My husband and his brother have been discussing in low tones since he came back from work today –
Oh! Did I tell you? He came back yesterday evening, my husband. The contract proposal he went to submit was successful. The prospect of him getting this contract is very high. I’m fervently praying that he gets it so that I’ll get to change my wardrobe. Yimu!
So, well, I am guessing that what they are discussing is very important. And in order not to bother them, I am here in the room, reading Karen Kingsbury’s Fifteen Minutes, after putting Gabby to sleep.
I remember the birthday Nkaiso suggested to me. After service that day, I wasn’t able to discuss with her because it was getting dark, and I do not like driving in the night. I decide to use this opportunity to ask Nneamaka what it will take to cater for the party.
“Nne, I hope I did not wake you up?” I ask, when she picks up my call.
“No o! I am still awake,” she replies cheerfully.
“Ok. How is Nuella? Hope she has slept?”
“For where? She is still awake o.”
“Really?” I say, chuckling. “Tell her I said she should go and sleep joor!” Nneamaka laughs at that. I continue, “Ok, so the reason why I am calling is, I want to know what it will take to cater for a small party.”
“Who is doing party?”
“I am. My husband’s birthday is coming up soon, and I want to do a little surprise party for him.”
“Wow! That’s cool!” she gushes, then says, all business-like, “Well, it depends on what and what you want.”
“I want cake, small chops and food. Although, I might cook the food myself, depending on if you call plenty price for me.”
“How many guests?” she asks.
“Erm…like twenty guests,” I say, thinking a bit. “Between twenty to twenty-five guests.”
“Ok. How much inch cake do you want?” she asks again.
“Inch kwa? Na so them dey measure am?” I ask, clueless.
“Yes now!” Nneamaka says, laughing.
“Wareva!” I say, brushing aside her laughter. “I don’t know o! But I want something big, but not so huge. You know, something moderate and sizeable.”
“That would be 8 inches or 10 inches then.”
“Ok. Na you sabi sha,” I say good-naturedly. “So, what will it take?”
“I will have to calculate and get back to you on this.”
“Ok, but can I have a kind of estimate?”
“Hmm… I don’t know what to estimate o! This will be like my first gig, you know?” she confesses.
“Serious? So, I’m like your first customer? You’ll do me promo nau!” I chuckle.
She laughs too. “Of course!” she says in-between giggles. “I will give you the run-down tomorrow on our way for school runs.”
“Ok. Good night…” she begins to say, rounding up the call.
I frantically cast about for another topic, something else to say to prolong the conversation, because I do not want to end the phone call yet.
“Ehen!” she starts, changing the topic and sparing me the brain work. “I quarreled with Winifred today when I went to pick Nuella up.”
“Eh? What happened?”
“I sometimes pack rice for Nuella as lunch, and every time I do, she’ll scoop off the stew and feed my daughter white rice. I had warned her severally about this. Nwa ahu adiro anu nti!” she says, getting cross at the thought, and sounding it.
“Yeah,” I agree, nodding. “She does that too when I pack rice and stew for Gabby. I have always wondered why anyway, but I’ve never asked. I always forget the next day.”
“I check Nuella’s bag and plates whenever I go to pick her up, and ask questions,” Nneamaka says.
“I do too, but some days, I don’t bother.”
“Well,” she continues with her story. “I wasn’t happy when I saw all the stew I placed on my baby’s rice in the plate today. So I asked her yet again, why. Guess what she said?”
“What did she say?”
“That the stew was too peppery!” she exclaims.
“What?!” I almost scream. “So, she knows what’s best for your child more that you do? What rubbish!” I fume. “I wonder what her explanation for Gabby’s own will be…. Wait! How did she know it was peppery?”
“Gbam! That is the main point!” Nneamaka screams into my ear. “That is the main point! How did she know? So, she eats the children’s food nau, eh?!”
“Wow! That’s creepy! Hope you reported her to the head teacher?” I say, feeling a chill run down my spine at the thought of a random stranger using my son’s spoon to eat his food, and then feeding him with the same cutlery.
“She was not around. But I gave it to Winifred really hot.” Nneamaka sounds incensed, and I can almost picture her roundly telling off the school mistress. “I might have to withdraw Nuella from that school, before she starts ill-treating her,” Nneamaka adds.
“That’s true o! But there are other teachers there now. She might not do that when others are present,” I reason. “Maybe you should talk with her. Then, report to the head teacher about her eating the children’s food. That is so wrong! And I’m sure she won’t bother using another spoon to do that.”
“I will. And if nothing is done about it, I’ll withdraw my baby after this term,” Nneamaka maintains.
“It’s ok sha. But is it the next school that will be better nau?’ I ask, feeling discouraged.
My husband walks into the room and heads towards the bathroom.
“Nne, let’s talk more tomorrow, inu?” I say, wanting to end the call now, so I can ask my husband what he has being discussing with Anyi.
“Ok dear. Good night.”
“Night-night!” I say, ending the call just as my husband walks out of the bathroom. He makes straight for the door.
“Sweetheart, wait…” I say, getting up from the bed.
“Ehn?” He stops, and turns to face me.
“What are you guys gisting?” I ask, smiling mischievously. I drag him by his arm and make him sit on the bed.
