Better Now

Better Now

It was about 3 in the morning when Mama said, “Nwajulu, bring me a candle from the tray on your father’s reading table.”

“Yes, ma,” I answered, and I lazily dragged myself out of the bamboo bed. It was not unusual for her to send me on such errands at odd hours, as she was in her third trimester and needed my assistance with almost everything.

My father was seldom around, and even when he was, he hardly spoke to me. He sold sea pebbles to tourists in a town hundreds of miles away. On the morning of his return, he would drop off the gifts he got for my mother and take her to the stream for prayers and cleansing before making love to her and run off to who-knows-where. We did not see much of him around the house.

I pushed my feet into a pair of sandals made from an old tire and brushed my hands against the wall as I made my way out of the bedroom in the darkness. Even though the window was open, it was pitch black outside.
I knocked the flower pot over, and my feet were buried under the heap of sand that poured out. I tiptoed around the mess I had created.

“Come quickly!” She cried.

The thought of living alone with my contentious father if anything happened to my mother was troubling. Besides, I hoped that having another sibling would douse the tension between us. I wanted a little sister, but if my mother had a boy, I would love him all the same.

The priest had said at my baptism that I had a strange spirit—my grandfather’s, my mother’s father. He did not amount to anything good in his lifetime. He was always in one trouble or another: either being dragged through the village square for stealing an item, caught tapping someone else’s palm wine, or sleeping with any of his friends’ wives and their children. He died in the most cruel way. He had rendezvoused at his mistress’s house after a drinking spree, and her husband, who was not expected to return until the fourth night, came home and caught him in bed with his wife.
He shot him in the chest twenty-three times. His naked body was dragged to the rooftop for birds to feast on. Nothing was done to his mistress, but nobody cared since that put an end to his miserable life.

Papa once said that since I would end up like my grandfather, I was not worth spending a kobo of his money on. It did not matter that I was female, and unlike my grandfather, I was diligent with chores and hardly spent time outside our home.

Whenever he was around, I made sure to avoid him until he went back to the seashore.

“I’m bringing the torch, but the batteries are in Papa’s bag, and he doesn’t like me touching it,” I said, walking into the room and sniffing a familiar smell.

“Don’t worry about your father,” she murmured.

I cupped my nostrils. “Mama, are you okay?” I grabbed the batteries from Papa’s sling bag and flashed the torch light.

“I recognize that smell from washing your sanitary underwear,” I said in a whisper, ‘but where is Papa?”

I pointed the light in her direction, and she shifted her eyes.

When he forced her to trek to the stream for his ritual the previous day despite being heavy, little did he know that that day would be his last. She hated him more than I did and despised their marriage even more.

“Getting married to your father was a mistake,” she would say, absentmindedly .

Until this morning, she never calls me ‘Nwajulu – the forbidden seed’. She wanted me to hear that name for the last time. To her, I was ‘Onuaku – the source of wealth’.

“Pack your bags; we are leaving.” I nodded and strutted out with the torch in hand. My unborn sibling and I were on our way to a better life.



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