Sexy Times with Nnenna Marcia: Mum’s the word

Seventeen minutes. That was the time it took for my mother to get me angry.

“What did I say now?” she spread her palms, flicking water onto the concrete floor as she did so.

“I don’t understand how I can be telling you about my promotion and all you want to talk about is some stupid wedding.”

“It is not a stupid wedding,” she resumed cutting the melon leaves, her knife making a ‘crunch, crunch’ sound as it sliced through the vegetables bunched in her palm. “No wonder B’lin doesn’t want you to plan it now.”

“Belinda! Why do you insist on calling her by that ridiculous name?” I opened the pot. The palm oil bubbled up, splattering the sides of the pot. “Wait, what? Thank God.”

My mother shook her head. “I really wanted you to plan her wedding you know. It is going to be the wedding of the century. Just think; all those Hollywood contacts, all the people you could meet.”

“If it’s going to be the wedding of the century then she should hire a wedding planner to do it – professionally. I am sure a lot of Nigerian companies would be glad for the opportunity.”

“Yes, but you’re good at organising. There is no reason why family shouldn’t do it. She has been gone for longer than you have and needs people she can trust  Just think, Ovation magazine, This Day, Bisi Olatilo show, OK! Nigeria, not to mention all the foreign presses…”

“I think you are exaggerating how important Belinda is. Nobody knows her in this country. What makes you think all these people will be dying to cover the wedding of an unknown ‘actress’ of Nigerian origin? Do you know how many of those there are?”

“You sound jealous, Abuotito. I raised you better than that.”

“I am not jealous!”

My mother’s knife clattered to the floor. She picked it up, scooped up some water from the bucket to her right and rinsed it.

“I am not jealous,” I repeated. “I just cannot believe that we are talking about her wedding again. When are you even going to ask me about my job?”

“But you’ve already told me about your job, I don’t have any questions to ask. I know this is what you want. Although if you ask me, I don’t know how much better than your former position this one is. I mean, you were PA to a big man in London, earning proper money. Now you are going to be working under the hot sun with a Jane-Susan woman…”

“Sarah-Jane. Her name is Sarah-Jane and if you know how much the company spent to poach her from…”

“Yes, yes. You’ve told me. I just don’t understand what you want me to say. You gave up your job in London to work in Nigeria; we did not talk about it, no discussion, nothing. So why do is it important for me to say anything now? I don’t understand.”

“I’m a co-ordinator now. I am responsible for all the workers, from contractors down to the labourers and catering on a project that is going to bring new jobs – jobs that even our government cannot create. Don’t you see? It was more than three years ago that the government abandoned its plans to turn Ogbunike into a tourist destination. And yet it has everything; all those caves, the waterfalls…

“…The shrines, the mami wata worshippers and their sacrificial chicken eggs. What if those fetish people kidnap or kill your employers?”

“The shrine can be part of the attraction. We could call it ‘An authentic juju experience.’” My mother shuddered and crossed herself. “What? I’m sure the poverty in that area is affecting the chief priests too. I bet they will be glad to get in on the action.” I rubbed my face, feeling the oil from my face cling to my palm. “Mum, listen. Be serious.”

“I am serious what if they get kidnapped? Their governments will wipe us all off the face of the planet. A lot of them have nuclear weapons. We don’t have anything in Nigeria. It will be like killing ants with Raid.”

I looked at her.

“What? You think I don’t read newspapers?”

“Ok. I am not sure what to say to that, but look, all the buildings are already in place from the earlier attempts. All we need to do is buy them from the government. We are already buying them. Do you think this is a small thing? I’m talking some serious pounds which we are pumping into this place! Money talks.”

“But you haven’t answered my question. What of kidnappers?”

“We’ll hire security detail for our guests.” I snapped my fingers. “And just like that, see, I have created about another fifty jobs.”

“What if they kidnap me? They will see you doing all this and think I have some money.”

“Then I will give them what they want, mummy.” I touched her shoulder. “Can’t you just be happy for me? Can’t you just,” I exhaled. “Can’t you just relax? People kidnapping others are doing it out of desperation. Once the money starts flowing into the area, everyone will think of ways to get it for themselves…”


“Arts and crafts, farming…we’ll only use crops grown in the area…”

“What about tomatoes? And apples? Those things come from Jos.; with all that keeps happening there…”

“We’ll switch to Cameroon then!” I threw my hands up. “These are long term plans. We’re starting with the buildings and the package holidays first. Once the government sees how serious we are…in fact once people realise what is happening, they will begin to do things for themselves.”

“Abuotito, I did not say all that you people are doing is not good…”

“Good? What we are doing is brilliant! People would finally come here. Can’t you see? Even the airport in Oba, think of how long it has been abandoned; more than twenty years! We have plans to make it our private air strip, yes they are long term plans but my company has the money. We could lease hangars and runways to other airlines.” I nudged her. “You might not have to travel all the way to Lagos. You just fly from around here  and then on to London to see me.”

“I have told you. I will only come there when you are in your husband’s house.”

“Mum…” I shook my head, feeling my shoulders droop until it seemed to sink past my chest. “Never mind. I’m supposed to be on the site early tomorrow morning. Let me go and finish unpacking. I’ll leave your things on the bed so that you can look at them when you come up.”

