“Korede!” She yelled. The four-year toddler scrambled to his feet and ushed in the direction of the voice as he cleaned his mud stained hands on his shorts.
“Ma.” He screamed as he got near the out-house that served as toilet to the ten-room bungalow built with esch room facing eachother. His mother was washing the toilet with a very short brrom while his older sister Yejide held a bucket of water for her since there was roster for it and it was her turn. The tall dark woman turned when she heard her son’s voice and hissed.
“Paying with mud again abi…” She yelled and the child took a few steps backwards in fear, he knew his mother only toowell and expected that a slap would land on his face any moment but that still did not explain his mother’s fury and how did she expect him not to play with mud, all his friends were doing it and he saw no reason why he should be left out of the fun.
“… Okay, maybe your useless father has employed a wash-man or maybe he has bought a washing machine…” This was another thing the child didn’t quite understand and found it really hard to comprehend; his parents always cursed themselves at every opportunity they got yet whenever he cursed a friend or playmate, he was always rewarded with a slap; he took a few more steps backward as his mother brandished the broom in haer at him, the young girl stood behind her mother and signalled to the child to move further back and he complied. The woman snapped her fingers at the child and resumed her washing. Korede, young as he was, had the sense to stand quietly and wait for his mother to finish her washing. While waiting, he pondered on the the kind of punishment that would be meted out to him. Sooner than he’d imagined, she was done, she walked past without a side-ward glance at him with Yejide coming up at her rear.
“Shey I dinor teh you that mummy we talk ehn, anything she do for you is your business.” She said to her brother and walked on with Korede on her heel.
“Wo, sha bo aso yen kin to fi owo osi gba oju fun e (remove your clothes before i slap you with my left hand)” Iya Yejide, as Hannah was fondly called, yelled as the children entered the house. Korede did as he was ordered and proceeded to dump the clothes in a bucket of soapy water then he sat Unclad in a corner of the twelve-by-twelve room that served as the family’s living room, bedroom and sometimes kitchen. The child sat quietly but alert, calculating, he didn’t want to be caught unawares, his mother still hadn’t punished, he sat, anticipating, watching her every move, Iya Yejide was in one of her moods, in the anger zone, in my opinion, she was in ‘Avatar state’; you know that moment when Aang (the last airbender) is really angry and his whole body lights up? Yes, that was iya yejide’s state only that she didn’t have the Avatar’s tatoos; she had a fierce frown plastered on her face as she was picking this and that and trying to arrange the already neat room. Yejide stood away from away from her mother, she knew better than to move closer, she glanced at the child and saw that he was dozing; suddenly, iya Yejide slumped on the six-by-six bed, held her head in her hands and started crying, Yejide took two confused steps backward, who should she attend to, she thought, was it her crying mother or her sleeping brother whom she was sure would have a terriblr neck pain if he didn’t sleep well. She decided to lift the child but she was to scared to lay him on the bed, that would mean getting too close to her mom so she just lay him properly on the cold concrete floor and covered him with a wrapper that had been flung carelessly on the only armchair in the room. Iya Yejide was done crying and she stood with renewed strength and vigour, she woulldn’t let life weigh her down, she loosened her wrapper and counted the money she’d tied at the edge, just one thousand and fifty naira; that wasnt enough to offset her debts but she had to feed her children; she placed a five hundred naira note on the bed and tied the rest firmly .
“Yejide, take this money and go to mam Taiwo, just tell her to give you the usual and that I’ll see her later.” She said and pointed the money at the girl who promptly accepted it and hurried towards the door but was halted in her tracks by her mother’s voice.
“Don’t worry, I will go by myself, carry that child to the bed and i hope he has soaked those his clothes.” Mama Yejide said as she adjusted her clothes, collected the money from the girl and left the room without waiting for a response. Yejide, immediately, locked the door behind her mother, lay her brother on the bed and covered him properly then sat by him.
