Tuesday, 5 February 2019

The Plan (pt. 2)

Click Here for Part 1

Uncle Chudi’s gravelly voice droned on, but Ikenna was not listening anymore, his mind had drifted once more to thoughts of food. 

They were standing by the corner of a busy walkway, his uncle and him. From there, they could observe passers-by without being noticed, being partially shielded by the wooden canteen beside which they stood. This was a very busy part of the city, and noisy too. It was close to a popular bus-stop and the sounds of traffic clamoured over the strident voices of bus conductors as they called out for passengers. 

If there was any expectation of Ikenna’s that the city lived up to, it was being a busy hive in which people hustled about their business ceaselessly. Lots of people had gone past his uncle and him as they stood there by the side of the canteen, but not one had paused to wonder what a grown man was doing there with a young boy that ought to be in school. In the city, everyone minded their own business. 

Uncle Chudi’s voice suddenly rang out, snapping Ikenna out of his thoughts. He was pointing at a woman who was walking towards them. “She looks nice enough to give you audience. Hurry over to her before she notices us.”

 Ikenna sprang into action, spurred more by fear than anything else. He made a beeline for the woman his uncle had pointed out. She was about the same age as his mother, tubby and light-skinned. She had a large polythene bag in each of her hands, which showed she was her way back from the market.

“Please ma,” Ikenna addressed her, trying to sound as pathetic as his uncle had ordered. “I am lost and…”

But the woman did not let him finish his statement. She shrieked at him in Yoruba, a scowl transforming her face, and even though he could not understand the words she issued, he knew she was shooing him off. Before he could recover from the shock of such an unexpected reaction from her, she crossed the road hastily as though chased by dogs.

Ikenna blinked in confusion, wondering what he had done wrong and dreading going back to his uncle. Tears streaking down his cheeks in anticipation of Uncle Chudi’s anger, he dredged up the courage to turn back. But at that moment, a female voice sounded to his right, enquiring, “What’s wrong? Are you lost?”

He looked up to see a young lady standing beside him; she was tall with a kind, pretty face. For a moment Ikenna was dumbfounded, he did not know what to tell this lady. She was not part of the plan.

“Are you lost?” she repeated.

Ikenna nodded, lips trembling.

“I thought as much. Was that what you were trying to tell that woman?”

He nodded again and stared down at his feet.

“Okay. Do you know the name of your street? I can help you find your way back home.”

For a moment Ikenna did not know what to say. Then he remembered what his uncle had told him to say. “I don’t know the name of the street. I come from the village few days ago to stay with my relatives and…”

The lady sighed and shook her head sadly. “So what are we going to do now? I might end up having to take you to the police station.”

“I only know the street is close to the cinema, but I don’t know road to go there by myself,” Ikenna quickly added.

Ehn ehn. That’s better now. There’s a cinema not too far from here, I guess that’s the one you are talking about. Come on, let me take you there,” the lady volunteered, and she grabbed him by the hand.

Ikenna found himself staring at the lady again and again as they trudged towards the said cinema. He liked her already and thought she was a very nice person. After the way the first woman had treated him, he was much aware of her kindness and deeply appreciated it.

“What’s your name?” the lady asked when she caught him staring at her.

“Ikenna,” came his shy response. Then he added on impulse, “You nko, Aunty?

“Njideka. You can call me Aunty Njideka.”

What a beautiful name Ikenna thought, suits her so well.

“How old are you?”

“Twelve years old,” he replied hesitantly.

“You look younger than that.” She was right, with his tiny frame and malnourished state, he looked more than three years younger than his age.

When they arrived at the cinema, Ikenna pointed at the alley just like his uncle had instructed, saying, “Aunty, I have remembered again. That road leads to my street.” 

“That dark place?” she stopped in her tracks. “Are you sure?” 

Ikenna could only nod. He wished he did not have to lie again and again to this nice lady, but he just had to go along with Uncle Chudi’s plan. He must have a good reason for asking him to tell these lies.

“Okay, let’s walk faster then. That alley is notorious…”

In a few strides, they were right inside the alley, moving at a faster pace than before while Ikenna pondered on Aunty Njideka’s last statement. What was the narrow road notorious for? Indeed, it didn’t look like a nice place to be in; it was bordered by two rows of tall buildings that cut out the sunlight, and it was deserted. 

They had only gone about half way through the alley when Ikenna saw a dark figure approaching them.  In a few more paces, it turned out to be Uncle Chudi. Ikenna smiled, relieved that his assignment was over; the alley was beginning to unsettle him. When Uncle Chudi got to them, he roughly seized hold of the lady’s arm and shoved her to an even darker part of the alley. “Well done, Ikenna. You did a good job,” he said as he did this.

Ikenna was astounded. Why was Uncle Chudi treating Aunty Njideka so badly? Was this part of the plan? He heard her give out a hurt sound and even in the semi-darkness of the alley, he could see the disappointed look on her face as she said to him, “So you lured me here? And I just wanted to help you.”

The Story Continues>>> Click Here For Part 3

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