The cock crows at Ikot Urua village the same minute Mmayen lets out a blood-freezing scream. Ekpeyong grabs his wrapper off his mat and rushes out of his room. Neighbors gather within minutes. Someone runs to call Nkoyo, Mmayen’s mother.
Nkoyo runs inside her daughter’s room and releases a chain of expletives never heard off. Neighbors speculate. Ekaette has been away for less than a week and there has been peace until now.
No one ventures inside the small hut Mmayen shares with her three-year old son. Perhaps because they all fear the worst.
Nkoyo comes out of the hut after a while and runs off without talking to anyone. She soon returns with the old woman the villagers call a witch. It is no secret that Nkoyo herself has close dealings with the underworld.
The old woman steps out of the hut with the lifeless body of Mmayen’s son. Mother and grandmother follow. They walk away in the direction of the forest. Some of the neighbors follow but some, halted by Ekpeyong’s angry protest, stays behind.
Bukky tiptoes to Lekan’s trousers carefully hung on a chair on his side of the bed, and picks it. She’s been searching for her shopping list since he finished eating the night before. She suspects he took the list while she served his meal in the kitchen.
She checks both sides of his pockets, whilst stealing glances at him to be sure he doesn’t wake and catch her unawares.
Where’s the list, she wonders. She can’t allow him to see it and she needs that list as proof of the expenses made and yet to be made. Her benefactor drives a hard bargain and she doesn’t want to be found lacking.
Lekan stirs and Bukky freezes. Her fiancé opens one eye and gazes at her. His face shows lack of comprehension. He mumbles something and closes his eye. Within a few seconds, Bukky hears his sound of sleep.
She checks the pockets and finds nothing. Then she checks his shirt. She tiptoes to his wardrobe and buries her head in it.
She doesn’t know when Lekan stands and tiptoes as well toward the bathroom. He carries the waste bin by the bathroom door and walks back to her.
Lekan pushes the bin toward her. “Is this what you’re looking for?”
She peeps into the bin and looks at him, eyes widened. “You tore my list?”
Imoh stands pressed to the wall close to her bedroom door, and listens for sounds. She hears nothing, which is strange. Alice should be awake but since Imoh hears nothing, she contemplates going to check. Last night he had come in again. He sat on the edge of her bed and touched her leg. Imoh had never been so frightened in her life. Madam said she wasn’t to go anywhere until Oga left the house.
She opens the door gently and startles when the door pushes back. Not aggressively. More like the person behind had been expecting her to open the door.
“Do you know what you want?”
Imoh stares into the face of the man she fears most. She’s heard of her fellow housegirls being molested by their bosses. One thing she’d enjoyed in Mrs. Akpan’s employ was that peace. Mrs. Akpan didn’t even have a husband, and the men she entertained in her house were done with utmost discretion.
She whimpers. “Yes sir.”
Mr. Eke whispers. “Is this what you want?”
Imoh nods. “Yes sir.”
“Are you very sure?”
Imoh wants to cry. “Yes sir.”
He touches her cheeks for a split second and disappears.
Before Imoh can catch her breath, she hears Mrs. Eke walk in through the front door. She hears the couple speak in mumbles, a strange way for a happy couple to communicate. Alice walks into her bathroom and soon the sound of flushing is heard. Everyone seem to have a late start today.
Imoh continues to press herself against the wall until she hears the familiar sounf of Mr. Eke’s jeep.
Ade calls to her for something but she knows better than to respond.
Soon all is quiet from outside and she hears the sound of Mr. Eke’s jeep. She lets out her breath. To God who made her, she would soon need to find her way out of here.
Mid-morning, Suzie startles awake. Betty is not back, and she hopes the older lady is fine. She straightens the bed and goes out through the back door the way she came in, and crosses the road to her house. Definitely her mother should be back. She knows she should go to Mma Pastor’s to thank her for the cold night she was subjected to but she doesn’t. Her house key is with her anyway so she didn’t need the older woman.
No one would have suspected the pastor’s wife had such a husband who lacked the simplest form of human sympathy. Well, she owes them nothing. She only regrets she told Mma Pastor her secret. Though the older woman had pressurized her.
She knows she needs to see Udo. This is not working out the way she plans. She walks into her house, expecting, hoping her mother will be there. She’s not so lucky. The drink Betty gave her does not seem to be working. She feels pregnant, still. Though she may be wrong. It’s still too soon to know but her spirit feels pregnant.
She rubs her lower abdomen. Her period has not returned though Betty told her it won’t immediately. She just needs a reassurance. She enters the bathroom and takes a quick shower then she dresses up, and leaves the house.
Bukky walks into Mr. Eke’s office, her new list in her hand. She doesn’t know what it’s for anymore because she’s told Lekan it was over. She can’t marry a man who does not appreciate the same values with her. She’s tired of his stinginess and it’s time to move on. But she has debts. All the lace and accessories she bought need to be paid for. She may end up selling them or keeping them for her wedding, whenever that would be.
She knocks on the door of the office, and opens the door.
Bukky is shocked to see Gina Eke seated behind her hubby’s table. Her mouth drops open, and she realizes there will be trouble when Gina exclaims,
Supo Cole scrolls through his android phone till he gets the name he wants. He’s had to work from the hospital after the annoying Mr. Uzo left. His wife needs him now and he’s just been a fool and an angry one too. Why couldn’t men see when their wives need them?
“Yes, I’m still at the hospital. The little girl seem okay but you know how women are. Sure. She can’t do anything at the moment. She’s really confused. She had to go and change and return. Anyway, the property is ours.” He chuckles. “And at our price. I know what I’m doing.” He laughs. “You do your part, I’ll do mine.”
He hangs up and looks around. There’s no sign of anyone suspicious. He makes another call.
“Babes, I’m just tired. Did you get the fresh crab? Ah, I can’t wait. Your fried crabs is the best in the world. Of course. I am a very lucky man.” He hangs up, and smiles at his phone.
“Who was that?” Mrs. Uzo’s voice is thin.
Supo’s head jerks up. “My sister. She makes the best crab in the world.”
Mrs. Uzo hugs her arms around her waist.
Supo goes to her and pulls her into his arms. “How’s Angel?”
Mrs. Uzo sighs. “She opened her eyes, and called for me.” She grips his shirt front, and weeps into it.
“Ah, Gina. I—no wonder. My spirit was like I should come here first.”
Gina Eke frowns. “My hubby said I should come to his office and wait for him.”
“He definitely wasn’t expecting me. Lekan was meant to come but you know him.” Bukky shrugs. “He’s so ashamed to ask Uncle Joe for money.”
“They were mates so.” Gina shrugs. “Anyway, how much did Lekan want to ask for?”
“Hmm, I told him o. You know me, I like good things but three million loan for wedding. Hmm, I told Lekan he won’t be able to pay back.”
Gina’s eyes widen. “Three million!”
Bukky sits. “I told him o but at the last minute, after fixing appointment with your hubby. He’s now shy. I just agreed to come last minute. Because Lekan, hmm. I know him.”
“Well, maybe Joe too was dodging him for him to say I should come and wait here.”
The prospect makes both ladies laugh.
“Ah, men.” Bukky sighs. “Well, purpose defeated then.”
“Hmm, Bukky I didn’t even gist you. The plan has worked. The girl. That Betty was picked up today.”
“This morning. Early like six thirty!”
Bukky screeches. She lifts her hand and gives Gina a high five. “I told you it’s not difficult. Hmm. By the time boys handle her… huh!”
“Wow, that woman you hired did a good job o.”
Bukky laughs. “Na all these Nollywood wannabe o.” She does a little dance. “Good good good!”