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House on the Hill

EPISODES: 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18.

One

MOYO TRAMPED DOWN the dusty sidewalk of the two-lane highway. The evening sky was cool but blaring honks from sweeping past cars and motorcycles, added to the loud noises from people milling the surrounding streets and in nearby houses, made the atmosphere feel hot—and exhausting.

She was tired.

Weary would be a better word, she thought absently, raising a hand to rub the back of her neck. Her feet ached inside the black flat ballet-like pumps. She wished she could slip them out and just massage them. Better than that, she wished she could flag down a bike, climb on top and have herself driven home like royalty.

But she couldn’t afford it. She couldn’t afford the fifty naira bike fare home. The thought annoyed her and Moyo muttered a curse under her breath as she rubbed the back of her neck again and swiped off the trail of sweat that ran down the side of her face. Her bike fare home wasn’t the only thing she couldn’t afford today. She’d had no lunch at work. She couldn’t spare the one hundred and fifty naira or two hundred naira a lunch pack at Iyawo-Abiola would have cost.

And all because their salary was late, again. The company’s account was empty—that was the GM’s excuse. And he’d given it, as usual, with his effusive apologies and a thousand-and-one promises. But his apologies did nothing to her dwindling bank balance and his many promises didn’t help now that her feet were tired and in dire need of well-deserved rest.

He piped out apologies like a bleating goat but he still expected hard work. She didn’t mind hard work; she was used to it, enjoyed it even. But what use was hard work when there was no recompense?

She muttered again under her breath and this time added a low hiss to it. What she needed was money, in big steady flow. Her epileptic monthly income did nothing but make worse the burden she already bore. She didn’t mind the burden either—didn’t consider it, them, a burden even. They both depended on her, her mother and her sister. They have no one else to depend on. It was just them, just the three of them. Her father—

She hated to think of him. Hated to think of him as a father. There was more to that title than just siring a child. That was all he’d done for them; sired them and then left them to fend for themselves while he went off with his mistress who’d borne him a son. Three sons now and two more daughters as the stories that filtered across to them unsolicited reported.

Moyo hissed out a hot breath and shovelled in the thought. She didn’t care, not about him and not about his new family. She had her own family to worry about. She had her mother and her sister to worry about. And she was really worried.

Her mother had always been sickly. They’d grown up knowing that she had a trying health. But now with the diabetes and the persistent high blood pressure, it had become worse and her small fish business and meagre capital hadn’t been able to survive her debilitating illness. The illness and their constantly rising bills had fed on the capital until she couldn’t afford to pay for the cartons of fish anymore and couldn’t afford the rent on the market stall.

But they hadn’t died and they weren’t going to die. She’d been working in the three years since she rounded off her OND program and she’d been catering for their family the best she could. But what was thirty-five thousand naira when there were rent and school fees to shovel out regularly, huh? What was thirty-five thousand naira when there were three mouths to feed and three human bodies to clothe?

What they needed was a miracle. A miracle source of income. If she wasn’t going to get a miracle, then she needed a magic wand of some sort. Better be a good one too, Moyo thought grimly and almost chuckled at the grim, silly thought.

The almost laughter lifted her spirits and tumbled her into her regular wishful dream world where she imagined herself coming into great money and would solve, not only their problems, but the problems of half the world. Someday soon that wishful dream would become a reality. She had enough faith to believe that it would happen. She had enough fancifulness to see it happening and to see herself gloating in the face of supposed family members who turn down their noses at them at their present misfortune.

With her quirky imagination back on and her spirit perked up, she started to hum under her breath, her tired feet not feeling so tired anymore as her strides picked up.

“Evening, Oga Lucas. You’ve not closed for the day?” Moyo sent a friendly smile to the middle-aged man as she stopped at the Newspaper stall just at the edge of the road that cut off into their street.

She stopped when it was a Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday to glance through vacancy pages. Realism told her she was likely to find her magic wand clutched in the hands of a willing-to-pay-more and to-pay-regularly employer.

“Just closing.” Oga Lucas returned her smile and lifted the Punch Newspaper from the stack he was already piling up. “Check this one. Page fifteen. I wouldn’t take it seriously but a check never hurts.”

“There are vacancy Ads today?” He always read the papers. He always marked out suitable job ads for her. She flicked quickly to the page and her eyes almost popped as she read aloud. “—‘Housekeeper needed for immediate employment. Job description includes, but is not limited to, cooking, cleaning and laundry. Location: House on the Hill, Idanre. Salary: N120, 000.00’.” Moyo slowly lowered the paper and gaped at Oga Lucas. “Whoever pays one hundred and twenty thousand naira to a housekeeper?”

