Chief Afonja ate the amala and okro soup that Mama Eli prepared with dissatisfaction. The stew wasn’t fresh but this was not what bothered him the most. She had made a subtle comment about Mama Ayo’s whereabouts. Did his favorite wife really have something to hide? He hoped for her sake that she didn’t. Unable to eat any longer he called Niniola to pack up the plates and call his youngest wife.
Mama Eli was sleepy when she got downstairs.
“You called.” She said sourly.
“Yes. Sit down.”
“For what? Chief please I have had a very long day.”
“I said sit down!” he replied firmly.
Grudgingly she obeyed.
Chief Afonja went straight to the point. “Is there something about Mama Ayo that I should know?”
“Chief I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He sighed. “The other time when I spoke, you weren’t surprised that I couldn’t reach her. In fact you said she was too busy. Busy with what?”
Mama Eli pouted and folded her arms across her chest. “Chief I don’t know o! Am I her bodyguard? Why are you asking me about her? If you have questions then talk to her.”
Chief Afonja leaned back and smiled, he knew her weak point.
“I will give you five hundred thousand naira if you tell me what you know.”
Mama Eli laughed and clapped her hands together. “Chief! What do you take me for?”
“One million. I will give you one million if you tell me what you know. I will transfer the money into your account right now.”
Mama Eli looked at him doubtfully, he had deceived her several times, how was she to know that he wasn’t tricking her again?
“I’m not joking, I mean everything I’m saying.”
Just then, the door opened and Mama Ayo walked in.
The chief looked at the time, it was ten thirty. “Where are you coming from?”
“Oh chief I have good news for you!” she said happily and dropped her bag on the chair. “Oh you’re angry, I knew you would be. I should have called but I just couldn’t. Things happened so fast!”
She noticed her colleague and eyed her. “Madam it’s my night with chief, please excuse us.”
“I would not be here if you weren’t so busy.” She hissed and walked away.
“What is she talking about?”
Mama Ayo shrugged and held his hands. “I don’t know. Look chief I have good…”
He snatched his hands away. “Answer my question and stop trying to distract me!”
She opened her mouth in feigned surprise. “Chief what is this about? I know I’m very late but I’m trying to explain why I was late.”
“I was in a business meeting with representatives of a manufacturing company. They came into the supermarket today to discuss opening a retail outlet at the supermarket. They later called to say I should meet with them for dinner so I could discuss with their marketing manager.
Chief Afonja looked at his wife, he didn’t think she was lying. “Why is Mama Eli acting as if she knows where you’ve been?”
“I don’t know. The woman is strange!”
Biola saw that her husband still looked doubtful so she decided to confront Mama Eli, after all she had done nothing wrong.
“Okay why don’t you call her since you think I’m lying?”
“I didn’t say you were lying.”
“So why all the doubts? Please call her, let’s settle this once and for all…”
“It’s not necessary…”
“It is. Have I ever given you cause to doubt me? Call her!”
“Okay, okay I’m sorry.” He held her arms and tried to kiss her.
“Chief please leave me alone! Somebody tells you something or insinuates something and you just believe it, it means you don’t trust me. And it’s not fair. I’ve never cheated on you. Never!”
“I don’t have anything to hide.”
She hissed and picked up her bag.
I should have said something.
Rhoda said to herself. It had been her opportunity to get back at her deceptive colleague and secure her place as the new favourite wife. Then again she thought of Yimika and what she would do about him. She had told people in the market that he was going to school how would she explain his presence in her shop? He turned in his sleep and she looked at him, he was the most beautiful of her children. Why did he have to be the one with the problem?
She had to find the young lady who had offered to help otherwise she was in big trouble. The sooner the therapist began helping her son out the better. She couldn’t tell chief that his son was sick, at least not yet. She had to find a solution first.
Biola was still shaky from her encounter with chief, she’d had to be brave and put on a good show. As she stood under the shower she wondered what Mama Eli had told chief. Had she mentioned the bracelet? She didn’t think so. But why had she not said anything? What was her plan?
Suddenly she heard the bathroom door open. Chief was staring at her. She felt exposed and turned off the shower.
