As they drove away from Toyosi’s, Deinde suddenly felt lucid. He glanced sideways and saw his briefcase beside him, and realised he needed to drop off the divorce papers. Shade had signed them without protesting, and all he needed do was give them to his lawyers. he leaned forward and told his driver to take him there, and then fell into a deep sleep, exhausted from the day’s trauma. His driver’s voice awoke him a while later, and he stumbled from the car, clutching the A4 envelope that held the documents in his hand.
The driver stared after his oga broodingly, and then his eyes lit up as a daring idea struck him. His wife and children were in Togo, and he sent money home to them whenever he could. He had heard of people who stole their employer’s cars, but the idea had never occurred to him before today. Without giving himself time to debate the issue, he slipped the car into gear, and moved off smoothly as if he were setting off on an errand. He made small talk with the security guards as they opened the gates for him, and then immediately headed for the border, knowing that Deinde was not in a fit state to raise any alarm convincingly.
Deinde came out of the office thirty minutes later, after having being assured that his divorce was as good as done. He blinked in disbelief as he looked at the space where his car had been parked, and then he turned round to stare at each of the parked cars to see if his driver had changed position to avoid sitting in the sun. He reached in his pocket for his phone to call the driver, then realised he had left it on his briefcase when he’d retrieved the documents. He had never bothered to memorise the driver’s number, and so had no way of reaching him even if he borrowed a phone.
A loud clap of thunder suddenly rent the sky, and seconds later,the heavens opened with torrential rain, soaking his shirt through. He dashed towards the gate to ask if the guards had seen his driver, and as he did so, his sanity departed from him. They were huddled together in the small room that served as their guard post, and at first paid no attention to the man who gibbered at them in the rain. Eventually though, they managed to understand that he was asking about his car. they looked at each other in disbelief, as he appeared to be having several conversations simultaneously. Eventually, just in case he was truly a client of one of the firms housed in the building they guarded as he claimed even though he could not name which one, they had a whip round and handed him N200 for an okada. One of them ventured out to open the pedestrian gate for him, and then waved him on his way.
Deinde had enough presence of mind to decide to go home, and he flagged down the next okada that hooted at him. He leapt on the pillion after muttering his address, and the motorcyclist took off through the rain, dementedly dashing in between cars at will as though he had a death wish.
Toyosi and Deidre were seated in a modest living room as Deidre poured out her story for the second time that day. Toyosi had decided to take her to the house of her house fellowship leader, Kolade, as she knew his schedule, and figured he’d be home. She was being protective of Deidre’s reputation, and didn’t want to risk taking her to church where loads of tongues were sure to wag in a ‘sisterly’ fashion. Kolade sighed as Deidre finished, and then closed his eyes in silent prayer.
‘It is just as Toyosi has told you, you have to shave your hair off’ he announced as he opened his eyes ‘Are you ready to do it now?’.
‘Here?’ Deidre stuttered, then as she remembered the sensation of the hair being ripped from her scalp, she hurriedly said ‘yes, I am ready.’
‘Bukola’ he called. ‘Yes dear’ his wife answered, and then she made a great show of entering the room, as if she had not been standing behind the door the whole while, listening avidly to every word. ‘Please get me a pack of razors, and some old newspapers’ he requested, and as she left, he bowed his head and began to pray silently.
Bukola muttered to herself as she went to get the razors. She had only married Kolade because she had heard that being a church official was one of the fastest ways to become wealthy in Nigeria, but her husband puzzled her. He actually seemed to believe the Bible, and never accepted any gifts that were given to him by members of the clergy. He believed that by putting his energy into his phone card recharge business which was his day job, and by working hard, the financial rewards would come in eventually. Any time the house fellowship members tried to put envelopes of cash in his hand, he always resisted, telling them ‘use it for the good of your family instead’ or something to the like, and Bukola was fed up to the back teeth with this.
She day-dreamed of the time he would give up his job and go into the ministry full-time so she too could become a First Lady, and have people fawning over her. ‘Silly man’ she muttered as she heard him calling to ask if she could not find the razors. She fixed a smile on her face, and hurried to give him, then stood at a distance as he rubbed anointing oil into his hands and proceeded to shave Deidre.
Bukola gasped silently as the wefts of hair fell and seemed to writhe on the newspapers he had spread on the floor. She was going for a wedding with her friends the next day, and she could just imagine their envy if she showed up with that hair. Deidre wept quietly but was otherwise silent as the blade passed over her scalp, and finally, the full contours of her head were revealed as the last clump fell. The sense of foreboding that had seemed as familiar as her own shadow lifted from her in the same instance, and she knew she was free.
Kolade started to kneel to wrap the hair up in the newspaper, but his suddenly helpful wife dashed forward and said ‘Leave it dear, you have done enough. I’ll get rid of this for you.’ ‘It has to be burned’ he said, and she promised to see to it without delay. She scurried outside, and the smell of burn hair soon pervaded the air in the small living room.
The wraiths were going mad with inactivity. They had tried to reach Deidre before she had entered the apartment, but had been unable to. Ijawunmi had declared she was ready to give up her life force just to sink her teeth in Deidre’s throat, and the thought of the inevitable bloodbath whipped them up into great excitement. They shrieked as the door opened and the friends emerged, but then fell silent. Deidre was untouchable. The hair that had given them the right to attack her was gone, and there was no way to reach her. Instead of just sheltering in the light that radiated from Toyosi, she seemed to radiate a faint glow too, and they ripped at each other in anger and frustration. A piercing scream rent the air, and they all stopped to stare at their leader. ‘Our hair is still there’ she shrieked as she pointed at the door, and they huddled together as they tried to figure out what was happening.
Shade was hoarse from praying. She decided to have some ice-cold Fanta and was opening the fridge as her phone rang. ‘We have received the papers’ her solicitor sang out, ‘you’re a free woman.’ She felt a wave of sadness and inexplicable relief sweep over her, and foregoing a glass, she lifted the bottle to her mouth and swigged a few mouthfuls before setting it down with a sigh. ‘Now what?’ she asked, and the answer came to her softly, ‘Still you pray.’
Deinde felt as though he was flying. Cars whizzed past in a dizzying kaleidoscope of colours as his demon driver seemingly engaged in a duet with death. He went past cars so closely that Deinde’s arms brushed against them. The driver threw his head back and laughed maniacally as a molue driver cursed him, and hurtled onwards in sheer abandon. He was a Sango worshipper, and had seen a vision of loveliness in his dreams last night. She had told him to pick up this very passenger, and had whispered promises of untold delights into his ears as he slept. All he could think of was her, and it was towards the promised destination he hurried as though his life depended on it. Neither he nor Deinde saw the runaway danfo that skidded towards them as its brakes failed. Just before it hit them, Deinde glanced around to see it bearing down on them. He raised his arm as if to ward off the vehicle, and in the ensuing collision, his hand was neatly severed at the wrist as he was flung a distance away by the impact. The motorcycle driver lay mangled under the danfo, and the shaken occupants clambered out as quickly as they were able.
A LUTH staff bus happened to be passing by, and the student doctors applied a tourniquet to the unconscious Deinde’s stump, and then took him with them as they headed towards the hospital, thankful for the opportunity to practice their skills in the field. Shade woke up slowly, not knowing how or when she had fallen asleep. All she knew was that she was no longer required to pray for Deinde, the burden had been lifted.
Bukola smiled to herself as she packed for her weekend away. The wefts of hair were carefully tucked between the folds of her aso-ebi, she knew exactly at which salon she was going to have her weave fixed. She couldn’t wait.