Ufuoma glanced up at the clock. An hour had gone by and he wasn’t back yet. She had begun to worry the moment Emeka volunteered to buy the bananas. But he seemed eager, excited to explore his new surroundings, so she let him. With every passing second, tendrils of fear crept up her spine.
She paced the living room, her slippers slapping the tiles a little too loudly as she moved. What if something had happened to him?
Honestly, Ufuoma had asked Emeka’s mother to let him come live with her impulsively. Perhaps it was a twisted method of payback against the woman who made her teenage years miserable. Some famous person did say that success is the best revenge, at least that’s what she told anyone who knew her history with the woman and questioned Ufuoma’s motives.
In truth however, she revelled in the power she now seemed to have over Emeka’s mother. There was something humbling in the knowledge that your son’s future was tied to the generosity of another. Ufuoma would not abuse Emeka like his mother did her, but the woman didn’t know that.
And nothing inspires remorse quite like the possibility of revenge.
The door creaked open, the sound bringing temporary relief. But as her son, Chike, walked through, trepidation settled heavily in her throat.
“Mom! Mom! There’s been an accident across the road! I think someone…”
Ufuoma tuned Chike’s voice out as she rushed out of the house. Her stomach dropped a little lower with every step she took. She had deceived herself into believing that she was treating Emeka fairly.
She would never have sent Chike across the road to buy anything for her. He was only 12! But so was Emeka. Yet she had used her authority as an adult to send him on a potentially dangerous errand. It didn’t matter that she did not ask him directly.
She had nonchalantly stated that there were no bananas left, but she knew he would offer to buy them for her. Ufuoma had manipulated him, and she knew it.
She reached the road and began to wade through the crowd that had gathered. Incessant chatter continued all around her, but she heard nothing. She pressed on, trying to push away thoughts of death and how people in the village would say she had killed him for revenge or rituals.
Whatever they said, true or otherwise, one thing was clear. This was her fault. As the accident scene came into view, the state of the victim’s body brought Ufuoma’s breakfast to her throat. She swallowed and looked away.
Then she allowed her eyes focus on the victim’s face and her hands flew to her mouth. The tears she had been holding back came streaming down her
cheeks. It was not Emeka! Sobs of relief enveloped her as she scanned the crowd and saw him.
Emeka stood very still. His shorts had a wet patch running down its length and a bunch of bananas lay forgotten on the ground. She rushed to him, brushing past a bald-headed man whose eyes were fixed on the victim. She mumbled an apology, but he barely registered her. She reached Emeka and
hugged him to herself.
“I…I was just about to cross”, he said in a small voice.
“Shh, it’s okay. Let’s go home”.