Niniola was moping the kitchen floor when Chief Afonja walked in.
“Good morning sir.”
“Make me some tea.”
As she set the kettle on the burner, the chief sat down at the breakfast table and wiped his forehead. He had slipped out of Mama Eli’s bed, about to escape to Mama Ayo’s room when she stopped him with some distressing news.
He had turned around sharply to face her. She looked like she’d been awake all night. Her eyes were clear and her arms were folded across her ample bosom.
“What do you mean you’re pregnant? Haven’t you been on family planning?”
“I was on family planning, but I took it out the day you came back to my room.”
“Ah ah! Did I tell you to remove it?”
“I had an infection Chief, the doctor advised me to remove it…”
“And you couldn’t tell me that before I started sleeping with you?”
“You didn’t give me a chance to. You almost raped me that night.”
Chief Afonja remembered how overwhelmed with emotion he had been that night, there was nothing she could have said to dissuade him from his intent. Still this was bad news.
“Can you see that you’re a wicked woman?” he spat at her. “I come back to your room and this is what you do?”
“Chief this is not my fault…”
“So it’s my fault ehn? You will abort that pregnancy, one abnormal child is enough.”
He had stomped off to Mama Ayo’s room and tossed and turned for the next two hours before he finally decided that he needed something to drink.
“Is the tea not ready?” he snapped at Niniola who had been walking gently behind him. She jumped up startled, and spilled the tea on the floor, just beside his feet.
“Ah sorry sir!” Niniola promptly dropped the tray on the slab and began to plead.
“Are you out of our mind?” he roared, rising up and slapping her face. “All of you are bad luck! Your entire family is cursed!” he said and walked out of the kitchen.
Niniola held her cheek and began to cry. Had she deserved a slap from the chief?
“Chief says you’re pregnant.” Mama said to Mama Eli as they had breakfast. Mama Eli was embarrassed, Mama Ayo was seated at the table too, and she had stopped spreading cheese on her bread when she heard the announcement.
“Is that so?” the elderly woman asked.
“Yes ma.” Mama Eli said.
She smiled. “That’s good news, we need babies in this house.”
Mama Ayo had lost her appetite. To think that chief had been sleeping with her junior wife when she thought that he was being supportive of her struggle was stunning.
“Aren’t you going to congratulate your junior wife?” Mama said mockingly.
Mama Ayo simply got up and left he table.
Mama chuckled deeply.
“You shouldn’t have mentioned it in front of her.” Mama Eli said irritably.
“Nonsense! She should know that her hold over my son is broken.”
“But Mama what do you really hate about her?”
“She’s not good for my son and for that reason I hate her.”
“I’m not going to talk about her. Make sure you take things easy from now on and eat!”
Rhoda wasn’t happy about the pregnancy. Apart from the fact that she was scared of giving birth to another autistic child, she wasn’t ready to have another child. Things were getting really unpleasant with chief and the last thing she wanted was to bring another child into her situation.
Bebeto was packing up a customer’s purchase when her phone rang. It was her sister Comfort.
“Comfort, what is it again?” she snapped.
“Is Niniola there? I’ve been trying to call her…”
“She’s busy! Did you send her here to be receiving your calls?”
“Rhoda don’t be angry. I just wanted to tell her that I gave birth this morning.”
“You gave birth… I didn’t even know you were pregnant! Does Niniola know?” she was surprised and angry.
“I didn’t want to tell you…”
“Because you knew I was going to be angry with you! How could you allow yourself to get pregnant again?”
“Rhoda you know how these men are…” She replied weakly.
“Which men? Please stop talking nonsense!”
“Okay, I’m sorry. Please can you let her come and assist me for a while? I’m really weak.”
“And what will happen to her duties here? She’s busy, too busy to come and attend to you and your brood.”
“Please Rhoda let her come home, even if it’s just for three days.”
“I’ll remove it from her pay.”
“Alright, thank you…”
“Don’t thank me!” she hung up.
