The Family Part 26
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“Comfort do you like my necklace?” Mrs Gbolahan asked.
“Yes ma.” the housekeeper replied dutifully.
“My husband bought it for me. It’s good to be married to a good man, it so peaceful!” she gushed.
“It is.” Comfort replied, unable to hide her sarcasm.
Mrs Gbolahan misinterpreted Comfort’s sarcasm. She thought the woman was being envious of her good fortune.
“Comfort, rejoice with those who rejoice! Don’t be so envious. Who knows if your life will get better because you’re working for me?”
“Yes ma.” Comfort replied tonelessly. Her boss had completely misunderstood her but she preferred this to her suspicion. The boss’s husband came into the kitchen scratching his beard.
“What’s going on?”
“Oh it’s nothing, she was just being silly.” Mrs Gbolahan waved her hand dismissively, going over to him and holding him close. Comfort looked away, quietly resuming her chore at the sink.
“Let’s spend today together uhn?” he murmured into her ears.
“You’re the one on leave o! I have a business to run!”
“When you get back then? I’ll miss you.” He pulled her closer into his arms and kissed her longingly. “’You know I have eyes for only you baby.”
“Hmm… I hope so.” She replied breathlessly and slapped his chest playfully. “You’ve ruined my make-up!”
“What? It’s not as if you won’t retouch it several times today.”
The wife laughed and left the kitchen.
“What was that about?” Mr Gbolahan asked sternly as soon as he was sure that his wife was gone.
“Nothing sir. She asked me if I liked her necklace…”
“I heard your entire conversation, so I know what you did. Look woman, you can’t come from whatever slum you came from and destroy a marriage I’ve spent years building. Do you hear me?”
“If my wife finds out what’s going on here, I will make your already miserable life a nightmare. Do you understand me?”
“Yes sir, sorry sir.” Comfort replied pleadingly. She hated the situation she was in but she couldn’t afford to lose her job or the benefits she was enjoying here. When her boss was in a good mood, she gave her leftover food which was always something her children looked forward to. She decided that she would hide whatever feelings she had and just do her job.
Rhoda was exhausted. Yimika was in therapy with Ene and he wasn’t in the mood to be cooperative. He was crying inconsolably and nothing that the therapist said or did could pacify him.
“Let’s color the clown Yimika! Would you like to do that?” Ene tried again.
“Oh look at this beautiful blue bird!” She held up one of his favorite pictures. The boy bawled even louder. Ene sighed and took deep breaths, the child was beginning to get on her nerves. He was having one of his classic tantrums.
“Keep quiet!” Rhoda yelled at the boy in frustration.
“No, no, no ma! That won’t help!”
“So what do we do? Are we just going to let him continue screaming?”
“We need to calm down ma, we can’t show him that we’re not in control. He’s confused and frightened…”
“Of what? You? Me? Why does he have to cry all the time?” Rhoda cried out in frustration as the boy continued to cry.
Ene didn’t know how else to pacify the agitated mother. She looked around the room and noted that there were new red throw pillows.
“When did you get these ma?”
“What?” Rhoda asked irritably.
“These pillows…” Ene got up and began to pack them up.
“We bought them yesterday afternoon… What are you doing?”
“I think the color is setting him off…”
“Making him uncomfortable! Red is too intense for children on the autism spectrum.”
“I just bought them yesterday! My Dear will be angry o!”
“Madam, I’ve told you to read up on autism. They respond negatively to change because they like routine! You just moved to this house, that’s a hard change for him. You can’t decorate your house with bold colors that are too intense for him!” the therapist explained.
Yimika’s fretting had reduced to a low whine. Rhoda couldn’t believe what had just happened, she had been on the verge of smacking the boy.
“Thank God you’re here…” she said astonished.
“There’s someone here to see you ma.” Biola’s secretary said.
She looked up to see the grey-haired man who had just walked into her office.
“I hope I didn’t come at a bad time?”
“Lekan! No you didn’t. Please come in!”
Biola got up and walked around her table to the lavender couch that had been placed against the wall.
“Please sit down, what can I offer you?”
“I was actually hoping that I could take you out for lunch.”
Biola remembered her recent unfortunate experience. “Let’s eat here. I can send one of my girls to whatever restaurant we decide.”
“Are you afraid of someone seeing you?”
“Not at all, I just prefer eating here. It’s… less stressful for me.”
“Alright, no problem.”