“A millionaire.” Oga Lucas retorted with a quick wink. “And it’s at the House on the Hill.” He added, his brows arching a little. “Heard about the house, have you?”

“Yes.” A vague frown covered Moyo’s features. “There are a bunch of outlandish stories about the house. But people exaggerate a lot about things they know nothing about.”

“Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.” Oga Lucas carefully bagged the leftover newspapers. “I marked it because it was the only thing on the papers today. But my thought is that we should keep looking. Exaggerated stories or not, the House on the Hill is a no-no for any young woman.”

“But one hundred and twenty thousand naira isn’t.” Moyo glanced down again at the vacancy ad. There was no postal box address or email address, just a mobile telephone number to call. She dug her hand into her handbag and pulled out her phone. “Looks like it’s going to be a telephone interview, so there’s no harm in calling in and finding out if that ridiculous amount is for real or a typographical error.”

“And if it is real?” Oga Lucas eyed her narrowly as he took back the paper.

Moyo lifted her shoulders, shot him a smile. “Then someone is waving my magic wand.”

Oga Lucas chuckled, shook his head. “I don’t know, Moyo. Sometimes in life we take a chance, sometimes we wait for another chance.”

Moyo frowned as she ruminated on the rather cryptic words. In the years she’d known Oga Lucas he always had words like and she’d always listened to them—but she never always followed their counsels.

“I’ll make the call first.” She decided. She’d be damned, really be damned, if she didn’t make that call. “It’s likely the job is gone already since the ad has been out since morning. Everyone is desperate for a well-paying job these days, Oga Lucas, and many will live with the devil himself in hell if they are going to end up with one-twenty-K for just cooking, cleaning and laundry.” She dumped her phone back in her handbag and shot him another smile. “Thank you, Oga Lucas, I’ll let you know how it goes.”

“Okay, Moyo. Greet Mammy and Remi for me.”

Now therein laid the bigger problem, telling her mother and her sister about the vacancy and about her interest in it, Moyo thought with a sigh as she trudged down the dirt road. Maybe she would call first to ascertain if the position was still available before she talked to them. That would certainly put a different angle to her approach.

But she didn’t. She’d gotten home and met her sister preparing their dinner and their mother getting ready for her evening bath, and had quickly changed her clothes to help her with her bath. A task her mother usually protested against; and a protest she always listened to but never heeded.

“Oga Lucas marked down a job ad for me today.” It was a good place to begin.

They were in the small-sized living room of their small-sized two-bedroom apartment. A rechargeable lantern lit up the sparsely-furnished room. Their mother sat on the velvet-worn double-seater sofa while she and her sister preferred to sit Indian-style on the faded out old rug covering the centre aisle of the floor.

“There were vacancy ads today?” Remi spoke over a mouthful of yam and palm-oil sauce. “That’s nice. What’s the position and where is it?”

Moyo cut out a piece of yam, toyed with it in her oil-sauce dish before she looked at them. “Housekeeper’s job. At Idanre.”

“Housekeeper?” A deep frown petered out the quiet excitement that had lined her younger sister’s chocolate-brown features. “Why would you be considering a housekeeper’s job, Moyo? It hasn’t come to that now, ahn-ahn.”

Even with the dark scowl her sister still managed to look pretty, Moyo absently thought with sighing affection. She looked like their mother and so was blessed with her soft beauty. While she was cursed to have looked like their runaway father, thus gifted with his darker looks and taller, wiry built. Which of course didn’t make her ugly, just a little too tall and a little too slim and muscly. Not flattering traits for a woman.

“It has if the prospective employer is looking to pay one hundred and twenty thousand naira for that position.” She deliberately lifted her fork into her mouth and slowly chewed.

She covertly studied them. Her sister’s mouth had literally dropped open but her mother only looked at her, frowned a little and then went on with her food. She was thinking about it, Moyo knew that, as she always thought over things that puzzled her. And if she was doing so, then she’d better add the real matter to ponder over.

“It’s at Idanre, like I said. At the House on the Hill.”

“What?” Now Remi’s eyes popped. “The House on the Hill at Idanre? That House on the Hill?”

And here we go. “Unless there are now two of them, I think it’s safe to assume that it is that House on the Hill.” Moyo couldn’t help her amused tone.

But naturally, Remi didn’t find the matter funny at all. “The job is at the House on the Hill and you’re considering it? Moyo, are you crazy? Mammy, did you hear her?” She shot their mother a quick hot glance but didn’t wait for her response before she rode on. “Do you know what they say about that house?”

