Chibuzor ducked as he got into the Unilag shuttle bus and took a corner seat. He was used to corner seats now, anything to not get noticed. He took out his phone and opened his Twitter client, his heart fluttering slightly when he saw the tell-tale bird icon on his notification bar. He clicked on the icon and waited with bated breath as the app fired up and filled the screen with its fluorescent green template. He bypassed his timeline and went straight to his mentions. He’d grown tired of seeing subliminal tweets directed at him, the ones that had ‘FuckmeImstupid’ strategically placed where it would give the tweet maximum sting.
His twitter was blissfully sparse today, none of the dozens of ‘LMAO’s’ and ‘LMFAOs’ in response to someone’s cheap jab that usually clogged his mentions. Today there were only seven tweets, all copying him on to a tweet about Tariebi by some twitter girl. Relief washed over him, he knew it was selfish but better her than him. They reminded him of vultures, the way they swarmed and picked at people they considered weak. It disgusted him to think that he used to be one of them.
He sighed as the bus drove past the traffic and turned into University Road. He kept one eye on the road as he tweeted the songs shuffling on his phone to pass the time. He’d never been one of those ‘now playing’ addicts but so much had changed in the last six months that now every obscure song title felt like a subliminal message. The bus pulled into the car park and everyone descended. He pocketed his phone, ignoring the ding of a new mention, slid on his oversized aviators and pulled his hoodie up over his head. It was probably another person retweeting the tweet about Tariebi. He dragged his luggage out of the bus’s trunk and headed towards Jaja hall, keeping his head down so he wouldn’t meet anyone’s eyes. He got to the gate, pulled out his phone and dialled a number. A gruff voice came through the speaker.
“Hey, Mr. I’m keeping a low profile. Wa’agwan?”
Xhiz tried to hide his irritation. “I’m downstairs with my luggage. Come get me.”
“Haha. Hope I didn’t piss you off? Give me two minutes.”
Xhiz stood with his luggage and scrolled through his timeline, trying to distract himself from the seconds ticking away as he was kept waiting under the merciless Lagos sun. He could feel himself getting angry, more at the situation than the person keeping him waiting. This was all his fault. If he hadn’t been such a coward and had come to pursue hostel accommodation with everyone else instead of trying to avoid the process all together, he wouldn’t have had to spend almost fifty grand to buy a bed space just so he could share a room with someone he didn’t even want to see right…
Xhiz looked up and glared. “Ugh! Don’t fucking ‘dude’ me. Is this your two minutes? Is that how much you hate me that you leave me out to burn in this bloody sun?”
Farhad took one look at him and broke into laughter before tackling him into a bear hug. He resisted at first, then gave in and hugged Farhad back, trying not cringe as Farhad’s sweaty chest stained the front of his sweat shirt. Even though he was genuinely livid that Farhad had taken his merry time coming to get him, he couldn’t deny that he had missed his friend. A lot had changed in the last six months but one thing he was grateful for was how close they had grown. Becoming roommates was going to help them become even closer.
Farhad detached from him and raised an eyebrow when he spotted his luggage.
“Is this all you’re bringing? Just two boxes?”
Xhiz shrugged. “I’m travelling light now.”
“You sha took your merry time resuming, Lectures started last Monday.”
“It’s just one week of class, I don’t think it will hurt my GPA that much.”
Farhad gasped. “Who the hell are you and what have you done with Xhiz?”
Xhiz rolled his eyes. “Xhiz the parry boy has died, so Chibuzor the nerd can thrive.”
“That sucks man. I was planning to use his superior fashion sense to hook some fashion girls. But whatever,” Farhad grabbed the handle of the bigger box. “Might as well get you settled in.”
Xhiz grinned as he grabbed the second bag and followed Farhad’s lead. This was his final year, and for the first time in a long while he was excited to change and make something out of himself before he was thrust into the real world. Last year had given him his first taste of how unforgiving that world was and he was determined to tread carefully.
Kike spotted Farhad first. His hair had grown since she last saw him and now it rounded his head like a shiny black halo. He was dressed dapper, Charlatans polo and Orange culture signature shorts, svelte in comparison to Xhiz’s understated blue tee and black pants. They were huddled over the table chatting away as they tore into the heap of pancakes in front of them. Kike instinctively smoothed the front of her maxi dress and sucked in her belly, gathering the strength to face her cousin. Xhiz spotted her first as she rounded the corner and stood to hold the door open for her. She rolled her eyes but let him. They shared a long hug and Xhiz led her to his table and pulled out a chair for her. She eased herself into the chair and acknowledged Farhad’s presence with a curt nod.
“Long time no see.” He said.
She gave him a flat look. “Yeah, that was deliberate.”
Farhad groaned. “Don’t tell me you’re still pissed that I twitpic’ed that picture of us at the pool last month. I said I was sorry. Wallahi you’re just too much.”
Kike blanched. “Me? Just too much?!!! One of your twitter groupies said I looked like a fucking whale and all you did was RT with ‘L.M.A.O!’ Like, who the fuck does that?”
