“Nne!” Ijeoma exclaims, her surprise complete. “So, this is what you have been suffering?”
“My dear o!” I reply. “And it seems the more I overlook the anu ofia, the bolder she gets and the weaker I seem,” I add with a sad tone.
“Before nko?! What do you expect?” Ijeoma returns, her eyes flashing fire. “Nne, you dull o! If na me eehn, she for don dey fear coming close to my gate! Like seriously?!”
“Hmm… What do you –” I start to say.
But Ijeoma cuts me off and barrels on. “The one that is making my head pop sef is the part where she enters your kitchen to look for her mother’s head! Ah-ahn! Them send am? This kind of person can poison your whole family o!”
“Well, I need a permanent solution,” I say. “Did I tell you that she’s a fake?” I have just remembered the run-in at Shoprite.
“You don’t need to tell me o! That kind of human being –”
“No, no, no! I mean, she’s a fake and I’ve caught her,” I say, and then go ahead to tell her about the day Mimi and I met Leticia at Shoprite.
“So, why haven’t you exposed her?” Ijeoma rails when I am done with the narrative.
“I’m just waiting for the ghen-ghen opportunity now!” I reply. I do not want to tell her about the vow I made while she was in the coma.
Just then, our phones start ringing at the same time. Laughing, we both pick up. I finish my call before her.
“Just my husband checking on me,” she explains when she got off the phone.
“Ok. They are all coming – Nkaiso, Mercy, Chinwe and Mimi,” I respond, explaining the call I received.
“Wow!” she exclaims, clutching dramatically at her heart. “I already feel so loved!”
“C’mon, gerrout!” I rejoin jokingly.
We both laugh.
“Ehen, when they come, we will decide on how to exterminate that rodent that visits your house every now and then,” she says.
“Hmm. Won’t Mimi give us away?” I ask thoughtfully.
“After hearing all she has done? That’s not possible joor!”
“Ok o!” I concede.
“The person I have an issue with is Nkaiso sef!” she continues.
“Why?” I ask, smiling. I already know the answer.
“That onye oma Emeka… Do you even have to ask?” Ijeoma says, rolling her eyes.
I laugh briefly at that, and then wanting to change the topic, I ask, “So, don’t you feel somehow that your baby isn’t here with you?”
“No o!” she objects. “Let me concentrate on regaining my energy first. Besides, it’s been only three days since I woke up.”
“She’s my friend! My tight friend!” Mimi declares protestingly. “How do you expect me to keep quiet after all that you guys have planned here? Mba o! God will judge me if I don’t tell her.”
It is just like I feared; she intends to give us away, and she is not even hiding the fact.
“No problem! Just, no problem, inugo? No problem at all!” Ijeoma returns angrily. “Since she is more of a friend to you than Ada –”
“Actually, she is,” Mimi interjects, angling her face away from my shocked stare.
“Oh really?” Chinwe cuts in. “Don’t worry, I will pray for you. And everybody here will say ‘Amen’ to it, for someone to do to you exactly what that your stupid friend is doing to Ada, and even more, in Jesus’ Name.”
“Amen!” Ijeoma immediately answers.
Chinwe turns to glare at me. “You won’t say amen?” she says.
I smile ruefully, shaking my head sadly.
She turns to Mercy, who appears very busy with her tablet, with an earpiece steadfastly stuck to her ears. Observing her seeming preoccupation, Chinwe rolls her eyes and shakes her head at the same time – a feat only she can achieve, of all the people I know.
“If Nkaiso were still here, this would have been the part where she breaks out the preach,” Ijeoma quips.
We all laugh, with the exception of Mercy, and the tension in the room lightens more than a bit.
Ijeoma continues in a perfect mimicry of Nkaiso’s voice, “You don’t make prayers like this and expect God to answer…”
This time, the outburst of laughter is harder and more boisterous, so much so that Ijeoma had to clutch her stomach. “You guys, please, this cut is still fresh. I don’t need to be laughing like this, biko,” she gasps.
“Shey na you dey cause am?” Chinwe returns, just as the door opens a crack.
We turn to the door.
“We have patients in the other rooms in this ward,” the stern voice of an even sterner-looking woman cuts into the room from the doorway. “Stop the noise, or we will have to cut your visiting short.”
“Sorry, ma,” we chorus.
She sweeps a warning glare across the room, letting it linger for a second on each of us before she retracts her head and shuts the door. In the wake of her departure, we dissolve into a fresh bout of muted laughter.
