Story Written By Ogechi Alabi
I refused to think about what Chiamaka was describing in her letter. It was disgusting to say the least. I was a staunch Catholic, I missed early morning mass because the church was far from the house and my school was very close by. There was a chapel in the school. I visited it every day by 12 noon during the break period. I had begged God not to allow me fall into temptation that would bring shame and ridicule to me and my family. This covetous act of mine was about to do just that. I was tempted to report myself to auntie Nneoma but I needed advice. I went to talk with uncle Chike.
‘Don’t tell her anything otherwise she will package you back to the village. All the girls that they brought from your place and oga’s place have disgraced themselves with the children here. One of them seduced all the boys and almost succeeded wit
oga. I was the one that noticed oga’s movement and told madam to stop going to work and stop the girl from going out. She was always with her husband so she couldn’t penetrate. It was when madam caught her in bed with Amanze that the truth was exposed. Oga confessed that she was making advances at him. They later found out it was all her sons she had slept with. Madam nearly killed her. She sent her packing. She was the last girl to stay in this house. You have been here almost one year and there has been no drama. Keep it that way. If she finds out Amanze is making advances at you; she will send you packing. Avoid him. he is leaving in a few days and we will all have peace”
So, the stories I heard in the village were true. But why would a girl do that to her benefactor? Did she lie when she went back to the village? I believed uncle Chike. Girls were terrible, I thought to myself. They lacked self control and had no dignity left. I didn’t know much about sex at my age but joining the school it seemed it was all they wanted to talk about. I was not interested. I didn’t care to know the details or read about it. The closest I had come to knowing what was done was during biology class and then the letter. I was curious but didn’t know whom to ask. I reserved my enquiries for when I sat with my mother. She always said I could ask her anything and she will tell me.
Amaze left just when we were to vacate for the long holidays. I was so glad he was leaving. He left a package with Chike for me. It was a gift box wrapped with a gift wrap. On it was written my favourite cousin. I took it to my room and opened it.
Inside it had things I had never seen before. I saw hand lotion, body butter, body wash, body mist, body spray, face mask, a bottle of perfume, a roll on in a plastic bottle, a small box of chocolate and a tin of Danish cookies. Why would Amanze give me these gifts? There also N3000 in an envelope. I didn’t like it and decided to show them to auntie Nneoma.
“O, he got them for you? He must like you then. He says you are his favourite cousin because you are smart and don’t bend easily. I let him know you have a very good upbringing and a name to protect unlike the other girls in the village who are ready to throw themselves at any man so they would leave their impoverished lives. I told him you are different; you are responsible and dedicated to achieving your goals. Enjoy them!”
I was happy he said only nice things about me. I took the chocolate and biscuits to share with uncle Chike, he was my partner in crime. He took two wraps of the chocolate and some of the cookies. He asked me to keep the rest for when I resume school. It was a good idea but I would rather take it with me to Umuoji and share with my family.
I gave auntie Nneoma the invitation for our Graduation and prizegiving day and I told her about our school party. She got me a new dress and shoes I would wear for the party. I loved the outfit and I felt special.
During our graduation and price giving day, I went to school hopeful that auntie would come but she didn’t. I got the first position in Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology and Economics. I was second position in my class. I was happy and excited. I would have loved to have my family there with me just like other whose families cheered them when they were called up. But in all, I was still very proud of myself.
Auntie Nneoma had mentioned she would be travelling overseas with uncle Emma for a month. She couldn’t leave me in the house alone so I was to go back to Umuoji until they return which I was happy about. I packed my bag for the one month stay. I also packed the remaining clothes and shoes Amanze had condemned. I had washed them and they were as good as new. I bought two “ghana must go” bags to pack the items while auntie Nneoma gave me a beautiful suitcase to pack my personal belongings.
My journey to Umuoji was filled with so much excitement. I was prepared for the two hours journey. I had called my brothers to wait for me at the park. The money Amanze gave me, I used it to buy a dress and slipper for my mother and also two polo shirts for my father. I saw a pair of slippers uncle Emma had also abandoned. I asked auntie Nneoma if I could take it home for my father, she said no. Instead she bought him two new pairs of solid leather slippers and gave me some wrappers and blouses for mother. I was so happy I knelt down to appreciate her. I asked if I could give uncle Chike the old slippers and she agreed. Uncle Chike too was very happy.
Just before I left with auntie Nneoma for the park, uncle Emma gave me two envelopes. One had my father’s name written on it while the other had my name.
he said to me, “You have made me proud with your academic performance. This is a little gift for you. Buy whatever you want with this. Feel like a big girl in the village; your uncle has got your back. I will make sure you get more gifts when we come back”. He refused me kneeling to thank him, my auntie’s face was just full of smiles.
