Becky was about to wash clothes, she emptied the pockets and threw them into a big bowl of soapy water. Mama Adio’s children were running around stark naked, screaming and holding up sticks. Their mother was sitting a distance away from her, picking vegetables and stirring her pepper sauce intermittently. Becky shook her head deprecatingly, wondering why the woman couldn’t get her children to put some clothes on. Her baby kicked within her and she smiled, it would have the best life that she could afford. Education would be a top priority and the child would never have to sell anything on her behalf.
She lowered herself to the stool behind the big bowl slowly and proceeded to wash, when Toye came to the back of the house looking worried.
“Becky, are you washing all my clothes already?”
“Did you check all the pockets before you put them into the water?”
He winced, confusion spread on his face.
“What is it? Are you looking for something?”
“Are you sure that you didn’t see anything?”
“I didn’t see anything. Maybe if you told me what you were looking for, I can be of help.”
“I don’t need to tell you what I’m looking for, it is either you found it or you didn’t.”
Becky laughed derisively and continued washing.
“What is it? What’s so funny?” he snapped.
“What’s not funny? You are looking for something, yet you don’t want to tell me what it is. Why then did you come here?”
“I can see that your plan is to annoy me this morning.”
“You’re the one who wants to get angry, because I was here sitting all by myself before you came to look for trouble.”
Toye wagged his finger at her and tromped into the house, hoping that she had truly not seen his money in his pockets. Mama Adio cleared her throat and broke out into a song about a peaceful man who married a temperamental, immature girl. Becky’s ears tingled with shame and anger. She searched her mind for a suitable comeback song, until she found one about a dirty busybody and started to sing it.
Mama Adio stopped singing her song to listen to Becky’s insults and then suddenly started to make up a song about a young girl who would get beaten up for being rude, Becky changed her song to one of an elder woman who would get more than she bargained for, when the police knocked down her door and dragged her all the way to their station. Flushed with anger, Mama Adio left the backyard and went into the house.
Becky shook her head and continued to wash.
Babatunde rushed home from work and found his wife asleep on the couch.
Sitting up sharply, she held his arm alarmed. “What is it? What has happened?”
“’I had to rush home. What we have been praying for has finally happened!”
Sewa nodded expectantly.
“One of my bosses is looking for someone who can cook lunch for about twenty people. We are expecting guests from the Ministry of Works. I told him that you can do it…”
Her hands went limp. “You did what?”
“I told him that you can do it. The person he would have called has travelled.”
“I have never done this before, how could you tell him that?”
Babatunde held his wife’s arms. “Sewa! You can do this! I wish you could see what I see. Anyway, there’s no time to doubt yourself. Get up and take your bath, we have to go now!”
“I’ve had my bath.”
“Good, go and put on better clothes.”
“What about the children? How do I get them from school?”
“Don’t worry about that. Let’s just go!”
Becky was on her way to her mother’s, she passed in front of the Aladura church when she heard someone call out to her.
She turned towards the voice. It was a middle-aged woman who was dressed in a silky white flowing garment with a matching cap.
“Woman,” she said again. “Peace be unto you.”
Becky bowed her head in acknowledgment and subconsciously held her stomach. “Good morning.”
“Good morning, we’ve had a revelation about you.”
Becky was afraid. “What did you see?”
“We saw a thick cloud surrounding your head…”
“A thick cloud? Where? How?”
“It seems that you have upset somebody, and the spirit told me to tell you to pray fervently to avert the evil such a person is planning towards you.”
“Ah! I know the person, I know the person very well and I will show her the stuff I’m made of!”
“Caution! Caution! You are not to confront this person. All you need to do is bring some money for the candles we will burn and whatever token you deem worthy for the Lord.”
“That is all?”
“Other instructions will follow as we go on in the spirit.”
“I am grateful! Thank you!” Becky clasped her hands. “I will see you very soon.”
When Sewa returned home later that day, she found her children surrounding her husband as they tried to figure out the assignments. They ran to her and started to bombard her with question all at once.
“Quick, come and help me to bring some of the things in, the driver is waiting outside.”
