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book the Lagos Through His Eyes

NICK NWAOGU 
——— ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ———
 LAGOS THROUGH HIS EYES

          This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or events or places or business establishments, is entirely coincidental.
 Copyright © 2017 by Nick Nwaogu. For more information about the author, visit his official website at: www.nwaogu. com. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the author or the publisher. ISBN 978-1-3704-6284-1


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    -   ‘Well crafted, enthralling and yet haunting.’ —Mezie Emenike ‘I love the narrative, the twist, suspense, and change in time and event. It felt so real. Heart thumping and beautiful.’ —Cee Ooh ‘The story is real and engaging, and the author’s writing style is impressive.’ —Summer Unachukwu ‘So interesting and romantic. I love it.’ —Golden Gift ‘The heavens are in love with this story. This is so beautiful, lovely and perfect. Couldn’t believe I almost cried.’ —Vera Chinedo ‘I’m short of words. This is a masterpiece. I enjoyed every bit of it. Fantastic, spectacular, superb and breathtaking.’ —Abiel Azuh ‘Full of suspense and action.’ —Jacinta Obi ‘There is so much to say. This makes me speechless. Wonderful and lovely.’ —Whitney Cleopatra ‘I read a lot so I know a good writer. This book is well-written, with a nice plot.’ —Lois Moses ‘All these beautiful words packed in one book.’ —Chinelo Akorah ‘The story is just perfect. Quite captivating, unpredictable and beautiful. An excellent piece.’ —Tobi Cruz ‘Nick is blessed with a beautiful gift. He never ceases to amaze me.’ —Blessing Iwueze ‘This is awesome. I can’t stop myself from reading again and again. Excellent and superb.’ —Faith Ogu ‘Mind-blowing story. Splendid!’ —Godwin Charles Ifeanyi Okonkwo ‘Nick’s works are always admirable.’ —Ify Nwafor ‘This is so amazing and fantastic. Nick is a genius.’ —Obodozie Olivia ‘This is more than great. I’m short of words. A very nice piece.’ —Chidinma Splendor ‘Nick is a talented writer. He never stops amazing me. I’m out of words. This is the best of the best.’ —Violah Chantelle Jeptoo ‘Nick has a talent.’ —Chienyem Essai ‘So captivating.’ —Humphrey Rono 
‘Awesomely       awesome.          Nick       is        a       gem. ’     —Olopade        Tosin           Lola
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Also By Nick Nwaogu
 ——— ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ———
 The Almost Kiss Odd Family Out

Forthcoming Book 
——— ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ——— 
February: A Screenplay

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1
 ——— ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ——— 
Prologue
It was few minutes to midnight, with grave silence sneaking through the often ignored and somewhat complex fabrics of emptiness, leaping boundlessly into obscurity. The faint tick-tick of Segun’s one hundred and sixty gram heavy, gold Rolex Tudor Heritage wristwatch echoed like sweet soul music through a vast distance of nothing. The familiar white noise blazing from the garden beyond the walls of his Banana-Island mansion persisted throughout the night, and this drove Sasha, Segun’s rare Dalmatian, crazy
   Of course, Segun wasn’t left out of the late night party of crazies. He couldn’t concentrate either, even after downing five cups of hot Mexican coffee in order to stay up through the night and study for tomorrow’s marriage-counselling test.
           He was getting married to Amina, a girl he hadn’t locked eyes on yet. I know what you’re thinking and yes, you’re right—It was an arranged marriage. Segun’s father controlled Adeleke Cement, the largest cement factory in Sub-Sahara Africa, and Amina’s father held the largest stake in RefineOil, the largest oil refinery in the continent. The marriage of the children was a way to foster the continuous growth of both conglomerates. Segun wasn’t a huge fan of arranged marriages or Mallam Hassan, his Imam. Why grow your beards so thick and bushy? he would think to himself each time he glared at the middle-aged figure of holiness. Earlier, his father had gifted him with what looked like a ‘titanic pile of gibberish’ to him, which he christened ‘the answers to your tomorrow’s test’. Every one of his four siblings, and six half-siblings, had been equally tested, and they all managed to scale through, and are now married at first sight to the child of some Forbes’ billionaire.
         ‘I best not fail this test,’ he sighed heavily. Edgily seated before a busy desk, Segun couldn’t think of anything but role-playing video games and wild partying till dawn. It was a Friday night, and the only thing that kept him from an unholy celebration with like-minded friends was ‘this stupid marriage-counselling test he’d to study for’, else, he should be stamping his custom-made Nike sneakers to the deafening Reggae music blaring from the Dee-jay’s five foot tall loudspeakers, clutching the big ass of a loose girl with one hand, with his other hand holding a halfdowned red cup of mixed alcohol contaminated with pure Jamaican Indian hemp, surrounded by cheering drunks he hadn’t seen before, and sweating profusely on his day-old tee-shirt with an inscription that read, ‘Live Your Life’. That was how Segun spent his Friday nights for the past decade after graduating from British
        International Secondary School at sixteen. He’d refused to attend a university, even after acing his SATs and TOEFL, and gaining admission three times into the prestigious Ivy League Harvard Business School. Across Segun’s desk was a white laptop streaming a full-length HD pornographic film off Pornhub. The faked erotic noises were blocked out from the rest of the innocent world, and plugged deep into his violated ears by a twenty-four thousand naira Beats By Dre headphone, bought with his father’s American Express credit card, of course. The key to his 2017 Range Rover, a bar of Snickers chocolate, and a broken grain of Burger peanut defaced the keyboard of his MacBook Pro Retina. A neat stack of lengthy graphic novels wasn’t left out of the scene. A rare and expensive issue of Amazing Spiderman was flicked open beside his sinning laptop, with a broad inset of Spiderman’s alter ego Peter Parker, kissing the beautiful Mary Jane Watson for the first time.
Realistic miniature models of famous superheroes stood tall, in line, on his desk.

