Thousands of stitches, hours of learning, bits of token that grew in silence under a wad of wrappers, days, nights, and another day. It was a week and some days to Seyi's going to school. Time hadn't flown. Sometimes, it crawled, sometimes, it seemed to magically disappear and reappear as three days forward. But time went, as well as money did too. Transport, feeding...fees, but more was saved. It wasn't really enough but it was available. And what more, Seyi had finished learning. Not exactly, but she was of course a special student. She didn't learn it all but she had learnt a lot. Enough to survive.
Really, her story began when she got into U.W, her survival story. Who said Universities aren't easy? There was more than it being just "not easy" in her story. She had been in a Uni before. So, of course, she knew that it was tough. And that too, when you aren't very financially strong. But what she hadn't experienced was being actually in plain terms poor. So, it wasn't easy "at all." But here really lay her preparation. Perhaps, she only got to show her strength at U.W. Maybe it was a test of endurance. But then, before her trials at U.W began, her last days before finally leaving home was quite an important page in her life.
If one were to count small breakthroughs, luck, unexpected help that helped us to survive trying moments, one would find out how much friends, family and goodwilled strangers had to play in our life story. From Aunty Simi, to Mama Arike, to Bolu, Hannah and even gossiping customers, and, the crown of it all; her mother. Maybe they had made life easier for her in their own little ways. But she would be leaving to a new place, one without any of them. She hoped to meet angels like these too but, would they be like these ones she's known before?
Two days before her last day at the salon, she had been at the back, in the usual corner where the students were. Bolu as always, was lively, with her mouth bustling about with one news or the other and Hannah was just her usual self. Thoughts had run wild in Seyi's head. She was working but was also obviously not paying attention to it at all. Talk less of Bolu's 'gist'. Often, she would day dream her life at the new University, most times, as she hoped it would be, but with a little spice of realism. She painted her story; tough, challenging, but with herself winning in the end. The heroine of her little head play.
"We're changing Bolu's school, Màámi. And Peju and Timi too. Thank heavens I can at least, afford the fees of good schools now."
"Maybe a sales assistant will make the work in your shop easier, Ma. At least, one." And saying that in her mind, she had to use the bathroom. Thank goodness it was inside the house now. A standard, modern bathroom. In a house with leather sofas and a good Tv.
"And I'm pulling it off in the end, Màámi. Especially to those who didn't believe..."
She jerked hard in surprise. Bolu's voice called off her reverie.
"Oh my goodness!" Bolu exclaimed, dramatically flaying her arms about. Hannah just chuckled. Obviously, she had known that she, Seyi, wasn't listening at all.
"So you didn't even listen to anything I said!" Bolu wailed.
"I-I did. Somehow." Seyi said tiredly. She massaged in between her eyes as stress relief.
And immediately there was another "Seyitan!"
"Ma!" She stretched her neck to answer while simultaneously pushing the table away as she stood up. She gave a "Don't touch my work" threat look to her fellow workers before going to attend to Màmá Àríkẹ́.
"I have news for you." Màmá Àríkẹ́ said her eyes beaming.
Seyi narrowed her brows. "Yes, ma?"
"You know..." She looked around suspiciously. "...you know you're going to school soon."
Seyi still felt confused. "Umm... Yes, ma."
"And I imagine gathering some necessities might be a bit-eh...tough. So, I told your mates, Bolu and Hannah about it."
Seyi sighed part in embarrassment, part in exasperation. "Ha... Ma, I..."
"I understand." Màmá Àríkẹ́ cut in. "But then, they were so happy...and willing to help."
"Help? I don't understand. And how come I didn't even get to know?"
Màmá Àríkẹ́ only smiled wistfully. "They are better actors than you might have imagined them to be." Then, she called them.
Hannah, on seeing Seyi there, smiled brightly and Bolu followed suit. Somehow, it made Seyi feel nervous. What did they want to do? But when Bolu pulled a small, half filled sack out of a corner, Seyi couldn't believe her eyes. Palm oil, beans, spaghetti, matches... Her mates had actually contributed foodstuff for her. And with Màmá Àríkẹ́'s help too, of course.
Seyi felt speechless.
"Come on." Bolu said. And, Seyi did. But it wasn't just her body, it was her heart and her whole soul.
Hugs that lasted longer than usual. A few tears, and some farewell words. But when Seyi entered the bus, she entered alone. And the only things she had to take with her: her very small luggage and very much love.