I lie lazily on the bed and watch Kamsi throw in her day’s wages into this really big nude colored bag. She’s been gone all day and would not answer her phone or even reply my texts. Then she comes home with bundles of Naira notes and two bundles of hundred dollar notes as well. “I owe you dinner; nwanne m. Didn’t mean to abandon you. My uncle is in town. The one I told you I work for? Had to go and balance some accounts. So I was tied down all day. Ndo”. Her eyes are darting around the room and she carefully avoids eye contact while gesticulating ever so intensely. All signs of a chronic liar. I’ve been watching Lie to Me and Lightman has taught me a couple of things. Well wetin concern agbero with overload? My friend wants to buy me dinner, so be it!
“Nne, you can’t go out like that o. Please wear shorts or something trendier,” Kamsi said as she shooed me back into the room and emptied my little box. “Adaobi Okafor, you no carry baffs come? You never know who you’ll meet in this town. Hmmm…,” she picks through my little box as though I was a village girl who just arrived Lagos on a boy-boy mission. This annoys me, but I try to hold my own. “Kamsi, we are going to eat, aren’t we? I came here for a meeting and so I packed for that. Leave me alone jare”. I pull my box from her grip and ignore the silly smirk on her face as I take one last glance at myself. Not bad at all. I am wearing a pair of skinny jeans and a Hawes and Curtis shirt that flatters my lithe figure. To elevate my 5feet 7 frame, I wear heels and carry a complimentary cheap (but not cheap-looking) version of a Birkin bag. For an average working class girl, I don’t look bad.
Dinner turns out okay and I relish my Spaghetti Carbonara. We are at an Italian restaurant, Il Soriso, in Lagos. Unfortunately, it’s a bad one for her as she does not know or like anything on the menu. She manages to eat some Spaghetti Bolognese but she does not enjoy it one bit. We share a bottle of Veuve Cliquot and relive our Federal Government Girls’ College Owerri days. We haven’t seen each other in 15years. We reconnected on Facebook last year, but our busy lives still made a physical reunion impossible till now. I live in Portharcourt and she, in Lagos. On our way out, she picks up a bowl of Nkwobi from Yellow Chilli, an upscale African restaurant, next door. We reminisce on our teenage years when we would scale the school fence to go to Kamsi’s mother’s pepper soup joint to enjoy isi-ewu and nkwobi. On Okigwe road, Kamsi’s mother’s goat meat pepper soup was the most popular and I could testify that it was to die for! However, it wasn’t only the pepper soup that took us there, but also the constant flow of fine boys from FUTO. That gradually steers us to the one topic I’ve been avoiding.
“Nne, I heard some things on the facebook group, but I thought it best to ask you first.” The words are heavy and I don’t even know if I am doing the right thing. She shoots me a look I cannot define, and bluntly says, “You want to know whether I am an aristo girl or not, okwa ya? Who is an aristo girl? What gives any of those self-righteous pretentious girls the right to judge me? Please you are here to have a good time, don’t bother yourself with gossip!” She does a sharp 180° turn and next thing I know, we are at Caliente dancing the night away. She buys a bottle of Dom Perignon and whispers in my ear, “Let me treat you like an aristo would.” We laugh and keep dancing till the wee hours of the morning. I feel so sleepy and so does Kamsi, so we climb into her Range Rover Sport to take a quick nap before heading to her VGC home. Thank God it’s Saturday morning, so I can sleep in tomorrow before heading back to PH.
Kamsi says she has to go to her uncle’s place again on Saturday afternoon. Her purple shorts and matching killer heels tell me she must have a lot of “work” to do at her uncle’s place. I ask no further questions and decide to go do some shopping while she is gone. She recommends some shops. I know I will not go to those places where a pair of jeans costs NGN40,000.00 and above and a pair of shoes cost as much as my monthly salary. She drops me off at the Red Cab Park and heads off to her ‘office’. As I get out of her car, she dips her hand into the nude colored bag and pulls some NGN1000 notes. “How much do you think your cab will cost, eh Nne? “I’m fine, my dear. I got it covered.” I smiled and rubbed the back of my friend’s palm. She was still the same kind hearted girl I met many years ago. “Sweetie, money is to be spent. Don’t be shy o!” We laugh and I slam the car door shut.
It hurts that my one time best friend is now a stranger. There are many pieces of the puzzle that don’t fit. She lives in a house that costs millions, fully equipped with a cook, security man and a maid to do the cleaning. She has a Range Rover Sport and a Kia Optima. Kamsi dresses in very expensive clothes and her shoes and bags are all expensive and tongue-twisting Italian or French designers. My dear friend studied Botany, and whatever accounts she was balancing in her uncle’s office; I had no clue. Her mother still sells pepper soup in Owerri and lives in a house that isn’t worthy to be Kamsi’s servant quarters’. This is a woman who raised three kids from the money she got running a beer parlor. Kamsi is the first of three, and her dad died in a car accident when she was 6 years old. Well, as I said earlier, wetin concern agbero with overload!
“Adaobi Okafor, you have to meet me at Westfoster…”, Kamsi rattled on before I cut her short.
