The traffic toward Bode Thomas is life-threatening. Some occasion is going on down the road.
Mrs. Amaka Uzo drives into her Savanna street, tense. It is her solace, clean, quiet, medium-income street. When she’s home, she thinks of peace. It’s most unlike her former street where the house is on the main road along Ojudu highway. Where when the traffic wakes, she wakes.
She knows the rent here is a little on the high side for her, but it is high-time she invests in something that gives a little peace. Though her stingy husband had, and continues to have an issue with it. Today, Saturday she just wants peace in her life.
Eight-year-old Angel stands by the window in what is obviously a room for children. The room has a bunk and a double. Clothes are scattered on the three unmade beds. Angel seems to be peeking through to somewhere she can’t really get a good view of. She turns and strains her neck, and stands on tip-toe. She improves her standing and continues to stare concentrating seriously on what she’s looking at.
Across the road, a black car is parked right in front of Betty’s bungalow, the house opposite the Uzos’. The car has tinted glass. Twenty-two year old Betty is seated beside a man almost double her age. He leans over to her, and flirts with a receptive Betty.
Angel continues to stretch her neck but she’s unable to see what is going on in the black car. There is noise from inside the house. Angel looks toward the sound of the noise. Two people having a physical combat. Mom is back, she thinks. Crashing sounds and things thrown here and there. Angry male and female voices. Angel marches out of the room, and slams the door behind her.
Down the street, Mrs. Tina Eke is dressed in her nightgown and with a housecoat. She sits in front of the TV but stares absentmindedly ahead, ignoring the movie on the screen. There is sound of a car driving into the compound. Mrs. Eke stiffens, glances at the wall clock, which says 11p.m. The front door opens and Mr. Eke walks in. He doesn’t greet his wife but goes to the bar area and pours a drink.
She speaks softly. “You didn’t say you’ll stay this long. I was worried.”
“Good evening to you too.” He downs his drink, drops his laptop bag. And exits into the house.
Tina Eke walks slowly to the bar area, picks the laptop bag, looks around. There is sadness in her face. She exits in the same direction with her husband.
Betty, dressed in a suggestive manner, stands in front of her mirror and assesses herself. She turns this and that way and sighs. Her phone rings. She picks it.
“Hello?” She exclaims in joy, and then pouts. “Honey.”
The caller is her newest catch, a dashing retired major, now business mogul, middle-aged man closer to triple her age than double.
“I’m not happy with you, Major.”
“What did I…”
“You travelled without me again…”
Major gasps. “But I’m back now!”
Betty looks at her wristwatch. “All the same.”
“You know I’ll make it up to you.”
A car horn blows from outside.
“Promise?” Betty goes to her window and looks out. The black car comes to a stop in front of her house.
Major grins. “It’s your call, Betty babe. Anything you want!”
Betty blows a noisy kiss. “My sweet love!”
The horn of the car sounds again.
Major smirks. “I can come right now. I’m hot for you!”
Betty hisses elaborately and calmly steps into her shoes. “Will your jealous wife release you at this time of the day? Is your bedtime not 8pm?”
Major guffaws. “Mrs. Thatcher travelled, my love. She won’t let go of the job so she’s got to lose on my side.”
Betty bursts into laughter and picks up her bag. She looks at herself in the mirror again. “You’ll take me somewhere for the night?” She looks round her room one more time.
“I’ll just take a bath now…” She heads to her front door. “Give me one hour.”
“I have all night baby.”
“One hour, Major. I’ll meet you at the oriental?”
“Your call, babe. Same room.”
Betty exits her house and turns to lock the door. “One hour. Bye love.”
Major smiles. “I’ll be waiting… One hour.”
“I love you.” Betty hangs up, opens the door of the black car and puts her phone in her bag.
The driver, Mr. Ehis, kisses her cheek. He draws back and makes to start the ignition.
“Honey…” She bursts into tears.
He quickly turns back to her and grabs her. “Baby girl, what is the matter?”
She sniffs. “Your wife! Your wife is the matter.”
Ehis frowns. “My wife? How on earth is my wife the matter??
“She came here with boys. If not that neighbours came to my rescue…”
He swears. “My gahd! How did you know she was my wife?”
“They were going to burn the house down. She introduced herself!”
He mumbles. “Must have followed me here… S***!”
Tears slip down Betty’s cheeks. “I don’t want to go out tonight… I don’t want to do anything right now…”
“Baby please don’t punish me because of that foolish woman.” He huffs. “Oh my sweetheart…. I’ll deal with that woman tonight! Enough is enough!!!”
“I just didn’t want to upset you, that’s why I didn’t call for you not to come…” She pauses and swallows with wide, teary and innocent eyes. “I just want to spend a quiet evening at home.”
He shrugs. “That’s alright by me dear. I’ll stay with…”
“No. I think you should go home to be with her today… Really. I, your wife…”
“I’ll kill her, Betty, she has no right to harass you.”
“I just don’t want more trouble from her. I’m so upset…”
“I can just imagine the embarrassment…”
She inhales. “It was awful, it was so embarrassing…”
“I’m sorry dear. How do I make it up to you?”
“No. Don’t do anything…”
“Oh my darling.” He pulls her into his arms. “My darling. I must make it up… How about twenty thousand in your account to start.”
Betty shrugs. “No.”
“Then a weekend away will be next…”
She smiles but shakes her head.
“Then shopping spree.”
She laughs. He tweaks her nose. “I know you like that.”
He leans over to kiss her.
She comes down from the car, wiping her eyes and walks to her door. Mr. Ehis horns once and pulls away.
Betty waves half-heartedly and remains standing. “Stingy man.”
The car disappears into the darkness. She smiles. She walks back to the road, waits a bit and flags down a taxi.
The driver nods. She looks up and down the road once, and gets in with a smile on her face. The taxi pulls away.
Angel stands at the window of her room, and peeps. Her body is fully stretched, showing she’s totally engrossed. She stays there for a few seconds, turning her head at strange angles to depict her concentration.
The oldest of the Uzo children, sixteen-year-old Suzie, opens the door and for a moment frowns at Angel’s angled body against the window. She slams the door and Angel jumps, and turns round with a guilty look.
“What are you doing there? Mom has been calling you since!”
Angel shrugs. “And so?”
Suzie moves toward her. “Why did you move that table away from the window, silly girl?” She jerks Angel toward the door.
Angel struggles. “Leave me alone!”
“Mom is calling you to eat.”
Angel frees herself and runs to the door. Suzie lets her go. “Bye bye.” She mimics a naughty look and jerks the door open, runs out and slams it behind her.
Suzie looks curious and walks to the window. She pushes the table back to its space away from the window. She peeks out and stares for a while.
She exclaims. “Angel!”