By 5:30 p.m, the Sojis were in their house chatting and joking. The men talked about politics, how President Goodluck was failing and the scandal of missing oil funds. The women were discussing the stress involved in their work. Mrs Soji was anxious to brag how much work she did especially with her three children.
The three kids; two boys and a girl were having fun watching cartoon on Disney Junior channel. The girl was the youngest and as she watched, she held tightly one of the stuffed animals; a grizzly bear the size of a six month old child. The other two boys were partly engrossed in the cartoon and partly entertaining themselves with a pinching game. The episode of the cartoon ended and the little girl stood up and went to meet the women who were having a good laugh over some joke.
“Aunty, what about your children?” She asked in the most petite voice looking at Rahila.
Rahila looked at her and for a moment was disconcerted.
“Prisca, Aunty does not have children yet,” Mrs Soji answered on Rahila’s behalf. “When you come next year you will meet a tiny baby like this bear you are holding.”
Prisca nodded her head and went back to sit on the rug.
Jane was asleep on the couch in the sitting room. She was sprawled with her legs on the arm of the seat and her hands touching the carpet. The shop was closed and she was tired from all the work she had done at home. Isaac was on the other end of the room settled on his plastic table and chair. He was drawing and did it with uttermost seriousness. He drew an image he imagined was his mother in a sleeping position and he was perfecting the shape of the couch on which she slept. This is harder than I pictured, he thought.
There came a knock at the door. Isaac looked up from his drawing and wondered who could be knocking. His two and half year old mind told him to sit glued and not make a sound because if he did, his mother would say he woke her up despite her warning and he would get a good beating.
The knock persisted till Jane woke up herself and opened the door. It was Aunt Fatuh. Fortunately for Isaac his mother did not blame him for her waking and sent him to the room to call Mama.
“My sister!” Aunt Gloria hailed upon seeing her sister-in law. They hugged each other for some time before sitting down. Aunt Gloria wondered why Aunt Fatuh of all people had decided to visit her today. It had been a decade since Fatuh and Davou came to her house for a visit. They considered themselves de la crème in society and did not want to associate with commoners like herself.
They exchanged pleasantries and asked about each other’s welfare. Jane brought Fayrouz drink and a glass tumbler and set it before Aunt Fatuh. “Thank you.” Aunt Fatuh thanked her with a smile.
Jane, considering she would not be needed again went into the room she shared with her son and laid down on the bed to continue her sleep. Isaac by now had dumped his drawing and was singing a nursery rhyme in a very low tune.
When it was 7:00 p.m Aunt Gloria woke her up. She got up slowly and tried to look as bright as possible.
“You are still feeling sleepy I can see.” Aunt Gloria said.
“I hope you are not ill?”
Jane made a grunting noise that symbolized no.
“Very well then.” She took a seat beside Jane on the bed. “Aunt Fatuh’s visit today was about you.” She paused and watched Jane’s reaction before going on. “It seems your cousin is finding it difficult to cope with the house work in her husband’s house.”
Jane looked up, “is she pregnant?”
“No. But you know all these rich children; she is not used to doing a lot of work in the house. Besides that she has a busy career.” Her aunt waited again for the message to get to Jane.
Jane connected the dots quickly. They wanted her to go to Abuja to help her cousin. She quickly thought about her cousin’s husband, the strange way she had felt glad to have Lancelot as her cousin-in law, the way she had treasured their wedding programme and looked upon their picture every evening before retiring to bed. And in bed she would dream she met a man exactly like Lancelot who wanted to get married to her. Of course those dreams remained a secret, she was sure her aunt would disapprove of such dreams and advice her to be delivered. Now they wanted her in their house, was she ready for this?
“I told Aunt Fatuh about your wish to study in the university and made it sound like we had already made plans for it but she told me it was no problem, Rahila and her husband are willing to sponsor your studies if you will agree to stay a year in their house to help out. After a year you will write JAMB and Post JAMB and once you have passed they will pay for your tuition fees, school materials and clothing, provided you will stay in their house.”
A bright smile lighted up Jane’s face, “that is good news. What did you tell Aunt Fatuh?”
“I told her I will talk to you about it and give her your feedback. She begged me to convince you because Rahila and her husband really needed domestic help, they were afraid of bringing in just an ordinary house help with all the negative news people told about them. Besides that, Rahila had specifically asked of you! Jane I think this is from God, I mean think about it, instead of wasting time with me, you can go to Abuja and utilize this opportunity to your advantage.”
“I know Auntie.” Jane said, but then a dejected look fell upon her face. “What about my baby, Auntie?”
Aunt Gloria turned round and looked back at Jane. “Which baby Jane?”
“Auntie! My son- Isaac. Am I going to leave the little angel and go to stay in Abuja?”
Aunt Gloria sighed and drew closer to Jane. Her green flip flops made a somewhat hissing sound; she had just been out of the bathroom.
“You need this opportunity, and Isaac needs you to have a better chance in life for his sake and for yours. Years from now you will think about this day and thank God you took the step to go and pursue a better life. I am certain Rahila and her husband will treat you well. I have been praying ceaselessly for God to open a way for you, I think this is it.”
They turned to look at Isaac who had stopped whatever it was he was doing and was focusing on them.
“I…” Aunt Gloria said beating her chest, “will take responsibility of Isaac, his feeding, schooling and care. While you are there in Abuja, I will look after him, when it is time, you can come back for him. He is my grandson; he can stay with me for as long as I am alive. In fact, if you get married and feel the need for him to continue staying with me, he can stay. I am here for you, okay?”
Tears filled Jane’s eyes. She hugged her aunt tight and sobbed. Her aunt patted her on the back lightly.
So this was it? She was really leaving her only son behind to go to Abuja. She remembered how she had sat down with Isaac to tell him she would be leaving him to go and pursue a better life and get a degree. Isaac had looked into her eyes, she had looked away, knowing that his little tears would melt her heart and she will be scared to leave him. It was not as simple as her aunt had made it sound. Apart from the time she had left him with her aunt for a little period to be weaned, Jane had never left her son behind for any reason. It felt bizarrely wrong to her and wicked to her Isaac. Isaac, poor Isaac, she thought. Who would teach him the Alphabet and numbers while she was gone? Who would clap for him when he drew a weird image and called it Mummy? Who would spank him when he referred to a strange man as Daddy? Who would call him Baby? And tell him “Give Mummy your bear hug.”
“You have nothing to fear,” Aunt Gloria had said over and over to her, yet she could not help but fear. Every sort of ‘what if’s’ filled her mind. What if she could not please her cousin? What if they did not want to send her university after a year? And what if? No, she could not even bring herself to imagine it. I’m going to be okay, things will be okay just like Auntie said and Isaac will get over the separation and be a happy boy. She thought to reassure herself.
To be continued
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