Mama Deji reached for her medicines and swallowed them with a glass of water. Niniola watched her grimace as the pills passed through her throat.
“Do you need anything else ma? Should I bring you some rice?”
Mama Deji shook her head. “No, just bring me something cold to drink.”
As Niniola went to do her bidding Mama Deji thought of her conversation with Mama Eli earlier in the day.
“Chief drugged me! I know he did.”
“Mama Eli how can you accuse him of something so scandalous? Why would he drug you? If he didn’t want to sleep with you wouldn’t he have just said that?”
“He couldn’t tell me that because he went to Mama Ayo’s room.” She replied painfully.
“He went to Mama Ayo’s room?”
“How do you know that?”
“Because she had a big smile on her face this morning. I know he went there.”
“Hmm…” she sighed deeply. “This is not a light accusation.”
“I know, that’s why I told you first before going to report to the family elders.”
Mama Deji had looked at her junior wife sharply. “It is good that you came to tell me. You don’t have to tell anybody.”
“Do something about it. Tell him I know what he did and he must do the right thing. I am not his slave or concubine, I am his wife!”
“Yes, I will tell him.” she had said pacifyingly.
Niniola came back with a cold bottle of Coke and poured it out.
“Thank you.” she said to the girl.
Chief was playing with fire and he didn’t know it. Mama Eli was a very impulsive woman who could take an unnecessary action which would put the family in bad light. She wondered why her husband didn’t think things through. Knowing he wasn’t capable of being married to three wives, why had he ventured into it? She shook her head and hissed sadly. Her mother had seen his cunningness through his façade of charm.
Niniola told her mother about the money Chief gave her.
She sighed. “Are you sure he doesn’t want anything?”
“That’s what he said. In fact he said I’m not his type.”
“That’s good. So did you tell your aunt?”
“No. He said I shouldn’t tell her.”
“And you shouldn’t. Rhoda is not a very understanding person and she can send you away if she finds out. What have you done with the money?”
“I put it in the bank.”
“Good. Don’t let her see the money. Start a business with it.”
“I should start a business? What kind of business? Will Aunty Rhoda allow it?”
“What about selling recharge cards?”
“Okay… I think I can do that.”
“You will do it. I will talk to her and she will let you. I will tell her that I am sending you some money.”
“Will it work?”
“It will. Keep your head up and mind your business over there.”
Rhoda was still furious over what her husband had done. But she felt more foolish than angry, she had thought that his kindness towards her was genuine. She hadn’t known that it was just a ploy to make sure that he got her where he wanted. She had endured her husband’s scorn throughout her marriage but to see how much he despised her made her feel very inconsequential and rejected.
She inspected a tin of milk and saw that it was dented.
“Ah ah Bebeto! When did this tin of milk get dented?”
“I don’t know ma. I’m just seeing it.”
“You’re very stupid! So you destroyed it and thought I wouldn’t find it abi?”
“No ma, I’m just seeing it I swear!”
“Don’t worry, I will deduct it from your salary.”
Just then, Niniola came back from where she had gone to buy the recharge cards.
“And where are you coming from?’
‘”I went to by recharge cards…” she replied confused, her aunt was aware of her errand.
“Which of you dented this tin?”
“I don’t know ma…”
“You two want to destroy my business?”
“Sorry ma.” she got her knees while Bebeto looked on.
Rhoda turned away and sat down. Just as quickly as her temper had flared up, she was calm again. She thought of the young lady who had come to offer her help and wondered how she would ever see her again.
“Make sure you don’t sell that recharge card in my shop. Open your own shop if you want to start selling.”
“Yes ma.” Niniola replied stunned. How was she to make any profit if she was banned from selling in the shop? Rhoda knew she was being irrational but she needed to take out her frustration on someone. She had been deprived too.
“Niniola come here.”
“Do you know that young lady who came here two days ago?”
“No ma, I just usually see her in the market.”
“So you’d seen her before yesterday?”
“Yes ma, she comes to buy things from here.”
“She does?” Rhoda felt even more foolish. “Let me know the next time you see her.”
“Yes ma.” Niniola replied mechanically, wondering what made her aunt feel entitled to her help when she had been unkind to her.
“Is it true? Did you drug her?” Mama Deji asked her husband later that day.
“Is that what she told you?”
“Chief, you’re playing with fire. You know these women you brought into this house, tread carefully…”
“What do you mean by that?” he replied irritably.
“I know what I’m saying…”
“And so? Did you all marry me or did I marry you? No one tells me what to do in my house. The fact that you’re the first wife doesn’t give you the right to speak to me anyhow.”
Mama Deji had expected her husband to react impetuously. He would never accept that he was wrong. She exhaled sharply and smiled cheerlessly.
“Alright, don’t be offended.”
Chief Afonja watched his wife walk away and hissed, she had grown so old.
Biola finished her meeting with the supermarket manager and turned towards her car.
The floodlight shone on Gbenga as he walked towards her. He had undone the top two buttons of his checkered shirt and she could see the tufts of hair that littered his chest. Before he flashed his perfect white teeth, she smelled his cologne, a mild woody fragrance.
She exhaled slowly and wondered how she could have thought she was over this man.
“Gbenga. How are you?”
“Better now that you’re here.”
She smiled and looked away, trying to remind herself of the things she had promised to say to him.
“How was your day?”
“Busy, tiring, I can’t wait to get home.”
“I was hoping you’d let me take you out for drinks…”
She laughed. “Gbenga, I’m not available. I’m a married woman.” She held up her left hand. “I’m not leaving my husband. You’re younger than I am…”
“So this is about our age difference? So you would have considered me if I was older…”
“I didn’t say that…”
“That’s what you implied.”
“Well it’s not what I meant.”
He put his hand on the roof of her car. “Look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t want me anymore and I’ll leave. Tell me you’re happy with your husband his other wife and I’ll leave you.”
Biola looked at him, looked away and massaged her temples. “I just can’t. My kids won’t understand…”
“They will, when they get to know me.”
“I can’t. I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t answer my question.” He knocked once on the roof of the car. “Have a wonderful night Biola, I’ll be dreaming of you.”
Biola watched him drive away and then turned to get into her own car.
“Good evening ma.” a young man said, holding out a gift bag. “He said I should give it to you.”
“Who?” she asked suspiciously.
“The man who just drove off.”
When pulled up into the family compound, she opened the gift. It was a beautiful diamond bracelet.
“So Chief went to your room instead of mine right?” Mama Eli said to Mama Ayo when she entered the kitchen.
“Haven’t you been married to him longer than I have? Why are you so greedy?”
“Mama Eli are you alright? Were you sent to disturb me?” she replied angrily, the woman had messed up her mood.
“You have no shame, competing with me over him. Aren’t you older?”
Mama Ayo laughed. “I’m not competing with you, Chief knows who he wants. Nonsense!” she hissed and walked out, forgetting her gift bag on the slab. By the time she remembered it, it was too late, Mama Eli had opened it and seen its content.
“Where did you get this from?”
“That is none of your business!” she spat at her and left the kitchen.