‘Please, Bro Segun, I’m begging you in the name of God!’
Every plea fell on deaf ears. Could it be the effect of the alcohol or an already planned work? Was he going to harm me? Any hope of escape?
These and many other negative thoughts hammered at the door of my troubled mind.
As he was about to negotiate a bend completely away from the main road, a deafening sound sprung from the engine. Shutting my eyes tightly and fearing the inevitable end, I let out a desperate sigh; then after few seconds of rattling of the engines, the tyres screeched to a halt.
‘Ibo witch!’ he roared, ‘carry your wahala out of my car!’
I heaved a sigh of relief as I staggered out of the vehicle.
‘Rice don finish!’ Iya Ramota announced to her teeming customers the moment I arrived at the food seller’s shop. As if on cue, the canteen staff proceeded in the preparation of another batch.
Mama’s mission was finally being achieved, no doubt.
The effect of the tension I experienced, coupled with the extra distance I trekked back to the Food Seller’s shop had already begun to take its toll on me.
As I sat waiting, I began to analyze a snippet of the conversation between mama and her visitor.
‘Your mother and I are actually childhood friends… ‘
If that statement was anything to go by, that means both women could be age-mates.
Age-mates? My mind resisted that possibility; mama looks older…no, it is not possible!
A great unease suddenly settled on my mind like lead. The big question which had occasionally bothered me, suddenly resurfaced.
Why are we always in lack?
Maybe if mama had married an influential man like Madam Felicia, the kind of husband who had the power to stop the order to lock up our shop, life would have been easier. We would have been living in one of the big houses at Lekki…mama would have been travelling in and out of the country and looking sophisticated just like her friend. Kelechi and Chioma, my two siblings, would had been maybe in Corona Private School and I would be a proud undergraduate of Covenant university…Papa would had been… ?
Well, if he had not married mama, then there would be no need including him in the equation…
‘Get up and let’s go!’ mama’s voice jerked me from my reverie.
‘Mama…’ the words froze in between my lips when I spotted her merchandise bag strapped on to her shoulder.
‘Mama, is it not too early for us to close now?’
‘Will you get up from there and let’s be on our way?’ she sighed, shoving her merchandise bag to me.
‘But why are we closing early today?’ I probed as we meandered our way in the crowd.
‘The man I bought my last consignment of goods, sent a message that he’ll be coming to collect part of his money today,’ she explained with a furrowed brow, ‘to God who made me, Nnenna, I’ve not sold a single kobo today…’
I listened with rapt attention, wishing that i could do something to turn the tide around for good.
‘Don’t worry mama; things would turn around for good someday.’
‘Amen, my daughter, I just hope so because I’m already getting fed up of…’ she paused suddenly and squeezed her lips as though sealing the leakage of any further words.
‘Fed up of what, mama?’
‘Don’t worry,’ her tone fell flat.
We made a brief stop at the market to buy some soup ingredients; although with just meagre cash on her, mama ensured that vegetables made the top on her list.
The long wait at the bus-stop began to affect my legs as I felt shots of pains all over my lower body. With virtually all the buses that passed already filled up, I felt like sitting on the ground.
‘Don’t worry my dear, even if we get a bus with just one seat left, we’d just have to squeeze ourselves in,’ mama pacified me.
In answer to my desperate heart cry, a commercial vehicle stopped at that moment and as we were both on the verge of boarding it, one fat lady pushed us from behind, but before she could occupy the seat, a smarter young man quickly overtook her and the bus zoomed immediately.
Mama and I burst out into laughter almost simultaneously.
‘You’re both laughing at your stupidity,’ the fat lady thundered, ‘if you’re both in a hurry, why not pick a taxi?’
‘Fat people like you would have utilized this opportunity to exercise their body,’ mama retorted as her anger gained some momentum.
‘How dare you insult me?’ she untied her scarf and tied it around her waist, prepared for a showdown.
Before I could count one to five, the lady slapped mama hard on her mouth. The latter staggered and in the heat of the moment pulled out the bunch of vegetables and thrashed her attacker mercilessly as though she was casting out an evil spell.
‘Please, stop fighting!’ I screamed.
As the battle became intense, several people gathered but were more concerned in watching the fight than in making peace.
‘Mama, it’s okay, please!’
The pieces of vegetables which littered all over the ground gave a mock impression of a battlefield.
A security officer on patrol eventually came to the rescue and dispersed the crowd.
‘I won’t hesitate to lock up the both of you if this fight persists.’
Mama bent her head in shame; she had once more broken her vow not to fight again.
‘I’m sorry Nnenna for disappointing you,’ she apologized a thousand and one times as we continued our journey.
‘As we approached home, I noticed a contortion on her face as though she had eaten spoilt beans.
‘But I’ve accepted your apologies. What is it again, mama?’
‘I’ve lost it…I’ve lost it all…’ she shook her head.