Violet picked out two gowns, bringing them to her front. She shook her head and returned the both of them back. She picked out another gown.
“Mummy, mummy. Nma doesn’t want to eat her food. She’s throwing it on the ground.” Sochi burst into the room, an annoyed look on her face.
Violet sighed. “Okay. Don’t worry. I’m coming downstairs. Have you finished eating? What of Chike?”
Sochi ran her hands through the clothes in the closet. “Yes. Chike is already having his siesta. I don’t know why she is always like that.” Her squeezed her mouth.
“Has Jane finished cleaning the house?” Violet brought out another gown.
Sochi nodded. “She is in the backyard washing clothes now. Ehen, she said I should ask you if there are other clothes you want her to wash. She just took the ones in the basket in Nma and Chike’s room.”
“Don’t worry. Go downstairs. I will bring the clothes if I am coming down.”
“Okay.” Sochi skipped out of the room.
Violet grunted when the door banged loudly. “This girl.” She murmured. She picked out a dark blue gown and nodded firmly. “This should do.”
It was Saturday. Before Oyim left in the morning, he had said they would be going out in the evening with his friends. She wasn’t often bothered about what to wear to the get-together, as she always turned out to be the most overdressed among the women present in the gathering. Oyim liked it. He encouraged her to do so especially after she had lost weight.
She came out of the room, frowning at the unmade bed and the heap of clothes in front of the toilet. She went to the bed. She stripped it of the bed sheet and the pillow cases, adding them to the pile of clothes. She opened Oyim’s wardrobe and also brought out a few clothes. When she was done, she went into the bathroom and returned with a basket. She tossed all the clothes inside, pressing it down when it got filled up. She carried the basket and went out of the room. Immediately, she heard Nma and Sochi.
“Stop putting water in your food. See what you have turned the food to.”
“Leave me alone.”
She sighed. She should have known Sochi would not just let the matter be.
“Mummy, mummy.” Nma rushed towards her and held her legs. “Sochi wants to beat me.”
Violet placed the basket on the floor. “Sochi, go and give Jane these clothes. Tell her that when she is done washing the clothes, she should go and clean the master bedroom. Did she wash the toilets in your rooms?”
“Hmm. She has finished cleaning our rooms.”
“And the dining?” Violet lifted Nma. She used her hand to clean Nma’s mouth.
“She wanted to clean it, but because Nma has not finished eating, she said she will do it after washing clothes.” She gave Nma a reproachful look.
“Oya, go and give her the clothes. If you finish, you go and have your siesta.” She walked to the dining. She cringed at the mess that had been made of the small plate of beans porridge on the ground. “Nma, why did you pour water into your food?” She picked up the plate and went to the kitchen.
“I don’t like beans.” Nma sniffed.
She put the soiled plate with its contents in the sink. “You will eat it. Your brother and sister ate beans. You have to eat the same thing with them.” She took a clean plate and scooped some beans into it.
“I want to eat indomie.” Nma shook her head.
“See your mouth like indomie. If you eat too much indomie, it will start growing inside your stomach. Another day I will cook it for you.” Violet returned to the dining room and sat down on one of the chairs, placing Nma on her lap. She scooped a spoonful of beans and blew on it. She raised it to Nma’s mouth but Nma moved her head away. “If you finish this one, I will take you to buy ice-cream.”
Nma reluctantly opened her mouth. Violet smiled. The way she was eating the food, one would think she was eating medicine.
“Aunty Violet.” Jane came into the dining. “The starch for oga’s clothes has finished.”
Violet looked at the woman. She had been the cleaner since she started her teaching job. She still didn’t trust her. Not long after she began working in the house, coming in every Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays, her foodstuffs started disappearing mysteriously. At first, it was the maggi cubes that reduced quarterly and then the rubber plates she used to put soup in the fridge. She noticed the reduction in their numbers because she identified them by their numbers. She wondered else the woman took from the house—rice, beans, onions. She shook her head.
“Sochi!” She immediately regretted calling her. But before she could change her mind, she heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs.
“Yes mummy,” Sochi appeared at the door of the dinning, rubbing her eyes.
“Ewo, nne ndoo. I forgot you were sleeping. Go to my room and bring my purse for me.” She continued spoon-feeding a now-sleepy Nma.
“As always. Honey, you’re looking so beautiful,” Oyim had a wide smile on his face as Violet came down the stairs, elegantly placing one leg in front of the other.
