I think I’ve figured out a working title for the book

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I am hoping that it will be it’s real title when the time comes but I suppose that is up to the publishers. There might be some confusion over how to pronounce it.

The new name for the book is ‘Recce’ [pronounced /ˈrɛk/]. It’s a term we use in radio production for pre-production preparation. It’s when you check out the area you will be recording in, make sure it’s not to echoey and fix it if it is, check whether your satellite phone has good signal and so on. It’s like checking the lay of the land before you either do a live broadcast or a recording (mostly live though).

What do you guys think? Does it represent the story well? Like Christian kindly pointed out, the title has to tell you what the story is about without telling the whole story. Do you think it reveals too much? Did you have issues pronouncing it before you saw the phonetic symbols?

I appreciate the feedback!

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Winners and other matters.

Thank you Kiki and Christian for your suggestions on the working title (or otherwise) for the book. Sadly since it was just the two of you who replied, I cannot in good conscience chhose a winner between you. It will not be fair to the other. What I wll do however is re-plot, edit and tidy the manuscript, include the SPECIAL EXPLOSIVE ENDING and send you both a signed copy each, if you still want it.

Fair enough?

Let me know how you want that signed.

This blog will be closing on Monday since its purpose has been served, but you can find me on igbomarriage.wordpress.com or igbogirlguide.wordpress.com.

Thank you all for reading and here’s hoping I see you all next year for another NaNoWriMo.

 

XO

N.

What should I call this book?

I need a working title for the novel and since you’ve all read it (and I’m notoriously bad at titles), I was wondering if you could help? Any suggestions welcome.

I’ll put the titles you suggest to a poll. The title that gets the most votes, wins a free copy of the (edited, properly plotted and corrected) book courtesy of NaNoWriMo. Aren’t I generous?

Thinking caps on!

CHAPTER TEN

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Lucy tapped behind the driver’s seat with the top of her walking stick. “Follow that okada,” she said watching its rider don her helmet and tuck the excessive material of her dress between her legs. Lucy winced. ‘I can’t believe what she is wearing,’ she thought, eyeing the local print. Her nostrils flared.

“Why would she wear that thing that is so old, so local?” she asked aloud. The driver said nothing, preferring to concentrate on remaining as unobtrusive as possible to their target – no mean feat considering the jeep they were travelling in. Lucy shook her head. She knew without a doubt that if she looked half like Chiz or Chizzy or whatever-her-name-was looked, that she would make sure her clothes came straight off the runway. Lucy fingered her pearls as she daydreamed. Fine, the new Nigerian designers were good too, she thought, listing them off in her mind. Jewel by Lisa, Deola Sagoe, RaxHouse, Kosibah, Tiffany Amber…they all made clothes that she was desperate to wear. Some she had worn of course but the rest didn’t sit well somehow with her frame. She rubbed her stomach and sucked in her cheeks, stroking the underside of her chin. She could still feel the flesh where is bowed. Lucy snapped her finger away. “Can’t you go any faster? See she is getting away from us.”

“Madam, I’m trying to make sure she doesn’t see us too much like you told me.”

“Are you talking back to me? Just do what I asked you.” Lucy leaned back in her seat and wondered about Kendrick and Chiz or Chizzy or whatever-her-name-was on a date. Had Kendrick talked about her? She cleanched her fist around her new walking stick, feeling its metal head cut into the bones of her hands. Had Kendrick told Chiz that he had dumped Lucy. She inhaled sharply. The rush of air made her feel light-headed and she wanted to lay down. If he dared…! It was her fault for thinking that loser could be anything more than what he was; a local champ at a local station with no other prospects. Lucy was going places, and so what if she decided to stay where she was? She ruled town; the difference between she and Kendrick was like that between living and merely existing. As soon as she was twenty-six, she would straighten James out and have the biggest wedding anyone had ever seen. They would be The power couple this side of the Niger. Right now, she was content to let him run wild a little. They were like Harry and that girl from Zimbabwe. Everyone knew they would eventually marry even as they played their little games with each other and the world. Once they did, she would make sure they recalibrated their power couple status to Brangelina. Or die trying. One had to keep oneself above the locals after all. Lucy sniffed.

Kendrick had seemed like a catch when she first met him. He had been at the station for two years and she already knew of him by reputation. The girls were mad for his husky voice and she knew before she met him that they were going to date which they did. So what if she had done most of the chasing? One didn’t get anywhere in life by being passive. People always said to her “But your father is rich” as if that was an excuse to sit on her haunches. She got herself a job didn’t she? And she didn’t need her father’s help or influence. Yes, people’s hands needed to be cleaned  but she had done that all by herself too. Nobody could take that away from here. Lucy smiled to herslef and settled deeper in her seat. Kendcirck didn’t know what hit him at the time.

She walked up to him in her high heeled shoes, confident that her clothes and bearing spoke volumes. She was fleshy in the way pleasingly described as curvy and she knew her uniform of calf-length pencil skirt, heels and semi-transparent blouses suited her down tot he ground.

“Hi. You must be Kendrick. I’m Lucy. I’m going to be working here.”

“Hi, Lucy. I’m Kendrick.”

“I know. Everyone knows who you are. Soon they’ll know me to…but anyway, my father is having his birthday this weekend, huge party. You should come.”

“Errr….”

“I won’t take no for an answer. And you don’t want to get on my bad side since we’re going to be colleagues.”

“Com’on, it’ll be fun. We could all get to know each other.” She had let her eyes stray to the person he was talking to, but lingered on Kendrick to let him know he was to come alone no matter her words.

Kendrick did show up to the party, all six foot four of him, dressed in an ironed linen shirt and trousers with soft loafers. He looked casual and cool at the same time. Lucy approved. She hated men who wore jeans to everything. But that was before she had looked behind him and seen an entourage of what she described as riff-raff, led by the denim-clad man Kendrick had been speaking to. She looked around for her father’s security.

