Author’s note: This section in Chapter Twelve was taken out because the story has already stated Jide is a jealous bully. Taking the reader back to his secondary school days where he torments an American-born junior student is overwhelming, especially after we see him belittling his Cameroonian butler in present day.
I strode across the marble after sliding the French windows shut, then stopped at the soft rug in the middle of the main parlour where I took off my shoes and leaned back into one of the leather armchairs, stretching out my aching feet. Seconds later, the family butler appeared in his all-white uniform, a forced smile etched on his crinkly face.
“Welcome, sir,” he greeted as he bent forward to pick up my suitcase.
“Fabrice,” I nodded. “Where is my wife?”
“Madame upstairs, inside, sir,” he gestured towards the spiral staircase behind the giant aquarium, and I exhaled deeply.
“Alright. Can you get me my food now?”
“Yes sir, Arit cook nice jollof rice, very very nice…”
“Fabrice, I don’t need you telling me how nice Arit’s cooking is, we hired her for a reason,” I interrupted impatiently. “Just stop talking and get me my food, or is that too difficult for
“Non, je suis désolée Monsieur. I bring food now-now.” He left the room, taking the case with him, and I sunk myself even further into the chair, my eyes weighed down with exhaustion. Seconds later, I woke up to find Fabrice tapping me awake.
“Sir, food ready,” he announced.
I nodded and began to rise from the chair, but stopped suddenly. “What the hell is this?” I asked, pointing to a covered Pyrex dish on a side stool. “Did I ask you to serve my meal in the living room?”
“Sir, you tired, and…”
“Are you stupid? When have you ever seen me eat in the living room? Or have you forgotten where the dining room is?” I bellowed, causing the man to flinch.
“Sorry, sir, you tired, and I think you eating…”
“Do I pay you to think? I pay you to obey, understand? Come on, take that rice into the dining room, you fucking numbskull.” A crestfallen Fabrice silently placed the Pyrex dish on a tray and disappeared with it inside. “And bring me a glass of wine, red,” I shouted after him. Fortunately, his knowledge in wines was exceptional, having served a French diplomat’s family before joining our household, and although he’d spent enough time in the country to speak basic English, the communication barrier still existed. It brought back memories of myself years ago when a boy sent to Nigeria by his American-based parents moved into the Class 1 dormitory. His perfect dictation, combined with his intriguing Yankee accent, made him an easy target for the school bullies including myself, and boy, did we give him hell. Although I already spoke English pretty well thanks to those countless hours listening to BBC World Service, it still wasn’t my first language, and I would tease him mercilessly every time he opened his mouth. I cruelly robbed him of the Twinkies, Oreos, and Lucky Charms his folks had sent over as ‘provision’, forcing him to keep his mouth shut if he didn’t want to spend an afternoon scrubbing out the toilets renowned for their perpetual filth as I marked his back with permanent stripes. As an Ajebo kid unaccustomed to extreme corporal punishment, he was left with no choice. It wasn’t long before his enraged parents withdrew him from the hostel after his father spotted an empty Oreo packet in his house captain’s wastepaper basket during visiting day. I’d treated him terribly, mainly because I was jealous of his privileged upbringing, but it wasn’t the boy’s fault. Years later, here I was, a successful TV producer running a tight ship, bullying a man who barely spoke any English, but how else would I keep everything and everyone in line if I didn’t rule with an iron fist? My house, my rules, and if Fabrice had a problem with a boss who paid for and expected perfection, he knew where the airport was…