“Creepy little bitch!” I fume under my breath, as I walk towards the sitting room to give Mr. Ogbodo the glass cup he asked for. I glower at Leticia when I step into the parlour. She stares expressionlessly back at me before turning her attention to a male guest, who she has sidled up to.
I turn my own attention to Mr. Ogbodo. I wonder why he cannot drink bottled water without cup. I mean, it’s not as if he is sharing it with someone! Some people’s wahala plenty sha!
“You mean you had no hand in all that happened today?” Mr. Ogbodo is asking my husband in his grating, loud voice.
My husband shakes his head ‘no’, smiling happily, in that manner of his that takes my breath away. I’m glad he is having a splendid birthday celebration.
“Aahh! My brother! Rapu that thing!” Mr. Ogbodo bursts out, his voice climbing several more decibels. “This is ya money. Everything you see here today is ya money! These women ehn! They can do serious apiriko. You need to watch her closely, if not, she will buy land with your money, and you won’t even know.” He laughs then, expecting others to laugh along.
I stop in my tracks, and the smile on my face freezes. My eyes shoot daggers at the man, who has just then taken a swig out of his bottled water. I am trying to make up my mind whether to stalk over to him, get in his face and give him a piece of my mind, or not.
There is a smattering of nervous laughter around the room, as people watch my husband closely to see his reaction. Some eyes swivel in my direction, their owners gauging my reaction.
“With all due respect, sir,” Chinwe interjects in a grimly-polite tone, “that is very wrong of you to say. Even if she actually did apiriko, what prevented her from buying the land? What prevented her from buying gold, or human hair? Those things that cause women to deny their husbands…”
“Nne, relax! Amam ihe m na-ekwu! You will defend your fellow woman nau! But me? I will not let any woman do me apiriko o! Lai-lai!” Mr. Ogbodo says, laughing again, apparently oblivious to the tension in the room.
This man must feel like Oguns Baba of sorts, I fume silently, still watching from the dining room area.
“Are you married, sir?” Chinwe asks, still seemingly polite.
“Yes now!” Mr. Ogbodo bellowed proudly.
“I feel very sorry for your wife,” Chinwe bites out, the indignation she feels heavily lacing her words. “I feel sorry for you too, because, you’re the type of person that his wisdom swiftly turns to foolishness.”
There is a murmur of approval from the other guests at Chinwe’s words.
“And oh…!” She wasn’t done yet. “Your wife is doing you apiriko – big time.”
Mr. Ogbodo guffaws, before saying patronizingly, “Yaa just a small geh…”
“Sorry to interrupt,” someone cuts in, “but, please, who knows what time Chelsea’s match is tomorrow?”
That was how the topic changed to football, as the people in the room very readily switch gears from the distaste of the previous topic.
I turn to walk back to the kitchen. But then I see that Ijeoma is seated at the dining table. I join her there, firmly deciding to put Mr. Ogbodo’s words out of my mind.
“So, have you gotten all your birthing stuff ready?” I ask Ijeoma as I get settled beside her.
“I have oh. I’m tired of feeling like a mammoth!” she complains.
“Very soon,” I soothe.
“My love, let us start heading home.” The interruption is from Ijeoma’s husband, who is coming toward us.
“Thank you for coming,” I say, standing up to greet him.
“No oh! We should be thanking you. No more dinner for me oh!” he says, rubbing his midsection, and causing Ijeoma and I to laugh.
“I hope you don’t mind my not seeing you guys off?” I say apologetically as I hug them one after the other. “My hands are full.”
“No problem. We will find our way,” Ijeoma’s husband says.
“I will call you,” Ijeoma promises.
I start to clear away the dishes on the dining table, stacking the used plates into one big basin. The guests are starting to leave one by one, as if on cue from Ijeoma and her husband.
Just then, Chinwe darts into the dining room area, giggling, just as I am putting away the leftover food into the freezer. I turn to see Ifeanyi in hot pursuit.
“Hian! My house is not a love park oh!” I say jokingly, pleased by their apparent chemistry.
“Park ko!” Chinwe says. “I told him that his room is smelling man-man, and he wants to drag me in there.”
“Eww!” I say, crinkling my nose as the two of them dissolves into a burst of laughter.
“I won’t pretend I know why you guys are laughing,” I say. Then I remember. “Where is, erm…” I mentally vacillate between saying ‘your girlfriend’ and ‘Leticia’, then I settle on “…your invitee?”
“Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe she left already,” Ifeanyi replies with a shrug.
“Without telling you?” I ask again, a tad surprised.
“I don’t know. She started behaving funny at some point during the party. I am not in the mood, biko.”
“Who are we talking about?” Chinwe asks, looking at Ifeanyi. Ifeanyi looks at her, and then they both look at me.
“Yes, who are we talking about?” I return, looking pointedly at Ifeanyi, thinking, It’s not me you’ll put on this hot seat joor!
