Uzoma waved dreamily at her husband of many years as he stole out of their compound in a sleek looking 2015 Camry. She passionately watched his car leave straight for the long drive, through Kenneth road which connects straight to Agbani road. Uzoma looked at her phone in a concerned manner, pressed a button and it was already seven O’clock. She pitied her husband’s daily effort to get to work early because she knew he would definitely be held up in traffic jam, caused by merry-go-round buses. Each day, it conveyed school kids through Agbani to Okpara Avenue, WAEC and then back to Kenneth junction. The small buses, shuttles, Keke and Okada people won’t be merciful with at all; they would be in and clog at a point of no movement – somewhere around Holy Ghost bus stop.
Sopuru, her benevolent husband worked at CBN Okpara Avenue as a transaction manager. He definitely loves his job expecially when it comes to nailing down transactions. He had been working with them for over ten years ever since he migrated from Awka. It was this big transfer that made him a home owner and investor, apart from the salary he earned on monthly basis.
These lovely couple met in Awka while on their way back from their respctive offices. Uzoma worked as a journalist with Anambra State Government House while Sopuru was then a new recruit at CBN. Fifteen years after marriage, and there she was, missing the only man that made her forget the gloomy smudges of life.
As she went back into the house to finish up with the kids, Uzoma made a quick reminiscence of how they both had turned out in their marriage. She had left her work as a journalist after they moved, in a bid to tend to the kids and pursued her passion for writing, while he on the other hand chased after money to put sufficient meals on their table. He planned to retire as soon as he clocked sixty and open up a financial consulting firm, after he must have settled their kids’ college fees. Her husband was definitely her hero. She smiled to herself, knowing how tasking that might be with the current situations in Nigeria.
Uzoma walked into the massive four-by-four kitchen and opened the fridge to figure out what she could prepare for breakfast. In the process, her mind zapped to her early appointment for the day and she looked up to the wall clock for answers. Her first daughter Nkiru walked into the room, all dressed and ready for school; the young girl walked in and walked through her mother’s deep thoughts.
“Mum, are you at it again?”
Uzoma straightened up, turned to her replica – a tall striking dark-skinned slim figure with an intelligent oval face; she looked her straight in the eyes and definitely could not deny the truth –she was worried about the visitor they all expected that day.
She said, and then gave a very deep lazy sigh. Her daughter kicked off energetically from where she left off.
“Mum, you just have to let it go. Don’t worry, we have already eaten and we would not like to be late for school. Maybe it is better you get ready, so that grandfather would not be stranded at the airport”
Uzoma looked at her fourteen-year-old with utmost respect, and then went straight to her room to take a long cold tormenting shower just to calm her aching nerves, before stepping out through the front door to her kids who were eagerly waiting for her in the car.
Silence could be treasured like beautiful wraps of gifts; these are gradually unwrapped, giving attention to the uncoiling of each strand of rope till everything comes out undone to reveal the secret inside. Before Uzoma’s father left their mother for another woman, they never saw it coming. Ukamaka, Uzoma’s mum and her children painstakingly ran the house from the meager salary their mother earned as a cleaner at the Railway Cooperation in Enugu during the day. At night, they almost get run over by cars, just to sell ice water and oranges, which their mother fervently peeled not too far from the roadside with other wonder women who ran their homes through the little their hands could make.
They went about their duties at home in a known silence. At times, their silence pelted like rain drops at the arrival of their father who readily desecrated the altar of this holy silence. Mr. Felix, their father was a trailer driver. He would come back too late after many days of absence; in addition, he would beat up his wife till her blood mixed with the dust of the earth for one over trifles. At one point, Uzoma, the eldest got to understand the reason behind all these when she stumbled upon dad’s university certificate, marriage certificate and her birth certificate.
Obviously, she was older than their marriage; it proved one thing: his parents might have forced her mother on him after an illicit affair that went wrong. Her coming certainly crashed his dreams of ever going further than expected in life. Her coming of age too deepened the silence at home. their father continually blackened one side of their mother’s face with the sole of his feet and knuckles.
* * *
Father later left Enugu after he got a job as a supervisor at Kano. He left with all the beatings at night and the crashing of plates and never looked back. His fellow trailer drivers gossiped to Uzoma’s mother that her husband was happy with another woman; shrouded in a black gown that swept the dust of the earth. Before he left, there was enormous silence of uncertainties; but at his leaving, silence was thrown about like balls that bounced off the charcoal-darkened walls of their tiny room. They were free of his threats, but not entirely free from starvation.
