“How could you bring your family members into my son’s house? Do you want to kill him with hypertension?” Mama yelled over the phone.
Mama Eli was caught off guard. She had called her mother-in-law hoping to get her support against the harsh treatment she was receiving from her husband. She was confident that things would be resolved as soon as she talked to her. Nothing prepared her for Mama’s reaction.
“And what’s this about you having an abnormal child? I thought something was wrong with that son of yours but I thought that he was just being a spoilt brat. Why didn’t you tell me that he has mental problems?”
“I don’t like deceptive people. Why do you think that I’m against your senior wife? How could you hide something that important from me?”
Mama Eli was angry with herself. She had debated telling her mother-in-law about Yimika’s condition but she had thought that she wouldn’t understand it, even she did not know much about the condition. The truth was that Mama Eli still found it hard to come to terms with the fact that her son had autism. How could she speak unashamedly about something that she herself had not accepted?
“Mama…” she tried again.
“Don’t Mama me! My son said you would call and I have been waiting for you. You will abort that pregnancy if you want to remain in my son’s house. I should even have him throw you out but I like you. Get rid of that pregnancy and save us the stress of taking care of another mad child. I was so stunned when Chief told me about your son, we’ve never had madness in our family. Why did you have to bring such a curse into our family?”
Mama Eli’s nose began to tingle before the first stream of tears cascaded down her face.
“This is your fault! What did you eat in pregnancy? Where did you go? Who did you fight with? I’m sure you fought with someone, you and your big mouth! Someone must have cursed you!” Mama sighed heavily. “Just make sure you get rid of that pregnancy, then I’ll see how I can talk to my son on your behalf”
“Yes ma.” Mama Eli replied.
Mama Deji had just finished her dessert of apple pie. She looked through the glass of the restaurant’s window and smiled at a young mother who was wiping her daughter’s mouth. It was a warm, beautiful day and she was glad that she had decided to leave her hotel. She pulled her eyes away from the mother and her child and brought out a list from her wallet. Next on her list was ballroom dancing. She smiled, for as long as she could remember she had always admired the gracefulness of ballroom dancers and now that she had the means and time to, she decided that it was a good time to learn it.
“Why do you want to go to Paris?” her son Deji had asked when she told him of her plans.
“Because I need a vacation…”
“No, I mean why Paris? Why not London?”
Mama Deji had smiled. “I’ve been to London before, I just want to go somewhere different.”
“Aren’t you concerned about the language?”
“Have you forgotten that I lived in Cote d’Ivoire for a while?”
“Okay, I’m just concerned that you might not enjoy yourself over there. Besides, we don’t have any family friends over there.”
It was precisely what Mama Deji wanted, she wanted to be in a place where she could reflect on her life. She had come to Paris to ask herself tough questions and she had no intention of leaving until she found answers to all of them.
Comfort stood in front of Mrs Rolake Gbolahan with her head bowed and her hands clasped behind her. She could feel the woman’s eyes on her. Mrs. Thompson had called her the day before to tell her that she had found employment for her as a housekeeper and given her the address to the venue.
“Aren’t you a little too old for this job? I don’t want you having a heart attack under my roof!”
“I’m very healthy ma. I just look old, I’m still young ma.”
“Is that so?” she said scornfully. “How old are you?”
“I’m forty ma.”
“Forty! Wow!’’ Mrs Gbolahan was surprised, the woman looked closer to fifty. “How many children do you have?”
“What? Are you a cow? What were you thinking? Do people still have six children in this day and age?”
Comfort didn’t respond, her head remained bowed.
“How many more do you intend having?”
“No more ma. I’m done with childbearing.”
Rolake laughed. “You better be! Because if I find out that you’re pregnant, I will fire you.”
“Yes ma.” Comfort replied.
“I want you to resume at 7am every day except Sunday. You close by 6pm. You’re off on Sunday. I’ll pay you twenty thousand.”
“Thank you ma!” Comfort knelt down gratefully, looking at her employer for the first time. She had never come into possession of such an amount in all her forty years.
“You’re welcome dear.” Mrs Gbolahan said condescendingly. “You resume tomorrow.”
