“Hail Mary full of Grace the Lord is with you. Blessed art though amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb…” Mummy Betty’s soft, authoritative and ever-sweet voice plays in Sadé’s head as she tiptoes down the hallway; careful not to wake Pa James and the other girls. At the far end of the hallway, she lets herself into Mummy Betty’s bedroom. The door is slightly open; just the way she left it. The golden doorknob is covered in dust specks, nothing is out of place.
She shuts the door gently behind her and turns on the lights. The bedroom is just the way it used to be, except that it is dustier these days. Aunty Maggie always says Pa James left it that way because of them. The black rosary glows on the dressing table; Sadé bends to grab the rosary and flinches in discomfort. It has been 3 days now and the wound has refused to heal. She raises her blouse to examine it in the dressing mirror; it is worse, it seems to be spreading “Na wa o Kai! And it feels hot…” she tries to touch it but it is so painful, she stops. She hears a soft tap on the bathroom door and panics. She drops her top almost immediately, “I would get that checked out if I were you”.
Stunned, she turns her head to find Richmond’s back against the bathroom door. He steps forward, she takes a few steps back. “Relax sister. If I did not want you to find me I would have remained quiet” He stretches his hand “Stay, please” She manages to whisper a response, “What are you doing in this part of the house?” She asks. He scoffs, “I come here regularly dear; it is my happy place…” Sadé realizes she has been mean to him since their God-mother. Mummy Betty passed. “You miss her too don’t you?” she asks. “Much more than words can describe” he replies.
He points to her wound, “Did he cut you or stab you?” he asks. She stares at him, shocked. Sarcastic, she replies “did you not hold my hands down while he did it. Leave me Abeg…” He laughs, “Kai if I tell you say I no dey remember most things wey dey happen; try to believe me o, please.” A brief pause, “But did you really snitch on us, Sadé?” He asks. She lies, “I did not snitch Richie, I swear…” she says. He shakes his head slowly and smiles “Why would daddy say you said something to him then?” She has no more answers for him, she looks away “I think I should go to bed…” is all she can come up with. He stops her, serious, “See, based on that cut, you have approximately 48 hours before you drop sha.” “What are you saying?” Sadé asks. “The knife Sadé. It is poisoned, I’m even surprised you are still standing.” He reveals. Confused, she asks; “So, should I get to the hospital?”. “Nope,” He goes, “you should get to Uncle Ràntí. He is the only one who can help you out. Just let him know it was Saint Black’s dagger, he will know what to do.” He looks outside the window. Sadé continues, “Otherwise what happens to me?”. “Otherwise you die!” He goes “That is why I revealed this to you. But worry not; your secret is safe with me as long as you protect mine. Goodnight Smallie…” with that, he opens the window and escapes, quietly. Sadé is alone with her thoughts, “Saint Black’s dagger; was that why it was so cold?”… She leans against the wall, deep in thought…
Aunty Maggie is very uncomfortable, she can hardly breathe and Bòdé leaves her no choice. She reaches for the stout bottle. KPRASH! goes the bottle; she brings it down hard on Bòdé’s shiny head. He staggers back in shock. She flashes the sharp ends at him “Ahn Ahn, you wan kill me Bòdé?” She rubs her neck, out of breath. “See Maggie, if you like shoot me, e no go enter, no worry yourself… Save yourself the stress and just tell me where she is…” Maggie looks helplessly at him, “how you want me to know, when you know say I no even know time wen she move…” he stares, unconvinced, so she continues “you funny o, you know ba?” Bòdé seems angry, “What do you mean by that?” he asks.
She smiles at him and moves close enough to rub her huge breasts against his arm “you forget say na me and you dey that Sunday morning? Wey you lie give daddy say your sutana, iron burn am…” “Enough!” He stops her, walks over to the mirror and stands in front of it. He cannot remember anything.
