The COVID-19 infections in Nigeria neared ten thousand with a record 553 in one day with 378 in Lagos only. People still believed the figures were bogus. More businesses were opening. The Airport Authority had started disinfecting airports in preparation for the resumption of flights. Buhari marked five underwhelming years as Nigeria’s president. The Spanish and English football leagues announced resumption dates for matches put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Civil unrest broke out across the United States over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man by white police officers in Minneapolis. The Nigerian police would also not be left behind as they shot a sixteen-year-old girl in Lagos leading to social media outrage. In 225 Katakata Street, Ndifreke started kissing Maya just as they heard a familiar voice in the corridor.
“She is not here,” Josephine said.
“I know she is. Tell her I need to see her.”
“She is not here sir.”
“Alright. I will wait here until she gets back.”
Ndifreke stopped kissing Maya. She clung to him but he gently untangled her hands from his neck and body.
“Don’t stop Ndi. Please don’t stop.”
“I came back for this. I came back to you. Jonjo can go to hell.”
“He is standing outside my door.”
“He can sleep there for all I care. I did not invite him.”
“It’s not right.”
“What’s not right? I am yours. Always have been.”
“You know that’s not true Maya.”
“You’re not giving up on me are you?”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Fight! Fight for me!”
“You know what happened the last time I did that.”
“No buts Maya. It’s Jonjo out there. The man we both owe our livelihoods to. It’s not going to be easy banging you with him standing there. You should go and meet him.”
“I don’t want to” She said and began to sob and pulled closer to him again.
Ndifreke let her cry on his chest.
“But you love me Ndi. Didn’t you just say so?”
“Yes I said so.”
“And I love you too Ndi. Love is everything. We can do this.”
“Love is not always enough Maya. The moment you let a third party into a relationship you make a mockery of love.”
“I’m sorry Ndi. I was foolish.”
“It’s okay Maya. But the fact is, Jonjo is standing there with no intention of leaving and that makes me uncomfortable. So I suggest you go and meet him right away.”
“I can’t. I don’t want to.”
“You do have to Maya. Soon, the whole compound will be up here and you know what that means.”
Maya gently released her grip on Ndifreke and looked up into his misty eyes.
What have I done? She thought. “I will go and dismiss him. Just don’t move Ndi. Don’t even blink.”
With fresh resolve in her eyes, Maya turned and marched out of his room.
Ndifreke sat on the couch and shook his head. What a mess! He thought.
He could hear them arguing.
“You can’t come here!”
“Well I’m here. Where’s your little boyfriend?”
“He is not little!”
“Then why is he hiding?”
“Leave now. Get lost!”
“You’re coming with me.”
“Let me go! You can’t take me against my will. Let me go! Let me go! Ndi he is taking me away!”
Ndifreke covered his face with his palms as Maya’s voice faded.
Josephine burst into the room.
“You can’t just sit there while he carries her away like that.”
“What do you want me to do?” he said and looked up at her with red teary eyes.
“My God!” Josephine gasped.
“Why Jo?” he said as tears streamed down his cheeks.
“Okay,” she said gently and went and sat beside him and held his hand. “I know how you feel. But that man is taking Maya away against her will. I think you should go and help her.”
“I can’t. I don’t have the strength.”
“Yes you do. If you go out there, the boys will rally round you. Maya is one of us.”
“She betrayed us. We have to stop lying to ourselves.”
“I know but we can talk about that later. She needs help now.”
“She does not need help. She will be fine.”
They heard the children cheering at the sound of a powerful car engine revving away.
Ndifreke and Josephine sat in silence.
“I’m sorry Ndi,” she finally said.
Ndifreke scoffed and phlegm escaped from his nostrils. He covered his nose and mouth and said “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay” Josephine said.
He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and blew his nose and wiped his eyes dry.
“What did she tell you?” Ndifreke said.
“She wants you back.”
“Would you take her back if you were me?”
“Yes I would. She loves you.”
“I can see how much.”
“She did not go with him willingly.”
“She made it possible for him to come here and pull that off. Do you know how humiliating what has just happened is to me? I bet you that one or two persons have made videos of it.”
