The sound of her heels echoed loudly in the hall. She saw some students peeking through the window to look at her. She reveled in their attention. However, not everyone felt the same as she did. A teacher had come out of her class and waited until she came closer.
“Mrs. Hannah, good afternoon ma.” Violet gave the older woman a respectful nod. But she knew her polite greeting would not deter the stern woman.
“Mrs. Violet,” the woman’s voice was curt. “I have told you before, the sound of your shoes and the perfume you wear distract students when they are supposed to be paying attention to class. You should wear soundless heels.”
This was neither the first time nor the second time Violet was hearing this, but as always, Violet gave the same reply. “Yes ma, I will try to change my shoes.” She was sure the woman saw the twitch in her lips as her eyes became even more judgemental. Violet bade the woman goodbye and continued on her way. As a small concession, she walked gingerly, hoping the heels would not make as much noise as it did before. She didn’t want to be the topic of the day’s conversation among the older teachers in the staffroom.
It was mid-afternoon. The school was quiet as students and staff were carrying out their learning functions. The staffroom was almost empty.
“Mrs. Violet, good afternoon,” one of the teachers in the room greeted as she entered the staffroom. She was already standing up from her table and heading towards Violet.
“Enita,” Violet’s voice was genuinely warm. She sat down on her desk, wincing at the heap of homework that lay haphazardly on the table. She’d have to caution Victor on how to place the books on her desk. She started arranging the books, looking at the names scribbled on them.
“Ma, how are your kids? I hope your husband is fine?” Enita stood beside the table.
Violet smiled. “They are all fine.”
Enita handed her a phone. “A new set of jewelry came in during the weekend. I said let me show you first since you are my number one customer.”
“Ah! Enita, the month has not ended yet. You want to finish my salary before it comes again.” But she still collected the phone, giving an approving grunt when she saw the picture of a bangle on the screen.
“Don’t worry, I will give you a discount. All my pieces are good. These are even better than the ones I got last month.”
“I see.” Violet swiped through the pictures on the phone. She stopped on a pair of earrings. “How much is this one?”
“I knew it. You have an eye for good things. This one is four thousand naira, but I will give you for three thousand five.”
“No o! It’s too much. Is it just one pair abi the whole set?”
“The whole set, with the gold and bronze, it is eight thousand.”
Violet looked at the girl. “I don’t think I will buy o. This prize you are calling is too much. Give me a better price.”
Enita pouted. “You know you are my most loyal customer. Oya, let me give you for three thousand.”
Violet shook her head. “Two thousand five. That is what I’m giving you.”
“Ma! I won’t have any gain if I sell it that way for you. Abeg, just put small on top. Two-eight?”
“Okay. It’s because it is you o.” Violet handed her back the phone.
Enita hesitated before she took the phone. “Is that all? Don’t you want a necklace or bracelet? There are rin-”
“No,” Violet shook her hand in the air. “Not this month, biko. The money I spent last month is still paining me. Don’t worry, next month.”
Enita collected the phone with a helpless gesture. “Okay. But do you still need wigs? See how this one is fine on you. It brings out your face well.” Enita ran her hand through the woman’s long and thick wig.
Violet smiled and fluffed her hair. “Right? I have a lot of wigs to last me for five years. But don’t worry. If I need a new one, I will come to you.”
Violet looked at the girl in exasperation. “It is okay. All those perfumes that you made me buy, is it not Mrs. Hannah that is complaining up and down that I am distracting the students? Don’t put me in trouble this girl.”
Enita made a face. “Ma, don’t mind them. Keep on rocking your style.” She bent closer to whisper into Violet’s ear. “The students want to award you for the most elegant teacher.” Straightening up, she continued. “They left all the younger ones like us and gave it to you. I won’t blame them, see shape,” her hands made curves in the air mimicking Violet’s shape. “And the way you dress again, it’s no wonder even Mr. Ajo is head over heels.”
Violet slapped her lightly. “You talk too much. Thank you for the compliment. But don’t talk like that especially in this staffroom. You know how the principal gets about this type of conversation.”
