Lectures had gathered momentum, school activities cropped up from all angles, from sports to social events, more customers were open to delivery services and Alex was having consistent sex with Sunshine.
For some, like Jojo, it wasn’t fun, he complained most of the time. All he had to do was finish classes at about four or five pm and help out at his brother’s shop which was expanding; Isaac was getting more business with the added advantage of Alex’s delivery services.
Jojo wasn’t obliged to contribute to feeding, after all, Isaac was his brother but Alex couldn’t understand why he’d complain about helping at a place that was responsible for his food and shelter.
He had not been that way when they’d been together at the village, Alex had always organised everyone, he made sure everyone finished their chores, sometimes helping out when he completed his chores first, before they all went out for leisure.
Though something Jojo had said once, a comment he had made, had caused Alex to realise that his friend had gotten use to them doing things together. It was rather unfortunate that they couldn’t continue being joined at the hip. They weren’t in the same department, though they shared a faculty and some elective classes, but Alex had a business to run.
He didn’t have parents or an elder brother to fall back on. He was glad he wasn’t dependent on his grandparents and he was grateful to Ekanem everyday for that; though, recently, most of the games he texted to him weren’t winning but Alex kept betting anyway.
Isaac complained about Jojo’s attitude so much and always asked him to speak to his friend. Alex sighed wearily, his friend seemed preoccupied these days and he liked it because it gave him some relief from explaining where he disappeared to every 6:30pm. But he also knew he still had to speak to Jojo to find out what the problem was, additionally, he needed to know if he could solve it.
So, instead of hurrying home when his classes ended at 2:30pm, to handle a delivery that Mama Saviour had called about, Alex made his way to Jojo’s department.
He peeped into one of the lecture halls and saw some of Jojo’s classmates in there, so he knew he was at the right hall. He waited outside until the lecture ended twenty minutes, but when the class trickled out of the hall, Jojo wasn’t with them.
“How far?” he greeted and shook hands with one Jojo’s colleagues that he was familiar with. “Where’s Jojo?” he asked.
“I no see that guy today o,” the colleague replied in Pidgin English and even offered to ask some other colleagues and they answered same, Jojo hadn’t been to any of their classes today.
Alex was first confused because they’d boarded the same tricycle to school; how could he not have attended any of his classes? Then he got worried and tried dialling his line but it was switched off.
He instantly called Isaac to ask if Jojo was at the shop, but the network was so terrible he couldn’t hear a thing Isaac had said. So, Alex immediately rushed out of the campus and went home, his first stop was at Isaac’s shop.
“Guy, network was so bad, your voice kept cracking up,” Isaac announced the moment he walked into the laundry shop.
“Good afternoon,” Alex greeted while taking a seat beside the table Isaac was showing one of his new apprentices how to iron a pair of trousers.
“Afternoon. What’s up? Where’s Jojo?” he asked casually without looking up, so he missed Alex’s shocked expression.
What was going on, Alex thought, while trying to come up with an excuse that wouldn’t alarm Isaac until he could figure out where Jojo was.
“Didn’t he come here?” Alex asked airily.
Isaac scoffed and shook his head, “He was supposed to be here after his lectures, but I’ll give him an hour more because he had mentioned that he might have a late test today.”
Alex swallowed his denial because he knew Jojo had not been at school, nobody had seen him. But the fact that he had pre-arranged excuses meant he’d definitely planned something. He must have gone somewhere, maybe the beach at Ibeno, since he had made noises about treating Eka to a romantic outing.
“I didn’t even check his department,” Alex lied, “I just hurried back because I have a delivery to make,” he said as he got to his feet; it wasn’t an entire lie, he did have a delivery to make. “Let me go and change,” Alex said and shuffled his feet towards the entrance of the shop.
“Talk to your friend,” Isaac warned, “Papa will not always have money to give him. I started washing cloths for one of my senior colleagues when Papa’s salary didn’t come on time and I was stranded in school; the laundry saved me. I know he looks down on this business, but I’ve met so many big men and professionals through this and if I’d wanted a nine to five job I would have gotten it.”
“But I want my own business; I want to work at my own time. I did this on the side during service and after it, when my colleagues were busy getting rejected, I just continued with my business until I was able to get a shop. Tell him, if he doesn’t sit up, I’ll stop giving him transport and soon, he might have to feed him…”
“Ah, big bro, e no reach like that now,” Alex joked but was actually pleading for his friend.
“No, Alex, you cannot keep covering for him; he’s my brother, I should be covering for him but I would only be hurting him, that’s not how life is. Look at you, so Jojo can’t hustle like you? You don’t know how much I admire the seriousness you put into your small business. It might seem as though it isn’t up to much now, but I tell you, if you’re consistent with the way you’re going, you’ll be employing people before you graduate,” Isaac prophesied sincerely, making Alex chuckle modestly.
