“Generosity has its limits, you know that!” said Rhoda’s mother to her as they sat in the reception giving Comfort some time to talk with Niniola.
“But Maami what should I have done? Should I have abandoned Comfort’s children?”
“I’m not saying you should have…”
“Or should I have brought them over to you?”
“So what are you saying Maami?”
“I’m saying you could have taken them to Elijah’s place and bought them to your house one after another.”
“Taken them to Elijah’s house?”
Elijah was their only surviving brother who worked as a bricklayer in Lagos. Rhoda couldn’t understand why her mother would suggest that her grandchildren be taken to her brother who was struggling to make ends meet for his own growing family. The last time she’d heard from him, he was asking her for money for his fourth child’s school fees.
“Maami, Elijah would not have taken them. Five children? How would he have coped?”
“He would have coped. After all, he’s a man.”
Rhoda shook her head. This was the reason why she stayed in chief’s house, despite the insults and humiliation. Her family was hopeless, and she wasn’t willing to go back to being hopeless. Every penny and benefit she was able to get from being married to Chief was worth it.
“I hope you have money to pay for her medical bills?” her mother asked her, wiping her forehead with the edge of her wrapper.
“I do.” she replied coldly.
“You can’t afford to be thrown out of Chief’s house. Do whatever he says you should do. Or do you want to come back to selling eko in our town?”
“Good. Do what he wants, even if it means throwing out your sister’s children. We can’t afford not to have a rich person in this family.”
“I should do what he wants, even if it means aborting a pregnancy?”
Her mother looked sharply at her and then looked away. “Ask yourself if you would rather be selling eko.”
“So what do we do?” Comfort said, folding her arms.
“You need to start a business Maami. We need something to sustain ourselves by.”
“Alright, but I don’t have any money.”
Niniola sighed. “What about getting a job? I’ll try to call Mrs Thompson, she might have a job for you as a cleaner.”
“Alright.” Comfort said sadly, remembering the circumstances that had brought her to this point.
“Maami don’t cry…” Niniola said. “It’s over, we’ve escaped.”
Comfort wasn’t convinced. What if he found her?
Babajide still couldn’t believe that he had been arrested and was in prison awaiting trial. Comfort had always been weak, but he should have known better than to underestimate the girl, Niniola. Everytime he thought of the arrest, he got angry with himself for not cutting off her lips like he had planned.
He flicked his ears where a fly had been perching a few seconds ago, and felt his stomach growl. He was famished, he hadn’t had anything to eat all day.
A policeman came into view, rattling a bunch of keys he was holding and opening the gate with one of them.
“You have a visitor.” He said and led him to the counter where he saw a tired looking man and his mother waiting.
“Maami. You’re here, why are you here?” He asked angrily, unhappy about the fact that she had seen him humiliated.
“Why am I here?” she asked irritably. “What do you mean by that? Should I have left you here?”
“Sorry ma, I didn’t mean it that way.” He replied gruffly.
His mother clapped her hands together in amazement and sighed. “Anyway,” she said, getting over her disappointment and anger with her son. “This is Barrister Familuyi. He will be handling your case.”
“Good morning Babajide.”
Babajide felt insulted that this barrister would call him by his first name. Who did he think he was?
“See how you’re calling my name as if you’re my father! How old are you?” he asked irritably.
The barrister couldn’t believe his ears. He looked incredulously at the client’s mother. “Is this the person you called me to advocate for?”
“Please don’t be offended. He’s arrogant, he’s always been like this.’
The lawyer shook his head slightly amused, the bog-mouthed man had no idea how much trouble he was in. Just as he was about to respond to him, an elderly man came into the station.
“Babajide…” the elderly man said looking sadly at his nephew who had looked away. “Why did you put yourself in this trouble?”
“Olori ebi I didn’t mean to. She provoked me.”
“She provoked you? And what about her daughter whose lips you cut? Did she also provoke you?”
“Look, it was a small household misunderstanding. It’s not that serious…”
“It actually is, do you know how long you might spend in prison?” Barrister Familuyi asked.
“Isn’t that what you’re here for? Find a way to get me out of this place.”
The lawyer shook his head and faced Babajide’s mother. “Can you get to his wife, or the wife’s family? The only way to stop this case from going to court is if the family drops the charges.”