As soon as she had settled them with the leftovers from the cooking, she and her husband began to talk.
“Did they like the food?”
Sewa smiled tiredly. “They liked it so much that one of the people from the Ministry of Works told me to see him in his office. I think he wants to give me another contract.”
Babatunde slapped his hand on his thigh. “I knew it! I knew it!”
“But Babatunde, I’m tired. I had to go and borrow four food warmers from people, and get plates, servers, it was so stressful!”
“But you enjoyed cooking didn’t you?”
She laughed. “I did.”
“I’m sure they paid well too.”
Her eyes twinkled. “They did, much more than I imagined.”
“So what are you going to give me? I need a commission.”
“Which commission?” she queried with a hint of a smile on her face. “Don’t you have money?”
“Don’t worry, I brought food for you.”
“Food? What about the other payments? My whole body hurts from carrying the children from school.”
“Go and use some paracetamol.”
“Paracetamol? When my beautiful wife is here? Hmm? This is unfair!” he cried with feigned distress.
“Even I am tired!”
“You look it. Alright, I’ll give you a massage today, it will be my turn tomorrow.”
She laid her feet on his laps and smiled. “You give up too easily, I was changing my mind.”
Toye lay on Annabelle’s bed and stared at her fair, smooth skin. They had been seeing each other for about three weeks. She rose from the bed and wore her clothes.
“I’m hungry, do you want to eat something?” she asked.
He rubbed his stomach. “What do you have?”
“I have some soup, I want to make eba.”
“What kind of soup?”
“All right, make some for me.”
He watched her cross over to the other side of the room and turn on the stove.
“I can feel you watching me,” she said.
“Shouldn’t I look at you?”
She shrugged as he remembered something Afonja Elewe had said.
She just kept saying that she was being watched and that she should have left it alone.
He hadn’t given much thought to the conversation he’d had with the man because the whole encounter had been distasteful and he’d been overwhelmed with the problems at home. Who had been watching the old woman and what should she have left alone? He concluded as he stared at the brown ceiling, that the old woman knew more than he had given her credit for. He suddenly wanted to know the neighbours she had talked about.
“Is the ceiling more beautiful than me?”
“How can you say that?” he turned to see her bringing a tray of well molded eba and an appealing bowl of vegetable soup. He began to salivate immediately as she set the food on the bed.
“What’s on your mind?” she asked as he began to eat the food, licking his fingers and lips simultaneously.
“This is the most delicious vegetable soup I have ever eaten!”
“I’m not thinking of anything else but this food.”
They ate and then he realized that it was past ten, but Annabelle wouldn’t let him leave.
“It’s late. I won’t let you go out. It’s not safe.”
“What do you mean? I’m a policeman.”
She laughed. “Haven’t you ever heard of police officers being killed? You’re not going anywhere, your little wife will wait until the morning. I promise you won’t think about her before then.”
He stared at her mesmerized as she moved towards him and unbuttoned her nightgown.
The next morning when Becky heard the knock on the door, she took her time to answer it. She wanted to gather her thoughts and decide what she was going to say to Toye.
“Where are you coming from?” she asked as soon as she saw him.
He pushed past her and let himself in. The room was in disarray, her clothes were on the bed and on the couch. He could smell something stale in the atmosphere and see dirty plates stacked up in one corner of the room.
He shook his head sadly and took off his clothes.
“Where are you coming from Toye? You left me alone in this house, the second time! What did I do this time around? Ehn? And you know I’m pregnant, how can you leave me alone like this?”
He didn’t respond, he took his towel off the nail where he usually hung it and headed out of the room. She grabbed his arm as he got to the door.
“I’m talking to you. Can’t you hear me?”
“If you don’t let me go, you’ll regret it,” he said coolly.
It was the way he looked at her that made her obey him, his eyes were empty of any affection towards her. All she could see were dark pools of malevolence. She sat on the bed and waited for him to return. When he did, he dressed up in silence, dropped a five naira note on the table beside their bed and walked out of the room.
“All you need to do is bring some money for the candles we will burn and whatever token you deem worthy for the Lord.”
She grabbed the money and headed towards the Aladura church.