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Mama was ecstatic. She could hardly contain herself as I told her the news. She snatched the letter from me as I spoke, and squinted to make meaning of the words. The smell of her favourite palmnut soup wafted through the kitchen. After a stream of grammatical blunders, she got the first sentence right. “We are ple- pleased to offer you a place in our a- award win- winning school of sc- sc- sciences to st- study-”
“Chemistry,” I ended for her
She frantically handed the letter back to me, shot out of her seat, raised both hands in the air and with all her might, screamed,
“There is a God ooooo, there is a God!”
She broke into the only dance she knew. Bobo, our dog, ran towards her assuming “our” dinner was ready. I shook my head in laughter at the sight.
She sat back down, loosened the tip of her waist cloth and started to dab at her eyes long before the tears welled and began to roll down her cheeks. I knew they were tears of joy, but I still asked,
“Mama, what is it?”
I knelt beside and wrapped my arms around her. She composed herself and burst into a song.
“I have a God who never fails
Who never fails
Who never fails
The words of the song came to me by rote. Unlike mine, Mama’s voice was smooth and velvety. I started to sing along with her, but stopped after my efforts to match her pitch perfect voice resulted in a parched throat, drawing tears from my eyes. I laughed at myself and opted to clap along to the rest of the song.
He stumbled out from the bedroom into the kitchen where Mama and I had been celebrating looking dazed. We had woken him up. He stood watching us for a while, and when none of us offered the explanation he’d been expecting, asked,
“What’s going on here?”
He shifted his gaze from Mama to me. I turned to look at Mama. She batted her eyelids at me, a sign I’ve come to understand to mean things would be better off if he is left out of the know.
“It’s nothing, Papa.”
“It’s nothing eh”, he drawled. “What’s that in your hands?” He walked towards me and reached for the letter.
I hurriedly folded and placed it in the scoop of my arms and backed away from him. He kept approaching till I had my back against the wall. Mama spoke up.
“Anima, give it to him.”
I shook my head to the rhythmic no no no going on inside my head, and ducked beneath his arms when he lunged for it. He didn’t see it coming. I looked back to watch him struggle to maintain his balance. I rushed into my room, threw the letter under my bed and rushed out in time, crouching behind Mama to watch him collect himself. He did not notice me, and headed straight to my room, cursing beneath his breath. His words were jumbled, but I caught what he’d been saying.
“Good for nothing daughter of a whore.”
When he first used that line on me, I cried till my head ached and my eyes swelled and hurt like they’d been rubbed with sandpaper. That was almost 5 years ago. The beginning of what I’ve come to realise is a nightmare Mama and I might never wake up from. I wish I could say it didn’t hurt anymore to hear him reduce us to nothing but a whore and her daughter. That would be a lie. It no longer hurt as much as it used to. But the ache to have the man I love and call Papa affirm me was always there, deep down in my heart. Even when episodes such as this do not happen, I look at him and know I’ve lost him. Mama doesn’t like to talk about it, but I see the pain in her eyes. I hear the fervency with which she prays to a God she never believed in until her husband drove her into his loving arms. At least it seemed to be working for her. I was yet to feel the love of this God. This God who could sit up there and look down as a once loving father and husband metamorphosed into something I was yet to find the right words to describe.“God’s ways are not our ways,” That was what she told me the first time I tried to reason my thoughts out with her.