‘I’m not trying to argue. Look, how can I help?’
‘I just feel that . . . having another . . . a young child around . . . it would distract her, I’m sure. From her work.’
Marion felt the sting of embarrassment; she couldn’t say it out loud – she didn’t want her kids to play with the black child. She didn’t want them touching. But she couldn’t say it because if she said it, then it would really be there and she wouldn’t be able to just ignore it, which was infinitely easier and, thus far, largely possible.
‘Just tell her no then,’ Max said. He was probably sitting on the edge of some hotel bed, his legs crossed. ‘Tell her you’ve realised that it won’t be a good thing after all.’
His tone was calm, he plotted out the solution as if he had more where that came from
He wasn’t someone with a whole life that he needed to constantly keep in line. His life’s borders seemed to police themselves.
Marion fought with herself, in her head. The reason she hadn’t wanted Agnes to bring her child to work was because the child would be a distraction – that was the reason. And the reason she suggested Agnes did not wash her clothes in with the family’s load was because this seemed sensible, to keep things separate. Why complicate the washing? She explained it as slowly as possible to Agnes, but checked for several weeks after to make sure she was following her instructions. And the reason (it was Marelena who asked) that Agnes had a bruise on her head was because black people were dangerous and the police had thought Agnes was one of those black people. No, Agnes was not dangerous. Yes, most black people were dangerous and they were causing trouble. No, Agnes was not causing trouble. No, it wasn’t unfair. It was in fact very fair. Life was fair.
Excerpted from The Woman Next Door, a novel by Yewande Omotosho, Farafina Books, Lagos, Nigeria, 2016.