by Daniel Nkado
*** Read previous chapters HERE.
Mrs. Caroline Abei sipped her wine and lowered the glass to the table.
‘That’d be all for now, Cecilia,’ Eunice said.
‘Ok, Ma.’ Cecilia bowed and left the two women.
Inside the kitchen, she eased into the wall, trying to eavesdrop on what her madam and her friend would discuss. With the current situation of things she couldn’t allow any information slip her by.
But Caroline has had covert discussions enough in her forty years of life to let information slip out unintendedly. She has adapted a voice best suited for gossip. A voice so selective only the person she wanted to would hear, even if she was in a small room crowded with people.
‘So have you told the girl yet?’ she asked Eunice.
In the kitchen, Cecilia could only perceive the visitor said something, but whatever she said, she couldn’t tell.
‘Not yet,’ Eunice said.
‘Why not? You have to be fast, the year is speeding away.’
‘I know, Carol, I understand, but the girl is just so young. I don’t even know how to start the conversation.’
‘Well, you have to find a way, and real fast.’
Eunice stared at her friend, swallowing a hard ball of air. Only some months ago, Caroline has suggested the idea to her. She had given a great shocked look and told her that she’d never try something like that.
But her relationship with Andrew had continued to deteriorate and her fear finally drove her into reconsidering what Caroline had told her, and now finally deciding to go through with it.
‘Let me ask you,’ Caroline swallowed the liquid in her mouth and set the glass back on the table, ‘why must it be this girl? I mean there are bunch of hungry girls out there who’d jump right on the idea with all eagerness.’
Eunice shook her head feebly. ‘This is personal stuff. Rather I have blood do it.’
‘Okay, I think I understand where you are coming from, but are you sure the girl is strong enough? I mean all this timid village girls and their skepticism to technology.’
‘She is different. Something tells me she would listen,’ Eunice said, echoing the words back in her mind and praying so hard she was right.
Now Caroline applied a small suggestive smile. ‘So tell me about the sex.’
Something like a bashful smile played around the corners of Eunice’s mouth. Her friend saw this expression and smiled a wider, more accusing smile.
‘I don’t know really, but I must tell you, the moment that girl stepped into the house, Andrew changed. He got a haircut, started eating meals at the table again and not wanting to start a fight with every statement I made.’
Caroline hummed. ‘Angel Grace, I see.’
‘I am telling you, the change was as tremendous as it is surprising. But then he made this funny statement about wishing the girl was our daughter, can you imagine that?’
Caroline nodded, setting her wine glass back on the table. Another sip from it and the glass is gone. ‘Not any too different from what happened to Ben in our bad days,’ she told Eunice. ‘I told you about the days he suggested we sleep over at a friend’s house so that he’d play with the family’s kids. Men at a certain age begin to crave juvenile company, it’s absolutely natural, a therapist based in London once told me this – something that has to do with fatherly hormones being activated at a certain age and all that. ’
Eunice stared at her friend, not knowing what to think. But she saw truth in what Caroline has said—otherwise why the sudden transformation with her husband. Or was it something else with Grace that she was yet to find out?
‘I will talk to the girl tomorrow morning,’ Eunice said finally.
Caroline raised her glass to her mouth and took the final sip. ‘Good. And it will do you well to get rid of the worried look, there is absolutely nothing to feel bad about.’
Eunice forced a smile.
Cecilia knocked at Grace’s door. No response.
She called her name again.
‘So help me this girl is stepping on a dangerous nerve,’ she muttered under clenched teeth. ‘Where’s she gone to now?’
On the bench in front of the small house beside the gate, Grace sat with Akpan, talking, smiling and laughing.
Of all the people working for Madam Eunice Grace has seen, Akpan, the gate man, seemed the only one different. He was the only one that smiled at her whenever he saw her.
Obi, Madam’s personal driver was just as moody-looking as Cecilia. Even Madam’s secretary that came the other day, the fairly tall lady in prim dark suit and transparent glasses, was quite unsmiling too when Grace greeted her. She had requested for water while she waited for her boss in the sitting room, leg crossed, one finger moving on the tablet on her lap.
‘So you are a graduate?’ Grace asked Akpan, more a statement than a question now. ‘Hmm. That’s nice.’
‘Yes. Very very nice.’
Grace looked at him. ‘So what course did you do?’
‘You mean wetin cause make I come here dey open and close gate?’
‘No, I mean what you studied in school.’
Akpan looked caught, like a cornered rodent. ‘Wetin dem dey call those people wear dey wear white weavon like grandmama?’
‘You mean lawyers?’
‘Yes. That one. Na that one I do.’
‘Wow, you are a lawyer, that’s nice. Which school did you finish from?’
‘Open and Close University, na there I study the lawyer.’
Confusion came on Grace’s face. ‘Where is the school located?’
Now Akpan decided to quit the game. This girl go good for police work, he thought.
He slapped Grace’s arm, laughing. ‘No mind me jor, me wey no know even how much dem dey sell JAMB form. I just dey pull you jare.’
Grace smiled. ‘It’s okay, Uncle Akpan, but the correct thing to say is ‘pull your legs’. It means that someone is just joking.’
‘Oh. Wetin I know? Thanks jare. At least I done learn new thing today.’
‘You are welcome,’ Grace said.
‘So which university you go?’
‘Haven’t been to the university yet. Just finished secondary school.’
Akpan was surprised. ‘You mean am? Just SS and you sabi book like this? Nawao, that mean say if you go university now na, na…wetin be that woman name again—’
Grace was smiling. A voice cut the amusement short. ‘Hey, you, what are you doing there?!’ Cecilia appeared from the main building, walking down to them like Mammy Two Shoes in Tom and Jerry.
Grace jumped to her feet. ‘Aunty Cecilia, I wasn’t doing anything in the house so I just came here. I’m sorry, do you want me to do anything for you?’
‘You are silly, did I not tell you your boundaries in this house?’
‘But I was just–’
‘Close your silly mouth!’
Akpan stood. Grace had thought of him as short, very short for a man, but because he was handsome with neat dark skin and a delicious smile, people would easily ignore how short he was. ‘Haba, Cecilia e done do na, na wetin sef?’ Akpan said.
Cecilia’s face tightened further. ‘I’m sorry, was that for me?’
‘No, na for that my dog we dey my village. Him name too na Cecilia.’
‘You are fool, Akpan! Do you hear me, a small lump of incurable foolishness, that’s what you are!’
Grace felt suddenly warm.
‘Forget big grammar jor,’ Akpan said, throwing his hand in the air in expression. ‘Shey na as I empty like this you dey call me full? Wetin we go come call you wey be like Biology project student use eba make?’
Grace fought hard not to laugh. She’s caught a glimpse of what has become of Cecilia’s face and quickly started toward the house.
Cecilia stepped closer to Akpan, her eyes menacingly retracted. ‘Mr. Akpan, I’m sure you know well of the consequences of your overstepping your boundaries in this house. I’m very sure you do.’ She turned and began walking away.
‘Go jor! You no fit threaten me. I dey this house before you come.’
Cecilia turned and gave him one last look before disappearing into the main house.
Akpan stood there murmuring to himself.
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