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Pariah

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***

In the days that followed, Yewande stormed Nigeria, and so the animosity that had begun over the phone between her and Moyo continued. Yewande was laying claim to the house, which she said Oloye and she had built before he met Moyo.

One evening, they encountered each other in the hallway.

“You’ll soon leave here. I’m only waiting for Oloye’s funeral to pass,” Yewande said.

“I’m a rock. Unmovable.” Moyo pranced a few steps away and then back to Yewande. “Take your bitch head back to your bitch daughters.”

Yewande punched Moyo in the face. She doubled over, blood trickling from her nose. Enraged, she raised her hand and aimed a fist at Yewande, but another hand grasped hers from behind. Taye’s.

Moyo struggled to free her hand. “Let me go!”

“Don’t, ma’am,” Taye pleaded.

Moyo swung her leg, but it caught only air. Taye held her firmly. Yewande went into her room.

The next morning, with the sun peeping from behind a cloud like a recalcitrant child behind a closed door, Moyo drove to the police station. The air conditioning in the car couldn’t cool her grate-hot resentment against Yewande.

A desk sergeant and his female counterpart sat behind a high-level desk with a telephone that had to be dead because no cable connected it. On the wall behind them was the inscription ‘Bail is free’. Moyo knew it wasn’t that free; it had never been. Weren’t some officers given to lucre? With money she could bend them for her cause. She asked for the divisional police officer, and the policewoman led Moyo to her boss’s office.

In the office, Moyo found a heavy-set man putting some files away in a cabinet. Then he took a seat at his desk.

“I’m Mrs. Moyo Agbeja.” She eased herself into the guest’s chair. “The wife to the late—”

“Oloye Babatunde Agbeja. I’m so sorry about your husband’s death. My colleagues in the homicide will find the killer.”

She wrung her hands. “I was assaulted.”

He thrust his face forward. “By who?”

“My husband’s first wife. Since she came to the country, I’ve not had peace of mind. I’m afraid my life may be in danger. Yesterday, she beat me so much that my nose bled.”

“Doesn’t she see you’re pregnant? Why was she acting cruelly?”

“Oloye’s properties. She wanted to have everything,” she lied. “Please save me, save my unborn baby.” She paused as he scrawled a few notes on a notepad. When he stopped writing, she reached into her bag and brought out a white envelope containing five thousand naira in fifty-naira bills.

“This is”—she handed it to him—“for you. Please do something about her.”

“We’ll do our job.” He came around the desk, walking her to the door.

***

The next day, two uniformed policemen came for Yewande. They told her it was an invitation to appear at their station to clarify some matters. But after being accused of assault and battery, she was held in a cell the size of a closet. The seepage of rainwater had imprinted a tapestry of deltas on the upper part of the wall facing the door. In the night she had a mat to lay on the concrete floor and a lantern to illuminate the room, while an orchestra of mosquitoes played around her ears.

After two days, Oloye Bab’s cousin, Toba, with a pimple-stippled face, secured Yewande’s bail. She looked filthy. The stink of the cell clung to her dark blue embroidered caftan. She’d been humiliated and, as they drove back home, she couldn’t wait to disgrace Moyo out of the house.

***

When Yewande returned home, she met Oloye Bab’s eldest brother Chief Jaiye and some members of the extended family in the living room, scolding Moyo for getting her arrested. But that wouldn’t pacify Yewande. “I don’t want her here,” she insisted.

“I’m going nowhere,” Moyo said breezily.

“Wouldn’t you consider her pregnancy?” Chief Jaiye asked. He seemed to have an aversion to a razor with his dense of gray sideburns and beard looking like an overgrown lawn. “What about”—he gestured to Bosun who was playing with a miniature train on the floor—“this little boy?”

Yewande shook her head. “Neither the pregnancy nor this boy is Oloye’s. She agreed with Oloye that she would never bear him children.”

“Bitch, liar!” Moyo yelled. “We later changed our minds.”

Chief Jaiye shifted in his seat, his gaze switching from Yewande to Moyo.

Yewande went upstairs, the stink of her fury in her wake, and came back in a rush, holding a manila envelope. “She should tell us who Taju was.”

Moyo’s heart pounded. Who had told her about Taju?

Yewande withdrew from the envelope two papers and held one out to Chief Jaiye. “Please read it. It is our copy of the consent forms Oloye and I signed when he had a vasectomy in Canada, after I gave birth to Folahan.”

Toba took the document and read out.

September 13, 1978

I, Babatunde Agbeja, authorize Dr. Mark Bolt to perform a bilateral vasectomy on me. I understand that this procedure is performed through a small scrotal incision or punctures and a small portion of each vas is removed and may or may not be sent for pathological…

Moyo’s cheeks burned, her heart slamming fiercer.

I understand that this procedure is being performed to achieve permanent sterility, meaning I will be unable to father any further children once my semen specimens are cleared of sperm and…

Oloye knew all the while that he couldn’t have fathered her son. She once had asked him about the scar in the front of his scrotum. He had evaded the question.

By signing the consent form, my wife and I acknowledge that I have been fully informed and understand the risks and purpose of this procedure. Therefore, I take responsibility for…

“Taju fathered her son, not Oloye. Her friend Sidikat confessed to Oloye,” Yewande announced when Toba finished the reading.

Waves of shock surged through the room. Pupils widened.

Yewande told the family that Oloye had removed Moyo’s name from his will after she told him she was pregnant again. “His lawyer will come to reveal the will,” she said.

Moyo’s head spun. The floor seemed to quake under her feet. She dashed out of the house, past the walkway, and past the gate. She lifted the hem of her black Akwa oche gown and ran down Babatunde Agbeja Road, skipping potholes that once again occupied the road. Her heart raced with her legs, her breathing belabored. Was she back to zero point? Her grief poured out in tears, flooding her eyes. The wine Sidikat persuaded her to drink had hurt her. She pressed on as if running away from her shame. A chaos of pain unleashed itself on her. A few meters before the main road, she felt woozy and missed her footing at another pothole. She stumbled, falling awkwardly onto her back, feeling a bone-deep pain.

Passers-by rushed to her, but she didn’t see them, didn’t hear their voices of concern. She sprawled on the ground with one arm across her face, writhing in pain. She felt a hand slipping the arm from her face. The world swirled around her.

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