SHE wheeled her suitcase down the lone street. She needed to find a hotel; definitely not one in these parts. She couldn’t afford any here. She couldn’t afford…
Prue broke off her thoughts, let go off the handle of the suitcase and pressed her fingers against her eyes as hot tears surged out. Oh God! Why did these terrible things keep happening to her? Why did she keep coming to a place in life where she was stranded with nowhere to go? Why did she always have to wind up alone—always alone?
The gates of the house she was standing close to shuddered open and the rear lights of the car backing into the street beamed on her. Prue hastily brushed off her tears, jerked up her suitcase and stumbled out of the way.
The car, a dark grey coloured SUV, likely a Honda, fully reversed and started up the street. Then it screeched to a sudden stop, backed up and stopped right beside her.
Prue took an involuntary step backward as the driver’s side glass wound down.
“Miss Rawlings? Prudence Rawlings?”
Recognising him, the art dealer who’d come to the gallery a little over a month ago, Prue’s quick panic turned to acute embarrassment. “Ah… Mr Abang, good evening.”
“It’s actually Clarence.” He pushed open his car door and stepped down. “Going somewhere this time of the night?” His gaze lingered on her suitcase.
Prue swallowed, nodded. “Uh, yes. A hotel.”
“A hotel?” He looked, and sounded, perplexed. “Why?”
“I… because I have to. I have nowhere else to go to.” Prue gave a smile she was certain was wobbly and crushed the temptation to resume crying. “My grandfather doesn’t want me in his home anymore.”
Prue lifted her shoulders. “He believes I stole his money.” Then she tucked up her chin and held his eyes in a steady stare. “I didn’t. I didn’t steal his money. I didn’t even know he had twenty-five thousand naira in his desk drawer.”
“Your grandfather accused you of stealing his money and sent you out of his house? At this time of the night?” Bewilderment and shock coated his deep voice.
“That is a good summary of events.” Prue laughed. It came out hysterical and she had to blink severally to stop her eyes welling up. “The reality though is that I didn’t take that money and I never even saw it.”
“You told him this and he still sent you out?”
“He didn’t believe me.” Prue shrugged. “I was the only one at the gallery today. Joan didn’t come in. It’d be kind of hard to suspect her with her being absent and all.” Again she shrugged, and blinked. “But I didn’t take the money. I would never steal. And I wouldn’t lie. It’s just twenty-five thousand naira for heaven’s sake! I wouldn’t jeopardise… everything for such a paltry sum. For anything.”
He stared at her. Finally, he nodded and came forward to pick her suitcase. “Let’s go see your grandfather. We’ll talk to Mr Rawlings and get this sorted out.”
“He won’t listen to you.” Prue said with certainty. Still she followed him to his car. “His mind is made up that I am the thief and he won’t be convinced otherwise.”
“Still, he cannot just throw you out of the house. Not at this time of the night at the very least.” He got into the car, opened the passenger door for her. “Please get in, Prudence.”
“All right.” She climbed in after a brief hesitation. “And please, it’s Prue. I prefer to be called Prue.”
He gave a nod and started the car. “Right. Let’s go talk to your grandfather, Prue.”
“I was already turning in for the night when my security guard called in your surprising visit, Clarence.” Aaron Rawlings was in his pyjamas with a night robe over it and his eyes were solely focused on Clarence.
He was refusing to acknowledge her, Prue knew. He had put her out of his home, and obviously, out of his life. She knew the talk, or whatever Clarence chose to call the appeal he wanted to make, would be fruitless. They have passed a point of no return. His unyielding stance told her that. And the unwavering calm beneath her apprehension, and despite her being there, was confirmation that she’d accepted that fact.
“I am sorry to bring you out of your bed, sir.” Clarence said, his voice bearing only the faintest shade of apology. “But I was coming out from seeing Mrs Bielonwu, your neighbour a few blocks down, when I came upon Miss Rawlings—Prudence. She explained what happened to me and I figured I should bring her back home as she must have misunderstood your annoyance and misinterpreted it as you driving her out into the night.”
Her grandfather looked at her then. But only for the briefest second before he shifted his gaze back to Clarence. “No one’s misunderstood anything, Clarence. I am sure my granddaughter told you I misplaced my money and not that she stole it.”
“I didn’t tell him you misplaced it, grandpa. You’re above such human errors.” Prue looked at him with defiance even when he wouldn’t spare her another glance. “I only told him you accused me of stealing the money; which I didn’t.”
“An insolent child, you must see that for yourself, Clarence.” Aaron Rawlings spoke with a heavy sneer. “A child who would steal from her grandfather and instead of repentance, shows off insolence.”
“I did not steal your money, grandpa.” Prue refused to allow her embarrassment at having him so deprecatingly accuse her before another cower her. “And I am only defending myself not being insolent.”