“You did say ‘all’,” Kendrick had seen what she had been thinking written on her face. Lucy gave him a pained smile, thinking to herself that such a beautiful man couldn’t possibly be that stupid. Just then the denim guy walked up to them and asked Lucy in that Nigerian mock American accent “Where the parry at?” and she wanted to stab him straight through his wide mouth with her stilettos. She watched him wander off in the direction of the buffet tables, pick a chicken wing without bothering to take a plate and suck down its flesh, spitting the bones into the grass at his feet. It was as if he was trying to make a point. He had winked when he caught her staring at him. Lucy hated Paul-O ever since.

It didn’t help that he seemed to know just what she had in mind for Kendrick, even as the object of her affections remained clueless. Anytime she dragged Kendrick off for some alone time, there he was. She had taken him to the wine cellar, her mother’s wig room, to her father’s private zoo at the back of the mansion and the man-made sanctuary-cum-wet room off to the side, with its walls of rough stone and the hidden lighting.

“Wow. It looks like an underwater cave. Cool.” Kendrick had taken in the pool of water in a sunken tub of stone, formed from water cascading down the walls, the light inside it illuminating the various layers of rock; reds, silver stripes, rusts. He dipped a finger in the water. “How does it stay warm?” He asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. Something with the way its built into the earth, I hear. I don’t know about such things. Here you go.” She handed him a glass of champagne she had had placed there earlier as part of her plan. He took it without a word, still looking around. “Over there is the hot tub. Daddy had it made to blend in as well.” Lucy flicked a switch and bubbling started up among the strategically planted fern. “Would you like to have a dip? Nobody will disturb us…you.” She had arranged that too.

“Thanks Lucy, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to strip down to my skivvies and take a dip in your father’s hot tub on my first day here, do you?” Lucy wasn’t listening. She stopped listening at ‘Skivvies’ which she knew meant ‘underwear’ in American English.

“He won’t mind. As long as you’re my friend, he’s cool,” she said, trying to mimic his way of speaking.

“Nah, it alright. I’m good for now.” Kendrick set down his glass of champagne untouched. “In fact, I think I’d better hit the road now. I have an early morning news show to do, as you know.”

“Oh,” said Lucy disappointed. Then she’d brightened. “Not before you see my father’s bunker!”

“He has a what?” Kendrick was interested. “Why would he have that?” Lucy took him by the hand and pulled him through a maze of corridors and staircases until he was begging to know if they were there yet. It got darker and darker as they descended. But suddenly she stood and said her name: ‘Lucy’. Lights came on, one after another illuminating their way as if they were aeroplanes approaching a runway. Kendrick’s eyes were wide open. The bunker was fortified with enough provisions to withstand a nuclear fallout; blankets, tinned goods, bottles of water, torches, batteries, rifles and bullets. “Why does he have this?” Kendrick asked, smelling a story no doubt. Lucy looked at him sharply.

“You can’t tell anyone you’ve seen this. Daddy will kill me if he thinks I’ve let anyone in here. But I like you.” She batted her eyes at him in what she hoped was a coy manner. “And he only has one because all his rich American friends do. It’s a thing they all do.”

“It must have cost him…”

“A million dollars? You bet! He had to fly in Chinese workers to do the job and they all had to sign confidentiality contracts. None of them spoke a word of English apart from their foreman and only three people know the password. The way we took wasn’t even the route used by the workmen when they built it. That’s been sealed shut by the Mexicans my father flew in to complete the job.”

Kendrick stared at her strangely. “No, I was going to say that it must have cost him a lot of time to oversee this. It was a huge project no doubt.”

“Oh,” said Lucy brushing her fringe with her nails. “Yes, I’m sure it did,” she said. Kendrick was looking at his watch again.

“Listen, this was fun but I really must be off. Take care and see you Monday. And don’t worry. I won’t say a word.” He paused. “Now, how do I leave?”

“Take my hand,” said Lucy glad to be touching him again. Once outside, Kendrick smiled and was off, eating up the ground with his legs. Lucy heard a slow applause and Paul-O popped out of the shadows t her left.

“It looks like we’ve got ‘Rich girl’. All we need now is ‘Poor Girl’, ‘Beggar Girl’ and ‘Thief’. Abi is that not how the Oyibo rhyme goes? Tell me, since you’re an ajebo  I’m sure you know.”

“If I turn my head and see you still here, I’m going to call security.”

Lucy bought gifts for Kendrick after that; some perfume which she sprayed behind her ears before she presented it to him, a shirt, a watch. He returned them all and was gracious the whole time, explaining that he couldn’t accept them since they were so expensive. So Lucy bought him a cheap belt she picked from a street vendor and quoted his words back at him until he took it from her. She was glad. Cosmo Magazine told her that a man who accepted a belt from a woman was sub-consciously thinking of having her as his support. Lucy knew she was perfect girlfriend material; she was generous and she made things happen. What more could a man need? So she pushed and pushed Kendrick, finding more ways to be around him, oftentimes uninvited. She forgot about James, the boy who had been with her on and off since nursery school. He was too familiar, too safe, boring even. Kendrick was exciting and his family were not from their town. She was having an adventure and it was all hers.

But soon other people, other things started to interfere. She set sweet ‘love traps’ for Kendrick as instructed by her womens’ magazines; making plans with him then cancelling at the last moment to keep him keen, showing up at places he was bound to be after saying she would not be there, making plans for them. She made sure they were seen together at the best spots in town. She fixed it with her father so Kendrick had interviews with national broadcasting corporations. So what if he was angry when he found out? She was helping him. He needed to look good when he took her arm. He needed to reflect her.

She expected gratitude in return, after all she was dating him, but who didn’t? That was not a bad thing. So it was to her chagrin that he cancelled one of their dates. Lucy was angry as she had been going to cancel on him but it was more than that. Nobody stood her up.

“Lucy, my aunt’s just died and I have to go to the village. I’m sorry but I’ll see you when I get back.”

“Did you know she was going to die?” asked Lucy, thinking of the new red dress hanging in the closet. She would have to wear it some other time.

“Err…not today no. She was old and ill, I guess but still…”

“If she was old and ill then you don’t have to go to the village. I’m sure you can wait one night, can’t you? I have a dress that isn’t going to wear itself.” There was silence on the other end. “Hello?”

