Chinenyenwa picks up my call on the second ring.
“Hey, babe!” I say, still drunk from the excitement of Ijeoma’s waking up.
“How far now?” she replies.
“I’m fine. How is everything?”
“Fine o! Just hunger…”
“Let it kill you then!” I say, laughing.
She laughs too.
“I feel a little bit awkward calling you o!” she starts on a more serious note. “But, when do you intend paying me back?”
“Paying you back…” I start to say. Then, I remember that she promised to help Onyinyechi with some feeding money. “Oh! The feeding money you gave to my cousin, ba?” I ask, wondering why she wants me to pay her back, and when Chinenyenwa became stingy.
“Feeding money kwa?” she asks.
“Eehn! Shebi that was what we agreed on?” I say. When she doesn’t answer immediately, I ask, “How much are we talking about?”
“Seventy thousand naira,” she says simply.
Her answer knocks the breath out of me. “What?! Seventy gini?” I scream. “How come?”
“She said she needed to finish up payment of her rent, and that she discussed with you already,” Nenye explains.
“Atokwanum o!” I exclaim. “See gbese on top my head o!”
“Wait! You guys didn’t discuss any such thing?” she asks in an amazed tone.
“N’ebee kwanu?!” I reply, my head reeling. I sneak a peek at my husband, knowing that he won’t be happy about this at all.
“Chai! This girl has played us wayo o!” Nenye exclaims. “What are we going to do now?”
“The question is – ‘What is SHE going to do’!” I say, furious at my cousin. “She has to pay back that money to the last kobo! Let me call her first.”
“Ok,” Nenye replies, ending the call.
“What was that about?” my husband asks.
“Onyinyechi o!” I say, fuming.
“What did she do this time?”
“Can you imagine! She went to collect money from my friend on my account!”
“She asked my friend, Chinenyenwa, to give her money, that I will pay her back,” I explain in a calmer tone, holding back from my explanation the part I played in the matter.
“Why would she do a thing like that now?” he asks.
“Amam? Do I know for that girl?” I reply, as I dial Onyinyechi’s number.
“So, you’ve never asked her to go and collect money from Chinenyenwa?” he asks, ever the detective.
“Hold on!” I shush him, raising a finger. “I’m calling her now.” I hope I’ve dodged the question.
The call rings out, and Onyinyechi doesn’t pick up.
“She is not even picking her calls! What kind of thing is this now!” I wail, my voice breaking, as if I’m close to tears.
“Calm down now! Maybe she’s asleep,” he comforts, reaching for my hand.
I smile inwardly, congratulating myself on my stellar theatrical performance.
“Honestly, this is the kind of thing I don’t like at all!” I grumble.
“Don’t worry, just call her tomorrow and ask her. Maybe she will have an explanation,” he says comfortingly.
“Ok,” I say.
We drive the remaining distance to the house in silence.
Ifeanyi is seated in the living room, watching a movie when we enter the house.
“Welcome, brother,” he greets my husband.
I can’t help but notice that he fails to greet me.
Shebi if I report you to your brother now… I fume inwardly, my eyes shooting daggers at Ifeanyi.
He catches my eye, and I click my tongue at him, rolling my eyes for effect, to show my displeasure.
“Thank you,” my husband replies, kicking off his footwear and making to walk into the rooms, unaware of the awkward tension between his brother and me.
“I want to discuss something with you,” Ifeanyi says to his retreating back.
“I’m tired!” my husband groans. “Can’t it wait till tomorrow?”
“It’s kind of urgent,” Ifeanyi says.
“Ok then. Be fast about it,” my husband concedes, coming back to sit in one of the sofas.
For some reason, I want to hear whatever it is Ifeanyi wants to discuss with my husband. So, I remain seated where I sat to pull off my sandals. I have a feeling that this discussion has something to do with me, and I don’t want to miss it.
Ifeanyi hesitates a bit when he realizes that I am not moving on out of the room. I give him a look, daring him to suggest that I leave the sitting room. He returns the look with one of his own, which lasts for only a few seconds before he backs down.
“Brother,” Ifeanyi begins, resignedly, “I want to go back to the States.”
“Hmm?” my husband grunts. “I thought you said you weren’t going back again. What changed your mind?”
“You know, I have been back for close to six months now, looking for jobs here and there… But, I haven’t turned up anything yet… I just want to go and try my luck in the US.”
“I thought Mr. Uguru is helping with ANNAMCO?” my husband asks again.
“Ah, that one? It’s been up to two months since I went for that interview now! I haven’t even heard from them! I cannot wait anymore o!” he declares in an almost sulky manner.