“Be laughing, I’ve said my own,” Isaac said and handed over the iron to the apprentice, watching the young boy with eagle eyes as he arranged a rumple pair of trousers on the ironing table so that he could mimic what he’d just been taught.
“Let me change up,” Alex said and Isaac nodded before he walked out of the shop.
Even though he had chuckled, he understood how serious Isaac was about his threat and he worried for Jojo. His friend had always mentioned how he would enjoy his first real freedom when he got into the university. He mentioned back at the village the parties he would attend and the girls he would meet.
Jojo had assumed Isaac would be the ideal elder brother who would show him the way to parties he’d attended as Uniuyo was his alma mater. But Isaac turned out quite different, the very opposite of what Jojo expected.
Alex knew he would have been like Jojo if his parents hadn’t died. But his grandparents had given him a whole new outlook at life and the inherent struggles one must face. It was why everything he did had to have a profit margin to it.
He knew how Jojo would react when advised against something he was bent on doing but Alex wasn’t deterred; he would talk to his friend and as usual, try to carry him along on his journey to be self sufficient.
“Alex!” Mama Saviour called as he was making his way towards the house, away from the laundry. He turned immediately and saw Mama Saviour standing at the veranda of her shop, waving at him.
His eyes glanced wistfully at the entrance to Isaac’s house, so close by and then sighed heavily and walked towards the shop.
“Good afternoon, Ma,” he greeted respectfully.
“Afternoon,” she replied, “Sorry; you look so tired, school must have been stressful today,” she conversed contritely, knowing she had just added to the stress.
“A little,” he replied, “I wanted to change into something casual before going for the delivery,” he explained.
“Oh, okay. Let me give the package to you at once,” she said and went into the shop, Alex followed her as the sun was too scorching.
She returned, meeting him beside the gate with a white cellophane bag designed with pink kiss lips and ‘Sunshine’ scrolled across it in white. Mama Saviour handed him a piece of paper with the address and time it was expected. Alex glanced at the expected delivery time while thanking her and retracing his steps.
“Are you using the main road?”
Alex turned and considered her question, glancing at the address again, he wasn’t, “Do you want something?” he asked instead.
“I’ve been trying to call Eka, today was her half day off but her phone is switched off. I know it’s not yet time for her to take over, but please, when using the bush track behind my house, just branch and tell her that she should parboil the rice, so I’d just simply make the sauce for dinner,” Mama Saviour instructed.
Alex nodded and glanced at the time again, he had about twenty minutes to change, eat if there was food at home and go for his delivery. He sighed with relief when he walked into the compound and had to pass under the shade of the big mango tree, the coolness was a huge contrast from the hot sun.
Isaac lived in a one room apartment and as the owner of the house he slept in the only room while he shared a mattress with Jojo in the tiny parlour.
Alex decided to use the backyard to get into the house so that he would easily check the pots in the kitchen for any food; when he passed the window to the bedroom, he heard the unmistakeable sound of skin slapping skin and low sensual moans.
He hesitated and then quickly moved on and wondered if he could sneak in, eat, change from his sweaty cloths and sneak out. It wasn’t strange to find people having sex in Isaac’s house, his best friend, Bruno, often brought his squeeze of the week to Isaac’s house, but Alex wondered why Isaac hadn’t given him ample warning.
Shrugging it off as it escaping his mind since he’d been worked up about Jojo, Alex unlocked the kitchen door as silently as he could manage. He found a well shaped rice remains in the pot and knew that only Jojo would remain such tiny food just so he wouldn’t wash the pot. Alex didn’t mind, he was so hungry; he dropped his knapsack and the Sunshine package on the floor and grabbed a spoon.
Bending over the table, he scrapped the rice which was mostly the burnt part at the bottom of the pot. He scrapped it so carefully that he made minimal noise. When he was through, he grabbed a fairly chilled sachet of water from Isaac’s mini fridge and drank, his mind already mapping his delivery route and mentally choosing the shirt he would change into.
His travel bag was at the parlour, so, after disposing the empty water sachet, he made his way quietly to the corner where himself and Jojo kept their bags. Before he unzipped it, he listened and realised the couple had gone quiet.
They probably were preparing to leave and Alex didn’t want to meet them, he wanted to avoid the awkward greeting that was sure to occur. He quickly unbuttoned and pulled off his dress shirt and inner shirt, rummaged in his bag and found a comfortable cotton t-shirt that he pulled on his neck and then stopped, remembering that he had to use a bit of deodorant as he’d not taken his bath.