Mama Yejide quickened her steps because it was already quarter past seven and mama Taiwo never stayed later than seven thirty. Soon enough, she got to her destination to meet mama Taiwo’s sales girl packing for the day while the shop owner, mama Taiwo sat on a chair waiting, she was thankful that there were no other customers so she could freely do what she’d come for.
“Mama Taiwo good evening o” she greeted and the latter replied with a wide grin.
“Iya Yejide, my customer, wetin happen all this day, you just disappear, you no just follow me buy market again abi I don sell bad market for you before.” She asked.
“Uh, e no kuku be like that o, my children them don keep me busy for some time now.”
“Eyah, how my son?” Iya Yejide scoffed
“That boy…” she said sarcastically “… he just dey give me wahala, he too like rough play, you no go believe say as rain fall plenty reach today, na this today gangan my pikin know say he wan play with sand, he just doti all the cloth.” Mama Taiwo laughed.
“Abeg leave am o, naso pikin them dey do, they nor know say na person go wash the cloth.” Both women laughed shortly iya Yejide spoke.
“Naso o, if person say make them wash am now, e go be like say we no get conscience.”
“Abi o, my sister, oya, papapa, night don come, make I nor delay you with my talk talk, shey na the usual?” Mama Taiwo asked.
“Ehn o, abeg, take this five hundred, how much my gbese con be now?”
“Ehn, two ‘touson’ (that’s the way she pronounced thousand) minus five ‘hunred’ na one-five then plus this new two ‘touson’ everything con be three-five now.” Mama Taiwo replied then she instructed her sales girl to attend to iya Yejide. Hannah’s heart fell, she knew how much she owed but hearing it made her feel so bad. When she was handed her things, she thanked mama Taiwo profusely and also promised to ‘see her’ during the week before she hurried home.
The things a mother would do to feed her children, Hannah just wanted her children to have at least two meals a day, she was tired of sitting idly all day but she needed capital but her husband had always said he didn’t have money, she prayed daily and also believed in the section of the Lord’s prayer that said ‘GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD’ because she knew that things would only get better because she wouldn’t stop whilst she still had her life and her situation just had no choice but to get better because she was one hell of a fighter, a go-getter, more like a goal-getter.
FIVE YEARS LATER
The room was sparsely furnished, mummy Ruth sat in one of the two cane armchairs cushioned by square shaped foam placed on either sides of the low cane table that served as the centre table. There was a TV stand with a TV set on it and a stereo flanked by its two rectangular speakers on either side of it sat in the inner space; on the TV was a DVD player and a television signal antenna, there was also a cane three-seater with a wooden dining table surrounded by six wooden, straight-backed chairs. This was the living room of the Ayodele’s, Hannah’s parents; her mother was fuming, she was mad at her daughter, she had no form of formal education and had married a semi-literate man who had completed standard six, both husband and wife had vowed to stop at nothing until all their three children had completed their university education but Hannah had thought otherwise and had gotten pregnant two years after her secondary education while she was still waiting to write her second UTME examination, the family had been devastated most especially the father of the house.
Mummy Ruth stared at her second child/daughter, she had her father’s stubbornness, she tried on several occassions to make peace between father and daughter but all her efforts had proved abortive, she watched her daughter closely for a minute and shook her head then the anger returned. Hannah sat opposite her mother in the second armchair and played with her fingers absentmindedly, she just wanted to feed her children, that was the only reason she was here, over the years, she’d succeeded in putting her children back in school, Yejide, at eleven, was still in primary four and Korede, at nine, was in primary one. She had tried as a mother, she’d put up with people who had no respect and didn’t think twice before insulting her, she knew she’d done well, if nobody was going to praise her, she’d praise herself regardless of what society said or felt. She stole a glance at her mother’s face and froze, she realized she’d made a mistake, the expression was ice cold, her heart fell, her mom was her only option of getting any form of help from her family, her dad and older sister, Ruth, had told her to her face that they wanted nothing to do with her and her brother was a young married man with a family of his own, she couldn’t bother him, if anything, she should be the one giving assistance to him.
…to be continued