Philomena sat on her bed and crossed her arms. It had been about a week since her meeting with Florence and she could still remember every word of defiance that had been spoken. Florence would get into trouble with Uche once he found out what her plan was, and she would too, for not alerting him on time. She pursed her lips and blamed herself for being too weak to see how covetous the woman was.
Of all that she had said however, there was none as disturbing as her allusion to her knowledge of their source of wealth. She wondered, did Florence really know how they had gotten their money or was she merely bluffing?
You think I have forgotten how miserable your life used to be…
You used to come and borrow a tin of garri from me…
All you knew how to do was clean houses…
How did you suddenly get wealthy, hmm?
Her words echoed in her mind like a million voices until she determined that Florence needed to be taught a lesson in gratitude and self-control. She sat up and reached for the phone beside her bed. Better to solve the problem on her own than have Uche teach her a lesson too.
The restaurant was in business again, Sewa had learnt tough lessons that she had no intention of repeating. It was good to be kind, but some people deserved to be shown the back door once they showed their true color. Thanks to the party at Chief Lanleyin’s house, she had been able to recoup enough money to replace all that had been taken by the women who were now awaiting their day in court.
She peeked through the kitchen door and saw Becky serving the guests, smiling courteously and taking their orders. There was something strange about the girl, she had become withdrawn, almost as if she had shut the world out. Something had happened to the girl and she couldn’t understand what it was. She wondered if there was anything untoward going on between her and her husband but she discarded the thought. Babatunde had also wondered about her recent detachment.
She closed the door and went to the back of the building where further cooking was done. Just as the place came into view, she saw one of the cooks, pouring some soup into a bowl. She stepped back and watched all her activities and then walked out of the building, towards the police station.
Becky wondered where her boss was going to with such a determined face. She walked into the kitchen, carried another tray of food and stepped back into the restaurant. She received a payment, placed a bill in front of another table and sauntered off to the next, where she found Doyin staring at her, a leer on his face. Beside him was a man who was staring at her too.
“G… good afternoon sirs. What would you like to eat?”
“You…” Doyin replied, reaching for her hand.
She moved out of his reach and stared through him. “What would you like to eat today?”
The other man was laughing. Doyin stuck his tongue out at her, and reached for her again.
“This girl doesn’t like you, leave her alone. Perhaps she will like me, hmm? Young girl, do you like me?”
Becky recognized the man’s voice. She hadn’t seen him but she would never forget the voice, he was the other man who had been with Toye that night.
She stared at him, eyes widening in terror as she remembered every detail of the night in question. Doyin observed her and looked back and forth between the man and the girl.
“Do you two know each other?” he asked.
“I have never seen her before, I don’t know why she’s looking at me like that.”
“Do you know him?” Doyin asked Becky who was still staring at the man and now trembling. “Why are your hands shaking?” Doyin was no longer amused. “Do you know him?”
Becky turned away from them and ran into the kitchen.
“Do you know that girl?” Doyin asked Guda, the gang driver.
“No, I don’t know her. Maybe I resemble someone she knows.”
“No, she knows you.”
“Well I don’t know her. Why don’t you forget about it and let’s eat.”
“This is my job, I don’t forget things.”
“I’m telling you I don’t know that girl.”
“She knows you, she has seen you somewhere before. Did you encounter any girl recently?”
Guda laughed, “I encounter girls every day. Look let’s order our food, I’m too famished for this interrogation…”
“Did you hurt any girl recently?” Doyin asked in a lowered voice.
“How can you think that of me? It’s your man you should be asking these sort of questions, not me.”
“Who else is your man? Toye or what’s his name?”
“Toye…?” he shook his head, “What did he do?”
“Look, I haven’t told anyone this because I didn’t want to get into trouble but since he’s your man I’m sure you’ll cover for him, I’ll tell you. The night we went to that depot, he raped one girl behind a stall. I was the one who saved her. I didn’t want the boss to punish us for jeopardizing the operation and that’s why I haven’t said anything so far. So stop asking me these questions and let’s eat please.”
The sun was setting, Florence instructed her attendants to close the accounts and give her a report. Thirty minutes later, she watched as they closed the shop and handed her the keys. She bade them good night and crossed over to the other side of the road, wishing that she had her own car.
Eighteen yards away from where she stood waiting for a taxi, a car was parked. In it were three men, pistols in their hands. They watched the woman greet people as she adjusted her bag on her shoulder. She was a beautiful, shapely woman, and one of them thought of what he could do to her in their custody.
“Madam didn’t tell us how fine this woman is.” One of them said.
