Abowu District Episode 28
The restaurant on Thompson Road had opened because of Mr Carlton’s generosity. Sewa peeked through the kitchen door at her customers eating and laughing. There were just two empty tables left, all the other tables were taken and the kitchen was almost running out of food. Sewa couldn’t believe how well things were going.
She stepped out of the kitchen and went to the back of the building where two women were pounding yam and a third was stirring a pan of beef stew. Sewa stared at the latter.
“Is that all the meat in the soup?”
Sewa was confused, she had thought that there were more than that.
“I told you that it wouldn’t be enough. It looked like a lot because they were in small bowl,” the woman said.
“That means that we don’t have enough for the rest of the day.”
“I can go and buy some fish, the sooner I go, the better.” One of the women who was pounding said. Reluctantly, Sewa handed her the money and shoved her misgivings out of her mind. All was going well and she didn’t want to worry so much.
Florence wiped her nose and bustled through the market regretting that she hadn’t set out early in the day. The shops were full and the prices were high, Christmas was only three weeks away. She stopped to buy some drinking water when she felt someone poke her.
“Good afternoon, my madam is calling you,” a teenage boy said pointing backward.
“Your madam? Who is your madam…?” Florence realized that she was several shops away from Philomena’s shop.
“Tell her I’m busy.”
The boy looked worried at her response but walked away. Florence drank as she walked on towards the sellers of fairly used dresses when she felt the poke again.
“She said you should please come.”
“Can’t you see that I’m busy? Please leave me…”
“Madam please,” the boy showed her his palm where several welts had risen up. “She will beat me again if you don’t come. Please come, I will carry your load back to the shop and carry it again to wherever you want when you’re ready to leave.”
Florence took another look at the boy and surrendered her load to him. Philomena was waiting in her usual position at the back of her shop when Florence walked in.
“What do you want?”
Philomena got up and moved towards her. “Florence, so you’ll just pass by my shop without coming in?”
“Is that why you called me back? Do you think I have nothing else to do?”
“Why shouldn’t I be, when you have shown me the kind of friend you are?”
“What do you mean?”
“If you cannot help Sewa in her time of need, why should I be friends with you? If you could refuse to help her, then you can refuse to help me, so let everyone just go their separate ways.”
“Florence, but you’re not Sewa, what makes you think that I won’t help you?”
“How am I different from Sewa?”
“You’re closer to me.”
“Philomena, please let me be on my way. I have several things to buy today.”
“I’ve sent someone to buy lunch for us, why don’t you sit down and eat?”
“Didn’t you hear what I said?”
“I’ll send someone to buy them for you. I’ll even add some money to your shopping, just sit with me.”
“And why should I sit with you?”
“Because I need a friend Florence, and you’re the only friend I have. Please stay.”
“If you need friends, why wouldn’t you help those who are already your friends?”
“You won’t understand Florence, just sit down please. Let me know what you want to buy and my girls will go and buy them.” She said this as she opened her bag and brought out a wad of notes.
Florence exhaled and sat down beside her. “If we’re going to be friends, then things must change. I don’t want you to just help me, show me how to make money so that I can at least help those you won’t help.”
Philomena smiled. “I will try.”
“Mama, has Toye sent you any letters?” Becky asked her mother-in-law as they cooked. Becky was learning how to make the old woman’s delicious yam porridge.
“No,” the woman said inspecting the bowl of pepper that one of her daughters had ground.
“So you don’t know if he will come and see us at Christmas? Has he sent any money?”
“Becky, if he had sent anything, you would have been the first person to know.”
“Mama, what if Toye has taken another wife?”
The old woman’s jaw hardened. “You’re the only wife we know, don’t worry about that.”
Becky exhaled, dissatisfied with her mother-in-law’s responses. Later that day, she was on her way back from the market, lost in thought, when she heard the blare of a horn. She turned to see the young man she had helped several weeks ago.
“It is you.”
“Yes, it is. What are you doing in the middle of the road?”
“Sorry, I got distracted.”
“What’s bothering a young girl like you?”
Becky felt insulted by his question. “You think I cannot have anything important to think about because I am young?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“So what did you say?” she asked rhetorically.
“I can see that you’re in a bad mood. I better go.”
Without another word, he zoomed off, leaving Becky feeling regretful.
“Where is my progress report?” Bala asked Toye as soon as he walked into his office.
“Sir, I thought we agreed that we would have to be discreet. Anyone could have seen me walk in here, how do I explain…?”