-Spiderman 
-Superman
-Batman
-Aqua man
-Iron-man
-Plastic man
-Hawk man
-Animal man
And any other ‘man’ superhero you’ve possibly heard of.
He had them. 
He had them all.

  -         A green ceramic cup of colorful HB pencils, a broken pack of chewing gum, a stripped and signed copy of the first edition of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, a half-filled Pepsi can with a straw tucked in it, a green miniature model of the 1957 Chevrolet Impala, a tall stack of PlayStation 4 compact discs, a variety of valid premium credit cards with his father’s name engraved in all, a tray of smoked White London cigarettes, a stick of cheap candy, a postcard from his rogue writer brother, Lanre, experiencing first-hand love with his skinny French model girlfriend, Adreanna, in the beautiful city of Nice, and a perfect minilibrary of untouched texts on Islam, defaced the top of his desk, and were beautifully lit by a table lamp mounted by the edge of the desk.
  ________________________________________

           For a twenty-six year old man, he was way too immature and completely unfocused. Quickly he flipped the Spidey issue close, and flung it against his classic collection of superhero 
         models.
                       Spiderman was struck down.
                       He tapped the ‘spacebar’ key on his laptop.
               It was time to get ready for tomorrow’s test, and he was putting away every form of distraction. ‘Time to get serious,’ he took a long shot at being part of the real world. The headphone, Pepsi can, and broken pack of Orbit chewing gum were casted to a neglected corner of the desk as he wiped a large portion of the desk clear with his right hand. He slammed with a bang, the ‘pile of gibberish’ titled ‘Marriage, the Islam Way’, an empty jotter from his older sister’s wedding at Saudi Arabia, a hot cup of rich black coffee, and a broken bar of white eraser, on the cleared portion of the desk. With the white noise from the garden still buzzing in persistently, he shoved himself forward, closer to the desk for some serious ‘jacking’, like he fondly called it in secondary school. He flicked the text’s cover open, hunched over, and began to read aloud with a deep crooked voice that sounded almost serious, tracing through the printed words on the text with a green HB pencil
   a green HB pencil. It was obvious that green was his favorite color. Even his Range Rover was Army green in color. ‘Both the groom and the bride are to consent to the marriage of their own free wills. A formal, binding contract is considered integral to a religiously valid Islamic marriage, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom and bride. There must be two Muslim witnesses of the marriage contract,’ Segun read out with a growing frown. The words ‘free wills’ failed to make any sense to him.
           This was by far nothing like free will. Staying up all night, forcefully reading a boring lengthy text for a test tomorrow, in order to get married to a complete stranger, didn’t, in any way, or any form, fit into the simplest meaning of the words ‘free will’. To be certain he wasn’t wrong, he flicked his laptop open again, maximized his Chrome window, and googled up the words ‘free will’ for himself. Free will (noun) The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion. Synonyms: volition, independence, self-determination, self-sufficiency, autonomy, spontaneity. Antonyms: under duress.

