My mother made me carry a load that’s more than my ability but I didn’t want to complain.

My head and neck hurt bâdly, I forged ahead untill I could no longer
I was too tired while coming back that I decided to take a rest beside the small bushy road.


My mother met me resting under a large palm plantation

“You’re resting here, when I thought you’re already at home, I hope you’re not lazy because your father and I are not lazy people. Your siblings are very strong and can even run down with their loads…”

“Mummy, I just want to rest a little. The distance is much and the bag of cassava is too much for me..”

“Shút up your mouth! come and assist me bring down my own load, so that I can rest too..”

I helped her carry hers down.
She sat heavily on the ground after spreading the small wrapper she used in carrying the big bag of cassava.

She heaved tiredly

“…Chinaza and Nneka, do you remember them? They are your mates, they used to carry double of this bag of cassava and once they enter road with their load well secured on their head, you won’t see their back, they will speed up until they get home. your brothers even Amara carry more than this, you’re here complaining. It seems that the city made you very lazy…”

My mother kept ranting, I was getting sick listening to her compare me to many others children that can do way better than me.

I told her that I was done resting, I stood and got ready to carry my bag and run away from her

She asked me to help her first, as we lifted her load to her head, just then another woman, who happens to be her friend, mama Ebere dropped the firewood she went to bring from her farm immediately she saw my mother.

They began to talk, doing their small gossip

Mother dropped back her own bag on the ground.
They talk and laugh out loud

I felt relieved that atleast mama Ebere will distract my mother from comparison talk.

I told her that I was going, she said I should run along, she wasn’t done resting and I can see she was talking with somebody.

With her assistant, I carried my heavy bag of cassava and Left her sitting there and talking with Mama Ebere.

Although the cassava was way too much for my tiny neck but I kept going

My legs were knocking on each other, my back aches, my neck has pressed down to my shoulder.
My entire body hurt bâdly, both of my hands were on the bag, I held onto it tight.
My eyes were clouding up, i was still few distance away before home.

I can no longer carry on
I’m going to faint if I don’t drop the heavy bag.

Without a care if the cassava will pieces or not, I threw it off my neck and fell on top of it trying to catch my breath and to gather the strength that have already gone out of me.

“Jesus Christ! I screamed silently

I lay there breathing hard.

“Nnem kedu..” (how’re you my lady?) someone greeted

I turned and saw that it was one of the village rich hunter, Uka with his friend, Mazi Dike

“O di mma” (I’m alright) Good evening sir..” I replied.

“You’re the daughter of Peter, the one that returned from the city? Mazi Dike asked

I nodded.

“Chineke! (God!) You’ve grown into womanhood. A small girl of yesterday..’

“Yes o Mazi Dike, she’s the same age with Chinwe my daughter…”

“Eeh! She’s tall, robust and round, towering Chinwe. Nawa oo, she’s a big girl now..”

“She have her father’s height and her mother’s endowment, her mother is well endowed, that must’ve been the reason Peter fell for her..”

They both began to laugh
I sat on my cassava bag with my hands resting on my jaw, staring seriously at the two adult humans who wants to use me and do analysis.

I can hear my mother’s voice coming with her friend from afar.

I don’t want her to meet me there

I quickly stood, folded the wrapper round and small before placing it on my head.

“She has her mother’s fine face and her father’s long legs…”

“Peter is equally fine, is just that he can use his little change to eat ngwogwo and drink Kai Kai..” Uka added

I stood, waiting for them to notice that I was still among them and quit talking about my family.

“Three weeks ago, we really enjoyed in his hand. Everyday he goes to Mama joints pepper soup shop, he will buy bush meat for everybody with cold Goldberg, just the way I like it..”

“Not just you, Nduka also told me he enjoyed from Peter’s giveaway. I was only opportuned once in the giveaway, I took the goat meat pepper soup and palm wine. I called him and ask him why he was spending too much money, carelessly, everyone kept hailing him and with the way they were hyping him, he’s pocket was going empty..”

“… did you know what he told me? he said I shouldn’t worry about his spending because there’s more from where the money came from. He said to me that his daughter came back with dollar. He changed the money and hide some money inside his old unused shoe so that no one will even suspect that money is there..” Uka said quietly to Mazi Dike who began to chuckle loudly..

“He’s such a foøl to disclose that, what if it gets into the wrong ear and he was robbed…
“…I hope is not stolen money. With all that you said about this Peter’s daughter, is possible she stole the dollar, I hope the owner wouldn’t come looking for it and Peter will have to vømit every dime he ate. I also hope he doesn’t come knocking on my door and asking me and everyone to pay for the drinks and meat he bought for us.

” I heard that the people that his daughter live with in the big city are very wealthy and they paid him huge amount of money when they brought her back..” Uka said

“Why did they brought her back..? Mazi Dike asked inquisitively.

“She was becoming stubborn. You know, when they ask her to do things she will rather go to meet with her friends. She almost kílled one of their rich family friend and even planned to run away after doing that but they found out and send her home..”

“That’s very bad. Children of nawadays, terrible. With this her innocent face, one wouldn’t know that she’s akpi (scørpion). How did you know all of this..?

