“Stop, I say stop! You will not take pictures or video of this statue!”
“Stop me,” Dunni muttered, looking through the view finder at the short man that had tried to stop her almost as soon as she begun recording a video of the statue at the roundabout on her camera. She had been walking and taking pictures of interesting sights and features of Ilesha, seeing it with new eyes through her viewfinder. Delighted to find a roundabout topped off by the statue of a warrior with a raised sword, she’d dropped her backpack and clicked off some shots in quick succession before switching to video. The short man whose probably tobacco-stained, brown teeth now filled her vision had then come forward demanding money. With his green and white uniform, she knew he was a local official and was happy to tip him. It was only when he demanded for more cash than she had on her, and insisted on dollars because of her accent, that she got angry and told him that she would report him.
The man had gone crazy when she turned the video camera on him. People gathered quickly when he began to shout, accusing her of disobedience and demanding to know her family. Of course she had no intention of following up on her threat and she ignored the melee and shifted the camera to get as much of the statue as she could. Turning to the left, she froze as a new spectator came into sight. Babs loomed before her in the camera lens; and even after she put the camera down to be sure she was seeing clearly, he remained larger than life. One eyebrow was raised and a familiar twitch drew her gaze down his face to see him lick his top lip.
“Hello, Dunni,” he said.
Dunni twirled and swallowed. It was just her luck today to get into trouble, wasn’t it? Why did she have to see him too, and now?
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
The uniformed man instantly turned to him and began to complain. “Do you know this woman?” he said. “Warn her – tell her to stop and go away. She thinks because she is a “been-to” – a tokunbo – she wants to do ‘American’ for me. Warn her now.”
“What’s the problem?” Babs asked, listening as the man made his case, and nodding at intervals. How dare he make himself her protector? She didn’t need him or anyone; she could take care of herself. Dunni glared at both men, her temper rising at how they had ignored her in discussing the matter.
“Why are you coddling him?” she snapped at Babs.
“OK, you tell me what happened,” he replied.
The melting smile was back, but it was a look in his eyes that made her decide to trust his judgment in this situation. Babs spoke with an authority that she hadn’t heard from him before and she looked at him with fresh eyes. In addition to her dreams of him in her bedroom, she could just imagine being toe to toe with him in a boardroom.
“You this woman, you’re very stubborn o.” The local official put in first.
Dunni turned away from the odour preceding the man’s words. “His problem is greed,” she said to Babs and went on to narrate what had happened.
A smile tugged at her lips when at the end, Babs reprimanded the man for demanding a bribe from her, but she stopped herself just in time. She shouldn’t get carried away by Babs and his diplomatic manner. As he sent the man back to his job controlling the traffic and the small crowd began to disperse, she reminded herself that she could’ve taken care of the matter just as well. Putting away her camera, she began to walk off.
“Wait, wait. Where are you going?” Babs said behind her.
Dunni took a deep breath and tried to calm down. Maybe she had overreacted, both with the local official and with him. He hadn’t really done anything but try to help her. She crossed the busy interchange and waited on the other side of the road for him. Watching as he approached her, she took in the way he was dressed, in jeans and a T-shirt with leather sandals, and was struck again by his brash manliness.
She faced him when he finally got to her side. “I forgot to say thanks for getting that man off me, but still my life is none of your business.”
“Ah, Dunni! Why are you so prickly?” he came closer so only she heard his next words, “Could it be frustration from what happened last Sunday?
His whisper stroked the side of her neck like a caress, but Dunni narrowed her eyes into slits, steeling herself against the attraction that swirled over her. “You are one...”
“Did Folarin tell you I asked for your number?” He interrupted her, adding in an even lower tone. “I’ve wanted to see you, wanted you.”
Before she could open her mouth to speak again, another young guy walked up to them. She recognized the man from the Erin Ijesha trek and swallowed her words when she saw that the two men knew each other.
“Dunni, this is my colleague, he’s spending a few days with my family for Christmas.” Babs now spoke in his normal voice. “Kingsley, this is Dunni.”
“We’ve met before, though not introduced.” Kingsley said.
“Oh, that’s true. I remember now.” Babs said, adding, “You know Folarin, the guy who leads the treks? She’s his cousin.”
Kingley stepped forward and greeted her with a handshake, informing her that he’d been on a trek with Folarin a few times in the past and liked her cousin.
“Are we still going to the suya spot?” he asked Babs after the greetings were over.
“Sure.” Babs turned to her, his grin glinting in the encroaching darkness. “Dunni, are you coming? The place is just around the corner.”
She loved suya, and she never missed it if she could but if she had to go with them then she had Babs to consider. Even though she had already kissed him and felt more comfortable knowing her cousins knew him, she was still seriously torn. One part of her mind wanted to spend some more time in his company, after all he was sharp and witty, a good match to spar with, and hadn’t he just come to her aid with that slimy official? However, the saner part of her warned her to run away from him, if for nothing else but her own peace of mind.
“I hear these people make very good Suya,” Babs slipped in with his killer smile.
Resigned and calling herself all kinds of masochist, Dunni followed them. She knew he was not good for her, but she couldn’t resist, especially not when suya was thrown in.