For the first part of the series see HERE
She was pounding palm nuts to make Palm oil for her mother to sell at the Eke market, her rhythm was regular but her mind was not on the luscious red nuts or the viscous red liquid that was forming in the mortar. It had been six months since she’d gotten a letter from the head master with an Ibadan postmark.
Wondering if he was alive was her new pastime and her subconscious dutifully supplied her dreams in which Maduforo was either sold into slavery or was lying buried in a foreign land. Her mother had questioned her about her moodiness and not even the news that she’d had the best result in the whole Eastern Region in the Cambridge exams could lift the veil of sadness that choked her heart and made her eyes fill with tears.
“Chinwe” her mother’s voice blasted through the web of her thoughts.
“Mma are you calling me?”
“I am calling myself and my ancestors, leave that thing you are pounding and come and collect your letter”.
After wiping her shaking hands with the old wrapper that her mother used for that purpose, she managed to walk almost normally to meet her mother. Her steps did not falter when she saw the Head master sitting on the raffia chair reserved for visitors.
“Matilda please excuse us, I have something important to discuss with your daughter as regards the letters I brought her.”
“Nwigwe it is because you are Head master that I will agree to your request, do not forget that I know the day you were born, I even carried you as a baby.” Matilda replied.
“Agu nwanyi the woman whose voice rivals the roar of lions and not the voice of men, if it were not important that we discuss this alone, I would not ask you to leave.” He coaxed her with honeyed tones.
“I will leave but before I leave, tell this girl that she and her father should forget that dream of her becoming a nurse or anything. She will be a Reverend Sister as I discussed with God at her birth.”
“But she can be a Reverend Sister and a nurse or even a teacher, they even prefer to take girls who have good education.”
“This one looks like she will marry a man if I allow her to continue her schooling, but since you have said she can be both then let it be as you have said.”
When she left, he brought out two envelopes and handed them to the young woman. Maduforo had written a letter to him and told him to give her the letter by himself. He felt sad that he was the one who would watch her read this letter but he hoped that the contents of the second envelope would blunt the inevitable pain.
“This is Maduforo’s writing! He’s alive! Otuto diri Jesu”
“Na ndu ebe be” he replied instinctively before wincing.
The contents of the letter were nothing to give glory to Jesus for and he felt foolish for echoing that the glory of Jesus was everlasting. This was not a mass or even close to one.
When she tore the paper to many pieces, he exhaled and tried to find words of comfort for her. All the words he’d practiced on his way from the school evaporated from his head, they were grossly inadequate in the face of the rage and grief mirrored on her face.
“He left me” she said
“Left me for a girl called Folake who was his assigned nurse in his clinical studies, what does Folake even mean?” she babbled hysterically.
“It was not God’s will, your spirits did not merge.”
“Is it God’s will for me to suffer like this? For my dreams and hopes to crash and burn? For my mother to mock me? Is that the God who is good and kind?”
“It is not for us to ask God questions, we hope for a brighter day. Oga di mma“ He finally found his voice.
The second envelope was abandoned until her father came home, he examined it and asked his youngest son Chibu’tutu to open the envelope and read the contents to him. The boy had a hot brain like his sister, all his children had hot brains but this one and Chinwe had the hottest brains the town had ever seen.
“Papa it is a letter from the Premier of the Eastern Region”.
“Zik wrote me a letter, Zik! My ancestors be praised.”
“He said that Chinwe’s result was so good that they have given her a scholarship to study Medicine in Great Britain”.
“Nwam what is scholarship?”
“It means that it is government that will pay her school fees.”
He didn’t wait to hear more, he ran to his Obi and got his metal gong and played the rhythm of a popular highlife tune and called out to his family.
“Matilda! Chinwe! Everybody come out and hear the good news.”
“Master why are you shouting like you killed a leopard?” Matilda asked as she walked into the obi to meet her husband hugging their daughter.
“My daughter Chinwe is going to become a doctor in Britain, not a Nigerian doctor, England trained doctor. Zik wrote me to tell her to come to Enugu within three days”
“Is doctor higher than Reverend Sister?” she asked, ignoring the reference to the great Zik because he hadn’t written to her too.
“Yes Mama, she will have plenty money and will buy a big car. She will also be the first doctor from Mbaise.”
“Ngwa go and start packing your clothes and your books”
“Let us celebrate first” her father cut in.
“Let her pack while we celebrate here after all the letter says she should arrive Enugu in three days, she has a long journey ahead of her.” She concluded.
For the first time in her life, Chinwe was grateful for her mother’s lack of sentimentality. With her head bowed low, she went into her room to arrange her things.