(Story) Farida – Part 23

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Farida was fascinated by the entire process, she couldn’t hide her excitement. These were things she only dreamt of. She couldn’t fall asleep aboard the plane until they landed Germany. Monica’s stepfather was at the airport to meet them. He was an elderly, much older than Monica’s father. But, he was a very good man. The way he embraced Monica when he saw her made Farida realize there was indeed a bond between them.The drive to the house was filled with chatters. Monica seemed to be more alive with Papi. Papi lived in a modest-looking four-bedroom duplex. Monica’s mother didn’t come home until very late at night. They waited for her so they could have dinner together on their first night. She had ordered some food as she had no time to cook but Papi stored them away and made dinner for them. They had the tastiest spaghetti with cheese. It was so delicious that Farida asked for a second helping.Farida and Monica retired for their first night. Farida had left her phone behind with her mother so they could talk often. She called her mother on her first night. She promised to call her at least once in three days. The next day, Papi took them shopping for clothes. Farida got five dresses, six tops, four skirts and three trousers. Monica got a lot more. Papi paid for everything. Next, he got them mobile phones so they could be reached. Papi woke them up bright and early the next morning. He took them sightseeing on a dairy farm which Farida later discovered belonged to him. Farida was excited about this visit. She was having new experiences which she enjoyed. Monica wasn’t too keen but as long as Farida was having fun, she was fine. One of the reasons Monica liked Farida was because she made something out of every situation. Her other friends would have been bored by now and even show it. They would later use that experience to make fun of her but not Farida. Watching a cow being milked excited as much as watching an interesting movie. There was never a dull moment.Papi observed a positive difference in Monica. He was very happy about it. When he spoke with her, she always had her new best friend to thank. Farida must be the new best friend. Monica was more responsible now. She could hold an intelligent conversation from start to finish. The Monica he knew in the past threw a lot of tantrums and always had her way. This Monica was reasonable and considerate. They came back from the dairy farm with milk and cheese for the pantry. The next day, they went to the vineyard. It was a long distance from the city, further than the dairy farm. They went to inspect the grapes. Farida watched how wine was made. She followed the process keenly while Monica just tagged along. Papi brought out a bottle of wine and asked them to have a taste. Farida gladly did. She loved it but a gulp was enough for her. Monica nursed her wine until they were ready to leave. Farida compelled Monica to help in packaging the processed wine which she did. They went home with cartons of wine.At the weekend, Monica’s mother was available. A housekeeper came in three times a week. Farida helped do the cleaning on other days. Monica was forced to help and in the process learnt to do some house chores. When Farida attacked her on not knowing how to do household chores, Monica explained her father never wanted her to do them because of the wickedness exhibited by her stepmother. Any form of house chore was punishment on her. So, she didn’t learn. And they had maids who did most of the work. “You need to learn. A woman is responsible for taking care of the home”“My mother doesn’t do house chores. Papi does most of the cooking while mom handles her business”“A woman should know how to do basic hose chores. If you don’t know how to sweep or mop and your maid walks out on you, what do you do?”“Ask for a replacement immediately”“While waiting, your children trip from the mess on the floor and injure themselves, who is to blame? Monica, do not take simple things for granted. It costs you nothing to learn these things”“Agreed. I will learn the basics”And she did. She also joined Farida to learn how to cook Papi’s delicious dishes which excited him. Farida cooked some of Monica’s local delicacies. Monica’s mother couldn’t believe Farida cooked it. She begged Farida to teach Monica how to cook it too.“I will like Monica to marry an Ibibio man. Ibibio men love food. She needs to learn how to satisfy her man through his stomach”“But ma, when you were married to an Ibibio man, you were very unhappy but now you are married to a white man, you are soaring. Why would you choose an Ibibio man for Monica with your experience?”