Mrs. Uzo glares at Mr. Uzo. “Go on, do it. Then I will show you madness here. Foolish man. Your mates are returning from work to a happy family, you’re here.”
Mr. Uzo breathes hard, his hand still raised above his head. “And what are your mates doing? Prostituting with men half their age?”
Mrs. Uzo hisses. “Shame on you.”
Mr. Uzo drops his hand. “Did you tell him your first daughter is sixteen?”
Mrs. Uzo sneers. “Are you jealous? Younger men are doting on me, is it paining you?”
“You’re a disgrace to motherhood…”
Nurse Bibi walks up behind them. “The doctors are out.”
The couple and Nurse Bibi rush back inside.
Mrs. Eke places food on the table and looks toward the parlour where Mr. Eke is seated, fiddling with his iPhone.
She raises her voice. “Food is on the table, dear.”
Mr. Eke mumbles. “I’m not hungry.”
“Sweetheart, please. What have I done? Haven’t I tried to plead?”
He raises his voice. “What are you talking about?”
Mrs. Eke walks over and kneels in front of him. “Ever since I sent that house girl away, you’ve been like this. Please.”
He glares at her. “What house girl?”
“Darling please now. Pity me. Was I supposed to watch you give that girl so much attention? See how I’ve been suffering since. Six months, darling. Please now.”
Mr. Eke rises. Two receipts fall to the ground from his body. “Excuse me.” He walks out of the parlour. Mrs. Eke drops her head in frustration.
Etido, Mfon, Ekaette and the others are locked up inside a cell. Mfon cries. Ekaette laments with tears in her eyes, and Etido paces like a caged animal.
Fatigued, Mfon and Ekaette are cuddled to one corner. The guys talk together in another corner. Etido leans against the iron bars, exhausted.
“Who did you say you called?” Etido says. No one responds. “Aniefiok!”
Aniefiok startles. “Hmm?”
Etido breathes hard. “Who did you say you called?”
“Oh, my girlfriend. Like her brother is a policeman.”
Etido frowns. “You think she’ll call him?”
Aniefiok nods. “She will. She came from home today to collect her school fees. She must call him o.”
Etido blinks. “From home? Her brother is a policeman back in Uyo or what?”
“Yeah. But they all know themselves somehow.”
Etido smirks. “How can that work?”
Mrs. Akpan and her children are at dinner. Itoro knocks once and enters the house.
“Aha, Stella, you didn’t lock the front door? What if it is one of those village idiots that just opened like that?”
Stella gasps. “Aha, mummy. Is it not Imoh that locks the door?”
Mrs. Akpan shouts. “Is there any Imoh here? Why do you behave like a foolish girl like this?
Stella grumbles. “I’m not foolish o, don’t call me foolish.”
Mrs. Akpan snaps. “Com’on, go and lock that door. Imoh will do everything for you, at your age.”
“Is it my fault? Do I know how to do anything?”
Mrs. Akpan claps. “Ah, Stella, your own has finished. At twenty, you still need spoon-feeding.”
Stella goes to the door. “Is it not you that does the spoon-feeding?” She taps Itoro. “Please come and go, I want to lock the door.”
Itoro rolls her eyes. “Aha, but I just came here now.”
Stella snaps. “Didn’t you hear my mum, I should lock the door.” She pushes Itoro gently. “Please go now.”
Mrs. Akpan hisses. “Stella don’t be daft.”
Stella frowns. “What did I do now?”
Itoro waves Mrs. Akpan off. “Don’t worry. Good night.” She turns and exits.
Stella sulkily locks the door.
Mrs. Akpan shakes her head. “Do you know you just disgraced me in front of that small girl? The whole compound will…”
“Mummy, abeg abeg abeg.” Stella hisses and walks into the house.
Paul opens cupboards and sees nothing. He goes back to the fridge and brings out a bottle of water. He pours it, drinks. Pours another glass, drinks. Pours the third glass, and throws it across the kitchen. He heaves and puffs and wonders what Betty must be thinking wherever she is.
