“What are you going to do now?” Sewa asked Florence whose eyes had become bloodshot with incessant crying. They were seated a little distance away from the cooks who were cooking the last batch of meat for the day. It had been four days since the incident with Uche.
“I don’t know, I have searched for them everywhere. I don’t know why he would take my children. Even if something happened between that evil man and I, does that take away my capability as a mother?”
Sewa sighed and watched her friend wiping more tears.
“I did this for us, even though he said I shouldn’t have anything to do with them, he never complained about eating bigger pieces of meat, living in a bigger house or wearing new clothes, but the minute he heard that I was in a terrible situation with Mr Okafor he took my children.” She cried some more. “I did this for the family, how can he repay me like this? How can he be so selfish and jealous?”
“Have you been to his family house?”
“I’ve been there, they insulted me and sent me away, and they said they’d not seen him nor the children.”
Sewa sighed again. “Maybe we should go and report it at the police station…”
“The police didn’t even believe that Mr Okafor wanted to rape me, how can they believe that my husband took my children away?”
“But we have to do something. Have you been to his school?”
“I have, I was told that he is on an indefinite leave. Sewa, was I so wrong because I wanted a better life for myself and my children? How could Philomena even do this to me? Is it my fault that her husband found me attractive?”
She wailed and wailed to the dismay of her friend who could do nothing but hold her hand. After a while, Sewa cleared her throat and patted her friend’s back.
“What is going to happen to the shop? Are you going back?”
“No, no I’m not. I’ve gone there to take all my money and all my things. Their shop is there with all their goods.”
“What if they go to your house?”
“I’ve moved out of the house.”
Philomena slipped the file she’d given Toye back into Uche’s drawer, and shut it just as he walked into their bedroom.
“What are you doing there?”
“I’m looking for the records of the bags of rice that your boys brought in.”
“I think my workers are cheating me, I just want to be sure of what was brought in.”
“Don’t you have records in your shop?” he asked suspicious.
“But I’m not in my shop now, or is there anything wrong with checking the records at home?”
“I don’t want you snooping in my drawer, do you hear me? They are not for you.”
She nodded. “I have heard you.” she got up, grabbed her handbag and began to walk out of the room.
“Where are you going?”
“To the shop,” she replied, cocking an eyebrow.
“You’re changing.” He stood in her way and looked into her eyes. “There’s something different about you, I don’t know what it is, but it is there.” He held her chin and tipped her head upwards.
Philomena squirmed, wondering what he saw in her eyes. “Uche what do you want?”
“I want you to remember that I own you,” he pinched her chin hard as she tried in vain to loosen his hold. “I own you, so don’t start growing wings, do you hear me?”
She nodded vigorously.
Becky was at the back of the restaurant, helping to put the hot amala into plastic wraps when Doyin walked into the building and sat down. When the waiter got to his table, he asked to speak to the proprietor.
Sewa was at his table in a short while, curiousity evident on her face. “Good afternoon Officer, can I help you?”
“Please sit down.”
“I just thought that I should let you know about one of your girls. Her name is Becky.”
“Becky? How do you know her?”
He laughed. “I know a lot of people in this district.” He tickled his gum with a toothpick. “Anyway, this is what I came to tell you, and I’m telling you this because I don’t like liars or cunning people. “She’s meeting all sorts of men, even her ex-husband. It is only a matter before she gets pregnant again.”
Sewa looked doubtful and he could see it. “Alright then, ask her if she met with her ex-husband recently, ask her if she slept with him.”
“So is it true? Have you been sleeping around?”
Becky’s heart raced. She glanced up from the book she was reading. Sewa looked furious, had Doyin fulfilled his threat? Was it the reason why she had been snapping at her all day?
“No it is not true…”
“Have you slept with your ex-husband?”
Becky got up from the floor. “No…yes… it’s not what it looks like.”
“Which is the answer, yes, or no?”
“It didn’t happen the way you think…”
“How then did it happen?”
“He forced himself on me…”
“He forced himself? How did that happen?” Sewa was shouting now. “Where were you when such a thing happened? Did he force you or did you go looking for him? Did I not warn you about daydreaming? Did I not say that you should be content with what we can provide for you?”
