I wanted mommy to talk to me. I needed her to ease herself of the pain, it would be okay to cry, a few tears would relieve her. But no, she chose to hold it in. I know she was trying to be strong for us, that’s what mothers do, they hold it in, they endure. With the way mommy was holding things on the inside, I was scared something bad might happen to her. The journey to the city wasn’t that hectic. I can remember looking back at the village, the many memories we had there, the many friends we had lost, it was going to be a whole new world for me. I wished mpa was there with us, never had I imagined living without his smile, but now feeling and knowing he was up there listening and hearing me pray, kept me going. I just had to be strong. I shed some few tears as the bus drove past the village field, market and the church, it was the saddest goodbye for me, I looked out through the window so no one could see me cry, especially mommy.
We got to the city quite alright. I must confess it was the busiest sight I ever saw; so much chaos. Everyone was rushing, no one stopping; and there was too much noise. We stood on the road for a very long time, before we were able to cross. I marveled at the way people just entered the road dodging the cars; I would never try that. Brother Nedu almost passed urine in his shorts. When we finally crossed, I poked fun at him, “See your head, in the village you will pose as if there was nothing you can’t do. Now crossing this small road made you to almost faint, you go just dey puff dey bend yansh.” He laughed. Mommy smiled at us, I was happy she did. Life in the city wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. We adapted quickly. I had to deal with the bullies in my school, when they would jeer at me, calling me village girl. With time they got to like me as I was quite bright in class.
Mommy owned a provision shop right in front of our rented apartment, brother Nedu was writing his WAEC examination, although it was different without mpa, but we tried. The village somehow remained forgotten, maybe to them, but not to me. It remained fresh in my memory. One fine day, when I got back from school, I met brother Nedu at home, he looked uneasy, sister Nneka was trying to avoid me. I smelt something fishy, I ran to mommy’s shop, she was not there. I walked up to Nedu and demanded, “Where is mommy?” He tried to make a joke over it, “Where would she be before; in her shop nah or probably gone to the market?” I wasn’t finding it funny. Sister Nneka continued to avoid my gaze. I pulled at Nedu’s shirt and yelled at him, “Where the hell is mommy?!” Somehow I felt I knew the truth, but I was scared to accept it.
He lowered his head and said, “She is inside sleeping,” I rushed inside, true she was sleeping, but not the sleep I was expecting, mommy was resting in peace. I shook her but got no response. Her face seemed as though there was still life in her, but of course she couldn’t hear one word of all I was saying. Mommy was long gone. I let out a piercing scream. It seemed brother Nedu and Nneka were waiting, they rushed inside to help me. Mommy died holding all her pains on the inside. She died trying to be strong for us. It pained me so much that I couldn’t help her. Mommy died from depression; she died being a father and a mother to us at the same time. I do not understand why some things do not always go right.
Brother Nedu contacted the village elders and mommy was laid to rest. I couldn’t find the courage to look at her again. I was too hurt. Mommy went through so much pain for us, I was going to make her proud.
After the burial; I have to admit, I felt alone. However, I found strength in my siblings. Brother Nedu took over the provision shop. I was able to complete my secondary school education. Sometimes it was fun, sometimes I felt like dying too; but I had promised mom that I would make her proud. We made enough money for brother Nedu’s university education. Sister Nneka took over the shop, and I assisted her sometimes.
I remember one afternoon I was when in the shop, a car drove past, then it came back and stopped right in front of our shop. Sister Nneka stood up quickly, sighting the driver, she left the shop in a hurry. I was confused, should I leave too? Well, the man walked up to me and asked, “Fine girl how are you doing?” Still confused I asked, “Please sir, what do you want to buy?” He scanned the shop for what to buy, trying to avoid my question. “Please what is your sister’s name?” he asked. I wanted to hush him, but he continued, “I like her, but every time I come here, she keeps avoiding me, I want to talk to her.”