“Lucy, my aunt was like a mother to me. Half the time my parents were gallivanting on their lecture circuits across the world, she made sure that I was grounded, that I received a quality education, she made sure I was well fed, clothes and that I had good manners. I owe her my being. I will be going to the village to respect her. I will see you when I get back, if you still want to. And he hung up. Lucy called back immediately, hanging up just before it went to voicemail. Then she sent several texts, starting with the ‘How dare yous’ and progressing to the ‘Don’t even thinks’ and the ‘I don’t blame yous’. When she got no reply, she sent a ‘Don’t call me’. If that doesn’t bring him crawling back, nothing will, she thought.

After a week, she started to get worried so she went on to the ‘I forgive yous’ and the ‘We can work it out ifs’. She was sending another one of those over when her phone rang. It was Kendrick. Ha! SHe knew he’d come back on his knees.

“Kendrick,” she said cooly, determined to prolong his misery. The voice that spoke back to her was anything but miserable. He sounded different, resolved of something.

“Lil’ mama, I’m going to do you a favour and tell you something that you should have learnt a long time ago. I’m not angry. I just want you to listen very carefully to what I have to say.”  Lucy knew after that he wasn’t the one for her. If he didn’t realise all she was doing for him…well, he wasn’t worth her time. He didn’t understand her vision. She didn’t speak to him a long time after that, but he did her, and when he did it was in the same way he would talk to a young friend. He  pretended to flirt with her from time to time but Lucy was having none of his pity-flirts. No man rejected her. Kendrick was a fool who would stay small forever. She was a star, born to shine.

Lucy snapped out of her reverie when she felt the car slow down. “Is she stopping?” she asked.

“Yes, Ma. But I cannot follow her with the car, the street is small and she will see me.”

“Wait here.” said Lucy pulling the door handle and sliding out, taking care not to land on her bad foot. She crossed the deserted street, putting her walking stick down lightly with each step. The dust absorbed most of the sound but occasionally she hit a leftover bit of road causing her to wince involuntarily. Lucy stood in the shadow on the first building to catch her breath. She peered round the wall, letting her eyes adjust to the gloom. Feeling her way, she began to advance turning right after the path Chiz had taken. A row of bungalows squatted facing each other. Lucy saw a light moving in one of the buildings and nodded. That was probably Chiz or Chizzy or whatever-her-name-was now. She would come back tomorrow to investigate further. It wouldn’t do to get caught by the things living here. She backed away and made her way across the street. The driver came out to help her up and they sped away.

In the shadow on the wall, a few yards from where Lucy had been standing, Chiz stepped out into the road.  She untied the hem of her dress from her waist and tapped her fingers against her helmet. She might have to speed things up, she thought.

CHAPTER NINE

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“Miss Chiz,” said Kendrick getting up from the table to greet her. He kissed her on both cheeks and pulled out her seat for her. Chiz smiled at the waiter who had led her to her table and took the seat that was offered. “You look delicious. Nice dress.” Chis was wearing the yellow dress with red butterflies on it. Her hair was freshly washed and gleamed darkly against her skin, the curls defined. She wore a red hibiscus tucked behind one ear. She had dumped the rings and necklaces but kept the bracelets which tinkled as she moved her arms. The overall effect was one of clean, natural beauty. Chiz crossed her legs gathering the material of the maxi dress between her thighs. “Beautiful sandals too. So flat. For a moment I thought you came in bare feet.”

“I thought about doing that,” Chiz raised an eyebrow. But the place I am staying…the woman would have had a fit.” She looked uncomfortable. “You don’t look so bad yourself.” Kendrick had clearly made an effort, but in his scrubbed jeans and rolled up shirt, the difference between them was as night and day. She was Earth Mother to his cowboy and he knew it.

“What? This old thing?” asked Kendrick. Chiz laughed her special laugh. Her curls bounced and swished as if through water. Kendrick knew his eyes were crinkling in pleasure.

“I can’t remember the last time I was so pleased with myself. You’ve made an old man very happy. I hope you don’t mind but I took the liberty of ordering you some water. One cannot go wrong with that – at least with most women.”

“Poor little Kendrick, dating women who throw a strop over water,” Chiz joked.

Kendrick shrugged. “I’m glad you decided to come out.” He paused. “Why did you decide to come out? I kinda thought you were not interested as work friends or otherwise.”

Chiz flashed her eyes at him, still smiling. “There is no otherwise. And as for coming out, why not? You were nice enough to invite me.”

“I’m really looking forward to this evening you know. No talk of shows and general office politics, no Lucy wanting to kill you for taking her slots…”

“I didn’t take anything. Oh God. She really hates me doesn’t she?” Chiz covered her face with her hands.

“Can you blame her? You’re gorgeous and kind and everything she’s not. If I were Lucy I’d want to kill you too.”

“But you’re not.”

“But I’m not,” conceded Kendrick. “So I’d like to date you instead.” He looked suddenly serious.

“Kendrick…”

“But, we’re colleagues etcetera etcetera, I know what you’re going to say already so I’ll just stop you there. I’m willing to wait and if it happens, it happens. If not, we’re still cool. I definitely like you, You’re a cool chick.”

“Errr…thanks. And you, likewise.”

“Wow.” Kendrick looked surprised. “If I had known I was going to get that out of you I might have gone for more. Maybe a ‘spend the night at mine and I’ll make you breakfast’ Ow! Be nice.” He rubbed his arm. “For such a skinny thing you’re…Ow! OK, I’ll stop. Where did you learn to punch like that?”

“You don’t want to know. And I’m not skinny.”

“I want to know everything or I wouldn’t ask you. And yes, you kinda are.”

“You first. What’s with the accent?”

“My folks moved around a lot. They were visiting lecturers of sorts. What’s with your accent?”

“My parents didn’t move around enough.” The waiter approached their table and set down a menu. They both took him in but made no move to reach for their menus. Kendrick motioned the waiter back.

“What drink would you like to have?” he asked Chiz.

“I had that Gordon Sparks thing the other day. It wasn’t bad. May I have that?”

