Amaka burst into the room, startling Phillip.
He ran up from the bed. ‘Ogini? Is someone pursuing you?’ He looked ready to go defend his wife right away.
‘No one is pursuing me,’ Amaka said.
‘Why did you open the door like that then?’
Amaka turned and closed back the door. Turning back to Phillip, she said, ‘Chibuzo, I need a child.’
‘Are you okay?’ a confused-looking Phillip asked.
‘Ejike’s wife is having a baby, I want mine.’
‘Sammy is pregnant?’
‘What do you mean by how? Is she not a woman and Ejike a man?’
‘No, I mean, she once told me she was never going to have children.’
‘E-eh? She told you that?’
‘Well, she has changed her mind now, so it is time for you to change yours too.’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘It is your mental decision not to have any more children that is stopping me from becoming pregnant ever since.’
Phillip fought the urge to laugh. He smiled nonetheless. ‘What do you know that you are saying?’
‘Stop smiling at me like that!’
Phillip’s skewed smile got wider instead, more mocking. ‘Madam, having children is not a competition. It is not shoes or bags or any of those things you ladies fight over.’
Amaka hissed. She walked to the bed and sat.
Phillip shook his head. He pulled off his green shirt, swung it a little as to fan himself and then dropped it aside. ‘Here am I, thinking of how to satisfactorily raise the one we already have and you are talking about more children.’
‘You are simply a lazy man, Chibuzo,’ Amaka said to him. ‘What is three or four children that we cannot take care of? Do you not even think about James at all, how lonely being just by himself all day makes him feel?’
‘I grew up an only child, so I know he will be just fine. Moreover, Jideobi will soon be here to always stay with him.’
‘You are just being lazy and dodging responsibility.’
‘Lazy? No. Try realistic, dear. By the way, have we not been having sex? If it had been our destiny to raise a battalion, nothing I say or do would have stopped that.’
Amaka said nothing else.
‘I went to see Uche,’ Phillip said, after a while.
‘What did you tell him?’
‘Exactly what we discussed. Since he’s no longer making use of the shop at the junction, I advised him to let me have it while I pay off his outstanding rent.’
‘And what was his reply?’
‘He agreed. But guess how much he owes?’
‘His wife told me three months.’
‘Story! Five months. Five whole months, that’s how long he’d stopped paying rent.’
Amaka said nothing else in reply. She pulled off her blouse instead. For a woman in her thirties, her chest citizens still looked deliciously bouncy.
Phillip grabbed her at once.
Leaning to take in a nipple into his mouth, Amaka’s knocked his head hard.
‘Ayi!’ he cried. ‘Ogini? What is wrong with you?’
‘This is why I have not been able to conceive.’
Phillip stared at her with some curiosity. ‘Why?’
‘You are always eager to suck my breast.’ She demonstrated with her fingers. ‘Ara i-suckubalu kemgbe! Breasts you’ve been sucking since God know when! You won’t want kids to come so that you will always be the one to be sucking.’
Phillip was laughing, but the frown on Amaka’s face looked real.
She bent and tore open the zipper of his shorts.
His male organ was half-limp. Amaka pulled it out and shook it so that it flapped back and forth. ‘Get it up!’
Phillip’s eyes bulged. ‘Hia!’
‘Shut up and get it up fast.’
‘You think it will ever get up in this mood?’
‘I don’t care, get it up!’ Amaka shook the good-sized organ again.
Phillip held her hand. ‘Shh,’ he whispered. ‘Mama is still awake.’
Before long, a knock came on the door.
It was Chinelo.
She informed them Ejike’s wife was outside, waiting for them.
Phillip was heading out already when Chinelo drew him back and pointed at his shorts. ‘Kpochie zip gi ofuma. Fasten your zip well.’
‘Oh precious, where did you go?’ Rita said. ‘I was so worried.’
Fiona dodged her advancement for a hug. ‘I’m barely gone a day and you brought in your boyfriend.’
‘Baby, be quiet!’ Rita hushed her. ‘Ejike is just a friend.’
Fiona turned to Ejike with a condescending frown. ‘Friend. I see.’
‘Where did you go to? Why leave me that note?’
Fiona scowled at her mother. ‘I couldn’t find a bus.’
‘Where do you need a bus to go to?’
‘Home. Home, mum, home! I want to go home!’
Rita stared at the girl. ‘This is your home now!’ she said, voice rising to near yelling. ‘No matter how hard it is for you, you have to find a way and accept the fact that things have changed!’ She swallowed hard, very hard, and then turned away.
