By the time I get to the sitting room, Ifeanyi had slammed his room door shut. He must have run all the way.
I sigh and walk back to the kitchen, deflated, and determined to finish washing up as fast as I can, so that I can leave the house for some time before it is time for Gabby to come home.
I make a quick decision to go to Shoprite, to do a little mood-lifting shopping.
Someone taps me from behind. Shoprite is really humming with activity today, with a traffic of shoppers thrumming this way and that. I turn to see a really slim and smiling version of my friend, Mimi.
“Oh my God!” I screech, hugging her. “What happened to you?”
“Except that you forgot all about me, you mean?” she jokes.
“Awww! I’m so sorry! But that’s not what I mean.”
“So what then?”
“Look at you nau! Flat tummy, figure 8 and all… What did you do? Please, educate a sister in need.”
“Oh, that?” She brushes the matter away with a wave of her hand. “Rapu that thing, biko. How you dey? And your baby?”
“Everybody is fine. But why are you like this now?” I’m not ready to let my query be dismissed. “Tell me your secret, bikonu. Or did you do liposuction?” I know this will get to her.
“No oh! Lipo-gini?” Her face creases with distaste. “I did not do anything of the sort, biko!” she declares, her nose in the air.
“Oya, tell me,” I say, knowing that she would this time.
“Ok. There is this therapy I am following, called ‘Lemon + Ginger detox therapy’,” she says, leaning toward me in the manner of someone imparting trade secrets to the friendly opposition.
“Ehen. How does it work?” I ask eagerly.
“Excuse me, ma,” someone says from my right.
“We’re blocking the way,” I say, moving out of the way. “Please let’s go and sit for a while in the food section.” I lead Mimi in the direction of the food section by the elbow.
“So, tell me how it works,” I ask as we walk.
“It’s simple, really. And it works like magic!” she gushes. “I haven’t used it up to a month oh! Look how it has flushed plenty of fat out of my body.” She stops moving to shimmy her body this way and that, gesturing her hands over her enviably svelte frame.
“Are you telling me? I can see it!” I gush along with her, all the while thinking, Out with the specifics already!
We pull out chairs from an empty table at the food section and sit, dropping our baskets on the floor beside us.
“So, you get three lemons and two medium-sized gingers,” Mimi begins, “wash them properly and cut them up with the back. Then put one litre of water in a clean pot and add the cut lemons and ginger. Let it boil for ten minutes, six minutes on high heat, and four minutes on low. Then put off the fire, and let the stuff stand for a whole night in the covered pot. By morning, squeeze out the lemons and strain. Warm half of the lemon-plus-ginger–infused water and drink on empty stomach in the morning, then chill the rest and drink throughout the day.” She smiles as she finishes her narration.
“Just that?” I ask.
“Yep. Just that,” she replies. “But you know I already watch what I eat. I skip every morning and evening, and I don’t eat once it is past 5pm.”
“Wow!” I exclaim again, admiring her new figure as she stands to continue her shopping. “I am so doing this.” I can already envision preening before the mirror in my bedroom, my glorious new body on display, and all traces of hideous adipose tissues forever gone. And I don’t even have to register at the gym, like I’d earlier planned.
“Yes! You should. It’s very helpful,” Mimi is speaking. “Plus you’ll feel lighter and healthier. All these small, small stress-induced illnesses will not find you at all!”
“Chai! This is amazing! But where can I find lemons?”
“I buy mine from here. Let’s go to the fruits section. And it’s cheap too.”
As I bend down to retrieve my shopping basket, Mimi screams, “Chiomaaa!” and moves away, turning briefly to say to me, “Just a minute.”
Wonders shall never end, I muse as I observe the ‘Chioma’ from my seated position, while she discusses animatedly with Mimi in the distance for all of one minute, before dashing away to do whatever it is she was doing before Mimi saw her.
I walk up to Mimi when I am sure ‘Chioma’ would have rounded an isle bend. I do not want her to see me just yet, if ever.
“So, how do you know Leticia?” I ask Mimi as we walk to the fruit section. When she turns her face to me with mild incomprehension, I nod in the direction the woman she’d just finished chatting with had taken.
“Leticia ke?” She laughs. “Is that what she told you her name is? That girl will not kill me.”
“Her name isn’t Leticia?” I ask, struggling not to let my astonishment show so much.
Mimi laughs again. “Ok, maybe it’s her name. You know how everybody has a silent name. But she is fond of telling people fake names, especially online. Did you meet her online?”
