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Diary of a Survivor

"eh wey you, commot dia allow this girl carry that cement. Na strong person she be." The site worker barked orders at a man who was fainting from hard work
Faustine rushed to the side of the loader, she had carried fifteen bags already but she had to do more. Ebuka had to return to school, Nina also had to go to school and she had extra moral classes to attend.
Upon loading the fiftieth bag, the project supervisor stepped in front of the loader.

"Aunty Ada, e don do, go come back tomorrow make you nor go die, oya take this money..." the man handed her some money.

Even though she was tired, she wanted to do more, She counted the five hundred naira notes handed to her, fifteen thousand five hundred naira; she hissed. This would not do anything... compared to the bills waiting for her to settle. She pushed her wheelbarrow out of the site as she entered the rush of the closing market. Helping some market women pack their goods back to the warehouse as they closed for the day would top up her day's earnings. This was her life. The street life. she didn't chose it, fate did and she would do anything to beat this life...anything besides prostitution and stealing.

Her phone rang jerking her back to actuality...unknown number, her mind registered before she took the call

"Hello, who am i onto?"

"Faustine, it's me Oby. Your father's sister"

"where did this witch resurrect from?" she thought to herself. "oh, well done ma, how may i help you?" she asked hiding her displeasure

"Faustine the parish priest from Amuobi gave me your phone number. Your father is really sick, he won't make it till the end of the month if he doesn't receive proper medical attention"

Faustine sniffed.... "Get out and do your work, you are sick? then resign... i don't entertain laziness in this firm." Her new boss had hurled those words at her the week she resumed her new firm....she had been sick and had gone to request a sick leave without pay

"Hello, are you there?" Aunty Oby asked

"Aunty Oby I'm here" she rubbed her face....her mind had gone elsewhere

"Ehen...I hope you were listening to me? I said your father..."

"I heard you the first time Aunty!" Faustine snapped

"Ah relax now, we called you because you are the eldest, you have to speak to your siblings so you all can contribute to help him out of his situation"

"Okay, I'll get back to you"

"Ehen...Good child may the ancestors be with you"

Faustine hung up without responding to her prayers. That man and his wicked family deserved nothing. Where were they when their father dealt ruthlessly with them, where? Suddenly they now remembered them after so many years of abandonment.

"Hello Ebuka,"  she knew the first person to have this conversation with would be her cool-headed brother.

"Hi sis, how are you?"

"I'm fine. Do you have a minute? I need to discuss something with you"

"Okay... I was in the middle of something but for you, I'd do anything." His elder sister was the sacrificial lamb. She had gone out of her way to ensure they all graduated; stayed unmarried after her unfortunate early marriage ended so she could assist them through school. Today, he was the managing director of a fast growing company, married with a beautiful daughter all thanks to her. He had less than a minute but for Faustine, he could make the world stop. "Go on sis I'm here"

"Aunty oby called"

"Who's that" Ebuka feigned ignorance

"Your father's youngest sister"

"That witch!"

"Relax Ebuka"

"Okay so what's the deal? She remembered us after all these years?"

"My thoughts too when she introduced herself."

"How did she even get your number"

"From the village parish priest."

"Oh i see..." After they escaped the brute-their father's, the parish priest had taken them in and helped them get on their feet for a few years before they left for the city. They had kept in touch with him as the years went by and anyone who needed to connect with them, would have known where to get their contact from

"She said Papa is very sick." Faustine's voice brought him back to reality

"And how's that our business?" he fumed

"According to her, it is really serious and they would want us to assist financially"

 "Faustine, you know how i feel about this, I don't want to talk about that evil man." He never liked to call him his father. That man had burnt his back with a sharp hot knife because he had failed to harvest the cassava in time. A torture he would never forget. It wasn't just the burning, it was the way he did it without conscience. Even when he wasn't well enough, he had to return to harvest the remaining cassava and his father had ensured he processed it for consumption and selling- most of it was for sale, the only consumed part was for himself and his concubines, the ones that came under his favor. "That wicked man!" he spat

"Ebuka, you know I can single handedly  send him the money, I wanted to keep you informed. I didn't want to do anything behind you- You and Nina"

Ebuka thought for a split second. The man didn't deserve their money or kindness but leaving him in that state would mean they were like him too...No, he wouldn't allow his hate for him consume the good in him. "Speak with Nina when you both arrive at a decision let me know."

