Bebeto was eating a very ripe mango. The juice ran down the length of her arms and she licked them all the way to her elbows. Niniola was disgusted. She looked at the girl’s juice stained mouth and wondered how it was that she who had come from a small town was more civilized than someone who had been living in a city for almost two years.
“Are you sure you don’t want a mango?” she asked Niniola.
“No thank you.”
“Mama Rasheed’s children are always sick! She’s probably in a group.”
“In a group?” Niniola asked confused.
“Yes, maybe they’re asking her to donate her children’s blood.”
“You mean like a… you think she’s a witch?” Niniola looked at Mama Rasheed’s shop.
“Yes, and you will notice how well her sales improve after the child is well.”
Niniola stared at her companion unbelievingly. “Bebeto!”
“Oh you think it’s impossible? I’ve been observing her for some time now…”
Bebeto stopped talking when Mama Eli came into the shop, holding her big handbag and her food basket.
“I knew you would be discussing irrelevant things and indulging in all kinds of foolishness! Bebeto! What is this?” she dropped her handbag and pointed menacingly at the girl.
“Ma… Sorry ma… it’s mango…”
“And that’s why you messed your whole face up with it? Are you crazy? Do you think this is your grandfather’s house?” she charged at the girl and slapped her hard across the cheek.
“Get out of my sight and go and clean yourself up! And you,” she turned towards Niniola who immediately went on her knees. “You people were talking while customers were passing by, not so?”
Niniola knew better than to argue with her. “Sorry ma.”
“Get out of my sight!”
Mama Eli fell into her chair and wiped the sweat on her head. She knew she had been irrational but the girls had chosen the wrong day to get on her nerves. She had just come from the doctor’s office where she had been told that her son Yimika was autistic. Autistic, she had never even heard of the condition before.
“It is a brain disorder which affects behaviour and social skills but it can be managed. Early intervention is key which is why I’m glad that you’re here now.”
“Doctor please just give us the medicine. I have to get to my shop quickly.”
The doctor had smiled. “This is not a condition that can be cured which is why I was talking about managing it. What you need to do is to get professionals who will help him manage his condition. This is something that you will deal with for the rest of his life, and the sooner you begin to manage it, the better.”
She had sat up then. “What are you saying doctor? My son cannot be cured? He will continue to be different for the rest of his life? How will he get a job? Will he ever be toilet trained? Will he ever get married? You have to help me! What will I tell my husband? How will I tell chief that his son is abnormal?”
”Madam please don’t call him abnormal…”
“So what is he?” she looked scornfully at the boy who bobbed his head repeatedly, staring at the doctor’s table.
“Get him some help madam.” The doctor had replied, placing a card in her upturned fleshy hand.
Now as she sat she began to cry silently. The world would blame her for having an abnormal child. She thought of the things she had done throughout the period of her pregnancy,
“’How do I tell Chief that his son is abnormal?” she thought as she began to cry. It was a good time for Niniola and Bebeto to be out of her sight. Her face was contorted in different forms of anguish.
“Alright I will be expecting you tomorrow.” Mama Deji said.
“Thank you ma.” her customer replied gratefully as she left the shop.
“Put those fabrics aside so that when she comes tomorrow we won’t have to start cutting them up.”
“But what happens if she doesn’t come tomorrow ma?” Ronke her assistant asked.
“She will.” Mama Deji said with certainty.
She knew for a certainty that the woman who had just left her shop wouldn’t betray her trust, just as she had known that her husband was having an affair after over fifteen years of marriage. When his family members came to their house that Saturday afternoon to tell her that her husband’s concubine was pregnant and that they weren’t going to let the child be born out of wedlock she hadn’t been surprised. She had sat quietly and nodded repeatedly. Still it had hurt her deeply that her husband would betray her after all they had been through together.
But she had seen it coming the day he was coronated as a chief. She sighed again out of habit and stared absentmindedly.
“Mummy…” Ronke called gently. “You said you had an errand for me to run today.”
“Ah yes!” she said, grabbing her bag from the small table beside her and bringing out a white envelope. “Please go and pay this into Pelumi’s account. The account details are written on the paper.”
“Yes ma.” Ronke said and made to leave.
“How is your son doing now?”
“He’s fine ma. He’s doing well in his school. The teacher says he knows his letters so well.”
