Toye stared at Becky. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m looking for help… I’m going home…”
“Yes, my boss lives two streets away.”
“You shouldn’t be walking about at this time of the night but you’ve always been that sort of girl, looking for trouble…”
“Your son is in the hospital… I am looking for money to pay the bills otherwise they won’t let him leave.”
“I don’t have a son.”
“He looks like you Toye, why won’t you just see him?”
Toye ran his eyes down the length of her body, he noticed her small waist, her jutting collar bones, her full breasts, struggling beneath the confines of the chiffon dress she was wearing. He saw her angular face, now clearly defined, the fat was gone.
“You look different…”
Becky saw the way he was looking at her. “I am different.”
Toye heard a faint whistle, the driver was looking for him. He could hear his footfalls, and he knew that he would be at the stall soon. He clamped his hand over her mouth again, Becky’s eyes bulged out of their sockets in terror.
He whispered urgently. “Keep quiet!”
“Toye…Toye…” the driver was getting closer.
Toye ripped Becky’s dress open and pushed her back against the wall, her scream was muffled by his hand over her mouth.
“Toye…” the driver was closer now.
“I am not doing something that I’ve not done before…” Toye said and hitched up her dress. Becky shook her head and pushed against his chest.
“I’m trying to save you,” he whispered, loosening his trousers.
The driver heard the noise in the stall, the rustling of clothes, a slap and Toye’s grunts. He smiled and stood by the stall, shaking his head and hoping that Toye would give him enough time to have a go. A few minutes later, he saw the young woman pushed out of the stall, her dress torn and her face swollen. Toye followed her, his gun pointed at her.
“Now run away from this place before I shoot you. Next time, don’t move around at night.”
“Don’t send her away,” the driver said, already tugging at his trousers. “I can also have a taste of her.”
“No you can’t, the boys will soon be out.”
“But you could have a taste of her hmmn? You didn’t think about your position when you were doing yours?”
“I heard a noise, I came here to see what it was, alright?”
“It doesn’t matter, I can also have a go, I won’t take long I promise, you’ll stand guard.”
Becky was backing away from the men.
“And I said no, I’m going to have a go as well, why are you acting as if you care about this woman?”
“I don’t care about her, she’s a nobody, but I care about what we came to do here.” He moved closer to the man and lowered his voice. “If the boss finds out that we left our positions we are both in trouble. Let her go, there are dozens of girls who can satisfy you.”
Before the driver could respond, Toye cocked his gun and pointed it at Becky. “Get out of here!”
As Becky sprinted away from the men, she heard them arguing. She didn’t stop to cry until she got to the hospital.
Toye climbed into bed and exhaled slowly, he could still see and feel her. He heard her cries and that gasp of surrender when he had conquered her. He saw her body, much different from what he had known, he saw a woman, he used to know a girl.
Annabelle snuggled up to him. “You’re back.”
She heard the strangeness in his voice. “What is it? Did something happen?”
“No, no.” He smelt her rancid breath. “Nothing happened, I’m just tired.”
She started to snore and soon he felt her drooling on his chest. He heard Becky’s frightened voice, telling him that the boy was in the hospital. He could feel his heart palpitating at an alarming rate and hear her cries simultaneously. Guilt washed over him like the sudden assault of heavy raindrops and he started to shiver. She was his wife, he had not raped her, he hadn’t done anything abnormal. Goosebumps plucked out of his skin and there was a hollowness in his heart, he could feel it, almost as if someone had ripped open his chest and poured ice cold water on his heart.
Annabelle snorted once and turned away from him.
Then he remembered how Becky had felt, he had never felt that way with her before. She had changed, and so had he.
Babatunde was at the station with Chief Lanleyin’s lawyer. The three women had been arrested and so had Mr. Olasehinde. It was late in the morning and they were waiting to hear the DPO’s verdict. The lawyer was hungry and irritated, if not because the Chief had asked him to, he wouldn’t be in a police station, with its foul odour and dreariness.
Babatunde thought about Becky, wondering where she was and how her son was doing but he pushed thoughts of her aside. His wife had to get out of prison first.
“What is taking so long?” the lawyer muttered and got up, adjusting the belt beneath his heavy stomach. “I don’t have time for delays like this, I have other clients waiting for me.”
Babatunde didn’t respond, he put his hands together and closed his eyes. The door to the DPO’s office opened and he came out with two formally dressed men. When they got close to him, the lawyer strutted up to them and caught the man’s eye.
