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Sleeping With Yesterday (Episode 35)

Posted by on September 25, 2016.

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Dayo’s mentioning that he knows what happened to their daughter, Seun, hits Nnafuka like a wrecking ball, throwing her back to that day when she came home from the market, her tummy still slightly protruded from the childbirth, her arms full of bags which were in turn full of foodstuff and baby food and other things which the baby needed. She had met Mama Rashidi at the door. The elderly woman was wringing her hands, her eyes red. Nnafuka had thought that this was just something that Mama Rashidi did – which was get soft at the smallest mishaps. (One time she had witnessed a car crush a fowl across the road and had run home, crying to Nnafuka.) For this Nnafuka did not take it as anything.
“Mama Rashidi, what is it now? Wetin happen?”
The elderly woman would not talk. Nnafuka looked at her for some minutes and then joked, “Na which one motor jam again?”
When all she got as reply from Mama Rashidi was an increase in tears, she had to drop the things in her hand out there. Abdul who was watching what was happening closely had to rush to the bags, offering to carry them for his madam. Nnafuka nodded at him and he spread his legs as though he was about to lift a mountain, heaved the bags up and carried them into the house, grunting all the while. When Nnafuka was satisfied with Abdul’s theatrics, she went closer to Mama Rashidi and placed her hand on the elderly woman’s shoulder.
“Na Iya?”

This was why Nnafuka had allowed Abdul to go into the house first: she wanted to approach Mama Rashidi with the question on whether Iya was the problem. Nnafuka was well aware of what Iya, Dayo’s mother, could do. She had come from the village for the child visit after Nnafuka had hired Mama Rashidi to help in taking care of Seun. As far as Nnafuka was concerned it was a time when her presence was not needed. Nnafuka slowly noticed that Iya did not like Mama Rashidi. It could be that she did not like the woman’s presence in the house – her calling Dayo ‘oga’ and Nnafuka ‘madam’, her touching Seun every morning as she offered to bath her, her touching Seun’s pap and milk as she mixed breakfast, lunch and dinner for the baby. It could be that Iya did not like being exempted in all these, that she did not like someone taking her place in the life of her granddaughter. But she did not say this. She did not even make it known to Nnafuka and Dayo that she would love Mama Rashidi to be relieved of her duty. She just channelled whatever she felt inside to a deep hatred for the woman, never allowing her air her opinions on how the baby should be catered for, even slapping her – an event that Dayo did not mention to Nnafuka because it had happened when she was away.
Nnafuka waited patiently for Mama Rashidi to say Yes, but the woman did not. Instead she took a deep breath and said, “Madam, baby dey do jijijijiji since wey oga come back.”
Nnafuka stepped back. “What are you talking about?”
“Madam, e be like say baby wan die oooo.” Her sobbing increased. She brought herself to sit on the floor, her shoulders climbing to her head and returning as tears pumped inside of her.
Nnafuka made to enter the house and immediately Abdul burst out, tears in his eyes.
“What is happening, Abdul?” she asked him. “Where is my daughter? My baby?”
“Sorry, madam,” Abdul burst into his own tears. “Oga say make I find carton, say baby don die.”
“What!” Nnafuka had pushed him out of the way, pushed him so hard that he found himself tripping four times in a bid to catch his stamina and avoid hitting his head on the flower vase there. She rushed into the house and there in the sitting room was seated Dayo and his mother, Iya. They both had tears in their eyes.
“Where is Seun? Where is Seun?” Nnafuka barked at Dayo.
Dayo stood up. “Calm down, honey.”
“No, don’t tell me to calm down.” And she made to start going up the staircase, but Iya stood up with daunting agility and blocked her way.
“O fe fi owo eh to ni ekpe ko omo yen?” she said. Then she switched to broken English, “So my granddaughter not return in future for my son. Abi?”
“Iya.” Dayo had tried to intervene, but his mother shouted at him, “Dayo, limme o, jare! O le fi owo kon Seun. Owun lo fa inkoton kpa omo omo mi.”
But grief was stronger than despise. Nnafuka dug her legs into the grounds and cleared Iya out of the way with a sweep of her arms. As Iya fell on the couch shouting, “Ye, ye, ye, ye. O ti kpa mi o.” Nnafuka was already in Seun’s playhouse staring down the cot at her baby. Seun was not dead yet. She was kicking and throwing her clenched hand, making occasional sounds that sounded like crying – a sign that she was in deep pain.
Nnafuka had gathered her into her arms then.
As though she was waiting for her mother’s return, it was then that Seun kicked her last, and her body went limp forever.

To Be Continue

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