Posted in Prose, Stories

NOTHING TO LOOSE

The next week, I was withdrawn from the private school to a public school with very poor infrastructure. Most of the students are house helps in different homes or from very poor back grounds. The teachers could barely construct good sentences so the lingua franca in the school was Pidgin English. The school is very close to the Woji creek, thus the name Creek view community secondary school. Most of the students come to school very late daily and we have assemblies on Mondays alone.

At ten years plus, I was very smart and tall for my age, I was almost as tall as mummy who is actually a tall woman, she is actually taller than daddy.  At this age I was knowledgeable of happenings around me and I knew that all was not well. The problem was “what was wrong”?

Daddy had not left his job; he still drives to work daily and returned as usual. Everything was normal except for the way I was being treated. But I was doing very well at school all the same. In fact I had no competition in the new school as I came top of the class after the first term examination in JSS 2. My average score was 82 percent while Julius came second with 65 percent. Julius used to be the best in the class before my arrival

Julius Odeh is a year older than me, his father works at Genesis fast food as security opening and closing the door for customers as well as directing them on where and how to park their vehicles. He thrives on tips. He said his father used to be a police officer but was dismissed with some of his colleagues for collecting bribe at an illegal check point from the wife of the state commissioner of police. But Julius is a very quiet and ambitious young man. We became friends and solved mathematics equations together. He used to be in a better school too but after the dismissal of his father without benefits, his mother ran away from the house with a strange man and things fell apart for the family. The mother used to be a business woman that goes to Aba to buy textile materials and other accessories and sells directly to office customers with her car boot as her ware house. She was doing well. But she could not cope when the dad lost his job. The father became temperamental and edgy so she fled.

His father focused all energy towards fulfilling his dream of educating all his children especially Julius being the only male child. His resources are very lean but he became unnecessary friendly with every customer that visited the fast food and took in all insults just to get his tips. The amount he realized from daily tip kept him going and meeting daily family needs.

Julius talked a lot about his father and how he advises them and challenged them to be the best they can and make a success out of life, he advised them to shine their eyes and never let an opportunity to slip by them. Julius has an elder sister and two younger sisters.

The treatment I received from my home did not improve rather it grew from bad to worse, I no longer ate on the dining table, my food was being dished in a plastic plate, the same type we used for the dogs but a different colour. The plates were actually purchased together.

The first day mummy served my food in the plastic plate and handed over to me, I took it to the dog’s pen and came back to her for my food. I used to eat with a ceramic breakable plate just like daddy and mummy. I had to rush back and retrieve the remnants from the dog before they licked the plate. That was after mummy had slapped me hitter thither for giving my food to the dogs. I ate the dog’s left over under her supervision

At thirteen years old in JSS 3 my world had always revolved around my small nuclear family. Extended family seldom visited and as such the way my life metamorphosed from grace to grass seemed normal to me. I gradually adapted to the life of servitude in the house. The kind of stories I heard from my classmates who were mainly house helps in their various homes did not make me feel out of place. The quality of teachers in the school did not help matters either: they did not care, all they do in the teachers office was chew bubble gum, gossip and sell. Our female teachers bring clothes, shoes, perfumes and different kind of commodities to buy and sell among them. No one cared if a student failed or passed an examination, as long as the student paid his or her school fees and other levies.

Julius my new found friend is an exceptional guy, he has this knack for success in life and I dare say he took life too seriously. He had his life planned out; he knew what he wanted to be in future and how to go about achieving it. He always knew he could not rely on his struggling father to see him through to the university so he had planned that immediately after his secondary education, he would be apprenticed in the skill of underwater welding and subsequently seek an employment with which he would see himself through the university to study chemical or petro chemical engineering. He probably would be working off shore which would be taking him in and out of town at intervals. He planned to be buying portions of Land whenever he returned from the rig instead of lavishing his money on frivolities. After buying sufficient plots of lands, he will start to develop them into houses and before he is forty, he would have become a real estate mogul. I liked it whenever I hear him talk like this, like an adult with so much confidence. He knows where he is going and how to get there.

For me, my future was just in front of my nose. I took every day as it came. I had no worries because I had been spoon fed until lately when the page turned. Julius had asked me severally about my future ambition and I could not give a definite answer. I had no future ambition. Every time he asked I gave him a different answer.

“Make up your mind Ceece” he would say. “Stop being a pendulum!”

