By Adeola Nissi
Mum and I sat facing each other in silence. I had gone through the hasty motions of ensuring that she had been well entertained, but it was unnecessary because Tina had taken care of that for me before I arrived. Mum had practically jumped on my shocked form when I entered the sitting room, then she had righted herself, considering my condition, I suppose. But after getting over the sudden rush of excitement I felt at seeing my mother, different emotions set in. curiosity was the first, followed speedily by hurt and anger. I had stayed in the house for several weeks and she had not thought it necessary to visit till now. My pregnancy definitely had some good impacts on my parents’ appearance, I noted when I saw her clothes. I could believe it if it were my father, but my mother? I thought she really loved me.
My mother was silent and I noticed that she fidgeted slightly with the costly Igbo rapper she had on. “This house is massive Amarachi. One can get lost in it”
Oh! Now it is Amarachi! I thought vaguely. I could count on my head, the times that my mother called my full name, and those times were really awkward. “Yes, it is really big” I replied stonily.
She swallowed. “I can imagine. Knowing your husband’s family influence, the size of this house is expected” she said, looking around as though fascinated, without meeting my gaze.
I nodded wordlessly. Unable to hold it any longer, I voiced my thoughts. “What are you doing here mum?”
She shifted uneasily. “So it is ‘mum’ now, no longer ‘mama’?” she asked.
I breathed impatiently. “Tina told me that ‘Mum’ is a more civilized way of calling your mother” I answered. “That is not the point. What are you doing here?”
She looked me straight in the eye. “Don’t I have the right to come and visit my own daughter?” she asked, as though offended.
I forcefully put my anger under control. It seemed that my life has become full of anger ever since I met Alex. Or rather, ever since I got pregnant for him. “You have the right mama; I just wonder why you took so long to recognize your rights. I am pregnant mum. Did you not think that I would need you? I have never been pregnant before, but you have. Many times, I needed motherly advices but you were not there to help me.” I ranted and my hurt became obvious.
She shifted again and her eyes clouded. I averted my gaze instantly, not wanting her emotions to get me off track. “I am sorry my daughter. God knows I wanted to visit you. I never wanted to leave you alone”
“But what mama? Let me guess, papa did not allow you.” I voiced the obvious.
She looked at me quietly for some seconds. “Don’t think I am a fool Amara. I know what you mean, and I feel insulted. I never taught you to be disrespectful, especially to your own mother” she said sternly and instantly, I knew I had gone overboard. I was hurt by my mother’s neglect but I knew without a doubt that she loved me a lot. She always stood up for me but everything changed immediately I got pregnant. She turned to something akin to a jelly fish. I had never seen this side of my mother, and I wondered what happened to her. She had never been much of a talkative and it was obvious that my dad lords it over her but it seemed to have gone terribly worse ever since I got pregnant. A single glance from my father was enough to turn her into an overcooked vegetable. I wondered what caused this but that did not take away the hurt I was feeling. I felt alone.
“I am sorry mum”. Silence reigned again. This was definitely awkward. We seemed more like strangers, instead of the mother and daughter that we were and did not like the feeling at all. She looked at me for some seconds and seemed to grow much more fragile than she already looked.
“I am sorry I have not been here for you” she said with watery eyes. “I never meant to hurt you my dear, but I wanted to give you time to balance things with your husband. You would agree that your marriage was pretty unusual, I thought it would be best if both of you stayed together without any disturbances”
I swallowed. It was a very sensible explanation, I thought. One would expect that living with Alex would at least lessen the pregnancy tension; if only they knew the true situation of things. I stared at my mother and put a small smile on my face. Although it irritated me that she hadn’t visited, I couldn’t express how happy I was that her appearance was splendid. The clothes she had on were nothing compared to the rags she used to wear in the village. “You are looking good mum” I said truthfully.
She did not smile, she even seemed pained. “But you are not, my dear”
“Amara; is your husband not giving you enough money to take care of yourself?” she asked. I noticed the tiny trace of anger and hatred that crept into her voice.
“I do not need his money” I said smoothly.
“But you should. Look at yourself Amara” she traced my body with her eyes. “You do not befit this house in these clothes. I can see that that husband of yours does not have feelings for you my daughter. You should take advantage of this situation, take as much as you want from him, so that you can leave his house as fast as you can”
Oh no! “Mama” I called, “did papa ask you to come here to deliver this lecture?” I asked in shock. This was the last thing I expected from my mother. “Were you not the one that taught me that money and wealth should not be allowed to cloud our senses? Have you forgotten those lectures mother? How can you ask me to do this?” My voice rose. I stood and paced and sat back down in total confusion.
She stood up and came to sit beside me, holding my gaze. “Amarachi, you are my daughter, and I know what is best for you. Yes, your father suggested this and I argued against it” considering her recent attitudes, I highly doubted that last statement but I kept mute, staring at my mother like she was some sort of stranger. “I argued it but immediately I got here and saw you looking tired and lean, I knew it was not a totally bad idea. True, I taught you the values of integrity and self-respect, but you have to admit that I never envisaged you getting pregnant out of wedlock for a man like Alex.” She swallowed slightly. “He is maltreating you Ama. You have to think of money now because you are not the only one involved. You have your baby to think about. If you leave empty handed, what would you use to raise a child? Tell me” she demanded fiercely.
“I never said I was leaving this place mama” I said dryly.
She started. “But… But you cannot be satisfied with the way he is treating you. You are in the same old clothes you took from the village Amara, and he does not care”
“I am in my old clothes because I wanted it that way.” I countered.
“I would not let you stay here Amara; I would not allow you hurt yourself and my grandchild with this foolishness. The man clearly does not care about you, why stay with him?” she asked in bewilderment.