Violet turned around when she got to the end of the stairs. She placed a hand on her waist when she was done. Smiling at him, she said, “How do I look?” Even though she was smiling, she was beating herself inside. The bite of the belly trimmer would remain a continuous reminder through the night. When she had worn the dark blue gown at first, she was greeted by the sight of a small protruding around her stomach region. The memory of her going out for lunch, buying gala and munching on it on her way home three times that week, as well as the chin-chin she had eaten flashed through her mind. How could she be that careless? She couldn’t even dare to climb the measuring scale in her closet because she already suspected what the result would be.
“Sweet as ever. Just look at that shape.” He used his hands to demonstrate her curves. “We may just have to stay at home today.” He licked his lips.
She laughed. “That’s what you say everyday.” She turned to the children sitting on the sofa, their eyes plastered to the screen. “Jane!” She called out.
She had to call out three more times before Jane rushed into the kitchen. Violet frowned. She really needed to look for a better housemaid. “Make sure that the children take their bath before 10pm. And no need to make anything for them, so you don’t have to go to the kitchen.” She tried to remember if she locked her room. She looked into her purse, coughing surreptitiously when she didn’t see the key. “Honey, I’m coming. I forgot something.”
“Honey, hurry up. We are already late,” Oyim said.
Her three-inch heels clicked noisily on the stairs. When she got to the room, she made sure that it was locked before she returned to join Oyim.
“If you don’t trust her that much, why don’t you look for another person?” Oyim asked as he drove out of the compound.
Violet looked at herself in the mirror of the car. “If it was that easy. Uche stayed with us for a long time before she got married. If she hadn’t left Awka, I wouldn’t be stranded like this.”
“Don’t worry. You will find somebody. Do you want me to bring somebody from the village? My mother was telling me about this girl that works in their farm-”
“Ehn-ehn, ehn-ehn.” She shook her head repeatedly. “All these village girls, I don’t have the energy to deal with them. I just want somebody that will be coming to clean the house. The rest I can handle it. I don’t want them to live in the house with us. All these stories that somebody is hearing everyday. It’s not with my children biko.”
They drove for ten minutes before they arrived in front of a bar—Cassie’s Bar and Grill. She looked at herself in the mirror and wiped off excess lipstick. “Have the others arrived?” she asked.
He looked out of the window. “I can see Tobechi and Obi’s car. Maybe Jekwu didn’t come with his car.”
They came down from the car. Oyim put his hand round her waist and they walked together into the bar. Cassie’s Bar and Grill was the perfect weekend hangout spot. There were no empty tables as each table was occupied with three or more patrons. A highlife Igbo music was playing from the speakers. Even the high music could not drown out the voices of people laughing and talking. The air was filled with the smell of beer, suya, smoke and many other things Violet couldn’t identify. She walked beside her husband, enjoying the weight of his hand around her waist. She saw some young girls come into the bar. She didn’t mind their short gowns and towering heels. She had her own charm. If it was before she lost weight, she would have eyed them and complained of how short their dresses were. But why would she mind now?
“Humphrey, the man,” a loud voice pulled her out of her thoughts. She looked in the direction of the voice. It had come from a table of six.
Oyim waved at them. He pulled her along as he walked towards the table. Two chairs had been left empty for them at the table. Oyim shook the hands of the men seated around the table and waved lightly at the women. Violet did the same. He pulled out a chair for her and she sat down. He took the other chair.
“Vio-vio, you’re shining day by day,” Jekwu said.
“I’m telling you. I didn’t even know you were the one.” Chika, Obiora’s wife said.
Violet was surprised to see her. It had been a while since Chika came out during the weekend gathering. She was always at one church program or the other, if the words of Obiora could even be trusted. “My dear, we thank God o. How are the kids? This one you came out with Obi today…?” her voice trailed off.
Chika laughed. “It’s nothing o. I was not busy so I just decided to come.”
Like other Saturdays since the last year, Violet first dealt with the barrage of compliments from the people seated around the table before the men began talking about the football match that had been played some days ago. It never got old, trying to remain humble while basking in their praise; Oyim’s proud smile as they spoke and commended him for taking care of his wife. It was much different from before, when she was more like an accessory that Oyim sometimes forgot to even take on some days. During that period, he looked for excuses so that he wouldn’t have to go with her. Not only him, she too looked for excuses to escape it. Nothing like a gathering in a bar where different young girls visited and having to watch her husband leer at their shapely waists. She couldn’t be more prouder of herself that the painful prick of inferiority had disappeared.
Oyim touched her lightly. “What are you going to eat? Goat meat peppersoup?”
Violet shook her head, then nodded. The feeling of guilt was sitting on her chest as the waitress placed the steaming plate in front of her. With a sigh, she picked up her spoon. She would just have to add thirty minutes to her Saturday workout routine.