Jennifer Ihuoma Abraham
•Continued from last edition
“I’m sorry, my son, go home. I’ll deal with her when I find her,” her mum had pleaded. “Please, forgive her. I’ll make sure she never troubles you again.”
“Thank you, ma,” Syracuse bowed as he left with the dissatisfied crowd of classmen who had accompanied him to see the drama through. They had expected a bigger show.
From her hideout, Ndili observed as her accusers thinned away, her heart thumping. She decided not to turn herself in, to do nothing but wait it out. Then she slept off.
A gentle tap on her shoulder woke her. She made to run, but the tender look in her mum’s eyes stayed her.
“I’ve seen her!” Mum’s shaky voice shouted to the other members of the household who had been looking for her since Syracuse left.
“You scared us all, Ndili,” Mum complained as she gathered her little girl in her arms. “I was wondering where next to go in search of my baby girl. As you can see, it’s getting dark.”
“I’m sorry, Mum, I’ll never do it again. I’ll never make fun of Syracuse again, I swear,” Ndidi spluttered, still afraid.
But the beating never came. Instead, her mum sat her down to give her a soft talk on how to treat other people. She said a lot more which did not make much sense that day because she had not suffered the kind of pain which people like Syracuse had passed through.
She had thought his circumstances were funny. Her innocent mind half expected him to laugh along but he was angry instead. It became even more ludicrous when he started crying. Ndili and her friends drummed on their desks singing:
Obe Akwa mmee
Cry baby, good for you.
She was a regular Igbo girl –bold, playful, snazzy, and all. It never occurred to her that she was hurting anyone.
“Hmmm, now it’s my turn to feel the pain I had caused Syracuse and some of the domestic servants in the house.”
Ndili could not help flinching at the ambush of time. Dispossessed and displaced after the sudden loss of her parents, her heart was brought to its knees. Change had come in a torrential spate, making her a broken initiate of pain.
As she flipped through the pages of the last ten years, she could not help but admit that something good had come out of it all: she could now recall her mother’s soft talk with understanding. It created a strengthening connection with her mum and she declared as if her mum were present,
“You were right, Mum. I now understand your words on how to treat people right.”
The loss of her family in a plane crash left her with relations turned strangers and taskmasters. They had taken turns in etching pain in her soul with their version of charity. Each time she ran away from one home, she hoped her lot would be better. It never was. Ndili recalled the stretch of forests she used to see each time Dad drove them to Lagos to shop for Christmas.
She had often reasoned that the dots of villages and towns they swept past on the way were founded by individuals who left their kinsmen to wrestle down remote forests and build new villages. Now, it is her turn to sow a new city of kind people. To nurture a new way of life. A place of freedom.
She was on her way to creating something different. Would this have been possible if the zone she left had been comfortable?