“My name is Chinwendu Okezie and I am in Primary One andI am here to present a rhyme titled ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’”. She looked so cute in her pink dress that her mother patiently made for her in preparation for her school’s prize giving day ceremony. Her mum looked at her from the crowd as she looked so cute with the pretty pink bow on her fluffy afro hair and suddenly remembered how difficult it was to get Chinwendu to stay still. At the end of her rendition, little Chinwendu was overwhelmed with the applause she got from the crowd as she tried hard to gracefully step down from the stage with the help of Miss Martha her class teacher.
“And second position goes to Chinwendu Okezie!” Mr.Martin said almost screaming on the microphone. “Clap for her, clap for her!”
“Go and collect your gift now! Stand up osiso!” Ogonna said to her daughter who, for reasons unknown to her, seemed disappointed. Chinwendu sighed deeply, stood up and walked slowly to the miniature stage in front to collect her gift.
When the party was over and Ogonna was done greeting Chinwe’s teachers with small envelopes of 300 naira as instructed by her husband, She led her daughter out of the school compound. When they had boarded a bus to Rumuola bus stop, Ogonna allowed her thoughts to drift while still clutching her daughter protectively on her lap and her purse under her armpit. She was so distracted that she didn’t notice that her baby had been quietly sobbing all the while.
“Ewo, Chinwe what is it? Why are you crying? Is the bus too tight?”
Chinwendu replied by slowly moving her head from side to side.
“Then what is it? Is it the second position?”
“Mtchewwww! Is that why you are crying? You are my star! My Princess! You don’t need first position to make you feel special now. Ngwa come here” Ogonna said pulling her close.“Clean your eyes oh? I will buy banana and groundnut for you at Ibiene’s shop, iye?”
“Will you put Barney and friends for me?” Chinwendu said half-smiling while wiping her tears
“Yes, darling, I will and we’ll sing the songs together this night oh?” Ogonna smiled with satisfaction at the fact that she successfully pacified her baby. She patted Chinwe to sleep slowly while she drifted backinto her thoughts.
Saturday evenings in the Okorocha compound was always filled with noise from all the children in the yard who usually came out by this time to play and give their mums some time to rest from their trouble. Little Chinwe, Ada and Tega were playing King, Queen and Butler at a corner behind Tega’s dad’s car when her dad’s Peugeot 504 drove into the compound.
“Daddy oyoyo! Daddy oyoyo! Daddy oyoyo!!!” Chinwendu chanted as she raced towards her father’s car to give him a bear hug.
“Ogbaji! How are you? Where is your mother?” Udochukwu asked as he scooped his beautiful daughter into his arms
“She’s inside cooking ofe akwu” Chinwendu replied
When Chinwendu’s dad put her down, she ran into the car
“Daddy what did you buy for me? Did you buy gala? Where is the gala?” Chinwendu said, bombarding her father with questions. She was so engrossed in what she was looking for that she had not noticed that there was a person in the passenger seat. Upon seeing the person, she shrieked and ran out of the car towards her father.
“Daddy there is a man in your car!”
“Oh yes! That’s your cousin, Okwudili. He lives in Benue state with his parents but he will be living with us now. Go and greet him” Udochukwu explained and gave Chinwe a slight push towards Okwudili.
“Good evening sir” Chinwendu shyly greeted Okwu.
“Thank you” Okwudili responded.
“How old are you?” Chinwendu asked innocently. Okwudili threw his head back in laughter and took his bag from the back seat.
It had been four months since Okwudili arrived PortHarcourt and Ogonna had helped in enrolling him in school and he was beginning to like the place. Greater Heights Secondary School, Rumuokoro closed by 2 p.m and so, Okwudili always picked up Chinwendu on his way back from school. This particular development helped Ogonna so much because she really needed more time to prepare for dinner and also to run around for her new stationery shop.
Okwudili and Chinwendu had just come back from school one day and they met the door to the house locked with a white piece paper squeezed into the key hole. It read:
“I have gone to Ariaria to buy things for the shop. There is beans and plantain inside the fridge. Please warm soup for Chinwendu and yourself. Will be back late. The key is under the foot mat”.
