Solomon yawned lazily and rolled on the king sized bed. The couple in the degas above him starred undauntedly into the distance as he fought the urge to get up from the bed. The alarm clock on the bedside table rang a second time after the snooze period had elapsed and he sighed; accepting defeat. He kept out of the bed and stretched, stifling a yawn as he did. Outside, the sun was now where to be found and the world was still just waking at some minutes past six. This was his routine every day. He breathed and lived it.
Solomon sauntered towards the nine-foot tall mirror and examined his reflection. He ran a quick diagnosis of himself like he had seen his boss do.
Heavy eye bags; not enough sleep.
Dampened complexion; result of returning home late every day from the hospital
And some wrinkles on his forehead; no lady influence. He hoped.
He had to remedy that. Now.
He plucked his phone from the bedside table, opened the call log and scrolled down to ‘Head Doctor Suleiman’. He proceeded to click the dial button but was interrupted as the alarm clock rung again.
“Shit.” He cursed and hurriedly stopped the clock from emitting its silence-shattering wake up call. He looked at his phone in disbelief and shook his head. Calling his boss who was probably nestled in a cuddle with his retired wife at six would have resulted in deep scolding. Not from his boss alone but from his wife too, who he was affiliated with. A query might even accompany the scolding not minding whether he was the hospital’s most promising prospect or not.
He returned the phone to its previous position and shuddered as someone knocked on the bedroom door. Florence. He had forgotten about that part of the routine.
“Mr. Grundy Junior Sir.” Her warm voice coursed into the room from the corridor preceding it.
“Yes mummy.” He answered wearily. He heard her chuckle and smiled.
Florence had been the main figure in his life as he grew over the years. Employed some weeks after his christening, he had watched her bath and cater for him every morning and evening till he was four and able to bath himself. Even then, she didn’t stop taking care of him. Coiled with his father’s official assignments in Britain and his mother’s insistence in accompanying him, Florence had been the principal guardian in his life. Hence, they weren’t any surprised persons when his first words were “mummy…mummy” and they were directed at her. The same words he just called her some moments ago.
“You know you don’t have to call me that Sir.” She paused and Solomon waited for the next question she would ask. The same one he had heard every morning for the past two and a half years since he got employed at the hospital.
“Do I get Wale to get the car ready sir?”
“No dear, I’m not going to work today.”
“Why, if I may ask Sir?”
“I need some rest… and a woman.” He added after another thought.
“Of course you do- Sir.”
He wondered if she took offence at his sudden suggestion of requiring another woman in his life asides him. He walked to the door and opened it. Her petite frame stood just outside the archway. He noticed her dark skin had gotten fairer over the years due to hours on hours spent indoors. Time spent catering for him, like his parents should have. He gritted his teeth and she frowned.
“What’s wrong sir?”
She shot him a knowing look. One he had seen over the years. It always came before her placing him on her laps and scanning his body like a detective for wounds and bruises either dealt him from his rough play with the other kids or from the fists and boots of bullies. Sadly, she couldn’t do that anymore. And he didn’t have bullied on his back or little kids to run around with. This bruise was psychological and her resolute sigh told him she knew so too.
“If you say so sir… May I ask where you’ll be headed then?”
“Nowhere. I intend to stay home and rest.”
She smiled. Or did she? He wasn’t sure. It had vanished as quickly as it appeared.
“I thought…” she cleared her throat. “I thought you needed a woman.”
“I have all the ‘woman’ I need right here in my view.”
“Ha-ha!” She exclaimed in a mocked laughter. “Wash up and get dressed. Breakfast would be ready in an hour and a half… Sir.”
“You don’t have to address me as such Florence.”
“Of course I don’t but I prefer it that way. An hour and a half Solomon, don’t be late.” She said and headed downstairs.
He felt warmness in his chest as she called his name. Something he hadn’t felt in ages. Before she went down the stairs she looked at him one last time and he shone his teeth at her like he always did to show he had been a good boy.
* * *
Solomon trudged down the stairs approximately an hour and a half later as she had said. Florence’s smile grew broader as the floor above her shuddered gently with each step he too. She made finishing touches to the dining table and disappeared through the door that led to the kitchen. Solomon came into view in a blue shirt and grey slacks as he climbed down the last stairs and entered the vast dining room. The dining table which could sit eight, twelve on a full day carried sets of plates, cutlery, bowls and food.
“You know it’s just me eating right?” He asked as she appeared from the kitchen.
“I know.” She didn’t add the customary Sir or his name and it bothered him a little.
“Join me Florence. I hate eating alone.” He said as she was about to leave. She shot him a look as if to ask if he was sure of what he had just said and he nodded. She shrugged and picked the seat closest to his. They ate in silence, occasionally stealing glances at each other.
“You need a woman Solomon.” Florence said as they rounded up their meal.
He choked on his food and struggled to swallow. “A woman? I thought I have you.”
“Ha-ha… I’m serious Solomon. I watch you come home every day, in the dead of the night with a long face and tired arms. You basically just shower and collapse on your bed. A woman could help relieve you of the stress.”
He dropped his fork and folded his arms. He wanted to speak but his throat felt constricted.
“Won’t you say anything?”
“Okay.” He managed to say agreeing with her deduction. “I’ll work on that.”
“Of course you would.” She suddenly had a wry smile on her face and Solomon knew he was in for it. “I’ve asked Wale to get ready the Honda… you’re going out today.”