I rise to leave the sitting room now that I’m sure what they are discussing does not concern me. I head straight to Gabby’s room to check on him first.
“This is sudden o!” my husband says in a loud voice. “Ok. Why not make some contacts in the US first. When it starts to work, you can then travel out. You can’t just lift your baggage and travel when there’s no job waiting for you there. Besides, your visa will expire in the next five months. What if nothing turns up by then? You would have wasted money.”
“Brother, I understand, but…” Ifeanyi’s voice fades off as I close the door to our room.
I am burrowing into the bed covers when my phone rings. One look at the phone screen reveals Onyinyechi as the caller. My annoyance at her comes rushing to the surface.
“Hello?” I say coolly, swallowing the annoyance as best as I can.
“Ada, I saw your missed calls,” she says with a hint of sleepiness in her voice. “I hope everything is okay.”
“Nenye called me,” I say simply. And then I wait for her to give me whatever explanation she has made up in preparation for this call. When she doesn’t say anything, I continue, “You took 70k from her, why? Was it not food stuff that we discussed?” I am trying my best to hold on to my annoyance.
“She asked me how much that I wanted, so, I told her now!” Onyinyechi says.
“You told her 70k! Babe, we discussed food stuff, and you went to tell her 70k, eehn? Even I do not use up to that amount to stock the house with food stuff!” I exclaim, my anger seeping out of the dam that is holding it back. “Anyway, I hope you’re going to pay her back, because she needs that money.”
“Of course, I’ll pay her back! You know I told you I got another job?”
“I don’t remember you telling me any such thing!” I snap. “When are you paying her back?”
“I did, I told you!” she says, ignoring the biting words of my question. “One guy I met here in Lagos gave me the connection, so I now work with Exxon Mobil.”
“That is not the point…” I start to say, before the gist sinks in. “What?! Did you say Exxon Mobil?” I say, breathless with sudden excitement.
“Yes, sis!” she squeals. “You see, I had to pay for one form like that – fifty-something thousand naira, then the small-small palms that we had to grease. In one month, I got the appointment letter. Now, we are on a three-month training – paid training o! Once they pay my next salary, I’ll give Nenye back the money.”
“Why didn’t you tell me nau?!” I ask.
“Sis, i ma na i bu onyeoma CY? I know you would have tried to talk me out of it,” she says, laughing.
“Of course, I would have talked you out of it! That was a very risky thing you did!” I admonish.
“Abegi! This life na risk o! In fact, the air you breathe is risky. Don’t you know about all the nyama-nyama in the atmosphere?” she jokes.
“Ehn! I hear you! Just thank your God it worked out for you,” I reply. “If not, all this your philosophy would have flown out the window.”
“Give me a little credit, will you?” she says. “I made my research before handing in the money jaré!”
“Yeah, whareva! Biko, if you see or hear about any of such jobs in Enugu, mee kam mara o!”
Onyinyechi laughs heartily at that. “You? Work? How?” She laughs again.
“What’s the meaning of that?” I ask, feigning annoyance.
“Hustling does not fit you at all! Just continue being a good wife.”
“Come, stop that joke o! Do you think it’s easy to be opening your hand to collect money anytime you need something –”
“I know!” she cuts me short. “Your hubby nwere ego nau! Just enjoy his money. But don’t worry, if I see or hear, I’ll let you know.”
“Better!” I say, not believing her anyway. “So, when am I telling Nenye to expect her money?”
“Shebi, month is ending on Monday? They usually pay on the last Friday. So, by that Monday, I’ll return her money.”
“So, why didn’t you use your first salary to pay her back? You had to wait for her to demand for it?” I query.
“Nne, I went wardrobe shopping nau! If I am working in an oil company, I have to look the part. Haba!” she says, chortling.
“Ok oh! Just be sure to come through by Monday, inugo?”
“Definitely,” she assures. “Nne, let me sleep back o! This training is rigorous!”
“Ok now! Good night and congrats!” I say, ending the call.
I lie back down, mulling over the call I just ended and the discussion going on in the sitting room. And then, like a bolt of lightning out of nowhere, I remember what Mimi said to me about Leticia that afternoon at Shoprite.
“… 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…”
“Ehen!” I say out loud to myself. “It now makes perfect sense!”
Written by Adaku J.
Atokwanum – I’m in trouble
N’ebee kwanu? – For where?
I mana i bu onyeoma CY – You know you’re a goody two-shoes
Mee kam mara – Let me know
Nwere ego – has money/is rich.