I am short of words for the first second. “Moni! What are you doing here?” Panic grips me and I fear something awful happened back home. “How’s mum?”
“I haven’t reached home. Lower your voice.” She rises. “Come inside and lower your voice.”
It is impossible. “What happened? Come on, talk to me!”
She stands before the door, and folds her arms across her chest. I fumble with my keys and open the door. She walks in and waits for me to come in.
“Lock the door.”
I have a million things to say but instead, I do as she says. My hands shake so badly the simple routine becomes a task.
When we’re safely locked in, I turn to her. “What’s going on?”
She bites her lower lip. “Anike is missing. Her father has been to the village chief and police.”
“How does that concern us?” The words hardly left my lips. “You helped her run away!” I lower my voice. “How could you?”
“I didn’t plan it. She was by the road, weeping. I told the bus driver to stop and we exchanged places. I thought you’d be here but you were not.”
Blessings I wasn’t. I drop to my bed, my knees weakened by the atrocity Moni committed. Was she lying or she had this planned all the while.
“I can’t believe this.”
“I’m not lying. She was there by the road just outside the village.” Moni sighs. “I know I’ve done some silly things in the past but today is different. I had to call mum I’m not coming again. She was not happy about it.”
“Well, I don’t have another money for you to travel till I get my allowance early next month.”
“It’s fine. I called one of my course-mates too and she said resumption was postponed because lecturers were on strike.”
I arch an eyebrow. “When did you call your course-mate?”
“Two days ago but—”
“Ah Moni! The witch cries today, the child dies tomorrow.”
She sits beside me, and grabs my hand. “I swear, I never planned anything with Anike.”
How is it possible to believe her? “So what do we do now? Should we just pretend we don’t know where she is?”
“Her father came to ask after her, and after you. He thinks you took his daughter away.”
I scoff. “Why would he think that?”
“Remember the day we spied on them. You know he saw you.”
“So? How does that mean I took his daughter?”
She waves. “I think we should just pretend. I told him you probably went hunting with Ajao.” She looks at me. “Where were you all day?”
“Can’t I have a life? Yes, I went hunting with Ajao.”
I walk to the small corner where the cooking stove is. My stomach rumbles and I pray the stew she cooked the previous day is still good. The stew is not bad but has a little mould. I dip my hand in and pick a piece of meat, which I pop into my mouth.
Moni speaks softly, “Ajao said he hadn’t seen you too. You’d have to look for another lie, or tell the truth.”
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