule lat’odo awon Okunrin ti to geee! (Mum, men have disappointed me enough)
…Nkan o senu’re laarin emi ati omo yibo yen jare! (Things didn’t work out with the Igbo man)
I breathed deeply. My mum’s head remains bent. I continued
“…Mi o ti e mo boya emi gan ni nkan n se! (I don’t know if there’s something wrong with me)
“….Nigba ki igba to nkan rere ba to nbo loju ona mi,nkan buburu kan a saa sele saa ni! (Whenever good thing is coming my way something bad will happen)
My Mum gasped out and said.
“Ma yo Ara re lenu…(don’t stress yourself)
“….Ojo Ori re nko o,lomi’nu.(I know you are looking at your age)
….”Sugbon, Olorun yoo mu Oko tire wa ni asiko to ye” (God will bring the right man at the right time)
…Se o saa n gbadura? (Hope you are praying)
“Beeni maami” (yes Mum) I replied
My Mum tries to cheer me up by changing the topic.
“Iyawo aburo re ti wa ninu oyun o! (Your younger brother’s wife is heavily pregnant)
…Nje o tie rii rara (have you seen her?)…and her amazing strength. I have told her severally to take rest sometimes but she said the pregnancy is making her super active.. hahahaha.
I smiled as I watch my Mum talking and laughing. She looked forward to meeting her first grandchild and couldn’t hide her excitement.
She looked at me and said with a fat grin.
“Morenikeji, Olorun yoo se eyi to Dara lasiko to Dara….
“…O seun fun awon Owo ti o fi n ranse si wa…
“…Olorun mi yoo si maa bukun fun o,bi o se n fi wa s’okan ni gbogbo igba. (Morenikeji, God will do it in his own time.
Thank you for all the money you have been sending to us.
My God will continue to bless you for having us in mind always.)
“Amin maami” (Amen Mum)
Two days before I travel back to Abuja, I sat outside alone enjoying the uninterrupted fresh breeze not the usual air condition that I was used to.
Segun came out to Join me, we talk about random things.
Same thing the following day.
Before we retire that night, I sat alone outside with Segun, my brother who was lamenting of how his business was doing poorly.
I told him not to worry, if not that I was setting up a big shop that will consume alot of money from my pocket, I could have sent some cash to add to his business. But he shouldn’t worry I will make means to send something for him and his wife, Adetutu who has won the heart of both maami and I with her fine behavior.
Segun was grateful as he thanked me so dearly.
He even went inside to tell his wife and she came to thank me too.
After they went inside maami came out and also said her own thanks.
We began talking as she advised me not to allow anything to stress me. Especially in the aspect of men.
“Maami, E wo Segun,aburo mi,o ti gbe’yawo sile (look at Segun, my younger brother is married)
“….Ko da! Iyawo re ti loyun! (His wife is even pregnant)
“… I’m truly happy for them and they will always be in my prayers. I never thought I will still be single at this age… never.
“….Nigba kan ni mo maa n beru nitori Ojo Ori mi, sugbon bayi,ko ni itumo si mi mo! (I used to be afraid and worry due to age but not again)
“…Mo Fe gba oju mo Olorun mi ati iwe mi (I want to focus on God and business for now)
“…O ti su mi o maami!(I’m tired of everything mum)
“…Boya Olorun ni eto Miran fun mi (maybe God has a different plan)
“….hmmm! Maami…Mo ti jowo gbogbo re sile,fun Oluwa,ko fi mi Dara to wuu! (I have resigned to God to do with me as he pleases)
I was letting it all out. I’m glad that my Mum listened without interrupting untill I was done ranting.
“Beeni Morenikeji,Olorun yoo se eyi to Dara lasiko to Dara. (Yes Morenikeji, God will do it in his own time)
“Amin (Amen)…Ayun re n Yun mi maami (I have missed you Mum)
“…your advice and prayers… I’m very happy that I finally traveled down. I didn’t want to come home as single…I wanted to come with a man asking for my hand in marriage…I was going to bring him to you. I dreaded coming alone but as I have not been lucky with men, I had to come and see you…is really been a while and I will be traveling back tomorrow. I enjoyed my stay and will try and come more often by God’s grace to see you…
Maami laughed and talked about how much she also missed me and have looked forward to having me around. She thanked me all over for always having her and my brother in mind.
