Ngozi knelt before the safe, turned the combination, opened it, brought out some papers and carried them to the reading table on the right hand corner of her spacious bedroom. She was sweating profusely like a labourer although the air conditioning system in the room was on at full blast. She began going through the papers but couldn’t find what she was looking for. The door to the room opened and her younger sister Chioma, walked in. She had put on some weight but you could tell from her facial features that they were sisters.
“Looking for something?” she asked with her hands held behind her back like a Shaolin monk in a Chinese movie.
Ngozi didn’t even bother to lift her head to acknowledge her presence.
“Are you looking for these?” Chioma waived some papers in the air.
Ngozi had a crazy look in her eyes. “Where did you get that?”
“The right question should be, how did these papers come to be in your possession? Last time I checked, your surname was not Philips, it was Uzor. What are you doing with legal papers belonging to the Philips family?” Chioma asked her sister.
Ngozi came around the table and stood before her sister. “Give me that if you don’t want my trouble.”
“Your trouble? Please tell me, what will you do to me if I don’t give you these papers? Will you arrange for thugs to beat me up the way they did Mr Falana the bank manager who refused to continue his relationship with you when he discovered you were bleeding him dry? Or will you arrange for me to meet an unfortunate accident like Mrs Okorie who embarrassed you in public for having an affair with her husband and now is in a wheel chair?” Chioma moved closer to Ngozi. “Sister, I know you very well and there’s nothing you will do now that will come as a shock. So tell me, what on earth are you doing with these papers?”
Ngozi’s face had turned red with rage like the insides of a ripe guava fruit. Her hands shook like a cocaine addict who needed a fix. She wanted to say something but the words were held captive by her tightly shut lips.
Chioma continued. “I have asked myself so many times: what is my sister doing hanging around Shade’s husband? You care only about two things: money and yourself, so why the Philips’s family? I know you don’t really like Shade, neither do you care about her husband Gbenga, so why have you suddenly developed this unusual intimacy with this family in the past ten months? Gbenga is not your type. He doesn’t have money to throw around like your other interests, so what has made him become so special? Why do you spend time with Gbenga when his wife is abroad on business trips? Why have you become so close to Tola, Shade’s daughter, buying her gifts? Now I know. It has to do with this.” She waived the papers in the air.
“You know nothing!” Ngozi shouted, pointing a trembling finger at her sister.
“I don’t? Then why do you look like a cornered animal? Why did you keep these documents hidden in a safe?”
“Because they are none of your business!” Ngozi shouted. “Give me those papers now and get out of my house before I do something to you that I will regret.” Ngozi said.
“Ngozi, you must be confusing me with someone else.” She took two steps backward and called out:”Michael!”
Seconds later a huge man built like a wrestler, wearing jeans and a black t-shirt burst into the room. He stood behind Chioma and folded his hands across his heavy chest. Ngozi looked at him but said nothing. Her lips were quivering with rage. Chioma dismissed the man with a casual waive of her hand and the man left the room.
Ngozi paced the room and finally stopped before Chioma. “You dare to enter my house, open my safe and steal important documents that are of no business of yours, then you call that…that vermin to step into MY room? You will pay for this!”
“Sister, point of correction, this is NOT your house. Father gave all his children access to this house. You don’t own it legally. It belongs to four of us and you are not even the first born to try and lay claim to it. We all agreed that you could stay in it, but that doesn’t make it yours. Dad left us a huge inheritance but only God knows what you’ve done with your share. As for this house, I can come and go as I please, and I don’t require your permission to do that. And as for these,” she waved the papers she held in her hands in the air. “You can have them,” she tossed the papers in the air and they floated to the ground like dead pigeons. Ngozi waited a moment, then bent down, picked up the papers and took them back to the table. Chioma followed her.
“Ngozi, I know you, I know your game. Remember we used to play these games together until I almost got myself killed in New York? Remember when those crazy guys came after me in Brooklyn because they thought I had their money with me? God saved me from an untimely death and for that I am grateful. Ngozi, this life style will only bring you pain and an untimely death.”
Ngozi lifted her head from the table. “Chioma, if I need a shrink, I know where to get one. I don’t need your help or your advice.” She said with scorn.
Chioma walked towards the door. She stopped at the entrance of the room and turned around. “If you want to hide incriminating papers you should at least change the combination of dad’s safe.” She laughed with satisfaction and walked out of the room.
Ngozi grabbed the reading lamp on the table and hurled it against the wall. She shoved everything off the table to the floor and screamed.
“I hate you!”
Gbenga sat opposite his mother in the living room. Mama drank some herbal tea that the maid brought for her.
“How is your wife Shade?”
Gbenga didn’t know how to answer that question. Since Shade left home the previous morning, she had not called to say where she was or what she was doing. He guessed Ngozi knew where she was but he had not asked her. As soon as his mother left he would call Ngozi to know the whereabouts of his wife.
“She is fine ma,” he said.
Yemi came to clear the cups. Gbenga noticed that his mom looked at her in a curious manner. Was it that obvious? Was the maid showing already, he wondered.
“Mom, will you like to have some lunch?” Gbenga asked.
“Gbenga, don’t you think I have food in my house?” she answered bluntly. “I didn’t come here for food.” She looked in the direction of the kitchen. “Tell me, how is the maid doing?”
Gbenga hesitated because he didn’t know where his mother was headed with the conversation. “The maid is doing her job well.”
“That is not what I am talking about. Do you want to tell me that you’ve not noticed that the maid is pregnant?”
Gbenga said nothing. How did his mom find out so quickly? Who told her that Yemi was pregnant, was it Ngozi, Segun or was it Yemi herself?
The matriarch of the Philips clan sat forward in her chair. “Are you responsible for Yemi’s pregnancy and if you are, what are we going to do about the maid?”
To be continued.