THE SUBSTITUTE

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Ekaette was beautiful but wanton! In the estate where she lived and served as a help for the Abioduns, she was very popular amongst drivers, stewards and male cooks as one who flagrantly distributed salacious delicacies. The okada riders hangout outside the estate was also one of her favourite haunts.

Her figure was perfection, voluptuousness created with faultless execution. She shook like a leave caressed by seductive winds as she walked. Merriment always danced in her eyes and she drank long and hard from the wine of mirth, making her break out in roaring laughter at the slightest provocation. Her skin was spotlessly fair; some whispered that she was a ripe, juicy fruit always begging to be plucked. However, with all her flawlessness many still saw her as flawed because of her indiscretion and lack of education but not Joshua. He only saw mindboggling excellence!

As she walked past his BQ window in the mornings to sweep the compound, he usually lifted a corner of his blind surreptitiously to feast on her looks, her picture perfect image. Not the kind of gazing that arose from lust, but the sort that makes the heart tell the head that you will do anything for someone, pluck the moon, steal the stars, even give up your life if you have to.

Ekaette never gave him the light of day though, which was quite surprising. Joshua was a HND holder who could not get the kind of employment he desired and had to settle for a driving job with the Abioduns. Since he was very good and quite reliable, his boss made his life very comfortable, gave him accommodation and a salary he was really happy about. That he could be that enamored with her, mangled English, promiscuity and all was a constant source of amazement and irritation for his friends. Any time, he made a move she laughed him to scorn. Once he took a sizable chunk of his salary to get her a bouquet of fresh flowers. When he gave it to her, she roared as she was wont to do and in pidgin English asked him whether he thought she was a goat that ate leaves in pidgin English. Joshua still never let up, he was so consumed that with time, it seemed his heart beat clanged ek-att-e instead of lub dub.

One day, some huge amount of money that Mr. Abiodun had kept in his pigeon hole got missing when he rushed inside to pick his phone which had been charging. By the time he was about to drive out, he checked just for good measure and it was not there. Joshua had been washing the other car to take the children to school and had gone in to freshen up when he heard a cry of consternation. An alarm had been raised and everyone rushed out. No one confessed to be the perpetrator of the dastardly act. He now remembered that Ekaette had been sweeping near the car when he had gone in to his BQ. Looking at her with questioning eyes, he saw fright clouding her face. He knew that if he told Mr. Abiodun about his suspicions, a search would lead to her being found out. He opened his mouth to speak and as if she knew what he wanted to do, she pleaded with her eyes until he melted within. The blazing heat of the torch he carried for her melted the arctic of his resistance.

His employer assumed that he stole the money and asked him to confess else the law would be brought in and that would not augur well for the accused. Joshua knew that squealing would mean the termination of Ekaette’s employment. He could not bear the dire consequences that would befall her if found.

The Police were called in and they mishandled the driver. In the station, they landed a slap on his face that almost removed a tooth and meted out their special brand of brutality until he almost passed out but still he did not rat on her.

He was thrown inside a prison cell for 6 months. Due to his prior outstanding and squeaky clean record, his boss later had mercy on him and dropped all charges though he was sacked and told to vacate the premises.

As he was leaving that day, back pack on his back, he met Ekaette fraternizing with one of the gardeners on the street, her dimples flaring in flirtatious amusement. She made room for him to walk past without even a word of greeting or any gesture of acknowledgement. Joshua called her a couple of times, stunned beyond belief but she continued like he wasn’t there.

Finally, shoulders hunched more from the weight of rejection than the bag; he walked down the street towards the main gate. Her signature raucous laughter rang out after him and sliced the fibers of his heart to bits. Oblivious to his broken heart, birds still chirruped excitedly away on the mango trees that lined the street and above, evening clouds began to smother the smoldering afternoon sun to death. Then, night, a black jungle cat stealthily crept upon the edges of the world and swallowed his diminishing form whole as Ekaette laughed on…..

FOR HE HAS MADE HIM TO BE SIN FOR US, WHO KNEW NO SIN……..

Ekpo Ezechinyere ©2017

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