While still in the cab, Georgina got a text.
She clicked on the message icon and opened the message.
With a sorry face, she showed the phone to Loveth.
Loveth had a glance and then Georgina passed the phone to April.
‘Someone paid 3K into your account?’ April asked, staring at the text message on the phone’s screen.
‘I asked that lecturer for 20K and all he could send is 3K!’
Loveth smiled. ‘How much were you expecting before?’
Georgina collected her phone back from April. ‘Keep smiling, see how much you are worth! See!’
‘Oh please, it’s not like we are dating.’
‘Okay na, we’ll share the money 1K each.’
‘Am I not the sick one?’ Loveth said. ‘Everything is supposed to be mine.’
‘If I hear, who brought up the idea in the first place?’ Georgina said. ‘If you mean it like that, it is April who is not supposed to get something.’
‘Georgina!’ April called. ‘Stop being poor! Stop being poor, for Christ’s sake!’
‘Nne, I am poor o,’ Georgina agreed. She turned her eyes to the cab driver. ‘Oga driver, do you have anything for the poor girl in your car?’
The man smiled. ‘My sister, economy di bad!’
‘Odikwa o! Whole-haa!’
Turning back to her friends, Georgina murmured: ‘Nwoke na ebe kam si ebe.’
Loveth smiled and shook her head.
‘But, girls,’ Georgina started, ‘we can turn this Loveth’s fainting ability into serious business o. What do you think?’
April burst out laughing, Loveth frowning.
Back at the lodge, Patricia said to Philomena again: ‘Come on, let me have a stick. I really can’t keep it in anymore.’
‘Madam, I already told you I don’t smoke,’ Philomena said to her. ‘There are no cigarettes here.’
‘Then why do I have feeling there is something you are hiding?’
‘What are you talking about?’
Patricia turned her nose round, appearing to sniff the air. ‘I can smell it. Tell me what it is, I promise I won’t tell.’
‘Madam, are you alright?’
‘Come on, you are young, beautiful and short, there must be something you are hiding.’
‘What makes you think I’m hiding something?’
‘Short people are always hiding something.’
‘Can you please stop calling me short? I’m just average! Well above 5 feet for that matter!’
‘My dear, average is the ladies’ word for short. Beyond that you find dwarf. Akakpo!’
Philomena sent scowling eyes at her.
Patricia tapped her. ‘It’s okay, don’t look so angry,’ she said. ‘At least you are still beautiful. You are still manageable.’
‘Please I’m not short, ma.’
‘Average, average, yes.’
The door burst open then and Georgina, April and Loveth walked in.
Patricia flew up from the bed, running to Georgina with her arms wide.
‘Stop!’ Georgina said, her palm in the air.
Patricia halted halfway.
‘Get out!’ Georgina said.
‘What?’ Patricia looked all-the-way shocked.
Georgina held her hand to draw her out of the room.
‘Georgina!’ April called.
‘She is your mother!’
‘No, she is not. Do you know what this woman did? She sent me to go and watch TV in a neighbour’s house and just disappeared.’
‘Hey, I didn’t disappear o!’ Patricia cried. ‘I was just looking for my cigarette. I couldn’t find it.’
‘You were looking for your cigarette for over 15 years?’
‘Yes, yes, my child, you must believe me. I couldn’t find it where I dropped it.’
‘So you finally found it now?’
‘No!’ Patricia said. ‘But I have no other place to look. I have no other place to go.’
‘Georgina, I think she needs help,’ April said. ‘She is not sounding right.’
Patricia’s face changed immediately. ‘Don’t you dare use that tone on me, you talking bone!’ she growled at April. ‘It is you that needs help. Go on and eat some food, skinny!’
She jerked her hand out of Georgina’s grip and carried her bag. ‘I will go. You have insulted a daughter of heaven enough!’
The girls remained still, just looking.
At the door, Patricia turned. ‘Thank God I have other options. You think you are the only daughter I abandoned?’
‘If you are talking about my twin sister, she is dead,’ Georgina said.
‘I am not talking about any dead ugly blackie,’ Patricia said. ‘I have other living choices.’
She opened the door. ‘Better, living choices! Bye!’
And with that, Patricia left.
Georgina sat in sullen silence all day.