         ‘Under duress’—that was exactly how he felt, so this certainly wasn’t ‘Marriage, the Islam Way’, but ‘Marriage, my father’s way!’ he revolted within himself. ‘Bullocks!’ He stroked his hair with the butt of his pencil. ‘I can’t believe I’m even doing this!’ He shook his head twice and dropped it, still seated upright. ‘You need to stay focused, mehn! Pass this test, get married and inherit a cool billion naira, that’s the goal, and that’s what this is all about, nothing more, nothing less.’ He raised his head up again, and stared hard at the wall before him. His eyes wandered across the wall defaced with stripped Playboy magazine pages of Pamela Anderson, Sarah McDaniel, Camille Rowe, and Eugena Washington, and then across the desk, freezing on the Spidey issue.
      He tried to avert his gaze, but his effort was futile. 
   If I’m not going to study tonight, at least I shouldn’t spend the night watching half-naked models or reading graphic novels, he cautioned himself. The familiar Skype ringtone streamed from his laptop’s speakers into his ears. It was Rasheed calling! He grinned at the name on the screen. Hurriedly, he sat up and tapped the ‘Enter’ key almost immediately. 
‘You’re a lifesaver, mehn! You called at the right time. Al-ḥamdu lillāh!’ ‘Is your old man troubling you again?’ ‘It’s enough nightmare that I’m getting married in order to claim my inheritance, and all my nights of drinking parties are over, but he’s making me study for a marriage-counselling test taking place tomorrow at the Central mosque! What is that all about?!’ ‘Yeah, that’s true. Everybody takes it. It is tradition.’ ‘I’m not everybody! I’m Segun! In a few weeks, I’ll be a billionaire. Someone should better write that test for me.’ ‘Anyway, I called so we could play ‘Call of Duty’ together.
       I heard the city of Lagos is insane in that game, but it seems like you have your hands full. Maybe some other time.’ ‘Connect your console to the Internet, mate. Let’s do this!’ ‘Right away!’ And that was it—study was over for Segun, before it even began.               Immediately, he slapped his MacBook close with a smirk, stared hard for a bit, at the beautiful French ceiling suspended above him, then shoved his chair backwards. Excitedly, he rose to his feet, spun around with a reckless swing, leaped high into the frozen air, and freefell on his seven foot wide water bed with a scream of self-satisfaction.
      His bed was an eyesore. Samantha King’s Born to Love, Cursed to Feel was buried under his SpongeBob duvet, flicked open, and page down. That was exactly how he felt—willing to love, but no one to feel it with—heart wide open to love, but shut down whenever he tried to reach for it.
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         He was on a blue Star Wars’ socks that terminated few inches below his knees, a sky-blue underpants that exposed his skinny hairy thighs, and a disgustingly simple grey tee-shirt, much like those of billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, and he also had a dozen of those—same color. Sealed envelopes of elite party invitation were littered all over his white bedsheet, including his Levi sleeveless jean jacket, more graphic novels, a Rose-gold iPhone 7, a sealed jar of TomTom mint candy, a green bandana, a red British travel passport, and remote controls to his fifty-four inch wide television, home theatre and air-conditioner. All Samsung electronics. Yes, Segun was born in East London, like the rest of his siblings, but he lacked a fancy British accent because he returned to Nigeria shortly afterwards with his mother and had refused to return to England ever since. 
    Seated on a jade-colored seven-foot long couch by his seventy-two inch wide window, with muffled crackling sounds of dry leaves whooshing through the air as he surfed through Cheki for the latest automobile to add to his twenty-car capacity garage—that was a typical boring night for Segun.               Fierce-looking and heavily-built bodyguards stood ten foot apart and around the mansion to ensure Segun didn’t sneak out late at night to one of his infamous Island club parties. As a result, he would revert to flipping through comic books he’d read before, or taking bedroom photographs with his twenty-two thousand dollar Leica 10803 camera, which he posted to his Tumblr photo-blog. He had considered a degree in Photography, but his billionaire father had always wanted a Harvard Business School graduate instead, so Segun discarded college completely.  
        He didn’t want to be part of the booming family business. It just isn’t me, he would think to himself. His wallboard was completely defaced with pinned photographs of his last trip to The Bahamas. It was an insane adventure—one he would love to experience again. His refrigerator was always stuck with junk foods. He would spend the night watching movie adaptations of his favorite comic books, body frozen, breath held, eyes glued on the television screen, and mouth munching a delicious Skippy peanut butter sandwich.
              It was 5am already, and Rasheed had already gone to bed, so Segun decided to study again. He boorishly paced through his half-black bedroom, towards his study desk. He sank into the chair exhaustedly, sipped his coffee, flicked the text open again, and dropped on the desk, fast asleep.

I know what you’re thinking.
 Keep it to yourself
——— ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ——— 
Fast forward five hours later.
 10am.
 Segun was still fast asleep! A familiar bang dropped on  his door nicely made of mahogany, but he                 failed to rise up on his feet. ‘Open the door, Segun! Son, you’ll be late for your test, open the               door now! What are you doing in there?’ Segun rubbed his eyes open, still half-asleep. ‘Open             the door! You’ll be late for your test. It’s ten in the morning already!’ It was the familiar voice             and banging of his mother that struck him awake and back to his senses. Hurriedly, he picked             his Rolex, and glared at its face. It was 10:05am! Segun’s face morphed into disappointment.       He shoved the chair backwards, dashed for the door
                  turned the key in the locks speedily, gripped the doorknob firmly, and swung the door open. There his mother stood by the doorway with his breakfast.
             ‘Mom?’ ‘Yes it’s me. Your eyes are red. Are you still asleep?’ ‘Mom! Why didn’t you wake me up sooner? Now, I’ll definitely be late for this stupid test, and father will start his famous whining.’
‘I didn’t want to disturb your studying. And it’s not a stupid test. You better ask Allah for his forgiveness. And I thought you’d be up by now.
              Did you study at all? Don’t forget what you get if you pass.’ Segun abandoned his mother at the doorway, spun around and marched back into his room. His eyes circled for his jean trouser pant, which laid on the bed, next to his Levi.  
           He quickly slipped into the Wrangler, pulled out his green Timbaland boots from underneath his bed, and jumped into them. ‘Aren’t you going to have breakfast before you leave? At least put on something better than these rags you have on.
            Remember you’re going to the mosque. It’s a holy place and you need to look good for Allah,’ his mother pleaded with a squint, but Segun snatched his black Vaschy backpack from the closet and breezed away without uttering a single word. ‘Best of luck, darling!’ His mother stood frozen until his footsteps were heard no more.

