It’s Sunday. Their day off. A balm after a week’s relentless grind. Ima lies in bed and contemplates the previous night.

The tension that had hunched her shoulders dissolved in Oscar’s company, replaced by a languid ease. She had never known silence so comforting.

His only words when she made him speak:

“Sometimes, Ima, the loudest words can drown out the truest voice within. It’s in the silence, when the chatter of the mind quiets, that our hearts can finally speak. It’s a language anyone can understand if only they can find the courage to listen. More often than not they don’t. They let their minds run amok. Shut it off more often, and see that there is a soothing balm inside of you.”

He followed her directions and dropped her off with only a goodnight. A part of her yearned to reach out, to bridge the gap he so carefully maintained. Not the most striking physically, but he had a presence, an inner magnetism that made the likes of Femi appear like ekpo masquerades. The lingering tenderness, the unspoken respect, held its own kind of beauty – a promise, perhaps, of something more to come.

Ima smothers a pillow and pulls the crisp sheet over her head.

Ama in her room stretches luxuriously, with a relaxed smile playing on her lips. She cannot shake off the memory of the crazy moments with Femi. She can still feel the tingling of the aftershocks of stolen pleasure, brief as it was. She remembers the horror her boys expressed listening to him brag about the promise he held down there. Ama chuckles. Indeed, Femi has something to brag about.

Her granddaughter bursts into her room and jumps on top of her.

“Big mummy” she screeches and lands a tickle under Ama’s arm. A peal of laughter erupts from Ama. She tries to swat the little hand away but their laughter makes it a feeble attempt. They roll on the bed, bodies contorting in delight. Finally, the child rests her head on her bosom and continues to play with the plush doll she had been holding all along.

Little Gift spends more time with her big mummy. It is as if she recognizes her true mammalian route into the world. She called both Ama and Ima ‘mummy’ until she was three when Ima taught her to distinguish both women with the prefix ‘big’ for her mother. It never crossed Ima’s mind to teach her daughter to call Ama grandma. Ama does not come across like anybody’s grandma.

Irikefe and Castro decide to visit Ama and Ima this Sunday. Used to having all their meals at the restaurant and taking home leftovers, days off come with more than a tinge of regret. Fortune is on their side because Ama cooks the best rice on Sundays at home.

Ima does not like them visiting at the house.

“Mummy, can’t we breathe without those two around?”

“They are my sons dear. You should feel sorry for them that they are out in the world alone trying to survive where it’s so harsh. I’ll make them useful don’t worry. I have a broken door handle and the kitchen sink needs unblocking.”

They enter through the back door and meet Ama in the kitchen. Ima is seated at the dining table reading a book. After the loud greetings, Castro joins Ama in the kitchen while Irikefe draws a seat close to Ima.

Gift clings to her Big Mummy while Ama cuts the vegetables for the fried rice she is making.

“Big mummy! Castro gave me biscuits!” She announces and brandishes a packet of shortbread.

“It is Uncle Castro dear. Did you say thank you?”

“Yes” she affirms and sprints out of the kitchen.

“Pretty mummy!” Castro says and begins to dance in excitement as he peers into the steaming pot of rice.

“Don’t call me that son,” Ama says in mock reproach.

“You should call me Eka Ima.”

“What does that mean?”

“Ima’s mother,” she says.

“No I can’t call you that mama. I don’t want to go to hell.”

“How will you go to hell for that Abasi mbok.”

“May I suggest you stop telling people you are Ima’s mother. Please pretty mummy I’m begging you.”

“What is this you this boy?” Ama says, her cheeks aching from excessive grinning.

“Tell them you are sisters. Already nobody believes you are her mother. Please don’t let them insult God.”


“They will begin to think that you are old when you are fresh like the morning star.”

”Please get out of here o!”

“They will insult God and go to hell if they are driven to believe you are older than 25. I for one will not let such a calamity befall me.”

“Ok. Enough. Out!” Ama wields a ladle and Castro pretends to duck the attack and trudges out of the kitchen.

“You will find a hand drill and some screws under the staircase for my bedroom door!” She calls out to him.

Over at the dining, Irikefe is saying: “So he dropped you off and that was that?”

“Yes. And I don’t have to explain anything to you.”

“Yes I get,” Irikefe says, unable to take his eyes off Ima’s chest. She is still in her spaghetti-sleeved nightie top without a bra.

“Well, Oscar is a good guy. He made it easy for us to take the job with you. He said something that inspired me. He said we could learn from you and mummy and maybe someday have something like you have for ourselves. Since then I’ve been full of inspiration.”

“That’s nice.”

“But I won’t wait until we open ours before I share some of my ideas. After all, we work together now.”

Ima nods in encouragement.

