‘The hunters are all over the place; I can see them coming from every side,’ Madam Felicia demonstrated in a poetic manner.
‘Please don’t turn my shop into a forest,’ Mama laughed.
‘Cynthia, don’t tell me that marriage has robbed you of your intelligence?’ she stroked mama’s back, ‘that was a mere figurative expression.’
Mama sighed and then turned to me.
‘Nnenna, please don’t mind our Shakespearian August visitor, go and get her a can of malt.’
‘A can of malt?’ I repeated staring at her as though she had spoken in the Greek language.
‘You heard me, didn’t you?’ the tone of her voice emphasized her degree of seriousness.
How could she be so unfair? I mused as I ran to fetch the drink from the opposite shop. That malt drink was actually a gift I got from one of her customers. if only I had known that my cherished malt would end its journey in a wrong destination!
A gush of displeasure had already begun to bud within as Madam Felicia drank the cold drink; occasionally our eyes met, but somehow, I veiled it with a false smile.
‘Black beauty, Miss Ebony,’ she remarked as she scanned me with her large eyeballs.
‘How old are you?’
‘Sixteen years and yet you’re endowed with all these power front-side and back-side?’
‘Ssh!’ mama was furious. ‘Felicia please I don’t want any rubbish talk here. Nnenna is a still a small girl…’
‘Small girl indeed,’ she retorted, ‘Cynthia, please don’t feign ignorance. It’s so easy to tell a ripe corn from the cob, your daughter has all it takes to satisfy any man for a very good pay…’
My naive mind was restless as I turned from mama and back to the lady.
The nasty remark from that lady changed the entire atmosphere of our small shop. From the look on mama’s face, it was obvious that she does not want me anywhere around her guest. But where else would I go to? If there is anyone that should leave, then it was Madam Felicia.
‘I’ve not said anything out of place,’ she continued, ‘just stay tuned, the hunters would soon start running after her; you’ll see.’
Mama remained mute as she swung her crossed legs. Her silence spoke more volumes.
‘Nnenna, this is your time,’ the loquacious lady turned to me, ‘make hay while the sun shines so that you won’t have to repeat your mother’s mistakes.’
‘Enough of this rubbish!’ mama flared, ‘Felicia, I think you’ve overstayed your welcome. Please, I want to concentrate on my business.’
‘Come on, keep quiet my friend!’ she retorted, ‘business, my foot! You better close shop if you have nothing else other than this okirika clothes business. Just take a good look at yourself; the once beautiful, ‘tomato Jos’ of CMS Grammar School, the toast of several men, now looking so wrinkled, when she is not even up to forty-five! Your kind of marriage is what my mother would call manage; suffering and… ‘
Mama’s fury had reached its elastic limit and she had to literally shut her mouth by force. while still dazed at the drama, she descended on me and twisted my ears like the way one would have tuned for the frequency of a radio.
‘Journalist Nnenna, so it had never bothered you that we’ve not made even one single sale today!’
By then, the degree of the hotness of her temper was sufficient to roast a piece of yam in split seconds.
‘Oya, go to Iya Ramota now and buy the usual for our lunch.’
I stood immediately like someone bitten by an ant. As I picked up the bowl and money from the drawer, I needed no seer to tell me her reasons for sending me that far.
I had barely walked past the street when a wild noise suddenly broke out. Several shop owners ran Helter skelter as they moved most of their merchandise away. I turned and noticed a van parked in front mama’s shop and some policemen stood by.
Oh my God! What is it again?