Sometimes when she remembers how her life used to be, it always feels like a faraway dream, like she was a princess in a Castle and her father the King.
They had servants, a good number of them. Helps around the house. They didn’t want for anything, she travelled for summers and Christmas, though her mother was the simple one whose only happiness was being anywhere her daughter and husband were… She just wanted to enjoy the little gifts life had blessed her family with.
A scientist for a father whose company was booming, and a trust fund with her name on it and a car she was expecting on her eighteenth birthday, life was indeed all that she envisioned growing up. But just like fairy tales, good things comes to an end.
And now she and her mother are thrown back into the slums of the earth, frolicking with people that would ordinarily not have been in the same room with them, exchanging pleasantries and being a part of a community for the underprivileged. She sighs.
Who would have thought that the daughter of Amadi Chimenem. First scientist of his name, a prestigious one, who have travelled the world and made a name for himself would be found in a village barely able to survive on twice a meal a day if they were lucky and fetching water from a stream by trekking miles, tying wrapper and a blouse that is too old to be worn.
All because the life they used to live was no more. The man that had provided for them had died and people had come to reap where they did not sow.
Amaka wiped the sweats that broke out on her forehead. She puts her hands on her waists as she bends side to side to relieve herself from the pain on her back as soon as she dropped the bucket of water on the ground from her head.
This was her third round of water back and forth and she was tired and angry, sighing at every chance she had out of frustration.
She had learnt that she couldn’t speak polish English and raise her shoulders here, she had no money, they had no money. Big English and an air of superiority did no good and so, slowly after months of adjusting, she had to learn and speak the pidgin, so that she could at least belong and not be looked at like a snob but all she wished was to run far away… away from it all.
She sighs remembering an incident…
“What kind of nonsense is this one eh… man pikin cannot just stay and not suffer eh. Shei if mama had accepted that Pa Ejima’s proposal she and I would have been in a better environment. But no.!!!
Pride. She is full of pride and saying he is fetish. Fetish kwa!!!”
He had come, two years later with a marriage proposal for her mother. He looked rich but uneducated, but rich nonetheless, even if she didn’t like the man he was their “Get-Out-Of-Hell Free card” . He reeked of traditional rites and he had been married twice, both wives dead but the kids were alive.
“He is fetish yet has trains of shops scattered all over. Has mansions and cars, red, black, white, at his disposal. Even his kids schooled abroad but no!!! Mama refused, instead preferring to rely on her prayers and God. Oya na she should have let me go instead but no!!! Instead she said no child of hers would be used for rituals or stay under an evil man….
Who good man epp??” She sighs again.
She hadn’t forgiven her mother for turning him down twice, and returning his box of money back to him.
“Good man. Wasn’t papa a good man? Most loving. Most honest. Godly and righteous. Yet.. He was tossed away from his own company, he got sick and died. What did his goodness do for him? Mtchewwwww!!! Now I have to be fetching water up and down. Me.. Amaka chimenem, born with the most priced silver of spoons am reduced to rags and worse than a hawker. Tah!!!
Mama, you no try. You are the cause of our predicament. Every time… God!! God! God!!! One more mention of that name I want to just choke myself and die. Arghhhh! !!!”
“Aha, Amaka. You have started talking to yourself again?” Emeka, her friend comes up behind her, poking her side.
She turns in shock, upon seeing who it was she relaxes, a smile spreading across her face.
“Mtchewwwww!! My dear. It’s not like that, am just upset jor. Everything is just upsetting me.” she replaces the towel over her head so she can bend and carry her bucket again and be on her way.
“What is upsetting you? These days you stand and talk to yourself, sighing at every little chance that you have. You are worried, tell me what the matter is? Is your mother okay? What’s up with school?” Emeka observes her keenly. He has always liked her.
“Hmm. Mama is fine. Just that… life is hard. Even school sef, sometimes I wonder how I would finish. Ofcos everything is worrying me.”
“You know you don’t achieve anything by being worried. Even the bible says–
“Eh hee..Biko biko, don’t go and be quoting the bible for me. I know it more than you do. That we shouldn’t worry? Ehen I know but if I don’t worry, how can things change” she cuts him off
He shakes his head…
“And if you worry, nothing will still change but as long as there is life, there is hope. You need to put everything in prayer. Cast all your fears and drop it at his feet. You know God is able..”
Amaka rolls her eyes. Not another epistle please… she wished.
“My dear, even the bible says, to your tents oh Israel. So every man for himself. If you don’t stand up and do things by yourself, the God you serve, you, all of you” she points at him and people in random.
