Their flight was called and they boarded the plane. Farida watched closely how Monica put on her seatbelt. They held hands when the flight was about to take off and also when they were landing. It was a fearful experience for Farida but she had to brave it. They deboarded the plane and picked up their luggage before heading out of the airport. As they came out of the airport, someone caught Farida’s attention. The guy was tall, lean and looked good. Hids poise reminded her of someone. He removed the sunglasses from his face and then she knew whom she was looking at. The guy had to be Monica’s brother. He had his mother’s look, build and poise. Farida was immediately drawn to him. He wove to them and Monica led her to meet him.“How was your trip baby sister?” he asked Monica who was all smiles.“Fine. This is my best friend Farida; Farida meet my brother Sam” “Nice to meet you Farida. I noticed you immediately you stepped out. You are tall. Welcome to Akwa Ibom” Sam replied in a very British accent. Farida, learning how to speak from watching movies, came to play immediately. she replied,‘Same here”They drove for about thirty minutes before they stopped at the gate and honked. The gate was opened for them to drive in. Truly, the house was massive. The house stood in the middle of an equally massive compound. There were a good number of trees around the compound. By the right was a shed built for cars. Most of the cars there were covered. Farida wondered what they needed all these cars for as there were other cars parked in front of the house. They disembarked from the car and entered the front door into the sitting room. Monica introduced Farida to her father and stepmother. Farida knelt down to greet them. Her father was impressed while her brother was taken aback. “You are such a beautiful girl. And you are tall. You remind me of my first wife” her father said to Farida. “Your ex-wife you mean. Welcome. Monica will take you to your room. Your wing has everything including food items and a cook. There is a back exit from there if you want to avoid the main house. We will have lunch together on Christmas and New Year days. Anything you need, tell Monica and she will provide it for you” her stepmother responded coldly.“No, yshe should have her own stack of cash. You are our guest. Take this, it should tide you through the holiday” Monica’s father handed Farida a pack of N200 notes.“No thank you sir. I can manage”Monica snatched the money from her father before her stepmother could say anything, “Thank you father. She’s just shy. Come along Farida” she dragged Farida with her. Farida noticed a grin on Sam’s face as she was dragged past him. When they got into their room, Farida faced Monica and asked, “Why did you take the money?”“My father was trying to impress you. Why would you say no to money? My stepmother’s eyes were large in anger. She will fight with him later but knowing him, he would just ignore her and walk away or threaten her. We have more than enough cash to play around with. We will paint this town red”There was a knock on the door which Monica answered. It was Sam. “You know she’s going to come after you because of the money,” He told Monica.“Yeah. I will report her to dad when she does. We will keep going back and forth until she gets tired”“She has separated the cooking and the children. I haven’t seen my brothers since we got here. It’s been very boring. The cook she gave us isn’t doing a good job and he is rude. He only makes lunch and dinner. Get dad to change him. You are the only one that can make that happen”“I can cook during this period. It won’t be much of a problem once we can get the ingredients” Farida offered.“You came here on holiday and not to work. I won’t allow you to work” Monica rebuked her.“It doesn’t mean anything. Ok, I can work with him. I want to learn how to make your local delicacies. It’s not a bother honestly” Farida insisted.“I will get dad to change him. When he is changed, you can then learn. The person will be under my authority and not that witch”“Don’t call her that” Farida rebuked, “it’s wrong”“That’s what she is. I am going to dad right away” and she left the room.“She will get it done. She dad’s favourite. She can never do any wrong in his eyes. Now we are left alone, tell me about yourself”Farida was shy but had to overcome it in order not to appear childish. She told him she was a 300l student of Economics and Statistics in Unilag, Monica’s roommate and best friend.“Where are you from?”“Kwara state”“I have never been there. Where do you live?”“Mushin”“Where is that?”“It’s in Lagos”“Ok. What do your folks do?”Farida was silent for a minute. He was asking too many questions. She didn’t want to answer. “Did you hear me?”“Yes, I did. My father is a businessman while my mother is a teacher”“Nice. What type of business is your father into?”“He is into haulage business”“It is quite lucrative I hear. He must have loads of money”“I don’t know about that”He laughed. His smile and laugh were just like his mother’s. Monica was like her father. He was of average height and big. He must love to marry tall women because his second wife was also tall and attractive. The difference was that she was dark and hardly smiled.Monica came back into the room. “Done, we are getting a new cook tomorrow. The person will be selected by me. He called Uncle Amos to arrange the cooks for an interview tomorrow. If eyes could kill, I would have been dead by now. I completely ignored her”“You are getting away with all this because you are grandma’s carbon copy. If not, she would have dealt with you a long time ago” Sam reminded her.