“Why do you keep calling my first name and last name like some school teacher reprimanding an errant child? Please drop that FGGC thing biko, my name is Adaobi… Ada for short”
“Hia! Oyibo! Please “Ada for short”, get a cab and say you’re going to Queens’ drive, Ikoyi. Once you get on Queens’ drive call me and I will give you directions. I need you to meet some people. Hurry babes…mwaaah!” Before I could ask any further questions, she was off the phone and I knew my plans of leaving Lagos that day just flew out the window. Anyway, won’t hurt to have an extra day of fun. After all, what was so exciting about the PH I was running back to? Shopping in tow, I hailed a red cab and headed for Ikoyi.
What I saw when I got to Westfoster Habour was for want of a better word, appalling! Men who were my father’s mates were wining and dining by the poolside with girls their daughters’ ages or even younger. Apparently, some South-West Governor was having a low-key birthday party and roughly 60 people were invited. His fellow politicians were in attendance; almost all of them had a young girl on his lap. My heart went out to their poor knees probably fighting or getting ready to fight arthritis. “Kamsi, what are we doing here?” I eventually found my tongue after we had made our rounds saying hello to Kamsi’s ‘friends’. “Well, you wanted to know if I was an aristo girl or not. You have your answer, don’t you? Governor is my “Uncle” and these are his friends. Please don’t disgrace me o. I brought you here to have your share of the national cake. You should count yourself lucky. Girls will pay good money to get into a party like this. It is strictly for the bigger girls and you’re here because I’m Governor’s babe!” my friend’s bluntness and the wild glint in her eyes scared me. I don’t know if I was mad at not being told beforehand that I was coming to such a sleazy gathering, or if I was mad that she was speaking to me with such disrespect. Anyway, I was here, I might as well feed my eyes.
I hoped against hope that the pot-bellied old man with the funny hat and clumsy gait wasn’t coming to sit with me. I was enjoying the cool night air and sipping my red wine. The finger food was grand and I was enjoying my own company. Too late, Mr. Funny Hat came and sat next to me. I managed the weakest smile available and nodded my head. Whatever that meant!
“Why are you by yourself young lady?” he asked with a heavily accented baritone.
“Nothing Sir. I am just fine, thank you”
“My name is Chief Obafemi Omowale Stephen Owolabi, His Excellency, the Governor of Ando State, heir apparent to the throne of Kabiyesi in Ikesha kingdom, I am very pleased to make your acquaintance”
Stifling the laughter that almost choked me, I said, “The pleasure is entirely mine”, and took his hand. To my disgust, he raised it to his lips and in a bid to be gentlemanly, bathed my hand with saliva. I snatched my hand and rendered another weak smile as I dug in my bag for my hand sanitizer.
Kamsi walked up to me and dragged me by my upper arm, excusing us as we stepped aside. “Are you crazy? Did I bring you here to steal my man? What on earth are you doing with Governor?” she barked at me, her eyes almost going green!
I had tried to be calm in the midst of all the madness around me and up to this point had let Kamsi act and speak as she pleased. But accusing me of wanting to snatch that frog? This was the height! “Excuse me young lady, YOU are out of your mind! In case you do not know, I find all this repulsive and only stayed back out of respect, support… whatever, for you. I don’t give a rat’s ass about your pot-bellied, bush…”
“Don’t you dare!” she yelled and accompanied that with a resounding slap!
I think I saw stars and those stars led me to slap Kamsi as hard as I could. In no time, we were tugging at each other and the crowd looked on in excitement. The old men finally had some real entertainment. Wanting to destroy something of Kamsi’s that’ll hurt, I tried her hair. The lace wig seemed to be glued to her skull. When that didn’t work, I tried to snatch the handbag that she clung to with such loyalty even in the heat of our fight. I finally snatched it from her and threw it into the pool. My friend screamed like a wounded lion, “MY BOTTEGA VENETA!” and she jumped into the pool.
It took a millisecond for me to remember that Kamsi had an intense fear for water and simply refused to learn to swim. As I watched her grapple in the pool, I realized that hadn’t changed. I started screaming, “Please help her; she can’t swim!” I couldn’t swim either and I cried and cried as I begged these men. Finally, one of the young girls took off her shoes and jumped into the pool. By then, my friend was breathing funny and I was so scared that her lungs were filled with water. It wasn’t supposed to end this way. I carried Kamsi, on my own, my size 8 frame lifted every inch of her size 12 body filled with water. I got a ride from the girl who jumped in to save her, and we rushed her to a small clinic I remembered on Keffi Street. She seemed unconscious and I was so scared. I kept praying that it wouldn’t end this way.
Twenty four hours later, resuscitated and physically okay, the first thing Kamsi asked me was, “Where is my Bottega Veneta?” I reached under the hospital bed and handed it to her. I stared at her long and hard, picked up my bag and walked away. This wasn’t my scene. I had deadlines to meet at work and sanity waiting for me in PH. I went straight to the airport from the hospital. I’d sort out getting my bags later. After all, they weren’t Bottega Veneta…