“Thank you Femi.” Asabi thanked her nephew at the door, while her daughter stared at her with a scorching gaze, “God bless you my son.”
Drawing the curtain, Asabi cradled the basket of food he brought for them to her chest, like a miner’s gold. She dropped the basket in the corner where they kept their cooking utensils, inside the one room-apartment she shared with her three children.
Due to the heat in the poorly-ventilated room, her younger children chose to play outside, while her unusually gloomy daughter remained inside, sweating, and looking uncomfortable.
Asabi was a cleaner in a motel, but since the lockdown began, she had been unable to work because motels were closed. No more weekly wages meant hunger.
She had no close relatives because they considered her an outcast since she had three kids by different fathers. Hence her surprise, when Femi started bringing them food for three weeks successively.
Femi’s mother was her older sister, and she was comfortable, but wasn’t very close to Asabi. “I don’t know what you did or said to Femi that suddenly made him so nice to us” Asabi gave her 14-year old daughter a sly smile. “But I want you to keep it up.”
Ope only sniffed, without dignifying Asabi’s words with a response.
Irritated, Asabi turned to glare at her daughter. “Ope, what is the problem ehn? Why have you been so moody all week? And why have you been avoiding Femi?”
Ope shrugged, much to Asabi’s annoyance.
“You better open your mouth and tell me what the problem is. Is it the fever you’ve been having? Do you still feel like vomiting?”
That was when Ope snapped. Asabi would later describe it as the outpour of a raging storm. “Fever? Mama, you’ve given birth three times, yet you can’t differentiate between fever and something else?”
Asabi was silent at first, ruminating on Ope’s outburst. “Mo daran! OPEYEMI! Are you pregnant? Who is responsible for this abomination?”
“I thought you wanted me to keep up what I was doing.” Ope sneered with scorn. “What has changed?”
“Aye mi! Are you saying you slept with your own cousin?”
Ope was silent, and it dragged on for what felt like an eternity to Asabi. “You didn’t have money, and we were rationing food for the younger ones. I went to meet Femi for help. He told me to come inside for food, and then…” Ope’s voice broke at the end of the statement, but she knew she had to continue. “He made me swear never to tell anyone. Oh Mama, what do we do?”’
Asabi’s face was solemn, even after hearing what should have been a devastating piece of news. She knew she had to consider all her options. It was either fight and go hungry, or concede and survive, but she knew the sensible option.
“Mama, I said what do we do?” Ope asked her mother again. This time, with hope.
The silence told her the answer.
© OLUWASEUN WENDE, June 2020.