“A thief has defence?” Aaron Rawlings scorned and then made a dismissive gesture with one hand. “Anyway, you made a mistake bringing her back here, Clarence. I would not house a thief and surely not one who is neither contrite nor willing to repent of her sin.”
“I did not—”
“She insists that she did not take the money, sir. There must be a reason for that. But whatever the case, she is your granddaughter and you cannot throw her out of your home—her home. It is too late at night for a young woman to be seeking accommodation in a hotel.” Clarence pre-empted her heated argument in a calm voice.
“It is only by a miscalculation of fate that she became my granddaughter, Clarence.” Aaron Rawlings retorted. “And there is nothing of a Rawlings in her—no integrity and no moral dignity.”
“I am no miscalculation of fate, grandpa.” Prue slapped off the tear that dared to slip out. “But contrary to your opinion of me, I do possess integrity and dignity.” She turned to Clarence. “Let us get out of here. Or I will leave if you wish to stay on.”
“You will throw your late daughter’s only child out of your home? Turn your back on your own blood?” Clarence’s astonishment mingled with horror, and Prue thought, rage.
“I never associate with unscrupulous people, Clarence. You must know that of me.” Aaron Rawlings stood rigid and unbending.
“I only know that I have never witnessed such hardheartedness and implacability.” Clarence returned. Then he turned and took her suitcase out of her hand. “Come, Prue.” And he walked ahead of her towards the door.
Inside the car, Prue turned to him. “Thank you for doing your best to help, I appreciate the kind gesture. And if you could please extend that kindness by dropping me off at the cheapest hotel you know of, I will gratefully relieve you of my thieving presence.”
He slid the key into the ignition and then turned to her. “Do you think I consider you a thief, Prue?”
Prue swallowed the lump in her throat and imitated a careless shrug. “Don’t you? After all, my own grandfather believes me to be one.”
“Did you steal that money, Prue?”
Prue stared back into the eyes that were steady on hers. “No, I have never stolen anyone’s money in my life. I stole my mother’s pastries a good many times as a kid, and had my bottom blistered for it. But never money. I don’t know what happened to that money, but I didn’t take it.”
“That is it then. I, myself, was known to pinch cupcakes whenever my mum baked or bought them in my wild youth days and my poor knuckles suffered for my misdemeanour.” With a sober nod, he started the car and pulled into the street. “I don’t think though that the cheapest hotel anywhere in Lagos would be a good place for a young woman.”
“A hotel with cheap rates is what I can afford.” Prue said. “I have less than seventy thousand naira in my bank account, and only just about five thousand naira plus on me right here. I can’t afford heavy expenditures.”
He cut into the Ahmadu Bello Way. “You can stay at my place until you are able to sort out a more acceptable living condition, Prue. I live at Surulere.”
Prue’s heart skipped. “Why?”
He gave her a quick glance. “Because like you just said, you cannot afford heavy expenditures. And I don’t think you should be wasting whatever money you have on hotel bills, even if they are cheap.”
“But… your house?” Prue frowned. “Do you live alone? Or with your family?”
“I live alone.” He aimed her another glance. “My… ah, I have a house guest at present though. But there are three bedrooms and you can have one of them.”
“Oh.” Prue sat back into the leather seat, continued to frown. “Why are you doing this? Why are you helping me?”
“Because I know… I believe that you are innocent and more primarily, because I don’t like girls sleeping in cheap hotels.” He switched lanes and overtook the saloon car in front of him. “Hotels like that are not exactly safe. We live in desperate times, Prue.”
“You believe that I am innocent? You believe that just on my word?” Her lower lip trembled and Prue bit hard on it.
“I do.” Clarence nodded. “You have an expressive face, Prue, and I read pure honesty on it the first time you said you didn’t take that money.”
“Oh.” He believed her. Someone believed in her. Prue swallowed, blinked and managed a smile. “Thank you for your faith, Clarence.”
And nothing more was said between them as he drove through the night’s hassle-free traffic. But Prue’s heart writhed with a mix of sadness, gratitude at divine providence when she’d needed it and apprehension for her once more uncertain future.
MIDNIGHT DANCE… *Coming SOON too*
Church program still ongoing. I actually leave the house (oga hubby and I) at about 11:30 am and we come back about 10:00 pm. There’s no time to do much else. If I’d known the program would be this time-encompassing, I probably would have taken the entire January off from writing a blog story. Still, we’ll get back to LSDL once this weekend’s over and the program is done.
I crave your patience and continued prayers.
On the side though, this is the 2nd of the novellas coming soon. REAL SOON. Midnight Dance is quite an interesting tale. The glimpse above is one of its chapters, and it is a story that will touch something in you. So, keep your fingers crossed for it… it’s coming *wink*.
All right, I wish everyone a blessed day. I’ll say a prayer for you. You do the same.
I love you all.