Wedding Ops (Fiction Micro-series) Entry 3
The key to a friendly robbery is stealth. Mayokun watched as the bride, groom and their bridal party gyrated to a familiar tune from the 90s. Obesere—yes, that was the sound. The singer’s quick tempo had set the room on fire—bank notes flew like confetti, soft wisps of dry ice covered the floor, giving the dance floor an ethereal, celestial look. The bridesmaids had broken up into dancing pairs, throwing their shoulders forward and back, and leaping around, straining their restless legs against the shiny fabric of their dainty dresses. Mayokun pretended to take photos of the dancers from her seat; through her phone camera lenses, she scouted. Guests gathered around the newly weds throwing bills at the couple. The notes got caught in curls of hair, in tulle, stuck on the bride’s sweaty face, some gathered at her helm. Mayokun watched the “sprayers” closely. There were the one-time sprayers who had changed a thousand Naira into smaller notes; there were those who threw higher bills of cash but with a civil flick of the wrist, wiggled their bodies in slow lazy sways and went to sit; there were the ones who reveled occasionally in the act, going back only when their favorite track came on, with a new wad of cash to throw at the newly weds. Then there was the odd uncle who didn’t dance, but moved in a quick two-step shuffle to the couple, sprayed and went back to his seat. He usually was generous.
She remembered when she was younger, she’d pay a friend to go in between all those dancing legs and gather some money. The dry ice would have been the ultimate cover. Her job was to look out and rescue. On Saturdays, they made a little under two thousand Naira, party hopping across the mainland.
The cardinal rule was never steal from the poor—they took things too personally. The lynching, the rubber tyres, the kerosene and matches appeared too quickly—they lived for the day of the thief.
She remembered walking through Tejuoso market as a little girl, holding on to her mother’s hand. The mob dragged a woman along on the floor, tore off her clothes until she was dressed in a long off-white shimi. Even though Mayokun was four, she could sense that death loomed. That night she cried herself to sleep. The poor woman didn’t deserve to be harassed so much because she stole one small mackerel. She never knew what happened to the woman but she knew when the rubber tyres appeared, mother grabbed her and made a dash in the opposite direction, the mob sounds and the woman’s yells in the distance.
“Don’t ever steal from the poor” Mother had said that night, as she unwrapped her wrapper and unfolded several crumpled notes of money, a few odd potatoes, a few onions, five fingers of okra, a little bag of powdered milk and a tiny bulb of sugar tied in a transparent nylon. At first, when she’d see mother pilfer, she thought her eyes played games.
Then at night, mother would place the goods on a round wooden tray, balance it on her head and walk the streets, selling as much petty stolen items as possible. Mother soon adopted her sister’s baby, Falilah, who was only a year younger than Mayokun—when Aunty Peju ran off with a Ghanian man to Cotonou in the late 80s. She died a year later from an illness. By then, mother had gotten her own retail shop selling provisions. They moved into a one-bed apartment and by then, Falilah and Mayokun had became inseparable.
Mayokun looked away from her screen at her target. He chatted calmly with two other men dressed in the navy blue-red caps and white natives of the day. He was dressed regally in a brilliant white agbada, his short-sleeved buba exposed his wrist and a brown strapped leather watch with a gold face. The watch was tightly bound to his wrist. That surely was a problem, what happened to good old chain watches?
A good target for a friendly robbery was someone who was deep in conversation—still not too deep, a person engaged in friendly banter or even the uninterested party, usually a man whose eyes would easily follow the gentle roll of her hips. Women were another production. The older they got, the harder it became to steal from them. She chose not to engage in the battle of the sixth sense with women. Old pervs, any day.
Mayokun made her way to the prize—go big, girl. She had to get Falilat back tonight.
“Mayokun,” A voice said.
She looked to her left. It was that guy again—Flavour. Florian?
It was crunch time. She balanced on five-inch heels and stepped around him, pushing her long curls out of her face.
“Hi.” She said hastily. There was no way she was sleeping with Otunba.
“Yes, Flavian. How have you been?” Her eyes fluttered to the door, through which the target had walked through.
“Great. You? Good thing no IV’s are required at Siji and Mayowa’s wedding. Vibrant pair”, He threw his head in the direction of the couple and their howling, gyrating mob, “Which one of them do you know?” There they were again. Those eyes.
“Siji” She said quickly. In the distance, the target was talking to someone.
“Really? How do you know Siji?”
“We went to school together.”
“Really? What school?”
“Primary school.” She said through her teeth.
“No kidding! I was in the same primary school. What set?” Her heart thumped. She breathed deeply to calm herself.
“I don’t remember that far back. I hated school. I was bullied, blocked all that out now,” She said in a breath.
Mayokun watched the target walk back into the room, flanked by three men keeping up with him, his agbada rustling as he threw its arms up his shoulder.
“But you remember the anthem?”He was grinning now.
“At all. I know the tune on a recorder though. Lyrics have never been a strong point. A few of us girls learnt it and played it when the governor visited,”She watched as the target made his way to his seat.
“No joke” Flavian said drily, “Girls, huh? That’s odd, considering Siji and I went to a boys-only boarding school in Nairobi.”
The anger spewed,“Yeah, so what if I party-crashed. I’m not the married person preying on single girls at weddings. Please leave me alone.” She hissed.
She pushed by him and stalked towards the door, tilting past merrymakers. She flung her hair over her shoulder, smoothened her skirt and picked up pace. In the crazed haste, her elbow rammed into someone.
“Yee!” The person exclaimed. Mayokun looked just in time to see the plate of vegetables fall out of the waiter’s hand into the lap of a seated older man.
“Dear Lord.” A voice said.
“Oh no! I’m so sorry sir.” She stumbled slightly in her shoes.
The older man stood to his feet, offered her an arm till she was steady, then flicked his clothing so the food poured into his plate from his buba.
Mayokun curtsied. “I’m so sorry sir.”
“No problem, my dear. I probably will never wear it again anyway. Not with all the Aso ebi my wife has lined up for me until the end of time.” He laughed.
“Sir, I would offer to pay for dry cleaning but—”
“Not to worry yourself at all, young lady. Please. You are my guest. Any money to be paid comes from my account, as the father of the bride. It doesn’t stop,” The old man said with good-natured laugh.
Father of the bride?
The man tapped her shoulder, “Ti e na a de o! Soon we will celebrate yours!” He excused himself, threw his agbada over his shoulder and walked away with three people waiting to help him with his outfit. His wife appeared and followed, hysterical at the mess.
Mayokun sighed, she pulled her phone out and put it to her ear, straining through the loud music to hear it ring.
”Oga Matthew, abeg pick me at the Chicken Republic down the road.”
“Just stay on the road, I can’t turn off the engine of Fali’s car.”
Her heart tugged. She missed that crazy girl driving that crazy car.
She slid into her purse the wallet and brown leather watch she had swiped from the old man and made her way out of the venue.
He was a kinder target than she cared for but it wasn’t time to be sentimental. She needed to get her cousin back.
Just then her phone beeped. She glanced at it. A message from Fali. She opened it quickly.
A photo stared back at her. Her cousin was gagged, her hair disheveled, eyes wide. A silhouette framed the photo in the back looming over her.
Less than 24 hours. The text said.
She glanced at her watch. Eighteen hours really.
She needed a miracle. Some magic. She knew just who to call.
To be continued…