Maureen smiled broadly, her dimples deepening in the process. Her mum was happy, she could tell. It was like a long dream finally coming to pass. She remembered vividly how each of her siblings, herself inclusive had promised their momma a trip abroad. They were kids then, it was more of an empty promise than a reality. Where she came from, a trip abroad was regarded the best thing ever. Parents flaunted their kids that hype them about abroad.
“Ị ga-anụ di obodo oyibo.” That was elders’ favourite prayer line for any child (female) they deemed good. They wished such girls a husband abroad. Maureen was no exception to such, her mum too, on countless occasions had prayed same for her. She grew up with the ideology and spoke it countless times herself
“I won’t marry anyone that is not from abroad,” she would proudly tell her friends.
“Once there is money, me, I’m already in your house,” Nk one of her close friends would chip in and they would laugh boisterously. Not mainly about what Nk said but the way she pouted her lips, raised an eyebrow with one hand akimbo and the other hand free, to wave around as if writing what she was saying at the same time in the air.
“Yass naau,” she would say again, ignoring the fact they were laughing.
“Nk!” they would hail at her. In turn she would catwalk around the group, flinging back an invisible long wig and then turn around.
With her perfectly rounded watermelon boobs and moderately long legs, Nk was considered beautiful. Her hips, when she was still a teenager, could make a man turn around. And her perfect flat tummy was something they couldn’t understand how it came to be. Nk ate a lot more than any of them and yet she wasn’t fat. Ify was the fattest among them. Her flappy chin and flat nose always caused Nk to joke with her at times.
“Your type will not even finish secondary school,” Ify told her.
“She might be lucky to finish SS3,” Nche said. Nche was the shortest and the youngest among them, a black girl that didn’t believe in cleanliness. Her hobbies include fancy imaginations, jokes and family. Maureen later lost contact with her. She never thought it would be so as she had always thought Nk would be the ditcher.
“Are we tlekking?” Unoma asked in wonder, looking at the luggage beside them.
“A taxi will do,” Maureen replied, getting off her thoughts.
They waited for less than five minutes before an empty cab pulled over. The black cab man arranged the luggage well inside his empty boot. As a courtesy, he helped Unoma with the left door, while Maureen gracefully slide in through the other.
“My son, thank you,” Unoma acknowledged him. For a moment, Maureen feared her mum will say the usual to him. But heaved a sigh of relief when she didn’t. “You’ll go places if you continue like this,” Unoma said again peering her head forward so the young man could hear her well.
Maureen raised her face from the white screen of her tab at her mum. Unoma was full of smiles. She didn’t seem perturbed. She didn’t seem to notice she was no longer in her country. How couldn’t she see that things are not going be same? Angry lines appeared on her forehead, she wished her mum wouldn’t disgrace or make her regret ever bringing her abroad. She sighed loudly.
“What is it?” Unoma asked at once, facing her daughter. Maureen took away her face immediately. For a second, she had forgotten her mum hated sighing.
“Why are you sighing?” Unoma asked again
“Nothing, Momma,” Maureen lied. The phrase was quite familiar to her. It was her favourite line when she came newly.
Everyone was so fascinated with abroad that they didn’t really know what was going on there. It was this sudden love and fascination that lead her to believe that abroad was the last stroke for her if she was ever going to
be successful in life. The day she got her visa was the happiest day of her life then. She couldn’t imagine herself being happier.
Was it the sleepless nights of prayer, many days of fasting and even the countless
monasteries her mum made her go? She was making sacrifices for her visa application to be granted. When finally it came to pass at a go, she couldn’t describe what she felt that day. Was it true happiness, anxiety or perhaps nervousness to leave her country for a foreign one? She had embraced her opportunity once again, when most of her friends started telling her how lucky and blessed she was.
“Nne, I can’t believe you’re leaving us finally,” Nk said in tears.
“Make sure you don’t forget us,” Ify chipped in.
“Just which cloth don’t you need again?” Nche said in that I-do-not-care tone of hers.