Okwudili warmed the food, fed Chinwendu and then by 4 o’clock let Chinwendu out to play with the other kids in the yard.
The kids in the yard then divided themselves into groups. The boys would imitate Jakie Chan and fight karate while fake bowing to themselves or they would play ‘Actor and Boss’ where they would shoot at each other with imaginary guns and dodge imaginary bullets.
The girls and a few boys who would probably turn out to be ladies’ men or gay probably would play house and cook imaginary food and rule imaginary kingdoms.
Today, Okon was the king of the imaginary village while Chinwendu was the fake queen who presently was cooking for her loving husband and subjects.
“Chinwendu come and sleep! Its sleeping time!” Okwudili yelled from the doorway
“It’s a lie! Mummy doesn’t make me sleep by this time!” Chinwendu screamed back at Okwudili and continued cooking her sand okro soup.
“Ngwa come let me show you something”
“Mtcheww! This my uncle will not allow me to play. Oya Ada, put the pepper and crayfish I am coming” Chinwendu said to her imaginary maid as she stood up and cleaned her hands on her yellow skirt. She entered the sitting room and met Okwudili there.
He sat quietly feet apart in one corner with something in his hands.“What is that?” Chinwendu asked innocently
“Come let me show you…”
“Come let me show you. Do you know what it is? Its boy’s toi toi” Okwudili replied with an evil smirk on his face.
“No tufiakwa, nyooo. I cannot touch that.” Chinwendu replied
“Can I go and cook my soup? It is burning” She continued.
“Okay, tomorrow, you will touch it, if not I will tell mummy that you licked the Milo she kept in her wardrobe yesterday” Okwudili replied
“No, no, no, no…pleeeaaassssseeee don’t tell mummy. She will flog me” Chinwe said in fear.
“Mba o, you must touch it, if not I will tell mummy that you licked the Milo” Okwudili continued
On hearing this, Chinwe sat down on the floor of the living room and began to sob. Okwudili stood up from the living room settee, knelt down beside her with his genitals still hanging outside his boxers.
“Just touch it, just one touch and that’s all. I will not tell mummy about the Milo” Okwudili said in a half-plea.
The traffic jams at Rumuomasi had suddenly become worse, the bus had been on the same spot for about two hours now and it was getting really late. All she could think about was Chinwe and how she wasn’t going to be home on time to give her dinner. Her husband had gone to the village for a very important kinsmen meeting and was going to be back late and he also needed to eat. After a while she got tired of worrying and eventually slept off only to wake up about 30 minutes later when she heard the bus conductor’s voice.
“Rumuola dey?! Rumuola dey this bus?!”
“Yes o! Dropping dey!” she yelled back as she adjusted her head tie and started gathering the bags of supplies she had gone to the market to buy.
She got down from the bus, paid the conductor and boarded a motorcycle to the house.
When she finally got home, she put down her heavy bags and rang the door bell. Whenever she or her husband rang the door bell Chinwe usually ran out of the living room shouting
“Mummy oyoyo! Mummy oyoyo! Mummy oyoyo!”
But today, there was nothing.
She rang the door bell again and again until Okwudili finally came out with the key to unlock the door for her.
“Aunty good evening” Okwudili said as usual
“Ehen good evening, carry these bags inside. Where is Chinwe?” she finally asked.
“She is in the room playing with her dolls ma” he replied as he lifted one of the bags over his shoulder.
“Hian, didn’t she hear the door bell?” she asked again
“I don’t know ma; I was in the kitchen” he replied
“Hian.” Ogonna said to herself as she took off her shoes and entered the living room”My angel, how are you?” Ogonna said as she entered the room
“Fine.” Chinwe replied without even looking up from her dolls
“Sweetheart mu, are you okay? why didnt you come to greet me?” Ogonna asked sitting beside her on the bed
“Nothing mummy. Did you buy anything for me?” she asked still looking down
“No, I couldn’t. I was in a hurry” Ogonna said touching her daughter’s hair.
