Becky came to his house five days later, after an awkward ceremony that involved Toye and his father and Becky’s parents, three of her uncles and Becky herself. Toye and his father saw off Becky’s excited family members who had dressed in their best clothes for the wedding where a hastily prepared bride price had been given to her parents.
“So, like I said, she has been taught well. She will make you happy.” Her father said.
“Yes, she will,” her mother added, “And after she gives birth to this baby, she will have plenty more babies. Don’t worry, we are very fertile women.”
“Yes,” her father murmured. “Very fertile.”
Toye’s father tried to smile but it ended up being a grimace. As he watched the brie’s family go, carrying the bride price and talking excitedly with one another, he shook his head.
“What a disappointment,” he murmured. “Your mother would have been heartbroken to see this.”
“Father, what is done is done, why do you have to continue talking about it?”
His father looked at him sadly. “You have no idea what you have done to yourself. I wish you all the best, I best be on my way so that I can get back to Igba on time.”
“You wouldn’t spend the night?” Toye asked, surprised.
“No, I would rather go home.”
Toye bade him farewell reluctantly and returned into his room where he found Becky lying on the bed, asleep. He sat on the bed, stared at her for a while and then went out of the room.
Teju, Sewa’s daughter was helping her mother to prepare dinner. She sat in a corner of the sitting room, picking vegetable leaves. Sewa came in from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her waist.
“Have you almost finished picking them?”
“Yes, ma. I only have a few sticks left.”
Sewa walked over to see what she was doing. “Good, you’re doing it just as I taught you.”
There was a knock on the door.
In walked Florence, Philomena and Deborah.
“Sewa,” Florence said. “Long time.”
Sewa smiled. “You came to see me today.”
“You’re angry with us aren’t you?” Florence said. “You should be. We’ve all been very busy.”
“It’s alright, come right in.”
The women sat down as Teju greeted them and brought them some water to drink.
“So what has been happening to you, how have you been faring?” Florence asked.
“Well, I’m taking it one day at a time.”
Deborah smiled. “That’s very good, have you read that pamphlet I gave you?”
“What pamphlet? I hope it’s not one of those publications that make you feel it’s your fault that something bad has happened?”
Philomena spoke up. ”But sometimes it is Florence, I know people who did things to put themselves in trouble.”
“Is that so?” Florence replied sarcastically. “Things like what?”
Deborah shook her head in disapproval. “Florence, you take things too lightly, I just hope that it doesn’t backfire…”
Florence frowned. “Are you telling me that if your husband dies, it will be your fault?”
Deborah sat up. “God forbid! How dare you say something like that to me?”
“How is it different from what you’re saying to Sewa? Instead of you to be pathetic, you’re always trying to make her feel guilty for what has happened.”
“Please, let us not fight,” Sewa said tiredly. “Can’t we all just sit down and not fight?”
“You should be talking to Deborah…”
“You should be talking to Florence, what have I said to warrant what she said about my husband?”
Philomena held up her hands. “No more fighting please. Let us talk about something else.”
“Did you hear that Mama Layo’s shop was also burgled?” Florence asked Sewa.
“I did, the police were here to tell me. They said it happened the same way it did to me.”
“That means that there is someone in this community that is working with these thieves.” Philomena said sadly.
“Yes, and this person is known to the both of you.” Florence said.
“You know, the police were asking me who I suspect.”
“And what did you say?” Deborah asked.
“What could I say? Who can I suspect? Is it you my friends or my husband?”
The women shook their head sadly.
Florence sighed. “I suggest that you find something else to engage in, at least that will help to get your mind off it. In fact, that’s what I came here to tell you. Get busy, you might even be surprised at the opportunities you will find.”
“I agree,” Philomena said, “You’re not looking cheerful at all, this is not the Sewa we know.”
Sewa smiled. “Thank you, I will consider all you have said.”
Deborah stood up. “Sewa, I have to get going, I’m almost late for prayer meeting.”
“No problem, pray for me.”
Philomena rose to her feet. “I have to go too, I’m cooking, I just wanted to see you briefly.”
Florence observed her. “You’re getting fatter Philomena, are you pregnant?”
Philomena was offended. “What kind of talk is that?”
“So why are you getting fatter?”
“You should learn to tame your tongue Florence, you can’t just say whatever comes to your mind,” Deborah left the room.
“Why didn’t you wait for me to give you a response?” Florence shot to her feet and followed Philomena who was already walking out of the house. “Philo! Philo! You must tell me your secret!” she slapped the thick woman’s back playfully.
