A fresh dawn simmers with restored harmony between mother and daughter.

The air is thick with the spicy aroma of the peppersoup starter Ima makes before giving way to her mother to craft the house special.

“Today, our house special is edikangikong.” Ama chimes. Edikangikong translated means the frying of vegetable – waterleaves and pumpkin leaves in this case. It is probably the only dish that gets its name from the cooking style. Therefore, if you cook this soup in any other way, you have only made some vegetable soup and not edikangikong. You must start with palm oil in a dry pot, fry the waterleaves first and then add pumpkin leaves between your assortment of proteins, peppers, salt, crayfish and other seasonings. You can use whatever proteins you wish but please do not take water near this one. Your end product should be a pot of glistening vegetables swimming in a sea of fragrant palm oil, begging to be devoured.”

Ama glances at Ima.

Ima’s hands are a blur of activities. Today, subtle smiles play on her lips, and a light dance in her eyes reveals her inner delight.

“I noticed you didn’t come to bed until past one last night,” Ama teases.

Ima’s smile falters. She is tempted to retreat into the shadows again. For all their closeness, this one topic is off-limit. She looks up and sees the soft glow of her mother’s eyes.

“The boy is insane Mummy.”

“He is a fine young man.”

“I don’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth.”


“His name is Femi.”

“Don’t give me that nonsense,” Ama chuckles.

She can tell Femi has made an impression on her daughter. Ima never says so many words on the matter. Now that they can afford to, maybe she would have her see a therapist. Ama hopes Femi would render that unnecessary.

Ima’s mind wanders to the previous night.

They emerge from the bustling Opebi where midnight is like daytime into the quiet street where the women reside as though entering another world through a magic portal. Theirs is the last house on the deserted Close. They come to a stop by a parked SUV next to her place. Ama catches up with them and fizzles into the compound.

A power outage plunges the street into darkness.

Tension builds.

Ima oozes sensuality that begs to be ravished.

Femi pushes close and his chest brushes hers.

Sparks fly and desire forms a knot in his throat.

“Come to my place,” he whispers. “And from there we will fly away to another universe deserving of your presence. You don’t belong here.”

Butterflies erupt in her stomach. Her hands are moist and are locked in his. How did that happen?

She twists free and takes a step back.


“I can feel your heat Ima. Let’s go.”

“I’m sorry I can’t.”

“Your body is begging.”

“My body is begging for sleep. And my daughter is up waiting.”

The pot sizzles indicating it is time to pour the palm oil. Ama’s practised eyes help her to a conclusion. Femi is headed somewhere. She stifles a smile and turns towards the gas stove.

Irikefe and Castro resume at five to set the scene for the night shift. The women are home for a break before they return in two hours.

“Bros wetin kon happen?”

“She leave am dere enter inside house. After some time him kon dey go him house. I follow am. You know wetin this guy do? Him waka reach Allen kon carry one asawo wey him nyash big like tipper begin go him house. I took pictures.”


“Na wetin go save him life be that. I go show Ima. I go let am know say na gonorrhoea and HIV dey wait for am as body don dey sweet am.”

The women return half an hour late.

Irikefe finds Ima at the cash desk.

“I have something to tell you Ima.”

“I don’t want to hear, please. You should be at work.”

“Ima, it’s unfortunate that condition has turned you to my employer. It does not invalidate my feelings and care.”

“One more word and you are fired, Irikefe.”

Irikefe whips out his phone. Taps it a few times, turns, and walks away.

Ima grabs the phone with foreboding as soon as it beeps.

Three hazy shots. Femi in last night’s clothes talking to a plump prostitute. Femi walks home with the girl. Femi enters through his gate with a hand on her staggering backside.

Ima’s heart sinks.

Irikefe avoids her all evening.

Ama notices her daughter’s cloudy demeanour and decides to hold court with the boys in her place.

Ama, with her bold spirit and captivating confidence, is a stark contrast to her daughter’s reserved nature. Their usual bravado melts like butter on a hot day under her playful gaze and flirty banter.

Castro is under no illusions that if Ama walks away with any of these men it would end in a demure exchange that would send the frustrated man into the arms of a prostitute.

Where Ima is a delicate flower, Ama is a thorny rose, captivating and dangerous in equal measure.

“You heard about that musician who said his wife got pregnant while in his house after they had not slept together for a year. He revealed that his wife’s mother had multiple husbands and currently has a boyfriend. Internet advisers have jumped on it and are telling men to look at the mothers of their prospective women,” Uche says.

“Rubbish,” Ama spits. “My daughter is nothing like me. I pray that I don’t have foolish men going after my poor baby with that kind of thinking because they’ll be making a huge mistake. We are two different individuals.”

“The wife came out to say the man’s mother had six children from six different men and that he bed wets. It’s such a mess. Truly do we need to know this much?”

Uche has barely said a word. He licks every word that comes out of Ama’s mouth. He is on his third beer.

“Can I have noodles?” He says to Castro as he pops his third bottle open.”

“Sorry we don’t do that here,” Ama chides. “Besides, no meals on the night shift as you know.”

“Why would you even eat noodles outside?” Charles says. “I trust it here but that is one food that as we are 200 million in Nigeria there are 200 million recipes for. Nobody should cook another person’s indomie.”

“One dietician on Twitter says people shouldn’t eat it because it is unhealthy. He says we should trash it.”

“So the onions, tomato, eggs, chicken, vegetables and everything I use to cook it are useless?”

“Trash it,” he says.

“That’s how they talk. They will finish saying that and go home and cook indomie with crayfish at 10pm. Listen to those people at your own peril.”

Femi tries to get Ima’s attention without any luck. It is as if he were a flickering candle flame reaching for a distant, unconcerned moon.

Ima corners Irikefe as he comes to claim an order.

“Walk me home.”

“It’s, it’s not yet time and…”

“I say walk me home.”

She turns to Castro.

“Tell mum I’ve gone home. I don’t feel well. She should come take over here.”

They walk in silence. Irikefe sees that Ima is badly affected by Femi’s behaviour. How close had he come to losing her to him!

“Ima, you need to give me a chance,” he says as they reach her gate.”

“No. And please don’t ask me again. I’m four years your senior. You now work for me. I appreciate what you did last night even though I know you were doing it for yourself. But you must forget this idea. It won’t work.”

They are at the same spot where she and Femi stood.

A storm rages behind her eyes.

She just wants to go to bed and cry.

“Okay, can we be friends? Can I say you’re my friend? I watch your back you watch my back kind of friends?”

She nods and makes to enter the compound.

Can I get a hug?

Ima is too weak to object.

Irikefe closes in and holds on tight. Too tight, too long.

When he lets go and Ima turns to enter the compound he says


“Besties” she affirms and closes the gate.

Irikefe turns around and Femi is standing there.