“My dear, there are many Ibibio men who are kind, respectful and rich. I was just unfortunate with the husband that came my way. I pray every day my daughter will not encounter someone like her father. The new wife is staying because she loves the money and is willing to be disrespected. He saw me when I was just eighteen, fresh out of secondary school. He wooed me but being that back then you must discuss with the girl’s family directly, he went to my family. He was well known in our community so it was an honour to have him ask for my hand in marriage. He made promises to me which he never kept. He refused me furthering my education because he felt male students will share me with him. Still, he embarrassed me for a lack of education. He called me unintelligent and unsmart. I don’t want to talk about the women. He belittled me. I lost my self-esteem. I knew if I didn’t leave, I would kill myself and this time for real so I left. It took years to find my feet but I did. I love my husband but he doesn’t understand or value our culture. He actually doesn’t care. He just wants me to be happy. He has given me all the support I need to grow my business. I shouldn’t have listened to Monica’s father. I should have gone ahead to study and call his bluff. I was naïve then but not anymore”Farida listened with keen interest. Monica’s father, on the outside, didn’t look or sound like what his first wife described. But she could see the traits in the way he dealt with the second wife. But, she was happy with her current husband. For the three weeks, they were in their house, they never quarrelled, had an argument or ignored each other. All seemed rosy.The second week of their stay, they went to spend a weekend at Disneyland Paris. They lodged in a beautiful hotel. Farida and Monica shared a room which was exciting. When they went down to join Papi and Monica’s mom, Sam was there. Farida was uncomfortable having Sam with them; it showed. Monica was surprised he joined them. Papi didn’t mention anything about inviting him. They went sightseeing and had a lot of fun. Farida got much more attention than she usually did. People walked up to her to admire her and take pictures with her. Most times she dragged Monica into the picture with her. Sam took pictures of them as they went on their adventure. Monica’s mother wasn’t happy Farida was repeating clothes so she took them shopping.An observation Farida made was the closeness between mother and son. It was evident Sam loved his mother and she loved him in return. Monica was closer to Papi. Why did this happen? She knew mothers were closer to their sons but in her case, she was closer to her mother. Monica had no relationship with her mother. Farida wondered why. When she probed, she discovered Monica couldn’t stand her mother’s criticism. She complained about Monica’s weight, choice of clothes, friends and any other thing she could criticize. Papi never allowed her to do that when he is present but once he is absent, she goes into overdrive. She also compared her to others which Monica disliked. She compared her to Farida. Farida didn’t like it at all. In as much as what her mother was saying was true, she said it in a condescending manner which affected Monica. This made her rebellious to her mother. She didn’t want to listen to anything the woman says. Iya Farida had told Farida during one of their conversations not to get involved in their matter but rather encourage Monica to be the best she could be. When mother and daughter are alone with Farida, tensions always flew. Monica had an answer to whatever her mother said and it was never said respectfully.Sam tried to talk to Farida but she didn’t encourage it. Any time he tried to catch her alone, Monica suddenly appeared. It was like she was a monitoring spirit. Farida really didn’t want to be alone with Sam. She could still remember him taking advantage of her and she didn’t want a repeat so she does not disrespect him. Eventually, he used Papi to distract Monica while he had a chat with Farida.“I know you do not like me right now but I want to share something with you. I think you should be the first to know. The pictures I took of you at the seaside in the village were viewed by a friend in the UK who loved them and asked to showcase some of them in his gallery. I need your permission to be able to that as you have not seen the pictures yourself”“Really? Showcase my pictures? Why would he want to do that? I’m not a model”“You are but you don’t know it. It’s inborn. You have many gifts. I wish you could see what you are capable of. Will you like to see the pictures?”“I will love to”Sam brought out a big envelope and handed it to Farida saying, “these are your copies of all the pictures. I separated the ones he liked”“Thank you”“There is one more thing. I am sorry for my behaviour the last time. I want to make a promise to you today, I will never treat you like that ever again. I will not do anything to you without your full permission. Please Farida forgive me and halt your police dog; she is making my life unbearable”Farida laughed when he said police dog. Monica must be giving a hard time in her absence. “You are forgiven as long as you do not try what you did again. I will talk to Monica”“Thank you. Can we still do lunch? I mean the one I asked for. When we get back to Lagos, I really want to get to know you but I promise to respect you”“It’s my final year and I want to dedicate all my time into putting in my best in my academics. So, I will have to turn you down until after my final year