I watched as my friends went on rattling about their boyfriends…their boyfriends got them that…got them this…too much stories both the ones that happened and the ones that never did…then the s€× part…how their boyfriends played with the Vjay…pinched and s—-d their n—–s…some i found intruiging, some i found disgusting.
‘Ivyy…why arent u saying anything?’ Oma asked.
‘see why i’ve always told you to get a boyfriend? See, now u dont have anything to contribute’ Henna, the eldest amongst us said. Henna was not really my friend and i usually tried my best to keep her as far as possible…i believed she was a bad influence and it was since she joined our school that my friends started acting negatively…well, they could fall for her bad advice but i will not.
I just smiled saying nothing.
‘or have u gotten urself a boyfriend already…one we dont know?’ Ije asked smiling devilishly..
I stopped walking ‘i’m sorry guys but i have to rush home now…i have to help my mum in her store and i also have some chores to do at home, i will see u guys in school tomorrow’
‘but we are going home together arent we?’ Oma asked.
‘or u want to do corner corner…dont worry, we understand, a girl needs to change oil once in a while…go on…we are right behind u…’ Henna said.
I fought the urge not to eye her…instead i walked away.
They all thought of me as introverted and naive…yes, maybe i’m introverted but i’m not naive…or so i thought.
I had always wanted to marry a V-rgin and i promised myself that the first man i fell in love with is going to be the one who puts a ring on my finger.
My friends were far from being V-rgins….all thanks to that witch called Henna.
Henna’s father was the richest man in Umueke….she had a driver who always took her to school or wherever she went but most times she preferred to walk with us one our way home from school…she wasnt all that beautiful but she had a figure one would die for and she was the most popular girl in school.
In our so called friendship circle, i was the most quiet and hardworking and this made people wonder how i managed to roll with their clique…truth be told, i didnt know…but i just knew that i felt complete with them…and being with them made me forget about my family problems.
‘Ivyy’ i heard a familiar voice call from behind.
I quickly turned…my friends were far behind…i stopped and watched as my father strolled to where i was…he regarded me with a look that could be called disgust mixed with love…i just dont know how to put it.
‘daddy…good afternoon sir..’ i stammered.
He didnt acknowledge my greeting ‘where are u headed?’
Where else…if not home…i wanted to say…but i knew better ‘i’m…i’m going home..’
He placed his hand on his wa-ist and looked at me accessingly ‘follow me…’ he said and started walking in the opposite direction.
I wanted to argue but i changed my mind and followed him…i sighted my friends waving at me and i waved at them too.
‘where are we going to?’ i asked with gathered courage after few minutes of walking through bushpaths.
He continued walking ‘aunty Chimezie’s house’ he replied curtly.
‘what are we going to do there? Is she sick?’ i wondered why we were suddenly going to see her.
‘then why are we going there?’
‘because thats where you are going to be living…your things are already there…’
‘what?!’ i stopped walking ‘why… Did something happen at home?!’
He ignored my question and pulled me along ‘you will go to school and church from there and you are not allowed to come close to the house or ur mother’s shop…have i made myself clear?!’
‘what daddy? Have i done something wrong?’ i asked getting close to tears…i couldnt stand being separated from Dada and my mum.
‘just be a good girl and Chimezie will treat you well…i will provide everything you need and i will come visit periodically…’
‘no more word from you Ivyy’
I let out an exasperated sigh and faced the guy who wouldnt stop trailing me wherever i went…he was a very popular guy in school…Ralph, a guy whom was well known to have slept with almost all the guys at school.
‘Ivyy, just give me a chance, i will take care of you, i really love u..please’ he said immediately i turned to him.
‘i bet thats what you tell every girl who’s ur next target…the same thing you said to Henna and the rest’ i said and walked away immediately but not after hearing him curse out.
Fool! Just because his family was rich and he walked with swag and the neatest guy in school, he thought every girl would easily fall for his charms. As it was, i already had too much problems on my own and Ralph wasnt going to add to my problems.
Its been two weeks since i started staying with aunty Chimezie…after father practically dumped me there. I wasnt allowed to see my mum nor Dada.
Aunty Chime practically imprisoned me whenever i came back from school, to the extent she went to the stream herself…going to the market herself instead of sending me…what was going on?
Did something happen to Dada and my mother? Why was my life like this? First was my mum being hospitalised due to father’s brutality and i being prevented from visiting her. Why was papa trying to separate mama and i? What was going wrong?
I raised my head to see Henna standing in front of me.
I rolled my eyes and forced a smile ‘hi Henna…’
‘hi babes…i saw Ralph following you…’ she had a mischievous glint in her eyes ‘so he’s the one kpanshi you now abi?’
‘Henna, maybe you should just stop this….there’s nothing btw Ralph and i okay?’