“You know you have lived with us for almost a year and there has never been a
complaint from my husband. Not even once have you offended him. What broke
the camel’s back was when he found out you refused to take Amanze’s food to him
instead you asked Chike to do it for you. The other girls would change into skimpy
wears to serve my sons’ food. I would not say I am surprised at your conduct. Your
parents have made us proud. All I will say is keep it up. Tell your father he should
read the letter before he rejects the gift my husband sent. Be of good conduct over
there; I don’t want to hear negative stories. Don’t mix up with those girls in the
village so they don’t mislead you. Anyway, I trust Agnes, she knows what to do”
auntie Nneoma said to me on our way to the park. As I offloaded my things from
the car, she asked the driver to offload the other things that were in the car. A bag
of rice, vegetable oil, and three sealed cartons of other items I couldn’t see then.
She chartered the back seat of the car which contained my ‘load’ and was left with
three seats in the middle and one in front. I took the seat by the door while two
other women sat with me in the middle and a man sat in front with the drive. She
paid the driver extra to take me to my father’s house.
I arrived home with so much joy in my heart. My brothers directed the driver to park inside our compound so as not to attract attention to us. They offloaded the things in the car while I greeted my parents. My father was sitting in the living room with a chaplet in his hand. I ran to hug him and he returned it with love. In just a year my father had aged. He looked frail but his voice was still strong. I was touched to tears but I held back, today wasn’t for sorrow but for joy.
“What are all these things?” father asked as they were bringing the things in.
“Auntie Nneoma said I should give you. Also uncle Emma gave me this letter for you” I replied as I handed the letter over to him.
My mother was in tears but they were tears of joy. “God, you promised not to leave us or forsake us. You have proved your words with signs and wonders. We
wondered where the next meal will come from, where the money for medication will surface from and you did it without us asking for help from anyone. May your name be praised. You listen to our prayers and answer us even when your servant is in doubt. You are a faithful God”
Father opened the envelope and fished out the letter first. It was a big brown envelop which obviously contained money but knowing my father, the content meant nothing to him without reading the letter. As he read the letter, tears filled his eyes and they dropped at will. Everyone was quiet until he finished reading. He folded the letter and said to me, “Akwaugo, Ada m, I have no regrets sending you to stay with my sister. You have brought me only joy and happiness since you went there. Your uncle is thanking me for allowing you stay with them. He is appreciating me not just me, your mother and I for bringing you up right. He said everyone sings your praises; in school, at home, in the market even his son only had good things to say about you. He begged me to allow you come back after the holidays. For doing such a good job with our children Agnes, Emma gave us N200,000”
My mother almost fainted. N200,000 was so much money. I was also shocked when the amount was called. My brothers were visibly happy but they were also holding their breath because father could decide to return.
“He asked me not to return the money like I have done in the past otherwise he will take offence and return my daughter to me and cancel her scholarship. Truly God answers prayers. Is it not more honourable to receive without asking than be a beggar people get tired of helping?” he raised his money up with his right hand and stretched his left hand towards the other gifts on the floor and prayed over them, “may those who blessed us with these gifts never lack in Jesus name. As we make use of this gifts, may they serve useful purpose to us in Jesus name. May we who have put our trust in you never be disappointed or put to shame in the mighty name of Jesus” we all chorused Amen.
Mother and my brothers carried the food items into the kitchen. I sat with father and gave him my report card. He was very happy with my result. I also showed him the awards and gifts I won. He prayed for me. I opened the ghana-must-go bags and gave him the gifts his sister gave him, I gave mother hers. I gave him the ones I bought for them. I handed the bags to my brothers. They took them into
their rooms. Father kept shaking his head while mother danced in gratitude for her gifts. My brothers ran out of the room and they both hugged me and lifted me up. I was happy. We were all happy and joyful.
It was later I was told that dad had been off his medication for some time now because he had to pay the boys’ fees and also help them with some living expenses while they were in school. They couldnot get work to do anywhere near school so they were stranded. Father had nothing doing because of his health and the burden was on mother’s trading which was at the verge of crumbling. With the money at hand, everything will be sorted.
Auntie Nneoma called back father. He had spoken to uncle Emma but auntie Nneoma didn’t pick up. She spoke with father who was filled with so much gratitude. She also spoke with mother and my brothers whom she sent some money to in father’s envelope. It was discovered when father brought out the money to count. She asked to speak with me.
‘How is my brother?” she asked.
“He looks really frail. He has been off his medication for some time now”
She lamented, “Michael will not put me to shame. Please write a list of all his medications and send to me through text message. I will buy three months supply. You have to be reminding me to get his drugs. If that’s all he will accept from me so be it”
“He needs a cardigan too and if possible, trousers. He refused to take any from Amanze’s clothes”
“You are a good child. I will send them down too. We are leaving for Lagos next tomorrow. I will ask Chike to send it to the park so you can pick up at Umuoji. Any other thing?”
“You have done more than enough for us. May God bless you and uncle. Auntie Nneoma I never say this to you but you are the best thing that has happened to me in recent times and I love you and uncle for making me who I am today. I feel so proud of my accomplishments. Most of all, I feel I am a member of two families
instead of one. Thank auntie for loving your brother’s only daughter like your own”
“You are my daughter. I love you too. God bless you” I could hear the tears in her
voice. She had been a positive influence in my life and I appreciated her and her