Niniola was banned from going anywhere beyond the store where they bought provisions and foodstuffs and Olayemi was entrusted with the duty of telling his mother if his sister flouted the rules. The relationship between mother and daughter was strained in a way that could not be easily repaired and Comfort blamed herself entirely for this. Something about her life or lifestyle had pushed her daughter to be a club dancer, it had made her disregard her mother’s warnings and experiences.
Niniola was equally sad at the situation. She had been her mother’s confidant, friend and defender and now it seemed that betraying her mother with Dele had destroyed the history between them.
“You were there! You saw how my life was! Did I not raise you to have more sense than this? You want to throw your life way because of a boy?”
“I wanted to help you ma…”
“By parading yourself in front of strange men? By spending time with that foolish boy I warned you about? God forbid that I’ll be a mother who will sacrifice her daughter’s dignity for money! I’m starting life afresh, all I needed you to do was study your books, got to that school abroad and be a good example for your younger ones!”
“I’m sorry ma…”
“So you left Adura with them? What if something had happened that they couldn’t handle?”
“I’m sorry ma…” Niniola kept crying, wiping her face.
“I’m disappointed in you! You have broken my heart…” her mother had broken down in tears, crying bitterly and leaving the room.
Now Niniola thought of her actions, realizing where she had gone wrong and acknowledging the fact that she had allowed herself to be carried away by feelings. Nothing however made her more depressed than the look on her siblings’ faces, they felt let down. They didn’t look her in the eyes.
“This woman wants your father to disinherit you.” Mama Deji said to her boys, Deji and Pelumi. She had decided that one of the best ways to win the war against Mama Ayo was to get her sons to fight with her.
“She can’t do that! I don’t think our father is that foolish!” Pelumi said.
“Pelumi! You will not speak of your father that way! He may have made mistakes but he’s still your father!”
“But really, why would Daddy allow this woman to destroy everything?” Deji wondered.
“Deji, you should understand your father better now that you’re married. You know how it can be…”
“I can’t believe that you’re still defending the man after all he’s done!” Pelumi said, unable to control his feelings about his father.
“Pelumi…” Deji cautioned and his younger brother took a deep breath.
“You think I’m happy about this ehn Pelumi?” Mama Deij said
“I don’t know Mummy, I just know that you’re always making excuses for him.”
Mama Deji shook her head. “You’re being childish. I’m taking about your inheritances and you’re there focusing on your father’s weaknesses.”
“Okay what can we do about it?” Deji asked. “If he doesn’t want to give us his money, there’s nothing we can do. Thank God my brother and I are doing well, we’re not relying on his money to survive.”
Mama Deji’s mouth was agape. “So you will allow a strange woman and her children to take your inheritances because you don’t need the money? Can you hear yourself?”
“Mummy what do you want us to do?” Pelumi replied, taking sides with his brother. “Do you expect us to threaten him?”
“Ah ah! Have you both been charmed?” she sat up straight. “So you’re telling me that you’re okay with whatever happens to your father’s properties? What about your children, will they be happy?”
“Our children will be content with their father’s wealth. We don’t intend to marry a dozen women. Abi Deji?”
Deji spread his palms out. “We can’t force him to give us something if he doesn’t want to.”
Mama Deji leaned back in her chair and shook her head. Her battles had just become greater, she wondered how she’d raised her sons. How could they just accept whatever life threw at them without fighting back?
“Mummy, you want us to fight but you never did, not when he took the first wife or the second.” Deji said softly, reading her puzzled look. “We are your sons.”
Mama sat comfortably in the seat and took a long drink from the glass of juice that had just been served. Mama Ayo watched her from the corner of her eyes as she closed the pack of juice. The woman had something planned and she could feel it.
“Do you need anything else ma? Should I make some amala for you?”
“No, I’m fine. Just call my son.”
Mama smiled as her daughter-in-law went up the stairs. It was good to be the mother of a son who valued her.
“Maami.” The chief greeted, bowing his head.
“My son. Sit down. It’s good to see you.”
“It is? You haven’t been calling me like you used to, and when I call you, you sound cold.”
“Don’t mind me, I’ve just been busy at my shop. How is everything?”
“And how is your wife coping without a maid?”
“It’s been a bit difficult. She’s employed some people to clean the house but there’s no one to send on simple errands and help to watch the children. I think she’s working on getting a maid though.”
“Ah you need not worry about that. I have brought someone to do all the work for you. She’s a daughter to one of my helpers. She’s worked with me for some time and I know she’ll work well.”
