Madam Angela Ujunwa Ilonna is a peculiar woman.
Over the years, she’s seen more changes in her person and personality than anyone could ever boast of.
Many years ago, she was a gentle newly-married woman who’d rather agree than disagree.
A noise-hater, she called herself.
But then somewhere along the line, in the spate of certain unwanted events that befell her marriage, she changed.
She turned from the noise-hater she used to be to a lover and craver of it.
And then, suddenly, after a few more years of screaming and nagging, she changed again.
But this time around, she didn’t just become quiet, she became distant.
Like one who nothing mattered to anymore.
She started to drink too and most often embarrassed herself, her husband and her little kids.
Till finally Prof sent her away.
Adaeze rapped the wooden door again.
No answer came still.
She raised her hand and knocked again.
No answer still.
She was turning to leave when she heard a creaking from inside.
She turned back and watched the door being pulled in.
The slim figure of her mother came into sight.
She exhaled, taking some small satisfaction from the fact that Angela looked somehow better than she had the last time she was here to see her.
It was only a slight difference though, because her hair was still a tousled mess, her lips dark and chapped and her eyes as hollowed ever, but however slight it is, Adaeze felt a tinge of joy from it.
‘Good evening, mum,’ she said.
She left the door open for her and she walked in.
The room was still an unsightly mess, clothes and empty cans and packets littered all over the place.
The air was strong with the smell of alcohol.
‘How do you do, mum?’ she asked, making no attempt to sit.
Her mother looked at her. ‘Push those clothes off the chair and sit if you’d like to,’ she said in her characteristic nonchalant tone of voice.
Adaeze took one step to the couch, pushed the heap of clothes on it slightly aside and sat.
Angela took the other seat across from her. ‘You said you would never come again,’ she said.
‘Yes,’ Adaeze said.
Angela nodded, and then compressed her lips into a thin line.
Adaeze stared at her.
‘So?’ Angela said again after a brief while has passed.
‘I’m not here to see you, mum,’ she said.
‘Why have you come then?’
‘I came for myself. I need some answers from you.’
‘What do you know about the Ozoemena family?’
Angela in her new persona showed emotions as faintly as a distant echo, but her daughter sitting opposite her was astute enough to perceive something from her face as soon as that name was called.
It was a very slight detail, but she took an unmistakable notice of it.
‘I asked you a question, mum?’ Adaeze came again.
‘Nothing,’ her mother said, her voice only a hollowed whisper.
Angela shook her head. ‘No, I don’t.’
Adaeze drew in a breath and stood. ‘Mum,’ she called, ‘you’ve always been one selfish stubborn creature I know, but please, I beg you again, like I did many years ago, if you know something, just the slightest idea of what I’m asking of you, say something to me.’
Angela turned to her daughter. ‘Why do you ask me this anyway?’ she asked.
Adaeze stared at her mother. Angela stared back.
At this point, both the outward and inward resemblance of mother and child was very apparent.
Adaeze exhaled. ‘I’m in love with a boy from that family,’ she came through at last.
Angela’s lips curved slightly, as if from amusement. ‘You are in love?’
‘You and Ekenedilichukwu are in love?’ Angela said, the note of amusement on her face enlarging.
‘So you do know him?’ Adaeze asked.
Angela stood. ‘Well, my child, I have nothing to say to you. Go back to your saint of a father. He’s the one with all the answers you need.’
‘Tell me what you know, mum.’
Angela shook her head weakly. ‘I have nothing to say to you. Go to your father for all the questions you seek.’
‘And Ekene’s mum?’
‘Mrs Margaret Ozoemena.’
‘And what about her?’
‘Tell me about her.’
Angela stared at her daughter.
Angela turned away. ‘Adaeze leave me alone.’
‘Mum,’ Adaeze called her again, ‘say something to me.’
‘Something like what?’
‘What do you know about Margaret Ozoemena?’
Angela was quiet.
‘Mum, talk to me. What do you know about Margaret Ozoemena?’
‘She is just a nice lady caught in the web meshing knitted by no other than the monster you call a father! Just the same way as I, once. Now leave my house and go back to him! Like I said, he has all the answers you need!’
Adaeze stared at her mother, her breathing coming in short gasps.
Then she bent and picked her purse and walked away.
Ekene pounded the door again.
It came open and Nnanna stared back at him.
‘Yes?’ he said, his face anything but welcoming.
‘I need to speak with Adaeze,’ Ekene said.
‘Fetch your sister for me, please.’
‘Leave at once.’ He pushed him back and slammed the door in.
‘Nnanna!’ Adaeze called him from behind.
‘How dare you?’
The boy said nothing.
She walked up to him. ‘Now listen to me, boy, you can be rude to anybody just as your little grumpy self permits, but you owe it to me as your elder sister to treat my guests with some respect!’
‘You are not my sister!’ Nnanna growled back and walked away.
Adaeze turned suddenly to him, eyes and lips wide open.
At a corner, Ese thrust down her face at once, her hands folded in her front.
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