Desola kept trying her father’s phone. She felt an urgent need to speak to him, intensified by the fact that the ten minutes she had spent with her mother, Alhaja Sikirat on the phone had all been about her brother. Her mother went on about Suab, her brother for ten minutes that felt more like an hour.
Suab’s new girlfriend. Suab’s ruined designer tee-shirt.
Suab’s sore finger.
Desola found their conversation deadening on the phone. She had hoped speaking to her parents would help. That it would curtail her worries. But speaking to her mother had made her feel worse. Reminded her that she was not as significant as her brother in her mother’s eyes.
Not as significant as her brother- Suab- her father’s only son.
She had actually hoped to blurt it out, If her mum asked how she was. Exactly the way her half sister, Fausat blurted it out to her a few days ago. In Fausat’s words, it happened two months ago. Her eighteen year old half sister had had two months to get used to it.
Four days was not enough for Desola to wrap her head around it. The phone rang for a while until Desola had to admit defeat.
Her father was busy as usual. She knew he was not in his office.
She wondered which one of his mistresses he was busy with. Her father had three wives at home.
But it was common knowledge amongst his children, wives and friends that he treasured the string of mistresses he kept, dotted around neighbouring towns.
She loved her parents. Competing with her six half sisters when she was growing up didn’t faze her. It was clear, to her and her half sisters that their father only cared about his only son. He married his third wife, Bola a few years
before Desola left the fertile roads of Abeokuta behind her.
He wanted another son.
Bola was yet to succeed in giving him a girl.
Desola’s mind went back to her phone conversation with her half sister, Fausat on Sunday night. The conversation that had forced her back to exactly where she did not want to go: so that as she spoke to Fausat with her voice raised, she felt as if she was infact without a voice.
Like a little bird with clipped wings.
“Fausat, that man is dangerous. We have to stop him. You have to tell my mum or yours. Tell our mums to tell Mama.
She will sort this out.”
Fausat’s response had been quick on the phone, taking back all she told her older half sister.
“No Desola, I have not told you anything. Did you hear me say something like that? Please my sister don’t ruin my life. May no one try to ruin yours. In sha’ Allah.” With that Fausat had cut the connection.
That was the last time she spoke to her. Before putting her phone card away, she tried Fausat one more time.
Her phone kept saying her service was unavailable. Fausat and her were more like full siblings. She was practically raised by her father’s second wife, Fausat’s mother, before she went to live in her school’s boarding house. Her mother’s days then, were filled with constant fretting over the care of her brother.
For the first time since she had become a Christian two years ago, she felt jittery. Terrified. Praying in the past would have eased her troubled mind. Except now, she felt too stressed to pray. She started having a recurring nightmare when she moved back home from boarding school at seventeen.
A nightmare where a man chased her
with a machete. The nightmares ceased when she moved to the UK, only for it to return with a vengeance Sunday
Desola knew there was a correlation- between what her half sister had disclosed to her on Sunday night and the
resurrection of the nightmares.
Last night’s nightmare was different. Richard appeared like a knight in it and tried to protect her. He succeeded in saving her but then her attacker’s strike injured him. She wondered if he appeared in her dream because of what happened between them.
Desola made herself a stern promise to stay away from him on Sunday. How could she possibly avoid seeing him
though, she wondered. She could not stop going to church even if she could quit working for him and his dad at the
restaurant. She had a shift there later.
Desola breathed a sigh of relief when she entered the crammed staff room of Naija Spice- that doubled as the manager’s office- and noticed the father by the desk, not the son.
“Good evening Pastor,’’ Desola greeted Pastor John before he had, had a chance to raise his head from his laptop.
“Desola, how are you?”
“I am fine thank you Pastor,” she said.
She would recognise his voice anywhere. She didn’t have turn round to know he was standing behind her but she did anyway. He stood in the doorway.
Hands in his jeans pocket, slanting slightly by the door.
Contrary to her expectations, her heart didn’t fill with dread when she saw him. She felt happy. Excited even.
She had spent most of the week angry at herself for not pushing him away when he kissed her. But anger in anyone’s books could not equate to regret.
He looked even more handsome than he
had ever looked, in a white Levi v-front tee-shirt that showed off his immense shoulders.
“How are you this quiet evening Desola,” he asked.
She wondered how to address him. She didn’t think she could call him uncle anymore. His father interrupted them
from behind the desk.
“Desola, Richard has put the closed sign by the door so you and sister Grace can concentrate on the prep you need to do for the Lawani’s party tomorrow. I know you only work once a week for us but can you also work tomorrow all day to help with the catering here and at the hall. Ife and Emeka will be at the party to serve with you.
