We lived in a small, timid village, where education was a privilege enjoyed only by the wealthy. My mom and I struggled to feed us, and we often went to bed hungry.
Sometime last week, a young lady had approached me with “enticing opportunities” as she had termed it
“What’s your name, young lady?” I looked around clueless, and wondered if she was referring to me.
“I’m talking to you,” she patted my shoulders lightly.
“Oh!” I smiled absent-mindedly. “My name’s Ada.”
“Ah-dah?” She called the name with some difficulty. I could tell she wasn’t an Igbo, and there was something oddly foreign about her.
I didn’t bother to correct her. Yes, ma’am.”
“I have a lifetime opportunity for you. How would you feel if I told you that your dream of going to school is about to be materialized?”
My eyes lit up at the mention of school, “how’s that even possible?”
She ignored my question. “Do you want to go to school?”
How could this random woman walk up to me with the intention of raising my hope? Who does she think she is? I wondered, but instead I said aloud, “I would love to, if it were possible.”
“Oh!” The woman chuckled, “it’s very much possible.” She went on to tell me about her nameless organization which helped people like us.
“… it’s not only you, you know. There are so many other children whom we’ve offered this opportunity. Our aim is to reach out to the less privileged kids, whose parents can’t afford to send them to schools. Have you heard of Lagos? The large state with a lot of promises… That’s where our school is situated. That’s where you will school at if you’re willing. You have a bright future, don’t ever allow anyone to convince you otherwise…”
She went on and on to feed me with enticing and juicy stories about the supposed school; that she actually got my hopes high. I closed my eyes and imagined myself in a school uniform, with my backpack, walking majestically to my classroom. I couldn’t wait. I wanted to go with the strange woman now. All I needed to do was to inform my family. Mom would be pleased.
“… you can’t ever mention our conversation to any member of your family…”
“Why?” My face fell.” It’s the best news ever. They would be happy. They deserve to know.” At last, God has answered our prayers. I would be able to go to school; to dress in smart school uniforms. The thought alone made me dizzy with excitement and anticipation.
“I already told her. Of course she’s given us her consent. I want you to come with me next tommorow to check out the place. We’ll return that same day.” She smiled, and although it seemed odd, I didn’t weigh what she had told me properly. ” After we’ve successfully seen the school, and you like it, then, you can tell your mom, even though she’s already aware.”
“Why me?” It was strange and out of place for a complete stranger to offer such juicy opportunity to me.
“I’m your mom’s old friend. I figured it’s the least I could do for her. Your mom’s been through a lot already. Since I’m the Principal of the school, I could look after you.”
I pinched myself to ensure that I wasn’t dreaming. Everything that was happening was too good to be true. ” I will be ready, then.”
“Remember… keep this between us. It’s our little sweet secret.”
“Absolutely ma’am. Thank you so much.”
She stood up and left just as she had come. I had forgotten to ask her her name. How’s it possible that mom never mentioned this lady? I knew everyone who was close to my mom, both friends and aquintances; but because I was giddy with joy, I forgot about how strange the lady and her offer felt. All I could think of was school.
I loved sitting at the varander, where I could comfortably watch the students as they went to school. I envied them, and hopes that one day, such privilege would knock on my door.
“Ada!” My mom called out.
“Mama, I’m coming.” I rushed to answer my mother, as her voice had sounded desperate.
“My daughter…” Mama coughed tiredly. I felt for my mother. She did everything within her power and strength to ensure that we were comfortable, even in the least.
“I will be going to the farm now to get some vegetables and pepper for dinner.”
“Mama,” I tried taking the headpan and sack bag from her hands, but she held on to them firmly. “Please, allow me to go to the farm today, so that you can stay at home and rest. You look tired.”
“You know I can’t do that, Ada. You need to stay home and prepare lunch for your father and brother.”
“…but, Mama, when will this end?” I was already in tears. Mama looked disheveled, tired, weak, and hungry. I was sure she had sacrificed her breakfast in order that we may have something to eat. “Why do we have to suffer so much? Why’s our family this way?”
Mama only smiled. “My daughter, God’s timee is the best. We’re trying our very best. God will answer us and uplift us in his own time. Right now, I have to go to the farm.”
I watched as my mother departed. I wanted to run after her. I wanted so badly to help her. I knew she needed to rest, else she would break down. I was scared. My mom could be very stubborn, and it was hard to convince her.
“Ada,” I didn’t know when my brother came back. He was in tears, and he had bruises all over his body. He was red all over… scarlet red, and it was terrifying. Someone must have brutally beaten him. But who? He could have possibly laid his/her cruel filthy hands on my brother? it only left me puzzled and worried.
“Uche, what happened?” I embraced my elder brother, and searched his eyes for any possible answer or explanation.
“I’m hungry,” he smiled and tried to hide the fact that he was worried. Something terrible had happened, but I could tell he wasn’t in the mood to talk about it; therefore, I didn’t ask again.
“Alright. Let me go and whip up something for us. Dad will soon be back too. Why don’t you go have a shower, and possibly a nap? Food will be ready in no distant time.”
Uche groaned tiredly, but he headed towards the bathroom. I quickly prepared us lunch. I cooked yam porridge without palm oil. We had run out of palm oil; but neither of us remembered. We ate in silence, expecting my dad to come back from wherever he went to sooner than later. We we’re already used to drunken behavior. He spent whatever penny he got through gambling on drinks. Afterwards, he would come back late, and complain about everything my mother did. Sometimes, he would rain abuses on the poor woman, and other times, he would beat her.
“I have to go somewhere now,” I stood up and headed toward the kitchen to wash our plates
To be continued. . .
Ekwebelum Chizurum Melody.
Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi State, NIGERIA