Soon however, the visiting time is over, and we all rise to leave. I linger for a while, as the rest of the gang files out of Ijeoma’s room.
“What’s with Mercy?” Ijeoma whispers to me. “Did you realize that it is almost as if she wasn’t here all through?”
“Hmm! Thank your God that she didn’t get to speak. You would have gone all Jackie Chan on her,” I reply with a knowledgeable nod.
“How do you mean?” Ijeoma queries with a slight lift of her brows.
“Nne, rapu. This one is gist for another day.”
“Ok now.” She shrugs. “Wish you were staying some more,” she says sadly.
“You’re on your own o!” I reply with a chuckle. “Abeg, get better fast and come out of this place.”
“I’m trying my best,” she says with a theatric sigh.
“Yes, I can see that. Very soon, you’ll be out, oh?” I return comfortingly.
“Okay, nnem. You’ll come tomorrow, abi?”
“Definitely! Oya now, bye.”
“Let’s go for ice cream!” Chinwe suggests once we are out of the hospital ward.
“Count me out,” Mimi declares.
“Count me in!” Mercy chips in.
She speaks, I think snidely, before asking, “Where exactly are we going?”
“Cold stone in Shoprite mall,” Chinwe says. “I just discovered their ice cream. Chai! It does wonders for the well being of the common man.”
The four of us laugh at that.
“Well…” I drawl, with a glance at my wristwatch.
“Gabby…” Mercy says in a high-pitched mimicry.
“I will have to go from there to pick Gabby up,” I continue, pointedly ignoring her. “So, I have to get home first and take his identity card.” Actually, it is Nuella’s identity card that isn’t with me, but they don’t need to know that. Nneamaka had dropped Nuella’s card off with the gateman on her way out.
“What is the ID card all about?” Mercy asks in a surprisingly nice tone.
“Their school issues them for all their pupils, which the parents would present before picking them up,” I explain.
“Ok, so, that shouldn’t take long now. Let’s go to your house, and then we’ll go for the ice cream.”
The decision made, we all pile into my car, Mimi inclusive. She will be stopping outside the hospital gate.
“The first day I went there eehn!” Chinwe starts, after Mimi had left the vehicle and we are well on our way to my house. “They were singing one ice cream song like that. Very interesting! Then, I made my order. They were dancing and dishing the ice cream. When the guy was done, he threw the plate right at me!”
“Ah!” Mercy and I both gasp.
“See the way I held my head and bent down to dodge it oh!” Chinwe says with a laugh. “I did not even know that his fellow joker was standing behind me. He caught the ice cream!”
“Hah! Why you no catch am nau?” Mercy asks.
“Catch gini? It was so sudden oh!” Chinwe replies.
“Maybe they would have given it to you free or at a discount if you had caught it,” I say, chuckling.
“I know! We will try to catch it today,” Mercy says in a conspiratorial manner.
There is a smattering of laughter in the car as I turn in towards the gate of my compound. I honk my horn, and the gateman begins to swing the gate open, despite my gesturing at him to come out to the car instead. I have no plan of driving in.
“I want to ease myself oh!” Chinwe interjects.
“Oh well! Let me just drive in then,” I say, before proceeding through the gate.
“Be fast oh!” I call out to Chinwe as she darts into the house ahead of me, making straight for the visitor’s toilet.
Walking into the living room, I catch a faint whiff of burnt food. I decide to go to the kitchen to investigate and be sure the smell isn’t coming from my house.
I walk into my kitchen, and both shock and anger slam into my body with brute force. I gape at the mess everywhere.
Again?! I scream inwardly, fuming. I can almost swear that my face is beet red.
Looking into the pot that held the burnt food, I realize that it is fish. I move quickly to the freezer to be sure it isn’t the last fish in the house, which I have dreamt severally of using to make spaghetti. Just as I realize that it is exactly that fish, I turn to see Leticia walking into my kitchen clad in what looks like Ifeanyi’s shirt.
“What is the meaning of this?” I say, seething and gesturing around the kitchen, my anger threatening to blind me at the sight of her.
“Erm…” she stammers for a moment, and then retrieving her bravado, she says, “What does it look like?”
What does it look like?!
An attitude is what I get?!
My field of vision shrinks to a pinpoint in that moment, consumed by the onrushing redness of rage. And I find myself flying toward her, and lifting my hand at the same time.
I deliver three left-handed slaps in quick succession right across her cheek.
TO BE CONTINUED.
Written by Adaku J