Itoro walks to her room, moaning. “Nonsense woman. Instead for her to train her children. Well, it’s her loss. I’ll see how she wants to get free of these village people. Yeye woman. For me to even try and offer to help her. Tell her I’ll bring Imoh back, it’s her loss. Nonsense people.”
She gets to her door, opens it, and disappears inside.
Mma Pastor and Suzie enter the salon together. “Wait here first. Let me tell Pastor you’re here.”
Suzie clasps her hands. “I can wait here till my mummy comes back.”
Mma Pastor sighs. “I’m not praying evil but what if she doesn’t come back tonight.
Suzie sags. “She’ll just leave me like that?”
Mma Pastor shakes her head. “No dear, but I’m sure she’ll think you are inside your house or here.”
Suzie sobs. “But this our street is so small. How can someone just drive over Angel like that?”
Mma Pastor pulls her into a hug. “The man was drunk, dear. And he sped off. Hit and run like that are very dangerous people.”
Suzie sniffs. “At least mummy should have called.”
“She must be confused. I would be too if it was me.”
“She doesn’t care.”
Mma Pastor pulls back and stares at her. “Don’t talk like that. Wait a second, I’ll be back.”
Suzie sits in the dark salon and waits. She dozes once a while but startles back to herself. She stands, stretches and then hears voices from the interior of the salon. She walks toward the sound, which seemed to come from Mma Pastor’s bedroom.
Suzie quietly moves close enough to the semi-lit bedroom. Pastor is seated on the bed.
Mma Pastor is on her feet close to the door. “She’s only a child, Pastor. And she’s afraid. Will we just leave her like that?”
Pastor’s voice is low but strong. “Why not? I’ve been telling you the family is useless. They don’t fear God.”
“But are we not supposed to be a light to them?”
Pastor sneers. “Which light? Those blind people. How will a blind man know if there is light or not?”
“You can’t talk like that, dear. We are supposed to show them the way.”
“What way? See, it’s late, and I want to rest. I still need to wake up in the night to pray.”
Mma Pastor sighs. “So I can let Suzie in now?”
“I don’t want any son of perdition in my house.”
Mma Pastor gasps. “Aha, pastor! How is she a son of perdition?”
“How is she not? Please let me rest.”
Mma Pastor softens her voice. “Dear, please. Let us give that girl a place to sleep. Just for tonight. Please.”
Suzie tip-toes back to the shop area, and sits on a chair. Then she cuddles on the chair. She ends up on the floor, rolled up into a ball.
Mmayen rushes into her husband, Ekpeyong’s compound in Ikot Urua. Ekpeyong is seated on his long bench, smoking pipe.
“I want to go to Lagos.”
Ekpeyong glares at her. “Woman, go inside and sleep. You have had too much to drink in your father’s compound.”
Mmayen stamps her feet. “How can you send Ekaette to Lagos and leave me here?”
Ekpeyong sneers. “Who told you I sent Ekaette to Lagos? She went on her own.”
Mmayen shrieks. “I don’t believe you.”
“Believe what you like.”
“That is how you sent her useless daughters too. A woman that bore you only daughters is enjoying while me that bore you a son is here.”
Ekpeyong hisses. “So go and take care of your son, and stop being a pain.”
Mmayen whines. “I want to go to Lagos o!”
Ekpeyong chuckles. “To go and do what?”
“What did Ekaette go and do?”
Ekpeyong shrugs. “I don’t know. Her children are there. Her brother is there. Her sister’s children are there? You, who do you have in Lagos?”
Mmayen pouts. “Is Ekaette not there?”
Tina Eke sits on the floor right where she had knelt for her husband. She notices the two receipts, and opens them, a bit reluctantly. Her eyes darts around stealthily. She reads the receipts.
Her mouth drops open. “Heh! House rent in this Savanna Street?”