‘but that guy is hurt and if i hadnt caught him with that ugly albino called Mesoma, we would still have been dating and he would have been servicing me wella’ he hissed maliciously ‘i hate that albino eh!’
I rolled my eyes. Simply because she had caught Mesoma and Ralph in bed, Henna had swore to make life a living hell for Meso in the village.
‘so babe, i saw ur neighbour, ehm, whats that her name again…Kina, i saw her and she said she hasnt seen you in the compound for over two weeks now and it seems you havent been living there, whats going on? Did you run away from home?’
‘nothing…’ i quickly stood up from the chair i had sat on under a mango tree, and packed my books ‘i’ll be in the library Henna’
‘you are going to the library to read abi you want to corner one guy there’
‘Henna please!’ i sighed and walked away.
I heard her laugh ‘change oil my dear make ur wa-ist no stiff jareh!’
I rolled my eyes…spoilt rabbit!
‘Ivyy…’ aunty Chime said during our evening meal of boiled yam and red oil ‘your father was here when you went to school, he bought new novels for u and also new scandals with a new socks and he also gave me some money to give u for ur upkeep’
I suddenly lost my appetite…what did papa come to do? I suddenly hated him…why was he preventing me from seeing my mother? Why?
‘Ivyy…’ aunty Chime said again breaking my thoughts ‘i know you are worried about your mother…but i just want you to know that all is well’
‘thats a lie aunty and you know it…u and papa are both keeping something from me and i can feel it’ i said.
I knew aunt Chime had never liked mama and i feel like all this was her doing. She just hated mama for no just reason, i dont know why.
‘Ivyy luv, there are just somethings you will never understand now, no matter how well explained it is…we took you away from your mother for some reasons, traditional reasons to save u from shame and stigmatization….’
‘what shame and stigmatization aunty?!’ i cut in sharply ‘what is going on? Is mama dead? Why wont you guys tell me everything? I believe i’m matured enof to handle the truth but please…u guys should not hide things from me…u dont know how it feels to be kept away from the truth…if my mother is in her sick bed, at least let me see her before she dies, aunty please’ i pleaded in tears.
‘your mother is not in her sick bed Ivyy, she’s fine and just know that if you keep persisting on seeing her, we will send you to a faraway village where you wont even think of seeing her’ she said calmly dipping her large piece of yam into the oil.
‘just so u know Ivyy, we would do anything to separate you from your mother…Dada has been taken in Ezei to live with Uncle Nonso..its because of ur school you are still here…but if u keep insisting on seeing her, just know you are leaving Umueke for good because we would do anything to separate you from your mother…take it that way’
I felt shattered and hopeless.
‘God please save my mother…dont let anything bad happen to her please…’ i wept as i prayed ‘whatever she’s passing through, father give her the strength to overcome it…dont let the plans of then wicked ones…’ the tears prevented me from continuing.
If anything bad happened to mama, i didnt know if i would be able to survive it…i really loved mama…she was the best mother the world could ever provide.
People say mama and i looked alike and it was true, i was a replica of mama. Brown skinned just like her, love-shaped face and almondshaped light green eyes.
Dada was lightskinned just like papa with his dreadlocks…his name was Danke but he was called Dada due to his dreadlocks and the Da in his name Danke.
I also prayed for Dada too.
I felt nothing but hatred towards papa…hatred for separating us from our mother for no just reason…oh how mama must be feeling…
Mama had always loved her children and she being separated from us must have hurt real bad.
A plan crept into my head and i smiled.
‘Ivyy, take dis money and make sure you are back from school early alright?’ Aunty Chime said thrusting a hundred naira note into my palms.
I smiled in gratitude and left the house.
They were both the same…my father and herself…wicked people..though aunty Chime had been very nice and caring towards me dis past few weeks, i couldnt help but feel nothing but pure undiluted hatred for her.
I hated father and aunt Chime and God was surely going to punish them for their evil deeds especially aunt Chime who hated mama for no just reason.
I clutched my books tightly as i crossed the major road leading to the market. My heart suddenly leaped in excitement at the thought of seeing my mother once again.
We could plan…we could sneak out of the village and go to Ezei, get Dada and then we leave to a faraway village to start life afresh without papa and his brutality.
As i strolled into the line where mama’s shop was located, i started running.
I sighted mama from afar shading her goods with a faded green top and a worn out wrapper with patches below.
I ran to her ‘mama!’
Before she could turn to me, i had already engaged her in a bear hug.
She looked shocked, but then she quickly wrapped her arms around me briefly, then pulled back.
She looked around like she was scared, then looked at me.
‘Ivyy…what…what are you doing here?’ she asked looking around like a thief.
I wonder why she did that..was she scared of papa?
