Maria received the weighty envelope with a grin on her face. Month end. The favourite part of her month. It wasn't just because she received her monthly pay, it was because of the constant reminder that fortune had smiled upon her and she must have done something good in a past life to receive such good fortune. Or why else was she paid twice as much as other maids were paid. What house help in Abuja earned a hefty forty thousand naira a month? Maria received the envelope and went on her knees, thanking her generous boss, Mrs Aisha Frederick.
Aisha smiled benevolently at her maid and hurriedly exited the kitchen. Tonight was another of those nights when the world stood still at her feet.
The driver brought the white limousine towards her front porch and she smiled a contented smile as she picked up the train of the floor length Tiffany Amber red satin dress and walked regally to the car. Unfortunately her husband couldn't join her, he and the kids were vacationing in the South of France, she would join them shortly, after she had received her award for the Best Contemporary African Writer. She leaned back into the plush leather seat and resisted the urge to indulge in a the glass of champagne. Champagne can come later, after I've received my award. Champagne is for celebration.
There were two other contenders but Aisha knew without a doubt that they were no rivals. At forty-one she was one of the youngest Nobel prize award winners in the continent, and what was more, she was just getting started. She could resist the urge for champagne but she couldn't stiffen the giggle that tickled her throat; Aisha Muhammad, the daughter of a village tailor, who would have thought that she would one day control millions of dollars. All the books she had written in the past nine years had each sold over eight million copies and were published in five different languages. Two of her books had been turned into Hollywood box office hits and she had been paid at least several millions of dollars for the rights.
She chose to live in Abuja because she had a strong attachment to her country and her home but that did not stop her from indulging in her little pleasures; expensive homes in different cities; one in the Upper Eastside of Manhattan and another in Dubai, coupled with the properties she owned on the Island in Lagos. Her children, aged seven and nine attended one of the best boarding schools in England, and her darling husband, formerly an average investment banker now managed his wife's wealth and the family affairs.
All too soon the limousine pulled up inside the Transcorp hotel and Aisha stepped out. Immediately her Manolo Blahnik encased feet touched the ground, the camera lights flashed and an usher frenetically rushed to her side.
"You're welcome Mrs Aisha Frederick, allow me to accompany you..." the young lady gushed, looking up at her adoringly.
Aisha was used to being adored, what was not to adore? She was a classic Fulani beauty who stood tall and proud at 6ft1" and had the skin of polished mahogany. Her face was beautiful and proud and her cheekbones further added to her aristocratic beauty. Aisha sashayed into the beautifully decorated hall and was led straight to her seat.
"And the award for the Best Contemporary African Writer, for the second time, writer of over nine published best sellers..., her books have sold over 70 million copies worldwide, Nobel Prize winner; Mrs Aisha Frederick!!!!"
The applause was thunderous. The usually somber literary community and academics could not sit still in her presence, they all wondered how she did it and marveled at the brilliance of her mind, she indeed had a beautiful mind, deep, intricate and extremely brilliant. Her stories had an innocence to them, a naïveté, yet the world, even Hollywood movers and shakers fell under her spell. The Aisha Fredericks of the world came only once in a generation.
Aisha walked confidently up the podium and gave a speech in that soft and sultry voice of hers, her perfect diction, tinged with a slight northern accent only added to her general appeal. She thanked her God, her family and her fans.
"...People ask how I do it? They ask my inspiration? They wonder where it all comes from... I wonder the same thing too. God has blessed me tremendously with an amazing gift, a gift I call my golden hen, a very fertile hen that lays me golden eggs; a mind that churns out the most amazing stories that amaze and intrigue even myself. When God blesses us with a gift we ought not question it, we only utilize it to its fullest and thank Him for it. And that's all I can do; thank God for the opportunity to enrich the lives of millions through the gift He has blessed me with. I thank Him, and I thank you all". She concluded her speech and smiled gracefully, walking off the podium as loud applause rang through.
Plaque in hand, Aisha could hardly wait to get home. That champagne would have to wait, her publishers were eagerly awaiting the completion of her new book which they wanted to publish just before Christmas to maximize the sales. Aisha called her driver and discreetly snuck out through the back, before anyone could notice.
"Honey, you were right! I bagged another one!" She squeeled into the phone gleefully
"I just knew you would. I told you you would. When are you joining us my baby, the kids miss you, I miss you..."
"I'm so sorry my love, I need to complete this book and then I'll join you... And yes, I need to write it here" she added quickly and sternly, knowing that her husband would ask her for the thousandth time why she always insisted on writing at home.
Her steward welcomed her home, he saw the plaque in her hand and smiled a knowing smile.
"Brew me a pot of green tea Samuel, and bring it up to my study immediately"
"And Samuel, ask Maria to meet me in my study, ok?"
She hurriedly changed into comfortable cotton pajamas and rushed into her study. Work beckoned. Her pot of tea already waiting, she settled into her chair and just as she was about to power up her laptop she heard a gentle knock on the door.
"Come in..." She called out
"Madam, Samuel say you dey call me"
"Ah yes Maria, please sit down, you know you haven't finished... Where were we?" Aisha asked handing over a bag of chocolatechip cookies to her maid.
"Ehen, madam I remember, I remember ma" Maria said as she excitedly tore open her bag of cookies and took her place at her usual spot on the floor where she sat unceremoniously.
Her madam just loved hearing her stories. She didn't know why but in the years she had lived with madam she had spent several nights in this study with her, telling story after story while madam speedily typed away at her computer. She wasn't sure if madam even heard her, madam said she just liked the sound of her voice.
In any case Maria did not mind; Madam gave her sugary treats and good salary. Besides, her head was filled with stories and she was just happy to have someone listen to them, they seemed never to end and madam seemed never to tire of hearing them. Maria babbled on excitedly, eager to spill the words out. Words nna anyi had regaled them with about the Biafra war and other ancient Igbo history, words Chukwumerije the village drunk had sang to them on cold harmattan nights, and the ones her mind wouldn't stop fabricating.
"Easy, slow down Maria, take it easy" Aisha chided tenderly, as though talking to a hyperactive child and not a grown woman.
"Ah madam, am sorry ma", Maria said apologetically, small bits of cookies flying from her mouth.
"It's ok Maria, it's ok. Go ahead, talk to me... my beautiful golden hen.", Aisha whispered warmly.
As Maria chattered on a shudder ran through Aisha's spine. Where would she be, what would she be if this woman had not been sent to her ten years ago from a remote eastern village, this tiny illiterate woman whom she owed her life and her entire wealth to, her wonderful golden hen who had turned a village tailor's lowly daughter to a wealthy world renown literary genius.
A tiny smile tugged at the sides of Aisha's lips as she continued to type frantically, she must have done something good in a past life to receive such good fortune.