Many times the girls came close and tried to cheer her up, but nothing seemed to work.
‘That woman was never nice to me,’ Georgina said. ‘She is the meanest, most horrible person I know!’
Philomena held Georgina’s hand. ‘The best way to deal with people who has ever been mean to us is teach them how lovely it is to be nice,’ she said.
Georgina turned and they hugged.
The next Saturday, three mornings after, at around 5 a.m., all the girls got up to go for a run.
‘How many miles are we doing?’ April asked.
‘Miles?’ Georgina said. ‘Please I’m only reaching that PNPC petrol station and I will turn back. I don’t even understand why we need to run in the first place.’
‘Every woman needs exercise,’ Philomena said.
‘Abia! What every woman needs is a gentle massage; running is for men!’
‘You can’t be serious!’
‘Once I get to that filling station, I’m turning back. Thank God I’m naturally fit; it’s not like I’ve got any extra fat to burn.’
‘That’s not even up to a mile!’ Loveth said.
‘I don’t care. I don’t have strength.’
‘Better don’t follow us then if you don’t have strength,’ Loveth said.
Georgina gestured. ‘See this one! Madam Heavy-duty, let us pray you even reach the filling station with us!’
‘We shall see then!’
Philomena zipped her viscose bum shorts. ‘I’m ready,’ she said.
The girls turned to her with shocked eyes.
‘Madam, why are you wearing only pant?’ Georgina asked first.
‘How?’ Philomena said. ‘Are these not tennis shorts?’
‘No be only tennis shorts! Badminton nko? Biko change into something modest.’
Philomena made a face. ‘I love looking sexy.’
‘Philomena,’ April this time, quietly, ‘it is still dark, nobody is going to see you.’
Philomena hissed, but she turned and changed into a longer pair of shorts.
Georgina was right. Loveth did not get to the petrol station with them.
She kept saying “Girls, wait!”, “Girls, wait for me!”, till they all got fed up and ran past her.
As if that was even what she prayed for, Loveth moved to a stump by the side of the road and sat down, panting away.
She checked her arm. ‘Wow, I think I’ve become slim already!’
April got to the petrol station first and shouted in joy.
Georgina then joined her, screaming in breathless voice: ‘Second! Second! Second!’
Philomena joined them last, bending and clutching her knees the same instant.
‘Catch your breath, ladies,’ April said, ‘let’s get to the next junction.’
‘Which next junction?’ Georgina said. ‘Please I’m turning back, I am not Blessing Okagbare.’
‘Georgina, the junction is just up there.’
‘Go and come, I will wait for you in the lodge.’ Georgina was turning back already.
April turned to Philomena. ‘Philo dear, leave her, let’s run some more, okay?’
Philomena shook her head. ‘I’m tired, tomorrow we’ll continue.’
And just then two boys jumped in on them from the adjacent bush.
They grabbed April, pulling her into the bush.
From behind, Georgina hopped on one of the boys holding April.
He shook her off and she fell on the road.
Georgina was rising again when the other boy kicked her hard on the face.
He pulled out a shiny blade. But bending to stab her, Philomena threw herself in the way.
And the knife caught her instead.
The boys disappeared into the bush with April.
Georgina held Philomena. ‘Hi, hi,’ she cried, ‘stay with me, okay. Don’t close your eyes!’
Philomena coughed and bits of blood splattered out.
Georgina made to lift her and she held Georgina’s hand instead. ‘Please,’ she managed, ‘there is something I must tell you.’
‘Hold whatever it is till we get to the hospital,’ Georgina said.
Philomena shook her head. ‘No, no, listen to me, please. My real name is not Philomena and I was never stranded.’
‘I came to you on a mission, but somewhere along the line, I fell in love with the company of you girls.’
Georgina stared at her.
‘I’m so sorry,’ Philomena continued. ‘Thank you for being nice to me, even when I do not deserve it.’
And with that, she closed her eyes in death.
Georgina opened her blood-stained palm and kept staring at it with teary eyes.
Loveth waited a few minutes more for her friends and then stood and started back home.
Entering their room, a hard blow fell on her head.
The next minute, Nurse Agnes dragged her into the bathroom of their room. ‘I just want your organs, my dear,’ she said. ‘Just a few organs and I will be okay!’