It was the last stick of the packet of cigarettes. The smoke danced spirally spreading across the parlour. Mr Charles had just snuffed the glowing tip of the cigarette, crushing the stick in the ashtray. His teeth gleamed, emitting the fading whiff of tobacco as he took the last sip from the drink. His delectable wife and sixteen year old son, Drake, dashed in unexpectedly pushing the ajar door as he stood to return the tray. ‘Dad, I’m back from school’, Drake said in a gentle voice.

The night was falling. Betty, Mr Charles’ wife went round and lit the rooms and compound. The house shone against the darkness of the night. As she moved close to the entrance, she heard a knock at the door. It was the driver, Tara and his daughter, Hope, waiting and sweating. They had run through the tick of the night after receiving the news of the closure of the application of the admission into the university. Hope was a young brilliant child who struggled against all odds to qualify for the scholarship award offered by one of the Ivy League schools in America. Her dad had been supporting her with the meagre income he earned as a chauffeur in Mr Charles’ noble duplex.

Tara and his daughter knelt on the floor begging Mr Charles for financial assistance. Tara needed some money to complete the admission process for his daughter. They watched helplessly as Mr Charles shouted scornfully, ‘I can’t give you my money, you lazy man…I can’t…You good for nothing man!’ Tara and Hope burst into tears as they were forced out of the door. The night aged deeper as they returned home. The day broke, beyond their fears, Tara received a call from an old friend who agreed to pay the money needed for the admission with no strings attached.

Seven years later, Hope returned to Nigeria after her postgraduate programme in the United States. She had topped her class and given a chance to continue her education to the postgraduate level. She had only spent a few weeks in Nigeria, when an oil and gas firm employed her as the head of their engineering team. She rose to the peak.

Through it all, Mr Charles had lost his job and his businesses collapsed. His family had lived on well-meaning friends and extended family members. The beautiful times had turned bitter. After a short time, twenty-four year old Drake applied for a job in a blue-chip company. Drake was able to complete his university education in Nigeria despite the tough times. He had prepared so hard but met the unspeakable sight on the day of his interview. His dad’s former driver’s daughter, Hope, was the head of the panel chosen to conduct the interview. Staring in dismay, he struggled in silence holding back the tears. Hope ordered him to settle down as the memories of the past drummed in his mind.

Ojo Oyeyemi J. (2017)

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