It is the second day in my new school in Ede, Osun state. Osun is really different from Lagos. I am in Primary Four now and Mummy Ede calls me a big girl. I want to tell her I am still a small child, I am only eight. I like the school. It is not as big but it is more beautiful than Agege Primary where I attended before I came here. I like my new teacher too. Mrs Kolawole is beautiful and smiles a lot and she doesn’t shout at us or leave the class to gossip with other teachers.
She didn’t give us any take home assignment yesterday but she gave us Math and English language assignments today. I am done with the Math assignment but I don’t know what to write in my English note. She asked us to write about our last holiday.
My cousins, mummy Ede’s children; Temi and Ire are done with their assignments and are watching the new episode of Penguins of Madagascar. I keep hearing Ire’s laughter; today’s episode must be really funny. I want to watch the TV too but I have to finish this. Maybe I should ask them for help, they may know what I should write.
We always write about our holidays at the start of each term and I am used to it. English language is my best subject but I like verbal reasoning and literature too. I like writing essays and I would have written this easily but my last holiday was different.
I chew the bottom of my pen and think of what to write about how I spent my last holiday.
I cannot write about how mummy called Doyin and I one evening when we got back from playing with the other children in the compound. She told us we would hawk cold drinks and water in Iyana Ipaja garage where she sells drinks, boiled rice, and stew. We usually go with her during the weekends but only help in her small shed beside the first gate of the garage.
I didn’t want to hawk. I thought of other children especially my classmates seeing me. One of my classmates, Nike, helps her mother hawk boiled corn when corn is in season. The boys in my class call her ‘Nike- alagbado’. I wondered what name they would give me and I grumbled.
Mummy slapped me. “Why can’t you be like your sister for once?” She said and I started to cry.
Mummy is always comparing me to her. Doyin this, Doyin that. Can’t you do this like Doyin? Doyin will never do that. Doyin will never complain. It hurts me more than her slaps do.
Doyin is the perfect one and everyone likes her. She was the best student in all the six arms of class one in Agege Junior Secondary School at the end of last year. She is also beautiful and men always stare at her when we walk home from school or when we go to mummy’s shed in the garage. She is only ten but her breasts are bigger than my former teacher’s breast and Tinuke said Aunty Ada is thirty one.
I wish mummy would stop comparing me to her. I may not be as good as she is but I try my best too. Last year I was the third in my class and we were forty seven in the class.
I don’t hate Doyin though. She is a very good sister and always shares whatever the drivers and touts in the garage give her with me. They always buy her biscuits, sweets and fried meat. Mummy doesn’t talk when she collects these things. “My daughter is more than hundred naira suya,” she would laugh and say sometimes.
Daddy does not compare me to Doyin. I like him but he is rarely at home. He works in a factory in Ikeja where they make glue. Whenever he comes home he always smells funny and I don’t play with him till he bathes.
I cannot write about how daddy came late as usual from the factory that night. He and mummy had fought when he heard that we would join her in the garage. His eyes were red and he started to stammer. Daddy always stammers when he is angry or sad.
“Anything could happen to those girls. They may be raped or kidnapped.’ Daddy shouted. And I remember shivering from the fear of being kidnapped.
Mummy would have none of it. “Are those who hawk in the garage not people’s children? You make it sound like I want to throw my own children in harm’s way.”
Mummy shouted at him. “How will we feed when you keep squandering your money on whores? You can talk now abi? As if I don’t pay their school fees and feed this family. You are not a man. Who will feed us? Answer me.” Daddy did not answer. He left the house and didn’t come back that night.
Later, I took out our pocket Oxford dictionary and checked the meaning of whore. Mummy should have just said ashewo.
Doyin said that I should not be scared of hawking and I should be glad our condition wasn’t worse. She said some children are given out by their parents to have sex with men for money. She said in the North too, girls are married to elderly men when they are as young as thirteen. I opened my mouth in surprise, “iro ni o.”
“It is true,” she replied and told me that some of our lawmakers even marry such girls. I stared in awe and revulsion. Awe at my sister who knew-it-all and revulsion for the men who slept with thirteen year old girls.
No, I won’t write about it, I don’t want anyone to laugh at me. Mrs Kolawole may read it and tell the other teachers.
I usually write about the places we spend our holidays and what we did. The Christmas before last year we spent it with mummy Ketu. All four of her children are in the university and only uncle Jide came home. We went to Mr Biggs in the evening and I ate beef burger then Doyin and I shared a big bowl of ice cream. I had hoped that we would spend last Christmas with her. I really like going to her house.
Should I write that Doyin had said she would paint the skies and the water we see beneath third mainland bridge when we follow mummy to buy clothes in Balogun market before Christmas? Lots and lots of water, she always stares at it but I don’t like the water because it smells. Some men fish in it and there are houses on it. How do people live on water? She wants to use the colouring set she got as a gift from her fine art teacher.
Doyin can paint well, I can’t think of something she cannot do. She wants to be a Lawyer but I think they talk too much. Me, I want to be a dentist and help children who have pain in their teeth. I want to teach them how to brush and keep their mouth clean.
