At Shell camp in Warri, they were close friends.
A long time ago.
That time when they walked to and from school together.
She was staying with her uncle, her friend was staying with her parents.
There was obviously a difference in status and how they were each treated at home, but when they were together, they were equal.
Even if people thought otherwise.
For were she was excitingly brilliant.
Her friend was pitifully dull.
Yet she always covered for her friend.
Assignments. Tests. Exams.
She had her back.
With a fierce loyalty and an abiding love.
But things changed rapidly.
And they drifted apart, just after they had finished their WAEC exams.
Her Uncle had died suddenly and the family had moved out of the estate.
Her uncle's wife travelled with her two kids to the US, where she had remarried and faded away.
She on the other hand had to return to her own parents in Port-Harcourt.
Her small house in Choba village.
Where her perenially broke father complained bitterly about everything and her mother silently preached to her about school being her only escape from poverty.
There were mornings when she will watch her mother patiently dress up her two twin brothers for school, feed them, hand them over to her junior brother who had already dressed himself, before she dutifully went to work at the University of Port Harcourt where she worked at the typing pool at the registrars office.
She will sit there in the living room of the one bedroom apartment staring through misty eyes at her mathematics textbook as she studied hard for jamb.
She would day dream of the day, she finished her degree, got a great job in Shell and changed the lot of her family.
Then she will think of her friend and before she knew it, she would begin writing a letter to her.
This was the time before social media.
The time when communication across time and space was slow and treasured.
They shared letters.
Kept in touch.
She studied Applied Mathematics.
Her friend studied Modern European Languages with a specialisation in French.
She studied at the University of Ibadan through the bursary made available to the indigenes of River state.
Her friend studied in Paris at the Sorbonne through the wealth of her father who had risen very high at Shell.
It was after their graduation they lost touch.
Actually, her friend has stopped replying her emails when she had asked her friend to speak to her father, to help her get a job at Shell. She had explained that she made a strong 2nd Class Upper and was ready to take and pass any tests they set for her. All she needed was a referral from her friends father.
All her letters and calls after that went unreplied and unanswered.
She went on to serve at Mobil, was not retained because her manager felt it was his right to drill for oil in her panties.
He promised her that Mobil will never retain her for what she had done even though she was the best performing corper.
True to his words, they didn't.
Deeply pained, she went on to do a masters degree in Computer Science.
And fell in love with programming.
And artificial intelligence.
And the realm of which tech dreams are made of.
Even after she graduated and moved to Lagos.
She started self teaching herself.
Every book she could lay her hands on.
Mostly second hand books.
And a fairly used laptop.
Life was hard.
She was making some money teaching kids mathematics for WAEC and Jamb.
She tried to keep her dreams alive by designing and programming futuristic softwares. Building vast computer architecture for processes people weren't even thinking about or could imagine happen.
She was frightenly and intimidatingly brilliant.
With a huge crucifix on a shoulder.
She was drop dead gorgeous.
And because she was, no one could see the works of her hands or the creation and imagination of her brains.
It was her body they wanted.
Her face they adored.
And because she refused to be seen only for just that, doors shut in her face.
By men who wanted to have her but couldn't.
And women who wanted to be like her but couldn't.
And the rest who managed to look beyond her body but ran scared for their jobs when they beheld her brilliant mind.
She was at her wits end.
Dressed so plainly.
And spoke so sparingly.
Her confidence evaporated like morning dew welcoming the rising sun.
She tried and tried but luck deserted her.
With her mother begging her to come with her for prayers from one pastor to the other.
Since she could not understand why her daughter could not get a job.
There were interviews after the prayers.
A lot of them.
She would pass the aptitude test with flying colours, go in for the oral interview.
And the letter she always got will read - "We are sorry. We will not be moving ahead with you at this time..."
She changed tacts.
Played dumb and dumber at interviews.
Until one day she ran into her long lost friend.
In the most unusual circumstances.
She was teaching a boy at an estate in Lekki.
He was preparing to sit for SAT to go abroad to study an undergraduate degree.
His mother had a visitor.
Her visitor came with a six year old boy.
When she saw the visitor.
She recognised her instantly.
She screamed in joy and shocked the boy she was teaching and his mother, before she rushed to her long lost friend and hugged her tightly.
Her long lost friend didn't recognise her at first.
But when she reintroduced herself, her friend was shocked.
"What happened to you?"
And she told her a long tale, which the boy she was teaching and his mother listened to.
Everybody shocked that misfortune could befall someone so gifted.
Her friend gave her the numbers she could be reached on, collected hers and promised to help her.
It was with excitement she went back home, called her mother and told her what had happened.