“The same way I know what they say about the stream that draws out of the forest.” Moyo chuckled at her sister’s stupefied expression. “Come on, Remi, you know how people love to peddle false rumours. We’ve been the brunt of them way too long to know better.”

“There are false rumours and there are worrying rumours.” Never one to be easily dissuaded, Remi curled her mouth into a stubborn line. “One of my friends once told me a story—a story she heard from her aunty who knew someone who once worked in that house.” She added with a meaningful lift of her eyebrows. “This her aunty said that there is a creature—a growling, animal-like creature—who lives in that house. In fact, the woman who’d worked there believed there was more than one of such animal-human-like creatures in that house. She said there were always weird noises night after night, and sometimes, during the day too. And that when she couldn’t bear it anymore, she had to run away from the house.”

“And she lived in a house with animal-human-like creatures and none of them killed her before she ran away to spread the rumour, right?”

Remi hissed at her sarcastic tone and smirk. “Just like you to think this is a joke, Moyo. But it is not. Nobody I know has anything good to say about that house. Nobody.”

“And how many do you know who’d actually entered the house?”

Remi frowned, sat back and dropped her plate on the floor. She suddenly didn’t feel hungry anymore. She didn’t like hearing about the House on the Hill. Stories about it scared her. It has always done so. Of course she personally didn’t know anyone who’d lived in the house but she firmly believed in the saying that there was no smoke with a fire.

“Why are you even considering the job? Whether they are paying one hundred and twenty thousand naira or one point two million naira, it doesn’t matter. It’s still a housekeeper’s job. It is demeaning. You can’t go from a secretary to a housekeeper, God forbid!”

Moyo sighed and set down her own plate. “No legal, honest work is demeaning, Remi. And besides, we need the money. We can’t pretend like we don’t know the true situation of affairs in this house. You’re about to write your SSCE. I’m still trying to sort out your fees for that and for your lesson classes. And how about when you finish and have to register for JAMB tutorials? How about the huge money we will be needing once you gain admission into the university? How about the money needed for Mammy’s medications? We need money and as far as I can see here, God is probably providing us a fine opportunity to make some with this housekeeper’s position.”

“No He is not!” Remi said, her tone vehement with her objection. “I will get a job after my exams. I’ve been thinking about it. It’s the only option and with both of us working things will be easier around here.”

“It is not the only option and I am not allowing you take on a job when you should be in the university.” Her tone also became vehement. “And what kind of a job will you get without even a senior secondary school certificate, eh? No way, Remi. I had to stop my education so we could manage on our meagre resources but I am not allowing you do the same. For heaven’s sake, even with a first degree, jobs are getting harder to find in this country these days and you are considering not acquiring one?”

“I didn’t say I won’t get my degree. I am only postponing it until things get better for us.”

“Well, if I take this job—if I get it—things will get better and you won’t have to postpone anything.”

“Moyo—”

But their mother’s quiet voice cut off Remi’s protest. “Moyosade.”

“Mammy.” She turned from her sister to their mother. Though her tone was deferential, the line of her mouth was anything but.

And their mother knew that. She knew her daughters well enough to know they’d both inherited her wilfulness and Moyo more so. It pleased her most of the time especially as she was too weak to defend them. But now, it worried her. Worried her because she knew no one can stop Moyo when she sets her mind on anything.

“You don’t have to keep sacrificing for us to get by. We can manage and we are managing just fine.” Her voice was soft, mostly because her illness did not provide the strength to toughen her tone. “You shouldn’t endanger your life just so we can all be blessed with better times.”

“I am not endangering my life, Mammy. What danger can there be in working as a housekeeper?” Moyo sighed. “You shouldn’t listen to Remi’s exaggeration.”

“I don’t need to listen to Remi to know about the House on the Hill. I’ve heard tales of it too.” Like her daughters, she set down her plate and sat back. “Whilst I don’t believe most of the stories I’ve heard, I’m wondering what kind of a situation will warrant the paying of a housekeeper one hundred and twenty thousand naira.”

“My point exactly!” Always delighted to have her points supported, Remi pounced. “What kind of duties will a housekeeper be performing to be paid such a huge amount of money?”

“Cooking, cleaning and laundry.” Moyo chanted, mostly amused. Then raised a hand before either of them could come up with fresh protests. “And I’ve not called yet so we might be protesting over something that is no longer available here.”

“You shouldn’t even call.” Remi insisted. “And I can bet you no one in their right minds would.”

“I am in my right mind and I intend to call.” And because she was could be impulsive with her decisions, she reached for her phone. “In short, I don’t see why I shouldn’t do so now. There was no time limit stated on the ad and it’s just after seven.”

“Maybe you should wait till tomorrow.” Mammy suggested, wanting to stall the inevitable.

