Papa was the one to break the news of my results. That particular day had been good in every sense of the word.
I’d been lying on the sofa, flicking channels between CNN and BBC – the only two Papa-approved channels I was permitted to watch when he burst in with a wide grin. He called for Mama. When all three of us were together, he announced,
“The paper I’m holding in my hands is Anima’s SSSCE result slip.”
I gasped and broke out into a cold sweat. I didn’t know the results were in, and I couldn’t tell if he had been all grins because I’d failed and given him occasion to lash out at Mama and me.
“But Papa, the exams council has not announced release of the results,” I managed once I got over the unexpectedness of the news.
“Yes, my daughter, but you’ve forgotten I am the headmaster of the best secondary school in the country. I have access to classified information such as this long before the general public is informed.”
I noticed the look on Mama’s face when Papa referred to me as “my daughter”. That was such a rarity.
“I know you’re itching to know what you got.”
He handed the slip to Mama who briefly glanced at it and announced as she handed it over to me,
“All I see are A’s.” She looked up at him for confirmation.
“You saw well, my wife. All she got were A’s”
I reached for the slip, noticing how he did not comment on her reading abilities. I scanned through and confirmed my grades. I sprang from the sofa and threw my arms around the two of them, bursting into tears of joy.
Papa had an announcement to make later that evening during supper. “University is not for teenagers, my daughter,”
His opening statement caused my heart to sink into the very pit of my stomach. He continued between slurps of soup, “I entered the university at the age of 25 and if the things I saw 25 years ago are anything to go by, taking into account what has become of the world in this modern age, I have decided that you will not apply to go in there until you turn twenty.”
I sat and stared at him, unable to bring myself to continue with my meal. My disappointment was sealed by the fact that he’d been sober while making these pronouncements. I wasn’t given the option of holding on to hope that it was the matured palm wine from under his bed doing the talking and that a different pronouncement would be made when it wore off. That was the only day I wished him drunk.
“What would she be doing for the next three years, Daniel?” I nodded in agreement, waiting for his answer.
“Oh, that will not be a problem at all. She will continue to do what she’s been doing the last six months as she awaited her results – she’ll read wide and update herself on current affairs.”
He paused, taking time to chew through his serving of the chicken Mama had specially prepared in celebration of my results.
“For three years? I think that’s too much Dan.”
“By the time she gets to the university, she would be ready to face the world. She has not complained, has she?”
He looked at me and I quickly filled my mouth with food. My mind had gone into overdrive mode trying to process all he’d said and even though he’d been in a good mood, I knew better than to express my misgivings about his decision without carefully selecting my words.
“I still think three years is too long for her to sit at home doing nothing.”
“I think so too, Papa.”
“This is not about what you two think. This is about what’s best for you, Anima. Ask your mother why she dropped out of her very first year of secondary school.”
“Daniel, do I embarrass you?”Papa avoided the question.