Neni goes on as though everything is fine. Jende assures her that they’ll take things as they come, but this leaves her uneasy. She wants to feel in control of her life. Six days after Jende reveals the dreadful news about his immigration status, her stress-related headache ceases, but she experiences new symptoms: loss of appetite, frequent urination, and nausea. When she tells Jende that she thinks she’s pregnant, she bursts into tears of joy and despair.
Neni has difficulty with accepting Jende’s insistency on leaving their lives up to fate. To her, it feels too much like the complacency of her life in Limbe, which she escaped. This feeling of lacking control is compounded with her realization that she’s pregnant. She’s happy to have a baby but worries about how much harder this will make her life.
While packing Liomi’s lunch one morning, he reminds Neni of the parent-teacher conference scheduled for that day. She’s tempted to tell him that she can’t come, but she knows that she has to carry on as though everything were normal. The teacher assures Neni that Liomi’s a good student, which Neni knows, due to helping him with his homework on most evenings. However, when the teacher tells her that he could be more attentive in class and suggests that he spend less time associating with his classmate, Billy, Neni rises to button her coat and assures the teacher that this “nonsense” will end after today. Neni is out the door before the teacher can say anymore.
Neni’s performance is for Liomi’s sake, so that he won’t feel as though he’s being uprooted yet again. However, Neni also expects Liomi to perform as the perfect, diligent student. This doesn’t give Liomi a lot of room to experience life as a kid. Though Liomi’s teacher finds his behavior typical, Neni regards it as a digression from the path that she and Jende are trying to set for him, as someone who’s single-mindedly focused on achievement.
At home, Neni gives Liomi crackers and juice and then proceeds to remind him of why she and Jende send him to school. She asks who Billy is. When Liomi identifies him as his friend, she tells him that he doesn’t go to school to make friends but only to listen to his teacher. She reminds him that his father doesn’t go to work every day for him to play in school. Liomi cries and promises not to do it again. Neni assures him that he’ll do well in school and grow up to be a doctor or a lawyer. Liomi says that he’d like to be a chauffeur like his father. Neni’s amused and says that Jende’s only a chauffeur because it’s the best he can do, due to not finishing school. Liomi, however, can be much more if he does well in school.
Neni doesn’t think that social interaction and the development of relationships are as important to Liomi’s upbringing as his academic achievement. This is a reflection of her own perception of social interaction (like the kind that she experienced in the study group) as a waste of time. Also, unlike her son, she has no social interaction with people who aren’t Cameroonian, which probably makes her wonder what Liomi would have in common with someone named Billy.
The talk with Liomi makes Neni feel hopeful, as though her family may still have a chance. When Jende returns home from work at six o’clock that evening, she serves him dinner and leaves for her eight o’clock precalculus class. When the instructor hands back the previous week’s test, she sees that she got a B-minus. She goes to her instructor, saying that she doesn’t understand how she got the grade after studying so much. She worries that her GPA may suffer. The instructor suggests that she email him so that they can arrange to meet and find out where she’s struggling. He encourages her to “cheer up,” reminding her that many students would be happy with a B-minus.
Neni’s talk with Liomi doesn’t benefit her son but reinforces her own belief that, with a focus on education, he can be more than his parents. She doesn’t realize that the pressure that she’s putting on Liomi is a projection of her own insecurities about not being a top student. She believes that she can’t afford to make mistakes, out of fear that she won’t be given another chance to pursue her dream of becoming a pharmacist.