“I swear! We would have come here earlier,” another man said.
They chuckled nervously. The first man wiped his damp brow. “Let’s go and get her, the road looks a little less buy now.”
“Why don’t we wait a little while?” The third man said.
“She can get into a taxi any moment from now. Let’s get her now.” The first man said.
“Alright.” the second man said. “You both go and get her and do it quickly. I will drive up to you as soon as you get close enough to her.”
Just as the men tucked their pistols into the back of their trousers, something slammed into them. It took a moment to reorient themselves with their surroundings.
“What was that?” the first man said.
“Someone drove into us.” The second man said, looking in the rearview mirror and getting out of the car.
“I am sorry please, my brake failed,” an elderly taxi driver pleaded just as the second man approached him, punching his jaw.
Soon a crowd gathered around the men, and shortly after, a traffic warden led them to the police station to resolve the matter. By the time the men headed back to their abode, Florence was swallowing morsels of hot amala and ewedu in her sitting room.
The car pulled up in front of Toye’s family house and Annabelle looked at it. This was the place where her husband was raised. She took in the crude bench in front of the mud house, the goats loitering around and the rustic looking girl who sat on the bench picking vegetable leaves.
“My brother!” She yelled, discarding her chore and running straight into Toye.
“Funto, how are you? You look so different. You’re all grown up!”
“My brother! I have missed you. Where have you been?”
“I’ve been working hard. Go and tell Mama and Baba that I am here.”
The girl glanced at her and smiled. “Is this our wife?”
“Go and call them!” Toye urged.
Mama Abegunde observed her son, his two companions and the woman he called his wife. The four of them seemed to be friends, the two men and the two women. She noticed Toye’s expensive attire, the clothes, meat, rice, vegetable oil, and beverages they had unloaded from the car. The old woman wondered how it was that her son was suddenly wealthy without having changed his job. She also noticed the soft glowing skin of the strange woman, her brocade attire, the gold chain that adorned her long neck and her swollen abdomen. There was every evidence of her son’s money on her.
“So this is my wife, your daughter.” Toye was saying to his father. “And I want you to accept her wholeheartedly.”
“Hmm…” Baba Abegunde said. “She doesn’t look like one of us…”
“Yes, she is Igbo.”
“What about her parents…?”
“They have given their blessing,” Toye replied with a slight edge in his voice.
Mama Abegunde shook her head and said nothing. Baba Abegunde seemed to consider it for a moment and then said:
“Well the other one was not Yoruba as well. We accept her, since you say you have married her and there’s a baby on the way. What else can we do?”
“I am very glad to hear that Father, I promise you, you will not regret this decision.” And then to Annabelle he said, “Greet your in-laws.”
Annabelle got on her knees and greeted them in her best Yoruba. “Good afternoon, thank you for accepting me. I promise to take care of your son.”
Doyin and Toye sat outside the Abegunde family house, drinking palm wine and enjoying the serenity of the night.
“I’m glad it went well. I don’t know how I would have appeased Annabelle if my parents rejected her.”
Doyin chuckled and drank some wine.
“At last she will be at rest. No more problems with the family.”
“What about with you?”
“What do you mean?”
“She has sacrificed so much for you and you’re sleeping with other women.”
Toye sat up. “What are you talking about?”
“Did you think I wouldn’t find out about that night?”
“Stop pretending, I know you raped her.”
“I didn’t rape her!” he almost shouted, then lowered his voice. “I didn’t do something I had not done before. I paid her bride price, she’s my wife.”
“So who is Annabelle?”
Toye couldn’t speak.
“Because of your covetousness, Becky recognized Guda, I don’t know how she did but she knew he was the one.”
“Where did she meet him?”
Doyin realized that he had said too much.
“Where did she meet him?”
“She works in a restaurant, we saw her there.”
“Why do you want to know that? I thought you said you weren’t interested in her anymore.”
Toye stared at him. “How long have you known that she is back in Abowu?”
“That is not your business.”
“It is my business, she’s my….”
“Wife?” Doyin finished the drink in his cup and put it on the ground. “This is what will happen. You will forget about Becky, you will erase her completely from your mind and let me take care of her the way a man takes care of a woman. Otherwise, I will tell Annabelle that she has a rival.”
Toye laughed coldly. “And you think that I won’t tell Franca first?”
“Tell Franca whatever you want to tell her. In fact…” he leaned closer to him. “Have a go at her if you want. I don’t care about her, but I know you care a lot about Annabelle and you would do anything to make her happy. You rejected Becky, and now I want her.”