Sharon arrived at Woworx Hotels and Suites with hope in her heart. She hoped that her looks and carriage might grant her some favour. In all honesty, that was all she could cling to at the moment. She had lost all means of identification during the robbery.
“Good evening.” She greeted the attendants at the reception.
The receptionist struck her keyboard with alacrity and welcomed Sharon with a smile. “Good evening, ma’am. What suite would you like?” she asked, sliding a brochure across the desk.
Sharon cleared her throat as she feigned taking interest in the brochure. She stared at the receptionist and then smiled. “I… I erm, I have a situation. I know you might have heard this before and I am hoping you haven’t.”
The receptionist stared at her companion and then back at Sharon. “Ma’am, what room would you like?”
“I understand you are wired to only ask the basic questions but I just got robbed.” Sharon replied. Her heart raced fast she watched the receptionist’s eye register contact with her companion who stepped away from them towards the back of the hotel. “It’s only normal that he has gone to get the manager.” Sharon added. “I would get the manager too if I were you, but all I am asking for is an opportunity to stay here till Monday morning and I’ll ensure you get your money with a good tip too.”
The receptionist smiled. “I am afraid, Ma’am, we do not offer such services here.” She said, maintaining a courteous smile.
Sharon watched the door open into the reception as the man who was the receptionist had now returned, but not without a woman, she believed was the Manager. Sharon firmed up for another round of appealing smiles. She grinned at the woman. “Good evening, Ma’am.” She greeted. “Are you the manager?”
The woman nodded. “How may we be of assistance?”
“I… I got robbed on my way here and I would like a favour.” Sharon replied. “Could I please get a room and I’ll pay my full bills on Monday morning once I get access to a bank.”
The manager smiled. “I am afraid we can’t help you if you do not pay the initial deposit as required.”
“It’s pretty late, ma’am. Are you going to kick a young lady who is new to Lagos to the streets?” Sharon asked, hoping she could appeal to the woman’s sentiments.
“I am sorry, Ma’am. Housing homeless people isn’t one of our social responsibilities. We can’t help you.” The manager replied and started looking through some documents on the receptionist’s desk.
Sharon gaped as she absorbed the insult. She had just been tagged homeless by a manager whose wages she was sure she could afford to triple in one breath. She had to make it through the weekend to Monday when she would have access to a bank one way or the other. She couldn’t afford to call her mother and grandmother who would enjoy nothing than to gloat at her misfortune… or maybe she was being unnecessarily proud. She needed help and if going back home was it, then it was valid to live to fight another day. Sharon wanted to fight this day. She had not come this far to chicken out. She took a deep breath as she stared at the exit and thought about what awaited her outside the safe walls of the hotel. She was scared. She turned away from the receptionists and looked ahead as she approached the door with a thumping chest. She had no idea where she was going and that worried her but she would find a way. She had to find a way.
Sharon slowed down on getting to the door, the onrushing man approaching her wouldn’t slow down. Someone had to be the ‘man’ and show some courtesy but since it wasn’t the one naturally moulded as a man, she would just play the role for him. He brushed against her shoulder as he made his way past her forcing her to shudder at his insensitivity.
“Sharon Ifesinachi Amadi.”
She stopped and turned to the man who had just rushed in past her. He smiled and walked back to her. Who could he be? She was sure she had never met him before. So how did he know her name and most importantly, why did he have to mention ‘Ifesinachi’?
“I knew it was you.” He said as he stood before her with a smile. “Whoa!”
Sharon blinked. The man spooked her with his familiar gaze. He was the only one who knew who both of them were and was having a ‘Whoa’ moment. She wasn’t.
“How…How have you been?” he asked.
She took a deep breath. “I don’t know who you are.” She said bluntly.
He nodded. “I am sure.” He started as he clutched his bag against his arm with a smile.
Sharon thought he was flushing carelessly, especially for a tall hunk with beards. She didn’t expect that from him.
“I sat behind you in primary school.” He said.
