Oyibo pepper, if you see my pepper, you go yellow more more…
“Where is my child?” I heard my mother ask softly. The stench of blood was thick in the inner room, even as the midwife and her assistants had scrubbed every inch of it. They washed the linens and basins, and yet, it smelled like an abattoir. The midwife was gone with her pitiful stare and prayers. I trudged slowly towards my mother’s voice. My dress clung to skin and my face felt weirdly strung. I knew it was blood crusted on my skin. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat and followed her voice.
“Where is my child?” She asked again, her voice rising by a few decibels. He wouldn’t say anything. I refused to take a bath when the women had suggested; she had to know. The tension in the room was heavy and i felt its weight sitting on my shoulders, like a burden. I parted the curtain slowly and watched them, biting my lower lip and not blinking. She looked so frail now without the big swell of her belly where my sister had been. He wouldn’t even look at her, and she didn’t look at me. My brows drew down and i watched my father with narrowed eyes.
“I- I’m sorry.” He choked out, clearing his throat and looking away quickly. But i saw his eyes, shimmering with unshed tears. “Liar”, i muttered under my breath. I was seven years old, not stupid. The bloody liar. He wasn’t sorry. My mother must’ve seen it, too, because her eyes went as wide as saucers and she clutched the loose-fitting gown that swallowed her petite figure. Her eyes darted to the empty cradle and back to my father.
“Wetin you do my pikin? What the fuck did you do?!” She wailed, pulling her hair and sobbing. I winced at the rawness of her voice—she never spoke pidgin to my father and she never cursed. I wanted to run to her and rub her feet, but i remembered that my hands were dirty, so i stayed put. It was so quiet; the only sounds i heard were her sniffles and whimpers, and the sound of rain pattering on our roof. My frown deepened as i studied her frame. Hollowed and pale. Her cornrows were rough and needed a redo. Her slender hands covered her face and she cried into them.
“Stop crying. I’m sorry, please.” He sounded so distant, hunched and trying to hide his quivering lips. “I swear, i-”
“Daddy, tell her nau.” I cut in, my tiny voice laced with anger of its own. “Tell her what you did this afternoon nau, tell mummy.” He shot me a glare, but still he wasn’t saying anything.
“Mummy, the baby was very yellow.” I continued. “Her eyes were very fine. They said the baby is… er, abi- albino! Some men now came and took her. Daddy collected money, so now he can buy me a new bike.”
“No.” Was her hoarse response. She shook her head as she said it over and again. I watched him fall to his knees. My mother let him shake her and plead and cry, and she said nothing.
In the morning, she was gone.
Photo by santiago gomez on Unsplash (modified)