“She is helpless. She has made a mistake. This is the time for you to show your credentials.”
“I only have a Bachelors. She knows that already.”
“You know what I’m trying to say.”
“She was telling me just now that I should fight for her.”
“Is it not madness to cause a war so that you can test your weapons?”
“Every relationship has its up and downs. It is only smooth sailing in storybooks. In real life, breakups, makeups, competition, all of that stuff happens and it is that man, that woman, that is willing to graft that wins. You don’t give up on someone you love just like that.”
“All of this was avoidable.”
“So what now?”
“I don’t know. But it is safe to imagine that they will not be jumping into bed when they get to where they are going.”
“You can’t be so sure. Makeup sex. It may be all she did that for.”
“Don’t be like that Ndi. You know your Maya.”
“She is not mine anymore. For a moment there I thought she was.”
Josephine brought her voice to a near whisper and said: “That thing you feel Ndi, that thing you felt. For as long as it is still there, she is yours.”
“How about we make love now? You and I? ”
“Men always think the next sex they have would solve all their problems. It never does,” Josephine said and stood up.
Ndifreke stood up with her.
“I expect her to return with her remaining things,” she said and moved to the door.
“So be ready.”
Irikefe stood and watched as Kemi Falomo loaded her things into a yellow taxi. She had her baby on her hip the whole time and a man sat in the front passenger seat of the cab with his eyes spinning in his head as if someone was going to show up by his side with a pistol at any moment. Jide was nowhere in sight. Compound members looked on bemused as she ran in and out of the house carrying things. You could tell she was leaving in a hurry. Funbi was there helping her as well. Funbi had tears in her eyes. Compound members became more curious when Kemi walked up to Irikefe and held him in a tight embrace for nearly a minute after doing the same to Funbi.
“God bless you Irikefe. You’re a good man. I’ll keep in touch.”
“Is that him?” Irikefe said, making a head gesture towards the man sitting in the car.
“Yes. He is the father of my child. Bye my friend,” She said and turned away, making sure not to make eye contact with anyone else.
“Farewell” Irikefe said.
Then he went over to where Funbi stood and invited her into his room.
“Did you know about your brother?” He said to her once they were inside.
“Did you know what has been going on in their marriage?”
“Yes. It is what I meant when I said I had seen a lot of unkindness. I am happy for her.”
“Me too. He may be your brother but I have to tell you this. If I meet him in the wrong place I’ll dislocate his jaw. I will never forgive him.”
“He is not my brother.”
“Kemi is my friend. We were course mates. She didn’t finish. I did.”
“Then why have you been posing as her sister in law?”
“She wanted it that way.”
“I don’t get it.”
“So that people will not say ‘oh, why will you have your friend living with you? Won’t your husband be tempted?”
“I was here to watch her back. I like Jide though. Apart from you know what he is quite a nice guy. We get along.”
“So what happens now?”
“Jide has no objection to me staying on. Once I get my call up, I’m gone. For good.”
“I won’t be letting that happen?”
“Be my girlfriend Funbi. In fact, marry me.”
Funbi laughed and said “You are funny. Just like that?”
“I told you I have money.”
“It’s not about money.”
“Then what is it about?”
“I like you, yes, but I have to love you for anything serious to happen.”
“Then what are you waiting for? Love me.”
Funbi laughed and placed a hand on his chest.
Irikefe made a decision.
“I’m going to Warri tomorrow.”
“I want to go and sell the land.”
“Is it not too soon?”
“What am I waiting for? It’s my property.”
“You are right.”
“Promise me one thing.”
“What is that?”
“That you will not do that modeling thingy.”
“Please not that.”
“One million naira. I will credit your account with one million naira as soon as I get the cash.”
“Oh baby,” Funbi said and held his hand.
“We can even open a business.”
“That will be awesome, baby.”
“We could get a Camry too. I always wanted to ride a muscle.”
“You sure have good taste,” Funbi said.
Irikefe touched her thighs and noticed that she did not flinch. He brought his lips close to hers and kissed her. Funbi kissed him back. Irikefe jumped up and remove his shirt.