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——— ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ——— 
The Marriage-Counselling Test

Tensed moments for Segun in a hall-like examination room as he stared at the exit—hard and long. He expected or dreamed of a tiny dusty room with just him before an old rotting desk, but rather, he was received with a neat room of some fifty-something examinees quietly seated in an orderly manner, in five rows, and desks well-spaced apart. Memories from his WAEC examinations some ten years ago came flooding, floating and flowing into his head, and this sent cold and frightening quivers through and down his backbone. The room, struck with grave silence, had this rattling sound of four wrecking ceiling fans blaring into his ears. He was dripping profusely in sweat, partly because the room was hot, and he was beyond nervous. He stared hard and ahead at the question paper that laid before his eyes, and then at his empty answer sheet to the right.
             ‘What a shame?’ He shook his head.
              It was already thirty minutes into the one-hour-long test, and he hadn’t answered a single damn question, correctly or not. All fifty objective questions though printed in simple day-to-day English, seemed to Segun, to be inscribed in Hebrew or some foreign ancient language that had gone extinct for more than a century ago. He tapped his green HB pencil on the wooden desk before him, creating a sharp disturbing sound, as he panted uneasily. Mallam Hassan sat at a well-appointed desk in front of the entire class, next to a huge pile of backpacks and handbags, and each time Segun had a sneak peek at his roughly bearded face, it seemed like he was glaring right back at him with a squint. This didn’t put Segun at ease.
          The hall was properly-illuminated by the midday Sun streaming in from the West, casting beautiful shadows of everyone to the East. The warm floor was nicely decorated with a lovely pattern of the moon and stars, but Segun had a different opinion of it. In fact, he had a different and contrasting opinion of everything and everyone contained within the room. Planted on the walls were regular light switches and old-fashion announcement speakers. His eyes roamed across the hall that swallowed him much like a black hole, and froze at a small chalkboard next to Mallam Hassan. Silently, he read through Mallam Hassan’s dreadful handwriting on the board.

     ‘Marriage-Counselling
      Test Batch: 2

________________________________________

Duration: 1 Hour
Start: 11:00am 
Stop: 12:00pm 
Venue: Central Mosque, Eti-Osa 
Supervisor: Mallam Hassan Kadiri 
May Almighty Allah help those who studied’ 

