Story By Stephanie Egberike
It was a cold and breezy night, the dark blue cloud was spread lazily across the sky, stars situated like little twinkling dots blinking rapidly as they viewed from where they sat, while the moon glowed a deemed yellow, with a half-smile. The blaring of cars horns down the streets of their mansion did nothing to fizzle their gaze. It was a moment they both shared, they both loved, they both understood. The helps and securities busied themselves with their duties, stealing gazes at the father and daughter they had come to love, sitting in their favourite spot, talking and pointing to the skies.
“Papa, why do the stars twinkle at night so bright?” Her head was on his chest while they gazed at the sky. Her tiny hands outstretched cupping her small eyes as she tried to view the stars through her hands.
Her father chuckled taking her tiny hands in his, pointing at one star at a time, though they were not countable but the make believe for his little girl was enough.
“Do you know Ama, that the scientific name for the twinkling of stars is called stellar scintillation or astronomical scintillation?”
Amaka giggles “Stellar scintillation or Astro– what did you say again?”
“Astronomical Scintillation. Big word huh? Don’t worry, soon you would be able to pronounce and understand them. Be able to read the stars, know all about the sciences and be a scientist like me and travel the world. Yes?”
“Yes yes Papa that I want but you haven’t yet told me why the stars twinkle?” Her gaze focuses back to the skies as she squinted
He nods, “Stars twinkle when we see them from the Earth’s surface because we are viewing them through thick layers of turbulent (moving) air in the Earth’s atmosphere.” He did a whooshing sound with his hands, blowing air into her face and tickling her, she giggled, shaking her a bit. He continues
” Stars (except for the Sun) appear as tiny dots in the sky; as their light travels through the many layers of the Earth’s atmosphere, the light of the star is bent (refracted) many times and in random directions (light is bent when it hits a change in density – like a pocket of cold air or hot air). This random refraction results in the star winking out (it looks as though the star moves a bit, and our eye interprets this as twinkling you see..”
“oohhhhhhh” she nods her head,
She exclaims again but her contorted face told him she didn’t understand a word of what he said, especially when she squeezes up her nose and pinches it. She was purely confused, this made him laugh..
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Like papa!!! I want to be like papa. A cosmolopistist?” she covers her eyes
He throws his head back in a deep throated laugher, peeling her fingers out of her face one by one till she was facing him, and then He pronounces it slowly…
“A Cosmologist or an Astronomer” And what do they do again?”
“Yes yes I remember” She clapped and continued ” Someone who studies the Evolution of the Universe or the Universe itself”
“Don’t grow up Amaka, remain my little girl forever” he hugs and squeezes her tight, placing multiple kisses on her forehead. Amaka squealed in delight..
“I love you papa!” She told him
“I love you too kiddo”..
“You won’t ever leave me, promise! You won’t ever leave me and mama alone? Promise, pinky swear!!” she gave him her tiny little finger and waited for him to grasp her with his little pinky finger, he does so without wasting time.
“I Promise, pinky swear. God says He would never leave us nor forsake us, he would hide us under the shadows of his wings, He would protect us and we shall not die. So No, I won’t ever leave you my little kiddo, not your mama either. We would be together for ever!!”
“Until the ends of time?”
“Until the ends of time!!” He replies.
“Bia, Papa Amaka.. It’s late you both should come inside. Let’s have our evening prayer session before we go to bed, leave the stars and the galaxies alone till Amaka is old enough to understand all that you say” Her mother comes up behind them
He laughs, “my oga at the top has spoken” He teases getting up and gathering his books. He was a learned man, vast in it but his wife was simple, busied herself with being a wife, a mother and a religious woman, Her parents were both pastors and it was no wonder the virtues she possessed was every indication he needed to know that she was best for him…and soon He was slowly worn over.. Finding God and loving the relationship they had begun to share. His family never went a day without communing with Him. He had been good to them. His blessings were unaccountable.
Her mother smiles, beckoning to Amaka “Let’s go inside dear, your father and his big big grammar never tires”
They lived in Lagos. Her father had returned years ago back to Nigeria, to his roots, He often says, to come and pour down the knowledge he had gotten while studying and working overseas.