"Okay... I knew I could convince you thank you Ebuka"

"Faustine, you have a great heart. I just hope someday the right man would find you... I love you sis"

"I love you too Ebuka. My regards to your wife and my beautiful niece"

"They'll hear." He hung up

Hurdle one crossed. Ebuka had agreed to them lending their dad a helping hand. The hardest phase would be convincing Nina. She could send this money without their consent. But right form their hard days, the trio had promised themselves they would never take any decision without consulting each other. Over the years she had sacrificed so much for the good of her siblings and she was ready to do more. Promising her dying mother she would stand by them was something she took to heart.

"Nina Nina, my baby sister how are you?" she teased

"Big sister I'm fine... I miss you!" Nina squealed

"Oh well, you have refused to return from your trip... So have it your way"

Nina chuckled. She loved the good life. Being a journalist had its perks and she wasn't gonna miss out on any of it. Growing up she had suffered humiliation, abject poverty and abandonment save the good days with her late mother who had died in the process of saving her life. How the animal they called a father had burnt her to death- she shivered at the thought. She always did. Maybe because she was the in that same house when her father had set it on fire over a mere suspicion of his wife cheating on him with a village farmer. Someone who had taken pity on them and started giving them food to survive when her wicked father starved them to death. How her mother held her out from the window so she wouldn't burn too amazed her. She had testified against the beast at the council of elders' meeting but he was too influential in the community. The other chiefs saw the act of cheating as abominable and banished the farmer

"Nina are you there?" Faustine asked

"Yes I am... Just got carried away" she cleared her throat

"Okay.. How's Paris?"

"Oh you mean La Ville Lumière? ( meaning : the city of lights?)

Faustine chuckled. "I should go on vacation there someday. You and I?"

"True, true... Before you get hitched away... I know you'll be married off soon"

"Now I'm beginning to think you and Ebuka ate from the same pot. I just spoke with him and he was all about the marriage gist"

"You are due... Sis I'll be twenty- six in a few months, Ebuka just turned thirty- two and you are going on Thirty- four... I was hoping you'd be the first to settle, but Ebuka beat you to it."

"I care less if you marry before me Nina you guys are the source of my happiness."

"Hmmmm...Stine, you should give Ronald a chance"

"Okay I didn't call you for some 'ship advice..." Stine chuckled

"Okay big sister. What's up?"

"Your aunt called, said something about papa being very sick"

"Okay...They can bury him in his house when he dies. Do they need our permission for that?"

"Nina I don't need you to be sarcastic. They need our help."

"Oh dear! Jokers... " Nina laughed wickedly

"He's dying... He's diabetic and his immunity is suppressed"

"Let him die!"

"Nina! I'm talking to you. Don't you dare go ballistic on me!" Stine barked

"I'm..sorry... I didn't mean to be rude. I just..."

"I know how you feel about him. We all feel the same way, I just don't want us to carry this guilt all our lives. I could have sent him the money without consulting you guys. I mean, how much would they really need? A million, two, I don't know, I could even fly him abroad for treatment but remember, remember we made a promise to each other that we will never do anything unless we agree together. Right baby?"

"Right sis..."

"So don't make me regret making that promise...."

Nina sighed. She hated that man. A man who cared less if she had burnt to death "how do you do it Stine, How do you forgive? Your heart is so kind... I love you so much Stine"

"I love you too baby.. So should I go ahead?"

"Yes...." She replied calmly. I'll credit you with some money. Have you spoken to Ebuka?"

"Yes i have, he said we should get back to him after arriving at a conclusion"

"Okay good."

"Nina I don't want you spending any money you didn't budget for, allow me pick the bill"

"No sis... we are doing this together."

"Okay, since Ebuka is the man...let's both credit him and then he'll send it to Aunty Oby. I'll get her details and tell her Ebuka would be sending her some money"

"Anyhow you do it. I trust your judgement"

"Okay darling... Its 8pm here in Nigeria I should be  heading  home soon"

"I'll call you tomorrow Stine...Please take care of your self"

"I will... Don't do anything crazy!"

"I won't..." Nina hung up.

Faustine looked at the wall clock hanging opposite her, the tiny piece read 8:10 pm. "It's about time I went home" she sighed. Her phone rang, it was Ronald

"Hi monster..." Ronald chuckled

"Is that my new alias Ronald?"

"Yeaa....suits you. Who leaves a man hanging for months..."

"I know... I'm just..."

"Not ready, still heartbroken? You know you need to talk about it?" I want to hear everything that makes you so hurt. I really do want to hear it."