“Okay” Chinwe said as she flinched a little at her mother’s touch
“Chii are you sure youre okay?” Ogonna asked again as she placed her palm on chinwe’s forehead.
“Mummy! I said I am fine!” Chinwe yelled as she finally looked up to her mother’s face.
Ogonna was confused because this child that just yelled at her was not her angel, this child was not her Chinwe. Something was wrong somewhere.
She finally prepared garri and soup for dinner and Chinwe mysteriously refused to eat.
“Okwudili what happened when I left. Chinwe is behaving strange. Did her teachers flog her in school?” Ogonna asked
“Flog? Mba o, she was happy when I saw her, I dont know why her mood has changed” Okwudili said as he did the dishes.
“Hmm. Oh okay o. Put Udo’s food in that flask on the fridge. Let me go and bathe” Ogonna said as she left the kitchen.
She had just come out of the bathroom when she heard Chinwe’s voice
“Daddy oyoyo! Daddy oyoyo!! Daddy oyoyo!!!”
“Okwudili jee meyee uzo osiso!” she said in Igbo to Okwudili who was in the kitchen
Udo came into the house with his daughter on his shoulders and his duffle bag on the other shoulder.
“Ada daddy ya, how are you?” He asked Chinwe as he placed her on his laps
“Ayam fine! What did you buy for me?” she asked in excitement
“Close your eyes!…Oya open it!” Udo said as he held a roll of gala before her. When she saw it she shrieked as usual and sat on the floor to eat her gala.
“Good evening sir” Ogonna greeted her husband “Nni gi di na dinning table. How was your trip?”
“It was fine o. Mama Chidiogo said I should greet you. She even gave me ogili to give you. It’s in my bag.” Udo said as he washed his hands to eat.
“Ha! She tried o!” she said
When Udo was done eating and taking his bath, he locked all the doors and retired to the bedroom when Ogonna was waiting for him while she was reading her magazine.
“Ogoo, you have been quiet since I came back, something is bothering you. Gwam.” Udochukwu said as he laid down beside his wife.
“Nothing o, it’s just that something funny happened today. I came back and Chinwe didn’t come to greet me and when I tried to touch her later, she yelled at me. It is very strange because she was not like that when I took her to school this morning.” Ogonna explained as she set her magazine aside.
“Ha, but she seemed very excited to see me this evening now. Are you sure of what you are saying?” Udo asked as wrapped his arms around her.
“Hian. I know my own daughter oh and something is wrong somewhere. It’s as if I have offended her” Ogonna continued trying unsuccessfully to shift away from his arms. “Ooooh, i’m trying to say something serious here and you’re doing another thing.
“Ngwa ndo. Oya let us just relax and monitor her tomorrow so that we will be sure before jumping into conclusions. Oh? Ego oyibom.” he said as he continued to try his luck.
“Bia, I am tired o” Ogonna said to her mischievious husband
“Eehn dont worry, I will not stress you” Udo said smilling at her.
The next day was equally stressful for Ogonna because she had to set up her shop with the things she had bought from the market. Udochukwu had to pick up Chinwe early from school this time around because his wife was busy.
“Chii, how was school today?” He asked as the drove out of the school compound.
“Fine.” She said absent mindedly
“Chii chii are you feeling sick? You are so dull. What is it?” Udo asked as he pulled into the express.
“Nothing” she said
“Are you sure? Because mummy said you shouted at her yesterday” Udo asked again.
“I hate mummy! I hate her!” the 5-year-old yelled as she balled her fists in anger.
“Ehn? You say you hate mummy?” Udo asked in shock as you pulled over at the side of the road.
“Mummy is going to flog me because…” she started to talk but trailed off
“Ada daddy, talk to me. Oya come and sit down on my laps. Why will mummy flog you?” he asked as he carried her onto his laps on the drivers seat.
“Because…because I stole milo” She said bowing her head in shame.
“Hmm…stealing is bad oh but why would you think mummy will flog you? She hasn’t flogged you before nau” Udo asked his daughter.