I won’t write about how we started hawking. I don’t want Mrs Kolawole to know that I used to hawk in Lagos before coming here. We would fill small bowls with cold bottles of water, La Casera, Fanta, and Coke and walk around the garage. Sometimes we would sell quickly and rush back to mummy to take more bottles. We were many people hawking in the garage, young and old so we had to be very sharp. Doyin always made sure we had change and if we didn’t have we would run to the drivers and traders to help us make change.
In the evenings when the stalls are closing and there are few people to sell to and mummy was not done, Doyin and I would walk around the garage. Christmas was almost two weeks away but it felt so close. Christmas is my favourite holiday. Most shops had coloured lights and trees decorating them. We would walk out of the garage and cross to the other side. If we had money, we would buy popcorn from the boy beside Ecobank. Iyana Ipaja is always crowded in the evenings and people are always pushing each other so we had to hold hands as we moved through the unending sea of people rushing to get back to their houses.
I miss Iyana Ipaja. I miss the smell, the sight, and the people.
One evening one of the bus conductors bought a bottle of Pepsi from me but we didn’t have nine hundred naira change for the one thousand naira note he gave us. Doyin went to meet mummy but she didn’t have change, I asked the traders around but they didn’t have change too. Mummy Emeka could only give us two five hundred naira notes. The conductor got angry and we begged him so he would not leave to buy from someone else. He asked us to return the one thousand naira and asked Doyin to follow him to get one hundred naira from his friend.
I waited for several minutes but Doyin didn’t return. So I went to look for her. Didn’t she know we had others to sell to? I walked round but didn’t see her, it was already dark and some stalls were closed. I was pressed so I decided to ease myself behind a dark staircase so no one would see me and curse me. I dropped my bowl and was about to bend when I noticed people there. I picked my bowl and started to turn back when I heard a muffled sound. I went closer and screamed like I had never screamed in my life.
I cannot write what I saw in my note book. Doyin was between two men. The bus conductor had his hand on her mouth. The other one had his trousers down. I screamed. The men ran but people ran towards us and caught the one with his trousers down.
Doyin fell to the ground and when I fell on her I touched something warm and sticky, she was bleeding. Men held the man down while women carried Doyin. I held her hand and wouldn’t let go.
I don’t know what happened but mummy and I were suddenly in a speeding bus. Doyin slept on a chair, her head on mummy’s lap and her legs on mine. Mummy held Doyin’s hand and started praying. There was blood everywhere and whenever the driver hit a pot hole Doyin moaned softly. Mummy untied her gele and put her hands on her head.
She prayed and prayed, then she cursed her enemies and my father’s enemies. She prayed some more then cursed my father and his whores.
Doyin asked for water. I told her there was no water and we would soon get her some. I would have gladly offered her my tears.
When we got to the Teaching Hospital there was a small crowd but some nurses rushed to meet us. People gathered round us, trying to get a good view and some took photographs with their phones.
“Are you her stepmother?”
I saw Doyin in the light and I heard an animal wail. Her green grown was soaked in blood from the waist down. The nurses held me while they rushed her into a room. They asked mummy for money but she didn’t have any. Some of the people from the market who had followed in another bus started emptying their pockets, mummy ran out and I followed her.
She ran into the crowd of people walking in front of the hospital gate and knelt down, begging them to save her daughter as I held onto her wrapper and cried. Some people dropped money and told her all would be well while others walked past hurriedly.
No, I cannot write all of that.
I will write that we spent the holiday with mummy Ketu. She is my mummy’s eldest sister. Mummy Ede is the second, and mummy is the third child. I will write that she made wonderful Jollof rice for us on Christmas day and Doyin and I wore new clothes.
I will write that we went to Bar beach, it was very beautiful but crowded. Doyin took her colouring set with her and she painted the water. People stopped by to praise her painting as I grinned proudly beside her. It was a beautiful shade of grey. The water went on and on and it did not smell like the one that flows under the bridge when we go to Balogun market. I will write about how Doyin and I chased the waves then chased each other and bought kilichi with the money we had saved.
We laughed so much that my belly ached for a long time.
I will not write that Doyin died that night she was raped in the garage. The nurses told mummy that she lost a lot of blood. Daddy was there too, his eyes were very red and he stammered more than I had ever heard him do.
I heard the nurses saying that the man that was caught was made to name his accomplice then the drivers had poured petrol on him and burnt him to death. The bus conductor was caught too and was almost burnt but for the intervention of the police.
When mummy heard that Doyin was dead, she ran out into the street again. I did not chase her this time. I sat at the entrance of the surgical emergency unit and watched as the nurses started attending to other people. The people from the garage formed a group and were talking to daddy in low voices.
‘How could they do that when I was hurting,’ I wondered. How could the world just go on and leave me there?
Three women from the garage brought mummy back into the hospital.
The nurses admitted her too.
Daddy said she is in the mental ward but will soon be fine.
My notebook is wet with my tears. I have been crying a lot these days. I see mummy Ede crying at times too.
I tear the wet pages out quickly and hide them in my school bag because I don’t want mummy Ede to see it.
Her children are careful with their own books and she may compare me to them.
I hope mummy gets well quickly.
I miss her very much.
I miss daddy too.
I miss Doyin the most.
Image: Pixabay.com remixed