‘Boma, please hurry up!’ mama called out from the sitting room, ‘time is money.’
‘Okay, Mummy. I’ll try …’ she replied in a sonorous voice.
How long would it take her to get ready? I pondered, as I tacked the loose hem of our TV cover. The marathon laundry the previous night was already taking its toll on my palms. I wished I had come up with a different excuse.
‘I’m ready!’ Boma announced, few minutes later, as she sauntered into the sitting room.
‘Wow!’ I couldn’t contain my astonishment at the transformation of our erstwhile, awkward august visitor! She styled her dark, kinky braids in the semblance of a satellite dish, which accentuated her oval face. In one word, Boma simply looked divine!
‘Young lady, are we going to the market to sell, or to a beauty contest?’ mama’s jaw dropped in amazement.
‘Ah mummy,’ she laughed, ‘looking good is part of it; if I’m not going with you, I wouldn’t have given you my word.’
The door creaked open and papa limped in, with a roll of tissue paper.
‘I will never be poor in my next world,’ he lamented as he lowered himself gently on a seat
‘What’s the matter daddy?’ Boma moved closer to him.
‘I’m fed up with this long queue to use the toilet…’ he continued.
‘Boma, please let’s be on our way,’ mama sighed as she pulled the young lady closer, ‘I’ve heard that slogan a million times in this house…’
The moment mama and Boma left, I just knew that the weekend was going to be boring. The mere thought that I would spend a greater part of the weekend with papa, eclipsed my world; and to crown it all, my siblings had both left the house an hour earlier for their school’s inter-house sports.
As he sorted his files in preparation for work the following week, a thought, craving for expression, crept into my mind.
‘Papa, I really want to go to the university…’ I began, as I scratched my head, fully aware what his response would be.
‘University?’ he laughed scornfully, ‘I’ve vowed never to waste any kobo on the university education of any girl child. The shameful act of Juliana is still very fresh in my mind.
‘But papa, I’m not auntie Juliana…’ I almost burst out into tears.
‘It runs in the family…have you also forgotten that Ikenga, my elder brother also experienced a similar fate with his daughters? After sending them to the university just like any responsible father would do, those good-for-nothing girls returned home with bastards!’
The vulgar remarks hit me, shattering the bottles of resentment I had for him. The tears stalled, but my heart bled.
‘So, what plans do you have for me?’ my voice fell like a tree blown by the wind.
‘My plans for you ended in the secondary school education I gave you. Any other life you choose to live afterwards is in your hands!’
‘It’s in your hands!’ he repeated, humming a musical tune: If you marry taxi driver…I don’t care…’
An hour later he staggered out of the house without mentioning his whereabouts.
‘This year’s inter-house sport was the greatest!’ Kelechi reeled in excitement as she flung her stockings on the floor.
The girls had just returned from their school’s inter-house sports competition.
‘Chief Alamu House finally made it to the first three this year…’ Kelechi continued, as she eyed her younger sibling.
‘The sports master was partial…’ Chioma grumbled.
‘Why not accept defeat for once, baby girl,’ Kelechi pushed her kid sister aside.
‘I say no!’ the adamant girl shouted, ‘that man was partial…’
The youngsters prattled on end like a water tap without control.
‘It’s enough!’ I echoed, ‘I already had enough headache before you two arrived; please, spare me the rest of the details.’
‘Sis, it’s not like that…I hate cheating in my life…’
‘Who then likes cheating?’ I interjected, gazing at her in pity, ‘life itself is not fair… university education isn’t for boys alone…’
‘Sis, how does that relate to what I was talking about?’ Chioma frowned.
‘Oh, don’t mind me; that was a slip of tongue. Just go and help yourself with your lunch. I need some time to reorganize my life.’
‘Don’t tell me that you’re still allowing this university stuff to bother you?’ Kelechi held my hands, ‘as for me, all I desire after my secondary school education is to get married, and have someone take care of all my needs…’
‘Will you stop talking nonsense?’ I almost knocked her down from where she was seated.
‘Kelechi, marriage without a defined purpose is like driving a car without a sound engine. You had better wake up from your slumber. Do you want to end up like mama?’
I strode out of the sitting room angrily, into the bedroom. The thudding on my head had increased to the extent that I feared my skull might crack anytime soon. Kelechi’s utter confession that afternoon had completely thrown me off-balance. However, amidst my disjointed mind frame, my heart suddenly leaped for joy the moment I remembered the encounter I had with chief Ikwue, a couple of days ago.
‘I’ve got it!’ I screamed, jumping down from the bed, and dancing like a new bride, I hurriedly fetched an old wallet and pulled a complimentary card from it.
My siblings ran in immediately at the sound of my voice.
‘What’s the matter?’
‘Can you recall the day I told you Julie brought one elderly man to our shop?’
‘Yes. you told us that the man was Julie’s lover right?’
‘You’re right. Well, I only told you a part of the story; the other part was that, he left his complimentary card with me…’
The girls both exchanged glances.
‘It’s not what you think…he told me to keep in touch, that he could be of help…I mean sponsor my education…’
‘Just like that?’ Chioma’s eyes bulged.
‘Yes…but what are you insinuating?’
‘Nothing, Sis, just wondering, she turned to Kelechi, ‘what do you think?’
‘Me? I don’t know…’
‘I don’t care what you girls think,’ I stood my ground, ‘It’s my life, and my destiny it’s in my hands…’
‘What if the man turns out to be a kidnapper?’ Chioma’s concern jolted me, although the youngest, yet with much discretion.
‘I’ve decided to take the bull by the horn,’ I continued, ‘better to end in the hands of a kidnapper than to endure papa’s daily torture…’
‘You’ve not seen anything yet,’ a familiar voice echoed through the window.
‘Ah! That’s papa,’ I trembled, ‘he’s back!’