“I’m a survivor, I’m not gon give up, I’m not gon stop, I’m gon work harder, I’m gon make it, I’ll survive, keep on surviving” Destiny Child: Survivor.
She tossed and turned and then eventually, rolled over and hit her leg on something; okay it was someone she realised. She tried to remember where exactly she was. Her eyes flickered open and groggily, she sat up in bed. Slowly, she surveyed the room and gradually it dawned on her where she was, it was with Chief Koko, the man she’d come home with from the party the night before.
He slept noisily beside her now, sounding like an old truck with serious engine problems and that made her frown. She eyed him with slight disdain as his bare stomach made some sort of rhythmic movement that rhymed with his noisy breathing. He was naked, his buttocks was revealed under the duvet that was supposed to cover him and that he had somehow found his way out of.
She’d slept with him last night.
It was the first time she was sleeping with Chief Koko, a former governor and aspiring money launderer but it wasn’t the first time she’d slept with one of his kind. That was the only way she kept body and soul together, apart from that job of hers, which she loved so much but which barely paid her enough to pay her rent.
Her job! Suddenly remembering that she was late and that it was a Monday, she scrambled out of bed briskly, raced to the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror when her reflection caught her eye, her hair was dishevelled, she was nude and she felt slightly woozy; the liquor from last night maybe. She hadn’t prepared to bathe in this man’s hotel suite the night before but now she had no choice, she had to freshen up here and quickly rush home to find something to wear to work.
“Angel!” She heard his voice as he yelled for her and she rolled her eyes in disgust. She’d told him several times the night before not to refer to her as Angel but he insisted and what would she do since she needed his money? She saw him from the mirror as he strolled into the spacious bathroom. “Angel, why did you leave now?” He asked her and pulled her back into the room, leaving her no room to speak.
“I’m late for work” she said as he continued to drag her with him.
“You would go to work after you work on this” he said pointing to his erection and she sighed.
He gently pushed her back to bed and mounted her; she knew she had no choice. She had better do all he wanted from her so she could get all she needed from him.
“But this money is small now” she sulked as Chief Koko placed a kiss on her forehead and got ready to leave the room. He’d offered her five thousand naira after he had explored her body like an excited tourist the day before and like a ravenous dog this morning. Didn’t these rich politicians have any bit of shame? She wondered.
“I will see you later in the day” he said and sauntered out of the room. He returned almost immediately and added “Angel, drop the key at the reception.” Then he left.
“Of course I will! And my name is Nene not Angel, asshole!” She yelled back at him but of course he didn’t hear her.
Nene had been sleeping with various politicians and powerful men since she was nineteen, it was her other means of survival and she vowed to stop when she had enough stability, but with the way the men gave her little after sleeping with her, she doubted she’d be retiring soon.
The keke marwa she’d boarded from her bus stop stopped in front of her house and she alighted from it. She sashayed into the large, noisy building, hoping to quickly get dressed and head out to work.
She had been living in the neighbourhood since she got to Lagos and it was the only place she could afford by herself at the time, her house was an uncompleted face me I slap you building where she occupied a room. Her own room was semi completed, at least she had windows and doors (which her landlady had erected himself) compared to most of her neighbours. But she went through the problems of PHCN and water like they all did. Thank God she bathed at Chief Kokoma’s expensive suite at the hotel, all she had to do now was quickly find something to wear and rush off to work.
She sighted her from afar, not because she saw her well but because she knew those features well whenever/wherever she saw them. She breathlessly ran to where she was standing.
“What are you doing here? Is mama okay? Your husband?”
“I’m fine sister Nene. I came to see you”
Nene eyed Mercy her younger sister warily, she’d not seen Mercy and the other members of her family since she left the village six years ago and they had only communicated via the phone. What was Mercy doing here now, her baby strapped to her back?
She locked the door behind them as they entered her small apartment, Mercy immediately sat on the bed and Nene stood, watching her and expecting an explanation.
“What are you doing here Mercy?” She inquired, wondering why her sister had suddenly shown up at her door. She suspected it wasn’t good and she didn’t think she was ready for bad news, not on a day like this one, which had been threatening to go bad from dawn.
“Sister Nene, me I came to stay with you o”
Nene was almost certain she heard wrong, was her sister sniffing the same gbana Chief Koko seemed to be sniffing?
“Stay with me for what?” She asked coldly, “are you not supposed to be in your husband’s house?”
“Me I can’t stay with him again o…he beats me sister Nene, he beats me every time” Mercy laid her sleeping baby on the bed and showed Nene the marks on her back, they were bad and very red thanks to Mercy’s light skin, it looked like it just happened. “And he has a girlfriend, I confronted her, she slapped me and I beat her back. When he heard about it, he beat me mercilessly and mama said I should stay with him, me I cannot o”
“And so you decided to run to my house in Lagos” Nene replied, Mercy avoided her sister’s gaze and nodded. Nene didn’t say anything; she opened her box of clothes and pulled out a dress. She plugged her iron, thanking God for electricity.