“In my defense, it was very funny.” Farhad replied and popped a slice of pancake into his mouth.
Kike glared at him and opened her mouth to say something very unpleasant but Xhiz’s pleading expression held her hand. She looked at him and followed his gaze to the other end of the room. All the occupied tables were covertly watching their table, fingers poised over devices.
“Please.” Xhiz begged.
Kike ignored him and turned back to Farhad, looking him square in the eye.
“You think those idiots are your friends abi? You think they won’t throw you under the bus too? I’ve been watching you use everything that has happened as your launching pad into the Twitter big leagues. You’re so lost in the sauce, you can’t even see how cruel it is to tell shit stories about my dad and your mom just so you can get a few laughs and Retweets. Pele oh, Mr. Twitter funnyman. I will be here when they sacrifice you for twitter table topics and God knows I will laugh my ass off.”
Farhad burst into loud derisive laughter. “Who is taking twitter seriously now? See forget everything you think you know. I KNOW these people are not my friends. It’s all just bants and I’m not deceived for one moment that they have my back. I’m not stupid kin ji ko, I am not you.”
It suddenly felt like the air had been sucked out of the room. Xhiz’s grip on Kike’s hand tightened, willing her not to respond. To his surprise she didn’t flare up. Instead, she drew in a breath and exhaled deeply before dragging herself to her feet.
“It was nice seeing you Xhiz. Call me when you want to hang out, alone.”
The boys watched her as she made her way out of the eatery and headed for the car park, her once proud shoulders sagging as her spine bent to accommodate her now protruding belly, drawing stares from every corner.
“You still talk to that skrep?” Tariebi said, leaning over to peer at Panlam’s screen.
Panlam snatched away her phone and exited her Twitter app. “Not that it’s any of your business but yes. I don’t abandon my friends.”
Tariebi laughed. “As if you know what the word ‘friend’ means.”
Panlam glared at her, eager to reply. But she decided against it, instead focusing on the beautiful vista from the balcony of the roof terrace of the Sheraton Four Points. This was her first time here and it was even more beautiful than she had imagined. She didn’t see any point in agitating Tariebi when there was still so much she could gain from their ‘association’, like access to her clientele.
She straightened and pulled down the hem of her Clan mini dress as the elevators dinged and opened out spilled two very handsome men suited in black tuxedos. They stalked over to the girls, taking time to size them up, the sheer width of their smiles affirming they liked what they saw. The older of the two men walked over to her and took her hand.
“Tari, I presume.”
Panlam smiled and threw Tariebi a sideways gloating glance. Tariebi faltered, her plastic smile cracking to reveal a murderous stare before she composed herself and gently took the man’s arm.
The man gave an apologetic smile and leaned over to give her a kiss on the cheek. “Shall we?
The three adults squashed together on the small couch in Dr. Dinkle’s office still managed to ensure their bodies didn’t touch. The youngest of the three sat forward, twiddling his thumbs and trying to distract himself from the itching in his neck. The other two, man and wife sat back, their expensive agbada and iro and buba swirling around them. The psychiatrist, Dr. Dinkle watched all three, calculating how best to navigate the situation, aware of how volatile they all were around each other.
“Mr and Mrs Terwase…”she began and was immediately interrupted by the man.
“That’s Chief and Chief Mrs Terwase to you.”
“How could I ever forget?” Dr. Dinkle muttered under her breath.
She coughed and spoke up. “I said I’m glad you didn’t forget… that today’s your son Saanyol’s group therapy session.”
Chief Mrs. Terwase gave a tight lipped smile. “Yes, you said it was necessary for his recovery.”
The doctor gave a conciliatory smile, at least she had an ally.
“Yes, it is. You see many young people who take this route usually indicate long term disassociation with their parents and it usually is helpful that they are able to air their grievances in a safe space.”
Chief Terwase grabbed his son by the scruff of his shirt and pushed him forward. “This scallywag has never had any problems ‘airing’ his grievances to me or his mother and throwing everything we have done for him in our faces. Hell, he’s even thrown us bringing him abroad to be treated in our faces.”
Dr. Dinkle’s hands flew to her mouth in alarm. “Sir, physical violence is not allowed in my office. This is tantamount to abuse.”
The chief devolved into fits of laughter. “Abuse? My dear, this boy is above 21 so unless you want to find someone to arrest me you better shut it there. I didn’t come here to hear from you on how to train my child. I just came to tell you that you better speed up your treatment program if you really want to help this rascal. We’re withdrawing him in a month, rehabilitated or not. His paternal grandmother’s burial is exactly two months from now and as the first grandchild of his grandparents and future patriarch of our dynasty he must be present at the burial.”
The chief rose to his feet and left for the door, his wife meekly mirroring his actions. At the door he stopped and turned to Saanyol, his eyes filled with malice.
“You broke the poor woman’s heart, killed her with all your nonsense. Call me bastard if I don’t make you come home and bury her.”