After eating, I packed my father’s plates and put it all together for tomorrow’s morning washing.
Here in the village, things are done differently.
Back in the city, after every meal I make sure I wash, dry and put away every used item but not the same here.

My fsthry sat in his usual worn out cushion, some part of it is already torn.
He relaxed his head back, I know the next minute is to start snoring loudly with strong smell of alcohol filling everyone’s nostril.
The air is mostly polluted because of that, he sometimes come back drunk or filled up with whatever he ate out there, maybe in a restaurant.

I know he will soon start sleeping but before that will happen, I round up with what I was doing and move to him.

Although I was expecting him to even ask me how my day went, the outcome of today’s meeting with the school proprietress but he didn’t say a word, he didn’t mention it or even ask my Mom.

“Papa, I went to the school today..”

He looked up at me, the ray light from the big kerosene lampthan that illuminated the whole sitting room seems to be going deem.
We don’t get much electric power supply around here, there’s a particular electric pole that fell close by, it affected the power supply.
People that owns generator turns it on at night but we don’t have any.

Since it was just a room and parlour, our sitting room is just like bedroom because there’s a spring iron bed in it that makes so much noise and that’s where my father sleeps.
He will sometimes call mother to join him.

My brother’s and sister sleep on the bed in the room.
While I use a mat to lie down with my mother’s wrapper wrapped around me, in the bedroom, avoiding the mosquitoes that comes singing in my ears.

I always close my ears with my hands from the several murmuring, heavy noise from the spring iron bed that my father and mother sometimes sleep in, follows by loud snoring.

The lamp is not so bright today, I even cleaned it’s bulb before turning it on.

Maybe the kerosene in it was getting dry.
I will have to turn on the small lamp or we sleep in the dark
Everyone in this house are used to sleeping in the dark except me

No matter how low the light is, I will still want it to be burning till morning.

My father has a torchlight, that’s what we use anytime anyone wants to visit the out house either to urinâte or excretion.

“… Papa I wasn’t registered in the school.. like you said, I was told to come with you tomorrow for proper registration..”

He closed his eyes again without a word.

“… Papa..” I tapped him gently hoping he will reply me.

“What is the issue here..” he barked angrily, startling me as I take several feet away from him.

“..Are you blind, can’t you see that I want to sleep. Whatever you had to say can’t it wait till morning?

“Sorry Papa, I thought this was the best time to..”

“To do what? To come and dustub me? Can’t I get rest in my house again? I’m begining to see reasons why Ego and Jim her husband pursued you from their home. Is this how you used to disturb them..”

I was taken aback with what he said because this isn’t the first time he will be making such remarks.

Papa and mama knows everything,
I took my time to tell them what happened and why i decided to come back home, my aunty and uncle also conceded because I guess everyone was already tired of the trending situation with Lambert.

How could papa say things like that.

“…get out of my sight and don’t you dâre disturb me next time I’m trying to rest.

I walked away and sat down outside.

Mama who was going to the outhouse saw me

“What are you doing here..”

“Nothing, I just want to stay here small before coming inside…”

“You’re here sulking like a child because your father scolded you for disturbing him, even Amara won’t behave like you, going to wake your sleeping father..”

“He wasn’t sleeping, he just finished eating 5 minutes ago and that’s why I decided to talk to him about my school before he sleeps..”

“You’re not a kid, you’ve to be very wise at your age. You live in the big city for more than three years, much is expected from you. Is this how you used to behave when you were there? You can’t still be acting like a child. You’re older than Obinna, Uzo and Amara, start behaving like an elder not like a child of yesterday..”

I really don’t know what warrant all this long talk from mother.
I did nothing wrong except going to talk to my father.

They never stopped reminding me how I’m the eldest and so many unnecessary things they speculate about why my rich Aunty and uncle sent me back

As my mother left to the outhouse, I returned inside to spread my sleeping mat.

