Edward left the airport taxi before it got to a final stop. He swung his gaze over the row of similar-looking tan colored blocks of flats till he found the one he wanted. He ran over to it and leaped up the narrow stairs to the third floor. A tall middle-aged woman answered his knock. She was a shorter and older version of her daughter and with a much fuller figure. Deep wrinkles lined her eyes, balanced by deep grooves running from nose to mouth but her skin shone and the twinkle in her gaze got his attention.
"Good day and happy Christmas Ma. I am looking for Gladys, does she stay here?"
"Happy Christmas my dear, come on in. You must be Edward..."
“Yes Ma. Are you Gladys’s mother?” He entered the sitting room his gaze immediately going round the undersized space in search of Gladys.
The matriarch nodded her head and gestured him to a hard faux leather armchair while she remained standing. “I thought Gladys was supposed to come and meet you at the airport?” She asked.
Edward almost leaped off the edge of the chair "Has she left already? The flight was changed due to some unknown reasons.”
"Oh Gladys is still around." Her mother replied smiling. “She told me of your misunderstanding. I’m glad you were able to get over it. I will go and …”
She was still speaking when Gladys made her entrance, eyes radiant.
“Edward, you’re here early!” She walked quickly to his side basking in the smile blooming on his lips. “Mama, I can see you’ve met Edward.”
“Yes I have. He said his flight was shifted forward.”
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here.” Gladys murmured as moving closer to him as her mother beamed. When the older woman turned and left the room, Edward stood up and opened his arms for Gladys to walk into. They were still in a hug when someone cleared their throat behind her.
Edward shifted Gladys to one side and noticed a tall young man staring at them with raised eyebrows. The guy held his gaze and leaned back against the doorjamb.
Gladys turned and relaxed back into his arms. “Edward this is Olisa, he’s the middle brother. The others will be out soon I guess.” And true to her word, the other two were right behind him. They were all very tall and only the youngest was the same height as him. “This is Ngozi, the eldest, and Udoka.”
“Hello, good afternoon.” They all walked up and shook his hand. Olisa seemed to find particular pleasure in showing he was the taller one, walking up close and pumping his palm in a tight grip. Edward suppressed his smile and returned the greetings.
“How was your flight?” Ngozi asked after everyone found places to seat in the small room. Gladys was perched on the arm of his chair.
“It was fine and left earlier than planned. I’m very glad I didn’t miss it so I get to spend more time here with you guys.”
“Yeah, I was to come pick you up at the airport with Gladys.” Olisa threw in.
Gladys nudged him. “He’s the one that loves cars. My mum has a small car which he’s managed to keep on the road beyond all expectations.”
“Thanks, I got an airport taxi…”
“Do you want us to go down and get your bags?” Udoka asked leaning forward
“There’ll be no need; I’ve rented the car for the day.”
Gladys whispered in his ear that she was going to join her mum in the kitchen to finish their lunch and then stood up and left the room. Edward hoped she hadn't left him in the lion's den.
“Did you like what you’ve seen of the city?” Udoka asked.
Apart from being tiny compared to Lagos? “Emm…I’ve not seen much. We drove straight here from the airport through the expressway.” Her youngest brother had a boyish face but very earnest eyes. “It was quite a drive though.”
“We’ll take you to see some of the sights if you like.”
“That’ll be great. You can join us on the way back to the hotel.”
“How come you didn’t drive up with your car? After she had talked about it earlier I looked forward to seeing it when Gladys said you were coming down for Christmas.”
“That would have been the last resort if I didn’t get a ticket. I’ve heard horror stories of the holiday traffic jams on the Onitsha Bridge.”
They all laughed and Olisa began to describe his own experience the day before Christmas Eve on his way back from the University of Benin. Edward was gladdened that her brothers took to him. He removed his outer jacket and relaxed back into his chair. Gladys and her mother soon called them over to the cramped dining room and served up a delicious onugbu soup and pounded yam. The discussion was fast as furious between all of them as they ate, and Edward was glad he had made it down to Enugu. This was his best Christmas ever.