She ran as fast as her legs could carry her into the bush, ignoring the pain from the piercings of the sticks on the ground and her mother’s voice shouting “Olanma Nwokocha, come back here!”
All she needed was to get away from everything, and block everything out as much as possible. Another set were coming to her house today, her mother had told her, another set of humans who think she will be perfect for their son, and have come to “pluck the beautiful flower in her father’s garden”
She slowed down to think, she had discovered some years ago that she didn’t know how to think and walk at the same time, not when it comes to critical thinking. She sat down on the root of a big tree, and picking up a twig, she thought out loud, speaking to herself.
‘Beautiful flower my foot! Well this beautiful flower is not interested. What is so hard to accept there? I am not ready or even interested!’
She could hear her mother’s voice replying her, ‘You are twenty years old Olanma, at your age, I was already married. Good men are hard to come by you know, I think you should choose one and start a family. They may not always be there for you to choose from.’
She shook her head to ward off her mother’s words which she could recite by heart. Her father, who was on her side, was getting tired of rejecting the wine from suitors, and she knew it was just a matter of time before he “talked to her.”
She looked up to the small patches of sky which could be seen between the tree leaves and whispered, ‘I just want to get admission into the University before I think of marriage to anyone. Why is that so hard for people to understand? I have prayed, I have cried, I have read, I have studied yet, for four years, I have been at home. My mates are about to graduate and Olanma is still in this village, rejecting suitors. I need a miracle.’
Olanma was the only child of her parents, the only surviving child. Her parents were of the same genotype AS, and as a result, most of the children born were sickle cell anemic, most of them dying before their third birthday, due to ignorance and lack of proper care.
The villagers had brought up the solution to make the “Ogbanje” stay, but Olanma’s father had become a Christian after his mother died, and he had learnt that God alone has all the answers to life questions. After making inquiries and asking questions, he and his wife had gone for the blood test, and as expected, they both had the AS genotype.
When Olanma’s mother conceived again, her parents had prayed like never before, and Olanma had been born a healthy baby with AA as her genotype. Although she was the only child, as her parents had refused to take the risk of having another child, she was far from spoilt. Her parents firmly believed the part of the scripture which says, “he that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
But she knew she was loved, and it hurt her that they worried about her. She wished she had a sister they could marry off and get the grandchildren they wanted.
The result of the recent JAMB showed that she had failed again and that had been a bad news. Her parents struggled to buy the form each year, and she was also getting ashamed of asking for JAMB form every year. With tears in her eyes, she looked up, and prayed again ‘Dear Lord please help me, please.’ She didn’t want to travel the road of “what if” which her mind presented.
She made herself comfortable, resting her back on the tree trunk. She slept off while waiting for her suitors to go back where they came from.
Chidi looked at his ringing phone, and on seeing his father’s number, decided not to pick the call. He’d rather call him back later when he got home. He knew the reason he was calling, it was for the same reason he always called, about him getting a wife.
Chidi could hear his father’s voice ‘Chidiebere, your mother and I are not getting younger. Bring a girl home, no matter who you choose we will love her.’
His mother’s voice, ‘Chimdiebere, your sisters are all married, and you have everything necessary to start a family. What’s stopping you from getting married? I didn’t bring you to be an irresponsible man. You are the only son of your father, make us happy and bring a wife home.’
Chidi stood up, and paced around his office, stopping at the window, he looked outside, not seeing anything. He only saw his father and mother in the last meeting they had invited him to with the rest of his family members, asking him why he has refused to get married. Chidi could remember the embarrassment he had felt. Since then, he always found an excuse not to go home during the festive period, when everyone in the family comes back home. He made his trips to the village during the year, and sent back money during the festive periods. He didn’t need anyone to pressure him into doing something he didn’t want to do.
‘They think it’s easy to find a wife. They wouldn’t understand what I go through.’ Chidi was an epitome of the proverbial “tall, dark and handsome” man. He was the fifth child of his parents and the only male child. He was also a driven man, and had achieved great heights, but he has not found a lady God confirmed. There were ladies all around him, in his office, at the church, back in the village, everywhere! But he has learnt, the hard way, to follow God’s leading. That was the main reason for his achievement, and when it comes to something as important as marriage, he wasn’t going to settle for less than God’s choice for him.