Primary School?! Christ! Who remembers anyone from their primary school?! Sharon took two steps backward as she stared at him trying to place a face. There was no way she could place his face. She didn’t even keep in touch with most of her classmates from high school; she definitely couldn’t remember the mister standing before her claiming to know her from way back in elementary school. “Okay…” she said, bulging her eyes at him, expecting some clarity.
He took the initiative. “I used to wear glasses. Really big frog-eyed glasses.”
“Now I see why I don’t remember you.” Sharon replied, getting into the conversation. “You don’t look like someone who could have been wearing those types of glasses.”
He nodded with a chuckle. “Oh sure, I wore them. But people say I have changed a lot. And… and you have too. You are now so beautiful. You used to be really beautiful then but now you—”
“—I get it! Now, I am stunning and it’s clear you used to have a crush on me.” She said abruptly, curbing his enthusiasm. “But, why did you have to call my name in full and how do you even remember the face?” she asked, folding her arms.
He smiled. “I have always known your name, so I guess it stuck and for the face, I… I have been your friend on Facebook for some years now.”
Sharon nodded slowly. “I don’t even know you are my friend on Facebook, how is that possible?”
“Well, I guess ladies like you just accept all requests, yeah?” he said with a grin. “Anyway, it was nice seeing you. I’ll see you around.” He said, turning towards the receptionist’s desk.
Sharon stared at him and then walked towards the exit. She stopped walking and turned to him in an instant. “Mr. Facebook friend!”
He turned to her. “Dapo. Dapo George.” He corrected.
She cleared her throat and joined him. “Dapo, I…I have a situation and I need your help.”
Mama stared at her phone as she had breakfast. She had not heard from Ifesinachi all night and it had her worried. Her daughter had told her not to worry about it but she couldn’t help it. Her granddaughter’s number had been switched off for way too long. She knew Sharon could be a deep sleeper on a good day but it’s not as though she had been travelling for too long, she had no reason to claim being jet lagged. She stared at Jane who had her breakfast quietly as she tapped on her tablet occasionally and sighed. “Have you heard from Ifesinachi yet?”
“No.” Jane replied, turning to Mama. “It’s Saturday, Mama and I am sure she is still in bed. That girl can sleep!”
Mama shook her head. “Jane, I am worried. She didn’t call us last night and her phone is switched off. What if she never got to the hotel?”
“Come on, Mama! What could possibly happen to her?”
Mama clattered her fork into her plate. “Many things! She could get kidnapped for a start. She could lose her way. She could even get killed, God forbid!”
“You seem to forget that this girl is twenty-five years old. At twenty-five, I was one year into my marriage and pregnant with her.” Jane replied.
“And so? Does that mean we should be so nonchalant about the fact that Ifesinachi might be in trouble?” Mama asked.
Jane exhaled. “She is not a kid anymore.” She replied, picking her tab.
“And how would you know that? You were barely around to see her grow up so you shouldn’t assume that she is all equipped because her age says so.” Mama retorted. “I am worried about her and if you are not worried about your own daughter because you are too engrossed to look up from that thing in your hand, then I believe you still don’t know a thing about motherhood.”
Jane took a gaze at her mother and rose to her feet. “I am meeting up with some friends at the salon, do you want to come?”
Mama looked away.
“Alright, have a good day.” Jane replied. “It could get really boring around here without Sharon. We should start getting used to it and maybe we could finally bond as mother and daughter.” She added, heading out of the dining room.
“Jane, is there something you are not telling me?” Mama asked.
Jane turned to her with a smile. “What could I possibly not be telling you?” she asked and walked out.
Dapo kicked his foot against the wall as he tried to stop himself from falling asleep. He turned towards Sharon who was sleeping pretty in his bed; the bed he had a paid a fortune for while he sat in a chair by the window. He shook his head as he thought about how he had believed her story of being robbed and having no place to go. She had always been the smart mouth from primary school, winning debates with words; he wasn’t surprised she had worked her way to getting him to give up his bed for her. It was only for last night, he had promised himself. He would set her off on her way as soon as she opened her eyes. He had no idea what she would have been doing in the hotel that night with nowhere to go, but it was none of his business.
