By Aderomola Adeola, Nigeria:
She guffawed and said, “You need to leave this heaven forsaken purlieu and come and roll with the big girls.”
My mouth discreetly repeated the word: purlieu. How had Ebiere come across that word? I wondered what it meant but did not ask as even her eyes already ridiculed me.
She drove around for about thirty minutes, talking about school, her friends and all the people she had met. I told her about my plans to come to the University after I passed my UME.
“My madam has promised to send me to the University. My madam is very nice; she treats me like her own child.”
“I see,” she said, disinterested.
There was a time when talking about who we worked for used to be interesting. There was a time when we would flap our legs on the beach and envy each other at the treatments we received from our madams as housemaids. Now, she was clearly irritated by that discussion and I certainly could understand why. One evening, she had told me about how her madam's husband had raped her, how he had threatened to kill her. Her mother had refused to believe her because her madam was her family's benefactor. The man had insisted that his wife send her away and her mother had blamed it on her false accusation – on the lies she told against the man – a denial that turned her into something totally different; one that changed her forever.
“I hope to pass my examination and join you. What University are you in?”
“You don't know?” She scoffed.
“I have forgotten,” I said, but I really didn't know.
“Lagos Metropolitan University – LMU”
“How long do you still have to spend at the University?”
“Two more years so if you want to meet me you need to hurry,” she said, pulling the handle of the glove compartment.
“My exam is in three months,” I said.
She picked out a phone from the compartment, and stretched her hand forth, “Take this.”
”What for…?” I received it.
I screamed. “Me? Phone!”
“I have stored my number on it so you can call me on it anytime.”
I swung my shoulder from side to side, rubbing my palm along the metallic case.
“Stop acting like a bush girl,” she laughed as we approached the creek.
“I heard my mother's smoked fish has increased in price,”
“Who told you?”
“Patience, Obiagbon's daughter; she is going to the University of Nigeria, she has gotten admission to study English.”
“All the best for her,” I gestured, disinterested.
“You still don't like her, do you?”
“I hate people who talk behind other people's back. She is like that”.
“Aren't we all? Don't you also talk behind other people's backs?”
“Well, I do, for good reasons; it's not as if it's my way of life.”
“Don't crucify others for the sin you're guilty of; you're only being a Pharisee if you do.”
“You still go to church?”
“Sometimes,” she answered and turned off the ignition.
Warmth met my body as I stepped out of the car and onto the hot sand on foot. The sun burned with an unwavering tenacity but the gust of wind compensated for the heat. We crossed the pebbles in the water right before my house; my brother had created the slew of pebbled ground not just as a path but as something to admire. It took tons and tons of pebbles, in the end, it was worth his stress; only my feet ticked whenever I had to cross it and so I always scurried along. The pebbles restricted the flow of water but allowed a rivulet play with our feet. Ebiere crossed the water on her high heeled shoes and at a point I was worried that she might fall. She stretched her hands out like a bird's wings to sustain balance and muttered a curse in irritation: first, at the water for soiling those high priced shoes, then at the pebbles for wanting to tear the leather off them. We climbed onto the slat of wood arranged like parquets around the elevated house and sat on a rush mat ? our feet in the water.
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