“Whenever Peter is drunk, he talks too much. Both the reasonable and unreasonable ones…”
“…Ego and her husband really wanted to help her, they even sent her to a big man school, they use to send money to Peter every month end. did you know Ego is Peter’s distance cousin, I think from his mother’s side. Is unfortunate, now this one is back to the village to suffer…” Uka added.

“People use to say that “you don’t know what you’ve until you loose it”. She has lost paradise that many young girls are looking for because of stubbornness. I wish others will learn from her mistake…”.

I almost burst into tears but I kept swallowing hard as they finally helped me lift my cassava to my head.

I can hear my mother shouting at me and calling me lazy as she saw the men helping me with my load.

My mother began telling the men that I have already rested more than five times on the road
They all began to laugh.

That’s a big exaggeration because is only twice not upto five times.
It was very annoying
I pretend like I can’t hear her.

I have heard enough gossip from Uka and Mazi Dike, it will last me a life time.

They didn’t even pretend, mince words and consider the fact that I was standing right there and can hear them very clear.

I sobbed quietly as I walked home with my heavy load.

Right there and then I knew I can’t stay in that house or in that village for long.

I need to find my way out of this village, even if it means searching for the remaining money in my father’s old and worn out shoe as one of the men mentioned, I will have to steal some of the money and run away from this place

Everything and everyone is chóking me. I can’t breathe in here
I’m done pretending and hoping in vain.


“11..12..13..14..15..”. I stopped counting immediately I heard foot sound.

I quickly throw the money under the bed, looked around to make sure there’s nothing implicating.

My brother Uzo walked in.

“Mummy is calling you, what are you doing inside here since..”

“None of your business..” I quickly snapped out to him.

“… let’s go..” I said leading the way and hoping he will follow behind.

“Mummy is calling you to come and start cooking the Sunday rice and stew not me. I don’t have any business going with you..” he said sitting down and looking around the room.

If I leave him behind, he may discover the money that I threw under the bed, I didn’t have the time to properly hide it and won’t take the risk of leaving the room without him.
Uzo my brother had an unbridled tongue.
He talks to me any how, insúlt me and gets on my nerves each time but I always overlook.

I understand is because he thinks my presence affects his food quantity, which is not true because I make sure he is well fed. I dish large quantity of food for him and he eats to his satisfaction but each time I ask him to do house chores he will refuse and will give flimsy reasons why he can’t or point out blame to somebody else.
Obinna, my brother who follows me direct by age is fair in terms of behavior, words and approach, although he can be a little bit annoying but he will sometimes obey whenever I instruct him to do something.
Both of my brothers frustrate me, my parents aren’t left out but I’m already used to It.

Uzo, behavior seems to be getting worst and I have had enough and waiting for a perfect time to beat that spirit of disrespëct out of him.

Amara is very helpful and although she can be a bit stubborn like the boys and will even start a fight with them without considering the fact that she’s a girl.

She’s hard-working too and hardly says no to my orders except when she’s tired, she will tell me to send one of the boys instead.

I turned to Uzo after he said he had no business going with me.
“You actually do and I’m not leaving without you..” I said trying to push him out of the room.

“Leave me alone! What are you hidding that you don’t want me to see..”

“I’m hidding your empty head in my bag..”
“… follow me so that we can both prepare the food. You’re not only born to eat, you have to also learn how to make it..”

“,I don’t have any business in the kitchen, that’s a place for women like you…”

“Your business in the kitchen starts today and I will make sure you don’t taste a grain of rice except you help out..”

“, The food isn’t yours, you’re only the cook and nothing more. Mummy will dish out to everyone after you’re done so you can’t dictate for me. I’m not going anywhere…”

“That’s alright Uzo. You just reminded me that the food isn’t mine, I was actually doing everyone a favor by preparing it, isn’t it? You’re included in the people I’m doing this huge favor right?

“You’re not doing anyone a favor Aka, you’re doing your job and also eating out of the food. You’re playing your role in this house and if you choose not to cook, Mummy will either force you to it or you will starve..”

“You’re a smart kid but is unfortunate that you didn’t apply your smartness to book because your last school report card shows you’ve been eating your brain away..”
“… well, since I’m not doing anyone a favor and I will equally starve if I don’t do the cooking right?, I choose to starve today, I’m not cooking anything…”
I went back to sit on the bed.

He stood, looking confused and ångry.
After sometime, he añgrily stormed out of the room.
“I’m going to report you to Mummy, I told you she’s calling you and you refused to go answer her because you’re hiding something which you don’t want me to see…”

Immediately he left, I waited and make sure he was gone before I hide the money properly in it’s usual place.

Mama Zaram has given me eleven thousand so far.
I’m really grateful for her kind heart.

Few months ago, I went to where my father used to hide his money, after Mazi Dike and Uka mentioned it.
I saw thirty five thousand and collected five thousand only and keep for myself

But my conscience wouldn’t let me be,
I felt really bad but the money is still mine so i wasn’t really stealing it.

I used those words to comfort myself but I was still feeling bād.