“Thank you for coming,” Sewa said, grateful to see them leave.
“Why are you friends with those women?” Teju frowned when Sewa turned away from the door.
“Have you finished picking those leaves?”
“Good, come and wash the fish.”
Toye and Doyin walked towards the former’s home, four days after his wedding.
“I hope she would have prepared something delicious so I don’t have to buy akara from that irritable woman on my street.”
Toye laughed nervously, he wasn’t sure what he would find at home but Doyin had insisted on following him home to see his “young wife”. Pa Jinadu was outside as usual, listening to his radio.
“Inspector, they didn’t get you today?”
“No, they didn’t.”
Doyin greeted him too and they walked into the building. As soon as they did, they were engulfed in smoke and began to cough. Someone had left a pot of palm oil on the fire for too long. Toye opened the door to his room and they went in. The sight that awaited them, caused them to temporarily stand still. There were pepper seeds scattered on the floor, and an area smudged with palm oil. Directly in front of the bed, were the innards and bones of smoked fish, several ugwu leaves also littered the floor. The bed was unmade, and an old magazine lay open on it.
Doyin turned to look at his colleague. “At least, now we know where the smoke is coming from.”
Toye was going to retort when Becky came in with a blackened pot.
“My husband, you’re welcome!” she said cheerfully and set it in the corner, beside the door. “Good evening sir,” she said to Doyin.
“Good evening.” Doyin said trying to stifle his amusement.
Becky was simply garbed in a short wrapper that barely covered her full breasts, and her short hair stood out around her wide face. Toye was embarrassed, he glared at her and wished that he could erase this memory from his colleagues mind.
“What do you have on?” he snapped. “Don’t you have proper clothes you can wear?”
Becky looked down at herself. “But this is how I dress at home…”
“In your father’s house! This is my house! Didn’t they teach you to put on some clothes when you’re going out of the house?”
Doyin cleared his throat. “I better be going.”
“No, please! I will change my clothes. I have prepared vegetable soup and pounded yam, won’t you stay and eat some?”
Doyin’s lips stretched into a wide smile. “I am not in a hurry to go home.”
Toye and his guest returned into the house when Becky had put on a blouse and wrapper and tidied up the room. She had placed the food on a tray and served it to them. When Toye opened the plate, and saw big slices of pepper, unevenly shredded vegetables and a sea of palm oil in the soup, and the lumpy pounded yam, he knew that he would be embarrassed yet again. Doyin dipped a morsel into his soup with trepidation and put it in his mouth. His eyes widened, and a thin layer of sweat emanated from his pores.
Becky stood, looking at him in confusion.
Toye had tasted the meal too and now understood his friend’s discomfort.
“Bring water! Bring water now!”
Doyin left shortly afterwards, Toye was mortified.
Have you got your own copy of my historical fiction, Oyinade?
“You are in real trouble my friend, real trouble.”
Toye rubbed his eyes and stared at the file in front of him. “I don’t know what to do Doyin.”
“Send her back to her father’s house.”
“You seem to have forgotten her father’s threat.”
“Then I say you endure until she gives birth, and then you send her back. At least by then, it would be more of a family case.”
“Inspectors!” a young sergeant saluted. “An elderly woman wants to see you, she says she has some information about the robberies in Alafia.”
“Alright bring her in.” Toye said.
An elderly woman shuffled into the small office, she wore a faded brown lace blouse and wrapper. Toye got up and offered her a chair.
“Mama, how can we help you?” Doyin asked as soon as she was seated.
“My name is Abeni, I live in Alafia and I have some information about the things that I’ve noticed, in connection to the robberies.”
“Please go ahead,” Doyin urged and brought out a notepad.
“On the morning after Sewa’s shop was burgled, I noticed a truck in our compound. The same thing happened after Mama Layo’s shop was burgled, it was the same truck.”
“What’s so significant about a truck being parked in your compound?” Toye asked irritably.
“The owners of the truck have been acting suspiciously recently, they’re always throwing parties and disturbing my peace.”
Toye sighed. “Mama, do you have any more information?”
“Is what I’ve told you not good enough?”
“It is good,” he said with forced enthusiasm. “Can you give us your address?”
Three days later, Mama Abeni returned to her village. When her son was asked why, he said she’d said.
“They’re watching me.”
“She’s delirious, you know, the typical behaviour of old people. I simply let her go.”