Banke’s father had resumed watching the football match, tapping his foot every now and then. “That husband of hers is an ungrateful fool.”
“What happened?” Banke’s mother asked again with her hands on her hips, frowning.
“I told him to bring Banke here so that we can take good care of her and Teniola pending the time when he sorts out his finances or accept that I will give my daughter money as I see fit. The blockhead refused!”
“You did what?”
“Are you deaf?”
Banke’s mother clapped her hands in astonishment. “Where have you ever seen or heard this done? How could you have given him such ridiculous choices? I just told you that your interference is ruining things between them but you wouldn’t listen, can you see what you have caused now?”
“What have I caused?”
“You foolish old man, that boy is going to vent his frustrations on our daughter, only God knows what he’s going to do!”
“Calm down woman…”
“Don’t ask me to calm down!” Banke’s mother was furious. “Do you think the world revolves around you? I don’t even know why I’m standing here talking to you…” Banke’s mother rushed into the house and came out shortly with her handbag walking out.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to make sure you have not completely ruined your daughter’s life!” She said over her shoulder and slammed the door. Banke’s father was unconcerned, he called the maid.
“Lateefat! Bring me something to drink!”
Kunle barged into the house and slammed the door startling Joy who was playing with Teniola in the sitting room.
She pointed towards the rooms. “Inside the… “
Kunle stormed of towards their bedroom and found Banke sitting on the bed, painting her toenails.
“I need that answer from you”
“What are you…?” Banke was alarmed, clearly the meeting with her Dad hadn’t gone well.
“I gave you two choices, your father’s money or us. I want your answer now!”
“Kunle you can’t ask me to choose between…”
“I already did, what’s your answer?”
Kunle’s eyes were bloodshot, she fumbled for words. “I care about you both, you can’t…”
“You’re wasting my time!”
Banke’s phone rang, it was her mother.
It was painful but Olayinka had to move around to do the housechores her mother had been helping out with. She had no idea if and when that would ever happen again. Her mother hadn’t said a word to her since that night. She sat on a plastic chair slicing the vegetables she planned to use for the pepper soup, Effiong had a cold and she knew pepper soup always helped him feel better. The twins came running into the kitchen.
“Mummy come and take it away!” Sharon pleaded.
“Take what away?”
They wanted her to change the channel they had been watching, she hobbled out towards the sitting room and found Effiong reclining on the sofa. Why hadn’t they asked him? They were still afraid. She sighed then asked Effiong tentatively. “Can I change the channel? The kids want me to change the channel.”
Effiong sat up concerned. Were they really so afraid of him? “Guys…” He started but they shrank back behind their mother. He sighed and stood up, it was probably better for him to excuse them.
Joke was grumpy. She didn’t understand why she had to join Peace in doing the laundry while the boys got to watch TV, her mother had told her to get all the dirty clothes and bring them out to the terrace where she would instruct her on how to wash them. She picked up her brothers dirty clothes and grumbled under her breath especially when she got to the sitting room.
Dapo couldn’t stand grumpiness. “Hey! Will stop that now! Is it because your mother asked you to do the laundry that you’re mumbling all over the place?”
“But Daddy why do I have to wash their clothes while they sit down and watch TV, after all I didn’t wear their clothes?”
“They’re boys, this is what you’ll be doing when you get married. You are a woman.”
“No” Joke would not accept it, who made these absurd rules anyway? “It’s not fair!”
“Are you talking back at me?” Dapo eyes darkened.
“No sir, but it’s not fair.”
“Come here” Dapo ordered quietly. Joke hesitated then moved forward with the laundry in her arms. “Move closer” She did and stilled herself for whatever punishment was coming. “Kneel down.” She did. Dapo raised his hand and knocked on her head heavily. Joke threw down the clothes, lifting her hands to her head and cried.
“Now get up and do what your mother said you should do!” Joke scrambled for the clothes through blurred eyes and staggered to her feet, sniffing.
“Come back here” Dapo called suddenly.
What had she done? She obeyed tentatively as Dapo reached for the clothes in her hands. “Give me that trouser!” Dapo sat up and grabbed it himself pulling out the shiny object that had slipped from its pocket.
“Ayodele, what is this?” His father held up the roll of condoms he had pulled from his packet.
“I said what is this?” he thundered this time around, rising to his feet. “Go and call your mother” he said to Joke who was only too happy to obey. “So you’ve been sleeping around with girls?”
“No sir!” Ayodele was cold with fear, there was no escape this time around.
“So why is this in your pocket?”
“I don’t know sir”
“You don’t know, alright, Posi go and bring my belt.”
