Once Upon a Life – Part 2thumbsup
Then like a flood of waters, tears started streaming down their mother’s eyes. This broke her children’s hearts and they started to cry with her. “Mummy, speak to us, we love you.” With a shaky voice she said “Daddy isn’t coming home ever again.” Immediately she said this, she bursted out wailing. Before her children could ask why, she ran into her room and locked the door. Her wailing voice was still audible on the other side of the door.
An hour later, Mrs. Oti came out of her room, looking more composed. Without uttering a word, she went into the kitchen to prepare dinner for her children. One after the other, they gathered around. She looked like a mother hen with her chicks surrounding her. They wanted to know what happened to her and why ‘Daddy’ wasn’t coming back home.
She stopped cooking and asked them to all go to the living room. They sat on the dining table and their mother said “Mr. Oti has a family in the United states and he has gone back to them”. The children couldn’t understand. “What do you mean, mum?” asked Felix, her first son and child. “If he had a family, then why did you marry him?” She sighed and continued, “I never knew he did, my son.” Shaking her head, she started to cry and asked the children to give her some time, she told them not to worry, that they would be alright. She went back into the kitchen and continued cooking.
Early the following day, their mother woke up around 4 am, prepared the children’s breakfast and got them all ready for school by 6am. This was very unusual, since school; which was about 20 minutes away, was to start by 730am. The children all attended the same community school, it had kindergarten, primary and secondary school sections.
“Felix, you’re the eldest.” She said. “I have asked your teacher, Mrs. Bolu to come by the house on her way to school and walk you all there. She will be here by 6.45 am, make sure you lock up and keep the key safe. I will come for you all after school, okay?” “Yes mummy. But where are you going?” “I need to go to the Monday market and start some trading with a friend; we need to get by somehow my children. And we will, okay?” “Okay mummy”. They all chorused. “I love you all and I will do my best to give you the best. I do not want any of you crying for mummy; we must be strong and find a way to forgive daddy for what he has done.” “I will NEVER forgive him” retorted Felicia. “I know you are disappointed, my daughter, but we will be fine. Now eat your breakfast, I will see you all after school. Bye!” She said, waved and shut the door behind her.
That was the beginning of the hard times in Felicia’s family. Her mother struggled to put them through school. Sometimes they would drink gari and groundnuts as their meal or go to bed hungry, but they got by one day at a time. When her eldest brother completed his secondary school two years later, he had to work for a full year to assist his mother with the bills. He worked as a barber in a local barber shop. His employer became so fond of him that he requested for him to stay and work with him beyond a year. It was tempting, but Felix’s mum insisted that he return to school, since he passed all his exams with flying colours.
Their mother’s trade had picked up quite well the year Felix started his university, that their mother was able to transfer him to the United states to continue schooling. Life became better for their family financially, yet there was a huge vacuum that felt like the elephant in the room they could never talk about, and that was the absence of a father figure.
Felicia had gotten used to not having a male figure in her life that she treated men like they really didn’t exist or weren’t necessary. Seeing how her mother was treated by the menfolk, she behaved as if they were like an unnecessary burden to women. Her friend Aisha, made her feel comfortable in her resolve, so they became very close like two peas in a pod.
During their usual rendezvous, the ladies frequently chatted about other “horrible” men stories they’d heard from different sources and this only fueled their disdain for them.
One evening while studying at the lecture theatre, Felicia asked, “Aisha, wanna go for a swim at Fraz on Saturday?” The ladies were getting to know about each other’s preferences and hadn’t planned a real social outing together at this time. Felicia was unaware of Aisha’s moral and religious stance about bikinis and swimsuits. As if startled by a ghost, Aisha looked intently at Felicia and said “No way! You don’t expect me to go swimming in a public place, with all my PRECIOUS body parts exposed to those men, do you? Besides, it is unislamic, sorry babes, not for me”, she replied as she continued copying her note. “Oops, I guess I touched a nerve there”, responded Felicia looking away sarcastically. “That’s not funny” retorted Aisha. “I wasn’t laughing” sang Felicia in her usual musical banta tone. Both ladies looked at each other impulsively and started giggling.
“You two seem to be having fun” said an obviously masculine voice, that had come out of nowhere. Like a moving train that was stopped dead in its tracks, the ladies stopped giggling abruptly and looked towards the direction the voice had come from. “And three is a crowd” snapped Aisha who recognised him. It was Bayo, a year 3 student in her Chemical Engineering department who had (in her words to Felicia) ‘been on her case’. “Come on Aisha, you do not have to be so hostile, I was only trying to be friendly”, said Bayo. “Well, we are fine, as you said, we were having fun. Please leave us be” retorted Aisha. “Well, three might be a crowd to you two, but I say the more, the merrier” said Bayo with a sarcastic smile. “Why are you so annoying?” asked Felicia. “Can’t you see and hear that you are not welcome?” she added.
Bayo ignored Felicia and dropped two cards on the desk where the ladies were seated. “Listen, I am part of a social group on campus and there’s a life coach who has been invited to speak on some interesting topics this saturday. I thought you ladies might want to come. Here are the invitation cards.” Feeling a little guilty and thinking she had been mean to Bayo, Aisha said a weak, barely-audible “Thank you.” as Bayo started to walk away. “More like No thank you, because we will not be there!” Felicia shouted and she hissed.
