Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. With each passing month, Ajoke’s hope of receiving a letter from Adejoro dimmed. Initially, his mother frequented their home assuring her that he would be back soon but Ajoke was not sure who to believe; his friend or his mother. She wondered so many times if Akanbi had mentioned her husband’s refusal to write back to spite her for refusing to sleep with him or if he meant what he had said. But she was unable to ask anyone. The only close friend Adejoro had was Akanbi and her elder brother and she was not sure if it was worth asking her brother, Adisa.
Six months after Adejoro’s scheduled return, Ajoke decided to go to her father’s house to talk to her brother. She told him about Akanbi’s statement carefully avoiding to discuss her encounter in his house. Adisa had been surprised and told Ajoke he was not aware Adejoro did not contact her anymore. He was even more shocked that he had stopped sending her a monthly stipend and wondered how his sister had coped the past six months with two extra mouths to feed. He told her he was going to make sure he got to the root of the matter and find out exactly what the situation was.
Ajoke thanked him and Adisa gave her some money to take care of herself and her kids. Her mother also packed some foodstuff for her and Ajoke went home with her heart less burdened. Three months after, Adisa sent an errand to Ajoke to come home. She wondered why Adisa would call for her. She hoped her parents were doing fine. She took her kids and went to her father’s house. She met her parents and all her six brothers seated discussing when she walked in. Her mother took her grandchildren away, leaving Ajoke alone with her father and elder brothers. Adisa broke the bad news to Ajoke. Akanbi had been right. Adejoro had deserted her to build another home in the United Kingdom. Ajoke looked at her father’s face and shook her head in despair. No tears escaped her eyes. She was only sad that she had become a single mother with no source of income.
She thanked her brother, Adisa and asked for her children. Her mother encouraged her to stay the night but she refused; saying she was going back to her husband’s house – the house of the man she and her husband gave her out in marriage to. Iya Ajoke held her daughter’s hand as she begged her to please forgive them. They never imagined Adejoro would do this to them, she said. Ajoke looked at her mother and sighed. There was no point lamenting, she told her mother. The deed had been done. Ajoke walked out of her father’s house with her kids in tow.
When she got home, she thought of what she could do to earn a living so that she and her kids would not suffer. She remembered that when she was in the secondary school, a lot of her friends came to her house to get their hair weaved because most of them did not have the money to pay a hairdresser. She stepped out of her house and looked around. She saw a small carton lying on the ground. She picked it up and walked towards a primary school not too far from her house. Used pieces of chalk were strewn all over the floor and Ajoke picked up a few. She wrote on the carton with a piece of chalk advertising that a hairdresser lived within. She found a used rag and tore it into two, then used it to hang the carton on the tree in front of her house. She went back inside to prepare a meal for her kids and awaited her first client.
Within a short while, word spread round that Iyawo Engineer weaved hair better than most of the other hairdressers in the vicinity. Ajoke’s house became of mecca of sorts for children and her weekends became her most busy period. She had mothers knocking on her door very early on Saturday morning to plait their daughter’s hair as they did not want to be caught up in long queues later in the day.
She enrolled her kids in the nearby primary school and life took a new turn for her. Soon, the mothers who dropped their daughters also needed her services to get their own hair done and Ajoke became busier by the day. She no longer thought about what to eat and how to survive. She had just enough to feed herself and her kids.
The years rolled by and Ajoke forgot about her husband. His mother still visited her once in a while to see how her grand-children were faring. Iya Ajoke also visited her grand-children but the relationship between mother and daughter was strained. Ajoke performed her duties to her parents but it was not done out of love but out of obligation. Her elder brothers all got married and had successful marriages.
Seven years after Adejoro left Ajoke, she rented a shop close to her house and opened a small salon in with the proceeds of her business, establishing a name in the village as one of the foremost hairdressers. She recruited two girls who helped her in her salon and business went smoothly. Her brother, Adisa was happy that she was doing well and on one of his visits to her house, he advised that she opened a bank account so she could have some money saved for the rainy day.
She heeded to her brother’s advice and took a bus to the nearest town to open an account. The lady at the customer service desk gave her an account opening form to fill. As Ajoke bent her head to fill the form, the lady’s boss walked out of his office and called the attention of the customer service staff to a form in his hand. Ajoke froze as she heard the voice of the manager. She was scared to look up to identify the person who had just spoken. The manager walked to the customer service desk and as he spoke to his report, Ajoke summoned up courage to lift up her head. She met the manager’s eyes and the expression on the faces of both of them was shock. Ajoke could not believe her eyes. Her jaw dropped as she looked at him. The manager was so stunned that he couldn’t finish his sentence. He started to stammer as his mind refused to process the information he was passing across to his report. The customer service staff noticed her boss was a little disoriented and asked him if he was okay. She wondered what had suddenly caught her boss’ attention and looked at Ajoke.
Ajoke had turned her attention back to the form she was filling. She could not fill the form any longer as the letters danced before her eyes. She held on to her pen refusing to look up as her eyes filled with tears. She could not afford to break down here in the presence of strangers. She bit her lower lip as she blew air through her mouth in a bid to subdue the tears. Life had been unfair to her. She quickly filled the form and handed it over to the lady before rushing out of the bank in a hurry.
By Bukola Adekusibe
THE WAIT continues
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