He thought to speak but decided against it. She pretty much had her mind made up. He won’t give in easily though.
“Why the Honda if I might ask?” He hoped it sounded as sarcastic as it did in his head. “What’s wrong with the Peugeot or the Range?”
Her sly grin in return told him all he needed to know. He had failed.
“Because young beautiful ladies like a handsome young man in a Honda. Go to your room now, get dressed and get out there and bring me a beautiful bride.”
She pushed her chair back beneath her, got up and started ridding the table of the dirty plates and cutlery. Solomon hesitated and watched her hoping she would turn to look at him and say she was joking. She ignored his presence and he got up defeated and strode upstairs to get dressed. Mummy has spoken. He had to get a wife. A beautiful one at that.
* * *
Solomon walked into the open hall of the Ikeja City Mall in a black shirt and grey pants and duly observed its interior. Dozens of people flooded in and out of the complex oblivious of his watching eyes. A young lady in jeans and a yellow t-shirt caught his eyes and he turned away from her to face another few looking. He had known this would happen. No matter how much they had seen white men, black people just had to take another glance. He turned again and watched the earlier lady climb the exterior stairs to the gallery above. He blamed Florence for his predicament and stepped outside through the revolving door.
It was barely 10 am and he had to get going if he was to accomplish what Florence had sent him out to do. The noise around him heightened and he decided to take a short break. He put on his glasses that managed to hide the bright blue color of his eyes and sauntered into KFC. He ordered a mini sized burger and a Pepsi and picked his spot at the extreme end of the restaurant just in view of the flat screen TV that had Beyoncé running along seashore and the world outside the restaurant. He took a sip from the Pepsi with a straw and scanned the other occupants of the restaurant.
An old woman, probably in her fifties sat at a table with two kids a boy and a girl. She sighed for the umpteenth time as she struggled to get both of them to sit. Solomon glanced at the empty bottles of Pepsi on the table and figured why she was having a tough time getting hyperactive kids to sit. The girl who looked older and much harder to restrain hopped to a nearby table that sat a young lady in a maroon dress. She beamed a glowing smile at the young girl and said something that made her giggle. Solomon smiled as he watched both of them and froze when she caught his stare. She smiled at him and turned her attention back to the girl not before she winked. Or did she? He wasn’t sure. He clasped his hands and tried to affirm what he had just witnessed wasn’t a figment of his imagination. Only one way to figure out, he decided. He adjusted his glasses grabbed his tray of food and sauntered in the direction of her table.
As he got closer the tray wobbled as his hands got clammy and held his breath to hide the effect of his racing heart on his chest. Her long black hair was tied behind her in a bun and the crane of her nose glistened in the light as she bent to whisper something in the girl’s ear.
“Hi.” His voice croaked and he bit his lower lip. She raised her head to look at him and he exhaled in his bid to avoid opening his mouth in amazement. She was beautiful. Her eyes shone brightly and her smile had his racing heart up a gear.
“Hello.” She replied gleefully.
“May I join you?” He sighed in relief as his voice sounded better although he could have sworn he held cowardice in it.
“I guess so.” She crossed her legs, putting the right one over the left with so much grace that it had him reeling in admiration. He placed his tray on the table gently and took his seat opposite her. A couple of boys passed by and ogled at him like he was an alien but he feigned ignorance.
“I’m Solomon… Solomon Grundy.” He held out his hand. She hesitated raised her eyebrows and shook it. It felt warm in his and he felt a chill down his spine.
“And I’m Little-Red… Little-Red Riding-Hood.” They laughed and he stroked his hand under the table to calm himself.
“Apparently, you don’t like giving strangers your name.”
“Neither do you.” She started swinging the handing foot and studied his eyes under his glasses.
“What do you mean? I told you my name.” She bent her head in a forty-five degrees angle and her eyes opened in amazement.
“Wait… you’re not kidding. Your name is Solomon Grundy?!”
“Like the rhyme?”
“Oh…” He smiled now realizing why she had given him a fake name. One from an old fable akin to his. “Well yes it is. Just like the rhyme.”
“Let me guess you were born on a Monday?”
“Hmm… and were you by any chance christened on a Tuesday?” A glint had appeared in her eyes and a mischievous grin played at the corners of her mouth.
“Shut the front door! Any chance you’re going to marry today?” He squinted and she quickly added “… seeing today is Wednesday.” He laughed and she smiled that glowing smile again.
The old woman stood up to leave and the kids tugged at her arms but she dragged them nonetheless. The girl waved at the lady and poked her tongue at him. He poked his right back at her and grinned.
“Huh? Did you just call me beast?”
“Well, yea. You just poked your tongue at a small girl. That’s mean.” She folded her hands and looked straight at him.
He laughed and stopped when he noticed she didn’t join him.
“I’m sorry, I was only teasing her.”
“I’ve heard.” She waved him away and drank from a bottle of water with a straw.
“And I’m not mean, I’m just annoyingly sarcastic.”
“Really?” The mischievous grin was back on her face. “Say something sarcastic.”
“Err…you have to make a statement first.”
“Hmm. . .Okay. I love your blue eyes. They fit your tanned skin perfectly.”
“I know…” He said as calm as he could. “I can’t help it, I love them too.”
He laughed again. This time she joined him.
To be continued
Apparently, this episode lengthened beyond my control. So, I decided to break it into two parts. The second would be posted today. Thanks for reading.