Imoh sits outside Mrs. Akpan’s house in a compound with several other houses, and sobs softly. Ever since her mother insisted she follow kinsmen to Lagos to avoid the horrible treatment her father and his new wife subjects them to, she has regretted following suit. Living with Mrs. Akpan as a maid is hell redefined.
Itoro, one of the ladies living in another flat enters through the compound gate and stops short, seeing her.
“Imoh, what is the matter? Are you not going to sleep?”
Imoh sighs. “Aunty pushed me out and locked the door.”
Itoro exclaims. “What? At this time of the night? What did you do this time?”
Imoh sniffs. “There was power failure. I couldn’t light candles round the house fast enough. By the time I got to Stella’s room, she was very angry. Aunty said for that, I will sleep out in the dark today.”
“Haba! This is too much!! How wicked can someone get? Is it because you came back?”
That was another issue. She’d run away once, and when she couldn’t locate her kinsmen in Lagos, come back to Mrs. Akpan.
Imoh clasps her hands on her head. “I’m just tired. I don’t have anywhere to go. Since I came back, she has stopped my salary completely. She said feeding me is more than I deserve.”
Itoro shakes her head. “Listen, if I get another place for you will you go?”
Imoh sits up. “Can anywhere be worse than this?”
“My sister’s friend just delivered a baby and she needs help around the house. Will you be free to follow me there tomorrow?”
Imoh cleans her eyes. “I can only leave the house when aunty goes to the market.”
“At about what time does she go?”
“She leaves the house at about 11a.m and comes back at about 2p.m when Godswill returns from school.”
Itoro nods. “Okay. I will come and take you by 11.30a.m. Have your load packed ready.”
Imoh smiles. “Thank you, God bless you.”
Imoh remains there while Itoro walks away to enter another house in the compound, shaking her head.
Betty comes out of a taxi and half staggers to her door. She opens and disappears inside. She goes to the bathroom, and throws up in the sink. She opens the taps and washes her face.
She walks to her bedroom and falls on her bed fully dressed. She’s asleep the next minute.
Paul, Jimmy and Goody are in their usual spot in the abandoned building. Paul and Goody are in their school uniforms but the other boy is in mufti. Jimmy and Goody are smoking. Fred, a tall lanky boy older than the other three, and also dressed in mufti walks over. He greets the boys gang-style.
“So what’s the plan?”
Jimmy puffs. “We have to get back at those foolish boys.”
Paul clears the smoke out of his face. “I think we should just leave them alone. They are more than us and bigger.”
“They are not stronger.” Jimmy looks at Paul. “You have to take some weed too. Or you’ll continue to be weak. You made us lose last time.”
Paul stammers. “I don’t think we should…”
Fred folds his arms across his chest. “Now I’m here, it’s better.”
Goody shrugs. “Anything you boys say.”
Fred slaps Goody’s back. “Goody Goody.”
“I think we should just stay out of their way,” Paul says.
Jimmy smirks. “Mummy’s boy. Cry cry baby, you want to see your mummy.”
Fred snaps. “Leave him alone, Jimmy. He’ll come round.”
Goody shrugs. “His daddy just packed out. So don’t blame him.”
Paul rolls his eyes. “I don’t like being locked up by police. But it looks like you do.”
Jimmy grabs Paul’s collar. “I’ll deal with you…”
Fred separates them. “Stop it. We can’t be fighting ourselves.”
Jimmy pushes Paul away. “Go home to your mother, sissy boy.”
Paul hisses. “There’s nothing to go home to.”
Goody shrugs. “Then do what Jimmy says.”
Paul pushes Goody. “You shut up.”
Mma Pastor’s salon is busy. Gidi, a man in his late twenties with tattoos on his upper arm, wears a sleeveless jersey and jeans, with Bisi, a lady with her hair cut low, and Mary who looks younger than her age, are all making hair and nails for customers.
Mma Pastor makes hair for another customer. Three other ladies are seated waiting their turn. Christian music plays in the background. Customers and stylists chat mutedly. Angel sits in one of the seats in her school uniform.
Suzie walks over to the salon in her school uniform. Angel doesn’t spare her a glance.
Suzie raises her voice. “Good evening, ma.”
Mma Pastor smiles. “How are you, dear? How was school?”
“Fine ma. Thank you.” Suzie looks at the stylists. “Good afternoon.” They mumble a response. Suzie looks at Angel. “Let’s go.”
Mma Pastor looks at Suzie. “You’re a little late today. Hope nothing was wrong.”
Angel snickers. “She’s always late.”
Suzie snaps. “Shut up.” She hisses. “Nothing Mma Pastor.” She turns to Angel and repeats. “Let’s go.”
She picks a key hung on one side of the wall, and precedes Angel out of the salon.
Mma Pastor watch them with pity as they leave. “Poor girls.”
Suzie is in the kitchen preparing dinner. Paul walks in and goes to the refrigerator. He opens it and browses.
Suzie glares at him. “And where have you been?”
Paul mumbles inaudibly. “I don’t know.”
Suzie leaves her cooking for a moment. “Since daddy moved, this is what you’ve been doing.”
Paul feigns innocence. “What?”
Suzie hisses. “Coming home late. Where do you go after school?”
Paul sneers. “I should be asking you! When I come back you’re not here.”
Suzie rolls her eyes. “So why don’t you get the key from Mma Pastor and come in.”
Paul slams the refrigerator. “What’s for dinner?”
Suzie snaps. “Answer me first!”
“I don’t have to answer you anything,” Paul says, and stomps away.
Suzie claps. “Nonsense. Wait till Mom comes back.”
Unknown to the Uzo kids, while their mom is away at work, and they are busy getting angry at one another, Mr. Uzo drives to the end of the street and comes out of his car. He locks up, and looks round for a second. He walks toward his house, but tries to keep to the shadows. When he gets close to his house, he crosses the road, and stands in front of Betty’s house.
Betty is fully dressed to go out. She opens the door to Mr. Uzo.