“You may have anything. I’ll have a Heineken please.” He turned back to Chiz. “What is that lovely smell? I think it’s coming from you. It smells like…like…gimme your hand.” Chiz stretched out her hand, slowly, waiting for a trick. Kendrick sniffed it, turned the palm downwards and sniffed again. He sniffed all the way up her arm, rolling her sleeve backwards with his nose. Chiz felt goose pimples pop on her skin and pulled her arm away. “Is it your hair? Lemme smell.” Kendric sniffed. “Mmmm. Lovely. What is that?”

“Jasmine vanilla shampoo. You like? I can get you some if you like.”

“I like it on you. Suits the whole look you’re working today.”

“Did you invite me to flatter me to death?” Chiz asked.

“Is it working? Because I can go even harder if it’s not. Stop laughing I’m not playing. OK, seriously, I just want to get to know you. Like how are you finding it at Sunshine FM so far, apart from all the drama?”

“It’s not a bad place to do an internship of sorts.”

“What is this internship you’re doing ayway? What will the report say? Who is it for?”

“All in good time my friend.”  Chiz ‘boinged’ a strand of her hair between her fingers.

“Ah. A mystery,” said Kendrick leaning forward. “Do tell. I like mysteries.”

“Mysteries are meant to be solved. I can’t just give you all the answers just like that now can I? I’m not saying that there is a mystery, I just think you should work harder at unraveling one if you think it exists.” Chiz paused, looking faintly cross-eyed. “I think I  may have just confused myself. Did I make sense? Stop laughing. Did you understand what I just said or did that make sense only to me?” Kendrick was laughing deep in his throat, one could barely hear the sound. It was just his shoulders shaking that drew attention to his state of mirth.

“OK, fine. Don’t tell me then, jeez! I can’t believe I ask one simple question and get  that answer. You know what? Since you won’t tell me, I’ll just make something up. Let’s see,” Kendrick fingered the hair on his chin, squinting into the light behind Chiz’s head. He pretended not to see her even when she playfully began tap-tapping on the table to show her impatience with his thought process. “Yes, I’ve got it,” he said eventually. “You’re a spy. You’re a spy from a rival radio station, sent down to try and get the secret of why we are so good at what we do – yes, because we are just that good. No? OK, I’ll try again. You’re a spy sent by my mother to bewitch me into marriage, only she needn’t have bothered. I’d marry you right now in the time it takes our waiter to come back with our drinks. No? Am I even close?” Chiz shook her head unable to speak for laughing. Her curls tossed and bounced about on her head as she howled. She looked like her neck was about to snap under the weight of her hair.

“You look amazing when you laugh,” said Kendrick.

“Are you always so forthcoming with your thoughts?” asked Chiz, sobering up instantly. It was as if someone had emptied a bucket of ice cubes down her dress. She looked away from him into the direction of the bar, trying to catch the waiter’s attention, holding very still and staring in an effort to make him uncomfortable enough to look at her. He appeared indifferent to her, scuttling about with a tray in his hands. Chiz broke her gaze and focused instead on her hands. She looked up when she sensed she couldn’t shake Kendrick’s gaze, grinning maniacally in the process.

“You give up yet?” he asked.

“You can’t blame a girl for trying.” Chiz shrugged.

“You know, you’re a bit of an enigma. You get visibly uncomfortable when I pay you compliments and yet you’re a very beautiful girl, yellow girl.”

“I’m not a Simpson.”

“A beautiful yellow, tall girl with hair similar in function to a peacock’s feathers, who wears skintight clothes and rides a noisy-ass motorcy…Ow! Stop punching me or I’ll punch you back. But surely you see what I mean?”

“No, I do not. I am just me. All those things are just genetics, they have nothing to do with who I am.”

“Wait…you were born astride a motorcycle?” Kendick teased her. His eyes danced about her face.

“That too,” she laughed. “But seriously, what I mean is that the first few things you said are just contributions from parents. I had no part in them. The other stuff…well, you need to be a bit streamlined when you ride hence the formfitting…I prefer that term, by the way – clothes that I wear. They aren’t really that tight. And the motorcycle, I like.”

“Yeah.”

“What? What’s that look you have on your face. You’re hiding something. What is it?”

“My dad and I restored a 1965 Harley Davidson Electra when I was barely a teenager.”

“No way. Your father owned one of those? Get out.” Chiz

“Owns. Well, it’s kinda mine now since the old man doesn’t ride anymore.”

“And you waited till not to tell me this, why?”Chiz stood, slinging her across body bag. “Come on then, let’s go. I want to see it.”

“Calm down. It’s not here with me in this mad town. Have you seen the potholes in this place? Someone could break a neck if they rode around town. I don’t mean you,” he quickly amended. “It’s safe and sound under a dust cloth in my parents’ garage across the river. Maybe I’ll take you sometime. If you’re good to me.” He grinned. “Otherwise, you can just forget about ever clapping your eyes on the only Panhead Electra Glide ever made by Harley. I can tell you, we spared no expense too. We had to live on garri and baked beans for a long time so my father could get the parts we needed. His students suffered. But you know, Americans like that kind of passion so he was never fired.”

“This was in America?” Kendrick nodded. “Your poor mother,” said Chiz shaking her head. The waiter arrived with their drinks, setting Chiz’s small green bottle down in front of her with the reverence reserved for the Host. He produced a clean glass with a flourish and a bowl with some ice cubes and a withered slice of lemon. “Oh, no ice please. I forgot to say.” The waiter looked mortified and fumbled to correct his mistake. Chiz caught his eye and smiled. “It’s fine just leave it. Cheers.” He set Kendrick’s drink down with a little less flair and exited, bowing slightly from the waist.

“Don’t ‘Your poor mother’ her. Who do you think rode it the most out of all of us?”

“I like the sound of her already.” Chiz took a sip of her drink and rolled her shoulders, reveling in the warmth spreading through her veins.  She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes.

“You remind me of her a little bit,” said Kendrick. Chiz’s eyes snapped open.