‘mama…they…they took me away from you’ i said hugging her tightly.
She held my shoulders and gently pulled me away from her. I could see the tears stinging her eyes but she quickly wiped them with the sleeve of her dress.
Then she reached her wa-ist bag and brought out a five hundred naira note and t—-t it in my hand, she looked around once more, this time tears were strolling down her cheeks.
‘Ivyy…’ her voice was shaky with tears ‘you have to go now…and please…please i beg you in the name of God, dont come here again…its for your own good, you have to leave immediately..i dont want this to get to your father’s ears…and…and the council’s…’
I was momentarily numb as she fell on her knees clutching her school uniform ‘Ivyy, you have to stay away from me, you really have to stay away from me if you want a better life…please protect your future and stay away from me…i’m nothing but badluck and i would only spoil your future if you have anything to do with me..i want us to severe whatever connection we have btw us henceforth…’ she was really crying and i felt myself moved with tears as i fell on my knees too.
‘please Ivyy, i beg you…’ she placed her palms together, then she sniffed and cleaned her nostrils with her wrapper ‘take care of Dada for me…you know i love you both, the two of u are my life and i would sacrifice anything to ensure the future of both of you…but for now, just stay away from me..Ivyy biko, go away’
‘go away! Ivyy, just go away!’
I was crying ‘mama, why are you chasing me away?’
‘because i love you’ she suddenly got up on her feet…she dragged me out of the shop ‘run…just go, now!’
‘go! Just go! Stay away from me!’
I ran away like a scared kid crying like never before.
I sat under the large mango tree at the back of the compound..the food and nutrition teacher was in the class and i ddnt offer her subject so i had to leave.
I thought of my encounter with my mother the previous morning…she had mentioned something about the council…was she having issues with the village government(council)? If so, what was her offence? Why wasnt anyone letting me in on what was happening?
Mama had looked really lean and pale with dark circles under her eyes…she had looked miserable and lonely…and i couldnt help but notice the guilt that crept into her face the moment she saw me.
Had papa and aunty Chime set her up? Because it was something they were equally capable of. Maybe papa had finally decided to carry out his threat of marrying a new wife and the best way to discard mama was to frame her up and report her to the council…maybe it was all aunty Chime’s idea.
I thought of asking Henna…her father was a chief in our town so he would be aware of the case…but how do i discuss that with loudmouthed Henna and expect her to keep it secret…what if it was a deadly crime? What if mama was really guilty of it?
No…i shook my head. Mama would never do anything wrong.
‘heyy pretty’ a voice called.
I looked up to see the person i really didnt want to see as at that moment…i immediately frowned ‘hi Ralph’
‘you dont look happy to see me…whats wrong with my princess?’ he was with his geeky friend, Sam or whatever his name was.
One funny looking boy who was obviously his errand boy…with his baggy trouser, rumpled shirts..seen better says scandal with his glasses and bowlegs. He was well made jest of in our class..every girl made fun of him in our class for no just reason..even Henna who claimed she had shagged him once back of the principal’s office.
‘yes maybe i’m not happy to see you…because you are the last person i really dont wanna see right now’ i retorted opening my Economics textbook and glancing through.
He snatched the book from my hand and sat opposite him…his errand boy standing behing him as usual.
‘maybe you should give yourself a break Vee, all work and no play makes Ivyy a dull girl…give yourself a little break and catch some fun…everywhere you go, you are always holding a book…dont u know that no matter how hard u read, u’re still going to end up in the kitchen…isnt that so Sam?’ he asked facing his errandboy who stammered in affirmation.
I smiled wryly ‘really? Ever heard of all play and no work at all makes Ralph a dull boy? And do you really think that all girls are destined to end up in the kitchen just like your mother and your entire generational background…and i know you dont read books so you might not know about this woman…late Dora Akunyili…and Ngozi Iweala…wait a minute, you think God destined only men to become successful and popular?’ She eyed him and snatched her book from his hands ‘you are so full of yourself’
I stood up and started walking away when he ran up to me and grabbed my hand.
‘let go of me!’ i scre-med.
‘i feel insulted right now Vee…’ he smiled though i could still see the anger in his eyes and the i-will-deal-with-you look in his eyes but i didnt care ‘but i will forgive you on once condition….’
‘really now? Then what does your majesty wants?’ i asked sarcastically…whoever told the idiot i needed his forgiveness in the first place?
‘just a one night stand…i’ve heard rumors stating you’re a V-rgin…actually i love them fresh..and i will be very gentle’ his hands trailed from my soft cheeks to the first button on my shirt then raised it up again intentionally hitting my right breas.t.
I instantly slapped his hand away breathing fast…i really couldnt help the electricity that surged through me the moment his hand touched my br.east…i had felt moist in between my thighs.
