Edet wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. His apprentices gathered around, watching him as he worked on the vehicle. He caught the glimpse of his wife the instant she walked into the shop, baring a small basket covered with a pink napkin. He wiped his dirty hands on the grease stained overall, pulled it off and went in after her.
“Hi,” he walked into the corner space that served as his private office.
“Hi,” she placed the basket on top of the table and brought out a food flask, a bottle of water and a pack of juice.
“I was about coming home to prepare lunch for myself. I wasn’t sure when you were going to get home,” he settled down on one of the chairs by the wooden table.
“I got home about half an hour ago,” she dished the food into a flat plate.
“I trust you have eaten already,” he teased her.
He collected the plate of food and laughed quietly. She filled the glass with the fruit juice and sat down on the chair opposite his.
“Where is the employment letter they gave you?” he spoke between mouthfuls.
She folded her arms across her bosom and sighed heavily. The scene at the Personnel Manager’s office flashed through her mind’s eye.
“Princess?” he observed her tired and sad facial expression.
“He tore my employment letter into pieces and vowed to delete my information from their system,” tears gathered in her eyes.
Edet swallowed the food in his mouth. A series of thoughts ran through his mind as he processed what she was saying.
“He wanted me to sleep with him. When I refused, he tore my letter,” she began to sob. The tears she had been holding back since she left the
multi-national company came streaming down her fair smooth face.
He placed the half-eaten plate of food on the table, drained his glass of juice, got up and pulled his wife to her feet, into his warm embrace.
“That man, whoever he was, he is an ape. A baboon that needs to be castrated. He is a devil’s incarnate who wanted to reap where he has not sown. They can eat the job for all I care. Wipe your tears, the God who is always on time will show up for you, okay?”
She nodded quickly, comforted by his assuring words.
“Relax, God dey,” he let her go and sat back on his seat.
“Thank you,” she wiped her wet face with the back of her hand and sat back on her chair.
Edet picked up his plate of food and resumed eating. “I have told you to come and work for me. I might not pay you up to thirty thousand naira monthly, but, at least, it is something.”
She sighed heavily. “I have already thought about it,” she directed her gaze at him.
“Good, then you can start tomorrow,” he refilled the glass with the fruit juice.
“Okay,” she believed that with time, he was going to double her pay.
“This office is in a total mess. I have a lot of paper work that I have not sorted out in a long time due to procrastination,” he complained.
She looked around the office space and noticed several dusty cartons filled with Accounting ledgers, Receipt booklets, and many other documents.
“Just take your time and help me get things in order,” he looked back at her.
“Okay, I will try my best boss man.”
He chuckled and continued to eat his food.
“I met an old friend today.”
“Hmm…” he placed the empty plate on the table and picked up the glass of fruit juice.
“She wants me to join her tonight for a job.”
Edet began to shake his head. “All these witches and wizards that have gathered in only God knows where, taunting my wife, may they all die
by fire in Jesus name.”
She began to giggle.
“It is like the devil just decided to prepare for you today…” he drained the glass and placed it on the table.
“She gave me a hundred and fifty thousand naira. She said she wanted me to look good tonight,” she informed her husband.
“Eh!” he placed a hand on his head. “Serious bribing!” Edua laughed and held her waist.
“It is well. We will use her money to sort out some of our pending bills and also buy foodstuff.”
She nodded in agreement. “I will also like to make my hair.”
“Okay. You can take five thousand naira out of the money to make your hair.”
She raised an eyebrow.
He noticed the unsatisfied look in her light brown eyes. “What? Is it too small?”
“Yes, I need about fifteen thousand naira.”
He gave a shake of head. “That is too much. Are you celebrating your birthday? What kind of hair style do you want to make?”
She folded her arms across her chest. “I will buy relaxer and retouch my hair, that is five thousand naira already. I will also buy a weave-on and fix the hair.”
He scratched a spot on his scalp. “Okay, fine. Manage eight thousand naira. Look for a cheap relaxer and weave-on.”
“I can’t change relaxer again. I might lose my hair. I can look for a cheaper weave-on, but, I don’t want to turn bald in my twenties.”
He started to laugh, although he understood her compliant. Edua got to her feet, she placed the food flask, empty flat plate and pack of fruit juice in the basket. She left the bottle of water on the table and spread the napkin over the basket.
“I will be home as soon as I am done here.”
“Take your time. I need the television all to myself,” she winked at him.
“You and Telemundo,” he reached out for her elbow and pulled her by the hand, making her sit on his laps.
She placed her hands around his neck and smiled at him.
“You have made me very happy and I do not regret getting married to you,” his eyes became intense as he stared at her light brown ones.
She dropped her gaze, suddenly feeling shy.