He puts his arm around Chinwe’s shoulder as he begins, “Just erm…someone – someone…a friend. My friend…”
“His friend that he invited to the party,” I say, helping him out.
“Yes, exact –”
“I want to go now, please,” a voice interrupts coldly from behind them.
The three of us turn to face Leticia. And in a microsecond, the two of us exchange a look, a satisfied smirk curving my lips, and naked dislike stamped on her face.
Remind me to never again undertake cooking for any occasion in this house, I muse inwardly.
It is Monday morning and I am looking with no small amount of exasperation at the mountain of plates mocking me from the kitchen counter and sink, waiting to be washed.
I’d just turned the living room out, sweeping, cleaning and mopping. And I am really tired. The sight of the plates makes me want to cry. I should have used paper plates!
Ifeanyi pushes open the kitchen door and stomps in.
“Ah! Why are you entering through the back door?” I query.
He mutters something and barrels past me, walks straight to the dining table and dumps the poly bag he came in with. I follow after him in time to see him bring out the contents of the bag. I can it is food.
“You bought food?” I ask, stating the obvious.
Wordlessly, he gets seated, open the dish and proceeds to shovel a plastic-spoonful of rice into his mouth, chewing and studiously ignoring me.
My phone rings in the kitchen, and I leave Ifeanyi to go attend to it. He’d obviously been annoyed by someone. Though, I wonder why he’ll go out to buy food, when there is food in the house. My cousin Onyinyechi is the one calling.
“Hey, sis,” she greets cheerily.
“Hey your own. How far now?” I sally back.
“I’m ok o! Just hunger,” she answers.
I wedge the phone between my shoulder and my cheek, freeing my hands to start washing the plates.
“That one is a small issue now,” I say.
“The issue has passed small oh! I am really hungry, and I don’t have food in my house.” Her audible sigh reaches my ear through the phone connection.
“How?” I ask. “Your employers are not paying you?”
“My dear, long story…”
I am tired of holding my phone in between my cheek and my shoulder, so, I reach for the ear buds and fix them in.
“…so, I haven’t received anything yet,” she says, finishing an explanation I hadn’t caught.
“Sorry, can you say that again?” I request.
“I said, I had to quit from that place I used to work. The job wasn’t inspiring, plus I got a new job that I like. So, I quit, forfeiting my one-month salary, in lieu of notice. So, now, this new place hasn’t paid yet.”
“Ok. I get. What will you do now?” I ask, concerned.
“I need money for food. Or even food stuff.”
“Chai! Nne, I don’t know o! I just drained my account of all the money in it this past weekend.”
“Ada, please, anything at all! I haven’t eaten since yesterday. I ate last yesterday morning,” she wheedles.
“Hmm…” I say, thinking. “OK. I will call someone to give you food stuff. Is that ok?”
“Yes! Very OK,” she bursts out exuberantly.
“Ok. I’ll call you back, let me call the person.”
I wipe my palms on my apron and dial my friend Chinenyenwa. She is based in Lagos, and working with a bank. I have no doubt that she will be willing to help. She is, like, the nicest person I know.
“Nyee, keekwanu?” I greet when she picks up the call. I continue washing the plates, dropping the phone in the apron pocket.
“I’m ok o! You will live long o! Not long ago, you just came to my mind,” she says, her pleasure evident through the phone.
“Of course, I know I’ll live long. Abi I should thank you for stating the obvious?” I banter, laughing with her.
“Nne, biko, I’m at work. Is everything ok?”
“Yes. I just need your assistance with something,” I say.
“What is it?”
“My cousin… She needs food stuff. Do you have any to spare?”
“Ha! Sis, I don’t buy food stuff now. I’m almost always at work, even on Saturdays. I cannot use the only remaining free day for me to go to church and then cook. So, I eat out.”
“Eiyaa. No problem,” I say, feeling some disappointment.
“But…” she adds. I smile then, wondering why I ever doubted that she’d come through. She continues, “Can she come and take some money now?”
“Oh! That will be very nice!” I gush. “I will pay you back. Thank you very much.”
“It’s nothing, my dear. I have to go now. Just give her my number, let her call me when she wants to come.”
“Ok. Thanks again,” I say and click off.
I wipe my palms on my apron again to send Chinenyenwa’s number to Onyi. Just then, Ifeanyi stomps into the kitchen and drops an empty bottle of water on the floor, stomping out again.
Anger wells up within me, sparking up my nerve endings as it surges. I have made complaints to my husband about this careless behaviour of his brother before, and he warned Anyi. Now, he’s doing it again!
Unwilling to contain my anger, I march out of the kitchen after him.
Amam ihe m na-ekwu – I know what I’m talking about.
Rapu that thing – Leave that thing.
Keekwanu – How far
Written by Adaku J.