STRANGER IN LAGOS by Sally Kenneth Dadzie
Halim Diobi is set to marry Eben Nosakhare, the perfect picture of a dream husband. Their wedding promises to be the talk of town, and all their plans seem to fall in place.
Eniola Adeoye has plans of her own as well, centered on Eben Nosakhare and finding a new beginning in Lagos.
Things don’t go quite as intended for all three, as unexpected curves ahead get in the way of their goals and leave them facing new realities in Lagos. They become strangers to each other, even though they are so close.
Stranger In Lagos is not your typical love story; neither does it follow the path of the usual Lagos story. Sally Kenneth Dadzie tells an enthralling and gripping tale of four young people, living their best lives and struggling with ghosts from the past in the city of vermin and lost souls.
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I hate Lagos. It is a city of vermin and lost souls. The darkest hearts live there. The air its citizens breathe is tainted with evil. You stay there long enough and you become part of the darkness. Even an innocent child is not immune to its perversion.
Of course, like every megacity in the world, it’s a place where dreams come true. The skyscrapers, fast cars, bright lights and nightlife will always enthrall you. Each street is booming, and every destination boasts of its own distinctive spirit. From beaches to bars, hotels and local joints, adventure calls. It is the hub of modern Africa. The story of the Dark Continent cannot be told without giving Lagos its due mention. The core of oil-rich Nigeria rests on this legendary cinematic city.
But it isn’t always pretty or inspiring. Behind the booming industries and glass-walled boardrooms, posh boutiques and luxury homes, real people with terrifying stories reside. Everyone in Lagos has a tale to tell. Even the roaches that live in its stinking gutters and feed on the waste of the city.
For me, it will always be a place of haunting because it was where I murdered my sister when I was only eight years old.
Strange, but true.
She was my twin. A sickly thing that could neither walk nor speak; yet, was loved by our mom. Loved more than I was. We were not a brood of vermin or roaches that lived under a bridge. We were a typical above-average family, residing in a suburb called Dolphin Estate, in a house that was in those days, considered luxurious by most.
On the day my sister and I were brought into the world by the hands of a surgeon, I came out looking like I had fed on her in the womb. She was a scrawny little baby with no chance of survival. Mommy was told to say goodbye to her before she was placed in an incubator. Everyone waited for her to die, but she was determined to stay.
Two days later, she was still breathing, although barely. Mommy was told to take me home and care for me. It was still unnecessary to hope, but she wouldn’t listen to the doctors. She wanted to be with the fragile one. She wouldn’t even look at me. Hence, Daddy and Grandma brought me home, and six days later, in a loud ceremony, I was named Eniola. No one even cared to christen me Taiye or Kehinde as was the norm with naming twins. My life was already set for me to be by myself.
Mommy was absent for the naming ceremony. While Daddy and the partying crowd he invited celebrated lavishly, she sat beside her baby in the hospital, and after hours of prayers, named her Eyitope.
That night, Tope stopped breathing. She was placed in a carton by the nurses. Daddy drove to the hospital to get Mommy. He brought her home, tucked her in bed and placed me in her arms. I was told that she wouldn’t touch me. Rather, she lay there all night and stared at me. By morning, the hospital rang the house and my parents were asked to come for Tope, who had by some miracle, returned to life in the middle of the night.
Tope was brought home a month later, enough time for Mommy to disconnect from me. The years that followed were hard on all of us. Mommy faced a life where Daddy was never around. If it wasn’t business taking him away, it was a certain woman who lived down the street. Mommy knew about her, but she was a typical Nigerian wife who was advised not to bother herself with her husband’s extracurricular activities. On balance, he provided for his family and gave them everything money could buy. Why was she being ungrateful?
She was asked to concentrate on her children. And this, she did. The only problem was that I didn’t count as one of her children. Tope was first, and then there was Lekan, my elder brother, who got more attention than I did. Sometimes, I caught Mommy staring at me with eyes that made me want to run and hide under my bed. At an early age, I understood what contempt meant. It was something served to me by Mommy, and when I was full of it, I served it to Tope.
As we got older, the responsibility of caring for Tope fell on me.
“Eni, take this koko and give to your sister,” Mommy would say, placing a dish of guinea corn pap in my hands. “Don’t force her or she’ll vomit.”
I would hold the dish with small, shaky hands and walk to the living room where Tope would be seated, playing with toys in a manner that invalids do. For a long time I would stare at her, wondering why she would not just get up and play with me. Why she always had to sit around and speak like there was hot coal in her mouth. She couldn’t even call my name properly, and sometimes she would soil her pants, and I would get scolded for not picking out the stench of her mess on time.
Tope got the best clothes, as skinny and ugly as she was. Even her useless feet that could go nowhere were blessed with the prettiest ballerina shoes. Mommy always tended to her thick, long hair and manicured her equally-long fingernails with much concentration and love. She would call her beautiful, even though I was the beautiful one. Daddy never failed to remind me. He was nothing like his wife. He loved his children equally. I can’t ever recall fighting for his attention each time he was home.
But he hardly ever was. Mommy said the other woman, whom everyone called Aunty Ada, was responsible for his absences.
“Useless Igbo witch! She has locked your father in a bottle! God will punish and destroy her!” Mommy would curse as she combed my stubborn hair. I didn’t understand why she always waited until it was time to groom my hair to gripe about her troubled marriage.
“Prostitute! Sleeping with people’s husbands up and down! Jehovah God will visit her with thunder and lightning soon!” I would get a smack on the shoulder from the comb in her hand for no reason. “Your hair is thick as a forest with wild animals!”
A forest alone was bad enough, but she always loved to add the wild animals to it. That was how much I was disliked.