“I love you more each and every day,” he brushed a hand over her smooth face.
She lifted her eyes to meet his caring ones. “I love you too,” she whispered.
“With God’s backing, I am going to take good care of you. You do not have anything to worry about.”
Edet leaned forward and claimed her lips.
Adesua strode into her sitting room, cat-walking and swirling her hips from side to side. Six of the pretty and physically endowed girls she gave out to wealthy men occasionally were seated in the room, eating from a tray of small chops and drinking from three bottles of wine placed on the center table. They were the best out of twenty-one other girls that she worked with.
“I have big clients coming in tonight,” she halted at the center of the room. They all paid attention to her.
“I want you all to be on your best behavior. I am going to double your payments after the job.”
“Hurray!” the girls chorused in excitement.
“The driver will be here in less than twenty minutes. Make sure that you are ready by the time he gets here,” she instructed them and walked out of the large room. One of the girls got up from her seat, pulling another girl after her. They stood by the dining and spoke in hush tones.
“Are you game?” the taller girl addressed her.
“Yes, I am,” the darker girl nodded in confirmation.
“If we act fast, we can end this before the driver gets here.”
“This is the only way we can start out on our own.”
“I know. She has a long list of rich clients. How do we convince them to patronize us?”
“Don’t worry, I have a plan. Let’s go.”
They both headed out in search of their employer. They found her in the kitchen, drinking straight up from a bottle of red wine.
“Suzzy, Becky, my best of the best,” she grinned at them. “Come, come, join me,” she picked two glasses from the shelf above the sink and filled it with the wine.
The girls walked up to her, collected the glasses and splashed the content on her face.
“What’s the meaning of this?!” she staggered, missed a step and collapsed on the tiled floor.
The girls pounced on her. One of them held her by the legs while the other strangled her by the neck with both hands. She fought them off with all her might as life began to slip out of her. Several events ran past her mind’s eye. The day her husband died, the way she sold her daughter off to the likes of Alhaji Musa and his friends, the establishment of her boutiques, and her greed to have all the money in the whole wide world. In that moment of distress, she realized that her efforts had been in vain. She had been chasing shadows instead of taking care of her daughter and giving her the life she deserved. She had indeed made a lot of mistakes and she hoped that someday, the girl would find it in her heart to forgive her. She reconciled with her maker, stopped fighting, and then gave in to the darkness that consumed her.
“I think she’s gone,” Becky whispered.
“Are you sure?” Suzzy looked at the woman closely.
“Yes, she has stopped breathing.”
“Great,” Suzzy let go of the woman’s legs and staggered to her feet.
“Mission accomplished,” Becky released her boss’ neck and sighed with relief.
“We are going to be rich,” Suzzy gave her friend a high five’.
“Suzzy, Becky, the driver is here,” one of the girls hurried into the kitchen.
Becky jumped to her feet immediately.
“Who is that?” the girl pointed at the body she saw lying on the floor.
“None of your business. Leave! We will join you in a moment,” Suzzy instructed her.
“Is that madam?” the girl looked closely at the lifeless body.
“Are you deaf?!” Becky screamed at her.
The girl ignored them and dashed towards her employer’s body. She knelt down and shook the body.
“What happened to her?” she raised her head and looked at Suzzy, then at Becky.
Both girls charged at her. She fought back and crashed against the gas cooker. The yellow pipe that connected the gas cylinder to the cooker got disconnected in the process and the force at which she hit her head on the cooker rendered her unconscious. She collapsed on the floor with a loud thud.
“We need to leave now,” Becky dashed out of the kitchen.
Suzzy ran after her friend without hesitating. They met the driver outside the building. He instructed them to get into the van while he called the other girls. But, once he was out of sight, Becky and Suzzy headed straight for the main gate.
The driver found some of the girls in the sitting room, dancing to the music blasting from the television. He went in search of his employer, but, she was nowhere to be found. He assumed that she must have left the house. He went into the kitchen and brought out a bottle of wine from the refrigerator. He opened the bottle and poured some of the content into a wine glass. He gulped down the drink and refilled the glass. He fished for the pack of cigarette and lighter in his breast pocket. His wandering eyes fell on the body by the sink and another by the gas cooker. He approached them, wondering who they were. He recognized his boss and one of her girls. He dropped to his knees and tapped her on the shoulder.
There was no response. He shook the girl by the shoulder. She didn’t respond either. Sweat broke out all over him when he realized that something terrible might have happened to them. He thought of calling his boss’s personal doctor, then he decided to call the security guard. Both of them were strong enough to lift the bodies and carry them into the vehicle. If he drove fast enough, he should be able to get them to the hospital in time. He took out a stick of cigarette from the pack and the moment he lit it, the whole place exploded!