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 them 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.
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.