“Oh! Where is she?”
“Hold on.” The old woman brought out her phone ad dialed a number. “Tell her to come in.”
“Ah ah Maami! Why didn’t you just bring her in?”
“Ah you know how unpredictable you can be sometimes. I didn’t want you to embarrass me!”
“Ah Maami, I’m still your son!” the chief slid closer to his mother as the door opened. A slim unassuming girl walked in, she was dressed in a faded, oversized ankara gown and muddy rubber slippers. Her short hair though plaited, was rough and her skin was dry and scaly. Her acne riddled face was also full of blackheads. Chief Afonja recoiled at the sight of the girl.
“Good afternoon sir.” She said in heavily accented Yoruba.
“Hmmn hmmn.” The chief responded dismissively. “I think my wife should see her.”
“Ah if you say so!” the old woman folded her hands together as the chief got up to go and get his wife who had already been listening in on the conversation.
“Just relax.” Mama said to the girl who was still kneeling down.
When Mama Ayo saw the girl, she was repulsed. How could the old woman bring someone so filthy to their home?
“What is your name?”
“Gbemi Oladokun ma.”
“Gbemi… how old are you?”
“You look older than that.” Biola noted.
“That’s how we are in my house. We’re tall.”
Biola looked at her again. Something about the girl didn’t sit right with her.
“Do you know how to clean well?”
“I can do anything you want me to do ma. I’m very hardworking.”
“You look very dirty.” Biola said, unable to hide her repulsion.
“It’s because we’re just coming from a journey. She doesn’t normally look this way.” Mama came to the girl’s rescue.
“Okay.” Mama Ayo said reluctantly. “I don’t like thieves, dirty people and lazy people. Do you understand?”
“She’ll do well. Show her to her room and let her freshen up so that she can begin work.”
“Alright. Come with me.” Biola beckoned to her.
As soon as they were gone, the chief said to his mother. “But mummy you should have brought someone with better class!”
“Do you prefer someone with class or someone who is a good housekeeper?”
The chief was silent.
Oladapo leaned back in the chair and belched.
“That was delicious!”
Rhoda smiled. “Thank you. I thought it had been a while since I made pounded yam and efo riro for you.”
“I just hope it wasn’t too much stress?”
“No it wasn’t. I bought the pounded yam at that eatery…”
“Oh the one we went to last week?”
“Okay. And how is the baby?” he smiled at her.
“Fine, the baby has been kicking all day.”
Oladapo was worried. “Please take it easy.”
“I will! Don’t be so worried!”
They went to bed and fell asleep for four hours. Rhoda woke up and felt a sudden wetness around her groin. She sat up slowly and touched her nightgown. It was wet.
“Ah ah! Did I wet the bed?” she murmured to herself as she felt a stiffening on her abdomen. Then it occurred to her what this wetness was. Her water had broken.
“Dapo!” she slapped his arm frantically. “The baby is coming!”
Rhoda held on to the bed as she screamed in pain.
“I can’t take it anymore! I can’t!”
“Madam please calm down, we need to see how far you’ve gone and do a scan.” The matron said.
Suddenly she spread her legs. “I’m going to push!”
“Madam you’ve done this before now! Calm down!” the matron had lost her patience with this loud woman who making a scene in the middle of the night.
“The baby’s head is out!”
At this, the matron looked in between her legs and saw that the woman did know what she was saying.
“Where is your bag? Just hold on o! Hold on! Don’t push o!”
“I can’t endure it any longer!”
The matron dashed outside the room for a clean towel and came back with another nurse, just in time to receive the head of the child that had just been born. Rhoda sighed deeply, grateful for the end of the painful experience.
“Congratulations, it’s a boy!”
“Thank you!”’ she said and gasped in pain.
“Ah ah! What is it? Madam are you contracting again?”
“I don’t know!”
“You don’t know? Are you having twins?”
“I don’t know!”
“You don’t know?” the matron said looking in between legs. “Ah, this woman is having twins! Can you imagine?!”
“Ah!!!” Rhoda moaned.
“Hold on o!” the matron yelled as the nurse dashed out to get more help.
Gbemi thought of everything that had led her to this house and room.
“Do it for us please? I know this is a difficult thing I’m asking for, but please just do what Mama says. Who knows, you may be the one God will use to save this family.” her mother had said.
The girl sighed and locked the door, then she pulled up her blouse and began to wrap a cloth around her full breasts. When she was done, she breathed out deeply and opened the door.