She prayed and encouraged me to remain focus in God because only him can do that which no man can.
I traveled back to Abuja the following day and resumed back to business in full.
For almost three weeks that I was gone, I received no phone call in my new line
I was only calling the workers, working on my shop to know how far they have gone with the job.
I inserted back my old line. I had lots of messages and only two from Phil. “Hey” was the first. “Hi, your number isn’t going through. Hope you are fine? This was the second message and only message I got from him.
I didn’t bother replying.
My shop was fully set by the time I returned.
It looks outstanding, very beautiful Job they did.
I got different contacts of suppliers. I needed to purchase every goods in whole sale, Large quantity and I did exactly that.
I employed two shop attendants girls, Juliet and Halima they have both finished secondary school and was working to raise money to further their education.
I employed three cooks, a man and two women. i met them during my caterer days.
I wanted them to be running shift. Which will enable them have time for their own stuffs
I told them I can’t offer them much due to I was just starting business but as the business grow they won’t be left out.
One of them, a female left. She was neither okay with the salary I was offering nor with my kind explanation.
It was fine because I get to cut down cost as I maintained the remaining people who chose to stay.
I was too focused on my business and did not have time for any other thing.
“M’j Eatery” became my approved business name. It was located by the road side that links to two estates before mine.
There was a big sign post outside my shop with a hydro bulb, it shown brightly at night. Attracting customers driving home from work.
I leave house very early in the morning and return late at night.
I sent some money to Segun and also to my Mum.
I didn’t have much left on me but I was able to pay the first and second month salary to my dedicated staffs.
Sylvester is a French guy and a great chef. Mrs Ngozi Ogbonna is both into local dish and continental. She was a great baker too.
Both Sylvester and Mrs Ngozi are jovial, loving soul.
Halima and Juliet are another hardworking girls.
They were all heaven sent to me and we play and work like family.
The first two months we didn’t generate much. There was no serious cash turn up but I remained focus and continued with a strong faith.
I work both on weekends. I attended a church close to my shop and goes to shop after church.
During the week, i leave house early to get some work done before they resume in the morning.
I make sure I open each day with prayer and also close with prayer.
I remained hopeful.
I started meeting different people who became great customer.
Danjuma, the hausa business man who usually visit. He always ordered for pastries and soft drinks and also a takeaway.
I met Ezenkwe who asked to be address as Eze.
He was very igbotic, funny, jovial and friendly. He always tip my staffs whenever he comes.
They even look forward to having him. He enjoys oha soup and white soup well prepared by Mrs Ngozi. They happened to come from the same Abia state.
He introduced several of his friends too.
Eze liked me and did not hide it or delay in telling me of his intentions.
Danjuma too, he was not straight forward like Eze but I knew where he was going with all his kind gestures.
I met Lekan and Ade too. They work in the nearest constructing company close to my shop.
Ade started showing interest with time.
Among all the men, I liked Eze. He was really nice and so friendly aside the local part of him.
He has an aura that announces his presence immediately he stepped into a place.
People easily likes him, like I did but I didn’t want another Igbo man issues. Phil’s own trouble was enough for me which made me to start considering Ade but he lack some qualities I wanted in a man.
I try not to encourage any of the men. I even told them that I was hooked and can’t date them.
But I looked forward to having Eze around. He loves speaking in his dialect local dialect both with Mrs Ngozi who also wanted me to give him a chance and with me who doesn’t understand his dialect.
Eze will say to me.
“Nne, ima ka. (You are beautiful my lady) give me a chance and I will take care of you…ego abughi problem (money is not a problem)
He speaks with pride and his smile was contagious that I will have to laugh out.
I was not going to rush into another relationship because of age or obvious factors on time.
I’m regaining back my confidence. Focusing totally and deeply on God. Also my business comes second after God.
I remained jovial and nice with all my admirers and customers just to have them coming and also introducing others to M’j Eatery.
Danjuma supplied bag of onions, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage and other food stuffs to me without collecting a dime.
He was a young fine man in his early thirties. He was married before but his wife left him for another man and he was looking for a good woman to marry.
Eze was into motor parts and has five shops with over twenty workers on salary.
He drives a small car, one won’t know that he was rich due to his way of life. He tips all the staffs with 2k each and drops a larger amount upto 5k for me most times.