One day after my daily chores at home, I got to school after ten o’clock: no one questioned lateness in our school. Daily roll calls were not taken. The proprietress would always say” If you like you come to school!” if you like do not come!” it’s not my business” Just pay me my money! That’s all!

We normally chorus the last statement with her “That’s all!”

During the break session thirty minutes after I got to school, Julius approached me.

“Ceece I need to talk to you” he said and “it is very important” he added

Really? Okay nah! I am listening” I said

“I have an eerie feeling towards you” he said

“Me?” what is it about?” I asked

Are you really sure this people you live with are your real parent?  He asked and continued as I stare at him.

I asked because no reasonable parent would intentionally delay their child or ward from coming perpetually late to school every day! No parent would change their child from a prestigious private school to a lousy public school like our without having lost their job or source of income. They stopped driving you to school! They chased their house helps away and replaced them with you, they even relocated you to the BQ! These are things you told me nah abi?”

I nodded my head.

Good! He continued, Ceece shine your eyes o! Something is not right here! Have you seen your birth certificate before? He asked

No! And why? I asked

Look out for it! Get it and go to the hospital to confirm if your birth is actually in their records and who your real parents are!

I am told I was born in Europe! I replied.

Europe? He teased, okay nah! No wahala, but just get the birth certificate all the same, you will know if it made in Europe or made in Nigeria!” he said.

Hmm, Julius you are getting me scared o! Why all these assertions nah? Because you have to know who you are Ceece! You need to where you stand early now, if you are a house maid, then so be it! If you are a bonafide daughter of the Harts, then so be it! But being in between is not good at all, are you a Bat?

Bat! How? I asked

The butterfly and the bird both fly but they are different. Any butterfly that dares to fly as high as a bird will lose its wings. Its better it maintained its own altitude. Ceece, I am from a poor background but I know I will not be a poor man! He said with emphasis eating his chest. “I will work hard and cut my coat according to my size. My father made some mistakes which I have learnt from. I will not follow his footsteps even though he  has learnt his mistakes and is paying hard for it now by bearing the family burden alone, my mother that was assisting him before has run away with another man. My father is still a police man even though he was dismissed some years ago! That police mentality still dey him blood, so I have vowed to be a better version of him. We live in an abandoned building free of charge. We don’t even know the owner of the building but all the families occupying the building know that one day, the owner or his relatives will come and chase us all out of the building! They may even sell it off and the new owner would chase us out! When this happens, where do we go to? He asked

“Ha! Me I don’t know nah!’ “Maybe you people will rent another house”. I said

“No way! I can’t see my father paying for a decent house! I ask my father this question every day and he does not have an answer instead he says when one road closes, another opens!” “Imagine! Such a lazy mans philosophy!” “About twelve different families live in the building illegally without paying house rent. There is no water there! There is no electricity, no toilet or bathroom but we all survive”.

“Ceece, my point is that we know we are poor and we do not deceive ourselves. Ceece you need to know who you are!” with much said, he walked away. I began to think.

 

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At fifteen in SS2 my position in the family was unquestionably that of a maid. No show of affection from my mother at all, she sometimes referred to me as “This girl” or she asks:”What’s that your stupid name again”.

I had withdrawn into my shell. I used to be a bubbling happy girl. I now wear under sized tight clothes or over sized clothes given to me by mummy, there are clothes that were given to me to use as rags for cleaning the floor that I converted to personal wears. No under wear was ever bought for me and I dare not ask mother for clothes because I was afraid of the consequence. I degenerated. All I do is wake up and work, there is always enough clothes to wash from Daddy’s to the Kids who are now in nursery and primary school. Expensive private schools with a car and driver attached to them.

Upon return from school, I change into my domestic clothes and continue to work. Mummy always bags of melon to ensure I am kept occupied until mid night and upon all these I was still tops in my class to the bewilderment of my friends. My parents never uttered a word whenever I give them my school result. So I stopped giving it to them.

I do not have a tooth brush in the house, no bathing soap. I was restricted to the boy’s quarter and nothing is bought and sent there. I only come to the main building to work then I go back to the BQ to sleep. I bath with the bar soap I used in washing clothes, I used my finger to brush my teeth which has lost its sheen. I don’t use cream let alone pomade. It was Julius that gave me the first shaving stick to go and shave my arm pit when he was bold enough to tell me that I smelled.