A year later, he had met her mother, she was a niece to one of his distant friends, and she had just come from the village to the city to work as a nanny for the family. He had liked her, spoken to the family of his intentions and began to court her. Two years later they married. And soon after the company he had recently established had begun to flourish. Six years down the line, they had their first and only child, A few estates to his name and a mansion they called their home and Amaka going to one of the best schools in the country. Life was good.
Life was beautiful until He fell sick a couple of years later and then everything went to shits.
The constant walls of the hospital, The greedyness of his board members, The agony and pain of a man suffering from cancer, the money spent travelling in and out to the country, the fasting and praying, the unanswered prayers, Her mother constant crying, Amaka never leaving his side, the vultures saying how they can’t have a sick man as a president even though he was the owner of the company. He was voted out.
Slowly all that they owned was ripped from under them, the piled up unpaid hospital bills, the helps leaving, the travelling restrictions, and then the local hospitals. And then when He laid there. .cold on his death bed, even before he was laid in the ground… They were kicked out on the streets, Thrown out of their own home and left to fend for themselves with a few boxes. .
“You lied papa!! You said you would never leave. People always leave.. They always leave. You lied papa” young Amaka cried. .
Her mother’s prayers feeling her ears, anger boiling inside her..
‘Stop Praying! Stop Praying! To a God who doesn’t exist. STOP PRAYING.THERE IS NO ONE THERE. IF NOT HE WOULDNT HAVE LET PAPA GO. STOP PRAYING MAMA. THERE IS NO ONE THERE..PAPA IS GONE!” she screamed
“Papa is gone. He has left us mama. No more prayers please they don’t work. There is no God!” She says, staring at the limp body of her father who used to be full of life, he was reduced to bones and scantiness of hair and aged two times his age..
“God watches over us all. God knows it all, Never doubt him Ama, not even in now.” Were his last words
She wished she had known better…That it was just the rumblings of a man close to his end.
She knew better now.
Her mother’s mumbling startled her out of her disturbed dream.
Amaka turned on her side as she groaned, turning away from her mumbling mother who was obviously at it again. .
She sighed inwardly in anger as her mother’s voice rose slightly pitch by pitch, making it unbearable for her to continue to sleep and she knew soon enough, she would hear her beckon for her to join in.
She covered her ears with the pillow, and feigned snoring.
“Amaka!! Amaka, get up and join me let’s pray. Didn’t you hear my voice?” Her mother called out to the sleeping form as she went on her knees. She continued to murmur in prayers
Amaka pretended not to hear. Wishing her mother would give up and continue praying on her own
“Amaka, get up. NOW!” Her mother calls out with a tone Amaka knew too well.
She sighed and rolled off the bed, positioning on her knees beside her mother.
“Let’s thank God for life. Let’s ask him for forgiveness. Let’s pray that he Guides and protects us..open your mouth let’s pray Amaka”
Amaka mumbles some obscenities under her breath.
“What was that Amaka?” Her mother askes, looking sideways at her.
“Nothing Mama. I am praying.”
“Then open your mouth and pray. Without God who knows where you and I will be. Let’s thank him, pray! Ama pray!”.
Amaka rolls off the bed lazily and bends to knee, starts to recite her prayer lines, the ones she had written down years ago to repeat in different ways. The ones that would make anyone believe she had her heart and mind in it. She watches her mother nod with her eyes closed. She rolls her eyes in her head.
She was tired. She wanted to go back to sleep. She hated to be woken up early in the morning to pray. Called to pray during the day and at night made to pray before she went to bed.
She was tired of her overly religious mother who spends her days, ever since her father died, in church and its activities. Her mother prayed daily but it never changed anything.
She wished her mother would give up already, about this so called God, who obviously didn’t care about her much less anybody.
Where was the God when her father lost his company to those vultures and they were thrown out of their mansion even before his body decomposed? Where was the God when he fell sick and had no money to pay the bills and all they had was taken from them even though he would have had sufficient enough to cover for the necessities?