“Wait till tomorrow kè? She should forget about calling entirely.” Remi glared at both of them as if they were losing their minds.

But Moyo was already dialling the number she’d saved under ‘Housekeeper’s Job’ and she heaved off the floor when the line started ringing. The call was picked after a couple of rings but the person at the other end of the line said nothing.

Inhaling silently, she squared her shoulders and said in a clear, mildly deferential tone. “Good evening. I am sorry if I’m calling late. But I’m calling in respect of the Housekeeper’s vacant position that appeared in the Punch Newspaper today.” She paused, waited to hear anything. At the absolute silence, she went on. “I am interested in the position and would like to inquire if it has been filled or if it is still available.”

There was not an immediate response. Then. “It is.”

Moyo frowned. Not at the deep, rather raspy tone but at the response. “It is available or it has been filled?”

Another pause. “It is available.” The grating, dry voice sounded irritated now. “What is your name and how old are you?”

The questions came out gruff and rude, like the tone. But Moyo responded courteously all the same. “Moyo Akintola. I am twenty-three years old.”

“Too young.” The pronouncement was made in an annoyed tone.

“No, I am not.” She hated to be dismissed and she would not be. Not without a fair chance. “I might be twenty-three but I can perform the duties that were listed in the job description. I am a good cook; not a professional one but a very good cook by most standards. I can clean—if cleaning involves sweeping, mopping and dusting up of floors and furniture. And I do know how to do laundry… have been doing it since I was barely seven.”

There was another pause. A longer one. “What is your qualification?” The raspy voice finally demanded.

“Does housekeeping job require outstanding educational qualifications?” Then recalling she was interviewing for a job, Moyo bit her lips and hastily amended. “I’m sorry. I have an ordinary national diploma in Office technology and management from the Ibadan Polytechnic and I am presently working as the office administrator and secretary to the General Manager at Unique Computer Systems here at Owo.”

She expected his usual pause, instead he spoke immediately. “The job is at Idanre. And you’re to resume tomorrow.”

“What?” She spun around and gaped at her sister and mother. Of course Remi only scowled at her. “You mean… are you offering me the job?”

“Is that not what you want, Miss Akintola?” Now he sounded impatient. “You took the time to educate me on your qualifications because you wanted the job, not so?”

Had she educated him on her qualifications or just responded informatively to his questions? “Ah… well, yes, I want the job… if it is still available and if the salary is actually…”

“The salary I believe was stated on the ad. But in case the figures confused you, it is one hundred and twenty thousand naira monthly. And the position is still available and to be filled by you tomorrow and no later.”

She didn’t like his brusque tone and for the briefest second, Moyo toyed with the idea of turning down the job. But just as she couldn’t afford her bike fare earlier on, a thought that she instantly got slammed with now, she couldn’t afford childish, pointless tantrums.

“Ah… thank you for the job.” She should say thank-you, shouldn’t she? “But couldn’t I resume on Monday? Tomorrow is Saturday and I have do have to submit my resignation letter before I leave my job.” And there was the matter of her hanging salary.

“If you cannot make it tomorrow, then you cannot have the job. I need someone to resume latest midday tomorrow.”

The finality in his tone made her scowl and to consider again the turning-down the job option. But again she tucked away the childish temptation. “I’ll be there tomorrow, sir. Thank you and um… goodnight.” She politely waited for him to cut the line before she dropped her hand.

“You got the job and you are resuming tomorrow?” Remi’s voice was both accusing and astonished. “Who gets a job this fast and whoever resumes a new job on a Saturday?”

“Well, to answer your first question—people with God on their side gets a job this fast and as for the second question, a housekeeper’s job is actually every day of the week and so resuming on a Saturday can be acceptable.” Moyo kept her tone light as she bent to pick her plates and that of her mother’s. “I guess I’ll have to go inside to begin packing if I’m to be at Idanre before midday tomorrow.”

“You’re not seriously considering taking this job, Moyo, are you?”

She sighed, turned and stared at her sister. “I am, Remi. It is a fine opportunity for us to save big time and I am not passing it by because some people have over-active imaginations about animal-human-like creatures. Uh-uh.” She shifted her gaze to her mother and stalled the protest she knew was forming. “And you shouldn’t worry, Mammy. You know me and you know I will be fine. I can take care of myself. We have all been praying for a miracle and I think God has finally given us one. So, we should be thankful instead of complaining because it is at a house no one we know has ever been in.”

“I think it just might be a curse and you’re allowing the thought of that one hundred and twenty thousand naira blind you.” Remi grumbled. “That kind of money can only be a trap and you are falling into it and Mammy is here not saying anything. Hmm, nobody should say that Remi didn’t say anything oh.”

