“Why are you so rude to Peace, don’t you know she’s older than you?”
“So why do you treat her like you’re age mates?”
“I don’t know, I just don’t like her”
“You don’t like her? Why? Does she beat you?”
“No, I just don’t like her”
“You can’t just say you don’t like her and act rudely to her. I won’t take that from you. She’s not done anything to you.”
“I want to see a change immediately do you understand?”
And she had really tried to be nice to her but she just couldn’t get herself to smile genuinely at her or speak nicely to her. Now as she watched her sitting so closely to her brother she became more convinced that there was something not right about her. There was a knock on the door.
“Joke go and answer it” Ayodele said to her
“Why should I? Peace should answer it”
“Are you alright? If you don’t go and answer the door right now I will deal with you!” he shouted at her
Joke grumbled all the way to the door. It was Iya Ibeji, unknown to everyone as Peace’s mother. “Good afternoon ma.” Joke greeted.
Peace sprang up from her seat as soon as she saw her mother, running towards her. “Good afternoon ma” Peace greeted her kneeling.
“How are you? You’re looking very well!”
“Thank you ma”
“Good afternoon ma” Ayodele greeted from the table awkwardly.
“Good afternoon.” She replied then asked Peace “Is your madam at home?”
“Okay, give me some water to drink.” She said sitting down and placing her bag on the carpet. Peace returned shortly with the water.
“How is everyone at home?” Peace asked
“Fine, your brothers and sisters miss you and your father sends his regards. You look different.” Iya Ibeji said noticing the glow of Peace’s body. “Let’s go out and talk” she said under her breath to her.
Peace led her outside to the verandah where Iya Ibeji immediately continued her interrogation. “You look different” she said again. “Give me your palm” she ordered.
Peace held out her hand hesitantly wondering what was making her mother act so strange, could she really just tell that she’d been sleeping with Ayodele? Next Iya Ibeji tipped up her chin and inspected her eyes. “You look different, you’re glowing”
“Yes they are taking good care of me here” Peace said wringing her hands.
“I hope you still see your monthly period?”
“Good. And I hope you’ve not been messing around with boys?”
“Ah no ma!” Peace replied a little too enthusiastically.
“If you let any boy impregnate you, you’re finished! So you better know what you’re doing here because the way you’re glowing is suspicious.”
“Well I’m leaving now, tell your madam that I came and behave yourself. Don’t mess around with boys or keep bad company, remember the child of whom you are and concentrate on your studies. I brought you some things from home, when we get inside I’ll give them to you.”
“Sweetheart we need to talk about your birthday” Helen said to Chijioke who was sitting in her arms by her side.
“Okay Mummy” Chijioke replied looking up at her.
“The thing is, Daddy and Mummy don’t have so much money right now so we can’t throw a big party or buy all the things you want.”
“Oh…okay…” Chijioke replied crestfallen
“I know you’re disappointed and I’m so sorry but I promise to make it up to you. The next time we go shopping we’ll buy you something very nice okay?”
“So I can’t have a Spider Man cake?”
“No sweetheart but you will have a Spider Man car, bag and watch and then we’ll all go out to eat anything you want.”
“Oh we’ll have a small cake and you get to choose the colour.”
“So I can have a rainbow cake?” Chijioke asked hopefully cheering up at the possibility of having a rainbow coloured cake.
“Er,,, yeah I guess you can” Helen said uncertainly wondering if that specification would attract a higher cost from the baker.
“Okay… can I have lots of ice cream in it?”
“Yes of course”
“Yaay!” Chijioke pumped his fist in the air happily.
Helen smiled, feeling very blessed that her conversation with Chijioke hadn’t been as heartbreaking as she anticipated. “Thank you God” she whispered.
“So you’re making progress I’m glad about that!” Helen said with a wide smile. “And your blood pressure isn’t rising anymore, it looks like your mother’s presence here is doing you a lot of good.”
“Yeah…” Olayinka replied dryly
Helen took in a deep breath wondering how to begin. “You don’t look happy about your progress, it almost seems as if you’re not happy about it. Olayinka what is really going on?”
Olayinka rubbed her forehead and leaned her head back on the headrest. “You won’t understand”
“Why does everyone think so?” Helen said frustrated.
“Don’t mind me.” Helen waved her hand dismissively. “I had a conversation with Banke about her marital issues and she said I didn’t understand her.”
“She’s having problems in her marriage? Why?”
“Long story, she’s young and there’s a lot for her to learn” Helen said disinterestedly. “Back to you, what is going on? Do you have health issues?”
“Helen I’ll be fine”
“I doubt that very much. You’ve been saying the same thing for months and you’re not getting any better. What can be so difficult for you to say? You need to get help!”
“You won’t understand Helen.”
“If you say that one more time, I swear I’m going to scream. Why wouldn’t I understand?” Helen asked frustrated.
“Because not everyone has a perfect life like you do.” Olayinka said slightly irritated.
“What’s that supposed to mean and what makes you think my life is perfect?” Helen asked equally irritated.
“And what makes you think you can fix my life? Because your life is perfect doesn’t give you the right to go around poking into other people’s business and passing judgement on them. You just talked about Banke now so that means you’ll talk about me too. If I need your help I’ll let you know!”
Effiong walked in then. “Sorry to interrupt you. I just need to get something.” He said to Helen.
“It’s okay. I was on my way out. Bye” She said getting up hastily and walking out of the room.
Effiong looked at Olayinka questioningly wondering what could have upset Helen. “She was being nosy, she wanted to know what was going…”
“Save it, I really don’t care” Effiong interrupted her then walked out.
Joke was trying hard to concentrate on the programme she was watching but she was distracted by the sight of Ayodele and Peace hudded over a textbook. He was explaining an equation to her but there was something about the way they sat and talked that just wasn’t right. She had never liked Peace although she had been with them for about seven months and now shared her room with her. Even her mother had noticed it.