“OK, I’m not sure I wanted to know that. Certain parts of this evening now seem a little bit creepy.”

“Oh ha ha. I don’t mean all of you. I mean the grease monkey part. My mother also had dirt under her nails from fiddling about with the bike, just like you do.”

“Where?” said Chiz inspecting her nails.

“Gotcha. That’s what you get for mocking me.”

“So you like women who remind you of your mother then?”

“Very subtle. Why? Are you applying?”

“I’m curious. And don’t say…”

“I like you,” Kendrick finished for her. “And to answer your earlier question, I didn’t tell you about my motorcycle because I didn’t want you to be interested in me because of it. I’m not saying you are now,” he raised a hand to silence her outrage “But I wanted you to be interested in me for me.”

“Wow. You’re not full of yourself at all.”

“You’re angry.”

“No, just miffed.”

“That’s hardly fair though is it? I mean, see the way you reacted when I told you about the bike, eh, eh?”” Chiz smiled, a slow smile which spread from one corner of her face to the next. Her eyes lit up and she shook her head as if she was dazed.

“Fair enough. I apologise for…”

“Giving me attitude? You’re welcome.”

“So, tell me then. Do you do this often with work colleagues?”

“What? Go out for drinks with them? Maybe dinner?” Kendrick shook his head, raising his glass to his lips and taking a sip of beer. “Maybe date a few of them?” Kendrick set his glass down and looked her in the face.

“You know. About me and Lucy?” Chiz nodded. “Huh. If I didn’t know any better I’d swear you were asking me to be less then a gentleman; to kiss and tell.”

“There was kissing? Ooh. Juicy. Tell me more.” Chiz leaned into the table with her elbow, supporting her chin on her hand.

“Why are you so interested in Lucy all of a sudden?”

“You know. I’m just curious to know what she is like. She hates me and I could really do without that kind of negativity while I’m here. My mother always said you could catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I’d like to know how to get on her good side, that is all.”

“Uh huh. Then why don’t you ask her?”

“Would you approach Lucy the way she is right now? She could do some serious damage with those crutches. And something tells me she wants to.”

“Yeah. Lucy does get pretty mad when Lucy doesn’t get what Lucy wants.” Chiz raised an eyebrow. “When you hear her talking about herself in the third person, you best stay out of her way. That means she is mad-mad. Like homicidal mad. I’m serious, stop laughing. I’m trying to save your life here and it’s only because I like you.”

Chiz tossed her hair and the smell of vanilla filled the space between them. “Oh, thanks for that. Of what else do I need to be aware?”

“Lucy loves being centre of attention. She will take the spotlight in anything. Anyone who tries to take that away from her…actually, you’re best not trying to be her friend. In the end that was what did for us. Lucy wanted everything and didn’t want to share anything. I was becoming too big a personality on air, I guess.” Kendrick scratched behind his ear. “Look all this is common knowledge but I kinda feel mean talking behind her back so I’m going to stop now. She’s a pretty sweet girl, just a little spoiled. But I suppose we all have our faults right?  I’d like to see anyone of us behave any differently if our fathers had a gazillion dollars in the bank and gave us everything we ever wanted.” Kendrick paused to look around. “I’m sorry I brought you here, they are a bit slow today. So,” he concentrated on Chiz, “How about you? What does daddy do? What was it like growing up?”

Chiz stood. “Actually Kendrick, I think I’ll head off now. I’m a bit knackered and it’s my first show tomorrow. I haven’t been on air in a while and I need to prepare. I have a whole routine that I have to get through which, sadly, starts with eight hours sleep.”

“Wha…?” Kendrick got to his feet. “I thought we were having a good time.”

“We are. It’s just all this talk about the station has got me thinking about tomorrow. It’s not helping that that Gordon Sparks has given me a huge headache. Can I take a rain check? We’ll do this again, I promise.” Chiz kissed him on the cheek and started walking away. Then she came back and kissed him again on the cheek, this time covering the tiniest corner of his lip. She gazed into his eyes as she pulled away. “I’m really sorry.”

Chiz slung her bag across her body and was gone with a swish of her skirts, leaving behind a scent of jasmine and vanilla in the air.

CHAPTER EIGHT (contd)

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“Wow, Lucy. Don’t hold back. Tell us how you really feel.” Chiz turned her eyes, those hazel eyes which could be anything, on her. Right now they were registering disappointment. Lucy was incredulous. What right…how could she…how dare she…she couldn’t even form the words in her mind. As she watched the look slowly turned to a cold anger that took Lucy’s breath away. She cast her eyes about, wondering if anyone else could see the change.

“I’m sorry but it’s the truth. Why should we take gifts from one person and not from the other? You might as well get rid of both gifts.”

“It seems to me that one came from state coffers – in this case supplies meant for the less fortunate – and in the other, from a personal pocket. But that really wasn’t the answer you were looking for when you made that statement, was it? You meant that the drinks were cheap. Were you saying that to make a point about something? About me? I’m just trying to understand, you see. I’m not being antagonistic. The commissioner sent them because he felt that the interview we…”

“You…” chipped in Paul-O, smirking.

“I,” amended Chiz flashing him a look. She smiled slightly before allowing the smile to vanish from her face as if it was never there. “The interview that I did with him went well. It may be cheap but he gave that to me. Were you making a personal point?”

“I was not but you seem intent on pursuing this matter in that vein so I have nothing more to say.”

“I think you owe Chiz an apology though,” said Kendrick. He moved from the back of the room and stood beside Chiz.

“What is this, pick on Lucy day? I told you what I meant when I said what I said. I will not apologise for whatever your interpretation of my words are. Full stop.”