I think for a micro second, and then decide to answer in the affirmative. I don’t want to tell Mimi the real circumstance of my acquaintanceship with Leticia, fearing she’d clam up on whatever she has to say. Going along with her would make her free enough to tell me more, I reason.
“Yes,” I say, hoping she won’t ask me what forum.
“Oh! That’s why now,” she says.
“So, what does she do?” I ask.
“Honestly, I can’t say one thing for sure that she does. She studied Law in UNEC, but she was expelled in her third year, something about examination malpractice… Since then, she has been hustling.”
“Her parents nko?”
“They do not know she was expelled oh! She’s still collecting school fees from them. But there is this guy that stays outside the country who wants to marry her now. Maybe, after she’s married, she’ll start afresh in the US, and her parents won’t be the wiser.”
“Wow!” I say, astounded and lost for words to express what I feel. I wish I could have recorded Mimi’s voice. I wish I’d remembered to press that ‘record’ button on my phone when she started talking. Ifeanyi has to know this.
“Here we are!” Mimi announces with flourish.
I shake my head to clear my eyes. We are in the fruits section.
And Leticia is an unserious individual, I think scornfully. So, she is this desperate, and she has the silly guts to attack me at every point. Oto go nu! I will pour a trip of sand into her one bowl of garri! Nonsense and ingredients!
“Sweetie, Ifeanyi has not eaten in this house since yesterday,” I complain to my husband over dinner.
“Where has he been eating nau?” he asks.
“I don’t know. Yesterday morning, he bought food, and ate right here,” I motion to the dining table where we are seated. “Apart from that, I don’t know how else he eats.”
“Don’t worry, let me go and call him,” he says, rising from his seat.
Shortly after, I hear raised voices, or should I say, a raised voice – my husband’s raised voice – coming from Anyi’s room. I stand to go and find out what is going on, and if possible, to stop the fight.
Gabby starts whimpering at the sight of me standing up. I don’t just understand why he still cannot feed himself. He is almost two years old! I sigh. Picking up a slice of fried plantain, I put it in his hand. The whimpering stops and he proceeds to chew on the plantain.
“What do you mean? She is not your slave!” I catch the explosion of my husband’s words the closer I get to the room. The door is ajar. “If you want to eat your food in the room, get up and go get it from the dining table! She will cook, and clean, and then come into your room to specially serve you?! Ibu onye, nwokem?” My husband is fuming, and I am standing by the side of the partially closed door, listening to it all.
“Talk about cleaning,” Ifeanyi cuts in angrily. “When last did she come into this room to clean? See how untidy it is, the bathroom is another matter altogether.”
“Like I said before, she isn’t your slave. If you will not clean the room where you sleep and the bathroom where you bathe alone, then, live in your pig sty. Was this how you used to do in America?” my husband rages.
“I had a cleaning lady–” Ifeanyi starts to say.
“And you feel my wife should step into her shoes? If you continue this way, you will have to get an apartment of your own. You know I don’t like it when you disrespect my wife. And I sincerely hope you’ve never asked her to do any of those things.”
With this last bit, my husband turns to storm out of the room, hitting the standing fan in the process. He stops abruptly to set it right and prevent it from falling, and I use the delay to scamper back to the dining table.
He walks back into the dining room, Ifeanyi right behind him. Ifeanyi stands by the table while my husband sits in his chair.
“He wants to eat in his room,” my husband says.
“Oh!” I say, feigning ignorance. “Here…” I push Ifeanyi’s plate of food toward him. “Hold on,” I say, rising and walking into the kitchen.
I come out with a tray for his food to see him seated at the table and eating. I drop the tray, and sit back, focusing on feeding Gabby.
“I’m sorry, Ada,” he mumbles.
“I don’t know what you’re sorry for, but it’s ok,” I say, giving him a smile that doesn’t reach my eyes.
“I wasn’t happy that you told Leticia about the ring I showed you,” he says then.
“Huh?” I reply, surprised. “What were we discussing when I told her that? You are the one who invited her to this house on Sunday, and you saw how she was skulking around and sneaking up on every conversation. How dare you even get angry with me because of that deceitful tramp?” I say, feeling my anger rise.
“You don’t need to call her names,” my husband intervenes.
I swallow the rest of the words coming to my mind, begging to be said. I won’t expose that bitch to Ifeanyi, not now anyway. I have decided to confront her with the information I got about her, preferably in Ifeanyi’s presence.
Written by Adaku J.
Glossary: Ibu onye, nwokem? – Who are you, my man?