“That was dramatic and unnecessary” said Aisha. “Please, please, please don’t tell me that” Felicia snapped. “He’s just another man trying to subtly gain his way into the heart of the same woman he would eventually treat like trash” she added angrily. “Well, you might have a point there, this might be a bait for us to fall for his intrigues” said Aisha. Well, since we were thinking of what to do this weekend, we might as well go for this life coaching thing, I’m kind of interested in life coaching. I’ve read some articles about having a life coach.” “BUT”, Aisha said emphatically; “we will completely avoid him. What do you think?” She asked. “Why do I have a feeling that you like this guy, babe? We should be shredding the invitation cards as we speak.” snapped Felicia. “We shouldn’t fight over this, babe please, in fact, you know what? I think we better leave this place before we have any other drama. I’ve had enough for one day, besides, we haven’t been able to study properly.” “You’re right” agreed Felicia. The ladies cleared their desks and headed back to the hostel.
Felicia was invited to attend Titi’s birthday party on Friday that week; both girls were in the Economics department and were somewhat acquaintances. Aisha; her friend and roommate, wasn’t invited, so she declined attending even though Felicia tried convincing her otherwise. “It doesn’t matter babe, you’re my friend, I will explain to her. I promise, they won’t bounce you.” said Felicia. “For the nth time babes, I am NOT going. I hate to be embarrassed, I wish I could go keep you company, but I don’t know the celebrant, what’s more? I wasn’t invited, it’s an all-night party, I am so sorry Felicia, but this time it has to be a No”, said Aisha. “Fine then, I bet you will regret it because I am sure, it will be lots of fun.” said Felicia in an attempt to further persuade Aisha. After a brief and awkward silence, Aisha teased “You will get a boyfriend tonight”. “No way!! I do not intend to; and no one is going to make me. I am just going to have a good time and that’s it!” Felicia remarked matter-of-factly. “Good luck with that, all I know is I am not going” Aisha said. “Alright then, I don’t want to say, ‘I told you so’. But you leave me no choice. See you later babes; don’t wait up, I will be having fun, lots of it.” Felicia remarked giggling away. “Whatever” murmured Aisha, the two girls smiled and waved each other goodbye.
“R-I-N-GGGGGG!” Aisha was startled by her alarm clock, which she forgot to turn off the day before. It was 5 a.m. Last thing she remembered was she studying maths on her bed. The room had been very quiet, Felicia had gone for a party and wasn’t back.
“Well she asked me not to wait up” Aisha thought to herself as she started clearing her books and was about getting ready for her 5 a.m prayers. She heard a thud, looked down and saw the two invites to the Life coaching event Bayo had given her on Wednesday. She had tucked them in her Engineering maths text book. “Oh this” she thought sarcastically. “Hmm I might as well, since I am not that busy, but come to think of it, who schedules an event for 8 am on a Saturday? Obviously has to be a life coach, those people can be so serious” she thought to herself, rolling her eyes.
“I will take a shower and head out, I really feel like this life coaching thing might be interesting. I remember mum going on and on about it sometime ago. I’ll try it, so mum and I can talk from the same understanding.” Aisha thought.
“Now, why isn’t that mischievous girl not back and why isn’t she picking her phone? Ah well, it’s just 6.30 am. I hope she gets back before I leave. The venue of the program is about 30 minutes away and I didn’t tell her I was going.” Aisha was getting worried and although Felicia had to her not to wait up, she thought the party was taking too long to end. She decided to dial Felicia’s number again.
“Great, now her phone is switched off. Yarinyan nan, ba ta jin magana (Translated: ‘This girl doesn’t listen). Maybe her battery went flat. Guess I’m just worrying for nothing, I’ll just send her a text, I am sure she will respond when she charges her phone.
By 7 a.m, Aisha was ready to go for the life coaching event. She tried Felicia’s number again, but her effort was futile; her phone was still switched off. “I’ll just send her a text and see her when I get back; she’s not interested in attending this event anyway.” She picked her bag and notebook and off she went for the life coaching event.
She arrived the venue at 7.45 am, thanks to a bit of traffic. The hall was only half way full, so she decided to avoid you-know-who, so she strategically took a seat at the back corner of the hall. “Hey, you came” said Bayo, excitingly. It was the annoying and familiar voice she’s recognised as one who constantly barges into her space, uninvited. “Well, I didn’t have anything to do this morning so… I don’t mean to be rude or anything but can you kindly leave me alone, Bayo? I would really appreciate some space right now.” Aisha said. “Alright then, I’ll let you be, only if…”
“Hey, Bayo whatsaaaaap??” interrupted Desola; a 200 level mechanical engineering student, who thought Bayo was cute. “Hi Desola” Bayo responded reluctantly. “So ‘this’ is the reason you didn’t even have the courtesy to invite me to your coaching event? Desola remarked rudely, as she sarcastically gestured at Aisha. “Anyway, she’s kinda pretty but not as pretty as I am.” Desola added matter-of-factly, as she started to stroke Bayo’s chest. “Enough, Desola. Aisha has nothing to do with this.” Bayo rebuked and pushed Desola’s hands off his chest. “Ah, se omo hauwusa l’ofe fe ni isin, Bayo? Anu e ‘n se mi” (Translated: So is it now a hausa girl you want to marry, Bayo? I feel sorry for you) “Desola continued “So Aisha, is my rival? We will see about that.”
Everything happened in such a quick succession, that Aisha could barely respond. Her ringtone came as a welcome interruption to the ensuing drama. “Hello? Yes, this is she. What?? Felicia?? Accident? Where? Which hospital? Aisha dashed towards the door and ran out of sight.