Chiz shrugged. “Fair enough. I wasn’t asking for an apology to anything. I just wanted to understand what it was you were saying. It’s just that it didn’t seem like a fair thing to say. After all, if he had bought an expensive case of champagne as opposed to …” Chiz picked up a bottle and grinned, taking in the whole room, “a case of what seems to be nothing more than sparkling apple juice…” the whole room started laughing. Chiz joined in, raising her voice to be heard above the din…”then we would have accused him of being a thief-thief too.” Lucy felt like an outsider. She watched as the whole room, including Oga Kenny responded to Chiz’s laughter, turning to her light plants to the sun; Kendrick was laughing in his usual quiet was, his voice barely audible, his hand resting on Chiz’s shoulder. She made no move to shake it off. Oga Kenny had his face in his hands, as if he was afraid to show what he looked like when he was consumed by mirth. ‘Ugly mucheche’ thought Lucy, shaking her head. Even the normally prissy Rose was tittering as if she was afraid that laughing would betray her as human and therefore base.

Lucy heard her heart beating in her temples. ‘I’m the outsider’, she thought. How had it happened? This was why she never missed a day of work. Just a half day one and now another person was trying to take her place. She gathered up her crutches and stood to her feet. Paul-O was howling like a mad hyena, clapping his hands and wiping tears from his eyes, but the minute she stood up, his eyes swivelled to hers. He raised an eyebrow. Everyone followed his gaze and Lucy found herself caught in their stares. She smiled. Her face hurt from stretching her muscles in other directions when her brain’s default setting right now was ‘frown’.

“Well,” she said giggling in an attempt to join in the mirth of her colleagues. “Chiz, if you think this is something, you should stick around till Christmas. We’ll show you how we party. We may be in the bush but we know how to throw a good one; lots of great music and food and champagne. The real one.” She winked and felt the fakery behind the gesture sting her when Paul-O started snorting. He covered it up by coughing. As if to punish her for lying to herself, an eyelash fell into her eye. Lucy rubbed her eye and she teared up. She knew she should just stop rubbing her eye and let the tear carry the lash especially standing as she was in front of the whole room, but she couldn’t stop scratching.

“Oh as it happens, I just might take you up on that,” said Chiz.

“Yes?” Lucy wasn’t listening. She sat down quickly and worried at her eye with the back of her hand. It was starting to hurt and she knew she was ruining her make-up. She fumbled about in her bag for the packet of wet wipes.

“Yes, indeed. In fact, I believe Oga Kenny has something to tell you all. He’s only just told me himself.” Lucy stopped wiping her eye with the corner of the wet cloth again. The feeling was back. It spread cold from her skin into the back of her throat where it turned bitter. Her stomach churned.

“Yes…eh…ah. That was the second part of the announcement.” Oga Kenny shuffled his papers.

“Oh I’m sorry.” Chiz clasped her hands together. “I hope I didn’t put you on the spot, Oga Kenny. I didn’t know it was supposed to be a secret.”

“What are you two talking about?” asked Kendrick, looking from one to the other.

“Based on the response…” began Oga Kenny but Chiz raised her hand. He stopped. “Oh please can I tell them? I would be ever so grateful. Only I am so excited at this opportunity that I think I might just burst if I don’t tell someone.”

“Tell us what?” Lucy asked. And if there was a slight note of impatience in her tone she didn’t try to mask it. She just waved it away in her mind and glared at Chiz demanding an answer.

“Well,” said Chiz “Oga Kenny and I have discussed it and we’ve decided that based on my performance yesterday – and poor Lucy’s accident of course – I am going to take over ‘Talk Time’! Isn’t this exciting?” They started clapping. Kendrick reached over to enfold her in a hug. Paul-O leapt across the room and patted her on the back, shaking her hand in a complex motion of bumps and slaps. Chiz seemed to know just what to do and at the end of it, there was more clapping. Lucy gripped her crutches tighter. “Oh, it’s only til Lucy gets better of course,” said Chiz, smiling at her. “That’s her baby after all and her audience will miss her, I couldn’t possibly hold down the fort forever.” Lucy loosened her grip but something still worried at the edges of her mind, some niggling doubt was not allowing her to relax.

“I’m not incapable of doing my show. When was this decision taken? Why wasn’t I consulted?”

“Ahem…I am still the manager here Lucy. I decide who handles what shows. Right now, I think you are carrying too much, you don’t need to have all that stress while you concentrate on being better. As soon as you’re back to yourself you can go on.”

“But I only have a twisted ankle for goodness sake! Since when is a twisted ankle a serious disease? I have been doing two shows since I joined. Now you go and give her my show based on her performance on a one hour bit? She hasn’t even been tested.”

“She has more experience than you. I have seen her CV. Chiz, wha are you doing here eh? Why aren’t you with CNN?” said Paul-O. He was trying to lighten to mood but Lucy seized on his point.

“Yes, why aren’t you with CNN?” she asked. “Why is it that you have such a great CV and yet you are not with anyone big? OK, you wanted to work in a local station, why didn’t you go to Nigerian Television Authority or something?” Lucy was breathing hard.

“NTA is a television channel,” said Chiz slowly. “And it’s hardly regional. It’s national. I told you I wanted to observe…”

“We know what you said you wanted to come and do. How come you now seem to be doing anything but observing? First you were a producer for half a day, now you are going to be a presenter, what next, we turn around and you run this place?”

“Lucy, cool down,” said Paul-O.

“I’m not angry, stop telling me to cool down. I’m just wondering what the hell is going on here.”

“You sound angry to me. There is no need to be. I am only trying to help. Look, I don’t need to stand in for you. I am sure someone else would be happy to do it. I just thought that local radio was all about community and you all welcomed me when I came here that I thought I should like to do my bit. I didn’t really have all this growing up.” Chiz dropped her head and studied her hands. It looked as if she was going to cry. Kendrick put an arm around her and glared at Lucy.

“What the hell is wrong with you? How can you be so ungracious to a guest?” His voice dropped lower the angrier he became. “For godssake I know you can be spoilt, but I never thought you could be cruel. Lighten up.”

“My cruel?” Lucy was almost shouting now. “What about her? Can’t you see she’s up to something? She has not even been tested and now we’re turning her on to our airwaves. Am I the only one that can see how that is wrong?”

“As I seem to recall, that bears a strong similarity to how you started out. Only difference is that Chiz is a trained journalist and you are not. Yet, my man Oga Kenny here gave you a chance. Why won’t you do the same for someone else?”