He tapped on his laptop and stared at what had driven him to the hotel the previous night. He had a job to deliver to a client by Monday and he was far behind. He had no idea of how to get around the project and the dude he typically contracted for it had gone AWOL. He hoped for some peace in his house but it was not habitable, hence, he took the easy way out and avoided the constant drama that plagued him at home.
“How long have I been asleep for?”
He turned to Sharon who was stretching her arms out. “Long enough to be on your way.” He replied, placing his laptop on the table. “Would you like me to run you some hot water?”
She nodded. “Yes, please.” She replied and watched him walk across the room towards the bathroom. “Dapo, can I please get a shirt?”
“I… I am sure my shirts would not fit.” He said. “Why don’t you just get one from the mall downstairs?”
“Is being a complete gentleman against your rules?” she asked, getting off the bed. “Plus, I don’t have any money on me, remember?”
He nodded. “I should have something that fits.” He replied, thinking about the financial implication of getting a new top from the mall.
“Thank you. Can I use your phone?” she asked.
He pointed to the phone on the table and stepped into the bathroom. He watched her as she dialled on the phone. She turned towards his direction, prompting him to look away.
“Hello, Mama.” Sharon said, as she stared at Dapo’s laptop screen. She took a seat in the chair, crossing her legs. “I am fine, I had a great night.” She started. “Lagos is just great! I had the best night ever, Mama. You should see my suite, exquisite stuff.”
Dapo shook his head as he listened to her lies. He was surer than ever that she had lied to him about being robbed. She was so comfortable deceiving whoever was on the other end of the line about a fantasy night when all she had succeeded in doing the previous night was scamming a gentleman into giving up his bed. It was not like she had put a gun to his head coercing him off his bed, he was willing to give up the space for some company but she had been a terrible roommate the previous night. As soon as they arrived in the room and she said her thank you for the umpteenth time, she crashed into the bed and only just woke up this morning.
“Thank you.” Sharon said, placing the phone on the table. “Sorry about that. If I didn’t tell my grandmother something soothing, she’d be flying down here to save me.”
Dapo returned into the room. “Don’t you need saving? You are in a room with a man you barely know, you should be scared.” He guffawed, trying to sound intimidating. He was anything but intimidating. If anything, he was intimidated by people…and especially by his fiancée, Jadesola. She was the reason he had to leave home and sleep in the hotel to get work done. She was his nightmare and still the reason for his smile. It was intriguing to see how anyone could be both personas in one person. For now, Jadesola wasn’t here and he had to bully someone. “You should be scared.” He reiterated.
Sharon chuckled. “You don’t scare me, Dapo.” She replied. “I am a walking STD disburser and I have got nothing to lose.” She added. “So, jokes on you.”
“No, jokes on you.” He said with a laugh. “I have not said I wanted to sleep with you and if you think every guy you get holed up in a room with wants to sleep with you, then you have a problem with your mentality.”
Sharon could feel her heartbeat racing fast. She was getting scared.
Dapo took his seat on the bed. “That STD trick doesn’t work for a serial killer or why did you think I gave up my room?”
“Serial killers have motives and you don’t have any reason to kill me.” She replied. “They usually have a vendetta of a sort or a weird mission they hope to carry out or crusade or something.”
He chuckled. He could hear the fear in her tone. “You are beginning to take this thing too serious.” He said, reeling in the excitement of getting her frightened. “You should go and shower so you can be on your way.” He said, pulling his laptop towards him.
“I have no place to go. I have no access to money and I need you to help me.” Sharon replied.
He turned to her. “You don’t have to keep lying.”
“I was robbed on my way from the airport, okay? I don’t have to lie about that. It’s my first time in Lagos and I don’t know where to go.” She replied.