I was not happy, I struggled with sleep, I stayed up staring at the low burning lamp until I finally slept off.

The following morning, I was up early to make food for the house
I called my brothers to wash the dishes that were used last night while Amara was busy sweeping the chicken house. they both started whining and complaining who will wash and who will rinse.
They ended up leaving it for me.

I had to think of what every one will eat that morning.
Especially for my siblings who were preparing to leave for school.

Down here, there’s no speacial breakfast, everyone eats whatever is available.

The leftover rice from last night couldn’t go round because my father already indicated interest in eating it that morning.
My mother asked to be given the remaining rice with it’s crumbs after I served my father, she ate it right in the pot, although I wish she left it for me.

We had small leftover bítter leaf soup that I made yesterday morning.

I boiled water and made garri.

In no time the whole garri and soup was almost gone.
My two brothers are the real consumers in that house and they’re always hungry.

Amara joined them and didn’t eat much before leaving the food for the boys.

I had to add little water to the bottom pot, used spoon to turn it properly
Scrapping every tiny bit of soup together so that I can have something to eat.

They left for school and I was careful not to go to my father right away so that he won’t complain again that is too early.

I went to him as he was about leaving the house.

“Papa, sorry that I disturbed your sleep yesterday night. Can we go to the school today or Monday will be better?

“There’s no money for your school Aka, the whole money has finish, quit hoping on it. Beside I have already made some payment for your school..”

“You only paid one thousand to obtain the form. The whole school registration money and uniform is about twenty eight thousand naira. Is not much..”

“Twenty eight thousand is not much to you? I wonder when you turned to be a millionaire to assume twenty eight thousand is a stipend. You should have remained with Ego and her family because your coming back is an extra expenses to this family which I’m not in for..”

“Papa what are you saying, I gave you three hundred dollars, Just a month ago…” I have had enough of all this and wasn’t going to keep calm anymore.

“And so what? So many children are bringing more than that home. You refused to let me rest because you gave me dollar, what kind of child are you? is becoming very clear what Ego said about you when I called her is true…”

“I don’t care about whatever my aunty said to you over the phone. I just want to start school that’s what I’m more concerned about. The money supposed to go a long way for this family. I know how much is a hundred dollars in naira, I gave you three hundred dollars, it supposed to be more than enough to put this house in order, register me in school and also start a good business. That’s more than two hundred thousand naira papa…”

He chuckled loudly
Mama said I should keep quiet and stop sounding like a spoilt brât
She said the money is not upto what I mentioned, I assured her that it was.

“Maggi, you can see your daughter is challenging me. She has grown, is this same disrespect and stubbornness that made them send her back here. she have quickly forgotten the kind of father she has..”

“… haven’t you been feeding in this house? Eeh, Aka..anwser me. Incase you want to know how the whole money was spent, I gave fifty thousand to your mother to buy food stuffs, I use some to pay your brother and sister school fees, use the remaining to sort out my long accumulated debt. The small money that Ego’s husband use to send to me every month, that’s twenty thousand naira, it usually goes into feeding but everything has stopped because you’re no longer living with them. They’re no more sending us anything and the money you came back with, you want me to update you on every dime..”

My mother spoke up. “You gave me forty thousand for food stuffs and when I asked you to give me small money to add to my business you gave me ten thousand Only..”

“…I told you to go register her in school before the money runs out, I hate this argument this early morning. She needs to go to school Peter. If the amount she mentioned is right then there’s no how you can spend over two hundred thousand in one month. You can’t even finish it in drinks. You need to put her in school, she can’t possibly be home. She’s the reason we have the money in the first place, her needs should be put into consideration, what if she came back empty handed..”

“Both of you should just shút up. There’s nothing I can do right now because there’s no money. even if I call Ego, she won’t pick my call because this untrained daughter of yours almost ruined their reputation..”

“Haven’t I said it enough that I was almost râpéd by their family friend. Mr Lambert is in his fifties, he has grown kids living in London and his wife left him long time ago, The man fabricated lies against me..”