“Okay, my mouth is closed.” She made a zipping motion over her lips. “They won’t deny the fact though.”
“It’s okay. I need to mark these books.” Violet gestured at the books that were now on a neat pile on the desk.
“Alright. Let me not disturb you too much. I will bring the earrings tomorrow.”
As Enita returned to her desk, Violet shook her head in amusement. Reaching for the book on the top of the pile, she conjured the picture of herself about seven years ago. A round, shapeless figure, with meat hanging from her arms and her stomach like the pot used in cooking wedding food. She ran a hand down her now flat tummy. She had done it. She had gone from a woman weighing 134kg and looking the most unattractive, to an elegant woman weighing 72kg, with the right curves in the right places. Why couldn’t people like Mrs. Hannah let her flaunt all she wanted. Of course, they wouldn’t like her. Most women in the school saw her as an epitome of bad motherhood. What did they know?
The thought of her children brought a smile to her face. Face this pile waiting for you, she cautioned. Pushing aside all thoughts of her former self and her children for later rumination, she picked up her red pen and opened the book in front of her.
As she drove into the house, she could hear the sound of a cartoon playing on the TV. Sochi was jumping on her toes, waving her hands enthusiastically as Violet maneuvered the car into the small compound.
“Mummy, welcome home.” Sochi opened the car door for Violet as soon as she closed the gate. She rushed to the other door to carry the shopping bag that sat on the passenger seat.
“How are you?” Violet kissed her on the forehead. “What of your siblings?”
“They are watching a cartoon.” Sochi put the handbag over her shoulders. She walked very close to her mother. “Mummy, how was school today?” From her mouth, the question was filled with mischief.
Violet laughed. “So you and I now go to school everyday eh? School was fine. And you? How are you preparing for the common entrance? I hope you are not watching TV with your siblings.”
“No, mummy. I was reading my books. I have a problem in English language. Can you help me?”
Violet opened the door and let her daughter go in before her. “Of course honey. Have you guys had lunch?”
“Yes. I heated the rice in the kitchen.”
Violet rewarded her with a soft pat on her head. Now, with her first daughter, she didn’t have to worry much about the other two children.
“Chike, Nma, mummy is back,” Sochi shouted as she took the stairs to take the bag to her mother’s room.
“Sochi, take the other bag to the kitchen. After you wash the fruits, place it on the dining table.”
The sound of running feet was loud despite the sound of the TV.
“Mummy, mummy.” Two figures rushed towards her, looking as alike as their sexes allowed them to be as twins.
Violet almost fell back as they threw themselves at her. Her laughter filled the house. The feeling never got old.
“My angels.” She gave each of them kisses on their cheeks. “How are my darlings?”
“Mummy, today the teacher gave Chike two pencils. He had the highest mark in the assignment.” Nma eagerly reported. “He gave me one too. And Makko was jealous. She thought he will give her one. But he is my brother.” There was glee in her voice as she spoke about who happened to be her ‘enemy’ in school.
“Ehen?” Violet looked at Chike who had a shy smile on his face. “That’s my boy.” She kissed the two children again. “Nma, next time allow Chike to tell me himself, okay?”
Nma pouted, tiny brows caught in a frown. “He won’t say, if I don’t force him. But next time I will keep quiet.”
Violet laughed at her reluctant concession. “Have you finished your assignment? And your siesta?”
“I have been trying to get them to go to their room, but they won’t listen,” Sochi reported as she came down the stairs. “But they have finished their assignments.”
Violet felt so contented. What more could she ask for with her lovely children? The house soon settled down. The voice of a news reporter replaced the cartoon voices and the parlor had been arranged to its original state. Violet cradled a plate of rice and plantains as she looked through her phone. She could hear the voice of the cleaner singing behind the house as she washed clothes.
She thought back to the years when she wallowed in the same position, gulping down bottle after bottle of Pepsi, plate after plate of indomie, binge-watching Indian series. So much had happened, she reached for the glass of water. Those years when she couldn’t eat a meal without having a soft drink to wash it down. Laughter bubbled out from her throat. It was not laughter of self-pity, it came from her heart—real, pure, and happy.