“Mummy, let’s have Indomie for lunch,” Nma’s voice came from right beside Violet’s ear. Nma had settled her upper body in the small space between the driver and the front passenger seat.
“You ate indomie last night. We have to eat rice today,” Sochi said. She poked Nma on the forehead. “Seat down properly. You’re disturbing mummy.”
“I want to eat indomie,” Nma continued, slapping Sochi’s hand away.
“Chike, don’t you want to eat rice? Rice and chicken?” Sochi turned to look for an ally in Chike who was sitting quietly, playing with Violet’s beaded purse.
He nodded. “We ate fried rice last week. We will have Jollof rice today.”
“I want Indomie,” Nma pouted. She looked at her brother with a hurtful expression.
Violet sighed. “If I had to cook according to what everybody says, only God knows what we will be eating every day.”
“But we already have a timetable, and today is rice day.” Sochi made a face at Nma. “Mummy, is it Jollof rice or Fried rice?” Sochi asked.
“Rice with cabbage sauce,” Violet’s mouth twitched.
Sochi’s voice changed immediately. “Cabbage sauce?” She scrunched up her face. “I don’t like it.”
“Me too,” Nma’s voice was loud. Finally, something she and Sochi agreed on.
Violet turned briefly to look at Chike, “You too? You don’t like Cabbage sauce?”
Chike shook his head. “Everything mummy makes is good.”
“They did not ask you if it is good or not.” Sochi rolled her eyes. “Do you like it?” Turning to Violet she said, “Don’t mind him, mummy. He doesn’t like it too. Every time you prepare it, he has this weird look on his face while eating it.”
“So nobody likes cabbage sauce?” Violet laughed. “But it is very nutritious. Don’t worry, one day you will like it.”
The gate of the house came into view. Nma squealed in excitement. When the car stopped in front of the house, the gate was opened from the inside before Sochi could get down from the car. The sight of Oyim was not what surprised Violet. It was the yellow apron that he wore, covered in orange and red stains. She blinked. She was still in a daze as she drove into the compound. Oyim wearing an apron, the only apron in the kitchen. It could only mean one thing. She could count on one hand the number of times she had seen Oyim cooking. Since they got married, it was just once he put effort into preparing something, and that was when she was in the hospital, about to give birth to the twins.
“Daddy, Daddy.” The voices of the kids echoed loudly as they jumped out of the car and rushed towards Oyim.
“Don’t stain your clothes,” Oyim was trying to keep them away from coming too close to him.
“Daddy, what are you cooking?” Nma frowned at the apron. “Can you cook as mummy does? Is it cabbage sauce? I don’t like cabbage sauce.”
“Me too,” Sochi put in.
Violet humphed at their words. She came down from the car. “You decided to cook today?” There was no denying it, but she felt a little emotional at the sight of him in the apron.
He gave her a small smile. “Let’s go inside first.” He shuffled the children into the house. Violet followed behind him.
As soon as she entered the house, she sniffed then frowned. “You cooked Jollof rice? We are supposed to eat cabbage sauce today.” She couldn’t stop herself from saying.
“Ha,” Oyim sighed loudly. “Can’t you just forget your time-table for once? Look at the children…” They had gotten to the dining. The children were squealing in joy. Plates had already been set out on the table, a huge bowl filled to the brim with bright orange rice sat in the middle. Beside it was another bowl with fried chicken and the other side was a glass bowl with salad.
“Wait o, you did this thing just within this time we went to church?” Violet couldn’t stop herself from reaching for a piece of chicken.
“Mummy,” Nma stretched her hand towards her. Violet took out the bone and gave the meat to her.
“Go upstairs and change your clothes,” Oyim said. Sochi and Chike had already settled into their chairs around the table. Their eyes were glued to the food on the table. “After changing your clothes, come down and wash your hands before we eat.” The children nodded their heads vigorously and rushed up the stairs.
“Be careful o,” Violet called out after them.
The dining was now quiet. Violet sat down on one of the chairs. She looked at Oyim, the light that had appeared in her eyes now dimmed. “So, Oyim, what is all these?”
Oyim took the chair closest to her and sat down, facing her. “I wanted to talk to you. You didn’t want to listen. I guessed this would be the best way to get your attention.”
“You should have made the cabbage sauce,” she said drily with a shrug.
He laughed. Violet couldn’t control her lips as they stretched out in a small smile. “Anyway, I hope it is sweet?” She looked at the tempting bowl of rice.
“Don’t worry. Go up and change too. The children will soon come downstairs. It won’t be fair to them if you get to eat without changing your clothes, right?”
Violet stood up. She reached for another piece of chicken. It was really delicious, she had to admit. “This doesn’t change my mind about anything,” she looked back and said when she got to the bottom of the stairs. She didn’t wait for him to reply and started on her way up the stairs.
It was one of the most relaxed Sunday lunches they had in a while. The children were active at the table. There was no complaining about cabbage sauce or the heap of sauteed vegetables that invaded almost half of their plates. They kept on reaching for more helpings of rice. For once, Violet didn’t have to bother about sharing the meat equally among the children. They ate until Nma started complaining that her teeth hurt; they ate until Sochi nursing her swollen belly went upstairs; they ate until Chike fell asleep at the table, the corners of his mouth covered in oil from the chicken.
Violet ate properly for the first time in months. She didn’t think about how her weight would increase, or the amount of oil coating the chicken skin.
When they finished eating, Violet stood up and made to clean up the table. Oyim stopped her. “Don’t worry about it. Let me handle it.”
“Hmm.” Violet stared at him in surprise. “Are you serious?” She returned the plates she had picked up to their former position.
“I’m serious. Just go up and rest.” He started picking up the plates.
As he carried the plates to the kitchen, Violet followed his movements with her eyes suspiciously. Violet shrugged. She walked over to the other side of the table where Chike was still sleeping, his head on the table,
“Jollof rice, jollof rice. Everybody wants jollof rice. See what it has caused now,” she muttered to herself as she carried him and headed up the stairs.
As she passed Sochi’s room, she heard Nma’s voice, still complaining about her teeth. “Nma,” she called out.
“Mummy,” Nma rushed out of the room and came to hug her legs. “My teeth are paining me.” Tears were rolling down her reddened eyes.
“Oya follow me. Your brother is sleeping. Don’t disturb him.” She went into their room and settled Chike on the bed. Then she lifted Nma and went with her to the master’s bedroom. It would take a while to ease the pain for her. Once again, Violet couldn’t help getting a little angry at Oyim.