Funto had been too good to Becky. She had offered to wash her plates, the baby’s clothes and even swept the house before she could get to it. The young mother didn’t know whether to be afraid or grateful. It had all started two days ago, after Chief Makanjuola’s birthday party.
On the third day, the family was in front of the house, watching the stars and speaking in subdued voices as sleep gently coaxed their eyelids.
“This night reminds me of the day that our brother became a policeman,” Funmi said.
“Do you remember how quickly people paid the debts they owed me?” Mama Abegunde asked.
“Or the way that Ajayi and his people stopped bothering me over the farmland boundary?” Baba Abegunde said.
“I was so proud of him,” the old man said regretfully.
“We will still be proud of him,” his wife said, patting his hand.
“I wonder if we will be proud of Becky,” Funto suddenly said.
“What do you mean?” her father asked.
“I wonder how we can be proud of her when she’s meeting with another man in this village.”
Becky gasped and stared at Funto.
“Deny it. Didn’t you meet with Chief Makanjuola’s grandson by the palm tree, beside the family compound two days ago?”
“Didn’t he give you something, like a paper?”
“It’s true I saw him there but I didn’t go to meet him. I wasn’t in the mood to party, so I went to the palm tree just to sit for a while. He came out of the bushes…”
“So that’s where you went when you left Bolutife with me?” Mama Abegunde asked.
“Mama, God is my witness, I did not go to meet him there.”
“Did he truly give you something?” the old man asked.
“Yes Baba, he gave me his address so that I can send letters to Toye from there.” Becky lied and she didn’t understand why.”
Funmi clapped her hands and looked at her older sister. “I was right, I’ve always known that my brother shouldn’t have married her. So she’s prostituting herself around this village?”
Becky was terrified. “I swear, I am telling the truth. I didn’t go to meet him there. It was just a coincidence.”
“Why do you have to send your letter to his residence? Did you tell him that we do not let you write your husband?”
“No Baba, I did not, I don’t know why he did it. I was surprised myself.”
Mama Abegunde sighed and gazed at the stars.
The next day, a letter was sent to Toye, urging him to come to Igba without delay.
“So you’re telling me that you want to borrow the money you’ve just returned to me?”
“Look Doyin, you know my condition. Just do this for me please. It won’t happen again.”
Doyin laughed, it wasn’t the first time he would hear that.
“So when do you want us to go?” he asked, after Toye had told him of his plan to go to Annabelle’s parent’s house.
“Are you sure of the list of the bride price?”
“Yes, Annabelle got it from one of her uncles. She said it’s what they use in their clan.”
“I just hope that Clara won’t say that she wants to get married too.”
“I won’t be surprised if she wants to. I don’t know what you’re afraid of, you have the money.”
“And you think that money is the only thing a marriage needs?”
“It’s the source of all the problems I have had in Abowu.”
Doyin laughed again.
“There’s one more thing. I don’t think my parents are going to be there, how do I tell Annabelle that I’m going to see her parents without any of my family members?”
“Who says you need a family member? There are people all over Abowu who will act as your family members- for the right price.”
Toye sat up. “People who will act as my family members?”
“Yes, Toye, stop acting as if there’s anything new under the sun.”
He took some time to ponder over it. “So how do I explain it to Annabelle?”
“You decide, you can choose not to tell her, or later tell her that the actors are your adopted parents. But if you ask me, I will say that she won’t mind.”
Toye pondered again and then said. “This is costing me too much money.”
“It worked, he’s going to meet my parents next weekend.”
Clara took the glass of water that Annabelle offered her. “I told you, men, all they need is a little push.”
“But you should have seen the way he stared at me when I gave him the deadline, it was if he was looking at another woman. I pitied him.”
Clara hissed. “Did he pity you when people were laughing at you? Or when your mother walked out on you?”
“Stop worrying so much about him, let’s talk about what you’re going to wear.”
Simbi was outside her house, sweeping up the dust that had gathered around the foot mat when Sewa returned from her restaurant. The latter had always wondered how it was that the other woman was still selling food in the same compound that she had been chased out of, but she minded her business and stayed out of her way.
“So you can’t greet us now that you have a big restaurant in town, isn’t it?”
