Daddy’s Delivery Girl
Tracy Nneka Osokolo is the author of “Red Pepper and English Tea” – ANBUKRAFT Award Winner for Best New Fiction. She was a Resident Writer at the London 2012 Olympics Festival at the Southbank Centre. Tracy will be writing a regular column for LagosMums!
Each evening when we sit at the table to eat, Fiona asks me “Mummy, how was your day?” I think she picked that unimplied politeness from adults around her – we ask not necessarily to know the truth, but to just be civil. Fiona asks me because she really cares about my day. I, on the other hand, answer because I am not supposed to ignore her.
I looked into her white, large eyeballs holding my spoon. I wondered if it was appropriate to tell her how my day really did go.
“Well, Fi dear, Ifeoma and Esther didn’t show up at the bakery today. So I was going to help Daddy clean up the mess in the Cake Studio when the CIO of MTN decided to have a surprise birthday cake from his team, at 8am in the morning. Jide on his team had made the order less than 20 hours to delivery time.”
I was going to tear as I spoke, but I didn’t want Fiona to think that being an adult was full of sadness and too many challenges … at least not now. I kicked the tears back as I described how I had to leave the Bakery at 7:30 am to deliver a Fifty-pound cake that kept us from sleeping through the night.
“When Daddy drove me to the Taxi park to get a cab to the Island, I hadn’t showered and I didn’t even have any perfume on. It was so hot that morning; and because I sat in one of those rickety old-school Lagos cabs, there was no air-conditioning to help my over-heating body. I had the Fifty-pound cake going to MTN’s office in Falomo right beside me, while I put the ice cream cake going to Wema Bank in Marina was on the other side of the Fifty-pound cake. Since I was doing an Ikoyi delivery, it made sense to handle the Marina delivery as well.
By the time the taxi reached Mile 2, the box for the ice cream cake started disintegrating. I shifted closer to look at it when I realised the whipped cream layering each flavour of the cake was melting. By the time we drove past Orile, the sun had gone up to 32 degrees Centigrade, and for the first time in my life, I hated natural vitamin D.
My heart was beating so fast when I lifted the 10-inch high box unto my thighs, to hold its disintegrating parts in one piece. In the process, I must have smeared the writing on the MTN cake because I pressed the box as I tried to move the ice-cream cake back into shape, making myself less comfortable and the cakes, most comfortable.
O dear! I wished I just dialled a Red Cab instead.
I was already on Eko bridge when I noticed that oily marks were showing on the sides of the white box housing the ice-cream cake. I held my breath as I peeped inside. The grapes, apples, strawberry and paw-paw were dancing around the whipped cream. I couldn’t recognize the cake. Frantic, I started to create an excuse in my head for the client. I was trying to decide if a Nigerian accent or an American accent would be appropriate when I apologise.
My phone started buzzing. All the numbers dialling me started with ‘0803200’. First it was the CIO’s team mate – who sounded really kind by the way. Next, it was the CIO’s Personal Assistant who sounded more like a nag when she yelled:
“Ah ! Ah!! Where are you now?”
I kept calm. I fought not to allow my lack of sleep, my lack of a shower, the surrounding heat and the ugly traffic into the Island to upset me as she screamed. On Awolowo road, we were at a stand-still. I couldn’t sit properly anymore and my phone won’t stop ringing. I ignored the ringtone and started texting instead. The driver was really old and most probably unconcerned about the melting nature of my cakes. The sweat was raining from my brown skin but I was more worried of reaching MTN before 10 am.
He reversed … finally! We were going to use an alternative route. The road was too bumpy and bendy; I was almost having a heart attack watching the cakes jump with me. By the time I reached the Falomo roundabout, the Halogen Security man refused that the Taxi would park in front of the building to drop off the heavy cake, because it was too big for me to carry alone from the Car Park. All hell broke loose for me when he ordered my rickety taxi away from the space and vehemently refused to help me lift the CIO’s cake. I probably looked to him like a teenage delivery girl who was wearing a fake diamond ring on the fourth finger of her left hand, never been abroad, never held any senior-level managerial role with subordinates, and never driven a jeep. I was more annoyed because he sized me up in that exact way as my singlet and size 8 jeans gave him proof for his assumption. He refused to carry the cake. He scoffed with a smirk on his face when he said:
“You no know I be security… Or you think that is my work?”
When I tried to pass through on my own, he hit the cake, pushed me violently and sneered at me when I tried to talk. His colleagues seized the cake and refused that I would go past the security gate. I cried when I realised that I could pay his salary right there and then, for two full years; but I was helpless and discriminated because I had to play Daddy’s delivery girl. I let the tears drop as I sat by the sewage tank, waiting for anybody to pick my calls and receive the CIO’s cake.”
When I looked up from my dinner plate, Fiona was already head-bent and fast asleep. Her eyelashes closed like her father’s when he slept next to me. I wondered how long it would be before I told her how much hard work she would have to do if she payed her own school fees.