“I’m telling you the truth ma, he forced himself on me, I was…”
“If that’s the truth, why didn’t you tell me when it happened?”
“I was ashamed, I didn’t…”
“Ashamed of what? Am I not a woman? You’re a liar and an ungrateful person!”
“What is happening here?” Babatunde came out of the house, into the sitting room. “What is happening?”
Sewa heaved. “A policeman came into the restaurant today and told me that this girl has been sleeping around. He said I should ask her if she’s been sleeping with her ex-husband. I couldn’t believe it because she was always so diligent. Now she’s telling me that he forced himself on her. She’s lying, she can’t even tell the truth!”
Babatunde found the accusation hard to believe. “Maybe we should calm down and ask her what really happened.”
“What is happening is that Becky is a dreamer and she is greedy. We give her everything she wants, why would she be going to her ex-husband at all?”
“Let me explain ma…” Becky was on her knees now.
“Let her explain…” Babatunde tried to intervene.
“No Babatunde, I will not listen to you. This is how you said I should listen to you and it put me in trouble with those heartless women. Before she brings thieves into my house because of her greediness, I will chase her out first. Go inside and pack all your things, everything, and leave my house now.”
“Babatunde please! I have done it your way enough. I told you I will do things my way from now on.”
Becky had started to cry, her son, Bolutife woke up and was crying too. Babatunde’s pleas fell on deaf ears. Within the next half hour, she had packed her things and left Sewa’s house.
Becky walked into the Patrick’s Children’s Hospital and asked for Yomi. He had left, but a nurse was kind enough to call his residence and tell him about her presence at the hospital. Yomi promised to be with her shortly. Five hours later, it was one o’clock in the morning, the hospital was deserted, and Yomi still hadn’t come.
Toye was surrounded by the men of Richard’s gang, to discuss the big operation that Doyin had mentioned. As usual, Richard was smoking, a cloud of smoke had formed over his head and was gently spreading throughout the stuffy room.
“We’re going to intercept the bullion van as soon as it reaches Thompson Road. Toye, I want you to look at the plan and search for the loopholes.”
A file landed on Toye’s laps, he opened it and began to study the plan as outlined by Richard.
“We shoot on sight anyone that tries to stop us, I want that money, I can already smell it. And if anyone tries to stop this plan in any way, I will kill him and send his body parts to his family. Am I understood?”
The men did. Toye’s body went cold.
When Toye got back home, he found Annabelle sitting in the sitting room with her hands folded on her laps. She looked at the wall clock to check the time, it was almost two in the morning.
“Welcome,” she said.
He grunted in response and sat down. She helped him to remove his shirt and his shoes. “I made vegetable soup, should I bring it now with some pounded yam?”
“You’re not hungry?”
“No, I am not.”
Annabelle was confused. “Have you eaten elsewhere?”
There was an awkward silence between them.
“Are you still angry with me?” she asked.
“So why aren’t you talking to me like before?”
“I don’t trust you, you will have to gain my trust again.”
“I’m going to sleep.”
When Toye walked into their room, he saw a tape recorder on the bed. It was the one he had been using to record the things he wanted to share with Bala. The tape in it was clean but he had kept it in his wardrobe. Annabelle had brought it out and left it there deliberately. He stood staring at it.
“What are you doing with a tape recorder?” she asked with derision.
“Why were you snooping through my things?”
“What are you recording?” she asked calmly.
“Since when do I have to start explaining my job to you?”
“I have never seen you with a recorder, I think I will ask Doyin if it is something you all use…”
She saw the look in his eyes, a look that told her that she was not supposed to see the recorder and Doyin was not supposed to know that he had one. She smiled, feeling back in control.
“You think you’re the only one who can make demands? I have given you everything Toye, I will not let you treat me as if I don’t matter. I am not Becky. From now on, you will come home on time, you will help me to take care of the baby and you will be caring to me, otherwise Doyin will know that you have a tape recorder, and I will leave him to speculate and ask you all the questions there are to answer.”
Toye smiled coldly, he picked the recorder from the bed, put it back in his wardrobe and lay on the bed. Something began to grow inside of him until it consumed his mind, pure hatred for the woman lying beside him.