“I told you!” Mama Deji said with a smile. “I knew he was ready for school.”
“Thank you ma.” Ronke said with a smile and left the store.
Mama Deji brought out her phone and dialed her son’s number.
“Pelumi, how are you?”
“Fine ma. I tried to call you last night.”
“Yes, sorry I missed your call. I was really tired.”
“Mummy, I keep telling you that you’re overworking yourself! Are you thinking again?”
“No I’m not, you know I have so much to do…”
“Mummy, please. Only the living can do any kind of work.”
“Okay, I’ve heard you. I know you’re just looking out for me.”
“Yes I am.”
“How’s Lagos? Hope you’re not too stressed? I don’t know how anyone can even live in that Lagos.”
Pelumi laughed. “It’s the city of opportunities! You should see how well I’m doing now. As soon as I get my new laptop I’ll go for that training I was telling you about.”
“That reminds me, Ronke is on her way to the bank to pay one hundred and fifty thousand into your account. That’s how much I can afford. I’m sure you have some savings you can add to it so you can go for your training.”
“Mummy! Ah you shouldn’t have done that.”
“Why? Because you’re a man? You’re still my child.”
Pelumi was overwhelmed by his mother’s kindness. “Thank you mummy. I really appreciate it.”
“I know… it’s always my pleasure to see my children happy.”
Mother and son talked some more and then it was time for them to say their goodbyes.
“Aren’t you going to ask about your father?”
“Why should I ask about him? I’m sure his extra women are taking care of him.”
Mama Deji sighed. Her children had accepted their father’s actions but had never quite forgiven him.
“Pelumi, he’s still your father…”
“Mummy, please take care of yourself for me. Very soon I will come and take you out of that house.”
“I can’t leave my husband…”
“What husband? Mummy please I have to go now.”
“I’m about to board a bus. Bye ma.”
Mama Deji sighed and once again cursed the day the king’s representatives had come to their house to announce the king’s decision to make her husband a chief.
Chief Afonja sat across from his stockbroker and took a sip from his drink.
“The price keeps crashing sir.” The man said gravely.
“Lanihun, you have destroyed me.”
“I kept asking you about this company. I told you my reservations but you said I should stay with them. “Trust me chief!” you said. See what has happened now.”
“Chief this is unprecedented, it…”
“Your mistake was your lack of intuition, mine was in trusting you blindly even when I knew something could happen.”
“Chief I’m really sorry…”
“Save your apologies, what’s the solution?”
“I think you should sell your stocks now before the price crashes even further.”
Chief Afonja leaned back in his seat and stared at the broker. “For how much?”
“Fifteen naira, eighty five kobo.”
“From ninety three naira, Lanihun!”
“Sir, I know it’s a difficult choice to make but at least you get something out and you can invest it into something else.”
Chief Afonja shook his head and placed his head in his hands. “You can go.”
“Chief we have to act fast.”
“I said you can go.”
The chief looked sternly at the handsome broker. “Lanihun. Go.”
Mama Ayo also known as Biola Afonja was at her desk making a shopping list. She needed to restock the supermarket and her workers also needed to be paid. She put her head in one hand and beat the table with the pencil in her other hand.
“A beautiful woman shouldn’t look so worried.”
She looked up and saw the young charmer who had been to her supermarket some weeks ago. This handsome man was trouble to her horny, neglected, married self. She smiled politely at him.
“Good evening ma’am. I came by to see how your day was going and you look like it was stressful.”
“I’m fine.” She replied. “How can I help you?”
“I don’t need anything, I just came to see how you were doing.”
“Really?” Mama Ayo said and massaged her temples. She wondered what to do with the insolent young man.
“What is your name?” she asked.
“Gbenga.” He replied with a dashing smile.
“Okay Gbenga, I’m very fine thank you.” she replied with a slightly serious tone. This was a customer and she didn’t want him to feel insulted and prevent his other rich friends from coming to her supermarket. Referral was important in this business.
“Okay, I’ll just be on my way then. It’s always a pleasure to see your beautiful face ma’am. Your husband must be a lucky man.”
A lucky man that can’t touch his wife, lucky indeed, she thought but smiled. “Thank you.”
As Gbenga walked out of the supermarket, all he could think of was the lovely plump woman whose name he didn’t even know.