 Segun found the last phrase particularly offensive—because ‘offended’—that’s how he felt. He glared at his Rolex, it was 11:36am already. His eyes quickly reverted to the exit that lead to the stairs. He left like getting up, marching over to Mallam Hassan, hand in his empty answer sheet, 
       and dash off to anywhere with some little level of sanity. Everybody hunched over, cautiously reading questions and brilliantly shading their answers, except Segun who had one leg strayed along the gangway. His face was pale, void of any facial expression.
                 His eyes were narrowed, willing to steal answers off other’s sheet. He hunched over, lifted the question paper for the first time, and decided to give it a fair shot. The paper was already filled with superhero sketches. Now we know what he did with the last half-hour of his time. He raised the question paper up to his face, blocking Mallam Hassan from getting any further pleasing picture of his terrified face. Remember, I noted earlier that Segun wasn’t a huge fan of Mallam Hassan—well, the feeling was mutual.
       Mallam Hassan hated Segun’s guts. He thought he was a spoilt rich little brat who was nothing without his father’s overwhelming identity in the society. Well, Segun didn’t think any better of him. ‘Was this test born out of a typewriter? Haven’t they heard of a computer and printer? Seems like something photocopied from years ago. Cheapos!’ he thought within himself as he flipped the question paper over. 
         ‘Fifty questions to be answered in an hour. That’s seventy two seconds to give the correct answer to a single question. That’s so unfair!’ he rebelled within. ‘Now that I’ve wasted half the entire time, I just have about thirty seconds for each question. That’s not so bad at all. I was excellent at speed work in school.
        I will probably pass this one too,’ he encouraged himself, but then he glanced at the questions again, and was stripped of all hope. ‘I probably will fail this one. What am I going to do?’ His eyes wandered across the hall and were locked on Mallam Hassan again who gave him a sharp glance of disapproval. He leaned back, and stared at the ceiling fan just above him. ‘You are never going to amount to anything. You’ll definitely fail this exam and also at life too. You don’t take anything seriously, and failure is what you deserve,’ he heard his father’s voice in his head. ‘Get out of my head!’ He shook his father’s voice away. ‘Don’t listen to your father. When I married him, he was completely lost. I set him straight. Maybe Amina will set you straight too.
         If you fail this test, don’t worry, I will plead with Mallam Hassan to get you married anyway. I believe Amina will set you straight too,’ his mother’s calming voice replaced his father’s. It was a Saturday morning, and Segun always spent the weekend throwing wild pool parties at home. Last Saturday, he was seated by the pool with Rasheed and his girlfriend, Sade. ‘Secondary school has been over for ten years now. I’m done with medical school. Sade is done with her MBA. Everybody at school are done with their university education, and are all working, doing well, and living alone, independent from their parents. Everybody, except you.
         Yes, your father is loaded and you drive the most fancy car on the Island, but you need to carve out an identity for yourself because right now it seems like you’re buried under your father’s shadow,’ Rasheed advised.
          ‘Look at your siblings, your sister Halima is a registered nurse at Oman. Your younger brother is a junior resident doctor at Lagos University Teaching Hospital. Your girlfriend in secondary school, Vivian, remember her? She is a dental surgeon in California. Everybody has forged a path for themselves, except you, and you were the brightest of us all.
     I expected greater things for you,’ Sade took over. ‘Rasheed and I are getting married. You’re the first of our friends to know this. He asked me last night.’ Sade flaunted her diamond engagement ring before Segun’s eyes. In reaction, Segun laughed and urged them to be less serious and get drunk a little. Later that day, they all drove around the Island, recklessly, with Rasheed and Segun taking turns on the wheel. Rasheed would turn his head around and stare at Sade every five minutes—even after dating for four years, he was clearly still in the love bubble.
          They all sipped chilled Pepsi, chitchatting with one another and laughing throughout the cruise. An FC Barcelona badge hanged from the reverse mirror between Segun and Rasheed. Segun had a signed Barcelona jersey of Lionel Messi that cost him a mountain. Neither Segun nor Rasheed had a seatbelt on. They stopped at a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet at Victoria Garden City.
         There they sat on a round table, and had chicken, chips, cakes, chocolates, fruit juice, and more Pepsi. They continued their chitchats and laughter, often with others throwing them sharp gazes of disapproval. The game-shop wasn’t left out of the many stops. They played arcade video games and bought FIFA 17, Far Cry, Medal of Honor, God of War, 
       Grand Theft Auto, Need for Speed, and Assassin’s Creed for PlayStation. Segun also purchased an Xbox1 console for himself and Rasheed. They stopped at Shoprite, where Sade tried out new dresses, and Segun yanked out tee-shirts and jean trousers from the rail. Again, he paid with his father’s Discovery credit card, and they all walked out with at least three plastic bags in their hands, in chitter chatter and laughter.
       Later that night, they had a final stop at a Karaoke bar, where they had beer, champagne, and several shots of expensive liquor. They bounced all night long, stamping their feet and nodding their heads to the dancehall mix booming from the Dee-jay’s speakers. Eyes clamped shut, fists raised high in the air, singing along to Tinie Tempah’s ‘Mamacita’ hit, under the influence of liquor—they all danced till their feet hurt.

       ♫’Oh, mamacita
       Come, let’s get more familiar
       I like your style
       I like your style 
      Oh, mamacita 
      Come, let’s stay ‘til mañana 
      I like your style 
      I like your style 
     We grew up learning things the hard way, close ties 
     You only make it if you grow free, don't die 
     Remember startin' up my own wave, won't lie 
     I used to bus it, baby, no train, no sky…’♫ 
________________________________________

