Okereke stared at Efuru as she made eba for dinner. She seated at the entrance to the shack, her hand on her cheek as she stared at the fire that boiled the pot of water placed over it. She had been a flame in the bed some hour ago but now that the sex was done, she had become a limp wet rag – moving around like a shadow – like someone in mourning.
Okereke: “who you lose?” he asked.
The question hung in the air like the smoke from the weed in his hand – he was smoking the last wrap, she had told him.
Efuru: “my pikin. Bike jam am as dem dey shoot for Jakpa junction, when federal soldiers face the revolution. Him papa be done die five years ago.” She replied quietly.
She entered the room with a bowl of eba, steaming in the gloom of early evening. She placed it on the floor before the bed and went to dish a plate of soup from another pot. She placed this beside the bowl, then she brought a bowl of water and a plastic cup of water. She looked at the food then looked at Okereke. She smiled shyly
Efuru: “the soup is no plenty o. Na only periwinkle I fit see o. Sorry say no meat or fish.” She said as she sat on the floor.
Okereke snorted and quenched the weed in his hand. He sat up and washed his hand, placing the weed on a tin plate that served as the ashtray.
Okereke: “I don chop wetin worse pass this one.” He replied. He closed his eyes and joined Efuru in prayer over the meal then they ate.
After they had finished eaten, Efuru cleared the place and joined Okereke on the bed.
Efuru: “to get information on this people wey you dey find no go easy o. We go go the war widows outreach for Edjeba. Dem dey get lists of missing men – both from the federal side and from the revolution.” She said softly.
Okereke: “wetin come be the issue?” he asked, staring at the zinc roof.
Efuru: “me and the director no dey talk.” She replied.
Okereke: “why? Wetin happened?” he asked.
Efuru: “na my brother-in-law. He dey blame me for my pikin death. You see that day when e die, I don drink. He come there come carry me back to house.” She replied then she got up. She took the weed in the ashtray and lit it, then she went outside.
Okereke sat in the gradually darkening room thinking. “We all dey suffer in one way or the other. Behind our laugh laugh, na so so cry we dey cry.” He heard the sound of indrawn breath. He got up and went out. Efuru was seated on a rock, smoking. When he got close, he saw that she was crying. He placed his arm around her shoulder but she shrugged it off and got up.
Efuru: “go sleep. Tomorrow we go go find the people wey you want revenge on.” she said, then she walked away into the night.
Major Okirika stared at Omonigho quietly – his fingers drumming on his table. Omonigho stood, staring at him without any emotion.
Major Okirika: “since you are so concerned about the welfare of the children, you will train them and watch over them. They are now your direct responsibility. We will be going on a raid soon, so you better have them ready except you want them to die.” He said.
Omonigho: “the moment you brought them here, they were dead already.” He said softly. “But I will train them not because I want to please you but because it is good that they learn how to protect themselves.” he replied.
Major Okirika nodded his head and smiled. He looked at Omonigho from the corner of his eyes and opened a drawer. From it he brought out a file. He glanced at the contents and looked at him again.
Major Okirika: “I have been going through your prison file. It says here that you are married with two kids. How old will they be now?” he asked, watching Omonigho’s face avidly.
Omonigho: “how did you get that?” he asked, stepping forward – his face screwed in anger.
Major Okirika:”I have my ways” he replied, his eyes still on the file. Omonigho stood still, his face an inscrutable mask. “I hope you will be wise enough to follow my orders. I would not want them to continue to miss their father.” He added.
Omonigho: “when do I start the training?” he asked.
Major Okirika: “that is your problem. You are the trainer, you decide what to do.” He replied. Omonigho turned and walked to the door and stopped. “I have eyes on you” He added. Omonigho nodded his head without looking back and left the office.
As soon as they got to the secretariat, Okiemute led Temisan to one of the offices that filled the rectangular building. He knocked twice and opened the door. Inside the office, were three men, laughing and talking. They stopped and turned on seeing Okiemute and Temisan. One of the men, seated behind a desk stood up smiling on seeing them.
Omoefe: “hmmm…this one wey you play enter here today so, I hope so better dey o?” he asked, smiling, as they shook hands.
Okiemute: “na only better you know. Abeg I get sometin wey I wan reason you. First of all, meet my madam, Lady Temisan, she dey run on one foundation for Olodi, wey some youth people dey come disturb. Madam, this na my cousin Omoefe, na correct guy.” He replied, introducing the two of them to each other.
Omoefe: “welcome. Wetin your foundation dey do?”he asked, offering her a seat, as the men with him vacated the office.
Temisan: “we dey help widows and orphans. We dey provide training as well as financial aid, so that dem no go dey beg.” She replied.
Omoefe: “many people dey use foundation take dey do bad things for this town. Recently so, police raid one of all these foundation where dem discover say dem dey carry orphans dey cross River Niger. Dem dey sell dem give d revolutionaries. Some young widows sef don find demselves for Lagos, Cotonu, Yaounde, Accra, dey do ashawo. So we dey very careful. That na why we say make everybody come register their foundation. You know say for inside this kind chaos na some people take dey make their money.” He replied.
Temisan nodded her head. She understood the logic of the man’s tale but she still wondered what it would entail. “In this world, nothing is ever what it seems.” She thought to herself.
Temisan: “so wetin dis registration entail?” she asked.
Omoefe: “we need to see your premises, identify the widows and orphans wey you dey work with, see your programs, as well as your source of funding.” He replied.
Temisan: “that no be problem. Una fit come today come see everything.” She replied, heaving a sigh of relief.
Omoefe: “One more thing. You, as a woman, need to be married.” He replied.
Temisan: “why! Why do I need to be married to help people?” she asked, angrily.
Omoefe: “a married woman is more trustworthy and respected. She won’t be able to leave her family and disappear.” He replied.
Temisan: “disappear? To where? That law does not make sense. Who said that a married woman is more trustworthy than a single woman? Or more respectful? Even with the war and everything that has happened, you people still live in the stone ages.” She replied, getting up angrily.
Okiemute: “broda, anoda way no dey wey we fit take do dis tin, when e no go involve marriage?” he asked, his face showing concern.
Omoefe: “she fit do fake marriage, I no know. Na wetin I know I don tell una.” He replied.
Temisan hissed and walked briskly out of the office. Okiemute ran after her.
Question: If you were Temisan will you go for the fake marriage option?
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