The last we saw of her

We used to run a restaurant where you can get the neatest homemade food around the neighborhood.

The cooking process starts the day before and then very early in the morning around 3am so that we can be done with all the foods by 6am.

Before we left for school, we would always take out our coolers and sweep the shop to get it ready for my mom and elder sister who’d take over once we left for school.

Some of our early morning customers were bankers. They’d come in twos and threes before 8.00am to eat before they go to officially start work.

Before these bankers came each workday morning, we must have already started business with people who passed by earlier, school children who take food to school, etc., So the bankers weren’t the first customers.

Over time, when we returned from school, my mom would complain of a particular lady, Martha. Whenever she ate and my mom asked for money, she would say, “ah, mommy. But I’ve already given you money.”

My mom didn’t know what to do about this and well, I had no suggestion to give because I was young and dumb.

Martha always claimed to have given my mom N500 denomination whenever her colleagues started paying and receiving their change. It was until the last encounter after many others with this young lady that my mom knew exactly that Martha was cheating her.

That thing dey pain, eziokwu! Getting robbed off your family’s sweat and effort to maintain a standard living.

That morning, must have been a mid-term break or end of school session, my mom took advantage that we were all home and paid harder notice of the people that paid her. When the bankers came, my mom called me aside and told me once their foods were being served that none of them had given her money. I nodded.

Minutes after they were done with their foods and taking extra time to talk about work, they started to pay, everybody except Martha who asked for N100 change for the N500 she clearly did not give.

My mom was shocked. “You gave who N100?”
“Ah, mommy! Before I came, I gave you money. Why are you always doing this, eh? Before I eat, I like to pay first.”

Martha picked offense o. They argued for a while and my mom called me for evidence. After everything, Martha got very emotional and teary. “Mommy, N500 is too small, too small. How can you accue me of not giving you the money? I would have given you another money if not that I only come with one note.”

Las Las, one of her colleagues paid for her food. Afterwards Martha would come to our shop and raise her note up before paying my mom so that my mom would not say she did not pay for her food.

You think that’s the end abi? No. Weeks after Martha genuinely paid my mom, she felt she could scam her again after a while. Unfortunately for her, my mom had devised an eternally potent plan for whenever she came to our shop.

That day after they were done eating, mom went to Martha first to collect her money rather than the usual random collection.

“Mommy, have you forgotten how I do? I pay before I eat. If I didn’t pay, would you have served me food?”

My mom calmly asked her, “how much did you give me, Martha?”
She answered irritably, “the usual N500 nah.”

My mom addressed the next question to all of them. “Since you people came, have you seen me go behind my counter?”
“Martha said she gave me N500. There’s no other customer in my shop now and I haven’t gone behind my counter.”

She put her hand inside her apron and flushed out every damn thing inside it. There was no N500 denomination.

It turned out that after the first rush of business, my mom had started to take out every N500 and N1000 notes before the bankers came in. Martha was shocked. She had not expected the trap. She began to stutter, “eh, lemme see if I have it. If I didn’t give you, I might still have it.”

Some of her colleagues lashed out at her as she took out the only crumpled note in her purse and handed to my mom. As she walked out of our shop in shame, it was the last we saw of her.

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