“Oga Kenny gave me a chance because…!” Lucy stopped short. Why had Oga Kenny given her a chance on the air even before she was a week old at the station? Before that, she had spent a few hours here and there doing odd jobs with him, half of which included getting him interviews with people who would no sooner driver over him with their cars than give him the time of day. She knew why. It was her access to people in high places he coveted most of all, both for his professional and personal use. When she had taken over the morning slot, it was with barely a whimper. She didn’t even have a clear idea of what her show was going to be but she had figured it out eventually. And when she wanted to take over the slot after hers, Oga Kenny had told her she could only do so if he paid her a fraction of what he paid the other staff. He let her run everything as long as she kept him happy and it had been their secret ever since. It was an open secret, but a secret nonetheless. Kendrick raised an eyebrow in question. “Because he knew I was good,” Lucy finished weakly.

“Oh really? He knew you were good before he put you on air? And how did he know this exactly seeing as you trained as a Sociologist and had no on air experience?”

“OK, that will do for now,” said Oga Kenny. The topic was straying close to dangerous territory. “I am still the boss here and what I say goes. Chiz will take over ‘Talk Time’ until you are all better, you will continue to do ‘Lucy Loves’ with your special guests here in the studio.”

“It’s only till you are better anyway. I didn’t mean to cause any upset. After all,” Chiz looked up from Kendrick’s embrace and Lucy could see she was far from sad. A light gleamed triumphant in her eyes. Lucy’s breath caught in her throat and she looked around to see if anyone else saw it.

“Oga Kenny will be giving me my own show as soon as you’re better. So get well very soon!” Everyone started clapping again. Paul-O put his fingers to his mouth and whistled. Lucy felt the breath coming hard from her nostrils and knew she was getting dizzy. “I don’t know yet,” she heard Chiz say in response to a question. “I am going to think about it and approach him with any ideas I might have. I don’t know….I think maybe a morning slot?” Lucy decided she had heard enough. She gathered up her crutches and hobbled out of the room.

“Congratulations,” she called to Chiz on her way out. “I think I’ll go do the last ‘Talk Time’, let my audience know that you will be taking over. Or was she starting from today?” She turned to Oga Kenny who nodded.

“She was supposed to but you can do it. Your idea sounds better,” he said. He looked as if he were regretting the last thirty minutes but Lucy would not give him what he needed. She hobbled out without making eye contact with anyone else.

“Sounds solid to me too,” Chiz called from across the room. She turned around and bent down to pick up her helmet from the floor.

“Wow.” Paul-O whispered nudging Kendrick in the ribs. “It’s a wonder you are still alive after the daggers she just shot you. I guess that’s what you get for shitting where you eat. Never date a woman who can kill you with her wallet. Thanks to you guys, we might not be getting presents from her Father Christmas this year.”

“Will you shut up,” growled Kendrick. Chiz knew he was motioning to her with his eyes as he spoke, so she pretended to adjust her shoes. She heard Paul-O chortling.

“Na you sabi. See una abeg.” Chiz finished gathering up her stuff and stood arching and rubbing the small of her back. She turned around. Kendrick was looking at her with a glazed expression on his face. She swatted him. “Stop it,” she said linking her arm through his. “These meetings here are murder on my posture. My back is sore.”

“Yeah, blame the meetings, not that thing you ride.”

Chiz smiled up at him. He smiled back a little broadly, as if he could not believe his good fortune.

“So Kendrick?”

“Mmmhmm?” Chiz spun around to face him, standing on tiptoe. She folded her arms. Chiz was pretty tall but the move made Kendrick feel all of ten feet.

“When are we going to get that drink? I believe you were going to tell me how you came by that accent of yours…”

CHAPTER EIGHT

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Lucy slammed the car door with all her might.

“Make sure you’re back here at 2pm on the dot. I don’t want my ankle to swell.”

The driver nodded and put the car in reverse. Lucy spun on the heel of her good leg and shoved her crutches into place under her arms. She took the stairs one at a time, dragging and clicking into place on each step that by the time she got to the reception, she was sweaty. Lucy stopped before the doors and popped open her bag hanging around her neck to retrieve a white handkerchief. She dabbed her top lip and her chest and cleavage. Her silk blouse returned to its position, gluing itself to her skin. Lucy picked up her compact and looked into it.

‘I look tired’, she thought. She felt tired too. Her arms ached from ways in which she had never used them and it had only been one day since her ‘accident’. She knew she was being silly but she could not help thinking about that whole twisting-her-ankle thing in quotes. She had tried to mention it to her mother and had been brushed aside but not before her mother had looked at her quite severely and asked if she was alright or whether she needed to see a psychiatrist. But Lucy didn’t care what anyone thought, she knew her haunch was right, even if she had no way to prove it. Chiz had planned the whole thing, somehow. It was Chiz’s fault. How else could you explain it? Somehow, the only person who had benefited was Chiz. Chiz this, Chiz that since she got here, Lucy thought, snapping her compact shut. Chiz, Chiz, Chiz.

Lucy pushed open the door to the reception, steadying herself with one hand on the wall and manoeuvring her a crutch in the space between the door, cracking it wider until she could fit. The catch caught her blouse and ripped a hole in it just on top of her breast and Lucy swore.

“Great. What a wonderful day I am having today. Would anyone like to kick me when I’m down?” The strap of her bag cut into the back of her neck. Lucy reached up to unsling it from her neck when she heard applause coming from the meeting room. She hobbled as fast as she could, feeling the ‘thwack, thwack’ of the bag on her breasts as she rounded the corner.

“What are we celebrating?” she asked before she looked up.

“Ah, Lucy. We didn’t expect you back so soon.” Lucy saw that Oga Kenny was standing from foot to foot. He looked ill at ease, as if he had been caught doing something which he should not have been doing. Lucy swiveled her head round the rom; everyone else seemed relaxed, as if they were where they should be. There was Paul-O and Uche and the rest of the sports team, and there was Madam Rose, Kendrick’s producer, writing the minutes and looking as unobtrusive as always and there by the front were Kendrick and … Lucy swallowed in her mind before she could think of her name. Chiz was lounging in her spot, looking for the world as if she owned the place. It seemed to be a normal meeting, so Lucy could not understand the reason Oga Kenny would flash guilt at her. Was it because ever since her ‘accident’ nobody had called to ask how she was doing? She looked at him again. He definitely seemed nervous. What was it?