“Nche!” they shouted at her in unison.
“What?” She raised both palms in a shrug. “It doesn’t make any difference,” she said again, hands fold to her now bloom chest.
“We are going to so miss you,” Ify said, coming closer from her sitting position on top Maureen’s flat mattress to wrap her fat arms around her. Nk joined her.
“Nche?” Nk called.
“I’m not the romantic type.” She raised both eyebrows.
“Just shut up and come over here,” Nk beckoned on. The latter stepped forward reluctantly.
“I’ll miss you too!” There was quiver in Maureen’s voice. They knew she was sad. They held on.
She let go of half of her belongings that day, making sure to hold on to some that were quiet sensitive to her, like her elder brother’s Jersey, some of her footwears she didn’t fancy again, she left for them. All her educational stuff were with her.
Of course a younger mum then made sure she took them. She went as far to get a mini bag for them.
“These are your files now. Make sure they are always safe.” She held her left ear to sound those instructions. She merely nodded her head as a way of affirmation. She knew within her that she wasn’t going to do what she sounded like. But she had to show affirmation after all. Mum hated someone
disagreeing with her. It was something she considered immodest and disrespectful. She believed no one should have a choice better than her. There was no such thing as compromise. It’s either her way or the ‘high
“How will you leave?’ Momma asked in Igbo.
“A friend will pick me tomorrow.” By ‘a friend,’ she meant Nk, Ify and Neche, but she hadn’t the mind to tell mum; a bunch of three silly girls would be coming to accompanying her to the bus park and not really picking her.
“No, you shall be going to Mmadueke’s place. He would help you out.”
“Ma, it’s just the flight, every other thing has been concluded.”
“That’s how it’s going be. I’m the mother in this house.”
“This is about me being comfortable with the decision. Uncle’s house is—”
“Get ready.” She stomped her right foot, and turned her back view towards her.
How can she make such arrangement for her? Was she not old enough? Can’t she see how badly she didn’t want to go to uncle’s place? She had been there sometimes in the past during long vacations.
Mmadueke was her mum’s younger brother, the last child of their parents. He was a plump man with all dark shades like her mum’s. Most times she’d wonder if he’d get to be fair one day, or a little brighter than he was presently. He was married to a banker. Aunty Becky. Aunty Becky married in her old age.
Unoma told them that Becky was being choosy concerning the men that asked for her hand in marriage, how she strictly wanted to marry a Roman Catholic believer. Finally, she met her uncle. They got married happily, but she was happier than ever. The joy didn’t last long, for there was nothing to show out of the union. Children weren’t forthcoming and they had financial difficulties. They depended on Aunty Becky’s salary for feeding, house rent and other expenditures. Even after eleven more years, the ship couldn’t turn around. Aunty Becky had already hit menopause.
Amidst her mum’s advice she saved up for adoption. She ended up with two children, a boy and a girl. Maureen remembered vividly how Aunty Becky would showcase the babies as twins.
The day the twins were baptized was another difficult time for her uncle’s family. As usual Aunty Becky catered for every expenditure. Uncle was just there, the man beside the moving train. Maureen couldn’t tell her aunt’s real feelings. Being a child then, she didn’t understand the tricky nature of human emotions. She could only remember Aunty Becky as an always smiling woman, that loved cooking. But, now, when she thought of it, she’d just wish she could tell Aunty Becky how brave she was, for hiding those sorrowful experiences under the false pretence of false smile. She really
did a good job; a job Maureen knew Momma couldn’t handle half as well as she did.
The next day saw her getting ready for her Uncle’s place. It was a three hours’ journey from Amava to Ekun town. From Ekun town to where my Uncle resides was another one-hour journey or more, depending on how the bus dropped and picked people at random. With the remnants of her belongings neatly packed, she took a long bath, wondering how her journey would be.
She urged herself not to think of her uncle’s place, but she found her mind wandering to places she didn’t want it to go to.