         ‘Thanks for tonight. Though silly, I really enjoyed myself,’ Rasheed whispered into Segun’s ears with a tight, squeezing hug. They literally crawled out of the bar early in the morning, completely unaware of how last night was spent. This time, Sade took the wheels. She was the only one sober enough to drive.
          Again, Segun’s Range Rover hugged the road, breezing through the morning Sun, with Segun’s waist through the window, hands wide apart, eyes clinched shut, feeling the wind as they brushed his face in relief. Segun tried paying for roasted corn by the roadside with his father’s card. It came as a surprise to him that the uneducated woman didn’t accept it.
                  ‘You don’t accept cards?’ Segun asked. ‘Money, give me money. Three hundred naira. Take this thing away and give me my money,’ she replied with a frown. Segun had no cash on him, so Rasheed had to pay this time. On the way home, he pulled out his Leica and took several photographs of Sade and Rasheed, which he pinned to his wallboard later in the day. They breezed through the blue atmosphere until Segun was home. 
      Sade and Rasheed took a taxi home, while Segun flung his backpack on the couch, marched off his sneakers, slipped under his duvet, and slept the alcohol off. Well, back to the test. Segun’s eyes wandered across every female face in the hall, guessing which Amina was.
             ‘Amina!’ he called out, to be certain for sure. Unfortunately, everyone in the room, man and woman, including Mallam Hassan, had their eyes locked on him. The final bell rang. ‘Time up!’ Mallam Hassan called out. ‘Okay everyone, pencils down. Stop shading. Make sure your name and your exam number are shaded correctly. Come on! Come on! Submit your answer sheet.’ He stood up and paced through the gangway, towards the examinees.
             Inaudible noises diffused throughout the room as the examinees whispered across the gangway to each other. Segun was the first to get up and hand over his answer sheet. ‘Stay behind, Segun. I will like to have a word with you when everyone is gone,’ Mallam Hassan held Segun’s wrist firmly, 
               stopping him dead in his tracks, and Segun was startled, losing his breath. Few minutes after, the room was empty, and the pile of backpacks and handbags were gone as well. Segun stood tall before Mallam Hassan who was seated at his desk glaring at Segun’s empty answer sheet in shock. He was in his famous Scooby Doo tee-shirt, with an inscription ‘Shaggy and Scooby. Best Friends Forever’ and he wore that shirt like forever. 
             ‘What?! You didn’t study for the test, Segun?’ ‘Where is my wife to be? Shouldn’t she be here like everyone else, writing the test too? Or were you paid to let someone else write it for her?’ ‘The first test was conducted from nine to ten, so she was here earlier, and she is done with hers. Such a brilliant young lady. 
             I knew you couldn’t make it for the first batch, so I fixed you in the second batch. 
             Look at you, I’m sure you woke up late and didn’t have time to shower, because this was the same shirt and jean you wore yesterday. 
   I saw you at the store yesterday in this same outfit. My question is, if you slept late last night, what did you do throughout the night if you didn’t study for the test?’ ‘Are you keeping Amina away from me or what? Why do we have to write our tests separately? Couldn’t she write hers in the second batch with me?’ ‘That’s the custom, Segun.
            If you read the text your father gave you, you’ll already know this. This shows you didn’t open the book at all. You two, the husband and wife to be, are to first meet at the wedding.’ ‘The text I read yesterday said that I have to get married on my own free will. This doesn’t feel like free will to me. I can’t marry a complete stranger.
           Arranged marriages are not the way of Allah. People should get married because they are in love with each other. You should be ashamed of yourself…’ Segun stopped himself from venting any further but it was already too late. He’d delivered the final lecture, and Mallam Hassan was more than provoked. ‘Out of here, you miscreant! I will speak to your father about this. 
             I pray that Almighty Allah forgives your ignorance.’ Segun marched out from the hall without an afterthought, and was gone in a blink.
________________________________________

3
 ——— ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ——— 
Breakfast Is Ready

Tt was dawn already, with glass buildings standing tall and birds soaring high. Trees swayed, vehicles honked, planes flew, ships sailed, pedestrians yelled, cocks crowed, dogs barked, babies cried, children laughed, bells rang, lights flashed, businesses ran, music played, as the yellow Sun rose and set.
             It was the start of a perfect Sunday, and Segun was expectant of what the day would bring. Lagos— the city of skyscrapers, satellite televisions, fancy cars, extravagant yacht parties, tall iroko trees, and highspirited immigrants—stretched endlessly until one could see mountains beyond the         clouds. Segun was unusually awake, laying on his bed, belly flat, before his MacBook. He browsed      through old photos on his laptop, wearing an unpretentious smile and a grateful heart. ‘Is that Rasheed?’ his mother called out. 
          ‘Mom, why don’t you ever knock before coming in? That’s why there’s a door. You have to knock! What if I’m naked, or I’m with someone? Would you just barged                    in like that?’ ‘You’re my son. Why should I knock?’ She sat on the bed and embraced him affectionately with a superb smile. ‘What do you want from me this time, mom? 
                 Whenever you come around like this, you always want something, so what is it that you want from me?’ ‘I came to see you. My handsomest son. Can’t I come to see you anymore? So much time since we’ve had a mother-to-son talk, and I’ve missed our earlier morning conversations a lot. We rarely see and we live in the same house.’ She tightened her arms around him. ‘Mom, stop all these. 
          I’m not a child anymore. I’m all grown up now. I’m no longer eighteen. You need to start treating me as a grown man that I am.’ He broke the embrace, and her smile instantly faded away. ‘Before I forget, how was your test yesterday?’ ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ ‘Why is that? Was it okay?’ ‘It was okay, mom!’ ‘I hope you did your best. If I haven’t told you this before,   
           I’m so proud of you. You’ll soon be getting married, moving out of here, and starting your own happy. Someday you’ll have your own children and see my world through your own eyes. I’m so happy for you.’ She clamped her eyes shut to keep the tears from flowing. Segun didn’t respond.