I confessed to Mama Zaram, hoping she will back me up but instead she condemned the act,, telling me to return back the money.
She reminded me of the bible blessings that comes doing the right thing and the consequences for wrong doings.

After her several counsel, I went back and put the money back where I took it from.

My father later told me one day that the woman that sells beer parlour close to the market square is looking for assistance, if I want to save up for my school I better I apply fast, I may qualify.

I quickly did and she said the pay will only be four thousand naira a month.

That was too small, is just like lunch money for Nunu and Molly that their Dad gives to them

It can’t do much for me, yet I had no choice than to accept it.

We’re two working for madam joint,

Ify is through with her secondary school and she’s 18 years.
Madam joint pays her 8k and she resumes earlier than i and does more work.

My madam said I will be resuming 2:30pm daily and close 7pm.
It sound fair at first until I realized that’s when the major work starts.
I will work for hours without sitting down, she’s the only lively drinking spot in my village
People come drinking and eating bush meat, goat meat pepper soup by that time.

Madam joint, like she’s usually called is a very tough woman, she warns off men making advances at me.
“Leave her alone, she’s a small girl. you’re old enough to be her father…” She will say to them, warning them off.

I spend about five to six hours at work but is better off than staying home or going to go slice vegetable for my mother’s customer.
whenever I’m in my mum’s shop, she will disappear either to gist with her friends or to God knows where, leaving me to do all the work.
She will only show up to ask me how much I have sold since she was gone and will complain if the money is little.

My father is sobber ever since the money with him finished.
He even ask me to borrow him some money and promise to pay later but I refused.
I told him I was saving for my school and no dime is leaving my pocket for any reason.

One day, the six thousand I brought home went missing
The money belongs to Madam joints, she said I should go give it to the bush meat seller but on getting there, the man wasn’t home and nobody to give the money to, I had no choice than to take it home since I have already closed for the day.

The following day as I was leaving for work, I realized that the money that supposed to be in my bag has gone missing.

I asked around but everyone denied which wasn’t surprising
I turned the house upside down searching yet nothing.

Madam joint said she will deduct the money from my pay.

That’s almost like my two months salary.

She pays me 4k for a month, I lost 6k Which is more than a month pay.
Deducting it from my salary means I will have to work without pay for almost two months.

I was lucky enough when Ify decided to give me 3k, she was only helping me and know how much I needed the money for school.
From the savings I had at home, I brought 3k but madam joint only collected one thousand and asked me not to worry about the rest.

I was so happy and ever since then, I don’t trust anyone in my house.

I made sure I hide my money properly and I do not give no matter how much my father needed money or my mother wanted me to lend her or my siblings needed to buy something.

My money is already twenty six thousand, I just have to save few more and my school registration fee will be set.
I have worked for four months and missed two term school section.

Mama Zaram kept to her words and gives me about 3k every month.
I sometimes get tips of 100 or 200 naira, every dime, big or small goes a long way for me

I also do personal expenses from the money, like buying sanitary napkins, buying soap and Vaseline that I use with my siblings
My parents also use this toiletries I purchase with my money but I don’t mind.
I made sure there’s bathing and washing soap because if you ask my father he will complain of not having money and mother too.
They will even remind me that I’m working and should sort out some bills in the house.

I was about leaving the room that day after my encounter with Uzo, when mother walked in

“Did your brother told you that I’m calling you…? She asked angrily.

“Yes Mummy but he said it wasn’t urgent, that I should finished whatever I’m doing…”

“Mummy is a lie..” Uzo said as he walked in
“… she refused and said you should come and do your wørst. She’s hidding something under the bed and don’t want me to see it.”

“Uzo quit lying please, I wasn’t hidding anything, you can come over and check and i can never say that to Mummy…” I said defensively
“…what do you want me to do mummy? Uzo didn’t pass the message properly..”

Uzo was arguing but mother barked out the instructions to with warning.

I quickly walked away and straight to the kitchen, ignoring Uzo as he threw words at me.
My mother remained in the room, probably searching for whatever they think I was hiding.

I’m relieved that my twenty six thousand for my school registration is kept somewhere safe, far from where anyone will think off.

My mother easily gets angry with me this days and my father support her hurtful actions towards me because I refused to loan them my savings.

They can keep boiling but the truth remains I will not spare a dime for any of them.
I will try to contribute the little I can for the house but that’s all to It.

Just few more naira notes and going back to school will become reality for me.

If I happen to start school, i will have to work after school to be able to sort out other expenses because I can’t rely on my parents.
I don’t want to bother Mama Zaram, she have tried way too much for me, far more than the two people that gave birth to me.

I have developed a thick skin in this village, nothing anyone say or do bothers me anymore.
Not even my parents or sibling words or action.
Mama Zaram said, once my ways are upright, I shouldn’t fear any cúrse or anything because God protects those who are pure in heart.

I derive strength from her encouragement and that’s why I’m more determined than ever to make something good out of my life.

My people maybe wondering where I used to keep my money.

sometimes, i come back from work to meet my bags scattered or the room in disarray.

I know they’re probably searching for my money but they can never see it because it’s securely tied around my waist, in my undies, far from their reach.
It goes with me to anywhere..


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