examinations. Then, I will think about it”“I will take your word. Don’t forget to call off Monica. I want us to be as free as we were in the village before this happened”“I will”Farida tossed the envelope in her box She intended to look at them in her free time. She told Monica Sam had apologised. Monica said it was not heartfelt. She begged her to back down so they could develop their friendship againMonica’s mom took them shopping. Monica was not excited about it but agreed to go when Papi said he would be joining them. Farida was asked to pick whatever she wanted and she picked a few clothes. “No, pick more clothes. You have a beautiful figure so pick clothes that will emphasis it. Why are you hiding your body shape in drag clothes? Let me select for you” She went ahead to select some clothes and wouldn’t hear no. She made Farida model in them. She completely ignored Monica. She selected the ones she liked and paid for them. Monica paid her no heed as she knew Farida would not wear those clothes; she was just being polite. They were to leave in three days and her mother had a meeting the next day in America. She wouldn’t be back before they left. She knew she was using Farida to make her feel bad about herself but she refused to be consumed by it anymore. She just smiled at her stupidity.Back in Germany, the next morning, Monica asked Farida to get dressed as they were going shopping on their own. They shopped at the mall for Farida, her mother and brothers. Monica spared no expense and Farida wondered where she got the money from. She had to stop her and ask her what was going on.“Father gave me money for our shopping. Papi also gave me additional money as we were leaving. We can’t finish half of what we have”“Must we spend everything? I wanted us to return the clothes your mother bought for me yesterday. You know very well I can’t wear them. I didn’t want to appear ungrateful that’s why I kept mute. The jeans, tops and a few of the clothes are ok but those short dresses are a no no for me”“I know already. We can do that tomorrow. Let’s shop for our things”“There are sales everywhere. Why can’t we buy some of these items for sale in school? Let’s start our business just before we graduate. We can open a boutique around school since you travel a lot and you have a good eye for fashion”“I think you have a better eye Farida. Opening a business is not a bad idea but it is capital intensive. We have to pay rent for the shop, set up the place and all that. It’s our final year, we don’t have time for that”“I agree we will do it after our final exams but we will sell some items we buy on sale here once we resume. We have more than enough money to start a boutique. We need to spend less on frivolities and invest in the business. You know the designer names and what is in the season so you are in the best position to make purchases. We can start on our own and as the business expands, we can call for investments. But we will start on our own”Monica thought about it. They could go into business together. She knew she could trust Farida. She agreed for them to purchase some items on sale. Their hands were full by the time they got back to the house. They decided against returning the Items Monica’s mother bought for her and instead decided to replace them with items she was comfortable with and sell those ones. They left Germany for Lagos. They received hugs and pecks from Papi and two envelopes. Each envelope had €1,000 in it. This was a lot of money. Monica hugged and pecked Papi while Farida knelt down to appreciate him. She knew it was from his heart. Iya Farida was at the airport to pick Farida. When Farida saw her mother, she ran into her arms before kneeling down to greet her. Monica also greeted her. They all went home to Farida’s house where Iya Farida had made rice, goat meat stew and plantain. Monica enjoyed the food even with the pepper. She was sniffing and eating. She relaxed with them for two hours before going home. She was going to a boring house.Iya Farida had her graduation. She insisted it must be lowkey. Farida still cooked food they took to the venue. Monica and brother Chris were the only invitees. After the graduation, iya Farida was surprised to meet guests in the house. People came to celebrate with her. Farida shared packed food to them. Iya Farida didn’t know what she had done was an achievement. Next was a university degree.Monica sold out the clothes even before school resumed. Her friends bought them at the price tag she placed on them. She couldn’t believe she had such skills. She told Farida about it and they mad more than 100% profit.“We have to look for a way to get these items without travelling. If we add the cost of the trip for both of us, we will make no profit” “We can’t travel together then, or we will have to look for how to get the clothes way cheaper”“Two good eyes are better than one. We will travel together. I will make my research and we will travel there for our next holiday”“That’s good. In the meantime, where do we keep our money?”“Don’t worry; it is safe with me”

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