“Nne, long gist o! You should come out to the sitting room,” he replies.
“Tell me joor!” I say with a small pout.
“Ok. Ifeanyi gave money to some people to buy a car for him, and it seems they’ve swindled him,” he summarizes.
“Wow! Why did he not tell you he wanted a car, so that you’ll order from that your dealer?” I query, not a little amazed.
“Amarom o! As in, I had no idea he was giving money to someone who knows someone to buy him a car. He did not even hint me,” he says a bit wrathfully. Then he adds, “Just come out to the sitting room now.”
“Erm…mba,” I decline. “I’ll let you guys gist this one alone, since I wasn’t there when you started. Besides, what do I want to contribute to the gist now?”
“No! Just come out. It doesn’t matter,” he insists.
“Ok!” I say, getting up from the bed. “Oya, let’s go now.”
“Brother, I really don’t think it has reached the stage of involving the police,” Ifeanyi says with some exasperation. “Let us allow them till the next week they promised. If they do not deliver the car, we can then call the police.”
“Ifeanyi, you think you are still in America, abi?” my husband snaps at him. “It will shock you, that guy will disappear by next week, more so, now that you have involved me. I na-echekwa di echiche?” His voice had ripened with censure.
“Brother, oburo like that. I am just saying let us give them benefit of the doubt, that’s all,” Ifeanyi protests.
I clear my throat just then, to announce my intention of saying something. Then I speak, “Can I ask a question?”
“Of course!” Ifeanyi says. His relief at my interruption is apparent. Anything to take the heat off him, even if it’s for a while.
“How did you know the guy you gave money to?” I ask.
“A friend introduced him to me. That he deals in cars, and that he sells cars a bit cheaper.”
“Hmm. Are you sure it isn’t a secondhand car he wants to sell to you? You are not supposed to give money until you see the car and test it.”
“That’s exactly what I told him,” my husband concurs in a small outburst. It’s obvious his irritation at his brother is still simmering.
“Yes, I know,” Ifeanyi answers defensively. “But, he needed the money to go and bring in the car. And my friend convinced me to give him a part of the agreed amount.”
“And then, you kept giving and giving, until now, you have given more that the agreed amount,” finishes my husband in a waspish tone. He really isn’t happy.
“Biko, which friend is that?” I ask Ifeanyi. “Do you know him?” I direct that to my husband.
“I don’t know him o!” he says, lifting his hand in a gesture of denial.
Ifeanyi however doesn’t say anything. He just sits there, looking down at his intertwined fingers.
“Ehen?” my husband prompts, when it is obvious that the other man won’t look up to see us looking expectantly at him and waiting for him to answer my question.
“What?” he huffs, his eyes skittering up and about, filling my mind with a niggling suspicion. “Did you say something to me?”
“Of course!” my husband bursts out again. “Who is the friend that introduced you to the car dealer? Are you sure he isn’t in on this swindling business?”
“I don’t think so. She is also as angry as I am.”
“She?” my husband says.
“Duh!” I say at the same time, rolling my eyes and missing the significance of the pronoun. “All that one may be wash o! He will pretend to be angry, of course, so that you won’t suspect him.”
“Her,” Ifeanyi corrects, his eyes not quite meeting mine. “It is a ‘her.’”
My earlier suspicion metamorphoses into certainty, and I say with some scorn, “Let me guess… Leticia.” My lips curl with distaste over the name.
“Yes,” Ifeanyi answers. “The person I gave the money to is her brother’s friend.”
“Ah! The road is far now!” I scoff. “Leticia’s brother’s friend ke? How will you catch him now? No wonder you don’t want to go to the police.”
“But Anyi,” my husband interjects, “seriously, you don’t mix love and money. How did you make this kind of mistake?”
“Brother, biko, rapum aka. If it is a mistake, I’ve already made it. It is my mistake,” Ifeanyi says sourly.
“Oh yeah?” my husband bridles, switching his wrath from the Leticia’s brother’s friend back to Ifeanyi. “Your mistake, right? Why did you involve me then? Eh? Why then did you involve me?!”
As I watch Anyi’s face harden with answering anger, I can see a shouting match brewing. And I feel guilty for it. If only I did not try to find out whom the friend was!
“Sweetheart, relax,” I cut in soothingly, trying to quell the storm up front. “He already feels bad for what happened. When you talk like that, it makes him feel worse. I know you’re upset, but, so is he. And don’t forget it’s his money.”
My husband calms just a bit. The fight in Anyi’s eyes disappears.
“No problem then,” my husband grunts. “I hope they deliver your car. Besides, if you wanted a car to drive, Mum’s 180 is just sitting there, and it is still very sound. You would have asked me to give you the keys, while we figure out how to get you yours. I’m going to bed now. Good night.” He has said the last word, and no further exchange is required. To punctuate that finality, he gets to his feet.
I stand too, following him into the room, and mentally wiping sweat off my brows, thinking, See fight wey I for cause.
Nwa ahu adiro anu nti – That child does not listen.
Inu? – You hear?
Amarom o – I don’t know o.
I na-echekwa di echiche? – Do you think at all?
Oburo like that – It’s not like that.
Biko, rapum aka – Please, leave me alone.
Written by Adaku J.