I knew Lekan first before Ade. Ade is a master degree holder and obviously collects fat salary from his company but he looks like a womanizer who loves clubbing but aside that he was super nice.
I have others too but I was close to this ones.
As the business began to boom gradually, I added something more to the staffs salary and they were happy.
They have been there for me and very hardworking too. I can’t be the only one growing, they will have to also grow along.
With time I will employ more staffs, and that time is soon because M’j eatery was growing by the day.
A Lady stopped by one evening and asked for a club sandwich. It was quickly prepared for her by Sylvester my French cook.
She came twice that week, asking for either sandwich, burger, hot dog or other things in the menu.
I got used to her coming around and we got acquainted.
Her name was Kachi, she wore an engagement ring, very beautiful lady with an American accent. She drives a Prado Jeep. She loves the chicken burger more.
She told us she will be coming by weekend and will bring someone special along.
I believe that will be her fiancee. Kachi said her traditional wedding will be coming up soon. She will send the wedding card when next she was coming.
That Sunday, i was setting out money that I will send to bank by Monday when Halima came into my office to inform me that one customer was asking of me.
After describing her, I knew it was Kachi.
I suspended what I was doing and left to greet her, I will also get to meet her man.
There were other customers having one thing or the other on their different tables.
I waved at most of them happily as I walked past.
I saw Kachi sitting with a man. The man looked around the shop with brightened face before returning his look to his phone.
Kachi removed an invisible dirt from his fresh face.
She said something to him, he looked up at her, smiled.
He looked at the big plasma television showing CNN news, another plasma TV was showing “Eat it hot” a food program that many master chef comes to showcase their talent.
I paused when I saw the man. “Philip”
I couldn’t go front or back. Phil was actually Kachi’s husband to be.
Kachi saw me standing and began to wave. Phil looked up from his phone and quickly returned his look back to the phone. He didn’t recognize me at first.
But suddenly, he looked up again, this time putting aside his phone and sitting up properly.
I swallowed heard, summoned courage and went over to their table.
I thought I had overcome the feeling I had for Phil, seeing him again makes me want to run, hide and then cry my eyes out.
Phil was the first to greet. He was looking at me like he just saw a ghost.
“Hi..” I replied. Trying to avoid looking at him. I don’t want to loose a customer like Kachi. Phil has moved on and has even engaged another beautiful Igbo Lady who is obviously not based in Nigeria.
Kachi loves him and did not hide it even in public.
I had this sad feeling that tightened up my belle.
“Do you know each other before now…?
Kachi asked as she looked from her husband to be and back to me.
“Yeah…yes Kachi.This is Keji…
She appeared surprised.
“Keji… wait a minute, Keji..he Lady that you wer…
Phil interrupted her by asking me
“How are you? Hmmm…do you work here now?
I smiled. Looked at Kachi who was speechless and was just staring from her fiancee to me.
“Yea..yes Phil. I also own here now.
He looked at me shocked. Phil began looking around the place again.
“Oh my God… Keji. Are you serious? Is it true…? This place is yours? My goodness. This place is…is spacious and beautiful…
“Yea…I know, it is. All thanks to you…
I said with a smile.
He gasped out and I can see a thousand and one question in his eyes.
“… can I take your orders please…
I said returning my focus to the main business and not letting my emotions lead the way.
Kachi cleared her throat loudly, interrupting Philip who never stopped staring at me.
“Before you take our orders, wait a second. I actually knew that I have seen you before…but I couldn’t place it. I have seen several of your pictures, both the one my brother sent to me when you were both together and the ones in his gallery. Here is my big and only brother… Keji. I don’t joke with him…
She looked up at Phil smiling.
He retuned back the smile.
“Your… your brother…? Ohh.. okay.
That was all I could say.
Philip confirmed it
“Keji, I’m glad you have met Kachi…our baby of the house. She came back early last month for her upcoming wedding. Keji… everyone miss you back home. I…I can’t believe you actually owns this big place. I’m so proud of you…?
I smiled deeply and told him thank you.
Just then Eze came in. He saw me and had this fat grin on his face.
Before he walked past he stopped at where I was and said.
“Nne kedu…(my lady how are you) hope you have my usual dericious ofe nsala… hahahaha….
Eze is very igbotic but he doesn’t care. Instead of delicious, he will always say dericious. I was very used to him and his way of life.
I smile and nodded. He laughed and said while walking to a table