At fifteen I was I was fully developed in puberty. My first menstrual flow came in the third term examination hall. I was experiencing some sort of stomach disorder and releasing some farts into the air to relieve myself. I did not know that I was stained until I stood up and proceeded to submit my answer sheet when the hall was full of laughter and jests from the boys. Some girl pulled her cardigan and gave me to tie around my waist and I went home in shame. I told my mother about my flow and she gave me some old news paper to use as Pad. I told her I had no pants and she gave me two of her old tights to wearing. The tights have faded and have holes beneath.

When I got to school the next day, the new had gone round that I was stained the previous day. I returned the cardigan to my class mate and went in search of my friend Julius. He laughed and teased me then he observed the way I was walking because of the paper pad I was putting on.

“Why are you walking like a crab? He asked laughing. Is it paining you or what?”

I told him about the news paper I was wearing.

News paper? He exclaimed. Who does that in this time and gage? Not even toilet tissue? He asked

“That is what my mummy gave me I told him. Please keep your voice down “I begged.

Okay o! I have never heard of such in my entire life. At worse you could have used an old worn out clothe or rag instead of news paper. My sisters use old clothes or tissue paper. He said

So did she advise you to stay off men or you will be pregnant now?

“No o! Stay off men like how?” I asked him.

“Didn’t she tell you anything?” He asked feeling genuinely concerned

No! I snapped. What is she supposed to tell me? I asked

Na wa o! Listen let me tell you what my father tells my sisters. Now that you have started menstruating, it means you have started releasing eggs in readiness for pregnancy.

Pregnancy! I exclaimed.

Yes nah! Didn’t you read in biology? They taught us in reproduction nah!

Okay! But I do not really understand it then.

What don’t you understand? He asked. You don’t know that if you are indulged in a sexual intercourse with a man now you could become pregnant? That is if you have eggs waiting in your ovary or is it uterus sef! He said

That is biology nah! I said

“That is reality! My sister!” He added

“Ceece! At this stage of your life you need a mother figure to guide and advise you”. “There is a lot you need to know now about life!” About men!” He said.

“But you are a man nah!” I said.

“Yes! Men like me!” He said

“Please tell me nah! What is it about men?” I asked

“Ceece, I can’t teach you about men! I am still a boy. Get your dad or mom to tell you about men please”

The bell rang for the beginning of the day’s examination paper.

 

 

 

Nothing to lose

Posted in Prose, Stories

NOTHING TO LOOSE

NOTHING TO LOSE

 

I heard that my parents were married and childless for eleven years before I was born

My mother had to leave town when I was conceived and she returned with me months later. The child dedication ceremony was a big do at the Holy family catholic church Woji in Port Harcourt city of Rivers state. That is the church I grew up to know as our house of worship.

I was christened Cecelia at baptism, my surname is Hart and we are from the historic kingdom of Opobo. The great King Jaja of Opobo is my ancestor so my family is one of the ruling houses in Opobo and my Dad, heir apparent.

The prolonged childless state of my parent had caused a strain in the family. My mother was at daggers drawn with my father’s family members especially my grandma. It was my arrival that brought them together. My grand ma had at one time told her son to get a second wife who would bear him a child. My dad had discussed the idea with his loving wife and hell was let loose. My mother traveled to Opobo the next day when Dad had gone to work and brought the roof of the ancient house down on the occupants. She insulted every member of my father’s family and dared thNothing to loseem to come visit their son in the city. She promised to mix rat poison in their food.

She returned to Port Harcourt before dad returned from work and pretended as if all was well. She even seized grandma’s GSM phone, she had bought it for her after all: that was when they were still friends.

It took my dad two weeks before he knew of the havoc the wife had gone to wreck in the village. Daddy happened to be the only child of his mother, he has step brothers and sisters though and as such he love his mother so much and did not take it lightly with my mother when he returned to Port Harcourt. He swore to take another wife after all; his dad had four wives before his death.

Granddad was into boat transportation business, he had several boats that plied the water side villages and islands. From the great waters of Bonny island to Opobo. His four wives are from four different riverine villages, a woman each from Opobo, Okirika, Ogoni and Bonny Island. He had a total of twenty eight children and my Dad happened to be the ninth child and first Son.

When daddy came back from Opobo, there was a serious quarrel between the two that daddy vowed never to host any of my mother’s relation in the house, mommy also vowed to do the same so no relation visited them for several years until my arrival.