Sewa stared at her disbelievingly. “Good evening.”
“Sewa, can’t you just stop and talk to me like you used to?”
“No, I can’t.”
“You’re angry because I started the same business you started in the compound?”
“No, I’m surprised at the way you’ve been disloyal. It’s almost as if you don’t want me to do well, and I can’t believe that someone who is supposed to be my friend would do all that.”
“But friends make mistakes, I’m also trying to survive.”
“I know, but a true friend won’t eat up her friend to survive. You’re not my friend, you’re not even my well-wisher, you’re only my neighbour.”
“The solution is to get her back to her husband. I don’t know what she was doing with that young man, but I think we should get her back to Abowu as soon as possible.”
Baba Abegunde sighed as he listened to his wife. “But your son has refused to reply the letter or come here for that matter, so what do we do?”
“Maybe I should take them back then, since it was I who brought them here in the first place.”
“No, you’re too old to be running up and down trying to fix your son’s problem. He should be the one to come here.”
“But he’s not. How long do we keep waiting for?”
“We have no choice but to wait.”
“And what happens if Becky starts to give another man attention?”
“We let her go, but we’re not going to chase after Toye to be responsible, not in our old age.”
Toye sat in Annabelle’s parent’s living room with Doyin, Clara, a few of the associates from the gang, and the paid actors. The atmosphere was tense, the room was hot and Annabelle’s parents sat quietly, seething. Annabelle was talking.
“So Papa, what happened with Mama was all a misunderstanding. This is the man I want to marry and he has come to do the right thing.”
Annabelle’s father shook his head. “You disappoint me, you disappoint me. So all your mother said is true, you went to Abowu to open your legs for every Yoruba man, isn’t it? The Yoruba people who raped your kinswomen and slaughtered your kinsmen. Chineke! What did I do to deserve such a foolish child?” he shot up from his chair with agility and stared down at Toye and his entourage. “And you have the guts to bring this idiot into my house, telling me that he has come to do the right thing. How dare you?!”
“Papa, I know you’re angry but please listen…”
“Shut up! Now get up and leave my house before I pounce on you and that abomination inside you.”
At this point, Toye looked up at the man. “Sir, we have not come here to fight…”
“Yes,” the woman who he had paid to be the go-between said, standing up slowly. “We know that these children have offended you, but we want to plead with you to accept…”
“Get out of my house! All of you, with all these things you’ve brought here. Get everything out of this place.”
Annabelle was weeping now, her mother got up and left the room. Toye’s people were disoriented, struggling between doing their job and obeying the raging man.
“You people won’t go? Alright, wait for me.” He turned into his house and came back out with a dane gun. At this, the guests rushed out of the building, hurried into the bus they had hired and ordered the driver to zoom off.
Annabelle cried all the way back to Abowu, as Toye thought about all the money that had been wasted.
Becky was washing in her favorite grove, when Chief Makanjuola’s grandson walked towards her. She promptly wiped the tears on her face and said:
“Please, just go. You’ve caused me enough trouble as it is.”
“My sister-in-law saw us talking the other day and reported me to the family, now everybody thinks that I’m moving around with you and shaming my husband.”
“I’m sorry, I did not wish to cause you any trouble. I just came to give you something.”
“I don’t want anything from you.”
“You look like reading will do you some good. I brought you some books to read. Do you read?”
Becky stopped washing and stared at him. “Why are you being kind to me? I’m married, do you know that?”
“I know it. I just can’t stop thinking about you, as a friend. I came all the way from Abowu just to see your face again.”
Becky simply stared at him.
“I see so much potential in you and I don’t think you should be in this village, wasting away. Get your son and get out.”
He left and returned shortly with a small pile of books. “Read these.”
“How do I explain this to my in-laws?”
“Tell them some missionaries came to give them to the people. There are missionaries in the village now so they can’t say that you’re lying.”
“What kind of life do you want for your child? Do you want him to grow up in the village that his father left? I will leave you now, but don’t forget all I have told you, and write me.”
He turned to leave.
“Wait, what’s your name?”
“Yomi, Yomi Makanjuola.”
Becky exhaled after he left. What do I want for Bolutife?