“Barrister, you have been waiting for me? I am sorry, she will be released…”
It was all Babatunde needed to hear, he broke down in tears, his hands covering his face.
Florence saw the man crossing the road from the window in her small office, a toothpick dangling from his lips. He was Philomena’s collector, he came in at the beginning of every month to collect her share of the profits. She looked away from him to the other window in the room, at the piles of cement and building materials in the store. She worked hard and business was good. However, she’d begun to reconsider the sixty percent of her profits that went to Philomena. She had said the payments would continue until the value of the goods that had been given to her was paid off, including the interest on it.
In her excitement, she hadn’t asked what the values of the goods were or the interest thereof. It was now obvious to her, she was a glorified salesgirl that would always be indebted to Philomena.
The door opened and she saw him walking towards her office, the top of his long head bobbing up and down.
“Madam Florence,” he said, opening the door without knocking.
She smiled politely. “You are here.”
“Yes, I am here.” he sat in the chair opposite her and stretched his legs, the tip of his shoes brushed against her foot.
She pulled it back and smiled again. “What can I do for you?”
“What else do I come here for?” He asked, sticking the toothpick in between his molars.
Again she smiled, barely containing her resentment and got up. “Let me call the accountant.”
She opened the door and yelled at the storekeeper who also doubled as the accountant, she came pacing towards her with a long book.
“Go and bring Mrs. Uche’s money.
Florence returned to her seat and folded her arms across her chest.
“How can you trust the accountant to determine what profit my boss gets?”
“She didn’t determine it, we calculated it together and I told her to put the money aside, just as I have always done.”
He stared at her and laughed gently.
“What’s amusing you?”
“You look uncomfortable, do I make you uncomfortable?”
The accountant came in with a brown envelope which Sewa immediately handed to the man.
“Inside the envelope is the money and a copy of our accounts, you can give that to your boss.”
The man with the long head sensed that he had been dismissed, he got up and nodded at her.
Becky walked into the house and saw Babatunde nodding off. She stood, feet apart, wondering whether to wake him up and ask for money or go somewhere else. As if he could feel her eyes on him, he opened his eyes.
“Becky, where have you been? My wife has been released…”
“Thank God, I’m happy to hear that.”
“Where have you been?”
“At the hospital.”
He looked at the wrapper around her shoulder. “Why are you covering yourself with a wrapper in this heat?”
She looked away from him. “I didn’t want to tie it around my waist. I need some money please, the hospital won’t release Bolutife unless I pay what I owe.”
“No problem, how is he?”
“He’s fine now, they said it was an infection.”
“So he’s ready to be discharged?”
“Most likely this evening.”
“Are you alright? You look… you look funny.”
“I’m alright sir,” she smiled.
The man with the long head stood in front of Uche, his hands folded behind him.
“She seemed unusually cold.”
“Is that so?” Uche asked.
“Yes sir, it seemed that she didn’t even want to see me.”
“Hmm,” he put his feet on the stool in front of him, crossing one over the other. “But the money is complete?”
“Yes sir, in fact her payment is a little over what is expected.”
“You can go.”
The man walked away.
“Maybe he met her in a bad mood.” Philomena said, her hands trembling slightly. She was seated in the chair adjacent to him. I know she will not cheat us, I’ve known her for a long time.”
Uche didn’t respond, he got up and sauntered out of the room.
Sewa and Babatunde were in Chief Lanleyin’s office to thank him for his help.
“I still want you to cater at my party, can you do that?”
“Yes sir,” she replied.
“Forget all that has happened and focus on getting good people, and always trust your instincts.”
“There is one more thing. Olasehinde has been released. You know she is married to my daughter, I just wanted to teach him a lesson about cheating on my daughter. He spent three days in the cell and became sick. He almost died.”
Sewa wasn’t smiling. “And the women?”
“Oh they are still there, I don’t care about those wretched people.” He clapped once. “Anyway, come and see me at my house. Tell the secretary to give you directions. I want you to meet my wife.”
As they walked away from the building, Babatunde shook his head. “Life! So those women are in prison not because of what they did but because they are poor.”
“If I hadn’t listened to you, none of this would have happened in the first place. It’s good that they are there, whatever reason is good enough for me. From now on I’ll start making my own decisions.”
Babatunde stared at her, his face taut with surprise.