“What about Yimika?”
“He has a disease, condition, I don’t even know. I just know he’s not normal.”
Chief Afonja pulled away from his wife. “What do you mean he’s not normal?”
Mama Ayo shook her head. “I don’t even know if I should be telling you this. Maybe you should talk to Mama Eli. I don’t want it to look like I’m gossiping about her. I mean I’ve been telling her to tell you but she hasn’t… she…”
“Tell me what it is.”
“I just told you Chief, I don’t want her to be angry…”
“Tell me!” he snapped.
“I think the boy has a mental condition, he will never recover from it.”
Chief stared at her for a few minutes before flying off the bed to Mama Eli’s room.
“Rhoda! Open this door!” he rapped on the door repeatedly.
Mama Eli was sleeping when she heard the loud knocking on her door. Scared that the house was under an attack she jumped up to her feet and headed for her jewelry box until she heard her husband’s loud voice.
“Rhoda! Open this door now!”
Wondering what had possessed her husband to make such a noise at that time of the day she opened it angrily.
“Chief what is it?”
“What is wrong with your son?”
“Yimika?” Rhoda said lamely and looked at Mama Ayo who was smiling victoriously behind Chief. He knew, she had told him.
She sighed and measured her words carefully. “Well the doctor said he has a condition, but he can be helped.”
“What kind of condition?”
“He said aut…autistic… no, autism.”
Chief Afonja was bewildered. “Automatic what? So you have a mad son and you decided to keep it away from me?”
“No Chief, he’s not mad.”
The chief slapped her hard across the cheeks, relishing the thrill it gave him to pour out his frustration on a woman who brought him nothing but unhappiness. Mama Eli held her cheek, shocked at her husband’s actions. He despised her but he had never hit her.
“Chief!” she said in surprise.
“If you call me one more time, I will slap you again.”
“Ah ah Chief, what’s going on here?” Mama Deji asked, her face swollen with sleep.
“So you also knew she gave birth to a mad son and you didn’t bother telling me?”
“Mad son? What are you talking about?”
“You’re just old for nothing! How can this nuisance be hiding such a thing from me and you won’t know about it? Aren’t you supposed to be my ears and eyes?”
Mama Deji was angry. “Chief! What are you insulting me for? I don’t even know what’s going on!”
Again Chief Afonja was bold, he raised his hand to hit his senior wife. But Mama Deji saw it coming, she held his hand just in time.
“Have you gone mad?” she asked quietly. “You want to slap me because of these scarecrows? If you try it I will teach you a lesson you will never forget!”
The two younger wives and the chief were stunned. Mama Deji had never been the confrontational type.
“The ground you’re standing on will swallow you up!” she turned around and walked away as quietly as she had come. Chief Afonja were still staring in shock at her until she locked the door to her room.
The chief was humiliated and still angry.
“Pack up your things and leave my house before I get back tomorrow. The shop is yours, but from now on, I don’t want to see you. Pack everything including your children and leave my house.”
“Ah no Chief don’t send her away. What about Niniola? I need a maid in this house.”
“Niniola stays until you find another one.”
Mama Eli could only gape in shock as her husband and Mama Ayo walked away.
Mama Deji lay in bed but she wasn’t sleeping. Her pillow was wet with tears.
“Folasade don’t marry this man.” Her mother had said.
“Why?” she had asked confused and angry.
“I keep telling you that he’s too smooth for my liking, he looks like a betrayer.”
“Ah ah Maami! How can you say he’s a betrayer just by looking at him?”
“Folasade, I’m your mother and I will always want the best for you. Please don’t marry him.”
“Maami you’re only saying this because you want me to marry that lecturer. And I can’t marry him.”
“Because he doesn’t have money…”
“Yes! Maami you know I’m not the materialistic type but I don’t want to marry someone who can’t even take care of himself.”
“But he’s taking care of himself, his mother and siblings!”
“With his faded shirts?”
“Folasade who are you to judge the end of a man? That man has a bright future ahead of him, I can see it.”
“Maami you’re just impressed because he speaks good English…”
“Is it not part of it? How many people do you know who can speak good English in this community? People who pursue knowledge have great potential. Everytime I go over to his mother’s house and he’s around, he’s always studying. And he’s so kind to his mother…”
“Yomi is kind to his mother too and he’s very industrious. Not like that bookworm who doesn’t knpw how to charm a woman. Yomi is very romantic and he’s hardworking, always doing one business or another…”
“Yes I agree he’s hardworking and he also has potential. He’s not lazy and he knows what he wants but there is something about him, there’s a hardness to him that I don’t like…”
“Ah Maami! Which is it? The smoothness or the hardness? It seems that you’ve just made up your mind not to like him.”
