Книга Half of a Yellow Sun. Содержание - 2

"It's quite tasteless, which is better than bad-tasting, of course," she said, and smiled at Master before turning to Ugwu. "I'll show you how to cook rice properly, Ugwu, without using so much oil."

"Yes, mah," Ugwu said. He had invented what he imagined was fried rice, frying the rice in groundnut oil, and had half hoped it would send them both to the toilet in a hurry Now, though, he wanted to cook a perfect meal, a savory jollof rice or his special stew with arigbe, to show her how well he could cook. He delayed washing up so that the running water would not drown out her voice. When he served them tea, he took his time rearranging the biscuits on the saucer so that he could linger and listen to her, until Master said, "That's quite all right, my good man." Her name was Olanna. But Master said it only once; he mostly called her nkem, my own. They talked about the quarrel between the Sardauna and the premier of the Western Region, and then Master said something about waiting until she moved to Nsukka and how it was only a few weeks away after all. Ugwu held his breath to make sure he had heard clearly. Master was laughing now, saying, "But we will live here together, nkem, and you can keep the Elias Avenue flat as well."

She would move to Nsukka. She would live in this house. Ugwu walked away from the door and stared at the pot on the stove. His life would change. He would learn to cook fried rice and he would have to use less oil and he would take orders from her. He felt sad, and yet his sadness was incomplete; he felt expectant too, an excitement he did not entirely understand.

That evening, he was washing Master's linen in the backyard, near the lemon tree, when he looked up from the basin of soapy water and saw her standing by the back door, watching him. At first, he was sure it was his imagination, because the people he thought the most about often appeared to him in visions. He had imaginary conversations with Anulika all the time, and, right after he touched himself at night, Nnesinachi would appear briefly with a mysterious smile on her face. But Olanna was really at the door. She was walking across the yard toward him. She had only a wrapper tied around her chest, and as she walked, he imagined that she was a yellow cashew, shapely and ripe.

"Mah? You want anything?" he asked. He knew that if he reached out and touched her face, it would feel like butter, the kind Master unwrapped from a paper packet and spread on his bread.

"Let me help you with that." She pointed at the bedsheet he was rinsing, and slowly he took the dripping sheet out. She held one end and moved back. "Turn yours that way," she said.

He twisted his end of the sheet to his right while she twisted to her right, and they watched as the water was squeezed out. The sheet was slippery.

"Thank, mah," he said.

She smiled. Her smile made him feel taller. "Oh, look, those pawpaws are almost ripe. Lotekwa, don't forget to pluck them."

There was something polished about her voice, about her; she was like the stone that lay right below a gushing spring, rubbed smooth by years and years of sparkling water, and looking at her was similar to finding that stone, knowing that there were so few like it. He watched her walk back indoors.

He did not want to share the job of caring for Master with anyone, did not want to disrupt the balance of his life with Master, and yet it was suddenly unbearable to think of not seeing her again. Later, after dinner, he tiptoed to Master's bedroom and rested his ear on the door. She was moaning loudly, sounds that seemed so unlike her, so uncontrolled and stirring and throaty. He stood there for a long time, until the moans stopped, and then he went back to his room.


Olanna nodded to the High Life music from the car radio. Her hand was on Odenigbo's thigh; she raised it whenever he wanted to change gears, placed it back, and laughed when he teased her about being a distracting Aphrodite. It was exhilarating to sit beside him, with the car windows down and the air filled with dust and Rex Lawson's dreamy rhythms. He had a lecture in two hours but had insisted on taking her to Enugu airport, and although she had pretended to protest, she wanted him to. When they drove across the narrow roads that ran through Milliken Hill, with a deep gully on one side and a steep hill on the other, she didn't tell him that he was driving a little fast. She didn't look, either, at the handwritten sign by the road that said, in rough letters, better be late than THE late.

She was disappointed to see the sleek white forms of airplanes gliding up as they approached the airport. He parked beneath the colonnaded entrance. Porters surrounded the car and called out, "Sah? Madam? You get luggage?" but Olanna hardly heard them because he had pulled her to him.

"I can't wait, nkem," he said, his lips pressed to hers. He tasted of marmalade. She wanted to tell him that she couldn't wait to move to Nsukka either, but he knew anyway, and his tongue was in her mouth, and she felt a new warmth between her legs.

A car horn blew. A porter called out, "Ha, this place is for loading, oh! Loading only!"

Finally, Odenigbo let her go and jumped out of the car to get her bag from the boot. He carried it to the ticket counter. "Safe journey, ije oma," he said.

"Drive carefully," she said.

She watched him walk away, a thickly built man in khaki trousers and a short-sleeved shirt that looked crisp from ironing. He threw his legs out with an aggressive confidence: the gait of a person who would not ask for directions but remained sure that he would somehow get there. After he drove off, she lowered her head and sniffed herself. She had dabbed on his Old Spice that morning, impulsively, and didn't tell him because he would laugh. He would not understand the superstition of taking a whiff of him with her. It was as if the scent could, at least for a while, stifle her questions and make her a little more like him, a little more certain, a little less questioning.

She turned to the ticket seller and wrote her name on a slip of paper. "Good afternoon. One way to Lagos, please."

"Ozobia?" The ticket seller's pockmarked face brightened in a wide smile. "Chief Ozobia's daughter?"


"Oh! Well done, madam. I will ask the porter to take you to the VIP lounge." The ticket seller turned around. "Ikenna! Where is that foolish boy? Ikenna!"

Olanna shook her head and smiled. "No, no need for that." She smiled again, reassuringly, to make it clear it was not his fault that she did not want to be in the VIP lounge.

The general lounge was crowded. Olanna sat opposite three little children in threadbare clothes and slippers who giggled intermittently while their father gave them severe looks. An old woman with a sour wrinkled face, their grandmother, sat closest to Olanna, clutching a handbag and murmuring to herself. Olanna could smell the mustiness on her wrapper; it must have been dug out from an ancient trunk for this occasion. When a clear voice announced the arrival of a Nigeria Airways flight, the father sprang up and then sat down again.

"You must be waiting for somebody," Olanna said to him in Igbo.

"Yes, nwanne m, my brother is coming back from overseas after four years reading there." His Owerri dialect had a strong rural accent.

"Eh!" Olanna said. She wanted to ask him where exactly his brother was coming back from and what he had studied, but she didn't. He might not know.

The grandmother turned to Olanna. "He is the first in our village to go overseas, and our people have prepared a dance for him. The dance troupe will meet us in Ikeduru." She smiled proudly to show brown teeth. Her accent was even thicker; it was difficult to make out everything she said. "My fellow women are jealous, but is it my fault that their sons have empty brains and my own son won the white people's scholarship?"

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