“You want me to beg Comfort and that spoilt brat of hers? God forbid!”
“Babajide…” his mother called. “Think about this, do you want to go to prison?”
Babajide shook his head dismissively. “I’m hungry, did you bring food?”
His mother looked at him sorrowfully, he had always been too arrogant for his own good.
Ene Johnson was impressed with the progress Yimika was making but she was concerned that the boy’s mother wasn’t as aware of her child’s condition as she ought to be. Mama Eli was only concerned with results; what new words the boy could say, if she was teaching him to be toilet-trained, when he could start studying in a regular school.
As she rounded up her session with Yimika, she made up her mind to talk with his mother who was busy talking on the phone with her friend. Yimika was coloring a dinosaur in his workbook, she closed her handbag and sought out Rhoda who was laughing hysterically at something the person on the other end was saying.
Shifting her weight from one leg to another, she leaned forward on the chair she was sitting on outside the kitchen. This was her favorite thing to do after a long day, sit on a chair outside the house, gist with a friend and enjoy the evening breeze.
“Mrs Afonja…” Ene called softly.
Rhoda turned to face her. “You know what? Let me call you back, Yimika’s teacher wants to talk to me… no problem… yes… bye.”
She hung up and faced the therapist. “Aunty Ene, hope there’s no problem?”
“No ma. I just wanted to discuss a few things with you.”
“Okay let’s go in.”
Reluctantly, Rhoda led the therapist back to the sitting room where Yimika was still busy with his workbook.
“Do you know how many of these workbooks I’ve bought? This boy is just wasting my money on coloring! If I had something else to distract him with, I would give it to him.”
Ene smiled. “You should encourage him to color. It’s his gift. Have you seen what he does? How many adults can do it? You need to let him explore his artistic side.”
“Explore? Aunty Ene please, this will not put food on his table. He needs to start writing so that he can be enrolled in a good school.”
“Madam,” Ene sighed. “You need to take it one step at a time. She reached for her handbag and produced a book.
“I want you to read this book ma. It will help you understand Yimika better. There’s also a conference coming up in two weeks. It’ll be good for you to attend it and meet other parents who have children on the autism spectrum.”
Rhoda looked at the book in her hands 10 Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew. “I’ve heard you.”
“It is important that you educate yourself about your son’s condition, otherwise you can disrupt the work I’m doing with him or hinder his development.”
“Aunty Ene, look I will not lie to you, I don’t have time to read this book.”
“You have to make time! This is about your child.” the therapist replied passionately.
“Okay.” She replied sarcastically and got up. “I need to check on the porridge I’m cooking.”
Rhoda walked away because she didn’t want to snap at the therapist. While she applauded her for the work she was doing on Yimika she wasn’t ready to be involved like she was suggesting. She had too much on her mind and another baby on the way.
Later that night, chief came into her room.
“Have you aborted that pregnancy?” he asked plainly.
“It’s okay. This is twenty thousand.” He flung a bundle of notes at her.
Rhoda was getting tired of the treatment she was getting from her husband. Her husband was giving her her allowance in trickles to frustrate her. She made up her mind to call her mother-in-law the next day to intervene in the situation. Her eyes fell on the book the therapist had given her, and she tossed it in the bedside drawer.
Biola was walking down the aisle for toiletries when she saw him. He was a middle-aged man with a sprinkling of grey hair in his short afro. He was holding a body spray, obviously contemplating whether or not to buy it.
“You should buy it. It’ll be suitable for a man like you.”
“Really?” the man said, facing her. “And what kind of a man am I?”
“Strong, decisive, intelligent.”
He smiled. “And you can tell this how?”
“I’m intuitive. I know a good man when I see one.” She smiled.
He smiled back. “Lekan Adebanjo. It’s nice to meet you.” He offered his hand.
“Biola Afonja. It’s nice to meet you too.” She took his.
As she walked away from him, she wondered if she hadn’t been too forward. The man had not done anything to follow up on their conversation, She liked him but she knew that it wasn’t proper for her to flirt with any man. Once again, Biola wondered why she was married to Chief Afonja.
“My sons’ future must be secure.” She thought to herself. “How can I move on with another man and keep my sons’ inheritance safe?”
Biola realized that all that was stopping her was the fear of her sons’ future. From that moment on, she began to plot ways of keeping her sons’ future safe, so she could be free.