I grew up being pampered as an only child. I had all the toys I wanted and ate everything that pleased me. I grew up as ajebo and when I came of age, I was registered at Kiddies international school; the best and most sophisticated private school around. I started reading and writing in nursery two and I had to skip nursery three into primary one at the age of five.

At church, mummy was the head of the children section and she was always proud when I go to the podium and recite bible passages off hand during children presentations on feast days, I usually get a standing ovation and cash gifts on such occasions. I was every one’s delight.

At six, I had started fiddling with musical instruments in church so that daddy had to buy me a key board to play with at home. I was loved by everyone and my parents were proud of me. I came fourth position in the first term examination in primary one having skipped nursery three but by the second term until I finished my primary education, I came tops in the class

Mummy became pregnant in my primary three, I was seven years old. It was awesome watching as her stomach grew inch by inch until it was very protruded just like other pregnant woman I used to see. I was happy I was going to have a baby in the house. I told mummy that I wanted a baby girl like me but she said that daddy wanted a baby boy since I was already a girl. So I changed my mind, it has to be a baby boy.

I was in primary four when Oprie my baby sister was born; I was almost eight years old. We were all happy especially my mother. The child dedication was done with aplomb, she was christened Anita. Our house was full with guests from every where

Two years after the birth of Anita, mummy conceived and gave birth to a baby boy, I was about to be admitted into secondary school at the age of ten plus, he was named Fenibo Prince Hart. The arrival of Prince started the dark days of my life in the house.

 

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Daddy wanted me to go to the Federal government girl’s college having passed the entrance examination but mummy would not support the idea, she needed me around to help out with the Kids, after all I was of age and she had no house help. She declined even after daddy got two house helps to help her with home chores, she put them in the BQ, and she said she does not trust any external body with her children. So I was registered in a private secondary school two streets away from our home at Woji.

 

The change in my parents’ attitude towards me was so fast that I did not seeing it coming, I had been a good girl all my life. I had never taken any thing not given to me. I had no reason to steal or pilfer. I was happy and spoilt. I was called “Aje butter”! So it was very strange and surreal the first day my mother called me inside her room as I just returned from school, she started to frisk me, she searched my school bag and brought out all the contents. I asked her what she was looking for but she did not utter a word until she was done.

“I am looking for my money”! She said finally.

“Mummy is that why you are searching me”? “You should have asked me first nah” I was feeling sad

“Answer my question with a yes or no”! She snapped: did you take my one thousand naira?!

I was shocked: she had not spoken to me in such a manner before.

“Mummy, are you serious”? Have I ever stolen anything before? I asked

She smacked my face “Idiot! Answer me now before I slap you”!

I screamed “Mummy”! As I rubbed my palm over my cheek. “You slapped me mummy”!

And that was it, she pounced on me and dealt me several slaps, it was a festival of slaps on my face. I was screaming in pains and I tried to run out of the room but she had locked the door. Before I could turn the key to unlock the door, she was on me with her shoe in one hand and a broom in another. She beat me with both until I collapsed on the floor. That was the first beating I got in my life and it was epic. I slept off afterwards and woke up hungry in the middle of the night in my bed.

I went to the kitchen for my food but every flask was empty and all the plates clean. No food. I opened the refrigerator and the micro wave oven, no food, so I peeled some sliced bread from that in the refrigerator and applied jam then I took a can of Maltina and went to the dining table to eat. It was after ten o’clock.

I was chewing the second slice of bread when mother walked in and saw me eating.

“What are you eating”? “Who gave it to you”? Thief! Bastard thief! She shouted and charged towards me, she snatched the bread in my hands and slapped the chunk out of my mouth. I tasted blood from my lips.

“Mummy I am hungry”! I cried. I have not eaten since I returned from school!

“Don’t mummy me”! “Who is your mummy”? “I am not the mother of a thief”! “Idiot bastard”! She cursed and took all I was eating into the trash bin.

Daddy! Daddy! I shouted.

Daddy ran out of his room upstairs, “what is wrong Ceece”? He asked.

“I don’t know what I did to mummy o! I cried. When I returned from school this afternoon, she accused me of stealing her money and she beat me, I don’t even know what happened to me afterwards but I woke up in my bed this night hungry! Now I am eating bread and she has collected the food from me again, look at my mouth bleeding daddy”! I cried and cleaned the mucus from my nose and mouth with the back of my palm. Mummy had walked out while I spoke to daddy.