An hour later they were eating and laughing, talking about everything and nothing. Biola watched Lekan’s graceful movements and the way he laughed deeply. When he smiled, there was a twinkle in his eye and his teeth dazzled.
“I’m glad I came here today. It was good to see you laugh so hard!” he said.
“Well I haven’t had so much to laugh or smile about recently.”
Biola smiled mirthlessly. “I don’t really want to talk about it.”
“That’s okay, I’m glad I made you feel better.”
“You did.” She replied, raising her hand to her hair. Lekan saw the lighter shade on her finger where her ring was supposed to be.
“Are you married?” he asked startled.
“Well… sort of…”
“Oh my God! I just spent two hours flirting with a married woman?”
“Do I look like a twenty-something year old? You didn’t think I could be married?” she asked irritably, angry that Lekan wanted to be self-righteous.
“I thought you were divorced, separated or widowed! You didn’t act like a married woman!”
“Oh really? And how did I act?”
“Available. You gave me the signal that you were available.”
“Maybe because I am…” Biola murmured.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means I want out of my marriage, I’m not happy. I want another life!”
Lekan looked at Biola, unsure of how to respond to her outburst. He enjoyed being with her but he didn’t chase after married women. It was against his principles.
“I like you Lekan, I want to spend some more time with you. I may be married now but I’m looking for a way out.”
“He doesn’t make me happy and I can’t continue like this anymore. I want to be loved and pampered. Is that too much to ask for?”
Lekan looked at her and sighed. He liked her too much to leave her.
Comfort had an uncomfortable feeling about her daughter. Perhaps it was the way she lurked around her earlier in the day, asking unnecessary questions and offering to help. She knew something was up but not how to find it out.
“Has your sister been acting strange lately?” she asked Olayemi who she knew was prone to telling things the way he saw them.
“Not really… she has been giving us things.”
“What kind of things?”
“Like suya, like sweet.” He laughed. “Yesterday she brought meatpie! It was very delicious!”
Comfort was certain that her daughter was in some kind of trouble. Where was she getting the money to buy treats from? Even she couldn’t afford to buy meat! She was busy all day at the Gbolahans, How could she monitor her daughter’s movements?
“She goes out but she comes before you get back.”
“’When does she come back?”
“In the afternoon.”
Niniola was not exactly happy with her new profession as a dancer but she decided that it wasn’t so bad, since she wasn’t actually taking her clothes off or sleeping with the men. She was merely dancing sensuously and hitching up her skirts. It made her happy to know that she could afford to buy treats for her siblings and provide lunch for them when they got back from school. She had stopped thinking of school, who needed school when there was money?
Dele had changed towards her, he touched her more and was even more irritable. He was enthusiastic about her dancing but as soon as she was done he acted as if it had been entirely her idea. The day before, he had squeezed her arm so hard that she cried out in pain. What made him so angry?
As she changed into her clothes she thought of how angry he had looked while she danced, sitting in a corner, drinking his beer slowly. He had still refused to give her her full payment and he insisted that she hand over all the money she got from the pole.
She stepped out of the bathroom and saw Dele smiling. She smiled back uncertainly, something didn’t look right.
“You looked so beautiful this afternoon.”
“You’ve been working so hard. I have a surprise for you.”
“Yes, let’s go.” He said, holding her by the waist and leading her outside the club.
Niniola wondered what surprise Dele had for her and was amazed by how swiftly his mood could change. Her phone rang and she looked at it. It was her mother.
“Where are you?” her mother said without preamble. “I’m at home and you’re not here. Where are you?”
“Get here in the next fifteen minutes!”
Comfort had managed to get permission to leave work earlier than usual. As expected, Niniola wasn’t home. She couldn’t believe that her daughter would allow herself to get into any kind of trouble, after her experience with her step-father. Hadn’t she reasoned with her? Explained how dangerous an abusive relationship was and the need to further her education?
The door opened and Niniola walked in timidly.
“Where are you coming from?”
“I said where are you coming from?”
“I went for… I went to buy…”
“What is that on your face?”
Comfort got up and cupped her daughter’s face in her sturdy hands, poking at her eyelids and mouth.
“Niniola this is lipstick on your face! Where are you coming from?”
Comfort slapped her daughter hard, holding on to her face.
“Is this not lipstick and black pencil? Where are you coming from?”
Niniola shook with fear, her mother was going to kill her.
“I will kill you before you kill me. Do you hear me? Kneel down!”
And so began Niniola’s interrogation. By the time Comfort was done with her daughter, she was surprised, angry, but most of all disappointed.