“Mama Segun said I should greet you,” Chike announced as he exited the house to the veranda where his mother sat. Adanma had already called it a night, leaving the two to their mother and son chats. Ezeamaka made a noncommittal sound to this news, barely moving her head from the cradle of her palm.
“Why are you so quiet?”
He sank unto the chair and raised an inquiring eyebrow. The older woman had been unusually reticent this evening; it had taken the combined effort from him and his wife to draw her into conversation over dinner.
“Hmmm…I’m just thinking,” She began and then stopped, shaking her head with a sigh. “I don’t like how those two came here today. Why did they even know to come here?”
Chike frowned slightly. “Who… are you talking about Chima and Mama Chibueze? Come now mama –”
“Look Uzo,” She cut in sharply and he hesitated. She only called him by that name when she was particularly vexed. “You don’t know what I’ve seen, what I know. I know what I know.”
He sighed and rubbed his face. “What am I supposed to do mama? I didn’t invite them here, I never even gave Chima this address, and yet they showed up. I don’t know why you don’t like…I know what you’ve told me about your experience back then but mama…don’t you think you’re overreacting about this?”
Ezeamaka chewed her lip, staring contemplatively at her feet. “Chike I have never trusted that woman and my instincts are rarely wrong. Isn’t it strange that just as I begin warning you about your father’s people, they show up here of all places?”
He chuckled softly at that. “Mama that’s called a coincidence.”
“I’ll call it my Chi sending me a warning,” she retorted, and then deflated on the chair. “I have a bad feeling about this…at least one good thing is that you and Ada will be leaving very soon.”
It was a hot and muggy evening and the air still carried lingering traces of dinner’s ogbono and akpu. Darkness had been steadily creeping around the edges of the compound and now the few kerosene lamps scattered here and there fought a losing battle with the shadows.
Chima emerged from his room, singlet slung casually over his shoulder. “Mama, broda Chike was very generous oh! He gave us fifty thousand.”
Obiangeli lifted her head from the palm over which it lay and raised an eyebrow. “Ehen?”
Her son nodded enthusiastically, showing her the contents of the envelopes. “He even gave mama Ebere forty thousand too.”
She instantly reached*** for the smaller envelope and began counting the money inside.
“Mama, what are you doing?”
“We traveled all the way from here to Lagos and then Okene, what has she done to deserve forty thousand? Besides one of her girls is busy prostituting herself in Lagos, let her go ask that one for money.” She removed several notes and tossed the rest aside. “There, that’s twenty-five. She and the other half-wit can certainly survive on that.”
Chima shook his head, reaching for the money even as it disappeared under his mother’s bra. “Mama thherat is not fair – broda Chike gave that money to her. She didn’t ask for it and just because we did is no reason to cheat her.”
That was the wrong thing to say. Obiangeli jerked upright on her stool, ophidian eyes glittering in the flickering light. Her low voice softened to a sibilant hiss. “Ask for it? Chei, now I know my Chi has deserted me! Did I ask to be one of those mothers who have to work to eat in their old age? Did I ask for my children to be lazy and dullard? Did I ask for my son to be stuck as a village headmaster driving bicycle while his peers are driving Mercedes and Peugeot?”
He stiffened and then hung his head as her words lashed him like a whip. “Mama…”
“Shut up! Look at you, look at Chike. By how many years is he older than you? Only three! And yet look what he has accomplished. He built a house for his mother, gave her a houseboy – look at that house with A.C! Here you are, living one room in your father’s compound, unable to buy common generator. His beautiful wife is already pregnant and you can’t even convince a single woman to marry you. And yet you can stand there and call yourself a man. Pshaw!”
She spat to the side and turned away, disgust etched on her features. “Get out of my sight.”
Chima opened his mouth, swallowed his words and then sighed softly. He shook his head and walked away, leaving her to stare into the darkness.
“That mere runt of a child…” Obiangeli muttered to herself. If she’d known this was how it would be, she would have physically wrenched his neck when she had the chance. But back then the thing looked as though it wouldn’t survive a week, just like her little girl, and she’d decided to bide the time. It was an act of mercy, so that the barren one could at least know what it felt to be a mother, even for a short while.
At first she’d been desperate when the surprise pregnancy yielded a male, the one thing their husband sought for. Who could blame her? She was the youngest wife, and still smarting from the fact that her two pregnancies gave her girls. Fortunately, Onwudike refused to claim the child as his own and she was able to breathe a little easier.
But then, she began questioning her complacence; men are notoriously capricious, especially when they are after something. If she or her senior wasted time providing a son, what was to stop their husband from claiming the one he’d discarded? Obiangeli decided she had to do something about that. By this time however, the old goat had been driven out of the house. There was no way she could get to the child. And so she tried other inventive methods.
Her mouth twisted into a grimace as she remembered the many unsuccessful attempts at the boy. It got to a point that the last dibia she visited warned her stridently against going after him anymore. His Chi stood right by his side and was very stubborn. He was untouchable, not now, not ever. She desisted and as luck would have it, soon conceived and gave birth to a son. And then another. Her place was firmly cemented in Onwudike’s household.
A bull frog croaked in the darkness and it echoed along the walls.
So much for all her efforts.
She secured a place in the household but look at it. Obiangeli hissed and shook her head.
It rankled her to no end that the she-goat and her runt of a kid came out ahead after all. Imagine that old sow, parking herself on the couch like a throne, acting as if she and her son were common beggars! She ought to make her pay! She ought to take that thing she put her confidence on and destroy it. Perhaps the goat had forgotten that the one with one child is not too far ahead of the one with none… too bad that idiot son of hers was so stubborn…
Wait a minute.
His wife was pregnant, and very heavily so. Her expression turned speculative. Well if she couldn’t harm the son, and going after the goat herself brought absolutely no satisfaction, there was nothing that stopped her from the pregnant wife. The loss of a child will inflict the kind of pain she had in mind anyway.
Obiangeli grinned into the night, her mood instantly brightened by the prospects of mayhem and chaos.
It was mid day, they’d just finished lunch and she was cleaning up in the kitchen. A piercing scream rent through the air and the glass tumbler slid out of Ezeamaka’s hand. What was that? Where was that from?
She spun around stumbled out of the kitchen, toward her son’s anguished cry, terror and panic jolting her into action.
“Chineke me o!”
The End (?)
This was supposed to be one story but I couldn’t post it whole. I apologize for the disjointed read.