“So this is what I have been thinking, there is a lot of talk about healthy eating online. They say seed oil is not good, fufu and garri will kill you, spaggetti and indomie are poison. Even wheat swallow now is a problem. And then you see those people that come and order only moi-moi and vegetable soup and those sorts of things which tells you they are trying to eat healthy.”

Ima closes her book and pays more attention.

“We can start a health food section or make a special menu for some days and call it something like green eating, or cleansing diet or something fancy like that. We will prepare those with only olive oil if we need to use oil and then make some of those dreadful salads, sandwiches and stuff. We can even encourage people to subscribe for full-day’s meals for body reset to be delivered to their homes and offices. They get three such meals for a good amount. I’ll develop the menu.”

“Who will do the delivery?”

“I can volunteer. I’ve always liked bikes. You can get one and I can do such rounds in the afternoons. But let’s first make it what they can get when they come in to FOOD IS READY.”

It makes a lot of sense to Ima. She looks at Irikefe with new regard. Irikefe closes in and takes her hand.

“See Ima, I am interested in your success as much as anything else. You can count on me for anything.”

Ima can feel the warmth of his hand. She gently removes hers and flashes a wide grin.

Ama emerges with a big bowl of rice and barks at them to get into the kitchen and help set the table for lunch.

“We are attending the opening of the new club tonight down Allen Ima dear,” Ama announces as they eat.

“No. Don’t protest. The proprietor himself came to invite us. We are businesswomen and what we do is not too dissimilar. We are going. Eno will come and take care of Gift.”

Ama selects a figure-hugging emerald green dress that shimmers under the lights. A daring slit and a plunging neckline with a thin gold necklace sends a bold message. Ima settles for a flowing champagne satin dress with a halter neck that did little to hide her ample figure.

It is a new experience for the reserved Ima. Not quite so for her mother.

The heavy club doors swing open and time stands still. The music seems to stutter for a heartbeat, replaced by a collective gasp of appreciation. They are easily recognised as the stunning women with the magical restaurant that has recently redefined many a taste bud on the busy Opebi/Allen. Men swarm them, while the women simmer with envy on the sideline.

The proprietor aided by his bouncers welcomes them in person with respectful hugs and ushers them to a VIP booth. He invites them to make themselves comfortable no sooner than Femi emerges from the glitter.

“You are here!” Ama manages to mouth under the deafening sounds. The colossal bass throbs and shakes the hall. Shrouded in a shadow behind a high console, the DJ weaves afro beats from a different era.

“Sure,” Femi shouts back. “The Chief invited all the big boys in the area. And all my boys are here with me.”

Ima’s heart skips a beat. She doesn’t want to ask. She doesn’t need to because she can feel his eyes on her. Oscar approaches and takes her hand and the dance floor parts like the red sea.

“I should first buy you a drink,” Femi says to Ama, and they dissolve under the ever-changing kaleidoscope.

Sweaty and gasping for fresh air Oscar leads Ima outside to the car park after an hour of intense dancing.

Feeling alive again, Ima looks into his eyes as they rest on his Toyota Camry.

“I’m surprised you are here. I wouldn’t associate you with a nightclub.”

“Why is that?”

“The drinking, the smoking and all. You’re too prim and proper.”

“I’m not any of that. I can’t say no to the Chief. He says he is on a mission to bring the Island to the mainland. From what I see, he has made quite an impression with this one.”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

“Ima, it is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of him. Many of the folks you see here are like open books. What you see is what you get. Yes, they drink and smoke, but many don’t and would not come to places like this but are vipers for what comes out of them.”

Ima wants to reach out and hold him. But he maintains a restrained dignity.

Over at an obscure booth inside the club, Ama has just had a sixth shot of tequila as Femi gulps his eight. Once politely distanced, their bodies begin to brush unintentionally – or perhaps not so. A shared laughter erupts between them, fuelled by the music and loosening self-control.

Femi makes a sign and the booth empties leaving just the both of them. Ama’s eyes sparkle with a mixture of amusement and something else. Femi guides her hand to his fly. Ama deftly works his zip and in an instant is holding his raging erection.

Femi takes her hand and they exit the hall through a huge oak door next to the booth and find themselves in near darkness where they can hear sounds of passion from different corners.

They are in a hurry.

He attacks her dress at the plunging neckline and mouths her breasts hungrily. She has not let go of his stiffness. Femi gets his wish as she drops to her knees and mouths him. After five minutes, he helps her to her feet, turns her around by the waist, pins her to the wall and lifts her dress.

Outside at the car park Ima is worried. She cannot find her mother.

Oscar maintains his calm and assures her Ama is fine.

Half an hour later Ama and Femi emerge in the open, chaotic and laughing like hyenas.

One look at them and Ima understands.

“Take me away,” she says to Oscar. Take me far away from that woman.”