The quiet household, the sharpness of cold clean air forcing its ways into my nostrils, the shiny and echoing marble floor, the sweet smelling lemon waffles made by Mrs Segun, “Iya chef” as I fondly called her and the classical music coming in from the library brought smiles to my face. I loved this household; the breath-taking scenery and architecture was what drew me to the mansion in the first place. It had such a pull. It was alive and I remembered ringing the bell for a quick look fifteen years ago.
“Hello, How can I help you?” it was a male voice. I was taken aback by the coarse voice streaming through the intercom I did not notice until the blasting voice got me looking for it; I had an image of a butler coming out from the mansion or a gate man appearing from the premises.
“Emmmm, I want to ask for an opening?” I cringed. That was a top-of-the-hat lie. Gosh, what if I’m kidnapped? Curious and afraid; I stood expectantly.
“There is no opening. Have a nice day” the voice went off abruptly as it came. Nice! I rolled my eyes and continued on my walk down the street.
I remember also coming to the gate daily for the next one week to use different “lies” from deliveries to taking a tour to impersonating a journalist from Ghana. None worked. But alas, I was to meet with the owner of the mansion the evening of my departure from Obudu Holiday Inn in Calabar, Nigeria. I was on a vacation to find myself and think about my marriage proposal to a man who was assigned to me by my overbearing father. I did not want to return and had cut off all communications………..but I had to. There was no escaping my father’s wishes. Taking what I thought would be my last stroll turned out to be the changing point in my life.
I remember noticing the walk of a graceful woman on the premises in breeches!!!; her name was Didi Trap. I was soon to know she owned the property and several others like it spread across the country. Increasing my pace I made haste to reach the side of the fence where my voice could be heard.
“Good Evening Ma’am, My name is Unen Ameji and I’m totally in love with this house. It is so alive and captivating. I have been here every day for the last one week and leaving Calabar tomorrow but I so so much want a tour. It would make my vacation complete. Who can I talk to please?” I asked earnestly with a shy smile. The depressing thoughts of going back to my former life flew away at the possibility of finally seeing the inside of this magnificent structure. I was in real estate and this was a must-see.
The awe and smile on her face made me smile widely too. I was sure she was considering the outspokenness and pleads for just a tour. Later she would tell me that she liked me that instant and had planned to keep me on her property. Of course she willed the property to me and I write from my favorite place- the library.
She had such a welcoming demeanor. On getting closer to take a look at the “old” woman, I was surprised to see a young woman in her early forties that reeked class and absolute simplicity. In a pair of riding breeches and wool sleeves shirt, she walked toward me with such carriage, I was impressed.
“So why weren’t you allowed in?” she asked as we stood face to face with a fence of pure steel between us. An electric fence I came to know. Thank God I did not hold it.
“Well, I guess the electronic voice knew my voice on the third day and I was always confused on the right thing to say” I replied sheepishly. The sound of her rich laughter filled the evening air and I found myself laughing with her like an old friend.
“The voice is Chidi’s. Come in through the gate, I will show you round” and she walked into the house. I took a short run to the main gate and minutes later heard the beep and the opening of the 16inches thick metal gate signifying my freedom in years to come. The tour left me in awe for weeks, inspirations for new constructions and remodeling and interior decors. the style was superb and Victorian. Every detail was established. Oh! the columns!!! This should be featured in a magazine. Did we have magazine for most exclusive mansions in Nigeria? I wondered.
I would later call her to ask for a time out in her magical castle; yes Didi Trap was the owner of my magical castle and I had found a friend.
“Can I come spend a week in your magical castle” I asked after three weeks of my return to the hustling and bustling of “Eko”. I could not stand one more traffic jam and the crawling humans and most of all I.D coming unannounced to my place almost every night for some bloody dinner!. I had previously lost my nerve the previous evening and told him to go back to his house the moment I opened my door to his face. I will not get married because my father wants to use me as “concrete” to cement his long friendship and business with I.D’s father. If he was desperate; he could give Dangote a call. I was going to disappear again.
“Of course you can dear. I will be out when you come though” she said simply in a laugh. Referring to her house as a magical castle always got her rich laughing.
“Awww, I was hoping for riding lessons” I cooed.
“Chidi will help you with that” she teased.
“Nooooo way!!! Hahahaha!” I laughed.
That was Didi Trap for you. She was funny, witty and down to earth.
Of course I went for a week, then two weeks, then a month and on my next visit, Didi gave me a job. Managing her estates. I relocated. Dad contacted Dangote. I.D got married to a long childhood friend. My magical castle gave me the new life.
Walking into the imposing library, I felt her presence and for a moment saw her already seated in her favorite chair waiting for her reading for the day. Oh! How she loved the books. We would read and talk about every line; every paragraph and compare writers. We sure got a kick out of some hilarious piece and took some practicals. It was such a great phase in my life. One of such practicals involved gift discovery quest. While we evaluated ourselves in the house, on trips and in relationships, I came to know she had a sharp sense of identifying business opportunities and how best to harness resources. She had an eye for the deep. I on the other hand, well what can I say……you are reading this piece, aren’t you?
Slowly I moved around the library, tears stinging my eyes as her thoughts rushed through me, the pictures, the memories, the laughter and the tricks. Pulling out her favorite book, I walked to the old music player to stop the Spanish song that was playing. She made me love that too.
The tears rushed down my eyes.
“Don’t cry when you miss a person, write the feelings down” that was her way of dealing with emotions. The thought got me running to her room for her scribblings.
“One day, you are going to write about me, this will help you” That was something she always said when she was holding a pen and was scribbling. I knew what I had to do.
I was going to immortalize my true friend, mentor and benefactor. I was going to make the world know who Didi Trap was……………..she was going to help me from the grave.
I took the first diary, this was what I found.