‘stay away from me Ralph or i will be forced to report you to the school authorities’ i said and walked away.
‘babes…’ Oma said running towards me…i sighed…my plans of avoiding them this afternoon had failed…i had planned to go home alone…without their company so i could think properly but it didnt work…Oma caught me but fortunately, she seemed to be alone.
‘where have you been? I’ve been searching all over for you..’ she said p-nting heavily as she caught up with me.
‘sorry…where are the others?’
‘Henna went with her driver to her boyfriend’s place while Ije waited for the sanitary prefect, seems there is something going on btw dem..they might even lash sef’ She chuckled.
I rolled my eyes in disgust.
‘aha babes! Henna said something about your mother having an issue with the Council, said she overheard her father telling her mother but didnt know her crime…’
My heart suddenly flew into my mouth.
God…where are u?
I opened the door and frowned when i saw my father standing at the doorpost. He was dressing in a native attire and he only wore that whenever there was a meeting with the council of elders….my father were among the ndi iches of the community..but i equally knew that their meetings were scheduled for only Thursdays..and this was a Saturday…maybe he had gone to the council with the issue with my mother.
I decided to confront him there and then, he couldnt continue hiding things from me..i was seventeen already and deserved to knew everything going on in my family.
‘wont you leave the door and let me in?’ he asked in a stern voice and i quickly stepped aside for him to enter ‘where’s is aunty Chime?’
I nearly eyed him but restrained myself ‘she’s not around’
‘get me a glass of water and food..i’m practically starving’ he said relaxing on a worn out brown sofa in the sitting room.
I relunctantly dragged myself to the kitchen…served him a meal of roasted yam and oil.
I watched as he ate hungrily and i waited till he was done before i spoke up.
‘papa, what about mama?’ i asked.
He looked at me angrily ‘havent i warned you to stop asking about that woman? Aunty Chime had complained about this to me and i would not hesitate to send you to Ezei if you keep asking about that woman, have i made myself clear?!’ He barked angrily.
‘but papa, she’s my mother!’ i retorted ‘she brought me into this world so i have every right to want to know about her welfare..what is going on and why are you all preventing me from seeing her?’ tears smarted my eyes.
‘shut up! Ajo nwata(bad child)’ papa said removing his cap from hsi head ‘you have no right to talk back at me because you are not smarter than i am…just because you are educated and versatile when it comes to english and technology does not mean you can underestimate this grey hair on my head! If i say i dont want you to see or talk about your mother, then i must have a reason and why will i even banter words with a child like you? Leave my sight this instant!’
‘papa, this is not fair…whatever evil you are planning against mama will surely backfire, i assure you…’ i wept as i ran to my room.
‘bia nwata! U dare speak to me like that…okay!’ i heard papa rant from the sitting room ‘we shall see’
I locked my door and crawled to the bed and wept.
I yawned and stretched lazily on the bed…i looked at the rusty old wall clock on the wall and it was just five minutes past two in the afternoon.
I felt hungry and thirsty and i stood up dragging myself to the kitchen.
I was heading towards the kitchen when i heard voices speaking in whispers…it was aunt Chime’s and papa’s voice.
I tiptoed to the curtain to listen to their conversation.
PAPA: That woman hasnt seen anything yet…i’m going to show her that she cannot mess with me and go scotfree…because i…the great George Maduemezie will show her the stuff i’m made off.
AUNT CHIME: I’ve never like that woman from the very first day i saw her. I told you she looked and behaved like a fox but you didnt listen to me..well, thank God you’ve seen for yourself, the kind of woman you married. After she’s killed by the council of elders, you have to marry another woman and get more kids.
My hands flew to my mouth…was mama going to die?
PAPA: Thats exactly what i’ll do..but sometimes, i feel for the kids..and i wonder how they will take it when they find out the crime their angel of a mother committed. They see their mother through rose-tinted glasses you know, especially Ivyy. That girl really spoke to me rudely today.
AUNT CHIME: Dont worry about Ivyy, i will take care of her. You dont have to let them know about their mother’s crime and when she’s finally killed, they dont need to know about her death, we would tell them their mother ran away with another man abandoning them, to save them from the emotional trauma…what do you think?
PAPA: Thats excellent. But can we hide the truth forever? What if they get to find out about the truth themselves?
AUNTY CHIME: Until then..but now they are too young to understand these things and will probably think we are being cruel on their mother, ur wife (she laughed)
PAPA: Stop it Chime, that witch is not my wife! You know, i actually loved that woman…i never thought…
AUNTY CHIME: Stop it George, looks do not portray the true nature of the heart..that woman is a fool…after her death, we have to take Ivyy to the shrine for cleansing, so she doesnt behave like her mother in the future.
My legs shook as tears ran down my eyes…mama was going to die.
To be continued