Even then, I could sense that they had come prepared for war.
I could see them through the glass panes on the door. I could hear their chatter. They did not seem to notice that I had been standing on the other side of the door for almost a full minute. I wanted to leave them standing outside and go back upstairs to sleep. Maybe they would melt into pools of brown mud if they stayed long enough in the sun. Iya Martha's buttocks were so big that, if melted, they would have taken up all the space on the concrete steps that led up to our doorway.
Iya Martha was one of my four mothers; she had been my father's oldest wife. The man who came with her was Baba Lola, Akin's uncle. They both hunched their backs against the sun and wore determined frowns that made their faces repulsive. Yet, as soon as I opened the door, their conversation stopped and they broke into smiles. I could guess the first words that would come out of the woman's mouth. I knew it would be some lavish show of a bond that had never existed between us.
"Yejide, my precious daughter!" Iya Martha grinned, cupping my cheeks with moist and fleshy hands.
I grinned back and knelt to greet them. "Welcome, welcome. God must have woken up thinking of me today-o. That is why you are all here," I said, bending in a semi-kneel again after they had come in and were seated in the sitting room.
"Where is your husband? Do we meet him at home?" Baba Lola asked, looking around the room as though I had stashed Akin under a chair.
"Yes, sir, he is upstairs. I'll go and call him after I serve your drinks. What should I prepare for food? Pounded yam?"
The man glanced at my stepmother as though, while rehearsing for the drama that was about to unfold, he had not read this part of their script.
Iya Martha shook her head from side to side. "We cannot eat. Get your husband. We have important things to discuss with the two of you."
I smiled, left the sitting-room area and headed for the staircase. I thought I knew what "important things" they had come to discuss. A number of my in-laws had been in our home previously to discuss the same issue. A discussion consisted of them talking and me listening while on my knees. At those times, Akin pretended to listen and jot notes while writing his to-do list for the next day. No one in the series of delegations could read or write and they were all in awe of those who could. They were impressed that Akin wrote down their words. And sometimes, if he stopped writing, the person speaking at the time would complain that Akin was disrespecting him or her by not noting anything down. My husband often planned his entire week during such visits, while I got terrible cramps in my legs.
The visits irritated Akin and he wanted to tell his relatives to mind their own business, but I would not allow it. The long discussions did give me leg cramps, but at least they made me feel I was part of his family. Until that afternoon, no one in my family had paid me that kind of visit since I'd got married.
As I went up the stairs, I knew that Iya Martha's presence meant some new point was about to be made. I did not need their advice. My home was fine without the important things they had to say. I did not want to hear Baba Lola's hoarse voice being forced out in between coughs or see another flash of Iya Martha's teeth.