I smiled in sudden irritation. “It is rather late for all these mama; I would not be married to him in the first place if you had been this aggressive with papa. I am a married woman now and I am not ready to get a divorce. Don’t worry about my marriage, I can handle it myself. Something tells me that you have your own issues to fix mama” My voice softened. My mum had really changed; even the blind would see it. “What is going on mama? Is there something that I need to know?” I asked worriedly.
She shifted nervously again and I felt the great urge to hug her. Before I could control myself, I hugged my mum tight. She seemed stunned at first, later, she melted into me. She held me so tight like she thought I might vanish. “You can tell me anything mum” I whispered. “I know that I am still a small girl and may not have any word of advice to give but maybe if I listen to you, it would make you feel better”
She withdrew suddenly. Her eyes seemed unusually bright as she pasted a fake smile on her pale face. “I can handle my problems dear, my focus is on you. I want to help you my girl. I want to put a smile on your sweet face again” she said desperately, holding my face, and I could see that she really meant it. I looked at my mum in concern. I did not like the pain and struggle that was obvious in the haunted look in her eyes. I felt the deep desire to get rid of her problems. If I could only do that, I would get my old ‘mama’ back and she might be able to help me through my own problems
“Let’s make a deal. Tell me what is troubling you and I would do whatever you want” I said with determination. She froze slightly, blinked and stood up instantly. She looked around, searching for something.
“Oh, it is getting late. I need to head back. I need to make your dad’s meal. If not, he would be hungry, and you know your father, he would be furious ”
She ignored me and went to pick her small purse. I reluctantly sighed and dropped the subject and stood up. “Take care of yourself my daughter, my visits would be frequent now, I need to monitor you now that your tummy is beginning to rise.” She placed her hand tenderly on the rise of my belly. “Take care of my grandchild, ok?” I nodded. She swallowed slightly. “Think about what I said Amara, you deserve all the good things you can get” she said.
I warded off the last sentence and hugged her tight. “I am here if you need me mama” I said affectionately. She nodded without looking at me and made for the door.
I entered the house after seeing her off and made for my room. It had been a long day and a cool bed seemed like a really pleasant idea. As I entered the room, I instead made for the window which overlooked the beautiful garden. I felt confused to say the least. Dad had talked about this, having my mother buttress that point again was unsettling. The sight of the garden calmed me down but could not erase my confusion and helplessness. I heard a knock and instantly told Tina to enter.
She entered and I turned to face her. “Your mother is a lovely woman” she said with a smile.
I smiled back. “Yes. She is definitely lovely”
“She is right, you know?”
She swallowed and shifted from one leg to the other. “I… I am sorry, I”
“You were eavesdropping our conversation” I cut in.
“I am really sorry, I did not mean to. I was in the laundery and… well… your voice was loud enough. I could not stop myself from listening even if I wanted to” she explained.
Currently, all I wanted to do was put her in her place, but that would not be fair. She had been there when I had nobody and it would be bad if I made her feel like a maid now, despite the fact that I made her compulsorily see me as a friend. Besides, I knew for a fact that my voice tends to increase in pitch whenever I am angry. Hearing the conversation would have been very easy.
I reigned in my anger. “And what is she right about?” The last thing I needed was for someone else to agree with my parents. With the way things were going, I had a feeling that I was about to get just that.
“You need to buy new clothes. Mr. Alex is rich; you should take advantage of it. Miss Lisa would be visiting constantly now that she is pregnant, you don’t stand a chance in these clothes. I am sure you would be prettier than her if you are properly dressed” she ranted.
“What you are saying is that I don’t look pretty because I am not in fancy clothes, right?” I asked angrily.
“No. No. you look beautiful in anything but you would look better in fancy clothes” she tried to explain.
“Oh, so you want me to extort money from my husband, just like my mother said?” I asked again. My anger seemed uncontrollable now.
She swallowed. “Look at it objectively ma’am. You are married to Mr. Alex, so whatever he has is yours. You are not extorting money from him; you are taking what rightfully belongs to you. I am sure he is aware of that, which is the reason why he gave you a credit card. Secondly, you have a competition, in person of Miss Lisa. You need to be able to fight for your man and… I am sorry ma; I don’t think you can effectively do that in these clothes”
“Now listen to me” I retorted sharply. “I am not taking a single penny from Alex for myself because I am not a selfish luxury-seeking girl. Neither am I ready to get into a beauty contest with that good for nothing prostitute because of Alex. He saw me in these rags when he approached me in the village, if he can’t love me like this, fine. I don’t care. I care only for my child.” I took a deep relaxing breathe. “I won’t want to get angry with you Tina over Alex, please don’t ever talk to me about this again”
She swallowed. “Yes ma” she murmured.
Tola paced her room. “I can’t continue to take this” she murmured. She had suddenly become a shadow in the house and Tina was blooming by the minute. She had become good friends with the madam, thanks to her brain. Tola could not comprehend the shock she had experienced when she realized that the maid she had been victimizing was her own madam. She had wished the ground would swallow her alive at the revelation, but that alone could not be compared at all to the humiliation that followed. Tola was sure that nothing in life could be that humiliating. But after going through weeks of being totally ignored by everyone in the house, she started feeling hatred towards everyone. Hatred for Amara who had made herself a thorn in her flesh, by asking her to do most of the chores. Hatred and jealousy towards Tina who was in the madam’s favor. She knew without a doubt that Amara would give Tina anything she asked for.
Tola felt her blood boil. She wondered how she could take revenge. She wanted to make the two of them pay for making her life miserable. Making the two of them turn against each other would be a good start, she thought. After thinking about it for some time, she nodded. It would be a good start.
…to be continued