“Christiana! You won’t kill me o!” Iya Basira yelled loudly, as she stared disdainfully at the poor girl.
Christiana suddenly fidgeted at the sight of being caught, as she hid in the small room of the canteen –it was the most secured part of the place in which they commonly called Store, because it was where they kept all the working materials when going home after work, but because the place was partitioned with soft plywood, they had to construct a door and nail a security catcher, so that nonstaffs would gain no entry. Christiana had shut the door from behind, and thought she locked it, until now that the woman had entered. Iya Basira didn’t display the slightest disappointment, because she actually wasn’t. She had caught the young girl severally stealing the left overs of customers and sometimes even eating it in the open.
When Christiana’s aunt brought her to work with the older woman, so that the young woman would start learning how to run a good spruce food canteen too, with the hope of opening one for herself after her Freedom, the old woman had thought it unnecessary to accept payment, claiming that it was a bigger advantage to her. Christiana was a very gentle and very reserved girl, and she stayed that way for two weeks until she knew all the workers and that was when she became entirely something different.
Christiana would take away the food of the customers barely before they finished eating, and she would argue defensively. Christiana would claim she didn’t know they were not done eating, and then she’d sometimes deliberately turn water into their soup, making it uncomfortable. When the customers complain, Iya Basira would pacify them either by offering them a new delicacy, or attempting to offer them. But most of the time, the customers would just be satisfied when they were offered.
Iya Basira had considered sending the poor girl back to her aunt. But it did not only feel wicked, it would seem too cruel too, since she already knew that that would ultimately lead to her being sent back to the village.
“Mama. I’m soo sorry ma” she pleaded naively, as soon as she dropped the delicious chunk she was about relishing before the old woman’s interruption.
“See, Christiana ehn? … I am not angry because of my business. I am just considering you and the future of your children. If you keep eating customer’s leftovers, it is an evil omen that you would always serve them.”
Christiana buried a very strong temptation to laugh. Iya Basira had said this over and over again, and yet it was always funny how she really believed that something like that existed. ‘Why can’t you just come out straight and tell me you don’t want me to eat? Instead of claiming that it is for my own safety.’ Christiana thought and laughed inaudibly, but she quickly took her face away from getting caught, and muttered the same confessions she’d always utter when caught. “I’m so sorry Mama. It would never happen again.”
“Christiana, I just pray you listen to me before it is too late. Eating customer’s left overs is dangerous. You don’t know what some people have done to their food before leaving it for anyone. Some of them are really dangerous; they might have put something in the food to steal the glorious future of anyone who eats it… ”
‘Glorious future?’ Christiana wondered and laughed out loud, it appeared that Iya Basira too wanted to laugh, if any of her workers had a glorious future indeed, it definitely wasn’t Christiana of all people. She was not only ugly, but had two kids already, at her tender age. The two boys she had belonged to two different useless bastards, making the kids full blood bastards themselves. Christiana fought the urge to remember the way families and friends asked her for the father of her first child, and how she could not even mention his name, and when her belly grew the second time, she had to present a list of four men. In which none claimed responsibility.
There obviously was no future ahead of her, in fact, if she knew how someone could steal her miserable life away, and give her his/her own less-miserable, Christiana wouldn’t mind at all.
“My dear”, Iya Basira spoke sternly, “do not laugh because I said you have a glorious future. You really do. No one can tell the future. Never consider wasting your life as an opportunity to avenge yourself for all your wrong doings.”
If only Iya Basira could just keep shut, Christiana thought. ‘If only she would just let me finish this food first, because starting her tales again’. She concluded as her eyes fell on the big plate of half eaten Semo and two big meats.
Iya Basira always made sure that all her workers ate to their fill before starting work every morning, she also made sure that they ate well during their break, and that they took enough food home after work, but people like Christiana just have a urge beyond being fed, they had the strong urge to feed – not to be fed.
