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It was the Monday after Kelvin returned to campus that his mother got a quit notice from her landlord.
The widowed Mrs Babalola was shocked and devastated. It was a notice to quit in three months; yet it was so sudden and unexpected.
Her family’s rent was only due in six months and here she was being evicted before time.
She imagined how she was going to manage moving out and searching for a good apartment in town within three months.
The rigours of moving out to find another good place were daunting enough.
Somewhere in the deep recesses of her bosom, she wished she had her own house, a place she could call a permanent home.
But that was a remote need, anyway. A pressing immediate need was getting enough money to move to a new rented apartment in three months.
Nothing was more urgent.
She thought to call Kelvin and let him know about the family’s plight. But she didn’t want to bother him yet with this.
She thought the worry she’d cause him might affect his studies.
She had no idea how so much Kelvin made from regular writing and ghostwriting, poetry performance contests, guest appearances on shows and an investment of a sort.
Kelvin was more of a secretive lad. Nobody had a clue.
Kelvin’s mother wanted to plead with the landlord, Baba Jos.
The man had said he needed to use the apartment and had assured her of returning her bill for the months she’d no longer the apartment, out of her one year rent.
But she knew there was more to the notice to quit than meets the eye. Both parties knew the unspoken reason behind the drama.
But then, Mrs Babalola wanted to give it a try to tug at the heartstrings of Baba Jos brazen chest. If perhaps he would reconsider.
She went to him with the notice to quit in her hand, her eyes keenly imploring and her other hand clutching a worn silvery grey purse.
She sat on a small bench next to him, when he didn’t offer her a seat.
Would she have to look for another apartment again? She was just a school teacher who could only undertake sizeable projects by taking loans from cooperative societies.
She did spend her savings on her daughters’ tuition fee. And she had no one to be her backbone since the family lost its breadwinner, her husband.
Baba Jos sat reclined in a deckchair, unmoved and un-persuaded. He drummed his finger on the arm of his seat and shook his head, humming a line or two.
He enjoyed that anxious, jittery feeling he was causing to the beautiful forty-some woman. He loved to watch her plead.
He interposed. ‘Oh, that! Is three months not enough to find a new apartment, madam? I told you I’ll return the money for the remaining months; didn’t I, madam?’
He decided to use the manner of speaking; he wanted to sound rather formal this time.
There was a smack in his face when he spoke those words, and which soon turned into a grin. ‘I want to use the apartment. I am getting a pretty young woman for me and I’ll need a good place for her.’
Those words hit Mrs Babalola as heavily as they were hurled at her.
That’s it. This is what everything’s about. I said it.
Her presumptions were true.
Baba Jos had earlier been making amorous advances at Mrs Babalola since she became his tenant.
His wife and twin children were based in Abidjan where they trade, and they came home about once in two years.
Also, he’d retired early from his construction business in Jos and settled quietly to one of his residential estates in Joba.
Mrs Babalola loathed the idea of being Baba Jos’ mistress. She’d shunned his several advances in no equivocal terms.
She didn’t want to have that sort of help: she didn’t want financial security in the warmth of his amorous arms.
She didn’t want to render him a help, too: to be his bedmate while his wife was abroad.
Mrs Babalola had had enough. This was one of the times she wished to God she’d built a house.
It was one of the few times the fact that she’d got no place she could really call her family’s very own home brought a sting of tear to her lovely dark eyes.
Her husband was about to buy a land in Joba and build his family a house when he fell terminally ill. The family had spent all they had to keep him with them.
And there was eventually nothing left for the little family when he died.
Mrs Babalola swallowed, and then she put up an expressionless look. ‘We will leave your flat in three months, Baba Jos.’
Baba Ibeji glanced at her with a frozen smile.
She brought out from her purse two copies of paper he’d earlier given her, and she appended her signature on them.
She handed him one. ‘Here—you’ll be fulfilling your side of the contract, returning our remaining three month rent.’
He laughed hysterically. ‘Of course! Why not? I just need my apartment for my pretty young woman.’ He gave her a teasing eye.
A call came in on his Samsung Galaxy tablet and he laughed some more. ‘Talk of the devil!’ he said, signaling with a hand pointed at his tablet beeping.
Mrs Babalola felt rather awkward. She turned around. ‘You’ll, please, excuse me.’
‘Nah, nah, nah!’ Baba Jos blared. ‘You wait, madam. I still have some things I like you to know.’
Mrs Babalola had never been more infuriated. But she managed to keep her head cool, sitting with her arms folded across her chest.
Baba Jos picked up his call, plugging an earpiece into his ears.
‘Hello, baby girl!’ His smile was as bright as morning light.
Mrs Babalola only looked away and made her mind wander aimlessly.
A long silence of tensed attentiveness passed from this end of the phone conversation, and Baba Jos resumed only with an impassioned plea for a pretty someone to reconsider leaving him that soon.
It was what brought Mrs Babalola back to the ongoing drama around her. She made sure she took in all of it.
Baba Jos became aware of Mrs Babalola lingering presence, as though he never made her stay. He had spilt out so much from the manner he begged the young damsel on the phone.
He’d lost the fight before it started.
And everything was playing out in the full glare of the woman he’d wanted to spite.
He felt very awkward and altogether embarrassed. But he didn’t want to hang up yet; he wanted to beg some more.
But then, he could tell that her young blood would never change her mind from their conversation.
He felt devastated, yet he wanted to beg some more.
‘You may leave please; I’m sorry for keeping you waiting,’ he said to Mrs Babalola.
It was Mrs Babalola’s turn to act some melodrama. ‘Oh excuse me?’ she whispered in a barely audible voice.
‘I said you may leave.’
‘Oh, I thought you wanted to tell me something important, Baba Jos…’
Baba Jos only hissed, got up and turned inside.
Mrs Babalola stood up, her arms akimbo; and she had a very good laugh.
It was her turn to amuse herself.
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Copyright © 2019 by Kayode Olla