Bearing in mind what I heard last night, I watch Leticia and Uncle Donatus very closely in the morning. Their demeanor gives away absolutely nothing. It makes me wonder if I imagined the conversation last night. If these two are perpetrators of anything untoward, they are doing a good job of acting normal to my keenly-watching eye.
Breakfast time goes by uneventfully and my husband and Uncle Donatus have to leave, my husband for his office, and Uncle Donatus for Ebonyi State. He has court. He has been singing this into our ears all morning, as if to ensure that we recognize that he has a very important job – as a lawyer.
“Lawyer afo-nsi,” I fume under my breath every time he mentions that he has court.
My husband, on the other hand, has been extremely attentive to me, as a result of the discovery he made last night. I gladly lap up the attention, partly to show the others that I have him firmly by my side, and partly because I am an attention-magnet.
“Baby, let me get to the office. I’ll try and come home early, ok?” he says, rising from the dining table.
“Do you want me to get you anything?” he asks.
“Yeah, erm…get me cashew nuts,” I say, smiling up at him and basking in the attention, as the other occupants of the table observe us in silence.
“Any other thing?” he asks, wiggling his brows mischievously.
I think he knows what I’m doing, and he’s playing along. I just love this man!
“Banana too,” I say, still smiling.
“Jeez! Do you guys need a room?” Ifeanyi voices out his discomfort.
My husband and I guffaw at his outburst, while Uncle Donatus and Leticia add a perfunctory laugh.
“Alright, baby, see you as soon as I can, alright?” my husband says, giving my shoulder a quick squeeze before picking up his bag and car keys and heading out of the house.
“I have to go and prepare for court,” Uncle Donatus says, rising and leaving the table too.
“So, how did you make this bread?” Leticia says then.
The sound of her voice directed at me winnows away the dreamy smile that is lingering on my lips in the wake of my husband’s departure. The beginnings of a scowl settle on my face as I turn to her.
“Huh? How did I make the bread?” Something between disdain and scorn colours my voice as I point to the wrapped remainder of the loaf. “I think the wrapper of the bread says it all. I didn’t make the bread.”
“I know!” she says, rolling her eyes with an expression that seems to say, ‘Oh, it’s on!’
So much for the apologetic woman of yesterday night, I think to myself with a sneering smile.
She continues, “I am asking how you made this…erm…this thing…” She gestures at the plate containing the sauce I made for breakfast.
“Oh, you mean the spread?” I ask mockingly. “It’s called Pimiento Vegetable Sandwich spread. Do you want me to give you the recipe?” Like you’d know what to do with it, I sneer silently.
“Nah,” she says. “I didn’t really like it. I think you should have added a little bit of pepper. It made me feel a bit nauseated.”
Remembering how voraciously she devoured several slices of the bread and the generous amounts of the spread she’d slathered on the slices, I let out a short and caustic laugh. “Oh, I’m sorry. Perhaps next time, you can add more pepper to your food from the pepper shaker.” I lift the shaker from the table and wave it before her face like a hypnotist.
Ifeanyi, who had looks like he’d been holding back his mirth all through our exchange, finally lets it go and begins to shake with laughter, an act that earns him a glare from Leticia.
Without saying anymore, I rise from the table and flounce out of the dining room.
“Nne, keekwanu k’imee?” I say to Chinwe over the phone.
“I’m fine o. The pain is still there, but I feel a lot better than yesterday,” she replies.
“Sorry, my dear, you’ll be fine soon, you hear?” I console.
She grunts in concurrence.
“Who is with you there?” I ask.
“Mmadu,” she says with a smile in her voice.
“Mmadu kwa? Mmadu ahu enwero aha?” I enquire.
“Imanu every,” she chuckles.
“Mba o! I don’t know anything!” I say, laughing. “Shey he’s there?”
“Oh! That’s why you don’t want to talk, abi?”
“Just hold on,” she says to me. Then her voice fades out a bit as she begins to address the person in the room with her. “Nna, can you help me go downstairs and get Lucozade Boost? I’m beginning to feel weak.”
“Ok…” a male voice replies. I recognize it as Chukwuebuka’s. After a few seconds, the voice comes again. “Maybe you should switch off your phone so that you’ll rest…”
“No, no, no,” comes Chinwe’s quick reply. “Talking doesn’t take energy.”
“Ok then.” Seconds later, I hear the door click shut on the other end.
“Ehen,” Chinwe returns to the phone. “Are you still there?”
“Of course, I’m still here, and I heard everything,” I say, chuckling.
“Nne, I’m seriously confused o,” she says, sounding serious.
“Chukwuebuka and I are not dating yet. In fact, I’ve been searching myself to see if I really want to go out with him. I don’t want to be burned again like the last time, and the circumstances are almost the same, as per he is based outside the country.”
“Ehen,” I encourage when she pauses.
“So, anyway, he came into Nigeria the day before yesterday, just to see me. And we agreed to meet that yesterday that I had this incident –”
“Babe, don’t tell me you think your fall is a sign that he is all wrong for you –” I cut in.
“Relax joor!” she cuts me off as well. “That’s not what I’m saying. Just let me finish.”