All was well again. Niniola’s siblings were reunited with their mother and she was back to her routine in her aunt’s house. She was also back to her usual calm self and her aunt’s customers commented on her new smile.
“It looks as if you have a new boyfriend. Tell us o!” someone had said the other day. She had laughed it off but then realized that she had not taken any of Dele’s calls or replied to his messages.
As she walked to into the cybercafé she hoped that she would see him. He wasn’t there. Disappointed, she sat down and checked her mail. He had sent a message.
Nawa for you o! u just freed me. anyway I just thot I shd send u a mail. Maybe ull respond. You can send me a mail back if u care.
Niniola smiled and started to type.
I’m very sorry…
Chief Afonja held the phone and tapped his foot restlessly.
“Hello sir.” Pelumi said coolly.
“Pelumi, Pelumi! Are you my son at all?”
Pelumi didn’t respond, he rolled his eyes.
“So if I don’t call you, I wouldn’t hear from you?”
“Sorry sir.” The young man replied tonelessly.
“I know you’re just like your mother. You have a hard heart, you just exclude everybody!”
Pelumi was getting angry. He wondered why he was suddenly important enough to his father. When he married Biola he neglected him and his older brother, and for years the brothers had tried to get their father’s love but resigned themselves to the fact that the only love they would get would come from their mother. He had never forgiven his father for neglecting his mother for the vindictive, beautiful woman he married.
“Pelumi! Can’t you hear me talking to you?” the chief snapped.
“I can hear you sir.”
“So why didn’t you respond to my question?”
“I’m sorry sir.” He hadn’t heard the question. “I was thinking about it.”
“What is there to think about? Pick a day when you’ll come and see me within the next two weeks and let me know.”
It was too late to tell his father that he was busy so he said, “Yes sir.”
Mama Eli was dishing the semo and egusi soup she had made for lunch and singing when she heard a commotion in the sitting room. Wiping her hands on the kitchen napkin, she went to the sitting room and found her mother-in-law yelling. Chief was sitting in a chair, shaking his legs impatiently.
“Where is she?”
“Mama, welcome ma! I didn’t know you were coming…”
“Hold it!” the woman held up her fragile hands. “I have one question for you.”
“What’s it ma?”
“Have you terminated that pregnancy?”
“I said have you terminated that pregnancy?”
“Ma…” Mama Eli was shaking with fear, the old woman looked fierce.
“I will not ask you one more time. Have you gotten rid of that diseased child in you?”
“No ma… there’s nothing wrong with the baby ma…”
“And how do you know that?”
“Maami didn’t I tell you that she’s headstrong? You insisted that I marry her and here we are today!”
“You are an ungrateful child!” the old woman pointed at Mama Eli. “Didn’t I tell you to get rid of the pregnancy? You want to make me look like a fool uhn? Today I will let you know that I married you for my son, you didn’t marry him. Now go up to your room and pack up your things. Get your children and leave my son’s house.
Mama Eli couldn’t believe her ears. The woman standing before her had promised to be always on her side, yet here she was sending her out of her husband’s house.
“Mama this isn’t what you promised me…!”
“And you didn’t say you would be disobedient. There can’t be two masters in one boat!”
“But Mama this baby is fine!”
“You’re wasting my time! Get your things before I get my boys to do it for you.”
Mama Eli then noticed two young men standing by the door. They looked grimly at her. She had nowhere to go, how could they send her away? She got on her knees.
The old woman had had it. She turned to the young men. “Go and get her things!”
“Her room is the fourth room by the right when you get upstairs.” The chief said to them.
The men walked briskly up the stairs and Mama Eli followed them, crying hysterically. Biola came down the stairs wondering about the commotion.
“My dear, don’t worry. We’re just getting rid of a pest.” Chief said, rising to take her in his arms.
Mama pursed her lips angrily she had to get Mama Eli’s replacement as soon as possible.
Mama Eli knocked on the door and waited. She wiped her face and pulled her children closer. Niniola wiped her face as well. The door opened.
“What are you doing here? What’s going on?” Comfort asked, staring aghast at her sister.
“Chief and his mother threw me out.” She said simply.
“Come in.” Comfort said compassionately.