by Fego Martins Ahia
Fego Martins Ahia recently emerged as the winner of the inaugural Creative Wings Short Story Competition.
A little silence hung between both of us. But the air still smelt of February; the wind still slammed against the windows, as if it were going to rain.
I wilted a little more, though the bamboo bed creaked under me. The half-moon resembled my limpid eyes – faint and watery – though flashing in the half-darkness.
The silence had vanished after a moment more. The front door soon swung open.
“Atanda,” someone whispered, though not too far away.
“Yes, Mama.” It was my voice this time, so soft I barely heard it myself. “D-Did you find him?”
She pulled the door shut, inching towards the candle-light. Lara remained warm and silent beside me.
Mama breathed slowly. “I wasn’t searching for your father, was I?” She plunked down in the sofa, inches away. “I wouldn’t go after a drunk that doesn’t remember he has a family.”
“Maa-ma?” Lara’s voice came at once.
“Will you shut up?” she said, rubbing her hand across her pimply face. “All his money ends in the beer parlor. Is that one a husband? After all, he married me on credit. He couldn’t pay up my bride price before my Papa passed on. He brought me to this one-room apartment in the city – Ajegunle for that matter. His peers are sending their children to private schools. Yet, he prefers to squander his tiny salary on alcohol and nothing else.” She wiped her eyes.
I wiped mine too, but there was no wetness in them.
“But Mama, things are hard, you know,” I managed to say. “Is that why you refused to prepare amala for his dinner?”
“Keep shut, my friend,” she growled at me. “Did he give me money to prepare it? How dare you talk to me that way? My mates are stocking their stalls, yet my shop remains dry like baked potato. Those moneybags keep coming after me, but I tell them I have a “husband”. Husband my foot!”
“Alright, I’m sorry, Mama,” I said, finally. “I-I know how it feels.”
“No, you don’t, Atanda,” she said without looking my way. “What do you know? When I was your age, those barrel-chested men used come to my Papa, asking for my hand in marriage. They used to offer us hectares of land, but I wanted to ripen. I didn’t know I was waiting to marry a flat-chested man who now goes about, proudly calling himself my husband.”
“May God give us better husbands, O!” Lara said.
“Amen,” I replied at once.
Mama paused, her brows furrowed a little. I didn’t wait a twinkling before I shot to my feet. I neared the front door while Lara followed. Mama jumped up. Her face changed color. She chased after us, but we were laughing all the way.
“It was just a prayer, Mama,” Lara said, the moment our mother had locked us outside. “It is for our future.” We were laughing convulsively.
“Then follow your Papa. Three of you should sleep outside in the rain,” Mama said. “Don’t you dare wake me up, you little things. But of course, a trial will convince you.” She hissed sibilantly.
We thought she was joking. Papa didn’t return that night. We were helpless in the cold of our tiny verandah, waiting for the morning to come. When it finally would, the first thing would be the gleaming, golden sun, climbing over the horizon a distance away. We would be shivering by then, still waiting until laughter disappeared from our faces.