“Why are you covering your body?” he asked teasingly.
“Chief please go.” She brushed past him and went into the bedroom.
“Ah ah, I have apologized haven’t I?”
He started to touch her and she tensed up. She didn’t want to be touched by this man tonight. She thought of his hard hands and remembered the soft feeling of Gbenga’s hands as he brushed his hands against hers when they shared peppered snails. She started to think of Gbenga’s hands massaging her tense shoulders as her husband tried in vain to get his wife’s attention.
“Where were you last night?” Mama Deji asked her immediate junior wife when she went downstairs to prepare her green tea.
“Ah ah Senior Wife when did that one start? Do I have to tell you where I’m going?”
Mama Deji was a little taken aback by this cold response but she said, “I’m not trying to monitor your movements, it’s just that chief was very angry and took it out on us.”
“Well we’ve settled it. Don’t worry about it anymore.”
Mama Deji gently turned back the way she had come.
It wasn’t so easy to push Mama Eli over.
“So you were trying to make Chief doubt my faithfulness ehn?”
“He should doubt your faithfulness because we both know that you have something to hide.”
She laughed. “And you’re the one that has nothing to hide?”
Mama Eli looked at her rival with hatred. “I will find a solution to my problem. You should find a solution to yours.”
“I warned you to stay away from my business but you refused. I will make your life a living hell. I promise you that.”
Mama Eli. “You cannot threaten me. I’m not the kind of person you can push over.”
Mama Ayo smiled in pity for the woman who had no idea what she could do.
Rhoda was on her way back from Alhaja Aderinoye’s store when she sighted the young lady who had offered to help her the other day. She took off running after her to the amusement of people who couldn’t help but be amused by her jiggling buttocks.
“Sister! Sister!” she called.
Ene Johnson tuned towards the woman who had been unbelievably rude to her. “Yes, how can I help you?”
“Good evening Aunty. Please I don’t know if you can remember me…”
“Of course I remember you.”
Rhoda wasn’t sure if she should be happy or sad about this, the lady’s face was expressionless.
“Please I need your help.”
“I’m sorry I can’t help you. “
“Ah sister please, I know I offended you and acted like a mad woman that day but please have mercy. I have a big mouth and I don’t know how to speak to people. Please, help my son. He was expelled from his school, the headmistress didn’t even try to help him. I can’t do my business well, people don’t like seeing him, and he makes so much noise! They don’t understand that he doesn’t like being touched. He does crazy things… he hits his head against the wall when he’s angry… help me please! My husband must not even know that he’s been expelled. Talk less of him finding out that he has this… disease… my life is in shambles, please help me.”
She knelt down and held on to Ene who was embarrassed. People were looking at the scene Rhoda had caused and wondered how the young lady had been wronged.
“Please get up!”
“No, no, no! I will stay this way until you decide to help me.”
“Alright! Just get up please!”
Rhoda leaned against the slim lady’s frame and pulled herself up. Ene held her breath against the strong smell of sweat that emanated from her.
“Let’s go to my shop. So you can see him.”
Ene was in a hurry but she feared what the big woman would do if she refused.
“Alright but I can’t stay there for too long. I’m in a hurry.”
Chief Afonja was still feeling guilty over his misunderstanding with Mama Ayo. He knew she hadn’t forgiven him either, she had been cold towards him and barely said anything to him. He was supposed to spend the night at Mama Eli’s room but he had no plan to do such. She was the cause of his misery.
“Abiola my fair skinned beauty!” he said as he opened the door to her room.
“What is it? Aren’t you supposed to be in Mama Eli’s room?”
“I know, I just wanted to give you something.”
“Is that so?” Biola sat up, interested in what the chief had to give.
The chief handed her a key.
“What is this?”
“It’s the key to your new SUV.”
“’What? Chief you didn’t have to do that!”
“I had to, I just had to prove my love to you one again. I’m sorry I doubted you.”
Biola was a very happy woman. Now to make her happiness complete.
“Well, because you’ve been so kind I guess you deserve to know the truth.”
“The truth?” Chief asked perplexed.
“The truth about Yimika, Mama Eli’s son.”