Achilles Heel (Part 2) by Ojuolape Amusa.


As Florence dismisses her friend’s dramatic expression of gratitude, she doesn’t fail to notice how haggard her friend looks. Folake used to be the number one beauty of the class while they were in school. Folake had the looks that Florence was dying to have. Folake had small breasts, a slim waist, moderate derriere, and a fair share of hips for carriage. She was brighter than the summer’s day—light-skinned and richly so. Now, as Florence observes her good friend, she’s resisting the urge to shake her head pitifully.

Folakemi’s light skin, which used to be as clear as day, is now tainted with dark spots. Pregnancy would usually transform the body, making a woman look twice her original size, but somehow, Folakemi looked leaner. Her pregnancy didn’t fit well with her body. She only looked like a child with kwashiorkor. Her hairline had receded drastically to the middle of her scalp. Florence was so sad at the sight of her friend and couldn’t stand it anymore.

She knew she was in no place to look down on her friend since she was also going through a lot. Still, there was no way she couldn’t feel those disturbing sentiments. Folake didn’t even look this bad the last time Florence saw her. Florence decides to focus on Folakemi’s son as a way of distracting herself. She is glad to see that David looks good, at least.

He is growing quickly into a handsome young man. His jet black hair and his light-skinned face look moderately neat. The facial hairs are also increasing at a rapid pace. His side buns are solid proof. He is tall and has good composure. David’s outlook compensates slightly for the pain she feels on seeing how bad her friend looks.

At least her children are doing well, she thinks. “What did you come here to buy, by the way?” Folakemi asks after wiping her tears off quickly. She is oblivious to Florence’s stare all along. “I’ll tell you on our way, ” Florence raises a brow, indicating that it’s confidential information.

Folakemi gets the message and refrains from probing further. Florence walks with Folakemi and David after they’ve left the bend-down select corner. During their walk, a conversation begins. “David, how is school?” Florence asks the typical question that parent’s friends would ask their friend’s children, and David gave the usual answer with a familiar shy smile. “Fine, ma.” “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you, Folakemi. When last did we even meet?” “When I told you I was pregnant, I think.

That was six months ago. I took a break from my meager jobs for the sake of the baby in my womb. Thank you for the money you gave me the last time we met.” “Folakemi, what are friends for? Stop being dramatic abeg, ” Florence waves her hands dismissively. “I hope everyone at home is managing in one way or the other?” Florence asks her friend with a lot of concern and compassion. She wants to ask about Folake but doesn’t know how to arrange her words, so she generalizes. “Yes. Kelvin has been working and managing his health too. We are surviving.” Folake shrugs. “If I’m honest with you, I’m also struggling. My husband just lost his job. It has been very tough for my family too.” “Oh my God. I’m so sorry, Florence.” Folakemi gasps. It’s hard to believe that her good and rich-looking friend is going through a financial crisis. “That’s why I came to the market today, ” Florence’s tone reduces to an almost whisper. “To sell golden earrings for a good price.

There is this aboki that doesn’t cheat people who wish to sell their jewelry. He buys it at a good price.” The information brings a memory to the front wall of Folakemi’s mind. She was supposed to sympathize with her friend because selling your property to make ends depicted a deep level of financial difficulty. Still, the information reminds Folakemi of a transaction she had with her neighbor. This particular neighbor had connections with affluent people. But the neighbor wasn’t too rich. When money wasn’t coming from anywhere despite all of the efforts Folakemi and her husband were making, she decided to sell the only piece of gold she had. It was a necklace given to her by her father, so she cherished it a lot. But she knew she had to sell it for her family to survive.

She knew it would bring an amount of money that was sufficient enough to cater to the needs of her family for a short while. But the money she gained from selling the necklace didn’t last. After she bought a few medications for her husband, there was no money left. Folakemi wondered why but concluded that it was the medications that consumed the money.

Still, she couldn’t ignore the feeling that the neighbor didn’t sell the gold for the original price—or at least, the neighbor didn’t give her the actual amount after selling the necklace to affluent buyers. Now, she feels the urge to confirm from Florence. “How much did you sell the gold?” “Five hundred thousand naira, ” Florence answers.