Things almost grew an ugly face, until Aunty Kate came to their rescue all the way from Awka. They never heard from him again, until some weeks before the ultimatum to the Igbos living in the north that a croaked male voice called her line and introduced himself as her father. He said he was interested in seeing his grandchildren before his departure to the ancestral kingdom. That phone call left goose bumps all over her body, even as she stopped her children in front of the gates of University Secondary School – Enugu Campus – her alma mater. Each time she dropped them at school, she often wondered where all her mates must have gone to and why the teachers grew so old in a split second; one could barely recognize them, even at close range.
Uzoma bid her kids goodbye and joined the traffic lane that led straight to Enugu-Abakiliki road, and then she headed straight to the airport. The heavy traffic clog she experienced proved that Enugu was gradually getting populated, following the threats from Hausa youths and other uprising in various parts of the country.
Uzoma’s sister, Nkem, and her husband Ken, had called in earlier that morning and arranged for an apartment through her husband. They were relocating from Kano to Enugu. Her sister was a secondary school teacher and her husband also worked at CBN Kano, just like her husband. Arrangements were already in place to get them settled as soon as they landed in Enugu. She still wondered why her father chose to call her at this particular moment. Was he dying, in need of help or running away from something?
Sopuru did not see anything wrong with his visit. He was too excited that the kids would finally meet a living grandparent after he lost his five years ago. He is a strong believer of family traditions and that was why he still travelled with his family to the village for all forms of festivities except Easter and Christmas. He wanted the kids to get acquainted with their culture as much as possible.
As Uzoma got close to Akanu Ibiam International Airport gate, the sight and sound of planes descending and ascending wilted butterfly feelings in her stomach. She searched with her right hand for the bottle of water she usually kept handy by the side and when she found it, with one-too-many gulps, she gave her dry throat some soothing and her stomach some peace of mind. Afterwards, she rummaged through her purse for the four hundred Naira change she got from Mallam the other day, then handed it over to the security man who pretended to be too busy to offer her a receipt, after which her boot was thoroughly searched.
Her three minutes’ drive to the parking lot made the lonely looking place too deserted with no sign of security personnel. This gave her the chills about security porosity at Nigerian airports and the risk that might be involved. She was rewarded with a space at her second turn. She knew how difficult it might be to get one on Fridays, knowing very well that people continually transited on weekdays, let alone weekends. She did not know what to expect, neither could she guess what her dad would look like; but she took one aching breath before she put on her dark glasses and walked under the balding sun towards the domestic arrival sign.
Uzoma sat among the hundreds who waited with an impatient looking face for a loved one from the few Nigerian states that had functional airports. Most of these so-called airports were not well equipped that news of emergency landing frolicked each time one went on the internet for news. It was a shame with disgust on its tongue. There have been series of dismissal from aviation ministers, to chairmen and retrenchments of members of staff with each new government, but it seemed as though everything deteriorated with each system or policies. The DANA Air crash and so many others were not enough lessons for the ministry and the country as a whole. Huge amount of currency exchanged hands to fly these death warrant airplanes without restrictions.
She pressed her phone and the first thing that flashed through the screen was a message from him, “we would soon be with you. Your father.” She read the text over and over again with no single emotional attachment, but a disgruntled bitterness. She could remember vividly the night a whole new silence began in her life. Uzoma was wide awake while a hand pushed the door to their room open. She just heard him beat their mother to silence, and then he drunkenly made his way to their room. He did not hide his face when he stood tall before her naked eyes. Neither did he hide those jet-black eyes when he tore her scanty blouse and skirt open to reveal that they could not afford pants or bras under their light clothing. He did not have mercy on her when he forcefully drew her legs apart and forced himself through her like a chainsaw would force its zigzag teeth through a large stem of mahogany tree. No. Not even her loud piercing cry could awaken her mother’s broken limbs to her rescue. Her mother had grown numb in the pool of her own blood. It was the neighbours who came to her rescue the following morning. They rushed her to the hospital, while she kept numb about the nightmares that continued at night till he left home. He left with a piece of her. That was the last time they ever heard or saw his face. He left them broken. Whatever they heard of him were from friends and foes.
To be continued…
Let's discuss this story in the comments below
@Memory... Sure. She does have a big heart.
She rily has a big heart..coz I can't even face him....huh!!! Touching story!
@Oluoma, It's a pleasure working with you.
I am humbled. Thank you.
@Kofi Elikem, we will publish the second part soon.
This girl is very strong ooo. She even went to the airport to wait for him. Not me ooo
Hmmm... What a story. I can't wait to read the second part