Story Written By Ogechi Alabi
Suddenly everything changed. In order to deliver jobs promptly, father visited his sites regardless of the weather conditions. Well, he fell terribly ill. He had a cough which refused to go. He grew very lean and couldn’t move around anymore. He refused to visit the hospital saying they would just take all he had made.
One day, he woke up but couldn’t stand up. As he laid on the bed, he was very restless. We couldn’t go to school that day because father looked terrible. He couldn’t even communicate with us. Obinna went out of the house while mother and I sat by father’s bedside. Mother was helpless and in tears. Obinna returned with a taxi. He and Ikenna carried father into the taxi and we went to the hospital.
The doctors on duty quickly attended to him as they could see he was in distress.
They took information from us while admitting father.
“Are you aware your husband is hypertensive? Has he been taking his medication?”
“Hypertensive kwa? He is not o” mother replied.
“He is. And he also has pneumonia. He suffered a mild stroke. Once the blood pressure is under control, he will be fine. We will start treatment for the pneumonia too. You need to deposit some money for his treatment”
“How much doctor?”
Obinna paid the deposit while we waited for treatment to commence. Father was in hospital for ten days. Father started showing improvement after five days of treatment. Immediately he got himself, he started itching to go back home. The doctors refused because his blood pressure was fluctuating. Finally, he was released and placed on daily blood pressure medication. He was asked to rest and not do any major moving around. He couldn’t walk the short distances he could before; his health had deteriorated.
Obinna was his eye on the project. Unfortunately, Obinna was a novice. A supervisor played a fast one on him. He requested for a huge amount to buy materials and disappeared with the money. Because he was hired by father, he had to refund the money. This put an additional strain on our resources.
Father was the first son of his parents. After him, his parents had three more children. One died in infancy, the second died when he was about twenty years and then third, a girl, was married living with her husband in Enugu. She hardly came to visit our village because her husband was from Enugu state. Nneoma, daddy’s sister, heard about his illness and came to visit. She wanted to come when we relocated to the village but father refused her coming; he hated pity. Her husband had offered to help but father declined. His illness was a cause for concern for mother so she secretly informed auntie Nneoma and asked her to come. Father was
ecstatic to see her. His countenance brightened greatly when she arrived. They talked all day everyday for as long as she stayed. Auntie Nneoma stayed for a week.
Two days into her visit, auntie Nneoma looked at me and then turned to her brother and said, “Nna, Akwaugo is a big girl now. Will you leave her in this village for the boys here to spoil her? The village is not the right place to bring up a girl child not with all we hear. I think I should take her with me to Enugu to live with us. You know my children are grown and out of the house and I never had a female child. She will be the child we desired to pamper” she turned to me and asked, “What class are you in now?”
“I am going to SS1 ma” I answered.
She promised to meet all my needs. She said I would attend the secondary school her children attended and she would train me even to university level. Father told her I wanted to study Medicine and Surgery of which she sang and danced our native dance. She said she was ready to take up the burden of training her brother’s only daughter. I was excited. I couldn’t wait for father to give his consent. I was going to a place where I would enjoy; where I would be pampered. I couldn’t wait. Father took his time in agreeing. Mother didn’t want me to go because of the assistance I rendered her but if I would be a medical doctor at the end; she was ready to make the sacrifice.
I packed all my things in preparation for the journey to Enugu. My parents prayed for me before we left. The night before mother talked to me at length. “You know the daughter of whom you are. We do not have money but we have integrity. Have you ever seen your father or I take what doesn’t belong to us? Never! Don’t bring shame to us. Listen to your auntie and uncle. Respect and obey them. You are blossoming into a beautiful maiden, please, reserve yourself for your husband. Your father met me a virgin. Virginity is the greatest gift you can give your husband. He will carry himself with pride if you give it to him. I know nowadays young girls don’t believe in preserving themselves but if you want respect from a man; give him that he can’t give you. Most of all, whatever situation you find yourself in, pray. Pray every morning, pray at night. Pray the angelus and your rosary. Prayer is the key to success and deliverance. Remember the words of your
father and abide by them” She said many more words but all I could hear from her was, “I will miss you”.
We began the two hours journey from Umuoji to Enugu. Auntie Nneoma married a businessman and had four sons for him in quick successions. Auntie Nneoma was plump compared to my mother who was very slim. She was tall; six feet tall and the fat was evenly proportioned on her body. When she tied her double wrapper, her hips made her waist look small. I admired her. She looked like my father; she was light brown in complexion with a wide nose but she had a captivating smile. Just like my father, each time they smiled, they warmed their way into people’s heart.
My friends discouraged me from going with Auntie Nneoma. They asked me to look beyond the smiles. They claimed she was a wicked woman. She fought other women like a tigress. She had taken girls from the village to stay with her in the city but she brought them back in disgrace. I wondered what they did wrong or did to offend her. The auntie Nneoma I knew wasn’t anything like they described. When I mentioned it to mother, she told me not to pay heed to any of them. The girls went to her house under the guise of assisting her but their mission was to snatch her husband or get pregnant for her sons. She made me realise having anything to do with my cousins was incest and could bring calamity upon us. I understood.
We got to their house in Enugu GRA. They lived in a six bedroom duplex with a two bedroom boys quarters. The house was large. It wasn’t very modern but it still stood out. The exterior walls of the house were covered with marble. The entire flooring of the house was marble. The chairs were made of leather but the center table, side stools, and dining table were also made of marble. As I looked at them in amazement, auntie Nneoma mentioned to me her husband imports tiles and marbles. “No wonder” I thought to myself. To be honest, the house was lovely.
Auntie Nneoma showed me the room I was to stay in. It was also a large room with a toilet and bathroom. It was obvious it hadn’t been used in a very long time. I asked her for detergent, bleach, broom and scrubbing brush. She gave me the items I requested for. I cleared out the place, took the mattress and pillows outside to air, I removed the curtains hanging in the room which had gathered dust, rinsed them and then soaked them. I did a thorough cleaning of the entire room; I swept,
scrubbed and mopped both room and the bathroom. I cleared the cobwebs and cleaned the windows. By the time I was through, the room was looking amazing. That was when I noticed the walls were painted grey and they were still very neat. The wardrobe was made of brown wood and I could slide it to open. I cleaned the mirror hanging on the wall. I put a small stool I found under it where I placed my body lotion, powder and other personal things. I used that as a dressing table; I had to improvise.
When I went outside to wash the curtain, auntie Nneoma went to inspect the work I had done. She was impressed. “You have made this room a home so soon. It is now habitable. I wish you could do the same to my bedroom. It hasn’t had a thorough cleaning in a long time”
‘I will gladly clean up your room and even the whole house”
“In the meantime, come and eat”
Uncle Emma came back later in the night. I was in my room when he came in. Auntie Nneoma called me to greet him. “Were you the one that cleaned up my room?” he asked.
“You did a very good job. Agnes trained you very well. Your father must be proud of you”
“Thank you sir”
I had transformed their room. I gave it a thorough cleaning. It took me three hours to do. The curtains were still outside waiting to dry. Mine had dried and was hanging in my room. Auntie Nneoma was happy. I found things under the bed and in their wardrobes they had been looking for including money and I showed them everything. I had established myself as dependable in the home. I went to bed early to give them even more surprises the next day.