“Dear what is it?” Ronke came into the room alarmed then stared at the roll of condoms Dapo was still rolling up. “Who?…” She asked even as she realized who it was.
“Your child had been fornicating under your nose!” Dapo said disgustedly.
“Daddy please…” Ayodele cried, his hands on his head. His father would show him no mercy. Peace had come in now and was crying too, there was no way they wouldn’t find out now.
Posi returned with the belt and Dapo asked. “Are you ready to confess?”
“Daddy…” The first few lashes sent ripples of pain all over his body. Ronke cried silently, what if Banke had been right?
“Who have you been sleeping with?” Ayodele pleaded with his eyes and wailed. Dapo hissed and switched the side of the belt he was holding, the buckle would get him his response faster.
“Dear please, do you want to kill him?” Ronke could no longer take it.
Dapo whipped the boy mercilessly, not letting up even when the boy’s back began to bleed.
“Dapo do you want to kill him? Stop it!” Ronke screamed while everyone else but Joke cried.
“Peace! Peace! It is Peace!” Ayodele finally said unable to bear it anymore.
Dapo stilled. “Peace. Which Peace?” His body was trembling now. Ayodele pointed to her. “Peace? The househelp?” Dapo raised another hand to hit him when Ronke stepped in front of him.
“Don’t hit my son anymore!” she yelled at him.
“Ronke get out my way before I use this belt on you!”
“Use it! Use it! This is all your fault!”
“My fault? These children were committing fornication under your nose and you have the guts to say this is my fault?”
“Yes! I told you to talk to him about this but you refused, you didn’t think it was necessary. See what has happened now!”
“Woman get out of my way!”
“I will not! If you hit my child one more time, you will see the other side of me.”
“Daddy, Mummy please!” Posi pleaded.
“Give me an answer now!”
“Kunle you can’t tell me to choose. I have a right to my father’s money.”
“It’s just what I expected you to say. Well, if you insist on taking your father’s money, you can’t live in my house.”
Banke laughed. “Which house? The one we paid for together? I contributed half of the money Kunle so don’t tell me rubbish! If anyone is leaving this house, it’s you. You can’t even afford to pay for it!”
“Banke don’t test me!”
“What will you do?”
“I give you twenty minutes to gather your things and leave. If by then you don’t I will surprise you.”
Banke gave a short laugh. “You better not bite more than you can chew!”
”Ronke get out of my way!”
“Don’t lay your hand on my son again!”
Dapo shoved Ronke out of the way and she fell hardly on the floor.
“Mummy!” Posi and Joke screamed running to her, Ronke groaned holding her swollen belly.
“You think I’m going to fall for your tricks?” Dapo wanted to say something to test the authenticity of her discomfort. Ronke cried out in pain as Joke and Posi continued to cry.
“Ah!…..” Ronke screamed clutching her gown.
“Do something!” Joke yelled at her father who stood stunned, then snapped into action getting his car keys and carrying Ronke out with Joke, Posi and Ayodele following.
Peace stood alone in the sitting room with her hands on her head crying.
“Your twenty minutes are up!” Kunle said coming into the room and lifting Banke on to his shoulder. Banke screamed and hit his back continuously. “Put me down!” Kunle put her down in front of the house and slammed the door.
“Open this door! Kunle! Kunle! Open this door!”
Twenty minutes later her mother drove in and pulled up as soon as she saw her daughter outside the house hitting the door.
“Banke what happened?”
“He put me out of the house, can you imagine?”
“You’re a very stupid girl!”
“Shut up! We talked about this and I advised you but you wouldn’t listen, you allowed your father to push your husband to this extent. Let’s hope he listens to me.” She knocked on the door. “Kunle, it’s me please. Banke’s mother, I have not come to fight with you. Please open the door.”
Kunle opened the door slightly and let her in. “Mummy I’m only opening this door because when the families hear about this I want them to realize that I have been respectful to everyone concerned.”
“And you are very right. Please let her come in, I beg you.”
“The other reason I allowed you to come in is so you can take her things. I am no longer interested in your daughter except she’s willing to come to her senses.”
“Kunle please be patient with her.”
“I have tried, she’s not willing to change and I can’t tolerate that anymore. Teniola stays with me. If that is all please leave.”
Banke’s mother exhaled then walked out.
“Get in the car”
“Mummy this is my home…”
“Oh so now you know this is your home? Get in the car!”
“My baby, I can’t leave my baby!”
“Well he’s not letting her go.”
“I’m not leaving without my baby!”
“If you’re not ready to go I’ll leave without you” Banke’s mother got in the car and started the engine.
Banke started to cry confused, pounding on the door then she ran after her mother before she drove off.
Behind the curtain in the Nwachukwu’s flat Helen sighed.