“the one you serve won’t come down and help you. If you like gather in your churches and sing till thy Kingdom come. Shout on top of your voice in your death beds and in your bad situations. .
“I serve-a-mightyyyy-gawdddddddd!! Nothing will happen, Biko, help me lift my bucket jor lemme go home, all this talks is making me dizzy.” she bends and waits
Emeka looks at her with sadness in his eyes… She had no idea what she was saying. He felt Pained and sad. He knew her story, he understood, He sympathised with her. But he still could not bring himself to accept her denouncing God just because.
He had known pain too, he had passed through bad experiences and even in his darkest hour, his mother’s words seeped through his mind.
“In everything give thanks. God is able to make a turn around and bless you in more ways you can ever imagine nor dream. Just give up and let God take the wheel” those word he held on to and he had tried to live right.
Yes there have being temptations. Lots of temptation… Even from Amaka. His feelings for her grew by the day but fear kept him at bay. However, one thing he prayed for on a daily was that God would help him not to fall by the wayside and backslide. He looked down at her…and sends a silent prayer up to the heavens. .”Father, bring her back to your light. In Jesus name. Amen”.
“Emeka, my legs are paining me oh. Do fast na. Why are you standing there and staring like lukozade . Biko help me jor”..
Emeka bends and lifts the bucket effortlessly and places it perfectly on her head and helps her to stand up properly..
“Thank you” she states as she begins to walk away.
“You are welcome. Hopefully I will see you before you leave tomorrow. Even walk you to the park. Just call me”. He walks beside her
“Ok no problem, lemme rush down. Mama must be wondering why I delayed, Ok, Takia Emeka. Don’t look at girls oh. So they don’t spoil you for me”. She pinches his cheeks and leaves him. Emeka smiles at her departing form and turns the other way to his house. He had evening service to attend.
Amaka had settled to cooking as soon as she got home, after she had taken a shower in the zinc building next to their house that everyone on that their line shares.
She had hated it, refused to bath for days just because they didn’t have a toilet in their room when they first arrived, with disgust she scans the environment.
‘No mama I can’t stay here, we can’t! !
“We have no choice Ama”
“We have houses in other cities mama, Papa told me we had”
“They were taken too Amaka, we have no choice. Go and bath there.” She points to an uncompleted small building close by” That’s where everyone baths. Go so I can go and bath too, let me arrange the room a bit so we can be able to sleep.”
“How can I mama? See, it’s disgusting, how can I go and bath outside, what if people are standing there and watching. Don’t they have a room where the toilet is inside?”
“No Amaka, this is not the city, we are in the village and they can’t afford such luxury. Biko, you bath early in the morning or very late at night, you can’t stay without bathing Ama, you will smell. ”
“I will use wipes.”
‘Your wipes have finished and no money to buy. You forget that we have no money Ama, don’t be stubborn, the sooner you get used to this being our life from now on the better. God will provide for us, He would. He hasn’t forgotten us neither would he forsake us. We should be thankful that the good lady took pity on us and gave us a room and told us to pay in instalments, it’s only God, If not we would have been sleeping on the streets or under that bridge again. Thankfully we have come back to the village, though I have no surviving family but they are my community people. God has touched her to help us”
“God!! Please mama, you sound more disillusioned every single day that passes.” She hissed before storming out of the small room, fuming.
She waited till midnight before managing to bath, hating every minute of it.
They had gotten a small stove with which they use to cook just outside their door..
Indeed, her life then was a fairy tale, now was the reality…
She shakes the thoughts from her head, bringing her back to the present.
“Mama, food is ready. Come and eat” Amaka places the small plate of eba and native soup on the mat. She sits down crossing her head and waits for her mother to come join her.
Her mother had being laying on the bed flipping through pages of her Sunday school work book and the bible, with her daily prayer book which she closes and comes to join her daughter washing her hands.
Amaka washes her hands as soon as her mother was done and without hesitation she reaches for the eba..
“Haaa maama!!!” She exclaims in pain, rubbing her hand where her mother’s hands had just left.
“Are you a child? Must I keep reminding you of the essentials of life? Won’t you pray and thank God for this food? Do you think it fell down like manna from heaven? Don’t be silly Ama. Don’t be equally ungrateful. Bless the food, then we can eat” her mother’s stern voice pierces her ears. Amaka murmurs as she rubs her hand causing the pain to subside… she frowns closing her eyes
“Plus Jesus minus Satan”! She murmurs doing the side of the cross
“Do you have a death wish Ama?” Her mother threatens while both her eyes were closed. Amaka opens one of her eyes and looks at her mother. Her mother could be religious through and through, but one thing she took very seriously. .
