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Treasure
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite

I


Treasure scrolls through the thirty-five pictures she has taken and is unimpressed. The sky isn’t bright enough, you can see the outward curve of her belly, and the angle is all wrong.

“Please take it again.”

“My hand is tired,” Patience whines.

“Please now.”

Patience is tense, but then she is always tense. If Treasure could take the pictures herself, she would, but it isn’t enough to put the phone on a surface. You need someone to go high, to go low, to adjust the lighting if necessary. It is a whole thing.

Five minutes later, she has posted the picture, and within seconds the first two likes are in. @Sho4Sure is a regular. She smiles at his clear interest in her life. By the end of the year, she hopes to have reached five thousand followers, and maybe soon after she will be awarded a blue tick and the world will know who she is.

The picture is rich with color—the purple Fendi bag, the green Gucci sunglasses, the orange Armani dress, the red-bottom shoes, the blue of the sky, the pink of the calla lilies peeking in the forefront of the photo. She has learned a lot about framing this year. There she is in two-thirds of the picture, laughing with her head thrown back, her golden hair swinging in the wind. It could easily be mistaken for a candid picture by the untrained eye—but she is holding her tummy in, turning her chin just so. She had to reapply the lip gloss several times because it dried easily and you could not see the sheen in the picture. And she still added the Juno filter to make the picture more vibrant.

“Are you happy now?” asks Patience.

One hundred likes, and in less than fifteen minutes—of course she is happy. She takes off the expensive clothing and dons a simpler gown. It is blue, but not the blue of the sky in the picture. It is a gray blue, fading more and more each day. She wipes off her makeup.

“Go ahead,” she tells Patience. “I’ll catch up with you.” But Patience doesn’t budge; she waits for Treasure to finish removing the makeup, while she pats down her identical dress. Sometimes Treasure feels as though the younger woman is her shadow; wherever she is, Patience is there. You could almost be forgiven for thinking that they came out of the same womb. But they are not even from the same tribe.

In the afternoon, she posts again. This time she is stepping out of the white G-Wagon, looking away from the camera. Her profile is clothed in bright red. Her sneakers are white. The sunlight is reflecting off her high cheekbones. She looks almost ethereal. Despite Patience’s lack of creativity, she sometimes takes really good pictures. This time Treasure had to correct her only once, to remind her that she didn’t want the picture to be too bright. It is a difficult balance to maintain; she can admit that.

And she is reaping the benefits of their hard work. She is beginning to lose count of the men sliding into her DMs, and the women who want to get to know her and be her friend. Once in a while, when Patience is pressing against her, peering over her shoulder, she shows her their messages.

“But you don’t even know these people.”

“I don’t need to know them—they are my fans.”

“Why?”

“Because I am living the life they want to live.”

 

 

II


@Sho4Sure believes in destiny.

He only just got a smartphone, and it has revealed to him a world beyond his imagination. He is thankful for the phone. He would never have been able to afford a Samsung S10 on his own, but as fate would have it, a woman was talking on her mobile, in her car, with the window all the way down. You should not even be talking and driving. Her grip on the phone was not tight. It was easy enough to relieve her of it as he rode by on his okada. When he looked back, her mouth was wide open.

He had to be quick before the phone locked him out. He changed her password, deleted her photos. She had bank apps, but he did not have her PIN, so he deleted those too. The previous owner could not have had it for very long; it was not even scratched.

The phone has been a blessing ever since. A gift. It has brought him close to people who would not have given him a second glance. He wants to make friends, so he sends them direct messages on social media, fifty a day to different people. He is not picky.

Hello, he says to the men. To the women he writes, You are very beautiful. But he spells it beautyful. No one corrects him; no one replies. Not until Treasure, who sends him a blushing emoji. Sammy, his eleven-year-old neighbor, was the one who told him the yellow circle with a black smile and red cheeks was a blushing emoji. Emojis make lots of different faces, so you don’t have to waste time telling people what you feel.

Treasure is more attractive than all his past girlfriends combined. Her face is smooth, no pimples to be seen anywhere, and her breasts are big enough for his large hands to cup. And she is happy. She is always smiling in her pictures. He smiles back at her. There are no rings on her finger and no man on her page, so she is available. Everything is lining up.

He makes Sammy sit beside him and translate because Treasure likes to send emojis. After a while, he gives Sammy the phone to reply. He tells Sammy what to say and Sammy types.

He says, “I want to know you.”

Sammy writes, I wnt 2 no u lol.

He says, “E be like say your man dey do you better.”

Sammy writes, your boyfriend is really looking after you lol ;)

She doesn’t always reply on time, but she replies. She doesn’t give too much away—she is like a shy bride—but he can feel the connection between them. He tells her he is her biggest fan. She asks him why he does not have any posts; so the next day he takes a picture of himself, without his shirt on, in front of a mirror. This type of picture is fairly common on Instagram, and he has a strong body with plenty of muscle.

She is a flirt, this Treasure girl. She keeps saying they will see, but she does not give him a day or a location. He is beginning to get impatient. He checks her Instagram several times a day so he doesn’t miss her posts. He likes to imagine what it would be like to touch a girl like her, a girl who has not suffered, a girl who does not know what it is like to be bitten by mosquitoes, because her AC is always on. Her skin will taste like, like, like . . .

“Like sugar?” offers Sammy.

“Yes, like sugar.”

“Are you going to marry her?”

“Before nko.”

“But you have not met her.”

“I will meet her soon.”

“But will her bride price not be high?”

He shrugs. This is his destiny; things like that, they will sort themselves out.

A man drives up to where they are seated on the side of the road. His front tires are deflated. The man does not even wind down to give instructions. These island people have no manners, no home training. Sammy helps him pump the tires. @Sho4Sure adds an extra ₦500 on top of the total, and the man does not appear to notice. When he and Treasure marry, he, too, will be spending money anyhow.

Today she has posted a picture. She is wearing a hat and a bright-yellow dress with white flowers on it. The wind is trying to blow her dress up and expose her, but she is pressing it down with her hands and laughing. Under the picture, she wrote:

My advice to you, laugh once a day. #YOLO #Lagos #blessed

She is always blessing people because she is also a good woman. He is using one of her pictures as his wallpaper. It is a close-up, and she is looking right at him. His mother had seen it just the other day.

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