Richard said you have finished university for the term?”
“Yes, I have. Thank you Pastor. I will serve at the party.”
Desola retrieved her apron and hat from her bag and left the staff room after placing her bag in the staff locker. She
found Grace in the kitchen loading the dishwasher. Heaps of vegetable peels sat on the kitchen surface amongst tubes of seasoning and spices. The kitchen sink was piled with used trays, ladles and chopping boards.
On the hob were two pots simmering away. Desola moved to the kitchen handwash sink in the corner, keen to help Grace.
The older woman had avoided her like the plaque since she saw her in Richard’s arms.
It wasn’t hard as Grace usually went from job to job.
“Sister Grace, waoh you are so busy here. What can I help you with?” Desola asked.
“Can you clean the brain marie Desola. I am fine here.”Grace told her without looking away from the dishwasher.
Desola picked up the cleaning bucket from under the main sink and left for the restaurant floor where the brain marie
they hardly use was. She knew there was no need to clean it, especially not on a day they needed all hands in the kitchen.
She turned the stopcock under the brain marie to drain the water first. Richard came out of the staff room, closing the door behind him. He walked towards her.
“Why are you cleaning that?”
Desola pointed towards the kitchen, raising an eye brow in exaggerated exasperation.
“Is she giving you a hard time because of…. Sunday?”
Richard asked, his voice barely a whisper, raising her temperature just a little bit.
She remembered why she had found him so irresistible four days ago that she had nearly let him have his way with her on the sofa.
“Are you off work today?” She asked, worried that Grace might hear them in the kitchen despite the churning noise the dish washer and blender were making. Desola needed to change the subject.
“Yes sweetheart. I took some of my owed annual leave. I needed time off after the two weeks I spent in Nigeria.”
Richard said, nearly biting his tongue when he remembered he vowed once not to talk about that dreadful trip and the massive impact it had on his family.
“I need to speak to you urgently but not here.”
He stated, his eyes on the kitchen door which was slightly open.
“When can I see you?”
“I really don’t know.” Desola said, wondering if she could blurt out how much she would like to see him and how she had spent last night wondering- just wondering about him.
Last night though, she had also told herself off for thinking such thoughts. How could she think of him when back
home in Nigeria her mothers were going to bed with a smoking roof. She picked up a cloth and spray from the bucket and started working.
Richard knew he was getting too close to breaking his promise to himself but he wanted to be even closer. What did it matter that he could barely remember what he planned to say to her. She was beautiful.
Her hourglass body seemed to have taken hostage of his mind.
How did a woman so slim end up with curves so enticing?
Yesterday, things were different. He made a promise never to find her alluring anymore. Today seemed bleaker. With her braids, scraped back in a ponytail with barely any make-up on, she still looked stunning. His eyes went down with her body everytime she lowered it to get into the corner of the glass cover top of the brain marie with a wet cloth.
He made a mental note to speak to his dad about the waitresses wearing their uniforms even when the restaurant was closed. Today though, he was determined
to speak to her.
“Please, we need to talk. Now actually. I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”
His eyes were doing the talking now, pleading with the sensible part of her.
He moved closer to her spot, to the inside of the brain marie so that he was standing a breath from her, her flowery fragrance intoxicating his senses.
Without the huge equipment between them, Desola felt completely at his mercy. She put the spray and cloth back
in the cleaning bucket. Enough was enough. She would go back into the kitchen.
He wouldn’t follow her.
She lurched forward hoping he would get out of the way. He didn’t. She ended more or less in his arms. Anger rose from the pit of her belly because she could have gotten out the other end.
Or he could have moved out of the way. Either way, she didn’t need his hassle on top of everything.
She looked into his eyes to tell him her mind but she found her anger shifting before she opened her mouth.
“Rotimi! What is going on here?”
They both turned to find Pastor John standing by the staff room door.
Richard walked back into the office with his scowling father.
The door shut behind them. Leaving Desola standing by the brain marie, wondering if to go back to work or pack her stuff ready to leave. She knew she had lost her job.
And then, her mobile phone vibrated in her pants pocket.
She checked the phone because she needed something to do to distract herself from her present predicament. It was a text message from her half sister, Fausat. She read it twice, her lungs forgetting momentarily how to take in air.
“Sis, I am pregnant. Please call me. I need to get rid of it. You know, I can’t have our Uncle’s baby.”
Watch Out for Chapter 5…