He pulls out a stick of cigarette from the pack on the table and helps himself to a lighter to set fire to his smoke. He stands in front of her in all of his manliness. Maggie cannot help but lust after this young man; “Which kind one chance pesin come enta so Olorun?” She thinks to herself, he cuts her thoughts short, “Find out anything and everything you can, I’ll be back in the morning. I do not want yeye excuses” She throws him a mock salute, “yes Sah!” He burns out his smoke and walks into the bathroom to wash her off him…
Esther’s head drops slowly in the middle of the morning devotion. Uncle Ràntí slaps her from behind and the pitch of her voice rises “as it was in the beginning, is now and forever shall be, a world without end. Amen!” She recites the wrong prayer. Uncle Ràntí and the other children laugh aloud; except Nji. She rolls her eyes at her husband and wraps up the morning devotion with the final Hail Mary “Hail Mary, full of grace the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women…” the whole family choruses in response “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and on the hour of our death, Amen.” She raises her black rosary to her lips, plants a kiss on it and does the sign of the cross alongside her 4 children and Uncle Ràntí. Sadé is far away in the dream world…
The family declares the end of the prayer and Uncle Ràntí shouts “Glory to Jesus!” expecting the usual ‘honor to Mary’ reply from his niece, he gets nothing. Nji claps her hands together mockingly; “You see your life. You dey slap my pikin meanwhile your sister dey here dey snore peacefully…” He walks over to Sadé’s kneeling spot, he knows something is not right. Nji continues to rant, “I’ve told you, stop hitting my children! I don’t like it o Ràntí, I’m saying it now” she scolds her husband in front of the children and he rebukes her, “Njideka, they are my children too and I love them with my soul. Do not tell me how to raise my children! Madam, Abeg! Disrespecting me in front of MY kids.” She drops a short hiss.
He looks down at Sadé, her head rests on her folded arms, she is still fast asleep. He lands a hot slap on her back, “Yeh!!” screams Sadé. The children laugh out really hard. Uncle Ràntí barks “my friend will you stand up there!? Making me quarrel with my wife!” She turns her head around slowly, “What heavy work did you do between last night and this morning that you are lazy like this? abi nkà n sé è ni?” (Translates- or is something wrong with you?”) Nji tries to hide a smile. Sadé looks at her big brother with a tiny spark of pain in her eyes “Ah! Uncle, the journey was long now...” She protests. “Which kind long? Since when?” He asks “Osun to Port Harcourt, how many hours? My friend; stand up for me joor…” she struggles to stand.
Nji notices the bloodstain on her blouse; “Sadé, where is that blood coming from?” she asks, Sadé tries to hide. Nji pulls her close and lifts her blouse to check out the bleeding for herself before she can getaway. Sadé’s jaw drops; her hands quickly check to see if her breasts are at least properly covered. Nji slaps her hands away. Her eyes show fear at what she has just seen but her hands maintain the composure of a professional nurse.
Carefully, she removes the blood-stained plasters and bandages. “Jay! Get the kit for me” Nji calls. Ràntí leads the other children out of the living room to get them ready for school. “Soldiers, forward match! Time to get ready for school. Jay, get the kit for your mummy.” Nji removes all of the bandages, she is in shock. There are a few green-ish pores inside the wound…
Her 15-year-old Jay comes out with the kit and some information “Mummy, I think there’s somebody in the…” too young to comport himself; he screams at the sight of Sadé’s wounds and drops the kit on to the ground. Uncle Ràntí rushes out to see what the problem is. He turns him around and holds him still “young man, man up my friend! You don’t run away from your fears, you face them. That’s how to be a man. Stand here look am, e no dey kill you. Look am!” The young man tries to look, he is disgusted at it, he shakes his head and Uncle Ràntí allows him to run off.
“What happened to you, young lady?” Nji asks, “Saint Black’s dagger” Sadé replies, “Bòdé stabbed me.” Uncle Ràntí is calm, “Who told you about the knife?” He asks, “Richmond”. She replies. “I see, so na in-house…” he says unsurprised. Nji is struck “like say una dey go church now, shebi I for say make you do novena now,” she says. Sadé smiles. Uncle Ràntí leaves the room and reappears with a bag and a blanket. He throws the blanket at Sadé. She tries to catch it but she is in severe pain. Uncle Ràntí sounds authoritative, “cover yourself with that and follow me. Babe, I will see you later. The cards are in the top drawer babe…” Nji replies to him “okay, stay safe…” “Alright baby” They kiss goodbye. She stands by the curtain and watches them leave. “Chai, God help this man not to traumatize my children for me o. biko…” (Biko translates- please)