Where was the God when he dried up on his hospital bed and died of cancer after her mother prayed day and night, did vigils in church gave up everything she had to the needy, cried all night, starved herself while fasting. Where was the so called God she prays to?
As an only child she was raised in the ways of the church, her father an astute believer of God when he came into the faith. Her mother too. And thus, there was no day, minute or second that God wasn’t mentioned in all their dealings. So she believed in him.
But what did she know, she was a child and they believed in anything, even in Santa Claus. But that’s just a myth. A fable for children stories.
So is God.
“There is no God” Amaka, sixteen years old then, tears in her eyes as she watched life ebb away from her father’s fragile body and his eyes went into his head. He was dead while her mother continued to kabash and pray in tongues..
“Stop it. Stop it. Stop praying and chasing ghost. There is no God!!” Amaka shouted at her mother.
Her mother raised up her head in shock, her eyes swollen, her hair in disarray she hadn’t eaten for days.
“He is dead. Stop praying. There isn’t a God up there or else he wouldn’t have let him die. There is no God!!!” Amaka states more firmly. Her tears not ceasing, the bible she held she flings away. Cursing. .
“Chimoooooooooo!!!” Her mother bursts out in more tears seeing her husband had gone. Leaving her alone with his feeble bones, she grabs onto his body and cries…
“Papa Amaka don’t die! Don’t die! Come back. Chimoooooooooo!! Jesus!! Father my father, do not let me go through this pain… Hey God… remove this shame of reproach away from me. Lord God …rise and put your enemies to Shame. My father, hey… Papa Amaka! My chief! My King!! Husband of my youth. Father of my child. My love…
Chia!!!! Chimoooooooooo!!!” She threw herself on the ground… Rolling and crying and praying.
Amaka felt anger in her pain. She stormed out of the small room, wiping her tears away as she ran outside, hitting aside visitors coming in with their ailments, brushing past nurses in their whites as though they were a blur. Not able to bear seeing her mother in pain, she ran. Stopping just outside the vicinity.
“There is no God, there is no one there listening to us. The book, all lies. Adam and Eve, The pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night is just a myth. No Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus who grew and died for all mankind. No angels. No heaven and no Hell. You are just a big made up lie to deceive us.” She cried.
“You are not a life, there is no God. You are not real. You are as fake as the shadow that looms in the darkness. You are not real and I will not continue to believe in ideas of men… For that is what you are. An idea made up by men, you are nothing and mean nothing to me.” She screams at the top of her voice, shaking her fists to the heavens as she falls on her knees, tears streaming down her eyes.
“You said you will never leave nor forsake us, yet Papa has been lying there, battling and struggling and no matter how many times we call on you, pray on our bruised knees and fast. You are quiet. That’s because you have no ears to listen to us. No eyes to see our pain. No you don’t exists. You are not up there in the heavens or down here with us. I hate you. I hate you… You don’t exist! I would never believe what they say you are. All lies, all lies!!
“Oh papa, my papa!” She cried, falling to the ground and hitting it, her chest felt as though it would explode.
That was the first and last time she picked up a bible. That was the first and last time… she allowed her self truly prayed.
That was the moment she knew there was no God. No devil and that meant there was no heaven nor hell. No angels nor demons. Just words. Empty words.
You die. You die.
You live, you live.
So she decided to live her life the way she wanted.
But her mother on the other hand, never relented, never quits. She continued to pray even more than before.
She wanted to hate her, she may be slightly did. She just wanted her to sit up and face reality.
Their home for the past three years has being back in the village, where they managed to secure a one room. Sharing a bed and barely able to fend for themselves, there was no God who was going to do anything miraculous that he wouldn’t have done since. They had to get up and do things for themselves if not they would die out of starvation or begin to eat their flesh.
She wished she could shake her awake, slap her if necessary. ..
“Mama, wake up and smell the coffee.” she wished she could tell her then and tell her now. But as stubborn as her mother was she knew she was just wasting her time. Just like a bull, once her mother made up her mind about something she saw through it. Like the way her mother was determined to let her see things differently. She scoffs.
“That’s a fat chance in hell of that happening” She was done with the whole religious shenanigans.
