Mr Chike was supposed to have arrived twenty minutes ago and his number wasn't going through either. I was growing frantic already and a zillion questions were popping up in my mind,no, seriously these questions were popping up in my mind because I could hear a "pop!" whenever a fresh question annouced itself; "what if mama had found out I had called Mr Chike to our house to discuss Azukas' educational future?" "What if Mr Chike changed his mind and did not find Azuka worthy enough to be helped?" "What if Fide, my idiotic brother had psychic powers and could read my mind,knew about Mr Chike and gone ahead to threaten him never to come an inch close to our house?" and etc. I decided to ignore these popping questions and dial his number one more time. It rang, thank God, and in his usual deep intellectual voice, Mr Chike answered and informed me that the bus he had taken was crawling. He pronounced the word, "crawling" very slowly,emphasising on each syllable "k a:l ing" as if he was trying to create a picturesque of the bus' slowness in my mind. He didn't have to go through the stress though, because I perfectly understood the pains of being trapped in a slow rickety bus and the driver pretending to be oblivious of his pace while the conductor collected the bus fare, gave out change,cursed at almost everyone and the sick smell of the entire scene. I re-described our house to Mr Chike out of courtesy because our house was easy to spot. Our house announced itself. It was like a politician on campaign during the election period. We did live in one of the slums of Lagos, a very dirty place, filled with disease,naked children running around bare assed, houses jam packed like the shields of Spartan soldiers in defense. Our house stood apart from the other houses because it was my family alone that had the courage to inhabit it. There was a legend behind the state of our house. It was rumoured that a witch had lived in the house years ago, she had been bored of being lonely and had decided to get married. She was lucky,and had found a husband, they both had six children together, six beautiful and healthy children. One day the witch had woken up too bored to have a family anymore, so she ate up her husband and children except the fourth that was away at boarding school. To everyone in our street, our house was cursed. My parents had been desperate for shelter that they gladly accepted this house with both arms wide open. Thinking about that rumour sometimes, I laugh out loud because no one ever mentioned what happened to the fourth child that had escaped.
Mr Chike had miraculously arrived at our house fifteen minutes later. As I opened the door for him and glanced at his expression, I nearly burst out laughing but then I scolded myself for finding his frightened expression funny. The street alone was enough to scare anyone out of his/her pants. He must have also seen the red paint inscriptions of "dye winch dye" or the "tis hous is honted", though wrongly spelt,drove home the messages intended. I smiled my widest smile and welcomed him to our house. He seemed to be relaxing because he forced out a short smile. I offered him a seat and left him in the sitting room to get a cup of water. He accepted the cup with relief written all over his face. "Now let's get down to business," he said sounding once more like he did whenever he taught biology in school. I began recounting Azukas' story right up to when mama decided he wouldn't be going to school again. He nodded as I narrated the story,as a sign of encouragement but I was distracted from the encouragement beacause his nodding reminded me of an agama. And to make matters worse, he had a red turtle-neck on, giving him the resemblance of a human-agama. I held in my laughter because he was in our house to discuss Azukas' future and not to be laughed at by his student in her "haunted" house. I decided to block out any encouragement to find my biology teacher, Mr Chike, hilarious. After listening to my story, he agreed as we had planned to take Azuka in as his houseboy, while also training him. He would pay his tuition fees throughout secondary school and if he were brilliant enough, he could sit for College scholarship exams. I smiled, this offer was fantastic. I called Azuka, screaming his name at the top of my voice, few seconds later, he ran in holding the cover of a bic and the blue rubber edges of a big tiger battery with lots of rubber bands on his arms. He greeted Mr Chike and asked me, "sister na this man bin wan make I live wit am?" I nodded and he continued, "shoo wich kin face im come dey take look me Nawa o" I smiled and told him to get his bag ready and come out fast before my mother came back. He raced out and arrived shortly with his faded and nylon-ripped red and white check "ghana must go" bag. He smiled, I smiled back and my somerhing stung my left eye. It was the tears I tried to hold back. They were pushing out, wanting to pour out and empty my soul. I sniffed,something liquid slid down my cheek and entered my nose, uh uh I thought, too late, the tears poured down non-stop. I wiped my face but the tears just kept on pouring, so I covered my face with my palms and my shoulder shook with the weight of everything at once, the emptiness inside of me, the happiness for Azuka, my mother and brothers disturbingly evil nature and even my fathers' death_ I remembered him today. Mr Chike was standing in front of me and was patting my shoulder, he didn't say a word but his silence spoke volumes; every encouragement I needed, every boldness I needed to face my mothers' insults and my brother's radioactive knocks on my head
were right there in Mr Chikes' silence. He seemed to be aware that tomorrow would be better. So, I forced the tears to stop, patted Azukas' craw craw infested head, told him to be a good boy and thanked Mr Chike for his help. I told Mr Chike that my mother would be back in an hour and that they needed to leave early or we would be caught. He nodded, he must have been growing uncomfortable too. He turned to Azuka and said, "mak we dey go yu hear?", as he headed towards the front door. Azuka nodded, slung his "ghana must go" bag on his shoulder,said goodbye to me and followed Mr Chike, his savior. As I stood and watched them the distance increased; I willed Azuka to turn back one last time and wave at me before they distance swallowed them up. I stood there like à statue waiting for the wave that never came. Azuka was caught up with the rubber bands on his wrist. Woaw, that stung. He didn't even acknowledge me, but who could blame him, he was six and oblivious of the world that lay ahead of him. To him the most important thing in this world was getting enough rubber bands for his rubber chain and probably getting a brand new tyre he could run around with. He couldn't carry his old tyre with him. He had "parked" it under the mango tree behind the house and had instructed me to give it to Bala, his very good friend. To Azuka, his tyre and rubber bands were worth more than I was. Sighing, I closed the door and entered the sitting room, yawning, I lay on the sofa. I did not care for the knocks I'd receive later, so long Azuka was safe.