I smiled naughtily, it now made sense to me, sister Nneka was shy. I composed myself again and replied him, “Okay, just buy what you came to buy, my brother will soon be back. Check again some other time,” he picked a packet of cabin biscuits, paid and asked me to keep the change. I thanked him and he left. Sister Nneka came back after the man had left. She peeped in and asked in a hushed voice, “Has he gone?” I busted out laughing. “See your head. You left because your slippers are in bad shape and you don’t want him to see it. You like him, don’t you? Don’t worry, I know you do,” I said. she smiled and blushed, “Go joor, what do you know?” she said lamely. There was that look in her eyes. I knew she liked him because she asked, “Did he say he was coming back?” I laughed very hard. “So that you would leave me here again, abi?” I teased her.
The stranger came back after some weeks; this time without his car, I didn’t see him coming, I was busy having a girly chat with sister Nneka, when she suddenly stopped, adjusted her skirt and arranged her hair, I looked back and smiled. He was a fine tall man, he looked neat in his t-shirt and Jean, somehow he reminded me of mpa. I guess that’s why I liked him immediately. This time I was going to make sure sister Nneka wouldn’t run. I stood up and said, “Sister, brother Nedu just called me.” She knew what I was doing. She gave me a disapproving loo. I ignored her and ran off. I bumped into brother Nedu, “Why are you running?” he asked. I laughed mischievously. “Sit down let me gist you joor” I replied. like someone hypnotized, he sat down immediately. l chuckled and observed, “Kai, you too like gist.” He smiled impatiently. He could not wait to hear what tale I had to tell. I told him about the stranger. He laughed the more. I sat down thinking about what sister Nneka and the stranger were talking about. I was curious. I wanted to go and peep at them but I stayed back in the house, smiling.
I was happy somehow that amidst all our sorrows, something good was finally happening. I got to find out from sister Nneka that the stranger’s name was Obior. I was happy he was Igbo; at least he was close to home. Obiora bought us gifts. I enjoyed the ice-cream sister Nneka brought back home, every time she went out with Obiora. Their love blossomed and soon we were planning the marriage rites. I couldn’t help but be happy. Somehow I felt sad, I was going to miss sister Nneka. Brother Nedu was rarely around since he had started work, but all the same, something good was finally happening. As I looked at her in her wedding dress, she looked very innocent and beautiful like angel. I just wanted her to be happy, we had been through so much. Thankfully, we stayed strong together when things got tough. I allowed myself to be happy, I wished mpa and mama were there to behold the glorious moment. I didn’t know when tears gushed down my face.
Mr. Obiora stood at the altar, in his fine black suit. He had a nice haircut to go with it. He really looked like mpa. I sat close to brother Nedu. I could see he had tears in his eyes, but he refused to let them drop. I held his hands tight. I needed him at that moment, I guess he understood because he held me also. Soon enough, the wedding service was over. Sister Nneka marched out of the church with her husband. I went out with her and bid her farewell. I wanted to go with her so much that I almost said it. The words were stuck in my throat. I couldn’t say I understood this basic concept of life. As they sped off for their honeymoon, I could see her looking out through the window at me, with so much to say, but she summed it up with a smile.
I hugged brother Nedu. I knew soon enough I would be all alone. So I held on to him like it would be my last. After the wedding, brother Nedu returned back to work, I was alone most of the time, but thank God it wasn’t for long as I got admission to study at the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus. Leaving the house, I looked back with so much memories, how it all started, the happy times at the village, the miserable times, my nightmares; all flashed through my mind. I took one long look at mama and mpa’s picture hanging on the wall; both wearing a smile. I knew I had made them proud. I knew we were able to prove to them that life may throw at us so many bricks of troubles but you survive by not giving up; by not giving in, but by fighting, life itself is war.
I had lived my life on the memories of the past and now it was time to move on. Brother Nedu was there to bid me farewell. Life still held so much in store for me. I wasn’t done yet. I sat in the bus with few other students heading toward the University. I looked out through the window, admiring the scenery, it seemed as though the trees and grass were moving as fast as we were. Someone tapped me from behind. It was a girl. She said, “Hi, you dropped your purse.” Just then I realized that I had been deep in thought and it dawned on me that as I sat on that bus, heading to school, it was the day after Christmas.