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She had grown up from that little girl who believed everything just because everyone else did. But now she liked to touch and feel, make contact with the tangible, not follow blind men because they were chasing the twinkling of the stars to the new born King. All lies!!
Fables for little children. She wasn’t a child anymore, she had learnt. Her father had died of cancer, one of the incurable diseases, medicine couldn’t save him so no supernatural being should claim he is the giver of life and death, she was done with that bull crap. Thinking of it made her body cringe and her head hurt.
The only thing important to her was partying, making money, hanging out with friends… and living a fulfilled life. Good thing her mother had found a way to put her in the Community University from her selling of fish in the market. At least it’s her duty to make her have close to a normal life as possible.
Not rambling day and night over someone who supposedly sits on his high throne in the heavens, watching humans wreak havoc on themselves and he does nothing but insist they pray. No. Children stories. He is just a made up deity to scare children and people into submission but not her at least not anymore.
“Amen. Let’s share the grace”… her mother’s words breaks into her thoughts. .
“May the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Amaka yawns and trails off. She couldn’t wait to get to school. At least she would be with her friends. For a full semester. Away from her mother and her God and her prayers. .
Alone to her devices. . To do as she pleased…
Yes!! She couldn’t wait to go back to school tomorrow… but for now. She had to swallow her mother’s whims and dance to her drums, only till tomorrow.
“You are the lord that is your name, you will never share your glory with any man…” her mother gets up and began to arrange the bed, picking up cloths scattered about in their tiny room as she sang. She looks to Amaka who had picked up her phone, clicking away rapidly on her key pad.
Amaka observes that her mother was staring at her, that look that says … “If you don’t want me to talk, better do the needful “.
She sighs, gets up, grabs a broom and make’s to sweep the room.
“You will never share your glory with anybody …” her mother continues.
“You are the lord that is your name.” Amaka completes… rolling her eyes, and willing the time to move faster.
Her phone rings….
“You better finish your chores before you grab your phone.”
“Erm… mama it’s from school. My friend, Ngozi. You know school has resumed, it might be an important information.” She trails off, her eyes pleading, as she looked at her mother.
Her mother thinks for a second.
“Okay go ahead but be fast about it. So we can finish here and you go and fetch water, you know I would be going to the market soon? .”
Amaka nods, grabbing her phone and heads outside.
“Hello? Babe how now.” the voice speaks
“Hello Ngozi, I am fine and you? What’s up now?” Amaka tugs at her shorts, frowning at the hole smiling up from her thighs area. She needs new cloths. She needs money. Heck!! She needed a lot of things.
“Eh..how is your mother?”
“You know every na. Singing her lungs out to the lawd-most-high!” She mimicked. Shaking her head.
Ngozi laughs “Sorry dear. You have to deal with it till tomorrow and speaking of tomorrow, carry something nice and cute, we have a party to attend. Some cute hunks with a lot of cash to spend would be available and ready to mingle.”
“Hmmm. That’s nice. But you know I don’t have anything nice and cute. The ones I have is old and worn out and same ones I have had for a while.” Amaka chews the inside of her lips..
A long pause…
“Ok. Don’t worry, I can look for something in my closet and give to you. So don’t fret. Just know tomorrow is going to be off the hook. The party is going to be lit and everyone who is anyone would turn up. So you can’t miss it.”
“Yeah! Yeah. No doubt”.
“Amaka! Amaka!” Her mother’s voice pierces her ears and disrupts her conversation.
“The wailing queen is calling.” Ngozi states.
She sighed and said “See what am suffering, Lemme go back inside before she comes here and roars and even seizes my only means of socialising, she calls it the devil’s tool.” They both laugh.
“Mama I am coming” Amaka yells over her shoulders. .
“Ngozi, we would see tomorrow, take care” She cuts the call and strolls back into the room.
Her mother looks her over.
“Drop the phone and come and help me…” then she continues to sing.
Amaka grabs the broom and begins to sweep. As she held the broom all she could do was hope the dust would choke her mother so she goes outside and she is left alone with her thoughts.
But she was looking forward to tomorrow. ..
Away from home. Her mother. Her God and alone with her life…
To be continued.