Mrs. Uzo’s headache refuses to relent despite the pain pills she took. Things seem to go from bad to worse. Despite her fatigue, she needs to do this; call the children and get a perspective of what exactly was going on. She walks wearily into her parlour and after calling each child at least three times, she has them all in the parlour. Standing in front of her.
“Paul, where did you go?”
Paul sneers. “I didn’t go anywhere!”
“You came back home after seven. Is that when your school closed?”
Paul shrugs. “Yes.”
Mrs. Uzo exclaims. “Paul!”
“I don’t have to listen to you.” Paul stomps away.
Mrs. Uzo gasps. “Paul!” She turns to the girls. “I’m going to ask this just once. Suzie, where did you go from school?”
Suzie frowns. “I came home, Mummy.”
Mrs. Uzo raises her voice. “If you lie to me, I’ll kill you.”
Suzie matches her mother’s tempo. “I went to Mma Pastor’s salon to get the key and helped her a little before I came home with Angel.”
“You know I will ask Mma Pastor.”
Suzie shrugs. “Ask her.”
Mrs. Uzo looks at Angel. “Angel, is that true?”
Angel looks at Suzie instead.
Kristal, Itoro and Imoh come down from a taxi right in front of Mrs. Eke’s house. They walk to the gate and press a bell. The electronic gate opens after a little while and then Tina Eke opens the door, and walks them to seats in her parlour.
“You’re welcome, Kristal.”
Kristal smiles. “Thanks, Mrs. Eke. I’m sorry I came like this.”
Mrs. Eke takes a seat. “Not at all.”
Kristal clasps her hands. “Actually Mrs. Uzo wanted the maid but she’s away on course right now and my friend said this girl was available now.”
Mrs. Eke nods. “I understand. But like I told you when you called, I don’t need a househelp.”
“Wow. You said so.”
Mrs. Eke sighs. “After the last one left, my mind just couldn’t take another.”
“You know, since you told me you needed one that time…”
“Yes, but not anymore. My husband doesn’t even want to see them.”
Kristal shakes her head. “Wow. Well, I guess we have to go then.”
Itoro scratches her head. “Can she stay here till Mrs. Uzo returns from her course?”
Kristal gasps. “Aha, Itoro! How can you suggest that?”
Mr. Uzo is a facilitator in the Safety First Conference Mrs. Uzo is attending. The hall is a small one with about twenty-five participants. Mr. Uzo uses power point presentation for his session. Despite her dislike and discomfort, Mrs. Uzo acknowledges her estranged husband is good at what he does.
At the end of the lecture, the coordinator announces the next facilitator would come up before a break but Mrs. Uzo cannot wait.
Mr. Uzo walks to his car. She runs after him and stops him just as he reaches the car.
“I called to tell you we needed to talk.”
Mr. Uzo arches his eyebrow. “Yes?”
Mrs. Uzo looks around. “We can’t talk here. It’s important.”
Mr. Uzo frowns. “About what?”
“What about the children?”
Mrs. Uzo smirks. “Don’t you care about their welfare?”
“What about their welfare?”
“It’s not something we can say here. My next class has started and I need to get back.”
Mr. Uzo opens his car. “Oh. Then get back into your class.”
“So when can we meet?”
He turns to her. “Right now.”
“You are so inconsiderate and selfish.”
Mrs. Uzo raises her voice. “This is not about me. It’s about our children. It’s bad enough that you left them to me and didn’t bother to even visit them once…”
“As if you let me visit.”
“Did I hold your leg?”
Mr. Uzo narrows his eyes. “You know what, Amaka. If you want to talk about the children’s welfare, you won’t stand here and argue with me. You’ll be talking about them.”
Mrs. Uzo takes a few deep breaths. “Paul joined a gang. And Suzie has been coming home very late.”
“That means you can send Angel to live with me before she becomes messed up too.”
Mr. Uzo gets into his car and drives away.
Bukky and Mrs. Eke are in Mrs. Eke’s room. There are four different types of heavy laces on the bed.
Bukky picks one up. “This one is the one we will wear after reception.” She holds it up to her body. “You see how sweet the colour is on my skin?”
Mrs. Eke fingers it. “It’s beautiful, Bukky. You have such an eye for good things.”
Bukky beams. “Thanks my dear. I am so excited.”
“I’m excited for you.”
“This one is what we will change into immediately I arrive his father’s house. Then we’ll wear this one for the party. And this one.” Bukky sighs. “I’ve not yet seen anything for the traditional. Whew, shopping for wedding is crazy.”
Mrs. Eke arches her eyebrow. “Has Lekan seen them?”
Bukky hisses. “What’s his business? His own is to pay.”
“I hope he’s prepared to spend the cash.”
“He has no choice. If he has to borrow he will.” Bukky touches one of the materials. “Ah, I got a fantastic shoe and bag for this one. I was so lucky. It was on sale. Just thirty-five thousand.”
Mrs. Eke gasps. “Ha, where?”
Bukky folds the materials gingerly. “I just entered the shop on Lekki o. They said they were doing clearance sales. See plenty fine things. Hmm. My eyes were just popping.”
Mrs. Eke claps with glee. “You have to take me there tomorrow.”
Bukky laughs. “Carry your cash o.”
Mrs. Eke winks. “Mr. Eke will not mind.”
Bukky rolls her eyes. “Do you know I saw that slut on your street in the shop too, with one of her baboons?”
Mrs. Eke laughs. “Betty? Which baboon this time?”
Bukky frowns. “Hmm, is it funny? Living on the same street with a girl like that will give me the creeps.” She packs up the materials. “I have to leave. It’s getting late. And I don’t know but Lekan complained about Mr. Eke being rude.”
Mrs. Eke sighs. “Joe has been—I don’t know.”
They walk into Mrs. Eke’s parlour with Bukky, carrying two bags with her lace materials in it.
Mrs. Eke raises her voice. “Imoh!”
Imoh responds from somewhere within the house. “Yes ma!”
“Come and take these clothes into my car.”
Imoh runs in. “Yes ma.”
Mrs. Eke gives her the bags of lace from Bukky’s hands. Imoh collects the bags with a curtsey and exits.
Bukky raises her eyebrows. “Who is this one?”
Mrs. Eke giggles. “Long story my dear. Kristal brought her this morning. Just shortly before you came.”
Bukky shakes her head. “Hmm, you’re looking for trouble again.”
Mrs. Eke shrugs. “Actually, she’s supposed to be for Mrs. Uzo, my neighbour. But they said she’s away on course. But me I see her in the evenings so I agreed to take her there later.”
“What kind of course?”
Mrs. Eke shrugs. “Office now. I think she’s not lodging because she’s alone with the children.”
“Ha better go and drop this girl o.”
“Hmm. But Bukky, if you see the way this girl works. Come and see my kitchen.”
Mrs. Eke pulls Bukky’s hand and both enter a sparkling clean kitchen.
Bukky exclaims. “Hey! She did this?”
Mrs. Eke chuckles. “I just quietly left her. As soon as she dropped her bag in the room, she entered the kitchen, started scrubbing. From kitchen, she entered Alice’s room.”
Bukky laughs. “Even your husband will not object to this one.”
“Are you telling me? That last experience was too horrible with that little lazy witch.”
Bukky nods. “Maybe you just keep her for a month or so and see how she does.”
Mrs. Eke pats Bukky. “As if you’re in my mind.”
Betty walks to her door and puts the key in the lock. Angel comes out of Mma Pastor’s salon and stands staring at her till Betty disappears into her house, unaware of Angel watching her.