“Let me help you” Mercy said and Nene left it for her to handle.
Nene relieved herself of her clothes, leaving on the sexy lingerie under. She stared at her reflection in the mirror while she styled her hair into a bun. She was a slim woman with full breasts and small hips, even though her butt didn’t match her breasts in proportion, it wasn’t small and didn’t take away the serious appeal she exuded to the masculine gender.
Mercy finished ironing and handed the dress over to Nene. The latter wore it and applied a little make up, she still felt woozy but she knew it would go away before she got to work.
Mercy looked at her sister as she got ready to leave the house, Nene was the fourth of six children and was the most dedicated and the most resilient, she never gave up, never believed she couldn’t make it and never allowed a situation to overwhelm her. At twenty-six she was striving hard to be different, striving hard to make things work for her and striving hard to break the shackles of poverty that had held her family hostage for years. She was a beauty, the type no man could resist and no woman wanted near her man, her light skin was flawless and even though she didn’t have the ‘figure eight’ every woman died for, her flat stomach, full breasts and tiny waist, was steamy hot any day.
Nene faced her now. “There is rice and fish stew in the fridge, warm it and eat. You and your baby.” Mercy nodded. She pulled out a thousand naira bill from her bag. “Buy anything you want with this, there is a woman who sells things around the corner. When I come back, you would explain to me why you think my house is the best place to play hide and seek”
“Thank you sister. Bye bye” Mercy said, happy her sister had not raised hell like she expected. Nene nodded and left the room.
She couldn’t chase Mercy away, she was her kid sister and the one she loved the most in the family. She remembered she was the one who had stood for Mercy many times when she was in the village, when her elder brothers and her mother had tried to marry her off. Mercy was her only sister and had not been as hot headed as she was.
She had not gone for long when they had married her off to an irresponsible man, she’d wanted to yell and scream and stop them, but she couldn’t. She was faraway in Lagos and she didn’t want to go back to the village, she didn’t think it was time yet.
She stepped into her office now and smiled at the secretary to her boss who whispered to her saying, “you are very late for the meeting”.
Nene muttered thanks and increased her steps; she walked into the boardroom which was already taken by producers, scriptwriters and a few presenters. She was the only one missing. Her boss sent a look of disgust her way.
She endured the remainder of the meeting and then waited until everyone had left, to see the boss.
“You came late, what are you waiting for again?” He spat.
Nene knew better than to always get on her boss’ wrong side, she had slept with him to get the job but had suddenly stopped doing so after she got the job, citing all sorts of excuses for doing so. And that had made him hate her, he’d tried to fire her twice but couldn’t do so because her show had the highest rating at the time, but she knew he was looking for other means and she tried her best to be careful…until now.
“Sorry sir, I wanted to apologise about that”
He scoffed, “keep coming late for work and be apologizing, we both know you aren’t qualified for this job and your brains didn’t get you here, so keep doing the wrong things and you would be out of here faster than you came in”
Nene swallowed hard.
“Anything else?” He growled.
“No sir” Nene quickly responded and hastily retreated from the room.
When she stepped into the reception, a few of her colleagues were gathered together discussing their newest interest; Jaiye Fowler. She shook her head and walked past them, they all found one socialite or the other to gossip about everyday. And normally she would have stood with them and gathered news because it was what her show was about anyway; to gather dirt on celebrities and socialites and feed the public with it. That’s why she called it ‘The Diggerz’ but today she was just not in the mood.
“Nene! You have news here o.” A colleague called.
“I have a headache” she lied and escaped into the small booth she called an office before the person could try and persuade her.
She was waiting for her there when she walked in and Nene knew she didn’t have good news. Tolu never had good news for anybody but herself, she was the metaphor for bad news and everybody prayed never to see her show up at their place. But here she was, dressed immaculately in a knee-length white dress and brown flats to match, grinning at Nene and the latter knew it wasn’t good.
“What?” She barked at her and Tolu’s smile quickly vanished.
“You need to learn how to be polite Nene” she responded and perched on Nene’s table, leaving her no room to pass.
Nene rolled her eyes, folded her arms and wondered when Tolu would utter whatever she came for and leave her alone.
“Get it over and done with Tolu and leave my office”
Tolu shrugged, “if you insist”. Nene didn’t like her, first because she did the exact things Nene did and seemed to have great results doing it (she slept with rich men and made loads of money off them, she had a show exactly like Nene’s and was stealing her audience) and secondly because she was very saucy.