His eyes were locked on his laptop’s screen. ‘You are no longer a baby. You’re all grown up as you said, so you should learn to tidy up your room and organize your clothes.’ She rose up and began to tidy up his room. ‘Why do you continue ordering these Domino’s Pizza every night? Our chefs cook amazing meals round the clock. 
             You should learn to eat good food. Look at how skinny you are, because you choose to have pizza and stone-cold ice-cream all day.’ Segun still didn’t respond. He gave his laptop all his concentration.
        ‘And you should stop playing video games late at night with Rasheed. The sound effects are so loud that it keeps your father and I awake too. You need to start getting some quality sleep. 
            Look, you’re already developing eye bags due to inadequate sleep. Sleep makes people smarter and refreshed, ready for a new day. That’s why Almighty Allah gave it to us.’ She gripped a remote control on his bed, and turned off the television. ‘You have too many clothes. You need to send some to the orphanage.
                 Lawal, the mailman can help you do it. Look how huge your closet is, yet it can’t contain all your clothes and shoes.’ She gathered some clothes from the bed and forced them into the outpouring closet. ‘You have outgrown most of these clothes and they don’t fit you anymore. Give them out to the motherless or the less privilege. They need it. They’ll appreciate it and pray for you. 
                      You are no longer a boy, you know. You’re a grown man now, so act like it. Start acting your age. You should start putting on suits and not these hoodies. You’ll look more handsome.’ ‘Mom, I always look handsome, even in rags. 
       Just go away and stop bothering me. Can’t you see I’m busy here?’ Segun yelled. ‘Stop going through my things. I’ve told you this several times but you won’t listen.’ He rose to his feet and snatched his towel from her hands. ‘I’m so sorry, son.’ She felt downcast as she inched slowly towards the exit. 
          ‘Mom, hold on. I’m the one who’s sorry. I’m the one to apologize. I shouldn’t have yelled at you that way. It was mean and I’m sorry.’ He ran after her as an afterthought. ‘Here, you can fold my towel. What’s mine is yours,’ he handed the green towel to her. ‘I don’t want you to feel bad,’ he continued. ‘Breakfast is ready. Your father wants you to eat with us. Mallam Hassan called him last night. I think he wants to talk to you about something.’ She smiled, handing the folded towel to him. 
              ‘I made breakfast myself. Are you going to eat with us?’ she continued. ‘Yes, mom,’ Segun responded in a low-spirit, warming up for what was about to come next.  

                       ‘Lagos Through His Eyes’ is available for purchase on Kobo, Barnes and Noble and iBooks for just $0.99!
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About the Author
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      His bus rode pass the ever-busy Lagos City Hall, the famous King’s College with students              in sparkling white uniform loitering along the corridors before assembly was due to start, and the        French gothic style architecture of the Holy Cross Cathedral with a few worshippers praying        before the grotto. Though born in Lagos, this was the first time the young officer had been to   this part of town. Like every other day in a chaotic city, a tourist could see and appreciate the daily and routinely hustle of hardworking and ‘fast-walking’ locals reporting to their workplaces, even before the sun rose. 
             They could easily take photographs of derelict public buses prying speedily and dangerously along poorly maintained highways, leaving a trail of thick poisonous fumes in their tracks, thus awakening selfdestruction. One could even catch a sight of a stampede, as determined and desperate ‘Lagosians’
              aggressively struggle to board already-moving buses that are jam-packed with noisy citizens, and fearless young men literally hanging on the edge of bus’ entrances with their eyebrows kneaded in slight worry. Every living thing that drew breath, even the roosters, were busy, crowing and roaming around every edge of emptiness, ducking to the filthy grounds beneath their feet, perpetually in search of food. 
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            The well-enjoyed and long-overstayed weekend break was over, and the daily monotonous routine of the chief commercial city of its nation, unfolded all over again. Femi finally arrived at Saint Nicholas House, a white fourteen-storey mixed-use building. ‘Saint Nicholas dey?’ the shabby bus conductor dressed in slippers and a smelly undershirt, barked in Pidgin English. ‘Saint Nicholas dey,’ Femi hurled back. He disembarked as soon as the dilapidated vehicle came to a halt. The moment his well-polished black Valentino leather shoes hit the tarred road, the bus sped off, recklessly hugging the road again. 
           Femi stood tall before the high-rise building. Slowly, he raised his head, training his sight at the skyscraper rooted before him, while private vehicles and commercial tricycles pried along the expensive Campbell road behind him. Beside him was an empty white ambulance, completely buried in the faint shadow of the tall building.
             After a momentary admiration of the elite landscape, he inched behind two female nurses in clean white uniform, headed for the entrance of the building, chitchatting to one another in high-pitched voices and laughing. There was a large blue signboard just above the entrance, which read ‘St. Nicholas Hospital’.
       Femi was welcomed to a neat, orderly and somewhat quiet king-size room. His orbs bright with anticipation, flicked across every square foot of the reception hall diffused with inaudible sounds. There was an old lady, finely wrinkled, completely grey-haired, wearing an old-fashion reading glasses, probably in her mid-70s, been pushed on a wheel chair by a young female nurse dressed in neat uniform. The room was mainly crammed with five rows of posh iron benches where families of patients impatiently waited. Some were in grief, others were in tears, but many were overwhelmed with anxiety without any verbal interaction with anyone.
           Seated on one of the benches was a young gentleman on blue shirt and a plain grey trouser, swiping the screen of a sleek tablet, with his eyes glued on it. Next to him was an exhausted lady dressed in a native purple attire, dozing off without a snore. Behind them was a robust woman dressed in an uncommon ankara fabric,
                discreetly talking to herself in despair. There was a vending machine at one corner of the room filled with attractively wrapped foods and bottled drinks. Next to the machine was the bronze sculpture of the Late Nigerian gynecologist and obstetrician, Moses Majekodunmi who founded the hospital. In front of everyone was a beautifully-lit mini-grocery store with an equally beautiful female store-attendant wearing an enchanting smile as she read Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook. Femi swaggered further into the hall-like room, towards the stunning receptionist who comfortably sat behind a busy desk, chewing gum, and routinely stroking the keys of a keyboard, while perpetually staring at a bright computer monitor mounted in front of her… 
                ‘The Almost Kiss’ is available wherever books are sold.