Folake’s eyes widen. Her heart begins to race madly. She’s so shocked by the amount that the baby in her womb kicks, and she feels her stomach shift slightly to the side. “What’s the problem? I didn’t sell it for a good price?” “No. Not that. Umm, can I ask a question?” “Yes, please ask.” Florence urges. She’s very anxious now and is wondering why Folakemi looks so astonished. “Do you remember this golden necklace I always liked to wear when we were in high school? That old necklace. Do you remember it?” “The one you said your father gave to you. I admired it a lot. Yes, I remember it.” “If you’d sold that necklace to the aboki, what price would you have sold it for?” “I definitely would have sold it for a million naira. That necklace is one of the rarest, most expensive pieces that you could ever find in this time and age.” Folakemi’s heart was racing madly earlier, but it dropped now.

The neighbor had duped her heavily, and she was foolish enough to allow herself to get swindled. She could vividly remember her conversation with the woman on that day: “Please sell this necklace for a good price, ” Folakemi went on her knees, pleading with the woman desperately. “Hmm…” the woman examined the necklace with so much skepticism, “I’m not too sure that the rich people will buy this necklace for a good price since it’s old and looks faded. But I’ll try my best.” “Thank you so much. God bless you, ” Folakemi repeated these words to the woman like it was a refrain from a song.

Then she remembered the fateful day when she was tricked and didn’t realize it. The woman looked too happy. Folakemi thought the woman was delighted on her behalf— that she had gotten some money to cater to the needs of her family. Little did Folakemi know that the woman had looted the better share of the price she sold the gold. Why the hell did she have to be so dumb? It was common knowledge for the average Nigerian woman who was familiar with the transaction of merchandise.

The true worth of gold was never in its outer appearance. Folakemi failed to know that standard information, and she paid dearly for it. “Folakemi. Why are you crying?” Florence taps Folakemi’s shoulders when she realizes that her friend is deep in thought and has caused them to stand still in the open for minutes. “David, let’s go home. Florence, I will see you later. Thank you once again for paying for the bag, ” Folakemi wipes the tears away from her face. Florence doesn’t try to stop her despite how confused and worried she is about why Folakemi is suddenly crying.

She tells her to take care of herself and her unborn baby, and she’d check on her later.


Folake ponders whether to stop by the neighbor’s house to cause a fuss but figures that it is pointless. There was no way she can retain her money or her necklace back because she has no power. She doesn’t even have what it takes to get the police to arrest her neighbor. She didn’t have the money to bribe them. She was just a powerless and poor woman. The deed had long been done, and the scale was falling off her eyes now. Still, she is bitter about it.

The pain she feels from the discovery is too physical—so physical that she feels her actual heart run away from her. It becomes its own separate thing, beating too fast. It is an affliction not merely of her spirit but her body.

The rhythms of her heartbeat worsen when she passes by the neighbor’s house, and David notices. He doesn’t know what made his mother burst into tears at the market, but with the way she’s staring at the house with burning contempt, he senses that all wasn’t right with his mother and whoever lived in that house.

Then she turns towards her son after drilling deadly holes into the house with her gaze. She rests her right arm on his shoulder and speaks to him for the first time since they left the market. “David, I know you don’t understand what happened at the market today, but I must warn you. You see that house over there…” Folake points in the direction of a blue bungalow.

There are two palm trees on both sides of the building that serve as a shade from the scorching sun and a minivan packed in front of the fence. “Don’t visit it for any reason whatsoever. If you have no reason to understand why I’m giving you this instruction, remember the tears I shed today. Always think of the way I cried today and refrain from visiting this house and the people who live there if you ever feel tempted.” “Okay, mum, ” David complies. He takes a second look at the building. His gut feeling was right.

Folake clenches her fists painfully and sniffs in the mucus in her nostrils. After giving the instruction, she does something out of sheer impulse—something that her mind had already opposed. She walks in the direction of her neighbor’s house. It is on the other side of the road, westward, so she crosses through the path.

Cluelessly, David stays behind and decides to observe from afar. He doesn’t want to be near the heat that is fast approaching. As Folakemi knocks at the neighbor’s door harshly, David’s heart plummets. This must be a serious matter, he thinks. A few minutes later, the person behind the door opens up. It is a middle-aged woman, tall, dark, with an asymmetrically short hairstyle. The woman looks sweet. Maybe it’s not the person my mum hates.

Perhaps she lives with the main villain. There’s no way my mum will have a feud with someone who is most likely twenty years older than her.

David speculates on and on. Until he sees his mother slap the woman harshly across her face.

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Pencilmarks and Scribbles Magazine was founded in 2017 by Clara Jack to be a home for African writers, asking them to come as they are and giving them room for growth. The publication aims to give back to the Nigerian Literary scene for the things it has given us.