Ejike took Fiona’s hand. ‘Come with me. I want to speak to you.’
Fiona slapped away his hand. ‘Don’t you dare touch me!’
Ejike took one step closer to her. ‘Now listen up, young woman, you can be as stupid and rude as you want to your mother but when it comes to me you have no choice than to quit being a clod and do exactly as I say.’
‘And what if I don’t? Who are you by the way?’
‘I am Ejike. I run this village.’
Fiona remained silent, only staring at him.
Rita turned to look. Fiona’s eyes met hers and she turned back away.
‘Follow me.’ Ejike led the way out and Fiona, to her mother’s great surprise, slowly followed him.
All the while they were outside, talking, Rita peeped from the window. She prayed hard Ejike did not resort to using any form of physical force. If he ever did, she would have no other option than to pull the door open at once, rush out and order him to leave.
But, quite so gracious, nothing of that sort happened.
In fact, when Rita finally opened the door and came out, Fiona was looking as quiet and obedient as she has never seen her in years.
And then the greatest shock happened.
Fiona turned around and muttered, in quiet voice, ‘I’m very sorry, mum.’
Rita immediately realized that tonight she would sleep so soundly she’d snore and have skipping dreams about paradise.
At the gate, Amaka asked Sammy: ‘So how is the baby doing?’
‘What is wrong with all of you?’ Sammy said. ‘I already told you that I am not pregnant.’
‘Stop denying it—’ Amaka touched Sammy’s belly. ‘—you are even showing already.’
Sammy smiled and shook her head. ‘I finished a full bowl of eba alone, if that’s what you mean.’
Amaka’s eyes popped. ‘You did?’
Sammy nodded. ‘Yes. I made soup. You can come with me to the house if you want some.’
‘Wow, you are having the cravings already.’
‘Get ready, there will also be times you’d feel like eating anything by your side.’
‘Oh God, this girl. You think enjoying the delicious soup I made with a big bowl of eba has anything to do with your pregnancy prophecy?’
‘You can keep deceiving yourself all you want but if I were you, I will be learning everything I need to know now. And make sure you tell Ejike this night so that very early tomorrow morning he will take you to the hospital to register for your antenatal.’
Sammy’s hollow laughter broke the calmness of the night. ‘Why do I still need to go and register at a clinic when you are here to teach me everything I need?’
‘Of course, I am capable, but there are some other things you will be taught at the hospital that I won’t be able to teach you.’
Sammy kept on smiling. ‘Do you know, earlier today, Ejike’s mother helped me make fire?’
Amaka smiled. ‘No matter how tough she is, a mother-in-law will always be excited by news of grandchildren. You need to see Chibuzo’s mother during the time I was pregnant. She never allowed me touch anything, and if she ever saw me doing something strenuous, she would scream.’
‘My dear, I can’t deny and say that I didn’t enjoy all the attention. Even after delivery, she helped me apply warm water on my stitches till I finally healed.’
‘Stitches? Did you have a CS?’
‘What is that?’
‘I mean did they cut your belly?’
‘Oh, no. Normal delivery. The tear was here.’ Amaka pointed below her abdomen, at her pubic area.
‘Where?’ Sammy asked, looking confused.
Amaka pointed again. ‘Here.’
‘They say it is because it was my first and James’s head was really big.’
‘Wow. Must have been very painful.’
‘Painful is putting it lightly, my dear. I was sore for over a month.’
‘It is. But it doesn’t happen to all women though.’
‘I have to go now.’
As she walked home Sammy prayed hard that it really wasn’t true, all they were predicting.
She remembered something and assured herself there was nothing to worry about. Absolutely nothing. No way she can be pregnant when the biggest sign to show it is not there.
Uzoma was on the veranda when she walked in.
Above, a yellow bulb glowed.
‘Good evening, Mama,’ Sammy greeted.
‘Evening. Where are you coming from?’
‘Went to see Amaka, is Ejike back?’
‘He is inside. He is asking of you.’
Sammy was heading in when Uzoma held her hand.
Uzoma rubbed her belly. ‘It will be a girl, oh?’
‘A girl. The baby will be a girl.’
As Sammy entered the house, she wondered why Uzoma’s preference was different. She’d thought, from most of the Nollywood movies she’d seen, boy children are always preferred.
Inside their room, Ejike was naked, wiping his moist skin with a towel. The fresh smell of Imperial Leather wafted through the air.
As Sammy stared at the fleshy mounds of his buttocks, she battled now to choose between her annoyance with him and her desire, which to satisfy first.
And just that same night too, in the compound nearby, a family faced their own battle. A life-threatening one.