“We agreed to weekly reports, I need those reports, don’t think that you can do as you please and expect me not to say anything.”
“Sir, I might be called up to go for an operation in the next few days, I have to be careful and that’s why I haven’t given you any reports.”
“You should have found a way of telling me. I know about your beautiful girlfriend, the one whose fabric store is getting bigger. I can see what you’re spending the money on, meanwhile, your mother-in-law was here yesterday to ask about her daughter. She made quite a scene. I am disappointed in you…”
Just then, the door opened and Doyin walked in.
“Have you no curtsey? Couldn’t you knock?”
“I’m sorry sir, I was too excited about what I wanted to tell you.”
Bala turned to Toye, “I don’t understand why you cannot handle your business with women with more sense. Get out of my office, you’re a disappointment.”
Toye was frustrated with Bala’s nosiness, they had just been lucky that Doyin had not barged in on them when they were discussing something more important. He had had to subtly assure Doyin that he was loyal and that the only reason that Bala had called him into his office was to talk about his marriage.
“What’s the matter?” Annabelle said, sitting opposite him on the bed.
“Just some trouble at work. I heard that Becky’s mother was at the station yesterday, and that she made a scene.”
“It runs in the family.”
Toye stretched out on the long chair and rubbed his eyes.
“Toye, I’m four months pregnant, when are you going to go to my parents’?”
“I’m working on it.”
Annabelle laughed coldly. “Do you think I am Becky? I won’t let you fool me. I give you two weeks to do the right thing, if you don’t, then we will go our separate ways. I am not a woman to be trifled with.”
Toye shot up. “Annabelle, are you ending our relationship?”
“I’m ending this game you’ve been playing with me.”
“I have never played games with you.”
“So why won’t you do as you have promised?”
“Because it costs a lot!”
“Must I wait till I’m greying before you are able to get the money? Look, I’m tired of it all, two weeks is all you have.”
“The boss has decided that you will not go on the mission, but we will rely on you to listen to the chatter.”
“I’m not the boss, I don’t know.”
Toye sighed, he knew that someone had told the boss of his meeting with Bala and he had been pulled out of the operation at the last minute because of this. Bala had sabotaged the progress of the investigation and now he would have to be in the gang longer than he wanted.
“Alright, let me know what else I can do.”
“He seemed really disappointed,” Doyin said to Richard, the boss.
“I think we should watch him a little more closely.”
“You don’t trust your own friend.”
“’My allegiance to this gang is more important than my friendship.”
“So why did you bring someone you don’t trust into our assembly?”
“I’m not saying I don’t trust him sir, I’m just saying it won’t cost us anything to be just a little more careful.”
“You’re really important to me, if you weren’t, I would have told my boys to deal with you for distressing me like this. Why do I have to worry about whether I have a mole in my organization or not?”
“I will take care of whatever threat there is boss. I brought him in, I will silence him myself if I have to.”
“Make sure of that.”
Chief Makanjuola was celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday and his family had thrown a party for him. The Abegundes had been invited along with almost everyone else in the village. Becky had barely eaten or drunk anything, she was missing her family and her husband and she had a nagging feeling that something was wrong. She strayed towards the palm tree a little distance from the party and sat on the remains of a felled tree.
There was a rustling in the trees behind her and she got up. The grass parted and Chief Makanjuola’s grandson appeared.
“Were you waiting for me?” he asked with a smile.
“If I had known that you were here, I wouldn’t have come.”
“What were you doing in there?”
“I was answering the call of nature, there are no toilets in the house and I can’t stand the pit latrine.” Becky wrinkled her nurse and glanced at his hands.
He laughed again. “You asked. And I have washed my hands.” He raised up the keg and soap in his hands. “I don’t know how you can live in this village where there is no toilet.”
“Some of us are not here willingly,” she muttered.
“Yes, I heard your story.”
“You heard my story?”
“Yes, my grandmother told me all about you.”
Becky was embarrassed. “My mother-in-law will be waiting, I need to leave.”
“You need to leave this village too. You’re too young for this kind of life.”
Becky turned away from him.
“How did you know my name?”
“I told you I asked about you.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a writing pad. Becky watched as he scribbled something on it. “Take this, it’s my address in Abowu. When you’re ready to get out, write me a letter.”
Becky took the paper from him and walked away, hoping that no one had seen her talking to him. In the distance, Funto smiled. She had seen the entire exchange.