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          'I hate gym,' she thought to herself. 'What was that? What's wrong with you?' yelled Coach. He stormed over to Joe, glaring at Bella, and then looked down at Joe. 'Are you okay, boy?' he asked. Joe got up slowly, rubbing his head where the ball had hit him. 'I'm fine' he mumbled, wincing a little. Everybody got back to the game, 
        snickering and grinning maliciously at her. 'Next time, try setting the ball, girl' said Coach, rolling his eyes, and blowing the final whistle. They all packed up the volleyballs, and headed towards the shower. 
         Bella trudged away from everyone, feeling really awful, then she heard someone come up next to her. 'Hey' he said, still rubbing his head a little. She turned around and saw him. She ducked her head again in embarrassment. 'Hi' she replied cautiously. 'Coach was kind of an asshole to you' he said, laughing a little. 
        'Maybe if he tried actually teaching you, instead of shouting, you'd be a bit better at volleyball.' She looked up at him, smiling. 'Yeah' she said, 'that'd be a nice change. But are you alright?' 'Don't worry about it, I'm fine. Coach shouldn't have yelled at you like that. I've gotten hurt way more from football.' Bella nodded, relieved.
           'So, I was thinking' he said. 'The Valentine's Day is a few days away. I want to buy you a flower. My way of saying sorry for the way Coach scolded you. Are you okay with that?' Joe asked. 'Um, yeah, I'm okay with that.' she accepted without hesitation, but acting like she wasn't desperate at all. 'Cool' he said, sounding very genuine as he grinned even wider than normal. 'I'll see you around, I guess.' 'Yeah, I'll see you' Bella replied, flashing Joe a wide smile as he turned for the boy's bathroom. Joe and Bella talked and made fun of Coach the rest of the week. He texted her every night. Things didn't seem like they could get any better—well, that is, until they did.

The rest of the week was total bliss.

'I just want to spend some time alone with you,' Joe explained to Bella over the phone. 'No one is home,' Bella quickly invited Joe over. He is over in about fifteen minutes. He gazed into her eyes. She could remember them perfectly— they were deep black in color. They were clear and beautiful, more like the ocean or the twilight sky—and they shined just like the stars. Before she knew it, he was kissing her. 'Anytime I am with you, I have a great time. You are absolutely amazing,' he breathed into her ear. Bella didn't have time to respond to his words because his lips were soon on hers again. I don't need to go to great detail—so I will let your imaginations run wild. Let's just say they didn't just kiss.
Satisfied?  
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        A month later, after they did the deed a few more times, a little pink plus sign changed Bella's life forever. When she told Joe she was pregnant, he freaked out. He stopped texting, and he stopped calling. He avoided her in school, while Bella cried for days. She didn't want an abortion. She wanted to keep the baby. She knew her parents would be heartbroken if she told them—after all, she was only sixteen

 How could their baby girl be pregnant?

       Bella finally cornered Joe after gym one day, about a week after she'd told him. 'Joe, listen to me! We need to talk about this! I'm serious.' 'Talk about what?' he demanded coldly. 'Just get rid of that thing, whatever it is, just get rid of it. Problem solved! Jesus!' Bella felt like she'd been slapped on both chins. 'Get rid of what? Are you serious? I can't do that, Joe!' 'Why not?' he demanded again coldly. 'Because it's my baby! Our baby! I just can't kill it!' she yelled angrily. Luckily, the gym was empty and everyone was in the bathroom. Bella started sobbing. He looked away, passive and cold. 'Well, don't expect me to stick around. I'm seventeen. I don't need a child when I'm still a child myself. You stupid girl!' Joe scream, before turning away and bursting into the bathroom.

Bella stayed there, on the gym floor, crying for the rest of the school day. 

         Bella's parents were, indeed, heartbroken. Her mother held her hand as they both cried, and she declared that she would always be there for Bella. Her father, on the other hand, thought differently. He, like Joe, thought she was a stupid girl for wanting to keep the baby. Later that night she heard her parents fighting about what to do with her. School became torture for Bella, after the first few months. Everyone found out since it was impossible to hide. They called her a whore, a slut, and too many other words you cannot say in front of your parents. About seven months and ten days in, Bella felt a horrible abominable pain when she was in a History class. It was a twisting, gut-wrenching ache. She grabbed her stomach, crying out for help. The teacher stepped in and called an ambulance, while her classmates looked at her in disgust, thinking she was in labor. 

    The teacher, who is a mother herself, knew it was too early, and was concerned… 

               ‘Odd Family Out’ is available wherever books are sold. 
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