There were lonely nights and tough days, but he’d rather wait, just as he was waiting for his father to get tired of calling him so he could call his driver to come pick him up, he had a meeting in the next hour.
‘Stupid man, give me my back my money!’ Uchenna shouted at the bus conductor who ignored him, and kept looking for a way to repair his spoilt bus.
‘You knew this bus was bad and yet you took it for work instead of repairing it, please give me back my money’ said another passenger who was also standing to collect back her fare.
Uchenna was tired and hungry and he was getting angrier by the minute. He hated people ignoring him, and considering the fact that he was in a very bad mood, it was making everything worse ‘I said give me back my money! Are you crazy?’ he dragged the conductor, holding up his shirt and shaking him ‘give me my money’
‘Oga leave my shirt, or I go scatter your face for you o’
Uchenna, ignored the fear that went up his spine at the thought of being beaten ‘Not until you give us our money’
Without a warning, the conductor swiftly gave Uchenna two hard blows on his face, making him stagger backwards, dropping his bag containing his credentials. He knew he was going to pass out and he welcomed the darkness.
He woke up to a serious headache and people gathered around him. He put up his hand to stop the water being sprinkled on his face. As he came to, he managed to sit up, thanking God his bag was still by his side unopened and apparently intact. Not far from him was the conductor on the floor being beaten by some angry people. He shouted at them urging them to stop. When they finally listened to him, he saw that the conductor had a swollen lip ‘maybe that will make him to think hard about hitting someone next time.’ he thought.
He took his bag and struggled to sit up. Ignoring the questions about whether he was strong enough, he slowly walked home. He had no money on him to take another bus, and he didn’t think he had the strength to ask the conductor for his money again.
As he walked home, he thought about his life. It was two years since he was sacked from his job. He was sure he won’t be able to recognize himself if he compared his look of two years ago, to his present look. He didn’t have to, as he could see the change in his wife. His wife was a gift to him, and it hurt him that he had not listened to her advice when things had been rosy. She had begged him to start a business for her since he asked her to resign from her job. He had refused, saying he didn’t see the need for her to work. She finally gave up when it started causing quarrels between them. He should have listened. His pride and obnoxious attitude, had made him without friends, and so when the devil had struck, he had been alone, but for his wife.
He had made a bad call in employing a thief for a driver, not following the due course, and the driver had disappeared with a huge sum of money. Though his innocence had been proven, someone had to pay for the loss, and all his assets had been taken. When they had completed the sum, only his uncompleted building was left, which Uchenna saw as a liability as he could not finish the building.
Life had taken on a different meaning after that. His wife’s parents had rented an apartment for them, and started giving her a monthly allowance. He was ashamed to the depth of his being, but he knew he couldn’t reject it or his family will suffer.
His wife had stubbornly stuck to having just three children, and that had been a good decision as he saw the look in their eyes each day, a look of dejection, and he wondered what would have been if they had had five children as he had wanted.
He got home and stiffly walked to his flat. He knocked and while waiting for the door to be opened, talked to himself ‘I wish I knew how to pray.’
‘I hope the letter you are bringing to me is the positive result of a pregnancy test you did, and not another promotion letter.’ Her husband’s ability to guess accurately was one of the reasons Ngozi had agreed to marry him, but seeing it in the negative light, she cringed, though she quickly hid it with a smile. She didn’t feel like quarrelling today, she had had a long day at the office.
‘It’s a good thing that I got promoted, is it not?’ Ngozi sat by her husband of ten years, though she increasingly felt like a stranger in his presence in the past five years.
‘What do you do with all the money, apart from giving huge contributions at church and acting the Santa Claus to anyone and everyone who asks for your help? We should be spending them on our children, the children you refused to give me.’
Ngozi felt like she was slapped ‘How could you say that?! Am I God that gives children?’ she angrily wiped the tears from her eyes.
‘Go and meet your God to give you the children you believe He can give you. I want children so I can stand up like a man in the community, that’s what I want!’ He stood up and walked into the room.
Ngozi lost it, ‘Stanley! How dare you say that to me? Stanley!’ she crumbled on the floor crying, her tears soaking up her letter of promotion.
By Joy Nwankwo
The story continues…
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