“Ego said the man is stinking rich famous and kind, she said you lied against him without fear of what your lies will do to his high status in the society. She said even your friend who witnessed the whole thing said you’re a liâr..”

” … what if this Lambert likes you and want to make you his wife since his wife is no longer with him..”?

My jaw dropped immediately he said that.

“She’s a small girl, that man should go find his size. He has the money to gather women like King Solomon, why our own Aka..” my mother chirped in.

“She’s not a small girl. Aka is fifteen going to sixteen years, beside she matured too fast. looking like a twenty years already. is better for her to marry on time because she may start looking old, like a forty years woman when she reaches twenty. This Lambert can take care of her and even you condemning me will live large like you’ve never tasted poverty. Do you know what that means, We will be in money…”

My mother sighed and told my father to stop talking rúbbish.

“You think I’m talking nonsense, I don’t blame you and your disrespectful daughter. Don’t you think that she supposed to get married so that she can assist in taking care of her siblings? My shoemaking is not bringing much, your vegetable business can’t do much either. Ego’s husband that was sending money stopped because of what she did. The money she managed to return back with, is gone and she’s asking me to give account of which i already did. There’s no money, she will have to be patient until I have money to put her in school..”

My parents began to argue back and forth
I ran out crying because I was weak to the knee hearing my father say all of that.

I sat at the backyard but I felt helpless and decided to go see my step grandmother who was still alive.

My own grandmother is late but we weren’t too close, she was mostly sick and always shouting at us for disturbing her peace. I guess is because of the sickness and there was no enough money to care for her.

She passed on when I was nine years, Amara was still very small.

My step grandma, is kind woman and patient
She always treat us like hers.
Her house wasn’t too far.

She has only one daughter who díed during childbirth.
The elderly woman has only two grand children, Zaram who’s mother díed during birth is living with her while her elder brother is with her father in a close by town.
They usually come visiting mama with goodies which she will still share with us.
My step grandmother is hard-working and owns a stockfish store.
She makes the best soup with stockfish and very welcoming.

Some of the villagers used to say that she’s a wítch and that’s why she couldn’t give birth to many children and the only one she had diëd.

But alot of other people knows that is only lies, jeâlóusy is the root of their bitterness.

Mama Zaram, like we used to call her is a respected and generous. Alot of people loves her but that never stop the jealous villagers from hating.

I explained to her what was going on, she was very comforting and I feel good talking to her.

“Mama Zaram, the sad part is that my brothers and sister school fees is just eight thousand each and my uncle used to send twenty thousand to papa every month after papa kept calling to complain to them that things are hard and there’s no means of survival…”

“… papa has no investment, nothing reasonable except for the shoemaking which he’s not even serious with. I’m so disappointed, I thought coming home was a better idea. I’m begining to regret. Maybe I would’ve remain in the city suffering and smiling. Atleast papa will still be getting his twenty thousand, I know that’s one of the reasons he’s so pained..”

“It’s all going to be alright, your father does not know that he has a expensive jewel. it saddens me that he can’t see that he’s already blessed through you. You’re a bright child and will excel no matter how much life strikes. If the going gets tough, seek the help of God, life sometimes gets tiring but those who trust in the Lord will néver be put to shame..”

She went inside and brought out three thousand, she gave it to me and asked me to hold onto it until the next market day, if she sells more stock fish, she will give me more money until the money for school is completed.

I didn’t want to collect it but she insisted and asked me not to tell my father or even my mother because they will take and spend it as usual.

I hugged her tight.
She asked if I have eaten and I told her that I have.
I left with a lighter heart.

I saw my mother approaching, she said she’s been looking for me.

Mother told me that I will have to follow her to the farm that morning to uproot some cassava for garri preparation, since what we have is almost gone.

I left with my mother to the distance farm land to get the cassava after properly hidding the money under the bed.





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