“Spare the rod and spoil the child”
You mess up. She treats you, big time
“No child would be useless under my watch. My mother caned m, .I didn’t die. In fact it helped to straighten my crooked ways and now I thank her for her firm hands over me. Amaka, don’t think I would spare you. I will flog the stubbornness out of you…” She told her one day after finishing belt over her back the day she came home with a stolen phone from the community school and lied about it.
Her mother made her write a letter of apology to the girl and to the school and grounded her for a whole month. Her only activity was chores and prayers. She hated her life then and wanted to run away from small room they lived in. Her mother beat her some more and she knew if she didn’t respect herself now, it didn’t matter if she was over twenty something and nearly finishing school. Her mother will forget her hands on her face. She clears her throat and prays again. .
“Father bless the food oh Lord for Christ sake. Amen. Also bless the hands that gaveth and provide for those who don’t have in Jesus name. Amen.”
“Amen” her mother smiles and urges her to dig in.
After dinner, while they sat on the bed, her mother comes to her, nudging her to turn.
“Eh Ama, this is what I could save for you. I know it’s not much but it’s only what I realised from the market today. Manage it. You know so many people are still owing me and the economy is hard. Things aren’t the same. Please manage it and if I have anything more I will send to you. Okay??” She hands her a few folded bills. Amaka takes them and counts, frowning at each count…
*What am I going to do with this? By the time I buy my makeup and shoes and some cloths it’s gone. Food nko? Credit for my subscription nko? Vexing money when I go out and I don’t like the Walker and I want to go home nko? Wetin I won do with fifteen thousand naira*..? She thinks to her self
“Atleast your transportation and feeding and you can photocopy materials for schools. Please manage. I will send more to you as soon as I can. God has been faithful to us. He won’t abandon us now when you are almost done. Biko my daughter” her mother touches her face, running her hand through her hair…smiling. Pleading with her eyes.
“It’s okay mama. I will manage.. but as soon as small money comes, just send Emeka to bring for me. ”
Her mother nods smiling,.. “Yes my daughter. God would provide okay?”
Amaka rolls her head in her mind, but she smiles and repeats “Yes he will, he always does”
She brings out her finger when her mother wasn’t looking and dips it into her mouth, indicating choking
“Please tell me something that actually makes sense” she rolls her eyes again, murmuring under her breath silently
Her mother turns to her, ” What Ama, did you say something? ”
“Me? No I said God is amazing!!” she lied
Her mother nods, “Yes. Yes indeed He is. Never doubt that”.
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Life was a long bore and drag in the village, but when she is back at the community universities with her friends, she feels some semblance of peace, of normality.
She couldn’t wait to resume, be away from her mother and her religious shebang’s. She couldn’t wait to be free to do what she pleases. After all, even though she didn’t believe anymore in God, Heaven or Hell, she also didn’t believe in ghosts and reincarnations. So you live only once. Why not make the most of it.
“Okay. Have you packed your things?”.. Her mother askes while drinking pure water.
Amaka nods as she clears the empty plates. .
“Good. Do come and sleep so you can get up early and go to the park. Finish washing the plates and don’t stay outside and be pressing your phone pim-pim-pim-pim. You know you can’t spend all your spare time doing that. Even in school, you need to read too and focus on better things. I have spoken oh. I hope you would hear my word??”
Amaka rolls her eyes… “Yes mama! As she steps outside leaving her mother alone.
She gets up and moves to the end of the room as Amaka leaves, where the only box she managed to carry with her from her husband’s house before they were kicked out, were only a few expensive things remained.
She opens the box and it was nearly empty.. her jewel boxes were empty. Rich George materials and expensive bags and shoes, all gone
She had just sold her ring so that she could give her daughter small money. Half of which she used to pay her fees and the balance? N15000 was what she collected to give for transport. She rubs her empty ring finger, a single tear escapes from her eyes which she wipes away…
“Dear father, please take control, only you can help us. I thank you for all you have done and what you are doing. In my worst state, I will praise you… please…provide for us and put your enemies to shame. Amen.”