“Well, he saw me for the first time lying on that gurney, and he has been so supportive for someone who I haven’t been answering well. Do you know he’s paid all the bills, and he even paid for a private room so that he can stay with me here?”
“Uhm, okay? What is your confusion?” I ask when she doesn’t say anything else for a few seconds.
“I’m still not sure that I like him, and I feel trapped by all these gestures–” She chokes off the remainder of her words and adds instead, “Let’s talk tomorrow, babe.”
“Why? We’re talking now na…” I start to protest, then, “Wait, he’s back?”
“You’re smart,” Chinwe says with a small chuckle, and then ends the call.
Just as I recline on my seat with the thoughts of Chinwe and Chukwuebuka simmering in my mind, my phone beeps, signifying the receipt of a text message. I click open the message, which I can see is from Nneamaka.
‘We’re no longer friends. Shey you have finished coming to visit yesterday?’ the message reads.
“Ewoo!” I exclaim, remembering that Nneamaka came back from visiting with her mother two days back, and I’d promised to go see her yesterday. But then, Chinwe happened, and Ifeanyi and his emissaries happened, and I forgot all about my intended visit.
I dial her number.
“Nne, gbagharam,” I blurt out immediately she picks up.
“That’s how you use to do!” she returns accusingly. “You always forget when you say you’ll come and visit.”
“No now, when have I ever done that?”
“That time we were supposed to make Ekpang nkwukwo…”
“Ah! I explained to you that Gabby wasn’t feeling strong nau!”
“No. My problem is that you always give your excuses after you default. Don’t you know that I have things scheduled every day?”
“Ahn! Relax now! Why are you worrying like this?” I ask, getting a tad angry. “I have said sorry now!”
“Ok. I accept your apology,” she mutters.
Yeah, wareva, I think. “So, are you around today?”
“Yes. You can come.”
So much for daily schedules, I think again. “Ok. See you in fifteen minutes.”
“Eya baaaby! Yes! Eya baaaby! Yes!” Gabby sings all the way to the neighbouring compound, in anticipation of meeting and playing with Nuella, Nneamaka’s daughter.
Nneamaka opens the door to my knock.
Gabby and Nuella scream in unison, as Gabby pushes past me and into the house.
“Umuaka a sef!” I say, shaking my head with a chuckle. “Nno jaré!” I say to Nneamaka, as we exchange a brief hug.
She lets me into the house and shuts her door.
“How is mumsy doing?” I ask, taking off my footwear and going to sit on a sofa.
“She’s fine jaré! She was just missing all of us. Immediately we all came, she got better,” Nneamaka replies.
“Correct mama!” I say, laughing. “She knows that you guys won’t show if she just says she’s missing you. So, she decided to fall ill.”
“Abi now?” Nneamaka agrees with a laugh of her own. “So, without wasting time, let’s go into the business of the day.” She rises from her seat, all business-like.
“Which business of the day?” I ask with some bewilderment.
“Well, my exam at NIHOTOUR is coming up in three days’ time, and all that time I spent at the village did not give me chance to practice. So, I am going to make and present two three-course meals, one today, and another one tomorrow. Your job is to time me and taste it for me. Don’t spare me in your criticisms o!”
“Wait first!” I raise a hand to halt her. “When did we discuss this business?”
“We are discussing it now na! As if you’re not happy to be my tester!”
“Yes! And that is the only reason I’m agreeing to this,” I say, chuckling.
“Ok! Let me go and set everything up.” She walks to her kitchen, leaving me to trail behind her. “The whole idea is getting the second course ready, just as you’re finishing with the first.”
“Hmm! Ndi cookery and choppery,” I tease.
“Okwa ibiago ozo?” She laughs.
“That reminds me… I had Leticia and some other people for breakfast today. I made sandwich spread with mayonnaise, tiny chopped veggies, mashed sardines and a little bit of pepper. The goat tried to diss my spread. So, I told her it’s ‘pimiento spread’!”
Nneamaka doubles over with laughter and I join in.
“So, you still remember pimiento?” she says.
“How can I forget? Plus I had to whip out a name so tush and foreign for that goat, and pimiento came in handy.”
“Well, it could have been pimiento spread, if you left out the sardines,” Nneamaka says.
“Oh really? Well, that’s good to know.”
“Ehen! We should go to Ahia Idodo tomorrow,” Nneamaka continues. “My food stuff is almost gone.”
“Hmm? I was planning on going to Ogbete this weekend.”
“Tomorrow is Ahia Idodo. Let’s just go, biko,” she cajoles.
“That market is too stressful, and I don’t need stress at this period of my life,” I protest, thinking about the positive pregnancy test strip.
“Ume ngwu! Let us go joor!”
“No wahala,” I give in. “We’ll go.”
“Ok. I’m ready,” she says after some seconds, pulling on her head covering and tying her apron strings. “My time starts now!” And she moves to light up the cooker.
I press the Start button on my phone timer and proceed to watch the seconds tick by.
Nne, keekwanu k’imee – My dear, how are you doing?
Mmadu – Somebody
Mmadu ahu enwero aha? – That somebody doesnt have a name?
Imanu every – You know every
Nne, gbagharam – My dear, forgive me
Umuaka a sef – These children sef
Okwa ibiago ozo – You have come again
Ume ngwu – Lazybones
Written by Adaku J