Three weeks rolled, Iya Basira kept warning her, and she kept promising to adjust without ever giving it a second thought until she began to feel the warning was getting too much and too embarrassing. She knew that the old woman had no choice because Christiana was her best cook. People loved it whenever she cooked, people would even specifically tease her about cooking in the oyibo White House, and they thus nick named her; ‘Mama White House.’
Christiana had just finished a plate of rice and stew, and then where she sat she looked towards the entrance of the canteen and saw a very familiar woman entering.
‘Jeez!’ She lamented quietly, ‘why have I fed so much today. This woman don come o’
The woman in question was one of Christiana’s favorite customers, she would buy a whole lot of solid food and lots of bokoto meat, but she would only take few pinches and a bite and then she’d leave. Basira loved to run and pack her table once she’s through with them. She’d watch and watch impatiently, until the woman arose from her chair because all eyes were on Christiana – if she stood to pack a plate of someone who was not yet through with their food, the other workers would shout at her saying; “Christiana go to your department!”
The woman rinsed her hand in the bowl opposite her, she was done eating once again and as usual, she had taken just two invisible pinches from the pounded yam served. She had also taken just one big bite from the meat, and then she was leaving with two big meats still in her plate. Christiana watched the woman leaving, she was still heavily breathing from the just consumed plate of rice but the very moment her eyes caught Rashidat going to clear the woman’s table, she flew from her stool quickly.
“Let me handle that.” She intercepted and grabbed the tray from the girl.
“Miss. White House. You’ll never change.”
She only cursed the coworker and ran with the food into her usual consumption spot.
She kept staring at the food with anger, her belly was filled, but she could not just let it go like that, she needed an extra appetite now. She kept breathing heavily and staring lustfully at the food until she heard the approaching footsteps of Iya Basira, then she quickly swallowed one of the meats, held unto the other and tossed the plate quickly under the big bench that sat in the dark side.
“Christianaaa! Are you stealing food again?”
“No ma, this is from my lunch” she said looking as sincere as possible.
Less than two weeks after, a man walked into the canteen and was very attracted to the sweet smell that emanated from the interior. He asked who the cook was, and they presented Miss. White House.
“This food is very very delicious!” The man commented, I would do anything possible to have you as the head cook of the company that was put in my care recently.
It seemed as magic, when the words of the man hit her face in confirmation. Christiana looked very pale as happiness flushed her face. The words of Iya Basira kept ringing in her head – Glorious Future!
“This is my business card. It will be your entry into Tallegoids Bros. Company” The man signed on the card and then offered her,.“ Show this to the gate man, and he would lead you to where you should be. We have been looking for a good cook, and what I tasted here was just too good.”
Christiana could not believe her eyes; she kept glowing with excitement as she kept calculating the man’s proposal which would imply a total income of almost Three hundred thousand Naira into her account at the end of every month. She couldn’t hold her joy. Iya Basira helped her to draft out a lot of things, she even helped her to go round the routines of how her own local place went.
Christiana slept with the business card under her pillow that night, and then she dreamt.
In her dream, she was dancing happily with the business card held stiffly in her right hand and then a very familiar woman came to meet her. She was the same woman who usually came to eat at the local canteen but while Christiana was busy celebrating and assuming the woman was celebrating with her, the woman slipped the card from her and said firmly;
“What were you thinking? Have I not fed you several times in the past? Have you not all along being eating from me?”
“Shhh! Don’t worry dear. I’ll always keep feeding you if you so desire, but would never give you the chance of overtaking me. I have known right from time that you had a glorious future in the cooking world, and I have been following you since then, to hijack it from you. Come to me for employment if you wish. But you’ll never overtake me; instead, you’ll always serve”
“Nooooo” was the noise that woke Christiana up from dream. She was soo glad that she had only been dreaming, she knew she has done wrong by stealing the leftovers of the customers, and she vowed not to try it in her new office.
Her fears grew when the words of the woman shrilled into her ears again. She flung her pillow off the mat and looked at the bald spot. She searched everywhere in her room, but the business card was gone.
Christiana confirmed thereafter that devilish evils truly exist sweetly.