Big Madam pinch her bou bou open in the chest area and blow air inside it. ‘Agent Kola. That is what you always say when you want to sell them to me. The last girl you brought, what is that her name? Rebecca? She is still missing till today.
Which girl was Mr Kola brought before? Why was she missing? I am looking Mr Kola but I know I cannot be asking him the question now. I turn to Big Madam, thinking to ask her who this girl was, but her face be like a circle of silent thunder, flashing angry and making me to be afraid. Did something bad happen to this Rebecca that make her to be missing? And if something bad happen to Rebecca, will something happen to me here too?
‘Go inside and wait for me there,’ Big Madam say. “Let me talk to your agent.’
Mr Kola nod his head yes. “Go inside,’ he say. “I need to speak to Big Madam. I am coming.’
I stand to my feets and look the compound. At the palm trees on my left and right, at the other cars in the place, at the main door in the afar, which look like the door to heaven with the gold wood handles on it. As I am walking away, I can feel the eyes of Mr Kola and Big Madam entering my back.
When I reach the front door, I look back at the two both of them, head bending close to each other, talking and talking.
The handles on the front door is the gold head of a smiling lion.
It is a statue, but I still check it sure that the lion will not just jump awake before I knock the door. When it open, one short man with skin so smooth, the colour of cooling charcoal, is standing in my front. His cheeks are round, swelling; as if he is keeping air inside of it, with moustaches that curve around his mouth. He is wearing white trouser and shirt with a long white cap on his head. There is a long blue cloth hanging around his neck and in front of his stomach with a writing on it: The Chef.
‘Good afternoon sah. Big Madam say I should be coming inside,’ I say, pointing behind my head to Big Madam and Mr Kola. ‘Adunni is the name.’
‘Finally, the new housemaid arrives,’ he say.
‘Housemaid? Is this the work I will be doing? Mr Kola didn’t say before. All he was asking is if I can be working hard, and I am saying yes.
‘I am Kofi,’ he say, pointing one short finger to the writing on his cloth. ‘The chef. The highly educated chef. If you are here to werk, follow me.’
Why is he talking as if his tongue have a problem? Saying ‘werk‘, instead of ‘work??
“Why are you are talking one kind?’ I ask, looking him close.
“Are you from the Nigeria?’
‘I’m from Ghana,’ he say, turning around. “I have lived in Nigeria for twenty years, but my accent is stubborn.’
“You have a stubborn accident?” I ask as I follow him inside, feeling pity. “When it happen? It affect your mouth? Hope nobody die?’
He stop walking, look me like I mad. “Where does Big Madam find these uneducated beings? I said I speak with an accent. Not an accident. Okay?’
‘Is okay,’ I say, even though it didn’t okay. What he say is just making me more confuse. Maybe he have a accident in his head too.
I look around the room, feel a shiver all over my body. There are gold and black tiles on the floor. The walls are pale red, with pictures of Big Madam and two childrens, a boy and a girl sitting inside the picture. The boy have a nose like big letter M and the girl have teeths that is sitting on top her bottom lip. The two both children are wearing long, black robe, with triangle hat on their head. Big Madam is standing in between them, her hands on their shoulders, left and right. There are two chairs far back in the room with wood handles, and two round cushions on the floor, red, and gold and swollen like balloon.
There is a smell of shoe polish, of fish stew, of new money. It feel too cold too, and I peep one white box in the wall where the cold air is climbing out from. I see a line of looking-glass on the wall to my left and right, and a clock with big face and big numbers. At my right side, I see a bowl of green water with blue stone at the bottom of it, and small fish swimming around a light pole inside the green water.
Excerpted from Abi Dare’s The Girl with the Louding Voice, one of the 11 novels shortlisted for the Nigerian Prize for Literature 2021.