Two Days To Her Birthday Episode 1
A short story by Ebuka Stan
The weather was cold and windy, accompanied by thunderbolts that rumbled throughout the night. Oluchi shifted in her hostel bed, looking restless even in deep sleep.
Suddenly, she saw herself watching a bitter drama unfold. She was peeping through the half-open door of her room.
“Look at you. Poor man! You can’t even feed your family,” a female voice shouted.
“Don’t talk to me like that,” a deep male voice warned.
“Shameless man, what will you do?” asked the female voice.
Oluchi began to panic as she knew what would happen next. She was already feeling the tension creeping out from the living room where the drama was unfolding.
“Woman, did you just call me a shameless man? I can’t take this anymore.”
Oluchi watched in horror as the man slapped the woman and the woman gave him a slap that sent him rolling on the tiled floor. The man rose up feeling embarrassed as he shook his head.
In a fit of anger, he rushed the woman and bulldozed her heavy figure to the ground. Oluchi cringed as she heard the sound of glass shattering and a female voice cursing and mo-ning in pain. In less than a minute another violent fight started.
Then the woman stood up. Blood was dripping down from her mouth. She turned and saw Oluchi watching them and snarled like an evil queen, “You bastard, you think this is a show right? I’m coming for you.”
Oluchi froze in fear, surprised at being caught. Suddenly the woman started running with a big stick towards Oluchi’s room and as she raised it up, ready to crush her head with it, Oluchi woke up, coughing and p-nting heavily. She shifted her body again and almost fell on the floor. That was when she discovered that she was still in her school hostel’s room.
Oh, thank God.
I’m coming for you.
Oluchi shivered. She was still hearing the voice in her mind. All at once, she became afraid. It was still early morning and most of the girls in her school hostel were still asleep. She would have wanted someone to confide in, someone to comfort her, to tell her that everything was alright but there was no one.
We are all strangers here.
Suddenly tears filled her eyes. Her dream seemed so real because it captured the truth of what was going on in her family. Things have gotten worse that she now dread of going home.
Once upon a time, Oluchi had a peaceful family, a happy home but everything changed when tragedy struck. Tears dropped uncontrollably from her eyes as the events of that fateful day became fresh on her mind.
That day was Friday. It was supposed to be the happiest day of her life and it started with blessings of a short rainfall.
She was in JSS3 then. Her father, Paul was a small time trader at the Onitsha main market, struggling every day to support Oluchi and his pregnant wife.
They didn’t have enough but they were happy. Oluchi was feeling so happy because she knew she would soon have a baby brother or sister. As the only child of her parents, Oluchi had an easy going personality that warmed her to the hearts of people.
Then she was 14 and was very brilliant in school. She was an ebony beauty and the pride of her parents. Everyone knew she was growing up to become a beautiful young woman.
After the birth of Oluchi, her parents found it difficult to conceive. When Oluchi’s mother got pregnant 14 years later, Mr Paul jumped like a madman and thanked God for answering his prayers.
When the contractions started on that Friday morning, Mr Paul stopped everything he was doing and hailed a cab that helped to rush her to the hospital.
God let it be a baby boy.
This was the prayer on Oluchi’s lips as she sat close to her father in St. Michael’s hospital waiting for the doctor.
But fate had other plans.
The next thing that happened was like a dream. A young doctor in white coat came and dropped the bomb and father and daughter began to cry as they watched their world shatter like broken glasses.
The doctor told Mr Paul that his wife died in childbirth after losing so much blood. Internal haemorrhage, he called it. They struggled to save the baby but it died one hour after it was delivered through caesarean section.
Both the mother and her child died on that day.
Father and daughter went home that day feeling empty and lost. It would take them months to recover and face the harsh realities of life. Paul and his daughter became close to each other afterwards. They had only each other and they accepted life as it was.
It was a friendship that broke the bonds of a bitter past. Fourteen months after the incident, Paul bowed down to family pressure and got married to Uju, a thirty-eight year old banker.
Oluchi had a lot of worries about her new step mother but she kept them to herself. Uju was a tall fearless woman with an imposing stature, and bloodshot eyes. Where Paul was like a cold water that got hot when heated, Uju had a temperament that could melt an ice water.
Unlike Oluchi’s father who had only a secondary school certificate, Uju had a university degree. Soon Oluchi began to notice the huge gap in knowledge that existed between his father and his step-mother but she didn’t want to interfere in her father’s marriage.
By then Paul used to trek to his shop everyday while his wife had a car that only she uses to drive to work every morning.
Trouble started when Mr Paul was duped in his business by his best friend and positions changed in the family as the new wife became the bread winner.
Their house turned into a war zone and home was no longer a sweet home. At the age of 16, Oluchi already had a lot of horror stories to tell. The couple had turned destructive, often fighting with sticks and metals and destroying everything in sight. The couple were like cat and dog and they knew how to bring out the beast in each other.
Once when Oluchi came to separate their fight, she was wounded in the process and when she collapsed and started bleeding, they had to stop fighting and took her to the hospital. That was the only time Uju allowed her husband to use her car.
After that incident, whenever she saw them quarrelling, she would begin to cry. When they saw her, their faces would flush with embarrassment and they would stop fighting.
To Oluchi, her step-mother was everything her mother was not. She hated her step-mom for the way she insulted her dad even in front of her.
Every morning, Uju would wake the young girl up with cold water and would slap her whenever she wasted time in completing her chores. The young girl would go to her room and begin to cry silently. She was afraid that if she told her father, it would lead to bitter quarrels between them, and so she kept her pains to herself.
When Uju noticed that Paul loved his daughter so much, she saw Oluchi as a stumbling block in her marriage. She didn’t waste time in hitching up a plan to send the young girl away in a boarding school. She accepted to take up the responsibility of paying for her school fees and Paul caved in to save his already crumbling marriage and save his daughter from the harmful effects of watching the dirty drama going on the house at such a young age.
To Paul, it was an opportunity for his daughter to go to a peaceful environment where she could socialize with her peers and concentrate in her studies.
This was how Paul sent his daughter to Bradley’s college, a boarding school in Lagos. Oluchi hated the idea of leaving his father in Onitsha to go to a faraway school in Lagos but she felt helpless.
They are so wrong for each other, she thought. The reality was now staring her in the face; her penniless father had finally lost his voice in his own house.
To be continued