“Who separates family during the festive period. I told dad I want to see my brothers this evening. I am happy I have Farida; I will no longer be lonely when I travel with them” Monica replied.“I wondered why she asked them not to see us. She is being petty. Since I came back; she has been jittery. I keep wondering how I offended her. The things I bought for her and my brothers, she abandoned casually on the chair in the sitting room. The next day, they were still there. Three days later, I saw them there. I took them back and she never asked about them. Why is she behaving like this?”“She didn’t want you to come back. She was grooming her son, who is still in secondary school, to take over from dad. Of course, dad won’t hear of that. He told her to stay out of his business. She can only have a say when she manages a business successfully. She didn’t find that funny at all”“I didn’t want to come back. Dad threatened me with disownment; that’s why I came back. He didn’t put his house in order before dragging me back. The family is a mess. He is still trying to flirt with mom. If they makeup, where would he keep his second wife?”“Mom can never leave Papi for dad. Never. Papi treats her like a precious gem that’s why she flies back every month to see him if he doesn’t join her here”“Yeah, he’s a cool dude. He sent me money every quarter saying “Save it for the rainy days”. I saved every penny and invested in stock. He loves mom and she loves him in return. Dad is just wasting his time”Farida listen with keen interest as the siblings gossiped about their family. Sam finally left when he was informed his father asked him to meet him in the library. Sam gave Monica a knowing smile which she returned.“What’s special about the library?” Farida asked“It is soundproof so stepmother can’t hear anything”“Why is that a problem? Why won’t he want her to hear?”“It’s a long story don’t worry”There was wealth in the house. There was so much money but still, it was dysfunctional. Why would a man hide information from his wife? Why would a woman cause division in a home she is supposed to build? How can they be eating from separate pots? She was amazed at her findings. This was not what she wanted. “If I were the second wife, I would bring the family together,” she thought, “peace and harmony would reign in my home. I will love my stepchildren and they would love me in return”Monica’s words cut through Farida’s thoughts. “Sam doesn’t enter my room. Why is he being so co-operative? Hmm. He must want something from me. Anyway, let me show you around the house”They went out through the back exit and took a stroll around the compound. It was quite large. Farida loved the serenity of the surroundings. She wished she could live here forever. The trees gave amazing shade. Some areas had carpet grass planted with chairs and tables. At the back were kernels with dogs. Farida ran off to the amazement of Monica; she was not a dog lover. As they continued their stroll, they saw Monica’s younger brothers sitting under a tree playing games. Immediately she called out to them, they ran to her excitedly. She hugged them they all went to sit down. Not up to five minutes later, Monica’s stepmother came to meet.“Your father is minimizing my movement because he is afraid I will try to kill his son. That’s his headache anyway. What are you doing with my kids? Do you want to kill them too? I don’t know what you are playing at. You have developed wings to challenge me. I know your scheming mother put you up to this. Bringing the heir back is the condition she gave your father for her to come back into his life. I am here watching. Let me see how she will enter. As for you, if you challenge my decision again, I will deal with you”Monica released a burst of hysterical laughter. She looked at her stepmother and said to her face, “I am not your problem. My mother is not your problem neither is Sam. You are your problem; the sooner you figure it out the better. How can a man who claims to love you and you love him in return be scared of you killing his first son? Think about it. My mother is married to a nobleman, she has no interest in an unrepentant unremorseful serial adulterer. When was the last time he graced your bed? Wait o, you were committing the adultery with him while my mother was still in the picture; now I understand your fear. She will never go back to her vomit. Enjoy your husband. Boys, we will later kiss kiss” and she walked off leaving behind her trail a heartbroken woman who the truth hurt more than ever.“It was not nice talking to her that way. She’s your father’s wife” Farida cautioned Monica.