Ronald was a kind man. One who had helped her structure her business and had been a supportive friend over the years. "Let's make this legal" he had told her on one of their friendly meetings.... "I want to marry you.'
It had come as a shock to her,but she knew he loved her and cared deeply for her. If she could forgive her father, or rather, if she could have the heart to help him, it was time for her to let go, talk to someone so maybe the man proposing to her, her best friend and professional colleague would do....

"Okay Ronald, dinner at mine?" I'll be home in 25minutes

"I'm around your boulevard anyway I'll just wait for you"

"Oh my... Stalker!" She mocked

"Forever" he laughed


*********


"Faustine this man has come to ask for your hand in marriage." Her father told her.
Fourteen-year-old Faustine looked from one man to another. There were so many people in the living room-Her uncles, aunts, step-mother, and two step brothers. Luckily being males, they wouldn't have to go through the rigour of paying their father's gambling debt through a forced marriage.

Chief Ojemba smiled revealing his brown teeth. "Ahhh ichie," he was referring to Faustine's father. "This your daughter is so ripe. I'll handle her properly."

"Dim, don't you think we should settle this another way" her mother begged.

"Which other way? She has to be married. I owe chief Ojemba so much and I can't pay, the best way is to marry Faustine off. what use is she to me anyway?"

"FAUSTINE!" Her father called out

"Yes sir...."She replied wearily

"Follow your husband...He will care for you  and maybe you in turn can help me and your younger ones here"

She remained silent. Her fate had been sealed.

Chief Ojemba greeted the elders as they drank more wine. A few hours later, he dragged her along to the neighbouring village to be his fourth wife. He was famous for marrying younger girls and history had it that he tired of them easily. By the time Faustine produced two or more children, chief Ojemba would have been tired and then seek another wife.

From a distance, she could hear the voices of her wailing mother and brother... Her younger sister was too young to understand what was going on, but she knew her elder sister was being taken against her will.. And so her loved ones slept that night and several nights after with  heavy hearts.

"I paid so much for you...Do you know how much your father owed me? Common open your legs I need to fulfil my desires!" An  angry chief tiffed at Faustine

Faustine refused and chief went on to rape her. This continued for several nights. And months later she was pregnant.

"You are only pregnant and not disabled; so pick your farming kit and let's go to the farm." Chief had angrily told her. The other wives saw the evil he did but couldn't speak as they feared the outcome their bravery would bring.

"Faustine please obey him so he doesn't flog you." one of the wives begged her. That was the norm. The moment you disobeyed chief he would tie you to the old Ube tree in the compound and  flog you mercilessly. To him, his wives were still children, though he defiled them forcefully. Who was to blame? Their families who gave them out of course. But in her case, it was her cursed father.

On one of those days at the farm, she had gone into labor and lost the baby as a result of the delay. As though that wasn't bad enough, she had suffered two miscarriages and when fate smiled, her fourth pregnancy had been a still birth. All these ill-fate had fallen upon her barely two years into the marriage. Chief Ojemba and the entire villagers called her an abomination. Once a young girl lost a child, she was termed a curse. How can a girl full of life and vigour lose a child? 

"Mama I can't do this anymore. Chief maltreats me." She had ran away from her home to meet her mother at the farm one year after her estranged marriage.

"There's little or nothing I can do my daughter... You know how wicked your father is."

"I know mama... but I'm suffering."

"My child, I feel your pain and I'm really sorry. I didn't pray for it to be like this." Her mother had also been given out as a form of debt settlement. "I didn't know history would repeat itself. I'm trying to find a way out for you. But promise me, promise me that you will stay put and not cause any trouble..."

 "I promise mama"

"Nina and Ebuka have been sent home from school I have nothing to give them. Your father monitors all  we harvest and collects them from us once we are done. I can't sell anything to make money"

"Mama here...take this" she handed her mother some money wrapped in plantain leaves "I stole this from chief, i doubt if he'll ever notice. You can have these wrappers too; He gave them to me when I was pregnant with my first baby. You can sell them to raise the money for their school fees."

"Oh my child, Thank you so much" her mother hugged her closely "But promise me Ada, promise me you will stand by your siblings you won't neglect them like my own sisters left me to die in this marriage. Promise me Adanne"

"Mama on my blood and that of my children, I promise. I promise I will."