Moyo chuckled and sent her scowling sister a twinkling smile. “The problem with you, Remi, is that you are too pessimistic and you lack faith. How come we pray all the time for sudden miracles and when one happens, we start picking it apart to find faults, eh?”

Not waiting for any response, she marched off to the kitchen to dump the plates in their washing basin before marching off to the room she shared with her sister.

But as she pulled out her one and only spinner-wheel suitcase, the thought crept in that she hadn’t quite liked the tone of the man who was likely to be her new boss, a dislike which may not filter away when she meets him tomorrow. But liking one’s boss was not always a deciding factor when taking a job, she reminded herself. She didn’t like Oga GM and his many excuses to delay their salaries, yet she has been working for him for almost three years now.

This was that magic wand she’d been wishing for, and she was grabbing it weird scary stories and harsh-and-rude-sounding boss or not.

 

Dedication: for Nnem and Cheks, for superb story-telling skills.

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40 Responses to House on the Hill

  1. favouriteshades says:

    The life of a firstborn can be wearying.Pele Moyo,I know the feeling.

    Tm,this sure is gonna be one hell of a ride especially as its kinda different from what am used to from you..HOTH looks like it would be full of intrigue,suspense,maybe just a bit of romance(romance never hurts,lols) but definitely keep you on the edge of your seat novelette.

    Patiently waiting for the next episode and for the publishing of Unconventional proposal

    Yaaay, #dancing Shoki#

  2. Mcstefan says:

    Chei…. Moyosade, to be forewarned is to be forarmed. You’d better be patient. Goodluck on you first dsy of resumption, oh and i need a part of your salary, ya know, magic wand things.

  3. Toyenlon says:

    Wow, i like this already. It’s sure gonna be a jolly ride, kudos Tm.

  4. Foluke says:

    This is going to be something fresh, I love horror and suspense. moyo get ready. I hope she doesn’t get hurt. kudos TM

  5. Tosin says:

    This is going to be fun. I am in all the way.
    responsibilities of a first child, enormous.

  6. Vimlady says:

    Wow….Im likin this already…..Im sure following u

  7. Tee says:

    Finger crossed, gonna love but why do I have this feeling that Moyo will fall in love with the owner of the gruff voice

  8. Pacesetter says:

    Waiting for d next episode and for unconventional proposal

  9. Sylvia says:

    Ohk o I’m already salivating…..can’t wait for d next episode and hope it’s soon too

  10. Adefunke says:

    Moyo, Moyo, Moyo? how many times did I call you? B careful…

  11. Hehehe can’t wait to see where this is going.

  12. chic says:

    Unusual but very captivating?

  13. mystiq18 says:

    Am just going to sit and watch how events play out. Kudos boss

  14. Ego says:

    House on the hill….hmmm sounds scary, waiting for the horror movie to start

  15. bola says:

    Arms folding, waiting 4 d next episode. Welldone TM

  16. Roselyn says:

    Wow! This is gonna be another unique story. TM, we dey gidigba for your back. More grace and inspiration ma’am

  17. kemmy says:

    this is going to be a jolly ride with T.M

  18. Paula says:

    Sis TM, you know I love you right? Moyo OYO is your own.

  19. sabelle concepts says:

    They say fly wey no dey hear word dey follow dead body enter grave…heheheh. Moyo how far na! I’m hooked on HOTH the way I love tea and bread

  20. jojodia says:

    Beauty and the beast….oh okay, not beauty and the beast cus TM described Moyo has not beautiful.
    Beautifully crafted intro.

    BTW, still waiting for March 28.

  21. I hope Moyo faith see her through whatever lies in wait.

  22. damisky says:

    Oh my goshh TM *crying nd rolling on d floor* av nt been feeling well 4 a while nw nd u did nt even boda 2 ask of me!!! *Sad mood activated* bt dat does nt stop me from commenting on dis wonderful story jeez I cnt wait 2 see d end of dis…

    • Oh my sweet, sweet damisky… what the heck was I thinking? Forgive me, dear one. But you know, you can’t blame me… I thought this was one of those moments when readers go AWOL. Hope you all better now. *hugs* I be watching out for you next time *wink*

  23. Essencecj says:

    Abeg make d babe do quick go d house make I see as d man be sef. How r u TM?

  24. cheriepet says:

    Registering my humble presence.

    TM longest time? I hope to follow till d end.

    well done n good job. Jeffery Jamez I aff catch u

  25. Treasure says:

    Nice tale there…curiosity mounting…

  26. iyke David says:

    Is it a house of horror?

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