It’s okay!”It’s okay”! Daddy said and he prepared another bread and butter for me. “Your mother is going through a hard phase” he said.

“She even said I should not call her mummy “: I reported.

“Don’t mind her dear”! How could she? Daddy asked

And she called me a bastard! I said

What!? Daddy asked surprised. What has gone wrong with this woman! Don’t worry dear, come! I will deal with her, don’t worry. Oya eat! Eat and go to sleep ehn? There is school to attend in the morning.

I went with him to the sitting room and ate my food until he retired upstairs. I heard their voices quarrelling before I went to my own room to do my home work and read my book.

 

A couple of hours later, when I was beginning to enjoy my sleep, I heard mother’s voice so I opened my eyes.

Wake up silly girl! Oya! Go and take a broom and sweep the whole house! Start from the sitting room”!

I looked at the wall clock; it was four o’clock in the morning. It must be a dream. So I turned over and spread very well on the bed. The sound that woke me up was louder than the impact of her hands on my back. I screamed out of bed. My hands could not reach my back to properly rub the spot she had slapped. As I rubbed my back against the wall, I was looking at her hands to see if she has hit me with something but no, it was her palm.

“My friend, go and sweep the parlour”! She screamed.

I pointed at the wall clock with one hand while I covered my mouth with the other

Ehen? She asked

“Four o’clock in the morning”! I managed to say. My back was burning.

“Yes! It is time for you to start your daily chores”! She said.” From today hence forth, you must wake up at this time and clean up the whole house before going to school”! “If you do not finish it, then no school for you”! She said.

I was suddenly scared of her. Is this the mother that raised me up? Had an evil spirit taken over her?

Daddy! I screamed but she was upon me in a flash. She grabbed my mouth and pinched it until it bled. I spat out bloody spittle. I touched my lips. It burnt. “If I hear any sound from your mouth I will skin you alive”!” Do you want to wake my baby”? She scolded.

I scuttled out of my room towards the kitchen and got a broom to sweep the parlour then she went upstairs. As I began to sweep the parlour I had to sit down and think if all that was happening was indeed reality of hallucination. I fell asleep on the couch again.

It was a double barreled slap that woke me up at after six o’clock on the couch.

“You are sleeping”? She screamed

As I opened my eyes, the lights in the sitting room were blinking at me. I was confused.

“You have not even started sweeping at all”? “I swear I will kill you today”! “I will skin you alive”! She pummeled me, she stamped her feet on every part of my body as I lay on the ground trying to get up and run upstairs

“Please mummy”! I begged. Daddy! I screamed to no avail.

I finished sweeping every room in the house and went to the bath room to take my bath so as to be ready to leave the house with daddy as he leaves for work at seven o’clock.

I was in the bath room with lather all over me when mother opened the door

“Look! Make sure you wash and scrub the toilet and bathrooms before you go to school o!

Mummy! Daddy leaves for work at seven! He has to drop me at school; the time is almost seven o’clock! I said while wiping lather off my face.

“I have told you that this mouth will kill you”! She retorted.” You like to argue with me”! ‘If you like don’t do what I told you”! “Then we shall know who is who in this house”! She said.

“But mummy, what of the maids”? I asked

“Look” ! “One more word from you, I will pour this kettle of hot water on you”! She threatened.

 

I opened on eye and saw a smoking kettle in her hands, she was preparing to bath the baby. So I kept mute. After bathing and dressing up in my school uniform I went to the BQ only to discover that the maids had been laid off. The doors to the rooms were all open and empty. That was when it dawned on me that all was not well at all. I pulled off my uniform and washed the three toilets and three bathrooms in the house. I finished washing at after ten o’clock and proceeded to school. I had to trek to school for the first time. When I asked my mother for transport fare to join a Keke to school she said I should come and pull her teeth and use as transport. She asked if I was better that all other kids that trekked to school. I wanted to remind her that she once said I was special and different from other children but I thought it better to keep quiet so I carried my bag and went to school with an empty stomach, no pocket money and no transport fare. It was the first day that I went to school late and when I returned home from school on this same day, all my belongings had been moved to a room in the BQ. I did not go to school the next day as I was told to cut the weed surrounding the compound and so it was for the rest of the week.