Lying flat on my back, I watched the stars and wondered if they could send message to Nana. The mosquitoes were singing close to my ears but I didn’t mind one bit. There must be something I can do to take care of myself. Besides, I was going to need a phone to keep bugging whoever owns that number. Would it be easier to work at the club? Or would the restaurant be a better place?
It was a Monday morning, when I walked to a restaurant very close to the motor park.
Cooking had begun and I saw a huge woman barking orders at the girls. These girls were taller than I was and some were bigger. I wanted to turn back and go home but I remembered the hunger. If Nana could survive and even feed the family, so could I.
“Good morning ma,” I shouted my greeting at the woman whose back was turned to me.
“Meefa, answer that customer,” she pointed to a girl and walked into the restaurant.
“Maa chi,” good morning she returned my greeting. Meefa had an apron on and a smile. “What do you want?”
“I want to work here,” I braved on a smile.
“We don’t need more girls.”
“Do you have hot jollof rice ready?” I heard someone behind me.
“Maybe you can come later when the rush for food is reduced?” Meefa said trying to dismiss me.
I turned to walk out when I bumped into a young man who was just got to the restaurant.
“Watch your steps young lady!”
“Koo see,” Sorry.Of course, I was sorry for more than one thing. I went to seat at one of those benches designed for pedestrians and motorist to seat while waiting for their turn or a bus.
God, you need to help me. If you are up there, what should I do? How can I do anything? I don’t understand my parents one bit. It is so unnatural this hatred they have for me and Nana. I hope you understand this just one bit and you can help them snap out if it soon.
The sun began to rise with vehemence and though I was under a shade, I could feel the heat. Sweat came out from my armpits and trickled down my body under my clothes.
Looking towards the restaurant, I noticed there was less activities unlike the morning. I walked to the restaurant, the tables were scanty but the aroma of food was everywhere. There sat a man with his lady friend, feeding her with food and the girls were busy cleaning the tables and washing plates. A woman was seated with a book and calculator, she wasn’t paying any attention to anyone. The further I walked to her, the faster my heartbeat.
“Good afternoon ma,” I said in a low voice.
“Afternoon,” she replied without sparing me a glance.
I fell silent. She was busy and I knew that incurring her wrath will not get me the much needed job.
“Young lady are you just going to stand there and say nothing?”
“I need job ma.”
“What can you do?”
“I can fetch water, wash plates and even run errands.”
She raised her face and looked at me, her beauty shocked me. How could someone so beautiful have a deep and menacing voice?
“Is that all you can do?”
“Ma, I have not worked on these streets but I am a fast learner. I can learn to do anything you ask of me.”
“Where do you stay?”
“I live with my parents here in Akuapim.”
“Sit over there and I’ll attend to you later,” she pointed with her pen to a seat adjacent to her.
Suddenly, she looks at me and asks, “Have you eaten?”
“No madam,” I shook my head as I replied her.
She called one of the girls to give me food. Immediately I saw the food in front of me and all the finesse I usually pretend to have fell away. I wolfed down the food within a few minutes and my spirit revived.
The woman beckoned to me when I was done and I walked to her.
“Bring a chair and let’s have a small talk.” I sat there expecting good news and my eyes were brighter.
“My name is Madam Afia. I saw you this morning when you came in, I watched you sit across the restaurant under the bus stop shed. Nothing passes my watchful eyes. I don’t need a new girl but you seem desperate to work here, right?”
“Very good.” She dragged the ‘very’ and I was wondering if there was more to it. “Some of you girls come in looking all desperate for a job; Madam Afia takes you in and boom! You start stealing and disrespecting your superiors.”
I shook my head and opened my mouth to say something in my favour but she shut me up with the wave of her hand.
“I won’t tolerate stealing, disrespect or fighting. I am Madam Afia, nothing gets past my watchful eyes.”
“I don’t need a new girl but I can take you in, so see this a s a favour. You will wash the plates with whoever is assigned to wash for the day. That should make cleaning the plates faster. You will be the general dogsbody. If anyone needs help, you will help. If Meefa needs to go to market and the loads will be too much for her, you will go with her. If Kofi needs the electrician, you will run that errand. Every girl or boy working here for me is your superior. I will pay you 1000 cedis every Saturday. We don’t work on Sundays, except for those who need to make stew or beans ready for Monday morning.”
“Yes ma, can I start today?”
Madam Afia shook her head, tomorrow would be perfect.
“Thank you very much ma, I won’t disappoint you.”
“I’ll believe you when I see it. You must be here by 7 a.m. sharp. I don’t do African time.”
“Thanks ma.” I stood up to leave.
“How did you get here?” she asked as she searched her handbag.
“I trekked ma.”
“Take,” she stretched 200 cedis to me. “Use that to transport yourself home and for tomorrow morning.”
I collected the money and was overjoyed as I walked out of that restaurant. I took another look at the restaurant and I saw ‘Home’ boldly written at the entrance. It was home indeed. Madam Afia was God sent. I didn’t enter a bus home, I wanted to save the money and spend it wisely. My parents weren’t at home and I didn’t care. I went to sleep late that night with so much joy but my body was tired from all the trekking.The next day, the sun poured in and I woke up with a start. What time was it? I turned to the clock which had served us for a long time, 9’ O’clock! The headache started from one side of my head and it began to spread to other part of my head.
How was I going to explain this to Madam Afia? I broke down and wept for the first time, I wept till I had no strength to weep.