" Thank you my dear...." Her mother hugged and bade her farewell

"I never knew that would be the last time i would be seeing my mother. My father had set her ablaze alongside her younger sister, due to his false suspicions...My mother had held out my sister from the window till someone had saved her while she burnt to death inside the house. I ran away from chief's house when he raped me yet again and made me sit on heated oil because he too suspected i would act like my mother.... I ran and never looked back. Getting home that night, I found my brother who led me to my younger sister's hideout and we took shield in a catholic parish. The reverend father took us in, fed us and raised us for a few years before we left for the city. The heat from my father for his protection over us was too unbearable. My father reported him to the Igwe and elders in council and he was told to release us to be dealt with for running away else he too would be asked to leave the village. And so, one-day, my siblings and i ran off to Lagos. It wasn't easy... Ronald, we suffered a great deal. I cannot begin to narrate all we went through but we did suffer. I'm grateful to God for all we've achieved so far. That's my story Ronald" she said with tears

"Come here... I'm so sorry... I am proud of you darling. You are so strong and selfless, and I'm super proud to know you"

"So after all these would you still want to marry me, a cast-off?

"You are not a cast-off. I love you and I'll be lucky if you agreed to marry me Stine..."

Half-laughing, She hugged Ronald.



********


"Aunty my sister instructed me to send you some money for my father's hospital bills" Ebuka was on the phone with Oby

"Oh, thank you my son. I don't think it'd be necessary he wants to see you all instead"

" I'll talk with my sister and let you know when that would be if possible".


Nina arrived the country earlier than she planned; her sister had sent for her to come so they could go visit that monster. Why Stine cared for him despite all his maltreatment toward her in particular amazed her. Whether or not that came up, she would have returned to the country. She had an African business segment on the CNN business show hence visiting Nigeria and several other African countries was on her to-do-list. She might as well start from home.


They all walked into the dilapidated building that once seemed like a palace to them years ago. Ichie Laid near lifeless on a mat His breathe was shallow and slow.

"Brother they are here" Oby announced

He stretched his hand to reach out for them. Stine held out her hand for him to touch

Faustine, Obiageli( this was Nina's native name), Ebuka I'm sorry.....Please i'm sorry for all I did. If I see your mother, I'll beg for her forgiveness but you all need to forgive me first."

Ebuka cleaned his eyes.He never knew he could cry over this beast. "Papa it's okay. I wonder why you refused to go to the hospital anyway"

"No.. Its my time...I need to join my ancestors. I'm happy I saw you all" he breathed his last.

Nina held unto her sister while Ebuka stroked their shoulders."It's okay... He's gone" he said softly.

"Aunty Oby we will send some money for his burial but we don't think we will be able to make it back to this place"

"It is okay my children you have done enough"

Stine, Ebuka and Nina returned to the city.  A few months later, they went to their mother's graveside. Even though they never recovered her burnt body, They had to build a head-stone for her  in remembrance of her strength.

"Hi mother, I guess you've seen your husband." Nina teared. "We miss you so much. Your baby the one you saved is now a big girl, Mummy I now work for CNN and Stine never let us down. Thank you for saving my life that day. I love you."

"Mum, Adanne(his daughter's name) says hi... I miss your face, even your food and how you shielded us so your back would be the receiving end from papa's flogging. I miss you... I see my daughter and she's an exact replica of you. She even has your birthmark same one you had on your back. I chose to name her after Stine because she stood by us like you would... Please send her a beautiful daughter and sons to reward her for being a great sister and mother. Rest on Nneoma( meaning: Good mother)."

"Mum I hope I made you proud, hope I did a good job raising them? Well, I fulfilled my promise. You told me someone good will find me. He did... He's here...." Stine dragged Ronald close. "His name is Ronald and he's nothing like papa or chief Ojemba. He will take care of me. I'm getting married mama-Your Adanne is happy and will be happy forever. I'll name my first daughter Ezinne (meaning: good mother)...Because you are a worthy mother. Rest on dear mother till we meet to part no more."
They laid fresh flowers by the grave side and walked back to the vehicle waiting to pick them

"Even though papa was an infidel, we did turn out great...Thank you Stine" Ebuka kissed her hand while Nina clutched to her side. "I've acquired a jewel" Ronald said smiling at her.




The end

Comments

  1. Well come back from your long Break madam writer.
    Which kind father be this one? Burning his wife to death! The children try to even forgive am

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nor be small thing o my sister. I just they follow the girl flash back. Very funny something and he still had the gods to beg for their forgiveness may he rot in hell

      Delete
  2. Me forgive? Nsogbu Adiro! He will go to hell and receive his forgiveness. Anuofia!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This man will rot in hell

    ReplyDelete
  4. It will be difficult to forgive but I salute their elder sister's courage. Forgiveness is necessary. When you hold grudge, you hurt yourself and not the offender

    ReplyDelete
  5. It heart touching! A beautiful piece, I see a lot of perseverance and strength portrayed here. God help us all I our different lives.

    ReplyDelete

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