Onyinye looks up as Peter makes an entrance into her bedroom. Dressed in an over-sized National Youth Service Corp khaki uniform, the matching beret turned backwards, he’s crooning P-Square’s latest song in a shrill falsetto. “Omalicha…what a beautiful Onyinye.”
A weak smile temporarily brightens Onyinye’s downcast face. She had been afraid that despite the pleading letter she sent, he wouldn’t come. “My original Peter,” she says in a soft voice.
“True talk,” Peter replies with a loud laugh. “Others just be counterfeit.” He entertains Onyinye with a jerky moonwalk and robot dance before flopping on her flattened mattress. “I hungry o,” Peter says in a gruff voice as he looks around the sparsely furnished space and notices that there are no dishes set out on the table. “We just leave parade ground and I never chop since morning. Wetin dey ground?”
Heart pounding, Onyinye moves closer to him. Food is the last thing on her mind. They have more urgent things to discuss. She licks her dry lips. “Em, Mr. Peter, that thing never come o,” she says with a tremble in her voice.
He gives her a puzzled look. “Which thing?”
She moves close and whispers some words in his left ear. As the words sink, Peter’s smile disappears. “Onyinye, which kin joke, be dis?”
Her eyes widen. “Dis no be joke o. I never see the thing.”
“Well, I go suggest say make you go find am,” he says.
Onyinye’s heart sinks at the sharp tone of his voice. “Where I go find am?”
“Na me lose am?” Blinking rapidly, Peter stands from the bed and backs away. Rubbing a shaky hand on the top of his head, he gives the doorway a longing look. “In fact, I no hungry again,” he says. “I go come back later.”
“Mr. Peter, abeg. Wait!” The bedroom door slams shut behind him.
Onyinye stares at the door for several minutes before she dissolves into quiet, anguished sobs that shake her slight frame.
A month later, head hanging low, Onyinye stands alone before her fiery-eyed mother. Mama Onyinye listens as her only daughter confesses that despite regular precautionary measures, Satan’s machinations had prevailed. “Mama, I don carry belle,” she says, steeling herself for her mother’s signature hot slap.
The slap comes on the heel of Mama Onyinye’s blood-curdling roar. “You carry wetin? The devil is a liar!” It takes her brother and three concerned neighbours to save Onyinye from punishing claws.
After her father returns home and learns of the bad news, Papa Onyinye pays a visit to Peter’s dilapidated National Youth Service Corp’s quarters on Awoof Lane.
A newly sharpened machete glistening in his hand, Papa Onyinye is able to convince Peter’s neighbours on the importance of sharing whatever information they have. His eyes sting with futile tears when he learns that Peter inconveniently relocated without leaving a forwarding address. The machete drops. “Ewo! I’m finished!” His loud cry travels down the street.
Unknown to Papa Onyinye, four houses down on Awoof Lane, another mother, is screaming at a pregnant child. “So this is how you were studying for your final examinations?” she asks with tears running down her face.
The next day at noon, the concerned citizens of Awoof Lane march towards the National Youth Service Corp offices after Peter’s extra-curricular national service, packaged as free tutoring lessons for math-challenged secondary school girls, claims its fourth victim.