“Chii answer me. Why are you scared of mummy flogging you?” he asked again.
“Because…Uncle Okwu told me that he will tell mummy and she will flog me. So…and…and…that is why he played with my toi toi” she said sighing heavily and looking up to her father.
Anger crept up from the pit of Udo’s stomach to the top of his head and it only took alot of self control to keep his emotions in check.
“So Okwudili played with your toi toi?” Udo asked, his voice shaky from trying so hard to control himself. “Just to be sure, point at your toi toi”.
Little Chinwe innocently pointed at her crotch.
“Okay” he said as he put her back down and strapped her in. “No problem.” he said with a hardened expression on his face. “No problem at all.”
Ogonna had already set up her shelves and was arranging the books on them when she heard the horn of her husband’s car outside her shop.
“Ahn Ahn Udo, kedu i he o wu? Is there any problem?” she asked
“Ogonna, lock up your shop now and enter this car.” Udo said. Whenever Udo called her by her full name, there was trouble and asking questions would only annoy him. So, she just nodded, grabbed her purse and keys, locked her shop and entered the car.
The drive home was very silent and long.
When they got home they silently exited the car, took Chii to the Tega’s house next door and entered the house with their spare keys.
“Stand here and wait for me” Udo said in a stern voice as he walked into kitchen.
Ogonna stood there in the living room wondering what was going on until she heard a loud crash from the kitchen.
“Udo! what is that?! Udo!” she screamed as she ran towards the kitchen.
“Stay there! I am coming! Wait there for me!” he yelled back
Ogonna kept pacing around in the living room until Udo emerged with Okwudili from the kitchen. Okwudili’s face explained the loud crash as he was bleeding from his bloodied right eye and he had a cut on his lower lip and a long crooked cut on his head. He was breathing hard and he had fear and guilt written all over his face. Udo ignored Ogoo’s startled expression and dumped Okwudili on a chair in the middle of the living room.
“Remember when you said that our daughter was behaving funny yesterday? I observed it today and asked her what was wrong.” he said hissing as he turned around and punched Okwudili on the face.
“Jesus! Udo, you will kill him o!! you will kill him o!! what the hell is going on Udo!” Ogonna said as she stood in between Okwudili and her husband
“This bastard! This ungrateful idiot! This scallywag! This demon! This agent of darkness! This…mtcheww!” Udo trailed off as he pushed Ogoo aside and landed two hard blows on Okwudili’s face again.
“Heyyyy!!!!!!!! Udo bikonu dont kill this boy!! Stop that and explain to me!! Chimmo!! Hey!” Ogoo said as she stood in between the both of them again.
“This useless excuse for a human being blackmailed my daughter! nwam! Just to touch her oh” Udo said as he started to charge at Okwudili again.
“What do you mean, touch her? What are you…” that’s when it came to her and it made sense in her head immediately. “Okwudili, is this true?” No reply “Answer me!”
“Aunty…it was…the devil…I swear I have never done it before…I have never-” his sentence was punctuated by a hard slap from Ogonna. She turned around, looked at her husband and walked out of the living room. If her actions were subtitled, it would have read: make him suffer.
She walked into the kitchen and began cleaning up the mess there and by the time she was done, she could no longer hear Okwudili’s screams again. She smiled to herself and began humming a soft tune to herself as she gathered cleaning tools to clean up the living room as well.
It had been four months since the incident and things had return to normal. It was a hot Sunday morning and they were on their way back from church.
“Daddy, when will Uncle Okwudili come back from his parents’ house?” Chinwe asked as she licked her ice cream. Udo and Ogonna turned to look at each other and then looked away.
“He’s not coming back again” Ogonna finally replied.
They pulled into the compound and met Mrs. Tega outside spreading her clothes.
“Una welcome o!” she greeted “Ehen Mummy Chinwe I have been meaning to ask, your maize farm at the backyard is doing so well, the leaves are so green and healthy. What kind of manure did you even use?”
Ogonna paused a little and smiled before she finally replied and said.
“Organic manure. The best there is”
Edited by Ozioma C. Nduka (My awesome sister)