“Your show is going on hiatus for six months, during which you would be serving as a correspondent or if you like a producer for my show…”
“Excuse me?” Nene interrupted, “what nonsense are you talking about?”
“Didn’t your boss tell you?” Tolu asked her, genuinely surprised.
“No. Because it is certainly not true” Nene spat, hoping deep down that it was a lie.
“You should ask him.”
She dashed into her boss’ office without knocking and she really didn’t care if it meant losing her job.
She was livid, angry beyond words and stunned that her boss could allow Tolu do whatever she liked when she (Nene) had slaved her entire life for the company.
“Tolu just told me my show is going off for six months while…”
He nodded and repeated everything Tolu had told her some minutes ago.
“How can you do that to me?” She yelled, pained that it was indeed true.
“If you had been here early, you would have heard this at the meeting. Look, we have decided to merge you people together” he said as if irritated that Nene was making him talk too much.
“Merge?” Nene wondered aloud, that didn’t make sense to her. “Why would you merge our shows, I work here, Tolu doesn’t”
He replied, “her show has more content, more creativity and more audience. And she asked me to sponsor her, I cannot do that because I don’t have the resources so we agreed that you people should merge”
Nene fought back the tears that were threatening to fall, she couldn’t believe this man.
“B..but…you didn’t consult me”
“See Nene, this girl’s show has a big followership on the internet already, followership bigger than yours and something I’d rather sponsor because that one pays me more. So become a producer and co-host and if after six months we do a poll and people prefer your style to her own you will come back” he said nonchalantly. “Besides you people would still be calling it the name of your own show”
Nene felt betrayed. “You’re sleeping with her aren’t you?” She asked and before he answered, she knew he was.
One week later and her world was threatening to fall apart, she was housing Mercy but barely speaking to her and she was working with Tolu and cursing the day she knew her.
“Sister Nene, I have an interview tomorrow morning” Mercy told her after she’d returned from another gruelling day at work.
“Interview?” She frowned, “who is offering you an interview when you didn’t go past secondary school?” She inquired.
“One hotel down the road”
Nene knew the hotel and after Mercy pleaded with her, she succumbed. Where were they going to keep the baby?
“Please sister Nene let her stay with you.”
And she agreed, because she hadn’t been nice to Mercy since she came, because it was good Mercy was getting a job meanwhile and because Tolu had left her with nothing to do at work.
“Here, this is an invite to a fundraising event going on at the Tudor Hotels right now.”
Nene eyed the glittering card Tolu thrust into her hands, “what am I supposed to do with this?”
“The Fowlers are hosting it and Jaiye Fowler would be there, there are some speculations that something is going on with either him or his family and that the whole Fowler clan are trying to keep it a secret, you are supposed to be the producer of this show, go there and find out what exactly is going on” Tolu said and turned to leave.
“Find someone else to do this” Nene snapped.
Tolu smiled sweetly, “and that someone else would be taking your job, darling”.
Nene wanted to slap her, but she knew it wasn’t time yet. Someday in the future, she would slap her. Someday. But for now, she’d do the job of a producer and find out what needed to be found out for the sake of her show.
She carried her two-year-old niece and joined the company bus that drove her to the venue. When she got there, she begged the company driver to look after the baby for her and he grudgingly accepted.
She scanned the exquisite hall that was hosting the fundraising event as she stepped in, hoping to see any member of the Fowler clan.
She saw the matriarch – Mrs Adele Fowler. The woman was an African American who had married the Fowler patriarch in the 70s, she was graceful, beautiful and oozed wealth with every breath she took. Nene had grown up seeing her in every magazine, she was a successful designer and a famous socialite, most women wanted to be like her and the rest of them wanted to associate with her either as a friend or as in-laws. She had five children; Jide Jnr, Jire, Jaiye, Jare and Joan. The first four were male and the last, a beautiful female who never got tired of giving the press things to say. And the press never got tired of finding out either; problem was however, when Jo as she was called, didn’t feed them things to write about, they dug hard for dirt. Like she was digging out for at the moment and she knew other members of the media were.
As she inched closer to Adele, she suddenly heard a buzz outside, she looked in the direction of the noise and realized everyone with a microphone was gathered around a Fowler, it was Jaiye Fowler and he was holding in his hands her little niece, who threw her small chubby hands around his neck.
“What the fuck?” She cussed and raced to where he was and where a sea of reporters now surrounded him. She found her way through the crowd and tried to relieve him of her little niece.
“What the hell were you doing leaving her all by herself?!” Jaiye roared and the cameras clicked away.
Nene was angry at the way he shouted at her in front of everyone and she retorted “and he plays daddy now!”
Then as cameras clicked all she heard from various angles was “is that the news you’ve been hiding?”
“Is that your little daughter and your baby mama?”
And Nene knew somehow, they’d created news.