He cleared his throat. “You have never been to Lagos?”
“No. I am here for personal reasons and I just have to make it through the weekend so I can go to a bank on Monday and withdraw some money over the counter. The guys who robbed me took everything from me. I am stranded.” She said. “If I go back to Abuja because of this incident, I would have failed…again.”
He took a deep breath. “What’s your story?”
Mama stepped away from the window as soon as Jane’s car pulled up in the driveway. She had thought about going back to the east in the few hours she had spent alone at home. She was worried about what she’d find back there. A good number of her friends had passed on. Jane made her feel lonely; that was a feeling she didn’t have with Sharon.
“Mama, shouldn’t you be upstairs?” Jane asked, sinking into a chair. “I will call the stewards to get your drugs.”
“Why don’t you get my drugs, Jane?” Mama said, taking a seat opposite her. “Did it occur to you that I might have been extremely bored all day?”
Jane nodded. “I know and I am sorry Sharon is not here but there is nothing we can do, she chose to go to Lagos and even chose not to call us, we have to start getting used to her absence around here.”
“She called me.” Mama replied.
Jane blinked. “She didn’t call me.”
Mama shrugged. “Is that a surprise?” she asked.
“No, Mom. But if my daughter is calling you before she calls me, that is not fair.” Jane replied.
“Or maybe that is because I have been more of a mother to her.” Mama replied.
Jane scoffed. “You are trying to make up for your sins. Don’t use my daughter as your cleanse, okay?”
“Jane, what do you want?” Mama said. “I might have made mistakes with you but that is no reason for you to put Ifesinachi through the same cycle. Be there for her. Show up for her. You don’t get these memories twice.”
Jane nodded. “I won’t dispute that but I would make progress if you could also step out of the way.”
“Inasmuch as I want to go back home, I won’t be running away because my daughter doesn’t want me around my granddaughter.”
“Technically, your granddaughter is gone. She lives in Lagos now.” Jane replied.
Mama stared at her. “Sharon didn’t call me from her phone. I am worried.”
Jane shrugged. “I wouldn’t read much meaning to that.”
“Why not, Jane?” Mama asked. “Why couldn’t we reach Sharon on her phone and now she’s calling from another phone?”
“Maybe she needed to switch her lines. Fresh start. Mom, we don’t need this discussion.” Jane said, rising to her feet. “I am going to rest.”
“What did you do, Jane?”
Jane exhaled sharply. “Mama, do you want me to confirm what you already know? Yes, I had Sharon robbed.” She replied.
Sharon smiled at Dapo as she held out two tops before him. “What do you think of these? I think this colour is pretty loud.”
“I am just here to pay.” He replied with a shrug. “And you are going to pay me back too.” He added quickly.
Sharon managed a giggle. “By Monday, you’ll have your money back.” She replied. “So, what do you intend to do about your job?”
Dapo shrugged. “I don’t know yet, but I am not you who can just quit her job because she is unhappy and thinks her purpose is elsewhere.”
“Now you are using my words against me, that’s really low, Dapo.” Sharon replied.
He immersed his fingers in his forehead. “I am sorry. I didn’t mean it to come out that way.”
“Of course. Nobody ever means what they say.” She replied. “Anyway, I would let it slide. Now, how do you intend to meet the Monday deadline?”
“If you would let me sleep in my bed for a while, maybe I would have enough strength to pull an all-nighter.” He replied, as they walked over to the cashier.
“Good day.” The lady at the counter greeted.
Sharon handed her the bag and turned to Dapo. “What if I help you? I could do some while you do the rest. I have a little knowledge of Architecture.”
He shook his head as he thought about his truth. He had evaded that when she asked him about his story. He had gone on to tell her how much he had to do under little time but couldn’t come around being honest with her. Maybe it was time for him to take advantage of the fact that she could actually help out. She was an Architect and he could use the help. “That’s the problem.” He said.
“What problem?” Sharon asked.
He swallowed. “I am a fraud.”