Lilian woke up as early as five the next morning. Her body was used to her timing for work that it didn’t matter if she no longer had to dress to go to work. But she still had to work. She dragged her awake but sluggish body to the bathroom and went through her morning ritual. By six, she was dressed in her nurse apparel. A tiny pinch in her stomach made her remember that she had not eaten the last night. With everything that had happened, no one spoke about food and she had been too busy attending to Mrs. Ijeoma to think about it. It started small, soon it was no more a small pinch, her stomach rumbled to call her attention to its empty state.
She reached for the sole gala in her bag. She had bought five and had eaten the other four during the ride to the airport when they were stuck in traffic. The sausage was consumed in no time and did little to calm the ravenous hunger in her stomach. She thought about going out to look for something to eat but shook the thought away as soon as it came. What would her hosts think if they found her rummaging around their kitchen? She laid down on the bed and picked up her phone, sighing when she saw four missed calls from her boyfriend. She had not looked at her phone since she entered the house and after she finished her nursing duties, she had slept off without so much as a look at the phone. She gave him a short call, hanging up as soon as it beeped on the other side. She did it two times. It was better if he woke up and saw it.
The pangs in her stomach became even harder to ignore. The comedy skits she was watching was not distracting her from it. As though an answer to her prayer that at least one of her hosts remembered her, she heard the sound of footsteps going down the stairs. Without much ado, she put on her shoes and left the room. She went down the stairs as noisily as she could, humming a song. Let them be aware of my presence, she thought with a satisfied nod of her head.
It wasn’t hard to figure out where the kitchen was in the house. She passed through the parlor, reminded of the scene that happened the last night, and the person that had come down the stairs to greet them. Angela. So that was her name. No one knew her name even when they got the news that someone was suing their father for rape. Not now, she shook her head.
Ijeoma was in the kitchen when she entered. She was relieved. If it had been Angela or Mr. Thomas, she wasn’t sure how she would have dealt with it.
“Good morning ma,” she said startling Ijeoma who had been staring off into space, an empty spoon had paused on its way from her mouth back to the bowl of oatmeal in front of her.
“Oh, good morning.” She forced a smile. She looked at Lilian. “Hope you slept well?”
“I did ma. Are you okay this morning? Do you feel any discomfort? Nausea? Or pains? Is your he-”
“No, Lilian. I’m okay,” Ijeoma replied softly. “Just hungry, which I’m sure you are as well.”
Lilian smiled shyly. “Yes. I didn’t have anything last night.”
“I’m so sorry about that. We are being such terrible hosts.” She passed a container half-filled with oats to her. “You can make some. It’s instant, so you don’t need to cook it. There is some hot water left in the kettle. Milk and sugar are in the cupboard.”
“Thank you ma.” She scooped some oats into a plate and went about preparing it. When she was done, she stood awkwardly not sure if she had to stay with Ijeoma as she slowly ate or if she could go into the adjacent dining and have her meal.
“Don’t worry about me. Go on, make yourself comfortable. A cook will come in later to prepare something for lunch. If you get hungry before then, let me know. Maybe we can have an early lunch.”
Lilian nodded and went to the dining. The dark brown thick table was surrounded by eight chairs. As she settled down in one of the chairs and began spooning the milky meal into her mouth, she imagined how having a meal with the occupants of the house. She was comfortable with the young couple and had been around them enough to lose the initial awkwardness that she felt when they were together. For Mr. Thomas, while he looked friendly and fun-loving, she still felt uncomfortable. Angela was a different case altogether. She may just have to ignore the woman for the duration of her stay.
She was certain though, that the couple had bad blood with the older woman. The way they acted when they met each other- the two sweet to be real tone Angela used when she addressed the couple and the look on Apham’s face, his hand going around Ijeoma in a protective stance. She was curious about what caused the tensions between them, though she was not surprised given Angela’s history with men. She only hoped that she wouldn’t be deeply pulled into their problems. If it happened, she wouldn’t hesitate to do anything against the woman.
Ijeoma came out of the kitchen and sat opposite her, pulling her shawl closely around her shoulders. “You don’t need to be wearing your uniform around the house. And you can have your own life. My husband just wants you around in case something happens.” Like yesterday night. She didn’t say but it was in her voice.
“Alright. Do you have any plans for today? I don’t suggest you can do anything heavy,” Lilian asked.
“I will go for a walk with my husband when he wakes up, just around the estate. There are chairs by the road so I can sit if I get tired.”
Lilian nodded thoughtfully.
“And Lilian, you must want to look around Abuja? Visit places, go for a little sightseeing?” Ijeoma prodded gently.
“Ma?” Lilian looked at her in surprise. Indeed, she was tempted about the sights of Abuja, but she was here to work.
“Well…, we are having a family meeting later during the day and I don’t think you should be around. It could get really ugly.” Ijeoma didn’t look happy about the thought.
“O…oh, okay ma. I will leave the house after-” Lilian said awkwardly.
“I don’t mean it that way,” Ijeoma cut in. “The driver will take you wherever you want. It’s just so that…” her voice trailed off as Angela came into the dining.
“Good morning, dearies.” She sat down with a similar bowl of oatmeal.
Lilian looked down at her half-finished bowl, she had suddenly lost appetite for the milky cereal.
“It’s girlie time right,” Angela said winking at the two ladies and then raised a spoonful of oats to her mouth. Lilian noticed that it was brownish. She wondered what the woman added to her own. She moaned when the contents of the spoon entered her mouth, “So delicious.” After swallowing, she turned to Ijeoma. “What a wonderful way to start this morning, isn’t it?”
Ijeoma scoffed and made to stand up when a voice reached them from the kitchen. “Oatmeal for breakfast?” Mr. Thomas marched into the dining with enthusiasm, cradling his own plate of oats in his hand. Ijeoma settled back in her seat.