“So you’re in the same class with Labisi and she came first while you came seventh. The last time you were in the fifth position, which means you’re getting worse. You’re not a serious child and you have no sense because if you did you would not go to her house every Saturday when you should be studying. What is it you want that we do not give you? Yet it is hard for you to compete with the daughter of a factory worker!”
“Good afternoon” Banke greeted panting from the exertion of climbing up the stairs.
“Good afternoon my sister” Ronke said with a plastic smile.
“What’s wrong with Joke?” Banke asked looking at the crying girl.
“Don’t mind her” Ronke said dismissively but Banke couldn’t ignore the sorrow and shame on the girl’s face. “Come here” she said, putting her arms around her small shoulders. “It’s alright, wipe your face. Don’t cry anymore okay?” Banke said pacifyingly.
Ronke was irritated at the seeming effrontery Banke had to make her feel like a bad mother. “Did you want something” she said.
“Err…actually I came to pay the security fee, my husband said I should give it your husband. I thought he would be home by now.”
“Well he’s not, you can come back later.” Ronke said icily.
“Can I just give it to you? I may be too occupied with housework and I’m avoiding the staircase, you know how it is.” Banke said smiling.
“I’m busy too. Come back and give it to him yourself.” Ronke said with finality.
“O…okay” Banke said confused, wondering what the attitude was all about. “Alright I’ll come back, take care of yourself okay?” she said to Joke.
“Yes ma” replied the girl timidly.
“’Get out of here!” Ronke shouted at the girl and hissed disgustedly as Banke went down the stairs.
“She’s like that, the woman has issues. I’ve learnt to avoid her for peace sake and I suggest you do the same. Just be civil and move on, she’s a very bitter woman.” Helen was saying to Banke after she had narrated her encounter with Ronke.
“Okay” Banke said, already distracted by the savour of the catfish pepper soup that Helen had brought for her. “I can’t wait to eat this! Oh my God, just look at those juicy slices of fish!” She gushed.
Helen laughed. “Just don’t eat too much, remember your baby’s already big.” She teased.
“Oh please! A bowl of catfish pepper soup a day keeps the baby kicking!” They both laughed.
“I should get going. Obi is coming home early today”
“Hmmn… really?” Banke said mischievously.
“I don’t want to hear it, whatever you have to say!” Helen said turning away and trying to hide her smile.
“It’s just a piece of advice… I mean I wouldn’t want you to end up like me.” Banke said with a shrug, also trying to keep a straight face.
“Goodbye!” Helen said closing the kitchen door and laughing.
There was a knock on the door.
“Coming!” Kunle said wiping his mouth with a serviette. It was Dapo. “Good evening sir” he said.
“Good evening. How was your day?”
“Fine, thank you”
“I told you about the security bill a week ago and you said you would pay it today.”
“Yes, I actually gave my wife the money to give you but you weren’t around.” He explained.
“Why didn’t she just give it to my wife?” Dapo asked impatiently,
“She wanted to but Madam said she should come back and give it to you herself” Kunle said seriously, trying to contain his anger.
“Ah ah? Are you sure?”
“Yes, maybe you would like to ask her yourself?”
“Never mind, just give it to me.”
“You know when it comes to money I’m always cautious, that’s why I said she should give it to you herself.” Ronke said defensively.
“Cautious my foot! You asked a heavily pregnant woman to go though that trouble when you could have just collected it on my behalf?” He hissed, “You’re a wicked woman.”
“Is she the first or last woman to get pregnant? I pounded yam for you and drew water from the well in all my pregnancies yet I’m wicked because I told a young girl to climb up the stairs?” She asked angrily.
“I don’t even know why I bothered to talk to you, I should have known you would respond this way. Please bring my food!” He said sadly to Ronke who happily retreated out of their bedroom. “By the way what did you cook?” He asked as an afterthought.
“Spaghetti and plantains”
“Spaghetti? For me or for the children? Go and make amala for me!” He ordered.
“There’s no ewedu” she responded gruffly
“Look woman, I don’t care what you have to do, when I get back after a long day I expect to eat a good meal. Is that too much to ask of you? You have a car and there’s a night market. Sort it out.”
“Babe, these kids should be in bed by now.” Effiong said to Olayinka who was busy at the dining table with her phone.
“Okay… I’m coming.” She said distractedly, giggling at her phone.
Twenty minutes later the children were still up, although gradually dozing off in front of the TV. Effiong sighed and carried them to bed himself. Totally oblivious of what was going on, Olayinka continued chatting with her boss who was telling her how impressive her presentation was. He was such a gentleman.