Niniola was busy conversing with one their regular customers. She smiled and laughed and thanked the customer profusely for patronizing them. Rhoda couldn’t deny the fact that her niece had brought more customers her way with her smile and warm attitude. The girl just knew how to draw people in. It was a shame that she had to be born to her weak sister.
“Niniola!” she called sternly.
Mama Deji decided to cook dinner since her daughter-in-law was not yet home and she was famished. She brought out five fishes from the freezer and cut them into ten pieces, next she brought out chicken laps and boiled them whole. Her son was going to have a taste of his mother’s cooking. She hummed as she cooked, grateful to have a son she could run away to.
When Deji got back and his mother served him his meal, he knew something wasn’t right. His fish was twice the normal size and he had one serving of a fat chicken lap.
“Mummy,” he said tentatively. “Did Bolatito ask you to help her to do the cooking?”
“No o! I just got tired of waiting. See the time, she’s not back yet and we would have been hungry.”
“You don’t like it?”
“No I do! It’s delicious, I was just wondering.” He said with a smile.
When Bolatito got home Deji quickly lured her into their bedroom to do some damage control.
“What?” Bolatito said astonished when Deji explained the situation. “Ah ah! I didn’t tell her to cook now!” she dropped her bag angrily. “I’ve planned for everything that’s in the freezer.”
“Baby please calm down, imagine what she’s used to…”
“But this is not her house, she can’t just…”
“I know, I know, but she was hungry…”
“So what do you expect me to do Deji? Leave my work to make her dinner?”
“No, no. of course not! But is it possible that you try to make her dinner before you leave?”
“Ah ah! Deji, I make her breakfast and lunch every morning before I leave for work. Do you expect me to add to that stress?”
“I know it’s tough but what can we do?”
“Let her go back home Deji! I’m tired of the amount of work I have to do because she’s here!”
Deji’s face clouded over. “Are you sending my mother away?”
“I’m telling you the solution to this whole thing! I’m tired and stressed out! Things are different here because she’s around. I have to cook every night no matter how tired I am!”
“And the solution is to send her away? Interesting! Well she’s my mother and I say she’s not going anywhere!”
“Really?” Bolatito said angrily. “Okay, well I’m not stressing myself any longer! If you want her to eat order food her!”
Deji stared at his wife in astonishment. “Now I know who you really are.”
“And now I know what your priorities are!” Bolatito shot back.
Niniola walked into her step-father’s house with trepidation. She had sworn not to return here until she had made something of her life. Yet here she was, facing the man who had tried to rape her.
“Good afternoon.” She said coldly.
“So you’ve come back? I thought you would not return here. Go and buy me a beer.”
“I need money.”
“You don’t have any money on you? As old as you are? Aren’t they paying you over there?”
“They’ve not paid my salary.” She retorted.
“So you don’t have any money with you?”
“No I don’t.”
“You’re a liar!”
Niniola merely stared at him before walking into the house.
“Are you out of your mind?! How dare you walk out on me!” he shot up from the chair and made to slap her when their neighbour came into the house.
“Niniola!” Mama Taofeek said. “Welcome! How was your journey?”
“Fine ma.” she replied coolly and followed her inside to see her mother who was lying on the bed. She looked pale.
“Niniola…” she held out her thin arms and took her in.
Niniola couldn’t believe how fragile her mother was. She had lost so much weight and had several scars on her face and arms. Her baby sister was asleep beside her, she looked like her.
“She looks like you.” her mother said as if to confirm her thoughts.
“You look well. My sister is taking good care of you.”
“You look tired and old…” Niniola couldn’t help saying, wiping the tears that had gathered in her eyes.
“Stop crying, I’ll be fine.”
Niniola watched Mama Taofeek wash her baby sister and helped out as much as she could. She was spreading the baby’s cloths outside when the good neighbour came to her side.
“Help your mother Niniola, otherwise the next time you see her she will be dead.” She said quietly and walked away.