Her mother told her that it was the prayers that had opened the door and begged her to pray fervently, even as she herself will begin a 3 day dry fast on her behalf.
It was the very next day that her friend called her.
It was small talk and recollections at first.
Laughter and all.
Stories of her wealthy husband and her son.
Finally she said;
"... I have been thinking of how best to help you. I know things are hard for you and you are not doing what you would love to do, but life is like that. So I was wondering if while I keep trying to help you, you can come to teach my son mathematics full time."
"How do you mean by full time?"
"It will be an exclusive engagement, you will teach only him."
"But what of my other students?"
"Their parents will find other teachers."
"I will pay you very well."
And so it is that she resumed at the palatial residence of her friend in Ikoyi.
And met her dashing looking husband.
She resumed at 3p.m daily and left at 7 p.m.
Her saturdays and sundays were free.
She earned nearly thrice as much as she earned teaching over 21 students at various times a week.
She was happy but she was unsatisfied.
So she spent her free time devouring new technologies and sharpening her skills while still applying for jobs.
Her friend was never really at home.
She had become a socialite house wife.
A cook was at her beck and call.
A cleaner and washerman too.
One day she had come to work to see her friend in a panic. When she inquired what was wrong, her friend had blurted out.
"The cook just resigned without notice. I don't know what to do. ..... has not eaten since he got back from school and my husband is going to be hungry when he gets back from work."
She had been calm as she listened.
Then she had said.
"Don't worry, I will cook for the house."
And she did.
And they all ate.
And when she came back the next day to teach her son, her friend had shyly said to her.
"You know, I have been thinking. Why do I need to hire another cook when you cook so well. My husband kept complimenting the food you made yesterday. What do you say if in addition to teaching ....... you also cooked for the house. Like full time. I will pay you very very well."
She felt uneasy when she heard what her friend had asked.
Her friend who knew how educated and brilliant she was.
Her friend who had promised to find her a job.
But as she looked at her friend, standing there so vulnerable, her heart melted.
And she agreed.
So it was that she became the cook and the lesson teacher in the home of her childhood friend.
With her mother telling her to give praise to God for the opportunity and still broke father raining curses on her friend, her parents and Shell for turning his daughter to a house girl.
The days turned into weeks. And the weeks into months. And the months added up to a year and some, and she patiently waited for her friend to make good on her promise.
One day while her friend was out at a spa, her husband came back from work early.
He sat in the living room upstairs and listened to their son being taught by her.
Then he began a conversation.
And the more she spoke, the more he looked at her bewildered.
Then he asked her.
"Do you know what I do?"
"All I was told is that you are a business man."
"Yes I am a business man. My business is all about technology. Information Technology."
She was shocked. She remembered vividly how many times she had asked her friend what her husband did and how her friend always brushed it off by saying - business man.
His words broke into her thoughts.
"I can't believe that what I have been looking for all these years is right here in this house. My lord. Does my wife know what you do?"
"This is what I do?"
"I mean that you are a... a bloody genius?"
"She knows I am into I.T."
"You are not just into I.T you fucking know A.I. Predictive informatics, Robotics. You should be in Silicon Valley not here. By Jove! What the hell."
He brought out his phone and placed a call.
"Hon. Where are you?... Can you come home right now?... Yes... We need to talk... not over the phone.... yes... I am waiting."
She watched him.
Her heart beating.
When her friend came back.
They walked into their bedroom.
She couldn't hear them as she busied herself in the kitchen preparing dinner.
Then they both walked into kitchen behind her.
She turned to them.
Her friends husband spoke.
"We were wondering what you think about heading one of my companies. Full time. Great pay. Full autonomy. You will do what you want with those ideas you shared with me. Any proprietary techonologies you and your team come up with, you will co-own with me. This company had been doodling for years but with you, it will go places. We can rival the americans, chinese and the indians in software, informatics and robotics. But it can only happen if you join us. Right here in Nigeria. We will put ourselves on the map. What do you say?" JuneBridals formal dresses for wedding
Her ear drums were vibrating so fast she could hear a loud hum around his words.
She didn't know if the waves of mild electric current that was coursing through her were good for her, but she was sure that the deep happiness that was swirling within her was a good omen.
Her knees were weak.
Her hands were trembling.
As she stood there staring at them.
And when he asked again.
"Will you join us and make this dream come true?"
She burst out in tears as she nodded.
Her husband rushed forward and hugged her.
"It's okay. Don't cry. Your future is going to be so much better than your past."
Her friend stood there staring at them.
Her eyes on fire.
And when they separated all her friend said to her was...
"When will dinner be ready?"