Her mother had sighed then. “Alright, whatever you decide is fine.”
Truly what an elder sees sitting down a young person does not see standing. It had taken fifteen years for her mother’s prophecies to come to pass. Yomi had taken two other wives and had more concubines than she could keep track of. The power of his wealth and title intoxicated him. Meanwhile, the young lecturer had relocated to the United States and was a renowned professor, he had married her friend Damola and she knew she was very happy.
“Oh Maami I’m so sorry… I should have listened!” she wept bitterly.
Mama Rasheed clapped her hands together early the next morning when her friend Mama Eli told her what had happened in her home the night before.
“Wonders shall never end! But that your senior wife is wicked o! What did you do to make her hate you so much?”
“I think it all started the day I falsely accused her of sending someone to mock me in my shop. Remember the therapist I told you about?”
“Yes, but that’s flimsy! There is something else you’re unaware of.”
“I don’t know o! What do I do now Mama Rasheed?”
“Doesn’t he have elders he will listen to? Go and tell them what happened. Or you can talk to his mum, it seems she likes you.”
Mama Eli hadn’t thought of this suggestion before, she liked it. She was confident that her mother-in-law would listen to her.
“Ah ah Mama Eli this is a pleasant surprise! How is everyone? Hope all is well at home?”
“Mama all is not well o. in fact I’m in big trouble.”
“What kind of trouble?”
Mama Eli explained herself.
“Ah ah? He sent you packing? Who did he tell before he decided that? What kind of hasty decision is that? But I blame you too.”
“Don’t Mama me! You knew you had an abnormal child and you didn’t tell him. What did you expect? And then you foolishly told your rival about it. Haven’t I warned you enough about that woman?”
“She was good to me, I thought I could trust her.”
The old woman shook her head. “You’ve made a mess of things.”
“Mama this is not about Yimika, he has always hated me. Maybe I shouldn’t have married him.”
“Stop that foolish talk! Would you have preferred to be a single mother in your mother’s house? Or why are you here to talk to me? Are you looking forward to going back to your poor family?”
Mama Eli felt insulted but she shook her head. “No ma.”
“Don’t worry, he’ll take you back. He has no choice. You are married to him and he can’t chase you away except I say so.” The old woman leaned back in the sofa and took a deep breath. She felt fatigued from her agitation.
“I’ve told you that I need you in that house. That Mama Ayo is not good for my son and Mama Deji is indifferent to him. I need someone to take his mind off that manipulative woman.”
Mama Eli wasn’t sure whether to be happy or not. Her mother-in-law only wanted her to be in her son’s house as a distraction. But what about love? She wanted love.
“He doesn’t touch me. He doesn’t come to my room.”
“Is that so? Don’t worry we’ll sort it out too. And do something about your weight! How can he want you with all that extra flesh?”
Ene Johnson got to Mama Eli’s shop and found Bebeto eating fufu and efo riro. She was licking her hands.
“Afternoon.” Bebeto replied pulling gently at her oily ponmo.
“I’m here to see Yimika, his mum is expecting me.”
“She’s not around…” Bebeto replied distractedly, chewing her ponmo with relish.
“Ah ah.” Ene looked at her watch. “But she sent me a text yesterday to even remind me.”
“Ah! I don’t know what you discussed but she’s not here, can’t you see that?” Bebeto said irritably
Ene walked away angrily, she didn’t like unserious clients.
“What are you still doing here?” Chief Afonja said to Mama Eli when he saw her later in the day.
“She’s not going anywhere!”
The chief looked at his mother who was just coming from the kitchen.
“Chief Chief!” she said sarcastically. “So you want send Rhoda away? Well, she’s not going anywhere.”
The old woman sat on the sofa and bit into her kolanut.
“Did she tell you what she did?” he asked bitterly.
“She did and I’ve rebuked her but she also told me what you have been doing…”
“Look Mama this is my house…”
“And I am your mother, she’s not going anywhere and that’s final. And from now on you better start treating her kindly.”
Chief Afonja was angry, he hadn’t expected his mother to support Mama Eli. He picked up his briefcase and grumbled all the way upstairs.
Mama Eli looked at her mother-in-law and exhaled.
“Do you think he’ll let me stay?”
“He has no choice.”
She nodded. “What about Mama Ayo?”
“Don’t tell him yet, be patient and keep watching her. She’ll fall into her own trap.”
“Thank you Mama.” Mama Eli knelt before her.
“There is one lesson you must learn in all this. Close your mouth and open your eyes and ears.”