“Lucy,” said Oga Kenny finally. “We did not expect you back for a while. Hope you’re taking it easy?”

“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you Oga Kenny, especially as you all seem to be getting on very well without me to spoil your fun.” Lucy was sure she felt the room gasp even though she knew it was impossible. She had been rude to Oga Kenny before but never in front of other people. It was their unspoken agreement. She could look down on him as long as she did not openly take advantage of his good nature. Oga Kenny frowned.

“I’m sorry, that came out sounding worse than I meant it to sound Oga Kenny. It’s just I am in so much pain, I don’t know what I am saying half the time now.” Oga Kenny did not look convinced. He turned back to the room as if to resume what he was saying. Lucy stood by the door. Her nostrils flared at the casual dismissal but she was unwilling to apologise any more. See Oga Kenny the longathroat  that she frequently gave freebies to. Who did he think he was, turning his back on her? The room watched as Lucy quivered on her crutches defying them all to say something. It was Chiz that came to her rescue.

“Hey Lucy, good to see you feeling better. That was quite a fall yesterday huh? You’re such a star for coming in today.”

“Yes, Lucy. Such a star,” echoed Paul-O. His tone was mocking.

“You know Oga Kenny got us all to sign this card. He was saying how he had to drop by your house to give it to you after work today. But since you’re here…” Chiz trailed off and reached behind her to produce a card. Lucy felt horrible and turned to face Oga Kenny but he refused to make eye contact.

“Thank you,” she said. Oga Kenny gave a slight nod. Lucy noted his nose sticking in the air and her anger returned. He was wearing the knitted tie she gave him during Christmas two years ago. It was one of her father’s castoffs which she had rescued and given to him because she thought he would like it. Now he was having airs above his station?

“Ahem,” Oga Kenny cleared his throat. “Let us continue please. Welcome back, Lucy. So, as I was saying, the Commissioner for Youth and Sports sent us this case of champagne because he was so impressed with the way our Chiz asked questions of him and was so stimulated when she didn’t agree with his points of view…”

“I bet she stimulated him alright,” Lucy muttered to herself. She pictured Chiz in her sports gear and hissed.

“What was that Lucy?” Paul-O called across the room. He sounded breathy. Lucy looked at him and saw that he knew what she was thinking.

“What was what?”

“I thought I heard you hiss? Was there something you wanted to say?”

“How could you hear me all the way over there? Besides, can’t you see I’m in pain? What are you the Hiss Master General? Do I have to take permission from you every time I have to express pain?”

“Were you in pain then?”

“Yes, you’re a pain in my__!”

“That’s enough. We don’t have time for that today. Yes, so the commissioner says in his card here that Chiz was so respectful in her disagreement with certain points that he was challenged and motivated. He will be out guest again when ever we want. Three cheers for Chiz. Hip! Hip!”

“HOORAY!”

“Hip! Hip!”

“HOORAY!”

“Hip! Hip!”

“HOORAY”

“Guys, com’on. Don’t be silly. I did what anyone of us would do. This is embarrassing,” Chiz said, tugging in her hair. She had worn it loose again and it had grown a little, he back of her corkscrew curls tickling the skin on the top of her shoulders.

“Well, ‘Anyone’ didn’t do it. You did. And that’s not all.” Oga Kenny held up his hands for silence. “The commissioner for Health sent us this.” He picked up the box which had all this time been lying at his feet and out it on the table. Oga Kenny picked up his bunch of keys from the table top and pressed into the Sellotape seal with one of his eyes. The seal broke with a pleasing pop. He reached in and pulled out a blue piece of material.

“Mosquito nets?” Lucy threw back her head and started to laugh. She let it die into a throat tic and cleared her throat when nobody else joined her.

“Not just any mosquito net, Lucy. Insecticide-treated mosquito nets!”

“Wow. That’s very thoughtful of her,” said Chiz.

“Thoughtful? I think not. Are you sure it’s not part of the Unicef allocation for our state? You know, the ones that nobody seems to remember getting from any government official?”

“Paul-O that’s no very nice,” Chiz said, but she was smiling.

“Nice or not, that’s the truth. How are we supposed to sleep at night knowing full well that there are poor women and children in this state dying of malaria because they did not get what was theirs?”

“You can always try to find them and give them yours, if you’re so concerned, ” Kendrick said.

“What? And get malaria again? No thank you. Do you know how many sachets of chloroquine I had to buy the last time? These pharmacists will not keep chopping my money, abeg.”

“OK, I know we’re laughing btu we should seriously try to give those over to people who will need them. I already know who will get mine.” Chiz was no longer laughing. There was a look on her face, as if she dared anyone to take a contrary stance. She didn’t look threatening in any way but something about the way she used her eyes made you know she would be very very disappointed if you didn’t give yours away.

“Yes, yes, fine. We can make a collective gift of it I guess. How about the Motherless Babies’ home on Agbani road?”Paul-O asked.

“I’m sorry. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of it all? Those thief-thief attendants will just take them and sell,” someone said. The room erupted in noise as suggestions were thrown and batted away. Oga Kenny clapped his hands for order.

“You can put your suggestions in the opinion box. Finally we will make good use of it. That box is yet to pay for itself ever since my nephew made it in his carpentary class.”

“Maybe while we do that, we could find someone else to give the bottles of champagne to. I mean, it’s not like its even real champagne,” said Lucy, joining in for the first time.

The whole room went quiet.

I’m out of town!

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Guys,
So sorry not to have updated but I’m out of town, no time to sit, hectic schedule. Just found an O2 cloud spot to type this out on my phone and tempted to continue typing up novel with one hand as I miss Chiz/Lucy drama so much but that would take ages and my baby might starve!
So here’s to tomorrow. And think of all the words I’ll have to write. Two days worth. I can’t wait!