The whole time, he’d been working in the dark, as there was no electricity and the heavy drapes had been drawn over the louvres. He found his deodorant and flinched expectantly at the sound it would make when he sprayed it in his armpit, but it was at that moment that the power saving bulb flickered on and the bedroom door opened.
It was a revealing moment.
Jojo had his hand on Eka’s waist; the couple looked cosy as they made their way out of the room. Eka saw him first and gasped out his name, since he’d been too shocked to make his presence known to the unsuspecting couple. Alex remained with his hand holding the can of deodorant, posed to spray in his armpit.
He was tongue tied not because what they’d done was wrong; he just wasn’t expecting Jojo in the house, plus, he suddenly understood why Mama Saviour hadn’t been able to reach her younger sister.
Jojo immediately went on the offensive. “Dude, why are you skulking round the house; were you trying to listen to us?”
Both Eka and Alex widened their eyes at the bogus accusations and the violent tone he’d assumed.
“Jojo, as you can see, I’m preparing to go out,” Alex said reasonably, “I thought it was Bruno in the room, so I wanted to change and be out again.”
Eka shifted uncomfortably where she stood and wouldn’t look Alex in the eye; good, Alex thought, because he didn’t want to look at her either, this was too embarrassing for everyone involved, except Jojo apparently.
“I bet you sneaked in wanting a chance to see my girl naked,” he sneered.
“Jojo! Stop!” Eka cried, her eyes flying from him to Alex’s face in alarm.
“Stay out of this, baby, Alex likes you and has been angry that you agreed to be my girl not his,” Jojo spewed, causing Alex to shake his head in shock.
“What?” Eka exclaimed and turned questioningly to Alex.
“Dude, you’re embarrassing your girl,” Alex pointed out and gave up using his deodorant; the situation had quickly escalated to a mountain from a molehill.
Scoffing, Jojo said, “Stop trying to play the good guy. You’ve been sulking around since because she couldn’t be yours and you had to sleep with an old woman to runs your admission…”
“My admission? It was only my admission that was on the line?” Alex asked incredulously with his hand touching his chest, ignoring Eka’s shocked gaze.
“It was your fault!” Jojo shouted, his arm flung at his direction.
“Exactly, that’s why I took care of it. Why is it an issue now?” Alex was afraid that his friendship with his best friend would be irreparably destroyed and he didn’t want that. The problem was, he didn’t know how to stop it.
He wasn’t angry about his secret being exposed in front of Eka, he wasn’t angry at all; he couldn’t be, since he seriously couldn’t understand what was going on in the first place. He couldn’t be angry because he was silently grateful that he hadn’t told Jojo so much of his secret.
“Because, you might pretend but you enjoy playing the hero! You walk around here like you’re better than others. You act the saint in front of my brother, and you even managed to convince Eka that you are a saint; did you tell her your history from the village?” he sneered.
“Jojo, please…” Eka begged.
“Did you tell her yours?” Alex countered as he shoved his arms through the arm holes of his grey t-shirt. He shook his head as he picked up his cloths from the floor and hung them neatly on a hanger, he would hang it outside to take away the sweat stink.
Ignoring Jojo only gave him fuel, he dove towards Alex and landed a punch on his jaw. It stung but Alex refused to retaliate. With the anger coursing like molten magma through his vein, he would probably punch his friend’s teeth off with a blow.
“Let go of my shirt,” Alex grunted as Jojo squeezed the neck of his shirt in a fighting stance. “Let go of my shirt…”
“What is wrong with you, Jojo? Let him go,” Eka cried in dismay, her hand grabbing Jojo’s unrelenting arm and pulling to get him off.
Alex could easily lift him off and fling him across the room, but even in his anger, he couldn’t embarrass his friend in front of his girl.
“I’m sorry for whatever I’ve done to make you this angry, Jojo. You’ve accused me of so many things, and I’m sorry. I don’t want to fight you. I don’t even want to quarrel. We’ve been friends for so long, I expect…”
Alex’s phone rang and surprisingly, Jojo left his shirt, he surreptitiously wiped the tears from his eyes but Alex saw. There was something going on with Jojo, but he didn’t have the time to get into it.
When he saw the caller ID, he swore, “Hello, Sun…”
“Why the hell haven’t you delivered my package?” she shouted into the phone. Alex could practically feel the wave of her fury through the phone. He flicked his wrist and checked his watch, instant dismay dawned on him as he realized that the delivery time had elapsed.
“Sunshine, please, I’m extremely sorry, please…”
“Bring it to my house!” she snapped and ended the call.
With his throat clogged up with emotion, he hurried from the parlour, grabbed the Sunshine package from the kitchen floor and raced out of the house.
ALEX OF IKOT UKAP ADVENTURES continues
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