Story Written By Ogechi Alabi
I told Obinna to buy a few drugs for father for now. We had enough to eat and drink. Father gave mother money to add to her business but asked her to put it in gradually so it won’t raise eye brows. I caught up with the village gossip and happenings. It was good to be home with family. I gladly did all the house chores without a single complaint. I stayed indoors for some days. I joined the family to church on Sunday and that was the first time the villagers saw me. I looked different and it was evident. I knew it would make them talk but I really didn’t care. I played my part in all I had gained.
“Akwaugo, you look so good. Your auntie really took very good care of you. But she is wicked o, she didn’t allow you visit during the festive period” one of my friends asked.
“How would I leave her and my uncle? They have no one with them. Anyway, my father said I shouldn’t come back until the long holidays so I can assist them as I am the only child in the house” I replied her.
Another came closer and asked me, “Do you see Amanze? How is he?”
I had to step back to look at her. What could she possibly know about Amanze as he had never stayed in auntie Nneoma’s house? I simply replied her, “He is fine”.
Interacting with them, I realized I was not on their level at all. The things they talked about didn’t interest me. I refused to give them information about my stay in auntie Nneoma’s house as I could see some of them were biased. They said things like she must be treating me well because I am her direct niece and I laughed Auntie Nneoma and I don’t interact that much. I spend most of my time reading or
working. I am available for her to send on errands but because I minded my business which is my education; she gave me my space. She has never scolded or shouted at me as they claimed she does. I take food to my uncle into his room and I leave immediately after serving him. I clean the room only when he is not around. There is a part in the Lord’s prayer which says, “Lead us not into temptation”. I never encouraged conversation between uncle and I if auntie is not at home and she knew what I was doing. Uncle Emma knew too and respected me for that. I will never be a part of a despicable act against anyone especially not against auntie Nneoma who has been so good to me.
By two weeks, father looked much better. He added some weight and no longer looked frail. Auntie Nneoma sent the medicine, cardigan, more shirts and then trousers for her brother. Father complained when he received them but he couldn’t return them so he had to use them. He could attend family gatherings now no longer looking like a pauper. He told all those who complimented his looks it was his dear sister who sent them to him so cold would not kill him.
Mother came back home furious after a meeting one afternoon. She had attended the meeting wearing one of the wrappers and blouses I brought for her and the slippers. There was a little disagreement.
“Njideka, nwunye Adolphus told me, Agnes, to keep quiet. She said I have mouth now to talk because I am wearing a new wrapper and blouse which my sister-in-law use to pay me for my daughter being her maid”
“What did you answer her?” father asked.
“I told her she was just jealous my daughter has an opportunity she and her children can never have and I walked away. She wasn’t even part of the argument”
“She was just showing her true colours and you fell for it. She is obviously envious of what you have. You didn’t need to wear the new wrapper and blouse to the meeting; you will only attract enemies to yourself. Don’t allow them work against the success of your children. Lay low for now. What will announce us will announce us. Go and apologise to her and tell her to please forgive you then come back. I know you will not want to but do it. Just know that most of the women there are envious of you. Be the bigger person and go back”
I was angry. Why would father send her back? Mother left calmly to do as her husband had said. I turned to him and asked why she should go.
“My daughter, you do not know who is who. It is obvious they are not happy with her and she shouldn’t give them room to go diabolical on her. Once she apologises wholeheartedly, Njideka will mellow. She would eat and drink with them after they make up but she knows who they are and how to follow them” father replied.
When mother came back much later in the evening she came back with other women from our kindred. They laughed and joked together before she entered our gate. She thanked father for the advise and that Njideka also apologized go her for her utterance. They made peace but she knew she had to be careful with Njideka and others.
Left to me, I wouldn’t have gone back. Why were they particular about us? My brothers never wore the clothes and shoes I brought for them at home so they don’t draw attention to themselves too. They had learnt a lot from father. They kept the money auntie Nneoma gave them and continued working to get money to buy things for school. Ikenna had just gained admission into the Ebonyi state university to study Agric Economics. Obinna was in far away Imo state at the Federal polytechnic studying Architecture. Father was proud of his sons and their achievement thus far. We were all doing well.
After church service one Sunday, my friends came to the house to see me. We sat under the mango tree outside to discuss. We talked about school and what we wanted to be in future. Then the conversation changed to talking about boys. They spoke excitedly while I listened to them as I had nothing to share with them.
“You know Peter, the one that stays with the catechist, he invited me to his place after mass. He said I am a fine girl and he would like us to be friends. He gave me some fruits from the parish house. He wanted to kiss me but I refused. But he squeezed my breast before I left. I haven’t gone back after that”
“Why didn’t you go back? Peter is very generous. If you agree for him, he will be giving you food from the parish house with big big meat and even raw food to take
home. Francesca even told me he used to give her money for her hair and other things until he caught her with the catechist” another replied.
“But what if he wants to do the do? Me I can’t give in to him now. My mother checks me every now and then. I don’t want her to check and find out I am no longer intact”
“Who does that nowadays? I will show you how to avoid her catching you. Peter is more generous than the catechist. Catechist has a wife and many girlfriends; Francesca is regretting now. And Peter doesn’t last long. In two minutes, he is done and you will go away with goodies. I wish he will even look at my side. I don’t mind losing my virginity to him”
I was too shocked at all I heard that I didn’t know when I said out loud, “Someone that won’t get married to you?”
They looked at each other and laughed. “It is worse in the city. Girls in the city have been having sex since they entered puberty. We are even late. Are you trying to tell us you don’t have a boyfriend in Enugu?”
“No, I don’t and I don’t need one. Why would I allow some who isn’t my husband touch me?”
They laughed even more. “You are a mama’s girl. Keep it for a man who has sown his wild oats before he marries you and will continue to sow it after he has kept you in the house? I won’t do it. Let me enjoy my own now”
That was another angle I had never really considered. Would my husband be a virgin too? Would he keep himself for me too? I wondered and hoped I would marry someone who shared the same ideologies with me. But their comments bothered me. I was jostled back to reality when one of them shoved me and repeated her question.
“I heard your cousin, Amanze, is also very good. The girls that returned from Enugu said he was good in bed. How true is that?”
“How would I know?”I replied uninterested.
“Hasn’t he tried anything with you?”
“Tufiakwa!” I exclaimed while rising to my feet. “Don’t ever repeat such again. How can I, Akwaugo, commit such an abomination”?
“Dorcas said he claims nobody can ever escape him. she couldn’t escape him and kept going back for more”
“I am not Dorcas. I am related to him so it can’t happen”
“Just be careful. He will not care if you are his cousin before he lures you”
“He can only lure the weak and those who don’t have value. As for me, it can never ever happen. With an outsider, not likely but a possibility but Amanze, it is never” I had attracted attention with my response and my brothers had come outside to check what was wrong. The girls decided then to take their leave.
I observed Chika looked at Obinna shyly. She never said anything while we spoke.
I knew Obinna had something with her. The way Obinna carried on, I would never
have believed him capable of such but then he was a man. Chika was very bright
and quiet. If Obinna wouldn’t be serious with her, he shouldn’t treat her the way
other guys treated the girls in the village.