“I have kept quiet for so long. She is one of the reasons Wura would refer to me as a lapdog. She made me timid and fearful. She maltreated me. She would invite her friends over and ask me to perform for them and then they would make fun of me. They would insult me and call me names. It was a terrible time for me. She threatened me not to tell anyone. It came to an end the day my father walked in on them making mockery of me. He sent all her friends away and banned her from having friends and family over at our house. He dealt with her. She took it out on me. She called me ugly and fat. She bought me the most hideous clothes ever until my mother came back into the picture. She sent me boxes of clothes through my father. When she makes me wear clothes she buys, my father would object and ask me to wear what my mother bought. The animosity grew from there. I went through self-esteem issues for a long time. I felt I couldn’t be loved. I bought love. I hated my mother for leaving me behind. I was weak and fearful but that was before I met you. I am bolder now. I know what I want and can strive to get it. I can talk to my father and make demands. I can put her in her place although I have been avoiding her. When I am with you, I am very confident. Don’t ever think I am buying your love because what you are doing for me is more than what I can ever do for you”“I understand Monica but that doesn’t mean you should use your new found confidence to disrespect her. You can tell her no or yes firmly without being rude or insulting. Show her some respect as your father’s wife. When she tries to disrespect you, just walk away. If it is getting excessive then bring it to the notice of your father and allow him handle her. You actually did what she did to you back there. You disgraced her in my presence and that of her children. It was wrong”“Didn’t you hear what she said?”“Your response changes everything especially when it involves an elder. You should have just hugged your brothers and walked away from her instead of words. Trust me, it will hurt more”Monica was quiet for a few minutes while they walked. What was going through her mind was how Farida knew how to handle people. She spoke way beyond her years and knew the right things to say. Farida had no idea how much she loved and appreciated her. The next day, they interviewed the cooks and chose a woman who was willing to come in at 6:00am every morning and close at 7:00pm at night. Farida was excited as the woman knew how to cook both local and continental dishes. When she resumed, Farida joined her in the kitchen. She learnt how to cook Atama soup which was what they had for lunch. It was amazing. Farida asked her to pack the left-over soup into the freezer. She dragged Monica to the local market to buy fresh local food items with their money as the freezer had mainly continental items.The market was interesting. They bought other local attires to play around with. It was fun exploring the market and its environs. The cook took them to where they would buy palm wine which was freshly tapped. Even though Farida didn’t drink alcohol, she couldn’t resist tasting this and she loved it.On the 25th, Farida made Afang soup all by herself. Monica tried to discourage her since they would be having lunch as a family but she insisted. When it was time for lunch, they took down the food Farida prepared. Monica’s father and brothers were already at table when they arrived. Monica placed the dish on the large table. “Ekaette what is this?” Monica’s father fondly called her Ekaette which means father’s mother.“Farida made Afang soup. She didn’t want us to come to lunch without anything. Although I don’t think your wife will be happy about it”“You made this? Monica’s father asked.“Yes sir”“I will have a taste” he said.“I will have a taste too” Sam added.“Someone won’t be happy” Monica answered them.When her stepmother came out with the cooks to set the food, she saw the dish on the table. “What’s this?” she asked.“Faridah made Afang soup. I will like to have some of it” her husband replied.“I don’t understand what’s going on here. Anyway, we have roasted turkey, fried rice, salad, spicy goat meat, ogbono soup and pounded yam. Afterwards, we will have fruit cake and ice cream”“I am having the afang soup with pounded yam please. Put some spicy goat meat in another plate” Monica’s father requested.‘Same here” Sam added.The cook dished out the food according to their request. Farida opted for the fried rice, salad and roast turkey as she had never tasted roasted turkey before. Monica had the afang soup while her younger brothers had to eat what their mother decided which didn’t go down well with them.“This is delicious. I don’t believe you cooked this yourself” Monica’s father announced.“She did. Our cook is off today” Monica replied.“Honestly, this is good. Very tasty. You are a good cook” Sam added.Monica’s stepmother wanted to know what the fuss was about when her husband, who was supposed to be on a diet, asked for a second helping. She took a small portion to taste and from her initial expression, she liked it.“Have you gotten your father a new wife? Did you get one that is domesticated? Am I not doing a good enough job? her stepmother asked Monica.”Mercy, we have a guest present. Please respect yourself and all of us here. I will have more afang without the pounded yam. Reserve the leftover afang, I will have it tomorrow. Take the fruit cake and ice cream to my office for later”That was it. No one spoke on the dining table until lunch was over. They spent the rest of the day indoors.
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