I should have known from the way thunder rolled in the distance, that something was wrong and it wasn’t just the rain.
Even when I tried to open the gate and the latch jammed my little finger, I should have known that it was a sign.
The first sign I took note of, was Eniobong on the staircase, I should have known that her being out there was a sign to warn me.
Instead, I balanced her precariously on my hip, with the empty bucket of puff-puff swinging from my free hand. What did I know? She was barely teething, I assumed she had crawled out of the house.
I realized there was trouble when,
“Where have you been? We were worried!”
Aunt Ene stands at the entrance to the flat, arms akimbo, a smile tugging at her lips.
Something is definitely Wrong.
“Aunty, there was hold up at commissioners’ bustop… But I sold everything!”
I stretch out the empty transparent plastic bucket towards her, as if she cannot see.
She nods and reaches for her child instead, collecting her from my hip, the smile still tugging at the corners of her mouth – you know that kind of witchcraft smile, where you can’t decide if she wants to really smile or kill you.
I fidget, from foot to foot. This woman should excuse na, i really need to lie down.
“Why are you standing there? Your food is on the microwave. Han-lele!”
I don’t pay heed to how nice she has suddenly become as I make the dash for the kitchen and gobble up my food in swallows.
I do not notice her at the kitchen door until she coughs and shuffles her slippers on the floor.
” This one you’re eating like a hungry lion, hmm.. I wonder!”
She doesn’t look at me. She says it as a passing comment which it’s anything but.
“Oh, Aunty, it was a long day. I’m very hungry…”
“Eh! Of course! I hope the father knows Sha, because I cannot be taking care of his responsibility, there’s no food in this house for an extra mouth.”
Now, she looks at me pointedly, daring me to deny it. The smile is gone from her lips and she looks a split second away from reaching for her cane.
The meat must have lodged somewhere in my throat, because that’s the only logical explanation for why I cannot move my mouth or swallow.
“I don’t understand, Aunty!”
My voice is a whisper to match Aunt Ene’s bloodshot eyes, her real self is coming back.
“Don’t be stupid! All the tiredness and eating all the food in the house is what?
You think I didn’t notice you’ve added weight?
Abi do you add weight selling puff puff everyday? … And I sure know it can’t be my lovely husband because he has not been home in weeks, so you better start talking, because I won’t spend my hard earned money on that thing! “