She sat in his father’s favourite armchair while he sat on the centre table facing her. His ultimate fantasy was to spread a girl’s legs while she sat in that chair. Funbi’s short skirt was made for the occasion. Irikefe placed his hands on both her knees as his heart rate increased.
“You’re so beautiful Funbi.”
“Thank you. But let’s not rush.”
“I love you. I want to have you now.”
“Okay. I will respect you. You’re worth waiting for.”
“Maybe by the time I return from Warri.”
“When are you leaving?”
Mr. Kingsley knew that the best time to strike was while the iron was hot. But the woman had been evasive since that backyard encounter. He spent more time in the corridor than usual hoping to see her but she never turned up. He waited for when she would go to the backyard for her clothes at sunset but it was Achike who removed the clothes when it was time.
Sister Esther noticed his unusual attitude and paid attention. She thought about all the things that could be happening to him but another woman was not one of them. He had become jumpy and was unusually interested in the movements in the corridor. She saw it all as part of his eccentric persona.
The nurse saw her earlier that day and asked her about antenatal. She had not thought about it. She thought it was necessary when the tummy was big and the woman could no longer walk. Those were the type of pregnant women she saw in antenatal classes when she went to the hospital. Her pregnancy was an easy one. She did not have morning sickness and she continued to eat normally. If she had not stopped menstruating and taken multiple tests to be sure, she would have doubted that she was pregnant. But indeed she was. Her breasts were fuller and more tender. She had gained weight and developed some curves. She looked like herself in her twenties. Kingsley liked her like that she knew. He spooned her every night when they slept and made love to her most mornings. It was the more reason that she did not see anything wrong with his behaviour when Eyonyam turned his head. All she wanted to do was to register for antenatal and help her baby to grow in her womb.
Chisco was not enjoying what was happening. Eyonyam made sure to spend all the time with the baby and kept it in between them on the floor at night. He made up his mind to leave his brother’s house and go to his own place. After one week of the baby’s arrival, he found an opportunity to speak with Eyonyam.
“Mama Evae you dey do me bad thing.”
“Wetin I do my inlaw?”
“The thing wey you been wan give me.”
“I never forget. Na the pikin spoil tins.”
“I wan go my house.”
“E good like dat. I go come see you for dia.”
“I no believe you.”
“I go come.”
“Give me dis night I beg you. Tomorrow I dey go.”
Eyonyam knew what she wanted to do that night. But there was no need to say too much.
She put the baby in the cot that night raising Chisco’s hopes. But no sooner had he stretched on his mat did he find himself dead to the world.
Eyonyam knew her business.
With everyone asleep, she lay supine and closed her eyes and muttered a few words and left her body. The feeling was giddying. Enjoy your time in the beyond hawk, she thought. She was taking back number 225.
She thought about Mr. Kingsley and appeared in his room. He was holding Sister Esther from behind. He crushed his groin into her lean backside and that made Eyonyam chuckle. In a short while, you will be feeling proper ass, my King, she thought.
She found Esther much more exposed than she had envisaged. She had become comfortable and did not pray enough. Eyonyam went close and touched her forehead. All she saw were pictures of baby things and carrying palm wine in her hands in a wedding ceremony and all the things she would say to her detractors when her baby was born and Kingsley married her. She had relinquished her exalted position as the conscience of the compound, for one of a wife and mother which Eyonyam knew were several steps down the ladder of relevance in the grand scheme of things, especially when you had spent your whole life raining curses on witches and wizards.
Esther felt the sudden denseness of the room. But she was comforted by the warmth of Kingsley’s hairy hands across her body. Then she began to feel her head get heavier. She recognized what was happening and tried to shout. “Je..Je…Jes..” but her voice barely made it out of her vocal cords. She felt pressure on her body. She struggled but she stayed pinned to her bed.
She struggled until everything became normal again. She would have gotten up to pray but the sleep came back like it never left.
The following morning she was not sure if it was a dream or reality. But for the first time since she became pregnant, she felt sharp pains in her tummy and she touched herself and saw blood.
She now needed more than an antenatal.
TO BE CONTINUED.