“Mama, what are you doing?” Amaka walks inside with the washed plates placing them on the floor. She watches as her mother closed back her box and locks it. She frowns. If only one day she can steal the key, she would pack all her expensive things her mother had managed to pack back at her father’s mansion. Sell them and run away. How can they be suffering and her mother can’t just let go of those things to make life better for them, what is she saving her jewels for? Abi she wants to go to Heaven with it and play dress up with God and his Angels? She scoffs
Instead for her to bring it out and let her have it sef, but her mother, she locks the box and carries the key like a prized possession. One day, Just one day. She wasn’t ready now. Let her hold on to her expensive things. Soon they would belong to her… Amaka promises.
“Nothing my daughter. ”
“If you say so… I have boiled your water, Lemme go and mix it so you bath and sleep. I have told chinedu and his friends to be coming and be helping you to fetch water and sweep when I leave. So don’t stress yourself, I can’t be running down and be checking on you oh”…. she tells her and grabs the bucket and pours the hot contents from the kettle into it.
Her mother nods and grabs her water. .and goes to bath
Amaka heads to where the box was situated, and fiddles it.
“Of course, It’s locked” She sighs and crouches low on the bed, lying on it.
Wondering if she went outside she could search for the key from her mother’s wrapper while she bathed
“No! She would catch me” She says, she sighs and turns on her side. .
Wishing that…Life didn’t have to suck so much.
A few hours later as her mother snores peacefully beside her, Amaka has thoughts running through her head..
She didn’t end up entering the sciences like her father and her had talked about. She ended up going into the arts.
She didn’t end up believing anymore in the God her father had grown to love.. That is not even real. Maybe her father would be disappointed but she didn’t care. He was dead. Dead men don’t talk, plus she wasn’t the little girl he knew and loved, she saw life differently through the eyes of an adult and the only thing that life understood was tossing you melons and hard rocks. It all depends on how you dodge and survive it.
Yes, she was surviving it alright? But as any sensible and sane person would. No more idle dreams and fantasies… But she does hope to meet a rich handsome dude, that would fall in love with her and whisk her away and they live happy ever after…
“Maybe, I may meet someone like that tomorrow. Just maybe”. Remembering the party her friend Ngozi had invited her for in school, excitements seeped through her bones, at least something to look forward to that had nothing to do with mother and religion. Something Fun. She turns on her side and in less than a few minutes with a smile on her face, she goes to sleep even as the mosquitoes danced and played symphony around her ear,she slaps the mosquito suckling a huge amount of blood from her thighs, opening her eyes which cleared again.
It was still dark, she sighs when she remembered all she had to go through just being home with her mother. She wasn’t bothered, in the morning, she would be gone and her mother won’t be able to disturb her even if she wanted… not for a few months. That was enough to make her happy.
She dreamt of money. Lots of money… lots and lots of money.
She hoped Ngozi had already picked out her dress for her, she wanted to look good for that party tomorrow. .
“I want to slay!!” she smiled
“And maybe get a nice looking hunk of a man, with loads of money and a private jet to fly me away from mama and her endless praying tongue, who prayer epp? Mtcheww!!” she turns on her side, as she tries going back to sleep, the thought still playing in her head.
She couldn’t wait for tomorrow, where life away from home was paradise. Where a girl’s life was measured by how many friends she had, partying and clubbing, hanging out with the big boys and making money for yourself.
She had not really indulged in the extreme acts before and watched how her friend Ngozi was enjoying life like a queen in school as different men fell at her feet. She was tired of picking up crumbs, she wanted to eat the big fat chunk of flesh from the chicken, maybe it was time to let the inner woman in her wake up and take charge while this shy and scared kid go into the background. She was twenty-three years old and still a Virgin, never smoked a shisha and always played it safe. But she was almost done with school and she was not going to allow herself not have mad crazy fun this time, and not even her fear of her mother would stop her. She was done throwing caution to the wind, she was ready to close her eyes, take a risk and jump. After All,
“What mama doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” she turns to her side again, yawning..
“Starting tomorrow, Am going to party so hard, slay like a queen and when I get the chance, am taking a one straight bus ticket out of this dump, away from you mama so you and your God can have a nice life, well after I carry all your nice jewels in that box you keep hiding from me. At least you keep saying material things are vanities yet you hoard it like it’s the most important thing in the word.” she leans up and turns peering into her mother’s face, she was snoring peacefully. .
She was glad she was going back to school tomorrow.
No more mama. No more prayers. No more horrible songs and pretence. It would be fun fun and more fun…
She lays back on the small bed, and yawns, as sleep comes, taking over and pulling her eyes shut
“Tomorrow, I would be free to be me. Tommo-..” she trails off as she began to snore..
To be continued.