“Mummy wake up”
“Mummy wake up!”
Five years of active and healthy, playful boy settled on my stomach, it was his ritual to launch himself on my body after saying his prayers. Morning had never been my favourite time of the day and it was Ibrahim kekere’s job to wake me up.
“I’m awake my darling, have you done your salat?” I know the answer but this is another morning ritual for us, the asking about his prayer and his laughter.
“Yes Mummy, Oya go and do your own so that you can go to work” he jumped off my belly and went to get ready for school.
It was Aisha’s job to make breakfast for all of us, she had finished serving everyone by the time I went to have my bath. My mother was sitting at the head of the huge dining paper that Baba had insisted that we sit for our meals at, her face had the look of dissatisfaction that seemed to have been tattooed on her face and my father was nowhere in sight.
“Sista mi come and eat your food before it gets cold” Aisha sang as she knocked on my bedroom door.
“I am almost done, let me get my things together so I can go to work immediately I finish”.
“Ok o” she replied and walked away to God knows where.
It took me three tries before I could lock my bedroom door, I looked my hands but they seemed steady. My mother was still sitting at the dining table when I uncovered the bowl that had my breakfast, she had barely responded to my good morning but I wasn’t bothered.
“The fish that girl put for you is too much, you need to see the small thing she put for me. O kere gan” She launched into attack immediately she saw my food.
I ignored her because I needed strength for work and the only way to get that strength was by fuelling my body with food.
My mother had to be a high level witch because her next words startled me, “I hope you are not going to work today”.
“Yes Maami, I am”.
“How can you go to work the day after your grandfather, don’t you have any respect for the dead? Shebi when I say that your job is making you proud, your father and Baba Ibrahim would be defending you.”
I continued to eat my breakfast, she wanted to get me so upset that I would leave my food and she would get my fish to herself. I used my spoon to curve out a huge portion of the fish and watched my mother follow the path of the fish from the plate to my mouth.
“Biliki are you ignoring me? Why are you going to work? You like to act as If your job is the most important thing in this world.”
“Maami we need money to rent canopies and chairs for the people who will start coming from today to sympathise with us, please give Rukayat 5k so she can add it to the money I gave her yesterday.”
She looked at the window, the other chairs in the big parlour that took up approximately four rooms and the balcony, she looked at everything in the parlour but she didn’t look at me.
“Maami I’m waiting”
“You know I don’t have money” she said in a flat monotone.
“So if I lose my job because my grandfather died, you will not even help me abi?”
“Didn’t your grandfather leave money for you?” The belligerence in her voice made me raise my head and really look at her.
“Maami do you know how much his cancer treatments cost? Or do you think he sold the house for fun?” I was shouting now.
“In short Maami there’s no point in continuing this conversation, allow me to eat my food in peace.”
“Mummy bye-bye, grandma bye-bye”. Ibrahim ran into the room, headed straight to me and I opened my arms for a goodbye hug.
“Bye-bye my darling, learn plenty things you hear.”
“Yes Mummy” he replied in the sweet voice that I prayed he’d never outgrow.
He ran out to join Aisha who would take him to school before going to work as a sales attendant in Riteshop.
“We have to return him to his father you know” my mother quipped.
“Over my dead body” I replied calmly
“He can’t continue to stay here, he has to go to his father and be his responsibility not ours.” She continued.
“The same father who rejected his pregnancy?”
“That was in the past, anyone can see that he is the splitting image of Rashidi. The man even wants him to come to home but your stubborn grandfather refused.”
“First of all Maami, he has every right to stay in this house just like Aisha, Ayomide, Rilwan, Jamiu and me, he even has more rights than us because Baba adopted him. If you send him out, I will ask the buyer of this house to take over everything let everybody go to their parents. Wouldn’t you like Ayomide them to come and live with you and Baami?” I smiled at her and continued eating my food.
“It’s not like that Biliki…”
“It’s like what?” I cut in. “How can you even suggest that your grandson be returned to the man responsible for the death of his mother?”
“Rashidi did not kill Rashida” her voice wasn’t so imperious.
“Rasheeda died cursing him, she died because her heart was broken, she died because that animal denied her pregnancy and she spent every day crying from shame. She might have died in child birth but your precious Rasheed killed her. Maami If you don’t want to receive the insult of your generation then I suggest you get out right now”
I didn’t know where my mother went to after walking out of the parlour and I was glad that I didn’t see her when I was leaving the house. The walk to the bus stop took me five minutes and not long after I was in a new looking bus with the radio tuned to one of those radio stations where everyone spoke English in strange accents.
My handbag was on my lap and I was riffling through the bag in a bid to give my restless hands something to do when the opening bars of a song caught my attention. The singer was wailing about his love and her authoritarian father, it was one of my favourite songs and I liked to play it around the house.
Baba Ibrahim hated Rude by Magic, he thought it a stupid song. “So the father who raised his daughter all those years does not have sense abi?” he would click his tongue in irritation.
“But Baba, the man refused to allow them follow their hearts. They have to do something drastic like getting married without his consent.” I would counter.
“The boy should have concentrated on getting the man’s approval, one day the man would change his mind. That’s how I got my beloved wife Rekiya, may her soul continue to enjoy paradise”
“Baba mi you have told me the story of you and Rekiya too many times, that was then. Now we get what we want when we want it” I’d laugh as I danced to the chorus.
“Yeye children, that’s why you like when he says he’d marry her anyway. Better don’t bring that kind of man here jare.”
“Well I know that you’ll be more reasonable, Baba mi”
“I don’t think so, men are always irrational when their daughters bring their suitors home. Anyway I trust you to bring home a man that I would like.”
“Marry that girl, marry her anyway
Marry that girl, no matter what you say” wafted into the bus via the radio speakers.
I buried my face in my hand bag and cried.