“At least you will be going to the site from home,” my mother said. She stirred the vegetables into the pot, tapped the spoon on her palm and put it down on a flat plate on the kitchen table.

“I might check into the same hotel as Sarah-Jane. It doesn’t look good for her to be there alone.”

“But she has mobile policemen! You said so yourself.”

“It doesn’t look good for her to be by herself, security or not.”

“Yes but you will stay here for a while now. I have not clapped eyes on you in how many years, now you want to stay in this town and not be under my roof?”

“Fine, Fine.” My pocket vibrated twice.

She clapped her hands together and did a little dance. “Hei! My daughter. You have done well to buy me the wedding things. I cannot wait to test them. Thank you so much.” She hugged me. “Don’t be angry with me, you hear? It’s just a wedding is so…so…it is Belinda after all. You know that child she does heavy-heavy things. We have not had a wedding in this family in so long. When you marry, you will understand.”

I groaned. “Please, can we just spend this one day without talking about any weddings? No weddings, no marriages, no men, no boyfriends…”

My mother held up her hands. “Okay, okay. Oya come and eat, the soup is ready. See? Egusi soup. Your favourite, so that you don’t think I am not thinking about you.”

I stared at her. “Mum, my favourite soup is Okro. Egusi is Belinda’s favourite.”


“What Greg? Why do you keep texting?”

“I am going to keep buzzing until you let me say sorry. I was very busy.”

“Yes, I know. I forgive you. Now stop texting.”

“OK. Bye.”

My phone buzzed again.

‘You didn’t say anything about Whatapp,’ Greg messaged.


The caterpillars were already in full swing when I got to the building site the next morning. Sarah-Jane as usual stood out in her yellow hard-hat, working boots and green sleeveless vest over jeans. Her hair was in a ponytail. I looked at my watch.

“This is not good having you here before me.”

“You’re not late. I’m early. I couldn’t sleep.” she shook her shoulders. “Look at this, ey? No African time.” She rolled her bare shoulders which were just beginning to freckle.  She gestured to the workers with her chin. “They seem pleased. They are all Nigerian? Good,” she said when I nodded. “That should do much for our PR when the time comes.”

I shrugged, and flipped through the notes on my clipboard. “The catering tent should be set up my now. Could you excuse me?” I didn’t wait for her answer, walking over to the couple scrabbling about in the area set up for dining. Their van was still loaded, but smells of half-cooked food and ingredients wafted in the air around them. The poles for the canopies and the canvas flaps lay on the ground. Two girls and one man scurried about joining bits of metal together.

“Good morning. You must be Abby. I’m Margaret,” said the woman. She didn’t look as if she had just been exerting herself. Her ankara trousers still bore the sharp creases of an iron.

“Good morning,” I replied. She shook my hand and clasped hers in front of her thighs.

A man wearing the same material as a shirt, wiped the sweat from his brow with the bandana tied around his wrist. “Hello. You must be Abby. I am John, Margaret’s husband. Thank you for this.” He shook my hand, nearly reaching my elbow with just one palm.

“Don’t thank me yet. For all you know, I may have landed you in hell on earth.”

“We’re equipped for that,” Margaret said. “By the end of all this, you will be thanking us. Full bellies, happy workers. Our food is next to none.” She walked round the front of the van and pulled out a basket covered with a towel. “Breakfast. Or snack, whichever one you like.”

My stomach grumbled. I glanced at Margaret but she was still holding out the basket, her face expressionless. “But you’re a start-up?” I continued, watching the tent beginning to take shape. “You work fast.”

“We work efficient. Besides, everybody starts somewhere. As you noted when you called us, we came highly recommended.” She jiggled the basket as my stomach grumbled again. Finally she smiled. “Please eat. You’re going to need your strength.”

I studied her for a moment. “How did you know?”

“Everyone talks to caters. And those boys have been waiting for you for twenty minutes now. It doesn’t take a genius to tell they are from the village. That’s the only job the young boys do around here.”

I took the basket from her and took the towel off. “You make croissants too? What’s this?” I asked, looking at the shiny, yellow slivers dripping with deliciousness on top of the pastries.


“Mango?” I looked at her. “Mangoes are no longer in season. Where did you get them?”

Margaret tilted her head. “Try it.” I bit into the croissant and crumbs whispered down my face like feathers. “I am going to get so fat. I’d better share this with Sarah-Jane.” John who didn’t seem to have been listening to our conversation straightened up again and waved.

“She’s already had some,” said Margaret, stepping back in such a way as to signal the end of our conversation. I walked over to the boys, offering them some of the pastries, together we trooped back to Sarah-Jane.

“New friends?” asked Sarah-Jane. What’s with the torches in the day time?”

“We’re going on a little excursion, you and I…and your security detail of course.”

“We are?”

“Yes. We’re going underground to the caves.” I placed my hands on my hips as I said this. Sarah-Jane started laughing.

“You’re trying to scare me, aren’t you?” She pulled her ponytail free and shook out her hair.

“ I’ve been before and even I am scared. They are very narrow, and damp and one wrong step and you could be lost forever.”

“Did I forget to tell you? I used to be a girl scout. They used to call me Indiana Jones when I was younger.” She pumped her fists. “Lead the way.”



See you after the New Year guys!

Nnenna X

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